My Subscriptions

May 26, 2015

Table Titans

Tales: He Owns the T-shirt


Years ago, during our first campaign together, my group happened into an extra-planar tavern filled with Orcs, Giants, Demons, and other unsavory folk. Considering the group had a Drow and Minotaur in it, they felt right at home.

Upon stepping foot in the door, Steve, who played the Minotaur,…

Read more

May 26, 2015 07:02 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

The Pattern Among Fallen Pastors

During my time in seminary I took a leadership course taught by the late, great Howard Hendricks. As we studied the life of David, Hendricks shared a study he conducted with a group of men in full-time ministry who had fallen into a morally disqualifying sin.

At the time, I had only been a Christian for a few years, but unfortunately the subject was all too relevant. During my early days I had witnessed several men whom I loved and respected fall into serious sinful compromise. At one point in those days, the falls came so frequently I felt as if I was on the spiritual beach of Normandy watching buddies’ lives get blown apart all around me.

Fallen Soldiers of Christ

The study examined 246 men in full-time ministry who experienced moral failure within a two-year period. As far as Hendricks could discern, these full-time clergy were born-again followers of Jesus. Though they shared a common salvation, these men also shared a common feat of devastation; they had all, within 24 months of each other, been involved in an adulterous relationship.

After interviewing each man, Hendricks compiled four common characteristics of their lives: 

  • None of the men was involved in any kind of real personal accountability. 
  • Each of the men had all but ceased having a daily time of personal prayer, Bible reading, and worship.
  • More than 80 percent of the men became sexually involved with the other woman after spending significant time with her, often in counseling situations.
  • Without exception, each of the 246 had been convinced that sort of fall “would never happen to me.”

As I reflect on this study, four lessons come to mind. These are applicable for pastors, plumbers, stay-at-home moms, and anyone else who seeks to follow Christ.

1. Sin thrives in isolation.

Satan lives in the darkness and longs to keep us there. Lies live best in the darkness. That’s why when God calls us to himself, he calls us into the church.

God has created the church to be many things, including a community of people who help each other fight sin and love him. He calls us into relationships where we speak truth to one another (Eph. 4:1525), confess sins to one another (James 5:16), and love each other enough to chase after each other if we stray (Matt. 18:10-20; Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:19-20).

Who knows you? I mean, who really knows you? Who not only has permission, but is currently acting upon that permission to ask you penetrating questions? Are you answering those questions honestly, or are you hiding details and painting over your sin to guard your image? Do not hide from God’s gracious aid of loving relationships.

2. If you flirt with sin, you will fall into sin.

Sin’s slope is slippery. The longer you walk along the edge of the abyss, the more likely that your foot will slip. The men in the study put themselves in dangerous situations again and again. They ignored the words of Solomon, who warned his sons to “keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8).

These men did not guard their hearts, or the hearts of the people they were supposed to be protecting. Instead, they became blinded by the deceitfulness of sin (Eph. 4:22; Heb. 3:13) and were led into the ditch of destruction (Matt. 15:14).

What ways are you flirting with sin? What provisions are you making for the flesh with regard to lust (Rom. 13:14)? What guards have you stepped over? What details are you hiding? What e-mails are you deleting? What search histories are you erasing?

Sin is crouching at your door (Gen. 4:7), and the tempter is looking for an opportunity to pounce (1 Pet. 5:8). How are you making his aim easier?

Flee from sin, don’t flirt with it (Gen. 39:6-12; Prov. 5-7, Rom. 6:12-13; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pet. 2:11).

3. Pride blinds us to our weakness.

Many of us think this sort of serious sin would not happen to us, just as those fallen pastors thought. But 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Let us not forget that Samson, the strongest man in the Bible; Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible; and David, the man after God’s own heart, were all overcome by the temptations of sexual sin (Judg. 14-16; 1 Kings 11:1-8; 2 Sam. 11-12; Ps. 51). No one is above the temptation to sin in grievous ways. If you doubt, you are on your way to a great fall.

Beware! Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

4. Purity is cultivated by loving Jesus.

Somewhere along the line, each of the men in the study began to drift. Prayers became less passionate. The promises of God in his Word grew dusty. Love for Jesus became something spoken of in the past tense. The seduction of sin and enticement to sacrifice all to satisfy inner longings became too strong to resist.

But Christ is stronger. Hear these words of promise afresh:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14–16)

There is no sweeter assurance of help than Christ Jesus the Lord. He stands ready at God’s right hand to supply the grace and mercy we need.

Do not allow your hearts to grow cold toward the Lord who loves you so. Draw near to him daily, moment by moment, in hopeful expectation that he is better than any fleeting pleasure that might entice your heart. Do not seek him only in days of desperation, but seek him daily. Walk with him. Rekindle passion. Plead with him to help you. He is able to do it, and he delights to do it: 

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)

Come Lord Jesus, come.

by Garrett Kell at May 26, 2015 05:03 AM

The Only Path to Societal Renewal

As recent attacks against religious liberty have demonstrated, it is increasingly difficult for Christians to speak truth in the public square. The temptation is to respond by withdrawing, turning your faith inward, and warming yourself in quiet communion with like-minded faithful. However, even if this were a legitimate response, the purveyors of societal change have demonstrated they will not be satisfied with acquiescence. In the end, they will demand cooperation, which is why the fight over religious freedom and conscience has become so toxic, so vitriolic, so quickly.

It’s easy to point to the culture wars and see them as a proxy for living out our faith. There are real dangers to a nation when the powers-that-be succumb and embrace societal sin. But fighting these battles, while important, is not enough to spread the gospel. The church, having turned in to itself in so many places, no longer provides the moral yardstick by which people measure cultural norms. While we must continue to stand for truth and religious freedom, it is not enough to get us back to a path of societal renewal. We must also return to the basics of personal holiness and care for the physically, morally, and spiritually destitute.

When the tyranny and paganism of Rome was at its height, James assigned in his epistle a surprisingly simple role to the church. He wrote that a “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). In applying his words to today, we can and should continue our fight for truth in the public square, but only as long as we continue to live in holiness and demonstrate that Jesus lives within us by caring for those who are suffering, doing so with both love and in truth.

Saving by Serving

Who are the widows and orphans today? Perhaps the question is better stated, “Who most needs the church to stand in the gap for them?” The answer, whatever it is for your church, will likely make you uncomfortable. When we stray from our comfort zone in meeting the needs of the lost the Lord tends to use us most effectively. 

Journalist D. C. McAllister recently told her story of redemption, how 15 years ago she was a single, destitute mother with two young children and another on the way. She went to Planned Parenthood for an abortion but sat alone in the parking lot never getting out of her car. She writes that she realized she couldn’t “sacrifice my child on the altar of my own selfishness.” She drove away.

Impoverished, she applied for welfare but didn’t qualify because she was “able-bodied” despite being single with children who needed her care. With no place else to turn, she despaired. Then:

I went to a local church and asked for help. They gave it to me, no judgment, no condemnation. Only love. I sat in the pastor’s office and wept uncontrollably as I told him my story. He said it didn’t matter. God’s grace is sufficient. They would help me get through the next year or so until I was on my feet. They gave me counseling and accepted my daughter into their preschool so she could make friends. The women at the church took me under their wing, giving me clothes for my baby when she was born and encouraging me when I felt overwhelmed.

If the government had given me welfare, I doubt if I would have gone to the church for help. And if I hadn’t, I would never have benefited from their love and grace—and that’s what I needed most. I needed physical help, but I desperately needed spiritual, emotional help. And they were there for me. Loving me, supporting me, encouraging me, and counseling me. They saved me.

In reading her story, I was struck by both her bravery as well as her admission that she would have likely never gotten the help she truly needed if the government had given her a handout. The absence of government action enabled her to find healing. A stingy government program’s failure to help led her home.

Giving What Government Cannot

Starting in the 1930s with the New Deal, federal and state government supplanted the church as the central societal organ caring for the needy among us. In an effort to help the poor, the state inadvertently severed bonds that helped hold society together for centuries, one where faith and spiritual change were central in the healing of a broken, needy person.

A 2007 study published in the Journal of Public Economics found that “benevolent church spending fell by 30 percent in response to the New Deal, and that government spending can explain virtually all of the decline in charitable church activity observed between 1933 and 1939.” True, the government can spend more money on programs to help the poor. But money alone does not change the heart. In fact, direct governmental payments can crowd out the opportunity for spiritual change, for the holistic support so often needed to address the real roots of material poverty.

Holistic support only comes from the Christ-centered mission of a healthy, vibrant local church that can introduce the broken soul to the healing that only comes from Jesus. He provides the healing of heart and mind that fully enables the downtrodden to attain a state of health that enables them to fully exploit the opportunities God gives in a free society such as ours.

At the same time the government supplanted the church in benevolence, the church lost the maturing, sanctifying effect that the poor had on the church. As Arloa Sutter, leader of inner-city Chicago’s Breakthrough Urban Ministries, once told me, “The poor need us, but even more than that, we need the poor.” Those of us who have wealthy, unencumbered lives need to be pulled out of our comfort zones back into a world of grit and pain where once again we can see and experience Jesus as the only answer to the trials that assail us all.

And when we experience Jesus on this level, when we have experienced that revival of mind and soul that only he can bring, we cling to the Word of God as the only bedrock on which to renew a nation and people. 

In an era when government policy so often limits opportunity for the church to be the witness it was assigned to be, the church must be vigorous in reclaiming its vital societal role. With chronic overspending by the state and a burgeoning debt crisis, that job may be easier than we expect in the coming years. But even if the state fights the church for the role, it is essential that the church win that fight.

And when the church regains its central position as the place of first resort, again serving as Jesus’s hands and feet to those in need, it will again have both the platform and the moral authority to reclaim its place as the stick by which cultural norms are measured again.

by Daniel S. McConchie at May 26, 2015 05:02 AM

Kept Safe Through Death

“Write what you know” is an ancient maxim. For the last 11 months I’ve known anxiety, fear, emergency plane rides, surgery, more surgery, emergency surgery, more emergency surgery, infection, infections that occurred while on antibiotics from the previous infection, non-healing surgical wounds, more surgery, and, not least in my litany of self-pity, twice-daily dressing changes for wounds that will not go away.

In all of this, God has been at work, encouraging me to “run with perseverance the race set before me” (Heb. 12:1). If I can glorify him before so great a cloud of witnesses (mostly unseen), then I feel privileged to be given that assignment. But I have also longed for it to end, as well. Never before have I so fully understood the passion behind the twin prayers “Let this cup pass from me” and “Thy will be done.”

Psalm 34

Since being hospitalized most of October, and continuing on, I have been reading and re-reading the Psalms. There is one psalm that I picked to memorize, Psalm 34. It was kind of a no-brainer. Psalm 34:3 is the verse Tim and I chose to have engraved inside our wedding rings, more than 40 years ago. “Glorify the LORD with me, let us exalt his name together” sounds like a nice verse for two people getting married and going into ministry together. 

Memorization is a great way to meditate on a piece of Scripture. You taste the words, you see the connections, you ask “why that, why here?” about a word, a phrase that you might otherwise have read right over and not given much thought. As I have been trying to memorize Psalm 34, I’ve noticed a few things.

Encourgement for the Afflicted

First, the sufferings of the psalmist are meant to encourage other afflicted people. When he sought God during periods of anxiety and fear (verses 4-10) God relieved him, saved him out of all his troubles, protected him, to the point he can say “he lacked nothing.” This theme is continued in verses 17-20, where it sounds as if the psalmist is giving us a blanket promise that God will always deliver us from our troubles, comfort us when we are crushed and brokenhearted, and protect us from harm.

But wait. Verse 20, where the psalmist says “he (God) will protect all his bones, not one of them will be broken” is a messianic prophecy. It is quoted in John’s Gospel account of the crucifixion of Jesus, when the soldiers refrained from breaking Jesus’s legs to hasten his death, because he was already dead. John says in 19:36, “These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’”

Saved by the Resurrection 

My reaction at noticing this connection was at first bewilderment. Well, yes, none of his bones got broken, but he did get crucified! That doesn’t count as being protected from anything bad in my book. But when it comes to my understanding vs. Scripture, I know there is always something lacking in my understanding. Jesus’s bones weren’t broken, but he died a painful, hideous death. God didn’t save him from that. But God’s protection of Jesus extended past the grave. He was raised from the dead.

Follow the thread, Kathy, follow the thought. While God may not protect you from every bad thing that might, has, or could happen to you, ultimately, through resurrection, you are safe. I will walk through death and come out on the other side fully healed, restored, saved, and protected. God does not protect us from things that harm us, he protects us as we go through them, to the other side of the resurrection, where our real hopes and happiness lie. Now there’s a thought I can cling to.

Editors’ note: This article originally appeared in Redeemer Report, a monthly publication of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. 

by Kathy Keller at May 26, 2015 05:01 AM

7 Steps to Conflict Resolution

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. These dear friends had labored with us in Bible study, outreach, prayer, and church planting. They had financially supported our collegiate ministry for years, and they had commended our work to others. And now this couple was maligning us with accusations not based in fact—at least insofar as I understood the facts—and picked up from people they had recently met. We never had a chance to defend ourselves.

Things escalated, and people chose sides. A few tried unsuccessfully to mediate the conflict. In the eyes of the primary couple, everything we did was now tainted with suspicion. In our eyes, they couldn’t do much that was right, either. My heart knew little but fear, anger, and self-justifying self-protection.

What can you do in such situations? When two or more sinful people draw near to each other, disagreements will surface. From time to time, these disagreements can lead to hurt feelings, tension, backbiting, and all-out opposition. If you’re not prepared, these situations will blindside you, and your heart’s vileness will only fuel the eruption.

But the Lord gave us detailed advice on how to handle explosive disagreements; it’s found in Philippians 4:2-9.

Euodia and Syntyche 

Two prominent women—Euodia and Syntyche—had a disagreement so severe and public the entire church knew about it, and word reached the Apostle Paul (Phil. 4:2). These women had once been ministry partners, but now they sat on opposite sides of the table. They couldn’t resolve their concerns on their own, so Paul employed a third party—his “true companion”—to lend aid (Phil. 4:3).

Far from changing the subject, Paul coached his true companion over the next few verses on the process of mediation and reconciliation, providing steps to resolution.

Seven Steps to Resolution

1. Rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4). This counterintuitive step warranted repeating, so Paul said it again. When the floor drops out from under you, your best friend hates you, rumors multiply, people misunderstand, and the public mixes up the facts—you’re probably not having much fun. How can anyone rejoice while suffering such pain? Only by remembering that joy is primarily about what God has done for you (Phil. 2:1-11). Joy is the byproduct of a belief that difficult situations have a good purpose (Phil. 1:18-21). So rejoice in the Lord. Again I will say: Rejoice.

2. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone (Phil. 4:5a). You should be the most open and teachable party. Publicly amputate your own optical log before attempting any speck-removal surgery (Matt. 7:3). Keep your cool; don’t play the part of the wounded critter by rushing into public announcements, blog posts, or back-alley conversations that slam your rivals.

3. Remember the Lord is at hand (Phil. 4:5b). You are not alone. You will not go undefended forever. The Lord bottles every tear you shed, and he will avenge you. False accusations won’t survive eternity. In addition, your master sees everything you say and do. He won’t condone any actions you take to defame others whose names are written in the book of life, even if you think they deserve it. Praise the ever-present one who never returns evil for evil and who will never repay you as you deserve.

4. Don’t be anxious about the conflict, but ask God to resolve it (Phil. 4:6). I fear conflict and confrontation. My heart rate quickens, and my body trembles. I’m quick to seek human counsel and clarify my side of the story. But I must be quicker to seek the Lord’s counsel. I should cast my anxiety on him, ask him to do the impossible, and thank him for his marvelous, redemptive work in my relationships.

5. Guard your heart and mind with the peace of God, even when it does not make sense to do so (Phil. 4:7). My perspective always makes sense; my antagonist's perspective doesn’t. I often speak of a conflict in a way that markets my interpretation. But what might happen if I framed the conflict in a way my rival would agree with—that is, in a manner the other person agrees is a fair summary of key issues? Every bone in my body abhors the injustice of it, but the peace of God surpasses all understanding and demands such respect for the brethren.

6. Find something—anything—praiseworthy to focus on in your antagonists (Phil. 4:8). If you stew on what your antagonists did wrong, replaying the memories to yourself and recounting your hurt feelings to others, you are sinning against God, who told you what to think about. Find something true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise, and set your mind there.

7. Find good role models and continue practicing these things (Phil. 4:9). Paul endured plenty of opposition from fellow believers (Phil. 1:12-20). He knew what it’s like to be mistreated, maligned, and envied by those who are supposed to be on the same team. He learned how to rejoice in the Lord and his gospel through difficult conflicts. He’s shown us how one behaves when the God of peace is with him.

Attainable Peace

Euodia and Syntyche’s volatile situation provoked Paul to pen a beautiful portion of Scripture saturated with both the peace of God (Phil. 4:7) and the God of peace (Phil. 4:9). Of course, we can’t resolve every conflict. Some opponents truly are “dogs” and “evildoers” (Phil. 3:2), “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). There are times we must stand firm in the Lord and not budge against such opponents (Phil. 4:1).

But Christians must not treat other Christians as opponents. We’ll be together with the Lord for eternity, so Jesus would have us get a head start on learning to live in his peace.

by Peter Krol at May 26, 2015 05:00 AM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Thinking about adaptive menus for tracking

I’ve been thinking about building more tools for myself. Some of the ideas I’ve been playing around with are around simplifying activity tracking further, possibly getting it to the point where it suggests things for me to do when my brain is fuzzy.

My current tracking system has two tiers. For my most-common activities, I use a custom menu that I can open from my phone’s home screen. I created the menu using Tasker. It’s easy to configure menu items to update my Quantified Awesome activity records as well as run other logic on my phone. For example:

  • “Eat dinner” creates an activity record for “Dinner”, then starts MyFitnessPal so that I can log the meal
  • “Walk home” creates an activity record for “Walk – Other”, then starts step-by-step navigation of the walk back to my house
  • “Sleep” creates an activity record, then launches Sleep as Android
  • “Ni No Kuni” creates an activity record, prompts me for what I want to do after an hour of playing, opens a page with tips for the game, and then reminds me of my plans after that hour passes

One advantage of using something on my phone is that I don’t have to wait for the initial web page from Quantified Awesome to load. My keyboard occasionally takes a while to come up, too, so the menu-based interface gets around that as well. Also, as I get the hang of using Tasker, I can set up more intelligent processes. The menu has a link to open the web version, so if I want to track something less frequent, I can always use the web interface.

In the web interface, I usually type a substring to identify the category I want to track. For example, “kitch” results in an activity record for “Clean the kitchen”. I use this interface if I need to backdate entries (ex: -5m), too.

In addition to the two interfaces above, I’ve been thinking about taking advantage of the predictability of my schedule.

Research into adaptive menus turns up quite a few design ideas and considerations. Since I’m building this for myself, I can get around many of the challenges of adaptive interfaces, such as privacy and predictability. I’m curious about the following options:

  • Text-based input with minimal cues, as part of a more powerful command line
  • Context-sensitive menu with a handful of items (3-4, with a link to more): I can probably suggest candidate activities based on the past two activity records. That might mean a little bit of latency as I check, though. It also means that the menu will keep shifting, so I’ll need to read it and find the item I want to click on.
    • For everyday use?
    • For really fuzzy moments?
  • Static menu of frequent items, but adaptive highlighting (ex: green or bold, or fading out other things slightly)
    • Abrupt onset, others fading in over 500ms
    • Colour?
    • Weight?
  • Split menu: frequent items on top, everything else below
    • Static
    • Adaptive
  • Hierarchy of menus: speedy, but lots of tapping
  • Cut off menu: show only the activities that come after the one I’ve just tracked

Hmm… It might be interesting to play around with different menu options. It would be good to experiment with NFC as well, especially early in the morning. =)


The post Thinking about adaptive menus for tracking appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at May 26, 2015 03:10 AM


Paper: An Evaluation of the Impact of Visual Embellishments in Bar Charts

Information graphics often use variations and embellishments of standard charts that may distort the way people read the data. But how bad are these distortions really? In a paper to be presented at EuroVis this week, Drew Skau, Lane Harrison, and I tested their effects in an experiment.

Based on a survey of common infographics tropes, we came up with a number of common patterns. We then simplified those to reduce them to just the embellishment type, removing many elements like color, complex patterns, external decorations, etc. We ended up with these six embellishment archetypes, which we tested against a standard bar chart.

Chart Embellishment Cases

In the experiment, we asked people two types of questions: absolute and relative. In the absolute question, they had to estimate the value represented by one of the “bars,” while in the relative one we had them express the smaller one as a fraction of the larger.

We carefully avoided asking about the height of the bars, or even referring to bars in the questions or the descriptions. This is because we wanted to not bias people towards looking just at height when they might be reading area (which is important for the triangular charts that scale in two directions).

What we found is not terribly surprising, but it is now backed by actual research: most of the embellishments have an adverse effect on the accuracy of reading values when comparing bars. The worst offender are quadratically scaled triangles (which grow not just vertically but also horizontally). Interestingly, the one that doesn’t seem to have an effect is when the bar extends below the baseline. That is in contrast to recent findings that show that cutting off the axis so it does not start at 0 causes reading errors.

For reading absolute values, we found that most embellishments had no effect, with the exception of quadratic triangles. The capped chart in this condition yielded the same average values and a smaller standard deviation than the baseline bar chart. We think that the cap with its flat top actually helped people draw a mental line to the axis to judge the values.

The paper has more details and some recommendations for designers working on infographics. It also nicely complements both our recent CHI paper on ISOTYPE and the work on deceptive visualization by Anshul Pandey, Enrico Bertini, and others.

Drew Skau, Lane Harrison, Robert Kosara, An Evaluation of the Impact of Visual Embellishments in Bar Charts, Computer Graphics Forum (Proceedings EuroVis), vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 221–230, 2015.

by Robert Kosara at May 26, 2015 02:17 AM

May 25, 2015

ASCII by Jason Scott

The Backing Up of the Internet Archive Continues: Hop In

A little over a month ago, I cooked up a grandiose plan with the Archive Team to back up the Internet Archive, and discussed what that might entail and how one might approach it.

How’s that thing going, anyway?

iabakRemarkably Well would be the best description.

The working group (and let’s be clear – I’m doing the least amount of “working” in the Working Group) has cooked up a bunch of language, procedures, and taken on volunteers at a great clip.

Currently, the system can allow additional clients (volunteers) to join up and be fed the most-needed shards (data sets) and then check on these clients, alerting them after a couple weeks they haven’t checked in, and expiring them out after a month of not checking in, backfilling the lost client’s dataset.

We’ve intentionally and unintentionally punched clients in the gut and watched the system recover. We’ve also added a leaderboard, as well as feedback of what clients tend to have what.

Currently, the IA.BAK system stands at 27 terabytes backed up. To some, this might sound like a drop compared to the vast stores of the Archive, but that’s because they’re looking at it a different way than has emerged during the project’s research efforts.

For example:

  • The IA.BAK project is housed on zero Internet Archive infrastructure.
  • Only data and collections accessible to the public are backed up.
  • Each item is backed up to three separate locations other than the Archive.
  • Collections of items are hand-chosen for historical value/rareness on the net.

The result of many discoveries along the way, these sorts of choices came from discussion, testing, and some very smart volunteers throwing ideas back and forth at each other.

Obviously, having the whole thing not depend on Internet Archive at all quickly became the goal – even the website explaining how it all works isn’t hosted there. As for the public-only, it was important that the project not depend on having some insider access or knowledge (after all, this might be a useful thing for other major data stores). And that three-other-locations thing is murder – we’re already up to almost 60 terabytes of volunteered, shared space.

Finally, the hand-chosen aspect has been particularly enlightening – given this approach to backing things away, what collections would the world truly be poorer for not having? As we walk through the various piles of history on the Archive, the team of IA.BAK volunteers are finding some really wonderful sets, items which could use a little spotlight for the world to check out again anew. This is, after all, both an expedition and an experiment.

The client suite for becoming one of our volunteer storage spaces is now many times easier to use, and a lot of error correction has been built in. We’re not quite to the “space on your laptop or desktop” E-Z install phase yet – it’d be good if your disks were connected to the internet constantly, and if you had, say, more than 500gb free disk space lying around.

The system is built so you can choose to remove a collection you don’t want to back up (and it won’t return) and for you to be able to start using some of that provided disk space for your own uses, just leaving whatever gigabytes you have left for the project. In other words, you can make the same use of disk space that isn’t doing anything like you can use CPU time that wasn’t doing anything for SETI@HOME. We have people contributing half a terabyte drive they aren’t using, while others are going for the gusto and offering tens of terabytes.

So, if this intrigues you, please come visit the IA.BAK homepage, see how we’re doing (after just a month!) and learn how you might help.

by Jason Scott at May 25, 2015 09:51 PM

Jony Ive promoted to Apple's 'Chief Design Officer' →

Stephen Fry, in a wonderfully-written essay about Apple's design boss:

Until now, Ive’s job title has been Senior Vice President of Design. But I can reveal that he has just been promoted and is now Apple’s Chief Design Officer. It is therefore an especially exciting time for him.

Inside the fabled design studio (cloths over the long tables hiding the exciting new prototypes from prying eyes like mine) Jony has two people with him. They too have been promoted as part of Ive’s new role.

One is Richard Howarth, English as Vimto. “Richard is going to be our new head of Industrial Design,” says Jony. “And this is Alan Dye, the new head of User Interface.” Dye is a tall, amiable American.

In the piece, Ive says that Howarth and Dye will help him with administrative and management work. With a larger product portfolio then ever (or at least since Jobs' return) and Campus 2 being built, there's no doubt that Ive is a busy man. My guess is that this move was to help alleviate that stress, while also securing his future with Apple for the foreseeable future.


by Stephen Hackett at May 25, 2015 09:43 PM

CrossFit Naptown

CrossFit Endurance

Tuesday’s Workout:

Back Squat
5 at 67.5%
3 at 76.5%
1+ at 85.5%
*Add 10lbs*

5 x 400 Meter Run
Every 3:00
*Score = Fastest & Slowest*



Thank You CrossFit Endurance!


Over the weekend, we hosted out first every CrossFit Specialty Course here at CFNT. We were honored to host the largest CrossFit Endurance Course to date and had a blast learning from John McBrien. Coach Peter, Coach Anna, Coach Leslie, and Marilee all took the course and learned a number of skills and drills to help the community with running and endurance programming in general.

What is CrossFit Endurance?

CrossFit on its own is “constantly varied. functional movements, performed at high intensity across broad times and modal domains.” CFE puts that same principle into use in the endurance world. It is a program designed for athletes competing in or training for endurance events that combines strength and conditioning with more intense endurance work. CFE takes the traditional endurance model and turns it on its head. The traditional model holds volume as king (think long slow distance), followed by some intensity perhaps, and lastly very little (if any) focus on running technique. It is a model that has worked for many weekend warriors, for many years. However, it is safe to say that almost every runner out there has experienced some kind of running injury. Lots and lots of miles with little to no cross training, means a lot of strain on the body, especially when poor form is thrown into the mix. The CrossFit Endurance method asks athletes to first focus on form and technique, just like in any other CrossFit movement. Intensity is added into the mix next, followed lastly with increased volume. Adding CrossFit workouts into the mix gives endurance athletes a stronger base that helps them to be more powerful and avoid injuries from recruiting the wrong muscles or weaker muscles while running. Disclaimer: it is not the be all and end all of the running and endurance wheel. It is just another way to approach training that may work for some people and help athletes get on a path back to loving running instead of having it put them in constant pain.



Along with that, we are excited to announce that the NapTown Running Club will be back in action starting June 1st at 6:00pm and continuing on Monday nights throughout the running season. Here is Coach Pete with more on what the deelio is with the program!


CrossFit Endurance is back!

Endurance at Naptown is going to be a little bit different than we’ve done in the past. This year, we’re going to be completing a 16 week program culminating in a 5K race that will be open to anyone at CrossFit Naptown. The program will consist of 3 days per week worth of running programming, warmups, drills, etc., as well as advice on how to incorporate regular CrossFit workouts into your training schedule. We will meet on Mondays at 6PM to do one of the weekly workouts at CrossFit Naptown as a group. The other two days will need to be performed on your own… or maybe the group can organize informal meetups to keep each other motivated. It’s up to you!

No matter what level of experience you have with running or racing, this program is for you. If you’re just starting out, this program will give you a great foundation of strength and technique to build from. Even if you’ve run multiple marathons or half marathons, this program is going to improve on your speed, strength, and technique to take your PRs at any distance to the next level. 


The largest CFE course ever at CFNT!

The largest CFE course ever at CFNT!


The group retesting their form under the watchful eye of John McBrien

The group retesting their form under the watchful eye of John McBrien


Athletes getting some practice in teaching others the CFE drills

Athletes getting some practice in teaching others the CFE drills


And of course it wouldn't be a CrossFit seminar without a workout!

And of course it wouldn’t be a CrossFit seminar without a workout!

by Anna at May 25, 2015 09:02 PM

Practically Efficient

Training happier employees

Kelly and Ben Decker writing for the HBR blog:

No one wants another checklist task that they have to complete. We want to be called to something greater. So instead of informing and directing your direct reports, aspire to inspire. When you focus on persuading them, you’ll be able to turn even a corporate initiative or new product launch into a cause that becomes their own. They’ll want to step up and own their results.

Just like the dog in the aptly selected stock photo atop this post, your employees will not only fetch those balls better and faster, they'll be happier doing it. And though the tennis balls all look alike, if you truly understand your employees' personalities, you'll be able to manipulate them into thinking that those balls do have meaning. Your employees will want to own the balls.

by Eddie Smith at May 25, 2015 06:21 PM

Daniel Lemire's blog

Are you a techno-optimist? (A review of Tomorrowland)

Walt Disney released Tomorrowland. I brought my little family to see it and we had a blast.

(Warning: mild spoilers ahead.)

The movie has one message: let us be techno-optimists. Instead of being driven by fear, let us embrace new challenges. Let us go to Mars or beyond. Let us cure cancer. Let us live with large robots.

The movie has some brilliant elements:

  • Early in the movie, we see a young boy who has invented a jet pack. When asked about the purpose of his invention, he replied: “to inspire people”.

    This is a great and important answer. Almost all new inventions bring very little value on their own. That is true of even radical inventions. For example, if we could cure cancer, we would only extend our life expectancy by a few years (less than five if I recall correctly).

    Techno-optimism is the belief that pushing technology forward is good in itself, if only to inspire others.

    Yes, it may take decades or more before hospitals can print me a new lung or a new heart… so maybe I will needless die of a lung or heart disease in ten years… but I am still excited about 3D printing and steam cell research.

  • The cause of much of the misery in the world of the movie can be traced back to pessimism. Once you have convinced people to stop advancing (symbolized in the movie by the closure of a NASA center), the path becomes difficult.

    I have a lot of respect for conservatives like Nassim Taleb who advocate caution in all things. What if we are killing the planet? Should we not revert back to how our ancestors lived, just in case? What if genetically modified food is killing us? But the techno-optimist in me prefers to take the gamble. And, as illustrated in the movie, that is not necessarily any riskier.

    Before we had as much technology as we did today, people died horrible deaths. Earth was ravaged. That still happens today, of course… we are causing cancers, and polluting too much… but we are, as a species, far better off than we ever were. There are more of us (a good thing) and we are healthier, and smarter.

    The techno-optimist thinks that we should push ahead faster when the problems get more difficult. We should invest more in research and development when the problems are bigger, not less.

    And, yes, maybe by tempering with stem cells, we will create a Zombie virus that will wipe out humility. But maybe these same stem cells will be able to rejuvenate our failing organs.

  • The movie shows a few marvellous inventions that can be used to differentiate the techno-optimists from the rest of the crowd.

    We have human-like “robots” that are genuinely indistinguishable from human beings, except for the fact that they do not grow or age. We have also a cure for aging. Indeed, we learn that the Tomorrowland scientists have cured aging, and all it takes is an orange juice a day… presumably the orange juice is fitted with nanotechnology that repairs the body and prevents aging.

    Most people around me are unwilling to consider these as possible inventions, even on the long term. Yet I believe that both are quite possible. I do not know yet why we would ever build human-like intelligence… but I certainly believe it will be quite possible some day.

    I do not believe that I will live forever. But I have always believed that preventing and reverting aging is a simple matter of technology. If I ever make it to an old age, will we have the technology to give me back my youth? It seems overly optimistic to think so, given that we cannot seem to make any progress against Alzheimer, and that we are probably not even close to curing cancer… But I nevertheless believe that it is simply a matter technology. And technology is accelerating all the time… so nobody can know what is possible in the medium term…

    Being a techno-optimist, I believe that we will soon significantly extend longevity. I do believe that in 20 or 30 years, they will be able to replace hearts and lungs with affordable replacement parts that are just as good (if not better) than the original. Two of my neighbours have artificial knees… and they mow their grass just as well as I do. (Admittedly, they do not do jumping jacks, but neither do I.)

    With all the money that people stand to make with it, I cannot imagine that in 30 years, we won’t be able to rejuvenate skin and muscles so that aging actresses can genuinely look as if they were just 30 or 40.

    Rejuvenating the brain, at least in some critical ways, should be commonplace in ten years. But what I really want to see is how we will extend the brain with electronics.

Of course, techno-optimism is a dogma. It is entirely possible that the net result of technology will be to shorten my life and that of my children, and makes us more miserable. But I have faith that we can find solutions through technology.

An interesting opposing dogma is what I call “biological determinism”. These people believe that we are fundamentally limited by biology. Thus, for example, we should not perturb the Earth with our technology for fear of causing irreparable harm. These people believe that the future looks bleak for people who “aren’t smart enough”…

I believe that we have been, and will continue to extend biology. It is true that people who aren’t smart do not seem to have room in Tomorrowland… but, to me, the obvious solution is to make people smarter. We can use genetics, brain augmentations… As for pollution, I think we can develop technologies that pollute less, as well as better techniques to clean toxins.

Of course, maybe techno-optimists are wrong. However, they can at least hope to be wrong in interesting ways.

by Daniel Lemire at May 25, 2015 06:11 PM

The Ontological Geek

11 Days of Marvel: The Avengers

Phase 1 ends with The Avengers, and Bill and Erin write their thoughts about it!

by Bill Coberly at May 25, 2015 04:31 PM

Justin Taylor

Crossway Blog

Weekly E-Book Specials - 5/25/15

Every week, Crossway offers several great e-books at steep discounts. This week, all of our discounted e-books are from the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series, edited by Dr. David Dockery.

These deals are also available from other participating retailers, including Amazon, Westminster Bookstore, Vyrso,, and others. The discounted prices are available through May 31, 2015.

The Great Tradition of Christian Thinking: A Student's Guide

David S. Dockery & Timothy George

This book introduces an approach to the Christian tradition that is not simply historical overview, but will also help students engage with contemporary challenges to their faith in various academic fields. This reader-friendly guidebook shows how to address those challenges by reclaiming the best of the Christian intellectual tradition. With illustrations, reflection questions, and a list of resources for further study, this book is sure to be a timely tool in the hands of believing students in both Christian and secular universities.

“The volume courses with biblical conviction, evangelical vitality, and a breadth that interacts with the great cloud of witnesses from every place and era of the church of Jesus Christ. I commend this book heartily to students, professors, and church leaders.”
—Russell D. Moore, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; author, Tempted and Tried

$2.99 / Learn More / Free Excerpt

Ethics and Moral Reasoning: A Student's Guide

C. Ben Mitchell

Challenging the relativism so rampant in our society today, C. Ben Mitchell helps us thoughtfully engage our morally confused world in this introduction to ethics from a distinctly Christian perspective. Drawing on insights from key historical figures and modern Christian ethicists such as Stanley Hauerwas and N. T. Wright, this book will help you embrace a holistic approach to moral reasoning that is founded on Scripture and informed by history.

“I cannot think of a subject more important to this generation than ethics; and no person better to treat it than C. Ben Mitchell. I’m very happy to recommend this welcome and important volume.”
—Eric Metaxas, New York Times best-selling author, Miracles and Bonhoeffer

$2.99 / Learn More / Free Excerpt

Christian Worldview: A Student's Guide

Philip Graham Ryken

Philip Ryken, prolific author and president of Wheaton College, explains the distinguishing marks of the Christian worldview, helping us to engage thoughtfully with our increasingly pluralistic society. Based on the notion that ideas have consequences, this accessible resource will help you see life’s “big picture” by equipping you with a well-reasoned framework of Christian beliefs and convictions.

"Thorough and accessible, this is a perfect resource for students who need a solid grounding or a fresh reminder of truths of the Christian worldview."
—D. Michael Lindsay, President, Gordon College; author, Faith in the Halls of Power

$2.99 / Learn More / Free Excerpt

Political Thought: A Student's Guide

Hunter Baker

Award-winning professor Hunter Baker helps political amateurs gain a foundational understanding of the subject and encourages seasoned political observers to find a fresh perspective in this book. Learn how to fruitfully consider and discuss politics, and gain a greater capacity for evaluating political proposals and the claims that go with them.

"In lively and engaging prose, Hunter Baker surveys the answers that great thinkers have given to these enduring questions. His book is an excellent, accessible introduction to the fundamental themes of political discourse—and to why these matter for the rising generation."
—George H. Nash, author, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945

$2.99 / Learn More / Free Excerpt

Art and Music: A Student's Guide

Paul Munson & Joshua Farris Drake

Drawing on years of teaching experience, two professors offer tips for understanding, evaluating, and appreciating art in all its forms while highlighting the important ways in which art and music reflect the glory of God. This book will help you better understand and appreciate humanity’s pursuit and imitation of beauty through artistic expression—a vital means by which we bear witness to the beauty of our Creator.

"The virtues of this book are immediately evident. It asks the right questions, provides the right answers, and illustrates the claims made about art and music with analysis of examples—all within a context of the Christian faith and the Bible."
—Leland Ryken, Emeritus Professor of English, Wheaton College

$2.99 / Learn More / Free Excerpt

Philosophy: A Student's Guide

David K. Naugle

In this work, distinguished professor David Naugle gives us a firm understanding of the basic issues, thinkers, and sub-disciplines in the field of philosophy as well as an invitation to engage with the contemporary challenges therein. He discusses the importance of prolegomena (assumptions and methods) and the vocation of Christian philosophers. Naugle also outlines the differences between the Hebrew and Greek mindsets and provides biblical perspectives through an Augustinian approach. Above all, Naugle teaches us how to philosophize in light of God and the gospel.

“This fine book not only makes important explorations in Christian philosophy accessible to those who may be starting out on their intellectual journey; it also offers insights to those of us who are well along in that pilgrimage.”
—Richard J. Mouw, President, Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

$2.99 / Learn More / Free Excerpt

Psychology: A Student's Guide

Stanton L. Jones

In this accessible student’s guide, an experienced professor examines the study of psychology from a distinctly Christian perspective, introducing readers to key issues such as the origins of morality, nature vs. nurture, the relationship between the mind and the brain, and the concept of personal identity.

"This insightful, incisive critique of contemporary psychology is only possible because Dr. Jones is so deeply knowledgeable about both Christianity and psychology. As always, his writing is clear, direct, and thought provoking. Reading this book is like taking a guided tour of contemporary issues in psychology, led by one of the finest Christian thinkers of our time."
—Mark McMinn, Professor of Psychology, George Fox University; author, Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling

$2.99 / Learn More / Free Excerpt

Literature: A Student's Guide

Louis Markos

Seasoned professor Louis Markos invites us into the great literary conversation that has been taking place throughout the ages and illuminates the wisdom to be found therein. He offers both a guide to studying and understanding literature, especially poetry, and an inspiring look at what it means to think like poets and view the world through literary eyes. This book holds out a truth for all: that the understanding and appreciation of literature draws us closer to God, his Word, and his work in the world.

“Not only students will benefit from this learned and perceptive overview, but mature scholars of the discipline will also find The Student’s Guide a helpful and clarifying aid.”
—Louise Cowan, Professor of Literature, University of Dallas; author, The Epic Cosmos

$2.99 / Learn More / Free Excerpt

The Natural Sciences: A Student's Guide

John A. Bloom

Starting with the classical view of God as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, this book lays the biblical foundation for the study of the natural world and explores the history of scientific reflection since Aristotle. Bloom argues that the Christian worldview provides the best grounds for scientific investigation, offering readers the framework they need to think and speak clearly about the pursuit of scientific knowledge.

“Though a small book, it is packed with important ideas and information. It is must reading for any college course in science and Christianity.”
—J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University; author, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters

$2.99 / Learn More / Free Excerpt

The Liberal Arts: A Student's Guide

Gene C. Fant Jr.

An excellent liberal arts education holds purpose-giving and society-shaping power. But how do we tap into that power and make the most of liberal learning for the glory of God?

Professor Gene Fant teaches how to maximize a liberal arts education by outlining its history, criticisms, purposes, and benefits. Ultimately, he shows that liberal learning equips us to become spiritually and intellectually empathetic people who are passionate about serving God, the church, and the world.

“Attention! The liberal arts are for everyone, especially Christians. They introduce us to all the personal dimensions that encompass our lives from beginning to end. But how is this so since so much of the liberal arts seem foreign to us as Christians? Begin with this book and find the answer. Then live out a rich life of knowledge and appreciation of what makes every life worth living.”
—James W. Sire, Author, The Universe Next Door and A Little Primer on Humble Apologetics

$2.99 / Learn More / Free Excerpt

by Nick Rynerson at May 25, 2015 01:11 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

The Habit of Giving


Happy Memorial Day to all in the U.S., and happy Monday to everyone else.

Today I made a small donation to a cause that inspired me. It wasn’t really because of the holiday, it didn’t cost me much, and I won’t miss the money. Yet, I still felt good after I pushed the button that finalized the commitment.

Notice how selfish this sounds: It felt good to give! I was the one with the benefit.

But this is how it works. The more you give, the better you feel.

Giving is a habit. You cultivate it the way you would for any habit—you simply do it, repeatedly.

Give it a try.


See also: Generous people have more to give.

Image: SPN


by Chris Guillebeau at May 25, 2015 12:32 PM

confused of calcutta

thinking about tolerance and opinion polls

Some years ago I wrote a few posts about the “adda” in Calcutta. Since then the term has a Wikipedia entry; there’s been an award-winning film made about the phenomenon (which you can watch here in its entirety, worth it for the music alone): Even the New York Times covered the topic … Continue reading thinking about tolerance and opinion polls

by JP at May 25, 2015 07:53 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

When ‘Sanctity of Life’ Includes the Right to Choose Death

Earlier this year the Supreme Court of Canada legalized physician-assisted death (PAD)—a ruling that will take effect in February 2016. Overturning by unanimous decision its 1993 ruling that denied a patient’s right to die, the Court defined the “sanctity of life” to include determining one's “passage into death”—even if the patient isn’t terminally ill. Though Canadian policymakers are working to minimize potential abuses of PAD, the legal language is broadly permissive.

Of additional concern to Christian doctors in Canada is the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ontario’s recent vote to restrict a doctor's right to conscience protection. A revision to their Professional and Human Rights Policy now mandates that all doctors—even ones with moral and religious objections to procedures like PAD and abortion—must provide referrals to other healthcare providers.

In the United States, PAD is legal in Washington and Oregon, and there are bills before many state legislatures in favor of legalizing it. I spoke with Dr. Ewan Goligher, an intensive care physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, about the implications on both sides of the border.

Dr. Goligher, what changed in Canada's ethical landscape to make the legalization of PAD possible now?

What has shifted, both within the medical community and in society more generally, is the rising importance of individual autonomy. Autonomy (the right to self-determination) has always been a central consideration in bioethical decision-making, but it is now treated as the pre-eminent ethical value. In 1993, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the sanctity of life over and against patient autonomy. In its recent ruling, however, the Court prioritized patient autonomy. Citing Canadians' constitutional right to “life, liberty and security of the person,” the Court equated “autonomy” with “security.” In Canada, we now value—as a matter of personal autonomy—a patient’s right to determine how and when he dies above the intrinsic worth of human life, which some ethicists view as a dubious concept anyway.

Aside from using patient autonomy to defend PAD, what particularly troubles you, as a physician, about this as a framework for medical decision-making? Shouldn't patients be granted the right to manage their own care?

Patient autonomy is one of many factors in making medical decisions. But in the debate around PAD, the concept of autonomy extends beyond simply allowing patients to make their own decisions about whether to accept proposed treatments for their medical conditions. For PAD advocates, it includes allowing patients to decide what counts as a benefit—even death itself. In this proposed framework, it’s not hard to imagine being required to accede to demands for lesser “benefits”—from the right to use prescription medications purely for a pleasurable “high” to the right to demand medical interventions that would not otherwise be offered. When death itself can be considered as a medical benefit, the sky seems to be the unfortunate limit for patient autonomy, and it introduces a level of subjectivity into medicine that we wouldn’t otherwise tolerate.

Why do you think there is public support in Canada for PAD?

It's true that public polls show that the majority of Canadians support PAD. It's less clear, however, that a majority of Canadian doctors support it. Many physicians who advocate for PAD seem to be personally unwilling to prescribe or administer lethal medication. To me, that speaks volumes.

The PAD lobby has been successful at arguing that many people suffer from irremediable, intractable pain. The argument for compassion is compelling, and both advocates and opponents of PAD seek a common goal and a shared desire—the relief of suffering. Doctors on both sides of the issue want to provide the best, most compassionate care for their patients, and there’s a definite consensus in the medical community that our current resources and training in end-of-life care are inadequate.

Nevertheless, published research clearly demonstrates that the vast majority of patients who seek PAD aren’t driven by their uncontrolled pain, but by their desire to be in control of their dying process. Ultimately, widespread public support for PAD reflects a deep sense of hopelessness and meaninglessness around suffering and dying in our society.

How do you approach this conversation with colleagues who don't share your Christian worldview and approach the ethics of PAD differently?

When faced with skeptical interlocutors, Jesus often asked pointed questions to help his opponents identify their own basic assumptions. In discussions around PAD, I've often found it effective to ask people simply, “Why should I respect patient autonomy?” As a Christian doctor, I know why I ought to respect it, but I find that most people fail to provide any sound ethical argument; it’s just something they take for granted. Another question I like to ask is, “How do you know that the patient is better off dead?” These questions force people to examine their own basic assumptions, and their responses reveal a great deal about their personal worldview.

Can physicians in Canada exercise the legal right to “conscientiously object” to providing services they deem morally objectionable?

Until quite recently, doctors were guaranteed conscience protection in Canada. They did not have to provide a service (such as abortion) to patients, nor did they have to provide a referral to another service provider. The medical community has usually considered it reasonable to respect conscientious objections, and this system has functioned well in Canada for decades.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons on Ontario, which governs medical practice in Ontario and disciplines doctors who fail to meet professional standards, however, has recently restricted this right. The college now insists that doctors refusing to provide a service must provide a referral in good faith to a physician willing to offer services. By February 2016, PAD will be one of those services. It’s likely that other provinces in Canada will follow suit on this policy.

Is it a betrayal of conscience to provide a medical referral to another physician for these services?

Yes, absolutely—although many of my secular colleagues find it hard to understand that point. I explain it like this: imagine that a mother came to you, insisting that she could no longer deal with her 1-year-old, and asking for a referral to the local infanticide clinic. My colleagues, of course, recoil at the thought of offering a referral under that scenario. I explain to them that, for those of us who believe in the intrinsic worth of human life, we feel this same horror at abortion and PAD. A referral is instrumental in providing access to treatment, even if the doctor doesn't provide the service herself.

If Christian doctors are not guaranteed conscience protection in Canada, what does this mean for them?

Christian physicians of conscience will simply not be able to practice in certain areas of medicine. Primary care will essentially be off-limits, as will palliative care (since palliative physicians are most likely to receive such requests). I'm saddened because these are highly relational areas of medical practice, where Christian values such as servanthood, love, and compassion are of such direct value.

Additionally, it may become harder for Christians to get into medicine. There may even come a time when we can no longer be a part of the medical community in Canada because we can no longer function according to the consensus values of that community. (Wesley Smith, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism, makes some ominous predictions in this regard.)

What are the potential implications of the legalization of PAD for the United States? Is American medical practice headed in the same direction as Canada?

I think the United States will follow Canada in short order. From my perspective, I see considerable social momentum on this in the United States, and I know that many of my American colleagues are very worried about this possibility.

The American public might perceive Canadian physicians as public servants (making us more bound to public policy), but in reality most of us are independent and self-employed, just like American physicians. The important difference is that the Canadian government is the exclusive insurer that we bill for our services. Though we are paid differently, the consensus philosophical framework underpinning bioethical reasoning and the pre-eminence of personal autonomy is shared on both sides of the border. That points to the inevitability of a similar outcome.

What can Christians do to support medical professionals in Canada?

Christians in Canada can write to their government officials, speaking out on these issues. But because this is a worldview issue, even more than a policy issue, it's important that Christians be ready to make a cogent, coherent defense of their faith and worldview. When Christians in their workplaces and neighborhoods and cities can communicate the gospel in ways that make it plausible and appealing, our clear thinking, compassion, and Christlikeness can be instrumental in shifting society's opinions about Christian values.

We also need to faithfully teach the Scriptures so that the church can gain a clearer grasp of the normality of suffering in the Christian life, which is obviously front and center in this issue. And if we are asked to suffer and to make sacrifices (professionally), we must recognize that this is a part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

In an effort to help Christians communicate the gospel in the context of this and other contemporary issues, we’re holding a conference on apologetics and evangelism in Toronto in June. The conference, organized by a group of Christian academics at the University of Toronto in partnership with my local church and Apologetics Canada, is geared to help Christians address a range of challenges to belief in Christ. I’d strongly encourage anyone in the area to attend. Additionally, Christians can donate to CMDS (Christian Medical and Dental Society), which is fighting the legal battle for conscience protection.

Are you optimistic for the future of Christians in Canadian health care?

Truthfully, not really. Modern Canadian society (and American society too, I suspect) is deeply committed to the supremacy of personal autonomy. I don't see this cultural mindset changing in the near future apart from the grace of God. But I trust that God is sovereign, and the debate around PAD provides us with a valuable opportunity to raise important existential questions, not only about end-of-life issues, but also about the “ends” of life. 

Only the meta-narrative of the gospel can make sense of the meaning of life—and death.

by Jen Pollock Michel at May 25, 2015 05:01 AM

J.D. Bentley: Bourbon and Tradition | Journal

Arlington National Cemetery's Confederate Roots

Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember those who have lost their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It’s a solemn reminder of the heroism and sacrifice necessary to maintain the freedom and order of our great nation.

Since Herbert Hoover conducted the first national Memorial Day ceremony in 1929, it is customary for the President of the United States to address the nation from Arlington National Cemetery. Most people are familiar with the cemetery, but few are aware of its interesting history.

The land that would become Arlington National Cemetery was first purchased by George Washington Parke Custis in 1802. Custis was the grandson of Martha Washington, wife of George Washington. On that land, Custis started the construction of the Arlington House, a Greek revival mansion designed by George Hadfield, the English architect who designed the US Capitol. The house was willed to his only daughter, Mary Anna Custis.

It just so happened that Mary Anna Custis’s husband was a United States Army officer named Robert E. Lee. She and Lee were married at Arlington House in 1831 and lived there for 30 years prior to the start of the Civil War.

Then on April 17th of 1861, the Virginia convention voted to secede from the Union. On April 20th, Lee resigned his commission and went to take command of the Virginia armed forces. Virginia’s secession made Arlington House a target. The house was built on high ground overlooking Washington DC, so Confederate occupation was unacceptable. The confederate Virginia militia held the house by May 7th, but Mary Anna realized they were unlikely to retain it. She quickly buried family treasures on the property and unwillingly left Arlington. It was taken by federal soldiers without opposition just 17 days later.

In 1862, the U.S. Congress imposed a property tax on all land in insurrectionary areas and added, in 1863, a requirement that those taxes be paid in person. It was through this legislation that Arlington was illegally seized and put up for auction. Mary Anna, living behind Confederate lines and ailing with arthritis, was unable to pay the tax in person. Though she sent an agent to pay the tax for her, the payment was not accepted. The property was put up for auction and purchased by the United States government for $26,800, equivalent to around $412,000 today.

The government wanted the property specifically for use as a cemetery, as the nearby Soldiers’ Cemetery and Alexandria Cemetery were nearly full. Arlington was thought to be the most ideal location for a new cemetery. It was a beautiful place and free from the flooding that might unearth graves. Being the home of General Robert E. Lee, leader of the armed forces of the Confederate States of America, made its acquisition and repurposing a certainty.

After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee never returned to Arlington before his death in 1870. Mary Anna Custis returned only once shortly before her death in 1873. She was so disgusted by its condition that she immediately left without entering the house.

Lee’s son, George Washington Custis Lee, as the rightful heir after his mother’s death, filed suit against the United States government to regain Arlington. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 1882 in Lee’s favor, finding that the estate was illegally confiscated and ordering it returned.

Lee wasn’t particularly interested in owning Arlington, however. His primary concern was in just compensation for the property. Thus, the return was immediately followed by several months of tough negotiations, after which Lee sold Arlington back to the United States government for $150,000, which would amount to nearly $4 million in 2015.

Today, the Arlington House is the Robert E. Lee Memorial and the surrounding land serves as the final resting place of over 228,000 soldiers from every American conflict since the Revolutionary War.

On Memorial Day, The Old Guard honor those fallen soldiers by conducting a tradition called "Flags in". Every available soldier in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment places a small flag at each of the 228,000 headstones, a process that takes around 4 hours to complete.

May 25, 2015 04:00 AM

Dogfooding Firefox GTK+3

Thanks to Lee Salzman, the state of GTK+3 support in Firefox got better. Unit tests went from looking like this:

To looking like this:


There’s obviously some work left to make those look even better, but we’ve come a long way.

Ludovic Hirlimann recently asked if there were builds to dogfood and that prompted me to attempt making the builds from the elm branch auto-update. Which, after several attempts, I managed to get working with gross (but small) hacks of the build system.

So here we are, if you want to dogfood GTK+3 Firefox, here is what you can do::

  • In a normal Linux nightly, go to about:config and create the following string preferences (right-click, New, String):
    • app.update.url.override” with the value “” for 32-bits builds, or “” for 64-bits builds,
    • app.update.certs.3.issuerName” with the value “CN=DigiCert SHA2 Secure Server CA,O=DigiCert Inc,C=US“,
    • app.update.certs.3.commonName” with the value ““.
  • Open the burger menu, click the “?” icon, then choose “About Nightly”. This should check for an update, find one, and download it. This will upgrade to a GTK+3 build.

Alternatively, you can just download and install the elm builds directly (32-bits, 64-bits).

If for some reason, you want to go back to a normal GTK+2 nightly, go to about:config, find the “app.update.url.override” preference and set it to an empty value. Triggering the update from “About Nightly” won’t, however, work until the next nightly is available, so give it a day.

As mentioned in my previous post about GTK+3, if you’re interested in making those builds work better, you are welcome to help:

by glandium at May 25, 2015 02:15 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Memorial Day Hero WODs 10:00am-1:00pm


Open Gym 10:00am-1:00pm

You will be responsible for your own warm up, set up of your workout, and take down but a coach will be around to answer any questions along the way. Give yourself plenty of time to get these workouts in, we will be closing up at 1:00pm. These workouts are tough just like the men that they honor who died fighting for our country, honor them with your hard work.



Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas J. Valentine, 37, of Ham Lake, Minnesota, died in a training accident in Arizona, on Feb. 13.

“Tommy V”

For time:
21 Thrusters (115/75)
12 Rope Climbs
15 Thrusters
9 Rope Climbs
9 Thrusters
6 Rope Climbs



In memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan June 28th, 2005.

This workout was one of Mike’s favorites and he’d named it “Body Armor”. From here on it will be referred to as “Murph” in honor of the focused warrior and great American who wanted nothing more in life than to serve this great country and the beautiful people who make it what it is.


For time:
1 mile Run
100 Pull-ups
200 Push-ups
300 Squats
1 mile Run




Marine Corps Sgt. Michael C. Roy, 25, of North Fort Myers, Fla., assigned to the 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Special Operations Advisor Group, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune, was killed in action on July 8th, 2009 in Nimroz Province, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations. He is survived by his wife Amy and three children, Michael, Landon and Olivia.


Five rounds:
15 Deadlifts (225/155)
20 Box Jumps (24″)
25 Pull-ups



Chief Petty Officer Nate Hardy was killed Sunday February 4th during combat operations in Iraq. Nate is survived by his wife, Mindi, and his infant son Parker.



As many rounds as possible in 20:00
2 Muscle-ups
4 Handstand Push-ups
8 American Kettlebell Swings (32/24kg)

by Anna at May 25, 2015 12:15 AM

May 24, 2015

The Art of Non-Conformity

“Make Your Dream Trip a Reality”: Week 4 Recap (Book Your Hotel)

Week4.029 copy

Every day for six weeks, we’re teaching people how to “Make Their Dream Trip a Reality.” You can watch each lesson for free on the day it’s broadcast, or you can purchase the whole course and have access anytime.

This was our fourth week (whoa!) with the in-studio audience and the thousands of people who participated online.

Everyone made lots of progress, and we’ll be back again after the weekend with much more. Here are a few photos from the week:

_MG_6798 _MG_7042 _MG_7062 _MG_7284 _MG_7156
Goals for Week 4: “Book Your Hotel”

For the five daily lessons this week, we focused on helping people strategically use the miles they earned. Our goals were:

  • Where to Stay
  • How to Stay for Free
  • Make the Reservation
  • Become a VIP
  • Upgrade Your Accommodation

Last week we looked at booking flights; this week we focused on hotels. We showed everyone lots of tips and tricks for picking the best possible base for your adventures, paying as little as possible, and getting upgraded once you get there.

Our in-studio audience has been amazing. These ten people have traveled in (from Alaska, Canada, and elsewhere) to be part of the filming experience. Each of them identified a dream destination before we began filming, and we’re incorporating these goals into the lessons throughout the course.

_MG_7249 _MG_7261

What’s Coming Next in Week 5: Upgrade Your Dream Trip

  • The Best Hidden Redemptions
  • The Secret World of Airline Lounges
  • Airline Status and Upgrades
  • On the Ground
  • More Ways to Use Your Points and Miles

Week 5 is all about upgrading your Dream Trip. We’ll show you some of our favorite redemptions (the Porsche you can drive on the audobahn in Germany when flying Lufthansa First Class, the bathtub cabana in Cathay Pacific’s The Wing lounge, + many more), and explain everything you need to know about upgrades in general.

Week4.037 copy

How to Participate

Watch every day for free.

A new lesson kicks off every weekday at 9am Pacific time. During that time, we’ll be engaging with viewers through social media—so if you can catch it when it first goes up, that’s best. If not, though, you can watch throughout the day during numerous rebroadcasts at the same link.

Join the Facebook group.

We’ve created an online community entirely for this course. Several people from the in-studio audience are actively contributing, and all of the guests we’ll be talking to throughout the course will be popping in as well. Come say hi!

Tweet us your questions and Daily Challenge answers.

Every lesson has a challenge as well as a fun giveaway. Over the course of six weeks, we’re giving away Business Class Amenity Kits, lounge passes, signed books, other travel gear, and—every Monday—Frequent Flyer Miles. To be entered to win, all you need to is tweet us (@chrisguillebeau or @wanderingzito) with your answer using the #DreamTrip hashtag.

Important: If you haven’t seen anything yet, it’s okay—you can still join in! Every weekend, we’ll be rebroadcasting the lessons from the previous week, (or you can purchase anytime access and view the entire course now). Tune in anytime on Saturday or Sunday and you can catch up on what you missed for free.

See you next week!


by Chris Guillebeau at May 24, 2015 11:43 PM

The Brushed Metal Diaries: iSync

In the Brushed Metal Diaries, we take a look at one of Apple’s most unique — and most hated — user interface paradigms.

An Intro to iSync

For most Mac users in the early 2000s, the word "sync" conjured up visions of iPods and USB cables. However, while an Apple smartphone was years away, in 2002, Apple introduced a tool to sync contacts and calendar events to mobile phones: iSync.

Just check out all this brushed metal:

iSync — in many ways — was the quintessential brushed metal application. In it's Human Interface Guidelines, Apple said the UI appearance should be the defacto choice for applications that provided "an interface for a digital peripheral, such as a camera, or an interface for managing data shared with digital peripherals."

iSync's History

iSync was introduced in 2002. Here's a bit of the original press release:

iSync ensures that address books and calendars flow seamlessly from a user’s Mac to all of their digital devices and back. Rather than requiring a separate synchronization application for each type of device, iSync works with the latest Bluetooth mobile phones, PalmOS devices and iPod to keep all these devices up to date. As a result, iSync users will enjoy seamless mobile access to schedules and other crucial information on all the devices they travel with.

iSync would launch as a public beta two months after being announced. It required OS X Jaguar, and would ship built-in with several major versions of Mac OS X.

Steve Jobs spoke about iSync at Macworld Paris in September 2002. "The purpose of iSync," Jobs said, "is to synchronize our digital lives."

Here's what an early version of the iSync page looked like on Apple's website. On the page, the company boasted integration with these classes of device:

  • iPods
  • Palm OS-powered handhelds (the iSync Palm Conduit was required)
  • GPRS Bluetooth-enabled wireless phones (like the Sony Ericsson T68i)
  • Other Macs (a paid .Mac subscription was required)

iSync passed address and calendar information between these devices. This allowed users to add or edit data from the comfort of their desktop, and provided a backup of data that users would lose if their phones were stolen or lost. This, Jobs said, made the cellphone a peripheral to the Mac. With the iPhone still five years off, it's another example of Jobs having the uncanny ability to hint at the future when he himself probably didn't have a fully-formed vision in his mind.

iSync 1 would receive numerous updates, adding support for more devices.

iSync 2.0 shipped with OS X Tiger in April 2005. With this release, Apple made the hard work of syncing data between Macs the system's responsibility, leaving iSync alone with its ever-growing list of third-party devices.

iSync 2 received updates as part of 10.4.4, 10.4.6, 10.4.7 and 10.4.9, each time adding support for new devices.

iSync 3.0 shipped with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, and 3.1 shipped with Snow Leopard, but few new devices were added in the time between.

While Apple supported a decent number of handsets, a growing third-party plugin community sprung up to extend the program even further.

As did all other brushed metal apps, iSync received a new UI with Leopard:

With Mac OS X Lion, Apple removed iSync from OS X altogether.

In Conclusion

While iSync never saw the wide-spread use of some of the other brushed metal applications, it was a critical component to many nerds' workflows. It's wasn't flawless — no sync system ever is, it seems — but it was one I relied on heavily. I used it for years to sync various Palm OS devices and iPods. In today's world of iCloud and Google's offerings, local Bluetooth sync seems old-fashioned, but it felt like magic at the time.

by Stephen Hackett at May 24, 2015 11:35 PM

GM Motorama Exhibit 1956 →

After watching this, driving around town seems so ... old-fashioned.


by Stephen Hackett at May 24, 2015 07:04 PM

Practically Efficient

Weather lines and Apple Watch

I took a look at Weather Nerd back when Gabe Weatherhead mentioned it, but I decided to pass since I already had a relative abundance of weather apps on my iPhone.

Weather Nerd does many notable things, but superficially it presents a line-based temperature forecast much like Weather Line and Dark Sky, two other apps I use a lot on my iPhone.

In the week or so that I've owned an Apple Watch, I've realized just how much I value this line-based presentation. Seeing forecast highs and lows along a forecast line is much more reliable for day planning. So far, Weather Nerd is the only weather app available for Apple Watch that gets it right, and I'm happy to pay its developer for the information-rich display it puts on my wrist.

Weather Nerd Apple Watch Day View
Weather Nerd Apple Watch Week View

For years, weather services typically only reported a high and low temperature for a single day. But this is very misleading on days when, say, a high of 50 occurs at daybreak and a low of, say, 30 will occur late afternoon. Such situations are not uncommon.

I hope that Dark Sky and other weather apps follow the path set by Weather Nerd and bring their lines to the Apple Watch, which to me is the most ideal platform yet for checking weather.

by Eddie Smith at May 24, 2015 06:31 PM

The Third Bit

ICSE 2015

I have just posted titles and abstracts from my favorite 24 papers from ICSE 2015 on the Software Carpentry blog. As I say there, just over half of these papers (13 of 24) had an easily-findable version online. I'm not going to do the experiment, but I confidently predict that those 13 will be more widely read, and more influential, than the other 11.

by Greg Wilson ( at May 24, 2015 06:00 PM

John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

Fire Gates

Please write to your local chapter of the Boy Scouts (whose contact information can be found here: and ask for the public rebuke, repudiation and immediate discharge from service of the current BSA President, Mr Robert Gates.

The Catholic Church in America, in the 1960s and 1970s, welcomed homosexuals into their ranks, and, enamored by then current psychological theories about the origins of the sin, thought that to comfort and hide the offender was the most charitable policy. Consequently, once the homosexual lobby made entry into the Church and rose in the ranks, over the next decades they diligently sought out and welcomed each other to join seminaries and holy vocations, covered up each others crimes and abominations, and so on. Hence there was a plethora of homosexual activity with young men, some of them underage under the authority of gays in the priesthood and other positions of authority.

The resulting scandal humiliated the Church and continued to be flung in the face of the priesthood and laity as a curse to this day.  (It is ironic to note that the proportion of such scandals is far less than found among schoolteachers.) Why homosexual diddling with young and fair-faced boys is a horror and a scandal in the Church, but welcomed and cheered in society at large, and considered a constitutional right it is bigotry to oppose, I leave for someone more able to unwind the labyrinthine convulsions of modern non-binary logic than I to explain.

But if the Boy Scouts were wise they would learn the lesson from the error of the Catholic Church, and not allow into their leadership men who demonstrate a disdain for the very moral uprightness the Boy Scouts teach.

I assure you: the scandals will be thrown in your face for the next century, long ago the Boy Scouts have been sued and boycotted Janet-Reno’d out of existence as a nest of pederasts.

Since, at the moment, special rules are in place so that no adult is allowed to be alone with a child, but, like highborn Spanish maidens of the last century, a boy can go nowhere without an escort or duenna, lest he be the subject of unlawful sexual affection, it is mere insolent madness to welcome those who spread, laud, encourage, and are tempted by unlawful sexual affections toward the male, particularly youthful males, into the position of those escorts.

If the public outcry is long and fierce and loud enough, Mr Gates will either repudiate his remarks, or be forced from office.

If Gamergate and Sad Puppies serve any purpose in the culture war, it is to show that you, yes, you, my dear reader, can silence the shrill, evil, and tiny group of antichristian activists currently and rapidly dismantling our civilization.

Write your local Scout leadership. Write today, please. Express your contempt for this insolent treason coming from the sleeper agent and social justice warrior called Gates.

by John C Wright at May 24, 2015 05:51 PM

Front Porch Republic

Localist Linkfest

From “Homeschooling and Christian Duty,” by Sally Thomas, in First Things:

The idea of sending a child daily into a hostile environment—if not actively hostile, as in bullying, then certainly philosophically hostile—expecting him not only to withstand assaults on everything his parents have told him is true but also to transform the entire system by his presence, seems sadly misguided to me. There may be many valid arguments for sending a child to school, but that one doesn’t wash.

Damon Linker on the Benedict Option:

… at other times, and more often over the past year, Dreher echoes the darker (and more dialectical) arguments of another friend, Patrick Deneenof Notre Dame. In Deneen’s telling, the recent collapse of Christianity’s political opposition to secular liberalism is the culmination of a long process that began before the time of the American founding, with the modern project of liberating humanity from the yoke of revealed religion and church authority. For a long time it looked like this project had developed along two broad tracks: at one extreme the French model of official state secularism (laïcité); at the other the American model of religious disestablishment combined with a broad right to religious free exercise.

Unlike the French model, the American approach to adjudicating conflicts between politics and religion has favored accommodation. This, in turn, persuaded devout Christians that they were free to live out their faith in public and even to seek political power, provided they didn’t try to set up an established church. But now, with the solicitor general of the United States musing before the Supreme Court about the possibility of stripping religious colleges of their tax-exempt status for upholding the sexual teachings of historic Christianity, these accommodationist hopes have been exposed as a ruse. All modern states follow a logic of laïcité, we can now see, even the United States — and even if it did so with a relatively light touch for much of the last few centuries.

This is a very radical argument. …

Noah Millman has some questions

Malcolm Pollack on Dzokhar’s death sentence:

The problem was that Mr. Tsarnaev’s was a Federal prosecution, and so proceeded according to Federal rules. This bothered the panelists no end; although they grudgingly acknowledged that Federal law supersedes local custom in these circumstances, they seemed awfully put out about it — because, you see, it was at odds with their own sense of right and wrong, and with their wish to do things the way they like to on their own home turf. Because the action of the Federal juggernaut has, for all of our lifetimes, busied itself almost exclusively with imposing on recalcitrant States the very same liberal values they themselves espouse, I actually believe this was the first time in their lives it had ever occurred to these pious and self-righteous busybodies, these preening moral solipsists, that using the crushing power of the Federal leviathan to override local norms might have any down-side at all. That it was just a matter of the shoe, at long last, being on the other foot, and so might give them something to think about, seemed to occur to none of them, however; I heard nothing but grumbling.

The Josias on republican liberty and the common good:

Christianity is sometimes construed as inimical to republican virtue. Hannah Arendt quotes Tertullian to this effect: “nec ulla magis res aliena quam publica.” Indeed, Jesus teaches a code of morality that can be fulfilled privately; you are to do good works secretly “that your Father who sees in secret” will reward you for (Matthew 6:4-18). But any student of politics—Thomas included—recognized political virtues. Orestes Brownson glosses the point, “France owes infinitely less to St. Louis [Louis IX] than to Louis XI, Richelieu, and Napoleon, who, though no saints, were statesmen.”

In America, there is precedent for incorporating virtue into a Christian republicanism, and also for Christian republicanism to dethrone a politics of competing interests. John Patrick Diggins shows how Hermann Melville and especially Abraham Lincoln, versed in the language of good versus evil, appealed to the Founding and the Declaration of Independence as religious text. (Indeed, Jacques Derrida has argued that the circular logic of the document, wherein the people’s representatives “sign the people into existence,” depends on God’s countersignature for authorization.)Lincoln consecrates an American Republic based on a revolution older than the constitutional compact, “carrying on the classical tradition inaugurated by Machiavelli” while also fusing what Machiavelli had sundered: political virtù and moral virtue.

At the time of Lincoln and Melville, Orestes Brownson, the sadly neglected American Catholic political theorist of the nineteenth century, points towards the ancient republicanism of virtue that predates the “modern infidel school.” His own turn away from “liberal Catholicism” in 1874, and towards a more robust Catholic public discourse of virtue, should point towards Catholic republicanism.

Related: Nick Szabo on the Justinian Code and the Constitution as corporate charter

ZEDEs in Honduras to get off the ground next month

Tibet’s Seda monastery

Hillary Clinton paid by Jeb Bush’s education company. Inside her spin machine against Peter Schweizer’s book

Russell Moore on the Pew study

The UK Ordinariate has been praying from this booklet over the last week, which has short biographies and excerpts of English spiritual writing, from “The Dream of the Rood” to Evelyn Underhill

Freeman on Henry George and Jane Jacobs

The post Localist Linkfest appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by J. Arthur Bloom at May 24, 2015 04:24 PM

A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering

Attack of the week: Logjam

In case you haven't heard, there's a new SSL/TLS vulnerability making the rounds. Nicknamed Logjam, the new attack is 'special' in that it may admit complete decryption or hijacking of any TLS connection you make to an improperly configured web or mail server. Worse, there's at least circumstantial evidence that similar (and more powerful) attacks might already be in the toolkit of some state-level attackers such as the NSA.

This work is the result of an unusual collaboration between a fantastic group of co-authors spread all around the world, including institutions such as the University of Michigan, INRIA Paris-Rocquencourt, INRIA Paris-Nancy, Microsoft Research, Johns Hopkins and the University Of Pennsylvania. It's rare to see this level of collaboration between groups with so many different areas of expertise, and I hope to see a lot more like it. (Disclosure: I am one of the authors.)

The absolute best way to understand the Logjam result is to read the technical research paper. This post is mainly aimed at people who want a slightly less technical form. For those with even shorter attention spans, here's the TL;DR:
It appears that the the Diffie-Hellman protocol, as currently deployed in SSL/TLS, may be vulnerable to a serious downgrade attack that restores it to 1990s "export" levels of security, and offers a practical "break" of the TLS protocol against poorly configured servers. Even worse, extrapolation of the attack requirements -- combined with evidence from the Snowden documents -- provides some reason to speculate that a similar attack could be leveraged against protocols (including TLS, IPSec/IKE and SSH) using 768- and 1024-bit Diffie-Hellman. 
I'm going to tackle this post in the usual 'fun' question-and-answer format I save for this sort of thing.
What is Diffie-Hellman and why should I care about TLS "export" ciphersuites?
Diffie-Hellman is probably the most famous public key cryptosystem ever invented. Publicly discovered by Whit Diffie and Martin Hellman in the late 1970s (and a few years earlier, in secret, by UK GCHQ), it allows two parties to negotiate a shared encryption key over a public connection.

Diffie-Hellman is used extensively in protocols such as SSL/TLS and IPSec, which rely on it to establish the symmetric keys that are used to transport data. To do this, both parties must agree on a set of parameters to use for the key exchange. In traditional ('mod p') Diffie-Hellman, these parameters consist of a large prime number p, as well as a 'generator' g. The two parties now exchange keys as shown below:

Classical Diffie-Hellman (source).
TLS supports several variants of Diffie-Hellman. The one we're interested in for this work is the 'ephemeral' non-elliptic ("DHE") protocol variant, which works in a manner that's nearly identical to the diagram above. The server takes the role of Alice, selecting (p, g, ga mod p) and signing this tuple (and some nonces) using its long-term signing key. The client responds gb mod p and the two sides then calculate a shared secret.

Just for fun, TLS also supports an obsolete 'export' variant of Diffie-Hellman. These export ciphersuites are a relic from the 1990s when it was illegal to ship strong encryption out of the country. What you need to know about "export DHE" is simple: it works identically to standard DHE, but limits the size of p to 512 bits. Oh yes, and it's still out there today. Because the Internet.
How do you attack Diffie-Hellman?
The best known attack against a correct Diffie-Hellman implementation involves capturing the value gand solving to find the secret key a. The problem of finding this value is known as the discrete logarithm problem, and it's thought to be a mathematically intractable, at least when Diffie-Hellman is implemented in cryptographically strong groups (e.g., when p is of size 2048 bits or more).

Unfortunately, the story changes dramatically when p is relatively small -- for example, 512 bits in length. Given a value gmod p for a 512-bit p, itshould at least be possible to efficiently recover the secret a and read traffic on the connection.
Most TLS servers don't use 512-bit primes, so who cares?
The good news here is that weak Diffie-Hellman parameters are almost never used purposely on the Internet. Only a trivial fraction of the SSL/TLS servers out there today will organically negotiate 512-bit Diffie-Hellman. For the most part these are crappy embedded devices such as routers and video-conferencing gateways.

However, there is a second class of servers that are capable of supporting 512-bit Diffie-Hellman when clients request it, using a special mode called the 'export DHE' ciphersuite. Disgustingly, these servers amount to about 8% of the Alexa top million sites (and a whopping 29% of SMTP/STARTLS mail servers). Thankfully, most decent clients (AKA popular browsers) won't willingly negotiate 'export-DHE', so this would also seem to be a dead end.

It isn't. 

ServerKeyExchange message (RFC 5246)
You see, before SSL/TLS peers can start engaging in all this fancy cryptography, they first need to decide which ciphers they're going to use. This is done through a negotiation process in which the client proposes some options (e.g., RSA, DHE, DHE-EXPORT), and the server picks one.

This all sound simple enough. However, one of the early, well known flaws in SSL/TLS is the protocol's failure to properly authenticate these 'negotiation' messages. In very early versions of SSL they were not authenticated at all. SSLv3 and TLS tacked on an authentication process -- but one that takes place only at the end of the handshake.* 

This is particularly unfortunate given that TLS servers often have the ability to authenticate their messages using digital signatures, but don't really take advantage of this. For example, when two parties negotiate Diffie-Hellman, the parameters sent by the server are transmitted within a signed message called the ServerKeyExchange (shown at right). The signed portion of this message covers the parameters, but neglects to include any information about which ciphersuite the server thinks it's negotiating. If you remember that the only difference between DHE and DHE-EXPORT is the size of the parameters the server sends down, you might start to see the problem.

Here it is in a nutshell: if the server supports DHE-EXPORT, the attacker can 'edit' the negotiation messages sent from the a client -- even if the client doesn't support export DHE -- replacing the client's list of supported ciphers with only export DHE. The server will in turn send back a signed 512-bit export-grade Diffie-Hellman tuple, which the client will blindly accept -- because it doesn't realize that the server is negotiating the export version of the ciphersuite. From its perspective this message looks just like 'standard' Diffie-Hellman with really crappy parameters. 

Overview of the Logjam active attack (source: paper).
All this tampering should run into a huge snag at the end of the handshake, when he client and server exchange Finished messages embedding include a MAC of the transcript. At this point the client should learn that something funny is going on, i.e., that what it sent no longer matches what the server is seeing. However, the loophole is this: if the attacker can recover the Diffie-Hellman secret quickly -- before the handshake ends -- she can forge her own Finished messages. In that case the client and server will be none the wiser.

The upshot is that executing this attack requires the ability to solve a 512-bit discrete logarithm before the client and server exchange Finished messages. That seems like a tall order.
Can you really solve a discrete logarithm before a TLS handshake times out?
In practice, the fastest route to solving the discrete logarithm in finite fields is via an algorithm called the Number Field Sieve (NFS). Using NFS to solve a single 512-bit discrete logarithm instance requires several core-years -- or about week of wall-clock time given a few thousand cores -- which would seem to rule out solving discrete logs in real time.

However, there is a complication. In practice, NFS can actually be broken up into two different steps:
  1. Pre-computation (for a given prime p). This includes the process of polynomial selection, sieving, and linear algebra, all of which depend only on p. The output of this stage is a table for use in the second stage.
  2. Solving to find a (for a given gmod p). The final stage, called the descent, uses the table from the precomputation. This is the only part of the algorithm that actually involves a specific g and ga.
The important thing to know is that the first stage of the attack consumes the vast majority of the time, up to a full week on a large-scale compute cluster. The descent stage, on the other hand, requires only a few core-minutes. Thus the attack cost depends primarily on where the server gets its Diffie-Hellman parameters from. The best case for an attacker is when p is hard-coded into the server software and used across millions of machines. The worst case is when p is re-generated routinely by the server.

I'll let you guess what real TLS servers actually do.

In fact, large-scale Internet scans by the team at University of Michigan show that most popular web servers software tends to re-use a small number of primes across thousands of server instances. This is done because generating prime numbers is scary, so implementers default to using a hard-coded value or a config file supplied by your Linux distribution. The situation for export Diffie-Hellman is particularly awful, with only two (!) primes used across up 92% of enabled Apache/mod_ssl sites.
Number of seconds to solve a
512-bit discrete log (source: paper).

The upshot of all of this is that about two weeks of pre-computation is sufficient to build a table that allows you to perform the downgrade against most export-enabled servers in just a few minutes (see the chart at right). This is fast enough that it can be done before the TLS connection timeout. Moreover, even if this is not fast enough, the connection can often be held open longer by using clever protocol tricks, such as sending TLS warning messages to reset the timeout clock.

Keep in mind that none of this shared prime craziness matters when you're using sufficiently large prime numbers (on the order of 2048 bits or more). It's only a practical issue you're using small primes, like 512-bit, 768-bit or -- and here's a sticky one I'll come back to in a minute -- 1024 bit.
How do you fix the downgrade to export DHE?
The best and most obvious fix for this problem is to exterminate export ciphersuites from the Internet. Unfortunately, these awful configurations are the default in a number of server software packages (looking at you Postfix), and getting people to update their configurations is surprisingly difficult (see e.g., FREAK).

A simpler fix is to upgrade the major web browsers to resist the attack. The easy way to do this is to enforce a larger minimum size for received DHE keys. The problem here is that the fix itself causes some collateral damage -- it will break a small but significant fraction of lousy servers that organically negotiate (non-export) DHE with 512 bit keys.

The good news here is that the major browsers have decided to break the Internet (a little) rather than allow it to break them. Each has agreed to raise the minimum size limit to at least 768 bits, and some to a minimum of 1024 bits. It's still not perfect, since 1024-bit DHE may not be cryptographically sound against powerful attackers, but it does address the immediate export attack. In the longer term the question is whether to use larger negotiated DHE groups, or abandon DHE altogether and move to elliptic curves.
What does this mean for larger parameter sizes?
The good news so far is that 512-bit Diffie-Hellman is only used by a fraction of the Internet, even when you account for active downgrade attacks. The vast majority of servers use Diffie-Hellman moduli of length at least 1024 bits. (The widespread use of 1024 is largely due to a hard-cap in older Java clients. Go away Java.)

While 2048-bit moduli are generally believed to be outside of anyone's reach, 1024-bit DHE has long been considered to be at least within groping range of nation-state attackers. We've known this for years, of course, but the practical implications haven't been quite clear. This paper tries to shine some light on that, using Internet-wide measurements and software/hardware estimates.

If you recall from above, the most critical aspect of the NFS attack is the need to perform large amounts of pre-computation on a given Diffie-Hellman prime p, followed by a relatively short calculation to break any given connection that uses p. At the 512-bit size the pre-computation only requires about a week. The question then is, how much does it cost for a 1024-bit prime, and how common are shared primes?

While there's no exact way to know how much the 1024-bit attack would cost, the paper attempts to provide some extrapolations based on current knowledge. With software, the cost of the pre-computation seems quite high -- on the order of 35 million core-years. Making this happen for a given prime within a reasonable amount of time (say, one year) would appear to require billions of dollars of computing equipment if we assume no algorithmic improvements. Even if we rule out such improvements, it's conceivable that this cost might be brought down to a few hundred million dollars using hardware. This doesn't seem out of bounds when you consider leaked NSA cryptanalysis budgets.

What's interesting is that the descent stage, required to break a given Diffie-Hellman connection, is much faster. Based on some implementation experiments by the CADO-NFS team, it may be possible to break a Diffie-Hellman connection in as little as 30 core-days, with parallelization hugely reducing the wall-clock time. This might even make near-real-time decryption of Diffie-Hellman connections practical.
Is the NSA actually doing this?
So far all we've noted is that NFS pre-computation is at least potentially feasible when 1024-bit primes are re-used. That doesn't mean the NSA is actually doing any of it.

There is some evidence, however, that suggests the NSA has decryption capability that's at least consistent with such a break. This evidence comes from a series of Snowden documents published last winter in Der Spiegel. Together they describe a large-scale effort at NSA and GCHQ, capable of decrypting 'vast' amounts of Internet traffic, including IPSec, SSH and HTTPS connections.

NSA slide illustrating exploitation
of IPSec encrypted traffic (source: Spiegel).
While the architecture described by the documents mentions attacks against many protocols, the bulk of the energy seems to be around the IPSec and IKE protocols, which are used to establish Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) between individuals and corporate networks such as financial institutions.

The nature of the NSA's exploit is never made clear in the documents, but diagram at right gives a lot of the architectural details. The system involves collecting Internet Key Exchange (IKE) handshakes, transmitting them to the NSA's Cryptanalysis and Exploitation Services (CES) enclave, and feeding them into a decryption system that controls substantial high performance computing resources to process the intercepted exchanges. This is at least circumstantially consistent with Diffie-Hellman cryptanalysis.

Of course it's entirely possible that the attack is based on a bad random number generator, weak symmetric encryption, or any number of engineered backdoors. There are a few pieces of evidence that militate towards a Diffie-Hellman break, however:

  1. IPSec (or rather, the IKE key exchange) uses Diffie-Hellman for every single connection, meaning that it can't be broken without some kind of exploit, although this doesn't rule out the other explanations.
  2. The IKE exchange is particularly vulnerable to pre-computation, since IKE uses a small number of standardized prime numbers called the Oakley groups, which are going on 17 years old now. Large-scale Internet scanning by the Michigan team shows that a majority of responding IPSec endpoints will gladly negotiate using Oakley Group 1 (768 bit) or Group 2 (1024 bit), even when the initiator offers better options.
  3. The NSA's exploit appears to require the entire IKE handshake as well as any pre-shared key (PSK). These inputs would be necessary for recovery of IKEv1 session keys, but are not required in a break that involves only symmetric cryptography.
  4. The documents explicitly rule out the use of malware, or rather, they show that such malware ('TAO implants') is in use -- but that malware allows the NSA to bypass the IKE handshake altogether.
I would stipulate that beyond the Internet measurements and computational analysis, this remains firmly in the category of  'crazy-eyed informed speculation'. But while we can't rule out other explanations, this speculation is certainly consistent with a hardware-optimized break of Diffie-Hellman 768 and 1024-bit, along with some collateral damage to SSH and related protocols.
So what next?
The paper gives a detailed set of recommendations on what to do about these downgrade attacks and (relatively) weak DHE groups. The website provides a step-by-step guide for server administrators. In short, probably the best long-term move is to switch to elliptic curves (ECDHE) as soon as possible. Failing this, clients and servers should enforce at least 2048-bit Diffie-Hellman across the Internet. If you can't do that, stop using common primes.

Making this all happen on anything as complicated as the Internet will probably consume a few dozen person-lifetimes. But it's something we have to do, and will do, to make the Internet work properly.


* There are reasons for this. Some SSL/TLS ciphersuites (such as the RSA encryption-based ciphersuites) don't use signatures within the protocol, so the only way to authenticate the handshake is to negotiate a ciphersuite, run the key exchange protocol, then use the resulting shared secret to authenticate the negotiation messages after the fact. But SSL/TLS DHE involves digital signatures, so it should be possible to achieve a stronger level of security than this. It's unfortunate that the protocol does not.

by Matthew Green ( at May 24, 2015 04:20 PM

The Ontological Geek

11 Days of Marvel: Captain America: The First Avenger

11 Days of Marvel continues with Bill and Erin's favorite one so far: Captain America: The First Avenger!

by Bill Coberly at May 24, 2015 04:09 PM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Rise Up Physiotherapy Opens May 25!

CrossFit 204-Rise Up Physiotherapy contactWe’re thrilled to announce Rise Up Physiotherapy will be operating out of CrossFit 204 starting May 25.

It’s owned and operated by one of our long-time members: Natalie Marion, BMR PT, B.Sc.


Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Initial Assessment: $85
Regular treatment: $60
Treatment plus acupuncture: $70

Most heath-care plans cover physiotherapy services. Please check with your insurance provider if you are uncertain about how much coverage you have.


This partnership is part of our overall commitment to health and wellness. We want every athlete to move better and become fitter, and we’ve got the tools to do that. But diagnosis and treatment are outside our scope of practice, so it was important to us to add a skilled care provider to our facility.

Natalie can assist with the small dings and dents that come with any sport or activity, but, more importantly, she can help you deal with movement dysfunction and mobility issues before they become a problem. We firmly believe in “prehab” and preventative maintenance.

Note the hollow body position.

Natalie is looking forward to working with you!

Natalie has been a member of CrossFit 204 since December 2013, and we jumped at the opportunity to work with a care provider who knows exactly what we do. She does the same workouts all CrossFit 204 members do, and if you train at another gym, rest assured that Natalie knows exactly what you’re doing and how she can help you do it better. She’s also experienced in providing physiotherapy services to all groups of individuals in the community at large.

Rise Up Physiotherapy Services

Rehabilitation of medical conditions including but not limited to ligament sprains, muscle strains, nerve injuries, whiplash-associated disorders, overuse injuries, etc.
Assessment and treatment of sports injuries and work-related injuries.
“Prehab” and preventative maintenance
Pre-operative and post-operative rehabilitation.

by Mike at May 24, 2015 02:48 PM

Workout: May 26, 2015

Partner work at the 2-on-1!

Partner work at the 2-on-1!

20 minutes to build to a heavy push-press single

Push press 8-8-8-8


Gymnasty+ (rest as needed between sets)

4 sets of ice cream makers

1 max handstand hold with the head 1 inch off the floor

1 max handstand hold with the head 3 inches off the floor

1 max handstand hold with the head 6 inches off the floor

4 sets of “Princess Brides” on the rope

In an L-sit, climb two pulls with your arms (one with each hand), then lower back to the start. Don’t come off the rope. Do that as many times as you can before you have to rest. That’s one set.

by Mike at May 24, 2015 02:45 PM

Workout: May 25, 2015

The Very Sherri crew. Thanks for your support!

The Very Sherri crew. Thanks for your support!

Build to a heavy triple overhead squat in 20 minutes

Pause front squat 4-4-4-4

by Mike at May 24, 2015 02:35 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Creative Street Posters Show Another Side to Youth Homelessness

I liked this project that highlights the stereotypes many of us have about homeless youth.

If you look at the poster from only one side of the street corner, you see this message:


But if you stand from a different angle and see the other side of the corner, the message becomes something very different:


“There’s another side to the story” is the point of the campaign, which is a great philosophy for life in general.

church_left500_500450_0 church_both_800569_0

Hat tip: Creative Review


by Chris Guillebeau at May 24, 2015 01:25 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Weekly review: Week ending May 22, 2015

Almost 26 hours of playing video games this week – Ni No Kuni is such an engaging option for my fuzzy brain. Some thoughts and conversations, though, so I didn’t vegetate the entire time. =)

Planning to take it easy over the next couple of weeks: games, drawing, writing, some code…

2015-05-25a Week ending 2015-05-22 -- index card #journal #weekly


Blog posts


Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (20.1h – 11%)
    • Earn (7.8h – 38% of Business)
      • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (10.0h – 49% of Business)
      • Drawing (8.9h)
      • Paperwork (1.1h)
        • Calculate deductions
        • Transfer money for salary
        • Write and deposit cheque
        • Remit deductions
        • File payroll in Quickbooks
    • Connect (2.3h – 11% of Business)
      • Chat with Michael Crogan about Emacs
      • Chat with Ab Velasco about Quantified Self talk
  • Relationships (10.7h – 6%)
    • Work on personal project
  • Discretionary – Productive (9.9h – 5%)
    • Emacs (0.0h – 0% of all)
    • Make a list of all my TFSA contributions
    • Verify Jen’s public key by calling
    • Review Createspace
    • Add to my TFSA
    • Writing (2.9h)
  • Discretionary – Play (25.7h – 15%)
  • Personal routines (22.5h – 13%)
  • Unpaid work (21.4h – 12%)
  • Sleep (57.6h – 34% – average of 8.2 per day)

The post Weekly review: Week ending May 22, 2015 appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at May 24, 2015 01:06 PM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

Zondervan Academic Blog

Seeing God in Your Neighbor [Awakening Faith]

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:7)

These two commandments ought to be very familiar to you; they should spring to your mind when I mention them, and never be absent from your hearts: “Love God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37 – 39). These two commandments must always be in your thoughts and in your hearts, treasured, acted on, and fulfilled. Love of God is the first to be commanded, but love of neighbor is the first to be put into practice.

Since you do not yet see God, you glimpse the vision of God by loving your neighbor. By loving your neighbor you prepare your eyes to see God. Consider what is said to you: “Love God.” If you say to me, “Show me whom I am supposed to love,” what can I say except what Saint John says: “No one has ever seen God!” (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12). But so you do not worry that you are completely cut off from the sight of God, he says, “God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God” (1 John 4:16). Therefore love your neighbor, and observe the power by which you love him or her — there you will see God, as far as you are able.

In loving and caring for your neighbor you are on a journey to the Lord. We have not yet reached his presence, but we have our neighbor at our side. We are all pilgrims, so support your companions as we walk together toward the kingdom of God, with whom we wish to remain forever.



Awakening Faith DevotionalAwakening Faith: Daily Devotionals from the Early Church

by James Stuart Bell and Patrick J. Kelly

Buy it Today:

Barnes & Noble
Find More Retailers

by ZA Blog at May 24, 2015 11:13 AM

ASCII by Jason Scott

A Piece of Apple II History Cracks Open

The world of Apple II “cracking” has always held an interesting fascination for me – the thinking involved, the magic of tracing programs, and of course the “crack screens” that pirates would add to declare their victory. (Here’s a massive gallery of them that I collected.) I interviewed long-retired Apple II crackers for the BBS documentary, discussing everything from methods to the historical context in which they did this.

If this is your first time hearing “cracking” in this context, I’ll very quickly explain.

A program would come on a floppy disk, and the program, ostensibly, would fill that entire disk. It would also have “copy protection” threaded in the code – routines that would be resistant to copies being made, or even modify how the floppy drive would function to prevent copying. It was quite an art.

It was also an art to go through this code, examine how this programming worked, and modify the whole shebang enough to allow easy copying. In an ideal world, the program would also be modified from an entire floppy disk (I mean, 140k, come on, who has time for that) into a single small file.

Along the way, pride would ensue, with “crack screens” consisting of who cracked the program added to the front. The ballast of inconvenient parts would also be discarded, with title screens, program functionality, and even entire program assets thrown over the wall.

That’s cracking, as it was.

4am is an individual cracking as it is now, and it’s most interesting indeed.

What 4AM has been doing for the past year or so is re-cracking long-dormant Apple II programs with a new goal – to educate and to preserve. This has produced hundreds of new insights into Apple II history, some of which are seeing the light of day for the first time.

This weekend, I’ve now made the vast majority of 4am’s cracked programs playable at the Internet Archive. Some of these disks have never, as far as can be determined, been imaged or copied before in any meaningful way. (Primarily educational programs.) They are rare specimens. They were rare specimens.

In some cases, these programs were out there in the wild, but the “cracked” versions, missing images and pieces of code, were all there were. Now they’re basically complete.

And these are what are called “silent” cracks – they’re cracked so they are more simply copied, not modified with brags and added graphics. It’s as if you’re trying them out the day they hit your Apple II, 30 years ago.

I saved the best for last, for the kind of person who sees the real value in this.

Not content to crack the disks, and modifying the programs in a way that they live as they once lived, 4am meticulously and carefully walks through the entire process of cracking each program. The code, the tracing of boot flow, the missteps, and even the internal thought processes that lead to the solved mystery. They’re magical. And every 4AM item has one.

(Just click on the “Text” file of any item’s file list to read these breakdowns. Here’s one, and here’s another one.)

Some of the common complaint that comes in with the software collections I’ve been helping herd onto the Internet Archive is that the “cracked” version is what’s up – but in some cases, that’s all we’ve got left of the programs. Now, thanks to people like 4AM, we have something more.

Long may they crack.

Some of the items in the collection are not playable in the browser – this is a limitation from the Internet Archive’s Emularity system and not the floppy disk images – they boot fine, just not online yet.

All of the screenshots in this entry link to playable versions of those programs.


by Jason Scott at May 24, 2015 05:12 AM

J.D. Bentley: Bourbon and Tradition | Journal

Too Comfortable, Too Weak

The average American male is too comfortable, lazy, complacent, thoughtless, and weak because we’ve made things too easy. We’ve built a land of plenty where discomfort is little tolerated, actively discouraged, and protested against. This immunity to discomfort we call freedom.

If, however, we are cultivated as men of the highest degree only in lack, pain, suffering, and challenge, what is it exactly from which we’ve been freed? Is independence or insulation from the conditions which propel us upward physically, spiritually, and intellectually freedom? I’d say not. As men, the only freedom we have is in choosing the master to which we fasten our chains. Our lives are lives of servitude. We can choose God—or, for the irreligious, virtue or some other transcendent ideal—or we can choose Self, a false and empty god. Both paths are paths of suffering, though to different ends. The former has us forfeiting what we want in order to acquire what we need. The latter has us indulging in what we want in order to acquire what we deserve.

The master we’ve chosen is made evident by our atrophied minds, bulging guts, weak resolves, tired excuses, and wasted lives. Our culture encourages us to indulge our baser desires unquestioningly and to embrace and support those who indulge in their own, disregarding the question of whether or not such indulgence is worthwhile. The ability to be lesser men—disordered, intemperate, and without discipline—is what people mean when they talk of freedom, though it is no such thing.

Chesterton wrote that a dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it. To assert life and vitality, to begin to be the men we want to be, the men we were made to be, we must reject the doctrine of perpetual comfort and thrash violently against the current. We have to seek out and accept annoyance, inconvenience, pain, and struggle where our manliness is concerned.

I say all this not as an insult, but as a catalyst for thought and action. I include myself foremost in this number of weakened men; a high king of comfort; a tired, pudgy egotist whose ambition rarely transcends some fleeting self-satisfaction. We—all of us, male and female—inherited a fallen nature. Our tendency is to do that which is comfortable over that which is right and good and beneficial.

In all of history, that choice of challenge has never been easy to make, and in all of history there has never been a society so well-insulated from the possibility of making it.

Overcoming the golden calf of Self is a difficult and neverending journey, but the first step is easy enough: deny it. Saying no to the Self means at once saying yes to a corresponding virtue. Learn to recognize when the Self is demanding something from you, something you know to be harmful or self-defeating, and then deny it, even if you only manage to do so for a while.

Our war isn’t won in a single epic blow, but on a thousand dissipating battlefields over which we daily tread. Victory is found in our decision to accept what challenges come as opportunities to grow into greater men. Victory is found in creating challenges that chisel away at our inadequacies.

Paradoxically, victory isn’t found in our winning, but in our fighting. So long as we accept the challenge, we are not dead.

May 24, 2015 04:00 AM

CrossFit Naptown

Classes at Capitol Today

Sunday May 24:

11:00am-12:00pm Open Gym @ Capitol 

12:00pm-1:00pm Open Gym @ Capitol 

*Be aware that the equipment at SWIFT will be limited compared to what you are used to at CFNT

Memorial Day Open Gym May 25: DELAWARE ST. 

10:00am-1:00pm Open Gym @ Delaware!

This time will be open gym format with a coach around to answer questions and assist you, but there will be no group warm up or official starting time for any workout. A list of Hero workouts will be posted on the blog and at the gym for you to choose from. Come when you can, but please be aware that we are closing at 1:00pm (i.e. avoid showing up at 12:45pm and trying to get a Hero workout in).


Thanks for a great Day 1 of the CrossFit Endurance Seminar!

Thanks for a great Day 1 of the CrossFit Endurance Seminar!

by Anna at May 24, 2015 12:51 AM

May 23, 2015

The Ontological Geek

11 Days of Marvel: Thor

Bill and Erin have a lengthy conversation about the first appearance of Thor in the MCU.

by Bill Coberly at May 23, 2015 09:00 PM

Front Porch Republic

The Mythology of an Anti-Christian Bigot

Though far, in its main argument, from the central concerns of the Porch, some readers may be interested in my account of mythos and the nature of culture as an essentially poetic act, in this essay in Crisis Magazine.  An Excerpt:

The early expression, articulated by S.T. Coleridge, John Keble, and John Henry Newman, held that indeed culture is the poem of a poetic community.  The Church is a poetic community, whose practices, prayers, doctrines, and works constitute together a great poem.  This poem is a work of human imagination, because the Church is composed of human beings.  This says nothing about its truth or falsehood.

The question we must answer is, rather, what is this imagination whose out-working, whose expression, is manifested in the great poem of the Church?  The Church answers: it is the active recipient of the absolute and the unconditioned.  The Church receives the revelation of God.  The human imagination receives this revelation in faith.  In response to this reception, it begins its work of discernment, of staring into the hieroglyph of what God has shown, in history and above all in his Son, the Logos, so as to discover what are the expressible truths its contains.

The Logos, the singular eternal Word, finds expression in the many temporally spoken words, the logoi, of the Church and its members.  And so, the primary source, or cause, of the activity of the imagination of the Church is inspiration: this revelation in faith to the people of God, from God.  But this primary source is not the sole source.  Human reason of its own nature and power can rise up to the absolute, unconditioned truth.  If it could not, we could not know by reason the truths of mathematics, the definitions of such things as rabbits, frogs, goodness, justice, freedom, and beauty, or of the existence of God.  But we in fact do know all these things, and do so by way of reason’s own activity.  Philosophy, poetry, and the physical sciences are some of its more prominent expressions.  These are not human “inventions,” they are the result of reason’s discernment of realities outside and above itself.  To claim otherwise would be to claim that every truth is an invention of the individual’s subjectivity.

And so, we would expect Christianity to be a work of the human imagination, wherein that imagination gives expression to the total, unified discovery of human reason and divine inspiration.  The Church, indeed culture as a whole, including each and every culture the world over, is an attempt to express, in Phillip Rieff’s marvelous formulation, the Sacred Order in the Social Order.  That Christianity is the true myth that transcends and completes all others is merely a consequence of its unfolding as an expression of the discernment of human reason and also of God’s revelation.

The post The Mythology of an Anti-Christian Bigot appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by James Matthew Wilson at May 23, 2015 06:41 PM

The Ontological Geek

Making It Reign

So, what do you do when you get handed the reins to a website with a five-year history and a collection of essays that is impressive, to put it mildly?

by Oscar Strik at May 23, 2015 05:53 PM

An Ending to Things

Writing for the Geek has been a series of incredible opportunities, and in my three years on staff I feel privileged to have been a part of Games Criticism as it's started to become a Thing.

by Hannah DuVoix at May 23, 2015 01:36 PM

Emacs Redux

Mastering Emacs (the first Emacs book in over a decade) is out

Mickey Petersen just released Mastering Emacs, the first new book about our beloved editor, since Learning GNU Emacs(released way back in 2004).

I haven’t had the time to read the book yet, but being familiar with Mickey’s work I have no doubt it’s outstanding. That’s all from me for now - go buy the book and start mastering Emacs.


I hope we won’t have to wait another decade for the next great Emacs book.

May 23, 2015 12:19 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

Extracurricular Activities 5.23.15 — NT Hymns, The Nones, & Locating Heaven

Larry Hurtado Gives a Suggestion on “Hymns” in the New Testament

As illustrated in the recent articles I’ve reported on in earlier postings, scholars continue to approach the question of “hymns/odes” in the NT in what I regard as a curious fashion.  They often first turn to “pagan” examples of hymns and formulate characteristics of Greek “pagan” hymns and poetry as a basis then for assessing putative hymnic material in the NT.  This I find open to questions for a few reasons, and I’d think a more inductive approach more sensible.

Carl Trueman on the Dying Art of Civil Disagreement

I spent the first half of last week at a seminar at an Ivy League divinity school, where a friend and I gave a presentation on ministry and media. I had resolved before speaking that I would refer early on in my presentation to the fact that I belong to a denomination which does not ordain women. My discussion of ministry would be incomplete if I didn’t mention this subject, though I knew my comment would draw fire at a seminar with ordained women present.

Sure enough, one of the women ministers present challenged me with some vigor on my position. For a few minutes we exchanged trenchant but civil remarks on the subject.We each spoke our minds, neither persuaded the other, and then we moved on to the larger matter in hand: The use of modern media in the church. The matter of my opposition to women’s ordination never came up again in the remaining two days of the seminar.

Later that evening, a young research student commented to me that it was amazing to see such a trenchant but respectful disagreement on an issue that typically arouses visceral passions. He added that he and those of his generation had “no idea” (his phrase, if I recall) how such things should be done…If we no longer have a university system which models ways of civil engagement on such matters, then the kind of civic virtues upon which a healthy democracy depends are truly a thing of the past.

Roger Olson Wonders How Seriously Should We Take the Phenomenon of “The Nones?”

According to a recent Pew-funded study of American religion, the percentage of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is growing. Many people are disturbed by this. Here I’d like to muse a bit about that.

First, who are the “we” in the title of this blog post? “We” are American Christians, especially American Christians who take the Christian faith seriously and believe it. To be more specific, “we” are evangelical Christians in the broadest sense of “evangelical”—God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians of whatever denomination (or none).

Second, who are the “nones?” That seems a bit unclear.

Thomas Davenport on Locating Heaven

There is something proper about being astounded and in awe of a mystery, but there is something dangerous about being embarrassed by it. Sometimes it seems like we drift too close to the second option with the mystery of the Ascension. In addition to the nagging “why” questions, wondering if things wouldn’t have been better off if Christ had just stuck around, there are the dumbfounded “where” questions that wonder where Christ went when he left the apostles’ sight and where he actually is right now. These are not new questions, of course, and the tradition of the Church offers a great deal of reflection to guide us, reflection which seems quite apt at answering the “why” questions, but which can seem inadequate to answer the “where” question.

Justin Taylor Outlines 10 Ideas Embedded in the Slogan “All Truth Is God’s Truth”

Duane Litfin writes that the slogan “All truth is God’s truth” became popular because it “encapsulated a set of convictions that are vital for the Christian’s intellectual task. These ideas lie embedded in the sloan as entailments, necessary implications. To embrace the slogan was to embrace these implications. My purpose here is to surface these entailments so that, even if we may allow an overworked catchphrase to rest in peace, we will not lose the truths it was designed to express.”

Here is his outline:

(Image: NASA, Galaxies Collide in the Antennae Galaxies)


Extracurricular Activities is a weekly roundup of stories on biblical interpretation, theology, and issues where faith and culture meet. We found each story interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, or useful in some way – but we don’t necessarily agree with or endorse every point in every story.

If you have any comments on these stories, we welcome you to share them here. We hope you enjoy!

–The Editors of Zondervan Academic Blog

by Jeremy Bouma at May 23, 2015 11:54 AM

Greg Mankiw's Blog

John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

No One Cares About Your Hooey

Someone with the socialist yet anarchic name of Bakunin writes in with a link to an anonymous accuser who is linked to a second anonymous accuser:

It’s not social justice. It’s basic human decency to speak out against a man who says:

“In any case, I have never heard of a group of women descended on a lesbian couple and beating them to death with axhandles and tire-irons, but that is the instinctive reaction of men towards f***” (

It is also basic human decency not to lie, not to libel, and not to make false accusations.

For the record, Mr Bakunin, the words you are repeating are the answer to a specific question of what I thought the writers of LEGEND OF KORRA were thinking when they decided to use lesbians rather than male homosexuals as the couple of choice in a children’s cartoon to lure innocent and trusting kids into believing homosexuality is right and normal and ergo Christianity is wrong and abnormal.

But, oddly enough, you are only the second person, out of all of them who commented on that quote, to ask me about it.

No one else did me the courtesy of addressing a question to me. Technically, you did not either, but one does not expect a crow to lay the eagle egg.

So you are ahead of your peers in courage, or, at least, courtesy.

But it seems as if you did not consider the possibility that this quote should be read in context. If you read the question to which this quote is an answer, a reader is asking me to speculate on the motivations and thought process of writers supporting your position.

Yes, your position.

You see, your side, not my side, thinks of rednecks and conservatives and Christians as being obsessed with a psycho-pathological phobia and hatred of gays. Your side coined an silly term for the alleged phobia because it did not exist until you invented it: homophobia.

My question to you is this: do you believe that some, even most, hetero men have a visceral and instinctive desire to beat homosexuals to death?

If so, why is it bigotry if I report that your side believes this?

Why is it bigotry if I speculate that this belief in homophobia, fairly common among your side, was perhaps the reason behind the writers’ decision to use Korra and Asami as their couple of choice rather than, say, Aang and Sokka?

Let us suppose I shared your belief. Why is it bigotry when I report that heteros have this barbaric and grotesque instinct and not when you report it?

Answer: it is not. Which is why the opening part of the quote where I made that clear is missing.

I wonder at the rank incompetence of the dishonesty in which you are engaged.

Here you link to an anonymous writer who offers an edited version of the quote. The beginning part, stating the question, is missing.

The context is missing.

That part that makes it clear this is me impersonating your voice is missing.

But anyone bothering to click through the link provided can see the missing parts, and know what attempted deception you are practicing.

Your whole art and craft of Political Correctness depends on the bogus accusation. It depends on your victim being willing to cooperate by being willing trust you rather than his own eyes, and to believe your fake outrage is real. And it depends on your scapegoat being fearful or foolish enough to cooperate, and to offer up an insincere apology when your display your fake outrage.

Moreover it depends on your scapegoat to cooperate in an act of white blackmail, where if he actually were the type of evildoer you accuse him of being, he would not offer the insincere apology you crave.

By fake outrage I do not mean the emotion does not exist. I mean that it is all that exists. The emotion has no roots, no cause, no justification. There is no case behind it and no logic to it.

In this case, I am mildly amused and mildly sorrowful to come across one yammerhead yammering that I have never explained nor apologized for this quote. He fails to mention that no one has asked me for an apology or an explanation. I assume that an honestly offended person would honestly want to know what I said and what I meant. Logically, those who are eager not to know what I said and what I meant are not honestly offended. They are playing the game of fake outrage.

Here is the question from a reader I was answering:

Lesbians, lesbians, lesbians. Why is it always lesbians? When did “same-sex relationship” in fiction become identical with “lesbians”? I once made a list of the homosexual relationships I had seen in various TV shows and movies I watched and, without a doubt, each and every single one was a lesbian pairing. It’s only very recently that a show I watched featured a gay man in any way other than as a comic relief.

I’m trying to figure this one out. When the media tries to shove sexual perversions down our throat, why is it always in the form of lesbians? Is it related to porn (for surely “hot girl-on-girl action” gets more clicks than “hot guy-on-guy action”)? It seems that, for whatever reason, all leftist creators and media outlets have decided that, for making the unpalatable palatable, their audience is more accepting of lesbians. This can’t be a coincidence.

He is asking why Leftist activist in the media think their audience is more accepting of lesbians. And here is the first part of my answer that was edited out:

I am not sure, but I have a theory:

It is because the two sexes differ.

Lesbians in fiction look like Asami Sato, young and pretty. Even guys who have no fetish for seeing pretty lesbians make out understand their attraction to each other, because we also are attracted to pretty girls. It does not trigger a puke response. Woman also can look at female beauty and see it, that is, see the beauty.

The reverse is not true. Men abhor homosexuals on a visceral level. While girls sometimes are attracted to them, they tend to be ‘bishounen’ rather handsome, if effete, men.

So a man who is attractive is attractive for his spiritual qualities of leadership, manliness, courage, and strength, even if his face is as pretty as that of Humphrey Bogart, who turns out to be homosexual is neither attractive to a male nor to a female general audience.

In any case, I have never heard of a group of women descended on a lesbian couple and beating them to death with axhandles and tire-irons.

Got that? I was asked about what I thought the thought process of “leftist creators and media outlets” and I answered with a theory about THEIR THOUGHT PROCESS.

Which was what I was asked.

So why is that part missing: the part that makes it make sense?

Is the misquote here coincidence? Innocent mistake? Or libel?

Nor, even without that context, does the quote in any way, shape, or form express approval rather than horror at the alleged revulsion. It expresses no preference. It merely says (sarcastically) that such an instinctive revulsion exists.

Even if you missed the sarcasm, any honest man would have to see that the words on their plain meaning express no approval. As if I reported the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust, and you were to conclude that I applauded the attempt of the Nazis.

Anyone clicking through the link there will come to this:

  • I believe, profess, and unambiguously support the view that homosexuals must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.
  • I believe, profess, and unambiguously support the view that every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
  • I believe, profess, and unambiguously support the view that These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
  • I believe everything the one, true, holy, catholic and apostolic Church teaches.

So, from your reaction, I take it you did not click through the link.

You apparently did not even have the strength of character, or the strength of a finger on the keyboard, or the curiosity, to click through the link you yourself provided allegedly as proof of your accusation.

Ah, but what about the accusation that I changed the wording, out of shame and fear that my inner evils would be revealed?

This is a better lie than most, but still not convincing:  I removed one part of the line of the last paragraph. A friend brought to my attention that, even as sarcasm, that clause contained  swear word, which I do not allow on my blog, and which in any case did not show the respect, compassion, and sensitivity toward the homosexuals which I am obligated to show. I am not allowed to show them disrespect merely in order to show you scorn.

Did the removal of the clause change any part of the meaning?

Not at all.

Did the removed clause say homosexuals should be or ought to be beaten to death?

No. The meaning and the point is unchanged.

So why did I dare to change my own words on my own blog?

To remove a bad word, one which violated my own rules and sense of honor.

But the Internet remembers everything!

Be that as it may, I care not. If other people want to maintain bad words on their sites, they can answer.

But now John C Wright can be accused of being afraid!

I can also be accused of talking about myself in the third person. I can also be accused of being a flying purple people eater.

No one cares about your hooey accusations.

You and yours shower the same degree of defamation and contumely on writers who use the word ‘man’ for ‘human’ or who profess a belief that suicide is a sin and sodomy an abomination. Since I make no bones whatsoever about these beliefs of mine, why in the world, if I did hate homosexuals, would I bother to hide it?

I do not hide that fact that for all my adult life I was pro-gay and pro-libertine, until I was talked out of the position, step by step, rather late in life and every much against my preference and inclination, very much against my will. I can share the chain of reasoning to anyone curious enough examine it.

I do not hide the fact that my views on homosexuality were changed back I was an atheist. One reason why I became a Catholic  was because I found logic alone, not belief in any god or gods, forces a belief in the virtue of chastity, and therefore that unnatural sexual acts are vice. I do not believe unchastity is wrong because I became a Christian; I became a Christian because logic convinced me unchastity is wrong.

Nor do I hide the fact that there was a death in my family due (I believe) to his uncontrolled gay lifestyle which you and yours always say is harmless. It was not harmless for him. And yes, I do blame you for your part, no matter how small, in creating the social atmosphere that led to his death.

If a family member of mine died in a plague, I would blame every disease bearing soul who broke quarantine and spread it. It is contributory fault.

I do not hide the fact that homosexuality is a sexual perversion, a neurosis, an objectively disordered sexual passion, and that indulging in the act is a sin, an offense against nature and nature’s creator.

I do not hide the fact that a visceral abhorrence to homosexual acts (albeit never to the person tempted toward such acts) is a rightly ordered and indeed a laudable reaction. All emotions, visceral or otherwise, should be ordered as nature and reason command.

A person who feels casual toleration of pederasty, bestiality, necrophilia, or other acts of wrongly ordered sexual passion, including sodomy, indulges in feeling that are not laudable. Such alleged toleration is in truth a slothful indifference toward what should be a matter of zeal. A wife who tolerates her husband’s mistress desecrates her marriage. Toleration in these cases is a sentry who sleeps at his post.

Whoever feels sex is sacred logically ought to feel the perversion of sex to be a desecration. What one tolerates to be desecrated, one holds not to be sacred.

Do I feel this visceral abhorrence? No, but I wish I did; for whoever loves a man hates his sins; whoever loves the sin hates the sinner. If my love for these sinners were not lukewarm, my hatred of this sin would be as hot as the wings of charity could fan the flames. For this flaw of mine I pray to be cured.

If you believe as a matter of dogma, you brainless addicts of hatred pretending to be ever so tolerant, that no one who believes homosexual acts are licit can be talked out of such a belief with a logical argument, but that the belief in chastity can only be motivated by hatred, ignorance, or bigotry, all I can reply is that your dogma is an arbitrary decision to hate and accuse the innocent.

As you have done here.

And when the accusations fall short, you lie, as your side has done for years to Orson Scott Card, by playing the trick of half-quote, half-truth, all lie.

As you have done here.

by John C Wright at May 23, 2015 09:47 AM

Doc Searls Weblog » Doc Searls Weblog »

Dear Magazines: please quit screwing loyal subscribers

When my main credit card got yanked for some kind of fraud activity earlier this month (as it seems all of them do, sooner or later) I had the unpleasant task of going back over my bills to see what companies I’d need to give a new credit card number. Among those many (Amazon, Apple, PayPal, Dish Network, EasyPass…) were a bunch of magazines that get renewed annually. These include:

My wife, who is more mindful of money and scams than I am, urged me to stop subscribing automatically to all of them, because all their rates are lowest only for new subscribers. So I looked back through my last year’s bills to see what I was paying for each, and then at what they pitched new subscribers directly, or though Amazon.

Only Consumer Reports‘ price appears (at least in my case) to be lower for existing subscribers than for new ones. All the rest offer their lowest prices only to new subscribers.

Take The New Yorker for example. It’s my favorite weekly: one to which I have been subscribing for most of my adult life. Here’s my last automatic payment, from July of last year:

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 6.06.55 PM

Now here is the current lowest price on the New Yorker website:

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 6.11.01 PM

That doesn’t give me the price for a year. So I hit the chat button and got an agent named Blaise B. Here is what followed:

New Yorker chat

Meanwhile, here is the New Yorker deal on Amazon:

NewYorker-amazondealIt’s the same $12 for 12 weeks, with no mention of cost after that. Nor is there any mention of the true renewal price.

How is this not about screwing loyal subscribers? That it’s pro forma for most magazines? No. It’s just wrong — especially for a magazine with subscribers as loyal as The New Yorker‘s.

So I won’t be renewing any of those magazines, other than Consumer Reports. I’ll let them lapse and then re-subscribe, if I feel like it, as a new subscriber.

Meanwhile I will continue to urge solving this the only way it can be solved across the board: from the customer’s side. I explained this three years ago, here.


by Doc Searls at May 23, 2015 08:37 AM

Market Urbanism

Has The Urban Planning Profession Declined? (Like Planners Claim)

As readers know, Market Urbanism has for several years had a strong homepage and Twitter presence. And thanks to Adam, it is getting a stronger Facebook one, both on MU’s official Facebook page, and its chat group. If you enjoy reading substantive things, I recommend following both, but especially the chat group, which is available for anyone to join.

Many of its updates feature links from around the web posted by MU readers, informing us about the world’s biggest urban issues, with everything from mainstream news clips, to esoteric working papers and book chapter pdf’s. We would love to have more of you join and begin posting! This doesn’t mean the group is open to trolls; we don’t want to hear your grammatically-tortured vitriol. But we do like potential skeptics who ask questions and start debates, as they have received strong responses in the past.

All that said, here are some of my recent favorite links shared by the group, and let’s raise a Friday night glass for the many more to come.

1. Robert Moses’ 23-page response to The Power Broker. Like the man himself, the letter was angry, rambling, irrational, and condescending, yet had moments of rhetorical flash:

The current fiction is that any overnight ersatz bagel and lox boardwalk merchant, any down to earth commentator or barfly, any busy housewife who gets her expertise from newspapers, television, radio and telephone, is ipso facto endowed to plan in detail a huge metropolitan arterial complex good for a century.

I wonder which “busy housewife” he could have been referring to…

2. Richard Sennett comes from a school of sociological thinking–alongside academics like Saskia Sassen and Mike Davis–who criticize global capitalism and urbanization. But here is his rather balanced review in 1970 of Jane Jacobs’ The Economy Of Cities (you can access the review through a Facebook post via Anthony Ling).

3. This is an old Economist article that aims to define “rule of law.” It cites a study arguing that “a country’s income per head rises by roughly 300% if it improves its governance by one standard deviation,” with the efficiency and reasoning ability of its legal system playing a huge factor.

4. Here’s yet another article, this time from PlacesJournal, claiming that the growth of conservative economic theory in the 1940s, followed by the failures of 1950s urban renewal, led to the death of central planning and rise of “market urbanism” (his usage) in America. “By the ’70s and ’80s,” writes architect Anthony Fontenot, “the discipline of planning had come under such sustained attack that in many design schools the planning programs were jettisoned altogether and relocated — banished — to schools of policy and administration.”

I read this charge about the decline of American city planning frequently from architecture/planning writers. But can anyone please tell me what the hell they are talking about? The fact is that land use regulations–the most essential planning tool– have grown substantially in America in the last century, and even more so in recent decades. Zoning has transformed from merely separating incompatible uses to policing the design, coloration, placement, shape, density and “form” of buildings. Lots that years ago would have been subdivided in suburbia, or built upwards in cities, are now, respectively, preserved. Practically every city of minor significance has a planning department (not to mention an urban development corporation and design review board). Whereas America’s great legacy cities–New York, San Francisco, DC, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia–adopted their built pattern during the relatively laissez faire industrial era, and thus in a manner that was dense, walkable, and attractive, land use controls often prevent them from furthering these goals today–and prevent newer cities from mirroring the old ones.

I thus can’t agree with Fontenot and similar-thinking architects and planners. Their profession has not declined in the U.S.; it has metastasized, only to inhibit many of the outcomes that they seem to want. Market Urbanism, meanwhile, is still an ideology confined to the internet, and not even close to being practiced today in any major U.S. city.

by Scott Beyer at May 23, 2015 04:10 AM

J.D. Bentley: Bourbon and Tradition | Journal

A Man's Guide to Drinking Bourbon

Drinking bourbon is a wholly aesthetic experience. The act itself can be spiritual, almost always accompanied by relaxation, rumination, or—at its best—both.

Walker Percy wrote in his famous essay, Bourbon, that there are at least two specific aesthetics characterized by two exemplars:

"Imagine Clifton Webb, scarf at throat, sitting at Cap d’Antibes on a perfect day, the little wavelets of the Mediterranean sparkling in the sunlight, and he is savoring a 1959 Mouton Rothschild.

"Then imagine William Faulkner, having finished Absalom, Absalom!, drained, written out, pissed-off, feeling himself over the edge and out of it, nowhere, but he goes somewhere, his favorite hunting place in the Delta wilderness of the Big Sunflower River and, still feeling bad with his hunting cronies and maybe even a little phony, which he was, what with him trying to pretend that he was one of them, a farmer, hunkered down in the cold and rain after the hunt, after honorable passing up the does and seeing no bucks, shivering and snot-nosed, takes out a flat pint of any Bourbon at all and flatfoots about a third of it. He shivers again but not from the cold."

Bourbon offers quiet gratitude and violent comfort. Its benefits can be experienced through a wide range of triumphs and troubles.

If you don’t know what bourbon is exactly, check out my post on the matter, but this article is for those of you who are convinced of bourbon’s goodness and ready to take the next step: drinking it. Everyone has their own ritual and their own preferences, so this isn’t a one-size-fits-all prescription, but a starting point. It’s not an act of intoxication, but transcendence, and sometimes you have to adjust the dials to find your sweet spot.

At the outset, let me say this: if your aim is mindless drunkenness, leave bourbon alone. Bourbon deserves better than that. The creation of bourbon takes love, talent, and time. Every barrel, every bottle, is the culmination of centuries of tradition. It should be appreciated, contemplated, truly enjoyed.

If your only concern is getting completely shitfaced on a sugary glistening-pink rainbows-and-unicorns abomination, the kind usually accompanied by a tiny umbrella and a misguided sorority girl, go buy some vodka. It’s alcohol for people who don’t want to drink alcohol. You’ll love it. It bears no soul, no life, and no personality. You can mix it with any sort of bullshit you like. Have fun with that.

But for those of you who want something better, who want to drink with purpose, you have to start with the why.

Reasons Why One Would Drink Bourbon

There are three reasons to drink: comfort, contemplation, and celebration. If you are seeking comfort, it can help you find it more quickly and easily. If transcendent rumination is what you’re after, a sizzling mouthful of the good stuff is a wonderful starting point. And when you’re at your happiest, a shiver-inducing shot will rocket you into full-fledged mania.

When a man turns to bourbon, bourbon itself is not what he needs, but a potent amplifier of what he needs, in circumstances both good and bad. This is why drunkenness with bourbon is not to be encouraged. The life of the drink works on a bell curve: too far to the right and you’ve completely lost its goodness.

How to Drink Bourbon

If you’re new to bourbon, the best way to start is neat. Neat is the simplest way to experience bourbon. It means in a glass at room temperature with nothing added to it. With this method, you will experience the essence of every bourbon. It provides a foundation from which to judge all the brands you try.

This may be an overwhelming experience if you aren’t accustomed to drinking alcohol. You may find it bitter or disgusting. Personally, I’ve never had a good beer. It all tastes like sour piss to me. I fully expected to have a similar reaction to bourbon, but I didn’t. It wasn’t only tolerable, but enjoyable, and I’ve only appreciated it more with every glass since then. However, if bourbon is too much for you, there are a couple things you can do.

First, look into buying a lower proof. A bourbon’s proof is an indicator of its alcohol content. Whatever the proof is, divide it by half and you have the percentage of alcohol it contains, so a 100-proof bourbon would be 50% alcohol. Consider something like Wild Turkey 81, which is 40.5% alcohol. Here in Brazil, 81 is what I buy because there’s nothing else, but I highly recommend it. In the essay quoted above, Walker Percy advocated drinking lower proofs anyway. The pleasure for him wasn’t in the effects of the alcohol, but in the drinking itself. Drinking five one-ounce shots of an 80-proof contains the same alcohol content as four one-ounce shots of 100-proof, but provides an extra glass of enjoyment.

Second, you could add water or ice to lower the proof yourself. I’ve read many drinkers extol the use of ice or cold water as a way to bring out more of the bourbon’s nuances. The cold triggers more blood to be sent to the tongue, so they say, which allows flavors that might go unnoticed to pop a little more in your mouth. That’s never been my experience. I always feel that the cold is blocking me from tasting the essence. I somehow end up tasting just the "cold", if that’s possible. But to each his own.

Mixing Bourbon

I’m not a fan of mixing bourbon personally. As I mentioned early on, bourbon is the product of tradition and time. A lot of work goes into making it and many years go into aging it. Once it’s done, I find more value in appreciating it for what it is, not in using it as a mere garnish for something else. It feels a little blasphemous, a little insensitive.

Downright wasteful.

But I’m not opposed to it. I’d discourage it most of the time, but there is at least one mixed drink I’m quite fond of: the Mint Julep. It’s classic and sophisticated and essentially Kentuckian.

The Mint Julep, if you don’t know, is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Walker Percy shared the best recipe for a Mint Julep in his essay Bourbon. It’s not overly sweet, it’s for real bourbon drinkers.

"You need excellent Bourbon whiskey; rye or Scotch will not do. Put half an inch of sugar in the bottom of the glass and merely dampen it with water. Next, very quickly—and here is the trick in the procedure—crush your ice, actually powder it, preferably in a towel with a wooden mallet, so quickly that it remains dry, and, slipping two sprigs of fresh mint against the inside of the glass, cram the ice right to the brim, packing it with your hand. Finally, fill the glass, which apparently has no room left for anything else, with Bourbon, the older the better, and grate a bit of nutmeg on the top. The glass will frost immediately. Then settle back in your chair for a half an hour of cumulative bliss."

I don’t know that there’s any other acceptable recipe for a mixed Bourbon drink. However, if that’s your thing at least stick to something classic and respectable.

An Old Fashioned, for example.

May 23, 2015 04:00 AM

May 22, 2015

One Big Fluke

Front Porch Republic

High Salaries, Low Corruption?

I read a piece in The Week today, provocatively entitled “Pay politicians like movie stars!” The author, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, has taken aim against cronyism:

But much of it, as you already know, comes through because of the nasty business of the revolving-door. No one doubts that cronyism has gotten worse as of late, even as the revolving-door phenomenon has gotten worse. (And as the size and reach of government has increased, but that is a discussion for another day.)

If people who work in key roles in government — whether elected or unelected officials — know that if they work in the interest of a particular sector, they can make several times what they currently make after they leave their jobs, it’s inevitably going to sway them.

Gobry goes on:

It seems that the obvious remedy for the revolving-door problem is simply to pay top officials outrageously high salaries. Like, movie star salaries. That way, there’s no reason for them to look for a “second act” in the private sector.

Find the whole article here. To my lights, the psychology here seems amiss; it’s reminiscent of Dante’s argument that a ruler of the whole word would be free from greed because he already owns everything. But Gorby is right to raise the question: what can be done about cronyism?

The post High Salaries, Low Corruption? appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Josiah Duran at May 22, 2015 11:50 PM

CrossFit Naptown

11:00am At SWIFT

Saturday’s Workout:

11:00am-12:00pm Class at NapTown Fitness Capitol

This will be the only class of the day and it is at this location due to the Endurance Seminar going down at CFNT. In other news, today is the Memorial Day parade. This will make it difficult at best to get to CFNT or SWIFT so plan accordingly. Be prepared to ride your bike, walk, or park and walk from afar to get there without troubles (this also means leave early)! See the map below for full details on road closures.


parade closures

by Anna at May 22, 2015 11:28 PM

John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

From the Pen of James May

As concise a depiction of the motives of the Evil Legion of Evil Authors, and our push for the Lame Uberleftist Message Fic Makes Puppies Sad, as I have yet seen. I applaud and condone these words:

The problem to me is pretty clear: the core community used to act as custodians of their art. They promoted and taught art appreciation and acted as curators. The Hugo Winners and SF Hall of Fame anthologies operated much like a museum. People said “This is what we think is good” and they made a case for it. They understood the evolution of their genre. Now Jack Vance dies and they say “Who was that?” They’ve never heard of Lord Dunsany.

Today that same community has replaced a curatorship with judging work by its value as a medium to achieve social justice. People are publicly stating they care more about who’s in the books than if they’re any good. Many more are openly promoting work merely by the identity of the authors. On top of that, at the same time they’re hanging “Not Welcome” signs to other identities. They’re on a crusade and with a lot of flat out racial and sexual hate speech to boot. Too many books are being laid open to whether they benefit this weird feminist ideology. They’re even attempting to mass boycott Game of Thrones.

Throw all that into any other arena, whether it’s engine design, architecture, whatever. It will be destroyed.

by John C Wright at May 22, 2015 09:46 PM

Messy Matters

Smoking Sticks and Carrots

New England Journal of Medicine, a cigarette, Beeminder, a carrot

This post is crossposted on the Beeminder blog.

Let’s talk about science! Beehavioral science. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week has been all over the news. [1] It’s much better than previous studies and statistics I’ve seen on the efficacy of commitment devices. Not because others have been down on commitment devices. On the contrary, I’ve been frustrated in the past by Beeminder competitors who tout statistics about how 80% or whatever of people who risk money succeed. For starters they usually don’t even distinguish from the hypothesis of “people will lie to keep from losing their money!” In other words, “80% succeed” may mean “80% either succeed or cheat and pretend to”. This study is robust to that, with saliva and urine tests to verify smoking cessation. But beyond that, other studies I know of haven’t accounted for the selection effect of only super serious people being willing to risk money. At the extreme, maybe anyone hard core enough to risk money is hard core enough to succeed regardless.

How does this study account for that? First, they use an intent-to-treat methodology. That means that they look at the results for everyone randomized into the commitment device treatment, even the ones who refused to participate.

And here’s the first interesting result: Only 14% of people assigned to the carrot-and-stick treatment — risking $150 to win $650 — were willing to play. But those 14% did so well (52% of them succeeded in quitting) that the whole intent-to-treat group still did significantly better than the control group of smokers trying to quit with no financial incentives.

Then there was the pure reward group. $800 with no strings attached for managing to quit smoking. 90% of people in this intent-to-treat group were happy to participate. Apparently 10% of people hate money.

(Aside: Maybe it’s just 5% that hate free money. Because the pure reward group was actually two groups: One was really no-strings-attached $800 for quitting smoking and 95% of those offered that accepted it. Grumpy cat: The problem with some people... is that they exist The other was a “collaborative reward” treatment where you were grouped with 5 other people and your rewards depended on the performance of the group. There was even a chatroom to encourage each other. 85% of people in that intent-to-treat group participated — it must’ve seemed like too much hassle to the other 15%. Or they didn’t hate money but they did hate people. In any case, since the individual vs group-oriented treatments had no significant effect on smoking cessation rates, the two variations were combined in most of the analysis. Hence the 90% overall acceptance rate for the pure reward group. And as an aside to this aside, collaborative penalties, like GymPact where the losers pay the winners, didn’t help either, compared to the individual version.)

Using straight up intent-to-treat analysis, pure rewards do best. Here are the key numbers for smoking cessation rates:

  • 6% quit in the control group with standard treatment, no money
  • 16% quit in the pure $800 reward group
  • 10% quit in the commitment contract group risking $150 + $650 reward
  • (52% quit in the subset of the commitment contract group (14% of them) who actually participated)

In other words, pure rewards yield the most smoking cessation, mostly because so many more people are willing to be incentivized that way. Speculating further — “if only we could get more people to accept the carrot-and-stick approach” — sounds super suspicious because we don’t know if the relatively huge success of the precommitters was simply because only people who were going to succeed anyway were willing to risk their own money.

But the authors did some fancy statistics and concluded the carrot-and-stick treatment really is better. In fact, they estimate that the people choosing the commitment contracts would have to be 12.5 times more likely to quit smoking on their own before you’d have to reverse the conclusion that carrot-and-stick results in more success than pure carrot.

I’m highly biased to believe that (and remember to “beware the man of one study”) but even if all the tricky statistics are wrong, we still have the result that, for cases where you don’t have a third party to fund rewards for you, you can always find a third party to collect your penalties.



[1] Coverage I can vouch for as being reasonable includes Marginal Revolution, NPR, and The New York Times. Cass Sunstein (of Nudge fame) also has a nice review of the results. (Hover over links for commentary.)

But reading mainstream media coverage (or blog coverage) of scientific papers is more often a telephone game. Papers have nice abstracts (or TL;DRs as the internet calls them) and introductions and discussion sections that are usually at least as readable as news articles, with the added bonus of not horribly misleading you about the conclusions of the research. As a matter of principle, I recommend skipping the above paragraph and going straight to the paper.

by dreeves at May 22, 2015 09:23 PM

Englewood Christian Church: We Blog! » ERB

ERB Weekly Digest – Walter Brueggemann, Marilynne Robinson, Jacques Ellul – May 22, 2015


Walter Brueggemann’s important book SABBATH AS RESISTANCE,
Only $3.99 for Kindle now [ Get your copy! ]


Don’t Miss… Rachel Marie Stone’s essay on Marilynne Robinson!
(originally appeared in our print magazine…)



Reviews, etc. posted this week on The Englewood Review of Books website:

  • Katie Andraski – The River Caught Sunlight: A Novel [Feature Review]

    Humanizing Evangelicals A Feature Review of The River Caught Sunlight: A Novel Katie Andraski Paperback: Koehler Books, 2014 Buy now: [ ] [ ]   Reviewed by Leslie A. Klingensmith   Followers of Christ have forgotten how to talk with one another. We talk to each other. We talk about each other. But as far […]

  • Five Essential Ebook Deals (via Thrifty Christian Reader) 22 May 2015

    Here are 5 essential ebooks on sale now that are worth checking out: (Brueggemann, N.T. Wright, Annie Dillard, MORE) Via our sister website Thrifty Christian Reader… To keep up with all the latest ebook deals, be sure to connect with TCR via email or on Facebook…   By Walter Brueggemann *** $3.99 *** NEXT EBOOK […]

  • Jacques Ellul – Introductory Reading Guide

    This week marked the anniversary of the death of Jacques Ellul…. Jacques Ellul was one of the keenest and most provocative Christian thinkers of the 20th century. In remembrance of him, we offer this introductory reading guide, which highlights his most important books and suggests an order in which to read them.   1)   […]

  • John Palfrey – BiblioTech [Lecture Video]

    One of this week’s best new book releases… BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google John Palfrey Hardback: Basic Books, 2014 Buy now: [ ] [ ] Watch a lecture that the author gave on the book:

  • Jeffrey Allen Mays – The Former Hero [Brief Review]

    What Makes a Hero a Hero?   A Brief Review of   The Former Hero: A Novel Jeffrey Allen Mays Paperback: AEC Stellar Publishing, 2014 Buy now: [ ] Reviewed by Alicia Smock   Superheroes have become a big part of today’s pop culture. Not only do these supernatural beings wear the fun colorful garb […]

  • Jill Leovy – Ghettoside [The Daily Show Video]

    Just started reading this excellent book… Jill Leovy   Hardback: Spiegel & Grau, 2015 Buy now: [  ] [  ]       Watch a video of the author on The Daily Show: The Daily ShowGet More: Daily Show Full Episodes,The Daily Show on Facebook,Daily Show Video Archive   Listen to an NPR interview:

  • New Book Releases – Week of 18 May 2015

    Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out: (Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…) By Keith Gessen and Stephen Squibb Read the starred review from Publishers Weekly NEXT BOOK >>>>>

  • Rachel Marie Stone – On Marilynne Robinson

    Hymns of Gratitude An Essay on the Work of Marilynne Robinson on the Occasion of her newest novel, Lila By Rachel Marie Stone   (This essay originally appeared in our print magazine, Advent 2014 issue. Are you a subscriber? Get more info and signup now!)   “I don’t know how to say this,” I said […]

Digest powered by RSS Digest

by csmith at May 22, 2015 08:42 PM

Roads from Emmaus

Why did God make him blind?

Sunday of the Blind Man, May 20, 2015 Rev. Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Christ is risen! On May 29, 1453, after a fifty-three day siege, the capital of the Roman Empire, the center of the Orthodox Christian […]

The post Why did God make him blind? appeared first on Roads from Emmaus.

by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick at May 22, 2015 07:35 PM


Leveraging the Attributes *for* Salvation (Edwards on the Glory of God in Salvation–Again)

chess 2Yes, this is another post on salvation, the attributes, and Jonathan Edwards in The Wisdom of God, Displayed in the Way of Salvation. He’s already demonstrated the way that each, or at least a good many, of the attributes are glorified and displayed the work of redemption, as well as the particular persons of the Trinity. But Edwards doesn’t stop there. From another angle, Edwards makes the argument that it is the wisdom of God in salvation to act in such a way that the very attributes which would seem to most make us his enemy, put us in peril of damnation, separation, and the annihilation, are actually the foundation of our redemption and hope. In this way, “God’s greatest dishonor is made an occasion of his greatest glory.”

What do I mean by that? Well, Edwards reminds us of the basic reality of sin: it is a denial of God, a rebellious refusal to give God glory and honor, and set ourselves up as his enemies. We attempt to dethrone the God of the universe in our vanity. In light of this reality, all of God’s attributes seem to demand vindication. His truth demands the public demonstration that he keeps his word to curse disobedience. His holiness demands the eradication of impurity. His justice seems to demand the punishment of sin, lest God be an unjust judge. And yet, “so has God contrived, that those very attributes not only allow of man’s redemption, and are not inconsistent with it, but they are glorified in it.”

Indeed, the Triune one has so arranged the work of salvation such that his attributes now demand the salvation of sinners: “it is so ordered now that the glory of these attributes requires the salvation of those that believe.”

This argument taps into the logic of the apostle, John. John writes to the church in Ephesus that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God is faithful and just to forgive sins? Why is it a matter of justice to forgive sins? Well, because in verses 2:1-2, John continues on: “But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

In this section, Edwards explains:

The justice of God that required man’s damnation, and seemed inconsistent with his salvation, now as much requires the salvation of those that believe in Christ, as ever before it required their damnation. Salvation is an absolute debt to the believer from God, so that he may in justice demand it, on account of what his surety has done. For Christ has satisfied justice fully for his sin. It is but a piece of justice, that the creditor should release the debtor, when he has fully paid the debt. And again, the believer may demand eternal life, because it has been merited by Christ, by a merit of condignity. So is it contrived, that justice that seemed to require man’s destruction, now requires his salvation.

He then moves on to show how the same movement is at work in God’s attributes of truth and holiness. Where it seemed they demand our total rejection, God orders things so that, upon faith in Christ, these things “require” our acceptance.

Not only that, it’s not just that redemption displays God’s attributes better than any other act. Nor is it only that God wisely arranges things so that his attributes require man’s salvation. In this way, we see God’s attributes more magnificently displayed in a way than we ever could have otherwise. “Those very attributes which seemed to require man’s destruction are more glorious in his salvation than they would have been in his destruction.”

How so? Simply damning sinners for eternity cannot compare to the utter vindication of God’s justice seen in his taking the consequences of sin upon himself in the Son all at once, in public, on the cross. The public trial in history of God’s unchangeable justice reveals God’s willingness to do justice in a way that simply leaving sinners to their fate ever could.

This is one more reason to marvel at the wisdom of God:

Such is the wisdom of salvation, that the more any of the elect have dishonored God, the more is God glorified in this redemption. Such wonders as these are accomplished by the wisdom of this way of salvation.

Not only does this give us reason to praise and glorify God, but it also is the foundation of unspeakable comfort. Many of us might look to God’s goodness, his holiness, his righteous justice, or purity, and only see reasons for guilt, rejection, shame, and despair. Edwards will not have. To think in such a way underestimated the glorious wisdom of God:

So sufficient is this way of salvation, that it is not inconsistent with any of God’s attributes to save the chief of sinners. However great a sinner any one has been, yet God can, if he pleased, save without any injury to the glory of any one attribute. And not only so, but the more sinful any one has been, the more does God glorify himself in his salvation. The more does he glorify his power, that he can redeem one in whom sin so abounds, and of whom Satan has such strong possession. — The greater triumph has Christ over his grand adversary, in redeeming and setting at liberty from his bondage those that were his greatest vassals. The more does the sufficiency of Christ appear, in that it is sufficient for such vile wretches.

This is not an excuse to sin that grace might abound, but an invitation to worship the wise grace of God, the sufficiency of Christ, which alone can give us the love for God that drives out all desire to sin.

Such is the wisdom of God. All things work for his glory and for our ultimate good.

Now think on his works, his attributes, worship, and sin no more.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at May 22, 2015 06:12 PM

The Ontological Geek

11 Days of Marvel: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 is up next as Bill and Erin move through all of the movies of the MCU. Spoiler alert: Neither of them liked this one very much.

by Bill Coberly at May 22, 2015 06:07 PM

Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Podcast: Exponent 046 — Everything Has a Price

On the newest episode of Exponent, the podcast I co-host with James Allworth:

In this week’s episode, we discuss ad-blockers, both personal ones and the rumored carrier-implemented one, as well as and the moral quandary that is the Internet.


  • Ben Thompson: Carriers to Implement Ad-Blocking — Stratechery Daily Update (members-only)
  • Laura McGann: How Ars Technica’s “experiment” with ad-blocking readers built on its community’s affection for the site — Nieman Lab
  • Ben Thompson: Open Source Apps — Stratechery
  • Ben Thompson: The Changing — and Unchanging — Structure of TV — Stratechery

Listen to the episode here

Podcast Information: Feed | iTunes | SoundCloud | Twitter | Feedback

Discuss this podcast in the Stratechery Forum (members-only)

The post Podcast: Exponent 046 — Everything Has a Price appeared first on Stratechery by Ben Thompson.

by Ben Thompson at May 22, 2015 05:53 PM

John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

Petty Puppy-Kickers on the March

From the blog of Theodore Beale, the Most Hated Man in the Solar System:

Glenn Hauman issued a second call for anti-Puppy Amazon reviews, this time on File 770:

Glenn Hauman on April 15, 2015
You can game Amazon ratings as well. Here’s a list of all of Mr. Beale’s nominees, complete with handy links to Amazon. It might be a good idea to take a look at the reviews and see which ones are helpful. If you’ve read the works, you should add your own review. Oh, and to answer the title question: what do you do to rabid puppies? You put them down.

Glenn Hauman on May 20, 2015 at 10:51 pm said:
Just a reminder to all Hugo voters: After you’ve read items in the Hugo packet, you don’t have to confine any reviews of them to your own blogs and social media. Feel free to add them to Amazon as well.

And once again, SJWs have obediently responded to his call.

I am proud to have Mr Beale as my publisher. For one thing, he answers my emails without leaving me hanging for months, for another, he knows how to edit a manuscript.

I hesitate to call him ‘Vox Day’ or ‘Ted’ because of the recent discovery, touted by scientists, alienists, chrononauts and posthistorians investigating the degenerate subuman descendants of British workingmen found in dank caves and sewers, that Morlocks do not understand nicknames. This is a quality they share with the reptiloids of Alpha Draconis, and the Badoon of Capella.

This is not to be confused with the fact that the aliens from the Quinn-Martin TV show THE INVADERS cannot bend their pinky fingers. Each different invader creature has a different set of ‘tells’ which betrays his nonhumanity. See your Peterson’s Field Guide for details.

It must be noted that these entities, though dire and potent in their own spheres, often misunderstand simple human conventions, such as nicknames, or the process of voting based on the merit of the case, and can be thwarted by the agile wit of a diligent and observant mortal. I quote from our casebook:

“No; there is ample at hand,” declared the creature, speaking through Iucounu’s mouth. “But now I feel the need for relaxation. The evolution I performed a moment or so ago has made quietude necessary.”

“A simple matter,” said Cugel. “The most effective means to this end is to clamp with extreme intensity upon the Lobe of Directive Volition.”

“Indeed?” inquired the creature. “I will attempt as much; let me see: this is the Lobe of Antithesis and here, the Convolvement of Subliminal Configuration … Szzm. Much here puzzles me; it was never thus on Achernar.” The creature gave Cugel a sharp look to see if the slip  had been noticed. But Cugel put on an attitude of lackadaisical boredom; and the creature continued to sort through the various elements of Iucounu’s brain. “Ah yes, here: the Lobe of Directive Volition. Now, a sudden vigorous pressure.”

Iucounu’s face became taut, the muscles sagged, and the corpulent body crumpled to the floor. Cugel leapt forward and in a trice bound Iucounu’s arms and legs and affixed an adhesive pad across the big mouth.

Note here the importance of nonchalance when dealing with such creatures, as the pretense that their activities are undetected often lulls them into error. A strong cord, a sharp dirk, and an emulsion of Pharisms’ Excellent Nontelluric Expurgative, either in liquid form or suppository, is also useful.

They like to think they can pass for human, despite the encroachment of extraterrestrial verbal signifiers into their language,  such as “Szzm” or “cisnormative” or “transmisogynistic.”

Alas, I am too busy today to comb through Amazon to downvote and report graffiti being left on my sale goods by malign Morlocks. I ask any reader impatient for my next work to be published to alleviate my workload by shouldering this task, please.

I ask any undecided onlooker who has noticed the kerfuffle to observe who has played straight, honest, aboveboard, and continually and openly identified their goals and platform, and who has lied, cheated, lied, slandered, lied, libeled, lied, betrayed, lied, invented falsehoods, resorted to dirsty tricks, lied, defamed, lied, called people racists, lied, organized defamation campaigns in major media, lied and lied again.

I ask any undecided onlooker who has noticed the kerfuffle to observe whether anyone on the Sad Puppies side of things has called for posting false and defamatory reviews of rival works, or attempting to blacklist or undermine the income of fellow authors?

Allow me to quote the wise Cail Corishev

I’m still trying to figure out if they truly hate the work

The works are irrelevant, if they even read them. They aren’t making anti-Puppy attacks because they honestly think the works are bad, any more than Soviet commissars killed Ukrainian farmers because their cabbages were too small.

by John C Wright at May 22, 2015 05:20 PM


Conquering Our Spiritual Goliath

rubens_david_goliath_grtOne more section in Jonathan Edwards’ work on The Wisdom of God, Displayed in Salvation concerns the way this benefits the holy angels as well as the effects it has upon Satan and his minions. After a surprising amount of applications, Edwards closes with this smashing paragraph that I simply could not help but pass on:

One end why God suffered Satan to do what he did in procuring the fall of man was that his Son might be glorified in conquering that strong, subtle, and proud spirit, and triumphing over him. How glorious does Christ Jesus appear in baffling and triumphing over this proud king of darkness, and all the haughty confederate rulers of hell. How glorious a sight is it to see the meek and patient Lamb of God leading that proud, malicious, and mighty enemy in triumph! What songs does this cause in heaven! It was a glorious sight in Israel, who came out with timbrels and with dances, and sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” But how much more glorious to see the Son of David, the Son of God, carrying the head of the spiritual Goliath, the champion of the armies of hell, in triumph to the heavenly Jerusalem! It is with a principal view to this, that Christ is called, “the Lord of hosts, or armies, and a man of war,” Exo. 15:3. And Psa. 24:8, “Who is this king of glory! The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” –Jonathan Edwards, The Wisdom of God, Displayed in the Way of Salvation, Sec. IV

All Glory to Our Mighty David, King Jesus!

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at May 22, 2015 03:00 PM

Search Apple's Support site with Alfred

Alfred is my go-to app launcher on my Macs. Anything task I do or workflow I need more than about 3 times a week, I try to automate using it.

With my newest series here on 512, I'm searching Apple's support site more than ever. With Alfred's custom search functionality, this can be done very quickly.

In the app's preferences, under Features, you can add a new Web Search. You can add a keyword, label and — most importantly — the URL Alfred will need to pass to the browser to fire your search results:

Here's what you will need to paste into the "Search URL" field:{query}

Now, I can hit CMD+Space, type kbase and my term and I'm off to the races. It's niche and fast, as most good workflows are, but I'm liking it.

by Stephen Hackett at May 22, 2015 02:45 PM

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

Building tools for my future self

I was thinking about steps towards personal digital assistants. In a separate thread, I was also thinking about the psychology of aging. In a third thread, I was thinking about projects I might want to build to help me learn more. It makes sense to bring all these threads together: thinking of systems I can build to improve the quality of life I’ll enjoy in the future.

I think this might be a better fit for my experimental learning than either a hypothetical market or specific people. After all, I’ll always have a future self who could benefit. (And if I don’t, I’ll be past caring!) If the things I build along the way turn out to be useful for others, all the better.

Anyway, I was thinking about the kind of simple, deterministic, idiosyncratic assistant I could build to make life a teensy bit better in the medium term and the long term.

I could start with a text box interface on a webpage, then move to alternative inputs like dictation or neuro-integration(!) when that becomes reliable. It would be great to have some kind of offline buffering, too.

In terms of logic, I could start with stateless well-defined responses, add synonyms, support conversational interfaces, use weighted factors, add feedback mechanisms, and then eventually reach proactive notification and action. Inferences would be awesome, but I don’t have to wait for them to be sorted out. Ditto for program generation and adaptation.

In terms of sensing and acting, I can start with existing APIs and tools, write specific adapters for other sites, push into the physical world with sensors and actuators, use context and probability to simplify, and then take advantage of improvements in fields like computer vision or biometric analysis as other people build and commoditize cool tech.

But first, it starts with building a simple tool. Hmm, maybe a little thing that suggests what to do next (and coincidentally makes it easy to track)…

The post Building tools for my future self appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at May 22, 2015 02:00 PM

Crossway Blog

Counseling and Pastoral Heartache

This is a guest post by Jeremy Pierre, pastor at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the coauthor (with Deepak Reju) of The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need.

Creating Opportunity for Heartache

“Life is hard enough with my own problems. Why am I taking on other people’s?”

I have to admit, this thought passes through my mind more regularly than it ought. It usually finds me at some low point in ministry, then kicks me.

The situations that bruise a pastor most are those that come when you’ve spent countless hours delicately untangling complex issues and setting people on a trajectory of growth, only to have everything collapse in an instant. The people give in or walk away, but not before delivering a parting kick to your shins.

Walking with people in the complications of their lives will increase your heartache. There’s no use pretending otherwise. If you arrange your schedule to take on some counseling, you are creating opportunity for greater heartache. Why bother?

The Evidence of Being an Undershepherd

For pastors, heartache is a sign they’re alive.

Paul identified himself as a faithful minister of the gospel, not merely by defending the purity of his doctrine, but by proclaiming his own experience of heartache for the spiritual good of his people. He defied the Corinthian believers to find a single person whose pain he did not associate with and whose spiritual good he did not care about: “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” (2 Corinthians 11:29, see also 1 Thessalonians 2:8-12). Heartache was evidence that Paul was Christ’s apostle. And it’s evidence that we are Christ’s undershepherds.

So, just to be clear: I’m not saying that counseling increases heartache. Caring for the spiritual good of others does. Counseling is only a tool for caring. It allows a pastor to navigate the dark wilderness of people’s lives, guiding them to greener places.

The pastor knows he could stay comfortably on his own homestead—there’s certainly enough to maintain there. But his burden compels him into the wilderness. And even when straying people are clumsy and slow, when they are stubborn and refuse to follow, when they kick, the pastor still seeks them out with good questions and appropriate words. He is patient when wronged and humble to admit his own shortcomings in the process. All of this is heartache.

And it’s how a pastor knows he’s alive—alive with a life that is not his own. When I experience those rare moments of a heartache that does not flow from self interest but rather genuine concern for others, I know that Jesus is changing me. My heartache in ministry used to be tied almost exclusively to my own sense of performance or personal investment. Now, it’s less so. For a guy like me, that’s quite literally a miracle.

Why do pastors take on other people’s problems?

To honor the One who took a world of trouble that was not rightfully his.

Jeremy Pierre (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as chair of the department of biblical counseling and biblical spirituality as well the dean of students at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a pastor at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the coauthor (with Deepak Reju) of The Pastor and Counseling.

by Matt Tully at May 22, 2015 01:11 PM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workout: May 24, 2015

Burpee box jumps: the only thing worse than burpees?

Burpee box jumps: the only thing worse than burpees?

3 rounds of 1 minute of work at each station:

Thrusters (empty bar)

Box jump-overs (24/20 inches)

Pull-ups/ring rows


Kettlebell swings (55/35 lb)

Skills Session

Jerk balance 3-3-3-3-3 @ 95/65 lb. max

10 minutes on handstand walking or holds

5 minutes on cartwheels


by Mike at May 22, 2015 12:07 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Three Things I Know Are True: Taking Risks


I’ve been attempting to find “true north” in a lot of things lately. This series explores what I’ve found to be true in my own life. Your answers will probably differ; the point is to find what’s true for you.

Today’s topic is taking risks. Here are three things I know are true.

1. Most risk is perceived.

For example, it’s not any riskier to work for yourself than it is to work for a company, and it may actually be less risky. Why would you trust someone else with your well-being? Self-employment is actually a very safe and conservative choice for many of us.

Therefore, it’s very important to rethink the role of risk in your life.

2. The times that I’ve taken risks have usually turned out well.

I don’t think you should always take a risk; it’s clear that there are a lot of risks not worth taking. I just think, on balance, that it’s usually better to make a bold choice than a tame one.

When I think back on things I wish I’d done differently, whether in work or life (or even travel), I see a clear pattern. I don’t remember many times when I’d evaluated a risk, and having taken it, ended up thinking later, “You know, I wish I hadn’t done that.”

However, I can remember profound regret related to times that I’ve wanted to take a risk but chose not to.

There’s also this:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ―Anaïs Nin

3. Most risk is relative, and what was once risky can become comfortable.

If we want to improve and challenge ourselves, we have to look for different kinds of risks. I recently started following Kevin Richardson, a South African guy who plays with lions.

Crazy, right? But he’s doing it for years, and as the videos demonstrate, it’s totally normal to him.

Playing with lions would be risky for most of us (I got to play with tigers once, but in a controlled setting). Risk is relative, in other words. If we want to take more risks, perhaps we need to find some lions who are ready to play.

See also: Tyler Tervooren’s strategy for becoming comfortable with risk.

How about you? Feel free to use this format for your own blog, journaling, or just thinking.


Image: Nicholas

by Chris Guillebeau at May 22, 2015 12:00 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

James Hoffmeier: Genesis 1–11 is History and Theology — An Excerpt from “Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?”

9780310514947What genre is Genesis 1–11? Is it history, fiction, or neither? A new book provides clarity by exploring the first eleven chapters of the Bible, which are often fraught with disagreement and confusion.

Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? offers a vigorous discussion of primeval history from three distinct perspective. One of those voices is James Hoffmeier, who argues Genesis is history that reflects real facts and real events:

When we consider the framing of the books with the tôlĕdôt markers and the rather specific geographical settings, which I believe would lead an ancient audience to consider the Nephilim episode, the flood, and Tower of Babel narratives as historical events, then there are good reasons to read these texts this way even in the twenty-first century.

Read the excerpt below and engage this important resource yourself to gain deeper insights into the important discussion of the genre and nature of Genesis 1–11.

I have argued that the three episodes considered here [Sons of God and Daughters of Man, Flood Stories and Traditions, the Tower of Babel], like the entirety of the book of Genesis, fit into a literary genre based on the heading to the eleven sections of the book, “this is /these are the histories of X,” the tôlĕdôt formula. Within these units, different literary genres might be used.

Regardless of what those might be, the general tenor of the book, and Gen 1 – 11 in particular, is intended to be thought of as describing real events. A piece of ancient literature concerning past events does not have to be recorded with the kind of historiographical precision that would be expected of a modern academic historian or journalist. The geographical clues provided in Gen 1 – 11 suggest that these events from the ancient past occurred in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, in a real world, a world recognizable to the ancient reader or hearer of the narratives.

When we consider the framing of the books with the tôlĕdôt markers and the rather specific geographical settings, which I believe would lead an ancient audience to consider the Nephilim episode, the flood, and Tower of Babel narratives as historical events, then there are good reasons to read these texts this way even in the twenty-first century.

Based on this well-founded assumption, biblical theology begins its task. Like the Psalmists of old, Christian theology is founded on God’s “glorious deeds . . . the wonders that he has done” (Ps 78:4) and we set our “hope in God and not forget the works of God” (Ps 78:7). If one reduces the narratives of Gen 1 – 11 to fictitious stories and legends, the history of salvation lacks its raison d’être. Fortunately, the Christian committed to Scripture need not commit intellectual suicide by embracing the historicity of the events described in early Genesis, for the text itself is written in such a way to reinforce this view. (pg. 58)

Genesis: History, Fiction, Or Neither?

Edited by Charles Halton

Order it Today:
Barnes & Noble
Buy Direct from Zondervan

by Jeremy Bouma at May 22, 2015 11:44 AM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workout: May 22, 2015

Best wishes to Erin!

Best wishes to Erin!

Please note there is a class at 9 a.m. only on May 23. The Very Sherri Two-on-One starts at 10 a.m. See you there!

Weighted chest-to-bar pull-up 1-1-1

3 sets of max strict pull-ups


Run 800 m

15 strict ring dips/push-ups

Run 600 m

15 strict ring dips/push-ups

Run 400 m

15 strict ring dips/push-ups

Evening Skills Session

Skills circuit:

1 rope climb

1 muscle-up

1 handstand push-up

Add one rep each round until you reach 6 reps per round. If the movements are easy for you, scale up to legless rope climbs, strict muscle-ups and deficit handstand push-ups.

Row 2 km

by Mike at May 22, 2015 11:43 AM

Workout: May 23, 2015

Keep the back extremely stiff as the bar comes off the floor. Iron Maiden T recommended for extra power.

Keep the back extremely stiff as the bar comes off the floor. Iron Maiden T recommended for extra power.

Please note there is a class at 9 a.m. only. The Very Sherri Two-on-One starts at 10 a.m.

*Pause cleans 1-1-1-1-1 @ 65%

Pause is just below the knee for a full second

Every minute for 9 sets: 2 cleans

*Why a pause? Coaches will adjust your positioning in the pause to ensure you are set for success when you resume. When the bar is at the knee, the shins should be vertical and the weight should be centered just in front of the heel. All muscles are flexed, and the gaze is straight ahead. Lift well!

by Mike at May 22, 2015 11:43 AM

Very Sherri 2-on-1 Update

Training buddies are there to support you at all times, and to take just a bit of pleasure in your suffering.

Friendly trash talking encouraged.

Most people know Sherri enjoys a bit of trash talking, and some teams requested an opportunity to beat Sherri. We’ve slightly revised the second part of the workout to give them a chance.

Part 1

In 8 minutes: 1-rep-max floor press (both partners register 1 lift, Sherri registers two lifts for her total)

Partner Diane

21-15-9 reps of:

*Deadlifts 225/155/scaled as needed

**Handstand push-ups or push-ups

Time cap 10 minutes.

*Each partner will have a bar to do 21 deadlifts each. Both  partners can work at the same time, but neither partner can move on until both are done.

**On the handstand push-ups or push-ups, only 21, 15 and 9 reps are required in total, not per partner. While one partner is working, the other must hold either a handstand or a plank. Whenever a set is broken, the partners must switch for at least one rep.

We can modify this workout for athletes of any level!

by Mike at May 22, 2015 11:39 AM

Doc Searls Weblog » Doc Searls Weblog »

Live blogging

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve been quiet here for a bit. One reason is that I’ve been traveling almost constantly, and not always in the best position to blog (or even tweet). Another is that I’ve been liveblogging instead. So here, latest first, is a list of liveblog postings since my last post here:

Most are lists of links: tabs I’m closing. Many contain bloggy additional notes. Some are more extensive, such as my liveblog notes on @janelgw‘s talk in New York on May 6.

I’ll get back to more regular blogging here, while still liveblogging, after I get back in the States from Australia, where I am now. I fly tomorrow (Saturday in Oz, Friday in the Americas).


by Doc Searls at May 22, 2015 10:32 AM

The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

Una herramienta para preparar un estudio bíblico

Alrededor de 13 años tenía cuanto tuve mi primera computadora. ¡No puedo describir la emoción que tenía! A esa edad lo único que me importaba era el soporte que tenía la computadora para instalar videojuegos, y poder gastar horas y horas de mi vida delante de esa pantalla entreteniéndome ya sea con el Age of Empires o el Need for Speed. Quizás muchos de los que pertenezcan a mi generación se sentirán identificados. Mucho tiempo ha pasado de aquel momento, pero aún sigo teniendo pasión por la tecnología y lo que puedo hacer con ella. 

Por soberanía y providencia de Dios trabajo como diseñador y desarrollador web hace más de 5 años, diariamente paso aproximadamente 10 horas navegando por internet y trabajando. Lo que hace que esté acostumbrado a la accesibilidad de la información. Ya sea por motivo de trabajo o porque quiero saber una receta, corro a mi navegador, ingreso una búsqueda y en instantes tengo cientos y miles de resultados a mi alcance. 

Ya no juego, pero la tecnología me permite ganar tiempo y acceder a conocimientos que en otro tiempo no hubieran sido posibles con la rapidez que hoy tenemos. Por eso quiero contarte mi experiencia usando Logos Biblioteca Tesoro 6 para armar un estudio bíblico.

Una búsqueda a una tecla de distancia

He estado realizando una clase de hermenéutica donde tocaremos distintos conceptos y definiciones teológicas: revelación, inspiración, inerrancia, autoridad e interpretación bíblica. Estoy acostumbrado a tener la información al alcance de una tecla, los buscadores potentes de la internet cada vez son más veloces en encontrar lo que quiero y necesito. Pero, lamentablemente, la información que uno encuentra es abundante y siempre uno tiene que seleccionar que peces le sirven de la red y qué cosas son solo basura. Pero con Logos eso no me pasa, directamente ingreso la palabra que me interesa y puedo recibir mucho contenido ordenado y relacionado al instante. 

Búsqueda automática con la palabra “revelación”

No solo tengo una lista de resultados ordenados por tema, versículos relacionados, ilustraciones, recursos visuales, personajes bíblicos, lugares, objetos y eventos. A la vez, se despliegan paneles que uno puede configurar y que te ofrecen un tipo de búsqueda particular como verás en esta imagen: Explorador de temas, Preparador de Sermones, La Biblia y Diccionarios Bíblicos. 

Resultados de búqueda

Miles de páginas ojeadas al instante

Soy la primer generación de cristianos en lo que conozco de mi árbol genealógico, así que no tengo ninguna biblioteca heredada ni libros de un abuelo pastor ni mucho menos. Logos es mi biblioteca con más de 650 libros disponibles, donde mi búsqueda sobre “revelación” atraviesa miles de páginas al instante y me trae los resultados que se aplican a la revelación como “revelación general” y “revelación especial”, que serán temas importantes a tocar en la clase bíblica.

Resultados por temas y libros de la biblioteca virtual

Con un click llego a esta defición de Revelación Natural o General: 

“Revelación Natural. La expresión «revelación natural» describe el hecho que Dios el Creador se ha revelado en sus obras. Como dice Pablo en Ro. 1:20: «Las cosas invisibles de él, se hacen claramente visibles desde la creación del mundo, siendo entendidas por medio de las cosas hechas»”, Geoffrey W. Bromiley.

Como me gustó y me servirá para construir mi clase, la guardaré como un recorte en un archivo dentro de Logos para consultar luego mientras sigo buscando más definiciones, luego las compararé todas y armaré una definición más completa. Eso mismo lo haces con un click derecho sobre el texto seleccionado y luego clickeas en “Agregar un recorte a “Recortes sin título””. Podrás cambiar el nombre a tu archivo de recortes por “Definiciones de Revelación General” y así no perderlo entre tus documentos. 

Guardar cita como recorte en archivo

Como quiero ir definición tras definición no me muevo de donde estoy y lo que utilizo para cambiar de diccionarios teológicos es la herramienta de “conjunto de recursos paralelos”, en la imagen de abajo podrás ver que te despliega los diccionarios que tengas en tu biblioteca y solamente clickeando en el diccionario siguiente vas directo a la referencia sobre “revelación natural”, no debes abrir otro diccionario ni utilizar tu tiempo siguiendo un índice, directamente navegas entre diccionarios y definiciones a dos click de distancia.

Herramienta conjunto de recursos paralelos

Mientras leía la definición de revelación natural del Diccionario Teológico Beacon hubo una frase que me gustó y que quisiera utilizar si decido proyectar una presentación de diapositivas. Así como hice para guardar el recorte en un archivo, yo puedo en las opciones que se despliegan con click derecho al texto seleccionado hay una llamada “Copia Visual” lo que te permite es que sin saber nada de diseño directamente puedes navegar entre plantillas prediseñadas donde automáticamente aparece tu frase seleccionada, mira el ejemplo:

Nueva herramienta de Copia Visual

Aún continúo buscando definiciones de otros temas como inspiración e inerrancia, pero he conseguido varias definiciones de revelación sin tener que pasar mucho tiempo como antes al buscar en mi navegador de internet. Poder tener acceso a Diccionarios de Teología, de temas bíblicos, biblias de estudio, comentarios  bíblicos y libros relacionados, es una gran ayuda para poder realizar clases bíblicas que sean fieles a las Escrituras, no quiere decir que no puedas tu mismo realizar tus clases sin Logos, para nada, todos sabemos que sí. Pero Logos te ofrece un software dedicado a explorar las Escrituras y recursos bíblicos de una manera tan interactiva, rápida y eficaz que uno ahorra muchisimo tiempo y esfuerzo a la hora de preparar clases para la edificación del pueblo de Dios.

La tecnología ha avanzado muchísimo en las últimas décadas, y avanza a pasos agigantados mes a mes, tener una herramienta que nos permita usar esa tecnología para el estudio de la Palabra de Dios y poder ser hombres que manejan con precisión la Palabra de Verdad es una gran ayuda. 

Invertimos mucho en celulares de última generación y computadoras que te permitan soportar los más avanzados videojuegos. Hoy ya no juego como cuando tenía 13 años, pero sigo con gran emoción cuando puedo estar frente a un computador y pasar horas y horas conociendo más al Dios que me salvó por gracia a través de Jesucristo.

by Enrique Oriolo at May 22, 2015 06:00 AM

Boy Scouts Presidents Calls for Lifting the Ban on Gay Troop Leaders

The Story:  Speaking to volunteers at the 2015 National Annual Meeting, Boy Scouts of America National President Dr. Robert M. Gates warned that the organizations ban on homosexual Scout leaders is “unsustainable” and should be modified.

The Background: In his remarks, Gates notes that both internal and external pressures threaten the continued existence of the Boy Scouts unless they modify their policies. “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” said Gates. “The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.”

“Our oath calls upon us to do our duty to God and our country,” Gates added. “The country is changing, and we are increasingly at odds with the legal landscape at both the state and federal levels. And, as a movement, we find ourselves with a policy more than a few of our church sponsors reject—thus placing scouting between a boy and his church.”

You can hear his remarks in this video (skip ahead to the 8:45 mark):

Why It Matters: Unfortunately, Gates is likely correct when he says,

And if we wait for the courts to act, we could end up with a broad ruling that could forbid any kind of membership standard, including our foundational belief in our duty to god and our focus on serving the specific needs of boys. Waiting for the courts is a gamble with huge stakes.

Activist judges and a misguided belief that the courts have the final say about such issues makes the situation difficult for the Boy Scouts. But an even deeper issue is the simple lack of courage and resolve among the adult leaders in Scouting.

As Gates notes, several councils are already in “open defiance of the policy” banning adult gay Scout leaders. He admits that the national organization could “revoke their charters” but refuses to do so because,

. . . such an action would deny the lifelong benefits of scouting to hundreds of thousands of boys and young men today and vastly more in the future. I will not take that path.

This is an attitude that has infected many faith-based and religious organizations—and even entire Christian denominations. Like Gates, many religious leaders simply lack the courage to stand up to internally destructive dissidents for fear of losing the broader organization. And it will continue to get worse. Rather than standing for principle and staying true to their integrity, many Christian leaders will follow Gates example and cave in to the pressure to condone ungodly behaviors in order to preserve the “mission.” They will abandon their integrity in a misguided attempt to preserve an organization that is rotting from within.

Gates’s intention is both noble and laudable. As he says, he took his current role to “preserve the Boy Scouts.” But what lesson are we teaching young men when the organization is more concerned about its continued existence than in either preserving its legacy or doing it’s “duty to God”?

If Scouting is going to become just another club that surrenders to the misguided whims of secular culture, and if the lesson we are teaching our youth is to abandon their values to spare themselves from future trouble, then maybe our country would be better off without the Boys Scouts of America altogether.   

by Joe Carter at May 22, 2015 05:15 AM

Defending Substitution

Simon Gathercole. Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015. 116 pp. $19.99.

Simon Gathercole’s work on the New Perspective on Paul, synoptic Christology, gnostic gospel writings, and other matters is well known. His latest book, Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul, examines the issue of substitution in the writings of the apostle. 

Originating in various lectures, Defending Substitution retains Gathercole’s lecture style, which also accounts for its brevity. The senior lecturer in New Testament studies at the University of Cambridge structures the book in simple fashion. Chapter one distills some objections to substitution from various New Testament scholars, and chapters two and three set forth a defense of substitution in Paul. (Gathercole examines 1 Corinthians 15:3 and Romans 5:6–8 respectively.) He sums up his case in the conclusion.

Modest Goal

Gathercole begins by considering the importance of substitution both for our understanding of the gospel and also for our personal lives. He defines substitution as Christ dying in our place so that he dies “instead of us.” Gathercole carefully delineates what he’s trying to do from what he’s not trying to do in this work. He’s simply defending substitution; he’s not defending penal substitution. He admits non-penal substitution does exist, as with the live goat in Leviticus 16:21 sent into the wilderness (but not put to death) bearing the sins of Israel.

Gathercole also frequently notes that the notion of substitution doesn’t rule out other atonement themes, such as representation. Still, substitution and representation aren’t the same thing: substitution “entails the concept of replacement,” whereas Christ “embodies” his people but doesn’t suffer instead of them in his representation. Gathercole’s goal here isn’t to defend propitiatory substitution or substitution as satisfaction for sins. Certainly, substitution and propitiation/satisfaction are often closely related, and he isn’t denying they may be part of Paul’s understanding. His intention is simply more modest: to show Paul teaches substitution.

Answering the Critics 

Gathercole also briefly considers some objections to substitution. For instance, many opponents reject substitution as a legal fiction, as immoral, as philosophically objectionable (according to Kant and others who have followed him), and as incompatible with the physical death of believers. Though Gathercole doesn’t respond to these charges in-depth, he does say the legal fiction accusation reflects an individualistic view of human identity that doesn’t accord with Scripture. Moreover, the claim that substitution is immoral doesn’t persuade since God substitutes himself and Christ willingly and gladly gives his life for sinners. Christians throughout history have received the teaching of substitution gladly, and it has filled them with joy and praise. Gathercole then turns the Kantian objection aside because it “threatens both the freedom and mercy of God” (13). Having said all this, though, Gathercole believes the most important objection is exegetical, and he turns to that matter in the remainder of the book.

Gathercole examines three historical objections to substitution. First, he considers the Tübingen view propounded by Hartmut Gese and Otfried Hofius. The Tübingen view maintains that the atonement communicates identification and representation, not substitution. Gese and Hofius describe the atonement as “inclusive place-taking” by which sinners are brought into a relationship with God. Gathercole accepts the representative understanding of the Tübingen reading but holds they wrongly deny substitution, particularly in downplaying the role of individual transgressions.

Second, Gathercole evaluates Morna Hooker’s notion that we have interchange in Christ instead of substitution. According to Hooker, the atonement focuses on identification and entering our sphere instead of replacement or substitution. Once again, Gathercole affirms what Hooker supports, for he sees the themes of solidarity and participation in Paul’s theology of the cross. He questions, though, whether Hooker explains adequately the importance of Christ’s death and Paul’s focus on individual sins.

Last, Gathercole analyzes the apocalyptic view of J. Louis Martyn. Martyn and others read the death of Christ in terms of Christus Victor: human beings are enslaved to sin as a power and their plight isn’t in individual sins or the need for forgiveness. Gathercole agrees Christus Victor plays an important role in Paul’s theology, for the liberating work accomplished in the cross is clearly an integral part of Paul’s gospel, especially in Galatians. Still, eliminating substitution is unsatisfactory, for human beings aren’t only victims of sin but are also guilty for their sin and stand under God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:9; 5:9). In addition, the apocalyptic reading doesn’t sufficiently explain how Christ’s death affects liberation. All three models presented here fail to account for the significance of individual sins and transgressions in Pauline thought. The notion that sin and transgression are only powers to be delivered from is foreign to Paul’s theology and fails to accord with the evidence.

Defending the Doctrine 

In chapter two Gathercole examines 1 Corinthians 15:3, where Paul says Christ died for our sins. The text bears major importance in Pauline thought since he summarizes the gospel in these verses (1 Cor. 15:1–11). Indeed, 1 Cor. 15:11 indicates that this gospel was shared and disseminated by all the apostles. What makes this text especially vital, as Gathercole observes, is that Paul grounds the gospel he proclaims in the Scriptures. Though various Old Testament texts may have been in Paul’s mind, Gathercole argues Isaiah 53 was particularly fundamental to the apostle’s theology (which is now the majority view among scholars) and then shows its relationship to 1 Corinthians 15:3. The theme of substitution pervades Isaiah 53 and is picked up by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3. Christ, according to 1 Corinthians 15:3, died both as a result of our sins and to deal with our sins. To say that one died “for” (hyper) sins isn’t substitution in itself, but substitution is involved when one dies for the sins of others rather than for one’s own. Gathercole shows how Paul clearly presents the notion of substitution in 1 Corinthians 15:3 and roots it in the Old Testament witness.

Gathercole also provides a fascinating excursus on why Christians still die if Christ died for them. He argues that Paul reconceives what death means for Christians in four ways. First, Paul often describes death as “falling asleep” or as leaving this world to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23). Therefore, death doesn’t play the same role for believers as it did before their salvation. Second, the apostle also describes death in metaphorical terms. I wasn’t quite sure why this point was significant for Gathercole’s argument. Perhaps he’s simply saying it’s another example of Paul reconfiguring death. Third, Paul distinguishes kinds of death: unbelievers die a death that involves judgment and destruction (apollumi), while believers die a death that anticipates life. Fourth, it seems significant that Christ is never said to sleep in death but always to die. In other words, Jesus suffers the death believers deserve so that they won’t perish and suffer judgment as unbelievers will.

In the final chapter Gathercole examines Romans 5:6–8. This is a most fascinating chapter, for here Gathercole finds parallels of substitution in the noble deaths recorded in classical literature. Gathercole also notes a distinction between Romans 5:6–8 and 1 Corinthians 15:3. In Romans, Christ dies in place of people, whereas in 1 Corinthians 15:3 he dies for our sins. The parallel with noble deaths in Romans is evident, for Paul appeals to such in Romans 5:7. According to Gathercole, the death of some in the place of and instead of others in classical literature would have been well known to Paul and his readers. This is especially true regarding the death of Alcestis for her husband Admetus, which is found in Euripides, Plato, Plutarch, Musonius Rufus, and inscriptions from the first century AD. Of course, Alcestis is not the only example of one dying for another, since we also see substitution when someone dies for friends or family members. What is the relationship between Christ’s death and noble deaths in classical literature? In both instances, Gathercole says we have death on behalf of others. What is striking, though, is that Christ died for his enemies and for the ungodly rather than in place of his friends. That one would die for one’s enemies was foreign to those in the Greco-Roman world.

Stimulating Work 

We see the virtues of Gathercole’s scholarship in this stimulating work. Defending Substitution makes precise distinctions and carefully attends to Scripture. Gathercole’s use of primary sources is always illuminating, and his parallels to noble deaths in classical literature are particularly helpful. His criticisms of alternative views are brief but understandable in a short book. I also wonder if the martyr traditions, as Jarvis Williams argues, may be in the background of Paul’s thought.

That’s a discussion for another time and place, though. For now, we can be grateful for Simon Gathercole’s excellent scholarship.

by Thomas Schreiner at May 22, 2015 05:02 AM

5 Book Pairings for New College Graduates

Now that new graduates are no longer studying for class, they can pick up books for fun. Here are some books that I’d recommend giving graduates to help them live coram Deo—before the face of God.

To Behold and Discern

Our world rarely compares religions to see which one makes the most sense. Instead, our Western world considers all religious to be basically the same, where the only rational system of belief is secularism. If graduates want to be “wise as serpents,” they need to deeply treasure Christ and also know what keeps others from seeing his beauty.

Ramsey writes a breathtakingly beautiful “creative non-fiction” narrative of the life of Jesus that leads even life-long followers of Jesus to encounter him in new ways. Smith’s concise guide to Charles Taylor’s complex and lengthy A Secular Age pairs perfectly with Ramsey because it identifies, and deconstructs, one of the greatest threats to modern people beholding Jesus—secularism.

To Dream and Obey

Having big dreams isn’t a bad thing. All of us have benefited from people who imagined a world that was different from the one in which they lived—Martin Luther, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and more. The problem comes when we pursue our dreams at the expense of everyday faithfulness to God and neighbor. We need the power to endure and persevere as we connect our high calling with our daily living.

Borger’s book collects several commencement speeches, from Steve Garber to Richard Mouw to Amy Sherman. Each speaker offers a robust vision of vocation, beckoning graduates to see that all work—“carpentry, plumbing, data-entry, nursing, art, business, government, journalism, entertainment, and scholarship,” as TGC’s Theological Vision of Ministry highlights—can be done as lived-out worship of God. This lofty vision, though, needs grounding, so I pair it with the Peterson book, which is a meditation on the Psalms of Ascent. Its title says it all.

To Work and Rest

The commandment about the Sabbath could just as easily be called the commandment about work because it talks about both: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God” (Ex. 20:8-10). Coupling the Sabbath and work together helps us to see that God, and God alone, ultimately makes our work effective (Ps. 127:1; Prov. 16:3).

Although I recommend Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor for a robust theology of work, I recommend Perman and Dawn to find real-world ideas, advice, and practices on how to be productive—in any sphere—for the sake of love and, on the flip side, how to put down that productivity as a means of worship. I wish I had read these books when I first started working. Don’t approach either book, though, with the mentality that you have to do exactly what they say, but with the idea that they might expand your imagination and practice about working and resting.

To Achieve and Serve

We’re called to be ambitious—but ambitious for Christ’s name, not ours. Discerning our motives for achievement, though, has never been easy.

Sandberg’s book isn’t just for women, but for anyone who feels like he or she might be “less than” at work, like new college graduates, for example. Like Perman and Dawn, Sandberg is eminently practical—from how to negotiate salaries to how to determine what makes for a good mentor. For the Christian, though, it can’t stand alone. I pair it with Owen because I know of no better antidote to selfish ambition than a sustained, intentional fight against sin. These books aren’t easy to read alone, though, so I suggest wrestling through the implications with a few friends.

To Heal and Love

So much of our current debate is about how to love “the other”—whether that’s someone who’s of another race, gender, or political affiliation. In these conversations, though, we’re often limited by our own identities, perspectives, and histories. We need to see our blind spots so that we can move toward one another in love.

I know of no better book than Volf that goes below the surface issues of otherness to uncover the real issue. Our problem, he argues, isn’t our differences, but animosity from our differences. This reframing radically changes how we approach the solution. Instead of sameness to eliminate our differences, we seek self-giving love that lays down our differences. The Kellers’ book is a case study on that type of love. It’s not just for those who are married, but for those who want to build relationships with others that aren’t based merely on shared interests, but on sacrifice, covenant, and self-giving love—rare concepts in our postmodern world.

by Bethany Jenkins at May 22, 2015 05:02 AM

When You Fear the Future

My husband’s job takes him away on trips that last a few days or even a week at a time. Each time he leaves, I battle the fear that he will never return. He boards a flight, and I imagine the plane bursting into flames. He rents a car, and I pray he doesn’t get into a car accident. The truth is, these things could happen (okay, the plane isn’t likely to burst into flames, but go with me). I know women who have lost husbands in car accidents; I know there are times when people walk out the door for something routine and never return; but I can’t live constantly worrying about a future that hasn’t happened.

I’m not sure if there is a greater fear for women than the fear of what’s to come (or what won’t come). You and I rightly pray for our husband, children, schools, and whether to pursue a career, but we don’t often come to God in peace. Instead we come anxiously awaiting our fate. Goodness will follow all the days of her life, or her life, or maybe her life, we might think, but surely not my life. It’s hard not to have control, and one thing that we can’t ever determine is what lies ahead. Thankfully, God’s Word is packed with sweet promises that smash all our fearful thinking.

Barren Sarah

Imagine that you are 90 years old. You are most likely frail with gray hair, potentially walking with a cane, though perhaps, these days, spending much of your time in a wheelchair because your once able and strong legs have ceased to perform. Now imagine someone comes to you and says, “Hey, Sarah, you know that child you’ve always wanted? Well, it’s time. You are finally going to bear a child.” You would look at that person in absolute disbelief. You might even laugh. All these years of waiting and longing and then, when every shred of hope is gone, a son is promised.

I am referring to the story of God’s promise of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah. In the pages of Genesis we read of how God promised Abraham a legacy of nations through the birth of one son (Gen. 17:16). Abraham and Sarah laughed in doubt as they heard God’s declaration (Gen. 17:17; 18:12). Sarah, I imagine, must have desired children prior to God’s promise. There are a host of fears associated with the chance that you might not become pregnant, and, I would guess by her doubtful laugh, she had given up at the age of 90 on the prospect of ever conceiving.

With a rhetorical question God challenged Sarah to trust him, after she had defiantly laughed in doubt that she would become pregnant: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14). God fulfilled his promise, and Sarah miraculously became pregnant. But once she did become pregnant, she had nine months of waiting to see how her frail, weak body would respond. Would she be able to carry the baby to term? By means of a miscarriage would God teach her a lesson about trusting him? I don’t know about you, but those are some of the thoughts I might battle after becoming pregnant at 90. I would struggle with fear of the unknown. I would want to be in complete control of the situation. Perhaps I would struggle because I’ve had some of these fears come to fruition. I have experienced four miscarriages and have had to fight the fear of losing a child through each pregnancy.

One Guarantee

You might be thinking, Yes, but everything turned out exactly the way these biblical characters hoped. Yes and no. Sarah would have loved to have had a child at a younger age (I assume). She died at 127 years old, leaving Abraham a mourning widower, never getting to see her son Isaac marry (Gen. 23:1; 24). And as we know, life continued to be difficult for her descendants. Did it turn out the way the Lord planned? Absolutely! And does God redeem it in the end? Yes. But you can’t see the future in your own life like you get to in God’s Word. We don’t get the whole picture, do we? So we have to trust the Lord because only he knows. But there is one thing guaranteed, which is awaiting you all the days of your life: God’s faithfulness.

Those words—God has been faithful and will be again—appear in the lyrics of “He’s Always Been Faithful” by Sara Groves. In the song she recounts God’s faithfulness through each morning and each season. She recounts, “Season by season, I watch him amazed; in awe of the mysteries of his perfect ways.” Every page in God’s Word shouts of God’s faithfulness. Each story leads to Jesus and to the redemption of the world. And if we look, we can see God’s faithfulness to us now.

Fear Removed by Faithfulness

In Deuteronomy 32:4, Moses speaks of God as the “Rock” whose works are “perfect” and ways are “justice.” He is “a God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” And we read of Paul’s confidence in the faithfulness of God: “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24). And elsewhere Paul writes that God will finish the good work he began in us (Phil. 1:6). Psalm 89, though a lament, still sings of God’s faithfulness: “I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. . . . O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you?” (vv. 1, 8).

You and I have to fight to remember the faithfulness of our Father when we are faced with great fears of the future. Ask yourself, How has God been faithful? This year you can count on the Lord to be faithful again. This doesn’t mean that everything will turn out exactly as you desire. This doesn’t mean each prayer will be answered as you wish. But it does mean that in God’s goodness and sovereignty, he will work all things together as he sees them to be good for you (Rom. 8:28). We may not see the evidence of God’s faithful hand until the end of our days, but we know it will be there.

Editors’ note: This article was adapted from Trillia Newbell’s new book, Fear and Faith (Moody, 2015).

by Trillia Newbell at May 22, 2015 05:01 AM

I Still Do

More than 28 years ago, Jim knelt beside me, fought back his tears, and read from Ephesians. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” He reached for my hands and held them tightly. “I could never be all the things that are in this passage, but . . . ”

“I do” came within the year. My bridesmaid whispered to me at the reception, “When I saw the way he looked at you when he said his vows, I just about died. Oh, to have a godly man look at me like that on my wedding day.”

Something Is Off

Nineteen years into our marriage, we relocated. Jim moved two months before the rest of our family did.

I first noticed something was wrong when he called home. Jim made a point to tell me how much he missed the children, but he never once mentioned me.

Did he miss me? Even a little? I never had to ask before.

A few weeks later, the company paid my fare to fly out for a house-hunting trip. I couldn’t wait to see Jim. We’d be together, just for a little while, and that would set things right. But the trip disappointed me in a multitude of ways. What I had hoped to be a second honeymoon felt a bit more like roommate arrangement.

I officially had a problem, just as we entered the most stressful years of our marriage. In addition to the move, I began to battle the early stages of menopause. The morning mirror was not my friend.

Just look at yourself. You’ve gained weight. No wonder your husband doesn’t want you.

The invisible wedge between Jim and me grew.

Where Is Jesus in This?

Two years after our relocation, Jim had an offer to return home. We could go back to the way things used to be, in every sense of the word.

But we didn’t.

Jim still seemed miles away from me. His work and the stress it generated consumed him. He grew inpatient and irritable. Though he held my hand in public, he offered little private tenderness.

I sought the counsel of a godly woman. She wrote in an e-mail, “Why the navel gazing? Why would you insist this is your fault?”

I responded, “If I’m the problem, then I’m the answer. If it’s not my fault, then there’s nothing I can do.”

She zeroed in on my heart. “Where is Jesus in all this? Do you need him at all, or have you told him, ‘I got this’?”

Ouch, and thank you.

During this time, the verses of God’s unrequited love for his people fell heavy on my heart. How many times had I pushed God away?

In the coming days I learned to bring my disappointments to the Lord, asking him to fill what seemed lacking in my marriage. I began to consider ways that I might tangibly rekindle my relationship with God and ask him to enable me to love my husband regardless of his response. That journey guarded me from bitterness and plunged me deeper into the depths of God’s love.

But I still was a recovering Pharisee, determined to fix my own problem.

God could heal us, of course, but was he willing? Days turned to months, and finally another year. The answer seemed to be “No.”

How I Found Grace

One Sunday, I opted out of church. In too much pain to raise my hands in worship and stand beside my husband, I went to work instead. My ailing marriage now affected my relationship with God, or . . . was it the reverse?

Tullian Tchividjian writes, “Suffering itself does not rob you of joy—idolatry does. If you’re suffering and you’re angry, bitter, and joyless it means you’ve idolized whatever it is you’re losing. Joylessness and bitterness in the crucible of pain happens when we lose something that we’ve held onto more tightly than God.”

Marriage, however “perfect,” is not the ultimate relationship. While I acknowledged that in my head, it never occurred to me that I had taken this good gift from God and made it an idol. Where I had once doggedly held on to Jim for the sake of preserving our marriage, I now clung to Christ who had always held me. His grace changed perseverance from a duty to delight.

God gave me, a deeply flawed woman, the grace to love my deeply flawed man. Over the next few years, Jim rekindled his emotional affections toward me. When a close friend of Jim’s passed away, I insisted on traveling with him to the funeral. In the motel room just before heading to the service, he put his arm around me and prayed, “Thank you God for this woman who has always remained by my side, even when I was most undeserving.”

Most underserving. Both of us fit the category. Jim’s repentance required change on not only his part, but also mine. Wasn’t that part of the angst of the older brother, when the prodigal returned?

The challenges in the second half of marriage, though different from the early years, can be just as daunting. I remain deeply grateful for my dear friends, who shepherded me through those difficult years, and rejoiced with me at the transformation that took place at what seemed a painfully slow pace.

None of us knew it then, but time was growing short.

Unlikely Gift

On October 1, 2013, three days before turning 54, Jim went home to be with the Lord. Now present with the Lord, Jim has been delivered from every besetting sin, and every blind spot he ever possessed.

Five years ago, responding to a blog post by Kevin DeYoung, I shared this anonymously in the comment section:

One day God will heal our marriage, as he will all broken relationships, be it tomorrow, or years from now, or even in heaven. Until then, I will rejoice in all the mercies the Lord has given me. He loves me and is faithful. . . . Am I still in love? You bet. I’m in. I still do.

Death granted me an unlikely gift. I saw my marriage through the lens of eternity where my “sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed” (Rom. 8:18).

“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:25).

by Gaye Clark at May 22, 2015 05:00 AM

One Big Fluke

J.D. Bentley: Bourbon and Tradition | Journal

How to Take Notes on Books and Articles

In a recent post here, I theorized a bit on becoming a better thinker with writing, but I didn’t describe any particularly practical ways to go about it. I didn’t feel qualified because I’ve only started doing it myself. Besides, if I’m being honest, there’s not a whole lot to it.

But if you’re like I was, you’ve avoided taking notes until now because you think there really is some special method that you don’t know. Maybe you’ll wind up with a bunch of meaningless keywords and scribbles and no real meat. Maybe it just slows your reading down for no good reason.

So for those people, a few tips:

Sit, Don’t Lay

Laying discouraged notetaking in my experience. I used to read exclusively in bed or otherwise reclining (and I still do for fiction, or magazines, or things I’m reading purely for entertainment). In order for me to take what I was reading seriously, I had to sit, preferably at a desk. It gets my brain in a working mode, lets it know that this isn’t some passive darting of the eyes from left to right, but a mental deconstruction of every word and concept until I’ve completely absorbed it. Sitting also puts you in a position to write.

Take Notes Using the Fastest, Easiest Method

I like taking notes with pencil and paper… in theory. It’s more of a romanticization, though. It’s a lot slower and my hand cramps up, causing the task at hand to invariably devolve from "I’m trying to digest this material" to "I should work on my grip and penmanship, damn this hurts." It causes me to lose focus. For a long time, I let this stop me. Whatever the reason, I got it in my head that notes should be taken by hand. It’s somehow better, though I never knew why. Don’t let it stop you. If typing is easier and faster, type.

Don’t Worry Too Much About Picking Out What’s Important

There are no directions for taking notes on a book or article. There’s no one to tell you what the most important points are. This might be a little intimidating. What if you miss something or completely misinterpret a point being made? What if something doesn’t seem important at first, but does later? For me, what these questions came down to was a fear of wasting time and effort. I wanted to be sure I was getting the right material on the first try. That’s nothing to worry about, though, because even though the material doesn’t change, the purpose for which you approach it and the perspective from which you approach it will be constantly different. That’s why I say a book can only ever be read once. What’s important changes depending on you and what you’re trying to get out of the work. Write down what strikes you as important for whatever purpose you’re reading. If something later seems more important than you initially thought, just write why you believe it is now important and move on. Besides, no one ever has to see these notes. These are just for you to completely absorb the material.

Forget Shorthand and Being Brief

I avoided notetaking in part because my high school classes apparently taught me to go about it in the shittiest way. Now, when you’re trying to get notes from someone speaking to a class, using abbreviations and bullet points might work, but it’s not at all necessary if you’re working with articles and books on your own time. You have it all written out. You can take however long you need. I thought of notetaking as a way to record reminders of bigger concepts rather than as a way to actually absorb those concepts. Now, I type out huge blocks of text with absolutely no abbreviations.

Attempt To Restate The Point

When you find an interesting idea, concept, or quote in an article or book, the best thing you can do is rewrite it in your own words from memory and then reread that particular passage to see if it sounds about right. This helps the ideas presented in the text to become your own ideas, to smoothly play into or against your point of view. The worst thing you can do is leave an idea as an undigested island. Thinking is all about making connections where there don’t seem to be any connections. Restating helps you do that.

Copy Whole Sections Verbatim

I’m so used to writing published articles that copying things word-for-word felt a bit dirty in the beginning, like I was cheating. But when ideas are tough to work through, typing out exactly what is written is another, deeper way to think about it. Besides that, if you’re reading a good writer sometimes they’ll express a concept with absolutely no fat. The sentence is perfect from beginning to end and says exactly what it needs to say. Just write it out.

I’m still learning my notetaking style, but hopefully there’s some meat here for you to try out. I know that since starting I feel infinitely more capable as a writer and thinker just for having sat down and thought good and hard about the words I was reading.

May 22, 2015 04:00 AM

One Big Fluke

sacha chua :: living an awesome life

What it’s like to work with data

How did I learn to work with data?

I learned the basics of SQL in high school, I think. In university, I got most of my kicks from the extracurricular projects I worked on because doing so let me hang out with interesting people. As those people graduated, I moved to handling those systems on my own. Blogging have me another reason to explore data analysis, since I was curious about my stats. Eventually, with Quantified Self, I started collecting and scraping my own data.

I do a lot of data analysis and report creation as part of my social business consulting. It has deepened my appreciation of database indexes, subqueries, common table expressions, recursive queries, caching tables, arrays, partitioned queries, string manipulation with regular expressions, and visualization tools. I’d love to get together with other social business data geeks so that we could swap analysis questions and techniques, but we’d need to get approval for sharing data or set up a sanitization protocol that my clients would be comfortable with. We’re doing some pretty cool stuff.
What is it like when my clients ask me data questions, or when I think of a question I’d like to explore?
I start by thinking of whether we have the data to answer that question, or how I can collect the data we need. I think about whether there are similar questions that are easier to answer. Then I start thinking about how to bring everything together: which tables, which joins, which conditions. Sometimes I have to use subqueries to combine the data. I’m getting into the habit of using common table expressions to make those easier to read. I feel satisfied when I can connect everything in a way that makes sense to me. I also like seeing the common threads among different questions, and turning those insights into parameterized reports.
Sometimes the first report I make fits the situation perfectly. Other times, we go back and forth a little to figure out what the real question is. I really appreciate it when other people help me sanity-check the numbers, because I occasionally overlook things. I’d like to get better at catching those errors.
Once the report settles down, I can think about the performance. Sometimes it’s as simple as adding an index or creating a table that caches complex calculations. Other times, I might need to modify the presentation or the question a little.
In addition to making my reports more reliable, I’d like to get better at visualizing the data so that people can get an intuitive feel for what’s going on.
I also want to get better at making inferences based on the data, especially when it comes to teasing out time-delayed or multivariate factors. I think my data sets are usually too small for things like that, though.
Anyway, that’s what it’s like to enjoy crunching the numbers. I love being able to do it, and I like exploring the kinds of questions that people imagine. =)

The post What it’s like to work with data appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

by Sacha Chua at May 22, 2015 12:44 AM

May 21, 2015

The Art of Non-Conformity

Homeward: Notes from TG 910, Bangkok-London


Greetings from the skies over Helsinki, on-board a well-aged Thai Airways 747 that has two hours remaining in its eleven-hour flight. Last night was Singapore, then a quick hop to Bangkok, and then this uneventful long-haul as I’m nearing London’s Heathrow airport.

I’ve felt strange for much of the trip. It’s been a lot of fun, no doubt, and I’m really glad I went. A trip like this, with four major cities in a week, all separated by 8-13 hours of flying time to each city, reinforces the benefits and challenges of the peripatetic nature of my life. There’s always something coming and going. There’s always a project wrapping and another one (or five) to tackle next.

What’s the goal of life? Maybe it’s this: to live the life we’ve been given, to be kind to others, to do things that make us happy, and to give back (or whatever it’s called) as much as possible.

And so in that case, I suppose I’m doing okay. I do miss the big goal, the quest, the thing that kept me looking to the future year after year. One quest leads to another, though, and I certainly have a great life by any standard.

Los Angeles, Dubai, Singapore, and London in a week: perhaps it’s a bit much. But what’s the alternative—to dream about a dream trip but never actually pack your bags? If you’re going to be sleepless, might as well be in transit for much of it.


Image: VicJuan

by Chris Guillebeau at May 21, 2015 11:00 PM

On an 'iPad OS' →

Rene Ritchie at iMore:

Imagine instead, like the Apple Watch, the iPad ran its own distinct version of iOS: iPad OS. Rather than a stripped down version for smaller screens and batteries, imagine it ran an amped-up version that really took advantage of bigger screens and batteries, with a Home screen, interaction methods, and capabilities optimized for a tablet.

The iPad runs an OS designed for the smartphone; thinking about what it could do if Apple would break that link (feature-wise, at least) is really interesting.


by Stephen Hackett at May 21, 2015 09:54 PM

CrossFit Naptown

Last Day of Kick Starter

Friday’s Workout:

Run to SWIFT

AMRAP of “Cindy”
5 Pull Ups
10 Push Ups
15 Air Squats
Run to CFNT
AMRAP of “Cindy”

*there will be a coach at SWIFT to guide you through the workout there and coordinate how much time you will have to do rounds of Cindy until running back to CFNT*

 Last Day to Join in



There is only one week remaining for our kick starter campaign to support a real food kitchen in downtown Indianapolis. There are perks a plenty for those who contribute to the cause that make it well worth your while to invest. Check them out below andclick on the link to support donate!

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 9.18.18 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 9.18.29 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 9.18.46 PM





by Anna at May 21, 2015 08:26 PM

John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

The Uncorrectors are Never Right

The groundlings over at 770 — I am too lazy to provide links —  seem to be baffled that I make the following simpleminded yet goodnatured jest:

“I actually have rather plebeian tastes. Albeit I suppose a real plebeian would not know the word “plebeian”. He would use the phrase “the hoi polloi” instead.”

Joining with our own Dr Andreassen, they rushed in an avalanche of sophomoric vainglory to point out that the article in Greek repeats the article in English, and then excused their remarkable solecism by saying that *I* was the pedant. It was not just one jackanape who made such a remark, but a plethora: a veritable avalanche of gaffe.

One braying jenny congratulated herself on having ‘called me out’ for this alleged malapropism, by which she evidently meant, posting the erroneous correction under an assumed name on a blog I avoid reading, of whose existence I was blissfully unaware until the blog owner, Mr Glyer, started vexing, snarking and snarling at me, for reasons which yet elude explanation. To call someone out means to challenge him, that is, to direct an offer of combat not to a third party in an unvisited location, but to him.

I was surprised how few got the reference to Gilbert and Sullivan, whom, frankly, I did not think so very obscure. Once fellow who did catch the reference further surprised me when he opined that I intended no one to catch the reference, which was therefore evidence of something intolerable or uncomely about my person. Perhaps he thought I was telling a joke I meant no one to get? His reasoning was elliptical and, I fear, eludes my grasp.

PEERS: Our lordly style
You shall not quench
With base canaille!
FAIRIES: (That word is French.)

PEERS: Distinction ebbs
Before a herd
Of vulgar plebs!
FAIRIES: (A Latin word.)

PEERS: ‘Twould fill with joy,
And madness stark
The hoi polloi!
FAIRIES: (A Greek remark.)

I was taught, and experience confirms, that the alleged correction of “the hoi polloi” is the very soul and exemplar of pedantic error and half-learned buffoonery.

No learned man ever offers that correction, and no one ever offers it innocently, but only in vulgar pretense of erudition they do not possess. (A man with a modicum of real education would look in the OED, and see this phase is correct in English.)


by John C Wright at May 21, 2015 08:04 PM

Justin Taylor

George Marsden Lectures on the 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief

George Marsden delivers the Current Read lecture at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando, FL) in November of 2014, based on his book, The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief (Basic Books, 2014).

by Justin Taylor at May 21, 2015 06:35 PM

The Ontological Geek

11 Days of Marvel: The Incredible Hulk

Bill and Erin continue their 11-day Marvel Cinematic Universe journey with a look at 2008's The Incredible Hulk, the movie lots of people forget is even in the MCU!

by Bill Coberly at May 21, 2015 05:12 PM

Zondervan Academic Blog

The Insidious Link Between the Crisis of Masculinity and Violence — An Excerpt from “Malestrom” by Carolyn Custis James

Malestrom by Carolyn Custis JamesA leading psychologist recently warned that young men are facing a crisis of masculinity due to excessive use of video games and pornography.

His research confirms what Carolyn Custis James prophetically identifies, explores, and addresses in her new book Malestrom:

Men have lost sight of who God created them to be as human beings and as men. (21)

Video games and pornography are twin polarities of the fonte that’s feeding and fostering this global crisis of masculinity: violence.

The excerpt below sets the stage for her book by outlining the underestimated, insidious connection between the crisis of masculinity and violence.

“What has until recently gone unnoticed,” Custis James notes, “is how the malestrom touches down in the lives of men and boys who on the surface…seem to escape all this violence but who are nonetheless also victims.”

Read this excerpt and consider its implications, then engage her book. She will help you help the men God has entrusted to you regain sight of God’s original vision for his sons.

As I write, the media is ablaze with reports of appalling levels of violence around the world. The Middle East is a cauldron of warfare with Hamas and Israel acting on the ancient Near Eastern ethic of lex talionis (eye-for-an-eye retaliation) with rocket fire and guided missiles. City after city in Iraq has fallen to the relentless march of ISIS militants, accompanied by savage executions of Iraqi citizens—not only Shia Muslims, but also Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities—that shock the sensibilities of the civilized world. The Ukraine is embroiled in a bloody civil war with rebels fueled by Russian military sup- port. Here at home, US cities are smoldering with racial unrest and angry protests after police shot and killed an unarmed black male youth in Ferguson, Missouri. Another school shooting (accompanied by the young male gunman’s suicide) devastates and forever alters a quiet suburban community. By the time this book rolls off the presses, new calamities will be dominating the news.

These tragic events have one thing in common: male violence. (Yes, women are involved in this bloodshed, but they represent a tiny fraction of this insanity.) Dare I say it? This is the history of the planet in microcosm — men killing others. In the beginning, the first sin after the fall was Cain’s killing of Abel.

Lest we underestimate the connection between the malestrom and male violence, perhaps we should consider the comments of anthropologist David Gilmore who explicitly linked “masculine pride” to violent conflicts in the world. He asserts that such violence is “as much a product of a manhood image as . . . political and economic demands.” Sociologists are all too aware that there is an insidious link between masculinity and violence that fuels many of the wars that rage across our world.

The need to establish and maintain one’s manhood drives men into violent actions and exerts constant pressure for men to prove themselves. It fuels aggression, competition, and self-interest, and creates countless casualties at the giving and receiving ends of violence and injustice. It feeds the illusion that behind every change in the culture, every alteration in circumstances, lurks a threat to one’s right to call himself a man.

Malestrom violence is often directed toward other men. They are humiliated and stripped of dignity as human beings and demeaned as men by the downward currents of injustice, systemic poverty, racism, classism, homophobia, xenophobia, bullying, and a plethora of other abuses inflicted largely by other men. A staggering 30 percent of those who are trafficked globally for forced labor or sex are men and boys—a number that roughly approximates the entire population of New York City proper. In wars, countless men are slaughtered, permanently disabled, or left suffering with post-traumatic stress dis- order (PTSD)—scarred by what they’ve witnessed, suffered, or inflicted on others. PTSD is not just a military issue; it plagues young men living in our inner cities. At the Center for Disease Control, it was noted “that children who live in inner cities experience higher rates of PTSD than do combat veterans, due in large part to the fact that the majority of kids living in inner city neighborhoods are routinely exposed to violence.”

What has until recently gone unnoticed is how the malestrom touches down in the lives of men and boys who on the surface (and even as far as they can tell) seem to escape all this violence but who are nonetheless also victims. They become emotional islands—unable to acknowledge, much less express their feelings. Through cultural conditioning that takes both benign and violent forms, they are cut off from significant God-given parts of themselves that lead to human wholeness for fear it will make them less of a man. There’s a social price to be paid for the boy who mistakenly manifests some culturally defined “unmanly” trait. A boy can be disqualified by a lack of interest in hunting, fishing, sports, cage-fighting, and other so-called “wild-man activities,” or if his natural gifts fall at the other end of the spectrum — arts, poetry, literature, for example. The social price this exacts can be devastating. Stephen Boyd reminds us:

We men are not inherently or irreversibly violent, relation- ally incompetent, emotionally constipated, and sexually compulsive. To the extent that we manifest these characteristics, we do so not because we are male, but because we have experienced violent socialization and conditioning processes that have required or produced this kind of behavior and we have chosen to accept, or adopt, these ways of being, think- ing, and acting.

While there are lots of contributing factors to all these forms of violence, one explanation goes right to the heart of what this book is all about: Men have lost sight of who God created them to be as human beings and as men.

This is the malestrom’s ultimate triumph. It is a crisis of catastrophic proportions. Questions about the malestrom and man- hood are not localized western church issues. They are global, cultural, and timeless issues. It is not possible to engage the malestrom adequately if we persist in developing our theology of male and female cloistered within the controlled environment of a prosperous, privileged, white, middle-class, heterosexual, suburban demographic. We won’t ask the right questions and we can’t count on our answers if we only have this narrow subgroup in mind. To paraphrase for men what I wrote for women,

a global conversation safeguards us from proclaiming a prosperity gospel for [men] that works for some (at least for a time) and is utterly crushing to vast numbers of [men] in our own culture and elsewhere in the world…. Global thinking raises deeper questions and sends us in search of answers that are expansive and dynamic enough to frame every [man’s] life from birth to death. Within this wider global context, we will discover the true strength of God’s message for [men]. . . . This is where we will plumb the depths of God’s love for his [sons] and see for ourselves that no life is ever beyond the reach of the gospel’s restorative powers, no matter how a [man’s] story plays out. Until we go global, we can never be sure of our questions, much less the answers we affirm.

Widening this discussion to the global level not only gives us greater respect for the complexities that men and boys are facing, it also means we cannot get away with simplistic solutions men everywhere can’t count on and that are ultimately hurtful.

This may seems quite obscure on first reading, especially if one is unfamiliar with Paul’s language. In essence, he explains that God is battling evil forces (“the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms”) in a war Jesus has already won. But where is the evidence of that victory? What is God’s secret weapon to let the world know it has happened? It is the church, no less! If that seems quite the miscalculation today (in light of its reputation), we easily forget how utterly ridiculous it would have sounded in Paul’s day.

Malestrom by Carolyn Custis James


By Carolyn Custis James

Order it Today:
Barnes & Noble
Buy Direct from Zondervan

by Jeremy Bouma at May 21, 2015 03:33 PM

The Urbanophile


Here we are once again with a roundup of a few highlights from places where I’m a contributor.

First the Guardian, which published a longish interview of Ed Glaeser by Simon Jenkins. Here’s an excerpt:

“You can’t stand in the way of progress” is indeed a really crappy argument – there are times when you can, and you must. But let’s go back to our friend Jane Jacobs, who I actually admire enormously. She was certainly right that Greenwich Village was a magical space, but think of her chapter in Death and Life about how cities need old buildings because they need cheap space … Well, now those townhouses in Greenwich Village start at $8m. Which shows there are real dangers in shutting off the supply valve everywhere.

They also posted a look at the bad old days in New York.

City Journal

Myron Magnet rebuts bus drivers’ demands to be exempt from a crackdown on driver who kill pedestrian in “You Work For Me, Mac!” An excerpt:

Never was there so perfect an emblem of public employees’ public-be-damned attitude than the outrage of New York’s Transport Workers Union over the February arrest of veteran bus driver Francisco DeJesus for running down a 15-year-old girl legally crossing the street in a crosswalk. The seriously injured girl, who had the “walk” sign in her favor, was on her way to school. Bus drivers, the union whined, are being treated like “criminals.” Henceforth, the union demanded, cops must exempt its members from arrest for failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. After all, why should they be treated like other motorists under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero program to reduce pedestrian traffic fatalities and injuries? How can anyone expect them to be “perfect”?

Paul Beston also wrote about the state of boxing in the context of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.


Scott Beyer talks about how to make pedestrian malls that work.

A look at the tough challenges facing Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo.

New Geography

Wendell Cox takes at look at Central Business District employment. There was very strong growth in select cities, with NYC, Chicago, SF, and Boston combined accounting for 2/3 of national job growth. Here’s the not unsurprising chart:

And Kris Hartley talks about a Chicago model for global cities.

by Aaron M. Renn at May 21, 2015 03:07 PM

Crossway Blog

Coming Soon: New ESV Journaling Bibles

They're On the Way!

If you've tried to purchase the ESV Journaling Bible or the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible in the last few months, then you most likely had some trouble finding them in stock, either online or at your local bookstore.

The majority of these editions have been backordered for months due to increasing demand and we apologize for this inconvenience—we're working hard to avoid such inventory shortages in the future. However, the good news is that all editions of the ESV Journaling Bible and ESV Single Column Journaling Bible are scheduled to be back in stock on June 15, 2015.

Learn more about the differences between the ESV Journaling Bible and the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible.

Double Column Journaling Bibles

Single Column Journaling Bibles

Enter to Win a Free Journaling Bible

Share how you currently use (or plan to use) your ESV Journaling Bible in the comments below to be automatically entered to win 1 of 10 free Journaling Bibles, Original, Black (single or double column)!

Comments must be submitted by midnight CST on Friday, May 29, 2015. Winners must have a valid United States mailing address. Winners will be contacted and given the choice between the ESV Journaling Bible, Original, Black (double column) or the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible, Original, Black (single column).

by Matt Tully at May 21, 2015 02:55 PM

John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

The Customer is Always Right

It would be untoward for me to comment on the mental processes of any readers disappointed in my humble work. If I fail to please, the fault is mine, not theirs. Nonetheless, from time to time the causes for discontent are worthy of note.

For example, in the novella ‘One Bright Star to Guide Them’ the characters as children, around age 10, stumble through a magical well that opens to a fairytale world, where they have a strange adventure, but then are returned to our world, where they age and grow into adults. As is the custom in English speaking nations, the children are called by a diminutive of their names, so in the flashback scenes, Thomas is called Tommy, Richard is called Dick, Sarah is called Sally, and so on.

The following exchange was brought to my attention.

nickpheas on said:

OK, reads Hugo Packet. One Bright Star To Guide Me By [sic]

Is there an in story reason why Wright seems to use Sally and Sarah to describe one of his characters, or just did he forget what he called her?

rob_matic on said:
He may be using Sally as a diminutive of Sarah, although I can imagine it reading oddly if both are being used.

Alexandra Erin on said:

Sally did originate as a nickname for Sarah, but given that I’ve seen his editor switch back and forth on a female character’s name in a book before, I’m not sure the more charitable reading is warranted.

Peace Is My Middle Name on said:

Given Wright’s stated attitudes towards women, I find it utterly unsurprising that he cannot even remember the name of his own character.

In his Hugo-nominated turgid and pompous pseudointellectual religious screed “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds,” the only female present is the cat, which he uses as a symbol for treachery and disloyalty.

SocialInjusticeWorrier on said:

I don’t think switching between Sally and Sarah is a problem, so long as the author has a good reason for doing it. I could see O. Henry, for example, using the shift in names very effectively to make a point about how different someone is/appears in a formal setting (as Sarah) as opposed to their normal life (as Sally). What I don’t see is John C Wright having any such purpose in his narrative, which argues for incompetence or carelessness.

The poster above wasn’t trying to make a joke about having more than one word for people, they were pointing out that Wright apparently forgot what name he gave the character and changed it in mid story. — this is the same Chris Gerrib who from time to time commented here, doing a pitch perfect impersonation of a teenaged girl that had me fooled for a season.

(Oh, and I checked – somebody on File 770 thinks that Wright forgot the name of one of his characters, and changed it from Sarah to Sally randomly. Not so – she is referred to as both names, but there’s no explanation as to why in the story. It would have been better to be consistent.)

When readers, who are always right, depart from comments critical of my humble work, step into the role of the Holy Office for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and examine my airy thoughts and dark heart for evidence of hidden heresy, however, they depart from the immunity to criticism or comment to which their exalted station entitles them, and they become droopy-drawer pigeon-toed and cross-eyed pantomime clowns it is right and just to belabor with a pandybat in the midst of their antic floundering.

For the record, my attitude toward women is one of deep and worshipful respect akin to awe. However, my attitude toward cats is one of continual fear, horror, and wretchedness, unless one is discussing Catwoman from DC comics, or the Black Cat from Spiderman, in which case my attitude is one of fanboy concupiscence.

How in the world the irenic mesonym called Peace is My Middle Name can interpret my attitude toward the fairer sex to be a negative one I leave to a psychotherapist to explain, or an exorcist.

Ah, but it seems the Grand Inquisitor is ready to explain all things to me, in the role of a reverse Paraclete.

In reference to these paragraphs in one of my essays, where I explain why it is not cute for mommies to teach their six-year-old daughters to drop the f-bomb I made these observations:

“The female spirit is wise rather than cunning, deep in understanding rather than adroit in deductive logic, gentle and supportive rather than boastful and self-aggrandizing.”

“Contrariwise, when women in the kitchen or the nursery use the name of the Lord in vain, and the children they are nursing and teaching hear them, the vulgarity has the negative effect of deadening the emotions of the youngsters and making them vulgar and indifferent to vulgarity.”

“Also a woman who is crude inspires contempt, because she has contempt for God and man. The difference is that a woman who loses her native delicacy and modesty does not become an object of fear and respect, but an object of contempt and loathing, because the aura of sanctity women naturally inspire in men is tossed away.”

On the 770 blog, that wretched hive of scum and villainy, I unwisely left a gentle remark where I noted that a hiccuping hapless lackwit quoted this passage of fulsome praise to support the contention of my alleged dislike of womankind, rather than taking it as evidence to the clear contrary.

Emma, a zealous Inquisitor of the Thought Police, helps explicate the enigma.

@John C Wright:”It is similar to people who claim I don’t like women, and quote passages where I praise women fulsomely in support of the contention.”

I haven’t seen anyone cite passages where you “praise women fulsomely”. I’ve seen people cite passages where you speak of women in patronizing and condescending ways, utilizing some truly idiotic stereotypes to pander to a madonna/whore ideology that 1) has no basis in reality and 2) insults and degrades women in every conceivable way. (And having now read the work in its entirety, it is clear that these passages were not somehow taken out of context. Your attitude toward women really is that vile.) That you think your words “praise” women shows a foolishness that is beyond compare.

It is difficult for me to untie the Gordian knot of this intestinal bafflegab (madonna/whore ideology?) since I do not have my Morlock-to-Reality dictionary at hand.

Again, in reality a woman is either chaste (a virgin or a wife) or unchaste (a non-virgin non-wife). I suppose, technically, a divorcee, widow, or the bride before the marriage is consummated, might occupy the borders of this category, but, again, the sex act is either within marriage, hence chaste, or outside marriage, hence unchaste. It is a case of A or non-A, and the basis in reality is that one reproduces the species with the father present, and the other not so much.

So how it is that marriage, the mere existence of marriage, the mere existence of a dividing line distinguishing chaste sex from unchaste degrades women not merely in one way nor some ways, but in every conceivable way, is a verbal duck-noise not intended to make sense, merely to express the fatuous vehemence of inchoate emotion.

I am sure that the editors of bridal magazines and the authors of romance novels would be disorientated to learn that their product pleases none of their customers, but degrades them in every conceivable way.

How my words of praise and adoration are interpreted as vile, and it be a folly of mine not to see praise as vile, is beyond explanation and (I suspect) deliberately so. A sane accusation can be refuted. An insane accusation, one that makes no sense on any level, cannot be refuted, cannot even be addressed, because it is insolent nonsense. There is no sober way to defend oneself from the accusation of being a one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater.

So what is this accusation allegedly supposed to mean?

My best guess is that the pragmatic, traditional and Catholic attitude that approves of chastity (and hence distinguishes between wives and maidens who abide by this rule, versus paramours, harlots and demimondaines who do not) is one that casts too bright a light on the lamplike eyes of the Morlocks, exposing their moral shortcomings, imprudence and injustice toward their womenfolk, and, since they cannot (with a straight face) criticize decency for being decent, they must invent some unconvincing substitute to attribute to the pragmatic and temperate attitude, to mischaracterize it.

What the unconvincing make-believe might be does not matter a whit. It is the act of accusation that offers the Morlock a momentary relief, not the realism of the accusation.

Meanwhile, please keep in mind that when the Sad Puppies claimed that there was a political correctness bias among the Hugo voters amounting to a political inquisition, we were soundly mocked, and (with considerable umbrage and disdain) informed that all parties merely judge works on their merit, not on the politics nor personal opinions of the author. There is no political inquisition, hence no heresy hunters! And to say there is an inquisition is heresy!

Res ipsa loquitur.


by John C Wright at May 21, 2015 02:04 PM


Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans (TGC Review)

searchingforsunday_229_350_90Rachel Held Evans. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015. 288 pp. $16.99.

Disclaimer: Rachel Held Evans is an “internet friend” of mine, meaning we’ve never met in person but over the last couple of years we’ve laughed online, shared prayer requests, and encouraged each other in difficult moments. We’ve also argued, publicly disagreeing in articles and on Twitter about important issues. So I hope this review is read in that spirit: one of affirmation and critique from a friend.

While her first book (Faith Unraveled, 2010) tackled issues of doubt, science, and faith, and her second (A Year of Biblical Womanhood, 2012) examined problems with, well, “biblical womanhood,” the title of her third entry, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, similarly says it all: Evans shares her story about leaving and finding the church again in a new way. Arranged in seven sections corresponding to the seven Catholic and Orthodox sacraments (baptism, confession, holy orders, communion, confirmation, anointing of the sick, marriage), she chronicles the various glories and pains of growing up in a conservative/fundamentalist evangelical tradition and offers an apologetic of sorts for leaving(?) for the mainline when the incongruities of the former proved too great. It’s a story about death, and yes, resurrection.

Beyond that, Searching for Sunday is purposely presented as an archetypal story (xi). According to the stats, millennials are apparently leaving the church. Evans’s own story of departure and return aims to articulate some of the millennial experience to a confused church: their doubt that won’t be satisfied with easy answers; their fear of exclusion; their burnout from the culture wars and the marriage of evangelicalism with conservative politics; their fatigue once the strobe lights, hip music, and gimmicky youth games didn’t distract them from their burning questions or the pain of their LGBTQ friends. Evans also aims to point the way to a Christianity—a church—with arms open wide enough to draw them back, just as it has drawn her—questions, struggles, and all.

You can read the rest of my review over at The Gospel Coalition.

Soli Deo Gloria

by Derek Rishmawy at May 21, 2015 01:19 PM

John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

Morlockery and Progressivism as Futurism

The SJWs are wolves in sheep-garb when it comes to leftwingers. Leftists believe in a future of peace and equality, and old hatreds between nations, races, and creeds forgotten.

The honest Leftists want to see the bridge crew of the Starship Enterprise, oriental and occidental, male and female, white and black, including a Russian, a Scotchman, and a Vulcan thrown in for spice.

The SJWs want Kirk humiliated and forgotten, and then the rest of the crew dead, until only Uhura of planet Twofer is left, and then only if she has the sexual orientation of the actor who played Sulu, and even she is insufficient, because she is neither in a wheelchair or taking meds for a neural disorder.

Leftwingers are the Eloi for the SJW Morlocks, merely food animals waiting to be exploited, hoping to be eaten last. If they are willing to turn on Heinlein and then Joss Whedon, the loudest and clearest voices favoring racial and sexual equality imaginable, then the Morlocks are willing to turn on anyone.

That said, the Eloi and the Morlocks of AD 802701 proceed from the same starting point, which allows them to dismiss any man favoring human dignity and freedom as an neanderthal. Even the term ‘conservative’ is a term the contains a hidden and false assumption, just as the term ‘progressive’ and ‘reactionary’. Each term defines things by their time period, not by their truth value.

According to the unspoken Marxist axiom, history proceeds always from the benighted past into the enlightened future. A man who prefers freedom to slavery, free market to socialism, free thought to political correctness thought policing, is defined as being someone loyal to the past, and the motive assigned to him (no matter what the real motive is) is nostalgia for the benighted past.

This is true even if the political ideals he upholds, free thought and free markets, never existed in the past. But anyone who loves freedom opposes the Marxist program, and, by Marxist logic, this means they oppose the future, oppose the inevitable, are sitting astride history shouting ‘stop’.

As if favoring limited and constitutional government were to be called “Wednesdayism” and unlimited totalitarianism were called ‘Sundayism’ because you expect the dictatorship swell into full bloom by this weekend. The labels identify the nonessential feature, future versus past, rather than the essential feature, limited versus unlimited government. By these stupid labels, a Monarchist resisting the rise of a constitutional republican form of government is ‘conservative’ because his land used to have a monarchy, whereas a madman who wants a felinocracy ruled entirely by man-eating cat-people created by genetic science is ‘progressive’ because the scientific progress needed for this state of affairs has not yet occurred.

The whole idea from top to bottom is risible. It is Leftwingery that is stuck in the past, namely, the sexual revolution and race riots of the 1960s, the abolitionism of the Civil War, and the alliance in England between the ancient landowning families and the new industrial corporations.

The Leftwing are trying to free the slaves that have already been freed, and shatter the sexual morals of the Victorians, which have been in tatters for over half a century, and reform industrial-labor relations that had been reformed successfully and nonviolently since roughly half a century before Marx took up his pen to complain about them. The miserable working conditions of the factory system in England, which was hardly a free market, were old news and out of date from even before Marx’s time.

Their economic solution is to ignore the finding of the science of economics, to own all property in common as did the Spartans, or as a primitive tribe with few enough possessions and few enough members that he, in his own mind, can simply see to it each brave has a bow or tomahawk and each squaw has a teepee. It is Cargo Cult thinking at its most primitive, the belief that goods and services come out of nowhere for no reason, and that the evil people horde what is rightfully tribal property, not due to their greater productivity and organization, but due to some occult magic, such as ‘white privilege.’

‘White privilege’ for those who do not know the term, is a magic word which allows Harvard educated lawyers raised in the lap of luxury with a silver spoon in her mouth, if she is black, to sneer at a Portuguese ranchhand raised in grinding poverty, on the grounds of his European ancestry. She is allowed to claim that a colorblind system, where all men are judged by the contest of their character rather than the color of their skin, is racist, hence undesirable. It is another form of primitive tribalism.

So who, precisely, is mired in the past?

by John C Wright at May 21, 2015 01:00 PM

CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workout: May 21, 2015

Scenes from the Holiday WOD!

Scenes from the Holiday WOD!

Jerks 2-2-2-2

5 rounds of:

5 muscle-ups

5 deadlifts (315/225 lb.)

by Mike at May 21, 2015 12:41 PM

Front Porch Republic

Tom Fleming Retires


Rockford, Illinois.  After thirty-one years at Chronicles Magazine—thirty of them as editor—classicist, poet and polemicist Tom Fleming has retired. During his tenure at this small but influential magazine of the paleoconservative right, which was founded by Polish emigre Leopold Tyrmand…

Read Full Article...

The post Tom Fleming Retires appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

by Katherine Dalton at May 21, 2015 12:06 PM

The Art of Non-Conformity

Writing 150 Musical Compositions Before Turning 50: Stephen P. Brown’s Quest

This is a quest case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

Rejection didn’t dampen Stephen P. Brown’s inner fire. Instead, being turned down from achieving something he wanted flamed his desire to grow and change. Here’s his quest.

Introduce yourself.

As a conductor of orchestras, bands, choirs and musicals, it has been my privilege to see thousands of people laugh, cry and directly connect with live music, whatever language they speak. My life journey has taken me from a small village in the English countryside to the sunny shores of Florida via Europe, Africa, South America, and much of the USA and Canada.

Through all my travels I occasionally needed to compose music specifically for the ensembles I worked with, and I dabbled in some formal composition training here and there, but I never considered myself a ‘composer.’

In early 2011 one of my solo piano compositions was performed in New Jersey to the delight of a packed audience (despite a snowstorm that morning). Then in 2012, I wrote a piece called “Tapestry Tampa Bay” that reflected six aspects of Florida’s West Coast, including the Grouper fish and the Skyway Bridge.

I got inspired to embark on a project I called #PsalmQuest. The goal is to compose 150 new pieces of music by my 50th birthday – which is now less than 5 years away. Right now I am 25% of the way through.


What exactly inspired you to embark on this quest?

As has happened so many times in my life, rejection inspired a challenge.

I received an invitation to teach at a university, but during the formal application process it became apparent that my MA in Conducting from abroad would not be recognized in America as a credible qualification.

To satisfy the need for a recognized academic qualification, I gathered some of my compositions and submitted them for an American MA. My application was rejected.

I decided to prove to myself that I could compose good music.

Over many years I had occasionally wondered about composing music for all the psalms in the Bible. There are 150 of them, and my next big birthday was my 50th, in the year 2020. So there it was.

Also, I figured that writing 150 new pieces of music would certainly improve my skills, whether or not someone thought they were suitable for an MA.

Are there costs associated with your composing so much music?  

Before I embarked on my quest, I set some parameters. I needed a project that could be undertaken with the resources I already possessed, and that would not require me to ask for funding. My bills are covered by a day job, but my quest could not drain any of those resources.

Technology today is both advanced and somewhat affordable, so I already owned a comprehensive music composition software (Sibelius) and a good computer—so I had everything I needed.


Do you want to sell your music?

The goal of my quest is not to have every piece performed, nor is it to sell the sheet music or record every piece and sell CDs. Such outcomes are bonuses—terrific, but not essential.

That said, I do dream that the last #PsalmQuest composition, for full orchestra and choir, be performed on my 50th birthday in front of thousands of enthusiastic fans.

How have you dealt with a low point in your quest?

Creating a vision was not a problem for me. Bringing it to fruition proved difficult, though.

My day job took a lot of time – I was conducting multiple bands and a chorus – and I started falling behind schedule. I got worried, depressed, and unsure how I would achieve my goal. There was no one to blame but myself – there weren’t airline schedules to rely on, weather wasn’t a factor. This quest was entirely my own effort.

After seeking advice on the internet, I quietly changed my alarm clock to 5:30am. This hour was frankly unheard of for me, since my bedtime often was, and still is,  2 am. But it was necessary in order to get back on track.

So far, it’s worked. I am all caught up, and one of my goals in 2015 is to actually get ahead of schedule.

What has surprised you during #PsalmQuest?

That there are people who like my music! Some performers have shared my compositions with their audiences. World Premiere performances of #PsalmQuest pieces have taken place in Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, Kentucky, and the UK.

I have also been pleasantly surprised at how disciplined I can be following my schedule. Reporting my daily progress online has helped me clarify and share many lessons, approaches, and strategies that are as applicable to daily living as to writing a piece of music.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of my quest so far has been a rekindling of my desire to perform on the piano. I moved from singing to piano as a child, but then went on to play clarinet and finally percussion as my main instrument into adulthood. Piano was a tool I used to teach and to accompany others, but not perform.


Now I am learning to play my own solo piano compositions whilst preparing for a local concert tour later this year, and recording a CD.

Have you had any support during your quest?

The list of supporters and champions for my quest is long. Robert McCormick, Head of Percussion at the University of South Florida, has been a huge supporter. He regularly shares his thoughts about my compositions and even commissioned one for percussion ensemble. Getting paid to write a #PsalmQuest composition was incredible.

Calvin Falwell from The College of New Jersey championed a piece for solo bass clarinet and strings, paid for in part by Diana Hessinger, a friend from high school.

Other supporters include the singers of the Sunfonia Chorale who performed several pieces last summer, as well as Chemena Geldimyradova who performed “Covered” for solo piano. Tony McClaren in West Virginia reached out to me and I ended up writing a concerto for trombone and wind sinfonia.And  James Kerzman, a trumpeter in North Dakota, helped me prepare several compositions for brass instruments, as have James Stretton and Mark Harrison (both in the UK).

Not to mention people on social media, and my wife. It’s been tremendous.

Tell us about a memorable encounter fresh in your mind.

One of the most memorable experiences of #PsalmQuest was when Judy Kang came to town.

Judy is a world-renowned violinist supported by the Canadian Arts Council, but she was also the onstage violin soloist for Lady Gaga’s global Monster Ball tours. We spoke about her coming to the Tampa Bay area to perform her own music but I was delighted that when she was here, she played Bagatelle (#PsalmQuest 7) during one of her recitals.

Judy made the piece come alive and gave it an expressive quality I was not expecting. It was an honor to experience her performance firsthand and be able to relive it over and over again.

Do you have any advice for how to begin a creative quest?

Plan as much as you can in advance.

The more you have planned, the more you’ll be able to just get on with the work, and not worry about “what next?”

Schedule the order of tasks.

Giving each task a due date enabled me to give the project direction and accountability.

What’s next?

Finish the quest and hopefully tour with the pieces.

Follow Stephen P. Brown’s #PsalmQuest at his site, or via Twitter @Stephen_P_Brown.


    by Chris Guillebeau at May 21, 2015 12:00 PM

    Zondervan Academic Blog

    [Common Places] New Studies in Dogmatics: Christology

    Christology is an area of particular dogmatic weakness for evangelical theology. So, when I signed up to write the Christology volume for New Studies in Dogmatics, what did I get myself into? After all, plausible reasons for this evangelical weakness are not hard to generate. For one factor, Christology does not readily provide incentives for dogmatic creativity, at least among those for whom orthodoxy is a priority. For another factor, Christology does not readily generate the kind of widespread, primary disagreement that elicits intra-evangelical dialogue or polemics. Alternatively, for a third factor, evangelical Christology has been externally preoccupied with defending the historicity of miraculous events and appealing to those events for apologetic and evangelistic purposes. Until recently, we have tended to focus on defending the truth, more than exploring the meaning, of such foundational events as the resurrection.

    Evangelical Trends

    Appearing on the horizon, though, are signs that we might overcome such evangelical weakness. Evangelical contributions to Christology from figures such as Michael Horton and Oliver Crisp are engaging in sustained dogmatic reflection upon both classic Protestant traditions and broader ecumenical resources. Moreover, three prominent trends in evangelical Christology are promising at least to the degree that they provide new ways of asking perennial questions: “early high Christology”; modified “kenotic” Christologies; and engagement with analytic philosophy.

    However, such trends in evangelical Christology still reflect the prevailing influence of modernity as much as the church’s classic intellectual traditions. (1) Early high Christology—associated with Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, and N. T. Wright, among others—helps to buttress historical understanding and defense of Jesus’s full deity being implicit in the New Testament beyond the Gospel of John, accomplishing this through attending to both Jesus’s self-presentation and the perceptions of his initial audiences. (2) Modified kenotic Christologies—associated with Reformed and philosophical thinkers like C. Stephen Evans—press us to take seriously the biblical witness regarding the Spirit’s enablement of Christ’s full humanity. (In a related vein, appeals for “Spirit Christology” fit a similar pattern.) (3) Philosophers like Evans and theologians like Crisp have interacted with analytic philosophy that is typically suspicious of dogmatic formulations, especially for failing to address the Son’s human self-understanding.

    Modern Interests

    All three of these trends, then—whether from more historical, theological, or philosophical standpoints—put a premium on a fundamental modern interest: human self-consciousness. This interest is not wrong for being modern! In all likelihood earlier intellectual traditions, in their times and places, did fail to address the Son’s humanity with full adequacy—in particular, perhaps, its implications for his self-consciousness.

    Even so, this preoccupation with the Son’s self-understanding, and how deity can be consistent with its full humanity, is distinctly modern. It would be rather ironically and impossibly anti-modern if we refused to acknowledge its historical, geographical, and cultural location! We Protestants are free to ask such new questions and even to improve upon traditional formulations when scriptural fidelity encourages that. However, it is not clear that the modern location of interest in human self-consciousness has been sufficiently acknowledged. So far it has largely involved self-congratulation: Modernity, by its own reckoning, knows better. Such self-congratulation has not been balanced by appropriate caution: What if modernity also has blind spots, points at which it cannot see what the earlier traditions saw?

    My own Christology will be wrestling with this dynamic: greater attention to historical study and human subjectivity, yet caution about overturning traditional formulations. The relative ease with which early high Christologies implicitly assume, and many philosophical accounts explicitly advocate, modified kenoticism gives me pause. I have tentatively ventured an initial account of the Incarnation in this regard. Here, however, I will briefly mention the neglected importance of Jesus’s virginal conception.

    Surprising Possibilities: A Brief Example

    At least three of the four Gospels begin their accounts with direct or indirect appeals to Isaiah. Legions of scholars are now exploring the Isaianic footprints in the New Testament: Rikki Watts on Mark, David Pao on Luke-Acts, Ross Wagner on Paul, and so forth. Bauckham and Wright helpfully appeal to Isaiah’s christological monotheism regarding the emergence of Jesus’s divine self-understanding. So far, though, I have found no examples of either early high Christologies or modern dogmatic theologies appealing to the virginal conception when they discuss how the God-man’s self-understanding took shape.

    Of course the virginal conception has fallen ever farther out of historical favor. With evangelicals so wedded to modern historical argument, and inclined away from older or more “Catholic” accounts, we have largely left the virginal conception aside—as an awkward test of confessional willingness to affirm the miraculous.

    Yet what if the virginal conception signaled very early to Jesus himself that he had a very special identity in the divine plan? Admittedly, we do not have absolute proof that Joseph and Mary told him of his extraordinary birth or that nasty rumors reached him concerning his paternity, but both possibilities are historically likely. Admittedly, understanding himself in relation to Isaiah 7:14 might not have led instantly to the Isaianic Servant texts or from them to his deity, but at minimum an Isaianic self-understanding could plausibly have headed in that direction. How do we get from the baby in the manger to the precocious young theologian in his Father’s house, and from there to the Servant with such remarkable filial consciousness of Israel’s God? Finally, in that prayerful fellowship, who knows what may have become clear to the Son regarding his identity—humanly and biblically, not just divinely, speaking?

    We should not engage ahistorically in dogmatic Christology. Yet the virginal conception, instead of appearing awkwardly as a historical scandal lurking in the theological tradition, may call upon us to choose: really embracing traditional Christian doctrine may mean exploring how it engages historical understanding, and therefore how the Son could grow to embrace his divine identity within his humanity from very early on. Such efforts to engage historical and human concerns while embracing the dogmatic tradition will be at the heart of my ongoing journey.

    (Image: The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel; by Duccio di Buoninsegna [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)


    Daniel J. Treier (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is Blanchard Professor of Theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is author or editor of several books, including Virtue and the Voice of God and Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture.


    Common Places is a regular column on the Zondervan Academic blog with a focus on systematic theology. The loci communes or “common places” of Christian theology, drawn out of the Scriptures and organized in a manner suitable to their exposition in the church and the academy, have functioned historically as common points of reference for theological discussion and debate. This column will focus upon the classical loci of systematic theology, not as occasions for revision, but as opportunities for entering into the ongoing conversation that is Christian systematic theology. We invite you to join and dialog with us on the first and third Thursdays of every month. For more about Common Places, read the column introduction.

    Zondervan Academic’s New Studies in Dogmatics series seeks to retrieve the riches of Holy Scripture and the church’s tradition for contemporary theological renewal. We have asked each contributor to give us an interim report on the questions, figures, texts, trends, or even surprises they are finding or looking forward to engaging in their respective volumes.

    Michael Allen and Scott Swain, editors

    by Daniel J. Treier at May 21, 2015 11:41 AM

    Light Blue Touchpaper

    Thinking of selling your old phone? Watch out!

    Today we unveil two papers describing serious and widespread vulnerabilities in Android mobile phones. The first presents a Security Analysis of Factory Resets. Now that hundreds of millions of people buy and sell smartphones secondhand and use them for everything from banking to dating, it’s important to able to sanitize your phone. You need to clean it when you buy it, so you don’t get caught by malware; and even more when you sell it, so you don’t give away your bank credentials or other personal information. So does the factory reset function actually work? We bought a couple of dozen second-hand Android phones and tested them to find out.

    The news is not at all good. We were able to retrieve the Google master cookie from the great majority of phones, which means that we could have logged on to the previous owner’s gmail account. The reasons for failure are complex; new phones are generally better than old ones, and Google’s own brand phones are better than the OEM offerings. However the vendors need to do a fair bit of work, and users need to take a fair amount of care.

    Attacks on a sold phone that could not be properly sanitized are one example of what we call a “user-not-present” attack. Another is when your phone is stolen. Many security software vendors offer a facility to lock or wipe your phone remotely when this happens, and it’s a standard feature with mobile antivirus products. Do these ‘solutions’ work?

    You guessed it. Antivirus software that relies on a faulty factory reset can only go so far, and there’s only so much you can do with a user process. The AV vendors have struggled with a number of design tradeoffs, but the results are not that impressive. See Security Analysis of Consumer-Grade Anti-Theft Solutions Provided by Android Mobile Anti-Virus Apps for the gory details. These failings mean that staff at firms which handle lots of second-hand phones (whether lost, stolen, sold or given to charity) could launch some truly industrial-scale attacks. These papers appear today at the Mobile Security Technology workshop at IEEE Security and Privacy.

    by Ross Anderson at May 21, 2015 08:09 AM

    Table Titans

    The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

    Sandra McCracken on Life, Loss, and Longing in the Psalms

    Delight. Fear. Anger. Joy. Grief. Gladness. Loneliness. Love. Loss.

    This is a small sampling of the range of emotions in life, ones that the Psalms fully describe. While the Psalms allow us to express our emotions they seek to shape them into righteous ones. With the Psalms we can approach God with brutal honesty, seeking to be rooted in truth and ready to submit to him. 

    Sandra McCracken’s newest album, Psalms, seeks to recast some of these ancient psalms and hymn texts for our day (iTunes | Amazon | Bandcamp). For those who attended TGC’s 2015 National Conference, you’ll recognize McCracken’s song “We Will Feast,” which served as our anthem. Other songs in the album showcase the hope and heartbreak we experience in this world. As McCracken writes

    These are sacred, borrowed words, with new melodies to help draw the longing and joy up out of our hearts and onto our lips, as we watch and wait to see his story come in it’s fullness.

    Much like the Psalms, she helps us enter into both the pain of living in a broken world and the joyful hope we have as children of a sovereign God. In this interview we learn how the Psalms give us words when we have none, how lament should be part of our worship, and much more. 

    It's been said that whereas “most of the Scripture speaks to us, the Psalms speak for us.” In making this album and recasting these psalms, have you found this to be true?

    I haven’t heard that phrase before, but the idea immediately resonates with me. The Psalms are by nature invitational. I recently asked a pastor-friend about how he would describe healthy relational intimacy, asking what it looks like within marriage or within close community. He said that the first word he thinks of that displays intimacy between two people is invitation. When God included the poetry of the Psalms in his letter to us, he made a move toward us that invites us more deeply toward him, with our affections and with our emotion.

    The Psalms are framed in the context of the law and against a background of historical narrative, and they point more personally and intimately than other books in the Scripture to who we are and who God is. As I have experienced conversation with God through the Psalms in these past couple of years, I find that the invitation is about knowing him and being known by him—as it is embodied in my behavior, my emotions, and my changing circumstances.

    <a data-cke-saved-href="" href="">Psalms by Sandra McCracken</a>

    You write, “Over these past couple of years, the practice of singing the Psalms has been teaching me how to pray, leaning into a more honest conversation with God through loss and healing. My new album, Psalms, was born out of that practice.” Would you share a bit more of that practice? And how would you encourage other believers to appropriate the Psalms for themselves?

    Having an artistic personality type, I tend to have big feelings. Because I work within a creative vocation, I get to explore them fairly regularly in my writing and performing. But even with that vocational permission, I live most of my days on the surface of things. Most of us don’t have much time in the margins to reflect on what we are feeling or how we are acting out of those feelings and values. Often it takes painful life-disruption before we stop and reflect on what’s beneath the surface of the life we have built. We live with patterns of behavior and relate to others without being awake to our real fears or woundedness. In the past two years or so, I have practiced reading the Daily Office (a Christian tradition of reading through the Bible in three-year intervals), which includes a morning and evening psalm each day. I have been amazed at how the readings have faithfully brought perfectly timed perspective and sparked confession, awareness, wisdom, and healing.

    <a data-cke-saved-href="" href="">Psalms by Sandra McCracken</a>

    I would often sit during these times of meditation with a journal, with my guitar, or at the piano and find that the Psalms gave particular voice to my emotion, my story, and my struggle. The Psalms gave me words when I didn’t have my own words. They prompted me to sing a new song when I couldn’t find my voice. They directed my heart toward God’s faithful, saving love. They have drawn me deeper into a life of gratitude, often by being willing to go deeper into honest sorrow. Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit has guided my steps with truth and clarity. The Psalms teach me that I can be safe in his good providence even when everything around and within me feels like chaos. When we hear these ancient words, we are reminded that we are not alone. We are not the first to feel what we feel. There is perspective and humility and honor in joining together with those who have gone before us. And we are also reminded that we will not be defined by our present circumstances, but by the mercy of God who has committed himself to the full restoration of all things.

    Your song “My Help My God” is based on Psalm 42, a song of anguish, suffering, and lament, realities not absent from the Christian life. Dan Allender has written,

    Christians seldom sing in the minor key. We fear the somber; we seem to hold sorrow in low-esteem. . . . Lament cuts through insincerity, strips pretense, and reveals the raw nerve of trust that angrily approaches the throne of grace and then kneels in awed, robust wonder. 

    Would you agree with his assessment? And what's your take on incorporating lament in our private and corporate times of worship?

    <a data-cke-saved-href="" href="">Psalms by Sandra McCracken</a>

    Nicholas Wolterstorf in his book Lament for a Son says, “Every lament is a love song.” Our sorrow is a display of honor, of valuing the loss, of knowing that this is not how things are supposed to be. It is crying out against death and disappointment while declaring the God-given affections of our hearts. There is no resurrection without death. I’ve heard it said that psychologically, you cannot shut off one part of your unpleasant feelings (like sadness) without also shutting off the pleasurable feelings (like happiness). If Jesus comes to offer us abundant life, that means highs and lows, fullness, awake-ness. And awake-full-ness is hard-won. It takes courage and a steady supply of God’s tender mercy, not just to expose our wounds, but also to heal our wounds from the inside out.

    Our culture is uncomfortable with extended grief. The church has a responsibility to fight against the dishonesty of living on the surface of things, or encouraging people to put a smile on their faces so they will have a positive attitude about difficult things. As a music minister, I am convinced that the songs that we sing have a role in shaping our hearts, and songs of lament can make space for us to feel more deeply and to speak more honestly before God. We need songs of lament to be part of our church life, every week. In doing so, I hope that we would not be held fast in our complacency, but drawn out of hiding and comforted by our loving, pursuing Father.

    <a data-cke-saved-href="" href="">Psalms by Sandra McCracken</a>

    What aspect did you find most challenging in this project?

    The hardest part of the process was the personal experience of loss that has brought these songs into being. There have been moments when I played Anne Steele hymns or sang “My Help, My God” with tears at my piano. I suppose that is what it means when Jesus says that the seed that falls to the ground and dies, bears much fruit (John 12:24). In this way, in these songs, I am bearing witness to the fruitfulness of God’s work.

    There were a thousand provisions along the way that made this recording possible. Borrowing a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn for the recording, guidance from friends and mentors along the way as this took shape as a Psalms project, financial help from my brother with the initial costs, context for the songs within my church, the spirit and thrill of recording and collaborating with the band and the outpouring of support from the community in response to the music while I’ve been on tour. I want to openly celebrate all the big and small elements that have brought this project to fruition. It demonstrates God’s abundance.

    What is your favorite song in the album and why?

    <a data-cke-saved-href="" href="">Psalms by Sandra McCracken</a>

    I have had such joy playing and singing ‘We Will Feast’ with people all over the country this spring on tour with All Sons And Daughters, and hearing from folks who are now also singing that song in their churches. This song propels me forward, into the heart of the promises of God, giving a glimpse of the vision to see what God sees—the final resolution of all things. And it does this with a corporate point of view, inviting us to sing together as a people, to share one voice in loss and life together under the banner of God’s redeeming love. 

    Sandra has graciously provided a free mp3 file of “We Will Feast,” the PDF booklet for the album, and the lead sheets for all the songs. (download the zip file here)

    Other related articles:

    by Ivan Mesa at May 21, 2015 05:03 AM

    3 Ways Rising Secularism Affects Evangelism

    There has been no shortage of discussion and debate on the results of the latest Pew Research survey on the changing religious composition of the United States. Most researchers agree the data shows that Christianity as an identity is declining while confessional evangelicalism is either holding steady or increasing. While the number-crunchers debate the health of evangelicalism, we can all clearly see that secularism is on the rise. The old social compact that saw Christianity as good for the common good has been broken. While evangelical Christianity might continue to grow as Christ builds his church, it will also start to look even stranger to the rest of the world.

    Much has been written about what this trend means for the shape of our public witness, but we haven’t given enough thought to what it might mean for personal evangelism. Here are three ways I think our evangelism strategies will change in a post-Christian age.

    1. We need to assume less about people’s biblical literacy.

    Many of our evangelism methods over the last several decades assumed an essentially Protestant or Roman Catholic understanding. Evangelism pursued a contrast between a works-based dependence on religion and a grace-based faith in the finished work of Christ. Evangelists could skip much of the Christian story and get right to a few verses in the Gospel of John or in Romans and clear up confusion about the biblical gospel. This may be why methods such as Evangelism Explosion or the Romans Road or the Four Spiritual Laws were so effective.

    In a secularized society, though, core Christian beliefs can’t be assumed. We must still preach justification by faith through the death and resurrection of Christ, but we may start in Genesis rather than Romans. Increasingly, the people to whom we are delivering the gospel will not be former Roman Catholic altar boys or lapsed Lutherans, but people for whom the entire Christian story is foreign. Before we tell them what Paul says about their sin, we my need to tell them what sin is and why Paul matters.

    In some ways this change is freeing. It allows us to do what we should have been doing all along: retelling the entire Bible’s whole story, from creation to fall to redemption to consummation. In a sense, a whole-Bible, one-story gospel releases us from the temptation to close the deal and produce fake conversions or offer a kind of fire insurance that doesn’t truly save. Secularists aren’t interested in insurance from a fire that they don’t believe in.

    2. We need to allow time for gospel truths to take root.

    As the shape of our evangelism changes, so must our expectations. The timeframe from presentation to conversion is often shorter for those who can connect the divine dots than for someone for whom the gospel story is brand new.

    The Holy Spirit will still do miraculous things in our day. However, the experience of seeing masses of nominally religious people read gospel tracts and fall on their knees in repentance might be less common than in days past. Our mission in a post-Christian society may look less like that of Billy Graham and D. L. Moody and more like that of William Carey, who waited seven years before he saw his first convert in India.

    This kind of ministry will take patience and trust in the Holy Spirit’s work. It will take pastors who understand the times (1 Chron. 12:32) and prepare Christians for gospel witness in a post-Christian reality. Evangelism strategies will center less around “closing the deal” and more on long-term, intentional relationship building.

    3. We need to commit to long-term, committed, relationships with unbelievers.

    A model of evangelism that looks at unbelievers as “projects” becomes even less effective when drive-by gospel proclamation no longer works. Evangelicals need to recover the idea of friendship, purposely and intentionally building relationships with unbelievers that are genuine, normal, and life-giving.

    This isn’t “relational evangelism” that avoids conversations about the gospel. It requires we share the gospel even more, because Christianity is not that thing we only do on Thursday nights, it’s a way of life. We don’t just speak of Jesus in a forced way in order to check it off our list; we speak the gospel in a natural way because our life is hid with Christ in God. We become like Peter and John, who said to the religious authorities in Jerusalem, “We can’t help but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). 

    Two Challenges

    Our changing environment challenges us in two ways. First, we should be motivated, afresh, to pursue Christ in such a way that our love for him overflows into every area of our lives. It was said of the apostles, by their enemies, “They recognized them as men who had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Would it be said about us, from our Muslim or Buddhist or Mormon or secularist neighbors, “It is evident that they have been with Jesus”? Gospel proclamation must flow out of a gospel lifestyle.

    Second, this trend should motivate us to intentionally seek out friendships with people who are not like us, who live and work in our spheres of influence. We are the ones God is sending to declare to them the good news of the gospel. There are no others. And if we take this commission seriously, we’ll intentionally die to ourselves and live for others by developing long-term relationships. We nurture friendships with people who are not like us, not in a way that sees people as projects to be crossed off a list, but as people created in the image of God. We embed ourselves in our communities in a way that helps communities flourish by our presence. These acts not only fulfill our creation mandate and demonstrate what the kingdom will look like in full, but they also place us as ambassadors of reconciliation in the lives of the people God plans to save.

    Our day is not a time for hand-wringing or false nostalgia about by-gone days. Instead, like every generation of the church, we embrace our mission with joy, knowing that God has not called us to minister to the culture we want, but the culture that is.

    by Daniel Darling at May 21, 2015 05:03 AM

    God’s Work, God’s Way

    Editors’ note: Missionary Hudson Taylor was born on May 21, 1832, in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England. Today marks the 183rd anniversary of his birth. 

    Hudson Taylor is best known as a 19th-century pioneering missionary to inland China. He became a Christian at 17 after reading an evangelism tract. On September 19, 1853, Taylor left England for China. After an arduous ocean voyage of nearly six months, Taylor arrived in China for the first time on March 1, 1854, at the age of 22.

    The missions society founded by Taylor was ultimately responsible for bringing more than 800 missionaries to China. They began 125 schools, directly resulted in some 18,000 Christian conversions, as well as more than 300 stations of work with more than 500 national helpers in all 18 provinces of China. If Hudson Taylor were evaluated by his life, mission work, and legacy, he would easily be declared a success. Yet Taylor’s unflappable and absolute reliance on God marks him as one of the great figures in Christian history.

    Prayer Proponent

    Taylor was an assertive proponent of prayer, not only by his missionaries, but also on behalf of his missionaries. He believed senders of missionaries should turn to God regularly and pray for the missionaries they support. Taylor once instructed senders to “pray for those you send, shield them by prayer.” He believed in reliance on prayer for goers and senders alike. Missiologist Herbert Kane said of Taylor, “He believed in influencing people through God by prayer alone and demonstrated to the Christian world that it is no vain thing to trust in the living God.”

    Taylor was an early pioneer and advocate of the faith mission movement. Taylor believed he and his missionaries should not request funding for their work from men, but should instead rely completely upon God’s provision to sustain their efforts. Taylor believed that “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.” He was confident that as long as he was in God’s will and going about God’s work, the Lord would certainly provide all the resources needed to see the work completed.

    The ministry work of Hudson Taylor was groundbreaking in the 19th century. His methods were controversial and shocking to both missionaries and his supporters back home. Taylor relied upon God and his guidance in Scripture. Taylor did not seek, nor did he receive, praise and support from others. He was prepared to accept missionary workers who had no college training and he required his missionaries to identify with the national peoples by, among other things, wearing Chinese dress. He was determined not to locate ultimate control of mission operation at home and insisted that the work be directed from the field.

    Surrender All

    Few in history have sacrificed more for the cause of missions than Taylor did. He was willing to surrender all that God had given him for the evangelization of the Chinese. Nothing took a greater emotional and physical toll on Taylor than the loss of his family; he buried six children and two wives. In 1870 alone, Taylor lost two children and his first wife, Maria. Her death shook Taylor deeply, and in 1871, his own health began deteriorating, leading to his temporary return to England for recuperation.

    Taylor frequently distributed Chinese language tracts and theology books, usually for free. One evening, Taylor and his companion were robbed of all their valuables except for their theology books, which were seen as having no value. Taylor had no money for food or further travel. Upon waking the next morning, Taylor was inundated by people asking to buy his books. By the grace and provision of God, Taylor and his companion soon had enough money to eat and be on their way.

    On another occasion, local authorities captured Taylor and his companion. On the way to the local magistrate, the authorities beat them, choked them, grabbed them by the hair, knocked them down, and insulted them. Taylor and his companion, noticing their beating was drawing a crowd, took the opportunity to hand out the remainder of their Christian literature and share the gospel with onlookers. At that moment, according to Taylor, “We reminded each other that the apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer in the cause of Christ.”

    On another voyage, Taylor was attacked by locals who were unhappy with his presence and proclamation of Christ. The attackers destroyed Taylor’s boat and many of his possessions. Noticing the spectacle had caused an even larger crowd to gather, Taylor took advantage of the situation and preached the gospel to the throng.

    Hudson Taylor suffered the loss of both loved ones and coworkers. He endured physical abuse from outside and from inside his own body. But he used every trial to demonstrate his trust and reliance upon God.

    Reliance on God  

    Taylor knew that becoming a pioneering missionary to inland China would bring hardship and struggle. He was not surprised by the challenges. He said, “The work of a true missionary is work indeed, often very monotonous, apparently not very successful, and carried on through great and varied but unceasing difficulties.”

    Taylor’s reliance upon God is a model for all believers. His trust in his Creator did not shield him from pain and suffering. However, Taylor’s dependence on God demonstrated the Father’s love and faithfulness to his people.

    by Mike Pettengill at May 21, 2015 05:01 AM

    Help Me Teach the Bible: John Piper on Philippians

    In this inaugural episode of Help Me Teach the Bible, I talk with John Piper, founder and teacher of Desiring God and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, where he recently taught through the book of Philippians. He called this teaching a “dream come true.” Topics in this interview (download: part 1 | part two) include: 
    • allowing those you teach to discover what the book is about;
    • Paul's love expressed in this personal letter;
    • connecting propositions in Paul's arguments; and
    • the better by far of being with Christ at death vs. the resurrection of the body.
    Here are some additional audio resources that you may find helpful in preparing to teach Philippians:
    For further study, here are some books you may find helpful, including titles from Crossway, the sponsor of Help Me Teach the Bible:

    To subscribe to TGC's podcast that will include subsequent interviews by Nancy Guthrie, follow this link or go to iTunes and search the store for The Gospel Coalition podcast.

    by Nancy Guthrie at May 21, 2015 05:00 AM

    J.D. Bentley: Bourbon and Tradition | Journal

    Is Capitalism As Bad As Socialism? An Economic System Based on Tradition

    At the root of conservatism, as I wrote in Why I Am A Conservative, is conservation. We believe that mankind has acquired through the millennia many bits of wisdom worthy of generational transmission, things that must never be forgotten, the Permanent Things.

    We know that we do not know everything, that when it comes to Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and the Divine, we’ve barely scratched the surface. We also know that we are fallen beings, living iconography corrupt and imperfect, but not lost. We must balance our desire to seek out Truth with our propensity to get it wrong. Thus, we develop Tradition through a process of experimentation, evaluation, and evolution. We test ideas, we see if they’re working, and we either keep, discard, or expand on them.

    Tradition is how we describe a set of ideas and principles that are true and that work.

    If it is possible to build an economy deeply rooted in Tradition, that would be preferable. In America, we tend to think of socialism as a more recent and radical innovation, while capitalism has a sort of traditional reputation. But is what we call capitalism really traditional?

    Thomas Storck wrote that:

    "…both socialism and capitalism are products of the European Enlightenment and are thus modernizing and anti-traditional forces… socialism is the logical conclusion of capitalism, as capitalism’s concentrated powers eventually capture the state, resulting in a form of socialism."

    What would a system based on traditional values look like and does one already exist? It does, indeed. It is called Distributism.

    What is Distributism?

    Distributism is an economic ideology that has its roots in Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum novarum. The Rerum novarum was an encyclical sent out in response to the effects of laissez-faire capitalism and the development of socialism in the late 19th century.

    Laissez-faire loosely translates from French as "let it be" or "let it go". It is an economic system completely devoid of governmental interference such as regulations, taxes, subsidies, etc. As a result, a powerful employer class and a powerless working class developed. Working conditions were deplorable and wages were unreasonably low.

    Socialism, in response, advocated for common or state ownership of the means of production, freeing workers from the employer class.

    The Rerum novarum rejected both. In it, Pope Leo XIII states that owning the land on which they work encourages people to work harder and with greater commitment. Ownership facilitates learning "to love the very soil which yields in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of the good things for themselves and those that are dear to them." Ownership of property is not only beneficial for the owner, but is a God given right.

    The encyclical was the seed of Distributism, but it was developed into a coherent political ideology by G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, both devout Catholics. Distributism is founded upon two Catholic social teachings: subsidiarity and solidarity.

    Subsidiarity is a principle of decentralization. It holds that social problems should be handled at the lowest level consistent with their solution. Pope Pius XI provides a classical definition of subsidiarity in Quadragesimo anno:

    "Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do."

    Solidarity is unity as a class or group based on interests, objectives, standards, and sympathies. An example of solidarity is kinship.

    Based on these two teachings, Distributism advocates:

    • Widespread private ownership of the means of production
    • The control of industry through owner-operated small businesses and worker-controlled cooperatives

    G.K. Chesterton once wrote that too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few. This refers to the distribution of the means of production. To the Distributist, the activity of production is the most important part of any economy. If production is concentrated in too few hands, people are robbed of doing good and honest work. Chesterton wrote:

    "Property is merely the art of democracy. It means that every man should have something that he can shape in his own image, as he is shaped in the image of heaven."

    It is important for individuals to do what work they can do, to have the opportunity to do that work. Thus, economically, Distributism advocates the ability of people to earn a living without having to rely on or to use property belonging to others. The property should be owned by the smallest unit possible (as subsidiarity would suggest) and that unit is the family. A distributist system would distribute only productive property that was necessary for man’s survival. Land and tools, especially.

    Distributism, however, does not guarantee outcomes or so-called equality. While socialism would have outcomes distributed either "to each according to his contribution" or "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need", a distributist society would include families of varying wealth and success. The only aim is to spread the means of production as widely as possible. Equal opportunity, as they say, and not equal outcomes.

    Is Distributism More Traditional?

    Where Distributism really shines is in its social theory, which is deeply rooted in tradition. To quote Thomas Storck again:

    "Distributism seeks to subordinate economic activity to human life as a whole, to our spiritual life, our intellectual life, our family life."

    Distributism looks at the human being as a whole, not as an economic factor or cog. It aims to enable economic success in order that the spiritual, intellectual, and family life can be enhanced.

    At the center of distributist social theory is the family: the mother, the father, and their child or children. It is the primary social unit of human ordering. Distributism’s focus, then, is on the flourishing of the family and the family is promoted over the individual as the most basic type of owner.

    With Distributism, smaller is better. It promotes an artisanal and entrepreneurial society, emphasizing small business and the conservation, transmission, and promotion of local culture. Small production is favored over mass production.

    In recent decades, the culture and economic health of small town America has been hurt badly by multinational corporations. A distributist model could combat this by enabling people to go into business for themselves, encouraging the sort of local innovation, production, and culture-making that we currently lack.

    Distributism is a system I’m only vaguely acquainted with and I remember well the embarrassment my youthful zeal brought me, so I won’t say that distributism is the only way or the best way. What I do know is that it’s based on the Permanent Things and that it has the right spirit about it. I believe that it can be put into practice, as it is already with independent co-ops and family-owned small businesses. What it looks like on a grander scale and in a deeply technological society, I’m not sure. But I think it’s worth looking into.

    May 21, 2015 04:00 AM

    sacha chua :: living an awesome life

    Fuzzy brain; also Ni No Kuni

    Low energy both physically and mentally today, but I managed to squeeze in a 90-minute walk that included the library and the supermarket, so my walking streak continues. I can feel the fuzziness start to encroach, so ah well. Time to indulge a little. Aside from the walk and the usual chores, in fact, I spent practically the entire day playing Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.

    I like playing role-playing games, particularly ones that are forgiving enough to let you restart or change your mind if a battle’s too much for you. I enjoy watching the story unfold, and I like slowly getting the hang of the battle system and character development.

    I prefer turn-based games like Persona 4 Golden where you have a little time to review the situation and think about what you’re going to do. But Ni no Kuni is such a pretty game – gorgeous visuals and sound (Studio Ghibli! the Tokyo Philharmonic!) – that I’m working on getting the hang of the real-time battle system. I expect the game to take me a while, though. This is good, because I happen to have said while.

    There are many things I could do with my time, and I’m sure they’ll rise higher on my list after I settle in. There’ll be time enough for other things.

    The post Fuzzy brain; also Ni No Kuni appeared first on sacha chua :: living an awesome life.

    by Sacha Chua at May 21, 2015 01:38 AM

    Wilfred Hughes::Blog

    Effective Developer Interviews

    How do you interview developers effectively? How do you get to know them, assess their skill level, and make it a positive experience?

    I’ve interviewed over 50 people for different developer roles. Here’s what I’ve learnt.

    Side with the candidate

    The candidate has agreed to meet unfamiliar people, in an unfamiliar place, and answer questions. You want to do your best to put them at ease.

    Don’t jump straight into questions: introduce yourself (and any other interviewers) and chat a little. Set expectations about what will happen during the interview (especially important in phone interviews). Not only is this the right thing to do, relaxed candidates are smarter and more fun to spend time with.

    You shouldn’t have more than two interviewers with a candidate at any one point.

    An interview is a two-way process: candidates are also considering whether they want to work with you. The best candidates often have multiple job offers, so it’s important that they like the role and the team.

    Avoid ‘Big Bang’ Questions

    A common interview antipattern is to look for a single ‘great interview question’. This all-or-nothing approach leads to questions that are too big, and candidates are more likely to get stuck or stress.

    Instead, break questions into smaller parts. Candidates enter an interview with no idea what to expect. Warmup questions set expectations and let you discuss a broader ranger of technologies.

    For example, suppose you’re interviewing candidates for a frontend web developer role. You could start with some CSS questions:

    Consider the following HTML:

    <div id="article">
        <p>Lorem ipsum <a href="/dolor">dolor</a> sit amet.</p>
        <img src="cat.jpg">
        <p>Ut enim ad minim veniam.</p>
        <a href="/lorem-ipsum">Read more</a>

    1: What does the CSS selector #article match?

    2: What’s the difference between #article a and #article > a?

    3: Write a CSS selector that only matches the first paragraph element in a div with an article ID.

    These questions are incremental, but there are also opportunities for experienced candidates to show-off. You can also add open-ended questions like ‘is this good HTML?’ to see how candidates think.

    (Topics you might discuss here include: using the alt attribute on img tags, using classes versus IDs, or the HTML 5 <article> tag).

    Once you’re done with CSS questions, you can move on to other topics. Having more questions gives you much more flexibility. You want to distinguish strong developers who are weak in one area from weak developers.

    Use Standard Questions

    Once you have a set of interview questions, evolve them slowly. It’s easy to conclude your questions are too easy if you have some really great candidates (or vice versa). If you have a standard set of questions, you have a standard benchmark to measure candidates’ abilities.

    Seeing multiple candidates answer the same question can also highlight poorly worded questions. On several occasions we’ve changed examples in our questions to prevent common misunderstandings.

    You should be aware that asking the same questions repeatedly will make them seem easy to you. Make sure, however, that you humour candidates if they propose weird or novel approaches. We still see new ways of answering old questions, and it’s easy to follow along when you’re very familiar with the problem.

    If a candidate does give you a bizarre answer, take the time to explore their reasoning. Stepping through the code together is often worthwhile, especially if you suggest an input that exposes some bug in their implementation.

    Write Actual Code

    It is crucial that you ask developer candidates to actually write some code. They won’t have an IDE in the interview, and may not remember exact arguments for obscure standard library functions, but they should be able to write working code.

    Continuing with the frontend developer example, you’ll want to ask some JavaScript questions.

    function throttle(func, waitMs) {
        // ...

    Implement throttle so it returns a function that only calls the original func at most every waitMs milliseconds, even if called more frequently.

    This question also has scope for broader discussions: How do we write variadic functions in JS? Are there libraries that include throttle functionality? How would you test code like this?

    You shouldn’t be trying to catch the candidate out: the goal is to understand how deep their knowledge is in different areas.

    Write Feedback Promptly

    Once the interview is over, it’s important to have written records of how it went. Write up some notes soon after the interview.

    Be specific. Good feedback says why you came to a conclusion about a candidate. This is especially helpful if interviewers disagree on the suitability of a candidate.

    John Doe comfortably managed our CSS questions, demonstrating knowledge of specificity, the box model and pseudo-elements. However, his JS is much weaker: he needed significant help to solve our first JS question. He created a variable called default (a syntax error) and didn’t know about variable hoisting.

    He’d work well alongside our designers, but I don’t think he’d be a good fit on our developer team.

    Final Impressions

    Finally, be welcoming, be supportive and make the most of meeting new people. Everyone involved should leave the interview having learnt something.

    by Wilfred Hughes ( at May 21, 2015 12:00 AM

    May 20, 2015

    John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

    From the Pen of Matt K

    A comment over at Brad R Torgersen’s blog, concerning the honesty, decency, and morality of voting as a way of making political statements:

    “What are the Hugo Awards?

    The Hugo Awards, to give them their full title, are awards for excellence in the field of science fiction or fantasy.”

    First two sentences of the Hugo Awards FAQ, on the official Hugo Awards website.

    To vote based upon any other criteria besides “excellence in the field of science fiction or fantasy” thus is inappropriate.

    Voting “No Award” over a work that one thinks has been “nominated inappropriately” is really a vote against the process of nomination, and should take place in a different venue, at the WorldCon business meetings where the Hugo rules can be discussed for possible change.

    Voting “No Award” over another work based on your perception of the ideological views of the author is a stand that you should make with your pocketbook, or your own internet pulpit, and not by subverting the Hugo process for your own preferred social or political purposes.

    Voting “No Award” over a work because it doesn’t contain the requisite number of women/gays/minorities portrayed in the politically correct fashion of the week actually does superficially start to bear on the idea of the merit of the work. However, only someone who has lost all sense of the real purpose of art could believe the idea that the faddish political checklists of the day have anything to do with “excellence in the field of science fiction or fantasy.” Excellence in the field of social and political propaganda is quite a different category entirely, one with which historically prominent figures named Adolph and Josef were very familiar, back in my grandparents’ day. Many of us are tired of being told that “science fiction” which scores highly on that particular metric is the best that the field has to offer today — especially when it only tangentially seems to be science fiction at all. As has been noted elsewhere many times, political art is to art as military intelligence is to intelligence. In deference to our host, I’ll say that I suspect that comparison may be somewhat unfair to military intelligence.

    If you think the field can do better than John C. Wright, Jim Butcher, Brad Torgerson and Vox Day, then prove it next year by working towards getting your preferred works nominated. Any other response betrays someone not really concerned about the Hugo Awards as such, but only about making sure that the “right” people/works win, and it dooms the Hugos to continue their 10+ year slide into irrelevance.

    Of course, within the frame of the publicly-stated underlying purpose of Sad Puppies, the Hugos are already irrelevant. Evidence has proven the hypothesis. Experiment concluded. Case closed.

    by John C Wright at May 20, 2015 11:35 PM

    CrossFit Naptown

    Regional Weekend May 29-31st

    Thursday’s Workout:

    Back Squat (add 10# from last time)
    3 at 63%
    3 at 72%
    3+ at 81%

    Deadlift (225/155)
    Hand Stand Push Up

    October 27th, 2014

    April 23, 2013

    Regionals Are Coming…

    The Central Regional is only 8 days away!! This year, the CrossFit NapTown Team will be throwing down in Minneapolis, MN on the team side of competition and Coach Anna (me…) will be taking on the individual side. Okay so why does this matter at all? Well, the team and myself have been training hours a day for months and all of that work gets put to the test on May 29, 30, and 31. 30 teams and 40 Individual Men and Women from the Midwest will be whittled down to just five from each division going on to the Reebok CrossFit Games in Carson, California. Last year, our team was fit enough to qualify and compete with some of the best athletes in the world.




    This year’s team features a few new faces, but looks to be just as strong! The team includes Coach Jared, Coach Peter, Coach Rachel, Coach Hudson, Jen Binkley, and Emily Crespo (click on their names to see how they did in the Open)! The team qualified in the 9th position out of 40 teams after the Open and only needs to be top 5 to move on to the final stage of competition. I am taking on my first year as an individual athlete after 4 years of competing on the team side (1 with my home gym in Michigan and 3 times with CFNT). It is going to be a different environment out there without my best friends by my side, but I have felt their support as strong as ever and I know I will feel it on the floor.




    I speak from experience when I say that regionals is nothing but play for the athletes competing. Every time we step on the competition floor, we have the opportunity to see what our bodies are capable of and reap the rewards of months of hard work and training. We are all incredibly grateful for the inspiration and support from the rest of the community that we have received over the past year of training. A big chunk of the coaching staff will be making the trip as competitors or spectators and we are going to be very sad to say goodbye for a few days, but we look forward to representing our community as we travel to the great white north (or is that Canada?) to test our fitness against the fittest in the Midwest.

    You can keep up with all of the action through the Central Regional Live Feed on the CrossFit Games site. All teams and individuals will compete from Friday through to Sunday, performing a wide range of varied, functional movements, across a broad range of time domains (woah….that sounds like CrossFit).


    Classes Saturday and Sunday moved to NapTown Fitness Capitol

    Saturday: 11:00am
    Sunday: 11:00-12:00pm and 12:00-1:00pm Open Gym

    *you will not have as much equipment as you are used to at CFNT*

    by Anna at May 20, 2015 10:26 PM

    John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

    On Conservative Taste

    A reader writes:

    I write you as a fellow reader.

    I had the opportunity to download the newly released Hugo voting packets this morning. I express my unvarnished sentiments when I say that I find Sex Criminals stupid and gimmicky, Ms Marvel barely disguised ideological tripe, and Rat Queens another piece of ‘watch women do the disgusting things guys do in the name of equality’.

    In fact, I actually find Ms Marvel’s attempt at incorporating Hindu elements offensive to the religion.

    The only work which I find promising is Saga.

    Am I hopelessly blinkered by my conservative tastes?

    The answer to your question is not just ‘no’ but ‘hell, no’.

    Conservative taste is taste. We stand for standards: melody in music, perspective in drawing and painting, soaring & sublime beauty sculpted in stone for architecture, plot and theme in storytelling, and so on.

    We have the Saint John’s Passion by Bach, the paintings of Bouguereau, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the Lord of the Rings by Tolkien.

    Morlockery is untaste. They stand for scrawling graffiti on standards and urinating and vomiting and excreting on them. They stand for atonal cacophony in music, bleary visual mess in drawing and painting, inhuman blocks of concrete and featureless steel in architecture, dreary incoherent psychopathy in the written word.

    They have the music of Scriabin, the spastic scrawls of Picasso, the soul-crushing ulginess of Corbusier, and Ulysses by James Joyce.

    by John C Wright at May 20, 2015 06:13 PM

    The Ontological Geek

    11 Days of Marvel: Iron Man

    Bill and Erin start their 11-day Marvel Cinematic Universe project with a look at 2008's Iron Man, the movie that started it all!

    by Bill Coberly at May 20, 2015 05:17 PM

    Josh Haberman

    Status update on upb and Ruby Protocol Buffers

    It has been a long time since I have posted any updates about upb, my implementation of Protocol Buffers. In 2011 I posted the article upb status and preliminary performance numbers, showing that upb's JIT compiler yielded impressive performance results parsing Protocol Buffers, particularly when used as a stream parser. Since then there has been a lot of activity in GitHub, but still no releases, and I haven't posted much about upb or where it's going. It's time for a status update

    On a personal note, I also have exciting news to report: as of last August, I have joined the Protocol Buffers team at Google officially. After five years of being very interested in Protocol Buffers and working on upb as my 20% project, I now work on Protocol Buffers full time (and still work on upb 20%).

    As has always been the case, on this blog I speak only for myself: not for my team, or for Google!

    But onto upb status updates. A lot has happened since I last wrote. There have been hundreds of commits, and lots of changes, big and small. Obviously I won't cover everything, but I'll start with big-picture news, then get a little more specific, then talk vision for a bit.

    haberman/upb is now google/upb

    Up until this week, upb's main repository lived on GitHub under my own username. As of two days ago, its home is under the Google organization. As a 20% project, upb has always been under Google copyright. Living under the Google organization will make it easier for Google to ensure that it follows policies surrounding CLA (contributor license agreements) and such.

    This also makes upb a bit more "official" as an open-source offering of Google. This will enable Google to incorporate upb into other projects/products, which brings me to my next bit of news.

    Google is using upb for the MRI Ruby Protocol Buffers implementation

    Though the code has been public on GitHub for months now, I'm very happy to formally announce that the official Google-supported Ruby library for protobufs (on MRI) uses upb for parsing and serialization! The Ruby-specific code was written by my excellent teammate Chris Fallin. The data representation (ie. the Ruby classes representing protobufs) is all Ruby-specific, but under the hood it uses upb for all parsing and serialization.

    One of upb's goals from the beginning was to be an ideal implementation for dynamic languages like Ruby, Python, PHP, etc, so it is extremely gratifying to finally see this in action.

    When we were evaluating how to implement the Ruby Protocol Buffers library, one of major questions was whether to implement it in pure Ruby or to use a C extension. Staying pure Ruby has notable portability benefits, but at the end of the day the performance benefit of a C extension approach was too great to pass up. The micro-benchmark numbers of our extension vs. a couple of pure-Ruby implementations make this clear:
    Test payload is a 45-byte protobuf

    Ruby Beefcake (pure-Ruby): 0.7MB/s
    Ruby Protobuf (pure-Ruby): 0.8MB/s
    Google Protobuf (C accelerated with upb): 11.9MB/s
    Representative microbenchmarking is notoriously difficult, but the point of this is just to show that C acceleration when it comes to parsing makes a big difference. That is a big part of why I created upb to begin with.

    For a lot of use cases, the difference doesn't matter. Lots of people who make remote API calls just need to parse a modestly-sized payload, and it's not in a tight loop or anything. These people probably won't care about the perf difference between Beefcake and Google Protobuf.

    But there always end up being people who care. When the payload gets big enough, or the loop gets tight enough, a 10x difference is huge. We see this at Google all the time. And just witness the amount of effort that people have put into optimizing JSON parsing -- for example, the oj (Optimized JSON) library for Ruby. We wanted to be sure that the protobuf library would be at least speed-competitive with the (pretty fast) built-in JSON library that comes with Ruby. And in that we have succeeded -- in my one silly test, we are roughly speed-competitive with the JSON, (a little faster or a little slower, depending on how you measure).

    This doesn't help JRuby users unfortunately, but I am very happy that open-source contributors have come forward to implement an API-compatible version of the library for JRuby by wrapping the Protocol Buffers Java implementation. So both MRI and JRuby can get fast parsers, and code should be portable between the two. The cost is having to maintain two implementations under the hood.

    By the way, the Ruby Protocol Buffers library uses upb, but it doesn't use upb's JIT at all for parsing. The numbers above reflect upb's pure-C, bytecode-based decoder. There is no point in enabling the JIT, because the actual parsing represents such a small portion of the overall CPU cost of parsing from Ruby -- upb by itself can parse at more than 10x the speed of the Ruby extension, even with the pure C parser. The vast majority of the time is spent in the Ruby interpreter creating/destroying objects, and other Ruby-imposed overhead. Enabling the JIT would barely even be a measurable difference. This is nice because avoiding the JIT here means we avoid the portability constraints of the JIT.

    JSON support

    The Ruby implementation of Protocol Buffers is part of a larger effort known as "proto3" (see here and here). I won't go too deeply into what proto3 is about because that would be its own blog entry. But one important element of the proto3 story is that JSON support is becoming first-class. Protobuf binary format and JSON format are both options for sending payloads. If you want a human-readable payload, send JSON -- proto3 libraries will support both.

    Since Ruby-Protobuf uses upb for all of its parsing/serialization, that must mean that upb now supports JSON, and indeed it does!

    Everything in upb is stream-based; this means that upb supports JSON<->protobuf transcodes in a totally streaming fashion. Internally the protobuf encoder has to buffer submessages, since Protocol Buffer binary format specifies that submessages on the wire are prefixed by their length. But from an API perspective, it is all streaming. (It would be possible to write a version of the encoder that avoids the internal buffering by doing two passes, but that is an exercise for a different day).

    Protocol Buffers and JSON, next the world?

    I had an epiphany at some point, which was that upb could be a more generalized parsing framework, not limited to just Protocol Buffers.

    upb was inspired by SAX, the Simple API for XML. The basic idea of SAX is that you have a parser that calls callbacks instead of building a data structure directly. This model makes for fast and flexible parsers, and has been imitated by other parsers such as YAJL (for JSON).

    So upb supports parsing protobufs by letting you register handler functions for every protobuf field. Parsing field A calls handler A, parsing field B calls handler B, and so on.

    But what if we could apply this basic idea to the use case of SAX? What if upb could parse XML, and call handlers that are specific to the XML data model? We could use .proto files to define an XML-specific schema. For SAX this might look like:
    // Protocol buffer schema representing SAX
    message StartElement {
    string element_name = 1;
    map<string, string> attributes = 2;

    message EndElement {
    string element_name = 1;

    message ProcessingInstruction {
    string target = 1;
    string data = 2;

    message XMLContent {
    oneof content {
    StartElement start = 1;
    EndElement end = 2;
    bytes characters = 3;
    bytes ignorable_whitespace = 4;
    string skipped_entity = 5;
    ProcessingInstruction processing_instruction = 6;

    message XMLDocument {
    repeated XMLContent content = 1;
    Now we can offer basically the same API as SAX, except the set of handlers is defined as a protobuf schema, instead of being hard-coded into the library.

    What if we try the same idea with JSON?
    message JsonArray {
    repeated JsonValue value = 1;

    message JsonObject {
    map<string, JsonValue> properties = 1;

    message JsonValue {
    oneof value {
    bool is_null = 1;
    bool boolean_value = 2;
    string string_value = 3;

    // Multiple options for numbers, since JSON doesn't specify
    // range/precision for numbers.
    double double_value = 4;
    int64 int64_value = 5;
    string number_value = 6;

    JsonObject object_value = 7;
    JsonArray array_value = 8;
    Now we can offer the same API as YAJL.

    Or take HTTP, according to the handlers specified in http-parser
    message HTTPHead {
    uint32 http_major = 1;
    uint32 http_minor = 2;
    uint32 status_code = 3;

    enum Method {
    DELETE = 1;
    GET = 2;
    HEAD = 3;
    PUT = 4;
    POST = 5;
    // ...

    Method method = 4;
    string url = 5;

    map<string, string> headers = 6;

    message HTTPBody {
    repeated bytes chunk = 1;

    message HTTP {
    HTTPHead head = 1;
    HTTPBody body = 2;
    Do you see where this is going? SAX, YAJL, and http-parser are great APIs. upb seeks to be a generalization of streaming parser APIs, by using a Protocol Buffer schema to define the set of handlers for each format

    You may be tempted to say "bloat." But extending upb in this way doesn't make the core any bigger than if it just supported Protocol Buffers. The core library already contains all the functionality for registering handlers to match a protobuf schema. We aren't growing the core library at all to enable these other use cases.

    And coming from the other direction, the core library of upb is only about 25kb of object code. It just contains data structures for representing schemas and handlers. For many libraries, like libxml or expat, 25kb is not a very noticeable overhead. For some exceptionally small libraries like YAJL or http-parser, 25kb would be a noticeable overhead, but in most cases the overhead is acceptable.

    And what does this abstraction buy you? An easy way to expose your parser to multiple languages.

    Take Ruby. Since the Google Protocol Buffers library for Ruby is implemented using upb, all of the handlers already exist to read and write Protocol Buffers objects. So if you had an HTTP parser that used upb handlers according to the handler schema above, it would be trivial to parse some HTTP into an HTTP Protocol Buffers object in Ruby. You can use the Protocol Buffer object as your parse tree / in-memory representation! Once you do that you can easily serialize it as a binary Protocol Buffer, or as JSON, if you want to preserve its parsed form. You could easily write a filter program in Ruby that iterates over a bunch of HTTP sessions and pulls out the URL. You have all these capabilities for how you can use the parser in Ruby, but you've had to do barely any Ruby-specific work to expose the parser to Ruby.

    If you keep going down this path, you realize that this same idea could work for streaming string->string transformations (like gzip or SSL), and even for streaming aggregations like HyperLogLog. And the ultimate dream is that this all can compose nicely.

    This is the vision which I am constantly working towards. But I'm also grounded by the need to deliver tangible things like something that Ruby and other language implementations can use right now.

    Back to Planet Earth: Concrete Status

    All of those lofty ideas are nice, but the devil is in the details. Here is the status of some of those details, in super-brief form:
    1. protobuf encoder and decoder are fully complete (except for vending unknown fields, which I'd like to add at some point)
    2. protobuf decoder (both pure-C and JIT) are completely rewritten. Pure-C decoder is now bytecode-based, and JIT is a code generator from that bytecode. Both decoders are fully-resumable, for when the input spans multiple buffers.
    3. typed JSON parser and printer are pretty complete, following the JSON encoding conventions of proto3. "Typed JSON" means JSON that follows the structure of a protobuf schema.
    4. upb now has a stable ABI; structure members and sizes are hidden in implementation files.
    5. upb now supports fully-injectable memory allocation and error callbacks for parse-time structures. (Sharable, ahead-of-time structures like schemas and handlers still rely on a global malloc()).
    6. there is now an "amalgamation" build where all upb sources are collapsed into a single .h/.c file pair, to make it easy to drop into another project's build (the Ruby extension uses this
    But there is still a lot to do:
    1. need to split generic JSON encoder from typed JSON encoder. (Generic JSON encoder will use a schema like the above to represent arbitrary JSON, like YAJL, instead of being limited to a structured schema).
    2. need to port to c89. This is a tough one for me. The title of this blog is "parsing, performance, minimalism with c99." But practical experience is just making it clear that we're still in a c89 world if you want maximum portability (and particularly the ability to integrate into other build systems).
    3. need to tweak the handlers model to be even more composable. For example, it should be possible for the JSON encoder/decoder to internally use a generic upb base64 encoder/decoder to put binary data into string fields. It should also be easier to compose pipeline elements. We're not quite to that level of composability yet.
    4. need to implement a parser for .proto files, so we can parse them directly. Right now we can only load binary descriptors.
    5. Expand to more formats! XML, HTTP, CSV, LevelDB log format, YAML, and more!
    6. My most lofty vision, resurrect Gazelle, my parser generator, as an easy way of generating fast parsers that target upb natively. Think yacc/Bison/ANTLR, but more convenient, because you'll be able to easily use Protocol Buffer in-memory objects as your parse tree / AST.
    So there is still a lot to do, but it's exciting to see it really working for Ruby already.

    The name

    As you can see from what I described above, upb is outgrowing its name, since it's no longer just about Protocol Buffers. I've been playing with calling it "Unleaded" instead, as a backronym for upb (get it?), but I can't seem to get this to stick.

    by Josh Haberman ( at May 20, 2015 05:06 PM

    John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

    From the Pen of Jeff Duntemann

    A balanced view and trenchant insight in a column from an interested onlooker to the ongoing world-shattering Holy War and  foodfight-in-a-phonebooth between the subterranean Morlocks and the lachrymose Sad Puppies

    Some of the more interesting observations from Mr Duntemann are in his comments below the column.

    SP authors have nothing to lose in the conflict, and AP authors have nothing to gain. It’s pretty much that simple.

    My comment:

    He hits the nail on the head.That is why I reject calls for reconciliation and a return to the status quo ante with umbrage and scorn.

    Even with the utmost of humility and meekness I can summon up, I cannot honestly believe my work is inferior to tales which have won awards in recent years, prose poems with not a scintilla of science fiction present, or genre-free drolleries dwelling on politically correct messages but lacking both a sense of wonder and a competence of storytelling craft.

    Even if peace terms were offered, what could the Morlocks offer me?

    What purpose do semi-unpublished lacktalent lackwits like Damien G Walter of the Guardian or interstitial poetasters like Alex Dally ‘nonbinary’ MacFarlane of (whom together, in their whole careers, have sold fewer works than I sold in the last twelve months) — what purpose, ask I, do such peripheral figures  serve in the Science Fiction field, except to drive out the science and the fiction, the storytelling and sense of wonder, to make room for dreary finger-wagging lectures about the alleged glories of yet one more sexual deviancy or other morbidity?

    To win their applause is no goal of mine.

    I do not want the harpies to cook or wait tables. I merely want them to cease befouling the feast.

    No one has offered me peace terms. No one has opened negotiations with me. No one has apologized, retracted, or condemned the outrageous libels offered in major media outlets. Instead, one or two rare voices, speaking in measured tones rather then hysterical screams, has asked for all parties to remain calm, and for the Sad Puppies to concede the field and withdraw, in return for which we are offered … nothing.

    What we want is science fiction. That is our demand.

    What we want is for works to be judged on the content of their story telling, not the hue of the hand of the workman who wrote them, and not the hue of the red banner nor the black banner under which he marches on his political crusades.

    I am a conservative, nay, an arch-conservative. I regard  capitation, or other direct tax, as unconstitutional, and denounce Woodrow Wilson as a dangerous and experimental innovator certain to damage the republic. I am moreover a faithful Christian, and, indeed, a Roman Catholic, a member of the only minority, aside from Mormons, whom it is regarded as acceptable and amusing to libel, slander, mock and rob of our God-given civic rights.

    Ergo my chance of having my work judged on its merits by an openly bigoted clique of Christ-hating male-hating family-hating conservative-hating politically-correct hacks and moles who have controlled the Hugo Awards for the last fifteen years is indistinguishable from zero.

    So what would I gain from accepting any offer of reconciliation from the flesh-eating zombies of the political death cult dwelling in the dank and stygian depths of intellectually vacuous and morally leprous Morlockery?

    What I demand is that work be judged on its merits, not on the non-essentials of race, class, sex, or sexual aberrations of the author. What they demand, their only demand, the only reason for the existence of the cult, is to avoid all questions of merit.

    The only reason for the existence of Social Justice Warfare is bigotry. That it is bigotry against Western Civilization, Christendom, rule of law, liberty, masculinity, fertility, decency, family life, and the white race rather than against blacks is of no moment: Martin Luther King did not dream of the day when his children could go to the park from which whites would be excluded, but of a society where men were judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

    The social justice Morlocks dream of a day where men are judged on the color of their skin, and that alone, so that beneath a blind and godless heaven, their lack of character will be excused.

    Mr Duntemann also has his finger in the wind on another issue:

    The Manhattan gatekeepers are losing power year by year. This means we don’t necessarily have to give a damn about them. I was shocked at how liberating that realization was when I finally internalized it last year.[…]

    The big fancy 2-story B&N store in Scottsdale where I used to drop so much cash when I lived there closed a year ago. I’ve heard of others closing as well, and those that are open are devoting more shelf space to toys and tchotchkes. This is not good news for traditional publishers, to belabor the obvious.

    […] I’ve said nothing at all about it publicly, but over the past year I’ve suggested to a couple of independent tech presses that they should consider launching experimental SF imprints. The money’s there; the trick is finding it. The Manhattan presses don’t know how to find sales; they literally buy them. (This is called “pay to play,” and it comes perilously close to bribery.) The smaller presses could adopt the Baen playbook and do quite well. People are reading more than ever, and small, nimble, tech-savvy imprints could go after the Manhattan fortress presses and beat them at their own game.



    by John C Wright at May 20, 2015 04:53 PM


    EuroVis Running Club

    I’m organizing a very informal running club at EuroVis next week. If you’re attending the conference, don’t forget to bring your running shoes and leave your excuses at home.

    This is even less organized than than the VIS running club. I’m not going to have you fill out a form. Instead, just drop me an email (rkosara at my employer’s domain or use the contact form) if you’re interested in joining. This is just so I can send out information about the secret meeting place and time (most likely Monday morning at 7am in the conference hotel lobby).

    We’ll aim for about 30-40 mins, for a distance of about 5-8km (3-5mi). Pace will depend on who’s there and how fast they want to go. Don’t be shy about wanting to go slow, we won’t be turning this into a race. The first run will be Monday, and then we’ll figure out what to do from there (probably Wednesday and Friday, plus potentially something longer Friday afternoon or Saturday).

    I know you’re wondering: what if I’m not running, will there be opportunities to experience my amazing wisdom and speaking skills? I’m glad you asked.

    • I will be part of the closing panel at EuroRVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV Tuesday morning.
    • I’m giving the talk for the paper VIMTEX: A Visualization Interface for Multivariate, Time-Varying Geological Data Exploration by Aritra Dasgupta, Robert Kosara, and Luke Gosink on Thursday morning (session FP10)
    • I’m giving the Tableau industrial/sponsor talk on Thursday afternoon (session IND2). No, that will not be a sales pitch but there will be actual content and bad jokes. Lots of them.
    • Finally, Drew Skau will give the talk on Wednesday morning (session FP6) on our paper with Lane Harrison, An Evaluation of the Impact of Visual Embellishments in Bar Charts. There will be a separate posting about this paper on Sunday.


    by Robert Kosara at May 20, 2015 04:20 PM

    Mr. Money Mustache

    What I’m Teaching my Son about Money


    Most of the best money lessons are learned without shoes.

    I’m not going to lie to you – being wealthy is a lot of fun.

    And I’m not just talking about novelty fun that you get from driving around in a fancy car. True wealth is more of a big picture thing – freedom from negative stress and a higher confidence about how great life is. It hits you like a pack of wild butterflies every morning when you wake up. Holy shit, here comes another great day.

    I want to pass this gift along to my son if at all possible, because it is truly a great way to live. After all, as parents we are really in the business of producing the happiest and most capable adults we can, given the constraints of the real world. If my boy eventually ends up as happy with his lot in life as his parents are, we will be more than satisfied.

    Surely every parent wants the same thing – to pass on their happiness if life is good, or if not, to give their kids a better life than they had.  So they do their best to dish out financial advice, and to model good behavior for their offspring to emulate. Unfortunately, the results are not always good.

    In a country where Ridiculous is Ubiquitous, most people’s best attempts at getting ahead are in fact recipes for financial disaster. I get emails from high school and university students telling me, “Dad advised me to finance a reliable NEW car with 4WD, so I can be safe in the winter and spend less on repairs.” Other people rack up $200,000 in student loans for a elite degree with few job prospects, because their parents cautioned “You can’t get a good job without a degree these days.” Still other families stress over how much to spend on olympic-caliber toddler birthday parties, how to afford ivy league preschools and how to fit in with the other high-income families in their private schools.

    While any one of these pieces of advice might work fine for a family with infinite money, they have trickled deep down into the middle classes where they become unhelpful for those wanting to truly get ahead.

    I just read a book called The Opposite of Spoiled, by Ron Lieber. While the book was thoughtful and thoroughly researched, I was still fascinated by how much things have changed since I was a kid. There were chapters on how to handle the social pressures of a high-income neighborhood. What do you do when the other kids have nicer stuff than your kids, or vice versa? How do you say no to your kids when they want things that you can’t afford for them? How do you handle allowances, jobs, paying for education, mobile phones, cars, and giving to others?

    All of these perceived social pressures of the Wealthy New York style of childraising were unfamiliar to me. It was three decades ago in a small town in a different country that I approached my own teenage years, and we followed a much simpler model of family finance back then. Much like the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, I found myself wondering “What the hell are these modern people fussing about? Do they really worry about this stuff?”


    It seems to me that if we bring the financial values of a small working-class 1980s town forward to today, life gets a lot simpler for kids. And in the long term, richer.

    Little Money Mustache and Money

    In our household, money is an open subject without any attached baggage or taboos . Our 9-year old knows exactly how money is earned, what happens when you spend it (it’s gone), and what happens if you invest it instead (it works for you, for life).

    Since we retired just before he was born, he has grown up with the idea of financial independence – if you own assets like rental houses or shares of businesses, they provide income which means you don’t have to leave home for 9 hours every day and commute to an office unless this is your idea of fun. He sees this every day by comparing the daily routine of his own parents, to what other parents do each day.

    So ever since he has been old enough to have a use for money himself (age six or so), I have tried to give him a chance to learn for himself how it works.

    Making Money:

    Being a kid is quite a lucrative proposition these days. On top of the free rent, he gets occasional cash gifts from relatives and a salary from me that consists of 10 cents for every mile walked or biked as part of family life. These tend to add up in a mostly-car-free family, as he already has more than 1200 miles on the little 20″ tires of his mountain bike and we wear through quality shoes before growing out of them.

    Over the coming years, I’m expecting him to move from these little-kid sources of income into more independent ones. Whether he pursues traditional employment or hardcore full entrepreneurship right off the bat is up to him*.

    Some parents like to focus on academics: “Until you graduate, getting good grades is your only job.” But I like to think of a good education as a highly diverse set of experiences. Working and earning your own money at any age – even if it includes stocking shelves and assembling wheelbarrows at a hardware store – is a key part of this. School is just a tiny part of a kid’s education, and not even the most important part. In fact, most my most vibrant experiences from high school were side effects of work rather than classes at school.

    The Spreadsheet:

    bankaccountThis is where things get a bit unconventional. Instead of a physical piggy bank, my boy prefers to keep his money in the Bank of Mr. Money Mustache, a spreadsheet that contains every transaction he makes with money. To make a deposit, he just hands me some cash. To withdraw, he asks me for cash or has me buy something for him online.

    But for every dollar that remains in the account, he accrues interest at a 10% annual rate with monthly compounding. I’m excited about the teaching value of this, because it shows him that

    • his money is finite (not just an limitless pool that you tap by nagging parents to buy you stuff)
    • keeping the money invested is profitable (his $600 account is now bringing in a very tangible $5 per month in interest)
    • new windfalls can be added, interest compounds exponentially, and an account like this of sufficient size means lifelong financial freedom

    Where the Money Goes:

    Right now, he has only a few true consumer loves in his life: PC games, books, and the occasional phone or tablet app. So he has spent over $100 on those things (quite a large percentage of income) in the past year. But in most cases, he has felt the fun value has been worth the spending.

    Interestingly enough, he has already started to display a high degree of generosity. When something breaks in the house or another kid doesn’t have enough money to pay for something they want, he immediately offers up a large sum of his own money to cover the shortfall.

    What the Parents Cover:

    Meanwhile, I still cover the basic infrastructure of educational childhood fun – to build his computer I bought about $500 of parts and we assembled them together into a pretty spiffy gameworthy PC. We build robots with a $400 kit of VEX IQ stuff, and many books, bits of outdoor equipment and trips come for free as part of being in the family. Any organized activities also come from this freebie budget, at least until he reaches his teenage years.  But like his Dad, he has shown a strong preference for self-guided activities with friends rather than adult-organized ones so far, and I’m happy to let him continue with this style.

    Living By Example, and Giving:

    In Ron Lieber’s book, the tricky subject of “why do we have so much, when these other people have so little?” comes up. It’s a good one, because this observation is often the gateway to taking an interest in helping other people. But for me, it would be hard to answer a question like that while living at the pinnacle of American luxury with multiple homes, boats, and jets. Since our annual spending of around $25,000 is lower than average for our own country, and it stays that way even in years when we make many times that amount, I’m hoping the example of “spending does not need to scale with income” will jump to the next generation.

    When your own needs are capped, it becomes only logical to find an efficient outlet for the surplus money. So there is an understanding that we operate with an informal, non-billionaire’s version of the “giving pledge“, meaning there will be no large Mustache family inheritance – each generation will be left free to generate its own massive surplus.

    Higher Education, Performance, and Stress:

    For me, this is where the rubber really meets the road.  If you can’t leverage money to live more happily, then what good is it? And yet consider the stunning case study of the children of the nation’s uber-wealthy enclaves like Palo Alto, California. Despite incredible wealth and some of the best educational institutions money can buy, kids there are more stressed, less happy, and more likely to commit suicide than others who live with a fraction of their privilege.

    The problem arises when high-achieving parents assume that their kids need to be pushed to achieve more themselves, to beat out the other high achievers and gain access to the most elite schools, in order to compete in this incredibly challenging modern world.

    Remember way back when I started this blog in April 2011? Right there in the first paragraph of the first post, we hit this sentence:

    “… when it boils down to it, we are talking about money, and the freedom it can give you. Freedom from worry, and freedom from most forms of bullshit.”

    To me, raising kids to feel pressure and fear so they can be COMPETITORS is bullshit. Life is not a competition. It’s a gigantic collaboration, and the world welcomes and rewards people who see it that way.

    It may be that most parents of the very-upper-middle class are still operating from a scarcity mindset. If they are addicted to a high consumption lifestyle, earning $600,000 per year but still making car and house payments, they will assume that their children will need to earn and consume just as much in order to be happy. This of course dictates a job in the top fraction of the top percent of the economy, and education with enough prestige to secure such a job.

    On the other hand, having crossed the threshold of having more than enough money for a good life almost a decade ago, I cannot even imagine my son not earning a plentiful and permanent surplus very early on in his adult life. Thus, there is no need to fight for traditional elite status. It is much more efficient to rise up to into your own niche without the constant drag of material addiction telling you you aren’t good enough. Paradoxically, this path is rare enough that you might end up earning even more money in the end.

    What I Really Want Him to Learn:

    All of this kid stuff is just the groundwork for the bigger (and slightly radical) perspective on money that I want to instill over his lifetime: that money is something you can master and control, rather than letting it control you.

    Observe the following statements and see if you agree with them. While you can poke holes and find exceptions to each one, the overall philosophy is remarkably true if applied forcefully over a lifetime:

    • Income is not something that employers or the government ration out to you based on a rigged system. It is a something you generate yourself. It is the byproduct of your hard work, combined with learning and mastering the system itself. Even the system itself is subject to your control if you choose.
    • “Expenses”, “Needs”, and “Cost of Living” are terms that come from a mindset of weakness. Instead, use the words, “My Spending”, and realize it is in your control. By making the right moves and the right arrangements with other people, you could theoretically live for free. You can end up in any job, any city, any country, with any number of additional dependents – all at your own choosing. Even if you never do so, knowing that you have complete power over your spending is a key ally for financial freedom.
    • And finally, money is not the end of the quest of having a good life. While it is currently a major barrier to most people, it is easy to master it early in your life. Then you move on to the real challenges: finding out what life is really about. Hard work, being good to others, a good amount of proper difficulty, and learning as much as you can pack in during your time alive.

    This is my experience so far in raising a Junior Mr. Money Mustache. Although I feel the foundation is solid, like everything in life it is an ongoing experiment. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


    * My first jobs were paper route, lawn maintenance, and gas pump jockey. Out of these three, I’d only discourage a teenager from pursuing gas station work – avoiding toxic vapors during key periods of brain growth seems wise in retrospect.


    A Technical Note: Due to higher traffic these days, our current server can’t keep up with traffic unless I have the comments feature disabled. We are still in the process of moving to a bigger system and some more modern comment-handling technology. I hope to have everything in order, better than ever, very soon.

    A Fun Note: I started a sub-page of this blog called “Should we Meet?” – this is just a place where I keep track of places I’ll be passing through in the near future, just in case you want to come out and meet some real-life Mustachians with me. This page is just my tiny personal version of the Forum’s Meetup Section, where people are hanging out all over the world.

    by Mr. Money Mustache at May 20, 2015 04:02 PM

    Connected 40: Nose Scrolling: I Do Not Condone This →

    I missed yesterday's show, but listened to it this morning. It's a great one:

    This week the Europeans are joined by Sam Soffes to follow up on Redacted for Mac, before discussing Federico's thoughts on the Apple Watch.

    When your follow-up includes an interview, you're doing it right.

    My thanks to our sponsors this week:

    • An easy and affordable way to help individuals and organizations learn. Free 10-day trial.
    • PDFpen Scan+, from Smile: The app for mobile scanning and OCR.
    • Igloo: An intranet you'll actually like, free for up to 10 people.


    by Stephen Hackett at May 20, 2015 03:17 PM

    Practically Efficient

    My adventure so far with Photos and other mythology

    So far, my move from Aperture to Photos has been mostly good. The new Photos app is a good fit for me. I don't do much professional editing, and I like having all of my photos available everywhere.

    The only bumps I've experienced so far were related to the initial import from Aperture to Photos and the initial upload to iCloud Photo Library. I'm posting these anecdotes here in case it helps someone else. . . because as of the time I'm writing this, I did not find a lot of insight elsewhere online.

    The initial upload was confusing (to me at least)

    I don't have nearly as big of a photo library as a lot of people. I only have just over 10,000 photos and a little over 100 videos in my current iCloud Photo Library. I have a reasonably fast upload speed though my cable ISP (over 4 Mbps up), and online backups like Backblaze and Dropbox have always performed faster than I expected.

    Even though I paused or turned off other online backup services during the initial iCloud Photo Library upload, it took much longer than I expected—approximately one week.

    In the final days, I was able to speed up things by leaving my MacBook Pro awake and open as much as possible and also making sure the Photos app was open. Just based on my observations of network traffic, the iCloud upload services seemed to run faster when I did this.

    The biggest point of confusion for me, however, was the iCloud Photo Library sync behavior during the initial upload. Shortly after I initiated the upload on my Mac, I activated iCloud Photo Library on my iPhone as well. The iPhone upload time was negligible (presumably because those photos were already in the cloud), but it surprised me when I did not see recently taken iPhone photos on my Mac.

    Photos taken on my iPhone did not sync to my Mac at all until the Mac's initial week-long upload finished. In the weeks since it has finished, however, everything has been syncing just fine, and I've had no syncing issues at all. None.

    But as the heading above says, the initial part was just plain confusing and unexpected. The fact that the photos were not syncing days after my Mac and iPhone were both connected to iCloud Photo Library did not inspire confidence, but I'm good now.

    Local photo library sizes don't make much sense to me anymore

    At some point during the initial upload to iCloud Photo Library, my Mac decided that it no longer had enough disk space locally for my photos (even though my local disk was the original source of all these photos. Hmmm. Yeah.).

    This optimization setting seems to work extremely well on my 64 GB iPhone. I was initially concerned that by activating iCloud Photo Library on my iPhone, it would gobble up storage, but that hasn't happened at all. I have tons of free space despite having access to all of my iCloud-based photos now.

    Because this seemed to work so well on my iPhone, I didn't have a major problem allowing the same optimization black box to run wild and free on my MacBook Pro, where I'm constantly running out of disk space anyway.

    And so everything finished, and everything seemed fine until. . .

    I recently noticed that my local Pictures folder (home of the photo library files) had ballooned in size to over 85 GB, and I was once again running out of disk space. This made no sense to me because the space occupied by my photos and videos in iCloud was only about 55 GB.

    And so—I'm guessing—not unlike ancient agriculturists at the mercy of the heavens, I raised a fist to the cloud, albeit while cursing about very different problems than they ever did.

    Local space taken up by Pictures folder on Mac

    Local space taken up by Pictures folder on Mac

    Size of photos and videos stored on iCloud servers

    Size of photos and videos stored on iCloud servers

    Why were photos stored locally taking up 30 GB more disk space than the total size of the iCloud-based library, especially if my Mac was supposed to be optimizing for storage locally?

    Well, I never got an answer to that question, but fortunately no data famine ensued, and after looking around online a bit, I decided I might as well try deleting my old Aperture and iPhoto library files. (I'm not sure why I had an iPhoto library since I had never used it.)

    From my understanding, when you import to Photos from Aperture or iPhoto, it builds the new Photos library by making hard links to the source files in the older library files, but the import process does not actually delete the older library files. However, only one instance of your photos exists on your Mac; it's just that each library is pointing at that instance. Imagine that you have two shortcuts on your desktop, each pointing to the same 1 GB file. There's only one file, but it has more than one finger pointing at it. In theory, this should only take up 1 GB space on your disk, not 2 GB.

    But anyway. . .

    The key thing I realized is: Deleting the old library files should not actually delete any photos. (By the way, this is a great time for me to make it clear that it's not my fault if you wreck your own photo libraries.)

    So I blew away the old migrated Aperture library and the iPhoto library that I never created in the first place even though Apple says I shouldn't have to do that. This immediately freed up an enormous amount of space on my local disk. I also noticed that Photos kicked into high gear downloading a bunch of photos.

    Even though the photo count and iCloud library size did not change at all from the 55.65 GB pictured above (indicating that I most likely did not harm any of my actual data), I'm guessing that it needed to do some rebuilding locally using cloud data. Within an hour, the download had finished, and I had gained over 40 GB of disk space locally.

    Local Pictures folder after library deletions and iCloud download finished

    Local Pictures folder after library deletions and iCloud download finished

    Staying with the overall theme of this post, this disk space issue was confusing initially, but everything seems fine now. I'm alive and well and in search of another First World problem to solve—most likely while consuming some unhealthy product made possible and affordable by mass agriculture. Clouds of all forms, be damned.

    by Eddie Smith at May 20, 2015 02:59 PM

    The Frailest Thing

    Machines, Work, and the Value of People

    Late last month, Microsoft released a “bot” that guesses your age based on an uploaded picture. The bot tended to be only marginally accurate and sometimes hilariously (or disconcertingly) wrong. What’s more, people quickly began having some fun with the program by uploading faces of actors playing fictional characters, such as Yoda or Gandalf. My favorite was Ian Bogost’s submission:

    Shortly after the How Old bot had its fleeting moment of virality, Nathan Jurgenson tweeted the following:

    This was an interesting observation, and it generated a few interesting replies. Jurgenson himself added, “much of the bigdata/algorithm debates miss how poor these often perform. many critiques presuppose & reify their untenable positivism.” He summed up this line of thought with this tweet: “so much ‘tech criticism’ starts first with uncritically buying all of the hype silicon valley spits out.”

    Let’s pause here for a moment. All of this is absolutely true. Yet … it’s not all hype, not necessarily anyway. Let’s bracket the more outlandish claims made by the singularity crowd, of course. But take facial recognition software, for instance. It doesn’t strike me as wildly implausible that in the near future facial recognition programs will achieve a rather striking degree of accuracy.

    Along these lines, I found Kyle Wrather’s replies to Jurgenson’s tweet particularly interesting. First, Wrather noted, “[How Old Bot] being wrong makes people more comfortable w/ facial recognition b/c it seems less threatening.” He then added, “I think people would be creeped out if we’re totally accurate. When it’s wrong, humans get to be ‘superior.'”

    Wrather’s second comment points to an intriguing psychological dynamic. Certain technologies generate a degree of anxiety about the relative status of human beings or about what exactly makes human beings “special”–call it post-humanist angst, if you like.

    Of course, not all technologies generate this sort of angst. When it first appeared, the airplane was greeted with awe and a little battiness (consider alti-man). But as far as I know, it did not result in any widespread fears about the nature and status of human beings. The seemingly obvious reason for this is that flying is not an ability that has ever defined what it means to be a human being.

    It seems, then, that anxiety about new technologies is sometimes entangled with shifting assumptions about the nature or dignity of humanity. In other words, the fear that machines, computers, or robots might displace human beings may or may not materialize, but it does tell us something about how human nature is understood.

    Is it that new technologies disturb existing, tacit beliefs about what it means to be a human, or is it the case that these beliefs arise in response to a new perceived threat posed by technology? I’m not entirely sure, but some sort of dialectical relationship is involved.

    A few examples come to mind, and they track closely to the evolution of labor in Western societies.

    During the early modern period, perhaps owing something to the Reformation’s insistence on the dignity of secular work, the worth of a human being gets anchored to their labor, most of which is, at this point in history, manual labor. The dignity of the manual laborer is later challenged by mechanization during the 18th and 19th centuries, and this results in a series of protest movements, most famously that of the Luddites.

    Eventually, a new consensus emerges around the dignity of factory work, and this is, in turn, challenged by the advent of new forms of robotic and computerized labor in the mid-twentieth century.

    Enter the so-called knowledge worker, whose short-lived ascendency is presently threatened by advances in computers and AI.

    I think this latter development helps explain our present fascination with creativity. It’s been over a decade since Richard Florida published The Rise of the Creative Class, but interest in and pontificating about creativity continues apace. What I’m suggesting is that this fixation on creativity is another recalibration of what constitutes valuable, dignified labor, which is also, less obviously perhaps, what is taken to constitute the value and dignity of the person. Manual labor and factory jobs give way to knowledge work, which now surrenders to creative work. As they say, nice work if you can get it.

    Interestingly, each re-configuration not only elevated a new form of labor, but it also devalued the form of labor being displaced. Manual labor, factory work, even knowledge work, once accorded dignity and respect, are each reframed as tedious, servile, monotonous, and degrading just as they are being replaced. If a machine can do it, it suddenly becomes sub-human work.

    (It’s also worth noting how displaced forms of work seem to re-emerge and regain their dignity in certain circles. I’m presently thinking of Matthew Crawford’s defense of manual labor and the trades. Consider as well this lecture by Richard Sennett, “The Decline of the Skills Society.”)

    It’s not hard to find these rhetorical dynamics at play in the countless presently unfolding discussions of technology, labor, and what human beings are for. Take as just one example this excerpt from the recent New Yorker profile of venture capitalist, Marc Andreessen (emphasis mine):

    Global unemployment is rising, too—this seems to be the first industrial revolution that wipes out more jobs than it creates. One 2013 paper argues that forty-seven per cent of all American jobs are destined to be automated. Andreessen argues that his firm’s entire portfolio is creating jobs, and that such companies as Udacity (which offers low-cost, online “nanodegrees” in programming) and Honor (which aims to provide better and better-paid in-home care for the elderly) bring us closer to a future in which everyone will either be doing more interesting work or be kicking back and painting sunsets. But when I brought up the raft of data suggesting that intra-country inequality is in fact increasing, even as it decreases when averaged across the globe—America’s wealth gap is the widest it’s been since the government began measuring it—Andreessen rerouted the conversation, saying that such gaps were “a skills problem,” and that as robots ate the old, boring jobs humanity should simply retool. “My response to Larry Summers, when he says that people are like horses, they have only their manual labor to offer”—he threw up his hands. “That is such a dark and dim and dystopian view of humanity I can hardly stand it!”

    As always, it is important to ask a series of questions:  Who’s selling what? Who stands to profit? Whose interests are being served? Etc. With those considerations in mind, it is telling that leisure has suddenly and conveniently re-emerged as a goal of human existence. Previous fears about technologically driven unemployment have ordinarily been met by assurances that different and better jobs would emerge. It appears that pretense is being dropped in favor of vague promises of a future of jobless leisure. So, it seems we’ve come full circle to classical estimations of work and leisure: all work is for chumps and slaves. You may be losing your job, but don’t worry, work is for losers anyway.

    So, to sum up: Some time ago, identity and a sense of self-worth got hitched to labor and productivity. Consequently, each new technological displacement of human work appears to those being displaced as an affront to the their dignity as human beings. Those advancing new technologies that displace human labor do so by demeaning existing work as below our humanity and promising more humane work as a consequence of technological change. While this is sometimes true–some work that human beings have been forced to perform has been inhuman–deployed as a universal truth, it is little more than rhetorical cover for a significantly more complex and ambivalent reality.

    by Michael Sacasas at May 20, 2015 02:19 PM

    Stratechery by Ben Thompson

    Apple Watch and Continuous Computing

    From day one of this blog I have insisted that I don’t do product reviews: I don’t buy every phone or, in this case, watch on the market, and I happily defer to publications that specialize in exactly that.1 That’s not to claim ignorance: I read voraciously, including reviews, talk to as many “normal” people as I can in as many places as I can, and think I have a sense for where various categories are at. And given that, I can’t quite shake the feeling that the Apple Watch is being serially underestimated. Nor, I think, is the long term threat to Apple’s position being fully appreciated.

    The Wrist is Interesting

    Back in 2013, at AllThingsD, Tim Cook said, “I see [wearables] as a very key branch of the tree,” and that “The wrist is interesting. The wrist is natural.” I fully agreed, and that, more than anything, was the basis for my optimism about the Watch over a year before its release. Over the long arc of technology, the fundamental characteristic of every new wave of devices that eclipses what came before is that they are smaller and (thus) more convenient:2

    • Minicomputers were smaller and more convenient than mainframes, meaning various departments in a corporation could have their own computers, instead of time-sharing
    • Desktop PCs were smaller and more convenient than minicomputers, meaning individuals could have their own computers
    • Laptops were smaller and more convenient than desktops, meaning individuals could have their own computers in more places
    • Phones were smaller and more convenient than laptops, meaning individuals could have their own computers with them nearly all of the time

    “Nearly all the time” is pretty amazing, and I get the arguments that the smartphone is the pinnacle of computer evolution: it’s portable, but readable, and multi-touch works and works well. But any interaction with your phone is still a cloistered one — you, your phone, and nothing else — which to my mind leaves at least one more evolutionary jump: continuous computing, no matter your context. Indeed, when it comes to ensuring a computer is always present and always accessible, the wrist is both natural and interesting.

    Still, success isn’t guaranteed: the ability of a watch, or in this case the Apple Watch, to enable a new area of continuous computing depends on three factors:

    • The physical design of the Watch
    • The interaction model for the Watch
    • The ability of the Watch to interact with its environment

    Apple and its competitors’ ability to deliver on each of these factors will determine whether the category ends up being a nice side business to phones, or the next step in the trend towards ever smaller and ever more convenient personal computers. And, for what it’s worth, after a few weeks with the Apple Watch, I’m increasingly bullish that it is the latter.

    Physical Design

    It may seem odd to declare that physical design is of equal import to the other factors that will determine a computer’s success, but a Watch is no ordinary computer: it’s one you wear. At Apple’s second Watch event Tim Cook said:

    Apple Watch is the most personal device we have ever created. It’s not just with you, it’s on you. And since what you wear is an expression of who you are, we’ve designed Apple Watch to appeal to a whole variety of people with different tastes and different preferences. But the one thing that is consistent is that we crafted each one of them with the care that you would expect from Apple and used incredibly beautiful materials.

    I added in How Apple Will Make the Wearable Market:

    There has been a bit of consternation about Apple’s focus on “fashion” and all that entails, but there is a very practical aspect to this focus: people need to be willing to actually put the wearable on their body. While “form may follow function” for tools, the priorities are the exact opposite when it comes to what we wear: function is irrelevant without a form we find appealing. In this case, design actually is how it looks.

    I’m not going to convince you that the Apple Watch is attractive or not, but to my eyes at least, it is significantly ahead of anything else on the market. And, frankly, I don’t think that surprises anyone. Apple’s industrial design is generally superior, but that superiority is maximized when a product or manufacturing technique is new: given that smartphones like the Xiaomi Mi Note, HTC One, or Samsung S6 are only just now approaching the iPhone, it’s reasonable to expect a substantial head start for the Watch.

    I get why most reviews only spent a sentence or at best a small section on the Watch’s appearance: it seems so shallow, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One’s skin, though, is as “shallow” as technology has ever gotten, at least compared to the depths of an office, a bag, or even a pocket. Each step towards the light increases the importance of aesthetics, and Apple’s advantage here can’t be overstated.

    On the other hand, “beauty being in the eye of the beholder” accentuates the downside of Apple’s integrated approach: what people wear is an expression of who they are, and while even the most idiosyncratic individual may be willing to have a phone that looks the same as everyone else’s, that may be a bridge too far when it comes to something on their body. This is why Apple launched with such a wide array of straps and case materials,3 and why the company has already opened the door to 3rd-party bands.

    For now, though, I think Apple Watch checks this box in a way other wearables to date have not: more people than not will be willing to wear it.

    The Interaction Model

    There is a hierarchy when it comes to actually interacting with the Watch, something Horace Dediu laid out in The Battle for the Wrist:

    The Apple Watch offers a hierarchy of surfaces onto which software can compete for attention:

    1. The Complication Layer
    2. The Notification Layer
    3. The Glances Layer
    4. The App Screen

    These surfaces are arranged in a hierarchy where the highest is the most accessible and the lowest is the least accessible.

    The ranking is not just about accessibility: it’s also the order in which the Apple Watch executes, from best to worst.

    • Complications4 are invaluable, and the delta between pulling out your phone to check your calendar, or the weather, versus looking at your wrist is massive5
    • The Taptic Engine is a revelation when it comes to notifications; in fact, I think Apple should have the sound turned off by default to accentuate the utility of an outwardly imperceptible tap of your wrist. The way a notification is displayed when you lift your wrist in response works well, and it’s easy enough to scroll through what you have missed6
    • Glances are where you put things you need to know that don’t merit a complication7 (or, in the case of 3rd-party apps, aren’t allowed — for now); they also serve as a more easily accessible app launcher
    • The App Screen is a place you only visit deliberatively, when you need a specific function. My favorites to date include Authy, for two-factor authentication, the New York Times app, with bite-sized stories, and Twitterific, for browsing mentions and direct messages. There’s no question, though, that hybrid apps are slow to load and often frustrating to use; one wonders if Apple wouldn’t have been better served keeping the doors shut until native apps are possible

    What is missing in Dediu’s hierarchy, though, is the most important feature of the Watch: Siri specifically, and the cloud broadly. Siri in particular impacts every other part of the hierarchy:

    • You can have, at most, 4.5 complications.8 To get any other information, you need to either use a Glance, an app, or, most efficiently, Siri:


      The virtual assistant is fantastic when it works, like in the first two examples. The third, though, pushed me to my phone — a terrible experience that far too many apps are mimicking — and to Bing at that, which was entirely unuseful (in stark contrast to Google):


    • Notifications are all well-and-good, but many, particularly messages, require a response, and Siri is the only option beyond a few canned responses, and a ghastly set of emoticons and mime hands. That’s not a bad thing! I already find speaking into my wrist to be a far more natural activity than speaking into my phone ever was, and truthfully, Siri on the Watch somehow seems vastly improved over Siri on the iPhone.

      More broadly, it’s clear that what the mouse was to the Mac and multi-touch was to the iPhone, Siri is to the Watch. The concern for Apple is that, unlike the others, the success or failure of Siri doesn’t come down to hardware or low-level software optimizations, which Apple excels at, and which ensures that Apple products have the best user interfaces. Rather, it depends on the cloud, and as much as Apple has improved, an examination of their core competencies and incentives argues that the company will never be as good as Google.9 That was acceptable on the phone, but is a much more problematic issue when the cloud is so central to the most important means of interacting with the Watch.

      There’s a second issue with notifications: in contrast to many reviewers, I’ve had no problem with the number of notifications being pushed to my wrist. In part this is because I long ago limited the number of notifications that I received, and I pruned the list still further when it came to the Watch. It’s fair to ask, though, how many customers will go to the effort? Indeed, here Google in particular may have a significant advantage with their efforts around Google Now: the very premise of the cloud service is to intelligently notify you about what you need to know when you need to know it, a proposition that is particularly compelling when it comes to something so intimate as literally tapping your wrist.

    • Both Siri and Google Now can launch apps, and again, both are essential to input in particular. I’m very frustrated at apps that don’t bother to include Siri input (LINE, I’m looking at you), but Siri itself is still frustrating, particularly because whenever it does screw up the transcription, there is no way to edit what you said. Probably the best solution is to simply continue to get better at transcription, but again, Google is ahead here and it impacts the experience far more deeply than it does on a phone

    Ultimately, the interaction model is the mirror image of physical design: Apple is playing catch-up, but it’s not out of the question that Siri becomes good enough, if it’s not already.

    Interacting With Your Environment

    This was the primary focus of the aforelinked article, How Apple Will Make the Wearables Market:

    It’s increasingly plausible to envision a future where…our physical environment are fundamentally transformed by software: locks that only unlock for me, payment systems that keep my money under my control, and in general an adaptation to my presence whether that be at home, at the concert hall, or at work.

    To fully interact with this sort of software-enabled environment, I will of course need some way to identify myself; for all the benefits of the human body, projecting a unique digital signature is not one of them. The smartphone clearly works, but it’s not perfect: the more you need it for interacting with your environment, the more noticeable is the small annoyance of retrieving it from your pocket or handbag.

    A wearable is different, particularly if it’s on your wrist: simply raising your arm is trivial. This makes it much more likely you will actually interact in a meaningful way with software-enabled objects around you, which makes even having said objects much more likely. To put it another way, I don’t think it’s an accident that the two hot new technologies are wearables and the Internet of Things; they are related such that each is made better by the other.

    As I noted in that article, this vision has a bit of a chicken-and-egg conundrum: software-enabled objects won’t be built for a Watch that isn’t widely available, which is why I suggested that Apple has a big advantage — the company has millions of loyal customers who will buy an Apple Watch simply because it’s made by Apple. This is further accentuated by point number one: Apple’s superior physical design makes it significantly more likely that a critical mass of Apple Watches will be sold.

    Still, Apple’s success with initiatives like Apple Pay and HomeKit is not assured: I’m bullish about the former, but it’s not a slam dunk, and the latter depends on Apple delivering on an API that the company itself doesn’t depend on, a situation that hasn’t always ended well.

    Looking Ahead

    It’s important to note that the factors I listed matter in order: you first have to build a wearable people are willing to wear, then deliver a usable interaction model, and finally catalyze a world of smart objects that interact with your wearable.

    Indeed, for now I think it likely that one of Apple’s oldest and most cherished skills — its ability to make beautiful, desirable objects — will make the Watch exactly what Tim Cook promised: another tentpole product that rivals the Mac, the iPod, the iPad, and even the iPhone. Framed as nothing more than A Watch that Does Stuff — and that you actually don’t mind wearing — Apple will rightly sell enough to kick-start a world that gets just a little bit smarter and little bit better when it knows who and where we are.

    Moreover, the Watch may even help Apple to rival Google when it comes to Siri and the cloud: the best way to improve a service like Siri is to have millions of customers using it constantly, and I for one have used Siri more in the last two weeks than I have the last two years. Multiply that by millions of Watch users and you have the ingredients for a rapidly improving service. Perhaps more importantly, the fact that Siri is critical to the Watch’s success in a way it isn’t to the iPhone’s may finally properly align Apple’s incentives around improving its cloud services.

    Ultimately, the Apple Watch has exceeded my quite high expectations. The complications and notifications fit into all the slivers of my life the iPhone has not, and the criticism I’ve levied at Siri has been primarily fueled by the appreciation of just how powerful it is to have a virtual assistant on my wrist instead of my pocket. As for apps, speed is the most easily solved issue in technology, thanks to Moore’s Law. I’m confident apps will be fully performant sooner rather than later.

    That said, I suspect there will be a bifurcation when it comes to the Watch’s relative importance vis-à-vis the smartphone between developed and developing countries: in the long run I do think that convenience trumps all, but there’s no denying a smartphone is already pretty darn convenient. To put it another way, if you can afford it there is a sufficient delta between Watch and iPhone functionality to make the former worth owning despite its dependence on the latter. I also think that when the Watch inevitably gains cellular functionality10 I will carry my iPhone far less than I do today.11 Indeed, just as the iPhone makes far more sense as a digital hub than the Mac, the Watch will one day be the best hub yet.

    Until, of course, physical devices disappear completely:


    That is the ultimate Apple bear case.12

    Discuss this article in the Stratechery Forum (members-only)

    1. I do give my opinion on Twitter and Exponent
    2. They are also, in the long run, cheaper, in part because of scale. Indeed, the Apple Watch packs in an amazing amount of functionality for a mere $350
    3. I suspect had you told Tim Cook in 1998 that he would eventually oversee a product launch that included 38 models and 56 SKUs, he would have assumed he was having a nightmare — and certainly the number of SKU’s contributed to the Watch’s uneven launch
    4. Complications are the “extra” features on a watch face beyond the time
    5. Windows Phone tried to differentiate on this point, but the delta between a live tile and opening an app was far smaller than the delta between pulling out a phone and lifting up your wrist
    6. And there’s an easy way to clear all notifications finally
    7. For example, this is where I have my battery meter: the truth is I haven’t worried once about the battery running low
    8. Modular and Simple (ironically) offer 4 complications plus the date
    9. Nathan Taylor nailed this point on his excellent Praxtime blog two years ago
    10. I agree it is several years off, but it’s clearly not impossible: several standalone smart watches exist today, not that I would want to wear any of them
    11. Developers: heed this: don’t always assume the phone will be there! My biggest complaint about apps, outside of the terrible loading times, is that few outside of RSS readers (natch) let me read full articles. I read tens of thousands of words on this — I’ll do the same on the Watch
    12. Yes, I know much of Her is not realistic; that doesn’t mean it’s not pointed in a broadly realistic direction

    The post Apple Watch and Continuous Computing appeared first on Stratechery by Ben Thompson.

    by Ben Thompson at May 20, 2015 02:11 PM


    Gentle Heresy-Hunting with Paul

    correctopponentsHeresy-hunting gets a bad rap nowadays. If there’s one thing that nobody wants to be, it’s a “heresy-hunter.” And who can blame them? I mean, cruise around the Internet and you’ll find any number of “discernment” ministries dedicated to finding anybody who doesn’t line up with their particular, historically-contingent, possibly cultish understanding of Christianity and placing them on the “list” with a page dedicated to listing their dubious tweets.

    Or again, there’s that guy (and it’s almost always a guy) who spends his time listening to local pastors’ sermons just so he can find that damning 2-second analogy he can email you five pages of footnotes about. Nobody wants to be him, so there’s an understandable recoil. And this is on top of our general cultural aversion to being doctrinaire about matters of religion (unless it’s a food religion, in which case we’re simply being “healthy,” and one can do no evil in the name of health).

    All the same, one of the interesting fruits of reading G.K. Beale’s New Testament Biblical Theology a while back, was realizing that there’s a proper place for heresy-hunting in the church. In fact, we have a church office whose task is, in large part, to oversee, guide, and prevent against creeping false doctrine in the church: the Elder. According to Beale, Paul’s teaching on the office of elder in the Pastoral Epistles, is connected to the reality of false-teaching in the end times or “latter days” (p. 820).

    Of course, in Beale’s telling, “the latter days” is a description of this time between the first and second coming of Christ. In other words, the many exhortations to guard against false teaching are a permanent and essential function of the elder in Christ’s church (Titus 1:5-16; 1 Tim 1:3-7, 19-20; 4:1-7; 2 Tim. 2:14-18; 23-26; 3:1-13). Shepherds keep sheep from wandering astray, and they guard the sheep against wolves who would ravage them with cunning and destructive teachings about Jesus that would rob them of comfort, joy, holiness, and peace.

    I go into how to do that wisdom and gentleness like Paul does over in the rest of the article at For the Church. If you haven’t checked them out, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a great new resource site.

    by Derek Rishmawy at May 20, 2015 01:46 PM

    Crossway Blog

    Why I Care about Women's Issues

    This is a guest post by Courtney Reissig, author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God's Good Design. Read our interview with Courtney and her recent posts, "What Is Feminism?" and "6 Signs You Might Be an Accidental Feminist."


    "Women’s issues" are a hot topic.

    In an increasingly pro-women society, you can’t even watch the Super Bowl anymore without seeing media campaigns elevating the dignity and worth of women. One of the most popular commercials of this year’s Super Bowl was the “Like a Girl” campaign put out by Always, a feminine products line. Seeking to show how the phrase “run like a girl” influences women and men from an early age, Always hit a nerve with its audience.

    But it wasn’t just the Super Bowl. Throughout the NFL season, countless commercials from the Silent No More campaign were aired, aimed at bringing awareness to the problem of domestic violence that plagued the league this season. Sexual violence against women and sexism has been a constant theme in the news recently, even leading to a Twitter campaign designed to bring awareness to the pervasiveness of the problem. Women and men everywhere took to Twitter to say that #YesAllWomen are impacted by sexism.

    While these are boisterous examples of the issues women are talking about, the sentiment behind them is valid. As Christians, it can be tempting to dismiss #YesAllWomen and #LikeaGirl as simply arms of the feminist movement, but I think they are on to something. Christians should be the first to step up in support of the difficulties women face, not because we are feminists, but because we believe that women bear the image of God. When women are hurting, taken advantage of, or mistreated, it is a mark against their Creator and it should grieve us.

    I care about women’s issues, first and foremost, because I am a Christian.

    The Only Hope for True Restoration

    The reason we continue to come up with hashtags to voice our indignation or revamp the feminist movement to adapt to our shifting culture is because we fail to fully understand the depth of humanity’s fallen nature. While God created humanity in his image, declared us equal in worth and value, and called us good, sin distorted it all. As a result, we live fractured, broken lives. Women live in conflict with the men we were intended to rule and reign alongside. We face injustice, oppression, and mistreatment.

    But feminism isn’t the answer. God is the one who created us, declared us equal with our fellow men, and gave us the responsibility to rule and reign over his creation. Therefore, we need something more powerful than feminism or are any other human attempt to establish true and lasting justice in this world.

    I care about women’s issues because I care about God’s glory displayed in the image bearers he has made. But the hope for women’s issues is not found in fighting against men, overpowering them, or rendering them useless. Hope for women is only found in the God-man: Jesus Christ. The promise that was declared in the Garden—that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent (Genesis 3:15)—is our hope for restoration in this battle of the sexes we often find ourselves in. Christ came to make all things new, including our fractured relationships (Revelation 21:5).

    So I will stand up for women who are oppressed, broken, and alone. But, in doing so, I will also hope in the God who promises to make all things new.

    Courtney Reissig is a wife, mother, and writer. She has written for the Gospel Coalition, Boundless, and Her.meneutics (the Christianity Today blog for women), where she is a regular contributor. She is also the assistant editor for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood blog and the author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God's Good Design. She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

    by Matt Tully at May 20, 2015 01:16 PM

    CrossFit 204: Fitness in Winnipeg, Manitoba

    Workout: May 20, 2015

    We did light front squats in the holiday workout. Today, throw the bar on your back and go heavy.

    We did light front squats in the holiday workout. Today, throw the bar on your back and go heavy.

    Back squats 3-3-3-3-3

    Lunges 10-10-10-10

    by Mike at May 20, 2015 01:10 PM

    Beeminder Blog

    Smoking Sticks and Carrots

    New England Journal of Medicine, a cigarette, Beeminder, a carrot

    This is crossposted on Messy Matters.

    Let’s talk about science! Beehavioral science. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week has been all over the news. [1] It’s much better than previous studies and statistics I’ve seen on the efficacy of commitment devices. Not because others have been down on commitment devices. On the contrary, I’ve been frustrated in the past by Beeminder competitors who tout statistics about how 80% or whatever of people who risk money succeed. For starters they usually don’t even distinguish from the hypothesis of “people will lie to keep from losing their money!” In other words, “80% succeed” may mean “80% either succeed or cheat and pretend to”. This study is robust to that, with saliva and urine tests to verify smoking cessation. But beyond that, other studies I know of haven’t accounted for the selection effect of only super serious people being willing to risk money. At the extreme, maybe anyone hard core enough to risk money is hard core enough to succeed regardless.

    How does this study account for that? First, they use an intent-to-treat methodology. That means that they look at the results for everyone randomized into the commitment device treatment, even the ones who refused to participate.

    And here’s the first interesting result: Only 14% of people assigned to the carrot-and-stick treatment — risking $150 to win $650 — were willing to play. But those 14% did so well (52% of them succeeded in quitting) that the whole intent-to-treat group still did significantly better than the control group of smokers trying to quit with no financial incentives.

    Then there was the pure reward group. $800 with no strings attached for managing to quit smoking. 90% of people in this intent-to-treat group were happy to participate. Apparently 10% of people hate money.

    (Aside: Maybe it’s just 5% that hate free money. Because the pure reward group was actually two groups: One was really no-strings-attached $800 for quitting smoking and 95% of those offered that accepted it. Grumpy cat: The problem with some people... is that they exist The other was a “collaborative reward” treatment where you were grouped with 5 other people and your rewards depended on the performance of the group. There was even a chatroom to encourage each other. 85% of people in that intent-to-treat group participated — it must’ve seemed like too much hassle to the other 15%. Or they didn’t hate money but they did hate people. In any case, since the individual vs group-oriented treatments had no significant effect on smoking cessation rates, the two variations were combined in most of the analysis. Hence the 90% overall acceptance rate for the pure reward group. And as an aside to this aside, collaborative penalties, like GymPact where the losers pay the winners, didn’t help either, compared to the individual version.)

    Using straight up intent-to-treat analysis, pure rewards do best. Here are the key numbers for smoking cessation rates:

    • 6% quit in the control group with standard treatment, no money
    • 16% quit in the pure $800 reward group
    • 10% quit in the commitment contract group risking $150 + $650 reward
    • (52% quit in the subset of the commitment contract group (14% of them) who actually participated)

    In other words, pure rewards yield the most smoking cessation, mostly because so many more people are willing to be incentivized that way. Speculating further — “if only we could get more people to accept the carrot-and-stick approach” — sounds super suspicious because we don’t know if the relatively huge success of the precommitters was simply because only people who were going to succeed anyway were willing to risk their own money.

    But the authors did some fancy statistics and concluded the carrot-and-stick treatment really is better. In fact, they estimate that the people choosing the commitment contracts would have to be 12.5 times more likely to quit smoking on their own before you’d have to reverse the conclusion that carrot-and-stick results in more success than pure carrot.

    I’m highly biased to believe that (and remember to “beware the man of one study”) but even if all the tricky statistics are wrong, we still have the result that, for cases where you don’t have a third party to fund rewards for you, you can always find a third party to collect your penalties.



    [1] Coverage I can vouch for as being reasonable includes Marginal Revolution, NPR, and The New York Times. Cass Sunstein (of Nudge fame) also has a nice review of the results. (Hover over links for commentary.)

    But reading mainstream media coverage (or blog coverage) of scientific papers is more often a telephone game. Papers have nice abstracts (or TL;DRs as the internet calls them) and introductions and discussion sections that are usually at least as readable as news articles, with the added bonus of not horribly misleading you about the conclusions of the research. As a matter of principle, I recommend skipping the above paragraph and going straight to the paper.

    by dreeves at May 20, 2015 12:56 PM

    CrossFit Naptown

    Schedge Updates and T-SHIRTS!

    Wednesday’s Workout:

    30 Thrusters (45/35)
    200m run
    20 Thrusters (95/75)
    400m Run
    10 Thrusters (145/95)
    800m Run

    Post Workout:
    Chest Mobility

    Schedule Announcements:

    Classes moved to NapTown Fitness Capitol this weekend due to the CrossFit Endurance seminar at CFNT. Here are the full changes to the schedule:

    Saturday May 23:

    11:00am Class @ Capitol (in place of the traditional 930 and 1030am) 

    Sunday May 24:

    11:00am-12:00pm Open Gym @ Capitol 

    12:00pm-1:00pm Open Gym @ Capitol 

    *Be aware that the equipment at SWIFT will be limited compared to what you are used to at CFNT

    Memorial Day Open Gym May 25: DELAWARE ST. 

    10:00am-1:00pm Open Gym @ Delaware!

    This time will be open gym format with a coach around to answer questions and assist you, but there will be no group warm up or official starting time for any workout. A list of Hero workouts will be posted on the blog and at the gym for you to choose from. Come when you can, but please be aware that we are closing at 1:00pm (i.e. avoid showing up at 12:45pm and trying to get a Hero workout in).


    CrossFit NapTown T-Shirts and Tanks are in!


    these are sexy, you want them on your body.

    these are sexy, you want them on your body.

    by Anna at May 20, 2015 12:50 PM

    Justin Taylor

    How to Interpet the Constitution: A 10-Minute Crash Course

    Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 7.43.07 PM

    Guy-Uriel Charles (professor of law at Duke University) calls Michael Paulsen (distinguished university chair and professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis) ”one of the most brilliant, respected constitutional scholars of our era.”

    Charles judges that The Constitution: An Introduction, Paulsen’s new book co-authored with his son and just published by Basic Books, is “perhaps the best, single-volume treatment of the Constitution ever written.”

    Steven G. Calabresi, professor of law at Northwestern University, says it’s “the most readable and insightful introduction to the U.S. Constitution since . . . 1840. This book is a must read for anyone trying to learn about the U.S. Constitution.”

    Akhil Reed Amar, professor of law and political science at Yale University, calls it “quite simply the best general short introduction to the Constitution ever written.”

    Stephen Presser, professor of legal history at Northwestern University, says it is “the best introduction to the United States Constitution available. ”

    John Copeland Nagle, professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, says ”This is the one book that I recommend to anyone who wants a comprehensive and enjoyable overview of the Constitution, what it means, and why it matters.”

    High praise indeed.

    In a recent two-part article for Public Discourse (an indispensable online journal about religion, law, and liberty), Dr. Paulsen offers us a crash course—part 1 and part 2—on the real questions about constitutional interpretation that you need to know.

    “Ninety-five percent of constitutional law,” he writes, “amounts to deciding how to go about the enterprise of reading and applying the Constitution itself.” He identifies five broad categories of interpretive techniques that courts and commentators employ. Below is an outline of his main points.

    1. Arguments from the Straightforward, Natural, Original Linguistic Meaning of the Text

    “The Constitution is a written document, written at a particular time, addressed to a particular political community, reflecting certain assumptions, and designed to function as supreme written law on an ongoing basis. The simplest, most straightforward, and most correct way to interpret the Constitution is to read the words and phrases of the document and apply them in accordance with the meaning the words would have had to reasonably informed readers and speakers of the English language at the time the document was adopted.”

    2. Arguments from the Structure, Logic, and Relationships Created by the Document as a Whole

    “This is really just a slightly more sophisticated or specialized version of reading the text. It simply posits that you should read the whole text, understand the relationship of parts of the text to each other, and attend to the governing structures the document creates.”

    3. Arguments from the History, Original Intention, or Purposes behind an Enacted Text

    “This technique recognizes that sometimes the text’s meaning is unclear and that evidence of historical understanding can help clear up disagreements. A good constitutional interpreter, however, should recognize that ‘intention’ best functions as evidence of the meaning of the words, not as a substitute for them. Because we have a written constitution, what ultimately counts is the historical meaning of the words the Constitution’s adopters used, not what they necessarily ‘had in mind.'”

    4. Arguments from Precedent

    “This gives rise to incredible confusion, for the simple reason that the precedents hopelessly contradict one another and frequently contradict the document itself. The problem with many bad Constitutional Law courses is that they are all about the precedents, and not at all about the Constitution. The short answer to the problem of precedent is that some precedents are sound—helpful interpretations of the Constitution that can help resolve doubtful points—and other precedents are unsound, unhelpful misinterpretations of the Constitution’s text, structure, and history. That’s really all there is to it. The sound precedents are useful guides; the unsound ones should be regarded as having no authority or validity whatsoever.”

    5. Arguments from Policy, Pragmatism, or Considerations of “Substantive Justice”

    “As a technique of constitutional interpretation—of actual textual exegesis—of trying faithfully to ascertain the meanings of the Constitution’s words—policy-driven “interpretation” is, of course, completely illegitimate. . . . Moreover, what one person thinks is good “substantive justice,” another will think a wrongheaded atrocity. . . .  Did it ever occur to you that policy differences not actually addressed by the Constitution are to be resolved by democracy—by the institutions of representative government?”

    How Do These Principles Fit Together?

    Here is Paulsen’s exhortation:

    Use these techniques in the order in which I have listed them, in a fairly strict hierarchy, proceeding down the list only to resolve uncertainties that remain at any given level, and never getting down so low as “policy.” Thus, text and structure have priority and primacy; evidence of intention has its limited place; precedent is dangerous and slippery and should never trump the written constitutional text, but might be useful for seeing what someone else has thought about an issue; and policy-driven interpretation is simply a bad joke.

    Sadly, this is nearly the exact opposite of the order in which the modern Supreme Court uses these methods. The justices frequently start with policy, discuss endless precedents, and on rare occasions—when these prove unsatisfying—actually get to the text.


    Finally, Paulsen addresses two clean-up issues.

    Who Gets to Interpret the Constitution?

    The wrong answer is “the Supreme Court.”

    The right answer is that the Constitution does not specify a single authoritative constitutional interpreter, and that this is a singular, defining feature of its text and structure. . . . The correct answer to the question of who gets to interpret the Constitution is “everyone.” The framers of the Constitution quite sensibly considered the power of constitutional interpretation—the power to interpret all the other powers, and all the rights of the people—to be far too important a matter to vest in a single set of hands.


    What Do We Do with Ambiguity?

    Where the Constitution does not supply an answer, the Constitution does not supply an answer, and We the People get to do what we want, operating through the institutions of representative government created by the Constitution’s structure.

    You can go to Public Discourse and read the whole thing—part 1 and part 2—with more elaboration on each of the points outlined above.

    by Justin Taylor at May 20, 2015 12:05 PM

    Zondervan Academic Blog

    My Advice to Students: Charles Halton Says “Make Friends with Your Peers.”

    (Can’t see the video? Watch it here)

    9780310514947Academia can be a lonely, isolating road. You spend hours reading and studying alone; you write articles and papers alone. Yet according to Charles Halton, editor of Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?, it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Friendships are really important in academia…make friends with your peers.

    Halton has practiced his own advice, sharing that everything he’s done professionally has come through friendships. Here are some highlights from his insights:

    • Go to professional meetings;
    • Don’t be a mercenary friend to exploit people;
    • Get to know people deeply;
    • Congratulate professional accomplishments;

    I have personally found Halton’s advice to ring true. Most of what I’ve accomplished has been because of friendships (I’m looking at you Dr. Jason Myers and Dr. Michael Wittmer!)

    Listen to Halton’s advice above, then follow it. You’ll be thankful you did!


    “My Advice to Students” videos advise and guide students studying for a future of ministry in the Church, whether in the academy or in congregations. In these specially curated videos, leading scholars of biblical studies share their wisdom to help you navigate this important season of preparation.

    by Jeremy Bouma at May 20, 2015 12:03 PM

    Hacking Distributed

    Writing A Web Application with Flask and HyperDex

    In this post, we will explore how to build a prototypical web application using Flask with HyperDex. Specifically, this post will examine how to create a simple discussion board. In a series of blog posts, we'll build up to a discussion forum where people can log in with their OAuth credentials and post comments. Ultimately, we'll build a cryptocurrency exchange backed by HyperDex and Flask.

    Flask, of course, is a popular microframework for writing web applications in Python. It uses Werkzeug for WSGI and Jinja2 for templating. HyperDex is a next generation key-value and document store with a wide array of features -- namely a rich API, strong consistency and fault tolerance. For reference, here are the links to the Flask official tutorial and the Hyperdex quick start. With those links at the ready, let's dive right in.

    STEP 1: Install Flask and HyperDex

    1. Install Flask:
    pip install Flask
    pip install Flask-WTF
    1. Install Hyperdex Warp. On Ubuntu 14.04, follow the sequence below; for other platforms, consult the download guide
    wget -O - | apt-key add -
    cat >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/hyperdex.list << EOF
    deb [arch=amd64] trusty main
    apt-get update
    apt-get install -y hyperdex-warp python-hyperdex-admin-warp python-hyperdex-client-warp

    3. Create the directories needed for the application. We'll call our application HyperFlaskr and create directories for static files and templates:

    mkdir HyperFlaskr HyperFlaskr/static HyperFlaskr/templates

    Flask requires the folder structure as described above. It picks up the static images and javascripts from static folder and the Jinja templates from templates.

    We will also need some folders to hold the data we are going to serve, as well as metadata about the cluster configuration. The HyperDex coordinator oversees the organization of hyperspaces (the tables we create). Data is the directory that holds the actual data. HyperDex daemons are the workhorses that actually work on storing the data and respond to client requests.

    mkdir HyperFlaskr/hyperdex/ HyperFlaskr/hyperdex/data HyperFlaskr/hyperdex/coordinator
    1. Start hyperdex by typing.
    cd HyperFlaskr
    hyperdex coordinator -f -l -p 1982 --data=hyperdex/coordinator --daemon
    cd HyperFlaskr/hyperdex/daemon/
    hyperdex daemon -f --listen= --listen-port=2012 --coordinator= --coordinator-port=1982 --data=hyperdex/data/ --daemon

    STEP 2: Configure HyperDex

    Now that we have the software we need up and running, it's time to initialize HyperDex. Recall that HyperDex is both a key-value and a document store. It does not inherently require a schema to use and can store JSON documents, but when there is a schema present, it can take advantage of it to provide extra performance. Since this application has a well-defined schema, let's take advantage of it and tell HyperDex how our data will be organized.

    To do this, let's create a file called with the following contents:

    import sys
    import hyperdex.admin
    a = hyperdex.admin.Admin('', 1982)
    if len(sys.argv) == 2 and sys.argv[1] == '--nuke':
        if 'posts' in a.list_spaces():
    if 'posts' not in a.list_spaces():
    space posts
        string id
        int views,
        string title,
        string body

    This specification creates a simple table called posts with key id and attributes views, title, and body. We need to run it to create our database.


    STEP 3: Build Simple App Skeleton

    Now that we have our database in place, let’s write a very simple application that can start up a simple Flask server. Place the following code in a file called

    from flask import Flask, request, session, g, redirect, url_for, abort, render_template, flash, make_response
    from import Form
    from wtforms import StringField, TextAreaField
    from wtforms.validators import DataRequired
    import hyperdex.client
    import uuid
    DEBUG = True
    #create a simple application
    app = Flask(__name__)
    # set the secret key Flask uses for cookie authentication. keep this really secret:
    app.secret_key = 'A0Zr98j/3yX R~XHH!jmN]LWX/,?RT'
    c = hyperdex.client.Client('', 1982)
    if __name__ == '__main__':

    Now run it with


    We now have a server running on localhost at port 5000.

    STEP 4: Add a View

    Our server isn't very useful because it does not yet render any pages. Let's fix this.

    To do this, we'll need to know how to insert and retrieve items from HyperDex. The following cheat sheet might come in handy if you want to get a quick primer on how to do that, and we'll leave the link to the extensive HyperDex documentation here in case you want to explore the full, rich API.

    # Search and retrieve all posts'posts', {})
    # Search for posts with title Hello World'posts', {'title' : 'Hello World'})
    # Retrieve the top 100 viewed posts.
    c.sorted_search('posts', {}, 'views', 100, 'max')
    # Retrieve the specific post with id 1.
    c.get('posts', 1)
    # Creates a new post with Id 3.
    c.put('posts', 3, {'views' : 0, 'title' : "Hello World", 'body' : post_body})
    # Atomically increments the view count of a Post with Id 1 by 2.
    c.atomic_add('posts', 1, {'views' : 2})

    First, let's create a simple form using Flask_WTForms to provide secure CSRF proof form for a user to create a blog entry.

    class PostForm(Form):
        title = StringField('title', validators=[DataRequired()])
        body  = TextAreaField('body',  validators=[DataRequired()])

    Now, lets write a simple view to display all entries:

    @app.route('/index', methods=['POST', 'GET'])
    def index():
        form = PostForm()
        cur ='posts', {})
        entries = [dict(row) for row in cur]
        if request.method == 'POST':
            if not form.validate_on_submit():
                flash(u'Invalid Input')
                return render_template('show_entries.html', entries=entries, form=form)
            c.put('posts', str(uuid.uuid1()), {'views' : 0, 'title' : str(request.form['title']), 'body' : str(request.form['body'])})
            flash('New entry was successfully posted')
            cur ='posts', {})
            entries = [dict(row) for row in cur]
            return render_template('show_entries.html', entries=entries, form=PostForm(title='', body=''))
        return render_template('show_entries.html', entries=entries, form=form)

    STEP 5: Add Styling

    Now, let's add some HTML and CSS to render the UI:

    In file HyperFlaskr/templates/layout.html:

    <!doctype html>
    <link rel=stylesheet type=text/css href="{{ url_for('static', filename='style.css') }}">
    <div class='page'>
        {% for message in get_flashed_messages() %}
        <div class='flash'>{{ message }}</div>
        {% endfor %}
    {% block body %}{% endblock %}

    In file HyperFlaskr/templates/show_entries.html:

    {% extends "layout.html" %}
    {% block body %}
        <form action="{{ url_for('index') }}" method='POST' class='add-entry'>
            {{ form.hidden_tag() }}<br/>
                {{ form.title }}<br/>
                {{ form.body }}<br/>
                <input type='submit' value='Share'>
      <ul class='entries'>
      {% for entry in entries %}
        <li><h2>{{ entry.title }}</h2>{{ entry.body|safe }}</li>
      {% else %}
        <li>No entries here so far</li>
      {% endfor %}
    {% endblock %}

    Finally, add the following to HyperFlaskr/static/style.css:

    body            { font-family: sans-serif; background: #eee; }
    a, h1, h2       { color: #377ba8; }
    h1, h2          { font-family: 'Georgia', serif; margin: 0; }
    h1              { border-bottom: 2px solid #eee; }
    h2              { font-size: 1.2em; }
    .page           { margin: 2em auto; width: 35em; border: 5px solid #ccc;
                      padding: 0.8em; background: white; }
    .entries        { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; }
    .entries li     { margin: 0.8em 1.2em; }
    .entries li h2  { margin-left: -1em; }
    .add-entry      { font-size: 0.9em; border-bottom: 1px solid #ccc; }
    .add-entry dl   { font-weight: bold; }
    .metanav        { text-align: right; font-size: 0.8em; padding: 0.3em;
                      margin-bottom: 1em; background: #fafafa; }
    .flash          { background: #cee5F5; padding: 0.5em;
                      border: 1px solid #aacbe2; }
    .error          { background: #f0d6d6; padding: 0.5em; }

    If you want to avoid all this cutting and pasting, you can just download the code bundle for this app.

    Wrap Up

    Sample screenshot

    If you reached this point, congratulations! Your web application is off the ground. If you run the server now, we should have a working page through which we can add and delete posts to this simple blog application, albeit, without user login.

    Overall, we hope the process was painless. Most of this tutorial was spent on HTML and CSS -- the DB API is, in comparison, fairly straightforward to use.

    In the next post in this series, we will see how to handle user login using OAuth.

    by Akhil Mehendale and Adithya Venkatesh and Emin Gün Sirer at May 20, 2015 11:21 AM

    The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

    Searching for Sunday

    Rachel Held Evans. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015. 288 pp. $16.99.

    Disclaimer: Rachel Held Evans is an “internet friend” of mine, meaning we’ve never met in person but over the last couple of years we’ve laughed online, shared prayer requests, and encouraged each other in difficult moments. We’ve also argued, publicly disagreeing in articles and on Twitter about important issues. So I hope this review is read in that spirit: one of affirmation and critique from a friend.

    While her first book (Faith Unraveled, 2010) tackled issues of doubt, science, and faith, and her second (A Year of Biblical Womanhood, 2012) examined problems with, well, “biblical womanhood,” the title of her third entry, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, similarly says it all: Evans shares her story about leaving and finding the church again in a new way. Arranged in seven sections corresponding to the seven Catholic and Orthodox sacraments (baptism, confession, holy orders, communion, confirmation, anointing of the sick, marriage), she chronicles the various glories and pains of growing up in a conservative/fundamentalist evangelical tradition and offers an apologetic of sorts for leaving(?) for the mainline when the incongruities of the former proved too great. It’s a story about death, and yes, resurrection.

    Beyond that, Searching for Sunday is purposely presented as an archetypal story (xi). According to the stats, millennials are apparently leaving the church. Evans’s own story of departure and return aims to articulate some of the millennial experience to a confused church: their doubt that won’t be satisfied with easy answers; their fear of exclusion; their burnout from the culture wars and the marriage of evangelicalism with conservative politics; their fatigue once the strobe lights, hip music, and gimmicky youth games didn’t distract them from their burning questions or the pain of their LGBTQ friends. Evans also aims to point the way to a Christianity—a church—with arms open wide enough to draw them back, just as it has drawn her—questions, struggles, and all.

    Before examining two substantial themes, I want to offer a bit of praise and agreement. Along with every other reviewer, I envy Evans’s gift with words. I’m partial to writers who can manage to be funny in print, and her youth group stories had me laughing a number of times. Her intro mini-chapters beginning each section were easily my favorite part of the book. Each was skillfully crafted, and after a couple (Water, Bread) I had to stop and meditate.

    Substantially, Evans’s study of Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World pays off a number of theological and liturgical dividends. I can’t help but nod in agreement that superficial program changes aren’t enough to bring millennials back to the church. For those addicted to method as the solution, Evans’s message that millennials need something better, something deeper, something stronger—that they need someone—is absolutely necessary. Give them more Jesus, not more amps.

    Finally, as a millennial who’s been specifically tasked by my church with shepherding other millennials, I can’t help but love the heart Evans clearly has for drawing our peers back to the pews.

    Biography and Blind Spots

    In the recent rush of post-evangelical conversion memoirs I’ve been waiting for the book I Grew Up Evangelical and It Really Wasn’t that Bad—Actually It Was Mostly Great—So I’m Staying. Although my evangelical experience as an Arab has been far from pristine, growing up in mild Southern California churches far from the Bible Belt I mostly don’t recognize the worst Evans talks about. Which is probably why most of my own theological shifts have come with little angst or fanfare.

    Greg Thornbury has written about the importance of understanding how, for better or worse, biography shapes theology. Similarly, in his new book, Blind SpotsCollin Hansen observes how our experiences of faith create “blind spots” that cause us to ignore the stories, strengths, and pains of Christians whose experiences don’t match our own. The greatest value of Evans’s book for me was the fact that she does speak for many with experiences unlike mine. These are experiences worth being aware of and responding to with compassion—particularly for those of us prone to assume disagreement is either a certain sign of apostasy, a failure of the intellect, or simply weak faith. If I fail to listen, engage, and acknowledge these stories, I won’t be much use to struggling millennials as anything more than a sparring partner.

    Of course, these experiences can generate blind spots of their own. Evans explicitly makes her movement from historic (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) views on same-sex marriage—which I’ve already addressed here—a significant factor driving her church search and one of her biggest beefs with evangelicals; she mentions or makes the stories of LGBTQ central to each of the seven sections (with the curious exception of the section on marriage). I can’t simply write off my disagreements as a matter of Evans not having attended seminary, or being a woman, or some of the other dismissive responses I've seen. Still, her compassion for the pain of those in the LGBTQ community and the devastating treatment many have wrongly experienced at the hands of the church seems to generate a hermeneutic that (expanding well beyond LGBTQ concerns) doesn’t have a category for a welcome with edges, or for seeing the mercy of church discipline, or, say, for the invitation of a fenced table.

    Which brings me to my critique.

    Invitation of a Fence

    Theologians have long observed that your theology’s strengths (and weaknesses) tend to show up in your treatment of the Lord’s Supper. Evans’s are on display in her treatment of the open table (148). She loves the practice of the open table, with its invitation to all to come and experience Jesus exactly as you are. She reserves her harshest condemnation for those she judges to be self-appointed bouncers in the business of shutting people out of the kingdom.

    Surely Protestants can sympathize with any critique of an approach that demands perfection before participation. This logic drove the medieval decline of participation in the sacrament down to about once a year, since you had to be sure you were spotless before you came. John Calvin, in turn, advocated for participation at least once a week, precisely because he saw it as the Father’s table where he feeds his children and nourishes them with righteousness—the Supper is a promise of grace to the weak, not a reward for the righteous. “Let us remember that this sacred feast is medicine for the sick, solace for sinners, alms to the poor,” Calvin wrote, “but would bring no benefits to the healthy, righteous, and rich—if such could be found” (Institutes 4.XVII.42).

    That said, the church didn’t practice an open table for reasons, and they are nowhere addressed in Searching for Sunday. Nowhere does Evans reckon with the warnings of 1 Corinthians 11:27–32 that there is an “unworthy manner” of eating and drinking that renders one “guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” Evans alludes to Jesus’s parable of the wedding feast where the Master compels the scum of the earth to come in from the highways and byways after the righteous have declined the invitation (149). I just wish she had read on in Matthew’s telling (22:1–4), where Jesus says that the same inviting Master confronts the guest who doesn’t change his clothes for the occasion and tosses him out. In other words, all sinners are welcome as they are, but eventually they have to take off their sinful garments and accept those provided by the Master.

    You don’t have to come to the table cleaned up, put together, conformed to some country club ideal of “church folk” after years of white-knuckling your way to “purity.” That’s not the gospel. The gospel is the Father welcoming the prodigal son with open arms. But when he calls for the new robe and the ring, the prodigal can’t complain about the fit, or try to keep his rags as well. Or when the Father calls to slaughter the fattened calf, the prodigal must not insist on bringing leftovers from the pig trough to eat at the Father’s banquet table. The invitation of a fenced table extends to fellow vagabonds drawn in by the Master's grace. We plead with other sinners to accept the clothes the Master offers and trade their pods for the bread of life, so that Jesus’s judgment does not fall down on them. Because it is his table, we don’t change his loving call to repentance and faith, especially when the kingdom of heaven is at stake.

    Yes, Jesus opposes those who would tie up heavy burdens on the weak without lifting a finger to help. But he’s also the one who calls people to take up a cross, to come and die to self in order to be conformed to his own image. This is the cost of discipleship according to Jesus (Luke 14:25-35). We’re not keen to add burdens, but we do not lower the asking price Jesus himself set.

    Ironic Recommendation

    Following Jesus is hard, and none of us does it perfectly. He is simultaneously radically inclusive and uncomfortably exclusive. Paul’s vice lists (1 Cor. 6; Gal. 5) tag those sins conservative evangelicals tend not to see, as well as sins the mainline would like expunged from the list. Despite Evans’s winsome, often helpful call to rejoin the church despite our generation’s doubts, Searching for Sunday bears the marks of reaction against exclusive fundamentalism and, at times, veers off the other side of the road.

    The irony of the book is that the people who probably could benefit from it—theologically grounded church leaders with mostly healthy church experiences—won’t want to hear its challenge, even though many people in their pews share the author’s struggles. They need our care and understanding counsel. On the flip side, I worry those who share Evans’s experiences and background will welcome such validation, even though it reinforces their blind spots—instead of being exposed to the gentle challenge of the Jesus who surprises us all.

    by Derek Rishmawy at May 20, 2015 05:02 AM

    We Put People in Jobs They Love

    Craig Cooper is a hiring consultant and executive recruiter for Provisions Group, an information technology (IT) staff augmentation firm specializing in the healthcare industry. He also serves as an associate church-planting pastor at Redeeming Grace Church in Franklin, Tennessee. He and his wife, Laura, have been married for more than 15 years and have 4 children. He blogs at

    What type of work do you do?

    Our group provides consultative services, contract staffing, and direct placement for hospitals, healthcare companies, and IT groups nationwide. My goal is to recruit top talent and connect them with the companies we serve. I’m basically a matchmaker in the business world.

    As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?

    My job showcases God’s providential work, in which he provides for and sustains his creation in an orderly and beneficial way. He provides for my clients by adding skilled and gifted workers to their teams. He also provides for the candidates that I place and for my company, our employees, and their families, including my own. I often marvel at how my work images God’s work of provision, compassion, and care. Even our company’s name reflects that purpose—Provisions Group. It whispers the glory of God’s providential work. 

    How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?

    Nearly every day, I speak with at least one or two individuals who are unemployed. Some have lost their jobs as a casualty of massive layoffs; some were let go because they did not get along well with their managers; some simply left their positions on their own accord, thinking it would be easy to find new employment, only later to be disillusioned as the months have slipped by without pay.

    Scribbled on a whiteboard next to my desk, I have a long list of names of people I have met who are currently looking for work. I pray for them regularly, and I am overjoyed when I am able to wipe a name off the list. One of the hardest parts of my job is knowing that, as much as I hope to change their situations, I am limited in my ability to help each and every one of them.

    Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others?

    The tagline under my email signature reads, “We change people’s lives by putting them to work in jobs they love.” To put someone to work in a job he or she loves is an act of love in itself. It is fulfilling to know our work has the ability to change someone’s life. I see it as an act of love to help someone advance in his or her career. I also see my work as a service—to both the clients and the candidates with whom we work. All of this reflects God’s work of provision and showcases the glory of God.

    Editors' note: TGCvocations is a weekly column that asks practitioners about how they integrate their faith and their work. Interviews are condensed. 

    by Trillia Newbell at May 20, 2015 05:01 AM

    The Compassionate Truth About Judgment

    One of the greatest stumbling blocks to Christianity, especially among those who are drawn to the idea of a loving, compassionate God, is the Bible’s teaching on judgment.

    Jesus, who was full of compassion and gave his life because God so loved the world, spoke more about judgment than most other subjects. He could not have been more clear that an excluding verdict awaits those who, in pride and self-sufficiency, exclude themselves by dismissing his generous offer of salvation by grace through faith (Matt. 5:22; John 3:16-18). Yet the same Jesus got upset with anyone who wished judgment on others (Luke 9:51-56). Though divine justice demands payment for sin, he desires that all would turn to him and find shelter from the wrath to come. He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone, including “the wicked” (Ez. 18:23).

    Jesus, at whose cross “heaven’s peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love,” perfectly balanced judgment with compassion.

    Disorienting Truth

    Well-intentioned but deeply misguided religious folk confuse Jesus’s teaching when they express enthusiasm about judgment, leaving others hesitant to discuss this subject in any context at all. When believers do unChristian things “in the name of Christ”—whether it be Jesus’s disciples seeking revenge on Samaritans, Peter cutting off the ear of one of Jesus’s betrayers, a fundamentalist minister blaming “the homosexuals” for the September 11 terrorist attacks, or a fringe group falsely identifying as Christian parading around the country with “God hates you” signs—such behavior make it difficult for believers to raise the subject of judgment at all.

    Nobody wants to be judged. In fact, most of us are terrified of being judged. And most of us are reluctant, as we should be, to judge others. We want to be known for showing compassion and understanding. We want to show nothing but grace and love to everyone.

    So we get stuck sometimes with how, exactly, we are supposed to live with that line in the Apostles’ Creed that says Christ will come to judge the living and the dead. That he will separate sheep from goats and wheat from weeds. That there is an everlasting torment, a lake of fire, weeping and gnashing of teeth, and (gulp) a great many will spend eternity there. And the lover in us asks, why can’t everyone escape this horror?

    The idea of heaven is easy to embrace. Even at a nonreligious funeral, mourners are known to comfort each other with words such as, “She is in a better place now.” Conversely, for many the scriptural doctrine of damnation has become damnable. Charles Darwin once put to words what many of us naturally feel:

    I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the [biblical] text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my father, brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.

    Yet we must wrestle with Jesus’s many words emphasizing that, indeed, it is true. In moments of clarity, I am reminded of how necessary—even compassionate—this doctrine of judgment can be for us in the here and now.

    Compassionate Judgment

    When the Bible’s teaching about judgment is dismissed, all victims of injustice, violence, and oppression are then put at risk. If God is a God of love without the accountability of justice, then vulnerable people become more vulnerable, and bullies are encouraged to continue bullying.

    We need a God who gets angry. We need a God who will protect his kids, who will once and for all remove bullies and perpetrators of evil from his playground.

    If there is no ultimate accounting for evil, what do we say to the Jews about Hitler? What do we say to little girls who have been sold into the sex trade by greedy, oppressive scoundrels? What do we say to the boy who is abused by his father, or the unassuming widow who is robbed? It’s too simple to merely say that our God is a God of love and nothing else. If God decided to put his gavel down once and for all, don’t we see that this would create many more problems than it would solve? If a judging God did not exist, then we would be living in a world of Darwinian chaos in which the strong eat the weak and only the powerful survive.

    Miroslav Volf, a Croatian familiar with the effect of injustice on victims, believes that in order to fight injustice, we must believe in a God who holds bullies accountable for their bullying. In his masterpiece, Exclusion and Embrace, he delivers a hard truth to those of us who want a God of love with no judgment:

    My thesis . . . will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians in the West. . . . I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone. . . . Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit. . . . The thesis: we should not retaliate since God is perfect non-coercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die.

    This statement should hit us mostly sheltered and cozy folks right in the chest.

    For love to be truly loving, there must be judgment. If there is no judgment, then there is no hope for a slave, a rape victim, a child who has been abused or bullied, or people who have been slandered or robbed or had their dignity stolen. If nobody is called to account before a cosmic judgment seat for violence and oppression, then the victims will never see justice. We need a God who gets angry. We need a God who will protect his kids, who will once and for all remove bullies and perpetrators of evil from his playground.

    ‘How Much Do You Have to Hate Somebody?’

    Jesus spoke so much about eternal fire and brimstone, weeping and gnashing of teeth, and the everlasting miseries of hell precisely because he loves us. His warnings about judgment invite us to flee beneath the shadow of his wings for shelter and refuge. He talks so much about God’s wrath because he desires earnestly that we never have to taste it.

    One of the most loving things we can do is compassionately voice the truth that hell, just like heaven, is for real. Consider the words of Penn Jillette, an atheist comedian:

    I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward . . . how much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

    If we believe in God, and if we love the people God places around us, then we must at some point risk social awkwardness and tell it true. As we do, we must also remember that hard truth must be delivered truthfully—in a spirit of gentleness, respect, and love-saturated tears.

    True compassion insists on it.

    Editor’s Note: This article is an adaptation of an excerpt from Scott Sauls’s new book, Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who are Tired of Taking Sides.

    by Scott Sauls at May 20, 2015 05:01 AM

    Young, Restless, Foolish

    In 1997 the only place online to discuss ideas was in AOL chat rooms. If blogs had been around when I became a Christian, I would have been that guy writing in the comment sections in ALL CAPS TO GET MY POINT ACROSS.

    I got frustrated with people who did not seem to take their faith seriously. I got mad at parents of young kids for always being late. Mad at families for not signing up for Bible studies. Mad at church members for not being in Sunday school. Mad at long-time believers for not knowing things I had just learned. Mad at youth for falling into the same junk I had done as an unbeliever. And certainly mad if people did not use the NASB. People today would have called me a young, angry Calvinist. The only problem is that I didn’t know anything about John Calvin or anyone else in the Reformed world. 

    Then I went to seminary and my roommate gave me the nickname “Fun D.” I was frustrated at professors, at students, and at people in my local church. In my first encounter with a certain French Canadian New Testament professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, I challenged him. I didn’t know any better. I was just a young, excited fool. That professor pulled me aside and called me “amateurish.” I had to look up what he meant.

    There is a caricature of young Reformed guys as being hard to get along with and angry. I agree. But it’s not because they’re Reformed. It’s because they are young, mere infants in the faith. It’s not true of every young Christian, but it seems to be particularly true of zealous, academically minded men.

    Why So Angry?

    I have often seen this trajectory repeated in the lives of others. I have wondered how this pattern of pride could even happen. How could a young Christian given the anchor of God-centered theology be such a fool? Here is why: he’s not mature. 
    Reading a Christian book or attending a class or being mentored for six months does not make you mature. It might move the needle a centimeter, but if discipleship is a race, you have barely taken your feet off the starting block. Your old self has been crucified, but when you open a book on any topic, you still read it through an immature lens. Limited experience makes you think the latest book you read is normative. You think that everyone should have this same feeling of newness. Blanket statements make a lot of sense in your limited view of the world.

    Those of us who have walked with Christ for many years should give these young Christians a break. The world today allows us to say more things in a public forum than any other people in history. Want to voice instant displeasure within a Christian ministry? Just head to the computer and let the world know. Be thankful there was no Twitter when you were young. 

    How to Head It Off? 

    You can’t. Everyone needs to grow up and go through the pain of adolescence. However, if you’re an angry, young Christian, or you might know someone who is, here are some ways to help encourage maturity. 

    Don’t take away the passion. Young Christians are often a breath of fresh air. Their optimism, zeal, and passion are worthy of imitating in some situations. There is a reason the average age of those who set out with Hudson Taylor was 25. The passion needs to be stoked, but the roots need to be deepened to prepare for the marathon race ahead. Endurance trumps zeal.

    Don’t expect maturity. We all want people to grow up faster than they do. Most of the Christians who find Desiring God at 22 years old are spiritual infants. We should expect outbursts online because the majority of people who comment are young. Remember your youth and how you would have wanted to be corrected. Better yet, think of how you desire your own children to be corrected. 

    Learn from someone outside your theological camp. If you are a young Calvinist, I offer this suggestion is especially for you. I became a Christian reading a book by Greg Boyd, who is far outside my theological camp today. An Anglican female professor, now a friend, taught me Greek. I was mentored by a fundamentalist, a Reformed Baptist, and later an egalitarian Arminian. I took classes from people who helped translate the NLT. I learned from varying evangelical stripes. I did not end up less certain of my doctrine, but I now approach evangelical debates with a little more grace and familial language. 

    Get a mentor. Find a person whom you can talk to face-to-face. I’m concerned any time someone tells me the most influential person in his life is someone he does not know. Find a real person who can meet with you, who can even take you into his home and work life to show you how to relate to people.

    Get to know blue-collar Christians. This point has been one of the great “rounding out” experiences of my life, and it happened while I was pastoring a small church. I quickly realized my harsh tone toward a number of segments in our society was neither helpful nor Christ-like. 

    Don’t bow to cultural expectations of Christian niceness. One way people like to get the upper hand in a debate is to claim you are being mean. What they really mean is that you are a nasty person unless you agree with them. So Calvinists have a mean spirit because they have a horrible God who predestines people to hell. Complementarians are mean because they subjugate women. People will point out Matthew 7:1 and tell you to be more like Jesus (except in all the places where he castigated people). You could be the nicest person in the world and still be called a bigot. The culture’s “be nice” police does not put up with disagreement.

    If you are frustrated with youthful outbursts, stop complaining, grab one of the culprits, and teach him how to be a disciple. If you are young, let someone make you a disciple. You will still probably post some stuff online that you will regret in years to come, but many others would have done the same if they had an e-mail address at a young age.

    by Darren Carlson at May 20, 2015 05:00 AM

    Front Porch Republic

    Townsman of a Stiller Town: Death on the American Highway


    Earth's the right place for love.

    Read Full Article...

    The post Townsman of a Stiller Town: Death on the American Highway appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

    by Jason Peters at May 20, 2015 04:59 AM

    J.D. Bentley: Bourbon and Tradition | Journal

    Stop Being A Vocational Fatalist and Find A Purpose

    Americans are raised on the idea that they are destined for greatness, that they were born to do something incredible that only they are capable of doing. If you ask a college student what they hope to accomplish in their chosen field, they will invariably tell you that they want to "change the world."

    Most people don’t change the world, though. At least not in the epic sense usually implied by the desire. And changing the world by slash-and-burn technological innovation, by frequent revolution and disruption, isn’t even desirable. There’s quite a bit of wisdom we’ve mined through the ages that we’d best not give up. Most of the work people do in their lives is ordinary.

    Does that sound sad? It shouldn’t. There are some men whose vocations require epic adventure and risk taking and there are others that require ordinary love, discipline, and dedication. Both are challenging in their own right, and both are important.

    The problem with cultivating this "Change The World" mentality is that it puts far too much weight on one’s vocation. It’s easy for a young man to feel overwhelmed, paralyzed, and stuck when faced with the decision of what to do with the rest of his life.

    When I graduated high school ten years ago, that’s what happened to me. I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering what I was meant to do, what I was born to do. My vocation wasn’t merely a job and there were no stepping stones on the way to something else. My view was so fatalistic and rigid that I honestly believed if I chose incorrectly, I would be completely ruined.

    But that’s not true, and to those who are hung up on doing what they are meant to do, I offer this piece of advice: get over yourself. Will you end up doing something that changes the world in a big way? Maybe. It’s possible. It’s not likely, but it’s possible. But if that’s the question you start your vocational journey from, I can almost guarantee that you won’t do anything that matters at all.

    You have to be dedicated to the work, not to the outcome; focused on the task at hand, not your legacy.

    You know those people who, when asked what they want to do with their lives, answer, "Be famous." Well, "change the world" is just a more socially acceptable way of expressing the exact same sentiment. They’re statements built on vanity.

    If you want to get down to the business of working out your vocation, here’s what you do:

    Drop Every Pretense of Your Supposed Greatness

    Whatever work you do will be important in its own way, but that’s not to say it will be historically significant or exciting. Here’s the truth: the world needs more people who embrace the ordinary. Living a life of ordinary virtue is, for some reason, equated with leading a life of mediocrity. Not so. Vocations that require extraordinary risk and vocations that require ordinary discipline are each their own kind of martyrdom, their own way for us to work out our salvation.

    Do The Work You’re Most Inclined To Do

    Don’t worry about getting it right the first time. Don’t worry about starting out on the right path. Day-to-day, it won’t matter. What matters is doing what needs to be done today. When you haven’t really discovered your vocation, just try to do what you are otherwise inclined to do except in a more serious or direct manner. You have the interests you have and you’ve acquired the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired for a reason. They indicate the areas where you excel (and like excelling). It’s a safe bet that you can find good, honest work down that rabbit hole.

    Don’t Be Afraid To Change Your Mind

    Looking back, you’ll be able to see the patterns in your life that led to your most significant achievements. Your vocation might be obvious in retrospect. Not so much when you’re looking forward. Don’t look at vocation as a once-and-done event. I understand this can be tough when money is involved, as it is with college or a trade school, but the truth is that what you study might not have anything at all to do with your vocation. Vocation depends on opportunity, timing, and the acquisition of skills all overlapping at the right moment. The work you’re most suited to may not be evident until long after you’ve got your degree or your training. Be willing and able to change your mind.

    Failing Is Not An Option

    Burdened with the weight of choosing what you’ll do for the rest of your life, you might be inclined to worry that you’ll fail. You won’t. You can’t. Got it? You can’t fail.

    F-cking things up? Losing amazing opportunities? Making the wrong people mad? Not getting the outcomes you want? Yeah, you’ll get plenty of that. That never stops. But life isn’t Super Mario Bros. There’s no Game Over screen when you’ve made one mistake too many. Every one of those mistakes has to be dealt with and surpassed. That means you adapt, adjust, pivot, change, update your goals, do more work, do different work. You don’t fail unless you choose to, and if you choose to fail I’d call that a success. So, you literally cannot fail.

    Finding A Purpose

    Your purpose is the work, not any particular outcome. You should plan for outcomes and work toward outcomes. You should be motivated by potential outcomes. You’ll reassess what you’re doing based on outcomes. But the purpose is in the work. What you are dedicating yourself to is the work.

    If I want to lose 50lbs, is my purpose losing 50lbs? No, my purpose is doing HIIT, lifting weights, and eating a keto diet every day. If I want to have a best selling novel, is my purpose getting a best selling novel? No, my purpose is in writing at least 1500 words per day until I have a publishable manuscript.

    Don’t let yourself get paralyzed by all the options or the (comically exaggerated) weight of your own destiny. Just start working. Doing the work will enable you to answer the only question you need to answer: should I keep going?

    The worst that can happen is you learn a little more about what you don’t want to do.

    May 20, 2015 04:00 AM

    May 19, 2015

    The Gospel Coalition | Latest Articles

    William Zinsser (1922–2015), the Writing Mentor

    Chances are that if you browse a writer’s bookshelf—someone who enjoys the craft of writing and desires to grow as a writer—then you’ll probably find a marked-up version of William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. First published in 1976, this classic has gone through six revisions and continues to be a well-received guide for writers of all sorts.

    Zinsser passed away last week at 92. Even though Zinsser was no evangelical, he acknowledged his Christian heritage. A self-described “WASP” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant)—he stated, “In my own work I operate within a framework of Christian values, and the words that are important to me are religious words: witness, pilgrimage, intention.”

    While many will praise his publications (more than 19 books) and point out his gems of writing wisdom, one aspect of his life is often overlooked. Zinsser was more than an instructor, he was a mentor for writers. From Zinsser we can learn three ways to improve our own role as writing mentors—a simple vision the editorial team at The Gospel Coalition desires to embody.

    1. There are no shortcuts in writing.

    Always full of wisdom and insight, Zinsser could also be an opinionated curmudgeon—a besetting sin of many writers. When asked to visit a school and give students tips on writing, Zinsser simply retorted, “I don’t do tips.” Later he reflected, “Tips! The ugly little word hung in the air, exuding its aroma of illicit information.” Tips are for those who want an expedient shortcut, an inside scoop, “an edge in outwitting life’s cruel odds,” he said.

    Of course, Zinsser readily admitted that his On Writing Well is full of “tips” on writing (Tim Challies collected a few). But writing for him meant more than placing words together in succeeding sentences. Writing is not a means to career advancement or a book contract. Writing is a vocation, a view of life, a way of being. 

    “Tips can make someone a better writer but not necessarily a good writer. That’s a larger package—a matter of character.”

    2. Character matters for writers.

    In one of his online essays for The American Scholar, later compiled in The Writer Who Stayed, Zinsser boiled the role of teacher: “teachers are put on earth . . . to help students grow into the people they are supposed to become.”

    From all accounts, Zinsser modeled this role well. Discouraged, insecure, and professionally adrift writers would often visit his office for help. Rather than merely “pulling strings” or helping revise an article, Zinsser made his aim simple: “I try to refocus my frazzled writers on the process of writing, not the product. If the process is sound, the product will take care of itself.”

    After learning of Zinsser’s death, a friend and student of his wrote a remembrance in which he reiterated this lesson on character: 

    Bill wanted more than the virtue of craft honorably practiced. He situated the work in character. You had to do your best work on behalf of readers because it mattered, to them and to you. Your best writing came from who you were and how honestly you took stock of yourself. It was a lesson in craft embedded in life, and always enlivened by humor.

    For Christians, character does not appear in a vacuum or from Northeastern “WASP” sensitivities; instead, it must be deeply informed by Scripture. While perfection is an illusory quest, spiritual maturity and being “above reproach” is not (Heb. 6:1; 1 Tim. 3:2).

    Writers should write not from the far-removed heights of spiritual attainment but from the muddy path filled with pilgrims and strangers not yet home (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11).

    3. Writing is about relationships.

    Two years ago The New York Times published a heartwarming profile on Zinsser, who though at the time 90 years old and blind from glaucoma, continued to help writers. He could not use his eyes, so he offered his ears.

    “Sitting with elbows propped and hands clenched, and with the sunglasses and cap protecting eyes damaged by glaucoma, he listens as students read their drafts and fret over narrative.”

    “People read with their ears, whether they know it or not,” Zinsser said. In a different context he said, “I write by ear, and sound is what leads me to what I’m rummaging for.” Or again: “Good writers of prose must be part poet, always listening to what they write.”

    A year before he had extended an invitation to his friends and former students, offering his services as a writing mentor at his New York home. He would be available

    for help with writing problems and stalled editorial projects and memoirs and family history; for singalongs and piano lessons and vocal coaching; for readings and salons and whatever pastimes you may devise that will keep both of us interested and amused. I’m eager to hear from you. No project too weird.

    Even when experiencing the debilitating effects of old age, he was more than willing to prioritize relationships and offer advice and encouragement to those who asked.

    Writing is hard work. “A clear sentence is no accident,” Zinsser said. “Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.” For many writers, writing is a joyful but painstaking process. Part of the difficulty lies in the solitary nature of the craft, especially for extroverts (like me!).

    But writing need not be a completely individual process. Whether it’s connecting with likeminded friends or editors, writers should compose in community. According to Zinsser, “a good editor brings to a piece of writing . . . an objective eye that the writer has long since lost.” We all have blind spots and thus fail to anticipate certain questions, or have different backgrounds and experiences that shape how we approach subjects. And of course, there’s that grammatical oversight you didn’t see. 

    Along these lines, read Jen Wilkin’s piece on the need for “freditors” and our own Gavin Ortlund’s practical insights on how writers and editors should work together

    Editorial Vision at TGC

    TGC’s editorial team daily traffic in words. We’re constantly commissioning, reviewing, editing, and writing about weighty things—theology and ministry, Christian living and the culture, current events and the integration of faith and work. We’re thankful for this platform as we seek to broacast truth, engage some of the most pressing issues of our day, and encourage believers to walk in faithful obedience. 

    But this is a stewardship, something we must never take for granted and something we must always do with excellence before the Lord. At its best, our writing—and that of more than 60 regular contributors—should come from an honest walk with God in the context of the local church and lived theology. Of course, writing craft matters, but as Zinsser reminds us it must also avoid shortcuts, be rooted in character, and be done in community.

    Zinsser said, “When you’re ready to stop, stop. If you have presented all the facts and made the point you want to make, look for the nearest exit.”

    Zinsser made many good points throughout his long life on writing well. While he made his exit, we can still take notes.

    by Ivan Mesa at May 19, 2015 11:56 PM

    Front Porch Republic

    Witchcraft in Church? Against Glamorous Worship


    Recently, our local Trappist Monastery, the Abbey of the Genesee, unveiled a renovation of the sanctuary of the Abbey church. To the shock of some — those who often claim to have their ‘finger on the pulse’ — the remodel did…

    Read Full Article...

    The post Witchcraft in Church? Against Glamorous Worship appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

    by Michael J. Sauter at May 19, 2015 09:43 PM

    John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

    Guest Editorial: Social Justice as a Sacrament

    A commenter named Sherwood Family over at Vox Day said something so well, and so truthful, that it bears repeating in full:

    “Social Justice” is a religion. It has saints, dogma, and sacraments. It also has backsliders and apostates. As any religion knows, apostates must be dealt with lest they lead the rest of the flock astray. So any expression that shows them to be in any way rejecting the creeds of Social Justice must be met with a inquisitorial zeal. They must be made to recant…not just for the safety of the flock but for the good of their own souls. If they, like the proverbial village in Vietnam, have to be destroyed in order to be saved…well…so be it.

    The interesting thing is that positions that were blessed by the SJWs in the past become rapidly outmoded and outdated and thus…incorrect. Evolve too slowly and one is a throwback reactionary who does not believe in progress, despite the fact that one’s views may be utterly in harmony with the doctrine of the church of Social Justice from only a few years ago.

    SJWs cannot evolve too quickly either. That risks alienating the mass of SJWs who are not yet ready for more advanced views. But they do have a vanguard group who agitates for the more extreme positions, knowing that a slighly less extreme compromise will lead the faithful by the nose to the positions staked out by the vanguard over time.

    Four decades ago it was decriminalizing homosexuality and legalizing abortion. Suggesting homosexuals should have the ability to marry and adopt would have been unacceptable except among a small group. And pushing for things like partial birth abortion would not even have been mentioned because it would have been too barbarous to be considered. Today, subscribing to these views is a requirement, a holy crusade for equality. Denying these “rights” today is sin. And the SJW church will require one to immediately confess their sin and be forced to undergo a struggle session to get their mind right.

    But the interesting thing to watch is the avant-garde views that are slowly assimilated by the mass and made mainstream. What are the avant-garde views today? Where, in other words, are the SJWs headed?

    This seems to me one of the reasons that aging liberals often wake up and begin adopting more moderate and in some cases even conservative views…because they were comfortable with progress up to a point but the movement has gone beyond their arbitrarily chosen boundries and they too suddenly find themselves athwart history yelling stop.

    It is also one of the reasons why the “former liberal conversos” are extremely dubious, in my opinion. They often fail to acknowledge that it was their own efforts to promote “progress” in the first place that has landed all of us where we are now.

    There is no compromise with progressivism and trying to stop it at some line drawn in the sand is a fool’s errand. Trying to hold them at bay cedes momentum to the progressives. Only a concerted campaign to destroy progressives root and branch by forcing the march of history in the other direction will ever have an effect.

    Don’t want to be forced to support and defend homosexual marriage? Then arguing for a live and let live approach is stupid. Homosexuals certainly aren’t content with that.

    Only forcing the issue the other direction offers hope.

    Don’t want to be forced to have your tax money pay for contraception and abortions on demand? Then stop tolerating the existence of abortion which makes that the likeliest outcome over time.

    In short, the only solution is to crush the SJWs. Remember…nits make lice. Extirpate them early and often.


    by John C Wright at May 19, 2015 06:51 PM

    A Dream about the Worst Vikings Ever

    Normally I do not talk about where I get my ideas, but let me make an exception. I get them in my sleep, which is why whenever the wife finds me snoring on the couch, I tell her I am hard at work.

    I had an odd dream this morning, but the idea is one I cannot see how to use in a story.

    Its seems the god Heimdall was using the technology of Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash, to travel in disguise among the races of middle earth. He called himself Rig. He visited an elf maiden, a human lass, and a hobbit girl, and nine months later, the three gave birth to the elfin, human, and hobbit races. It is from Heimdall, their divine ancestor, that the hobbits inherit their sharp eyes and cunning ears.

    In the dream, Thor came to Hobbiton,  and recruited the hobbits to be vikings, and to conquer Wessex. Unfortunately, even the Tooks and Brandybucks were  shorter than the soldiers of Alfred the Great by far, and the hobbits hated boats, and so they turned out to be the shortest and fattest and generally the worse vikings ever.

    So if anyone can make a tale as good as EXPECTING SOMEONE TALLER out of this idea, you are welcome to it, and with my blessings. The Norse hobbits simply amuse me as a concept, and I thought it was still funny when I woke up.

    bilbo helmet

    by John C Wright at May 19, 2015 05:22 PM

    The Ontological Geek

    ‘We just want what we’re owed’: workplace organising and the games industry

    Video games and capitalism have a complex and often paradoxical relationship. Not least is the fact that videogames are – for the majority of the 'market' – a function of capital and market economics. Games are developed, marketed and sold, as well as being played, enjoyed and talked about. They generate huge and ever increasing profits while contributing significantly to the global economy. But what are the problems facing workers in the industry when they have to demand what is due?

    by Owen Vince at May 19, 2015 05:00 PM

    John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal

    The best calendar app for the Mac →

    Speaking of the Blanc Media empire, over on The Sweet Setup, Chris Bowler compares desktop calendar applications:

    Managing your time has long been a part of the knowledge worker’s day, and calendar apps have been around almost as long as email. But while the quantity of available options is high, the number of quality calendar apps is a small handful.

    The option that is best suited for you will depend on your needs, but a closer inspection has shown us that, for most people, Fantastical 2 is the best calendar application for OS X users.


    by Stephen Hackett at May 19, 2015 03:58 PM

    The Tools and Toys MacBook review →

    Nate Barham:

    On first impression, the MacBook states its design goals clearly to the user. This computer is thin and light. It aims to do more with less. Weighing a half-pound less than even the smallest MacBook Air, there is literally less machine, less matter, less physical object. It is thin enough to make even the “fits in an office envelope” trick of the original Air seem mundane and unimpressive.

    Be sure to click through to see the amazing photos of the notebook.


    by Stephen Hackett at May 19, 2015 02:55 PM

    Front Porch Republic

    The True Conservative

    Writes Pat Buchanan of his work these last ten years:

    Our agenda in that decade was—stay out of wars that are not our business, economic patriotism, secure borders, and America first.

    Not, as he a observes, a platform to woo the Wall Street Journal, and probably not one likely to inspire a country that has willingly accepted being coddled by a State that is two parts nanny and three parts truncheon.  In a real country, of course, it would seem a most eminent catalogue of sound judgments.

    The post The True Conservative appeared first on Front Porch Republic.

    by James Matthew Wilson at May 19, 2015 02:21 PM

    Daniel Lemire's blog

    Putting the evil academic publishers in perspective

    Academic publishing is a bit of a perverted business. Let us recap what should be well known: professors write papers for free while publishers take the papers and resell them to universities for a large profit.

    I do hope to live one day in a world where everyone can have free access to all the research in the world. There is irony in the fact that the Internet gives us free access to junk and informercials, but asks us to pay for high-quality government-sponsored sources. Sadly, that is what we have right now.

    A common narrative is that universities are victims of this arrangement. They have to pay exorbitant prices to publishers, money that they would rather spend on their students.

    There is just a small problem with this narrative: it does not fit the facts on the ground.

    It is maybe worth pointing out that many colleges are themselves academic publishers (e.g., Oxford University Press). These college-based publishers are not shy about charging the full amount for their goods. Whenever I see a book priced upward of $40 on Amazon, it is almost always from an academic publisher. So, at a minimum, colleges are complicit in the business of overcharging for academic work.

    But how much do academic publishers charge? Academic publishing is a small component of higher education. Harvard University (alone!) had a budget of over $4 billion in 2013. Meanwhile, one of the largest publishers, Elsevier, had revenues of only $3 billion. There is only a handful of large publishers, and thousands of large colleges… Even if Elsevier folded and gave away for free all its subscriptions, students would not see lower tuition fees.

    Nobody likes a tax though, right?

    Well. What about Microsoft and Oracle licences? Most colleges rely on Microsoft software to operate when they could as easily use free software to achieve much of the same goals. And, let us be honest, most colleges could replace their expensive Oracle software by a free alternative (PostgreSQL) with no lasting consequences. Yet few colleges have decided to do away with the “Microsoft tax“.


    Because to do away with proprietary software and replacing it all by free software would not significantly affect budgets. And, at the margin, it may leave the impression that the school is too cheap to afford real software. Image is important.

    The same is true with academic publishing. Library subscriptions are a small price to pay. Offering great library access, especially if it is a tad expensive for an individual, looks great.

    Can you imagine a world where all the academic books and research papers were freely available? In such a world, university libraries would face an uphill battle to show their relevance.

    Universities do not want to do away with their libraries and library budgets. Not really. If you are a curious fellow and want to read deeply on a subject… the current system pushes you to go to college, if only so you have good library access.

    Many researchers are also very fond of publishers and librarians. They make researchers look good. I have yet to see one reputable academic calling for a library-free college. Most academics do not really want academic publishing to falter…

    It may be that Elsevier is an evil company run by a Satanist cult. But keep in mind that Microsoft has been called the evil empire. Speaking for myself, I do not really worry about either Elsevier or Microsoft being evil.

    by Daniel Lemire at May 19, 2015 01:55 PM

    The Finance Buff No Longer Features Local Agents

    Ohio National term life brochure

    My term life insurance will expire soon. Not technically expire but the renewal rate will skyrocket after the level-premium period comes to an end. Since I’m still going to work a few more years, I want to have life insurance for some more years to make sure my family is really financially secure if I die.

    I’m following my own playbook How to Buy Life Insurance. I wrote it 7 years ago. It still works for the most part.

    I called the agent who sold me my current policy years ago. He said he doesn’t sell to individuals any more. Instead, his business now only focuses on employee benefits for businesses.

    I needed a new agent. My first stop was to I got quotes as usual. After I clicked on “Find An Agent” I noticed something different. The phone numbers of the 3 agents given to me were all toll-free numbers, not local numbers. Some have websites. When I checked their websites, they were all out of state, far away, not local agents.

    I live in a major metro area. There should be plenty of local agents around. I checked a random zip code in a different major metro area. Same thing. Toll free numbers, out-of-state agents.

    There’s nothing wrong with working with an agent out of state. These days we have online bank accounts, online brokerage accounts, and online auto insurance such as GEICO. I said one should find a financial advisor outside one’s local area. However, I find it disingenuous when says all over the place:

    Click on [the Find An Agent button] for the names of 3 COMPULIFE subscribers near you.

    I clicked on that button and they are not near me!

    High-volume Internet agents have taken over term4sale listings. Local agents can’t compete without their scale. My previous agent exited the market altogether.

    What if you still want a local agent? The premium is going to be the same whether you buy the policy from a local agent or an out-of-state agent.

    I picked Ohio National as my preferred insurance company. It has good ratings and low premiums for the type of policy I wanted. I went to its website and I used the “Find a Rep” link there to send a message asking for a referral.

    A day later I got an email from a local agent. She gave me a quote, which was the same from term4sale. I asked a few questions. She answered them. She didn’t try to sell me any variable, universal, or whole life policy. She normally represents New York Life. She didn’t try to steer me to New York Life either.

    She filled out an application for me. I signed. That was it. Easy.

    See All Your Accounts In One Place

    Track your net worth, asset allocation, and portfolio performance with FREE financial tools from Personal Capital. No Longer Features Local Agents is copyrighted material from The Finance Buff. All rights reserved. ( b87e8215d24496480249d6aaf20c77ea )

    by Harry Sit at May 19, 2015 01:51 PM

    Crossway Blog

    An Interview with Courtney Reissig

    This is an interview with Courtney Reissig, author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God's Good Design.

    Why did you title your new book The Accidental Feminist?

    I wanted to draw attention to the subtle ways feminism has influenced all of us. While some Christian women might not identify themselves as feminists, and may even clearly reject it, the reality is we have all grown up in a world where feminism is the norm. It is impossible to escape the reach of feminism in our current culture regardless of where you stand on the merits of feminism.

    Isn’t it good for women to be smart, independent, and confident?

    Absolutely. I think women should embrace their mind, their interests, and their personality. All of those things are part of being created in the image of God, and to temper those qualities because of fear or cultural expectations is unhealthy.

    But it’s all too easy—for men and women—to confuse godly independence with ungodly self-sufficiency. I think women should be independent in the sense that they are not defined by their relationship to a man (or lack of one). But I don’t think they should be independent in the way some expressions of feminism encourage independence because I think the Bible tells us we are actually very dependent beings.

    As creatures, we are utterly dependent on our creator, God. So while women should be encouraged to flourish in their talents and gifts, they also should be shepherded to depend wholly on the God who created them.

    Do you think feminists have contributed anything positive to the church and/or our broader culture? If so, why write a book pushing against it?

    Feminism was a response to some very real needs in our society. Women were a helpless class when they fought for the right to vote. The ability to own property, earn a fair wage, keep children out of factory work, and vote in elections are all good products of the early feminist movement.

    But that doesn’t mean that feminism was or is the ultimate answer, especially when it begins to push against the Bible’s teaching related to men and women. When God created men and women in his image, he declared us equal—the same value, the same dignity, and the same basic rights as the other. But sin changed all of that. The root of sin runs deep in our souls, keeping men and women at war (Genesis 3:16).

    Feminism ultimately exists because sin exists—male sin and female sin. As Christians, we have a better answer. We don’t need to go back to a 19th and 20th century movement to put our stake in the ground for equality. We simply need to go back to Genesis 1. What many don’t understand about the beginnings of feminism is that it wasn’t just about basic equal rights; for some feminists, it was also about reimagining God and his Word. The belief that God’s Word couldn’t be trusted started the slow erosion that has led us to the feminism of today. Because my generation has grown up in a feminist world, we need fresh eyes to see how this ideology, while laced with good results, is actually damaging to our view of God and his Word.

    What was it that led you to reject the “accidental feminism” of your younger years?

    I was a pretty militant feminist before I was an accidental one. Rejecting the feminism of my pre-conversion years came easier than rejecting the feminism that I didn’t realize stayed behind when I came to Christ. As I grew in my understanding of God’s design for me as a woman, I came to respect God’s design for men as well. I actually used to be pretty disparaging towards guys in general, and I grew to understand that if I thought women had value, then I had to believe men did, too.

    But I also didn’t realize how much I looked down on marriage until I saw judgment rise in my own heart whenever a girl got engaged or married before college was over because I saw her as lacking ambition or purpose. I thought that the best way for me to serve the Lord was doing something that made a difference in the world, and, at the time, I couldn’t see how marriage, children, and embracing my design as a woman was honoring him as well. But I slowly began to see that marriage is God’s good gift and should be celebrated.

    In the book, you write that equality doesn’t mean sameness. Isn’t that just another way of limiting what women can say and do?

    Not any more so than when we say that the members of the Trinity are equal in deity, but different in function. We get insight into what it means to be male and female from the Godhead. Jesus Christ is fully God, yet he fulfills his function as the Son. The Holy Spirit is fully God, yet also fulfills his role as the Spirit.

    Throughout Scripture we are given an overarching picture of our limits as finite beings, as well. It is not a slight to be limited. It’s how God designed it to be. Men, while having different functions, are also limited. When we frame the question about equality and sameness with the focus on limits, we miss the point about our design as women. God is the authority over our lives. He created us in his image to tell a story about his glory and who he is. It’s a privilege, not a slight.

    What are some of the key areas where you see secular feminism’s biggest influence on Christian women?

    I see this in a couple of ways. While I think most Christian women wouldn’t explicitly say they think career or education are more important than marriage or children, we sometimes implicitly communicate that we believe this to be true. I see this in my own life when I cringe after hearing of a woman getting married without going to college, or before she finishes college. It can also present itself in the mentality that marriage and children should wait until a woman establishes herself in a career and feels ready to take the leap. Unfortunately, biology doesn’t wait until you feel ready, and many women are finding that out in their thirties and forties.

    Another way I see feminism influence us as Christian women is in how we think about our relationship towards men. The conviction that women are strong and competent (which we are) is different than always reacting in pride whenever a man offers to help us with something. None of this means women should stop trying to do things on their own; we certainly don’t need more damsels in distress. Strength and competency are good things. But, too often, women confuse these good attributes with sinful impulses toward unbridled independence.

    Why is “submission” such a taboo word in our day? Do you think the word is still helpful?

    Submission is primarily a taboo word because we don’t understand it. In our current culture, we revolt against it because we live in a world where submission is viewed as weakness. Some of this is due to very real abuse that has been perpetrated against women in the name of “godly submission,” and we shouldn’t be too quick to gloss over that. However, some of it is also due to the dominant values our cultural constantly promotes. Our country was founded on the principles of independence and freedom from tyranny and authority.

    Notwithstanding all of that, the fact that people misunderstand or misuse the word doesn’t mean we should throw it out. The concept is definitely present in the Bible, so we have to work to understand what it means. I think it is helpful because, like everything else that God has created, it tells a greater story about who God is and how he operates. Without submission, we have no cross and no forgiveness of sins, because Christ submitted to the Father, even up to his very death (Philippians 2:1-11). Understanding submission is crucial to understanding the Godhead and our own salvation.

    We all have much to learn about submission—men and women both. As created beings living in a world under authority, we all submit to someone—children to parents, employees to bosses, the church to Christ, wives to husbands. Ultimately all of our submission is not about submission to other people for their own sake but submission to God because he is totally trustworthy.

    How can Christian men support their sisters in Christ who are seeking to live in line with the Bible’s teaching?

    I love this question. One of the primary ways men can support women as they seek to embrace and live out God’s design for them is to embrace God’s design themselves. Women are very “other” from men, and, because of sin and our natural struggle to understand each other, we will all struggle to live in Christ-like unity.

    Men can do a lot to encourage their sisters in Christ by speaking positively—not negatively—about women. While I’ve not heard a lot of Christian men intentionally speak harshly about women, it can creep up in subtle ways in how you may over-generalize all women as "emotional" (as if that's a bad thing) or see our "otherness" as meaning that we inherently lack something important.

    Another way that men can support women—something that has been extremely encouraging in my own life—is to praise and utilize their gifts. Genesis 2 says that it is not good that the man should be alone. While we often see this in the context of marriage, it’s also not good for humanity that the men should be alone. Your local church is served by the ministry and input of women.

    Courtney Reissig is a wife, mother, and writer. She has written for the Gospel Coalition, Boundless, and Her.meneutics (the Christianity Today blog for women), where she is a regular contributor. She is also the assistant editor for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood blog and the author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God's Good Design. She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

    by Matt Tully at May 19, 2015 01:21 PM

    Apple updates 15-inch MacBook Pro and iMac 5k →

    The 15-inch MacBook Pro now ships with a Force Touch trackpad, better internals and a bump in battery life. The high-end model is now shipping with an updated AMD video chipset. One of these will be my next Mac.

    Update: It looks like these machines are still powered by Haswell-class chips, not Broadwell. I will probably roll the dice and wait for new chipsets and hope the MacBook keyboard isn't added at the same time.

    Apple also introduced a new, second model of the iMac 5K. Priced at just $1999, it comes with a less powerful video card and a spinning hard drive, while the $2299 machine comes with a Fusion Drive. If I were in the market for an iMac, I'd drop the money to go pure SSD.

    It's interesting to note that USB-C is still only on the new MacBook, and that the butterfly keyboard Apple touted as being better than its old one isn't on the new notebooks. The entire Pro line has been updated since that MacBook event. My guess is that there's a bigger release on the horizon somewhere.


    by Stephen Hackett at May 19, 2015 01:00 PM

    Zondervan Academic Blog

    These Two Books Will Help You Understand and Alleviate Poverty

    There are greater disparities of wealth within the global body of Christ than at any time in history. More than 80 percent of the “poorest of the poor” live in the so-called “10/40 Window,” the band of countries that contain the vast majority of the remaining unreached people groups. And these people represent 2.6 billion who live on less than $1 a day.

    Poverty is a massive-scale problem demanding the attention of every Christian, particularly because there are commands in God’s Word to alleviate poverty that believers must obey.

    But how?

    Two new books aim to show you, your students, and your ministries how to understand and alleviate poverty in your country and around the world:

    9780310523000“For the Least of These” • Edited by Anne Bradley and Art Lindsley

    How much should and can the church do to alleviate poverty? How much is the government able to do? What can markets do to bringing about a flourishing society?

    All too often…Christians turn to the secular state as the answer for poverty rather than grasping their own responsibility and realizing that the best long-term solution is to enable people to use their gifts to serve others and to exchange goods and services through market trade. (13)

    For the Least of These offers you, your students, and your ministry a sturdy framework to understand and address the problem of poverty from both biblical and economic perspectives. Three sections address three aspects of poverty: A Biblical Perspective on the Poor; Markets and the Poor; and Poverty Alleviation in Practice.

    The first section carefully examines the biblical passages on poverty, looking occasionally at wrong deductions and false understandings. Through examining what the Old Testament and New Testament say about the poor, biblical scholars shed light on the role of the church, government, and markets.

    In the next section, we get a historical perspective on the problem of poverty. Such chapters as “Fighting Poverty through Enterprise” and “The Moral Potential of the Free Economy” explain how economic markets can be a significant part of the solution and whether such markets are moral.

    Finally, this book considers practical applications of the previous sections, revealing how society and the Church can solve the problem of poverty. It outlines “A Poverty Program that Works” and gives “A Call to Compassionately Move beyond Charity.”

    In the end, the editors hope “you might be stimulated to think deeply about the problem of poverty through biblical glasses,” while searching “for what your response should be to the challenge of Scripture.” (14)

    9780310518129“From Dependency to Dignity” • By Brian Fikkert and Russell Mask

    If the previous book provided a framework for understanding poverty and its alleviation from biblical and economic perspectives, From Dependence To Dignity offers a tangible method for solving it.

    Drawing on best practice research and their own pioneering work with the Chalmers Center, authors Brian Fikkert and Russell Mask show readers how to use cutting-edge microfinance ministries to restore the poor to lives of dignity in Jesus Christ.

    Microfinance (“a source of financial services for entrepreneurs and small businesses lacking access to banking and related services”) [1] provides “poor people with access to the financial services that they lack, services like savings, loans, insurance, and money transfers, in the hope of helping them to improve their economic situation and to get out of poverty. [It is] one of the leading strategies for alleviating poverty in the Global South.” (16)

    This book’s approach is rooted in two realities:

    1. “the center of Christianity has shifted to the Global South so that the Great Commission is largely in the hands of churches comprised of people with very few material resources.” (25)
    2. “coexisting with these materially poor churches are Christians from wealthy nations, believers who possess unprecedented economic and technological resources.” (25)

    Fikkert’s and Mask’s goal is to activate the wealth of the West to “enable materially poor churches to minister effectively without creating unhealthy dependencies for them or for the poor people to whom they are ministering.” (25)

    A microfinance ministry, if designed and executed properly, is one such strategy “helping both materially poor churches and individuals in the Global South experience dignity rather than unhealthy dependency.” (21)


    Christians have different callings when it comes to the problem of poverty: “Some may be called to work full-time addressing these issues. Others may be motivated to contribute money and resources. Still others may be moved to set up businesses that employ people in need. Search for what your response should be to the challenge of Scripture.” (Least of These, 14)

    Engage For the Least of These and From Dependence To Dignity to help you, your students, and the people in your ministries understand poverty and how to tangibly alleviate it.

    1: “Microfinance,” last modified May 17, 2015,

    by Jeremy Bouma at May 19, 2015 12:44 PM

    The Art of Non-Conformity

    “I’m not running away, I’m running toward”: On the Road with Luke Armstrong

    This is a traveler case study. (Read others or nominate yourself.)

    When we talked to Luke, he told us, “At the age of sixteen I wrote in my journal: ‘Tonight, when I was driving home, I had the desire to point The Bronco in one direction and just keep going and going and going.’”

    Many travelers will relate to his stories.

    Introduce yourself!

    After I ditched my return ticket in Chile and took out a student loan to finance hitchhiking from South America to Alaska, people said, “You’re crazy!” I replied, “So was Columbus!” They insisted, “This is so financially unsound!” I cried, “So were The Pyramids!”

    I joke sometimes that eight years ago I went to South America and I never came back. Really, it means I performed some paperwork magic to graduate early and created a path that was there for me to take or not.

    The traveling world is full of many beautiful, amusing, and terrifying moments. Sometimes, it’s raccoon attacks. Other times, it’s bandits on a train who want your iPod. Often, it is giving a smile that says, “Sorry, I’m a gringo, and everything confuses me.”

    My life is an extended, nomadic journey, and thus my universe expands in wild, unimaginable ways. Even when I find myself racing the clock to find a hospital to administer a rabies vaccination, I can’t help but fall in love with each new day and the unexpected prospects it brings.

    Photo by Steffe Patterson

    Photo by Steffe Patterson

    What inspired you to travel?

    When I was three years old, I left home for the first time. With only a gray pullover and half a paper bag of cold McDonald’s Happy Meal fries, I slipped out the front door, crept down the front porch steps and headed out into the streetlight-lit world of Kalispell, Montana.

    My mom had read me the Little Critter Book, I Was So Mad. The plot changed my worldview. Little Critter is upset at being barred from keeping frogs in the bathtub, so he decides he shall run away. You could do that? My three-year old mind was blown. You could just run away from home and venture out into the waiting world?

    Honestly, there wasn’t much to run away from. Other than my dissatisfaction that ice-cream never appeared on the breakfast menu, I lived a charmed life. It would take me decades to learn my desire to travel wasn’t about running away so much as running toward.

    On that first solo trip into the world, I made it as far as the curb at the end of my block. At the time, I was forbidden to cross the street without holding someone’s hand. Where the sidewalk ended was where my discoverable world finished. I sat on the curb under the street lights, took out my French fries and contemplated my new life.

    I remember this moment as a single image of myself on the curb, surrounded by the soft glow of permeating wonder. This moment was interrupted by my relieved dad, who had been frantically searching for his missing toddler. He scooped me up and carried me back inside our house. That he remembers this too is the only reason I trust such a distant memory.


    Tell us a story of running toward something on the road.  

    In 2008, I took a trip to Cuba as a tribute to my grandma. The week before, I’d had a trip to visit my grandmother. Things did not work out as planned, as I arrived only in time for her funeral.

    Cuba had been the connection between us. She had given me a copy of Hemmingway’s The Old Man in the Sea when I was thirteen, and this sparked my obsession with both Cuba and literature (two fires still burning today).

    In life, my grandma was a poet who published ten books of poetry. This trip to Cuba was to say goodbye to her, and to bring the most palpable part of her, her poetry, to a place she had always longed to go. With my backpack loaded with ten of her poetry books, I did the opposite of shoplifting and secretly slipped these tomes onto the shelves of ten bookstores in Havana.

    How do you pay for your traveling lifestyle?

    Mostly through freelance writing. My initial inspiration for writing was to be a fiction writer and supporting myself from novels is still an eventual goal. But along the way, I’ve made inroads into the travel writing world.

    On paper, earning a living from travel writing is pretty easy. It’s four simple steps.

    1) Write well.

    2) Approach publishers professionally.

    3) Create a proven track record with editors.

    4) Procure enough work to pay for your expenses.

    It’s easy on paper, but it can take years and decades to actually to get to a point where you are achieving step four. I’m still just barely making it, but every year it gets a little bit easier. I remind myself often that I don’t have any doubts any more, just a lot of work to do.


    Photo by Candice Walsh

    Do you have another story of running toward something?

    After a failed romance on a trip to Iceland, I once again ditched my return ticket back to North America (it’s habit forming, I tell you).

    I had $400 to my name and after paying to rent a room with three college students, was broke as broke could be – not to mention still reeling from everything that had brought me there. Plus I wanted to surprise my parents by returning home for Thanksgiving, a holiday I’d missed for seven years.

    So I got to work.

    I started a band called Loki and the Fashion Bandits and we got into an off-venue gig for the internationally acclaimed Airwaves Music Festival, and made money to live off of gigs.

    I made just enough money writing to get to Paris. I stayed with a friend and wrote for a few days until I had enough money to catch a bus to Amsterdam, where a friend I’d met in Guatemala let me couch crash with her for a week. I caught a cheap flight to Barcelona where I got a 10 euro a night hostel bed, and I wrote until I had enough to catch a $400 flight to NYC, where I caught a bus to a plane to a train to a ride from my brother – and I rolled up just in time to surprise my family for Thanksgiving.

    In one sense, every day was a struggle, but here I was, out in the world, writing for my room and board, and getting where I wanted to be.


    Photo by Candice Walsh

    What recent encounter is fresh in your mind?

    Marcia Garcia was a disabled woman I met while doing humanitarian work in Antigua, Guatemala. Despite being born into poverty, being bound to her wheelchair, and disabled to the point of not being able to use her hands, she accomplished her lifelong dream of becoming an artist by painting. She painted with her feet and made a living selling her paintings in Antigua’s Central Park.

    I became friends with Marcia and her daughter, who was the product of a rape that occurred when Marcia was 19. She came to the school I directed and talked to our youth club of at-risk kids. She told them, “Life is not always easy, but it is always beautiful.”

    Marcia knew what it meant to be an artist, and knew that the daily struggle of her life could be translated into something beautiful. She never had a formal education, but I consider her one of my greatest teachers. She taught me about art, life, and most importantly, how to find unbridled beauty in both.


    What has surprised when on the road?

    I learned that raccoons are not actual mammals. They are bite-sized demons.

    One night, in a jungle lodge in Guatemala, I was surprised when a raccoon burst from the jungle and began, as they say, “mauling the s*#$ out of me.” He then disappeared back into the jungle nonchalantly.

    I went to fetch and employee to open the kitchen where there was a first aid kit. Before I reached the door, the coon appeared again. He had developed a taste for my blood and he chased me around the dining room, gnawing at my legs like the little hell beast he was.

    Finally, I grabbed hold of the low-hanging rafters and beat him off with a chair. By this time enough of a commotion had been made that other guests came out to see why I had been “Squealing like a pig being slaughtered.”

    It had all come as a gloriously horrible, but ultimately appreciable surprise: Most of the animals of the jungle desire to bite you.

    The great debate: aisle or window?

    Window. I like to see the world, not the person across from me.


    Best travel tips. Go:  

    Create postcard murals.

    Buy the equivalent of 1-cent stamps wherever you travel. For less than half a dollar, you can create a really fun postcard image to send to friends. Even if they’re not a philatelist, they’ll still love it.

    Don’t propose to someone without taking them on a trip through the developing world.

    If they prove able to handle traveling through the difficulties encountered in the developing world, then it’s possible that they might have the patience and wherewithal to put up with you for life.

    Where are you headed next?

    As I write this, I am in my expat base of Guatemala, where I spend 3-5 months every year. After this, I’ll be in New York for a few weeks for a few music gigs and book signings for my just published book, The Nomad’s Nomad.

    Then I am flying one-way to Asia, where I’ll bounce around doing what I do, meeting kindred spirits, finding stories to tell, mountains to hike, beaches to swim, musicians to jam with, and the sort of inspiration that flows when I’m around new people in new places.

    Follow Luke’s travels on his site Travel, Write, Sing, or via Twitter @LukeSpartacus.


      by Chris Guillebeau at May 19, 2015 12:00 PM