Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The disappearance of literature

From an address by Mark Twain 119 years ago tonight:
We have heard a discussion to-night on the disappearance of literature. That's no new thing. That's what certain kinds of literature have been doing for several years.

The fact is, my friends, that the fashion in literature changes, and the literary tailors have to change their cuts or go out of business.

Professor Winchester here, if I remember fairly correctly what he said, remarked that few, if any, of the novels produced to-day would live as long as the novels of Walter Scott. That may be his notion. Maybe he is right; but so far as I am concerned, I don't care if they don't.

Professor Winchester also said something about there being no modern epics like Paradise Lost. I guess he's right. He talked as if he was pretty familiar with that piece of literary work, and nobody would suppose that he never had read it.

I don't believe any of you have ever read Paradise Lost, and you don't want to. That's something that you just want to take on trust. It's a classic, just as Professor Winchester says, and it meets his definition of a classic—something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The reason government pricing is toxic

There is much political rhetoric these days calling for government to “negotiate prescription drug prices.”

These words lead people to think two things: • the government is another customer, and • the government can negotiate just like another customer. Both of these assumptions are incorrect.

The free market customer negotiates for the most of amount of value for the least amount of cost. This negotiation necessarily includes inherent uncertainty over whether or not a transaction will occur.

The government is not just another customer in the economy which means those factors do not have the same affect on the government as they do on the free market customer.

Monday, November 18, 2019

A combination of spirit and strength

In 1963, we were the Pennsylvania state champions in the mile relay and invited to compete in a special event in New York City at the 168th Street Armory.

On the bus ride there, I sat, as usual, next to my best friend, Bobby Bryant, a six-foot African American superstar. Bobby was so warm and kind that it would take him forever to get through the school cafeteria because he had to stop and joke with every table. School was a struggle for him academically, but on the track, he was magic.

His family never had much money, so I bought him a pair of Adidas spikes with the money I made working. It was a gesture of friendship, but also more than that: Bobby running in a great pair of spikes made all of us look good.

Six teams lined up in the final. I always ran the first leg, and I never passed the baton in second place.

When the gun went off, I broke out in front. But coming around the first curve, I felt my right hamstring rip. The pain was sudden and excruciating.

I had a choice: I could pull over and stop, the sensible choice for my body. Or I could continue and find a way to keep us as close as I could and give us a chance to win.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Who will dare to prove?

He is not wanting great men, but He is wanting men that will dare to prove the greatness of their God.
SourceSimpson, A. B. (Albert B.). Days of Heaven Upon Earth (November 10). Kindle Edition.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Jargon File

The very next year, between March and April 1977, we see the beginning of the social acronyms.

This version describes them as “a special set of jargon words, used to save typing” in Talk mode, an early kind of chat. These acronyms include the now unremarkable R U THERE? but also the now obscure BCNU (be seeing you), T and NIL for “yes” and “no,” and CUL, “see you later.”

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Tasks of mourning

Many people don't know that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's familiar stages of grieving—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—were conceived in the context of terminally ill patients learning to accept their own deaths. It wasn't until decades later that the model came to be used for the grieving process more generally.

It's one thing to “accept” the end of your own life… But for those who keep on living, the idea that they should be getting to acceptance might make them feel worse (“I should be past this by now”; “I don't know why I still cry at random times all these years later”).

Besides, how can there be an endpoint to love and loss? Do we even want there to be?

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The reason prices work in a free market

A price is an agreed-upon amount of money for a buy to pay a seller in exchange for goods and/or services.

The definition is not as exciting as reality.

• Sometimes they don't agree.
• Sometimes the price fails, and there's no transaction.
• Sometimes prices exclude some people and not others.
• Sometimes the seller reinvests from what was paid at a high price to enable more product delivery at a lower price.

A potential transaction starts an interaction. Mutual exchange of value is sought. For the seller, the price must be high enough; for the buyer, the value must be high enough and the price low enough. If buyer and seller can agree, then begins the great mystery and intrigue of negotiating over how much overlap there is in the price range for agreement: How much can the buyer pay? Will the seller go lower? If they agree to meet on a price, the transaction can proceed. If not, the transaction fails. In a free market, there is no guarantee, and that uncertainty is exactly why it works so well.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

500 Days

I'm half way toward my goal of 1,000 days of writing.

Since I last posted a 100-day update, I realized I do have a single way to see stats on my last 100 days of posting. My two most popular posts in that time were:

• What makes students thrive or flounder

When I first undertook this commitment, I had a lot of writing ideas I wanted to force myself to develop. Once I started, I found many of them I had saved were not as useful as originally thought, mostly due to their now-stale nature. They would have been more useful the time.

Another thing I've noticed in this first half is a daily commitment is a commitment to a very specific length of writing. Some of my posts are more drawn out, and with the nature of blogging it's acceptable to have some be quite short, too. If a point can be made very succinctly, why draw it out further?

What is not as conducive to a daily commitment is longer-form writing. I've had some ideas for longer writing projects, and they've had to take a back seat to the daily writing. I can think of two ways to free myself up for the longer writing.

Monday, November 11, 2019

'We knew we were in the hands of a genius'

Jack Armstrong, my track coach at Abington, was medium height, medium build, with gray hair swept back behind his ears. Every day, he wore the same maroon sweatshirt and windbreaker, the same stopwatch on a lanyard around his neck. And every day, he brought the same positive, cheerful demeanor to work. He never shouted or got angry, just raised or lowered his voice within a narrow range, the slightest change in cadence to get his point across.

“Look at what those guys have just done. And you’re making pretend you’re working out!”

There wasn’t a day I didn’t throw up after practice, sick from the effort.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

An alternative to being judgmental

It's easy to hear something about someone and think nothing but condemnation for them. This helps no one.

Instead, pray for them. Do you believe God can change a person, can deal with whatever is messed up in a person's life?

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).

Friday, November 8, 2019

Old early adopters

Some Old Internet People eventually became early adopters of blogs or Twitter, and their facility with internet-mediated social interaction often made them highly visible, influential users.

Some became the first generation of internet researchers, writing up the practices of their own communities.

Others just kept puttering along in their familiar internet byways, and now find themselves having to explain to young whippersnappers that just because they’re older doesn’t mean they don’t know technology—they were programming computers and dialing in via phone lines before said whippersnappers were even born.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

8 life stages

In the mid-1900s, Erikson came up with eight stages of psychosocial development that still guide therapists in their thinking today. … Erikson's psychosocial stages focus on personality development in a social context (such as how infants develop a sense of trust in others).

Most important, Erikson's stages continue throughout the entire lifespan, and each interrelated stage involves a crisis that we need to get through to move on to the next.

They look like this:

Infant (hope)—trust versus mistrust
Toddler (will)—autonomy versus shame
Preschooler (purpose)—initiative versus guilt
School-age child (competence)—industry versus inferiority

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The filthiest language of all

Some people reject the idea of dirty language in the first place. “Who has a right to declare some words dirtier than others,” they ask?

Just like we know we have rights because there are commands against violating those rights, so we know there is unclean language because we are instructed not to use it.

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).

Corrupt words are either words that become corrupted or represent corruption. There are things that are clean and holy, and there are things that are—or become—unclean and profane. Words associated with the latter can become profanity.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Why wireless carriers need to allow independent eSIM activation

The Apple Watch is like a mini iPod touch strapped to your wrist.

That was the analogy used by an Apple Store employee in a conversation I had with her last week.

Except an iPod touch doesn't require an iPhone to operate. In fact, an iPod touch has long been known as being like an iPhone without the phone part. It includes everything else such as the ability to use most apps an iPhone can use.

The Apple Watch with just standard GPS has required a phone to operate. It can also then provide a remote control interface to the phone part of the iPhone, along with its own variety of apps, watch faces, etc.

There's also an Apple Watch with LTE. Sprint has a very nice plan that allows for use of the Apple Watch with LTE that includes unlimited talk, text, and data, for $10/month (after $5 autopay discount). Pair that up with some AirPods, and my phone bill would drop yet again.

Last week I was seriously considering porting my number to an Apple Watch. Then I found out that's not allowed.

Monday, November 4, 2019

A cost of ambition

If you want something badly enough, you can find a way. You can create it out of nothing. And before you know it, there it is.

But wanting something isn’t enough.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Unforgivable Sin

A few years back I had the privilege to be part of the teaching rotation for a high school Sunday School class. One week a topic came up that reminded me of a conversation I had in college with a professor. He made the point that not believing in Jesus is the unforgivable sin.

I mentioned that same point in class, and a young man promptly raised his hand, and then said, “Excuse me, isn't blaspheming the Holy Spirit the unforgivable sin?” According to Matthew 3:29 and Luke 12:10, he is correct. It wasn't a primary point I had prepared to address in detail, so I acknowledged he was correct and moved on in the lesson.

My professor had argued that the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is when one rejects the Holy Spirit as He is drawing someone to salvation (John 16:8-11). If you reject salvation in Jesus, then one is “subject to eternal condemnation” (Matthew 3:29).

Friday, November 1, 2019

Old Internet People

As a group, Old Internet People have the highest level of average technological skill, generally knowing a decent inventory of keyboard shortcuts, the basics in a programming language or two, and how to look at the inner workings of a computer behind its graphical user interface.

They’re often skilled in some other specific area, such as computer hardware assembly, browser encryption, Wikipedia editing, or forum moderating.

They’ve got a lot of browser extensions or other custom configuration tools on their computer and can’t imagine living without them.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The speed of light is outdated

People wanted a speedy solution to their problems, but what if their moods had been driven down in the first place by the hurried pace of their lives? They imagined that they were rushing now in order to savor their lives later, but so often, later never came.

The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm had made this point more than fifty years earlier: “Modern man thinks he loses something—time—when he does not do things quickly; yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains except kill it.”

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The public sector is not just another sector

Today the Bureau of Economic Analysis releases the advance estimate of the 2019 third quarter Gross Domestic Product.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measure of all activity within an economy. Every transaction, no matter its nature, is included. The numbers may be divided into sectors, but the underlying assumption is everything is fundamentally economic. This incorrectly reduces the different natures of various activities to a sense of sameness.

Where the risk of misperception is particularly elevated is with respect to the public sector, that is, government spending.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Nationals' color is red; blue when visiting

The Nationals decided to go with their Navy Blue uniforms for the duration of the World Series. They felt it served them well during the post-season, and decided to continue that all the way through.

I think this made more sense as the visiting team than as the home team.

Traditionally, baseball teams wear a shaded gray version of their uniform when they're out of town and playing in someone else's ballpark. It's a subordinated color. There's something about what we wear that shapes are thinking about who we are.

Monday, October 28, 2019

How Stephen Schwarzman succeeds

For me, the greatest rewards in life have come from creating something new, unexpected, and impactful. I am constantly in pursuit of excellence.

When people ask me how I succeed, my basic answer is always the same:

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The ignorance of the dead

A few years ago I asked someone if he thought America needed spiritual revival. He said “No.”

Do dead people—that is, spiritually dead—know they are dead?

I read in 2 Kings 22 tonight, and it contains the story of Josiah. They found a book, read it, and then read it to the king. His heart was broken. Only a few lines later, in the message from God himself, did it explain why: because of the warnings.

Friday, October 25, 2019

How men and women blog

Several internet studies have highlighted the importance of differentiating between gender and social context.

One study, by linguists Susan Herring and John Paolillo, looked at how people write blogs. At first, it seemed like there was a significant gender difference in the language of blogs.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

You won't get today back

One day I was in the break room with some fellow interns, and we once again started counting our required number of hours and calculating how old we'd be when we finally got licensed. The higher the number, the worse we felt.

A supervisor in her sixties walked by and overheard the conversation. "You'll turn thirty or forty or fifty anyway, whether your hours are finished or not," she said. "What does it matter what age you are when that happens? Either way, you won't get today back."

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

War + Veterans = Nones

Last week I was handing out a few Gospel tracts, and one guy wasn't interested in the tract, but was willing to have a conversation. I had some time left in my parking space, so I sat down and we talked for a while.

He has had his share of rough experiences in life. One type of those was experiences in war and things done to defend our country. He has seen some terrible things, and consequently does not see God having an active role in the world today, to say the least.

The conversation did not finish where it started, and he's interested in talking more some other time. (Please feel free to keep that in prayer.) For my purposes here, I want to note a connection made between veterans of the War on Terror, and its offshoots, and the rise of The Nones, those who indicate no religious affiliation or belief.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Section 230, a free-speech essential

An important principle of free speech is that a person's speech is his responsibility.

We don't hold the paper manufacturer or the printer responsible for how people use those tools.

The internet equivalent of this principle is called Section 230. It's the part of the law that gives the online version of paper manufacturer's legal immunity from how other's may use their platforms to say things.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Blackstone culture

Blackstone is a remarkable success because of our culture. We believe in meritocracy and excellence, openness and integrity. And we work hard to hire only people who share those beliefs.

We are fixated on managing risk and never losing money. We are strong believers in innovation and growth—constantly asking questions in order to anticipate events so that we can evolve and change before we are forced to.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

With a meaning you cannot understand now

Some day, even you, trembling, faltering one, shall stand upon those heights and look back upon all you have passed through, all you have narrowly escaped, all the perils through which He guided you, the stumblings through which He guarded you, and the sins from which He saved you; and you shall shout, with a meaning you cannot understand now, “Salvation unto Him who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”
SourceSimpson, A. B. (Albert B.). Days of Heaven Upon Earth (October 8). Kindle Edition.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Language disruptors

The role that young women play as language disruptors is so clearly established at this point it’s practically boring to linguists who study this topic: well-known sociolinguist William Labov estimated that women lead 90 percent of linguistic change in a paper he wrote in 1990.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Moving both slowly and quickly

Therapists are always weighing the balance between forming a trusting alliance and getting to the real work so the patient doesn't have to continue suffering.

From the outset, we move both slowly and quickly, slowing the content down, speeding up the relationship, planting seeds strategically along the way.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Baseball is family, especially for the Nationals

The Washington Nationals are in the World Series! I think it's more providential than accidental that one of the more family-friendly clubs in the MLB has advanced as far as they have this year.

Team Manager Dave Martinez's encouragement for Daniel Hudson to be with his family at the time of his child's birth instead of pitching during the postseason is highly commendable.

A can't-help-but-smile highlight of the year has been the Baby Shark song as the walk-up music for Gerardo Parra. He chose this in honor of his 2-year-old who loves the song so that she could feel like she was a part of what her dad was doing.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Car color trends and their message

I was driving home today, and took a route I haven't often taken. I just missed the light so that put me at the front of the line to see all the cross-traffic.

(I was once carpooling with some folks, and one commented to another about how they hated just missing the light. I told them, “I don't know about that because I like having a clear path in front of me for when the light turns green.” The immediate response to that was, “You are definitely someone who sees the glass as half full.” I hadn't thought about it quite like that, but it was an encouraging perspective.)

At one point, three or four black SUVs or their mid-range counterparts passed in front of me heading west. The burst of similarity got me thinking and wondering how common that color was. I started paying attention to the colors of all the vehicles passing in front of me in either direction.

I was a little bit surprised to find that many of the vehicles were on a spectrum between white and black—many white, many black, many silver, and various shades in between. Occasionally some would have a tint to them like champagne/tan. A few were red, and two out of three of those were muted. It was quite rare to see anything else.

I looked it up, and apparently this is a thing, not an anomaly from my afternoon observations or unique to the capital area.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The issues that determine the outcome

…what I lacked in basic economics, I made up for with my ability to see patterns and develop new solutions and paradigms, and with the sheer will to turn my ideas into reality.

Finance proved to be the means for me to learn about the world, form relationships, tackle significant challenges, and channel my ambition.

It also allowed me to refine my ability to simplify complex problems by focusing on only the two or three issues that will determine the outcome.
Source: What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence by Stephen A. Schwarzman

Sunday, October 13, 2019

A test of character

Nothing tests a Christian character more than to have some evil thing said about him.

This is the file that soon proves whether we are electro-plate or solid gold.

If we could only know the blessings that lie hidden in our lives, we would say, like David, when Shimei cursed him, “Let him curse; it may be the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.”
SourceSimpson, A. B. (Albert B.). Days of Heaven Upon Earth (October 7). Kindle Edition.

Friday, October 11, 2019


Does it ever feel like your family or friend group speaks its very own dialect? This was the premise of a book called Kitchen Table Lingo, which collected examples from what the linguist David Crystal called familects: “the private and personal word-creations that are found in every household and in every social group, but which never get into the dictionary” (or onto dialect maps).
Source: Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

Thursday, October 10, 2019

We have a lot of fears

We are afraid of being hurt.

We are afraid of being humiliated.

We are afraid of failure and we are afraid of success.

We are afraid of being alone and we are afraid of connection.

We are afraid to listen to what our hearts are telling us.

We are afraid of being unhappy and we are afraid of being too happy (in these dreams, inevitably, we're punished for our joy).

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Faster > instant

We tend to drive harder and harder toward stronger, better, and faster. Speed is fun. It can be dangerous, and that can be part of what makes it fun, too.

Going faster can mean things coming faster, too. The business world knows this quite well. If you can do things as well as your competitor and faster, you have a useful advantage.

The Bible calls on leaders to lead with speed (Romans 12:8).

Does faster ultimately lead to instantaneous? Is that its logical conclusion?

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Morals and memory

It's my opinion that every one I know has morals, though I wouldn't like to ask. I know I have. But I'd rather teach them than practice them any day. “Give them to others”—that's my motto. Then you never have any use for them when you're left without.

Now, speaking of the caprices of memory in general, and of mine in particular, it's strange to think of all the tricks this little mental process plays on us. Here we're endowed with a faculty of mind that ought to be more supremely serviceable to us than them all.

And what happens?

This memory of ours stores up a perfect record of the most useless facts and anecdotes and experiences. And all the things that we ought to know—that we need to know—that we'd profit by knowing—it casts aside with the careless indifference of a girl refusing her true lover.

It's terrible to think of this phenomenon. I tremble in all my members when I consider all the really valuable things that I've forgotten in seventy years—when I meditate upon the caprices of my memory.

Monday, October 7, 2019

One personally defining effort

I’ve always believed that it’s just as hard to achieve big goals as it is small ones. The only difference is that bigger goals have much more significant consequences.

Since you can tackle only one personally defining effort at a time, it’s important to pursue a goal that is truly worthy of the focus it will require to ensure its success.
Source: What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence by Stephen A. Schwarzman

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The cost of ridicule

Then (Elisha) went up from there to Bethel;

and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!”

So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the LORD. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths (2 Kings 2:23-24).
J. Vernon McGee commentary:
“Little children” is naar or nahar in Hebrew. … You will find this word used in many places in Scripture, and in every other place it is translated “young men.” This was a crowd of young fellows.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Influencing Washington

Vice President Mike Pence has long been known for describing himself as “a Christian, an American, and a Republican, in that order.”

There's a practical way in which that works out for voters, too. Members of Congress relate to their constituency in much the same way, theological differences notwithstanding.

We see this in how contacting one's Member of Congress can make a difference on legislation and the agenda in Washington.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Food Production ≠ Starvation

Jared Diamond argues that increasing food production leads to starvation:
Archaeologists studying the rise of farming have reconstructed a crucial stage at which we made the worst mistake in human history.

Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.
In other words, man had a choice between population control (killing people) or feeding them, and the great tragedy of history is we found a way to fed ourselves.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Bucket lists

Often people think about bucket lists when somebody close to them dies.

That's what happened for Candy Chang, an artist who, in 2009, created a space on a public wall in New Orleans with the prompt Before I die _____.

Within days the wall was completely filled. People wrote things like

• Before I die, I want to straddle the international dateline.
• Before I die, I want to sing for millions.
• Before I die, I want to be completely myself.

Soon the idea spawned over a thousand such walls all over the world:

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Refusing to recognize evil

Last week Greta Thunberg stepped onto the world stage to deliver her message to national leaders.

She declared “For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear.” Perhaps 30 years sounds like a long time to someone who is 16 years old. In the longer history of science, 30 years is not that long. We still have much to learn, and perhaps to unlearn. The environmental message in the 30 years before the most recent 30 was the climate is cooling and we are in danger of another ice age.

When science crosses over into politics, scientific uncertainty becomes scarce, especially when public research funding is on the line. While there is a steady flow of proverbial ink on this topic, I'm more interested in a non-scientific topic she raised in her comments.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Campaign finance laws protect incumbents

Last night marks the end of another big quarterly campaign finance reporting period in the 2020 presidential race. The reason we hear about this is because of laws that require the financial reporting and impose severe penalties for lack of compliance.

The idea behind these transparency laws is to first shed light on the financial happenings of campaigns. There has been a long-standing principle of following the money to trace a person's otherwise unexplained motivations for actions they take, especially if they are against interests of the public. Some want to then use this information to “get money out of politics” altogether.

There are two side-effects of campaign finance laws.

Monday, September 30, 2019

10,457 + 5,000

What would you do if you had an extra 5,000 days to live?

It's a kind of hypothetical question that rarely comes with any degree of certainty. I don't know that most people would change a thing.

Today, I am 5,000 days older than my biological dad was when he passed away. He accomplished a lot in his life, more than me so far in several cases. He was married, had a kid (me), and had clear ideas of what he wanted to do (be a missionary) and where he wanted to do it (remote Venezuela). Had this plan not been interrupted when it was, it may have met another interruption that came later.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

When to ignore others

1 Kings 13 is one of the stranger passages in the Bible, even among those who believe it. I don't normally turn to commentaries after reading the Bible, but I did in this case.

Warren Wiersbe had the most helpful comments:
If there is one lesson to be learned from 1Ki 13:11-34, it is this:
• don't let other people determine the will of God for your life.
• Obey what God's Word says to you, regardless of the cost.
Source: Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the Old Testament

Friday, September 27, 2019

2 kinds of random

There are two kinds of random, and they are nearly opposite with respect to numbers.

random sample, such as for a poll, is one that is very ordered. For instance, if one has a population of 1,000 people and wants a random sample, one would take an alphabetical list of names, and then take every 100th name in order to get an even random sample of the population.

Every 100th name would not appear to be random mathematically as each number would easily be divisible by at least one other number, in this case 100.

A random number is a number with no discernible mathematical pattern. Nothing repeats indefinitely, nor is it evenly divisible by another number. The digits of an irrational number qualify as a random sequence.

When scientists search for life outside of earth, they are looking for signals of random sequences from radio transmissions. Thus far, all we've ever physically found or heard from beyond our solar system is very ordered signals from things like pulsar stars.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Therapy ownership

Every therapy session belongs to both patient and therapist, to the interaction between them.

It was the psychoanalyst Harry Stack Sullivan who, in the early twentieth century, developed a theory of psychiatry based on interpersonal relationships.

Breaking away from Freud's position that mental disorders were intrapsychic in origin (meaning “in one's mind”), Sullivan believed that our struggles were interactional (meaning “relational”).

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Cost increases memory

Everyone remembers what costs them something. Not every remembers details about things, but even people who have difficulty memorizing things remember when something costs them.

I used to forget my water bottle until I made myself drive several miles out of the way to return and pick it up. I have less difficulty remembering it now.

Costs can be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary costs are when we make a purchase. Involuntary costs are by our mistake or the fault of others. Either way, costs create indelible lasting marks in our minds.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Those who can't

There's a saying among non-educators, “Those who can't do, teach.”

It's a very loaded phrase that's mostly used to denigrate teachers. Perhaps there have been some examples of this along the way that lead people to believe this. There are also examples of the inverse of this phrase. Not everyone that can do, can teach. Albert Einstein did not accept this standard saying, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”

Monday, September 23, 2019

Autumn Constellations

As I've been noting at the beginning of each astronomical season this year, there are specific constellations visible during that respective season.

Northern hemisphere constellations visible during the fall include: Andromeda, Aquarius, Capricornus, Pegasus, and Pisces.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

All labor and all skill

“Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:4).

Everything man does is one man striving against another man.

That's a humbling thought. We all get hungry. We all need to eat. “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). One primary point of working is to earn money to buy food (if one does not work his own food source). The only way to earn money is to exchange value with others. We must engage with others, and all our interpersonal activities are in some way motivated to satisfy and please our desires.

God demonstrates the opposite way. “For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me’” (Romans 15:3).

Friday, September 20, 2019

The sound of grief

I’ve also seen grief from afar, like the time in medical school when I was transporting blood samples in the emergency room and heard a sound so startling that I almost dropped the tubes.

It was a wail, more animal-like than human, so piercing and primal that it took me a minute to find its source.

Out in the hallway was a mother whose three-year-old had drowned after running out the back door and falling in the swimming pool during the two minutes in which the mother had gone upstairs with her infant to change his diaper.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Attachment styles

Attachment styles are formed early in childhood based on our interactions with our caregivers.

Attachment styles are significant because they play out in people's adult relationships too, influencing the kinds of partners they pick (stable or less stable), how they behave during the course of a relationship (needy, distant, or volatile), and how their relationships tend to end (wistfully, amiably, or with a huge explosion).

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Government is not a business

There are people who correctly claim, “If I ran my business like the government, I would go out of business.” Their point is usually financial. They cannot endlessly spend more than they take in and remain solvent. The entity that prints or mints the money can do things that those who must earn money cannot.

The point is well taken and should be instructive for the government. While a government may be able to stretch financial limits more than those with more immediate accountability, it, too, can face a day of reckoning when its bill finally comes due.

Comparisons of government to business should stop here. There is an important way in which government and business are not and should not be alike.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

3 surprises in the U.S. Constitution

Happy Constitution Day!

232 years ago the United States Constitution was ratified. This is the document which describes that which constitutes the United States of America. Without this document, the states would not be united. This document effectively takes the sinful nature of man into account by separating powers into different branches of government, similar to what we see in Isaiah 33:22: “For the LORD is our Judge, The LORD is our Lawgiver, The LORD is our King; He will save us.”

The Virginia Declaration of Rights reminds us, “That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.” Congress has done this in recent years by opening its new term with reading the still-active parts of the Constitution on the House floor.

As for the non-active parts, “The text we will read today reflects the changes to the document made by the 27 amendments to it. Those portions superseded by amendment will not be read.” Some people get wrapped around the axle about whether the parts not read are being ignored or suppressed. There are a few things I find interesting still in the document, one related to parts others are concerned are suppressed.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Why higher tax revenue?

Today third quarter estimated federal taxes are due. When people have to pay their taxes themselves, that makes them more likely to consider the rate and its purpose.

Conservatives, of which I am generally one, have had an interesting approach to tax policy for a few decades now. During the Reagan Administration, Arthur Laffer introduced his famous curve. The basic premise is government tax revenue would be $0.00 if the tax rate were 0% and if it were 100%. Somewhere in the middle it reaches a high point. Then, the 0% point, peak, and 100% point form a curve of expected tax revenue based on the tax rate.

This was developed at a time when the top income tax rates were well north of 50%, presumably on the far side of the curve when it was nearing 100% and revenues would be heading to $0. The conclusion, then, was if tax rates were reduced, that would move the revenue point on the graph back which would move the amount of revenue up the curve. That is, with the government taking less money, people are free to spend or invest more, the economy grows accordingly, and as the economy grows, the government tax percentage grows with it—higher revenue with lower tax rates.

Where that high point is on the curve—that is, what tax rate produces the most revenue—has been the point of much debate over the years. Democrats agree that as the economy grows, revenue goes up. The disagreement is about the cause. This post is not an argument in that debate. The purpose of this post is to ask questions about each side's assumptions and conclusions.

Conservatives tend to perpetually believe that lower tax rates will produce higher revenue. Let's assume that's true. Why do conservatives, who want smaller government, push for something that would produce bigger government revenues?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

God doesn't hammer us into place

And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built (1 Kings 6:7).

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Construction can be loud, right? Not with God's temple.

Did you know, if you are a believer you are being built together into a holy temple?

The tools made no noise where the physical building was built. I think there's something to be said in applying this to how God builds His temple with us, too. He doesn't hammer us into place.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Limits to the size-of-government argument

Conservatives, of which I am one, like to argue in favor of smaller governmentPresident Reagan laid the foundation for popularizing this argument in his first inaugural address in 1981: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”

That is actually a statement more about big government than it is smaller government. To a government bureaucracy, problems become less something to be solved (which would put bureaucrats out of a job), and more something to be managed (which would keep bureaucrats employed). It is no coincidence, then, that as government has gotten bigger, society's problems have increased with it.

It is logical to conclude that reversing this trend would improve things. If big government makes things worse, smaller government would make things better. While there is truth to this argument, it also lacks a foundation. Size is entirely relative. Taking this argument to its conclusion, one would wrongly assume conservatives believe having no government at all would solve all our problems.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

How to evaluate any political argument

Start with Who.

In any policy or political debate, when considering the point a candidate is making, ask • Who are the governed? and • Who is governing?

The governed are the free—those who do good. Those governing are the ones who punish those who do evil and praise those who do good. The essence of governing, then, is to identify evil and decide how to punish it, and to identify exceptional good and decide how to praise it. What punishments for the crime? What recognition for the good would be most appropriate? That is the essence of governing. Outside of those two things, government is not there to do anything. (Distinct from evaluating public policy is the evaluation of debate about public policy.)

With that understanding, ask yourself if the candidate is proposing something that governs or something by which government participates in doing good. Doing good is a good thing, but not with the government. If you want to do good, go do it. Why use coercive government to do it? This is dangerousGood policy debate is about how government reacts to the actions of others. Bad policy debate is about making the government a participant in whatever area the candidate is focused.

If those governing are promising to use government to do good or make government “a force for good,” then ask yourself, Who will be there to govern them while their government attempts to do those supposedly good things?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Floridian memories of September 11, 2001

Last year I wrote about my own memories of 9/11/2001. This year I asked David, my 9/11-born brother in Florida, to share his memories, and he did. Links added.
The morning of September 11th, 2001 was originally just like any other Tuesday morning. Classes went as expected, it was my birthday, my 16th no less, but being in high school, that really did not mean as much as it did when I was a kid. Little did I know that my birthday that year would end up as anything but ‘sweet.’

While I was walking on my way to my American History class, I started to hear some commotion. This was in the days before smartphones so information did not travel nearly as fast as it does today. When I arrived at the classroom there were a few students telling the teacher to turn on the TV, but at first, the teacher thought they just wanted to goof off so their requests were denied.

However, one student heard what had happened and said that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings! We were shocked to hear that because this came from a student not known for making outrageous, false claims. So, the teacher promptly turned on the television. On the screen was a picture of one of the World Trade Center buildings, on fire! Every network was covering the news — we were witnessing American History that day!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Is a 'right' to health care absolute?

The left generally does not like absolutes, especially moral absolutes. “Who are you tell me abortion or homosexuality is wrong?” They're not in to higher authority.

Rights come from God, but they'd rather people think they came from them. And the rights they do like to “afford” to others they speak of in near absolute terms.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says he wants to “guarantee healthcare”, the services provided by medical professionals, “to all people as a right.” The key word there is guarantee.

They're trying to have it both ways—something absolute without absolutes. That's why this is an important and telling question: Does the left believe the right to health care is absolute?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Health care reform at 10 years

Today is the 10-year anniversary of President Obama's health care speech to Congress.

SMMRY of the speech:

Unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek—especially requiring insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions—just can't be achieved.

While there remain some significant details to be ironed out, I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined:

consumer protections for those with insurance,
• an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage, and
• a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.

An additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Understanding the nature of obedience to God

Someone once tried to rewrite the Ten Commandments, “stating them as a positive.” They didn't like the “negative” tone of “Thou shalt not…” There are several problems with this.

First, not all ten are written “as a negative,” as it were. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” and “Honor your father and your mother,” are written as a positives.

Second, if “as a positive” was the wisest way to write them, wouldn't God, who is alone wise, have written them that way?

Third, this misunderstands the nature of the freedom God intends.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Breaking streaks

This week I decided to ditch daily electronic to do lists altogether—even for the recurring and electronic tasks. Late nights due to internet access have still been an issue.

Electronic devices can far too easily hold my attention, and make me constantly check to see if there's something else to do.

Swipes is one of the most effective at this. While this is powerful for helping ensure things get done, it's too powerful if it feeds internet addiction.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Guest biometrics

Just before leaving town for the August recess, there was a special order hour on the House floor about immigration. One of the speakers, Representative Scott Perry, said, “I have been here for 7 years, and I have seen ‘comprehensive’ come up in healthcare, and I have seen ‘comprehensive’ come up in immigration. What I have learned is that when you put ‘comprehensive’ in front of a cause, it doesn't happen. It is political speak that says it is not going to happen because the room becomes divided, and everybody uses it as a political tool for the next election.”

This reminds me of a similar observation I made a while back in realizing the meaning of “reform.” Anything they want to “reform” is usually something they want to eliminate. Those in favor of “campaign finance reform” really just want to eliminate all campaign finance. Of course, they would say they just want to eliminate private campaign finance, and make everything publicly funded, but that's a formula for preserving the power of those who already have power. (More on this in a few weeks.)

Nonetheless, Rep. Perry: “What I want to do is, instead of trying to do comprehensive immigration reform, I want to focus on a small bite of the apple.” His small bite is “a guest worker program” in lower-skilled “agriculture, hospitality, and construction.” His focus that night was on agriculture.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

5 ways to reinvent newspapers for millennials

As newspaper subscriptions have dwindled to the point of endangering a longstanding business model, it's worth pointing out some things could be done to revive print journalism business.

After all, there are some things to like about newspaper content. It's daily. It's not always-on, up-to-the-minute/second. This provides an inherent value filter against the immediate. It's local which increases the odds the content will actually be relevant. It's in print which creates a bias toward words and meaning, not images and emotion.

There are some things that can be done about some of a newspaper's inherent limitations.

First, get rid of newsprint. It's gross.

For a generation that grew up on laser printers, unsealed ink on newsprint is substandard. I once worked in an office that had a staff person gather the “clippings” each morning by physically cutting articles out of a newspaper. She literally had to spray and wipe down her work space every single day because of the disgusting mess the newsprint would make in just an hour. It smelled nice afterwards, and it was a potent reminder of why I have no interest in a newspaper subscription.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

An Ideal French Address

I am told that a French sermon is like a French speech—it never names an historical event, but only the date of it; if you are not up in dates, you get left. A French speech is something like this:

“Comrades, citizens, brothers, noble parts of the only sublime and perfect nation, let us not forget that the 21st January cast off our chains; that the 10th August relieved us of the shameful presence of foreign spies; that the 5th September was its own justification before Heaven and humanity; that the 18th Brumaire contained the seeds of its own punishment; that the 14th July was the mighty voice of liberty proclaiming the resurrection, the new day, and inviting the oppressed peoples of the earth to look upon the divine face of France and live; and let us here record our everlasting curse against the man of the 2d December, and declare in thunder tones, the native tones of France, that but for him there had been no 17th March in history, no 12th October, nor 9th January, no 22d April, no 16th November, no 30th September, no 2d July, no 14th February, no 29th June, no 15th August, no 31st May—that but for him, France, the pure, the grand, the peerless, had had a serene and vacant almanac to-day.”

I have heard of one French sermon which closed in this odd yet eloquent way:

Monday, September 2, 2019

What is unique about America

Chesterton's observations about humor and familiarity were in the context of his observations about questions posed by America to foreigners: “Are you an anarchist?” and “Are you in favour of
subverting the government of the United States by force?” As if “anarchists and polygamists are so pure and good that the police have only to ask them questions and they are certain to tell no lies.”

Seeking not to be the traveler who “has found something to make him laugh, and he will not suffer it to make him think,” he continued, “It is not to deny that American officialism is rather peculiar on this point, but to inquire what it really is which makes America peculiar, or which is peculiar to America.”
America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

To what should the Bible be applied?

The Bible should be applied to whatever it applies itself.

This may or may not mean our personal lives or something in them at any given time. Not everything in the Bible is about us or the Church. Some things are about things larger than us—like nations—and some not dealing directly with people at all—like nature.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Unfamiliarity ≠ Inferiority

Let me begin my American impressions with two impressions I had before I went to America. One was an incident and the other an idea; and when taken together they illustrate the attitude I mean.

The first principle is that • nobody should be ashamed of thinking a thing funny because it is foreign; the second is that • he should be ashamed of thinking it wrong because it is funny.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Don't ride out a category 4 hurricane

15 years ago Central Florida got hit by at least three hurricanes in a single season. The following year, Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 storm, hit New Orleans and did lots of flooding damage.

I remember one of my loved ones (who does not like to be quoted in public) after seeing these storms over those two years saying, if a category 4 storm was headed his way, it was time to go.

Category 4 hurricanes will flatten and flood what's in their path. They do catastrophic damage of historic proportions. They do not leave conditions habitable. Damaged homes, flooded roads, downed trees, downed power lines, and few supplies available are not suitable for a family.

It's good to prepare your home and be ready to ride it out.

It's also good to prepare to travel and be ready to leave if that times come.

Just because your neighborhood has never looked like images of those neighborhoods-turned-lakes one sees after a flood doesn't mean it can't happen to your neighborhood this time.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The way of the attached

The third book of the Bible is Leviticus. While much could be said and written about this shortest of Pentateuch books, this post is just about its name.

Leviticus is about the way of the Levites.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The reductionist nature of click rates

Jeff Hammerbacher once famously said, “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”

The problem isn’t the click rate.

There are many things on which people can click or tap. These things can be good or bad.

The click rate, however, does not reflect this moral dimension. It reduces the question to only show whether or not there was a click, and a click is always considered good. It's all about the count, not the content.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Earlier this month I wrote about dividing up my waking hours in a day into 10 segments of 1.5 hours each, and then how 60% of that was for maintaining activities and 40% for advancing. That seemed a bit skewed at the time, and it was. The intended maintaining activities beginning remain roughly the same, but with only 4 of the segments bookending 6 segments of advancing instead of 6 bookending 4. The ratio is flipped. 40% maintaining, 60% advancing—in theory.

I've also ditched trying to have a pre-structure for the 60% advancing time. Considering time as free time or margin time is better than trying to have a plan for every waking moment.

One interesting numerical coincidence of this new plan is the first two segments and the last two segments occur at the same time, just offset by 12 hours.

Monday, August 26, 2019

What makes students thrive or flounder

I’ve put this question to dozens of teachers over the past two years.

As the son of a public school teacher, and as the husband of a former public school teacher, I’ve been in countless discussions with teachers about what, at bottom, makes students thrive or flounder.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Scriptural Evaluation of Salvation Invitations

Invitations given at the conclusion of a gospel message must be clearly and precisely conveyed. It is of upmost importance that everyone listening will understand the specifics of the invitation. Above all, the invitation must be biblically-based.

Clearly-worded invitations:

Will you accept the Lord Jesus and trust Him as your own personal Savior?
This invitation is biblically correct. Accepting (receiving) the Lord Jesus as my Savior is believing that He died for me and paid the penalty on the cross for my sin (Romans 5:8). Because He loves me, He died for me (John 3:16). Placing my personal trust in His death for me is God's only requirement for salvation (Romans 3:24). Trusting Christ is personal. Christ died for me, and I personally trust Him to save me from the penalty of my sin. “As many as received Him” (John 1:12) is the open invitation for anyone to be saved. “Receiving” results in immediate possession of salvation (Romans 6:22).

Christ died for your sins. Believe it personally. That's all you need to get saved.
This is the heart of the gospel (Romans 5:8). The Bible uses believe as an absolute trust in the work of Christ for me (John 3:18). Christ died for my sins and demonstrated His victory over sin by His physical resurrection from the dead (Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The work is all done! Our Savior lives to assure the believer that He can and will complete our salvation (Philippians 1:6). The payment is complete for the penalty of my sin (1 John 2:2). Knowing my guilt of sin, all that I can do is believe that He died for me and trust that payment to be all I need for salvation (Romans 4:5; 6:23).

Saturday, August 24, 2019

American Dream

I've been thinking about adding some new music to my library and current listening rotation, and today I discovered that since I last tuned into the epic music genre a couple years ago, one of it's shining stars has released another album.

Thomas Bergersen's American Dream is currently ranked #48 in soundtracks on Amazon.

It's like one big 45-minute epic.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Don't be a beta power user

I got an invite to the iOS 13 public beta recently (during public beta 5), though I don't remember signing up for that, it looked legit (good email From domain). I asked an Apple fanboy friend of mine about it, and he said, “This is the public beta so it's stable enough for regular use. Some apps may have quirks here and there but those will be updated in coming months. … I'd run the beta on both devices. Have fun.”

After two weeks of use, I've sent in 48 Feedback reports. I've also amended some as certain bugs have persisted over two successive betas.

The thing is, each one of these reports can generate a massive amount of diagnostic data to send to Apple. They warn you about the possible content, but not the size.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Dying in a city without echoes

Hana Abu Salman, a young psychology researcher whom I got to know at the American University of Beirut, once did a project interviewing her classmates about their deepest anxieties.

Among their greatest fears, she found, was this fear of dying in a city without echoes, where you knew that your tombstone could end up as someone's doorstep before the grass had even grown over your grave.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Better than tuition-free

If I had a choice between an education provided by the public sector (the taxpayer), and an education provided by the private sector (the value producers), this would be an easy, hands-down decision: go for the value with the privately-funded education.

Those in the private sector who are seeking to bring their people up to speed on current work needs, like Amazon, are inherently invested in ensuring the education directly produces value. In a tight labor market, businesses have a vested interest in raising and retaining valuable people.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The ‘most Christianising’ physical science

Maury's address at the laying of the corner-stone of the University of the South, on the Sewanee Mountains in East Tennessee, was delivered at the request of Bishop Otey on Nov. 30th, 1860.

Physical geography,” he said, “makes the whole world kin. Of all the departments in the domains of physical science, it is the most Christianising. Astronomy is grand and sublime; but astronomy overpowers with its infinities, overwhelms with its immensities. Physical geography charms with its wonders, and delights with the benignity of its economy. Astronomy ignores the existence of man; physical geography confesses that existence, and is based on the Biblical doctrine 'that the earth was made for man.' Upon no other theory can it be studied—upon no other theory can its phenomena be reconciled. . . .

Monday, August 19, 2019

Proximity in Productivity

I find to-do lists to be most useful when they are located closest to where things are to be done.

Paper to do lists have one huge advantage over electronic to do lists. Once the ink is on the page, it stays there. The only thing one can do after writing something down is cross it off, presumably when done. It is also easy to have them always on and visible—no battery charge required.

Electronic to do lists too easily create the illusion of accomplishment by enabling doing something with a to do item other than doing it. I can move it, color it, categorize it, edit it, sort it, time it, date it, locate it, email it, share it, remind it, flag it, subtask it, and on and on. In the end, these things have a tendency to make my to-do list longer, not shorter.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Christianity is nominal

To be a Christian is to believe in the name of Jesus. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

There are some who sound like they are describing the free Gospel of grace in their evangelistic appeals to others. Then, once people are saved, they claim good works “must” and “always” follow their salvation, and if it doesn't, then he is a nominal, “Christian in name only.” That's not the Gospel. That's not freedom. That leaves no room for sanctification or forgiving one another. This is called Lordship Salvation, and it is a great danger in our day.

To be a Christian in name only—the name of Jesus Christ—is to be a Christian. Lance Latham used to say, based on Romans 4:5, that he was 100% confident he could stand there in the pulpit for the rest of his life, never again do another good work, and still know that he was saved and going to heaven. Why? Because he believed in the name of Jesus and that's all it takes to be a Christian. The blood of Jesus covered all his sin: past, present and future.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

A grateful homage

From his First letter to his daughter DlANA after her marriage to Mr. S. W. Corbin, of Farhyvale (Virginia), May 9th, 1858.

I was speaking of the Christian graces and human virtues and those traits which you should cultivate, and which embellish and adorn the character.

The one great point which, after duty to God, you are to keep constantly in view is, to identify yourself with your husband, and strive mutually each to make yourselves the companion of the other.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Casting the mould for domestic happiness

To his eldest Daughter.

My Dear Daughter, (from) Buffalo, Nov. 26th, 1856.

My thoughts dwell with you, and my heart, brimful of the most tender and affectionate solicitude, clings to you. Alone in my room, there is something which keeps you ever present. The step you are about to take is the step of life—with a woman it certainly is such.

You have given your hand to a young man of irreproachable character, of an amiable disposition, and a cultivated mind, and were it not that he is of kin, the match would be as free from objection and quite as promising as need be.

That you are both poor is no ground of solicitude; happiness is above riches, and if you are not happy, being poor, wealth would not, I apprehend, make you happy. Poverty has its virtues, and my struggles with it are full of pleasant remembrances. I hope your experience will tally with mine. I do not say, strive to be content, for in that there is no progression; but be content to strive.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A game plan for JCPenney

Retail is no longer just about products. It's also about the customer experience.

The customer experience means more than good customer service. It's about the relationship the customer has with the store's people, and the relationship the store has with the community.

Retailers primarily want two things:
• people coming in the door
• a chance to talk with them

People seeking a third place want two things:
• WiFi
• a place to sit down

The biggest stores that are thriving today are those the offer more to do at their location than buy things. There's a reason grocers and discounters have added coffee shops and restaurants to their facilities. They are meeting the desires of people today.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Beirut’s version of the Second Amendment

Beirut's wealthiest flocked to Goodies to buy all their food. A gaggle of Mercedes-Benzes could always be found parked outside.

Legend has it that one day a disheveled young man entered Goodies, walked up to the cash register with a rifle, and demanded all the money. Within seconds three different women drew pistols out of their Gucci handbags, pumped a flurry of bullets into the thief, and then continued pushing their shopping carts down the bountiful aisles.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

If the law of the jungle reigned

In his classic work Leviathan, the seventeenth-century English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes described what he called “the state of nature” that would exist if government and society completely broke down and the law of the jungle reigned.

In such a condition, wrote Hobbes, “where every man is enemy to every man … there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Hobbes, who at the time of his writing was trying to defend the idea of absolute monarchy, believed that men escaped from nastiness and brutishness—the state of nature—only by forming societies wherein rulership was vested in a single authority with absolute powers. Man, he argued, is moral only in a social context. Therefore, a state, backed by force, was needed to socialize men, to curb their savage instincts, and to prevent them from chaotic behavior and the war of all against all.

I don't know if Beirut is a perfect Hobbesian state of nature, but it is probably the closest thing to it that exists in the world today. If so, Hobbes was right about life in such a world being “nasty, brutish, and short,” but he was quite wrong about it being “poor” and “solitary.”

Monday, August 12, 2019

Eternal implications of 3 universal currencies

Author Josh Kaufman has identified three universal currencies:
In every negotiation, there are 3 Universal Currencies on the table:
  • Resources. Tangible items like money, oil, etc.
  • Time. The universal limit of capacity.
  • Flexibility. The cost of not doing something else, which is a very real Opportunity Cost
Focus on the appropriate trade-offs between the parties to find Common Ground in these Currencies. By mixing these currencies in different ways, it's easier to reach an agreement that the parties can agree with.
What might an eternal perspective on these things look like?

Resources are those tangible, temporary things which, if used to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ, produce eternal results.

Time is limited. “Teach us to number our days so that we may have a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Tradeoffs are a thing. “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God” (1 Corinthians 15:34).

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Why God has more than three possible answers to our questions

Some people in churchianity like to say that “God has three possible answers to our questions: Yes, No, and Wait.”

Two thoughts: (1) This claim comes from a very limited view of God, and (2) it says more about us than about God.

There are two types of questions one can ask. Only one type has limited pre-defined answers.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The difference between Sunni and Shia

The Muslims of the world have long been divided between Sunnis, who are the majority, and Shiites.

In the seventh century, shortly after the death of Islam's founder, the prophet Muhammad, a dispute arose over who should be his successor as spiritual and political leader, known as caliph.


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