All content on this blog from Tim McGhee has moved to the Tim McGhee Substack, and soon, Lord willing, will be found only on that Substack.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Four Terrible Foes

A.B. Simpson divides up the difficulties in life four ways: “Christ has overcome for us every one of our four terrible foes—Sin, Sickness, Sorrow, Satan.”*

This is somewhat in contrast to a more traditional rendering of challenges in life: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

* Simpson, A. B. (Albert B.). Days of Heaven Upon Earth (p. 65—March 5). Kindle Edition.

Friday, March 29, 2019

When Cultural Fit works against an organization

The strongest corporate cultures are the most challenged. In Originals, Adam Grant got to know one of these companies well. Here are some of my highlights from reading about that:
it’s sometimes better to encourage people to complain about problems than to solve them

Dissenting opinions are useful even when they’re wrong.

The evidence suggests that social bonds don’t drive groupthink; the culprits are overconfidence and reputational concerns.

When I polled executives and students about the strongest culture they had ever encountered in an organization, the landslide winner was Bridgewater Associates.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Disagreeable = Supportive

Adam Grant wrote about creativity in Originals, and in the process discovered a lot about management's role with and affect on people. Here are some of my highlights:
the most supportive managers sometimes provide the least support

At work, our sense of commitment and control depends more on our direct boss than on anyone else.

Disagreeable managers are typically the last people we seek when we’re going to go out on a limb, but they are sometimes our best advocates.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

50 percent of English usage comes from only 135 words

In applying his method for rapid skill acquisition to learning how to touch-type with a different keyboard layout, Josh Kaufman noted that “only 135 words account for 50 percent of all English usage.” That's a remarkable number. (Given that “the” accounts for 7.5 percent and “of” accounts for 3.5 percent, that also speaks to possible inefficiencies of English.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

5 Things Teachers can do to encourage originality

1. Ask children what their role models would do.

2. Link good behaviors to moral character.

3. Explain how bad behaviors have consequences for others.

4. Emphasize values over rules.

5. Create novel niches for children to pursue.

Source: Originals by Adam Grant

Monday, March 25, 2019

What Sailing and Flying have in common

For purposes of rapid skill acquisition, in his chapter on windsurfing, Josh Kaufman corrects a common misconception about the sail itself. It's not because wind fills the sail and pushes the boat along.
Sails work by creating differences in air pressure on the front and back of the sail. In most conditions, as air flows around the sail, the flow creates an area of low pressure in the front (toward the bow), and an area of high pressure in the back (toward the stern). The combined effect of these two different pressure zones creates a force that moves the craft in the direction of the low-pressure area. As a result, the wind pulls the sail as much as it pushes it. Airplane wings work much the same way.
The commonality with aviation is especially intriguing, and all the more so considering how long principles of aerodynamic pressure were used vertically on sail masts for thousands of years before being applied horizontally on airplane wings.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Moses' First Visit to the Promised Land

But to the glory of the grace of God we can add that what the law could not do for Moses the Gospel did; and he who could not pass over the Jordan under the old dispensation is seen on the very heights of Hermon with the Son of Man, sharing His Transfiguration glory, and talking of that death on Calvary to which be owed his glorious destiny.

That grace we have inherited under the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Simpson, A. B. (Albert B.). Days of Heaven Upon Earth (pp. 56-57—February 24). Kindle Edition.

Friday, March 22, 2019

20th Century History

I've been reading History of the Twentieth Century lately, and it is a long book. Apparently it's the condensing of three books into one, but at 1,000 pages, it's still running about 10 pages per year of history for a century. It feels a lot like reading weekly summaries on politics from The Economist in book form.

My main takeaway so far is that tension, conflict, and bloodshed have been happening regularly for a long time. After 100 years we tend to only remember bigger more consequential events, but there were many more along the way that are remembered less, but still were highly consequential in their own right for the people nearby affected.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Hiring is aimed at the future, depending on the past

The hiring process in America is built to repeat the past.

The number one criteria for finding a job is how much experience you already have doing that job.

This makes getting a job in a newer field a bit mysterious. It feels a bit like saying you want someone with 20 years' experience in social media even though social media has only been around for 15 years.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring Constellations

Happy spring vernal equinox!

Near the end of last year I read about astronomy and learned some basics. Worldwide, officially there are 88 constellations—one for every key on a piano. Some are visible only in the northern hemisphere, some only in the southern hemisphere.

Within those latitudinal limits, not all of them are visible all year long. During half the year the sun blocks are view of some constellations altogether, and then half a year later blocks the other half. There are a couple lists that show which is visible when.

Northern hemisphere spring constellations include: Bootes, Cancer, Crater, Hydra, Leo, and Virgo.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Near-Earth Object Explodes

CNN: A meteor exploded in the Earth's atmosphere with 10 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb

We track near-earth objects, right?

Stories like this make me wonder which of these two conditions was met:

1. We knew about this object, but we thought it wasn't big enough to worry about.

2. We didn't know about this object even though we thought we would catch things like this.

Monday, March 18, 2019

39 Steps

I read the first part of Robert Kennedy: His Life, and therein is mentioned how the Kennedy brothers enjoyed spy novels like The Thirty-Nine Steps.

I subsequently read the short novel, and I can concur it is an engaging read. Near the beginning, John Buchan's character shows, at 37, he is on the cusp of a mid-life crisis: “I looked up into the spring sky and I made a vow. I would give the Old Country another day to fit me into something; if nothing happened, I would take the next boat for the Cape.”

Little surprise he captured the imagination of a generation for half a century including a future President.

Sunday, March 17, 2019


A.B. Simpson once called “reckon” “one of the key-words of Scripture.”* Reckoning, or reconciling, is what one does when debts come due and it's time to even accounts.

In our society today, we've forgotten about reckoning. It's become a word that is associated with a drawl that means little more than a passing comment: Perhaps, “I reckon that's the way things are.”

This may be because we've been living on debt without end, seemingly without limit. This is true nationally and personally in many areas. We've been doing this long enough, few seem to have any sense of gravity that a day of reckoning is coming, much less having any sense of what that would look like. The days of “deficits don't matter” have their limit.

Friday, March 15, 2019

The shelf life of a Bernie Sanders argument

Bernie Sanders says he wants the U.S. to “guarantee healthcare to all people as a right” like “every other major country.”

That argument had more covetousness-inducing power when those other major countries known as the developed world were not struggling to actually pay for that “free” care. Now they are. The grass is not so green on the other side anymore.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Credibly Accused

American's are growing impatient, and this is a danger to justice.

There has arisen this habit of reporting not just that someone is accused of a crime, but is “credibly” accused.

This is a not-so-subtle attack on due process. Who needs to bother with evaluating evidence and witness credibility according to legal standards when they've already been found guilty in the court of public opinion?

If you think “credibly accused” can't have disastrous and very negative consequences, read The Innocent Man.

1970s work begins

It's a little ironic to hear people complain about proposing cuts to NASA's budget when NASA hasn't bothered to study new materials it's had for upwards of 50 years.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Sound Discovery

For those who think there's nothing left to be discovered, look: a discovery about sound.

Phonons sound like the audio counterpart to photons.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Climatically Warmer

Ancient discoveries intrigue me, especially the ones that describe a time that “would have been climatically much warmer than the present-day polar climate” to the point where these creatures “all flourished” in that environment.

It sounds like climate change is less of a threat and more an adjustment of opportunities.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Resistance

Ever since President Trump was inaugurated in 2017, “resist,” “resisting,” and “The Resistance” have become ubiquitous. This is concerning for reasons that go beyond politics.

In one of the clearest and longest passages in the New Testament about the role of government, we can read, “whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2).

Far worse than any loss in politics is the loss of one’s soul, even if one has gained the whole world (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36). I strongly urge those who oppose the President, even if they have valid points, to change their approach and pick a new word to describe their efforts.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Legacy of Kings

The first few kings of Israel are well known: Saul, David, and Solomon. After that, Israel split never to reunify, and most of the remaining kings are far less known. Some of them reigned for long periods of time, and others very short. Some of them started very young and reigned for many years, and others began when they were more advanced in years. Near the end of the Israeli monarchy, before the nation was carried off into exile, the accounts become increasingly scant. I’ve been amazed at how little we know of some of them. “Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem” (2 Kings 23:31). Imagine that: a king of God’s chosen people whose legacy is little more than a pair of timestamps!

Even in the midst of very short accounts (and also in the longer accounts) there are some consistent facts mentioned with each one. One of these is to honor women. We know the names of the mothers who raised many of these kings because the Scriptures include them. A bit of explaining is in order for understanding another of the facts mentioned.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Not So Decaf

A few weeks back I had a conversation with an elderly relative who told me I “should” drink coffee as it extends lifespans. I told her I have never been a coffee drinker as I didn't want to be hooked on the caffeine.

Nonetheless, the conversation got me thinking and taking another look at the coffee machine my building provides. After exploring several options and translating the Italian, I became a regular drinker of the decaf latte, sometimes multiple times in a day. The amount of cream it has is like getting a daily glass of milk included in my rent. No caffeine, no potential headaches, right?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Artificial Intelligence + Wisdom

Artificial intelligence basically works by pattern matching on a large scale.

Intelligence should not be confused with wisdom. Algorithms do not have an innate or inherent moral sense of right and wrong. That's why people can very quickly embarrass large-scale developers by turning a chatbot racist.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Two Ways to Save Money

(1) Sometimes we can spend more time than we think it's worth trying to save a few dollars or even less on an item. (2) On the other hand, sometimes that search leads us to other longer-term ways to save money by leading us to a cheaper source.

Take books, for instance. “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). This is true, and it feels like it also holds true for subsets of books like Kindle books, Kindle samples, free books, Gutenberg books, and Christian Classics.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Better Than Reinventing

We don't have to literally reinvent the wheel, but sometimes we still have to avail ourselves of it.

For me recently this meant laundry. I'm grateful for the machines we have to do it for us, and it's a magnificent upgrade from the old method. (Apparently even that method has seen improvement.) I'm also grateful to have an abundance of clothes to wash. In order to be more grateful for my laundry blessing, I recently added wheels to the process.

After seeing a neighbor with a fine contraption for easily rolling clothes down the hall, I discovered there's such a thing as a laundry sorter. After finding that a bit pricey but still upgrading my level of urgency, I then discovered adding wheels to the process doesn't have to get quite so fancy. Even laundry baskets can come with wheels now.

Monday, March 4, 2019


I've had a very on-and-off relationship with IFTTT and alerts, especially for things like sports alerts.

I was prepared to set up simple sports scores alerts for local teams, and I noticed the ESPN channel is no longer there. Turns out ESPN discontinued its API a few months ago, so those alerts are no more.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Influence of the Church

How does the Church relate to government? We have a popular philosophy going in the world today that says there should be separation between Church and state. They carry that idea to the extreme, concluding that it means the state should not be influenced at all by the moral view of the Church, which is the Body of Christ. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The Constitution says that the government “shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or inhibiting the free exercise thereof.” What that really means is, there isn’t supposed to be a state church. The people who said, “no state church,” were very wise, perceptive Christians. The state backing a religious design that somebody calls a church, like the Church of England, or the Church of Denmark, is not biblical. A human institution is no more the Church than is the man in the moon. The framers of the Constitution feared a government-backed religious institution, because they knew it would exercise, finally, coercive force upon the individual.

Rather, we must have with a nation, not a church controlled BY the state, but a church which is a powerful influence UPON the state. The Church should become a great beacon for the state to observe, so that the state will know the difference between right and wrong.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Google Sheets, the Google Reader of 2019

Google killed off Google Reader a long time ago, but one can get something even more useful than Reader today.

IFTTT can be used to send RSS feed content to a Google Sheet. This has several advantages over Reader.

Blog Archive