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.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Unalienable Rights

The United States of America is founded on a Declaration that opens:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Unalienable,” or inalienable, is a word not often used today. It means, “not transferable to another or not capable of being taken away or denied.” Our rights come from God, and when God gives us a right to something, no one should deny us that right or attempt to take it away. This is why we have laws against murder, theft, and other evils.

From a speech on the Senate floor, we can see the American left now considers references to natural law and natural rights as “code words often used to undermine the rights of women and the LGBT community.” During a minute of debate on the House floor, a similar claim was made: “These terms have no legal meaning and have deep associations with homophobic and discriminatory movements,” “an ideology that has been associated with discrimination against marginalized communities, including the LGBT community, women, and religious minorities.” Tell that to Thomas Jefferson who used those terms in a legal document that had deep legal meaning for this nation.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Understanding power deficits

Power is fundamentally about controlling, changing, or disrupting a situation.

A power deficit is formed when one's ability to see a situation is greater than his ability to participate in, change or control a situation. Images can amplify a person's sense of being able to see a situation and a person's desire to be able to participate in, change or control the situation. These situations are frustrating and can form self-defeating feedback loops. Extreme power deficits can lead to a sense of powerlessness and isolation.

A positive response to a perceived power deficit is to make friends, talk about things, and figure out a plan. Evaluate the value and validity of the desire, figure out a direct path toward the desire, and if that is not possible or ideal, find an alternate route. Either the desire remains no matter the angle at which one views it, or the desire may change.

A negative response to a perceived power deficit, and unsuccessful attempts to overcome it, is to inflict a power deficit on others. If he can't be happy and get what he wants, then no one else can either. If he must feel powerless, others must feel powerless, too. The objective turns destructive, and external tools—sources of power to overcome the perceived power deficit—are sought.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

'Mental illness' vs. the Gospel

An illness is when a person is sick or has a disease that interferes with normal organ function. There are clear symptoms and signs for identifying when one has a condition needing medical attention. The brain is one of our organs, and when it is not functioning right, there are clear symptoms and signs, like seizures, for when it needs medical attention. Medicine is in the realm of hard, natural science.

Anything that has to do with the mind first pertains to how one thinks. This is first a matter of philosophy and purpose, not body function. Of course, one's mental state can be affected by one's physical state, particularly as it relates to desires and unmet needs. Being hangry is a thing, but then we're already back to hard sciences.

When people speak of “mental illness,” they are neither speaking of things from natural science, nor from philosophy. A mental disorder, as it is more properly known, is in the realm of soft, social science dealing with human behavior.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Free speech is step 2

Having a mind and using it to think is step 1.

Free speech is how we share our thoughts, or thoughts we affirm, with others.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Dividing time

Have you ever noticed how we divide time tends to shape our perspective on how those newly divided subsections of time can be used?

Technology tends to shrink our view of time. The BlackBerry introduced us to 15-minute intervals. It's instant delivery of email sometimes even made the space between time segments even less. Twitter has made everything instantaneous. I prefer to consider time in terms of days, but even there, how many parts are there to a day?

Sunday, August 4, 2019

400 Days

I'm 40% of the way toward my goal of 1,000 days of writing.

Yesterday I took a look at my more frequently-used tags for posts. The more commonly-used ones can also be matched to my six-word pattern I wrote about last year.

1 — Biblecreation, purpose, life

2 — Booksleadership

3 — Value, businesswork, productivity, granularity, time

Friday, August 2, 2019

When measurements are irrelevant

This week I was sad to read the news of Josh Harris' divorce and abandoning of the Christian faith.

In the latter announcement, Josh makes a comment that indirectly, and maybe unintentionally, is also a comment on Christianity. He wrote, “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”

The thing is, Being a Christian is not defined by something we measure.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Best- and worst-case scenarios for Boeing

This being a new month, I checked in on transportation policy news, among other things, and noticed that the groundings of the 737 MAX remain front-and-center.

I looked up some of the recent news that made headlines in July, and Tweeted several quotes from those articles. I had a couple questions none of the articles answered for me. The first: How long would a full-scale major design classification certification process have taken?

In looking that up, I instead found a 105-page guide to the process. It does not include an approval process timeline estimate. It also doesn't say anything at all about software which is striking considering (a) how much planes are controlled by software today, and (b) the two fatal 737 MAX crashes were caused by software bugs.

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