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.

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The speed of light is outdated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.

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