Category Archives: Catch-all

Yoann Bourgeois “La mécanique de l’histoire”

Wordless yet eloquent statement about human history & “progress.”

Toward Better Conversations

Ten tips from Celeste Headlee, radio interviewer:

1. Don’t multitask.
2. Don’t pontificate.
3. Use open-ended questions.
4. Go with the flow.
5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know.
6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs.
7. Try not to repeat yourself.
8. Stay out of the weeds.
9. Listen.
10. Be brief.

She’s done a TEDS video that unpacks these. I’m embarrassed to say how bad I am at a few. (I saw this on Kottke.)

Lakoff on Trump

I listened to an interview in which cognitive linguist George Lakoff made some great points about the “normalisation” of Donald Trump and how we should go about talking about “the Unpopular President” in ways that don’t make things worse.

Recent Voting

I read a lot of people saying Brexit was the precedent for the Trump victory. It seems to me there was an even earlier vote that was just as indicative. I’m speaking, of course, of the overwhelming numbers who chose “Boaty McBoatface” in the online polling to name a British scientific research vessel. It was a landslide of an election.

No one really thought it was a good name. Rather it was a chance to flex a muscle. Tired of not really being able to make a difference, those who voted did the equivalent of defacing public property with graffiti. “Look! I did that!” I think those voting for Trump were doing something very similar.

dark times

A man named Robert Ingersoll once said “The greatest test of courage is to bear defeat without losing heart.”

I don’t think so.

Some defeats are easier to bear than others; to be defeated by someone with similar values, but a different roadmap calls for humility more than courage, I disagree with people I think are evil, but I also disagree with those I think are simply wrong, losing to a debating partner is one thing; losing to an enemy is quite another. But in both cases, “my defeat” is not the problem — the triumph of what is either wrong or evil is the problem.

The greatest test of courage is watching the triumph of evil without losing heart.

This calls for a particular and painful type of courage for those who are self-aware and self-critical, because there is necessarily a self-questioning, both of perspective and of the appropriateness of continuing action.

For me, this is such a time. I do not believe that the Democratic nominee was flawless. She is someone who will manipulate and milk the system, for her own purposes — but those purposes included the advancement of causes beyond herself. I believe that the Republican nominee is someone entirely self-interested (though not against allowing benefits reaped to spill out to others as an afterthought). But I also believe that rather than being satisfied to manipulate the American governmental system of checks and balances, even with a ‘friendly’ congress, he will do everything he can to dismantle checks and balances and restraints on his power. He is by far the more dangerous.

She acts in a way that allows the preservation of a system that can call her to account. He acts in a way that dismisses and dismembers anything that could stand in a position to call him into account.

Augmented Reality and Pokémon Go

pokemonpI read on the Internet the other day that just as The Matrix made it so that people could understand virtual reality, the great gift of Pokémon Go is that you’ll never have to explain Augmented Reality again. Well maybe, but someone yesterday said “What’s Pokémon?”

But I do think it’s worth trying Pokémon Go for a few days (don’t sign up via gmail, or at least not with your regular gmail account) just to experience augmented reality for yourself. I mean how unusual is it to be walking around, knowing that there are valuable things and dangerous things around you — realities that most people just can’t see. …oh wait…

Kingdom or No?

crown2A friend asked me:

As a Lukan scholar who teaches 1 Corinthians, how do you reconcile Luke 1:33 (“and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”) with 1 Corinthians 15:24 (“Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.”)?

Does Jesus keep his kingdom forever, or does he hand it over to the Father, who then destroys it and all other authorities?

But I don’t think that there’s really a problem. In Luke’s gospel, the angel was reassuring Mary that earthly kingdoms will no longer be a problem, God’s Chosen One will take all over, and power will never again revert to Rome or Herod or anyone else. Paul, on the other hand, is writing to ex-pagan folks living in a Roman colony, addressing the question of what God’s overall management will look like, and telling them that all power-by-dominance will come to an end in favour of power-characterised-by-submission.

You could say: His kingship is a kingship that will end all kingship. Forever.

Or a similar paradox about the situation in the New Creation order: When God brings time to an end and the world to end, then, for the first time, we will have all the time in the world.


Working in the garden is like editing a book knowing all the errors are just going to grow back.

Oysters and Clarity

Here’s a favourite example from one of my lecturers. This is a sentence that conveys meaning and is even grammatically faultless, but is incomprehensible to most people:

Oysters oysters eat eat.

If you come at the sentence knowing what it means, it’s clear. If you come at it afresh, it’s unreadable. Try to figure it out before reading the next paragraph. Oysters oysters eat eat.The thing you have to start with is imagining that some oysters are cannibals — and the implication of that is that there are some oysters that are victims of the cannibals. These victims are the oysters oysters eat. But you know what? Even those oysters fated to become victims of cannibals have to eat, albeit perhaps not other oysters. Thus, when they get hungry, even oysters oysters eat eat. If you know what it says, it parses itself. If you’re a stranger, you just stare at it and blink.

One of the things that Amy the Editor has been trying to teach me is this: find the sentences that will make a stranger stumble. Find them and rewrite them. And here’s the rub for a writer: rewrite them even if they’re technically grammatically correct and even if they’re technically correct and elegant in formulation. Oysters oysters eat eat.

More Sleep Required

I read recently:

No one ever looked back on their life and wished they’d spent more time getting a good night’s sleep.

If that is true, it is because most people won’t recognize the role that sleep deprivation played in making bad decisions and in deteriorating health.

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