Links from the last week

1. Alaska Air offers charter flight for solar eclipse viewing

Concerned clouds will block your view?  Why not fly above them?  (See also quite neat video from last year, below.)

2. City Emails: Christian Farmer’s Facebook Post Led to Ban From East Lansing Market

The East Lansing saga continues – MichCapCon filed an FOIA request to obtain emails related to the East Lansing / Country Mill interaction.  Not a lot that is brand new here, most remarkable thing I saw actually was EL’s mayor apparently wondering if Country Mill would be willing to *sell apples* to a same-sex couple at market. To be fair it appears to be a question – but it’s also about a distinction that has only been explained a thousand times in similar cases from where I’m standing, anyway. It’s a cultural hot button issue and yet clearly (and this is hardly the only example) people in positions are power are largely ignorant of the thinking of Christians on this topic.

Also – why did MichCapCon have to file this request?  Do genuinely local media outlets care that little?  Maybe I missed it, but it seems not uncommon on stories like this they you get better reporting from non-local courses.  A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown.

3. Our church participated in the Global Hymn Sing last Sunday

Check us out!

4. Helium shortage looms

How many people realize the helium is a non-renewable natural resource, very important for running superconducting magnets (if you’ve ever had an MRI, you’ve probably been in one).  And the blockade of Qatar is restricting the world supply.

5. Leading charity site labels top Christian organizations ‘hate groups’

Reminder that the Southern Poverty Law Center has no credibility left as any sort of non-partisan opponents of hate and the media (and everyone) should stop treating them as if they do.  It is beyond absurd to label the mild-mannered lawyers of Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that has now won 51 First Amendment cases at the Supreme Court, a hate group.  Beyond absurd.

6. How the FAA Killed Uber for Planes

But I want Uber for planes.

7. Seattle’s Minimum Wage Hike May Have Gone Too Far

A widely shared article this past week – Seattle hiked its minimum wage to $13/hr, study finds this caused the take-home pay for low-wage workers to *shrink* by an average of 6.6% because of layoffs and fewer hours worked.

This week’s post brought to you by a new placemaking project in Lansing, Michigan.


Links I liked, August 9-15 (Astrophotography, Brave New World, Biblical Anthropology)

1. An astrophotography timelapse from our East Lansing balcony

You can be in a city and still see a surprising number of stars.  Lasts about 2.5 hours (then our camera battery died), five minutes between frames, note Polaris barely moving down at the bottom middle!  (And, for a brief moment, a Perseid.)

2. “The division between politics and religion, I dare say, is an ideological ploy.”

I am reading this book.

3. The City That Unpoisoned Its Pipes

A happy story about how our beloved (yet often dysfunctional, shh) Lansing has quietly replaced nearly all of its lead water pipes.

4. Brave New World, 85 Years Later

In a post-Fordist economy and a digital age of personalized devices, mass society is no longer as straightforward as it once seemed. Far from being perceived as a threat, for instance, individuality is now deeply assimilated into our economic system, as we’re encouraged to differentiate, identify, and align ourselves through our chosen forms of consumption. The fact we’re all caught up in the same system is less obvious when we all wear bespoke chains we’ve chosen for ourselves.

5. How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen

Seemed like everyone passed around this article last week, but if you haven’t seen it…

But there was a fundamental problem with the decision that you can see rippling now throughout the West. Ms. Merkel had put the entire burden of a huge cultural change not on herself and those like her but on regular people who live closer to the edge, who do not have the resources to meet the burden, who have no particular protection or money or connections. Ms. Merkel, her cabinet and government, the media and cultural apparatus that lauded her decision were not in the least affected by it and likely never would be.

6. Reclaiming ‘Redneck” Urbanism: What Urban Planners Can Learn from Trailer Parks

Any discussion of trailer parks should start with the fact that most forms of low-income housing have been criminalized in nearly every major US city.

7. Biblical Anthropology

A lecture Kevin DeYoung gave in South Carolina last week.  Of especial interest to me, he talked about how his kids attend our public schools, and the message they receive at school that he feels he most often has to correct is actually the stuff they hear related to the environment. And the problem is that a model is adopted that portrays humans never as producers, but just as polluters, the Earth as a good functioning system on which humans are basically cancer cells that can only make things worse. The Christian position would be rather – in fact, humans are God’s highest creation, and meant to be creators like him on Earth. We should recycle and be careful how we live and all that – but we aren’t a cancer on the planet. Indeed the planet is a better place today, than it was 4000 years ago, because of our creative works.

8. Randy Travis – Forever and Ever, Amen

You cannot dislike this song.

This week brought to you by good times at the Great Lakes Folk Festival this past Saturday.



Links I liked, 5/25/2015 – 5/31/2015 (Lansing skyline, prodigal son, sunscreens)

1. Kirsten Powers: Give the ‘bigot’ bomb a break

Stop reducing people to their least popular political opinion.

2. Mormon leader L. Tom Perry dies at 92, opposed same-sex marriage

Reuters totally did not read Kirsten Powers’ article.

3. Where You Live Changes What You See When You Read The Bible

Fascinating little comparison about how Americans v. Russians remember the parable of the prodigal son.

4. ‘Does MapQuest still exist?’ Yes, it does, and it’s a profitable business.

Also fascinating little article about a service we all (used to) know about.

5. Milky Way commercial: “Sorry about your tattoo.”

What is an old photo of the Lansing skyline doing there a few seconds in?!  (You can tell it’s an old photo because what is now the Accident Fund headquarters on the right still has a smokestack.)

6. Why Americans can’t buy some of the best sunscreens

Why the hold-up? In Europe, sunscreen molecules are considered cosmetic ingredients. In the U.S., they are subject to the same scrutiny as over-the-counter drugs, which go through a more rigorous review process than cosmetics.

7. Jupiter seen from our LCC observatory.

LCC Observatory

Our LCC observatory.

From Lansing to San Diego, and back again

Starting about a week ago I took a trip from Lansing to San Diego (by plane) for the wedding of a friend (Matt), and returned shortly thereafter (mostly by train). I took photos along the way to create a sort of travel log – here is that journey. Higher resolution versions of all these photos are available on Flickr.

The trip began with a 5:30 AM flight from Lansing’s Capitol Region International Airport, destination Chicago. Not a super-busy airport, served mostly by regional jets (though Sun Country Airlines flies 737s) – saw one large UPS aircraft land while we were loading.

The flight to Chicago goes over Lake Michigan, of course – here is the shoreline on the Michigan side. I never gave much thought to the “in the event of a water landing” part of the safety briefing before living in Michigan.

And then I was in the much larger, Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, waiting for a flight to Phoenix. Had breakfast at Johnny Rockets! Flying west, it was breakfast time for a very long time.

And then we were off! Much larger plane for the flight to Phoenix, TVs in every seat. What a terrible idea. Most people turned them off. You had to pay for most content.

Played tic-tac-toe over Kansas, seeing circles from all the irrigated fields below.

We also flew over the Capulin Volcano National Monument in northeastern New Mexico. (Thanks @kelly_lave for identifying it.)

And then I was in Phoenix, where I had to leave security to transfer from United to US Airways. Ugh. Not so bad, I guess.

And then I was off to San Diego, where Matt picked me up at the airport.

I guess I made it! Took lots of beach photos while there, of course. Some beaches were sandy, some rocky.

I wasn’t the only one enjoying the beach.

These guys lived in holes dug into the side of cliffs. Signs warned not to feed them, but given how friendly they were toward people, I’m guessing the signs didn’t help much.

Lots of palm trees, of course.

Saw lots of birds, too. Was surprised to see herons flying in formation.

The neighborhood we stayed in was known as La Jolla, and had the La Jolla cove.

Many of the wedding party, and guests, stayed in a rental home with pretty typical architecture for the area, including a rooftop patio.

The wedding was at La Jolla Presbyterian Church, which had quite a sizable campus.

It was beautiful on the inside.

We also got to enjoy the La Jolla nightlife. The rehearsal dinner was at Bernini’s Bistro.

Zooming past the wedding (which I have no photos of anyway because I was in it), soon I would be leaving.

On Friday morning, I caught Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner.

It departed from the San Diego Amtrak station, obviously a former Santa Fe station.

Seating was unreserved, but there were plenty of seats available.

The Surfliner is, of course, known for it’s ocean views.

Passed through several intermediate stations, until we eventually arrived in Los Angeles.

The LA station had many, many tracks in operation.

They were connected by a long tunnel underground. Felt rather airportish.

But here is the main waiting area.

I had a bit of a layover, so I took a walk through the city. Found a Mexican cultural festival going on outside…

…and a very busy marketplace….

…where I had some fish tacos for lunch.

And then I walked downtown. Here is the quite sizable LA police department.

And here is the LA Times!

I found myself wondering if anything was made in America any more.

I also heard a car accident happen. Matt had previously said “everyone says that drivers where they live are crazy, but in California it’s actually true”.

I also saw some sad signage. Can you imagine getting married in a place that advertised divorces?

But then I was in downtown proper.

I hung out in Pershing Square for a while and called Bec.

And then I had some crepes made by a genuine Frenchman.

Then it was back to the station to board the long train to Chicago, the Southwest Chief.

There was a little Amtrak style security theater before we left. Not sure if you can tell, but there is a lot of legroom on these superliner trains.

And then we were rolling. California was looking like California.

We passed through other stations, including this one in Fullerton.

And another in San Bernadino.

I spent a lot of my time in the sightseer lounge car, definitely one of the perks of the superliner trains, and a great place to meet people.

And at some point I realized my phone knew where I was, which is nice.

Arizona was passed mostly in the dark. And then we were in New Mexico. This is a view out the back of the train – they just wouldn’t let me drive, you know.

First stop was Gallup.

The whole region was quite beautiful, of course.

And uninhabited to an incredible degree.

I had breakfast in the dining car. Somehow they knew my name from then on.

French toast.

Many people waved at us when we went by, though they are rather hard to photograph at 90 mph.

And we passed jackrabbits and coyotes.

And donkeys, who knew where the water came from.

Because even where there was supposed to be water, there often wasn’t.

Eventually, we arrived in Albuquerque.

We had a longer break there, while they did a maintenance check of the train.

And also washed the windows.

We were not the only train in station.

But eventually we were on our way again. I had lunch in the cafe car.

A modest repaste.

We went by churches.

And eventually reached Lamy, New Mexico.

Sir, you are a stereotype.

Sometimes the walls closed in.

Hi there, engineer!

The “NM” is critical here.

The soil also turned more red as we headed east.

And then we found ourselves in a brief but walloping hailstorm!

Immediately afterwards, we thought there might be a tornado to our east, but I think it was just a tiny spot of very heavy rain (colors enhanced for contrast here).

And soon thereafter we were in Raton, NM.

Followed by the Raton tunnel. We were in the tunnel for 1 minutes, 20 seconds.

And then I had dinner in the dining car. Ate with a couple that had been married for 62 years. (Communal seating on the dining car.)


Eastern Colorado was looking a lot like Kansas. Kansas itself was passed mostly in the dark. Look at all that green.

Next morning, we arrived in Kansas City, MO.

Where they unloaded all the trash.

We also saw the train to St. Louis in station.

And then we were off again.

We passed over the Missouri River.

And the Missouri countryside.

Eventually arriving in La Plata, MO. Ah, long time no see. I used this station often when I attended Truman State University.

Next came Fort Madison, Iowa.

After which we passed over the Mississippi River.

And then we were in Illinois. Love all the conversations between strangers that happen in the lounge car.

And then we pulled into Galesburg.

Many of the Illinois stations had old trains parked nearby.

Sometimes we caused quite the traffic snarl.

We eventually came to Naperville.

And then Chicago’s Union Station, probably the most used Amtrak station in America.

Where the air was thick with diesel smoke.

The Grand Hall.

I had a bit of a layover before my final train, so I took a walk over the Chicago river.

Well, yeah.

And then I was on my final train, the Wolverine, to Battle Creek. I arrived in Chicago too late to catch the direct train to Lansing.

What if there is a water landing?

And we were off! Passed the Chicago skyway.

And caught the briefest glimpse of Lake Michigan.

And had a little dinner in the cafe car.

Michigan! No, wait, not quite.

There we go.

Many of the stations in Michigan were quite beautiful.

The Wolverine also traveled up to 90 mph.

Kalamazoo was the last stop before Battle Creek.

In Battle Creek, I transferred to an Indian Trails bus.

And in no time at all, I was in East Lansing!

Where it was finally, a quick cab ride home.

Thus ends the trip!

The 1st Amd. doesn’t end at the church’s front door

Above is a photo I took this morning of a new apartment building going up in downtown East Lansing. Note the giant architectural cross built into the facade – I have to say that because I actually saw the building many times without ever noticing the cross! But apparently other people are more observant than me, because an article I read this morning implied that some residents have expressed discomfort with the feature, and suggested to the city that it might perhaps violate the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution. The building is being constructed entirely with private money, and the City Attorney has rightly replied that not only is it perfectly legal for the developers to put a giant cross on the side of their building if they want one, but furthermore that if the city tried to stop them, the city would be in violation of the 1st Amendment.

So that’s all good, but that people even complained in the first place just goes to show, I think, that some people have this idea that you are entitled to a free exercise of your religion, as long as it stays inside the walls of your place of worship or your home. But as soon as it starts leaking out into the wider world, they have a problem, and might even think you have a legal problem. (In fact, maybe you could even say that an amendment that was originally created mainly to protect the rights of religious folk from interference from the government, is now being used by some to try to justify interference from the government. So upside down is the world today.)