Links from the last week

Read a lot of interesting stuff this week, but much of it in tweet or book form – harder to share this way then, let’s see what we have.

1. Average seasonal temperatures yearly inflection point

Neat map I thought.  The US as a whole is usually its hottest around July 21 – so it’s all downhill from here.  Check your location for more specific climatology.

2. First Human Embryos Edited in U.S.

Hard not to call this important news.  Would that I had confidence our public understanding of humanity was deeper than “if we can do it, and some people want to do it, why not?”

3. Our Cultural Waterloo

Nice piece by Carl Trueman, especially directed at Christian colleges, but with some advice for perhaps all who would wish to convince another.

My arguments did not work, because . . . well, they were arguments, and did not take into account how the mind of my young critic had been formed. She had not been convinced by any argument. Her imagination had been seized by an aesthetically driven culture, in which taste was truth and Will and Grace carried more weight than any church catechism or tome of moral philosophy.

4. Trump Cuts Wildly Ineffective Teen Pregnancy Program, Media Flip Out

Shared not because I particularly care about this program but because, as I often say, good thinking is in the details – and people ignore those details all the time when it suits them.

“Trump’s hires at HHS were notably hostile to teen pregnancy programs that worked. Now they’ve killed them,” claimed one fact-challenged columnist at the Los Angeles Times. No media outlet mentioned the ineffectiveness of the programs, whether it was NPR, the St. Louis Post-DispatchPoliticoBusiness InsiderThe IndependentForbesTeen Vogue, or Bustle, even though effectiveness reports are right there on the agency’s web site.

5. Because this has me tilting my head to the side as often as anything these days:

6. Richard Dawkins’s response to his de-platforming in Berkeley

A man who sometimes seems to almost make a living offending and insulting Christians, is de-platformed from an invited talk for saying something offensive and insulting about Islam.  As the host could hardly have not known about his feelings toward Christianity, why the double standard?

Another example from Dawkins himself:

The banner statements could hardly be more parallel.

7. Study: Intersectionality Makes People Less Empathetic

OK, that’s a bit of a partisan summary – feel free to ignore that article if you’d like and go straight to the original source: Competition over collective victimhood recognition: When perceived lack of recognition for past victimization is associated with negative attitudes towards another victimized group

Groups that perceive themselves as victims can engage in “competitive victimhood.” We propose that, in some societal circumstances, this competition bears on the recognition of past sufferings—rather than on their relative severity—fostering negative intergroup attitudes. Three studies are presented.

This week’s post brought to you by the Lansing River Trail.

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Links I liked, Nov 13-19 (Space junk art, Franklin Graham in Burma, identity liberalism)

1. UK ‘space junk’ project highlights threat to missions

An art project to call attention to space junk, huh.

2. Franklin Graham hosts rally in Burma, 46,000 attend

Just a few neat photos in a tweet, but I didn’t know Burma was open to that kind of activity.  I’ve had some students from there, and Bec loved visiting there.

3. Reformed Church Unintentionally Pulls Off Perfect Mannequin Challenge

Ah, speaks for itself!

4. The IRS is seeking the identities and transaction histories of all Coinbase customers in the U.S.

I’m not a lawyer, but this feels like an unprecedented request for financial information on people accused of no crime – and Coinbase has now announced their intention to fight it in court (I feel like they ought to win).  Near as I can tell, on the grounds that some people use Coinbase to avoid taxes, the federal government wants the transaction history of all Coinbase customers (1.5 million last I saw) over the last three years.

5. A Cup of Wrath Poured Out

During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Dutch physicians refused to obey orders by Nazi troops to let the elderly or the terminally ill die. In 2001, Holland became the first country to give legal status to doctor assisted suicide. Some years earlier Malcolm Muggeridge noted, it took only one generation to transform a war crime into an act of compassion.

Sermon from our church last Sunday, especially the comments (25:50-31:43) on euthanasia, not a topic I often think about.

6. You Are Still Crying Wolf

A widely passed around article by an anti-Trump psychiatrist who nonetheless says – stop traumatizing people with all these horror stories about what is going to happen to them.  And if you don’t think he’s really anti-Trump… that second-to-last paragraph is something.

Stop centering criticism of Donald Trump around this sort of stuff, and switch to literally anything else. Here is an incompetent thin-skinned ignorant boorish fraudulent omnihypocritical demagogue with no idea how to run a country, whose philosophy of governance basically boils down to “I’m going to win and not lose, details to be filled in later”, and all you can do is repeat, again and again, how he seems popular among weird Internet teenagers who post frog memes. In the middle of an emotionally incontinent reality TV show host getting his hand on the nuclear button, your chief complaint is that in the middle of a few dozen denunciations of the KKK, he once delayed denouncing the KKK for an entire 24 hours before going back to denouncing it again. When a guy who says outright that he won’t respect elections unless he wins them does, somehow, win an election, the headlines are how he once said he didn’t like globalists which means he must be anti-Semitic.

7. The End of Identity Liberalism

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country.

The week brought to you by leaves in East Lansing.

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Links I liked, Nov 6 – 12 (50 years of our church, Trump and the college educated, Vox)

Lot of political links this week… ’twas that kind of week, after all.

1. 50 Years of Gospel Ministry

But not the first one.  Our church, University Reformed Church, in East Lansing, just celebrated its 50th anniversary.  A nice video about the history of the church.

2. Trump won because college educated Americans are out of touch

But I also know that that those with college degrees — again, with some significant exceptions — don’t necessarily know philosophy or theology. And they have especially paltry knowledge about the foundational role that different philosophical or theological claims play in public thought compared with what is common to college campuses. In my experience, many professors and college students don’t even realize that their views on political issues rely on a particular philosophical or theological stance.

Amen on that last sentence times-a-million, even if you’re unsure about the headline claim.

3. Explaining it all to you

I have long been annoyed by the tone of Vox – they take very complex issues, dramatically oversimplify them, and then give you the impression you are oh-so-smart for reading their not-smart-at-all take.  This lengthy article basically says… yeah, they do that on purpose.  Vox was founded on the idea that people don’t have a fact-problem, the problem is that people keeping misinterpreting facts (as judged by the intelligent editors of Vox, of course).  They need someone to tell them what they’re supposed to believe.

4. When Politics Becomes Your Religion

Who does that to people they’ve gone to church with for years and years? Who allows that to happen within their congregation? People for whom politics has become their religion, that’s who. A congregation that has degenerated into nothing more than a political party at prayer. Repent!

5. Russian warplanes keep buzzing the Baltics.  Here’s how NATO scrambles.

Interesting piece, just as the title says.  How many times as NATO scrambled to intercept Russian planes so far this year?  600.

6. Living Under Punches

Anecdotes from a couple Trump-supporting college students who went into class on Wednesday, and found their instructors giving everyone the distinct impression that hate had just won an election, and everybody knew it, and this is terrible.  What I wrote on Facebook:

Just two quick thoughts, specifically about how I’ve personally seen, and read, college professors react to the election:

1. All of your students do not share your politics or reaction to political events. And for all the talk about “inclusion” and not marginalizing people on campuses today – if you go into a class saying “I’m sure you’re all crushed like me today, let’s talk about it” first, no, they aren’t, and second, how included do you suppose you just made all the students feel who are perfectly fine with what happened? (Also some faculty seem to think there are literally zero students in that category in their classrooms, which boggles my mind – the data sure doesn’t say that.) If you suggest that Tuesday was nothing but the triumph of hate, or something, that’s even worse.

2. You are a role model. I admit I write this one still having a hard time understanding people putting on sackcloth and ashes on Wednesday, I have been trying yet failing to really understand that. But the truth is – if you just “roll with the punches” when something upsetting happens, you model that. And if you act like the proper response to an election that didn’t go your way is weeping and gnashing of teeth, you model that too. There is a place for weeping so I don’t want to dismiss that entirely but… anyway, you are a role model.

Finally I should say, of course you know how this goes, you see a few alarming things and talk about that, people get the impression that is the normal. I do think most academic life last week proceeded pretty much just as it would of had there been no election. Of my own students, post-election I overheard a lot of conversations, I overheard people on both sides of what happened, the conversations I overheard were uniformly light-hearted and good natured. A quick glance at the news will reveal not everybody responded that way, but that is actually what I experienced in person. Faculty seemed to take it much harder than their students, which is one reason I felt obliged to write this.

7. Behind Trump’s victory: Divisions by race, gender, education

Just to show that it was not 0% of college students that supported Trump.

This week brought to you by the Lansing River Trail.

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Links I liked, August 2-8 (I Am N, Star Trek fan films, Krugman and Trump)

1. I reviewed “I Am N”

A good book to read for any American Christians tempted to think the goal of life is to be comfortable… which is probably just about all of us. This is not a very complicated book, the chapters tend to be 3-5 pages each, and even the names are often changed in these short stories of the lives of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. And for the most part these are not the stories that make the news, the threats and violence and legal punishments, however terrible, are too personal and too much “just the daily risk you take being a public Christian in these parts of the world” – all the more reason to read them. These are the stories of people who share the good news they know no matter the risk, because they’re longing for a better country.

2. ReasonTV talks about Star Trek fan films

Prelude to Axanar might be the best fan-produced short film I’ve ever seen… which is probably why CBS got all concerned.

3. Tim Keller Releases New ‘Sweatin’ To the Hymnal’ Line of Workout Videos

Babylon Bee is a treasure.

4. Self-driving Cars Will Kill Transit-Oriented Development

Will this happen?  Are transit agencies thinking about this happening?

5. How Paul Krugman Made Donald Trump Possible

Dishonesty always comes back to bite you in the end.

His convention was called “one of the worst ever.” Chris Matthews deemed him “dangerous” and “scary,” Ellen DeGeneres said “If you’re a woman, you should be very, very scared.” His opponent ran an ad against him portraying him as uniquely dangerous for women. “I’ve never felt this way before, but it’s a scary time to be a woman,” said a woman in the ad.

He was frequently called a “bully,” “anti-immigrant,” “racist,” “stupid,” and “unfit” to be president.

I’m referring, obviously, to the terrifying Mitt Romney.

6. No, Eric Metaxas is not a Proto-Nazi

Just sharing to say, the world could probably use more “my friend is wrong about this but don’t you dare slander him” pieces.

7. Key Figure in Fight for Religious Freedom in Egypt Freed, Declares Return to Islam

Hegazy apologized to family members, who had threatened to kill him after he became a Christian.

8. Aquatic Mushrooms Timelapse

From our aquarium, photos taken every five minutes from around noon until around 8 PM.  Huh.

9. I had no idea Kevin DeYoung’s new children’s book was being made into a short film

Look at dat.  (He is the senior pastor of our church.)

This week brought to you by a rainbowfish in our freshwater aquarium.

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Links I liked, July 19-25 (Bicycle Physics, Hungry Cleaner Shrimps, Family Bikes)

1. The Bicycle Problem that Nearly Broke Mathematics

Terrible headline here, but pretty cool story that goes to show that just because a device is very common, doesn’t mean it is well understood.  A couple snips:

In April 1970, chemist and popular-science writer David Jones demolished this theory in an article for Physics Today in which he described riding a series of theoretically unrideable bikes. One bike that Jones built had a counter-rotating wheel on its front end that would effectively cancel out the gyroscopic effect. But he had little problem riding it hands-free.

This discovery meant that there was no simple rule-of-thumb that could guarantee that a bike is easy to ride. Trail could be useful. Gyroscopic effects could be useful. Centre of mass could be useful. For Papadopoulos, this was revelatory. The earliest frame builders had simply stumbled on a design that felt OK, and had been riding around in circles in that nook of the bicycle universe. There were untested geometries out there that could transform bike design.

2. Trump: Tribune of Poor White People

Everyone was passing around this piece of political/cultural analysis last week – give it a read if you haven’t seen it, any excerpt can’t do it justice.  But I’ll drop one anyway:

The “why” is really difficult, but I have a few thoughts.  The first is that humans appear to have some need to look down on someone; there’s just a basic tribalistic impulse in all of us.  And if you’re an elite white professional, working class whites are an easy target: you don’t have to feel guilty for being a racist or a xenophobe.  By looking down on the hillbilly, you can get that high of self-righteousness and superiority without violating any of the moral norms of your own tribe.  So your own prejudice is never revealed for what it is.

3. What Happened With the Library Millages

This is a local story but… I bet this sort of thing happens all the time.  City passes millage specifically for library that should increase their “intake” by about $2,000,000 – but actual intake only increases by about $250,000 because the city decreases the amount of money given the library from the general fund.  There is an obvious incentive here to pass specific millages for popular programs (like the library), to free up more general fund money for less popular stuff.  Be aware…

4. A Brief Word to J.I. Packer on His 90th Birthday

Thomas Aquinas died at age 49.  John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards died at 54.  Charles Spurgeon at 57.  Martin Luther at 62.

5. Facebook Messenger Hits 1 Billion Users

There is nothing deep and complicated about this article just… whew.

More than 10% of voice over IP (VoIP) calls occur on Messenger, and 17 billion photos are sent on the app each month. And interactions with businesses have risen sharply. People now exchange 1 billion messages with businesses every month, a figure that has more than doubled in the past year.

6. Heavy Boots

To prove my point, we went back to our dorm room and began randomly selecting names from the campus phone book. We called about 30 people and asked each this question: 1

1. If you’re standing on the Moon holding a pen, and you let go, will it
a) float away,
b) float where it is,
or c) fall to the ground?

About 47 percent got this question correct. Of the ones who got it wrong, we asked the obvious follow-up question:

2. You’ve seen films of the APOLLO astronauts walking around on the Moon, why didn’t they fall off?

About 20 percent of the people changed their answer to the first question when they heard this one! But the most amazing part was that about half of them confidently answered, “Because they were wearing heavy boots.”

7. Cleaner shrimp stuffing his face at feeder ring

OK personal video here – I don’t know how common this is, but our cleaner shrimp has learned that me opening the top of our saltwater aquarium means food is coming, and he’ll now run up and over to the feeder ring and start grabbing food!  On the plus side his actions help the sinking food sink, which I suppose the other fish appreciate.

 

8. This man rescued a bear from the jaws of a cheese puff bucket

Man sees bear with cheese puff bucket on head.  Man lassos bear.  Man and bear roll around on the group together for a couple minutes (but bear cannot bite man because cheese puff bucket).  Bear gives up and climbs tree, man ties rope to tree, calls authorities to come help bear.

9. Taga 2.0: The Ultimate Most Affordable Family Bike

At the risk of totally getting sucked in by advertisement… this seems like a pretty awesome idea.

10. As More People Get High in Colorado, More Kids Head to the Hospital

By itself, not an argument against legalization perhaps, but legalization proponents like to pretend there is no downside, and that needs to be pushed against.

Although cannabis poisonings in children are not common, the incidents have definitely increased following Colorado’s legalization of recreational use in 2012. The rate of increase in hospital visits is considerable—it doubled between 2009 and 2015—but the overall numbers remain small: 1 child per 100,000 people before legalization and 2 children per 100,000 people after legalization. Numbers of poison control center calls, though still small overall, increased by more than five times.

11. 7-Eleven Delivered a Slurpee via Drone Without Dropping the Scoop Straw

Title says it all.

This week brought to you by blue jays in our backyard.

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