Friday Link Love: Special Lists Edition

deb1654baf42ccffbe2f148ea6dd7c9dThis is my last planned post of 2012. Next week I am off to celebrate the radical and improbable incarnation of God, then Margaret’s birthday on 12/27, and my own on 1/2.

I’m a sucker for a good end-of-year list. FLL is light on links this week, but each of these offerings has tons of links within it, like web-based nesting dolls. Enjoy… and share your favorite end of year list in the comments.

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Top 20 Insights, Talks, and Quotables on Making Ideas Happen — 99U

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A Colossal Year: Top 15 Posts in 2012 — Colossal

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The Best of the Best List: 2012 Critics’ Top Books — The Daily Beast

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And while this isn’t a 2012-specific list, here’s a link to my most popular posts on this blog to tide you over until I return.

Point of personal privilege: on December 23 I enter my 10th year of blogging. My first blog is long decommissioned, but I give thanks for the connections made and insights gained from this medium. Blogging almost feels quaint now, given the connectional tools now at our disposal. Yet I love the (relatively) long-form genre that is the blog. And I thank you for your companionship over the years.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Friday Link Love: Tech Overload, Life of Pi, and the Death of Homework?

Away we go!

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dove-hands12NEXT Church 

I am on the strategy team for the NEXT Church, an initiative that is trying to encourage dynamic and vibrant ministry, particularly in the Presbyterian Church (USA). If that’s something you care about too, you want to be reading our blog, perusing (and contributing to) our archive of ministry resources, and registering for our 2013 gathering, March 4-5 in Charlotte.

Bookmark it! Share it! Love it!

Update: The latest post on the NEXT blog is by yours truly. Yes, I’m getting cranky about not singing Christmas carols during Advent again.

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Time to Tune Out — Roger Cohen, New York Times

Posted this on FB/Twitter yesterday with the question, “Is disconnecting from technology going to be the new trend?” Here’s the article again:

[The author quotes a reader who unplugged from Facebook] “Now, I am back to reading books when I would have been Facebooking. I talk to folks at the café I frequent. People have started calling me on the phone again to catch up because they don’t know what is going on with me otherwise. I have a hunch that being DISconnected is on its way to being the new trend.”

So here’s to doses of disconnection in 2013. Get out of the cross hairs of your devices from time to time. Drink experience unfiltered by hyperconnection. Gaze with patience. Listen through silences. Let your longings breathe.

Take a tech sabbath!

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Can Faith in the Better Story Sustain Us? Survival and Significance in “Life of Pi” — Nick Olson, Patheos

Life-of-Pi

Life of Pi is a story about Story, which means I love it:

Taken together, Life of Pi‘s various themes seem to suggest a longing for human significance couched in vaguely religious language. It’s a contemplative tale rooted in questions with room for open-ended interpretation. More specifically, Lee’s film — as an extension of Martel’s novel — suggests that our difficult, often tragic lives matter in a way that cold “facts” can’t totally explain. You might characterize the story as a “desperate” (survivalist) attempt to re-enchant a supposedly disenchanted modern world. Interestingly, in an interview with PBS, Martel says that he wrote his novel during a time when he felt lost: “I was sort of looking for a story, not only with a small ‘s’ but sort of with a capital ‘S’ — something that would direct my life.” Martel’s existential plight seems to have been Pi’s shipwrecked plight: lonely and directionless. Having “faith” in this particular context has a less specific range; its content is the simple belief that our lives — suffering included — are filled with meaning, purpose, and wonder. Which is to say, in Life of Pi, the religious and literary imaginations merely function as signals of the truth of significance itself, a “better Story” compared to a disenchanted, cold rationalism because there is more to humanity and existence than meets the eye.

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Isaac Newton v. Rube Goldberg — 2D House (Video, 1:07)

Who will win the battle? Why, you will, because you’ll be wonderfully entertained. Here it is. (Can’t embed for some reason)

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Today’s Assignment — Louis Menand, The New Yorker

Is homework useful? The article looks at attitudes about homework in two very different countries, Finland and South Korea.

Yet both systems are successful, and the reason is that Finnish schools are doing what Finns want them to do, which is to bring everyone up to the same level and instill a commitment to equality, and South Korean schools are doing what South Koreans want, which is to enable hard workers to get ahead. When President Hollande promises to end homework, make the school day shorter, and devote more teachers to disadvantaged areas, he is saying that he wants France to be more like Finland. His reforms will work only if that is, in fact, what the French want.

What do Americans want? Not to be like Finland is a safe guess. Americans have an egalitarian approach to inequality: they want everyone to have an equal chance to become better-off than everyone else.

That’s one of the truer sentences about the American Dream I’ve ever read. He goes on:

The dirty little secret of education reform is that one of the greatest predictors of academic success is household income. Even the standardized tests used for college admissions, like the S.A.T.s, are essentially proxies for income: students from better-off backgrounds get higher scores. The educational system is supposed to be an engine of opportunity and social readjustment, but in some ways it operates as a perpetuator of the status quo.

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An Age-Old Question: Readers Debate Science and Theology — New York Times

The author, Nicholas Wade, wrote a reflection on Marco Rubio’s recent comments about the age of the earth. These are some of the responses to that article, which I found interesting. Here’s one:

In calling Senator Marco Rubio’s answer to a question about the age of the earth “15 back flips and a hissy fit,” Nicholas Wade grossly misdescribed the answer quoted earlier in his article. Mr. Rubio’s answer was a simple and ordinary evasion. It left room for Mr. Rubio’s religious right supporters to hope that he will support teaching the Bible in science class, while leaving himself room not to appear to be an outright science denier, to appease his more scientific supporters.

Possibly, the article should have been put in the political news section rather than the science section; the scientific truth of the theory of evolution has not been news since about 1859.

I’m not sure whether it was a simple evasion or not, but it seems plausible.

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“Couponing” for Authors — J.L. Greger, Mystery Writing is Murder

This link is going to be most of interest for writers; if that’s you, check it out. The author describes a process by which she collects stories, data and tidbits that might be inspiration for a bit of writing.

Good principles here. But the main reason I’m linking to the article: it gives me yet another chance to profess my love for Evernote. I have several notebooks set up at the moment, in which I’m couponing ideas for new book projects.

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A 120-Year-Old Mechanical Device that Perfectly Mimics the Sound of a Bird — Colossal

Get out the headphones or turn up your speakers and prepare to be impressed by archaic 19th century engineering.

Delightful:

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Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday Link Love: Free to Be You and Me, Jovan Belcher’s Guns, and Rocks That Defy Gravity

Lots and lots of links! Part of me wants to save some for next week. But I’m trying to follow Annie Dillard’s advice to “spend it all… Something more will arise for later.” So here goes:

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She Who Dies with the Most Likes Wins — Jessica Valenti, The Nation

On the ways successful women still struggle to be liked… and why they (we?) need to get over it.

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The Balanced Rock Sculptures of Michael Grab — Colossal

They rely solely on gravity, yet seem to defy it:

blog-5-2

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Free to Be… You and Me Turns 40 — Slate

Forty years ago this fall, a bunch of feminists released an album. They wanted to change … everything.

Great couple of articles about the classic album/TV special/phenom.

(I almost called F2B a “seminal” work of the movement, but… no. Heh.)

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Jovan Belcher’s Guns — Amy Sullivan, New Yorker

This is the best piece I’ve read on that appalling murder-suicide:

Costas’s critics… responded by counting out the ways in which Belcher could have killed both Perkins and himself without a gun—a morbid, reality-denying game. …[One] suggested that Belcher could have driven his car into a wall. There are men who do that. But guns make everything faster and deadlier—they remove the space for doubt and regret, reaction and rescue. Recognizing this does nothing to exculpate Belcher; ignoring it is beyond obstinate.

Costas and Whitlock were not addressing gun legality, but gun culture. Not hunting rifle culture or antique collector culture—handgun as weapon and “protection” culture.

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Kentucky Doctor Joins Growing Movement to Keep a Sabbath — Courier-Journal

Anyone read Matthew Sleeth’s book 24/6 yet? I haven’t, though it looks good:

The principle [of Sabbath] is at least as valid today as it was in ancient times when it was incorporated in the Ten Commandments, says Matthew Sleeth of Wilmore, Ky., a former emergency-room doctor who launched a Christian ministry to promote environmental care.

“Now we’re consuming seven days a week,” said Sleeth, author of the new book “24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life.”

“The problem with that is it’s not very fulfilling spiritually, and I don’t actually think it’s sustainable economically,” he said. “… And it’s bad for the planet.”

On another note, how do I get me some news coverage like this for Sabbath in the Suburbs?

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Creativity Blocked? Try a Common-Scents Solution — Pacific Standard

Sleep + orange vanilla scent = creativity. Who knew?

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A Dash of Cold Water for Christian Anarchism — Geez, John G. Stackhouse Jr.

Many years ago, during a meeting with the ministry preparation committee of my presbytery, I made what I thought was an uncontroversial statement: that while Jesus’ life was a model for Christian living in a general sense, he was not my model for ministry in a specific sense. As a married woman who held down a job and paid rent and expected to live longer than 33 years and needed to plan for it, I didn’t see Jesus’ ministry as a paint-by-numbers enterprise so much as an overarching ethos.

This really bothered one member of the committee, by the way. Everyone else got what I was saying. Anyway, this article reminded me of that encounter. The question isn’t WWJD so much as WWJHUD (What Would Jesus Have Us Do). Christian anarchism isn’t a term I’m familiar with, but we do have our Christian purists out there whom Stackhouse could be addressing as well:

Jesus, I clearly saw [in my youth] (and clear-sightedness is one of the benefits of this point of view), collaborated with no institution and endorsed no regime. His gospel was a message of creative freedom, individual dignity and mutual responsibility and care. He and his disciples enjoyed tramping about the countryside, living on the margins, engaging people as they found them, giving to each according to his or her need. Small was, indeed, beautiful.

So why in the world wouldn’t we do the same?

Two reasons: We aren’t Jesus. And living just like Jesus doesn’t get done what Jesus wants done.

…For Jesus wants what God wants, and God’s first commandment in the Bible is to make shalom – to take the good world that God has made and to cultivate it, to make something of it, to encounter every situation and try to make it better. Note: God’s commandment is not to “stay pure,” a kind of double negative that is typical of a lot of Christian ethics: “Don’t sin!” “Don’t get implicated in anything compromising!” “Don’t commit violence!” God’s commandment, then and now, is a positive one: cultivate. Make things better. It’s not enough to say, “See, Lord? I kept the talent you gave me and didn’t lose a penny of it. My record is unbesmirched by moral compromise. I didn’t get much done, sure, but I didn’t come even close to risking my purity.”

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A Conversation between A Mother and Her Son — StoryCorps/YouTube

I originally saw this on Upworthy, which provides the description:

You can learn a lot from a kid, especially from a super-insightful kid like Joshua Littman, who happens to have Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism that makes social interactions difficult. Don’t miss his question for his mom at 2:43… and his mom’s response at 2:50.

It’s a StoryCorps piece that was sweetly animated by The Rauch Brothers.

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Dance v. PowerPoint: A Modest Proposal — John Bohannon and Black Label Movement

Use dance to convey information instead of PowerPoint. There are worse ideas…

h/t Teri Peterson for this link.

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Remains of the Day — Matt Mendelsohn, Washingtonian

Long but worth-it article in which a photographer tracks down some of the couples whose weddings he photographed. Here’s the money quote for clergy, who have a front-row seat for these sometimes bizarre festivities:

Jesus, as wedding photographers are reminded each week, performed his first miracle at a wedding in Cana. Of course, there’s no photographic evidence. Probably for the best. Had there been a photographer that day in Galilee, the world might today be looking at a picture of a bride and groom posed sexily in some ox cart, lit from behind by a strobe hidden in the hay, holding balloons while drinking wine out of Mason jars and gazing adoringly at each other.

That’s the current state of the art.

It’s no longer enough to take wedding pictures that show a bride and groom in love—dancing, whispering during dinner, playing with a nephew or niece. These days, wedding pictures are elaborate, photographer-contrived setups that show the newlyweds kissing in a wheat field (as if it were a natural act to go wheat-harvesting on one’s wedding day) or aboard an old-time fire engine.

Eighteen years in, we look at our photos so rarely. Of course we got married before the wheat-field trend started. But I doubt we’d look at them any more frequently if it had, except to chuckle at how clueless we were on our wedding day. Everyone is, of course. Maybe wheat-harvesting photos somehow highlight that fact.

Have a wonderful weekend…

Friday Link Love: Death with Dignity, a Real-Live Forrest Gump… and a Cross-Dressing Mayor

(Koshyk/flickr/CC-BY-2.0) — from the Radiolab page for the “New Normal” episode mentioned below

And they’re off! Lots of video today:

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Cross-Dressing for the Gospel — David Lose

I’m on a big David Lose kick right now. I posted this one last week to Twitter but saw it too late for last week’s Link Love. Stu Rasmussen is a man in Silverton, Oregon who is a cross-dresser. He was also elected mayor of the town:

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone was wild about this development. The election was very close and his doubters didn’t stop doubting. Some because of their religious convictions, some simply because cross-dressing just goes against their sensibilities.

But then something else amazing happened. After his election, and before his inauguration, a group from the Westbro Baptist Church came to town. (A quick side-note: this isn’t your typical Baptist church. In fact, this is an extremist group not affiliated with any major Christian tradition.) They came with signs – “God hates Silverton,” “God hates your mayor” (and these were the more polite signs!) – and with their slurs, determined to protest Stu as an abomination.

And although Stu encouraged people not to give them the time of day, folks in the town staged a counter-protest…where lots and lots of ordinary, everyday folks cross-dressed. Men dressed as women, grandmas dressed as men. Kids joined in. Liberals, conservatives, young, old, on this day in Silverton it just didn’t matter. They were determined to stand with Stu, to identify with him, to stand up for him.

That’ll preach.

BTW, the story originally aired on Radiolab, which is my favorite podcast bar none.

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I also got this video from David:

Bus Station Sonata — Arts Council of England (video)

From the site: “The work was created with commuters and passers-by from the Haymarket Bus Station in Newcastle UK. Most of the participants are non players, many had never touched a piano before, we just convinced them to donate a note or two.”

The delight on some of the faces is palpable… and I love the end.

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How Not to Spend Your Whole Day on Facebook — BigThink (video)

An important tip for procrastination:

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12 Guidelines for Deciding When to Persist, When to Quit — Harvard Business Review

When to hold ’em, when to fold ’em:

  1. Are the initial reasons for the effort still valid, with no consequential external changes?
  2. Do the needs for which this [is] a solution remain unmet, or are competing solutions still unproven or inadequate?
  3. Would the situation get worse if this effort stopped?

Etc.

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Massachusetts Vote May Change How the Nation Dies — Slate

Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act has been in effect for the past 14 years, and the state of Washington followed suit with a similar law in 2008. Despite concerns of skeptics, the sky has not fallen; civilization in the Northwest remains intact; the poor, disenfranchised, elderly, and vulnerable have not been victimized; and Oregon has become a leader in the provision of excellent palliative medicine services.

But the Massachusetts ballot question has the potential to turn death with dignity from a legislative experiment into the new national norm.

I support so-called Death with Dignity statutes. When properly defined and carried out, they are sane and compassionate.

This article profiles some of the physicians involved in this movement:

Perhaps it takes the dramatic actions of a flawed advocate like Dr. Jack Kevorkian to catalyze change that leads to the appearance of more reasonable and likable physician reformers. Physicians of this new generation do not seek out or necessarily welcome the role, but, having accepted it, they are irreversibly changed. Most are modest, highly intellectual, and intensely private professionals who are drawn to medicine because it offers a challenge and an opportunity to help relieve distress.

…After her patient’s death, Dr. Kate concluded, “I think Cody taught me that ‘first, do no harm,’ is different for every patient. Harm for her would have meant taking away the control and saying, ‘No, no, no! You have got to do this the way your body decides, as opposed to the way you as the person decides.’”

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Real-Life Forrest Gump Walks Across America in 178 Days — Oddity Central

A friend sent this to me and wondered: “Sabbathy? He talks about taking the trip because he had stopped appreciating things and wanted to slow down his life.” Could be…

He left only with the clothes on his back, a sleeping bag, his backpack and a few thing in it, determined to survive only on the goodness of the people he met on the road. He depended on them for the most basic needs, like food, water and a place to sleep, and whenever he got money and gift cards he didn’t actually need to survive, he just gave them away to the homeless. He said the point was always to give away more than he took, and added that the biggest takeaway from this epic experience is to have realized that “mankind is better than I ever dreamed.”

This is one of those “it takes all kinds” stories. And I don’t mean that disparagingly—it really does take all kinds.

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Does Brainstorming Work? — RSA (video)

No, but you should watch this anyway because it’s entertaining:

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Peace be with you…

Friday Link Love

Away we go!

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Winners of the 2012 Wildlife Photographer of the Year — Colossal

Lots of goodness here. My favorite:

Cristóbal Serrano / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012

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If You’re Too Busy to Meditate, Read This — LifeHacker

Yesterday on the Sabbath blog I wrote about the benefits of Sabbath on children, in the hopes of coaxing parents to think about the practice as beneficial for their kids’ overall development. LifeHacker appears to be taking a similar approach here:

People say the hardest part about meditating is finding the time to meditate. This makes sense: who these days has time to do nothing? It’s hard to justify. Meditation brings many benefits: It refreshes us, helps us settle into what’s happening now, makes us wiser and gentler, helps us cope in a world that overloads us with information and communication, and more. But if you’re still looking for a business case to justify spending time meditating, try this one: Meditation makes you more productive.

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The Power of Quiet — Susan Cain and Molly Crabapple (video)

This is one of those scribble videos that are all the rage right now—and one of the better ones. Susan Cain narrates some insights from her book Quiet and Molly Crabapple illustrates. Powerful stuff.

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Winner of the 2012 Juggling Festival — Colossal

I posted this video earlier in the week just for the joy of it. It’s 6 minutes—if you need to watch an abbreviated version, start at minute 3 or so. Yanazo is amazing. Screw you, gravity! I’M THE LAW NOW!!!

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How to Get Paid What You’re Worth and Other Negotiating Tips — 99U

This is a growing edge for me as I negotiate honoraria and speaker’s fees:

Money isn’t the only factor in a negotiation. If we make it all about money, the negotiation only has one measure of success. In a 2001 Harvard Business Review article, Harvard professor James Sebenius advises us to recognize the other factors that may be less blank-or-white.

For example, when negotiating a project with a client, price isn’t the only thing on the table. You can discuss deadlines, delivery methods, communication preferences and a host of other options. Give a little on deadlines, but propose a higher rate. The more variables you can negotiate, the higher the likelihood that both parties will feel like winners.

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Homework: A Parent’s Plea for Quality over Quantity — Ellen Painter Dollar

I’m not going to excerpt this article—if you care about this issue you should read the whole thing because it’s stellar. We have the girls’ parent/teacher conferences today and I’ll have this post in my mind as we talk.

In other news, as a writer I covet Ellen’s name. Totally distinctive, yet completely straightforward. Easy to say and spell.

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A Teen Confronts Her iPhone Addiction — WaPo

Good for her:

When a friend jokingly challenged me to one week without my phone, I questioned whether I would be able to do it. I realized that I needed to prove that I could live in a world without iPhones. So the next night I shut it off, hid it in a drawer and began my phoneless week.

Deciding to do it was probably the hardest part of the whole experiment. It’s not that I was scared, but I was unhappy about it. I expected the week to be boring, slow and frustrating at times, especially when trying to get in contact with people.

But this was not the case….

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Our weekend is cray-cray, with a variety of kid activities scheduled such that we have these bizarre two-hour windows of free time between them. A long stretch of Sabbath will be hard to come by… I think instead we will strive to go about these things Sabbathly—with mindfulness and care, with an eye for delight.

What’s your weekend like? Will there be Sabbath time in it?

Friday Link Love

Anon!

Are There Babysitters in Heaven? — Meg Peery McLaughlin

Meg is a friend and a profoundly gifted pastor. Here she offers tips for people helping children process death and grief.

It’s best to be open with kids when the topic comes up and their questions arise. Be honest and as clear/concrete as possible. Kids don’t need to be shielded from the truth. If they are, their imaginations will fill in details where there are gaps. Avoid clichés: “God takes people” makes it seem like God is like the descending metal claw in a toy machine.

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Grin and Bear It! How to Tackle the Tougher Tasks — 99U

I especially like the “networking” section, particularly the tip about showing up early to an event. So much easier than showing up late and trying to insert oneself into groups that have already formed.

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Why a Bible Belt Conservative Spent a Year Pretending to Be Gay — Guardian

Tip o’ the hat to my friend Jay for sending this along:

Timothy Kurek grew up hating homosexuality. As a conservative Christian deep in America’s Bible belt, he had been taught that being gay was an abomination before God. He went to his right-wing church, saw himself as a soldier for Christ and attended Liberty University, the “evangelical West Point”.

But when a Christian friend in a karaoke bar told him how her family had kicked her out when she revealed she was a lesbian, Kurek began to question profoundly his beliefs and religious teaching. Amazingly, the 26-year-old decided to “walk in the shoes” of a gay man in America by pretending to be homosexual.

This is an interesting article, and I always like a good redemption story. But you don’t have to pretend for a year in order to understand the plight of another (though that’s a good way to get a book deal, eh?). Simply befriending someone usually does the trick. Which is why Mix It Up at Lunch Day is such a neat thing.

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The Waterfall Swing — Colossal

The water pours down from the beam on the top of the swing, but stops when the person passes underneath. How fun is that? Click on the link or the image below for video.

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My last few links are all from the same source, Brain Pickings:

Do Not Despise Your Inner Life 

Inspired by Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet

James Harmon set out to create an antidote to the “toxic cloud of tepid-broth wisdom” found in books “with the shelf life of a banana” that the contemporary publishing world peddled and reached out to some of the most “outspoken provocateurs, funky philosophers, cunning cultural critics, social gadflies, cyberpunks, raconteurs, radical academics, literary outlaws, and obscure but wildly talented poets. The result, a decade in the making and the stubborn survivor of ample publishing pressure to grind it into precisely the kind of mush Harmon was determined to avoid, is Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation from People Who Know a Thing or Two

The post contains an excerpt from philosopher Martha Nussbaum and includes the advice, “Read a lot of stories, listen to a lot of music, and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and lives of those you love. In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others.”

I WANT THIS BOOK.

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75 Scientific Mysteries, Illustrated by Artists

One of the illustrations for How Does Gravity Work?

Art meets science. How could it not be awesome?

[The book’s editors] invite some of today’s most celebrated artists to create scientific illustrations and charts to accompany short essays about the most fascinating unanswered questions on the minds of contemporary scientists across biology, astrophysics, chemistry, quantum mechanics, anthropology, and more.

The images, which comes from a mix of well-known titans and promising up-and-comers, including favorites like Lisa CongdonGemma Correll, and Jon Klassen, borrow inspiration from antique medical illustrationsvintage science diagrams, and other historical ephemera from periods of explosive scientific curiosity.

Above all, the project is a testament to the idea that ignorance is what drives discovery and wonder is what propels science — a reminder to, as Rilke put it, live the questions and delight in reflecting on the mysteries themselves.

I WANT THIS BOOK TOO.

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Anais Nin Meets Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr.

Nin has been a person of fascination to me, but the key quote was this one:

[Frank Lloyd Wright’s] struggle is against uniformity and wholesale design. He speaks out boldly, as Varèse did. If he sounds like a moralist, it is because beauty, quality, and ethics are inseparable.

What an intriguing thought. Do you agree?

Have a good weekend. And if you’re needing some Sabbath this weekend but aren’t sure where to start, check out my post at the Sabbath blog.

Makin’ Change

Yet another postcard photo from Mo-Ranch.

Lots of great nuggets of inspiration here at CREDO. Way too much (and to new) to blog, but here’s one from a fellow participant that inspired a lot of us when it comes to dissatisfaction with the way things are:

You can be angry, you can be patient, or you can be creative.

Doesn’t matter what the issue is… that is something I can work with.

What’s inspiring you today?