Weekly Meanderings, March 2, 2013

You like libraries? Check out these pictures. Including this personal library of Richard A. Macksey!

Alistair Brown: “Almost exactly forty-five years ago I lay in bed at 2:40 a.m. trying to decide about following Christ. One thing I know for sure, that the decision either meant giving 110% of my life to him (if you can give 110%!) or walking away from my upbringing, church attendance, and Christian friends. At that moment I sensed God like never before, responded ‘yes’ in my heart to him, and was asleep within five minutes. When I woke next morning every part of my being was his, and I have never doubted or changed that commitment.”

Rod Dreher’s confession and this is his conclusion: “This is what I believe in most of all: the call and the command to love and mercy. I don’t live up to my ideals all the time — far from it — but they are my ideals, and I didn’t come by them easily or cheaply. Love doesn’t erase our conflicts and divisions over what we believe to be true, and the right way to live, but it does put them into context. “You shall love your crooked neighbor/With your crooked heart,” said W.H. Auden, in his poetic meditation on suffering and mortality. That’s what I believe; everything else is chatter.”

Advice for writers by Chip Scanlan: “To manage your stories, there are essentially six steps. One, lower your standards. Get something down. Swallow the bile that rises in your throat when you write a first draft. Because the fact of the matter is, as you learn, that it contains the promise of the final one. Print out early. One of the downsides of the computer is we don’t hit the print button. Print out early. Read aloud. People don’t read aloud. Better yet, have someone else read it to you. If they’re stumbling, it’s probably because it’s not clear enough. It took me a long time to accept the fact, “I’m bored reading this.” Think about all the stories that have been published that if you read them aloud, you’d say, “God, this is boring. Who the hell would read this? I’m only reading it because I’m being paid to.” You have to be honest. I mean, it’s this paradox. I’m saying, “Wait a minute. I think you said lower your standards?” Sure, lower your standards at first. But then you have to apply very critical standards.”

7 harsh book dedications.

Tim Gombis on the cross in Mark: “The cross is central to the Gospel of Mark.  Though his Gospel is much shorter than the others, Mark’s passion account is just as long as Matthew’s and Luke’s. Mark also introduces the plot to kill Jesus much earlier (3:6) than the others.  Mark fixes his readers’ gaze on the cross, the lens through which they must see everything about Jesus and his mission, the identity of God, the nature of discipleship, and everything else connected with Christian realities. Mark uses several devices to shape his readers’ vision along this line.”

C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries are in the midst of a storm due to allegations. Tim Challies appeals to love of our brothers and sisters and runs the whole through Paul’s statement that love believes and hopes … but there’s far more at work here when it comes to loving brothers and sisters, some of whom allege abuse. Rachel Held Evans pushes back.

Meanderings in the News

Lyle J. Dennis: “Scientists have reported that they were able to reverse age-related changes in rats’ brains by treating animals with a drug. As animals and human age brain function deteriorates.  Particularly,  cells of the hippocampus become less effective at storing new information;  their synapses lose structure and function. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein found in the brain that promotes synaptic health and plasticity.  It is known that brain BDNF levels decline with age. In the current study, the scientists attempted to increase BDNF levels in older rats through the administration of a drug.  The drug acted to increase histone acetylation.  Histone acetylation of the BDNF gene increases its production. Sure enough the  researchers found that when older rats were treated with the drug, aging effects of the brain were found to be reversed – they had normal synaptic plasticity.”

Mediterranean diet: “Following a Mediterranean diet lowered the risk of stroke by 33% to 46%, without counting calories, a new study shows. Mediterranean diets feature lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts and olive oil; moderate amounts of fish and poultry; but little dairy, red or processed meat or sweets; as well as moderate amounts of wine with meals.”

Rodinia: “Researchers have found evidence for a landmass that would have existed between 2,000 and 85 million years ago. The strip of land, which scientists have called Mauritia, eventually fragmented and vanished beneath the waves as the modern world started to take shape.”

Jeffrey Toobin thinks the Pistorius case will end in a plea bargain: “Last week was a dramatic one in the case of Oscar Pistorius, the South African Olympic star who was charged with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. But it will probably be the last major courtroom showdown in the case. The Pistorius matter cries out for a plea bargain, and the legal story will probably end that way.”

Good interactive map about traffic in the major USA cities.

Muslims and evolution, by atheist Alom Shaha: “I met someone like this at a recent conference called “Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution?” organised by the Deen Institute, an organisation that claims to want to “articulate faith, not in spite of, but through scientific inquiry, critical thinking and logical reasoning, reviving intellectuality among modern Muslims.” This young man, a postgraduate biochemist at Imperial College London, told me that he had come to the conference in the hope that he would find a way to reconcile his belief in the teachings of Islam with what he described as “evidence for evolution in everything I do at work”. He seemed deeply anguished by the fact that evolution by natural selection contradicts the core belief with which he was brought up – that the Qur’an is the literal word of Allah. When I asked him if he might consider the idea that the Qur’an wasn’t a divine document he told me that this was “impossible” for him, that his “life would have no meaning” if the Qur’an was not literally true.”

Learn to code: “(CNN) – Hey kids! Forget trying to become a doctor or rapper or a football star, not to mention all the teasing you may get in school for being a nerd — computers are where it’s at. That’s one message of a new video in which Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and other tech execs urge young people to learn computer programming. “Learning how to program didn’t start off with wanting to learn all of computer science or trying to master this discipline or anything like that,” Zuckerberg says. “It started off because I wanted to do this one simple thing — I wanted to make something that was fun for myself and my sisters.” Gates says, “I was 13 when I first got access to a computer. I wrote a program to play tick-tack-toe.”

Marc and Angel on quotes for life.

Research into ennui: “Dr. Eastwood, a Canadian psychology professor, is one of a growing number of researchers in what is becoming an exciting field of inquiry: boredom studies. The young adults in his lab watch dry instructional videos all in an effort to help researchers understand how we experience boredom, what causes it, and eventually, how to relieve it.”

Lauren Davis: “Redditor bogus_wheel received a one-page proposal from her beau filled with romance and data points. What this fake academic lacks in citations, it more than makes up for in pure geeky sweetness. Here’s hoping that the projected data proves, if anything, conservative.”

Robot doctors, computer diagnosis?Ezra Klein: So let’s start with the hard question: After reporting this article, are you hoping, 10 years from today, that if you have to see a doctor, there’s a robot in the room? 

Jonathan Cohn: Robot? No. Sophisticated computer? Yes. Really there are two reasons for this. First, medicine is becoming a lot more complex. You see it in cancer care. We’re developing much more detailed information about tumors — about the specific mutation that’s causing a group of cells to divide uncontrollably. And we’re learning how to target treatments more specifically than ever before. But the amount of knowledge is already more than even academic oncologists — the ones with the most time to keep up with the latest research — can manage on their own. The challenge will only grow. And it’s not just cancer. The same sorts of information are becoming available for diabetes, high blood pressure — you name it. Making full use of this information is going to require technological assistance. But the more important change may be something that seems a lot more mundane: correcting mistakes that even conscientious providers are bound to make. Marty Kohn, the E.R. physician who’s led the development of IBM Watson for health care, talks a lot about “anchor bias.” You’re a doctor, you’re listening to your patient, and you inevitably start to form a diagnosis after hearing a few facts. But that diagnosis may be wrong — or incomplete. It’s human nature to downplay information you get later, even if it suggests other possibilities. A computer isn’t subject to human nature, so it might point out that, gee, the diagnosis might not be exactly what you think. Of course, computers can’t provide warmth. And we’re still a long ways from the day when they can pick up nuances from a medical record, in the way a trained professional can. Turns out that’s a little more complicated than producing conjuring up trivia for “Jeopardy.”

Meanderings in Sports

NBA nicknames: Your favorite?

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Diane

    Loved the harsh book dedications.

  • Phillip

    Thanks for linking Rachel Evans post. In the past 9 months, people have shared stories with me of churches where leaders have abused girls, and in two of the cases, those in the know have said nothing or sided with the abuser, presumably for the good of the church. In the third case, the leaders have taken some action. Covering it up, refusing transparency, trying to “save” the ministry only allow such behaviors to fester and grow. Are we training ministers and churches about out this?

  • Pat

    Did Challies take the same stance with the Catholic Church?

  • Larry Barber

    All the people behind code.org seem to be people who have an interest in keeping the cost of programmers and software engineers down. There is no shortage of programmers or software engineers, if there were salaries would be rising, and they’re not. Enrollment in engineering and Computer Science programs is down, and for good reason, the corporate powers-that-be have already demonstrated that they will not allow technicians salaries to rise. They will import indentured labor, or export the jobs overseas, rather than increase salaries. So why would anybody want to get in a career field like that? You might as well study something in college that will let you have a good time and make all the oh-so-important contacts that will get you ahead in this who you know is more important that what you know world. Either that or skip college entirely and learn a trade or skilled that can’t out source.


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