July 6, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. I’m about 10 or 11, having just finished B. F. Skinner’s Walden Two (1948). I’m in bed reeling from the utopia it imagines. I especially love the idea of standardizing work obligations through a 4-units-per-day point system, with the most arduous and messiest jobs in the community gaining a person, say, 1 or two points per hour, and work like writing a play garnering, say, 0.1. In such a system, you can easily meet your daily quota by… Read more

June 23, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. I was at a school bazaar as a small child, playing on a hill a little ways from the outdoor festivities, when suddenly an angry woman grabbed me by the arms and shook me. “Michael,” she shouted, “What have I told you about running–” “I’m not Michael!” It took her a split second to realize that I wasn’t, in fact, her son. But rather than apologize, she did that thing we humans so often do… Read more

June 9, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. In 2010, in a now-locked Livejournal episode, someone took to task one of the most unrealistic “TV” series ever: World War II. Robert Farley thankfully excerpted a significant portion of that original post: But then there are some shows that go completely beyond the pale of enjoyability, until they become nothing more than overwritten collections of tropes impossible to watch without groaning. I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their… Read more

June 2, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. This one isn’t mine–it belongs to James Carroll, who recently published an extraordinary piece in The Atlantic, “Abolish the Priesthood”. I’ve read it a few times, because it well and truly broke my heart. Here’s a man who studied to be a Catholic priest after Vatican II, inspired by the message of reform he thought it contained; who then served as a Catholic priest for five years; who realized that Vatican II would never be put as fully… Read more

May 26, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. A few weeks ago, I visited for the first time a local community living humbly on the opposite side of the city. Their homes were hand-made from brick and corrugated metal, heaped three or four storeys high between narrow concrete pathways all up a steep incline. They bore splashes of brightly coloured paint and street art, phrases like “FELIZ NAVIDAD” and “TE AMO” leaping from the sides of certain buildings. Though they sat near a… Read more

May 19, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. As a child, the moment I realized my father and I had different political views, my views on education changed, too. To be clear, my father first inspired a great deal of enthusiasm for politics in me. I was raised to believe strongly in one’s responsibility to be politically engaged. Since he also aggressively advanced my scientific and literary education from very early on, I also owe to him my love of learning and voracious… Read more

May 12, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. It’s midweek, and I’m pressed against the window of my bus–nauseated in the heat, caught in the high-pollution throes of midday Medellín. I’m on my way to teach my second class of the day, after an interim in which I struggled to keep from crying while I waited on breakfast to cook. You’re just tired, M. I told myself. You’re just hungry, too. The body needs so much maintenance even on good days… and my last few… Read more

May 9, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. This one involves Sir Isaac Newton, that rather solitary figure who worked for his keep when he first entered Cambridge, but eventually secured for himself a 31-year career as Master of the Royal Mint, wherein he brought down the King of Counterfeiters, William Chaloner. Oh, right, and… he did something else. Something about… mathematics? Physics? Optics? Dagnabbit, it’ll come to me. I’m being glib, of course, about Newton’s Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (1687) and Opticks (1704), among… Read more

May 5, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. It’s funny, but I think this line is one that Rachel Held Evans, progressive Christian author, would have liked. She died yesterday after a fluke intersection of UTI, influenza, and allergic reaction to attendant antibiotics. She was 37 and leaves behind two very young children, along with a grieving husband and immense community that found in her challenges to evangelical conservatism a voice of strength and change. In one of her books, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking… Read more

April 28, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. Some two years after walking into the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City, the man who on January 29, 2017 murdered six human beings, paralysed another, and injured eighteen more was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 40 years. The prosecution wanted 150 years behind bars, which would have been a Canadian record, but Justice Francois Huot noted that “punishment should not be vengeance”. At 29 years old, the… Read more

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