Monday, January 30, 2017

Leaving Twitter

I suppose it was inevitable. I left Facebook over four years ago, and over the last year (and probably longer) I've had the almost daily urge to quit Twitter. Now the time has come.

Let me begin with an image. Twitter, to me, seems like one of the palantiri, the "seeing stones," in The Lord of the Rings. Used wisely, a palantir seems like a helpful tool, a means of fast communication showing what's happening in the far reaches of the world. But in The Lord of the Rings, the question raised is whether they can be used wisely at all. The images shown are from the far reaches, but they are carefully curated by the dark lord Sauron to cause despair. These images are assumed to be truthful, but even if they are accurate, the narrative they tell is not.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hazelnuts Three Ways Ice Cream

Each year for our birthdays, Abby and I will make the other a treat of their choosing. It's a little unfair because Abby's treat choices are usually elaborate, whereas mine are often my grandma's cream pie (the easiest pie in the world). And after seeing a baked Alaska on The Great British Baking Show, I requested it, but Abby refuses to make it, so how much freedom do I have really?

This year for her birthday Abby gave very few parameters on what she wanted. The keyword was "hazelnuts." So I set off on my first off-recipe effort to make ice cream. It turned out great, and partially so I don't forget what I did and partially to share it with you, here's my recipe for hazelnuts three ways (hazelnut ice cream with toasted hazelnuts and a Nutella fudge ribbon).

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Most Dangerous Environment of All

I just finished my annual rereading of G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy--for the first time in a (steadily dwindling) book group. Here is one of the most brilliant paragraphs from the book (yes, Chesterton could have used more frequent paragraph breaks): 
[The Church] has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man's environment, but in man. Further, she has maintained that if we come to talk of a dangerous environment, the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment. I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle. I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel. But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest—if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this—that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy. Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world. For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable. You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor. A Christian may consistently say, "I respect that man's rank, although he takes bribes." But a Christian cannot say, as all modern men are saying at lunch and breakfast, "a man of that rank would not take bribes." For it is a part of Christian dogma that any man in any rank may take bribes. It is a part of Christian dogma; it also happens by a curious coincidence that it is a part of obvious human history. When people say that a man "in that position" would be incorruptible, there is no need to bring Christianity into the discussion. Was Lord Bacon a bootblack? Was the Duke of Marlborough a crossing sweeper? In the best Utopia, I must be prepared for the moral fall of any man in any position at any moment; especially for my fall from my position at this moment.

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's a Brand-New Year

There's really nothing magical about turning the page of your calendar, but it still feels magical, which is why so many of us make New Year's resolutions.

Of course, the old saying "Man plans, God laughs" got the better of me last year. I said I would write fifty-two blog posts here last year, and I fell woefully short (by my count, I posted 10, although I began drafting close to 25). In fact, I stopped my regular writing gig over at to focus on my writing, and yet here I am. I also resolved to read 50 books on Good Reads, but my profile there was a constant reminder of how far behind I had fallen. Even my book club read less than our usual eleven books per year.

Last year was the hardest year of my life thus far. My daughter was born, and she is not the sleeper my son was. We assumed throughout the year that she was just one of those Fussy Babies you occasionally hear about (through sobs), but we discovered in September that she has a rare eye condition that has kept her in near constant discomfort, likely since her birth. In addition to this, my son is now two (almost three), and the switch has flipped from nice, compliant son to toy-room terror.

So on the one hand, I look at my failed attempts to write and think, "Man, what did I accomplish in 2014?" And on the other hand, I think, "How in the world did I get anything done?" And really, measuring a year by posts written and books read is a sorry yardstick for accomplishment. Some days all you can do is wake up and do your duty before crawling back under the covers. I've learned a little more what Paul meant that God's grace is made perfect in weakness. (I wish it were a little more perfect, or that I was.) Daily bread has taken on new meaning for me.

So in 2015, I resolve to do nothing, which we're told ensures that we'll reach our goals. I pray today for the strength for today, and tomorrow I will pray for the strength I need to face that day. Baby steps and daily bread. And lots and lots of coffee.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"Bring the Daddy"

2014 has been a pretty tiring year, namely because our daughter, born at the start of the year, doesn't like to sleep when, where, and in what manner we would prefer. Most days I make it through work on the manufactured attention of caffeine, and it seems all I can do to handle the baseline tasks that crop up, with little energy left to expend on nonnecessities (like blogs, for example).

It is in this state that I arrive home each night to an energetic toddler who jumps up and down as soon as I cross the threshold. I secretly hope that his chosen activities will be another reading of The Cat in the Hat or some quiet puffing of toy trains on our coffee table, but he almost always has other plans in mind. "Escape from Daddy," "upside-down baby," and "sack of potatoes" are among his favorite games, if that tells you anything.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Blog Post You Used to Know

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about some of my positive experiences at a small church. At the encouragement of a colleague, I reworked and edited the blog post, and it was published today in Leadership Journal online. (You can read the final version here.)

I was reminded of the benefits of a small church again this past Sunday, when T joined us in the service for the first time in a while (he's outgrowing the toys in the nursery but is still a bit young for the preschool class). I had once attended my mom's small church during college, and I was struck by how noisy it was--I found it a nuisance, mainly because I was used to the hallowed silence of churches where children are neither seen nor heard. And I was a selfish college student.

This Sunday, T contributed to the noise in the sanctuary, clapping after every song and quietly chatting to himself through most of the service while (mercifully) sitting on my lap or Abby's. At the end of the service, several people said, "He did so well in service today" and commented that they liked his clapping. We did not receive a single glare for keeping him with us, and I believe the comments were genuine. Whether these people are just more patient than I was or childish chatter is more forgivable when you know the source, I was so grateful.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Leaving Facebook, Part 2

It's been over a year and a half since I left Facebook, and most days, if you ask me about it, I'll tell you my experience has been great. I'll probably be smug about it, telling you how I don't often think about it anymore, how I don't have to get jealous or manage how I'm projecting myself to disparate "friend" groups, and how I am surprised when news outlets make Facebook sound like a big deal (making them sound less and less important as well).

And this is true, mostly. When Facebook goes down, or it comes out that users don't have as much privacy as they thought (shocker!), or users are forced to reckon, again, with the idea that they themselves are the commodity sold on Facebook, I shake my head and wonder why anyone's still hanging out there. Most days I really do forget that Facebook is a thing that people still do, just because it is now so far removed from the things I care about.

But last week, for almost the first time since quitting Facebook, I regretted it.