Monthly Archives: January 2014

One Way To Stop Bullying

Is to, paradoxically, stop making so many rules.

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BabyMetal Just Made Metal Adorable

BabyMetal’s “いいね!- Iine!” (which I believe translates to “Sounds good!”) is probably the only underage jpop-idol metal song with a hip-hop break ever in existence. I could be wrong.

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A Stupid Quote From A Semi-Important Person

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: where souls become obese.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: where souls become obese.

From an old old article, but I came across this line from the newest (?) director of the MET, Thomas Campbell:

In an age of instant media and visual overload, there is something profoundly nourishing to the human soul when you come face-to-face with an object, whether it is the product of a lifetime of craftsmanship or something more ephemeral;…

I don’t think he’s talking just about art; he’s talking about everything physical, though I realize he’s basically just promoting the product under his charge.

I come in contact with objects every day, when I’m not blinking or sleeping. Maybe you do, too. Our souls must be so backed up they’re getting sepsis.

EDIT: Was thinking about this quote in fits and starts all day. There is a difference between sensing objects in real space as opposed to second hand, as in a photo of an object on a computer screen, but this distinction is mostly extra-sensory. Our eyes don’t distinct much between seeing the actual Mona Lisa at the Louvre and a digitized photo. We distinguish the two sets of sense data by mostly authority from others…that we actually boarded a plane going to Paris and are actually at the Louvre. There is some play with sensing the room of the Louvre to confirm being face-to-face with the actual Mona Lisa and not a computer screen.

I want to say something about the experience of art being based primarily upon the knowledge and opinion of others but that would make this post too much longer.

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Stop Using “Amazing” To Describe Your New Haircut

Wise words from C.S. Lewis, for those of us who use “amazing” or “absolutely” x to describe something as impactful as a new casserole recipe.

From The Collected Letters of…:

Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

It’s annoying yet forgivable in Facebook status updates, but when you start using them in your narrative in a story, your muse gets gas pains and farts uncontrollably.

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On How Dystopias Are Formed

Interesting post over at the Freeman blog, touching on how fictional dystopias are formed:

Second, let’s say that we are indeed right now living in a capitalist dystopia, yet, for the vast majority of us, it really doesn’t look or feel much like the dismal world of Blade Runner or Elysium. If the hyper-capitalist world depicted in those films isn’t present-day United States (or Japan or Germany or Singapore), then where is it? Where is or when was that dystopic Googleland? Does it exist and has it ever existed? Answer: It doesn’t and it hasn’t.

Writer love to bits a corporatist dystopia, but it’s unrealistic. For as much as corporations benefit from state powers they are merely one of the spikes on the morning star, not the strong arm swinging it around. Starbucks has no “moral” or legal sanction to kill you and or jail you—two very big distinguishing properties of a government—if you refuse to buy their product.

A corporation can’t don the wretched mantle of state hegemony without becoming more like a government.

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How American Currency Is Created

This is part four of a five-part series, but to me this is the most important/”useful” part.

Someone in the comments section mentioned that this is how all currencies are created. I don’t how much truth there is to that but since all fiat currencies need a government behind them to declare “by fiat” that the currency is sound, the comment makes sense at first blush.

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An Atheist Abortion Doctor Read Matt Walsh’s Blog. What He Does The Next Day At The Office Will Completely Blow You Away.

No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Larabars

This recipe is totally cribbed from My Whole Food Life but I thought I would repeat it here. Since Larabars don’t put anything goofy in their stuff, replicating them at home is easy to do.

Like the Primal Energy Bites recipe I posted a while back, these are a perfect dessert if you’re trying to do low- or no-simple-carbs type of diet. Vegan dorks can easily find a de-animalized substitute for the chocolate chips, or preferably just stop being vegan altogether.

15 dates (pitted, non-sulfur)
2 cups raw cashews*
1/4 cup dark chocolate mini-chips**
1/2 tsp salt
1 tblsp cruelty-free, free-range water
  1. Chop up the cashews in a food processor.
  2. Add everything else but the chips and continue to pulse until it gets doughy.
  3. Spread the dough, flat and even, on an 8 x 8, parchment paper-lined pan. Leave some extra parchment on the sides so you’ll be able to grab it later. Press down on the dough to make it flat.
  4. Add the chip on top, pressing them in so they stick.
  5. Let it refrigerate for a few hours (wifey put them in the freezer for a bit…worked fine).
  6. You can pull the sheet of dough out by the extra parchment paper and use a pizza cutter to make bars or squares.

Here’s some sub-standard food photography:



* Roasted cashews can be used but they are usually cooked with oil, and it will make everything kinda greasy.
** The ones photographed here are normal size.

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Michael Murray’s Response to the “Hiddenness of God” Argument Is Eh

He really is that good.

He really is that good.

Wintery Knight posted a while back (a while back on the scale of Internet time) about a response to the argument about God’s “hiddenness”—i.e., the phenomenon that God’s existence isn’t more plainly known to everyone in the same way that other, less important things, are apparent.

[Michael Murray] argues that if God reveals himself too much to people, he takes away our freedom to make morally-significant decisions, including responding to his self-revelation to us. Murray argues that God stays somewhat hidden, so that he gives people space to either 1) respond to God, or 2) avoid God so we can keep our autonomy from him. God places a higher value on people having the free will to respond to him, and if he shows too much of himself he takes away their free choice to respond to him, because once he is too overt about his existence, people will just feel obligated to belief in him in order to avoid being punished.

But believing in God just to avoid punishment is NOT what God wants for us. If it is too obvious to us that God exists and that he really will judge us, then people will respond to him and behave morally out of self-preservation. But God wants us to respond to him out of interest in him, just like we might try to get to know someone we admire. God has to dial down the immediacy of the threat of judgment, and the probability that the threat is actual. That leaves it up to us to respond to God’s veiled revelation of himself to us, in nature and in Scripture.

This sort of response bugs me because Murray pretzels himself up to preserve freewill, but given what’s at stake why would God really prefer freewill so much so over assured salvation? A skeptic would rightly be unsatisfied with this rationalization; he would much rather be tackled against his will out of the path of a careening tractor trailer—complete with bowel evacuation in front of a cadre of spectators. I would rather suffer granite scrapes, a minute of rattled nerves, and the embarrassment and stench of my own feces on display than be plowed over into a red stain on concrete.

I might approach a counterargument, or counter this counterargument, in a few different, yet very scatterbrained, ways:

1) Freewill in the metaphysical sense is not like dealing with freewill in the material agency sense. Getting jailed goes against my freewill. Falling onto floor spikes is unpleasant, deadly, and against my will to not end up like. Yet my will does not change the law of gravity or the placement of an unseen errant roller skate in my path; my freewill is irrelevant to the process. The relationship of humans to divine sovereignty is such that it could similar to the latter situation. But…

2) We’re not dealing with impersonal physical laws but an agency (God) that proposes to hold intimate knowledge about us. He could chose to reveal himself to remove doubt from all choice-making agencies (humans), but there could be something about His nature such that it prevents Him from doing that. And no, I don’t think preserving freewill is highest on the list but I have no idea what this other property would be.

3) It could be the case that some of us have freewill and some don’t. Or some of us has some kind of partial freewill, or that we have freewill at some points and none at another point. There might be no reason to think this property is static. On this side of the divide it really ends up as a epistemic crapshoot. Aside from Exodic pharoahs scriptural revelation these aren’t very strong scenarios but I’d rather err on that side than suggest there’s something very possible that God can’t do.

4) God, having perfect foreknowledge of events, knows who would choose Him and who wouldn’t, and therefore “hides” Himself, either actively or passively, from those who He knows would not choose Him and reveals Himself to those who will. There’s a theological term for this that someone with relevant knowledge can clarify for me, but we could call it “divine efficiency” for now. It does come off as a very freewill-quashing Edwardianism to me, on first impression. I don’t like this option, personally, but I don’t completely rule it out.

5) Why does it matter if a person comes to a belief in God out of fear? Does God care that belief is a result of some more “noble” situation?

6) As William Lane Craig correctly pointed out in a response to a reader’s email: God owes you absolutely nothing.

Summary of blather: Murray’s response rests too much on freewill preservation.

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Math Can Determine Good Books

At first I thought that this declaration was due to journalistic bravado, since no academic would ever propose that one narrow study would be so broadly definitive. But then there’s this:

After analysing 800 novels available to download at Project Gutenberg Yejin Choi, an assistant professor at Stony Brook University, claims she can predict literary “success” with 84% accuracy.

Completely unrelated to that topic, this paragraph caught my eye:

Less successful books, they found, contained a higher percentage of verbs, adverbs, and foreign words. “They also rely more on topical words that could be almost cliché,” found the academics, “and extreme (‘breathless’) and negative (‘bruised’) words.”

Interesting about calling “breathless” an extreme word. I personally pass over the word “breathless,” probably from its general overuse. Maybe that’s okay within context, but “breathless” is just a word describing a temporary physical state. Narration like “Eyes bulging, his inhales were ragged with desperation,” is more likely to make my palms damp*.

* “Write less” is only a guideline to rescue readers from needless verbiage, not a divine literary command. If the situation calls for description, I would dress it up. The idea, in this context, is that it’s better to make the reader feel the breathlessness, not just tell him about it.

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