Tag Archives: Technology

Best Books of 2017

history-books

Making_sense_of_GodTimothy Keller cements himself with this book as the C.S. Lewis of our time. He writes to the skeptical in an age of reason by taking on Nietzsche, Marx, Freud and others. Its a book for those that may be interested in the Christian faith as well as a wonderful reminder for those that profess it. Honestly, it’s a must read.

 

 

under-our-skin-coverBenjamin Watson has written one of the most timely books. In an age of growing tribalism and segregation, Watson confronts race relations head on. With clarity, humility and raw honestly he dives into the issues we face, bringing light to areas we so often try to sweep under the rug. This book deserves your immediate attention.

 

9781578061259-usGeorge Lucas it not the most loquacious filmmaker and much of what he’s said over the years has been twisted to fit a writer’s preconceived ideas about him. Here, Sally Kline collects all of his interviews from 1971 through 1999. It’s fascinating to hear from the man himself, in his most formative years. The only bad thing about it is that it does not cover through is sale of Star Wars (which makes sense since it was released in 1999).

 

591b42d3aeb66.imageSasse does a marvelous job at pinpointing the major issues facing the American people in the 21st century. The book looks to begin a conversation about what has been lost in the last 50 years and some ways which we can possibly get them back. Whether you agree completely or not, it’s worth reading and thinking deeply about these issues, if we don’t, we might not like where we end up.

 

9781455540181_DemocracyHC.tifI think this is one of the most important books of 2017. Rice uses history to show the story of democracy from the American experience to it’s experiments in places like Russia, Poland, Africa and the Middle East. In each, looking at what has made it successful or lead to it’s corruption. It’s a “long road to freedom” and unless we understand what’s come before, we’ll never know how to get where we want to go.

 

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I know in my own life and faith that there are times we need the simple reminders of what we believe and why. Butler does such a good job at laying these out and reminding us that, “…God’s reckless love is on the prowl, willing to crash through our distance and crush down our idols to get to our heart. God’s divine grace bears down upon us, calling us to turn and receive his love. As his footsteps draw closer, the sound of his voice breaks through the silence, and the light of his encroaching presence begins to pierce the darkness. The question we’re then faced with is not whether we’ve been good enough, jumped high enough, or sought hard enough. . . .”

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I love this book. It speaks directly to us in the 21st century and lays out the importance of thinking deeply. Just to whet you appetite here’s a quote, ‘Why would people ever think, when thinking deprives them of “the pleasure of sharing an attitude one knows is socially approved”—especially in an online environment where the social approval of one’s attitudes is so much easier to acquire, in the currency of likes, faves, followers, and friends? And to acquire instantaneously?’

 

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The election of 2016 dominated the news and much of our collective conversation. Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes spent that time interviewing those in the campaign, compiling an account of just went wrong and why. It’s an important read for all Americans.

 

 

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Carr, like Jacobs, is worried about our thinking. He looks at the history of how mind works and how we as humans have learned in the past. Each invention we create, impacts the way our brain’s behave, so how has the internet changed us and is it a good thing? It’s a fascinating read and again, one of the most important. We must think critically about these things or, “…as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.”

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I love Isaacson’s work. Each of his previous biographies has been brilliant and his work on Da Vinci is the same. This does differ in that since Da Vinci lived so long ago, the records about him are not as extensive, yet Isaacson finds a way to weave the narrative of his life alongside his artistic and scientific accomplishments well. Da Vinci was a man, who in many ways was before his time but his impact is still being felt. One major plus is that the book has color pictures showing you his art and sketches which enhances the experience as you can look at what Isaacson is referring to.

Honorable Mentions

There were some fantastic Star Wars books this year, Thrawn (Don’t miss my panel from Dragon con with author Timothy Zahn and Star Wars Rebels co-executive producer about Thrawn),  Inferno Squad, Rebel Rising and Phasma were all top notch. I thoroughly enjoyed Harry Potter’s Bookshelf as it explores the inspirations in literate to Rowling’s creation. George Perez’s Omnibus volume one for his run of Wonder Woman was brilliant.

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Owl Post 9-12-14

Owl Post

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U2′s Songs of Innocence: Familiar But Surprising, Free But Costly

738aa476The biggest surprise of the launch of U2’s new album isn’t the way it was released—it’s how good the songs are.

It has been five long years since No Line On The Horizon, an album with some great moments but one which also revealed a band in artistic decline. In those five years, they knew they were one more misstep away from irrelevance. The reports weren’t hopeful: a new producer here, a scrapped album concept there. They seemed “stuck in a moment that they can’t get out of”, finally crushed under the weight of their own ponderousness.

Apple Watch: To Wear It Like a Man — or a God?

440633-apple-watchTechnology keeps getting more and more personal. First “personal computers,” which sat on your desk, gave way to laptops, which sat in a rather more intimate position. Now laptops are giving way to tablets and phones, which nestle in your hand and slip into your pocket. And early next year, the Apple Watch will wrap around quite a few wrists, which it will tap gently to signal that a friend is calling or a message has arrived.

On Repeat: Why People Watch Movies and Shows Over and Over

190568.1020.AThe millisecond that Dumb and Dumber clicks into focus on the television screen, something magical happens to me. It can be a terrible day, a stressful day, or a sick day, but within seconds of seeing Jim Carrey’s bowl cut, I’m 10 years old again. The number of movies I have once memorized is small (The Lion King, A Few Good Men, and, inexplicably, While You Were Sleeping), but Dumb and Dumber is perhaps the only one where I have reasonably thought, “I could perform this entire film from start to finish, on my own.” On multiple occasions in college, I think I tried.

Why I Love to Read Non-Christian Book

atonementMy practice of reading goes through phases. There are times where I just cannot get enough of the newest Christian books, and there are times where reading yet another Christian book seems almost intolerable. In some seasons I love to read novels, and in some seasons I can’t stand them. I’m sure any committed bibliophile can identify with the ebb and the flow of the literary appetite.

Getting Married Is Not Enough to Fight Sexual Temptation

ring-2If you follow a certain road away from the city center, it will cross the river and lead you to the surrounding mountains. As it rises and falls with the contours of the land, it will pass cow pastures, dilapidated barns, and neat ranch houses built on family land where generations live side-by-side. Near the end of the road you’ll come to a small, brick church that just last year celebrated its 90th anniversary. The congregation is made of folks who have known each other their entire lives. They have attended school together, married together, reared children together, and even today, worship together. The oldest member was also the first to be married at the church back in 1947. Another couple recently celebrated 50 years together — she agreed to marry him one month to the day after he landed a full-time job — and yet another member could tell you about being a bride at 16.

IN WHICH WE ANSWER THE QUESTION: “WHAT CAN STAR TREK FANS DO TO ENCOURAGE CBS TO RELEASE DEEP SPACE NINE ON BLU-RAY?”

8yrv5uThe one question I get probably more than any other these days – outside of “When will the unaltered Star Wars be released on Blu-ray?” – is this: “Will CBS keep releasing remastered Star Trek series on Blu-ray, including Deep Space Nine and Voyager?” I get this question in one form or another at least several times a week. And the answer is simple: Maybe. I’ll explain in a minute. But the second part of the question is often this: “What can I do to convince CBS to remaster Deep Space Nine for Blu-ray?” That I can answer very definitively.

Owl Post 10-29-12

 

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What Am I Doing When I Vote?

I’m glad that TGC is coordinating a series of blogs about some “first principles” to consider when thinking about politics (e.g., BakerSmethurstForster). While I fully agree (and have often said from the pulpit) that the kingdom of God does not depend on elections and will not be ushered in by politicians, I believe Christian involvement in politics, or at least some understanding of the parties, the candidates, and the issues, is absolutely critical. Because we have all seen unthinking allegiance to a certain candidate or party, we can be overly reticent to talk about politics at all, let alone put forward a reasoned view on the political process. But political abdication and utter silence is not the right corrective to political idolatry, nor does it further the common good when Christians disengage for fear of being labeled with this wing or that.

J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy:

This is a book that does what Hamlet told the players they should do: hold the mirror up to nature. And nature isn’t pretty. Actually that needs to be qualified. Nature, as in the world in which we live, is beautiful. Stunning, really, and Rowling sings the beauty of the cool morning, the night sky, the hilltop view of the quaint township.

Tracing the Logic of Liberalism:

In the American context the labels liberal and conservative are used in an ahistorical way—more as terms of opprobrium than as accurate designations for what people actually believe about political life. Liberals and conservatives alike differ less on fundamental principles than on who can better claim custody over the same principles—the principles of, well, liberalism.

You Believe in Karma:

“Good people get good stuff. Bad people get bad stuff.” Or as the Beatles sang with their last gasp on Abbey Road, “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Now I love John, Paul, George and Ringo, but I take issue with them here, and I know I am in the minority. After all, the world runs on retribution. “This for that” comes as naturally to us as breathing. Moralists interpret misfortune as the karmic result of misbehavior. This for that. “You failed to obey God, so He gave your child an illness.” Such rule-based economies of punishment and reward may be the default mode of the fallen human heart, but that doesn’t make them any less brutal!

THE BOOKSTORE BRAIN:

If you could create a bookstore, what would you put in it? What would you exclude? Would you specialize in any particular genre? Would your organizing principle be quantity or quality, or would you devise a way to have both?

Porn-Free Church: Sex, God, and the Gospel: Free Book

A life-with-porn versus a life-without-porn is a poor choice. If you set it up in these terms then you won’t produce lasting change. We need to set it up (as it truly is) as a choice between life-with-porn versus life-with-God. We need to show how God always offers more than porn.

The New iPad Has New Competition … Which It Will Destroy:

You may have heard that Apple dropped some science on us this morning, with the announcement of a boatload of new desktops, notebooks, and tablets. Under normal circumstances, we’d be focused entirely on the new iPad Mini, the new offering Apple has crafted to bust its way into the 7-inch tablet space. And if you take a gander at our front page, you’ll see that we’re giving the little guy more than its fair share of love. But there’s more news out there: the new, fourth generation iPad was also announced today, a full-size tablet some in the press have taken to calling the “iPad Maxi.”

Did Apple Really Just Screw Over iPad Owners?

Earlier this week, Apple held an event during which they announced several new and updated products, including a smaller iPadthinner and sleeker iMacs, and a new high-end laptop. Needless to say, these announcements got plenty of people excited, including yours truly, as the months — and even years — of anticipation, rumors, and analysis come to a head and revealed a slew of lovely new products.

A Selfish Post

I have to share something that happened to me today and it was kind of a big deal; I got my first famous person retweet. Now I know what you are think, “Seriously, you have over a thousand tweets and this is the first time that you have been retweeted by someone famous?” It is true though, today was the first time. What made this so interesting was that I have been thinking about social media and have read some things in the news recently about them. I was struck with how wrapped up I have gotten with getting myself heard, read, retweeted or followed. I was even complaining to a friend the other day about having a blog that no one reads. I write all this stuff and does it really just disappear into the digital void of Al Gore’s creation? I have been thinking all about me, social media has become another way to indulge in my proclivity for selfiness. In fact a new study about Facebook shows that we are more apt to be selfish on Facebook than giving (I know shocker).

The way this plays out is that the average user is more “liked” than they click “like” on other’s posts. They receive more friend requests than they send. On average, 63% of Facebook users studied received friend requests in the survey month while only 40 percent made a friend request.

The result? It feels good to be on Facebook. It might even feel better than life off Facebook. After all, there’s no dislike button, and friends are unlikely to post harsh comments on your page. Instead, people you might not have seen in years bombard you with positive affirmations day after day, year after year.

“You keep getting all these wonderful positive rewards,” said Keith Hampton, the study’s main author and a Rutgers University professor. “That’s pretty hard to give up.”

Getting more than you are giving, in terms of emotional support, “is kind of what you are looking for,” he added.

This might be the lure of Facebook, the reason it could be worth $100 billion and the reason it has 845 million users who are not leaving even if they’ve been on the site for years. The study found no evidence of “Facebook fatigue,” the idea that people get tired of Facebook after they’ve been on it for a long time.

In fact it was the opposite. The longer someone had been using Facebook, the more frequently they posted status updates, pressed “like” and commented on friends’ content. (Source)

I am finding this to be completely true. I want people to like my comments or read the articles I post and yet I am unwilling to engage them and their postings. So it’s not really social media because the social part is not happening; it’s more a affirmation hub where I can look for people to tell me that I am funny, witty and the like. This sense of entitlement that I have and that my earlier comments portray is dangerous and can be seen all over our world. I have this idea that I deserve to be heard that,

No one looks the way I do.
I have noticed that it’s true.
No one walks the way I walk.
No one talks the way I talk.
No one plays the way I play.
No one says the things I say.
I am special.
I am me. (Source)

This hit me today, I don’t have any right to be heard, read or liked. I am no different than the millions of other people that have blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and all the other myriad ways that we have created to make ourselves heard. Tim Challies summed it up nicely the other day on his blog when he said;

I’m entitled to Hell. That’s the only entitlement I have. That’s all I deserve, because of my sin. Anything else is grace, an unmerited bonus from the God of all grace. I don’t deserve a breath of life, a crumb of food, a drop of water, a stitch of clothing, a cent in my wallet, or an hour of education. I’m not entitled to one friend, one vacation, one verse of Scripture, or even one sermon. I’m certainly not entitled to salvation and heaven. I’m entitled to damnation and Hell.

That sense of entitlement makes me seek mercy, receive mercy, enjoy mercy, and be merciful to others. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, “What have I that I did not receive as a free gift of divine grace? How therefore can I ever boast as if I had actually been entitled to it or earned it?”

So, there are basically only two ways to live: with a proud and angry sense of entitlement or with a humble and thankful sense of responsibility.

To summarize, “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). (Source)

Owl Post: 2-3-2012

More great links from this week. Hope you enjoy!


Searching for Paradise in the Descendants:

“Ever since the events of Genesis 3, we’ve hungered to return home. It’s the impulse that sent explorers out to the ends of the earth. It’s what Ponce de Leon looked for in Florida, what Cortez searched for amongst the Aztecs, and what sent Cheng Ho out from China into the Indian Ocean. It was promised to Israel as a land of milk and honey, and promised again to the church as the city of God.” Link

The Elephant Room:

“There was a lot of controversy and fall out from this years Elephant Room; (if you don’t know what I’m talking about you can check it out here. This has added to the number of links for this section. So here are some the best that I read this last week.” Tim Raymond, Justin TaylorKevin DeYoungThabiti Anyabwileand Don Carson and Tim Keller 

Respecting the (Enemy) Dead:

“Much has been made lately of the video circulated the Web that purportedly shows U.S. Marines urinating on dead men, presumably Taliban fighters killed by the Marines.” Link 

West Toward Home:

“IN HER NOVELS AND in her nonfiction essays, Marilynne Robinson’s questions are always roughly the same: Who are we, and where did we come from? The first is a matter of metaphysics, the second of history. At least since the publication of her first collection of essays, The Death of Adam (1998), Robinson has been making it her business to remind us that these questions are not yet settled.” Link

Citing Attacks, Christians Fear Losing Freedoms:

“CAIRO – From her home in a labyrinth of stonewalled alleyways, Samia Ramsis holds a key chain bearing the face of the Virgin Mary as she sits in her yellow pajamas on the morning of Orthodox Christmas.” Link

Watch Your Conjunctions in Parenting:

“I love you, but you need to obey.” 

Every English-speaking parent has said that phrase at some point or another. It’s our attempt as parents to express commitment to our children even as we require them to obey: “I love you despite anything you do, but you also need to obey what I tell you.” Link

The Coming Tech Boom…Or Babel:

“There’s a technological transformation coming that will revolutionize this century the way the telephone, electricity and automobiles altered the one before.” Link

Gender Liberation:

“Numerous stories have emerged recently about parents who have chosen to raise their children as “gender neutral.” The parents have received widespread criticism with many questioning whether they have a political motive and are just using their children to enforce their own agendas.” Link

The Media’s Abortion Blinders:

IN the most recent Gallup poll on abortion, as many Americans described themselves as pro-life as called themselves pro-choice. A combined 58 percent of Americans stated that abortion should either be “illegal in all circumstances” or “legal in only a few circumstances.” These results do not vary appreciably by gender: in the first Gallup poll to show a slight pro-life majority, conducted in May 2009, half of American women described themselves as pro-life. Link