Life's a bit hectic right now, so instead of posting my own brilliant (or, more accurately, "brilliant") thoughts, I'll just link to some better-articulated thoughts from more articulate people.
First, a quick shout-out to my friend Dan's new startup, Wylio.com. Wylio is a tool for bloggers who need good (free) artwork. Enter your search terms and it finds creative-commons material that you're free to use in your blog. Choose your size and orientation (twss) and get your embed code. It's dead simple, and I've used it for every image in this post.
photo © 2008 H. Michael Karshis | more info (via: Wylio)
My friend Jim Zartman not only plays a pretty mean guitar, he's also a pretty good thinker. I REALLY liked his post on Gollum, but for sheer quotability you can't beat this post on doubt.
I was watching this movie where the main character was talking about the philosophies she lived by and one of them was, “Never take advice from someone you wouldn’t trade places with.” I like that, not as a general rule, but as specific to situations. For example, I wouldn’t ask advice on being a father from someone who I thought had bratty kids. When I look at the lives and read parts of books from guys like N.T. Wright or C.S. Lewis, I know I would rather be like them than like Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins.
photo © 2007 Kevin | more info (via: Wylio)
And via kottke, here's a fantastic mind trip on the egalitarian merits of Coca-Cola and America. I'd meant to use this to explain why, contrary to trendy opinion, Walmart is the greatest economic equalizer in the history of the world. But odds of getting that written are small. Instead, I'll leave you with the relevant quote and let you work the logic out yourself.
What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.
photo © 2007 flickrnospam | more info (via: Wylio)
In case you weren't aware, Benoit Mandelbrot died last week. As in, the Mandelbrot set. He was kind of a big deal. The-man-the-legend-Jonathan-Coulton (who wrote the most famous song about a living mathematician that I'm aware of) had a fantastic pseudo-eulogy, which contains this gem.
Not to get too heavy on you, but truth itself has a kind of fractal component – you can be right at one scale, but then zoom in and discover you had it all wrong. I stopped trusting people with absolute opinions the day I understood the answer to the question “How long is the coast of Britain?” is “It depends.” Not coincidentally that was the same day I discovered Mandelbrot. That was the question that led him to invent a new branch of mathematics by creating a way to quantify and discuss this kind of weirdness, and it changed the way we think about all sorts of things.
photo © 2005 Chris Jackson | more info (via: Wylio)
I'd say that Rachel Held Evans is the best professional writer I know, but that wouldn't be saying much since I don't know many professional writers. Instead, I'll say that she's one of the very best writers that I read, which is saying quite a bit when you consider that I get over 800 items a week in my RSS reader. Even when I don't agree with Rachel (which doesn't happen very often), I can't stop reading her prose. It's fantastic. For example, try this recent post on cultivating a gentle spirit:
I don’t know for sure, but I think that maybe God is trying to tell me that I’ve got to stop reacting so much, that I can’t allow the little ups and downs in my day to affect me to the core. Gentleness begins with strength, quietness with security. A great tree is both moved and unmoved—it changes with the seasons, but its roots keep it anchored in the ground.
photo © 2006 Simon East | more info (via: Wylio)
One of my favorite athiests, David Friedman, wrote a fantastic short piece entitled "Separation of Church and State or Public Schools: Pick One." David is "an academic economist who teaches at a law school and has never taken a course for credit in either field." He's riffing on a previous post of his, which is itself a riff on Volokh's recent reprint of its classic "How Separation of Church and State Was Read Into the Constitution (Hint: the KKK got its way)."
This suggests a more general point—is the existence of a public school system consistent with a serious commitment to the separation of church and state?
I think the answer is that it is not. While teaching a fundamentalist version of the origin of life is indeed taking a side in a religious dispute, teaching a conventional account of biology and geology is is also taking a side in that dispute, just the opposite side. I do not see how I can honestly tell a fundamentalist that it is a violation of the separation of church and state to teach children that his religious beliefs are true but not a violation to teach children that they are false.
I've had several normally thoughtful people tell me recently that this election campaign was the least civil ever, and that our country is trending away from civility. It's possible, I guess. I certainly wouldn't know, since I don't own a TV or watch election coverage (actually, election coverage in 2008 is what convinced me to finally cut the wire completely). But my general suspiciousness of "it's getting worse all the time" thinking received a boost from this brilliant piece:
Some final thoughts:
There's no speed limit.
Here in Lexington, man eats his own beard.
Donald Miller is, and always has been, the man.
Well, this blog post is long enough for now. If you're interested in seeing what I'm reading, follow me on Reader or subscribe to my Shared Items RSS feed (top right, "What I'm Reading).