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“Miscellany” Archives

Your Language Affects What You Can See

Your Language Affects What You Can See

We all have epistemic blind spots of which we are completely unaware.
Nov 16, 2018

My latest piece for Christ and Pop Culture looks at the life and legacy of Stan Lee, who died earlier this week.

[I]it’s nigh-impossible to overstate Stan Lee’s influence and impact on pop culture. For better or worse, the world of comics will probably forever be in his shadow. But perhaps his greatest legacy will be that he never treated comics and superheroes as mere disposable entertainment. Rather, he recognized their power and importance in people’s lives.

God bless, rest in peace, and excelsior!

This article about a recent study concerning the psychological benefits of introverts acting like extraverts is interesting, not just because it apparently conflates extraversion with ​“authenticity,” but also because of the comments that criticize the author for daring to use ​“extravert” instead of ​“extrovert.” Given some of the vehemence, you’d think you were reading a debate over the serial comma.

CNN recently profiled a Japanese swordsmith and the ancient, exacting process he follows to craft a katana.

The blades are forged from tamahagane, a steel whose layers contain differing amounts of carbon. Shimojima painstakingly heats, softens and then folds the steel in order to remove impurities and even out the carbon content.

​“A single layer becomes two layers, then two become four, four become eight and so on,” he explains. ​“By folding 15 times, over 32,000 layers are produced. However, it does not mean that the more layers, the better. There’s of course a limit, and if you exceed the limit you lose … the strength required to serve as a sword.“

Next, the sword is shaped — although it begins completely straight. As the steel is hardened through a process of repeated heating and cooling (known as yaki-ire), the differing densities in the blade’s structure create its signature curve.

​“In the space of 10 minutes, we heat up the blade to about 800 degrees centigrade and rapidly cool it down in water,” Shimojima says. ​“It seems like a simple process. However… it’s a matter of making a split-second judgment.”

I’ve long been fascinated by Japanese swords. They’re really quite beautiful in their aesthetics, simplicity, and utility.

Is modern art trash?

Banksy’s latest prank has reignited discussions about the nature, purpose, and definition of art.
Oct 10, 2018

As I’ve begun to distance myself from Twitter’s services, I want to use fewer embedded tweets in my posts. I don’t want to rely on Twitter not screwing something up with how embedded tweets work, and of course, I want to show something even if a tweet gets deleted. But screenshotting tweets has always been frustrating, simply because the end result never looks right. But after some searching for a better method, I discovered Cameron Adams’ extremely clever ​“screenshot a tweet” service, which uses Twitter’s API to generate a really nice, professional-looking screenshot.

Earlier tonight, my son and his friend were reading my copy of The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes, and taking turns with each frame. Which was incredibly sweet in and of itself. But hearing Calvin’s dialogue in their voices reminded me of when I read the strips in the newspaper as a kid. And they’re still just as clever, funny, imaginative, and delightful now as they were 30+ years ago. (Hearing the boys read this strip in particular really made me chuckle.)

Monica Hesse: ​“For all the stereotypes that linger about women being too fragile or emotional, these past weeks have revealed what many women already knew: A lot of effort goes into protecting men we love from bad things that happen to us. And a lot of fathers are closer to bad things than they’ll ever know.”

As a father myself, this is hard to read and difficult to think about. But as I’ve talked with Renae and read the thoughts, tweets, and posts of many women I know, it’s become increasingly clear that men need to step up — and more importantly, we need to listen. There’s so much going on that we’re blind to simply by virtue of being men.

Khoi Vinh has noticed something really special about the public library: ​“Even more radically, your time at the library comes with absolutely no expectation that you buy anything. Or even that you transact at all. And there’s certainly no implication that your data or your rights are being surrendered in return for the services you partake in… All of that seems exceedingly rare in this increasingly commercial, exposed world of ours. In a way it’s quite amazing that the concept continues to persist at all.”

Neuroscientist Michael Egnor argues that purely materialistic views of the mind are too limited. ​“By contrast, the classical understanding of human nature is that we are free beings not subject to determinism. This understanding is the indispensable basis for human liberty and dignity. It is indispensable, too, for simply making sense of the world around us.”

Stormy Practice

My daughter’s soccer practice right before the storm hit. Or, yet another reason why I consider Nebraska to be true ​“Big Sky Country.”

Feeling Homesick for a Place You've Never Been

Feeling Homesick for a Place You’ve Never Been

Exploring the German concept of “fernweh.”
Apr 18, 2018

Jason Kottke, the Modern State of Blogging, and My Own Blogging Mission

At the risk of sounding pretentious, I want Opus to be a source for hope in times like these.
Feb 17, 2018
Ingmar Bergman vs. The Spirit of Our Age

Ingmar Bergman vs. The Spirit of Our Age

What happens when we make ourselves the highest goal of our own existence?
Aug 27, 2017
The Ambitious Card

The Ambitious Card

My favorite card trick starts off simple but becomes endlessly delightful.
Feb 12, 2017
'Twas a White Christmas After All

‘Twas a White Christmas After All

Nebraska’s unpredictable weather comes through again.
Dec 25, 2016
Salon Takes Us Inside a Pedophile Fantasy

Salon Takes Us Inside a Pedophile Fantasy

One can’t escape the feeling that this particular aesthetic choice was unnecessarily sensational and deeply misguided.
May 19, 2016
Parenting vs. Creativity

Parenting vs. Creativity

In our desire to feel productive and in control lies a temptation to compartmentalize our lives.
May 19, 2016
Grace Is a Bowl of Strawberries

Grace Is a Bowl of Strawberries

I can’t imagine food alternatives really stacking up to the simple-yet-sublime pleasures of freshly picked strawberries.
Jun 12, 2015
Building Better Blog Networks

Building Better Blog Networks

Blog networks can be powerful tools, but they’re only as good as the support they offer their bloggers, and there’s plenty of room for improvement there.
Feb 26, 2015