links to 10 items worth your time

1. The cofounder of Casper wants to make home renovations less hellish

“Block Renovation won’t just redo your bathroom for you. The new startup will finish it in three weeks, for 25% less than you’d pay a regular contractor. … Right now, the service is only available in New York and New Jersey, but it will soon be available around the country. And the plan is to quickly expand beyond the bathroom to other rooms, like kitchens.”

2. A New Connection between the Gut and Brain

“… there is a growing body of work showing that there is communication between the gut and brain, now commonly dubbed the gut–brain axis. The disruption of the gut–brain axis contributes to a diverse range of diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. …

“… the research unveils a previously undescribed gut–brain connection mediated by the immune system and indicates that excessive salt might negatively impact brain health in humans through impairing the brain’s blood vessels regardless of its effect on blood pressure.”

3. Here’s How Much Added Sugar You Should Eat in a Day

“The American Heart Association says men should eat no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar (… 36 grams) and women should cap their daily amount at (… 25 grams). The World Health Organization and the U.S. government’s dietary guidelines are slightly more liberal: added sugars should take up less than 10 percent of your daily calories. For an adult that’s about 50 grams … To put all this in perspective, one 12-ounce can of Pepsi has 41 grams of added sugar.”

4. 22 Hidden Tricks Inside Windows 10

“Think you know Windows inside and out?”

5. Microsoft PowerPoint is getting real-time captions and subtitles for presentations

“The subtitles and captions are designed to help support the deaf or hard of hearing community, and even allow speakers to include a translation of a presentation. Live captions and subtitles will support 12 spoken languages and display on-screen in more than 60 different languages.”

6. The privacy risks of compiling mobility data

“A new study by MIT researchers finds that the growing practice of compiling massive, anonymized datasets about people’s movement patterns is a double-edged sword: While it can provide deep insights into human behavior for research, it could also put people’s private data at risk. … We need to keep thinking about the challenges in processing large-scale data, about individuals, and the right way to provide adequate guarantees to preserve privacy.”

7. How to Stop Apps From Tracking Your Location

“Hundreds of apps can follow your movements and share the details with advertisers, retailers and even hedge funds. Here’s how to limit the snooping.”

8. Facebook Wants to Know Where You are Going

“… if you want to keep using your Facebook account since it’s still your main way to keep in touch with your friends, you can turn off the Facebook’s location tracking features by following these steps …”

9. ACLU slams ‘nightmarish’ Amazon patent application to bring facial recognition to your front door

“‘It’s rare for patent applications to lay out, in such nightmarish detail, the world a company wants to bring about,’ said Jacob Snow, a technology and civil liberties attorney at the ACLU. ‘Amazon is dreaming of a dangerous future, with its technology at the center of a massive decentralized surveillance network, running real-time facial recognition on members of the public using cameras installed in people’s doorbells.’

“Amazon declined to comment for this story.”

10. 12 Simple Things You Can Do to Be More Secure Online

“Making your devices, online identity, and activities more secure really doesn’t take much effort. In fact, several of our tips about what you can do to be more secure online boil down to little more than common sense.”

links to 10 items worth your time

1. Now Streaming: The Entire Catalogue of ‘Sesame Street’ Songs

“… new ‘Sesame Street’ music will soon be released on a consistent schedule, for the first time in more than two decades.”

2. I’ll Have Consequences

“… I have no magic formula for dealing with disobedient and unruly children, and certainly in a world where some children’s behavior has been malformed almost from the very start, we should not underplay the difficulties and frustrations parents face. But surely we also want to place the bond between parents and children within that circle of deeply personal relationships.”

3. Why you need a little resistance in your life

“We need the rain and the occasional storm.”

4. Why Did Early Christians Prefer the Codex to the Bookroll

“When we say ‘book’ today, we generally mean a tome of bound pages. Known as the ‘codex,’ this common book form has always (over the past two millennia, anyway) looked the same — like any book on your desk. While the origins of the codex are not sufficiently explained, evidence shows that the preserved early Christian manuscripts are more often codices (plural of codex) than the then-established bookrolls. Why?”

5. Science and Theology: Two Witnesses to Reality

“… we generally have it backwards in how we think the reasoning process works. We tend to think that we work out our conclusions through the process of reasoning about the topic. But the controlled studies show pretty clearly that most of the time we already have a conclusion based on our instincts and that our process of reasoning is employed to justify what we already think. And it’s not like the smarter you are, the more open you are to other possible conclusions. The higher your IQ, the better you are at producing reasons to support your views; you’re no more likely to change your views than people with lower IQs. This might be depressing to those who have an exalted view of the human intellect, but it sure explains the inability for rational discourse to move us closer together, even when the facts are overwhelmingly on one side.”

6. Archaeologists map centuries of history beneath world’s oldest cathedral

“So far, that data has helped create a 3D digital reconstruction of what the basilica would have looked like in the 4th century. And Haynes and his colleagues are also trying to understand what it would have sounded like. Using the laser scans and information from earlier excavations, they created a simple 3D model to reconstruct the acoustics of the original cathedral.”

7. The Costs of the Confederacy

“‘It was like we were not even there,’ she said, as if slavery ‘never happened.'”

8. ‘Prosperity preachers’ like Joel Osteen can cause risky financial behavior, university report says

“The University of Toronto recently released a report saying preaching the ‘prosperity gospel’ — which centers around the belief that material wealth is part of God’s will — can lead to unrealistic optimism and risky financial behavior. The report used Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church as an example of a televangelist who touts this belief.”

9. The 25 Healthiest Foods You Can Buy for $5 or Less

“… cooking your own meals and having snacks on-hand will drastically cut the amount of money you spend on food throughout the week.”

10. The Steward of Middle-earth

“Now, after more than 40 years, at the age of 94, Christopher Tolkien has laid down his editor’s pen, having completed a great labor of quiet, scholastic commitment to his father’s vision [J.R.R. Tolkien]. It is the concluding public act of … the last member of a club that became a pivotal part of 20th-century literature: the Inklings. It is the end of an era.”

links to 4 helpful articles

1. 5 Ways to Jump Start Your Day [essential reading]

“The following are five practices that have been helpful to me. I am not prescribing these to you. Rather, I am simply describing what has been helpful to me. Perhaps one or more of these might be helpful to you as well. … Start the day with what feeds your soul. … Start the day with prayer. … Start the day with mapping out the day. … Start the day before morning. … Start the day by choosing to be grateful.”

2. Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus? The Craig-Ehrman Debate

“… I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.”

3. Calvinism and the Assurance of Salvation

“Ultimately, assurance of salvation is sought by examining what is properly the very foundation of salvation: God’s love.”

4. Should You Take Aspirin Every Day? Here’s What the Science Says

“Aspirin is best known as an over-the-counter painkiller. But acetylsalicylic acid, as it’s called chemically, has many other health benefits, as well as side effects, in the body that have only become clear in recent years.”

links to 4 helpful posts

1. C.S. Lewis and Aristotle on Civic Friendship

“Civility is one of those virtues that you don’t need when people are singing the same tune. A husband and wife getting along swimmingly don’t need to be civil, nor do best friends in the best of times. Civility is by definition exercised only when it’s needed, and that’s when we disagree about what is good and what we love. Perhaps we need to add a fourth type of friendship to Aristotle’s scheme, that of civil friendship. This form of friendship could be useful and perhaps even enjoyable, but most importantly it partakes in the good of the other because we can agree that one component of our good is respect for others with whom we disagree about other fundamental aspects of the good.”

2. Why Are You Afraid of Losing Your Privilege?

“Lord, forgive us for being afraid of losing our privilege.”

3. Things to know–and not to know–about Bible prophecy

“I used to know a lot more about prophecy than I do now.”

4. The Health Benefits of Hugging

“There are three types of people; touchy-feely people who always hug you hello, special occasional huggers and those who find displays of affection uncomfortable. Interestingly enough, your touchy-feely friends may also be happier and healthier, as recent research is beginning to identify the hug as a viable mental and physical health boost.”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to five articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading.

Addiction, brain, children, communication, health, parenting, reasoning, teens & youth ministry: Why Teens Are Impulsive, Addiction-Prone And Should Protect Their Brains [essential reading]

“‘The last place to be connected — to be fully myelinated — is the front of your brain,” [Dr. Frances] Jensen [who is a neurologist] says. ‘And what’s in the front? Your prefrontal cortex and your frontal cortex. These are areas where we have insight, empathy, these executive functions such as impulse control, risk-taking behavior.’ This research also explains why teenagers can be especially susceptible to addictions — including drugs, alcohol, smoking and digital devices. …

“‘Just like learning a fact is more efficient, sadly, addiction is more efficient in the adolescent brain. That is an important fact for an adolescent to know about themselves — that they can get addicted faster. It also is a way to debunk the myth, by the way, that, “Oh, teens are resilient, they’ll be fine. He can just go off and drink or do this or that. They’ll bounce back.” Actually, it’s quite the contrary. The effects of substances are more permanent on the teen brain. They have more deleterious effects and can be more toxic to the teen than the adult.'”

Attitude, expectations, helpfulness, ministry, preaching & teaching: Fighting Blue Monday: Be Helpful, Not Great

“In preaching and teaching, aim to be helpful. Do not waste any time attempting to be great.”

Bible study, Google Earth, teaching & preaching: Google Earth Pro is Now Free!

“I have frequently blogged about the value of Google Earth (a free program) for exploring and understanding the biblical lands. Somewhat amazingly, Google has now released Google Earth Pro for free. (It used to be a $399 upgrade.)”

Church decline & church health: 10 Behavior Patterns of Inwardly-Focused Churches

“In our survey [of 557 churches] we found ten dominant behavior patterns of members in these churches.” They are …”

Exercise, health, jogging, running & working out: When Exercise Does More Harm Than Good

“… those with the lowest risk of dying during the study period were people who ran less than three times a week for one to 2.4 hours, at a slow to moderate pace. … too little running and too much running are linked to higher rates of death … [the] sweet spot is closer to the ‘less’ side of the curve than the ‘more’ side. That dovetails with the mounting research that so-called micro-workouts—high intensity but brief workouts that could be as short at 1 minute, according to another recent paper—may be better for the body than long and continuous workouts.”

links: this went thru my mind

Brain, health, mental disorders, mental health, & technology: NetBrain: Your Gadgets Could Be Giving You Psychological Problems

“The greatest factor in whether or not someone exhibits NetBrain/iDisorder symptoms is whether or not they own a smartphone.”

Brotherly love, love, Muslims, terror & violence: Loving our Neighbor in an Age of Terror [essential reading]

“I had an interesting conversation with my son last night about the terrible violence in Paris. Among other things we talked about the increase of anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe and here in the United States. Life will be increasingly difficult for average Muslims who are law-abiding and peace-loving citizens of France, other European countries, and the U. S. … There is much that should be said and done in response to this act of evil. Certainly those nearer to the horror are able to help those affected. But where I live, embodying loyalty to Jesus may involve being watchful of how such events can stir up emotions that confuse and perhaps diminish our fundamental loyalty to King Jesus and thus to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Church, kingdom & the Sermon on the Mount: God Promised Me a Kingdom and All I Got Was This Lousy Church

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a nation created in the midst of other nations. The other nations are under oppressive rule by illegitimate, even demonic powers. … The church is a colony of heaven on earth.”

Ecology & faith: The Old Testament Isn’t ‘Green’ … Or Is It? [required reading]

“Both radical ‘green’ and radical consumption narratives are at odds with the Old Testament view of the relationship between humans and God’s good creation. The fatalistic narrative that the earth is cursed and we must live with the curse is also at odds with the Old Testament. The people are always called to choose between obedience and blessing or disobedience and cursing. We can and should strive for righteousness and proper wise keeping of God’s creation. Wisdom is the key – always bearing in mind the role that human embrace of evil can play in our perceptions. What does it mean to fill the earth and subdue it? What is the mandate given to humans?”

Happiness & peace: Why “Having a Peace About It” is a Terrible Reason for a Christian to Make a Decision (parts 1 & 2) [essential reading]

“I can’t count the number of times a Christian has said to me that “they have a peace” about a certain decision and therefore plan to move forward. Sometimes they make this decision despite obvious signs that their decision is unwise and not in conformity with the guidance of Scripture. In these cases, a person tends to simply slap a kind of divine mandate on top of what they want to do anyway. When friends or family members try to refute their decision, they simply reply that there is to be no argument because ‘God told them’ or ‘God gave them a peace.’ One example of this kind of mindset can be found on popular Pentecostal writer and speaker Joyce Meyer’s website.”

links: this went thru my mind

Christmas & displacement: Christmas for Those Who Feel Left Out

“He came to all who feel out of place in the world to give them a place in his world.”

Health, sleep & technology: Reading On A Screen Before Bed Might Be Killing You

“The best recommendation … would be to avoid use of light-emitting screens before bedtime …”

Kingdom: On the Term ‘Kingdom’

“… the expectation for anything using the word ‘kingdom’ would be a people governed by a king — and what was the biggest hope was that this people would be ruled by God. (And Messiah gets attached over time to God’s end-time rule over his people.) What would Jews have heard when Jesus said ‘kingdom’? That’s a question we must ask. (It would not have meant only God’s rule. It always involves a people ruled by a king.)”

Jesus, nonviolence, peace & violence: The Prince of Peace (parts 1, 2 & 3) [essential reading]

“… in the name of honesty, Christians ought either to quit fighting or quit calling themselves Christians. …”

“The use of force is one thing, the use of violence and especially lethal violence, violence with intent to do serious bodily harm or kill, is another. It is the latter that absolutely nothing in the teachings of Jesus sanctions, and much in his teaching completely rejects. …”

“”The Christian followers of Caesar have thus committed themselves to an absurdity that they can neither resolve nor escape: the proposition that war can be made to serve peace; that you can make friends for love by hating and killing the enemies of love. This has never succeeded, and its failure is never acknowledged, which is a further absurdity. … Jesus called us to self-sacrifice, not to a life of self-protection and self-preservation. If the whole or major rationale for allowing private citizens to carry guns is ‘self-defense’, then it is in order to point out that Jesus called us to give up that modus operandi and embrace another one— self-sacrifice.'”

Preaching, sin & spiritual sickness: Pope Francis: the Fifteen ‘Diseases’ of the Curia [essential reading]

“Francis invites his collaborators to examine their conscience to confess their ‘sins’ in today’s speech. He mentions vainglory and feeling essential, as well as ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s’ and hoarding money and power. The Pope also speaks of closed circles and worldly profit, as well as the ‘terrorism of gossip.'”