Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Review: The Hyperlinked Life

This year, the Barna Group released a series of short books they're calling Frames. It stems from the realization that people have a hard time finishing books they start, but still have a desire to be informed. The tagline for the series is, "short yet meaningful reads on top issues facing us in today's complex culture. A new kind of help you read less, and know more."

While I don't personally state that reading less is a goal, having quality material written concisely is something of value. I picked up 4 frames off and I'll highlight the one on technology today.

The co-authors bring a great balance of experience to the material Jun Young is a former Microsoft employee and a doctorate in communications form UW. David Kinnaman is the author of several books and president of Barna. Kinnaman & Young set out to ask thoughtful questions about how today's technology is affects us and to create a theology of information.

49% of Millennials say that their personal electronics sometimes separate them from other people. The psychological & emotional impact of ubiquitous connectivity is distinct. Constantly refocusing mental attention from the task at hand to answer the siren call of the chirping iPhone is changing the way we think, act, believe, and behave. The authors to a great job of not simply vilifying technology, but rather call the reader to a higher level of engagement.

The amount of content that reaches our minds daily is beyond comprehension, especially when compared to past decades and generational experience. Dallas Willard once said, "We pick up beliefs like a coat picks up lint." So, as we read articles off Facebook, random blogs posted by friends (thanks for reading by the way), and the incessant push of the advertising machine, we've reached the point where most folks only believe about 50% of what they read. Yet on some level, even the material we consume that we don't believe, has some sort of impact.

That leads right to the heart of the matter that Kinnaman & Young present: we need wisdom. A simple and timely call. To help down that path they conclude the frame with 7 recommendations, all of which are timely and positive things to think through for the modern citizen. They range from giving and being mentored, taking an honest inventory of one's personal hyperlinked habits, and participating in a digital Sabbath.

One take away for me is trying to integrate a regular period of time that I practice digital sabbath (eg: times when my phone isn't in my pocket). Right now, I'm leaning towards family meals around the dinner table. Once I get home from work, placing my phone in night mode on the bookshelf, until we're done sitting around the dinner table. This still allows me to do fulfill my job expectations of being on call (it'll still ring if someone calls), but we won't hear or be subject the pavlovian inducing tones of the email chime or non-emergency texts while dining together (and by dining together I mean constantly reminding the kids to sit on their seats and not leave the table until they are excused) (Oh, and to eat their veggies).

The last piece I'd like to highlight is the final of the 7 recommendations they give. "Be more discerning about whom to trust." The authors then give a series of questions to help discern which content to give attention to. Some questions proposed that really resonate to me: 1. Who or what organization is producing this material? 2. What is their reason for doing so? 3. Do I believe this information simply because it confirms my preexisting viewpoint on the subject? 4. What is this information (picture/video/etc) asking me to love?

Such an appropriate perspective from that last question. What is this ______ asking me to love? Is this information pushing me to love the things Jesus loves? Is it asking me to feel jealous of someone or superior for having a better point of view? The authors conclude, "Our culture is more complex, in large part due to the technologies of the world we inhabit. Ironically, life seems harder for many of us, not easier. But maybe all we really need is to relearn wisdom. Of course, wisdom will always be more than a click away."

I highly recommend this book. It asks timely questions and provides a research based snapshot of where our culture is at in relation to technology. There are 9 frames in season 1, and I imagine that at least a few of the topics covered will be of use to anyone interested in gaining wisdom.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review: What if?

And so it begins, the first book of the new series. To be fair, this isn't a cover to cover read. It's more of a coffee table/toilet kind of book. So, I'm giving my impressions from having flipped through it and reading random parts over the last week. It's written by the author of the popular xkcd webcomic, Randall Munroe. What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions is perfect for any inquisitive person you know and all nerds will love it. I received a copy at one of those Christmas party gift exchanges this year, and I must say it's one of the best gifts I've ever had from that genre of gift giving. Let's just say, it's the MythBusters equivalence of science applied to hypothetical questions.

All of the questions tackled are from online readers that were sent in Dear Abby style. He's answered tons of questions like this on his blog, but he's curated the most interesting together in one place. Munroe use to work for NASA and has had a fascination with math and science since he was a kid. The combination of intellect, science, and humor land in the sweet spot of highly entertaining reading. I can't decide if my favorite part is the absurdity of some of the questions, the truly thoughtful answer to said absurd questions, or the cheesy drawings that illustrate the answers. Either way, it's a very interesting read and I highly recommend it. Below are some of my favorite questions so far:

Q:How many Lego bricks would it take to build a bridge capable of carrying traffic from London to New York? A: The answer is explained in great detail over about 6 pages, utilizing 9 different illustrations.

Q: What if everyone in Great Britain went to one of the coasts and started paddling? Could they move the island at all? A: No.

Q: What would happen if everyone on Earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped, everyone landing on the ground at the same instant? A: Nothing, but Munroe then goes on for a few pages expounding on the chaos that would come from everyone on earth being gathered in such a small space.

A few other questions that are worth highlighting:
  • What if I took a swim in a spent nuclear fuel pool?
  • Could you build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns?
  • What if a Richter 15 earthquake hit NYC?
  • What would happen if someone's DNA vanished?

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

New Series

Hey everybody, I just wanted to give a heads up that I'm going to start a new series soon. I'll start putting up some reviews of books that I've read recently. Nothing too fancy, but just a chance to share some interesting things I've been learning.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Update on Nora

Recently, Carolyn wrote a summary of some of the issues Nora has been facing the last few weeks (here). This morning, I wanted to summarize some of what's gone down since then. On Wednesday, it was back to the Dr. because she'd thrown up a couple more times. Her pediatrician was concerned that there might be come kidney issues due to her swollen cheeks and high blood pressure. We went to the ER that afternoon and once again, they said nothing as wrong. The ER doc said he'd be "very surprised" if anything was wrong and that it was probably another virus. He told Carolyn & myself we should just go home, but "we can do the blood test if you want to." We told him something more was wrong and an hour later he came back saying she was very anemic.

We then had a pediatrician come in and tell us that he thinks she has Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). Basically, she got a strain of E. coli, which then lead to HUS. The toxins from the bacterial infection in her intestines cause her red blood cells to be attacked, which then causes her kidneys to not be able to function properly. They admitted Nora to Riverbend hospital Wednesday night and there were several things they wanted to see change. Specifically, her blood pressure & heart rate to go down, and iron levels back up. They put her on blood pressure meds (normal is 90, she was around 130 with spikes of 160) and started weighing all her diapers for urine output to make sure kidneys were working properly. As everyone described what was happening we definitely felt like we'd been through the worst of it. By yesterday evening they were concerned her heart rate was still fairly elevated. Our Dr. called OHSU to ask about increasing some medication and they wanted to see her in person.

I was not expecting her to have to be transferred, but last night, they transported Nora & Carolyn up to Portland and I followed with the other kids. They decided, due to her low hemoglobin levels, that a blood transfusion would be necessary. So, all night she's been on a slow drip of new blood to help her body turn the corner and beat this. Her blood pressure & heart rate is looking good right now. I think overall, Nora is mostly tired and annoyed with being touched by strangers and always getting woken while trying to sleep. Carolyn & I are both pretty tired too. I never expected us to end up at Doernbecher, but it's a great hospital and anything that can help her little body recover is something I can get behind.

Still no word on what's next or how long we'll be here, but overall folks seem pretty positive about where she's at. Fortunately, we have a wide network of friends and family in Eugene & Portland, so we will and have been taken care of very well. Thanks for all your prayers and I'll try to keep updates coming as we get the chance.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Myth of Self-Sufficiency

One narrative of our US culture that has stood out to me lately is the idea that anyone could become anything. This principle is deeply rooted in our national consciousness. There are so many inspiring stories of people who have done amazing things. Entrepreneurs, inventors, athletes, and stories of hope are easy to find in the archives of US history. So often, a key thread to this plot of overcoming and success is self-determination. These heroes have achieved due to and their own ability and will power. "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps," is stated equally as an attribute and a judgment if you haven't achieved "success" in your own life.

It's an interesting dichotomy, because I believe self-sufficiency is a myth. No one accomplishes anything alone. Gladwell's book Outliers, he tells the story of how Bill Gates' didn't become the richest man in the world on intellect alone. He was in the right place, at the right time, and with parents who were able to give him the resources to be successful. These amazing athletes in the olympics have sacrificed greatly and shown an amazing amount of determination and resilience. But no one wins gold alone.

Self-sufficiency is not a biblical concept. Everything we learn from theology and scripture shows us that we are dependent on God's work in our lives through the Holy Spirit and Christ's sacrifice for redemption and renewal. The imagery of the body of Christ couldn't be more clear, that we need each other. Pragmatically, storyline of the "self-made" individual is incomplete. There is far more at play than our own will in any of our lives.

I believe that this misinterpretation of success inhibits our willingness to help each other. It inadvertently gives permission to judge those who are struggling and promotes a unhealthy idealization of individualism. I am thankful for the support I received throughout my life. I want to try to be supportive and understanding towards others in recognition that life is not a level playing field and we need to support each other, because no one is self-sufficient.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Fun Day

This was a great weekend and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving out at my Mom's house. It was great to have Carolyn's parents and some friends join in the day of thanks and great food. I am so thankful for our family and I especially love watching my kids play and enjoy their grandparents. Yesterday we made the most of the break from the rain and had multiple trips to the park. It has just been great to not be working and spending time together. I know it isn't over yet, but Sunday is generally a pretty busy day with all our various church activities. So, today we made the most of our relaxation and fun together.

We started today off by heading over to the Children's Museum.  Carolyn usually takes the kids there while I'm at work, so it was nice to be there with them. Elisa loved playing in the clay room and Jonathan loved hitting the piles with the little hammer they had. After lunch, there were naps for everybody. Then we headed downtown.

The kids loved the tree in Pioneer Square.

After playing around the Christmas tree, we met up with our friend Becca and finished the night off with some delicious pizza at the Mellow Mushroom

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Summer Reading List

Unlike some people, I didn't enter the summer with a reading plan. I sort of go with the flow and when the library says things show up from being on reserve, I read it.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

This book was everything I hoped it would be. I'm a huge Tina Fey fan and if you enjoy her style (eg. 30 Rock) you'll love this book.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Carolyn read this one a long time ago and one of my old RAs recommended it to me. I did enjoy this book while reading it, but it is so unique that it leaves me a little unsure of whether I really enjoyed it or not. Either way, very well written.

Live From New York by Shales & Miller

I didn't read all 650 pages, but I loved how it was written. The story of SNL's history is told through interviews and is simply a collection of quotes from the stars and writers of the show. It's a fascinating way to tell a history and I really enjoyed learning about the early days as well as history that I was aware of. I think it's hard to find any franchise that has produced so many big names in the entertainment industry.

Those Guys Have All the Fun by Shales & Miller

This recent release by the same guys who wrote about SNL is written in the same way. It was so fascinating. I never intended to read all 780 pages, but each chapter lead me on to the next and I read it all. From very humble beginnings  to now being worth more than the NBA, NHL, and MLB combined, this book explains how a little cable network changed the world of sports into entertainment.

Love Wins by Rob Bell

When Rob Bell speaks, people listen. This book is too huge to ignore. It's really popular among the college students I work with. My favorite seminary prof said many times, you shouldn't talk about who you haven't read. I'm glad I got to read it and there were many things I appreciated about what Bell said.

Erasing Hell by Chan & Sprinkle

I think very highly of Francis Chan and I was frankly surprised he wrote a response book. This would represent the other side of the discussion Bell brought to the forefront. A couple critiques are that I got the distinct impression that this book was written with haste. It's fairly choppy and lacks a logical ark because I think they were just trying to refute things Bell brought forward. There were also a few times that I thought Chan was going too far in trying to dictate what emotion the reader should be having, but overall it was worth the time to read. The thing I most appreciate, whether I agreed with all of his conclusions or not, is that he was trying to find what scripture taught even if it was hard to hear. For more on Chan and his motivation, check out this video.

Although I didn't have a list entering the summer, here are a couple of books that I'm looking forward to:

The Voice of Matthew by Lauren Winner

Lauren Winner is easily one of my favorite authors. I want to read everything she writes and when I realized she wrote this a while ago, I got a copy right away.

The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons

This one's been out for a while and since the NBA is on lock-out, this 750 page beauty might help to ease the sadness of not being able to watch my favorite team during those long winter months.