Friday Link Love: Tech Overload, Life of Pi, and the Death of Homework?

Away we go! ~

dove-hands12NEXT Church 

I am on the strategy team for the NEXT Church, an initiative that is trying to encourage dynamic and vibrant ministry, particularly in the Presbyterian Church (USA). If that's something you care about too, you want to be reading our blog, perusing (and contributing to) our archive of ministry resources, and registering for our 2013 gathering, March 4-5 in Charlotte.

Bookmark it! Share it! Love it!

Update: The latest post on the NEXT blog is by yours truly. Yes, I'm getting cranky about not singing Christmas carols during Advent again.

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Time to Tune Out -- Roger Cohen, New York Times

Posted this on FB/Twitter yesterday with the question, "Is disconnecting from technology going to be the new trend?" Here's the article again:

[The author quotes a reader who unplugged from Facebook] “Now, I am back to reading books when I would have been Facebooking. I talk to folks at the café I frequent. People have started calling me on the phone again to catch up because they don’t know what is going on with me otherwise. I have a hunch that being DISconnected is on its way to being the new trend.”

So here’s to doses of disconnection in 2013. Get out of the cross hairs of your devices from time to time. Drink experience unfiltered by hyperconnection. Gaze with patience. Listen through silences. Let your longings breathe.

Take a tech sabbath!

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Can Faith in the Better Story Sustain Us? Survival and Significance in “Life of Pi” -- Nick Olson, Patheos

Life-of-Pi

Life of Pi is a story about Story, which means I love it:

Taken together, Life of Pi‘s various themes seem to suggest a longing for human significance couched in vaguely religious language. It’s a contemplative tale rooted in questions with room for open-ended interpretation. More specifically, Lee’s film — as an extension of Martel’s novel — suggests that our difficult, often tragic lives matter in a way that cold “facts” can’t totally explain. You might characterize the story as a “desperate” (survivalist) attempt to re-enchant a supposedly disenchanted modern world. Interestingly, in an interview with PBS, Martel says that he wrote his novel during a time when he felt lost: “I was sort of looking for a story, not only with a small ‘s’ but sort of with a capital ‘S’ — something that would direct my life.” Martel’s existential plight seems to have been Pi’s shipwrecked plight: lonely and directionless. Having “faith” in this particular context has a less specific range; its content is the simple belief that our lives — suffering included — are filled with meaning, purpose, and wonder. Which is to say, in Life of Pi, the religious and literary imaginations merely function as signals of the truth of significance itself, a “better Story” compared to a disenchanted, cold rationalism because there is more to humanity and existence than meets the eye.

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Isaac Newton v. Rube Goldberg -- 2D House (Video, 1:07)

Who will win the battle? Why, you will, because you'll be wonderfully entertained. Here it is. (Can't embed for some reason)

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Today's Assignment -- Louis Menand, The New Yorker

Is homework useful? The article looks at attitudes about homework in two very different countries, Finland and South Korea.

Yet both systems are successful, and the reason is that Finnish schools are doing what Finns want them to do, which is to bring everyone up to the same level and instill a commitment to equality, and South Korean schools are doing what South Koreans want, which is to enable hard workers to get ahead. When President Hollande promises to end homework, make the school day shorter, and devote more teachers to disadvantaged areas, he is saying that he wants France to be more like Finland. His reforms will work only if that is, in fact, what the French want.

What do Americans want? Not to be like Finland is a safe guess. Americans have an egalitarian approach to inequality: they want everyone to have an equal chance to become better-off than everyone else.

That's one of the truer sentences about the American Dream I've ever read. He goes on:

The dirty little secret of education reform is that one of the greatest predictors of academic success is household income. Even the standardized tests used for college admissions, like the S.A.T.s, are essentially proxies for income: students from better-off backgrounds get higher scores. The educational system is supposed to be an engine of opportunity and social readjustment, but in some ways it operates as a perpetuator of the status quo.

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An Age-Old Question: Readers Debate Science and Theology -- New York Times

The author, Nicholas Wade, wrote a reflection on Marco Rubio's recent comments about the age of the earth. These are some of the responses to that article, which I found interesting. Here's one:

In calling Senator Marco Rubio’s answer to a question about the age of the earth “15 back flips and a hissy fit,” Nicholas Wade grossly misdescribed the answer quoted earlier in his article. Mr. Rubio’s answer was a simple and ordinary evasion. It left room for Mr. Rubio’s religious right supporters to hope that he will support teaching the Bible in science class, while leaving himself room not to appear to be an outright science denier, to appease his more scientific supporters.

Possibly, the article should have been put in the political news section rather than the science section; the scientific truth of the theory of evolution has not been news since about 1859.

I'm not sure whether it was a simple evasion or not, but it seems plausible.

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"Couponing" for Authors -- J.L. Greger, Mystery Writing is Murder

This link is going to be most of interest for writers; if that's you, check it out. The author describes a process by which she collects stories, data and tidbits that might be inspiration for a bit of writing.

Good principles here. But the main reason I'm linking to the article: it gives me yet another chance to profess my love for Evernote. I have several notebooks set up at the moment, in which I'm couponing ideas for new book projects.

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A 120-Year-Old Mechanical Device that Perfectly Mimics the Sound of a Bird -- Colossal

Get out the headphones or turn up your speakers and prepare to be impressed by archaic 19th century engineering.

Delightful:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=tPKFT_t2rL0]

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Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday Link Love

Away we go! ~

Winners of the 2012 Wildlife Photographer of the Year -- Colossal

Lots of goodness here. My favorite:

Cristóbal Serrano / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012

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If You're Too Busy to Meditate, Read This -- LifeHacker

Yesterday on the Sabbath blog I wrote about the benefits of Sabbath on children, in the hopes of coaxing parents to think about the practice as beneficial for their kids' overall development. LifeHacker appears to be taking a similar approach here:

People say the hardest part about meditating is finding the time to meditate. This makes sense: who these days has time to do nothing? It's hard to justify. Meditation brings many benefits: It refreshes us, helps us settle into what's happening now, makes us wiser and gentler, helps us cope in a world that overloads us with information and communication, and more. But if you're still looking for a business case to justify spending time meditating, try this one: Meditation makes you more productive.

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The Power of Quiet -- Susan Cain and Molly Crabapple (video)

This is one of those scribble videos that are all the rage right now---and one of the better ones. Susan Cain narrates some insights from her book Quiet and Molly Crabapple illustrates. Powerful stuff.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rUaj7rj6MI8]

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Winner of the 2012 Juggling Festival -- Colossal

I posted this video earlier in the week just for the joy of it. It's 6 minutes---if you need to watch an abbreviated version, start at minute 3 or so. Yanazo is amazing. Screw you, gravity! I'M THE LAW NOW!!!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Dze9jG7wsao]

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How to Get Paid What You're Worth and Other Negotiating Tips -- 99U

This is a growing edge for me as I negotiate honoraria and speaker's fees:

Money isn't the only factor in a negotiation. If we make it all about money, the negotiation only has one measure of success. In a 2001 Harvard Business Review article, Harvard professor James Sebenius advises us to recognize the other factors that may be less blank-or-white.

For example, when negotiating a project with a client, price isn't the only thing on the table. You can discuss deadlines, delivery methods, communication preferences and a host of other options. Give a little on deadlines, but propose a higher rate. The more variables you can negotiate, the higher the likelihood that both parties will feel like winners.

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Homework: A Parent's Plea for Quality over Quantity -- Ellen Painter Dollar

I'm not going to excerpt this article---if you care about this issue you should read the whole thing because it's stellar. We have the girls' parent/teacher conferences today and I'll have this post in my mind as we talk.

In other news, as a writer I covet Ellen's name. Totally distinctive, yet completely straightforward. Easy to say and spell.

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A Teen Confronts Her iPhone Addiction -- WaPo

Good for her:

When a friend jokingly challenged me to one week without my phone, I questioned whether I would be able to do it. I realized that I needed to prove that I could live in a world without iPhones. So the next night I shut it off, hid it in a drawer and began my phoneless week.

Deciding to do it was probably the hardest part of the whole experiment. It’s not that I was scared, but I was unhappy about it. I expected the week to be boring, slow and frustrating at times, especially when trying to get in contact with people.

But this was not the case....

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Our weekend is cray-cray, with a variety of kid activities scheduled such that we have these bizarre two-hour windows of free time between them. A long stretch of Sabbath will be hard to come by... I think instead we will strive to go about these things Sabbathly---with mindfulness and care, with an eye for delight.

What's your weekend like? Will there be Sabbath time in it?