The List of Lists: The Best End-of-Year Lists for 2015

e2bea3ef389032a3b8df0afe7f7999c8I love the week between Christmas and New Year's (and my birthday). So much end-of-the-year reflection! So many lists! (Not to mention Gate of the Year, my new workbook/playbook for you to do your own yearly review and dream about 2016. It went out this morning to my email subscribers. You can still get it here.) Here are some of my favorite lists of 2015. I'll be away from the blog until next week sometime, but here's plenty of goodness to tide you over until then.

The List of Lists: The Best of the Best of 2015

A Colossal Year: The Top Articles of 2015

Colossal has wonderful stories about the arts. Here we have a solar system timelapse, moon lanterns, an overturned iceberg, and more.

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Brain Picking's 15 Best Books from 2015

I read only 20 books in 2015 (assuming I finish the one I'm currently working on). I'm setting the intent to read at least 26 this year--one every two weeks--and this list provides some great suggestions.

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The Year in Pictures: New York Times

Take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly with this collection. What's your assessment of 2015?

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28 Pictures That Prove 2015 Wasn't a Completely Terrible Year

Yes, Buzzfeed made the list of lists. There are some heartening images here. I for one needed them.

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The Top Six Good-News Stories of 2015

Courtesy of the Gates Foundation. America is free of rubella, Africa had a year without polio, and Neil deGrasse Tyson rocks. (Duh.)

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National Geographic: Travel Photos of the Year

I haven't been able to find the results of their general photo contest--maybe they haven't been announced yet--but here are their most popular travel photos of the year. Click and daydream.

UPDATE: Here are the winners of the overall contest. Hot off the presses!

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The Most Popular Running Stories of 2015

A personal favorite. You don't have to be a runner to appreciate these stories--there are some lovely, inspiring pieces here. A 570-pound man ran twenty 5K races this year (as well as a 10K and half a Tough Mudder). If that doesn't get you off the couch, nothing will.

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And closer to home, here were the ten most read posts here at the Blue Room. Enjoy... and see you in 2016.

Two Christians Talk Faith on Network TeeVee... with No Sky Fairy in Sight: on Stephen Colbert and Joe Biden

On Caitlyn Jenner and Pastoring a Transgender Person

Three Reasons why "Because It's 2015" Is So Brilliant: thank you Justin Trudeau.

Love All: A Sermon for Advent: this sermon is five years old but it's consistently one of the top posts each year. Maybe it's linked from somewhere? I don't think it's one of my best but I'm glad it speaks to people.

Question: Why must we still talk about race? Answer: Twelve.

Failure to Adult: this was also one of Christian Century's top posts.

A Racist Atticus and a Mess of a Book? Bring it On: true confession time, Go Set a Watchman is NOT one of the 20 books I read this year. But here's why I still hope to.

No, God Doesn't Have a Plan. But That's OK

The Parable of the Pizzas: MaryAnn at her most sardonic.

A Christian without a Church

 

Reality, Love, Life

flare You can't get out of touch with God every moment that you live, for the simple reason that God is Life: not religious life, not church life but the whole life we now live in the flesh... God is Reality, Life, Love.

-George MacLeod, founder of the Iona Community

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As we emerged from the Abbey Church after evening worship, we gasped at the mist that had descended over the island. St. John's Cross was sharp against the blur of the hills. We reached for our cameras, inadequate though we knew they would be. Each time I tried to take the photo, these flares of light appeared.

I'm sure there's a rational photographic explanation. But anyone who's been to Iona knows better.

 

Monster Friday Link Love: Link Love's Out for Summer!

Yes... I've decided to take a break from Friday Link Love through the summer, at least. I will still link to stuff at Twitter and Facebook, and will probably drop a link here and there occasionally. But this summer is too squirrelly to commit to a regular posting schedule, so I'm hanging out my Gone Fishin' sign on this feature. But we're going out with a bang! TON of stuff today. A couple of gleanings from social media and some other random stuff. Away we go:

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Here We Are Now Entertain Us -- Running Chicken

This week Jan blogged about TED Talks, the Moth, and sermons and said, "one of these is not like the other". Why are sermons viewed as boring? she asks. How can we sharpen our proclamation by listening to these other forms of communication? As a huge fan of The Moth, and a semi fan of TED, this is a great question and one to explore. Good discussion in the comments of her blog.

But I am also compelled by this post, which questions the rise of edutainment:

Most importantly, is the central claim [by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, in a recent interview] that the test of education is whether or not it’s entertaining. Wales asks, “why wouldn’t you have the most entertaining professor, the one with the proven track record of getting knowledge into people’s heads?” Is there evidence that the most entertaining lecture is the one that gets “knowledge into people’s heads”? Again, I’m not suggesting that a boring lecture is going to do the trick, but I’m arguing that entertaining students doesn’t necessarily equate with teaching them something.

When I lecture on Kant, I don’t think I’m really entertaining my students. In my opinion, Kant’s Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals doesn’t lend itself to entertainment; it’s a dense text that needs some serious explication. Now, I don’t speak in a monotone and I try to find relevant examples to help them make sense of the material, but I’m not standing in front of the class hoping that they’ll all have a great time; I’m standing there with the express purpose of teaching them about Kant.

At the risk of a "get off my lawn" moment... Yes.

I read a New Yorker profile about TED not long ago and came away a bit soured. TED talks are very formulaic---not necessarily a bad thing, I'll admit---but the organizers work with presenters to make their content fit their rigorous. This includes dumbing down some material. Do we really want to go down that road?

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Why Rituals Work -- Scientific American

Recent research suggests that rituals may be more rational than they appear. Why? Because even simple rituals can be extremely effective. Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – like singing in public – do in fact reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work.

A nice argument for living "as if." Which is what I see in a lot of church work.

…We found that people who wrote about engaging in a ritual reported feeling less grief than did those who only wrote about the loss.

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Arts and Faith -- Loyola Press

This site is just getting going but looks very promising: "Explore stories about musicians, crafters, dancers, painters, and more, who demonstrate the many inspiring (and surprising) ways art can deepen your relationship with God."

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Orchestra Hidden Camera Prank -- YouTube

Somebody asked me recently where I get all my links for FLL. The fun thing is that people have started sending me stuff. Here's one example. Pretty cute:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knz5LfYNxYQ

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Keep Your 'Someday' List from Being Clutter -- David Caolo, Unclutterer

A little bit of Getting Things Done jiu jitsu---this is good advice even if you're not a disciple of David Allen as I am:

In GTD, “visit Japan” is not a task, it’s a project. Fortunately, my old job helped me get good at breaking complex behaviors (or in this case, projects) down into very small, observable, concrete actions. Perhaps “discuss life in Japan with uncle who used to live there” is a doable first step. Maybe “research seasonal weather in Japan” or “find a well-written book on Japanese customs or food” could be other first steps. In breaking down the project, two things happen.

First, I feel like I’m making progress on this huge task, rather than letting it stagnate. Second, I’ll get a true measure of my willingness to go through with completing the project completely. If my interest wanes, I can safely remove it from the list as Merlin suggested. If I have an increase in interest that will suggest motivation, and I’ll continue to devise small steps that move me closer to completing the project.

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Photo Series of a Young Girl Dressed Up as Great Women Throughout History -- Peta Pixel

A photographer wanted to commemorate her daughter's fifth birthday:

My daughter wasn’t born into royalty, but she was born into a country where she can now vote, become a doctor, a pilot, an astronaut, or even President if she wants and that’s what REALLY matters.

The resulting photo series has Emma dressed and posed as five influential women from the history books, with a presidential photo thrown in at the end. Click the link to see.

H/t Facebook friend Jeanny House.

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While we're on photography:

The Art of Being at the Right Place at the Right Time -- Colossal

If you've seen Dewitt Jones's now-classic DVD, Everyday Creativity, you know he talks about putting yourself in the place of most potential. This photographer has clearly done that---as Christopher notes on Colossal, she must never be without a camera, because she's able to capture amazing images.

Tons at the link.

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The Threat of Literalism -- Ken Kovacs

A friend and colleague pens this:

James Hollis, Jungian analyst and writer, suggests that literalism is actually a form of religious blasphemy because it seeks to concretize (nail down, define) and absolutize the core experience of the Holy, of God – a God, if God, who cannot be controlled or defined; a God, as theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) insisted, who was Wholly Other, a God who remains ultimately a mystery.  And a mystery is not the same thing as a puzzle (which can be solved); a mystery is always enigmatic and is therefore inherently unknowable.  The German theologian Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769) reminded us, "A God comprehended is no God."

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How about closing with two links from my alma mater, Rice University?

Neil deGrasse Tyson to Grads: Future of Exploration in Your Hands -- Rice.edu

HOW LUCKY IS THE CLASS OF 2013 TO GET NdGT AS COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER?!?

We got Elizabeth Dole, which... eh.

Tyson, whose wife, Alice Young, is a Rice alumna, challenged the new graduates to become part of the new drive to discover. “There is no solution to a problem that does not embrace all we have created as a species,” he said. “The original seeds of the space program were planted right here on this campus, and I can tell you that in the years since we have landed on the moon, America has lost its exploratory compass.

Also: some straight talk about what motivates humanity to explore:

War, money and the praise of royalty and deity. He noted Kennedy’s speech at Rice that laid out the plan to go to the moon followed one a year earlier to Congress that first proposed the adventure.

“We haven’t been honest with ourselves about that,” he said, reciting the part of JFK’s 1962 speech to Congress that appears in a monument at the Kennedy Space Center. What’s missing, he said, is a reference to the war driver: in this case, Yuri Gagarin’s orbital mission for the Soviet Union six weeks earlier.

“No one has ever spent big money just to explore,” he said. “No one has ever done that. I wish they did, but they don’t. We went to the moon on a war driver."

(And in case you missed it, here's a bonus link that had a lot of social media buzz: John Green's commencement speech to Butler. Top-notch.

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Shimmering Chain-link Fence Installation by Soo Sunny Park -- Colossal

How exciting to see the Rice Art Gallery featured on Colossal! Wish I could see this in person. Plexi-glass and chain link.

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Peace be with you, friends.

Friday Link Love: Kids Today, An Elusive Dog, and A Good Gun Control Debate

It's Friday! What do you have planned for the weekend? I'm pinching myself because Robert and I came into some tickets to the biggest party in town. You know those people who respond to "how are you" with "better than I deserve"?

Yeah. That.

I have a great life. It would be poor stewardship not to enjoy the heck out of it.

Anyway... here we go:

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When I Was Your Age... Or 'What Is It with Kids These Days?' -- Scientific American

Same as it ever was:

In her most recent book, Twentysomething: Why do Young Adults Seem Stuck, co-authored with her twenty-something daughter Samantha, Robin Marantz Henig delves into the hard data... what—if anything—is it about kids these days? the mother-daughter team asks. And why is it that every generation seems to think that there’s something different going on with kids these days, as compared to any other?

In 2000, psychologist Jeffrey Arnett proposed the existence of a new stage of development: emerging adulthood. Whereas before, we’d go straight from adolescence to full-blown young adultdom, now, there was a step in between, an area where our adult selves were emerging but not-quite-emerged...

As Marantz Henig is quick to point out, Arnett isn’t the first to discuss this possibility. In a 1970 article in The American Scholar, the psychologist Kenneth Keniston also thought he discerned a new trend of unsettled wandering. He termed in simply, “youth.” And that youth “sounds a lot like Arnett’s description of emerging adulthood a generation later,” Marantz Henig writes, going on to say that, “despite Arnett’s claims to the contrary, we weren’t really all that different then from the way our own children are now. Keniston’s article seems a lovely demonstration of the eternal cycle of life, the perennial conflict between the generations, the gradual resolution of those conflicts. It’s reassuring….”

As a member of Generation X, who heard a lot of the same criticisms leveled at me and my generation that I am now hearing about the Millenials, it is reassuring indeed.

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Can You Find the Dog in Each of These Photos? -- Colossal

Meet Momo, the most elusive puppy on Instagram. He's a border collie if that helps:

momo-5

Ontario-based graphic designer Andrew Knapp noticed that his 4.5 year old border collie, Momo, would always hide when fetching sticks instead of dutifully returning them.

Andrew's site is GoFindMomo.com.

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13 Must-See Stargazing Events in 2013 -- Mother Nature Network

First up: the moon and Jupiter conjunction in just a few days:

Jan. 21: Very Close Moon/Jupiter Conjunction
For North Americans, this is a real head-turner, one easily visible even from brightly lit cities. A waxing gibbous moon, 78-percent illuminated, will pass within less than a degree to the south of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. (For reference, your closed fist held out at arm's length covers 10 degrees of the sky.)
These two bright luminaries will make their closest approach high in the evening sky for all to see. What’s even more interesting is that this will be the closest moon-Jupiter conjunction until the year 2026! [Amazing Photos: Jupiter and the Moon]

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My Faith: A Confession -- Justin Erik Halldór Smith

My kind of confession. Long and equivocally unequivocal:

For some centuries now, no small confusion has arisen from the fact that we talk about belief in God, rather than love of God. The two amount to the same thing, but the first of these expressions, at least since the beginning of the modern period, pushes us willy-nilly into the field of evidence and argumentation, a field where the standards of commitment have nothing to do with the issue at hand, and so not surprisingly, though for poorly understood reasons, belief in God cannot but be a failing proposition.

As they told us at CREDO, "credo" means "believe," but really it means "I give my heart."

But start from love, start from joy, and the demand for further evidence vanishes. To continue to make it would be like demanding to see the hormones that cause an erection before accepting that there is such a thing as eros. It would be vulgar. It is vulgar, every time we hear it from the puffed-up fools who believe they are defending the honour and integrity of something, which they also do not understand, but which they call 'science'. Science has more often than not been driven by what its practitioners have experienced as joy and wonder before God's creation. This is a historical fact, and even if you are one of the puffed-up fools who thinks belief in God deserves nothing but mockery, you cannot change this fact.

...Those who know me or have read me will probably know that I have often claimed that I am an atheist. I would like to stop doing this, but if I had to justify myself, I would say that it is for fear of being confused with that blowhard with the 'John 3:16' banner that I am unforthcoming about what I actually believe. I am infinitely closer, in the condition of my soul, to the people who feel God's absence-- the reasons for this feeling are a profound theological problem, and one might say that it is only smugness that enables people, atheists and dogmatists alike, to avoid grappling with this problem. I am with the people who detect God's hand, perhaps without even realizing it, where the smug banner-holder sees only sin: in jungle music, dirty jokes, seduction, and swearing. I am with the preacher who puts out a gospel album, then goes to prison on fraud and drug charges for a while, then puts out a hip-grinding soul album, and then another gospel album. I am with the animals, who can't even read, but can still talk to the saints of divine things. I am sooner an atheist, if what we understand by Christianity is a sort of supernatural monarchism; if we understand by it that God is love, though, then, I say, I am a Christian.

Along similar lines: God is Unknowable; Stop Looking for Him and You Will Find Faith -- David Bryant (Guardian)

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Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation -- Harvard Business Review

Four years ago, I made a simple change when I switched one meeting from a coffee meeting to a walking-meeting. I liked it so much it became a regular addition to my calendar; I now average four such meetings, and 20 to 30 miles each week. Today it's life-changing, but it happened almost by accident.

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10 Habits to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Child -- Aha! Parenting

Some of these I'm OK at:

12 hugs a day. Hug your child first thing in the morning, when you say goodbye, when you're re-united, at bedtime, and often in between.  If your tween or teen rebuffs your advances when she first walks in the door, realize that with older kids you have to ease into the connection.  Get her settled with a cool drink, and chat as you give a foot rub. (Seem like going above and beyond?  It's a foolproof way to hear what happened in her life today, which should be high on your priority list.)

Some of them I need to work on:

Welcome emotion. Sure, it's inconvenient.  But your child needs to express his emotions or they'll drive his behavior.  So accept the meltdowns, don't let the anger trigger you, and welcome the tears and fears that always hide behind the anger. Remember that you're the one he trusts enough to cry with, and breathe your way through it.  Afterwards, he'll feel more relaxed, cooperative, and closer to you.

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The Importance of a 'Stop Day' -- Matthew Sleeth

Sabbath is a health issue too. Dr. Sleeth (a former ER physician) puts it well:

It's interesting, when a doctor sits down and does a primary intake with a new patient, they ask about smoking, exercise and diet, but they don't ask how much you're working. They don't get any sense of if you're working seven days a week, or if you have time set aside -- like people have always had -- for rest.

I think the lack of rest is reflected in our saying, "We don't have enough time." I think it's pretty much generally felt that we don't have enough time to really get to the things we want to do in life.

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A Gun Control Debate -- Matt Springer and Mark Hoofnagle

The other day I heard radio show on gun control. It was frustrating because the so-called gun rights advocate had good points to make that the gun control advocate could not, or did not, hear. At the same time, I found myself wishing that the gun rights advocate had offered more constructive proposals rather than shrugging and saying "It's all a matter of semantics."

This debate, hosted at scienceblogs.com, is a good model. It's not pithy. It's long and wonky. So be it. Serious times demand no less. Mark starts off:

Mass violence is not just a problem in the United States. Similar incidents have occurred in other countries, even mass shootings in countries with significant restrictions similar to what I would advocate. However, the experience of other countries is less in frequency and severity. Yes, other countries have mass violence despite strict gun control, even countries like Norway. However, no other comparable industrialized country has gun violence similar to ours. No you can not compare the United States to Mexico. No, gun control is never perfect. No, we can not prevent all murder, all mass murder, or all violent crime, but we can decrease the death toll.

and Matt follows up:

Now any preventable cause of even a single death should be prevented, and while mass murder shocks the conscience in a way that the anonymous and impersonal forces of nature cannot, this ought to cause us to pause and consider whether what is being proposed will actually do any good. The choices we make in response to these tragedies will have consequences that we foresee and consequences we don’t. These consequences may well include the failure of new laws to save anyone in the future. This concern is not hypothetical – we’re well over a decade into our government’s frantic response to 9/11, and we may well be less safe than we were on 9/10.

Both men own and operate firearms. Both are reasonable, non-knee-jerk types. More of these, please. (I hope they will keep going.)

Friday Link Love: Flying Houses, Being a Mystic, and Mighty Girls... One of Whom with Toilet Covers on Her Head

First, if you haven't already heard me shouting from the rooftops about it, here is my interview about Sabbath in the Suburbs on Huffington Post Books. Another note. I share links to interesting, inspiring, curious content all week long at my Facebook page. Feel free to subscribe to the public updates, even if we're not FB friends!

Lots of images in Link Love this week, and a few meaty quotes. Onward...

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Flying Houses by Laurent Cherere -- Colossal

Wonderful. Like something out of Roald Dahl:

laurent-2

laurent-4

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Top Read-Aloud Books Starring Mighty Girls -- A Mighty Girl

This is one I shared on Facebook. Great list! I want to read them all.

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Christian Wiman on Faith and Language -- Andrew Sullivan

Another one I shared earlier this week, but dang, I like it:

To have faith in a religion, any religion, is to accept at some primary level that its particular language of words and symbols says something true about reality. This doesn't mean that the words and symbols are reality (that's fundamentalism), nor that you will ever master those words and symbols well enough to regard reality as some fixed thing. What it does mean, though, is that you can 'no more be religious in general than [you] can speak language in general' (George Lindbeck), and that the only way to deepen your knowledge and experience of ultimate divinity is to deepen your knowledge and experience of the all-too-temporal symbols and language of a particular religion. Lindbeck would go so far as to say that your religion of origin has such a bone-deep hold on you that, as with a native language, it's your only hope for true religious fluency. I wouldn't go that far, but I would say that one has to submit to symbols and language that may be inadequate in order to have those inadequacies transcended.

This is true of poetry, too: I don't think you can spend your whole life questioning whether language can represent reality. At some point, you have to believe that the inadequacies of words you use will be transcended by the faith with which you use them. You have to believe that poetry has some reach into reality itself, or you have to go silent. - Christian Wiman, "Notes on Poetry and Religion," from Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet.

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Stoic, Addict, Mystic -- Andrew Sullivan

Another one posted on The Dish this week:

We are rarely presented with an authentically fulfilling trajectory for our desires... If we are created for infinite satisfaction, we really only have three choices about what to do with our desire in this life: We will become either a stoic, an addict, or a mystic. The stoic squelches desire out of fear, while the addict attempts to satisfy his desire for infinity with finite things, which, of course, can’t satisfy. That’s why the addict wants more and more and more. The mystic, on the other hand — in the Christian sense of the term — is the one who is learning how to direct his desire for infinity toward infinity," - Christopher West, whose new book is Fill These Hearts.

For infinity, toward infinity. Nice.

Winners of the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest -- National Geographic

A cat picture won! Sort of. Go to the link to see the grand prize winner, as well as all the other top picks. My favorite in the "people" category:

H6yMi6fUB_1JR964xxG8RxsYArlNNn1lR5PWutchIb-0b1wahCLwPmHficO2saD0RkzVCatVnWrRPg

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Unleash Your Unconscious: How Switching Tasks Maximizes Creative Thinking -- 99U

Incubation breaks boosted creative performance, but only when the time was spent engaged in a different kind of mental activity. Participants who in the break switched from verbal to spatial, or from spatial to verbal, excelled when they returned to their main task – in terms of the number and quality of their solutions. The change in focus freed up their unconscious to spend the incubation period tackling the main challenge.

Highly recommend running, for people with the knees for it.

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Embracing Mystery in the New Year: Ten Essential Practices -- Christian Valters Paintner

Follow the thread. Each of us has a unique unfolding story and call in this world. We don't "figure this out" but rather we allow the story to emerge in its own time, tending the symbols and synchronicities that guide us along. Trust in what you love. Following the thread is essentially about cultivating a deep trust in what you love. What are the things that make your heart beat loudly, no matter how at odds they feel with your current life (and perhaps especially so)? Make some room this year to honor what brings you alive.

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Airplane Lavatory Self-Portraits -- Sad and Useless

h/t Keith Snyder.

Nina Katchadourian whiles away long plane journeys by locking herself in the lavatory and pretending to be a 15th century Dutch painting. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing…

I do think about the line forming outside the door while she's doing this, but:

lav3

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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?

Friday Link Love

Away we go: ~

Winners of the National Geographic Photo Contest -- The Atlantic

My favorite:

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New Orleans Pastor Known as 'Da Condom Father' Couldn't Just Watch People Die -- Nola.com

According to the article, black people are 32 percent of the Louisiana population but, according to the state Department of Health and Human Hospitals, account for 73 percent of the newest HIV cases and 76 percent of the cases that progressed to AIDS. So this pastor hands out condoms to his parishioners and community. For him the ethics is clear:

Is such the Lord's work? Davenport is convinced it is. What is he supposed to do? Stand back and see his people die ? Preach to them about sexual purity -- then stand back and see his people die?

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Julia Child Visits Mister Rogers's Neighborhood -- The Fred Rogers Company

A video from the archives, in honor of that wonderful dame's 100th birthday:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs0-NA9EZGY] ~

The 'Open' Office is a Source of Stress -- Time

The modern open office was designed for team building and camaraderie but is mostly distinguished by its high noise levels, lack of privacy and surfeit of both digital and human distractions. And indeed, several decades of research have confirmed that open-plan offices are generally associated with greater employee stress, poorer co-worker relations and reduced satisfaction with the physical environment.

Do you work in an open office environment? What do you think of it, dear readers?

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War Some of the Time -- Writers Almanac

A great one from Bukowski:

when you write a poem it needn't be intense it can be nice and easy and you shouldn't necessarily be concerned only with things like anger or love or need; at any moment the greatest accomplishment might be to simply get up and tap the handle on that leaking toilet;

More at the link.

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Why Be Grateful? -- Jana Riess

There's actual science between the practice of gratitude:

In one experiment, students were given different topics on which they had to write a paper. Some students were then given scathing criticism of their papers, while others were praised lavishly.

Then all the students were given the opportunity to go up against their teachers/ graders in a computer game. Not surprisingly, the students who had been sharply criticized retaliated in kind during the game, blasting the heck out of the perpetrators who had made their lives miserable. The ones who had been praised were not aggressive in the game.

And then things got really interesting. There was one exception to the rule about students who had been criticized turning around and retaliating.  This was a small group of the mocked students who had been assigned in their papers to enumerate the things they were grateful for in their lives.

Here’s the thing: those students who had written about gratitude didn’t react negatively to the criticism they received on their papers. They did not retaliate in the computer game.

Apparently, the simple act of counting their blessings had given them enough positive reinforcement about their lives that any criticism of their papers just rolled right off them.

I've been working on gratitude this week. It's been hard. I am very concerned for a family in our church whose little boy is battling ALD and he continues to struggle. I feel very weighed down on their behalf. But I'm trying.

Videos like this help:

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My Own Rice -- Church World Service

I love Church World Service. They are a modest organization but very effective, with low overhead. Remember that old Cadillac slogan, "quietly doing things very well"? That's CWS.

Here's a story of a young boy in Myanmar who was one of two survivors of a flood in his village. He received a micro-loan and is now growing his own rice.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgdURbGdZts]

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Peace be with you, friends.