Fattening them up to gobble them up

Tonight I am thankful for God’s faithfulness and that by His good grace I live a life that is not a lie.


Because five-year-old Nicolas told me tonight, with a sheepish grin, that sometimes he thinks I am part of a robber gang and I just go to work when the family comes to see me. Other times, he thinks that I’m a monster just fattening them up to gobble them up (sort of like the monsters in Calvin and Hobbes).

This led to conversation about integrity and how knowing a person leads us to trust them.

I can’t really articulate how grateful I am that I could have that conversation with a clear conscience. There were days in my life when that would have been impossible.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

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Science Can Become More Trustworthy

Statistician Emmanuel Candès at #JSM2017: There is “great danger in seeing erosion of public confidence in science”.

This was in reference to the replicability crisis that has especially been flagged in medicine and the social sciences.

I agree with Candès’ assessment.

When science gets it wrong, truth uncovered by science is undermined.

It used to be that a scientist generated a hypothesis based upon knowledge and theory, then tested the hypothesis. This is the model under which traditional statistical methods were developed.

Now, the more typical approach is to collect data and snoop around in it to find something interesting. But if you snoop and use classical statistical methods as evidence of your findings, you’ll be wrong much more often than you might think.

So statisticians are working on developing new ways to account for data snooping, including a method that Candès was talking about. I am very happy that statisticians are working at ways to reduce the replicability problem.

There is another tried-and-true way to handle this problem: Generate your hypotheses by data snooping, then do another validation experiment to see whether those hypotheses hold up. You can be much more comfortable with traditional statistical methods in such a case.

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Reading List for 2017: books 2-3 (plus a long detour)

It’s nearly the end of July, and I’ve read books 1, 2, and 6 on my list.

Book 6 was Understanding Gender Dysphoria by Mark Yarhouse. It helped me better understand that transgender issues are real and complicated, but also that from a Christian perspective, a pastoral, faithful response is possible. I’d really be interested to hear a non-Christian perspective on this book.

Hillbilly Elegy (Book 2 on my list) is a truly fascinating inside look at an Appalachian family that struggled to find its way in a world it wasn’t really equipped to enter. Can its stories and lessons be generalized to the larger Appalachian culture? I do think it can provide insights into a particular segment of the American population. But of course generalizations don’t apply to many individual families.

Now, I actually completed the three books on my list within the first five months of the year so I got cocky. I’d just heard N.T. Wright give a talk, and I decided to take a detour and read what he has recently written on the Christian atonement. I’ve never quite figured out how to look at the atonement, and whether an Anabaptist understanding is substantially different than that of other denominations. Wright’s view is that no single model of the atonement is adequate (for instance, penal substitution is a part of the atonement but not the main part).

It is all quite interesting but also fairly dense, and very long. So I’ve been slowly making my way through this extra book and I’m probably not even halfway through. So it’s put me behind, and left me hoping that the last three books on my list will go quickly.

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Book 1 for 2017: O Jerusalem!

My modest goal for the year is to read six books. Here is an update: I finished the first one on March 19. This may put me behind schedule but it is not as bad as it sounds. Collins and Lapierre’s O Jerusalem! is a 500+ page tome that was fascinating but not especially easy to read. It traces the events that led to the declaration of Israel as a state in 1948.

I have little hope that peace will come to Jerusalem any time soon. I do not have insight into the contemporary struggle, but this history illustrates the ancient and deep-seated claims that both the Jews and Arabs have to the land. Their mutual willingness to fight to the death makes perpetual conflict likely.

Next up: Understanding Gender Dysphoria by Mark Yarhouse.

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Nine Whole30 Observations

I’m 2+ weeks into Whole30 which, if you’re not up on the latest diets is a paleo-like one that allows basically meats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. No grains, no dairy, no added sugar. It’s more for gut health than weight loss. Amy and I are doing it together.

Here are some thoughts and observations.

1. You can eat as much as you reasonably want, and the lack of hunger makes it possible to maintain the diet, which I consider extreme. My colleagues think I’m a cookie monster, but it hasn’t been too hard to avoid them, because I’m not usually hungry when I’m around them.

2. My life has a little less sparkle without the anticipation of my favorite foods.

3. But I feel great, because it is almost impossible to overeat on the foods they allow you to have.

4. I haven’t noticed anything with regards to gut health or energy or allergies.

5. Amy says Whole30 is trendy, which is weird because I’m usually a late adopter. Just ask Randy or my mom about cargo pants. I think I was late on cell phones too.

6. I better understand why people that often try new diets talk about them so much – it is so interesting to talk about the new challenge and what it is doing to your body.

7. I’ve actually broken the diet once (maybe twice). Balsamic vinegarette evidently is often no good, because it has added sugar. One evening I found myself at home with the kids and no obvious food to eat. I put vinegarette on the salad I came up with and Amy told me it was a no-no.

8. One of the main purposes of this diet is to clean you out, which I think is why it is so important to keep all of these potentially inflammatory foods out of your body for a month.

9. I would not want to eat like this for more than 30 days, but I hope there are a few good habits I can pick up. Like finding the balance between going into a meal really hungry (bad, because you’ll end up eating too much or too much junk) and being full all the time (bad, because you’ll eat when you really don’t need to. Somehow this diet threads that needle: I eat the approved snacks when I’m hungry, but by the time a meal rolls around I’m hungry.

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2017 Reading List

Following up on my last post and to keep me accountable, here are some books I’ll try to read this year:

1. O Jerusalem! by Collins and Lapierre, to learn about the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
2. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by Vance, to better understand white working-class America
3. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Alexander, to become more informed about issues of race
4. The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith by Murray, to learn more about Anabaptism as a movement and theological stream
5. 1913 to 2013 in 13 Miles: The Hamilton, Ohio 1913 Flood Then and Now by Lenihan, to learn more about Hamilton and its history
6. Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture by Yarhouse, to learn more about this issue and how to think about it in a Christian way.

Two additional titles to read if possible: How Children Fail and How Children Learn by Holt, the guru of unschooling

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Start of a Reading List for 2017

This year, I am making the modest goal of reading six books that expound on or illuminate current events or other topics relevant to me. Here are some possible categories and possible books.

Anabaptism (The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith by Murray)

Church Planting

Hamilton, OH (1913 to 2013 in 13 Miles: The Hamilton, Ohio 1913 Flood Then and Now by Lenihan)


Israeli-Palestinian conflict (O Jerusalem! by Collins and Lapierre)

Race in America (The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Alexander)

Transgenderism (Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture by Yarhouse)

Trump and the white working-class (Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by Vance)

My list will be longer than I can handle, but I want a rich one from which to choose. Any suggestions for other topics or books?

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