• In Cville

    So, Jenoa and I moved. I’m writing this from Charlottesville, VA. We made it.

    We drove the whole way, taking a total of 5 days and logging more than 2000 miles and over 40 hours of drive time. We watched the landscape change from from high-desert, to mountains, to plains, to hills, to dense forests. We stayed in New Mexico, two nights in Texas, and one night in Tennessee before arriving in Cville. We also swam in a river.

    I got to enjoy Charlottesville for two days before having to fly right back to Orange County for my company’s product team summit. That was a fun trip. I even got to see my best friend.

    Surprisingly, this place has already begun to feel like home. When I flew into John Wayne Airport, it felt like I was visiting, not returning. It felt normal to tell myself, “Orange County is not my home anymore”. And when I returned to Virginia four days later, it felt like coming home.

    There are moments when I miss my close friends. Really miss them. Today marks the third Wing Wednesday I’ll be absent from. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad. And I really wish I had them here with me.

    And at the same time, people here have been more than welcoming. We’ve already had a game night. Jenoa’s begun her job and is excited to start regularly meeting with students. I feel like I have less stress and more time. Charlottesville, in many ways, feels like my ideal place to live. There’s a lot to be grateful for.

    It’s sometimes unsettling to experience grief and gratitude in equal measure. But I suppose the grief is also an extension of gratitude – gratitude for having such good friends that I’m sad to no longer have them in close proximity. And the grief does not erase the gratitude for the new place and people that have entered my life.

    All is grace.

  • June 2019 Update

    It feels like periodically I write these “it’s been a while, but been really busy and all you know how it goes” posts. That said, I feel like there’s some justification for the silence over the last few months.

    If you haven’t heard, Jen and I will be moving to Charlottesville, VA, where she’s accepted a role as College Grounds Minister at Christ Episcopal Church. Excitement and anxiety and sadness and joy and wonder have ensued.

    For the last 18 years, Orange County has been my home. My deepest friendships are here, and I intend for them to persist regardless of the distance. Despite my complaints about it, this place will always be part of me. I speculated about moving to Cville to attend UVA for grad school at one time, but that possibility was precluded when I decided to pursue programming instead of academia. Funny how things work out.

    Ergo, this space has been quiet. I’ve had fits and starts of ideas, moments of “oh I should write that down”, but other matters take priority. For the next couple of months, my focus will be on enjoying valuable time with friends, packing, planning, and resting where I can. It’s a forced break from pseudo-profound thoughts, which I’m perfectly content with.

    As to what will become of this blog, I’m not entirely sure. I intend to keep it around and will complete the redesign I last touched in early May according to git log. If I have to guess, the content will become more eclectic, focusing more on life updates than reflections on what’s going on “out there”.

    That said, life hasn’t completely stopped. Jen recently shared some highlights, and here are a few of my own:

    • Took a much needed vacation to Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. We’ve traveled quite a bit as a couple, but not since our honeymoon had we taken a true sit-by-a-pool-eat-drink-do-nothing vacation. This trip was a corrective to that.
    • I’ve poked around with this “course” from Gregory Brown’s Practicing Ruby that I stumbled upon. It’s focused on using Ruby to implement low-level tools and Unix programs that are usually abstracted away for us in day-to-day development.
    • I’m enjoying video games again. My brother in law introduced me to Wargroove. Having never played a tactical RPG, it’s been a refreshing and fun experience.
    • After punting on it for years, I finally read Frank Herberts Dune. Worth every moment spent reading it. I’m still astounded by how Herbert balances page-turning action with philosophical/ecological/political/theological reflection. Other reading highlights include Diogenes Allen’s Theology for a Troubled Believer and Jenny Odell’s How To Do Nothing.
    • I’ve fallen back in love with music. That feels strange to say, but I realized that I had been listening to a glut of podcasts and audiobooks, but was mostly unaware of what music had been released over the last year and half. Lately, I’ve been enjoying Thrice’s Palms - Deeper Wells, Hundred Acres from S. Carey, Son of Cloud, and the new singles from Alexisonfire and City and Colour (Dallas Green’s output is impressive to say the least).

    That covers things for now. I’m sure there’ll be more to share soon. Take care.


  • The Good Enough To Shame the Great

    In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Avram Alpert writes,

    Ideals of greatness cut across the American political spectrum. Supporters of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and believers in Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” for instance, may find themselves at odds, but their differences lie in the vision of what constitutes greatness, not whether greatness itself is a worthy goal. In both cases — and in most any iteration of America’s idea of itself — it is.

    The desire for greatness also unites the diverse philosophical camps of Western ethics. Aristotle called for practicing the highest virtue. Kant believed in an ethical rule so stringent not even he thought it was achievable by mortals. Bentham’s utilitarianism is about maximizing happiness. Marx sought the great world for all. Modern-day libertarians will stop at nothing to increase personal freedom and profit. These differences surely matter, but while the definition of greatness changes, greatness itself is sought by each in his own way.

    Alpert contrasts the foregoing philosophies with a philosophy of “good-enough” — a worldview that embraces the banal and the everyday. Rather than striving after greatness, he argues, we should strive “not to make the perfect human society, but rather a good enough world in which each of us has sufficient (but never too many) resources to handle our encounters with the inevitable sufferings of a world full of chance and complexity.”

    To my ears, embracing limitations and accepting “inevitable sufferings” pretty near echoes a theology of the cross — theology which seeks to know God as he’s revealed and present in Christ’s suffering, and, by extension, our own. Just as he suffered on a commonplace instrument of torture, so God embraces the “the inevitable sufferings of a world full of chance and complexity”. In contrast to our desire for greatness, St. Paul writes,

    Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor. 1:26-28)

    He chose what wasn’t even good to shame what is great (or, what we might call “great’).

    But the mere recognition that I ought to be content with a “good-enough” world doesn’t guarantee that I will be. Although the stated goal isn’t the “perfect” human society, “sufficient (but never too many) resources” sounds suspiciously near perfect to me. “Good enough” can mean different things to different people — and can become another law that will invariably reveal how we’re falling short.

    That’s not to say that striving to improve our local or global neighbors’ circumstances is vanity. Arguably, working to alleviate suffering is one of the primary ways Christ’ manifests his workmanship in us (Eph. 2:10). But at a personal level, I’d argue even our attempts to embrace good-enough-ness can lead us to strive after our own greatness. While we may indeed find good-enough solutions to social and economic problems, to bring justice and peace in some way “on earth as it is heaven,” we can still find ourselves asking who will be greatest in the kingdom (Matt. 18:1). If we are Christ’s workmanship, and our good works are prepared for us beforehand, then any “good-enoughness” we might add to the world is in spite of our nothingness and not-so-greatness.

    I assert great-or-good-enoughness and I am brought to nothing. I wax semi-knowledgeable about how to fix California’s homeless crisis, but I don’t even make eye contact with the regular vagrants near my office. I say people who worry about money should just learn to budget, but an underestimated electric bill triggers an anxiety attack. I start the workday determined to complete a litany of tasks and prove my technical prowess, and a bug in one overlooked line of code consumes my whole afternoon.

    Thankfully, it is in my nothingness that I am given something — the grace of God, who “is the source of [my] life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). The Son of Man “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28), including not-so-great servants.

    Despite my feigned greatness, God’s mercy is more than good enough.

  • Messages In Bottles

    For those who know me, it’s no secret that I’m averse to social media and its black-box network effects. I think that much of the web as we currently experience it falls far short of its potential for meaningful and thoughtful communication.

    But I’m not here to belabor that point either. Despite platforms that manipulate attention, monetize surveillance, and design addictive interfaces, the web is also host to a lot of great thought and creativity.

    Warren Ellis has been credited in various places as saying “The Republic of Newsletters and the Isles of Blogging, my friend. That’s what’s left. Messages in bottles from hermit caves by the sea.” (I remember reading the original instance of the quote in one of his newsletters, but it is now lost to the abyss of deleted emails).

    It’s fascinating to see the network effects of the Isles and the Republic over time. For example, author Robin Sloan’s newsletter from a week ago quoted a recent entry of Ellis’s newsletters in which Ellis wrote,

    Something else for my to-do list is to retune my internet. I’ve been taking five minutes here and there, but I need to give it a couple of hours soon. Here are the rules. Facebook is for misery, so don’t use it, at all. Twitter is for news, so just read it. Instagram is for joy, for as long as Instagram lasts, so filter it well. RSS is for information, good writing, music and the Isles of Blogging.

    I like the spirit of “retuning your internet.” I could never handle Twitter for news (I limit it to begrudgingly syndicating links to my blog), and Instagram is for liking my wife’s photos when I look at it once a week. His description of RSS resonates with my use of it, and newsletters also.

    The Isles and the Republic are great ways to see how seemingly disparate thoughts and thinkers make their way to each other across ideological and disciplinary distances. For example, Alan Jacobs, a professor of Humanities at Baylor University whose work has received blurbs from /The Paris Review/ and /The Atlantic/ but also /Christianity Today/ and The Gospel Coalition (look at the reviews), has on multiple occasions cited Ellis on his own blog. Jacobs also happens to interact with Robin Sloan. And Austin Kleon, a “writer who draws”, is also acquainted with Jacobs and Sloan credits Kleon in his newsletter as turning him on to the aforementioned Warren Ellis quote.

    So we have a British comics/screen /prose writer with futuristic interests, a Christian humanities professor who’s respected by both evangelicals and secular literati, a bay area author of magical realistic novels, and an writer /artist who meditates on creativity, all drawing inspiration from and riffing on each other’s thoughts (the one exception might be Ellis, whom I’ve only read referencing Sloan).

    The early days of the web encouraged an optimism among many that it would catalyze mutual comprehension among people of differing ideologies, disciplines, and backgrounds, and foster greater empathy amongst its users. While that outcome seems more the exception than the rule, the messages in bottles passed between the Isles can carry messages from people whose interests and convictions might differ wildly from our own. Right now, the Isles and the Republic seem to be the closest thing to the lofty vision of the web’s early enthusiasts. To paraphrase Alan Jacobs in How To Think, the value in these communications isn’t that they come from people who are like-minded, but like-hearted — hearts that seek to understand and to share the good they have with the world.

  • Favorite Reads of 2018

    I read a number of books this year, and as seems customary, I’ll share a few highlights. Since I’m traveling and don’t have my reading journal on hand, I’m sure I’m overlooking some. Nonetheless, here are a few that immediately spring to mind.

    The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis — Alan Jacobs

    Alan Jacobs explores the works of Simone Weil, C. S. Lewis, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, and Jacques Maritain and examines how they addressed the possibilities and pitfalls of developing post-war society. He (and his subjects) provide a perspective that could give our accelerationist, technocratic, post-everything culture some much needed guidance and wisdom.

    Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation — Joseph J. Ellis

    Joseph J. Ellis examines a few events in the lives of the Founding Fathers during America’s formative post-revolution years. The fact that political polarization is nothing new is equal parts troubling and comforting.

    The Inner Voice of Love - Henri Nouwen

    The meditations in The Inner Voice of Love is a series of journal entries written by Henri Nouwen direct an intense period of depression and spiritual darkness. It’s a beautiful and moving account of seeking wisdom and hope in the midst of doubt and despair.

    The Crucifixion - Fleming Rutledge

    I’ve already written a brief post about this one, but I’ll reiterate its significant by including it on this list. Suffice it to say, this tome is more than worth your time if you’d like an expansive understanding the defining event of the Christian faith.

    The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien

    I read this book as an almost spiritual exercise. Hopefully I write a longer piece about it soon, but for now it will suffice to say that themes, motifs, and spirit of this classic proved their timelessness in my revisiting of it.

    I definitely see some thematic threads in my reading this year — hope, wisdom, perspective — and I strongly suspect they’ll continue into next year.

    Regardless of whether or not you celebrate or observe it, I pray the unconditional love and unreasonable hope that the Christmas story embody are known to you this season. Happy Christmas, friends.

  • Acrimony & Intimacy

    From Joseph Ellis’s Founding Brothers:

    The political dialogue within the highest echelon of the revolutionary generation was a decade-long shouting match.


    Politics, even at the highest level in the early republic, remained a face-to-face affair in which the contestants, even those who were locked in political battles to the death, were forced to negotiate the emotional affinities and shared intimacies produced by frequent personal interaction.

    I suppose there’s an odd comfort in knowing that our polarized political climate is not a complete novelty. I know I’ve employed “shouting match” to describe current discourse on more than one occasion. The latter quote encapsulates one of the reasons Ellis thinks the fledgling nation was able to survive despite the circumstances of the former. Perhaps it could be said that their intense political interest was also matched by intense personal interest in this political experiment, and because of the shared nature of their endeavor, there was some personal interest in one another.

    May our ideology always be subservient to our hospitality.

  • The Crucifixion

    So I finished Fleming Rutledge’s The Crucifixion today, and, yeah. I felt like I should write something about it, but I fear it’s hard to do it justice.

    That said, I’ll take a stab at it. At the risk of hyperbole, Fleming Rutledge has written what might be the most important Christian text so far of the 21st century. It’s a substantial tome, clocking in at over 600 pages and dense with footnotes (surprisingly one of the best things about it). It’s the first book of its size that wasn’t a fantasy novel that I’ve read in a very long time. It also took a long time to read, but it was time well spent. And she brings her weighty subject to bear in a way that so effectively speaks to our moment by revealing its timelessness.

    I think what struck me most is the way she applies it to “the common plight of all humankind, for it is the one thing that binds us together”(582). As she puts it, “Above all, we must account for victims and perpetrators alike. If we cannot do this, then it is not the evangel“(577).

    The division, loneliness, suffering, injustice, and utter mercilessness that many people are experiencing right now does not need to be restated. But I think it warrants pointing out that those experiences transcend any dividing line we can conjure. Indeed, the very division that cuts right through all of us is what we have in common. And the action that heals, restores, forgives, and rectifies that division is common to us all too.

    Fleming Rutledge mends the cracks between differing perspectives in a way that’s a shadow of the real mending that she points too. Read and be healed.

  • SPAs, CORS, and GraphQL

    The popularity of single page applications (SPAs) has grown significantly in the world of web development over the last few years. As with any architectural choice, benefits and tradeoffs exist.

    This article from Free Code Camp recently highlighted a potential performance cost associated with single page applications. I’ll do my best to accurately and succinctly restate the problem presented in the article:

    Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) is a mechanism that uses additional HTTP headers to tell a browser to let a web application running at one origin (domain) have permission to access selected resources from a server at a different origin. A web application makes a cross-origin HTTP request when it requests a resource that has a different origin (domain, protocol, and port) than its own origin.

    • CORS is not an issue when it’s a “simple request”, but does introduce problems when it’s a preflighted request.

    • Preflighted requests first send a request with the OPTIONS method prior to making the actual request for data. Because the value of the Content-Type header sent by an SPA is frequently application/json, requests from the SPA will be preflighted – mean that we make two requests each time we fetch data from the API.

    According to the article,

    We can use the Access-Control-Max-Age header to cache the results of a preflight request. The next time we access the resource api.example.com/users/report/12345 from spa.example.com there is no preflight request.

    Yes, that’s true, but then remember the title — The terrible performance cost of CORS requests on the single-page application (SPA). This comes from the API that we’re are consuming and the way it’s been designed. In our example, we designed our API /users/report/:id, where :id means its a value that can change.

    The way preflight cache works is per URL, not just the origin. This means that any change in the path (which includes query parameters) warrants another preflight request.

    So in our case, to access resource api.example.com/users/report/12345 and api.example.com/users/report/123987, it will trigger four requests from our SPA in total.

    The key sentence in the foregoing quote is “This comes from the API … and the way it’s been designed.” Enter GraphQL.

    Unlike a REST API, the URL for each request to a GraphQL API remains the same regardless of the resource. Instead, a query body is POSTed to the URL as JSON, and the resolution of the query is handled by the server.

    To work with the foregoing example, let’s say we have a GraphQL API residing at api.example.com/graphql. In order to get the report with an id of 12345, our SPA would make a preflighted request with the OPTIONS method to get the approved list of actions for api.example.com/graphql. It would then make a POST to the same URL with with following query body:

    query {
      users {
        report(id: "12345") {

    Our API would then handle the query and return the id and content for the report with an ID of 12345. While there are certainly some other improvements that can be made to the design of the API (for example, I would scope the query for a report to a given user, so our query body would say something like user(id: 1) instead of just users), the key strength of GraphQL in this example is that we only need to make one preflighted request if cache the results of the preflighted request with the Access-Control-Max-Age header, since all requests from our SPA can now be made to the same URL.

  • Further Thoughts on Simplicity

    Following up on the last post’s thoughts, I am finding myself more and more fascinated by the discipline of simplicity. I think it was in the most recent episode of the Renovare podcast that I heard it suggested that the discipline of simplicity isn’t so much a discipline we do as one we inhabit.

    Such a notion makes sense when I expand my understanding of simplicity to be both an active thing and passive thing. In one sense, I actively interrogate thoughts, patterns, and behaviors — deliberately asking if something distracts me from what truly matters. But in another sense, simplicity is ultimate passivity — it’s a disposition that is willing to sit and be patient, rather than try to fix everything. It’s admitting that I can’t control all circumstances.

    Oddly enough, there is increased freedom for more focused activity in this. It frees me to be more present whether having a cold drink with a friend, reading a book, or talking with my wife. Simplicity gives me permission to be present to these things because, in that moment, it’s not my responsibility to handle the other things, because Christ cares for them. This isn’t to say it’s permission to be flippant, but it’s permission to trust.

    As an anxious person, this is terrifying and freeing. The attitude of simplicity is something that does not come easily. Yet, the amazing thing about it is the truth that underlies it; The greatest simplicity of all is found in the knowledge that even my distracted and overloaded failures are taken care of.

  • Space and Simplicity

    Here are a few quotes/links from Alan Jacobs and Austin Kleon, who are frequently in dialogue with one another, that have set the tone for my thoughts this week about a few things — namely blogging, information, and thinking.

    re-setting my mental clock – Snakes and Ladders

    Curiously, though in a way logically, my escape from Twitter’s endless cycles of intermittent reinforcement and its semi-regular tsunamis has made me significantly calmer about my own future as a writer, in large part because it has re-set my mental clock. I have always told myself that I have time to think about what, if anything, I want to write next, but I haven’t really believed it, and I think that’s been due to my immersion in the time-frame of Twitter and other social media. Now that I’ve climbed out of that medium, I can give not merely notional but real assent to the truth that I have time, plenty of time, to think through what I might want to say.

    Ideas in cars, honking — Austin Kleon curates some thoughts on ideas and creativity from Dave Chappelle, Jerry Seinfeld, and Brian Eno

    the blog garden – Snakes and Ladders — Alan Jacobs posits the blog as a place to engage in the work of mental “gardening”.

    BONUS: Renovare podcast on simplicity with Jan Johnson — A discussion between Nathan Foster and Jan Johnson on a necessary but neglected (I speak for myself) spiritual discipline.

    The past couple of weeks have been somewhat turbulent, hence the silence on here. Arguably, I’ve made this excuse before, but I’m coming around to the acceptability of it. For some time I’ve guilted myself for not writing/blogging/creating with any real discipline. Outside of my 9-5 as a software engineer, I’m pretty terrible at Getting Things Done. I don’t have a content calendar, and most times I make a writing-related todo it ends up getting forwarded to the following day.

    I’ve tried to account for this frustration. I’d love to work on my idea for a fantasy novella with that brings together the tonal setting of dark ages Europe, the cosmology of H.P. Lovecraft, and the prose of Cormac McCarthy, just as much as it would bring me joy to regularly type out thinkpieces on spirituality and culture, all while working on programming side-projects for which I can write technical articles. Also, I really should be brushing up on my math skills if I’m ever gonna pursue that Master’s degree in CS.

    Simply put, I’ve felt burned out yet have hardly accomplished anything in regards to the above. And I think I’m okay with that.

    Jenoa pointed out that the only person putting pressure on me to do all of the things has been me. But that still doesn’t answer why I’ve imposed such demands on myself. I think, as Jacobs pointed out, that some of this stems from a need to reset my own mental clock — not necessarily from Twitter, but from the felt need to produce large volumes of quality creative work, especially work that’s germane to what everyone else seems to be talking about.

    Which connects to that episode of the Renovare podcast. I’m finding that even good things, like podcasts (ironically), RSS feeds, and newsletters, can still clutter the mind and distort my temporal perception. Even my “simplification” away from social media still necessitates greater simplicity. This isn’t to say that I’ve completely tuned out from people whose thoughts interest me (they obviously act as a springboard for much of this blog), but I’ve been more willing to click “unsubscribe” if I’m not finding something enjoyable. I simply don’t have the cognitive bandwidth to read something just because it’s deemed “important”. My brain needs space to think and grow.

    Which brings me back to Jacobs’s notion of the garden. If I’m ever going to produce ideas that are worthwhile and that I’m going to actually care about, I need to step away and let the elements do their work on the soil of my mind. I’m content to sit and watch them grow for a while.

  • Catchup

    It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, and I’ve done/experienced/read/thought about a few things that warrant their own posts, but I’ll fill them in here.

    That’s about all I have for now. Enjoy your weekend.

  • Deserts

    A piece my best friend wrote was recently posted over at Mockingbird. (Trigger warning: this story recounts sexual abuse) No words of mine can do it justice. Here’s a brief glimpse:

    Hope sought me out in that place. It clothed me and gave me water. It bade me to follow and find rest. Hope didn’t require me to be clean. It didn’t require me to be well-behaved. It wasn’t contingent on my political standing or sexual orientation. It was a rescue without requirements.

    It’s painful and moving, exploring trauma, storytelling, and grace. I can’t recommend reading it enough. Proud of you, Collin.

  • To be self-forgetful

    From Alan Jacobs’s essay, Reverting to Type:

    In many respects, going back to the kinds of books I used to read has also meant going back to the kinds of reading habits I used to have. Just as there was a point in my life when I had to remind myself to grab that pencil, the time eventually came when I had to remind myself to leave it where it was and grasp the book (or the Kindle) in my two otherwise empty hands. The object now was not to prepare for class or develop a scholarly argument, but rather to become lost in a book, as I once was often; to be self-forgetful for a while.

    Jacobs’s work first came to my attention when I was in college working on my senior project. His book How to Think, published last year, and his presence at this year’s Mockingbird NYC conference brought him back on to my radar. Although I’d been interested in the intersection of theology and literature while in college (I essentially wanted to do his current job for a living; things took a different turn), I never realized how much our interests overlapped. Take, for example, this other passage from the same essay:

    I have similar thoughts about Danny Hillis’s wonderful little book The Pattern On The Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work, which was the book that made me believe I could learn at least a little scripting, if not full-fledged programming. Like Dawkins’s account of how evolutionary biology builds up reliable historical evidence, Hillis’s account of computer design explains how the simplest elements — Boolean logic applied to the most elementary distinction of all, that between on and off, yes and no, 1 and 0 — ultimately yields the staggering power of modern computers and their networks. How cool to think about. How useful to internalize these procedures — or at least to attempt to — in order to structure and buttress one’s own thinking.

    Coincidentally, Hillis’s book provided the impetus that actually drove me into full-fledged programming. It’s encouraging to see someone in the humanities extend their interests in technology to the point of trying to code themselves. Although only two years in to my software career, I find myself trying to do the same thing from the other side of the humanities/STEM divide; extending my interests beyond detached observation to actually engaging with them, even though I may not make a career of it.

    But I digressed completely from why I started writing this in the first place. I’ve been rediscovering the joy of reading and writing again; not for personal development or career advancement, but “to be self-forgetful for a while.” Although there are times I wish I could get paid to read books or study a subject and write and teach about it, software development has been a blessing not just for the opportunities it’s provided me, but for the fact that it’s forced me to learn the joy of reading and writing for their own sake - to learn to love what I’m doing and forget myself for a bit.

  • Capon and Cambridge Analytica

    From Robert Farrar Capon’s recently republished marriage anti-advice book, Bed & Board:

    I became an old fogey young; I looked backward habitually and gladly. So, I think, did a good many of my generation. The real question therefore is: where did this love of the past come from?

    Well, I think it came from living just one age after the end of the modern era. I grew up reading ~Popular Science Monthly~ in the thirties. I will never forget its rapt narration of the coming wonders of the new age; but I don’t think we will ever see that dewy-eyed scientific Messianism ever again. Back there, in the dark of the depression, newness was still the great watchword, just as it had been in the twenties. At Hiroshima, the newness blew itself sky-high, and when we finally did crawl out of our holes, we all began to look around for something a little less violently new. ~The Waste Land~ was no longer an avant-garde way of talking about life; it was the way our world ~felt~.

    An odd bit of reflection from a book ostensibly about marriage, but that’s one of the wonderful things about Capon’s writing — immediate concerns are almost indistinguishable from transcendent ones. Thus, Bed & Board is about marriage, but also more than marriage. Ultimately, I would say the book is about everyday grace.

    Some readers (as well as Capon himself, later in life) have noted that some of the statements in the book are a bit dated, if not outright sexist, in their views of men and women. But despite these shortcomings, the book’s message of embracing the absurdities of marriage holds up well. As CJ Green writes in his foreword to the new edition, “…it is its unfailing levity regarding everyday life that resurrects Bed and Board day after day, keeping it fresh, relevant, and completely true no matter the decade.”

    And I would say the quote I opened this post with demonstrates its relevance very well. I’m unsure whether or not Capon would be surprised, but the “dewy-eyed scientific Messianism” seems to have returned, at least among some — a quick perusal of Hacker News comments will reveal this. But as the newness of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and Twitter flame-wars and hyper-partisan clickbait of all varieties have blown our civil discourse and sense of community/stability sky-high, I can’t help but wonder if people are seeking out ways of being, interacting, and consuming information that are “a little less violently new.” I certainly am.

  • I’ve been everywhere

    So it’s been over a month. Hello again.

    That having been said, I suppose the fact that I travelled across the country and back twice in the same month more than accounts my silence here. Pittsburgh for RailsConf one week, NYC for Mockingbird the next. Two cities for two very different conferences.

    Both trips were a blast. I walked away from both with much to think about, and (hopefully) much to write about, especially Mockingbird. The latter conference crystalized a number of things that I had been feeling but hadn’t given voice to. A few friends of ours were present at the conference this year, one of whom co-wrote a book(!). (Congratulations to both Charlotte and Stephanie, by the way. While I have yet to read it, Jenoa began it after the first night of the conference and let out a laugh about every thirty seconds.)

    “Grace in divided times” was the conference’s theme. I could hardly have thought of a more appropriate or poignant emphasis. To paraphrase Alan Jacobs (whom we had the pleasure of hearing speak twice), anger/wrath is the great sin of our time. It’s a notion that makes everyone complicit in the division that seems so pervasive. The very thing that truly does unite us is our mutual guilt and need for grace. And, mercifully, the even deeper unifier is the truth that abundant grace is given to all.

    The message of that is what drew me to Mockingbird, and that’s the same message I hope to communicate with much of what I write here.

  • Thorin’s Dying Words

    From J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Hobbit

    ”If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

    Those words are among the few spoken by Thorin Oakenshield as he lay on his deathbed. I recently finished re-reading The Hobbit and am currently working my way through The Lord of the Rings. It’s passages like that that make Tolkien’s more popular works resonate deeply with me.

    I decided to revisit them this year as an antidote to cynicism. I get that his work might seem dated, even (gasp) irrelevant when compared with the gritty worldliness of series like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Ugly human nature and realpolitik are on full display in GRRM’s work, and how appropriate those elements are for our “post-truth” culture.

    And while we need the unflinching honesty of ASOIAF, I would also argue that we equally need the unflinching courage and hope that Tolkien’s legendarium exemplifies. My default dispositions are cynicism and despair. Such attitudes are not difficult to come by, but nor are they useful — they do not bring healing or change, but simply perpetuate the pain, loneliness, and animosity that characterizes much of public and private life.

    Call it naive, escapist, or whatever you will, but I read these books — and write this blog — because I believe that there is good worth believing in.

    The chorus of Thrice’s “The Long Defeat”) puts it well —

    So keep holding on to hope without assurance Holding on to a memory of light But will the morning come? For all I know we’ll never see the sun But together we’ll fight the long defeat

    Oddly enough, inspiration for those lyrics came from Tolkien as well.

    Someday, it will be a merrier world.

  • Penumbra’s New Fiction

    So this “blogging consistently” thing is really hard. Anyway, hope you’ve had a good March. Mine was great, albeit hectic. Family visiting, friends getting married, wife starting new job at W+R Studios (yes, we work together now). All wonderful things, that sometimes mean neglecting other activities, like writing here. I was hoping to do some holy week reflections, but even then, the ideas aren’t necessarily restricted to holy week. I have a list of blog ideas, that will be related to things I read or thought about days or even weeks ago. I’m terrible at the “hot take” or “real time” thing. Probably for the best.

    That said, I’m recently came across Penumbra’s New Fiction thanks to GANZEER’s recommendation in his newsletter, Restricted Frequency.

    Edited by author Robin Sloan, Penumbra’s New Fiction periodically publishes digital fiction, but with a twist — it can’t actually be read “digitally”. Rather, readers are required to print the stories themselves. The current story, “The Unbeatable Deck of Ronan Shin”, is more than worth your while. A story about a Magic the Gathering-like game, friendship, and bullying. It’s fascinating and uncomfortable. At 8 pages, it’s worth the few minutes it takes to read.

    Penumbra’s New Fiction is also an interesting exercise in what publishing on the internet could look like. It’s a reminder that the web is still a place where beauty and creativity can surprise us.

  • Vulnerability

    Seth Godin recently wrote,

    Role models are fine. But not when they get in the way of embracing our reality. The reality of not enough time, not enough information, not enough resources. The reality of imperfection and vulnerability.

    There are no movie stars. Merely people who portray them now and then.

    I always appreciate Seth Godin’s candor. Someone as successful and respected as he is could pitch their advice as a fool-proof framework for excellence and success in one’s work—indeed, many do.

    “Imposter syndrome” is a term that gets thrown around a lot amongst software developers. It’s the mindset that we are not good enough, not a “real” programmer. We could think this way for any number of reasons—lack of formal CS education, lack of experience, lack of knowledge around the cool new framework that everyone is talking about on Hacker News, lack of concern about what anyone even says on Hacker News, etc.

    It’s easy to look at other, more experienced programmers and think that they have it all figured out. Yet some of the most profound things I’ve learned have come from hearing senior devs admit they don’t have an answer for the technical or architectural problem at hand.

    My boss once told me that as I progress in my software development career, I’ll come across increasing problems for which there is no blog post, no tutorial, no Stack Overflow answer, and that that is where the most interesting growth happens.

    Although we should work against the shame and deleterious effects it entails, “imposter syndrome” shouldn’t be confused for humility. Rather, by embracing our not-enough-ness and vulnerability, we can avoid hubris, learn, grow, and make something good.

  • Reflections on Reflections

    Seven days in and March is proving to be a hectic month, full of good things, but full of things nonetheless. I haven’t allotted myself the time I normally do for ruminating. That said, I feel I ought to share/reflect on David Zahl’s reflection on Andrew Sullivan’s essay on America’s opioid epidemic. Admittedly, I haven’t read Sullivan’s piece in its entirety, but DZ’s thoughts on it are worth sharing nonetheless. There are lots of gems in there, but I thought this passage especially poignant. Writing about how in our culture (and churches), we prefer to avoid addressing the real problems ailing us, he states:

    …we opt instead for false positivity or spiritual to-do lists. It’s acceptable to preach a topical sermon on marriage (on the right) or racism (on the left) but not… despair. Which is, ironically, the most relevant topic of all when it comes to the Christian religion.

    If, as Zahl argues, the current epidemic can’t be reduced to its political and economic factors (relevant though they may be), but reflects a much deeper crisis of widespread despair, then the response of Christians ought to be one that addresses that despair with countervailing hope.

    Readers who don’t share my beliefs may find such assertions ludicrous, if not offensive. The response is fair and warrants another conversation entirely, one I’d be glad to have. But at the same time, I would argue that the deepest need of our time is grace in a world bereft of it.

    And I think that’s what I’m trying to communicate with this blog—exploring how to think and live and treat others with grace in a world where disagreement is thought of as violence and political leaders flex their nuclear muscles on social media and billionaires launch their cars into space. My hope, I guess, is to see how truly transient these things are—and how the apparent madness of our time needn’t have the final say. Indeed, it won’t. I’ll close with DZ’s close:

    The gospel, if it is to find traction in the age of fentanyl, must speak to the Crystal Champs of the world. It cannot stop at sobriety or hang on willpower; it must resonate in the Wet House as well as the dry. This gospel, if it is to be actual good news, must address men and women whose hearts and bodies are infected with all manner of trouble, bereft of hope, who see God as an exacting cop (if at all), not a loving father who meets us where we are, in our shame and sin, with mercy, help and the spirit of adoption.

    Thankfully–and miraculously–it does. The gospel in the age of fentanyl is the same gospel as ever, the message about the God who intervenes upon us with outlandish charity, at a cost to himself, offering life eternal to those who’ve been checkmated by the here and now. Not one who gives hope to the hopeless, but who is hope to the hopeless.

  • Quiet

    I attempt to make a habit of blogging at least once per week, if not twice. Given that the last post was published nearly two weeks ago, it’s clear I did not meet last week’s goal. Oops.

    The last week was more hectic than normal, so I’m going to give myself some grace. I’ve brainstormed some what else I’d like to see on here. Given that I haven’t used Facebook in years, and that I recently left Twitter, I’m floating the idea of having a newsletter subscription that notifies you of a new post, or just sends the entire contents of the post straight to your inbox. I’m also working on adding a blogroll.

    I really like Warren Ellis’s notion of the “Republic of Newsletters”, as a not-quite countervailing but potentially antidotal force to the utter mess that is now social media. I still think blogs can serve the same purpose, but I understand that without a reader or some means to click “subscribe” it requires some seeking out, making it more susceptible to falling off readers’ attentional radars. In a recent newsletter, Ellis listed some suggested alternatives to the now-defunct Google Reader that people still use to subscribe to RSS feeds. It’s all a matter of finding new ways to connect to the things you want without the platforms getting in the way.

    And that’s what it seems like Facebook, Twitter, etc. are in the business of doing. Getting in the way. I can’t speak for Twitter, but it seems widely understood now that Facebook’s primary business is not showing you what you asked for but what it wants you to see—what it thinks will keep you more engaged. I was talking to a fellow developer a while ago, who pined for Instagram before “Facebook ruined” it. Sure, it shamelessly appropriated Snapchat’s features and lets you do funny things to people’s faces, but I miss the chronological display of what I asked to see. I don’t want an algorithm’s suggestions, or things I missed.

    In contrast to the social media bazaar, writing blogs and newsletters can feel like dispatching messages in bottles from a remote island. But the web is not Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter, or even Google. Writers, creators, artists, programmers, and everyone who wants to share something has options. Sure, potential visibility is impaired when you don’t use one of the major platforms, but even then, it’s only potential visibility — none of those services care whether or not your work is seen. Obviously, I’m not trying to market my writing, so I do have the luxury of not having to figure how to leverage those platforms to build an audience. Nonetheless, I’m content to write to whatever audience finds me here, in this quiet corner of the web. And given how noisy the major players make the world seem, I’m more than glad to keep things quiet over here.

  • Generosity

    In Free of Charge, theologian Miroslav Volf writes, “Left unchecked, the slide away from generosity robs us of significant cultural achievements, on which our flourishing as individuals and communities depends” (15).

    The book was published back in ’05, before so many were aggressively thinkpiece-ing about political polarization, the deleterious effects of social media, fears of automation, etc. It was oddly prescient back then, and, having been written before the aforementioned hot topics were much of a thing, suggests that our current cultural malaise, real as it may be, is an issue of the human heart before all else; a spiritual problem that precedes a technological problem. Nonetheless, I think a slide away from generosity is one possible description of what our culture currently experiences.

    My senior thesis in college was on the influence of Jonathan Edwards in the fiction of Marilynne Robinson, which included the theme of generosity — not just material generosity, but spiritual. The kind of generosity that assumes the best of others and seeks to give grace in spite of difference and disagreement. Such a disposition toward another person is profoundly challenging, and, as I argued back then, and still do, profoundly necessary.

    We’ve achieved some great things. But before we tackle the big problems, perhaps we’d be wise to tackle the problems of our own miserliness toward one another.

  • “Artemis”

    Andy Weir’s Artemis can best be described as an organized crime thriller on the moon. It’s quite a departure from his Mars-survival-blog, The Martian, but enjoyable nonetheless. Those who enjoyed his first book for its intricate technical aspects might find themselves wanting when reading Artemis. The details and descriptions are there, but the plot is what drives the narrative, not the engineering.

    Nonetheless, I enjoyed living in the head of protagonist Jazz Bashara. She has all the wit, gumption, and intellect of Mark Watney, and is in some ways more developed as a character. I don’t think I enjoyed this novel more or less than The Martian, I just enjoyed it differently. I’m excited to see what story Andy Weir engineers next.

  • Against Nostalgia

    I’m starting to become less patient with nostalgia.

    I get it. I enjoy playing Goldeneye and revisiting Nickelodeon cartoons. I remember when X-Men and Batman Begins were released, and they heralded exciting new possibilities that didn’t feel like they were being rehashed every summer.

    But at the same time, many of the people I know who thrive on nostalgia, seem hell-bent on just rehashing the past.

    A complaint I recently heard about Star Wars: The Last Jedi was that it was just Disney trying to make money on new characters that “no one cares about”. Yet there are people who care about the new characters, more particularly kids. Kids who are the same age that my friend who voiced the complaint likely was when they first watched A New Hope.

    According to the Dictionary app on my Macbook (using the New Oxford American Dictionary), the word “nostalgia” seems to have entered English usage in the late 19th century, initially meaning “acute homesickness”. I certainly can empathize with nostalgia at a much deeper level when considered in that sense.

    But perhaps part of maturation is to build a home for oneself and one’s own. To continue to create memories in the present.

    Another good friend pointed out that the way he stopped being disappointed in movies was that he stopped expecting to undergo an experience by them. He instead learned to embrace them on their own terms.

    And perhaps the cure for nostalgia is to embrace what is in front of us instead of pining and mourning for the experience of the past. It’s not like we cultivated such cherished memories by mourning the past then.

  • “Interdisciplinary Insights”

    Aside from blogging here, I’ve been trying to build my writing habit by working on a short story. I wrote some short stories while in college, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    My best friend, Collin, writes quite a bit. He credits me with initially inspiring him to write, but he has since far surpassed me in quantity of output, and, I would argue, quality. Although he doesn’t code, he said he imagined storytelling and programming to be similar disciplines, or for there at least to be an overlap in skills and practice.

    I think his hunch is true.

    A bit of advice sometimes given to writers is to stop writing in the middle of a scene, or a point of tension in the narrative. That way you have something to work with when you return to it.

    I’m finding a similar practice has been helping me with programming lately. I’m currently working on a tool for importing legacy configurations into a new schema in a new system, and trying to use test-driven development while doing it. The whole export/import system is fairly involved, taking me more than a day to build, and starting the day with a new function or component to write without knowing exactly what you want it to do, let alone how, can be fairly daunting.

    In the spirit of true TDD, I write a failing test that expects a certain output, and then code the feature until the test passes. But, instead of spending tomorrow morning determining the “shape” of data I want and writing a new test, I ended today by writing a failing test, giving me an explicit objective to complete in the morning. I’ll admit it felt uncomfortable leaving this undone, but having something clear to accomplish in front of my when I start my day tends to be very motivating, and provides fuel when moving on to each successive task.

    Never underestimate the power of interdisciplinary insights.

  • “Too much power, too little knowledge”

    In “Damage”, from his collection What Are People For?, Wendell Berry writes—

    The trouble was a familiar one: too much power, too little knowledge.

    The context of the phrase, the “trouble”, was a section of woods floor sliding down a hillside into a pond the winter after he decided to level some of the forest for pasture.

    Toward the end of the essay, he also writes—

    Only when our acts are empowered with more than bodily strength do we need to think of limits.

    As a technologist, it might be ironic that Berry’s pastoral and agrarian experience brings wisdom to bear on my profession. I wonder how many software projects go awry because we fail to understand the purpose and proper implementation of the wide array of tools at our disposal, or the business domain of the problem our programs try to solve.

    Technology, by its very nature, empowers us to act beyond our bodily strength, and software is no exception. Berry might be inclined to look askance at my profession, but his point deserves consideration nonetheless. We can do impressive things with software, but the freedom and possibility that our tools give us should prompt us to think of limits — financial, societal, and ethical. We should not fear discussing and exploring controversial or innovative ideas, but we must consider our responsibility to those whom the ideas might affect, and how it might affect them. As programmers, we frequently discuss “soft skills” alongside technical skills, and how we ought to cultivate them. Perhaps we should add knowledge of “moral skill” to the category of soft skills. Both ourselves and our users would benefit. Berry warns in the essay that the damage done to the land is also damage to himself.

    He also writes—

    When the road of excess has reached the palace of wisdom it is a healed wound, a long scar.

    May we learn from the excesses of others and take a different road altogether.

  • Newspaper Renaissance

    A recent episode of Virtue in the Wasteland mentioned the notion of a “newspaper renaissance” on the heels of a discussion about the anxiety induced by the perceived exigency of mobile news alerts.

    There seems to be increasing awareness and discussion surrounding the mentally and socially corrosive nature of social media. I haven’t used Facebook for almost 5 years now, and removed myself from Twitter last year. I still maintain a private Instagram profile, but don’t even have the app installed.

    I’m finding enjoyment in newspapers myself. The LA Times’ e-newspaper is delivered to my inbox daily, and soon the print version of the Sunday edition will be delivered my front door. I don’t read the whole thing, and I don’t feel the need to. And, contrary to the designs devised by UX researchers for all of your favorite apps, it’s not engineered to make me feel that need. In many ways, it’s the antithesis of the algorithmically generated feed – static, focused, and rhythmic. It’s not perpetually updated or A/B tested. And in many (though not all) ways it feels like an antidote the to the malaise of a perpetual noise cycle.

    Some might find it ironic that a software developer eschews new media in favor of something old and established. On the contrary, some of the best principles and practices of software development are rooted in tried and true practices (object-oriented programming, SOLID, KISS, etc.). Knowing that might help the unfamiliar reader better understand my disposition toward old and boring things.

    Furthermore, restricting the form of my news intake has practical benefits for my work; the less noise, the greater the ease of concentration. And anyone who has programmed software will tell you the importance of focus in deep work. Cal Newport has written extensively on this.

    Many of our distractions and anxieties are engineered for us. Do what you must to curb them, and let your work and life flourish on your terms.

  • At Home

    Jenoa and I recently returned from a three-week trip back east to visit my extended family for the holidays. I love the tri-state area; the trees, the cold, the food. I now desire a Taylor Ham, egg, and cheese on a roll and resent its being beyond my reach.

    And yet I’m glad to be here again. Despite my complaints about Southern California, it is home. Despite the dryness, the traffic, the sense of inescapable crowdedness, it is home. I look forward to new projects, old friends, and ongoing living. Sunday morning church services, Saturday night games and drinks. Weeknight meals with Jenoa.

    Strange as it my sound, I look forward to work. It’s a blessing that I get to solve interesting problems daily alongside thoughtful and energizing people.

    I thrive on quotidian rhythms. I hope to add blogging to them again, alongside a few other projects. And I value the place where I experience these rhythms, the place that nourishes the roots of who am I and what I do.

  • Stuff 'n Things 2017

    It’s been a couple of years since the last time I published a “cool stuff from 20**” blog. It’s actually been some time since I’ve blogged in any shape or form, now that I think of it.

    2017 was an eventful year. Marriage, career growth, therapy. All exciting and good, yet heavy and significant. Hence the silence. I have missed writing quite bit. At one time, I thought it would be my bread and butter. And I do write every day still, if writing software counts. But I’d like to start dabbling in English alongside Ruby again.

    Reading’s been a constant through this time. I think this post will mostly focus on books I enjoyed reading this past year. Listed in roughly chronological order.

    Here and Now: Living in the Spirit - Henri Nouwen

    Henri Nouwen’s words are like medicine for the soul. I’ve read a few of his books, but Here and Now remains an excellent introduction to his work, in my opinion. Short, digestible sections make for material that’s comprehensible and perfect for pondering. Nouwen’s applies the life and words of Christ to the reader in a gracious and profound way.

    Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

    I could have sworn that I read this late 2016, but my Goodreads account says otherwise. A fantastic memoir that’s both epic in scope and intimate in its revelations. Springsteen goes beyond giving the reader a simple narrative of his musical career, meditating deeply on families, fatherhood, and masculinity.

    Mistborn - Brandon Sanderson

    I’m just going to give the whole series its own entry. Although I’m still working through the third novel in the initial trilogy (The Hero of Ages), Sanderson’s fantasy writing is some of the most original and engaging I’ve ever read. His action scenes are quick, descriptive, and gripping. Any of fan of Tolkien, Jordan, Martin, Rothfuss, etc. etc. ought to give Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn books a shot.

    The Mindful Twenty-Something - Holly B. Rogers

    I know, I know. The title. I know. Damn millennials should just toughen the f*** up. I know.

    But something marriage has been teaching me is that the one of the most important things a man (or woman) can do is swallow their damned pride, admit that they are not okay, and pursue health and wholeness for the sake of those they love. I came to grips with the fact that I have an anxiety problem after much prompting from Jenoa, and, after receiving a proper diagnosis, pursued therapy. Part of this has been exploring the currently trendy practice of mindfulness meditation. I commend this book to you in large part because of how it demystifies mindfulness and gives practical instruction for implementing it.

    Silence - Shusako Endo

    I received this as a gift last Christmas and finally came around to reading it this December. If you’ve seen the Scorsese film, then you’ll be familiar with the plot; the adaptation is remarkably faithful. Yet, Endo’s words are still worth reading for their own sake. The notion that God’s presence can be most deeply felt in his apparent absence, that he speaks loudest in silence, that grace is still present in even the most barren spiritual wilderness, points to a theology of the cross through and through. Even if you’re not a believer, the historical novel’s narrative of tenacity through suffering is moving and worth experiencing.

    That’s all I have for now. There are a number of possible entries that I’ll probably kick myself later for not including. I hope to share with you more frequently this coming year.