#FridayFive: Another 5 Interesting Medium Posts

Hey folks! Back this week with another group of Medium posts that I found informative and/or challenging, and that I think you may appreciate:

Confessions of A Failed Female Coder – Caroline McCarthy tackles the topic of women in STEM (specifically in Computer Science) and provides some perspective on the infamous “Google memo” by James Damore. McCarthy’s insights on how education and learning style influence the way girls interact with STEM subjects gave my wife and I some good things to discuss regarding how we will raise and educate our daughter.

Las Vegas, Murder, and Gun Control – Rick Thomas wrestles with some of the political/cultural conversation around the latest mass shooting in the US. Most helpful for me was his breakdown of the 3 arguments used by cultural evangelists, in regards to guns.

You Weren’t Very Persuasive Today – Cody Libolt provides some good ideas on how to have productive and persuasive discussions with people with whom you disagree. In an age of people screaming past each other into the digital abyss, this post is worth some consideration.

Killing Television – Michael Marinaccio cites a few Pew Research results about the demographics of news consumption and media trust, as he considers the possible effect of a generational shift from visual news back to print news as a more trusted resource.

Why You Should Quit Reading Paper Books – I disagree with Andy Sparks’ premise entirely*, as do apparently ALL of the commenters (the answer to your problem, Andy, is a combination of marginalia, pocket notebooks, and highlighters), but I’ll admit he has some useful tips for how to capture and review ideas and quotes from your digital reading. So take that for what it’s worth, and leave the rest, I guess.

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There you go, gang. Some fun reading for the weekend.

If you’re on Medium, let me know! I’d love to check out your work. I’m on Medium, too, if you want to follow me there–though I haven’t produced much of anything in that forum. Yet.

Have you read any useful or challenging articles online lately? Post the link in the comments below!

 

 

*Much to the possible dismay of Mr. Sparks, I’m actually playing around with the idea of reading EXCLUSIVELY print books in 2018, and limiting myself to books I actually own as of January 1. I figure it’s a good way to battle my tsundoku tendencies.

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#FridayFive: 5* Interesting Stories I’ve read recently on Medium.

So I have a confession to make: I use the “bookmark” function on Medium entirely too much.

If you aren’t familiar with it, Medium is a free public blogging platform in which anyone can submit articles. (And I mean anyone.) If you subscribe to certain people’s feeds or click that you are interested in certain topics, you can get a daily (or weekly, I imagine) digest email from the site with links to articles that might interest you. And you can even “bookmark” things you want to read later.

What happens when you bookmark a whole lot and don’t actually read that much? You get a backlog of articles that may number into the several hundred. Or so I’m told.

So I figured, at least for a few weeks, I was going to go through this backlog and pull stories to tell you about that I found interesting, informative, funny, and/or generally worth reading.

Disclaimer: I will try to warn you in advance, but in these posts I will link to articles with bad language from time to time. I’m going to trust that you and your conscience will make good choices, based on your convictions. If I link to the article, it’s because I think the content is worth reading, despite objectionable verbiage.

So here you go–5* stories I’ve read recently that I thought were worth sharing:

I Envy Your Fake Life — Stephen Altrogge talks about the confluence of social media and comparison. I appreciated his honesty, and the reminder of how God’s sovereignty speaks to our contentment.

The Only 3 Types of Writing People Actually Want to Read — Okay, so a lot of the stuff I read on Medium has to do with content creation, writing, publishing, etc. This piece by Ayodeji Awosika was a very useful and direct reminder about what people want to get out of online content (or really, any written content).

Read Like You’re on a Diet — Okay, this one hit a little close to home, as Cody Musser describes the glut of reading material online, the temptation to try to catch it all, and how overwhelming it can be. He’s also frank about how writers’ motives can cloud how good or useful content is. And he emphasizes the need for creating, not just consuming. Worth considering. (NB: language)

23 Ways to Immediately Get more Traffic to Your Blog — Okay, this post is SEO’d to the max. Unsurprising, since it’s Jeff Goins, who’s a pro at platforming. BUT it’s also got some good and useful ideas for boosting the number of eyes that land on your writing, so if you’re into such things, this is a good one to read.

Reading to Learn: Why You Shouldn’t Read Beginning-to-End and What You Should Do Instead — Michael Motta discusses what looks like a very effective method for reading non-fiction (especially textbooks) with an eye to better retention and comprehension. If you’re in school, this may especially be worth a look.

BONUS:

Jesus Took Away My Freedom of Speech… — Couldn’t wait until next time to include this one. Billy Schiel reminds us in this great article about the implications of being servants of Jesus Christ, including how it affects the way we speak (or blog or tweet). Don’t miss this one.

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There you go: the first “Medium” edition of the #FridayFive. If you are already on Medium and are so inclined, you can follow me there. No, I don’t have much content up at this point, but I will be rectifying that in the next few weeks–both with cross-posts from this blog and some Medium-exclusive content as well. Looking forward to that!

Have a great weekend, do something fun, be with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s Day if you’re a believer, and I’ll be back next week (hopefully).

#300aDay: The waiting is the hardest part.

That’s another thing about taking on a 30-day writing challenge: usually, there’s not room built in for grace, if you miss a day here or there. The most important thing is that you don’t break the all-important “chain,” and if you do, you’re a failure. But you know what? If while seeking to engage in a new habit or challenge you are successful 25 out of 30 times, that’s not a failure. What a crazy thought. It’s 25 more days of writing or practicing music or exercise or whatever else than you would have done otherwise. Madness.

So yeah, the idea of taking on a 30-day writing challenge is fraught with perils. I’m still unsure if doing so would be wise at the moment. More consideration is needed.

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My wife is more than 41 weeks pregnant. For you kids keeping score at home, that’s over a week “past due.” What that means practically is that we are in a kind of holding pattern. In the last 2 weeks of work, I’ve been trying to clear my inbox and close most of the “open loops” on my projects and responsibilities. At home, my wife has done the usual nesting-type preparations, and the nursery is ready to go. Super cute–white, grey, and pale-yellow with little baby stuffed animals.

We thought our little girl would come a bit early, so we were getting ready around the beginning of last week. Then the due date approached and we thought, okay, she’s “due” around Thursday. Then the due date passed and we thought, okay, fine, it must be during the weekend. Now at “Due Date Plus Eight” (the worst reality show ever), we’re tapping fingers and watching the clock. Neither the kiddo nor my wife’s body are giving indications that this party’s ready to start. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, and we’re creeping toward the point when intervention is required.

This past week (really, the past month, but especially the past week), we have been struggling with anxiety about the birth process, the health of mother and baby, and what comes next. And as the days drag on, that anxiety threatens to grow. I have taken to repeating the following phrase, as a comfort to my wife and reminder to myself: “God’s will, God’s way, God’s time. Because He is good.”

When the waiting is the hardest part, the best thing we can do is trust the One who sees the end from the beginning, and hang on for the ride.

#300aDay: The most important part of comedy.

[beat]
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Timing.

That’s another reason why 300 words a day is a crazy task to undertake: who knows what may come up that needs attending to? Lots of things happen unexpectedly that can throw off your mojo. Readers expect consistency, and if you post at all times of the day or night, you start to alienate your audience. That’s what I’ve been told, anyway.

Subject change: Today, we had a minor vehicle issue come up–well, it turned out to be minor, anyway. Our 12-year-old minivan was having trouble shifting gears, and if you’ve ever had to deal with the cost of transmission repair, you can imagine how nerve-racking this was at first. Thankfully, the issue seems to have been resolved with some basic maintenance that I had been putting off. I find that to be a tendency of mine: putting off the daily maintenance of things until they become a crisis. I wonder if there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

When the van began falling out of gear repeatedly, I was on my way to work, with my wife in the passenger seat. (#SharedVehicleLife) After I took her back home and got ready to go to the auto repair shop, my wife grabbed my hands and said, “Let’s pray about this.” This is one of the things I am so grateful for, regarding my wife: she’s a woman of faith and a woman of prayer. I confess that, in times of crisis, my attitude is more pragmatic, more focused on what’s right in front of me. It occurs to me later to pray about things. My wife, on the other hand, is faithful to stop me and remind me that, oh yeah, God is sovereign over all things. Maybe we should pray for wisdom and provision.

My hope is that, as I grow in spiritual maturity, I’ll be quicker to say “Let’s pray” than to say, “I’ll figure something out.” Thankfully, God has given me a wise and faithful wife to help me in that process.

300 Words a Day: Too crazy to attempt?

An idea I’ve heard about over and over in the realm of writing/productivity/creativity is having a daily writing goal: a benchmark that you commit to, no matter what, in order to build a habit, get the creative juices flowing, get the Muse to start showing up–whatever metaphor you prefer.

Of course, that idea has always intrigued me. I struggle with consistency in several areas of life. If I could pick a superpower (and flight wasn’t an option), I would pick the power of consistently doing all the things I commit to doing. That’s right, folks; here comes Self-Control Man, to save the day!

Seriously, though. The BIG THING I would like to change about myself is that I want to commit to a course of action and stick to it–whether that’s eating better, exercising regularly, spending consistent time reading the Bible and praying, or, yes, writing a minimum amount of words every single day.

The number doesn’t have to be huge, either. I just read a Thomas Kidd newsletter (do you get Thomas Kidd’s email newsletters? They’re really good!) from last fall, in which he talks about having a thousand-word-a-day goal. That’s…really intimidating, to be honest. A thousand words a day?!? I don’t know if I could do half that. Or even a third of that.

But then, that got me thinking: could I do 300 words a day? That’s not very ambitious, right? Three hundred words. Typically, my blog posts are 500-800, so 300 words seems like it would be a breeze.

On the other hand, my wife is about to have a baby. My world is about to be turned sideways on its axis as we welcome a baby girl (who is already 5 days late–takes after her daddy, unfortunately). So committing to 300 words a day seems like I’m taking too much on at once–right?

We’ll see. Maybe I’ll consider it some more tomorrow.

Like. Follow. Subscribe. …Or create.

It’s a curious thing how I self-sabotage my attempts to detach from media (social or otherwise).

I started using Medium and Feedly as news aggregators with the intention of divesting my energies from Facebook and reducing the temptation to scroll or blog-hop for hours. In the end, I find myself now hoarding (ahem, collecting) bookmarked articles on both platforms, which I am hopelessly behind on reading, and I’m still using Facebook (though decidedly less-so).

I’ve culled my FB friend list to people I have had meaningful (or at least intentional, word-based) interactions with in the last 2 years. I have “unfollowed” and “unliked” a host of websites and entertainment pages on FB, though Zuckerberg still thinks I’m not getting enough advertising in my diet. (“Your friend Joe likes the ‘Peruvian Llama Juggling’ page!” Well… good for Joe?)

I infrequently trim down my Twitter follow list, but then I’ll take on new Twitter activities like anonymous accounts (let’s call that “fun-work”). I’ll turn off Twitter notifications on my phone, but keep the app and check it frequently.

I’ll delete podcasts from my devices, and then subscribe to new ones. Same with my streaming movie service. I have several authors to whom I owe book reviews, and yet I’m still adding books to my hold-list at the library. Why? Because I’m a jerk blogger/reviewer. (I owe apologies along with those reviews.)

[I pause to add the following clarifying statement: I’m not complaining. I’m not asking for assistance. I’m just talkin’ here, folks.]

The truth is, I still like using social media. I know the dangers. I’ve read the news articles about its negative effects. I’ve seen scores of blog posts about how people quit FB and Twitter, and their lives are JUST. SO. AMAZING. NOW. (See: previously-mentioned bookmarked Medium articles.) And I know that’s all true.

But I also know that I enjoy interacting with my “Twitter friends.” I still use FB groups and messaging to stay in touch with people, groups, and projects.  I’m aware of the sneaky dangers of FOMO and my tendency toward oversharing, and I’m working on both. I think I can stop worrying and learn to love the blog.

However, there is one side effect of continued social media interaction that I need to start taking more seriously: Social media engagement proves that “I don’t have time to write” is a lie.

I’ve got the basic outline, a few solid chapters, and a handful of scattered scenes written for the first book in a trilogy of crime stories that I’d really like to finish. I care about the main character, I’m intrigued by the themes that these books involve, and the questions that the overarching story raises set it apart from other books in the genre. I think it would be a really cool thing to bring these stories into the world and share them with you.

For the years–YEARS–that I have weakly gestured at writing, I have convinced myself that I don’t have the time to commit to it. My time spent on social media proves otherwise.

I want to write more. I have the ability and time to write more. And I don’t have any good excuses for not pursuing it.

So, well, uh, there it is.

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What, you were expecting more of a rousing call to action?

Do we really need one?

Would it really work?

Wait a minute–I have a blog, don’t I?

[No posts for more than 3 weeks? Wowsa.]

A few words to update you on what’s been going on with me:

At the moment, I’m at the tail end of a pernicious head cold. So I’m a little foggy-headed today, but I wanted to post something new.

Honestly, things are pretty good. December was a good month for me. Some exciting things are happening in my offline life that I can’t quite talk about yet. Work is keeping me busy. A few weeks ago, I took a roadtrip with my wife up to my old college town to pick up my sister at the end of her first college semester. We enjoyed Christmas in-town with the family. It was a good end to a challenging year.

As for the radio silence: I honestly just haven’t had much to say, or at least much that was worth saying. I hit a point when I just didn’t care enough to write regular posts. Part of that blogging drought may be that I also haven’t been reading regularly this month (so as you will see soon, I only added one more “reading challenge” title to my final count).

The end of the year is always a time of introspection and reflection, and a reassessment of where I am and where I want to go. Maybe that’s a cliched approach, but there it is. The point is, I’m taking some time this week to take stock of my priorities and agenda, so that I’m spending my life on things that I care about most. (No, that doesn’t mean we’re breaking up–but I do want to consider how much time I’m ready to invest into this project.)

Here’s the deal, gang: My blogging mojo is in a bit of a trough, and I don’t just want to blather for the sake of posting new content. If you’re taking the time to read what I write, then what I write should be worth your time. I have had a few ideas in the past couple of weeks, but I wasn’t sure if I had enough new to say to justify 700 or so words about it.

What does that mean, moving forward into 2017? It means that when I have something new that’s worth saying, I’ll say it. I may adapt some of my Sunday School materials into short posts here, if I think it would be profitable. If I gather enough items for a Friday Five, I’ll post that here on Fridays.

The next Federalist post will go up on the “4thDavePapers” blog next Tuesday, and I hope to throw some new content up there once or twice a week, because the read-and-respond approach will keep me thinking and producing material.

But I’m not going to post just for posting’s sake, out of some sense of obligation to vomit up internet content. I’m not going to offer up half-baked hot takes on current events because everyone else is doing it. There’s enough of that going around.

The best way for you to keep up with my blogging in 2017 is to subscribe. You can subscribe by email at the bottom of the page, or follow my blog through WordPress, so that you get notifications when I have new content available. And I’ll do my best to make sure that any new content is worth your while.

Thanks for subscribing, thanks for reading, thanks for sticking around. My hope is that my 2017 writing, however inconsistent, will become more and more beneficial to you.

Happy New Year, friends!
–d.

 

The4thDave’s Friday Five (11/18/16)

Hey friends! Sorry for missing last week’s Five, but I hope this week’s bit of awesomeness will make up for it!

This video about being terrible. I appreciate Steve Kamb’s work on Nerd Fitness (you should check it out, it’s pretty fun). He’s recently starting to post more regularly on the NF Youtube account. For some reason, this video was really encouraging to me. I mean, what he’s saying may seem basic/obvious, but it’s good to hear once in a while. (Content Note: He uses a few swear words in the second half of the vid. I guess they’re “TV swears.” For what it’s worth.)

The Magnificent Seven (2016). I was listening to the Gut Check Podcast, and the hosts were talking about how much they enjoyed this summer’s remake of The Magnificent Seven. I don’t remember how much I’ve talked about that movie online, but as I was listening to their discussion, it reminded me how much I really, really enjoyed the flick. It’s been ages since I’ve seen the original, so I can’t really compare the two. I’ll say this, though: even with Rogue One and a few others still on the horizon, The Magnificent Seven is easily one of my top-five movies of 2016. It is a “classic” Western in all the best ways, and I expect it will be joining my video collection at some point.

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). Part of our training as foster parents involves learning TBRI as a method for disciplining “children from hard places” who have endured trauma. While I will freely admit that I was suspicious when I was first exposed to TBRI as a parenting method (I assumed it was “hippie parenting”), I’m coming to appreciate its strengths. I look forward to learning it, using it, and infusing it with as much Gospel as possible. This may not interest you in the least, but if it does, you should check out this site that features videos by the late Dr. Karen Purvis, who helped develop this method of ministering to wounded children.

“The Show Must Go On.” I randomly happened to catch a recent episode of The Voice on NBC, and I heard this performance from one-time-child-music-star Billy Gilman. While he’s not the most dynamic performer, I don’t think you can deny he’s got some pipes.

The Federalist Papers. Inspired by some college friends on Twitter, I started rereading this fundamental work of American political writing (something I’ve been toying with for a few months). It’s available here on Kindle for free, and I would recommend downloading a copy.

Why? Because starting Monday (hopefully), I’ll be writing at least weekly blog posts with observations/applications about all 85 treatises in the lead-up to the inauguration of our next president. Sometimes, I’ll focus on a specific “paper” and other times, I’ll sum up a group of them. I’m not promising hard-hitting analysis or rhetorical brilliance–just the ordinary thoughts of some conservative, nobody blogger on one of the most important collections of writings in United States history.

Probably while humming something from Hamilton.

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So that’s my Friday Five. What about you? Anything cool you’re enjoying lately? Share in the comments!

Let’s Try That Again: Day 1 of Month 2.

[I wrote this entire post last night, only to delete it accidentally, because I was using a tablet instead of my laptop and I switched apps without thinking. So here’s my best approximation of last night’s post.]

One month ago, I wrote about how I was going to treat the first day of the month like a new year, and start working on a new habit of daily Bible reading. How did that work out?

It went pretty well…for about 2 weeks.

Sometime around my birthday celebration, it all kind of fell apart. I stopped reading the Word regularly. I stopped tracking my food intake (resulting in my gaining back the little bit of weight I had lost in the previous month). I stopped working on my 2016 reading list. I just let up for some reason. My normal schedule was disrupted by parties and travel and family activities, and rather than leaning into the daily habits I had been developing, I fell back into bad patterns.

So now, here we are, a month later, and I’m sorry to say that my adherence on last month’s goal was about 50%, if not a tad less. That’s just sad. So you know what that means… Happy New Year! I’m starting over. But not just starting over–I’m adding a new element. (I know, it’s crazy. Just roll with it.)

Last November, I participated in NaNoWriMo for a few weeks (hmm–starting to see a pattern) before realizing it wasn’t quite the right time for me. I got about 15,000 words of a novel written, with notes and random scraps of text to carry through the rest of the book and into the next two. Over the last year, the story has been pressing into my consciousness at various times, and I’ve been keeping a record of ideas and insights that have resulted. It’s a project I am determined to get back to, because I think it will be worth doing.

While I’m not going to go full-NaNo this year, I have decided to add something writing-related to Month 2 of this “new-year” approach.  For the month of November, in addition to continuing to increase my Bible intake, I will try to write 300 words a day of something. You will sometimes see the results of this on the blog (like this post!), and other times these words will only be for my own purposes–writing prompts to sharpen my skills, poetry for my wife, incremental work on my novel. 300 words a day–a modest amount. Nothing to go crazy over. But if I do that, at the end of November, I’ll have produced at least 9,000 more words of creative content, which will be a good thing for me, no matter what.

So, welcome to Month 2. I’m looking forward to keeping you up to date on my progress.

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Your Turn: Are you working on any new habits? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo? How can I encourage you or help you in that?

 

No way I can stop at 7.

The current trending hashtag among my friends on Twitter is #7FavBooks. I have to admit that I’m a little intimidated by my friends’ selections, which are on the whole very theologically-inclined. (Goes to show you the calibre of scholars I pal around with on Twitter.) If I tried to limit myself to seven books, I think my list would be much more focused on fiction,and I would need to explain all my selections. So I’m going to break the rules a bit.

What I’ve included below is not my all-time list (I don’t know if I can come up with one), but it’s definitely my much-beloved list.

Seven Novels/Series I Love and Recommend (Mostly):

  • The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis. Yes, I have some problems with Lewis’ theology in a few places, but this series has been formative in my life. I’ve read through these books almost a half-dozen times, starting back when I was in grade school. I have a deep and abiding love for these books that won’t go away any time soon.
  • Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve read this one, and I think that’s way too long. This Pulitzer-winning novel tells the story of an septuagenarian Iowa preacher named Aames, who is writing down his legacy of memory to give to his young son, since he probably won’t be around to see the boy reach adulthood. It’s a touching meditation on fatherhood and faith, and I need to get back to this one soon.
  • Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. The summer between high school and college, I worked my way through the 1400-page unabridged version of this classic novel, and I loved every bit of it. Even the random fifty-page diversions in which Hugo would talk about the details of Napoleon at Waterloo or the particular history of an order of nuns in France. The story of Jean Valjean’s transformation of grace is one that has been depicted over and over again in film and on stage, because there is something compelling about the power of forgiveness and mercy. This book revels in that beauty.
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. Criticisms of this Puritan classic generally include that the allegory drives the story–that the story is just an excuse for the didactic sections. That may well be true, but if you’re a believer, I don’t think you can read this book without coming away encouraged and reminded of the spiritual realities of this world. This is a book I have appreciated more and more with each reading, and I think I’m going to start reading it every year or two because it’s so rich with truth.
  • A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. Dickens is still one of my favorite writers of all time, and it was hard to choose one title to represent that. However, I know that his wordy descriptions and multitudes of characters can be tough sledding for some, so I think Tale is his most accessible work with one of his most memorable scenes. No spoilers, in case you made it through high school without reading it, but let’s say that the final chapters produce a moment of nobility that is awe-inspiring. Worth another look, if you haven’t read it in years.
  • The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  This sprawling story about the relationship of the three brothers Mitya, Vanya, and Alyosha is possibly over-long (it’s Russian, so that tends to happen), but within its pages are some of the greatest examples of a novelist wrestling with the realities of faith. There’s a LOT going on here, and it’s a daunting read at first. But it’s worth the investment in order to experience this story. This is another one I want to tackle again sometime.
  • The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King. This one will get me some raised eyebrows, no doubt, but Stephen King’s books are one of my slightly-guilty pleasures. What fascinates me about King is that his novels demonstrate a startling understanding of the depravity of man, but he refuses to turn to Jesus as the answer to that depravity. (As such, religious figures in his books are generally painted in a pretty terrible light, focusing on hypocrisy and moral corruption.) That said, he knows how to spin a good yarn, and the Dark Tower series is his magnum opus–a sprawling fantasy epic that pulls in elements of westerns, horror, science fiction, and medieval fantasy, and shares points of contact with nearly half of King’s immense bibliography. I would definitely NOT recommend it to everyone for several content-related reasons. And I don’t know if I’d ever try to read it again. But I still regard it as a storytelling masterpiece and it holds a special place in my memory.

That’s my current seven for fiction. Tomorrow (probably), I’ll post my list of seven non-fiction books. See you then!

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Your Turn: Okay, I’ve given you my list; now what’s yours? What are some of your favorite works of fiction? Share them in the comments below (and, as always, be courteous about the opinions of others).