Compassion and hope without the overhead

Lovely piece in the New York Times today about a former evangelical pastor who is basically doing the same ministering i.e. spreading the message of love and values but without the overhead of supernaturalism. h/t to @chrimc for the article.

A few sections stood out for me:

Atheists and agnostics have long tried to rebottle religion: to get the community and the good works without the supernatural stuff. It has worked about as well as nonalcoholic beer.

Why is that? None of the atheists or humanists or people who describe themselves as “spiritual” attend anything like church. Many as they get older reflect that they wish they had the community of church but without the need for god or supernaturalism. I imagine several of the modern versions of paganism e.g. Wicca are at heart an attempt to build the community and sense of “we” but without traditional mainstream god concepts. Comic con, Cosplay, and things like that also appear to be community-building with an ethos of openness and inclusion; the new churches for a new millennium (or new Millennials since they don’t attend church).

Campolo told me that when students come to talk about a job they’ve been offered, he asks questions like: “What’s the culture like at that place? The guy who interviewed you — would you want to end up like him, with the kind of marriage he has and the kind of friendships he has?” Campolo went on: “And they say, ‘Huh, I never thought about that.’ And you want to say: ‘Where are your parents? Or your pastor? What is your Uncle Joe doing? Why is nobody asking value-oriented questions about your life?’ ”

Wonderful suggestion and something I will do when/if I am asked about career, college, etc. Much better than my normal line of “I don’t know, take a gap year or three and go ski in the Alps”.



One goal for January is to get outside three times per week. That’s not much but I need to start the habit. Outside can be walking, hiking, skiing, running, etc. But just getting out of a building and moving a bit.

It wasn’t much yesterday, just a walk through the neighborhood. Found this lovely tree though and Google thoughtfully applied this filter.

10 Years Ago – My Own Private Windmill

10 years ago I came across Skystream – the basic idea was they would provide a personal windmill for your property. I wrote about how great this would be.

Turns out, well… like so many technologies this one didn’t quite make it. While the site is still running (more than I can say about many of my past projects) the copyright shows 2013. The news page stops in 2011.

It’s still a fun idea but it looks like personal solar has surpassed wind at least for now.

Big green egg

Great Thanksgiving/Christmas/birthday present. For last night’s feast I had this thing roaring hot. It looked like a jet engine. 

I probably won’t let it get that hot again, it was hard to get close enough to flip the steaks.

Happy Boxing Day

Christmas was a blast this year. We had family in town, two nights of sing-alongs, way too much food, and generally a wonderful time. Now on to skiing for the next few days weather permitting.

Interesting that there is no definitive explanation of “boxing”. Wikipedia calls out that it might reference giving staff a “Christmas box” but then fails to mention other ideas around the etymology.

We really should formally adopt this as a U.S. holiday – we need more holidays.

Even Amazon has bad hair days

The current pages on Amazon’s Prime Now site are all blank. Ouch, I expect volume is out of control as people race to get last second shopping done¹.

Amazing technology and usually amazing engineering talent… but still things go wrong. I’d love to read this COE (Correct of Error, Amazon’s mini post mortem process).


¹ Not me, I am just buying La Croix sparkling water. Amazingly the price for Amazon to deliver this for free within two hours (!!!) is less than what the local stores sell it for.

Hosting with

I started blogging in November 2006 I think with WordPress. I moved to Posterous (RIP) for a time. Then I relied on Tumblr for years and was generally happy with the service. Unfortunately with Tumblr’s sale to Yahoo and all of the travails ensuing it seemed prudent to move. I looked at the options and decided that migrating to WordPress and hosting with Bluehost was the way to go. That was a year ago.

Since then I’ve discovered that Bluehost isn’t a great way to go. I don’t mind the minimal service outages; I have few readers and if they need to wait 10 minutes for a machine to reboot it’s okay. But their tech support… wow! I needed to update my credit card information recently, you know, so they could take my money. The tech support was so bad I decided the time was right for another move. Along comes with hosting for 50% of what Bluehost offers. Sure, I cannot use plugins and I cannot manage the PHP code directly – I wind up rarely doing that anyway.

So here we go, embarking on a yet another blog hosting site. Welcome to v5!

Why things need to be precise

Podcast: The Tim Ferriss Show
Episode: #193: My Life Extension Pilgrimage to Easter Island
Position: 01:48:47

Great example from Pixar about storyboarding and removing distraction. Amazon is the same – 6 pagers are done the way they are so you don’t get distracted with nonsense. 

At work I am often asked “why do we have to do things in a certain way?” Certainly we are always looking for better ways to do things. Better tools are appreciated. But if you can remove the variables you can more easily get to the truth or the solution. I coach junior people about “be an ender, not an extender” ie how often do email threads run on and on… and on without anyone writing a definitive document or cutting a ticket or simply closing the thread with a decision. This happens to some extent because there are no.guidelines, no rails. 

Amazonian 6-pagers aren’t always the answer but having a defined framework for problem-solving is critical.