I started playing a fun online game with some friends this week. It’s a sort of MMORPG called “Fantasy Basketball”. It’s a lot like Dungeons & Dragons or Risk or other games where there are battle systems with a good mix of strategy and chance.
At the beginning of the several-months-long “season” you take turns picking from a long list of non-player characters. You choose these “players” based on various character attributes to build a “team”. There is a certain amount of narrative that can be crafted around the players, but the choices you make are largely based on numbers and statistics.
Each week your team gets matched up to go head-to-head with one other team in the “league” (my league has twelve teams in total, each managed by one of my friends). The strategy consists principally in choosing which of your players to put on your “roster” and which ones to “bench”. Then as the week progresses, random numbers are generated for each of your players, weighted toward their various attributes. These numbers ultimately determine the outcome of the match.
One of the attributes that affects the players’ numbers is the “position” they play. The positions have exotic-sounding names like “shooting guard” and “power forward”, and they complement each other much as warriors, wizards, clerics, and healers play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses in a typical fantasy RPG. To optimize your roster, as with any good party-building strategy, you need a balanced mix of the different player positions. You also have to pay careful attention to which players are “tired” or “injured” each week.
The chance element
Of course, in games like Dungeons & Dragons or Risk the chance element comes from random dice rolls. I’m not entirely certain where the randomness comes from in Fantasy Basketball, but I’m given to understand it comes from something in the real world.
It’s a little known fact that computers can’t actually produce truly random numbers. Computer algorithms can only achieve pseudo-randomness unless they’re fed some true random data to work with. For instance, I’ve used password generating programs that track the user’s mouse movements to build up entropy. Random.org uses atmospheric noise for entropy. A friend of mine today mentioned something he heard about where they’re using pedestrian foot-traffic patterns from London surveillance cameras for entropy.
Like I said, I don’t know where they get the entropy for Fantasy Basketball, but it seems they’re getting some high quality random numbers from somewhere.
Wish me luck!
I’m really enjoying the game so far. I think I’m well on my way to winning my first match. My “players” have a few more “games” this week and I’m crossing my fingers for some big random numbers. Wish me luck!
Back in August one of my favorite podcasters, Casey Liss, had his iPad home screen featured on MacSparky and I realized lots of people (tech celebs and pros) have had their iPhone and/or iPad home screens featured on either MacSparky or another site called The Sweet Setup.
I recently refactored my iPhone into a single home screen, and I’m quite proud of it, so I thought I’d show it off and hopefully introduce you to a few apps you’ve never heard of and may find useful.
The Single Screen
As I mentioned, I recently refactored to a single screen setup ((A keen eye will spot a second dot above the dock indicating that I’m actually lying about having only one screen, but my second screen consists entirely of games for my kids, so it doesn’t count. I have a one-year-old and a four-year-old, so it’s mostly stuff from Duck Duck Moose, Originator, Sago Sago, THUP Games, Toca Boca, and Wee Taps, all excellent developers making delightful and educational games my kids love.)). I have everything roughly grouped into categories: reading on the top row, productivity on the second row, photography and entertainment on the middle row, web and social media on the fourth row, local and money on the bottom row. I keep my most-used apps in each of these categories out on the home screen, and the rest in folders.
Since a year ago with iOS 7, you can now keep an unlimited number of apps in folders. Many of my folders are three pages long and at least one is four pages long. The most used apps in each folder are on the first page of the folder, and my long tail of lesser-used apps is tucked away deep inside these folders. When I’m looking for one of these long-tail apps, I typically pull down Spotlight and launch it that way rather than go digging.
Having everything on the first page may seem cluttered, but it actually means fewer taps of the home button to get all the way back out. When I come out of an app that is in a folder, I can tap one more time to get to my home screen, whereas, if I were in a second- or third-screen folder, I might have to hit the home button two more times to get to the first screen. I’m nothing if not efficient (read: lazy).
When I want to write something long (or mid-length, as mentioned in my previous post), I head here to my blog. I love reading and writing, and my blog is a great outlet for my creativity. As you know if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, I especially like posting book reviews. I also do a lot of short- and long-form writing on a question and answer social network called Quora. I mostly lurk in the religion/theology sections and once in a while write honest questions or thoughtful answers. I’ve crossposted a few of those answers here and plan to continue doing so.
When I think of something witty to say and think I can do it in less than 140 characters, I make a beeline for Twitter. Twitter is my go-to social network. I purposely follow only ~30 people, which makes it easy for me to stay up-to-date (I’m a Twitter completist; I read every tweet from the people I follow) and keeps Twitter feeling like a tight-knit place where I hang out with my closest friends. I can check Twitter in less than ten minutes a day. I also crosspost photos from Instagram. I know a lot of people who carry on conversations on Twitter, but I tend not to at-reply a whole lot. The aspect of Twitter I most love is being able to contact and have conversations with the podcasters I listen to.
I am also a relative completist when it comes to Facebook, by which I don’t mean I read everything from every one of my connections, but I do try to read everything that hits my news feed. I keep my feed very heavily pruned by marking every one of my connections as either a close friend or an acquaintance. As with Twitter, I only have ~30 close friends. People seem to generally hate the way Facebook “diddles” with peoples’ feeds, but I’m actually really impressed with how the filtering works. For those I’ve marked as close friends, I see everything, up to and including what you had for lunch (well, if you posted it—it’s not creepy enough yet to show me your lunch even if you didn’t post it). For acquaintances, I see only the most important life events like weddings, childbirths, graduations, new jobs, promotions, etc. ((I also see funerals. Earlier this month I had a really weird week where my feed seemed to be filled with death. My heart went out to all my friends who had loved ones leave this mortal coil. Love all you guys.)) Due to this magic, I can stay up on Facebook in less than ten minutes a day just as with Twitter. But I don’t really like posting to Facebook. About the only things I post are my Instagram photos. I use Facebook Messenger to keep up with old friends more than I post status updates or anything else.
As I’ve already mentioned, I take photos with Instagram. Mostly of my cute kids. These get crossposted to Twitter and Facebook. As with other networks, I purposefully keep the list of people I follow on Instagram to a minimum, and I can generally check out everything new on Instagram in less than five minutes.
I am on LinkedIn, but I’m honestly not sure why. I don’t post anything to it and I never read anything others post to it. I have never needed it and hope to never need it in the future. It is the worst social network in existence, I think, and has only gotten worse over time. It was Jason and Myke’s discussion of LinkedIn in particular that spurred me to write this post. They seem to hate it as much as I do. Why do we all feel the need to be on that site at all?
I’d love to hear how you use your social networks. Please drop me a comment below. Should I ditch LinkedIn? Should we all ditch it together? Who’s in?
I follow a few blogs. I still use a feed reader ((Specifically, I use Feverº by Shaun Inman as my self-hosted sync service and I actually consume my feeds using the Reeder app by Silvio Rizzi on my Mac and iPhone.)). As far as I know I’m also one of the few people in my circle of friends who still blogs with any sort of regularity (six posts so far in 2014, not counting this one).
One of the bloggers I follow, Jason Snell of Six Colors, recently posted about short-ish blog posts, a kind of halfway point between the long-form articles you typically find on sites like Medium and the sort of micro-blogging you typically find on Twitter or Facebook.
Jason was riffing on posts from Andy Baio of Waxy.org and Gina Trapani of Scribbling.net. Here’s the conversation as I’ve encountered it so far (go ahead and read these—I’ll wait here):
I like this idea. I tweet several times a week, but when I sit down to blog I typically feel I need to write something relatively long-form. I haven’t really been allowing myself to post shorter blog posts. I wish I had time like Jason Snell to post daily ((Though, in Jason’s case, his free time happened because of a layoff, which I absolutely wouldn’t wish for. I sincerely hope he’s able to turn some mad profit with Six Colors and all his podcasting. He deserves it.)), but the reality of parenting and working makes that near impossible. But, beginning today, I’d like to blog more often.
Here’s my own version of Gina Trapani’s new rules for blogging:
If it’s a paragraph or two, it’s enough to publish.
A picture is not required for every post.
Don’t obsess over proofreading before just clicking Publish.
Have fun. If it’s not fun, walk away. Play with the kids instead.
What do you think? If you have your own blog, what’s keeping you from posting new content? Are Facebook and Twitter enough of an outlet for you, or could blogging be just the thing you need to get your creative writing juices flowing again?
A review of Daniel Hyde’s book “Jesus Loves the Little Children: Why We Baptize Children”
When we joined a Presbyterian church in 2011, my wife and I were faced with the decision of whether to baptize our children or to be “conscientious objectors” to the Reformed doctrine of infant baptism. I dedicated myself to a study of the question over the next two years, reading many book-length treatments of the issue from both credobaptist and pedobaptist perspectives, as well as chapters on the subject from many systematic theologies on both sides.
At the end of those two years, I had become persuaded of the covenantal infant baptism position, but felt there was no single concise, accessible, and convincing resource on the topic to which I could point inquiring friends and family. I had even set out to write a book about it myself—I may still finish it some day—but then I discovered Daniel Hyde’s Jesus Loves the Little Children: Why We Baptize Children.
Hyde hits all the right notes in under 100 pages (in fact, the core of his argument fits in under 40 pages). He does a great job demonstrating the implications of covenant for the issue of baptism and the connection between the two important covenant signs of circumcision and baptism. I especially appreciated his section showing why anyone who believes in baby dedication should affirm infant baptism instead.
On the whole, this is the best single resource I know of for understanding covenantal infant baptism, and the irenic and winsome tone throughout makes me comfortable sharing it with friends and family of all backgrounds. This is the book I wish I had read first.
The Covenant of Grace
First up, Hyde does a great job explaining covenant theology, the bedrock for covenantal infant baptism. The basic logic goes like this: if the old and new covenants are essentially one and the same covenant of grace, and if baptism is a sign and seal of the new covenant in the same way that circumcision was the sign and seal of the old covenant, then we should place the sign of baptism on our infant children just as the sign of circumcision was placed on infants.
I found Hyde’s explanation of the word sacrament helpful. “Sacrament” comes from the Latin sacramentum, which was “an oath of allegiance by Roman soldiers.” ((Hyde, Daniel R. (2006). Jesus Loves the Little Children: Why We Baptize Children (p. 9). Reformed Fellowship, Inc.)) The very word we use for sacred ordinances like baptism is rooted in the idea of covenant! What is remarkable in Hyde’s view is that this oath is not ours to make to God, but God’s oath made to us. As he points out, Romans 4:10–11 tells us Abraham’s circumcision was the seal of a righteousness imputed to him by God because of his faith. So as we talk about covenant, it’s important to keep in mind we are not talking about a covenant we enter into with God, but a covenant God enters into with us. God is the prime mover here, as in every other sphere.
Spending an entire chapter, Hyde shows persuasively from Scripture that the covenant God made with the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets is synonymous and continuous with the new covenant we are members of in the New Testament era. His key passage for showing this is Romans 11:11–24, where Paul explains that the Gentile church has been grafted into the same olive tree with Israel. Just as Ephesians 2:11–22 teaches, there are not therefore two peoples of God with separate covenants and promises, but one people of God united in the same covenant of grace. Among many other passages, Hyde also cites Galatians 3 where Paul teaches that if we are Christ’s then we are Abraham’s offspring and heirs with him to one and the same promise.
Circumcision and baptism
Hyde also convincingly establishes the biblical link between the old covenant sign of circumcision and the new covenant sign of baptism. He provides a number of scriptural parallels between circumcision and baptism:
They are both initiatory rites signifying and sealing (confirming) entrance into a covenant with God.
In both, the outward aspects symbolize inward realities—circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16; Romans 2:28–29) and baptism in the spirit (Acts 1:5; Titus 3:5).
They both symbolize the putting away (cutting away or washing away) of sin.
Both also symbolize curses for breaking the covenant. Circumcision symbolizes being cut off from God and the covenant community (Genesis 17:14).
Baptism corresponds to Noah’s flood by which the whole world was judged (1 Corinthians 10:1–6; 1 Peter 3:20–22).
They both symbolize death and resurrection, putting off the old man and putting on Christ.
In addition to these parallels, Hyde shows most importantly that circumcision and baptism are directly equated in Colossians 2:11–12.
The proper subjects of baptism
Following from the connections between the old and new covenants and between circumcision and baptism, Hyde comes to the question of who are the proper subjects of baptism. If our children are still members of the covenant the way the children of believers were members of the covenant anciently, then they should have the covenant sign of baptism placed upon them just as the covenant sign of circumcision was administered anciently.
Hyde proceeds to argue that our children are indeed members of the covenant, fully owning that he is making an argument from silence:
. . . after the people of God placed the sign of the covenant on their children for two thousand years, an explicit revoking of this practice is necessary if this practice is to end. Continuity between the Old and New Testaments exists unless the New Testament states otherwise by revoking a practice. Those who deny infant baptism have labeled this an argument from silence. But the silence is deafening! Arguments from silence are not weak arguments when it can be demonstrated that the reason for the silence is an assumed truth. ((Ibid., p. 30.))
But although Scripture may not make explicit statements, Hyde demonstrates a number of passages that imply or infer that children are still in the covenant. In addition to a careful study of passages describing household baptisms and the oft-cited statement that children of at least one believing parent are holy in 1 Corinthians 7:14, two important passages Hyde uses are Ephesians 6:1–4 and Colossians 3:20. In these passages, Paul teaches that children are still obligated to keep the commandment to honor their parents, which obligation implies they are members of the covenant community. Hyde calls special attention to the phrase in Ephesians 6:1, “obey your parents in the Lord,” arguing from the way “in the Lord” is used elsewhere that it can only mean they are in Christ and therefore in the covenant.
Baby dedication or infant baptism?
One chapter I found especially intriguing is concerned with baby dedication. This is something I’ve never come across in any of the books I’ve read on the subject, but it immediately struck me as an obvious and important topic to cover in a book like this.
Hyde points out that the four biblical examples for baby dedication (Samuel, 1 Samuel 1:11, 24–28; Samson, Judges 13:3–5; John the Baptist, Luke 1:13–17; and Jesus, Luke 2:22–24) were each exceptions to the norm, and were all done in addition to circumcision. Hyde claims these examples of baby dedication actually serve as further evidence that children should be baptized in the new covenant. At the very least, one cannot make a valid argument from these texts that baby dedication can or should replace the covenant sign.
I have only one gripe about this book. Coming from a credobaptist background, the only thing that could have convinced me (and ultimately did convince me) of the validity of pedobaptism is Scripture. Hyde’s book is, as I hope I have already shown, thoroughly biblical, but in a few places he appeals to various authorities outside the Bible for support of his position.
First, throughout the book he frequently quotes Reformed confessions and catechisms such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism. Sometimes he is careful to state that these are secondary sources, but other times he seems to quote them as if they are primary authorities in and of themselves. Now, I love these documents, and have personally come to see them as faithful distillations of Scripture (I would self-identify as a confessional Presbyterian), but Hyde’s not infrequent use of them weakens his argument with Baptists and non-denominational Christians who pride themselves on being “people of the book,” never appealing to extra-biblical sources for a defense of their faith and practice.
Second, Hyde includes a chapter of quotes from early church fathers, but most of the fathers seem to have in mind something closer to the Roman Catholic view of baptismal regeneration when they comment on infant baptism. Hyde’s point in bringing up the quotes is simply to show that infant baptism has been around since the earliest days of the church, but he has to do so much explaining that this point gets lost in the weeds, so to speak. I fear some will see this chapter as an appeal to tradition or human authority, though I am certain that was not Hyde’s intention. I’ve read other reviews that say they found this section very helpful, but I wish he would have stuck to quoting the Bible instead of venturing into this territory.
My one complaint aside, this is the best resource on infant baptism I have found. It is inviting and conversational in its tone and thoroughly scriptural and persuasive in its arguments. If you read only one book about covenantal infant baptism, make it this one.