It was twenty years ago this week that I made the decision to try to post something to my blog every day for a year. At that time the site was suffering from a lack of attention. I would write occasional articles and often get positive feedback on them, but I lacked any real commitment and dedication. The time between posting articles had stretched from days to weeks, so I decided I’d give it one more shot by making the commitment to post something new every day for a year. If I failed, I’d just give up and find a new hobby.
But it worked. From November 1, 2003 to October 31, 2004 I posted something every day. At the end of the year I decided I enjoyed holding myself to that kind of discipline so renewed the commitment. And somewhere along the way, it became a habit that stuck—and a habit that has remained two decades later. Tomorrow I’ll round out twenty years of daily blogging.
That’s not to say that I have always posted something of the highest quality—though I do try to ensure it is always worth reading and that it will benefit people in some way. And that’s certainly not to say I write every day or am even involved in posting it every day—there are people and automation tools that can do that for me when I am on vacation or taking a weekly day of rest. But it is to say that I’ve maintained the habit and enjoyed doing so.
So as I hit that 20-year mark, I want to express my gratitude to you, the readers. None of this would be possible if you didn’t commit to reading it. The fact that you continue to read this site is a blessing and encouragement to me. I’d say “Here’s to another 20 years” but I kind of doubt I’ll maintain the habit that long.
And now, turning to a completely different subject, I thought I’d share a few thoughts and articles that may be of interest to you. While I link to several good pieces of writing each day in my A La Carte column, I focus almost exclusively on Christian material. Sometimes, though, I read other material and feel like commenting on it. That’s some of what you will find below—interesting articles from mainstream sources that are accompanied by some brief commentary.
Happy birthday to Abby who turns 21 today!
The Verge has an article that makes me chuckle: Apple’s new video reactions are making therapy incredibly awkward. If you have upgraded to the most recent versions of Apple’s operating systems, you may have noticed that they now include “video reactions.” When using FaceTime or another video app, you can use gestures to trigger certain reactions in your conversations. Some of these gestures are relatively common like a thumbs up or a thumbs down, but they can trigger uncommon on-screen reactions like a heart emoji or a fireworks display.
With that in mind, “SimplePractice, a company that offers a telehealth platform, is warning patients about Apple’s new video reactions feature that might let people unintentionally add heart emoji or virtual fireworks during a telehealth video call. Awkward.” Awkward indeed! The warning extends to other uses of video such as business meetings or litigation—times when an unexpected heart emoji or laser show may slightly disrupt what was otherwise a very serious conversation. Thankfully, it is possible to disable the feature—something you may wish to consider. And thankfully this feature came along well after that strange stretch of time during the pandemic when we seemed to be on video calls all day and every day.
I was recently pondering the parable of the Good Samaritan and wondering this: if Jesus were to speak the parable today, who would play the role of the Samaritan in our modern Western context? If Jesus was attempting to challenge the kind of pious religious folk who are convinced of their own spiritual superiority, who would be the person who so revolts them that they would be infuriated to learn he was actually the one who had behaved righteously—the one who represented the sharpest cultural division of that day?
I was thinking the other day of the Modern Parable films that were released about 12 years ago. They provided a modern adaptation of the parable and, as I recall, the Samaritan was played by a devout Muslim. But that was not too long after 9/11 and what might have resonated in that day probably wouldn’t today. I know there is a lot of historical context that divided first-century Jews from Samaritans, but I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts on the closest comparison in our day. Who is our modern Samaritan? (Facebook is probably the best place to leave a comment since I removed the commenting function on my blog a very long time ago.)
“Something feels a bit off with Airbnb these days.” The Atlantic recently wrote about Airbnb and the way it has changed over the years. I remember the early years when every home or cottage we rented made us feel like we had been invited in as the guest of the homeowner. They would often be there to greet us and would leave a little welcome gift behind. There was something charming about it. But that was then and this is now. Today’s Airbnbs are often owned or at least managed by professional companies who want the experience to be very professional, bland, and sterile.
The author says, “You risk ending up, like I did in Vermont, in one of multiple cookie-cutter units listed by the same host, units that lean less ‘cozy ski lodge’ and more ‘IKEA display room that has never known human touch.’” And that’s exactly it. We recently rented one that had four chairs around the table and in the cupboards were four plain white IKEA mugs, four plain white IKEA plates, and four plain white IKEA bowls. Nearby were exactly 4 IKEA knives, forks, and spoons. The walls were stark and bare and there was no more furniture than absolutely necessary. It was a home devoid of warmth, character, or anything beyond the absolute necessities. I guess that’s fine as far as it goes, but I still find myself looking for listings that have a bit more of the older feel.
Fast Company wrote about the note-taking app Obsidian. Whether it’s Obsidian, Roam Research (which I prefer), or one of several imitators, this new generation of note-taking apps offers features and power that previous generations did not. Their purpose is not just to help you write notes, but to help you figure out how to create ideas and bring meaning from those notes. So if Evernote or even your computer’s built-in notes app is meant to simply record information, these apps are meant to record information and then help you do something with it. I have found them invaluable and would say that if your work is in the realm of ideas, you may find they really benefit you as well. I continue to use Roam (as I’ve outlined here), though if I was starting over I’d definitely consider Obsidian as well.