Category Archives: Weekly Post

How I Blog

This blog has had its bursts and lulls, but I’ve finally gotten into a bit of a rhythm — this is now my 42nd straight week publishing a blog post on Friday! I thought it might be helpful to share some thoughts on how I’ve been able to keep that up, and give some insights into how I approach blogging. I’m by no means an expert, but I know some of you would like to get into blogging more regularly, and perhaps what I can share from my process might help you, too.

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Where do your review cycles run?

I’m currently taking the second year of the Chinese curriculum here at MIT, and as anyone learning another language knows, there’s a lot to remember. It can be easy to focus on the short term and review just the most recent vocabulary and characters we’ve learned, but the class is cumulative; I am often asked to read or recall anything we’ve learned in the first year as well.

Naturally, this means that I need to regularly review the old material on a semi-regular basis, using Quizlet flashcards created by one of my classmates that match up with the text. But the exact mechanics of how I do so are not as important as the fact that I’m reviewing at all. In fact, after I took one year of Chinese, I decided to try to take a break and gauge whether I’d be able to keep it up long-term. After a year of doing so, I was satisfied with how much I was able to retain that I decided to go for one more year.

Languages like this are rather conspicuous examples; if you don’t use them, you lose them. I’m already (sadly) planning on allowing the German I learned in middle school and high school to fade gracefully, rather than latching onto the few German-speaking peers and starting conversations with them just to keep it up.

But it’s helpful to think in terms of review cycles in many other areas, too, especially those where we need to make intentional effort to do or be something.

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Ten New Games for Long Car Rides

October is the month for retreating in New England. This week I’m in between two retreats to New Hampshire, my 11th and 12th fall retreats there in my six years of grad school — I’ve gone to all six math department retreats, four with my church, and two with the Graduate Christian Fellowship.

Retreats in grad school have provided what frisbee tournaments in college and sightseeing across the Western US in my childhood did: Long car or bus rides. When I’m not sleeping, getting to know or catching up with people, or just pontificating on society in general together, it’s often the right context to play some kind of game with the other passengers.

But given the moving environment and constrained seating positions, such rides don’t easily lend themselves to nearly any of the board games in our collection. Card games like Hanabi or A Game for Good Christians probably come closest but often those need some kind of surface to play onto. Growing up, my siblings and I would keep a wooden tray under one of the seats in our mini-van, which we would then place on the armrests of the two captain’s chairs for such a surface on which to play card games, but that was always a bit imperfect as cards would slide around whenever we went around a windy mountain road.

In this post, though, I want to focus on games that don’t require any advance preparation or equipment. Many of these games typically spread by word-of-mouth, but I’m hoping that by articulating them in a blog post, we can speed up that process. They aren’t all “new” per se, but unless you spend a lot of time around me, I can almost guarantee you haven’t heard of half of these. Without further ado, here are the categories:

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Turning Off the Noise

One of my favorite albums of all time is Switchfoot’s The Beautiful Letdown (2003). In addition to the radio smash hits Dare You to MoveThis is Your Life, and Gone, the album also featured a song that I initially found a little strange. Here’s the chorus:

If we’re adding to the noise
turn off this song
If we’re adding to the noise
turn off your stereo, radio, video

Why would the band be telling you to turn off their music? Is this some weird reverse psychological tactic?

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What hangups do you have with Christianity?

I originally titled this blog “The Christian Rationalist” because both my faith and what I hope is at least close to rational thought together form the basis for how I live my life. It’s true that it sounds a bit pretentious, but “A Christian Rationalist” just didn’t have the same ring to it.

More subversively, though, I’m implicitly claiming that Christianity and rational thought are compatible. This cuts both ways: obviously some usually nonreligious folks find Christianity irrational, but there are also Christians who find rational thought antithetical to their faith. In the larger context of the blog, I try to push on both misperceptions, modeling a successful synthesis. Here are a few examples:

But that’s only the beginning. I’d like to write more about this synthesis, at the very least to be able to bring my friends together from these different camps and articulate the core of our disagreement. It strikes me as rather strange that so many thoughtful people would firmly fall on one side or another without some sort of means of resolving that disagreement.

At some point when I’m better able to articulate what rational thought entails, I’ll ask the reverse question, but for now, I’d like to ask my rationality-minded non-Christian friends what holds them back from joining the faith. What hang ups do you have with Christianity?

Let me drive this home a bit further by sharing my experience. From being a Christian, I’ve gotten a natural community almost anywhere I go, a robust ability to process both success and failure, and a sense of purpose bigger than myself. In just the last five years, my church has been literally my favorite part of living in Boston, and I met my wife and many of my closest friends through the Graduate Christian Fellowship.

If that’s a possibility, why not learn more? What stops you, or what would stop you if you thought about it, from looking into becoming a Christian?