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Did the NYT Falsify Tesla Review?

By Tim Butler | Posted at 19:36

From Tesla's Response to the New York Times report of the Tesla Model S falling short in milage:

The logs show again that our Model S never had a chance with John Broder. In the case with Top Gear, their legal defense was that they never actually said it broke down, they just implied that it could and then filmed themselves pushing what viewers did not realize was a perfectly functional car. In Mr. Broder’s case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.

Surely the NYT would never allow something like this to occur on its pages.

Update: Broder provides an interesting defense against Musk's charges. I'm curious to see if anyone ever manages to determine what really happened.

On Parity

By Tim Butler | Posted at 19:28

Often times, I've found people do not know that Lindenwood is a school with a Presbyterian heritage. While the Sibleys desired that the school be “non-sectarian,” it was not to be secular. A proviso that came with Major and Mrs. Sibley's 1831 transfer of control to the Presbyterian Church made this point abundantly clear. A 1940 course catalog explains that the Sibleys “insisted upon [one provision] as a permanent part of the curriculum — the teaching of the Word of God on a parity with other studies in the College.”

I tend to think the Sibleys would be pleased to see where Lindenwood is today. Lindenwood remains a fascinating institution that is anything but sectarian and yet continues to be informed by its heritage. That's a tough tension to live in, but one that the university continues to work through semester by semester. The Religion Department continues to teach strong Old and New Testament courses and, I hope, in other ways as well, the Sibleys would agree that “the Word of God” is treated “on a parity” with other subjects of study.

Lindenwood College II

By Tim Butler | Posted at 23:48

Doing some research tonight, I found a fascinating letter from one of Lindenwood's past presidents on the formation of a “second college,” what would be known as “Lindenwood College II.” If you know Lindenwood history, you know that Lindenwood II was the “men's college” created in 1969 to go alongside the original women's college. Perhaps one of the most remarkable elements of the letter from Dr. John A. Brown was his aspiration that both colleges might grow to 750-800 students. Lindenwood now has 17,000 students in different programs.

Times certainly have changed.

New Isn't Always Better

By Tim Butler | Posted at 16:34

I've been thinking a lot lately about our cultural impulse to view new as better. You can see this pretty much everywhere we go — from the doomsayers who say Apple is doomed when a new iPhone isn't entirely different to the wailing of the St. Louis Rams about their “old” dome built in the mid-90's. I see it a lot in the Church. People constantly resort to “solving” the problems of any given ministry by suggesting the Old must give way to some magical thing known as the New.

Kai Nilsen critiques this notion in an article a friend sent me. He points to examples of liturgical renewal as a result for people yearning for something more than the constant drive for the New:

I would suggest that many parts of the modern church movement, having sold out to the heresy of “new is always better,” are awakening to the beauty of ritual and the recurring rhythms of the church that embed the life of God deeply within our souls. The season of Lent is one of those recurring rhythms that ritualizes the beauty of God’s life-giving, redemptive work in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

While I think the liturgical year can be overused, I also believe we are foolish when we fail to appreciate the ways traditional practices of the Church may very well be more meaningful than anything new we can cook up.

The Amazing Amazon

By Tim Butler | Posted at 21:40

Matthew Yglesias on the contrast between investor's reaction to Apple's quarter in which the company increased profits and Amazon which saw a dramatic drop in profits:

The company's shares are down a bit today, but the company's stock is taking a much less catastrophic plunge in already-meager profits than Apple, whose stock plunged simply because its Q4 profits increased at an unexpectedly slow rate. That's because Amazon, as best I can tell, is a charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers. The shareholders put up the equity, and instead of owning a claim on a steady stream of fat profits, they get a claim on a mighty engine of consumer surplus. Amazon sells things to people at prices that seem impossible because it actually is impossible to make money that way. And the competitive pressure of needing to square off against Amazon cuts profit margins at other companies, thus benefiting people who don't even buy anything from Amazon.

I'm certainly not complaining about Amazon — I love shopping with Amazon. But, it is curious how investors treat Amazon differently than other companies year after year.

HT: Gruber

The Microsoft Surface Scandal

By Tim Butler | Posted at 20:14

A brewing controversy over Microsoft's Surface and Surface Pro have gotten all the more interesting today. The Surface has been critiqued for any number of flaws, but perhaps most troubling was the fact that a 64 GB Surface only had a usable storage space about half that size (making it nearly equivalent to a 32 GB iPad in practice). The Surface Pro makes the situation even worse — the entry level 64 GB Surface Pro has only one third of its space available to the end user — a ridiculously small amount of space on a tablet allegedly intended to be used more like a notebook PC. A reasonable person might expect some small amount of space to be used by the operating system and other essentials, but creating a system where two thirds of the storage is consumed before the user even copies a single document onto the device has entered the realm of the absurd.

Thom Holwerda sums it up nicely: “When I buy a box of 100 staples, I expect it to contain ~100 staples - not 50 because the other 50 are holding the box together.”

Need a Little File Server?

By Tim Butler | Posted at 17:38

Instead of paying hundreds of dollars more for a dedicated NAS (or paying about the same for a basic, slower NAS), consider the nifty HP ProLiant N40L MicroServer, which is on sale at Newegg for $250. It is a fantastic little system and all you need to do is add FreeNAS to get something more robust for file serving and the like than what you receive in, say, a Netgear ReadyNAS. (A comparable ReadyNAS or Synology DiskStation would probably run you $450 or more.) The system can handle at least 8TB of hard disks (4×2TB), if not more, and can be upgraded to 8GB of RAM. With FreeNAS's support for ZFS and Z-RAID, you can get a very reliable, very speedy file server for very little and it is based on open standards to boot.

Off the Bookshelf

By Tim Butler | Posted at 22:12

I've been cataloging many beloved books as I've been packing them at home and then unpacking them in my new office at Lindenwood. In some cases, I've filled my bookshelves to the point that I have two rows of books — one in front of another — on a shelf. To my fellow bibliophiles, that's probably nothing remarkable, but I mention that because it leads to some interesting discoveries when one starts removing some of the books from those shelves. In one such cases I stumbled across one of my very favorite books from my philosophy classes in college: Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy.

Consolation is a famous text from medieval philosophy and yet I have found it is not nearly as well known as it deserves to be. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful attempts to wrestle with the problem of evil ever penned. Significant evil was not merely theoretical for Boethius. He stared it down very directly as he found himself confined to a prison cell as an enemy of the state. As he put it at the beginning of Book IV:

But here is what is perhaps the greatest cause of my sorrow: the fact that evil things can exist at all, or that they can pass unpunished, when the helmsman of all things is good.

The existence of evil in a world under the control of a good, loving God is a problem that Christians have always had to wrestle with and one that many skeptics continue to raise today. While philosophical arguments can only complement — not replace — the revelation of God in Christ and the witness of Scripture, still their complementary role is one worth more study within the church today.

If you are looking for something to read this winter, maybe my old friend Consolation would be worth visiting with.

Why Aaron's Law is Needed

By Tim Butler | Posted at 22:16

The tragic case of Aaron Schwartz keeps getting more tragic and infuriating:

Middlesex County's district attorney had planned no jail time, “with Swartz duly admonished and then returned to civil society to continue his pioneering electronic work in a less legally questionable manner,” the report said. “Tragedy intervened when Ortiz's office took over the case to send 'a message.'”

Ortiz's clearly self-promoting motives come into clearer focus as the article goes on to describe another one of her current cases:

Ortiz, 57, also came under fire this week for her attempt to seize a family-owned motel in Tewksbury, Mass., for allegedly facilitating drug crimes, despite ample evidence that the owners worked closely with local police. In a stinging rebuke, U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein tossed out the case yesterday, siding with the motel owners — represented by the public-interest law firm Institute for Justice — and noting that prosecutors had alleged a mere “15 specific drug-related incidents” over a 14-year period during which “the Motel Caswell rented out approximately 196,000 rooms.”

We need to reform our technology laws and ensure that they protect innovation, but with an eye to protecting people first. It might not be the sort of thing that gets people motivated to go to the polls, but we desperately need copyright and patent reform to end situations like the one that apparently convinced Schwartz he had no better alternative than to kill himself.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

By Tim Butler | Posted at 0:33

As I reviewed my notes on Dr. Michael William's book, Far as the Curse is Found, for the office training class I'm co-teaching, I was struck by a helpfully stark statement Williams makes: “The future collides with the present in Christ.” As Christ ushers in the Kingdom of God, Christ himself represents the point of collision between the old and the new promised in “the Day of the Lord.” Likewise, Advent serves to point us to the wait for that in-breaking of God's kingdom and the Twelve Days of Christmas serve as a sort of “second wait” very much parallel to the world today: Christ has come, yet we await Christ's coming again.

Happy Twelfth Night! Tomorrow, the Magi find the Savior on Epiphany.

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