Atul Gawande on human fallibility and the need for systems that allow people to perform despite inevitable failures.

Atul and Ezra

Televangelism and Trump


I’ve been very agitated by this election cycle, but I’ve been reluctant to post anything political because A: who cares and B: it may not ultimately be edifying. I’m not actually all that clear as to who bothers to read this blog, but I have a sense that they’re politically diverse, and these conversations are better done in a dynamic and empathetic exchange of ideas (preferably face-to-face) rather than through tacked up screeds.

So I’m not going to lay out any manifestos or arguments, but I am going to recommend, from time-to-time, a few things that I found provocative in ways that deepened, challenged, or expanded my point-of-view in these past few weeks/months.

This CBC interview with Kate Bowler, author of
Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel, is one such item. She paints a historical, theological, and anthropological picture of the prosperity gospel community, and draws a comprehensible throughline from Father Divine to Jim Baker to Joel Osteen.

Divine Lorraine

Kate Bowler does mention how prosperity gospel preachers are being tapped by the Republican presidential nominee, but Chris Lehmann makes a more pointed case for how the prosperity gospel resonates with Trump’s rhetoric and worldview.

Lehmann is reductive in how he treats evangelical Christianity in America — he kind of folds it all under the umbrella of a trending prosperity gospel. In truth, the Reformed strains of evangelicalism have long treated the prosperity gospel with disdain and alarm. This political year, however, I think, should be eye-opening as to what the state of belief actually is in our country. Instead of treating the prosperity gospel as a caricature or artless theological whitewashing, we should be serious about its corrosive ubiquity and spiritual subversiveness.


We do not ask for what useful purpose the birds do sing, for song is their pleasure since they were created for singing. Similarly, we ought not to ask why the human mind troubles to fathom the secrets of the heavens….
—Johannes Kepler

Line by line editing


Novelist Jay McInerney on how he was mentored by Raymond Carver:

Carver used to go over my stories with me in his office and he would really go through them line by line. He was not someone who had an overarching theory of fiction so much as he had a great intuitive feel for the process. One of the things I remember most distinctly was Ray turning to me one day and saying, “Why are you using the word ‘earth’ here? What you really mean is dirt. Why don’t you just say ‘dirt?’ You’re seeking a grandiosity that you don’t need.” He said, “Say what you mean and say it in the most direct way that you can.”

And you know, I felt for many, many years afterwards as if there was a small Ray Carver standing on my shoulder whenever I reached for this sort of $15 word, gently admonishing me and saying, “Dirt. It’s dirt.”

Matapeake Beach


A little while ago, we took a day trip to Matapeake Beach, located at the eastern foot of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, on Kent Island, Maryland.

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At the parking lot you’ll see a clubhouse (which is owned by the park) and a forest trail off to the side, which will also take you to the beach.

It’s a popular dog beach–the water stays at around 3 or 4 feet for some distance–and the tide brings in lots of interesting fauna and artifacts on its narrow shore, including barnacles and horseshoe crabs.

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So it’s great for a nature romp, but I wouldn’t say it’s ideal for a traditional beach outing. No waves, gritty sand, lots of insects. Honestly, it wasn’t what we expected, so it colored our experience. Once you appropriately calibrate your attitude and expectations, though, Matapeake could be a great outing.

Just make sure to bring insect repellent along with the sunblock.

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