This Week I Learned #4

Assumed Audience: People who like reading and learning, on any of a wide array of subjects! (There’s probably something on this list for you!)

Epistemic Status: Learning in public!

CSS Grid blowout.

This article has a great summary of a thing I had to figure out the hard way a couple days ago to fix the behavior of the Notes section of this site. Grid columns default to having the minimum width of their content, auto. This is reasonably fine for lots of kinds of items, but for images (<img>, pre-formatted text (<pre>), description/definition lists (<dl>) and likely others… not so much. Setting a concrete value with minmax(0em, <max value>) does the trick — and it doesn’t have to be 0em; any minimum value will do it.

Conspiracy theories.

Ellen Cushing details both how she ended up deep in conspiracy theories as a teenager, and how she eventually ended up gradually slipping out of that world. HT: Alan Jacobs’ Pinboard. I’ve been (we’ve all been, I expect) encountering more and more conspiracy-theorizing over the past few years, and never more so than since the arrival of COVID-19. This was a helpful and illuminating piece — even if it’s as unclear as always with memoir-style write-ups how much this one person’s experience generalizes to the masses: Cushing represents the person who ended up recovering from conspiracy-mind, while there are many others for whom it only gets worse over time. There is hope here, but it is of a limited sort.

Birds.

I’ve been watching the birds behind our house more and more over the last couple years. This year, we have a bunch of kinds of birds I’ve never seen before, and it has been fascinating to see each different species’ different behaviors. I’m not quite the bird-obsessive that my wife is (or that our cat is, albeit for very different reasons!), but I find them endlessly fascinating nonetheless. Jenny Odell’s double-review of David Allen Sibley’s What It’s Like to Be a Bird: From Flying to nesting, Eating to Singing — What Birds Are Doing, and Why and Jennifer Ackerman’s The Bird Way: A new Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think only increased my fascination. Birds do some pretty remarkable, pretty strange things.

Hacking.

Andy Greenberg with the absolutely wild story of Marcus Hutchins — a hacker who did some pretty terrible things as a black-hat in his mid-teens, but who has since done enormous good as a white-hat. There’s a eucatastrophic bit at the end-so-far of this story that had me delighted.

Lynching.

Malcolm Foley writes piercingly, wrenchingly, and with serious theological weight at Mere Orthodoxy on the killing of black men, women, and children under the pretext of justice — prompted by the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. (As my friend and the editor-and-chief at Mere O Jake Meador made abundantly clear with straightforward moral reasoning: whatever Arbery was doing, and even in the worst possible light for him and the best possible light for the men who killed him, the killing was a murder.) Foley’s piece unflinchingly looks at the legacy of lynching in the church, and calls the church specifically to do better here.

So then what can we do moving forward? Is there still a way for the church of Christ to be a beacon of hope in the midst of the encroaching and oppressive darkness of white supremacy? There are two: we must read our Bibles differently and we must act in our world differently.

Being a confessional Presbyterian, I have found much hope and beauty in the Westminster Standards. When asked why I, as a black man, attempt to remain in a communion which historically was the architect of my ancestors’ enslavement, I respond that I am so because of its doctrine and polity and in direct resistance to its history.

Amen.