Archive for the ‘Personal News’ Category

What to Do if You Are Here Searching for Ben Gibbard

Probably you should just leave. Because you’re not going to find much of interest here.

On this blog, I regularly get hits in the teens, maybe fifty or sixty—maybe a hundred if I generate some current-events controversy in my small circle of friends, family, and acquaintances. But now I am officially part of the Blogosphere. Fame! Fortune! Gossip!

I have noticed in the last several months that the number of hits has regularly crept close to 100 per day, and then 150. Where was all this traffic coming from? Well, it seems that there are a lot of tweens out there searching for pictures of Ben Gibbard, and a while back I published a post called “Monday Morning Diversions,” which was not very exciting but happened to include a few pictures of Gibbard, and not even for reasons related to Death Cab for Cutie or even Ben Gibbard himself. Nevertheless, that post has generated, by far, the most traffic to my blog that I have ever had. Just tonight I was looking at my stats for the first time in a long time, and I noticed that on September 21, the number of hits to my blog spiked dramatically. 408 searches for Ben Gibbard! 499 total hits! A quick Google search tells me that Ben Gibbard was wedded to Zooey Deschanel on September 21. A match made in indie-band heaven.

So, tweens, sorry to disappoint. Off you go now.

The Freelancing Life

Well, I have just finished and turned in my first project as a full-time freelancer, and it was, how do you say . . . a doozy. Not only did I have to pack all the allotted work time into less than a week, on Friday, I worked all day on my laptop, got home in the evening, transferred the file to my desktop and saved over the original only to realize, to my horror, that I had saved the original over the newer one. All my work for the day, every keystroke, was instantly lost to the ether. (Here I would like to say that if you try to give me some smarmy lesson about saving backup files, I will spend the remainder of the day exerting all of my fragile emotional energy on thinking of ways to bring about your excruciatingly painful, torturous, and terrifying demise.) Anyway, almost half of the three-hundred-page book was footnotes, and seventy-three pages of it was bibliography. I’m glad I did it though. It was a far cry from IVP, to say the least. (In a related side note, this is the third author I have edited this year who participated in the Jesus Seminar. Who would’ve thunk?) I am glad it is behind me. Now I move from Jesus Seminar to John Chrysostom. It boggles the mind.

Things should even out from here on (knock on wood).

Goodbye, IVP

So quiet around Mode of Expression lately. Today is my last day at IVP, and I’m just about to go out for lunch with my department to say goodbye. Tomorrow it’s off to Kansas for the rest of my life. Hopefully things will pick up a little after we all get settled in. Thanks for a good, fulfilling job, IVP. I’ll miss you all.

Brand New Human

I guess it would be kind of odd if my blog continued to hum along like life at my home hadn’t been turned upside down in the past week. Although the vast majority of readers here already know, I thought I’d announce Jess’s and my latest purchase at the local Walmart.

lillian

Lillian Christine Reimer
born 8:53 pm, June 9, 2009
8 lbs. 3 oz.

Hello, My Lovelies

ACD1 ACD2

Thes first two volumes—We Believe in One God and We Believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, edited by Gerald Bray and John McGuckin respectively—of the Ancient Christian Doctrine series (five volumes total) just landed on my desk, fresh from the printer.

Here’s copy from the website, explaining the series:

This exciting five-volume series follows up on the acclaimed Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture to provide patristic commentary on the Nicene Creed. The series renders primary Greek, Latin, Coptic and Syriac source material from the church fathers in lucid English translation (some here for the first time) and gives readers unparalleled insight into the history and substance of what the early church believed. Including biographical sketches, a timeline of ancient Christian sources, indexes, bibliographies and keys to original language sources as well as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in Greek, Latin and English (ICET version), this series illuminates key theological essentials in the light of classic and consensual Christian faith and makes an excellent resource for preaching and teaching.

The first volume of another exciting series, Ancient Christian Texts, also recently arrived from the printer: Gerald Bray’s translation of Ambrosiaster’s commentaries on Romans and First and Second Corinthians.

ambrosiaster

Soon to follow are translations of Origen’s homilies on Numbers, and Cyril of Alexandria’s massive commentary on the Gospel of John. These are just the highlights of around thirteen volumes (you can read the whole list at the link to the series page above), many of which are appearing in English for the first time.

My Scale Model of the Sears Tower (With Pictures!)

searstower

Ever since I went up the Sears Tower two summers ago, I’ve been fascinated by the architectural design of the thing. It’s built with what is called a bundled-tube structure, and consequently it usually appears asymmetrical when you look at it from the side. But it’s built in a series of phases that are all perfectly symmetrical, except for the very top and narrowest phase (which, I learned on the Wikipedia page, causes it to lean 10 cm from vertical).

So ever since we got Charlie some Duplo Lego blocks for his birthday, I’ve often tried to hurriedly make a model of the Sears Tower before he can knock it over or start adding blocks that made it look like abstract art. But it never looked quite right, and I wasn’t sure why. It bothered me more and more; I would even think about it lying in bed at night. How did all those bundled tubes fit together? How many were there? Which ones went how high? Finally I’d had enough and resolved one afternoon to do it right. A quick Google search quickly turned up this extremely helpful schematic.

bundled_tube_design

As you can see from the A-A, B-B, C-C, and D-D grids down the left-hand side, it turns out to be somewhat simple to build with Duplo Lego building blocks, each of the nine squares being composed of one two-by-two Duplo block. But then I was sure we wouldn’t have enough blocks to finish a three-dimensional scale model, so after supper Jess and I took Charlie for a surprise visit to Toys R Us to buy “him” some new Legos. Then we got home and put Charlie to bed so I could commence playing with his toys for the rest of the evening.

I decided to build each phase with a different color, which solved the problem of not having enough of one color to make it look uniform, and it highlighted the four phases, making it easier to see how the tower is actually built. So what follows is a stage-by-stage pictorial, with my comments along the way.

Phase 1 (A-A in the schematic above):

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Not very exciting, I know, but there you go. Even with the extra Legos, I didn’t have enough regular greens. All the middle pieces (not visible) are orange and black, and as you can see there are some blocks mixed in that we call “puke green.” (Charlie has picked up on this, calling them “poo gee”).

Phases 1 & 2 (A-A + B-B):img_0014 Phases two and three (B-B and C-C) are actually a little more complicated to build than it looks, but I’m not going to bother explaining why.

Phases 1, 2, & 3 (A-A + B-B + C-C):

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Then it’s just a matter of plunking on four blue bricks, and voila! Sears Tower.

Phases 1, 2, 3, & 4 (A-A + B-B + C-C + D-D):

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The colors in the final product are a little misleading in terms of design, because each of the nine squares is built as a single tube that goes all the way to the ground, but this at least highlights the various shapes that emerge out of the whole and makes clear why its shape is somewhat disorienting when looked at from the ground. The proportions of each stage (i.e., the “number of floors”) are also a little off because of block shortages and the fact that Duplo blocks are so large. But hey, Sears Tower.

It lasted three days before Charlie destroyed it.

A Book I Slaved Over Has Won an Award

The Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings has won the ECPA Christian Book Award in the category of Bible Reference and Study.

Of course this book wasn’t by brainchild or anything, but I did spend many hours with my nose hovering over the nine-hundred-some pages, so it’s at least gratifying to know it wasn’t disqualified on account of an egregiously large amount of typos!

One other point of cynical observation, which I hope doesn’t make me sound ungrateful: I always give a wry smile at what these awards reveal about the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the Christian-evangelical publishing industry. There is a category, as noted above, for “Bible Reference and Study,” another for “Christian Life” (a John Piper book won this year), another for “Inspiration and Gift,” another for “Fiction,” even a category simply called “Bible.” There is, however, no category for theology. What does this say about us? That we don’t publish enough theology to warrant a category for it? Or, more likely, do we think that if we have  categories for “Bible” and “Bible Reference and Study” then a category for theology is intrinsically unnecessary? In other words, do we simply conflate the categories of theology and Bible reference? That is, to read and understand the Bible is ipso facto to do theology? That would be nice, but if it were that simple we surely wouldn’t have the doctrine of the two natures of Christ, or even of the Trinity. Not that these aren’t scriptural doctines, but it takes (or at least, in the historical development of doctrine,  it took) an alarmingly large amount of philosophical reasoning and speculation, and huge amounts of controversy, to get from the earliest Christian confessions of Jesus as Lord to the Nicene Creed, for example. I’m just sayin’.

Buried Treasure

Tonight while rummaging around on the dirty, unkempt bookshelves of a local Salvation Army I came across the sort of thing one always dreams about coming across in these situations but rarely does. What I found was a first-edition copy of the first novel of my favorite novelist, A Piece of My Heart by Richard Ford. The book cover isn’t much to look at (see the picture below), and the spine is a little warped, but hey, one doesn’t complain about these things at the Salvation Army, where books are usually priced under a dollar. The book isn’t worth much; similar first editions start at $30 at Abebooks.com (but go up significantly and sharply after that. There’s also a signed copy at the Manhattan Rare Book Company that’s going for $800). Nevertheless it’s a very exciting find for a fan. They ain’t many of these floating around anymore.

Needless to say, I put a temporary but brief hiatus on the book-buying moratorium.

ford-piece-of-my-heart

That is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, the happy highways where I went and cannot come again.

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Taken Saturday in Vancouver. Now I am in back in Starbuckia. The title of this post is a quote from A. E. Housman.

Dear Awesome Levi, You Are Awesome. Thank You for Being Awesome.

Yesterday I received in the mail a very fun surprise indeed. A package from my friend Levi Simpson showed up in our mailbox. When I opened it I found, tightly shrink wrapped, the book Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon. Levi has known of my lurve for Chabon for awhile, and he had found it on sale and thought of me.

Let me enumerate the ways in which Levi has—in an act of almost sheer clairvoyance—anticipated my very thoughts:

  1. I have given a heavy, wistful sigh many times with this very book in mind since writing this post (about deciding not to buy any books for a year) .
  2. I have checked it out twice from the library but have only read snatches of it here and there. I actually had it checked out the day Levi’s copy came in the mail. Every snatch I had read left me aching with desire to read more (when I had more time to digest it), and I had resolved to own it some day.
  3. But the paperback is coming out soon, and I was afraid the beautiful hardcover editions would disappear from shelves and become more and more difficult to find as my year sans book-buying wore on.
  4. This book been at the top of my Amazon wishlist for quite some time.
  5. It is one of the handsomest books ever. It’s published by McSweeney’s, a company that almost always makes very nice books. As I was looking for photos of the book to share on this blog, I stumbled across this blog, which describes the book as follows (I swiped the nice three-part photo from the same place):

The treatment [of the book’s design] is really elaborate and luscious, an object lesson in making the physical book into a piece of genuine desiderata, an artifact you want to own as well as read. The black cloth wraps around the hardcover jacket with debossing and foil. Then there are three bellybands with Jordan Crane’s illustrations.

The fact that there are three fully illustrated layers, two of which will never see the light of day unless somebody takes time to peel each layer off, speaks volumes about the artistry that went into it. It’s hard to imagine the motivation for designing and illustrating the jacket was to sell books. It’s simply there to make a beautiful object.

So thanks, Levi! I doubt you knew how much you’d be doing with one little gesture, but it meant a lot. Cheers, my friend!

chaboncranecover