Monthly Archives: January 2006

Word From Our Sponsor

Bag of tortilla chips: $1.99

Can of black beans: $ .79

Small onion: $ .49

Spring greens: $ .49

Half jar of Newman’s Own Mile Salsa: $ .99

Time spent painstakingly arranging, preparing, slicing, sprinkling, spreading, and so on: 30 minutes

. . . .

Hearing a daughter’s bemused laughter: priceless


No, the length of this post will not correspond to how much I have to do.

I’ll tackle only two topics. First, my thumb: this morning I’m not concerned about my carpal/metacarpal joint, but the small wart on the center of my thumb pad. I have tried all the official non-clinical remedies, but this wart has endured for years. A few months years ago, though, out of the corner of my ear (so to speak), I heard someone on NPR talk about research on remedying warts using duct tape. So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try it.

Results? Well, a number of people have been concerned about my sanity or my bandaid supply. The wart is persisting admirably, though I can’t really fault the duct tape; I’ve had to take it off and reapply it in order to lead services at church, and it may be that the tape stifles the virus’s airflow; by giving the virus little gasps of air at church, I probably just defeat the purpose of the whole exercise. But I won’t be conducting further research on the topic, though, because the duct tape tears the dickens out of my thumbnail. So when I say that you’ll have to take me warts and all, I mean it. For now.

The second topic is a little more sensitive. When I skimmed the book No Time that I received at the Twelfth Night party, I noted a section on the relation between stress and eating habits (no shocker there). The author noted, to the best of my recollection, that people who reported high stress levels tended to eat less healthy foods, and to be heavier. By the sheerest coincidence, the last few years have been particularly stressful for me, and I’ve drifted up to my heaviest weight ever. Now, as six-foot middle-aged guys go, I’m still in the normal range — but I reckon that this sort of trend merits resisting, so I’m gearing up to begin morning exercise again, and I’m trying to be less self-indulgent in my choice of foods (the almond horn pastry in the counter opposite me is calling out, “Come over, Akma; it is your destiny!” and my will power responds, “No-o-o-o-o-o!”).

I’d like to think this isn’t vanity, another instance of American weight/body-image-obsession, and I don’t by any means want to participate in the obloquy typically directed against people heavier than me. On the other hand, people my age and height ought generally to be more active, a little less paunchy than I am. We will see where this leads — but I’ll probably still have a wart on my thumb either way. A wart, but no duct tape.

To, By, Four

Wendy tapped me to respond to the “Four Things” quiz. I usually sit these out — as a professor and a priest, there are serious TMI risks to my giving vent to unbridled self-expression (students and alums shake their heads and say, “You mean, this guy is holding anything back?” But really, appropriate relationships with teachers and clergy are difficult enough without thinking about their favorite body part or which film star they most desire).

Four Jobs I’ve Had

Senior Flyboy, the Brunswick-Bath Times Record Summer 1977
Waterbed Installer, Waterbeds East 1979-1980 (Hey, Fred!)
Production Manager, Slidemaker Computer Graphics 1980-1983
Announcer, “Son Shine,” Religious News show on the Radio Information Service 1981 (I think)

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over

The General
The Philadelphia Story
Lord of the Rings
Much Ado About Nothing

Four Places I have Lived

Brunswick, Maine
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
St. Petersburg, Florida
Princeton, New Jersey

Four Television Shows I Love to Watch

(I haven’t watched television for years, but from days of old):
Mystery! , especially Albert Campion
Twin Peaks
Rocky and Bullwinkle
Max Headroom and Sledge Hammer

Four Places I Have Been on Vacation

Don’t vacate much:
Nantucket, Massachusetts
Ayreshire, Scotland
The Best Western, Downtown Evanston
Toronto, Canada

Four of My Favourite Dishes

Margaret’s Penne Pesto
Rama Tofu at Cozy Noodles
Theresa’s Special pizza at Pizza Coloré, Princeton
Mexican Night at home with my daughter

Four Websites I Visit Daily

David Weinberger’s
Jeneane Sessum’s
Si’s, not that he blogs that often
This really isn’t fair, since I read so many daily. And Happy Birthday to Tom

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now

With Margaret, in Durham
London, England
Stencilton (My house was in Lunkhead Commons, I think)
A location yet to be revealed, yet to be determined

Four People I am Now Tagging to Prepare the Same Lists

I don’t want to put anyone on the spot, but if no one’s asked you yet, and you want to have been tagged, by all means count this as a tagging. Not in the folksonomic sense.

For Old Times

Our friend Amy Morrison (“I take cat pictures and blog, so make something of it!”) will be coming to sleep over Saturday night. Amy survived at least one class with me back at Eckerd College (Hey, congratulations, Julie!) in olden times, when I used to lecture in a room lit by candles, and Chris and Shannon would throw papyrus airplanes back and forth.

To make Amy feel at home in the South Bedroom, we set up (and successfully booted and ran) the old Classic II computer that used to sit on my desk on the second floor of Seibert Hall. And I’ll be sure to wear my Eckerd “Fightin’ Fire Ants” t-shirt. And Laura emailed me to say we mustn’t stay up too late, giggling.

Identity Crisis

Pippa’s grandpapapapapapapa gave the family a collection of DVDs of the PBS series, Jeeves and Wooster for Christmas, and last weekend Pip set about watching. She watched the first, chuckled, laughed, and smiled — then crept over to my seat on the couch, batted her eyelashes, and asked, “What will we do next?” (The correct answer, of course, was “watch another episode.”)

There can hardly be a more precious sound to a parent’s ears in all the world than the sound of their child’s unguarded laughter. If watching Jeeves and Wooster makes Pippa’s laughter peal out, then we will watch another episode. Case closed.

The drawback of this viewing marathon, however, is that it’s engendering something of an identity crisis for me. For a long time, I’ve introduced myself as a postmodern Victorian — but now I’m wondering whether I might not be closer to a postmodern Edwardian. [The best solution, probably, is to say that I’m the kind of person who would devote significant deliberation over the question of whether he is more precisely a postmodern Victorian or a postmodern Edwardian. . . .]


Tim Bray cites a post by jwz about the criteria one might use in rating one’s iTunes selections. As you can imagine, this highly tangential critical question just fascinated me. Before I read about anybody else deliberating about the question, I conducted lengthy, intricate, silent private debates with myself about how one ought to rate tunes.

Before I present my approach, this is what jwz said:

0 stars: I have not yet rated this song
un-checked: I hate this song and never want to hear it again
1 star: I think I don’t like this song, but I’m not yet sure enough to kill it outright
2 stars: It’s ok. Don’t love it, don’t hate it
3 stars: This song is pretty good (but not great)
4 stars: I love this song!
5 stars: An ass-kicking, incredible, all-time favorite.

Tim doesn’t offer a full criteriology, but describes his five-star selections as “a tune that in some way gives me as much pleasure as music can.”

I can’t imagine that I’m as musically literate as Tim; I come in fourth in my family (I may be able to parlay my advantage in years into a slight lead over Si, but since both Nate and Margaret have serious formal music training, Pippa is the only immediate-family member who isn’t threatening to leave me in the dust, which is OK because her taste is so impeccable that we get along great). But I do know of a lot of music, and have probably spent more hours listening to tunes than some voters have been alive. So my assessment of star ratings reflects a more than nominal degree of rumination and evaluation.

Of course, a five-star system is awfully coarse-grained; it’s hard to grade anyone or anything on a five-point scale, with all the variables involved. Here’s the way I assign stars to my iTunes:

0 stars: There’s a reason for keeping this around, but I don’t want to hear it
un-checked: This is either spoken word or temporarily off my listening list
1 star: This song is pretty unfortunate
2 stars: Baseline: good enough to enjoy, but not outstanding
3 stars: Noteworthy in some way; better than most of my baseline choices
4 stars: A favorite of mine, but my taste may be idiosyncratic here
5 stars: Everyone should like, and if you don’t, I’m comfortable thinking that it’s a peculiarity of your taste more than of mine

Then I introduce some modifiers. For instance, if I listened only on the basis of unmodified stars, I would end up hearing an overwhelming preponderance of performances by men (if for no other reason than that I’m more familiar with more music performed by men, and have spent more time appreciating music performed by men) — so I tend to introduce a correction to ratings of performances by women (a star to a half-star, so that my baseline for women’s performances comes in at three stars, and my standard for “my favorites” stretches somewhat, and the “everyone should like it” category includes a didactic element).

At this point, my iTunes are only partially categorized; I’ll post the breakdown when I make more progress. Of course, I may need to change my ratings if someone convinces me that my criteria need refactoring.

Therefore, With Uh. . .

I frequently dream about preaching; last night, for the first time I remember, I woke up from the midst of a dream in which I was saying mass, and it was hard for me to focus enough to realize that I didn’t have to continue saying the Great Thanksgiving.

Good Start

This morning has already started well: as I was walking the dog, my iPod played for me the Chi-Lites’ (For God’s Sake, You Got to Give More) Power to the People,” U2’s “Vertigo,” Beck singing “Loser,” Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose,” Blind Willie Johnson’s “John the Revelator,” and the Carter Family’s “No Telephones in Heaven.”

A couple years ago I suggested that the Democratic Party adopt the Indigo Girls’ “Let It Be Me” as a musical theme for their Presidential campaign, and we all see what happened when they disregarded that advice. For next time, I nominate the Chi-Lites’ “Power to the People” (I think the line with the question mark is “never knew but only heard of”). Timely lyrics, funky beat, and you can dance to it. Of course, then they might have to think about taking a stand and devolving more power to the people, so it’s probably a non-starter.

Then it turns out that ArtRage has released a new version of their natural-media paint program — actually, two new versions, one free (with slight improvements to the feature set of version 1) and one more powerful version for a scant $20.

That reminded me that Gary Turner reminisced, last week, about his exploits as a Photoshopper. It turns out his favorite, pardon me favourite, was a picture of me teaching theology on Fox News (I’d forgotten about that one); I love the Infohighwayman illo, though, and my all time favorite is still the Enquirer cover.


I just realized that tomorrow is my fourth blogiversary. Looking up the date involved remembering the tagline trio from my first blog (“All times are local” • “Local times may vary” • “Minutes do not expire”) and the subhead of the blog layout before this one, “the sensation of fullness for the whole day.” This reminds me that although I talk a lot in my vocations as preacher and teacher, I’ve been talking all the more online through this blog. You might think that, at a certain point, one just loses any sense of caution about so doing, but I find that I still experience great hesitancy about pushing the “post” button, or (as was the case this afternoon) pushing “send” to submit my lectionary reflections to Dylan.

The positive take on this phenomenon ascribes my reluctance to an acute sense of my fallibility. The negative take, of course, suggests that I’m slow to draw the appropriate conclusion from the fact that my writing seems , on the whole, not to compare unfavorably to Vogon poetry, and even seems to please a number of readers, at least one of whom is not a relative of mine.

Speaking of readers, Gustav of Uppsala just left a comment noting that he’s working on a paper about Linnaeus, and would like to know of any places in the USA (streets, towns, I don’t know, multi-lane bowling alleys) named after Linnaeus. I couldn’t think of any at all; do you know of one?

Thinking Sideways

I owe Dylan an essay of “lectionary reflections” by tomorrow afternoon, and I’ve been trying to reflect for her all morning and afternoon, but what keeps coming to my mind are more angles on the “justice as fetish” topos, for which these are not the readings nor this exactly the right publisher.

I frequently find that when I have a deadline, my brain overflows with intriguing ideas for other projects. That would excite me more if they came along with opportunities actually to develop any of them.