Monthly Archives: October 2006

Most Reverend Web -2.0?

This coming Saturday, the Episcopal Church will invest Katherine Jefferts Schori as the Presiding Bishop, the U.S. primus inter pares (“first among equals”) bishop, and the Episcopal News Service will webcast the service. So far, so good.

The possibly web-retrograde element concerns the ENS’ request that interested parties pre-register for the webcast. The preregistration supposedly will not affect whether an individual can see the investiture; it’s just to help estimate how much bandwidth ENS will need.

That sounds plausible but it misses a whole array of points. First, it shifts the locus of uncertainty away from one part of the enterprise (“How much bandwidth will we need?”) to another (“How many people will want to watch the service without pre-registering?”) in a way that doesn’t diminish the cumulative uncertainty more than a hair or two — especially since the unknown number of spontaneous Saturday-morning viewers will be choosing from a variety of bandwidth options at unpredictably varying rates. And the concern that “[we] be good stewards” of bandwidth* suggests that the event coordinators have decided to spend sizeable sums on the countless different elements of the service (including a satellite uplink), but to shave costs on the webcast.

The reasoning sounds all inside-out to me; I’ll be curious to hear how the arrangements play out Saturday. Not so curious that I’m likely to pass up “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” to check the webcast, but curious nonetheless.

*This made me want to whip up a variety of bumper stickers and buttons with slogans such as “Save Endangered Bandwidth” or “Recycle Used Bandwidth.”

Dog-Eared Corner

I noted a heap of ideas for blogging yesterday on various scraps of paper — one in particular, for which my working title is “excremental semiotics,” will surely come to expression here sometime — but first I have to acknowledge the care with which Tom Matrullo read Faithful Interpretation. He gives the sort of kindly attentive and geenrous account of the book for which a writer (especially one whose efforts to think hard thoughts doesn’t always, as Frank points out, come to lucid expression) can only shout, “Hallelujah! Amen!” Not only does Tom make a marvelously helpful case for the book as a whole, but ha also gently offers to dry my socks by bringing my stocking feet closer to the fire of his critical interrogation. I promise to address your questions directly, Tom, but (for very much more than just a glowing review) I must above all else say, “Thank you, Tom, very very much.”

I Hate It When That Happens

Yesterday afternoon I went through some digital gymnastics to get my main computer back online. It turns out that the process of backing up and restoring my data with Carbon Copy Cloner somehow rendered my login account dysfunctional. I could log in to the cloned data on my external drive, but when the [same] data was transferred to my main computer, I couldn’t log in. I found a Unix hack for tricking the Mac into thinking I had never walked through the process that creates my login profile, so that it would make a new user profile for me — but the process hung in the middle, so that I suspect I had hosed the whole deal.

Wiped the hard drive, re-cloned the back-up, then this time tracked down my original install disk, found the clever option for changing a user’s password, changed my password to what I thought it already was, and hey, presto! Back in business.

Booted the newly-restored computer, and started up my Mail application, which I had carefully avoided using, because I wanted my mail to download to my main computer, not to download mail to my school-issued computer. I had been using the online Gmail interface for the week my main was under repair;it was clunky and slow, I fell behind in my communication because I dislike using the web interface, but I had finally gotten everything sorted out.

Then I noticed that I had mistakenly booted the backed-up version of my data, and after a week of painstaking reservation I had just downloaded all my mail to the wrong computer.

You Be The Judge

Margaret and I each had a dramatic and unexpected encounter yesterday; which was more extraordinary? You be the judge!

Margaret was sitting at the Mad Hatter, sipping her afternoon tea and studying for her comprehensive exams, when she started shooting me a series of questions. “Have you seen any pictures of Christian Laettner lately?”
“Does he have gorgeous locks?”
“He’s incredibly tall, right?”
“Would he be in Durham at a power brokers meeting?”

Yes, Margaret had a close encounter with the [apparently] devastatingly-handsome hero of the 1992 Duke-Kentucky game in the NCAA East Regionals. Apparently he and other principals in Blue Devil Ventures patronize the Mad Hatter frequently. So Margaret’s entry in this competition involves having a table adjacent to a former NBA, Olympic, and college basketball star, currently an entrepreneur/realestate developer with “gorgeous locks.”

Mine? Well, yesterday afternoon, shortly after I conversed with Margaret about her close encounter with greatness, I was sitting in the dining room when my attention was drawn to a fluttering sound above me. I looked up, expecting to see a bat — but instead, a sparrow was flying around our first-floor ceiling. It perched, first on our hutch, then the light fixture, then a window ledge, and so on around the first floor. Pippa and I ingeniously maneuvered the bird into the kitchen, then out the back boor, but until after it spent a few minutes roosting in the silverware basket — so we’re washing every blessed item from the basket. The bird got out, though, and that’s our exciting encounter from yesterday.

Christian Laettner, or indoor sparrow?
Continue reading You Be The Judge


The MacBook Pro is back from the repair depot in Texas; in order to remedy my Random Shutdown syndrome, they replaced fans on the right and left sides, and gave me a new battery. That makes sense — I hadn’t heard the fans kick in for weeks. They wiped the hard drive in the process, so I’m glad I had backed it up before I took it in. Right now I’m updating the system software (I had been up to 1.4.8 when I brought it in, but it came back back-graded to 1.4.6); once all my data has been restored, I’ll testify to the efficacy of the repairs.
Continue reading Restoration

Gender Vexation

I’m thinking ahead to teaching my Beautiful Theology (online)/“Meaning and Ministry” (Seabury) course, considering what I’d like us to read. The reading list poses a problem because (a) I’m inclined to want to read too much, and (b) the keystone texts I want to read are all by White men. Now, if I cared to argue about this, I’d point out that there’s nothing quite like to Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics or Edward Tufte’s Envisioning Information that I can assign to even things out.

Some of the essays in Questions of Evidence spotlight the relation of gender to communication, but none of the editors is a woman. My essays pertain, but alas! I’m not a woman either. Graham Hughes’s Liturgy as Meaning meant the world to me when I bumped into it, but whoops, he’s a man. I have’t read Sam Wells’s Improvisation: the Drama of Christian Ethics, but I have noticed that he’s notably male. René Magritte? Surrealist man. Steve Ross’ Marked and Fred Sanders’s theological comics exemplify some of what I want to say — whoops, they’re not women. Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home provides a brilliantly provocative text for our study, OK, there’s one (but not explicitly theological). I expect I’ll assign some essays by Henry Louis Gates, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Jane Tompkins — but since one of my students assiduously counts book spines and evaluates courses on this gross but revealing index of feminist-friendliness, I’d like to connect with at least one other book that’s officially, completely, by a card-carrying woman.
Continue reading Gender Vexation

Continuing Shutdown

Whatever the part is that’s on order at Apple’s repair depot, it hasn’t come in yet: seven days and counting. Whether my MacBook Pro had an exotic problem for which parts are not readily available, or a problem so common that they’ve run out of parts, I’m getting fidgety.


I was going to leave a clever post about my conversation with David last Friday afternoon. It was going to explain why it’s not available yet (David’s computer exploded when I infused it with dangerously postmodern thoughts), and I was going to note some mistakes I made (I referred to “James Caputo,” but it’s “John Caputo” — I’ve gotten used to hearing people call him “Jack,” but in the flash between when I decided to mention him and when I actually articulated his name, I thought “I shouldn’t call him ‘Jack,’ I don’t know him at all, so I’ll use his formal name” and with “Jack” dominating my limited brainpower, I came out with “James”), and to re-emphasize my sense that meaning constitutes the potential difference that activates interaction and understanding in our network of relationships. I’m not sure I want to stick with that metaphor, but it just jumped out of my fingertips, so I’ll try it and see what happens.

If meaning characterizes our interactions and relations, if it’s not a quality that abides inside words and gestures, then our relationships with animals can reach the point of being “meaningful” even when those animals don’t share the full capacity consciously to propose, articulate, and infer meaning in grammatically-regulated words (or conventionally-regulated gestures). The creatures in our lives partake of meaning such that our own lives can’t adequately be described without including, incorporating, the animals we love.

So when Pascale, bereft of her beloved Ariel, anticipates resuming a fuller life with her friend, it sounds exactly right to me. The meaning of Pascale’s life has come to include a role for Ariel, and if one were arbitrarily to exclude cats (or other beloved creatures — for some of us, cats are the tough case) from heaven, one would rule out the fullness of Pascale, too. All that would have been fuller and more soundly reasoned, if I had had time to do a good job on these posts.

Oh, and while I’m (not) recapping my Friday afternoon conversation with David, I should note that just as I was pleased that he and Jamie Smith liked my book, so Frank Paynter seems not to have. That dissatisfaction doesn’t shock me. Frank and I have squalled over postmodern topics before, and if he didn’t agree with me before, these books weren’t calculated to win him over. So, consumer alert warning: If you think like Frank, you might want to take out my book from the local library rather than buying your own copy (let alone the gift copies you were about to buy for all your relatives). I’m still ahead, two critics to one, and I can live with that.
Continue reading Substitute


I took my personal computer back to the Apple Store last week; it had developed a belated case of the Random Shutdown problem (the latest onset I’ve heard about, roughly five months after purchase). One reason I’ve been relatively quiet has involved the pokiness of my school-issued iBook compared to its zippy (but now dysfunctional) big brother.

My MBP has been in The Depot for a week; evidently the required part is “on order (20-Oct-2006).” I expect it’ll return strong and fresh sometime moderately soon, but for now, the iBook starts straining and sweating whenever I look at it.

The rest of my rationale for light blogging involves three stacks of papers that I managed to acquire simultaneously (with my usual uncanny knack for coincident due dates), a series of class-prep peaks, several administrative meetings, and so on. I’m hoping that the squeeze eases up tomorrow, and the MacBook Pro comes home before the weekend.

Esprit de la Cuisine

“Thanks for coooking dinner, Dad.”

“Not at all, sweetie, I love to make foods that delight and bring you joy.”

“And thanks for doing the dishes, Daddy.”

“Just part of the job description, honey.”


“Well, you need a new resume.”


I just finished a long audio conversation with David Weinberger about my recent book and some of the interpretive problems it brings to the foreground. David wanted to capture me in an interview that he could whip into shape and post as a podcast. Several days ago he tipped me off to some of the questions he might ask, so I spent a lot of the past forty-eight hours racking my brain for ways I could compress ideas that I articulated over hundreds of pages into a few minutes of conversation. Talking with David, especially with so intense a preparatory process, sets my brain a-whizzing, so now I’ll be wired for hours.

I’m not sure how well I did for him — David, ever the gracious interlocutor, assured me that it went fine — but the exercise of thinking it out gave me a great opportunity (or “necessity”) to distill my arguments into a few words. I’ll point to the podcast when David lets it loose.

As a side benefit of our talk, I now have a Skype account, and if you want to Skype me (that sounds a more hostile act than it should), just look for “akmadam.” I probably won’t leave Skype online all the time, though — you may need to call me to induce me to boot it up. I’m old-fashioned that way.