Blog Globe

Today’s mail brought me a DVD of the June 23 telecast of Envoyé Spécial, the French TV program that devoted a half hour to covering the emergence of blogs as a social phenomenon. The producers sent me a copy because the segment concludes with a brief series of shots of St. Luke’s church and me, talking about blogs and particularly about my casual suggestion that someone look into archiving the sites and posts of deceased bloggers — what Joi and David called “AKMA’s Cyber Crypt.” In other words, I provide the mild comic relief after others demonstrate the salacious, political, and journalistic aspects of blogging (as one viewer commented, “perfect for making the blogosphere look ridiculous”).

I suppose I’d have liked the French viewing public to hear about some of my, um, deeper ideas about theology, technology, postmodernism, or biblical hermeneutics — but it’s not surprising that only the goofy idea got edited into the final cut. I’ll remember that the photography around St. Luke’s was lovely, and seeing the segment reminded me of what a good time I had talking with the crew.

Imposing Task

I have a request of the LazyWeb, or the Expert-Readers Web, or something. It involves Macs, pages, PDF, and printing.

The problem is this: I produce a lot of documents for students. Custom and the material circumstances of production typically require that I print them on 8.5 × 11 paper, with roughly a 1-inch margin all ’round.

That’s not the most suitable format for reading or printing, though — otherwise, our bookshelves would be crammed with folio and quarto-sized volumes, instead of the much more common duodecimo size. No big problem; almost all word processors (and all page-layout programs, of course) permit me to write two columns on a landscape-oriented page, making a presentation functionally equivalent to a duodecimo page layout. (I’m waiting impatiently for Mellel to introduce columns — the major impediment to my making my annual word-processor application switch, in this case returning to Mellel from a year using Pages).

But: I’m not aware of a way conveniently to paginate such a volume by column (that is, “by simulated page”).

I’ve tried making the normative page size a half-sheet of , then printing the resulting page two-up, but the combinations of Mac OS X and my printers and PDF add a margin around the whole page, thus doubling the margin and reducing the area available for body copy. I’ve tried imposition programs (Cheap Impostor), and none of them seems to facilitate printing two-up pages side by side. Someone would be doing me, and the Web, a big favor if they could explain an effective way to produce pages with two columns (= side-by-side pages), numbered consecutively (= by page number, if I were photocopying from a bound work), without an excessive margin around the whole.

FYI: I have Pages, Mellel, Word, Appleworks, InDesign, RagTime — and probably other word processing and page layout software.

Stolen Piffle

Over and above the Guardian’s ill-advisedly denominating Leigh and Baignent “historians” (they’re historians in the same sense in which Lyndon Larouche is a politician), I’m intrigued and appalled at the news that the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail are suing Dan “All Facts!” Brown for stealing their ideas for his jigga-zillion-selling The da Vinci Code.

Last I checked, you couldn’t copyright “ideas,” least of all if they’re factually true. Moreover, the Brown book has revived interest in a theory that had fallen into well-deserved obscurity; if anything, Brown has helped their sales. I can only imagine that this is a publicity maneuver, the ludicrousness of which is beside the point.

But if the case signifies that HB,HG really is a work of fiction, then I suppose they could sue Brown, perhaps effectively (though their having represented it as history at the outset would hamper their case).

Sweets For Her Majesty

HoopoeOur household had a family tradition that I would make pancakes for brunch every Saturday. I started when Margaret and I were first married, and I distinctly remember making her tiny little pancakes for Nate, when he was still in utero (she is now off pancakes of the conventional kind) since we’ve learned that she has celiac disease and can’t digest gluten). When the boys were little, I used to astound them by producing pancakes with their initials on them. Once, Nate was in a mood and demanded the Lord’s Prayer on his pancake (I got about as far as “who art in heaven,” if I recall).

As the boys grew up and moved away, as Pippa’s wake-up time and appetite departed from regular interest in mid-morning pancakes, we fell away from the habit. I will confess that I felt a pang of regret that my paternal trademark had become redundant, but I suppose that sort of thing happens as humans get older.

This morning, Pippa stumbled downstairs and asked, “Do you think we have the ingredients for pancakes?” (What she doesn’t know is that I would have walked to D & D Finer Foods barefoot to obtain any missing ingredient if it would make it possible for me to flip pancakes for her.) We did, and I did; the decades of experience had not deserted me, as the resulting flapjacks were golden brown and delicious. Since occasionally people express surprise at the way I prepare my pancake batter, I thought I’d provide the recipe:

Dad’s Copyright-Free Pancake Recipe

First, decide how many people you plan to stuff. For two people, you ought to be able to satisfy them at the “N = 1” level; from there, you make sure you have ingredients according to the following formula: N cups of milk, N * 1.5 eggs (round up), and N cups of flour.

Mix the eggs into the milk (we use soy milk or rice milk, in order to maintain our New England hippy cred), and beat the bejeebers out of them.

Gradually add the flour to the egg-and-milk mixture.

Sprinkle some Baking Powder in the batter. I always use Clabber Girl Baking Powder, because I get a charge out of saying “Clabber Girl” with a weak Irish lilt to my voice. Sometimes I do it two or three times, which may have something to do with my family’s loss of interest in pancakes. “Some” means “enough that when you mix it in, the batter bubbles gently.”

Add a shake or two of salt. If N > 2, add three or four shakes.

Pour a splash of oil (we prefer organic canola oil) into the batter. Size of splash should be proportional, of course, to N.

Finally — and this is a vital ingredient — pour some of the maple syrup (that’s real maple syrup, ain’t no “corn syrup-with-caramel-coloring-and-artificial-flavor pseudo-maple syrup”) into the batter. Just a dite.

Heat a griddle over a medium stove. Pour six- or seven-inch disks of batter; brown on Side One until they turn easily. Serve with butter and maple syrup since, as everyone knows, pancakes are merely syrup delivery vehicles anyway.

Consume with gusto.

Should I Mention This?

I will, because it will please Jane, anyway.

Someone over at Kendall Harmon’s blog pointed to a site that makes available the Bible Content exams that the Presbyterian Church administers as part of Ords (their answer to General Ordination Exams).

I won’t ask that anyone report a score — but it will reward seminarians (and clergy, and interested churchpeople, and cultural literacy types who don’t believe anything particular about Israel or Jesus) to give the test a few tries.

Check It Out

I’ve ranted here, repeatedly, about the potential value of “seeded search” — weighting a web search by the proximity of search results to a stipulated set of reference sites. If I search for links related to digital identity, for instance, I might want to seed the search by ordering the results relative to their proximity to Eric Norlin, Dick Hardt, and Phil Windley.

So I built a search window that seeds the results with a handful of the soundest biblical-studies research sites. Presumably this will highlight sites to which my reference sites link, and leave behind the sites that they likewise ignore. Let’s see how it works:

(I won’t know how this is going till after I post it, so if I have anything else to say, it’ll appear in the comments. Thanks for the tip, Chris and Jeneane!)

Out Of A Hundred

This list of 100 Best Toys comes from the U.K., so I’m not surprised that I don’t recognize all of them. I was surprised by the low ratings they gave to some great toys, and the high ratings given to some shoddy ones, and outright stunned that Lego bricks (c) don’t make the list at all. The real fun comes from the authors’ descriptions of the toys and games.

Tonka trucks have to come in higher than 69 (behind “Stretch Armstrong” at 58? Get serious). It turns out that Parker Brothers marketed “Clue” in the U.K. as “Cluedo” (#37) (why?), in which game Mr. Green turns out to have been a vicar, Rev. Green. As for Strawberry Shortcake (# 75) and My Little Pony (#13) (no Care Bears at all), well, I’m with Pippa.

The essential point, though, is: what about the Mattel Thingmaker, that multi-vector health and safety hazard that I (and many other children, I’m sure, he said hopefully) spent hours and hours experimenting with? I don’t remember any single toy from my childhood that possessed my attention span more than baking those plastics in the dangerously hot oven, inhaling fumes that probably account for my acute short-term memory loss, and burning myself on the element. Those were the days! Creepy Crawlers, Fright Factory, Fun Flowers — oh, mercy.

Thumb Wear

For some reason, it seems as though more people have been asking me about my thumb over the past couple of months than were asking me for the year and a half before that. As a result, people shake hands with me and then pull back apologetically, and I have a lot of conversations such as this:

“No, I don’t have carpal tunnel syndrome. My thumb is hypermobile in the carpal-metacarpal joint; as I understand it, the joint seems not to hold together well, so the bones shift around in ways that rub generate extra stress and wear. I have early indications of osteoarthritis in that joint, and if I don’t wear my splint the arthritis will probably get worse quicker. It usually doesn’t hurt much, if at all (though sometimes the joint catches and gives me a nasty pain) — it’s worst when I stress the joint by squeezing (as a key) and rotating (as a key) (or as scrubbing dishes, not that it gets me out of doing dishes, alas).”

I bought an off-the-shelf splint the other day, my first that wasn’t specially set for me by the occupational therapist I saw. It’s not ideal; I may want to go back to the OT and get another custom splint. For the time being, though, it helps immobilize the carpal-metacarpal joint, which is what protects the joint, and it doesn’t look too grimly dramatic. And if you read the blog, now you don’t need to ask me about my thumb.

(As soon as I saved this, someone came over to ask, “Do you have carpal tunnel?”)

Stories Of My Life

I don’t read the Chronicle of Higher Education that much, but I miss it even less. Inside Higher Education has been advancing by leaps and jumps since they started this online rival to the Chronicle. Just this week, IHE featured an article on the perils of built-in digital restrictions that sounds an even more ominous note as BlackBoard controls all the major proprietary e-learning applications; ran Alex Golub’s scintillating essay on professors as personal trainers (my advocacy of Dr. Golub’s work has nothing to do with the presence of a clergyman/professor in some of Golub’s now-inaccessible works of fanfic — didn’t anyone archive “My Weekend With Leuschke”? Later: the author function himself directs my attention to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6); and a report on James Hilton’s recent address to the annual Educause meeting.

Alex’s essay pushes back against the so-called commodification of education, but also against educational discourses that get so student-centered that the main goal of education becomes helping students feel “empowered,” whether they have learned enough that they ought to be empowered or not. Teachers, like personal trainers, need your trust and your willingness actually to put some effort into the endeavor if you want actually to learn something. We who teach need to remember that we can’t simply requisition that trust and that interest level.

Hilton’s essay sounds like a post facto vindication of the kinds of arguments I started making a while ago, in my presentation at the first Garrett Conference on Teaching, Technology, and Cyberspace (earlier, if you count unanswered memos to administrators). More power to him!

It wasn’t in Inside Higher Ed, but Ron Jeffries pointed to this post contra “postmodernism” by a Yale philosopher, which in turn spawned a Metafilter thread.

And Chris pointed me to a collection of “religious web templates,” which provoke me to observe that if online evangelism hinges on these, we may not have advanced the cause so very much.