Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What a Week!

In the last week:
  • we baked more kinds of Christmas cookies than I can even remember;
  • we made it through a Christmas pageant dress rehearsal where more than 1/2 "the family" were home sick and then the actual pageant where, about half way through the service, just after my daughter did her "Gabriel" speech, a shepherd knocked an easel onto the head of the littlest angel who was singing "Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem";
  • my church school classes raised more than $8000 for organizations working to prevent the spread of malaria, bring high school education to a part of Africa where less than 1 out of 10 children are currently given such an opportunity, and provide blankets and socks to the homeless poor of New York City;
  • we caroled at two nursing homes as well as to folks from the congregation who have a hard time getting out and around these days;
  • we had one of our cars break down from "old age" (135,000 miles) while the other is out of commission for the next several weeks with a broken rear axle and body damage after someone from the Greenburgh Nature Center ran their van into Kathy on her way to work this past Monday;
  • I finished grading students' projects and blogs and turned in my course grades for the semester;
  • we were able to spend a few hours talking with friends we only get to see once or twice a year;
  • our older kids decided that, as they waited for dinner after opening gifts, the best way to spend their Christmas together was in a poker game.
Between work and home, it's been a whirlwind of a week and I feel more than ready to settle down with a few books, videos, and games and just veg out for a day or two. But SuperMario Galaxy, Big Brain Academy, the rest of War and Peace, and The Nine will have to wait until I'm back in the US. If all goes well, tomorrow I'll be watching some episodes of the TV show Friday Night Lights (which lots of friends have recommended) and reading some paperbacks on a plane to Lisbon where Becca, Kathy and I will spend a few days following the advice of Jose Saramago as wel walk through the Alfama, visit Sintra and participate in one of Becca's favorite pasttimes --shopping--, hopefully improving our extremely minimal Portuguese along the way.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


In the midst of being inundated by students' termpapers, projects, and blogs, I just got word that my own doctoral prospectus on "strengthening community using online means of connectivity" has been approved by the powers that be at Drew Theological --not that I was waiting on an approval to start either the research or the hands on part of the project, but it's still nice to know.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Only Some of My Theology

On his blog a colleague from Drew had done a quiz that's supposed to tell you what kind of theology you hold. I decided to take it. Some of the statements were hard to evaluate. I found part of a lot of the individual statements to be partly "very true" and partly dead wrong.

I'm happy enough with the emergent/postmodern result, though I'm not sure why the evangelical/Wesleyan came up as high as it did. It can't be because of the evangelical part. Perhaps it's because I really like Wesley's Quadrangle of Tradition, Reason, Scripture, and Experience and weigh that heavily in my answers? (Oh no? Does that make me a bad Presbyterian? :-)

The Catholicism no doubt came up because I affirmed the value of Mary and because I only disagreed (rather than strongly disagreed) with the pope and his role in the church.

And what's the difference between classical liberal and modern liberal?

Here are the results.

What's your theological worldview?
created with

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Classical Liberal


Roman Catholic


Modern Liberal




Neo orthodox


Reformed Evangelical




Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Daemon

I've got to get back to the sermon for tomorrow morning's service, but--for those of you who have seen or read The Golden Compass--
here's my daemon, Philotheus:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas cookies

Tonight Kathy made the first batch of Christmas cut-out cookie dough-- and then Becca and her friend cut out and decorated all the larger cookies with tons of "spray on" icing. (About 3 dozen of the smaller ones wait to be decorated with real icing another evening so that we can take them to folks sleeping on the streets of New York City during our Christmas Eve Midnight Run.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Last night, since Heroes is currently in a lull “between seasons”, I decide to sit down and read straight through Bernard Chenez’s Le Resquilleur du Louvre. It’s a relatively short novel—a little more than 100 pages—about a man who has lost several blue collar jobs in a row and finds himself homeless. Because he loves art and because he’s looking for “a shelter for the soul”, he decides to make his home in the Louvre. He makes his home in a room used to store workmen’s supplies, lining up some wooden cases and felt blankets to make a mattress and using bubble wrap as a comforter. As he gets to know the room a bit, he discovers a museum employee’s schedule and badge and begins to use the latter to travel around the museum, ostensibly doing work while in reality finding ways to acquire pocket change and see the works of art.

Not only does the book give an interesting view of the daily workings of the Louvre, but it also interweaves famous art –especially the paintings of Jean-Francois Millet and the Barbizon school (of which he –and I suspect the author—is particularly fond) with flashbacks in the life of and moods of the resquilleur. (Neither ‘squatter’ nor ‘gate-crasher’ seem a good translation of resquilleur, if it’s trying to capture this man’s personality and life in the museum).

Chenez writes the novel in a stream of consciousness style that takes a little while to get into, but grows on you as you read. The one thing I found myself wishing as I read was that pictures of the actual parts of and works from the Louvre that Chenez has the resquilleur refer to were included with the story line. Some of the art—La Gioconda or Winged Victory, for example—and their locations in the Louvre are easy to recall, but even though I’ve been to the Louvre several times, the actual locations of some of the other work (including Millet) don’t stand out in my mind. Even a map of the Louvre or thumbnails of the art would help that.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Chemins de fer

I’m not quite sure yet what I think of Benoit Duteurtre’s Chemins de fer. The storyline of the novel is straightforward. A fiftyish woman, Florence, splits her time between Paris (where she runs a public relations company) and a small charming village in the mountainous part of the Vosges, most often spending weekdays in the city and weekends in the country. She is, that is, a rurbaine. (I’m not sure if there’s an English word that has the same meaning.) She loves her modern, exciting life in the city, but she also treasures her time chopping wood, listening to the radio, sitting in the pub, and living alone in the family home she visited as a child. Little by little, however, the modern begins to encroach in her “traditional” village, first with electric street lights and then with recycling bins. At the same time, the SNCF first lets the secondary rail line Florence rides between her homes deteriorate and then cuts back on the services as part of their “modern improvements.” As these changes happen, Florence’s journal entries (the format for most of the novel) express not only her upset at the intrusive changes and then zeal for keeping things the way they were while also capturing how the locals look forward to what they see as the beginning of progress and perhaps even increased tourist business.

Duteurtre’s writing can at times be very beautiful, especially when he is describing some of the rural scenes. He also does a good job capturing some of the tension of Florence’s choice to live between these two worlds, one in which she happily accepts and benefits from (and ultimately even advocates for) technological progress and one in which she detests the way in which she sees them ruining the authenticity of her country home.

Because of that, Duteurtre had me with him almost until the end of the book. Almost. When he switched back to the third person narrator (a device he’d used at the very beginning of the book) to give us the last dreamlike scene, he lost me. I’m sure he meant for the ending to play out on several levels but it just didn’t work for me. I put down the book very disappointed in its conclusion. What I haven’t yet decided is whether or not those last eight pages are such a disappointment that I wouldn’t recommend the book to others or whether the well-done descriptive scenes (and the generally enjoyable storyline that raises an issue we must all struggle with on one level or another) outweigh it.

Book or Apple or Trek or...

Scott Johnson has made this very cool poster featuring more than 50 different geek personalities. I've gone through it and find myself somewhere among several of the personalities.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Everybody should see the video that Annie Leonard made on what happens with the stuff we make and use. You can see it (or even download it) at It's a bit long, but it's worth sticking it out!


I’ve really enjoyed reading Geoffrey Thorne's Sword of Damocles, the fourth book in the Titan series that I picked up at Barnes and Noble last Sunday afternoon and read whenever I could find a few minutes in between work and meetings. While I’ve lost most of my fascination with STOS and STNG because of all the combat storylines, Titan captures the parts of those series that drew me to them—the going out to explore strange new worlds and meeting people from new civilizations.

All the details of the series emphasize that. For example, the USS Titan is not a Constitution-class starship, but a Luna- class, meaning it’s a long range explorer designed not for combat for a long-term multi-purposed mission into unknown space. And the crew is by far the most biologically diverse and culturally varied Starfleet crew I’ve run across. To begin with, of the 350 folks aboard the ship, less than 15% are humans. True, many of the other 85% are humanoids of one kind or another—Bajoran, Cardassian, Efrosian, Vulcan—but not all are. The Chief Medical Officer is a Pahkwa-thanh (a more than 7 foot tall reptilian species), there are Caitians (golden-eyed, orange maned, bipeds) in security, Engineering has a Horta (a silicon based lifeform that, when it appeared for the first time on STOS looked like a cross between a pizza and a shag rug), and a Pak’shree (a large arthropodal being) serves in Operations. And if the crew is wondrously diverse, the array of beings encountered on the various expeditions that Titan goes on in the four books are stunningly more so!

The downside of the book is that Titan is under the command of Will Riker, who I’ve always found obnoxious, and so there are lots of scenes between him and Deanna Troi. But other familiar characters that I like more—Tuvok from Voyager for example—are also part of the crew. And the fact that the storylines have all been built around diplomacy and the expansion of knowledge rather than combat make it more than worthwhile to put up with a little bit of Riker to enjoy the peaceful but exciting explorations being described in the novels.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Preventing Another Leonardo

Recently I was pointed in the direction of a blog post at 'Wandering Ink' that should be mandatory reading for anyone who teaches in any setting-- not just schools and colleges but also religious organizations, businesses, etc. You'll find it here. Not only is the post itself worth reading, but so is the comment thread following it that discusses whether Web 2.0 will provide some of the needed changes that would address the issues Kris raises. And after you read the article, look at the entire blog, which is a 15-year-old's. It's fascinating.

Monday, December 3, 2007

When the Stockings were first hung....

Although we still have to shop next Sunday for the alternative gifts we’re giving to some folks, at this point Kathy and I have about 90% of our other Christmas gifts bought and wrapped. As I look around at the packages covered with pictures of birds, Santas, ornaments, trees, and lots an lots of snowmen, I wonder about the disconnect between what’s on the wrapping paper and the Christmas story. It’s not that I’ve got religious objections to Santa Claus or Christmas trees or any of the other things some of the most conservative of Christians shun. In fact, I enjoy almost all of the secular as well as the religious parts of the holiday season. But I still wonder why Christmas wrapping paper doesn’t have religious themes on it. I’ve looked in the stores as we’ve shopped and I’ve looked online and—while every once in a while there’s paper with the word ‘Noel’ on it or, even less frequently, an angel or a star-- I just can’t find any with a manger scene, shepherds, or magi.

What I remember about wrapping Christmas gifts is that it was largely a tradition that began in the Victorian era, sort of as a follow up to the beginning of Christmas cards in the mid-19th century. Christmas cards were a way for everyone—not just those who were wealthy—to send a small gift (e.g. a card) to someone during the holiday season to show that you were thinking of them during the holiday season. Gift wrap soon followed for the rich to wrap their presents in, often coordinating the gift wrap with the Christmas card.

So here’s where I get puzzled. In stores there are—along with cards showing cartoon characters and Santa and dogs dressed up for Christmas—lots of cards with crèche scenes or a Madonna and child, many of which also have religious (if not too religious) messages inside. But there’s no equivalent in Christmas gift wrap. I’m really curious why—both historically and demographically—that is.