Category Archives: musings

Bits and Pieces

For the day before I preach, two cool internet things that I’ve found this week that are worth sharing:

Weird Al’s parody about Grammar. Really funny. Should be required for all university undergrads. Possibly graduate students as well. We all need a refresher from time to time.

An article about the deep meaning of fantasy. Really. You should read it. It isn’t a short little article, it is longer, but take your time. Read it. Think about it. Look for more of Alan Jacobs’s work.

Happy Saturday.

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More Talking about Hawking — the Index that is

This whole Hawking Index (HI) has the bookternet buzzing. A couple of other things to consider:

1. Purchasing books & then not reading them is not new. (I mentioned how I can tell if a used book I buy/describe has been read or not, and this article talks about similar things: crease marks in a paperback’s spine, bookmarks that never move.) Possibly the thing is not that Literature is Dead or that No One Reads Anymore, but that some people are over-ambitious in their book purchases. I mean c’mon, most of us have loads of books we haven’t quite read yet, right?

2. Should one actually feel obliged to read to the end of a book? The debaters in this article are, I think, talking past each other to a certain extent. The NO arguer gives the example of holiday reading, and there I’d say, yeah, if something doesn’t grab you, move to the next thing. BUT at other times, and with other ends than entertainment in mind, the YES argument has merit. Sometimes it is worth the struggle to get through, and sometimes you can’t tell whether or not it is/will be worth it until the end.

I’m still amused that this UnRead index is named after a famous physicist. (True Confessions: I’ve read A Brief History of Time and didn’t find it difficult. I have recommended it as an interesting read to others who found it very difficult indeed.)

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The Horror of The UnRead

This is an interesting article. Go read it and then come back and we’ll talk about it.

There are several things of interest in the article: (a) Oyster’s business model, (b) this thing called the Hawking Index, and (c) the invasiveness of e-readers and software and Certain Large Internet Retailers. I’m most interested in talking about the Hawking Index (HI). (While I think e-readers and e-books are interesting, I don’t use e-books. I listen to e-audio books, but I’ve stopped reading books on my tablet. I’ve tried it and found I prefer a physical book.)

So the Hawking Index. This is an index of how far readers progress in many books. It is named for Stephen Hawking, physicist of great renown, who wrote a book called A Brief History of Time which, it seems, not many people read. The HI estimates an average percentage read using e-reader data.

Interestingly, here is a list of books people pretend to have read, a list based on a reader survey over at that trendy and hipster book site, Book Riot. I wonder what the HI is for those books? Anyhow, there’s all kinds of news out there about the HI, which, as The Guardian points out, is clearly statistically flawed. But it is kind of a fun idea. Which book do people actually give up on? How far do they get? I can tell when assessing used books — if the underlining stops after the introduction and the rest of the pages are clean, then probably the person didn’t get much further than that introduction. But if the book is unmarked, it is harder to tell.

When do you give up on a book? (Me? Hardly ever completely. I just put it down for a while and try again. If the first page or two doesn’t work then I might drop it entirely.)

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Four Reasons I’ve not posted in a couple of months

  1. I read Northanger Abbey, thus the world as I knew it ended. There’s your gratuitous LOST reference for the month.
  2. I’ve been writing things out in the real world. Isn’t the blog-o-sphere also a part of the real world? Hmm. Too philosophical a question for the moment. Anyhow, I finished one writing project (I think) this week, thus removing some writing from my current to-do list, and making (some) room for blogging.
  3. I travelled! Yay for Ambridge and Durham, not to mention The Constant Reader and The Norwegian!
  4. I also taught some, read a lot, and watched some movies. It’s been nice having a break, but I’ve been getting hints, from some quarters, that the blog might be missed, and I think I might have some more things to say. Keep watching this space.

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Excursus Sunday

After posting about One, the loneliest number, it appeared that One would be the loneliest blog post. I will pick up the numerical series again, never fear, but first a little theological excursus.

Last Sunday I preached a sermon. You can listen to it online. The main text was Ephesians 4:1-16, and the sermon title was Growing Up Together. In the sermon I suggested that the Ephesians text indicates that spiritual maturity is not an individual thing, but a group thing, a growing up together thing.

Than I read this blog post. The author, apparently theologically astute, represents spiritual maturity as being an individual thing. Yes the local church contributes to an individual’s spiritual maturity, but an individual can out grow a congregation and move on. SO opposite to what I preached. Completely opposed.

We have to get over being church consumers and start getting the idea that we ARE the Church. Now I’m not saying that there are times when God is calling us to move local churches — but to see this as a spiritual maturity thing does not, it seems, line up with Ephesians 4. And to church-hop without plugging in and deeply contributing to a local congregation does not line up with Ephesians 4. Possibly the spiritual immaturity of the North American Church comes from this sort of attitude.

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π day

Happy Pi day. I hope you ate pie of some kind (mine was pizza pie) and did a little trigonometry — in addition to reading books of course.

I finished the most recent alphabet series with my last post. When I linked the post on fb, I asked “What’s next?” The vicar’s wife out there in Alberta requested numbers. Oooh. Numbers! I’m a math geek as well as a reading geek. The tiny drawback with numbers is that there’s no beginning and no end. I’m not going to write an infinite number of blog posts, so will limit myself to the ten digits, an irrational number or two, and possibly some special requests, if there are any.

It is a full moon AND π day at the same time so I’m off to celebrate both. Watch for the integration of numbers and reading in this space.

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An Olympic Excursus

Now that the Winter Olympics of 2014 are over, and we know that Team Canada got the coveted Double-Double (gold in both men’s and women’s curling and men’s and women’s hockey) I would like to give out my personal awards for TV commentary during the games. Understand that I watch Canadian coverage on the CBC. I’ve got four awards to give out. I know you are all waiting with some impatience, so onward.

1. The Grammatically-challenged Commentary Gold Medal goes to Jen Heil for her incompetent use of words meant to be adverbs which were not actually adverbs. This was a rather stiff competition. Other than the #adverbfail commentary of Ms Heil, there were also the #verbdeclensionfail of many colour commentators. Please note: the past tense of the verb to dive is dove, as “she dove for the puck.” Clear? Excellent. Moving on.

2. The I-Can’t-Hear-You Award goes to Becky Scott who mumbled into her mike for the whole of the cross-country skiing competition, even when her husband did that thing with giving the Russian guy a non-broken ski.

3. The Coaching-On-Air Award goes to Kurt Browning who just couldn’t help himself, especially during the men’s figure skating competition. “Watch Out” he yelled at us instead of at the skater who needed to watch out. It was actually rather charming, the on-air coaching, as well as funny.

4. The Not-Brian-Williams-Alleluia Award goes to Ron McLean for his humble, funny, and very competent anchoring of the prime-time Canadian highlight show. He got out of the way, remembered the show wasn’t about him, but about the athletes and the competition, and didn’t feel it necessary to tell us what time zone he was in every thirty seconds. Great job Ron.

And that is all for this Sunday from the land of the Maple Leaf Forever.

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Q = Quality

Q presents another difficulty: I’ve not got a Q author in my books-read database. None. Though there are Quinns and Quicks and Quiller-Couches writing books out in the wide world I’ve read exactly none of them in the last twenty years. Thus the letter

Q swirlstands for Quest. I am on a Quest for Q-authors. 

Of course, Q can stand for lot of things. There are more Q-words in common use than you think. If you think quietly a quality list can quite quickly be assembled. If your quarry is scientific words, quartz, quantum, quark, quarantine, q.e.d. If you find science quashes your imagination, and you are looking for something more quirky, I won’t quibble. Pick up your quill and quiz yourself — what other words qualify for our Q-list? I’m sure you can come up with a large quantity of words. Don’t quit!

 

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The Sunday Excursus

On Sundays I’ve been taking a little break from the Alphabet series. I’ve heard from some readers who mentioned that they appreciate the series very much. Thanks! But I’m pretty sure we can all use a small break on a weekly basis.

This week’s rabbit-trail takes us past some graffiti/urban art that I particularly like. I was thinking about why I like this wall so much as the subway went past it this morning, then as I walked from the subway station toward the parking lot next to the wall. It hit me on the station platform. I see the glory of God reflected in this wall, particularly the two parts of the wall shown here:

Keele Stn both

Really? I hear you saying. The Glory of God? C’mon. Yes, the Glory of God.  I’m pretty sure that is not what the artist’s intended, but that is, I think, what I particularly like about them. The bottom one has a cubist feel to it. Here is a closer shot:

cubist grafPart of that glory thing might come from the smokey thing that ties together parts of the wall. I’ve avoided showing the large old man with a beard and a book also on this wall lest you think that he represents God to me. No. He does not. But this part of the wall next to the Keele Station parking lot reflects this:

Psalm 104

Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
    and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

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The letter I presents some difficulties

IcelticThe letter I presents me with some difficulties. Initially I began this alphabetical series without any restrictions on what letters could stand for. After a few days, I noticed I was picking authors by surname, and all the authors to that point were female. There is a #readwomen2014 thing going on around some book blogs, so I thought, hey, lets go with this. I’ll pick a woman whose last name begins with the letter of the day, who I’ve read, and who isn’t super well known. Then I’ll talk about her books and why I like them. Maybe this will help people read more women writers in 2014.

So far, this thought-up-on-the-fly plan has worked out. But, today I ran into a snag. I’ve only got two “I” authors in my books read database — and they are both men (John Irving and Kazuo Ishiguro if you were wondering). I went out into the interconnected world and looked at lists of “I” authors. There just aren’t that many. I could claim that I’m about to read Susan Isaacs — but I don’t own anything by Isaacs or any other I-author-who-is-female, but I decided to reveal what I’ve been up to in the series. Tomorrow we’ll continue with women writers alphabetically.

Do you have any female I-authors to recommend? Do tell.

 

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