Changes (Have) Come

In the year and four months since I last bothered to post anything here, a lot has happened. Chief among these events was my proposing to and actually marrying my now-wife, Jessica! I also began a graduate program in linguistics at Oxford, and am in the second year of that program, finding great enjoyment in it as well as in exploring Oxford with Jessica. The hectic pace of life in the last year and a half did not keep me from having ponderings worth blogging about, but it did keep me from actually blogging about them. Also, I noticed that the ability to post snappy one-liners as Facebook status updates, or to share a link with only a brief description, tended to siphon away any drive to construct actual extended discussions here (a phenomenon which I’m sure is quite widespread).

Two factors draw me back to the blog despite overwhelming opposition from laziness (among other things): first, Jessica has been encouraging me to write on certain topics we discuss from time to time. Second, I haven’t been to my Facebook homepage in four months, and thus have a list of things I actually want to say to The Internet which haven’t been said even in short form.

The purpose of this post is simply to clear the stage, and as such is primarily for myself. It simply wouldn’t do, in my brain at least, to go from an entry about the release of Summer of Rock 2009 to a discussion about the linguistic behavior of Americans in Oxford, 16 months later. And that is partly why the longer I waited to write, the less inclined I was to do so. Now that’s changed.

In short–coming soon: something else!

Sabbatical’s End

Four and a half months after I stopped work and planned to engage in a sabbatical of sorts, I’m back. I flew in from Kenya a day ago, and am now in Orlando as I prepare to help my parents move cross-country to San Francisco.

In many ways, I’m still recovering from Kenya, and cannot yet distill that complex and amazing experience into a weblog entry. In the coming days, I hope to write a thematic series of articles on the various aspects of my time there, which might be a better way of doing justice to it. For now, it’s just hard to adjust to life in the US, and life away from my friends old and new at Tumaini.

I certainly have a lot to think about and process. Between 3 weeks of touring with the New Frontiers, spending 6 weeks at Schloss Mittersill in Austria, and now living 8 weeks in rural Kenya, I’ve had a number of new experiences, and noticed a lot of things about the world and myself which call for introspection, integration, and response.

As I look forward to my future both near and far, I find that I’m more confused about what I can and should do, not less! In that sense, the sabbatical did not live up to my hopes! But I’m beginning to see that this place is probably right where I should be, despite my desires for easy clarity. I think God and other people gave me so many unlooked-for gifts during this time away, albeit sometimes through hard circumstances, so it has been a slow process of gaining the eyes to see their goodness! I’m sure that process will continue in the next weeks and months.

Now, I must focus on re-inserting myself into the matrix of life here, finding work, and pondering next steps. There’s an exciting freedom in not knowing where I will be in a year, let alone two months! But I hope that the right path, if there is such a thing, will present itself to me in enough time to follow it. It usually does, I guess.

So that’s all for now–please stay tuned for the Kenya series, pictures, and other announcements during the next few weeks!

Sabbatical Part 2: Leaving Austria / Suite Apocalyptique

When I last wrote about the sabbatical which is underway (read part 1 here), I was in the middle of my time at Schloss Mitersill, in Austria. That time has now ended! I’m currently writing at a hostel in Oxford, and tomorrow I’ll be catching a flight to Nairobi, before heading to Nyeri, Kenya. I’m very happy to report that my time at the Schloss finished well. This, of course, means that I’m certainly sad to see it end. But before I talk more about that, here are some pictures of the Schloss and the gorgeous surrounding area:

Continue reading “Sabbatical Part 2: Leaving Austria / Suite Apocalyptique”

Sabbatical

It has been a while since I last wrote. Much has happened (not least the tour I mentioned in the last entry), indeed too much to adequately share. Many of my friends will have received an ominous e-mail a few months ago entitled “Life Update”. In that e-mail, I detailed a few of my current struggles, and elaborated a plan to take a bit of a sabbatical from work and life in California.

Continue reading “Sabbatical”

I’m Dreaming of a Blog Christmas

Happy Christmas Eve!

At this time of year, the blog is usually full of ruminations on the birth of Christ (like this entry) or self-pity wallowings (like this rather plaintive entry or this poem from last year). But right now I have neither the time nor energy to be deeply profound nor (believe it or not) deeply self-centered.

So I thought I’d share, as rather paltry gifts, a few links to things I’ve loved recently; you may find them interesting!

First, for anyone who like me has been completely annoyed by (what I am calling) the “Dawkins Meme” of recent months, I want to give this article–a review of Dawkins’ new book by Terry Eagleton (who’s not, I don’t think, a Christian). The problem with Dawkins is not that he’s wrong–if we were to quantify beliefs, I’d probably agree with more of his than your average fundamentalist Christian–though certainly some basic ones differ. The problem is, as Eagleton says, his unwillingness to see surfacely-nuanced differences in “religious” systems that actually have huge under-the-hood ramifications.

Second, to all and sundry, I want to gift two podcasts done by St Paul’s Theological Centre in London, which happen to be interviews with NT Wright. The first podcast is on gnosticism, and the second podcast is on, among other things, “apocalypse”. I would go so far as to make the second one mandatory listening for any thoughtful Christian; it’s that good.

I have to admit, of course, that I’m drinking the NT Wright Kool-Aid at the moment. I’ve been reading his Christian Origins and the Question of God series, and am almost done with the second (long) volume, on Jesus. It’s been one of the most groundbreaking works I’ve read in a while. Last year I read some Kierkegaard and reflected that he had done more than anyone to re-affirm my love of Scripture as something worth remaining conversant with. Now, I’d say the same thing about NT Wright; I feel that I’ve been given a whole new (and better) way of reading the gospels (and much of the Old Testament). It seems as though I was dealing with something two-dimensional, and now the text has sprung to life amidst a vibrant and colorful context. My exegeses of almost every parable and saying of Jesus have been subtly, if not fundamentally, alered, and many things now just make sense that were opaque before.

This isn’t to say that Wright is correct on all his points (though as a novice in historical studies it’s hard for me to launch a critique), but rather that the overall story he is weaving answers, it seems, more questions than any other view I’ve come across. It has the result, of course, of turning much conventional “Christian” (particularly western fundamentalist) wisdom on its head–a result I’m amenable to in any case. So, if you are a Christian who cares about the content of your beliefs and whether or not they make sense, read these books.

Third and finally, I have a gift for lovers of language learning. I recently discovered that the iTunes music store has many language-learning podcasts available for free download. I found one for German that has 100 lessons, each ~15 minutes long. That’s essentially a 25-hour language course, free! I discovered these podcasts from a very helpful list of language-learning podcasts. From what it looks like, iTunes has a lot more that didn’t make this list, so I’m sure further exploration would be fruitful.

So again, I wish all of you a very happy Christmas, focused indeed on reflection on the having-already-come of the Messiah, and the having-already-been-inaugurated of the Kingdom of God. I leave you, therefore, with this excerpt from an article by CS Lewis (one that my family reads every Christmas Eve), which pretty much sums up my feelings about this time of year:

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, “It is not lawful, O stranger, for us to change the date of Crissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left.” And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, “It is, O Stranger, a racket”; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis).

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper caps. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in.

Geneva 2006


If you want to skip right to the pictures, click here

I just returned from Geneva, Switzerland–a trip I decided to take a mere 3 weeks ago. Every year, my parents have a business trip in late September to some international location (for legal reasons, these meetings have to take place outside the US). Since I graduated high school in 2000 and chose to attend Stanford (a quarter school), I’ve had the good fortune to not be in class during these trips, and thus was able to tag along with my folks. We’ve been to some great places–London (twice), Dublin, Lisbon, and Barcelona (after I graduated). I didn’t go on the 2005 trip, but since my work schedule permitted this year, I was able to go to Geneva. (For a few older blogs of such trips, see here for Lisbon 2002 and here for Barcelona 2004).

These trips are always fun, not least because I’ve gotten to know many of the other attendees, all great people. At times there have even been sons or daughters there like myself, and so there are often young people to hang out with, in addition to spending great time with my parents. My friend Laura was there, of this January’s Bahamas trip fame.

The group dinners are generally quite nice, and so it’s also fun to bring “dress-up” clothes to wear consistently. (I wore my suit this week for the first time since last December, I think). This trip was particularly special for me, however, because it happened that my 24th birthday was during the trip, and I had a wonderful time celebrating it with my parents and some friends, both at a spectacular dinner and later at our pub of choice, over fine cuban cigars and cognac. I certainly couldn’t ask for a better birthday experience, though I did miss my friends from home. As an extra special gift, my parents also let me use some of their airline upgrade coupons, so we all traveled to and from Geneva in business / first class. What luxury!

I spent most of my time in Geneva sleeping, hanging out in our great hotel (the Hotel d’Angleterre), working out or using the sauna, catching up on my reading, or wandering around taking pictures and buying sandwiches using poor French. One tourist highlight was definitely the Patek Philippe museum, which had on exhibit some of the oldest and most complicated watches in the world. The sheer amount of time, love, and skill put into these objects by their craftsmen was literally awing. One complicated mechanical watch we saw had over 1800 unique parts, individually designed and produced and assembled. This watch, like some others in the exhibit, kept track of the time, of course, but also such measurements as the day, the week, the month, the year, the lunar phases, sidereal time, the location of certain stars in the sky, etc… (taking into account leap years, etc..–it’s guaranteed to be accurate for something like 500 years if kept wound).

Life in Geneva appears to be very expensive, and the same was true of souvenirs. Accordingly, the only things I brought back were two beer glasses (one a .5L stein (Cardinal), and the other a Belgian snifter (Leffe)), both procured by my dad, free for the asking from bars. Incidentally, the beer of the trip was hands-down the Belgian Leffe (the blonde variety). It had a light color, a creamy texture, and a strong, sweet taste. It was not overpowering, though, and had a very strong spruce hops aroma which kept the whole thing dynamic and interesting. It probably now ranks in my top 5 beer list.

Well, check out the pictures, and let me know what you think!

Futurebeer, NT Wright, and Frisbee Hype

Some random notes:

First, in trying to assist Nyffy with his desire to one day become the Brewmaster of Heaven, a contingent of my friends spent some time this last weekend brewing a batch of Futurebeer:


The current state of Futurebeer

Futurebeer is beer, after a while. It is not yet, however. It’s that same mysterious “already but not yet” we find with the kingdom of God. Anyway, it was fun to go through a process involving (mostly) natural ingredients that will culminate in pure enjoyment after a period of care and waiting. Being a creative person who works mostly with digital or musical media, I was very glad to work with actual substances to create a product. It’s sort of like the joy I have found in cooking nice meals, only greater due to the extended period of time involved in the process.

Second, I received in the mail from Amazon the first three books in NT Wright’s massive “Question of God” undertaking, beginning with The New Testament and the People of God. After hearing much about these works and reading some other stuff of Wright’s, I’m very excited to go on an extended journey of engagement with history, theology, and literary criticism on issues surrounding the origins of Christianity. Thankfully, I’ve finished Alister McGrath’s likewise-authoritative critical-realism-inspired trilogy on scientific theology, so I now have room for another expedition. You will no doubt be hearing various thoughts on the books here, which is why I thought I’d give forewarning. As a bit of a taste, here’s a paragraph from the introduction:

The New Testament has not been around as long as the land of Israel, but in other ways there are remarkable parallels. It is a small book, smaller than anybody else’s holy book, small enough to be read through in a day or two. But it has had an importance belied by its slim appearance. It has again and again been a battleground for warring armies. Sometimes they have come to plunder its streasures for their own use, or to annex bits of its territory as part of a larger empire in need of a few extra strategic mountains, especially holy ones. Somestimes they have come to fight their private battles on neutral territory, finding in the debates about a book or a passage a convenient place to stage a war which is really between two worldviews or philosophies, themselves comparatively unrelated to the New Testament and its concerns. There are many places whose fragile beauty has been trampled by heavy-footed exegetes in search of a Greek root, a quick sermon, or a political slogan. And yet it has remained a powerful and evocative book, full of delicacy and majesty, tears and laughter.

What ought one to do with the New Testament? We may take it for granted that it will be no good trying to prevent its still being used as a battleground. No border fences would be strong enough to keep out the philosophers, the philologists, the politicians and the casual tourists; nor should we erect them if they were. There are many who have come to pilfer and have stayed to be pilgrims. To place all or part of this book within a sacred enclosure would be to invite a dominical rebuke: my house is to be a house of prayer for all the nations. Past attempts to keep it for one group only–the take-over bids by the scholars and the pietists, the fundamentalists and the armchair social workers–have ended with unseemly battles, the equivalent of the sad struggle for the control of Holy Places in the land of israel. This book is a book of wisdom for all peoples, but we have made it a den of scholarship, or of a narrow, hard and exclusive piety.

Inspiring, no?

Third, I am going to Switzerland next week. I would like to get a good digital SLR camera before then. Anyone have one they want to sell? Or any recommendations?

Fourth, I wanted to upload something to YouTube, but only have 3 or 4 home videos on my computer. Only one happened to be appropriately flattering of myself, and since the purpose of the Internet is for people to upload flattering things, I chose to throw it in to the churning mill. It’s from last year in Costa Rica when Justin turned on the camera and told me to go catch a frisbee in the ocean. You can see the video here. After uploading I found many videos of real ultimate frisbee layouts, which were much more impressive. So watch those too.

Until next time, this has been your beer, academic theology, travel, and sports update. Cheers.

Lame Catch-up Entry, Summer 2006

Well, this is the longest hiatus I’ve ever had on this blog so far, but I won’t say it’s without reason. Still, there are many times I wish I’d had the space to catalogue some thoughts. The best I can do now is give a list of the sort of things I’ve been up to over the past months (with pictures!). Hopefully you’ll find some of it interesting.

In roughly chronological order:

Continue reading “Lame Catch-up Entry, Summer 2006”

Random Event Update, Mid-May 2006

While I have for a while been promising certain academic ponderings and/or Whitney summaries, these are not immediately forthcoming. Meanwhile, I thought I’d share (in a mood particularly inspired by the new caramel Bailey’s and friends) my satisfaction with certain recent Events. Said Events are three. (Actually, there are more, but there has to be some kind of limit)

Event 1: On Thursday, I went to an Over the Rhine and Hem show in San Francisco. I have loved and followed Over the Rhine for years. Karin’s (the singer’s) voice is like magical, sensual, chocolate and wine-filled lovemaking. I think. I have never had magical, sensual, chocolate and wine-filled lovemaking, but it is at least how I would imagine it going. The show was at the Great American Music Hall–my favorite SF venue, where I have seen most if not all of my favorite artists over the past 6-7 years. After Hem’s flawless opening set, Over the Rhine kicked things off with “Latter Days”, possibly my favorite song of theirs. From then until the end of their hour-plus set, I was in a world of enchantment which I can’t coherently relate. Many things rose up in me and got stuck in my throat that I wish I knew how to remember. Times of such beauty are rare.

Event 2: Last night (Saturday), my housemate Trent’s fiancee and friends were all out for some “bachelorette party” or something. Not to be outdone, many of us non-women had an “anti-bachelorette fiesta” of sorts. While the real anti-bachelorette celebration will take place in Mexico in a little while, we settled for much pizza, beer, the viewing of a movie, and some “drunken frisbee golf”, as we like to call it, on Stanford’s campus. This is one of my favorite events. Indeed, it does consist of a certain amount of frisbee golf, but the “drunken” adjective is not as accurate as might be feared. There is, it is not to be doubted, a good amount of alcohol which is consumed beerly. However, the primary attraction to “DFG” is not any actual state of drunkenness (which, as good Christians, we studiously avoided), but rather a state I like to call “playing frisbee golf with a cigarette and pulling a cooler of cheap beer behind us every once in a while drinking some”. For some reason the image is just plain titillating. Beer or no, I had one of my better rounds on the Stanford course, finishing like 10 over par or something.

Event 3: Tonight (Sunday), I went to church. Gasp! It has been a while. But I had ulterior motives. Not, surprisingly, to ogle at hot church-going women (though that may or may not have been a previous ulterior motive). In fact, his greatness himself, the fabulous NT Wright, deigned to speak at MPPC’s “Postmodern” evening service. Candles and big TV screens in full effect, NT gave one of the better talks I’ve heard inside the walls of a church in a long time. I’m not at the moment in a position to sum up the talk, but suffice it to say it scratched my itchings. I haven’t read much of Wright’s considerable bibliography, but am now planning on it. I also find myself wishing the man hadn’t decided to get involved in the church. If he had opted to stay in academics, for instance, I would have been easily persuaded to travel to Oxford and study under him (such was his facility with history, philosophy, and theology).

Apart from these events, there were also two amazing birthday parties (at Tiburon and Half Moon Bay, respectively), and three amazing games of Ultimate Frisbee. Today at our third game session, I felt a magically-increased ability to read the disc, to run to wherever it was, and to just generally be happy with my performance (a relative first for me in the realm of sports). I suppose I have always underestimated the power of practice to actually make better the thing practiced. Maybe it is because I’ve always quit things when the practicing got slightly difficult–but Ultimate has kept my attention quite well, and I am happy to call it my favorite team sport. (And no I am not a hippie). Also, not to be forgotten, I held a CD release party for Splendour Hyaline’s latest offering. A good number of my friends showed up and we rocked out to my music. Apart from the ego-stroking, it was a very meaningful time and I was glad to celebrate the completion of a new art project with many of those I love.

In other news…I am planning on reading The Da Vinci Code. God help me and my literary (in)sensibilities.

Recording Spree Over: New Album Complete!

My recent weeks in Orlando were excellent, though not very relaxing. Between intense meetings at Teleios World Domination HQ (we’re meeting resistance in certain parts of eastern Europe), and non-stop work on the new album, I got 2-3 hours less sleep per night than my normal. (There was also the fantastic celebration of my dad’s 50th birthday party, attended by close family and the uncorking of a very expensive bottle of wine which was a good bit older than I was. Not to mention the less-meaningful but more-rowdy celebration of Cinco de Mayo). The result, at least on the music side, was a brand new 6-song EP that sounds incredible. The performance, production, everything is stellar. My brother David was in charge of the engineering, mixing, production, and mastering, and he is becoming very talented at all of the above.


Working on an improv synth solo for So Talk About It at 3am

I have a strong desire to share all our new songs with everyone here, but a few things remain to be worked out. First, I don’t have an “official” CD–David does, and he’s in Africa for a month. Second, I’m not naive enough to think that the mix I have will be final. We usually go through rounds of tweaking, and, while things sound excellent, there’re always one or two minor changes to make. Third, the album has no title. Fourth, the album has no artwork. I’d like all of these things to be present before I unveil everything officially. So just hold tight for now! I’ll probably break down and put one or two up here anyway, since the only reason I feel secure is that I am validated by my peers.

Speaking of being validated by my peers, let’s go on a tangent: those of you who are e4 weblog owners or frequenters might have noticed that I have added trackback capability to the e4 weblogs. Trackbacks are a cool example of the way the web is supposed to work–now, when you write entries, e4 will check out any links you make, and attempt to send a trackback ping to that site. If the site is trackback-enabled, it’ll accept the ping, and people who visit it will see that your entry references the page! Likewise all the weblogs here are now trackback-enabled, so anyone can send pings from Movable Type, WordPress, or wherever. Let’s just hope for no horrible spam!

(For you e4 bloggers, you can play with the trackback preferences at your weblog config page)

Well, I am now officially back in California for a while, so hopefully I’ll have time to write some more reflective posts soon. Ciao!