Thursday, May 29, 2014

I got Pinterest?

So I interviewed someone for work about how she's using Pinterest for her business. Fact No. 1: She's not a wedding planner. Fact No. 2: I have heretofore refrained from signing up for a Pinterest account.

Well, I have one now.

What exactly does one do with Pinterest? I mean, besides waste time on it. I don't really know. And I waste enough time on Facebook. And I never was subject to that Pinterest mania I've seen so many other Pinners suffer from.

Compendium of links #58: Nerdy video edition

For once, it's a midweek edition of the Compendium! Mostly because I finished teaching ESL, mowing the lawn and generally getting things done so I want to do something that is fun. Like blogging. And sharing really fun nerdy videos.

Therefore, this entire compendium will be made up of nerdy videos I've found recently.

Doctor Who meets Rocky Horror Picture Show:

Another timey-wimey-themed video short:

Zelda: Ocarina of Time meets mariachi (or flamenco?) band:

How to multiply two (not more) numbers using lines: (Note on this one: It also makes you think about the possibility of a limitless number of dimensions... since you can always multiply by one more number... :D )

Batman meets Charlie Bit Me:

And finally, a Five Iron Frenzy song I ran across that is all about guys needing to take out their testosterone via nerdy video game pursuits and other seemingly pointless but competitive toys: (Don't miss the Lord of the Rings reference!)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: Getting Naked Later: A Guide for the Fully Clothed

Getting Naked Later: A Guide for the Fully Clothed
Getting Naked Later: A Guide for the Fully Clothed by Kate Hurley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a regular reader of Kate Hurley's blog, I knew before this book was even published that I'd want to read it. Her writing on the blog is poetic, piercing, sometimes filled with raw emotion but pretty much shot through with the desire to glorify God and love others despite -- or sometimes by way of -- her singleness.

Hurley is around 36 years old at the time of writing, a Christian songwriter who's slowly letting go of the fierce desire she feels for a husband and family. She becomes very vulnerable in sharing some of her stories, both in her book and on her blog, but those stories are often the very ones that single women (and men, in some cases) can identify with. Stories like how she's been in 33 weddings (take that, 27 Dresses!) or how she suffered from Lyme disease for several years, or how she got into ministry to urban homeless or how the youth group frenzy around Josh Harris's book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" doomed a generation of young Christians like her to awkward friendlationships.

OK, I exaggerate on that last bit. A little. But her chapter on "90's Dating Gone Bad" is drawn in part from a series of posts on her blog that are worth checking into. If you like them, you'll like the book, a mix of therapy and wisdom for older singles... or even young ones like me who apparently are old at heart. (Old at heart? Is that a thing?)

For that matter, younger single gals would benefit from reading about her mistakes and what she learned from them -- especially if you younger single gals are interested in dating well, getting married and avoiding divorce. There's the standard stuff about looking past a handsome face to observe a guy's character, but there's also some advice on how to respond gracefully -- or even snarkily -- to well-meaning, but unhelpful, comments and advice from your friends.

To sum up: A certain demographic will love this book, most likely. If you're not sure that you're part of that group, don't take my word on her book -- just check out the most well-read posts on her blog and decide for yourself.

View all my reviews

Review: Jesus the King

Jesus the King
Jesus the King by Timothy Keller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you're looking to study the life of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Mark -- maybe you're Christian, maybe you're interested in biblical studies, maybe your name is Mark -- this is a great place to start, because of the author's clear and methodical exposition and attention to the text and its ramifications.

Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, is well known in Reformed Christian circles; he's a founding member and vice president of The Gospel Coalition, among other ties, and sometimes called the next C.S. Lewis after the publication of his earlier work "The Reason for God." Lewis he is not -- he's not Anglican, and holds to more evangelical Christian theology than Lewis did, not to mention his style is not as clear-cut as Lewis's -- but his writing is certainly worth the read. Keller does his homework, quoting from theologians, philosophers and novelists spanning hundreds of years (including a lengthy quote by N.T. Wright which has inspired me to seek out that theologian's work).

In "Jesus the King," first published as "King's Cross," Keller frames Jesus' life as the approach of the King to the crisis of the Cross, separating the book into two sections of nine chapters each. In a conversational style, he mixes insight into Jewish and Roman culture of the time with philosophical and theological conclusions he exhorts his readers to consider seriously. He tackles such topics as the problem of evil and pain, how God can be both loving and angry, absolute vs. relative moralism, and the Reformed understanding of the Cross as atonement, among many others. One of the more interesting aspects of this book is Keller's dives into the meanings of various Greek and Aramaic words used in the Gospel of Mark, along with the cultural connotations they would have held for the gospel writer's original readers.

Extensive quotations from the Gospel itself and Keller's attempts to keep them in context are commendable. In all, evangelical Christians will likely be challenged by Keller's book whether they're Reformed or not. As my youth pastor said over and over, the Bible is like a bowtie, with the Old Testament pointing to the Cross and most of the New Testament recording the Cross's impact. Given that, studying the Cross itself and the King who hung on it could not be more worthy an endeavor.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

What I learned #8: About China

I'm going to visit China for a short while this summer.


Let that sink in.

Anyway, to prepare for the trip -- which is intended to see as much as possible while hanging out with a friend from college who's teaching there now -- I'm reading a book called "A Traveller's History of China" by Stephen G. Haw. And the book has taught me some rather interesting tidbits.
  • Ancient Chinese philosopher Yang Zhu subscribed to the ideal of Hakuna Matata, and the Daoist movement his ideas were incorporated into boiled down to "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
  • The dynasty that left behind its Terra Cotta Warriors and built the first Great Wall (later extensively rebuilt/repaired) lasted just 50 years.
  • One random Chinese Buddhist monk spent 16 years on a jaunt around India collecting Buddhist texts to take back home. Those texts got their very own pagoda for storage -- the Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an.
  • The Khans (as in Kubla Khan... otherwise known as the Yuan Dynasty) were invading Mongols from the north, and gained control over the whole of China. However, they were driven back home by the Chinese within a century of their invasion. A century!
  • The Chinese pigtail was actually a requirement imposed by a Manchu (foreign) conqueror in the 1600s.
  • Tea was virtually unknown in Britain until the 1700s. But by around 1800, the import duties Britain imposed on Chinese tea amounted to 10% of the British government's total revenue.
  • "Kowtowing" literally means the ceremonial gesture that the Chinese dynasties expected of people visiting the Emperor's court -- kneeling and touching your forehead to the ground. It was a sign of submission to the Emperor, which the British ambassadors pretty much hated so they refused.
Interesting, huh?