Wednesday, August 30, 2006

:)

No profound insights to offer today. Just a quick mention that today is my third wedding anniversary.

:)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Copyright Myths

Recently, a friend, who will be teaching an exegetical course in the near future, posted an item on his blog (I used to provide a link, but it's no longer valid) asking for input on which of three commentaries he should use for his class. I posted a comment, not intended to answer the question, but to offer an option, suggesting that if he wanted to use one book as the "main" text, but use parts of the other two, he could copy those sections into a course reader, providing that he obtained permission to do so from the rightsholders, and noting that the rightsholder of one of the commentaries in question was particularly difficult to get a response from. I do this kind of thing all the time as part of my work here at the seminary, and thought it might provide a helpful option.

Another comment soon appeared, from someone I do not know, who suggested that, so long as no more than 10% of the work was used, seeking permission from the publisher was unnecessary. I was stunned, although I probably should not have been surprised at all, as I've seen this myth before.

No doubt the intended-to-be-helpful comment arose out of a misunderstanding of "fair use" doctrine, which is part of U.S. Copyright law. For a work to qualify as "fair use," four items are considered (this list is copied straight from Copyright.com):
  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit, educational purposes.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyright protected work as a whole.
  4. The effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyright-protected work.
Item #3 does indeed consider the amount of work, but note that it does not state a specifc percentage, such as 10%. If a professor did indeed copy less than 10% of a work, it is entirely possible that this use, if brought to court, would ultimately be ruled "fair." But such a ruling is by no means automatic, especially if points 2 and 4 were considered "not fair." (Item #1 is not mentioned merely because the work in this scenario is assumed to be for "educational purposes." But even here, "educational purposes" does not automatically mean that use is "fair." All four items must be considered together.)

A rather famous court case (in academic circles) on this matter is noted on this link:
Eight book publishers sued Kinko's Graphics Corporation for copyright infringement, alleging that Kinko's violated their copyrights by photocopying copyright-protected materials to create university coursepacks. Kinko's unauthorized copying covered a wide range of materials including text, trade and professional books. Kinko's argued "fair use" but the court disagreed. All told, Kinko's paid almost $2 million in damages, fees and other costs.
A quick search shows the extent of the use being contested in that case. 12 works which were copied were considered to be infringement.
  • Work #1: 22 pages used. Work is roughly 430 pages. Total percentage of work used: About 5%, but because the pages copied represented an entire chapter, "The amount copied [of this] relatively recent book weighs against defendant."
  • Work #2: 23 pages of a 120 page out-of-print work. Total percentage of work used: About 19%. Although the work was out-of-print, "the amount copied weighs heavily against defendant."
  • Work #3: 33 pages of a 146 page out-of-print work. Total percentage of work used: About 23%. See book #2.
  • Work #4: 53 pages of a 323 page book. Total percentage of work used: About 16%. Two full chapters of an eight-chapter book.  What were they thinking?  Verdict: "The amount copied weighs against defendant."
  • Work #5: 14 pages of 196 page book. Total percentage of work used: About 7%. The pages copied constituted a chapter of the book. Verdict: "The amount copied weighs against defendant."
  • Work #6: 37 pages of 461 page book. Total percentage of work used: About 8%. The Introduction and a full chapter were copied. Verdict: "The amount copied weighs against defendant."
  • Work #7: 40 pages of 531 page book. Total percentage of work used: Under 8%. Yet again: "The amount copied weighs against defendant."
  • Work #8: 20 pages of 375 page book. Total percentage of work used: About 5%. Only half a chapter was copied. But (say it with me now), "The amount copied weighs against defendant."
  • Work #9: 22 pages of 172 page book. Total percentage of work used: About 13%. No surprise here: "The amount copied weighs against defendant."
  • Work #10: 100 pages of 751 page book. Total percentage of work used: About 13%, including three whole chapters. This is another "what were they thinking?" example. "The amount copied weighs against defendant."
  • Work #11: 65 pages of 376 page out-of-print book. Total percentage of work used: About 17%. This one was so overwhelming that the court said "The amount copied, despite the fact that this book was out-of-print, weighs heavily against defendant." (emphasis mine)
  • Work #12: 110 pages of 400 page in-print but out-of-stock book. Total percentage of work used: 27.5%. Verdict: "The amount copied weighs heavily against defendant, despite the fact that the book was out-of-stock."
Of these 12, 7 did, in fact, go beyond the hypothetical 10% guideline. This leaves 5 works that would, theoretically, have been okay according to the poster on my friend's blog. Each of these was also ruled against using the words "The amount copied weighs against defendant."

Furthermore, the case reads, when discussing the "amount and substantiality of the portion used," that "In almost every case, defendant copied at least an entire chapter of a plaintiff's book. This is substantial because they are obviously meant to stand alone, that is, as a complete representation of the concept explored in the chapter. This indicates that these excerpts are not material supplemental to the assigned course material but the assignment. Therefore, the excerpts, in addition to being quantitatively substantial, are qualitatively significant."

In any event, I'm sure the poster to my friend's blog meant well. But this is the kind of misinformation that can get people in academia into serious trouble, and I would seek to avoid having that happen, especially to a friend (who, to be fair, will probably not be doing a course reader at all, but was just looking to pick one of the three books, and call the others "suggested reading" without making assignments require them).

Friday, August 25, 2006

My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Nothing

A little over a year ago, I mentioned the discovery of a new object in the solar system, a little larger than Pluto, that was being called the "tenth planet" by many observers. All that was needed to make this classification official for the International Astronomical Union to actually decide what the definition of a planet actually was, a surprising gap given the long-standing, if informal, use of the word "planet" in popular thought.
Yesterday, the International astronomical Union finally agreed upon and voted on a definition, and the results were something of a surprise. As recently as last week, we were being told that a "planet" would likely be defined as any object orbiting a star, with sufficient mass to assume a round shape under its own gravity. This would have meant that our solar system would have not 9 planets, or even 10, but twelve (including Ceres, the largest asteroid, and Charon, Pluto's moon, which would be reclassified with Pluto as a "double planet" since the center of gravity in their orbital system is a point outside of both bodies).

As it turns out, the IAU decided to define "planet" in such a way that Pluto no longer qualifies. So we really only have 8 planets in our solar system. The crucial distinction came by adding one line to the definition being discussed last week. A planet must not only be in orbit around a star, and round, it must also have "cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

So teachers and textbook writers are scrambling to prepare lessons based on the new data, science fiction stories for the past several decades have just been declared invalid (I'm particularly curious to see how Dr. Who fans respond to the fact that the "Tenth Planet" of that franchise can no longer have that designation for several reasons), and a new mnemonic must be devised that leaves out Pluto.

But we'll live. After all, fans of Ceres (which at the start of the 19th century spent nearly 50 years classified as a planet before being demoted to being merely the largest asteroid) had to make do.

For Transformers fans, if it helps, here are my reasons why Unicron should still be considered a planet. :)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Classic Routine with a Seminarian Twist

Years ago, back when I was taking Hebrew for my MDiv, I ran into this take on the classic Abbott and Costello "Who's on First?" routine (or at least an approximation thereof). With the new academic year just around the corner, it seemed worth dusting off again. Usually, I don't post works that aren't mine without having received explicit permission from the author. In this case, I've seen the work in enough other places that I'm assuming that it was the author's intention that the work be shared freely. I'm happy to remove the post if it is determined otherwise.

ABBOTT & COSTELLO LEARN HEBREW
attributed to Rabbi Jack Moline (some editing has been done on the version I found)

ABBOTT: I see you're here for your Hebrew lesson.

COSTELLO: I'm ready to learn.

A: Now, the first thing you must understand is that Hebrew and English have many words which sound alike, but they don't mean the same thing.

C: Sure, I understand.

A: Now, don't be too quick to say that.

C: How stupid do you think I am? Don't answer that. It's simple. Some words in Hebrew sound like words in English, but they don't mean the same.

A: Precisely.

C: We have that word in English, too. What does it mean in Hebrew?

A: No, no. Precisely is an English word.

C: I didn't come here to learn English, I came to learn Hebrew. So make with the Hebrew.

A: Fine. Let's start with mee.

C: You.

A: No, mee.

C: Fine, we'll start with you.

A: No, we'll start with mee.

C: Okay, have it your way.

A: Now, mee is who.

C: You is Abbott.

A: No, no, no. Mee is who.

C: You is Abbott.

A: You don't understand.

C: I don't understand? Did you just say me is who?

A: Yes I did. Mee is who.

C: You is Abbott.

A: No, You misunderstand what I am saying. Tell me about mee.

C: Well, you're a nice enough guy.

A: No, no. Tell me about mee!

C: Who?

A: Precisely.

C: Precisely what?

A: Precisely who.

C: It's precisely whom!

A: No, mee is who.

C: Don't start that again! Go on to something else.

A: All right. Hu is he.

C: Who is he?

A: Yes.

C: I don't know. Who is he?

A: Sure you do. You just said it.

C: I just said what?

A: Hu is he.

C: Who is he?

A: Precisely.

C: Again with the precisely! Precisely who?

A: No, precisely he.

C: Precisely he? Who is he?

A: Precisely!

C: And what about me?

A: Who.

C: me, me, me!

A: Who, Who, Who!

C: What are you, an owl? Me! Who is me?

A: No, hu is he!

C: I don't know… maybe he is me!

A: No, hee is she! (STARE AT ABBOTT)

C: Do his parents know about this?

A: About what?

C: About her!

A: What about her?

C: That she is he!

A: No, you've got it wrong! Hee is she!

C: Then who is he?

A: Precisely!

C: Who?

A: He!

C: Me?

A: Who!

C: He?

A: She!

C: Who is she?

A: No, hu is he.

C: I don't care who is he, I want to know who is she?

A: No, that's not right.

C: How can it not be right? I said it. I was standing here when I said it, and I know me.

A: Who.

C: Who?

A: Precisely!

C: Me! Me is that he you are talking about! He is me!

A: No, hee is she!

C: Wait a Minute, wait a minute! I'm trying to learn a little Hebrew, and now I can't even speak English. Let me review.

A: Go ahead.

C: Now first you want to know me is who.

A: Correct.

C: And then you say who is he.

A: Absolutely.

C: And then you tell me he is she.

A & C: Precisely!

C: Now look at this logically. If me is who. And who is he. And he is she. Don't it stand to reason that me is she?

A: Who!

C: She!

A: That is hee!

C: Who is he?

A & C: Precisely!

C: I have just about had it. You have me confused and I want to go home. You know what I want? Ma!

A: What.

C: I said Ma.

A: What.

C: What are you, deaf? I want Ma!

A: What!

C: Not what, who!

A: He!

C: Not he! Ma is not he!

A: Of course not! Hu is he!

C: I don't know! I don't know. I don't care. I don't care who is he, he is she, me is who, ma is what. I just want to go home now and play with my dog.

A: Fish.

C: Fish?

A: Dag is fish.

C: That's all, I'm outta here!

END

Monday, August 21, 2006

Pictures for upcoming Transformers movie robots revealed

OK. This one definitely falls into the "do I really want to talk about this?" category. The pictures seem to be unofficial, but confirmed by the producers of the upcoming Transformers movie as legitimate. They can be found on TFW2005, which I'm told is now requiring browsers to register with their site. If you're up for it, it's free.

I don't really want to get into a huge bitch-fest over these. I'm fully aware that the characters here are not, and should not be, the same as the ones I knew from 20 years ago. I'm perfectly cool with that. Still, I hate these designs. They look overdone to me, and more than a little "skeletal." Perhaps the powers-that-be wanted to highlight the robotic nature of these characters.

It should also be noted that these all represent, to some degree or another, works in progress. Still, I don't expect significant changes to be made at this point. What we see here is a clear indication of the basic design intention the movie producers are using. I just wish I could say that I agreed with them more.

Friday, August 18, 2006

New David LaMotte CD to be released

It's been a while since I've properly plugged singer/songwriter David LaMotte. His new CD, "Changes," is set to be officially released on September 12th, but copies are already available. I've already bought mine, and fans of LaMotte should not be disappointed.

You can listen to sample tracks, read more about the CD, and even order a copy from CD Baby (the site also provides links to other David LaMotte CDs, as well). If you're okay with waiting, the album will eventually be made available on iTunes, as well. They already have some of his older albums up now.

And just as a reminder, or if you'd just rather have something for free, my new podcast, The Reflectionary, is also available on iTunes, as well as via its own site, with a new episode set to be posted this weekend.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Great Tigatron Debate

A couple of days ago, this thread appeared at TFW2005, showing a picture of what is assumed to be an exclusive toy available at BotCon next month: Tigatron. This has reignited a surprisingly large amount of debate.

For the uninitiated, here's a brief primer: Tigatron was one of the first characters introduced after the beginning of the Beast Wars cartoon about a decade ago. It is strongly implied in the cartoon that "new" characters (with one or two explicit exceptions) were actually born during the events of the series, and therefore did not exist prior to it. Since the toys at BotCon this year are meant to establish "pre-Beast Wars" versions of Beast Wars characters, a BotCon Tigatron would appear to contradict established continuity.

The "real world" reasons why Fun Publications would want to produce a Tigatron toy are obvious. Cheetor is already established as a toy in the exclusive box set, and FP has spent a considerable amount of money giving this toy a new head (as opposed to the one molded into the Clocker toy that Cheetor is based on). Since the original Tigatron is a straight repaint of the original Cheetor toy, it makes economical sense for FP to get another recolor out of their new Cheetor head by making a Tigatron exclusive, as well.

Now, I'm already on record on several of the message boards as saying that it's not a big deal to establish a "pre-Beast Wars" form for Tigatron, and an explanation could easily be written that would not violate the established continuity of the cartoon. This has not placated many fans, some of whom contend that an essential part of Tigatron's character (indeed, the essential part, to hear some tell it) is his origins on Earth, and that Tigatron therefore feels more comfortable in natural surroundings than among the technology in his friends' home base. But surely there are many people who grew up in the "big city" who today feel more comfortable in "natural" surroundings, even here on Earth, where I expect we can safely assume that we share a common planet of birth. Even more to the point, although it is well-established that Tigatron has no memory of the Transformers' home planet, this could simply be the result of amnesia (it is also established that there were problems with Tigatron's "datatracks" during his "birth"), which would of course make it natural for Tigatron to prefer whatever settings he finds familiar, which in this case would be the natural environment that is the first thing he remembers.

It is certainly the case that Pete Sinclair, one of the most respected Transformers fans behind BotCon, has assured fans that many of the writers behind the series have given their okay to the story we'll be getting, and that nothing in the BotCon toys and story will contradict the cartoon. But whether or not an explanation can be made is, perhaps, beside the point. I would certainly agree that the intention of the writers 10 years ago was that Tigatron (and most other "new" characters established during the course of the series) be considered "newborns," despite some of the logistical and moral implications of such a position (for example, is it ethical to populate an exploratory vessel with innocent lives, before they've had any opportunity to choose for themselves what kind of life they desire?). If the people behind BotCon care as much about the established Transformers myth as they claim to (and I've no doubt they do), then arguably they should have respected the apparent intention of the original stories, even if it is possible to "explain" a "pre-Beast Wars" Tigatron.

I expect that this argument will continue for quite some time. For me, I have no problem with "pre-Beast Tigatron." The toy looks cool, it makes good economic sense for FP to make it, and I look forward to adding it to my collection and seeing what explanation the writers of the convention comic will provide for the character's existence.

Monday, August 14, 2006

24 Hours

My wife is finishing up her M.Div. requirements by serving as a hospital chaplain intern for 10 hours a week. She is also working several Teaching Assistant jobs, writing articles for publication, and even co-writing a book with one of our professors, all in preparation for Ph.D. studies in another year. Needless to say, her schedule is very tight. When an emergency came up late last week, all of this had to take a back seat so that she could deal with the emergency, which now monopolized her time.

Friday night, I wanted to do something nice for my wife to help alleviate some of the stress. So I found a coupon for a nice restaurant that we had not tried out previously, and decided to go out and relax. We had a very nice meal.

Unfortunately, our relaxation was almost totally destroyed when I discovered that I had forgotten my wallet at the restaurant. Although we returned to the restaurant within the hour, they were unable to locate my wallet at that time.

For the next 24 hours, I spent my time canceling my credit cards, looking into how I would replace my driver's license, and mostly feeling very vulnerable and powerless. And I prayed. A lot.

Thankfully, I got a call late the following evening informing me that the restaurant had located my wallet. I returned to retrieve it Sunday morning, and verified that all of my cards were intact (there was no cash in my wallet at all the evening I lost it, so any thief would have needed the cards to get anything of value). Although I now have to wait for replacement cards, I can now drive legally, and generally feel much better. And although my wife still has a few details to work out left over from last week, things are rapidly returning to normal for her, as well.

But what a difference 24 hours makes!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Profound Spiritual Insights

I don't know how many people today are familiar with Charles H. Spurgeon. Basically, he was a fairly well-known preacher of the late 1800's, whose writings and sermons are still popular among some Christians today (generally those who lean right of center, although I hasten to add that this is not in and of itself a reason to distrust him. It's just that conservatives are more likely to appreciate scholars from earlier eras than more liberal Christians.) Although his writings and sermons are generally praised for their level of devotion and inspiration, Spurgeon himself suffered from depression, and many of his writings deal with his struggles to allow God to work through him despite his own human weakness.

I was given a copy of Spurgeon's work Morning and Evening as a gift upon my graduation from college in 1996. Every once in a while I still pull it down to look at it. Here's a quote from the dust jacket: "Each of the 732 devotions [in the book] - one for every morning and evening of the year - provides inspiring meditations on portions of Scripture drawn from every book in the Bible."

Here's the Scripture reference for this evening: "Everlasting consolation" - 2 Thess. 2:16

(rant)

That's not a Scripture reference! I can't even call that a "portion." That's two words lifted out of a verse that might just as well be chosen by a blind chimpanzee!

And THIS guy has been legendary for over 150 years!??!?!?!

(end rant)

I suppose it must be true that God works through us and in spite of us. Spurgeon's devotional on those two words are indeed profound, and I certainly cannot find any theological errors or heresies in it.

But such practice violates the most basic teachings I was given on how to interpret Scripture. One needs context, first and foremost. One can't (or, at least, is generally told not to) take just a couple of words at random from the Scripture and write a devotional on them! Yet that seems to be exactly what happens here.

God works in mysterious ways....

The Price of Security

As is well-known by now, the British government yesterday thwarted an attempt by terrorists to destroy plans using explosive ingredients hidden in otherwise normal-looking liquid products. As a result, airports around the world are now banning the presence of such liquids and gels on travelers' carry-on luggage.

Although it is still permissible for travelers to place such items in their checked-in luggage (provided, of course, that they have not already checked their luggage in when they learn of the new regulations) a great many bottles of wine, perfume, shampoo, and other items are simply being thrown away.

I do not wish to second-guess the need for such precautions. However, the sheer amount of wasted product is simply staggering. I hope at least that local homeless shelters are being permitted to take advantage of the abandoned toiletries to provide aid to those who need it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What?

Yesterday was my birthday, and I can't hear as well I could last week.

Well, it's not that I'm actually LOSING my hearing. Rather, construction started on a new library at the seminary, and I happen to have the office that is arguably closest to the main construction of anyone. Thankfully, the seminary is providing earplugs.

While the earplugs do an "ok" job of cutting out the sounds of jackhammers and drills, I can't listen to my David LaMotte CDs. Believe it or not, I actually tried. Without changing my CD players volume above it's usual level, I couldn't hear the music at all. Not muffled. Not unintellible. Couldn't hear it at all.

Construction looks to continue for the next month.

Thankfully, I don't record the podcast from here, or the project would be doomed before I've barely even started it....


In unrelated news, I seem to have been tagged with the recent "book meme" that's been going around the blogosphere lately. Oh, why not?

1. One book that changed your life:
This kind of question is always hard to give a straight answer to. I feel it's a bit of a cop-out (and more than a little fundamentalist-sounding) to simply answer "The Bible," as true of an answer as that may be. There are a few other possibilities, but I think I'll go with The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. It's a children's mystery that was first read to me in fifth grade, and every day, after a new section had been read to us, I'd tell my sister (who is one year younger than me) what had happened as we walked home together. If we weren't already bookworms by then, that certainly helped make us so (although, compared to many people in and around my life these days, I'm not really that much of a bookworm at all these days).

2. One book that you've read more than once:
The aforementioned Westing Game certainly applies, but let's pull out Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I continue to pull off the shelf from time to time (most recently so that I could write this parody for my seminary).

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:
Hmmmm. Is there a book called How to Survive on a Desert Island? Not being aware of such, let's say a compendium version of Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire Star Wars trilogy. (Although, to be fair, I don't know if such a "3-in-1" version is out there, either.)

4. One book that made you laugh:
Just one? I think I'll go with Faith, Hope and Hilarity, a collection of church-related incidents involving children collected by Dick Van Dyke that I picked up cheap a few years ago at a used book sale, only to learn later that the book had actually been signed by Dick Van Dyke himself!

5. One book that made you cry:
As with most of these categories, there are quite a few of these, too.... Let's go with the latest book in the Harry Potter series, The Half-Blood Prince, when a major character is killed off (in case you've successfully avoided being spoiled about the identity of this character so far, I'll not ruin it now).

6. One book that you wish had been written:
How to Buy Transformers for Cheap and Sell Them for More Than You Paid for Them. :)

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
Oooh, that's a bit tougher. Even books I dislike, I'd generally not wish this upon. However, I think I'll go with Left Behind simply because of the irrational following it's garnered, causing more harm to the reputation of Christianity than (I'm sure) the authors intended.

8. One book you're currently reading:
Letter and Spirit by Protestant-turned-Catholic scholar Scott Hahn, given to me as a Christmas present by my Catholic brother-in-law. It looks to be an interesting reflection on the nature of God's work through God's word.

9. One book you've been meaning to read:
As much as I love Garrison Keillor on A Prairie Home Companion, I'm just having an awful time slogging through Homegrown Democrat. Not sure if it's that he's too far left for me, or just that his humor translates better to radio....

10. Now tag five people:
Sorry. I won't do this one. While I don't mind having this kind of meme sent to me, I don't believe that it's appropriate to send such things to people blindly. (Besides, most of the people I'd send it to have already gotten it, it would seem!) It's kind of like the old chain-mail thing: "Pass this on to 5 people or something terrible will happen to you!" I'll take the risk. ;)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Final value: ATB Megatron on eBay. PLUS: The Reflectionary

Yesterday, the ATB Megatron auction ended with a final value of $1525, won by a bidder who had not won any of the previous auctions. This was the final of the expected Hartman rare TF auctions (although a few more have since appeared, so it's anybody's guess if the auctions are really done now). The grand total for all 10 auctions done over the past several months is $22,739.33.

Also, the first episode of my new podcast, The Reflectionary, is now up. Although I hope to improve my broadcasting and editing abilities in future weeks, this one should at least give an idea for what I intend to do with the concept. The RSS feed is available on the link, as well as a link to the MP3 file itself.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Reformatting

Over the past few weeks, I've been giving some thought to the nature of this blog and it's future. Over the past year or so, Transforming Seminarian has been my venue to vent and talk about whatever stuff I think is important at the time. My original intention for setting up the blog was to give me a chance to hone my writing skills, and I have been glad for the extra chance to practice and improve. While I've never gotten a huge number of hits here, I have nonetheless been surprised at the diversity of people beyond just the standard "family and friends" that can be expected to read such a venue. Thanks to all of you.

That said, this site is going through a time of change. "Reformatting," if you will (Transformers fans will understand the reference). Some changes have happened already. I'm sure everyone has noticed that I've cut down somewhat on the number of posts I make. Instead of posting nearly every weekday, I've chosen to post closer to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday rotation. I believe that it's better to write when I have something to say rather than just for the sake of meeting a 5-day-a-week deadline, but still wish to have some level of "standard schedule" in place, that I might continue to discipline myself to keep writing. One only improves by doing.

I've also been somewhat intentional in reducing the level of explicitly political commentary. This is not because I am afraid of negative feedback (in fact, the level of such feedback I've gotten has been surprisingly low), but rather because I'm aware that complaining about such matters serves more to sour my own attitude toward the world than it serves to engage people in making positive changes in the world. (Longtime readers will know that this is an issue that I have wrestled with a lot over the past year and a half.)

But now, it's time to make the next step. In addition to the written blog, I'll also be starting a podcast, which will be tied to this page, but be its own entity that is much more explicitly Christian in nature. The podcast is called The Reflectionary, and will be posted on Sunday morning each week. If Transforming Seminarian has been an effort to hone my writing skills, The Reflectionary will be my attempt to practice broadcasting and "radio" speech.

The podcast will be a 10-15 minute weekly program, and will offer three of the lectionary readings from the Revised Common Lectionary (for the time being, I have not included the RCL's weekly reading from the Psalms, nor will I be including readings from the Apocrypha) intended for the following Sunday. I will offer comments and questions for each reading, but will try to keep from making each a "sermon" in any serious fashion. Many of my questions, in fact, will remain open-ended. The intention is to give listeners some advance preparation for what the pastor or priest is likely to talk about in Church the following Sunday (many churches, but certainly by no means all, use the Revised Common Lectionary in their weekly Sunday services. I do not know if churches that meet on non-Sundays would use the same readings, but since most churches do meet on Sundays, it seemed to be the way to go.).

The podcast is set up (assuming I did everything right!) to be subscribed to via standard podcasting programs, and also via iTunes. Starting on Monday, a link to the RSS feed may be found on the right. Also on Monday, you will also find a link to the archive page for The Reflectionary, which will be updated weekly as new programs are added (I'm still working out a kink or two on that page, so while you might stumble on it before then, don't expect anything to work, yet!).

A note on site policy. With the addition of the podcast, I have decided to drop the rule against using my name on the blog. Feel free to call me "Mark" if "B-W" has seemed unnatural to you. I will probably keep the use of my full name in text down to a minimum, so as to avoid spammy search engines. Also, I have made an e-mail link available on the Profile page, which is a new account I set up specifically for this blog and for The Reflectionary. If you have a comment that's not meant for a specific post, or that should be kept private, feel free to use the e-mail.

The Reformatting has begun!

Because Every Once in a While, Christian Commentary and Transformers Come Together

I actually had plans for a different entry today, but when I saw today's Shortpacked!, I had to mention it, instead.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Well, This was Unexpected

It appears that the Hartmans have at least a couple more auctions up their sleeves, and they're not waiting a few more weeks to share them.

Auction 1
Auction 2

Both of these auctions are for prototypes of what they called "Go-Bots" in Generation Two. These are "Hot Wheels"-style cars, complete with free-rolling wheels and compatible with Hot Wheels race tracks, that turn into robots. Unlike all the auctions we've seen up to this point, these toys were never produced in packaging, even in small quantities. Had these prototypes made it to that stage of production, the colors would have been different.

In each of these auctions, two of the three molds available were eventually released as part of the "Robots in Disguise" line, but the third mold has never seen wide production, possibly because of a mold problem that makes the robot unable to hold the weapon that accompanies it.

Both auctions represent one-of-a-kind opportunities to own a piece of Transformers history. Expect the bids to go quite high. They're each at $34.33 right now.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

An Offer from Paraclete Press

After reviewing Scot McKnight's book "Praying with the Church" a few weeks back, I've been on Paraclete Press' e-mail list. Here's an offer that seemed worth passing on. (Always can use good, cheap, books!)

Turning Lemons into Lemonade, Paraclete Press Announces an Innovative Book Sale Unlike Any Other!

Pastors, youth pastors, and other ministry leaders are offered Paraclete’s best titles at outrageously low prices!

One of the pitfalls of publishing in this day and age is those dreaded returns from the superstores. So when the most recent batch of returns arrived at our door, we did our usual wailing and moaning. Then we scratched our heads and thought, why not do something creative with all these perfectly good books? Rather than putting them back on our shelves, why not turn them right around to support the ministry of some of our finest customers- our churches?!

So this month, we are making these books available to our church customers for a fraction of the normal retail cost! The way we figure, it’s a win-win situation. You’ll get our books at prices you’d never find on Amazon.com or anywhere else, and we don’t have to restock them in our warehouse, taking up valuable space we’d rather save for our new fall titles!

You can see the list of available titles at www.paracletepress.com. This offer is only available over the phone, so call us toll-free at 1-800-451-5006. We’ve called in some friends to help us staff the phones in anticipation of your calls, and we’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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