Friday, December 25, 2009

Weekly Transformers Feature: Chevy Aveo Swerve

For Christmas morning, it seems appropriate to feature a Transformer that is, in every way, a gift.  Sometime in 2007, rumors started to surface of a new-mold Transformer through the usual (unofficial) channels.  It appeared to be a part of the then-already-defunct Universe line, which led to a strong belief that it would be an exclusive of some kind or another, rather than a mainstream retail release.  However, as this toy did feature an all-new mold, this was already unusual (if not utterly unique) for an exclusive toy.  Even more unusual was that this toy turned into a clearly-marked Chevy Aveo, which meant that the toy was actually licensed through Chevrolet, even though the toy clearly wasn't an Alternator (which were the only licensed-vehicle Transformers of that time).  The story only got stranger....

The rumors said that the toy was to be available only in China, and only through Chevy dealers.  Indeed, the rumors first suggested that you actually had to buy a Chevy Aveo, which sounded even at the time rather implausible.  The rumors eventually shifted to getting the toy if you test drove an Aveo, which was a bit more reasonable.  None of these rumors have ever been verified.  All that is known for sure is that this toy apparently was created at Chevrolet's request and expense.  As such, neither Hasbro nor TakaraTomy could use it themselves.  The only way you could get this toy was through Chevrolet directly.

The first verified means of distribution for the toy which was now known to be named "Swerve" came through a Chevrolet website in 2008.  Supposedly, these were specimens that remained after Chevy distributed the toys through a European (as opposed to Chinese) test-drive promotion, but again, this part has never been verified.  The toys were only available through the website for about a day or two, and being still clearly directed at the European market, any American that wanted to purchase one not only had to pay the higher-than-retail asking price and shipping, but an extra international fee on top of it, making this toy quite expensive.  The toy's supposed scarcity led to high resale prices when it would inevitably show up on eBay shortly afterward.

Then, in the summer of 2009, Chevrolet announced that Swerve toys (apparently not yet depleted through previous channels) would be given away for free, but only to those who attended a promotional event at one of several shopping centers in Canada (some sources say only in the Toronto area!) if you filled out a survey.  The TFWiki says that each site only had 20 Swerves to distribute per day, and only one per customer, but I have to question that part, since I got mine through a person on one of the message boards I visit regularly, and it's clear enough that he himself got more than 20 of the toys to distribute to fellow fans.  In fact, he sent them to us for free, even refusing offers to pay him back for shipping costs!  Truly, this figure was a gift, and to that fan, I say "Thanks!"

This will be my last weekly Transformers feature, at least for a while.  In almost two years, I've already covered more than 100 different Transformers, and although my collection does include many more toys that I've not yet covered, I want to make sure that I don't reach the point where I run out of different and interesting things to say about them, and need to take a step back and rethink how I cover Transformers before I reach that point (if, indeed, I haven't already!).  I'm also going to take the next week off from active blog posting, as I prepare a few new things for the New Year.  I recently heard that average life-span for a blog is only 2-3 years, and having already beaten that average, I nonetheless want to make sure that I keep working on ways to make the blog interesting to would-be readers.  Thanks for your support these past few years.  I'll be back on January 1st.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pulpit Dedicated at Fourth Presbyterian Church, Louisville, KY

This past Sunday, a new pulpit was dedicated in the sanctuary of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Louisville, KY (my home church while I was growing up).  It incorporates the seal of our denomination, the PC(USA).  For those unfamiliar with the symbolism behind the seal, I refer you to the official website.  Since one of the things symbolized in the seal is a pulpit, it only seems natural that this expression should be represented in literal fashion, as well as figurative.

This pulpit was constructed by my parents out of oak and padauk wood over the course of three months. Padauk is a dense red wood from Africa, used to offset the seal from the rest of the pulpit.  Here is a picture of my dad with the pulpit before it was varnished and glued together, but with all of the pieces finally ready.

And here's one more shot before varnishing, viewed from another angle.

The pulpit was dedicated to two long-time members of our congregation who have passed away in recent years: Mary Burks and Richard Harden.  Both of whom I knew well while growing up, and Mr. Harden was especially involved with our youth group, accompanying us on trips to Montreat for youth conferences and so forth.

Here is the full text of the dedication plaque:

Dedicated to the memories of Mary Burks and Richard Harden December 20, 2009.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Congratulations to Diane Sawyer

When I first enrolled as a student at Seneca High School in 1988, I was told of two particularly notable alumni from the school.  The first was Jerry Abramson, who was already serving as mayor of Louisville, and who I have taken to playfully calling "Mayor for Life," because he still holds that position today (I should note that he hasn't held the position continuously that entire time, and the city itself was restructured entirely between his two tenures).  The other was Diane Sawyer, who this evening becomes the anchor of ABC's World News.

Sawyer becomes only the second woman to become the solo anchor of a nightly network news broadcast (the first being Katie Couric.  For some reason, people seem never to count Elizabeth Vargas, who was de facto solo anchor for a time when Bob Woodruff was critically injured, taking him out of the co-anchorship they began to share earlier that same month).  This honor comes after an already significant career spanning just over four decades, most recognizably as host of Good Morning America for the past ten years.

I've never met Sawyer, but feel that I simply must take this opportunity to say "congratulations" to a fellow Seneca alum!  May her tenure as anchor be long and distinguished!

Unrelated to Sawyer's promotion, I discovered while researching this entry that another Seneca alumni, writer ZZ Packer, is listed in the Seneca High School entry on Wikipedia.  ZZ graduated just a couple of years before I did, and we often played together on Seneca's "Quick Recall" team.  I confess that we fell out of touch after graduation, but I'm always glad to see that friends are doing well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Weekly Transformers Feature: Perceptor

Recent Generation One reissues of the Insecticons and Perceptor have brought these characters back to the forefront of consciousness for the Christmas season.  My brother heard that I was considering getting the reissues and, in an act of mercy, offered to send me the one he had in storage back at our family home in Kentucky, which he says was mine, anyway.  That saved me $35 plus tax, so I was more than happy to pay the shipping on a package I was sending on his request at about that same time.

As I mentioned back when reviewing Spy Shot 6, non-vehicular Transformers have become something of a rarity in recent years (although the recent movie toylines have indeed done a fair bit to bring the concept back, including a new microscope-mode Transformer in 2009), but back in the first couple of years of the Transformers franchise, they were actually fairly common.  The mold for Perceptor, like that of so many Transformers released in 1984-1985, was actually created for a previously-unrelated toy line in Japan (in this case, Micro Change), and repurposed as a Transformer a year or so later.  Perceptor actually boasts a real magnifying lens in the eyepiece, capable of viewing objects at 14 times their normal size.  Not enough to win any science fair awards, perhaps, but a nice level of attention to detail that the toy designers might not have bothered with if they didn't want to.  When I recently re-claimed this specimen a few months ago, I had a look.  Yes, the lens still works.  The image is even fairly clear, if the object is held at just the right place away from the lens (the tray isn't quite that "right" location, I'm sad to say, although it's pretty close).  I haven't actually heard a confirmed report as to whether or not the Perceptor reissue currently at Toys R Us retains this feature, although it's certainly possible (quite bluntly, I don't trust the copy-writers who wrote "Not a working microscope" on the reissue's packaging to necessarily know what they're talking about. That could easily just be a knee-jerk kind of thing to write down).

The robot mode is one of those "amazingly well-articulated for 1985" toys, although that should perhaps be said with the usual disclaimer that such an achievement is entirely due to the fact that all those joints have to move in just that way to transform the toy into a microscope in the first place (well, I guess the elbows didn't have to be there to turn the toy into a microscope...).  Perceptor comes with both a rifle and a missile launcher (with the standard compliment of more missiles than can possibly be stored in the launcher at a single time.  Perceptor comes with three, and the launcher holds but one).  I'm told that the missile launcher does represent a change between this vintage Perceptor and the reissue.  Although all American Perceptors (including this one) had the launching feature neutered to comply with American safety standards, the current reissue seems to have achieved this in a way that makes the launcher unable to properly hold onto the missile at all!  If you want to display a reissue Perceptor with a loaded missile launcher in one hand, you'll have to have it done in a firing pose, lest gravity ruin the effect.

Perceptor, while not technically a triple-changer, does have a third mode, where basically the designers discovered that if you simply rearranged the limbs just a bit off of the microscope configuration, you get something that looks kinda-sorta like a tank, and so they added "treads" onto the sides of the legs and extra extensions to pull out of the feet to justify this "third mode's" existence.  The official instructions tell you to remove the knobs from the microscope to achieve this (as is seen in this picture), but I honestly almost never do so.  There's really very little incentive to take the knobs off, since they don't get in the way of the transformation at all, they don't really do anything that detracts from the "tank" effect any more than the rest of the microscope parts do, and I really just don't care to take off potentially easy-to-lose parts when I don't have to.  (For the especially eagle-eyed among you: yes, that Autobot symbol on the lens barrel is a sign that I took this picture later than the others, after I decided that I had a Reprolabel handy that fit just fine)

Have you been considering getting the reissue Perceptor from ToysRUs.com?  Perhaps as a Christmas present?  Some other toy, perhaps?  Sign up for an account with Big Crumbs before you do!  They have partnerships with tons of sites online, including ToysRUs.com, and you can earn a percentage of your purchase back in cash.  This is above and beyond any sales you might get from the site itself.  All you have to do is visit the site through the Big Crumbs link after signing up for an account.  You can also support this site by signing up for Big Crumbs using the link here as your referral.  Check it out, and happy holiday shopping!  

Sadly, Reprolabels doesn't work with Big Crumbs, but they do have an offer for a free "Energon Cube" sticker you can use to turn an old playing die into an Energon Cube if you spend more than $10 there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tolerating Intolerance

The other day, while driving on the freeway, I found myself behind a truck with a bumper sticker on its rear windshield that depicted the outline of the United States filled in with the colors of the American flag. The caption read "Speak English, or get the f*** out!"

I'll be blunt. Reading statements like this makes me extremely angry. In a world with no consequences, I can pretty easily imagine myself hitting the gas pedal to ram the truck from behind to express my displeasure. I'd like to think that I refrain from such actions at least as much "because I know it's wrong" as I do from the fact that my little car would no doubt sustain more damage than the truck would in such an altercation. But if I'm being honest, I have to admit that I'm not entirely sure I'd do "the right thing" if I knew I could get away with it.

Of course, I'm assuming that "the right thing" is to allow the person with the hateful statement on his rear windshield to continue his day unmolested. But as I think through the issues that such a bigoted sticker raises, I find that I'm actually not entirely clear on how I would answer the question "what would Jesus do?" After all, the same Jesus that said "turn the other cheek" also created quite a scene by turning over the tables of the moneylenders at the temple. Whatever else is true, it seems clear that motives of anger aren't what make actions wrong, but that context matters.

That's not to say that I think Jesus would have plowed his car into the back of a truck with a racist bumper sticker in the window. I can't help but think that he'd have done something more constructive. But what?

There's a bit of angry nonsense I sometimes hear some people say: "You ____s (fill in the label of your choice) can tolerate anything except intolerance."  I call it "nonsense" because it is.  By definition, anyone who advocates "tolerance" would have to be annoyed by "intolerant" attitudes.  How could a person "tolerate intolerance" and continue to advocate for tolerance?

Yet, do we even have a choice?  However much we might fight against intolerance when and where we can, there's always more intolerance out there.  The growing cultural divide is clear evidence of this.  Intolerance seems to be akin to the mythical hydra that regrows two new heads whenever one is chopped off.  At the very least, if one doesn't battle the monster wisely, it's obvious that a person choosing to fight intolerance can do at least as much harm as good.

But that doesn't mean I was glad to see that truck with the intolerant message continue down the road unchallenged.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Weekly Transformers Feature: San Diego Comic-Con 2008 Nemesis Prime

There's a running gag among Transformers fans that convention exclusive toys are heavily biased toward being black redecos.  This has been true of quite a few BotCon exclusives (especially since 2005), but it seems to be especially true of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) exclusives.  Back in 2005, the very first SDCC exclusive Transformer, Skywarp, certainly fit this bill.  In 2006, SDCC joined the Nemesis Prime bandwagon with Alternators Nemesis Prime.  In 2007, SDCC gave us a black repaint of the Titanium Rodimus Prime figure and tried to pass it off as Menasor.  Then in 2008, they went doubly dark, giving us a Titanium Skywarp and yet another Nemesis Prime, redecoed from the Classics Optimus Prime figure (Oddly enough, this past year's SDCC seems to have broken the pattern, with a new reissue of G1 Soundwave being the main Transformers exclusive).

The bio given to this version of Nemesis Prime describes a rather different origin than, say, Robots in Disguise Scourge, but both involve a Transformer given an Optimus Prime-like form without having Prime's ideals.  Nemesis Prime here is said to be a creation of Straxus, a character that appeared in the Marvel Comics series, who proved to be one of the more memorable comics-only characters.  Don't ask me how Nemesis Prime's creation fits into that continuity, though.  It's probably possible, but would take some shoehorning....

Having already talked about Classics Optimus Prime, there's not a lot of point in going over the different combinations Nemesis Prime's weapons can take, since everything's the same about this figure except for the coloring.  This is the kind of figure that won't appeal to everyone, but which I've always had a soft spot for, enjoying (and creating) "evil clone" characters even before Transformers got into the act officially with Scourge/Nemesis Prime types.  And although it's a bit more expensive than the average retail-released Transformer, as a SDCC exclusive, it was created in considerably higher numbers than BotCon exclusives, making it a bit easier to locate if you do want it.

This Christmas shopping season is still in full swing.  Are you looking for treasures like this on eBay--or elsewhere online--to give as Christmas presents?  Might I suggest signing up for an account with Big Crumbs?  They have partnerships with tons of sites online, and you can earn a percentage of your purchase back in cash.  This is above and beyond any sales you might get from the site itself.  All you have to do is visit the site through the Big Crumbs link after signing up for an account.  You can also support this site by signing up for Big Crumbs using the link here as your referral.  Check it out, and happy holiday shopping!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Responses from PC(USA) Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow

Last week, I mentioned that I was taking up PC(USA) Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow on his offer to answer questions.  Here are his responses (the only editing that has been done has been for typos and such, at Bruce's own suggestion):

1. While you've made your own political convictions known, you have also made it clear that you truly do wish to be in conversation with Presbyterians (dare I say, "Christians of any denomination"?) of differing convictions. What have you done to build trust and relationship with believers who have such clearly opposing viewpoints? Do you think it's possible for believers with diametrically opposed interpretations on (what at least one side would consider) core issues to coexist? How can we worship God together?
Hey now, you somehow managed slip in three parts to that question. I'll try to take a stab. I feel like I have built trust by being consistent to how I have promised to approach conversations with people from all theological perspectives. I will, to the best of my ability, assume that the other is seeking to know God as much as I am and that he/she is discerning the word/s of God to the best of their ability. When I assume that God only speaks to me and in no way could be speaking to the other I have given up a connectionalism that I am not quite ready to do. I think the "diametrically opposed" question depends on the ramification of those opinions and to what extent any of can live in a culture of disagreement. If living within a situation where one feels like his/her values are compromised then I think one MUST think about the faithfulness of staying in the situation.
2. Having followed you on your various blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and the God Complex Radio podcast, I feel safe in saying that your reputation for exploring the potential of current technologies for worship and theological reflection is well-deserved. Is there any single technological breakthrough that excites you more than others? Why that one? What would you say to others who just don't understand the big deal about such technologies (full disclosure: although I do have a Twitter account, that is certainly one technology that I've never really "gotten," in terms of understanding either the appeal or how it might be profitably used)?
*grin* I actually think that Twitter is the most intriguing for me right now. I do say "right now" because part of being adaptable to new technologies is acknowledging that none is the end-all and be-all. Some of the ways twitter has been used for pastoral care, project completion, community building, social justice, etc are fascinating. I have been heading up a twitter service each Sunday called #tworhip [http://twubs.com/tworship] that is trying to explore some of this. For those for whom all this just makes no sense, that is okay. Tech will not be for everyone just as hymns in church, pesto on my pasta or watching college football really do nothing for me. The key is to be able to appreciate that it does create some kind of movement for other people.
3. Although I don't think we've ever actually crossed paths in person, it is my understanding that we both have backgrounds with the Montreat Youth Conferences in multiple capacities. How would you describe the Youth Conferences to someone who has never been? Would you recommend this gathering for all youth, or under what circumstances might you argue that it isn't for them? What alternatives might you recommend for a church that is too far removed from the mountains of North Carolina to make attendance viable (I currently attend a church in Pasadena, CA, and I'm sure you know churches in San Francisco that have found attending difficult, if not impossible)?
Montreat is one of the many wonderful youth conference experiences that are offered in the PC(USA). While I have certainly enjoyed my Montreat experience, I am not sure it is worth the ongoing cost for long-distance travel. For a one-time big conference experience, it is a moving experience. I would see Montreat, Triennium and some of our other larger youth events as great compliments to local camps and conference experiences, mission trips, etc.
4. What would you consider the strengths of the PC(USA)'s current process for preparing would-be pastors for ordination? What would you consider the weaknesses of this process? If you were able, what changes might you suggest?
I still believe that some of the rigor of the process is valuable. To understand that we alone do not determine the nature of our calling but that a community of people can often help us see strengths and weaknesses that might not otherwise be noticed is important. We may not always agree with those who have these roles in our life, but that does not make the process as a whole invalid. Learning to "submit" in a way that allows us to see God in new ways through the discernment with/by others can be powerful. At the same time, this leaves open the possibility for cycles of like-thinking, like-culture and exclusiveness in what we expect from those in the call process. This tension represents both the best and worst of who we can be as Presbyterians.
5. Having tried my hand at podcasting for a brief spell (archives can still be found via the Internet Archive), I've been following God Complex Radio with interest, and I have a concept for the effort that goes into putting out a program on a weekly basis (of course, "The Reflectionary" was on a much smaller scale than God Complex Radio!). What gave you the idea to take on such a project? Given your multiple responsibilities, what made you think you could maintain the energy needed to keep it going? What steps did you take to ensure (or "increase the possibility of"?) the success of the effort? If you could change one aspect of that "start up" effort, what would it be? Would you be interested in the possibility of adding a new co-host who talks entirely too much about Transformers toys? (OK, that last one's not entirely serious, but I just had to ask!)
God Complex radio started with a tweet from me to Carol asking her if she was up for something crazy. The rest, as they say, is history. The technology is pretty easy, complete with glitches galore, and once Landon Whitsett agreed to produce it, all I had to do was read, show up and help get the word out. For the amount of play that we are getting, it was a very low amount of prep. One of the reasons I wanted to do this was because I felt and feel that there is a lack of Gen X voices out there talking thoughtfully about theology, culture and faith. Add our stunning wit to the mix and there you have it, GRC. And hey, if there is ever a Transformer epi, you're on ;-)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Knox Kids Lego Church

For the past several weeks, the Fourth and Fifth grade children at Knox Presbyterian have been encouraged to think through issues related to worship space.  After hearing the weekly "Godly Play" story, these older children separate out into a group we've been calling "Godly Trek."  Basically, we're hoping to transition them into age-appropriate activities more smoothly than just having them jump into middle school programs (which our church doesn't yet have, since we've had few children of that age, but that will change in just another year or two).  One of the activities these "Godly Trekkers" have undertaken is to build their own church out of Lego bricks.  The "finished product" was presented to the rest of the congregation this past Sunday.

This church has a number of notable features demonstrating the theological reflection of the children, and I apologize that I no doubt won't remember everything as I try to cover it here, but I'll give it my best shot.  Just outside the main church building (visible in the picture at the top) is a pyramid.  This is not some New Age reference (which most of our kids would have no understanding of to begin with!), but rather a reminder of the Exodus, and how the people of God were led out of Egypt and into a new life of worship as a community.  The picture here to the right is of a huge cross in the center of the worship space, which itself is said to be the pulpit (apparently, the preacher is to stand on top of the cross, which also gives him/her room to move around while preaching).

Another feature that was discussed was that this church building doesn't have any doors, but rather lots of open spaces from which to enter, symbolizing the fact that the church is open to all who wish to enter in.  I wasn't actually able to see it myself (much less get pictures!), but we were also told that, on the ceiling of the interior space, the Ten Commandments are printed, enabling all of the worshipers to readily see "The Ten Best Ways to Live" (as the Commandments are sometimes referred to in one of the "Godly Play" stories).  It's encouraging to see these examples of how the next generation of Christians is being led at our church!

Monday, December 07, 2009

New Book You Must Read: Common Worship in Theological Education

A couple of years ago, a group of scholars met to discuss worship in the Christian academy.  It was quickly recognized that, although many Christian academic institutions have some sort of common worship opportunity (sometimes even requiring mandatory attendance), these worship experiences were often not given very much respect in comparison to other academic endeavors.  Even more surprising, it was discovered that no work had ever been published dedicated to the phenomenon of such worship within academic settings.  Recently published by Pickwick Publications, Common Worship in Theological Education seeks to fill that gap.

As a person who works in a seminary setting who occasionally blogs about issues related to worship, it's probably no surprise that I would find such a book intriguing, but I do have a more personal reason.  My wife, who is in the process of completing her PhD in Christian Worship at Fuller Theological Seminary, has contributed one of the chapters to this volume!  Her work sits alongside that of established scholars from a number of theological institutions across America from a variety of worship traditions.  Needless to say, I'm very proud.  Her particular chapter deals with the necessity of recognizing how one's background and experience can often shape assumptions in what constitutes "proper" worship.  People often assume a kind of "neutrality" about their own style of worship that is unrecognized until something happens to change that style, at which point people often exclaim "you can't do that!" without even recognizing why they have such strong feelings.

Since this book has just come out, it's obviously too early to say how well it will be received by the wider market, but I really do think that this is not only worthwhile reading, but that this book (or portions of it.  My wife's chapter, perhaps?) will likely soon be required for many students, especially in seminary settings where would-be pastors are expecting to learn about worship leadership.  There is a sense in which this work recognizes issues that have existed for a long time, and I believe that many readers will find themselves asking, "why has no one pointed this out before?"  If you're able, I strongly recommend buying a copy.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Weekly Transformers Feature: Destructicon Scourge

When the Robots in Disguise line introduced the character of Scourge, they started something of a trend.  Prior to the creation of that character, the only mold created for Optimus Prime that was ever redecoed to be used for another character was for the original Ultra Magnus, and even that only reused the cab portion (a part which, indeed, was never used in any of the fiction until years later... after the advent of Robots in Disguise).  Once Scourge was created, making "evil Primes" became something of a cottage industry within the Transformers franchise.

This version of Scourge was the third created for this character.  The first, of course, was the repaint of Laser Optimus Prime featured in the link in the first paragraph.  The second was the spychanger version mentioned at the end of the article on Brave Maximus.  This Scourge was created toward the end of the Robots in Disguise line.  After the line had mostly died down, really.  It was one of two toys released as exclusives to Kay-Bee toy stores under the "Destructicon" heading.  Even since the days of Generation One, I've always thought "Destructicon" was a name that should be used for a Decepticon sub-team.  It just rolls nicely off the tongue.  So I was glad to see it used here.  Like the original Scourge, Destructicon Scourge is a redeco of an Optimus Prime figure, in this case, Generation Two "Hero" Optimus Prime.

One of the nifty play features of this mold is the bellows in back, which can be removed from the truck and placed on the table for deployment.  Just pound down on the bellows while one of the missiles is in place on the launcher, and you can send the missile flying into the air.  Don't expect to knock down larger Transformers toys with this feature, but it's still pretty fun.

Perhaps ironically, although Scourge started the "evil Prime" trend, none of the "evil Primes" that have been created in years since (and there have been several) have been called "Scourge" (at least, not in the US).  Rather, the name "Nemesis Prime" has become more common.  I'll feature one of these next week.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Questions for PC(USA) Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow

PC(USA) Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow recently sent out a call for people to ask him questions.  Having followed him for the past couple of years, I decided "why not?" and so am sending the following questions, to which he promises to respond within the week.  In keeping with the agreement, his responses will be posted unedited.
  1. While you've made your own political convictions known, you have also made it clear that you truly do wish to be in conversation with Presbyterians (dare I say, "Christians of any denomination"?) of differing convictions. What have you done to build trust and relationship with believers who have such clearly opposing viewpoints?  Do you think it's possible for believers with diametrically opposed interpretations on (what at least one side would consider) core issues to coexist?  How can we worship God together?
  2. Having followed you on your various blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and the God Complex Radio podcast, I feel safe in saying that your reputation for exploring the potential of current technologies for worship and theological reflection is well-deserved. Is there any single technological breakthrough that excites you more than others? Why that one? What would you say to others who just don't understand the big deal about such technologies (full disclosure: although I do have a Twitter account, that is certainly one technology that I've never really "gotten," in terms of understanding either the appeal or how it might be profitably used)?
  3. Although I don't think we've ever actually crossed paths in person, it is my understanding that we both have backgrounds with the Montreat Youth Conferences in multiple capacities.  How would you describe the Youth Conferences to someone who has never been?  Would you recommend this gathering for all youth, or under what circumstances might you argue that it isn't for them?  What alternatives might you recommend for a church that is too far removed from the mountains of North Carolina to make attendance viable (I currently attend a church in Pasadena, CA, and I'm sure you know churches in San Francisco that have found attending difficult, if not impossible)?
  4. What would you consider the strengths of the PC(USA)'s current process for preparing would-be pastors for ordination?  What would you consider the weaknesses of this process?  If you were able, what changes might you suggest?
  5. Having tried my hand at podcasting for a brief spell (archives can still be found via the Internet Archive), I've been following God Complex Radio with interest, and I have a concept for the effort that goes into putting out a program on a weekly basis (of course, "The Reflectionary" was on a much smaller scale than God Complex Radio!).  What gave you the idea to take on such a project?  Given your multiple responsibilities, what made you think you could maintain the energy needed to keep it going?  What steps did you take to ensure (or "increase the possibility of"?) the success of the effort?  If you could change one aspect of that "start up" effort, what would it be?  Would you be interested in the possibility of adding a new co-host who talks entirely too much about Transformers toys?  (OK, that last one's not entirely serious, but I just had to ask!)
UPDATE: Bruce's responses may be found here.

    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    Knight Rider GPS

    Last Christmas, I got a GPS with the voice of KITT from the 1980's version of Knight Rider — a perfect example of product placement if ever there was one.  I've found it to be one of the more useful presents I've ever been given, allowing me to explore a greater amount of Southern California (and, let's be honest, there's quite a lot of it to be explored) than I would probably have otherwise done.  Need to scout out all of the Targets in the area to find that elusive exclusive?  KITT will tell you how to find the nearest one.

    I can't really speak to how well KITT compares to other GPS devices, since this is really the first one with which I have any experience.  Most of my own use has been with the "search nearby" feature, where I can type in the name of the business I want to locate ("Toys R Us," for example), and KITT will then figure out where the nearest ones are, and I can then choose the one I want directions to.  I've used the "address" feature a few times, especially for longer trips, but I've had to curtail my long-distance travel quite a bit this past year just to keep expenses down.  Also noteworthy is a setting for "food" that will list all the restaurants nearby.  Perfect for when one needs a little help deciding what to eat!

    I have one minor gripe with the system.  Although I've found the directions to be generally accurate, KITT often seems unable to determine what side of the street the destination is really supposed to be on.  When I use it to get home from a place I've never been before, for example, I find that KITT always tells me that the apartment building is on the right, even though it's actually on the left as often as not.  This is a minor irritant, at worst, but I do wish the programmers would have cleared that kind of thing up.  Still, having a car (device) that talks to me is pretty cool.  Now if I can only get it to drive itself!


    This week, many people are doing a lot of shopping online.  Are you looking for treasures like this on eBay — or elsewhere online — to give as Christmas presents?  Might I suggest signing up for an account with Big Crumbs?  They have partnerships with tons of sites online, and you can earn a percentage of your purchase back in cash.  This is above and beyond any sales you might get from the site itself.  All you have to do is visit the site through the Big Crumbs link after signing up for an account.  You can also support this site by signing up for Big Crumbs using the link here as your referral.  Check it out, and happy holiday shopping!

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