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My New Toy: DROID

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About a month ago I posted HERE that I had been allowed, by my wife and parents (both of whom are footing the bill for this) to purchase my Christmas gift early: an iPod Touch. 

I very much enjoyed the touch, and it made me want an iPhone desperately.  A few glitches, though: 1) We are loyal Verizon customers, unwilling to switch to AT&T . . . Verizon has always gone above and beyond for us; 2) I deeply lamented the fact that the Touch did not have internet access at all times, but only when I could find an open connection, which was rarely, or when at a ‘hot spot'; 3) Price . . . it was a hunk of change for no phone, camera, and unlimited internet capabilities.  I was, however, still very happy with it, and was on it every day and night religiously.

Then, my wife received a text message from Verizon saying we qualified for an early upgrade.  Curious, I called and asked precisely what the discount would be.  Long story short, I returned the iPod touch to Best Buy earlier this week, went to my local Verizon store and got . . . the new DROID.  It’s only been out about a month, but this thing is incredible.  I love having email anywhere.  And internet anywhere.  There are some great apps, and I trust many more to come.  My favorites are the barcode scanners so far, which use the camera to either take a picture of a book cover or scan the barcode and then find it online.  I know these aren’t anything new to iPhone users, but to a loyal Verizon customer, this is pretty sweet.  Loving the DROID.

Explaining my Absence

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Never fear, loyal readers.  All is well.  Things are just busy, as you might expect at this time of the year.  Yes, the holidays draw nigh.  But so does the end of the semester.  At present, I am finishing up a stack of my student’s final essays; they also have their final exams tomorrow (wish them luck!), so the next few days will go to grading those and then reporting final grades.  Add to that dissertation work and writing, preparing a trip home for Christmas, and a host of other things, and I haven’t had much time to blog productively about things recently.  That will, though, change soon.  No worries.

In the meantime, check out my SBL posts below, and do comment.

I hope you all are well!

My New Toy!! (or, Christmas comes early)

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Yesterday I decided, finally, to break down and beg my family to let me get a Christmas gift early.  What did I want, you ask?  An Ipod touch (I didn’t get an iphone because I have Verizon, and yes, I know about the Droid, but we aren’t eligible to upgrade for another year and I can’t spend $500 on a phone).  So far, I love it.  I was up until 2 am playing with it, downloading apps.  I’ve gone app crazy!  I am really looking forward to having it in New Orleans, assuming there will be wireless internet available at the conference site as there has been in past years.

And so I ask you, friends, to suggest to me the best FREE apps to get, be they games, document viewers, language sources, Bibles, etc.  Suggest away!

On Being Frustrated

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The last few weeks have seen a string of events that have left me frustrated.  Things have simply not been going in my favor (not that they always did before, mind you; perhaps Deuteronomistic theology is at work and I should inspect my life to check my adherence to Torah . . . let’s just hope I at least come out unlike Manasseh!).  Here’s a bit of what’s been going on . . .

-Two weeks ago we were accidentally locked out of our house.  Of course, we called a locksmith, assured it would take no time at all to pick the lock.  Well, four hours later (outside with a tired 2 yr old, mind you), three locksmith companies, and five locksmiths later we got in our house . . . through a window.  Sigh.

-This past weekend my wife and I set out to replace our leaky kitchen faucet.  Upon taking the faucet off we attempted to remove the handles to clean out any debris.  The handles, however, were stuck, so in our wisdom we hammered them off with a hammer.  That broke our old faucet.  So we went to Home Depot to buy a new faucet.  Upon returning home we finished disconnecting the old one from the wall, only to reveal that one of the attached pipes was so brittle that the threading part broke off.  We could hook the new sink up, but we had no pressure at all, and the leak was now coming out of the wall.  We called a plumber and was told a simple house call would be $150 on the weekend.  So after a day with no water (we obviously had to shut the water off at the street to keep it from shooting out of the wall in the kitchen) we finally found a plumber whose house call on the weekends was not so exorbitant.  Two hours later and $300 later we have a new faucet that doesn’t drip . . . but I’d rather have a mildly drippy faucet and $300 in my pocket.

-Today daycare called and said my son was pushed by another child, resulting in a huge bump and scrape on his forehead and some scraping around one of his eyes.  He seems fine, but I don’t have a lot of patience or tolerance (none, actually) for things happening to my son.  He has also recently been getting bitten by a certain child at daycare.  He came up to me a little bit ago and said he had an “owie” on his head, and then he said “daddy kiss it.”  Children are such a blessing.  And there is no better feeling than being able to make your child feel better.

There are some other things, but these are three biggies . . . leaving me . . . frustrated.

My Son the Biblical Scholar! (or, a 2 year old reads the Bible)

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Earlier today while my wife was at work my 2 year old son asked that I read to him.  After a series of Scooby Doo books 611FPE540WL__SS500_he brought me a real goodie . . . Who’s Who in the Old Testament (cover pictured at left).  There are pictures of animals on each page–fish, lions, birds, dogs, etc.–and he loves to identify the animals.  He’s a very sharp two year old!

As we were reading along we came to one of the final pages, I believe on Daniel, and we were naming off the various things in the pictures.  He very easily identified the “lion” when I pointed to it.  He then, however, continued to insist there was a “birdie” in the picture when there clearly was not.  I asked him where the birdie was, and he pointed, without hesitation . . . to an angel floating in the sky!  It was hilarious.  I guess an angel does fulfill some of the basic requirements a two year old would have for a “birdie” — wings and in the sky.  That is some sound exegesis!

So, what did I learn today?  Angels are really “birdies.”  My son . . . the biblical scholar!

(for another example of my son’s religious views, see HERE)

Happy Birthday to Me!

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Today, October 19, 2009 marks my 28th birthday.  Yes, I’m still a young pup!  That’s a whole career’s worth of cutting-edge scholarship at your disposal!!

I am blessed to have my parents visiting Waco to celebrate with my amazing wife and wonderful son!  On the docket today is, well, very little until my wife gets off work.  Then it’s going out to eat supper, gifts, and a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins.  Yummy!  And after that is a bottle of TUMS to wash it all down!  Life is good!

To whomever was curious as to my religious affiliation . . . (and a question for others).

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Someone arrived at my blog recently by searching the string “what religion is jon anderson.”  I’ll overlook the misspelling of the first name and assume they genuinely meant me.  I’ll trust also that this person found the answer (it is evident in my CV).

But, to answer, I’m Lutheran . . . ELCA.  Hope this is helpful!

And now I will extend this question to others.  I am curious as to the religious affiliation (or non-affiliation) of my readers.  We are surely a diverse bunch.  Please, take a brief moment to reply and let me know your specific affiliation.  If you want to elaborate further that is more than welcome.  But I am curious, and I look forward to your responses.

Like Father, Like Son?

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My wife, son, and I took a mini-family vacation (our first!) to San Antonio a few weeks ago.  One night we went out to eat on the Riverwalk, and apparently my son was in a goofy mood.  This picture is just too priceless for me not to share.  My wife and I laugh hysterically every time we see it.  Perhaps it isn’t as funny to others as it is to us, but what would encourage a 2 year old to make such a face?  Especially when he knew we were taking a picture and just got done saying “cheeeeeeeeese” before making this face.

I truly worry what this indicates if the adage “like father, like son” is true!

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Thoughts?

To Those Applying to Ph.D. Programs – A Helpful (Re-)Post with an Update!

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It’s that time of year where folks are beginning to put together Ph.D. applications.  And since I am nearly done with my own Ph.D. work, I have a lot of opinions on what is and is not helpful in the entire process.  I made this originally back in June, but my traffic wasn’t near then what it is now, so some may have missed it.  I am glad to bring the discussion back to the fore, and I hope this advice proves worthwhile for the many who are applying.  Please do weigh in!

(Here is the link to the original thread, if you want to read the comments there)

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Recently I have had the joy of conversing with several other bibliobloggers via email about the ins-and-outs of and tips for applying to Ph.D. programs.  In light of that discussion, I thought it may be a service to post something up here.  Please do feel free to weigh in, either with questions, or with your own sense of things.  I wish I had known then what I know now.  Here is a bit of my narrative, interspersed with what will hopefully be some helpful comments and suggestions.

I attended a small liberal arts college in South Dakota for my undergrad.  In preparing for further study, I was told by several professors independently that if you wanted to study Bible, you went to one of three places: Duke, Emory, or Princeton.  This was no doubt a bit disconcerting to me from the outset!  What do these ‘big three’ think (or even know!) of my undergrad?  But I semi-took that advice and applied to both Duke and Notre Dame for masters level work.  I was confident in my ND materials (an ND alum who was on faculty at my undergrad helped me revise them!), and not so much in my Duke materials (they were the ‘unedited’ ND materials).  In the meantime, in the chance I would get in to neither, I named other places to my profs I was interested in going.  One of them told me she could make a phone call to two places and get me in at both with no problems.  Good to know (in other words, feel free to exploit your connections; much of this is about who you know . . . things can get quite political).  Well, as fate would have it, I got accepted to Duke’s MTS program and denied from ND.  The choice was made for me.

I begin my narrative here because while at Duke I realized something appearing quite innocuous that could have worked out quite a bit to my detriment: course choices.  My program was a two-year masters degree; thus, at the end of the first year I had to start sending out Ph.D. applications and, of course, asking for letters of recommendation.  Here’s the glitch: in a year’s time I had surely made connections with various professors at Duke–Richard Hays, Joel Marcus, Jim Crenshaw, etc.–but some of them had either not had me in a class or had had me only in one (large) course, and while they may have had an opinion on my academic prowess (or lack thereof), they may not have felt it was adequate to write a letter for me.  I ended up making it work, but not without some panic.  I did have to ask some who felt less-than-prepared to write a full-length letter for me.  So the moral of the story: it is all fine and good if a professor knows you, but if they don’t know you academically, that could present a problem come letter time.

I applied to seven schools for Ph.D. work, all in the area of Bible/OT: Duke, Emory, Notre Dame, Marquette, Union-PSCE, Vanderbilt, and Baylor.  Within a few weeks I received a call from Baylor, who was offering to fly me to Texas for an interview.  Of course I said yes.  I thought this was a good omen.  It wasn’t.  Not only do I feel the interview went terribly (and I remain convinced I am NOT at Baylor because of the merits of my interview!), but when I came home the rejections came flying in.  In the end, I was accepted at Baylor, accepted at Marquette, and waitlisted at Union.  Obviously, I chose Baylor.  And I must say, I cannot be happier.  Followers of this blog will know well that I feel I have been blessed by my time here, and I feel I have been afforded some tremendous opportunities that some of my Princeton et. al. colleagues do not have: the encouragement (and success) in publishing, regular presenting at regional and national SBL, working intimately and closely with professors on various book/publishing projects, and actually ‘hanging out’ with profs outside of class.  In a little plug, I would suggest that anyone applying for Ph.D. work take a serious look at Baylor.  Anywho.

In light of the above, here is some of the advice I give to those asking me about applying to Ph.D. programs:

1) Your task as an applicant is to argue that you fit in with the school (its mission, philosophy, etc.) and with the interests held by the faculty in the department to which you are applying.  You must make that case.  Certainly most schools have the same or similar application materials (statement of intent/interest, personal letter/autobiographical essay, writing sample, etc.).  Do NOT send the exact same, unedited materials to every school.  Adapt each statement and essay to fit the school.  For instance, in my statements of intent, I included a unique paragraph in each one that discussed specifically, by name, the various faculty at that insitution and how my interests fit with theirs and how I could benefit from them.  This demonstrates a certain level of thoughtfulness, and shows you have actually taken the time to note their faculty and what they do.  You may also want to choose a different writing sample for each school if you feel different pieces fit different schools better.  All in all, taylor your application materials to each school.  But . . . .

2) Don’t be fawning.  Academics all have egos, and we like to have them stroked from time to time.  But, don’t bleed all over the page.  If you think Richard Hays is the greatest NT scholar to ever live, that’s fine—but don’t include that in your application as such.  This is where making the case is important.  One can find a balance by simply acknowledging something to the effect of “Given my interest in the use of the OT in the NT, I have found Richard Hays’ work to be invaluable, especially his work on Scripture echoes in Paul.  I understand he is currently working on a similar volume on echoes in the gospels; I have done some work on this myself in . . . . “  Ok, maybe the connection won’t always be as neat and tidy as that, but that reads a lot better than “I have learned much from Richard Hays and I would like to study with him.”  Be precise, but not too precise.  Acknowledge the work being done there, but don’t suck-up.  Balance is key.

3) This is a biggie.  Apply to a diversity of schools.  Having a list of all ‘top-tier’ programs and applying exclusively to those may set you up for disappointment.  Note my list above–I consider that a good mixture of programs.  It is unwise (although I’m sure it has worked for some) to apply ONLY to a list consisting of Duke, Princeton, Harvard, Emory, Notre Dame.  There are many very fine second-tier (whatever that means) schools.  My advice?  Compile a list of schools you want to attend–as many as 15 or 20 if you want.  Then, order them by how badly you want to attend that school, but don’t let your reasoning be “well it’s Duke, so I should want to go there.”  No you shouldn’t, not if the type of work they are doing doesn’t match what you want to do.  Take the faculty, the school, everything into account.  And then, honestly rank them.  That should serve as a nice starting point for adjudicating where to apply and where not to apply.  But diversity is key.

4) Read books and articles by the professors at the places to which you are applying.  Not only do you then possess an even greater sense of what is going on at this school, you can also interact with this material, possibly in your application materials if you do it responsibly and wisely; but, do not be afraid to email those at the school either.  I had a healthy email correspondence with several people from the various schools I was applying to—long, thorough, and persistent, good conversation.  Don’t be afraid to email, but again, don’t fawn.  Be professional.  This is your first impression.  And, best case scenario, if you are invited for an interview you can discuss the work with that professor face-to-face.  I did this at Baylor, and I trust it was at least in part instrumental in my acceptance.  Another great place to make contacts is at SBL, and if you are presenting papers at SBL (regional or national) already in your masters program, you are taking a huge step in the right direction.

5) The GRE is important, unfortunately.  Take it seriously.  Get a Princeton Review book and memorize the vocab.  Likely you’ll see one, maybe two of those words on the actual test, but that’s one or two more correct answers than you may have had.  GRE’s are also a great way to get you money at schools.  It is unfortunate that such a test plays this important of a role, but it does.  So do what you can to beef up your scores.  I took it twice, once before I applied for masters work, and once before the Ph.D., and between those two times my score went up 110 points. 

6) Be prepared to be humbled . . . but stay sane.  Rejections will likely come, and probably from some of your top choices.  But a knowledge of the overall process is helpful in alleviating such feelings.  For instance, when I applied to Ph.D. programs, I am fairly confident Duke accepted NO ONE in OT that year.  Many of these schools have 1, maybe 2 spots open for well-over 100 applicants.  Comparatively, next year Baylor is bringing in 3 new OT students and 5 NT students.  There are still just as many applications but a few more spots.  It will vary by school, but don’t be too terribly let down—you have a lot of competition!  This is precisely why making the case that you fit at a given school is so important; if you can make that case strongly, i would bet you can make it past the initial ‘weeding-out’ phase.

7) Know your languages.  If in biblical studies, get a solid grip on Greek, Hebrew, and if possible Aramaic during your masters’ work or even in undergrad.  If you are doing theology, patristics, church history, etc., get Latin under your belt as well.  And if you can have at least some facility with German and/or French, that is all the more to your advantage.  You will need these languages for purposes of research.  Most schools will cover the cost of you taking these languages at the Ph.D. level, but if you are able to test out of them and save them some money, that may be attractive.  But it also makes you more attractive as a candidate.

8 ) Lastly, know yourself.  Could you see yourself attending here for 4-6 years?  Living in this city?  Can you afford it (I firmly believe that one should not attend a Ph.D. program that is not covering your tuition)?  Does this school match your academic interests, pursuits, and goals?  Compromising yourself simply to ’get in’ or to attend a program will leave you miserable, and that will not bode well for any future career plans or prospects.

What do you all think?  Questions?  Additions?  I welcome and look forward to your comments!  Happy applying!

Shalom!

I still remember . . . . (9/11, eight years later).

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Jim West has posted his recollection of what he was doing on 9/11/01.  This led to my own reflection.  I remember it vividly.  Indeed, it is crystal clear.

I was a sophomore in undergrad at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD.  I woke up for my 9am English literature class a bit later than usual, and my roommate was sleeping, so I left the TV off.  At the start of class the professor said these words: “I trust you know what is going on in our country right now.  We need prayers.”  Truth be told, I appeared to be the only one in the room oblivious to what had happened mere minutes earlier.  I asked a friend of mine, who tried to explain it.  I didn’t get it.  It didn’t register.

After class I hurried back to my dorm room and put the news on.  One of the towers had already collapsed.  I would watch live as the other did.  All day I watched in horror, in sadness, and in reflection.  I left the TV on that night as I went to bed.  When I woke up the next morning they were now talking about a person relatively unknown to me at the time: Osama bin Laden.  Yes, I remember vividly. 

On 9/11/01 I recorded the news all day.  I still have two full six hour VHS tapes.  I knew I was watching history.  Something akin to Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy Assassination, or the liberation of the concentration camps.  But what struck me most that day was my need to preserve this.  I remember.  And I wanted my future children to be able to see what absolute fanatacism looks like.  What it results in.  And I wanted them to see what it looked like when the world changed in an instant.  Now, with a son of my own, that desire is all the more potent.

I still remember . . . . one year later.  9/11/02.  The memorial service.  Hearing the names read of all the victims.  I still remember . . . . two years later.  Hearing Rudy Giuliani speak about it at my undergrad.  The firefighters, police, and rescuers were his heroes.  They should be all our heroes.  And I still remember, eight years later.

God’s continued blessing on the families of those  who lost loved ones that day.  May we never forget.