Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Editor to Editor

I wrote a couple months ago about The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs. In that book, he recounts his attempt to keep all the biblical commandments for a year. I'm now reading The Know-It-All, Jacobs' account of his year reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica from cover to cover. They are both awesome books and I've decided that Jacobs, who is an editor at Esquire magazine, is my favorite contemporary writer.

In The Know-It-All, he organizes he book by letter, writing "entries" like an encylopedia. Some entries are simply the definitions or descriptions of a concept, phrased in Jacobs' own witty and humorous style. Most, however, are simply launching pads for stories and commentary on the experience of reading the encyclopedia like an obsessive freak. Is there a kid who didn't attempt this at one time or another? I know I did... maybe I'm just an obsessive freak too. I think I only made it to "acetate" or some other ridiculously early entry. Jacobs was partially inspired by his dad, who made it to the middle of the "B"s.

Anyway, I'm about a third of the way through the book--up to the middle of the "G" chapter--and found an excerpt I'd really like to share, given that it pertains to religion, the Bible, and the work of editing. As a religion scholar and an editor of religious books and church-related publications, I found it especially entertaining. (The following excerpt is abridged, and the bits in brackets are my comments.)

"Sometimes my day job can be exhilerating. I'm thinking, for instance, of when vineyards send me free bottles of wine hoping for coverage in the monthly wine column. [I've been getting free books in the mail recently, from other publishers hoping to be reviewed in Circuit Rider or Newscope, now that I manage those publications. What they don't realize is that Newscope doesn't do book reviews, and Circuit Rider lets its reviewers more or less choose their own books to review. I did get an advance copy of Eye of the Storm, by Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopal bishop--I saw him speak at Vanderbilt about a year ago, and he was really amazing. Anyway...]

"...But a lot of times, my workday can be boring... This is one of those times. As an editor, I have to read each of the articles in my section about forty-three times, until the sentences are sucked of all meaning and become wierd little black marks on the page. Today's article--a man's guide to shining shoes, military style--has long ago passed into a nonsensical state. 'Whorl'? That's a strange word... But at least the Britannica reading has given me some new perspective on my job. It's given me awareness of the power of editing. I'm thinking, for instance, of the Ems telegram in 1870. Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck edited the report of a diplomatic meeting to purposely offend the French and start the Franco-Prussian War. I'm not saying that as an editor, I want to start a war, but it's nice to know I could." [Reporting on the events of the United Methodist General Conference this week in Newscope gives a bit of that war-sparking opportunity as well, but it's really not worth it...]

Jacobs goes on to tell about the "Wicked Bible," an edition of the Bible published in 1631, in which the word "not" was accidentally omitted from Exodus 20:14, resulting in the commandment "Thou shalt commit adultery." He ponders the possibility of the editors' intentionality in the matter--if it was done as a joke. "Maybe they thought of changing 'Thou shalt not kill' to 'Thou shalt not spill'--which would have caused a lot of very carefully poured glasses of tea and a few hundred more homicides," Jacobs says. He continues:

"I ponder all this as I read Esquire's own shoe-related commandment: use 'small circles that tighten the whorl.' What if I changed 'small' to 'large' circles? I'd be sending hundreds of Esquire-reading men into their offices with improperly polished shoes. The power! I cross out the word 'small' in the sentence, then stet it, newly aware of my responsibility."

I had a moment like that this week, in which I edited a sentence for space purposes, then realized that the revised phrasing could possibly be interpreted to imply that a bishop was cozying up to another man's wife. I giggled out loud, then changed it back.

Husband Trivia

Saw this on my freshman-year college roommate's blog and thought it would be fun...

Where did you meet? At a salad supper the first night of Divinity School orientation at Vanderbilt, August 24, 2003.
What first attracted you to him? He was sooooo obviously attracted to me! I was flattered by that, and then, over the next week or so, was just blown away by all we had in common.
How long did you date? We dated for about six weeks when we first met, then stopped dating for about 4-5 months, in which time we became best friends. When we got engaged, we'd known each other for about two years and two months, and had been "officially" dating for about a year and eight months.
Who eats more? Definitely me. I wolf down my dinner before he's taken two bites, and he rarely cleans his plate.
Who said “I love you” first? I did, but he was literally just about to say it too. His response was, "Damn, you beat me to it! I love you too." We were in his car, driving down 3rd Street after leaving the Div School Gala, March 20, 2004.
Where was your first date? The Opryland Hotel, Ristorante Volare. We had to wait a while for our table, during which time we sat on a bench near a gazebo and talked. I say it was during that bench-conversation that I really fell for him.
Who is taller? If we're both barefooted, he might be a tiny bit taller. I like heels, though. I take off my shoes and bend my knees for pictures.
Who sings better? Eh... we're both a little above average, I guess. We're no American Idols, but it won't hurt your ears, either.
Who is smarter? We're both pretty smart. I had a higher GPA in both college and grad school, but he got a full ride to Vandy and I only got 90%. He likes to throw that in my face. Really, I'm better with logical things, like puzzles and other things that show up on IQ tests, and wordy things, like spelling and pronunciation, whereas he's more abstract and philosophical.
Whose temper is worse? Definitely mine. I'm tempted to elaborate, but I'd rather not share the gory details.
Who sleeps on the right side of the bed? I do. I'm trying to assess a rhyme or reason to that, based on other rooms I've slept in. I think I try to sleep on the side furthest from the door (safer from home intruders?) unless the bed is right against the wall, in which case, I'll sleep on the outside (easier to escape in case of fire?) Hmm...who's the neurotic and paranoid one? Me!
Who pays the bills? I do. I'm more the planner, so I think about things like, "okay, we get paid these days, so we should pay the credit card bill this day..." and so on.
Who cooks dinner? We share the cooking duties. Matt cooks a lot, since he has a more flexible schedule and often likes to get the meal started before I get home. We enjoy cooking together sometimes too--especially Italian, our favorite!
Who drives when you are together? Usually Matt, but since I got my new car, I like to!
Who is more stubborn? That's a tough one. We're both pretty hardheaded.
Who kissed who first? It was pretty much your traditional eye-contact, move toward each other thing...pretty mutual. He apparently wanted to at the end of our first date, though, and chickened out, whereas I had no intention of kissing that night! (We kissed the next night, though, after sushi.)
Who is the first to admit when they are wrong? Wow--Jen's making me feel so bad, as I go in and replace her answers with mine. She's such a saint. As I said, Matt and I are both pretty hardheaded, but we'll say "I'm sorry" the next morning, at the very latest.
Whose parents do you see the most? Matt's, since they are also in the Nashville area. It's still not that often, though. I'd say we see his parents once a month and mine every other month. (Not often enough :0(
Who proposed? "Mr. Eloquent" did :0)
Who is more sensitive? Me, though I'm getting more cynical in my old age...
What's his best physical attribute? His cute little butt is the first thing to come to mind, but I like his crystal clear eyes too (pale blue or green, depending on his shirt), and his manly facial hair.
Who has more friends? Him. That's partially because he counts as a friend anyone he hangs out with at a party, went to school with four years ago, or met one time at a conference. I, on the other hand, only really consider friends those people I talk with on the phone regularly, hang out with regularly, would travel several hours to go see, and/or would have a real heart-to-heart with. So, fewer people make the cut, you know?
For what are you most proud of him? His preaching, and his ever-loving heart. He always sees the best in people, and does a much more faithful job than I of really living out his ideals. He rarely lets selfish or petty feelings and biases get in the way of what he knows is right, as I so often do.
What is something special your husband recently did for you? He came with me to Target on Saturday, then rode rides with me at a little fair set up in the mall parking lot, bought me a book I wanted at Borders (so what if it's a joint bank account, it's still sweet) and took me to a movie. We had a blast!

I love you, sweetie!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Love me a latte

I love Starbucks. That seems a silly thing to say, since obviously a lot of people do--it's more notable (or at least more chic) for someone to say they don't like Starbucks. I do consider myself a true fan, though, even buying those Christmas ornaments they offered that look like Starbucks to-go cups. The fact that they designed and sold those things blew me away, given the brand loyalty a company has to assume to try that move. You don't even see McDonalds selling golden arch Christmas ornaments...

People make fun of the chain's ubiquity, and I enjoy a good laugh at that fact too. I love how it's spoofed in Shrek 2, with the two "Farbucks" shops right across the street from one another. When Matt and I were in NYC a couple weeks ago, we literally saw two Starbuckses 100 yards from each other in Penn Station. (Maybe that's a good marketing strategy--you're tempted by the first one but keep walking, then you see the second one just as your willpower is breaking down.)

People like to patronize local establishments, and I appreciate that concept as well, from a social and economic perspective. There are plenty of local coffeeshops whose ambiance I enjoy and that I'll go to if I'm in the area. Still, I was a little annoyed with the clerk (should she be called a barista?) who got annoyed with me when I once ordered a "tall caramel macchiatto" at the Frothy Monkey, only to be told, "This isn't Starbucks. We have a small caramel latte, if you'd like that." So I've heard, a macchiatto and a latte aren't the same thing, but since I couldn't tell you the difference, I'll let that one slide.

You can call me a sell-out if you want, but I like the fact that there's a coffeeshop I can frequent where--while everyone may not know my name--everyone will know exactly what I mean when I order my "grande non-fat toffee-nut latte," and I'll know exactly what I'm going to get. I've never been big on change (Matt can tell you about my out-of-body experience when he rearranged the appliances on our kitchen counter), so I like the fact that Starbucks is the same no matter where you go, never more than now, when I live in a town I would never choose to live in of my own accord. There's something comforting in knowing that I can walk into one of the two Starbucks here in little-ole-Clarksville, and it will look and feel the same as a Starbucks in Nashville or a Starbucks in Manhattan.

I doubt that in Manhattan I'd be able to see seven fast food restaurants, a mud-spattered pick-up, and a guy in too-tight overalls when I look out the window, but nonetheless, I can smile, sip my latte, and breathe an espresso-scented sigh of contentment.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Most productive day EVER, part 2

My self-fulfilling prophecy has fulfilled itself indeed (as self-fulfilling prophecies tend to do). I got through eleven weeks worth of daily devotions for a year-long devotional book I'm editing. That's a lot of devotions, and I definitely found that my grand declaration this morning gave me the drive to just keep doing another week, even when I was ready to shift gears, then another, then another. Plus, I did a lot of planning work for the quarterly ministry magazine I now edit as well.

I think I'll try this kind of motivational self-talk every day. Maybe this can be a service I provide--"Feeling sluggish? I'll prophesy you a productive day!" (Just kidding.)

Going to trivia tonight. Our team of Div school friends, "Onan, Spiller of Seed," has dominated the Vandy-area pub trivia scene for about 2 1/2 years now, but we've recently slacked off, what with the closing of our primary sports bar. Anyway, we've found a new court to play in, and we will hopefully have a grand--and productive--showing tonight!

Most productive day EVER, part 1

I'm not saying it's true for everyone, but I've found that whatever my attitude in the morning, it will hold true all day. If I declare "It's a great day!," it will be a great day. If I say "I feel blah," chances are, I will feel blah all day.

Today, after working out before work for the third day in a row (thus boosting my confidence in my own willpower and reducing feelings of guilt in the evenings) and discovering I'd lost a few pounds since last week, I have decided that today will be the most productive day EVER.

So, I'll report back this evening and we'll see how it goes. Now, off to work. I need to stop for gas on the way, but that's a pretty productive act in itself, since my new car gets 32 miles per gallon; 400 miles per tank! (a good thing when I put 500 miles a week on my car)

Have a great day!

Friday, April 18, 2008

All Shook Up

I woke up at 4:37 this morning with the bed vibrating and something rattling on the dresser.
"What's that?" I said.
"Just the wind," Matt mumbled.
"I think it's an earthquake," I said. "Why would things inside be shaking if it was just the wind?"

Matt didn't really respond, and it went away pretty quickly (I think it took me a while to come to, so I missed most of it) so I had kind of a "huh--that's interesting" reaction and went back to sleep. I had a dream sometime between then and 5:50, in which I told someone what had happened, but concluded it wasn't really anything.

After I hit "snooze" a couple times, I woke up at 6:10 to some song with the word "shaking" in the chorus (not Elvis, not Twist & Shout, I just can't remember), and then the deejay came on and made some cheesy connection between the song and the fact that we'd had an earthquake overnight. "Huh--so that was real."

Anyway, all that to say, we experienced an earthquake this morning! The epicenter was in southern Illinois, and they say the 5.4 quake was felt from Minnesota on down to Alabama. I kind of wish it had been during waking hours so I would have a better recollection of what it was like, but that's a silly thing to wish. The New Madrid Fault has been overdue for a "big one" for a while, so I really should not wish to experience another!

It's a nice conversation piece, though. Kind of like my stint as an undercover underage alcohol buyer for the Greenville County police in college. But that's another story...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More Philly/NYC/Princeton Pics

This parsonage, we'll take...

Just kidding. We thought this church and large house-ish building near Battery Park was pretty amusing, though. We had a great time in New York City this past weekend! We stayed with our brother and sister-in-law, Andrew and Alexis, in New Jersey (here they are in Philly, where we spent Friday afternoon and evening--Camden, NJ in the background there, across the river).

Saturday, Matt and I took the hour-long train ride into Manhattan. I wanted to get there early enough to stand outside the Today show and wave like an idiot. We arrived in Rockefellar Plaza about a minute after they went off the air. Matt was quite relieved. We got coffee at Dean & Deluca and poked around Midtown for a while. I want to live there! Not that we could afford that, but it would be totally awesome. I could work here:
We then mosied our way down through Greenwich Village and had lunch in Soho, then went further downtown to see Ground Zero and hang out at Battery Park and at the South Street Seaport. We had both been to NYC before and done the touristy things, so we really just enjoyed taking our time and soaking up the culture of each neighborhood.

My desire to live in Manhattan diminished after hanging out on the southern end for a while. It may have partially been the fact that it got overcast at that part of the day and the financial district was pretty deserted since it was Saturday, but that whole area just felt kind of depressing, and we wondered if it was still a kind of 9/11 malaise hanging over that area. People seemed to walk slower in the streets surrounding Ground Zero, and the whole energy of the city seemed to change.

Our main reason for taking this trip was to see Rent on Broadway before it leaves later this year. So, after a tasty Italian dinner in the Village, we hurried up to 41st St. to see Rent on its home turf, the Nederlander Theatre. The show was fabulous, of course. My dream of running into Anthony Rapp did not come true, but I still got to have my picture with him! We took some pics of the cool graffiti outside the Nederlander. I think I'll put those in a separate post (or maybe if Matt reads this, he can do it? pretty please, sweetie?)
We didn't get back to our lodgings in Jersey til about 2am, and I don't think I've ever hit the hay (or an air mattress) so hard. We then spent Sunday walking around Princeton, where Andrew is in grad school. It is such a pretty campus and neat little town. Here's Matt with one of the most famous Phi Psi brothers of all--Woodrow Wilson--president of Princeton before he became U.S. president. If you look closely at WW's signature, you'll see the mysterious three dots after his name. That's one of Phi Psi's silly secret things. Thank you, baby, for breaking that tradition on our marriage license, at least! And thanks for an awesome weekend getaway!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Author of the Week: Shawn Wood

I've been eager to do a "Book of the Week" on 200 Pomegranates and an Audience of One (visit the website), but I feel like I should wait til closer to the pub date in September. So, in the meantime, I'll declare Shawn Wood my Author of the Week!

Shawn is the Experiences and Communications Pastor at Seacoast Church, a multisite congregation with over a dozen campuses in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. Their Internet Campus is pretty cool too--goes far beyond ordinary online posting of services and sermons. I actually attended Easter worship at Seacoast back in 2001, when my parents and I were in Charleston for the long holiday weekend. It has grown (and multiplied!) a lot since then, and I had the joy of visiting again when I made the trip to meet with Shawn and Seacoast's senior pastor, Greg Surratt, back in November.

Anyway, Shawn's first book, 200 Pomegranates and an Audience of One: Creating a Life of Meaning and Purpose, publishes in September, in time for his speaking gig at Innovate 2008, a great conference put on by Granger Community Church. We've got the sales conference for our Fall 2008 list going on right now, and Shawn is one of our featured authors for that event! He'll be speaking to our sales reps and other interested folks from around the publishing house about the book and just helping people get to know him--after all, it's the personal connection that really sets a book apart (that and an absolutely gorgeous cover, which this book has!) I'll tell you more about the book this summer, but in the meantime, check out Shawn's blog and the book website at www.200pomegranates.com!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Eggplants as big as your head!

Went to the grocery earlier. Realized eggplants were priced per unit and not per pound. Got the biggest eggplant they had. Actually, the biggest one I've ever seen.

Speaking of eggs (sort of), here are a few pics from Easter:

Bethlehem has an Easter egg hunt every Easter Sunday, during the Sunday school hour. We heard when we came to this church how the kids hunt for eggs amongst the tombstones in the church cemetery, and Matt immediately commented what an amazing juxtaposition of death and life, a great demonstration of the continuity of the generations at this church.

On Good Friday, we had a Stations of the Cross worship experience, with the decopage stations I created a couple years ago. Matt set them in the windows on Easter Sunday. This one is Station 15, which is not part of the traditional stations, but depicts Christ's rising from the dead. (The traditional sequence concludes with the burial, and leaves one in the sorrow of Good Friday, which I feel has value, but it's good to complete the story too)

We hosted Matt's whole family for lunch at our house after church. We provided the altar arrangement for Easter, which then became our centerpiece!

A New Car!

I hear Rod Roddy's voice whenever I say that.

Yep, we bought a new car last night--the Hyundai Elantra. It has all the features of the Corolla, plus an amazing warranty and roadside assistance package. That was the main deciding factor, since most everything else was pretty comparable, including the price and the deal we struck.

(Plus, I think it's just a little bit cuter.)

Friday, April 04, 2008

I Rock

I had a supercool experience the other day.

We've decided to get rid of my Volkswagen. It has just been so unreliable, needing some major repair every time I take it in for routine checks or oil changes. Plus, being European, it requires the expensive oil, the expensive gas, everything. The two middle Tennessee dealerships are way at the far north and south ends of the Nashville area, so they weren't all that convenient even when we did live in Nashville, and now that we don't... Anyway, good riddance to the Passat.

After work the other day, I began our car quest at a Toyota dealership in Nashville. My family has always had very good experiences with Toyota--they're reliable, have dealerships everywhere, etc. I test drove the 2009 Corolla. It was great! The salesguy was a little annoying--a loudtalker, didn't know left from right, kept stating the obvious, but I enjoyed the car and it was fun.

Once we got to the negotiating stage, they made me an offer that was about $4500 higher than I hoped to pay. My salesguy asked what price it would take for me to walk out of there with the car right then. I told him, and he went to talk to somebody, who I kind of think of as The Banker (like on Deal or No Deal, which Matt and I watched for a few months, but that phase passed). A higher-ranking guy (as evidenced by his tie and graying hair) came out and played the "are you kidding? You're robbing me blind!" game. He didn't use those words, but that's the basic idea. We bartered down to $2000 higher than my hoped-for price--$2500 below their original offer.

At that point, I said "I need to call my husband." My dad had suggested I play the good-cop-bad-cop thing, putting the blame for not taking the deal on Matt so they'd give me a better deal. Matt and I powwowed and decided to keep looking (after all, it was the first place we'd looked). So, I got up and headed for the door, at which point they stopped me and offered just $1000 over my ideal price.

That would be an awesome deal. But, I was feeling powerful and determined to hold off, so I left. I felt so cool. I love learning a new skill, knowing I can do something on my own. Especially with all the stereotypes about how car dealers talk down to women and prefer to deal with the man, I was proud that I handled the dealing so well.

Toyota called a couple times yesterday, but we still wanted to look at the Hyundai Elantra, about which Consumer Reports had really great things to say. More on that later...


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