Gratitude. A fine Thanksgiving dinner this afterno…

Gratitude. A fine Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon: turkey, gravy, oven-baked stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, dinner rolls, relishes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie. It was just the immediate family this year—my brother Gary was going to come, but came down with the flu on Wednesday and decided not to inflict it upon us (for which we are grateful).

As the food was served, I asked everyone to tell us what they were most thankful for over the past year. For Maggie, it was the formation of Draught Horse Press, since it not only keeps me at home but gives the entire family an opportunity to participate in earning the family living. Matthew was thankful for his dujo, and for all the music that has come into the house this year. Chris was thankful for his new baby sister Elizabeth. Debbie was thankful for Elizabeth—fair enough, she’s worth naming twice—and that our family is growing once more. I am thankful that we have become a part of the St. Peter community, which if you think about it is the basis of most everything we’re grateful for.

Puzzling. I don't know whether to laugh about this…

Puzzling. I don’t know whether to laugh about this or worry about it. It’s not the information-gathering itself that concerns me—that’s been going on for quite awhile, and I’ve had to make my own peace with things like vendors tracking and analyzing my online purchase patterns. But if we’re to the point of characterizing these misunderstandings as wacky and amusing, rather than ominous, then I guess that the tipping point is past, and society has decided that it’s worth the convenience of not thinking to have corporations track your preferences in the minutest detail.

Pleased. It was a week of milestones. First, the p…

Pleased. It was a week of milestones. First, the proofs for Biblical Economics arrived. Then we reached the climax of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And yesterday morning I received a call from a local freight terminal—1200 pounds of catalogs had just arrived, when did I want to pick them up?

Right away, of course. The seats came out of the minivan, and Chris and I drove over to load them up. It took two trips—the Odyssey is valiant, but still a minivan—and so it was nice that the terminal was only a ten-minute drive away. So now we have 5000 catalogs in the warehouse, with plans for most of them.

As with the book, I’m very pleased with how they turned out. And I think that most of the people who receive them will be pleased as well. Everyone who receives ETC will receive a copy, along with one of the new Basement Tapes samplers—although not until early January, since we don’t want to get lost in the Christmas catalog deluge. If you’re desperate to have one, let me know and I’ll put one in the mail to you.

If you’re really desperate, and have more time and bandwith than useful things to do, you can download the catalog as an Acrobat (PDF) file. I’ve provided two versions; the large one has the images in all their high-resolution glory, while the small one has the images sampled way down. If you are using Internet Explorer on Windows, right-click on the link to the file you want, then use the “Save target as …” menu command to copy it to your disk, then open the file with Acrobat.

Catalog with hi-res images (15Mb)

Catalog with lo-res images (2Mb)

Good books. Even as I whine about not having time …

Good books. Even as I whine about not having time to read, I find time to read. Lately I’ve read a few books that I’ve found helpful as well as enjoyable.

  • Doug Wilson’s ‘Reformed’ is Not Enough taught me a number of things about the nature of baptism, the covenant, and the visible church; I don’t know whether it is an adequate answer to his recent critics, not being very well versed in the substance of their criticism, but I didn’t find anything objectionable in what he teaches here.
  • Steve Wilkins’ Face to Face is a good short book on matters of friendship and hospitality. As he points out, it is only recently that teaching on this topic would be considered anything but a waste of time; the importance of Christian friendship and hospitality was well understood and taken for granted. But nowadays these things are either despised or unknown, and so the need for books like this. Wilkins is particularly good at asking the hard questions, e.g. to those who whine about their friendlessness, he asks: have you worked to become the sort of person a Christian should befriend?
  • I’m not yet finished with Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph Williams. It’s a guide to revising your writing for, well, clarity and grace, and the advice is not only sound but edifying. Williams explains a few principles in detail and at length, so that you can gain a thorough understanding of what the principle is for and why it works. And he summarizes the principles so well that you are likely to remember them while in the midst of writing and revising. This is the book that Canon Press recommends that you read before writing for them. (Not that such is in my plans, it’s just how I learned of its existence.)
  • OK, these were just enjoyable. While at the Green Valley Book Fair I picked up 50th anniversary facsimile editions of The Mad Reader, Mad Strikes Back, and Utterly Mad, collections of material from Mad magazine from when it was not only funny but something that had never been seen before. I’ve owned copies of these before, and it’s true that they didn’t make me laugh like they did in earlier years. But I’m still amazed and amused by the ideas, the writing, and especially the drawings.

Trilogy. I can't remember how long it's been since…

Trilogy. I can’t remember how long it’s been since we began reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy aloud; right now it seems like it’s the only thing we’ve ever read aloud. But last night was the milestone of milestones, as we learned the final fate of the One Ring. There are a few more nights’ worth of denoument left to savor, but the deal is done.

More than ever I’m astonished by Tolkien’s skill at crafting a tale, even more so by the telling of it. There was so much pressure to tell another, different story, one that made use of cookie-cutter heroism and adventure—in fact that story was actually happening around the story that Tolkien tells, though largely offstage. How did Tolkien manage to make the quiet, life-sized heroism of the Hobbits the hinge on which it all turned, without belittling the larger-than-life heroism of Aragorn, Gandalf, and the rest? I don’t know. It’s a staggering accomplishment.

Pleased. I received a long-awaited package in the …

Pleased. I received a long-awaited package in the mail today: the proofs for Biblical Economics. Okay, it hasn’t really been that long a wait, but it’s been an anxious one. Anxious because it’s the first time I’ve used this particular printing company, and I really needed things to work out right for some of our future plans. They will print books in runs as short as 25 copies, which is very short indeed. The pleasant surprise is that the short run doesn’t lead to an astronomical per-copy cost, as it does with most printers. But the mystery was this: would the books be decent quality?

For some reason the proof I received wasn’t fully assembled. The text pages were stacked and trimmed and shrink-wrapped; the cover proof came as a separate laser-printed sheet, which is exactly what they will use as the cover. I would have thought that they might take the trouble to bind the book, but no. So I trimmed the cover by hand, scored and folded it along the spine, then shoved the pages inside to get an idea of what the finished product will look like. Verdict: very, very nice. The cover is not as sharp and vivid as the cover for Eternity in Our Hearts, but it is more than acceptable. One thing that would improve things is lamination; the printer says they will be able to offer that in the near future, but not right now.

Anyway, the proofs were occasion for a huge sigh of relief. We have a number of short-run books in our plans, study guides in particular, and I’m glad to know that these folks can do a high quality, affordable job on the small quantities we’ll be needing. We told them to go ahead and print a bunch of this one, and so it should be available for sale by the end of the month.

Chili. I recently got a copy of Chili Nation by Ja…

Chili. I recently got a copy of Chili Nation by Jane and Michael Stern, the folks who wrote Roadfood. It has one chili recipe for every state. I haven’t read it thoroughly, but the reasons for associating a particular chili with a particular state are sometimes a bit vague. Sometimes it’s because there’s a famous chili in that state for which they managed to obtain the recipe; one such is the Texas recipe for Tigua Indian Reservation Chili. (I’ve eaten that chili a number of times at the reservation—it’s outside El Paso, where my folks live—and it is maybe my favorite chili in the world.

Other recipes seem to be somehow ‘inspired’ by the state, meaning probably that you’re not likely to find chili there, but they had a recipe with ingredients that evoke the area. That describes the Indiana Chicken Chili we cooked up for Sunday supper. But the Sterns are trustworthy people, and even if their reasons for choosing a recipe are unclear, you can be sure the result will be good. And it was. My only complaint was that the recipe called for chili powder plus additional cumin … making for way too much cumin. But, as they say in the introduction, it isn’t really chili unless you’ve doctored the recipe yourself, so it merely means some experimenting is in order.

Weekend visit. Some old friends from Austin were p…

Weekend visit. Some old friends from Austin were planning their year-end visit to relatives in Pennsylvania, and noticed that Bristol was more or less on the way, so they called up and asked if we were up for a visit. Of course! They arrived mid-afternoon on Sunday; the kids all disappeared somewhere, while the parents sat around catching up; then there was some supper, then some more catching up (Sunday night Bible study had been cancelled). Next morning they were on their way again, but we were pleased they had made time to stop by.

Annoyances. One of the more enjoyable things that …

Annoyances. One of the more enjoyable things that comes along with upgrading to a new version of Windows is the opportunity to buy and read a new version of David Karp’s Windows Annoyances series of books. Karp’s thesis is that you shouldn’t sit around and whine about how much you dislike Windows, but rather that you should take charge and do what you can to modify it to your taste—in other words, exercise dominion over the beast.

Karp’s books help you do just that, taking you on a tour of all the things about Windows that are likely to annoy you and teaching you what you need to know about how to change things for the better, as well as how best to live with the things you can’t change. I’m only partway through Windows XP Annoyances, and already I’ve learned a few new tricks for mastering the environment, as well as being reminded of many other helpful possibilities.