Favorite Books

April 12, 2007

Gosh, how have I not posted on this topic? Dan Harper over at Yet Another Unitarian Universalist recently posted about books that changed your life. My cousin Lydia who has her own blog lists her favorite books here (we used to have reading contests when I was little – who could read the most Nancy Drew books the fastest and when Lydia turned out to be more of a reader than me, my Dad would always point out the books she was reading sort of like, “Well at least someone your age appreciate books as they should.”). Maybe the reason I haven’t posted on this is because I read so many academic books that I have to trudge through, I forgot how fun reading is and how wonderful a good book can be. Not that I don’t like my academic books, but it is a different sort of satisfaction. Without further ado, a start to My Favorite Books list. Since this will take time to reflect on and fill out, this is just an off-the top of my head start. And these may not be my favorite books to read now, although lots of them are, but have been important favorite books throughout time.

Three Books that Come to Mind as Absolute Favorites

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

The Prince of Tides – Pat Conroy

(While the movies are all pretty good, the books came first for me. Movies later. As I noted in my comment on Yet Another UU, I first read all of these by the time I was 12. My parents were big readers and my Dad was an English teacher so my sister and I just sort of read whatever was around. It included lots of children’s books, but my parents liked these books and so I figured they must be good. As you can imagine, this meant that I didn’t really understand the books the first or second time I read them – but yet, even though I wasn’t getting it all, I had a strong sense that they were important books. I still read them all again every few years.)

Other Books I Really Like a Lot For Various Reasons

Texasville – Larry McMurtry (Just so funny.)

Evensong – Gail Godwin (link to my amazon.com review – scroll down to view)

Lie Down in Darkness – William Styron (As with a lot of other books, I read this first when I was way too young so I didn’t understand it that well the first time I read it, but somehow it stands out as a favorite because of the beautiful, tragic language, but also because it is a favorite of my Dad’s and somehow that makes it special to me.)

Amazing Grace – Jonathan Kozol (Caused an a-ha moment about my purpose in the world and an important realization about injustice in the world.

The Corner – David Simon and Edward Burns (link to my amazon.com review – scroll down to view after clicking)

Books for Children

Behind the Attic Wall – Sylvia Cassedy (this was a favorite in fourth grade)

Gypsy Summer – Wilma Yeo (a third grade favorite that I’m sure I read 20 times that is now out-of-print)

Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh (another third grade favorite – way before it was a movie!)

Steven Kellogg books – love them all

Academic-ish Books

In Memory of Her – Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza

Christian Identity in the Jewish and Graeco-Roman World – Judith Lieu

more to come!

Things a Church Website Should Make Very Easy To Find

April 10, 2007

We are going to be looking for a home congregation when my internship is over in May. We’ve been at First Parish Cambridge since we moved here, and feel like there is great transition going on there, and we are ready to find maybe something a little smaller or somehow a better fit. We’ve also looked at churches in cities we’ve thought of moving to or visiting. Here are some things I’ve noticed scanning websites of potential churches. Not that I am somehow a good website designer – I just know what I like when I am looking so maybe this will help folks make websites more user-friendly.

  • Somehow congregations do not make it clear what size they are. I want to know how many people usually attend on a Sunday morning. 70? 100? 600? If congregations put this on the website, it is usually buried somewhere non-obvious.
  • Also, I want to know a little something about the minister – not just his or her email. Where did they study? Work before this? Interests? Religious orientation? A picture is nice too just to put a name with the face.
  • And many churches have “What to Expect on Sunday Morning” which is very helpful. Do you go in the side door? Do children stay up with parents, or do they go to classes right away?
  • What programing goes on at church – at a glance. A six paragraph explanation is not “at-a-glance.” There is often indication of this program or that, but the websites often seem to be made for people already familiar with the church. What is the range of committee and projects that take place and that a potential person might get involved with? A list would be helpful, with a link to a more detailed description. This www.firstparish.org/cms/content/view/96/69/ at the First Parish Concord website is a good example.
  • Links to pictures are nice to see what things look like going on at the church. No need to upload 4000 pictures, but a selection of different key events.
  • What is the flavor of the church? Mission statements really don’t seem to be very helpful in this. Is it a very liturgy-based sort of service? What is the singing like? When you call your church diverse, what exactly do you mean by that?
  • Explain things that visitors might not know, and make the explanations easy to find. For instance, if there is a “Forum” on Sunday morning, what might this be? Some sort of Sunday School for grownups? A discussion of the sermon? What is “coffee hour”? Will people talk to me there or will I stand there feeling awkward and out of place?
  • Less is more. I want to be able to see where the main menu is and use that to navigate the site. Lots of links and flashing things all over the page are confusing.
  • It is hard to know how to get involved in a new church. Making this clear and easy to find on the website is really nice.
  • The website should be updated and accurate. If you say, “Our ____ group meets every Tuesday at 7 and all are welcome,” and then there is no one there, that is kind of frustrating.

Just some thoughts I have as I procrastinate on doing the work I should actually be working on.

Shocking News From an Upcoming U.N. Report on Global Warming

April 5, 2007

According to the report, “Climate change is already having major impacts on the natural world.”

You can read the BBC article here.

I am glad about this “growing certainty” and don’t mean to be too cynical. It is just that lots of environmentalists and scientists were already “certain” a while back and if anyone would have paid any attention to them, we wouldn’t be in the huge pickle we are.  The evidence of global warming and its impacts (and potential impacts) have been clear for a long time. I just find it a bit irritating that it is like some sort of great revelation that the world is getting hotter and that this is actually impacting people’s lives.  Gosh. Who would have thought such a thing?  But, in spite of my sarcasm, I do recognize that it is a huge challenge to convince people and governments and businesses to do things differently until people are actually suffering from it.  It is just sort of too bad that things work that way.  Lets hope that people get psyched up enough about global warming and such to do a lot more than cover stories, documentaries, and reports………

Math Use Declines in Many Areas of the Country

April 2, 2007

I saw this confusing yet scary headline on Yahoo! News.  I was envisioning parts of the country where they no longer use addition or subtraction.  No more counting money, or miles, or hours.  Then I looked again and realized that it was meth use that had declined, not math.  Still, I got a kick out of envisioning what the decline of math use in some parts of the country might look like.

On another note, I turned my master’s thesis in today.  Whoo-hoo!  That means you can look forward to more posts on the sexual purity movement, drawn from the finalized thesis.  I know. You are the edge of your seats.

And I’m home from Nicaragua, but missing my friends there (but not the dust).  My hives (yes, I had five days of hives while there) are gone.  Great memories, even with the hives, remain.