Category Archives: Life Updates

Long-overdue Update

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It’s been an incredibly long time since I’ve blogged, or had the time or inclination to do so. Much has transpired since I last wrote.

I changed my PhD thesis topic quite drastically from a figure study on Socrates, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Søren Kierkegaard to a topical thesis on personhood, analogy, and dialogue. This doesn’t mean I’ve ‘parted ways’ with Kierkegaard by any means; rather, I’ve just moved away from being primarily a ‘Kierkegaard guy’. At crucial points in my thesis, he remained a constant traveler.

I submitted my thesis on September 28th 2012, successfully defended it on January 18th, 2013, and graduated on July 9th, 2013. My project was well-received as rather ‘ambitious’ by my thesis examiners, and they’ve both encouraged me to publish the project, which I plan to do. I thoroughly enjoyed the research and writing, as trying and as challenging as it was, and I look forward to continuing to refine the work for publication within the next year.

My wife and I have also relocated from Nottingham, England to Sacramento, California. We’re living in the West Sacramento area with my in-laws where I am doing the occasional job here and there to make ends meet in addition to working on the job search and maintaining various academic duties.

As far as this blog is concerned, I am still giving thought to what shape it will take regarding its content. It will still primarily be a place to throw out quotations and brief thoughts on theology and philosophy, but there are other particulars in my head to work out. In the meantime, stay tuned!

 

Holiday Visit & Travel

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Wrong-side-of-the-road driving, but  everybody does it so it’s okay.

On Christmas day, Tiana and I drove to Manchester to pick up Tiana’s Mum who was to visit for just under two weeks.  We had to rent a car on Christmas Eve because no forms of public transportation are running on Christmas day.  So, we picked up a car complete with GPS, which was rather helpful.  “Go straight through the roundabout, second exit.”  “Turn left, then right.”  “Turn left, then, left.”  “Turn around.”  “Turn around as soon as possible.”  Oh wait — that’s what happens when you start going in the wrong direction for too long.

Driving on the left (some say wrong) side of the road wasn’t too hard, but it definitely took some getting used to.  Roundabouts were easy enough, but turning right in intersections seemed counter intuitive because of having to pull into the left lane.  Keeping oneself positioned right-of-centre was a little difficult at first (especially since in the States you are left-of-center in the road), but I got the hang of it…after going over a few curbs.  We rented a car a second time toward the end of the trip and I forgot to tell the rental place to get an automatic so I had to end up driving a manual.  Ultimately, I did just fine, it’s just that on the first night when taking it home on New Years Eve during rush hour, I stalled it about six or seven times.  At least I didn’t put it in reverse going 70 mph, like I did once with my old car (Hi, Rusty!).  All in all I probably put in somewhere between 400-500 miles of driving doing two trips back and forth to Manchester, and one trip to Warwick Castle & Stratford-upon-Avon and back.

Here is us at Warwick Castle: (Haley Smith came too! she took the pic)

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We were scouting locations for In Reverent Fear’s next music video. They love castles, armor, mountains, and all things epic.

Now that I’ve rambled on long enough about driving, we did do some pretty cool stuff, like visiting Warwick Castle on New Year’s Day (see above), which was totally magnificent.  I’m not sure I’ve been to a castle that was still in one piece, more or less (ehem, Nottingham Castle!).  We could have probably spent all day there, but we saw most of what we came to see I think.  Henry VIII owned it at one time but I don’t think he lived there.  Did you know he wore a codpiece?  Dumb!

After Warwick Castle, we drove to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Anne Hathaway’s cottage.  I have some pics of the outside, but they wouldn’t let me take any of the inside for the usual vague “insurance concerns” reasons.  You know, the usual Jedi mind trick of “these are not the droids you’re looking for” can turn tourists into mush.

We had other fantastic times together, walking around Nottingham visiting shoppes, showing Tiana’s mum to decent pub food, visiting Sherwood Forest (the Major Oak lives up to its name), and even did a little exploring in the basement of our building where we discovered a bunch of old photography developing equipment.  There was a box of rejected photos, some of which I kept so that I can write horror stories about their contents later (don’t worry, nothing ‘bad’).

We rang in the New Year by watching a live BBC video feed on our laptop (which occurred the night before the Warwick Castle visit)

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Tiana, our kitty Andi, myself, and some dude on the BBC rockin’ out to the New Year

One of the high points from the trip was when we went to this posh place here in Nottingham called ‘The Walk’.  My friend Alex pointed it out to me once, indicating that it was an example that there is still some class left in Nottingham.  He was quite right.

It was really nice to have Tiana’s mom visit.  It was good to have a lot of things to do during our first Christmas away from home.  I miss my own family quite a bit.  We did a little bit of Skyping on Christmas day which was nice, but it’s not the same.  Over the last year or so, I’ve grown rather fond of visiting my hometown of Merced.  For reasons I won’t go into, the only reason I have wanted to go home since I moved to San Diego in 1998 was to visit family — and that’s absolutely it.  I had no friends in Merced by the time I left for college, so aside from visiting family, there was nothing else for me to do there, so going home was always bittersweet.  It seems like it finally took about ten years for me to look forward to visiting the actual town–perhaps because I was about to move to the UK for three years.  Or more importantly, because my brother and sister-in-law have an extremely adorable daughter that I love so much.  I guess one way to inject life into a situation is to actually, um, give birth to it!

Pictures of all of the above will most likely be forthcoming in a soon-to-be-made Flickr gallery.  In the meantime, visit Tiana’s  blog where she’ll have a much more picture-laden post with her own set of highlights from the past two weeks. [Update: Here’s Tiana’s blog post.]

One month

As of two days ago, Tiana and I have now been in Nottingham for one month.  It both feels like we’ve been here for a while yet, almost no time at all.  Depending upon the day, some days zip by while others take a bit longer.  Tiana is still on the hunt for a job.  I begin my orientation for the start of the term next week.

One nice thing about the food over here is that just about nothing has hydrogentated corn syrup, which is usually the #1 or #2 ingredient on most foods in the states.  Real sugar, FTW.

We’ve been trying to walk as much as we can to save on tram and bus fares.  I walked to campus again yesterday (about 3 miles each way) and it was a good walk.  My pants [ehem! that means something different in the UK, Eric!] trousers are starting to get a little looser, but at this stage I could just be dreaming it.  While on campus, I had a good lunch meeting with my adviser who gave me a run-down of what to expect for the coming months regarding my experience, and I’ve already got some more good book suggestions to start me out in my studies.

A few days back I tried to get at least a little gaming in before my studies ramp up full-bore and I beat that most awesome game called Portal (found in the Orange Box, trailer here).  It’s such a rad first-person puzzle game.  It’s almost a year old now but it shouldn’t be missed.

I’m looking forward to my studies beginning next week, although technically next week is mainly orientations and meetings with the department.  I’ve ‘staked’ out a spot in the research room in our new department building called the Highfield House.  Not everybody uses the room on a daily basis but I am going to try and get as much work done there as I can–at least to start out.

Here we go.

Nottingham, England

We’re in Nottingham!  It’s now Sunday and Tiana and I have been here since Tuesday the 19th.  Tiana has already blogged a bit about our adventures here and here.  We’ve had no real hiccups since we’ve arrived.  The only real potential snafu was that we almost missed our flight to Manchester in the O’Hare Chicago airport…but, we made it with minutes to spare.  When we arrived at our apartment that we secured a couple months ago, the place was completely bare when it was supposed to be fully furnished.  Oops!  Said one of the letting agency’s employees, “Right! So we’ll be getting your furniture to you today!” Within a couple hours, though, our beds and couches were delivered, and the next day the rest of our stuff (tables, etc.) showed up as well.  The boxes of books and other stuff we’ve shipped to ourselves have also mostly arrived.

Anthony Paul Smith has been incredibly helpful showing us around the area and helping us move in.  The first evening we were here we met Mike Burns, Jeff & Meghan Biebighauser and all of us had dinner at Sir John’s pub just a short walk away.  Yesterday we had help from Jeff & Meghan in getting to IKEA which was about a 25-minute bus ride away.  At the moment, Tiana & I are waiting for the IKEA delivery people to show up to deliver all of the stuff we got (desk, bookshelf, etc).

Backing up a bit, the second day I was here, I decided to walk to campus.  It’s a 3 mile trek, and I got lost in the first 20 minutes, but I’m glad I decided to make the hike because it really helped in figuring out the lay of the land around here.  We’ve also been quickly figuring out the tram and bus systems which are quite efficient (if only San Diego could take better cues from just about any other city with public transportation).

The University of Nottingham campus is astonishingly gorgeous.  Well, most of it anyway.  My first entrance into the campus was through the part of campus with the engineering buildings which were quite boring, but everywhere else I’ve been on campus is stunning, especially the area surrounding the Trent Building and Highfield House.  The Trent Building is where the Department of Theology and Religious Studies is currently situated and the Highfield House is where our department will be moving to in a few weeks.  Here is the Trent Building:

And here is the Highfield House:

The area surrounding the Highfield House is like a garden of sorts.  It at least feels that way–it is quite serene.  Currently the English/Lit department is in this house and they will soon be moving out so that we can move in.

We’ve been having to figure out other things like getting a bank account (still in process) and trying to decipher how the heating in our apartment works.  Speaking of our apartment, I’ve posted a gallery on Flickr which includes some in-progress shots of our apartment.  Also, I took some scenery shots and posted them in a separate gallery:

  • First couple days in Nottingham: arriving, apartment, and University of Nottingham – Gallery || Slideshow
  • Nottingham Scenery: landscapes and buildings – Gallery || Slideshow

Once our stuff from IKEA arrives and we put it all together with the infamous allen wrenches, I’ll take some new pictures.  There’s also some other stuff that I think I was meaning to say, but my mind is a jumble of stress at the moment with having to get things ready for next week’s Rome conference in order as well as write a paper for it.  So, hopefully I’ll remember that stuff as it comes to me. Oh, and classes don’t start until 22 September so we have a bit of time before I have anything to report academically.  I’m sure there will still be plenty to do!

For a concluding picture for this post, this is where we live now, on the second floor:

One week to go

In a week from today, Tiana and I are taking off on a plane for Nottingham.  Bum deal for me today, though: I came down with some flu-like symptoms.  I went into work a bit late as I wasn’t feeling well, hoping I would recover by the time I got there, but then by 10am I started getting feverish and nauseous.  Lame.  So I went home and just laid on the couch and tried to take it easy until my fever broke.

Well, I think it did so now we’ve been spending the evening going through our stuff yet again.  Sorting, sorting, sorting.  I went through my books again and pulled out a huge pile that I really don’t need to take.  Anything directly related to my dissertation topic, though, is going…which is hard, though, because I guess I can justify a pretty wide net of stuff at this point.

While I was shivering with the chills today, I re-watched Once.  It’s such a gorgeous and wonderful movie.  Okay, that was random, but it’s what I did.  And then began sorting.  We’re also bringing over things like MacGyver seasons 1 & 2, LOST seasons 1 & 3, Goonies, and The Jerk DVDs just in case we need to unwind.

I’m still not feeling so hot so I should probably go to bed.

Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop

Luche Libre Gourmet Taco Shop

Before we leave San Diego, Tiana and I are making sure we savor a few experiences.  Last night, we went to Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop.  Yes, it is a Mexican wrestling-themed taco shop.  I had a delicious “Veg Out” vegetarian burrito which was seasoned with some sort of curry.  It was awesome.

Click here to see my Flickr gallery of the few pics I took. 

End of a Vehicular Era

Thank you, Grandma, for selling me your 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera back in 2001.  It served me well for the past seven years.  Today, I had to have it towed as the transmission recently died, and it would cost far more than the car is currently worth to repair or replace it.  So, with Tiana and I moving to England for three years soon, I had to say “good-bye” today and sold it to a pick-n-pull for parts.

Good bye, Ol’ Blue.  You took me to many Santana’s for a veggie burrito and you also drove me to my wedding.  You even stayed in one piece when I put you in reverse at 70mph on the 805 freeway.  May you rest in pieces in other people’s cars as parts from here on out.

Peace & Grace,

Eric

List-making anxiety and cleaning house

My undergraduate degree is a B.A. in computer science.*  I’ve been a programmer for the last seven years and have been programming full-time for the last 6 years.  I just finished my M.A. in Religion (concentration: Theology) in May and in 14 13 days, my wife and I will be flying out to Nottingham as I will soon be starting a 3-year Ph.D. research programme at the University of Nottingham.  Because of the constantly changing gears between the two disciplines, and because I am only now getting into full-time theology & philosophy studies, I often feel like I am playing catch-up: there are still some essential theology texts I have yet to read, and I have never taken a Greek class — things I would have done if I were a theology/philosophy undergrad.  I don’t have regrets, but this is what I have to deal with now.

Since the latter part of highschool, I’ve been making to-do lists to keep track of homework assignments.  Nothing out of the ordinary at all.  Now in the age of electronic Post-It Notes™, I’ve been using NetVibes to make multiple lists of tasks: Fiction books I want to read, tasks for CoTP projects, an often-returned-to packing list for traveling, movies I want to watch, a general to-do list (“move to Nottingham”), and lastly, a list of theology and philosophy books to read.  That last list is a bit lengthy at the moment, but of course, this list extends into my Amazon wishlists in no particular order.  Actually, it is a bit overwhelming, of course, as any serious student probably experiences a mass rabbit hole effect where after reading scores of scholarly books every year, there are now an exponential amount of books to add to one’s relading list based on chasing footnotes and bibliographic references.  Blogs and the wonderful Librarything do not help, either.

But back to that other item** on the list, “moving to Nottingham”: in the last couple months, Tiana and I have put in many hours sorting through our stuff, figuring out what to sell, what to give away to friends, what to give to thrift stores, what to put in storage, what to take with us, etc.  We moved into our friend Stef’s house a couple months before we are going to make the bigger move in an attempt to front-load some of our stress and big moving decisions to the beginning of summer instead of having to figure out all of this stuff in the month of August.  So, after getting all of this mainly done, we are living out of boxes of all of our “essential” stuff.  The thing is, I’ve gone through my clothes again and at least a third of it I put in bags to send to the thrift store.  And actually, even some of what is left isn’t even appealing to me any more.  Rinse, repeat, and apply to other things like our DVDs and other things that we don’t actually need.***

What’s interesting (maybe “blessing” is a better word here) is that I honestly can’t say that I miss any of this stuff.  In fact, it’s quite liberating.  It’s a pain in the ass to have to keep track of so much stuff and worry about it when the reality is that I’ve forgotten about most of it anyway.

The most difficult things to sort are my books.  As my good friend Rusty reminds me from time to time, our books are now our “tools of the trade” like a craftsman and his/her own, uh, tools.  Moreover, we often write in them, scribble our notes all over them, re-read them and re-read our notes to see what new things jump out at us in our expanding hermeneutical horizons and such.  Couple this with a bad habit that I (and many other people) have where I’ll buy books knowing I’ll need to read it soon as a part of my core research or because it is basically part of the accepted canon of quintessential theology or philosophy.  (I’ve been much better about this in the last year having written an M.A. thesis now and honed my interlibrary-loan skills quite well.)

This is where my lists come back in to the picture.  In short, they’re pretty overwhelming at times because I know I have a decent amount of catch up to do (I haven’t even mentioned academic journals yet!), and there is a lot of satisfaction in crossing out a book on a list that I know I have read closely and slowly… which only opens more avenues of further reading.  And so on.

There’s a lot of issues here, really, and it’s a bit of a tangled web.  On the one hand, this is what I do now.  On the other, is there–should there be–a limit to this where I’m now basically just consuming information?  For one, I’m pretty sure I’m not very good at taking a day of rest.  Because I’ve had to juggle working full-time and getting an M.A. for the past two and a half years, I’ve had to make the most of every available chunk of time; I’m always usually doing something productive because of the many hats I wear.  On the flip side of this, though, I have been learning the skills of saying “no, thanks” to friends who ask me to work on projects–even paying projects.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this post, but it began from the idea that I experienced great joy when I actually deleted a book off my list of books to read.  It occurred to me that I didn’t have to read it at all, or any time soon.  I just thought that it would be good to read it to make my breadth of reading more “complete”, but really, that’s not even interesting and probably not a good use of my time unless I am writing a dissertation on that topic where being a completist suddenly becomes a good thing.  Then, I deleted another item off the list that wasn’t super important.

Clearly, the tools of a craftsperson are not just there to be consumed and put on the rack for display, but are meant to be used and in my case, the varied writings participate in various traditions that are supposed to call me out of my life of slumber.  I’m not sure when I’ll feel like I don’t have to play catch up anymore.  Plus, there’s that whole Socratic thing of figuring out that the more I learn, the less I actually know at all.


* Which is kind of weird because it would make more sense to have a B.S. in computer science, which the school now offers in their catalog, but didn’t offer back in 2002.

** Haha, I’m not that anal and micro-managing.  This is just an example for effect.

***   One of my New Testament professors in the MA program at PLNU recently told me that when we come back from the 3 years of PhD work we will have changed and we will most likely find that much of the stuff we have put in storage–aside from kitchen utensils–won’t be worth keeping anymore.

The Skinny: Of moving

We have been taking it easy lately, and it is time to ramp up all of our moving plans this weekend.  The latest is that Tiana and I took all of last week and this past Monday off to visit our family and friends in central and northern California.  It was wonderfully relaxing and good to see our family during the week in Merced and Concord, and then over the weekend we spent time with friends at our second annual “sweet summer shindig.”  My wife Tiana has posted pictures of the highlights of the trip on her blog, and the full four galleries of pictures can be found here:

Visiting: Merced - the Lee's

Visiting: Merced – the Lee’s

Visiting: Concord - the Reinhardt's

Visiting: Concord – the Reinhardt’s

Sweet Summer Shingdig in Santa Rosa, CA

Sweet Summer Shingdig in Santa Rosa, CA

One last day in Concord

One last day in Concord

Oh, and did I mention?  Tiana just started blogging!  Her sister Shalina designed it for her.  Rad, eh?

Meanwhile, a bunch of things have gotten in order for our plans to move to Nottingham.  Cue the bulleted list:

  • Secured an apartment in Nottingham
  • Moved all of our stuff that we are keeping in storage to my parents’ garage
  • Got our UK visas in the mail a couple of weeks ago
  • Fly out August 18th and arrive the morning of the 19th

This weekend we are going to get some of our stuff more securely boxed up and ready for shipping.  Although, tonight’s agenda includes going to see Eddie Izzard in downtown San Diego at Spreckels.  I’ve been a huge fan of his since my friend Dave-O introduced me to his Dress to Kill performance.  And then tomorrow is Tiana’s birthday!

Lots going on.  More to come.

Big Update: Thesis and News

Last Friday, I passed my MA thesis defense! My thesis title is “Contradiction, Paradox, and Irony: Philosophical and Theological Stances of Hegel and Kierkegaard.” For Geoff and Myles who asked, there it is.

John Wright was my adviser, and my two readers were Dr. Rob Thompson and Chris Simpson (my ‘external’ reader at LCCS). The defense went rather well, and it was oddly a lot of fun. My committee asked some great critical questions, and they tell me I handled them well. Turns out they are passing the thesis “with distinction,” which I’m extremely humbled about, as apparently I didn’t think this was even an option.

I know many have already asked to read the thesis, but I may have forgotten a few names. If you’re still interested, please leave me a comment below and I’ll e-mail it your direction (just put your e-mail address in the e-mail box, no need to put it in the comment itself–I’ll see it). The thesis is around 110 pages double-spaced, ~41,000 words. I’d love to hear your thoughts, further questions and criticism.

The evening after the defense, we had a small, casual graduation reception. The purpose of this particular reception was to allow our parents to meet the professors in the department. I introduced my parents to all the professors and it was a really pleasant time, enjoying finger foods and the like. As time was getting short with my parents needing to help my sister Jenna move out of her dorm, we had just enough time to introduce my parents to one remaining prof, Dr. Rob Thompson — one of my thesis readers. With apologies to Dr. Rob Thompson, Hegel, Schelling, and most of all my parents, the conversation ended with something that very much sounded like this:

My Dad: I have to commute a total of 3 hours every work day. It really puts a strain on my back. Of course Janet here only —

My Mom (Janet): Yeah, I only have to commute about 6 miles to work!

Dr. Thompson: When I was in Nampa, Idaho [at NNU] I would get annoyed if it took me longer than 5 minutes to get to work.

Me: Wow, yeah, it takes me 25-30 minutes to get to work in the mornings.

Dr. Thompson: The delays were almost always caused by a cow in the road. There’s another cow in the road this time–it was always a cow.

Dad: That happens a lot where we live too, and it gets incredibly dangerous. Not too long ago a whole heard of Blank Angus got out and were on the road — and you couldn’t see them!

Me: Whoa! That’s like the “black ice” of cows!

Them: [laughter]

Me again: Even better, it’s like “the night in which all cows are black!!!”

Them: [crickets]

Graduation the day after the defense was really cool. Apparently, graduating makes people forget awful philosophy jokes. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really think much about graduation until I was actually there. I was so focused on just getting the thesis done, and then trying to not focus on much at all in the week and a half of relaxation before the defense, that I kind of forgot that graduation is a big deal. That, and the PLNU campus turns into a crazy zoo. They have split the graduation up in to one graduate graduation and two undergraduate graduations, so it smooths things over a bit regarding the zoo factor. I must admit that it was nice to feel young at graduation: most of the people were slightly older than me, if not twice my age who were graduating. Aside from a friend of mine who is 65 years old in the MA theology program (and he has the energy and heart of a 20-year-old!), most of the students in our program are about 3 years younger than me, at least.

After graduation, Tiana threw a graduation party for me at our good friend Ester’s house. It was a totally awesome time of relaxation and conversation with good friends and family. In addition to my parents and sister, Tiana’s mom, sister Shalina, brother Stephen, and sister-in-law Shannon where all there as well. I was really thankful for being surrounded with good, loving people.

Okay, now rewind a couple days to Thursday morning, the day before my thesis defense. It was already a roller coaster of a week. I wake up, check my e-mail and decide to check out this page (I’d been hitting the refresh button on it all week). My name is printed on that page on the bottom, which means… It’s official: I GOT THE OVERSEAS RESEARCH SCHOLARSHIP!!! This means that the funding for my PhD tuition is basically paid in full! (technically it’s for a year of funding but it ‘renews’ each year upon ‘satisfactory progress’ or something like that). I was pretty emotional and immediately called Tiana who was still on her way to work to let her know the good news. She was super happy and relieved — we were not planning on taking out more loans on top of the undergraduate loans that we are still paying off. And then I called John Wright, who was also incredibly stoked. So, the next day I went into my thesis defense with the semester-long weight of worrying about the ORS lifted off my shoulders.

Tiana and I decided to wait until our parents arrived in San Diego before telling them. Now that they know and are super excited for us, they are all incredibly eager to visit us in Robin Hood country. So now, what remains is trying to figure out all the details on how exactly we can get over there so that they have somebody to visit. We’ve already received some extremely helpful tips from a couple of students already in the program (thanks Anthony and Aaron!). And, Tiana also found this incredible resource which, although that guy attends Durham University, should still apply pretty well to the UK in general.

By September 22, I will begin my PhD studies in theology at the University of Nottingham to study under Conor Cunningham. We hope to move to Nottingham a month ahead of that time to find a place to live and do some job hunting for Tiana. There will not be any employment restrictions placed upon on her from my student visa–the only restrictions will be on me. I will most likely continue doing work for The Centre of Theology and Philosophy, and perhaps some assorted side projects for some extra scratch, but my full-time computer programmer days are coming to an end. There’s a bunch of other details of the move to work out, of course, but this post has gone on long enough, and I’m sure we’ll figure those things out in due time.

Thanks to everybody for all the encouragement and conversations along the way. Special thanks to my wife Tiana for her encouragement, laughter, for reminding me what is really important, and most of all her love. She’s a keeper.

I honestly have no idea how we ended up in this position to be able to move to Nottingham for PhD work, but we are really very thankful for everything.

[Cross-posted to tianaanderic.com]

Where is my mind?

Well, obviously, I wasn’t able to make it to the theological symposium on the Analogia Entis.  In being buried underneath thesis work, I kind of forgot about it, which is probably for the best.  It’s starting today and goes to Sunday.  Anyway, aside from Joel Garver, did anybody else go?  I’d love to hear a report.

For those that actually hop over to my blog to read (and not just RSS), I’ve updated a few things.  I had to tweak the current theme to put the ‘pages’ back into the header (about me, papers, thesis reading books, etc.).  I also added a few feeds in the sidebar: one to my dorky Facebook status updates, and one to my Tumblr blog of things I’ve been reading/watching lately.

Music-wise, I’ve been dipping back into my CD collection and listening to things that I haven’t listened to in quite some time to help keep me stimulated during the writing process:

  • Squarepusher – Big Loada
  • Alice in Chains – Unplugged (probably one of my favorite albums of all time, actually.  where were you?!)
  • VNV Nation – Matter + Form (hands-down my favorite VNVN album but for some reason it fell out of my usual rotation.)
  • Mayfairgrin – Equine Noir: The Ambient Selections (probably my favorite moody ambient album ever.  you can hop over to my last.fm page and see how many times I’ve listened to this gem in the past few years.)
  • 30 Seconds to Mars – A Beautiful Lie (now, I understand why a lot of people don’t like this band as it is one of the quintessential emo rock bands, but I absolutely love this album and really think Jared Leto’s voice is awesome.  I usually play this on repeat after 11pm when things start to drag for me during paper writing.)
  • Nirvana – Nevermind and In Utero (just classic 90’s fun)
  • Apoptygma Berzerk – Welcome to Earth and Harmonizer (still not a fan of their stuff post-Harmonizer though… )

Of all the April Fool’s gags I saw online, this one was probably my favorite: World of Warcraft: Molten Core.

I recently got new glasses.  The last time I got a pair of  corrective lenses was my freshman year of highschool.  I had contacts for a while after that and used them for a while but got lazy.  I can now see road signs!

Minimal update: I fixed a grip of typos in this post… I was up till 4am last night so I am a bit out of it.

An (Academic) Update

I’ve been incredibly busy, but thought I should throw up an update on some goings-on.  First, I’ve been accepted into the University of Nottingham’s PhD theology program to study under Conor Cunningham.  I’m currently waiting to hear on my funding applications, which everybody tells me is a really competitive “crap shoot” of sorts, and we should hear by mid-May or so about the status of that. I am also trying to figure out other funding options that do not involve loans (Tiana and I already have too many from our undergrad years still).  There is also a really cool Centre of Theology and Philosophy conference that is about to be announced so stay tuned for more on that.

In the meantime I have also applied to Marquette University just in case things at Nottingham don’t pan out.  Unfortunately, my GRE scores weren’t the greatest (did even worse the second time I took it–standardized tests seriously f- with my brain), so I have absolutely no idea if they will accept me or not.  We will see.  They are supposed to inform me sometime around the Ides of March.

Meanwhile I have been working on my Master’s Thesis.  I began the writing process this past week and from here on out it is full steam ahead.   At this point I am not going to say too much what it is about (e-mail me if you want, but it’s probably not super interesting to most) but as I think I have mentioned before, here is a list of my thesis reading books if you care to browse.

We’ve had some visitors lately and will have some more soon this next weekend.  Last week my brother and his family were in town on their first family vacation since LaRae had Phaedra in June.  See here for some extremely cute pics of their daughter Phaedra.  And this past weekend Tiana’s friend Jaclyn was in town with her boyfriend and we went out to The Mission for some delicious brunch.  And this weekend our friends Johnny & Alyssa and David Overholt will be in town.

Now it is lunchtime for me!

After Advent: Catching Up

eoy-tiana-tree2.jpgAdvent has passed, and my last semester of MA coursework is behind me. At the end of last year, Tiana won “Employee of the Year” at the San Diego diocese of Catholic Charities and I have been published in a collected volume in the Veritas series. Tiana and I celebrated our first marriage anniversary in May and we just spent our second Christmas together as a married couple!

Tiana and I spent some quality time in our respective homes in Concord and Merced, California during out holiday break. In Concord, we mostly stayed at Tiana’s mom’s house, where we were very welcome. It was extremely awesome to really just chill and hang out after a stressful semester. We caught a few movies at home and in the theatre (P.S. I Love you, The Nativity Story, Letters from Iwo Jima, Ratatouille, About Schmidt, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Inland Empire), we did some shopping, and I even worked on some crafty stuff. Tiana did some clothes shopping in her sister’s closet and I found some great book buys at Half-Priced Books in Concord: I scored steals on a hardback edition of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, and Kierkegaard’s For Self-Examination/Judge For Yourselves.

Highlights, of course, were seeing family and friends. Our niece Katie continues to get ridiculously cute. While our trip was broken up a bit, we did get to see and hangout with everybody, enjoying wonderful Ethiopian and Indian food (both of which have excellent veggie options). We attempted to not stuff ourselves too much but I don’t think we did very well with that goal.

In Merced, things slowed down a bit, but the times of rest and cuteness did not stop as we got to delight in the non-stop smiles of our 6-month-old niece Phaedra. So it was very cool that our nieces got to finally meet each other! Shalina (with mom and daughter in tow) drove down to Merced and graciously took some family pictures for us Lee’s. My dad had spinal surgery last month, so we generally took it easy with him and kicked back on my parents’ comfy sofa’s. It was nice to relax, watch some TV and movies and be with family in my hometown. We even managed to get in a game of 4-player Settlers! LaRae, probably unsurprisingly, won that time.

We visited my Grandma (87 and still goin’!) who is in a nursing home in Merced, and she seems to be doing pretty good. Her wits are about her, but she says there are a lot of crazy people who yell a lot in that place. She’s been recovering from a fall some months ago, and in the meantime, my parents have been remodeling parts of her house so that it is ready for her to move back into it. My Aunt Carol (my grandma’s firstborn) is moving in with her to keep her company. It’s a cool house with a huge backyard that I grew up playing in. We’re looking forward to her moving back in her home.

In the time since we returned to San Diego, Tiana and I finished watching the 3rd season of LOST on DVD (awesome!!!) and have generally been taking it easy before this last semester of MA work for me begins (which began last Monday on the 7th). Meanwhile, we’ve also seen Juno and Once, two highly recommended movies. We’ve been trying to cook more in our little apartment to save money, be creative, and stay healthy. I even found a cajun soup recipe–that I will probably post later on this very blog–that seems to have been a big hit both in our house and amongst friends who have tried it.

Since last Monday, I have been cranking on reading for my MA Thesis. I definitely have my work cut out for me, but it should be fun. (If anybody is interested, I’ve compiled a list of a bunch of the texts I’ll be reading or resourcing.) I’ll be all done by May! More news on that to come.

Phaedra’s first Halloween!

Check out my niece’s first Halloween!

Leithart on Augustine

The fires are still raging in San Diego. We are safe, but many are not. Meanwhile, life continues and so I am in a Panera Bread right now finishing up what will probably be 11-page take-home essay exam for my Metaphysics and Epistemology class. Tomorrow, I go back to work.

So, as I am continuing to read Augustine (I finished the Confessions last week and have continued in De Trinitate) and read secondary material, I found the following blog post by Peter Leithart helpful:

In Defense of Augustine

Such efforts continue to be important, especially considering that in the last month in the Radical Orthodoxy group on Facebook, somebody posed a question prefaced with the following statement: “From what I have read about radical orthodoxy, Milbank and others want the church to go back to the neo-platonism of St. Augustine.” There are so many assumptions in this question that need to be addressed, but the first of which is what, exactly, is the kind of ‘neo-platonism’ held by Augustine? I know Michael Hanby’s book tackles this (I haven’t read it, but will in the next couple weeks), but Leithart’s post is also a good place to start in beginning to answer this question.

Visiting Phaedra

As promised, here are some of the pics I took of my new niece, Phaedra. She’s a mega cutie.

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Like most newborns, the first couple of pics above were more representative of the majority of the time I was there: sleeping. When she was awake, she managed a few smiles and smirks, which she also did while she was asleep! We’re very thankful for her.

There is also a Flickr gallery of more pics from last weekend here.  We tried teaching Phaedra how to play Settlers of Catan, but she just wanted to eat and sleep.

Phaedra Anne Lee

I was going to wait until after this weekend to post this (when I have more pics), but I wanted to announce that I am an uncle! My brother Andrew and his wife LaRae had their first child named Phaedra Anne Lee, born June 5, 2007. She was 8lbs., 8oz., and 19 inches long, delivered c-section. I’ll post some pics now, but I am visiting them in Visalia, CA this weekend and will have plenty more when I come back!

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First family photo!
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More here.

What a gift!

Winding down

It’s Friday, and by this upcoming Tuesday, I have 34 pages to turn in (around 10,000 words) in the form of two essays. I have 16 of those pages written thus far. The end of the semester is here, and things have shifted into high gear. There are probably some other clichés that are occurring right now as well.

I really have been liking the weather in San Diego, lately.  It’s been a mixture of clear and gray with breezes and light rains here and there.  In fact, some times it’s been so gray that people have reminded me that this fact is due to “May Gray.”   Next month, these atmospheric patterns will be explained by “June Gloom.”  I always thought this was a bizarre phenomenon.  And then it hit me that it is because these phrases possess an internal rhyming scheme that makes them not only so magical but as local San Diego clichés it is also what makes them so true.

However, if July hits and the gray persists here and there,  what then?  Will the magic be gone?  Will people be confused?  Will people start asking too many questions?  For instance, will they be shocked to know that ‘June’ doesn’t actually rhyme with ‘Gloom’?  Will such an oblique rhyme be accepted?

My guess is that people just get less smug during the other ten months of the year.  No May Gray magic to be found in October.  People realize they aren’t meteorologists in October, or if their lucky, July.  …you’re-gonna-fry-in-July… darn.

Jerks.

The unintended trajectory of this post reminds me of this bit from Mitch:

“I wrote a letter to my dad– I wrote, ‘I really enjoy being here.’ But I accidentally wrote ‘rarely,’ instead of ‘really’. But I still wanted to use it, so I crossed it out and wrote ‘I rarely drive steamboats, Dad. There’s a lot you don’t know about me. Quit trying to act like I’m a steamboat operator.’ This letter took a harsh turn right away.”

Post-Lenten Reflection

Considering my blog has been recently dubbed as “boring,” I thought I might provide an update mixed with a little bit of news. I will just say it: this has been one of the most strenuous Lenten times I’ve ever had. I haven’t really blogged much, but I didn’t really have anything worthwhile to offer. No homilies, no amazing holy week quotations from theologians, no obligatory Easter posts; I’ve had a rough time over the past forty days, to say the least. Most of all, I’m thankful that Dave-O is doing okay since his ordeal a few weeks back. He has since written about his experience in detail, and has continued to provide updates. In some ways, the reality of Ash Wednesday did not hit me until that time.

Aside from the uncertainty of that time, what’s made my journey rough is something I do not really care to share on a blog. I will not go into details here, but at the ‘high level’ it has been filled with a lot of depression, anxiety, stress, and a lack of faith in just about anything. People have said nice things — very nice things, in fact — about me in the last few weeks for various things, but even though I might offer a nod of acknowledgment or an under-the-breath “thanks,” I feel people have far overestimated my character.

A few years ago, when I started attending the Church of Nazarene in Mid-City, at the first Maundy Thursday (foot-washing) service that I attended, I never actually went up to sit in the chair to get my feet washed or to wash somebody else’s feet in return. I think there is something right about when Pastor John has mentioned that it is just so easy for people in our culture to give gifts but not to accept them; it’s as if our affluence (or whatever) makes it easy for us to feel good about giving (must be that [capitalistic] “Christmas spirit”! or something), but like Peter, we think our feet shouldn’t be washed and the gift is thus denied. At that first Maundy Thursday service, I was consumed with my unworthiness and could not get past myself. Fast forward to last Thursday. I’ve been so broken by so much of my own sin that I cannot take myself anymore, and I was ready to accept the foot-washing without much hesitation at all. A few years have passed since that first time when I denied it and last week, and I have accepted it since then, but I was always kind of scared out of my wits about it. Last year, it kind of helped that when Nicole Thomas was washing my feet she joked about how utterly minuscule the bowl was to indirectly make fun of my flat size 13’s.

I don’t care to elaborate much further except to say that a lot has happened in the past few months to put me in that state. Resurrection Sunday morning happened, people rejoiced, and I’m still rather hesitant about much in life. I think I would put it that way. It always feels weird to lack precise language to describe how one feels, especially as my current academic training is so focused on such language. I’m also intentionally leaving out details, which might not help, but even if I included all of them — to invoke the aforementioned concept, a prospect rather boring indeed — I still do not think I could be any more precise.

With that out of the way, potentially making this blog less boring, but hopefully not ‘boring’ into your skull like a migraine headache, I do have one pretty exciting update. I found out just a few days ago that the paper I presented at the Belief and Metaphysics conference last September is being included in a published volume in the Veritas series. It should be out around August/September through SCM Press. Conor Cunningham and Peter Candler have been very gracious toward me, and for that, I am thankful and quite humbled.

The end of the semester is now fast upon me, so until the beginning of May or so, I probably will not have much time to continue my thoughts on this blog, but we shall see if the right combination of inspiration and motivation can coalesce before then!