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The Joys of a 7-Year-Old with a LEGO Store Gift Card

October 24, 2014

Grandma and Grandpa, this post is mostly for you. (Others: feel free to keep reading if you want.)

My seven-year-old son received a LEGO Store gift card from his grandparents. So we went on a Saturday morning to the LEGO Store to pick out a couple of sets. I’ve always been an indecisive shopper, and he showed some signs of that (how could you not?), but made a good decision that he stuck by.

One of the sets he got includes Batman and the Flash. Here’s his build of the Batmobile:

 

IMG_2123

 

IMG_2124

 

The best part is he’s been sharing quite nicely with his brother!

Here, by the way, is the set. Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa!

 

Review of Morris Proctor’s Logos 5 Training Manual Set

October 23, 2014

Logos 5 Training ManualAs often as I use Logos Bible Software for personal study, preaching, and teaching preparation, I’ve found the easily digestible guides by Morris Proctor to speed up my learning process in ways that even regular weekly use can’t. When Logos 5 first released, I read and reviewed Proctor’s “What’s New?” guide. And in my review of Logos 5 Gold, I found that guide and his two-volume Logos Bible Software Training Manual to be immensely helpful, especially in explaining the newly released (at that time) Bible Sense Lexicon.

That two-volume set is now on sale for 50% off. The product page describes it:

 

  • Volume 1 covers the necessary features you need to know to jumpstart your mastery of this incredible Bible study tool. Includes 33 chapters and 220 pages.
  • Volume 2 picks up where Volume 1 leaves off. The additional sections (242 pages) continue to help you unleash the power of Logos Bible Software 5.

 

It’s kind of ironic that the best one-stop shop of a training manual for Logos in 2014 would be a print edition (which is not available in Logos itself), but I actually have appreciated having that format. (And it’s cheaper and easier to get to than seminars, though I’m sure those are useful, too.) Having the manual in print makes it easier to keep focused on the software as I’m trying out the things the guide suggests.

Just to give you an idea of the level of detail, here’s a snapshot of the Table of Contents for volume 1:

 

MP Seminars TOC 1

 

 

I felt at times when using the manual that the author was selling the product to the reader (“And there’s even more,” he notes on “Bible Searching,” and, “Those days are long gone,” he says about parallel printed editions of Bibles). I just chalked this up to his enthusiasm for the software, which is, indeed, an asset. (Though I still use plenty of books in print.)

Proctor’s explanations are clear, simple, and accompanied by screenshots that are well-labeled and easy to follow. The guides offer excellent attention to detail, including the suggestion of keystroke shortcuts to perform different tasks. Follow this link to see some of Proctor’s blog posts at Logos, which are similar in content and style to what’s in the manual. Having a spiral-bound binding is nice, too, because it means the books lay flat when set next to the computer you’re using.

You can check out a multi-page sample of the manual here, and find the product at MP Seminars’ site. Definitely recommended if you want to learn Logos 5.

 

Thanks to MP Seminars for sending me the two-volume Logos Bible Software Training Manual to review. See also my review of MP Seminars’ “What’s New” guide to Logos 5.

Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus

October 22, 2014

I. Can’t. Wait. To. Read. This. Book.

So I’m simply going to post a picture, leave a few links, publish this post, and close the computer so I can get to reading. Here it is–it just came in the mail today:

 

Bonhoeffer's Black Jesus

 

Thank you to Baylor University Press and thank you already to Prof. Reggie L. Williams for writing what looks to be an awesome book. Its full title is–get ready–Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance.

The first sentence is the best one-sentence summary I’ve read about why people like Bonhoeffer so much:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer championed a radical interpretation of Jesus and ethics that was validated by his resistance to the Nazis and his execution by them.

I’ll post a review of it (and of the also exciting Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker) before Christmas. Find Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus here (Amazon) or here (Baylor).

 

Never Make Another Keyboard Typo Again

October 22, 2014

TextExpander_icon

 

Next to OmniFocus and Accordance, TextExpander has become one of my most frequently open computer and iOS applications.

It’s not that typing is all that hard, per se, but there are some things (TextExpander calls them “Snippets”) that we tend to hammer out frequently on a keyboard:

  • An address
  • A signature
  • An out-of-office auto-reply
  • Directions to your house
  • Repeated typos!

TextExpander does just what its name suggests: it allows you to type text abbreviations that automatically expand into pre-selected text. So I can write “.omni” and my long OmniFocus task capture email address pops up instantaneously.

You can even have a Snippet include hyperlinked text and bold formatting. If I (theoretically) had become mildly obsessed with using OmniFocus to track all my tasks and projects lately, I might save the snippet “oomni” to expand to the following:

OmniFocus 2 allows for more complex project management. Projects and Contexts are a great way to break a bigger endeavor down into its component steps (Projects), or organize them according to the environs in which you do them (Contexts): Office, iPad, Computer, Errands, etc. The Forecast view shows you both appointment and tasks in one place. Or you can just make a quick entry in the Inbox, and then decide how to categorize it later.

(Note–the above paragraph came from the snippet.)

There’s also a wonderful “Accented Words” section so that I can always type résumé correctly (snippet is resume’) without having to remember how to type accents. There’s a nice “HTML and CSS” pre-defined set of snippets, too, which are useful in blogging, Website writing, etc.

The most amazing feature? You can create a snippet and then have the cursor positioned in the middle of the expansion. This could be useful, for example, when you’re citing the same source in a research paper, but need to just change the page number with each citation.

The Preferences let you make some nice customizations. Here are a few:

 

TextExpander Preferences

 

The iOS version–TextExpander Touch–is universally useful now that iOS 8 supports third-party keyboards. You can use it (via switching keyboards) in Gmail, text messaging (“;txt” can expand to mean, “leaving soon, home in five minutes”), and more. The keys don’t pop up/out as much as the regular iOS keyboard does; it’s not a very easy keyboard to type in. But if you’re not using it as a primary keyboard and are just typing your snippet abbreviations into it, it works well enough.

 

IMG_2126

 

And, conveniently, TextExpander on Mac and TextExpander Touch can sync all your snippets seamlessly and automatically.

Learn more about the Mac app here and the iOS version (for iPad and iPhone) here.

 

The folks at Smile Software kindly supplied me with a license of TextExpander and TextExpander Touch for the purposes of writing this review, but with no expectation as to its content.

The LEGO Movie: The Essential Guide

October 20, 2014

LEGO Movie Essential Guide

 

We are big fans around here of The LEGO Movie. My then-six-year-old offered a review of The Official Movie Handbook and the Junior Novel. My favorite two parts of that interaction were: “Emmet…falls out of a tower that, like, goes past heaven,” and his description of Bad Cop as “a bad police.” (No, I’m the only one who watches The Wire around here.)

DK’s Essential Guide does a great job of covering the movie. It has colorful two-page spreads of the main characters (Emmet, Wyldstyle, Benny, and more), as well as sections like “Emmet’s Big Idea” and “Everything is Awesome,” so you can learn all the lyrics to the movie’s catchy tune. “To the Kraglizer” shows both Benny’s Spaceship and Emmet’s Construction Mech–you get to see not just scenes of the movie, but the sets as they are currently packaged and offered by LEGO now.

A two-page “Behind the Scenes” section closes the book with Q and A, including such questions as “How much of The LEGO Movie set was developed as real LEGO models?”

The book is a bedtime (and daytime) favorite with my four-year-old and seven-year-old. They keep coming back to it. It’s great for bedtime reading, because, although we can’t read all 64 pages before bed, I can tell the kids we’ll read three characters, which can easily keep us engaged for 10 minutes. There’s a lot to pore over here. (MetalBeard’s short “Guide to Pirate Speak” on page 47 was fun.)

Here’s a look inside The Essential Guide, from the publisher’s UK page:

 

DK LEGO_Awesome

 

DK LEGO_Wyldstyle

 

DK LEGO_Master Builders

 

Lots of entertainment is waiting to be had here–our DK Essential Guide to the Cars movie is a well-loved household item, now missing its fold-out insert (from so much love). The LEGO Movie: The Essential Guide is already similarly appreciated around here, though all the pages are so far still in tact!

 

Thanks to DK Publishing for the review copy, given with no expectation as to the content of the review. Find The Lego Movie: The Essential Guide here at Amazon (affiliate link) or here at DK’s site.

From Scratch and Sniff Chip ‘N’ Dale to Jacob’s Travels

October 19, 2014
Scratch and Sniff feature available in iOS 9 only

Scratch and Sniff feature available in iOS 9 only

 

I had a “scratch and sniff” Chip ‘N’ Dale Rescue Rangers Spanish-language comic book when I first learned Spanish in high school.

I know–I can’t believe I just started a post with that sentence, either.

Silly as it was, the comic was an enjoyable way for me to practice reading a new language. I kept it for way too long and only in the last couple years threw it out. (The “sniff” of the front cover had long since stopped working.)

I’ve tried to step up my efforts lately in improving my biblical Hebrew reading, especially as I preach through Genesis in church. My now seven-year-old son has at times joined me in our Hebrew-learning adventures, always at his request. Most recently we worked together to review EKS Publishing’s enjoyable and accessible First Hebrew Primer.

Og the Terrible may be the more apt Hebrew-learning comparison to my Spanish-language Chip ‘N’ Dale comic. Og appears in a series of adventures featuring Prayerbook Hebrew and a dragon. (Might the Jewish/Christian apostle Paul have said Og helped the Scripture to be fire-breathed?)

JacobsTravelsCoverI’ve not read Og (yet!), but EKS Publishing has a series of Hebrew and English children’s books revolving around biblical characters.

The one at left–Jacob’s Travels–has been on our bookshelf for some time. We return to it on a fairly regular basis, sometimes reading the Hebrew text slowly, sometimes just reading the book in its English translation.

The back cover describes the book:

Jacob’s Travels begins and ends with Jacob encountering the Divine. This retelling of the story from Genesis, told in Hebrew and English, is a reminder of God’s constant presence in our lives. At a time when he feels most alone, this realization brings Jacob great comfort, inspiring one of the most memorable lines in the Bible: “Surely God is in this place and I did not know it!”

The translation is smooth and readable, with a more “literal” translation in the back of the book for those learning Hebrew. There’s also a glossary at the back for those who want to steer clear of the English and see how well they can do with just the Hebrew.

The book is probably better geared toward older children or even Hebrew-learning adults, as there is a high text-to-picture ratio.

It’s fun to read, though, and certainly more edifying than (no offense) the Rescue Rangers.

You can find the book here (Amazon) or here (EKS Publishing). EKS’s other children’s books are here.

2 Exceptional Jewish Commentaries on Genesis, Part 2: The Torah: A Modern Commentary

October 16, 2014

This fall I’m preaching through Genesis. Two Jewish commentaries have been exceedingly helpful and illuminating as I prepare each week. Yesterday I praised Nahum M. Sarna’s Genesis (JPS Torah Commentary). Here I highlight another commentary I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading.

 

2. The Torah: A Modern Commentary

 

Torah Modern CommentaryLike the JPS Torah Commentary, the Modern Commentary includes the Hebrew text (with pointed vowels and cantillation marks) and English translation. Most of the Torah is in the new Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation (with updates for gender-sensitivity), but the English translation of Genesis is the work of the late Rabbi Chaim Stern.

Most noticeable in Stern’s translation is his use of “the Eternal” to translate the tetragrammaton (YHVH). The Preface to the Revised Edition explains:

The root meaning of the divine name in Hebrew is “to be,” and the name “Eternal” renders that name according to its meaning rather than its sound. That is, it conveys the overtones that an ancient Israelite would have heard when encountering YHVH as a name.

Between introductions, verse-by-verse Commentary, Essays, and Gleanings (insights from rabbinic commentaries and modern-day interpreters), there’s a wealth of useful information here.

For example, last Sunday I began to wonder whether the story of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) was, among other things, an anti-empire polemic. Moving through the “Gleanings” in the Modern Commentary, I found the following early sources:

As the tower grew in height it took one year to get bricks from the base to the upper stories. Thus, bricks became more precious than human life. When a brick slipped and fell the people wept, but when a worker fell and died no one paid attention.
MIDRASH

And:

They drove forth multitudes of both men and women to make bricks; among whom, a woman making bricks was not allowed to be released in the hour of childbirth, but brought forth while she was making bricks, and carried her child in her apron, and continued to make bricks.
BARUCH

The commentary nicely blends cultural background, sensitivity to the history of Jewish interpretation, and application-ready insights, as here in the comment on Genesis 12:1-9:

For while Abram’s story must be read as the biography of an individual, he (and this applies to the other patriarchs as well) is more than an individual. The Torah sees the patriarch as the archetype who represents his descendants and their fate.

I especially appreciate how Accordance Bible Software lays out the commentary and all its sections; I’ve been using it in that medium (click to enlarge).

 

Torah Modern Commentary

 

The publisher offers quite a generous (70 or so pages) .pdf sample of the Torah Modern Commentary, which you can read here.

You can find The Torah: A Modern Commentary here at the publisher’s page or here at Amazon.

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