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Released Today: Stubborn Persistent Illusions by Do Make Say Think

May 19, 2017

Today marks the release of a new full-length album by Do Make Say Think: Stubborn Persistent Illusions.

The band wastes no time in piling up layers of guitars, effects, and energetic drums on the first track, “War on Torpor.” The opener is reminiscent of some of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s best builds, minus the waiting. The song does, indeed, slay the listener’s torpor. You’ll feel your blood pressure rise a bit as you listen, and the song never settles into much of a repetitive groove. No matter–it’s aurally stimulating, and the band finally comes back to the song’s opening motif in the last part of the track.

Do Make Say Think

From there, Do Make Say Think tones it down a bit with a 10-minute track two, “Horripilation.” Yes, I had to look up the word, too: “the erection of hairs on the skin due to cold, fear, or excitement.” AKA goose bumps.

It’s at this point in the record–and for its remainder–that the band tests the listener’s allegiance to whatever people mean when they say “post-rock.” To be fair, Do Make Say Think are more creative, tighter, and experimental than many other bands in this genre–think Don Caballero rather than This Will Destroy You. But if you’re looking for hooks, they seem in short supply here. By track three, “A Murder of Thoughts,” only the most patient of non-fans won’t be reaching for the fast-forward button.

Even so, there are some real bright spots on the album: a couple minutes into “Boundless,” the band locks into a groove you’ll be glad goes on for minutes, even as textures build and change on top of the steady drums. And all eight minutes of “As Far as the Eye Can See” are interesting. The musicianship on the album is really good–a trait that made up for this reviewer’s not infrequent sense of torpor when listening, propelling me to want to continue experiencing the album as a whole.

In contrast to instrumental rock bands like Caspian and Mogwai, there is nary a vocal line to be found on the album. But there are enough riffs, layers, lines, changes, motifs, and grooves that you’ll probably want to listen to this album at least two times through before you feel confident making up your mind about it.

At nine tracks and an hour long, Do Make Say Think have given their patient listeners much to digest in their first record in eight years. Your mileage may vary. I don’t think this will compete for Album of the Year (I give the edge so far to the new Slowdive… so good). But I also suspect this album will live up to its name and stubbornly, persistently grow on me and all who take the time to carefully listen.

Check out Stubborn Persistent Illusions here at Constellation Records.

 


 

 

Thanks to the kind folks at Constellation Records for giving me early access to the album so I could write the review.

 

Pentecost: RSVP

May 17, 2017

The Story Luke TellsPentecost is near, which means many churches will turn their attention to the book of Acts.

A couple of Pentecosts ago I recommended Justo L. González’s excellent The Story Luke Tells: Luke’s Unique Witness to the Gospel.

González notes that Luke’s story in Luke-Acts doesn’t really end per se: “Paul has suffered countless vicissitudes. He has been shipwrecked. He has finally made it to Rome. He is awaiting trial before Caesar. And then—nothing!”

(If you can never remember how Acts ends, rest assured! This may be why.)

Gonzalez goes on:

In telling his story and leaving it unfinished, Luke is inviting his readers to be part of it, to join the throng. ….But since the story is unfinished, it is more appropriate to conclude it with “RSVP,” like an invitation that awaits a response. This is what Luke demand from us: not satisfied curiosity about the past, but a response here and now. RSVP!

It’s neat to think about the church today as being a new sequel to Luke-Acts. Or, more accurately, the threequel to those two stories: Luke, Acts, the Church Today.

May God continue to empower with his Holy Spirit those of us who would RSVP faithfully to his invitation!

 

 

(Adapted from an earlier post on this blog.)

 

Exercise App Review: Runtastic

April 10, 2017

Runtastic has probably the best running app on the market.

And there’s no shortage–Strava, MapMyRun, Endomondo, Runkeeper, etc.

I’ve been using Runtastic for a couple years now–first on an iPhone 5C and now an iPhone SE. Runtastic is cross-platform: it has an Android app, as well as a Web interface you can access from any Internet-connected device.

 

Runtastic: the iPhone App

 

Even if the user interface doesn’t look “native” to the iOS world, the layout is clean, intuitive, and easy to read at a glance.

Here’s what it looks like mid-run:

 

GPS is great

 

You may notice that screen says “Internet not reachable.” That’s because I have a highly limited data plan, so I use the app with my data off. Still, the GPS tracking works remarkably well, even without Internet or cell data. This is impressive.

The app updates everything in real time–your map, your current pace, your average pace, your distance, and your duration. The Premium version of the app (more on that later) also has auto-pause, which detects when you’ve stopped running and automatically puts tracking on hold. (Not every running app has this.)

Here’s what it looks like when you’re done:

 

Results Screen.png

 

Again–everything is really easy to see at a glance. You can even see your spits:

 

Splits.png

 

And–what’s amazing to me–drag your finger across the line to see what your pace was at any given moment in your workout:

 

Splits drag.jpg

 

You can even customize how your splits occur–whether miles or minutes:

 

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The history screen (easily accessible when you open the app) looks great:

 

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And you can compare statistics (by week, month, or year). I find this motivating:

 

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There’s more–you can track how many miles you’ve run in a given running shoe:

 

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Which also permits a more detailed view:

 

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The voice coach is even customizable, and gives you audio markers for different points in your run:

 

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Setting Records

 

Runtastic does a great job tracking your personal records, and letting you know when you’ve beaten them. One lack is that a personal record does not pop up automatically within the app once you’ve gotten it in a given activity. You have to wait to check the Website or receive an email (automatically generated). Record notifications look like this:

 

Records.png

 

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I loved getting this email!

 

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The Web Interface

 

It’s not perfect, but it shows you a ton of information. The home screen looks a little cluttered to me:

 

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Even with Runtastic Premium, which removes ads, I have an item on the top and everything in the right sidebar that just look like, well… ads. They’re all in-house, but I could do with less. You also still get pop-ups (rarely, but more than expected) like this on the phone:

 

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You can set everything to private, though, so no one knows when, where, or how fast you’re running, except you.

This activity view on the site is much cleaner (minus the vexing “Report a Problem” pop-over that I can’t close out):

 

Screenshot 2017-04-10 10.27.22.png

 

The site allows you to see some cool stats, too. I loved knowing (and was grateful Runtastic tracked it) when I most often work out!

You can also easily import a workout (either a GPC or TCX file) from another app. This process is pretty easy and smooth. You can export a single workout from Runtastic elsewhere, but there is no bulk export option. If you do a bunch of workouts in Runtastic, it’s not so easy to later migrate all that data elsewhere. Other apps are proprietary like this (some accuse this kind of thing as a sort of “holding your data hostage”), although Runkeeper allows you to bulk export your data. Runtastic should add this feature.

You can also have a weekly fitness report delivered your way, which is cool:

 

Email Running Report.png

 

Running Goals

 

There’s a lot more I could mention, as this is a really great app. You can set yourself a duration and distance goal and track your progress in real time. This has made a couple of my runs better! Here I am meeting my pace goal:

 

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But then I fall behind:

 

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I didn’t make it that time:

 

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The next time, however….

 

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To Premium or Not to Premium?

 

Easy. Premium. You get ads removed (except for in-house stuff that I’d like also to be able to remove), free training plans, free “story runs,” the aforementioned records tracking, a free 3-month trial to Runner’s World, accelerated response to support queries, and more. (Details here.) It’s a subscription model, so you just have to decide whether you’d use the premium features. The price is definitely reasonable for what you get in return.

I’ll have a Runkeeper review posting soon, so will be able to better compare, but from what I’ve seen so far, Runtastic (especially in its Premium version) is the best running app I’ve seen. Check it out here.

 

 


 

Thanks so much to the folks at Runtastic who set me up with a trial of Premium so I could review the app!

How to Read a Book in Accordance (Screencast)

April 7, 2017

I’ve recorded a 12-minute screencast on how to read a book in Accordance Bible Software.

I highlight four features:

  1. Hyperlinks, hyperlinks, hyperlinks!
  2. The expandable/collapsible Table of Contents sidebar
  3. Search Fields to better focus your search
  4. Advanced: Amplify/Research to get from the book you’re reading to the rest of your library

You’ll never read or study a work of theology or biblical studies the same way again. Accordance makes Kindle look like a codex.

Here’s the video:

 

 

I mention these resources:

And there are Interpretation Bible studies. More about these exciting new additions to Accordance can be found here.

Thanks for watching!

 


 

Thanks to Accordance for access to the Interpretation modules shown in this screencast review. See my other Accordance posts (there are many) gathered here. I recorded the tutorial using the app Capto.

Video Review of Weather Line for iOS

March 28, 2017

 

I’ve been using Weather Line on iPhone recently to get a visually appealing look at the forecast.

Here I give you a video tour:

 

 

Thanks to the folks at Weather Line for the chance to review. You can get the app here.

(P.S. I made the video above using the handy Mac app Capto.)

3 Months of Todoist Premium, Free!

March 18, 2017

 

This post is a giveaway of three months of Todoist Premium. First, some background.

While OmniFocus has been a constant task-tracking companion for the last two years, a couple of unacknowledged and then acknowledged-but-still-unfixed bugs have been just vexing enough to send me back to other productivity apps.

I mass exported all my data from OmniFocus to 2Do (easily the best aesthetic of any task tracking app), which has been my new go-to.

However, the pull of Todoist is strong. (See my review from fall 2015 here.) I can, for example, write:

Take out the trash every Thursday at 4 #church

And it uses natural language input to set up the time (and a recurring task, no less) and project.

 

No need to manually go through my projects or a date and time picker. It’s fast.

Todoist Premium adds more features: labels (which are tags, essentially), filters (which are saved searches that can help you sort your tasks in really neat ways), and a lot more.

My “Todoist Karma” (I know, cheesy… but I like having a continually rising score to track my productivity) got high enough that Todoist sent me a free code for three months of Premium. They also sent me a code to give away.

Here’s how you can get that second code.

I’ll randomly select a recipient from the comments below. For one entry, simply answer the question, “What app or system are you using now to track tasks and projects?” For a second entry, share a link to this post on Facebook or Twitter (or whatever the kids are using these days), and come back here to the comments to tell me you did. I’ll announce the winner on Saturday, March 25.

New Title from JPS: Justice for All

March 13, 2017

 

Readers of this blog (yes, it’s alive!) may recall my immense appreciation for commentaries and other works published by The Jewish Publication Society. You can find a host of JPS reviews and book notes I’ve written here.

JPS has just released Justice for All: How the Jewish Bible Revolutionized Ethics, by Jeremiah Unterman.

Biblical justice has been a recurring theme in our congregation this past school year–both in my preaching and in our adult Sunday school classes. I’m eager to dig in to this volume.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Justice for All demonstrates that the Jewish Bible, by radically changing the course of ethical thought, came to exercise enormous influence on Jewish thought and law and also laid the basis for Christian ethics and the broader development of modern Western civilization.

Jeremiah Unterman shows us persuasively that the ethics of the Jewish Bible represent a significant moral advance over Ancient Near East cultures. Moreover, he elucidates how the Bible’s unique conception of ethical monotheism, innovative understanding of covenantal law, and revolutionary messages from the prophets form the foundation of many Western civilization ideals. Justice for All connects these timeless biblical texts to the persistent themes of our times: immigration policy, forgiveness and reconciliation, care for the less privileged, and attaining hope for the future despite destruction and exile in this world.

You can read a .pdf excerpt here. The book’s product page is here, and is also available through Amazon.

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