"Good Morning, Eager Young Minds"

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Another year, another OOTLE: The Open Old Testament Learning Event, now in year three for 2017!

Welcome to our new learners! Through public writing and public interaction, we will build together the understandings awaiting us concerning the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, its literature and historical contexts, and its study.

Our first week of activities will open up Monday morning. See you there!

The Linux Migration: Password Management

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Previously in this series: Text Expansion

Summary: It is a truth perhaps not yet universally acknowledged that a Mac user migrating much of their home and professional life to Linux will found themself in need of a replacement for their password manager. Importing my 1Password (Mac) vault into Enpass (Linux) works more than well enough.

Password Management

This is when you have an application that holds all your account user names and passwords; that creates new strong passwords for new accounts; that uses a "browser extension" to auto-fill these user names & passwords into Web forms when you want to log into an account like your Amazon or email account; that probably also holds secure text notes and other kinds of private information; and that secures all of this behind a single, hopefully strong and easy to remember, passphrase.

On the Mac

I've been using 1Password on the Mac for years, and couldn't cope without a password manager. However, Agilebits has no interest in developing 1Password for Linux. Once upon a time, 1Password allowed full-featured web access to your vault via Dropbox, a feature they called "1PasswordAnywhere." But that feature went away, and Agilebits has made clear that reintroducing "1PasswordAnywhere" isn't going to happen. I had hoped that their new subscription service, which allows web access to one's vault, would basically replace 1PasswordAnywhere; turns out, though, that this "web access" lacks the functionality of a browser extension: it doesn't fill fields with your user name and password, and you're forced to copy/paste. Long story longer: 1Password isn't happening on Linux.

On Linux

My solution: Enpass, the free password manager for Linux, Mac, and Windows. Enpass will import items from your 1Password vault, and includes browser extensions. The import is a little janky--categories are lost, so logins, secure documents, credit cards, and all are simply listed together in "All". Still, the Search feature does a lot to make this only a minor inconvenience.

I am still using 1Password on the Mac, even as I use Enpass on Linux. This means that I should only add new log-ins on the Mac, importing the vault over to Enpass once each month or so. If I add anything directly to Enpass, I don't really have a way to export it the other way into 1Password for Mac. I'm willing to put a pin in this problem for another day.

One heads-up on Enpass: You have to enable its browser extension in the app's preferences. Until you do, the installed extension won't respond when clicked. It's easy to wrongly believe that the extension is broken, and waste time troubleshooting (as I did).

The Linux Migration: Text Expansion

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Summary: I am migrating much of my computer life from the Mac to Ubuntu (Linux). I needed a replacement for my text-expansion tool, TextExpander. It looks like Autokey will do well enough. See the last paragraph if you care to know why I am migrating.

Text Expansion

I don't know how anyone lives without it. Is there anything you type more than once? (Phone number, email address, comments on student papers about what makes a good thesis statement? Common phrases for correspondence, like "Thanks for writing" or "Let me know if the attachment gives you any trouble"?) A text-expansion tool allows you to assign that text string a "snippet": type the snippet ("tfw") and it automatically exands ("Thanks for writing"). It works in any application: email, web browser, MS Word, wherever.

Not convinced? Think of it this way: it's not even about saving time (though it saves a ton of time). It's about saving attention. Let your text-expansion tool do the mindless work, while you keep your attention on the task at hand.

TextExpander for Mac

TextExpander is simply the best. No contest. It makes it super-easy to include wild cards (like current date and/or time, in multiple formats), dropdown menus of your own making (such as Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. for salutations), fill-in fields ("NAME"), and many other fancy-pants add-ons to the relatively simple idea of text expansion. It's the Lexus of text expansion. I miss it already when I'm on Ubuntu. If you're on the Mac, get over to Smile Software and give them your money.

Autokey on Ubuntu

It's not the Lexus of text expansion, but it's...well, I don't know cars well enough to offer an analogy. It's free. It does text expansion except that results are a little chancy in Firefox. It relies on Python scripts for wild-card additions and macros; I don't know Python, but it includes a few examples that I can hack on with my piddling knowledge of regular expressions and other programming languages. Oh, and something TextExpander doesn't do: Autokey lets you set "hot keys" for (say) launching your favorite applications. Take away: If you've used TextExpander, it's a servicible but not enthralling replacement that brings some of its own possibilities to the table. If you've never used a text expansion tool before, you'll love Autokey to death, I'm not kidding.

Why the Migration?

Our IT department cut our hard-drive space in half on the last computer "refresh," that's why! (Trying to save some money while moving to the more expensive SSDs, or solid-state drives.) I've had my whole life on a single laptop since my adjunct days when I owned my own machine, and when I eventually got an institution-owned computer, they simply had me copy my whole Home/user folder over. Now, to be clear: my 20 GB of photos (many of which are work-related anyway) and 8 GB of game folders (Civ 5, come on) are not the reason that my 370 GB of data on a 500GB machine won't fit on this new 250GB SSD machine. But, I can't make a case for a larger HD as long as anything non-work is on the machine. Anyway, it got me thinking that it really would be healthier to have a "room of my own," especially since I seem to have little choice. So, why Linux? I'm a Mac user since 1994, but they cost the moon, and I am starting to chafe at the demands and dependencies of the walled garden. Linux is the pain that everyone says it is, but I know from experience that Windows is like an itching-powder union suit to me. I'm comfortable on the command line and philosophically supportive of open source. Anyways.

OOTLE16: Academic Biblical Studies for Everyone

Posted on by Brooke Lester

It's just about time for OOTLE16, The Open Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) Learning Event 2016. What is the Hebrew Bible? Who wrote its texts, and when, and why? What can it mean when read by different readers?

The core learners in OOTLE16 are students at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary taking the course for credit. But, anyone may participate, as much or as little as you like.

The course runs 13 weeks, in four (4) units after an introductory week (February 2-8):

The Writings (think Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes): Is the world a sense-making orderly place where people mostly get what they deserve, or a senseless mess where everyone just gets what they get? And where is the Complaint Department? February 9-29.

The Latter Prophets (think books with names: Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.): No, they're not actually all the same. For example, only one of them hides his underwear by the river. And only one goes naked for three years. What's bugging these guys, anyway? March 1-21.

The Former Prophets (think Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings): From the sweeping entry of Israelites into the land (are we supposed to care about the dead Canaanites, or what?), to God sweeping the Israelites out of the land (welcome to Babylon!). Kings and prophets. A lot like Game of Thrones. March 22-April 18.

The Pentateuch (think Genesis, Exodus, and laws and stuff): Where the story begins, and where most of your dinner-table arguments with extended family come from. April 19-May 9.

Interested? Go to our course site, and find information on getting started with your own blog and Twitter account.

Mobile Learning: Reflections in Progress

Posted on by Brooke Lester

This post is a "during-course reflection" for "Mobile Learning," a course in the Advanced Studies Certificate: Distance Education Professional Development program at the University of Wisconsin (Madison).

It is written in Markdown on an iPhone 6+, using the Squarespace blogging app, Byword, and DropBox, as well as the public-bookmarking site Diigo.

The "guiding question" or "essential question" that I've brought to mobile learning is, "How might mobile devices make it easier to integrate reflection/activity on a course's subject matter with other elements of one's life, generating unpredictable possibilities for unexpected connections?"

Abstract: In a constructivist view of learning, knowledge is built, or constructed, through meaning-making activities that bring previous understandings into relation with new understandings. Learning is an irreducibly "creative" act: it is created via synthesis. Does the mobility of mobile devices make it easier to facilitate the regular integration of new understandings with the understandings (already) active in the other areas of one's life: family, play, work, etc.?

This short piece on "Connecting the Army to Digital Applications," while brief and summarizing, piqued my interest simply by its intentionality. What would it be like if seminary students, accomplishing their degree programs in real-world loci of practice (churches, non-profits or other non-government organizations, etc.), were provided class activities that could be accomplished "in the field" as opportunities presented themselves? How about their pre-program orientation, their advising, library usage, and so on? What if learners received explicit instruction on using mobile devices (from flip phones to smart phones) to do so? I have found myself preoccupied by a phrase used in this piece: that the goal is to foster "a persistent learning environment."

The "Basics" page of ADL's Mobile Learning Handbook and the Upside Learning "Quick Start Guide" ebook (edit: corrected click-through) have both helped me broaden my introductory understanding and get up on the lingo. For example, the concept of "push and pull learning" (intuitive enough to coders who use repositories like GitHub, but probably not to others) provides a kind of lever by which a fan of "just-in-time learning" to plug that set of pedagogical insights and practices into a mobile-friendly course design.

Integrating that concept of "push and pull learning" into my guiding question should become part of my final project for the course, along with the idea of "interactivity" in this piece by Jesse Stommel, noting that mobile devices facilitate an "easy move between reading and content creation."

My guiding question still makes sense to me as originally written. I found another student keen to provide Spanish-language learning resources to learners in the places where trying to use that language, and became interested in expanding on that idea (perhaps in Hebrew-languages courses that I teach occasionally).

#JobvGod: Job versus God, the Twitter Game

Posted on by Brooke Lester

It's Job versus God, in an epic battle of justice and power. Who's right? Who wins? What the heck is with those friends, anyway?

This is a multi-player Twitter game, inspired by Twitter vs. Zombies. It can be adjusted to last for days (as in these instructions) or for only a few hours. It ends when time is up, or (tragically) if everybody playing finds themselves on #TeamFriends. Job vs. God was developed for the Open Old Testament Learning Event 2015 (OOTLE15).


All game tweets must include the hashtag #JobvGod.

Players announce their entry into the game by tweeting "I'm in!" (or similar) with the hashtag #JobvGod.

During game play, any player can attack any other player with a #JobAttack, paraphrasing Job's legal case against God and citing their biblical source accurately by chapter and verse. (For example, "42:6". Be sure to cite Job's speeches, not just any part of the book of Job.) Use at-mentions to select your victim.

The victim must issue a counterattack within six (6) hours. To counterattack, Reply to your attacker with a #GodAttack, paraphrasing God's argument against Job and citing your biblical source accurately. (Be sure to cite God's speeches, not just any part of the book of Job.)

If you find yourself attacked with more than one #JobAttack at once, you may counterattack them simultaneously by at-mentioning both attackers in your #GodAttack.

If a player is #JobAttack-ed, and fails to counter with a #GodAttack within six (6) hours, then she is penalized by joining #TeamFriends. She cannot issue any attacks or counterattacks while she is on #TeamFriends. To get out of #TeamFriends, she must tweet three (3) tweets paraphrasing the arguments of Job's three friends, including the hashtag #TeamFriends. (Be sure to cite the friends' speeches, not just any part of the book of Job.) She is then out of the penalty box, and free to #JobAttack other players again.

Nightfall: From 10pm-6am Central Time, the clock stops. So, if a player is attacked at 8pm, she has until 10am to counterattack.

These rules imagine the game going on for a few days, working around people's work schedules. If you want to play a shorter game, make sure all players are available and have the book of Job handy. Shorten the required counterattack time from six hours to five minutes.


Job Attack: @anummabrooke tweets "Bring case to judge against God, & God is the judge! Fix is in! 9:15 @charheeg #JobAttack #JobvGod"

God Attack: @charheeg Replies "@anummabrooke Where were u when I gave birth to hail from my womb? 38:29 #GodAttack #JobvGod"

Team Friends: @charheeg, finding that over six hours have passed since @anummabrooke's Job Attack, tweets three tweets similar to this: "Can u provide any evidence of the righteous perishing? I haven't seen it. 4:7 #TeamFriends #JobvGod"


Suggest improvements in the comments. For example, in Twitter vs. Zombies, you can defend another player with a "swipe." Should something that be a feature in this game? How would it work?

Nuggets: "Let's Use the Web"

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Where "Is my Data Showing...?" Finds Me

Posted on by Brooke Lester

I have not yet begun this week's "make" for Connected Courses. But, as I eat lunch my office, watching the video, I am reminded that I have a standing promise to teach my 13-year-old this week about OpenPGP and public-key encryption.

He's read Cory Doctorow's Little Brother at school, and is about to start in on Homeland. To keep him in the mood, we're limiting our text-messaging to Telegram, which allows senders to set a self-destruct timer on outgoing texts (reminiscent of Snapchat). For IMing, we create temporary chatrooms using Cryptocat. And, I've got information on VPNs and Tor queued up for when he's worked through the challenges of OpenPGP. Not that I already know anything of substance about these tools; I'm just barely ahead of him, and it takes time (precious time, time I don't really have) to learn it.

So why then? Because I want him to think about what he shares, and who has access to his online activity. And he does. After waiting for years to turn thirteen, and thereby take the keys to a shining new Facebook account, he's decided to hold off: What exactly are all these adults letting themselves in for with this thing? He's thinking. And so am I.

(This post is written for Connected Courses)

Syntax Highlighting for Markdown in Vim

Posted on by Brooke Lester

When I first learned Vim, I was excited to begin writing in Markdown while composing in Vim. Some things didn't work like I hoped. Opening and creating files with my favorite Markdown filename suffix (, I found that the syntax highlighting was a nightmare: weird choices, and color changes after every use of a quote mark (as with contractions like "don't" or "isn't").

Scouting around, I found a solution. I repeat it here for clarity and so that other people Googling around with the same problem have another, more recently published, chance at the answer.

You first need to create a Vim resource file, or edit it if it already exists. In Terminal (Mac or Linux), navigate to your User directory:

cd ~/

There, check to see if you have an invisible file named .vimrc by listing all files, including invisibles:

ls -a

Now, create (or open) that file:

vim .vimrc

Finally, edit that file to include the following:

" set sytax highlighting on.
syntax on

" set files with extension .md to be recognized as markdown.
filetype on
au BufNewFile,BufRead *.{md,mdown,mkd,mkdn,markdown,mdwn} set     filetype=markdown

The double quotes simply turn the rest of that line into a comment line.

My own .vimrc file also includes the following, though I don't mind saying I can't quite remember why, off hand. If you know, please feel free to remind me in the comments.

set autoindent

" set not compatible mode to enable Vim features.
set nocp

Save the file and quit Vim. Navigate back to whatever directory you wish to be composing in. Create or open a "" (or "name.mdown," or whatever) file, and voila! Lovely, correct Markdown sytax highlighting in Vim!

I have successfully done this in MacOS and in Linux Ubuntu. I think I once did it in Windows 7 as well.

I hope somebody finds this useful. If so, let me know.

Why Learn "Old Testament Studies"?

Posted on by Brooke Lester

You probably know how to listen. But do you know how to listen well?[^1]

  • Do you know how to be willing to not understand, instead of rushing to premature closure by putting the speaker into your comfortable boxes?
  • Do you know how to practice empathy, avoiding a rush to judgment and putting yourself in another's shoes, imagining circumstances and decisions that seem unthinkable or preposterous to you?
  • Do you know how to be vulnerable, entertaining the possibility that you may be the one who undergoes real change as a result of the encounter?

What is your conversation partner's history? Her language? Her culture? (What are your own?)

Now. You probably know how to read. But do you know how to read well?

They wrote over the course of a thousand years. They wrote in their walled cities, their open villages, their schools, their homes, and lands far from all of these. They wrote in support of the state, and counter to it, and in its ruins. They wrote for one another and against one another, to silence each other and to preserve each other. They told their stories, inscribed their laws, cried their supplications, sang their songs, listed their lists, raged their rage.

If you like to read, you can read them. If you like to understand, if you like to better hear the voices of the past, then you will want to learn how to read well.

  • Historical study
  • Literary study
  • Cultural study

Come and learn the tools by which we listen well to the voices of the Hebrew Bible.

(This post is in response to the prompt, "What is the real 'Why' of your course?" asked in Unit 1 of Connected Courses: Active Co-Learning in Higher Ed.)

[^1]: This list represents my recollection of that offered by Dr. Pam Holliman, professor of Pastoral Care, in a presentation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

How to Write about Ferguson

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Allow me first to correct the punctuation in my title, above:

"How to Write about Ferguson?"

Now you can hear it the way it sounds in my head.

For a week and a half, I've been preoccupied by the Michael Brown tragedy, by the ensuing protests, and by the depressingly and infuriatingly (but not surprisingly) misconceived police response that still grips the city and daily threatens further loss of life. At the same time, I bang out nearly-due revisions to one writing project and draft two more, both also under deadline. At the same time, I prepare my fall upper-level course for waiting learners.

Today, Nyasha Junior, biblical scholar and public speaker, rightly has asked:

The ONScripture piece is a resource for "preaching reflections" on Michael Brown and Ferguson. "#SBL" refers to the Society of Biblical Literature, the flagship professional society for academic biblical studies.

I am primarily an academic, though I do preach occasionally, as an unordained layperson. I teach the literature of ancient Israel, understood as having two interpretive "anchor points": the likely meaning of biblical texts in their ancient Near Eastern social/historical context, and the range of possible meanings such texts may support for us johnny-come-lately readers in our own social/historical contexts. Additionally, my job description asks me to explore digital learning, finding and modeling better practices of online pedagogy.

My habitual mode, then, is less to tell people HOW to interpret biblical texts in light of the murder of an unarmed Black teen by a white law enforcement officer, and more to PREPARE learners to generate such interpretations as they might find liberating, for themselves and for others.

My habitual mode is less to rally faculty colleagues to a particular understanding of the racist and preposterously over-militarized police response in Ferguson, and more to rally them to the possibilities for facilitating online communities of inquiry where they and their learners can be genuinely present to one another in a time of crisis, even if the learners are prevented (usually for economic reasons) from enjoying on-campus residency.

In an upper-level seminar on "Inner-Biblical Allusion: The Old Testament in the New Testament," I may ask learners to write creative, biblically-allusive blog posts on Ferguson, white power, and casual brutality. Persuading faculty colleagues to learn to live-stream lectures & panels, I may appeal to their desire to reach at-risk communities…perhaps including Ferguson. I'm working up notes! But shit takes time. And the revisions, and the drafting, and the fall classes.

For now, I'm a white academic whose relative privilege would allow him to monitor Ferguson passively while sweating out those scholarly revisions and drafts. For whom Ferguson is important but for whom (let's face it) Ferguson need not be treated as urgently as some other things in his life. How can I write about Ferguson now?

Like this, apparently. And by letting people know, here and on my Facebook feed, that I am Tweeting about #Ferguson and (more importantly) Retweeting about #Ferguson, and that they should be too. By letting people know that they can become better informed. That other academics are trying to figure out what we owe our learners now and later in response to Ferguson.

If you are a non-Black biblical scholar, then (aside from preaching), how do you write about Ferguson?

Connected Courses

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Talk about just-in-time learning. One day, I begin to fumble through creation of a "connected course" for 2015. Next day (more or less), my Twitter feed coughs up an invitation to Connected Courses,

a collaborative community of faculty in higher education developing networked, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web.

This is gonna be great.

Dress Like a Professor: The Office Kit

Posted on by Brooke Lester

It's not easy to dress like a grown-up in the academy. Conditions vary, hours are long and irregular, and salaries encourage instructors to conserve rather than replace. This has led me, over time, to develop an "office kit" to cope with the daily challenges of "dressing like a professor."

The Kit

Dedicated walking shoes: I keep a "dedicated" pair of shoes at work: brown Rockport walking shoes. I chose a pair that looks enough like dress shoes to get by, and they are amazingly comfortable for walking and standing all day. They take shoe shine, so I keep one of those Kiwi sponge-top bottles of instant polish in a desk drawer. I also keep a couple of spare pairs of shoelaces there, in case of a midday shoestring blowout. A dedicated pair of shoes, kept at work away from the wintry elements, makes my work shoes last longer.

Shoe care again: When I change shoes, a little Lysol gets sprayed into the pair I'm removing, bowling-lanes-style. Yes, I wash my feet. It's a small office, and I'm like the proverbial frog in the pan of water: if I think I'll notice when things start to get smelly, I'm fooling only myself.

Good, curved hangers in the closet: I remove my blazer or suit jacket several times each day. Also, once a week, I go straight from work to teach Taekwon-do in the elementary schools, changing out of my work clothes before leaving and packing out out my suit or blazer and pants. So, I always keep several hangers in my office closet: not cheap wire hangers or even the plastic ones, but the nice curved ones that come with a suit or blazer. These keep the shape of the shoulders properly, even when I'm carrying my suits and blazers around or hanging them in the car.

Lint brush and soda water: I like a real lint brush more than the sticky-paper kind, because my principal enemy is chalk dust. A six-pack of soda water with a dedicated clean handkerchief stands ready to take out small stains (including the spot of blood on my collar that I missed in the bathroom mirror that morning).

Change of shirt and tie: This is a work zone. There is coffee, soup, mustard, chalk dust, toner, ink, and every manner of hazard. I haven't yet had to draw on the dress shirt, slacks, and necktie that I keep hanging in the closet, but I'm always glad to see them there.

Climate control: Three words: brown cardigan sweater. Great for relaxing in a drafty office, and in a pinch can substitute for a forgotten blazer.

Casual clothes: This may be overkill, but I like to keep a set of season-appropriate casual clothes (jeans, long-sleeve tee) folded in a drawer, just in case I want to go somewhere after work without looking like like Ward Cleaver.

What about the adjuncts?

For several years, I shuttled between schools as an adjunct, walking and taking public transportation. None of the schools had an "adjunct office." What can the vagabond adjunct do to reduce wear and tear on the work clothes that he can't afford to replace?

  • Resist the temptation to "dress down" as an adjunct: having less real power, the trappings of power are more important to you, not less…they are just much harder to maintain.
  • Wear walking shoes instead of dress shoes. Even "comfortable" dress shoes are murder as the miles rack up, and they also fall apart under hard use. If you can't arrange a change-of-shoes routine, then plan to go through your walking shoes annually, especially if you walk to work or take public transportation. When you buy a new pair, keep the beat-up ones for casual use.
  • Wide, padded shoulder straps that won't cut into the shoulders of your blazer or suit jacket. Consider a backpack with a hip-belt suspension system, which will take the weight off your shoulders altogether. (If you protest that you'll look like a dork, I'm afraid that I have bad news for you.) This will also save your back, and since you don't have health insurance and don't have time to be laid up with spasms, seriously: consider the hip belt.
  • See if a friendly office secretary has a place for you to keep your wet boots, umbrella, and coat while you're on campus. Or, if s/he can wrangle you a commuter locker, even if those are reserved for students. Similarly, is there a safe place to keep your large and heavy books on campus when you don't have a reason to drag them home? The less you have to carry everything all the time, the easier it is to keep the clothes on your back unrumpled and in good repair.

As a man, recognize that I enjoy my culture's relative clarity and stability concerning a man's "uniform" in the academy. I would especially love to see women instructors round out my suggestions for the "kit" in the Comments. Thoughts from anyone? Improvements?

[Dress Like a Professor: The Office Kit was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2013/10/17. Except as noted, it is © 2013 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

My Other Blog is a Seminarium Blog

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Much of my recent work is at Seminarium Blog, a group blog about pedagogy in religious studies (higher education). Seminarium is a creation of Fortress Education. I have added a page to Anumma, linked in my sidebar, pointing to my recent writing and vlogging at Seminarium.

I haven't walked away from Anumma blog, though I am definitely in one of those periods where Anumma is eclipsed by the rest of my writing life: Seminarium, scholarship projects, student assessment, administrative writing, etc. It's not my first fallow period here--as Anumma has evolved from solid Old Testament and ancient Near East studies, into "biblioblogging," into Hebrew Bible and higher education, and increasingly into digital learning--and, insh' Allah, won't be the last. Thanks for reading, keep me in your feed, and come visit us over at Seminarium!

What's a Little Unfriending among Friends?

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Like many other Facebook users, I have a lot of Friends that I don't interact with much; or, I find that my Friends list has come to be at crossed purposes with what I'm trying to get out of Facebook. After all, most of us developed our network of Facebook Friends when the service was new. Not only did we not yet have an idea of where our Facebook use was going, but Facebook itself has changed a lot in the meantime.

These are the considerations going into my upcoming Great Facebook Friends List Slash and Burn:

Does this person have another way to reach me? For example, if I know them as a colleague or former student at Garrett-Evangelical, then they either have my contact information, or can always reach me through the school. Not only that, but a Google search of my name will yield my web site, which has a Contact Me tab (or my YouTube channel, where they can comment; or my page, which includes a phone number; or…). So--might as well face it--everyone can reach me. There is no one who really needs to be my Facebook Friend in order to contact me.

Have this person and I interacted in the last year or so? Have we commented on one another's Updates? Have we Messaged each other? Do we interact offline or in other environments like Twitter? If I do interact with this person, on Facebook or elsewhere, then I'd like to preserve the Facebook Friendship.

What about former students? This is a hard one. I really do not want to send an implicit (and erroneous) message to former students that I am ready to forget about them, or worse, that I only reciprocated their Facebook Friendship perfunctorily or grudgingly. But, look, they're not my students any more, they are free citizens. In some cases, we have continued to interact with one another (see above). In other cases, we haven't. Former students can reach me by other means, just as anyone else can. I especially welcome them to do so, including those whom I Unfriend after years without interaction.

What about current students that I don't know well? Sometimes current students whom I don't know choose to issue me a Friend request, then do not interact substantively (or at all) with me. But, hey, hope springs eternal: maybe tomorrow. Maybe I could Like or Comment on something of theirs and something might come of it. What the hey. Keep 'em.

As I have said previously, nobody can say authoritatively what "Friending" on Facebook is. Don't let me, or anyone else, tell you what your experience of Facebook, or of Facebook Friending, has to be! Only through their continuing decisions do users decide for themselves what "Friending" can be, or what it will become.

[What's a Little Unfriending among Friends? was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2013/02/15. Except as noted, it is © 2013 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Interliterary Allusion as Figure: a Core Bibliography

Posted on by Brooke Lester

This is a "starter" set on interliterary allusion, defined as a figure akin to metaphor generated between two texts by the design of the alluding text. A good idea is to start with Ben-Porat, then work through the remaining set chronologically. There is much else out there on allusion, but I would say that this core bibliography serves as excellent preparation even to works that precede Ben-Porat.

Ben-Porat, Ziva. "The Poetics of Literary Allusion." PTL: A Journal for Descriptive Poetics and Theory of Literature 1 (1976):105-128.

Conte, Gian Biagio, and Charles Segal. The Rhetoric of Imitation: Genre and Poetic Memory in Virgil and Other Latin Poets Cornell Studies in Classical Philology; V. 44. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986 [original 1974].

Garner, Richard. From Homer to Tragedy: The Art of Allusion in Greek Poetry. London; New York: Routledge, 1990.

Johnson, Anthony L. "Allusion in Poetry." PTL: A Journal for Descriptive Poetics and Theory of Literature 1 (1976):579-587.

Kronfeld, Chana. "Allusion: An Israeli Perspective." Prooftexts 5 (1985):137-163.

Perri, Carmela. "On Alluding." Poetics 7 (1978):289-307.

Sommer, Benjamin D. A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40-66. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998.

[Interliterary Allusion as Figure: a Core Bibliography was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/11/19. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Fear and Anger in DigiWriMo

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Remember when we all used to apologize for "not blogging lately"? In those days, readers would have to click all the way over to your blog (uphill both ways, in the snow) in order to see whether you had posted anything new. So, we felt guilty if there wasn't always something waiting for them, to justify the trip. I think that, by now, we all know about "readers" and RSS feeds: as long as someone still kicks out a blog post from time to time, we can keep their feed in our reader of choice, and it doesn't matter if a few weeks pass between posts.

So this isn't an apology. What it is, is an observation, or a pair of them. This month is Digital Writing Month, and I am doing my poor best to write 1,667 digital words each day. (I won't get to the whole 50k-in-the-month: if I don't manage the quota for a given day, then I start fresh the next day without trying to make it all up.)

A lot of days this month, I don't succeed. One of the reasons I already knew about, but it's worth holding up for attention during Digital Writing Month. The other, I guess I knew that too.

Observation 1: If I do not write, it is often because so many other people have control over my calendar.

This is what Merlin Mann would describe as the bigger-picture "In box" problem: an In-box is anything in your life (not just email) where people can drop stuff that thereby becomes your problem. For contingent and junior faculty, it can be super frightening to say No to anything. When you're afraid, your whole life is an In-box: an ever-increasing list of items that are "unknown, ambiguous, or incomplete."

Observation 2: If I do not publish, it may be because I am angry.

There's a reason that so many bloggers in academia are pseudonymous. They are in a position to write freely, in a semi-ranting mode (or even full-tilt), about things that are happening now in their courses, or among their faculty colleagues, or in their administration, or among their institution's partners. We "nymous" bloggers aren't so free. For the most part, when something gets right under our skin, we need to process on it a while, to detach, before being able to write on it publicly. And anger doesn't compartmentalize: when I'm well ticked off about one thing, it colors the way I write about anything. Fortunately, I consider unpublished ranting Drafts to count toward my Digital Writing Month total.

I consider these reflections to be a mark of how good Digital Writing Month has been for me so far this November. We're all so busy, it's not easy to stop and pay attention. I've got some decisions to make about this In-box business and the things that bother me, and Digital Writing Month helps me see them more clearly every day, both on "good writing days" and on the other days as well.

Is there anything that Digital Writing Month is helping you to see more clearly?

[Fear and Anger in DigiWriMo was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/11/14. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Digital Writing Month: My Plans

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Today marks Day One of DigiWriMo (Digital Writing Month), in which I try to write 50,000 digital words during the month of November. DigiWriMo is inspired by the concurrently-running NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and is the brainchild of Jesse Stommel and Sean Michael Morris of Marylhurst University.

So what are my plans for DigiWriMo? These:

  • Blog posts like this one. Some blog posts I will publish, and others I will bring to Draft status and keep in the can. I also have a number of drafts already in progress that I can work at.
  • Finish my self-paced online course. I am enrolled in the 10-CEU Professional Certificate in Online Teaching course (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and have been stalled on the last two projects of this course for months. So, now's my chance to treat it as a priority and finish up.
  • Keep my SBL/AAR presentation in progress. This happens in only two weeks, but I'd like to do a lot of free writing on the project and see how that causes me to continue revisions between now and the day I present. Once it's been delivered, I'll record an a/v version for YouTube.
  • I've had an idea for a biweekly newsletter, and have even drafted the first issue. I'd like to re-visit that first issue, then also get a bunch of features drafted for later issues. I'll feel better about launching that project if I've got several articles "in the can."
  • Tweet a bunch, as usual and maybe more. Keep a hand in on the DigiWriMo Facebook page.
  • Where possible, participate in events planned by the good folks at DigiWriMo.

So there are my first 400+ words (including Markdown markup), toward a daily goal of 1667+. Are you participating in DigiWriMo (or NaNoWriMo, or any other WriMo)? What are your own plans?

[Digital Writing Month: My Plans was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/11/01. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

A Sense of Entitlement

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Is it "a sense of entitlement" if students are actually entitled to it? To what are learners in fact entitled?

A recent Language Log post tracks the meaning of the word "entitlement" over time. I was surprised to see how early it acquired negative connotations. Originally meaning something to which a person is legitimately entitled (think of going to college on the GI bill, for example), it came quickly to be used in contexts where a person believes they are entitled to something on which they actually have no legitimate claim. The string, "…sense of entitlement…" is common.

You hear a lot in higher ed these days about the "sense of entitlement" among students, and this does point to a genuine problem. Grade inflation is real, as is a consumer mentality around education: you hear sentiments like "I pay the teacher's salary, so they have to do x for me," where x = "respect my learning style," "cut me a break because of my full-time job," "avoid offending me." (Side point: an instructor is no more employed by her learners than a waiter is employed by the guy ordering a steak.)

But are learners entitled to nothing? I'll offer today two things to which a learner is, in my view, entitled: Clarity regarding time commitments, and clarity regarding assessments.

Time commitments: A learner is entitled to know how many hours the course work is designed to take. Many of my students work long hours (usually in a church), and frankly, should either be working fewer hours or taking fewer classes ("But my scholarship requires…"). It's a real systemic problem in need of address. At the same time, we all know that being squeezed from both sides is the human condition: it's how you develop muscle, and learning to "push back" against one's employer is a survival skill.

I often say,

Here is the difference between me and your church employer. The church will never tell you it has "enough" of your time. It will always want more. Me, I will design my course in such a way that its time requirements are predictable: about so many hours of reading, about so many hours of activities. If you are spending (say) 6-8 hours each week, outside of class, on this 3-credit course, and not getting the results you want, then come see me. I won't simply say, "spend more time." I'll first work with you to help you make the most of that 6-8 hours.

Some students will, in fact, need to put in more time than others, especially if language is an issue, or they have a poor background in reading. Maybe some can only achieve sub-"A" work in the time that they have. But again, if they put in the time, they are entitled to my help on getting the most out of that time.

(Side note to instructors: do you know how many words are in your assigned readings? Do you know what reading rates are typical for your learners?)

Assessments: A learner who attempts to "meet the bar" of expectations is entitled to know where the bars are set. I am a convert to rubrics, and have all the fanaticism of a convert. No matter how carefully I try to write my expectations into paragraphs of prose, it's not enough. The fact is, I do have, in my head, 1) a list of things that I am assessing in an assignment, and 2) a mental picture of what "not good enough," "good enough," and "more than good enough" looks like for each of those things I am looking for. The learners deserve to have access to that "mental map," taken out of my head and spelled out visibly on paper. Here is an example of my assessment rubrics: the assignment is peer review. (Imagine the learners have written a draft of a paper, and are to review one another's drafts; they are graded on their peer reviews, so this is the rubric for that review.)

What challenges have I overlooked regarding time commitments and assessments? To what else, in your view, are learners "entitled"? How do you view student "entitlements"?

[A Sense of Entitlement was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/10/08. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

God as Mother and "Not Only a Father" in Bible and Tradition

Posted on by Brooke Lester

Tim Bulkeley of Sansblogue has written a book called Not Only a Father: "Talk of God as Mother in the Bible and Christian Tradition."

Go ahead and read it: the book is freely available in its entirety online.

What is more, the book is participatory:

In each chapter and section there are small blue speech bubbles to the right of every paragraph. Click on them to see what others have said or to comment or ask questions yourself.

Want to talk with others about feminine language for God in the Bible and in the history of Christian thought? Invite them to read with you. Did I mention that's free and online? Open access, baby.

[God as Mother and "Not Only a Father" was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2012/10/05. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]