Friday, December 26, 2003

Oh, by the way, I've decided to let my no-luck-southern-former-fishing-buddy, Mark Gstohl, be my friend again. Won't he be surprised with such a great Christmas gift!
Christmas went well. Santa was great to the kids, but once again I got stiffed by Senior Kringle. I'm back at work today, adding captions to the images in the atlas. I'm working on the divided monarchy at the moment. Tomorrow I'm stuck in the kitchen pretty much all day cooking turducken and frying turkeys. Then football and family, and I should be back at work Monday. I've been giving much thought to a class I have coming up about Prophets and Prophecy. I'm trying to find ways to get the students to learn by action, or putting things into practice outside of the classroom. I still need to further refine it.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Well, my muse is sort of back, but it didn't take the form of a fish.

Despite my expectations of catching copious amounts of redfish and trout with my colleague and former friend Mark Gstohl, it turns out that he, as they say in the South, "has more bad luck than a possum at a possum eating hoohaahaa."

I place the lack of caught fish squarely upon his broad Southern shoulders. I did get to see a beautiful part of Louisiana via boat though, and watched some porpoises up close, along with raccoons and nutria, all of which it turns out are "good eatin" in the South. Anyway, I've been able to write a bit better after that adventure. Today I finished the book reviews and will start on the atlas tomorrow, and as they say in the South, "Three ducks ain't a quackle make feller." But in the end, the day fishing was so disappointing, especially the things I witnessed concerning Mark. When he wasn't delaying the outing by casting his hook and bait into the shore's foliage, he would just sort of stand there with a dazed look in his eyes rather than fish. I had to remind him more than once that when his bobber went underwater it meant a fish was biting the bait. Moreover, I noticed on several occasions that he appeared to be crying, though that could have been because he is a southern boy facing arctic winds from a boat. He did bring sandwiches though. As they say in the South, "Shhhhhhhuuuuuuucccccckkkkkks, whoooooooo caaaaaaaaaaannnnnn dooooooo aaaaanyyyyy bettttttterrrrrr daaaaaan' daaaaaaaatttttt????"

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Still suffering from writer's block, I thought I'd take a moment and talk about
how today, December 18, 2003 changed the world. For today is
the day that


is going legit. My lanky friend Bart Everson who bicycles even though he suffers
from cold hands works at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching here at
Xavier, and this place is way better because of his presence. He's sort of an
artist who works with computers. Anyway, today, even as I write this, he is
moving the website from CAT's server at to the
new and bibliscious URL
How cool is that? We've got a lot more work to do on the site, as we're not
even halfway done. But I think it will be an excellent teaching tool. We shall
see. In some ways it is frustrating as in the end I'll put way more effort into
this website than I would into a book, and it will reach so many more people,
yet I'm sure academia would give more credit to a book. I applied for early
promotion this year at Xavier, trying to get the rank of Associate Professor.
I'll let you know if this website matters at all in this process, but I think
my books will carry more weight. I think 20 years from now the system will be
different, but so much about academia is antiquated. Anyway, great day for me
and the world. Thanks Bart!

I have writer's block, and I've got it bad. I need to finish two book reviews today and get those shipped off to "Archaeology Odyssey." They're both pretty good books, but I especially enjoyed William Stiebing's Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture. He did a great job of showing how historians and archaeologists are like detectives who try and form theories from quite fragmentary evidence.

Then, if and when I finish this, I've got so much to do with the atlas. I really need to get the text finished and off to the editor before Christmas break is over, just a couple of weeks from now. But while the book reviews are close to being done, I can't seem to crank out the final formatting. I desperately need a muse. This might take the form of a redfish, as my colleague and friend Mark Gstohl and I are going fishing tomorrow. I've wanted to do this for a very long time and have never gotten around to it. We have a guide, and it not only be expensive but very cold. Being on the water in a boat in 40 degree weather will be challenging. Good thing I'm fat. I knew there was a reason I was overweight. Even if we don't catch anything I know tomorrow will be a memorable day. This will be because of fish, boats, beer, and this "Good Ol' Boy" Southern thing I find so amusing.
If anyone else knows how to break my writer's block, feel free to email me at My block is so bad I spent the day searching for Mr. Poppy's/Al Copeland's address as he is supposed to have some great Christmas decorations. I finally found it, but it took a couple of hours. Think how productive I could have been before the internet took off.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

I'm back from the retreat, and feel it was a real success. The theology department tackled some pretty difficult issues related to our program, and had a nice time interacting with everyone's families. I returned to find several students already complaining about grades. I think they found them posted on Banner Web. Some have even said if I don't raise their grades from a C to a B they will lose their scholarships. As hard as it is for me to do so, I have a policy that won't raise grades in such a fashion. One student has a 77, but I still can't give her a B. I suspect most teachers would here at Xavier, or so many students probably wouldn't ask. I would feel much better if we had pluses and minuses, so she could get a B minus or a C plus, grades that more accurately reflect her performance. But instead here at Xavier a 71 and a 79 (which by the way are very different student performances) both get a grade of C on their transcripts. It's a shame. Though it continues to trouble me deeply, and I feel bad for the student, as I get more experienced I don't feel as bad as I once would have. If she was so worried about her scholarship she should have studied more and scored better than a high 50s on the final exam. But in the end I still feel bad.

Friday, December 12, 2003

We're about ready to get in the car and drive to Gulf Shores Alabama for a Theology Department retreat. I think it will be very productive, in that we're meeting frequently tomorrow. We are trying to decide what we want to do as a department. I very much like my colleagues in the department. Personally I feel sort of at a crossroads in my life academically. Being at Xavier University of Louisiana it is hard to have the support necessary to be a first rate Bible scholar. So much time is necessary for teaching, and committee work, etc. I sort of imagined even up until a few months ago that I would be at Xavier for about 10 years and then move on to a first rate research institution with doctoral students, a huge budget, and loads of release time and other means of support that would enable me to keep publishing. Though at this point in my career I've published much more than others I know, I feel that if I stay at Xavier my publication rate will drop dramatically (which it has already the past year and a half). So lately I've been thinking maybe there is more to life than an obsession with publishing. Maybe my calling has to do more with teaching. I'll explore this at the meeting this weekend and reflect on this. Maybe my talents would best serve the world by staying at Xavier and sacrificing my personal goals such as major publications and being one of the premiere Bible scholas, but I would positively effect many more lives. I think I'll explore this with my colleagues, but my broad goals are three: 1. To make the world a better place, 2. To have students learn about the world especially by bringing them with me to the Middle East and participating in archaeological excavations, and 3. To have the students think locally. There is so much that is attractive about New Orleans, and at times I feel like Xavier being Catholic trys to emphasize that even though they are in New Orleans, they are not part of all the negative aspects associated with this city. I was glad when the homepage of XU put "at home in New Orleans" with a link to But I want to further this, and have students learn about the New Orleans heritage, maybe even examine Mardi Gras in depth. Not the tourist stuff, but more the local traditions. Anyway, gotta run. The family just walked in the door.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Finally I've had some seconds to clear my desk and not yet relax, as I've been at meetings all day, but I've just finished my grades. I'm overall pretty happy with the websites. I've been thinking about replacing blackboard quizzes with blogging. I'll have to think about that some more.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

It nearly killed me, but yesterday evening I finished the student websites. There are 10 in all, and some are quite good. They can be seen at this page. Just click one of the logos. They took so much of my time, especially at the end. If I do this project again I think I'll put in required progress checks earlier in the semester. The project required that each group pick a passage in the Torah, and then individually they would research critical methods and apply them to the passage. Glad it's over, and now on to grading.