Dr. Morten Schlütter to speak at UCLA on “The Turbulent Life of the Platform Sūtra”

My Department of Religious Studies colleague, Dr. Morten Schlütter, Associate Professor of Chinese Religions and Director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Iowa, will give a lecture at the UCLA Center for Buddhist Studies entitled, “The Turbulent Life of the Platform Sūtra (Liuzu tanjing 六祖壇經)” on Friday, March 1, 2013 from 3:30-5:00 PM at 243 Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, as part of the Numata Colloquium Series.

If you are in the Westwood/UCLA area, please consider attending this FREE lecture.

Dr. Morten Schlütter, Assoc. Professor of Chinese Religions, The University of Iowa

Dr. Morten Schlütter, Assoc. Professor of Chinese Religions in the Department of Religious Studies, The University of Iowa

Title: “The Turbulent Life of the Platform Sūtra
(Liuzu tanjing 六祖壇經)

By: Prof. Morten Schlütter
Date: Friday, March 01, 2013
Time: 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Place: Royce 243, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095
Cost: Free and Open to the Public

Download Flyer: Schlutter-Flyer-1r-xfm.pdf

About the Lecture: The Platform Sūtra is perhaps the best known of all texts produced by Chinese Buddhism, but it is also unique because it exists in a number of different versions, spanning six centuries. This talk will explore how we can establish the relationship and chronology of the various editions of the text, and how we can trace crucial developments in Chan through a study of them.

About the Lecturer: Professor Morten Schlütter teaches at the University of Iowa, and is the director of its Center for Asian and Pacific Studies. His research centers broadly on Chinese Buddhism, especially Chan (Jpn.: Zen). He is the author of How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-dynasty China (University of Hawai’i Press, 2008) and co-editor of Readings of the Platform Sūtra (Columbia University Press, 2012).

For More Information:

Jennifer Jung-Kim
Tel: 310-825-2089
jungkim@international.ucla.edu
www.international.ucla.edu/buddhist

UIowa Religious Studies PhD Student Cory Taylor to Lecture on Digital Modeling for Google Earth with Trimble SketchUp

Cory Taylor, University of Iowa Ph.D. student in Religious Studies will offer a free lecture and host a hands-on workshop on digital modeling for Google Earth with Trimble SketchUp on Thursday, Jan 24, 2013 at 12:30 PM in the UIowa Main Library, Room 1015A.

Cory Taylor, University of Iowa Ph.D. student in Religious Studies, will offer a free lecture and host a hands-on workshop on digital modeling for Google Earth with Trimble SketchUp.

Cory Taylor, a University of Iowa Ph.D. student in Religious Studies, will offer a free lecture and host a hands-on workshop on digital modeling for Google Earth with Trimble SketchUp (formerly Google SketchUp) on Thursday, Jan 24, 2013 at 12:30 PM in the University of Iowa Main Library, Room 1015A.

If you are interested in learning 3D digital reconstruction of ancient archaeological remains (or you want to model and visualize your new backyard deck before you start building), then please attend this FREE lecture, sponsored by the University of Iowa Digital Studio for the Public Humanities‘ “PDH4L” (Public Digital Humanities for Lunch) series.

(Also, check out Cory’s biblical studies blog, Ex Libris, here.)

For more details about the lecture, click here.

Congrats to Elaine Pagels: NY Times Hardcover Nonfiction Bestsellers List

Dr. Elaine Pagels

Dr. Elaine Pagels

Hearty congratulations are in order to Princeton University’s Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion, Dr. Elaine Pagels, for making the NY Times Hardcover Nonfiction Bestsellers List for her new book, Revelations (Viking, $27.95), which debuted at #10. This book explores the original context and meaning of the biblical Book of Revelation.

It is good to see a popular book by a reputable scholar break into the bestsellers list, as books in my favorite subjects of religious studies, science, technology, the history of the Middle East, and archaeology have been largely absent from the bestsellers list as of late. In fact, a look at the nonfiction hardcover bestsellers list over the past month demonstrates just how few works there have been in these fields (especially religious studies and archaeology):

REVELATIONS by Elaine Pagels

NY Times Bestseller Hardcover Nonfiction March 25, 2012:

1. AMERICAN SNIPER, by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. (Morrow/HarperCollins)
2. THE POWER OF HABIT, by Charles Duhigg. (Random House)
3. STEVE JOBS, by Walter Isaacson. (Simon & Schuster) (technology)
4. KILLING LINCOLN, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Holt)
5. QUIET, by Susan Cain. (Crown)
6. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House)
7. AMERITOPIA, by Mark R. Levin. (Threshold Editions)
8. BRINGING UP BÉBÉ, by Pamela Druckerman. (Penguin Press)
9. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
10. REVELATIONS, by Elaine Pagels. (Viking) (religious studies)
11. BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS, by Katherine Boo. (Random House)
12. FULL SERVICE, by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg. (Grove)
13. BECOMING CHINA’S BITCH, by Peter D. Kiernan. (Turner Publishing)
14. UNORTHODOX, by Deborah Feldman. (Simon & Schuster) (religion)
15. HOUSE OF STONE, by Anthony Shadid. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) (history of Middle East)
16. HILARITY ENSUES, by Tucker Max. (Blue Heeler Books)
17. THE PEOPLE’S MONEY, by Scott Rasmussen (Threshold Editions)
18. COMING APART, by Charles Murray (Crown Forum)
19. THROUGH MY EYES, by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker (HarperCollins)
20. SPACE CHRONICLES, by Neil Degrasse Tyson (Norton) (science)
21. ONCE UPON A SECRET, by Mimi Alford (Random House)
22. INDIVISIBLE, by James Robison and Jay W. Richards (FaithWords) (religion and conservative politics)
23. ABUNDANCE, by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler (Free Press)
24. THAT WOMAN, by Anne Sebba (St. Martin’s)
25. OUTLAW PLATOON, by Sean Parnell with John R. Bruning (Morrow)
26. DON’T PUT ME IN, COACH, by Mark Titus (Doubleday)
27. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, by Erik Larson (Crown)
28. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent (Thomas Nelson) (spirituality)
29. RELIGION FOR ATHEISTS, by Alain De Botton (Pantheon) (religion and atheism)
30. TURING’S CATHEDRAL, by George Dyson (Pantheon) (technology)
31. CATHERINE THE GREAT, by Robert K. Massie (Random House)
32. THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE, by Masha Gessen (Riverhead)
33. MOB DAUGHTER, by Karen Gravano with Lisa Pulitzer (St. Martin’s)
34. A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING, by Lawrence M. Krauss (Free Press) (science)
35. WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL?, by Jeanette Winterson (Grove/Atlantic)


NY Times Bestseller Hardcover Nonfiction March 18, 2012:

1. AMERICAN SNIPER, by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. (Morrow/HarperCollins)
2. KILLING LINCOLN, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Holt)
3. STEVE JOBS, by Walter Isaacson. (Simon & Schuster) (technology)
4. THE POWER OF HABIT, by Charles Duhigg. (Random House)
5. BECOMING CHINA’S BITCH, by Peter D. Kiernan. (Turner Publishing)
6. INDIVISIBLE, by James Robison and Jay W. Richards. (FaithWords) (religion and conservative politics)
7. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House)
8. AMERITOPIA, by Mark R. Levin. (Threshold Editions)
9. BRINGING UP BÉBÉ, by Pamela Druckerman. (Penguin Press)
10. QUIET, by Susan Cain. (Crown)
11. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
12. BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS, by Katherine Boo. (Random House)
13. UNORTHODOX, by Deborah Feldman. (Simon & Schuster) (religion)
14. ONCE UPON A SECRET, by Mimi Alford. (Random House)
15. COMING APART, by Charles Murray. (Crown Forum)
16. HOUSE OF STONE, by Anthony Shadid. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) (history of Middle East)
17. HILARITY ENSUES, by Tucker Max (Blue Heeler Books)
18. FULL SERVICE, by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg (Grove)
19. SPACE CHRONICLES, by Neil Degrasse Tyson (Norton) (science)
20. THROUGH MY EYES, by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker (HarperCollins)
21. OUTLAW PLATOON, by Sean Parnell with John R. Bruning (Morrow)
22. MOB DAUGHTER, by Karen Gravano with Lisa Pulitzer (St. Martin’s)
23. THAT WOMAN, by Anne Sebba (St. Martin’s)
24. THE SCIENCE OF YOGA, by William J. Broad (Simon & Schuster)
25. STRATEGIC VISION, by Zbigniew Brzezinski (Basic)
26. CATHERINE THE GREAT, by Robert K. Massie (Random House)
27. ABUNDANCE, by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler (Free Press)
28. A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING, by Lawrence M. Krauss (Free Press) (science)
29. ALI IN WONDERLAND, by Ali Wentworth (Harper/HarperCollins)
30. ENEMIES, by Tim Weiner (Random House)
31. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, by Erik Larson (Crown)
32. ELIZABETH THE QUEEN, by Sally Bedell Smith (Random House)
33. BOOMERANG, by Michael Lewis (Norton)
34. KISSES FROM KATIE, by Katie Davis with Beth Clark (Howard)
35. IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME?, by Mindy Kaling (Crown Archetype)


NY Times Bestseller Hardcover Nonfiction March 11, 2012:

1. AMERICAN SNIPER, by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. (Morrow/HarperCollins, $26.99.)
2. ABUNDANCE, by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. (Free Press)
3. KILLING LINCOLN, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Holt)
4. STEVE JOBS, by Walter Isaacson. (Simon & Schuster) (technology)
5. INDIVISIBLE, by James Robison and Jay W. Richards. (FaithWords) (religion and conservative politics)
6. AMERITOPIA, by Mark R. Levin. (Threshold Editions)
7. QUIET, by Susan Cain. (Crown)
8. BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS, by Katherine Boo. (Random House)
9. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House)
10. BRINGING UP BÉBÉ, by Pamela Druckerman. (Penguin Press)
11. ONCE UPON A SECRET, by Mimi Alford. (Random House)
12. COMING APART, by Charles Murray. (Crown Forum)
13. UNORTHODOX, by Deborah Feldman. (Simon & Schuster) (religion)
14. HILARITY ENSUES, by Tucker Max. (Blue Heeler Books)
15. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
16. FULL SERVICE, by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg (Grove)
17. WHILE AMERICA SLEEPS, by Russ Feingold (Crown)
18. THROUGH MY EYES, by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker (HarperCollins)
19. MOB DAUGHTER, by Karen Gravano with Lisa Pulitzer (St. Martin’s)
20. EISENHOWER IN WAR AND PEACE, by Jean Edward Smith (Random House)


NY Times Bestseller Hardcover Nonfiction March 4, 2012:

1. AMERICAN SNIPER, by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. (Morrow/HarperCollins)
2. AMERITOPIA, by Mark R. Levin. (Threshold Editions)
3. KILLING LINCOLN, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Holt)
4. STEVE JOBS, by Walter Isaacson. (Simon & Schuster) (technology)
5. BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS, by Katherine Boo. (Random House)
6. ONCE UPON A SECRET, by Mimi Alford. (Random House)
7. QUIET, by Susan Cain. (Crown)
8. BRINGING UP BÉBÉ, by Pamela Druckerman. (Penguin Press)
9. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House)
10. HILARITY ENSUES, by Tucker Max. (Blue Heeler Books)
11. COMING APART, by Charles Murray. (Crown Forum)
12. THROUGH MY EYES, by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker. (HarperCollins)
13. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
14. THAT WOMAN, by Anne Sebba. (St. Martin’s, $27.99.)
15. ALL THERE IS, by Dave Isay. (Penguin Press, $24.95.)
16. UNORTHODOX, by Deborah Feldman. (Simon & Schuster) (religion)
17. THE SCIENCE OF YOGA, by William J. Broad (Simon & Schuster)
18. MOB DAUGHTER, by Karen Gravano with Lisa Pulitzer (St. Martin’s)
19. ALI IN WONDERLAND, by Ali Wentworth (Harper/HarperCollins)
20. ENEMIES, by Tim Weiner (Random House)
21. ELIZABETH THE QUEEN, by Sally Bedell Smith (Random House)
22. FULL SERVICE, by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg (Grove)
23. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, by Erik Larson (Crown)
24. CATHERINE THE GREAT, by Robert K. Massie (Random House)
25. FAIRY TALE INTERRUPTED, by RoseMarie Terenzio (Gallery Books)
26. STRATEGIC VISION, by Zbigniew Brzezinski (Basic)
27. HIDING FROM REALITY, by Taylor Armstrong (Gallery Books)
28. THE MAGIC ROOM, by Jeffrey Zaslow (Gotham)
29. THE WORLD AMERICA MADE, by Robert Kagan (Knopf)
30. A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING, by Lawrence M. Krauss (Free Press) (science)
31. AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, by Ben Carson with Candy Carson (Zondervan)
32. BOOMERANG, by Michael Lewis (Norton)
33. JACK KENNEDY, by Chris Matthews (Simon & Schuster)
34. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent (Thomas Nelson) (spirituality)
35. KISSES FROM KATIE, by Katie Davis with Beth Clark (Howard)


NY Times Bestseller Hardcover Nonfiction February 26, 2012:

1. AMERITOPIA, by Mark R. Levin. (Threshold Editions)
2. HILARITY ENSUES, by Tucker Max. (Blue Heeler Books)
3. AMERICAN SNIPER, by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. (Morrow/HarperCollins)
4. STEVE JOBS, by Walter Isaacson. (Simon & Schuster) (technology)
5. KILLING LINCOLN, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. (Holt)
6. QUIET, by Susan Cain. (Crown)
7. ONCE UPON A SECRET, by Mimi Alford. (Random House)
8. BRINGING UP BÉBÉ, by Pamela Druckerman. (Penguin Press)
9. BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS, by Katherine Boo. (Random House)
10. UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House)
11. THROUGH MY EYES, by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker. (HarperCollins)
12. THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
13. COMING APART, by Charles Murray. (Crown Forum)
14. THE SCIENCE OF YOGA, by William J. Broad. (Simon & Schuster)
15. ALI IN WONDERLAND, by Ali Wentworth. (Harper/HarperCollins)
16. ALL THERE IS, by Dave Isay. (Penguin Press)
17. ELIZABETH THE QUEEN, by Sally Bedell Smith (Random House)
18. FAIRY TALE INTERRUPTED, by RoseMarie Terenzio (Gallery Books)
19. STRATEGIC VISION, by Zbigniew Brzezinski (Basic)
20. HIDING FROM REALITY, by Taylor Armstrong (Gallery Books)
21. IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS, by Erik Larson (Crown)
22. CATHERINE THE GREAT, by Robert K. Massie (Random House)
23. GREEDY BASTARDS, by Dylan Ratigan (Simon & Schuster)
24. DA VINCI’S GHOST, by Toby Lester (Free Press)
25. HOW TO BE BLACK, by Baratunde Thurston (Harper)
26. A UNIVERSE FROM NOTHING, by Lawrence M. Krauss (Free Press) (science)
27. BOOMERANG, by Michael Lewis (Norton)
28. THE OBAMAS, by Jodi Kantor (Little, Brown)
29. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent (Thomas Nelson) (spirituality)
30. JACK KENNEDY, by Chris Matthews (Simon & Schuster)
31. KISSES FROM KATIE, by Katie Davis with Beth Clark (Howard)
32. THE OPERATORS, by Michael Hastings (Blue Rider)
33. ALL IN, by Paula Broadwell with Vernon Loeb (Penguin Press)
34. BEING GEORGE WASHINGTON, by Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe (Threshold Editions/Mercury Radio Arts)
35. INSIDE APPLE, by Adam Lashinsky (Business Plus) (technology)

So congrats again to Dr. Pagels, and thank you for your contributions to religious studies scholarship!

on being wrong as a scholar

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I’m promoting it to a post of its own because I believe it’s important.

It is important for scholars to admit when they are wrong.

Whether it is a mistake in their data collection, or a misreading of the data in their analysis, or a conclusion that is later refuted by stronger evidence or more recent discoveries, or a claim regarding evidence that is better explained by another scholar’s theory – it is important for scholars to concede when they come to believe the evidence has led to some other conclusion.

This can serve as a quick lesson to students both in the sciences and in the humanities, but I’m especially thinking about students in religious studies. The beauty of science and the scientific method is that scholars are free to admit they were wrong when better evidence and arguments come along. In fact, we are encouraged to do so. Rather than dig in our heels and argue until our dying breath for interpretations that have long been disproved by new evidence, critical scholars celebrate peer-review and the discussion of ideas among learned individuals, who offer new proposals and bring knowledge and familiarity with evidence from their respective specialized fields to the discussion.

Through the scientific process, a consensus is often reached that is based upon a consideration of all of the latest evidence, and not just the claims of those who made them first or the loudest, or worse yet, who bypassed the scholarly process altogether to take their sensational claim directly to the public for the purposes of selling a popular book.

This is difficult to do for the proud, or for those who have invested much time and money in arguing for one interpretation. But when new data comes along, a scholar must be willing to set aside what he or she previously held to be true and interpret the data according to the new evidence.

Now, I fully acknowledge that this is particularly difficult for those in religious studies, especially for those who hold to a personal religious belief. However, it is essential that critical scholars be objective enough to follow the evidence where it leads, and if that evidence leads to a conflict with one’s personal faith claims, the scholar must have the courage to amend his or her personal beliefs, that is, if one wants to remain a critical scholar.

The field of religious studies is full of apologists who claim to operate within the critical method of science, but who are quick to abandon a critical method when it conflicts with their personal religious beliefs. These individuals are constantly seeking ways to explain away evidence that contradicts their claims, or to attempt to reconcile what they believe with the facts and evidence before them, however twisted that outcome might be. A true scholar must have the humility and the courage to admit that new evidence has caused the scholar to rethink his or her position, concede that the old interpretation was wrong, and move forward in the pursuit of truth.

As a scholar, I am humbled, and yet pleased when I can admit when an interpretation I previously held was wrong, because it means I am still learning from my colleagues and peers, who have taken the time to engage me in academic debate.

the ‘iranian influence on judaism’ at bible and interpretation

There is an excellent article by Jason M. Silverman (Trinity College Dublin) entitled “Iranian influence on Judaism” at Bible and Interpretation.

It’s a topic of great interest to me, and I’m assigning it as immediate reading to my Mythology of Otherworldly Journeys class here at the University of Iowa, where we are presently discussing potential Zoroastrian influences on Jewish and Christian conceptions of the afterlife. The article (and forthcoming book) will be great resources for the study of Second Temple Judaism.

At one point, Silverman discusses the problem within Biblical Studies of quantifying one culture’s “influence” upon another, especially when the former culture favors oral means of communication:

It is perhaps not surprising in a field centered on the study of a collection of written texts (the Bible) that researchers sometimes assume that all ideas that appear in that collection come from other texts. This assumption can lead to real interpretative difficulties, but it also ignores the many ways in which humans communicate and share concepts. The realm of spoken communication is very important for Iranian influence on Judaism (as it is for the origins of the Hebrew Bible).

When investigating influence, one needs to take into account the ways ideas travel in a world run primarily through spoken language. The search for quotations and direct borrowings from other texts has dominated past research. The direct use of earlier texts—while important—is not the only nor even the most important way in which ideas could be transmitted between peoples and even authors. More nuanced ways of looking for influence are needed. The key, as noted above, is to look for interpretive changes in texts. Once these are identified, one can ask whether or not said changes relate to the cultural milieu of the time, one of which was the Achaemenid Empire.

And Silverman hits the nail on the head when he argues that influence may take the form of adoption, reinterpretation, or rejection of and apologies against another culture’s religious conception:

It bears repeating that the kinds of influence will vary in different instances. In some cases, Iranian texts may have been borrowed and adapted for new Judaean texts. In other cases, existing Judaean concepts may have been reinterpreted in line with Iranian ideas. In still others, Iranian ideas may have been rejected and argued against, perhaps being inverted as a rhetorical strategy. Further, there remains the possibility that biblical texts became re-interpreted after they were written by Jewish and Christian communities, using ideas ultimately derived from Iran.

Do head over to Bible and Interpretation and read the article.

commentary by ahmed souaiaia on the role of the military in egypt

Dr. Ahmed Souaiaia, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, The University of Iowa

Dr. Ahmed Souaiaia, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, The University of Iowa

My University of Iowa colleague, Dr. Ahmed Souaiaia, has an interesting commentary on the role of the military in Egypt entitled, “Military is trickle-feeding democracy to change-hungry Egyptians.”

He fears that “the military is not interested in a swift handing of power to civilians.” In fact, the military may find a way to remain in power:

All the restrictive measures and lack of action on issues important for civil liberties and citizens’ rights are widening the gap between the people and the military generals. Most telling was the loss of trust between the youth and the military leader, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. For example, when Tantawi was seen (over the weekend) shaking hands with people in the streets while wearing civilian clothes, many Egyptians reacted with cynicism arguing that he might be polishing his image before he announces his candidacy for president. Although a military spokesperson denied that Tantawi is interested in running, many Egyptians remained fearful of the military role in the future of Egyptian politics.

Give it a read.

getting settled into iowa city

Bob, Ros, and Mac

On the porch on the way home from dinner.

the last 4 weeks have been a time of monumental transition and emotion for me and for my family. in the past month, we packed all that we own into storage containers, moved out of our agoura hills condo, moved in with my mom just south of yosemite, experienced the birth of our son, maclaren, loaded all that we own into two moving vans, drove 1800 miles through the california, nevada, and arizona deserts, the utah canyons, over the colorado rockies, across the plains of nebraska, and through the rolling hills of western iowa. we closed on a home in iowa city, moved in, and unpacked. meanwhile, i attended the university of iowa’s new faculty orientation, set up my office (including moving a thousand volumes into my office – motivation enough for a renewed call for e-publishing), met my new colleagues, prepped my courses, learned all (read: some) of the new uiowa policies and procedures, and discovered most of the best places to grab a bite and a cold one. my wife decided to heed some of the doctor’s advice, so she waited precisely one week after maclaren’s birth to get in a car and drive cross-country with my mom and mac to join her father and me in iowa city. since her arrival, it has been an endless barrage of fixing up the yard, painting rooms, changing poopy (sp?) g-diapers, and setting up utilities (including internet at home, so expect a regular return to blogging.)

new state, new city, new time zone, new weather, new baby, new house, new job, new routine. i am thankful for my wife, roslyn, and her amazing ability to be a tireless mother and patient wife at the same time, and for our parents who provided us with support and drove us cross-country. (hint: get walkie-talkies for car caravans; they are invaluable when deciding to exit the freeway at a moment’s notice or when you need the truck at the rear to throw a block on rear-approaching traffic so you can pass the rig in front of you). i am also thankful for my friends, who throughout the entire transition encouraged and joked with me to make the transition bearable.

thank you especially to everyone who commented encouraging words on facebook and twitter while i was tweeting roslyn’s labor. i read those comments to her between breathing and counting, and it really did make all the difference. some made us laugh, which was welcomed relief, but most gave ros the extra motivation to keep going. never underestimate the power of a kind word uttered sincerely to someone in distress, even privately. it makes all the difference in the world.

my new colleagues at iowa are amazing. both departments (religious studies and classics) work together cohesively, share a common goal, and actually know what it is that i do (although ‘digital humanities’ still causes a few more of those colbert-esque raised eyebrows than does ‘second temple judaism’ or ‘archaeology’). they have each taken turns coming by my office and approaching me to chat at department picnics and parties. i look forward to years of production, growth, and fun at iowa. (btw, did i mention that my colleagues are good, fun scholars? it feels good to want to go to work and see my colleagues. it makes the overwhelming parts of a new job that much more bearable.)

iowa city is the best little hidden treasure in the midwest – the perfect combination of an intellectual center, social progress, and traditional emphasis on families and their well-being. i’m proud to be a hawkeye, and to live in the ‘people’s republic’ (as they affectionately are wont to call it) of iowa city, and i hope to contribute my part to the community. for now, i shall indulge in my favorite difference between iowa city and los angeles: i shall walk 5 short minutes (less than the time it used to take me to walk from the $10 per day parking spot allotted to me at ucla to my office) to the bus stop, and take the 10-minute bus ride to my office. my entire new 15 minute ‘commute’ involves no driving, no gas, no tension, and is 45 minutes less than my old, hour-long, one-way drive in los angeles. and to add insult to los angeles’ woeful public transportation injury, my bus pass is $10 per month, meaning i can get to work for a month for the same amount it costs to park (forget the cost of gas and lost time and stress, simply to park) at ucla for a day!

‘it’s not heaven, it’s iowa.’

ok. back to work.

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