So, my 2nd holiday update will also be the last for now, because by grace, I was given a job offer and signed a contract early last month, and I’m starting work tomorrow! (Or more accurately, since it’s just past midnight, today, later.) I am so thankful for His provision, especially as the job is in the field I am interested in. Slightly nervous, slightly excited, and hoping all goes well tomorrow (:
Anyway, I’ve decided to do a semi-review of some of the things I’ve done over these 2 months, so here goes! A wrapup of books, articles, and bakes. Aside from these I also gave quite a bit of tuition, met up with friends, and rewatched all eight seasons of House. (I insist it’s one of the most brilliant series ever, and it’s so fun to watch House then watch Blackadder. Hugh Laurie is too awesome.) It’s been a wonderful break, especially with church camp in between, but here’s to a new stage of life ahead of me!
For non-fiction, I read ‘Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant’ by Roz Chast, one of the cartoon artists at the New Yorker. It’s really a graphic novel, and Chast portrays the emotional and physical upheaval that come with her elderly parents’ passing so honestly and self-depracatingly that it made me laugh and my heart constrict at the same time. ‘Original Sin’ by Alan Jacobs was informative and interesting, and made me think deeper about the assumptions we make about human nature. ‘Deep Down Dark’ by Hector Tobar was thrilling, especially because it actually happened, but I wouldn’t rate it as highly as many others did.
I do, however, want to share about a book that was just so much fun: ‘The Perfection of the Paper Clip’ by James Ward.
One of the reasons for my cluttered desk is my love of, and compulsion to buy, stationery; when I’m trying out pens in Popular and find something nice to write with, I spend ages debating with myself whether I should just get one, or two (one for my pencil case, one to keep at home), or a couple more for spares, or maybe just two + refills, or in different colours. So this book, a collection of short histories / anecdotes surrounding the items we use everyday, was totally up my alley.
The book is divided into 16 short chapters, each about a particular range of stationery product: pencils, paper clips, adhesives, highlighters, staples, etc. In nearly every chapter I came across a fun fact — Before erasers were invented, people used stale bread to remove pencil marks; Crayola unthinkingly named a colour of crayon ‘Flesh’ before realising it was quite un-PC (not everyone’s flesh is that colour), and renamed it ‘Peach’; Blu-Tack started out white but, because of fears that children would mistake it for gum and eat it, became blue. Ward is a witty, sarcastic narrator, and a master at observing irony — notebook users disdain China-made Moleskines, when paper (as we know it) was invented in China in the first place; the creator of Clippy (the annoying paper clip who provided Microsoft Office tips and advice) uses a Mac; the fact that ending your emails with ‘Please consider the environment before printing this email’ probably causes the email to be one page longer when printed out.
The point is, I enjoyed it very much, and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves stationery (:
On the fiction front, Emily St. John Mandel’s ‘Station Eleven’ was a wonderful read. I’ve always had a thing for dystopia-themed books, and this lived up to its reviews. I must say though, that I’m getting heartily sick of all the ‘back-and-forth-in-time’ stuff that literary fiction nowadays seems to rely so heavily upon. Sometimes it works (like in Mandel’s case). But right after Station Eleven I read Anthony Marra’s ‘A Constellation of Vital Phenomena’ (which has so many gushing reviews it’s almost suspicious). I was underwhelmed, and really annoyed at the to- and fro- ness when it came to the time. At times I felt seemed as if that was the only way the writer could achieve suspense and tension, and I didn’t like the book much at all, although Marra’s prose can be quite striking. Maybe I’m just sick of the non-linear-time-frame literary device, and thus not being fair, or maybe fiction is unique like that — works for some, not for others.
I didn’t read many Christian books this time — I finished Kevin DeYoung’s ‘What Does the Bible Teach About Homosexuality?’, which was excellent and now my favourite resource on the topic, and I’m making my way slowly through Brian Rosner’s ‘Paul and the Law’ (it’s challenging but helpful so far), and Thomas Watson’s ‘The Great Gain of Godliness’. The latter is brilliant, and only reminds me of how much the Puritans are worth reading.
I looked through my May-June archives, and here are my favourite articles. They’re not necessarily published within this period, but I did read them these two months.
1. Jill Lepore, in the New Yorker, pokes some major holes in the business theory that disruptive innovation is the best and only way to go.
“Nowhere in the history of business has there been an industry like disk drives,” Christensen writes, which makes it a very odd choice for an investigation designed to create a model for understanding other industries.’
2. C. John Sommerville, in First Things, explains why focusing too much on the news — transient and motive-driven as it is — makes us dumb. This is nearly as old as me, which means before social media, but is more relevant than ever.
3. Helen Andrews, in First Things, discusses the modern obsession with ‘addiction’ language.
’The irony is that the aspects of AA that seem to resonate with them are the things they hate about organized religion: the admission of powerlessness, the submission to authority, skepticism about the value of thinking for yourself, the rote repetition of phrases that to an outsider seem vapid, sentimental, or silly.
Sacrifice may be the clearest example of this hypocrisy. (…) Once it becomes known that someone is in AA, then all kinds of sacrifices apart from not drinking become admirable rather than foolish or inexplicable. A man who drops his old good-time buddies when he finds God is sanctimonious; a man who drops them when he joins AA is just doing what it takes to stay sober.’
4. Kevin DeYoung responds to a response to his article, ‘How Do I Know I’m a Christian’. Basically, it covers issues like obedience, sanctification, 3rd use of the law, judging ourselves, etc.
5. Kit Wilson, in Standpoint Magazine, suggests that Western culture is now characterised by ‘sentimental nihilism’, and that this is ruining a lot of things.
6. Here are 50 key quotes from the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling, compiled by Joe Carter. I like Roberts very much, and may I never be on the wrong side of Scalia.
7. On the topic of weddings, this is one of the most beautiful wedding homilies I have ever heard/read.
Each one of us who witness this event feel bittersweet. For some of us it marks the passing of time – were we ever so young?! For others it reminds us of failure. Broken vows. New starts. Small selfishness that seem obscene in this Holy Place and Time. But the good news is this – One who is Ever Young will make all of us New, if we will know Him. One who never breaks a vow will come and keep His word and take us to His home and give us His name. The very scars of our sins He will mysteriously transform into the birthmarks of our new birth.
8. Jonathan Last, in The Weekly Standard, shares poignantly and humorously about what it means to be a father, and also about chivalry and manhood.
So this, finally, is fatherhood: We destroy our lives so that life will continue and be renewed, with part of ourselves baked into it.
9. The incomparable Elisabeth Elliot passed away on the 15th of June. I loved the many things she wrote about suffering, and about womanhood. Here’s a lovely essay by her about ‘the essence of feminity’. If one thinks that the Biblical model of a wife — obedient and humble — is demeaning, or results in brainless, simpering, incapable women, look at Elliot. Consider that after her husband died, she stayed in Ecuador to share the gospel with the Huourani tribe — the very people who killed her husband. Also, this was 50 years ago: I can’t imagine the conditions she was living under. I would take this over any modern-day social-media feminist activist any day.
10. Matthew Lee Anderson, in Mere Orthodoxy, considers the benefits of reading slowly and deeply, and suggests that it is necessary for us to learn to do so in order to dialogue meaningfully.
11. Michael Bird, at Patheos, defends penal substitionary atonement succinctly and sharply. In my place condemned He stood.
12. John Piper, at Desiring God, explains what it means for a dead dog to love his King. Mephibosheth is a fascinating character in Scripture, as is David’s treatment of him, and this short devotion is worth meditating on.
Half of my successful baking attempts were already posted previously, here’s the rest I’ve worked on since then (:
1. Portugese egg tarts (recipe)
2. Melonpan / 菠蘿包 (video)
I made 8 instead of 5. Also, Cooking with Dog is my new favourite channel!
3. Matcha Swiss Roll with Azuki Bean Filling (video)
So, the original in the video has a nice whipped cream filling that mine doesn’t. Here’s the story: We (my friend and I) tried to whip our whipping cream, and we overdid it, so it became butter. After that we were too scared to over whip again, so we under-whipped it, and it stayed watery, which is why there’s no whipped cream layer. It was still yummy, though (: I later adapted the recipe to make durian and mango swiss rolls too.
4. Vanilla Cupcakes (recipe)
5. Matcha Swirl Shortbread (recipe)
And yes, now I have to go off or I’ll turn up for work sleepy (: To end, here’s one of my favourite videos I saw this holiday:
Email in Real Life, Tripp & Tyler