An Introduction to This Logbook

This post is an introduction to this online logbook, so you can know a bit more about its context, content, and goals.

Not A “Blog”

First of all, a bit about “web logs.” Yes, that’s where “blog” comes from: “web” + “log” = “blog.” Is that what you’re reading now?

Not really—at least if you mean unrestrained mental spew, regurgitations of political propaganda, or daily updates on what’s wrong with the world. Think for a moment, then, about this latter term—the various uses of “log” or “logue”: “travelogue,” “monologue,” “dialog,” “logbook,” etc. Found on ships, semi-trucks, and yet heard in lecture halls at universities, and taking place between conversation partners on a topic. It’s a flexible word, and today, “blog” has traveled a long way from its origins.

And I don’t want a blog.

So I think of this project as something closer to the earlier sense of the term:

“record of observations, readings, etc.,” originally “record of a ship’s progress,” 1842, sailor’s shortening of log-book (1670s), the daily record of a ship’s speed, progress, etc., which is from log (n.1) “piece of wood.” The book so called because it recorded the speed measurements made by means of a weighted chip of a tree log on the end of a reeled log line (typically 150 to 200 fathoms)…

“It [the log-book] is a journal of all important items happening on shipboard, contains the data from which the navigator determines his position by dead-reckoning … and is, when properly kept, a complete meteorological journal. On board merchant ships the log is kept by the first officer: on board men-of-war, by the navigator. [Century Dictionary, 1897]”

“Record of a ship’s progress.” “Contains the data from which the navigator determines his position.” That’s how I perceive this online publication: notes from a human being pushed around the sea of the universe by what one of my favorite theologians calls “the winds of the Spirit” (Peter C. Hodgson), which also invokes this famous text:

God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. (John 3:8)

On Content

Second of all, I (therefore) make no promises about topical consistency, regular posts, or even genre. What you see is what you get, from arguments to essays to ponderings to book notes to research explorations. One can expect a bit of everything. As the subtitle of this personal website indicates, it is the “hub of a hopeless renaissance man.” I really think all knowledge is interconnected, and modern epistemology and specialization at the university has artificially split it up. Everyone jokes about “knowing alot about a little,” and I understand why, and how sometimes that is necessary and useful. (I once spent several years publishing articles on a single word!) But it has come at a cost and many blindspots. Besides that, I’m just too curious to dedicate my life to one subject or subtopic. (Generalists unite!)

I have many circles of colleagues and publish and write on everything from political thought to feminism to biblical studies to philosophy to microeconomics and business to legal systems, contemporary culture, historical theology, Koine Greek, and the relationship between science and religion. I’ve also had many jobs in various fields. While my primary areas of research are technically humanities (religion, Christian literature and thought) and social science (economics), I’ve always loved physical science and biology.

So my number one hesitation in launching this logbook has been how baffling it will be to certain audiences. Many people know me for my work as a christian studies professor, others for being a higher ed admin and specialist in accreditation, others for my work as an economist critical of imperialism and political power, others as a local businessman and entrepreneur, others for my photography work, and still others, for my career in music. (I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a backyard cocktail party with all my coworkers and friends! Ack!)

My options were therefore something like this: (1) Don’t do it; avoid the confusion altogether; keep it all to yourself; (2) launch four or five separate logs; (3) have one combined logbook that somehow clearly delineates the implied readership. I chose the third for various reasons, mainly simplicity.

But what this means for you is that every entry will begin with a header on the implied audience, clearly cluing the reader in to what it’s about ahead of time. You can therefore immediately choose whether to keep reading or not. Hopefully this will reduce some awkwardness and schizophrenia.

On Format

Third, I’ve turned off comments because I don’t have time or interest in moderating them or dealing with spam. I prefer direct communication or limited interaction on social media. See more under “Connect.”

Fourth, this log (and all the book notes) are categorized according to BISAC. BISAC is (in my view) superior to the Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal System by leaps and bounds. While I don’t include the numbers, I do include the hierarchy of its latest version.