On Tools and Efficiency


This is not our dishwasher. (source)

When we moved into our house nine years ago, we knew the dishwasher would have to be replaced at some point. It worked, but it was loud.

Over the years, it continued to function but needed more and more attention. Nothing seriously wrong, just more routine deep cleaning. And small but manageable things started to break, most notably the top rack which would — unless you paid attention and pulled it out just right — slide out of the track and fall onto the bottom rack.

We put up with this for a long time (confession: nobody likes to wash dishes in our house) but in December, it was time to finally replace the old thing. So we did.

A few weeks with the new dishwasher, and I’ve noticed something.

We really didn’t like that old dishwasher.

We had several procedures we’d unwittingly developed to prolong the time between dishwasher runs. In hindsight, I can’t believe I never really noticed them, but now they are plain as day.

First: Paper plates. We’d use paper plates as a substitute to prolong the time between cycles. Real plates pile up between cycles (hey, I’m being honest here) because the dishwasher (you know, the one with the top rack that would fall if not handled correctly?) had clean dishes and we hadn’t had time to unload yet. Using paper plates (for kids’ breakfast and lunch, basically) makes this go away at least one meal.

Second: Too many bowls, glasses, and mugs. I’m convinced we have an overabundance of these sorts of vessels because they piled up between use. I didn’t notice it because, due to the time between cycles, all of them were almost never clean at once. Now, with a tool that actually works, we can be more efficient — and now need to ask the “what do we do with all these extras?” question.

Third: “Is it clean?” The time between dish cycles and the propensity to not want to unload the dishwasher due to possibility of the top rack crashing down means that the dishwasher effectively became specialized cabinet space. And with all those extra vessels (see item two above) there was no desperate need to unload or reload.

Fourth: Noise. The old dishwasher was loud, which meant we typically would run it when we weren’t home. No problem; except we had to remember to start it before we’d leave to go somewhere. Now, since the new dishwasher is so quiet, we can start it any time.

Now, I’m not saying I now magically love to do dishes, or to stack the dishwasher, or to unload it. These aren’t a few of my favorite things (allusion intended).

What am I saying? We had a tool (old dishwasher) and we used it to complete a task  (wash dishes). It got the job done, but it certainly wasn’t efficient. And we had all these other stopgap solutions built up (unknowingly, for the most part!) to help us put up with the non-efficient tool.

This makes me wonder what else in my life suffers from being in a similar situation. What other primary tool do I have that isn’t functioning properly? What tool do I dislike so much that I’ve built up other rituals around it to prolong the period between use?

I’m not one for resolutions. But as 2017 unfolds, my hope is to better see where I’ve built up workarounds (paper plates, more bowls, etc.) because a tool isn’t functioning as efficiently as it should be. And I’m not talking about appliances. I’m talking about my life as a Christian. I’m talking about how I approach relationships with believers and nonbelievers. I’m talking about how I learn and study. I’m talking about how I pray (or don’t). I’m talking about how I interact with my kids.

There’s gotta be other cruft built up. My prayer this year is for open eyes to begin to see it.

Rick’s 2017 Research and Writing Schedule

research-blog-001At the beginning of 2016, I ran a survey to get some feedback about the sorts of projects that folks interested in my material might like.

I think it was a successful thing. I was able to edit and publish my notes on 2 Timothy, my work on the vocabulary of 1 Timothy, and my notes from a course I taught on the Apostles’ Creed. I also wrote an introduction and new translation of the First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John (to be published in the forthcoming volume 2 of Burke & Landau’s New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, (volume 1 here)).

I also started researching and writing for the Lexical Commentary on 2 Timothy, making it through chapter 1.

What do I have planned for the new year? At present, I am not planning on running a survey for feedback. I’m planning to continue work on the Lexical Commentary on 2 Timothy. There is the possibility of a longer term translation/commentary project (on some noncanonical material) that may also happen. I would also like to devote some of my time to reading more widely, but I’m not quite sure how or when that will happen.

If I finish 2 Timothy, it will be published by Appian Way Press, and then I’ll move on to Titus. I may also publish a short study guide on Titus, based on work from a class I taught at a church a long time ago.

That’s about it. Did I miss anything?

Logos about to release Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: First Timothy

Appian Way Press

BookCoverImage-LCPE-1TimWe’re excited! We’ve received word that Logos will publish their version of Rick Brannan’s Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: First Timothy on December 29! Order it from Logos at $14.99 soon to get in on the deal.

We’re excited about this because Brannan’s work provides a new angle on examining the vocabulary of the Pastoral Epistles. And we’re really excited because all proceeds (both print and Logos) go to directly support the Brannans’ adoption of their third child.

So get a great commentary (and reference work!) on the vocabulary of First Timothy andhelp support the Brannans’ adoption.

Also: Rick is actively working on the Second Timothy volume in the Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles series. He tells us he has a draft of the content for 2 Timothy 1 complete, and is starting on chapter 2.

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My First Timothy book for $15 at #SBLAAR2016


If you’ve been waiting for a deal on Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: First Timothy, and you’ll be in San Antonio for SBL, this is it!

I’ll have some copies available for purchase at the conference. Normally $19.95, you can get it from me for $15 cash ($16.50 if you want to do it via Paypal).

Zap me an email (rick at faithlife dot com) if you’re interested and want to reserve one of these bad boys. I might even sign a copy for you, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

The Conference Season is upon Us

If you have any connection at all with the world of Biblical Studies, particularly the “academic” variety, then you already know that it is that magical time of year when thousands of folks who study the Bible and related texts descend on a particular city, walk around in tweed, run to make paper presentations, mercilessly hawk publishing proposals at any breathing target, fawn over the 15 books Michael Bird published in the last three weeks, and drink copious amounts of coffee (and other beverages, depending on time of day).

Yes, it’s time for the Society of Biblical Literature’s (SBL) annual meeting, this year in San Antonio. These meetings co-occur with the American Academy of Religion (AAR), and religious booksellers the world over vie for coveted corner and entry-door exhibit spaces to sell their wares at discount to folks who reflexively pull out credit cards and buy books.

Previous to the SBL and AAR joint meetings are the meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). Several smaller societies (IBR, for one) also meet during these times.

The first time I attended SBL was when it was last in San Antonio (2006? 2005?). I’ve learned a lot about going to these conferences since then. If you’re a rookie, then you need to know the secret: The real power of these conferences is not in hearing some paper (though yeah, you should be diligent and go to papers in your area(s)). The real power of these conferences is in meeting people. Networking. You know, an introvert’s nightmare.

I can say this because I am, most assuredly, an introvert.

But now is the time you need to put your big girl / big boy pants on, and get over it because it is that important to the development of your future career. This is where you meet people who may in later years be on hiring committees for jobs you’re applying for. They may be on the committee reviewing your PhD application. They may be the person you’d like to have supervising your doctoral work, or at least have as an external examiner.

Find any excuse to meet these people. Go to their paper. Ask them to coffee. But do it right. Don’t fawn all over them. Be genuine. And if someone seems unapproachable, find their grad students and take them to coffee. Or sit and chat with them outside the book exhibit. Go to whatever paper they’re giving, listen, and ask them a real question privately afterwards.

Very rarely will you have a place where pretty much everyone who could possibly make a future for you will be in the same city, but Biblical Studies folks do it every year. This is it. So, have fun. Find good papers to hear. Hang out some evenings with your friends and colleagues. But use your time too, because it is an opportunity that few other industries have. Start to build relationships not only because people are interesting, but because you know you’ll run into them in the future.

Me? I’m not teaching anywhere. I’m not a grad student. But I’ve got a great gig wrangling all sorts of data and producing products that people in Biblical Studies find useful (some of them essential).

I’m happy to chat with anyone about almost anything, just use the contact form, or email me: rick@faithlife.com and we can set up a time. I’m happy to chat about self-publishing, writing, editing, textual criticism, Greek, Apostolic Fathers, datasets, databases, programming and tools, my job at Faithlife and opportunities here, or whatever. Seriously.

See you in San Antonio!

The Day After the Day After

My hope is for this to be my last post on the 2016 election, and politics in general, for some time.

I understand concerns that that those who supported Hillary Clinton have (read my previous post). I didn’t vote for Donald J. Trump either. But people, this is America. You have the right to speak, and you have the right to protest. But Donald J. Trump is the president-elect. If you don’t like it, work through your stages of grief already and start to do something about it.

Here’s what you shouldn’t do:

  • Fall into the same echo-chamber problem you accuse Mr. Trump’s supporters of having.
  • Take part in dubious activities that, had the election turned out differently, you’d further scorn others for.
  • Make outrageous and unsubstantiated claims and statements on the social media.
  • Categorically group and castigate people as stupid or imbecilic just because you do not agree with them.
  • Wring your hands over horribleness that has not yet come. It is in the power of all of us to ensure the horribleness doesn’t happen.
  • Remember what Yoda said: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to … suffering.”

Here’s what you should do:

  • If you witness civil rights grievances or hate crimes: Document, document, document. Take pictures. Make recordings. Upload to the social medias.
  • Hold the people that do wrong things responsible for the wrong things. It’s not Donald J. Trump’s fault when the KKK marches on a freeway overpass in North Carolina. He didn’t order them to do it. Blame the KKK, they made the decision to do it. Blame the people who support the KKK. Address the issue.
  • Take a break from the social media (unless it’s related to the first bullet point). Refuse to let hate drive you. See Yoda quote above.
  • Talk to your neighbors about kids, about life. Understand people as people — complex beings — and don’t judge.

It’ll be all right. As much as it pains you, give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt. Extend him and his supporters the courtesy you’d expect had the election turned out differently. He won, now he’s gotta govern.

Let’s see what he does before acting as if the world has ended. After all, it didn’t end when Bill Clinton took office after G.H.W. Bush; it didn’t end when G.W. Bush took office after Bill Clinton, and it didn’t end when Barack Obama took office after G.W. Bush. The world isn’t going to end this time either. Our republic is resilient.

Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and in all things, charity. 

The Day After

Recall from my previous post that I voted for neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump. So I was already expecting a morose day. But I’d honestly expected Hillary to win, and I’d expected to have to deal with a president-elect whose political ideology I disagree with. Instead, I have to deal with a president-elect whom I find personally reprehensible.

I am currently a registered Republican (though that may change), so the difficulty I’m having with a “successful” night for Republicans is actually weird. Really weird.

And I don’t know that it’s because of Donald Trump’s positions on political issues. Some I agree with, some I don’t (well, to the degree that we can divine the mind of Donald Trump).

My hesitation is because of the rhetoric Mr. Trump used throughout the election cycle. My hesitation is due to the elements of society that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric stokes. While I understand Mr. Trump has denied or refused to confirm association with these fringe elements, my fear is that now they are emboldened to move from the shadows into the light of day.

I’m talking about white supremacism. I’m talking about xenophobia. I don’t accuse Mr. Trump of holding these reprehensible ideas; I do think his ascension and rhetoric has given these ideas and those who hold them an opening.

As a parent in a trans-racial family, this gives me pause.

I had to explain to my daughter this morning about how some people who support Mr. Trump are like the people who wanted Rosa Parks (one of her heroes) to just stand in the back of the bus and be quiet. My son isn’t old enough to understand this yet. And my third child, who will join our family in January, will begin life in a different world.

Please, Mr. Trump — no, wait. Please, Mr. President-elect — disavow ties to these reprehensible ideologies. Give them no quarter. Denounce them when they act.