The Good, the Bad … and the Ugly

1 04 2011

I was very pleased to discover the other day that Professor Jim Davila had again mentioned me on his popular blog, PaleoJudaica. I know this because a friend alerted me to the fact and because my blog stats magically tripled overnight. The series of posts that Jim had kindly publicised were written by me in 2005 (although added to this blog a year later), and although I don’t think that there is anything too egregious about them, I spoke with a confidence that belied my level of familiarity with the literature. The same can be said for other posts from the same time, and this blog has been a two-edged sword in that regard. While providing me with an opportunity to write about issues that interest me, it also serves as a record of the various things that I have thought and believed in the years since its inception in 2006. There are things that I can erase if I wish, and things that I sometimes do, but something published online cannot ever be eradicated completely.

The single most popular post on this blog was from July 2008, after having just returned from the SBL International Meeting in Auckland, New Zealand. A summary of Prof. David Clines’ paper on Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd” has received a total of 13,265 views – that’s only 2,000 more than the second-most popular post on this blog (a review of a truly awful Hebrew tattoo that won me the unpaid job of translating tattoos for people), but around 10,000 more views than the third-most popular post. Had I known that so many people were going to be reading it, I almost certainly would have thought a little more about what I wrote.

There are some posts of which I am particularly proud, like my translation and commentary of the Shimon bar Yochai narrative in Shabbat 33b-34a, and my overview of the development of the Halakha at the end of last year. Others, of which I am less proud, don’t need any advertisement, but I am always flattered by those who find them and hate them less than I do. Few generate genuine discussion, for which reason I have sometimes chosen to publish my posts on Galus Australis instead, where the discussion is frequently feisty. Good discussions have occurred once or twice on this blog too, as on my review of Tolkien’s translation of Jonah, although it has generally been because I posted on an issue of political significance, like the closing of Sheffield’s undergraduate biblical program, or my rejection of atheism.

Some posts have generated discussion offline as well, whether through email correspondence or when somebody approaches me and tells me that (s)he reads my blog. That’s always a strange feeling and, while it’s certainly not unwelcome, it does make me wonder just what they’ve been reading, and whether I should have been careful with what I wrote. Likewise, when I occasionally see my blog on the Biblical Studies Carnival, the excitement quickly gives way to a concern that I should be choosing my words with more care, that I should have possibly opted for a pseudonym, or that it’s high time that I go offline and do some real work for a change. When John Hobbins invited me to a dinner for bibliobloggers in New Orleans, all of those hours spent editing my rants paid off, and I wish that opportunities to meet other bibliobloggers existed in the real world more often. I also wish that I could write more.

As of today, I now teach almost every day of the week (Friday and Sunday are the only days on which I don’t have regular classes, and many Sundays are an exception), and as I am trying to get my PhD submitted before the end of 2012, I really do have very little time to contribute anything of substance. When I noticed the increased traffic coming from PaleoJudaica, my first thought was to quickly write something that might generate discussion. Instead, while I thank whoever is reading this for their kind patronage of my blog, I must regretfully indicate that my next post is unlikely to be any time soon, is doubtless going to be fairly superficial, and will be born of a desire to procrastinate above all else. I do, however, look forward very much to writing for you again when I have the time to do so properly.

For those of you who are in the least bit interested, this is the very first post that I ever wrote, only two posts before the commencement of the series that Jim Davila linked to. That was over four years ago now, and I hope that in four years from now I am still here – but not still doing this @&!# PhD.

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