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  • Randall Short 2:18 am on July 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    My First 60 Days with WP Engine 

    In late May, I paid WP Engine for a year’s worth of hosting for my biblical Greek site for Japanese speakers, and I migrated from HostMonster’s U.S. server to WP Engine’s Tokyo server. My 60-day money back guarantee ends today, and I’m happy to stay put.

    Here’s a short review of the reasons why I’ve decided to stick with WP Engine.

    (1) I immediately saw a huge increase in the speed of my site after I migrated to WP Engine.

    I mean, it just zipped. The excruciating wait for pages to load was over. For example, according to two performance tests at WebPageTest, my ”Time to First Byte” dropped from 3.092 seconds before the migration down to 0.120 seconds after the migration.

    Before migrating to WP Engine:

    Pre WP Engine migration Speed

    After migrating to WP Engine:

    Post WP Engine Migration Speed

    (2) I really like WP Engine’s “staging area.”

    The staging area has been great for experimenting with lots of different widgets, plugins, and layouts without messing up the site or disturbing visitors who happen to be there while I’m playing in the sandbox.

    WP Engine Staging Area

    (3) I appreciate WP Engine’s level of security.

    I’ve had the miserable experience of being hacked on another WordPress site at BeeOasis. It was terribly frustrating to discover that viagra and cialis links had somehow been inserted into almost every post and page. And our host at the time had no solution for it. I still don’t know why BeeOasis was hacked, but according to this WordPress Safety & Security infographic, 41% of WordPress blogs get hacked because of hosting vulnerabilities.

    (4) WP Engine makes daily backups for me.

    When the site was at HostMonster, I rarely backed it up. Now, it’s backed up automatically every day. Thanks to the staging area and the good security, I’m not sure if I’ll ever need to revert to a backup, but it’s great to have the daily checkpoints there just in case. And I don’t even have to push that “Backup Now” button you see there in the screenshot below.

    WP Engine Backup Points

    (5) WP Engine has great support, and they are WordPress experts.

    In the past two months, I’ve opened 5 support tickets. I was satisfied with the speed and detail of the responses each time.

    Actually, though, I can’t really say that my limited experience with their support so far has been a reason for switching hosts. I also experienced good support at HostMonster on the rare occasion that I asked them a question.

    Furthermore, in my humble opinion, I think that WP Engine’s online documentation needs improvement. On more than one occasion, I could not find rather basic information or help in WP Engine’s support forum (sorry, I can’t remember specific instances now).

    Still, over the past two months I’ve come to hold big expectations that when I get stuck or have a problem with WordPress, the team at WP Engine will be able to help me sort it out in a reasonably short period of time.

    (6) I’m okay with the higher-than-normal price tag.

    During the 60-day trial period, I strongly considered Media Temple and other less expensive hosts that allow for multiple site installations for no extra charge. In the end, though, I’ve made a mental shift away from expecting high value online to be free or nearly free, and I’ve reached the point where WP Engine’s price now seems incredibly low for their premium hosting service and expertise with WordPress. I’m investing a significant amount of time and energy in the site — I figure it’s worth at least as much as I probably spend on coffee and tea each month.

    What do you think? Is it worth the price?

     

    *For the sake of transparency, I wish to note that my links to WP Engine here and above are affiliate links. After signing up for the annual plan, I found out that they have a surprisingly generous affiliate program, so I thought I’d have fun with it and finally learn something about how affiliate networks work (I’ve only dabbled around with Amazon up to this point). 

     
    • Austin Gunter (@austingunter) 2:32 am on July 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Randall,

      Austin from WP Engine here. We’re very glad to hear you’re having such a great experience with our hosting platform so far! Thank you for writing such an amazing review. We love seeing things like this!

      Don’t hesitate to let us know if we can help you out with anything in the future. My email is austin@wpengine.com!

      -Austin Gunter

      • Randall Short 10:57 am on July 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Austin!

        I’m learning a little about WordPress every day, but it feels like the “two steps forward, one step back” kind of progress, so I’m sure I’ll keep in touch through WP Engine support.

    • Raymon 7:00 am on July 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Randall,

      I concur with everything you wrote. There was a big performance gain from HostGator over into WP Engine.

      The other thing to consider for you is that if you are in the Professional plan, it includes CDN support which is a big plus in performance.

      Thanks

      • Randall Short 11:15 am on July 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Raymon,

        I’m very interested in every single extra that’s included in the Professional plan, especially CDN and SSL support, but also the ability to add more sites (and possibly a WordPress Multisite).

        Given my experience with WP Engine’s Personal plan, I’d say it’s pretty likely that I’ll be upgrading soon.

    • Ansh 2:57 am on August 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Well that sounds like really great review… Thanks for sharing your experience mate..

    • Jack 2:54 am on November 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the information. I have been trying to figure out why my page load time is so slow maybe I need to change servers as well. Thanks a bunch.

    • George 5:18 pm on December 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      How fast they replied to your queries? Do you faced any CPU usage limits in wp engine?

      • Randall Short 8:47 pm on December 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        I’m not sure if you were asking me or Jack… In my case, I’ve always had quick replies. Usually within a matter of hours, never more than a day, despite the probable time difference (I’m in Japan). I wouldn’t know how to answer your question about CPU usage (and I’m guessing that was for Jack anyway).

    • Steven J Wilson 1:44 pm on January 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Randall,

      I appreciate this post. I have been looking into a premium service and WP engine was high on my list. I have to say the price tag is higher but if you have a starter package with a shared service by the time you add CDL, SSL support etc. You are paying closer to the same as a premium service without the performance enhancements. I think its time to make the switch.

      Take care!

  • Randall Short 12:26 am on May 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Biblical Languages, Greek   

    New Testament Greek Studies in Japanese 

    If you read Japanese, or if you’re just interested in eccentricities, please take a look at my site for Japanese speakers studying New Testament Greek. The site is called Shinyaku Seisho Girishiago Kōza新約聖書ギリシア語講座).  

    I began with a series of videos in which I explain the exercise problems in the Japanese version of Jeremy Duff’s The Elements of New Testament Greek. Since I posted the first video about 3 weeks ago, the videos have been viewed for around 40 hours. That’s quite a bit more than I expected.

    Elements Girishiago

    This week I’ve begun a series of original short stories. I’m having my students write the stories in Japanese using only the vocabulary (list 1 and list 2) and grammar that they’ve learned so far. Then I translate the stories into Greek. The stories are simple, but they are a lot more fun to read than the exercises. It’s my first attempt to do extensive reading in New Testament Greek. Even if you don’t read Japanese, perhaps you can enjoy the Japanese-Greek stories.

    I’d be grateful for any help with getting the word out. You never know where you might find philhellenic Japanese. 

     
  • Randall Short 9:25 pm on December 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    New Issue of Old Testament Studies (in Japan) 

    At Japanese Biblical Studies, I’ve posted the English and Japanese titles of articles in the recent issue of Old Testament Studies, the journal of the Society for Old Testament Study in Japan. 

    Old Testament Studies 9 (2012)

    I also happen to have an article in this issue, which is based on a paper that I gave at the SOTSJ annual meeting in 2011. Take a look

     
  • Randall Short 6:14 am on August 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    A Window into New Testament Studies in Japan 

    It’s significant when a nation’s scholars in any given discipline get together. Next month, members of Japan’s small but active Society of New Testament Studies will gather for their two-day annual meeting in Nagoya, a large city in central Japan.

    If you would like to see what Japan’s New Testament scholars will be talking about at this year’s meeting, take a look at my translation of the paper titles. And if you happen to be a student or scholar of the New Testament, see if you recognize any of the names (especially among the moderators, who are mostly senior scholars).

    Nagoya CastleA Japanese painting from Nagoya Castle in Nagoya, Japan

     
  • Randall Short 10:40 am on July 29, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Online Resources for Research in Japan 

    Japan’s National Institute of Informatics (NII) has a very helpful site for doing research in Japan, about Japan, and about practically anything else. The site is GeNii – NII Scholarly and Academic Information Portal.

    I’m especially interested in using GeNii for research in biblical studies, but GeNii’s resources are essential for any discipline’s students and scholars who wish to benefit from Japanese research.

    GeNii 学術コンテンツ・ポータル

     
  • Randall Short 9:14 am on July 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Japanese Biblical Studies: for the Church, Academy, and World 

    My new blog, Japanese Biblical Studies, is all about biblical studies by and/or for Japanese.
     

    JapaneseNewInterconfBiblePhoto by Yoshi Canopus
     

    The first post, Introducing Japanese Biblical Studies, lists my 6 categories:

    • News
    • Publications
    • People
    • Education
    • Pop Culture
    • Nota Bene

    I usually encourage my kids and students to keep in mind a particular audience when they write. I’m still working on that. 

    Who do you think might be interested?


     
  • Randall Short 12:38 pm on March 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arts and Sciences, Education, , Harvard   

    Making Big Ideas White-hot 

    It’s fairly common to see college professors become hugely popular in Japan. For one reason or another, they’ll suddenly become regular guests on TV variety shows, and their books will start selling like crazy. This happens to foreign professors, too. Like Harvard University’s Michael Sandel.

    NHK, Japan’s widely-viewed public TV station, made Sandel into a star in Japan when it began airing his Justice lectures. NHK’s title for the program is Harvard White-hot Classroom (Habado Hakunetsu Kyoshitsu / ハーバード白熱教室).

    Justice with Michael Sandel

    NHK DVD at Amazon Japan

    A lot of people watched this program. I mean a LOT. So today, you can walk into a small, general bookstore just about anywhere in Japan and find Sandel in translation, books about Sandel’s books, and books about Sandel’s teaching style.

    Professor Sandel was characteristically humble in his reaction to the Japanese public’s swooning over him and his Justice course.

    “I am astonished and delighted by the popularity of ‘Justice’ in Japan. There seems to be a great yearning, in Japan as in the U.S., for public discussion of big ideas, especially about ethics and values.”
    Japan Real Time (WSJ)

    I think he’s right about the “yearning” in Japan to learn and discuss big ideas. But the fact is, it took someone like him, with his engaging teaching style, to make it happen. How does he do it? Certainly not by remaining behind the lectern and delivering a dry talk. What then? At Organizing Creativity, Daniel Wessel explains many of Sandel’s teaching practices:

    • Well-Timed speech
    • Suiting movements
    • Shows everyday relevance of the issues
    • Encourages participation [Daniel explains 9 strategies]
    • Minding the overall course of the discussion, lecture, course
    • Keeps the discussion personally relevant but in a personal distance

    Daniel explains these points in quite a bit of detail, so do take a look.

    Sandel may be a genius, but I suspect that he has also worked incredibly hard to package and deliver his “big ideas” so effectively. Don’t overlook this point: Sandel is teaching some of the world’s most intelligent young people, and yet, he doesn’t take the “easy” route of using the arcane language of his discipline. Instead, he communicates some of the world’s deepest philosophical and ethical thinking through language, stories, and techniques that can appeal to ordinary people in foreign countries. That’s truly remarkable.

    For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with a friend and colleague to do something similar for English learners (especially for ESL / EFL learners, but also for emerging readers who are native English speakers).

    BeeOasis

    I meet a lot of people in Japan who have given up on learning English after finishing their formal education. Schools motivated them through tests and entrance exams. “Learning English” was/is often the primary goal of English learning. So, what we’re trying to do at BeeOasis.com is to help people refocus their language-learning goals on things that really matter, like the big ideas they can learn and the meaningful connections they can make.

    We’re convinced that people’s curiosity about arts and sciences around the world can help to sustain individual and community learning for a lifetime. Okay, maybe that’s a complicated way to put it. What I mean is this. We think that big ideas are white-hot. And we think that, if we tell them right, they’ll light a fire that no one can put out.

    –––

     
    • Kennedy 9:22 pm on March 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      He does not give surmountable conclusions at the end of his lectures, but leaves everybody hanging and guessing, while at the same time making one appreciate that the issues discussed are bigger than oneself, and the debates will go on.

    • Randall Short 3:48 pm on March 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Good points. Being left guessing . . . being drawn up into stories and ideas bigger than yourself . . . you can’t help but think and talk with others about it. Sort of like what happens with some of the best TV drama series. But we tend to make class sessions like bad sitcoms. There’s never a problem that can’t be solved in 22 minutes.

  • Randall Short 1:49 pm on January 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Exporting Entries from Day One to Scrivener 

    I’ve been enjoying Day One (Bloom Built) on my MacBook Pro and iPad from day one of 2012. I’m already using it to record thoughts and ideas on a range of topics, and I tried my first export of journal entries today.

    mac-1-2-calendar-2012-01-3-13-492.jpg

    One problem is that Day One exports all of the entries into a single text file. I like the text file. But I don’t like (a) not being able to choose which entries to export, and (b) having them all in a single file.

    I don’t have a solution for exporting a selection of entries. It appears that Day One is working on that, including some sort of tag feature.

    Enter Scrivener.

    Scrivener. Y'know - for writers.

    Scrivener gives you an easy way to convert Day One’s single text file into separate entries.

    1. In Day One, conclude each entry with any set of characters that you’re unlikely to use in the body of your entries. I use five dashes.
    2. Export your entries from Day One (File -> Export).
    3. In Scrivener, select File -> Import -> Import and Split. A file selection window should open.
    4. At the bottom of the file selection window, you should see a smaller window labeled “Sections are separated by:” Type your character set there (for example, it’s five dashes for me), and click “Import.”

    That should do it. You should now see all of your Day One entries as separate documents in Scrivener’s binder. And if you wish, you can easily export these from Scrivener as separate files in one of several formats.

    I expect that Day One will provide their own solution in the future, but I couldn’t wait.

     
    • abas 8:34 am on October 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      thanks very useful tip!

    • Jose Luis Farina Peters 1:19 am on January 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Wonderful, Randall!

      Simple enough, yet hadn’t crossed my mind.

      Thank you!

    • tommy 4:46 pm on January 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve been interested in Day One for a while, but balked because I read a number of reviews indicating they lost all their entries. I have Scrivener so I think this method of backing up will alleviate my fear of losing any work I put into Day One.

      WIll this method bring over any images added to the post, or have you tried that?

      • Randall Short 5:21 pm on January 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        I haven’t had any problems with lost entries, but I remember reading something about that awhile back. Let’s hope they’ve fixed that by now.

        I’ve never used images in Day One (or Scrivener, for that matter), but I just gave it a shot. The image didn’t make it through. Day One only supports exports in Text and Markdown formats, and the images get stripped at that point.

        I never really thought about storing images in Day One, but this review makes a good case for it (though, someone there, too, comments on the inability to export photos): http://shawnblanc.net/2012/08/day-one-review/

  • Randall Short 11:20 am on March 3, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: biblical studies, conference, sbl   

    Wordling the SBL’s 2011 Annual Meeting 

    Later this year, the Society of Biblical Literature will hold its annual meeting in San Francisco. Here are two Wordles I created from the program unit descriptions.*

    2011 SBL Program Units Wordle 1

    2011 SBL Program Units Wordle 2

    It’ll be interesting to see Wordles of the actual paper titles, but we’ll have to wait a few more months for that.

    Any surprises so far?

    *Note that I lowed all caps, and I deleted these words from the Wordle: also, among, annual, bible, biblical, call, contact, description, e.g, first, group, meeting, one, open, paper, papers, program, programs, proposals, provide, provides, research, sbl, scholars, second, section, seek, seeks, session, studies, study, third, three, topic, topics, two, unit, within

     
  • Randall Short 9:30 pm on April 30, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    The Nature of Insight 

    While reading his introduction to The Prophets (my Amazon link), I came across this statement by Abraham J. Heschel (page x in the 1969 Harper & Row paperback edition):
            

    Rather than blame things for being obscure, we should blame ourselves for being biased and prisoners of self-induced repetitiveness. One must forget many clichés in order to behold a single image. Insight is the beginning of perceptions to come rather than the extension of perceptions gone by. Conventional seeing, operating as it does with patterns and coherences, is a way of seeing the present in the past tense. Insight is an attempt to think in the present.
            Insight is a breakthrough, requiring much intellectual dismantling and dislocation. It begins with a mental interim, with the cultivation of a feeling for the unfamiliar, unparalleled, incredible. It is in being involved with a phenomenon, being intimately engaged to it, courting it, as it were, that after much perplexity and embarrassment we come upon insight — upon a way of seeing the phenomenon from within. Insight is accompanied by a sense of surprise. What has been closed is suddenly disclosed. It entails genuine perception, seeing anew. He who thinks that we can see the same object twice has never seen. Paradoxically, insight is knowledge at first sight.

    There are Aha! moments that seem to come with no effort. But insight of the sort that Heschel describes here, I think, is generally hard won. Even if it comes suddenly and unexpectedly — seemingly without effort — it is the result of deep reflection and struggle.

    Here’s a question I have. What role can another person — a parent, teacher, or friend, for instance — play in one’s attainment of this sort of deep insight?

    SelmaHeschelMarch1.z6KUqlWs8BI3.jpg

    Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (second from right) marching with Martin Luther King, Jr., from Selma to Montgomery, less than an hour from where I grew up. Heschel later said, “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.”

     
    • Adam Couturier 11:10 pm on April 30, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Great quote. This semester I discovered Heschel, and I have really been enjoying him.

    • AMBurgess 5:04 am on May 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Wonderful quotation, Randall. A lot to ponder there.

      Here are some of my reactions, for what they’re worth.

      It seems to me that as children we have a sort of natural skill at looking at things afresh, but our lack of experience limits deeper insights. Contact with family and friends helps, but even shared experiences are too difficult to process at a young age. We understandably seek out some stability and security, or routine, as we mature, but this presses against that originial skill. The trick against boredom and apathy and road to deeper appreciation, I guess, is combining a childlike sense of curiosity with the rich resources of our experiences, original and shared. To do this, we must maintain an openness to all this around us. But this takes a lot of hard work and determination!

      As we age, our capacity for wisdom and insight increases, but our tendency to the sort of somnambulant routine Heschel describes also strengthens. The hard work of remaining open and curious grows even harder, but the benefits of that hard work yield an ever greater increase. In other words, wisdom does come with more years, but only with a determined purpose to let it be so.

    • AMBurgess 5:20 am on May 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I forgot to add that I obviously agree with you, Randall, that insight is hard won. And as for your question, I do think that the effects of shared experience on wisdom and insight are potentially exponential, provided again that let them be so.

    • AMBurgess 5:21 am on May 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      oops — last line: …that WE let them be so.

    • Randall Short 3:34 pm on May 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Great thoughts, Alex! Quoteworthy even!

      As a dad and teacher, in particular, the burden to help my kids and students experience insightful breakthroughs weighs rather heavily on me. Especially in school/classroom situations, the default assumption is that the teacher is the primary dispenser of knowledge and wisdom, that insights come from the sage on the stage. Maybe this expectation is stronger in Japan, where I live and teach, than in the U.S., but I’ve seen it in both places.

      I try to resist the internal and external forces that would reduce my role to the scatterer of golden nuggets I’ve discovered. To stick with the same metaphor, I see my role more as that of foreman in the mines (you could add other roles, of course, like that of the surveyor who picks the right mine to begin with). But the latter is harder work for both teacher and student. It’s a lot easier — and maybe even more intellectually satisfying in the short run — for professors to display their own discoveries in lectures and whatnot than it is to help (force?) students to do the hard work of discovering new insights for themselves. (I’m not saying that discovery can’t happen in lectures; it certainly can for some people.) And when labor in the mines seems to yield only a few measly nuggets, or none at all, the temptation to rush back to the master gold-digger’s exhibit room is strong.

      I guess my original question — What role can another person play in one’s attainment of this sort of deep insight? — is a general question that I struggle to answer in concrete situations all the time. I hope that my efforts sometimes lead to “genuine perception.” But together with my students, I experience plenty of “perplexity and embarrassment” along the way.

    • AMBurgess 6:28 am on May 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      So true, Randall. And the copious amounts of patience we need to be the kind of teacher or student you describe is a tough commodity in our fast-paced, results-oriented world. I think, too, of how the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth, as the Scripture says. How I’d like to know so much more, and yet I realize I am far, far too short of goodness or greatness to handle it. I need to change as I gain knowledge. How can one have wisdom without being wise? :) God seems to regard the means of our discoveries as important as the ends.

      We moderns like our knowledge to be clear, categorized and comprehensive. Perhaps we want knowledge itself to be satisfactory and pleasing because we have a hard time deciding the meaning and purpose behind knowledge. So we tell ourselves and our children to color inside the lines. And we’re arrogant enough to suppose we always know where those lines even are. I think God graciously obscures our knowledge of many things so that we will faithful in our discovery of a few things, giving God thanks along the way. In other words, God doesn’t spoil us with knowledge, but lets us unwrap each gift in its due season. As parents and teachers, we should likewise try not to spoil. But you’re right. It’s hard not to.

    • AMBurgess 4:26 am on May 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Hey Randall, at my teacher meeting today I quoted from your great comment on mining nuggets. They were really impressed with how you depicted the art of teaching. You articulated so well the discussion we were having. I proudly stated how brilliant you are, but I missed the chance to promote your book. Sorry for that missed opportunity. :)

    • Randall Short 1:19 pm on May 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for sharing your reflections and encouraging feedback.

      It helps me, for some reason, to play around with analogies between teaching/learning and other things. I tend to do it a lot, and the little scenarios I imagine border on the absurd.

      For instance, I often humor myself by imagining a group of people approaching a sport like many approach their studies:

      Paying to play while praying they can make it through the year on the bench… Suited players watching the coach play for 55 minutes and themselves getting to play for 5… afraid/unwilling to kick hard or to block someone else’s shot… A sleeping goalie… Lack of interest or knowledge in the whereabouts of the goal in the first place…

      You get the point. Some day I want to put together some ridiculous skits using analogies like this to dramatize how we approach education.

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