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Friday, June 29, 2007
  Starting writing right
Bob McD is a writer, he blogged The beginning of a story (from the New Testament period) and it strikes me as a near perfect beginning, polished, supple and interesting language, that hints and teases the reader into beginning to construct a world. That's how beginnings ought to be. Not all the time, for that would be boring, but often enough.

Now he has followed up that beginning with a Prologue and I am still being carried along, though I wonder what NT specialists will make of the decisions he took to create the tale - I look forward to any discussion.

Incidentally, Stephen there's another nomination for the carnival, make sure that all the NT bloggers see the series, and so we get some juicy responses.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007
  When good WORD(s) fail
This MS ClipArt seems to represent the situation described below ;)

OK, we've all done it - even those who don't admit it - overwritten the version we need of some vital document and lost hours of work. Barbara suffered this just the other day, from the dreaded "­­I saved the attachment when I finished editing it" syndrome (which is also my most common cause). I am not bad at finding the backup copies that Word scatters liberally round one's hard-drive, but I've bookmarked "How to recover lost Word files"? from EaseUs software people (even if it does advertise their shareware products) because it suggests some wrinkles I did not know or often forget... (HT to the usually interesting LifeHacker for the tip.)

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  Writing: making the process visible
A post on the always stimulating IFbook blog, about recording the writing process ("Poetry in Motion"), pointed me to the intriguing QuickMuse. The site is devoted to presenting poets writing poetry. Not videos of poets talking about writing poetry, but screen captures of the actual (almost physical) process of writing.

Each poet was given a stimulus, so Marge Piercy got this quote about exodus:
A people with a moral vision for themselves and humanity emerged through the birth waters of the Sea of Reeds. This vision was created out of the dark night of slavery, from being crushed in the cruel womb of Egypt. They now march toward Mt. Sinai, to meet the Divine Presence that has called them into history.
Rabbi Mordecai Finley
She writes - at least on this occasion, with a short time limit - by slapping the main ideas down fast, and then tinkering till it is "right".

IFbook also pointed to Ian Spiro's fascinating Dlog, at neat Javascript (I think) application that records what you write... So here is me writing a short fragment titled "Writing". (You need Firefox or Safari for this to work, apologies to those with sub-standard browsers ;-) for such impaired folk, and for those without the time (or too lazy) to go watch as you read here is the (final) text:
So this system will visualise the composition process, as well as any mistakes the author makes in transcribing thought to page...

I wonder how such a writing "space" might affect the process of composition. For certainly the "word processor" impacts the way we write [do I need to check the reference for that book?]...

Might putting a recording like this on a blog inhibit, or would we all - good exhibitionists that bloggers are - write rubbish at great speed, or indeed learn to think BEFORE we write - now that would be novel ;-)

I started this with no idea where it was going... and I still do not know how to title it! [I must have missed that bit in skimming the instructions!]

This whole experiment was stimulated by reading the post on the IFbook blog at http://www.futureofthebook.org/blog/archives/2007/06/poetry_in_motion.html
and then looking at some of the poems they link to, and then wondering, how would such a tool (if always available) impact writing - after all writing is as interesting as reading!
I've now started wondering what this process does to our reading...

... and how cool it would be if someone produced an edition of Amos that reproduced this using Wolff's redaction critical analysis to make the "edits" would one "see" the canonical shaping process at work more clearly? When I have time I must try...

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007
  Baked couscous!?
When we got back from the weekend (seminars and preaching) in New Plymouth, I found an interesting recipe in the NZ Herald's Saturday colour supplement. It does not appear to be online, so I can't link to it, so I'll give you my variant (as tested last night and tonight - it was so good, all those intense flavours!) here.

This recipe is easy, quick, tasty and unusual. As Donna Hay says it captures "those strong flavours synonymous with roasts... in half the time".

Heat the oven I suggest about 170oC fanbake, or a bit more conventional - Donna recommended 200oC but I think that starts the tomatoes too fast - cut about three or four tomatoes per person in half, put them on a baking tray with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and a small handful of herbs (Donna says thyme, but it is not the thyme season round here - so how come a recipe for thyme was in last week's Herald? Go figure! I used marjoram and it tasted good last night, today I found thyme in the vegie shop, so maybe our thyme dying is just bad herbiculture). When the oven is hot put them in for 12-15 minutes - they should be starting to loose shape and concentrate the flavour as the water evaporates.

Turn the oven up to 225oC (perhaps more if conventional). Prepare the couscous equal parts hot chicken stock and couscous, enough for the number of people for a meal one cup does two, for one course one cup might serve 3-4 people. and pour over the tomatoes. Back in the oven for 10 mins. Donna says cover, I preferred to soak the couscous first and then half cover so the higher heat could begin to make nice dark baked bits.

Meanwhile whizz some more oil, lemon juice to taste, salt and pepper and mix in pinenuts (if you have no pinenuts cashews work well, but put them in to whizz and get partly chopped - I've tried both, pinenuts are best but cashews are good too). Mix this dressing with a handfull or two of baby spinach leaves per person and plenty of grated parmesan. (Yes, this time you need the fresh stuff the tubes of dry grains will NOT do!) Pour this over the hot tomato couscous mix in the oven tray to wilt the spinach before serving. It goes down a treat on its own, or with chicken. To save bother if you are using chicken I suggest cutting small and putting into the oven about half way through cooking the tomatoes the first time.

Ingredients (per person as a main):
  • Tomatoes: Roma or other acid free - 3-4
  • Pinenuts - 1/3-1/2 cup for 2-4 people
  • Baby spinach leaves - 1-2 handfulls
  • Couscous - 1/2 a cup
  • Chicken stock - 1/2 cup
  • Lemon juice - tablespoon
  • Parmesan cheese grated - 1/3 cup or so
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper
For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, suffering summer, you need not wait till winter to try this - though it is worth waiting for, I promise - Donna says it can be eaten cold as a salad. Tonight I deliberately made enough, so tomorrow I'll let you know if she is right. Or I will if the sun shines brightly again like today ;-)


I didn't wait for the sun to shine, I stoked up the fire, and imagined it. There is no one else at home they are at conferences or skiing or soaking in the hot pools at Rotorua, so my consolation prize was starting the day my way: salmon and the Baked Couscous and Tomato as a salad. It was delicious, so you deprived summery types need not wait, add a delicious unusual new salad to your repertoire!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007
  Copyright, theft and ministry II: welcome to the new renaissance!
Between Claude's post: "You Shall Not Steal Thy Brother’s Song", my comments, and then my post below: "Copyright, theft and ministry" there has been some discussion recently of Christian music, copyright and money.
Since:
  • The issue is not going away any time soon.
  • Problems financing online biblical content are similar.
  • Although illegal copying of music is widespread it is publicly discussed seldom in Christian circles.
I'll give it another go!
As background, here is how I understand our situation:
  • Christian ministry needs to be paid for
    • although amateur efforts are great professionals are needed too
    • few churches can really employ musical originators
  • Copying of recorded music is:
    • endemic - can YOU be certain you have no "pirated" material on your MP3 player. or family computer
    • technically easy - despite record companies flirting with dubious protection technologies (think Sony and "rootkits") in fact all they do is restrain the less determined or technically literate users from "pirating"
    • culturally almost accepted1 (see 1 above, opinions are still quite split, but informal evidence suggests an inverse correlation of age and knowledge of, and respect for, copyright laws)
  • No one has yet found a way to turn downloads into cash (dreams of advertising revenues may change this, but have yet to be proven viable for material other than blogs and other text-based sites dedicated to such a business model)
  • The morality (and cultural desirability) of the notion of intellectual "property" is debatable2 .
Keith comments on my post below:
It is expensive to produce music and tour. How do you propose Christian musicians do this in a world that is used to paying for the products it consumes?
I wish I knew! That is my point. I do not see a future where renewed private morality ensures that we all dutifully avoid "consuming" pirate music, videos etc.. DRM schemes will fail (they represent at best an ineffective sea wall against a storm tide). Advertising may succeed though as I wrote below:
iTunes sales are beginning to flatline, and Peter Gabriel (the musician and Internet angel) and other less famous investors are setting up an ad-supported (un-DRMed) MP3 download service. Whether this will work, whether we like the idea of adverts everywhere, or not, this reinforces the deep roots of free culture in the electronic world.
I think Keith's claim that we live in a "world that is used to paying for the products it consumes" is not true any longer for "intellectual products", at least when they are distributable online. And in such a world I begin to wonder if a return to some form of patronage (see "Subscription, advertising and appeals online") is the only answer. To some extent this is already our situation, churches support preachers and increasingly musicians, educational institutions support certain forms of publication (at least through research time, but increasingly through direct payment towards publication), companies sponsor sports teams and symphony orchestras...

...welcome to the new renaissance!


NB. Claude has posted again in "Christians and the Copyright Laws" on the specific issues of Christian music, I have not commented on that post here as this post is already too broad and I wanted to ficus on the financing of publishing (of music, and other intellectual "products") today.
Peter Kirk also has an interesting and careful discussion "Is breach of copyright theft?" which is well worth adding to your reading on this topic! In a comment on his own post Peter refers to "Copyrights and Copying: Why the Laws Should Be Changed" by Vern Poythress concluding:

Poythress says he can only speculate on

what might happen if the restrictions on copying were loosened.

Not quite, he can look at what happens in the many countries in the world (mostly towards the East) where such restrictions, even if existing in theory, are in practice not enforced and ignored by almost everyone. I used to live in such a country. But his speculations seem reasonably accurate about what things were like there: life went on, but intellectual work tended to depend on sponsorship.

I am still in the middle of the first semester marking crisis, and so reading Poythress and further comment will have to wait!

1. How culturally acceptable it is may be debated, "pirating" intellectual property is evidently illegal in most countries, but the ubquity and scale of copying (here I offer the increase in plagiarism in student essays as hard evidence) suggests that culture and law are at odds here. [return]
2. The notion of "intellectual property is modern, it was introduced to protect "authors" from publishers. It is now used mainly to protect publishers from the public. It is culturally vital that ideas (including artistic "ideas") get remixed. The concept of property relates to physical objects, "intellectual property is immaterial. Yet "authors" need to derive a living from their work, unless all creativity is to be a spare time activity. [return]

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Thursday, June 21, 2007
  The Second Life Cathedral goes mainstream
18th-june-07_013.jpgIn a post "You Talk - PodBible interactive" I mentioned that Mark Brown (the CEO of Bible Society in NZ) had become some kind of Anglican Bishop of Second Life well, now Wired blog has featured the story: "Anglican Second Life Inhabitants Construct Medieval Cathedral".

As you may NOT remember when Wired Blog posted about Librivox, my Stalky and Co. quickly passed 1,000 downloads despite its size and obscurity! So, I hope Mar and his Cathedral staff are well prepared for all those virtual tourists who will soon be winging their way Ephany Islandward ;-)

PS, even if you are not a virtual tourist, do visit Mark's blog, it is more colourful than its name ;-)

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  Copyright, theft and ministry
Claude has a post "You Shall Not Steal Thy Brother’s Song" in which he reminds us that using copyright material without permission is theft. In the course of the post (and again in reply to a comment I left) he provides examples of such theft, and of how it can hurt (particularly) Christian artists. Claude and I - I believe - agree that breach of copyright is theft (I'd add: of a sort). However, in my comment I went beyond this, since his post evokes a mixed response in me. I said, among other things:
I also have reservations about the whole Christian Music Industry, if music IS a ministry, then it should be funded and supported like other ministries are. Not through the grasping selfish mechanisms of an "industry".

I am deeply saddened when I hear of copyright Bibles, that people cannot copy to disseminate, I am equally sad when I hear of Christian Musicians who make more than a good living out of
"selling" the gospel, just like the worst TV Evangelists. Next thing Pastor X will copyright his sermons, and how long before Disney trademarks the term "Gospel".

So, I agree with what you say, but I wish people would say and do more to help undo this sad
commercialisation of what should be good news for everyone!
Because, while as currently structured breach of copyright is theft, it is also true that as it currently operates the "intellectual property" ideology combines with the worst features of capitalism to become the means by which "stars" and record companies, make excess profit, young struggling artists are NOT supported and the Christian message becomes a commercial "product" to be packaged and sold - quite literally. To my mind selling the gospel is sin - and that is worse than theft, for theft is merely a crime!

Until Christians (whether musicians or not) learn to opt out of the diabolic system of fame, pride and wealth that has crippled the Church in the Western world, and is decimating our reach into our neighbourhoods, Christian music will remain an "industry" and "Christian music" will continue to be protected by complex and restrictive DRM mechanisms, and will continue to be stolen.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007
 
Here's a You Tube you might like to share! Done by a student in my colleague Myk's "Holy Spirit" class. Any suggestions for a better title? (Assuming the author is willing to change the name (-:

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  Making Bible references meaningful (to machines)
Sean is pushing ahead with his Bibleref idea. (You remember, adding a bit of invisible code that makes your references to the Bible machine readable, so that search engines and the like can do clever things, and smart people can help make the web a better place for rule-obeying Bible students.) It seems Bibleref is ready for the prime time! In Sean's Bibleref: Going Public post he offers He also says that:
So now all we need are some sort of addin for Blogger and/or Performancing and perhaps one for Wordpress that is not linked to a particular (controversial) translation. So that ordinary people can easily and painlessly tag Bible references, without <coding complex stuff> all by themselves! Having had to learn to talk HTML and even a bit of CSS (and to at least say hello in JavaScript) I'll probably try to implement Bibleref even without a tool - but being badly disorganised I'll only do it sometimes... So, clever technical gods, lets have a simple way to do this. It is FOR machines, but people have to implement it if the machines are to have anything worthwhile to work on.

PS if you are an early adopter, you can either take the badge above (right click Save As) or make a better one and post it to Seans discussion HERE.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007
  Unicode for Dummies II (on Windows XP)
Mark has posted a fuller and more detailed post that links to sets of instructions for those who are not geeks but want to use Unicode to make their biblical language text transportable to other computers (like my post below, he focuses ion Windows XP - one day enough people will have Vista for someone to worry about the differences!). So if:
  • you are not at all tech savey and just want to type Hebrew, Greek or transliterations that others can read - go HERE and use the Tyndale Font Kit
  • you are a bit tech literate AND you would like a choice of fonts - go HERE after installing the Tyndale Font Kit (but BEWARE do not follow the advice at Greek Geek to install or use BW fonts, they are great for users of the BibleWorks program but they are "legacy fonts" and do not transport well)
  • you are moderately techie, and want (possibly better) a choice of different keyboards and fonts perhaps even for Syriac or Coptic - go HERE and feast
I have been remiss in not highlighting the SIL fonts and system, I just wanted to keep things as simple as possible for the people who ask me about "fonts" for Hebrew. The SIL fonts and systems for many many languages are HERE, just make sure that if one is listed as "Unicode" you choose that one!

Bible Texts in Unicode (for cut and paste if you do not have Logos and can't make BibleWorks export in Unicode):
  • TanakhML Hebrew Bible Browser (nb. at the right under "Display" you have a choice of turning vowels, accents and other marks "On" or "Off" to make your text maximally readable turn accents "Off" - they will show as little empty boxes for people without the specialised fonts, while the basic consonants and vowels should display OK even for them)
  • Greek NT and LXX (I was not able to find an accented Greek

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Monday, June 18, 2007
  Oh, no, not another TLA!
I'm continually surprised how many people around me do not understand RSS. Actually I don't mean UNDERSTAND (only geeks need to understand) I mean have a basic idea of why and how to USE the results (and everyone needs that - even if they don't realise it). Common Craft have a neat short YouTube RSS in Plain English video to explain!

BTW thanks to Nichthus for pointing me to Common Craft's You Tube output (their item on Wikis at last enabled me to see what apart from Wikipdedia they are good for) (-;

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Sunday, June 17, 2007
  Matthew 5:17ff. : How to read the Old Testament
I preached to Titirangi Baptist Church today, basically the same notes as I used for the sermon they videoed in College Chapel for the Careymedia DVD on the Sermon on the Mount.

My text was Matthew 5:17-48. A long, complex, and difficult passage! Basically I focused on the opening: where Jesus affirms unequivocally that he came to "fulfil" the Law and Prophets, and NOT to abolish them. Noticing how Jesus develops this in a series of examples where what he demands of us is stronger and harder than what Old Testament law requires. He closes the section saying: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mat 5:48) It's too long (at 30mins plus question time!) for 5 Minute Bible so I am posting it here:
BTW the previous session I did for a Careymedia DVD was on Song of Songs for the DVD "Church Then and Now" (for other extracts see here).

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  Greek NT Text Resources
La Parola in reteThank you, Richard for adding the comment below and pointing me to the La Parola Greek Testament with both variant readings and a list of Patristic citations. It is both magnificent, and a fine example of how (if the data are in suitable formats) people online can build on, and add value to, each other's work. You have put together a really useful site!

Richard lists het following resources which have been used in his project:

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Saturday, June 16, 2007
  Columbus: Onehunga

Once the Blue Strawberry (go figure!) now part of the Columbus Coffee franchise chain, this is a big busy shopping mall cafe. It does the job well with plenty of efficient waitstaff. The menu is small and conventional, but backed up by a good selection in the cold cabinet.

Coffee: Pretty Good - Good Barbara pronounced the Mochaccino good and not too sweet <aside> </aside> The long black was tasty, not bitter but with a smooth bite, but too "long". <aside>

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  Subscription, advertising and appeals online
Weeks back Peter Kirby asked an interesting question, "What Would Be Worth Paying a Subscription?" I meant to respond, but have been "too busy". Since the first semester marking season is upon me, I am still "too busy", but serendipity has added two other contributions to the mix - and it is Saturday (the day of rest, when even Bible teachers who preach in churches may take a break (-;

Peter poses the question: "What kind of Internet resource would be worth paying a subscription to access?" implying (I assume the question presumes a Bible-related Internet resource (-;

He goes on to outline a tool that he thinks would be worthy of payment:
  • A text of the New Testament with apparatus. This means that textual variants would be noted in an online format. To my knowledge, this is not done in a thoroughgoing way on a website, even now.
  • Texts from the Roman, Greek, Jewish, and Ancient Near East worlds that have interest on their own and that may shed light on the Bible. These texts should be both in English and in their original tongues.
  • Cross-references between texts to note connections (like the "e-Catena" and the Thomas commentary's parallels do in miniature).
Now, assuming such a tool were available online, would people pay?

No.

Now, I do not know this as a fact - no one has yet tried a subscription model for such a tool. But we do know that when Zack Hubert appealed for funds to support development of his fine Greek Bible tool he got almost nowhere. People will not donate to support good useful projects. The (lack of) sales of the CD version of Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary, which we had hoped might help cover some of the costs of that project also points in the same direction. The culture of the free is deeply rooted online. Although offline people would be quite happy paying larger sums of money for products, online we expect them to be free, and we resist paying.

It gets worse, even when people will pay for online electronic content, as they do for iTunes music, many of them copy the content freely for their friends. So, iTunes sales are beginning to flatline, and Peter Gabriel (the musician and Internet angel) and other less famous investors are setting up an ad-supported (un-DRMed) MP3 download service. Whether this will work, whether we like the idea of adverts everywhere, or not, this reinforces the deep roots of free culture in the electronic world.

Perhaps incidentally, perhaps not, Matthew Haughey noticed that people who click on ads are usually one-off visitors, not returnees. So, he claims, you can turn off ads for regular visitors, but keep them for those who stumble across your site. I really like this idea, except how do you ever turn visitors into regulars if the visitors are bombarded by ads?!

Maybe we are returning to patronage, like in the Renaissance when rich Italians paid artists and scientists to generate a new and vibrant culture... anyone know a rich Italian with a passion for the Bible?

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Friday, June 15, 2007
  Best public lecture in theology in Auckland in 2007?
If you read this blog, and live within reach of Auckland this is a public lecture you should really try to attend!

Amy-Jill Levine, is an Orthodox Jewish feminist New Testament scholar (already an intriguing combination) with a fine reputation, the lecture "Jesus and Women" that Phil Wilson posted as an MP3 to his Teaching the Kingdom site is superb, thought-provoking and humorous.

If you live in, or within reach of, Auckland this is one theology lecture you should NOT miss!
At: The University of Auckland, LawSmall Law Building, 9-17 Eden Crescent, Auckland
On: Monday , 18th June, 2007
At: 6.00am - 7.30pm
Cost: Koha (Donation)
Jesus and Judaism: Why the connection matters

By Amy-Jill Levine, E. Rhodes and Leona B Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Department of Religious Studies, and Graduate department of Regligion.

Amy-Jill's recent publications include:

  • The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus (HarperSanfrancisco 2006)
  • The Historical Jesus in Context (Princeton University Press 2006)
  • The series: A Feminist Companion to the New Testament and Early Christian Literature

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Thursday, June 14, 2007
  Unicode for Biblical Studies (on WindowsXP)

Ancient History (aka the 1970s-1990s)

In the "bad old days" computers did not understand non-Roman alphabets (like much in this post this is a gross over-simplification, if that troubles you you are in the wrong place - try Alan Wood’s Unicode Resources for a more complete presentation). To overcome this biblical scholars (at least those who were also geeky enough to want to process words in Hebrew, Greek...) needed to install special fonts that fooled the poor machine into thinking that a lowercase "x" looked like this: ח or, on other occasions like this: Χ, in other words the font represented Hebrew, Greek etc. characters, while telling the computer that they were proper American ones (the coding system was called ASCII "American Standard Code for Information Interchange").

This was simple, until you wanted to give your document (on a "floppy" remember those - once they were floppy too!) to someone else. At that point they had fun decyphering text like this: "d#r&k m*H$s@" and most gave up saying "It's all Greek to me!" at which point one informed them gently that it was actually Aramaic and everything went downhill from there!

I've seen the present - and it works!


All that is changing.

WindowsXP and most programs designed for it (like your Wordprocessor or Browser) understand Unicode. Like ASCII, Unicode represents characters by number codes. Unlike ASCII (which only had 128 characters, 33 of which wouldn't print anyway!) Unicode even in its simpler forms has THOUSANDS of characters so "x" means x and not ח or Χ which each just stand for themselves. And... when you send your document to someone else there is a very good chance the "foreign" alphabets will be readable, even if still without good fonts they may not be pretty. (The sad exception to this is complex accents and the like which risk showing up as little rectangles. The good news is though that whatever font they download that contains these signs will display them this sometimes looks untidy, but it is way more readable than "d#r&k m*H$s@".)

How to do it: Unicode for (Biblical Scholarly) Dummies


It is not difficult, just download the Tyndale House Font Kit. Install it, (you can pretty much take the defaults), so that basically means a double click after you download and then double click again on the install file.

After installation, at the bottom of your screen you will see a new little square with two letters (these represent the language you are using, EN = English, FR = French etc. - for these purposes Americans are understood to be using "English" ;-) If you click on the button (once will do, do NOT get overenthusiastic, Jean) you will see a popup like this:

This will allow you to select Greek or Hebrew as your input language (temporarily) Greek includes transliteration characters for Hebrew transcriptions too (just use shift lock). At first you will probably need the keyboard layout, so print out the file called: Keyboards.doc in the C:\Program Files\Tyndale Unicode Font Kit directory.

That's all folks!



Post Scriptum:

Except to add that as Daniel mentions in his comment below:
Another cool thing about Unicode is that when you copy and paste text into your word processor from a program like Logos Bible Software the fonts just...work. This painlessness is what persuaded Logos to adopt the Unicode Way back in 2001...
Thanks, Daniel, yes it has been a good feature that Logos adopted early, Bibleworks is still playing catch up in cutting and pasting.

BW users need to know that they have to go: |Tools| |Options| |Fonts| and tell the program that the "Export Fonts" should be Unicode, rather like this:


Post Scriptum II


Daniel (below) also points to Windows Keyboards for Ancient Languages as well as Greek and Hebrew (and transliteration) include also Syriac and one tailored for the entry of Coptic. If you have Logos installed these are probably both the easiest and best Unicode keyboards to use. If you use BibleWorks or another (non-Unicode) program then the Tyndale Font Kit is probably the easiest way to go. Either way your text will be readable by more people! (Everyone using WinXP+ or MacOSX+ if you use no accents... for accents they will require a suitable scholarly Unicode font but it does not matter which one they have :)

Post Scriptum III

Bible Texts in Unicode (for cut and paste if you do not have Logos and can't make BibleWorks export in Unicode):

  • TanakhML Hebrew Bible Browser (nb. at the right under "Display" you have a choice of turning vowels, accents and other marks "On" or "Off" to make your text maximally readable turn accents "Off" - they will show as little empty boxes for people without the specialised fonts, while the basic consonants and vowels should display OK even for them)
  • Greek NT and LXX

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  Quick comments
Many of the comments we leave on blogs amount to little more than "I agree" a new service seeks to make these quick comments easier and quicker. I'm trialling it, you will see the buttons below. I suspect that the categories may be too uniformly positive to be helpful... but we'll see. ClickComments is an interesting idea, and anything that gives blogging back some of the interactivity between author and reader that used to be such a feature of the medium is to be encouraged!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007
  Grammar checking for Open Office
LanguageTool.pngHat tip to LifeHacker for pointing me to this new addon for Open Office.

Now those who do not enjoy paying for a copy of Microsoft Office to do basic office tasks (or indeed most complex tasks) do not have to write without any computerised grammar checking.

LangaugeTool is free it works in Java, and so anywhere OpenOffice does and checks your grammar and some word usage. This does not replace a sensible fluent friend, but does help you avoid many common errors. [Students and blog authors take note - this can considerably improve your credibility!]

LifeHacker's instructions read:

In OpenOffice.org: Do not unzip the archive, just call Tools -&gt; Extension Manager -&gt; Add... to install LanguageTool-0.9.zip (note that the menu item is called Package Manager in OpenOffice.org 2.0.x). Open a new window of OpenOffice.org (Ctrl-N) and you'll see a new menu entry "LanguageTool" that will check the current text.

One less excuse for many of the simple errors in the essays I read. One happy (well at least happier) marker! One more reason not to "upgrade" to MS Office 2007, and make all your documents unreadable by others (unless you use the tip in the comments to this post ;-)

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Sunday, June 10, 2007
  Why do we need a canon?
Duane, whose (ab)normal interests usually settle around ancient epigraphy responds to the blog storm elicited by John Hobbins series of posts on "Canon": Thinking About Canon (Part One) and First Update with a question: Why The Need for a Canon? It is, from a human perspective, a very good question. Working with John's functional definition of a canon:
A writing is canonical if and only if passages from it can be appealed to for the purpose of establishing a point of doctrine.
Duane asks:
...why would anyone or any group want to do that?
and like all good teachers, he answers his own question
A written authority, often, but not always, of obscure origin replaces a human authority. And it does it precisely in those areas of human thought where no human can be authoritative: religious doctrine.
Sociologically it is a good answer, but I think there is a little more to tease out here. A canon is a closed list of varied works - I realise that a canon need not be varied, though the Christian and Jewish ones John is discussing are, and need not be closed as indeed, at least for many centuries the Jewish canon was not (though I suspect that at any time it "felt" closed). As such a list a canon, as authority, allows an interesting mix of stability and flexibility.

Stability is useful to counteract the natural tendency for humans to "go off the rails" - at least with a canon there is some standard (the "rails") to call the human leader(s), or even whole communities, back to. (I can't think of any easy and simple way to avoid that sentence ending with a preposition ;-) Thus having a written authority over against human authority can be a "good thing". Both the reformers and the anabaptists are examples of such a calling back process that used Scripture as their primary tool.

Yet a canon is also flexible, the variety in the writings allows a greater degree, perhaps even a greater kind, of interpretation and thus allows for significant change. Think of the example of slavery, to some extent the battle for the Western mind over slavery was a battle over the interpretation of canon. A canon (of the sorts that Christians and Jews have) is both a tool for stability and for change.

Bob expresses this sort of idea vividly on a personal scale (I'll quote just a few lines here, but there is so much else in his post related to our question of the psychology of canon):
I must admit I like the canon I think I have. And I am not sure I could define it. I have my favorites - Psalms, Leviticus, bits of Genesis, Exodus and Deuteronomy, Job, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, the Song, Jonah, large chunks of Isaiah, bits of Jeremiah, and in the NT - Romans, John, Hebrews. I am grateful that the forest is large and for a late starter, too large, but I am also grateful that it has a border. I am grateful that the trees are varied.
In his "Second Update" John also explores some of this, with a particular focus on Christian praxis in its relation with canon and doctrine (personally doctrine is a good word, but I am not so happy with "dogma", John) in this he is responding to a post by Doug (which I have not managed to mention above, but should have).

[12 June: Quote corrected to mirror author's correction]

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Saturday, June 09, 2007
  Kenzie Cafe: Manukau Rd
The Kenzie Cafe is just a step from Greenwoods Corner in the heart of Epsom, a few steps from Cornwall Park. Parking is easy in Empire Road. Somehow I'd expect an Epsom cafe to be trendy and contemporary. Yet stepping into the Kenzie is a blast from the past. It is, and has the air of being a "corner cafe", then there are those "modern" bentwood chairs. There are not many other cafes within a kilometre or three in most directions, and perhaps this lack of competition shows.

Service: was slow, made slower by having to sit and work from printed menus, rather than a cafe-style blackboard. However, it probably makes sense to work this way in view of space restrictions. There is a kiddie corner up some stairs, well out of the "way" of others, but perhaps worryingly out of sight for parents? Bringing us glasses and a 70s lemonade bottle of chilled water, without being asked is a nice touch.

Coffee: The younger generation's moccachino was somewhat short of foam, and ultimate failure lacking the obligatory marshmallow. The cappuccino was also somewhat "flat" and the long black (despite separate hot water in a nice china jug) was reminiscent of 70's Cona machines - I assume it was made "long" by running the boiling water over the grounds through the head till the large cup was full, thus stewing the grounds and imparting a bitter and almost stale taste! Verdict: Poor.

Food: Sarah's French Toast was the star, with nicely toasted banana and good butcher's smoked bacon, the maple syrup came in a neat little side dish rather than pre-drizzeled (a nice touch). However Barbara's Corn Fritters did not sparkle, the guacamole looked tired (perhaps from having been kept till needed in an unsealed container?) and the tomato relish was fridge-cold. The fritters themselves were OK, but not great. My Eggs Benedict had suffered by being kept hot (not merely warm as the plate was too hot to handle!) while the other dishes were prepared, the smoked salmon was cooked medium rare, and the Hollandaise Sauce had an unpleasant skin over the surface. A pity as the eggs (even after their heat treatment) were fine, and I suspect the salmon would have been tasty. Verdict: Poor

Overall: if you are at Greenwoods Corner and looking for breakfast, be willing to travel a few Ks to somewhere where the competition keeps cafes on their toes! Though it seemed popular, with the locals, so perhaps when we visited they were having a bad hair day!

Kenzie Cafe
557 Manukau Road,
Epsom South,
Auckland

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Friday, June 08, 2007
  Dealing with MS Office 2007 documents
In the last day or two I've begun to face problems with MS Office 2007 documents. First some people send them to me, neither MSOffice 2003 nor Open Office 2.02 can open these monsters, so I download the fix from Microsoft, fine on a machine with MS Office, but for Open Office machines there is not yet a fix :(

The other problem though was a tutor whose DOCX documents could not be opened by students... I can't really expect all the students to download the converter, and anyway many of them are using Open Office. So I suggested the tutor Save As "Word 97 etc." DOCs. That's a bit of a pain for her. Does anyone with Office 2007 know a way to make Word save in a compatible format as its default? If so please tell me the menu steps to achieve this and I can pass the good news on.

And MS call this OpenXML - in my view it is "open" like George Bush is a pacifist - in theory perhaps, in practice not really!

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  A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated
When recording (for Librivox) a review article of Oscar Wilde's, I found myself both delighting in his cleverness, and detesting his brutality. So I also recorded his "A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated" as an antidote to his cruel, devastating, if funny, wit in the review. The "maxims" recording has now been "published" as part of a Short Story collection (whose editor was generous and willing to include such a non-story orphan). Listening to it again I suspect I may post, over the next few days, about how a few of them relate to the interests of this blog...

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Thursday, June 07, 2007
  Babbling on...
In a (typically thought-provoking) post "Babel as theme in bioethics" Stephen replied (in passing) to my request below (Getting ideas for Biblical Studies Podcasts) for requests. So now, at last, I've posted (the first part of) my response... isn't that a lot of brackets! It's called "Babbling about Babel"

By the way (I just got pinged for using BTW in an email, so for the rest of the day I'm typing it in full ;-) here are a couple of the pictures I refer to (in passing) in that 'cast:

The Leaning Tower of Babel
by Joanna Hastings Jan 18-21 2001
http://comnet.org/PNetwork/Fireside01.html [link now dead]
(Advertisement for a play)

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  You Talk - PodBible interactive
I'm just off the phone with Mark Brown (the CEO of Bible Society in NZ) basically, since he visited Carey before being appointed and sounded interested in the use of the Bible online, I've been meaning to talk to him about several of my dreams and projects. It makes such a pleasant change to talk to a "church leader" who not only thinks the electronic world is important, but who seems to "get it".

Mark has a blog [he also is some kind of Anglican Bishop of Second Life!], and I've added it to my Bloglines subscription because in the ten minutes since getting off the phone I've found several interesting posts there. Check it out!

Among other things we talked about ways to make PodBible more interactive. Mark suggested I look again at Twitter.He has a post that will suggest something of what he said: What am I doing right now? Twittering that’s what. I'd looked briefly at Twitter, and spotted instantly that it is not for me, that instant communication doesn't suit me, not least because I live in NZ and 95% of the world lives in a different time!

After a second look, I still don't think Twitter is the answer, but I suspect it's part of the answer... as well as "old fashioned" asynchronous discussion forums, and maybe instant messaging etc. perhaps a Twitter (or twitter-style?) sidebar which shows what people are "doing now" could be great.

I'm beginning to get an idea of what PodBible's YouTalk section should look like. A means to navigate (linked to tags, both of Bible references and other topics) an area to write "posts" and comments, the capacity to IM (perhaps with an asynchronous capacity like the IM tool in Moodle) and a twitter-like "how I'm responding to the Bible now" section. At least... When I talked with Stephen about all this last week my ideas were pretty unformed, now they are coming together...

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  The Joy of Shopping:

social life or utilitarian existence?


Matt at the Problem Attic has a post "Social Relationships vs Utilitarian Relationships", provoked by the blog Ran Prieur, the quote (from a post on November 13) began:
In a tribe, purely utilitarian relationships are forbidden! The economic is a subset of the social...
By contrast most of us exist in a web of economic relationships, many of which are almost purely economic. So:
We love people we don't depend on, and we depend on people we don't love, or even know.
So the original post concludes:
...you can build a global hell-world out of nice people with just one trick: the purely utilitarian relationship. It's the basic chemical bond of Empire. And we can dissolve Empire, one cell at a time, by befriending the people we exchange money with, and building gift economies with our friends and families.
Matt then comments:
I'm still absorbing it, and struggling to fully understand it, but I think there's something there. I know I'd often far prefer to just hand over the money to a robot, and I've recently begun to make an effort to at least smile and make eye contact over the shop counter. The biggest problem, I think, is that it's hard to be friendly and human when neither of you wants to be there in the first place.
I think though, that subverting the empire is even simpler than this, at least in its beginnings. Part of the problem is Matt's last phrase. Now, we can't do anything about the shop assistant "wanting to be there" (except perhaps by treating them as people?) but perhaps we can about us not wanting to be there, if we don't really want to buy the thing, why are we there?

There's potentially a joy in shopping - much as I detest going shopping - when we know the shop keepers (even a little bit) and/or when the product is "interesting". I like shopping for bread at Wild Wheat because they have all sorts of fun breads, I like shopping for meat because the butcher knows me by name... I hate going to the mall, because the goods are all the same, made in sweatshops and sold by robots to lobotomised shoppers.

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