Friday, December 31, 2004
Recording classics ::

As I mentioned below (previous three posts), I got all excited at discovering some illustrated public domain (at least in NZ, Australia and the USA) copies of Beatrix Potter stories. As usual I ran at the new project without much though experimenting with different formats and ways of producing the animated texts. In terms of production I am very impressed by Microsoft's free Photo Story, it seems to give good results easily (see for some Beatrix Potter examples).

However, the project raises questions about format beyond the immediate ones of how to produce the files and what software to use. I've already found with Amos that a quality that today seems fine, or even a bit generous, (as 400 pixel maximum pictures did in 1996) can seem quite small in 2004. So it makes no sense to produce these videos as WMV files designed for current bandwidth only. I will indeed make files for current distribution at such quality, but I also need a format to archive the material. Probably AVI high quality video 720x576 pixels variable bit rate. Possibly I should try to do both NTSC and PAL... I am very ignorant about these issues, so any suggestions or discussion would be welcome.

The other issue is the size of the scanned images I start with, currently they are quite small 640x480, I will need to find some old copies of the stories (for USA copyright probably published before 1923) and scan the illustrations at a higher resolution. I don't suppose any reader has access to such copies?

While I am sorting all this out, I am filling the time by recording an audio only version of the Just So Stories (so far "How the Whale got his Throat" or to listen directly), there (I hope the archive format problems are less, I am using Windows WAV at present but am open to suggestions!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004
But wait... there's more! The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies ::

To compensate any of you who tried to follow the link to The Tale of Peter Rabbit before I fixed the links, here is The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies as a free bonus!

Red face and shame ::

I am so sorry, in the busyness of the season, I was so excited to have finished Peter Rabbit in time to give it to the children for Christmas thyat I posted the link too fast and without proper checking, thanks to Stephen and James for kindly and politely pointing out my stupidity. Dreamweaver "kindly" added the full path on the local machine to the plain filenames I had typed in!

Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit should now be available here. I am currently working on The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies.

Monday, December 27, 2004
Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit (animated) ::

As a bit of fun now I am on holiday I have prepared a reading of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit and animated the illustrations. The video is at I plan to do other stories (from the copyright free collection at Project Gutenberg) as and when I have time, at least one more over the holiday period. So, if you have or know any young children do point them to the page!

Peter Rabbit began life as an illustrated letter Potter wrote to a five year old boy. (I think that some of her illustrated letters are reproduced here - but as I write the site is "down". There is a page of her sketches here.)

Saturday, December 25, 2004
Happy Christmas! ::

Just a note to wish you a really happy Christmas.

I'll be blogging over the holiday season, but not probably as much.

If you are in Auckland today do join us for lunch, bring your own meat for BBQ and if possible either a salad or desert! (Though there is always plenty.) We meet each year with the Kilpatrick family, and offer an open invitation to others, there's always a crowd...

Anyway wherever you are may you enjoy today, and may God find a space somewhere in all the rush to whisper his love to you.

Friday, December 24, 2004
Mary for Evangelical Protestants ::

On a seasonal note there is a good collection of opinions and talk about the role of Mary in Evangelical Protestant devotion on the (US) Public Broadcasting Service site.

I've mentioned other good sections of the PBS site before, but had not come across this material. The newsletter format looks good too, I'll be back (as they say).

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Unseasonal weather - or I'm dreaming, it's a white Christmas!? ::

In New Zealand Christmas is the beginning and peak of the summer holidays, walm sometimes hot weather entices familys to camp, and parents to bathe in the sea. Barbies are the order of the day and picnics a standard Christmas lunch. So... imagine our shock and horror after a week of unseasonally cold and wet weather to look out the french doors and see this...

Am I dreaming, or is it a nightmare? Of a white Christmas!?

PS: The last (unrecorded) snow fall in Auckland was at the end of the recent ice-age, this was hail.

Zack does it again! ::

Yes, it just gets better and better, Zack Hubert's Greek New Testament online has now got an interlinear feature - just click the link for NASB or KJV below the displayed Greek (it's verse-by-verse not word-by-word but who's quibbling?) - and the ability to "remember" your own attempts at translation - as long as you log on.

And all while I spent a couple of days correcting spelling and grammar in the Amos commentary.

Friday, December 17, 2004
Narrative and Play in Multimedia Teaching ::

Over on the Virtual Theology Colloquium Blog Iain Doherty posted his abstract a while back. I've only just got round to really reading it, and the first thing that struck me was some comments about the importance of "narrative and play" in multimedia teaching.

I can't help wondering how this might translate into my area, narrative is no problem, the subject matter either is narrative, or is surrounded by narrative (the life of Ancient Israel, etc.), but how could one use play more in teaching this material....

I've noticed some good ideas on Bibli*blogs, particularly Michael Homan's. I must think more. I'm looking forward to engaging more with Iain's paper.

Thursday, December 16, 2004
Recording in Shortland Street ::

I spent the morning recording in Shortland Street. No, not a bit part in the TV Soap, but the University studio in the road of that name. An Israeli called Diamond and I were reading Hebrew words and phrases for the vocabularies project. We got through about a hundred, so with a bit more work we should have a good start.

I was glad that it was easier than I thought to adapt towards an Israeli pronunciation scheme than I expected, so Diamond and I should not sound too different. She walzed through her half but (naturally not being really a Hebrew speaker) I kept having to stop and go back over phrases again to get them right.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Virtual Theology Colloquium 2005 ::

The blog for the colloquium is now running.

The colloquium will gather a small (but focused) group of Trans-Tasman scholars to explore and discuss themes related to doing theology (and related disciplines) in the context of an electronic world. This brief is spelt out more on the site, and some participants have begun to post draft material and abstracts: Ann Hardy and Mary Griffiths: Re-forming Christians Online; Models of Authority and Participation, I muse on The return of the Rabbi, Out of the Ghetto, But Back to Shul and Iain Doherty offers an abstract of Philosophical Conversations in a Virtual World.

Do please join the conversation as we develop our papers, and hopefully later as we post-print them to the site also. That way we can make the process an exploration of aspects of the topic!

A "real" Bible browser - GNT Browser ::

At last an online Bible study tool that works well and fast on the web, using the original language. Several other bibl*bloggers [see below and belower.] have already mentioned or drooled over Zack Hubert's GNT Browser (Carl Conrad on B-Greek [not a blog]; BSR Weblog; James Tauber [whose MorphGNT provided the base text and morphological data]; Mark Goodacre! . I have to join the queue!

Zack has done just the sort of job we have talked about and dreamed about for the Hypertext Bible Commentary, to replace the somewhat clumsy and arbitrary information about the words in text provided in the Amos prototype. A mouseover provides parsing, and a click gives a word detail page with a cut down lexicon entry, information of the pattern of use of the word and the root in the NT, and links to lists of the texts using the form or the word. And it is all blindingly fast, and good looking.

I have written to Zack, and added his RSS to my Bloglines. Hopefully we can get some useful dialogue going.

Monday, December 13, 2004
A name for the rose ::

Jim started it, now everyone is at it:
  and Eric
...all have proposals.

I'll agree that biblioblogger is not "right", "Bible scholar blogger" is too long, and I agree that "Bible Blogger" carries unwanted overtones, bibliablogger means well, but sounds funny to my ears (though I can't see why). And I've no real candidate for naming this particular rose, in my Bloglines you are all just plain "BS Blogs", short to the point, but meaningless unless you happen to share the use of BS for "Biblical Studies".

Saturday, December 11, 2004
Biblioblogging ::

I’d like to take up Eric’s plea for more bibliobloggers. He makes a good statement of what, for me too, are the main reasons to blog and read other bibliobloggers.

(Personalities are different, so I’d add to his list that blogging is a more personal form of communication, and I get to feel I know the bloggers I read, more than I do the author of a scholarly article. Even those I’ve not met face-to-face - like Eric himself. Bloggers become a sort of friends.)

I agree we could use more biblical studies bloggers, though I wonder about increasing the number of blogs. I already have a feed-full of blogs each morning. By the time I add a few “emergents”, some distance education people, a handful of open scholarship blogs, as well as a few quirky people I found by accident it risks being overwhelming.

I also find that I do not always have things to say – but the blogsphere abhors a vacuum... So I dream of a Hebrew Bible blog, then I could just blog occasionally in that focused way, but still run SansBlogue as something nearer Akma’s online diary…

There are however very few group blogs. We are trying to explore this for the colloquium (on virtual theology) I am running in February. Once I have persuaded other participants to write, I’ll publish the URL. The experience so far suggests that there is a big hurdle to get non-bloggers started…

Thursday, December 09, 2004
Seasonal reasons - Christmas and secular ceremonies ::

Jenee pointed me to a fine article from Christian Century "Holy Instincts". Barbara Brown Taylor back in 1999 offered great stuff to reflect on at this season. She notices a bunch of "county prisoners" putting up the decorations in the town square.
Only two of them are really working. The third is making faces at the ball in his hand, in which he has discovered his own reflection.
Things like this, stimulated by secular celebration of the season should cause Christians to notice
...the holy spark that smolders underneath all this gratuitous tinsel and voltage. ... While true believers lament the crass commercialization of Christmas and the loss of Jesus as the reason for the season, the Holy Spirit haunts the most secular ceremonies:
She admits:
There are all kinds of things wrong with the way we celebrate Christmas. We eat too much, we spend too much, we sentimentalize too much, we worry too much. Those excesses cannot douse the holy instincts that underlie them. We really are hungry. We really do want to give and receive. We really do want to feel deeply, live peaceably, sleep soundly and rise renewed.
And concludes:
God is in the midst of it, after all, still hunting new flesh in which to be born.
Or to put it the way Yancey does, in the book I've been reading for the last few months, at this time of year much that ordinary people do offers rumors of Another World.

Our job, if we choose to accept it, is not to beat people up and make them feel faintly guilty for not attending our church despite the "reason for the season", but somehow to find ways to help them (but first to help ourselves!) catch the whispers in the tinsel ball, even taste the Christ in the dry turkey breast, eaten with family and friends...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Archaeology and first century Palestine social history site ::

The "Cave of Letters" and especially the scrolls provide fascinating insight into life in first century Palestine. Bringing Jesus' world into focus with greater depth of information. An American PBS site provides a fine introduction to the Cave's discovery, the scrolls themselves, and background on the archaeological techniques, as well as a discussion of the social history of first century Palestine.

The site is quite image and multimedia intensive, so can load slowly over dialup connections, but is worth the wait! The interactive scroll with translation is fun and the links informative. There is a teacher's guide, but it is primarily aimed at school age students.

Thanks to for pointing me to this too!

I see that there is also a site on New Kingdom Egypt, that would be even more relevant for Hebrew Bible students, I must explore that too, but first back to the marking...

Monday, December 06, 2004
Doing God's work :: (who's blog delightfully combines archaeology, food and a quirky sense of humour) points to a (paper only) interview with chef Anthony Bourdain. I love his quote:
What's the most offensive TV cooking show?

There's one [in the US] by Sandra Lee. She seems to suggest that you can make good food easily, in minutes, using Cheez Whiz and chopped-up Pringles and packaged chili mix. It inspires people to have low expectations and to settle for less, and I think that's not doing God's work.

Being a chef is God's work?

Oh, yeah. What better profession? We feed people. We nuture them. We provide a real service. We're the salt of the earth. We may be the backstairs help but we do something useful, and, once in a while, transcendent and inspiring.
Amen, on both counts!

Cooking food is God's work. (For those who like biblical precedents, or proof texts, think of manna in the desert or Jesus by Galilee with the fish!).

And, letting people think that quick fix easy shortcuts work is not!

Saturday, December 04, 2004
Antipodean online scholarly publishing ::

Two boosts for web-based scholarly publishing in biblical studies this week, both from across the ditch.

Australian Biblical Review is an established Journal, whose website has a new clean but sophisticated look, and new functionality. Book reviews are online, while articles are listed, and back issues indexed. Despite a number of distinguished names on the author list, and a good peer review policy, ABR has never seemed quite able to move from the local to the international stage.

The Bible and Critical Theory is a new kid on the block with big dreams, so is an e-journal. Yet the site is institutional and the web design has a quaintly mid 90s feel. However, from the start everything is available online as html or as pdf. There is an email Table of contents alerting service, though neither journal has an RSS feed.

In view of my musings on Google Scholar as paradigm shift I can't help noticing that neither journal is listed with Google Scholar yet and wondering if the pay-per-article full-text-online approach of the new journal will get it's articles cited more, and so raise its profile faster...

Friday, December 03, 2004
Google Scholar as paradigm shift ::

Alan Meckler, a scholarly publisher since 1969, has a fascinating piece on how Google Scholar could be the first sign of a sea change in how such publishing works. (I came across it in On Google Scholar)

Meckler concludes that Google Scholar: yet another example of how the Internet can turn a traditional industry on its head in a flash.
He argues that the crisis in monograph economics is a consequence (in part) of journal prices:
The reason being that as journal prices rise, libraries are forced to cut back on purchasing books and other materials so that they can maintain a journal subscription that is needed by a certain department (which might have only a handful of readers per year). Journal prices rise much more rapidly than book prices. Therefore the percentage of a library budget going to research journals expands yearly to the detriment of the book budget.
Currently even the big aggregators each only cover some of the relevant journals. By aggregating at the search level Google Scholar changes this, and offers: inexpensive means for scholars and scientists to make sure that their papers and articles are distributed inexpensively and throrougly.
It may help bypass one of the main causes for the failure of many electronic publishing ventures:
...the difficulty of making sure that these materials are easily findable and then readable.
By turning electronic scholarship into a "vertical industry", and offering a centralised search of only scholarly (quality assured) material, Google Scholar opens the possibility of:
...a cottage industry developing (both for profits and non-profits) who can use Google's reach to rapidly and efficiently find wide circulation.

By combining the reach of the web with the selectivity of a traditional research library, Google Scholar could make small scale, and even non-profit, publishing truly competitive!

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