Wednesday, December 20, 2006
  Comments down, now working again
Dear all,

Sorry, due to an inauspicious conjunction of events comments were not working yesterday.

Event one: moving to Blogger Beta (a mistake, I thought from the way they were trying to encourage me to move that it was out of Beta :(

Event two: a problem at my host - somehow the disk was full, and so not accepting new material, not even comments to the blog!

Event two is fixed, and the new blogger seems to work OK (Barbara has her email back also I hope!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Video formats

Well, serves me right for being impatient ;-) Mea Culpa, I did put up links to the Who is God? video before I made other formats available.

In the past I've used Windows Media (15MB for the HQ version) and Real Media (under 10MB!) both of which give nice small files. However, it seems they are a problem for anyone using Mac or Linux. So, how about Apple's MOV format, looks nice, but at 52MB it's a bit on the hefty side (perhaps its the CODEC, but trying to use Apple's proprietary Sorenson CODEC was going to take more than 3 hours to convert, maybe I'll set it to work over lunch, could give me an excuse for a long lunch break!?); or the equally proprietary Flash format (34MB for the SWF)...

[NB I tried the free Riva FLV encoder, but could not get past the opening screen which did not display correctly, despite downloading from two different sites...]

Seriously, any comments on which formats "work" for you, and the quality/size issue would be great, and does anyone know a non-proprietary way to do this, that users can actually watch?
OK, this should please the iPod fans, here's the mp4 iPod format (just 31MB, and not too bad quality ;-)


Monday, December 18, 2006

Shouting Stones - seminar for churches

I've been giving myself some short breaks from the serious business of preparing next year's new courses (for the first semester 50% of three new ones) by working on a new short "video" introducing the seminar I offer for churches Shouting Stones: geography and archaeology reveal the Missionary God of the Old Testament. The full thing started life as a weekend camp, was cut down to just a few 50min academic hour sessions, and now I've made part one into a quarter of an hour's video called "Who is God?" (there is also a low bandwidth version).

I wonder if I've used too many presentation slides and too few pictures, and also whether I should have adapted the material more as well as compressing or summarising... Do let me know what you think, I'm not really thin skinned!

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

The new magical imperial toolkit: part 2

In part one I summarised the proposals of Freedman and his colleagues, which present a count of what they called "prose particles":
  • the sign of definiteness (or "article") ה
  • the direct object marker את
  • and the relative אשׁר
as a simple way to distinguish biblical Hebrew prose and poetry. By Andersen and Freedman's 1989 Amos commentary (in the Anchor Bible series) this new toolkit was seen as almost magical, they applied their counts to units as small as a single verse!

Amos 1:1 was prose, with a count of 8.7%, while 1:2 was poetry with a neat 0.0% (somehow in during the 1980s the article ה had ceased to count, or the scores would have been 16% and 15% respectively (or both "clearly prose") on the old scheme!

In this part I'll present my first attempt to test their hypothesis.

Three Chapters of Ezekiel as a Test Case

In 1987 Freedman had proposed:
We can test the system in a provisional way against the book of Ezekiel... First, it is clear from every point of view that much of Ezekiel is straight prose. There are fourteen chapters over 15%, while another eighteen are in the range between 10% and 15%. The remaining sixteen chapters are under 10%; of these, twelve are in the range 5% and 10%, while four are under 5% (chs. 19, 21, 27, 28).1
So, let's look at these chapters.

Ezekiel 21 is treated the same by both BHS and BHK with 109 words printed as poetry and 420 as prose. The 109 words of poetry with 6 of the particles have a score of 5.5%, which is only very slightly higher than Freedman's 5% threshhold, however the 420 words of prose have 19 particles and so score only 4.5% or more poetic than the poetry!2

Ezekiel 27 is printed somewhat differently by BHS and BHK. BHS has 181 words in prose and 226 as poetry, while BHK had 145 prose and 262 poetry. The scores are:

BHS prose 2.2% poetry 4.0%
BHK prose 1.4% poetry 4.2%

Either the editors of neither BHS nor BHK can accurately distinguish prose and poetry or the method is flawed. Every test so far has given the reverse of the predicted results!

At first sight Ezekiel 28 gives some comfort to Freedman's proposed toolkit. BHS prints it all as prose, but BHK gives 122 words as prose with a score of 6.6% and 230 as poetry with only 2.2%. The sort of result Freedman et al. would predict.

However, things get more complex and more interesting when we look at the location of the "prose particles". All of the particles in the prose sections occur in just three verses, vv.24-26. Many commentators see these three verses (or perhaps only two of them) as later additions to the text. If even the two verses are left out of the calculation the score drops to 1.3% (it would be 0% of course if all three were omitted).

These particles are commonly seen as typical of later biblical Hebrew. (Kaiser in his introduction to exegesis regards this as a fact not needing footnote support, Rooker and others include them in their characteristics of Late Biblical Hebrew.)

So, my provisional evaluation of the new magical imperial toolkit is that it does not function as neatly or well as advertised. But:
  • there is considerable evidence (not least from Andersen and Forbes3) that these particles are more common in biblical Hebrew prose than poetry
  • there is some evidence (in a notoriously difficult area) that they may be more frequent in later texts.

1. D.N. Freedman, "Another look at Biblical Hebrew Poetry" in E.R. Follis (ed.) Directions in Biblical Poetry (JSOTS 40; Sheffield, 1987), p.17. [return]
2. My counts differ from Andersen and Forbes only by one word (or less than 0.2%), therefore the differences in scores are negligible. [return]
3. F.I. Andersen & A.D. Forbes, "'Prose Particle Counts of the Hebrew bible", in C.L. Meyers & M. O'Connor (eds.) The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth: Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman in Celebration of his Sixtieth Birthday(Philadelphia, 1983), pp.165‑183.[return]

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

One Laptop Per Child at last a human computer interface?


Pentagram has some first ideas about how the user interface of the laptop in "One Laptop Per Child" will work.


Four views:
  • Home: where you "set preferences like color"
  • Friends: where you "chat with their friends"
  • Neighborhood: where you "locate other users and gather around an activity"
  • Activity: where you "focus on a project at hand"


Apart from the ghastly mistake of making "Home" a place to tinker with the machine, surely a hangover from machine focused OSs, this is great! An interface that is human-oriented first, and then task-oriented, how much better than Windows, Mac, name your poison...

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AKMA's great idea - printers go green ::

In his post "LazyWeb: OS Printers" AKMA proposes the brilliant and simple idea of a good enough repairable reusable printer:
isn’t there an opportunity for a company to manufacture printers specifically designed to be reparable, reuseable, and refillable — precisely the attributes that the present instant-obsolescence printer industry resists? Can’t someone on the LazyWeb develop a standard chipset and reservoir design that do a good-enough job for most family and small-office purposes, that can be repaired and refilled rather than replaced?
Like him, rather than replace our current elderly and somewhat temperamental ink-jet with a newer but doubtless equally disposable printer, I'd love to buy a printer that I expect to be running in ten years or twenty, we can do it for cars, so why not Lazers?


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Fame/Fashion ::

Barney's (apparently an upmarket NY store) is offering the epitome of fashion/design gifts, for just $12 you get a
Limited edition soup cans with authentic reproductions of Andy Warhol designed labels. Printed on special quality paper and with Andy's signature (reproduced).
Sooo nice! I don't know where to start. A reproduction of an artwork, whose form mimics the original the artwork referenced. And it actually: "Contains Campbell's condensed tomato soup."

HT to Kottke's remaindered links


Saturday, December 09, 2006

The new magical imperial toolkit: percentages, prose and poetry ::

I've decided, now I am (at last) home from SBL (Washington, DC, USA), family (Exmouth, Devon, UK) and the Aotearoa New Zealand Association for Biblical Studies (Christchurch, South Island, NZ), I need a bit of a rest! But I also need to blog, because as I discovered in the middle of the year an empty blog breeds unsubscribers. So, over the next week or so I will gradually post the guts of my paper from ANZABS.

Biblical Hebrew Poetry

Biblical Hebrew (BH) poetry is both beautiful and problematic.

The beauty rings echoing in the ears even of those who read it in translation, yet the problems are not minor.

Firstly, the very existence of BH poetry is denied. Scholars have argued (quite cogently and somewhat convincingly) that there is simply no distinction between prose and poetry in the Bible. And, if there is no distinction, then there is no poetry, since the concepts "poetry" and "prose" are each helpfully defined as being "not the other"!

Secondly, and if we admit that BH poetry does in fact exist: Which texts are which? How do we know? This problem is specially poignant for a student of biblical prophecy, no two editors seem ever able to entirely agree on which parts of a prophetic book are which.

So, thirty years ago (a couple of weeks back on the occasion of the Imperial annual festival of biblical studies, SBL) David Noel Freedman made his presidential address. In those days high profile SBL presidents like (most prominently) Muillenberg, in 1968, had used this opportunity to launch new approaches to biblical studies.

In his paper "Pottery, Poetry and Prophecy" Freedman claimed:
We have devised recently a mechanical test to separate poetry from prose in the Bible, and preliminary tests show that it will work efficiently in most cases.
How deliciously "modern" this quote now sounds, with its talk of a "mechanical test" - actually electronically mediated - and working "efficiently". With its stress on numbers and testing this is biblical studies fit for a world of managers!

In his paper Freedman leaves the nature of the test undefined, though earlier that year Radday and Shore had published results of counting the article (as a percentage of its potential carriers "nouns, adjectives, and numerals... (and) certain toponyms"). They showed that this percentage (of articles to potential articles) was significantly different between halves of books that scholarship often sees as divided (by genre or origin),3 and also between prose books and poetic books.

In 1983 Andersen and Forbes published counts for every chapter in the Bible of what were becoming known as "prose particles":
  • the sign of definiteness (or "article") ה
  • the direct object marker את
  • and the relative אשׁר
These figures demonstrate clearly that at chapter level the percentage these particles form of the total number of words neatly distinguishes prose from poetry with a high degree of accuracy.

By 1987 Freedman was quantifying this (in "Another Look at Biblical Hebrew Poetry"):
  • less than 5% of these particles the text is poetry
  • more than 15% and it is clearly prose
  • text with scores in the 5-15% range are either mixed or perhaps elevated or prophetic speech.
So, by the end of the 'eighties the stage was set and the empire of biblical studies was being promised a magical new toolkit that would deliver the "holy grail" of distinguishing "scientifically" between BH prose and poetry (thus proving the existence of Hebrew poetry).

Coming soon: Part 2 - the "boy" examines the imperial toolbox...

1. D.N. Freedman, "Pottery, Poetry and Prophecy", JBL 96 (1977), 5-26. [return]
2. Y.T. Radday & H. Shore, "The Definite Article: A Type and/or Author Specifying Discriminant in the Hebrew Bible", Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing Bulletin 4 (1976), pp.23 31. [return]
3. Except the book of Zechariah, which did not show a significant difference (see also below). [return]
4. D.N. Freedman, "Another Look at Biblical Hebrew Poetry", in E.R. Follis (ed.), Directions in Biblical Hebrew Poetry (JSOTS 40; Sheffield, 1987), p.16. [return]

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

YouTube and shameless self-promotion ::

I mentioned the Carey video clips on YouTube a while back, but Mike has asked us all to draw attention to them, and Paul has blogged about them, so here's another bit of shameless self promotion the list of video clips is here (well, it is not exactly SELF promotion, do NOT watch the one with me in, just look at the others)!


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