Wednesday, January 30, 2008
  Dialogue in biblical narrative
I have been working on completing my notes on biblical narrative, in preparation for teaching the course in Sri Lanka (BTW for news of my trip, with I hope photos and videos from both CTS and the refugee camp please subscribe I do NOT expect to be posting here much while we are away). I have just completed the page on "Dialogue" only about 1500 words (not counting the linked pages or notes) and it probably doesn't count for International Biblical Studies Writing Month anyway - but it is another writing task (partially) achieved. Only narrative speed, prose and poetry, omission &, ambiguity to go.

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Monday, January 28, 2008
  International Bibical Studies Writing Month: progress?
I have not reported for a while on my progress. Mainly because there has not been as much as I'd like :(

However, I have submitted the article: "The image of the invisible God: (an)iconic knowing, God and gender" and I have made good progress on notes on the poetics of biblical narrative (I am not sure if such textbook-type material really counts though :( and I have an abstract for SBL International (here in Auckland in July), which considering that at the start of the month I had not even a little idea to work on, indeed just a few days ago I was still idea-less, is not bad going. Here it is, though if you want to offer suggestions of criticism (especially constructive criticism) please be quick as the deadline is VERY close ;)

Diagnosing the mortality of metaphors in dead languages: בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל as an example

The term בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל is asserted to be a "dead metaphor", merely a demonym. The term "dead metaphor" is itself a dead metaphor, whose meaning is complex. However, the linguistic study of dead metaphors offers insights into the philosophy of mind and the psychology of language,[1] which have potential benefits for biblical scholarship.

Distinguishing "live" from "dead" metaphor is relatively easy in living languages, one can potentially interrogate native speakers, but correspondingly problematic in "dead languages". As Cohen notes, our language sample in the Hebrew Bible may be untypical, so frequency is perhaps not a good measure of the mortality of a metaphor.[2]

This paper will explore possible approaches understanding the functioning of such language by assessing the metaphorical mortality of the term בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. Is this term simply not a metaphor, rather as a "dead letter" was never alive? Is it, like a dead parrot, beyond resuscitation? Or, can we discern instances where, through interaction with the cotext, the metaphorical import of the term may be being revived by the text, much as I might revive even though "dead" tired?

Biblical uses of בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל will be analysed using Guttenplan's four point ordering of the mortality of metaphorical content.[3] Passages where this (possibly) dead metaphor is used in ways which if it were "live" would create a mixed metaphor, and examples where the metaphor is extended, will offer a means of assessing the liveliness of potentially dead metaphors in a "dead language".

This examination of the biblical term is not comprehensive, or quantitative, rather it seeks, through the use of selected examples, to show how Guttenplan's approach can help towards a more nuanced understanding of the usage of potentially dead metaphors in the Biblical Hebrew repertoire.

[1] Derek Melser, The Act Of Thinking (MIT Press, 2004), 171; Samuel Guttenplan, Objects of Metaphor (Oxford University Press, 2005), 183.

[2] Mordechai Z. Cohen, Three Approaches to Biblical Metaphor: From Abraham Ibn Ezra and Maimonides (BRILL, 2003), 25 n.81.

[3] Guttenplan, Objects of Metaphor, 192-3.

Yes, it is true, I confess. The idea for the paper and the work to check that it is viable all happened in the last few days, as a look at the previous post might suggest, almost... I had been thinking along these lines off and on for a while, but it had never become a "research project" till now.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008
  Testing metaphors for signs of life
Languages are in part composed of dead metaphors, words and phrases that are used with meanings that may once have been metaphorical, but which now no longer carry such metaphorical force. Wikipedia lists some good and some not so good examples, I think "windfall", "foot" (of a mountain or hill), "branches" (of government) illustrate the phenomenon well. Biblical Hebrew is doubtless no exception. So, Charles (considering the claim in Dille, Sarah J. Mixing Metaphors God as Mother and Father in Deutero-Isaiah. Journal for the study of the Old Testament, 398. London; New York: T & T Clark International, 2004)
the phrase bene-yisra’el (’children of Israel’), ... is so conventional elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible that it is essentially a dead metaphor
asks an interesting question: how would one prove this assertion?

Much of literary, and therefore biblical scholarship, is unprovable. However, often one can provide a way to disprove it, or to suggest that it might be true. In this case (it seems to me) that looking for usages of the term where the supposed connection with parenting is made explicit offers such disproof or confirmation. If in no, or only very few, case(s) does the author make a connection to parenting in the context, then it is likely to be a dead metaphor, if in many cases there is such a reference it is likely not to be a dead metaphor.

For if authors had a live sense of implied parenting when using the term then surely at least sometimes they would express these parental thoughts in the cotext?

So, I think that the phrase "as numerous as the sands of the sea shore" had essentially died, or at least was seriously indisposed in the biblical period. However, Job resurrects it:
Job 6:2-3 O that my vexation were weighed, and all my calamity laid in the balances! 3 For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea; therefore my words have been rash.
My gut feeling yet to be tested is that there are very few contexts in which use of the term "children of Israel" does elicit such a parental thought... more later if I have time...

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008
  Zotero again
Thanks Stephen for the post: More on bibliography software in particular the link to Using Zotero with the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) article on the Zotero forum, this is an excellent discussion of, and if you read on description of how to, use Zotero with the SBL Style Guide. That link is really useful for Biblical Scholars thinking of using Zotero. I had worked out for myself that in most respects (Journal name abbreviations is one obvious exception) Chicago Manual of Style (with full Note and Bibliography) is basically what SBL uses, incidentally I think since the article was written that option was added to Zotero (probably the author's doing)! This has also fixed his limitation (a), clear evidence of the advantage of software produced by and for scholars, with a strong user group ;)

For biblical scholars wanting to try Zotero, but too busy to read Scott's article in full (or just wanting the updated version), here is a modified and updated (by me) extract with instructions:
Using Zotero for SBL Manual of Style

(1) Set Zotero's "Preferences/Export/Default Export format" to "Chicago Manual of Style (Full Note with bibliography)". This is how to get full citation information in the footnotes. (See my screencast below.)
(2) Create a new Collection in Zotero's left pane. Call it something like "Used in [DocumentName]" - or if you are me organise by topic.
(3) When you want to cite an item in your database, just use the Word or Open Office tools.
(4) At some point place your cursor where you want the bibliography and click the "Zotero Insert Bibliography" button on the toolbar.

  Curing MS Bloat
MS Word 2007 makes files that are unreadable to users of other wordprocessing programs that's one of the "advantages"TM of MS Software BloatTM. If you are the recipient of such files see my post: Dealing with MS Office 2007 documents there is now also a cure (not for the disease, that is probably incurable) but this particular symptom, if you are unlucky enough to be stuck with Word 2007 and for some reason do not want to change to OO, then there IS a fix, Native Winds of Montana have a little program that can undo the bloat and make your files readable again just download it Docx2RTF is free!


Tuesday, January 22, 2008
  Zotero is brilliant, and integrates nicely
In the comments discussion on my post below about Zotero - the free open bibliography and citations manager - I may have helped mislead people. I had not then been using the wordprocessor integration feature. I now have, it is great. And works just as well in MS Word as it does in Open Office on my PC (I assume that the Mac and Linux versions are as superb).

Here are two quick and dirty screencasts to demonstrate:

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  Video from a digital camera
Since on my sabbatical trip we'll be visiting a couple of interesting places: Colombo Theological Seminary, in Sri Lanka and a refugee camp with a Bible School that will celebrate 25 years while we are there, we thought we'd try to get some decent photos and video to put on the blog where we'll write about the trip. So, we bought a Canon TX-1, this seems to be a great combination of 7 megapixel still shots with HD video with a 10x optical zoom, and all in a small bundle that fits in my shirt pocket, and at a good price! I only bought a big storage card, so I couldn't try it on HD the other day, but here's some "normal" video - I wondered where our plums were going!

If it looks blurred, blame Flash compression, if it looks jerky I had no tripod (or whatever) and was using full optical (10x) AND digital (3x more giving 30x) zoom!

BTW over the next few weeks posting to this blog will stop, and probably hardly resume till mid-April, so please do subscribe to Teaching OT in faraway places we know we will find the experience interesting, fun and that we will learn a lot - we hope we (Barbara and Sarah will probably share writing the posts and taking the video/photos) can share that with you.


Friday, January 18, 2008
  American Notes
My latest project for Librivox is Rudyard Kipling's American Notes. (Perhaps I'll do the more famous Dickens American Notes next?) The essays are controversial, they were when they were first published, and given the debate over Kipling's (alleged?) racism they are not less so today. Here is what I have written as introduction, I would be glad of any comments. The Gutenberg e-text of American Notes is here, and the chapters read aloud:
I'd love to know what today's Americans make of Kipling's America, and I'd also be glad of any suggestions on how to improve or correct this introduction:

This book is controversial, it records Kipling's cutting observations of American life in the 1990s, and it reports with apparent relish the most racist of opinions as if they were facts.

Yet Kipling's essays about American life in the 1890s are written with an interesting British/Indian distance from his subject. Though the tone is often sarcastic, his affection for the country and its people is a steady undercurrent. These essays provide an interesting glimpse of the USA at the time, and regularly reveal Kipling's love of words. They also contain (when circumstances warranted the comment - see the toffee-nosed Englishman described in chapter 4) disparaging remarks about his compatriots.

As well as the rude things he says about the USA, Kipling's readers are often shocked by things he says about races and peoples other than his own. Everyone must interpret this for themselves (perhaps remembering that like us he may reflect the presuppositions and prejudices of his time and place). One may hear an interesting "distance" between Kipling and the "facts" he reports. So, after recounting crude racial prejudices, with apparent agreement, he concludes "It is not good to be a negro in the land of the free and the home of the brave." Which opinion is Kipling's? The one, the other, or somehow both at once?

Indeed Kipling's writing, often, and above all here, raises questions of interpretation. One American reader (G. A. England from Harvard University) from Kipling's own time commented: "He sees things done by machinery, in large ways, and wonders at every-day occurrences that any child among us would regard as matters of course." He detected no double edge to Kipling's words, no implied comparison with the more backward "home country" then the seat of Imperial power.

He comments scathingly on Kipling's passage (in ch.1) describing the benefits of the San Fransisco cable-car system: "With the same scorn he wastes nearly a page in fantastic description of a cable-car as an amazing phenomenon. It is as though Alaric at Rome had marvelled before the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus with the scoff 'provincial' on his bearded lips. Thus does the newly-landed Anglo-American descant upon our barbaric devil-carriage." Can Kipling, a Nobel Prize winner really be as naïve as his critic assumes?

Indeed, can the critic be as naive as I have assumed above? Mr England of Harvard began his piece demolishing Kipling claiming: To the American temperament, the gentleman who throws stones while himself living in a glass house cannot fail to be amusing; the more so if, as in Mr Kipling's case, he appears to be in a state of maiden innocence regarding the structure of his own domicile. Was England perhaps playing Kipling at his own game and pretending to take seriously, what really he was smiling fondly at?

In the end, this is not Kipling's best work, yet these articles, first published in an Indian Newspaper, still carry vivid impressions both of the USA in the nineteenth century and, at the least indirectly, offers interesting criticism of both the New World and the Old.

Quotations from The New York Times of October 11th 1902.

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  Referencing for the financially challenged
Rich students/scholars and those in institutions with the clout to get a good deal use Endnote (or some similar full featured expensive) bibliography and referencing tool. The rest of us use Zotero, which is a brilliant free Firefox addin. That I have mentioned before but has got even better with version 1.0. Zotrero is great for taking the info from webpages, and often Library catalogues. It would extract the data from the University catalogue, but I'm no longer teaching at the Uni, and the College catalogue is not Zotero compatible. My workaround has been to search Google and click the Amazon link - Amazon is Zotero compatible - but that only works for recent books, enter a tip from Judy Redman, that I bookmarked long ago, but only really tried today: use WorldCat you can even get a Firefox tool to add WorldCat to your search box in the tool bar (I know the first one works, but do try the second): Plugin Icon
OCLC WorldCat Catalog and away you go, fast, free and accurate referencing, now just click and paste into your essay/article/book...

Type in a search term (left) and you go to a page (right) from which you can select the book you need and from the page that appears (below) and for a moment watch in wonder the Zotero "Saving Bibliography Item" message before right clicking the new entry, and presto you are ready to enter the item in your document!

Maybe I should do an instructional video for students...

Thursday, January 17, 2008
  In which my head swells to inordinate size, and then bursts!
Cori (from Librivox and To Posterity - and Beyond!) just pointed out to me that my reading of Kipling's Stalky & Co had been reviewed at the Internet Archive. The Reviewer: Vladadog - whom I don't think I know at all, rated it 5 out of 5 stars and wrote:
Subject: A really excellent series of stories!

This was my first LibriVox download and what a wonderful introduction it was! Tim Bulkeley did an excellent job reading the entire book. His reading was as good as many professional audiobooks I've bought and the sound quality was also well done. I grew up loving Stalky & Co (they were the original "Marauders" before JK Rowling invented James Potter & Co for her series and Stalky still wins hands down, without any magic at all!). If you haven't read the stories then this download is a great introduction. And if you have read the stories this is an excellent way to enjoy them again.
Stalky has now had 5,673 downloads since 30 April 2007, so I'm delighted, and hope other listeners are too!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008
  I made the list of great and famous preachers
Kingdom Living has made a list of about 70 Christian Sermon Links. It starts with an Theologian, Alister McGrath, and includes Wolfhart Pannenburg (the list is not restricted merely to the living as Karl Barth gets in) and includes a numberof great and famous Biblical Scholars, like Ben Witherington III, Craig Blomberg, D. A. Carson, James Dunn, N.T. Wright and Walter Brueggemann. It also includes Evangelical heroes like Eugene Peterson, John Stott, Marva Dawn (so it is not quite a male only zone ;) Ravi Zacharias, Tony Campolo, a selection of worthies from the Wheaton College Chapel and Will Willimon.

But also among the top seventy preachers of the current age lists Tim Bulkeley.

So, in the spirit of the occasion I'd like to thank my mummy and daddy, my hair dresser (there is only one - hair that is, though actually Barbara has been the only one in the other sense for years now)... actually I'll stop this acceptance speech before it gets out of hand. But seriously, folks: Thank you, Kingdom Living!

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Friday, January 11, 2008
  On being unknown
It must be what bibliobloggers do, because the great and good Dr Jim, doyen and self-appointed gatekeeper of bibliobloggerdom [Oops, I can't see the post where Jim claims to be the heretic Origen, it cannot have been the doubtable Jim, but rather the redoubtable Phil apologies to both], posted this meme about which Father are you? So I succumbed, but it turns out I'm one of those fathers, the ones no one has heard of... I'm... ta da!

You’re St. Melito of Sardis!

You have a great love of history and liturgy. You’re attached to the traditions of the ancients, yet you recognize that the old world — great as it was — is passing away. You are loyal to the customs of your family, though you do not hesitate to call family members to account for their sins.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

No, there are worse things than being unknown, being "known" for a start - would you want to be "known to the police"? Or as Saint Paul (to make this a genuine 10 caret biblioblog post ;0 said: "Being unknown people, everyone has heard of... (2 Cor 6:9)

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  Bottling clouds: or Why I am (still) not a biblioblogger
bottle by etwood
Jim West is seeking your help to imitate the (possibly mythical) legend of king Canute. He wants to hold back the tide of technology. The technology of blogging works by allowing several things - all of them available separately elsewhere, but which in conjunction make the form what it is:
  • the writable web - like a content management system blog software makes it easy to write webpages, and insert them into a working site
  • RSS feeds - allowing a loose "community" of others to read what you write, as you add something new, thus making the system more time dependent than the conventional web but also adding focus and greater sense of "community"
  • links to other blogs - while not an obligatory part of the "system" almost all blogs have a "blogroll" of (some of) the blogs the author(s) read and think "like" their own
  • "conversation" - while comments are not obligatory as a software feature, the genre of "blog" works through a high proportion of material showing interaction between different people about the topic, where the comment feature is not provided (and sometimes when it is) this takes place through linked posts.
clouds over ruapehu by k-girl
So, one of the key features defining blogging is the expanding cloud of witnesses who comment on and link to any particular blog. That cloud (and the metaphor is chosen because it does not suggest a hard-edged neat dividing line), or those clouds (since any blog is likely to be part of more than one community of bloggers), locate the blog. Some blogs are neatly and only part of one cloud. E.g. Mark Goodacre's NT Gateway Weblog (the very name is redolent of this blog's antiquity and therefore authority!) is pretty much surrounded by other blogs that focus on the Bible. Jim's own eponymous blog, however, with its interests in Zwinglism, depravity and other non- or only quasi-biblical topics is probably surrounded by more than one cloud. AKMA's eclectic blog (sorry, Random Thoughts) certainly is.

Jim seeks to define an in-crowd, he does this honestly and exclusively by defining who is "out", while Duane rises to the bait and seeks to enlarge the borders through a Modest Suggestion. Now, if the biblical studies cloud round Abnormal Interests was the same as, or included the biblical studies cloud round Dr Jim West etc. etc... then we could neatly define the biblioblogsphere. But they are not, each writer includes some, but not others of the putative bibliobloggers. The attempt at definition, whether inclusive (Duane) or exclusive (Jim), fails. Or at best only offers an approximate answer, this blog is a bibiloblog with a 65% degree of probability! The technology itself resists the attempt.

The sub-title of this post may be explained by this old post.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008
  International Bibical Studies Writing Month
As well as AKMA's fine (if negative ;) progress, Airton José da Silva offers an article he has just submitted with an English introduction.

My article has been lightly corrected and is now nearly ready to submit, so if you want to pre-read or have comments on "The image of the invisible God: (an)iconic knowing, God and gender" now is the time!

Meanwhile I have begun collecting reading for the chapter on "Jesus and the Father" for the book about the use of motherly language and imagery to speak about God, whose title might be Not Just a Father.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008
  (What) does the Web change (in) education?
Nichthus has another great post in his series reflecting on the (possible) impacts of Web 2.0 on teaching, especially tertiary teaching. This time, since he is working towards a chapter on the topic these are Solid thoughts on Web 2.0 and education.

He starts by underlining that there is no crisis, and indeed that students themselves are not crying out for a change of approach. Most are (more or less) happy consumers of what we provide. Today I will let this claim pass, it is largely true. There is certainly no crisis. I am less convinced that students, who are aware of other possibilities, are totally happy with the current tertiary pedagogies. But, as a basis for argument today, let's let this claim stand as a starting point. I am even happier to agree that there is nothing in the desire for more flexible education that requires Web 2.0 solutions.

It is part of his conclusion (2/3 of the post ;) that I want to address. In particular a key couple of sentences:
As we have seen, the potential of Web 2.0 is facilitative rather than determinative – and the core of what advocates of Web 2.0 in education seek to embody is not new to education theorists. At best, the pervasiveness of Web 2.0 draws fresh attention to old theories and provides additional possibilities for their use.
Indeed. The best of what Web 2.0 approaches seem to offer does sound very much like what Freiere, Illich and other pedagogical writers popular in the seventies were advocating. In which case questions follows inevitably: Why have these approaches not been widely adopted? What (if anything) has the web changed in the educational matrix that might make them more useful now?

I'll start with the latter question. The web changes two key elements:
  1. The Internet (aided and abetted by other new communications technologies, like mobile phones) makes communication at a distance fast, easy and cheap. In the seventies and eighties to communicate at a distance required an expenditure of time and/or money which made significant rich communication at a distance not viable. Now the opposite is true. Wherever there is an (even approximately) broadband Internet connection such communication with video and audio as well as other possibilities is easy and cheap - the cost once you have a computer and a webcam and an Internet connection is negligible- in NZ roughly $10/10GB. One of the key advantages of classroom teaching is communication not only with the teacher but also with other students - indeed the way the Oxford system worked in the seventies I learned far more from my classmates than from my teachers! (Please note these teachers were at that time among the best in the world in the disciplines of theology, and I learned a lot from them!)
  2. This fast, convenient and cheap transfer of data, together with a tendency from the print age which has continued into the electronic age for the cost of information to tend towards zero ("information tends to be free" - see my 2004 post Gatekeepers, Open Courseware and the future of the University or better my 2005 article Back to the Future: Virtual Theologising as Recapitulation) mean that "information content" is no longer a valuable commodity which the teacher or their institution controls, it is almost worthless and becoming of even less worth as time passes! What the teacher has to offer that is of great value is the wisdom to make sense of and use the information well. But that sort of wisdom and skill is precisely the sort of ability that the more open pedagogies claim to develop best.
So, is "Web 2.0" the answer to all our (possibly non-existent) worries about tertiary education - evidently not. Does it suggest technologies and approaches that may help us educate for the future better in the present - almost certainly. Will such Web 2.0 enabled pedagogies replace the need for teachers with the "wisdom of crowds" - probably not. Will the future of education be more participatory and exploratory, and more student centred - let's hope so!

Monday, January 07, 2008
  Technology makes you dumb!
Or maybe not! Way back in 2007 Nichthus posted in The new illiteracy a few extracts from the announcement of a report: The Dumbest Generation: How the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardises our future. The extracts made me want to scream and cry.
The problem is that often people look at only the front end of what technology has to offer instead of the back end, or the outcome. An elementary principal told me that his fifth- and sixth-grade teachers are having problems when assigning research projects. The students view it as a procedure where they cut and paste information off a Web site, add some sentences of their own and turn it in. The information passes too quickly from the screen to the homework papers and isn't processed through the mind. The speed and ease of the digital resources actually conspires against producing long-term understanding.
Now, I know exactly what this is about, I've seen it. My daughter preparing work for school, and slowly I am becginning to see it in my Intro class students. What makes me want to scream and cry is that the fault is not the students, it's the teachers! I said I was beginning to see the problem crop up in younger students in the Intro classes. Why do I not find it in the same students in level 2? Because we have taught them better. Returned work saying it is unacceptable, and explaining why it is unacceptable, and students learn to behave differently. They learn the behaviour proper to an academic environment, they learn to interact with and process what they read. Why can't this school principal get his teachers to do the same - after all the younger kids are brighter and more adaptable than the young adults we teach ;-)

They can't either because they lack the courage and imagination, or (my guess, because I'm impressed by the dedication and imagination of most primary and secondary teachers I meet) because "the system" won't allow them to test for real skills, but rewards students who can "manage information" in a simplistic way. In NZ it is the stupidity of the NZQA "National Framework" with its tiny quantifiable manageable "skills" that causes the problem. Now I recognise, and indeed have preached (in the very different academic context of the University), the value of clear coherent small learning outcomes, but only within an overarching system of values and goals (an academic culture) that sustains and gives context to these smaller "learning outcomes".
You improve your writing only when you are pulled up and challenged. The blogs keep them [young people] networking only with their peers and that holds them at the same level.
Duh! Of course, but what is the teacher's role in this, the technology of blogging allows the student (at whatever level they are) to interact with writers who are more advanced than themselves. I've watched that work in a blogging community of Biblical Scholars. Now so far as I know no secondary students have interacted with that community, but there is no reason, if the student has some humility and common sense they could not. I'd bet it would be the same with communities of organic Chemists, or Poodle Fanciers. It is not the technology that is the problem producing dumb students, it is the teaching that is lacking, allowing dumb students!
Opening titles from the TV series
Nichthus' own final comment points up clearly where the problem lies. Technology does NOT make you dumb, dumb teaching driven by dumb pedagogies do that, and the dumbest of all is "an answer-driven pedagogy", everyone who has listened to, read or watched The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy knows that it is not answers that matter but questions!

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Sunday, January 06, 2008
  Peer pressure and "Imaging the Invisible God"
There is nothing like a little gentle peer-pressure to make a human act! I have been reminded recently of my enthusiastic welcome for the suggestion that January 2008 be the inaugural International Biblical Studies Writing Month, by AKMA in Transitions and Tasks, by Charles in My Goals for the International Biblical Studies Writing Month, and by Chris and Chris in International Biblical Studies Writing Month and in International Biblical Studies Writing Month (great Chris-es title alike ;)
so now I must start to list what I'm doing:
  • I have completed polishing my paper from the God and Gender Colloquium, it was due in December, so is only a few days overdue, and the other participants have not submitted theirs yet as far as I know, so I'll link to my draft and invite comments and criticism: The image of the invisible God: (an)iconic knowing, God
    and gender
  • I doubt it counts for the "IBSW Month" but I am finishing two sets of course notes (well one is a revision but the other is new)
  • I am planning and hope to finalise a proposal for SBL International
  • I want to finalise a book proposal for Not Just a Father

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  Maps for teaching
A couple of days ago Chris Heard posted about how he is upgrading the maps he uses for teaching (I found his previous set really useful a couple of years ago) using the atlas module in the Accordance Bible program for Macs. Because Chris wanted maps with semi-transparent "call outs" with reminders on them he took the Accordance maps into Photoshop to enhance them. Then David Lang on the Accordance blog noted this and proposed that presenting them directly to the class in Accordance would allow extra features like animating the routes map. Chris replied that he wanted the maps available to students for private study, and that not all students have this software, so the maps had to be exported anyway.

I haven't explored the map modules in the PC Bible software I use, I doubt it is as good as Accordance, though years ago Logos Bible Atlas software was a great addon. Now however, the maps and especially the wire frame "3D" ones look very dated. So I use another standalone program, Bible Mapper by David P. Barrett you can download and use the basic program freely, though there is a small (currently US$35) charge for adding some useful features. I think David's tool produces good-looking maps easily and quickly, though like Accordance it would need export to Photoshop (or GIMP or whatever) if you wanted to add semi-transparent layers.

Mark at the really useful Biblical Studies and Technological Tools blog has posted on this a few times recently, he is presenting on the topic at BibleTech08 an event I'd have loved to be at, his posts are worth looking at:
Oh, and here's a short video that shows that I can't use graphics programs as well as Chris, and suggests that I must take all the advice and start outsourcing myself to India. (Rather than transporting myself to Sri Lanka.)


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Friday, January 04, 2008
  Seniors and gadgets
Dave Warnock drew my attention to the post by Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing HOWTO make a Senior Remote with only five big, friendly buttons such a simple neat and useful idea. But why, oh why does no one manufacture the things? Cory's post is itself drawing attention to the original (I think) by anonymous on Indestructibles
Senior Remote
Mod your mom's TV remote to make it senior friendly.
My mom was born in 1931. She is from the generation of radio and WWII. Her eyesight is failing and she isn't good with anything electronic. TV remotes confuse her. This mod came to me after she called me one day, claiming her TV remote stopped working. It turns out, she inadvertently hit the button that activated the VCR functions. She didn't know or couldn't see the button to reactivate the TV functions. So I decided to "dumb" down the remote to only three functions: On/Off, Channel and Volume.
Which reminded me of another simple modification to an electronic gadget which could make it user friendly for older folk. An MP3 player with big buttons, and ideally a bigger screen font. I first explained in 2005 why I'd like to find a source for these. If they were cheap enough I'd buy 50 or 100. But no one seems to make them, and it has to be a small mod to make a cheap MP3 player user friendly for a whole new market. Add Librivox for talking books, add PodBible for talking Bible... or as Dave wants to add recordings of the service for shutins... the possibilities are huge. So, why does no one make them?

My post back then "Tim needs an MP3 player with large buttons" was in response to an amusing meme from Maggi Dawn, incidentally several of the real candidates still appear, Tim [still] needs help and a theme... plus ca change...

PS Back in 2005 I wrote: BTW if you choose to run with this meme, could you please quote the phrase "Tim needs an MP3 player with large buttons" as I'd love to see that come up top on Google when some other Tim decides to try the meme! Who knows a manufacturer might see one of those posts and actually make one! I'd like to still echo that, both to please make the link, and the hope that some manufacturer might see and take note - there is a market for these things.

Update: So, players with big simple buttons exist, designed for pre-schoolers. The Fisher Price one is a bit on the expensive side and I can't see an NZ stockist, some of the US stores have cheaper ones though, so I'll look when I am in Thailand unless someone can point me to a suitable source here.
Thanks to Stephen and Anonymous (though your DSE link did not work for me bringing up other products :(

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