Saturday, May 31, 2008
  Performance as assessment: synthesis and Biblical exegesis
Geoff at Theologians without Borders asked for examples of Creativity in Theological Education for my contribution I've presented an assignment I regularly use which asks students to "perform" the text, they are then marked on a "justification" they write which explains the performance's origin in the biblical text, i.e. what about the text caused them to perform it this way and how their performance communicates important features of the text to their audience. You can read the write up here. Or just enjoy the two sample performances (because of a technical hitch I don't have time to fix before going away for a long weekend (thank you Mrs Queen for having a birthday ;) one is displayed here the other requires you to click a link:

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Cyclone survivors work to rebuild their house destroyed by Cyclone Nargis - 22/05/08The BBC has a report on the welcome announcement that the generals who rule the country they call Myanmar will at last allow humanitarian aid in to the 2.5 million worst affected by the cyclone on May 2. Read between the lines it tells of the perverse priorities and and care behind the generals earlier refusal. I've said before and will say again these men are not stupid, just evil.

In Thailand UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened a new base to speed
up aid for victims of the cyclone, which killed 78,000 and left 56,000

Meanwhile polls closed in the final stage of a controversial Burmese referendum on a new constitution.

Yes it would have been a shame if foreigners should witness the "referendum" they might be confused by the armed soldiers present at polling booths to make sure there was no misunderstanding. They could get the impression that this important referendum designed to ensure the generals' grip on power and dress it with a fine cloak of "democracy" was less than free and fair.
The UN estimates that only a quarter of the 2.5 million Burmese affected by the cyclone have received the help they need.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008
  YouPod (help wanted)
For the Podbible project (audio CEV Bible podcast a chapter a day) we want to add the possibility of people posting their responses to the Bible readings. Ideally we will do this simply by creating a blog that each day posts the current day's chapter as the title of a post, which can other wise be blank or better with just a short invitation like "Tell us our responses to this passage here:"

The chapters are podcast using PHP to read the directories and create both the RSS feeds and the corresponding web pages. So... what I need is someone who can help me create a blog using the same (sort of?) mechanism.

If you know someone who might (a) be interested in helping and (b) might have the necessary skills please let me know!

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Saturday, May 24, 2008
  Kings Garden Cafe
We began our Saturday the morning with nearly 90 minutes of hard gardening, instead of the walk up one of Auckland's volcanic cones, which has become our habit. We needed to remove the bark mulch on the little bed at the back. It has begun to rot down nicely and recently has produced a fine weedbed. Later we'll put down new weedmat and top it with some scoria to match the rocks around - which should be easier to care for than the bark (when the birds scratch in it it goes everywhere).
Photo of pots at King's Plant Barn
Alexander Todorenko of FotoNewZealand
So for our cafe we tried Kings Garden Cafe St Lukes at the local garden centre. You enter through the rows of plants. I spotted small figs on special, so we now have two to plant on pots on the deck, since small though they are they arready have a couple of tiny figs each I am hopeful that next year we might get to eat fresh figs! (Does anybody know how long figs take from small to fruiting?)

The cafe is surrounded by plants so does have a pleasant "garden" feel, and there were some beautiful orchids being used as a divider. The space is open and airey, the sparrows love it, and a couple of beautiful fluffy young ones came an sat on the chair backs near us. Cocking their heads as they examined the new-commers. Garden centre cafes presumably attract a lot of customers with children, as there were a good supply of high-chairs. And indeed while we were there several families did stop by.

Barbara's pancakes with bacon and banana were pronounced good, though to me the "pancakes" looked more like giant pikelets. The bacon looked very good, especially as we have been eating nearly vegetarian for the last few weeks ;-) My mushrooms on toast (with tomato and "creamy spinach") were tasty, the spinach with a dash of cream delicious. But, Mrs King, six small mushrooms is not enough! I am still ravenous. If the flat mushrooms had been good big ones six would have been plenty, but I have never seen such small field mushrooms... why is it that we call mature flat mushrooms "field mushrooms" when the tight round young ones are "buttons"?

The coffee was very good, not bitter, but strong. I was asked if I wanted extra hot water with the black.

So all in all:
  • Food - pretty good, but skimpy portions on the mushrooms make it expensive.
  • Coffee - very good
  • Millieu - gardeny and open
After breakfast we bought the weedmatting, scoria and figs, so there is plenty of work for later when my back and legs begin to recover from the early morning exertions!

:846 2073

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Friday, May 23, 2008
  An Early PG Wodehouse!
The other evening, while Barbara was at a women's group, I finished reading (for Librivox) chapter six "The episode of the hired past" of A Man of Means by P.G. Wodehouse and C.H. Bovill. Here's my introduction of the book:
A Man of Means is a collection of six short stories written in collaboration by P. G. Wodehouse and C. H. Bovill.

The stories all star Roland Bleke, a nondescript young man to whom financial success comes through a series of “lucky” chances, the first from a win in a sweepstake he had forgotten entering. Roland, like many a timid young man seeks love and marriage. In this pursuit his wealth is regularly a mixed blessing. The plot of each story follows its predecessor, sometimes directly, and occasionally refer back to past events in Bleke’s meteoric career.

The writing style is crisp and droll, and shows much of the skill and polish of the later Wodehouse. The disasters that befall the hapless Bleke are entertainingly recounted and his unforeseen rescues surprise and delight. In the character of the butler, Mr Teal, we meet an early draft of the ingenious Jeeves.

The stories first appeared in the United Kingdom in The Strand in 1914, and in the United States in Pictorial Review in 1916. They were later published in book form in the UK by Porpoise Books in 1991; the collection was released on Project Gutenberg in 2003. (Summary by Wikipedia adapted by Tim Bulkeley)
You can download it to listen to in the car, or wherever you do your leisure listening from (this link is to a search page that will lead also to other readings I've done in case Wodehouse is not to your taste ;)

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  Have I been gender blended?
My video sermon (from the college DVD Church Then and Now) is causing me some gender confusion. First there was the thumbnail on the YouTube clip, but now it gets worse, there is a Technorati page devoted to the video, where as well as the feminine image for the clip but below that are a bunch of Mariah Carey videos... who do they think I am Thalia or Mariah?

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Thursday, May 22, 2008
  Adding a daily audio Bible chapter to your blog (WordPress only)
If any of you want to add a link to a daily Bible chapter (as an MP3 file read from the CEV) to the sidebar of your Wordpress blog, just go to Widgets, and find "RSS" and "add" it then click "edit" and use this URL for the feed to add the Bible in a year use this URL to get just one segment a day choose to display one item. Give the widget a title like "Today's Bible reading" and away you go!

Sadly this does not work for blogger :( so I can't demonstrate it here, but you can see it at work here so, if you have a WordPress blog, how about it?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008
  Scholarly prejudice against electronic publication, among biblical scholars
Torrey has a short post taking notice of the Prophecy and Apocalyptic: Additional Bibliography that the Institute for Biblical Research has put up on their website. Sandy and O’Hare write:
This collection of sources supplements a bibliography published by Baker under the auspices of the Institute for Biblical Research: D. Brent Sandy and Daniel M. O’Hare, Prophecy and Apocalyptic: An Annotated Bibliography (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007).

In the process of compiling sources, hundreds were entered into our data base (many of which were annotated), but in the end they could not be included in the final selection for the printed edition of the bibliography. Hence, those sources are here made available.

Which is great, a sort of bonus for those who have the print book. Well done! However, they also write:
One advantage of this
digital version of the bibliography is that you may search for specific
words pertinent to your research.
Which is not so great... because what it means is that I can easily search the supplementary material, but the material in the print book must be inconveniently searched by hand. In other words the bibliography would have been better published online or at least electronically in the first place! BUT some criterion other than the advantage to the user caused it to be published in print, and now in order that the print book may sell the online more convenient and usable version cannot contain the full dataset.

The scholarly prejudice against e-publication strikes again!

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  Omnisio or nomnisio?
I took a look at Omnisio today. It is a tool that allows one to associate video clips with slide presentations, and then allows users to comment directly on the video. It sounded cool and useful.

I chose to watch Merlin Mann's Inbox Zero talk. Watching him speak, as well as hearing the talk with slides should be so much richer, I thought. And some intelligent comments from other previous watchers would be added value. In fact it is the worst of multimedia meets the worst of "Web 2.0". Since you have good sized video and good sized slides, with OK sound the presentation did not so much stream and trickle with frequent annoying hiccups. Make the video smaller, maybe compress the sound a little more and that combination would be great though (or deliver it from a DVD for real quality). The comments, of course are not intelligent, they are anonymous and crowd out the video with such gems as "Great!!!" repeated 16 times at various apparently arbitrary points. It might have been interesting to know that the chair (that almost appeared in the video) was Ikea, but it was irrelevant and so just another blot on the video. All in all a big disappointment.

Now before you think I am a multimedia Luddite, or a Web 2.0 sceptic, hear me out...

The multimedia aspect is brilliant, the combination of video and slides has the potential to offer so much more than slides and audio alone. Except in this implementation it does not work. Both slides and video are smallish (about 480px wide each) which is unavoidable for web delivery, but they are not small enough (at least on NZ's rather narrow "broadband"). Bigger slides with smaller video in one corner (think Camtasia with a webcam) would download faster and give a fullscreen experience.

Or, deliver it on DVD...

Web 2.0 is great, when users contribute usefully. The "wisdom of crowds" works (at least often) and applications like Google Earth and sites like Flickr use publicly contributed resources brilliantly to provide a growing and useful body of material. But do not give me the folly of "Anonymous" once humans are sure they will not be identified we tend to give reign to our baser instincts - in this case a plethora of useless, annoying and occasionally rude comments. Which proliferate like rabbits, at times almost hiding the presenter behind a barrage of meaningless verbiage.
Microsoft's chief, estimated worth $46bn, is the US' richest man
Make users login, identify them and provide their email address so that particularly crass and stupid "comments" can get the feedback they deserve, and you'd have a brilliant opportunity to interact with the video. (Probably you'd need to put most comments outside the video and only put those which like the "Ikea chair" comment relate directly to some visual element on the video itself.) But you can't do that, because of spam, once again spam ruins a potentially useful tool.
Do you remember back in 2004 when Bill Gates multi-billionaire philanthropist and founder of the world's biggest software company proclaimed that the spam problem would soon fixed? Spam will be a thing of the past in two years' time, Microsoft boss Bill Gates has promised. Nice one Bill!

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Thursday, May 15, 2008
  My 60th birthday
Today is my 60th birthday, it is also the 60th birthday of the first Arab-Israeli war, the Israeli state having been proclaimed the day before. 1948 was a momentous year for lots of reasons in the aftermath of WWII the world was getting a shake up. Israel, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Korea, and Burma become independent and the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The juxtaposition is ironic, in the case of Burma at least, since following independence the Karen soon began to be targeted by ethnic militias. Sixty years on they are targets of a genocide attempt by the military dictators. The same guys who are refusing to let aid into the cyclone victims.

So, we'll celebrate my birthday, with a party that tries to raise money for a school for the children of displaced people in Burma. The photo shows one of the school dormitories, the girls dorm needs a new roof, but the donor who was sponsoring this has pulled out, and the rains are starting... anyone who can't get to the party could always make a donation for the roof, just transfer money to "Partners NZ" at Westpac Bank (Upper Hutt branch) 03 0774 0598181 000 marked "PhoPra roof"

Canadians wishing to obtain a receipt for tax purposes should make donations at the Partners Canada website.

Americans wishing to obtain a receipt for tax purposes should make donations at the Partners USA website.

Norwegians can find the information needed to make donations in Norway at:

Australians can find the information needed to make donations in Australia at:

UK Residents can find the information needed to make donations in the UK at:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008
  Petition the UN
It seems wrong that the military in Myanmar can block aid to cyclone victims to preserve their power, so a petition calling United Nations to apply “responsibility to protect” doctrine to force international aid into Myanmar has been started. Over 4,500 signatures so far. Please add yours! Please also add a link to the petition on your blog, Beebo, Facebook etc. page(s) the more people who see it and sign it the more likely it is to have some impact - even if small through altering how the Generals behave!

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008
  Cool panorama tool
Panoye is a neat panorama tool that allows one to display "interactive" panoramas. Like this one of the fields at, and hills round, the Karen village we stayed in on our trek.

It also lets you map them on Google so that people on the Panoye site can see panoramas that others have created of nearby places.

But, I can't work out how to display them in since Wordpress does not allow iFrames.

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Monday, May 12, 2008
  Cyclone Nargis and the coherence of Amos 7
The title may seem somewhat incongruous, and I am sorry I do not have a grand theory that will demonstrate that Cyclone Nargis is the hermeneutic key to this chapter ;-) But the two are related...

Both explain my lack of posts here recently:
  • since Cylcone Nargis hit Burma/Myanmar I have used my blogging time to provide updates on the relief effort, and as I get information how the Karen people have been impacted.
  • because my writing time this sabbatical was shortened by teaching elsewhere I am trying to finish polishing an article on the coherence of Amos 7:1-8:3
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible... in the meanwhile do read the other posts.

1. Burma is the country whose military rulers have chosen to call "Myanmar" both English versions refer to the same geographical location, but may indicate a political, or - in view of the generals' behaviour - humanitarian, bias.


Friday, May 09, 2008
  Bibleref but no markup
While I was preparing the Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary I put a heck of a lot of work into manually preparing pages so that references to Bible passages would be clickable to give the text. Now, thanks to the kind people at Logos, who I expect will benefit from their kindness through lots of links like this one, I have been able to add a cool tool to this blog, and my others that automatically takes most Bible references I type and uses Sean's clever Bibleref system to add the verse as a popup, and make the reference a link to the passage. My only disappointment is that apparently it does this without rewriting the source code for the page, so probably Google etc. will not be able to use this semantic markup :( maybe in a later implementation?

Oh, yes it works like this:
  • Jer 31:31-34
  • Amos 1:1
  • 1 John 3:16
PS: Does anybody know how to tell Wordpress about this, since the AsiaBible blog is hosted by Wordpress, so I can't install the plugin myself, I need to convince them that you will all want it too...

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008
  Backup Zotero!
For those who have not backed up their Zotero databases. Zotero is brilliant, but one feature it needs is an easy way to backup the data. No one wants to have to recreate the database for a whole thesis or book! Till the wonderful people who program Zotero get that fixed here's how to DIY a backup (with a video for those who like to SEE how:
In "Documents and Settings" under "Application Data" and hidden under "Mozilla" in the "Firefox/Profiles" directory is one for "Zotero" just COPY that to a CD or memory stick and you are safe(r).

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  Genesis 1: בָּרָא (again)
I noted below John's (Hobbins) post about John's (Walton) claim that בָּרָא does not mean "create" as in "make from nothing" but rather "create" as in "give a new function to" - and this description is a gross oversimplification of much more nuanced claims. Well, even more credit is due to both Johns, and to John 1's commenters also (since I suspect that their kind and quality persuaded John 2), there is now a follow up: The Goal and Purpose of Genesis 1: John Walton Responds, in which John 2 explains his thought further, and provides some tantalising hints about his forthcoming Eisenbrauns monograph on the subject. Even on a quick read I am much more nearly convinced than I have been by the Genesis NIVAC alone.

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Monday, May 05, 2008
  Zotero: Adding journal articles from EBSCO
When you search for a journal article using an EBSCO database no little Zotero icon appears in the location bar, however there is an "export button". If that is not clear watch the little video!

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Sunday, May 04, 2008
  Note to Tyler: re Biblical Studies Carnival
Tyler there are two posts this morning in my reader that I think you should consider mentioning in the next Carnival.

The first is Duane's abnormally interesting, and credulous(?), Isaiah 38:9-20: An Abnormal View in which he provides a strong sketch of arguments that might be made to claim that Hezekiah actually wrote part of the Bible in his own hand. (At the moment I hope he does expand the post to a paper, it would be fun to hear the discussion! And perhaps I will as I continue to follow the blogs over the next few days/weeks :)

The second I am also noting for my Genesis class reading list (for next semester) where John (Hobbins) asks: Does Genesis 1 describe the creation of things or the assignment of functions to things? A Response to John Walton frankly he takes John (Walton)'s special pleading more seriously than I would, but he provides a really good clear discussion that I want my students to follow.

Two fine examples of why (biblio/biblia)blogging is both fun, and useful!

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Saturday, May 03, 2008
  Citation Nazis get U2?
If you write, as a student or academic (and you do not yet use Zotero) this is one video you MUST watch, and if it amuses you please pass it on!

By the way, for David (when he returns from lazing on the beach!) there is a mobile version, it is just over 1/2 the size of the WMV, but I'm showing the Flash version above (so Mac users can watch it ;-) which is 3x the size of the WMV or 6 times the 3GP...

What can I say to excuse this arrant sales pitch for Zotero? Well, it is Saturday, so I'm unwinding, or possibly coming undone ;-0

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  Commentaries and Open Publication
Alan Lenzi has a couple of provocative posts, in the more recent he discusses why biblical scholars write commentaries (he counted and Dove list over 80 on Job alone):
  1. Commentary writing appeals to our strengths and training...
  2. Commentary writing is a recognized genre within the guild ... All the great scholars write commentaries...
  3. Commentary writing is relatively straight-forward...
  4. Commentary writing can be an act of piety...
  5. Commentaries sell so publishers keep asking scholars to write them...
  6. Commentary writing reflects and contributes to advances in the field, presenting the latest research in a convenient location...
Just a few days earlier he wrote about The Open Access Monograph Series That Almost Was and dropped frustrating hints about a newer and better project. So, before he (or someone else) announces that project, I'll reiterate a call for contributors. Any established scholar who wants to write a commentary on a biblical book, and who is interested in getting your work seen and used more widely than print can achieve, take a look at the Hypertext Bible Commentary project, and then contact me for more details.

The Amos "volume" has already (in its peer reviewed stable form) been consulted by thousands of readers each month since its publication in late 2005. The changeable experimental version also gets a huge number of visitors.

If you don't want to spend the time to write a commentary, or you are not yet an "established" scholar then, offer a dictionary article these too will get larger than print readership, these also will be peer reviewed before publication, and so should "count" as publications, but most of all you will contribute to making solid information available to everyone who is interested. And unlike most scholarly writing your article will get read and considered and used!

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  Biblical Studies Carnival
Help, I forgot to mention, Jim did this month's Biblical Studies Carnival and did a superb job (in almost his usual acerbic style too), you have probably found it already from six other blogs, but if like me you procrastinate, and so have not actually looked already, you can take this opportunity!

Look NOW ;)

Tyler is doing the next one himself, so send your nominations to him over the next three weeks...


Friday, May 02, 2008
  I'm sold on mobile phones, maybe...
David Kerr is a persistent chap before I'd set off for Faraway Places, he had me convinced that half the population of Mozambique had access to mobile phones with video (something half my household don't yet have). Visiting the refugee camp convinced me that lots of people there and even more in Thailand "proper" do too... Now he's trying to convince us that this format could be a good way to spread the Bible.

He convinced me to spend a while playing with 3GP, if I cut the frame rate to slideshow proportions (just 1fps) and keep the audio low (but not too low) I can fit a whole short Psalm with pictures into less than 400KB. Judge for yourselves if it is worth it (just remember I spent more effort on the technical side than choosing photos - so there are lots of cute kids ;-)

Here is the 3gp version of Psalm 67 at only 368KB, and the WMV Psalm 67 at 1.97MB with much better picture quality to demonstrate what you lose in making it quite that small for a phone. (and a Flash version of Psalm 67 for Maccies at "only" 2.57MB!)

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  Using Zotero for multple references
A masters' candidate has just started using Zotero, she is busy converting all her footnotes. She asked how to cite multiple works in the same note. It is easy really, just click "Multiple Sources" and follow your nose - IF you are a hands on exploratory user, if you are not watch the video below ;-)

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Thursday, May 01, 2008
  Radiohead U-turn?
It was Nichthus who alerted me to Radiohead's u-turn, though I can't agree with his title: So, the sense is returning? Perhaps because I'm not only older but more cynical! So I picked up slightly different aspects to note:

"...and the dwindling revenue pot from CD sales."

Yet when:

"In Rainbows was later released conventionally as a CD, and topped the US and UK charts."

All the free publicity and hype helped then, and others spotted it:

"Most recently fellow English rockers Coldplay said Monday that they would give away its new single Violet Hill free of charge, resulting in the group's website crashing the next day due to demand."

Smart move Radiohead, "give it away" so that you sell even more copies, and by maintaining or enhancing your fame as well rake in the bucks. But, as I asked back in October when the move was announced:

But how do people (say biblical scholars) who do not get paid mega-bucks for personal appearances and the like pay for the other people's work needed for a successful publication. Our own work is either a hobby or we are paid for it as part of our job, but whatever format we choose except the casual blog, we need proofreaders, designers, film editors etc... to help make the "product"... how do we pay them?


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