Monday, June 30, 2008
  SBL International : Offline and accomodation
SBL International in Auckland starts next week, my last attempt here to get a group of people who are active online to meet face to face didn't exactly draw a crowd, so like Robert the Bruce (who my granny used to claim was an ancestor of ours) I'll try again ;-)

I'm proposing Wednesday evening, early (for those who are jetlagged), the last of the tours finishes at 5pm so maybe meeting for "tea" (i.e. an early informal evening meal) at 6pm... suggestions of better times/dates are welcome....

If there is anyone attending SBL who does not have accomodation booked, or who would prefer to stay in a home please ask as we have an empty spare room that we'd expected to be full, we live close to central Auckland.


Saturday, June 28, 2008
  Dogs and Cats, followup...
In response to the question I posed in

Teaching like Cats & Dogs
Carl Sweatman (sporadic at best) offered - via Facebook, which I have only just yesterday joined - this brilliantly simple answer to the question:
Throw them some mice!
Like I said, brilliant and simple ;-) So, a supplementary question for you all: What sort of wisdom-related "mice" might get a class of students going as cats?

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Friday, June 27, 2008
  Teaching like Cats & Dogs
Thanks to Problem Attic I discovered a fun site with yet another "personality theory". I am a sucker for personality theories, anything that makes some sense of the confusing jumble of human relationships has to be good - as long as you don't take it too seriously ;-)

This one claims that we are all either "Cats" or "Dogs". The description is fun, and I'm sure you can guess which you are!
Cat: Scratch my ear. Ex-cellent. May I use your leg as a scratching post? No? Hmm, how about I sit on you instead.
Do not move. ... Well done. Now feed me.
Dog: Hello, let's do something. What should we do? ...
Yes, the stick fetching game would be acceptable.
... However I find that stick you are holding uninteresting. Try again. ... Ah, yes, yes! That stick I find quite exciting! Ok, I will fetch the stick. ... That was fun!
You see, recognisably Dog and Cat, as we meet them in everyday life, but also recognisably roles we play in social contexts. Not necessarily actually as built-in personality, but at least roles we adopt in particular situations, and probably as preferences too?

Paul Harrison links it to a more complex discussion of "dominance" about which I am less convinced, but he gets really interesting again when he talks about Dogs and Cats in education:
When teaching a class, the teacher naturally takes the cat role. Therefore, the students are in the dog role, and adopt the dog cognitive style.
Brian: "You are all individuals."
Crowd: "Yes, we are all individuals."
Most of the time, this assignment of roles is correct. However when teaching a creative or assertive skill (for example, programming or feminism), it may be important for students to practice using the cat cognitive style: they will need to use this style when applying what you teach.

Simply asking questions of your students will not put them in the cat role, as it is still you that initiates action. Thus, asking questions is not a good strategy for waking students up and getting them engaged, something that causes much frustration to teachers.
I know that frustration! The answer is to be sneakier in avoiding the Cat role:
I once had a lecturer called Damian Conway (yes, that Damian Conway) who avoided taking the cat role by making his students set the agenda. At the start of the lecture, he would ask for questions, which he would then write on the blackboard. This took a little coaxing, usually when you go to a lecture your brain has switched to idle before your bum hits the seat. He then ad-libbed the lecture from these questions. (It's no good to ask for questions at the end of the lecture, by then everyone is comfortably in dog mode.)

Another way to flip roles is to do something blatantly and obviously stupid, and hope someone points it out.
Performer: "Where has it gone? Where-ever can it be?"
Audience: "Behind you! Behind you!"
I can't see me adopting the "act stupid" idea much - I guess I'm afraid they might not catch the irony ;-) but I've always been tempted by the idea of getting the students to design the class...

Do any of you have ideas for making encouraging a class to act more "catlike" during parts of a session?


Thursday, June 26, 2008
  Help, I need someone to suggest a film
I am teaching Genesis again this year, after several years break. I want to start by explaining why Genesis matters, and would really like a short film clip that illustrates how knowing the beginning of a story helps us to understand the rest. So I'm thinking a film where some vital item of information is shown right at the start, and if you "came in late" and missed it you would also miss much of what is going on in the film...

Do you have any suggestions?


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Friday, June 20, 2008
  Riva Cafe
We went for a drive along the waterfront to celebrate Barbara's thesis oral, or to encourage her that merely having some small alterations to make was not a disaster - it all depends on how you look at such events how you see them, like looking at an ascending rise in the road through the car windscreen (a small rise) or over the handlebars of a bike (a small mountain).

The day was clear and sunny, not wintry at all. In fact I sat on the pavement in shirtsleeves and was almost too hot! They put up the sunshades just as we were leaving. The setting is stunning, at least on a good day, with views across the harbour to Rangitoto, and plenty of interesting people wandering by (even on a Friday) so that people-watching is fun. (I wonder why that wee girl seemed determined to throw herself under oncoming traffic, thank God her mother got her safely inside the large ATV before she succeeded ;-)

However, though we arrived well after the lunchtime rush, just as the cafe was turning from packed to empty, we waited over 25 minutes to get to the stage of cutlery and glasses of water arriving :( though to be fair the food was not far behind.

I had scallop and bacon salad with banana, the scallops and large chunks of bacon were satisfying after the wait, and the banana was an interesting addition. (I am still not quite convinced, but almost!) The salad was less impressive, supermarket mix with some rather chunky tomato, cucumber and capsicum added - I wonder if the chef was having a break after the lunch rush? I could have done with some carbohydrate, perhaps a nice slice of bread with the salad.

Barbara's seafood chowder was fine, though a bit thin and accompanied only by a small slice of white toast.

The coffees were fine. My long black came only slightly long but with a china jug of hot water to add to taste - well done!

Coffee: good.
Service: slooow.
Food: OK
, what could have been really good was spoiled by the details.
Overall: disappointing, slow service and disappointing food.

Riva Cafe
89 Tamaki Drive
Mission Bay
Auckland City
09-528 8566

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  Barbara's thesis defense
Today was also (after "only" a bit over a year since submitting the thesis) the day of Barbara's oral examination on her thesis on the beliefs, knowledge and practice of school Guidance Counsellors around adolescent depression. I just dropped her at Med School ...

  World Refugee Day
Today, June 20th, is World Refugee Day. There are lots of ways you can "celebrate" it. But if you are stuck for ideas, perhaps it means you do not know much about the issues, in that case how about ten minutes surfing and exploring to learn more. For facts and figures the UNHCR is authoritative, and the IMC has a good one page summary.

If you prefer a more experiential approach you could read about the Mae La refugee camp, or look at one of the photoblogs: Timelight @ Mae La - Weblog or through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy which has more than photos. In particular you could read the rest of this post:
pray, yes, but we still can't eat your prayers

While the faith and the spirits of the people I met in Mae La were strong, their current physical conditions are matters of concern. Registration froze two years ago. People who come to the camp--four or five new families everyday--are not given food rations or materials to build huts because they are not registered. They must move in with other refugees and those who open their huts must share what they have with the new-comers. Already, cuts have been made in the amount of food they receive twice a month.
Whatever you do, do NOT just sit there, do something even if it is only to cry a little!

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Thursday, June 19, 2008
  Writing for Hypertext Bible Commentary
Yesterday I had an interesting session chatting with a potential author for a commentary in HBC_. During the conversation it became more and more clear that today there is no longer much need to allow most authors to write in their wordprocessor. Biblical scholars on the whole are becoming used to web publishing through "learning management systems" like Moodle, or even their personal blogs. So, rather than complex semi-codes to allow wordprocessor docs to be converted, they need straightforward instructions for writing in a simple HTML editor like KompoZer (or KompoZer Portable).

The result is that I have updated the general manual and stylesheet: Writing for Hypertext Bible Commentary - which starts from the concept of a "hypertext" commentary and moves on to the details of format and working of the HBC_ series. I have added Using KompoZer to prepare HBC_ to explain how to do it in practice. Both can be accessed from the project opening page.

PS: I forgot to say, my reason for posting this here is to encourage you to look at one or both of these documents and make any comments that could help refine or improve them. If you would rather email than comment here please send to

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Monday, June 16, 2008
  Burmese noodle salad (a warm salad!)
We've been eating less meat, since the kids are leaving home (they are all confirmed and voracious carnivores ;-) among the recipes I've found useful is this warm Noodle Salad from Burma. We watched it being prepared at Borderline in Mae Sot when we did a cookery course there. I wish I had taken a photo of the meal since their version looked a lot more appetising than the one I prepared over the weekend - in a hurry as we were reorganising the kitchen all afternoon :(

  • wheat noodles (ideally from your local Asian store, not rice noodles, but almost Tagliatelle - which you could probably use if stuck, though it is not the same) enough for the number you are feeding I'll give quantities for 4 as a main.
  • vegetables (ideally gourd, but corgettes work quite well and carrot is OK...)
  • cabbage 1-2 handsfull
  • spring onions a few
  • beansprouts 1.5 cups
  • hard tofu one block (depending on size)
  • corriander 4-5 plants
  • red onions 2 small
  • yellow bean powder 0.5-1 teacup (a mix of 50/50 soya powder and ground up peanuts works fine)
  • rice flour 5 tsp
  • chilli powder 1-2tsp
  • turmeric 1tsp
  • garlic 4-5 cloves (or if you can find it packeted crispy fried garlic)
  • oil for deep frying (in a wok is traditional) use 1/2 teacup of this later for the spices
Below my clumsy hurried thick cut version,
above Borderline's delicate Burmese version!
Mix rice flour with water to make a creamy paste (if you use courgettes you should add extra rice flour to make the cream thick as courgettes are watery and risk going soggy not crisp in the salad).

Slice the cabbage, spring onions thinly, slice the onions and garlic even thinner (keep the garlic separate), and chop the coriander (roughly as you want some whole or nearly whole leaves as well as some cut finer.

Cut the vegetable into small (finger size) pieces. Cut the tofu similarly. Coat in the rice flour cream and fry till crisp and golden.

Mix the chilli, garlic and turmeric and pour over 1/2 cup of hot oil (the mixture will fizz up and the spices will cook to perfection) to make a dressing.

Dry fry the bean powder till it darkens, do not burn it!

Cook the noodles and drain, washing in cold water so they stick less.

Assemble by mixing the noodles, dressing, bean powder and salad, use the gourd (carrot or courgette) and tofu to decorate. Eat ideally while still warm.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008
  Occam Espresso Bar

Occam Espresso Bar Kitchen
135 Williamson Avenue
Grey Lynn
Auckland, 1002
Tel: +64 (0)9 378 0604

On a side street corner opposite Foodtown (with street parking nearby), the location is not impressive, though the venue is well designed and pleasant. The staff is friendly and efficient and the atmosphere is welcoming. Plenty of pavement seating is available, though we preferred to sit near the gas-log fire. Which all sounds ideal for a local cafe, and we "seemed to remember" it had got a good write-up in the NZHerald, too!

Sadly on Saturday, neither the food nor the coffee lived up to this promise. The coffee was bitter. The only good thing I can say about it was that it was good and strong. (I have read other reviews that praise the coffee, so we may have hit a trainee barrista, but I can only tell it as we found it, and both Barbara and I were slower than usual finishing our long black and soy cappuccino.) The food sounded good, basically the usual breakfast menu, but with some unusual touches. I chose herby hash cakes with poached eggs, wilted spinach and hollandaise. I imagined a crisp coat over aromatic potato mash, with the eggs and spinach to complete it. The eggs were fine, the spinach was good. The hollandaise was ladled on with a heavy hand, so that I had to act quickly to prevent the hash cake from drowning. A shame because the stack looked pretty. Yes, the hash cake was singular, and it made a stack. It was a tall pile of potato mash that had indeed seen the frying pan, though it was not crisp - even on its outside.

Barbara's corn fritters were cool inside, and got a cool reception. :(

So overall poor food that was not redeemed by either the nice presentation or the waiters with three foot pepper pots, and coffee that was disappointingly bitter. We do remember the Herald reviewers as liking Occam so if your experience was different to ours, please let me know and we will give it another try in a few week's time.

Till then:
  • Coffee - Poor
  • Food - Poor
  • Ambience - Good

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  Smaller lighter audio Bibles
On FutureBible David introduces us to a (to me) new file format AMR: An alternative to mp3, I have tried it, using the conversion tool David points to, and it works, a 1.11MB MP3 (at 32kbps) becomes a 266KB AMR (at 6.7 MR) which sounds "nearly" as good though a bit "quieter".

This could be great news for projects like (making the PodBible audio Bible podcasts available to mobile phone users).

However, I have two questions you might be able to answer for me:
  1. What mobile phones can or can't play AMR files? So if you have a phone can you try downloading this AMR file and seeing if it plays, and report the make, model and result below, please!
  2. What exactly are the licensing issues with AMR there is a link on the Wikipedia site to an VoiceAge legal page, but I go cross-eyed trying to find out what that means for ordinary non-commercial users. Any comments on that would be helpful too!

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008
  Put your feet up and relax!
Duane's original post A Euphemism for Pudenda seeks to make a case for a euphemistic use of "feet" in Biblical Hebrew. He begins by noting that:
The Hebrew word for foot is רגל (regel). Like "hand," most of the time regel means exactly what you think it should mean, the things at the lower end of your legs that you put in shoes and stand on. For the record, at least in Rabbinic Hebrew, regel sometimes also means "leg."
And begins his case with Ezekiel 16:25. Now, evidently this verse is concerned with sex, so obviously "feet" here do not mean what is at the bottom of ones legs, but rather what is between them ;-0

Or does it... If instead of assuming a euphemistic use of רגל why not just assume that רגל means "leg" here, as it does in 1 Sam 17:6 and as Rashi, and various later translators and commentators have thought it does here?

Having failed to convince me that his first example requires a euphemistic reading Duane passes on to Judges 3:24. I discussed this at some length in my first post, now I would just add that (as Rashi again noted) "Targum Jonathan renders עָבִיד צוֹרְכֵיה (doing his needs), i. e., moving his bowels" this does not require an equation of feet with anything other than "feet", but does seem to me to suggest possibly anachronistic forms of clothing. Actually, the more I look at this passage the more puzzled I become. Everyone seems agreed that the mention of "covering his feet" is a reference either to urination or to defecation. Yet the location in which Eglon is "covering his feet" is the (same?) "upper room" in which in v.20 he received Ehud - was the Moabite king in the habit of inviting guests into his toilet?

Duane's example from 2 Kings 18:27 is thoroughly convincing. Here the Hebrew text of the Bible reads that the besieged Judeans will be doomed:

לֶאֱכֹ֣ל אֶת חֲרֵיהֶם וְלִשְׁתּ֛וֹת אֶת־שֵׁינֵיהֶם

"to eat their own dung and drink their own urine"

The Masoretic scribes found this a little too explicit, so for both terms they suggested alternative "readings":
לֶאֱכֹ֣ל אֶת צוֹאָתָ֗ם וְלִשְׁתּ֛וֹת אֶת־מֵֽימֵי רַגְלֵיהֶ֖ם
giving the more decorous:
"to eat their own dirt, and drink the water of their feet"

The trouble with this for my purposes is that all it demonstrates is that by the time of the Masoretes "feet" had possibly come to have a euphemistic meaning of the sort proposed. There is according to Duane no clear cut example in Ugaritic (which anyway uses a word that is not a cognate of רגל. And: "I was unable to find and did not look too diligently for examples in Akkadian or Egyptian."

It still seems to me that the case for a common euphemism רגל = sexual organs is simply unproven. Biblical scholars should stop appealing to this supposed euphemistic use until there is better evidence to support it for biblical Hebrew. (That it existed later I do not dispute. The example above is (almost) enough to convince me ;-)

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  Euphemisms again
I was sure Duane had posted on "feet" and "fingers" in Hebrew and Ugaritic, I've now had time to look, and behold, my memory was unusually accurate! Actually it was hands and feet, not fingers and feet. In this post I'll briefly link to his "hand" post: An Ancient Euphemism for Penis Johnson. In that post after rehearsing examples from Isaiah 57:8; the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Manuel of Discipline (1 QS VII, 13) and the Ugaritic texts (UT 52:33, 34, 35) he concluded:
Let me be clear on what I am claiming; it is very modest indeed. The strongest thing I want to say is that the "hand" has been used as a euphemism or, perhaps better, metaphor for penis or phallus from time to time in human history. While I think that it was a widespread usage in the Northwest Semitic world, I have not proven that.
I think this is a careful and accurate conclusion, each of the examples is a strong one, where almost any reader will suspect that the word is being used euphemistically. But they are too few to demonstrate a regular usage.

The follow-up post A Euphemism for Pudenda deals with the evidence for "feet" as a euphemism. I will return to that post when I next have time for blogging.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008
  Still wondering about "feet"
Following my post Wash your hairy feet! Sean-the-Baptist updated his post 'And with two they covered their feet' to respond (briefly within the limits of time available) to my critique of the commonplace notion that "feet" in the Hebrew Bible can often serve as a euphemism for "male organ".
On Deut. 11.10: the point is exactly that the Promised Land will be naturally fertile and thus will not require irrigation by other means (of course the language is symbolic, irrigation is as necessary there as in Egypt in reality). Tim asks 'in Egypt is most irrigation done by peeing?' - well no, but neither is there literal milk and honey flowing in Israel-Palestine, and perhaps good deal more irrigation took place by this means than by carrying water on your foot (images of hopping with a bucket attached anyone?)
But why interpret the language as "symbolic" whatever that means here, I had assumed that even read as a euphemism the use was intended literally.

Irrigating with the feet would then refer to the habit of opening and closing irrigation ditches using the feet. While I cannot really see how the euphemistic reading works, in the promised land water falls from the sky, while in Egypt humans had to pee to water the ground - presumably entailing frequent trips to the irrigation ditch to drink...

On Ruth we basically agree - except whether Boaz' "feet" are literal or euphemistic (I still wonder at the plural euphemism here?).

On Is 6:2 Sean brings up the topic of ANE iconography, as Jim Getz said in a comment on a post: Another "Feet" Euphemism in the Hebrew Bible? on this topic on Shibboleth I think I was convinced by Keel's identification of the Seraphim here with Egyptian uraus snakes, my copy of Keel is at college, so i can't check, but I do not remember these snakes as having prominent phalluses which might need covering to preserve Hebrew modesty! On Is 7:20 I am quite willing to agree thsat ritual humiliation is in view, and that a euphemistic reading is possible. But when the "head to foot" shaving seems to cover that pretty comprehensively I do not see the need to invent a new "euphemistic" reading. (And that is really my point, I believe that those who repeat conventional wisdom and claim a common euphemism in Biblical Hebrew "feet" = "phallus" need to provide some evidence to support this view. And where simply reading "feet" as "those two things we walk on that stop our legs fraying at the ends" works fine then they have NOT provided such evidence EVEN IF "phallus" works just as well.
Uraeus. Col. Tutkhamón from
On 2 Sam 11:8, again we agree in our interpretation of the passage, and IF the feet-euphemism were already (on the basis of evidence) established it would make a good reading here. However, it is not it is merely "traditional" in biblical scholarship. AND reading feet literally works fine.

Result, I am still unconvinced that this particular item of "popular wisdom" has a leg to stand upon! Sometimes in the Bible, when you read "feet" they do simply mean "feet", now on the basis of Ugaritic evidence one might I think (someone could ask Duane about the abnormally interesting uses of "finger" in those texts, and perhaps also look at Hebrew Bible texts like 1 Kings 12:10).

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Monday, June 09, 2008
  The Tale of Ginger and Pickles
We had a long weekend recently - to celebrate the Queen's Birthday, so I celebrated by getting some more Beatrix Potter stories ready to narrate. The first of this Royal Birthday collection is available on YouTube and the Internet Archive. If you have small kids around you have a good excuse to watch it - if you don't, enjoy anyway!

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Friday, June 06, 2008
  Britannica does Wiki
And I missed it, it was there on the Britannica Blog sitting in my feedreader since Tuesday, but I've been so busy with a laptop that is almost dead, and another that is nearly ready to take its place (though it has not battery life, or microphone :( that I nearly missed it.

As I understand it, the post Britannica’s New Site: More Participation, Collaboration from Experts and Readers basically announces that the Wikipedia model has so much going for it that Britannica has to adopt elements from its greatest rival's method of working. By that I mean that the announcement clearly hopes that something of the incredible energy and diversity of the Wikipedia community involvement will be able to be harnessed into a more controlled and even attributed and peer reviewed environment. It is a grand dream. It looks well thought out.

Among many ideas, this one stood out for me:
Britannica will help them with research and publishing tools and by allowing them to easily use text and non-text material from Encyclopaedia Britannica in their work. We will publish the final products on our site for the benefit of all readers, with all due attribution and credit to the people who created them. The authors will have the option of collaborating with others on their work, but each author will retain
control of his or her own work.
Is this Britannica "getting" the commercial potential of Web 2.0, and like Google and YouTube planning to profit from it, or is it more?
You can preview the new site, which is still in beta testing, at A portion of the people who visit Britannica Online today are being routed to this site and are using it now; soon it will replace our current site at entirely, and the new features we have described above will be introduced in the weeks and months ahead.
I can't wait to see how this attempt to marry the best of the new with the best of the old works out, in the years and decades, rather than weeks and months ahead! One thing is for sure, at last the "old" is gone, buried and dead... I still wonder what the new will look like, and wonder at what it has already given us.

In the post that preceded the announcement and anticipated it a contributor, Jorge Cauz, three important principles:
  • "ownership" - by which he means attribution and responsibility - about which none need fear or quibble
  • "the voices and powers of experts" which is a much less attractive phrase than the Britannica's official "community of scholars" I hope the official version wins out, I would hate to be at the mercy of the power of experts, since the "experts" of the past become in the present fools
  • "objectivity" which he claims is merely "difficult to attain", my view is that it is an impossible though perhaps desirable dream!
While there is much in this post that is sensible (as Jim W will doubtless have pointed out back on Tuesday) there is a tone that I fear:
We believe that to provide lively and intelligent coverage of complex subjects requires experts and knowledgeable editors who can make astute judgments that cut through the on a topic.
This reads to me dangerously like the tyranny of "experts" that every successful totalitarian regime in the 20th century ensured.Give me the "cacophony of competing and often
confusing viewpoints
" over the bland, expert unitary point of view - but then I believe truth is more important than "standing" ;-)

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  Wash your hairy feet!
Sean the Baptist has a post 'And with two they covered their feet' in which he repeats the conventional wisdom that "feet" is (sometimes) a euphemism in the Hebrew Bible. Basically the idea is:
That is that the word for feet רַגְלָיו sometimes refers to what we might politely call 'other parts of the (male) anatomy'.
I have never really been convinced by the claim. Sean cites the following passages as the best evidence for this supposed usage (the order is mine, as are the comments in straight type):

Exodus 4.25 But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it, and said, “Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!”
Now why on earth would one suppose that "feet" here is a euphemism - after all no euphemism was used for "foreskin" עָרְלַת seems explicit enough.

Deuteronomy 11.10 For the land that you are about to enter to occupy is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sow your seed and irrigate by foot like a vegetable garden.
In Egypt is most irrigation done by peeing? No wonder they brewed so much beer! Or maybe the small earth dams on irrigation ditches are quite easily broken by foot?

Ruth 3.7: When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and he was in a contented mood, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came stealthily and uncovered his feet, and lay down.
If this one is a euphemism, does it not remove all the tension from the chapter where the most significant "gap" the hearer must fill is: "Did they or didn't they?" there is plenty of other innuendo in the chapter to build up the tension, without this (possible, maybe) one.

Isaiah 6.2: Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.
Really? Now why should face and feet not simply mean face and feet? Please explain!

Isaiah 7.20: On that day the Lord will shave with a razor hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will take off the beard as well.
Hairy feet or hairy [euphemism]? Which is more plausible? Though I suppose if the euphemism is for the whole genital area, this one might make sense.

Judges 3.24: After he had gone, the servants came. When they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, “He must be relieving himself (literally 'covering his feet') in the cool chamber.” cf. 1 Sam. 24.3
At first sight, this one is good! In this sample I am almost convinced, there is a good case to answer, though why "covering his feet" should be a euphemism for peeing, and not merely another example of the rather gross schoolboy humour of the passage I am unclear.

2 Samuel 11.8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king.
Could be a euphemism, but then it could be that the sentence is euphemistic even if the "feet" are literal. "Wash your feet" = "make yourself at home"...

So, in the end, what evidence is there for this conventionally supposed common euphemism? Two cases where you might argue with some strength that reading euphemistically is the "best" reading, a couple more where it might just be possible but overall I'd say: No case to answer. In the Bible feet are just that. And Eglon as well as excessively fat, and greedy, also was known to his servants as having a poor aim. As the sign in our downstairs loo read for a while (we had teenage boys in the house) "We aim to please. You aim too, please!"

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  E-texts and the SBL Handbook of Style
Danny has a fine post: Electronic editions of texts and the SBL style in which he makes sensible suggestions for citation styles for e-texts from Bible software packages. The issue is not trivial, because I sense as Danny does "After all, it is the way the citation looked in my footnotes that caused Mike and Craig to object to them." that many of my colleagues' preference for citing paper works comes from the ugly citation styles (and/or from ignorance of the proper style to use ;-0 for e-texts.

So how about a session at CARG devoted to recommending citations styles for e-texts, which could then go to the proper quarters to be included in the next edition (ten years is a very long time in scholarship in the 21st century ;-) of the SBL Handbook of Style.

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Thursday, June 05, 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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  Blues Cafe: examining the dental equipment of an equine present
PhotoBlues Cafe
Building C, Ground Floor
602 Great South Road
(09) 579 2585
Get directions

Open Weekdays 7am-4pm (nb. this cafe is NOT open for weekend brunches)

The Carey staff were treated to breakfast at Blues this morning, a fine and fun sort of staff building exercise. Some of us got physical exedrcise as well, with a brisk (because of the cold frosty weather) walk there and back, Brian also got some extra exercise - parking is so difficult at Blues that he drove there and then almost back to Carey before he found a space ;-) on the return we walkers beat him home!

Setting: in the middle of an office park Blues does not feel industrial, it is open light and airey, with plenty of space around the tables. I'm told by a conniseur that they have a particularly good selection of magazines.

Overall: Good (but arrive on foot)

Food: here is good value, with the eggs Benedict coming out at $11, though the menu is fairly restricted and conventional. My eggs were a little cool and firm, but with a party our size this is not unexpected, cafe kitchens are not set up for 15-20 orders all at once.

Overall: Probably good (but do NOT arrive in a large party)

Coffee: full marks for offering large, medium and small, though lose a point for also offering double shot, which suggests that a "medium" long black just has one shot and extra hot water - I wish I'd seen the double shot upgrade before ordering. Though for the sake of all my colleagues who ordered "large" I'm glad or several would have developed the jitters during the following staff meeting ;-)

The Latte drinkers seemed happy, but my black was thin and a little bitter, with almost no crema.

Overall: Poor (unless you like milky coffee)

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008
  Oh, use your Moodle!
Geoff (at Theologians Without Borders) has been asking to hear about creativity in theological education, in an off blog email "conversation" he has asked about how we use our use of the Moodle CMS in Carey's distance program. I also agreed to do some guest posts with the theme "What if..." dreaming of things that could be done to enrich distance teaching of theology. Here's what I am thinking as a "What if..." post about Moodle. Please tell me what I've missed, or missed explaining - before I send it in to Geoff!

What if... we really used Moodle to the full

Some years ago at Carey we began to "move our distance teaching to the next level". Part of the plan was to install, and make good use of, an open source (means free) online "Course Management System" called Moodle.

Moodle allows:
  • a central store of documentation for a course, which can be updated as soon as something changes
  • students to be reminded of assignments that are due soon and other important dates
  • one central place to email a whole class
  • a place to store and deliver marked assignments
  • a place to provide course related material like pictures, videos, links, PDF files of readings that did not get into the course anthology...
  • teachers to set simple "quizzes" (with questions in various formats like multiple choice, short answer etc.) that can either count towards the course marks or simply provide feedback to students or check that they have done required reading
Moodle is:
  • cheap - no software costs, and even a professionally hosted option is not expensive
  • easy - it takes very little time and instruction for even our less techie colleagues to work the basics, and usually not too long for someone to show you how achieve the less obvious goals
  • scalable - anything from one course with one teacher to the whole British Open University (which with over 150,000 students is a but bigger than the average theological seminary ;-)
  • fairly easy to manage, and there are plenty of people around with experience who can help.
In short Moodle is great, and even better value, and it will allow a Seminary to really support Internet connected distance students, and through discussion forums and emails integrate them into a "class".

Some courses at Carey really quickly began to make real use of the system. Brian Smith (our retired principal who had not used a computer before retirement) clocked up the most student contributions to a discussion simply by asking really thought -provoking leading questions. I used the tests to reward students with up to 10% simply by doing the "required reading" and as a result turned what I think before was 80% of the class in real life do about 20% of the reading, to 80% of the class do at least 80% of the reading.

But there are gaps. Some teachers hardly use Moodle - though not difficult it is one more thing to learn in a life that is too busy. Few of us actually get organised to post pictures and links relevant to our courses... So, implementation and take up of the possibilities are a bit hit and miss...

What if...
  1. We had a "Moodle consultant" (alias a technically minded senior student) who could spend an hour or two each week helping us to use Moodle more or better - guess how much more most teachers would achieve!
  2. We had a policy that all teachers and students in every class promised to take a serious look at the discussion forums for that class at least twice each week (maybe one or two hours of work to timetable in each week, but think of the greater communication with distance students and how much more time effective than individual emails replying one-on-one to questions)
  3. One of the Moodle consultant's jobs was to check what pictures and other resources we used in teaching the class onsite, and helped us make them available to distance students.
  4. A scattering of our courses set as an assignment to present readings online and then interact with other students presentations - I have seen such an assignment put a student in South-East Asia in contact with one in the South Island of NZ and "watched" the experience open the student's eyes to a wider world producing real formative change.

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