Saturday, May 30, 2009
  Related to the academic blogging thread?
Stephen suggested this contribution from PhD Comics suggesting what a world where academic articles had comment threads might in fact be like, might be related to the academic blogging thread.

Though it may be some while before comments on Biblical Studies or Ancient World blogs descend to that level, it does point to the possibility of greater quality control as a "desirable feature" of academic conversations (note how many blogs have comment moderation now ;) though, of course this is a two edged sword, potentially shutting down dissent, as well as protecting us from the Lolcats and spammers!

Friday, May 29, 2009
  Screencasting for free
Any excuse to avoid marking ;) I'll tell you about screencasting for free. I've been using the brilliant Camtasia for a couple of years, and it does everything I want brilliantly, but some of my colleagues want to start, and a site licence would cost an arm and a leg [Just joking, but it will cost more than this year's budget would allow.] No worries two downloads and they can be screencasting, if not like professionals, at least easily and effectively!

Here's one I prepared earlier:

The two tools I used to make it are (excluding Firefox):
  • Capture Fox the screencasting add on for Firefox
  • Miksoft's Mobile Media Converter "free fast and easy" it converts most audio formats and many video formats into many others, for this job it will render the big fat AVI file Capture Fox produces as small lean MP4 or WMV video
My more usual use for the brilliant little converter is to code MP3 files of classes into AMR files that are only 20% of the size so that students on dialup can download a whole hour's class. Incidentally the video above (uploaded to one of the best video sharing sites and one which does not claim unnecessary rights to your work - as YouTube does) was under 2MB for 1.5 minutes!

PS: As anonymous comments below there is a Beta version available here which compresses the AVI file better. Using Miksoft's converter will still give much smaller file sizes, but for people who don't like technology the new version would make it a one step process instead of two. And probably many of you have less students on dialup still or poor "broadband" than we have in NZ ;) So a great tool is getting better.

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  Making it (electronic publication) count
As a follow up to my previous post, and an indication that I am not really the angry old man presented in that post ;) I'll draw the attention of biblical scholars who blog to the excellent set of guidelines for evaluating digital work being produced by the Modern Languages Association in the USA.

"Being produced" because the material is a wiki, being refined continually by members of the MLA's Committee on Information Technology, though the guidelines are already very useful.

Note to Jim: Wiki technology, far from being the necessary haunt of flagrant dilletants, can be a really easy way for a group like this to publish ongoing work - Judge the product not the technology (a useful motto for this conversation ;) :End note to Jim

The site: The Evaluation of Digital Work contains a very useful annotated listing of Types of Digital Work, and a Short Guide to Evaluation of Digital Work that would be really useful to members of committees called upon to evaluate digital scholarship, as well as illustrative material and an (unfinished) section assisting applicants with Documenting a New Media Case.

NB. This post follows on from the following earlier discussion:
Stephen's Academic Blogging: Publication or Service?
Mark's Academic Blogging: Publication, Service or Teaching
My rant Should blogging count for academics?
(see also Jim's Blogging: To What End? and Mark's Why blog? and - though you may need to scroll to see the connection - Media Literacy: Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media by George Siemens - Apr 25 09

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Thursday, May 28, 2009
  Should blogging count for academics?
Many academics now blog. [Cue crusty elderly mumbles about how back in 2006, 5, 4... there were merely a handful of us...] So, the issue of whether, and if so how, blogging should "count" among academics is a live one. There is, certainly nothing like a clear common answer. Even among blogging-academics the topic has been hashed and rehashed, but little light as emerged.

Evaluations of academics' performance are traditionally, and probably globally, thought of under three headings:
  • teaching: fairly obvious, includes preparing, marking, talking to students...
  • research: usually requires publication in a peer-reviewed form of actual research, so writing a Bible Dictionary article usually counts as service or teaching not research
  • service: a rag bag for anything else the academic and their evaluators think of as "work", committees, consulting, speaking to non-professional groups etc.
The current posts among biblical studies bloggers, opened the conversation with Stephen's Academic Blogging: Publication or Service? and also Mark's response Academic Blogging: Publication, Service or Teaching posing the question in terms Marx would have approved. Does blogging "count" as work, and if so of what sort? In other words the question is economic, should I/we be paid to blog?

Jim in a typically forthright reply poses the question differently in Blogging: To What End? and Mark offered a typically reflective answer in Why blog? I'll answer Jim's question briefly, and then return to the original one. I blog because I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of reading other people's posts, and I hope that (by blogging myself) I can add a different voice and perspective to the mix. In short I blog for the same reason that I do not (despite being a raving introvert) sit silent in a corner during conversations in the Carey staffroom, or the church coffee room after the service, because I feel part of the community.

So, back to the question should blogging count as work for academics?

Professional scholars have long enjoyed a privileged elite status in society, not least in the freedom to choose how to spend time. As long as certain requirements of teaching and committees are fulfilled, we get to select which interests to research. To a large extent too we get to choose when to work, late into the evening for some, early mornings for others... and if the plumber can only call on Tuesday afternoon there is a good chance that the family academic can arrange to be home at that time :)

And yet, these freedoms, and especially the freedom to research, have been restricted over the years.

When I began at Carey in 1993 we taught typically 4-5 courses a year, 2 larger courses (maybe 25-35 students) in one semester and 3 smaller ones with 7-20 students in the other. This left plenty of time for research and service, and these activities were not rigorously assessed. If my research produced no publications some years, but I wrote a series for the denominational paper, that was fine.

Now we teach 5 courses a year, and few of them have less than 30 students while the largest have 70-80. About a third of these are distance students, so a whole extra layer of preparation and interactivity online has been added. My guess is that overall these changes double the time taken each year by teaching, take out committee meetings and the like... research and service become spare time activities. Yet research is now subject to a government sponsored evaluation process, it is not enough to produce an article for a local (= Australasian) journal, at least some of my publications must be in top international journals...

Should blogging "count"? I do hope not, because if it does, I'll need to produce "n" posts a year, and remove from Sansblogue any posts I fear will not meet the approval of some committee. If blogging starts to "count" then the biblical blogsphere will become a mass of turgid, safely academic, posts full of language designed to impress rather than to communicate, relieved only by the amateurs - used in it's deep sense of someone who undertakes an activity for love rather than payment - and the outsiders.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009
  Eternal life?
Ilkka Rauhala posted this video to his facebook status. It nicely states some of the communication issues in presenting "the gospel" to a Buddhist.

I can't help wondering if (even for Western cultures and languages) "eternal life" is the best translation of ζωή αἰώνιος? Might αἰώνιος not suggest more life of the age that's coming, so be suggesting something like the dreams of a new age in texts like Rev 21:1ff. or Is 11:1ff.; 61:1ff.? Can any of you Greek/NT scholars help clarify this for me?

I am an INFP so I work most easily with intuitions, and my intuition is that ζωή αἰώνιος sounds like "life of the age to come" especially if I back translate to something like עוֹלָם...

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Thursday, May 21, 2009
  Burmese activists petition Ban Ki Moon
Burmese activists have begun an international petition for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize winning elected leader of the country. They had 270,427 "signatures" when I signed, they are aiming at 400,000 but it would be great to go higher... you could sign here.

Monday, May 18, 2009
  Monogamy, polygamy and the verbal inspiration of Scripture
John Hobbins nearly always provides a good read. I have lost count of the number of his posts I have pointed out to students. He is often at his most thought provoking when one diagrees with him, or when he is pushing a rhetorical point to its limits ;)

So, I found his post Theological vs. “Plain-Sense” Exegesis of Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5 with respect to the Marriage Covenant stimulating, especially since we only partly agree about some of the key issues. In the course of his argument John wrote:
This [monogamous] take on Genesis 2 is possible if and only if it is read against the grain of its proximate context - the book of Genesis, in which polygamy is taken for granted - and with the grain of its macro-context – inclusive of the New Testament, in which the ideal of monogamy is upheld by Jesus and Paul. This kind of exegesis is convincing if and only if one has a high view of scripture according to which, in classical terms, it is verbally inspired. On this view, each and every word of scripture is there for a reason that goes beyond what its human author could possibly have imagined.
A fun argument, with stirring rhetoric, but is John right? Must I swallow the camel of verbal inspiration, imagining e.g. God putting on funny voices to "do" Jeremiah and Isaiah differently, if I want to read Gen 2 in the light of the rest of, and the trajectory of, Scripture as a whole. I do hope not, because a God with "mouth" squinched to make Mark sound different from John, though possessing a fine sense of humour can hardly be taken more seriously than one who assiduously plants fossil animals in order to confuse 19-20th century natural philosophers!

Surely the simple fact that Genesis 2 is found, read and used as part of a canon - a collection of literature that I perceive as related and (at least somewhat) coherent is sufficient to enable me to read Gen 2 in a way that is like the way Jesus does in the Gospels?

Fun rhetoric, but I submit no score!

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Friday, May 15, 2009
Last year on my birthday we raised nearly $2,000 for a roof to a dormitory for the children of displaced people from Burma at a school in Thailand. This year on my birthday the best hope for a peaceful future in Burma (because she is respected by the ethnic minorities as well as loved by the Burmese) Aung San Suu Kyi is imprisoned for a "crime" committed against

Basically, an American got into the place she lived under house arrest and refused to leave. The terms of her house arrest do not permit "visitors", so though she is ill she has been thrown into jail.

So, for my birthday wish this year I'd love to get 2,000 people (not dollars this time ;) to write to either their foreign minister or the UN general secretary. So please:
  1. Put a message about this on your blog, Facebook page... encourage others to write, if you encourage them to post a comment here saying they have written I can keep track of numbers. (But that is not the most important thing!)
  2. Write an email to:
    UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon
    Foreign Secretary: David Miliband

    Hon Murray McCully
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Minister for Foreign Affairs: Hon Stephen Smith
    If someone can give me email addresses for other countries' foreign ministers I will add them here.
Please help me celebrate my birthday!

  Urgent action: Aung San Suu Kyi imprisoned
Email frrom Burma Campaign:
This morning Burma¹s democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested by the regime and moved to Burma¹s notorious Insein prison. It appears she will face trial for breaking the terms of her house arrest which forbids visitors, after an American man, John Yettaw, swam across Inya Lake and refused to leave her house.

Aung San Suu Kyi has committed no crime, she is the victim of a crime. There was an intruder in her house who refused to leave, yet she is the one being mprisoned.

The United Nations and ASEAN must dispatch envoys to Burma to demand the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all Burma¹s political prisoners.

Please go to this page where you can email the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon and ASEAN leaders to urge them to send envoys immediately.

As you know Burma¹s generals will use any excuse to keep Aung San Suu Kyi detained. If strong action isn¹t taken, Aung San Suu Kyi could face the rest of her life in jail.

Please take action now. Aung San Suu Kyi could now spend the rest of her
life in jail.

It is not acceptable that the UN and ASEAN only speak out ­ they must take action. In the past their expressions of concern and statements have been ignored and defied by the Burmese regime. Words alone are not enough. The UN and ASEAN must immediately take real action and send high level envoys to Burma to ensure that Suu Kyi does not spend the rest of her life in jail.

Today Aung San Suu Kyi will have spent a total of 13 years and 202 days in detention. The United Nations has ruled that Aung San Suu Kyi¹s detention is illegal under international law, and also under Burmese law. The United Nations Security Council has also told the dictatorship that they must release Aung San Suu Kyi.

Please take action now and ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi does not spend the rest of her life under arrest.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009
  Whatever you do, do NOT tell Jim ;)
Irish student hoaxes world's media with fake quote by AP: Yahoo! Tech
When Dublin university student Shane Fitzgerald posted a poetic but phony quote on Wikipedia, he said he was testing how our globalized, increasingly Internet-dependent media was upholding accuracy and accountability in an age of instant news.

His report card: Wikipedia passed. Journalism flunked.
Yes, famous newspapers published a fake (and rather "purple") quote in their obituaries for Michael Jarre, while Wikipedia (the public encyclopedia) tested the quote, found it wanting and removed it.

Motto trust Wikipedia over a professional journalist any day, diletantism rocks ;)


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Saturday, May 02, 2009
  Carnival 41
James McGrath has produced another copious Biblical Studies Carnival, the fourthy first! As usual there are lots of posts to notice that one failed to notice. I had not seen at the time The Floppy Hat's interesting post On Literacy in Ancient Israel, in case you missed it my own ראשׁ as headland? got a mention. Life has still been too busy for me to convince myself one way or the other on the question, so if you have thoughts on whether  רֹאשׁ הַכַּרְמֶל is a "crest" or a "headland" do add your comments so I can ponder them!

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