Articles By tim

Bacon and egg for grown-ups

There are times when Bacon and Eggs is just the thing, as a comfort food for your inner-child it’s a combo that can hardly be beaten. But, for those times when you want something a little more grown-up, and let’s face it just a tad healthier. I have invented the perfect recipe.

Just combine a lettuce and chicory salad with bacon and blue cheese dressing with egg dressed potatoes :) The result is sharp, clean and sophisticated, but with undertones of bacon and egg comfort.

Put the potatoes on to boil, this works best with a floury potato, not a waxy one (look for those marked for roasting etc.)

The salad couldn’t be simpler, just mix lettuce and chicory leaves (you want a head that has decent leaves not one of the baby tight ones that are bestgrilled) with a little garnish of chopped spring onion.

The dressing is simple and brilliant:

  • Grill bacon (less than you’d use for real Bacon and Eggs maybe 1.5 -2 rashers per person).
  • Put a  tablespoon per person of each of olive oil and milk into a small bowl, crumble a good big nob of  blue cheese per person (I used a creamy blue, they seem to blend into the dressing better). Beat with a fork till the cheese is almost incorporated into the oil/milk emulsion, making a thick but just pourable dressing. If it is too thick add extra milk.

Chop the bacon small. Mix the salad, bacon and dressing.

Take the boiled potatoes, and put them still hot into a heated bowl, sprinkle with mustard seeds (for garnish and a slight added bite) and salt, then break an egg over the potatoes and stir to coat. The heat of the potatoes (straight from the boiling water) should cook the egg1 the stirring will soften the potatoes, and coat with yellow (I used free a range egg with a deep yellow yolk, if yours are pale you may want to cheat and add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric to the egg before stirring into the potatoes). Do NOT make mashed potatoes, just lightly stir to coat and fluff them.

Voila, bursts of lovely flavour, and pretty healthy bacon and eggs for grown-ups!

  1. More or less, you may want to avoid this recipe if you or a guest is pregnant or in fragile health as some egg may remain uncooked, just spread as a dressing. []

Being an extra in a story Jesus told

Photo by redjar

In response to my post Fairtrade: Coffee, Chocolate & Bananas Heather commented:

…it will do nothing to convince the group that I most often encounter: those who don’t believe that what they do could possibly change ‘the system’. That’s the main point I find myself trying to argue with people.

Oh, you silly people! I’ve always tried to change the world, but, since I was three I’ve recognised that usually I have little success. I have a blog, it’s quite popular, I regularly write posts trying to change the world. However, there are nearly 600,000 websites that are visited more often than my blog. Realistically I stand little chance of saving the world :(

Happily I don’t have to. That post is already taken. What I do have to do is to try to change my little corner of the world. If I persuade five of you to change your buying just habits on just one of these three  products: Coffee, Chocolate and Cocoa, or Bananas then at least one family’s life will be changed for the better. If two of you five persuade five others, we have a snowball, and snowballs do change the world…

But, for the moment forget about snowballs, because Jesus told a story that featured a couple of possible world-changers:

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.  31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  (Luke 10:30-32)

Priests are always trying to make the world a better place, and preaching to change the world is a Levite’s job…

The Nature of Christ as a Man: and the gendering of God

A search for "Christ as a man" brought up this photo by mararie

I have just posted another short section to my online discussable book on motherly talk of God Not Only a Father which addresses the question of how The Nature of Christ as a Man interacts with my ideas of the (non)gendering of God.

Not Only a Father  is an attempt at a new way of writing a book, discussing it with people as it is written. So the text currently on the site is subject to change, but I need your comments and questions or objections to help make this work. So please visit, comment/argue with me, and/or get your friends involved :)

Fairtrade: Coffee, Chocolate & Bananas

Photo by anthony_p_c

Some of you, I hope many, do not need to read this post. Sadly those who flick past will probably be mainly those who DO need to read it :(

When I posted a recipe for some nice Chocolate Muffins (which are actually a sort of moist and juicy cross between muffins and brownies, but that’s another story) on Repentant Carnivores Heather commented suggesting that I should have recommended that people use FairTrade chocolate and cocoa. To my reply that “I just assumed that people would (at least try to) use Fair Trade” she wrote: “Wow! You must move in very different Christian circles from me! I know relatively few Christians who think that such buying decisions have anything to do with their faith (even Christians who are very aware of and concerned about the Majority World)

Fair trade is a Christian issue:

God hates rapaciously greedy oppressors. The prophets and the Old Testament laws had loads to say about the evils of injustice and how God cannot tolerate people who oppress their neighbours. Jesus had some interesting things to say about who our neighbours  might be. Put these together and if our buying in the market (or even supermarket) is done at a price that does not allow the producers to live a decent life we are acting in a manner that God abhors. Whether or not there is any truth in claims that: “God hates fags” it is abundantly clear that God does hate rapaciously greedy oppressors.

The world trade system is rapaciously greedy: Unless it is moderated by consumer choice or government legislation the world trade system in which we operate is rapaciously greedy. (In this post we will ignore legislation, that’s someone else’s business.) Take coffee,  a high proportion of coffee is grown by small farmers,1 they get usually a tiny proportion of the price that the big coffee companies charge for the end product2 these prices hardly cover the cost of production.3 Buying “normally traded” coffee therefore is oppressive and unjust.

For Chocolate and Cocoa the issue is different, there much comes from large plantations, whose owners (Western companies or local elites) make good money, but pay a pittance to their workers, or even if many stories from reputable sources including the US State Department are to be believed use child slaves imported for the work from neighbouring countries. Buying “normal” chocolate products is therefore oppressive and cruel.

For bananas there is a third problem, here most production is from large estates, the monoculture practices of these companies require the use of dangerous chemicals, the companies have often bribed government officials and legislators to ensure that they can continue to expose their workers to these chemicals (and so not lose their commercial edge). Buying “normal” bananas thus endangers the health of the people who worked to grow your banana.

You CAN now (at least in NZ) often find FairTrade coffee at the supermarket – there is no excuse to buy anything else.

You CAN now (at least in NZ) often find cafes that sell FairTrade coffee – there is no excuse to go anywhere else.

FairTrade chocolate and cocoa are less easy to find, a few supermarkets stock them, but often you have to go to a TradeAid shop, or buy online: NZ, or search Google.

Some supermarkets stock fairly traded bananas.

If your supermarket does not stock these products do some Social Media Activism, “social media” is a hot notion among marketers, supermarkets want you to “friend” them on Facebook. Do so. And then post on their wall asking them to stock Fair Trade products. If enough people post on Pak n’ Save’s FB page, they will stock Fair Trade… it’s up to you!

  1. 70% from properties of less than 10Ha. []
  2. Typically less than 10%. []
  3. In 2010 the price was around US$2/pound  according to the International Coffee Organisation. []

I wish I taught physics

Physics professor Joe Redish at the University of Maryland. (Photo: Emily Hanford) from the AmericanRadioWorks post.

I’ve always had a sneaking envy of physics teachers. Their subject comes with such a neat set of well understood and widely agreed (almost universally1 principles and concepts. In biblical studies everything is so frustratingly a matter of (almost always widely) different interpretations and approaches.

But now I have another reason to envy physics teachers. It may have taken all my life as a teacher, and more, but they now have a well-researched body of knowledge that demonstrates that “lectures” are nearly useless at communicating such ideas, and a nearly equally well-researched body of knowledge about how to do the job better :)

Of course, despite all this evidence most physics teachers are (like most biblical studies teachers) too much creatures of habit to actually change, but if I taught physics at least there’d be that body of research.

Take the simple principle that tells us that two metal balls dropped together at the same time will reach the ground at around the same time despite the fact that one weighs twice what the other does. You do know that principle? It’s called gravity, it’s breaking news, some guys called Newton and Galileo have done theoretical and practical research in the field.  Apparently a huge proportion of physics students, even at “good” universities, just don’t “get” it. Despite attending physics lectures and even passing physics exams. And it’s not because either (a) they are all Quantum Mechanics, or (b) because all physicists are thick ;) It is because lectures don’t work. What does work is the way most of us learned most of what we know.

But before I get to that here’s an anecdote from a post on the topic at AmericanRadioWorks:

Redish has been teaching at the University of Maryland since 1970. When he started, he lectured because that’s the way he had been taught. But after a few years in the classroom, Redish was meeting with one of his mentors, a famous physicist named Lewis Elton who had begun doing research on education.

“He asked me, ‘How’s your teaching?'”

Redish told him it was going well, but that he seemed to be most effective with the students “who do really well and are motivated” about physics.

Elton looked at Redish, smiled, and said, “They’re the ones who don’t really need you.”

“That was like an arrow to the breast!” says Redish.

So, what is this approach to education we (almost) all used as students that could revolutionise teaching and learning? It’s simple. I learned most of what I learned from my peers. The rest I got from books and journals, which I read because conversations with my fellow students over coffee had suggested I needed to read up more on a topic. The basic understanding though came from the chatting over coffee.2

For those who like formal technical language3 it is called Peer Instruction, and there is a whole website provided by Monash University dedicated to Peer Instruction in the Humanities. Read it! Or better still chat to your friends about it, here or over a cup of coffee ;)

  1. At least in the metaphorical, not-literal, sense that all physics teachers on earth agree, I can’t be sure those who might perhaps be in other corners of the Universe really do, though i suspect it would be likely ;) []
  2. No wonder I like drinking coffee, I used to tell my students in Africa that at Oxford teachers and students ran on coffee like cars run on petroleum ;) []
  3. Perhaps because it makes things seem reassuringly “academic”. []

Resources and situations: flipping Bible teaching

Photo by aflcio

I realise that in my enthusiasm for the infographic I probably didn’t explain well what I meant in my last post: Flip, this is good.

Teaching on this model would involve groups of students together (and separately) addressing a series of issues or situations (carefully chosen and prepared case studies, or actual situations that come out of their current placements). In preparing responses to these they would be guided to various resources. These might include, but would not be limited to:
  • material prepared by the teacher(s)
    • 5-10 minute videos (often made with presentations with voice over (using a screen capture tool – like CaptureFox)
    • similar length audio segments (where the notes/visual elements were less important
    • short written explanations of key ideas
    • a glossary
  • other material (both self-discovered and linked by the teacher)
    • book chapters
    • journal articles
    • blog posts
    • etc

Note that these resources would need to cover the same sorts of topics as we traditionally think of as the content of our courses, but the list might need some adjustments (in the light of how important/relevant a topic is really for student learning. Since students would discover their “need to know” they would be motivated to learn about arcane topics like intertextuality or the Hebrew verb system.

Many of the “resources” would be the same things (like my 5 Minute Bible podcasts) that I currently point students to when they email me with questions… though some would need preparation, and others might need preparing as the course unfolded.  The same approach would work with distance and onsite students, but in both cases the “class time” would focus on the problem or situation, not on the “content”, developing skills and thinking, and leaving the information to be delivered by less time intensive means.

Flip, this is good

Eddie Fearon (at Hermeneutica) was asking how I’d restructure teaching in Theology/Biblical Studies, I think his concern with my “we’d start with real world situations” suggestion was that the basics of biblical and theological disciplines would get lost. I think this infographic suggests how they could be ensured.
The Flipped Classroom

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

Of course, you’d have to “flip” more radically than these guys, there wouldn’t be set video (or PPT plus audio, or plain audio etc.) resources “set” for each week, but the situations would be chosen so that over time students would need those 5 minutes on perichoresis or on the meaning and value of Sitz im Leben for formcritical reading or whatever…

 

How paper is better than e-books

You know it's a good bookstore when... by Ben+Sam

If yesterday’s post seemed a trifle touchy, it’s because the author I was criticising was himself unbalanced. I can rectify that today thanks to Jim W who pointed to this: 5 Ways That Paper Books Are Better Than eBooks this list is balanced and sensible, it takes the technological differences into account and points out not only why e-books don’t/can’t have the significant feature, but what they might have that is similar…
It is a really interesting post – read it! Thank you Jim :) Though your only comment:

And then take that e-reader and put it in the closet.  With thanks to Elaine Reid for the heads up.

…suggests that you have not actually read the post you point to. Perhaps that’s how you get all those posts every ten seconds, you’re a content sniffing machine, not a reader?

Proverbs: Everyday spirituality

Many teachers argue Proverbs is not merely a collection of ethical or moral rules. We stress the role of this teaching in forming the person. We notice how often the real wisdom consists not in knowing the words but in recognising when they are applicable.

Thus, “contradictory” proverbs may both be true, and both collected, remembered and used by the same person:

4 Do not answer fools according to their folly,
or you will be a fool yourself.
5 Answer fools according to their folly,
or they will be wise in their own eyes.

That the book opens with a collection of “instructions” and “wisdom poems” strongly supports this view of its aims and goal.

Instructions, with the form of some commands followed by a motive, suggest such character formation. The form itself is rather like the priestly torah with instructions for ritual observance followed by a theological grounding:

1 My child, if you accept my words
and treasure up my commandments within you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 if you indeed cry out for insight,
and raise your voice for understanding;
4 if you seek it like silver,
and search for it as for hidden treasures–
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
 and find the knowledge of God.
 (Proverbs 2:1-5)

Yet the address to a “child”, and thus the casting of the speaker as a parent, suggest already a formational goal. When we notice the prevalence of words that describe who or what a person is, rather than what they do, this becomes even clearer.

Old Babylonian Queen of the Night (Ishtar?) Photo by seriykotik1970

However it is in the “wisdom poems” that this becomes most explicit. For example:

13 Happy are those who find wisdom,
and those who get understanding,
14 for her income is better than silver,
and her revenue better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
18 A tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called happy.
(Proverbs 3:13-18)

While it begins with language that seems “merely” to describe the benefits of a “good upbringing” gradually but progressively it seems to be describing a way of living. This language already in Proverbs begins to personify Wisdom, both as a quasi-independent attribute of God (in the long poem in 8:1ff. see especially vv.22ff.) but also as a companion for life:

1 My child, keep my words
and store up my commandments with you;
2 keep my commandments and live,
keep my teachings as the apple of your eye;
3 bind them on your fingers,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
and call insight your intimate friend…
(Proverbs 7:1-4)

So, it begins with education, but ends with a life companion. This relational aspect of the imagery becomes clearer and quite explicit in the contrasting figure of the adulteress or loose woman in vv.5ff.. While taken on its own this might merely be a parental warning against sexual infidelity the contrast with Wisdom suggests otherwise. So also do the hints that associate this other woman with pagan goddesses.
This contrast of Wisdom to the adulteress and to Dame Folly and their possible connections to goddess figures leads directly to a consideration of both what Proverbs says about women and its gendered character and to a consideration of later developments of the figure of divine Wisdom in Scripture.

(See my next post.)

A sad, dull, pedestrian take on e-books

Illustration by Joon Mo Kang which accompanies the article.

Why, oh why, do the very people who ought to be the most gripped by the possibilities that new things open up so often fall into a defensive wishful thinking? The latest example concerning e-texts (though already the author has blinkered his vision by focusing only on e-books)1 was pointed to by Jonathan Robinson (on FB).

It’s a really well-written article that is on the whole simple and (when dealing with history) fairly accurate. But novelist Lev Grossman when thinking about: The Mechanic Muse: From Scroll to Screen (the title of his NY Times piece) fails to imagine a move from print to screen, but instead restricts himself to the current woeful capabilities of e-books. By limiting his imagination in this way he can conclude:

But if we stop reading on paper, we should keep in mind what we’re sacrificing: that nonlinear experience, which is unique to the codex. You don’t get it from any other medium — not movies, or TV, or music or video games.

Which is about as bananas as you can hope for. It is demonstrably factually inaccurate. To suggest that computer games sacrifice “nonlinear experience” suggests he has even less experience of such games than I have! But beyond that to suggest that e-books sacrifice the non-linear reading that codexes allow is plain daft. Admittedly current e-book devices seem woefully limited in how they exploit the possibilities of non-linear reading (and writing). But such limitations are not inherent in the electronic medium. They seem to be built into e-books to make them familiar, and so acceptable, to cautious change-phobic readers like Lev, by mimicking the difficulties the codex entails.

A true e-text not only has hyperlinks, either built in or generated on the fly, it has interactivity so that readers can communicate with each other about their reading experiences, it is searchable, bookmarkable, one can add comments and notes without defacing the medium… In fact it offers everything the paper codex offers except the limitations and sensual attractions of paper itself, and then adds huge and exciting new possibilities.

What a shame that an author’s fear of having to learn to WRITE differently should give him a platform to infect readers with his own fear of the new. Surely a good writer ought not only to have capacity for wrangling words, but also an imagination?

I wonder what Lev Grossman’s novels “The Magicians” and “The Magician King” are like? If they are as empty of imagination and daring as his article suggests, they must be sad, dull, pedestrian things. Perhaps the poor man does indeed have a merely “Mechanical Muse”?

  1. An e-book is a current delivery vehicle for e-texts usually based on texts delivered also in other [print] forms thought of as the primary form. []