Twilight world

THE TWILIGHT ZONE "The Bridge to Nowhere" by Thad Roan - Bridgepix

Around now I’d be retired, according to our schedule. Actually I’ll be working at Carey for another six months, but we’ve just taken a big step on the journey.

On Friday morning as Barbara, Thomas and I began the final clean-up inside, workmen hammered the “For Sale” notice into the grass verge and our house in Auckland went on the market. On Saturday afternoon, as Barbara and I drove exhausted back to “the farm”, they held the first open home. That evening someone made the first offer, after a couple of phone calls they offered 20k over the CV and we accepted. (Subject to lawyers and a building inspection before Friday.)

We’re surprised and delighted, and I’ve taken a big step closer to retirement. So, this morning I woke thinking about “retirement”. Ceasing full-time employment marks the beginning of what, accurately if somewhat negatively, people used to call one’s “declining years”. This period is a time of life dedicated to (hopefully slowly) running down like a clockwork toy that no one winds any more. This is a period when, barring major illness or disasters, ones capacities and world gradually shrink. In traditional societies, as ones ability to act in and on the world around shrank, ones respect grew. Not so in the “modern world”. Here “old folk” just fade away.

So, how could anyone welcome retirement (the gateway to this twilight zone) and even deliberately choose to begin it early?

As in so many other things, I think of Grandad and Granny. Mum’s dad had planned and saved for retirement all his working life, took it early and enjoyed the “fruits of his labour”. He wasn’t well off, they’d been frugal all their lives and that couldn’t suddenly change.1 But he entered retirement planning to enjoy himself. Projects like making a dining chair set, and building a garage, as well as his garden and show rabbits kept him out of mischief.2 He enjoyed his grandchildren, savoured watching his children now safely grown into people he could like and even respect.

That’s what I want, come June. Oh, not the rabbits,3 and not the building and carpentry (much, though we do have some fences and a piggery planned) but the enjoying life. And like Grandad I don’t plan that my world should shrink too fast, so I do hope that nexct year will see real progress with the development of open resources for biblical studies.

  1. Carpenters in those days were not highly paid. []
  2. Yes, in the UK in the fifties rabbits were scarce enough that people held Rabbit Shows and won rosettes for the best in breed. Grandad and Granny were practical people, so they also bred rabbits for meat ;) []
  3. In NZ they are a pest. We’re hoping a friend will come to stay and bring a gun to shoot the ones our place seems to attract. []

70% of students could learn from this

Yes, here :)

Click for full graphic

Sadly the students who need this advice most probably don’t read my blog ;)

However, for students and others who do here  is some good sensible advice and a quick revision of some of the more useful operators one can use in searching Google.

HT: Lifehacker from

PS more than 70% of students in NZ do not use Macs, they still cost too much for most students.

Logos 4: first impressions

I have had a long term on again off again relationship with Logos.

Back in the early 90s it was my first chance to access the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek Bible texts with all the pointing accents etc. and, wonder of wonders, morphologically analysed (or at least Tense Voice Mood indicated). Before I’d been using Online Bible under DOS and Desqview.1 My only complaint about Logos was that it was slow (but everything was in the WIMP environment of Windows).

However, it could not last… Logos introduced a new version I think it was 2, and the acceptable slowness became the sort of foot-dragging that gives snails a bad name. I spent some money that might have bought one, or even a couple of, reference works on Logos2 and bought Bibleworks. Bibleworks just worked, it did everything i wanted faster and better than Logos.

However, one thing Logos has always been brilliant at is providing resources. I saved up an arm and a leg3 and bought the Anchor Bible Dictionary on Logos. I was preparing the Hypertext Bible Commentary: Amos and quick and easy access to the ABD was a real help.

However, Logos was so slow that most of my actual Bible work was done in Bibleworks, so  was using Logos as a sort of glorified e-book reader.

Then Logos, always brilliant at producing resources that I would dearly love to have, started producing syntactically analysed texts. I started to save arms and legs and began buying them.

However, before I could really start even installing them I was “upgraded” to a Windows Vista laptop. It was a nightmare. I installed Linux, and could not face trying to install logos under Wine4 so my Logos languished.

Then the laptop died and I was given a Windows 7 machine to replace it. The Logos videos looked great, and I really really wanted those syntactically analysed texts and all that biblical people stuff to explore… So5 I bought Logos 4.

So, after the longest intro ever, what are my first impressions?

Logos 4 looks nice, clean and sharp. It feels surprisingly responsive, after a wait while the program loads during which I can I think literally go and make a cup of coffee.6 It offers a bewildering array of tools and resources. Far too many. Most of them rubbish. Now, I admit some users rubbish is another users gold. But surely something called the Scholars’ Edition could hide 90% of the out of copyright devotional commentaries Matthew Henry’s great fans can always unhide him, ditto Charles Haddon Spurgeon and the rest…

And then there the windows, try as I might, and having just finished marking for the year I have managed to waste hours trying, I cannot seem to get the windows arranged in a way that suits me. There seems no way to put the menu box that chugs away trying to suggest which 13th century divine might have written something about Qoheleth 4:2 on the right and put the Bible text and translation left and or top. Since I’m of Western culture and I’m studying the Bible it seems to me reasonable to want the Bible at the top, and at the start. The help feature is not easy to point in the right direction… [Does anyone know how to move, and generate new windows?]

Overall first impression there is loads here to explore, it will be really useful, but since it insists (so far) on prioritising all the pretty stuff and dead white guys writing over the Bible text I suspect I’ll use Bibleworks most of the time and only go over to Logos when I want one of the many resources it has that BW doesn’t.

PS: The program has crashed twice today. Ths may be a problem with the blasted OS (this laptop runs the accursed Vista) but OTOH no other program has crashed even once…

PPS: With a bit of playing I’ve discovered how to manipulate windows :) it’s neat, just a bit frustrating that I had to discover by accident and could not easily look it up, OTOH the interface does become more “intuitive” wit use :) Second impressions could be more positive than first ones ;)

  1. A great combination that let me do everything Windows 3.1 did, but blindingly fast, except it did not run “new” programs like Logos. []
  2. This was the period when e-resources cost more than print. []
  3. This was by now the period when e-texts “merely” cost the same as print. []
  4. In any case Bibleworks, as always, just worked, more or less. []
  5. Another missing arm and leg. []
  6. Timed at approximately FOUR minutes! []

Too much for Facebook: Hard work is bad for the soul

I feel inordinately virtuous. Before a lesurely breakfast of porridge with blueberries and brazil nuts at 9, I had not only fed my animals before I fed myself (as my grandad taught me) and read the blogs and “done” my email, as usual, but I’d marked the last of the late assignments, cut a couple of fence posts and most of the panneling for the new vege garden, mulched two tea bushes and pulled up a wheelbarrowful of weeds from under the trellis.

No wonder I feel ordinately, if not inordinately virtuous!

Which introduces neatly my theological point. As I always say, but never hear, hard work is bad for the soul. Feeling virtuous is a form of pride, and pride is one of the (“seven deadly” even) sins.

Before anyone accuses me of preaching laziness I should turn to point out the proper response to such a start to the day… it’s the theological virtue (a true one this time) that Jack in the movie Titanic and Qoheleth (and/or his ambivalent narrator) preach. Thankfulness, such a morning should prompt me to give thanks to the creator for all these opportunities I enjoy. Life is (indeed, and overwhelmingly obviously on such a morning) a gift.

Gender analysis and the silly season

It’s the silly season, I’ve nearly finished the marking, but only “nearly”. So I needed some silliness. In an effort to demonstrate “scientifically” that Ruth was written by women I submitted the first chapter in various translations to the Gender Analyser. The results were uninspiring, it reckons with varying degrees of confidence that the chapter was written by a man. But then I guess all that proves is that the translators were (almost) all men. So to cap off the silliness I asked about this blog. Aparently my previous post (like my entire Repentant Carnivores site) was written by a woman.


Silhouette of a womanWe have strong indicators that is written by a woman (93%).

So, what I want to know is, who has been writing guest posts without telling me!?

The everyday spirituality of marking!?

Photo by liber

Back in 2004 on the 15th of November I was also bogged down in marking (is there nothing new under the sun?) so i posted this little gem:

Blame Steve Taylor for this post, that or the end of the year has finally got to me… But Steve’s post “everyday spirituality of ironing” which reads:
| One of the neat things about ironing,
| is the chance to pray for those who wear the clothes,
| in a whole range of life and work situations.
made me think of marking, it’s the boring chore that I do most often. Barbara does the ironing, I do the cooking (and I love cooking, little time to think or pray though – when the flame hits the pot!) I suppose I could pray while mowing, but that does not work as well, I’m no St Francis to pray for the Mynas and the Thrushes, or even the cats that prey on them!

But marking, like the huge pile of exam scripts on my desk right now, that I do lots of, and it is boring (largely, though with the occasional gem) and it needs breaking up… So, I’m going to try praying for each student as I finish their script!

Nice one Steve!

I did, and it worked well for a few years, deepening the experience of marking and enriching my prayer. it works less well now though since Carey (unlike the University) does not always show a student’s picture in the LMS when I upload the mark. I need pictures I can’t recognise who is who as well with just names :(

Cohesion and coherence

Fig rolls stuck together (photo by fsse8info)

Rick Brannan has a really interesting post in which he begins to explore James and Cohesion. Most interesting to me was that he uses the Louw-Nida semantic domains rather than just lexical repetition (this first post was only concerned with the area of cohesion mediated by lexical or semantic repetition – or “semantic chains”1

This is something I must follow up, once the present rust is over. In the meanwhile, I’ll contribute one reservation on a point of detail to Rick’s post. He writes:

lexical and semantic cohesion has to involve more than simple repetition and clustering. That might help identify areas of cohesion, but it does not define them.

This is to some extent true, examples like those he mentions of repetition from within the few huge semantic domains perhaps do not contribute much to even cohesion. And yet, a distinction between cohesion and coherence can be helpful. So “cohesion” refers to the features of a text that promote or create its sense of being a linguistic unity, what Crystal in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language called “the ties that bind a text together”, while “coherence” implies meaningful attraction and unity (“the underlying logical connectedness of a use of language”2 ).
A cohesive text may be thoroughly incoherent:

The creation account in the chapter takes seven days, but every day some one feeds the parrot. Since they don’t like me, let them take it. Then my account will be in credit. For credit takes six days and parrots create chapters.

Is a pretty cohesive text, in terms of the language used it “hangs together” yet it is incoherent.

I will return to this topic :) but for now I must pack, it’s our annual denominational “Gathering” and Barbara and I are doing a workshop on “Teaching the Faith to Children” (not our choice of title but nevertheless a topic dear to both of us).

  1. An interesting term for which he cited: O’Donnell/Porter/Reed’s paper “ the problems and prospects of working with ancient discourse”. []
  2.   Crystal, 417. []

Seeking the Peace of Jerusalem

There is a lot of knee-jerk Christian Zionism around. This perversion of Evangelical respect for Scripture is even common in NZ. So I am delighted that Bethlehem Bible College (a fine Evangelical seminary where a colleague of mine recently spent a sabbatical) are organising a conference “Christ at the Checkpoint” which aims

to provide an opportunity for Evangelical Christians to prayerfully seek a proper awareness of issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation in the context of the realities on the ground in the Palestinian Territories. It will also provide a platform for serious engagement with Christian Zionism and an open forum for ongoing dialogue between all positions within the Evangelical theological spectrum.

These aims are good, carefully worded, and full of peace. Although I have deep respect for my Jewish fellow students of the Hebrew Bible (a disproportionate number of the most sensitive and careful, as well as knowledgeable biblical scholars are Jewish) and affection for the Israeli Jewish families at whose tables I have eaten, their governments have and are acted cruelly and unjustly towards the Palestinian people.

This conference should be supported, even without the Blogging Contest! We should all be linking to Christ at the Checkpoint, and seeking to generate support for our Palestinian brothers and sisters in Christ, who are seeking understanding and peace.

Hope in the Midst of Conflict from Christ at the Checkpoint on Vimeo.

HT: Jim West

In which I agree with Carson and Piper!

My ex-boss has been reading John Piper & DA Carson’s The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor. These two are among the most prominent poster-boys for Conservative Evangelical (with very big Cs and Es) views. I have more sympathy for what I’ve read of Carson, but neither really connects with the things that interest me most of the time. Yet Paul’s summary of their ‘twelve lessons for the scholar as pastor with brief quotations includes this gem:

Fight a common disjunction (the ‘critical’ vs the the devotional reading of Scripture)
“My response, forcefully put, is to resist this disjunction, to eschew it, to do everything in your power to destroy it … when you read ‘devotionally’, keep your mind engaged; when you read ‘critically’ (ie with more diligent and focused study, deploying a panoply of ‘tools’), never, ever forget whose Word it is. The aim is never to become a master of the Word, but to be mastered by it.” (91)

That is SO true. One of the biggest problems with theological education in the last fifty years is that too often we have failed to help our students to “get” this. We’ve allowed them to develop schizophrenic lives where intellectual understanding and lived faith fail to meet. And that has been killing churches.

I’d disagree fundamentally and at almost every turn with Carson and with Piper on the conclusions of critical reading, but I agree 100% with this quote. It (together with Paul’s other extracts) is so good, it almost makes me want to read the book!

Massive traffic: help!

Over the last few months and especially in the last few days I have been getting very heavy traffic all aiming at one particular file on another of my sites. The hits are geterated by multiple GET commands for the same file. This results in considerable bandwidth leaching. I have begun using IP Deny for those IP addresses, but they seem to change from day to day. I tried to contact my hosting company but they are a cheap one and seem uninterested. If anyone has an idea what is happening or has noticed something similar I would be glad to hear from you. The IP addresses I traced were all in China, but in several different cities…