Archives For tech

Niccholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Atlantic, July/August 2008, pp. 56-63.

(I just checked, and yes, it’s available on line also–though that might be a bit ironic in light of Carr’s thesis!)

Not Luddite, but thought-provoking regarding how we use the net. Carr explores the ways in which various technologies affect the way we think and the way we think about the world–and this in terms as diverse as writing itself, the typewriter, printing press, and now the net.

The concluding sentence: “That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.”

I just learned something important about creating pdf files from Accordance. I’ve never been able to figure out how to fix this, but whenever I received Accordance pdf files or created them, they have always refused to print from Windows. So I’d have to move the file to my (ancient) laptop, take that to somewhere where I could plug into the campus network, and print from there. Now I’ve discovered the solution–which is very helpful since with a new MacBook I’m working my way towards “Windows-independence” even in my study on campus and the classroom. When creating pdf files from within Accordance, instead of selecting (in the Print dialog) “Save as pdf” you need to select “Save as pdf-x.” That’s a subset of the pdf format which embeds the fonts. The resulting file will print just fine from Windows (or a Mac without the Accordance fonts).

Thanks to Danny Zacharias (of the Deinde blog team) in a comment on Joe Week‘s Macintosh Biblioblog.

I’ve just updated my Unicode Greek keyboard for Mac. The name has changed; it’s now “Greek KoineRD” (so that it sorts with the other Greek keyboards already installed in OS X; It was formerly named “Polytonic Greek”). I’ve also added an icon file so that it can be easily distinguished from others keyboards in the Input menu. You can download it from my Unicode page, or directly here: keyboard layout and icon file. (These two files are not bundled; you need to install both of them. One of these days I need to figure out how to create a bundle so it’s just one file.)

To install: copy both files above (Greek KoineRD.keyloyout and Greek KoineRD.icns) to the folder: ~/Library/Keyboard Layouts/ then log out and back in, open the International Preferences pane, and on the Input Menu tab, check the “Greek KoineRD” listing. If you have also checked “Show Input menu in menu bar,” then “Greek KoineRD” should appear as a menu item there.

Pressing Command-Spacebar will toggle between the two most recent keyboards; Command-Option-Spacebar will cycle through all the active keyboards so you can select a specific one (which is why the icon file is important).

I’ve also updated the other “Unicode on Mac” links on the Unicode page, deleting some that are now outdated.

– – –

Update: A couple of notes in response to queries I’ve received:

To download these two files, do a “right click” (or if you don’t have a two button mouse, Control-Click; or if you have a new Mac, a “two-finger click”), and select “Save link as” (or the equivalent command in your browser). This will save a file with a “keylayout” (or “icns”) suffix. The user does not have to bundle them (the “bundling” is something I should do to make it easier for users since the result is a single file instead of two; someday maybe I’ll have time to figure out how to do that.); just copy both files that are downloaded into:

~/Library/Keyboard Layouts/

You’ll have to log out and back in (or Restart if you run in single-user mode) for the new keyboard to be recognized.

This keyboard follows TLG beta code, so it’s pretty easy to use. The major difference is that the diacritic must be typed *before* the vowel instead of after. I wish I knew how to reverse that and put the diacritic after the vowel, but Mac standard proceedure is the reverse. I’ve heard it can be done, but it’s apparently not very obvious.

See the templates posted here for an easy-to-use reference chart for the keyboard.

There is also more detailed info and a downloadable pdf file on the keyboard support page.

I just read a thoughtful article oriented to technology, but as I read, I realized that the insights offered are relevant to some ministry contexts also. The article on the Tidbits site is titled, “Instant Messaging for Introverts,” and is written by Joe Kissell. This isn’t the usual tech article, but includes some discussion of personality as well. Though I’m not into psychological discussions, Kissell’s observations about how different personality types interact with and use technology for communication (be that email, IM, Twitter, blogs, cell phones, etc.) strike me as being accurate and helpful. Kissell is an introvert—not “shy, withdrawn, afraid of crowds, or lacking in social skills”—that’s not what an introvert is. And introversion is not “a problem that needs fixing or as a trait that one should actively try to suppress and change.” You can read his description of introversion, but in its simplest form, it refers to those who tend to be focused more inward than outward. Kissel describes himself as someone who,

will happily stand in front of hundreds or thousands of people, give a speech, answer questions, make jokes, and generally take charge of keeping the group interested and involved. If anything, I have a reputation for being long-winded in social situations, telling stories that go off on one tangent after another—and for being among the last to leave. I like people, and I think I’m reasonably competent and comfortable in a crowd of any size.

However, given the choice, I do generally prefer to be alone. If you asked me which would be more fun—going to a lively party where I’d be socializing with a couple dozen other people or sitting in a quiet corner reading a book—I wouldn’t even have to think about it: I’d much rather sit alone and read. All things being equal, I prefer smaller gatherings to larger ones, and I prefer solitude to company.

One more quote before I make the association with ministry. “Another typical introvert trait is wanting to compose one’s thoughts carefully before sharing them (either verbally or in writing).”

Kissel’s ultimate purpose in his article relates to how different people use (or don’t use) specific kinds of current communications technology. He prefers email and tends not to use those forms that demand, by their very nature, immediate response, multi-tasking, and constant availability (e.g., IM, Twitter, cell phones).

As I was reading his discussion (curled up in a hotel near Boston this evening for the ETS Eastern region meeting tomorrow morning) I realized that there are a lot of parallels with my reactions to and participation in some forms of ministry. I’m also an introvert. Like Kissel, I have no qualms about speaking to a large group, teaching (preferably in a very interactive setting), using technology, etc. Though I’ll not likely be described as “the life of the party,” I’m not phased by walking into a large group/meeting/party, etc. and participating. But (and as one well known NT scholar is prone to say, “it’s a very large BUT!”) there are other forms of ministry and interaction where I do not “fit.”

In one of my several contexts I am expected to participate in a “small group.” And yes, I know, small groups have been the rage in ministry for some time now. At least where I’ve been involved, the expectation is that everyone is supposed to “share” what they’ve discovered in the Word of late (the more recent the better), and then the rest of the group is supposed to chime in and contribute to the discussion of the text (usually a relatively short text, often bereft of its context) as to what it means and how it “applies.” In such settings I typically sit quietly and observe.

I’ve always thought that such discussions ought to be based on someone preparing and teaching, or of several (or all) studying a passage in advance. The spontaneous sharing of comments without previous thought and preparation has always bothered me. I had not thought of it in terms of personality before. I still cannot fathom how or why people would treat the text in what seems to me to be such a “cavalier” way (that’s perhaps my problem for lack of imagination!), but it certainly does fit that those who seem most excited about such forms of ministry are decidedly not introverts! I guess I need to cut them some slack—but on the other hand, I’d suggest that it is not wise or helpful to expect everyone to fit into the mold of a method shaped by the extroverts. I see nothing in Scripture that requires introverts to treat their personality as somehow deficient or sinful—in need of remediation.

Though I think the method ought to treat the text somewhat more seriously than it sometimes seems to do, it is perhaps useful so long as it is not presented as THE way to do “real ministry” and so long as those of us “methodological misfits” πŸ™‚ are not pressured to become something we are not. And if you’re looking at this from the perspective of local church ministry as a pastor, don’t expect everyone in your congregation to flock to your small group/s. The lack of such a response says nothing about “how spiritual” they are. You need to provide multiple avenues of ministry to and for your people. Don’t force them to fit your mold—or the mold of a particular book or personality just because it is touted as THE answer to all your church’s problems.

If you’re excited by such methods, please don’t over-generalize what you like and find helpful as something that is required of everyone. There are other ways of encouraging and helping people to mature in their faith. You will not (indeed, cannot) find “small group ministry” in the NT—unless you go looking to find a prooftext for something you’ve already designed. That doesn’t mean the method is wrong, only that it is not a biblical mandate.

Finally! My web site and blog have been moved to the new server. This at last enables me to upgrade the WordPress software that runs this blog. I’ve begun making some tweaks and working toward solving some lingering problems that were unsolvable on the old server. Hopefully I don’t create new ones! πŸ™‚ If you encounter problems, let me know.

Welcome to Hall Harris and his new blog. (HT to Andy Naselli for discovering it before I did! πŸ™‚ )

I found it quite interesting to read Hall’s initial posts and see how similar our backgrounds are in some ways. He tells us that he learned to use a slide rule in college as he started on the aero space track. I learned to run a slide rule (and a circular slide rule at that!) in high school physics class when I was planning a career in biometrics and heading to Virginia Tech. (I still have my slide rule, though I’ve long since forgotten how to use it.)

And then God used Urbanna (a university missions conf) to direct him to ministry, so he changed majors and eventually went to seminary. In my case, God used a missionary speaker who visited our small rural church just one time on a Sunday evening. As a result, instead of going to Virginia Tech, I went to Bible college (same year that Hall started at NC State) and then eventually to seminary.

Hall’s first “real computer” was a Mac Plus in 1985. I must have gotten in the door just ahead of him, because my first one was also in 1985 and a Mac, but it was the “Fat Mac” (512K RAM! Wow!)–and I was sorely disappointed later that year when Apple released the MacPlus. (I took out a bank loan for over $3,000 for that first system, including an external, single-sided floppy, DMP, Word v. 1.1, and Greek and Hebrew fonts!) I eventually upgraded my Fat Mac to a 512e with double-sided floppy, and a 2d party daughter board to give me a whole meg of RAM. And later I owed an SE, a Classic, LC, IIci, … several PowerBooks (180, 540), etc… a chain of Macs that extends to today (though I’m far behind the curve at the moment, still using a 300 MHz G4 TiBook that’s almost 8 years old and a “B&W” G3 [that’s “blue & white” not black and white].) I hope to finally change that sometime this next year and get back up to speed. (The new MacBook Air unveiled yesterday sure looks nice, but probably isn’t the right one for me; now if I traveled a lot, it would be perfect.)

Instead of designing a seminary web site (as Hall did), I designed and installed a networked language lab and language teaching classroom (using Macs and Accordance, of course) while I was teaching at Calvary Theol Seminary in Kansas City; that was probably around 1993-94. And then I, too, had to learn to navigate the “Windows world” when I moved to BBS in 1996 (which was a “Windows only” campus at the time). Since then I’ve had fairly good provision in terms of Windows machines, but have been “on my own” to maintain my Mac equipment (which is why I still use an 8 year old Mac laptop!).

The Tyndale Tech blog has a good article today on using Unicode fonts in biblical studies. Worth reading if you are using Unicode—and even more important if you aren’t!

Another article on using Unicode on a Mac that was linked in a comment is also worth reading on the Deinde blog if you’re a Mac user.

And if you have access to the right databases (TLG, Packard), there’s a link to the free Diogenes search tool that you ought to check as well.

Whether or not it will actually happen, I don’t know, but my service provider who hosts the web site and blog is scheduled to move my entire setup to a new server platform at 1 am on Jan 8. I mention it “just in case.” I’d be very happy to wake in the morning and find it moved and functioning perfectly. But I’ve been around long enough to know better than to hold my breath! If it has problems (or, horrors, disappears), check back later.

As of Jan 14 the update has still not happened. It’s supposedly “in progress,” but I’ve no indication as to when it will actually happen.

I just read a pair of very interesting articles:

The Future of Reading

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos already built a better bookstore. Now he believes he can improve upon one of humankind’s most divine creations: the book itself.
By Steven Levy | NEWSWEEK
Nov 26, 2007 Issue

That’s the online version of the print edition. The second is a e-only edition on a blog:

Technology: The future and what to do about it.
The Death of E-Mail: Teenagers are abandoning their Yahoo! and Hotmail accounts. Do the rest of us have to?
By Chad Lorenz, SLATE
Posted Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007, at 12:32 PM ET

Part of what made it interesting is that I read them curled up in my LazyBoy in my study at home—on my laptop through a wireless, satellite link to the web—and I found them through a blog post (Slashdot) in my RSS feed reader. Another relevant factor is that I did NOT read them curled up under an oak tree on the mountain behind my house—and not only because it has been snowing since late yesterday and there’s a blanket of thick, wet snow under those trees! [4.5″ and still snowing when I returned home at 7:30 pm]. Of course I also have a headache, in part (but perhaps only in part) because I’ve been reading too much on screen. It really should be nap time, but then I can rest my eyes between pages and I wait for the next page to load… πŸ™‚

Part of the reason I can’t read it under the tree is that my wireless link is to my wireless router, which is tethered to the satellite modem, which is tethered to a 30″ dish with coax cable… And my router doesn’t reach to that tree. If I lived in town I suppose I could do that anyway with a savvy cell phone (esp. if it were of iPhone class!). But I cancelled my cell phone accounts more than a year ago. Just too expensive. Perhaps I’ll rejoin that assumed standard service one day, but not now.

But the Newsweek article suggests that some of this may change with the introduction of a new ebook reader, Amazon’s Kindle reader which used e-paper—and a creative combination of technology and marketing. We boomers think in terms of books and email, but younger readers think in terms of reading on screen and twitter.

Those who have read some of my older writings might remember a paper written in 1998, “Communicating the Text in the Postmodern Ethos of Cyberspace: Cautions Regarding the Technology and the Text.” A revised version was published in Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 5 (fall 2000): 45–70.

In light of my thoughts then, my thoughts go two different directions today. One, maybe Kindle is getting closer to a practical ebook format. I’d be interested to see one. (If I were a high-profile blogger, I could probably snag a review copy!) Perhaps some of my hesitation re. “reading on screen” is being overcome—which is why I find it somewhat ironic that I read these two articles on screen! πŸ™‚ But reading and studying serious literature (like the Bible) is something different. (The issue is context—but that’s another topic; you just can’t see or track enough on screen–even a big one.)

But second, some of this movement seems to be making communication more ephemeral. Here today, gone tomorrow (or in an hour) makes for less substantive conversations and thought. It encourages “chatter” (I guess that should be “twitter”—an appropriate name!), not thoughtful discussion. But in a day when real friendship has been demoted to “Facebook status” where is it gained as easily as lost, I’m not sure how valuable or substantive such “twitter” between “friends” really is. Being “always connected” may not be a good thing. Don’t we need some quiet time in our lives? How do we obey “be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10—and there are a number of other similar comments in Scripture)? If we’re always online, always connected/in touch, at the mercy of an incoming tweet, email, or post?

I could write more, but I need to leave shortly to spend some old-fashioned “face-to-face” time with people from my church family…. And the sort of things I need to do there can never be “twittered.” The depth of discussion won’t happen that way, and you can’t put your arm around someone who needs encouragement with a tweet. Even a video-IM session, while it may show tears or joy more vividly than :'( or πŸ™‚ emoticons (is a smilie really “joy”?!), isn’t adequate for personal ministry. And ministry is about people.

(Didn’t quite finish this before I left for church, so some of the time references above may seem out of synch.)

Both Vista and Office 2007 come with six new fonts, oddly (and confusingly) all with an initial ‘c’: Cambria, Calibri, Candara, Consolas, Constantia, and Corbel. When I first heard of these I was hopeful that we might have some additional options for polytonic Greek. Unfortunately, that is not the case. They all have monotonic Greek support, but not polytonic. (Monotonic = modern/neohellenic Greek which has only one accent, the tonos, and no breathing marks.) I’ve just posted a 3 page pdf with my assessment of these fonts, text samples of each, info on how to get them if you don’t have Vista or Office 2007, as well as some additional comments of other polytonic fonts that are available for text use (not including my own Galilee Unicode font–which was designed for on-screen use with CRT monitors, not as a text font).

The Death of Blogs?

September 25, 2007

Perhaps I’m joining this party too late? There is a thoughtful article today on blogging, and particularly “Christian blogs,” in Christianity Today.

The article quotes Amy Welborn (who stopped blogging), “I want to do good, and I want to do lasting good β€” the kind of good that people carry around, share, put on their bookshelves and reflect on β€” rather than the kind of good that sparks a momentary flash until we surf to the next website and the next and the next.”

And in view of the perception that blogs must comments on everything, the author comments that “The blog world risks becoming one giant midrash on The New York Times front page.”

Or the note from Wheaton prof, Alan Jacobs, “Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought.”

I sense a certain skepticism regarding blogging in the article, but I think that need only be so of the “news/commentary” blogs that do think they have to comment on everything, and to do so on an on-going, “post every few hours” sort of schedule. You’ve probably already figured out that I don’t intend this blog to be one of that sort. Most of it I hope will offer some material of genuine usefulness to NT studies in general, and the “pastoral practitioner” of it in particular. There will always be the misc. tidbits/trivia sort of thing thrown in (for free! πŸ™‚ ), but more often shorter items that don’t necessarily earn a place on the main NTResources website. Some weeks there will be posts nearly every day, and rarely even several a day, but if there are a few (or maybe even only one) per week, I’ll consider it worthwhile–at least for now. After a few months or a year, I’ll have to evaluate this blogging experiment and decide if it justifies the time.

Today is the 25th birthday of the Smiley emoticon. There is a page dedicated to it at Carnegie Mellon as well as an AP story found several places. Isn’t that interesting?! πŸ™‚