31 March 2010

Jesus Dolls!

Following a link from Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed I found myself at Jesus Needs new PR by Matthew Paul Turner. So far so hum drum but look what I found there; A collection of Jesus dolls!

Go check them out and tell me what your
favourite one is! Really! Let's do a poll and see which Jesus doll wins.

I like the one with the sinus infection cause He looks like He can identify with yet another kind of suffering. What d'ya reckon?

Manage Facebook; Don't let Facebook Manage You.

Facebook knows more about you than you know about yourself!

Tony Wright gives tips on managing Facebook's latest revamp.

excerpt from Rescue Time

Sure, Facebook knows your personal information. They know where you live. They know where your friends live. They know where your family lives. They know your interests, your goals, your passions, your role-models. However, the true gems sit in the data. It’s more than

likely that Facebook logs additional data about you. Facebook knows how much time you spend on Facebook per day. They know what time of day you log in.

Facebook also knows which profiles you click on most. Through this data, they can capture your hidden desires.

Let’s take a use-case example:

Ashley is an average looking 16 year-old high school
girl. She hangs out with the nerdy crowd. Her interests include reading. Her favorite music is the Jonas Brothers. She’s having trouble getting over that nerd hump–and the fact that she still likes the Jonas Brothers.
Ashley has 246 friends. Not much for a teen her age. Her average time spent on Facebook outweighs others’ at 2 hours/day.Ashley clicks on Stacy’s profile an average of ten times a day. Ashley knows Stacy through friends.
Stacy is a popular girl and hangs with the popular crowd. Stacy has 1,200 friends and her wall is always flooded with funny recollections of the previous day and photos–photo’s in which Ashley constantly browses. In Stacy’s profile, it shows that Stacy loves the band Greenday, and Stacy likes “rocking out.

”Guess what types of ads Ashley (the geeky girl that loves Jonas Brothers) will see? Greenday ads (the band that Stacy, the popular girl, absolutely loves) Facebook
has the potential to carry this out.

This is the truest form of relevant advertising. Facebook
essentially knows what Ashley wants to be through the data Ashley logs in clicking and browsing Stacy’s photos.

Thus, the more you do on Facebook, and the more distracted you are, gives Facebook more data on what type of person you are; thus, allowing them to deliver more relevant ads.

So the question social networks, like Facebook, ask themselves everyday is, “How can we get, (i) more people using Facebook, (ii) more often, and (iii) get them to see our ads more frequently?”

In order to negate these distractions in the face of Facebook’s re-design, I recommend the following steps:

  1. Use RescueTime to set up alerts. These alerts will help you identify and keep track of the time spent of Facebook.
  2. Get used to the red notification buttons, and feel comfortable in keeping them unread.
  3. Before you login to Facebook write down your objective in logging in; otherwise you’ll forget when you’re hit with thousands of social stimuli (friend requests, pokes, wall posts, etc.) For example, “Logging in to wish my cousin a happy birthday.”
  4. Turn off all email alerts–anything “Facebook” should not appear in your email inbox
  5. Go into invisible mode on Facebook Chat
  6. Categorize your news feeds into groups–those that are your close friends, work friends, family, and randoms ( I mean random people that you felt awkward in declining their friend request. This will help you not get distracted with photos posted by randoms, as they won’t appear in your priority groups.)
  7. Last, LifeHacker put together a great resource of Facebook Apps that help you get more productive
  8. Also, don’t forget about Facebook lite: http://lite.facebook.com
Thanks to Tony Wright and the Rescue Time blog.
Check there for heaps of other time management tips and software that might suit you.

Why read, write or do arithmetic?

"There is no reason, in and of itself, to "read." We read to access the information in written form. There is no reason, in and of itself, to "write." We write to distribute information to others. There is no reason, in and of itself, to do "arithmetic." We manipulate numbers to help us understand and share a series of concepts we call mathematics."

My friend Rachael sent a link to me that included these comments.
Click to read the rest of the post by Ira Socol on
SpeEdChange: The future of education for all the different students in democratic societies.

For some kids alphabetic decoding will be a quick and efficient method of grabbing that information. For some kids, writing with a pen will be a great, fast way to get ideas down into recorded form. For some kids, writing numbers and/or remembering "the times table" will be a short route to manipulating numbers.

And for others, those routes will not work, or they will not work well enough to really give them access.

For all those kids, we need to find other routes to get them content, to get them involved, to get them excited, to get them communicating.

30 March 2010

Quiet Faith

Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk wrote,

"I’m simply saying that when one’s spirituality is formed by the pronouncements of pastors who are constantly chasing church growth, the culture war or the latest challenge to Calvinism, you are going to get one result, and when you go back to the sources, find the value of the ancient paths of formation, value silence, read, meditate, contemplate and seek to grow in love, you will get another result."

Pray for Michael. He will soon be with Jesus.


Is listening to a book on CD, podcast, tape or watching the video as good as reading it?

Where might a Kindle, Stanza, ePub or iPad come in to this conversation?

I'm an introvert.

Believe it or not, I'm an introvert. I get my energy from being alone. That's not the only way of defining an introvert, but it is one way. I revive and am refreshed by time walking, whether through mountains or along a river or beach. I am good to be with people again after reading, painting or being on my own.

Not all introverts are shy, not all are boring, not all are social misfits. Some are just comfortable with themselves, like to think deeply and know very little of popular culture which commonly seems to be the topic of staffroom "small talk." Introverts can find small talk easy but tiring – and sometimes boring. They'd rather have meaningful conversations about the depths of human souls and minds

Introverts can be witty, but they're less The 3 Stooges and more Woody Allen. Introverts process their emotions, thoughts, and observations internally. Some introverts aren't what you'd typically label "shy" and can strike up conversations with anyone. These introverts enjoy talking and listening to people, and going tout socially. But most introverts would rather be at home.

From How An Introvert Handles Awkward Situations by Ron Edmondson

Ron Edmondson writes, "To most Extroverts entering a crowded room of unknown people is not an awkward setting, but to someone wired like me, entering that same room, when not purposefully “working”, forces me into my introverted shell.

Here’s how I (Ron) tend to respond when I enter a room full of people I don’t know:

  • I find something to occupy my time – Play with my phone, doodle on paper, read my Kindle (you wonder why I carry this stuff…)
  • I pretend I don’t see people…often I don’t…but I’m likely to pretend just in case.
  • I hide in the lobby until the last possible moment…
  • I find someone I do know and latch on to them…
  • I secretly hope some likable Extrovert will approach me and break the ice… (Really, it’s not that I don’t want to talk, it’s just starting the conversation that’s often difficult.)

Ron continues, "The fact that an Introvert is in crowds of people does not mean he or she is comfortable beginning conversations. It also doesn’t mean the Introvert has no care or concern for the people in the room or that he or she doesn’t like being around people. It doesn’t even mean the Introvert has nothing to say, although he or she would probably prefer not to be put on the spot to say it. It’s that an Introvert’s preferred interaction with people is often more of listening than it is of talking and more one-to-one than speaking in large groups at the same time. For some reason, that I don’t understand, an Introvert can speak to a large crowd (the larger the better), but when it comes to having group conversation, an Introvert is more likely to feel awkward."

How about you? Introvert or extrovert and what difference does that make to your relationships, your effectiveness in your job?

29 March 2010

What value? Who decides? Upon what basis?

“The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation” Jeremy Bentham

Maximise utility? Cost benefit analysis? Who decides the value of things?

Typically our culture reduces almost everything down to money. So what happens when we take it one step further and start putting dollar values on our values, religion and beliefs?
It makes things a bit awkward but it certainly gets you thinking.

Check out the results of the Values Experiment on the story. How much people would pay for things . . .

Check also a Harvard YouTube clip discussing the issues.

See more topics at justiceharvard.org

Vertical Self, by Mark Sayers, Reviewed

In a review of Vertical Self, by Mark Sayers, Jared Totten says,

" . . . instead of writing about the blending of the bourgeois and bohemian classes, Mark Sayers delves into the Christian individual's abandonment of an identity defined by the vertical (God) in exchange for one defined by the horizontal (society, Hollywood, self, etc.).

With startling insight, Sayers perfectly describes a Christian generation that has turned its eyes downward for a sense of identity. Movies and reality TV have us all acting out our own scripts. The Internet has fostered our separation between who we are and who we want to be. Narcissism feeds off this horizontal self, "in which our worth is tied to what others think of us, we end up obsessed with ourselves".

Simon Summers adds this review:

What is your identity? What is important to you? What or who affects your decisions and happiness?

These are questions that are posed by Sayers in his book – Vertical self.

Sayers identifies the fact that in this pop-cultured, image-orientated, 21st century world that we live in, identity is everything. The problem with this, however, is that people today have a very twisted view of identity. People don’t know who they are. Styles come and go, fashions move on and people are never satisfied.

In the first part of the book Sayers illustrates simply, through the use of ‘ 5 influences’ how humanity has traded its “Vertical self” for a discontented “Horizontal self” and how this horizontal self has become the goal of almost all societies and peoples world wide.

He then goes on to contrast the Vertical and the Horizontal and gives Biblical advice and suggestions on how we can reclaim and should reclaim our true image – the image that is made in the likeness of God.

Looks good to me. Now to find it in NZ.

Has anyone else read this and care to offer a comment or review?

28 March 2010

Life Speaks Loudly & Clearly

"They will interpret the printed epistle by the living epistle." ~ Lesslie Newbigin

How many times per day do you check your email?

If this information hits a little too close to home for you, stop and choose who's in charge; is it you or your technology.

The average information worker — basically anyone at a desk — loses 2.1 hours of productivity every day to interruptions and distractions, according to Basex, an IT research and consulting firm.

That time is money. Computer chip giant Intel, for one, has estimated that e-mail overload can cost large companies as much as $1 billion a year in lost employee productivity.

Excerpts taken from MSNBC's article
Blunt the e-mail interruption assault:
If you’re constantly checking messages, you’re not working
By Joe Robinson

The intrusions are constant: each day a typical office employee checks e-mail 50 times and uses instant messaging 77 times, according to RescueTime, a firm that develops time-
management software. Such interruptions don't just sidetrack workers from their jobs, they also undermine their attention spans, increase stress and annoyance and decrease job satisfaction and creativity.

If the problem of interruptions is left unchecked,

it will occupy the entirety of the workday by 2031.

The interruption epidemic is reaching a crisis point at some companies and shows no sign of slowing. E-mail volume is growing at a rate of 66 percent a year, according to the E-Policy Institute.

"Technology is an addiction," says Gayle Porter, a professor of management at Rutgers University who has studied e-compulsion. "If someone can't turn their BlackBerry off, there's a problem.

"The cult of multitasking would have us believe that compulsive message-checking is the behavior of an always-on, hyper-productive worker. But it's not. It's the sign of a distracted employee who misguidedly believes he can do multiple tasks at one time. Science disagrees. People may be able to chew gum and walk at the same time, but they can't do two or more thinking tasks simultaneously.

Here's how the brain behaves when your attention slips away from a task:
The hippocampus, which manages demanding cognitive tasks and creates long-term memories, kicks the job down to the striatum, which handles rote tasks. So the gum-chewing part of the brain is now replying to the boss's e-mail. This is why you wind up addressing e-mails to people who weren't supposed to get them. Or sending messages rife with typos.

In her 2009 book
"Rapt," Winifred Gallagher argues that humans are the sum of what they pay attention to: What we focus on determines our experience, knowledge, amusement, fulfillment. Yet instead of cultivating this resource, she says, we're squandering it on "whatever captures our awareness." To truly learn something, and remember it, you have to pay full attention.

Read the entire article on MSNBC's website. © 2010 msnbc.com

Excerpts taken from:
Blunt the e-mail interruption assault: If you’re constantly checking messages, you’re not working By Joe Robinson

27 March 2010

SP MAgazine Relaunched! Check it out!

SP.Magazine has relaunched and you can be one of the first to check it out!

A long and fruitful history as Soul Purpose magazine has brought it to its new look, new feel and renewed purpose and vision.

Join in the conversations!
Follow SPMagNZ on Twitter too.
Tweet it and tell your friends on Facebook.

Congrats to the team at SP on the journey thus far!

View from the edge?

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.”
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

NZ has been described as a small comma on the broad expanse of the South Pacific Ocean.

Are we on 'the edge?' Do we see different things, or things differently?

Perspective, Character, Curiosity?

" . . . what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are."

C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

CS Lewis artfully makes the point in the "Magician's Nephew" that there can be several people confronted with the same evidence [for God] yet they can interpret that evidence quite differently.

26 March 2010

The Insect and the Buffalo: Allpress & Shamy

An excerpt from The Insect and the Buffalo by Roshan Allpress & Andrew Shamy

"The BaMbuti people live in the dense, forested valleys of

the north- eastern Congo in Africa. Their history is marked by geographical and cultural isolation, and their way of life, like their language, is deeply shaped by their forest home.

In the 1950s, a British anthropologist studying their culture

and lifestyle formed a friendship with a BaMbuti tribesman called Kenge, who began to accompany him on his expeditions. Like most BaMbuti, Kenge had never before left the confines of the forest.

It was on one of these journeys that the anthropologist invited Kenge to accompany him onto the plains. As they drove out of the forest into grassland, Kenge was speechless. His language gave him no words to describe a land where you could see for miles around with no trees.

Pointing to a herd of buffalo, far in the distance, Kenge asked what kind of insects they were. Perplexed, the anthropologist explained that these were buffalo, a common sight to the BaMbuti, but that they appeared smaller because of the distance. Kenge’s reaction left no doubt that he thought this was nonsense, but when they drove

8closer, he saw that the anthropologist was right. Having never seen an object at a distance, he had no expectation that distance makes things look smaller. What witchcraft had made such small buffalo grow larger as they approached?

Insects and buffalo. Anthropologists and tribesmen. So much of what we know depends on how we view the world.

The word ‘Bible’ means ‘the book’ or ‘the books’. The Insect and the Buffalo is therefore a book about ‘the book’. It is a book about how the Bible presents a picture of reality that is intended to shape the way we view the world.

Like the BaMbuti and the anthropologist, we each have a set of assumptions about reality. We think we know how things are. We look at the world through the lens of our assumptions and we interpret what we see according to those assumptions.

Is this a world where nothing exists but matter and energy? Is this a world where history repeats itself in endless cycles? Is this a world where everything is divine? Is human life primarily about love, sex, pleasure, owning things, expressing yourself, doing good to others, reaching your potential, or encountering god or gods? Is there any meaning in the world? Is the problem with the world greed, ignorance, sexual repression, social inequality, bigotry or sin?

Are we looking at insects or buffalo?

Kenge’s misunderstanding was an issue of worldview, a uniquely human problem that also affected the anthropologist and affects every human being of every culture.

This is just an excerpt from The Insect and the Buffalo.

To download the first chapter or buy the book, go to Compass.org.nz

The Insect and the Buffalo: How the story of the Bible changes everything

By Roshan Allpress and Andrew Shamy

First published in November 2009 by the Compass Foundation

PO Box 33170, Barrington, Christchurch 8244 | www.compass.org.nz

Digitally Diminished by our Connectivity?

The basic question Lanier's book addresses is, "What does it mean to be human?"

"You have to be somebody before you can share yourself." Jaron Lanier

McKnight asks,

"What are you doing about this issue?
Are you seeing people limiting connectivity or even walking away from it?"

Excerpts from the review:

" . . . the digital world and it its representations of persons threatens to diminish, reduce, and flatten us. And because we increasingly interact with each other through digital mediums instead of face to face, our relationship also are diminished, reduced, and impoverished. The individual is replaced with the hive. A unique point of view is obscured in a mash up. A distinct voice is lost in the computational cloud.

As an example of Lanier's concerns, consider the following paragraph: "I know quite a few people, mostly young adults but not all, who are proud to say that they have accumulated thousands of friends on Facebook. Obviously, this statement can only be true if the idea of friendship is reduced. A real friendship ought to introduce each person to unexpected weirdness in the other. Each acquaintance is an alien, a well of unexplored difference in the experience of life that cannot be imagined or accessed in any way but through genuine interaction. The idea of friendship in database-filtered social networks is certainly reduced from that."Could it be that if we are ever going to be fully present in a given moment or to a given person, we are going to have to limit our connectivity?

Rob Merola ministers in Sterling Heights Virginia at St Matthew's Episcopal.

Read Chapter 2 of the book, You Are Not a Gadget via The NY Times.

25 March 2010

Supersizing Has Religious Artistic Roots?

Arts & Letters Daily steered me to new research into history's most famous dinner party. "Super-sizing" was not uncommon in the miracles accomplished by Jesus Christ; a few fish and loaves of bread were enough to feed thousands; a potentially wineless wedding feast was suddenly awash in the stuff.

Now a new study of portion expansion puts Jesus once more at the center.
You can read a full account of the study on Reuters, headlined “Supersizing the Last Supper”.

Researching the roots of super-sized American fare, brotherly scholars have turned to an unusual source: 52 artists' renderings of the New Testament's Last Supper. Their findings, published in April's International Journal of Obesity, indicate that "serving sizes have been marching heavenward for 1,000 years," as Melissa Healy of the LA Times phrased it.

"I think people assume that increased serving sizes, or 'portion distortion,' is a recent phenomenon," said Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab and author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think." "But this research indicates that it's a general trend for at least the last millennium."

To reach their conclusion, Wansink and his brother Craig, a biblical scholar at Virginia Wesleyan College, analyzed 52 depictions of the meal the Wansinks call "history's most famous dinner party" painted between the year 1000 and the year 2000.

Using the size of the diners' heads as a basis for comparison, the Wansinks used computers to compare the sizes of the plates in front of the apostles, the food servings on those plates and the bread on the table. Assuming that heads did not increase in size during the second millennium after the birth of Christ, the researchers used this method to gauge how much serving sizes increased.

And increase they did.

Over the course of the millennium, the Wansinks found that the entrees depicted on the plates laid before Jesus' followers grew by about 70%, and the bread by 23%.
Read the rest of Healy's article in The LA Times.
See also their collection of The Last Supper through the years.

What comes to my mind, other than it's time for lunch?
Everything gets blamed on religion these days!
Also, that second photo makes me think the bread's going to roll off the table! It's already jumped off the plates!

Text Edit Word Count App

Recently inspired by a training workshop with Mark Webster of Mac-NZ I've started using the built in Mac app Text Edit more.

One snag was that I couldn't find a word count in Text Edit.
Have no fear, little helper apps are near!

I got NanoCount from Mac Update for free and used it immediately to answer my question, and no, I was not being wordy!

Check out NanoCount!

NanoCount is a little program that watches the front TextEdit document and shows you the total words (or total characters). It also lets you set a goal and shows a little progress bar.
Mac OS X 10.4 or later.

Truth, Knowledge, and Objectivity

When I studied journalism, back in the 80's, we were to be unbiased, objective, examine and report all sides of a story or issue. That all changed when I wasn't looking and now I can choose a media outlet based on whether they usually report things I agree with or not. I can choose not to be irritated by those right wingers or left wingers, those who are for or against what I'm for or against. I don't have to listen to or consider opposing views at all!

In all the information that comes at you in a day, how do you decipher, discern, sift and choose what is true, what is necessary and what you can trust? How do you know?

In a conversation focused on objectivity in the media – or lack there of – Charles Norman Todd, guest writer at Majikthise, raised the following question: does adding more voices make the media more objective? Read Todd's summation of the issues in this excerpt.

"The epistemology of journalism is an incredibly fascinating topic, one over which much ink could be spilled.

To the extent that journalism is itself a kind of public discourse, we can evaluate it as a kind of truth-telling. I would argue that our attitudes towards practices of truth-telling vary depending upon the medium in which that discourse takes place. [I think that one of the most interesting discussions on the relation between truth-telling in journalism and journalistic medium is Neil Postman’s short work Amusing Ourselves to Death.]

Consider the following examples:

  • In oral cultures, sayings and proverbs are themselves a medium for truth-telling – bits of wisdom passed down from the elders. Such bits of wisdom both guide daily life and adjudicate civil disputes.
  • In the American legal system, oral truth gets displaced by written truth – briefs, citations, law books, etc. – but in the courtroom speech itself gets privileged over print in that testimony is the medium for truth-telling. The short proverbs and sayings of an oral culture would not be accepted as a valid form of testimony or evidence.
  • In academic writing, the printed word is privileged over the spoken. Postman tells of a story in which a doctoral candidate was rebuked by his dissertation committee because of a citation that read: “Told to the investigator at the Roosevelt Hotel on January 18, 1981.” The committee said, you are not a journalist, you are supposed to be a scholar. The academic practice of truth-telling takes the medium of print to be essential.

But why are these examples relevant? They are relevant, I would argue, because they draw attention to the way various practices of truth-telling themselves bias our attitudes towards what would count as “truth” or “objectivity” within that practice. And in journalism itself, the medium has changed dramatically over the past decades – thereby changing our attitudes as to what counts as objectivity and truth.

With the rise of television, the medium shifted from print to a combination of visualand oral. As television journalism grew, it gradually became more and more visual, relying less on reporting of the news and analysis, and more on images. The shift from the medium of language to the medium of image itself had an impact on print news as newspapers like USA Today sprang up that relied more on image than text.

As a result, our culture now privileges the visual in journalistic practices of truth-telling, perhaps far beyond any other medium. (One could have an entire discussion here on the so-called objectivity of the photographic image.)

I would argue that the privileging of the image as the bearer of truth over print is part of the reason that many in our society think objectivity comes simply by adding more voices. If you are in a place that I cannot see, you could take one picture, but that picture would be flat, it would be from one perspective, from one angle, and with a limited horizon. If you took two pictures, from different angles, I might see a bit more. Three pictures would be even better, and so on.

In short, when we associate truth-telling with the medium of image or film, moreseems like more truth. (I will leave aside whether or not that is a correct assumption.)

If we adopt that standard for truth-telling in journalism, then we will assume that simply showing one more “perspective” will add to the objectivity or truthfulness of the reporting. But I would argue that this is simply false. Indeed, I would argue that such a presumption is part of the reason that serious journalism continues to degenerate."