November 27, 2007

What I like to do

I had considered not attending SBL this year... busy schedule, other travel, lots of projects in the air at church. What tipped the scale for me was that the folks at Accordance Bible software invited me to join their booth to help demo software. I thought it would be a great experience so that settled it for me.

The conference was good for me. I had good face to face's with folks I wanted to. I had opportunities to discuss my work with scholars that were interested. I rushed to make the e-lister's gathering and photo op, which I arrived at just before the shutter went off.

Christian Brady has been having biblioblogger gatherings at previous SBL's which I wasn't aware of, and enjoyed seeing & meeting more folks I knew from online presence.

I tend to go to a lot of papers, but that was slashed this year because of my working at the Accordance booth. This experience was fantastic. I'm pretty good at using Accordance (which is of course why they asked me) and so it was great fun to sit down with folks and show them what they can do in their work. (Here's a pic of me in action.) The Accordance booth is just nearly constantly crazy busy (hence the recruitment) with folks adding tools to do their work. And, Accordance leader Roy Brown is like a rock star with all the top scholars who pass through the booth during the show to check in with Roy and the work they're doing together. Again and again, I'd look over and say things like, "Is that so and so?" When I'd be doing a demo, it was such great fun to sit with a scholar and say, "Tell about your work." And then show them how they can do things to enhance/improve/quicken/expand their work. This experience really clarified for me what my online church/bible/mac hobby is. For years, I've been active online in capacities such as B-Greek, the Accordance e-list and forums and The Macintosh Biblioblog, and I now have some clarity why its such a hobby.

I have certain skills/experiences which include ordained pastoral ministry, Biblical languages, elite Mac skills, Applescript, Accordance, some dabbling in XCode, Perl, PHP, XML, and just tech interests in general, and I really enjoy using that background to help folks doing bible work or pastoral work to discover ways to improve their work. 

The number of digital tools available to us these days is staggering, and I just enjoy assisting colleagues discover how to make use of them. The regular emails I get from folks with a pretty wide array of solicitations for help are really opportunities for me to contribute to religious studies, pastoral efficiency, or biblical research in specific ways. And while I don't always have the time to give equal attention to them all, I do count it a joy. I love to see a colleague say, "I wonder if it would be possible to..." and to brainstorm "Here's one way you might be able to do it."

Last week, at the Accordance booth, a scholar came up to and said, "In my work, I read through the text and when I find a feature that matches this certain criteria, I do this, and look up this, and compare it with this. It's great that these tools can enable what I'm working on." But in my thinking through his workflow, I had a couple suggestions. We sat down at a computer and I said, "Notice you can get this same result with a simple change to the Text display, and furthermore you can make it the default format, and even better, you can set it as the default Details window, and then back in the Search window, notice how a simple click here and then here brings it up that much quicker..."  and the guy broke down in tears. He said, "You have no idea how much time you have just saved me in my work."
That's a satisfying role to play, and if you'll allow, I'm happy to do it in the name of Jesus Christ.

November 14, 2007

BibleTech:2008 Conference

I'm off to SBL at the end of the week. It's unlike any other event I attend during the year. At the church-related conferences and assemblies I attend each year, there's always too few lunches and dinners and afterhours chats for the number of folks for whom we're trying to get together. At SBL, I feel at times like I walk around like a ghost. (I recall last year someone asking me if I was free for dinner and I just chuckled.) It's an odd, and not dissatisfying difference.

SBL's approach has reminded me of an invitation I received this summer to a conference in January being put together by Logos software. They're calling it BibleTech : 2008 , and the conference

is designed for publishers, programmers, webmasters, educators, bloggers and anyone interested in using technology to improve Bible study.
I like the idea of a tech conference for folks working with the bible and related texts. Certainly, the CARG at SBL does not suffice, nor fill this niche. I'd like to attend, if for no other reason than the opportunity to meet James Tauber in person. However, my schedule is tapped out, and I'm afraid it'll be too PC-centric to be of much interest to me given the context. And who the heck can get to Seattle for an over-nighter anyway? If the conference makes, and gets repeated, it'd be nice to have it in another part of the country, but we shouldn't be naive. A conference like this is at some real level a showcase for Logos and would be likely to stay there. This detail is on the web site:
When at the conference you might hear about Logos Bible Software from time to time, but no more so than any other projects that combine Bible study and technology.
Really? No more than any other commercial software?

I like the idea of a software company making efforts to be a catalyst for bible and tech work to be done, it seems to me they have repeatedly made such efforts in the last couple years (though I don't follow Logos' activities/news since they don't make Mac software). I do wish some of these efforts were less proprietary. I found the fact last year that SBL endorsed/cosponsored/lended credit to an academic award that required the scholarly work be done using a specific company's software to be abhorrent. (Will we also be allowing Fortress to offer an award for a scholar who only read books from their press?)

I hope the conference is a success. I think this sort of getting of folks together has grand potential. I will look for a report on it in the blogosphere.

Update: Bob Pritchett of Logos writes to describe how open and non-platform/product specific they've attempted to make the conference. I'm glad to hear of the efforts. One would simply expect the product of the company underwriting an event like this to enjoy a prominent position. While that is expected (otherwise, why would Logos spend all the money for the event?), it in no way mandates that other projects/products are not at all welcome.

November 11, 2007

Suggested Uses of Church iMac Lab

I am excited that we have a brand new iMac lab deployed and in the rotation for Sunday School for our church (Raytown Christian Church). I'm interested in hearing from folks with software suggestions and how they are using classroom computers at church.

For those those of you unfamiliar with the Workshop Rotation Model in Sunday School, the classes work on the same bible story for a whole unit and rotate around to different rooms-- one week a class may be in the story telling room where someone might dress up as Noah and tell the story, one week in the kitchen where they may make arks out of graham crackers, one week in the craft room where they make cutout animals, etc. We also have a media room where they can make/watch videos about the story and put together skits. And now newest into our rotation is the computer lab, where they can use drawing programs for any story but also several bible stories have programs written for them. We just finished using a Jonah program from After some work, the program ran great and the kids were enthralled.

I don't know of anyone else who has a Mac lab at their church... anyone out there? If there are three of us, I'd like some networking to happen regarding software that has worked and not. We have new Intel iMacs so have to be wary of software being sold as Mac compatible when what it means is that it runs in Classic, or only functionally on PPC.

Ideas we're exploring include:
1. The kids can do testmonials or story-telling into iMovie that we can use in worship presentation on the big screen.
2. We're thinking of have a segment where the older kids can use iWeb and put together little web pages that will be available in a special section of our church web site and the kids can update it at the end of each unit with pictures (some that they draw) and text that explains what they've learned in that unit. They can then show it to their parents and friends from home via the web.

We're also going to be finding other uses for the iMac lab at church. One is, we're going to have "How to email your grandchildren" classes. We already support another ESL class, but we're going to look into a community literacy class.

I'd be happy to hear suggestions/brainstorms of other uses in kids' Sunday school and otherwise.

November 10, 2007

Watch Accordance Training DVD in Full Screen

I've been watching the Accordance Training DVD lately. The videos are well done and I'd recommend them to new and old users alike.
However, I prefer to watch videos in fullscreen mode, utilizing the screen real estate my beautiful iMac grants me. So, don't forget you can search out each file in turn and open them in Quicktime and view as full screen.

But who wants that hassle? So to make it easier, I whipped up this little utility app:

Accordance Training DVD Fullscreen Viewer

Just pop your DVD in (or copy the movie files to your hard drive), and run the app. It presents you with a simple Table of contents and a click (or arrow key and return) to view the chapter you select, in beautiful FULL SCREEN no less.

November 07, 2007

Free upgrade to Microsoft Office 08

If you know you'll be purchased the new Microsoft Word 2008 when it is available, and you don't yet have 2004, be aware of Micro$oft's generous new purchase upgrade promotion. You can upgrade to Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition for free. If you're buying at a great deal or even the student edition, this can mean big savings.