March 25, 2010

Central States Regional SBL Report

The Central States Regional SBL meeting was enjoyable. It was my first time at this particular regional event which has been in St. Louis each year since I've been in Missouri.

I understand it has been in Kansas City in the past (and I'd be happy to see it repeat).

This event is smaller than the other regional meetings I have experience with in the Southwest, but there were still sufficient slots for the just-over 100 attendees to present and hear papers. The book exhibit is about as small as you could imagine. About 5 presses must have sent in a box of sample books, though Abingdon was present with an actual rep and larger display.

The other five presses each had a collection of the size similar to this one from Chalice Press.
It appears that Central States basically has three sections—HB, NT, and ASOR—though they were also trying to maintain a mini-section on Pedagogy. The presentations I attended were the expected wide range of rich diversity, including moments of understandable inexperience, occasions of insightful brilliance, along with the occasional "Huh?". These regional meetings are indeed a great place for folks to cut their teeth on an academic venue, and the "old guard" who seem to run the meetings do have a good priority for encouraging student participation, even undergraduate. Some of the actual presentations were refreshing and/or notable.
David May of Central Baptist Theological Seminary surveyed "Restoration Coins" from the Roman empire that offer a good reminder to move beyond textual evidence (such as numismatics) when seeking social context for a culturally bound book like Revelation. Mark Nanos, whom I met for the first time and who lives about 15 minutes away from me as it turns out, made a strong argument that the interpretation of πώρωσις in Romans 11:25 is inappropriately influenced by the πώρωσις τῆς καρδίας found in later texts in Mark and Ephesians. The plenary address from Dr. Jodi Magness, the Early Judaism professor at University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill surveyed the issues surrounding the James Ossuary and the Talpiyot tomb. She is very articulate and presented the state of the affair well. One business session facilitated discussions about an issue facing all SBL regional clusters. Due to IRS regulations, the regions are going to have to become separate legal entities. Without a doubt, if these new structures do not find a way to have some sort of "Sponsored by the Society of Biblical Literature" branding somewhere, they will decline in interest.
The most enjoyable aspect of the time was the occasion to get [better] acquainted with scholars in Missouri and nearby. In addition to David May and Mark Nanos, I further enjoyed getting to know Daryl Jefferies of Central Methodist University and Mark Givens of Missouri State University. In some instances, it was an exercise in learning about regional institutions that I had been ignorant of their existence previously.  I will look forward to next year.

March 21, 2010

Regional SBL Central States

I just arrived at the Central States regional meeting in St. Louis. I have attended regional SBL's, but this is my first time at this regional meeting. (My prior experience is in the Southwest.) I don't know many of my local colleagues, so welcome this opportunity to get to know folks, especially from Kansas City. (I have seen the bible folk from William Jewell with whom I've shared a flight from national SBL, and I think I see David May of CBTS having lunch.)

I've not any specific reason for being here other than making such connections in general. I am looking forward to Jodi Magness' plenary address on the Talpiyot tomb. I think I shall be attending all the NT sections.

March 09, 2010

What MacBook Should I Buy (If I Switch From a PC?)

I frequently get asked for advice on computer purchase decisions. The first and most important answer is that everyone's needs and interests are different so there's no one size fits all. However, I've not been shy about sharing what my thoughts have been, for my own decisions. I've purchased 5 MacBooks and 12 Macs over the last 15 years (including ones I've purchased for a use at the church I worked at). Right now, I feel pretty clear in my preferences and reasons regarding my MacBook needs especially. A friend recently asked me for my opinions with a series of what I deemed to be good and thoughtful questions. So, I thought I would post my answers publicly as well.

"What MacBook model do you suggest?"
I think the 13" base MacBook Pro is the best portable computer value ever, absolutely ever. I do like large screens (my iMac at home is a large screen), but I think the size disadvantage of the 15" or larger portable is simply not worth it. I wrote my dissertation mainly on my 13" MacBook, and its has multiple wide columned tables. Basically, it still accommodated my needs; with two-finger scrolling, screen accessibility is just so natural. I'm certain there are some niche uses where they need a larger screen, but for someone who takes the computer from home to the office every day, there's no question about it. The unibody design is absolutely fantastic, a huge step over the white plastic case MacBook still selling. The way I encourage anyone to figure out which MacBook meets their needs is to consider the different base configuration using this table and then ask themselves, what am I gaining for the price increase and do I need/want that? As far as configuration, the first add-on I spend for would be faster processor speed. Hard-drive can be upgraded later and unless you're doing video editing or loading tons of [legally?] downloaded movies and music, you're not going to need more. RAM can be added later, and more cheaply via third party.
Computers get a speed bump in their specs every year or two. It is always a good idea to not buy if you can wait a month if a new release is pending in the next month or so, but short of that, I'd say buy when you want/need/can afford it. You can look this site to gauge if a new update is coming soon, or ask your Mac friends about it.

"Is getting the Air with its portability worth the high cost?"
The MacBook Air is super fun to handle. Consider the gains and losses though in going with it. If you move from the base 13" MacBook Pro to the Air, what do you gain? It is a little thinner and 1 pound less. What do you lose? $300, a much slower processor, less memory upgradeability, 40 Gigs of hard drive, battery life, one of the two USB ports, the only FireWire port, and Ethernet port, an SD card slot, and a built-in CD/DVD drive. That is a LOT of computer to lose for the sake of a little thinner and a pound less. Any one of those losses could be a deal breaker for you. None of them would be for me. I don't use my FireWire often, I could get a USB hub for my desk, I could carry a little SD card reader in my bag, I could stop plugging my MacBook into the net and just use the wireless, and I never use my CD/DVD drive when I'm not at my desk. But, it's just too much computer to give up in my estimation. If you've handled the 13" alum unibody of the MacBook Pro, it still feels slim and lean and mean and quite durable and fun. But, if you don't need/use any of those things, $300 is definitely worth it for the smaller profile machine.

"How fast does the hardware go obsolete?"
Not very. Apple just completed a transition from the system software moving completely to the new Intel machines, so, that change won't come again anytime soon. The Unibodies represent the greatest physical durability to date, so the wear and tear on the case is vastly improved. I think you're foolish if you plan on using a new MacBook less than three years; I think you're naive if you think you'll want to use a new computer for 7 years.

"How is compatibility these days in general?"
It is fantastic. Essentially, for individual files and file types (word documents, graphics, web protocols, etc.), compatibility is essentially complete. For instance, your word documents between PC and Mac are just as compatible as they are between two versions of Word on the same platform. You will still find some computer software categories where options are more limited on a Mac (though 99% of those are games). And, there are some web sites that use poor standards that choke on my Mac, though that has become VERY rare, and most often moving from the default Safari web browser to Firefox fixes the problem.

"Are there compatibility issues with AV support for doing presentations?"
Nope. You will need to carry in your bag the Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter or a Mini DisplayPort to VGA or to Composite/S-Video (or all three).

"Are there software/peripherals you consider must-haves?"
I really like a MacBook sleeve that I then carry in a larger backpack of my choosing when needed. I love this Brenthaven Trek sleeve, since it is suitable as a carrying case or can be used inside a large backpack. One of the two I've bought for two different MacBooks is 4 years old, gets hauled everyday and is still in great shape.
Accordance Bible software is one of the best Mac apps I know of. It runs so natively and intuitively it is a joy to use and can offer just the resources and tools a scholar or pastor would want to have at their fingertips.
If you will be taking the computer between home and your office everyday, pony up and buy a second power cord and power brick to keep you from having to fuss with it everyday. You can then just unplug, slip it in the case and go.
Always carry an SD card and a USB flash drive in your bag.

"How is Word on the Mac?"
If you are familiar with Microsoft Word on the PC, you're still going to be familiar with it on the Mac. Most things are very similar. The approach to document creation is pretty much identical. Microsoft Word was originally written for the Mac platform. There was Mac Word before there was ever PC Word, and Microsoft Word is still the most feature complete word processor on the Mac. It has some junk I wish it didn't that I'll never use. (I'm looking at you, equations editor). The only caveat, and it could be big for you, is that the Mac version does not allow editing of right-to-left unicode languages, including Hebrew. The next version of Word set to release at the end of this year may change that. I would highly recommend that before buying Microsoft Office, you first install OpenOffice and live with it for a bit and see if this open source free software doesn't fit the bill. I would also almost recommend holding out for the next version of Word. If I was confident it would ship this year, I would for sure recommend that. There are other great and inexpensive word processor alternatives that are wonderful on the Mac, including Pages and Mellel.

"What are the concerns for viruses/malware on Macs?"
None. I've never had "virus protection" software on my Mac and I've never seen a Mac that had it. Ok, slight exaggeration there, but basically, short of you downloading illegal games and applications from torrent sites online, it's a non-issue still this year.

"Thoughts about music/video/games?"
There are plenty of games to run on the Mac, if that is an interest. There are not as many as on PC. The couple PC games I've wanted to play, I simply rebooted my Mac into Windows XP and ran it natively. Music and video editing is pure joy on the Mac. The iMovie video editing software that it comes with is phenomenal. And as for music, there's some nice integration between my Mac and my iPod and my iPhone. :)

"Any other advice you have for a longtime PC user?"
If you do buy a Mac, I'd suggest keeping active on one blog or web site or newsfeed so you can learn a little as you go. A great option would be

March 05, 2010

Accordance Users Conference

The newly announced Accordance Users Conference looks like a great idea that can offer a lot of different things for different groups of people. And, it looks like a lot of fun. If the date can work out I'm going to try and make it down. If so, I should certainly try to offer a workshop (if it would get accepted). I'm thinking of something like this. Tell me what you think or let me know if you have a better suggestion:

Automating Accordance Integration: A Glimpse at the Possibilities

Technologies already on your Mac, as well as features of your word processors and other applications can allow you to put the power of Accordance and the convenience of repetitive tasks at your finger tips. Get quick access to scripture as you write. Enable scholarly inquiry never before possible. Some examples will demonstrate amazing practicality and some will be for the sure fun of it. We'll catch a glimpse of what's possible in automating your favorite application.

March 04, 2010

The Making Of a Slogan

Since the inception of The Macintosh Biblioblog, it has kept a Hellenized version of the slogan that Apple used at the time, "Think different." I have enjoyed the email discussions that others have initiated with me over the years about how best to render the phrase in Greek. Some have raised various possibilities, argued for grammatical changes, or defended what was there at the time. Setting aside lexical changes, the chief candidates have included:

  • φρονεῖς ἕτερος
  • φρονεῖς ἑτέρως
  • φρόνει ἕτερος
  • φρόνει ἑτέρως

I have used more than one at different times. Among the ponderances and outright debates were whether the command should be an imperative form or rather simply indicative of the reader, as well as whether the "different" should be adverbial or somewhat substantive. Many have taken some of the above versions to more explicitly read something like: φρόνει: "ἕτερος". Most contacts regarding the issue have enjoyed the intentionality I had put into it, as well. Frankly, there are different ways to interpret "Think different."

It really is amusing the regular emails raising questions and making suggestions. Somewhere in the comments is a discussion between a few B-Greek folks including the venerable Carl Conrad.
I digress.
In the midst of all those discussions, no one has succeeded in pointing out what has recently occurred to me, namely, that the slogan is out of date! And so it is now changed:
εἰμι μακ

(Let the new debates begin.)