22 February 2007

I'm pretty sure that having one of these would cheer me up. [link via Kottke] Unfortunately, there are folks who need the million pounds more than I need cheering up.

21 February 2007

Nice stuff to listen to while worrying at the corners of your work. Explosions in the Sky ... from their own website or from reloda.

16 February 2007

Antony sent me a reference the other day. It was a short article suggesting that the prayer in Nehemiah 9 might corroborate NT Wright's idea that Jews during the post-exilic, intertestamental and new testament times still thought of themselves as 'in exile.' The prayer seems to go through covenant history without ever explicitly talking about a return from exile and characterises the people's situation now in this way: 'Behold, we are slaves to this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold we are slaves' (Neh 9:36). Doesn't this make it look like they're still in exile?

Well, not if you read Nehemiah carefully. In Neh. 1:1, 1:3 and 8:17 the author does explicitly characterise these people as those who survived or returned from exile. And in chapter 9, if you look closely, you'll see the language of the end of the prayer is an echo of phrases used to describe the ungodly monarchies in Israel and Judah rather than the exile. In 36-38 we are not in the position of having refused admonishment, and not 'in the hands of our enemies' as in v 30 about the exile. Instead, we are once again in the position of being 'ruled over by our enemies' and 'being admonished by leaders' as in vv 27-28 when the exile was looming.

Wright's redefinition of exile-while-not-in-exile seems to have blinded many readers to the genuine history. Think!

12 February 2007

What a find! Quite by accident, I stumbled across a Bruce Cockburn contribution to a Pete Seeger Tribute album on iTunes. I guess I'm not the only one who's found it because, at least on the UK iTunes Store, it's one of his 5 most downloaded.

If it's not on that list when you go there, search for Cockburn, click on his name, then click a box that says "See all songs by this artist" and scroll down to "Turn, Turn, Turn."

There's also a cover of "Ribbon of Darkness," from an album saluting Gordon Lightfoot.

On the USA iTMS, there's a song called "Wise Users" from an ecology benefit album, and a few collaborations.

09 February 2007

Exquisite timing from my perspective. Sudden snow storm yesterday morning resulted in school closures and even College closure. The whole family was home (except Shanese had always had conference calls scheduled for most of the day -- with folks from Houston etc. so they weren't cancelled). The kids built their biggest snowperson ever and I managed to take the whole day off from my paralyzing anxieties about upcoming speaking engagements, new teaching and lack of writing. It felt great and the snow was beautiful.

But anyway, here's a couple of fun things that you all might be able to make some use of. My daughter knitted (knit?) me something amazing: a mobius scarf! She just made a fairly normal (though nicely coloured and very soft) scarf, but then gave it a half twist and somehow knit (knitted?) the ends together. How great is that!? Get someone to knit you one. (Out of curiousity, just now, I did a search on the web and found these directions for knitting one from the edge! Freaky.) Next, I want her to make me a Klein bottle jacket!

Then here's your pay-off for reading this: two lovely animations I found the other day while chasing down stuff on digital rights management. The first cartoon is by Benjamin Stephan and Lutz Vogel. It's about the so-called 'Trusted Computing' initiative. (That's 'trusted' as in 'you're not.')

But the second is even better; a wonderful piece of art showing the randomness and despair of the powderpoint generation, called Le Grand Content by Clemens Kogler and Karo Szmit, inspired by the often-marvelous blog indexed by Jessica Hagy.

08 February 2007

Since 2004, gmail or google-mail, has been offering e-mail accounts with large amounts of storage for free. Until now, though, you've had to have someone 'invite' you to join. Now anyone can join by visiting their web page.

I collected free e-mail addresses at one time. My favourite, reallyserious@twinkie.com, has expired. Like many others, it was a useful trophy, but not very nice to use. Google's mail is great to use. And Google doesn't place ads in messages you send, unlike Yahoo and Microsoft's Hotmail. It's the one free e-mail address that I use every week. Now there's a version for mobile phones, as well.

The main argument against it is that Google is getting to the point of knowing entirely too much about us. They can scan incoming as well as outgoing e-mail from your account and can add to that what they know about you from cookie-tracking your searches not to mention the fact that you might blog via 'blogger' which they own now. And you don't read your RSS stuff via GoogleReader, do you?

There's a serious point there. I've got nothing to hide, but do I really want to assist any corporation in gaining that much power? Maybe I oughta reconsider that google account....

07 February 2007

People seem to think that the reason that the iPod is so popular is that folks are somehow 'locked in' to using it because they've bought stuff on iTunes that won't work with any music player that uses Windows Media Format files, nor will it play any files bought on an online store that sells Windows Media Format files.

Steve Jobs, who presides over Apple's iPod/iTunes empire, has published an open letter asking the record industry to stop using DRM -- digital rights management -- to 'protect' their assets by limiting their use. If they dropped DRM, he'd convert the whole iTunes system 'in a heartbeat.' (And it has to be said that the way DRM is implemented in their system, it could be dropped quickly.)

It's great to see a call for openness from an industry leader! So are the various consumer groups angling for open rights going to rally around this call, and even if they cynically think Steve is bluffing, work to call his bluff? Are they after open rights or are they after Apple's blood? Torgier Waterhouse of the Norwegian Consumer Council has replied and missed the opportunity to work with Apple to open up the record company's attitudes, instead continuing to treat Apple as the enemy. Sad. (See also former Microsoft employee Robert Scoble's blog.)

ADDITION: This is no change of tactic for His Steveness. In an interview almost five years ago (!), back when the iPod was accused of fostering piracy, he'd argued that the record companies need to loosen their grip: 'If you legally acquire music, you need to have the right to manage it on all other devices that you own.' The interview is still online at MacWorld. [Thanks, Mark]

06 February 2007

I'm a frustrated and unhappy boy today, but that's not what I'm going to write about. Grrr.

Instead I'm going to write about a little bit of elegance for PeeCees. For a while now Macs have had a piece of freeware that brings the best features of a command line to the Mac GUI. It's called Quicksilver and it's powerful as anything but I reckon most of us only use the bit where we invoke it and type in the name of the app we want to open. I love it.

Anyway, someone's made a similar program for Windows computer and I'll be goosewoggled if it isn't just as elegant or even more eleganter (ermm...) as Quicksilver. This baby oozes sophistication. Sorry, I'm being silly, but I am genuinely impressed by it. Enso Launcher costs $20 rather than being free, but that's reasonable.

They also sell a spellcheck/dictionary for the same price, but I wasn't as impressed by that somehow. My SpellCatcher is old-fashioned looking but works less intrusively. You can have a look though. It's called Enso Words.

ADDITION: Blog-reader leeb has written another for-Windows Quicksilver-like app called Kodachi and needs beta-testers.

05 February 2007

Derek Tidball led the Staff Prayer session this morning with a little thing that was just right for those of us who feel we've got nothing but lost battles to wage, for those of us who feel we're not making a dent.

"She did what she could." She couldn't fix the world's problems all by herself. She didn't do less that she could, she gave it the best she had. She didn't pretend to be other than what she was. She just did what she could.

Read Mark 14:3-9 and you'll understand. How cool would it be to hear Jesus intervene for you: "Hey, leave him alone!"

02 February 2007

Here's something my friend Brett will like: an article in the New York Times about eating right that takes us away from basing our diets around 'nutrients' and back to 'foods.'

The advice? It includes:

'Don't eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

'Avoid food products that come bearing health claims.

'Especially avoid food products containing more than five ingredients.

'Pay more, eat less.

'Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.'

The article is written by Michael Pollan who has also written a book called The Omnivore's Dilemma.

01 February 2007

If you're a BBC licence-payer, let me urge you to go to their site and take part in a 'Public Consultation.' If you put an optimistic spin on it, it may be a chance for human beings to influence this powerful institution in favour of adopting open standards in the media that they distribute. If you put a pessimistic conspiracy spin on it, it may be our last chance to stop it becoming MSBBC (Microsoft BBC).

There are some PDFs that you need to wade through in order to answer the questions and they're not fun to read. But it might be worth it to have a crack at answering questions like:
"How important is it that the proposed seven-day catch-up service over the internet is available to consumers who are not using Microsoft software?"
(fascinating that even with ubiquitous iPods, their strategy revolves not around 'should we say yes or no to Apple's formats?' but around Microsoft!)

Me? I'd want them to not just be platform-agnostic (like WMF + RealPlayer) but to go platform-independent -- to deliberately avoid both the Microsoft lock-in WindowsMediaPlayer AND Apple's FairPlayAAC. I'd want them to go instead with mp3s and MPEG-4s which everyone can play.

Here's that link again: BBC Open Consultation.

(thanks to Brett for the heads-up.)
This blog is closed now. I've moved to http://gempf.com