Thursday, 30 April 2009

Browsing makes workers productive?

Seems too good to be true.
The University of Melbourne study showed that people who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about 9 percent more productive that those who do not.

...Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a days' work, and as a result, increased productivity
But there is a caveat
Coker said the study looked at people who browsed in moderation, or were on the Internet for less than 20 percent of their total time in the office.

"Those who behave with Internet addiction tendencies will have a lower productivity than those without,"
So if I spend an hour an a half on surfing the net every day my boss is getting the most out of me?

Of course workers could be paid according to productivity. Then they can spend as much or as little time online as they wish.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Interpretative techniques

How we see the Bible affect how we interpret the Bible. I have several underlying themes that affect how I interpret the Bible.

Unity
I seek to find an interpretation that does justice to all the passages that touch on a topic. A related concept is that fuller revelation can expand on previous revelation but does not contradict it. The Bible is without error in any claim.

Context
The grammatical-historical hermeneutic says that the meaning is dictated by the underlying grammar and historical context. By historical context it is meaning what the writer intended based on his cultural setting. Concepts that we may hold based on the meanings of words may be irrelevant. This does not mean the ancients were ignorant, rather that they may have thought differently. One must guard against multiplying historical "settings" to justify an opinion, yet one must not ignore the fact. And there may be clues to this in the surrounding text.

Genre
Attention must be paid to literary genre, the type of text being read. For example a proverb is meant to be a general principle, poetry uses hyperbole and figurative language, apocalypse uses symbolism.

Divine authorship
Because God is the ultimate author, there may be truths that God intended yet the authors were not aware of. The Bible is infallible and legitimate conclusions come from its pages are true.

Perspicuity
The Bible is meant to be understood. The general meaning of the Bible is clear to any reader.

Hiddenness
I think this actually applies to God as well as the Bible and merits a post of its own. Briefly, the Bible is intentionally difficult in places. At least one reason for this is to hide meaning from the mocker and reveal meaning to the devout. There are concepts, difficulties, or apparent contradictions that allow a defiant man to scoff and dismiss, but on deeper investigation reveal unity and profound truth.

Prophecy may be a feature of this. Some prophecies seem to be difficult to understand before the fact but obvious afterwards.

Conclusion
Most of these relate to the usual use of language. Meaning is based on what the speaking is thinking. If he translates the thoughts to words well, and the hearer understands the words then he grasps what the speaker is thinking.

In conversation the context of a statement is important, think listening to one side of a telephone conversation; the genre is important, think telling a joke; perspicuity is important, we generally want others to understand what we are saying; and even hiddenness is used, consider talking in the presence of children using euphemisms or pig-Latin. Of the above items only divine authorship and unity do not are not grounded in the principles of language communication. Rather these are theological propositions.

Even if people agree on methodology, there is the scope for them to weight the issues differently, thus disagree on meaning. If others differ on their methodology it may be difficult to find any agreement. For example if one takes an essentially allegorical approach to all Scripture, or a private interpretation to verses.

That being said, I think the Bible has power thru virtue of it being God's word. For the pious reader, ongoing reading and desire to know God is likely to lead to growing in true knowledge, even if one's hermeneutic is substandard.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Chronology of Abraham and his descendants

Abraham was born about 2000 years after creation, nearly 2000 years BC. He was the son of Terah, son of Nahor, son of Serug, son of Reu, son of Peleg, son of Eber, son of Salah, son of Arphaxad, son of Shem, son of Noah.

Here is a chronology of the events of his life followed by that of his son Isaac, Isaac's son Jacob, and Jacob's son Joseph. The age of the relevant patriarch is given until their death and then in italics for comparison.

Event Abraham Isaac Jacob Joseph
Abraham born 0


Sarah born 10


Reu dies 18


Serug dies 41


Terah dies. Abraham goes to Canaan
75


Abraham visits Egypt ?


Hagar conceives 85


Ishmael born 86


Arphaxad dies 88


God renames Abraham, Abraham and household circumcised. Sarah conceives
99


Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed 99


Isaac born 100 0

Isaac to be offered on Moriah ? ?

Salah dies 118 18

Sarah dies 137 37

Isaac marries Rebekah 140 40

Shem dies 150 50

Esau and Jacob born 160 60 0
Abraham dies 175 75 15
Eber dies 179 79 19
Esau marries Judith and Basemath 200 100 40
Ishmael dies 223 123 63
Jacob flees to Aram 237 137 77
Jacob's 1st year for Laban 238 138 78
Jacob's 7th year for Laban 244 144 84
Jacob marries Leah & Rachel 245 145 85
Jacob's 14th year for Laban. Joseph born. 251 151 91 0
Jacob's 20th year for Laban 257 157 97 6
Jacob returns to Canaan and meets Esau 258 158 98 7
Rachel dies ? ? ? ?
Joseph sold into slavery and goes to Egypt 268 168 108 17
Joseph interprets butler and baker's dreams in jail 279 179 119 28
Isaac dies 280 180 120 29
Joseph ruler 281 181 121 30
1st year of plenty 282 182 122 31
7th year of plenty 288 188 128 37
1st year of famine 289 189 129 38
2nd year of famine. Jacob goes to Egypt 290 190 130 39
7th year of famine 295 195 135 44
Jacob dies 307 207 147 56
Joseph dies 361 261 201 110

Points to note.
  • Most of Abraham's postdiluvian ancestors are alive during Abraham's lifetime: all from Shem bar Peleg and Nahor.
  • The Israelite sojourn in Egypt begins when Jacob shifts to Egypt age 130. Some argue for 430 years from then (Exo 12:40), though a better case can be made for the 430 years starting from Abraham's shift to Canaan.
  • Levi was the 3rd son of Leah and was probably born in the 11th year of Jacob working for Laban when Jacob was 88. This is helpful information as Levi age when he died was 137 (Exo 6:16).

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Unhappy travellers

Apparently British company Thomas Cook collects silly complaints from their customers
We present 20 of the most ridiculous complaints made by holidaymakers to their travel agent, taken from research by Thomas Cook and ABTA.
They are all pretty amusing. I quite enjoyed number 19.
On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food at all.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Random quote

Never confuse the will of the majority with the will of God.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Best Friday

On this good, indeed the best of Fridays, we remember the darkness of the cross; the great evil of the crucifixion. Yet in this evil world that Adam made so, only thru the evil of men could our justification come.

This hymn captures the centrality of the cross to history, in fact the unimportance of all other things in comparison. And it well describes the deep love of Christ for us. It was penned by Isaac Watts, a prolific hymn writer. I was not familiar with the fourth verse.

Jesus you did not deserve the suffering you endured. We thank you that you have delivered us from death. You are our Lord and we gladly say so. Help us offer you our souls, our lives, our all!

When I survey the wondrous cross

Isaac Watts (1674–1748)

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

A prayer and a pledge for real change

Soon after the election of Obama in the United States, Sojourners Chief Executive Officer Jim Wallis instigated a campaign to send letters to the White House requesting action on several issues. This does not apply to me as I am not a US citizen or resident. But the letter seems designed to have broad appeal to Christians. I take issue with what the letter requests and I have been meaning to offers some thoughts on this. The problem I see is that the appeal is not as broad as some may think, and when requests are too broad, the solutions proposed by various people may be vastly different.

Sojourners started in 1971. Their mission is to
articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.
The letter covers 4 areas: poverty, war, respect for life, and climate change.

Here are my brief responses to the presentation of these issues.
Overcome poverty, both here in our rich nation and globally. Your efforts to resolve the economic crisis must include those at the bottom, the poorest among us. You pledged during the campaign to mobilize the nation to cut domestic poverty in half in ten years and to implement the Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme global poverty in half.
He has a point. If money is going to be distributed it is probably better to give to those who have true struggles rather than rich men who have made poor decisions. Though perhaps consideration should be given to giving out no money at all. Letting people live with the consequences of their decisions (to an extent) is one of the better ways to prevent further poor decisions whether one is rich or poor.

The bigger issue is how we define poverty. US "poverty" and global "poverty" are hardly synonymous. I tend toward an absolute definition: no food, no clothing, no shelter; whereas political definitions are generally defined relatively which favour socialist theories. The gini index and the poverty line (the percentage of households whose income is below x% (eg. 50%) of the median income) are examples; though these are better called inequality indices, not poverty indices.

Thus a call to end poverty may result in policy determined to decrease income inequality which many people claim is counter-productive because it decreases total wealth of a country.
Find better ways than war to resolve the inevitable conflicts in the world. It is time to end the war in Iraq and emphasize diplomacy over military action in resolving problems in Iran and Afghanistan. We need better and smarter foreign policy that is more consistent with our best national values.
One does not want his leaders to be warmongers. And perhaps inadequate attempts have been made at diplomacy. But the idea that everything can be solved diplomatically is false. And avoiding war at all costs can mean inadequate opposition of despots and lead to abysmal living conditions. I make no claims in this post concerning what best be done about Afghanistan or Iraq currently, nor whether these invasions were wise decisions at the time. But the situation now exists and must be dealt with appropriately. Leaving may well be smart foreign policy. But this call seems to me to imply that war is always wrong and diplomacy always works. I am less than certain.
Promote a consistent ethic of life that addresses all threats to life and dignity. We must end genocide in Darfur, the use of torture, and the death penalty. I urge you to pursue common ground policies which can dramatically reduce abortions in America, and help bring us together on this divisive issue.
There are a multitude of issues with this request.

There is demand to leave Afghanistan and Iraq above, yet here is a demand to involve the US in Sudan. This does not necessarily mean the US places troops in Sudan, but what does the letter imply should be done if diplomacy fails. And if the US are to support United Nations troops in Sudan then why can the US not be involved sans UN. And if there is a moral argument for US forces with or without the UN in Sudan, surely there is possibly a moral argument for Afghanistan or Iraq.

Torture should be ended, though as much for perpetrators as victims. Evil men may well be deserving of pain. Shame and whipping may well be appropriate punishments; though this may possibly be defined as torture by opponents. But even if the recipient is indeed evil, the use of torture destroys the character of those performing it.

The use of "consistent" implies that all life should be preserved. This is not self apparent and may well be inconsistent. Many anti-abortionists also support the death penalty and a biblical argument can be made for capital punishment. And the call to reduce the death of innocents in the same paragraph as ending the death of the guilty seems morally confused. If a Christian is opposed to the death penalty and abortion, and he had the choice of ending one and minimising the other, it surely would be abortion that was ended.
Reverse the effects of climate change on God’s creation. We must learn a new way of living in America to end our dangerous dependence on Middle East oil. We need a spiritual commitment to stewardship and national policies that promote safe, clean, and renewable energy. You spoke of job creation and economic renewal with a new “green economy.”
I have previously indicated that I deny anthropomorphic global warming. I think minimising CO2 is both pointless in terms of the climate, and harmful in terms of the poor. It may be prudent to end dependency on Middle East oil, though a switch to Alaskan and offshore oil is perfectly acceptable. Private ownership of land will lead to better stewardship of the environment. While the government can introduce policy to maximise job creation and economic renewal, there are huge differences of opinion about what these policies are.

In conclusion I think there are several issues in this letter that are incorrect from a Christian perspective. Where there are issues of agreement (poverty bad, abortion bad, job creation good) the approach of various Christians to these ends differ dramatically. And a letter to a Democratic president, if effectual, is likely to lead to a socialist solution. From my point of view, while government action potentially could lead to improvements in such issues, the policies that will get enacted are likely to be counter-productive.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Self enacting justice

It would seem that the appropriate punishment has been meted out to a criminal and his associates before the event.
A would-be suicide bomber accidentally blew himself up on Thursday, killing six other militants as he was bidding them farewell to leave for his intended target

Friday, 3 April 2009

Are we moving toward a global currency?

There seems to have been a recent spate of articles discussing advocates of a global currency. This concept has been discussed for decades, if not longer.

The president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev recently outlined a proposal for a world currency. His "acme-capital" has been endorsed by Robert Mundell who was behind the euro. There may be some sense to this if the acmetal is actually backed by, or better, made with, a precious metal.

A United Nations advisory committee has recommended international monetary reserves be changed to a system not dependant on US dollars. China had previously made a similar request as has Russia. The proposal is to use something similar to the previous
European currency unit [Ecu], that was a hard-traded, weighted basket.

...The SDR [Special Drawing Right] and the old Ecu are essentially combinations of currencies, weighted to a constituent's economic clout, which can be valued against other currencies and indeed against those inside the basket.
Russia suggests that at least part of the weighting be gold.

Granted, all these articles are somewhat related to the UN report. There may be some real concerns about the US dollar, though it is likely the UN will use any excuse to internationalise and seek increased control over national sovereignty. This may be especially true if control over money transfer allows opportunities for the UN to increase the size of its own coffers.

Personally I think any commodity should be traded in any currency by agreement on the 2 parties.

I wonder whether there would be less complaints that
the current system contributes to global instability, it contributes to the insufficiency of global aggregate demand
if the reserves were held in commodities rather than promissory notes from people with inadequate integrity.

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