30 October 2010

Online library services and other pitfalls in cyberspace

Online library services are very useful. I often look up books in the university library catalogue from home when I want to check a bibliography, or see if a certain book I have read about is available.

But sometimes they can also be frustrating.

Today I got 40 (yes, 40) letters from Unisa, reminding me to renew my library books or return them.

Well, I tried to renew them using their electronic system, but it no longer seemed to recognise my password. I looked up the help file to see what I could do about getting a new password, but the things that the help file said were on the web site were not there -- or at least I couldn't find them.

I thought perhaps there might be a glitch in the system so I waited a few days and tried again. Same result -- or rather non-result.

But then there is a last chance emergency procedure -- e-mail them for a new PIN to be sent. I tried that. It bounced, rejected as spam. If you want to query that, write to the postmaster. I wrote to the postmaster. That also bounced, rejected as spam.

Ah, but there is a final last resort -- you can write a letter by snail mail, asking them to renew. So I did that, attaching the bounced e-mail rejecting my attempts to contact them electronically as spam.

And now I receive 40 re-reminders in the mail. I just hope they crossed in the post with my letter requesting renewal. I really, really hope they haven't bounced my snail mail request as spam!

Computers are extremely useful tools, and sometimes they save a lot of time and effort. At other times, however, they can be extremely frustrating.

29 October 2010

Scientists Find 'Liberal Gene'

The discovery came too late for Hitler, who could have used it to identify and exterminate opponents of his regime at birth, on the general principle that prevention is better than cure.

Scientists Find 'Liberal Gene' | NBC San Diego:
According to scientists at UC San Diego and Harvard University, 'ideology is affected not just by social factors, but also by a dopamine receptor gene called DRD4.' That and how many friends you had during high school.

The study was led by UCSD's James Fowler and focused on 2,000 subjects from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Scientists matched the subjects' genetic information with 'maps' of their social networks. According to researchers, they determined that people 'with a specific variant of the DRD4 gene were more likely to be liberal as adults.' However, the, subjects were only more likely to have leanings to the left if they were also socially active during adolescence.

28 October 2010

Mission accomplished

A lot of people mocked George Bush when he proclaimed "mission accomplished" after the US invasion of Iraq.

Well, perhaps it was a bit premature, but time is proving him right, as these reports show.

Robert Fisk: Exodus. The changing map of the Middle East:
Across the Middle East, it is the same story of despairing – sometimes frightened – Christian minorities, and of an exodus that reaches almost Biblical proportions. Almost half of Iraq's Christians have fled their country since the first Gulf War in 1991, most of them after the 2004 invasion – a weird tribute to the self-proclaimed Christian faith of the two Bush presidents who went to war with Iraq – and stand now at 550,000, scarcely 3 per cent of the population. More than half of Lebanon's Christians now live outside their country. Once a majority, the nation's one and a half million Christians, most of them Maronite Catholics, comprise perhaps 35 per cent of the Lebanese. Egypt's Coptic Christians – there are at most around eight million – now represent less than 10 per cent of the population.

The invasion was calculated to destroy Christian communities and to make sure that radical Islamists had more say in the running of the country, and that is being achieved.

Tariq Aziz: villain or victim? - Opinion - Al Jazeera English:
So what really lies behind the decision by Iraq's high tribunal to pass a death sentence on Tariq Aziz, long serving Iraqi foreign minister and number two to Saddam Hussein? The decision has caused shock waves around the World, largely because the sentence has the feel of vengeance to it. The Iraqi High Tribunal took what must be a highly unusual step in effectively rescinding the earlier judgments against him. For Tariq Aziz’s twenty seven year sentence has effectively been reduced to a matter of months by his death sentence. Aziz has now been found guilty of “the persecution of Islamic parties”, whose leaders were assassinated, imprisoned or forced into exile.

Now I don't think harrassing leaders of Islamic parties (or anyone else) is a good policy, but nor do I think that the assassination, imprisonment or sending into exile of Christians is a good thing either, and that is one of the chief "accomplishments" of George Bush's mission. Replacing one evil regime with another is really not a useful exercise.

Tariq Aziz: villain or victim?:
Tariq Aziz is of course a Chaldean Christian, who along with the Assyrian Christians, have suffered terribly since the War, with more than half of their number now living in exile. Being the only Christian in a secular Ba’athist dictatorship was a factor apparently exploited by Saddam, with veiled threats being made periodically to Aziz’s family. I remember being in Iraq and hearing that Aziz feared Saddam, and that he was only too aware of the fragility of his family’s safety. Which is not to excuse Aziz for “following orders”, but it may go some way to explain why Aziz stayed in Baghdad even when it was obvious to him, if not Saddam, that America and Britain were deadly serious about invading.

The destruction of Christian communities in the Middle East surely cannot be described as an unintended consequence of the invasion. It was both forseeable and foreseen, and therefore must have been intended. It is an integral part of the Bush-Blair legacy. It is said that one should not ascribe to malice what can be explained by ignorance and stupidity, but the leaders of the most powerful nation on earth cannot have been that stupid.... can they?

Upgrading hardware

This is my first blog post on my new hardware, so it's a kind of test to see if everything is working, and so far it does.

My old computer had a 30 Gig and a 40 Gig hard drive, and about 6 months ago I upgraded the 40 Gig one to 500 Gig. It was quite difficult to find one, as most of the hard drives being sold now are SATA, and I wanted an EIDE disk to match the other one. Eventually I found one, backed up all the data on the old drive using Acronis disk imaging software, installed it on the new drive, and everything still worked.

This time, however, was more ambitious.

The old computer was getting rickety. I dared not switch it off, because it might not restart. If the power went off, I'd have to sit pushing the power button for half an hour before it would run.

The CPU fan was also getting noisy, and it sounded rather ominous.

So that meant replacing the motherboard, and both hard drives (both now 500 Gig SATA). I'll see if I can use the 500 Gig EIDE drive an an external housing as a backup USB drive - it's only about 6 months old.

It took me a day to get this far -- backing up the 30 Gigs of data on the G: drive took 9 hours, and nearly 2 hours to restore on the new drive. And the C: drive was the critical one, because that had the operating system (Windows XP) -- would it work on the new drive? It did. Everything seems to be working fine.

The only problem is, Windows thinks there have been too many hardware changes, and wants to be revalidated. If that goes as smoothly as the rest of it, all will be well.

Oh, and my printer has a parallel cable, and the new hardware has no parallel port. But perhaps a USB cable will work, or I can nick a parallel card from the old one, if it fits the new motherboard.

27 October 2010

In Brooklyn Mall

Yesterday I went to the bank to send some money to someone overseas. My own branch couldn't do it, so they sent me to another branch and when I was leaving to come home the road had been altered so I could only turn in the opposite direction and I drifted up to Brooklyn Mall, and thought I'd go to the bookshop and see if Michael Cardo's new biography of Peter Brown was out.

When I got to the mall the floors were covered with cardboard boxes of Christmas decorations -- plastic pine needles and tinsel etc, which they were putting up. I got to the bookshop, and the Peter Brown biography was there, but in the end I didn't buy it. The Christmas decorations put me off. They made me think that perhaps someone will buy it for me as a Christmas prezzie.

25 October 2010

Britain’s Austerity Overdose - NYTimes.com

One thing that strikes me about the debate about Britains public spending cuts is how things aimed at alleviating human suffering are cut first and most drastically, while spending devoted to inflicting suffering, like military spending, is regarded as essential, and therefore cuts are made much more circumspectly.

I haven't been following the debate about Britain's public spending cuts very closely (after all, it's a long way away), but catch snippets here and there -- like this one: Britain’s Austerity Overdose - NYTimes.com:
There is a time and a place for aggressive deficit reduction. Now is not the time, especially not in Britain. The deep spending cuts announced by Prime Minister David Cameron’s government will hobble public services, strain poor families’ budgets and weaken Britain’s influence abroad. They could suffocate a feeble recovery.

Mr. Cameron and his team appear to be driven solely by Conservative Party articles of faith. They are gambling on the improbable theory that in a period of weak consumer demand, the private sector will generate enough business activity to replace the $130 billion the government will be withdrawing from the economy over the next four and half years. We are not sure why the Liberal Democrats, the coalition’s junior partners, are going along.

But I suppose that the Lib-Dems may have influenced their Tory partners to rein back on some unnecessary spending, like the Trident nuclear submarine replacement.

When is bullying acceptable?

A few days ago there was a campaign to get people to wear purple to show their disapproval of bullying of gay people. I agree with the sentiments of my Facebook friend Joseph Slonović when he said Facebook (1) | Joseph Slonović:
I don't own a single item of purple clothing. And really, I don't want to. But do take a moment, folks, to reflect on the disgusting bullying and intolerance that has led so many gay teens to resort to suicide -- especially lately. It's terrible, and it should be taken seriously.

But I disagreed with him when he went on to say

And as my friend Lucie pointed out: "can we stop calling it 'bullying?' The term seems too benign. Let's start calling it what is is - bigotry, homophobia, gay-bashing, an epidemic of hate crimes. These aren't the actions of a few rogue 'bullies.'"

I disagree about not calling it bullying. Bullying is bad, regardless of who the victims are, or the reason for it. By not calling it bullying you create a perception that certain kinds of bullying are socially acceptable, or at least less socially unacceptable than others.

Is calling it "bigotry" an improvement?

Bigotry is intolerance of any ideas other than ones own, especially about things like religion, race or politics.

I would say it was quite a big and serious step to pass from bigotry to bullying; from rejecting another person's ideas to actively hurting, persecuting or indimidating them (which is what "bullying" means). In what way can that be described as "benign"?

Calling it "homophobia" rather than bullying singles out one class of victim, and makes it easier to ignore other classes. Can one have a scale of phobias? If bullying is too "benign" for homophobia, is it acceptable for xenophobia? Is it more evil to bully homosexuals than to bully illegal immigrants? Or to bully Somali immigrants just because they are immigrants, regardless of their legal status?

I think bullying is bad, no matter who the victims are. And creating a hierarchy of victims smacks of, well, bigotry.

23 October 2010

Aircraft crashes after crocodile on board escapes

Aircraft crashes after crocodile on board escapes and sparks panic - Telegraph: "A small airliner crashed into a house, killing a British pilot and 19 others after a crocodile smuggled into the aircraft in a sports bag escaped and started a panic."

An odd sort of story to publish two months after the event, which perhaps gives it something of the flavour of an urban legend, especially the "sole survivor" angle.

But, assuming it is true, one of the fascinating aspects of the story is thinking about how aircraft accident investigators would have worked out what had happened if there had been no survivors. The cockpit voice recorder would surely not record panic in the passenger cabin, and the flight recorder would just record that the plane suddenly became nose-heavy and crashed. The position of bodies might show how that happened, but it would not explain why. It could have become one of the great unsolved mysteries of aviation.

21 October 2010

The Speech President Obama Should Give about the Iraq War (But Won’t) | Informed Comment

The Speech President Obama Should Give about the Iraq War (But Won’t) | Informed Comment: "Fellow Americans, and Iraqis who are watching this speech, I have come here this evening not to declare a victory or to mourn a defeat on the battlefield, but to apologize from the bottom of my heart for a series of illegal actions and grossly incompetent policies pursued by the government of the United States of America, in defiance of domestic US law, international treaty obligations, and both American and Iraqi public opinion."

19 October 2010

The Facebook News Feed: How it Works

If, like me, you joined Facebook to keep in touch with friends, especially those who live far away so you don't see them very often, why does it show you so little news about the friends you really want to know about, and so much about people you hardly know? Here's an explanation The Facebook News Feed: How it Works,10 Biggest Secrets - The Daily Beast:
Why does that guy I barely know from the 10th grade keep showing up in my Facebook feed?

If you've ever spent time on Facebook, you've probably pondered that last one. The social-networking giant promises to keep us connected with our friends in exchange for pumping a steady diet of advertising at us—but the algorithms Facebook uses to decide what news to pass along can seem capricious or altogether impenetrable.

The Daily Beast therefore ran an experiment to try to find out what criteria Facebook uses to show you stuff.

And it works the other way too -- how much of your stuff gets shown to friends who really find it interesting, and how much to people who find it irrelevant and boring?

Most of what I put on Facebook is links to my blog posts, and I don't suppose they would all interest all my friends on Facebook. The blog posts fall into four or five main categories, and some of my Facebook friends might be interested in only one or two of them, and some might be interested in none of them.

  1. Theology
  2. Literature and culture
  3. Politics and society
  4. Family and family history
  5. Everything else

So what if Facebook shows my family and family history stuff to people who aren't related, or the theology stuff to atheists/agnostics, or the politics and society stuff to the guy I knew in Grade 10 who now lives on the other side of the world and is completely apolitical?

The Facebook News Feed: How it Works,10 Biggest Secrets - The Daily Beast:
You might think you've shared those adorable new baby photos or the news of your big promotion with all of your friends. Yet not only does Facebook decide who will and won't see the news, it also keeps the details of its interventions relatively discreet.

All the while, Facebook, like Google, continues to redefine 'what's important to you' as 'what's important to other people.' In that framework, the serendipitous belongs to those who connect directly with their friends in the real world—or at least take the time to skip their news feed and go visit their friends' pages directly once in a while.

It also seems that the more friends your friends have, the less likely they will be to see your stuff, not just because there's just too much of it, but because Facebook is less likely to show it to them.

Now I wonder how many of my Facebook friends will see this, and how many will comment on it on Facebook, and how many will comment on it here?

16 October 2010

Paul Craig Roberts: The War on Terror

Paul Craig Roberts: The War on Terror:
Does anyone remember the “cakewalk war” that would last six weeks, cost $50-$60 billion, and be paid for out of Iraqi oil revenues?

Does anyone remember that White House economist Lawrence Lindsey was fired by Dubya because Lindsey estimated that the Iraq war could cost as much as $200 billion?

Lindsey was fired for over-estimating the cost of a war that, according to Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, has cost 15 times more than Lindsey estimated. And the US still has 50,000 troops in Iraq.

Does anyone remember that just prior to the US invasion of Iraq, the US government declared victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Does anyone remember that the reason Dubya gave for invading Iraq was Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, weapons that the US government knew did not exist?

Are Americans aware that the same neoconservarives who made these fantastic mistakes, or told these fabulous lies, are still in control of the government in Washington?

The “war on terror” is now in its tenth year. What is it really all about?

What can one say but "We told you so"?

Hat-tip to The Western Confucian: Paul Craig Roberts Asks, "What's It All About?".

Collateral damage and the death of Ubuntu

Ubuntu is dead.

A few weeks ago my blogging friend Tom Smith wrote In memory of Martha Molaudi | Soulgardeners:
On Thursday we lost a dear friend, Martha Molaudi. Martha lived with us from 2006. To the children she was like a second mom. Martha was a remarkable woman of courage. She was the main provider for seven people. She passed away on Thursday evening due to liver failure.

The circumstances surrounding her liver failure has caused me to reflect a lot.

It failed due to the negligence of the clinic that gave her the wrong tuberculosis medication. When she was finally admitted to the hospital the staff couldn’t give her the care she needed because of the strikes that lasted for three weeks. In the space of three months the medical systems failed her miserably.

During the strike I watched an interview where they asked a hospital worker what he thinks about people who will die as a result of him striking. He mentioned the phrase, “collateral damage”. Collateral damage had a name – Martha.

"Collateral damage" is one of the most obscene phrases in the English language that I know of, and is diametrically opposed to the spirit of Ubuntu. It is a euphemism used by terrorists for their killing of civilians. It was given popular currency during the Nato (the North Atlantic Terrorist Organisation) attacks on Yugoslavia in 1999. And when it is used by strikers to justify the deaths of those who die as a result of their actions, we know that we have lost our Ubuntu, and Ubuntu is dead. That is no different from the way in which terrorists use people as human shields and hostages. When we start talking casually of "collateral damage", Ubuntu is dead.

Let no one say that South Africa's guiding philosophy is Ubuntu. It's Greed, just like the rest of the world. Ubuntu is dead.

14 October 2010

Have you seen my wife, Mr Jones?

I just watched on TV the last rescue worker who went to help the trapped Chilean miners being brought to the surface, and no doubt millions of other people were watching the same thing.

It reminded me of the Coalbrook mine disaster 50 years ago, when the attention of the nation, if not the world, was focused on the drama of attempts to rescue the more than 400 miners trapped by a rockfall in the Clydesdale colliery. It was pushed off the front-page news by the attempted assassination of Dr Verwoerd and the Sharpeville massacre a couple of months later.

And of course it also reminded me of one of the BeeGees' best songs:

I keep straining my ears to hear a sound.
Maybe someone is digging underground,
or have they given up and all gone home to bed,
thinking those who once existed must be dead.

In South Africa, as I remember it, the news was full of the fate of the trapped miners, and the desperate attempts being made to rescue them, but unlike what happened in Chile, all rescue attempts failed. A contemporary issue of Time magazine came up with some aspects of the story that didn't make the front pages in South Africa, where, at that stage in our history at least, mining and media interests were closely allied. SOUTH AFRICA: Delayed Reaction - TIME:
Like some modern Moloch, South Africa's mining industry has long come to expect its regular sacrifice of human lives. And even though in good years South Africa has 15 times as many fatalities per ton of coal mined as the U.S., the fact that most miners are black men has kept the subject from becoming too important in South Africa. But three weeks after the Coalbrook rockfall entombed 411 blacks and six whites in the worst mining disaster in the nation's history (TIME, Feb. 1), the Union finally was working up a real case of public indignation.

And the Time article goes on to say

For South Africans one awkward test of compassion still remained. A relief fund for the survivors had climbed past the $300,000 mark. In South Africa there is no racial equality even in death; compensation laws grant a white miner's wife a pension for life of up to $93 a month. But a Bantu widow gets only a lump sum payment, which, if prudently invested, would give a return calculated at $9 a month. At week's end keepers of the fund were trying to decide whether or not to apply a similar ratio (Time, Monday, Feb. 22, 1960).

Society has changed for the better since then -- or has it?

The media tell us of the huge international effort that went into saving the trapped miners in Chile. But there has been very little publicity given to the question of who pays for it. The answer is, no doubt, that the bulk of it will be paid by the taxpayers of Chile and the other countries that helped.

And that leads to two further thoughts.

First, I wonder about the people who begrudge the spending of any taxpayers' money on things like health care. Are they fuming? Are they throwing things at their TV screens in indignation of this massive instance of "armed robbery"? Yes, that's what some American ideologists call it -- the money used to rescue the miners, they firmly believe, was taken from them at gunpoint.

And secondly, when all these huge international resources are concentrated on rescuing 35 miners in Chile, even more resources are being expended on sending drones to kill 35 villagers in Pakistan.

In the words of another song, almost contemporary with the BeeGees' one, "It's a strange strange world we live in, Master Jack."[1]


[1] Dave Marks, who wrote Master Jack, was a real-life miner, and the song is said to have come from his experiences when working on the mines.

12 October 2010

Americans' views of God shape attitudes on key issues - USATODAY.com

Americans' views of God shape attitudes on key issues - USATODAY.com: "Surveys say about nine out of 10 Americans believe in God, but the way we picture that God reveals our attitudes on economics, justice, social morality, war, natural disasters, science, politics, love and more, say Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, sociologists at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Their new book, America's Four Gods: What We Say About God — And What That Says About Us, examines our diverse visions of the Almighty and why they matter.

Based primarily on national telephone surveys of 1,648 U.S. adults in 2008 and 1,721 in 2006, the book also draws from more than 200 in-depth interviews that, among other things, asked people to respond to a dozen evocative images, such as a wrathful old man slamming the Earth, a loving father's embrace, an accusatory face or a starry universe."

It would be interesting to see how that compares with other countries and regions of the world. And I'm reminded of the Orthodox theologian Christos Yannaras, who said

Starting from such a concrete and existential concept of sin, the Orthodox tradition has refused to confine the whole of man's relationship with God within a juridical, legal framework; it has refused to see sin as the individual transgression of a given impersonal code of behavior which simply produces psychological guilt. The God of the Church as known and proclaimed by Orthodox experience and tradition has never had anything to do with the God of the Roman juridical tradition, the God of Anselm and Abelard; He has never been thought of as a vengeful God who rules by fear, meting out punishments and torment for men" (Yannaras 1984:35).

11 October 2010

Blogger/Blogspot broken

I tried to use the "Blog this" function this morning, and got the following error message.

We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request.
The following errors were found:
u: Must be at most 256 characters

That reduces the functionality of this feature to zero. And I tried with just two words, nine characters, and it still gave me the same error message.

So I went to the Help Forum to report it.

That's broken too.

You can post a question there, but there is no way of actually "Submitting" the question. There's no send or OK or submit button.

At the bottom of the screen there's a question about whether you want to be e-mailed to notify you if there are any responses to your question. It looks as though there ought to be a "Send" or "Submit" button below that, but there are no vertical scroll bars to scroll down to see it if it is there.

10 October 2010

The Bafana Bafana-Sierra Leone match not televised - Times LIVE

The Bafana Bafana-Sierra Leone match not televised - Times LIVE: "The match between the South African National team and Sierra Leone which was due to start at 6.30pm on Sunday night would not be broadcast locally as the SABC technical team was stuck at an Ivory Coast airport."

Boo hiss!

Surely they could have syndicated an international feed?

Been watching bowls at the Commonwealth Games instead. Always good to beat Australia!

09 October 2010

Tall Skinny Kiwi: Get Ready for Lausanne World Congress

For the last couple of months I've been keeping an eye on the Lausanne Conversation, but there has been very little about it in the South African blogosphere. Perhaps a prophet is not without honour, except in his own country. Here's what a New Zealander living in Europe has to say about it Tall Skinny Kiwi: Get Ready for Lausanne World Congress:
The global mission event of the century is only a week away! Its the Third Lausanne World Congress on World Evangelization also known as Lausanne 3.

Its huge.

We're talking 5000 invited delegates from all over the world.

Its bigger than Lausanne 1 and even bigger than Lausanne 2.

Its bigger than Edinburgh 1910 and 2010

Its the most wired, webbed, blogged, twittered, streamed missions event EVER!

Its also more SOUTHERLY than any missions conference you have ever followed.

It happens in Cape Town, South Africa and it starts next week. Like Oct 16 - 25th

Overblown hype? A lot of South Africans seem to think so, to judge from the way most South African bloggers are ignoring it.

Andrew Jones, alias Tall Skinny Kiwi, is one of the gurus of the emerging church movement. you can engage with him on his blog, or at the Lausanne Conversation here.

08 October 2010

Book Review: A dedicated man

A Dedicated Man (Inspector Banks, #2)A Dedicated Man by Peter Robinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Peter Robinson writes whodunits featuring Yorkshire detective Alan Banks. We found a bunch of reprints of his earlier books on sale in a cheap bookshop, and so bought some of them to read the beginnings of the series, where the characters get introduced.

This is the second of the series, about a well-liked man who was murdered, yet seemed to have no enemies.

It was first published more than 20 years ago, and one becomes aware of it by the way things have changed since then. A police station has just been equipped with its first computer, while another has a clattering telex machine (can one still subscribe to telex services, I wonder?). The characters are always smoking, though I've mainly been conscious of that in novels written in the 1940s, not the 1980s.

View all my reviews

05 October 2010

Terrorist Threat Has Roots in U.S. Policy by Sheldon Richman

Terrorist Threat Has Roots in U.S. Policy by Sheldon Richman:
It is not al-Qaeda that inspires affiliates and radicalizes homegrown terrorists. It is America’s violent policies in the Muslim world. Other government officials have acknowledged that Muslim radicals seek revenge for those policies in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia, but Napolitano perpetuates the myth that anti-American activity is unprovoked. The American people deserve to hear the truth.

Napolitano referred to recent unsuccessful attacks in the United States: “Other al-Qaeda affiliates have actually attempted to attack the homeland in recent months. These include Tehrik-e Taliban (TTP) [Pakistan] and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) [Yemen] — which, until their respective claims of responsibility for the attempted Times Square and Christmas Day terrorist attacks, had only conducted attacks in their regions.”

What she left out was that the U.S. government regularly fires missiles into Pakistan and Yemen from aerial drones, killing innocent people. The desire for revenge is a natural consequence.

Hat-tip to The Western Confucian: None Dare Call It Blowback

I'm reminded of Madeleine Albright's famous "We think the price is worth it" comment -- the price in question being the lives of half a million Iraqi children who died to maintain American hegemony in the Middle East. Weigh that against the under 3000 killed on 9/11, and somehow the word "disproportionate" springs to mind.

Those killed on 9/11 just about balance the number killed in the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia, which was every bit as "terroristic" as 9/11, and was cowardly to boot, because, unlike 9/11, the bombers did not risk their own lives. But, brave or cowardly, terrorism is still terrorism, and the notion of terrorists waging a "war on terror" should lead to severe cognitive dissonance, but it somehow doesn't, at least not for those who support the terrorist "war on terror."

04 October 2010

Management Science: the political implications

The Ig Nobel awards provides recognition to the most improbable research, but I'm not sure if this one qualifies:The Poor Mouth: It makes you proud to be British:
Management prize

To Alessandro Pluchino and team at the University of Catania for demonstrating mathematically that companies work more efficiently if staff are promoted at random.

If that's true, the political implications are significant.

How about holding parliamentary elections by random selection?

Allow a random number generator to select members of parliament automatically, thus saving the cost of general elections. It would be no less democratic or representative than the present system, and might indeed lead to greater efficiency, as parliamentarians could concentrate on running the country instead of grandstanding to get themselves re-elected.

Anti-Americans and Islamophobes

There are only two kinds of people in the world: Anti-Americans and Islamophobes. Those who are not Anti-American are Islamophobic. And those who are not Islamophobic are Anti-American. And everyone is either one or the other.

At least that is the impression I sometimes get from the stuff I read on the Internet.

What a sad world we live in.

01 October 2010

The Western Confucian: A Tale of Two Missiologies

More than a hat-tip to The Western Confucian: A Tale of Two Missiologies

  • Father Maryknoller in Korea on "what it was like in the [Catholic] mission stations during the early days of persecution" — How the Early Christians Nurtured the Church in Korea — and on the queen who "while her husband was torturing priests and thousands of native [Catholic] Christians... was secretly studying the catechism and preparing herself for baptism" — A True Story by Bishop Mutel, Bishop of Seoul, 1890.

  • Robert Neff on "violent Christian [Protestant] missionaries who did not respect Korean culture and the needs of the local people" and came only after the persecution ended — Were early Christian missionaries in Joseon Korea violent?

  • I would be interested to learn most about how this was affected by John Nevius, who, I have heard, had a different approach from that of most Protestant missionaries of his time (1890s) -- see Nevius, Allen, Kasatkin | Khanya.

    St Nicholas of Japan (Orthodox, in Japan), Roland Allen (Anglican, in China) and John Nevius (Presbyterian, in Korea) advocated methods that differed from those of their contemporaries, and which Robert Neff's article complains about. I know least about Nevius, and would be interested in learning how his methods contrasted with those described in Neff's article.


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