Sunday, January 24, 2021

Good Workmanship (Not)

I photographed this mishap in the town of Velddrif, north of Cape Town. It proves the value of good workmanship. This truck was carrying many tons of gravel. I asked the driver what had gone wrong. He said he had unhitched the load from his truck, and the weight of it had punched a hole in the road. We stood together and looked at it -- and laughed. (The people whose wall it fell on won't be laughing).

Sermons and Leprosy

As often happens with sermons, the preacher spoke of leprosy this morning. As a child (the 1960s), our world included lepers, and child lepers -- leprosy is most common in childhood -- but we had solemn instructions not to touch them. As might be expected, the leprous children chased the rest, including me -- and we (me and my friends) taunted them. It was a game of Catch-Me-If-You-Can. OBSERVATION: It seems to me there was no treatment programme, which I do not understand, as leprosy was treatable in my youth. Perhaps it was too remote a place. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Catastrophic Failure

A young friend of mine studied Informatics in 2020. He averaged 20% for five subjects, which can only be described as catastrophic. I told him that the first time I wrote a Greek exam, I obtained 33%. This was not bad -- compared with my second attempt. For that, I obtained 28%. I asked my friends to help me -- and apparently over-compensated for my previous failures. On my third attempt, I obtained 80%, which was a distinction, through the London School of Theology no less. OBSERVATION: So, don't judge yourself by your beginnings.

My Whole World

I made my first attempt today at capturing my whole world in one photo. It's a "nice try". It proves it can be done. This was 400 metres from my home. At the top of the photo is Table Mountain, on the right Lion's Head, at the bottom Cape Town city centre and Table Bay, and on the left Devil's Peak. I fed photos into Hugin for a panorama, and turned it into a "planet" with GIMP. One may click on the photo to enlarge. 

News Websites Comparison

Feedspot lists South Africa's top 25 news websites: News24, Mail & Guardian, Sowetan Live, and so on. Would this blog come anywhere close? In fact, it beats nearly a third of them on Domain Authority, an important metric. Among others, it beats Africa Online News, Money Today, and Exclusive Africa. It outscores seven out of 25. OBSERVATION: While this says something for this blog, it isn't of course a news website, so not directly comparable. Domain Authority, to put it too simply, assesses a website's relevance, or as Crazy Egg puts it, it is "a measure of how well a website is likely to perform in search engine results". 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Desktop Android

One of my hobbies is testing computer operating systems. Today I tested Android on my desktop, the first time in two years. This is quite different to more familiar operating systems. It wasn't buggy as it was two years ago, but I couldn't connect to the Internet, and it was hard to figure out how it worked. It switches between two desktops, if not three: Quickstep (shown), Taskbar, and Widgets. Nearly every time one wants to do something, it first wants one to set up and sign in. It reminds me of how Windows was, and perhaps still is. OBSERVATION: For me, this one was too alien. It also has a low rating on DistroWatch: 6.84.

Ideological vs. Existential Christianity

Most fundamentally, there are two kinds of Christianity: ideological Christianity, and existential Christianity. Ideological Christianity is has a greater emphasis on culture; existential Christianity has a greater emphasis on God. Ideologial Christianity has a greater emphasis on human influence; existential Christianity has a greater emphasis on divine influence. All through history, one has seen these two trends. This is to put it far too simply, but a lot of the unrest about Christianity today is about ideological Christianity of one kind or another. I have attended both kinds of seminary, for example Fuller Theological Seminary in the USA, and the Universitäre Theologische Hochschule in Switzerland.

Drawing On Spirituality

In the city, we decided to have a member of the Church lead the worship once a month. Part of the purpose was to draw more on the spirituality of the congregation. It encourages "birds of a feather", too, and lightens the minister's load. On this day, I spent a while in Church running P through her paces (see photo). She was to lead much of the Sunday service, while I would introduce the service and preach. She was first class, and it was a pleasure to see her bring her bubbly personality to my usual job. OBSERVATION: P's name, translated into English, is "Pride".

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Revision Done

Today a printer printed out a revision of my magnum opus. Here are the first few paragraphs of the Preface -- completely changed since my previous edition, to make it less abstract. Now that I have hard copy of the book (361 pages), I can flip through it freely, and shall survey it as a whole. A British philosopher has promised to survey it, too. And I shall revamp my proposal. Then it's back into action: approaching literary agents, and possibly publishers. OBSERVATION: My book has 40 chapters in six parts. My revision did a small rearrangement, and drives deeper.

Biden's Speech

This is a more theoretical post. For one of my postgraduate degrees, I studied more than ten-thousand pages of text by (mostly) American leaders. I found that, to interpret them, one had to examine so-called oppositions in the text, of which there are various kinds. Yesterday I read Joe Biden's inaugural speech. I came to it fresh, without expectations. But it didn't look good on analysis. Take the simple sentence, "Much to do, much to heal, much to restore ..." Now find the oppositions. On the surface of it, it is a unifying speech, but just beneath, it is divisive, aggressive. Here is what he might have said if we reconstruct these few words. Perhaps, "More to do, more to heal, more to restore ..." OBSERVATION: One might say that his predecessor was a catastrophe. However, that is not an excuse for an aggressive and divisive speech. It is interesting that it is hard to hide what goes on behind words.

POSTSCRIPT: My research is here in a 167-page "mini" thesis: A Deconstuctionist Critique

Troop Carrier

One of my favourite photos, I thought it was a good shot, but could have lost my camera. Taken a few years ago, it's a riot policeman inside a troop carrier, outside South Africa's parliament. I took the photo through an air vent -- or is it a gun hole? Another policeman slammed the steel cover shut on my camera, leaving marks on the lens barrel. The camera survived. OBSERVATION: It was a massive student protest outside parliament. I made a few new friends through that crisis.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Vision of the Future

I was looking for something to read today, so took Wie k√∂nnen wir denn leben? (How shall we then live?) off a shelf. It was prescribed by one of my professors, Dr. Francis Schaefffer (he wrote it). As I often do, I started reading back to front. Published 44 years ago, he gave his thoughts on the future. He wrote: computers might retain one's whole history, there could be global terrorism, increasingly influential media, a general drift away from democracy, dwindling resources, and so on. OBSERVATION: He missed some things, and got some things wrong, but he is close enough to be unsettling. Being a Christian writer, he ends by recommending freedom within God-given restraints, and a life lived for Him.

High-Tech and Low-Tech

I was annoyed by the news that my brother-in-law had visited our father-in-law in the township, and his vehicle was vandalised. It has happened to me, too. I have been designing a device to pick up raiders a block away. The sensor, about twenty components, has already been accepted for publication. But the sensor still requires optics, plus a "sound bomb", plus additional circuity to prevent the bomb from unsettling the sensor. Sometimes low-tech is better. I now plan to design an alarm which relies on a trip wire. That is something my father-in-law could use, too. OBSERVATION: The only problem with a trip wire is it may only work once. After that, raiders may be looking for a trip wire.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Banned and Unbanned

I was banned and unbanned in a single day. I put up on Facebook twenty-four photos of my childhood in the islands. Facebook banned six. The problem was children wearing only shorts, which Facebook said had "the potential for abuse by other people". 

POSTSCRIPT: It may raise a cultural issue. My photos were entirely acceptable within the culture in which they were taken, but controversial within the culture which dominates Facebook. Perhaps Facebook is unwoke.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Raft of Orders

I am a little surprised by President-Elect Joe Biden's intention to rescind President Trump's executive orders en masse. For instance The Times: "Joe Biden plans blitz of executive orders to break with Trump," or the Financial Times: "Biden to unwind Trump agenda with raft of exective orders." I am thinking on the Church, where one would deliberately avoid this, unless the Church's very survival were at stake. So I myself have needed to make some interventions sooner than I wanted to, following a transition, but nothing like this. OBSERVATION: Of course, Biden has a captive "congregation" (citizenry) while Churches do not. Yet it puzzles me that he takes this course, particularly as states are divided more or less equally, ideologically. Or he knows he is short of time.