how facebook’s launch of video calling can help scholars

Facebook + Skype = VideoCalling

Facebook + Skype = VideoCalling

what would have been the death of skype is now its salvation. facebook launched its ‘videocalling‘ today (most likely because ‘videoconferencing‘ was already taken by this guy – which is a story in itself!)

skype’s collaboration with facebook benefits both companies. i can now video chat someone as easily as i can fb message them, meaning i’ll likely never use standalone skype again because the only people i’d want to watch me talk to them are already friends on facebook.

but videocalling shouldn’t be simply seen as the mother of all distractions from actual work. videocalling has the potential to be a very time effective tool for scholars, as instant video communication with trusted colleagues can allow scholars to discuss articles, relay visual information, and will be especially helpful for language studies involving pronunciations and languages that do not use western characters and therefore do not lend themselves to easy transcription into digital fonts. and as soon as group video chat is launched (standalone skype already does this), colleagues can hold meetings and plan conferences right over facebook. and did i mention the service is free? (for now…)

now, i’m just waiting for the first documented case of, “omg! i accidentally left my fb videochat on and he saw me naked / watched me eat / heard me fart / saw me dancing to justin beiber / heard me laughing at student essay answers while grading” or, worse yet, “my wife saw me working on that article while i was talking to her.”

In the words of Desi Arnaz, “Pakistan, you got some ‘splanin’ to do!”

Bin-Laden's Abottabad, Pakistan compound.

Bin-Laden's Abottabad, Pakistan compound.

In the words of Desi Arnaz, “Pakistan, you got some ‘splanin’ to do!”

The heat is now on Pakistan.

Far from the mountainous region separating Pakistan from Afghanistan, our “partners” in the fight against terrorism apparently didn’t know that Osama Bin-Laden was hiding in a heavily fortified, specially built, digitally dark (lacked all digital communications like internet access, phones, etc.) compound next to the main Pakistani military academy (the Pakistani equivalent of West Point) in Abbottabad, Pakistan, only 60 miles north of Pakistan’s capitol, Islamabad.

It will be interesting to watch how Pakistan attempts to explain this, or whether they will simply admit that members of their own powerful intelligence agency, the ISI, were aiding and abetting Bin-Laden, and fall in line with every demand the U.S. makes from this point forward. Remember, we give Pakistan billions of dollars in foreign aid each year, and there is presently a plan to give Pakistan, $7.5 billion more over the next 5 years. However, this plan has been foundering in recent weeks due to the vast amount of waste stemming from internal Pakistani bureaucracy and corruption. How much less likely will the U.S. want to continue to fund Pakistan if it is revealed that Pakistan was harboring Bin-Laden for the past 6 years?

go to church. get fat. praise the lard!

Jesus in Toast

Jesus appears in a piece of toast.

A new study out this week links obesity to religious activity.

The study, conducted by researchers at Northwestern University, found that young adults who frequently attended religious activities were far more likely to become obese than those who didn’t.

“Our main finding was that people with a high frequency of religious participation in young adulthood were 50 percent more likely to become obese by middle age than those with no religious participation in young adulthood,” says Matthew Feinstein, the study’s lead investigator and a fourth-year medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“And that is true even after we adjusted for variables like age, race, gender, education, income, and baseline body mass index,” he added.

The study, presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association.

The study says it may be all of the cheap, high-in-fat potluck foods. Then again, it could be attributable to a demographic overlay of southern cooking traditionally being high in fat and the Bible Belt being in the south. Maybe.

Or,

Do overweight people tend to gravitate toward church because it is a place they feel is more likely to accept them, since churches are not supposed to be concerned with physical appearances?

Or, do people who go to church get fatter over time (perhaps for the same reason)?

Whatever conclusion you reach, the numbers don’t lie: praise the lard!

the things they don’t teach children in sunday school

one more from i think i believe:

bravo gil meche, bravo

Gil Meche

Gil Meche

Gil Meche has retired from Major League Baseball. This is nothing special; baseball players retire all the time. However, it is the manner in which he did so that is so refreshingly rare, it’s stunning: Meche retired, forfeiting his guaranteed $12 million contract for this coming season. And the reason he gave: he felt he wasn’t earning it:

“When I signed my contract, my main goal was to earn it,” Meche told the paper from his temporary home in Lafayette, La. “Once I started to realize I wasn’t earning my money, I felt bad. I was making a crazy amount of money for not even pitching. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I deserved it. I didn’t want to have those feelings again.”

“This isn’t about being a hero — that’s not even close to what it’s about,” Meche said. “It’s just me getting back to a point in my life where I’m comfortable. Making that amount of money from a team that’s already given me over $40 million for my life and for my kids, it just wasn’t the right thing to do.”

In a world dominated by greed in pro sports, this (regardless of any possible ulterior motive he may have) is commendable. He followed his principles and maintained his integrity over and above any money he might receive. And the fans will love him for it!

Bravo Gil Meche, bravo!

The Paradigmatic Facebook Argument

The Paradigmatic Facebook Argument jim pointed me to a graphic i found hilarious. it essentially encompasses 90% of ‘debates’ on facebook.

Read More
via Zwinglius Redivivus

Walking and Texting and Not Paying Attention, Oh My!

Jim West has discovered a hilarious fail video. Watch carefully.

This woman, angry that people are chuckling at her for plunging into a fountain, is looking into suing the Mall… What absurdity. Sure, it’s not nice to laugh at someone who falls and potentially is injured- but let’s face facts: 1) she wasn’t paying attention to what she was doing. 2) she fell. Happens every day. 3) she wasn’t at all injured in any respect (except perhaps h … Read More

via Zwinglius Redivivus

my 11-year old daughter is a better skier than i am snowboarder

very proud moment as my daughter, talitha, skis badger pass in yosemite national park over christmas 2010.

NOVA special on King Solomon’s Mines highlights Khirbet Qeiyafa Ostracon

Quest for Solomon's Mines NOVA

"Quest for Solomon's Mines" aired on NOVA.

The “Quest for Solomon’s Mines” aired on PBS November 23, 2010. It is viewable online. While the NOVA special examined the quest for King Solomon’s Mines, it actually did a good job of raising the issues surrounding the historicity (the actual existence and historical accuracy of the biblical account) of King Solomon. Among the items examined are the copper smelting mines located in Khirbat en-Nahas, the fortifications in Khirbat Qeiyafa, and the Qeiyafa Ostracon, which contains an inscription written in a proto-Canaanite alphabet.

UCLA's Dr. William Schniedewind with a replica of the Khirbat Qeyiafa Ostracon

UCLA's Dr. William Schniedewind with a replica of the Khirbat Qeiyafa Ostracon

The program highlights two of my favorite UC scholars, Dr. Thomas Levy of UC San Diego, and Dr. Bill Schniedewind of UCLA. Dr. Levy served as the show’s principal investigator, and Dr. Schniedewind discussed the importance of the Qeiyafa Ostracon. Drs. Israel Finkelstein and Eric Cline also make appearances, speaking to the relevance of the finds to the ongoing debate about the very existence of Solomon.

You can read an accompanying KPBS article here.

thoughts on the sbl’s pay-per-projector policy

SBL Data Projector with Coin Slot

Is the SBL also among the tax collectors?

The Society of Biblical Literature has instituted a new policy at the 2010 annual meeting in Atlanta that charges presenters $25-$75 for the use of a data projector during a presentation. You heard me correctly, that’s $25-75 per presenter, per presentation, depending upon whether or not the presenter pre-paid by September 17.

Please allow me to express my profound displeasure with this decision in my own unique way.

Now, this fee is no surprise. The SBL actually unveiled this new revenue-producing scheme before the call for papers, and it was included in the online proposal form. You may remember this gem on the SBL website:

This year a nominal fee ($25 per item prior to June 15th) will be charged for each piece of Audio/Visual equipment requested. This will assist the SBL in covering a portion of the A/V costs for your session. Please request only the A/V equipment essential to your presentation to help us keep the meeting affordable for all members. Upon your paper’s acceptance, you will receive additional information on how to confirm equipment and pay for your A/V needs.

Most scholars either didn’t pay attention; read it, but didn’t bother to do or say anything about it (as scholars are oft wont to do); ignored it and planned on simply not paying when the bill came; or figured they’d do what faculty always do: complain about a new (albeit ridiculous) policy a week before crunch time rather than proactively write in dissent or objection to the policy in the early stages.

As the chair of the Blogger and Online Publication section (whose presenters, as one might expect, might actually employ the use of technology during their presentations), I was aghast at the notion that I needed to pay extra to give a presentation, when other presenters and attendees, who also benefit from other technologies like electricity, microphones, speakers, podiums, chairs, etc., were required to pay nothing. I chose not to pay the fee, and instead arranged to bring my own digital projector, extension cord, cables, etc., which I do every year. (Jim West has offered to do the same.)

SBL Data Projector Meter

This is what it has come to: the SBL is taxing those who create visually compelling presentations to accompany their papers.

Perhaps the new SBL email confirmation can read as follows:

“Congratulations!
Your paper has been accepted in the Johannine Literature section. Please send us $25 additional if you plan on actually creating a visually compelling presentation to accompany your paper.
If you’re just going to stand there and read a boring paper, well then, that’s free.
Again, congratulations.

P.S. Send money. We’re broke.”

The SBL is attempting to exact a tax on digital projectors. At some level a strategic decision was made to surcharge presenters, perhaps because they knew that most people attending SBL would be receiving some sort of reimbursement from their employer (whether university, bookseller, or non-profit organization), and would simply pass this expense along to their employers. (Airlines get away with charging extra for bags because most major carriers know that the bulk of their business comes from business travelers on expense accounts.) We know SBL has been collecting reimbursement data. (Remember filling out the question during registration that asked if you would be receiving 100%, some, or no reimbursement from an employer?) A decision was made to tax presenters above and beyond the already high conference registration fees, SBL annual membership, hotel costs, and additional skyrocketing hotel taxes (check your hotel bill before you hand it to your office manager for reimbursement)!

However, the SBL may be at fault on more than one level. I am hoping it is not the case that the SBL signed a deal with hotels that it either knew was bad (because it did not include data projectors), but needed to sign quickly for one reason or another. Worse yet, I hope it is not the case that negligence played a role and SBL simply overlooked the fact that data projectors were not included, signed a deal, and then got caught off guard when it realized it would be hit with the surprise charges, and scrambled to recoup some of the additional expense.

Scott Bailey has pointed out the absurdity of the SBL hotel’s claims regarding the costs of data projectors. Most data projectors can be purchased outright for less than $450 these days, (click here for a selection of digital projector options), yet the SBL hotel is charging SBL $450 per day(!!) to rent its data projectors. AND THE SBL AGREED TO THESE TERMS!!! It appears that SBL either signed a bad deal without doing its due diligence regarding the actual cost of data projectors, or simply missed the fact that projectors were not included. Given that the SBL is headquartered in Atlanta, one would think that they would know their local hotels and could negotiate a decent deal.

A $25-75 surcharge for what are usually 25-minute presentations comes to $1-3/minute! For standard technology!

The SBL should immediately rescind its policy of charging presenters $25-75 per presentation for using a data projector.

SBL and Projectors

$450/Day. (Photo by James McGrath)

SBL should not begin charging presenters for projectors. Data projectors have become a staple of all good presentations. I can’t wait to see presenters reading papers without PowerPoints simply to protest the policy. A more likely solution is that given the compact nature of today’s projectors, most scholars will bring their own projectors along with their laptops, as we are doing for the Blogger and Online Publication session. (Thank you James McGrath!)

This policy especially hurts younger scholars and graduate students, the very demographic SBL is attempting to reach and the group SBL must reach to ensure its long-term viability! SBL annual meetings are already very (almost prohibitively) expensive, especially for graduate students, who do not have secured positions at universities to whom they can submit reimbursements, and who are the most likely to use technology to present papers in an effort to procure jobs. Because the “data projector tax” hurts young scholars, the SBL is essentially taxing the poorest of the poor (because after all, we’re all in the humanities), and exacting a tax on those who are least able to afford it.

If SBL is going to fine anyone, it should charge presenters who do not use data projectors. If you wrote your SBL “talk” on the back of a napkin in the bar just before your session, you should have to pay $75 in order to present – money that can be distributed to those of us who have to listen to you drone on about hiphil middle-weak verb forms without any form of visual aid whatsoever. Don’t punish those presenters who have spent the time to write a good paper and create a helpful accompanying presentation.

The SBL should not disincentivize the production of effective, visual presentations at its own annual meeting!

Jesus Cleanses the SBL Registration Booth

An angry Jesus, upset about the fact that SBL is charging presenters to use data projectors, cleanses the SBL registration booth. (Mashup of Carl Heinrich Bloch painting by Robert R. Cargill) More on Bloch here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Heinrich_Bloch

Nickel-and-diming the attendees gives the SBL a real black eye at a time of nation-wide economic cost-cutting at universities, and when the SBL is attempting to market to a new range of scholars. Higher education really can’t afford the additional cost burden right now, especially if the revenues raised from the data projector tax are simply being passed along to hotels.

I’m seriously waiting for Jesus (Christ, not Jones in hotel facilities) to show up and “cleanse” the SBL registration booth. I’d like to see him overturn a table full of data projectors or two.

I can hear it now: as soon as a projector goes dark, someone will say,

“Will you put another quarter in the data projector meter for me?”

Church Collection Plate

Seriously, we should take up an offering for use of the data projectors. A section with 5 papers would cost $125, and that’s if you pre-reserved them back in June! We could pass a plate down the rows.

Solution

The SBL should immediately announce that it is rescinding its data projector fees for this year’s annual meeting.

Itemizing the data projector costs as an additional surcharge only highlights the fiscal trouble of the SBL.

Placing the fiscal burden directly on those scholars who are doing and presenting higher-end research that requires modern forms of technology to communicate their findings disincentivizes innovation.

Nickel-and-diming its own participants for participating makes an otherwise professional organization look cheap and does not send an inspiring message of fiscal viability to SBL members.

It would be better to spread the cost of data-projectors evenly across all participants, whether they use them in presentations, or watch presentations that use projectors. This minimal cost (say, $5) could be added to the already absurd annual meeting registration cost. It would be less burdensome to the presenters, and would not advertise SBL’s financial woes by highlighting the need to exact a surcharge for a service that is now standard in higher education and professional conferences.

Rescinding the decision to impose fees on those using data projectors would buy the SBL a year to debate the role of technology in scholarship, properly assess the real costs of technology, and give SBL a year to communicate the need, if any, for higher fees to subsidize technology costs.

SBL could also agree not to do business with hotels who insist on exacting absurd usury fees on conferences. It’s SBL’s home town for crying aloud! SBL should be able to negotiate a fair deal.

In Sum

In sum, charging presenters a fee to present their papers in a modern format is a very poor decision on the part of SBL. Then again, a digital image is worth a thousand words (and I’ll let you see it for free):

SBL Pay-for-Projector Policy

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