Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Beginning Greek Class, Fall, 2005

I will be teaching a course on beginning Greek this Fall. Luckily, this is not my first time. While at DTS I was the NT department tutor for a couple of years, and got to fill in for professors every once in a while. Great fun. A few years ago I taught a Greek class while I was at Believer's Chapel. It is time for me to do it again. It has been too long and I enjoy it too much.

I'll have more details later on, but here are a few points about the class:

  • It will be held in the Parker, TX, area (suburb of Dallas), probably at First Baptist Church of Parker. It is open to anyone who can attend the classes, though I'm going to put a minimum age of around Junior High or a little lower, with no maximum age. Last time one of the student's daughters attended the class and did very well, and she wasn't near Junior High at the time. Kids learn this stuff so much more easily than we adults do... Note, this is not limited to members of FBC Parker. It is only limited to those who live close enough to meet once a week.
  • It will likely be free, though it may not be. If it does cost $, it won't be much at all. Mainly the idea behind this is psychological. When someone commits money, it not only shows their commitment, but it is also an encouragement to stick with it. After all, who likes to lose money? But, I'm not sure what we're going to do. If you can't afford anything and you are intested, talk to me anyway.
  • We will probably max out the class at around 20.
  • We will probably meet once a week for a long session together, with another short meeting time online during the week.
  • Method: mostly inductive. If you have taken a course on Greek before, it is probably not done inductively. So this will be quite a bit different. Not completely inductive, but more so than deductive. If you don't know what that means, think inductive = more focus on translation and informal language acquisition and deductive = more focused and organized with a more formal air to it. Yes, I know, those are poor definitions. But I'm not trying to write a book here.
  • This is for those who have had no experience with any foreign language, or for those who need to brush up on their Greek.
  • This is not a class on biblical Greek, though there will be a lot of biblical Greek throughout. I am quite convinced that familiarity with the English translations is a huge hindrance to learning based off of the NT. We will be focusing on the Greek during the time period of the NT. Material will include NT texts, secular koine texts, texts from the Apostolic Fathers, and fabricated texts.
  • This will be treated like a class. There will be assignments. There will be grades. If the work is not getting done, I will remove you from the class. There are not auditors. You are in the class all the way, or not at all.
  • The class is a year long. There will probably be a second year class as well. The first will concentrate on rudiments, vocabulary, translation, and paradigms (in roughly that order of importance). The second will almost be entirely devoted to translation, syntax, and analysis. As I said before, the first will not focus on biblical Greek. The second I will leave up to the class. Since they will have the rudiments down, we could focus mostly on biblical Greek at that point. But that's up to the class.
We will probably start having information meeetings in August, and will begin the class at the beginning of September. If you want more information, send me an email.

Not A Good Book Day

I don't remember where I saw it, but some blog pointed to some online groups for studying classical Greek. Well, I saw two I liked and I think I'll do both of them this summer. One is covering a small portion of Xenophon's Anabasis. The other is going very rapidly through a book on Homeric Greek.

So I need to get a copy of Clyde Pharr's book on Homeric Greek for the second group study. I know I saw that book at the Borders at the corner of Royal and Preston in Dallas about a year ago, so I know that it will sometimes be in the retail stores. More likely to be in Borders, since they almost always seem to have a much nicer foreign language section. But anyway...

I started at the Borders on Preston just south of Park. Not there. Next was the Borders at Arapaho and Coit. Nada. Next to Barnes & Nobles at Preston and Arapaho. Not there. Next to the Borders at Royal and Preston, where I had seen it earlier. Not there, though I did see a beginning Greek book from Hippocrene publishers there, and they are the ones who published my brother's book. But I digress. From there I go to the SMU Barnes & Nobles at Mockingbird and 75. They didn't have it. So I made a quick stop at the Crispy Creme near the Borders at Lover's Lane and 75, and then on to that Borders. Neither the donut shop or the book store had my book.

I went home defeated.

So, I'll have to order it online. Should be able to get it in the $20-30 range. But why am I doing this? Partially because I dig the language. Partially because of what I'm going to cover in my next post...

Sunday, May 29, 2005

House For Sale...Still

Well, our nice buyers pulled out on us 10 hours before the option period was over. So, our house is for sale and open for new contracts. Anybody need a house near NW Highway and 635? I'll sell it to you, cheap. Well, not cheap, but I'll give you a good price :)

Good Book Day

So I went to half price books today and picked up some nice stuff. Mentioned in the order in which they are stacked on my desk...

The Odyssey of Homer, translation of the Odyssey by Richmond Lattimore. $3.
Loeb, Plato's Theaetetus and Sophist. $6.
The Pastoral Epistles, Tyndale NT series, by Donald Guthrie. $4.
Homeri Ilias, Vol II (a really nice edition of the Greek text of Homer's Iliad with lots of TC stuff), by T.W. Allen. $13.
Primitive Christianity in its Contemporary Setting by Rudolf Bultmann. $6.
The Letter To Philemon, Anchor Bible series, by Joseph A. Fitzmyer. $5.
The chance to look at a lot of books...priceless.
For everything else, there's my Mastercard, which expires in two days.

As you can see, a good book day. I've already started on Bultmann's book.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Another Coder/Biblical Studies Dude - Biblaridion

Well, through Jim I found a guy I'm sure I would like. Jim points out a new blog called Biblaridion, which is run by someone who is interested in the field of biblical studies and is also a software engineer. Cool. So far I've seen two on textual criticism. Is that his focus? I, of course, have no clue.

His name sounds familiar. I'm not sure why. Maybe we met or something. Or maybe it's just a common name. Who knows. But, it looks to be an interesting blog. I've got his feed in my feed reader now.

Option Period and Inspection

We are almost near the end of our option period and we finally got the requests from the buyers for repairs. Almost everything is basically trivial. Just one problem, though. Apparently the sub-flooring under our bathroom needs to be replaced. That's not cool. But, we're going to negotiate this. We'll see what happens.

House Search, Day 1

We visited about ten homes today from 5-7 pm in the 75040 area near 190 and 78, NE Garland.

We both really like the area. Lots of really nice houses. Couldn't find any that we could use today, but lots of possibilites. We want to hit the area again to see if we see anything.

Great for a commute. It took less than 15 minutes to get from work to the exit there at 190 and 78 in rush hour. Not bad. Rush hour on Dallas North Tollway and 635 means an hour quite often. This is a HUGE improvement. Maybe we'll find something there.

Found one house that we really liked a whole lot. It only had one problem. No place for a study. That is definitely not an option. We found two more that were mediocre, and all the others were not even close. The first two were actually the worst. The houses were a complete mess, and both were clearly in bad shape. Not the thing to do if you're selling your house.

We're going out again in a couple of days. Maybe we'll find our perfect little home.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Anything Interesting in the Blogosphere?

I hope not. SharpReader crashed a couple weeks ago and won't recover for me, so I've lost all my feeds and haven't taken the time to rebuild them yet. I'll probably start that tomorrow.

If there is anything out there that anyone things I need to see, like something where you pointed to one of my posts and said "What a complete moron", or you posted something in the hope that I would read it so you would gain my respect for your witty and intelligent musings (unlikely that you care about my opinion, I know), please send me an email or something.

Moral of this sad story: export your feeds to an opml file frequently.

Thoughts on IT Workers

So I've got some puzzlements about the IT industry. I've had them for a while. First, a note from Slashdot. They point to an interesting article published in the "Herald Sun", found here. The basic idea: the IT industry is heading for hard times, because the supply of computer science graduates is decreasing and the demand is increasing. Interesting.

Second note: years of experience in the field does not equal knowledge of basic programming skills. For companies who are looking for qualified individuals, I think this should be alarming. Or do they already know this? The reason why I bring this up is that I occassionally do phone tech interviews for my employer to screen applicants before a real in-house interview (which I enjoy, for some reason). And, while I was working for my previous employer, I also saw their screening process.

What I see is some resumes with years and years of experience (the last two had 15 and 8.5, respectively) but for people who cannot answer pretty simple questions. Examples? Sure. Take, for example, one applicant that had Brainbench certifications for some technologies and 8.5 years of experience. Couldn't tell how you got the length of an array in vbscript, javascript, or C#, even though he had experience in all on his resume. Not only that, but he couldn't explain anything coherent about database joins, even though he had experience in sql.

Also, resume inflation is a problem. How about this one? Someone with a statement about wanting to leverage his skills in object-oriented programming in the purpose-statement of his resume who, when asked about inheritance, said "I haven't every really done that, so I'm not sure." Problem with that? Well, inheritance is one of the key attributes of object-oriented programming. Hmmmm...

Now, please understand me. I'm not the brightest programmer to ever exist on God's green earth. I've only been seriously programming for two and a half years now (and I'm not even a CS grad), and I realize more and more that I have more to learn. The field is huge, and the potential range of useful stuff to know is quite large. All I'm saying is that the vast majority of people I end up tech interviewing seem to know little about the details of programming, even in the environments that they are supposedly programming at the moment. So what is going on? What leads to this?

1. Keyword inflation. People say to put a lot of key programming terms in your resume to attract HR workers, like "object-oriented programming", "refactor", "architecture", "design patterns", or whatever else you can think of that looks techie. The idea itself is not bad. After all, if you know how to do object-oriented programming, refactoring, etc., you should tell prospective employers that you do. These things are needed, after all. But the problem is, people put stuff on their resume that they frankly do not understand. So when someone asks them about that keyword, or work they have done in the area, they won't be able to answer. For example, I've read a couple chapters out of an assembly book that I have here at home. Am I going to put that on my resume? No way, because if I ever got asked a difficult question about it I would look like a fool, and I have no experience in it really. But that apparently doesn't stop people. Hint: hiring people, watch out for this.

2. No desire to be exceptional. Some people just really want to be really good, or even the best, at what they do. Maybe it's fame. Or fortune. Whatever. I'm the same way. Partially because I don't want people to think I'm a complete idiot, and I do want to make enough money to support my family. But it also comes from my belief that it is God's design for man to work, and so it behooves us to be good at it to please Him. But I don't think a lot of people have any real kind of motivation to be exceptional. I guess they just go to work and do the minimal to get by. Kinda sad. Hint: hiring people, try not to get these guys.

3. Nervousness. I just had to throw this in, because this actually might be a real problem for people. It's possible that we could be passing up really talented programmers. But, it surely happens. I almost seriously jeapordized getting my job at TriTech a couple years ago because I couldn't remember how to form a database connection string properly. Yep, that's right. Nervousness? That was probably part of it. Of course, part of it was that I just don't write them very often. I usually put it one place and keep fetching it from there when I need it. Sprinkling your connection string all over your code is a really stupid idea. But, before time was up, I remembered, and ended up doing really well on that part of the interview.

I'm kindof curious if any of you other techie people out there have experience with seeing this. So...do you?

What this means is there is plenty of opportunity out there for you folks who are looking for a field to excel in. Learning to program with any proficiency takes time and hard work, but it isn't something that is out of reach for most hard-working individuals. Actually, it is quite a bit easier than the field of biblical studies and Greek, where my real training is. There are so many scholars, ideas, pieces of data, nuances, intellectual influences, historical events, languages, etc., that you need to know to do good research that it is very difficult to do well. Programming...much less subjective. Not completely, because there really is a great deal of art to program architecture, especially. But which one is more likely to be completed to the satisfaction of a large audience? An essay on the identification of the author of Hebrews, or a complex three-tier client-server application? In terms of difficulty, give me the programming job any day.

Wow this post ended up being too long...

2005 Betas

I've had lots of fun here in the last few days playing with the beta releases for Whidbey (Visual Studio 2005) and Yukon (Sql Server 2005). Actually, I haven't had much time. Been doing house stuff (see two posts ago). But here are my thoughts so far.

Class Designer for Visual Studio
I dig it. It allows you to define your classes in a cool Visio-like designer. The really cool feature is that it syncs up with your class files. So a change in one is automatically a change in the other. Pretty cool. Obviously, not necesssary. But cool.

Sql Server Management Studio
Definitely the coolest thing I've seen so far. What is it? Basically, it is a merge of Enterprise Manager and Query Analyzer. My two favorite features? Tab display for organizing your queries. Nice. Don't like navigating between various queries in 2000's Query Analyzer. Also, solution files. This is very nice, because it gives you a good way to organize your queries within the tool. Sure, you could use Sql Server projects in VS2003, I know. But this allows you to do it within the DB tools themselves. A very nice feature.

Also, you can manage your 2000 installation as well as your 2005 installation. Nice.

Team System
Definitely the stuff I am most anxious to see, but as of yet have not. I have a developer license for Windows Server 2003, which Team System requires, but I don't have it currently installed on anything. I guess I'll have to do that. Can't wait to see the defect item tracking, code coverage, automatic build stuff, etc., that you get with it. Rockin' stuff in the demos.

Yes, I am a geek.

Fun Meeting with Translator

I got to meet yesterday, and talk with today, our Khmer translator, Mades. This is the same guy who has already translated the 1646 "First London Confession of Faith" for us that our missionary, Chheng Nuon, is currently using in Cambodia. Our next task is a basic Bible dictionary. The list is currently up to 111 terms, though I'm sure we'll want to add a few more. Three of us from the church will be doing most of the work on the dictionary, on the English side. I'm not sure how long this will take. It could take a while, but it will certainly be worth the effort.

The Coding Humanist Is Busy

Not that I'm complaining. Actually, everything is going quite well. It just takes a lot of time. Work is taking up a little extra time, but selling my house and, now, finding a new one, is killing my time.

Yes, we're moving. Somewhere around 190 and 78 on the north-east side of Garland, in Garland, Sachse, or Wylie. If you have any tips, I'm all ears.

Yes, we have a contract on our house already. We're only three days from the end of the option period, so it's almost a done deal. Unfortunately, we haven't heard from those buying to see what they want changed. This is a little worrisome. But, they only have a few days. I hope it's not an indication that they don't want to buy. But we'll see.

We were supposed to go look at houses today, but our realtor was not feeling well. But, we're going out tomorrow, I'm pretty sure. So, I'm hoping that part of the process will be as nice as the selling has been.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

More Letters to Add to My Name - MCP

Well, it's been a while, but I'm back with news. Today I passed my first Microsoft certification exam and became a Microsoft Certified Professional, an MCP. I took the 070-316 exam, entitled "Developing and Implementing Windows-based Applications with Microsoft Visual C# .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET", which means my passing proves that I know absolutely everthing about Windows programming. Woohoo! Okay...maybe not.

I've wanted to do this for some time, so I'm glad to have finally done it. The impetus this time was a special offer from MS, a promotion, where one can get a free retake if you fail the exam. As it turns out, it wasn't necessary. I figured I would try, and would at the very least "get the feel" of a certification exam. But I passed. Woohoo!

So, tonight we celebrated. Chili's to go...

Eric B. Sowell, ThM, MCP

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Congrats to Bro

Congratulations to my brother for passing the Bar exam. I guess he wasn't lying about his education at Cornell. It seems to have paid off. Good job, Kirk!

NDDNUG and BizTalk

Last night was another instance of the North Dallas .NET User Group, and it was enjoyable. The presenter was one of the regular NDDNUG attendees, Jim Martin. His presentation was an introduction to BizTalk 2004, which was nice. I really had no familiarity with BizTalk, so the lecture was very useful. The product itself looks quite nice, though the price tag on BizTalk server is prohibitive.

There was low attendance last night, which turned out to be very good for me. They have drawings for free stuff every meeting, which means that the fewer the people, the better the odds. Anyway, last night I won an atomic clock. Can't beat free stuff.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Inklings Conference

Church was very different this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday we hosted an Inklings Conference, which focused around the writings of C.S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers. It was very interesting. I dig my church.

The most interesting of the lectures was the first, by David Naugle of Dallas Baptist University. His lecture centered around Lewis's Abolition of Man, which I really want to read now. His main point was both brilliant and insightful. How much is from Naugle and how much is from Lewis, I don't know. After all, as I said I haven't read Lewis. But here are the main ideas:

1. The lectures which became the book were a response to a trend in education that Lewis saw. Under the guise of teaching English, some were teaching what would become the main idea of Postmodernism, that there is no objective truth. Instead of teaching English, they were teaching poor philosophy.

2. One of the chief effects of their writing was to have their readers approach their texts without emotions, where they might see a thing and just view it as a thing and never something that could inspire awe. They were not able/willing to make the cultivating of affections as a very important part of their curriculum. On the contrary, to them sentiments are non-rational and must be removed.

3. The effect of these two things is the abolition and destruction of human society. In Lewis' perspective, the task of the educator is opposite of the removal of affections; it is the creation of proper affections. But why was this important? Two quotes: "Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism." "The head rules the belly through the chest..." Without affections based on truth, man cannot control his most basic passions, and this lack of self-control based on an absolute idea of truth will lead to destruction.

At least that's the idea he was trying to communicate. And I think he is right on. The example David used in the lecture is the man in battle. If the man has no passion for what he does, what will he do in the heat of battle? Can the mind alone simply keep him going? Or does there need to be some sense of honor toward his country, and duty toward his fellow citizents? I think Lewis' idea is exactly right. And couple a dispassionate man with a man who has no concept of absolute right and wrong, and you've got a messed up individual.

I guess this is where postmodernism is taking us. And it's not good.

New and Relocated Blogs

A very close friend of mine, with whom I went to college and seminary, is now blogging. Glad to see you onboard, Chris: Son of Fog. We'll have to wait and see what Chris has in store for us...

Also, my big brother has moved his blog from blogger to his own website using Movable Type. Here is the new url. His specialty is middle-eastern politics and history, and his blog centers around that. Since that particular area is of significant interest to, say, world stability, you might find it useful to keep up to date with his blog :)