Daily Archives: April 4, 2013

New Test for Computers: Grading Essays at College Level

Imagine taking a college exam, and, instead of handing in a blue book and getting a grade from a professor a few weeks later, clicking the “send” button when you are done and receiving a grade back instantly, your essay scored by a software program.

And then, instead of being done with that exam, imagine that the system would immediately let you rewrite the test to try to improve your grade.

EdX, the nonprofit enterprise founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to offer courses on the Internet, has just introduced such a system and will make its automated software available free on the Web to any institution that wants to use it. The software uses artificial intelligence to grade student essays and short written answers, freeing professors for other tasks….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Science & Technology

(Terry Mattingly) Get Religion–Was the New York Times' Easter error no big deal?

The New York Times has been taking quite a bit of heat for its shockingly erroneous understanding of Christianity. Earlier this week, it published a brief story about Pope Francis’ Easter message and went on to say that “Easter is the celebration of the resurrection into heaven of Jesus, three days after he was crucified, the premise for the Christian belief in an everlasting life.”

Now, there are many things wrong with that line, as my kindergartner could tell you.

I thought my write-up of the piece was pretty mild…[but a number of others disagreed]….

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NY Times) For Dominican Friars, Finding Renewal by Sticking to Tradition

The friars are something of a hybrid between monks and diocesan priests. They live together in a priory, sharing prayers and meals. But unlike monks, they work in the broader community in preaching and teaching roles in churches, universities and secondary schools. It is a way of life that Pope Francis himself has chosen, shunning the papal palace for a guesthouse to “live in community” with bishops and priests at the Vatican.

In the United States, the largest northeastern branch is expecting 18 novices to enter its theology school in Washington, which was expanded three years ago. In the smaller southern region based in New Orleans, the Dominicans are scrambling to finance an influx of novices ”” six this year ”” with annual expenses of $30,000 for lodging and theology education over seven years.

“People see the habit in a much more positive light then clerical clothing, the black shirt, white collar and suit,” said Martin Ganeri, who is a Dominican vocations promoter for England, where five people entered the order this year. “The habit doesn’t have the negative image of the clergy, the child abuse issue.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Ireland, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(CBS Marketwatch) David Stockman is worried about the Federal Reserve's Policy of QE longer term

MarketWatch: Since Nixon’s “abomination” as you call it, we have had some periods where government spending to GDP actually went down, like during the Clinton era. Doesn’t that show it’s just the choices made by Congress rather than the Fed to blame [for the problem of rising national debt as a % of GDP]?

Stockman: There is the issue that Congress ultimately is the fiscal authority. But my argument is, when the Fed becomes a massive buyer of bonds and debt and artificially suppresses interest rate below market-clearing levels, it’s a terrible signal to the Congress that debt is cheap, that running deficits is a viable strategy. So therefore they are induced to kick the can, to let it drift and avoid hard choices. Who wants to tell the public you are going to take your broccoli of higher taxes and lower benefits and spending if you can issue debt on a three-year basis for 40 basis points. That’s free. I was in Congress, they don’t do decimal math, OK? And they think the money is free, it’s a bad problem philosophically, we shouldn’t be doing this for the great long run, but it’s no harm today.

Then they have professors like Krugman who give them the disingenuous advice that the bond vigilantes don’t care. The market is saying, “fine with us, we don’t care, keep piling the debt on, we love it.” That is so much baloney. The reason the interest rate on the 10-year bond 10_YEAR -0.33% today is 1.8% or whatever it happened to settle today, is the market knows the Fed is buying half of the debt and is front running the Fed. And it is renting the bond on repo, 98 cents on the dollar, based on overnight money that’s free thanks to Bubbles Ben as well.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, History, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Crisis) Anthony Esolen–Felix and Oscar: A Post-Modern Marriage

Felix and Oscar quarrel all the time, but they cannot imagine life without one another. Each has the other’s power of attorney. There is as much chance of their moving to separate apartments, now, after all these years, as there is that the Empire State Building will spontaneously collapse into dust. They wouldn’t know how to get through a single day. So they wish to celebrate this lifelong friendship. They wish to throw a party, and to gain the Social Security benefits that accrue to the survivor in a marriage.

So Felix and Oscar are going to tie the knot.

In a saner day than ours, someone would object, “There’s no knot to tie! They can’t marry! You’re confusing friendship with marriage.” That would be quite right. Nothing prevents Felix or Oscar from naming the other as sole legatee in his will. But nothing that Felix and Oscar do with one another is specifically marital. The thing that a married man and woman do, that no one else can do, is to consummate the marriage, bringing it to its fullest realization. The marital act unites across the chasm of the sexes and across the generations, from the past into the future. In it alone do human beings bring together precious strands of human history, from the beginning of our race. In it alone dwells the possibility of new life. The act is biologically, essentially, summative of the past and oriented toward the future.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Sexuality, Theology

(USA Today) Cohabitation first is new norm for unmarrieds with kids

Unmarried couples who live together are staying together longer than in the past ”” and more of them are having children, according to the first federal data out Thursday that details just how cohabitation is transforming families across the USA.

For almost half of women ages 15-44, their “first union” was cohabitation rather than marriage, says the report from the National Center for Health Statistics. For less than one-quarter, the first union was marriage. The report was based on in-person interviews conducted between 2006 and 2010 with 12,279 women ages 15-44.

“Instead of marriage, people are moving into cohabitation as a first union,” says demographer Casey Copen, the report’s lead author. “It’s kind of a ubiquitous phenomenon now.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Young Adults


Moist, with one drop of thy blood, my dry soule
Shall (though she now be in extreme degree
Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly) be
Freed by that drop, from being starved, hard, or foul,
And life, by this death abled, shall control
Death, whom thy death slew; nor shall to me
Fear of first or last death, bring misery,
If in thy little book my name thou enroll,
Flesh in that long sleep is not putrified,
But made that there, of which, and for which ’twas;
Nor can by other means be glorified.
May then sins sleep, and deaths soon from me pass,
That waked from both, I again risen may
Salute the last, and everlasting day.

”“John Donne (1572-1631)

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Poetry & Literature

The resurrected One himself encounters you in a living way as he who unites you with God

Some people have already tried to force themselves to believe in what the Bible reports of the resurrection of Jesus. But it was not so simple. Always doubt interfered; and then one thought that doubt-for example, scientific doubt in the possibility of such a miracle-was the basis of his inability to believe. That goes without saying. Some of the greatest scientists of all times have believed in the resurrection, just as an apostle of early Christianity. Perhaps you also belong to those who would like to believe, who would also like to have this hope of eternal life. But you say you cannot. I wish to tell you precisely why you cannot believe, and I also wish to tell you how you can believe. You cannot believe it because you are not reconciled to God, and you are not reconciled to God because you do not really wish to repent for your godlessness. All unbelief without any exception comes from this unwillingness to obey, from the unwillingness of sin that separates us from God. In the moment when you do that and sincerely acknowledge your sins, then you can also believe in the reconciliation; no, in this moment you are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and the truth of the Easter message is clear to you. Then you believe in the resurrection, not because it is reported by the apostles but because the resurrected One himself encounters you in a living way as he who unites you with God, as the living Mediator. Now you yourself know it: he lives he, the Reconciler and Redeemer.

And now the stories of Easter become alive to you, worthy of belief, for you now recognize in them him who encounters you yourself. Now you believe not only in Easter; now the Easter certainly is for you a living experience. Now you can say with the apostle: Blessed be the God who has begotten me anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Were Jesus not resurrected, how could he redeem and reconcile you? When he reconciles you to God, you have encountered him, the resurrected One, not bodily, as did the apostle, but not really any less so, through his Word and his Spirit. Now you already stand at the beginning of the new, eternal life. Now you know what the Lord means when he says: “He who believes in me has eternal life.” Upon that, everything therefore depends: being reconciled to God, forgiveness of sins, removal of the separation between you and God, joyful access to God, and peace with God through Jesus Christ who gives you on the cross the Father’s love and with it eternal life.

–Emil Brunner (1889-1966)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Eschatology, Theology

Religion and Ethics Weekly: Easter Music

[KIM] LAWTON: At Maundy Thursday services, music helps set the mood as Christians begin their annual time of mourning the arrest, prosecution and crucifixion of Jesus.

Thomas Tyler is in charge of worship and music at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He says it’s spiritually important to sing the songs of grief before celebrating Christ’s resurrection.

Mr. TYLER: We want to skip over the sorrow. We want to skip over the abandonment and go get our praise on. But, if you don’t remember what he went through, then I feel your appreciation for the significance of that resurrection is marginalized.

Read it all or watch and listen to the video report.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Music, Religion & Culture

A Prayer to Begin the Day

O God, who for our sakes didst give up thy well-beloved Son to endure the shameful death of the cross, that we might be delivered from the power of the devil and be cleansed from all unrighteousness: Grant unto thy servants, we beseech thee, that through his passion the body of sin may be destroyed in us, and through the power of his resurrection we may henceforth walk in newness of life; for the merits of the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, thou knowest.” Again he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host. Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done it, says the LORD.”

–Ezekiel 37:1-14

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Reminder–Martin Luther King Jr.'s Speech to Sanitation Workers Was 45 Years Ago Today

And they were telling me, now it doesn’t matter now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us, the pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”

And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Read it all (video versions on the web are available also).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Eschatology, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology

South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence's Easter Sermon for 2013

Listen to it all (about 29 1/4 minutes).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Easter, Eschatology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology

Economy, Job Growth Losing Momentum, New Data Show

The vast majority of U.S. businesses expanded at a slower pace, and private-sector firms hired less, adding to earlier warnings the economy is losing momentum.

The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday its nonmanufacturing index fell to a seven-month low of 54.4 in March from 56 in February, indicating activity cooled off. Analysts expected it to remain steady. The report saw sharp decelerations in jobs, orders and exports.

ISM’s factory gauge out Monday also showed slowing growth .

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Personal Finance, The U.S. Government

Dan Ariely–The Plusses and Pitfalls of Teaching Online

The proprietor of this page, Paul Solman, posed a few specific questions to me. The first: How does the quality of online discourse compare to in-class discussion at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Duke, where I’ve taught?

My answer is that so far (and as I note, the class has just begun, so it may be too soon to say), the only way to answer this question is to start by differentiating between the average discussion quality and the discussion quality of the outliers, because you get a very different picture when you examine them separately.

In terms of average quality, we have to consider the environment of a typical four-year university student, which leads to a very different approach to academics. These students often live on campus, show up to class and have their meals on campus…[as] a result, they have more resources, time, and attention to devote to their studies, as well as friend groups who share the same collective experience. Taking this unique kind of atmosphere into account, the average quality is higher in regular classes.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Education, Science & Technology

(Reuters) Special Report: How the Fed fueled an explosion in subprime auto loans

Thanks largely to the U.S. Federal Reserve, Jeffrey Nelson was able to put up a shotgun as down payment on a car.

Money was tight last year for the school-bus driver and neighborhood constable in Jasper, Alabama, a beaten-down town of 14,000 people. One car had already been repossessed. Medical bills were piling up.

And still, though Nelson’s credit history was an unhappy one, local car dealer Maloy Chrysler Dodge Jeep had no problem arranging a $10,294 loan from Wall Street-backed subprime lender Exeter Finance Corp so Nelson and his wife could buy a charcoal gray 2007 Suzuki Grand Vitara.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Federal Reserve, Personal Finance, The U.S. Government

Peter Moore's Good Friday Sermon at Saint Michael's, Charleston

Today we follow Jesus on a journey. We walk with him what has been called the Via Dolorosa, the way of grief. In doing so, we join with pilgrims from all over the world who go to Jerusalem, to take that ancient walk through the Old City following in his steps.

It’s still called the Via Dolorosa, the way of grief. But paradoxically Jesus always claimed that the Cross would not only be his moment of grief. It would also be his moment of glory. To the eyes of faith it would be that moment when people would see once and for all that God does not stand aloof from human pain. God accepts the pain ”“ even the pain of our sin — and turns the moment of grief into a moment of glory.

My grandparents had a painting of Christ on their bedroom wall that always fascinated me. It depicted the gray, dead body of Jesus hanging on the cross. But when you looked closely, you could see ”“ emerging from behind that gray corpse ”“ a glorious Christ, radiant and triumphant. The artist understood that the Cross was both Jesus’ moment of defeat, and also his moment of triumph.

Read it all (audio also available).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Holy Week, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

Pittsburgh's Shepherd's Heart Fellowship, church for homeless, celebrates resurrection on Easter

When Leonard Williams attends the Easter service today at Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship, an Anglican church for the homeless in Uptown, like Christians everywhere he will be celebrating the resurrection of Christ from the tomb.

But Mr. Williams, 53, and others who attend Shepherd’s Heart also will be celebrating the new life that has been breathed into their church after a recent significant agreement between Pittsburgh’s Episcopal and Anglican dioceses. A long-running conflict in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh resulted in a 2008 split, with many of the churches leaving and creating the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, linked to the theologically conservative Anglican Church in North America.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Poverty, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

Jeff Walton–Bishop Spong’s Good Friday Visit to the Diocese of Virginia

Less than a month after sponsoring an event for Virginia Episcopal clergy featuring a speaker who denies both the afterlife and unique divinity of Christ, Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has presided over a service featuring a similarly controversial figure.

In a Good Friday service at historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, retired Bishop John Shelby Spong decried the Nicene Creed as “a radical distortion of the Gospel of John,” asserted that several of the apostles were “mythological” and declared that Jesus Christ did not die to redeem humanity from its sins.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Episcopal Church (TEC), Holy Week, Soteriology, TEC Bishops, Theology

Newly Discovered Giant Spider is of the Nightmare-Inducing Variety

Of all of the creepy and crawly things that you can think of, tarantulas probably are near the top of the list when it comes to scariness. Well, get ready to add another terrifying arachnid to your list, because a new type of tarantula has been discovered in northern Sri Lanka.

Ranil Nanayakkara, a local researcher, and his team found the tiger spider and named it Poecilotheria rajaei, after a local police investigator, Michael Rajakumar Purajah. Purajah helped the team of scientists navigate the remote area where the spider was found.

Read it all.

Posted in * General Interest, Animals