My boss just defended his Ed.D. dissertation, and he hired me to produce a slick visual presentation to accompany it. (I had to make it real small to fit on the blog; sorry!) We did some real thinking about transitions and when to click. Apple’s Keynote makes that a very smooth, intuitive process.

But working multiple hours on this presentation also raised again a question I’ve had: Is “powerpoint” (used generically like “xerox” or “frisbee” or “kleenex”) really effective and helpful, or is it distracting? Well, I think it’s both, but most frequently the last! I have often thought my good teachers could do just as well or better if they weren’t tied to digital slides. And slides in a classroom encourage kids to write down everything on the slide… and nothing else.

So what should a digital slide presentation aim to do? Should it aim to provide an outline of the talk’s content? to add helpful visuals? to make visual jokes? to stress particular quotations?

I watched a talk a few months ago that one powerpoint blog (yes, there are such things!) was touting. It had a lot of visuals that made little puns off of what the presenter was saying. The blog thought it was clever. I thought it was distracting.

Here are a few principles I picked up or extrapolated from a Microsoft book on PowerPoint:

  • Use slides to tell a story (if you watch my boss’s presentation, I especially applied this with his hammer throw illustration).
  • Use complete sentences.
  • Try to make each slide make sense on its own.
  • Read directly from your slides (and make slides that can be read from). If you use different wording people will wonder about the discrepancy. Use in front of your audience the same words you carefully crafted for your presentation.

I did a few other things I’ve decided to make principles for myself:

  • I limited transitions and eye candy and used mostly understated ones.
  • I used one kind of slide transition for each major section of the outline, using a doorway transition for the first slide in the section and a falling transition for the last.
  • I established a consistent color scheme and visual style.


How to Get Married

For real marriage advice, click here.

For a silly throwaway post I wrote to get free software, keep reading:

I’m two things, but for years my computer could only be one.

I’m a biblical scholar in training, so I have needed my computer to run the expensive and powerful Windows software (BibleWorks, Logos) that I rely on for my studies and work.

I’m also a graphic designer who never can seem to say no when asked to design a T-shirt or a friend’s wedding invitation… For this work I needed the computer and OS most designers prefer, Mac!

For years I had to content myself with clunkiness because school and work won out over design. Also, I was single. Girls did not like me.

But with Parallels (and Spaces in Leopard!) on my perfect little Macbook, I switch completely seamlessly and with no hiccups between OSX and Windows. I can even drag a file from OSX and drop it on my Windows desktop or in a Windows application! I copy text back and forth between OSes all day. I barely have to think about the transition.

Now my divided psyche is one. And I’m engaged to be married in May!

Thank you, Parallels!



I admit it. Look it up. “Snafu” has a less-than-clean etymology.

The other day, a nice middle-aged man heard me say, “Oops, I made a little snafu!” He later stopped me kindly in private and informed me about the word’s etymology. “I was sure you wouldn’t have used the word had you known where it came from!” he said. I didn’t think it appropriate to reply with anything other than, “Oh! Ok!” And I haven’t used it in his presence since. He really is a good man!

But for the sake of biblical studies, here’s my reply, borrowing from Moisés Silva’s excellent book, Biblical Words and Their Meaning (p. 38):

We must accept the obvious fact that the speakers of a language simply know next to nothing about its development.

Silva’s point is that the historical development of Κοινη Greek words is not nearly as important as many interpreters imagine. My point is that people simply don’t use “snafu” as an acronym anymore. If my own internal usage computer, which has been processing English since 1980, isn’t enough proof, check out the title to a PCWorld magazine article from last October:


Windows Update again upgrades machines without user permission; Microsoft has no explanation.

PCWorld isn’t exactly a rebellious and profane organ of the far left. “Snafu” simply means “a mess,” no matter what it meant in 1941.

Usage determines meaning.


What in the World!

This is an excerpt from the latest What in the World! newsletter:

What is the Catholic view of salvation? Not all Catholics agree. But Avery Dulles, a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church and a Jesuit professor of religion at a Catholic university, is as authoritative a voice as any but the pope.

Dulles has this to say about how various people can be saved: “Catholics can be saved if they believe the Word of God as taught by the Church and if they obey the commandments. Other Christians can be saved if they submit their lives to Christ and join the community where they think he wills to be found. Jews can be saved if they look forward in hope to the Messiah and try to ascertain whether God’s promise has been fulfilled. Adherents of other religions can be saved if, with the help of grace, they sincerely seek God and strive to do his will. Even atheists can be saved if they worship God under some other name and place their lives at the service of truth and justice. God’s saving grace, channeled through Christ the one Mediator, leaves no one unassisted.”

Dulles is thankful that Catholic teaching on the fate of the unevangelized has “progressed” beyond New Testament limitations. (First Things, 2/08)


Erstwhile Immorality

I wish I could say that never in my life have I been guilty of disobeying God’s will, my own sanctification. But I have indeed sinned many times.

Eliot Spitzer, governor of New York state, has sinned, too. And he admitted it publicly today without back-pedaling or blaming someone else:

“I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my or any sense of right or wrong,” said Mr. Spitzer, who appeared with his wife Silda at his Manhattan office. “I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public to whom I promised better.”

“I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”

I was struck by one element of his own reaction to his sin, as well as by the the New York Times‘ description of the origin of the law Spitzer broke.

At least as the Times‘ reports it, Spitzer stopped one infinite step short of a true confession. In stead of “against you, you only have I sinned,” (Psalm 51) we hear “I failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself.” I urge Gov. Spitzer to throw Himself on God’s mercy through Christ. Ask God to help you take that crucial (literally) step! I had to this not two hours ago. I have to do it nearly every day. I celebrate the gospel which allows me confidence to return to approach God!

But the Times‘ description of the 1910 anti-prostitution law Spitzer broke also struck me:

Federal prosecutors rarely charge clients in prostitution cases, which are generally seen as state crimes. But the Mann Act, passed by Congress in 1910 to address prostitution, human trafficking and what was viewed at the time as immorality in general, makes it a crime to transport someone between states for the purpose of prostitution.

Mankind has set aside God’s standards of morality. And they’re left with ambivalent comments like this. In one part of the Times Nicholas Kristof is inveighing against prostitution as practiced in the third world. In this article we get a shrug.