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Taking conservative liberties

Illustration by Cameron Thorp

Taking conservative liberties
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Every so often ideologues decide the Bible has to be brought into conformity to some purportedly higher truth. In 1997 some translators wanted to "mute the patriarchalism" of the text by introducing gender-neutral language. Now the Conservative Book Project (CBP) wants to update the King James Version for conservative purposes: The project is part of Conservapedia, an online encyclopedia meant to compete with Wikipedia, and Andy Schlafly (son of conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly) is leading the charge.

Retranslations of Bible books already published online show the goals of the project. For example, Philemon 1:3 in the KJV reads, "Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." This is not a translation in any dispute; the English Standard Version has the same words. But the CBP wants to replace "peace" with "peace of mind," because "'Peace' today means anti-war." It's fine to have an exegetical note suggesting that Paul was writing about peace of mind, but it's wrong to confuse commentary and translation.

The CBP deserves credit for making its process transparent by posting discussions among contributors about possible word choices. Prospective readers can see the back-and-forth by going to conservapedia.com/Conservative_Bible, clicking on a book to see if translators have begun working on it, and then typing in talk: before the name of the book in the address bar.

For instance, one talk page shows CBP translators debating the word they should use to describe Salome in Mark 6:22: Some suggested "bimbo" or "floozy," but one scrupulous translator noted that the Greek word means "young girl," so he's uncomfortable substituting for it a pejorative word like "bimbo." Andy Schafly replied, " I think this is a rare case where the Greek itself is inadequate. . . . There's not doubt about the type of person she was . . . it is a mistake to be slavishly bound to imprecise Greek when the real meaning is clear."

The project is getting criticism from all sides, and it should. The best Bible translation is one that conveys accurately and readably the original meaning, not the one that tickles our ears, whether liberal or conservative.

For disasters and dates

When phone lines go down, Americans need alternative forms of communication to stay in touch. The Safe America Foundation is training groups of volunteers to use Twitter during a disaster. The advice to those of us who aren't regular Twitter users: Set up an account and learn how to use it before disaster strikes. For all kinds of preparedness information and training, go to safeamericaprepared.org.

It's not only during emergencies that tight writing is important: Pithy messages get the attention of potential online dates. ReadWriteWeb reports that getting a date on an online dating site can be hard, and most messages never get a response. Messages sent by men are only half as likely to get replies as messages from women-but "one thing is certain across the board-brevity is the key to getting a response. Apparently 'being yourself' is less about painting a picture and more about linking to one." The article quotes online dating company OK Cupid: "After about 360 words (1,800 characters), you start scaring people off, like the online equivalent of a face tattoo."

Happy tracking

Facebook is now doing its part to track the nation's Gross National Happiness by analyzing its status updates, which the site describes as "tiny windows into how we're doing-brief, to the point and descriptive of what's going on this week, today or right now." Number crunchers take this data-"how many positive and negative words people are using when they update their status"-to draw a graph showing daily delight: "When people are using more positive words (or fewer negative words) in their status updates than usual, that day is happier than usual!"

Whether social networkers are happy, their numbers are growing. ReadWriteWeb reports a finding by the Online Publishers Association that email is falling out of favor (except for business). Instead, people use social networking sites to post pictures, upload videos, and do many of the things they used to do via email. Social networking sites, by the way, are dividing demographically: Facebook appears to be the site of choice for more affluent people, while MySpace has more downmarket appeal.

Fun with maps

CensusScope.org displays demographic information on a series of fascinating, color-coded maps. They show the distribution of particular attributes (race, ethnicity, age, family structure, poverty, home ownership, disability, etc.) both nationally as well as state by state. The site presents the data via charts, tables, and explanatory text as well.

Lane changing

Math teacher/blogger Dan Meyer wanted to answer a question that has plagued busy people everywhere: How do you know which supermarket line will move faster? Should you get in the express line, even if it has more people? Or a regular line, where someone has a half-filled cart? Meyer observed and got cash register data, crunched the numbers, and concluded that the shorter line is often the faster. Each extra person in line adds "48 extra seconds to the line length (that's 'tender time' added to 'other time') without even considering the items in her cart. Meanwhile, an extra item only costs you an extra 2.8 seconds. Therefore, you'd rather add 17 more items to the line than one extra person!"

Math teachers might want to visit Meyer's blog for other math-related problems. He writes, "My purpose here is practice not policy. . . . This blog goes out to the classroom grinders, to the teachers handling the tough classrooms. Let's figure out how to make this job better and easier" (blog.mrmeyer.com).

No tennis ball left behind

No tennis ball left behind

Who knew a tennis ball could be so useful? This Old House (thisoldhouse.com) lists 10 ways old tennis balls can be put to use, including removing scuffs from wood floors, removing broken light bulbs from their sockets, serving as door stoppers and coin holders, and, when cut in half, functioning as jar openers.

Susan Olasky

Susan is a book reviewer, story coach, feature writer and editor for WORLD. She has authored eight historical novels for children and teaches twice a year at World Journalism Institute. Susan resides with her husband, Marvin, in Austin, Texas.



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