Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Certainty / Uncertainty

Since September last year, we have had some degree of certainty with respect to income and accommodation. But again in just two months time, we could be without an income and looking for work. At times, the uncertainty over future income does cause detachment from activities that could be seen as productive. Since coming to England, a reasonable portion of my time has been consumed with the search for employment. This has taken me away from many of the things that I had on my list to do.

I know that publishing papers on my research is possibly one of the heartbeats for survival and this is beginning to take more of my time. It is part of the process of making myself known as a computer science education researcher and also how I promote my thinking. Everything else becomes secondary in significance. Doing teaching preparation and delivery lectures provided our daily bread but the future daily bread into retirement is dependent on getting my message out. It has to be the driving activity and the constant in all that I do.

All of this is talking from a worldly perspective and from a desire for cash flow. How does it measure up with the emphasis on being transformed to a focus on God rather than being conformed to this world (Romans 12 1-2). Barclay (1975) in commenting on this passage talks of an inner transformation (morphé) and not an outer transformation (schéma). The outer form (schéma) changes according to circumstance anyway but the inner form (morphé) is more constant.

The call is that our inner form should be Christ centred “kata Christou” or “kata pneuma” and not dominated by our human nature (“kata sarka”). We are to be “new in point of character and nature” (p 158); that is kainos.

We may still may still do the same things but our motivation is different. I write not to be recognised but in order to contribute. I don't seek recognition but I do seek that what I am learning and doing may help others. God has given us the knowledge and insight. Now we must share it with those who can make use of it.

What I have learnt isn't for me alone; it is to be shared so that others may learn and grow as well.

Reference

Barclay, W. (1975). The letter to the Romans (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Law and Sin

In reading Romans 7:7-13, I realised just what creating laws actually achieves. Paul argues that without the law, we would be unaware of sin. If there is no prohibition then nothing is sin. A man can act as he pleases because there is no definition of what is or is not acceptable behaviour.

When I look at many of our recent laws, I see that they are designed to redistribute wealth or to define acceptable behaviour. What the tax laws actually so is encourage the search for ways to avoid paying tax. In doing contracting work, I was self employed. Being self employed allowed me to clean business expenses. In order to know what I could claim, I found books that instructed me on ow to maximise my expenses claim and minimise my tax payment.

What I was endeavouring to do was legal but it did endeavour to avoid the intent of the law. The law seeks that all contribute fairly to the costs of public facilities and the the caring of the less fortunate. The promotion of contracting or of being self-employed is to minimise that payment and to maximise what a person keeps for themselves.

In effect the law is causing the opposite of its intent to happen. Having the law encourages people to find ways to nullify the effect of the law.

Another example is the idea that the only law is common sense of respecting the rights of others. When I first went to high school, we were told that the only rule was common sense. The school functioned with few behavioural incidents that led to disciplining action. The students were happy and got on with their studies. A new principal was appointed who believed in rules and discipline. The atmosphere in the school changed. Students who previously didn't have a discipline problem were being called to the principal's office and lectured about their behaviour. The focus of the students changed and so did the behaviour and the achievements.

When I began teaching at a polytechnic, we had discipline problems. Students claimed that it was their right to do things even though it might destroy things for others. In one of the induction sessions, instead of focusing in the rules, I talked of action and consequences, and privileges and responsibilities. The claim to having a right usually meant that the person could do as they pleased. Arguing on rights simply led to more problems. By shifting the focus to self regulation through the consideration of the impact of our actions and the responsibilities that we take on as we gain increased privilege helped the students to reflect on the issues.

It comes back to the axiom “think not of your own interests but reflect on the interests of others.” However, we shouldn't ignore that there are ways of turning self interest into sources of behavioural change.

With cycling, I appealed to the competitors' desire to be able to continue to use the roads for racing. Their breaking of the road code endangered their own lives and the lives of other road users. The consequence wasn't simply the carnage they might cause but the back lash from other road users that could see them banned from using the roads. The result would be that they could no longer do what they love to do. By using the appeal to their common sense and self interest, we achieved a dramatic change in cyclist behaviour.

Being able to turn self interest into concern for others can have consequences that improve behaviour where simply bringing in laws simply encourages further attempts to defeat the law. The law on its own does not encourage the behaviour that we desire. The change in behaviour only occurs when the consequences have an impact on the person's freedom or desires. Remove the desire that drives the behaviour and the law becomes redundant.

The law defines what the sin is. It doesn't foster the change in motivation that removes the desire to sin.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Become one

This entry has its basis in an personal reflection back in August 2009 but it also reflects our reaction to the emphasis on the individual that we have found in British business practices. In New Zealand, our bank accounts and almost everything we owned was registered with Marilyn and I as joint owners. Here we couldn't do this. The emphasis is on individual ownership and responsibility. For us, it is only natural that we share openly.

The world seeks to treat husband and wife as individuals. They don't become one in marriage. They simply become two people possibly living under the same roof and sharing resources. The world's expectation is a continued focus on self rather than a seeking to serve and encourage one another.

We need to ask again what the scriptural teaching means when it says that a man and a woman are joined in marriage and become one. Individualistic thinking doesn't foster the idea of looking toward the interests of others. The world's economy is based on personal gain. God's economy is about loving and caring for others. It isn't about personal gain or advancement. It is about caring for others and all of God's creation. It is about unity in diversity. It is about learning to live and work together. It is about becoming one.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Command and Binding

In this blog entry, I am returning to a programming architecture issue. In this case, I am looking at the use of command chains where the purpose of the chain is to ensure that the data retrieved by the previous command has been stored prior to initiating the next command.

Commands in software are designed to carry out an action that updates the data model. In the rich internet applications (RIAs) that I have worked on, these often involve initiating a call to the server to retrieve data.

Command chaining isn't the solution when one command updates data that should be a parameter to another following command. In such cases the following command has to fetch the value or the command has to be built and called once the first command has finished. In effect, the next command should be initiated when the data has been updated. In Pure MVC, you can use notifications at the end of commands for this purpose. Cairngorm doesn't seem to provide any generic notification mechanism but why should it when there are Flex events and data binding.

The application sequence being implemented is:

  1. load categories
  2. load current user
  3. set current category from user data
  4. load data for current category

The last two steps are clearly dependant on a previous data retrieved. They are a chain that should happen in that sequence with the starting point dependent on the data changes. Reload categories isn't expected to occur but if they did then it may not be necessary to reload the current user but the remainder may be needed just to re-link objects correctly. If the user changes then there is always the need to reset the current category and retrieve the category dependent data.

Many of the chains of commands that are used in applications are data dependency chains. They usually involve a reacting to a change in the data that impacts what is displayed or changes behaviour. If there is a time delay as occurs when data is retrieved from a remote server, then the update of the displayed data or the behaviour has to occur once the new data has arrived. It isn't possible to assume what data will be retrieved or the nature of the change that will occur.

Data binding achieves this type of update for displayed data and could act as the mechanism for triggering a change in behaviour or the next action. For this to work, there needs to be a place where these links can be defined and managed. A data binding can not be linked directly to a command. This is also true for notifications. With data binding in ActionScript, a setter type function is called to initiate the next action.

My proposed solution is to have an application controller in which these setter functions are defined. The data binder watchers would also be defined and initiated here. In effect, the application controller becomes the configuration point for the system. In some respects, this becomes a façade defining the actions of the system and the interactions of the system. Views would interface with the application controller to achieve their task. In effect, this is the system controller.

The configuration of the system would be something like:

This still follows the pattern of MVC or MVP where the view is self-updating based on changes in the data. The explicit flow of control is always through commands to update the model. The data bindings act as the notifications both to the view and to the controller of any actions that should take place as a result of data changes.

The alternative is that setters in the model cause follow on actions but that has the same effect as using data binding. Causing follow on actions from the setters also increases the coupling in the system making it more difficult to reconfigure.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Moral Code

Barclay (1975) in his commentary on Romans 1:18-23 talks about seeing the creator through what he has created. If we look at the beauty of creation can we talk of a creator in any other way than as a creator who loves his creation? God created beauty for the enjoyment of all and he put in natural and moral codes that would help it retain the beauty. Barclay says “Break the laws of agriculture – your harvest fails. Break the laws of architecture – your building collapses. Break the laws of health – your body suffers” (p 27). This world has a moral order that needs to be upheld. To break it brings suffering. Barclay puts it “There is a moral order in this world, and the man who transgresses it soon or later is bound to suffer” (p 26).

The health part of this seems harsh when we see people suffer and die from diseases like cancer. However, I saw a news item that linked cancer with alcohol. I can't recall the exact linkage but it seems that our food or intake choices (smoking) impact on such illnesses. It could be said that these were developed for the pleasure of man and as a consequence lead to suffering.

This leads to Barclay's final thoughts. He talks of men looking into himself, thinking himself wise, and seeking to make himself “master of things” (p 28). This is self-centred instead of God centred approach to life. The result is the fall of man.

I contend that nature fights back when we ignore the laws of balance that apply to its operation. Global warning endangering man's created order or disorder is partly natures reaction to the imbalance caused by men. We also see how nature retakes land abandoned in chaos by en (Greenham Common). If we work in harmony with nature, we see it and ourselves flourish. Fail to do so and nature seems like a destructive force to our plans.

I see the financial system in a similar light. It is a man created system designed for self-centred goals. The goal is to generate personal wealth and to trade on the value of items that shouldn't be traded in. It is a system full of increasing costs but not an increasing flow of credit. The result is increasing debt that finally fails causing recessions and suffering. Seeking equality and the good of others isn't part of the system. Each person is increasingly seen as an island seeking their own good. Governments act to ensure that they also take their cut and that all pursue a life of personal greed. If you don't you must have something wrong or you are defrauding the system.

In such an environment, it isn't simply the greedy who suffer. All men suffer including those who seek the welfare of others. Life doesn't seem fair. Why? Because as Barclay states man has endeavoured to put himself at the centre and not God.

As I observe society and the behaviour of people, my heart wants to call them to repentance and at the same time, I see the freedom that they claim to have. Deeper analysis would say that they have a false freedom and are in fact struggling for release from the constraints of life. Moral decay is in essence a reaction to the struggle of life.

A church in main street of Swansea had banners up calling people to come join them in worship. The gates to the church were closed so were the doors. I never tried to go in but it occurred to me that they were calling for people to enter yet shutting people out.

I see other aspects of this contradiction as the church calls people to come but doesn't meet with people in their struggle. Coming to worship is seen as salvation when God is really calling to relationship and to living in Him.

Barclay, commenting on Romans 1:16-17, talks about the meaning of the Greek words translated “justification.” He says that in the English meaning of justify, we mean proving right or proving that a person has acted in the right way. He sees the Greek form used by Paul as meaning “to treat, or account, or reckon a person as something” (P 22). God doesn't find reason to justify a sinner, rather God “treats the sinner as if he had not been a sinner at all” (p 22). God treats all as children to be loved and nurtured.

I think of a young women who meet her friend in a Subway restaurant. What caught my attention was the frown and concern. Here was a person who needed to be freed of the stresses of life. At one point, she gave a little smile and I thought of how her appearance changed. We can be burdened by a sense of not being worthy of God's salvation / justification or we can accept that he treats us as justified and live in the freedom that this brings.

Barclay in his closing paragraph focuses on the phrase “The just shall live by faith” (p 23). If we understand this in the sense of God treating us as being justified then we will know “what life is like in time and in eternity” (p 23). We will obtain and enter into a new and precious relationship with God. We will live in love and not fear. We will live as God's friend and not as his enemies.

Reference:

Barclay, W. (1975). The letter to the Romans (revised ed.). Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.