Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “quizzes and memes”

The Moaning Meme and the Freelance Cynic

About 12 years ago I posted about The moaning meme | Notes from underground:

The Freelance Cynic complains that most memes that circulate in the blogosphere are about things that people like — your favourite book, movie, or whatever. But if you overheard conversations on the bus or in public places, they are usually complaining — about the weather, politics, other people’s habits and so on. One of the major aids to social bonding is moaning, grumbling and so on.

Someone seems to have looked at it recently, so I went to have a look at what I had written, and in the original blog post there was a link to the Freelance Cynic’s blog at, but when I tried to go there the blog had gone, and I was informed that the domain was for sale at $695. I assume that is US dollars, and that is R9728.47 at the current rate of exchange.Now there’s something to moan about.

Did the FreelanceCynic die and bequeath their domain name to whoever is selling it now? Or did they simply abandon their blog and drop the domain name? How much of that $695 will the actual Freelance Cynic get?

Another thing to moan about, if you feel like moaning: Communications:

Meraki Research would like to find out more about the way you communicate in this digital age. The survey will take less than 8 minutes to complete and we have kept it interesting. All answers will be kept anonymous.

If you are in South Africa and see this in February/March 2019, please follow the link and fill in the survey. After that it probably won’t work. Basically what it is about is how you prefer your spam. If you are like me, you will answer “Never” to how you prefer your SMS spam, and so participating in the survey may help to get the message through to SMS spammers.

So here’s my moaning meme for this Week. I’m not tagging anybody in it, anyone can take part.

And, for what it’s worth, I find SMS (“Text”) spam the most annoying.

E-mail spam can usually be removed by filters, though that is becoming more difficult now as more and more people seem to be trying to make their legitimate mail look as much like spam as possible by using HTML and especially “lazy HTML” that tries to incorporate something from a remote site into the body of a message. My e-mail reader automatically tosses those into the “Junk or Suspicious Mail” queue, and is set not to display anything on remote sites.

Newsgroup spamming can also be annoying, most of it these days seems to come via GoogleGroups, and no matter how much you report it to Google, they do little to stop it.

But SMS spam is the most annoying of the lot, because it is immediate. If you are travelling, and expecting an important message about an event you are going to, and you have to pull of the road to read it (like taking the next freeway exit), and then discover it is just some stupid ad, it really is annoying.

Nouns, adjectives and political allegiance

According to a UK newspaper web side, the way people use language can show how politically “left” or “right” one is:

Quiz: Can we guess your political allegiance –

with three simple questions?: New research published by the University of Kent suggests that the way you use nouns and adjectives is indicative of how right- or left-wing a person is.

If you haven’t already done so, go to the site and do the test, and see how accurate you think it is.

The web site claims to have a simple answer  determined by a simple test, but it actually opens a huge can of very wriggly worms, and raises far more questions than it answers.

leftyWhen I did the test, the page told me “You are a lefty”, and went on to say “Research suggests that left-thinkers tend to use more abstract terms, and are less likely to use nouns.”

That’s OK, in the sense that I do tend to think of myself as more “left” than “right” politically, but the answer, and the reason behind it, bothered me.

If you’re willing to follow my convoluted reasoning, here’s why it bothered me.

I read quite a lot of whodunits, and enjoy watching detective stories on TV. Recently we’ve been watching two crime investigation series we have on DVD — Silent Witness and New Tricks. And one recurring theme in that genre is that if a person is guilty of one crime, they are not necessarily guilty of another. Evidence that shows that they committed one crime is not necessarily sufficient to prove that they committed the crime they are now suspected of committing.

This is an elementary principle of justice: Produce the evidence.

It’s the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning.

Deductive reasoning works from the general to the particular: this person is a thief, therefore this person must have committed this theft.

Inductive reasoning works from the particular to the general: evidence shows that this person stole various items on several different occasions, therefore this person is a thief.

Both types of reasoning have their place, but the three questions in the quiz call on us to make a choice between two kinds of judgement: judging people and judging actions.

And it is that, rather than nouns or abstraction, that the quiz tests.

The choice in the answers is clearly between saying “this person is bad” or “this behaviour is wrong”.

And the quiz is therefore clearly prejudiced against conservatives, because it is saying that “conservatives” are more prejudiced than “leftys”.

My answers are also influenced by my Christian outlook. As Christians, we are told “Judge not, that ye be not judged”, and are told to be merciful to others, just as God has been merciful to us. Most Christians pray every day “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Man judges by the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

Publican_PhariseeAll this is summed up in the adage one sometimes hears, “hate the sin but love the sinner”.

And that is precisely what the quiz measures — the extent to which you hate the sin but love the sinner.

And what the interpretation of the quiz tells you, categorically and unequivocally, is that “leftys” are Christian, and “conservatives” are not. So just when you are feeling smug about how unprejudiced you are because it tells you you are a “lefty”, it encourages you to become the most prejudiced of all and say, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this conservative (Luke 18:11).

How’s that for a Catch 22?

And that’s only the top layer of the can of worms. Wait till you get further down.

At the level of the quiz, one can quite easily say that it is better to judge actions rather than people. If we are to judge, or condemn, then we are to judge or condemn behaviour, not people. It is what people do that can be condemned, not what people are.

But if you go a bit deeper, it’s actually the other way round. What we are is more important than what we do.

As Will D. Campbell and James Y. Holloway put it in their book Up to our steeples in politics, “We agree with those who have reminded us in recent years that the Christian faith is indicative (the fact that God reconciles the world in Christ), not imperative (Go to church! Do not drink bourbon! Feed the hungry! Search and destroy!). But we believe that St Paul’s use of “reconcile” calls attention to a special kind of behavior by the Christian toward the world. Behavior which “does” by being, “acts” by living – that is, being and living as God made us in Christ.”

When we look at other people (as the quiz invites us to do, for the most part) we are to look at actions, at behaviour, and make judgements about what the person does rather than what the person is.

But when we look at ourselves, when we confess our sins, it is the other way round. Yes, I should confess that I lied, I cheated, I fornicated, I slandered, I got angry, but the really serious thing, the root of all this, is what I am, alienated from God. The root of the matter is not so much individual sins, but the sinful state, the fallen state, that I have fallen short of the glory of God.

The Publican in the story realised this, the Pharisee didn’t. And the quiz tempts me to emulate the Pharisee.








Learning styles

I’ve come across a couple of interesting (to me, at any rate) quizzes on learning styles – hat-tip to my blogging friend Richard Fairhead at God-Word-Think: Learning styles:

Why is a Sunday church meeting so screwy to me? I have been looking at learning styles and done a couple of inventories:

Unlike Richard, I don’t relate them to Sunday church meetings, because I don’t regard those meetings as primarly educational. I don’t go to church to learn things, or to be entertained, but to worship. But there are educational gatherings and events, and so it is quite interesting to know this stuff.

For the first, mine says:

      Results for: Steve Hayes

11 9 7 5 3 1 1 3 5 7 9 11

11 9 7 5 3 1 1 3 5 7 9 11

11 9 7 5 3 1 1 3 5 7 9 11

11 9 7 5 3 1 1 3 5 7 9 11

  • If your score on a scale is 1-3, you are fairly well balanced on the two dimensions of that scale.
  • If your score on a scale is 5-7, you have a moderate preference for one dimension of the scale and will learn more easily in a teaching environment which favors that dimension.
  • If your score on a scale is 9-11, you have a very strong preference for one dimension of the scale. You may have real difficulty learning in an environment which does not support that preference.

The scales are:


  • Active learners tend to retain and understand information best by doing something active with it–discussing or applying it or explaining it to others. Reflective learners prefer to think about it quietly first.
  • “Let’s try it out and see how it works” is an active learner’s phrase; “Let’s think it through first” is the reflective learner’s response.
  • Active learners tend to like group work more than reflective learners, who prefer working alone.
  • Sitting through lectures without getting to do anything physical but take notes is hard for both learning types, but particularly hard for active learners.


  • Sensing learners tend to like learning facts, intuitive learners often prefer discovering possibilities and relationships.
  • Sensors often like solving problems by well-established methods and dislike complications and surprises; intuitors like innovation and dislike repetition. Sensors are more likely than intuitors to resent being tested on material that has not been explicitly covered in class.
  • Sensors tend to be patient with details and good at memorizing facts and doing hands-on (laboratory) work; intuitors may be better at grasping new concepts and are often more comfortable than sensors with abstractions and mathematical formulations.
  • Sensors tend to be more practical and careful than intuitors; intuitors tend to work faster and to be more innovative than sensors.
  • Sensors don’t like courses that have no apparent connection to the real world; intuitors don’t like “plug-and-chug” courses that involve a lot of memorization and routine calculations.


Visual learners remember best what they see–pictures, diagrams, flow charts, time lines, films, and demonstrations. Verbal learners get more out of words–written and spoken explanations. Everyone learns more when information is presented both visually and verbally.


  • Sequential learners tend to gain understanding in linear steps, with each step following logically from the previous one. Global learners tend to learn in large jumps, absorbing material almost randomly without seeing connections, and then suddenly “getting it.”
  • Sequential learners tend to follow logical stepwise paths in finding solutions; global learners may be able to solve complex problems quickly or put things together in novel ways once they have grasped the big picture, but they may have difficulty explaining how they did it.

The ones that seem to be most pronounced in me are the Intuitive and Global styles, which I suppose goes along with being INTP on the Myers-Briggs scale.

What gives me most pause for thought about this, though, is that when I’ve marked student assignments in the past, I probably have had a bias towards the Intuitive/Global students, and tended to give them higher marks than the Sensing and Sequential learners. How much is that my bias, or perhaps a bias that the subject (Missiology) requires? Perhaps I have a sub-conscious feeling that the Sensing and Sequential learners should be learning to make tables or something.

And for the other quiz, my result was

Memletic Learning Styles Graph:

Taking your political temperature redux

Some time ago I did a couple of political quizzes — see Notes from underground: Taking your political temperature. I noted that there were two quizzes available — a well-designed one called Political Compass, and a very badly designed one called Political Spectrum.

Thanks to The Anger of a Quiet Man I recently revisited the Political Spectrum Quiz – Your Political Label quiz, and found that though some questions had been revised, they were still badly worded, and far more biased and tendentious than those on the Political Compass one, or else they were vague and ambiguous.

Take this question, for example:

50. A person’s morality is of the most personal nature; therefore government should have no involvement in moral questions or promote moral behaviors.
Disagree strongly
Agree strongly
How much does this issue matter?
A lot A little

This implies that the entire criminal justice system should be abolished. If someone steals from me, I should not call the police, but rather hire a private detective to catch the thief, and bring a private prosecution if the thief is found, to avoid involvement of the government in such “most personal” matters.

And it also implies that the government should not even promote moral behaviours among its own employees — if civil servants take bribes, for example, that is “of the most personal nature”, and therefore nothing to do with the government. Is this a serious question?

But it gets worse:

22. It is wrong to enforce moral behavior through the law because this infringes upon an individual’s freedom.
Disagree strongly
Agree strongly
How much does this issue matter?
A lot A little

What exactly does it mean?

It implies that I shouldn’t even bring a private prosecution if someone steals from me, because even if the government is not involved, the law itself will “infringe upon” [sic] the thief’s freedom.

I presume that indicating agreement with these in the quiz would show that one was on the libertarian end of the spectrum, but the second question, especially, implies that libertarians are not merely anarchist, but antinomian as well.

Well, perhaps that is what the designers of the quiz intended, but I still think that the quiz is badly designed, biased and tendentious. If you want a better way to compare your political views with those of others, The Political Compass still wins hands down.

Happiness is …

I’ve been tagged with another meme, well an award actually, but I’m not sure what it’s being awarded for.

It’s the “tree of Happiness” award, and I’ve been tagged by Aquila ka Hecate.

First, the rules of the award:

• Link to the person who gave the award to you.
• Post the rules on your blog.
• List six things that make you happy.
• Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
• Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
• Let the person who awarded you know when your entry is up.

Six things that make me happy, or perhaps that have made me happy in the past.

  1. Riding a horse over the veld on a cool misty overcast day and having hand licked by my dog
  2. The kindness of friends, those I love.
  3. The kindness of strangers.
  4. Mozart’s 39th symphony.
  5. Good company and conversation.
  6. Pascha, and St John Chrysostom’s homily on the same.

As for who to tag, well, there’s Bruce Alderman, NFM, James Higham, Crushed by Ingsoc, Omnash, and Bishop Alan.

Happiness is …

I’ve been tagged with another meme, well an award actually, but I’m not sure what it’s being awarded for.

It’s the “tree of Happiness” award, and I’ve been tagged by Aquila ka Hecate.

First, the rules of the award:

• Link to the person who gave the award to you.
• Post the rules on your blog.
• List six things that make you happy.
• Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
• Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
• Let the person who awarded you know when your entry is up.

Six things that make me happy, or perhaps that have made me happy in the past.

  1. Riding a horse over the veld on a cool misty overcast day and having hand licked by my dog
  2. The kindness of friends, those I love.
  3. The kindness of strangers.
  4. Mozart’s 39th symphony.
  5. Good company and conversation.
  6. Pascha, and St John Chrysostom’s homily on the same.

As for who to tag, well, there’s Bruce Alderman, NFM, James Higham, Crushed by Ingsoc, Omnash, and Bishop Alan.

Memories, or not, as the case may be

Thanks to Quaker Pagan Reflections: Memories and Not for this meme…

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now (even if we don’t speak often or have never met), please post a comment with a completely made up, fictional memory of you and me.

It can be anything you want – good or bad – but it has to be fake.

When you’re finished, post this little paragraph in your blog and see what your friends come up with…

The atheism meme

Hat-tip to Elizaphanian for this one.

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?

Being without God or gods

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?

No, my parents were atheist/agnostic.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?


Q4. What scientific endeavor really excites you?

Alternative energy sources

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?

Give them a better sense of intellectual history, especially Christian intellectual history (ditto from Elizaphanian).

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?

You can’t do it unless you’re called, and if you’re called you can’t do anything else (ditto).

Q7. What’s your favorite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

I don’t have any favourite theistic arguments (ditto).

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?

er… bearing in mind where I’m coming at this from, probably that God=meaning (ditto).

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?

Since I’ve never heard of Dennett, I’ll pick him. He can’t be worse than the other three, though I admit that I might think better of them if it weren’t for their admirers (“There is no god, and Sam Harris is his prophet”)

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?

Anyone who believes in the God that atheists don’t believe in.


I was tagged by The Western Confucian.

The rules are:
1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about himself.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

What was I doing 10 years ago:
Visiting Greece and Bulgaria to do research for my doctoral thesis on “Orthodox mission methods”.

Five things on my To Do List today:
1. Write journal article on Orthodox ecclesiology in Africa
2. Write paper on witchcraft & sorcery for ASRSA conference
3. Go to bank to sort out problem with credit card
4. Get lubricant for locks
5. Get fish to eat on Palm Sunday

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

  • Take a trip driving from Vladivostok to St Petersburg
  • Build churches in Mamelodi and Tembisa where we now worship in classrooms
  • Build community centres next to the churches for ministry to widows & orphans, job skill training etc

Three of my bad habits:
1. Blogging.
2. Procrastinating
3. Disorganized desk.

Five places I’ve lived:
1. Durban, KZN
2. Windhoek, Namibia
3. Melmoth, KZN
4. Johannesburg
5. Tshwane, Gauteng

Five jobs I’ve had:
1. Bus conductor
2. Bus driver
3. Proof reader
4. Theology teacher
5. Editor of academic texts

Five books I’ve recently read:
1. Beckett, Simon. 2007. The chemistry of death.
2. Rimington, Stella. 2007. Secret asset.
3. Bruen, Ken. 2007. Priest.
4. Baroja, Julio Caro. 1964. The world of the witches.
5. Reichs, Kathy. 2005. Grave secrets.

The five I tagged:


I’ve been tagged for the 10-20-30 meme by Matt Stone. It has to do with what you were doing 10, 20, and 30 years ago. My story?

10 years ago

Sunday, 26 October 1997

We went to Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Annunciation. They had moved back into the church, and the new ikons by Maria Manetta were beautiful. They seemed to glow with a light of their own.

That was from my journal. The Church of the Annunciation in Pretoria is the biggest Orthodox temple in the Southern Hemisphere, and Maria Manetta was an ikonographer from Greece who had just finished installing new ikons in the dome, and while the church was filled with scaffolding services were held in the hall (hence “moved back into the church”.

I was working at the Editorial Department of the University of South Africa, and was also working on my doctorate in Missiology. Our daughter Bridget had just gone to study theology in Greece (10 years later she’s still there, working on her masters).

20 years ago

Monday, 26 October 1987
I went to work by car, and read Orthodoxy and the religion of the future, which seemed to regard the charismatic movement as demonic and pagan, as Ann d’Amico does. In the afternoon I left work early and went past Bishop’s House, and lent Rich Kraft some of my Foghorn magazines, about Osborne computers. He said Pete & Isobel Beukes were staying with them, and were thinking of coming to work in Pretoria. I went to Makro, where I hoped to be able to buy a cheap microwave oven, but they were all sold out. I bought some envelopes and a tin of coffee instead. We had letters from Theophilus Ngubane and Nora Pearson. Theophilus said that several clergy were leaving Zululand diocese, including the new dean, Father Kow. It sounded quite sad. In the evening I took Bridget to the junior school choir at DSG.

That was my journal entry. Rich Kraft was the Anglican bishop of Pretoria, whom I had known for many years, since he had been university chaplain when I was a student. Pete Beukes was an Anglican priest from Zululand as was Theophilus Ngubane, and Pete’s wife Isobel had been a fellow-student with me at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg. DSG was St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls in Pretoria, where our daughter Bridget was in Standard III (Grade 5).

I was working in the Editorial Department at the University of South Africa, and we were about to be received into the Orthodox Church (on 8 November).

30 years ago

Wednesday 26 October 1977

Someone phoned from the Archbishop’s office in Bishopscourt, saying that Cathy Thomas, of the Daily News, was asking what was happening with the SB and the church in Utrecht. I explained that the papers had published half the story, in relation to the opening of my letter to Lawrence Wood by the Department of the Interior, and so I thought they should have the full story, at least as far as I knew it, to keep the record straight. I also had a letter today from the Secretary for the Interior, saying that my application for the renewal of my passport had not been successful. The letter was dated 7 October, and thus after my letter to Lawrence Wood had been opened by the Department of the Interior, so I can only conclude that if one wants a passport, one does not write to opposition members of parliament. I sent a photostat of the letter from the Secretary for the Interior to Lawrence Wood for his information, but felt that he would not do much, as there is to be a general election at the end of November, and he will not be standing, but will be stepping down for his son Nigel, who will stand for the New Republic Party in his place. I don’t think the New Republic Party stands much of a chance in the election. They are too new as a party, and will not have had time to get themselves organised. Wynand Rautenbach is the local leader in Melmoth, and Doris Leitch is also involved, but they did not seem to be at all well organised, and the announcement of the general election had obviously caught them on the wrong foot.

I had recently moved from Utrecht to Melmoth in Zululand, where I was Rector of All Saints Anglican Church, and Director of Training for Ministry in the Anglican Diocese of Zululand. What had happened in Utrecht was that one of our churches had been closed at gunpoint my a Mr Klingenberg of Commondale, who owned the land on which the church stood, apparently at the behest of the Security Police, who had also hired a Mocambiquan refugee to spy on us. Lawrence Wood was an opposition MP for Berea, formerly of the United Party, which had just become the New Republic Party, and was virtually wiped out in the elections, and it disappeared from the political scene soon afterwards.

I tag Dion, David and the Young Fogey.

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