Is Wine Permissible for Christians?

I find myself somewhat bemused at the way Christians run into arguments over trivial matters. The “religionists” would have you believe that there is something wrong with drinking wine (the fermented version), trying to twist and turn the scriptures for their benefit.

Today I decided to look closely at the word ‘oinos‘, which was used in the Greek New Testament book of 1 Timothy chapter 5 verse 23, where Paul was admonishing his protege to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake.

Now, I will stick to this passage and not try to put together scripture upon scripture to support the consumption of alcohol. Some say that the oinos refers to both fermented and unfermented wines, and that Paul was referring to the latter. To this I ask this question: of what ‘medicinal value’ would ordinary grape juice be to one’s stomach? Our old-time mothers would laugh us to scorn if we were to make such a suggestion.

For the avoidance of doubt, I, as a person, do not take anything alcoholic and my reasons for being a teetotaller are strictly personal and not based on any moral or religious stand against alcohol consumption. Alcohol, when misused, is a destroyer of destinies and is best avoided entirely, but one thing I hate passionately is when people are put into bondage by the whims of fellow humans. My leaders at church preach against it vehemently – and I respect them nonetheless – but the record of the Bible (both Old and New Testament), as far as I’ve currently seen, is very clear on this. If anyone feels like going into this discussion on a deeper level, you’re free to prime me with a comment.

That said, I would suggest to all Christians that they “study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed. rightly dividing the word of truth.”

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CS50: Learning computer science can be pure, unadulterated fun!

I think I’m reasonably educated (I can still do a lot better) and have sat under a number of teachers in my short lifetime. Recently, I decided to make a move into the field of computing – it’s not been that easy but very rewarding.

First, let me state that I have grown to believe that a deeper knowledge of computing is gradually becoming an absolute necessity for any serious professional. The coming of Big Data, AI and IoT have convinced me of this. On a personal level, my interest in all things statistics and data in my work and business have naturally taken me down this path.

Not that I was completely strange to computers. Being the curious cat that I am, I wrote my first computer program (the creation of a sprite) while visiting a friend in my days in medical school. After compulsory national service, my colleagues couldn’t understand why I was walking around with a book on calculus – and I didn’t understand it either. Perhaps it was the cock in me that was crowing

But, let me get to the point of this post. Recently I’ve been enduring a lot of really boring instructors when learning about R and C++ (I read somewhere that programmers are really poor teachers, as this is evident when you try to decipher the standard documentation that comes with these programming languages). So, the first time I came across Harvard’s CS50, I just skipped it. (I had taken one course in Harvard 2 years ago and it was really lousy.)

When I decided to look at the course again, I was simply blown away. Indeed, CS50’s reputation as the most popular computer science course is well deserved. It is simply a fantastic experience of pure fun and at the same time challenging enough to get one going in learning about computing basics.

The Professor, David Malan, and the rest of the staff are super brilliant and so, so good at teaching computer skills to both neophytes and hackers. I have never seen it done so well!

The good thing is that it’s not about one particular programming language, but about principles and combs quite effectively through low-level C paradigms, to higher level coding such as web programming (HTML, CSS, PHP) and SQL.

So, to sum it all up:

  • Computing is very important and is going to be more important in the years to come.
  • An easy, fun and stimulating introduction to computing (as well as refresher for more experienced programmers) is available with CS50.

You can set aside the 12 weeks-plus to take the course online on edX. The ongoing course will be ending December 31, 2016, but I’m pretty sure there will  be another opportunity soon. To get a whiff of what’s in the course, take a look at this video!

If you’re thinking of learning about programming, go for it. You will never regret it.

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My Secret for writing in the morning

I found this very useful advice and worth sharing here.

Ed Wilson Blog

SUMMARY: Ed Wilson talks about how he begins writing in the morning

One of the things that used to be a problem for me was getting started writing in the morning. I would wake up early, maybe have a cup or two of coffee or tea, and dutifully sit at my desk. I would then check email, check my stocks, read through news group postings, and generally waste the morning. After lunch I would do the same thing, and eventually, sometime near supper, I would get to work and begin writing. I might sit at my desk and work furiously until one or two in the morning, collapse, and then do the same thing the next day – always promising myself that I would be better the next day, and the next day would be a similar battle.

Two things changed that. The first was that I began traveling –…

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Let’s talk (please!)

People talking

I tried something out recently. There was a time I was part of one of these high yield investment programs (HYIP), which many will tell you is actually a fancy word for SCAM.

Anyway, somebody I trusted (and he is indeed trustworthy, to a fault) invited me to participate in a particular program and after a while I got bored with it. Of course, I wouldn’t be fooled to actually drop any dollars into the site, particularly as due diligence revealed that, at that particular time, people were not able to withdraw their funds when they needed them. Of course, I never recruited anybody, but tried to find whether this program could be any use to me as an individual. This was some 5-6 years ago.

Why am I talking about this? Well, recently, as I was looking at the stats on The Opportunist. I discovered that a few years ago, this blog was enjoying a lot of views with the referrals coming from this HYIP site. Wow, I thought to myself, I had better get back on this program now!

I rejoined the program a couple of years ago, and after ignoring them for a couple of weeks, they gave me $10 worth of credit for what they call the “Traffic Exchange” which got me 200 views on any site of my choice. The Opportunist in me couldn’t resist the opportunity, (haha!) and truly, I began to enjoy a significant increase in traffic.

A few days ago, I received a visitor to a recent blog posts that I had shared via an Empire.Kred “mission” (see this blog for an explanation). Interestingly, I get a few visitors  this way – people who actually engage my posts via Likes, Reblogs and Comments. It is always heartwarming to interact with some of them and to connect in a richer and deeper way.

I think this is what “social” is all about.

I have decided that I won’t ever be going back to the Traffic Exchange. I don’t just need rooftop stats like views or visits. I want engagement. I prefer genuine contact. I long for discourse.

As we do our thing online, let’s remember that we are people and people are social beings that long to stay in touch with one another.

“And the LORD God said, it is not good that the man should be alone…” (Holy Bible: Genesis chapter 2, verse 18)

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Get to use Facebook data via R

I’ve been building a Shiny app for work in the office. I was made to head a team that does some sort of web monitoring and we’ve decided to use R for some of the analyses. Before I attempt to detail some of the work done in the past couple of months or so, I will briefly share my attempt to access Facebook data just yesterday. The package to use is called Rfacebook, co-developed and maintained by Pablo Barbera.

First, open R. If you don’t have the package installed, run the code

install.packages("Rfacebook")

and then load it using library(Rfacebook)

To use the package, you need to first get a Facebook API access token – a temporary one that works for just 2 hours or one that you can use repeatedly for different sessions. To get the former, visit https://developers.facebook.com/tools/explorer/; for a permanent token, register an app with https://developers.facebook.com/ using your Facebook account, if you have one. The instructions in the documentation are actually crisp enough to guide you through the process; to access it, run help(fboauth).

I also found this blog, where the process is given in detail. Knowing Facebook’s penchant for changing things, don’t be surprised if there are slight modifications to the guidance you find here or elsewhere!

There are 3 things you want out of this – 1. App Version 2. App ID and 3. App Secret.

Now that you have your main details ready, you may want to store your token in your working directory so that you can call it up whenever you want to collect data through the API. The Rfacebook documentation proposed something like this

app_id <- 123XXXXXXX12345
app_secret <- ABDEFXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX9876545
token <- fboauth(app_id, app_secret)
save(token, "my_token")
# Call up token later using load("my_token")

 

This last line with save() didn’t work for me and I can’t tell why. I even tried saving it as .RData file to no avail. This is what I did

saveRDS(token, "my_token.rds")

To use it, I would then use something like

token <- readRDS("my_token.rds)

 

Having done all, I could use different functions in the package. My only disappointment was that the main function that I had looked forward to using, searchFacebook(), has been deprecated for the current API version (at the time of writing this blog, v2.8) and Facebook had already retired the version (v1.0) for which this was possible.

So, I find the package only marginally useful for now, but will experiment a little and share if I find something interesting.

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