Saturday, June 30, 2007

Phrase Blacklist

Every technical author should generally blacklist these phrases from his repertoire:

well-known. Translation: you're a dummy if you don't know this.

clear or clearly. See above. Also, in writing at all, you're attempting to make this clear. To say that it already is seems to me to be leaping to conclusions.

obvious. See comment for "well-known."

Any similar phrases that make the reader feel dumb if they don't get what you're saying.

Passive sentences. Technical writers, perhaps, use these phrase to attain the illusion of objectivity. However, there's no such thing, so why pretend? The honest thing to do is simply come right out and say what your bias is. Doing so provides the reference frame by which others can evaluate your work.

Endnotes. Endnotes are a convenience for the writer and the publisher. They are a distinct inconvenience for the reader. Who wants to flip all the way to the back of the book to check up on a tangent? Tangents are way too much fun for that!

Nobody's perfect. No doubt some smart-aleck will analyze some of my previous posts and find some of these phrases in there, and then claim that I'm being a hypocrite. Not a bit of it. I would only be a hypocrite if I said I was actually following my own advice perfectly. I make no such claim! This entire post is in the "the way I think things ought to be" category, not the "here's the way I think things are" category.

Have fun writing!

In Christ.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007


Suppose you have a problem: God doesn't like your worship. Naturally, we don't normally know this, but let's suppose we do for a second. Let's suppose we know that God downright despises our worship.

What's the solution? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? It must not be heartfelt enough. It's not sincere enough. We need to forget about our brains and worry about our heart. (Forgetting that in Hebrew thought, that's a contradiction.) This must be the answer, right?

Well, not always. In Amos 5:21-24, we have the following in ESV:

21 "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.

Apparently, the solution to the problem in this particular case was to "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream." This solution, while it doesn't ignore the heart, is so much more than that! Justice has an external aspect to it: we treat other people justly, or not. What is righteousness? Webster's 1828 dictionary defines it this way:

1. Purity of heart and rectitude of life; conformity of heart and life to the divine law. Righteousness, as used in Scripture and theology, in which it is chiefly used, is nearly equivalent to holiness, comprehending holy principles and affections of heart, and conformity of life to the divine law. It includes all we call justice, honesty, and virtue, with holy affections; in short, it is true religion. 2. Applied to God, the perfection or holiness of his nature; exact rectitude; faithfulness. 3. The active and passive obedience of Christ, by which the law of God is fulfilled. Dan. 9. 4. Justice; equity between man and man. Luke 1. 5. The cause of our justification. "The Lord our righteousness." Jer. 23.

There's a lot there. Quiz question: which definition is being thought of in the Amos passage? I submit that the answer is "all of the above." Firstly, the Amos passage speaks of this justice and righteousness "rolling down." Well, I would interpret that to mean that justice and righteousness come first from God to us. We can do nothing right without His grace. Secondly, this justice and righteousness must surely work its way out in our lives. We have the imputed active obedience of Christ; therefore, let us reflect that! And of course, to do so we still need God's strength. We can do none of this on our own. And yet, we must do it.

Only then will our worship be acceptable to God.

So why does this matter? Because worship is what we're going to be doing for an eternity. If that sounds boring, you're in for a surprise in heaven (assuming, by God's grace, you get there)! The stereotype of heaven is playing harps on clouds. Many people, not being musicians, don't get that picture. Here's an alternative: heaven is going to be like sex, only a lot better: infinitely better. Why is it like sex? Because sex is the consummation of human marriages, and heaven is the consummation of the heavenly one: Christ with His church. But I say that sex is only the image, the picture, the shadow of the much greater thing: heaven. That's what heaven's going to be like. How does that sound?

In Christ.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Including Figures in LaTeX

Having trouble including figures in your LaTeX document? Here's a procedure I've developed that should work on most computers that have Mathematica on them.

1. Create figure using whatever software you please.

2. Convert the figure to a bitmap file (.bmp). Most photo manipulation software will do this; sometimes the program you used to create the figure will do this.

3. Open Mathematica. Using the File menu, import the bitmap into the current blank notebook. You must import, not open.

4. Select the cell containing the figure.

5. Under the Edit menu in Mathematica, choose Save Selection As...

6. Choose EPS...

7. Save the file in the same directory as the .tex file you are editing.

8. In your LaTeX file, make sure you have the commands




in your header.

9. To include the file, use the following commands:

\caption{Whatever you want to show up in the document explaining the figure goes here.}

This should work. Note that the figure still does not show up in the .dvi file. That's ok. You're going to want to convert your final draft to .pdf. From the Yap dvi viewer, I convert to PostScript (.ps), and then with GhostScript (my postscript viewer), I convert to Portable Document Format (.pdf). The figures show up very nicely in those files, both the PostScript and .pdf files.

Further note: everything from Step 3 on down must occur on the same computer. I tried converting a bitmap to eps on a Mac, and then transferring it to PC. It didn't work.

Further note: Even if you create the figure in Mathematica, you cannot directly save it as a .eps file and expect it to work. You have to "wash" it through the bitmap converter.

Hope this helps. Yes, including figures in LaTeX is a royal pain, but if you follow this procedure, it should work out for you.

Here is a complete document in LaTeX for which this procedure worked.

[begin file FigureExample.tex]



Testing the Figure Environment.


Here is a sample document for which this procedure worked.

[end file: FigureExample.tex]

In Christ.

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A Blog I Like

Mr. Greg Wilbur's blog is one I find quite refreshing.

After a disappointment in a debate on Douglas Wilson's blog concerning the objectivity of beauty, I find Mr. Wilbur's thoughts to be most edifying. I hope you enjoy his work as much as I have.

In Christ.

Visit Math Help Boards for friendly, free and expert math help.