John takes a spiritwalk – Revelation 3-5 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassIn the last entry, Jesus was sending nasty letters to the seven churches of Asia. These letters contained everything from praise to condoning the murder of children. There were also some bits about stars and candlesticks and whatnot. I dunno, it isn’t my hallucination…

Chapter 3

Three more churches to go. Three more messages to read. I am starting to grow weary of this book, but I know far weirder things lie ahead.

[toc hint=”table of contents” class=”toc-right” style=”width: 40%” title=”Book of Revelation”]The church in Sardis appears to be alive and healthy, but Jesus declares them dead. He wants them to work to strengthen those few things that remain in the church, to try and keep those from dying, too. There are a few Sardisians (Sardines?) who are worthy; those will walk beside the Lord and will remain in the Book of Life.

The chuch in Philadelphia is weak, but have continued in their belief of Christ. Jesus will reward them for this by making the disbelievers and slanderers bow at their feet. Their endurance in their faith has won them a reward: the Philadelphian church will not have to suffer the hour of testing that is to come for the rest of the world.

Finally, the church in Laodicea. This church takes a middle road, neither being on fire in faith for Jesus, nor being cold towards Christ and his teachings. Instead they are content with their own wealth and comfort. Jesus says he would rather they be cold than lukewarm, it is better to choose one side or the other. There’s no room to sit on the fence.

The Revelation of St John: 4. The Four Riders ...
The Four Riders …Image via Wikipedia

Chapter 4

John’s hallucination kicks in strong. He says “instantly I was in the spirit” and of that I have no doubt. What that spirit was – gin? wine? opium? – I cannot say, but he was into something. John sees a throne in heaven that had someone sitting in it. There were seven flaming torches burning in front of the throne, symbolizing the seven spirits of God. (Seven?) There were also 24 lesser thrones arrayed around the main one, and in these thrones sat 24 elders who were wearing white robes and gold crowns.

Wait, it gets even better! The throne is set on a sea of clear glass or crystal. There were four living creatures surrounding the throne. These were beings that resembled a lion, an ox, a human and an eagle. Each of these creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes. These creatures constantly sang praises to Jesus Christ. The 24 elders join in with this song, also giving glory to God.

Chapter 5

At this point, it is left up to the reader to determine who is actually sitting in the throne. Sure, it is safe to assume that it is God. But that is never expressly stated. One could’ve also thought it was Jesus Christ who sat there. Until this chapter, that is.

The one sitting in the throne had a scroll in his right hand. The scroll was sealed with seven seals. An angel asked who was worthy to open the scroll. Throughout creation, none was deemed worthy. John cried bitterly at this thought. But one of the 24 elders told John to stop crying, and instead look at the throne. There was now a lamb standing in the middle of the throne. The lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, also representing the seven spirits of God. The lamb also looks like it had been slaughtered. The lamb takes the scroll, causing everyone in heaven and in all creation to sing of the worthiness of the lamb.

I had thought that this chapter disproved the theory of unitarianism – or at least made a credible argument against it. After all, how could Jesus be “the one sitting in the throne” if he approached the throne and climbed onto it? But I misread the opening verses. It does not say that the lamb approached the throne, nor had to climb on it, nor wasn’t already seated on it. It simply says that the lamb was standing on the throne. It is conceivably possible that the lamb was sitting on the throne all along, but then rose to stand in the middle of the throne.

Up next: The Four Horsemen of the apocalypse

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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John takes a spiritwalk – Revelation 3-5 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassIn the last entry, Jesus was sending nasty letters to the seven churches of Asia. These letters contained everything from praise to condoning the murder of children. There were also some bits about stars and candlesticks and whatnot. I dunno, it isn’t my hallucination…

Chapter 3

Three more churches to go. Three more messages to read. I am starting to grow weary of this book, but I know far weirder things lie ahead.

[toc hint=”table of contents” class=”toc-right” style=”width: 40%” title=”Book of Revelation”]The church in Sardis appears to be alive and healthy, but Jesus declares them dead. He wants them to work to strengthen those few things that remain in the church, to try and keep those from dying, too. There are a few Sardisians (Sardines?) who are worthy; those will walk beside the Lord and will remain in the Book of Life.

The chuch in Philadelphia is weak, but have continued in their belief of Christ. Jesus will reward them for this by making the disbelievers and slanderers bow at their feet. Their endurance in their faith has won them a reward: the Philadelphian church will not have to suffer the hour of testing that is to come for the rest of the world.

Finally, the church in Laodicea. This church takes a middle road, neither being on fire in faith for Jesus, nor being cold towards Christ and his teachings. Instead they are content with their own wealth and comfort. Jesus says he would rather they be cold than lukewarm, it is better to choose one side or the other. There’s no room to sit on the fence.

The Revelation of St John: 4. The Four Riders ...
The Four Riders …
Image via Wikipedia

Chapter 4

John’s hallucination kicks in strong. He says “instantly I was in the spirit” and of that I have no doubt. What that spirit was – gin? wine? opium? – I cannot say, but he was into something. John sees a throne in heaven that had someone sitting in it. There were seven flaming torches burning in front of the throne, symbolizing the seven spirits of God. (Seven?) There were also 24 lesser thrones arrayed around the main one, and in these thrones sat 24 elders who were wearing white robes and gold crowns.

Wait, it gets even better! The throne is set on a sea of clear glass or crystal. There were four living creatures surrounding the throne. These were beings that resembled a lion, an ox, a human and an eagle. Each of these creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes. These creatures constantly sang praises to Jesus Christ. The 24 elders join in with this song, also giving glory to God.

Chapter 5

At this point, it is left up to the reader to determine who is actually sitting in the throne. Sure, it is safe to assume that it is God. But that is never expressly stated. One could’ve also thought it was Jesus Christ who sat there. Until this chapter, that is.

The one sitting in the throne had a scroll in his right hand. The scroll was sealed with seven seals. An angel asked who was worthy to open the scroll. Throughout creation, none was deemed worthy. John cried bitterly at this thought. But one of the 24 elders told John to stop crying, and instead look at the throne. There was now a lamb standing in the middle of the throne. The lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, also representing the seven spirits of God. The lamb also looks like it had been slaughtered. The lamb takes the scroll, causing everyone in heaven and in all creation to sing of the worthiness of the lamb.

I had thought that this chapter disproved the theory of unitarianism – or at least made a credible argument against it. After all, how could Jesus be “the one sitting in the throne” if he approached the throne and climbed onto it? But I misread the opening verses. It does not say that the lamb approached the throne, nor had to climb on it, nor wasn’t already seated on it. It simply says that the lamb was standing on the throne. It is conceivably possible that the lamb was sitting on the throne all along, but then rose to stand in the middle of the throne.

Up next: The Four Horsemen of the apocalypse

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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  • His teammates definitely seem ready to give up on Brett. They could revolt. RT @ssfw70: Wonder if favre has got the hint yet? #
  • COFFEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #
  • [sigh] I reckon I've gotta reboot into #macos to update podcasts on my #iphone #
  • LMAO! I love the Squib. :) RT @randomdeanna: RT @baratunde: Body Scanner Operator Caught Masturbating http://baratun.de/eKmQMI cc: @stwo #
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  • Every now and then I'll listen to a song & think "this is CRAP! Why is the station playing it?" then realize I am listening to my library #
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Down the rabbit hole – Revelations 1-2 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassAh, the book of Revelations. The capstone of the New Testament. The weirdest book in the whole Bible, and one of the weirdest books ever written. Revelations makes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland seem pedestrian. The end of the world, the four horsemen, something about swords and seals and locusts…

[toc hint=”table of contents” class=”toc-right” style=”width: 40%”]I have had a life-long fascination with Revelations. I remember back in my high school days ordering a set of three booklets offered on a late-night commercial by the Church of Latter Day Saints. The books were laid out to cover three major topics from this book. I don’t remember what those were, but we’ll know by the end of this book.

One note before we get started: John claims many verses being said by Jesus Christ. I don’t buy it. By the time Revelations is released, Jesus is long dead. John’s experience here conjures up visions of Christ speaking, but these seem to me to be figments of John’s imagination. I will treat anything attributed to Christ in this book as such.

Revelation of John

Chapter 1

John gets the administration out of the way right off the bat. John has been exiled in Patmos. Jesus has commanded this letter is for the 7 churches in Asia. The end times are nigh (don’t let Peter hear you say that!). Jesus has conquered death and rules over all other kings. He has made as a kingdom, and the kingdom awaits.

With the formalities, John moves on to the stranger, more esoteric and mystical parts of his story.

John is on the island one Sunday, minding his own business, when he hears a voice trumpet into his ear. John turns to see who is commanding him, and instead sees seven gold lampstands. In the middle of the lampstands was someone who looked like Jesus – he was wearing a robe and a golden belt. One thing I didn’t remember: Jesus had white hair, white as snow or wool. Jesus also had a two-edged sword sticking out of his mouth, and he held seven stars in his right hand.

I know what you’re thinking: what the hell is up with the sword? I told you this book is esoteric!

John does the wise thing and drops to his knees in fright. Jesus tells him to stop being afraid. Jesus lives forever, and he holds the keys to death and Hades.1 Jesus does try and make sense of some of the symbols for John: the lampstands are the seven churches, and the stars are messengers for the churches. That info is like a map legend; it’ll come in handy later, when we need it.

1Translation note: The KJV has this as “death and hell.” Every other translation I checked had “Death and Hades.” I don’t pretend to know what the difference is, I just find the demarkation between King James and everything else interesting.

Chapter 2

I am surprised at how quickly this book lunges down the rabbit hole. This chapter recounts the m

The White Rabbit in a hurry
Image via Wikipedia

essages Jesus wants to send to the lampstands. There’s a consistent structure to this chapter: first Jesus says something good about the church, then something negative, then gives a way to improve. It’s classic “Delivering Feedback” training material, with some very weird examples.

The people of Ephesus works hard for Jesus, does good deeds, and doesn’t tolerate evil. They have been able to root out false apostles. However, they have abandoned the love they once had to favor their discipline in following Christ’s words. The church needs to repent and get back to its original teachings.

On a side note: who are the Nicolaitans, and why does Christ (or John’s vision of Christ) hate them so?

The people of Smyrna live in poverty and suffer for their beliefs. Even worse, others in Smyrna who claim to be Jews say derogative things about Smyrnians. They fear what further sufferings they must endure, though. Rightfully so, for apparently they will suffer 10 days of intense suffering to test their faith. If they are faithful up to death, they will be rewarded.

Holy crap!

Satan apparently rules Pergamum, ‘cuz that’s where his throne is set. The people of the church there hold fast to their belief and love of Christ. A prominent Christian leader – Antipas – is killed in front of the Christians to try and dissuade them from their faiths. The people of the church in Pergamum continue to stand by their belief in Jesus. They are not blameless, however. Some of the membership hold to the teachings of the deceiver Balaam, some are Nicolaitans. The church must repent, and presumably sever ties with these people.

The people of Thyatira are faithful, and they continue to get stronger. But they also allow Jezebel to stay among them. Jesus apparently gave Jezebel the chance to repent, but she did not. So he has thrown Jezebel into a sick bed. Anyone who has sex with her will suffer greatly. Christ will strike all of her children dead.

Again: holy crap! And since when does Jesus condone killing children?

Up next: John takes a spiritwalk

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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Down the rabbit hole – Revelations 1-2 (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassAh, the book of Revelations. The capstone of the New Testament. The weirdest book in the whole Bible, and one of the weirdest books ever written. Revelations makes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland seem pedestrian. The end of the world, the four horsemen, something about swords and seals and locusts…

[toc hint=”table of contents” class=”toc-right” style=”width: 40%”]I have had a life-long fascination with Revelations. I remember back in my high school days ordering a set of three booklets offered on a late-night commercial by the Church of Latter Day Saints. The books were laid out to cover three major topics from this book. I don’t remember what those were, but we’ll know by the end of this book.

One note before we get started: John claims many verses being said by Jesus Christ. I don’t buy it. By the time Revelations is released, Jesus is long dead. John’s experience here conjures up visions of Christ speaking, but these seem to me to be figments of John’s imagination. I will treat anything attributed to Christ in this book as such.

Revelation of John

Chapter 1

John gets the administration out of the way right off the bat. John has been exiled in Patmos. Jesus has commanded this letter is for the 7 churches in Asia. The end times are nigh (don’t let Peter hear you say that!). Jesus has conquered death and rules over all other kings. He has made as a kingdom, and the kingdom awaits.

With the formalities, John moves on to the stranger, more esoteric and mystical parts of his story.

John is on the island one Sunday, minding his own business, when he hears a voice trumpet into his ear. John turns to see who is commanding him, and instead sees seven gold lampstands. In the middle of the lampstands was someone who looked like Jesus – he was wearing a robe and a golden belt. One thing I didn’t remember: Jesus had white hair, white as snow or wool. Jesus also had a two-edged sword sticking out of his mouth, and he held seven stars in his right hand.

I know what you’re thinking: what the hell is up with the sword? I told you this book is esoteric!

John does the wise thing and drops to his knees in fright. Jesus tells him to stop being afraid. Jesus lives forever, and he holds the keys to death and Hades.1 Jesus does try and make sense of some of the symbols for John: the lampstands are the seven churches, and the stars are messengers for the churches. That info is like a map legend; it’ll come in handy later, when we need it.

1Translation note: The KJV has this as “death and hell.” Every other translation I checked had “Death and Hades.” I don’t pretend to know what the difference is, I just find the demarkation between King James and everything else interesting.

Chapter 2

I am surprised at how quickly this book lunges down the rabbit hole. This chapter recounts the m

The White Rabbit in a hurry
Image via Wikipedia

essages Jesus wants to send to the lampstands. There’s a consistent structure to this chapter: first Jesus says something good about the church, then something negative, then gives a way to improve. It’s classic “Delivering Feedback” training material, with some very weird examples.

The people of Ephesus works hard for Jesus, does good deeds, and doesn’t tolerate evil. They have been able to root out false apostles. However, they have abandoned the love they once had to favor their discipline in following Christ’s words. The church needs to repent and get back to its original teachings.

On a side note: who are the Nicolaitans, and why does Christ (or John’s vision of Christ) hate them so?

The people of Smyrna live in poverty and suffer for their beliefs. Even worse, others in Smyrna who claim to be Jews say derogative things about Smyrnians. They fear what further sufferings they must endure, though. Rightfully so, for apparently they will suffer 10 days of intense suffering to test their faith. If they are faithful up to death, they will be rewarded.

Holy crap!

Satan apparently rules Pergamum, ‘cuz that’s where his throne is set. The people of the church there hold fast to their belief and love of Christ. A prominent Christian leader – Antipas – is killed in front of the Christians to try and dissuade them from their faiths. The people of the church in Pergamum continue to stand by their belief in Jesus. They are not blameless, however. Some of the membership hold to the teachings of the deceiver Balaam, some are Nicolaitans. The church must repent, and presumably sever ties with these people.

The people of Thyatira are faithful, and they continue to get stronger. But they also allow Jezebel to stay among them. Jesus apparently gave Jezebel the chance to repent, but she did not. So he has thrown Jezebel into a sick bed. Anyone who has sex with her will suffer greatly. Christ will strike all of her children dead.

Again: holy crap! And since when does Jesus condone killing children?

Up next: John takes a spiritwalk

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

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  • Just how badly does John McCain want to keep gays out of the military? http://bit.ly/9rVS0P (The Daily Show clip, 11/15) #
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Three Rings for the elven-kings under the sky – 2 John, 3 John, Jude (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassHey, we made it! We are at the end of the Epistles. The last three books of the New Testament before the beast that is Revelations! This has been a long, tough road to haul. I truly wasn’t sure if I’d get through the letters or not. Paul’s batch of letters really did sap a lot of my enthusiasm out. I wondered a few times whether I shouldn’t just give up on this project. As I feared, the epistles don’t lend themselves to this kind of project. There’s no narrative form to them, and this whole premise works best when there’s a narrative to follow.

[toc hint=”table of contents” class=”toc-left” style=”width: 40%”]I’ll talk more about that in a later entry. For now, it is time to wrap up the letters in one quick batch. The last three letters are all one-chapter books.They are all far too short to deserve their own post, so I am going to review all three in today’s article. Strap in! But don’t worry, it’s a lot less painful than it sounds.

Second Epistle of John

I am sure that John has something to say in this letter, but I am distracted trying to figure out who the letter is to. John starts the letter addressing it to “the chosen [elect] lady” and finishes with “the children of your chosen [elect] sister…” Is the woman a church elder? What’s her relationship with John? For part of the chapter, I thought that she might be John’s wife. He asks that the lady and he continue to love each other. He states that he wants to meet with her face-to-face so their joy may be complete. Am I the only person reading this that interpreted this as a romantic relationship between John and this unnamed woman?

Of course, the closing line puts a bit of a damper on that. The children of your elect sister? Is she his aunt? Great aunt? Somehow related by blood?

I am so confused!!!

Third Epistle of John

Apparently, John prefers to meet with everyone face-to-face instead of via letter. I can understand that. There could be weeks between delivery of a letter and receipt of the response. John does give a pretty good account of what is happening. The letter is to one of John’s friends, Gaius. Gaius has the chance to emulate one of two other men. One is Diotrephes, who is covertly working against the apostles by refusing to provide room and board for them, and encouraging others in the church to also not lend aid. The other is Demetrius, who is a good man and presumably would help anyone that came along.

Wait… why is this book in the Bible? This book reminds me of Philemon. Both short, both pointless. Why were these two letters chosen for addition in the New Testament?

That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way. Can someone tell me why these letters were included?

Epistle of Jude

Wow, Jude is pretty pissed here. And apparently rightly so. In 1 John, John wrote a list of criteria for churches to use to determine if a person was of god or not. The criteria was “1) does the person say they believe in Jesus, and 2) does the person profess to follow our faith?” Given that anyone could say “yeah sure” without really meaning it, it’s not a surprise that people would infiltrate the church for their own personal gains. Jude has found out about this, and writes a scathing letter to churches in the area.

In the letter, Jude calls the infiltrators ungodly, irrational animals, defilers, stains in the love feasts, fruitless trees. These people care only for themselves, commit “sexual sins” (Paul would be so proud!), they are boastful, and they take advantage of others who try to be nice to them. Jude commands that these people be removed from the church. However, the members of the church shouldn’t just turn their backs on outsiders. Instead they should help them, but be wary.

Conclusion

What an odd trio of stories. We started out with the mystery of the chosen woman, moved on to the boredom of the saints, and finish up with a pure, unadulterated rant. These letters couldn’t be more different. They are a jumble, all read together in a group. But they aren’t any clearer when read individually. They are too short to convey any real meaning. They are a peek into the early church, showing that many things were not all peaches and cream. Otherwise, I can’t think of a reason to want to read these letters.

Up next: The end is here!

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

Three Rings for the elven-kings under the sky – 2 John, 3 John, Jude (NTiR)

Bible and magnifying glassHey, we made it! We are at the end of the Epistles. The last three books of the New Testament before the beast that is Revelations! This has been a long, tough road to haul. I truly wasn’t sure if I’d get through the letters or not. Paul’s batch of letters really did sap a lot of my enthusiasm out. I wondered a few times whether I shouldn’t just give up on this project. As I feared, the epistles don’t lend themselves to this kind of project. There’s no narrative form to them, and this whole premise works best when there’s a narrative to follow.

[toc hint=”table of contents” class=”toc-left” style=”width: 40%”]I’ll talk more about that in a later entry. For now, it is time to wrap up the letters in one quick batch. The last three letters are all one-chapter books.They are all far too short to deserve their own post, so I am going to review all three in today’s article. Strap in! But don’t worry, it’s a lot less painful than it sounds.

Second Epistle of John

I am sure that John has something to say in this letter, but I am distracted trying to figure out who the letter is to. John starts the letter addressing it to “the chosen [elect] lady” and finishes with “the children of your chosen [elect] sister…” Is the woman a church elder? What’s her relationship with John? For part of the chapter, I thought that she might be John’s wife. He asks that the lady and he continue to love each other. He states that he wants to meet with her face-to-face so their joy may be complete. Am I the only person reading this that interpreted this as a romantic relationship between John and this unnamed woman?

Of course, the closing line puts a bit of a damper on that. The children of your elect sister? Is she his aunt? Great aunt? Somehow related by blood?

I am so confused!!!

Third Epistle of John

Apparently, John prefers to meet with everyone face-to-face instead of via letter. I can understand that. There could be weeks between delivery of a letter and receipt of the response. John does give a pretty good account of what is happening. The letter is to one of John’s friends, Gaius. Gaius has the chance to emulate one of two other men. One is Diotrephes, who is covertly working against the apostles by refusing to provide room and board for them, and encouraging others in the church to also not lend aid. The other is Demetrius, who is a good man and presumably would help anyone that came along.

Wait… why is this book in the Bible? This book reminds me of Philemon. Both short, both pointless. Why were these two letters chosen for addition in the New Testament?

That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way. Can someone tell me why these letters were included?

Epistle of Jude

Wow, Jude is pretty pissed here. And apparently rightly so. In 1 John, John wrote a list of criteria for churches to use to determine if a person was of god or not. The criteria was “1) does the person say they believe in Jesus, and 2) does the person profess to follow our faith?” Given that anyone could say “yeah sure” without really meaning it, it’s not a surprise that people would infiltrate the church for their own personal gains. Jude has found out about this, and writes a scathing letter to churches in the area.

In the letter, Jude calls the infiltrators ungodly, irrational animals, defilers, stains in the love feasts, fruitless trees. These people care only for themselves, commit “sexual sins” (Paul would be so proud!), they are boastful, and they take advantage of others who try to be nice to them. Jude commands that these people be removed from the church. However, the members of the church shouldn’t just turn their backs on outsiders. Instead they should help them, but be wary.

Conclusion

What an odd trio of stories. We started out with the mystery of the chosen woman, moved on to the boredom of the saints, and finish up with a pure, unadulterated rant. These letters couldn’t be more different. They are a jumble, all read together in a group. But they aren’t any clearer when read individually. They are too short to convey any real meaning. They are a peek into the early church, showing that many things were not all peaches and cream. Otherwise, I can’t think of a reason to want to read these letters.

Up next: The end is here!

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.