Search by image: a review

A little over two weeks ago my favourite search engine (favourite because I’m too lazy to try the others) rolled out voice search and search by image. I tried them out so that, if you’ve not yet got a chance to use them, you can raise or lower your expectations accordingly 🙂

The idea for search by image is simple: drag and drop an image into the search box. I used my own photos which had the default name and no extra meta information (such as geotagging, etc) that would make the search engine’s job easier.


It got these two right:

Search for St Paul's Outside the Walls
Search by image using a photo of St Paul's Outside the Walls
Search for Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati, Italy
Search by image using a photo of Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati, Italy

It was able to recognise the Spanish Steps even with the people, scaffolding and temporary decorative flowers:

Search for the Spanish Steps
Search by image using a photo of the Spanish Steps

It got stuck on the 21st century Ara Pacis museum:

Search for the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome
Search by image using a photo of the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome


It got the idea of sky and water:

Photo of Lake Nemi, Italy
Search by image using a photo of Lake Nemi, Italy

And that of sky and (mountainous) land:

Search by image using a photo taken in Antrodoco, Italy
Search by image using a photo taken in Antrodoco, Italy


If it can’t make out what’s in the photo, it goes for matching colours:

Search by image using a photo of a fruit stand
Search by image using a photo of a fruit stand
Search by image using a photo of a red flower
Search by image using a photo of a red flower


A human face is recognised as such, but I’d hope for more similarity (Picasa’s face recognition spoiled me):

Search by image using a photo of a person
Search by image using a photo of a person

Not wishing to use pics of my friends and acquaintances, I used my cats. Bolla looks like food (which is kind of funny considering Bolla eats A LOT):

Search by image using a photo of a cat
Search by image using a photo of a cat

Missing and presumed dead Tempesta is inscrutable, but at least there’s one cat in the suggestions:

Search by image using a photo of a cat
Search by image using a photo of a cat

A black and white shot of Wiki brings up lots of human faces, as well as an unexpected symbol:

Search by image using a photo of a cat
Search by image using a photo of a cat


I’d hoped that it would work better than it did, especially with faces. I guess that will improve with time.

Next: Should people with non-American accents bother with voice search?

Comfortable evangelism is an oxymoron

Especially when it comes to witnessing to family members. In the video below Randy Newman (from whom I borrowed the title of this post) talks about his latest book, Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to your family members, close friends and others who know you well.

In this talk bearing the same title as the book Newman uses the first 20 minutes to explain some of the paradoxes in evangelism  (which he also blogged about: part 1, part 2). In the last 20 minutes, he goes on to give three essential ingredients for witnessing to family members, handily summarised by the letters TLC.

  • Time: It may take years and decades of prayer before a loved one comes to faith.
  • Love: In families, love is often assumed and not adequately expressed [I’m guilty of this 😦 ]
  • A comprehensive faith: How does your belief in Christ affect the rest of your life?

The final resource I’ll point to is this interview Newman did (length 50:55). Here are some of the questions he answers (I’ve edited them for clarity):

  • Is it the primary responsibility of believers to witness to their family members?
  • How often are words necessary?
  • How direct should our words be?
  • What lessons have you learned that you’d like to pass on?

May we be consistent in my praying for and loving those close to us who are yet to share the joy of knowing our Saviour.

Ask questions!

1 Peter 3:15 tells believers that they should always be ready to give an answer for the hope they have. What if no one asks you anything? Well, you ask the questions!

Here are some tips on why and how to do that:

Becky Pippert advises us to create curiosity before proclaiming the gospel:

Randy Newman, in his Questioning Evangelism1 talk, gives the following reasons for asking people questions:

  • Some people aren’t even awake. There’s not a lot of deep thought going on in our culture. In asking the questions, not only are you forcing them to think, but you also show that you’re a thinking person.
  • Some people believe things cannot be true, things that are contradictory or don’t stand up to investigation. For example, “All religions are saying the same thing.” Ask them to explain that to you. Gently put them on the defensive in order to lead them to understand that what they’ve been holding on to is indefensible. Be gracious and prayerful to avoid the temptation to want to win.
  • Some questions are insincere. We need to discern what’s going on with the questioner. If the question is insincere, we need to engage with the person on a level different from answering the question.
  • Sometimes a partial victory is best. It may be better to move people part of the way to a decision than moving them the whole way.

Michael Ramsden offers these reasons² for questioning people:

  • It forces people to open up within their general assumptions, e.g. in Luke 18:18-19.
  • It forces people to open up within their cultural assumptions, e.g. in Matthew 22:15-21.
  • It exposes faulty logic
  • It makes people think
  • It exposes motives, e.g. in Luke 20:2-8

Regarding that last point, giving the right answer to the wrong question is always wrong. In the apologetics workshop talk Tough questions: tough answers?, Ramsden gives guidelines on how to determine the question behind the question and how best to respond.

Not convinced? Have you considered how many questions Jesus asked?

For more ideas on how to engage uninterested unbelievers, have a listen to the Christian Persuaders podcast (tagline: “A series of interviews with people from around the world gifted and passionate about communicating and defending the Christian gospel”)  and/or Dan Strange’s talk  Reaching the Irreligious for Christ.

¹ I’ve listened to 4 versions of this talk, given in October 2009, October 2010, April 2011 and May 2011. Pick one. I’d go for the first or last 🙂

² I didn’t note down which talk this came from. Ooops.

In case you’re wondering, I have applied the advice in this post, though I fear I came across as an ignoramus. I can put that down to my lack of practice 🙂

Like sheep without a shepherd

What do Moses, Joshua, David, Jesus Christ and God have in common? The Bible uses shepherd language for all of them.

In this 34-minute sermon, Carl Trueman examines the phrase “like sheep without a shepherd” tracing its use in Genesis, Numbers, 2 Samuel, the Psalms, Ezekiel and Mark, and how it applies to us today. Hopefully you’ll take to heart his admonition to not gloss over Scripture!

Why did Satan tempt Jesus?

I blogged on this topic a while ago in what has become my most-viewed post for the year to date. I have some extra insight to share coming from the following interviews Russell Moore has done on his book, Tempted and Tried.

The first one is 1h22m long, though you could download the audio and listen to it really fast.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The second is a manageable 18 and a half minutes:

(People using feed readers may have to click through to see the embedded videos)

Moore puts forward the thesis that in tempting Jesus, Satan wasn’t simply trying to rule over Jesus but he was also attempting to usurp God’s fatherhood.

This is the same tactic the devil had used with Adam and Eve in the garden and with Israel during their years of wilderness wanderings. Adam and Israel both failed their respective temptations. Jesus, in not falling to temptation, thus constitutes a new humanity and a new Israel.

Temptation #1: Turn these stones into bread

Jesus is genuinely hungry, and in effect, Satan says, “Your Father is holding something back from you.” This is the same thing he did with Eve and with Israel in the wilderness as they grumbled over food.

Satan is usurping the Father’s role as provider.

Temptation #2: Throw yourself down the pinnacle of the temple

Put differently: “Prove that God is really for you.”

Satan is usurping the Father’s role as protector.

Temptation #3: Fall down and worship me

Or: “I will give you your inheritance.”

Satan is usurping the Father’s role as provider of an inheritance.

With this temptation, Satan was willing to have a world in which Jesus was ruler. It would likely be a world free of sin, suffering and all other evil things. More importantly, also missing would be the cross.

Had Jesus accepted He would no longer be a sinless sacrificial offering, and Satan could hold everything hostage.

So what?

The essence of temptation is that God doesn’t have your best interests at heart. When facing temptation, we need to remember our identity in Christ.

Jesus knows Scripture, and knows where He fits in the story. We may know Bible verses, but unless we know our identity in Christ, we can’t overcome our temptations. Jesus isn’t just our example. Jesus, our head, was tempted in the desert. He identifies with us in being tempted and through His Spirit continues to work in and through us. Amen to that!

I am a Ribbon Hero!

I’m sure I’m not the only one who laughed out loud upon hearing of Ribbon Hero, a game developed by the folks at Microsoft Office Labs with the aim of teaching people how to use the ribbon interface.

When I finally downloaded version 1 of the game a few weeks later, I was disappointed. I had actually believed the marketing hype. Playing RH1 felt more like completing a to-do list than having fun. The major spur towards my completing it was the release of version 2. Grudgingly, I became a Ribbon Hero in Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as attested by the screenshot below:

I successfully completed Ribbon Hero 1
I successfully completed Ribbon Hero 1

Ribbon Hero 2, Clippy’s Second Chance is an entirely different experience altogether! In RH2, players time-travel with the erstwhile office assistant as they complete challenges in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, picking up random facts about the various eras visited. It feels more like a game, with levels being unlocked upon attaining a certain number of points. Another improvement was in the graphics: they are much nicer to look at in version 2. Overall, RH2 is a great improvement over version 1, not least in that the marketing hype of version 1 was actually fulfilled in version 2.

I successfully completed Ribbon Hero 2
I successfully completed Ribbon Hero 2

In the summary of my performance above, you can see that I used hints on one of the Ancient Greece challenges—an orange circle is missing.  I didn’t have to complete all the challenges (blank circles) because I already had the 50,000 points I needed to complete the game. I also racked up 392 bonus points. These are awarded for using functions such as text formatting (bold, italics, using the format painter, applying header styles, etc) in the course of normal use of an Office program. I clearly recall getting points for my 20th and 50th format style (it kept count across sessions), and for inserting a page break—the program would freeze for a second or two at those moments. The ways of gaining bonus points are hidden, so I’m sure many more can be found.

So, if you have Office 2007 or Office 2010, do try out Ribbon Hero. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some thieving pigs to deal with.