Wednesday, 28 February 2007

britain's new cultural divide

Britain's new cultural divide is not between Christian and Muslim, Hindu and Jew. It is between those who have faith and those who do not. Stuart Jeffries reports on the vicious and uncompromising battle between believers and non-believers
- Interesting article in the Guardian of Monday 26 February.

grade 1

Interesting fact from a SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) press release I received this week: around 45% of Grade 1 listed buildings in England are maintained by The Church of England.

rail road

Big enquiry into that rail crash in Cumbria in which fourteen people died. Oh, wait a minute, it was one person. Fourteen people, that was that other thing, just another weekend on Scotland's roads. As you were.

i am the law

Judge Dredd is thirty. I remember getting 2000AD from the beginning; not sure when I stopped. I feel like buying a copy for old times' sake.

hatred of america unites the world

Interesting article from the Sunday Telegraph of 25 February by Niall Ferguson on why people hate America. 'The best explanation is in fact the simplest. Being hated is what happens to dominant empires.' The article, as on so many news websites now, is trailed by a long tail of opinionated comments best left unread; not sure why people post such things - as Bob said of blogs, it's a high-tech version of shouting at the telly.

another civil service myth exploded

It's not often that you can't get civil servants to agree to do nothing.
- said by Bethan after a frustrating day of non-agreement on Friday


Some nice geeky/techie cartoons here at xkcd, including this, this, this, this, this and this.

You get an additional little message when you leave the cursor over the cartoon also. I haven't gone all the way back yet.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

more on

I eventually downloaded the software to enable the building up of a musical profile on last fm on the basis of my on-computer listening habits. There are two main hindrances to this profile-building: firstly, I do most of my music listening on the stereo rather than the computer, and secondly, the listening I do on the computer is mostly online, looking for new listening experiences (which last fm itself is good for, as you can listen to a 'radio station' based on an artist you like or on your own or another subscriber's preferences).

So it took some time to have played enough tracks to start accumulating a profile - I achieved it by listening to my sets of favourite tracks new to me from 2004 and 2005 (I'm listening to my draft 2006 list now), so most of the artists appear only once or twice. When the first profile emerged, the person who came up as the person whose taste was most like mine was a fourteen-year-old girl from New Jersey.

I found it amusing that when I then visited Alex's last fm site, it said our musical compatibility was 'very low', as we had no artists in common, since I know there are significant points of overlap in our tastes. I then found it amusing that this compatibility was upgraded to 'low': 'You share a few artists in common, including Red Hot Chili Peppers, King Crimson, Pearl Jam, Uriah Heep, and Blues Traveler' - of course, all these artists now appeared in 'my' tastes because I'd listened to 'Alex's radio' and they'd all had tracks played through that! I'd count that as a glitch, really. So my profile is going to end up rather an inaccurate mishmash, but I don't mind. (My overlap with John at the moment is medium, but pretty much on entirely different points of the compass from the overlap with Alex.)

alison macdonald

This is The Scotsman's version of the story on the front of this week's Gazette, returning to the story of Alison MacDonald's disappearance on the basis of the accent of a Kashmiri militant. The Scotsman's account seems less hopeful.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

website or web site?

Guardian article from Saturday 16 December 2006 on the Oxford English Dictionary. Most interesting fact: they still go with 'web site' rather than 'website' as the norm, from their research, although they obviously anticipate it will move from two words to one word. I almost never see 'web site'.

Friday, 23 February 2007


While it did have its moments in schooldays, my hare lip and cleft palate didn't have too much of a negative impact - it didn't make a very significant impact on my already-no-oil-painting face, and it didn't affect my speech too much. As for the former, I've hidden behind a beard since it became an option; as for the latter, my mumbling's more of an issue than anything physiological, and one of the good things about living so far from home is that people hear my nasal drone (I have an awful speaking voice, which I really don't like; I should really speak less, and that's the least of the reasons) as simply part of my accent; only today the lady cutting my hair remarked on my lovely accent. Funny old world.

Apart from that, I've got slightly reduced hearing in my left ear (a common side effect) and - look away now, sensitive reader - the ability to stick my tongue up the back of my nose, which I presume is associated. It's a party trick that's rarely called upon. I don't go to those kind of parties. I'm not sure anybody does.

One of my childhood tales, pre-stitch-up, is of me eating peas and them coming back out of my nose.

There is a Cleft Lip and Palate Association, which I guess is for the benefit of people whose lives have been more affected by the condition than mine has. There are also a number of charities that do related surgery in the developing world. A look at the relevant Wikipedia entry indicates that there are more of both of these kinds of organisations than I had realised.

under twenty-two weeks

BBC news item on the baby born in America after less than 22 weeks gestation.

The Guardian's reflection on the news in G2. Perhaps the most depressing sentence in which is 'Even between 23 weeks and 23 weeks and six days, there is no legal obligation on doctors to try to save a baby if they judge it to be against the child's best interests.' Best interests.

BBC's Q&A on abortion law.

BBC's Q&A on late abortions.

BBC's info on Europe's abortion laws.

'When does life begin?' doesn't seem to come up so much in the abortion discussion any more; the focus has neatly moved to date of viability. As date of viability goes down, how do we feel about those who have been terminated in the past above that time limit?

Here abortions can be carried out up until delivery for particularly serious reasons - such as having a hare lip and cleft palate. An issue close to my own face. This is the outcome of the case brought on that issue by the lady vicar.

downing street online petitions

Mr Blair is due to respond by email to the road-pricing petitioners on Wednesday. It remains an open question whether he has been forced to respond against his will - or whether that might have been one purpose behind the petition site. "I'm of the view, though it seems to be a 1% minority view, that this is not a disaster for the government at all," said Tim Montgomerie, Iain Duncan Smith's former chief of staff, who now runs Conservative Home and the website 18 Doughty Street, associated with the Cornerstone Group of anti-Cameron MPs on the Tory right.

"Downing Street now has an email list of 1.5 million people with whom they can communicate directly. The rule, under the privacy laws, is that they can communicate twice with those people, and only on the subject of the petition ... three months ahead of an election, perhaps prime minister Gordon Brown could write to them all saying 'I've listened to you ... and here are all the things the government's doing for motorists'."

If you are optimistic about the future of online democracy, you will call this a direct conversation between government and the people. The other name for it - in the world of spammers hawking dodgy stocks and penis-enlargement pills - is "email harvesting".

- interesting point in a Guardian article last Saturday about the pros and cons of the Downing St online petitions site.

tower bridge and iron maiden

From last Saturday's 'what we've learned this week' column in the Guardian:
- three hundred drivers a week are caught breaking the 20mph limit on Tower Bridge
- Glasgow Rangers were flown to Israel for their match against Hapoel Tel Aviv by Iron Maiden frontman and qualified pilot Bruce Dickinson

'and they want to know why men still rule the world!'

I particularly enjoyed Lucy Mangan's column in last Saturday's Guardian magazine.

'we took a wrong turning or two. Instead of ending up at the women-only aerobics class, we found ourselves in a women-only discussion group which, according to the piece of A4 paper Sellotaped to the wall above the nominated group leader's head, was going to answer the question of why men still rule the world ...

'We joined just as the women were taking it in turns to stand up and introduce themselves. "Hello," says the first one. "My name is Sue, spelled S-O-O, because I felt it was more special." Hmm. " 'Special' spelled 'S-T-U-P-I-D,' " muttered the voice at my side. Already filled with a broader sisterly spirit, I not only hushed my relative but fought the urge myself to point out that rather than distinguishing herself from all the other Sues, what Soo had actually done was align herself with Matthew Corbett's glove puppet.

'The next one stood up. "Hello, my name is Clare, which means 'light', which is appropriate because I do a lot of healing with light." I was slightly afraid that I was going to have to call her over to heal the blood that was starting to trickle from my sister's ears. Then it was our turn. I started to rise, but my sister put her foot quickly on my throat and made the introductions for both of us. "My name," she said, glancing regally around the room, "is Princess Consuela D'Angostura Bitteres, daughter of King Quatro Formaggi and this is my maid, Margherita Caffenero, and I am afraid we are in the wrong place. Please, do excuse us." Her exit was graceful yet decisive.

'"Soo!" she snarled as she strode down the corridor, me trotting after her as - although I had been more than a little uplifted by the knowledge that consciousness-raising was still taking place in hidden corners of the country and would have liked to stay and hear more - she had grabbed me by the head as she left and so far forgotten to let go. "Clare! Light! Spider plants! And they want to know why men still rule the world!" I suppose, in the end, I can see her point. If not, for the moment, where we're going.'

the real difference between british and american humour

(Apart from the 'u', of course)

An interesting letter in last Saturday's Guardian magazine referring to an article from the previous week by Simon Pegg (which I haven't read yet...) on transatlantic humour. I shall bowdlerise Julian Smith of Swindon's letter in quoting from it (see if you can spot where): 'as well as preventing us from embracing sentimentality in TV comedies, the British reserve encourages us to use humour to mock and insult our friends. Indeed, I would say what is truly unique about British humour is how much it relies on this mickey-taking. This is what Americans don't get. As a Brit, tell a typical American that "Americans don't do irony" and you will usually get a long lecture citing examples of the use of irony in popular culture, all the while oblivious of the likely fact that the Brit knows perfectly well that Americans understand irony, but don't understand that they are having the mickey taken out of them.'

the best book I've read in ages

True Grit, by Charles Portis.

Here's the extract from Donna Tartt's introduction to the new edition of the book which I read when it appeared in the Guardian Review of Saturday 8 January 2005 and which inspired me to keep a look out for it. And here's another American article about the book.

The only odd thing about the book was that to me it was written perfectly with a 14-year-old-19th-century-girl voice, yet it was made clear that she was telling this story in her old age, to little added benefit. But reading the full Tartt introduction after I'd finished it, she thought it was a perfect Southern old lady voice, and I'm sure she knows better than I do.

I read Donna Tartt's The Secret History, which was a big deal when it came out. It was my kind of book in theory - about a group of university friends - but it was just far too long, unnecessarily, and dragged.

Of course I saw the film of True Grit when I was a boy, John Wayne's Oscar film, and I enjoyed it then, although puzzled by the presence of Glen Campbell. A glance at the castlist on IMDB shows me that Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper were two of the baddies, but they meant nothing to me then.

I shall have to seek out Charles Portis's other books.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

accordion beatles

Do you know what there just isn't enough of? Beatles songs played on accordion.

The version of Comfortably Numb is appropriately mournful too.

Monday, 19 February 2007

unknown warrior; two minute silence

I picked up two interesting information sheets at the Imperial War Museum last year. And now here they are online, so I can throw them away - hurrah! The unknown warrior. The two minute silence.

introducing the book

Nice clip on Youtube, from a Scandinavian comedy sketch show by the looks of it, about book help.

aunt irene on evolution

'It's extremely difficult to explain,' said Aunt Irene rather pompously, for she knew that if she actually understood this theory it would be easier to propagate. The fact that she didn't believe a word of it herself was irrelevant at the moment. She wanted to convince and educate Victor and wipe that naughty look of amused and superior contempt off his face. It was suitable, she thought, for persons of her background and education to dismiss as potty as many theories as they liked, but it was very annoying when the unlettered did it.
Aunt Irene really inclined to that simplest of all views: the one expressed so cogently in the book of Genesis, which explained everything with appealing clarity. This was the only view that explained, for instance, mayonnaise. It was patently absurd to suppose that mayonnaise had come about through random chance, that anyone could ever have been silly or brilliant enough to predict what would happen if he slowly trickled oil on to egg yolks and then gone ahead and tried it. An angel must have divulged that recipe and then explained what to do with the left-over whites. Meringues - there was another instance of the exercise of superhuman intelligence. To Aunt Irene the Ten Commandments seemed almost insignifcant compared with the astonishing miracle of what you could do with an egg. As the angel had left in his fiery chariot he must have added, 'And don't forget omelettes, and cake and custard and souffles and poaching and frying and boiling and baking. Oh, and they're frightfully good with anchovies. And you can use the shells to clarify soup - and don't forget to dig them in round the roots of your roses', the angelic tones fading into the ethereal distance.
It was obvious therefore that the egg had come first. There was something dignified about a silent passive egg, whereas Aunt Irene found it difficult to envisage an angel bearing a hen - which, despite its undoubted merits, was a foolish and largely intractable bird. The concatenation of chickens' wings and angels wings would have had about it an element of parody which would have greatly lessened the impact of the message.
There must have been three eggs, thought Aunt Irene, going into details. One to eat then and there, and two to hatch - a boy and a girl. It was quite possible to hatch an egg in a human arm-pit - it had been proved on various American campuses and went with swallowing live goldfish and putting ferrets in your trousers.
'Why are you looking like that?' asked Kyril.
'I was wondering why people put ferrets in their trousers,' said Aunt Irene.
'Thanatos,' said Kyril. 'An illustration of the death wish.'
'What I wish,' said Aunt Irene, 'is that you'd never read Freud. It's had a very leaden effect on your conversation.'
- p83-85, The 27th Kingdom, Alice Thomas Ellis

Sunday, 18 February 2007

the allied bombing of germany

An interesting article on a German book about the Allied bombing campaign in WWII.

One of many interesting paras: 'Friedrich does more than indict the British for killing German civilians. He contends that the Luftwaffe and the RAF changed the nature of war. "The idea is that the cities and their production and their morale contributed to warfare," he says. "So warfare is not simply the business of an army, it's the business of a nation. Therefore everyone is a target. That is how Churchill and Hitler changed the nature of warfare. That is what Bin Laden says. The idea is we all deserve it. You and me and those German, British, and Japanese civilians in the mass graves: they all deserve it."'

stealing the flag of justice

The first question and answer from the interview in the new Tear Times with Tearfund's International President Rene Padilla:

Our last conversation generated a lot of feedback from Tearfund supporters. Much of it was positive, but some accused you of preaching a social gospel and being further left than Karl Marx. How does that make you feel?
- I did not expect everybody to agree with what I said. I was struck by people who said that I was pro-Marxist. It's not the first time I hear that because, unfortunately, as someone once said, Christians allowed Marxists to steal from them the flag of justice.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

a local morning - birdwatching and sale of work

This morning we all went birding in the borough, led by David Lindo - the urban birder, apparently. There were about a dozen of us, and it was very interesting. We didn't stray far from Dickens Square, but saw and heard lots of birdlife. As well as things we regularly see, we also saw a long-tailed tit and heard a song thrush (with the bird calls, it just needs someone to help point them out to you so that you can identify them in future).

The two most interesting facts I learned: on the evidence of the lyrics of the song 'A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square', the bird in question, if not metaphorical, was probably a robin; because spring is coming earlier in the UK, the cuckoo population is declining, because by the time they migrate back here from Africa the other birds have already done their egg-sitting, so they're too late to do their unpleasant trick of getting their eggs incubated and chicks raised by other birds.

On the way home we popped into a sale of work (I think they called it a table sale) at St Matthew by the Elephant. 20p entry fee; wooden Noah's ark with Noah and animals for £1; B got some plants and books; and I got ten Agatha Christies for £1 (they were 20p each or 8 for £1, but he threw the two extra in). 10p a book; that's the kind of sale of work I like, and the kind that gave me a bedroom stuffed with books growing up in Lewis. When I had my Christie kick this time last year, I seemed to have read pretty much all the ones they had in the local libraries (which is a bit of a surprise, but I guess they just spread them across the borough and if you're keen you'll get inter-library loans). Eight are Fontana (two with the lovely 60s covers), one's a 70s TV tie-in Granada edition, and one's a 90s Harper-Collins of the kind now current. There's probably a website somewhere devoted to Agatha Christie book covers, or will be, but until then there's Google Images. It doesn't do wonders for my shelf-clearing drive, but I'll hopefully work through them pretty quickly.

Friday, 16 February 2007

posting photos

I've worked out how to post photos (I'm not sure if it was always there and I didn't realise, or it's a new feature in the revised blogger). What I haven't worked out what to do is successfully quarter-rotate the photos so that the portrait formats come up portrait on the blog. So it's only landscape formats for the time being.

General photos will be in a new photo blog, photos of M in her private blog.

meet the flintstones

We went to Romsey Baptist Church a couple of weeks ago. Two funny things about the service. We sang a song to the tune of The Flintstones - which turns out to be a fine tune, when you don't sing it with the heavy accented rhythms of the theme tune, but still shouldn't ever be used for any words you want to be taken seriously, and especially you shouldn't retain any lines from the theme tune, like 'we'll have a yabbadoo time' (in heaven, you see...).

The other thing was that the preacher said very apologetically at the end of her sermon that her post-sermon song was very old, but she still felt it had something to say. I thought it might be a joke and we were getting a psalm, or perhaps a Wesley number. In fact it was 'I hear the sound of rustling in the leaves of the trees'. 'A blast from the past', said the worship leader afterwards.

david hepworth on lads mags

Interesting article by David Hepworth in The Guardian of Monday 3 July 2006 about the then-fuss over lad mags and 'the objectification of women and the general all-round hopelessness of regular young blokes'. He's not worried.

'Reading the po-faced correspondence that has stacked up on various news sites in the wake of this story, I was surprised to discover that there were people unaware that young blokes have a greater-than-average interest in pictures of footballers hurting themselves, half-naked girls from Planet Photoshop and unsophisticated jokes that cause one to expel lager through the nose.

'Newsflash. Young blokes of all social classes go to pubs and talk bollocks. This applies equally to the ones who will end up finding a cure for Aids and the ones who will wind up on D Wing. These magazines are designed to equip them in case they run out of rubbish. Though you never meet anyone who admits to being one, they have lots of readers: that young man who served you in the bank today, the plasterer working in your kitchen, the lad next door sitting GCSEs, the pinhead in the hoody at the bus stop.

'I know plenty of smart women who are enthralled by Heat and Big Brother. They do not believe this makes them empty-headed. However, they will not extend that same courtesy to young men. Too much exposure to pictures of David Beckham throwing up or "the world's most incredible boobs", they believe, and these chaps will go off like unguided missiles. Underneath it all is an assumption that young men are one-dimensional cartoons. In defence of the species, might I point to my 19-year-old son, who is currently reading Albert Camus while also uploading to YouTube footage of a friend drinking a bottle of ketchup for a bet. Any adult male who doesn't feel a pang of nostalgia for the times when they did something similar is being less than candid.

'While one might wish for a little more soul in their editorial mix or that one of these titles might just once abandon the relentless battle for the low ground and do something genuinely surprising, they are what they are because men are what they are. The men's magazines are not yet as refined in their targeting of their readers' baser instincts as are the women's titles, which have made great strides by appealing to the deep streak of meanness and envy running through their readership. Which is, of course, not to say that women are all mean and envious. But that's another column.'

tony bennett

A couple of quotes from a Tony Bennett interview article in October's Mojo.

'Mimi Speer, my singing coach on 52nd Street, said, "Imitate a musician; if you imitate another singer, you'll just be another one in the chorus."'

'Back in the Depression, you had to buy a record everyone in the family liked, so we bought and fell in love with Caruso. That was the beginning of a cultural upbringing and respect for a high level of art. ... The big corporations have a lot of employees they have to pay every week so they have to come up with something that will sell quick, so they created this tragic premise that this is your music, and your parents like the other kind, which actually split American and British families up. When the uncreative tell the creative what to do, it stops being art, it's marketing, like toothpaste or Coca-Cola.'

[Now] he is rightly treated as a precious family heirloom by the industry, the musicians and fans of all generations. ... The war between the long-hairs and their parents has ended in one big love-in. Tony, both of whose sons were in rock bands, wants the last laugh. 'I asked Jimmy Durante 45 years ago, What do you think of rock music? He said, "They play three chords and two of them are wrong!" Ha ha! I tell my sons that to this day!'


I'm pretty sure that when we had our second spell of snow, and people were talking about the disproportionate effect this had on our infrastructure, I heard David Cameron on the radio saying, 'We're not living in Fargo', which is interesting and amusing.


My cold meant that my precenting last Sunday was possibly my lowest pitching every - some in the congregation were probably thinking gratefully that my voice had at last broken.

The worst feeling is when as the first notes come out of your mouth you realise that you have forgotten how the tune goes. This has happened to me twice, both times with tunes that start with a descending scale (perhaps the same tune both times?). Both times I pressed on downwards, hopeful that I'd recross the path of the tune somewhere, and did.

I've stopped a tune a couple of times when I've pitched it too high and started it again a bit lower. It's quite hard to stop and start again at a lower pitch, though, and at least one of the times I didn't manage it, but decided I wasn't going to stop again, so just pressed on and toughed it out.

museums and galleries

Last Saturday morning M went with Bethan to Tate Britain; on Monday (this being half-term at the nursery) they went to the Horniman; on Wednesday they went to Tate Modern; on Thursday she and I went to the Wallace Collection; and today we went to the Museum of London.

She may grow up hating museums, galleries and theatres (it was 'theatre' she really wanted to go to today), but she's certainly comfortable with going into them, and aware of the potential treasures that lie in wait in the shop.

The Museum of London had special half-term events on today, but the one we were there for was so mobbed that we didn't pursue it (I hadn't mentioned it to her in advance) or wait around for the other one). At the Horniman she made a mammoth puppet with Bethan. The Wallace Collection had nothing special on, and was relatively quiet, but it's a tucked-away treasure, one family's collection, like the Sir John Soane's Museum, in a big old house. Once again I find it hard to believe I'm wandering past - and at this stage at least with M, there is little lingering before artworks - famous artworks familiar to me from print or screen, without crowds or apparent high security: here's The Laughing Cavalier, there's A Dance To The Music Of Time, there's some Gainsborough, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Velazquez,... Most of the Rembrandt was reclassified as probably not actually Rembrandt himself a while ago, but some of it's been regained, which they're pleased about.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

take that, vegetarians

Nice joke from Matt Kirshen (a stand-up I'm not familiar with) quoted in the Guardian Guide of Saturday 23 December:
- Would you eat an animal if you had to kill it yourself? Well, no - but I wouldn't eat any vegetables if I had to grow them myself.

mojo sgt pepper

I got Mojo this month also, because the cover CD was a set of covers of Sgt Pepper's. (Uncut did Revolver last year; perhaps I have the subsequent albums to look forward to over the next three years.) The covers showed a frankly astonishing lack of imagination, like bad covers bands. It did give me covers of six tracks I didn't have covers of before, but it's not very satisfying when they're so uninspired. Perhaps another listen will make me feel better disposed towards it; the Revolver wasn't great either, but it did turn out to have a Tomorrow Never Knows that will make it onto my year cd.

furlong road

Little did we realise when we lived on Bride Street and walked down
Furlong Road to Holloway Road that, according to the article on Elton John in last October's Mojo, Elton John, his fiancee Linda Woodrow, and Bernie Taupin lived in a basement flat together there (No 29, according to this site), 'until his confusion and desperation over his sexuality became apparent when he tried to gas himself, only to be discovered by Bernie.' Hence the song Someone Saved My Life Tonight.

edmund gosse on algernon swinburne

His lack of musical ear was a byword among his acquaintances. I once witnessed a practical joke played upon him, which made me indignant at the time, but which now seems innocent enough, and not without interest. A lady, having taken the rest of the company into her confidence, told Swinburne that she would render on the piano a very ancient Florentine ritornello which had just been discovered. She then played 'Three Blind Mice', and Swinburne was enchanted. He found that it reflected to perfection the cruel beauty of the Medicis - which perhaps it does.
- the 'Writers on writers' feature in the Guardian of Saturday 9 December 2006, quoting from Portraits and Sketches (1912)


While admitting that there may be a "shadow story" about the Holocaust behind We Wish to Inform You ..., he insists that "the Rwanda book is really about Rwanda. It's not about Africa. It's not about genocides broadly speaking. It's about what happened in that place, to those people." He did become aware of one thing that Rwanda in 1994 had in common with Germany in the 40s: "The people who did this are not, as some might think, a sort of savage bush society. It takes tremendous organisation to kill that number of people. We deceive ourselves by thinking 'oh, that's what happens when things fall apart'. These things are not the evidence of breakdown. They are evidence of deliberate coordination and intention."

The book is critical of western governments for their failure to intervene, and of UN troops who stood idly by as the killings continued. At one point, the blue-helmeted soldiers began shooting dogs which were roaming the streets and feasting on corpses. Gourevitch writes: "After months during which Rwandans had been left to wonder whether the UN troops knew how to shoot, because they never used their excellent weapons to stop the extermination of civilians, it turned out that the peacekeepers were very good shots ... The UN regarded the corpse-eating dogs as a health problem."

- Article on Philip Gourevitch in The Guardian of Saturday 9 December 2006.

Friday, 9 February 2007

how big are the omelettes?

Another reason I don’t like arguing is that I’m not very good after the event at doing the ‘forget about it and think about something else’ thing. Like a hen, I’m broody; like an elephant, I never forget. I am, in fact, a henephant.

The old joke. We've got a lot of trouble with our son; he thinks he's a chicken. We'd take him to see a psychiatrist about it... but we need the eggs.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

buildings with dates on

What kind of nutter would have a webpage with photos of dates on buildings? My kind of nutter, that's what. Watch that space.

tothesource; anne rice; religious wars

A link in the Web Evangelism Bulletin (which has the occasional thing for me, but I'm not at the centre of its demographic) led me to this interesting article on Anne Rice, the author of the vampire books, who appears to have made a 'return to the church', as they put it. Some of the quotes seem to bear it out. Although I guess there'll be less coverage if it later transpires that her return was temporary or less orthodox than might be desired.

(Not the same, but I read recently something that implied that the triple jumper Jonathan Edwards had lost his faith, which would be sad if true. He married someone who was a year or two ahead of me in school; I guess they met at university?)

I hadn't come across tothesource, before, so don't know anything about it except that it appears to be a US Christian opinion site (it doesn't give much away about itself, just carries its articles).

I see it carries another article making the point, which I've often thought, that although 'being the cause of war' is a stick commonly used to beat religion with, wars and genocides in the last hundred years, say, are more attributable to 'non-religion' (or at the very least happening despite the religion those involved claim to espouse). It makes the point in a bit more of a shouty way than I probably would. (Although the reason I try to avoid 'discussions', especially online, is that I am very easily drawn into being shouty. People who don't believe I used to have a terrible temper have never had a 'discussion' with me.) Interestingly, the biog at the end of the article includes the fact that the author, Dinesh D'Souza, served as senior domestic policy analyst in the White House in 1987-1988 (that is, under Reagan). I wonder how many senior domestic policy analysts there were.

Monday, 5 February 2007

what would happen if scotland achieved its independence?

Interesting article from the Independent of 5 February - don't know how long it'll stay out of the subscription area - on what would happen if scotland achieved its independence.

Their Yes and No summaries:
* Scotland would be much wealthier and better prepared than many other independent nations around the world
* Revenue from oil and other energy industries could be invested to provide a secure fund to support future generations
* Much of the political and civil infrastructure needed to administer the country is already in place, and the people are highly educated

* Without subsidy from the rest of the UK, it is claimed by unionists that there would be a fiscal deficit of up to £11bn
* Nationalist promises to cut taxes while increasing spending on pensions and higher education would put the country in the red
* If the bonds that unite Britain were severed, all the countries of the union would suffer economically and culturally

charlie brooker's screen wipe

The new series starts tonight. Radio Times (which is less fuddy-duddy than one might imagine) has a nice preview: 'Big Charlie Brooker returns to brighten up our Monday evenings with his bilious take on the best and worst of television. Brooker's show is like nothing else around: grimly lit and looming over the camera like an Easter Island statue with Tourette's, he spouts a stream of comments so visceral and bitter they make your eyes water, even as you cheer him on.'

He puts things significantly more crudely than we would, but his analysis and insight is bang on.


Tlon has been repossessed; we'll be sorry to see that go, if it goes, although the owner's a bit chipper in the SE1 story on the matter.

Friday, 2 February 2007

linvoy primus

Another article about a Christian footballer, this time Linvoy Primus of Portsmouth, in the Guardian of Saturday 27 January.

'Primus, 33, intends to dedicate his life to the Faith in Football project when he retires from playing and he admits that his willingness to embrace Christianity came largely as a reaction against the often shallow world of football.'
'His faith initially made him the subject of dressing-room banter but he never hid his beliefs and praying has now become routine for a growing group of Portsmouth players before matches. "The people who have found the Lord at this club have had their lives changed - Kanu, LuaLua, Sean Davis, Andy O'Brien, Benjani," he said. "We are not scared to say we pray together before games. We've got the laundry room at the club - there's two washing machines behind us and about 45 minutes before a game we link our arms and just pray that we can glorify God."'

The Guardian carries more articles on issues of faith than one might imagine - indeed sometimes they get readers, and columnists, complaining there's too much. Sadly, in these troubled times faith merits more coverage for reasons of geopolitics and terrorism than reasons of spirituality.

And they don't have a horoscope, not even in the Saturday magazine, which I'm not sure any of the other broadsheets can claim, even the Telegraph.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

microwaving dishcloths

From Saturday 27 January's Guardian's 'What we've learned' section:
- 99% of the pathogens found on a dishcloth are killed after two minutes in a microwave
- two people have so far set their houses on fire while attempting to sterilise dishcloths in this manner