Thursday, November 30, 2006
Being alone in a foreign country causes one to seek cybercompanionship more than perhaps the simpler but more responsible pleasures of wife and family. Peeking into the world of cybernet curtains, behind which sit fat naked men claiming to be fourteen year old girls from Ipswich, postings on boards that probably few read and the fertility of overfevered imagination whiles away many a twilight. Also, posts are probably so lacking in interest to anyone but their authors that viruses spread their infection elsewhere. This caught my eye, from the guru of bloggers, Robert Scoble & Shel Israel .. An Excerpt from Naked Conversations: Bloggings's Six Pillars: There are six key differences between blogging and any other communications channel. You can find any of them elsewhere. These are the Six Pillars of Blogging:
1.Publishable.Anyone can publish a blog.You can do it cheaply and post often. Each posting is instantly available worldwide.
2.Findable. Through search engines, people will find blogs by subject, by author, or both. The more you post, the more findable you become.
3.Social. The blogosphere is one big conversation. Interesting topical conversations move from site to site, linking to each other. Through blogs, people with shared interests build relationships unrestricted by geographic borders.
4.Viral. Information often spreads faster through blogs than via a newsservice. No form of viral marketing matches the speed and efficiency of a blog.
5.Syndicatable. By clicking on an icon, you can get free "home delivery" of RSS- enabled blogs into your e-mail software. RSS lets you know when a blog you subscribe to is updated, saving you search time. This process is considerably more efficient than the last- generation method of visiting one page of one web site at a time looking for changes.
6.Linkable. Because each blog can link to all others, every blogger has access to the tens of millions of people who visit the blogosphere every day.
The seventh is a variation on my own theme:
7. We all hate total brain dumps. We're still metaphorically in our high chair, being fed information in small gobbets with entertaining subplots 'here comes the airplane.....' taking more if we wish after we've digested what we've received so far.
So far, so good. I rather think I'm going to put together a blog of an entirely different water next time. Perhaps something educational, with all sorts of weird overtones to trap the unwary....
The title? Oh, that's an anagram of "Blogging: hours of endless entertainment." Tee hee
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Kuwait. A long, thin drinkawater of a country, approximately one-third the size of Wales. Most of the inhabitants are coastal, and Kuwait City to the Saudi border is one long suburban sprawl. A car seems to be essential, preferably huge, 4WD with a highly efficient air conditioner, but in the interim, taxis will have to do. The bus service is cheaper, but less regular. The 120kph freeway limit is, remarkably, adhered to with some rigour, most cars and all the taxis having audible speed limiters. This of course is the Holy Month of Ramadan, let joy be unconfined. I though a colleague was joking when she told me that the police will arrest anyone caught smoking in public, apparently not. Spending the rest of Ramadan in a Kuwaiti jail isn't tempting, thus I have to be more self-controlled than usual, which is hard for me.
The Month of Ramadan is also when it is believed the Holy Quran "was sent down from heaven, a guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation". Excellent.
Ramadan is a time when Muslims are supposed to concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation, or so I am told...
One is not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting. At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar. In the evening following the iftar it is customary for Muslims to go out visiting family and friends, which is why you can never get a parking space in the mall. According to the Quran:
One may eat and drink at any time during the night "until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight: then keep the fast until night"
The good that is acquired through the fast can be destroyed by five things -
the telling of a lie
denouncing someone behind his back
a false oath
greed or covetousness
All very fine. Doesn't help that everyone's blood sugar is lowered thus bad temper is commonplace., so roll on 24th October, and Eid. The towers in the image are quite spectacular when seen close up..
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Philippians 4:19 notwithstanding, one is sometimes tempted to ask the question 'how?' And yet, so many times, usually at the last moment (please someone buy the guy a watch) the remarkable fact remains that as a believer, I am able to wait in confidence simply because God is committed to providing.
It has been said that worry is a form of atheism, saying, "It all depends on me." Worry is a warning light that we doubt the love of God. Put more properly, we doubt the unconditional love of God. H'm. The image is of Greek worry beads (Komboloi) but the idea originated thousands of years ago in the prayer beads of many cultures and traditions...Hindu, Christian and Moslem. Today they are used for their comforting effect....helping smokers to quit, the anxious to breathe more deeply, the very pregnant to be patient...and people like me, I suppose.
Perhaps I should get some, counting being soothing, whether hours, days or beads.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
A gaggle of girls is 'working together'. This in reality means extensive magpie chatter, interspersed with a furtive look in my direction to see if I am paying attention. A few, a very few, are taking the task seriously, and have produced reams, emailspeak and creative spelling notwithstanding. The fashion for alternative and temporary tattooing is highly developed here and red hieroglyph is evident on a few female forearms. Some boys are stretching the bounds of my patience. This I think is the perfectly legitimate, albeit irritating habit of the young bullocks pushing against the fence. Sometimes, I wish it were electrified.
I realised last Friday why I could never teach in the UK again. Having been sent to a 'challenging' school, a euphemism for behaviour so ungovernable that one is torn between zookeeping and babyminding, in an area whose remote claim to notoriety is the high percentage of incestuous relationships in the peninsula. Within a few minutes, it rapidly became clear that shouting and imprecation only amused the population, neither intimidating them nor creating an environment where fragments of knowledge might be acquired. I therefore remained Stoic, my wa undented, allowing the mayhem to subside to an unchallenging murmur. Lao-Tzu would have been proud, in a similar way that, as in the Christian monasteries, a code of order and internal discipline is maintained regardless of external circumstances. Taoist quietism is an attitude imposed by social circumstances, by the Movement of Heaven, and remains for each to appreciate when it is the time to "withdraw" or to "advance". Strategic withdrawal seemed appropriate. The image is of my old school, and at the time when the lithograph was first created, floggings were commonplace and detentions involved copying Georgics out. Sic transit..
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Mark Twain once wrote: 'I have seen all the foreign countries I want to except heaven and hell and I have only a vague curiosity about one of those.'
Ireland clearly wasn't on his list. The sheer joie de vivre of its citizenry, together with some of the greatest authors and poets this part of the planet has ever seen, also the strong possibility of myself having Irish antecedents, have persuaded me to overlook an unwholesomely damp climate. I imagine my ancestors, gritty Celts all, bestriding the hills with the braggadocio of a proud, unconquered race. Well, not since 1690, at any rate. This homespun image of a Bantry village dwelling gives little indication that the Atlantic water lapping its borders is probably freezing. Never mind. I must take care not to fall in.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Imagine thirty three essays on individual books of the Bible, written by secular, big-name authors, from A N Wilson to Nick Cave. The illustrious pour their offerings into its pages. Bright-eyed skepticism shines through their craft. Is this such a bad thing, I wonder? At first reading , a god who orders the genocide of the Amalekites, the slaying of Isaac and much else besides would seem to be despotic at best and psychotic at worst. Yet, it depends how the narrative speaks to us. The KJV is deliberately flowery and ambiguous since it attempts to convey myth and grandeur in a form which will be remembered when more modern and prosaic translations have disappeared. Evangelicals assert often noisy ownership of perceived facts when perhaps the message of myth (Gk muthoi: [Homer] meaning 'powerful and authoritative stories') isn't to propagate an untruth or a fairytale, it's simply there to shed a different light on things. Simply put, I think we're supposed to read between the lines a bit.
John's gospel speaks of the time when the apostle Thomas re-enters the post-resurrection story and still refuses to believe that Jesus truly has risen. Thomas had to feel for himself Jesus' wounds or else he could not believe. Even though Jesus apparently had miraculously entered into the room while the door was locked, Jesus still saw fit to allow Thomas to examine his body, providing Thomas with the proof he needed. Jesus' response was, "do not doubt, but believe." I think Thomas is an archetype of humanity, us, in other words. We all have the capacity to doubt. In many ways, doubting and investigation are survival mechanisms, and if we did not doubt, our species wouldn't have lasted very long. If we didn't base our sense of reality on empirical evidence, we would believe just about everything we were told. We might believe that trolls inhabit Antarctica, or that cats talk outside No 4 Privet Drive. Thomas's doubt is ours, too, our nemesis and companion, our secret haunting. I think that doubt is not necessarily a lack of faith but rather an expression of it. Sometimes to doubt is merely to insist that God be taken seriously, not frivolously—to insist that our faith is placed in and upheld by something other than apparent conjuring tricks.
Image:Caravaggio. Doubting Thomas. 1602-1603. Oil on canvas. Sanssouci, Potsdam, Germany.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
My own views on such silly nonsense are well known to those who are misguided enough to allow me room to express them . I don't think I could have gone as far as John Bunyan, born an itinerant tinker, whose statue stands proudly in Bedford and who spent twelve years in Bedford jail for his outspokenness. Apart from early propensities to command puddles to 'be ye dry', subsequently he wrote in scathing terms against the liturgy of the Church of England. No two things, according to him, had less affinity than the form of prayer and the spirit of prayer. Those who have most of the spirit of prayer are all to be found in jail, and those who have most zeal for the form of prayer are all to be found at the alehouse. H'm.
I think it's fascinating. The grid shows a red 8x3 triangle a smaller green one and two purple and yellow shapes of area 8 and 7. Rearranging the pattern seeems to leave one square missing. I wonder why...? Clever, innit.. The same trick can be applied with other Fibonacci configurations sometimes with one square too many, at other times one square too few.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
The inscription to Psalm 84 is "according to The Gittith" which is thought to be an eight-stringed instrument very much like a guitar. Talented chap, King David. Might have been fun to pick along with, particularly since he seemed so in touch with God. When he talked about the 'dwelling place' of God, he meant the Temple, the building in Jerusalem where Shekinah was. The word is feminine..interesting, that. In the holy of holies within the Temple was a strange and mysterious light which marked the presence of God. Back to Holy Fire again. I was with a friend the other day, playing a few riffs on my old guitar, and got quite caught up in a song I hadn't heard for a long time; 'Outrageous Grace'.. my small Holy of Holies for that moment, finding the 'dwelling place'...
Here's the lyrics, in case you've forgotten them. Thanks to Godfrey Birtill
THERE'S A LOT OF PAIN, but a lot more healing
There’s a lot of trouble but a lot more peace
There’s a lot of hate but a lot more loving
There’s a lot of sin but a lot more grace
Oh outrageous grace
oh outrageous grace
Love unfurled by heaven’s hand
Oh outrageous grace
oh outrageous grace
Through my Jesus I can stand
There’s a lot of fear but a lot more freedom
There’s a lot of darkness but a lot more light
There’s a lot of cloud but a lot more vision
There’s a lot of perishing but a lot more life
There’s an enemy
That seeks to kill what it can’t control
It twists and turns
Making mountains out of molehills
But I will call on my Lord
Who is worthy of praise
I run to Him and I am saved
Ah, well. Ramblings over for another night.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
"Suppose a newly-born pair of rabbits, one male, one female, are put in a field. Rabbits are able to mate at the age of one month so that at the end of its second month a female can produce another pair of rabbits. Suppose that the rabbits live for ever and that the female always produces one new pair (one male, one female) every month from the second month on. How many pairs will there be in one year? "
Counting in months then, we've got:
1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34 (September 1st already...),55,89,144,233...
Fascinating, isn't it.You all can see the pattern and could easily find out the next number in the series.. Dividing the next larger by the previous settles down to a MAGIC number, phi, the Golden Ratio, 1·618034 . More fun here than you can shake a stick at.
I shall return later with some amusing divertimenti around the golden ratio.... In particular, concerning cauliflowers, bees and what not.
Work tomorrow at a somewhat unprepossessing but necessary environment in order to earn a crust, cigarettes being of such a cost that loans and mortgages are required to fund the evil habit. Ergh.
A colder, smaller and less expensive resonance of Dubai, the image is of the Spinnaker Tower ( one 'n' or two, dependent on preference, it would seem) from whose lofty heights views over the Solent are incomparable. Except when it rains. I am advised the structure went astronomically over budget, which is comforting. So did the Millennium Bridge, the Channel Tunnel and the Welsh Assembly Building. Give these people calculators. A colleague with a history degree informs me (somewhat loftily) that the Palace of Westminster was similarly afflicted in the nineteenth century. Perhaps calculators are not required, merely a more robust economic worldwiew.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Hanan. Aka the 'entertainment' Six going on fourteen, with a vocabulary to match.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Friday, February 10, 2006
The cartoons have sparked diplomatic sanctions and death threats in some Arab nations, while media watchdogs have defended publication of the images in the name of press freedom.
Reporters Without Borders said the reaction in the Arab world "betrays a lack of understanding" of press freedom as "an essential accomplishment of democracy." Yeah, exactly. The word carries a very different meaning in some parts of the world, the West supporting its own flavour in preference to 'others'. I think we must be fated to develop societies based on an adversarial consciousness. Paradoxically, since most societies have anything more a passing understanding of where they came from, they conceal from themselves the risks that threaten their future.
The image is of a rare orchid, which will lift spirits.
Friday, February 03, 2006
With the benefit of hindsight I would surely be able to make much more sense of 1850's gadgetry than if I were to travel the same time period from now into the future. The unrelenting arrow, the diode of time, pushes us all inexorably forwards. What would Newton have made of mobile phones? Or Leonardo, laptops? Hemingway once wrote 'the past is a foreign country'. In which case, the future must be a parallel universe.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
How quickly the annual bananafest and Los Angeles bonhomie creeps up on us. I do hope all the gay backslapping has finally broken it's back and a worthy winner will be found for best film in the form of Good Night and Good Luck with a riveting performance by David Strathairn. Nice to see our very own Dame JD as the spectacularly rude Mrs Henderson, a coup if she collected, one feels. Best support might be Rachel Weisz's but the sheer quality of 'The Constant Gardener' might have simply swept her up for the ride.
The image? Oh. Nothing to do with the above. It's Janica Kostelic, the Croatian skier. Years ago, my son and I skied in Austria with Ante, her father, and Ivo her older brother. They were both much faster than me. I must give back the gloves I borrowed....
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I wondered if the aims and objectives of the above have changed since May 2005, when the US Navy produced their report, part of which follows....
Islamic Resistance Movement
HAMAS was formed in late 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Various HAMAS elements have used both violent and political means, including terrorism, to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in Israel. It is loosely structured, with some elements working clandestinely and others operating openly through mosques and social service institutions to recruit members, raise money, organize activities, and distribute propaganda. HAMAS’ strength is concentrated in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
HAMAS terrorists, especially those in the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have conducted many attacks, including large-scale suicide bombings, against Israeli civilian and military targets. HAMAS maintained the pace of its operational activity in 2004, claiming numerous attacks against Israeli interests. HAMAS has not yet directly targeted US interests, although the group makes little or no effort to avoid targets frequented by foreigners. HAMAS continues to confine its attacks to Israelis inside Israel and the occupied territories.
H'm. Yassir Arafat is turning in his grave.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
BURJ AL ARAB
'Built in the shape of an Arabian dhow sail and dominating the Dubai coastline, this is one of the world’s most spectacular and incomparably luxurious hotels. It offers unparalleled standards of comfort and service in a unique and unforgettably lavish setting.....'
H'm.. Nice, innit...Drove past it in a Mercedes cab, which stops if requested for the poor and unwashed to gawp at the admittedly impressive structure. All suites - the Sultan of Brunei keeps a $24,000 penthouse here all year round, visiting perhaps twice a year. H'm
Thursday, January 19, 2006
The image is of two hesitant and rather well-heeled suicide bombers from the movie.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
It's a very lazy Sunday here, temperatures tipping the 70's and a pleasant afternoon for a chilled salad. I find my thoughts wandering in all kinds of slightly divergent directions, and find myself musing about women. One in particular, and the fact that I miss her very much. Being Sunday, I've been turning my attention to worship. Well, not because it's Sunday, instead perhaps just because I picked up my guitar and began to play. I can hear her voice in my mind, that massive, rich contralto singing 'This is the Air I Breathe', and my spine melting.....
C.S. Lewis wrote - "It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men." His presence. H'm. It's not a 'place', neither is it constrained by a timeframe, just a sense of being and completeness. Almost a loss for words. Lamar Boschman from the International Worship Institute in Fort Worth puts it well...
“When I worship, I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without heart.”
I miss my guitar. A 1976 Martin D28 which helped me countless times towards visions of Shekinah. The image is of a Martin D45 Celtic Knot, possibly one of the finest instruments in production. One day....yeah.
Tomorrow is my birthday, shared with loads of people I've never heard of, most of whom are dead. Also Martin Luther King Day. Enjoy..
Friday, January 13, 2006
The Christian philosopher and Biblical apologist Immanuel Swedenborg once wrote..
Number 13 consists of the number 10 and number 3. Number 3 is a holy number and as it is part of number 13, the holiness of number 13 remains.
Which, I suppose, only goes to show what a little fuzzy logic can do for an argument.
Numbers have always fascinated me, in particular, our attempts to ascribe specific meanings to them. I remember reading 'The Bible Code' with interest until it became clear that the weight of statistical evidence had overcome the tingling bravura of it's findings and it turned out not to be true after all.
Still, in any given year there can only be a maximum of three Fridays the Thirteenth, so I guess we can all rest easily in our beds for over 99% of the year.
The image is of Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, a treasure house for Templar-watchers. Oh, and, yes. I have read the daVinci Code (along with about 80% of all sentient life-forms on the planet), believing about a third of it.
I still have 'things', which I look after. However, if it came time to leave them behind, walk away from them and not look back, I believe that I have moved far enough along my pilgrimage to be able to do so without regret. Which is quite a liberating feeling....
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Gateways suggest leaving and arrival. Leaving - sometimes a matter for regret; I wonder if those walking towards us in the image, like Lot's wife, ever looked back? Or, are they leaving with a sense of accomplishment, work well done, completed.
Arrival.. are they 'turning for home'?
"I can tell by the way you're standing with your eyes filling with tears
that it's habit alone keeps you turning for home when you know that your home is right here.
Where the people who love you are gathered under the wise wishing tree. May we all be considered then straight on delivered down to the Jubilee......."
In the movie "Summer of '42", there was a line..'life is full of small comings and goings...' Perhaps that's why I love airports so much.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
I wonder, nevertheless, what the odds are....
From Steilacoom to Jerusalem
I wonder how often Susan has seen this sunset? Puget Sound as dusk falls, the snow geese calling as they return home.
What particular cosmic wrinkle caused this unique juxtaposition of lives?
Einstein famously remarked that 'God does not play dice'. In that case, he's very good at cards.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Dear old Uncle Albert Einstein (Jewish but will probably make it)
King David (so he can tell me all about Bathsheba, was she really worth it?)
My real father (whoever he is)
Galileo (anybody who can talk back to the Pope gets my vote)
and, of course...Yeshua Sabaoth (who has fought for me all my life, as a good elder brother should)
I wonder what my lovely ball of fire is doing at the moment. She's from America, you know, so whatever she's doing, wrinkles will appear in the fabric of the Universe, rippling outwards and rocking small, unstable spacecraft. Oh. Me? I teach physics and mathematics, the music of the spheres, the subversion of Galileo and the existence and awesomely intimate abilities of God to look after, husband, prune and harvest the creation it took him all of 144 hours to stitch together. Stay with me. Push through the furs. You might find the scenery interesting. Where we go from here in the diary depends on Ruach ha-Kodesh...