Archive for November, 2005

Happy birthday, boyshapedbox

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

Happy birthday to you,
Zhu ni sheng re kuai le,
Happy birthday, dear Richard,
Happy birthday to youuuuuuu!

Many many happy returns of the day!

George Best

Friday, November 25th, 2005

I’m watching FBI Files right now instead of BBC 10’o clock news. George Best died today and all the news outlets have been full of it. He’s said to be the best football player ever (=US soccer, of course), but his last years have been marred by his alcoholism, his liver transplant, and his subsequent return to drinking. There won’t be much on this in the US (although it was on CNN online). He’s been dying by degrees for the past month, and last night he was supposed to be imminently dying. It took a while. The satellite trucks and commentators were hovering around the hospital. So I presume that the first 10-15 minutes of the news tonight, like the first 10 minutes of the BBC4 6 o’clock news, will be devoted to him. I already know enough about him.

So while I’m sad he’s gone, and gone in that particularly unfortunate way, I just want to avoid the news until he’s been planted.

It’s that queer agenda again…

Friday, November 25th, 2005

Watch out, the homosexual lifestyle vigilantes are on the loose, in the Onion, here.

On a related note, I wonder why there is no lesbian variant of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I should think that the potential for an interesting show is quite high.

Today’s quote from the New York Times

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

In an article about a company that specialises in cleaning up after deaths and other unpleasant biohazard events, comes the following quote:

“I don’t care if you’re black, white, rich or poor, whether you live in the projects or a penthouse, everyone smells the same when they die,” Mr. Gospodarski said as he scraped a caramel-colored goo off the floor of Apartment 6-F this spring.


Monday, November 21st, 2005

Just got skype working on the first laptop (we have a Chinese system of naming for our laptops: First Laptop and Second Laptop) and got my first call.

It was a wrong number.

Today’s sermon

Sunday, November 20th, 2005

As my homiletics professor at Dunwoodie used to say: “Preaching is like drilling for oil: if you don’t hit paydirt in five minutes, stop boring.” It was about 5 minutes long, just the right length for a cold church. St. John’s is just such a joy to visit; it really does energise me.

November 20, 2005-Feast of Christ the King
Sermon delivered at St. John the Evangelist, Larcom Street, 10 am.
Readings: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; Psalm 22; I Cor 15:20-26,28; Matthew 25:31-46

In the name of God, the one, the Undivided Trinity. AMEN.

My grandfather was from the American state of Vermont. He was a Methodist for many years, until he met my future grandmother, whose mother wouldn’t let her date a Protestant. He duly became a Roman Catholic, and thus the Pyramids.

While he was a Methodist, he served as a sidesman in the church in his hometown. One day he was taking up the collection at a service for the foreign missions. A man who was locally famous for being close with a penny was sitting in the pew, and when the collection for the missions was being taken, my grandfather passed the plate to this man, who returned it without making a contribution. My grandfather passed him the plate again, and the man said, “I’m sorry; I don’t believe in giving to the foreign missions.” My grandfather shoved the plate under the man’s nose and said, “Since it’s for the heathens, maybe you should take some out.”

Modern religious discourse often talks a lot more about sin than about virtue, charity, and grace. And not just about any old sin, such as disobedience, lying, theft, coveting one’s neighbour’s goods, or setting up of false gods, all of which regularly take place either in Parliament or in the City, in the name of party politics or Capitalism. The sin that religious leaders like to talk about is sexual immorality. In some cases, the other sins that I’ve listed above are crowded out by that one class of sin. The Anglican Communion is currently riven with dissention: this has many causes, but the “presenting” cause, as a doctor or nurse would say, is immorality.

We tend to think that our time on Earth is unique: the things that we do and the sins that we commit are novel, tied to our time and our love of newfangled gadgets such as automobiles and computers. Moral theologians might now debate the question of whether email spamming is a sin or not. If they can fit it in between discussions of immorality, they might get around to it. As we all know, sadly, there is nothing new under the sun, and new sins are just old sins dusted off and set on the mantlepiece.

It’s important for us to particularly look at the sins that Jesus mentions in today’s Gospel. Not feeding the hungry, not giving drink to the thirsty, not offering shelter to the stranger, not giving clothes to the naked, nor a kind word and a smile to those who are sick, nor visiting a prisoner. These are the actions that Jesus finds sinful, and that is as true today as it was then.

Now I shan’t wear out my welcome by saying that we should never consider anything else as sinful: a person who does all these things to strangers and yet treats his or her family badly or embezzles money from his or her employer (as rich as their employer may be) is sinning just as much as someone who never feeds the hungry or clothes the naked. So why does Jesus focus on these particular sins of omission?

Ezekiel talks about the Lord being the shepherd of his flock, and says that the Lord himself will find them when they’re lost, give them pasture, allow them to rest, bandage their wounds, and even look after the sheep that are healthy. Sheep in their pasture are actually so dumb that they will eat the grass right down to the roots and then starve to death rather than find a new patch of grass. They need to be led around to new fields by the shepherd.

But in the Gospel, instead of being the shepherd and providing for the sheep and the goats, Jesus becomes their judge. And the actors are reversed. The needy people among us are stand-ins for Jesus himself. So providing for the well-being of the poor and disadvantaged is providing for Jesus as well. It’s a radical thought, this: in Biblical times those who were disadvantaged, poor, in ill health, or without food were thought to have brought their misfortune on themselves by offending God in some way. Even their parents or grandparents may have offended God, and the effects were felt throughout the generations.

Jesus is telling us that these people are not under God’s wrath; in fact, God expects us to fill in for Him and help to provide for their well-being. Those who do not, do not know God and are unwitting accomplices in their own judgment. Note the surprise of both sheep and goats when told that they have or have not tended to Jesus in the person of their fellow people. It’s not obvious, without God’s grace, that helping others is actually serving God directly.

I think that, at the end of the day (and perhaps the phrase “at the end of the day” is uniquely applicable to the Last Judgment) there are two lessons to take away from today’s Gospel. The first one is the obvious one: ignore the needs of the people with whom you share Earth at your peril. Jesus expects us to be mindful of the needs of others and to do our best to help them live and thrive. If we don’t, we now know the consequences.

The second one is the one that we often miss. The person who is doing the judging is Jesus, the Son of God. Not us, not the priest, not the Archbishop, not the Pope, and certainly not the civil government. The standards we’re being judged against are not human standards-they’re God’s standards. And God’s standards are high indeed. Those who fail to recognise Jesus in their fellow humans do not pass that standard.But we are not competent to pass judgment on anyone. Jesus does that, in his role as King and Judge of all of us. Thus the name of today’s feast.

I recently learned that in some languages, the word for “sheep” and the word for “goat” is the same word. They don’t see them or eat them in some parts of the world, preferring other livestock, so they don’t need two words for these animals: they’re similar enough so that one word will do. Similarly, we can think about this: the only way to discern which are the sheep and which are the goats in our Gospel today is through the eyes of Jesus. We can’t do it: judgment is not ours to give.

Be aware of God’s grace working good things in our lives; be watchful for opportunities to help people here on earth; act as the shepherd does towards the sheep. Feed them and watch over them. Make sure that the advantages we have are not due to laying our burdens on the backs of other people, but rather from sharing out the bounty we have been given by God among everyone in need. Let God do the judging-we must stick to the giving. That is how to end up as sheep and not goats. AMEN

Priest Idol

Saturday, November 19th, 2005

This is a new program on Channel 4 here in the UK. A failing parish in the north of England, under the urging of their archdeacon, calls a priest from the United States to serve as vicar. They use the services of an ad agency and the priest’s industriousness to try to reverse the fortunes of the parish.

It’s an interesting program, made more interesting to me since I know the archdeacon. The Ven. Jonathan Greener was curate at St. Matthew’s at the Elephant, before becoming, in succession, Chaplain to the Bishop of Truro, Vicar of Church of the Good Shepherd in Brighton, and now Archdeacon of Pontefract in Wakefield diocese. He’s apt to have a mitre on his head before long.

The Grauniad says that the show includes a “faintly silly archdeacon”. Well, he may seem silly to some, but it’s probably because of the editing of the show.

We shall see what the parish and the priest get up to next week.

Have to get going on Sunday’s sermon

Friday, November 18th, 2005

The gospel is Matthew 25:31-46, the account of the Last Judgment where Jesus separates everyone into sheep (who care for other people) and goats (who don’t). Neither group is aware of their charity or lack of it.

I think that once I’ve given it, I’ll post it here. If anyone is in the area, then come to St. John’s, Larcom St (third left after the Elephant and Castle off Walworth Road) at 10 am. I realise that some aren’t interested, but I’m just narcissistic enough that I’d like to share it with everyone else. I suppose that means I have a chance of ending up with the goats.

The new “Little Britain”

Friday, November 18th, 2005

We watched it last night; I do hope that they up the comedy ante this season.

Some of the old skits absent this time around are: the projectile-vomiting lady, the giant agent and the very tiny actor, and the shopkeeper and his wife “Margret!?, Margret???” New this time around are: an incontinent elderly woman who loses control of her bladder in a shop, and a man who sends away for a mail-order Thai bride (pictured as slim and sexy in the magazine) and who gets a rather obese lady complete with suitcase ringing his front doorbell.

Returning are: Sebastian and the Prime Minister (who needs Sebastian to destroy some evidence), Dafydd (the Only Gay in the Village, who’s put up a personal ad at the local newsagent’s), Vicki Pollard, the wheelchair-unbound man with his friend (both of whose skit-names I forget), the “We are Ladiez!” couple, one of whom discovers in Brighton that she hadn’t shaved that morning and goes to a chemist’s shop for surprising results. (I like it when these things are filmed in places I’ve been and remember well). And, of course Bubbles de Vere, who meets her ex-husband’s new wife for the first time when they show up at the spa.

I think that this may be the last season, judging from some of the quality. They’re going for the belly-laughs from slapstick (watch Vicki trying to compete with a young lithe break-dancing girl; cringe as the incontenent lady pees more than an elephant all over the floor, see the Prime Minister in Sebastian’s clutches), and the new skits aren’t necessarily very funny. One of the glories of British TV humour is that, generally (with the notable exception of Absolutely Fabulous) the writers and cast of a show know when it’s time to stop and do something different.

Innovation often becomes tired after two to three seasons. One of the reasons Fawlty Towers is still endlessly rerun on all channels that can is that it was hilariously funny and didn’t wear out its welcome. Thus, we welcome it still. I hope we’ll be able to welcome Little Britain for years after it’s ended its run, and the the stars will continue to innovate in other vehicles.

Urban foxes

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

I got up this morning later than usual as I hadn’t slept well in the middle of the night. I looked out the back door onto our rather unmowed back garden (=yard for the UK-challenged). There had been an orange candle in the garden and I had put it on the windowsill rather than throwing it out (you never know when you’ll need a candle, I guess). It was on the patio this morning. I thought “Wind’s blown it off the windowsill” and put it out of my mind as I started to make breakfast.

HWMBO came downstairs, we ate breakfast, and then as I began my morning trawl through the emails he called me to the back door and asked what had happened to the candle. I told him that I thought it had blown off the windowsill. He said, “And there’s something else in the garden. Get the key and take a look.” So I did. As I opened the door, what should we see but a fox, streaking out from under a shrub. We only saw his tail in our garden, but then he climbed over the fence between the next garden and the one next to that, and we saw all of him. He was about as big as a largeish cat (overfed cat) or a smallish dog (underfed dog). I picked up the candle and it had toothmarks all over it. So the wind hadn’t blown it off the windowsill; the fox had jumped up thinking the candle was edible and been disappointed.

I hear about urban foxes quite often, but have never, until this morning, seen one.

HWMBO hopes that the fox hasn’t eaten our squirrels, as they’ve been scarce lately.

Odd spam today

Sunday, November 13th, 2005

From time to time I look at the text of spam messages that MailWasher Pro finds, just for fun. Came across the following today (with the link removed):

SPERMAMAX consists of 200% of Vitamin C.
Research has shown no side effects associated with SPERMAMAX.
Make the bed soaking wet with the amount of sperm that you can get by using Spermamax.

Now I can see something that is 100% Vitamin C, but 200%?

And who will be sleeping on the wet spot, pray tell?

Gosh–I never even took chemistry!

Sunday, November 13th, 2005

but I passed 8th grade science. Woo!

You Passed 8th Grade Science

Congratulations, you got 8/8 correct!
Could You Pass 8th Grade Science?

Anyone need a bit of a touch-up?

Saturday, November 12th, 2005

Try this guy’s service: $250 minimum, but you’re guaranteed to look your best. Click on a picture, then follow the instructions.

I’m surprised that the subjects of the photos gave permission for him to use their pics on the website. Maybe they didn’t pay up.

Two prostitution stories in one day

Saturday, November 12th, 2005

Woo haaa! Another item to blame on the hurricanes. Talk about a “blow job”…seems those hurricanes don’t just suck, they blow too.

Today’s item for the working girls of Brisbane

Saturday, November 12th, 2005

They’re now able to get regular breaks. You gotta admire those Ozzies; they don’t overwork the sheilas.

Average American?

Friday, November 11th, 2005
You Are 70% “Average American”

You are average because you support affirmative action.

You are not average since you have (at least) a college degree.

How “Average American” Are You?

I really took this quiz just because I liked the flip-flops.

Today’s Six Feet Under story

Thursday, November 10th, 2005

…comes from The Inquirer. It seems that Irish folk are so attached to their mobiles that they want to take them with them.

My birthday present…

Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

…to me was an extra 1 GB of memory in our desktop computer. It was 512 MB before; now it’s 1.5 GB. It flies. HWMBO is constantly observing that the machine is slow and I really need to take some stuff off it. Instead, I put some stuff on it. I also took the opportunity to vacuum the machine out (dust is flammable, you know) and remove the SCSI card which I no longer need since I bought the SCSI/USB adapter.

I used to put my own computers together; I only relented and bought this computer when my last home-brew’s power supply conked out. However, it’s good to keep your hand in by being able to replace memory, insert new hard disks, insert and remove cards, and generally be able to find your way around the inside of a computer. It’s out of warranty, so there are no consequences to opening it up.

As the machine is now faster, this was not only a present to me, it was a present to HWMBO too. The present that keeps on giving.

(psst!) I bought him his own domain name this week: He doesn’t know it yet. I’m saving it up for his birthday next month.

Today’s candidate for next year’s Ig-Nobel prize

Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

You may wish to share this one with your cow-orkers. It’s now official: cow-tipping is difficult.

The wonders of the criminal mind

Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

We may have a dead parrot to deal with here, unfortunately; however, dead parrots may tell no tales, according to this burglar. Beware: for the UK-challenged, there’s a lot of British slang in this article; translation will be provided upon application.

Tuesday morning funny

Tuesday, November 8th, 2005

If you’re a computer-head, but also have a sense of humour that was developed before the 1960’s, you’ll find this funny.

Today’s Astronomy URL

Tuesday, November 8th, 2005

I think that, with the number of asteroids far outnumbering the classical Greek, Roman, and Other mythological names, it’s very imaginative for a team of Bulgarian astronomers to name their latest find after a local celebrity: details are here. The picture is especially fine.

Bishop Robinson speaks

Saturday, November 5th, 2005

HWMBO and I just returned from St. Martin in the Fields church in central London, where Changing Attitude had its 10th Anniversary service capped by an address by Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Everything was fantastic. Gene is an absolutely fabulous preacher (although this sermon was after the service and it was an “address”, not a sermon) and spoke for more than an hour with minimal notes. However, I hope someone publishes the text, because he was superb. His basic massage was “I (ie, Gene Robinson) am not the message; Jesus is the message.” and he elaborated on that theme for the entire time.

We saw our former rector. Angus, who was sprightly and warm as ever; we saw many friends and had a nice time at the reception. Some photojournalist from the Telegraph took a photo of my Rainbow lapel badge because my lapel was pinstripe and I guess he thought it would appeal to the Torygraph’s rightwing blue rinse readers.

The music was fabulous, although they seemed to think that some of the old hymns weren’t good enough, and set new words to them, which haven’t yet stood the test of time.

Last night at the party for Changing Attitude volunteers, Gene autographed my copy of his ordination program…he was surrounded by minders after the consecration and hardly anyone could get close enough to him to speak with him. He’s very approachable and has an uproarious laugh. I suppose he needs to laugh a lot.

Jeffrey John was also at the party last night. He has put on some weight since I saw him last (which was before all the foofaraw over his appointment as Bishop of Reading). He’s been through the wringer so I guess I don’t begrudge him a bite or two. It turns out that he and Gene were in regular email contact but had never actually met before last night.

The question I wanted to ask Gene was: “Given that the US Presiding Bishop election is next summer, what do you think the Anglican Communion’s reaction would be to the first openly gay primate.” I didn’t get a chance to ask it, more’s the pity.

This cartoon says it all

Saturday, November 5th, 2005

…and no further comment from me is required.

A non-invasive website hit counter

Thursday, November 3rd, 2005

I’m sure that some of you out there will know of a non-invasive (that is, one that doesn’t depend on another site) website hit counter. I do not want to have one which has to go to another site, as it’s likely that it collects more than your hit statistics. Some of them also serve up ads, which I object to.

If you do, could you give me a pointer to where it is, or a web reference so that I can investigate it myself? A google produced thousands of hits on so-called “free” hit counters, all of which serve up ads.

This kid is a genius!

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

He tracked down his sperm donor father using his own DNA test and the Internet.

I think he’s a really enterprising kid and should go far.

My ISEB pass average

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

Regular readers of my lj may remember that I conducted an ISEB Foundation Course in Software Testing in Wiltshire a few weeks ago. I had doubts as to whether the majority of those in the course would pass, judging from their responses in class and the results of their mock exams. Well, I got their results today, as well as the results at Searchspace. In Wiltshire, 11 out of 13 passed; at Searchspace, all 8 passed. So my lifetime “batting” average is 90.6% (58 out of 64 delegates to my courses have passed). I am really pleased for all the delegates who passed and hope that my good lifetime pass rate will continue. Good pass rates mean more work for me. The agency that developed the course and also delivers it has about a 76% pass rate overall. Congratulations to all!!

RIP, Six Feet Under (in the UK)

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

Perhaps the content of my dream (see below) came from watching the last episode of Six Feet Under. I know it was shown months ago in the US (I even knew how it ended) but we’re always a bit behind.

I thought the last scenes, where the deaths of the main characters were shown, was touching. HWMBO, on the other hand, thought they were silly. This is the difference between Western and Chinese culture, I guess.

I think that one aspect of the show that is very important is the commonplace way in which it dealt with death as a part of life. Death was the Fishers’ life. And, for several seasons, it was part of ours too. Death is sanitised these days. Years ago, when people were waked in their front parlours, you couldn’t escape it. When Grandpa died, they put him in a suit, in his coffin, with a block of ice beneath, and had visitors come to the house to pay their respects. Today you go to a funeral home, where everything is taken care of, no ice is necessary, and you don’t have to go upstairs and sleep with Grandpa dead in the front room (unless you own the funeral home, that is!) Death is often messy, horrible, and terrifying, but it’s the last chapter of life and is one that we’ll all have to read, sooner or later. As I get older this is often brought home to me forcefully because of the deterioration (slow but steady) in my own health.

I’m sad that it’s over–I wanted to watch the kids grow up a bit more; am curious as to how Keith and David dealt with one of their sons’ homosexuality (note that in the scene at the end where Claire was getting married the son on the left was holding hands with his Asian boyfriend).

I guess it’s better to leave ’em smiling through their tears rather than keep a show going until the bitter end. That’s especially true about a show that was all about endings.

Last night I dreamt….

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

….that I was a worker in the Prine Minister’s office. I may have even been a junior minister (and thus a member of Parliament). However, there was turmoil in the office. It was the end of the parliamentary year, and the Prime Minister was going through all those who worked in the office and judging whether they should continue or not. One by one those who worked in the office were called in to his office and told of their fate; some left smiling, others in tears. I wasn’t called until next to last. At that point, I went in, some Prime Ministerial aides hovered around, then l sat down, the aides left, and the Prime Minister lookd me straight in the eye and asked, “Chris, is life but a fly?” I became quite indignant and told him of my friend Richard, who had just died at a tremendously young age, and ended: “Prime Minister, life is very important; it is not just a fly.” He smiled and said, “I’ll see you Monday.” (meaning that I had kept my job, I guess). Another co-worker and I then went to a party for the office.

Now, I’m not a Labour voter (I’m a Liberal Democrat) and I don’t admire the Prime Minister, so there must be a deeper meaning to all this. I don’t usually remember dreams very well, so the fact that I’ve remembered the situation and the phrase about the fly must be significant, in some way.

I think I’ve passed some sort of test, anyway.

Ever said to your self “I want to…”

Tuesday, November 1st, 2005

…and followed that with some computer or ‘net activity that you’d have dearly loved to have done but hadn’t the faintest idea where to start?

Phil Bradley’s I want to page is a gold mine of such wishes. His main page has lots of interesting links on it too.

A Halloween story

Tuesday, November 1st, 2005

Normally they pop the skull fragments in the freezer. But for this guy, they made an exception.