Archive for December, 2006

Quote of the day

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

…is from Itche Goldberg, recently deceased at 102, and the editor of the one of the last Yiddish periodicals in the world, Yiddishe Kultur. The magazine has been in danger of closure for many years (and has now probably died with the death of its editor). But he always had hope that it could be saved:

“You get the impression that I’m full of fight? I’m not really. I might as well tell you: I only have two dreams. One dream is that someone will knock on the door and I will open it and they give me a check for $150,000 for the magazine. Second dream is that someone knocks at the door and I open it up and he gives me a corned beef sandwich.

Those are my only two dreams. I’m not asking for much. Really, I’m not. And I think they’re both reachable.”

What a delightful man he must have been.

Saddam is dead…

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

…and so why am I sad?

I think that few would disagree with the statement that Saddam Hussein was an evil, selfish, murderous individual who had either personally killed or authorised the killings of thousands of people, many innocent. So why do I feel sadness and apprehension at his death?

In the end, we all die, some more peacefully than others. Hanging is not a pleasant way to go: even if it’s done swiftly, I’m certain that the instant between the trap door opening and the snapping of the neck seems like an eternity. Saddam is said to have shown fear as he was led into the death chamber. Who wouldn’t?

What makes me sad is that this act, finally, shows us what we are as a society. America and Britain went into Iraq on a spurious report of weapons of mass destruction, took on an army that was unprepared and unorganised, routed it, drove Saddam into hiding for many months, and then stood by and guarded him while the Iraqis tried him (and judges and lawyers lost their lives prosecuting and defending him), convicted him (would any Iraqi court have acquitted him?), sentenced him to hang, and then waited outside the death chamber while the Iraqis themselves carried out the sentence, for fear that the US and Britain would be associated with the final chapter in his life.

This happened while the call to morning prayer rang out from the minarets of Baghdad. Saddam carried a Qu’ran into the chamber and then handed it to someone asking that it be given to a friend. He shouted the Muslim statement of faith before the noose was placed around his neck. He will be accounted by many in Iraq as a shahid, a martyr.

The civil war in Iraq will get worse. We will not be able to extricate ourselves without condemning many more thousands of Iraqis to death at the hands of fellow Iraqis in death squads.

Who then will pay for those murders? You can only hang a person once, you know.

My faith tells me that capital punishment is wrong. No matter whether it’s Saddam Hussein, the Birdman of Alcatraz, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Rosenbergs, or any of the numerous murderers and criminals who have been executed in the past: it’s wrong. It never solves the problem, soothes the hurt, or brings back the victims. It just piles death onto death, and there is no sign it will end soon.

It will surely be a bumpy ride.

Today’s Dumbf**k Blogger URL

Monday, December 25th, 2006

Remember, if you’re posted to East Jesus, Nebraska or West Bumf**k, Minnesota, fer fuxache DON’T tell your blog’s readership what a s**thole it is, or there may be repercussions. But if you want a free chocolate, you should go to Thornton’s in Barrow-on-Furness.

Today’s Christmas Cheer URL

Monday, December 25th, 2006

I’ve never heard of the particular blender brand, but this video demonstrates that you can reduce your daughter to tears in just 30 seconds.

Masonic Lodge meeting

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

Last Tuesday I attended Philanthropic Lodge in Marblehead, along with my brother. I found it quite interesting, if rather exhausting. I signed the bye-laws, and thus became a member, with my very own nametag, no less! My brother muttered to me when I got back to my seat: “It took me two years to get one of those!”

They were doing a third-degree ceremony for 5 candidates. They have a short form of this, and a long form. Without going into details, we began at 5:30 pm, broke for dinner around 6:30, resumed at 7:30 or so and ended at 11:15 pm! We were all exhausted by that time; my brother and his friend (who drove us to the Lodge) are what they refer to, rather indelicately, as “Chew and screw” Masons: they stay through the dinner and then leave. However, the second part of the ceremony was performed once for each candidate, rather than for all candidates (as we do at Goliath Lodge here in London). There were 4 “short-form” raisings, and one “long-form”, which all the candidates who were raised had to watch. Thus, it was last–and that was the ceremony I most wanted to see. Harold and his buddy (whose name I forget) were concerned at the lateness of the hour, but they kindly stayed so that I could see the whole thing. It was very worthwhile; very different from that which we do here in the UK but with many similarities in the essentials. The ritual was very well performed and quite elaborate.

So thanks to Harold and his chum for staying to the bitter end on my behalf, and thanks to Philanthropic Lodge for welcoming me so well and bringing me into their fold. I plan to try to make a trip twice a year to visit the family and the Lodge. Next time may be in April 2007.

Back to London

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

We had a lovely dinner on Wednesday night–ham with raisin and pineapple glaze, potatoes, squash, carrots, homemade biscuits (American biscuits, of course), and ice cream to end. Thanks to my sister and uncle, we ate very well.

I managed to check in on Wednesday morning at 8:15 am, exactly 24 hours before the flight was scheduled to leave, and again got a front seat in cattle class, this time the “window” seat (there’s no window on that row). Printed out my boarding pass as well. When it works, this online check-in works well.

I packed on Wednesday afternoon and evening: I managed to get everything into the suitcase yet again. Vans sneakers/trainers, Lever 2000 soap and some Neutrogena products (for ), two iPods for me and HWMBO, some clothing, a gift from my brother’s girlfriend, my Masonic regalia, and so on and so forth. Then I turned in, after setting four alarms for 4:45 am, which was the time I had to get up, get washed and dressed, and set off for the airport.

At 3:20 am my cellphone (one of the four alarms) rang. I got up, turned on the light, and it was a friend texting me to see if I’d be around Thursday night. I was a bit annoyed, and didn’t respond. Of course, I couldn’t sleep either.

Got up and turned off the four alarms at 4:45 am. My sister’s friend Linda came to pick me up (bless you, Linda!) and we got to Logan in plenty of time. The Fast Drop Off line was still not that fast (because of a family with a very large number of members and suitcases to check) but was faster than Heathrow. I was starting to get a bit nervous about the fog situation at Heathrow, but no one said anything about the flight being delayed or cancelled, so I didn’t worry too much.

Security was a breeze, relatively speaking (one blessing of early flights is that security usually isn’t too crowded). The flight took off on time, and we got to Heathrow just a few minutes delayed. The cabin crew told us that there had been one moment when we might have been diverted to Glasgow, but blessedly, that didn’t happen. Of course, that meant that our luggage was delayed as the ground crew weren’t prepared for our arrival. Got through Immigration and Customs, and got on the Heathrow Express. There were “kids playing on the line” ahead, which meant that the train crawled out of the station and took 1/2 hour to get to Paddington rather than 15 minutes. Ho-hum and Rats! Taxi to the Elephant. I managed to unpack everything before falling into bed.

HWMBO has an 80GB iPod, and I got a 4 GB Nano (as my requirements are few). I decided that since the menu system on the Zen Neeon was so flaky, there was no point in using it anymore. However, discovering that you can’t normally have two iPods on one computer was traumatic, and getting used to iTunes on our iMac was even worse. But, eventually, we got there. The sound is really good, and the menus are very easy to navigate. Much less clumsy than the Zen Neeon.

Shopping for Christmas food yesterday was grim. I went to the Asda on the Old Kent Road, and it was a madhouse. I had to dodge more children than you can shake a stick at, and the shelf stackers were on duty, complicating navigation even more. Checkout was a disaster, managed only after waiting in the queue for 1/2 hour. Taxi home, exhausted (at 4 pm) and grumpy. But we’re now prepared for our guests on Monday: , Mark, and Rob.

So, Happy Christmas (or Season’s Greetings, if that’s what you prefer) to you all; we’ll be going out to an art gallery later and then cleaning tonight.

In Marblehead

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

I’m in Marblehead at the moment…the trip was uneventful and I have been very comfy here. The family is well; my brother’s new girlfriend seems very nice, which is a relief. Third time lucky, I say.

I went to the Sacred Mysteries at St. Michael’s here in Marblehead this morning. They had a Christmas Pageant instead of the readings and the sermon. Came off fairly well, but the kid in the pew behind me kept poking me in the back. Reminds me how much I love children…properly cooked.

We went to Outback for dinner last night. I managed to keep from having dessert but did have prime rib, which is something you really can’t get in London, AFAIK.

Going out to lunch tomorrow with the Secretary of Philanthropic Lodge, and dinner with my Luti friends here in Boston. Was supposed to be today, but we’ve rescheduled it. So, I’m at home with little to do…oh well, will watch US TV and marvel yet again at what TV has descended to here in the United States.

Well, I’m now a Brainbench Content Subject Matter Expert

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

I finished working on the Software Quality Assurance test this week. My editor there was very pleased with my work, and sent me a logo to display on my website or wherever, saying that I’m a Brainbench Content Subject Matter Expert. Here’s the logo:

I really enjoyed working on this project; the money wasn’t much in real terms (less than GBP 250 when converted into real money) but the experience was quite interesting and new for me.

Today’s Political Clip URL

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

There have been jokes about Presidents screwing the country for decades. Now there’s a new twist. Definitely NSFW!! But hilarious.

Thanks to The Big Mattress, Charles Laquidara’s blog, for this one. I remember him from WBCN when I was knee-high to King Kong, years and years ago.

Today’s Gift Idea URL

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Gawd only knows why one would need such a thing, but how could you resist this product? Every home should have at least one.

I wonder what they make it out of.

Perhaps better left unknown, I suppose.

Update: I just noticed, in checking the link, that the bottle is marked “For external use only”. No shit, Sherlock!

Today’s humourous telephone call

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Just got a telephone call. “Hi, I’m Debbie from Citibank. Do you have a few moments?” Me: “Well, only a very few.” (I have to check in to my BA flight online in a few minutes when it becomes available.)

Debbie: “Could you confirm your postcode for me, please?”

Me, suspiciously: “Is this a survey?”

Debbie: “No, it’s only a few questions. A survey is when you ask a lot of questions.”

Me, laughing: “I worked in market research for many years, and that is a survey. I don’t have enough time at the moment. Good-bye.”

Debbie: “Good bye” (hangs up)

My bishop is in a spot of bother

Sunday, December 10th, 2006

It looks like my bishop, the Rt Rev’d Tom Butler, Lord Bishop of Southwark, looked upon the wine when it was red, and got into a little trouble. The Grauniad’s story is here. I’m a bit sad, as Bishop Tom has become a good supporter of lesbian and gay ministry in the Church, and the cause of women’s ordination to the episcopate here in the United Kingdom. I do hope that he survives the experience, as it is out of character. I have been at do’s with him, and he has been quite abstemious.

All the same, I think they’d better ensure that the vacancies on the Vacancy-In-See committee of the Diocesan Synod are filled, as it’s impossible to fill them when a vacancy-in-see actually occurs.

BT sucks the big one

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

As you mostly might be aware, BT was once the government owned monopoly telephone supplier in the UK. It was privatised, but continues to act as though it were part of the government. This extends to having a license for stupidity.

I got a new BT Hub last week, but had to add a switch so that it would serve all my wired devices. So today I bought the switch and a short patch cable, and thought, “Boy, now I can go to town”.


I set up the switch first, and made sure that it worked with the old router. Then I disconnected the old one, and set up the new one, attached the cordless phone (we get VOIP on this plan as well, with a cordless phone attached to the router), and plugged it into the ADSL socket and the electricity.

The switch worked, and my printer, my Sun box, and my main computer worked fine. However, using the instructions, I entered the SSID and the key printed on the back of the router into the software on our living room laptop. As usual, I couldn’t get it to work.

After a while, and after some time wrestling with the interface to the router controller (which was “improved” to make it easier to use, of course), I discovered that the SSID and the key were totally different from those printed on the box itself.


It is finally working, and tomorrow I’ll make sure the iMac and the Dell laptop in the kitchen are working.

The router is quite stylish:

but, a pain to configure.

Worst of all, as is my wont, I was swearing a bit as I was trying to figure out what was wrong. That gets HWMBO all riled up. I’ve discovered that statin drugs (of which I take 40 mg every night) sometimes have the extra special added attraction of making people more irritable. Oh joy. Not only can’t I drink grapefruit juice because of it, I’m cranky too.

Today’s Christmas Decoration URL

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

Some of the neighbours got concerned when they saw this hapless “homeowner” trying to hang his Christmas lights on his home.

What a beautiful evening!

Friday, December 8th, 2006

Background: I often wear yellow, orange, or bright green tank tops and shorts in the gym because, well, I like looking peppy and the bright colours make me feel good.

Tonight I happened to wear blue and grey, but a very handsome young black man named Rick came up to me in the gym and said, “I didn’t get a chance to tell you last time I saw you here, but you were wearing orange shorts and an orange tank, and they really cheered me up and made my day. Thanks!” I was so chuffed at hearing this that I not only beamed from ear to ear, I did so good a set that I am moving up to the next weight level on that machine.

So if you see someone whose clothing, manner, voice or anything else about her or him makes you happy, tell him or her about it. Because it might make their day, too! And if Rick sees this, thanks a million–you made MY day!

Today’s Gambling URL

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

Don’t try to convince the judge that “Bingo made me do it.“. You’re likely to get some time in the slammer.

Today’s There’ll Always be a Bureaucratic England URL

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

If you want to have a large Christmas party with mulled wine, mince pies, and hot chocolate for the kiddies, you’d better not have it on public property, or you might end up like this chap.

Today’s Skating URL

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Thanks to Ronslog, you can see the latest Saudi Arabian craze.

Today’s Child Care URL

Monday, December 4th, 2006

If your husband thinks he’s too macho to change the baby’s nappies from a baby blue or pink nappy bag, then buy him this. Guaranteed to make even the most macho father dissolve into tears of joy when he gets out the bag and takes the baby for a stroll.

Update: I see that for almost a year this entry suffered from grocer’s apostrophe. I have removed the offending punctuation mark.

Today’s earworm

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Unfortunately, after hearing this song at St. John’s Christmas Concert Saturday night, I can’t banish it from my brain.

You can actually listen to it here, if you dare…and if you’re in the US. It doesn’t work for non-US addresses, I discovered.

Not that I need to hear it again, of course.

This morning’s drama

Monday, December 4th, 2006

I got up this morning, performed my ablutions, made sure that the world hadn’t ended (ie, listened to the news), made breakfast, woke HWMBO up, and started on my toast and coffee.

HWMBO came downstairs, entered the kitchen, and screamed “A snail!” There was a very long sinuous slug on the kitchen countertop.

Now when I started making breakfast I folded up the rag that we use to wipe the countertop, and saw a trail across it, but of course didn’t believe it was a slug or a snail–how could such a thing get into our kitchen when we hadn’t had the door open for ages. I just thought it was some artifact of the last time we wiped the counter, and thought no more about it.

I thought of putting salt on it, but HWMBO would have been even more squicked out by what happens to slugs when you salt ’em. I didn’t think of taking a picture beforehand, drat. I opened the back door, took a piece of cardboard, scooped up the slug and slung it into the garden.

Compared to the slug, the rest of the day ought to be fairly sedate.

P.P.S. to my previous post…

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

At least one of my friends asked about getting a display userpic like the one I’m using now. Stupidly, I neglected to include the URL of the gentleman who does it. The page from which you can buy a userpic for just GBP1 is here. You send him GBP1 via PayPal, and he’ll reply to you with a request for a photo. You attach the photo to an email (or give the URL of a photo already online), and he does it in a day and emails it back to you.

What could be better?

And P.S. to my previous post

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006

I got someone to do a caricature from my picture for a dollar. It’s now my default userpic. I like it.

It’s here, for those who would like to see it slightly bigger.

Today’s Meeting notes

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006

I was elected a few weeks ago to Bishop’s Council, a group of people from the Diocese who act as the Executive Committee of the diocesan legislature, Diocesan Synod. The setting was the relatively new library of the Cathedral, and the great and the good of the Diocese were there, including little ol’ me.

The discussion was interesting, and I knew that I’d hit the important committee when I discovered, to my delight, that instead of the usual curled-up sandwiches for lunch we were having Lamb Terrine with couscous, Mushroom Risotto, Green Beans in a Balsamic Vinegar sauce, and fruit tarts, all catered by the Cathedral refectory.

I also got a chance to talk to the Archdeacon, who is a good man and a good pastor to the priests who serve under him. We will be having lunch in January to discuss the pastoral situation here at my parish. This is a very good thing to do, and I should have done it a while back, but didn’t feel I should speak until I knew the Archdeacon better. Hopefully my parish will get some assistance.

We discussed the Windsor Report and the Anglican Covenant, with three presentations that were really good in terms of defining the problem, defining what we know of the proposed solution, and what effect it will have on the Church of England and its ecumenical partners. My contribution to the discussion centred around the loss of prophetic voice that will happen if the Anglican Communion is constrained to move at the pace of the slowest of its parts. I attended the consecrations of Barbara Harris (first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion) and Gene Robinson (first openly-gay bishop in ditto) I said that I didn’t think that either of those events would have happened had there been an Anglican Covenant in place. Besides, the Anglican Communion, being composed of many provinces, has grown in such a way that a Covenant would be extremely un-Anglican; the only covenant I needed was the Baptismal Covenant between me and God, and between me and every other baptised person. The Bishop of Woolwich told me afterward that he was quite moved by what I had said.

At the end of the meeting the Diocesan Secretary, Simon, came up to me and asked me whether I’d like to join the Business Commitee, which is the executive of the Bishop’s Council, and meets two weeks before each meeting of that body (four times a year). I think they may get an even better meal than we got today. So, of course, I said that I would be happy so to do. I think that, after the Bishop, that committee is most important in determining how the diocese is run.

And so, we go to St. John’s Larcom Street tonight to bartend their Christmas Concert. I shall wear a bow tie, as usual. I seem to now have become “memorable” because I wear a bow tie rather than a long tie (regular tie? I’m not sure what the opposite of “bow tie” really is.) My boss’s boss was trying to get hold of me on Friday, and called someone else who didn’t know me. He told the guy, “Get Chris for me…you know, the guy who wears the bow tie.” It worked. I was found.

Slow news day in Yorkshire

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006

One of Robertson Davies’ novels started out with a wedding notice being printed that gave the date of the wedding as November 31st. Thus, the thought that February might have a couple more days in it when spent in Yorkshire seems to have informed this news story.

I especially liked the last line: “He said that despite some research nothing more was known about Mr Tomlinson apart from the tantalising fact that he he lived with his brother on a farm in Gateford, Worksop.”

I guess that “tantalising” means something different north of St. Albans.