Today’s Mystery Transit URL

August 1st, 2011

For those of us who have lived in New York City, hardly anything about the subway system surprises us. Delays? Yawn! The blind saxophonist who used to ply the #1 train years ago, but who could navigate through the end doors with ease? A tourist attraction! The screech when the #1 train used to navigate the tight turn at the old South Ferry station? Turn up your iPod volume!

But for some commuters, there was a new sight on one platform that stayed there for days without any official intervention.

Today’s Culinary URL

July 31st, 2011

One often hears the phrase “as useful as a chocolate teapot.” Well, scientists being scientists, a group of same decided to test whether you could actually brew tea in a chocolate teapot, and the results may surprise you.

More observations on WordPress…

July 30th, 2011

I’m continuing to go backwards in my WordPress copy of my Live Journal blog, and have gotten to mid-January 2011. Can you say “Timesuck”, kiddies? A couple more observations, now that I’ve done nearly 7 months of renovations.

First, it not only cuts off posts at accented characters—it also cuts them off at characters like the “£” sign (useful if you’re blogging from the United Kingdom) and even sometimes at single or double quotes. This last is not consistent, unfortunately. This means you have to read every single blog post. In addition, it seems to have cut off every single sermon I’ve posted so far. Why? Search me.

Second, the maddening thing about some special characters is that the “&” in them was changed to “&” in places, thus rendering the special character silly. I then have to delete the “amp;” and the character comes out OK.

Third, it is good to be able to correct the odd typo occasionally.

Fourth, once I’ve finished going through to make the thing readable, I shall have to go through it again to tag (=Wordpress “categorise”) each post. Strewth!

Fifth, I don’t seem to have enabled comments at any time. This is bothersome. The comments that were already there are still there; new comments are disabled. Probably not important for legacy posts, but if no one can comment on current posts why bother?

The question of “Why am I doing this?” has occurred occasionally. I guess it’s better than doing nothing. I think I can do about a month or two a day for corrections, and perhaps more than that for categorisation. We will see.

Happy birthday, momshapedbox…

July 28th, 2011

…and many happy returns of the day!

Some musings on same-sex marriage in the United States

July 24th, 2011

Note: This post originally appeared in the Integrity Lightspeed email list a month ago or so. In addition, I’m not a lawyer.

One of the facts that turned the tide on interracial marriage back in the 1950’s and 60’s is the fluidity of the population of the United States. People get married in one state, go to live (and pay taxes) in another state, go to a third state and then adopt children, and finally in a fourth state, either divorce or one of the couple is widowed and has to pay inheritance taxes and do probate.

The backbone of the social fabric of the United States is the section of the Constitution that requires each state to give full faith and credit to actions of other states. Without that, a married couple (same-sex) in Massachusetts crosses the state line to New York and (for another month) is considered two single people living together. Their financial situation changes (they can no longer pay state taxes as a couple, for example) and their personal situation could change (adopted children might become un-adopted if the couple moved to Florida, for example).

If we change “same-sex married couple” to “first-cousin married couple” this would be an extremely common situation, as some states allow first cousins to marry, others do not. However, if first cousins are married in a state that permits it, and then they move to a state that does not permit it, they do not immediately become single people–their marriage is recognised.

When only relatively small states permitted same-sex marriage, the social consequences of moving from one of those states to another state were small. Now that a big state has legalised same-sex marriage, and in one stroke of Gov. Cuomo’s pen doubled the number of people living in states which permit it, the stakes are getting higher. If California’s Proposition 8 is invalidated, the stakes will be almost overwhelming.

If a same-sex married couple from Massachusetts moves to Texas and wishes to divorce, the obvious place for that divorce to happen is the civil courts of the State of Texas. If they were a mixed-sex couple, that is what would happen. For Texas to then arbitrarily say that marriages contracted in Massachusetts are of two different types, mixed-sex (which they recognise) and same-sex (which they do not recognise) is a legal nicety and certainly the proper subject of litigation.

Eventually (perhaps not the first time, or the tenth time, but eventually) the Federal courts will rule that Massachusetts (for the sake of example) has only one kind of marriage and other states will be required by the Constitution to recognise it.

And the simple reason is: simplicity. For states to keep two types of marriage around in order to uphold “traditional marriage” makes all sorts of social and legal interactions much more complicated. It clogs the courts (which courts dislike) and requires lots of legal picking of nits to support.

This is also the legal and social reason why civil partnerships (in the US sense of that phrase) are inferior. Texas could argue that civil partnerships (which Texas does not allow) do not have to be given the same legal status as marriages. I do not ignore the reason of natural justice and equal rights in saying that civil partnerships are inferior, but legally a civil partnership gives another state a good reason to not recognise it.

The historic argument that same-sex marriage somehow breaks or devalues mixed-sex marriage is being debased every time a same-sex couple marries in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, or (soon) New York. Mixed-sex marriage has not been devalued at all. The fact that mixed-sex couples in those states are still getting married, and see value in getting married, gives the lie to that argument. The fear of the Roman Catholic Church is that the more places where same-sex marriage is legal, and the more places in which it is seen as normal, the more pressure there will be for same-sex marriage everywhere. And once some states see that civilisation has not collapsed in those places, they will feel emboldened to follow the example of those places.

The sexual assault scandals in the Roman Catholic Church have also not helped. After discovering that bishops conspired to move around offenders rather than discipline them or protect minors from them, people wonder why on earth something as simple, edifying, and gracious as to allow same-sex loving couples to enjoy the same rights as their mixed sex brothers and sisters do is so reviled by the same clerics who allowed the rights and lives of young children to be ruined in the name of the reputation of the Church.

My prediction is that as more states allow same-sex marriage, the build-up of case law over social effects of marriage (divorce, adoption, taxation) will come to a height that the Supreme Court will be unable to ignore. To allow states to discriminate between marriages on the basis of who is married to whom is not going to be a good idea. The conservative justices will try to deny these cases on the basis of history, culture, religion, everything but the Constitution. My strategy (were I King of the World…) would be to get Obama re-elected, then after he appoints a few more justices, only then bring the test case. If the case comes to the Supreme Court too early, it runs the risk of being overturned on the first run, and then supported only 10 or 20 years later, like the sodomy law cases were.

On civil partnerships, by the way, they have been legal here in the UK from 2006. After five years, it is generally recognised in society that members of civil partnerships are married, rather than “civilly partnered”. People refer to HWMBO and me as married, do not do a double-take when I refer to him as my husband, and are generally happy to treat us in the same way they treat a mixed-sex couple. So, after only a few years, civil partnerships have been turned into marriage by society in general. The law is following after society in this case. I expect that the next “liberal” government will turn all civil partnerships into marriages and remove the distinction in law.


July 18th, 2011

I wonder why no one has coined the name “Hackgate” for the group of scandals currently convulsing the United Kingdom. You will probably be aware that News International’s first UK newspaper, the News of the World, is now defunct, closed by the company because various reporters had enlisted the services of private investigators and computer experts to hack into the voicemail messages of various people, from the Duke of Cambridge down to a schoolgirl who was missing and later found murdered. In the latter case, the hackers deleted some voicemails from the schoolgirl’s mobile phone so that more messages could be left. This gave her parents hope that she was still alive—a hope which was sadly mistaken. The Metropolitan Police arrested a reporter and an investigator a few years ago for hacking into the Royals’ mobiles, jailed them and took their notes, which they promptly filed in the police equivalent of the bin.

After other people determined that they had been hacked, sued the News of the World about it, and had large monetary settlements from the Murdochs, pressure grew on the police to reinvestigate what they had characterised as a small-scale crime, stopping at the two people who were convicted. Lo and behold, the police revealed that they’d retrieved 11,000 pages of notes from their bin, and were busily contacted everyone mentioned there to warn them that their phones may have been hacked.

The editor of the NoTW when the original hacking case was prosecuted had quit. It wasn’t his fault, mind you; these were rogue reporters. But the editor was ultimately responsible for the actions of his reporters, and resigned. Later on the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, one David Cameron, took the editor, one Andy Coulson, on as his Director of Communications. Then Mr. Cameron kind-of won the election in May 2010, and Andy Coulson became the government’s Communications Director. When this second group of hackings came out, Coulson resigned again.

Various personnel of the NoTW and News International have resigned, including Mrs. Rebekah Brooks, once editor of the NoTW and until last week the CEO of News International, and several other long-serving minions of the Murdoch family business. Father Rupert, son James, and Mrs. Brooks are all going to testify in front of a Parliamentary Committee.

Various personnel of the Metropolitan Police, including John Yates, the Assistant Commissioner who originally said that there was nothing further to investigate but who hired a former News International minion as a PR flack and then discovered these 11,000 pages of notes (Surprise!), resigned today. Sir Paul Stephenson, the Commissioner of the Met, resigned yesterday. And these are not the last resignations, I’m certain.

A judicial investigation has been set up and that will get down towards the bottom of the cesspit.

The Grauniad has been keeping the fire stoked under these people for the past couple of years, off and on. If you want more detail, the Guardian is the place to go.

Hack is the UK slang term for a newspaper reporter, and hacker is a term that you should all be familiar with. Thus, Hackgate. I suppose that few people now remember those heady days of 1973 and 1974 when the break-in at the Watergate Apartments office of the Democratic National Committee, and the Congressional investigation into it, were at the top of the TV charts. We used to watch every afternoon, hanging on every word that dripped, honeylike, from Sam Ervin’s mouth, and cheering on Barbara Jordan. Since then nearly every political scandal has gained a name “{Something}gate”, except for this one. Well, I’m going to refer to it as Hackgate and that’s final.

Of course, the scandal still has months, maybe years to run. More scalps will be collected, more resignations tendered, more revelations will titillate us. But what will come out of all this?

First, the tendency of the UK tabloid press to do anything (legal or otherwise) to get a story, no matter how trivial, titillating, or privacy-invading, will be curbed in one way or another. The Press Complaints Commission, a toothless body that is financed by pennies from every newspaper in the country except for Richard Desmond’s stable, will probably be retained but given teeth (ie, the power to fine newspapers). You’ll be less likely to discover who’s shagging your favourite football player in the Sunday press, but any newspaper that transgresses and is found out will have the book thrown at it.

Second, politicians and other public figures who court the press (not including people who are interviewed for publication, but people who suck up to press proprietors in return for favourable coverage—they hope!) will be doing much less of it. Politicians and civil servants will be forced to record when they meet media moguls, whether it’s for a glass of champagne at a dinner party or a business meeting. These records will be public and toadying to the press barons will be discoverable. There will also be less cross-pollination between the press and politicians. You won’t see former newspaper editors being trusted to run the publicity arms of the political parties again anytime soon.

Third, the cozy relationship between the press and some police officers will be broken. Some of the officers are accused of taking bribes to pass information along to the newspapers.

The steady drip-drip-drip of revelations is at once both exciting and annoying. I think that most Brits just want it over, the miscreants punished, and life to go on. Until the truth is known, Hackgate will run and run.

Oh, and the absence of the News of the World, formerly the nation’s biggest circulation newspaper, has hurt more than just the 200 journalists who worked for it and are now on the dole (until the Sun on Sunday is started, perhaps in August.) This first Sunday in 168 years that the NoTW has not been on the nation’s newsstands saw a fall in the total number of Sunday newspapers sold. People who read the NoTW, it seems, don’t in general want to read other newspapers.

Today’s Photography Video

July 12th, 2011

Rube Goldberg, eat your heart out! Taking a picture never looked so easy!

Happy birthday, rozk…

July 9th, 2011

…and many happy returns of the day!

The News of the World, rest, if not in peace

July 8th, 2011

The major news story here, to the exclusion of almost everything else that is going on in the world around us, is the implosion of the Murdoch-owned tabloid Sunday newspaper, the News of the World. For those who are not UK newspaper junkies, the background of the current story is fairly well summarised here.

Let me begin by saying that I have never read the NoTW. It prides itself on investigative journalism, and it has brought several important scandals to the fore, including the Max Mosley S&M scandal, the former MP Mark Oaten’s relationships with male prostitutes, and the match-fixing scandals involving the Pakistani cricket team. Note, however, that most of their exposés have to do with sexual or titillating subjects. It has subsidised a man who pretends to be a Middle Eastern sheik and traps people into making various embarrassing admissions, which are secretly recorded and played back to the NoTW‘s adoring public.

However, in doing these things it made some real enemies. It’s been sued (and lost) several times. All this being said, it’s the most widely-read newspaper in the United Kingdom, with a circulation of more than 2 million copies every Sunday.

Except, this coming Sunday will be its last ever issue. James Murdoch, the son of Rupert, announced yesterday that, because of the phone hacking scandal, the NoTW will cease publication this Sunday. No commercial advertising will be printed in the paper, and all profits will be donated to charity or good causes.

This has come at a bad time for News International (the Murdoch company that owns all of the newspapers and media outlets that the Murdochs control) as they have been trying to get government approval to buy the portion of BSkyB, the satellite TV broadcaster, that they do not own. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable (a Liberal Democrat and perhaps the most able UK Cabinet minister), was tricked by the Daily Telegraph into admitting that he was not going to approve the sale, and thus he had to recuse himself. The “Minister of Fun”, Culture, Media, and Sport Minister Jeremy Hunt, will be the Cabinet minister who deals with the matter. He is believed to be very much in favour of News International and the Murdochs, and has said that he is “minded” (in that quaint English phrase) to approve the deal as long as BSkyB sells Sky News.

There is growing public sentiment against this deal because of the sleaziness of the Murdoch family and its media outlets here. It is still possible that the deal will be blocked, not least because News International’s share price has tumbled and his shareholders might be minded to tell Murdoch to quit trying for the purchase.

But, there’s more! The editor of the NoTW at the time the phone hacking was going on is one Andy Coulson, who loyally resigned when two of his reporters were convicted of hacking the phones of Princes William and Harry. Mr. Coulson later became a media advisor to the Conservative Party, and moved to Downing Street as his Press Secretary when David Cameron became Prime Minister.

When more hacking accusations were made, and News International paid off those whose phones were hacked, questions were raised as to whether Mr. Coulson knew about the hacking as editor. He says that he was blissfully ignorant of all these goings-on, but resigned as Press Secretary anyway, just in case.

Today he was arrested when he attended a police station in central London for questioning on the scandal. His predecessor as editor, Rebekah Brooks (née Wade) was promoted to CEO of News International relatively recently, and there has been much speculation as to how much she knows about it.

Some of the sleazy hacks that have been uncovered affect regular people, not politicians, movie stars, sports figures, or celebrities. For example, a schoolgirl was murdered around ten years ago. Her name was Millie Dowler. When she disappeared, a private detective working for the NoTW obtained her mobile number and hacked into her voicemail, which was, of course, full of worried messages from her family and friends. Then her mailbox filled up, and no more messages could be left. The detective then deleted some of the messages so that new ones could be left for him to listen to. Of course, the family had realised that her mailbox was full, and when it suddenly became available again, they assumed that she herself had deleted the messages (why would they assume anything else?) and thought that she was still alive, even though in reality, she had been dead for days and her body disposed of by the murderer.

Millie Dowler was not the only murder victim or victim’s family member who was hacked. When the schoolgirls Holly Welles and Jessica Chapman were murdered in Soham quite a while back, the private detective obtained the mobile phone numbers of her family members and hacked into their voice mail.

Some of the victims of the July 7th bombings here in London, 6 years and one day ago, had their phones hacked by NoTWdetectives in the aftermath of the attacks.

Now, in a way, no one minds if people who are legitimately in the public eye and who are thought to be sleazy (like politicians) are exposed as hypocrites (or worse) by newspapers, no matter what methods they use. However, when non-celebrities are spied on in this way, people think, “Geez, it could happen to me!” and get pretty upset.

But, there’s MORE! The NoTW has admitted to paying off police officers in return for information. I call that offering bribes. It also might explain why, when the original accusations were made and the original court case about the hacking of the Princes’ phones came about, the police then said that there was nothing further to be discovered and closed the case, even though all the material in which they are now finding these hacking cases was already in the possession of the police.

It is amazing. The NoTW-animal, wounded, is expiring while the vultures are circling around, deliriously happy that, at last, they will be able to rip it to shreds and devour it. Two-hundred employees of the NoTW, many if not most of whom are innocent of any wrongdoing, are out of jobs. The British public, always thirsting for scandal, is now drinking it in continuously. BBC Radio 4 is almost “All Murdoch scandal, all the time!” The Government may be severely affected by association with Coulson and Murdoch, because, did I say there’s MORE? The current News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, is a personal friend of the Prime Minister and often dines or lunches with him and his wife, along with her husband. And she is deeply involved in this.

Meanwhile, Rupert is in Idaho hobnobbing with other moguls and nabobs. He’s kept a low profile, we understand. Long may that continue. This story will run on and on—it will only end when someone is jailed nice and hard for it, and the media officially loses its struggle with the politicians for independent oversight.

And that’s why this is bad for the media. When they do true investigative journalism, and find things out legally and print them, they perform a public service. Politicians and celebrities are happy today because it’s unlikely that the tabloid press will be able to write and investigate with the same effectiveness as they have previously. And that means that the politicians can breathe easier, since the newspapers will be hampered in their role as shit-stirrers.

How the Metroliner was born

July 8th, 2011

My friend Joel (not a meatspace friend, but an online friend through our shared admiration for Jean Shepherd) was one of the “Mad Men” who made advertising interesting up until the pre-lunch Martini was banned. Being a train buff, I was stunned to discover that his prodding got Amtrak to provide the Metroliner from New York to Washington in 2 hours and 59 civilised minutes. His blog is well worth a trawl, by the way.

Thanks, Joel!

The computer’s part buggered again…

July 6th, 2011

I have not set London Stabbie on this one because the computer was a gift, assembled for me by our friend in Singapore. HWMBO carried it on the plane all the way from Singapore to London. And, for about 6 months it’s been my main computer while I try to get some stuff off the old one and onto the new one.

Of course, I’ve been backing it up daily, which seems to have been, in hindsight, a very good idea. Last night the larger 1.5TB hard disk crapped the bed. I am still able to use the computer with the smaller SSD disk, and if I need to save anything I can do that to a SD card while I consider what to do.

I am tempted to buy a 2 TB hard disk and swap it into the computer. However, I suspect that one of the fans is not very efficient or something of the sort, and thus the new one will follow the old one into hard disk hell.

I am considering the “cloud” (this year’s buzzword), but am not convinced that my data will be safe, secure, and instantly available when I want it.

I’m also somewhat vindicated in my former stance that buying a computer from a vendor (who can then be relied on for at least a year’s warranty) is somewhat safer than building your own machine. Fine words butter no parsnips, though—I need to think about this quite seriously.

Any thoughts? How should I provide myself with good, comprehensive computing ability? Is the cloud the only way forward?

Happy birthday, babymicrophone…

July 2nd, 2011

…and many happy returns of the day!

Today’s Episcopal story

July 1st, 2011

From today’s Church Times comes this story about the Bishop of St. Albans, here in England.

HE LISTS gardening as one of his hobbies, but the green-fingered prowess of the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, so impressed on­lookers recently that he was given the chance to turn it into a full-time job.

Dr Smith told his diocesan synod last weekend that, while visiting an aunt’s house, he decided to sort out her somewhat messy garden. He spent the morning gardening, and, while he was working, noticed a woman walking past a couple of times and watching his progress. Then, he said, the same woman’s head popped up over the wall and said: “Excuse me, but I’m looking for a gardener.”

He said: “So I suddenly feel my prospects are looking up, but I said to her: ‘Thank you, it’s very kind of you, but actually this isn’t my full-time job. I have a full-time job.’

“She says: ‘Are you sure you can’t fit it in?’

“I said: ‘No, no, I’m sorry.’

“And she said: ‘What do you do?’

“I looked up, and said: ‘Well, I’m the Bishop of St Albans.’

“And she looked at me in total disbelief, and said: ‘Huh, well, I’m the Queen of Sheba.’”

The anecdote was greeted with laughter by synod members.

Dr Smith said: “You just can’t make it up, can you? Well, you don’t need to, when things like that happen.”

A diocesan spokesman said that Dr Smith was a keen and ac­complished gardener, and had trans­formed part of the garden at his home since he arrived in St Albans in 2009. “He does say that you can tell a lot about someone’s ministry by the state of their garden.”

It’s obvious!

June 30th, 2011

Obvious to you. Amazing to others. from Derek Sivers on Vimeo.

Timesucks suck

June 28th, 2011

As many of you know, I’ve been out of work for 2-1/2 years now. Luckily, due to the generosity, forbearance, and tolerance of HWMBO, I have continued to be fed, watered, housed, and loved over this amount of time. However, during that time my online involvement has become more and more of a distraction.

Consider. Most days I get up at 7, make breakfast for HWMBO and me for 7:45 am, and then see him off to work around 8:30am. I then start looking at email, which takes an inordinate amount of time most days. Even evaluating an email and almost instantly deleting it takes time. Around 10 or so I start reading Live Journal blogs, and when I’ve caught up with them I read Facebook. This takes me through to lunch. I haven’t included IMing with various friends here and far away. I often do this while I’m reading other things.

In the afternoon, I’ll continue to catch up with arriving emails, do some memorisation for my Masonic duties, have a coffee break, and then go to the supermarket to shop for dinner.

I cook, then wait for HWMBO to return from work. We have dinner, then I return to the computer and catch up with everything until bedtime. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

There are occasional changes to this routine—I go shopping further afield for various things, or go out to sit in a park somewhere and be with people, or have a coffee at a coffee shop rather than in my kitchen. However, my routine doesn’t vary much at all. I have a large number of New Scientist magazines and Church Times newspapers which are waiting to be read. I get a new one each week, add it to the bottom of the pile, and try to read some of the one on top. I have books that I want to read. In fact, I would even like to WRITE one eventually. But this routine of mine conspires to frustrate any interactions other than online ones and any activities other than reading tweets, FB statuses, and blog entries.

So I’ve decided that I have to pare down my online activities to as much as I can do in two hours in the morning. This will involve:

  • Removing one of my Twitter accounts, only leaving the one devoted to professional activities;
  • Filtering my Facebook feed to remove some people and feeds out of which I don’t get a lot of food for thought;
  • Paring down the blogs I read with a filter so that I only see things that I know will interest me from people who I like.

I will try not to unfriend anyone, but use filters intelligently so that I can dip into items that I haven’t read when I have some time.

This whole situation, of course, is not unique to me. I’ve had three Facebook friends disappear from FB in the last month or so. Other Live Journal friends disappear from blogging for months or even years at a time. I have generally neglected Twitter in the past couple of months and don’t believe I’ll lose a lot by just disappearing from there for a while.

I will Tweet once a day for the next several days just to alert people that I shall be disappearing from there and referring them to this blog entry. I won’t be mentioning it on Facebook; I will just apply the filters so that what I read is cut down to a manageable size. And my filter on Live Journal will take away items that I just look at occasionally and pass by. Real bloggers and interesting people will still be in my filter and get read and comments filed.

All this brings into question the concept of “friend” as it relates to our online presences. I think that this concept was first attached to blogging. The idea was that no one in their right mind would be interested in reading a blog from someone whom they did not know personally, so obviously someone who follows your blog would be a real friend.

Of course, the first bloggers didn’t realise that a blog, besides its value in telling your real friends what you thought and what you were up to, would also be a vehicle for writing essays about life, the universe, and everything. The blog thus became a literary device, and people whom you had never met would want to read your blogs. Other blogs became compendia of news stories or opinions on certain specific topics, and the personal aspect of a blog was lost in favour of an impersonal voice broadcasting to anyone who wanted to listen.

Then Facebook and Twitter, among other social media sites, appropriated the word “friend” to mean “this person who wants to keep up with what I’m saying but whom I may never have met”. Now I have hundreds of online friends around the world, few of whom I’ve ever met, but all of whom Facebook, Twitter, and Live Journal call my “friends”.

Sometimes these days I have to qualify the word “friend” as “meatspace friend” as that is the best way to define what a real-life friend is without devaluing the relationships I have with people online.

As to what I’ll be doing instead of Tweeting and posting statuses in Facebook, who knows? Perhaps the time is ripe to write that book I’ve been thinking about.

Over and (partially) out!

Health update

June 24th, 2011

Forgot to mention that I went to the quack yesterday for a checkup. I had blood drawn (hi, !) and the results were back. My HbA1C was 6.6 (119 in American measurements), where the normal range is 5-7 and with insulin-dependent diabetics they will be happy up to 8. My cholesterol was 3.3, which translates to 127 in American measurements. Liver, kidneys, and thyroid all OK. BP was a bit high in the systolic, but OK in the diastolic. I got all my prescriptions filled, and we chatted about the Foot Clinic at Kings, as my doctor is part of a consortium in Southwark looking at the provision of medical care to diabetics.

So I’m good for another 4-6 months. Next time I will see if I can revive my application for gastric bypass surgery.

And, I guess, yay me! (for now)…

Today’s inane video

June 23rd, 2011

I haven’t had much luck with embedding videos lately, for some reason (perhaps I didn’t pay the bit tax or something). However, the following video, dubbed into English from the original Finnish, is dangerous. Do not watch or listen to it. I am not responsible for any earworms, nightmares, homicides, or mopery that results. You have been warned.

Stabbie is displeased

June 23rd, 2011

As you may all know, Stabbie is in a civil partnership with He Who Must Be Obeyed, or HWMBO. Just for background, that. Stabbie lives in a maisonette (=US duplex apartment) with a back garden (=US backyard), 3 bedrooms, a large eat-in kitchen, and a view of the Shard a-building at London Bridge out his back window.

Unfortunately, Stabbie also has rather upsetting neighbours. For some, it is not their fault, for various and sundry reasons Stabby will not bore you with. However, Stabbie is more concerned about the housing association’s response to his requests for repairs. Below Stabbie has written about three of his current problems with the housing association, and put them behind a cut because they are VERY. LONG. INDEED.

The flat above Stabbie and HWMBO’s has a very sweet lady living in it who is a refugee and has had a hard time of it. She has stopped throwing used insulin pen needles, used insulin vials, and mirrors (two) into Stabbie’s back garden, although her care worker denied that she was even a diabetic. This is good. However, her heating system is seriously defective.

Now you wouldn’t think that Stabbie would care about her heating system, but perhaps a description of the problem will help. The heating system, filled with water, is kept topped up by a system quite like a toilet tank. That is, this tank, higher than any of the radiators, is filled with water and as water evaporates out of the radiators, the tank supplies water to the radiators and the tank is kept at a constant level by a system not unlike the ballcock in a toilet tank. When the water gets to a certain level, the ballcock floats up and turns the tap off.

When this system malfunctions, and the tap doesn’t turn off, there is a safety system. An outlet pipe leads from the top of the tank out through the flooring, ending up as a short pipe on the back wall. Any excess water drips out through this pipe and drops to the ground outside. This is OK for occasional drips.

How does Stabbie know this? A while back HWMBO reported that the towels in the airing cupboard (=US “linen closet” that contains not only linen but also some of the heating and hot water systems) were wet. When Stabbie investigated, he found that water was dripping out of this tank at the top of the cupboard and called the housing association, who sent someone within a day or two. The someone replaced the tank, connected the outlet, and explained exactly what the tank is used for. That’s how Stabbie knows what’s happening.

When the ballcock system malfunctions, however, the dripping becomes constant, and frequent. This is what the back wall of Stabbie’s flat looks like.

It looks like some giant duck defecated down the side of the house. Now I present you with a close-up of the windowsill of my study, the lower level of the previous picture.

Mildewed and damaging the wooden window frame through water rot.

When Stabbie is sitting at his study window working away assiduously at the computer, and wants a bit of air, he opens the window. The spattering is so frequent now that when the drops hit the windowsill, Stabbie is sprayed with a fine mist. If Stabbie goes outside to enjoy the back garden, he must take care that he is not dripped upon, as the wind takes the drips an amazing distance from the house when it is blowing in other directions.

So Stabbie has pointed this situation out to (1) the director of the housing association, who agreed to have it looked at several months ago, and (2) the maintenance director of the housing association, twice, who assured Stabbie that a maintenance person would be here to fix it in a day or two. However, the nice lady in the flat does not respond to their phone calls or letters, and she doesn’t know much English, so Stabbie can’t get through to her that something which doesn’t cause her any bother needs to be fixed, pronto.

So Stabbie is a virtual prisoner in the flat, unable to keep the window open without being misted upon and unable to sit outside with his netbook, surfing and enjoying a libation in the afternoon, when the sun is over the yardarm.

Stabbie, however, is not sure who to hold to account here. The lady upstairs is fragile, for many reasons, and he wouldn’t like to hold her responsible for this. The housing association people have tried all the conventional ways of getting in touch with the lady, and she does not respond. Stabbie thinks that perhaps the care worker needs to be contacted and asked to make the lady understand that her heating system needs repair. If this doesn’t happen, Stabbie may talk to the Chair of the housing association, who is someone Stabbie works with on various churchy committees and bodies. He may find it interesting that the housing association is unable to properly maintain flats occupied by people who need assistance with some of their daily requirements. He would be the effective instrument of what has, up to know, been Stabbie ineffective pleas for help.

But, of course, this is not the only bone which Stabbie has to pick with his landlord. A couple of weeks ago, the lights in the common hallway were not working. Stabbie thought that there was some maintenance problem, and duly reported it to the housing association, which promised to get onto the people who maintain the common area lighting, the fire extinguishers, and the fire alarm. Nothing happened. Stabbie doesn’t go out every night, but when he does, he likes to have some light in the hallway so that he can get his key in the door and ensure that no nefarious characters are lurking around.

Then, Stabbie received a card in his letterbox saying that a package had been taken back to the Post Office because Stabbie was out of the house. Problem was, Stabbie was at home all day that day. A friend came over for a coffee, and called Stabbie’s mobile and said, “Where are you? I’ve rung your doorbell several times and you haven’t answered.” Stabbie replied that he was at home and would let his friend in.

Stabbie suspicions were piqued at this, and he got his keys out and looked in the common area cupboard, where the electric meters, circuit breakers, and an amazing amount of bumpf are kept. Sure enough, someone had switched one of the circuit breakers off (it hadn’t tripped; it was positively turned off). This particular circuit breaker not only energized the lights in the common hall, but also the intercom and the door buzzer. Our doorbells were silent.

Now Stabbie would like to have a word with the designer of the electrical system in the building. What fool puts emergency lighting on a circuit with anything else, including the intercom system? The housing association, when Stabbie told them about this system, just shrugged its collective shoulders and said there was nothing it could do. Well, there bloody well is something they could do. Stabbie will start by pinning the designer to the wall by the shoulders of his jacket and keeping him there until he agrees that he is a nincompoop and not fit to design anything more complicated than a piece of paper.

Now of course there is another, perennial complaint that Stabbie makes. Outside the front door, at the corner of the car park, is the rubbish enclosure. It has enough room for three bins (=US “dumpsters”) which consist of two rubbish bins and a recycling bin.

Unfortunately, Stabbie’s neighbours include one who removed all the carpeting in her apartment and replaced it with wooden flooring. During the past three weeks, a large quantity of construction material has been placed in the bins each week on Tuesday, the day after Trash Day. The bins are thus filled to the brim for 6 days a week.

The rest of Stabbie’s neighbours, then, place their trash, sometimes even in bags, on the ground inside the rubbish enclosure. They also dispose of refrigerators, baby strollers, and various other detritus in the enclosure, then neglect to ask the council to remove them; they cannot be lumped in with the regular trash. The binmen (=US “garbage collectors”) usually do not pick up these bags, and rats, squirrels, and probably people open up the bags and look for edibles or saleables, leaving the rest of the trash to spill out onto the ground.

No matter how much Stabbie asks the landlord to get his regular cleaners to pay some attention to this area, they simply mop the stairwells and leave. Occasionally they pick up some trash, and there was one short period where they were very assiduous about it two days in a row. However, the cleaners came and went on Tuesday, leaving the trash area like this:

And the bin men have neatly replaced the recycling bin so that its opening is nicely butted against one of the trash bins, so that most people cannot place their recycling into the slot at the front of the recycling bin.

Stabbie wants his neighbours and the housing association to know that he is not pleased. If he catches the neighbour who insists on throwing his trash bags on the ground, there might be something else in one of those trash bags that is much worse than trash.

Thanks for listening to Stabbie rant and rave. He hopes that these situations will rectify themselves shortly. Now, as you were!

A response to a post by danlmarmot

June 23rd, 2011

Interesting post about his time in London. From the point of view of an American who’s lived here for 17-1/2 years now, there are a couple of things I’d like to comment on. I tried to post the comment in your journal but it was about twice the permitted length.

1) Smoking. If you think it’s bad now, you should have seen it 5 years ago and more. Every pub was full of the fug of cigarette smoke so those who wanted to have a drink and not be suffused with smoke just drank at home. No smoking areas in restaurants were a joke. The smoke just drifted over and spoiled your meal.

I am still annoyed about walking past a pub or an office building and having to endure the cloud of smoke from the intrepid smokers around the doorway. The government is planning more measures against smoking (removing tobacco from view in shops and going to plain packaging with no brand logos or colours) and the tide is turning slowly, but surely.

America is quite a bit ahead of us on this, but give us a break! We just started this around 5 years ago and it’s still in its infancy.

2) Drinking. The government is tackling binge drinking (which results in some of the hijinks you saw while you were here), but until the social causes of binge drinking are tackled there will still be problems. We locals know to avoid the streets after around 10:30 pm and watch out for the puddles of puke in the morning when wending our way to the Tube to commute to work. Scotland is putting floors under the alcohol price and England is slowly working towards that. However, every time the government or some MP comes up with an idea on how to cut binge drinking, the cry goes up from the tabloids: “Nanny state! Nanny state!” and the government draws back from the brink.

I expect that the number of 24-hour pubs is going to go down, as Continental-café style drinking has not caught on here and will not catch on here, and the 24-hour pubs are mostly concentrated in city centres.

3) Public civility. I wonder if you wouldn’t have gotten the same kinds of responses if you’d asked people in the centre of New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. London is a big city and people here insulate themselves so that interaction with their fellow urbanites is kept to a minimum. I have never found the reactions you’ve noted, though, so I’m wondering a bit about it. As for public rage, well, I saw everything you recounted, and more, in my 21 years in New York. The only difference is that you were more likely to be harmed in New York if an altercation broke out.

4) Bars. The only people who can afford to live in Soho are rent boys and whores, really. It is as if people were living on 8th Avenue and 42nd Street in New York. There may be some, but not many.

Some gay pubs are distributed elsewhere. Did you get to Vauxhall while you were here? That has become a happening gay area now, and people do live in the neighbourhood.

I don’t go to pubs anymore, as I’m not on the pull and I have about one drink a week, perhaps less than that. No need to go out to a gay pub if you don’t drink much and are happily married.

That being said, I have always found that I get blank stares (if that) from people in gay pubs anywhere. I’m about 100 in gay years and everywhere there is a culture of “if you’re not young, buff, and full of cum I’m not interested in you and you don’t exist in this pub.” There are pubs which cater to “special tastes”. The City of Quebec pub near Marble Arch is the pub for older men, and the King’s Arms on Poland Street is where the bears hang out. Qdos at Charing Cross is where Asians (=British “Orientals”) congregate.

I have found that gay pubs/bars everywhere have a clique. There are always a group of people who know each other, go to the pub at the same time each day and hang out together. This takes no regard of what country the pub is in. Episcopal Church and Church of England coffee hours after Eucharist on Sunday are exactly the same. Newcomers, unless there are people specially deputised to talk to them and take them ’round, are left in the corner and the only person who speaks to them is the coffee server who asks “One sugar or two?”

It’s interesting that Davey Wavey, the YouTube gay personal trainer and philosopher on life, was here last week and one of the first things he said to the group of us who met him in Hyde Park was, “My gaydar doesn’t work here!” It probably takes a few years for one’s gaydar to recalibrate itself.

5) Travelling. I only drove for about 2 months when I lived in Chicago 20 years ago. I never drove before then, nor since. I am dependent on public transport. The fact that many bus shelters have displays to tell you when your bus is going to arrive has removed the mystery from “When is my bus going to get here?” In my opinion, most Americans have been spoiled by the ubiquity of automobiles and get more impatient at long travel times than Europeans do. So an American’s idea of swift travel is not a Londoner’s idea of the same. The Tube and bus network always get me where I want to go; I prepare for unfamiliar journeys by checking the TfL website to ensure that there are no holdups before I start, and I leave sufficient time (more than sufficient in most cases) to get to where I’m going. My mother always said, “Better 10 minutes early than 1 minute late.”

6) Anxiety. Well, everywhere there is a lot to be anxious about. We’ve been anxious a lot longer than Americans have been, as terrorist attacks happened here until the late 1990’s and then started again in 2005. In 1994, I actually heard the two bombs go off that year, one in Canary Wharf and one in Aldwich (where the bomber was so inept that instead of setting the bomb to go off at 10:30am, he set it for 10:30pm and it went off as he was carrying it downstairs on a 176 bus). So there is a level of calmness about public safety that you don’t see in the US.

As for the current world situation, and the economic situation here in the UK, there is a lot of uncertainty. The government is a coalition and has made a lot of U-turns in policy in response to the tabloid press, who are always accusing them of being soft on crime, soft on immigration, soft on asylum seekers, soft on welfare recipients, and soft on bankers and The City, but also tough on invalids and those who cannot work, tough on pensioners, tough on taxpayers, and so on and so forth.

Is it any wonder that hoi polloi, confused by what they read in the newspapers and see on TV, are anxious? There is no certainty, no government policy that can’t be changed or reversed by the Tories who are nervous about whether they will at last get a majority in Parliament in 2015.

Strikes have mostly been banished from public view in the past 25 years or so, except for the transport workers, who are militant and go out at the drop of a hat. So the public view of a summer of strikes of public servants is pretty grim.

Last, the weather. Up until you got here, we had about a month and a half without any rain to speak of. You brought the deluge with you. The farmers are now happier. We always complain about the weather; it’s part of the national psyche and to have a long spell of dry, sunny, and warm weather makes us even more anxious than we are about current events and the government. With the rain, we now have something to talk about while we binge drink in the pubs, vomit in the gutters, take a much-delayed night bus home, and pick a fight at the bus stop before stumbling home, falling in the gutter, and waiting for 5 hours in A&E to see a triage nurse at 4am.

All the previous sentence is tongue-in-cheek, of course. I hope you’ll be back.

Today’s Water Quality URL

June 21st, 2011

We take for granted the purity of the water that comes out of our taps…well, almost all of us do. In Oregon, a tiny mistake by a guy has meant big expenses for the water department in order to avoid the yuck factor…

Today’s Religious Justice URL

June 19th, 2011

It is a well-known fact that of the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Islam are not (in strict sects) very favourable towards man’s best friend, the dog. However, what a rabbinical court in Jerusalem has decreed to happen to this dog is pretty gruesome. I do hope that the dog has escaped.


June 17th, 2011

My good friend and brother Dr. Louie Crew is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. He posted a Facebook reference to a story on his website today.

The kind of jokes you tell and appreciate says a lot about the kind of person you are.

Today’s Great Escape Video

June 17th, 2011

One doesn’t normally expect most farm animals to have the smarts to escape from their pens, enclosures, barns, and the like. They usually just wait until they’re let out.

This farmer, in County Armagh in Ireland, found that at least one of his cows is, as the reporter says, a “bovine Einstein”. E=MooC squared.

Note: For some reason, I don’t seem to be able to embed YouTube videos anymore. The embedding disappears when I upload the blog entry. I apologise and have put the video in a link. I will investigate. Sorry for the confusion.

Today’s joke, courtesy of Fr. MadPriest’s MadDad

June 15th, 2011

Thanks to Fr. MadPriest for this one.

Nota bene for nonBrits: Major highways here are named A###, where ### is a number.

Waiting in Doncaster to catch speeding drivers, a police officer sees a car puttering along at just 22 MPH.

“This driver is just as dangerous as a speeder!” the policeman thinks to himself.

So he turns on his lights and pulls the driver over.

Approaching the car, he notices that there are five old ladies, two in the front seats and three in the back – wide eyed and white as ghosts.

The driver, obviously confused, says to him “Officer, I don’t understand, I was doing exactly the speed limit! What seems to be the problem?”

“Ma’am,” the officer replies, “you weren’t speeding, but you should know that driving slower than the speed limit can also be a danger to other drivers.”

“Slower than the speed limit? No sir, I was doing the speed limit exactly,” the old woman says proudly. “Twenty-two miles an hour. Just as it says on the road signs.”

The Police officer realises the driver’s mistake and, trying to contain a chuckle, explains to her that A22 is the road number, not the speed limit.

A bit embarrassed, the woman grins and thanks the officer for pointing out her error.

“But before I let you go, Ma’am, I have to ask, is everyone in this car OK? These women seem awfully shaken, and they haven’t made a sound this whole time,” the officer asks.

“Oh, they’ll be all right in a minute officer,” the driver replies. “We’ve only just come off the A120.”

Todays Hi-Tech Video

June 11th, 2011

When I was a wee child, we still had a phone without a dial. When you picked up the receiver, a pleasant woman asked, “Number, please.” Then, we got a phone with a funny wheel on the front: a dial! We were intrigued by it, and perhaps a bit unsure of how it worked. The video embedded here was the Bell System’s way of informing people how to use those newfangled dial phones. The one we got in our house was identical to the one shown in the video. The Bell System owned the phone and you leased it from them. That way, the phone company could ensure that no substandard equipment was connected to its lines, and the consumer was assured that if something went wrong, one of Ma Bell’s many children would drop by the house and swap it out for a functional phone.

Today, dial phones are almost a thing of the past. I have not seen one in use for around 20 years. When the Touch-Tone phone first came out, you had to pay extra to use it. Now everyone owns their own phone, called the landline nowadays. They all have buttons, or in the case of many mobile phones like my iPhone, virtual buttons. We have thus come full circle: most people under the age of 30 or so have never used, or even seen, a dial phone in the Bakelite…um…flesh. And “Number, please”? I am probably one of the youngest people ever to have had a non-dial, non-button phone.

Nowadays, some phones will dial a number for you if you simply speak it into the mouthpiece. In the 1950’s, I could do the same. As the Scriptures say, there is nothing new under the sun.

An Archbishop does his job, and the Government doesn’t like it

June 9th, 2011

One of the obligations of being a bishop or Archbishop of the Church of England is speaking out in the public forum on matters of national importance from a faith-based point of view. The Archbishop of Canterbury did it today, speaking out on the changes the Government is making in social programs in such a way that he suggests was not in the manifestos of the parties forming the Government. He also suggests that people are unsure about the changes and afraid of the results. He makes the case that the Government needs to explain these changes more clearly in order to get the country to understand and, more important, agree with them.

One of the reactions of government when a bishop or Archbishop speaks out on political matters is to rubbish the Church. They always say that while anyone has the right and opportunity to speak out on political matters, the bishop is naïve, unfamiliar with the realities of political life (this of bishops who sit in the Upper House of Parliament and participate in its debates and votes), or a socialist (if the Government is a Conservative one).

I have no brief for the Archbishop. In many respects he is a poor communicator (he is especially opaque on theological subjects, which he knows best). He has recently (in the Slee papers) been shown to be a bully and a shouter-down of people who disagree with him. And on the subject of the Anglican Covenant, I think he is malicious and seriously misguided. However, when he speaks out on matters of political interest and the Government immediately rubbishes him, I suspect he’s hit close to the mark and the Government doesn’t like that. At all.

Oh, the picture is just my favourite pose of the Archbishop. No intimation that he’s a hand-puppet.

Today’s Joke, thanks to <lj user=”tim1965″>

June 7th, 2011

A man walks into a restaurant with a full-grown ostrich behind him. The waitress asks for their orders. The man says, “A hamburger, fries and a coke,” and turns to the ostrich, “What’s yours?”

“I’ll have the same,” says the ostrich.

A short time later the waitress returns with the order. “That will be $9.40 please.” The man reaches into his pocket and pulls out the exact change for payment. The next day, the man and the ostrich come again and the man says, “A hamburger, fries and a coke.”

The ostrich says, “I’ll have the same.” Again the man reaches into his pocket and pays with exact change.

This becomes routine until the two enter again. “The usual?” asks the waitress.

“No, this is Friday night, so I will have a steak, baked potato and a salad,” says the man.

“Same,” says the ostrich.

Shortly the waitress brings the order and says, “That will be $32.62.” Once again the man pulls the exact change out of his pocket and places it on the table.

The waitress cannot hold back her curiosity any longer. “Excuse me, sir. How do you manage to always come up with the exact change in your pocket every time?”

“Well,” says the man, “several years ago I was cleaning the attic and found an old lamp. When I rubbed it, a genie appeared and offered me two wishes. My first wish was that if I ever had to pay for anything, I would just put my hand in my pocket and the right amount of money would always be there.”

“That’s brilliant!” says the waitress. “Most people would ask for a million dollars or something, but you’ll always be as rich as you want for as long as you live!”

“That’s right. Whether it’s a gallon of milk or a Rolls Royce, the exact money is always there,” says the man.

The waitress asks, “What’s with the ostrich?”

The man sighs, pauses and answers, “My second wish was for a tall chick with a big ass and long legs who agrees with everything I say.”

Today’s Anglican Video

June 6th, 2011

Bishop Yellow Belly is trying to get Miss Young Person to church for Pentecost. She isn’t enamoured of the idea, and tells him so. (If you’re not up on the latest hijinks in the appointment of Bishops in the Church of England, read my blog post on the subject.)

Today’s Traffic Safety Video

June 6th, 2011

In India I routinely spied entire families (Dad, Mom, daughter, and teenage son) riding on one Vespa scooter, with no helmets in evidence. However, the video below does show that in India, motorcycles are a chillaxing form of transport. As the gentleman in question was wearing his helmet, it’s all right, then.

Today’s Sleuthing URL

June 6th, 2011

There are many ways in which our friends in the animal kingdom assist the constabulary in their function of protecting the public. Sniffer dogs come to mind. Well, in Germany the boys in blue have recruited three vultures to their ranks. These feathered friends are to be used in finding corpses that are hidden in difficult terrain. There is only one concern: can the vultures be trained not to nibble at the evidence?

Today’s Religious Photograph

June 5th, 2011

I have been forgetting to upload this photograph. I call it “Biretta Convention”. They seem to be multiplying rapidly, which is odd for a hat normally worn by celibate clerics, but there you have it.

A bit of light entertainment for a Sunday evening.

You’ve already got ’em

May 30th, 2011

I was in Tesco’s yesterday, queueing at the only belt checkout open. In front of me was a very good looking young Afro-Caribbean man. Most of his groceries were already on the belt. He turned to me and said, “You go ahead, I have to get buns.”

As he turned around, I saw that his butt, poking out of the top of his jeans and barely covered by his Calvins, was quite shapely and was the type that has been described as “a butt you could rest a pint glass on.” I thought to myself, “You’ve already got ’em.”

Shopping at Tesco is usually teejus in the extreme; not yesterday.

Today’s Coulrophobic URL

May 28th, 2011

You may not know what coulrophobia is. However, a woman getting off a trolley in Boston has good reason to have it.

Today’s joke, thanks to Grandmère Mimi

May 27th, 2011

A minister was completing a temperance sermon. With great emphasis he said, “If I had all the beer in the world, I’d take it and pour it into the river.”

With even greater emphasis he said, ” And if I had all the wine in the world, I’d take it and pour it into the river.”

And then finally, shaking his fist in the air, he said, ” And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I’d take it and pour it into the river.”

Sermon complete, he sat down.

The song leader stood very cautiously and announced with a smile, nearly laughing: “For our closing song, Let us sing Hymn #365, ‘Shall We Gather at the River.'”

There will always be an England, Equine Department

May 26th, 2011

Debbie Murden rides her carriage pulled by Dago the Welsh cob stallion on highways, and often stops along the way for a bite to eat. However, a McDonald’s in Darbyshire says that it is too dangerous to serve her and refused to let her use the drive-up window.

She got her meal, but instead of 2 all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame-seed bun, she got the Colonel’s best. The KFC across the street was happy to serve her. McDonald’s has refused to comment.

Perhaps McDonald’s should get Mayor McCheese to clarify the ordinances about horses and drive-up windows.

Secrecy and the election of bishops

May 26th, 2011

There has been a lot of comment lately in the British press and media about secrecy. Injunctions against even reporting the fact that there is an injunction relating to the peccadillos of sporting or political (or even media) figures have been taken out, flouted, and rescinded in the face of the world’s scrutiny in Facebook and Twitter. The press has been full of stories bemoaning the loss of freedom of the press (which only applies to those who own one, as the adage says). The morality of a media figure, who is paid to expose the faults, failings, and future plans of politicians and public figures, taking out a so-called superinjunction to prevent the media reporting his name and the fact that he had an affair and thought that he had fathered a child from this affair has been questioned and ridiculed. The media figure (Andrew Marr, a BBC journalist and reporter who took over the prime Sunday morning interview slot from Sir David Frost when the latter decided to hang up his fangs) rescinded the superinjunction due to the pressure.

Yesterday, Andrew Brown writing in The Guardian newspaper revealed that the Very Rev’d Colin Slee, late Dean of Southwark, had written a memorandum before he died recounting some of the machinations behind the appointment of a new Bishop of Southwark. A disclaimer: Southwark is my diocese, the Cathedral is in the Deanery of which I am Lay Chair, and I work together in Diocesan Synod and Bishop’s Council with all the people from Southwark who were involved in this meeting.

The process for appointment to a vacant bishopric in the Church of England is open in parts, but the main event, the actual selection of two names to be forwarded to the Prime Minister, one of which will be passed to the Queen for announcement as the next bishop, is shrouded in secrecy. At the time of the meeting, when Stephen Bates reported on the leak of the Very Rev’d Jeffrey John’s name from the selection meeting, I blogged about the whole thing, and said that I expected more revelations. Well, they have now come, in spades.

One of the members of the Crown Appointments Commission, until his death from pancreatic cancer in November, was Colin Slee, elected to represent the Deans of Cathedrals on that commission. After the selection meeting took place, he was so upset that he wrote a memo about it, reportedly after he was diagnosed and knew that his condition was terminal. His daughter and widow are convinced that the stress of this meeting contributed to his rapid decline, and thus they, in conjunction with The Guardian, released the memo.

It paints an interesting picture of the meeting, held at the Royal Foundation of St. Katherine at Limehouse (in fact, I went to a meeting there last Saturday and we met in the same room in which the selection committee met). The two names that were proposed by the representatives of Southwark Diocese were Jeffrey John, currently Dean of St. Albans, and the Rev’d Nicholas Holtam, then Vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square, now Bishop-Designate of Salisbury. Jeffrey John is openly gay, and partnered, but chaste, and Holtam is married to a woman who contracted a marriage when quite young, then divorced, and then met and married him. At the time, this debarred Holtam from selection as a Bishop, although the rules have since been clarified.

Jeffrey John had been appointed Bishop of Reading in Oxford Diocese in 2003, but resigned that appointment before he was consecrated because of opposition from Evangelicals in that Diocese and elsewhere. He had at the time been Canon Theologian of Southwark, and a good friend of both Archbishop Rowan Williams and Dean Colin Slee. There was a huge amount of angst around his resignation, and many people were upset, not least John, his partner, Colin Slee, and the Rt Rev’d Tom Butler, then Bishop of Southwark.

The selection committee met in July, 2010, on the evening of a Diocesan Synod. I recall some of the members of the committee coming into Diocesan Synod late, and noting the strained smiles on their faces. Now I know why.

If you read Brown’s article, you will get all the sordid details of the bullying of the members of the selection committee by the Archbishops, including a visit by the Archbishop of York and several other members of the committee to the men’s room, after which the voting patterns changed. I wonder what they were up to in there.

But all of this is background to my main thesis: the process for selection of Bishops of the Church of England should be changed, and soon. The current process (where representatives of General Synod, representatives selected by the Diocese in question, and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, meet in secret, sworn to secrecy, and choose two names for the Prime Minister) only works if the secrecy part works. The machinations accompanying the appointment can thus be as pleasant as can be, or acrimonious and threatening, as no one who was not at the meeting will know about it. There is no requirement for give-and-take if pressure and lobbying from various factions is conducted in secrecy. I find it odd that the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is so puzzled and troubled by the apparent secrecy of Freemasonry, takes advantage of secrecy to bully and threaten people to vote his way when a bishop is selected.

My proposal is to provide the oxygen of publicity to the process. Let bishops be openly elected by Diocesan Synods, with confirmation by the other Dioceses of the Church of England, then the name submitted to the Queen for the formalities to be preserved.

The process would start, after the declaration of a Bishop that s/he (I am ever hopeful…) is about to retire, with the Vacancy in See committee drawing up a job description with advice from members of the Diocese, and then appointing a Nominations Committee to solicit candidates. A number of candidates would be proposed to a special meeting of Diocesan Synod, and after a dog-and-pony show, Diocesan Synod would elect the new Bishop. Once the election was held, Dioceses would be asked to confirm (or not) the election, and Bishops with jurisdiction would also be asked for their consent. A majority of Dioceses and Bishops would have to consent before the Bishop-elect could be consecrated.

Now I have been told again and again that the mechanisms by which the Episcopal Church governs itself are not in any way applicable to the Church of England. Usually, this comes in a very condescending manner, “Oh, dear, that would never work here.” Well, when I ask why it would never work here, I get no answer at all. The simple declaration that it would not work seems to be enough. There is a sneering tone that even Bishops take when commenting on how the Episcopal Church conducts its affairs, and I am starting to get quite annoyed about it. Bishop Tom was a great sneerer-in-chief when I would speak in meeting and at Diocesan Synod about items like stewardship in US Episcopal Churches. It’s really stupid and short-sighted not to rationally and impartially consider different ways of doing things in the Church.

When people do stoop to commenting on the election of bishops, the main objection seems to be that making the process political lowers the quality of bishops, since only those with political skills get elected. Well, my reaction is: Bushwah! The process now used here is as intensely political as it is in the Episcopal Church; the only difference is that the politics is limited to around 15 people, rather than an entire Church or a Diocese. The quality of Bishops can be as good here with elections as it is now, with selection committees. Elections in the US have produced poor Bishops in several cases. However, selection committees here have produced poor bishops in several cases as well, and seems to militate against outstanding bishops in many ways. Jeffrey John would be an outstanding bishop, but will never be selected while the current system is in place. And while I would hesitate to name those I consider to be poor at bishoping, those familiar with the Church of England will have their own favourite names for that category.

So dear Colin, who was an outstanding personality and a charismatic Dean, and someone who was not afraid in the least of controversy, continues to be controversial from the grave. I do not expect any comment from either Archbishop on these revelations. They will be profoundly embarrassing to everyone who cares, even a little bit, about the future of the Church in England. I hope, but do not expect, that this sordid story will at last move the Church to examine the process of selecting bishops and make changes to bring the light of day and democratic procedures to what is, in a Catholic but Reformed church, a most important post.

One post scriptum: this story will also profoundly affect the Diocese of Southwark and Bishop Christopher. Were I the Bishop, I would be very embarrassed and unnerved by hearing the news that the selection committee from the Diocese, with which I needed to work closely, thought that I was the third- or fourth-rate candidate, and had been bullied into selecting me. The Diocese will also be very upset by this news, but both Bishop Christopher and the Diocese ought to grapple with these facts in order to ensure that the Diocese continues to grow (we are growing!) and thrive.

Today’s Photo Advice Video

May 23rd, 2011

I have been considering adding more profile photos. While I love the bow-tie photo and caricature, perhaps it’s getting a bit old and we need to freshen it up a bit.

This video shows that anyone, even me, can get a good profile picture out of whatever face Nature has blessed them with. Thanks to petapixel for the link.

Tracey Emin show at the Hayward Gallery

May 23rd, 2011

We decided to take a trip to Southbank to see the Tracey Emin show that opened this week at the Hayward Gallery, Love Is What You Want.

Now in the past I’ve been fairly cool to Emin. She is one of the so-called group of Young British Artists (YBAs) who took over the scene here in the UK in the 1980’s and 90’s. The Wikipedia article will tell you more than you probably wanted to know about her. The first exposure I had to her work was My Bed, the unmade bed she submitted for the Turner Prize in 1997. The bed, unmade, was covered and surrounded by various detritus from her life and loves, such as condoms and sanitary articles. She didn’t win, but My Bed made her reputation.

She is very well-educated as an artist, and her technique is exquisite when she paints in oil, for example. But much of her work is exhibiting found objects, quilts with words sewn on them, neons, some of which are texts, and some of which are portraits, and films. Her subject is herself. More than any other artist of whom I can think her works portray Tracey Emin in words, pictures, films, and found objects.

Every artist puts a lot of him or herself in their work. But Emin is totally self-portraying. You might think this is selfish, or short-sighted. For some artists it might have been so. But not with Emin. Her portrayal of herself is absorbing. You want to go around the corner to learn more about her. Yes, she is self-absorbed. But it is a self-absorption that is creative.

There is one 22-minute film in the exhibition where the camera and microphone follow Emin as she walks around the Euston area recalling her abortion. While it makes you cringe, at the end of it you have been able to crawl into Emin’s mind in a way that other artists don’t permit. Her mind turns out to be a strange mix of innocence and beauty with sordidness and filth. The female body (and to a much lesser extent, the penis) figure largely in her drawings and neons. She is a highly sexual woman and exposes that sexuality for everyone to see. Children should probably either be prepared for the exhibition (the birds and bees probably need to be explained pretty thoroughly) or left with their Granny.

There is a goodly amount of regret in the exhibition. I think that she regrets having abortions and some of the other choices she’s made in her life. However, she expresses this regret with eloquence and verity.

I want to go and see it again. There was one blanket with a religious theme that reduced me to tears. I need to go and see that again. If you are in London or within hailing distance of London, go and see it. An exhibition of this magnitude only comes along once a decide or so for every artist.

Some random thoughts for a Sunday evening

May 22nd, 2011

The Rapture, or perhaps, the absence of same, is now old news. The media, always happy to find eccentrics to quote, were on the story like white on rice. World to end on Saturday. Earthquakes at 6 pm local time all over the world. Mr. Camping will not schedule an interview for Sunday as “he will not be here”. Families who differ on whether there will be a rapture are split. Parents spend their children’s university money on advertisements.

Well, we’re all here. The Rapture didn’t happen. People who gave away (or, worse, euthanised) their pets are now petless. Family Radio, whose owner is Mr. Camping, was silent on the Rapture-less world today. They were singing hymns from the Family Radio Hymnal, available from their website.

Those of us who are rational Christians now are being lumped in with the Rapturists. This is bad news. Christianity is not about pie in the sky when you die. It’s not about Rapture, or trying to predict Rapture, or preparing for Rapture. It’s about living a life of charity and service to the world. It’s about committing yourself to make this world, where we live right now, a better place. It’s about being in communion with your fellow humans as God’s actors in the world. These last three sentences are my Christianity. They do not include people who delude others into believing that these people can predict the end of the world.

There was quite a lot of humour, satire, and just plain abuse on Twitter and Facebook over this weekend. I participated in some of that. But what I am really concerned about is the welfare of those who placed their trust in this misguided “prophet”. These people have been deluded, and now disappointed, by this “prophet”. They are the true victims of this, and my thoughts and prayers are with them today. If we all concentrate on making this world a better place, we’ll be doing something that we know will help people live better lives. Jesus came that we might have life, and have life abundantly. He did not come to ensure that we had the wit to deduce when we were all going to fly up to heaven.

UK political shenanigans are beginning to surface yet again this week.

  • A former minister in the Labour government has been jailed for a year and a half for fiddling his expenses. The judge explained that he would have imposed a harsher sentence except that the former member of Parliament pled guilty.
  • A current Cabinet minister is suspected of persuading his then-wife to take the rap for a speeding ticket, as he would have lost his license for a while had the ticket been laid at his door. (I’m relating this in US-centric language; here I would say that this Cabinet secretary had gotten his then-wife to take points on her driving license for speeding.) This is, of course, horribly illegal and the Cabinet minister is in danger of not only losing his job, but also his seat as an MP and his liberty, if the allegations are proven.
  • Various public figures who have obtained superinjunctions to prevent the media from revealing their names, the matter under litigation, or the mere fact that there is an injunction against them. This is quite foreign to my American sensibilities, as a request for such an injunction would be laughed out of even a justice of the peace’s court in the US. The law is evolving rapidly here, and the judges are not happy about it. Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge (yes, that’s right. Justice Judge) has been muttering that Twitter and the intarwebz are out of control. The names of those with superinjunctions have been revealed on Twitter, on Wikipedia, and in at least one case, in a British newspaper published in Scotland, and thus outside the jurisdiction of the English courts. This is all very interesting stuff, and it remains to be seen whether the courts can enforce an order on Twitter to disclose the identities of those who have Tweeted about the superinjunction people. I seriously doubt it.
  • The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke (one of the few survivors of the last Tory cabinet in the 1990’s), when speaking to an interviewer about sentencing policy, seemed to imply that some rape was less serious than other rapes. He claimed later on that he was speaking of the difference between statutory rape (where even if the young girl or boy tries to give consent they cannot do so legally and the other person has committed an offense) and “regular” rape, a crime of violence. Many women (and not a few men) were outraged at this, and have said so. He claims that he was misquoted and misconstrued, but it seems likely that he’s past his political prime and may be reshuffled out of the Cabinet later on. The Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, called for Clarke to be sacked at Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday, thus securing Ken Clarke’s job for quite a while (until the public has forgotten that Miliband said anything, at least). The only thing that crossed my mind when I heard about it was, “What an idiot Clarke is!” He should pull his foot out of his mouth long enough to say, “I resign!”

The Queen visited the Republic of Ireland this week. She laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance for those killed during the Irish wars for independence from the UK. She gave one speech, which she began with a few words in Irish Gaelic, to the delight of the entire nation. She went on to say how sorry she was for wrongs committed by the British government in Ireland. The Sinn Fein mayor of Cork shook her hand and welcomed her to the city. She went to a stud farm (no, it was horses, all you with dirty minds. She’s 85, for goodness’ sake!). She seems to have charmed quite a few people in the Republic of Ireland, and this can only be a good thing. I don’t think she’ll be over there again anytime soon, as the security alone cost the Irish government quite a few million Euros. But the value of her visit is incalculable. At the Garden of Remembrance she not only laid a wreath, she bowed her head for a moment of silent reflection. The Queen has only once before bowed her head in public, when she bowed as the funeral cortege of Diana, Princess of Wales, passed Buckingham Palace on its way to Westminster. This is powerful stuff. When she bowed, she embodied the United Kingdom’s realisation that what happened in Ireland during Britain’s rule there often was wrong, immoral, and harmful to Irish people. It is hard to make amends to people long emigrated to the far corners of the globe, or who were killed in the Great Famine, or in the Troubles, but with one bow, the Queen has made it clear that as a nation, we are sorry beyond words for what our forebears did. It was a noble gesture. I am grateful that she made it in our names.

A newly-appointed flying bishop (AKA “Provincial Episcopal Visitor”, a bishop chartered to take care of congregations that are not happy to accept the ministry of women, or of bishops who support the ministry of women) resigned from the Freemasons this week before he is consecrated next month. There is a long history of suspicion of Freemasonry here in the United Kingdom, and especially in England. Secret societies are thought to conceal grotesque ceremonies and beliefs that are incompatible with Christianity. The odd fact is that Archbishop Williams, who is empowered to appoint flying bishops in the southern province of England, knew of this man’s membership in Freemasonry and, while “troubled” by it, did not require his resignation from the Craft. Once the bishop-designate was identified publicly as a Freemason, however, he resigned right away.

I confess here and now: I am a Freemason, and Master of my Lodge for a second consecutive year. There is nothing in either the secrets, the ritual, or the practice of Freemasonry which conflicts in any way with my Christian beliefs. Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1944 to 1961 and was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to meet a Pope in modern times (they now seem to have a season ticket to Rome and wander off there with great regularity), was also a Freemason, and was Grand Chaplain of the United Grand Lodge of England. While he was not a perfect Archbishop, he was on record as saying that it was “harmless fun”. I believe there’s a bit more to it, but as we define Freemasonry as “a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”, it is a good way of explaining how to be a good person in terms that people can understand and connect with. There is no question of preferring another Freemason over someone who is not initiated. Any Freemason who was a judge and who let another Freemason off in a court case would, if discovered, be removed from the Craft. The secrets, if you knew what they were, are trivial and have meaning only in context; the signs, grips, and words are not used outside of the Masonic temple.

The bishop-designate’s resignation, however, seems to imply that there is something incompatible with Christianity (or, for that matter, other faiths) in Freemasonry. There is not. I do wish he had stuck to his guns and refused to resign.

The Rapture doesn’t seem to have happened

May 21st, 2011

The radio station associated with the man who has predicted today’s Rapture-fizzle is still broadcasting, and soliciting contributions. You’d think they’d not be concerned about where their money will come from, as we won’t be around tomorrow. Will we?

Today’s Little England URL

May 19th, 2011

Many Church of England incumbents (most famously, the late Very Rev’d Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark) have banned the singing of Blake’s Jerusalem in their churches. The ostensible reason is that it is not based on a firm religious foundation. Some people have tried to rehabilitate the tune by setting different words to it.

But that bastion of Little England Toryism, the Daily Mail, quotes a gay Tory MP as saying that if this continues, the only ceremonies at which Jerusalem will be sung are lesbian and gay same-sex civil partnerships.

That doesn’t bother me at all.

Today’s Equine URL

May 18th, 2011

One might think that this link refers to Her Majesty’s visit to the Irish Stud (no, this is NOT Graham Norton). It does not. It refers to the man who was in a great hurry to get to Holyhead in Wales from Wrexham. He had a companion who wasn’t allowed on the train. There are pictures!

London Stabbie’s Wednesday Follies

May 18th, 2011

Yesterday Stabbie needed to take an Underground journey to Kenton, which is at the other end of the Bakerloo Line. Now Stabbie is a great believer in classless travel, and the days of 1st and 2nd class travel on the Tube are long gone. When a rather tall hunky bear got on and sat next to Stabbie, he was quite pleased, until he drew a breath. Mr. Tall Hunky Bear seems to have been in a pub only a few moments before boarding. And, in the interval between pub and Tube, he had been smoking. And, third but not least, he may have had difficulty in showering that morning. The odour was, well, overpowering. Stabbie being a very lucky guy, Mr. Tall Hunky Bear remained on the Tube and got off at Stabbie’s stop. Stabbie could, at last, draw an easy breath. What Stabbie would really have wanted to do is cut off this gentleman’s clothing and then puncture a very large balloon filled with warm water above him. Repeat until clean.

In the last two days Stabbie’s neighbours have been doing some remodelling. Stabbie does not believe this is sanctioned by his landlord, which is a Housing Association. They first moved all of their furniture into their back garden, and also discarded so much material that the trash area was inundated. They then tore up their carpets, and started drilling and hammering. This has not improved Stabbie’s days. The trash was collected on Monday, and by Tuesday evening the bins and the trash area were awash again. Some of the trash is hazardous material such as paint cans.

Now these neighbours have only once before been a nuisance (the loud 3AM party around 5 or 6 years ago was not pleasant), and Stabbie is sure that the banging, hammering, and drilling will stop soon. Stabbie would like to help that process along—he thinks that perhaps taking his stiletto and perforating the wooden floor might help a bit. Perforating the workmen might be a bit much, but he’d consider it.

This morning Stabbie was sleeping relatively peacefully when the fire alarm went off at 3:30 am. There was no fire in Stabbie’s flat, so since Stabbie is the only person in the block who knows how to reset the alarm he went into the hallway to do that. The display said that the alarm was caused by something in a flat above ours. Stabbie shut off and reset the alarm, and tried to go back to sleep. No dice.

Stabbie takes medication that ensures restless sleep and vivid dreams. So being awakened at 3:30 am can mean not falling asleep again for a couple of hours.

Now Stabbie realises that fire alarms are necessary. Stabbie realises that cooking is necessary. Stabbie even realises that cooking at 3:30 am in a flat where the occupant has nailed the windows shut and kept the heat on could be necessary. But Stabbie thinks that cooking things that smoke at 3:30 am is probably not a good activity. Stabbie would like to forestall the necessity of being awakened at that hour, so perhaps somewhat forecefully encouraging his neighbour on the third floor to eat a raw meal at 3:30 am would help.

Installing an old printer

May 18th, 2011

I have been having difficulty installing an old HP Laserjet 4P printer on my computers here. The old Dell computer does not have a parallel port, so I tried several things. An HP printer server never worked right. A parallel to USB cable also never worked right. A Bluetooth adapter for a parallel port worked, but it made it difficult if not impossible to install the printer onto the computer. When I asked Bluetooth to find the printer, it reported the printer’s name as “UNKNOWUNKNOW”. Whatever I did, I couldn’t get it to find the printer as “HP Laserjet 4P”. Of course, the disks I had to install it were 3-1/2″ floppies, and I have no easy way to load them onto the computer.

So, step 1 was to swear a lot. Step 2 was to download the Windows 7 drivers from the HP website. Step 3 was to try to get the driver installer to find those drivers. Uh-uh. No dice. Nada. Nihil. Rien.

Step 4 was: repeat Step 1.

I then had a brainwave. Step 5: I edited the .inf file, deleted all the references to printers in the first part of the file except for the Laserjet 4P reference. I changed the name of this reference to “UNKNOWUNKNOW” and saved the file. I then right-clicked on the printer in the Bluetooth window, chose “Properties”, highlighted “UNKNOWUNKNOW” and chose “Properties” at the lower right hand corner, then “Change Settings” on the window that opened. This allowed me to update the driver, and when prompted I chose the .inf file. It then found the right driver from the file and installed it. I changed the name of the printer to “HP Laserjet 4P” and printed a test page. Voilá! There it was.

Now I’ve fallen somewhat behind on hardware. The days in the mid-1980’s when I had to manually plug memory chips into a circuit board are long gone. Putting together my own computer is now quite difficult; my current computer was put together by our friend BK in Singapore and I don’t believe I could do it now, at least not easily. But I’m grateful that I’m a software tester at heart, and able to keep plugging away at a problem until I’ve cracked it.

Why would I want an ancient Laserjet on my system? It’s very easy to feed envelopes into it, that’s why. To feed envelopes into the Photosmart I have to take out the tray, remove the paper, put in one envelope, close it up again, and print. The Laserjet has a slot in the front and a switch at the back which allows an envelope to pass through flat. It also works quite well for sheets of laser labels, which should not be allowed to bend in the printer as labels can become detached and end up on the laser drum.

I feel very accomplished. Next step: get the Photosmart’s scanner to pass through the firewall.

From Twitter 05-14-2011

May 15th, 2011
  • 07:39:48: Love those hunky Texas lads… RT DentonPolice: 05/13/2011 23:44 | 17 yo | EXPIRED INSPECTION STICKER
  • 07:52:44: David looks like a dueller; cute scar… RT DentonPolice: 05/13/2011 23:48 | 23 yo | NO DRIVERS LICENSE
  • 23:20:33: Very sad to read that Fr. John McGuire, a classmate from Dunwoodie, died in March. He was a great guy, always wanting to make you smile. RIP

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The fishermen’s lobby has triumphed, yet again!

May 14th, 2011

In the 1960’s, when the rest of United States Roman Catholics were enjoying the liberty to mark Friday penance in their own way, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston were still required to abstain from meat on Fridays, as Richard Cardinal Cushing’s ear had been bent by the fishing lobby in Massachusetts.

Now we hear the news that Roman Catholics in England and Wales will be required to abstain from meat on Fridays from September this year. The bishops have helpfully specified that vegetarians and vegans may abstain from some other food that they enjoy.

I presume that the usual Thursday and Friday menus in rectories starting in September will be the same as it was when I was a kid. Thursday was Prime Rib night for the Reverend Fathers, and Friday was Lobster night. Penance is such a privation.

One presumes that this edict will be followed by all English and Welsh Roman Catholics with the same assiduity as they follow the rules on artificial contraception and attending the Eucharist on Sundays.

Paddy was in a swank restaurant on a Friday evening. When he looked at the menu, he called the waiter over and said, “I’ll have a shark steak, rare.” The waiter replied, “Sir, we don’t serve shark steak here.” Paddy said, “Well, God knows, I asked for fish. I’ll have a prime rib, medium rare.”

A video to break your heart

May 14th, 2011

One of the hallmarks of many segments of gay male culture is a hankering after youth. Gay male magazines and websites features photos of men described as teen boiz, and, to be frank, being out, proud, and a teenager is a great thing. I wish that I had been able to have been out and proud as a teenager; instead, it took me 14 more years before I identified publicly as a gay man.

We are lucky in these days to be living in a society where, in many places, it is possible for teenagers to openly identify as gay or lesbian, or transgender, or even just questioning. I do not doubt that in fifty years’ time these attitudes will not only be the prevalent ones in our society, but will result in adults who are better adjusted, better able to not only tolerate (which implies disapproval) but also accept those who are different from them, without being threatened.

There is a catch, however. Sexualisation of children and young people is a problem in modern society. Training bras for the 8-year-old girl, or an 8-year-old boy in England who brags that he has just become a father, are profoundly disturbing. Sexualisation sometimes means that older people feel that they can take advantage of young people in ways that rob the young people of their childhoods.

In Western society, this often takes the form of sexual abuse in a home or closed setting. Child prostitution here seems to be (I may be wrong) less common in our relatively more affluent society.

In countries like Thailand, however, children often are obligated by the economic circumstances of their families or the fact that they have become homeless and without a family at all to offer themselves as sex workers. Tourists are often the “beneficiaries” of this activity, which would earn them lengthy jail terms in their own countries if they practiced them there. But the victims of all this are the children themselves, who, while offering themselves willingly as rent boys and prostitutes, are forced to do so by economic deprivation and the lure of an income from rich adults.

The video I’m embedding below features interviews with boys who are sex workers in Thailand. At least one is as young as 11, while the oldest one is 17 or so. Watching it was an emotional experience for me. When one of the boys is asked where his mother is, he replies that she died in a car accident. The interviewer then asked whether he missed her, and this boy, who is supporting himself on the street by having sex with men, breaks down and cries, wiping the tears from his eyes. You will be hard pressed not to wipe tears from your own eyes while watching this.

I do not have objections to sex work. Provided that those who perform sex work do so freely and willingly, using safer-sex techniques, with a living wage which they themselves keep and use to support themselves and their families, and provided that sex work is legal in their location and that they are of a legal age to have sex, I would be happy for it to go on. However, the children in this video are mostly not of legal age, sex work is not legal in Thailand under these conditions, and they have been robbed of their childhood by economic and personal circumstances beyond their control. There is also no guarantee that they will always use safer-sex techniques, since it is well-documented that when offered more money to have unsafe sex, sex workers often accept.

In addition, there is no indication that these boys are gay. The oldest one produces a picture of his girlfriend in his home town. The others are probably too young to even think of having a girlfriend or boyfriend.

The measure of the success of such a video is whether people are galvanised to do something about the problem it presents. I do not know what I can do about it, other than keep these children in my thoughts and prayers. There may be charities that specialise in working with boy sex workers in Thailand; if so, I shall try to find one and make a donation.

What it should do, if it were to reach the right eyes and ears, is make those who travel to places like Thailand expressly to have sex with underage boys think again about what their patronage is doing to these boys emotionally. What kind of damage are they inflicting on these children?

My friend, the late Sr. Brooke Bushong, CA, worked for a children’s charity in New York for a time. The charity worked with homeless teenagers, and was later seriously damaged by the activities of its founder and head, who had been having sex with some of his clients. Brooke said to me that instead of having sex with adults, the children needed to come to their sexual awakening with people their own age, and at the proper time in their development. The children in this video may emerge from their childhood and have a happy adulthood; I hope and pray that this is the case. The signs of that are not promising, however.

From Twitter 05-13-2011

May 14th, 2011
  • 21:54:31: RT @dalelazarovXXX: #Competition! Retweet this and win nothing but my thanks and admiration! ( #gay #NSFW )
  • 23:04:34: RT @soveren: nothing on tv bleah &lt;&lt; Lady Gaga on Graham Norton right now…

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Today’s Commercial

May 13th, 2011

For those in other parts of the world, Tums is an antacid “candy” that comes in rolls or bottles. This advertisement should make you all do double-takes. Thanks to for the reference.

From Twitter 05-12-2011

May 13th, 2011
  • 17:59:03: Good afternoon, all. Quiet day today after a great Lodge meeting last night. Archdeaconry Service this evening. Friday the 13th looms!

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