Archive for December, 2007


Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Yesterday Emma and I were discussing the nature of why lower class voters in America often support more socially conservative politicians, as I told her about some thoughts by writer Andrew Sullivan. She asked why then would someone very privileged, like George Bush, also hold these socially conservative viewpoints.

My thinking is that obviously Sullivan was talking about trends, not absolutes, but that also of course politicians will say whatever it takes to win votes, hence (especially) the Republican presidential nominees trying to out-conservative each other at the moment (“Double Guantanamo!” “I now do not support gay civil unions!” “Etc!”).

An interesting example in this story of a Louisiana town which persuaded the phone company to change their phone area code from 666. The political quote from the mayor:

Mayor Scott Walker said CenturyTel’s decision was “divine intervention”.

However, he admitted it helped that Louisiana’s two senators had also lobbied for the change with the phone company and the state Public Service Commission.

He’s either a slimy politician who will say anything to pander to the voters, or a nutter, or just maybe someone who has a very different theological view from mine and I’m just being mean for the sake of it.

comfort and joy

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

I visited Israel a number of years ago on a choir tour for a couple of weeks around Christmas. As well as some great concerts, we did the BBC Radio 4 Christmas service broadcast from Bethlehem University. We also had a good bit of time for touring, in groups and by ourselves. It was strange, visiting the religious sites – especially the Christian ones -how un-religious they felt (apart from the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth which was peaceful, beautiful and very moving). I think a large reason for this was that the sites -specifically the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity – are co-owned and run by a number of Christian factions, each of which seems to believe that they should have sole rights. If you follow the link on the Church of the Sepulchre you’ll see information on the famous immovable ladder, for example, where nobody could agree on who should be responsible for work on the church, and today I saw that there was actually a priestly brawl in the Church of the Holy Nativity where “long-standing rivalries erupted in violence during holiday cleaning.” We didn’t see anything like that but we did see a number of ornately robed priests with big beards and heavy wooden staffs who were parading around in a very arrogant manner – you could easily imagine that getting in their way would result in fisticuffs:


post 1000

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

This is a blog milestone – the 1000th post on! The first posts were in July 2001 (the first one complaining about the weather, I see) and I’m quite proud that I’ve kept this going for so long. Yay, me.

tech kid

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

I’m very happy that Toby and Dara got me an excellent iPod speaker system for Christmas, which means that I can listen to music in the kitchen, or indeed anywhere else because it has a built in rechargeable battery.

While I was making Christmas dinner last night I had music on, and Toby came through to hang out and listen. One of the songs he particularly enjoyed and wanted to hear again. I don’t think he’s ever used the control dial on an iPod before, but within 5 seconds he had worked out how to replay the song. Kids today…

mobile post

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Emma and I finally got new phones this week. We upgraded from old basic nokia handsets to very nice blackberry pearl phones and so far I am very impressed. This is my first ‘smart’ phone and it is excellent to have such good integration with my calendar and gmail. In fact the post you are reading now is being typed on the phone – how exciting for you I’m sure only 7 years after mobile blogging was invented.

christmas musings

Monday, December 24th, 2007

I’ve been doing a lot of carol singing this year – loads of services at the Cathedral, specifically. We’ve been doing a couple of excellent settings of the Coventry Carol, one very medieval as would befit when the words were written (15th Century) and one more contemporary by Kenneth Leighton. The words come from the Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors and tell of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents – when King Herod was asked about Jesus by the Wise Men, flew into a rage and ordered all infants (I think in Bethlehem but could have been further afield too) to be killed. Jesus and his family escaped because Joseph had a dream where he was warned of this and advised to flee to Egypt till things calmed down.

For some reason I’d never really thought this through before. Maybe it’s that I’ve spent a lot of time hugging and feeding a 3-month-old over this Christmas season that’s made it hit home quite the enormity of the story. The way my thinking has gone is something like: God undertook to cause a virgin (Mary) to conceive a child. Joseph (according to Matthew’s gospel) was told of this in a dream so that he wouldn’t freak out that his betrothed was pregnant. A star was sent to guide the Wise Men to Bethlehem so that they could worship the lowly born new king. So far all very interventionist of God, well and good. However when Herod flies off the handle, only (as far as we are told) Joseph is warned, so that I would guess hundreds or more children are killed, but Jesus gets away.

I know that we commemorate this in carols and things, but it does seem quite a brutal start to the introduction of the Bringer of Salvation to the world, don’t you think?

cold and cold

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Today it’s just damned cold. Very windy and snowy. Yesterday it was less cold and wet snow fell which turned instantly to slush; shortly afterwards the temp dropped so suddenly that it froze solid. Sidewalks impossible to clear, just icy. Today it’s snowing – nasty hard snow which no matter which way you’re facing it goes right into your face and down your neck.

And to make it worse, I realized this morning how selfish I am to be complaining about having to shovel the snow from the sidewalk outside our nice warm house. There are so many people who can’t afford the heating, or who don’t have houses. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be homeless at this time, especially as a fair proportion of the homeless in Minneapolis are working families with kids. Makes you think, and hopefully makes you want to give something to people who are helping out.

poor toby

Friday, December 21st, 2007

I had to take the day off today with Toby – he had a great day at school yesterday but just kind of crumpled in the evening. It turned out that he had a fever of 102F (Emma worked out how to get the thermometer to read in F; I think Toby had somehow reprogrammed it to C and we can’t remember what a normal temp should be in Celsius). Anyway, he wasn’t doing too well but some medicine seemed to help.

He slept for 13 hours last night, and has been mostly OK today, a bit quiet but perky too. Around 3:30 he went really pale and started yawning non-stop so I suggested a nap, either on the sofa or in his bed. He opted for the latter, saying “That’s the greatest place of all.” I could tell he wasn’t right when I offered him a cookie and he turned it down – most unlike him, it’s like when I get sick and don’t even want a beer.

I guess today is one of those things about being a parent – when there’s a lot going on at work you feel a bit strange taking time off, but I am entitled to do this under my contract, plus I’ve been checking mail every couple of hours, and had a call with my team while Toby was watching a movie after lunch. Also it’s just been a real pleasure to hang out with him, he’s just a great person to be with.

poor iran

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Those poor Iranians. First they finally have vindication that they are not developing nuclear weapons, but Bush and Cheney are still on the warpath (although somewhat chided). It seems that their plans may be even more nefarious than previously thought. No bombing – instead a Chris De Burgh concert. Call in the court of human rights!

see my house

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Google maps have added a few more cities to their street view functionality, including Minneapolis. This means that when you’re looking at directions you can also see pictures of what the street or intersection looks like. They’ve even done my street, and our house looks pretty decent. The pics were taken during summer, so the front yard is all verdant and neat (now it’s covered in snow).