Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Quote of the day

"Isn't it amazing what you can accomplish
When you don't let information get in your way..."

~ Fireworks, The Tragically Hip, Phantom Power, 1998

Ironically, it was the Republicans

Well following my rant about the governmental bail out of the Wall Street banks, it seems Congress has gone and voted against the bill. Some people are already hailing it as the death of capitalism.

The big question: is that such a bad thing?

And, ironically, it was the Republicans in the main who voted against it... because it actually conflicted with their capitalist convictions (and also because the voting public has turned around and let it be known that this bail out isn't popular).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Costly compost

There's a line in The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon tells Penny that buying multi-vitamins is a waste of time because at best "you're buying the ingredients for very expensive urine". I'm beginning to feel the same way about compost.

Back in the summer, when I went to our fancy new recycling centre (aka 'the tip') to collect my bargain shiny new compost bin, I was quite excited. No more wasteful binning of potato peelings or other vegetable waste. Soon, I'd have nice fresh (you know what I mean) home-made compost to use in the garden or to give to my friend Nia who runs an allotment.

But it doesn't really work that way. I've discovered that actually the majority of vegetable matter that goes into the bin isn't veg peelings. It's unwanted veg. For example, half a bag of chopped and ready-to-eat salad, some past-their-prime apples, a bit of cucumber which has gone a bit too far along the road to cucumber smoothie. The list goes on.

Now when I buy an organic veg box, or some non-organic, yet convenient, veggies from Asda, there's a little part of me that thinks 'Am I just spending good money on compost ingredients?'

Hands off me tentacles

This is the picture being used for the caption competition where I work. If you've got a funny caption, then just add it in the comments.

(There was a dressing up competition on - we don't normally wear such quality clobber to work.That's Matt in the octopus outfit by the way. He made it himself. I'm wearing a lobster hat that Cathy brought back for me from Boston, although it does look more like a crab.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Working class zero

Went to Starbucks this morning to meet someone. When I got back, Cathy asked me what I'd had.

"Grande Latte with an extra shot of expresso," I said. "Do I sound like a class traitor saying that?"

"Yes," she said encouragingly, "you do."

Class is a funny thing. My parents are very aware of their 'status'. They came from working class backgrounds and both went to university when it was the preserve of the well-off. I don't know whether they're consciously aware of it, but the way they talk about us being a 'doctor's family' shows a bit of insecurity about their status, which I'm sure is linked to being made to feel slightly inferior at university.

A comedy example, which has gone down in the annals of our family is when we were eating toegther once and mum said in all seriousness: "I'm not sure many doctor's families eat meals based around the humble sausage." The 'humble sausage' has entered our family vernacular now, if the conversation is veering towards being classist.

I guess I'm just lucky that for my generation the class system has slowly faded. True there is still a stigma attached to coming from certain places, and it's a tremendous advantage to have a good education, but generally there are more opportunities to advance on merit, rather than on who your father was.

But there is still a division between the working poor and the working wealthy. It's a different type of work for a start. I'm acutely aware, living where I do and mixing with the people I mix with, that my job is indoors and involves no heavy lifting. And we're relatively comfortable and secure, even in worrying economic times like this. But I have done my stint in Minimum Wage Hell and I can tell you that those who are stuck there aren't having it easy.

The thing is, with the exception of going to football matches before that became an acceptable thing in polite society, we were a very middle class family when I grew up. You can tell that by the expectations of my parents that me and my brother would both go to university, and in fact, that was what we both planned to do from very early on.

I can't deny my middle class upbringing, and nor would I want to. That's me and I can't help that. But I have always recognised my ancestral roots among the working class. My one grandad was a baker. My other was a miner, then a rail ganger. Both my grandmas worked in retail. I think there's a certain dignity in that - working hard to provide for your family; to see them take advantage of the opportunities offered to them as the universities opened up to the working class.

I guess my deep antagonism (hatred?) for Tony Blair stems from my deep-rooted conviction that in many respects he was a class traitor. True, he wasn't from a working-class background as far as I can tell, but those who supported him were. The unions, and the long-time Labour voters who stuck with his party when it was suicidally unelectable, have been ill-served by a Labour government.

True there have been more working class students than ever before, but their advantages have been cancelled out by apalling levels of student debt. And those families where a baker or a rail ganger are trying to put bread on the table and shoes on their children's feet, seem to be struggling to make ends meet, pay the rent or mortgage, and keep a car on the road. There is now a minimum wage, but we still have to have a tax credit system and benefits for working families, so obviously the minimum wage is below the minimum levels families need.

Blair might not have betrayed his own class (the middle class) to the same extent. But the people who looked to him as a saviour of the working man have discovered he wasn't a messiah after all. If Labour get horrifically trounced at the next election, and the odds are they will, then frankly the only people they will be able to blame are themselves. When you betray people's trust, you can't be surprised when they don't trust you any more.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"If we only had a droid" are champions

We (i.e. me, Cathy, Clare and Tom) went to the first Monday night quiz at The Gate last night and walked away the winners. Our success meant our ironic team name was wrong - we didn't need a droid after all to win our free round of drinks.

It would be great though if you could get real R2-D2 droids to help out in pub quizzes. "R2, quick - use your wireless interface and surf the net - what's the captial of Luxembourg?" (We got that one wrong, because I got it confused with Liechtenstein and said it was Vaduz)

Of course, every answer he gave would be "bee boop be boop". And I'm not sure the quizmaster general would accept that.

The meeping truth

This week's Basic Instructions strip is about the Muppets. Cathy, my Muppet-loving better half, will probably take offence, but I thought it was funny.

Actually I've just realised that calling Cathy my Muppet-loving better half implies that I'm a Muppet...

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Kids on the Comeback

So after about 15 years, New Kids on the Block have released a come-back single, Summertime. It’s a bit too late to become a summertime smash, and I doubt it would have anyway. But I have to admit the song isn’t bad. It could certainly give other pop songs a run for their money in the quest for chart success.

I was expecting it to be terrible, when Cathy told me about it. She was quite excited about it, having been a massive New Kids fan in her youth. When she found the video on Virgin Music On Demand, I agreed to watch it out of loyalty to her more than anything else. But, like I said, it was okay, bordering on alright.

The video kicks off with the ‘Kids’, all very grown up now of course, in various exotic locations, like on a yacht, in a helicopter, etc. getting a phone call, then all tipping up at a beach-side club full of scantily-clad women to perform the chorus. Like you do. There’s even some boyband dancin’ at the end to show they’ve still got it. The lyrics about ‘do you remember that summer’ are purposely designed to remind their now-growed up female fanbase of life as a 13-year old when everything was a bit simpler.

Another song I’m liking at the moment is the soundtrack to an ad for a new computer game called Mercenaries 2 (watch the ad on Youtube). I googled it and discovered that the song had been especially commissioned for the advert. You could download the full-length one from the official website, but that didn’t seem to be working. However there are other places you can get it on the web. So, now I’m rocking to it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

When it comes to words you need the human touch

The Bad Science mini-blog put me onto a story about "The Clbuttic Mistake" - how automated software is replacing words which are deemed offensive/obscene, even if those words are in the middle of other words. So you end up with sentences like this:
"President Abraham Lincoln was buttbuttinated by an armed buttailant after a
life devoted to the reform of the US consbreastution."

I particularly like the American 'Family Organisation' who decided to ensure gays were properly labelled, but then found the software was labelling runner Tyrone Gay as Tyrone Homosexual.

As a proof-reader, I'm quite glad that this proves why you need humans to proof-read. It's nice to know you're irreplaceable.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obviously no one told Setanta

Watching Setanta Sports News this morning while eating my mini Oatibix, I was pleasantly surprised to see highlights of the England v Holland under-19 game. That wasn’t just because England won, but because the presenters hyped it up by saying “And now, action from New Meadow, where England took on Holland last night…”

When you support a lower league team, just seeing the ground on TV is relatively cool. But obviously no one has told the Setanta crew that the official name for the ground is the ProStar Stadium, and “New Meadow” has been excised from the vocabulary by the STFC marketing thought police. (Even though on the big sign next to the stadium that announces the building plans, it still says ‘Site of the New Meadow’, as Cathy pointed out when we went to the Aldershot game.)

And a shout out to mum (‘Hi, mum!’) who told me at the weekend that, just like I refer to the ProStar Stadium as the PornStar Stadium, she calls it the Prostate Stadium. Which is just as bad, if not as rude.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Unrelenting rain

As an indicator of how this summer has been apocalyptically wet, especially in the last few weeks, this story says it all. A colleague of mine was asked by his daughter, in that serious way five year olds ask questions:

“Is God trying to flood the world again?”

What can you say to that, given that all the evidence seems to point to it? I’m not sure that blaming the nonstop rain on climate change, or just the vagaries of nature, is any reassurance at all. I’m tempted to start building an ark in our back yard, just in case.

I was expecting the weather to break at the end of last week and us to be enjoying gorgeous sunshine by now. After all, the kids did go back to school at the end of last week. I thought that was how it worked - the kids go back into school and the rain stops, so they have to sit through their boring lessons wistfully gazing out of the window at the nice sunny weather. Or maybe that only ever happened when I was at school?

But the return of school hasn’t worked its magic, and we seem to be stuck in an unending grey rainscape, which may last all winter too. As this is going to be my first winter in three years au naturelle, with no drugs to lighten my mood, I’m going to investigate ways of staving off SAD. Maybe a therapeutic trip to sunnier climes is called for. I wonder if you can get one on the NHS?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

More than just a holding page

I seem to have had a lot of people comment to me personally about my "rant" about church planting and I thought I'd just tell people that if you want to know more about the new Cardiff Vineyard, the holding page now actually has content.

Although, and I don't know whether I should mention this, even though it does lend weight to my argument about local awareness being key in church planting, if you're meeting in the Millennium Stadium, it would be helpful to have a picture of the Stadium rather than the Wales Millennium Centre next to it, as the two are actually different buildings in different parts of town. Still, easy mistake to make.

Also I do think I should go on record and say I'm not bothered by the fact that it's Vineyard. I have a lot of time for Vineyard. I met some amazing friends in the first incarnation of Cardiff Vineyard. I heard Gordon Fee speak in Bournemouth, which I wouldn't have if I hadn't been in a Vineyard, and God used Vineyard to guide me to my current job. A couple of weeks ago I heard Debbie Wright, from Trent Vineyard no less, speak at Soul Survivor, and I was quite willing to listen to her, and found what she said humbling and challenging. So, it's not a Vineyard issue.

My previous post about this was actually more about the general culture of church planting found in the new streams of churchianity. And I think we have to question why we're doing this (note I said 'we' as in collectively, as in the wider Church, rather than individual churches). I don't buy into the idea that if you join an established local church you will necessarily "waste your time fighting the system" as my brother phrases it in one of his comments. Maybe, if that's the case, that says more about you, than about the church. Surely you can find one church you can work in? (It might take a while, I admit.) I do think there is some stuff here about ego and 'sacrifice' on the cheap. Sorry, it's just how I see it.

The problem is church planting is one of those sacred cows which you can't critique or question, like worship albums or speaking in tongues (or the way penal substitution is described). Hence, presumably, the name-calling in the only anonymous comment on my original post. Sure, yeah, Sanballat et al. I express reservations about another church opening up in Cardiff and that automatically lumps me in with the people who opposed the rebuilding of Jerusalem. At least it was a Biblical slur, is all I can say.

Now I don't know, obviously, who left that anonymous comment. I really hope it wasn't anyone to do with the new church plant. Because if anyone really thinks their new church is equivalent to the restoration of Israel, then there probably isn't enough sarcasm in the world to change their mind. And to be honest, if your dreams are that grandiose, and they don't come true, you are going to get really badly hurt. I don't want that, I really don't.

Trust me, I've been through the dissolution of a church plant. I know how painful it can be.