Thursday, December 25, 2008

[bethlehem] where it all started

As it should be:

Mass in Bethlehem

In Manger Square, vendors sold roasted peanuts and Santa Claus hats to the crowds, among whom were some local Muslims out enjoying the annual international fuss over their town.

Correspondents say a relative lull in violence in the Middle East seems to have encouraged pilgrims to return to the "Holy Land".

"Bethlehem is like the soul of the universe, and it's like an explosion of love here," said Italian fashion photographer Stefano Croce, 46.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

[jesus of nazareth] only for the humble

Let the just rejoice, for their Justifict is born. Let the sick and infirm rejoice, for their Savior is born. Let the captives rejoice, for their Redeemer is born. Let slaves rejoice, for their Master is born. Let free people rejoice, for their Liberator is born. Let all Christians rejoice, for Jesus Christ is born.

[Saint Augustine the Hippo]


Quite a few things come to mind in looking at the picture above. Firstly, how Mary looks in pretty good nick for someone who's given birth not long before. :) Secondly, how good-natured Joseph must have been after his initial anger and distrust of how Mary got pregnant - he didn't even get a speaking part in the Bible either. Some women get the good husbands, don't they?

Also, the question is not whether Jesus was born - that was attested to, by definition, in the writings of Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius and Phlegon and Encyclopaedia Britannica had:

These independent accounts prove that in ancient times, even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds by several authors at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.

The only real doubt is whether He was resurrected and on that turns the whole issue, that being more properly gone into next Easter. If the odds were that He lived and therefore was born, then why shouldn't it be as Matthew described?

I've read the material which suggests Matthew was adopting tales from an earlier time and so on but in simple logic, there is no proof that it did not happen the way described in Matthew - he was a more contemporary source than modern revisionists who are just as much following an agenda as Matthew was.

Pascal's Wager seems a sound position to take.

Either way, may peace and harmony descend on you this night and all the way through the next few days. Have a raucously good time tomorrow.

Merry Christmas.

A little ditty by Michael Crawford to take us out this night:

[tragedy] at a time of happiness

One of my favourite bloggers and one I'd hope I could count as a friend, L"Ombre, has lost his mother. His account is moving but has a sting to it:

The ambulance crew showed up because at o'dark thirty on Thursday my mother tried to go to the toilet and fell somehow next to it instead of on it. Father was unable to extricate her and called 999. When they showed up (quite promptly I believe) they quickly got her up from where she had fallen and gave a little first aid. They (and their superiors via radio) advised against taking her to hospital because they said she'd be no better off.

I don't know, in these circumstances, if it helps but maybe if you pop over there, read and comment, it might ease things a little.

[memo to gordo] how to get the country back on its feet

During the bust of '98, I was in Russia and one of the measures was a radical revaluing of the currency by renaming.

So if you had 1 000 000 roubles in your pocket, this was now 1000 roubles and against the dollar, the rouble went from 6.7 to 32.4 which, though still artificial, at least gave the basis of coming out of the recession. Another measure was the reintroduction of coins and the necessity to buy almost all goods and services in roubles, in an effort to kill off the dependence on the hard currency of the time, the dollar.

Needless to say, people still kept dollars in the shoebox on the top shelf of the cupboard but radical solutions in that case did work and the restructuring of the country did begin.

Radical solutions can work if:

1. both government and people want them to;

2. there is no prior agenda which takes precedence over this desire.

If Gordo really wanted to save Britain and get the people back to work and if he had some vision, he'd:

1. write off the bulk of people's credit debts forthwith;

2. remove credit cards from those who were still sub-prime after that;

3. radically rewrite house and other unit costs to reflect a formula on items which cost over one year's median salary, e.g. an average two bedroom house would cost 5 years median gross salary, a car would cost 2 years and so on;

4. begin dismantling the apparatus of state and repealing the ridiculous laws in minor and petty things involving people's personal lives;

5. bring in a flat tax of 12% plus an NI contribution of 2%, mainly for pensions and certain free services for the needy, e.g. pensioners;

6. drastically cut company tax, stealth taxes and VAT;

7. issue the pound as treasury notes against some commodity, e.g. gold and then demand that reserves be kept by the state run Bank of England;

8. give England its own assembly in a traditional group of buildings somewhere in London;

9. formally depart the EU and operate as Great Britain, comprising England, Scotland and Wales, each with its regional assembly;

10. return Ulster to Ireland, on condition that Ireland was part of a greater confederacy of the British Isles [an economic and trade term];

11. remove the CCTV from around the nation and demilitarize the police, returning them to the beat and offering pay and conditions which would show the force as an attractive career move;

12. put commissioners into education, law and medicine who will return the systems to the values and practices of former decades;

13. encourage family values, the return of the pub [by tax concessions on low alcohol items such as beer] and army cadet training in Years 9 to 11 at school;

14. remove the insistence on NVQs and allow firms to determine their own staffing.

That's the first stage and as people began to spend again, adjustments, privatizations and so on would follow of their own accord. Gordo would then be hailed as the saviour of Britain, other nations might follow suit and he would then be the saviour of the world.

He'd also go down in history as the statesman who returned the monolithic EU to the benign EEC, with whom Great Britain would fully trade, along with the rest of the world. This would return Britain to a position of near parity with the U.S.A., making that alliance a formidable counter-balance to the rising hegemony of China.

Christmas, Then And Now

At Christmas 1968, the capitalists owned the banks and the government owned the utilities.

At Christmas 2008, the government owns the banks and the capitalists own the utilities.

This seems a strange reversal.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

[g-d rest you merry citizens] minor miracles can happen

No wisecracks - this is neither Angus nor myself.
Yet ... :)

Remember those alone:

This is the fourth Crimbo I will spend on my own; I’m not looking for sympathy, or invites.
“We” really used to enjoy the festive season, no thought of the homeless or the poor, or the old, or the lonely. Since “Mrs Angus” passed, my outlook has changed, I look on Christmas as something to get past, and over with, but I do think about the above more. Christmas to me now is a time of reflection and pondering, a time to look at the past year and add the good and the bad bits to either side of the “scales of life”.

The past three have come down heavily on” the Bad side, this year I think they may well be balanced, I have discovered the joy of Blogging, made quite a few “online” friends, and learned a lot.

How many others out there will be alone and which of those will be resigned to it, dearly wanting some sort of company and yet liking their own routines they've got into? How many drug-ravaged kids can't cope and will succumb over the next few days? Is there power in all thinking about them on Christmas Eve around the same time and hoping some minor miracle occurs for them?

As for myself, I quite prefer to be alone on this holiday, as I've become less social as I've gone along. This year I can't escape the festivities and the family here quite enjoy it so there'll be a turkey, bonhomie and all that. Well, fine, good, let's do that.

It's the people who once had the joy of this time, who really appreciated the coming together and then somehow lost that - you are the ones I'd like to get some cheer across to if I could.

Lastly, spare a thought for a group who never get sympathy, never seem to be in people's prayers - these are the employed, with the house and car, the mortgage, the bulging credit card debt and the worries about the New Year. You are the ones who are supposed to be sympathetic to the have-nots and the visible lost-allers but you yourself don't seem to register on the sympathy counter. You're often the ones who are expected to open the wallet and pay and yet how many spare a thought for you?

You are the unfashionable for the media.

Well, Merry Christmas to you as well.

[christmas quiz] how much do you know


True or false:

1. Shepherding was considered a very noble occupation.

2. Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem because of a decree by Caesar Augustus.

3. The wise men found Jesus not in a manger but in a house.

4. There are no records of Joseph speaking in the Christmas story.

5. The little drummer boy came to the manger after the other shepherds.

Answers here

[search and rescue] who should carry the can



In February, 1999 three climbers went missing for four days on the Dômes de la Vanoise during a period of high avalanche risk. After a long search and rescue operation the climbers were found safe and well. They were hailed as heroes by the media with the efforts of the rescuers being largely ignored and unrewarded.

They sold their story to Paris-Match for 600,000 Francs and it was published in a 20 page special. This provoked outrage amongst many people and the climbers subsequently donated part of the money to the mountain police widows and orphans fund.

The article puts the cost of a helicopter alone at 2000 euros an hour and a straight stretcher rescue at 300 euros. In a typical scenario, it might be an all day or two day operation with dozens of personnel.

Another article puts the cost differently:

Each year, the National Park Service spends $3 million on rescues. Most of the searches are for kids who wander from campgrounds, park officials say. But the expensive rescues--the ones that require leasing a $300-an-hour high-altitude helicopter to pick "thrill-seekers" off snowy cliffs--are on the rise.

Whatever, the costs to the residents or in the case of a national rescue service, the taxpayer, are high. Climbers and potholers get a bit hot under the collar about having to pay what they see as exorbitant fees upfront and outrageous costs of an actual rescue:

In one of those four snowboarders were rescued from Mont Rosset in the Savoie in 2003 and were billed around 6000 Euros for the private helicopter that plucked them to safety.

There's a difference, isn't there between experienced and amateur, safety conscious and not, foolhardy and following a plan which was left with officials.

Years ago, at the end of a sailing season, on a windy day and over very cold water, I was racing my A Class cat when the trapeze I was on broke and I was flung some distance from the craft. The club rescue boat was involved, at that moment, in rescuing some kids and they said later they hadn't seen me. The only thing which saved me was a passing motorboat with some some party-goers on board.

That involved just an obligation to my rescuers but I've often thought of rambling and getting caught and needing to be got out. Who should pay? What should the set up be? Should there be opt out clauses? Or should it all be banned?

[caption] please

[good luck, bad luck] would be nice to know the formula

Oh, don't you just love this one:

UK couple Jason and Jenny Cairns-Lawrence have been on holiday in Mumbai, London and New York just as terrorists have attacked each of those cities, and have survived each occasion.

The couple, from Dudley, near Birmingham, were in central Mumbai last month as Islamic terrorists targeted foreigners during a killing spree that paralysed the city with fear, London's Telegraph reported.

They were also in New York on September 11, 2001, when hijacked planes crashed into the twin towers and brought them down, killing about 3000 people.

Four years later, they were in London on July 7 when four terrorists used suicide bombs to blow up trains and buses, killing 52.
How lucky are you?  I am lucky in some ways but desperately unlucky in others.  For example, if I'm in a car, it's most unusual not to get a parking spot there and then.  There is always someone pulling out or one break in the traffic - I think it's a little beyond the average.

On the other hand, I'm not too lucky on the work front and sometimes things go pear shaped which there was no reason for them too.  Some of it, like being booted out of Russia with the other Brits was wrong place, wrong time, wrong ethnicity.

You know sometimes, when you're in for a bad day.  Things don't gel - you knock that table and it it all falls on the floor, you stub the toe, even when not rushing, a phone call comes with bad news and another comes with a demand.  The bus doesn't arrive at all.  That sort of thing.

Sometimes I know when it's going to be a good day and much of that is if I'm in the good books that day with a certain Personage.  That's the day to try your luck because the chances are it will all work out.

I hope it works out for you this Christmas, as long as your wish doesn't involve the destruction of someone else.  I hope you're not cold or impecunious to the point you're not eating.  I hope it's OK for you.