Wednesday, December 31, 2008

[new year] wishes for you

С празднечкам вас всех!! C Новым Счастьем! Тут можно поздравлять и дарить подарки. С наступающим новым годом! Здоровья и удачи всем!

Buon capodanno a tutti felice anno nuovo! Allora...buone vacanze...all'anno prossimo...una bellissima fine anno e un inizio felice 2009 !!!

Je vous souhaite une très bonne année et que tous vos désirs se réalisent. Je vous adresse à toutes et à tous, ainsi qu'à ceux qui vous sont chers, une très bonne et heureuse année 2009. Puisse cette nouvelle année vous apporter ce que vous en attendez mais surtout la santé et le bonheur.

Gluecklichen Rutsch ins Neue Jahr! Ich wünsche Euch geruhsame Festtage und für 2009, alles, alles Gute, viel Gesundheit, Glück und Zufriedenheit, Erfolg und alles was ihr Euch selbst am meisten wünscht.

Feliz Ano ~ Nuevo, bliadhna mhath ur, bliain nua fe mhaise dhuit, blwyddyn Newydd Dda, Naye Varsha Ki Shubhkamanyen, l'Shannah Tovah, kul 'am wa antum bikhair!

Happy New Year and may your most constructive resolutions come true.

[blogfocus] last gasp before new year

Gallimaufry charts the changes in this definitive piece on ordinal numbers.

Nick's bytes had a piece on Hanukah, which I didn't know was from December 21st to 29th.

Andrew Allison asks whether bishops should get involved in politics. Should psychatrists get involved in medicine too, I'm also wondering.

Blogrightreading asks why he is working on December 30th and has a chart to illustrate his point.

Angus asks if the New Year's Honours List is really necessary.

Cherie brings us the vital news about the leap second tonight.

Flip chart fairy tales asks are HR managers ready for the recession.

Hookie has discovered that Hamas has legalized crucifixion.

Mark Wadsworth asks what do "other public servants" do all day long?

The Quiet Man has come to the conclusion that aliens are dicks.

Vox Day says that "Unless your degree is going to lead directly to a six-digit salary, it's almost definitely not worth going into debt to buy it."

Tom Paine thinks that "elderly Christians probably feel the need NOT to lie, but they are being old-fashioned."

JPT tells us that all the gold ever mined would fit into two swimming pools.

[morning chinwag] over a cup of tea

We were having a chat by the fire just now and what came out of it was:

1. There should be rigidly defined areas where central government can interfere and many where it cannot.

2. Some things government could handle, they're not, e.g. if there was a problem in some part of the country which was depressed, resources from the rest of the country could go in there to get it back on its feet, as long as the resources were from within the country.

3. Let's face it, Britain was great as Britain but the intransigence of the Scottish and Welsh politicians has skewed the landscape. Nothing wrong with an assembly and England also needs one badly but the fragmentation of the nation as a whole is not good for any constituent part of Britain. The EU is the other culprit in this. Take them out of the equation and the home countries will think twice.

4. Why is it that whenever things go wrong, governments start printing money, nationalizing and people blame Keynes? Keynes had a whole theory but governments take one small part of it and distort it out of all proportion.

5. We aren't producing anything. We're big in the tertiary areas but secondary industry is dead in the water. Not many are plunging national capital into national manufacturing - it produces no short term profits and no one wants to be burnt in a government policy inimical to manufacturing. cottage industries are similarly affected.

That's as far as we got because a phone call interrupted it.

[2008] a short retrospective

Health of the blogosphere

It does seem to be waning. So many blogs we knew from two years ago have fallen away and even top bloggers [1] have been taking extended rests. Of course, new bloggers come in all the time to replace them and small blogs which persevered have become more mainstream and better known.

Regulation, which reared its ugly head last year, together with the two tier system, will become the norm, most like.

My personal world

Coming into 2008, things were not at all disastrous on the personal front, at least visibly. Real life work was going on swimmingly and friendships were being made all the while. In my corner of the sphere though, there was a major eruption which peaked in January, March, July and November and that’s been catalogued and can be read even now.

It’s a matter of record that Moscow decided that all foreigners who’d been “hanging about” for too long, according to them, were to be given the boot and in my case, I was ill-prepared to cope at that particular time and still am now, despite advances.

The public sphere

You've read the blogs across the blogosphere and have seen the MSM. Other pundits have recorded the fall, the long designed, unsustainable madness which drove the debt-based economy and now here we all are, with worse to come in 2009.

The good news is that there’ll be apparent recovery, led by messiahs but it will be as hollow as the bubble which has now burst. People will be so hell bent on believing it though that it will have a temporary effect until the real desolation and bankruptcy beneath become finally apparent to all.

The debt which the socialists have and will have yoked us with is actually only a concept. Countries are not individuals – for a start, they have limitless credit, despite Moodies and can unilaterally withdraw form a debt. The joke is that while we are heading for the hard-worked-for socialist panacea in society, the governments continue to embrace the capitalist concept of national debt.

2008 saw the education of the more intelligent and open-minded pundits who are now publishing what should have been published two years ago.

And so it came to pass

Many soothsayers now appear to be wise men in retrospect, at least to substantial portions of the sphere. David Icke’s lizards still remain David Icke’s lizards and yet some posts [2] now don’t seem so far-fetched, even finding their subject matter in Wiki and accepted as facts of life.

One of the major advances is how many people now are prepared to at least listen to the possibility that the social ills, the recessions and the wars are not a matter of accident. Appropriately, it took fantasy films like Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace to entertain the notion of “we are legion”.

The next step will be for the inspired pundits to show that there is real William Blake insanity [3], banal desolation of the spirit and a twisted notion of the ideal world, behind the decisions of the movers and shakers. It’s still too early for the common man to take this one on board and he’ll still fall for the pronouncements from above, as he always has.

How many times have we heard, “Well I never could have believed it until I saw it with my own eyes.” You’re never going to see it with your own eyes [4], which doesn’t mean to say it isn’t happening.

The slide to feudalism

Ain’t no doubt about it, folks.

Whether we accept the economist’s model and observe the upturns and downturns of history, trying to predict the bucking bronco’s next move, which historically has meant recession, depression, war and recovery or whether we accept the apocalyptic scenario, the slide to ignomony, the road to hell, the trouble is that education, medicine, the law and the arts have all been crippled by a progressive occupation of key posts at all levels by a certain type of mindset.

Common Purpose is just one manifestation of a morally bankrupt mindset we are now in the grip of. Government has intruded so far into our private lives, even down to our rubbish bins, that a great inuring of people is taking place – inuring them to armed officers, to bizarre degrees of checks and balances, inuring them to militarization of civilian lives, inuring them to the incompetence and wastage, together with the destruction of the old parameters of national identity, religious persuasion, the family [under particular assault] and a feeling of self-worth in the old model we lived under.

This is the crime which has been committed by all who’ve aided and abetted this slide and even now, these PCers will swear blind that they are doing it for the good of society. Yeah? Look at society.

Hope springs eternal

It’s not for me to say. People will discover for themselves from where genuine comfort and solace can be found. We’re still too early in the process in 2008/9, some still have their homes, mortgages, cars, travel and jobs and so the traditional fallback of the have-nothings, the destitute and the rudderless will not kick in for a couple of years yet.

People could, if there was any Charismatic of an altruistic nature around, rather than a false prophet, a black noble, be pointed in the right direction. A kind act a day by each and every one of us, to someone outside our circle of family and friends, would be a start and would go a long way to breaking down the coming climate of suspicion and turning in your neighbour to the authorities. For a start, it would help with a sense of community, now increasingly eroded.

It seems to me that we can come out of this and stall the forces driving us ever onwards but it’s not going to come by us putting up the shutters and acting each man for himself.

That’s the divide and rule principle.

The refusal to assist a neighbour is as bad as those neighbours expecting that they have the automatic right to help themselves to someone else’s resources, someone in the street who made hay whilst the sun shone. That sort of attitude leads to guns mounted on front porches.

Any recovery is going to involve two things – ridding ourselves of [or at least emasculating and marginalizing] the elite who always fear the people and the second aspect is at the micro-level – rediscovering sanity, putting aside the consumer madness and rediscovering old values which always stood us in good stead before.

There are some I need to personally thank for their kindnesses and friendship. I do thank them very much. There are new blogfriends and that's always a delight. This blog wishes all with constructive and kind hearts the very best in 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

[mystery town quiz] round the world

1. The name stems from Dwrgwyn, from the Old Welsh (also a Brythonic language) dwr or "water" and gwyn Brythonic for "white" or "clear". Thus the name may mean "clear water".

2. It's a capital and is closer to the capitals of five other countries than to the capital of its own. The region has a tropical climate, with a wet season and a dry season. It receives heavy rainfall during the Wet, and is well-known for its spectacular lightning.

3. The navigational head of the Missouri River, this town is located very near to the centre of the North American continent, far removed from any major bodies of water. It has hot, humid summers and cold snowy winters.

4. The town with the highest elevation in the country, it is near Lake Louise, was named by a Scot after his birthplace and has given its name to a crater on the surface of the Planet Mars.

5. Situated between the Buffalo and Nahoon Rivers, it is the country's only river port. Originally called Port Rex, it is home to the Xhosas and has an unusual double-decker bridge.


Darwen, Darwin, Sioux City, Banff, East London

[realpolitik] asking a terminator to be gentle

Yeah, right.

If little boys bait and taunt a rottweiler on a leash and that leash breaks, all the resolutions in the world calling for dog control will not save those boys. Those boys are in real trouble and unfortunately some of the little girls hanging around with them are also going to be mauled.

It's tragic, the whole thing is better not to be - but that is realpolitik.

[post-feminism] back to the stone age ... or to reason


It's official:

The housewife is back, with younger women embracing domestic crafts in droves, according to new figures. Sewing machines have rocketed off shelves in the past six months with Lincraft reporting a 30 per cent increase in sales.

"There has been a definite trend happening and we have also started to see an increase in dress fabric sales," said Lincraft spokesman Jeff Croft. "Demand for sewing classes has increased and one of the biggest growth areas has been knitting yarn, with a 10-20 per cent increase in sales compared to this time last year."

Feminism - wherefore art thy victories?

Save the women, I say, before they deconstruct into Stepford Wives. Save the women before they spend all day in the bath. Women didn't achieve their victories, they didn't become harder than the male, doing everything much, much better than he ever could, only to lose it to a spurious rise in homecrafts and other productive but rubbish activities.

Down with sewing, knitting and gourmet cooking, down with improving your mind with world literature - you should be narrowing your focus with Beauvoir, Walker, Greer and the Vagina Monologues. You must understand that the male truly is to blame for everything so get back to Wollstonecraft and Lydon right now and immerse yourself in orgasm.

That's an order!

[best posts] swift work, jon

Jon Swift has done a massive job putting together Best posts of the year for 2008. If you get a chance, get over there - there's a lot of reading to be done.

Monday, December 29, 2008

[oh dear] not another assassination

Hope it never comes to that.
Is she tempting fate?
Pity about her indefensible policies.

[creature quiz] five to test you


Which is which? Gytrash, stone marten, mongoose, house martin, sugar glider.

[hope] this is everything

The sign over the gates of Dante's hell reads, quite appropriately:
'All hope abandon ye who enter here.' [Cary's translation]

Liz Hinds says though:
The wind that took your dreams blows softly on it and the darkness itself is lit by the glowing ember, the fire that can’t be extinguished, that’s always there, the hope that makes the difference between living and dying.

When you're incarcerated, it's hope they wish you to despair of first. When you have nothing and become a serf, a slave, hope wrecks that dastardly plan. With no hope, there is resignation and a greater chance of controlling you. This is why a certain way of thinking, being based on hope, faith and charity, is so difficult to suppress [although they're giving it their best shot].

When a person continues to entertain even a glimmer of hope, he [she] can never be finally destroyed.

Calum Carr also did a post on hope here. He'll be sadly missed.

[real life] sometimes impinges

Busy day today preparing job submission so not a lot of time to blog till later.

[bias] only one side is considered

"Truth is the first casualty."

We're living in an age of distortion and bias, where the truth is no longer loved. It's just astounding how someone can see a piece of evidence in front of him/her, a fact which no one disputes and just ignores it completely in making the opposite case.

1. Obama was given a clear order by the USSC to produce his vault copy birth certificate by December 1st, 2008, thereby clearing all doubt of his eligibility to be President.

Now that is unequivocal. Produce a document. He didn't. Now what I'm getting here from certain bloggers is, "Do you know more than the Supreme Court?" "Obama was democratically elected" and so on. No one is talking about that or arguing it. It has nothing to do with addressing the issue. We're arguing the statement in italics and it has not been addressed. That puts him in defiance of the judiciary.

2. Hamas has been constantly firing rockets at Israel for a considerable time.

In any global interpretation of such an act, if you fire rockets into someone else's country and you are the government, you are declaring war. Analogy - your neighbour across the road starts lobbing footballs at your house. Do you ignore it or do you consider that an act of aggression which requires a response?

Now anyone who sees these two things and who is basically sentient and able to speak and read the English language knows that these two statements have not been denied. They happened.

"But me no buts."

All the "buts" need to be addressed, yes. The whole scenario has to be seen in context, yes. But none of these "buts" negate the basic premises in 1 and 2. That is, they need to be addressed before the discussion can go any further.

So, to return to the start, it is astounding how these can just be blindly ignored by supposedly educated peole.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

[ultimate cynicism] the man has that elite gall

The public needs to display the same spirit as during the second world war and "rise to the challenge" of the crisis, the Prime Minister is to insist.

How dare he make reference to a time of honour and attempt to press it to his own purposes.

There is taking the p--s out of the country through policies which produce what we have today. It's another stage in cynicism altogether to have the nerve to say that it's jolly good stuff which will test out the character of the people he disdains.

I'd venture to suggest that if he were to walk down any High Street, he might not make it to the other end.

[which camera] nikon delivers the traditional

When you don't have much disposable income but were involved in semi-professional photography and processing for years, then there's a bit of a dilemma.

The simplest solution is to get a little point and shoot for around £100 and accept that you're only going to have a basic recording of an event. It's not photography per se but it is what it is and fulfils a function.

Now if you're at the opposite end and really appreciate fine photos, [this being in the eye and experience of the beholder], then it's probably best to hold off until you can set aside the £900-1000 and do it properly. The first principle here is that you must have manual compositional ability on the camera and the ability to change lenses.

For that reason, the Nikon D60 seems as compromising as you'd be prepared to go - this was particularly encouraging:

If you have leftover lenses from Nikon SLR cameras or just want to get a lens that is better or cheaper than the one supplied in a kit, you can get a Nikon D60 body only. But keep in mind that unlike other digital and film SLR cameras from Nikon, the D60 (and D40 or D40x for that matter) do not support focusing if the lens does not have its own motor. In other words, with D60 or D40/D40x, you will either have to focus older-style lenses yourself or use newer focus motor-equipped lenses.

I've always preferred to carry around my own lenses and filters and so this solution seems the best compromise. A 400mm telephoto is an absolute essential, as far as I can see, along with, say, a 120-180mm zoom for medium work and the standard 18-55mm for close in stuff.

You might disagree but I can't see the point of the middle route of Canons, Minoltas and so on with their auto-everything and restricted lens and aperture settings, despite their ease of use. Ease of use does not seem the main criterion in photography. You'll fork out up to £700 but for an extra few hundred, you can have the state of the art for base SLRs.

Just an opinion.

Here are some compatible lenses, motor driven.

[palestine] just the facts please 2

To start with, the Arab peace initiative, on the surface, looks good:

  • The principle of Land for peace.
  • The conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties.

The goals of the initiative:

The stumbling block is Jewish withdrawal from East Jerusalem. This is clearly a ridiculous demand and the Arabs know full well that it could not promote peace, despite the rhetoric:

East Jerusalem refers to the part of Jerusalem captured by Jordan in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and subsequently by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. It includes Jerusalem's Old City and some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, such as the Temple Mount, Western Wall, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

You can not realistically expect Jews, Muslims or Christians to withdraw from this vital piece of real estate and on this little piece of the world hangs issues reverberating throughout the old world. Note that in this, there is no Israeli proposal and yet the Jewish side has agreed, in principle, to all but the East Jerusalem question, providing the terrorism stops.

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 gave a more just solution in that Jerusalem as a whole would be internationally administered territory, ensuring equal rights, each to its own holy areas and any solution not including this part of the resolution is going to be doomed from its inception. Israel and the Palestinian State would be so placed that they would have direct access from their own territory to Jerusalem, something which Proposal 181 did not solve.

One other aspect would need to be an internationally administered corridor between Gaza and the West Bank. Though it would cut Israel in two, there would be another broad corridor between south and north, over or under the east-west Palestinian one, maybe in the nature of road underpasses and overpasses. The two need never clash.

Land for peace [Wiki article]

The Gaza 'test case' is argued by some to show the failure of the "Land for Peace" strategy with the Palestinians:
  • Rockets launched against Israeli targets continued almost immediately after the Israeli withdrawal and have increased in the time since[1].
  • The attacks from the Gaza Strip are continuing today[2]
  • The area is now being used to smuggle weapons into Israel[3]
  • Tunnels are being built under the border for use in the smuggling of weapons and fighters[4]
  • Is presumed that Hamas is the main organization behind the smuggling and tunnels, though other groups are likely involved as well[5]

Stop the rockets and international pressure will then be on Israel to allow more realistic, international proposals for the corridor issue.

So there is one solution for peace, if all sides are genuine in desiring it and are not hell bent on wiping the other off the map. To us, in far flung lands, this might seem like just a Sunday morning academic exercise but I'd suggest that in its solution lies the future peace of the world and avoidance of an Armageddon.

[palestine] just the facts please

This blog doesn't usually print slabs of text from Wiki but today it will. I've been reading both Arab and Jewish source material on Palestine and the only conclusion is that there is no agreement on the history.

Leaving to one side for now everyone's atrocities and quite frankly callous behaviour, there seems to have been been about two thirds Arab population around 1947 and about one third Jewish.

Both should have had a homeland there. However:

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly, with a two-thirds majority international vote, passed the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181), a plan to resolve the Arab-Jewish conflict by partitioning the territory into separate Jewish and Arab states, with the Greater Jerusalem area (encompassing Bethlehem) coming under international control.

Jewish leaders (including the Jewish Agency), accepted their portion of the plan, while Palestinian Arab leaders rejected it and refused to negotiate. Neighboring Arab and Muslim states also rejected the partition plan. The Arab community reacted violently after the Arab Higher Committee declared a strike and burned many buildings and shops.

In a speech delivered on 25 March 1948, US President Truman recommended a temporary trusteeship and stated: We could not undertake to impose this solution on the people of Palestine by the use of American troops, both on Charter grounds and as a matter of national policy.[132]

As armed skirmishes between Arab and Jewish paramilitary forces in Palestine continued, the British mandate ended on May 15, 1948, the establishment of the State of Israel having been proclaimed the day before (see Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel).

The neighboring Arab states and armies (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Transjordan, Holy War Army, Arab Liberation Army, and local Arabs) immediately attacked Israel following its declaration of independence, and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War ensued. Consequently, the partition plan was never implemented.

What I'm interested in is not the rights and wrongs but whether the above quote is factually accurate.

[no reason] just nice memories

Saturday, December 27, 2008

[cthulhu] is coming for you

[logic 101] clear thinking exercise

Q1: Pick what's wrong with this report:

Palestinians say Israeli F-16 bombers have launched a series of air strikes against key targets in the Gaza Strip, killing and injuring dozens of people.

Missiles destroyed security compounds run by the militant group Hamas in the centre of Gaza City, killing at least 120 people, Hamas officials said.

Hamas quickly vowed to carry out revenge attacks on Israel in response to the air strikes.

A1: That's right, students, it is a thoroughly biased report, quoting the very people who provoked the strike, leaving the other side of the question unstated. These are the same people who killed their own the day before with a misdirected rocket.

Also, the report fails to mention the daily strikes against internationally recognized sovereign territory which, by definition, constitutes a declaration of war on Israel which they were within their rights to answer at any time.

Back to school for the BBC.

Some other quotes to ponder:

Peter Dodd and Halim Barakat, River Without Bridges.- A Study of the Exodus of the 1967Arab Palestinian Refugees (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1969), p. 43; on April 27, 1950, the Arab National Committee of Haifa stated in a memorandum to the Arab States: "The removal of the Arab inhabitants ... was voluntary and was carried out at our request ... The Arab delegation proudly asked for the evacuation of the Arabs and their removal to the neighboring Arab countries.... We are very glad to state that the Arabs guarded their honour and traditions with pride and greatness." Cited by J.B. Schechtman, The Arab Refugee Problem (New York: Philosophical Library, 1952), pp. 8-9; also see Al-Zaman, Baghdad journal, April 27, 1950.

... and:

The people are in great need of a "myth" to fill their consciousness and imagination.... [Musa Alami, 1948]

... and:

Since 1948 Arab leaders have approached the Palestine problem in an irresponsible manner.... they have used the Palestine people for selfish political purposes. This is ridiculous and, I could say, even criminal. [King Hussein of Jordan, 1960]

... and:

Since 1948 it is we who demanded the return of the refugees... while it is we who made them leave.... We brought disaster upon ... Arab refugees, by inviting them and bringing pressure to bear upon them to leave.... We have rendered them dispossessed.... We have accustomed them to begging.... We have participated in lowering their moral and social level.... Then we exploited them in executing crimes of murder, arson, and throwing bombs upon ... men, women and children-all this in the service of political purposes .... [Khaled Al-Azm, Syria's Prime Minister after the 1948 war]

... and :
The nations of western Europe condemned Israel's position despite their guarantee of her security.... They understood that ... their dependence upon sources of energy precluded their allowing themselves to incur Arab wrath. [Al-Haytham Al-Ayubi, Arab Palestinian military strategist, 1974]
Interesting, eh?

[ponzi schemists] make good financial advisers

The Madoff Ponzi scheme was one thing and he was well and truly exposed. Another had a different fate:

Director Rubin and ousted CEO Prince - and their lieutenants over the past five years - are named in a federal lawsuit for an alleged complex cover-up of toxic securities that spread across the globe, wiping out trillions of dollars in their destructive paths. Investor-plaintiffs in the suit accuse Citi management of overseeing the repackaging of unmarketable collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that no one wanted - and then reselling them to Citi and hiding the poisonous exposure off the books in shell entities.

The lawsuit said that when the bottom fell out of the shaky assets in the past year, Citi's stock collapsed, wiping out more than $122 billion of shareholder value. However, Rubin and other top insiders were able to keep Citi shares afloat until they could cash out more than $150 million for themselves in "suspicious" stock sales "calculated to maximize the personal benefits from undisclosed inside information," the lawsuit said.

Non-President Obama would therefore avoid financial advisers in that interconnected group like the plague, right? No, here they are:

Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers
, Jamie Rubin, Timothy Geithner, Peter Orszag

Obama is utilizing each and every one of them. No one is accusing the bulk of these of the ponzi scam itself but rather it is an indicator of whom Obama goes to for advice. The country is in really good hands.

Now, via Politeia, a different view of economics:

[parallels] how the mighty fall

It's worth considering parallels in politics.

In December, 2007, John Howard not only lost an election after being the second longest serving prime minister but he also lost his safe Liberal [conservative] seat in Sydney. This put him in tandem with Stanley Melbourne Bruce, the only other PM to achieve this.

Now, it seems that a CNN poll has 75% of Americans glad to see Bush go. As they don't have the same mechanisms over there and though it is not the same thing, still, can you imagine what would have befallen him if they did have the power and precedent to vote him out?

In Howard and Bush's case, it was the Karl Rove policy. In Bruce's case, it was the unions although the Wall Street Crash was at the same time.

Friday, December 26, 2008

[political talent] let's see now ...

Vince Cable certainly has talent as a pollie, let's give him that.

So I got to thinking of a post, listing the talent in all the parliamentary parties, the theme being why can't we have an assembly without the two-party system which excludes mean and women of talent from having a say?

So, going back over the lists, we have, maybe, Michael Gove, David Davis, Liam Fox, er... er... er ...

Oh well, such a post is clearly not possible in today's parliament.

[christmas carols] when it is a subversive activity

Via Martin Kelly and Mark Shea:

A post-Christian culture like ours can make tips of the hat to Christ while laboring to escape him with might and main.

Meanwhile, in China under the Commies, a television broadcast of somebody singing "White Christmas" can be a deliberately subversive act feared by the State that fully intends to defy the State and give homage to Christmas and the Christ at the center of it.

In such a case, give me the latter over the former every time. God loves the widow's mite more than all the riches of the godless.

This motif of a church persecuted is possibly the truest place for Christianity - certainly, it is being true to its roots in a such a situation. Take the Copts, for example:

After having survived the persecution of the Roman Pagans, they were once again besieged, now by other Christians. Hence, when the Arabs invaded Egypt in the mid-seventh century AD, they met little resistance from the native Christian population.

Puts it in perspective really.

[textile waste] think through what you buy

On Radio 4 You and Yours today, they were covering textile waste and how the throwing out has increased so much in the past five years.

One thing which struck me was the type of clothing we buy. Fashion dictates that we buy complicated items with zips, buckles, and various add ons. That's fine but when it goes out of fashion or the type of consumer who buys such items tires of them, then that poses a problem for recycling.

Taking this to the other extreme, I'll be damned if I'm just going to wear sackcloth to match my new serf status but surely there is a happy medium.

[sleep] critical matter of balance

Don't know how much yet another survey can be believed:

A study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Christopher King and colleagues from the University of Chicago has found a relationship between sleep quantity (hours spent asleep) and calcium build up -- or calcification -- in the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood. For each additional hour of sleep, the risk of calcification of the coronary arteries decreased by 33 percent -- an outcome equal to reducing blood pressure by 16 point elevations.

... but there's much to be said for getting an adequate amount.

It seems to me that when you get your sleep is equally important. Much has been written about napping in the afternoon but there's a difference between a power nap of twenty minutes and a deep sleep from exhaustion the previous night.

I always feel awful after sleeping in the afternoon. Again, siesta is one thing but to deep sleep is another.

This also brings us into the sphere of guilt over sleep. Laziness is not how you sleep - it's what you do with your waking time. If you set up and insist on adequate sleep and you can keep the wolves from disturbing you, then you'll have the energy to go hell for leather when you're awake.

If the population got enough sleep, enough exercise and a reasonable diet, I really do think much of the trouble would be alleviated. Couple that with a spiritual oneness inside and realistic knowledge and acceptance of yourself, foibles and all, then the results could only be positive.

[non-president] christmas laying low

Chicago Tribune But as his fellow Christians around the world attended Christmas services on Wednesday and Thursday, the president-elect and his family remained sequestered at their vacation compound on the windward coast of Oahu.

But of course. A leopard doesn't change its spots. As with Britain in 1997, America, what have you just gone and done?

[sydney to hobart] tenth year commemoration

Courtesy New York Times

You'd expect this blogger to feel something about this event:

There has been a sombre air surrounding this year's Sydney to Hobart. It is the tenth anniversary of a tragedy that claimed the lives of six sailors, who were killed when a giant storm hammered the fleet.

Several boats sank and more than 50 competitors had to be plucked to safety by helicopter in one of Australia's biggest peacetime rescue missions. Wreaths will be laid at sea and a minute's silence has been held to remember the victims of a race that some survivors still refer to as 'hell on high water.'

Crews have held a minute's silence to remember the victims of the disastrous race a decade ago. More than 100 boats are setting off on the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

It does go with the territory, unfortunately but that's no reason not to remember.

While we're on action, adventure and achievement, congratulations to this kid who achieved the ultimate. That's a constant theme at this blog - to venture, to go down in a screaming heap or not - but at least to have tried. In his case, he succeeded through perseverance.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

[liege and life] minstrels and jongleurs

There’s this game on Facebook which the delectable Trixy involved me in and my persona is Sir James, Knight but apparently I’m also the Sovereign [interesting concept of feudalism].

The first thing I thought on seeing my “vassals” was that I didn’t particularly want any vassals. Vassals did have rights though and the social contract was that they were granted land to farm, in return for loyalty and war service.

Facebook, being an offshoot of DARPA, is clearly interested in people’s predispositions and I’m sure DARPA would say to the game player who can amass vassals and win wars: “You’re our boy.” [Or girl.]

In the late 90s, Richie Blackmore and his Candice Knight put out that album with feudal references and slight problems of chronology. One of the tracks was Renaissance Faire:

So I told her, "Yes", I knew her fear
As I felt the truth draw near

Told her back three hundred years [?],

Was the time that I held dear...

Gather ye lords and ladies fair,

Come with me to the Renaissance Faire

Hurry now, we're almost there...
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la,la, la, la...

Hear the minstrels play their tunes,
They will play the whole night through,

Special songs for me and you,

And anyone whose heart is true...

Have to smile at the automatic assumption by Richie Blackmore’s entourage [special songs for me and you] that they and we would be the lords and ladies. A moment’s thought would show that they’d be the wandering minstrels and we’d be freemen at best:

Most minstrels were wanderers; travelling from town to town and performing to all classes of people, performing for whoever paid them.

One day, a minstrel might play at a local fair, performing before the townspeople, the next he might call in at the town’s castle to provide a few night’s entertainment.

As a perpetual traveller, he had many tales to tell and was a source of news and gossip to those he stayed with.

It took a lot of skill, a singing voice and a willingness, nay, a necessity for them to stay on the road, picking up new material and adjusting their repertoire. The life was not too bad early on and the minstrels were eagerly awaited by all classes. Gradually though, the troubadour name fell into disrepute:

The success and popularity of these jongleurs attracted unworthy followers and imitators.

These low fellows, unable to obtain entrance to courts and baronial halls, donned grotesque dresses, stationed themselves in market-place or village green and supplemented their verses with coarse buffoonery, feats of legerdemain, tricks with monkeys, and doggerel appealing to a vitiated taste.

Philip Augustus and Saint Louis banished them from the country and the poets, finding the honored names of trouvère and troubadour trailed through the dirt, angrily denounced them as bastards, and ceased to provide them with verse.

The eventual problem with this life is that it had to end sometime and then what did an ageing minstrel do?

[christmas lunch] how was yours

First modest portion. After three of these, with veg from a bain marie on the second and third, it was time to tackle the trifle, Christmas pud with brandy sauce and then ...

... to just peg out.

How was your day?

[christmas] round the world but not in britain

The best laid plans oft gang astray.

The idea was to show Christmas around the world, with the emphasis on people celebrating it. Assisting in this was the Melbourne Age, which ran a series of photos front page top and many of these are below:


The Vatican








Excellent but where was Britain? We had a family get together today, presumably most Brits did, so where are the photos of the celebrations of last night on the web?

Oh, here it is:


Dissatisfied, I google-pictured "Christmas celebrations UK 2008" and came up with a few naked women, shots of "traditional Christmas wallpaper" and pics of light festooned shops like Harrods and Regent Street stores. I tried various combinations of the words.

No, no, I don't want pics of shops and shops and shops and shops. I want pics of people out celebrating Christmas, as Christmas, in Britain. You know, people in the squares, singing carols and so on. They have to be there. The Brits must have been out celebrating the holiday, surely, like the rest of the world.

Here's what I found:


Phew, that's better.

Except for one thing - those signs were all exhorting people to shop, with slogans like "Buying makes you happy". There wasn't one thing about ... er ... Christmas.

You know ... Christ-mas? Anyone remember it?

Irritated, I now started on the online dailies - the Guardian, BBC news, the Telegraph ... and here was a typical front page:

No, no, Britain, not "log on to Christmas sales" please but "celebrating Christmas".

Hello, anyone out there who remembers Christmas in Britain?


Anyone there?