Thursday, May 21, 2009

Designer Clothes

These puzzle me. I don't understand why they are different to other clothes. Did the other clothes evolve? Were they created by having random bits of cloth thrown at an automated sewing machine? Are they timeless designs that have always been made? Were they designed by committee?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Socially Responsible Government

It's great knowing that the government is really responsible, uses taxpayers' money well and always thinks through the consequences of its actions.

For example, they've released a new game, which encourages road safety.

"Teach 'em a lesson - hit the kids who aren't wearing helmets!" - that's exactly the right message to send to people, isn't it? I wonder how many focus groups it took to come up with that one?

Notice anything wrong? Anything that might possibly be contrary to government policy or anything like that? If not, have you ever considered a career as a politician?

The one encouraging thing about this is that it helps me realise that the government aren't really nasty and malicious, just really really incompetent...

Hat tip to Greg.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Abraham, Sarah, Science and Human Rights

An interesting thought from Genesis about attitude to rights...

In Genesis 15 and 16, there is a real contrast between Abram and Sarai’s attitudes to their childlessness. Abram sees that his attitude is that he deserves nothing and everything is God's gift to him.

And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."
Genesis 15:3, NIV

This attitude and his trust in God’s provision results in his faith being credited to him as righteousness (15:6).

By contrast, Sarai’s attitude is one of seeing herself as entitled to “the normal course of events”.

"The LORD has kept me from having children.”
Genesis 16:2, NIV

Sarai’s unbelief results in the messy Hagar and Ishmael saga. She sees having children as her natural entitlement rather than a gift of God.

How does this reflect their attitudes to science? If we believe that God just set the universe up, and now it runs without him, then we could believe that we are entitled to nature working in the normal way. We would feel hard done by if we were kept from something normal. This is exactly how Sarai felt.

If, however, we recognise that everything in nature happens because God does it, then we see that everything good that happens to us happens by God’s grace. We already have a relationship with God, and we have already deserved his judgement and condemnation because of the way we reject him. So we do not deserve anything good from God, even if it is what he normally does. This leads to an attitude like Abram’s where we are grateful to him for what he gives us, and do not resent him not giving us what he has chosen to withhold.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


On last week's episode of The Apprentice, they had to try to rebrand Margate, a run down English seaside town. Some of the efforts were ok, some were atrocious.

This, however, is magnificent...

Monday, May 11, 2009

C.S. Lewis - How Prayer Works

Can we believe that God ever really modifies His action in response to the suggestions of man? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by finite agents, whether living or inanimate. He could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers, and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds, and wills of men to cooperate in the execution of His will. "God," says Pascal, "instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality." But it is not only prayer; whenever we act at all, He lends us that dignity. It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so.
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), The Efficacy of Prayer, pp. 9-10

Hat tip to CQOD.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek (11)

The 11th Star Trek film finally manages to break one of the long-running rules in Hollywood - that odd-numbered Star Trek films are rubbish. Many would say the even-numbered ones were too...

This is partly an attempt to do a film that comes just before the first series in the 1960s, and partly a reinvention of the whole franchise. And I have to say it's very well done. All the major characters from the first series are there, all well played by different actors but in such a way that it's believable that they're the same people. There are lots of nods to stuff in the original series - like a sense of fashion that could explain how on earth they ended up with the uniforms from the first series, and a scenario that explains how someone like Kirk ended up as captain. And it brings in some of the science from later series without the whole "particle of the week" solutions that dogged the later series of TNG.

The special effects are of course much, much better, even than the later series. And it's fun! (significantly helped by Simon Pegg as Scotty.) And the start of the film is incredibly good.

As a bit of a physics geek, I have to say I like what they did with the philosophy of time travel here. Not just having a consistent theory of it, but also playing with some characters having alternate theories of it...

It's worth adding that a friend of mine pointed me to this amusing video review...

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

Friday, May 08, 2009

Death and Society

There's an interesting story here. In brief, a Hindu has been refused permission for his cremation to be in the traditional Indian style of an open funeral pyre.

What is especially interesting is what the judge said.

Mr Justice Cranston said that Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who had resisted Mr Ghai's legal challenge, argued that people might be "upset and offended" by pyres and "find it abhorrent that human remains were being burned in this way".

Why is it any more abhorrent that human remains are being burnt in an open pyre than in a crematorium? The only reason I can think of is that we want to hide death away.


It is not the knowing of much that contents and satisfies the soul, but the feeling and relish for things from inside.
Ignatius of Loyola

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Monday, May 04, 2009

Two Books on Popular Anthropology

Watching the English by Kate Fox is a classic book about the way that English people act and what it means to be English. I know quite a few foreigners living in the UK who have found this book immensely helpful. I've even found it helpful for understanding something of why I am the way I am...

The biggest problem I've found with this book is that it focuses almost entirely on southern England, and claims that to be English. Of course, there are lots of similarities, but also some important differences. An example would be the talking on buses rule, which is quite clearly different in the North.


A much better book for showing awareness of the North of England is Pies and Prejudice by Stuart Maconie.

A Radio 2 DJ, who is from Wigan originally, Maconie gives us a guide to some of the scenes, sights and peculiarities of the North, touring all of the cities and a sampling of the big towns of the North on the way, along with a fair few anecdotes from his own life.

Great fun, and a nice reminder of the North, as well as helping me get to know a bit about the areas I haven't spent much time.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Before Communion

We've been discussing church discipline this morning at college. One point made was that we sometimes need to be willing to exclude people from communion. Of course, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer had a strong view on this. This is from the official Anglican liturgy, but I've never heard it used.

For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament; (for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood; then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and Christ with us;) so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily. For then we are guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour; we eat and drink our own damnation, not considering the Lord’s Body; we kindle God’s wrath against us; we provoke him to plague us with divers diseases, and sundry kinds of death. judge therefore yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord; repent you truly for your sins past; have a lively and stedfast faith in Christ our Saviour; amend your lives, and be in perfect charity with all men; so shall ye be meet partakers of those holy mysteries. And above all things ye must give most humble and hearty thanks to God...