Wednesday, August 31, 2005


hurricane vs tsunami

I'm having problems with some of what's being said about the hurricane (Katrina) that's just hit New Orleans, Biloxi, and other parts of Louisana and Mississippi. It's a terrible tragedy, and the cultural damage that may accrue from the loss of an important heritage site is considerable, but the mayor of one of the affected towns/cities has been quoted as saying "it's our tsunami". He's clearly referring to the devastating tsunami that hit southeast Asia on Boxing Day last year (the "Asian Tsunami"), and, in many ways, you can see the comparisons. There's been huge damage, many deaths, it was a natural disaster, and it came from the sea. But there the comparisons end, really. The Asian Tsunami was unexpected (and although the damaged areas of the US were larger than forecast, the hurricane was closely tracked for days beforehand), people couldn't avoid it (at least a number of the casualties in the US, I expect, were from people who refused to heed the warnings to leave), the US is a rich country, with vast resources to rebuild, and, most of all, although hundreds died in the hurricane, this is nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands who died in Asia.

This doesn't mean that I feel any less bad for those who have suffered, been bereaved, been injured, been wounded or had their lives turned upside down by the hurricane, and I pray, and will continue to pray, for them. There's a danger that given how close the US is to the UK in many ways, that it's easier to empathise with those in the US than in Asia, but any empathy is better than none, and I'm not sure that you should (or even could) quantify empathy.

On the other hand, to turn it in a different direction, there really can't be any quantification of loss. The loss of a single life is a tragedy, whether that's in the US, in Europe, in Asia or wherever. From a Christian point of view, I (we) should mourn every death, the more so when there is human agency. The pain of each person in Asia is as strong as each person in the US, and I'm sure that God feels there pain, each and every one, and that numbers don't matter to God. I don't want to go into the classic questions around "why does God allow things like this to happen in the world?" Partly because it demeans God, but partly because it demeans the tragedies at the same time. And partly because I don't have the inclination or theology to go there right at the moment, if I'm honest.

Rather sleepy today: too much waking up, Jo very awake at 6am.

Listened to some of my favourite music today: Lassus' Missa Bel' Amfitrit Altera (I think I've got it right here, and it's wrong below...

Music Today

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Back at work, and lots of email to go through. Things are good at work, and lots going on, and I was pleased to be back. Managed to find time to update to kernel 2.6.13 on both my main home box and my laptop despite that. 2.6.13 includes inotify support, which is needed for decent beagle support. That means that I can now query my home box (currently via ssh if I'm away from home, but I'll work on something nicer) and check out anything I have on that box, all indexed, all available. I love beagle.

First day back at work, so lots of questions from the folks at work. They do ask some interesting theological questions, not all very easy to answer. They certainly keep me on my toes, and are going to have me reaching for the reference books from time to time. Today it included some issues on the canonicity of the Old Testament (e.g. how the books were formed and when) which I certainly couldn't answer. Luckily my first academic module is the OT, so this should be coming up.

Jo's sleeping very badly at the moment, and it's getting Moo down a bit. In fact, we'd had a couple of good nights - though Jo had ended up in our bed - until last night, when she (and therefore we) slept very badly. Then she took a long time to get to sleep this evening: she'd just got to sleep when Kate phoned, and one of the phones happened to be in her room, so she woke up. We spent a good half hour trying to get her to sleep, but to no avail, so in the end we brought her down, and she stayed with us until she finally went down a little before 9pm. Moo's beating herself up about the fact the Jo's not sleeping through, and we have to deal with that - both Moo's concern and the sleeping through, but we'll get there. We're having a bit of a problem getting a routine sorted - and that's the holy grail.

My parents are away over Christmas, and as we've not yet made it down to their house, we're trying to get to see them down in Somerset, but it's really hard. It usually takes 3 and three quarter hours to get to them, but with the baby and the dog, we suspect that it's going to take more like 5. So, we think that the best chance we have is to leave quite late on a Friday evening, and hope that Jo (and Suzy) are tired enoug that they sleep through most of the drive. We'll do the same on the Sunday to get back, but it's going to make for a long weekend. We'll have to see how it goes, and we've got a possible weekend sorted.

Work had some problems with Internet access, though I was hoping to listen to lots of music, so it was only at the very end of the day that I got it sorted. A short list today.

Music Today

Monday, August 29, 2005

Jo had her first two-course meal today. Bananas and avocado (that's just _one_ course...) followed by blueberries and baby rice (something of a misnomer, as it's just ground up something (rice?) as a starchy thickening agent). She loved it all, anyhow. Just as she's loved some violin concertos (Wieniawski, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky - last movements only), James Brown and Elvis (what _is_ a roustabout, exactly? Thanks,!). Good taste, that girl. She's very fond of the Iris plugin for xmms: it's great for jumping around to, she thinks. She's had another lovely day, rather toothy, but lots of talking, and some more crawling (forward, again). Moo, Jo and I went for a lovely walk (bad nettles, bad!) with Jo in the sling today, and she loved that, too. And just imagine the fun you could have watching the bees in the budleia (why wouldn't daddy let me try to catch them?). It's just fantastic being a dad.

Being desparately keen (and, more importantly, wanting to get it out of the way so that I could do other reading), I've finished off the set (half-)book for the ERMC September weekend: the second part of "Evangelism & Collaborative Ministry" by Sotirios Christou (the "Collaborative Ministry" bit). I started off being very annoyed at it, for the simple reason that it's been awfully badly copyedited (I wouldn't say it had even got to the proofreading stage), so there are missing words, and terribly, terribly badly placed commas. Grr. I got over it by taking one of the chapters (which are very short) and doing the job myself in pencil, which meant that I could then get on with reading it. In the end, I rather liked it - he does quite a good job of pulling in many (largely secular) theories of collaboration, trust and leadership. I wasn't convinced by some of his writing on authority, and got a feeling (unfair, maybe), that he assumed that, in all cases, ordained members of a ministry team should have authority over the lay member(s). Generally good, however, certainly thought-provoking, and it should provide for some interesting discussions at the weekend.

Music today

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Running a day late at the moment, which is bad, obviously, but hey. I took Jo to church in Clare, where Gill (who I'd met on the course) is a deacon. Had to take her (Jo!) out during the sermon - she wasn't crying, just quite talking quite loudly - but I was able to hear some of it from the porch. Everyone was very impressed with how she was, and we were invited back whenever - which seems to be a bit of a theme when I take Jo anywhere at the moment.

Went shopping after church, then had a late lunch. Then Jo finally worked out how to crawl forwards. She will also hold herself standing against something if it's at the right height, and work her way along it (when she's not trying to climb up it). As she's only a week over six months, this seems to be quite advanced - but I'd say that whatever, as the proud dad.

Invited Si & D over, as well as Claudia & James and Kate & Graham (plus respective babies/children), but only Si, D and Morgan made it. Had a lovely barbecue and ate outside. Jo went to bed and then got up again, which has been known to happen before when we have people round. And we beat the Aussies. Oh, yes.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Tired, but happy and at home. Jo was so pleased to see me, and we had a lovely long cuddle. Suzy was also pleased, and then I got some time with Moo. We're all knackered (Moo did a lot of driving getting back from her parents today), but it is lovely to be together again.

A quietish morning: after a short service with my group (we used the very good "Service of Reconciliation" from the Mother's Union) and breakfast, we spent the main part of the morning hearing how we'll go through the first academic module (Old Testament - OT), forming groups roughly based on where we live (I'll be going to Stowmarket a couple of times a term) and arranging the dates for the seminars. We finished off with a high mass - or at least a formal Eucharist in the anglo-catholic style (though no incense, admittedly).

After a quick lunch, I had a good drive home (an hour and a half, compared to the two hours it took to get there), listening to the cricket. And now I'm home, which is great. If only Jo would go to sleep...

Just watching Casualty, I discovered that I got confused the other night and mixed up Cystic Fibrosis with Multiple Sclerosis whilst talking to someone a few days back. I wouldn't feel such a prat, but he's a neurologist. Heigh-ho.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Cricket's gone well. Liverpool beat Moscow what-do-you-call-them to win the European thingy, and home tomorrow.

The review was much, much better than I expected, with some wicked (and nicely irreverent) sketches that had me in pain with laughing. Kicked over Charles' beer, but he didn't seem too upset by it, which was kind. Lulu had been making a trip into the nearest town/village during the afternoon and had kindly got me some beer (the kegs had run out a couple of days before, which was a bit of a nightmare), so I was able to offer him some, he seemed happier with (the rest of the can of) Stella.

Earlier in the day, we'd had a very good introduction to public speaking technques: voice production, etc. I was impressed, and might think about getting some lessons from the woman who gave it to find out her teaching techniques, as I've been asked for tips on a number of occasions myself. After that we shared our homilies with three of the others in the group. I was hugely impressed by Anne, who I know was rather concerned early in the week about how things would go, how she'd cope, and how her children would manage. Her kids had a good time (they were staying at the course, as were a number of others), and I think she'll do fine. Her preaching was completely without note, and was very impressive, and very wise, I thought.

Very much looking forward to going home tomorrow to see Moo, Jo and Suzy, who is apparently on good form.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A slightly later start today, with an 8am service, and after breakfast straight onto a morning about Godly Play. It's a type of play tailored for children between 4-8 (though it can apparently work for older children and adults) which tries not to push answers down their throats, but to help them to discover the answers themselves. For instance, we were shown one about the parable of the lost sheep, and there was lots about the shepherd knowing all the sheep's names, but nothing about who the shepherd is himself, which is that obvious question that's supoosed to be raised (with the equally obvious answer: "Jesus"). There were things I liked about it, and I watched a three-year old son of one of the other ordinands watching, enthralled, which was quite convincing. I know that I tend to shy away from this style of pastoral work, and tried to be open. In fact, when they sent us away after the first session to reflect/use artworks, etc., I found myself writing some quite interesting poetry. But I continued to have some issues, and I discovered in our group work, and afterwards in the second session, that I was certainly not alone. It wasn't helped, for me, by a rather patronising DVD where they introduced the (excellent!) Godly Play[tm] (really!) room in Trumpington. They had some adults in to look around it and the relating between the people was entirely as children, which I was not alone in finding more than a little odd. One thing I did like was that they had a child-sized church, with lectern, altar, altar furniture, chalice, patten, etc.. I was concerned that some people with a high church background might be worried about children "playing at eucharist", but a discussion with a couple of people yielded that as long a proper respect is engendered, they're quite happy.

There are certainly things that we can learn from Godly Play, and if were in a position to use them, I would (we have pitifully few children coming to our services at the moment). One problem seems to be that it's presented very much as a complete package: they don't seem happy for you to pick and choose what works for you. If this were a tried, tested and refined methodology, I'd be more convinced, but any wrapped up methodology that seems to have sprung ready-made from a guru, and which you're not allowed to pick and choose from, worries me. This may be unfair, and maybe we didn't have enough time to get a full picture, but that was the impression I left with. The afternoon session was set aside for work on preaching: we watched a couple of sermons from members of the staff, then discussed them with each other before giving feedback and then getting the reactions of the preacher him/herself. Generally interesting, and I had a short discussion with Esther about how to balance the quiet, reasoned classic Protestant style with the fervour that it might sometimes feel right to express - something that's come up before in this blog. Her view is that there's no right answer, and that you have to go with the context, your own spirituality, and what feels right.

During the afternoon slot, I managed, finally, to get some people together to sing the Purcell I'd brought along ("Remember not, Lord, our offences"). 2 basses, 1 tenor, 4 altos (!), 2 second sopranos, 2 first sopranos. The level of sight-reading was pretty poor, so I decided to concentrate on a very short passage. I told them that I expected to spend at least 10 minutes on the first 2 and a half bars (which brought some intakes of breath), and I nearly did, too. Getting the ensemble just right. Words. Length of breath. We then moved on, and, in the end, managed about 12 bars. And some of it was great: I was really pleased. For some, it was nothing new working in that sort of a way (Richard, one of the basses, for instance, and Susanna, one of the sopranos), but hopefully they enjoyed it: all those I've spoken to said they did. I'd carefully timed the rehearsal to run straight into the official choir rehearsal, and finished a little early so as not to step on any toes. I'd also announced that the timing was aimed at allowing people to stay on to sing in the "proper choir", which seems to have gone down all right. I hope to choose some fairly challenging short pieces (some Byrd/Tallis/Desprez mass setting Kyries, for instance) for the weekends we have, send them out by email early, and try to find a half hour at some point to have a sing (hopefully not a note-bash). Didn't really mind that fact that I wasn't singing, rather to my surprise.

It's been a good day, and I've made more friends. My previous blogs have been from my mobile, and I've not had much chance to discuss this, but there are some great people on the course, and some great tutors. I've felt I've really got on well with Esther and Helen in particular: I look forward to interacting more with the academically through the course. Other people of note include Charles, Mark, who wanted some advice about a problem which I knew something about, Becky, Sarah and Sheila (all from my selection conference), and a whole bunch of other people I'm afraid I can't be bothered to name right now.

So, all-in-all, a good day, particularly as England were 229-4 at close of play.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


2nd day of ERMC

Another good, but busy day. Went to 2 very interesting discussions on baptism and how a policy might be formed for a parish and the issues that might come up. That was followed by a seminar for all the first years on theological reflection. This is something we all need to do throughout our training and ministry: applying the theology that we do and encounter to our lives, in the context of the churches of which we are part and the cultures in which we live. So far it's been very interesting and hard work. Getting a little more sleep than last night's 5 might be a plan, but I'm currently blogging from a quiz which our team isn't doing very well at. Luckily we seen to care less than some other teams, so that's fine. I'm having problems getting a group together to sing some Purcell. Not getting people to do it, but finding a time to rehearse. There also seem to be some political issues, which I'm trying hard to avoid. I'm not trying to usurp the current choir, which I hope to sing in myself, nor to force a place in the worship (though a number of people have suggested it), but just to sing with some like-minded people, as I rarely get the chance. I'm sure we'll get there, but it's a little wearing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005



Arrived just before 4pm, after rather a slow drive. Lots to take in, but my student group are lovely and very supportive. Singing hymns in the chapel for the evening service was wonderful: things moved into delicious harmony almost immediately and the acoustic is great. Have to admit to feeling somewhat overwhelmed by being here finally and having a cry in the service, but I wasn't alone. Started to get a music group together, though there's a problem finding enough women. We may do some men-only stuff to start: some barber-shop? Good people, and very keen. Generally feeling very welcome and looking forward to tomorrow. Not sure if I'll get a chance to get together with D (who's on a different course quite close. Will text her.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Well, D and Si now have their own blogs, all of a sudden. Need to keep watching them, of course. I'm not sure how easy it's going to be to blog at length on the course that I'm about to start on, although I suspect I'll have lots to say. I should be able to blog from my phone, but that's quite hard work, so unless I have good web access, the next few entries are likely to be quite short.

Jo's had a crying day today, and so Moo was quite stressed. We went out to the Cherry Tree Inn (near Knowl Green, but I'm not sure the precise address) and had a nice time out. Suzy, too, has had a "flat" day: very quiet, not doing much, and Moo's been rather worried. However, her abdomen is no longer distended, so the diuretics seem to be working. I hope that she's OK over the next few days, but I'm quite resigned to the fact that she may not last.

I'm trying to work out whether I should list this blog in a Christian blog aggregator (probably a UK one). Although I'm keen to deal with issues around Christianity, I don't want it to be a solely Christian blog. We'll see: I need to read a few more blogs and make a decision. It's fun reading other people's thoughts: particularly one's friends. I asked D whether the voice in my blog was what she expected, and the answer was "yes, only maybe a little more reflective", which is good. I'm trying to be honest to myself, but use this as an opportunity to go into a little more detail on some issues - and, indeed, to be reflective.

I registered a couple of domain names today at (the very cheap) netfirms. I'll talk about them once the DNS records have propagated: probably after I get back from the course.

Finished "Fatal Strategies" by Jean Baudrillard. Disturbing, provoking, interesting. I enjoyed it.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Jo's much improved, and I went with Fi and Jo to a Friends Meeting (Quakers) in Sudbury. An hour of silence, with just three people speaking, for maybe a couple of minutes each. Jo was quite vocal, but they'd made it clear that they welcomed babies, and people were very nice afterwards. I really enjoyed it, and though I don't think I could cope with just that style of worship - I enjoy liturgy a lot on occasion - it offered a quiet space in a way that Anglicans don't do well (in my rather limited experience).

I'm looking forward to starting my training on Tuesday - we have Si and D over at the moment (I'm blogging as D reads about Newfoundlands), and she starts her teacher training on the same day, so we're both starting new things.

Just noticed: I had two comments from people I'd not come across before: hi to Rodney and Christopher. I'd love to know how you found this blog. Thanks for paying attention.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Jo seems to be running a bit of a temperature and isn't entirely herself today. She wasn't great last night either, and though her temperature's gone down a bit, we think, she's rather high maintenance this afternoon. She's asleep, now, after a somewhat tearful lunchtime/early afternoon. This morning she was great: I took her to Clare, which is our nearest town (more like a large village, really), and we had a lovely time. We visited the baker's, the chemist's, the butcher's, the town hall (there was a "table sale" on - oh, the excitement), the pet shop, the co-op, the greengrocer's and the newsagents, and she was universally admired, sitting in a sling, facing outwards, kicking and talking to people around the place. A number of people asked "how old is he?": it really throws them to see a girl dressed in blue. One bloke even made a remark about her turning out to be a tomboy, by which I presume he meant "lesbian", which would be annoying if it weren't so funny. We also had a go on a swing in the park - I kept her in the sling, as I didn't dare think about the grief I'd get from Moo if I put her on a swing on her own. She seemed to like it, but nothing special.

Downloaded (legally) a CD's worth of animal nursery rhymes and burned them to a CD. We didn't have many nursery rhymes, and, for some reason, most of the ones we've come across in shops have been of absolutely abysmal quality (singing bad, instruments terrible, or, in some cases, both). I played Jo a couple of them before getting the lot, and she seemed to like them.

We have my godmother, Fi, coming to stay tonight, and her husband, John, joining us tomorrow (he's busy today with a meeting). She couldn't make it to Jo's christening, and has been hankering to come and visit, as she's not met Jo yet. She laid down a case of port for my christening of 1970 port (the year I was christened), which turned out to be a very good year, and it's getting to the end of its drinking life, so I've got out the penultimate bottle to drink with her. Our excellent friend Simon from Castle Hedingham (one of Jo's godfathers) is also joining us for supper (hi, Simon!). He's a teacher in Clare, and has just finished his first year after qualifying. For some reason, we almost always ask him whether he could feed the cats, whenever we see him, and I thought this might be a break from that tradition, but I'd forgotten that Moo's off to her parents' for a bit next week, so we will be asking him, after all. He lived just round the corner from us when we lived in Castle, and is supposed to keep up with the village gossip and give us the latest, but he's been rather remiss at this recently, and we may have to have words about it.

Music Today

Friday, August 19, 2005

Yesterday I wrote about being "born again" in a way which may have sounded completely negative, and I'm not sure that I should have done: or maybe, I misrepresented myself somewhat. A large part of my concern about the phrase "being born again" is that it's not something that I see happening to me, or not as a single, momentary, act. We must all, of course, die to our sin in order to have life in Christ - that's axiomatic if you believe Paul, and, in this, I have to say that I think he's very good. I'm suspicious of a sudden change - though, as I said, I'm sure that for some people it may feel that way. But, I suspect, for most people - for most people for whom the change "sticks" - the what feels like a liminal moment is, in fact, just the turning of a switch that turns their life from one state - darkness - to another - light. The hand that turns the switch was moving before it hit the switch, and continues moving afterwards. This I'm much happier with - a realisation and a continuing growth (with a realisation of the growth that brought the person to that place in the first place, preferably). I'm also troubled by a faith which makes the "receiver" of grace very special (my own, personal, Jesus). This, I believe, is a weakness in me: I'm prone to humility in my faith (much as that may surprise people who know me!), and working out that this is not, in itself a failing (if it's embraced and acknowledged) was a major bridge for me to cross in the journey towards ordination that I shared with my DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands, the man or woman who guides you towards selection for training, and keeps an eye on you through the training).

There's one more thing I'd like to say about being born again, and that is that I believe that you need to be born again in every moment. In every moment, each individual, indivisible quantum pinch of time that we live, we are of sin (not to say that we sin in every moment, or even that we are born to original sin, but that our existence is couched in sin), and, because of that, Christ dies for us. In every moment. The good news, of course, is that in dying, he rises for us too, giving us life, and a life beyond sin. We are reconciled in every moment, through the pain of the crucifiction and the glory of the resurrection.

Sorry if this has all got a bit heavy, but I thought I might as well do some deeper discussion. Sorry, as well, if the style's a bit odd: I've been reading Jean Baudrillard's "Fatal Strategies" this evening, and his writing style has rubbed off a bit.

Music Today

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Some feedback on the blog today. Don't get much feedback - probably cos there aren't that many people reading it, I presume! - so this was nice. Do please use the commenting function if there's anything you'd like to say.

The first comment was from my mate Mark (LO, Mark!), to say that he and a mutual friend had been rolling around the floor laughing at the suggestion that I "tend towards persuasion". Hmm. I asked for more detail, and he alleges that they were thinking in particular about my Linux advocacy^W bigotry, and

Toby "says as delicate in approach as in appearance". You have probably calmed down a bit in your old age though.
Oddly enough, all this stuff about old age didn't make me feel a _whole_ lot better. :-)

Which reminds me: for the past 12-15 years, I've used backwards smileys, e.g. (-8 instead of 8-). I've resolved to try to cure myself of this habit. Another random comment: I added two new (well, quite old, but I'd not got round to them) albums to the music server yesterday:

Took me over 21 days' worth of music: hurrah!

Oh - the other comment on the blog was from an IM & IRC mate called spike. He was saying that maybe if more people in the church took the view "I try to be clear, honest and definite, but not conceited, arrogant and annoying", (note the "try"...) he might have stayed in the church a bit longer. I don't think he's alone. I hope that God's calling/movement in my life/love - whatever you want to call it - allows me to be more me, and that I don't present a false face. Of course, I expect to change, but my psychological make-up, what I've come to be, has been guided and informed by my experiences, and they are guided by God. I've never been entirely happy with the idea of being "born again" - in large part because I've never felt away from God in the first place - and I have an implicit suspicion of an event that changes someone in one fell swoop. I'm not in any way saying that this can't happen, but just that a healthy suspicion may be sensible. As humans, radical changes to personality are less likely to "take" if they're generally at odds with our underlying personality. Which, I guess, is one of the major threads in the Persig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (definitely worth a read, if you never have).

Music Today

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

At work today, I was reminding someone why I'll be away for much or next week (summer course for ERMC at Ditchingham: kick-off for ordination training), and after asking "So, you're still convinced about it all?" (which, of itself, isn't such a great question to try to answer on a Wednesday afternoon, he asked "So, what's hell, then?"

This really isn't a good question to ask. Well, it's OK to ask, but it's really not very easy to answer. So, I stalled a bit, and then he said, "What about for people who don't believe, then?" I have to admit that I really wasn't very happy with the "you'll certainly regret it" which was my first answer (a little _too_ facetious, maybe not giving _very_ much more information). But, without going quite deep into the subject, it's really not a very easy question to answer. I explained that, in the liberal Western theological tradition (in which I'd place myself), the idea of a literal hell isn't strongly held. And I gave the canonical - or, at least, fairly orthodox - answer about knowing the fullness of all the things you'd done wrong, and the shame and hurt of being forgiven them despite that, but it felt a little flat. I think the problem was partly that for someone who is definitely an atheist, and a thinking one at that, it's difficult to find a way in. There's a hard balance to strike: I'm very strongly committed to avoiding being the sort of Christian who is a Christian with a _very_ big C, and who I'd feel alienated by if I were me, and not a Christian (or might even feel alienated by even as me, and a Christian!), but there are times when you need to stand up and be committed. And living the life isn't enough - you have to say things. I try to be clear, honest and definite, but not conceited, arrogant and annoying. But it's a fine line, when you look in from the outside.

One of the reasons that I accepted the vocation that God called me to (one of the parts of the call, indeed) was the thought "if I were me, and not a part of the Church of England, is it the sort of church I'd want to join?" The answer, too often, is "no", and that's part of what I need to embrace. And preaching fire and brimstone isn't what I'd need - even if it's what's expected. Even if (see yesterday's post), it's something I sometimes feel drawn towards.

The conversation was partly sparked by this very, very funny article. It takes the piss out of the "Intelligent Design" argument put up by some sections of the fundamentalist Christian movement (largely in the States) against the theory of evolution. It's a brilliant reductio ad absurdum, which pokes great holes in the "creationist" argument. My boss (bless him!) didn't realise that it was a brilliant piece of satire, and as I'd suggested it as a discussion point over lunch (I emailed a link out), started bemoaning the stupidity of those propounding these arguments. As well he might - this is only a step away from creationism. And creationism is, I'm afraid, a load of bollocks. It rejects (centuries of) biblical criticism, it completely misses the point of the scientific method, it ignores the difference between a scientific theory and socio-historical myth, and makes Christians a laughing stock. Hmm, that didn't sound very tolerant, did it? Well, next I'll start belabouring people who attack postmodernism, and _that'll_ show you... There are times when you need to stand up, and mocking the suggestion that creationism has equal merit as evolutionism is one of those times.

Music Today

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Suzy continues to do well, and is eating well: the only concern we really had yesterday evening, when she didn't want to eat. She's even had a half-hearted cat chase, and followed me into the kitchen at the end of supper in the hopes of getting something which might miss the bin, so she's obviously doing OK. She has some incontinence problems - not major, but noticeable - and though she doesn't seem concerned by it (which is good, and the main thing), we need to ask the vets if it's cause for concern. My guess is that it's just the diuretics doing their thing: her abdomen is still quite large and she's drinking a lot, so we'll need to keep an eye on that. Other than that, she's doing very well.

Spent most of the afternoon at work trying to fix my machine with Oli, our sysadmin. We put a new 80GB drive in my laptop a week or so again, and in doing so seem to have shagged the Windows install. I use it so rarely (I dual-boot the machine, and almost always use Linux) that it took me a while to notice, and in the end, we had to reinstall Windows over the current partition. Hopefully I'll not have lost the Windows set-up, but more importantly, I hope that the Linux install should be find once I've rebuilt the MBR (reboot with a rescue disk, chroot to the relevant partition, run lilo and we should be fine).

So far, most of this blog has been more of a diary than anything else, but I started it partly because I'm starting my training for ordination, and I want to use it as a sounding-board for some of my thoughts during the process. One that's close to the top of my mind at the moment is - what's the right balance (for me) with regards to quiet persuasion and full-blooded rhetoric? I tend towards persuasion, but I have enough practice in presenting in my work life to know that I can, if needs be, use rhetoric and force of argument to get a point across. I've always found the pentecostal/evangelical declamatory (without meaning to stereotype - I know this is a simplification, and not generalisable) style of preaching both rather comical and rather frightening. But it puts points across. It tells people important things. And these are things that I believe: or, at least, if I were to use this style, I would try to use it to put across what I believe to be true, and important. The danger here might be the phrase lurking just behind the sentences above "I would use this force for good". It's rather arrogant, true, but it's also dangerous. And the liberal theological background that I tend to espouse doesn't sit well with a loud, forceful style: it is, but its very nature, intellectual. But should it be, always? That's what I need to start to explore. One of the many things. We have a section of time set aside next week, at the training weekend in Ditchingham, to look at homilectics, the art /practice of preaching: maybe this will be something that I might be able to discuss with some of the others there.

Music today - not much, as we had connectivity problems at work, and then I was fixing my machine

Oh, and Steve Kemp, who's project gnump3d is, has shown an interest in my ideas for a "what I listened to today" package to go in the stats section of the official distribution. Just need to write it, now!

I love Byrd...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Suzy's home, and it's almost as if she were never ill. She was so pleased to see us at the hospital: sneezing, grinning (Newfs have this way of showing their teeth when they're happy to see you) and generally jumping around. She's on three different kinds of drugs, and won't ever be better, but every day that we get with her well, and happy, is a blessing. She could go downhill quickly and get better again with treatment, she could go downhill and not get better, or she could just die quickly. It could be while she's asleep, or while she's on a walk, but the plan is to let her live as normal a life as she can, and as she wants to. If she's happy to go for a walk, then we'll take her: if she doesn't, then we won't. We love her so much, and given that she's a rescue dog, we're grateful to be able to give her anything we can.

Carolyn was with us today on her first full day with Catherine not here all the time, and it all went well. I worked at home in case there was a problem, but there wasn't, and Carolyn coped very well indeed. I hadn't really realised how hard it is not to get up to pain for your child when they cry, but I had to let her deal with Jo when there was a problem. Jo seems to like her a lot, and we're all very happy with how it's going.

Music today

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Suzy continues to improve, which is a surprise, but fantastic. For the second day in a row, she's lost 300g in fluid overnight, which means that the treatment they're giving her seems to be having some effect. The worry is that her kidneys may have problems now, but again, she's apparently gone out for a quick walk today.

On a different note, given that I start my training at ERMC in a week or so, I've started trying to go to different churches around, just to get a feel for how other nearby churches operate, styles of worship and so on. Today I took Jo to Gosfield, while Moo stayed at home (she's not really a churchgoer), and Jo had a lovely time, and was very well-behaved. I had her in a sling in front of me, facing forwards, and she very much enjoyed the hymns (even the one where the vicar - Geoff Bloor - and his daughter played the guitar and flute!). She'd have preferred to have been the one holding the hymnbook, but a) she would have chewed it, b) she would have changed the pages, and c) she'd have droppred it. So I held it, instead. The style of worship was very informal, but I suspect that Geoff is in some ways quite "high": we had the angelus rung three times at the blessing of the sacraments, which suggests quite an anglo-catholic practice. He also wore a cope, which is sometimes a sign (though not always, I think). The Church of England has so many practices, styles and traditions, and it's sometimes both difficult and unhelpful to try to untangle them too much.

Yesterday I also ordered three books that I'm going to need for the course from Amazon with a token that Jim and Nina (my brother and his wife) gave me for my birthday. They are:

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Some good news: we heard from the veterinary hospital that Suzy lost around 300g of fluid overnight and had some breakfast. She was even able to go out for a short walk. This doesn't mean that she's out of the woods yet: just that they've relieved the initial symptoms. Realistically, the best we can hope for is maybe six months, but at least she's happier and more comfortable.

Went out with Moo and Jo to an organic shop and cafe near Great Bardfield, mainly to get ourselves out of the house. Very nice, and lovely food. Unluckily, I've been feeling worse and worse (nauseous, upset stomach) due to the medication for the gout, so I've decided to stop taking the pills, as my ankle seems much better now.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Bad news: Suzy's really ill. After she was no better this morning, Kerry (the lovely vet who I took her to yesterday) said that she was pretty sure that it was a cardiac problem, and suggested that we take her to a specialist. We ended up getting her to Queen's Veterinary Hospital, which is the Cambridge University Veterinary School hospital. Before getting her there, I spoke to Dell Richards, the welfare officer for The UK Newfoundland Club, who was brilliant. She suggested that it might be a pericardial effusion or atrial myocardiopathy, and talked about the various prognoses for these two diseases, both of which are fairly positive.

The veterinary hospital were fantastic, and lovely to Suzy and the three of us (Moo brought Suzy from the vets just after getting back from Jen's, and, of course, brought Jo along). They said that they'd get back to us later in the afternoon, and phoned us back around six o'clock. Unluckily, Suzy has actually got dilated cardiomyopathy (more here). Her body is currently in volumetric overload (far too much fluid in her system), and this is a bad sign, so the prognosis is really bad. We hope to hear by the end of the weekend what the next steps are, but we're steeling ourselves for the worst. Even if she gets through this, the disease is progressive, and she's not ever going to get completely better - it's just a matter of time.

Suzy's has been fantastic, helped me through seven months of unemployment, and through the two of us through the time when we were having problems conceiving. One really nice thing is that the vet at the hospital wants her to come home, whatever the prognosis: they'll take our monitoring information, and she'll be happier and more relaxed with us. And we get to spend time with her.

Music today

Thursday, August 11, 2005

All of a sudden, stuff's gone rather haywire.

Side comment: ooh, I'd forgotten Lost, Tosha. We've got it recorded, so I must give it a go.

Back to the plot. So, I got back at around 0015 this morning, having, as planned, gone to a brilliant Messiaen recital yesterday at Marienkirche and then caught the 2240 (well, more like 2300 with delays) plane back to Stansted. Got to sleep by 0030, and Jo let me know how very, very pleased she was to see me around 0600. So, five and a half hours, after a hard day. But hey, it was fantastic to hear Jo burbling so happily, and there's no better way to wake up. (Well, maybe one, but that's a distant memory with a little baby!). Now, Suzy (our Newfoundland dog) has been on antibiotics for a couple of weeks with an ear infection, and she's been eating less and less. We thought that maybe she was being affected by the pills, but when she even refused a sausage this morning (a real treat for her, usually), we decided that we needed to call the vets (aside:damn, but Lemon Jelly are a good band!), and booked an appointment for her for 1820. This meant my leaving work early, as Moo and Jo are down in London with her sister and family (Jenny, Jake, their daughter Turtle - long story - and Kate and Mac, my parents-in-law), so she couldn't take Suzy in. This ended up being quite useful as I discovered that my gout has started playing up.

A digression. Gout is not caused by drinking too much port and eating to much rich food (though I do wonder about the good suppers I had in Germany). Most people get it in their big toe (something to do with joints) - I get it in my ankle. It's bloody painful, and I know that if I can get an anti-inflammatory to it sharpish, it's much, much better than waiting, because the pain gets seriously bad after a few days. Since the last time I had it, they've removed from circulation the drug that I used to take (something about heart attacks or other minor side effects, I think), and I didn't have any pills. So, I had to phone the doctor, and go and pick up a new prescription (Diclofenac sodium tablets, if anyone cares). Most people take ibuprofen-based drugs, but I have an interesting reaction to them: they give me serious PMT (irrational, tearful, grumpy, etc.).

Anyway, it was therefore useful to have to leave work early, as it gave me the chance to pick up my pills. And a set of lisinopril for hypertension (why, why, why won't the doctors let me have more than a month's worth? It's not as if I'm about to come off it in the near future, or about to sell it to the local disaffected yoof - though, knowing some of them, they might give it a go).

Where was I? Yes. I also took Suzy to the lovely vets in Halstead. We'd been a bit worried that they might not take it seriously, but we were convinced something was wrong with Suzy, and they really paid a lot of attention. She's been listless, panting, not eating, and on feeling her abdomen, they found that it was very distended. In fact, though she's clearly lots lots of weight (you can feel her spine very markedly through her fur, poor thing), when we weighed her at the vets, she was up from her usual, so lots of fluid. Worried that it might bleeding, and so decided to keep her in, run some blood tests and see what they could find. We were pleased to hear that there's nothing obvious, and that the fluid isn't blood, but it raises the question of what the problem could be. The obvious, apparently, is heart disease (common in the "giant" breeds, though she's a small specimen), but although her heartrate was rather fast, there was no sign of a murmur. On the other hand, since she was panting so hard, it was difficult to tell. They're giving her some diuretics (to try to remove the fluid), some painkillers (to try to settle her), finishing off the antibiotics she's on, and they've given her some heart pills (don't know quite what) as a prophylactic measure. We hope to have more of an idea what the problem is tomorrow, when hopefully the fluid will have gone down, but there's talking about referring her to a specialist, which will be expensive. Luckily she's insured, but we need to find out how much that covers. Oh, it's hard having a family sometimes - of course I'm relieved that it's not Jo or Moo, but kids (even teeny ones) can usually give some idea of what's wrong: it's really hard to diagnose a dog. Well, we'll see.

Music today

Wednesday, August 10, 2005



We finished the meeting we had today at lunchtime, so rather than sit in Luebeck airport for 7 hours, Dietrich agreed to drive me to the town to spend the afternoon there. I'm on my 3rd church, sitting listening to someone practice what sounds like Bach on a lovely bright little chamber organ. This church, though smaller than the famous Marienkirche, is the cathedral (Dom) and has some amazing medieval panels: I hope to add some pictures. There's also a good old clock - smaller than the Marienkirche one, but this one seems mainly original. Marienkirche was largely destroyed in the war by allied bombing. I'm thinking of going back there this evening to catch part of a Messiaen recital on the main organ.

Had an excellent meal with Dietrich at the hotel. Lots of wine, proceeded by adds and followed by some scotch, so the theological discussion on soteriology (is that the right word? must check) became rather fuzzy. Good evening though, and didn't feel too bad this morning.

Well, spoke to the organist, and the music was Bohm and Buxtehude. The organ is tuned to a Praetorian temperament, which explains the rather odd tunings in places. I've got the details of what he's playing so that I can try to get hold of them: Edition Breitkopf numbers 6662 & 8087.

Music today
Jelly Roll Morton

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


My birthday

Well, I've had better: I'm a long way from home, working hard, and away from the people I'd most like to be with. But I'm well, and safe so don't really have that much to complain about. Spoke to Moo, Jo and my Mum (who stayed with them last night) and all are well, for which I thank God. Moo managed to stop herself buying me a mug with "god" on it today. Not so good if the bishop were to come round.

So, lying in bed writing this on my phone post-bath before going down for a nice German meal (very nice if last night was anything to in by): better sign off.

Music today
Britten - Antiphon (which we had at our wedding)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Just about to drive to the airport to catch a plane, but my marvellous new script allowed me to generate this first. Hurrah!

Music for 8/Aug/2005

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Well, after that last post, I've done some more work to tidy up the Perl script, and am sending it to the gnump3d developer, Steve. It now reads multiple log files, accepts a username on the command line, as well as a different date. With a bit of work, it could probably become a proper gnump3d package, and callable from the webpages, but we'll see. If anyone's interested in having a look, send me an email.

We interviewed another nanny today: we'd thought we had one sorted out, but it fell apart, so we started again. Too early to see if we'll have any luck this time round, but she's due to give us a call later today to say whether she wants to give us a trial go. She certainly seems very nice, and I'll blog some more about her, depending on how things go.

Unluckily, I'm away from home again for two nights this week (Monday and Tuesday), and will be getting back pretty late on Wednesday, so I'm feeling a bit fed up because I'm not going to see as much of Jo (and Moo, of course) as I'd like. It should be interesting work, however, and it's a part of Germany I've not visited before, as far as I can remember. The real pain is that I'll be away over my birthday (Tuesday, the 9th), which is just one of those things. My mum's even coming up to visit, and I won't see her at all. Not expecting many exciting presents this year, as I start my ordination training at the Eastern Region Ministry Course (ERMC), and there are a number of books that I need. I'm also planning on getting an alb, so I'm hoping for some money and/or Amazon tokens.

Well, the list of music from yesterday ended up being generated by a script. I was hoping to be able to post it automatically, but I've not yet been able to find a way to do that. The script still needs more work, but I'm quite pleased with it, and may even submit it to the gnump3d developer to see if he'd like to include it.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Well, Jo has just had her second solid meal of the day (her first time with more than one). I've fed her both, and it has to be said that the lunchtime one was more successful than the breakfast. I'm not sure if banana is just more easily spit-out-able than apple, or whether I've got better at feeding it to her, or if there were other factors at play, but much, much more went in this time. She's now having a little feed with her mummy, and will then hopefully get to sleep.

Music today

Must find a way to get gnump3d (which is serving the music up) update this blog automatically. Shouldn't be too difficult to write cron job which checks the music I've listened to, and then sends it to the mobile blog...

Got a text message this morning from our friends James and Claudia Gray to say that they have just had a baby (though I suspect that Claudia did most of the work at this stage). 12 hours labour, 8lb 10oz, a girl born at 1145pm on 5th August (yesterday), who they're calling "Stella Marianne". Marianne was James' mother's name - she died when he was a boy. Apparently, they were planning on "Josephine" as a first name until they met us: we took it first. Sorry, folks.

I suspect that they're going to be excellent parents, though it's going to come as a bit of a shock to them, particularly James, who's trying to run a farm (yes, it's harvest time, too, so they really didn't plan things very well!). Stella was a little over a week overdue, or dead on time, depending on how you do the counting, apparently, which is pretty good for a first baby. Claudia was expecting a boy, and a big baby, but given that Jo was 9lb 8oz, we're not that impressed. (-8

So, congratulations to all - we're looking forward to seeing them once Claudia's out of hospital.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Music Today A random selection, including:

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Music today

Got home just after 10pm to two rather angry, and very hungry cats. Moo's away with Jo and the dog at her parents, trying to get a bit of sleep and some work done (which, it appears, she's managing), and I hadn't realised I'd be quite so late back. The cats, however, don't actually seem to have suffered any permanent injury for being fed a little late this evening.

Had a very good day, with and excellent meeting: we agreed that it could hardly have gone any better. We got lots of things cleared up, everyone got on very well, all the customer contacts are very competent, and we really know where we're going with the project, it seems. Excellent news all round. I only saw a very little of Dundee, but it seems like a beautiful little city, and I'd love to have a chance to look round it properly at some point. I know very little of the East of Scotland: I've visited Edinburgh a couple of times, and that's about it. Had a very disappointing supper last night in the Hilton, though. Chose a starter of haggis, neaps and tatties with a mustard and whiskey sauce, but the (small) pile of haggis, neaps and tatties contained very little haggis, and was only lukewarm. The mustard and whiskey sauce was almost completely mustard, and completely swamped what there was of the haggis, so not good. The Beef Bourgignon was very pleasant (though rather of a single consistency), and no better than you'd get at home. And the wine was very basic, too. Heigh-ho.

On the flight back, I sat next to a very interesting woman called Emma who has a weird condition whereby she feels very strongly the movements of the plane: particularly banking, and the return to a normal attitude from exagerrated movements. She feels as if her brain is turning over, apparently, and has even been known to black out for a second or two in particularly violent turbulence or when the pilot has to buck the plane around a bit to set up a landing approach. She said that she'd decided not to let it rule her life, and has taken a job where she accepts that there will be certain amount of flying. She comes from a flying family (her father builds planes and they have lots of pilot friends), but seems to be the only person who suffers from it. She's off to a 30th birthday party for an old friend in Colchester, and I hope she has an excellent time.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Music today

Music today

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Flying to Edinburgh as I write this, listening to music on my phone. Luckily the Nokia 6680 has an offline mode, so it's easy to load a few albums onto a memory card and listen to them on the plane. Flying with a couple of Danish colleagues for a meeting in Dundee - musttalk about my job at Cryptomathic at some point, but suffice for now to say that we produce software around cryptography, and though I'm no mathematician, we have some fine ones in the company, my boss, Peter, among them. It's a great company to work for, with fun people and rewarding projects. I've not enjoyed myself so much at work for around 8 years.

I con see a lake below us: a flooded valley? And decent sized hills. I suspect that we're over Scotland now, or at least the Borders, so they'll make us turn off electronic devices soon. Easyjet don't run to GSM connections on planes yet, so I'll finish this off and send it when we land.

Good news about the plane, at least: all 309 people on board escaped. Thank God.

On a more domestic note, another night with little sleep. I'm away tonight on business, so should get some sleep: I hope the same goes for Catherine and Josephine.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A plane (an Air France Airbus 340 from Paris to Toronto) seems to have come off the end of the runway at Toronto. No sign that it's got anything to do with a bombing, but also no news on casualties. Prayers for all involved, please.

Demon, my ISP, is currently having connectivity problems. As the photo in my profile is hosted on my home box, you won't be able to see it until these are fixed (which hopefully won't be long). All was fine at around 0625 this morning, but was down within about 10 minutes, which is a pain.

Nine and a half hours, now, and still down. At this rate, I'll be connectionless when I get home. *gulp*

Latest: just contacted Demon, and they say it's fine now. May need to reboot the router, or at least tell it to reconnect, but looks like we're clear. Phew.

Well, it's just gone six in the morning, and I've been awake since five. I'm downstairs with Josephine, in the hopes that Catherine will get some more sleep if we leave her in bed for a bit. Jo is alternating between chewing a cloth bee and trying to grab the laptop screen, which seems to hold a strange fascination for her: maybe she's got her Dad's geek gene. Actually slept quite well, bizarrely: Moo (Catherine) brought Jo into bed around 12:15, rather than have her waking us and going into her room every couple of hours, which is what it had been up to then, and she (Jo) slept pretty well after that (until 5:25, obviously). So, I'm feeling pretty rested: let's hope Moo gets some more sleep.

One of the bonuses from Jo's point of view about coming downstairs early is seeing more of the Willem (one of the cats). He lives upstairs (to avoid the dog) unlike Meg, who lives outside (to avoid the dog) but at this time in the morning, the dog's shut away in her room, so Will, at least, tends to roam around downstairs. As he thought that I'd got up just to feed him, he came and paid us lots of attention for a while, which Jo certainly approved of, as her fascination with the cats outdoes even her fascination with the laptop screen.

Profile profiling: being a dad
Next on the profile is "being a dad", so this gets a few lines today. Josephine Ruth McLaughlin Bursell (Jo, Jojo, J, etc.) was born on Monday, 21st February, 2005, and completely changed our lives (unsurprisingly). We had a hard time having her (two years of trying - not bad by some standards, but hard on us), and Moo had a somewhat difficult pregnancy, and Jo is, whatever way you look at it, a complete blessing. She's bright as a button, always trying new things, and being her dad is like nothing else in the world. She's hard work sometimes, and I'm very aware of how much Moo puts in during the day, just keeping her fed, occupied, happy, etc., so I try to do my bit when I can (like getting up early in the morning and taking the babe downstairs so that Moo can grab that extra bit of sleep). I often worry that I don't do enough, but we need to balance the requirements of work, too. Luckily my boss (Peter) is very accommodating. Anyway, I'm both jealous of Moo that she gets to spend so much time with Jo, and relieved sometimes that I don't have to (which I feel guilty about). I guess this is all part of being a dad. I wouldn't change it.

Monday, August 01, 2005


Aargh! It's such hard work trying to organise families! My parents live 4 and a half hours away, and Catherine's about two and a half hours away, and although Catherine's are both retired, all four are very busy. We'd like them all to see as much as possible of Josephine, but sorting it out's really hard. Not helped by the fact that my father takes services on many Sundays, so it's difficult for them to get to us over weekends. On the other hand, I'm starting to have commitments on weekends, and long journeys are hard with Jo and the dog. And although my mum is going to come up over my birthday to see Moo and Jo, I'll actually be away in Germany, working.

What else? Note to self: must remember to get some DVD+RWs tomorrow. The new DVD-recorder (under 100 quid from Tesco's) is very good, but it does need media.


Profile profiling: geekery
Thought I might go through some of the subjects in my profile one by one, and explain what they're doing in there. First off is "geekery". I like doing geeky stuff: messing with software, tinkering (hacking - not cracking), setting up new services, setting up new servers, finding new ways to do things, putting together a new box out of pieces of old ones, stuff like that. I like talking about how you'd connect different protocols together, tuning for performance, discussing backwards and forwards compatibility, designing systems and all that. Some of this is what I do at work, but lots of it isn't, but I'd say it's all geekery. It's why I like using debian unstable (a Linux distribution), submitting bug reports, acting as a beta tester. And I'm proud to be a geek, if that's what it means. I've got some social skills (I hope!), so maybe I don't fit all the stereotypes, but I have to admit that when we went to a party on Saturday, the first thing I spoke to a mate about was the gnump3d server that I'd set up earlier in the week, which I guess isn't so good.

Music today:

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