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Nice George Bernard Shaw quote:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

The odd thing is, I heard it from our company director. He wants us to be unreasonable! Good news!


Wisdom From the Blog of Seth

From the blog of Seth. (Thanks to Robin Hay for posting this.) It's a struggle, isn't it?

The Four Horsemen of Mediocrity

Choose which of the four you need to fight this week.


Another Simon Legree

This cobbed from Private Eye:

Quantitative Easing

There was, recently, a spate of "Government Initiatives That Sound like Dodgy Rock Groups".  This one got missed out...

Quantitative Easing were formed at a Hemel Hempstead secondary school in the spring of 2012.  They began with a series of Snow Patrol covers.  The first rehearsal session nearly ended in disaster when drummer Chris The Ice Machine was told that they would be doing Chasing Cars, and immediately raced out onto Warners End Road on his bicycle, narrowly avoiding being knocked over by a Ford Focus driven by Mrs Hannah Cakebread.
Following QE's appearance on X-Factor in the autumn of the same year (and the subsequent RSPCA-led prosecution), Mrs Cakebread told reporters of the Gazette "I wish now that I hadn't braked".

This is a try at an answer to keepthefunk's question on the comments page of an extract from a Richard Dawkins lecture on youtube. See the original conversation here. .

Greetings keepthefunk, and welcome. .

First up, I'm a Christian. For me, that means I believe in Jesus and in the Bible. A trawl through the comments on the page you've just come from (and anywhere else where people discuss these things on the internet) shows that there people interpret the Bible in many different ways. Some people go for what they call a very literal interpretation, and get into a lot of trouble one way and another. I would support a literal interpretation if that meant starting with the words of Jesus himself and working from there. Jesus said some startling things: when asked what the most important rule is, the answer was "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength, and the second rule is the same: love your neighbour as yourself." And he defined the word "Neighbour" to include any person at all, including your enemy or any other completely unexpected person. (This is the meaning of the story "The Good Samaritan" So, you see, if Christians (or anyone else) take a "literal" interpretation of these parts of the bible, and actually live by them, then the world would be a better place..

How would you treat your slave if you loved him? I expect you'd free him pretty quickly, then look for ways to helps him get back what he lost due to being your slave. But you don't have slaves, of course. Not ones that you own personally, anyway. How about slaves who make things you buy, or who give you other benefits? Far harder to answer. Have a look at Stop the Traffik. By the way, perhaps you think there are no Christians who really live out the words of Jesus, including the hardest teachings. Check out Red Letter Christians, and almost anything written by Tony Campolo or Jackie Pulinger among many others.

So, what about those other parts of the bible though, which tell you how to treat your slaves? One principle to bare in mind: don't judge the writings of one age by the standards of another. Consider someone saying today "Think of the environment! Don't drive at 80 MPH, it uses too much petrol." Well, someone from 500 years hence might look at that and say "How can you be so blind? you shouldn't have been burning petrol at all! You knew, in the 21st century, that burning petrol the way you were was ruining the planet. Why did you carry on doing it? Why didn't you just stop?". Yes, well, anyone who said now, in 2013, that we should all change our lives so that we could walk everywhere, would not get very far in changing society. It's great to have high moral standards for individuals, but when the Law was written down which is now our Old Testament, it was necessary to make it work on the ground for a whole nation. Does that make me sound like I think you can just ignore the Old Testament? Not at all. The laws which are there on how to treat you slave would have been a real challenge to the people of the day. A slave is surely your property, to do what you like with? Not at all, says the Bible. In the 10 Commandments (I am looking at Deuteronomy 5:13 - 15) we are told that just as you take rest one day a week, so should your slave. you cannot make a slave work on a day when you are resting. The people are continually reminded "You too were slaves when you were in Egypt, before God rescued you. So that is the reason to treat your slaves well." So the laws in the Bible indicate a direction of travel. In a culture where slavery was the norm, and slaves were treated simply as property, the people were told to treat their slaves as real people. But I hear you ask, (if I still have your attention this far down the page ... ) why not go the whole way and tell people to free their slaves? And here we come to a second principle: Read the Bible like Jesus read it. When people came and asked Jesus a question about divorce, and what the Old Testament Law said about it, he replied that Moses wrote the law as he did "because your hearts were hard." In a culture where a man could just send a wife away with no argument (thus leaving her with no support or protection), Moses lays down some laws which limit the harm to the woman and give her some rights and legal status. Jesus in effect says of the law of Moses "He did what he could, under God's guidance, to move you along. But now you can go far beyond that and live as you were originally meant to!". No-where that I know of in the Bible does it instruct people to take slaves. The writers assumed that slavery existed (because it did), and then said how to run the system, how to treat your slaves. But as soon as you get beyond that, to the question "should we have slaves at all?" and the answer should be self evident: since all humans were made in the image of God, (another principle from the Old Testament) how can one human own another? .

Now I have to admit that it took us a long time to get to this view-point, but I think you will admit that the first modern Westerners to get the idea that slavery is wrong were radical Christians like William Wilberforce. (Recommended viewing if you haven't already seen it: Amazing Grace, a Michael Apted directed film about these events.).

I've probably not answered all your questions at all. What I have tried to make clear is that I think if we take the Bible (the whole of it) seriously, then it will point us to all kinds of improvements to society and to our own lives. But the best place to start is Jesus. it was him who said:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour."

South Hill's Got Talent

Saturday night was another fund raiser for Stop The Traffik and Meninadanca.
"South Hill's Got Talent", at South Hill Church, included all the main elements of the original apart (thankfully) for the get-lost buzzer. We had two judges, comedian Stuart and professional dance teacher Dannielle. We had cheeky-chappy presenter in the wings Tim. We did not (as far as I know) have journalists micro-analysing performances and destroying careers.
We had acts ranging from Nana Smith and the Razzle Dazzle Girls doing "My Boy Lollipop" as (I think) the oldest song by the oldest performer, to Rebekah doing Paloma Faith's "Black And Blue" as the newest song (though not the youngest performer). Rebekah really can sing, and I'm always grateful to anyone who introduces me to a good artist I didn't know before. That song is brilliant, one of the highlights of the night for me.
Most of the acts were song and dance numbers of one sort or another, including my rendition of Fat and Frantic's "Freedom". There were a couple that stood out. There was one comedy act, Mike, Matt and Elliott calling themselves The Four Mikes, with a couple of good gags. Brodie and Talia did a clarinet duet and would probably have won an award for courage had there been one. Verity had previously said she had no talent which could be put up on stage, someone replied "what about dog training?". Apparently it took a certain amount of negotiation to get the Powers That Be to allow a dog on stage, but the result was enthralling. Verity must have some real skill in dog training, and she obviously loves the animal. Did anyone think to tell the Powers That Be that the finale of the act was for the dog to ride on a horse? Chaos!!
A certain amount of chaos of a different kind was caused by Tanya's Gaudoloupian dancing. Who'd of thought it, eh chaps? I was out in the green room for another dance act, Sandra, Laila and Bless doing some Brazilian thang. Apparently I missed a treat. I was back in for Sylvie's "Liverpool Lullaby" though. Great stuff. I want a duet with her next year.

The winners were an act called The Jigs, who danced to Michael Jackson's "Bad", which was in the charts when their mothers were children! It would have been like us doing Fats Domino when we were kids. (Actually, thinking about it, I seem to remember some girls from my school covering Nina Simone's "My Baby Just Cares For Me", so perhaps things have not changed that much.). The Jigs were certainly deserving winners. As Stuart, king of corn, said: "Jigs: Just Incredibly Great Stuff".

All this was in aid of the same two charities which we were raising money for in the tower climb a month ago. Rebekah and Grace did a stand-up appeal at the end, speaking with passion about the two causes. Have a look at the links.

A good night out, I'm glad we did it. Everyone said we'll be back next year!

Lost keys

True story. I arrived at the estate where I was checking lifts yesterday, sat down to work out which blocks needed doing, then went into the estate office to pick up keys. Proceed to the first block, up to the top landing to start work on the lift, and I spot a set of keys hanging from a closed front door. Looking around, no-one in sight. I knock on the door, a lady puts her head out, I point out the keys. "Thank you dear" she says. It is a while since anyone called me dear. I turn back to the lift to start work, and I think "hang on, where are my keys? Where's my coat? My keys were in the pocket. I must have left it somewhere. Think fast, how bad is this? There was nothing else in my coat pockets but the keys. Nothing to identify me or the keys to my car or address. So it's just keys; the house and car are safe.
Quickly, back to the estate office. "Did I leave a coat here when I picked up the keys?" "No sir."
Hmm. Where then? I know I had it when I was at the previous job, about a mile away. And I came by bus from there, so perhaps I left it on the bus? Check the maps, that would be the 204. Run by Metroline, based at Edgware. Phone to Metroline, they'll look out for it, but it probably won't come in until 6pm, end of shift.
OK, so I haven't got keys tonight. I have a spare car key at home, so I can phone The Beautiful One and ask her to meet me with it at the station. But the battery is flat on the spare key (or something like that) and it doesn't work as a remote key. The alarm goes off if you open the door with mechanical key. (Am I using the right terminology here?)
A phone call to the garage: you're ok, they say, you'll set the alarm off but be brave and put the key in the ignition, this will cancel the alarm. Thank you, and thank goodness for that. I have a car again. (I hope this is right. Explaining to the police that this is my car, honest, would just be the perfect end to the day.)
Back to the moment: what next? Phone The Beautiful One and confess all. Will she be on stand by to meet me at the station with the spare key?
"I thought that one didn't work?"
"I've checked, it will."
"Have you called Lost Property?"
"Yes I have."
(When you're apologising for a stupid mistake, you're not in a position to complain about insulting questions.)
"Ok then, I'll pray that you find the keys."
"Thanks. See you later." (Now why didn't I think of that?)
So what now? Might as well carry on work. Nothing else left to do. Two more lifts, and a prayer or two.
Am I sure I left it on the bus? After all, I know I had it with me at the last job, but did I bring it away from there? Perhaps it's back there after all.
Back to the estate office, return the keys promising to be back in an hour, tab back towards the last job. I see a double decker bus with 204 on it. I know I was on a single decker bus. Worry. Quick phone call to Metroline. "Do you have any single decker buses on the 204 route?"
"No mate, all ours are doubles."
"But I was on a single decker bus terminating at Edgware."
"Yes, there are lots of those, run by other companies. If you were on a single decker, it wasn't ours."
Oh bother. I wonder how many other bus garages I need to phone. Ah, that's a single decker bus, in the right place, could be the one I was on. Arriva. Ok, phone Arriva. Their depot is in Watford, and if I've left my coat on one of theirs it will get back to Watford around 2am. That's right, 2 in the morning. "You mean to tell me that I've been on a bus driven by a man who regularly works 14 hour shifts?"
"Yes, but they do take breaks. And no, there is no point at all phoning us again until tomorrow morning after 9am."
Bother. By this time, I've walked back to the last place I was working. No joy there; if I left it there it ain't there now. One thing in my favour is that the coat really is not all that nice. It's about 7 years old, and looks it. It should be black but is faded to dark brown, and the zip doesn't work. So the only person who'd want it would be Gollum. Partly because he doesn't have a coat, and partly because he wants to know "What it's got in its nassty little pocketses?"
By this time, I'm reduced to running after buses and asking drivers if a coat has been left on the bus. And I mean running. Quite athletic I was. Reaping the rewards of getting fit for the tower run? Probably looked pretty ridiculous, puffing along in my green overalls, toolbag on back.
I was praying now, as I had been off and on since TBO reminded me to. "I'll be good, I'll do whatever you want God, just let me find my coat!" No, that won't do. You cannot bargain with God, that's well known. "Erm... I'm sorry I haven't been good, and I know there's no bargaining with you, but please let me find my coat!". That's a bit better. My theology and legs were exhausted, so I gave up and plodded back to the place I should have been, to finish the day's work.
Back on the estate, along the path I had trodden six times now, what with going in to the estates office to begin with, going to the first block, running back to ask about the coat, trudging back to do the first two lifts, going back to hand in the key, and then finally setting off to look for the coat elsewhere. And now I was walking along it for the seventh time today, towards the estates office, past the place where I sat down on a wall three hours before to work out which blocks needed doing. On which wall, now that I looked, lay a scruffy off-black coat. With my keys in the pocket. Rejoice!
Two more lifts, job done, home.
So... Lessons learnt?


Child playing happily with snake

Psalm 11, of course.

(I did look for a lion/lamb photo, but the ones on Google all look unconvincingly photo-shopped. And I don't fancy asking Phil the Farmer to lend me one of his lambs to take up to Whipsnade Zoo for a photo shoot, in case erm.. in case there's not enough of the lamb left for me to bring back to him.)

Freedom for a few more

In today's Evening Standard the good news of a broken trafficking ring.

"Sex slave ring in luxury flats is smashed by police in dawn raids"

Thumbs up to the Standard for putting this on your front page, and even bigger thumbs up to the Met for finding these people.

As a society, we need to wake up to the monstrous wrongs being done right on our doorstep. As with so many things though, the nasty individuals who run these places would not be doing it if there were no buyers. It's all very well (and absolutely right) to close down these rings and prosecute the people who run and profit from them. But we also need to work towards a society where such a business could not take root, for want of people wanting the services on offer. (I'm sorry, I know that's too naive for words. But there was a man once who talked about lambs safely sitting with lions and children playing happily with snakes. I can dream can't I?)

God's blessings also on the care centre which has taken the girls in. Look after these girls, and teach them to live again, with self respect. And if you can teach them to forgive English men I shall be grateful.

Songs to sing

Chilling after the tower climb (which seems a long time ago now), I mentioned to Chloe about how it's not just you youngsters who have good protest songs.  (The one on her mind would have been 27 Million, Matt Redman et al.)  I told her about Phil Collins, with his "Turn It Off" on No Jacket Required.  But I've just heard the far better song on the same theme,"On The turning Away" on Pink Floyd's Momentary Lapse of Reason.  Why had I not heard this one before?  It is totally gorgeous.