Thursday, December 18, 2008
There's something of a frontier town feel about Linux. It asks you to do things in ways you had almost forgotten. Apart from being blindingly fast - the whole deal fits snugly into RAM like the bound foot of a 19th century Chinese courtesan, leaving vast acreages left over - what does Vista do with it all; it must have hectares of redundant code, like DNA.
I rather feel like the puppy in the photograph - thanks to Barry K for a system even I can use - not very knowledgeable but mighty curious.
I haven't figured out how to crop this image yet, but at least I managed to find it..
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Apart from Eleanor Roosevelt's dreadful hairstyle, the sight of her reading the Declaration of Human Rights sixty years ago today, on Human Rights Day was inspiring. I found myself thinking how far we really do have to go as a species which seems incapable of rising above barbarism, when the spirit might be willing but the flesh is undoubtedly either recalcitrant or simply weak. Pope John Paul II was right when he called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “one of the highest expressions of the human conscience of our time,” but conscience alone is no restrainer of terror.
Monday, December 08, 2008
I'm reminded today of being awoken early some years ago in a pleasant suburb of Karachi by the sound of pain. Screaming, as if by tortured children, penetrated my consciousness. Looking out of my window into neighbouring courtyards, lambs were suspended, heads down and bleating pitifully, awaiting the merciful flash of the knife, honed according to the Prophet's instructions and concealed from the victim before the single strike. No such awakenings this morning - here the business is transacted in the privacy of the slaughterhouse.
At the risk of doing irremediable violence to the greatest of all modern Arab poets, I came across this today, the first day of Eid ul Adha, or Greater Eid, the Festival of Sacrifice.
I was in the beginning, and in the beginning was Poverty.
I died that bread may be eaten in my name; that they plant me in season.
How many lives will I live! For in every furrow of earth
I have become a future, I have become a seed.
I have become a race of men, in every human heart
A drop of my blood, or a little drop.
After they nailed me and I cast my eyes towards the city
I hardly recognised the plain, the wall, the cemetery;
As far as the eye could see, it was something
Like a forest in bloom. Wherever the vision could reach,
there was a cross, a grieving mother
The Lord be sanctified! This is the city about to give birth.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I'm quite fortunate, I suppose. I have access to a large number of TV channels, courtesy of NileSat and HotBird, varying in mediocrity from the paralysingly boring to numbingly bad. We get David Letterman and Oprah here, which others seem to find entertaining. Oh, joy. The former is so self-absorbed that he has probably stopped laughing at himself, the latter reports heartwrenchingly painful exposes which some find riveting but others like me find the resultant queasiness almost too much to bear and blame the retching on the macaroni cheese.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
I've been blogging elsewhere recently.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Image consultancy, also known as legalised political hypocrisy, is of course de rigeur. I wonder, did BO hire an image consultant to smack him in the face with a frying pan, thus giving him a pained, almost constipated look; as if being among people who are obviously inferior to him causes him actual physical discomfort? Being surrounded by intellectual also-rans must be tedious for the poor man. Perhaps Henry Kissinger might give him a quick tutorial.
I was further cheered to read that a Christian church has been discovered on the site of an Israeli prison, up north in Megiddo - the mosaics being in a remarkable state of preservation. Perhaps it was the site of a persecuted church, although advertising on this scale might well have contributed to its destruction. Self-discovery is continuous and during a time when the Church in general was finding out about itself it's comforting to know that the milestone placed in the fourth century has returned to light again, much as it once was. What you saw was once what you got, perhaps.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
People in every culture, it would seem, believe in an afterlife of some kind or, at the very least, are fuzzily, comfortably unsure. These are irrational beliefs, undeniably, and seem to result either from religion or or some other mechanism designed to protect us from the terror of inexistence, thus are, perhaps, an inevitable consequence of self-consciousness. We don't know what it's like to experience a lack of sentience or consciousness; we can't imagine what it might feel like to be dead - indeed the contemplation is itself terrifying. In fact, it might not feel like anything - and therein lies the problem.
The common view of death as a great mystery is an emotionally fuelled desire to believe that death isn’t the end of the road. We might cheer mentally with Thelma and Louise, but afterlife belief and subsequent behaviours and attitudes exist it seems to soothe what would otherwise be a psychologically crippling anxiety about the ego’s inexistence. I watched "I, Robot" for the umpteenth time this Eid and was struck by the fact that the only difference between the sentient robot and all the others is that it alone was aware of its own existence and presumably consequent mortality...
We need to know, and therein lies our undoing. From the anonymous 14th century Carthusian monk's mystic work "The Cloud of Unknowing" we find..
'Our intense need to understand will always be a powerful stumbling block to our attempts to reach God in simple love [...] and must always be overcome. For if you do not overcome this need to understand, it will undermine your quest. It will replace the darkness which you have pierced to reach God with clear images of something which, however good, however beautiful, however Godlike, is not God.'
The derision of the anti-intellectual over such mystic posturing is well known, but where is the intellect after oblivion comes?
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Now, where is it going to end? GB i/c GB may not sleep as comfortably as he once did, presiding as he does over brittle economic conditions and personal unpopularity. He hasn't quite got the wasta to blag foreign trips with old mates like Silvio and Cliff, has he.....I wonder if a cold tendril of self-doubt whistles along his spine, as one might imagine the boys at CERN suffering from. They've built the most expensive gun in the universe and hope to see its beginning, if briefly. There is indeed no danger, it takes a good deal more energy than homo sapiens can muster, even with $16bn to create a black hole big enough to cause more than a ripple, Koestler's 'shrug of eternity'
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Public display of affection, such as touching, kissing or hugging, is illegal in Dubai and couples -- particularly if not married -- can be detained by police for indecency. Such, it seems was the fate of an intoxicated British couple, spotted on the beach by a doubtlessly jealous indigent, enraged that Ramadan and the law of the land prevented him from doing what comes naturally. Here, any misbehaviour during the Holy Month, which means no more crafty puffs behind the bike sheds, can lead to a 100KD fine, or spending the rest of the month in the slammer, where, no doubt the fast is strictly observed strictly and fornication frowned upon. I wonder whether this offends public decency also...
Monday, September 01, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
We recall Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change yelling 'foul' in March an in the solo run-off Mugabe cheated under starters orders and unleashed all manner of nastiness with the help of police and party activists. I'd be quite inclined to vote Conservative if a man with a machete threatened to chop my hand off.
I find myself between a rock and a hard place at this time, so have some sympathy with others.
Ahmedinajad's face reminds me of a quiz show host. You can almost hear him asking "Would you survive a holocaust?" And, for five bonus percentage points, tell me why these questions are absurd.
Take the test.
I spent a refreshing sea voyage recently with a prospective Conservative MP. Lest you think I have sold my soul to Beelzebub, apart from feeling as if I had momentarily slipped into a congenial, if deranged alternative reality, I found myself spectating with enthusiasm and enjoying the fried fish and chips thereafter. The lady herself is eminently electable. Good breeding, articulate and appropriately managerial with underlings – indeed refraining from ribald commentary over an inferior Chardonnay. The constituency she represents is one of moderate, God-fearing dinosaurs and it might be interesting to see what happens if she ever had real power. Which brings me to America. The great, the good and the terminally garrulous are converging on Denver, and the TV is full of it. No doubt Barack and Michelle are smelling the floor polish along the corridors of the White House already. A new book, The Great Derangement, by Matt Taibbi, reports widespread lunacy in the national psyche just when America needs to understand the dangerous real world more than ever: "On both the left and the right, huge chunks of the population were effecting nearly identical retreats into conspiratorial weirdness and internet-fuelled mysticism.". The book has been described as ‘opinionated, profane, depressing and hilarious’.He visits churches that are prayerfully, proudly ignorant of the larger world and equate hatred of Nancy Pelosi who had the temerity to demand equal pay for equal work for men and women in her Californian constituency with love of God. He visits left-wing assemblies seething against President Bush: They're sure 9/11 was a White House plot. These are fantasies of a sheep-like populace that cocoons itself in Internet escapism and white-hot tribal resentments, with no clue about how real power operates.
"They voted in huge numbers, but they were voting out of loathing, against enemies and against the system in general, not really for anybody. The elections had basically become a forum for organizing the hatreds of the population."
These are prime-time values no longer. Demonization is big business, even if it ruins the country. Dispiriting, isn’t it. But incomplete, since it ignores an essential bloc of American (read Western) humanity: religious moderates. The backbone of communities, they do the unglamorous charitable work. They are faithful worshippers who discuss complex social issues at Sunday school. They embody an embattled set of values that evolved after World War II, when believers were weary of fascist bigotry and global atrocity — tolerance, patience, faithfulness, internationalism, in other words, decency. Much like many of my shipmates bobbing up and down around the harbour the other day.
Denver, it is noted, is also a 'no fry zone' in order to promote healthy eating at the convention. No fried chicken. No fried catfish. No fried green tomatoes. No fried okra. No fried anything. Unlike the Conservatives at sea the other day.
Let’s hope they keep it festive and truthful, digestively calm and confine the hate to two minutes.
Postscript...I found it instructive to crowd-watch during the almost wall-to wall coverage of BO and friends in Denver. The beatific adoration was almost more than flesh and blood could stand, especially as his running mate looks and sounds like a younger, fitter version of John McCain. It'll be fascinating to see what the Old Guard can pull out of the hat up in Minnesota in the wake of Gustav. Hopefully, a little statesmanship.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
We respect China and celebrate its culture, but demand responsibility on China's part. Mismanagement of foreign policy, including decisions by Western leaders to pursue delegitimizing actions such as cultural boycotts, will create greater distrust bereft of constructive policy impact.
- from the Jerusalem Post today.
It's ironic that the masters of rapprochement in Tel Aviv give such sound advice. Replace CCP with PA. Will it be heeded? Probably not.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Is Islam the 'enemy' of the West? Italy has thousands of polygamous, frequently unhappy marriages, the state appears to turn a blind eye in the name of 'cultural sensitivity'. In Britain and Spain, where large Muslim communities also have settled, some officials favour recognizing polygamous marriage as a way to ensure the wives' access to pensions, medical care and other state benefits. One problem seems intractable. The application of human rights, and what the West perceives as 'civilised' behaviour is in some cases directly at odds with the Shariat. For example, what are Norwegian Muslims to do, since homosexuality is punishable by death by beheading under Islamic law.
If they all take four wives, they might be able to breed themselves into power, using the very democracy they wish to overthrow. It seems that the clash of cultures is irreconcilable thus. much like fighting dogs, separation or defeat is inevitable. Alternatively, tolerant and judicious planning and a complete paradigm shift in everybody's thinking might just prevent holocaust. Islam is culturally accustomed to waiting. The West is not. H'm.
Coincidentally, this week saw the fast of Tisha Be'av when the Jews mourn in commemoration of the destruction of the Temples, presumably also with loss of life. The Ninth of Av was the day, according to the rabbis, on which both great structures were destroyed, the first by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, the second by the Romans in 70 CE. On the eve of the day of mourning and fasting, religious Jews read the Book of Lamentations (Eicha), ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah who witnessed the destruction by the Babylonians. Commemoration of Tisha Be'av takes place most publicly at the only portion remaining, the Wall. Given a choice of the Water Cube or the Wall, I think the latter, in spite of these incomparably perfect synchronised 3m springboard gold medallists, giving China the lead in the medals table.
Monday, August 04, 2008
The water chute is from the Mayan temple in Atlantis. Of course. Where else...
Sunday, August 03, 2008
..........is 1600ft long and an exhilarating ride, especially in the rain. Apart from a frisson of probabilistic, almost Gaussian uncertainty, the adrenalin rush was sufficiently modulated to permit enjoyment of the scenery. Especially upside down. There's even time to think. I found myself musing on retrospective distortion - an examining of past events without adjusting for the forward passage of time, leading to the illusion of posterior predictability. Fings ain't what they used to be because we not only remember imperfectly but do so in the context of a personal and limited historical worldview. I went to a dance festival recently - not a bestseller for me - and it was rather like attending as a participant, a children's tea party. Big fun when you're six.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Which brought me to some thoughts about the inexactitude of prediction. Reading "Black Swans", it becomes apparent that we're quite simply unable to predict anything very much with measurable accuracy, from stock market crashes to the population of Romania in 2020.
Are there certainties of faith? Perhaps not, then. So, Conference or not, outcomes at Lambeth are unlikely to be as predicted. Perhaps.
The world is chaotic. That's the way it is. Live with it. Schrodinger's cat did. Probably.
I wouldn't fancy ++Rowan's job for all the coffee in Brazil. He's holding two pairs to a flush at the outside, so whichever way the cards fall, he's gonna bust. Or, is he? Knowing that one cannot predict the unpredictable, like the outcome of solemn conclave or oil prices, agreement might be a safer bet. Unlike Pater Benedict, however, ++R has no authority outside his own See, he is simply 'primus inter pares'. It's comforting to reflect, however, that this is one of the better models of the early church, the one before the Bishops of Rome declared themselves to hold Imperial Authority. And not all bishops agreed to run with it for at least six hundred years after Leo VI gave himself the top job. Poor Rowan frequently makes a lot of sense if you bother to read what he has actually said or written instead of the usual claptrap the Press trots out, most of whom are neither interested enough nor sufficiently knowledgeable to gather correct information.
Given the thorny theological issues under discussion, one might have expected rather more press coverage - but it might be a bit off-scale for the luvvies, or the infidel Joe Public doesn't really care.
At least the Conference is getting some important issues discussed. Whether the Church outside the UK, Europe and the Americas will agree on all of them is a matter for God. I have a feeling that they will not.
I remember seeing this beautiful mosaic. Over the Imperial Gate, Leo VI, the Wise (886-912), is shown prostrated at the feet of Christ with medallions of the Virgin and an Archangel above. The Archangel no doubt symbolizes the belief that Aya Sofia was built with divine aid while angels watched.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I'm not sure what the collective noun is for a gathering of Bishops... a cacophony, perhaps? As Lambeth approaches and the storm clouds gather, troops are assembled and weapons sharpened in Jerusalem, Putney and elsewhere.
Pascal spoke of a “divine Republic", which, following Philo, he describes simply as a group that “has God only as its master”. The Church as a Body, then, with members, he defines as an assemblage of “thinking” or “willing particulars" who have the “Body” as a whole as their goal for thought. There are two requirements to be a “member” of the Church, he writes: a will and conformity to the body as a whole. So, whether we individually agree that openly gay bishops are allowed to preside, or women bishops allowed to ordain isn't relevant.
Proverbs 15:3 tells us that 'the eyes of the Lord are everywhere, watching the evil and the good', which would seem to be just as well, since the moral authority contained within pronouncements made in Canterbury this week will have a lasting effect on the 'communion of saints'.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Cliff-jumping in Negril, Western Jamaica, being surreptitiously offered ganja on the 'hip-strip' and learning patois......some of us have a hard life here in Mo' Bay, which seems a long way from the cares of the world right now. Yet, the chill of harsher realities have a habit of making their presence felt. Jamaica has two faces. One, which the tourists see, is colourful, vibrant and over-confident. The other which few tourists get to see, is of a nation lacking in self esteem, young in many aspects of world-scene issues, and daily facing difficult moral choices. A friend had her car stolen by the simple expedient of the thief and accomplice waiting beside her car port and demanding the keys yesterday. The existence of resort hotels which cocoon visitors inside gated, secure environments, buttresses them against the harsher economic realities and consequent civil disobedience in a nation whose primary income is from tourism.
When away, I do like to keep abreast of other issues thus I'm in the middle of reading a history of al-Qaeda, if such exists any more. A friend in Jerusalem found herself uncomfortably close to the recent terror and a child known to her was killed. The authors of mayhem against the West have not gone away, neither are they sleeping. Reading between the lines recently - a subtle pastime when it comes to the McCain/Obama race - American Jewry seems to be getting behind the safer horse. Obama's sense of what is historically relevant translates into a delusion that radical Islamic terror can be pacified solely with financial and diplomatic pressure. You can't see the whites of their eyes, much less curtail their activities by ham-fisted 'westernised' methods. If he doesn't understand this then one fears he might have to learn the hard way.
Back to the present. Negril's cliffs are anything from 35 to 45 ft high, dependent on who one asks. A jump from the highest one is a brief but satisfying adrenalin rush.....When asking ' how deep is the water' the response 'deep enuff, mon' is strangely comforting.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
The establishment which pays my salary - some call it a school - first asked me to fill out a form. Quite right. Entirely reasonable. No details of why I require time out is evident for completion.
The Principal - beige and uninspiring - coughed sheepishly behind me today and told me that I would have to write a letter requesting that in his magnanimity, the Personnel Manager might be kind enough to give me the day off, but, of course, could not pay me.
I have rescheduled my groups to another occasion when I am present, thus not a ripple disturbs the chaos of the day.
I remember in the sixties when my father was a personnel director and the unions were more than usually hairy-chested, how he bemoaned the 'work to rule' policies and 'working without enthusiasm' that resulted. It seems that people here are so accustomed to working to rule that the alternative of an environment where a well-motivated, productive and happy workforce goes above and beyond, simply because they want to, simply does not occur to them. Thomas Gradgrind, above, whose little vessels were arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim, would have been proud.
Monday, May 05, 2008
This quantised spacetime is fuzzy, underlain with the order of fractal geometry - a new way of 'looking at the world' were it possible.
Such bumpy fractal spacetime’s road maps is not familiar Euclidean geometry. Quantized fractal spacetime is non-Archimedean, or ultrametric: lengths and distances cannot be measured with a ruler. How far is it between 3 and 5? I live in Kuwait and feel close to Esther, who lives in England. What do we mean when we say "close" or "far"? In mathematics, we're used to using "real" distances x-y, but there are others, which are called "p-adic" and measure the common 'factors' two numbers have. We don't measure p-adic distances in kilometres, they are more like the distance between people on a family tree, where brothers and sisters are close to each other and cousins are further away. So, this quantized fractal spacetime is also noncommutative: its geometry, its spacetime, is not flat or ordered according to our usual formulas of geometry and algebra. The image is of a 3-adic tetrad, showing crystal planes and their 'nearness'.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Some CGI's fascinate me, however. This room suggests Zen-like tranquillity, existing as it does in my pixellated imagination. I should like to sleep here.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
At holiday time, there is much to be said for being here. The weather has changed from virulent and remarkably persistent sandstorms to gentle sunshine. In the absence of other things to think about, my mind turned to echoes of the past, a somewhat disturbing tendency, one finds, perhaps being a function of advancing years. Alternatively a spin from Clannad on the iPod revived a shadow or two concerning Celtic spirituality. I have always had some strange, whispering connection with Celtic methods, not least in more recent times, when thanksgiving seems more in my mindset than it once did.
It has always seemed to me to have at its heart a sense of openness to possibilities, to connections and relationships, both abstract and physical. It is a willingness to risk both personal security and the ‘self’ in the search for the God-heart that lives within each individual and the spiritual energy that is ever present in the whole of creation. It is also about memory, the spiritual memory that we all carry within us, linking us to the memory of all that has been, since the beginning of time. It is a willingness to journey within and without time, and outside the structures of dogma that hold and restrict the imaginal world of possibilities, to find a deeper truth.
Let me be clear, I do not mean the traditions of Wicca or Druidry, but a Christian perspective, revived as often happens in times of uncertainty and conflict. The Celtic way is to bless everything in life (except evil), however earthy or everyday, frequently and often systematically. Animals, bicycles, computers, exams, food, gifts, jobs, love-making, meals, parties, travel - a comprehensive list. Practice invokes an internal commandment - "Peace. Be still". The traveller then has a clearer view of the horizon. I liked this image - a 'buckler' from the third century. St Patrick would have worn one with pride and remembered his God in consequence.