Archive for the ‘Ponderings’ Category

Jimmy Carter vs. Sarah Palin

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Paul Thomas makes some interesting points on Palin’s comparison of Barak Obama to Jimmy Carter in his op-ed piece in Saturday’s NZH.

Since being unceremoniously ejected from the White House in 1980, Jimmy Carter has devoted much time and energy to making hellish parts of the world a little less hellish. Now he’s on the verge of a remarkable achievement – eradicating the guinea worm.

Palin claims that she is “very busy helping people and causes”, which is also true as far as it goes; the person in question being herself, the cause being her presidential aspirations.

It says something about today’s society that we hang on Palin’s every tweet and treat her as a serious political figure when all she seems to be good at, or interested in, is self-promotion, while continuing to deprecate Carter despite his measurable contribution to mankind.

The full piece is at  Paul Thomas : Hellishness on our roads and around the world.

MMR, autism and sadness

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

As a close relative of someone with an autism spectrum disorder, I read yesterday’s British Medical Journal article explaining in detail how Andrew Wakefield fixed his study and the case against the MMR vaccine with sadness.

Sad that, for whatever reasons, a consultant erred in his professional responsibilities, his consideration of his colleagues and his duty of care to his patients.

Sad for the vulnerable children who underwent unnecessarily invasive and distressing clinical procedures in breach of the guidelines of the ethics committee concerned.

Sad for families and patients who were ‘dishonestly and irresponsibly’ misrepresented in the study.

Sad for those who became ill or died as a result of refusing vaccinations on the basis of the study’s findings.

Most of all, I am sad for misinformed and confused parents the world over. The parents who just wanted answers. The parents who needed something to blame. The parents who will now always have doubts and will always remain unsure of what is best for their child.

Feathered friends

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I have had a day of positive avian influence.

This morning, I woke to the alarm and, having switched it off, lay back to listen to the tuis out-sqwauking the other early birds in the trees along our little road.  They seemed to be a happy bunch and very much enjoying life and this made me smile.

Later, I was in a lunchtime Quaker meeting for worship with my eyes closed, enjoying the silence and the sun streaming through the window.  I gradually became aware of the birdcall outside the window, competing with but somehow less distracting than the traffic noise and sirens.  Again, I smiled at their busy noisiness and returned to my prayer.

Still later, in the middle of a meeting with my boss this afternoon, we were distracted by a colourful pair of Rainbow Lorikeets (thanks for the identification, Ray) in the tree outside my office window.  We laughed and jointly decided to suspend the meeting for a few minutes so we could enjoy their antics and I could take a few pictures before reconvening.

Just a few more lovely reasons why it’s nice to live and work in NZ!

Getting To Simple

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Isn’t it funny how our self-reliance and self-centredness so easily convinces us that we’re the only one that feels a particular way when all along there are many, including those close to us, who feel the same or share the same concerns?

Having been enlightened by Tony and Felicity Dale’s Simply Church, I have spent a week or two processing my reactions to the politics and demands of denominational church and how it affects my behaviour and feelings.  After a year of scratching this particular itch, I am now aware that I am not the only one feeling this way and can now see more and more people are seeking a more authentic expression of their faith.

Reading further on simple faith, I am drawing some comfort and much inspiration from Marcus Borg’s Reading The Bible Again for the First Time, finding it to be a serious, cogent and scholarly examination of the scriptural literalism that I find so hard to process intellectually.  Likewise, I have been similarly intrigued by the simplicity of the The Church of Two concept which, in its simplest form, is about two people practising two spriritual disciplines and sharing together daily.  From the stories posted at LK10 resources, Stories From The Revolution and The Scilla Blog amongst other places, it seems like this practise is helping folk to deepen friendships, get closer to their families and initiate postive change in their lives.

I mentioned CO2 to the three guys I meet with weekly with a view to taking things up a notch between our weekly catch-ups.  As a result, I have swapped a couple of emails and calls with one of them by way of a gentle try-out and we intend to explore it as a group. Then, at the end of the Sunday service, our youth pastor was prompted to speak on our need to been more immediate and authentic with each other.  Rightly calling us to reflect on dashing off from church the second the service is over or remaining only to swap snippets of news over coffee after the service, he asked why we don’t stay and share the deeper fellowship we so easily speak about but rarely practice.

In the discussion that followed, I shared a little about my recent journeying and CO2, while others spoke of seeking more connection and relationship, rather than religion and ‘church’.  After praying for a couple who are leading a youth mission to the US to work at The Dream Center in the weeks to come, we parted with a commitment to make small but intentional changes to support one another better.

Elsewhere, we have been trying to be a little more intentional and missional in our lives.  One way of doing this has been our Tuesday night pot luck dinners where we open our home to all comers for a few hours, with the only aim being to share food and friendship with whoever steps across the threshold.  While far from a new idea, we felt this was a solid and sustainable way to get alongside others on a more regular basis.

On the first Tuesday, no-one came.  We sat around the table eating our meal and feeling a little deflated that nobody had taken up the invitation.  On reflection, this was a good thing and perhaps challenged us on our motives and ensured our hearts were in the right place.  Last week, with our expectations adjusted and hearts humbled, we were blessed to see another family of six and two couples join us at the table for what was a lovely evening of simply fellowship.  The eight kids wolfed their food and were soon engrossed in a variety of games, while the eight grown-ups shared freely and laughed heartily for a couple of hours.  With today being Tuesday, it’ll be interesting to see who, if indeed anyone, joins us in half an hour’s time.


Thursday, June 10th, 2010

A quick post for no other reason than to share a nice true story.

  1. Yesterday, I grabbed a burger and fries with a young guy from church and chatted through some stuff he’s got on his mind.
  2. This morning, walking to the college bus with my daughter, the young guy finds $120 in crisp new notes in the street.
  3. They call me on my cellphone for advice and I say keep it safe and hand it in to the police station as soon as possible.
  4. The young guy passes the money to my daughter as she’ll be able to get there sooner.
  5. After school, she goes to the police and they ask her to check with the three local banks before they take the money into safekeeping.
  6. The banks all say no-one has reported the loss to them so she signs it over to the police.  They say that if it isn’t claimed in 90 days, the $120 bucks will go to the young guy.
  7. Meanwhile, the young guy’s mum is waiting for her lodger to return from work and pay the rent.
  8. The sad lodger returns home to report that although he drew the rent money out of ATM this morning but has somehow lost it during the day.
  9. The young guy overhears and gets to deliver the ‘happy ever after’ punchline to the story.
  10. They call us to say they’re heading to the police station first thing in the morning.
As Hannibal Smith used to say, ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’
[edited as ecto swallowed the text of the original post somehow]

David Eagleman’s Ineffable

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

The content of Radio Lab’s podcast rarely fails to interest or entertain and, while it was slow to grip me, the recent ‘Afterlife’ episode contained some absolute gems.  It was comprised of eleven different ideas, views and suppositions around the concept of an afterlife and included a number of contributions by neuroscientist David Eagleman taken from his collection of short fiction pieces Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlife.

‘Ineffable’ is one of these and, as someone currently involved in winding up a large proportion of a business and facing redundancy, it certainly struck a chord as I drove to work this morning.  I found myself nodding in recognition as I heard the metaphors in the first paragraph, the assertion that death is for everything and the observation that things have a past.  Elsewhere, I liked the notion that we might be grieved by the atoms from which we are made and the fancy that they might mourn the time they spend together as part of us.

When soldiers part ways at war’s end, the breakup of the platoon triggers the same emotion as the death of a person–it is the final bloodless death of the war. This same mood haunts actors on the drop of the final curtain: after months of working together, something greater than themselves has just died. After a store closes its doors on its final evening, or a congress wraps its final session, the participants amble away, feeling that they were part of something larger than themselves, something they intuit had a life even though they can’t quite put a finger on it.

In this way, death is not only for humans but for everything that existed.

And it turns out that anything which enjoys life enjoys an afterlife. Platoons and plays and stores and congresses do not end–they simply move on to a different dimension. They are things that were created and existed for a time, and therefore by the cosmic rules they continue to exist in a different realm.

Although it is difficult for us to imagine how these beings interact, they enjoy a delicious afterlife together, exchanging stories of their adventures. They laugh about good times and often, just like humans, lament the brevity of life. The people who constituted them are not included in their stories. In truth, they have as little understanding of you as you have of them; they generally have no idea you existed.

It may seem mysterious to you that these organizations can live on without the people who composed them. but the underlying principle is simple: the afterlife is made of spirits. After all, you do not bring your kidney and liver and heart to the afterlife with you–instead, you gain independence from the pieces that make you up.

A consequence of this cosmic scheme may surprise you: when you die, you are grieved by all the atoms of which you were composed. They hung together for years, whether in sheets of skin or communities of spleen. With your death they do not die. Instead, they part ways, moving off in their separate directions, mourning the loss of a special time they shared together, haunted by the feeling that they were once playing parts in something larger than themselves, something that had its own life, something they can hardly put a finger on.

Ineffable by David Eagleman

It is intriguing to note that the book has received critical acclaim from people of faith and atheists alike, so I have requested the book through my local library and look forward to reading more of Eagleman’s forty tales.

Catch up

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Life has been busy since my last post and I have had a fair amount to occupy my time. Consequently, blogging has taken second place to real life but, in the fashion of my good chum David, here’s a quick visual catch up.

Home made Cornish Pasties

SWMBO is a great if somewhat reluctant cook and regularly surpasses herself in serving up just the right dish at the right time.  In recent weeks, we have been treated to a few dishes and flavours that recalled memories of our life in England. One of these greeted my nostrils when I arrived home one evening recently.  A great and enticing smell wafting from the kitchen heralded a great supper of homemade Cornish Pasties which tasted as good as they looked.

Homemade goodies were supplemented with a few bits and bobs from the shops. On a recent trip to Countdown, our local chain supermarket, she picked up some English Marmite which, in my opinion and those of most other UK folk I know here, is far superior to the Aussie and Kiwi varieties.  However, even this tasty surprise was trumped by a lovely chunk of Tuxford & Tebbutt Cheshire cheese.  While the Kiwis make some good cheeses, I do miss the drier, crumblier and saltier British cheeses like my Dad’s favourite, Wensleydale.

Fush without chups

We headed into our local pet store a couple of weeks ago to check a few things out, little knowing that they were having an open day.  Having successfully deflected pleadings for another kitten or puppy, we left an hour later with a starter cold water aquarium but no fish.

The instructions from the very helpful fish lass in the store was that we set this up in the family room for a week, filling and treating the water so it could get a good stock of healthy bacteria in it before we introduced this fish.

Last week, SWMBO returned with the smallest of our four to choose the occupants and came home with a bug-eyed black eyed fish and a white and orange bug-eyed fish (the proper names elude me).  These were joined a few days back by the last of the additions to our menagerie, a skinny golden algae eater who vacuums the glass and stones free of algae.  There was a mild panic earlier today when this little fellow went missing. Presumed eaten by the other, he was eventually traced to the interior of the tiny amphora we had picked up for a dollar and sunk in the tank. Hopefully, he’ll come out before he grows too big to do so.

Never say never

With redundancy a real prospect later this year, I have started to be a little more intentional about seeking alternative work.  I have a few avenues to explore including a secondment that will see me working in a different area of my field in a very different environment.

To aid me in this and keep things neatly divided, I have grabbed up an HP Mini 210 netbook running Windows 7.  This is my first purchase of a personal computer running Windows in about 7 years. I like the form factor with the 10″ screen being a good compromise between the 7″ of my Eeepc’s and my iMac’s whopping 24″ screen.

It is early days yet but Windows 7 is also proving to be more user-friendly than the XP of my employer-supplied Omnibook or the Vista machines that friends moan about.  I am also trying to keep the apps to a minimum and use web-based stuff where possible, keeping the reasonable resources freed up for document writing, PDF work and the multi-tabbed browsing of desktop research.

The Agile Three

After church, SWMBO and I took our youngest to Scruffs, a local fun dog show.  We got there pretty late but had enough time to enter our Jack Russell/Maltese Terrier cross Abby into the scruffiest dog competition and give her a run out around the agility course.  In two clear runs around the course, Abby managed to reduce her time from 45 seconds to a very creditable 39 seconds, giving all three of us humans a brief but energetic workout at the same time.

We rounded off the day at a friend’s place, eating barbecue and salad whilst catching up on news and swapping offspring horror stories.

Dear Kristine Elizabeth Hoffman

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Dear Kristine Elizabeth Hoffman

I love the occasional and unintended glimpses of other people’s lives that I find in the second hand books I read.  I have been idly wondering about how many degrees, in this internet-connected global village of ours, separate two complete strangers whose only connection is a paperback book.  For instance, take the book above, Anne Lamott’s Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith.  It was one of three I received as a birthday gift a few weeks back, purchased by my wife in New Zealand over the internet from a secondhand bookseller in the US via the Amazon website and shipped via a friend’s address in the UK.

Why am I telling you this?  Because earlier today, halfway through chapter twelve, I came across a Delta boarding pass with your name on it. This, together with the window sticker that dropped from between the last few pages when I first opened the book a week or so ago, is the just sort of happenstance that intrigues me.  Are you a die-hard Lamott fan or a first time reader?  Are you strong in your faith or working through years of stuff like me? Do you ever wonder who else reads the books you read?

I’m no Sherlock Holmes but from the boarding pass it would seem that in late June. last year or the year before – the boarding pass is not yellowed or overly faded – you flew Delta between Salt Lake City and Atlanta.  Did you fly as a crew member on standby?  The pass is marked ‘NRSA’ which, Google tells me, stands for Non Revenue Space Available and means free seating for airline personnel and their family members. As for the ‘Montana Native’ sticker, who knows?  Maybe you’re a native Montanan flight attendant who deadheaded out of Helena down to the Atlanta hub via Utah after an early summer family reunion.

Oh, I almost forgot to ask – do you wear Vera Wang perfume?  I only ask because, when I checked the other two books, I found a ‘Bouquet’ perfume tester card wedged a third of the way through Grace (Eventually).  There again, there is every chance that book is part of an entirely different person’s story.

Blessings and happy reading!


Messiah in the mall!

Thursday, February 18th, 2010
Most days, my early morning prayers include the hope that I might see Jesus during the day to come. Most days, I either don’t look hard enough or I look in the wrong place. Yesterday, I found Him in the mall – albeit not quite in the manner or place I expected -yet He was undeniably there.

Jesus? A choking hazard?

Messianic medicials, Batman!

Next time I’m there, I think I’m going to get me a Jesus for my dashboard and a Jesus for my glovebox.

Dad & Daughter Camp

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Motu Moana Camp 2010Motu Moana Camp 2010_2

I have just returned from an absolutely fantastic 48 hours attending the Kotare Brownie’s ‘Dad & Daughter’ Camp with my youngest daughter.  We joined fourteen other dads and girls for a weekend of adventure, campfires, tall stories and hot chocolate at the marvelous Motu Moana Scout Camp & Outdoor Activity Centre which set in native bush overlooking Green Bay and Manukau Harbour beyond.

To say that we had a good time would be an understatement.  In teams comprised of three daughters and three dads, we managed to pack in kayaking, archery, Burma trails, abseiling, challenge courses, bush tracking, quizzes, craft sessions and badge work in between the all important kitchen duties, tent inspections and ablutions block cleaning.

Over the last two days, I have seen a whole new side to my daughter which I never knew existed – the dedicated and responsible leader.  As a newly promoted sixer, she stepped up and took her role as leader of our group seriously.  Following her Mum’s advice to listen to others as well as talk, she played the diplomat and did a great job in shepherding the group and reporting back to Hoa, the pack leader.  For reasons best known to her, my daughter is an energetic and thorough toilet cleaner at home so I had to smile when I overheard her trying to inject her pals with the same enthusiasm while cleaning the men’s toilets yesterday!

I was also impressed by the selfless dedication of the three female leaders, Hoa, Kea and Ruru who give up their time to run the pack each week and do so much at these camps to provide the girls with a truly memorable time.  At campfire, Hoa wore a cloak that had badges awarded to her and her Mum, who was a leader before her, dating back 80 years.  The oldest badge on Hoa’s cloak was just a badge, hand made by Hoa’s mother in 1939.  During the Second World War, Guides and Brownies in New Zealand and Australia had to embroider their own camp, jamboree and merit award badges as they were unable to obtain them from England as they had done previously.

When I asked Hoa if the popularity of Guides and Brownies was dwindling in the face of competing attractions like iPods, computers and the Wii, her answer surprised me.  ‘No’ she said, ‘Brownies are as popular as ever and we have a waiting list three times bigger than we could handle as a pack – sadly, the thing we lack is leaders and helpers’. She went on to say that she thought the increase in mums working (or the need for mum to work) and adults increasingly looking for more ‘me’ time in their leisure hours meant less people were willing or able to volunteer.  Clearly, there are plenty of parents who want their girls and boys to get out of the house, mix with others, acquire new skills and learn about the wider world.  It is just a pity that so few of of us are willing or able to help them do so.