March 31, 2004

Turning on the Taps

Under the guise of gathering evidence against the UK's 5000 most persistent offenders, characterised as teenage "tearaways", Tony Blair has proposed relaxing surveillance laws. This would include increasing the power to tap phones and emails.

Currently, the law restricts phone tapping so that it can only be used against those over 21 who are likely to commit an offence punishable by a sentence of at least three years. Not good enough for Tony. He said, “The Metropolitan Police believe the threshold is too high for intrusive surveillance and prevents them from carrying out such activity on the people who may be prolific offenders but whose offending has not reached the level required by the Act. We will review this situation with them and, if necessary, legislate to give the police the powers they need.”

Of course once they modify the law, there little to keep the police from doing whatever they want. They will listen when and where they want. They will read any email.

Home Secretary David Blunkett published a White Paper on Monday proposing a British version of the FBI. I think the letters he's looking for are KGB.

Posted by david at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2004

Reparations for Aidan

Descendants of African slaves who ended up in America have filed suit against Lloyd's of London for insuring some of the ships that transported their ancestors between two hundred and three hundred years ago. (The importation of slaves was outlawed in 1808.) They claim they are suffereing because the actions of Lloyd's.

Their lawyer, Edward Fagan has claimed, "Lloyd's knew what they were doing led to the destruction of indigenous populations. They took people, put them on board ships and wiped out their identities." Responding to suggestions that events were too far in the past, he said, "There's ongoing injuries that these people suffer from. Why is it too far fetched to say blacks should be entitled to compensation for damages and genocide committed against them, when every other group in the world that has been victimised in this way has been?"

I don't think every other group in the world has been compensated. I'm not even going to mention the Armenians or the Ukrainians. I'm going to act on Aidan's behalf and file suit against the English Crown. Aidie is half Welsh and he has suffered from the conquest of Wales by the English and denied his true identity. Not only that, but some of Mrs H's family came to Wales from Ireland because they were persecuted by -- you guessed it -- agents of the Crown. I'll claim compensation for that as well.

One plaintiff, Deadria Farmer-Paellman said the slave trade denied her identity. "Today I suffer from the injury of not knowing who I am, having no nationality or ethnic group as a result of acts committed by these parties."

I was under the impression that her nationality is American. Just like most other Americans her ethnic group is American. Most white Americans have no other ethnic group, because their English, Irish, German, French, Scottish, Italian, Swedish, Danish, Russian, Welsh, Estonian, Bohemian, and Magyar ancestors all intermarried.

Frankly, that raises the whole issue of the Roman invasion of Britain. I'll lodging a complaint in the Eternal City against the successors to that regime, the government headed up by Mr Berlusconi. After all, the Italians of 2000 years ago knew exactly what they were doing when they drove the British tribes west -- forcing them from hearth and hovel. What is Welsh really, other than a forced amalgamation of ethnically distinct Celtic tribes, each with its own cultural identity? They may have lost all distinctiveness centuries ago, but according to Mr Fagan, it doesn't matter that this is in the past. Those who suffer for past wrongs on their ancestors should be compensated.

Is Aidie ethnically Dobunni, Cordovii, Demetae, or Iceni? Is he Deceangi, Carvetii, Coritani, or Atrebates? He'll never know. I will indoctrinate him with the fact that he will never know. We will spend all of Celtic History Month telling him just how bad he's got it. He is suffering and I am outraged. Cough up, Mr Berlusconi.

Posted by david at 08:05 AM | Comments (4)

March 28, 2004


The time must be near. The baby will be here soon. If this wasn't obvious from the roundness of Mrs H's belly, it would be apparent from her behaviour.

The nesting instinct has set in. Today we bought shopping bags full of cleaning supplies. Tonight I had to force her to go to bed before we were all overwhelmed with the bleach fumes.

Everywhere she looks she sees uncleanliness. The lounge is tidier than it has been in weeks and yet she still needs to wipe down this and dust that.

When the baby arrives there will not be one germ or one thing out of place in this house.

Posted by david at 11:55 PM | Comments (1)

March 27, 2004

The Power of the Passion

We just got back from seeing the Passion in Cardiff, since Aidie is spending the night with Nana.

One the things Mrs H noted before the film began was that there were several Muslims in the cinema (the women had headscarves and we assume the men with them were also Muslim).

Unfortunately, besides us and the Muslims and a couple of boys, everyone else in the 1/3-full cinema were middle-aged and older couples who looked like they would not otherwise be seen in a film rated 18 (or 15 for that matter). We did go to the afternoon showing and there was a Rugby International at the Millennium Stadium. Because it is an 18 here, no one under 18 is admitted, full stop. An 18 is the equivalent of an NC-17. Though the film might not be appropriate for younger children, it would be good if parents had the discretion to take their middle and older teens.

As we were going out, there were lots of old people coming out of the parking lot and into the multiplex in church clothes, one of who asked Mrs H, "Excuse me, is this the cinema?" The multiplex was using 2 screens for the 8:00 show, but I hope they haven't overestimated. In some cities, churches bought up entire showings, but I fear that the film will not have the impact in the UK that it has had in the US. Having seen it, I hope it does.

For those who haven't seen it or are waiting for the DVD, I will mention that it is extremely violent and not one scene is gratuitously so. There are a few flashback scenes that aren't specifically biblical, but none that contradict Scripture or Holy Tradition in any way. After all, Jesus was a small boy at one time and he was a working carpenter until he was 30 as well. (There are also flashback scenes of the Sermon on the Mount and the Last Supper.) If anything, those scenes bought to greater reality the impact of the Incarnation and its implications for the Passion. I think it was particularly appropriate that we saw not just in Lent, but immediately after the Feast of the Annunciation.

When the little boy Jesus fell down and His mother picked him up, when I saw His face, it was like I was seeing the face of Aidan. I saw a mother and her child. I saw my child. Then the scene returned to the bloodied, battered Christ and I realised more than ever before that He was somebody's little boy.

It is a terrible thing to lose a child. I realised a tiny hint of this when my brother died a few weeks ago. How horrible it must have been to have seen Him suffer unimaginably and to stand before Him and watch Him die must have been a mother's worst nightmare. The Theotokos must have suffered her own martyrdom at the foot of the Most Holy Cross.

When I see that suffering, from Gethsemene to Calvary, and I realise the flip side - that He was fully God - I realise even more the power of the words in the Liturgy, " the night in which He was given up, or rather gave Himself up for the life of the world..." In terms of earthly power and force, He didn't have to do any of this.

While Jim Caviezel did an absolutely brillant job (I never thought for a moment that he wasn't suffering to that unbelievable level), the film was also very good in bringing to life the other people in the Gospels. Other reviews have already mentioned the Theotokos and Mary Magdalene, but I was especially struck by Pilate as well as someone to whom I've never given a lot of thought, Simon of Cyrene.

I really, really like the fact it was in Aramaic and Latin. I think sometimes I get in my mind that everybody spoke English. Living in an English-language culture and reading and English-language Bible, I sometimes forget that Jesus didn't speak a word of English (and I mean didn't, not couldn't, of course, even though the language wouldn't exist in time and space in any way we would recognise it for another 1400 years). In a sense it universalised the film. It reminded me that the Gospel is for every tribe, tongue, and nation and that the first Christians were neither Anglo nor Saxon. Instead, it was just like being there.

As Orthodox, in the Liturgy were believe that we are there. There is no repeat of the sacrifice - rather we participate in the sacrifice. I agree with Metropolitan Philip and all of the other Orthodox hierarchs who have encouraged the faithful to see this film. This film brings alive the reality of the Body and Blood in a powerful way.

Posted by david at 11:54 PM | Comments (2)

March 25, 2004

Fly Me to the Moon

Today I seredipitously came across the a public hearing of the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond. Among other presentations, I got to see Buzz Aldrin.

I called Aidie over to the computer to see one of the men who walked on the Moon. He has no concept of what that means. I thought it was important for me to at least tell him in future years that even though he doesn't remember it, he saw the second man to walk on the Moon.

I think it is sad that by the time we go back to the Moon, most of the men who pioneered this new world may very well be dead. Of the twelve men who have has Moon dust on their boots, two (Alan Shepard and Jim Irwin) are gone already. The youngest one alive (Charlie Duke) will be 69 in October. The youngest man to have even been around the moon (Ken Mattingly) turned 68 last week. If it takes ten years to set up a permanent base, most of those still around will be in their mid-80s.

One of the things that has come out of the public hearing is that if space travel is to ever be made feasible, it is going to have to be driven by industry and not government. As one witness stated, government programmes are not sustainable.

When it comes to manned Mars missions, politics will have to taken out of the equation. In a situation where a Martian tour of duty will have to be in range of five years and multiple overlapping missions (which is the only way to keep a permanent presence on the red planet and make it worthwhile), there isn't room for budget cutting and programme shelving.

On a sad note, I learned today that Bart Howard passed away just over a month ago at the age of 88. Bart didn't contribute directly to the space programme. In fact, he didn't really contribute indirectly. He did write a song that was picked up by Frank Sinatra:

Fly me to the moon
Let me play amoung the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On Jupiter and Mars

I'll never make it to the Moon, but I just hope that someone sees what spring is like on Mars before I turn 88.

Posted by david at 07:11 PM | Comments (2)

March 24, 2004

Hope for Bubby

As Bubby attacked me again this evening, I realised that she is no longer a feasible pet for Aidie. I just didn't know what to do. Thanks to a link on Serge's blog, we now have hope.

Posted by david at 11:02 PM | Comments (0)

A Taste of Scotland

Britain has many indigenous culinary creations. It is the land of fish & chips, shepherds pie, Yorkshire pudding, and tikka masala. Now it has the deep-fried chocolate sandwich. Developed in an Edinburgh hotel, it has spread like wildfire north of the border.

Each sandwich contains over 1,000 calories. It is comprised of two slices of white bread smothered in chocolate sauce, dipped in batter and deep-fried, then covered in sugar and more chocolate sauce. It is served with vanilla ice-cream. Not exactly health food.

It should not be surprising that it come from Scotland. It is the country that gave us the deep-fried Mars bar. Perhaps it is another attempt to associate Scotland with something other than its principle contribution to the palate, chopped up sheep's pluck (heart, liver, lungs) and suet cooked in a sheep's stomach, otherwise known as haggis.

Posted by david at 10:46 PM | Comments (3)

March 23, 2004


Despite being recently given a brand new run and the opportunity to play in the back garden, Bubby has turned increasingly anti-social. In fact, she has become quite vicious.

When I attempt to retrieve her from her hutch to put her in the run, she actually growls at me. I did not realise that rabbits can growl and hiss. She does this before actually attacking my hand. I have to wear Mrs H's gardening gloves to protect myself. Then when it comes time to go back into the hutch, she hisses, growls, and attacks me again. On the way back to the hutch this evening, she kept aggressively biting the glove.

We had been considering whether to get her a friend so she wouldn't be so lonely. At this point, it seems that she might kill it outright. A guinea pig would stand no chance. I'm not sure that a large dog would stand a chance. I'm not sure Bubby deserves a friend.

I had been thinking about a nice rabbit stew. Now I'm convinced the meat would be too tough to eat anyway.

Posted by david at 10:22 PM | Comments (1)

As Far as the East is from the West

The comments on the Serbian Whirlwind post have gotten so long that I think the discussion needs to be routed into a new post.

Picking up on my last comment:

But the reality of the present world is that the days of national Church hegemony are over. Whether it is foreign missionaries or indigenous Evangelicals, the Orthodox Church is doing itself no favours by throwing up legal barriers or physical barriers against them.

Jan has raised a series of questions to be answered:

Is there an answer? Can friendly Westerners show up with media savvy and money and throw their weight in on the other side? Take large groups of Old Country seminarians to public relations school? Use Western influence to force their governments to make laws to enforce Western-style pluralism? Protest individual acts of persecution against religious minorities (Baptists? Mormons? Falun Gong?)? Slow down the world so that they can catch up?

I don't have a definitive answer. I think the first thing the Evangelicals can do is stop sending missionaries. If they want to train indigenous leaders in foreign schools, fine. If they want to go in and train leaders in-country, so to speak, and preach in Evangelical churches, fine. What I perceive gets the backs up of the Orthodox leaders is foreigners coming into predominately Orthodox countries and proselytising (or in the Evangelical view, converting) the Orthodox faithful.

I certainly think it wouldn't hurt for seminarians to have some public relations training. It wouldn't hurt for the clergy to do so as well. Or at least someone could ship in copies of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

I don't think that the key is forcing the government to make laws. The key is changing the attitude within the Church. I don't know that we can slow down the world for them to catch up. However, it will take time for them to get up to speed.

I wonder how much the Serbian Church is dependent upon money from its American faithful. If American Serbs cared enough, they could send their money with strings attached. To the extent that the Serbian government is dependent upon foreign aid from the US, pressure could be brought to bear on the Serbian government to pressure the Orthodox Church to get along with its Evangelical neighbours.

There has to be cooperation on both sides. The OC may have the upper hand because of numbers and power and is in a position to persecute, but both sides can be intractable. The OC considers the Evs heretics. Many of the Evs don't even consider the Orthodox to be Christians, because they haven't jumped through the necessary experiential hoops required by modern Ev theology. In Ev theology, in order to be born again, one must have had a consicous experience of being born again (and just to be safe, one should use this particular John 3 terminology).

But even if the Evs don't consider the Os to be Christians, the Os, recognising that the Evs are in fact Christians, have an obligation to treat the Evs as brethren, even if they are separated brethren.

Posted by david at 09:51 PM | Comments (1)

March 22, 2004

Crazy Weather

I don't normally just talk about the weather, but it has been very odd for the last couple of days. It has been more changeable than Scotland.

Yesterday, it alternated between sun and rain, with the rain lashing almost horizontally in the heavy winds. Then, as we were getting back into town after the lunch following a chrismation in our community, there was hail completely covering the road and hail covering the cars we met. Apparently, there had been a sudden hail storm that lasted about 5 minutes, but coated everything north of the river.

Today was about as strange, with the alternating blinding sunlight and deep dark clouds depositing heavy rain. Once again, there was a brief hail storm.

Who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Posted by david at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2004

The Serbian Whirlwind

I don't want to be perceived as belittling the persecution of the Orthodox by the Muslims in Kosovo. I think what is happening there is absolutely dreadful. If you are not a regular reader (or author) of the various Ortho-blogs, I will refer you to any number of the links to the right from whence the details of the situation are available.

I merely offer an observation relevant to the bigger picture in Serbia.

The Serbia Orthodox Church doesn't seem to mind persecuting the indigenous Protestant population. I'm not talking about American evangelical missionaries going in to convert those poor Orthodox souls to Christianity. Everyone who knows me very well knows I don't have time for any of that nonsense. I don't think it should be outlawed, but I don't have a lot of sympathy for it. I'm talking about Protestant Christian Serbs.

It is very true that destruction of holy places and the loss of Christian lives in Kosovo is of a much, much greater scale than the attempt to shut down a few churches, the beating up of a pastor here and there, vandalising and burglarising, and the refusal of any dialogue on laws regarding religious freedom. But that's the thing about sowing and reaping. It doesn't just work with blessings.

When it comes to persecution, the Serbian Orthodox have sown the wind and should not be surprised to be reaping the whirlwind.

Posted by david at 01:41 AM | Comments (15)

March 20, 2004

Testing the Nation Again

Just as I did in December, I played along tonight with another installment of the BBC's Test the Nation. This time I played online, which has positives and negatives.

The questions are actually a little different, because there are extended video clips on the telly. You can't play along with the telly exactly, because as soon as a question is answered online, the next question pops up with just 10 or 15 seconds (depending on the section of the test) to answer. I think if I had just used pencil and paper like last time, my raw score would have been better. I was also taking it on my laptop using the touchpad with over sensitive buttons. Several time I brushed over the button while I was still moving the mouse to hightlight the correct answer.

An advatage of testing online is that the results are immediate. Everyone else is waiting until after the 10:00 news. A disadvantage is that sometimes it calculates the wrong result. The website told me I got 47 out of 75 correct. That was enough to be in the top 20%. When 10:30 came around and I actually marked my individual answers, I actually got 51 out of 75.

This time the test covered knowledge of the UK, in terms of history, geography, culture, and the like. You can go to the website and take the test for yourself. Feel free to post comments with your scores.

Posted by david at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2004

Stay of Constitutional Execution

Tony Blair has been forced to shelve his plans to dump the remaining 92 hereditary peers from the House of Lords. All but this remnant were kicked out in 1999 and the self-appointed destroyer of the British constitution had pledged to dismiss the rest before next General Election.

It is the Lords themselves (both hereditary and life peers) who have made it clear that these latest changes would not get though their House successfully. They have forced the bill to create a Supreme Court into committee, sending a clear message to the Government that dismantling one house of the legislature without something to put in its place is not going to work.

Tony has wanted the House of Lord to be comprised entirely of his appointees, as that is the only way to get some of his personal agenda imposed on the British public. His excuse for getting rid of the hereditaries is that someone shouldn't be born into a role in government. Apparently it is better to have someone appointed in his patronage, rather than the great-great-grandson of someone appointed in someone else's patronage. He says the situation now is unacceptable in a democratic society and wants to replace it with a decidedly undemocratic solution.

However, with too much opposition to pure cronyism, Tony has no back-up plan. He wants to leave the British constitution floundering. Given the track record of his Government, he is very experienced at floundering.

Posted by david at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2004

Spammer Be Gone!

Thanks to Katherine I have now installed MT Blacklist. Seems to have set up properly. Now we will see if the purveyors of all things obscene will be kept at bay.

Posted by david at 11:55 AM | Comments (1)

In the Shadow of Ararat

I was at the opticians yesterday to pick up my first new pair of contact lenses in at least six or seven years. Expecting to find the usual supply of very outdated magazines in the waiting room, I was pleasantly surprised to see this month's issue of National Geographic.

It's not that I'm usually a reader of this publication. What caught my eye was mention of Armenia on the cover. Unfortunately, they are so efficient at my opticians that I was unable to finish the 22-page article. What I read was so good that I immediately went out to WH Smith and bought the magazine so I could finish it. If you have a local vendor of National Geographic, I recommend the purchase of this issue.

In addition to highlighting the plight of the Armenians past and present, it has a very positive take on the Armenian Church and the spiritual heritage of the Armenian people. Until now I have to admit that I was unaware of 4th/5th century St Mesrob, who was given the Armenian alphabet by God and then with a host of monks and others went about translating the literature of the day into it.

When I was at WH Smith, I was surprised to find that the magazine of the Royal Geographic Society, Geographical, also has an article on Armenia in this month's issue. I bought it while I was there, but I haven't had a chance to read it.

I know there are certain Chalcedonian issues to be worked out, but I would encourage you to join St Mesrob and St Gregory the Illuminator in praying for our Armenian brethren, as they are in great economic trouble, with their borders to Turkey and Azerbaijan closed against them and the constant fighting in Nagorno Karabakh.

Posted by david at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2004

Happy Feast!

For those of you who commemorate our father among the saints Patrick the Enlightener of Ireland, Happy Feast!

As I'm not an imbiber of fermented hops juice, I wouldn't know whether green beer is allowed on this day, so you will have to consult the canons regarding the extend of your celebrations.

Posted by david at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

Is It Worth It? or, Return of the Spammers

No sooner did I fix the error to the commenting feature that I had created, allowing you good people to make interesting, helpful, and insightful comments, than I am innudanted with spam comments scattered throught the blog. They attempt to bury the spam deep in the blog, creating links by thinking that no one will notice. Then when I get Googlebotted, as I do daily, they increase in page rank.

Just in the last six hours or so, I got seven spam comments. Since I re-opened commenting I have had at least twice that many. Fortunately I can see all the recent comments with their porn links reagrdless of where they have been hidden in the blog. It just means I have to rebuild the site several times a day to get rid of them!

Normally I would ask myself what sort of scum would try to hijack someone else's website for their own end. When even the URLs have unmentionable content, not to mention the sites to which they link (I can easily assume), it is easy to tell what sort of scum they are.

However, to keep your speech free on my site, I will continue to fight them.

Does anyone else have this problem?

Posted by david at 03:17 PM | Comments (2)

March 16, 2004

Needing a New Jigsaw

We recent got the Marks & Spencer jigsaw of the solar system as was recommending in a comment to a previous blog entry. Aidie is able to do most of it. He can put the planets together, though he needs a bit of help getting the whole thing attached. It takes up half the length of the lounge.

We have lost a piece of Pluto. We looked under all the furniture but as Aidie tells everyone who sees the puzzle, "missing!" But this may not be a problem after all. We may have to remove all the Pluto pieces.

Pluto is in danger of being demoted. Thanks to the discovery of the object preliminarily dubbed Sedna, it may be determined that Pluto isn't a planet after all. Sedna, named after an Inuit sea goddess (what? they can't come up with another Roman deity?) is not much smaller than Pluto, even though it is 5 billion miles further away from the Sun.

Many astonomers have long wanted to consign Pluto to the Kuiper Belt. Even though it is the largest body found in this region of space, it is considered by some to have no more significance than Quoaor. This would make Aidie unhappy. When he recites the planets, or now names them as he puts them together in the puzzle, he announces with triumphal finality, "Pluto!".

Posted by david at 10:39 PM | Comments (2)

Showing Appreciation

Thanks to Jonathan David over at Philalethia I have been informed(albeit belatedly, as I haven't been able to make the usual blog rounds for a few days) about the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers.

I hope no one lets me miss out on National Day of Appreciation for Serial Killers. Oh, and has anyone remembered to nominate Robert Mugabe for the Nobel Peace Prize?

Posted by david at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)

Commenting Error Fixed!

I just received an email from someone who couldn't post comments. I wondered why there hadn't been any lately. It appears that when I attempted to ban a spammer, I accidentally banned everyone by leaving the banned IP address blank.

Please feel free to go back and comment on any previous posts. I do like to know what you think!

Posted by david at 02:46 PM | Comments (1)

Busy Birthday

I had hoped to send out a Meandering yesterday to mark my 40th birthday, but there was just too much going on.

I had to teach all day, Mrs H took her driving test, we had to return my babysitting brother-in-law back home, and then go out for dinner.

Mrs H failed her driving test, thanks to an idiot behind her on a narrow country lane. It would be too complicated to explain, especially given the vagaries of British road rules, but his aggressive driving has probably cost us at least £200 in additional testing fees and driving lessons to keep Mrs H fresh on driving a manual (as our car is an automatic, but if she takes her test in an automatic, she cannot drive a stick).

There were highlights to the birthday. Aidie sang "Happy Birthday" to me first thing in the morning and gave me a present, which I've no doubt he picked out himself, The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983. He must have known I'd wanted this for a long time, though I don't remember telling him.

While I was looking for the tie I wanted to wear, I opened a present from my parents and the tie matched my shirt perfectly, so I was able to wear my birthday tie to work.

For dinner, we went to pub out in the sticks which had been recommended to me - once several months ago and then by a colleague at work yesterday. I highly recommend the Three Horseshoes Inn in Little Cowarne, should you ever be out in the Shire. I dare say it will scandalise the Orthodox faithful if I mention what I had off of the menu to celebrate the Feast of Dave's Nativity which invariably falls within Lent. Let's just say that I let my 40 years trump the 40 days and gave little thought to the Canons. So bear in mind with my recommendation that The Three Horseshoes is the sort of place that may not be appropriate for Lenten fasting.

The Meandering is forthcoming.

Posted by david at 08:32 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2004

Profound Thoughts

This morning as I was washing the dishes I was supposed to do last night, I thought about my monumental birthday tomorrow and I was pondering the words of the great philosopher Steve Miller:

Time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin'
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin'
Into the future

This is perhaps exceeds the profundity of his exposition on self-realisation:

I'm a picker, I'm a grinner, I'm a lover and I'm a sinner
Playing my music in the sun
I'm a joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight toker
I sure don't want to hurt no one

This is perhaps because I gave up smoking at the age of eight and I've never been a toker, at midnight or otherwise.

I did take on one last bit of Millerian philosophy before I finished the dishes:

My grandpa, he's 95
And he keeps on dancin'
He's still alive

My grandma, she's 92
She loves to dance
And sing some, too

I don't know
But I've been told
If you keep on dancing
You'll never grow old

During the next 40 years, I'm going to do the best I can to keep dancing.

Posted by david at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

Happy Anniverary

Yesterday I forgot that it was the first anniversary of my life in blogdom.

Posted by david at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2004

I Had a Uncle Named Matthew

I thought of that opening line to a John Denver song when I looked at my family tree program tonight.

This Matthew was my great-great-great-grandfather's brother, a Prebyterian minister who provided me with lots of distant cousins, most of whom I'll never discover. He'd be 196 years old today.

On my mother's side, it is my great-great-great-grandfather's and great-great-great-grandmother's 176th wedding anniversary. Useless information, you say? Well, if it wasn't for that wedding, I wouldn't be here today.

The more genealogical infomation I have, the more amazing the Providence of God becomes to me. It took a lot of work to get me here.

Posted by david at 11:55 PM | Comments (0)

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Today I went to my first football match in a couple of years. It's not that I don't enjoy going to football matches - I used to go to most home matches - I just couldn't justify the price. To see Hooterville United it costs £12 to sit in the stands.

I decided to go today for two reasons. First, it's nearly my birthday and I thought I would treat myself. Second, they were playing Accrington Stanley. Though it was one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888, Accrington had in recent years dropped all the way down to the Unibond League. With its fortunes on the rise, it is now playing in the Nationwide Conference. My interest in Accrington goes back to my time as an intern at Westminster in 1992. I worked for the MP from Accrington who was also a vice-president of the club.

I was hoping for a spectacular display of goal scoring by United, after their 9-0 drubbing of Dagenham & Redbridge. No such luck. For a long time I thought it was going to be a 0-0 draw. Then due to a nasty foul in the penalty area that resulted in a sending off as well as a penalty kick, the hometown boys managed a 1-0 win.

Despite the lack of goals, I had forgotten how much better live football is than watching it on the telly, even without instant replay. It might not be so good in the cheap seats at a Premiership match (I don't know, as I've never been able to afford the seats or the petrol to get to them), but on the front row of the stand - which is probably twenty feet above the pitch, as there is a terrace (standing area) underneath - I could see all of the action except for a tiny sliver of the pitch in the corner on my side at the opposite end from where I was sitting.

I'm planning to go back one more time before the end of the season. The last match is at home against Chester City. The scheduling couldn't have been more seredipitous. Who would have known last summer that United would spend the first half of the season in first place and the second half in second place, chasing Chester. All United need to do is make up the three of the five points by which they trail Chester in the standing - or even just two points if United keep their advantage in goal difference - for the final match to decide who gets automatic promotion back into the Football League.

Posted by david at 11:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2004


For months I have looked forward to Aidie speaking normally. Now that his vocabulary and grammar have increased substantially over the last few weeks, I kind of miss way things used to be.

We are no longer confined to repetitive two-syllable outbursts. Multi-syllable words and phrases are a bit easier to understand. Even when he slurs the distinct consonants, there is more context with which to work in figuring out exactly what he is saying.

Soon he will be using full sentences - at least as much as any child uses full sentences - and hopeful more than most teenagers do, when speech regresses to a series of grunts. I suppose every parent (at least of certain social classes) envisions that their child will grow in eloquence and rise above this tendency and peer pressure.

For now, he actually talks so much we have to tell him to be quiet.

Posted by david at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2004

Policy of Promiscuity

Britons may think America's abstinence education is silly and that it isn't particularly effective but they really have no room to talk. In a country where £63 million has been poured into the Department of Health's Teenage Pregnany Strategy, the rate of teenage pregnancy continues to skyrocket.

The latest available figures are for 2002. In that year, there were 39,286 pregnancies among girls under 18. That was up from 38,439 in 2001. 46% of the 2001 pregnancies in this age group resulted in an infant murder.

From 1998 to 2002 the rate of teenage pregnancy in Oxfordshire has increased 31.8 per 1000 girls to 36.9 per 1000. In Nottinghamshire, the pregnancy rate went up by 17.5% in just one year. Now 78.6 per 1000 under-18s get pregnant. This does not include babies flushed down the toilet after the use of the "morning after" abortifacient pill, which some pharmacies give free of charge. The 2002 figures for the London borough of Lambeth is a staggering 100.4 per 1000 girls.

The Teenage Pregnancy Unit is convinced its strategy is working. Its strategy includes a list of websites on the front page of its own website, every one of which encourages promiscuity. I won't link to them, but you can see them for yourself. I will warn you that some of them are not for the faint of heart. On the Brook site, you can play a Flash video game and shoot at sperm with a condom gun. The RU Thinking site, which is clearly aimed at young teens, will tell you everything, and has a whole section on "You and your rights" emphasising that no matter how young you are, you can get whatever you want or need without your parents ever having to know.

On the TPU site, they are proud to show that the percentage of under-18 pregnancies ending in abortion in rising each year. They may not be stopping the pregnancies, but they are stopping the babies dead in their tracks.

Posted by david at 10:55 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2004

Empty Pockets - Bulging Coffers

Given that much of life over the last month has revolved around death, Mrs H and I changed the topic tonight to taxes.

The basic rate of income tax is 22%. The usual rate of national insurance tax for an employee is 11%. There goes 33% before anything goes in the bank. But don't keep it in the bank too long. Savings are also taxed at the same rate as income tax (this is directly debited by the Inland Revenue). I mentioned a few days ago that they are taking up to 50% on certain kinds of income that Mrs H and I aren't in a position to enjoy.

Spend the money that's left and 17.5% percent of every purchase is tax. This includes our phone bill. Except petrol, of course. I filled up my tank yesterday at a cost of $70.00. 80% of that was tax. Every time I fill my tank, I gove the Government another $56.00 or so. I fill up my car about once a week. That means I pay the Goverment over $200.00 in tax each month. That doesn't include the road tax for the car of $320 per year.

Then there is council tax. The normal rate for our tiny rented property is about $176 per month. Then for the privilege of having a TV we pay $18 per month. That's only to watch the five broadcast channels with the aid of a aerial. Even if with had digital or cable or satellite, we would still have to pay the TV license on top of those costs (which would be again taxed at 17.5%).

Those are the taxes we could think of off the top of our heads. We realised that it is amazing that we (or anyone else in this country) still has any money.

Posted by david at 11:10 PM | Comments (0)

Keeping it Quiet

The Government have always claimed that speed camera are situated in locations with at least four deaths or serious injuries, or eight injuries of any severity, in the previous three years. The casualties must have happened within one kilometre of the camera site. This is how they have justified the proliferation of these nerfarious devices. Those were the rules promulgated by the Department of Transporations in 2002 in their guideline handbook.

What the Government hasn't heretofore mentioned is that they quietly changed the rules in October of last year. They now allow 15% of the cameras to be placed at sites that do not meet the guidelines. “Tolerance is included for partnerships to enforce at sites that do not meet the criteria set out in this handbook.”

The DoT quietly slipped the handbook into the library of the House of Commons, thus officially putting MP on notice. They never actually announced, either to the press or the floor of the House (protocol indicating the latter, the practices of this Government usually preferring the former) that the rules had changed. Thus, when people wrote to their MPs complaining about the ubiquitous cameras, they were confidently reassured that the very restrictive guidelines made sure it was all a matter of public safety.

How did this come to light? The Government announced yesterday that all of the 5000 camera complied with its guidelines. It couldn't have been more obvious that this was a completely absurd claim. As it turned out it wasn't the claim that was unbelievable - it was once again the Government.

Posted by david at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2004

A Case of Cold Feet and Genocide

Harry Blackmun penned the words that condemned thousands upon thousands children to death. After he wrote the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, he defended it from numerous challenges. On the fifth anniversary of his own death, his papers became available to the public.

We now know that nearly 12 years ago, Roe was almost completely overturned. Planned Parenthood v. Casey was almost decided another way. Chief Justice Rehnquist had lined up five justices for a clear majority opinion. Then Justice Anthony Kennedy got cold feet. In a position that should be free from political pressure, he caved in.

Rehnquist was already writing up the majority opinion. A lifeline was being thrown to those little lives drowning in the sea of selfishness and convenience. About 1¾ million have been killed since the Casey decision. Anthony Kennedy cut the lifeline and left them to die.

Posted by david at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2004

What's in a Name?

In a move to further separate this country from his history, values, traditions, and form of government, the Government is renaming things. It has announced that it will be changing the name of the Crown Prosecution Service to the Public Prosecution Service. This follows on the changing of the Her Majesty's Prison Service to the National Offender Management Service.

The Constitutional Affairs spokesman for the Conservative Party noted, "It is all part of an increasingly obvious agenda to remove the Crown from everything. The government thinks Downing Street is on top of the pile and the world can follow suit."

This is further evidence of Tony's desire to be a president rather than a prime minister. He does not like the fact that he is not the Head of State.

Posted by david at 01:22 PM | Comments (1)

March 01, 2004

Tony Giveth and Tony Taketh Away

When the Government decided last year to allow families to send free parcels weighing up to 4lbs to their loved ones serving in Iraq, Tony Blair announced it personally to a packed House and TV cameras during Prime Minister's question time. When this was cancelled by the Government on Friday, it was quietly announced by a junior Armed Forces Minister. It was done on Friday because the House of Commons is typically virtually empty, with MPs travelling back to their constituencies for the weekend.

Now families will have to pay £7.23 for every package they send. That's about $14.00. Even if it weigh far less that 4lbs, they will still have to pay the full amount. Want to send a picture and a card to Daddy? That will be £7.23, thank you very much. Want to send him essential toiletries or a flak jacket that the MOD is too tight-fisted to provide? Again, £7.23. Well, if the body armour weighs over 4lbs, then I'm sure it will cost a lot more to send.

The Conservative defence spokesman said, "This carries meanness too far." His counterpart for the Liberal Democrats, our own MP here in Hooterville, called it "ministerial penny-pinching of the worst sort."

The be fair, the US Government does not offer free postage for parcels to loved ones in the military. But does it charge $14.00 for 1oz-4lbs? Not hardly. For $14.00 you can send around 14lbs. Oh, but the US military already supplies flak jackets and other essential military equipment. Wanna send a card to Daddy? That'll be 37 cents, please.

Posted by david at 11:51 PM | Comments (3)