Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Christmas

Luke 2 (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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Wishing you a very Happy Christmas.

For the results of the beer experiment, the incident with the weirdo in Horsham and the mystery of the missing 100th post do come back soon.



Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Facist Clown?

On Sunday we drove to Worthing to go to a church there and en route we passed a vintage lorry at the side of one of the very beautiful roads here in West Sussex. Boring, I here you say. But don't stop reading, because hanging from the side of said lorry was a poster, proclaiming in big colourful letters, "The Facist Clown". Given that we didn't stop I was unable to let my curiousity get the better of me and investigate, but I found it amusing nonetheless and worthy of posting here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

And I'd always thought that Edwina Currie was misguided

Recently a group of us were talking about recent Tory party leaders, and one of the girls who was present voiced her support for John Major - because "he is quite sexy", apparently.

This revelation took me by surprise somewhat because, well, it's John Major. 'Mr Grey'. I know that some girls evidently go for older men, but I can't see that our last Tory PM has any defining qualities whatsoever. My friend tried to defend herself by reminding me that Edwina Currie fell for him, but that didn't really wash. It's, well, Edwina Currie.

But then I reminded myself that women are rarely understandable. There's the whole shoe thing, for a start. I'll save voicing my opinions on that for another time, but really, what's with that? Back to the issue in hand, it could be possible that most women find John Major attractive and Edwina Currie is the only one who has publicly admitted it. Does anyone wish to share their opinion on the matter?

I await your comments with interest, but for now I shall end this post and move on before I dig myself deeper and come to the conclusion that I might be less sexy than Sir John.

Beer Update

I am pleased to announce that at about quarter-past four this afternoon the frozen-solid can of Carlsberg Special Brew was removed from the fridge. It is now defrosting happily on the side in the kitchen.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Beer...Cold Beer...

Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit this, but back in the summer I have to confess that I did see a little bit of Channel 4's Big Brother. At one point one of the guys - Maxwell? - was complaining because someone else had frozen his beer, and it was thus "broken". This sparked a discussion amongst the group I was with (see, I wasn't the only one) as to what would happen if you did freeze some beer and then defrost it, and whether it really would ruin it.

So I decided to experiment. I popped along to Sainsbury's and duly purchased a can of Carlsberg Special Brew from the 'Reduced to Clear' section ("it was cheap"). Upon returning home I placed it in the freezer and, for some reason, forgot about it completely...until two days ago when a frozen-solid can of Carlsberg Special Brew was found, wrapped in a carrier bag, in the freezer as we moved house. It was kept frozen for the move and now resides in the freezer here temporarily. I plan to defrost it in the next couple of days and see what sort of results my experiemt will yield; I'll publish my findings here in due course.

I don't know that it will be a particularly fair test however - I've never knowingly had Carlsberg Special Brew before in my life and for all I am aware it could taste rough even before it's been frozen and defrosted.

Friday, December 16, 2005

New House, New Blog

Well, "New House, Updated Blog", anyway - but that wouldn't have fitted as well.

Greetings from Billingshurst, where my family has now taken up residence. The new house is lovely, and despite the plethora of still to be unpacked boxes and an inability to find anything quickly I'm settling in well. The house has been redecorated and it's lovely; I think in the past I've been known to describe the upstairs as 'a bit poky' but I would like to take that back.

Billingshurst itself is quite small, but has grown rapidly over the last couple of years. It seems pleasant enough and everything is within easy walking distance. It has its share of take-aways, charity shops, Barbers competing for bad names (Leonardo's and Blades, "the cutting edge"...), and its very own Budgens. It also seems to have a good selection of pubs, and I'm amused by the fact that the Kings Head is at the opposite end of the street from the Kings Arms. (Oh hilarious, I hear you jest sarcastically - well, I'm tired so that's all the humour you're getting).

As you can see, my corner of the Blogosphere has had a bit of a makeover - this is in response to a comment that white on black is not the easiest on the eye. Given that I suffer from eye problems myself you'd have thought I'd have picked up on this, but I only write it after all and leave the reading to others. The new scheme should be better, and I think it looks rather nice; I hope that you like it as well. I have also recently added a hit counter, just so that I can gain some statistics about my visitors. As per usual, comments, suggestions or general greetings would be most welcome.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Normal Service Will Resume Shortly

This last few days I had hoped to welcome new visitors, to share my opinion of David Cameron, to wax lyrical about G&Ds (the ice cream place in Oxford - truly an institution), to tell you that I found such thing as a free lunch and to iramble about the usual wierd and wonderful goings on in my life.

But alas time has been short - amidst revising for exams, applying for Masters courses and helping out in college with the prospective students here on interview my family is moving house. They say that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do, and having been home at the weekend I can see why. So, please accept my apologies and do check back regularly - I hope to resume normal service as soon as I can.

Thank you to all who commented on my last post - it was truly interesting and it was nice to have viewpoints from opposite ends of the spectrum. I am sorry however if it came across as somewhat heavy-handed and hope that whatever your viewpoint or political leaning you will continue to pay a visit to my corner of the Blogosphere and make yourself at home.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Truly Liberal?

Recently, it has become “cool” to be liberal. The ideal of course, is to be tolerant of other people and their views and to care for the needs of others. To support world equality and to look after the planet and the environment.

It has come to my attention, however that the world is full of people who like to be unpleasantly self-righteouss and put on a fluffy liberal front, without really fulfilling the ideals at all. People who are only liberal and tolerant where it suits them, and where it doesn’t cause any inconvenience. People who are liberal in the way that Henry Ford might have been (“you can have any view you like, so long as it’s mine”) and who view the need to be tolerant in a manner worthy of Animal Farm (“all people must be tolerant, but some must be more tolerant than others”).

You might not think that any of this applies to you, of course, or you might not quite see what I am getting at. So let’s consider a few specific examples, some of which I have mentioned before here in my corner of the Blogosphere.

I’m talking about people who:

…went to Live8 (remember that?) in the name of eradicating world poverty but don’t pay attention to where their last cup of coffee came from or how much the person who made their trainers was paid.

…feel that it is OK to criticise the Bible, but who have evidently never read it themselves, and who would never dream of criticising the Koran or other Holy Book.

…support gay Civil Partnerships “in the name of equality” but couldn’t give a damn about the lack of security (financial and otherwise) provided for others who cohabit and depend on one another where ‘Civil Partnership’ would not be appropriate.

…don’t have a problem with Sikh’s wearing certain jewellery articles to school but refuse to allow other pupils to wear a crucifix.

…campaign for a reduction in the use of cars, but feel that the way they use a car is always perfectly justifiable. Somehow it is always fairer and easier for someone else to adapt their lifestyle.

…want to encourage religious and ethnic diversity but feel the need to rename Christmas to avoid causing offence. If you don’t like it, don’t celebrate it.

…want to encourage religious and ethnic diversity, but feel the need to ban the St George’s flag. How is it fair and inclusive if everyone but the English to be allowed to be patriotic? And how is it encouraging diversity if no-one is allowed to be patriotic?

…nominally encourage tolerance but refuse to allow certain viewpoints to be held. (The gay Bishop debate highlighted this one).

...get so annoyed with something which they perceive to be intolerant that they themselves demonstrate intolerance towards it.

The list, worryingly, could go on and on. This disease of hypocrisy has pervaded all levels of society – our current government seems particularly bad. The trend is always towards a person’s rights, and responsibilities conveniently get brushed under the carpet or passed on to someone else. If you fit in to one or more of my specific examples then shame on you. Perhaps a good New Year’s resolution for 2006 would be to have a bit of integrity.

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As you know, I always prefer to end the heavier posts with something a bit more light hearted. Continuing the trend therefore I would like to inform my readers that apparently John “Mr Grey” Major’s father was a trapeze artist. Heehee.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Strange Sightings In The Streets of Oxford

This is a "does exactly what it says on the tin" sort of post. I am going to write about a couple of strange things I have seen in Oxford's streets in the last couple of days.

Firstly I was walking down towards Oriel Square yesterday, as you do, and a guy came out of one of the buildings on the little side street. Nothing unusual with that. Neither was there anything unusual about most of what he was wearing (combats and some sort of sweater, typical of a student) or carrying (a bag, as if he was off to the library or a lecture). What set him apart however was the fact that he was also sporting multi-coloured fairy wings. I kid you not. And if that wasn't strange enough, no-one else in the street seemed the least bit taken aback and didn't so much as bat an eyelid.

Then, this morning, I was en route to college and I saw a supermarket trolley in the street. Again, nothing unusual with that. Or was there? As I passed it, I noticed that it was not any old supermarket trolley, but a Waitrose supermarket trolley. Why should that be surprising, I hear you ask? Well, Oxford doesn't have a Waitrose, and the nearest one is probably the one in Abingdon. So, this means that whoever left the trolley in Brasenose Lane had somehow transported it quite some distance to put it there. Given that even an express bus takes 15 minutes down the A34 to Abingdon, it is quite some feat, and something of a mystery.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Of being a Human Guinea Pig

It might not surprise some of my more regular readers to learn that yesterday I wound up at the Psyciatric Dept. of the hospital. Even now I can sense the relief that some of you feel knowing that the men in white coats finally caught up with me.

Well, sorry to spoil the party, but I'm afraid that any relief will be short lived - I was there as a volunteer for a Decision Making Study.

I saw an advert earlier on in term which wanted volunteers for a study looking at "how the brain makes decisions" and I applied. At the time I was considering postgraduate study in Artificial Intelligence, which also seeks to know how the brain makes decisions and I figured that it might be relevant.

Well it wasn't - for a start I am no longer seriously considering doing a course in AI, but even so it was never really going to be of any use from that PoV.

Still, it was very interesting, and I did earn myself some money.

The day before the study I had to be on a proscribed low protein diet, which wasn't great. Lunch, for example, was just lettuce, tomato, carrot, Hula Hoops and an apple. It's amazing how much of an effect diet has on your ability to stay alert and focussed and by the end of the day I felt terrible. I do wonder how much of that was psychological, though.

Yesterday I arrived at the hospital at 8.30am and, after having a blood sample taken, I was treated to an amino acid drink (which may or may not have contained one specific protein, and tasted seriously bad) and given 5 hours to myself. Imagine that - being paid to work, read the paper, watch Cannonball Run II... - it wasn't bad, really. I was plied with water and given a low protein lunch and then, after another blood sample, I was set various tasks. There were some computer games, based around gambling, and various other things to complete, and it was all quite fun.

By mid afternnoon however I felt terrible again, and wanted nothing more than a nice cuppa. I tell you, I have hardly ever looked forward to dinner in hall as much as I did last night - even if it had turned out to be Pork Cordon Bleuggh (it was some nice salmon, in fact) it wouldn't have mattered.

Whereas it was interesting, it did take a lot out of me. The effect of the diet really did prevent me from getting on as normal and I felt so dazed yesterday evening. Would I do it again? Probably not, but it depends what the study was...Am I glad I did it? Yes. I even suppose that being a medical guniea pig might feature on my imaginary list of things to do before I am 30, and I can now tick it off.

And so to lectures...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

It's A Beautiful Life

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm in a good mood. I've just come out of a tutorial, which went really well (better than I'd hoped) and I really enjoyed it. There is live jazz on Cornmarket, and I now have my second Christmas Dinner to look forward to. Mmmmmm.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Christmas Dinner

Happy Christmas!

Given the fact that we are nearing the end of term, we have to have our Christmas Dinner sometime and tonight was the first of three this week (given that the hall is so small, they have to offer more than one). Only in Oxford...

It was a quality occasion, and the kitchen staff proved that they can actually produce a decent meal. It was a three course affair, starting with tomato soup, then turkey and all the trimmings (including sprouts, ladies and gentlemen) and followed up by Christmas pudding. Mmmmmm. Thanks must also go to William (our Spanish waiter) for providing me with a delicious Orange Torte from High Table.

The hall had been properly decked out and we even had crackers to pull at the beginning. I had the pleasure of some good company and really enjoyed myself. Nice.

Another Quote

I was catching up on the BBC News page this morning, and I came across this gem:

'Matthew Wilson, 18, said he had come to see Charlotte Church, because she was "a good role model."'

Hmmm.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Quote of The Day

Earlier this evening I enjoyed a very pleasant drink with my friend Hugo in the Union, and he came out with a comment which I rather liked. With his permission I will now take this opportunity to share it with all who visit this corner of the Blogosphere.

"Falling in love is like falling down a well. It's fun until you hit the bottom, and getting out again is a nightmare".

Profound. Possibly.

Monday, November 14, 2005

"I'm on the train"

When travelling on a train it's often quite interesting to hear how people follow up the stereotypical "I'm on the train" when talking on a mobile. I think one of the most random things I've heard was the woman earlier who said "I'm reading about the Flat Earth Theory."

Currently I'm en route to Exeter and having spent quite a bit of time on a train in the last couple of days I have discovered a new pet hate.

I have been irritated several times by those people who stand in the vestibule of a coach by the sensor for the sliding door in to the seating area and thus keep the door open, or worse cause the door to open and shut incessantly. I'm amazed by the number of people who remain oblivious to the fact they are responsible for that infuriating 'open-shut-open-shut...' of the door in question but I want to give special congratulations to the joker this morning who continued to stand by the sensor even after he'd been asked to move.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Blogworthy Sign

This weekend has been quality - I went with Josh to join Ollie and Richard in Cardiff for Richard's birthday. We went out for an Italian last night, and although the food was nothing special it was an awesome evening. The company was great, and the banter didn't disappoint.

Staying at Richard's meant that we got to enjoy some time relaxing in the peaceful village of Cefn Cribwr, and the hospitaliy we received from his parents was just fantastic.

Anyway, on our travels I came across a sign at Reading station which amused me. If I had too much time on my hands I would probably have photographed it and posted the result here. But I don't, so I will just have to quote - I'm sure it will get the point across.

It was posted at the entrance to the Gent's and read "This Facility Is Attended To By A Man/Woman".

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Experimental Cooking and Noises In The Night

After the rather heavy last post I feel the need to return to being a bit more light-hearted.

It's been a fun week, with lots going on. I've also been working quite hard in the Radcliffe Science Library - not the nicest of places (you could probably survive a nuclear attack down there) but conducive to working nonetheless.

Anyway, last night my friends from Magdalen (Chris and Hugo) invited a group of us around for dinner. We were promised some "experimental cooking" to "broaden the culinary horizons" and I'm pleased to say that they delivered.

Hugo bought a fish from the Halal Shop (a freshwater fish, we think, but who knows what. Apparently it had a "prehistoric head"). He apparently attempted to microwave it, before gutting it, boiling it and serving it in some soup with courgettes and Spanish Sausage. Lovely.

It actually turned out to be really nice, and was followed up by a delicious pasta dish Chris produced. All in all, a successful meal.

One of the things about my current room is that I can hear conversations on the street below. This can get quite frustrating when I am lying in bed and think I can hear someone I know, or think that the conversation sounds so interesting that I wish I could join in. On the whole it's quite funny - so long as it doesn't keep me awake.

So far this term I've been treated to several fights, a discussion on whether "alcohol or caffeine causes more shrivelling" (the mind boggles) and drunken renditions of "I would walk 500 miles" and "Night Fever".

As an observation I would also like to point out that you know when you live near the Oxford Union when you overhear someone interrupt his mate with "on a point of information". Yes, really.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Gay Bishops

EDIT: This post was written in response to a debate at the Oxford Union. Feel free to comment below, and join the discussion but please note that although I have shared some of my feelings on the issue I think that there are far more important issues for the church to grapple with. If you are new to my corner of the Blogosphere please don't let some of the heavy discussion put you off.

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Last night the topic of the weekly debate at the Oxford Union was “This house believes that a homosexual lifestyle is no bar to becoming a bishop”. Controversial, perhaps, especially given that the speakers included Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire.

I decided to go along and enjoy the debate – I live next door to the Union, after all – and I will attempt now to give some form of report back from it.

I am obviously not able to sum up 2 hours of debate here, and I fear that anything I say will fail to do it justice. But throwing caution to the wind I would very much like to share a few of the thoughts and ideas that emerged from what turned out to be a very interesting evening.

Aside from Gene Robinson, the other guest speakers included Rev Richard Kirker (president of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement) in proposition of the motion and Rev Dr Andrew Goddard (Tutor in Ethics, Wycliffe Hall) and Right Rev. Colin Buchanan (former Bishop of Woolwich) in opposition.

After the usual ceremony at the beginning of a Union debate – including the reading of the librarian’s book list for the week – the debate kicked off. Two Oxford students introduced the motion, and in a bit of a twist the guy in opposition was a practising homosexual and an agnostic.

Things started off well when the proposition speaker introduced the debate with a request that it was a serious debate above the petty arguments and cheap shots that so often characterize the topic. I’m pleased to say that that turned out to be largely the case, but this particular speaker let himself down almost immediately by then introducing his side as “angels” and the opposition as “fallen angels”. How hypocritical, and sadly, rather typical of such self-righteous ‘liberal’ types.

The main theme which came across – particularly from the proposition – was the need to separate the idea of the wider acceptance of homosexuality from the question of whether a ‘homosexual lifestyle’ was a bar to taking on a senior position within the church. As Andrew Goddard said, backed by others, homosexuality is not a bar to becoming a Christian.

The difference, it seems to me at least, between being a Christian and being a Bishop is that a Bishop has a much more prominent position which should ideally involve leading a life of example. This idea emerged last night. Everyone has fallen short of God’s ideals, but I do believe that those called to leadership roles are particularly called to do their best to live exemplary lives in the way God desires of us. I don’t wish to single out practising homosexuality though – I would struggle with an unmarried heterosexual Bishop who was sleeping with his partner, for example.

The homosexual agnostic who kicked off the opposition pointed out that in a truly liberal society, groups such as the church should be able to select who they want, and don’t want as leaders. Any society which doesn’t allow that freedom is not liberal, but tends towards a society in which everyone must conform to set opinions and beliefs.

If the church was denied such freedom, perhaps the next step would be to suggest that you don’t have to be a Christian to be a Bishop? Would you suggest that to be an Imam you don’t have to be a Muslim?

Interestingly, it was pointed out during the course of the evening that to suggest a homosexual lifestyle is a bar to becoming a leader is common to all major monotheistic faiths. Yet in my observation at least it is once again only the Christians who have come under fire.

Richard Kirker’s speech annoyed me greatly on the whole. He rambled on in a smarmy manner, sucking up to Gene Robinson at every opportunity and failed in some ways to grapple with the debate. Yet he did come out with one or two interesting points. One point which struck me was the need for honesty – he pointed out that many gay clergy have thus far been living a lie. In my mind this is wrong, and it is important to encourage openness and honesty. Andrew Goddard acknowledged this too, but he did point out that being honest about something doesn’t make it acceptable. If someone were to admit to living in an adulterous relationship, would it make it acceptable?

In opposition, it has to be said that I was also less than impressed with Colin Buchanan’s speech. He bumbled about and didn’t make many new points. He did however affirm a lot of what had already been said – that the decision to ordain gay bishops in the US went against an overwhelming majority for example. He also backed the view that 2000 years on, today’s leading Biblical Scholars still interpret the passages about homosexuality as negative, adding that Gene Robinson’s point about homosexuality today being different to that 2000 years ago and not what scripture talks about was “not a nuance, but a 180 degree turn”. For the record, it was pointed out that passages about sexual immorality are not just confined to laws in Leviticus, but are consistently found throughout both the old and new testaments.

In some ways I felt that Gene Robinson missed the point. He questioned what it meant to be a practising homosexual, saying that ‘celibate or not, everyone is practising’. I felt that to be wide of the mark, but a lot of what he said was worth listening to. I might not agree with his consecration as a Bishop, but I do feel that in his role he seeks to reach and serve others.

At that perhaps, is a good point. I’m finding it hard to come to some sort of conclusion here – I do not think that a practising homosexual should become a Bishop, but I also feel strongly that our task is to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and our neighbour as ourself. So let’s not join in with the debate which the powers that be in the church need to grapple with but instead let’s try and adhere to the task in hand.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Blackwell's

I had to go to Blackwell's last week to collect a book for my dad. Not the most exciting thing for me to blog about, you might think. Well, if it's excitement you want, perhaps not. But I do feel that my experience is worth relying here.

The book in question was an obscure book on Parochial Church Councils, so I worked my way through the shelves containing thousands of books to the enquiry point.
"I'm looking for a book by MacNorran," I said.
"Are you sure you don't mean MacMorran?" came the reply.
"I don't think so," I said.
"Well there are no books by MacNorran. What's the book about?"
"Parochial Church Councils."
"Ah yes, you mean MacNorran. This way - we have one copy left."

And so he led me straight to one of the shelves and from the myriad of books pulled out the one I was after. I was seriously impressed and left wondering how on earth he'd got such knowledge of all the books sold by Blackwell's - he didn't look at a computer once during our encounter, it was all done from memory.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The One With The Cake

Last Saturday we celebrated Nick's birthday and I enjoyed one of those spontaneous and very funny evenings.

Following an Italian meal out we returned to my pad for some (more) wine and cake. You might not expect it, but the actual 'giving of the cake' turned out to be something of a classic and is, I feel, worthy of mentioning here.

Picture the scene. We're back in my room enjoying some quality banter and it becomes appropriate for Jo and I to go and collect some more glasses and - more importantly - the cake. After some deliberation centred around the position of the smoke alarm and the insanely heavy kitchen door* we decide to light the candles just outside my room. I then proceeded to open the door, carry the cake in, and turn the lights out. So far, so good.

However for some reason, probably the fact that the windows were open, all the candles on the cake went out again and I was confronted with a lot of bewildered people in a dark room.

All was not lost as, with the immortal words "there's been a bit of a disaster", I summoned Jo (who was picking up the glasses) to relight the candles. There followed simultaneous attempts to maneuver the cake to Nick, avoid the smoke alarm, take photographs and sing Happy Birthday. Not easy when everyone is laughing. A lot.

I am now going to use the rather poor and tenuous link of talking about cake to respond to the comment left by 'the cake lovers'.

I hereby correct my statement about 20th Century Prime Ministers. "All Prime Ministers since WWII who went to university studied at Oxford" should suffice, and is, I believe accurate.

There has been so much to blog about recently, but I'm afraid you'll just have to come back again soon for the next posts.

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*There are two doors between the kitchen and the staircase, one of which is insanely heavy and has an annoying handle. This, coupled with the fact that the lobby between them could be measured on the nano scale makes getting food from the kitchen to my room somewhat difficult. Grrr.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Speed Dating

If I had a list of things to do before I was 30, Speed Dating would probably feature. So when the opportunity arose for me to experience this slightly random phenomenon for the first time I took it. It was for charity (RAG), and I currently have no better half who could complain about an evening spent meeting random women - so really, there was no excuse.

For those of you who are somehow oblivious, the concept of Speed Dating is quite simple. You get a short period of time with each member of the opposite sex and at the end of it you indicate on a form whether you would like to see them again. If both parties would like to meet again, numbers get swapped.

The RAG Speed Date on Tuesday was at Merton’s Bar and everyone was given a sticker with a B (‘boy’) or G (‘girl’) and a number. The time per ‘date’ was three minutes and when a horn sounded the guys had to move on to the next girl on their list.

You may recall that Speed Dating featured in the Vicar of Dibley last Christmas. Like Owen I could have adopted a ‘cool’ name such as Brad and tried far too hard to appear sexy, but fortunately I didn’t. I just went as myself, aiming to have a bit of a laugh and enjoy the experience.

And how did I get on? I think the best way of summing it up would be ‘Freshers’ Week all over again’. Those of you who have been a Fresher in a random bar and spent an evening meeting random people, repeating your name, college and subject to each one will know what I mean. At least I didn’t get asked what A’levels I did this time...

Most of the girls I met seemed to be there for the same reason as I was – namely that they felt it’d be fun to try Speed Dating once in their life and this was a good opportunity. In most cases the three minutes passed quite quickly and the conversation could easily have flowed on. More than once the horn went, rather infuriatingly, in the middle of some interesting chat. I had a couple of awkward pauses but nothing too bad - one of the girls told me that her previous ‘date’ had provided her with the longest three minutes of her life. I think the most random moment was being asked what ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ meant. Having attempted - rather badly I think - to give an answer it dawned on me to ask why I had been asked such a question in the first place. I was duly informed that ‘without such random questions it would get awfully boring and repetitive’. Quite.

Did I find love? In a word, no. It wasn’t that there was a lack of attractive girls – far from it – but that, as I expected, it wasn’t that kind of evening. Time will tell whether I see any of the people I met again though. I gave quite a few positive ticks because I’m too nice to be heartless and aside from a few who annoyed me I found everyone very friendly. Whether I got any positive ticks in return remains to be seen as RAG haven’t followed it up yet. Chatting to others revealed that on the whole the guys were much more positive than the girls, but let’s not dwell on what that might say about those that took part.

Would I do it again? Again, no. I’ve had the experience – and am all the better for it – but can’t see why I’d want to do it again. I’ve never needed to resort to Speed Dating to introduce myself to new people in the past and I hope that that won’t change.

Back in the real world I’ve spent the afternoon investigating the option of further study beyond my degree and loving the hot weather. I have had a productive week and have accumulated a lot to blog about, but that can wait for my next post.

Monday, October 24, 2005

More Trafalgar Madness

Yesterday at formal dinner in Brasenose I was once again party to celebrations in aid of the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

As at Christ Church, flags were in evidence in Hall and this time we were all given a glass of rum. Before the meal began the Principal gave a short (but almost completely irrelevant) speech and the aforementioned rum was used to toast Addington (ex Brasenose PM who funded the Battle), Nelson and Trafalgar.

Today has been more mundane - a large proportion of it was spent in the library, which was at least productive. Right now I am bemoaning the inability of the cheap cover for my telephone to withstand being in my pocket, as the casing around the screen has cracked severly. I have done a repair job which does not render the phone immediately useless but I am not a happy bunny.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Trafalgar Day

Yesterday I was invited to formal dinner at Christ Church, and it was a quality evening.

Christ Church had chosen to celebrate the fact that yesterday was the 200th Anniversary of The Battle of Trafalgar. This meant that the hall was bedecked with flags and in typically random Oxford fashion a ship shaped cake, complete with sparklers was processed around the hall at the end of the meal, before ending up on High Table. We were all also given a mini bottle of Nelson's Rum to take away which is very cool. The meal itself was very nice - Tomato Soup followed by Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding and some form of Plum Tart for desert.

Isn't it funny sometimes how the lyrics of a song can sum up exactly how you feel about something?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Shape Throwing

For some reason the other day I had a desire to throw some shapes and yet had no dancefloor and no-one to groove with, alas. I told my friend Richard about the problem, and his response is worthy of a mention here, I feel:

'JP, you gotta keep the music alive, man. Even if that means dancing to an empty room!'

You'll probably be relieved to know that I didn't resort to dancing to an empty room but I did enjoy my Latin Dancing Class yesterday evening. We learnt the jive, which was cool - however it did take me until the end of the class to master it unfortunately.

On another note I am pleased to see that David Cameron has topped the second round of the Conservative Party Leader contest; he is my favourite candidate. The fact that he studied at the Kings Hall and College of Brasenose might or might not be a factor in this but I have actually been impressed by the way he has dealt with some difficult questions recently. I hope that I am right when I feel that he is perhaps more trustworthy than some. As I have said before, honesty is always important.

Incidentally, if Cameron wins the contest and if he becomes the next PM it will continue the trend that all the Prime Ministers since the beginning of the last century who went to university studied here in Oxford.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Happy St Luke's Day

Today is, apparently, The Feast Day of St Luke The Evangelist. I know this because I am speaking tonight in Brasenose Chapel (6pm - OK, so I know it's a bit of a shameless advert) and St Luke the Evangelist is the theme. It should be fun, though I'm struggling to wrap my homily up at the moment. Incidentally, my favourite random fact about St Luke is that he is the patron saint of painters.

Last night I went to a fantastic talk by one of my lecturers on 'The God of The Whole (not the gaps)', which looked at the relationship between faith and science and God's Divine Providence. He had some interesting things to say about how science and faith complement one another and it was really encouraging.

I'm pleased to report that the postcards for the wall are still coming in - let's keep it that way. Thanks to Juliette for the Giraffe, and to Nathan for indeed simultaneously winning the award for least far-flung (Oxford) and most random (does anyone know where Danby Gate is, without having to Google it?).

The gauntlet has been laid...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

It's All Greek to Me

Yesterday, after dithering for ages about how I would spend my evening I accompanied a friend to see another friend in Orestes at the Oxford Playhouse. It was in Ancient Greek with English Surtitles (too small for me to read comfortably, alas, but I managed). Not only did it make me feel very cultured, but I really enjoyed it and was genuinely impressed with the talented acting.

In a random turn of events I also wound up at the after-show cast party, which was quite fun. There's just something about 'gate-crashing a cast party' which sounds cool, even though I was actually invited.

I also learnt about Facebook last night - evidently the fact that I'd never heard of it let alone signed up is something to be pitied. Hmmm.

Thanks to all who've responded to my postcard competition - I've got a few cards on the board now and I'm very pleased. Keep them coming...

Now to watch Sam on Leeds Student TV.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

1st Week Ramblings

Well, term has started and Oxford life is well underway. I've joined the chapel choir (don't laugh) and attempted some Latin Dancing (again, don't laugh).

Actually, the dancing went quite well. I was dragged along to a trial session by a friend who was attempting to promote it and I really enjoyed it. I managed to find a partner without having to look desperate and lecherous and I'm proud to report that-despite my treading on her toe to the extent that it drew blood-she still wants to partner me in future and we went to a proper class yesterday.

More importantly, lectures have started and on the whole it's quite enjoyable. I really enjoyed yesterday's Atomic Physics, which probably had a lot to do with the lecturer's desire to make it as interesting and as informative as possible. We laughed when he explained that a previous course had gained him the comment "the interesting method of teaching involved generating understanding at the time, which some students found disturbing".

Today's Nuclear lecture was, however, rubbish. It had been promised that the lecturer had "read the syllabus this year" but as one of my friends remarked, that wasn't the biggest issue - it was his grasp of English (which, as far as I can ascertain, is his first language). He made some actually quite exciting topics appear mind-numbingly dull and his voice and mannerisms would fit in well on something like Little Britain.

Until next time.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Only In Oxford...

I love being in Oxford. I love the random events and traditions and the slightly 'detached from the real world' feel to student life here. I was thinking about this last night when I walked through town in a suit and gown, carrying half a bottle of wine and no-one batted an eyelid.

This morning I had one of those experiences which could only really happen in Oxford. I was in college - in the JCR no less - and the Bishop of Lincoln came in. Why was he there? Because he's officially the 'Visitor of the College'. As yesterday's Chapel notice sheet put it, "The Bishop of Lincoln (Visitor of the College) will be visiting college tomorrow". Obviously it was perceived that there was no need for elaboration. I however am intriuged, and aim to find out more about why the Bishop is 'Visitor of the College' in due course.

It's been a quality weekend, with visits from many big names. Term has now officially started however, and the work must begin...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What is...

...a 'Rodding Eye'?

As you descend the stairs outside my room you are faced with a plaque fixed to the top corner of the wall in front, which says "Access to the Rodding Eye".

Admittedly we've not tried searching for it on Google (that would ruin the point of this post) but no-one here seems to have a clue what it is.

Any ideas?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Is Height Important?

I enjoyed one of those classic Oxford conversations over lunch today which started around the idea that some physicists are planning on using computers to model dating strategies. The question of why physicists and not computer scientists was brushed aside with a quip about needing to have some idea about dating, but I digress. During the conversation we talked about the idea of height being an important factor in choice of partner and concluded that it was far more common for the bloke to be taller than the girl and not the other way around. One of the guys then added that in some ancient Hindu literature it states that the optimum is for the man to be 8 - 10 cm taller than the woman in a relationship.

And this is where you come in. I want to know whether or not there really is any truth behind this.

Please leave your comments below - if you are in a relationship would you class it as 'stable' and are you happy? Do you and your other half fit the optimum suggested by the Hindu wisdom? Do you have any other thoughts/experiences which might shed light on the matter?

Thanks :)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Postcard Competition

Those of you who read my previous post will note that my new pad has a board for postcards. However, as it stands there are only two occupants of said board, whicb is a bit sad really.

I have therefore decided to launch JP's Postcard Challenge. Postcards sent to me c/o Brasenose College Oxford should get here, and the more random or far flung the better. Do bear in mind however that from my PoV your home village is likely to be random and far flung...

Go for it.

Transitions

Greetings from Oxford!

The summer seems to have flown past and this post comes to you from my new pad which I moved in to yesterday to commence my fourth year. Scary stuff.

Moving in was a bit of a hassle because the original fob supplied with my keys was broken and I had to rely on others to let me in and out of the building until I could get it fixed, but now I am fully installed. I like my new room; it's quite modern, light and airy and comes with a sofa. I need to get some picture hooks installed, but I do at least have a big cork-board for postcards.

In a departure from previous years, I'm not living in the main college, which has lent a slightly unfamiliar feel to some aspects. It's great to be back though. A lot of people have sadly now moved on from Oxford, but there are still many familiar faces and I'm looking forward to meeting some new ones.

Those of you who read Sam's blog will know that another big change is afoot. My esteemed father has landed himself a new job, and as such the family home will be moving from Newbury to West Sussex come the end of term. It'll be strange, and I'll miss Royal Berkshire and my friends there, but it will also be quite exciting.

Regular readers will know that I like to talk about music, and today I bought myself 'Hotel' by Moby in HMV's sale. Like his previous album, '18', it's very chilled with a lot of variety and peppered with random lyrics. "
Come back to us spiders, Come uncrushed my hand, Let me sent beauty rain, And bring us love again, like you can" is a classic example. I love hearing the reasons behind the name of an album or the lyrics of a song, and Moby's reasons for calling it 'Hotel' are particularly thought provoking. He notes that people sleep in hotel rooms, bathe in hotel rooms, have sex in hotel rooms and begin and end relationships in hotel rooms and yet between guests the rooms are wiped clean and no trace is usually found of the previous occupant. He then tries to draw parallels with life which made me think, even if it's all a bit inconclusive and depressing.


Friday, September 30, 2005

Cycling to Bath

Some years ago my dad and I cycled from Newbury to Pewsey, largely along the canal, to visit a friend of his. We promised ourselves that one day we would complete the stint from Pewsey to Bath and I'm proud to say that yesterday we made it.

We caught the train to Pewsey and then cycled to join the tow-path at Devizes and on to Bath. It was a fantastic ride, and the scenery - especially from Bradford Upon Avon - was simply stunning. We cycled almost 50 miles in total, including a final few miles uphill out of Bath to Tog Hill where my mum picked us up.

We were fortunate with the weather and didn't have any reliability issues either, which was good. My dad was riding the same bike he rode from London to Edinburgh when he was 17, which is very cool. I have to admit that after much deliberation I opted not to take my new Giant because I haven't mastered the toe-clips enough to deal with the constant stop-start regime that the tow-path could have demanded if it was narrow and busy. Being primarily a road-bike I also wasn't sure how well it would take the rough stuff, but on reflection it would have coped admirably. Despite the fact it didn't get used yesterday, I'm pleased to say that in the last three or so weeks I've clocked up over 160 miles on it :)

The old Falcon coped with the Bath run, even if I did get the feeling at times that it was going to fail on me before the journey was complete. It's never been the most reliable of bikes :S

Now to get on with my packing and sorting myself out for next term. I can't believe how quickly the summer has gone, but I am looking forward to being back in Oxford.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Sex Change Insurance

I went for a drink in my local (the oh so lively Woodpecker) tonight with my friend Mark which was quality. We chatted about all sorts of things and at one point we ended up talking about car insurance. Exciting stuff I hear you cry, and for the most part it was just the usual whinge about it being so much more expensive for blokes than for girls.

However, I was reminded that recently the powers that be considered making it possible for you to declare yourself as whatever gender you like - whether you are or not. All in the name of political correctness, or human rights or equality or something. It sparked a bit of a debate about public toilet labelling I think.

Anyway, the point is that if this law did come in to force (does anyone know?) then theoretically it is possible for blokes to declare themselves as women on their car insurance and save themselves a packet. Anyone brave enough to give it a go?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Some Light Relief

I don't know about you but I feel that some light relief is in order after my last couple of posts, which were quite heavy by all accounts. (Don't let that stop you from reading them at some point though).

I think I'll start by drawing your attention to the new treats in store for visitors to this part of the Blogosphere. You can now read a bit about me in the profile section. and if you like my posts you can use the new facility to email them to your friends.

Once you've calmed down from all the excitement I would like to share with you my favourite fact of the day, taken from the BBC News Page. The Japanese apparently have a word for a girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front. Should you ever have need for it, it's "
bakku-shan".

More About The Good Book

I have realised that my response to Anthropax's comment on my previous post ('The 100 Minute Bible') could pigeon-hole me as someone who blindly quotes Scripture every time I need to prove a point.

This would not be good, so I have decided to elaborate on my point, and on the Bible as a general topic. Hopefully this will pave the way for some educated debate and interesting comment.

Firstly, the Bible is not just about one thing and making any attempt to sum it up in a few sentences is bound to result in huge omissions and gross misunderstandings. For those of you who don't know, the Bible comprises 66 different books (39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New). The books range from allegory to history, from poetry and song to law and from eye-witness account to letter, and most of them were written by different people.

But that said, there are some common themes running throughout. It teaches us about God, and His character, His relationship with us and how He intends us to live.

Rabbi Hilell the Elder's attempt at summarising the Torah (the first 5 - I think - books) and the laws contained therein has much to commend it - the way we relate to others plays a crucial part in the various commandments. The biggest problem however is that it omits God completely. Many of the Old Testament commandments focus on the way we relate to God and I don't think that you can just cut that out.

Perhaps a better summary of the Law is the one Jesus gave when he was asked what he thought were the most important Commandments. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your strength" and secondly "You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself".

So why did I quote John 14 v 6 ("I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no-one comes to the Father except through me")?

Basically, assuming Jesus' words to be true, this verse has some serious implications. You can be as good to your neighbour as you like, but if you forget about God, if you don't accept Jesus then it won't get you anywhere.

Fortunately however, the converse also appears to be true. There are cases in the Bible which show that no matter how much we screw up, we can always come back to God. The guy crucified next to Jesus is one example here - he acknowledged Jesus who then promised that he'd be in Paradise.

Why not read some of the Bible for yourself (I'd recommend starting with one of the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) and draw your own conclusions?

Friday, September 23, 2005

The 100 Minute Bible

I've not talked about my faith much recently - something I perhaps ought to rectify given the interesting comments, opinions and insights that such postings produced.

Anyway, many of you will have doubtless heard about the '100 Minute Bible' which has hit the headlines in the last week. The idea is that it is a shortened version of the Bible which can be read in 100 Minutes apparently. I shall reserve judgement until I've seen a copy for myself, but if it conveys the essence of the Christian Message, encourages more people to read the Bible and improves their Biblical knowledge then it could be a Good Thing.

As the 'Have Your Say' column on the BBC News Page shows, people certainly seem to have a lot of opinions. What angers me however is the sheer ignorance (and often arrogance) displayed by many.

For example, the person who said that 'I have already released the 10-second version and I publish it here for free: "Be good to one another and you will go to Heaven"' might think that he's being clever but unfortunately he is completely misguided.

And the person who decided that he was big enough and clever enough to sum up the Bible in 10 words ('"Do as we say and do not think for yourself." There you go, Bible summed up in ten words. As for the 100-minute version? I would say that is 99 minutes and 50 seconds longer than it needs to be') couldn't have made it more obvious that he's got less idea about the contents of the Bible than I have knowledge about the Ukranian Highway Code. Muppet. Perhaps if people like him took the time to read the Bible (100 Minutes or not) then we could at least enjoy an intelligent and educated debate.

Amidst all the argument and criticism however, someone did raise an interesting point:
'Can we please have some criticism in similar terms of the Koran and Islam? As an irrelevance to the modern world, a brainwashing cult etc. I am sick of hearing my faith subjected to this sort of abuse while this other religion is sacrosanct. It's discrimination, that's what it is.'

I trust that he was being sarcastic and doesn't really wish to encourage criticism of the Koran in the same way, but I do feel that his point is justified. Personally I quite like it when people comment on, criticise and question my faith but even so I can't help wondering how many of you would do it if I was a Muslim.

There's hopefully a lot to think about in today's posting, but I shall leave it on a more light-hearted note with some related humour from YouthBlog

Sunday, September 18, 2005

You Couldn't Make This Up

It's 9.15pm and I'm at a deserted airfield where, having been driven here by a man in a dog collar in a very fast car we've broken in ...to retrieve the aforementioned vicar's glasses.

Actually we didn't quite break in; we were supplied with the code for the main gate by the man who found the glasses and left them accessible for us. To tell you that however kind of ruins the drama...

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Showtime

Today for the first time in a couple of years I paid a visit to the annual Newbury Show, and I'm pleased to report that I had a quality day. It bought back many happy memories of family days spent there when I was much younger.

Amidst the abundance of budget clothing outlets and greasy fast food trailers there was a lot to see and do. I saw lizards, snakes, owls and waterbuffalo, and enjoyed the parade of cattle. I bought a cactus and enjoyed a free ride around a 4x4 track in a Ford Ranger pickup. I saw a team parachute drop and I enjoyed sampling the delights on offer in the food tent (once I'd realised there was more to sample than organic mueseli). Another good thing I enjoyed about the Newbury Show was the fact that it's a good place to bump in to people you know (if you know people who also attend the show, of course).

Random moment of the day has to be whilst I was visiting one of the car stands. As I was walking past one of the saloon cars, another visitor appeared to point to a plastic fitment in the boot, and asked a salesman what it was for. The salesman in question responded with "it's for the ladies, sir...". If you have any idea what might have been in the boot of said car please put me out of my misery and comment below.

Moving on, following my rather geeky post of yesterday I would like to announce that my 'non-use of Linux period' is over. Windows XP singlehandedly failed to do what I asked of it, and even brought down the home network in the process of trying. Fortunately I've been able to borrow a computer which can cope with all of my Linux needs, and all is rosy in the garden once more.

Expensive (Microsoft) Software 0 - Free (Open Source Software) 1

Thursday, September 15, 2005

It's A Sad Day...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have some very sad news.

I am (temporarily) no longer a Linux user.

For a good while now, my trusty desktop, Milhouse, has been running Mandrake Linux 10.1. It would do things that Windows could only dream of. DHCP server (automatically passing my laptop network details)? No problem. Stability? Completely. Security? Like Fort Knox. Viruses? What, now?

Unfortunately I had to make some hardware changes, and setting up Mandrake again has proven impossible. My computer is too old to deal with the power management features without some fiddling around under Linux, and for some reason I can't get the NVIDIA graphics drivers to work as they did last time, resulting in an off-centre display. The nail in the coffin has been the bootloader, which refuses to load Linux at all if the configuration file is so much as opened and a complete reinstall is needed.

I've given up reinstalling Linux and have had to resort to Windows XP until I can get a more suitable computer. I have been able to test Linux on a more modern machine, and it worked like a dream. Until I can get hold of something though I am relying on ZoneAlarm to keep my shared files protected. Nice.




Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Strange English Phrases

As I came downstairs this morning, I heard my dad on the telephone. He used the phrase "it's like elephants and mating", evidently as an analogy for something. Have any of you heard the phrase before, and if so would you please care to enlighten me on it's use.

The second bizarre phrase of the day goes to the old packing box I came across in our garage. According to the print on the side it was designed to contain "Mansize Banded Packs". Of what, exactly?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Once Upon a Time...

...in a castle not too far away, 'singer' Peter Andre decided to wed his plastic 'princess'.

If you believe the media, you'll think that the wedding of Peter Andre and Jordan at Highclere Castle was *the* event of the weekend (unless you're like my aunt, who thought it was the wedding of two gay men, or Big Brother's Eugene who apparently turned down his invite and went to an amateur radio club meeting).

Obviously it wasn't - that accolade goes to the annual family BBQ, which once again lived up to expectations. People, you just can't beat the combination of good company, quality barbecued meat, premium lager and nice wine in abundance; though before you cast aspertions none of us was excessively intoxicated and a good time was had by all.

Given the amount of media hype however I feel that it'd be rude not to comment about the aforementioned wedding, even though I expect that you, like me, had far better things to do.

Jordan assured the BBC News page that the wedding would not be tacky, but you only have to have seen the pictures of the carriage in the tabloids to realise that 1) she lied or 2) she needs to look up 'tacky' in the dictionary. Honestly, the carriage just added to the sheer ostentatiousness of the whole affair and made me wonder what sort of point they were trying to prove. At the end of the day we're just talking about an Aussie with a waxed chest and someone with implants, and that won't change no matter how much more money than Princess Diana they spent or how many celebrity guests attended. I kid you not, it appears that many of the celebrities on the guest list claimed not even to know the couple. Respect must go to Eugene and the others who turned the invite down.

Thankfully The Sun reported the castle as being near Basingstoke, a town much more suited to such chavishness than Newbury. This means that Royal Berkshire residents such as me can relax safe in the knowledge that our town won't be tarnished, and the sole claim to fame will still be the Bypass.








Saturday, September 10, 2005

Monopoly & Things

Hey Dudes.

I hope that you've had a good week, and are enjoying the weekend. I've had a varied week, culminating in a quality game of Monopoly last night. Really, it was great. There were six of us congregated at Marshall's (thanks guys for the hospitality) and we snacked, drunk Dr Pepper (or similar sugary drinks) and made property deals in to the early hours of the morning.

I procured Mayfair early on, but rushed my property deals and never had the cash to fully develop anything, even though I held the green set as well. Still, more by luck than judgement I came in third place which isn't bad. Roll on the next game...

Other highlights of my week include cycling on Greenham Common. It was awesome - the weather was beautiful and the scenery quite something. Sometimes there's nothing like bombing down a gravel track enjoying the fresh air. I used my old Falcon mountain bike in this instance, but I've also been making good use of my new Giant road bike - this morning I passed the 75 mile mark :)

Having cycled 10 miles this morning and also been swimming I'm feeling quite good at the moment. The effect however will be short-lived as I'm off to the annual family BBQ later, and my aunt always provides plenty of food.

Did any of you see 'No Sex Please, We're Teenagers?' this week? Given the debates going on on other blogs, I won't comment too much this week but I'll wait until I've seen the next episode. It's certainly an interesting idea and I look forward to seeing how it develops. Tuesday, 9pm, BB2. Watch it.

Time to get ready for the BBQ. Nice.

Bye for now.




Tuesday, September 06, 2005

You couldn't do it again if you tried...

I went food shopping with my mum and the bill, for 32 items, was £32.32. Maybe it's just me who's fascinated by such numerical co-incidences but I thought I'd share it with you anyway.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The world is full of criminals

As some of you are probably aware, there was some controversy recently about some new speed cameras on the M4. At the height of the debate, Roger from Newbury left a comment on the BBC News page explaining that we should have nothing to worry about because "only criminals break the speed limit".

By that logic then the world is indeed full of criminals. Sam and I were driving back from Castle Combe this afternoon, beetling along at 50mph - the "temporary" speed limit on that section of the M4, seemingly due to the presence of some pointless cones on the Hard Shoulder in recent months. Everyone else on the road however was taking advantage of the wide, three lane expanse and even an HGV cruised past us in the terrible dry conditions with poor visibility of at least a couple of miles.

Doubtless the cops will penalise some of these criminals for their unsafe driving, putting more money in the coffers in the process.

Well really. The idea that speed cameras are more about raising extra tax than saving lives is reinforced by a government idea of charging more and reducing the number of points on the license per speeding offence.

There are too many people who've been fined for 35mph where even 60 would have been safe, and far too many muppets on the roads who tailgate, swerve and slow erratically on B-Roads and know nothing about motorway lane discipline.

I propose two things:

1) Let's have some sense about speed limits. There are some blanket limits which actually ought to be lowered in places, and there are some which should be raised. If the Germans can manage to cope with high Motorway limits in dry conditions and lower ones in the wet why can't we? And is 42 mph over the Hammersmith flyover really dangerous at times when there's little traffic on the road?

2) Let's have more cops monitoring the standard of driving. Human judgement is more sensible than that of a computer, and they'd be able to rid us of those who drive badly and dangerously.

Live from Castle Combe

This posting comes to you live from Castle Combe racetrack, where my cousin and uncle are hosting one of their trackdays. They both have Caterham 7s and they've very kindly taken me out for some fast laps. Caterhams are quite something anyway, but my cousin's is devoid of windscreen, doors and a passenger seat. Fortunately, patio chair cushions and a 5point racing harness kept me secure and comfortable, seat or not.

Thanks must also go to the dude who's just taken me out in his Honda S2000. Despite not being as stripped down as a Caterham it was still really exhilerating-it revs to 9000rpm! And tailing an original M3, also pushing it hard was quite something.

Aside from some Caterhams, an original M3 and a couple of S2000s there are a few more sets of tasty wheels around, including a tuned Datsun 240Z and an original Audi RS Estate. Someone has also turned up in a Ferarri, but evidently doesn't plan to put in on the track. What's the point in spending all that money if it's only a pose-mobile?

Amongst the excitement there have sadly been two minor casualties. Firstly there was the woman who spun her Caterham; she was fine but her car sustained a bit of damage (ironically there was a sticker on the damaged mudguard for www.crash.net). And secondly there was the bug which juiced itself on the visor of my helmet whilst I was being driven by my cousin at speed. Nice.

And now to sign off - some more fast Caterham laps await me :)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Checking in briefly

Evening All.

Aware that I've been a bit poor at blogging recently I thought I would stick my head above the water again this evening, albeit briefly.

It's been a quality week, containing everything from Careers meetings in Oxford (in an attempt to solve my latest course choice headache) to lunch on the Isle of Wight in hot sunshine.

Regular readers will be pleased to know that after what seems like an age of deliberating and test riding bikes my 21st birthday present arrived on Wednesday. I am now the proud owner of a Giant CRS, kitted out with mudguards, handlebar ends and toe clips. She looks beauitiful in black, and - more importantly - goes like a dream.

Time now for some sleep methinks, but I'll try and get in to a routine of posting a bit more regularly as the summer draws to an end and the academic world wakes up.

Friday, September 02, 2005

More Controversy

Today I have decided to air some of my views on the NHS. If you are a regular visitor to this part of cyberspace it won't surprise you to know that I think that the government is making a bit of a hash of it.

Following my recent political post about the honesty (or lack thereof) of our current government I would like to reiterate that I am under no illusion that any government recently has been completely honest - yes Anthropax, I have heard of 'Tory Sleaze'.

However I maintain that our current government is particularly dishonest and the NHS is another area in which this shows itself. I will now attempt to convey why in my experience and in my opinion I think that all this talk of improvement is yet more lies and spin. Let the debate commence...

I happen to know several people who work in the NHS in various different roles, and all of them feel that morale is low and that the governmental targets and pressures are all about statistics and not the health of the patient. I'd be interested to find out if anyone out there has different experiences but rather than dwelling on what people say let's look at some specific examples.

For a large market town it might surprise you to learn that Newbury lacks a proper hospital. For years we had a small cottage hospital in the town centre, but for anything major it was normal to head to Oxford, Reading or Basingstoke.

Recently however a brand new hospital was opened. With much media attention you'd have thought that this was finally an improvement, and that Newbury would at last have proper facilities.

A year or two on however let's look at the reality behind the spin of 'investment and improvement'.

1) The hospital is situated out of town on the A4 towards Reading meaning that for many it is still no more convenient than Basingstoke or Oxford.

2) Despite all the shiny new buildings the hosptial still doesn't offer that much. The management of course have palatial offices but for most people the conditions are no better than at the old hospital. In what to me looks like a planning cock-up some departments are outside in "temporary" buildings.

3) To cover funding problems elsewhere, cuts are being made. The local paper is full of controversy surrounding the closure of some departments forcing yet more patients to go elsewhere. Administrators are no longer allowed cover for holiday or illness, which has increased pressure and workload. What tops it all however is the news that although Doctors are no longer able to perform certain operations in Newbury but have to have spurious appointments with the patients concerned anyway just to meet governmental targets. Ludicrous.

Whilst being contraversial I thought you'd like to know that further to the cinema malarky I reported on recently, the Newbury Weekly News have published my letter. Beautiful.

Word Verification

I have decided to try out the new word verification feature for leaving comments in this corner of the Blogosphere. It may be more hassle than it's worth, but it should at least ensure that things stay spam free.

Do try it out, and let me know what you think - by leaving comments of course.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Pyrotechnics and Stuff

Evening dudes. I hope that you've enjoyed the Bank Holiday weekend; I've had an awesome time.

As you will know from my previous posts I spent it down in West Wales, and it turned out to be quite a packed few days. I enjoyed some good walking and some time chilling out and reading (still Harry Potter, but I have to concede that JK Rowling has written this one well).

On top of that we had some good social times; a friend of Sam's was staying with us and we saw various other friends throughout the weekend. Saturday night was a highlight - we had what turned out to be quite an eclectic group round for a BBQ (always a good move). The group included an old work colleague of my dad's, his wife and their 12 year old daughter, plus his wife's cousin and her husband (who have a house in the area) and their 27 year old daughter. It was all beautifully random, especially as we didn't even know everyone's surname but the whole evening went really well.

Following the BBQ we all decamped to the town up the road for the 'end of regatta fireworks display', which is where the title of the post comes from. I wasn't expecting much to be honest but as we parked up and started walking down to the seafront the sheer volume of people also pouring down the street raised the expectations a little bit. But they didn't get raised far enough - people, it was one of the best displays I have ever seen. Comprising 20 minutes of sublime pyrotechnical wizardry it echoed up the picturesque estuary and lit up the entire sky. The finale was immense, and the fact that 'someone who works in the firework industry' has a house in the village probably explains a lot.

The rest of the weekend passed with more spontaneous social gatherings, a random swift half after hours in a pub (whilst searching for someone called Lewis) and tension as poor weather and a broken gyroscope cast doubt over the idea of flying home.

For the record we made it safely after climing through the cloud to 7000ft and I enjoyed a pleasant flight unbothered by the Bank Holiday jams.

Smashing.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Another Random Place to Blog from

I'm currently 3000ft above the countryside in West Wales, somewhere near the end of the M4.

With my MiniDisc player supplying me with a tune by Van Halen, I have to say I'm enjoying myself.

Over and Out.

It's a tough life...

I'm just about to set off for West Wales, which will be a pleasant place to enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend. I'm just waiting for the decision to be made as to how I will get there.

Plan A is to fly, and I will enjoy the views of the M4 jams from the comfort of a Cessna 172.

Plan B - if the weather does not permit flying - is to be the passenger in a TVR.

Oh what hardship.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Random!

Having made the mistake of deciding to empty the draw under the bed in which everything usually gets put when I'm tidying up, I've found I'm actually quite enjoying sifting through the pile now on my bedroom floor.

It's amazing what I've found actually; a £5 book token has made it all seem a bit more worthwhile, whilst for sheer randomness the award so far must go to the key from the Youth Hostel in Trier (Germany) or the 'Good Luck' card to someone called Erik, from someone called Tonia, wishing him luck with "'Hair".

If you are either Erik or Tonia, please feel free to offer me an explanation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cinema Woes

I see in our local paper that the cinema fiasco of the last 10 years is continuing as the Councillors now decide how to raise the subsidy for it. The clowns in the Lib Dem party seem to think that charging for the town-centre carparks is the fairest way of doing it. The thing is, the reason the whole saga has dragged on for so long is because the same Lib Dems don't want people to drive to the cinema and won't provide the car-parking demanded by the cinema companies.

By this logic, the users of the cinema will all walk, cycle, get the bus, or drive to Reading/Basingstoke where it's cheaper (or free) to park and contribute nothing to the subsidy. It will be those people needing to drive in to town for other reasons who end up paying the bulk of the subsidy, and the extra car parking charges could encourage yet more people from the nearby villages to start shopping elsewhere. Has anyone else noticed that the appeal of Newbury is so low that the 'prime retail outlet' in the refurbished Kennet Centre took 18 months to fill?

Summer at the Seaside

It's been quite a pleasant week thus far. Yesterday Sam and I had a day out on the Dorset coast, in Swanage which is where we used to holiday as kids.

The weather was glorious and we had a fantastic day. We parked outside Swanage itself at the 'Park and Ride' and caught the steam train in to town, which was fun. Highlights of the day included watching a bit of Punch and Judy on the beach, eating an ice-cream, visiting the picturesque village of Corfe (home of the Castle) and paying a visit to the world's greatest fudge shop. Quality.

The weather on Monday was less good, and our planned jaunt to the Isle of Wight was postponed so we went to visit some friends instead which was fun. They have a seven year old who was frighteningly intelligent; she sat around reading and drinking tea, which makes her very cool in my book. I'm not quite sure why - for students it's the norm but for someone of her age it's just not quite what you expect...

Friday, August 19, 2005

Some Political Comment

Recently it's been as though I've been hosting a polite dinner party in my corner of the blogosphere and I've managed to avoid the topics of religion and politics for a while. How boring.

I was watching an episode of Danny Wallace's 'How to Start Your Own Country' which I'd taped whilst away in Norfolk, and I was struck by the guy who wanted to join Danny's country because he was fed up with this one. "The government's bent" he said, and the more I've thought about it the more I've realised he's right. Obviously it's occurred to me before that our government isn't honest (which government is?) but I feel that the current situation is worse than it's ever been.

Let's look at some of the recent goings on.

Firstly there is the issue of immigration. You may recall that Tony and his cronies were quick during the election campaign to slam the Tories for their statistics. They told us it was all exaggerated lies and scaremongering. Oh really, Mr Blair? Recently the truth has emerged and it appears that once again it doesn't fit with the picture painted by the Labour Party.

Then there is the situation with the railways. We've been told that the private sector was incompetent, that the government has been doing all it can and that of course it hasn't been trying to renationalise it by the back door. As if. If you've been following the Railtrack court case and other recent events you will have learnt - from the mouths of key players in some cases - that the private sector had its hands tied by our beloved government, that governmental interference has hindered growth and development and that despite the complete mess made by the SRA the government is taking more direct control. Somebody help us.

I might not have agreed with Robin Cook's policies but I do respect him for standing up for his beliefs and was very sorry to hear of his sudden death the other week. Our Leader on the other hand felt it appropriate to continue spending taxpayer's money on a holiday and didn't attend his funeral. Now of course, like anyone else, Mr Blair is only human and needs his holiday. BUt sometimes exceptions have to be made...

And isn't it just a little worrying when the Deputy PM's past record leads John McCririck to make a quip about avoiding him in case he gets punched?

And what about the mess caused by the communists striking at Heathrow last week? How many families lost out on hard earned holidays? Not Mr Blair of course - he was still sunning himself on a 44ft yacht. But where was the government condemning this illegal strike? Where was the government standing up against those self righteouss people ruining everyone's holiday, deterring them from doing it again?

Quite.

Now you could also ask where have the Tories and the Lib Dems been, and that would be a fair question - worryingly so.

I shall just return to my point at the beginning - this current government has been more crooked and dishonest than any previous government for quite some time. The sooner people stop falling for their lies and spin and we have a change of leadership the better...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Back from Camp

So, here I am. Back in civilisation. I'm absolutely knackered but it's been an amazing week. My role on the camp was to look after one of the tents and its occupants and generally be 'one of the team' heading up the activities. Part of the briefing was to give the kids the best holiday we could, and I hope we succeeded.

I really enjoyed being able to be a kid again and partook in all sorts of activities from crab-fishing to a high ropes course - an assault course at 40ft up in the trees has to be one of the most terrifying things I've done, but it was so rewarding. Needless to say, the kids were fearless...


I lived on six hours sleep a night and my diet somehow included an excess of bananas (blame Q for ordering too many) and Wonka Bars (mmmm). It was also very cold for August, and very windy at times, but that didn't stop us having a good time. The location - a cliff top on the North Sea Coast - was incredible.

Highlights included going on a putting trip with just one kid and a female leader - after getting a few funny looks it dawned on me that we were being mistaken for a family and everyone was doing the maths to ascertain just how we could have had a 9 year old son.

There was also the painted dolphin (one of many) on the cookhouse wall I got to name Milhouse; I've always wanted to give something that name. Then there was the roast dinner in the middle of the night during a storm - surreal. The leadership team was just wonderful - so supportive - and I made so many new friends. One of the guys heading the whole thing up was truly a legend; I think his tattoo sums it up - whilst invigilating an exam he saw an illustration of a scarab beetle and without a second thought, got the paper photocopied, went to the parlour and said "this is what I want". Nice...

The biggest let-down has to be opting to man the "sock shoot" game as part of the "It's a Knockout" competition. It sounded cool, and in preparation for it a scaffolding platform had been erected, complete with a contraption to hang a bucket from it. Imagine then my disappointment when I discovered that the game worked as follows: stand under the bucket, and throw as many old socks in it from the pile provided in the allocated time.

Sadly we ran out of time to play 'Coastguards and Smugglers', which meant that the inhabitants of the beach and the surrounding area did not get to see me sporting a cassock, a Canterbury Cap and some dodgy shades. They were also spared the sight of at least one cross dresser, but credit has to go to the dude who painted his toe-nails in preparation and then had to endure a trip to the swimming pool sporting his new look.

This week it's back to my book (currently Harry Potter I'm ashamed to say, but I feel that it's important to know what all the fuss is about), my physics, and choosing my new bike.

Before I go however, I would like to take this opportunity to confirm for those of you who read the recent tabloid reports that I have size 12 feet.

Friday, August 12, 2005

It's nice to know you can...

Is it more impressive that I can blog from Norfolk or that I can blog from the middle of a camping field? Either way, I'm doing both simultaneously just to prove a point.

Dudes, it's been an awesome week, and details will follow on my return when I'll have a bit more time...

Friday, August 05, 2005

Random Ramblings

Hello folks.

Sorry that my blogging skills have been a bit pants this week; no real excuses I'm afraid. Tomorrow I am going to help for a week on a kids' camp in Norfolk, which will be fun. I'm really looking forward to it but reading through the leader's booklet has made it dawn on me that I am going to have to be responsible - for some 9-14 year olds. Argh. It's quite likely that I will be completely out of contact so I'm afraid that this posting could just be an oasis in the lack of postings desert. Do keep checking though in case I do find an opportunity to share my thoughts next week, and I promise that regular postings will recommence on my return.

Before I go however, I have a few things to post about.

Did anyone see Danny Wallace's "How to Start Your Own Country" on BBC 2 on Wednesday? I thought it was great personally; highlights included a trip to 'Sealand' - an independant state on an old military fort in the North Sea - and an invasion of Eel Pie Island in the River Thames (peaceful of course). Danny really is a man after my own heart, and I'm very jealous of him because he spends his life doing cool things such as travelling the world to meet people called Dave Gorman or starting a cult or a country and gets paid to write books about it.

I read on the BBC News page that one new blog is created every second. Wow the Blogosphere is expanding rapidly. I came across a new blog this week, actually, and it's one of the best I have read yet. Written by my friend Rachel, ShoutsOfJoy is very funny and is well worth a visit.

I am disappointed that no-one has yet answered my question of sport. I know it's one of those 'really puzzling questions without a definite answer' but somebody out there must at least have an opinion. On the subject of 'really puzzling questions without a definite answer' I have another one for you. One of the songs I really like by The Killers is 'Somebody Told Me', which contains the lyric "Somebody told me that you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year". I've always wondered if this is more insulting to the boyfriend or girlfriend in question. Opnions please.

Oh, and whilst I'm asking questions, here's one for those of you who know something about bikes. I'm looking at getting a lightwight hybrid bike which I can use for touring and I was wondering what people think of Giant and Claud Butler as brands. Thanks.

Anyway, I'd best go get packed.

Bye for now.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A Question of Sport

Well, not really. But a question nonetheless. I've been wondering from a blokey point of view who gives the best advice when it comes to dating the fairer sex; women or blokes with a lot of experience in that area?

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, though (surprising as it may seem) I'm not in desperate need of any actual advice at the moment.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Peace out man, it's like, yeah

Thanks to Anthropax, I ended up taking one of these bizarre personality tests, and apparently I'm a Hippie. Worryingly, some of the detailed analysis is probably not especially inaccurate - though I've never smoked anything in my life, let alone pot.

I include the results for your viewing pleasure.

Hippie
You are 42% Rational, 85% Extroverted, 14% Brutal, and 14% Arrogant.

You are the Hippie! Characterized by a strong sense of extroversion,
irrationality, gentleness, and humility, you no doubt frolic through
fields preaching peace and love to all! You are probably either very
spiritual or needlessly paranoid about "the man", like most hippies, as
a result of your focus on intuition and feelings over cold, brutal
logic. You are also very, very social. And like any hippie, who would
have no qualms about hitchiking across the country just to meet some
interesting people, you too love to interact with others, even complete
strangers. Because we know most any hippie is peace-loving and humble,
it stands to reason that you, as well, are terribly gentle and humble,
almost to the point of revulsion. Your carefree attitude of peace and
harmony is probably very, very sickening to realists or cynics or
anyone who isn't a hippie, to tell the truth. In short, your
personality is defective because you are overly emotional, extroverted,
gentle, and humble--thus making you an annoying hippie. And you listen
to psychadelic rock and smoke a whole lot of pot. Okay, maybe not, but
I wouldn't be surprised if you did.



To put it less negatively:

1. You are more INTUITIVE than rational.

2. You are more EXTROVERTED than introverted.

3. You are more GENTLE than brutal.

4. You are more HUMBLE than arrogant.


Compatibility:


Your exact opposite is the Sociopath.


Other personalities you would probably get along with are the Hand-Raiser, the Televangelist, and the Robot.


If you scored near fifty percent for a certain trait (42%-58%), you
could very well go either way. For example, someone with 42%
Extroversion is slightly leaning towards being an introvert, but is
close enough to being an extrovert to be classified that way as well.
Below is a list of the other personality types so that you can
determine which other possible categories you may fill if you scored
near fifty percent for certain traits.


The other personality types:

The Emo Kid: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Starving Artist: Intuitive, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Bitch-Slap: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Brute: Intuitive, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hippie: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Televangelist: Intuitive, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Schoolyard Bully: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Class Clown: Intuitive, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Robot: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Haughty Intellectual: Rational, Introverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Spiteful Loner: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Sociopath: Rational, Introverted, Brutal, Arrogant.

The Hand-Raiser: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Humble.

The Braggart: Rational, Extroverted, Gentle, Arrogant.

The Capitalist Pig: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Humble.

The Smartass: Rational, Extroverted, Brutal, Arrogant.




My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
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You scored higher than 23% on Rationality
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You scored higher than 84% on Extroversion
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You scored higher than 7% on Brutality
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You scored higher than 5% on Arrogance
Link: The Personality Defect Test written by saint_gasoline on Ok Cupid