Thursday, November 23, 2006

Time for some more perspective

I see that University Christian Unions have made an appearance in the media in recent days, for reasons largely centred around exclusivity and the attitude of the Univeristy Student Unions.

The Cartoon Church contains some interesting comment on the matter, and thie article in The Times is well worth a read.

I particularly like this paragraph:

'It is bad enough that university students are anxious to censor others and deny them access to proper debate. That is to undermine the very nature of a university, a place where people can think and discuss the unthinkable.

What is worse is that the repression of Christian groups is the height of hypocrisy. For the most unacceptable of what many Christian students believe is pretty much what many Muslims believe, only Muslims go much further. There are plenty of Muslim students, not least among the activists that so alarm the government that it is asking university authorities to spy on them, who believe not just that homosexuality is an abomination but also that women and infidels are inferior. Yet can anyone imagine that any student association would suspend a Muslim group for its homophobia, exclusivity, discrimination against women and infidels.'

The comments at the bottom of the article also make interesting reading. Never being one to keep my opinion to myself I wish to make some observations about such comments as this one from Jordan Gray in Coventry.

He says:

'Also, since this is a current talking point on the internet, can I just expose what I consider to be a disingenuous attitude: "I personally believe that sex outside of marriage is not the way that God intended us to live - whether this is homosexual or heterosexual sex is immaterial." That's permissible—you and any other Christian can believe and voice whatever beliefs you wish. If, however, your society wished to lead a course which expressed these beliefs, or endorse such a course, those leading it would also need to support some provision for homosexuals to marry members of the same sex. Otherwise, they are saying that there is no acceptable recourse for the expression of homosexual attraction, which is correctly (if starkly) described as discriminating against homosexuals. If a society (Christian, Muslim or otherwise) believes it cannot, in good conscience, agree to this, the only honest thing to do is to leave the SU or openly petition them to provide a platform for homophobia.'

He seems to be making the assumption that if such a course is run then people must be forced to attend it, and agree with everything it teaches. This does not seem reasonable to me. On the basis that there are plenty of courses on offer in all walks of life and voicing all sorts of opinions, to demand that Christians (or Muslims) cease to offer their courses because some people disagree with their viewpoint is a breach of freedom of speech. One could even go so far to say that to be prevented from voicing an opinion is a breach of human rights, and I am sure that Mr Gray would be one of the first to condemn such a thing if the subject matter were not 'religious'.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Infamous in my home town

Originally uploaded by JP1984.

Thanks to Davey for unearthing this in the Newbury Weekly News

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mandriva Nil Ubuntu 1

Here's one for all you geeks out there.

I wanted to log-in remotely to the Linux computers in the office, and decided that I would try the Mandriva Linux Live CD which came with a computer magazine.

In one sense, it did exactly as it said on the tin - it ran Linux without any installation. However it would not use my wireless card (the files needed were not included in the free version, something which I think goes against the grain of OpenSource software). I could download them, but having found a wired network connection I was unable to save the files (it hadn't mounted my hard-disk).

I then tried installing the distribution, but having partitioned my hard-disk and made a fuss of copying files across it installed nothing in the way of a bootloader. So there was no way of actually running my shiny new Linux.

I then decided to download Ubuntu. Not only did it run successfully from the CD, identifying my wireless card and all, but when I opted to install it it turned out to be the easiest and quickest installation of an OS I've ever actually done. Everything works, and it's not messed up Windows either.

The only mystery is that it did not need my encryption key to log on to the wireless network; the only explanation I can think of is that one of my neighbours has an unencrypted network and I was inadvertantly piggy-backing it.

I said that this post was for the computer geeks, so don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

For once I want to be the car crash

...not always just the traffic jam.

After a largely pointless non-story, I feel the need to follow up the last post by talking about my day yesterday. It was great.

After a short but sweet visit to the East End I went to meet another friend in the centre of England's greatest city. We visited a mutual friend in Waterstones and didn't understand what epicurious* meant. We headed to the Strand, via Whitehall and the legendary Horseguard in search of a Starbucks** and what turned out to be a rather good Gingerbread Latte. We went to South Bank, and enjoyed the stunning views of the London skyline, the clear sky and the autumn colours. We saw a stack of unbelievably cheesy (and overpriced) postcards, some lads drumming effectively on some upturned buckets and baulked at the queue for the slides in the Tate Modern (another time, methinks...). We saw Southwark Cathedral and passed the London Dungeon. We had lunch by the river and bought some random fruit*** in the Borough Market. Before heading on for a much needed cuppa we took in the view to Tower Bridge and saw a shop with the slogan "cheese never sleeps".

And if that wasn't enough excitement, I bought myself an Oyster Card.


*Epicurism, apparently, is the "pursuit of pleasure" or "fastidiousness in luxury".

**You'd never think one would have to look far for a Starbucks, let alone admit to searching for one. The only possible consolation (apart from the fact that the drink was good) is that we ended up in the one I believe Danny Wallace mentions in his book.

***A custard apple, which we had to ask how to eat (but was nice nonetheless) and some passionftuit.

(signal) Failure

It was all going so well. I'd arrived in Paddington (my favourite gateway to London) on time. Despite some confusing signs, I'd not taken long to get the Hammersmith & City line, and I didn't have to wait long for a train.

Although the train terminated at Whitechapel, this was perfect. Coincidentally, my friends from Bath who were attempting to break the record for visiting all of the Underground stations in the fastest time were also headed for Whitechapel. I was on course not only to be on time to visit my friends in the East End, but also to say hi to the attempted record breakers as well. As I passed through Farringdon, a text from the guys from Bath confirmed that our paths would indeed cross...and then the train ground to a halt.

Eventually, citing "signal failure" the train was terminated at Moorgate. Nothing was heading east and I had to head to the Northern line and change. The platform was rammed and as I waited seven whole minutes for my train I felt the whole plan crumbling.

We could have instead coincided at Bank/Monument but didn't. I was late arriving in the East End.

Thankfully a man on the District Line brightened up everyone's day by boarding the tube carrying a massive plant. I'm not sure what it was; breaking with tradition it had black leaves rather than green ones, and being straggly and prickly, the guy needed to warn people to "mind their eyes". Maybe you had to be there but it was quite comical.

My friends did not, as far as I can tell, break the record but they did raise a lot of money for Children in Need.

I had a great evening with my friends in the Eat End, so all's well that ends well.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The best things always come in pairs

Forming an inadvertant trend, I am once again pleased to be able to treat you to two posts in one day.

I was reading the Metro on the bus this morning, and was amused by the article about the unemployed bloke who, having already fathered 15 children has two more on the way. Apparently he has just got both his wife and his girlfriend pregnant and is "annoyed with himself" for this. Charming.

Bizarrely he is said to live with both women. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't have thought that "unemplyed" and "father of 15" are the things which appeal most to women, and yet this guy seems to be holding down not one, but two relationships, and under the same roof at that.

Which poultry or waterfowl are you?

Someone has turned up in our office with a poster of Poultry and Waterfowl. Apparently if I had to be one of the birds on the poster I would be the "Old English Gamefowl". I am not displeased with that decision.

Since living in Bath I have noticed a large number of Nissan Figaros about the place. I was under the impression that this cult Japanese import was quite rare, so it must be that everyone who has bought one lives in BaNES. Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that Danny Wallace, who comes from Bath, bought one accidentally once (read his book Yes Man, it's great). Talking of cars-which in case you thought I was talking about kettles or something, I am-I've also noticed a large number of classic VW Campervans about the place. I want one, despite the fact that I can't drive, and will accept applications from those who wish to chauffeur me around in one. As a word of warning, although I think the campervan is cool, the topless guy I saw driving one was not.

Also talking of cars, someone down my road has a Citroen CX. Hailing from the late 80s it was obviously well ahead of its time and I am now a big fan. Again, I will accept applications from potential chauffeurs.

Friday, November 10, 2006

In Other Britain's Green And Pleasant Land

I am currently filling in a form, and it has one of these irritating 'ethnic origin' sections.

Under "white" I can be Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Other British or Other White Background.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

"The world is full of fools, take wisdom to the wise"

Look at this - two posts in one day. Cashback!

I've seen lots of strange people in the last 24hours, this time beyond the boundaries of the Maths Department.

Firstly I was in 'Spoons last night enjoying a much needed drink, and the table we occupied was adjacent to one populated entirely by people dressed up as Smurfs. They'd painted their skin blue and everything. I think that perhaps our table was previously unoccupied for a reason.

Then, this morning I needed some bread and decided to sample the produce of my local baker. As I was leaving, warm fresh loaf in hand, I was passed by a guy who went "oooh bread" in a really high-pitched voice.

I didn't pay him enough attention to work out if he was the same guy that I passed later on along the river. This time the strange voice was mocking another bloke who was walking on the concrete blocks right on the very edge of the bank. To be fair, he had a point...

Finally, as I arrived on campus I found that it was populated by people with bright orange helium filled balloons displaying the word 'banter'.

Incidentally, the bread I bought this morning is lush.

There is a bonus point for anyone who can name the artist and title of the song from which I took the title for this post.

Let's talk about trains and people from Kazakhstan

I've not blogged for a while - blame the intense nature of my course. It's not funny when having been one of those in the office beyond midnight finishing one assignment the next one is handed out without prior warning the following day. C'est la Vie, I guess. At least I enjoy what I do, although it would be nice if there was more to my life than maths.

Anyway, I promised you trains and people from Kazakhstan, so without further ado let's move on to my first railway rant since I've been in Bath. When I was in Oxford, a return to London was about £12, and a return to Bath was £7. So why is it that to go directly from Bath to London (and back) costs 50% more than Bath - Oxford - Oxford - London (and back)? Whatever the Department for Transport says, there is no logic or consistency to that whatsoever, and I am left mourning the fact that I currently can't justifably afford £30 to visit London. Grrrrrrrr.

Moving on, there are no prizes for guessing that I might be about to mention Borat. Alas I haven't seen the movie yet (it was sold out last night) but having seen the trailers I am very much looking forward to it. I do feel that some of the coverage of this much hyped film is blogworthy however. Someone on the BBC News page this morning used the word 'mockumentary' which I thought was great (and presumably extremely descriptive). My favourite though has to be the news item I saw the other day about the film, in which some Kazakhstanis were given the opportunity to air their views. I couldn't help but smile when the rather plummy English translation came across as "he's talking bull manure".

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bath, Baby!

Since the beginning of this week I've come across some very odd people wandering the corridors of the Maths department. (Don't make some wise-crack about all mathmos being odd, and let me instead get on with telling my story).

Firstly there was the short guy with curly hair, big glasses and a handle-bar moustache. I think he might have been foreign, though he may just have a habit of looking bemused when someone holds a door open for him.

Then there was the bloke who looked just like Mini-Me from Austin Powers - I kid you not.

Alongside him the bloke in the bright purple jumper looked somewhat normal, so we'll gloss over him and move on to my final "character" of the week, who was tall, bald and had the coldest, hardest stare I've come across for a while. I could almost feel myself shrinking up against the wall as he passed. He was probably one of the invading Russians, and I thought it best not to mess with him.

Today is Weird Hat Wednesday, and I am loving it.

Road to Rouen (Track 7)

I was in the queue for the cashpoint behind "Hugo" yesterday. I don't think he knew who I was, though I know it was him because he had his name written across the back of his top. I learned that he was behind some bulk emails I have been receiving, which perhaps takes the mickey a little (but not as much as the fact that learning about "Dave" cost a phenomenal £7).