Saturday, December 29, 2007

What's your tipple?

As I kick back with a Bacardi & Coke I'm wondering what my choice of drink says about me. If nothing else, it probably confirms what a lot of people fear - namely that I'm unlikely ever to play rugby for England. I don't care, however, because I'm rather enjoying it.

I do find it quite amusing that there are stereotypes based on choice of drink; what's your tipple and what do you think it tells the rest of us?

I'm less amused, however, by the increasing number of calls by various "do good-ers" to increase the price of alcohol. Why should I pay for the lack of self control displayed by so many?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Buon Natale! (Christmas part two)

Another year on, and the presents are again wrapped and beneath the tree. The cards and decorations are hanging and looking festive. Dinner with the family is about to start, and my Christmas Message* has been written. So, it's time to wish you all a


HAPPY CHRISTMAS!



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*I've been in the Blogosphere for three years now, so it's becoming an annual thing. Like the Queen's.

Christmas (part one)


These words were uttered by Jesus Christ, who's birth I shall enjoy commemorating tomorrow. Although I'd imagine that few of you would doubt his actual existence, there are probably many who would simply pass him off as a 'nice man'.

Yet, once you examine the actual claims of Jesus and His eyewitness followers, there are really only three alternatives for who He really is - Jesus Christ was either a liar, a lunatic, or our Lord. So, as you doze in your armchair, glass in hand, and try and block out the sounds of the latest family row, you might want to give it some thought; especially since many of Jesus' outrageous claims aren't compatible with the nicey-nicey Universalist* model.

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*Universalism is the idea that all religions lead to the same God anyway. Basically.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

atheism at Christmas

A while back, Dave pointed me in the direction of this link, and I've been meaning to get around to responding for a while.

I thought that the general sentiment of the article was good, although Parmjit Dhanda's comments about "the importance being aware of the significance of Christianity" seemed at odds with the BBC News report at the time which focussed on how well known the Nativity is. I've not been able to find a link back to this article or the associated Have Your Say, but the bottom line is that a large proportion of the population do not seem to be clued up.

The amount of ignorance displayed in the Have Your Say pages was as usual fairly staggering. One chap seemed to imply that "Christianity is based on a lie because we all know that Jesus was not born on December 25th". Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but Christianity has never been based on the actual birthdate of Jesus. John 3:18 talks about people who believe in Jesus, not people who believe that he was born on the 25th of December.

Talking of ignorance, I found the BBC Ricky Gervais and Rowan Williams interview the other day. The full podcast can be found here and although I've not listened to it all yet, the trailer I heard implies that it would be well worth a listen. Ricky Gervais of course, is actually David Brent*, and Rowan Williams' voice is slightly comic but don't let that put you off. The reason I mention it here is that Ricky Gervais makes the remark that he doesn't believe in God because he's a scientist, which again, is ignorant. As a scientist myself, if there was proof that God did not exist I would not be a Christian. People need to remember that Atheism is just as much a faith as anything else.

And despite the positive comments in the first BBC Article linked above, there are, unfortunately, those who do aim to prevent religious expression in the name of "not causing offence". ThisBBC Article is equally worth reading.

Nonetheless, it is nice that Christians and non-Christians alike to enjoy celebrating at this time of year, and even if you don't believe, no-one should begrudge you enjoying yourself.


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*jester

return of the railway rant

For those of you who eagerly visit this corner of the Blogosphere in anticipation of another railway related rant your boat has come in again.

Yesterday, I was returning from work and on arrival at Horsham, the train did not divide as planned*. Instead, after a bit of bumping around, an abrupt announcement told us without apology or explanation that the whole train was going to go fast to Barnham without stopping at any intermediate stations and that those passengers requiring said stops should "leave the train immediately". So, a large number of passengers were then thrown out in to the freezing cold with a wait of more than half an hour for the next train. One wonders if Southern Railway actually cares at all about the people who pay to use their trains.

Although I can appreciate that it was not directly their fault, the general attitude of most of the Southern staff on the train and on the platform left a lot to be desired. Initially no-one offered any sort of apology or made any effort to help at all, and in some cases they were downright rude. It can’t be easy for them when faced with (understandably) irate passengers, but they didn’t exactly help the situation. Having been in Tesco's again earlier where one member of staff had answered my query with "Dunno" before ambling off, I'm starting to wonder what has happened to the concept of Customer Service in British society.** In my book, you might only be paid to dispatch trains or stack shelves, but you are still the public face of the company and I think that you do have a duty to help in whatever way you can. Besides, much as you might enjoy dispatching empty trains, who's going to pay you to do it?***

The excuse we eventually extracted**** from the Station Manager was that there was no conductor on board, which means that the train couldn't stop safely at stations with short platforms. This does make some sense, except for the fact that I'm fairly certain that one of the employees who threw us off the train in an insolent "not my problem" sort of way was in fact a conductor. Surely the nice people at Southern wouldn't lie to their passengers?

If you're a bit worried about me and want reassurance that I'm not alone in my rantings, or you get such a kick out of it that you crave more, then you might want to visit these sites for a bit of light reading.

http://www.trainfellows.blogspot.com/

Meanwhile, I'm grateful to the man who took the whole bundle of complaint forms from the Station Manager and actively handed them out to the shivering rows of passengers on the platform at Horsham. I will be sending mine off and hoping that the New Year dawns with yet more Rail Vouchers.
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*That in itself is annoying. I can see the reasons for it, but since the timetable change my journey has been 'enhanced' with a 10 minute wait at Horsham whilst someone faffs about joining and splitting trains.

** Despite comments like this, I am actually under 40.

*** The Department for Transport (DfT) of course. How could I forget?

****Like blood from a stone.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"are you on Dave's Facebook?"

So, I was in a posh London winebar. I happened to have a plate of chips in my possession and when I stood up to offer them around the (fit) birds flocked to me. The 'Aircraft Simulation' line worked like a charm and the evening flowed on well. But did I get her number? For some reason "are you on Dave's Facebook?" was the best I could muster. At least she is, I guess.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Metre High Club?

I couldn't help but notice yesterday that there is a condom machine in the Gentlemen's Conveniences on the Shop Floor at my place of employment.

It's left me wondering what amongst the flurry of engineers and partially constructed flight simulators would put someone in the right frame of mind and situation to have need of it. And as realistic as the sims can be, they can't be used for entry to the Mile High Club.

Admittedly I've not been looking for one, but it's also occurred to me that I've not spotted similar vending machines elsewhere in the building. I hope someone's not trying to say something about the difference between the engineers downstairs and the computer geeks who spend more time at a desk upstairs.

Defined by user

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Uncool

Uncool.

Adj. "Describes the man who, at the end of an evening in the pub with a member of the opposite sex, pays a visit to the Gents' and sees in the mirror that his shirt is just poking through the top of his zip. It is unlikely that he will have any idea of the length of time for which this was the state of affairs."

Disaster.

Defined by user

Monday, December 03, 2007

what do people do all day?*

Like it or lump it, what you profess to do says a lot about you; it's widely accepted, for example, that accountancy is synonymous with dull.

When I was studying physics, admitting to it was social suicide. It didn't take me long to realise that in normal (i.e. non-physics) company, saying that I was a physicist** was guaranteed to stop the conversation.

Perhaps surprisingly, being an applied mathematician in Bath didn't have quite the same effect, though I suspect that this was because everyone else in Bath also studies maths and I was therefore lulled in to a false sense of security. The response I generally got was "oh, another one then" followed by a roll of the eyes. At least the conversation continued normally***.

But now, it's all come good. When someone asks me what I do, I sometimes even enjoy responding with "Aircraft Simulation", As lines go it's not a bad one**** and if that doesn't clinch me the crown of most eligible bachelor in the village, I don't know what will.


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*My favourite book as a child, by Richard Scarry, had this title.

**which I was, apparently.

***Unless I was talking to someone who was socially inept.

****Surely it's up there with "is your dad a baker? Because you have nice baps" and "sit on my lap and we'll see what comes up".

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Free As A Bird?

The title of The Beatles song I have just been listening to seems an appropriate heading for my reflection on what has been quite a week as far as the issue of Free Speech is concerned.

Last Monday saw a very controversial forum at The Oxford Union on this very issue, with Nick Griffin and David Irving. 18 months ago I lived next door to the Union and if I still did I'd have been able to give you a live and exclusive account of the goings-on (and to nail my colours to the mast, yes I probably would also have attempted to attend the forum myself). As it happened however, any account I could have written would have just been lost in a sea of high profile news coverage, such was the scale of the protest.

We all know that I harbour a lot of contempt for protesters on the whole, and I am not about to make exceptions here. Although the event clearly attracted generic protesters from further afield than within a mile of Carfax (the BBC News page spoke of someone who'd come all the way from a university in Essex. *cough* waster *cough*), I was most amused by this quip I found just now in The Scotsman:

"You get a better class of political protester at Oxford University. Last week, when students broke into an Oxford Union debate to protest at the presence of the British National Party leader and a notorious Holocaust denier, one of the intruders commandeered a piano and shouted a question to the packed hall: "Wagner, perhaps?""

Joking aside, the whole article is certainly worth a read. I liked the point that
"
If the Oxford University is indeed the apex of intellect it professes to be, then where better to forensically dismantle some bampot fascist ideas and show them up as historically illiterate, morally indefensible and politically naive?".

Certainly the representatives from the Union made it quite clear that by giving Griffin and Irving a platform they weren't endorsing what they had to say. In fact, over the years the Union has hosted many controversial debates and speaker events, and any assumption that hosting or attending such an event signifies any sort of agreement with the opinions being put forth is nothing short of absurd. I think that I've said it before, but I find it insulting that some people don't trust the rest of us to be able to make up our own minds, and I find this apparently 'enlightened' group of people to be horribly arrogant.

As has been noted elsewhere, there is a certain irony to the fact that by fighting against free speech the protesters are as facist and undemocratic as that which they are protesting against. It's probably fair to say that many of them would have no hesitation in self-righteoussly proclaiming themselves as tolerant, and yet...*

It's clear that there are procedures in place to deal with people who cause trouble by what they say - just look at the fact that Irving spent time in jail for his denial of the Holocaust. With that in mind, if people choose to land themselves in hot water by what they say that should be their problem, but until they've said it we are in no position to judge.

In a slightly different manner, free speech has reared its ugly head again towards the end of the week, with Gillian Gibbons' imprisonment for the name she gave a teddy-bear. It's interesting to note that a lot of the comments on the BBC News page revolve around the opinion that it's "their country and she should obey their laws", something which in principle I very much agree with. (Though I wish we could stick to it here, because I'm fed up with "not being able to proclaim my faith" or silly things like "not being able to display an England flag" for fear of offending those who have moved here in recent years). What interests me, however is the fact that it has all arisen out of a law to prevent incitement to religious hatred. Firstly, as a casual observer, it seems that there is more hatred emanating from the "religious" (some of whom have been calling for Ms Gibbons' execution) than there was against them (it seems to have been a genuine, if a little ignorant, mistake, and nothing more). What is acceptable to say, and not acceptable to say in this instance seems to me to be quite bizarre. Secondly, as was noted in Friday's Metro, we have recently had 'religious hatred' laws introduced in this country. Let's hope that the slope is not too slippery...

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*The "Henry Ford" school of tolerance: You can have any view you like, so long as it's mine.