25 February 2009

Crushed by Blogger!

Crushed by Ingsoc is one of the blogs I like to read, but for the last couple of weeks has been inaccessible, and every time I go there I see:

This blog is under review due to possible Blogger Terms of Service violations and is open to authors only


Apparently the problem was caused by a bot, and all that is needed is for some human to take notice and fix the problem, but there seems to be a shortage of humans at Google who can do this.

But you can still see the blog's community page on MyBlogLog, and you can go to Crushed's page on MyBlogLog and leave a message of support.

It's been quite long enough now -- perhaps it's time to make the move to Wordpress.

24 February 2009

John Fenton's advice to canons

John Fenton, who died recently, was for a long time a Canon at Christ Church, Oxford, and as a result of long experience drew up the following advice for canons.

If you find it hard to read, click on the image to enlarge it.

Give a man a fish

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."

So runs a trite cliche that is often repeated, usually by people who favour capitalism, and yet it overlooks one of the fundamental realities of the capitalist system: most of the fish ponds have signs saying "Private property: no fishing".

And that seems to be becoming true of sea fisheries as well.

ENVIRONMENT: Fighting for the Right to Fish:
Subsistence fishers were hoping that a new government policy, the Draft Policy for the Allocation and Management of Medium-Term Subsistence Fishing Rights, would address their plight.

A task team representing subsistence fishers, which was appointed by South African environmental minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk in 2007, were involved in developing the policy. But the draft policy released in December 2008 has been rejected by the task team.

The deal breaker was that the policy says allocation of fishing rights to subsistence fishers is a challenge in that marine resources have already been allocated to commercial fisheries.

In this case, government and big business have colluded once again to deprive people of a livelihood.

But perhaps the story can make us think twice about glibly trotting out the slogan about "Give a man a fish..." It's rarely that simple.

23 February 2009

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Cows Come Home Shock Horror

Bishop Alan writes of a dairy farm in his diocese where the farmers have begun doing their own marketing, selling dairy products locally rather than to the big supermarket chains.
Bishop Alan’s Blog: Cows Come Home Shock Horror:
The grim fact is that UK supermarkets and banks have beggared thousands of English dairy farms into extinction over the past ten years. Like all world food prices ours are rising now, but fuel, energy and feed costs are soaring. There may be one or two corn barons in East Anglia, but, as with other media lost causes, beware stereotypes about farmers.

And of course the same thing has been happening in South Africa as well, for many years.

The ANC government, with its Thatcherist neoliberal policies, disolved most of the the agricultural control boards and did away with that particular bureaucratisation of agriculture, but I'm not sure that things are any better.

I remember 25 years or so ago visiting a farmer in the Babanango district. The EU bureaucratic regulations required that all all cattle slaughtered for sale in the UK must be done at a few central and controlled slaughter houses, which killed off the local butchers. The farmer could not eat meat from his own beef herd. Instead of taking a beast to the local butcher for slaughter, it had to be taken to the shambles at Cato Ridge, more than 250 km away, and the farmer would then have to drive to the nearest town (30 km away) to buy the meat from the supermarket.

20 February 2009

Niehaus: journos twist the knife -- and the facts

When journos get the knife in, they really twist it (and the facts), and stab again and again.

Consider this report about the former ANC spokesman

News - South Africa: Niehaus has no degree: report:
Former ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus does not have a doctor's degree in theology as claimed, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

According to Beeld newspaper, Niehaus did not get a doctor's degree in theology from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, as he had claimed. This was during his stint as South Africa's ambassador in Den Haag.

Note that the body of the story says that he didn't have a doctors degree from Utrecht, but the headline suggests that that he has no degree at all, which seems to be a deliberate attempt to mislead.

Now perhaps that is because there's a general election coming up, and the media believe that all's fair in love, war and politics. If your political opponent is down, kick, kick and kick again. If he's done one thing wrong, make it look as though he's done everything wrong, and nothing right.

Max du Preez, a well-known journalist, goes even further, and is more specific: "He lied about having a degree and a doctorate... he apparently only has a matric certificate behind his name" (Pretoria News, 19 Feb 2009).

Now when Carl Niehaus was released from prison he visited the Missiology Department at Unisa (on 26 March 1991) and all the department staff gathered in David Bosch's office to meet him. He was a student in the department, and was one of the very few to have been allowed to study for a Masters degree in prison. Willem Saayman, his supervisor, described the hoops he had to jump through to deal with all the red tape in order to visit him in prison to discuss his studies. I don't know if Carl Niehaus was ever awarded the Masters degree, summa cum laude or not, but he would certainly not have been allowed to register for such a degree at all if he had "no degree" as the media are now claiming.

On the Emerging Africa blog there is a discussion on whether the important questions today are about authority, identity, morality or something else. And I would say that at this point in our history, with a general election coming up, and all sorts of stories circulating about corruption among politicians, that morality probably tops the list. I'm as disturbed as some journalists that people in the ANC seem not only to support people who have been involved in corruption, but also to approve of their behaviour (the demonstrations in support of Tony Yengeni are a case in point). Going to jail for fighting for truth and justice is one thing, going to jail for fraud and corruption is another.

But morality is also an issue for journalists. Carl Niehaus may have lied about some of his past achievements, but some journalists have also apparently lied about Carl Niehaus.

Greed, which used to be regarded as one of the seven deadly sins, is now regarded as a virtue by many of our political leaders, and that makes morality a hot issue.

And for those of us who are neither politicians nor the journalists who write about them, St Paul's advice applies, "let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall" (I Cor 10:12). In ten days Great Lent begins, and we pray the prayer of St Ephraim:

O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages.

19 February 2009

Maori rugby too racial for South Africa?

Maori rugby too racial for South Africa?:
In one of rugby's great ironies, the proposed match between New Zealand Maori and the Springboks in June could be canned because of the racial composition of the Kiwi side.

The match, mooted to be played in Soweto as one of a couple of warmup clashes for the Boks before their series against the British and Irish Lions, is now in doubt because of logistical issues, primary of which is South African objections to the 'racial' selection of the Maori side.

The Boks are due to meet Namibia in Windhoek in late May, but wanted to add the much tougher fixture against the Maori lineup in June as a final shakedown.

The irony is more delicious than they can imagine.

Back in the bad old days of apartheid the South African government banned a New Zealand rugby team from touring South Africa because it included Maoris. They said that constituted "outside interference in our domestic affairs".

At the time I was a student in Pietermaritzburg, and as white elections were impending Nusas (the National Union of South African Students) organised a "Reality Week" in which spokesmen for the various political parties could put their own viewpoints. The National Party was represented by a provincial councillor called Klopper, and it took the form of a debate with a representative of the Liberal Party, John McQuarrie, who was a member of the education faculty at the university. All the rugby fans were there in force to heckle.

To save typing, I simply reproduce an extract from my diary at the time:

16 September 1965

I went up to the Nat-Lib debate. The Main Science Lecture Theatre was packed pretty full, and I found myself sitting on the right-hand side behind four young fascists. Macquarrie spoke first and started with education, which was his own field. He dissected Bantu Education, and all the developments that had taken place since the government came to power, and especially over the last five years. He then went on to other fields, and did the same, quoting figures in evidence. He is a rather dour old Scot, and spoke drily and quietly, without any fuss, and was politely rather than thunderously applauded. He did not make any emotional appeals at all, just
facts and figures.

Then came Klopper, the member of the Provincial council. His speech was vague in the extreme, just the opposite of McQuarrie, who was concise and to the point. He gave nothing substantial to support his argument, but just gave a glowing picture of the wonderful utopia just around the corner. He made several appeals to patriotism. Every time he said something particularly hairy the five little fascists in front clapped dutifully like Pavlov's dog salivating when the bell rings. He said something about Mr Wilson learning his lesson at last, and that the Britishers were determined to keep their racial blood pure, which sounded just like something out of
"Mein Kampf", and Pavlov's puppies burst into clapping and cheering.

After Kloppers's speech came question time, and Macquarrie was virtually ignored -- most of what he had had to say was virtually indisputable, but Klopper had put his foot in it many times, and he was subjected to a barrage of questions. Several people asked why people were banned without trial, among them some students
generally considered right-wing and conservative, like Howie Miller, who had had a far-right manifesto for the SRC election.

Klopper always ended up by saying, when pressed by each successive questioner on this subject, "The Minister in his wisdom sees fit", and eventually Ray Rutherford-Smith added "... in his infinite wisdom." When some people questioned the wisdom of the Minister, Klopper assured us that he was an "honourable man", and an "upright Christian" -- yet he won't let Elliot Mngadi or Dennis Brutus attend church services.

Colin Webb asked him about two things he had said in the course of his speech. One was that all races are equal in the eyes of the government, and the other was that he himself had helped personally with cases of many people who had done themselves the injustice of applying to be classified as coloured ("you pay for that," a coloured in the audience has shouted when he said it). Colin Webb asked him why, if all races were equal, it should be an "injustice" to be classified as coloured. "But you don't understand," exclaimed Klopper, "they did themselves the injustice, they asked to be classified as coloured." Three times Colin Webb tried to explain to Klopper what he was getting at -- that if all races are equal, then there would be no injustice in being classified as coloured, but Klopper could not see it.

Then Hilton Kobus asked why the Maoris were banned from playing rugby. That, according to Klopper, was New Zealand's fault. "They called them Maoris, not us. If they called them white we'd play them tomorrow" and went on to explain a fantastic biological theory that when the white genes rise above 75% there is a corresponding
rise in intelligence, and so Martin Luther King was a white man, because he is too clever to be a kaffir. To judge from Klopper's efforts tonight, he must, according to his own theory, be a black man. In his summing up he said he was glad to see that people had only questioned him about little things, which showed that they must be satisfied with government policy in the broad front.

McQuarrie ended his summing up by asking whether the gold mines belonged to the black people or to the white people. If to the white people, did they belong to the English or the Afrikaans speaking? And then pointed out the futility of trying to divide things up in this way, seeing that the land belonged to all the people in it. "The earth is the Lord's," he quoted.

After the meeting we had a postmortem on the grass outside. All agreed that Klopper had made a poor showing, though one had to admit his courage in coming along. It was more than the United Party had. They had been booked to debate with the Progressives, to get all four parties on the platform, but consistently refused, but
consistently refused, Klopper had wavered, first saying that he wouldn't come if the meeting was held under the auspices of Nusas, and then wanted guarantees that there would be an all-white audience (in the event the audience wasn't all white) but he came none the less. Also, he kept his temper throughout the tough questioning he received. And at the end the fascists were no longer clapping him.

So now I wonder -- if the New Zealand government decided to call the Maoris white, would we still play them tomorrow?

Tied semifinals in cricket competition

There was rather remarkable ending to the semifinals of domestic 20/20 cricket competition. The KZN Dolphins were playing the Western Cape Cobras, and the semifinals were the best of three. I had gone to bed, and Val was watching -- I don't regard the 20/20 as proper cricket.

The Dolphins were faring rather badly, and Val yelled when someone scored a six off the final ball to tie the scores at 148. The semifinal was three matches, and each team had won one and lost one, and now they had tied the third. And the same thing happened with the other semifinal, where the Warriors and the Eagles were tied on 97, and so each semifinal had to be decided on a power over with one bowler and three batsmen, a bit like a penalty shootout in football, but the chances of a tie in the best of three cricket matches are considerably more remote than in football. Sad to say, the Dolphins lost.

18 February 2009

Darkies discuss darkie English on Facebook

A friend of mine drew my attention to a Facebook discussion where darkies discuss darkie English.

Some terms they discussed there I was familiar with, others not.

One of the interesting ones was "at least", meaning "not so bad", and one person mentioned getting quite annoyed when it was used in other senses, such as in news reports about a road accident that say "At least 10 people were killed".

What no one mentioned, though, at least (hmmm) so far, was the use of "at least" on its own.

"How are you?"
"At least".

In that context "at least" means "Can't complain".

And no one seems to have discussed taxi terms like "short right", which I think, though I'm not absolutely sure, means "stop where the next road turns off to the right".

There was some discussion of "cold drink", but no one seemed to mention that when used by darkie traffic cops it means "Make it worth my while not to give you a ticket."

There are some expressions in darkie English that have spread to the general population, and have become part of general South African English. One of these is "Eish!", or is it "Aish!" or "Aysh!" which means "That's painful", often uttered as an expression of sympathy.

Another, which hasn't fully caught on yet, perhaps because it is excessively wordy, is "next of next week". A native speaker would say "Friday week", as in "I'll come to see you Friday week", which means "I'll come to see you a week from next Friday", whereas in darkie English it is "I'll come to see you Friday next of next week".

And then there is "sharp", meaning "good". And "sharp sharp", meaning very good. That one seems to be spreading into general South African English as well.

16 February 2009

Hackosphere: The Web is not ready for Chrome yet!

At last, a good reason not to try Chrome.

Hackosphere: The Web is not ready for Chrome yet!:
It is an understatement to call Chrome as a browser. It is a mini operating system for running Web applications. So far, most of the Web applications have been running on the server side and used the browser only for display. Recently, there has been a push towards Rich Internet Applications (RIA) that use your browser's advanced functionalities such as Flash, Javascript etc to deliver desktop application-like complex feature set. Zoho and Google docs are examples of popular Office applications that run in your browser. This trend has just started and is growing.
Hat-tip to Fencing bear at prayer.

Like many other people I've read about the Chrome web browser for Google, and have wondered if I should try it. Is it any faster than other browsers, any simpler, any more efficient?

And this article explains it better than anything else -- the push towards Rich Internet Applications.

But it misses out the most important thing: the web is not ready for Rich Internet Applications because of bandwidth caps. There is already far too much Flash and Javascript stuff around.

I've installed the Noscript add-on to Firefox to block Javascript applications like streaming video, podcasts and the like, because they are such bandwidth hogs, and all this "rich content" costs money to download.

It's a sort of electronic verbosity, like HTML in e-mail. People who never use one word where four will do love to clothe the most trivial statements with fancy fonts in different colours, animated smiley faces and the like, so that one gets the original message, and then the HTML version that is 10 times as long (and I have my mail reader set to only show the plain text anyway, so I never see the fancy stuff).

If the content was really enhanced by all these bells and whistles it might be OK, but most of it is trivial.

So if the main feature of Chrome is that it does more of what I'm already trying to stop Firefox doing, thanks but no thanks.

Until bandwidth caps are removed, the web is not ready for Rich Internet Applications, and therefore not ready for Chrome.

15 February 2009

Woman claims to be St. Mary, out from monastery � Addis Journal

Woman claims to be St. Mary, out from monastery -- Addis Journal:
A woman who claims to be St. Mary reincarnated was thrown out of Wocnhi Monastery in Western Shoa.

Head of the local Holy Synod, Abba Haile Girorgis Terfe told Sima Tsidqe, the bimonthly official Ethiopian Orthodox Church newspaper, that the unnamed woman has been disseminating heresies in Addis Ababa and other towns before moving to Wonchi St. Kirkos Monastery, near Ambo two years ago, where she established her own sect and made claims like, “My mother having been resurrected was taken up to Heaven. I am St. Mary reincarnated. I will give birth to Christ soon.”

Hat-tip to Ndesanjo Macha.

Worship al fresco

We arrived at Zakhele School in Mamelodi this morning for the Hours and Readers Service. The burglar alarm was going off in the school media centre, so Val phoned the security company, but they said the client had been suspended. The classroom we usually use was locked, so we found a desk, propped up the ikons against a tree, and had our service there, to the intermittent accompaniment of the burglar alarm, the shouting Zionist man who usually has the classroom next to ours (theirs was open) and the neopentecostal amplifier at the other end of the school yard.

On the way home afterwards we noticed blooming election posters, now that the date of the general election has been announced, mostly ANC and Democratic Alliance at this stage. I've heard that there are 114 parties contesting the election this time, so no one can say we don't have a choice. One result is certain, a politician weill be elected.

13 February 2009

How the recession will affect the motor industry

How the recession will affect the motor industry.

First the oil price soared to over $US 130 a barrel. Then people stopped buying big cars. Then they stopped buying smaller cars. Then the motor manufacturers started laying off workers and getting bail outs. Then the steel industry began feeling the pinch. Hope the oil speculators are happy.

How will it affect Jeremy Clarkson?


Hat-tip to Posh Totty -- and there's more where that came from.

12 February 2009

Twittersheep - who's stalking whom?

I tried Twittersheep, which gathers information from the bios of one's followers and extracts a cloud of keywords. The biggest key words were Christian, Church, Orthodoxy and Love.

That's OK.

The key words I dread seeing are Marketing and Entrepreneurship.

When I see them written large in tag clouds, my interest flags. When I see them as tags in blogs in MyBlogLog, I know I'm going to find it boring. But most of the entrepreneurs and marketing geeks have stopped blogging and gone Twittering. And they are the people who like following (or is it stalking) other people and collecting more followers than anyone else.

When my son graduated from Pretoria Technikon (now called the Tshwane University of Technology, or something like that) he was a bit reluctant that we should go to the graduation ceremony. Afterwards it was obvious why -- he found it too cringeworthy and embarrassing.

The vice-chancellor (or his stand-in) made a speech in which he proudly announced that the Pretoria Technikon was the first tertiary educational institution in the world to include the word "entrepreneurship" in its mission statement, and at the end the lights dimmed, and there were spotlights on the new graduates as they all recited the Entrepreneurs Creed in unison. It was the essence of kitsch.

But as the global recession deepens, and the great god Entrepreneurship turns out to have feet of clay, I wonder if they will still be reciting it now.

11 February 2009

What's up with Amatomu?

The Amatomo lists of popular blogs seem to have got really screwed up.

Consider this:

Fastest climbing blogs (overall)
Memoirs of a Self-Confessed Slut (+1453)
by memoirs-of-a-self-confessed-slut
The Spear Does Arabia (+1401)
by The Spear
Entropy (+1401)
by docmoo
Contact Online (+1370)
by David MacGregor
Travis Noakes (+1250)
by Travis

Contact Online has always been somewhere in the top 20 blogs in the religion section, until about a week ago, when it dropped right out of sight, and far from jumping up 1370 places, this evening it hit rock bottom:

65Muslim Revolution
Proudly Muslim Blogger
| by Forwarders
A space to share and shape ideas and theology about what the next church should look like. A South African contribution to the emerging church conversation.
| by Andries Louw
67 Contact Online
An Anglican News and Commentary site from South Africa
| by David MacGregor

And the nextchurch one surely doesn't belong down there either.

Hotmail hacked?

A couple of days ago I got an e-mail purporting to come from an acquaintance.

It read:

How are you doing?hope all is well with you and family,I am sorry I didn't inform you about my traveling to England for a Seminar..

I need a favor from you because I misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money,and other valuable things were kept I will like you to assist me with a soft loan urgently with the sum of $2,500 US Dollars to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.

I will appreciate whatever you can afford and i'll pay you back as soon as I return,Kindly let me know if you can be of help? so that I can send you the Details to use when sending the money through western union.

The style gave the game away, of course. It was written in the same style as most scam mail, and I could not imagine the real author writing like that.

What concerns me, however, is that it apparently came from the real address of the person concerned, and that the scammer was confident of being able to read any replies addressed to the real address.

My experience with Hotmail has been that it is very unreliable compared with, say, Gmail. Mail sent to my Hotmail account at hayesmstw@hotmail.com usually bounces, and I can no longer even get in to read it, so Hotmail is pretty useless.

But if it can be cracked like this it's even worse than I thought.

So if you have a Hotmail account, be careful, and if you receive e-mails from friends with Hotmail accounts, be extra careful, especially if they ask you for money.

10 February 2009

Oh dear, what can the matter be?

Crushed by Ingsoc, one of the more interesting and thoughtful blogs in the blogosphere, is no longer accessible.

nourishing obscurity: [blogger] an interesting organization writes:
Dear oh dear. Wonder if he'd like me as a character reference in his appeal to Blogger?

09 February 2009

Telkom internet weirdness

Lost my Telkom internet connection yesterday morning.

When we got back from church Val wanted to get into cricinfo to find out what had happened in the Oz-NZ match, and it was still down, so I reported it to Telkom.

And after explaining the problem the Telkom support guy said that he couldn't help me and that I must take it up with "the person in charge of your network".

Since I am the person in charge of my network, that's not exactly much use.

And the last time that happened -- when the Telkom technical support people said the problem was on our side, and that the ADSL router must be faulty, I took his advice at face value, went to Telkom in Hatfield and bought a new router. Brought it home, and found it had exactly the same problem as the existing one. So I took it back to Telkom (along with the original packaging) and demanded, and got a refund. So their technical support guy had wasted their time and money as well as mine.

So this time I didn't accept his advice at face value, but Val went into their web site when she got to work, and reported the problem again. This time Telkom did not get back to us, but in a couple of hours the problem was fixed.

Methinks that Telkom need an upgrade to their technical support.

08 February 2009

Antioch Abouna: Oh to Work for the Inland Revenue / IRS!

Oh, how tempted I am to nick this for my sermon today!

Antioch Abouna: Oh to Work for the Inland Revenue / IRS!:
Christianity is not for 'good' people. Good people crucified Jesus. Good people defend God's honour by force. Good people kill the souls others with their oppressive religious duties and expectations. Good people fast twice a week and give tithes of all that they possess …. and then look down on those who don't.

Read the whole thing -- it's better than most sermons you will hear.

06 February 2009

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

Saturday 7 February 2009 is visitors night at St Nicholas of Japan Orthodox Church in Brixton, Johannesburg. Here are some notes to help visitors know what is happening.

Vespers begins at 6:30 pm on Saturday, but is actually the first service of Sunday, so the themes of the hymns belong to the Sunday.

Sunday 8th February 2009

  • (Beginning of the Lent Triodion)
  • Sunday of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia
  • Afterfeast of the Meeting of Christ in the Temple

Tone 1 - this refers to the Octoechos, eight sets of melodies for hymns which are used in succession, so that after eight weeks we begin again at Tone 1. These are called the Resurrectional Tones, because every Sunday is a commemoration of Christ's resurrection. A hymn from the Octoechos, called a Troparion or Apolytikion, is repeated at every service. The Troparion of Tone 1 is:

When the stone had been sealed by the Jews;
While the soldiers were guarding Thy most pure Body
Thou didst rise on the third day, O Saviour,
Granting life to the world.
The powers of heaven therefore cried to Thee, O Giver of Life:
Glory to Thy Resurrection, O Christ!
Glory to Thy Kingdom!
Glory to Thy dispensation, O Thou who lovest mankind.

This Sunday marks a transition - the feast of the meeting of Christ in the Temple (Feb 2nd), forty days after his birth, looks back to Christmas. The Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee looks forward to Great Lent, which begins with Vespers on Sunday 1 March, which is known as the Vespers of Forgiveness, where all members of the congregation ask and offer forgiveness to each other.

You will notice that the prayer of the Publican, Lord have mercy, is very prominent in public Orthodox worship. In private prayer it is often expanded into what is sometimes called the "Jesus Prayer": Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The hymns of Vespers therefore follow these themes: First, the resurrection (which we remember every Sunday); Second, the Publican and Pharisee; Third, the Meeting of Christ in the Temple. Some of the saints of the day may also be commemorated:

  • Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates ("the General"), of Heraclea (319)
  • Prophet Zechariah (c 520BC)
  • St Sava (Sabbas) II, Archbishop of Serbia (1268-1269)
  • St Kegwe, Monmouthshire (6th)
  • St Oncho (Clonmore 600)
  • St Cuthman of Steyning, Hermit (8th)
  • St Elfleda, Abbess of Whitby (714)
  • Martyr Conitus of Alexandria (249)
  • SS. John and Basil of the Kiev Caves
From the Revised Julian (New Style) Calendar

OCA - Lives of all saints commemorated on this day: "Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

The sixth day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 8. The hymns of the day speak of Christ fulfilling the Law by being brought to the Temple, and of how the Theotokos 'reveals to the world its Creator, and the Giver of the Law.'"

OCA - Lives of all saints commemorated on this day: "Greatmartyr Theodore Stratelates 'the General'

The Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates came from the city of Euchaita in Asia Minor. He was endowed with many talents, and was handsome in appearance. For his charity God enlightened him with the knowledge of Christian truth. The bravery of the saintly soldier was revealed after he, with the help of God, killed a giant serpent living on a precipice in the outskirts of Euchaita. The serpent had devoured many people and animals, terrorizing the countryside. St Theodore armed himself with a sword and vanquished it, glorifying the name of Christ among the people"

The structure of Vespers

The core of Vespers goes back to the Old Testament: "When Aaron sets up the lamps in the evening, he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before the Lord from generation to generation" (Exodus 30:8).

So at the heart of Vespers are lights and incense. There is a procession of priests, deacons and other ministers with lighted lamps and incense, which comes from the north door of the sanctuary, and goes to the holy (central) door, and the altar and its lamps are censed by a deacon, while the congregation sings the hymn:

O gladsome light of the holy glory of the immortal Father: heavenly holy blessed Jesus Christ!
Now that we have come to the setting of the sun, and beheld the light of evening, we praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For meet it is at all times to praise Thee, Son of God and Giver of Life
Therefore all the world doth glorify Thee.

Then is sung:

The Lord is King! He is robed in majesty
For he has established the world so that it should never be moved!
Holiness befits Thy house, O Lord, for evermore!
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Followed by intercessions and led by a deacon, after which it is sung again, interspersed with hymns (Aposticha) on the themes of the day.

You can find more information on Vespers here:
If you don't have time to read them all, at least try to read the first one.

05 February 2009

Jalan Bukit Merah!

Jalan Bukit Merah
Jalan Bukit Merah
Amatomu! Amatomu!
Jalan Bukit Merah!

Sung to the tune of "Knees up, Mother Brown".

Jalan Bukit Merah is a road in Singapore, and the most recent posts in the Religion section of Amatomu would seem to belong there, or in Indonesia or Malaysia rather than William Nichol Drive or Nelson Mandela Drive, or Beyers Naude Drive or any other South African city.

Amatomu is speaking in tongues again.

Weasel words: liberal (and gun control)

Though I still describe myself as a political liberal (I was a card-carrying member of the Liberal Party when it existed), it is becoming increasingly difficult to know what "liberal" means in conversation, whether written or oral.

As an ordinary adjective, "liberal" can mean free, generous, or unrestricted.
  • "Liberal abortion laws" are laws that allow unrestricted abortion.
  • "Liberal drug laws" are laws that allow unrestricted drug use.
  • "Liberal gun laws" are laws that allow unrestricted gun ownership.
Well, not quite, because the way many people speak and write, "liberals" are in favour of "gun control" (whatever that means).

At some point there is a cross-over from "liberal" in a general sense, meaning having few or no restrictions, and "liberal" as a political philosophy. And sometimes there is another inversion there too.

People often speak of "liberal" in the sense of a political philosophy as if it were the opposite of "conservative".

Perhaps that is a hangover from 19th century British politics, when, from 1850 to 1920, the Liberal and Conservative parties were the main players on the political stage.

In fact the opposite of "liberal" (in the political philosophy sense) is not "conservative", but "authoritarian", and the opposite of "conservative" (again in the political philosophy sense) is not "liberal" but "radical".

The result of all this is that when people use the word "liberal" it is often difficult to know what they are talking about without asking for more information.

And then there is the "gun control" that "liberals" are alleged to be in favour of.

It is rarely defined by those who use the term, so it is difficult to know what it means, other than that, whatever it is, those who use the term are against it.

But I assume that it means that people who are against it believe that owning a gun should be like owning a camera rather than like owning a motor vehicle.

When one buys a motor vehicle, it is registered, and has a distinctive number plate so that it can be identified, and one needs a licence to drive it on a public road, and in order to get a licence one needs to pass a test to show that one is competent to drive it without endangering other road users.

When one buys a camera, one does not need to register it, and though it has a distinctive serial number from the manufacturer, there is no central registry keeping track of who owns which camera.

The difference is, of course, that when used incompetently, carelessly or recklessly both guns and motor vehicles can cause damage to property and injury or death to other people.

So I wonder if those who are against gun control are also against motor vehicle control and testing the competence of drivers. Do those who say that gun control means that only criminals will own guns also believe that only criminals own motor vehicles?

03 February 2009

Murderers in uniform

South Africa now has its own Jean Charles de Menezes. Seventeen-year-old Sedi Khoza was shot dead by police who were looking for someone else.

Sowetan - News:
No excuse can possibly justify how a phalanx of South African Police Service officers stormed a classroom in Mpumalanga and shot dead an innocent pupil in front of his classmates.

The cops say they were seeking two classmates who were reported to possess a gun. But they found nothing.

And nothing can excuse the activities of the heavily-armed squad that raided the school, burst in on the class and then shot at pupils fleeing in terror.

Clearly at no time did the petrified kids pose the slightest danger to the officers, who fired at the school-children’s backs as they fled.

London's Metropolitan Police tried to cover up and evade responsibility for the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes on an underground train. Let's hope the South African police do not engage in a similar cover-up about the shooting of Sedi Khoza, and that there is a full and impartial investigation.

01 February 2009

Your very own atheist bus slogan generator.

Bus slogan generator

Atheists have started advertising on buses in the UK. Do you want to see your own message on the side of a bus? Well now's your chance.

Hat tip to Bishop Alan, who said: Gadget of the year! An Atheist Bus slogan generator, to help you make your very own atheist bus.

So here's mine:

Weasel words: "homophobic"

Julie Bindel: A Christian group's campaign to protect the 'freedom' to be homophobic is grossly hypocritical:
I am all for freedom of speech, as long as it does not favour one person or group over the other. If it is deemed acceptable for Christians to say that homosexuality is a sin, for example, but not a person interviewing you for a job in a local authority, then that is unfair and hypocritical. So why on earth was a so-called 'free speech protection' clause added to the new offence of 'incitement to homophobic hatred' last May? It was to pander to Christian and other religious folk, and reads: '… the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.'

Julie Bindel's article shows precisely why such a protection clause is needed, because her article is grossly Christianophobic, and is calculated to stir up hatred against Christians. If it is unfair to favour one group or person over another, why should the law favour Christianophobes?

Christians have generally believed that fornication and adultery are sins, and documents such as the New Testament urge people to abstain from them. Julie Bindel appears to believe that this should be "taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred".

A person interviewing someone for a job in a local authority, however, has no business asking people about their sexual practices or conduct if these are not illegal, even if the interviewer is a Christian or a member of any other group that happens to believe that fornication and adultery are sinful.

This applies whether the fornication or adultery is committed with someone of the same sex or the opposite sex. A person interviewing someone for a job with a local authority should be concerned primarily with the interviewee's qualifications and ability to do the job. Unless their sexual conduct is likely to interfere with that (such as a record of sexual harassment of fellow-workers, clients or customers), their sexual conduct should not concern the interviewer.

In Christian ethics hating other people is as much a sin as fornication or adultery, as is inciting hatred against other people. That doesn't prevent Christians from hating other people, any more than it prevents them from committing fornication and adultery. Urging people to refrain from or modify such conduct is not itself an act of hatred or incitement to hatred, no matter how much people like Julie Bindel may misrepresent it. And the very fact that people miosrepresent it as such is itself an incitement to hatred and shows that such protection is needed.

The use of such arguments shows that the word "homophobic" can itself be used to incite hatred, and has become a weasel word that means nothing.

St. Maximus Confessor and Christian Hospitality at The Land of Unlikeness

St. Maximus Confessor and Christian Hospitality at The Land of Unlikeness:
St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662 A.D.) understands the cosmos through a theological ontology of Love. All creatures in creation are unified through participation in the ecstatic Love that is the life of the Trinity. Participation in this Love unifies the difference of creatures into a harmony. As such this love is the “reason” or “logos” of creatures. With the fall of humanity this love is disrupted cosmically. The fall of humanity is key in this “cosmic tragedy” for humanity is the microcosm (micros-kosmos or “little cosmos”), which participates in the sensuous creaturely dimension of being and the rational-spiritual dimension of the hierarchy of being. Humanity, the microcosm, is the center or crux of the hierarchy of being as it co-inheres in the second person of the Trinity, the Logos. It is the crossing of the divine and the sensuous dimensions of the hierarchy of being. Consequently, when humanity falls the harmony of creation is disrupted.

This interesting article not only illuminates the practice of Christian hospitality, but also the Orthodox understanding of original sin, and how it differs from that of the West.


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