Friday, December 14, 2007

Surveillance

Apparently the average Londoner is captured around 300 times a day on CCTV. I don't think my figure would be that high, since (a) I don't work in the City, and (b) I don't use public transport very much. It's still quite an interesting statistic though, and thinking about organisations knowing who I am, what I look like and where I live is a bit worrying.

But really, anyone who wants to know about me should go to Google. Since September 2005 I have made 1,615 Google searches which have been tracked to my account. This doesn't include the searches I've made using other people's computers, at uni, internet cafés, hostels, and so on. I have 4,590 Gmails in my inbox, which Google have indexed and provide relevant advertising next to. Why delete emails when you have 5GB of storage? Picasa (Google's photo application) has 13,500 travel photos taken by me all over the world. Not to mention the raft of personal information you could harvest on facebook!

For the moment I'm not too worried about all this, but it could be a very real problem in the future if I need to go somewhere 'under the radar'. Governments, organisations or even people I've never met could quite easily find out a lot about who I am without my knowing.

Ironically, I have chosen to voice my concern on my Google-hosted blog, which will be indexed and searchable for decades to come.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rejoicing

The past week has been one of those fantastic ones where everything seemingly goes well. After a stressful interview for a graduate scheme last Wednesday, I suddenly had plenty of free time, and started to up my daily Bible reading, starting in Genesis 1 and aiming to finish Revelation in something like 6 months. I got through Genesis in 6 days (how ironic) and am ready to hit Exodus tomorrow morning. The word seems vibrant, living and powerful, and praying is a joy - praise God!

One stress leading up to my interview was not being able to find my A-Level certificates, which could have thrown a spanner in the application process. Thankfully the recruiters were happy to see them at some point later, and I was getting resigned to paying £106 for replacements.

Yesterday I'd booked a dentist appointment back in Reading (for which I'd paid £225), so headed back on the train and turned up. After an x-ray and a poke around, he said that I didn't need the root canal after all! Walking back from there, I thought that this was one of those situations where I see options A and B (finding my certificates or paying for new ones) but God plans option Q - returning £225 so I could afford the £106 for replacements. I got home and started filling in the forms to send off, and then thought I'd just check with my old school. There was, I thought, no reason for the school to have them... but they did! So in the space of a few hours I recouped £331. It's almost enough to believe in the prosperity gospel...

Well, not really. Then I had a call from a recruitment agency, asking me what I was planning to do after I finish my course next year. He said that I would have a multitude of options for jobs across the country and indeed abroad. Reassuring stuff for a geography graduate...

And then today, over a week after the interview, I had an email saying I'm through to the last stage of recruitment! Rejoice.

Monday, December 03, 2007

More new translation

Here's another exclusive preview of the upcoming PHV; this section is the rendering of Acts 2.
"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

When the people heard this, they were largely unmoved, and said "Brothers, it's great that you feel so strongly about your faith - we really respect that aspect of your character."

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

At this, the people were struck with apathy, and muttered "well, it's a little awkward to be preaching like that. We're pretty happy with how Roman religion is panning out, to tell the truth. Imposing your religion on us is not going to happen."

With many other words Peter warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who were interested in his message filled out response cards, and three signed up for an Alpha course.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

23

Another year closer to Jesus! To help me on my way I received an iPod which will play Mark Driscoll's sermon videos (mp3s are so 2004) and 80GB more; and a wee little book of uncommon prayer. Not to mention good times with family and friends.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Announcing a new Bible translation

The PHV* takes some of Scripture's most clichéd evangelical passages and re-renders them in a form more suitable to today's post-Christian age. An exclusive preview is presented below, with more to follow.

John 1:29ff:
The next day, John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'" Jesus, hearing these words, replied, "Sorry, what? I think you must have me confused with someone else."

Slightly nonplussed, John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but I have seen and I testify that this is God's Chosen One." Jesus said, "Be that as it may (although I'm not convinced) I just have some relevant life experiences to share. I wouldn't like to claim any sort of exclusivity for my beliefs, but wouldn't it be nice if we could all learn to love each other a bit more?"
* Profoundly Heretical Version

Monday, November 19, 2007

Top Gear Motorhome Racing

This week's classic video!

Re:cycling

London

When I moved here last month, I found the Tube to be a good method of getting around. Sure, it was pretty expensive (£2 single journey during the day, into Zone 1) but it was fast, there were plenty of used freepapers to read and the opportunity to see someone really strange. The main downside was (and is) that my flat is 10 minutes' walk from the nearest station. Even given this, I thought that 35 minutes to All Souls and 45 minutes to UCL was pretty reasonable. Imagine my surprise when my trusty Dawes 500 (which I bought for £35 after my last bike was stolen) beat the Central Line every time!

All seemed ideal - saving time and money, and getting fit to boot, with only the 20x greater fatality rate than car drivers to worry about. I had also started to notice that I spend about £3 a day more on food when I cycle, just to recover the energy I spent getting to uni... but there's no such thing as a free lunch after all. Today, however, after cycling for 30 minutes in pouring rain through central London (it started raining just after I set off) I had the inestimable joy of spending 7 hours in an underground, air-conditioned lecture theatre, giving my clothes that still-damp feel as I cycled home again in the drizzle. Hmm... at least the Tube is undercover!

Here's a video I made with some friends the other week.*



* This is a lie.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Template

I couldn't stand that pink stripe either. Begone!

Effecting change through reformation

Today is Reformation Day, when in 1517 Martin Luther pinned his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. Countering the Roman Catholic hegemony of justification by works, Luther had rediscovered the glorious truth of grace and faith, as found in Romans 1:
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last"
For the emerging protestants, this was great news! Salvation is not in our hands, and even if it was we would be totally unable to grasp it because of our sinfulness. God took all the necessary steps to reconcile us to him through Jesus Christ.

The good news doesn't spread itself, yet its message is universal (Acts 4:12, John 1:4). The new technology of the printing press found a use in disseminating the Scriptures, as well as Luther's theses. Faithful Christians like Wycliffe translated the Bible into their own languages and suffered persecution and even death because of their work.

Some 250 years later, the western missionary movement kicked off with William Carey producing a convincing geography of the world's population, showing that the vast majority of people had never heard the name of Jesus. He himself dedicated his life to mission in India, and thousands more have followed his path since then.

This summer I came across a huge organisation that I'd never heard of before: Gospel for Asia. They argue that the most effective missionaries are intra-cultural not cross-cultural - although of course foreign missionaries must be sent if there is no indigenous church in a culture. They support thousands of native missionaries who between them plant 10 churches every day. Furthermore, because of the economics of the globalised society, it is hugely cheaper to support a native missionary than a western counterpart. A monthly donation of £20/$30 - which is what most of us spend on coffee or our mobile phone - covers around 30% of the total cost of a missionary family in India, Laos, Bangladesh, China, Thailand or other Asian nations with millions of unreached souls. The truth of the gospel, rediscovered nearly 500 years ago in Europe, has yet to reach nearly half the world's population. Let's get serious and get it sorted!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Moved in

London

I'm now posting, as promised, from my flat in west London. This being London, I am the only English person in our flat of 5 - there are two Australian girls and two French guys sharing the flat as well. Better not talk too much about the Rugby World Cup..! The internationality of the city makes me as an Englishman feel out of place - hence the new name of this blog.

I love London so far. It sucks you in and makes everywhere outside the M25 seem incredibly provincial and the buzz and the constant noise and activity just runs on and on - like this sentence, in fact. In honour of this move (and because the old one was broken) I've refreshed the blog template. I have to say I didn't know that pink stripe doesn't scroll out of the way as you read down, and it does look rather a lot like First Great Western's logo, but I'm jolly well not changing it all again.

On a separate note I am now the king of Ikea, having spent about 4 hours putting together a huge desk and chair with nothing but a small screwdriver, a hammer and a cup of coffee.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sucked in

Reading

As of Wednesday I will be blogging (ha! the Royal Mail is more reliable than my blogging) from Shepherd's Bush in west London. Last Friday I went to look at a flat, which involves a 90 minute cycle/train/tube/walk journey from Reading. I arrived at the flat at the appointed time, only to be told that the room had just been let. The landlady suggested I come back into town the next day to look at a different room. "Great," I thought. "I could have found that out on gumtree without wasting a whole afternoon." Nevertheless, and because I have a lot of free time, I went back in on Saturday and saw the room. It's really nice. Several other people were there at the same time, with about 20 more coming later on to see the one room, and Lori, the landlady, said that the first person to give her £250 as a 'security deposit' would get the room. Where's the nearest cash machine!?

I'll be glad to move into London, not least because commuting sucks. How do people do it all year round? Mine isn't even too bad, at between 65 and 85 minutes each way, and usually a nice walk through the park. Cutting that down from £92 a week to £0 and 80 minutes to 25 minutes will be a result. I have three days a week of lectures from 9-6 or so, studying five transporty topics: engineering, economics, statistics, modelling and policy. I know nothing about any of them so it'll be a busy term.

My church-crawl ended before it began as I agreed to join the student team at All Souls after one midweek meeting and one Sunday. Pretending to be an Anglican might be a little tricky but it's very low-Anglican and a lot sounder than some nonconformist churches I could think of...

Brown mauled in parliament

Had to post this video. Bye bye Brown...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Busy busy busy

Reading, UK

I made it back home on Tuesday without incident and as predicted have been incredibly busy since then. (I did find time to watch 4 Doctor Who episodes this afternoon though...) I haven't found anywhere to live in London so will be commuting for a few weeks. I finally managed to register for my course and also made it to the student welcome evening at All Souls which is probably my church in London.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

History repeating

Maribor, Slovenia

Apologies for the slothful posting of late. I am still on the continent, but flying home this afternoon. I could of course wait until then to blog, but I have a to-do list as long as my arm before starting my MSc next Monday and hopefully moving to London around the same time!

Since the last post I've been to Novi Sad, the capital of Vojvodina (never heard of it? Not surprising - it's an autonomous republic within Serbia) for a day trip which gave an impression of what life in non-capital cities in the Balkans is like. The day after, I left Belgrade on the bus to Sarajevo in Bosnia. Both of these trips reinforced my frustration with public transport in eastern Europe: timetables are usually a work of fiction - as are the price lists - and the most surly employees are deployed to the ticket desks in order to baffle non-Slav speakers as much as possible. I don't by any means expect everyone to speak English, but in order to communicate a bit of facial expression, body language or even plain pen-and-paper go a long way to making sense!

Anyway. Travelling through Bosnia was an eye-opening experience. Even on the bus journey through the countryside the destruction of the country was apparent with many houses in ruins, or being reconstructed from bare breezeblocks. Litter carpeted the sides of the road, but I guess there are more important things to worry about: such as the thousands of landmines still carpeting the countryside and maiming civilians 15 years after the war.

As the bus came over the hill into Sarajevo hundreds of slender minarets showed up against the sky. Signs welcoming visitors to the 1984 Olympics were still erected on some major roads. And ruined buildings showed up every few blocks. This was going to be something new.

I hadn't booked anywhere to stay so hunted out the tourist information office, who suggested I stay in a 3* hotel for 15 euros a night! I've paid more for hostel beds so decided to give it a go. Although the location wasn't great, having my own double bed, ensuite bathroom and satellite TV - as well as free breakfast - was a pretty sweet deal.

Sarajevo has hundreds of cafes providing espresso for 1KM (that's konvertible mark, not kilometre) and an old town built by the Ottomans, who made European inroads this far in the 16th century. As well as the old mosques, there are metalworking shops and streets of one-storey buildings with tiled roofs, in contrast to the Austrian architecture in the rest of the city.

On Saturday I took a daytrip to the city of Mostar in the south of Bosnia. This city suffered terribly in the war and has not recovered yet by any means. The symbolic bridge was rebuilt a few years ago after being shelled and destroyed by the Serbs, but much of the city still lies in ruins. It was surprising (and depressing) how quickly I got used to seeing hollow shells with blown out windows and crumbling masonry in Bosnia. I suppose that travelling around most of Europe 50 years ago would have been similar. Sarajevo's history museum gives a chilling account of what happened 1992-95 when the city was under siege. For over a year the only communication with the outside world was one satellite phone in the governer's office. Over 1500 children were killed by snipers, mortars and landmines during the war, and much of the housing and food stock was rendered useless. Nothing like a spot of nationalism, is there?

Yesterday I jumped on the train to Zagreb, and a mere 9.5 hours later arrived in the Croatian capital after a rather unhurried journey. I found a hostel near the station and stayed there for about 10 hours, before getting the 07:25 to Maribor here in Slovenia, where I have 2 hours (well, 30 minutes now) until catching the bus to the airport and flying home. I should get back to Reading by 7pm where some good food, a hot shower and my own bed will be found. This trip has been a lot of fun, if frustrating at times (travelling isn't all sunshine and lollipops, although I guess it beats being at work) and I've just begun to start understanding some of the history, politics and geography of a very influential part of Europe. But the summer is over, the trees are turning autumnal and real life has to resume. Hvala i ciao!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

From Black Mountain to White City

Belgrade, SFR Yugoslavia Yugoslavia Serbia and Montenegro Serbia

Jenny, Dan and I went out for a meal again on our last night in Montenegro. We ended up in the restaurant next to the one we'd gone to the previous night (which was very good). It turned out that this restaurant was hilariously awful in comparison:
  • A moustachioed pianist who was clearly in love with high octaves, runs and trrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrills played muzak on an electric piano all night
  • The restaurant had no toilet, so we had to pay 50 cents to use the public conveniences next door
  • We had to wait over half an hour for a pizza and two spaghetti carbonaras
  • And oh boy, when the food came was it an experience. The menu had mentioned that the carbonara had some sour cream in, and we imagined that a taste of sour cream wouldn't go amiss. But the spaghetti was COVERED in sour cream. It was impossible even to slurp the spaghetti properly, and we couldn't come close to finishing the meal
  • To be fair, we did get our money back, and a funny story to remember
In Podgorica I found everything I would expect from a city formerly known as Titograd and less than 50 years old. Around the Trg Republike in the centre the atmosphere was nice for a Saturday night, but walking back to the station for my overnight train to Belgrade involved unlit streets, mangy dogs and dirt pavements - all the usuals. Waiting at the monolithic train station, the wooden bench under the flat concrete canopy offered little comfort except the promise of what was to come. Across the tracks, rust and grime raced to cover the stencilled cyrillic letters on the abandoned freight wagons, whilst passengers' cigarette smoke was doing a good job of further polluting the station.

The train, for which I'd paid a hefty 22 euros including couchette, was due to arrive in Belgrade at 6am. Mercifully it was an hour and a half late, which gave me a bit more sleep. Three hours later, after finding the Star Hostel and having breakfast, I turned up at church. Last week there had been a Synod meeting in Belgrade which had brought lots of Anglican missionaries to the city, and in true Christian style there was a big lunch provided afterwards to celebrate. I was of course only too happy to rekindle my dormant Anglican affiliation.

Belgrade is a funky city and I'm glad to have 3 days to explore it. Ten times bigger than any other city I've been to on this trip, it was the capital of the Yugoslav federation and now of Serbia. Its history is very much on display and in your face than most cities. Walking down one of the main streets you pass this building which was bombed only 8 years ago by NATO.


Given this raw history it is incredible how friendly the people are. Most young people speak superb English and are very open and chatty, whether in a bar, asked for directions or asking for directions (again). Another unique thing is the food on offer. For about 50 dinars (50p) you can buy any of the following:
  • a pack of chewing gum (for reference)
  • a can of beer from a convenience store
  • a roasted corn on the cob, sold by a guy on the street with a portable corn-roaster
  • a pack of popcorn, again made on the street in a portable corn-popper
  • an ice-cream, sold by an old lady with a portable freezer - she'll also peel off the wrapper for you to eat it straight away
Tomorrow I'll be heading to Sarajevo in Bosnia for a few days' exploration. The trip is beginning to draw to a close - just time to squeeze in one more country!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Travelogue

still in Budva, Montenegro

(The problem with blogging on the road is that inevitably there is a shortage of time. Either you're paying for the internet by the minute, in which case you get to the point where there are 8 minutes left and a hostel still to book; or the internet is free but there's a queue of people waiting to use it after you. Compounding this problem in my case is the fact that I never draft my posts beforehand so what gets written is rarely what I actually wanted to include.

Today I went to Kotor for a few hours and while sitting in a cafe in the centre decided to write down all the blog-worthy things that have happened since I arrived in Dubrovnik on Tuesday. The list runs to 19 items, so now sit back and watch (or rather read) as I attempt to weave together a cohesive narrative that will win me a Lonely Planet commission.)

Travelling alone can be a lonely business. One of the fun things about backpacking is the people you meet in hostels, but on this trip there have not been hostels in several of the places I've stayed. It is an interesting experience staying with a local family, one of whom touted for your business at the bus station with a small folder of photos of their house, along with dozens of others. This was my experience in Dubrovnik, and it landed me in a shared room in a nice house about a mile from the old centre.

Finding the house again after going into the centre was a tricky business. The city is riddled with alleyways and stepped streets, many of which are dead ends but not signed as such. On one occasion I walked uphill for about five minutes before reaching a locked gate. The next alleyway I tried was guarded at the top by a threatening guard-dog who obviously wasn't expecting me and gave me every encouragement to leave his patch very quickly indeed.

I thought I would be alone for my time in Dubrovnik but at 11pm on the first night a very drunk but friendly Irishman called Ken and his new friend Min from Korea came in. Chatting to them was quite the experience: the conversation ranged across all sorts of topics from travel to religion to history and back to travel again. In the morning before he left I gave Ken a little something to read on the train. He called himself a Catholic but the substances he was putting into his body suggested otherwise.

Leaving Dubrovnik, and Croatia, for the brand-new country of Montenegro involved a drive along some pretty treacherous mountain roads. The bus driver clearly wasn't as intimidated as me however, and spent most of the journey talking on his mobile phone and sending text messages. It seems to me that mobile phones and buses are both good things, but in the same manner as taking a shower and reading a book they don't make for a great combination. The driver profited further from his job that day by stopping off at the duty free for a huge box of cigarettes at the border.

The border signified the transition from westernised Croatia to an eastern Europe I had been expecting, complete with dusty concrete bus stations, dilapidated coaches spewing diesel fumes into the air and piecemeal development leaving cracked pavements next to shiny new buildings. As I mentioned yesterday, there has been a price drop to match the other drops, which is making my budget feel a little less strained.

Staying at the Hippo Hostel in Budva is great fun - everything that a youth hostel should be, with a great vibe and lots of like-minded travellers staying here. Two of them who I met soon after I arrived are Dan and Jenny from Macclesfield. We had a good time out exploring Budva last night in a seaside restaurant where the other two had Sex on the Beach (that's a cocktail, in case you were wondering!) and the bill came to only 10 euros each. Result. When we got back to the hostel it transpired we had more in common than I'd thought: my copy of God is the Gospel provocatively left on my bed led to a conversation where it turned out Jenny is a Christian too. Hurrah! So travelling doesn't have to be lonely, even if you are on your own.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New country

Budva, Montenegro

I boarded the ferry in Rijeka armed with a bagful of food (biscuits, crackers, juice etc.) to sustain me on the 20 hour journey down to Dubrovnik. I was extremely glad to have paid an extra 120Kn for a couchette, because it turns out the normal deck seats were just whatever you could find, inside or outside! As it was I slept well on the narrow bunk, sharing the couchette with a Kiwi and a Frog. For most of Tuesday the scenery of the mountains and islands along the Dalmatian coastline were entertainment enough, although I did also finish the book I'd taken with me.

Dubrovnik is at the very southern end of Croatia. It's called the "Pearl of the Adriatic" because of its beautiful Old Town, with narrow streets and steep hills leading away from the sea. The first time I went in to the centre it was raining, which put a dampener on the enjoyment of the city. The next day I tried again, only to discover that I was sharing the city with the passengers of THREE cruise ships which had turned up for the day! It was hard to move in the centre for people in the day, but when I returned in the evening sans tourists with stickers on the Old Town was very enjoyable. It is certainly scenic, but the rest of the city was also photogenic, especially where it hugs the coastline.

This morning I caught a bus to the border town of Herceg Novi, in Montenegro. The new border controls (sponsored by the EU, of course) were pretty stringent but once over the frontier, costs dropped significantly. A 1 hour bus journey including a ferry across the Kotor Fjord cost just 3.5 euros, and the hostel here in Budva is 16 euros a night with plenty of stuff included - such as a book exchange for my copy of "Rough Crossings". The city seems nice, although the cars are from Serbia and Russia rather than Germany and California (!) as in Croatia.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Bourne Comparison

Rijeka, Croatia

Just about to board the ferry down to Dubrovnik, which will apparently take about 22 hours. The supermarket came in handy for supplies for that long - although there is a restaurant etc. on board, Croatia is proving surprisingly expensive so I'm having to budget tightly.

It strikes me that the reason Jason Bourne travels around Europe by ship and train is that it's very easy to stay under the radar: if I was paying for my tickets in cash and not leaving this IP trail all over eastern Europe it would be pretty difficult to find out where I am. Thankfully I'm not running away from the CIA so am taking things a little more easily.

It was about a week ago when I mentioned that I had no idea where I'd be in a week's time. I hadn't planned on taking this ferry until somebody mentioned it a few days ago. It should be a lot more pleasant and scenic than taking the bus all the way down the coast.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Now that's something you don't see every day

Pula, Croatia

It turns out that Ljubljana is about the size of Reading, but is a capital city. In fact the whole of Slovenia has a population of 2 million, and is probably about the size of Toronto + suburbs + exurbs. What I hadn't reckoned on was the paucity of things to see in Ljubljana: one day there was plenty to cover the points of interest.
The hostel I was in was right by the river Ljubljanica and in the Old Town. It was also right below the castle hill. The castle at the top of the hill was free to enter and walk around, even though it had obviously gone through a lot of regeneration and had smart wooden floors and fancy restaurants inside. The tower provided a good view of the city - actually most of the country too, I imagine...
After wandering around the rest of the Old Town, and going to the train and bus stations to figure out where to go next, my day was done. The next morning I left town at 06:20 (apparently there is such a time) on the train to Rijeka, a port in Croatia. The journey there took about three hours, including a very rigorous customs check which consisted of two people having a brief look at my passport. After some breakfast and a trip to the bus station I headed towards Pula, 100km to the west and on the coast. For some reason the bus was pretty unstable: a little girl behind me lost her breakfast and I wasn't too far behind. So when we arrived at Pula after three hours I was in no mood to walk to the hostel, in a village 4km out of town. Taxi!

After Ljubljana, which seemed to be a hub of British backpackers going 'off the beaten track' (like me) Pješčana Uvala seems to be a world away. There are SUVs here from Germany, Austria, Holland, Russia and Slovenia, taking advantage of the big marina and big houses in the village. I feel a little out of place paying €18 a night for a room...

After chillaxing on the beach yesterday, this afternoon I walked into Pula and had a good look around. Pula is apparently 3000 years old, and has several reminders of that dotted around: viz. figure 2, left. There is also a Roman temple in the forum (different buildings, same shape) as well as lots of younger memorials and buildings. Apparently the Venetians tried several times to deconstruct the amphitheatre and take it to Venice as a sign of the power of their empire. Can you imagine an imperial power doing something like that? (Hmm...)
So anyway, tomorrow I'm trucking out of town back to Rijeka on the Vomit Comet. What's most distressing is that there's actually a motorway between the two places, but the bus just doesn't take it! Then tomorrow night I'll board a ferry down to Dubrovnik at the other end of Croatia. See you there.




Thursday, September 06, 2007

Spontaneous travel

Ljubljana

So... this is Slovenia, eh? No, I'm not really sure what I'm doing here either. The flights out here were extremely cheap a few months ago (20 pounds return) so I booked them as a final fling of the summer. Last month when I was househunting I was resigned to not taking this trip if I had nowhere to live, but then I thought "naah, there'll be plenty of time to find a house". And so here I am.

Until this afternoon when I caught the train from Maribor to Ljubljana I wasn't sure this was where I'd be tonight. Even when I got here I ended up in a different hostel to the one I was expecting (one where the Olympic Snoring Team have come to practice, apparently) and in 2 days I'll be somewhere else new. You know what they say about the best laid plans, so this time there are no plans!

Well, alright. There are SOME plans. I plan to go to Croatia, down the coast, across Bosnia to Serbia and back up to Croatia and Slovenia. Maybe Montenegro while I'm down there. And maybe Albania if I really get a move on.

Slovenia seems like a nice place. It's definitely the most modern ex-communist state in Europe: they use the euro, have a decent transport system and their own language which sounds like Polish spoken with an Italian accent. Eno piwo, prosim! Ljubljana has a nice old town which I'll explore tomorrow when hopefully it'll be more than 11 degrees...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

British Government in 'Big Brother' Shocker

BBC report:

"The whole population and every UK visitor should be added to the national DNA database, a senior judge has said.

The present database in England and Wales holds details of 4m people who are guilty or cleared of a crime.

Lord Justice Sedley said this was indefensible and biased against ethnic minorities, and it would be fairer to include everyone, guilty or innocent."

Umm... right.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Good morning

Sunday night: 0 hours sleep
Monday night: 16 hours sleep

Monday, September 03, 2007

Goat $4

Reading

I landed back in England this morning after my 10-day trip to Toronto. Apparently I haven't blogged since Wednesday, which is a shame because a lot has been going on: more than I can remember even a few days after the fact!


Niagara Falls

To display my blogging forgetfulness, even in my smorgasbord of a post last Wednesday I completely forgot to mention Nick's, James' and my trip to Niagara Falls for an evening. We took photos, went on the Maid of the Mist (only $14!) and spent a bit of time and money in the casino. All in all a fun day out - even the tacky tourist street was enjoyable in its own way.

Last week I was still at AMac's house in Scarborough. Unlike its English namesake, the only accents you're likely to hear are Chinese, and there is no fishing port (there is a DVP though). Like the Yorkshire version, however, Ontario's Scarborough is way out to the north-east, has a slightly optimistic regional identity and cheap-as-chips housing. While he made some phone calls on Wednesday night, he suggested that I go for a walk... along the railway line at the back of his garden. Walking on a railway line? I mean, who does that? Evidently it's not a social taboo in Canada, but then GO trains don't GO at 125mph every five minutes like my local railway here.


Getting to the Robinsons' for Sunday lunch is always popular

It was fun on Thursday night to see Shakespeare in the Park. Nearly 1000 people squeezed into the amphitheatre to see the play - a very modern rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream - including quite a few Yorkies. Josh and the Robinsons took me in from Thursday night, which was nice as otherwise I'd have had to trek back to Scarborough like a putz.

Saturday was AMac's farewell barbeque before he goes off to North Africa, so it was only right that we ate lots of pork and had some beer. Apparently that's not too popular where he's going. Weston, where the Robinsons live, is popular with Somalis. For them pork is also a no-no, but they get around it by having their own cuisine, such as the eponymous fast food.


Is it OK to eat pork if you cut the feet off first?

Going to Grace church these past two Sundays has been great. I timed my visit to conveniently coincide with a two-part whopper on Romans 5 and the difference between Adam and Christ. You can listen to them online, but I nabbed a CD of both to bring back with me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mélange

Toronto

During the past week or so I think I've seen more of Toronto than I did in an average month at York last year. It has certainly been interesting.

On Thursday a group of us ate at Big Fat Burrito downtown in Kensington Market. As a result my yam prejudice has decreased markedly. After that we went to the Bier Markt, where over 100 beers are sold on tap or in bottles. When you can get so many good foreign beers it's a wonder anyone drinks filth like Lakeport or Moosehead.

Speaking of beer, Nick took me to the LCBO, which is the government's idea of reducing alcohol consumption: this is done by licensing huge shops every few blocks that are filled with cheap, untaxed alcohol. With stringent measures like this, it's no wonder that drunken antics are down 18% since 2003.

My SUV prejudice has also decreased markedly. To think that I used to scoff at people with DVD players in the back of their cars. Until I'd cruised the highways stretched out in the back of a Ford Exploder watching the Simpsons I was ignorant of the wonders of in-car TV.

On Sunday it was great to get back to GFC for the first time in over a year. I'd also arrived just in time for Paul's reprise of the Romans sermon series I caught some of last year. It's good to be reminded that "you're not a sinner because you sin, you sin because you're a sinner". It'll be even better to be reminded of Christ's advocacy for us this Sunday! In the afternoon a group of us were evangelising in the local neighbourhood and ran across some Somali Muslims. In a step up from the last time Nick and I tried this together, our lives were not threatened... but it was extremely hard to make any progress.

On Monday I finally left Nick and his family in peace and moved to amac's place in Scarborough. Yesterday we spent 8 hours at Starbucks with Silas reading the Gospels and made it through Matthew, Mark, John and 2/3rds of Luke. I'd never done anything like this before and several themes came through:

Matthew:
  • lots of parables, Jesus' wisdom really shines through
  • allusion to many OT passages and prophecies with some repeated, ie. "I desire mercy, not sacrifice"
  • Jesus' death and resurrection are squashed in at the end of the book in only 2 chapters; the only thing he says after his resurrection is the Great Commission

Mark:
  • punchy, short, straight to the point
  • interspersion of teaching and miracles
  • events not in the same order as other Gospels

Luke:
  • for some reason the chapters are much longer than in other books
  • lots of parables and teaching

John:
  • focused on Jesus' identity as the Son of God
  • much more philosophical in style than the Synoptic Gospels
  • begins and ends in a slightly obtuse fashion
  • uses characters repeatedly: several people are introduced, not mentioned for several chapters and then brought back as a key part of the plot (eg. Malchus, Nicodemus)
All the Gospels:
  • a recurring focus on John the Baptist and his identity. Was he Elijah in the flesh? Was he the spirit of Elijah? Was he the last of the prophets, preceding as he does the Messiah?
Last night a group of us went up to YorkU to put up posters for the new school year. It was strange to go back to my alma mater, the student centre and several familiar buildings but then drive home afterwards.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Back in town

Toronto

It is pretty weird to come back here to Toronto after 18 months away. When Josh and Nick picked me up on Wednesday night it felt like no time had passed since I'd left. Since then I've been staying at Nick's house but have seen lots of people from church and YorkU already.

Yesterday Nick and I went to the Pacific Mall, which is the heart of Toronto's suburban Chinatown. It's a massive place but it seemed to be full of places to buy green tea, big swords and illegal DVDs. We could have bought the Bourne Ultimatum for $5, less than a week after it came out in the cinema! Now that's Oriental efficiency for you.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Inauguration

Last week a group of us from Carey were at the first Cheltenham Bible Festival, held at the town's racecourse. It was a great week, helped by unseasonably sunny weather (well, seasonal weather for any year but this one!), great fellowship and fun times with friends - and of course the inestimable Don Carson. Not that I'm idolising a Christian over Christ, but he is a clever chap and manages to get away with preaching for over an hour with 40 minutes of introduction! I'm hoping to get hold of MP3s of the messages he and others preached as I didn't take notes during the festival. Phatfish and Stuart Townend were also there and made a God-exalting noise in the arena.

On the whole, the festival was very well organised and apart from the lack of a bar or café to chill out in was pretty much ideal. Roll on 2008 with Piper!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Zoom zoom

Paris

Took my first trip on Eurostar this afternoon. Boy is it fast! 300km/h feels like the train is constantly plummeting downhill or about to take off. Going alongside the motorways the traffic looked as if it was barely moving, even at the speed of French motorists...

I'll be in the Alps for the next 5 days and probably offline in case you desperately want to contact me! Staying in Paris is primarily a cost-saving measure.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Education


I officially graduated on Thursday and got to wear a silly cape and hood as well as a suit in order to shake the hands of the Pro-Chancellor of the University (who?) and collect a certificate. I was pretty excited as you can imagine. In case you missed the self-deprecation there, here's a video of me riding a horse for the first time.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

An Englishman in England

Reading

I made it back home after a reassuringly non-eventful journey on Friday. The sense of relief when the train conductor looked at my ticket, stamped it and gave it back to me was palpable. (Note to self: never catch train in wrong direction again.)

Anyway, I now have a room full of stuff to sort out and 10 days to sort it out before I'm off... again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What a mistake-a to make-a

Krakow (finally)

An interesting weekend, all told. Eight modes of transportation, one wrong turn, one small-world moment and several goodbyes.

On Sunday I was staying with a Polish couple in Wrocław who put Josh and me up after Camp Arka. We went for a cycle ride in the afternoon and were alongside the river Odra when Andrzej spotted a boat. "I have a friend who owns a boat like that," he said, and led us down to the bank to have a closer look. Sure enough, it was his friend's boat - imported from Florida - with his friend's family on board for a Sunday afternoon cruise. Andrzej waved them over to the side and we put our bikes on board to go for a spin. The man's wife, Ula, is an English teacher so we were able to have a good conversation. She asked me where in England I'm from and when I said "Reading", looked amazed. Did I know a man she and her husband had met 20 years ago in Poland and stayed with in Reading 16 years ago? Well... as it turns out, yes I do. Small world eh?

Rode a horse for the first time ever on Monday while taking Rachel to her horse camp near Opole. They're bigger than they look, or maybe I've just not been paying attention.

Today I went to the dentist in Wrocław in the morning for a check-up. That cost a whopping 20zl ($6) and then I went straight to Głowny to catch my train down here. Unfortunately I had a slight mix-up between Departures (wyjazd?) and Arrivals (odjazd?) which led to my catching a train from Krakow heading north. The Polish countryside all looks the same so I was as surprised as the conductor to discover I'd been on the wrong train for nearly an hour! I just missed the train back to Wrocław, then just missed the train to Krakow, then the 15:00 train was 30 minutes late... all told the 4-hour journey took over 8 and cost an extra 70zl in tickets and bribes. Oops!

I'm in Krakow until Friday. The weather is going to be scorchio so I'll scoot down the 15º salt mines for a day and find shade the other day. Needless to say, neither the trains nor the hostel have air-conditioning...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

O co chodzi?

Wrocław

Well, camps are over for another year. We arrived back from Kudowa this afternoon on a beautiful day - ironically much better weather than we've had during the camps. This was a frustration especially last week with younger kids who could get antsy without enough activity. Thankfully all the camps' kids were great and there was very little whining about the weather or anything else.

My blessings from the camps are mainly developing friendships and deepening relationships: with the other 11 native speakers - 8 of whom were here for the first time, with the Polish staff, most of whom I knew from previous years, and of course with the kids, especially the older ones. (You guys rock!) It is wonderful to return every year and see the growth in some of their lives and my biggest prayer request is for them, that they might find good fellowship and solid friendships based on Christ, and grow together as a community of young believers in Wrocław. Some of the Polish staff have this on their heart too so hopefully in the next year a program might get off the ground which takes root and which the churches support (traditionally they hold on to their youth and don't like to see them leave).

I'm staying with a Polish couple tonight, and then on Tuesday will head down to Kraków for a few days, before returning to England on Friday.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Arka update

Dańców, Poland

This is a very quick update using slow internet access here in the Polish mountains. The camps are going very well - we have a great team of Americans, Brits and Poles and good groups of kids. Last week the teenagers were fantastic and learnt a lot. This week the kids are younger so our teaching is less interesting and the connections are harder to make. Many of us are getting pretty worn out so please pray for energy, enthusiasm, blessing on the Bible studies and for good weather - the last week has been quite cold and rainy which is a bit oppressive for too long.

Thanks! Back in the land of internet on Saturday evening.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Camp Arka 2007

Wroclaw

I'm getting a sense of deja vu here, you might recognise this blog post from others I've made in the past. I'm off to the hills of southern Poland today to teach English on summer camps again, this will be my fourth year at Camp Arka. I'll try and write a couple of posts while I'm down there but internet access is likely to be pretty sketchy. In any case please be praying for me, the other native speakers (mostly Americans again), the Polish staff on camp, and of course the campers - 50 teenagers this week, 50 10-12s next week. Gulp - I want to both improve their conversational English and build relationships with them to introduce them to Jesus. They all know who he is, but very few actually know him at all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Crossing cultures

Dublin

This is supposed to be my short trip to Ireland before going to Poland next week (and after having visited Barcelona last week), but to be honest it's all rather confusing. Everyone working in a service industry here is Polish and most of the others seem to be tourists from all over the place.

So other than brushing up my Polish (essentially it involves not using definite article) I've been chilling with Steve and Andrew on an embryonic 'Carey lads on tour'. Dublin isn't a terribly interesting city - the centre is a mishmash of tourist buildings and bars overcharging for Guinness, but today we went out to Howth, a small town on the coast north of the city. The weather was better and the scenery was great: recommended!

I'll be back in England tomorrow and starting to prepare for Poland, where I go on Sunday evening. Busy times ahead!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Summer


Sorry my blog has been so sparse lately. Both my regular readers will know that I have a lot more to say when I'm actually doing things like travelling. It is therefore with both trepidation and excitement that I declare the summer blogging season open! My plans are mostly finalised as follows:


June: Barcelona

June: Dublin

July: Poland

August: Paris/Alps


August/September: Toronto

September: Slovenia/Croatia/Bosnia/Serbia/who knows


I leave for "Barcelona" tomorrow on Ryanair. Some friends who are also going were on a pre-lads' trip trip this week in Marseilles and had their hire-car broken into (with a crow-bar, no less) and their passports stolen. They would be able to fly home alright but not out again, so have elected to stay in France and meet us in Spain tomorrow. Let's hope that one works out for them and French police reports are usable in Spanish airports!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Pimms o' clock

And now a personal announcement: this morning I finished my degree. Huzzah!

As you were...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Neogeography

I should be revising, but this is just amazing. Google Maps now has "street view" in a number of American cities. So for example here I am meandering through Times Square in New York.

Why did I have to discover this in the week of my finals!?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Anger

Last night was my penultimate CU meeting at Southampton, and was undoubtedly the worst I have attended. Unfortunately the speaker had obviously signed the Doctrinal Basis of the CU without meaning it, because his talk did not even approach a proper understanding of the Gospel.

He didn't warm me to him right from the start: he first said "that was the best worship session I've ever had at this CU - sometimes when I'm here hardly anyone raises their hands". Yes, because emotional response is the mark of 'success' in worship. After that, he said "I was raised in a conservative evangelical family, but didn't get saved until I moved to Southampton and attended [a charismatic] church". Fair enough, I thought... be open-minded!

But then we were taken on a whirlwind tour of the social gospel, complete with entirely superfluous Powerpoint accompaniment. Considering that our talk series is "Jesus" and the subject of the talk was the gospel, it was amazing how he managed to preach for 30 minutes without even mentioning words like sin, righteousness, judgement or indeed the reason why Jesus came to live and die! According to this speaker, "the gospel is about more than just sneaking into heaven".

Well, I was pretty angry afterwards. A few of us were digesting and reflecting afterwards, and I missed the speaker's departure. It was probably a good thing that he got to his car before I caught up with him - and I was running after him - because at that time I would have roasted him alive. How dare he come and pervert the Gospel with wishy-washy heresy! The real tragedy is that most CU members don't have enough Bible knowledge to even know that anything was amiss. Even diligent Christians like some of my housemates who were saved recently were led astray simply through lack of experience. I had flashbacks to my flirtings with the prosperity gospel a few years ago, and am thankful for more wisdom and discernment by the Holy Spirit now.

I've calmed down a bit now (though I did have to have some brandy when I got home last night). Thankfully the usual calibre of our speakers is higher and their theology more orthodox!

PS: his 'strike-three' was referring to Steve Chalke as his friend. No wonder he didn't mention God's wrath!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Geography

This morning I attended my last ever lecture at Southampton University. Afterwards, my friend Ella and I grabbed a coffee and were talking about what it is we've achieved in the last three years.

The world hasn't changed enormously since October 2004. Its population now stands at closer to 7 billion than 6 billion. It has one more country (Serbia and Montenegro split last year). An estimated 28 conflicts are ongoing across Latin America, Africa and Asia (not including the "war on terror"). The reality of anthropogenic climate change seems to have finally been established.

Locally, the July 2005 terror attacks in London were both a result of and reason for our involvement in projecting power abroad. Close to a million eastern Europeans have arrived in the UK and have made their presence felt quickly in our cities.



So what do geography students do to learn about this world? Are we merely to describe it, or can we explain and understand what happens? Ella and I agreed that the most important thing we've discovered is not the mechanisms of globalisation, the development of third way welfare or the techniques of fieldwork - it's the ability to think critically. Accepting what we're told is a learning technique from school, where if a teacher says something it should be true. University inverts that process and teaches us to question authority, to analyse sources and develop our own viewpoints. When we read opposing explanations of the same phenomenon it becomes clear that they aren't both correct, but how are we to differentiate between philosophies and theories?

The Christian geographer has extra work to do. The modern vogue of 'poststructuralist' geography is predicated on all knowledge being 'situated' or biased. This makes sense, but it is in choosing viewpoints that the Christian has an advantage. The existence of absolute truth means that we can know, not just opine. For truth is not an abstract concept, it arrived in this world in the shape of God himself: the author of creation became created in order that we might approach the Unapproachable and know the Unknowable! Now that's what I call ontology.

I'm grateful to have been able to glorify God through studying his world, even though most of the time I've not had the mindset I just outlined.



The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world and
all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
(Psalm 24:1-2)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the
work of his hands.
(Psalm 19:1)

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring for ever. The
ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.
(Psalm 19:9)




Outrageous Last Verse Harmonisation

Now that's what I call organ playing!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Three bicycle fortnight

Two weeks ago yesterday, I was eating breakfast when a glance out of the window brought about a double-take. Our house's four bikes are locked up outside the house to a set of wooden posts. As I use mine the most, it usually lives on the closest post - but it wasn't there! I mentally checked that it hadn't been left somewhere else: in town, at uni, at church, in my room. After a deduction of Holmesian proportions, it was clear that some scoundrel had stolen my bicycle.


My lock has been "left behind"
Not only that, but it seemed I had been on the receiving end of some rather direct social democracy. Another bike had been left on the street outside my house, but it was old, small and heavy with broken gears, dodgy brakes and a saddle that couldn't be raised from its lowest position. Lance Armstrong himself would struggle uphill on my bike, but this 'new' bike was practically unrideable (I took it to a church meeting and ended up pushing it most of the way).

Every cloud has a silver lining though: in this case I received £100 from the insurance company for my stolen bike. New bike: £35, new (better) lock: £18. Cash in hand: £47.

And in three months I can claim back the rubbish bike off the police and sell it! Ah, the sweet smell of profit...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Central Eurasian Partners (CEP UK)

Success! All my links to Central Eurasian Partners the other day have propelled it into 3rd place in Google's search for "central eurasian partners". Hopefully with a few more targeted links mentioning ministries in Poland, Slovakia, Central Europe and Central Asia (nudge nudge) it will reach first place.

I should point out that the organisation is actually looking for people to partner in its work of promoting national Christian witness and mission through education, culture and compassion. If you feel you would like to get involved - or to find out more - then please visit the CEP UK website at www.cepartners.org.uk and get in touch.

Na zdrowie!

(Yes, all those links do go to the same place.)

Monday, April 30, 2007

Build an arky arky

In the year 2007, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in England and said, " Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated,and I see the end of all flesh before me. Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans." He gave Noah the CAD drawings, saying, "You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights " Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark.

" Noah!" He roared, "I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark ?" "Forgive me, Lord ," begged Noah, "but things have changed. I needed Building Regulations Approval because the Ark was over 30m. I've been arguing with the Fire Brigade about the need for a sprinkler system. My neighbours claim that I should have obtained planning permission for building the Ark in my garden because it is development of the site even though in my view it is a temporary structure, but the roof is too high. We had to go to appeal to the Secretary of State for a decision. The Local Area Access Group complained that my ramp was going to be too steep, and the inside of the Ark wasn't fully accessible, then the Department of Transport demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark's move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.

Getting the wood was another problem. All the decent trees have Tree Preservation Orders on them and we live in a Site of Special Scientific Interest set up in order to protect the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go! When I started gathering the animals, the RSPCA sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.

Then the County Council, the Environment Agency and the Rivers Authority ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood. The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only CSCS accredited workers with Ark-building experience. To make matters worse, Customs and Excise seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.
So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this ark".

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, " You mean you're not going to destroy the world?" "No," said the Lord. " The European Union beat me to it."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Link bombing

There are plenty of things I could be writing about - in fact this week has been unusually eventful - but for now I shall content myself by promoting the website for Central Eurasian Partners, an organisation being set up to link supporters in the East and the West with mission partners in central Europe and central Asia. At the moment when you search Google for Central Eurasian Partners the website doesn't come up so I am linking to the CEP website from various places in order to promote mission in Poland, Slovakia, central Asia and other places.

That should do it!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Films

I just signed up for a month's free trial of DVD rental from Blockbuster. Of course the subscription will mysteriously be cancelled just before the end of the month!

Anyway, there are thousands of DVDs on the website for rental - TV shows as well as movies. So, any recommendations? Anchorman and Borat are already on the list...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Word up

Word Alive was good. I didn't have a mindblowing time and haven't felt completely transformed by the conference, but I did appreciate the teaching. Two relay workers have been blogging their notes on the evening talks from Hebrews, which were great; I actually got hold of more from Charles Price's teaching on Philippians in the mornings. Unfortunately at £4.50 EACH I can't really get hold of them to listen again!

More good news: that was the last time I'll ever visit Skegness (hopefully). Next year Word Alive will be separate from Spring Harvest and in lovely Pwllheli. Hurrah!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Word Alive

Skegness is calling like a siren on a treacherous river. Thankfully, hardcore Bible teaching and the opportunity to swim in the North Sea will compensate for Butlins' prison holiday camp accommodation. 3 days to go!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Travel update

I just got back from the first trip of 2007, and very welcome it was after a bit of cabin fever at university for a term.

Chatel had its best snowfall all season with several feet dumped over the week and a LOT of powder on the slopes. Fantastique!

I've also booked my tickets to Toronto later this summer with FlyGlobespan. Well, at least it's supposed to be Toronto...



"Toronto has two designated International airports - Lester B Pearson International (20 miles from downtown) and John C Munro Hamilton International (40 miles from downtown). Flyglobespan's choice of John C Munro International Airport has many compelling advantages ... if your destination is downtown Toronto you can certainly expect to arrive sooner than you would if travelling through Pearson. A recent survey revealed a 48 minute time saving, departing downtown Toronto and taking off from John C Munro Airport over Pearson."


I don't believe any of that for a moment, but the ticket was exceptionally cheap, so I don't really care. I'll be in Canada from Wednesday 22nd August to Sunday 2nd September.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I love geography

Google Earth is the most user-friendly and well-known application of GIS: Geographic Information Systems. Unlike most GIS applications, Google Earth has one program-set layer of standard information - the imagery - and then a load of optional layers showing things like roads, Wikipedia article links, international borders, cities and so on. Anyway, I am a big fan of the near-continual upgrading of the imagery (and no, it isn't live!). Recently Switzerland had a nice update with great resolution on both the images and the elevation model:





Denmark was also updated, but to be honest isn't quite as impressive. Can't think why.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Summer plans

Spring is in the air... which means it must be time to start planning the summer!

Two trips on the drawing board at the moment:
  • Poland (4th year running!) from 1st - 19th July
  • Toronto from 23rd August - 3rd September
  • Finding somewhere to live in London in September, before starting study in October

The dates for Toronto are provisional, it seems a waste to go such a long way for a couple of days so I'll have to figure out who's around and how to fill my time there...

End

9776 words is no book, but it certainly took its time to complete. Suddenly I find myself with something called "free time" - how do I fill it...

I went home over the weekend, partly because Carey was having a baptism service. Eight young people (all girls, as it happens) gave testimony to their sin, need of a saviour and faith in Jesus. It was a real encouragement to hear so many sound testimonies - and an uncompromising sermon - that didn't water down the truths of the gospel for the sake of their friends. There were nearly 500 people at the service, of whom over 100 were schoolfriends of the baptism candidates. Good work girls! (SDG)

This week I can make up for my absence during the mission week thanks to the Islamic Society on campus. A few talks to go to and investigate the claims of Islam... and they usually provide much better food than the CU as well!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Blogroll

The quarterly update to my blogroll is now complete. Drumroll please for...

Strange Maps (featured already last week)
Catholic Gauze (don't be put off by the name!)
Worst Places (again...)
Real Climate (consensus, here we come)
Chaplain (by all accounts an absolute loonie)
Pyromaniacs (apparently this is all you need to do to get blogspotted in California)

In even more of a hurry?

553 km/h on the French TGV.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Books

I don't think I've done so much concentrated reading before in my life. The reference list for my dissertation now runs to four pages (79 items and counting). It seems to have kicked my brain into overdrive, so much so that I can't really switch off and stop thinking!



What a blessing, then, to have good books to get stuck into. On Tuesday I finished going through Romans, which I'd been studying since October. It hasn't been life-changing, but the text is so rich that I could probably do the whole book over again and learn just as much. Our wickedness, God's grace, mercy, providence, guidance, love... yeah, pretty much all about God actually.

On Wednesday my next BST arrived - I'm heading off the beaten track into Joel, Micah and Habbakuk! I'd never read Joel before, and if I may be so irreverent I can see why; great locusts notwithstanding.

The new film Amazing Grace came out today apparently, but not in the UK. I hope to see it at some point, probably when it gets to DVD. In the meantime, tonight I read John Piper's biography of William Wilberforce, the man who spent 46 years (!) campaigning for slavery's abolition. You can read it here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Running late?

This guy obviously hasn't read Romans 13 recently.

Or the Highway Code.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Random links

OK, I've been procrastinating. Not totally without cause, however:
  • Strange maps - one of the best blogs I've come across in a while.
  • The above site led me to this one. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.
  • On a more serious note it's our CU mission at the moment. Lots going on - unfortunately I am too busy dissertating to get involved much!

3000 words written. 7000 to go, in 16 days. Tally ho!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Zzz

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. After the New Year I had several essays to write, then exams to revise for and take. Then I took a few days off, and now I'm back at uni but working on my dissertation - 10,000 words in the next 26 days! So if I blog before March 5th I'll be procrastinating.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Miracle man

This seems to be the popular perception of Jesus... among Christians!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Constitutional Peasant

Help, help! I'm being repressed!

Burma "orders Christians to be wiped out"

From the Telegraph:

The military regime in Burma is intent on wiping out Christianity in the country, according to claims in a secret document believed to have been leaked from a government ministry. Entitled "Programme to destroy the Christian religion in Burma", the incendiary memo contains point by point instructions on how to drive Christians out of the state.

The text, which opens with the line "There shall be no home where the Christian religion is practised", calls for anyone caught evangelising to be imprisoned. It advises: "The Christian religion is very gentle – identify and utilise its weakness."

Its discovery follows widespread reports of religious persecution, with churches burnt to the ground, Christians forced to convert to the state religion, Buddhism, and their children barred from school.

Human rights groups claim that the treatment meted out to Christians, who make up six per cent of the population, is part of a wider campaign by the regime, also targeted at ethnic minority tribes, to create a uniform society in which the race and language is Burmese and the only accepted religion is Buddhism.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Evangelism

Listen to this testimony about a man who gave out evangelistic tracts in Sydney. It's amazing.

Clicky

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Letter to Simon Cowell

Dear Mr Cowell,



Having greatly enjoyed watching your television appearances on both sides of the Atlantic in the past few years with "Pop Idol" and "American Idol" I would like to offer you an exclusive deal on an up-and-coming TV show which is along the same lines.


The increased materialism in our society - as typified by the popularity of glorified karaoke contests with obscene prize monies - is a concern to every practicing Christian. We are taught that the love of money is the root of all evil, and that to give is more blessed than to receive. This message does not seem to be reaching those who need it most, however: the TV-watching public. Mugs that they are, they'll watch anything billed as "reality TV"; and what could be more real than a head-to-head competition of most people's favourite pastimes?


I would like to present "False Idol".

The purpose of this TV show is to discover the real view of the man on the Clapham Omnibus (you may remember from when you lived in Britain that many of us use public transport to get around). Would that man rather be driving around Clapham in a ludicrous 4x4? Would he prefer, perhaps, to watch a football match every week? Could he do without his new iPod while he's at the gym? Or are his interests more down-at-hand, if you know what I mean?


Human societies have developed so many ways to occupy their citizens in ultimately meaningless pursuits. Let's find out which one they really couldn't do without, and which are just a small convenience.


Similar to "Pop Idol", the series will start with a group of contestants: TV, gadgets, sport, sex, money, cars and status. Every week there will be a presentation from an advocate for each contestant, but at the end of the show one will be going home empty-handed. The viewer votes by phone to decide which idol is a 90ft gold statue, and which is a chocolate teapot.
Week by week, the list of idols will be reduced until the grand finale, when a battle for hearts and minds will consume the nation in a passion of idolatry. Which will it be?

The winner of the series will be crowned with a crown that will perish, spoil and fade: FALSE IDOL! The records of everyone who voted will at this time be analysed, and to those who voted for the winning idol, an invitation will be issued to worship it more in the coming year.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to your swift reply, and anticipate a fruitful relationship in producing this televisual marvel.
Yours faithlessly
Chris Hillcoat