Friday, January 25, 2008

Plus ça change

As of tomorrow I will be an Englishman in N7, living with two other English guys from All Souls and setting up an awesome flat: the TV's been ordered, the hi-fi is ready to go, the living room is big enough to have people round and we're 5 minutes from the Tube. I'm pretty excited! Should probably start packing at some point today...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A reading chronicle

I started reading the Bible straight through on December 1, and as of today have read 353 chapters, 30% of the total, at a mean rate of 6.7 chapters per day (yes, I made a spreadsheet to keep track of my Bible reading). I'm finding it a very helpful exercise, for several reasons:
  • By reading from start to finish, the overarching narrative of the Bible is more clear - God is good and glorious and always accomplishes His will; humans' obedience is fleeting at best; there is a real groaning for ultimate salvation that doesn't depend on human achievements.
  • There are still portions of Scripture I know I've never read, and probably lots more I've missed - reading the whole Bible means that I know I will have read all of God's word at least once (is this legalistic?).
  • Keeping up a good pace means that I don't get bogged down - obviously this means I'm not doing in-depth study, but for a temporary period it seems to work.
If you do the addition you'll see that I'm currently in 1 Chronicles. To be honest, I've struggled to see the purpose of this book and its sequel. Having read through the Books of Moses and the history of Israel from Johsua to Zedekiah it seems incredible that there should be two books of mostly repetition, especially given the cost of publishing in the Iron Age.

A reliable commentary says that Chronicles was probably written by the same man who wrote Ezra and Nehemiah, aptly known as "the Chronicler". Obviously they date from later than Samuel & Kings, because the historical narrative goes further. If he wrote Chronicles at the end of the exile, there would have been much wooping and cheering by the rivers of Babylon as the remnant returned home. This must be the explanation for the TEN CHAPTERS of genealogy at the start of the book... they really knew how to have fun back then eh!

(Yes, genealogy for the Jews was crucial to their culture, history, politics, religion, geography, anthropology and faith. In all honesty though it's not the most inspiring portion of the Bible.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

False economy

Two of my flatmates are on a trip to Brussels this weekend. Unfortunately they didn't ask me (or anyone) what would be the best way of travelling there, which meant they left the flat at 3am today to catch a taxi to Baker St, where they'd take a bus to "London" Stansted Airport, over an hour away. After getting there, standing in the security queue and eventually catching a flight of less than an hour, they will have arrived at "Brussels" Charleroi Airport, which is just as far from Brussels as Stansted is from London. Check the map below to see what I mean.

The alternative? Take the Tube to St Pancras station, arrive 30 minutes before the Eurostar's scheduled departure, grab a coffee and enjoy the scenery on the journey, which takes less than 2h and gets you to central Brussels. Once you take into account all the buses, I bet it would work out cheaper as well. Oops!

As of next week, I'll be living literally 10 minutes from St Pancras (and with new flatmates), which will make decisions like this even more of a no-brainer.

View Larger Map

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Eyewitness accounts

The crash landing at Heathrow airport today was a field day for journalists. BBC News 24 cleared its schedules for over 2 hours to talk about the incident; and the event was even sweeter for them because (a) nobody was killed, so there are no awkward arguments about morbid intrusion, (b) it emerged that British grit and stiff-upper-lip prevailed and resulted in the efficient evacuation of the plane.

What I thought was most interesting was the selection of eyewitness accounts that emerged. Some passengers phoned up the BBC, others were interviewed later, and a page of their descriptions is on the BBC website, here. There is considerable variation in the reports: some say the plane landed on the tarmac, others that it swerved 90 degrees, some that the pilot was clearly struggling, others that it all happened suddenly. Yet despite this variation, the storyline is clear. Everyone is agreed that a plane made a crash landing on Runway 27L at Heathrow and that nobody was seriously hurt. The different angles actually add to the story, especially those inside and outside the plane.

It is reminiscent of another set of eyewitness accounts about a surprising and unexpected event in history, isn't it?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The power of the atom

The UK government has given the "go-ahead" for a new generation of nuclear power plants in Britain. Given that our electricity currently comes from a mix of North Sea oil/gas, oil/gas from Russia and the Middle East, and a number of hamsters running around in wheels connected to 9V batteries, the decision is a good one.

It's especially important given that the North Sea oil is about 95% used up and all of our current nuclear plants will have to shut over the next 30 years. Until nuclear fusion is developed to more than an option in Sim City, we're going to need a reliable, cheap and low-carbon option for a lot of our power. Wind and solar power are fine for micro-generation and supplements, but what happens when it's cloudy and raining? (It does happen occasionally.) Tidal power has potential - and it's certainly reliable - but only for 10% of our power at the most. Or we could reopen the coal mines and get burning, but that's not exactly the most sustainable choice.

You might have noted the inverted commas around "go-ahead" above. The government is excellent at "approving" major projects (Crossrail springs to mind) but doesn't have such a glowing record at actually getting stuff built. The government paper can be downloaded here. Let's hope we see some nuclear power plants online before the brownouts begin.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Vote Boris

Back Boris for a Greater London

Ken Livingstone has done a good job as London mayor - but Boris Johnson will do a much better job. In a traditional political ranking (appearances on Have I Got News For You), Boris beats Ken 7-0. What a result!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Catching up

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I had my Google account hijacked in mid-December which meant I couldn't access Gmail, Blogger or indeed any of the things I'd just written about. Not sure if that was irony or just providence; but in any case Google gave me back the keys this morning. Normal service has been resumed... ie. a post every two weeks or something equally lame.