Saturday, 28 February 2009

Day 4 - Saturday 28 February

A question for today: does tomorrow count? Some people say that Sundays (from sunset on Saturday to sunset on Sunday) are not part of Lent.

English Language again

I must divert from Lenten thoughts: I’ve spotted another fractured use of the language. I’ve heard two politicians using the term ‘ I identify with that.’ It was used in the context of agreeing with another’s statement, but in a rather non-commital way, allowing the speaker to take a different view in the future. I’ll add this to ‘we shall go forward’ and ‘a robust response’ as apparently meaningful phrases that actually mean a lot less when analysed.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Day 3 - Friday 27 February

Not an action in the book but I think this counts: I visited Stony Dean school in Amersham where the Young Enterprise Team Programme company ‘Stony Dean Bizzy Bees’ have been making prototype holding crosses. We have run out of these in the Church and it seemed a good opportunity to involve the YE company. They have a stock of hardwood and the teacher cuts the cross outlines on the bandsaw then the company directors finish them. It’s more labour-intensive than the first thought but they believe they can achieve the 70-100 we need in a year. The directors were keen to commit and, as you can see, were working hard to finish the first few in time for our first use: a baptism in March.

They are keen to visit the Church to deliver their crosses and see where they’ll be put to use. I’ll keep you posted.

Day 2 - Thursday 26 February

We had pancakes tonight - a little late but that’s the way of Little Hampden: our millennium tree was planted in about 2003. We didn’t invite neighbours round - but we did have a village lunch last weekend with more than 40 present. Neither did we use the microwave (I think microwaving pancakes would be a challenge)

Bottled water

Here’s something for tomorrow: Tearfund suggests forgoing bottled water. We have for many years kept a couple of bottles in the fridge. We fill them with tapwater, leave an air gap and allow them to stand for 24 hours or more. The chlorine comes out into the space above, leaving water that tastes better than bottled water and is much cleaner. One set of tests of 51 samples of bottled water only found 2 that had the same level of bacteria as that required of tap water - 2 bacteria per millilitre. One sample had 188,000 per ml. And there are the millions of plastic bottles to be recycled. I suggest you try it.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

First day

I recruited some friends from near Rugby and Ramsbottom to the lent actions today - I know this isn’t in any of the guides but it’s good to spread the word. We met to have Lunch in Rugby: the Christian Aid checklists suggests that we give £4 if we eat out so I’ve added this to my lent box. We also had a discussion about long-life bulbs - in particular how the amount of light they give and the speed with which they start varies. Ian was worried about finding a replacement for 150w tungsten bulbs - have two versions, each available in BC and ES caps. One of these has a 10,000 hour life and will save £132 in energy costs and 504kg of carbon in its life.

I moved to the back of the queue for communion tonight but I don’t think that counts as giving ‘your place in a queue to someone’ However. we don’t get many queues in Little Hampden.


One of this week’s actions is to have a clear out. Here are some resources

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Lent is upon us

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday: start of Lent. What are you doing? I’m going to try to follow the Love Life Live Lent booklet.

I’m also going to keep an eye on the Tearfund Carbon Fast - and I know at least two friends are following this - and I hope they’ll share their experiences here.

Christian aid has a Lent programme called ‘Count Your Blessings’ which has actions for each day.

Click on the images above for more information. There are links to dowloadable resources in the ‘Links’ section to the right.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Here's an idea...

I’ve just seen a picture in today’s Guardian: they’ve transformed Malmesbury Abbey into a skate park for three days.

More pictures on the Abbey Blog here

Suggestions for May half term?

Climate Change

While browsing the web, I have found a few sites discussing Climate Change. I’ve added links in a new section to the right. If you have your favourites, let me know and I’ll add them here.

Like all internet resources, the information is not necessarily right: you’ll have to make up your own mind.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

English language again

Two interesting examples of the use of English again yesterday.

One was on Midweek - Libby Purvis, who is normally very good with the language, use the term ‘bookend’ as a verb - meaning something that occurred at the start and end of a programme. I have a teacher friend with whom I exchange e-mails when we find one of these new verbs - we call it verbing. A recent one that has now entered the language is to showcase. My ’80s OED has this as a noun only but the online Cambridge dictionary does have this as a verb. Some of these verbed nouns (sorry!) do add to the language but to bookend?

Much worse than this was an example of meaningless jargon on Today. The item was about teenage pregnancy but the content was almost incomprehensible - in an interview later in the programme, Simon Jenkins said of the piece "... you couldn’t get him to speak English, he lives in Whitehall and he speaks Martian..." I often find I’m criticising the Young Enterprise students for writing content-free reports: "we split into groups and thought of ideas for products, then we picked the best few and discussed these. We then reported back and decided on the best product" What was the product? Why did they choose it? What was rejected? Why? Politicians, particularly, are good at using apparently significant words which when analysed are meaningless: "we’ll learn the lessons and go forward with a robust response"

The teenage pregnancy speaker spoke about having a good strategy but some areas are not putting all the elements of the strategy together. He talks about the absence of a strategic champion for the strategy. When pressed, he explains this champion as someone working at a senior enough level where they can ensure that the strategy is effectively embedded in local structures within the local strategic partnership, whatever that means.

Listen to the full interview here - could you understand it?

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Melting snow

I saw these wonderful patterns in the melting snow at Little Hampden this afternoon:

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Lent is coming

What are you doing for Lent? A few years ago I gave up chocolate - which was very difficult as we had a week on the canals with friends and chocolate is good warming comfort food while working the locks! So it was especially hard. The spirit of Love Life Live Lent is to do something positive for Lent as well as giving things up. I’ll be trying to follow the book and reporting experiences here: it doesn’t look quite as challenging as Advent but we shall see.

Here’s an excerpt from the book and clicking on it will show a sample 6 pages. If you want a copy, contact me - we’re giving them away free but asking for a donation!

I’ve also found Tearfund’s campaign for a carbon fast during Lent. This is supported by a number of Church leaders. Their web site has several resources including a set daily actions for Lent. I’ll try to follow these, too - you can download the daily list and another set of actions from the links on the right. The Tearfund campaign page can be accessed here.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Escape - and (in)competence

I succeeded in driving out of Little Hampden today - and getting back home. First time since Sunday week. Driving round Gt Missenden and Amersham it’s difficult to believe that we still have so much snow: there’s hardly any on the ground there. I did manage to get out with a neighbour in his 4x4 on Saturday to do some emergency shopping for neighbours. But even today our track was barely passable with the car grounding in places because of the deep ruts in the snow.
As reported before, the community spirit up here in Little Hampden has been great. We had an offer of free sausages and chips at The Rising Sun on Friday evening - about 20 residents turned up and had a great time. We’ve all agreed to try to repeat the village get-together again soon - not with free food, of course.

Being stuck at home for over a week was an interesting experience. While it was a good opportunity to catch up with all sorts of things, I don’t feel I achieved a lot. Perhaps this is what house arrest is like. But the countryside under the snow was wonderful when the sun came out.

Competence - and incompetence

Potty training at 3500 miles - Neta reports she was helping potty training of her grandson via Skype: the grandson was camera shy so went offscreen to perform but encouraged by his grandmother reported success. But most of the news today is about appalling incompetence. First there was the bank directors before the select committee admitting they were totally out of control (I paraphrase). Then a report looking back after 30 years of the end of the Shah’s reign in Iran. Eight months before the he fled to be replaced by the Ayahtollah Khomeni in the bloody revolution, the UK ambassador cabled London ‘I do not believe there is a serious risk of an overthrow of the regime while the Shah is at the helm.’ Earlier he has reported ‘There has been little or no evidence of unrest among the urban poor’ and someone in the Foreign Office had written on the telegram ‘A very prescient despatch.’ The ambassador went on to represent Britain at the UN during the Falklands conflict. So public and private sectors seem to reward following the process regardless of the results.

The Times reports on the same page that Foreign and Commonwealth Office paid nearly £2.5m in bonuses last year - an average of nearly £8,500 to each employee who received a bonus. Do you think the FCO has changed so much in the last 30 years?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Snowed in again!

Lots more snow in the night so the road is impassable again. We haven’t been able to get out in the car since Sunday evening. But the community spirit up here in Little Hampden is great: the e-mails have been buzzing with offers of help from 4x4 owners and phones have been ringing to check that everyone is OK. It’s an ill wind...

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Voluntary action - and computers

I’ve been thinking for the last few days about supporting the local community. Although it’s not apparent, I’m sure there are people who need help and we in the Parish are in a position to do something. There have been a number of triggers: Mike has suggested group to provide support to people who are in difficulty in the current crisis; Rosie, prompted by another set of suggestions, has asked whether we should step back and think whether we are putting our energy in the right place.

I’ve also been concerned that much of our Church-supported activity is inward looking. At a Parish Weekend last Autumn, we spent lots of time understanding our gifts and skills - but these were focussed on supporting Church activities. OK, many of these activities are for the community, but it still seems narrow to me. So I think the opportunity - the challenge - of looking a little broader is good news.

So why can’t we sponsor a wide range of activities, both within the Church an in the community? And why can’t we draw resources from the community, too?
Resources: people, time. One of the challenges is to be able to find the people and the time to respond. Everyone is very busy. Lots of people already give their time. The risk is we’ll get the same people, putting them under more pressure. Perhaps we need to reset our priorities. But if we can we can engage the wider community, too, maybe we can do more. How does
Missenden Action sound?


And now for something entirely different. A week or so ago I referred to the changes I’d seen in my time with IBM. I spotted a news item this evening - IBM unveils world's fastest supercomputer. The IBM Sequoia is not available yet - it is to be delivered by 2012. It is reported to operate at 20 times the speed of the previous record holder: 20 petaflops, that’s 20 quadrillion operations per second, equivalent to more than 2 million laptops. As comparison, the first IBM PC operated at about 50 to 100 kiloflops. Not delivered yet? Did you see the news yesterday about delayed IT projects? We’ll see!

Link: IBM unveils world's fastest supercomputer

Monday, 2 February 2009

Candlemas - spring in the air?

Sunday 1 Feb - click for a bigger view
As we were celebrating Candlemas yesterday, I thought I’d take some pictures of the first signs of spring. However today reminds us that winter is only half over!