Monday, January 30, 2006

Music for a Monday night

Every six months or so I put a Beth Orton album on. I remember in the hazy times of my twenties her video for She Cries Your Name, and thought she looked a little like a friend of mine. The next time I encountered her was in 1999 driving home to Northcote on Auckland's North Shore and hearing Stolen Car from Central Reservation. It was a sunny afternoon as I sped along the Northcote off-ramp on the Northern Motorway. And I loved it. It's a rare thing that I can place the first time I heard a song. (About the only other ones I can think of is Chicago from Groove Armada's Vertigo (one of the songs that changed my world), and Snappy from the Groove Armada Back to Mine mix album. Both were in my office at Harrison Grierson in Newmarket). But back to Beth. Every now and again I seem to bump into her. Once it was on a Chemical Brothers album (Come With Us) and another time it was on a William Orbit mix. Strange Cargo 3, I think.

As I say, every six months or so I put her on and almost invariably she hits the spot. Tonight she was the background to a candlelit (ha!) MSN conversation with a very good pal and accompanied by the end of the Chianti from Saturday night.

More on Jim's sermon

I've just listened to Jim's sermon again. My initial blog on this simply does not do it justice. My sincere apologies, Jim, for forgetting the main point of your sermon.

For the rest of you, I really encourage you to listen to it. I can't summarise his point anymore eloquently than how Jim has already spoken it.

But I've removed some of the more trite aspects of the original entry. Actually, I've rewritten it a whole lot.

Thanks, Jim. That was something special.

An inappropriate forum

This weekend Idris watched the entire first series of Lost. All 25 episodes or seventeen and a half hours of it. Last night he texted me to ask me what it's all about.

Assuming I could explain it, somehow explaining it via text message didn't seem the best forum...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Bliss... waking up at 8.30am on a Sunday morning and drifting in and out of sleep in a warm bed while watching the Australian Open men's final.

Music for a Sunday night...

...Fat Mama from Herbie Hancock's Fat Albert Rotunda. Divine jazz-funk.

The man, the movement, the machine, the monument

Update: The podcast is there now. Say a prayer for Jim when you listen to it.

Tonight at hOME, Jim preached on the presentation of the infant Jesus at the temple. In preaching on this, he talked about the four stages of the development of a movement. I'm thinking I'm going to have to listen to this again. There is a podcast of it here. Anyhoos, Jim referred to the fours stages of the development of a movement. Those four stages being:

I: The man/woman who has an idea. If you like you can go with Jesus as the man/woman. The man/woman with the idea generates...
II: ...a movement. Going with the Jesus analogy you can go with the disciples and the crowds who in turn...
III: ...generate a machine. Sticking with the Jesus thing, this would be the theology. Finally, the machine needs a house so we get...
IV: ...the monument.

And somewhere along the line we sucked into a position where we worship the movement, the machine or the monument. Where they became sacred and we can't tinker with them. Because they're scared. It's a bit like a celebrity who is famous for being famous. And Jim made the point that we are not only called to worship the man/woman, but also to follow them too. Which isn't to say that movement/machine/monument are bad, because they aren't in themselves, but to recognise where they are assisting our understanding the man/woman. It reminds me of the R.E.M song where Michael Stipe sings 'I can't say that I love Jesus, that would be a hollow claim. He did make some observations and I'm quoting them today'. Sometimes I think I walk a very fine line between loving the man and loving the idea of Jesus. Maybe that's the narrow path.

In describing the four stages, Jim tried to reconcile the four stages to the very recent and very raw death of a close friend of his. In reminding us that we are called to follow the man, not the movement, we are invited to see how we can walk with our fellow men and women when they suffer. He quotes Churchill; 'when you find yourself walking through hell, keep going'. Jim then invited us to follow Jesus as we share the pain with those in suffering

Geddit? Oh damnit, just listen to the podcast. It's only thirteen minutes long.

Just some food for thought on a Sunday night.

Nomal Service

A couple of conversations have steadied the ship. The first was with Megs, where she told me to be a man. Quite right. I'm 31 for goodness sake. After all the supportive conversations, it was jolly useful to have someone lavishly take the piss out of me.

The second was with Jim and Anne last night over dinner. Jim's a great fan of technology. Anne would rather it wasn't there at all. We had a very pleasant evening over a bottle of Chianti and a chicken pasta dinner. Anne questioned the whole point of blogdom, and finds reading them rather invasive, much like another friend of mine. Jim's response is that blogdom is what you make it to be and that in my case mine has always been rather personal. Except for that period where I went through a series of badly written gig reviews. What was I thinking?? Anyways, the conclusion that was arrived at was that it's good to talk about stuff out loud, but there is a time and a place for it. It's useful for people to talk about their issues, and I think we all should do. However, I think I've taken it too far. So... let's just acknowledge that there is some crap in my world, and that I'm talking about it with people. I'm just not doing it here. And that's why some posts have mysteriously disappeared.

Now that feels better. So less angsty drama queen stuff here.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Thursday, January 26, 2006

From the Kite Runner

"I loved him because he was my friend, but also because he was a good man, maybe even a great man. And this is what I want you to understand, that good, real good, was born out of your father's remorse. Sometimes, I think everything he did, feeding the poor on the streets, building the orphanage, giving money to friends in need, it was all his way of redeeming himself. And that, I believe, is what true redemption is, Amir jan, when guilt leads to good.

I know that in the end, God will forgive. He will forgive your father, me and you too. I hope you can do the same. Forgive your father if you can. Forgive me if you wish. But most important, forgive yourself."
-Khaled Hosseini

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Ryanair is now going to charge passengers for checking in baggage. Every item checked in after March 16 will incur a £2.50 charge. Well, well, well... Fancy a passenger wanting to have luggage. We have to pay for the seat, the food and now the luggage. Maybe they'll start charging for the safety announcement. This latest charge aggravates me so very much.

And how will passengers respond? I bet they respond by not checking in anything and carrying bigger and bigger pieces of luggage on board as carry-on baggage. The amount of people currently dragging oversized bags on board and blocking the narrow aisles is already frustrating, and this is only going to make things so much worse.

They're having a giraffe.

As high as a kite

On Saturday night I was at a bit of a loose end. When I mentioned this to Wendy she asked me what I was reading. I replied that I hadn't been reading anything for months. She suggested then I that I wander down to Borders, find a book and then go home and read it. She recommended The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. So I duly took myself down to Borders and bought the said book. But I also picked up Himalaya by Michael Palin, as I'm hoping to visit Mike and Sarah (and the delightful Caragh, Mari and Alex, my favourite little people) when they move to Nepal in October, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

I started on the latter book first and I am loving it. It's the story of a rather selfish boy growing up in the 1970's in Afghanistan and his relationship with his servant and his father. I'm only a hundred pages or so into it, but I am absolutely taken by it.

I should point out that on Saturday night after returning from Borders I didn't actually read any of the books. Oh no, I watched the Peacemaker with Clooney and Kidman, and followed it up with Match of the Day....

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

On the Beach

I have to put this here so I can change my display photo. I need to give blogger a link to play with. This photo is remarkable in that I think I have actually been photographed well here. There is only a little bit of smugness on display.

Apparently it needed to be smaller.

Instant karma - it's gonna get you

Yesterday while having breakfast I spotted a mouse running across the floor. So last night I set a trap and this morning had the task of throwing the mouse (or another one very like it) into the rubbish bin.

Then this morning I went out to scrape ice off my car. When I reached my car I discovered that I no longer had an intact rear windscreen. Instead it was all over my boot and backseat.

Idris insists I had a meeting with karma. But I think he's a hippy.

Friday, January 20, 2006


22:30 today. How the hell did I improve by 2:17 in two days?

I also improved my blister count.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Blues

On Monday night, when I was a little low, I caught The Simpsons. It is the one were Lisa is sent out of class for 'feeling sad'. Late in the show she meets bluesman Bleeding Gums Murphy. She plays the Blues with him. At the end she observes that she doesn't feel any better. His response?

"The Blues isn't about feeling better, it's about making other people feel worse, and making a few bucks while you're at it."

This still makes me smile.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A New Day

Today I am feeling a lot more hopeful about it all. Whatever 'it' is. I went to sleep last night feeling at ease with my world and where I am in my world. Somehow it felt certain that I was being remembered in prayers and that was comforting. And someone has reminded me that it's best not to make rash decisions until I'm in a more peaceful frame of mind. Wise words. Although it seems a bit of an oxymoron to make a rash decision when peaceful...

So today I feel ok. Not so naive to believe I'm fixed.

I ran three miles at lunch with my friend Wiki. Did it in 24 minutes and 47 seconds. It's the first time I've run in months. Two blisters to show for it and after an hour I am finally regaining some strength in my arms. I'm not sure if I feel better for it!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

By the way

To deal with and understand things that are on my mind, I often talk about them. It allows me to cope with them. For far too much of my life I kept things inside and that was unhealthy.

If my airing of things that affect me in public bothers you, or makes you uncomfortable, too bad. Deal with it. I am.

The Military Industrial Complex

(This one isn't about me)

On the Daily Show tonight, Jon Stewart interviewed Eugene Jarecki who has made a film called "Why We Fight". The film is an examination of why we go to war. In the film he quotes a speech made by Dwight D. Eisenhower that was made three days before he finished his second term as President of the US. For those of you who don't know much about Eisenhower, he was the mastermind behind the D-Day landings and was the supreme commander of the allied forces in their attempt to defeat Hitler. So a man with a lot of background in the armed forces, and one who had been initmately involved with them for fifty years.

In the speech, made in 1960 he makes the following extraordinary warning about the Military Industrial Complex (indeed, I think he coined the phrase):

"Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society."

The next bit is particularly astonishing for a man in his position to declare:

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."


In response to the previous entry, my pal Jolinda suggested that I toss a coin. My response to her was to tell her that tossing a coin frightens me so much I can't even think about it. Now what does that say about my approach to fate? Even thinking about a 'dummy toss' makes me recoil.

Fate? It's a crock of shit, isn't it?


(Don't look for meaning in the title because, unless you're Justice, Anita or myself, you simply won't find any).

Further to this and the title (only) of this, I have the following:

I am not content anymore in Oxford. This discontentment has been around since about September 2005, which is coincidentially about the same time as I got back from my last trip home. To New Zealand, that is. In reality, this is probably no coincidence. The discontentment rears its head in various forms and at various times. It's not a consequence of how I cam feeling today, or yesterday, or last week, rather I am sure I have noticed a pattern developing since September. And my gut feeling right now is that something has to change. At the moment it seems that it is the UK that is most at risk and I am feeling a very strong desire to return to New Zealand.

Last October I made an agreement with myself, and with Jim that I would not leave from something, rather I would have to leave to go to something. I don't want to be in a state of feeling that I am running from something. It's an agreement this week I also asked Megan to hold me to. But there are a lot of people in NZ that would be worth leaving to go to. But I'm not so naive to spot that a move to NZ would result in the grief of people left behind here. Once upon a time I used to mock some of my friends who's OE lasted less than a year. Now, to some extent at least, I envy them. The decision making process for them was a no-brainer. They went on holiday for a year and then they came back. NOT, I would stress, that I regret any of my time here. I have, for the most part, had a great time here. I've made friends I hope I will have for life and I've learnt things about me and my world that I could never have discovered if I'd stayed at home. There are places I've seen, one just across the border from Botswana, that have astonished me. And there are communities and ideas that I have learnt about that I would never have been open to had I stayed in NZ. But my thoughts right now is that maybe it is time to knock it on its head, hell, it's been over four years.

As Justice said to me last night there is no good time to go home. But you have to make that decision at some time. A valid decision being, of course, to decide to not go home. Today, I am closer than I have been in four years to deciding to go home.

Fortunately, I guess, it would take about three months to pack up my life so this would not be a rushed decision. Besides, I really want to be here for A and J's wedding in June.


I saw a man
He was holding the hand
That had fired a gun at his heart
Oh, will we live to forgive?
I saw the eyes
And the look of surprise
As he left an indelible mark
Oh, will we live to forgive?
Come find release
Go make your peace
Follow his lead
Let the madness recede
When we shatter the cycle of pain
Oh, we will live to forgive
Come find release
Go make your peace
I saw a man
With a hole in His hand
Who could offer the miracle cure
Oh, He said live
I forgive

-Steve Taylor

Monday, January 16, 2006

There's no use denying it

Right now, I want to go home.

Grumpy Old Men

In response to my Saturday night out, a friend has sent me this.

Bah Humbug!

Born before 1986?

According to today's regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the 60's, 70's and early 80's probably shouldn't have survived, because our baby cots were covered with brightly coloured lead-based paint, which was promptly chewed and licked.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, or latches on doors or cabinets and it was fine to play with pans.

When we rode our bikes, we wore no helmets, just flip-flops and fluorescent 'spokey-dokey's' on our wheels.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or airbags and riding in the passenger seat was a treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle and it tasted the same.

We ate chips, bread and butter pudding and drank fizzy juice with sugar in it, but we were never overweight because we were always outside playing.

We shared one drink with four friends, from one bottle or can and no-one actually died from this.

We would spend hours building go-carts out of scraps and then went top speed down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into stinging nettles a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and could play all day, as long as we were back before it got dark. No one was able to reach us and no one minded.

We did not have Play stations or X-Boxes, no video games at all. No 99 channels on TV, no videotape movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no DVDs, no Internet chat rooms.

We had friends - we went outside and found them. We played elastics and rounders, and sometimes that ball really hurt!&n bsp; We fell out of trees, got cut, and broke bones but there were no law suits. We had full on fist fights but no prosecution followed from other parents.

We played knock-the-door-run-away and were actually afraid of the owners catching us.

We walked to friends' homes.

We also, believe it or not, WALKED to school; we didn't rely on mummy or daddy to drive us to school, which was just round the corner.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls. We rode bikes in packs of 7 and wore our coats by only the hood. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of...they actually sided with the aw.

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all. And you're one of them. Congratulations!

Pass this on to others, who have had the luck to grow as real kids, before lawyers and government regulated our lives, for our own good. For those of you who aren't old enough, thought you might like to read about us.

This my friends, is surprisingly frightening......and it might put a smile on your face:

The majority of students in universities today were born in 1986... They are called youth. They have never heard of We are the World, We are the children, and the Uptown Girl they know is by Westlife not Billy Joel. They have never heard of Rick Astley, Bananarama, Nena Cherry or Belinda Carlisle.

For them, there has always been only one Germany and one Vietnam.

AIDS has existed since they were born.

CD's have existed since they were born.

Michael Jackson has always been white.

To them John Travolta has always been round in shape and they can't imagine how this fat guy could be a god of dance.

They believe that Charlie's Angels and Mission Impossible are films from last year.

They can never imagine life before computers.

They'll never have pretended to be the A-Team, the Dukes of Hazard or the Famous Five.

They can't believe a black and white television ever existed. And they will never understand how we could leave the house without a mobile phone.

Now let's check if we're getting old...

1. You understand what was written above and you smile.
2. You need to sleep more, usually until the afternoon, after a night out.
3. Your friends are getting married/already married
4. You are always surprised to see small children playing comfortably with computers.
5. When you see children with mobile phones, you shake your head.

Having read this, you are thinking of forwarding it to some other friends because you think they will like it too... Yes, you're getting old!!

A very silly game

My friend Justice has come up with a new game. He has called it the "Are your initials also an airport code game" game. See if you guess the rules.

I come in as Buraimi airport in Oman.

Vital Stats:

City : Buraimi
Country : Oman
Country Abbrev. : OM
World Area Code : 658
GMT Offset : -4.0
Longitude : 55° 47' 0" E
Latitude : 24° 15' 0" N

Well, it killled five minutes. And then I started looking up my friends... Your website resource is No, really.

Note: The winner for the most interesting airport so far is my colleague, Sue. Her SDA gives her, wait for it, Baghdad International...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Best of Oxford

I am (or was) a champion of Oxford. I still love it but that love is not what it once was. In order to to rekindle what it once grabbed me about this place and also to make the most out of this place I think I'm going to need some input from you lot.

So... I'm going to try and create a list of the best things and places in Oxford. I was thinking pubs, clubs, walks, barber shops, shoe shops, bridges, parks, live venues, indian restaurants, oxford bands, coffee shops, punt wharves, corner stores, music shops, cinemas, theatres, places for Sunday breakfast... Whatever it is that makes this place great.

I'm going with:
Pub: used to be the Marlborough House till it changed hands so now I'm going for the Lamb and Flag
Clubs: Pass. Maybe Anuba?
Walks: Across Hinksey Park to Hinksey Village
Barber Shops: the one above the department store on Turl St
Shoe Shops: Jones
Bridge: Folly Bridge. At night. In the Snow.
Park: South Parks in the summer with a frisbee
Live Venue: The Zodiac. By default. A serious weakness in Oxford
Indian Restaurant: Aziz
Oxford Band: Radiohead
Coffee shop: I don't drink coffee so will go with the Nosebag tea rooms
Punting Wharf: Cherwell Boathouse. Go upriver from there
Corner store: Londis on the corner of Newton and Abingdon Roads
Music Store: Polar Bear because the staff take the piss out of you.
Cinema: The Phoenix. By default.
Theatre: Pass...
Sunday breakfast: The French place on Little Clarendon St.

Your answers and suggestions for extra fields on a postcard please!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dinner with the Stars

Tonight I went for a curry with Matt and Chris at Chutney's in Oxford. It was a very tasty dinner (with very expensive rice). Sharing the room was a long table of very loud, very annoying, and (I was assuming at the time) very teenage girls. Chris writes about who they actually are... Given that the main protagonist is aged 15, one wonders what they were doing being served alcohol.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I've been out of the mathematical side of engineering now for quite some time now. As a result I sometimes struggle to solve tricky mathematical problems. So it came as a moment of triumph today when I managed to solve the following:

My colleague Emily wanted to know how many combinations could be made from a set of five objects, where you could not repeat any of the objects and where order didn't matter. For example, if you had the objects 1, 2 and 3, then the following combinations were available: 1, 2, 3, 12, 13, 23, and 123. That is, there are six. Now I know I could do them all by hand, but say for a large number of objects, eg 100, that would be a lot more tricky. So after trial and error I triumphantly came up with:

Number of combinations = Sum from 1 to i of nCi, where
i = the number of objects that can be chosen
n = the number of objects to choose from, and
C = the combinations derived from n!/((n-i)!*i!), where n!=n*n-1*n-2*...*n-(n+1)

Solving this makes feel less thick, despite the fact that the maths are not that complex...

Yes, I know I'm a geek.

With a small car.

Can someone remind me again, why exactly did we go to war?

My favourite TV channel (it scares me that I should have a favourite TV channel), More 4, is running a series of programs this week on the war in Iraq. More 4 is the place that Guardian readers watch TV; with a line up that includes The Daily Show, West Wing and numerous documentaries put together by Jon Snow it's not a surprise that it attracts naive idealistic yet cynical liberals like myself.

Last night they had an hour and a half long investigation on why we (the UK) went to war. It began in 2001 with (an actor playing) Tony Blair in Brighton being told to turn on the TV only for him to see the second tower being hit. From there it went through the discussions that he had with GWB and his cabinet. From the very beginning he appeared to declare to GWB that he/we (an important distinction that no one seems to pick up on) were with him/the US (another distinction we need to clarify) from the very beginning and would be with him to the end. Even when GWB states his intention to attack Afghanistan, then Iraq, and then "we will see", Blair tells Bush that "no matter waht you decide, we're with you". At which point one of his advisors asks what exactly he has just committed to.

Throughout, as increasing pressure was placed on Blair from his colleagues and from the public (not to mention France, Germany, Belgium...) he seemed increasingly backed into his corner of solidarity with the US/GWB. Every now and again GWB would through him a bone when things got tough domestically (agreeing to the second UN resolution or publicly declaring the special relationship between the US and the UK) but as time wore on the impression you got from the Blair was that he wanted to be seen to validate the inevitable US invasion of Iraq so that they weren't seen to be acting unilaterally, and thus show that it was an international response. At the same time, the impression I got of the US was that to have the Brits onside was a nice bonus, but to them it really didn't matter. At one point GWB is alledged to have to Blair that if he wants he can back out now but that he could feel free to come and help clean up the mess. Blair pauses before spluttering a reminder that he/we were with them from the beginning and would be with them till the end.

The resignations of Clare Short and Robin Cook are desparately sad.

The documentary ended with Blair alone in his office and the phone ringing. He answers it. He says "what? OK, but I thought we were starting tomorrow night?". He turns on the TV to discover that the war has started. GWB hadn't the decency to inform the other part of the 'special relationship' when the war was starting.

Looking back, I find it mindboggling that this actually happened. There seems a need to pinch myself to be sure that this is true. I'm astonished that these decisions were made and I remain frightened of what is to come. And I am upset with myself that on the day of the anti-war march I decided to play cricket. I should have been in London.

So why did we go to war? Don't tell me it was the WMD or Al Qaeda 'cos that aint it...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Cross Maltese (Photo Essay 2)

I went to Malta with Chris last week. I had a nice time but I found the Maltese to be a surly lot. So instead of rabitting on about the rabit cuisine and the dodgy roads, here are some pictures. For the technically minded amongst you these photos were taken using a digital camera that has a lens.

The tip of Valletta looking across Marsamxett Harbour

Young Maltese fishing in Grand Harbour

The WW2 Siege Memorial and Grand Harbour. When this bell rings (as it does at 12pm every day) it is loud.

There are lots of guns and walls in Malta. This gun is manned by a bear. Maltese beer was very drinkable, unless of course you bought it off-site and stored it in the hotel mini bar, because if you did the Maltese hotel staff would lock the fridge.

Chris and the funky cold Mdina. Mdina is known as the 'Silent City'. Not when it's being repaved it isn't.

The Dingli explosives factory. I kept out.

The par 4, third hole of the Giant's golf course. 640,468,500 yards, includes a siginficant water hazard.

The direction of the green for the third hole of the Giant's golf course. Rain is coming in from the Med.
A Canadian with a View

A Kiwi ignoring the view

The Temple at Hagar Qim. Together with the temple at Mnajdra these are the oldest free standing man made structures on earth. They are reckoned to have been built in 3600BC.

A Kiwi with a Mnajdra temple complex

The Blue Grotto. The boat trip was worth the admisson price to Malta alone. If you go to Malta, you must see this place by boat. The colours in the water do your head in.

Would you trust these people to do your spray painting? Look very carefully at the next picture (you might need to click on it to magnify it).


A contemplative (posing) Kiwi with a sea view.

Photo Essay 1

Just one photo of Caravaggio's crucifix that hangs in St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. More to come tomorrow...

Gig 2

Sigur Ros at the Hammersmith Carling Insert Corporate Sponsor Here Apollo on March 28.

Matt/Jim I will sort my own tickets out for this so Martin can have the spare one.

Gig 1

The Go! Team on March 5 in Oxford.