Tuesday, September 28, 2010

World population clock

Watch people be born and die, use oil, and increase the CO2 in the atmosphere:


Friday, September 24, 2010

The spirit of Tetzel lives on

Am reading an American Christian book.

While enjoyable and helpful in its way, so far it has mostly failed to deliver on its promise that 'I'll get' a thought-provoking look at God's heart and 'even better, you'll gain wisdom and tools for drawing closer to others in powerful, impactful ways.' Perhaps I should ask the (remaining) members of my family. Have you noticed me drawing closer to you in one or more powerful, impactful ways?

Inside I have opportunity to invest plenty more money in the church's resources. I can buy a series of 'transforming' Bible study guides that are 'filled with prayer, insight, intimacy and action' (according to the publisher), or better still, for a fee, ensure my church 'reaches its redemptive potential'. Does anyone believe this stuff? Does anyone, believing this stuff, buy this stuff? And why, if it's so good and helpful to the church, and has its origins in a rich local congregation, why don't they just give it away on the internet?

Empty nesting 101 (part 2)

So we drove her down to university, having offloaded the dog for the day. She had spent two days emptying her room and loading up the car. We clambered in among the pots, pans, books, clothes,  clutching her laptop and netbook. She's only an hour and a half away, for goodness sake.

We found the hall of residence and along with 500 others unloaded our stuff. I looked at all these parents around me. Were they all feeling the same thing? We walked to the high street and had a lovely farewell meal in a French restaurant. Our last meal. We looked in at her boyfriend's place in the same hall of residence and then went to the car. 'Let's just do this quickly,' said my wife, so I hugged this brand new student and we drove home. Just about the saddest, sweetest day of my life.

Empty nesting 101 (part 1)

This is an anti enthusiasm of the month.

We had known it was coming for a long time, and occasionally felt a little weight in the pit of the stomach. We had asked friends about it. 'It's like a bereavement', they told us. Sometimes I had noticed the passing milestones: her last school year with us, her final summer, her final month. Finally today, the final day. My wife cooked all our favourite stuff: dim sum, char siew pau, chicken rice, ice cream. We played a game of cluedo, then a couple of games of table football. (We have a table football table in our lounge.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Now we can use the word 'riffola'

Commentary on new words added to the Oxford English Dictionary

'One surprise of this range was the fecundity of riff n.5 (and riff v.1) in producing new nouns referring to the playing of catchy musical phrases. Besides riffage, this update also includes new entries for the whimsical riffola n. and the retro rifferama n. These words entered the English language amid an explosion of popular music journalism in the second half of the twentieth century, coined by critics who apparently felt limited by the staid predictability of riffing n. The three new entries are only the tip of a neologistic iceberg: OED's files also contain examples of riffery, riffdom, riffmongery, and riffology, among others which may eventually be considered for inclusion in future updates. (The OED)

Monday, September 13, 2010

The prodigal who didn't quite make it home

Rembrandt's Parable of the Prodigal Son  has the returnee resting his young, shaved head on his father's chest while the father's great rich cloak covers him -- an anguished baby, sleeping at last.  Marilynne Robinson's returning prodigal comes home to his father, is welcomed and loved, wants to love back, tries to love back, but never yet settles his head on his father's breast.

We try to love -- we fail to love -- we lose hope of ever loving -- yet in the trying and failing and losing hope love itself arrives: a hesitant presence. Nothing happens in this book: two letters, plenty of meals, a lot of gardening, a couple of visits to church, some games of scrabble.Yet breathing gets a little hard in the final few pages.