December 2003

I have slightly ambivalent feelings about this time of year (let the reader understand). This Christmas was a good one, though. I saw my family and S, drank a moderate amount of wine and had a lot of nice food. I have a new digital camera from my parents, some shirts from my sister, and a Thunderbirds Tracy Island from S, who clearly knows me far too well 🙂

I have spent today unsuccessfully trying to replace the ancient kernel on my Debian Linux box with a recent one so I can do USB stuff like talk to digital cameras. My root partition is too small to take the new kernel, alas. Today’s top tip is that Linux really does not like it if you move /lib to somewhere other than the root partition. Many hours later, I don’t have a new kernel but I do now have a working Linux machine again. Will try again tomorrow. Transferring from the camera works under Windows, but rebooting is annoying.

Also dug out the Acorn Electron and had a play, prompted by S’s interest in an adventure game I wrote for it ages ago. I’d really like a way of transferring some of the software and View documents onto a PC, so I could run the software in an emulator and keep the documents in a readable form. Since the Electron uses 5.25 inch disks in an old format, I’m guessing the only workable option might be to use the printer port.

I have been writing Christmas emails instead of Christmas cards. I’ve now missed my chance to email some people as they’ll have gone away for Christmas. So, I thank all of you who’ve been there for me over the last year. One of you said that we’d look back on this as a formative experience, something we learned from. Among other things, I have learned again the value of friends.

Merry Christmas to all our readers.

I do like the essays of Andrew Rilstone, so it’s good to see a new one. The Ballad of Reading Diocsese is about the last but one gay bishop controversy. You have to like a piece in which the phrase “Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and Chief Druid” has a footnote saying “Contravening, it seems to me, the rules about multi-classed characters in the player’s handbook.”

Ivan Gelical: Men can’t touch each other’s willies!

Archdruid: Don’t be silly. Grown men can do whatever they like.

Ivan: Men who touch each other’s willies can’t be bishops!

Archdruid: Really, I think you ought to bring your views up to date.

Ivan: God says so! Jesus says so! The Bible says so!

Archdruid: (annoyed) I don’t care what the Bible says! I don’t care what Jesus says! I don’t care what God says!

Ivan: Ha-ha! So then, you are not a Christian at all!

Archdruid: Drat and double drat, you have caught me out. Truly, you are too clever for us syncretic people. I suppose I will have to let you run the Church from now on.

Ivan: Don’t mind if I do. (Aside) My plan worked. Heretics always make at least one foolish mistake. Would you be interested in coming to my Alpha course? We serve rice salad.

In a good bit of exegesis, Rilstone shows that the fuss made about all this is unwarranted, even if you do follow a fairly evangelical line on the Bible (as well as pointing out that evangelicals aren’t really the literalists or bigots the media make them out to be). He says that, while disapproval of homosexuality has always prevailed among evangelicals (as I recall, Mark Ashton tended to drop references to homosexuality into unrelated sermons as one of the canonical examples of sinful behaviour), similar issues, such as divorce or women priests, have not threatened to divide the church. (Although my cynical side would say that the evangelicals have chosen their ground carefully in picking a sin to which most people are not tempted).

But, he says, the issue has become a sign of a deeper conflict in the Church of England (note for Americans and other aliens: the C of E has an official status in the UK as the established church, involvement in state occasions and so on). On the one side are those who want the church to be a sort of National God Service, providing social programmes and appropriate words and ceremonies in times of national and personal need, using the idea of God to help them in this mission. On the other are those (including the evangelicals) who want it to be a supernatural religion: “Christians say ‘Religion is about contact between Man and the Divine – and by the way, this has lots of implications about how we should behave towards each other’. The National Church says ‘Religion is about how we behave towards each other (justice, tolerance, love) – and, by the way, God can be enormously helpful in getting this right.'”

Rilstone thinks, as do I, that the National Church has watered down Christianity to leave something like Deism. The difference between us is that I can’t believe in what he calls capital-C Christianity. A preacher at StAG once compared the watered down religion of school assemblies (and presumably your standard of C of E church) to an innoculation in childhood which prevents you from getting full blown Christianity as an adult. I imagine the parallel to the ideas of Richard Dawkins was unintentional (“Evangelicalism is a plague, Mister Andurrson. And I am the cure”). I have the opposite experience: I’ve had the full blown version and my immune system rejected it, so nothing else now seems likely to stick.

Rilstone seems a little despondent at the end of the article, facing a choice between the Deism of the National Church and the prejudice of the evangelicals. I hope he works it out somehow.

I’ve become a paid user of LiveJournal. As well as making me feel good about contributing to the upkeep of the place, this means that the RSS feed now contains the entire entry. As I can control the DNS for, that also means I can do: 68048 IN CNAME

so that becomes an alias for my LiveJournal. That’s not very useful for existing LJers, as you won’t see friends only stuff even if you’ve logged in. But the URL is shorter, and it provides some sort of future proofing (not that I’m thinking of leaving LJ, of course).

It looks like there are many other exciting things one can do as a paid user. New toy!

I went to the CDC Ball on Thursday. It was fun, as ever, seeing the usual crowd and also some people who come out of the woodwork especially for these things. A and S-who-is-not-S, a couple of Drogon people, have started dancing. Worlds colliding…

I had the day off to recover on Friday, so I went into town and picked up some Christmas presents. I also found a book about the origins of apocalyptic thought in religion, so I will let you know what that has to say once it has reached the front of the reading queue. Currently that place is occupied by Dr Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation, being “The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex”. S-who-is-S told me she’d seen it filed under Sex Advice rather than Evolutionary Biology in some bookshops, which might lead to some decapitated boyfriends being found about the place. The book is good fun and informative to boot.

CUWoCs once had a write up of the society in the CUSU handbook which said something like “Cthulhu worshippers believe that Cthulhu will one day return and execute horrible torture upon unbelievers. The difference between us and other major religions is that we don’t attempt to claim that this is a good or moral activity”. With that in mind, here’s an excellent Cthulhu spoof Chick Tract (it helps if you’ve seen the comics of which it’s a spoof, I suppose).

Today I’ve been up to Yorkshire to visit the relatives. I’m absolutely stuffed with food after the first of many turkey dinners. And so I retire, replete.