Saturday, 30 December 2006

Puffed Daddy

Not done a running photos post for a bit. So here's todays 4 miler. It was quite hard today (only managed 11 miles in total this week) as I'm getting over a sticky green cold. Mmmn.

Sunday, 24 December 2006


I wish you a happy, peaceful and meaningful Christmas. One and all.


Saturday, 23 December 2006

The Hamlet

I've been eavesdropping on The Hamlet for a few days having stumbled upon it randomly via the 'Next Blog' button. It's a wonderfully optimistic creation, but has overtones of new age spirituality, for which it is forgiven for the moment.

Its owner is a teacher of whom I assume to be high school children. Quite how he remains so optimistic in the face of these little pubescent challenges is inspiring.

He talks a lot about these little miracles, and how sometimes, in teaching he forgets the world is around him. 48 minutes of lesson pass by, during which time innumerate magical phenomenon occur unnoticed. Like the ant climbing down the classroom wall, or a child experiencing a subtle epiphany.

He describes this as if it's a bad thing. As he says, "most things are indeed miraculous". I suppose we should try more to savour the unfolding of these wonderful and constant occurrences.

However, a word of caution;

Remember, we're all players in these miraculous unfoldings. Like watching Schrodinger's cat in its box, if we observe them too closely we change their very nature. We cease to become actors in these scenes and end up mere observers. Interlopers even. And without the full cast, our miraculous plays become much the less for them.

In short, and this is advice I could well do with heeding, we should immerse ourselves in the moment a little more and enjoy each experience for what it is; ordinary but yet simultaneously miraculous.

I shall enjoy our Christmas morning all the more for this...

Friday, 22 December 2006

Zen and the art of christmas shopping

This is the third year I've braved the throngs to complete our yuletide food shop. Miche gives me a detailed shopping list, organised aisle by aisle to ease my passage.

Christmas is family a event, not the shopping for it. So we've agreed that being the only car driver, I get to do it alone. I've got quite good at it. In fact I'd go so far as to say I'm developing a Zen like style to Christmas vittles shopping. I enter a state of imposed calm and resign myself to two hours of enduring the constipated trolley rage of others. I divert myself by watching them.

So, today I watched innumerate dead eyed men pass by me as they followed their rummaging spouses. I spent my time in pleasurable diversion, wondering where they might be hanging out inside their heads.

It was a pleasurable diversion indeed, until I was awakened from my reverie, mid vegetable aisle, by Chav Girl and her progeny. Her child, no more than four, was sat in its trolley extracting what nourishment it could from the sweets in its lap. Its bejewelled mother informed the surrounding hoards "That woman is the most indecisive bitch in the fucking world." She asked of us - "How long can it take to choose a fucking broccoli?".

Sorry no, she asked me. Directly. She was looking right at me. Now, I've long since become accustomed to being approached by the troubled - I must have the face of a 'mental health worker', but this one scared me. What with her kappa pants and mock gold earrings. I'd not the first idea how to respond. So I just looked at her.

By way of an impatient prompt, Chav Girl nodded over my shoulder. Compliantly, I looked behind and saw the object of her ire; A woman I could only assume was her mother. To whom else could she be so critical of without worry of the consequence?

So, I'm stood there like a rabbit in Chav Girl's headlights as her mother contemplates the relative merits of Brassicaceae. What well observed retort do I offer? What scathing rebuff do I give her for behaving like an arse?

"Phurr, yeah, like!" is all I manage.

I pick up a random vegetable and scurry off.


Tacking around the store our paths converged three more times. And each time Chav Girl rolled her eyes at me, transferring her frustrations to her mother right into my trolley. And each time we passed I watched her mother deliberate on the subtle differences between Lurpak or Country Life, Bernard Mathews or Tesco's own brand ham or normal versus low sugar strawberry jam.

So, How long can it take to choose a fucking broccoli then?

For the love of god...

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Bring it on...

Both Murph and James have called me an atheist recently. I suppose in some respects I am. However, I'm uncomfortable with this moniker as it seems that I'm being defined by what I'm not, as opposed by what I am.

Yes, I don't believe in the existence of an overseeing god, and neither do I believe that there's a natural, moral order to our universe. However I do feel, like Frankl, that our place in the universe has to be rooted in some meaning. Otherwise we'll end up flaying about like fish out of water.

Which I'll admit is fundamentally confused.

What bothers me most about atheism and existentialism, if you choose to link the two together (and yes, I know of Kierkegaard), is the reductive argument that meaning can only be created provisionally from the point of view of the individual. We must sit, observing the world as if it's absurd and make sense of it from our own, individualistic standpoint. Ultimately then, everything becomes reduced to a selfish, Freudian pursuit of self gratification?

Given that I've struggled recently with concepts such as altruism and interdependence, I'm pretty confident that I'm not some hard arsed individualist. Can I follow existentialism to its natural conclusion then? Probably not.

So, there's an obvious flaw in my thinking. Some piece missing in my jigsaw if you like. Is it God? Unlikely, but possible, of course.

To be honest I've always coveted the beliefs of the religious. After all, their dogmas do provide well for those of a philosophical bent. I've tried so hard in the past to believe in the concept of god. It could hold the answers to many of my deeper questions.

Perhaps I'm so small minded that I just don't get it. Or am I at the "point between being under enlightened and being enlightened" and about to experience an "instantaneous moment of epiphany"?

Convince me then, go on, I dare you...

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Dear Blog

Sorry I've been neglecting you lately. It's just that Christmas is coming and I've had so much real life stuff to be doing. Which is nice to be honest. Please don't be upset...

Monday, 11 December 2006

The Omniculture

I like the concept of the Omniculture (written about by the blogging heavyweight S. T. Karnick over at The Reform Club), where everything that can be produced is, and is then made available for us all to consume.

Conservative commentators inevitably use this concept to argue that it's causing some sort of moral decline in our society.

So, take my teenage obsession - indie music, which has now been popularised and sanitised by MTV2. It's become mainstream. In response to this, the 'true' indie counter-culture became more extreme and rebellious. Until the mainstream re-integrated it and sanitised it some more. And so the cycle repeats itself.

So, "the boundary of strangeness and perversity must always move outward, as today's "sophisticates" attempt to prove themselves more adventurous and authentic than their predecessors".

The net result, our conservative critics would argue, is that that mainstream art and culture has become extreme, ugly and banal. We've become desensitised to violence and ugliness and perceive them now to be beautiful.

Which is the at root of our moral and intellectual decline, apparently.

I can see where they're coming from. The Panoptican of our internet is full of stuff that bemuses, bores and disgusts me. The TV even more so.

Big Brother for example. Each year I bleat on to Miche, like a smug pseudo-intellectual, about how bleak and depressing it is and how it represents the nadir of our culture. Its on in the background while I read and grumble, but like a moth to a bulb I can't resist watching it. Within 15 minutes of giving in to it I'm hooked, gossiping about it the next day at work.

I guess that the Omniculture then, both improves and inhibits our cultural growth, depending on which way you look at it.

However, I'm not sure that S. T. Karnick's Omniculture is anything new. Now, I'm no cultural historian, but I imagine that during the renaissance there were plenty of conservatives baying that these new thinkers and artists were pedaling chaos and ugliness. This is a gut feeling, truthiness even.

The pace of this Omnicultural arms race has of course increased exponentially through technologies like the Print press, Telegraph, Radio, TV and latterly the Internet.

I guess that's what Karnick is getting at. If a celeb squeaks out a fart nowadays someone will be there with their mobile phone ready to post it to youtube.

Everything, both 'high' and 'low' is available now to be consumed. So, we continually need to push at the boundaries of acceptability to be noticed amongst this clamour.

Perhaps a flaw in the Omniculture idea is that in the middle of all this pushing of boundaries, somewhere between anal porn and Rossini, we still have more and more of the Planets Funniest Animals.

Friday, 8 December 2006

Sound test

powered by ODEO

Testing 1,2,3. Out with friends tonight so precious little time to post.

I'd like tomorrow to debate why being creative lifts the spirits. So, to this end I've posted a little snippet of a bit of music I've created. I thought the blog could do with a sound track. It's far from finished, and is the usual bland shite I tend to write...


There's an obsession currently amongst mental health & social services in the UK about independence. The term is handed down to us by our government to be used as a mantra.

We're charged to ensure that;

"services help maintain the independence of the individual by giving them greater choice and control over the way in which their needs are met;"

Well, aren't we all nice people? We're "Giving them greater choice and control..."?

I know I'm being flippant. In truth I support a lot of the current developments in health & social care. However, I'm left with a nagging feeling that we've missed the point somehow about independence.

I'm involved in a bit of research at the moment consulting with people who have 'severe and enduring' mental health problems. Our focus is finding out what people identify as contributing to their well-being and recovery.

Perhaps unspirisingly the main emergent theme is positive relationships; Ones that have hope and optimism at their core. These are established predictors for well-being and recovery (though I'm not so clear whether they represent a causation or a correlation), so I doubt I'll get my PHD through it.

Nonetheless I think it highlights the significance of interdependence as opposed to Independence.

The last thing I'd want to be is independent in the purest sense. What a bleak, lonely existence it would be living 'independently' in my own flat, unreliant on anybody to meet my needs.

As it is I'm dependent on so many people. In particular I'm dependant on Miche (my beloved), not least to stop my head disappearing up my own arse.

A disturbance in the force...

Google UK is down this morning. It is if a million voices suddenly went WTF?

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Of course

As I've said, the threat of terrorism really is mostly hot air...

(UN) selfish altruism?

I came to my personal conclusion that pure altruism cannot exist. I also came to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter wether it exists or not. As long as we act in ways that have the net effect of benefiting others, whilst at the same time benefitting ourselves, we have a win win outcome that is as good as true altruism.

This debate with myself was provoked by listening to 'In our time' - one of my favoured BBC radio 4 programmes.

I dropped in on the shows website where listeners post their comments and came accross two that caught my attention. The first, by Jon Pasfield pretty much reflects my sentiments, albeit in a much more consise and considered way. The second post, by Nick Inman presents an alternative, somewhat more 'spiritual' view of altruism. Like Nick's post it's well considered and thought provoking but presents an opposing view to my ideas;

Jon Pasfield

I am no expert, but the answer to the whole altruism question seems blindingly obvious. Pretty well all self-mobile organisms have to have a naturally selected instinctive strategy of living in groups to defend themselves and eat. Consider sardines at one end, albatrosses at the other end and humans somewhere in the middle. In most species maximum efficiency is obtained by individuals co-operating with others in addition to their own direct progeny. As individuals they also have to have a naturally selected instinctive strategy for maximising their individual reproduction. These two instincts are bound to conflict in many situations, and the most successful organisms are those which can manage this conflict in the best way. Sometimes one instinct will prevail, sometimes another. In order to do the co-operating bit well, the organism needs to be driven to join groups and help these groups work efficiently. The other members likewise. So they all have to help each other. Some additional points: In many situations this will require the group to band together to fight other groups of the same species. Instincts are pretty blunt instruments, (consider mothers who care extensively for medically doomed children to the detriment of their healthier children). So don't expect every case to look sensible. Inherited instincts are as variable as other inherited features, such as height, so don't expect all individuals to follow the same balance of stategies. Human instincts have evolved over millions of years, so don't expect them all to be appropriate for recent environmental and sociological developments, though many seem to be so. Humans developed the ability to think and reason and an instinct to do so. So a lot of ideas and culture have grown up on the basis of instinct and the observed situations met. These ideas continue from person to person as that is generally more efficient than each person thinking up their ideas from scratch.

An alternative, (perhaps a little fuzzy) view;

Nick Inman

This programme, unfortunately, missed its own point: “how can evolutionary biology explain altruism?” (Note the loaded “how”.) The disussion seemed to accept altruism at its zoological definition – an act by one animal that benefits another – while playing down the vital qualifier: “at its own expense”. The first dictionary definition of altruism is: “the principle or practice of unselfish (or disinterested) concern for the welfare of others”. This throws three unscientific words into the debate which would have been worth a few minutes thought if only to dismiss them. Altruism is not merely “being nice to each other” as if we were zebras nudging each other towards the juiciest bits of grass. But even if we accept this definition, Richard Dawkins’s genetically-coded “rule of thumb” advising us to be “nice” to each other because, as members of a tribe, we expect reciprocity doesn’t work in practice. Look at the average rural working village (not the commuter villages around Oxford though), which is not that far removed from the tribal settlements on the plains of Africa where our DNA was perfected, is seething with rivalries, sometimes between members of the same family who are willing to go their graves before they talk to let alone do a favour to their neighbours. Altruism does not mean giving to others out of the obligation to clan ties or for any gain, perceptible or imperceptible including the expectation of a pat on the back or the assuaging of a sense of shame or guilt. It is, in Neo-Darwinian terms, doing something which has a tangible cost to you (and might even risk your life) for no obvious benefit. An extreme example would be the harbouring of Jews by gentiles in areas of Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Such people had nothing to gain and much to lose - they risked extinguishing their own gene lines for helping someone belonging to another, tight-knit clan. Another, perhaps seemingly perverse, instance is the young suicide bomber – who is acting for the greatest good according to his own criteria. He voluntarily obliterates his own biological code (and that of others who are not in direct competition with him) for no obvious personal gain unless you believe his motivation is purely egotistical: to get to paradise and be surrounded by virgins. I suspect the answer to altruism lies elsewhere than DNA telling us - after millennia of cost-benefit analysis – that it is safer to give strangers a leg up rather than steal their wallets. And all the stuff about epigenetics, mummy fixation (the psychoanalytic solution to the mystery), mathermatical game theory et al just
seem like so much intellectual floundering. None of these approaches end up explaining spontaneous, procreation-threatening acts of human solidarity.

I'd like to spend a little time clarifying why I don't agree with Nick, so bear with me. I'll get round to it soon enough...

Perhaps, when I get the nerve I'll post these thoughts to the In Our Time comments page, but for the moment I'll stand on the shoulders of these giants, like the coward I am :-).

Mile point pics

This mornings 4 mile run. Cold but muddy from all the rain last night.

Mile 1

Mile 2

Mile 3

Mile 4

Wednesday, 6 December 2006


Finding out what lifts our spirits in a godless world doesn't alway have to be esoteric and philosophical.

This made me laugh my pants off.

A fake of course, but still funny.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Point to point

The other day I talked about my existential leanings and thus the tendency to view our universe as being ultimately pointless. I also explored, albeit clumsily, how we may be predisposed to crave meaning in our lives. So much so that we invent gods to meet this need. And finally I thought about how now, more than ever, our society could be in need of a god.

To me, the fact that we could need a god is patently absurd. But Viktor Frankl was right when he observed that we're living in a world so easy and so vacuous that we no longer experience any fundamental struggle in our lifes. Concequently many of us lack purpose. Frankl argued that this is evident in boredom. (Not something I've experienced in years. I'd like to give it a go for a short while, it sounds quite relaxing).

He felt that boredom was endemic in our society, evident through mindless consumption of cheap TV, gambling and voter apathy at elections. However, much of his writing was based on his experiences of the US culture. He was much more famous than he was here in Europe. Even though he was Austrian.

Frankl was a psychiatrist, and a student of Freuds. Incidentally, he was excluded from Freuds learned circle because of his open disagreement with his theories.

Frankl proposed that Freuds 'Pleasure Principle', in which our Id demands us to take care of needs immediately and is then suppressed by our egos' misses the point.

He also argued against Adlers theories (another prominent neo-Freudian) that an individuals freedom of choice is the fundamental urge.

He summed this up rather nicely when he wrote "Actually, pleasure is not the goal of human striving but rather a by-product of the fulfilment of such striving; and 'power' is not an end but a means to an end. Thus, the 'pleasure principle' school mistakes a side effect for the goal, while the 'will to power' school mistakes a means for the end"

I find his ideas very attractive as they help me square the circle between the pointlessness of existance and the irrepressable, opposite notion, that there has to be some purpose, some meaning to it all.

I guess that our purpose should be to get our heads down and work hard to make our collective lives a little bit better, one small step at a time. We should also measure our success, not against our bank balance but against how fulfilled we feel in our work and relationships with others.

After all "being human always points, and is directed, to something, or someone, other than oneself - be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter...The more one forgets himself - by giving himself to a cause to service, or another person to love - the more human he is...", Frankl.

So, it could be argued the needs of the individual are indivisible from the needs of society. Perhaps the root of our westernised plight is the central placement of the individual in our culture.

So why does this lift my spirit?

Well, this post is hopefully the second of many on this theme where my ideas may become clearer, to both you and I ;-) . But simply, I find the idea that our place in the universe can only be found in relation to others uplifting.

So if collectively we can have a meaning, it becomes immaterial then, that the universe dosen't care.

Monday, 4 December 2006


Just phoned home. Apparently Dom is feeling a bit better. He can hold a little water down now. Which is a relief. He's asking for his Thunderbirds DVD, so he must be mending :-). Looking forward to a good nights sleep.

Tired, so tired

Apologies for not posting yesterday. Unfortunately Dom isn't well. He's got a rather nasty stomach bug that is making him vomit every 20 minutes, on the dot, without fail. This has gone on throught the night. So, I've been up since 6:30 yesterday morning. Suffice to say, we don't feel particularly spiritually uplifted by this experience.

I'll keep you updated.

Saturday, 2 December 2006

Weekend Run

Managed to fit an 8 mile run in this morning. Weather cold, crisp and dry. Perfect. Runners high circa 6 miles :-). Not much time to make a post today as Dom is having his 3rd birthday party in our house today.

Chaos, pure unadulterated chaos.

Here's the mile point pics;

Mile 1

Mile 2

Mile 3

Mile 4

Mile 5

Mile 6 (getting high)

Mile 7

Mile 8

Friday, 1 December 2006


So, the universe is huge, random and arbitrary. Our place in it is completely insignificant if you think about it. The planets will keep orbiting, and the stars will continue to shine irrespective of whether we're here or not. Inevitably we'll die, hopefully we'll be mourned and missed briefly by a few, but ultimately, our legacies will fade into nothing at all.

Christ, Existentialism is bleak. But no matter how hard I try, I keep returning to it as the only valid way to understand our world. Deep thought was wrong when it worked out the 'Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything'. It's not 42. It's 0, zero, nothing, nada.

So why doesn't the human race collectively lie down in the foetal position and gently wink out of existence, unnoticed by the universe spinning on by?

When I think about it, I guess this is what this blog is all about; Answering the impossible questions like - Why do we still struggle for purpose and meaning in a world that, when deconstructed is ultimately arbitrary and pointless?

I'm pretty confident that my thinking is flawed and imperfect but, for what its worth here are some of my thoughts about why this might be the case.

This 'struggle' is an inheritance from our evolutionary history that goes all the way back to the first single cell organisms. Life for these creatures was simple. Stay alive, reproduce. A clear purpose then, and one that is all consuming. Take your eye (if you've evolved one) off the ball for a second and you're eaten or destroyed. The notion of "why" didn't exist, if it did, then the answer would be 'because'.

Four billion years later this is still the case for all life on the planet. Except for us humans.

We transcended these immediate and violent needs when we started to form complex society. In doing so we had some time to sit and use our newly developed languages to explore abstract ideas with one and other. We started to ask "why?" For the whole of our evolutionary history we'd had one, simple "why"; Stay alive, reproduce. Now, the true nature of this bleak universe was revealed to us. Bewildered and terrified by this existential insight we filled this "void of meaning" with Gods. Vengeful Gods probably, who reflected the cruel and random world we'd been used to living in. But at least these gods gave us our purpose.

Over millenia these spiritual ideas were developed and woven into the very fabric of our society. We grew benevolent Gods who reflected the softer life we had made for ourselves. They continued to give us purpose, codes to live by and answers to our fundamental questions.

Socrates buggered it all up for us. What with his critical thinking and all.

The problem we have now is that we've grown beyond the need for Gods. With the advance of the scientific critical thinking (thanks to Socrates), we can find no evidence of God. We cannot reproduce God in randomised control trials.

In a cruel twist of irony however, those of us in the developed world have never been in more need of a God. For the vast majority of us life is no real struggle. Calories come cheap, and we need to burn very few of them to get more. A drive to the supermarket is all that's required. Our established democracies tax us heavily, but they provide all the infrastructure we need to give only a passing thought to drinking freshwater, staying warm, clean and dry and being entertained.

In reality we don't need to try hard for anything at all. Our well developed social security systems will take care of our basic needs for us if we can't be bothered to meet them ourselves.

The last time we had to live without a god we had a purpose; Stay alive, Reproduce. This time however we have no god, and no real purpose.

I'm going to leave it here, on this optimistic point, for tonight. Tomorrow I'll try to build on these ideas a little more, and explain why ultimately they lifts my spirits.

Update: Link to second post mentioned above.

Thursday, 30 November 2006

A night off

No proper post tonight as have got other (Real Life) stuff to be doing. So here's the mile point photos from todays lunchtime 3 miler. Usual service will resume in 24 hours...

Mile 1

1.4 Miles - Sans Rabbit

Mile 2

Mile 3

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

I can't wait for Lego

I don't want to wish my kids lives away. Miche and I get told frequently by older friends and family to enjoy them whilst they're still innocent and small. They're right of course. When I look at them I can't believe how fast they've grown and developed. Conversely, memories of our life pre-sprogs feel blurred and distant. I'm sure at one point we had a social life, if only I could remember their names...

Nonetheless, I can't help wishing Meg and Dom were old enough so I can get away with buying them tonnes of real lego, not the poor substitute that is megablocks.

Sorry, when I say buy them tonnes of lego I mean buy myself tonnes of it. It truly deserves the accolade of 'Toy of the century' which it has won twice incidentally. I spent so much of my younger years building stuff with lego and learning about structural engineering.

Of course I'm not alone with this obsession. The slashdot crowd are currently waxing lyrical about lego here. It truly is the geek toy of choice.

Not long now, not long...

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Beyond Belief

The NYtimes published this interesting article on the 21st November reporting on the outcomes from the 2006 Beyond Belief conference held at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California.

For the uninitiated, this is its context (from the beyond belief website):

"Just 40 years after a famous TIME magazine cover asked "Is God Dead?" the answer appears to be a resounding "No!" According to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in a recent issue of Foreign Policy magazine, "God is Winning". Religions are increasingly a geopolitical force to be reckoned with. Fundamentalist movements - some violent in the extreme - are growing. Science and religion are at odds in the classrooms and courtrooms. And a return to religious values is widely touted as an antidote to the alleged decline in public morality."

(The Pew Forum look suspiciously pro-christian to me. But I must say I've only come across them today, so I may be being unfair.)

The conference aimed to debate this and plan how the scientific community could redress this imbalance.

However, I'm not sure whether this imbalance is a reality or just a myth that we've all bought into. If it is a reality, then I think its wholly North American centric. After all, the Bible belt neo-conservatives do have a friendly ear at the White House right now. And as a result, the attention of the Washington press.

So, the conservative christians may have a disproportionate influence in the national policy of the US, but to say that 'God is winning' is a bit of an overstatement.


Well, even debating the idea that the 'God is winning' strikes me as being utterly pointless. This isn't a corny western film. In my view this town is big enough for the both of us, whether you're theist or nontheist.

Francisco J. Ayala's argument made at the conference that " of belief that require nothing more than unquestioning faith are extremely dangerous" is a flawed oversimplification in my view. Yes, there are horrific examples of violence to innocent people in the name of religion. But to infer that because of this violence, all religions based on 'faith' are extremely dangerous is a bit of a logical leap.

In my experience, the vast majority of the truly religious (ie those who have 'faith' as opposed to those who follow the customs without any real belief) are no more dangerous than my Gran. On the whole, faith based communities are moderate and tolerant, they value kindness and charity. Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim alike.

There are extremists, of course, who are violent and terrifying. But I would argue that these people do not posses a true 'faith' in their god. They are unfortunate people, who lacked opportunity and education and are ripe for indoctrination through misinformation.

We don't need religion to indoctrinate people into violence. We can look closer to home for evidence of this. Take the BNP and some anti-vivisection extremists. Both are accused of promoting violence through indoctrination of its members.

There will always be people on the fringes of society who are ripe for radicalisation. What makes us think this will be any different if there were no religion?

We call these unfortunate people terrorists because they aim to terrify and bewilder us.

And they're the ones winning right now, not God.

The western media are like rabbits trapped in the headlights of terrorism. They can't stop talking about it. This Beyond Belief Conference has contributed to this clamour in my view.

This attention, paranoia and talk of 'God is winning' energises the 'terrorists'. They see that their cause is reaping rewards. They see that we're all terrified of 'them' - the 'others'.

Rather than a 'War on Terror', I think we should have a 'War on Intolerance'. Lets divert the billions of USD spent on the war on terror across the world to projects that share knowledge and awareness of all faiths and philosophies to the masses. If this was a reality, we might have a western community more open to tolerance, liberalism and reflection.

And what will be the logical outcome to this increased liberalism and reflection? A dramatic reduction in the need for people to say that they're 'religious'. Job done.

I'll let Dr Carolyn Porco summarise my sentiments “Let’s teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome — and even comforting — than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.”

This lifted my spirits no end.

You can watch most of the conference presentations on google video here.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Exchanging addictions

There's many reasons why I enjoy running. Over time I'll try explore all of them in this blog. However, the main reason is how it makes me feel physically. I definitely experience the 'runners high'. It comes over me once I've ran about five miles.

I begin to feel euphoric and stop thinking about the usual rubbish that bounces around the brain, and just enjoy the syncopation of inhalation, foot falls and exhalation. My surroundings seem to blur and I enter into a state of almost meditative concentration.

I'll come back home from these long weekend runs muddy, sweating and panting but I've got an inane grin on my face. This 'high' can last all day sometimes. I can recommend it to anyone.

If I had the time I'd run much more frequently. Family and work have to take precedence of course. Perhaps this is good, as I'd probably get addicted to this high in the same way I'm addicted to caffeine & nicotine right now.

Incidentally, its been five days now free of nicotine, alcohol and caffeine, today is the first day that I'm feeling the benefit. I'll dedicate a post to it once I've achieved a drug free week. Free apart from the runners high endorphins of course.

Apparently endorphins may not be the actual cause of runners highs. Here's a great blog post by Scott Dunlap explaining his runners high.

Unfortunately, because of circumstances beyond my control, I didn't get a long enough run this weekend to get 'high'. Nonetheless I managed to get a pleasant 4 mile jog in yesterday afternoon and a 3 mile fast scarper at my work lunchbreak today. Half way through today's run I past a dead rabbit hanging from branches of a small tree. It was both surreal, and tragic. I took a photo of it and have posted it below.

As promised, here's a picture taken at each mile;

Sundays 4 mile run;

Mile 1

Mile 2

Mile 3

Mile 4

3 mile (with rabbit);

Mile 1

The rabbit (1.4 miles)

Mile 2

Mile 3 (who said Graffiti is an eyesore?)

Santa on Easyjet?

We live quite near an airport. Thankfully not close enough so we hear aircraft scream overhead, but close enough that if you look out of our windows on a clear night you can see them buzzing around the sky.

One night last year nearing Christmas, Meg & I were watching stars out of her bedroom window. Suddenly she whispered, in that deafening way kids can "Daddy look, its Santa!"

Sure enough, in the sky was a red and yellow flashing light, slowly flying above the rooftops.

"He's coming!" Meg shouted this time.

It was still a week or two before Christmas Day so I thought I'd capitalise on the Santa Claus legend. I said that it was indeed Santa but,

"He's only doing a 'fly past'. Each night he'll check up on all the children to see if they've been good or not. You'll have to tell him that you've been good today."

So, each night between then and Christmas day she would wait at her window until she saw a plane fly past. "Santa, I've been good as gold today" She would whisper to the sky.

Meg would have been 3 years old then. She still had some remnants of baby in her.

I'd forgotten all about Santa's pre-Christmas audits until last night. A year later. It was about six o'clock and Meg was at the lounge window. I could hear her whispering something, but couldn't hear her clearly. I sneaked up behind her and stood with her for a bit. She whispered it again and this time I heard;

"I've been good today Santa."

Sure enough, the lights of an airplane were blinking in the distance. It took me aback a little that Meg had remembered this from last year. I'm not sure if long term memory starts to form at the age of three. Perhaps Meg has been sneakily standing at her window all year, talking to Santa.

Saturday, 25 November 2006

Golf in space?

There has been some criticism about Mikhail Tyurin's golf shot in space. Personally I think it's great. His swing could do with some improvement however, space suit or not.

Some would say that this is a grasping, dumbed down, profiteering stunt. Which it is, of course. But it's also got the attention of millions more people than a run of the mill space mission ever would.

Set against the overblown threat of terrorism, bird flu and global warming, vacuous stunts like these give us something to gossip about on an international scale. I'd like to think it lifts our collective spirits just a little bit.

Here's the video of the shot. I think it went out of bounds.

Friday, 24 November 2006

A glimpse into hades

"As part of a series on housing and ways of life in the UK, Morris and Myra Jeffers talk about living in a park home..."

Welcome to the lives of Morris and Myra Jeffers. Let all ye who enter abandon hope. Look at them. Look them in the eyes and you'll experience the true horror of their existence. They're the purveyors of a particularly vile brand of lifestyle; mediocrity, dogmatic conformity and bigotry.

I know I'm being harsh and judgemental, so read the article and make your own mind up. It's a piece of photo journalism primarily, with short written passages. You'll probably be horrified, amused and puzzled all at the same time. I'm still not convinced it's not a spoof. I can't stop looking at them. It's like a painful scab that you can't stop picking. I want to laugh at them, but slap them at the same time.

Here's some of my favourite quotes from the article:
  • "Myra says the growing multi-racial nature of their former home town was one factor in their decision to move. "I don't believe in all this mixing," she says."
  • "The 10mph speed limit is not always observed though, says Morris: "I heard that at the liaison committee the other day."
  • "A couple of years ago we went on one of those Saga tours – Myra had a mini-stroke on the last day. It was all the excitement and probably too much wine."
  • "I wouldn’t want to live in a brick house now. They are so heavy whereas these are light and easy to clean."
It lifts my spirits that small minded pedantic bigots like Morris and Myra seem to want to coalesce together in park homes, gated communities and social clubs. We should celebrate the fact that they want to build barriers to keep the rest of us anarchists out.

Lets supply them with the Daily Mail and keep them scared of the real world with its vagaries and uncertainties,unfairness and crueleness. At least it keeps them off our backs.