Tuesday, October 17, 2006

General silliness...

Aishah Azmi, the support worker suspended from Headfield C of E school stated that she objected to removing her veil in the presence of male colleagues. When questioned by Peter Sissons on BBC news as to whether the school had known before her appointment that she would be wearing a veil, she replied that she wasn't aware whether or not they had known. She admitted that she hadn't volunteered the information. So she then found herself in great difficulty when she was asked how the male governor who had interviewed her had failed to be aware that she wore a veil.

On the other hand, "the World's Greatest Newspaper" the Daily Express leads today with the headline "Veils should be banned say 98%". Anyone brave enough to look any further discovers that the 98% refers to 98% of Daily Express Readers. So, very unsurprising after all, and hopefully wholly unrepresentative of the general population.

So, fat chance of a civilized debate.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fire Bible...

Apparently, (ie. according to Justin Taylor on the Reformation21 blog), this is not a mickey-take.

A Straw Man?

Andrew comments on the Labour Party's recent issues regarding veils here.

I myself think that whilst the turban and the skullcap are likewise 'visible statements of separation', what makes the veil different is that it practically implements that separation (which the others do not) in a potentially unhelpful way. If, as is often said, most communication is non-verbal, then much of this will be facial. And for one person to cover their face when in a conversation puts the other person at a disadvantage. As such, his point is valid.

I have heard neither Straw nor any of his Labour colleagues express a desire to legislate against the wearing of the veils, merely an admission that he finds it unhelpful and has expressed that view in his constituency surgeries. Living in a society with freedom of religion is a very good thing, but it is also good when politicians promote expression of responsibility with those freedoms.

I doubt if any muslim will significantly change their practise with regard to veils due to Mr Straw's statements. However, I don't think that they should be shielded from being politely made aware that such practise causes some of the people with whom they share a society (and this includes people such as Jack Straw who have promoted religious tolerance) difficulty.

I agree with Andrew's rejection of the argument about the wearing of the veil being a provocative act (this is not an argument I have personally heard espoused by Straw nor any of his colleagues in the mainstream parties). But the same judgment ought to be applied to Straw's comments (likewise Andrew has not himself used this as an argument against Straw) - people using Jack Straw's words as an excuse for religious hatred are responsible for their actions, and should be held responsible as such.

I am glad that we live in a multicultural society (although Andrew's classification of muslim cultures in Britain by their country of origin raises questions about the level at which a community or culture can, does and should acquire an identity), I am proud that we have freedom of religious expression (in contrast with many muslim states) and wish it to increase and be promoted. But this ought to go hand in hand with the freedom to encourage responsibility with those freedoms.

GTD Software picks...

Having talked below about the low-tech leaning of GTD, I can't omit to mention a couple of my favourite pieces of software. First off is GTDTiddlyWiki Plus, an adaption of Jeremy Ruston's brilliant TiddlyWiki. This is a client-side wiki with a GTD bent. The great thing about this is that you just save it on your machine (or a USB stick - it also has an upload plugin if you want to host it so it's always accessible wherever you are) and then get going.

For a more data-driven approach there's my app of choice, iCommit by Rainer Bernhardts. This is a hosted solution, so you're going to need an internet connection when you want to use it, but it has the advantage of a very intuitive interface and a comprehensive implementation of GTD.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Merlin Mann and David Allen's new podcast

Very excited about this. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done has teamed up with Merlin Mann of 43 Folders for a podcast called Productive Talk.

Allen's Getting Things Done is the most influential productivity method in decades and differs from many other methods by focussing on common-sense rather than over-prioritising. Mann has done much to popularise GTD, particularly amongst those of a geeky persuasion, through his website 43 folders and the invention of high-tech tools like the hipster PDA.

There's a few things that attract me to this method. It's about finding what works rather than making life even more complicated. And unlike many method, it suits the way my mind works. I've always liked the great Donald Knuth's explanation of the growth of computer science as a subject, and in a similar manner these ideas are tools I can relate to:

This is the true explanation of why computer science became a university department so fast all around the world. The reason is not that computers are important tools for mankind, or something like that. The reason is that there were these people out there who had this way of thinking that never had a home before. They get together, they can communicate high bandwidth to each other, the same kind of analogies are meaningful to them. All of a sudden they could come together and work much more efficiently, not in someone else’s territory that wasn’t for them.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Top 50 Christian Books

Christianity Today have published a list of their believed top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals. A number of people have expressed confusion and scepticism about the number 1 result, Prayer: Conversing with God, by Rosalind Rinker. I definitely hadn't previously heard of it, and the view of prayer in the 1950s portrayed by Christianity Today doesn't fit with the view I have been given by my elders, and have read of in other books (maybe the view described is simply that of the US). Some have suggested however that CT was looking to make a point about prayer.

Another surprise in my opinion is the choice of the Living Bible at number 6. I don't disagree with it's inclusion, merely with it's description as the first in a new wave of modern English translations. Whilst it does not cover the whole Bible, J.B. Phillips' New Testament in Modern English was published earlier and was well-received and well-read on both sides of the atlantic. Also, whilst the LT may have influenced it, it seems to me that Eugene Peterson's The Message has made the Bible accessible to a new generation of evangelicals. Plus, the Living Bible talked of Paul going into a cave to "use the bathroom".

ThinkChristian ask readers for the top ten books that have influenced them. I would say:

The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen
A Way Through the Wilderness, Jamie Buckingham
Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eugene Peterson
The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard
Desiring God, John Piper
Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard
Escape From Reason, Francis Schaeffer
Leap Over a Wall: Earthly Spirituality for Everyday Christians, Eugene Peterson
The Pleasures of God, John Piper
The God You can Know, Dan Dehaan


An amazing story of a shameful abuse of the Ship of Fools Mystery Worshipper feature, which appears to have been used by a vicar in an act of blatant self-promotion. A good singing voice and wonderful fashion sense are not necessarily the first things I look for in a Church leader - a degree of integrity would come higher up the list as far as I am concerned - but maybe some more Romeward-leaning anglicans would feel differently, at least so he seems to think.

"I was a bit distracted by the voice of the priest vicar. His singing voice was so wonderful one wanted to turn around and peer down at him in the way that one always looks at singers doing a solo."
"Fr Peters wore a lovely gold cope for the procession and then changed into a gold chasuble for the rest of the Mass, matching the gold dalmatic of the deacon"
"I was told beforehand that Fr Peters was a good preacher and those people didn't lie. In fact, he was one of the best preachers I have ever heard. The congregation are lucky to have him so regularly"