Global cooling?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:56 am

Thanks to Lawrence Sirdar for this link to the Daily Tech article on cooling global temperatures in the past year:


Looks like those data are fairly solid, although taking a measurement from the biggest peak to the biggest trough, rather than a longer term moving average, is a strategy that wouldn’t really float in stock market analysis. But yep, it looks as though last year was cooler than the year before, and probably on average cooler than most years in the past decade.

Here’s one possible response from a blogger: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/climate-doing-what-experts-predicted-it.html

It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the climate over the next year or so. I’m always willing to be corrected by the data, but to me this is just a larger scale version of the ‘it’s cold today so global warming is a myth’ approach – which Glenn Greenwald so nicely parodied as ‘someone died today so the global population is not growing’.

Climate is a complex system, and although this change is large if you look at the graphs displayed you’ll see that large variations are not that unusual. Measuring from the highest peak you can find to the deepest trough, this particular anomaly is really not all that… anomalous. The rise in temperature in 1998 was larger in magnitude than this fall, and it’s clear the general trend of the line is upward and that it would take some time to reverse that.

The other point to be made is that this is a map of the global temperature anomaly. That is, it’s not a graph of the temperature itself, but of how much it differs from the average temperature for a particular chosen period. So even though the anomaly drops, it is still positive… that is, temperatures are still above average. So this is a ‘cooling’ only relative to the previous year’s record highs: in the longer term it’s still a warming.


An agnostic on origins

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:01 pm

It’s an issue or set of issues that I’ve talked about here a bit. I’ve also talked about it on the Adventist Forum, and this is a post from there that tries to summarise what I’m thinking at the moment:

I just wanted to try to clarify my own position a little bit, to the extent that I’m able to. Some people here have seen me as being an evolutionist, theistic or otherwise, and that’s not accurate. So this is just my best try at stating where I stand.

I’m definitely a believer in God and Jesus and the Spirit and salvation. I’m a Christian, not an agnostic on any of that stuff.

I also believe God is the Creator of the universe, Earth and life.

What I’m agnostic about is the method he used to achieve that goal. There is an enormous possible range of ways in which He could have done it – in fact, the range is infinite, as is His power. The universe could have been created 5 minutes ago, with everything created to seem mature and have a history, including our memories, and there is no empirical way to know that that is not what happened. I certainly do not rule out the possibility of a 7 day creation 6000 years ago.

I say I’m agnostic because I just don’t know. Unlike many here I do not believe that this is the only possible conclusion available that is consistent with Scripture. The evidence for that statement is Scripture scholarship… but one of the issues that makes this discussion difficult is that we continually slip over the lines between theology and science.

One more clarification: sometimes I explain evolutionary ideas to people, particularly in situations where they are misunderstanding them. That shouldn’t be interpreted as advocating those evolutionary ideas as the Truth about how things came to be as they are. I am acting as a science educator (which is my job, profession and vocation) in those instances, rather than making any statement about my own beliefs.


Been a while since I did anything on climate

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:59 pm

…and this Salon article was too good not to point you toward: http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/02/27/global_warming_deniers/

Misappropriation I can get behind

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:30 pm

Pakistan misspent billions of dollars in American military aid

Sure, some of it went on perks for the generals, but some apparently went to things like road-building and running the country. If America gives a poor country billions of dollars with which to buys guns and bombs (from America, of course), and that country diverts that money away from the killing-people business and into improving conditions… I have trouble considering that a bad thing.


To love a country

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:40 pm

We stayed up and watched the Oscars last night, after struggling a bit to get a recalcitrant TV tuner card to work properly. Fairly enjoyable as spectacle, we thought, though we’d have loved Juno to win Best Picture…

Despite Cate Blanchett’s great achievement in being nominated for both Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress, I think pretty much Australia’s only winner was Eva Orner as part of the producing team for the Best Documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side, about the torture that occurred at Abu Ghraib. She didn’t get to give an acceptance speech at the ceremony, but later to the media called the current US administration ‘a bunch of war criminals’.

Reaction in the discussion sections of the Australian newspapers was roughly equally split between ‘Exactly, good on yer’ and ‘How dare she bite the hand that feeds her and attack the Americans who gave her the award?’ Here’s my response to the latter party:

Those bagging Ms Orner to ‘defend’ America may want to have a second think. Her film and her comments *do* defend America – the best of America. It shows what America can do at its worst, under this current administration, precisely because that is important in America, because the country aspires to a higher standard. To love a country means to challenge it to be its best, not to excuse it at its worst.


One of those days

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:17 pm

Oh, not one of those days. I mean the other kind – the unexpected, magical kind.

I was feeling pretty tired and fried after finishing off the book in the same week I started teaching, and with a low level cold and way too much going on, plus having timed our entry to both the real estate and stock market investing worlds just about the absolute opposite of perfectly… I was pretty had it.

My mission for today was to meet a group of beginning education students at a school and lead them in a visit of some classrooms and the school to give them a sense of how middle schooling looks. Tossed up whether to take the bike or the car, but it’s the first really sunny day for a while, so I took the bike.

The ride down was magic – bike blue sky, fluffy white clouds, lots of empty road and no traffic. The bike has been fretting and overheating because the traffic has been horrible lately, but today we had the road to ourselves and it responded with an open-throated scream and just got up and boogied.

I ended up getting to the school about 20 minutes early, but I had a bit of a dry mouth so I dropped in at a local shop and got a bottle of icy cold lemon squash, then wandered across the road into a little park with a lake, and just sipped and rested and breathed. Just magic.


Obsolete Technology

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:20 am

Cassie was quite chuffed to be using a terribly outdated and obsolete piece of technology this morning: her teacher had asked her to submit her work in electronic form on a floppy disk!

I don’t usually feel old, or do the grandpa thing, but I have to admit I did go into a bit of a ‘when we were young we used to use audio cassettes for data storage, then 5.25 inch floppy disks that were *really* floppy…’ these things are still new-fangled to me!

But she’s all about USB sticks, CDs/DVDs and e-mail attachments. I guess she has a point – when was the last time you used a 3.5 inch floppy?


Banjo Patterson

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:24 am

Cassie has an English assignment to write about an ‘Australian icon’. She’s chosen ‘the bushman’, and as part of her research we were looking together at the poems of Banjo Patterson. He was an Australian poet in the late 19th century who had a lot to do with developing Australia’s national identity. He wrote the words for our ‘unofficial national anthem’, Waltzing Matilda. You might know of the film ‘The Man from Snowy River’, but it really doesn’t do justice to the poem it’s based on – look it up online.

Here are two of his shorter poems. Clancy of the Overflow is probably the purest distillation of the bushman myth:

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just on spec, addressed as follows, “Clancy, of The Overflow”.
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
’Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
“Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.”

. . . . .

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving “down the Cooper” where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.

. . . . .

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal—
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of The Overflow.

And Mulga Bill’s Bicycle is just plain fun!

‘Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;
He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;
He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;
He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;
And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,
The grinning shop assistant said, “Excuse me, can you ride?”

“See here, young man,” said Mulga Bill, “from Walgett to the sea,
From Conroy’s Gap to Castlereagh, there’s none can ride like me.
I’m good all round at everything as everybody knows,
Although I’m not the one to talk – I hate a man that blows.
But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;
Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wildcat can it fight.
There’s nothing clothed in hair or hide, or built of flesh or steel,
There’s nothing walks or jumps, or runs, on axle, hoof, or wheel,
But what I’ll sit, while hide will hold and girths and straps are tight:
I’ll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight.”

‘Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that sought his own abode,
That perched above the Dead Man’s Creek, beside the mountain road.
He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,
But ‘ere he’d gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.
It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver steak,
It whistled down the awful slope towards the Dead Man’s Creek.

It shaved a stump by half an inch, it dodged a big white-box:
The very wallaroos in fright went scrambling up the rocks,
The wombats hiding in their caves dug deeper underground,
As Mulga Bill, as white as chalk, sat tight to every bound.
It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,
It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;
And then as Mulga Bill let out one last despairing shriek
It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dead Man’s Creek.

‘Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that slowly swam ashore:
He said, “I’ve had some narrer shaves and lively rides before;
I’ve rode a wild bull round a yard to win a five-pound bet,
But this was the most awful ride that I’ve encountered yet.
I’ll give that two-wheeled outlaw best; it’s shaken all my nerve
To feel it whistle through the air and plunge and buck and swerve.
It’s safe at rest in Dead Man’s Creek, we’ll leave it lying still;
A horse’s back is good enough henceforth for Mulga Bill.”

I love reading Patterson’s poetry aloud: the rhymes and rhythms are simple and robust, and he uses lots of alliteration and internal rhymes that carry the poem along. I learned a lot of them as a kid (heh – for an assignment once I had to type out The Man From Snowy River from a book, on a manual typewriter, ‘cos there was no cut and paste in those days) and there are still lines that stick in my mind very clearly.


James Blunt on Top Gear

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:39 pm

Cam gave me a season of BBC car program Top Gear on DVD when he came up last week, knowing we don’t do TV at our place. We’ve been enjoying it a lot – it’s great, entertaining, beautifully shot TV, and the girls are also learning more about cars than they’ve ever known. (And they do have a slight crush on Richard Hammond.)

One feature of the show is the ‘star in a reasonably priced car’ segment where they get various stars of stage and screen to take a little tuition and then do their fastest lap of a test track. They interview the victim of the week and show the lap. It’s always amusing – and who would have though Jennifer Saunders was a ferociously fast and competitive driver?

The episode we watched tonight featured James Blunt. If you know me at all, or if you took the hint and checked out my Last.fm, you’ll know that his wispy, weepy, emotional singer-songwriter music is pretty much the diametrical opposite of anything I would ever listen to – and that if anyone wanted to torture me for any reason, a James Blunt album would be a fiendish solution.

But he was actually funny, self-deprecating, and has clearly had an extremely interesting life, from getting a pilot’s license at 16 to being a tank driver in active combat in Kosovo during the war. Here’s the tape: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWb0woGFBFc

I look at the guy with a new respect… but still won’t be listening to his music. Oh, and please ignore Jeremy Clarkson’s bikeophobia.



Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:01 am

…is an application that finds out from your music software what you’re listening to (a process called ‘scrobbling’ for some reason) and shares it with your friends on the web. I just signed up along with a lot of the people on the William Gibson Board, and my profile is visible at http://www.last.fm/user/br4vus/.

This is taken from my Mac at work, but that is synced with my iPod, which is usually also on random, so this is a pretty good representation of my day-to-day listening patterns. The frequency data from the history are a bit messed up, though, because I had this comp for quite a while with only a few albums on it, which means things like Cradle of Filth are massively over-represented in terms of how much I listen to them.

If any of you are also on it (or sign up), add me as a friend – I want to snoop what you’re hearing!


Iron Maiden Live in Brisbane

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:28 am

Cam and I last saw Iron Maiden live in Sydney in 1985. (They also toured in 1992 but we missed that one.) We were in our early 20s, unmarried, no kids, just getting started in life. And it was one of the top 3 shows I’ve ever been to (the other two were Queen and Jethro Tull) – just amazing.

So it was with plenty of anticipation, as well as a bit of nostalgia, that we headed out to the concert. We both think it’s a bit naff to wear a band’s t-shirt to their own show (not an opinion apparently shared by about 80% of the audience), so Cam had a black t-shirt with the Rosetta Stone on the front and I had my (CPU) plain black t-shirt. One of the sports of the evening was spotting what bands’ shirts we saw at the show, and it was a fair sort of rendering of the more mainstream rock and metal acts around… not too much of the more obscure stuff though.

The Brisbane Entertainment Centre is way out in the sticks, north of the city, so it took a while to drive out there, then a few minutes to park, but it wasn’t too onerous. From the carpark we wandered along a path through tree-filled, Everglades-like swamps to the actual venue, which was an interesting introduction.

Inside the place is a big cavernous hall, like most big entertainment centres. There were a few hundred people milling around the front section of the floor, more in the back section and plenty in the seats, though it also looked as though a lot of people had decided to skip the support bands and just turn up for Maiden.

I’d bought our seated tickets online, and got them as close to the stage as possible, and I thought we had fantastic seats, from looking at the floor map of the entertainment centre. We would have, too, except that (as you can see from the photos I posted earlier) Maiden uses an 8 foot high runway all around the sides and back of the stage for Bruce to run around on – and we were right down behind that. We could barely see the tops of the heads of the support band. D’oh!

Fortunately the venue realised this and a representative came and talked to us and the people sitting near us. They apologised for the visibility and allowed us to move to some unsold seats higher up the rake of the room. We were even closer to the front of the venue, which meant even more side-on to the stage, but we could see everything (except Nicko, the drummer, who sits with his enormous drum kit in a well in the runway and wouldn’t be very visible to anyone). And we were still close enough to see every facial expression and gesture, which wouldn’t have been the case from seats in front of the stage but far away. The guy also gave us a voucher for a free t-shirt, stubby holder and poster for our trouble. At 50 bucks for t-shirts and 20 for stubby holders that’s about 85 bucks value back toward our $150 tickets, so not too shabby an outcome (though I certainly wouldn’t have been paying those prices for the merch on my own).

The first support was Lauren Harris and band. Lauren is the 23 year old daughter of Iron Maiden’s bass player and founder Steve Harris, and there was a certain amount of cute factor in the ‘bring your daughter to work day’ angle. She was not too difficult to look at, either, in sprayed-on black vinyl pants, but that’s about where the positives end. The set was some pretty straightforward hard rock, and she sings in tune and competently. But the songs were pretty uninpsired, the guitarist seemed to have just one solo that he used on every song, and her stagecraft was odd… she would start a gesture but then just kind of abandon it and do something else, without tying it together or connecting it to the song. It’s weird – Maiden would have to be one of the most skilled performing bands out there, in terms of putting on an entertaining and cohesive live show, and you’d think she might have learned something from them. Though I guess in fairness they’ve been doing it since before she was born… The not-hard-to-look-at factor got her a decent reception from the audience, but honestly it was more something to be waited through than really enjoyed.

Next support was Aussie metalcore band ‘Behind Crimson Eyes’. Apparently Maiden hand-picked them as the support, and we could see why in terms of their competence and stage presence, but it seemed an odd choice since metalcore/post-hardcore is somewhere at the other end of the genre chart from Maiden’s prog-tinged heavy metal. They certainly got enough boos, and even rubbish tossed onto the stage, from narrow-minded Maiden fans, but Cam and I actually really enjoyed their set, even if it’s not stuff we’d usually choose to listen to. They played with power and dynamics, and a sense of melody that’s often lacking in that genre. Plenty of power and aggression, a variety of vocal styles from two vocalists, some fantastic and varied guitar playing and drumming and a cover of Motorhead’s iconic ‘Ace of Spades’… the boys done good. They also handled the abuse goodnaturedly, and kinda counted down their own songs toward the advent of Maiden… nice work, and of course this tour was a huge opportunity for them, at least among the more open-minded fans.

But really, we were all here for only one reason. A bit of waiting time as the big stage was set up (our odd position at the side gave us a perfect view of the backstage area, so we got to see Steve Harris huddling with the stage manager and sorting out details for the show, and Yanick Gers warming up with some stretches and chatting comfortably with various roadies). Then the lights go down, the aero engine sounds start up, and Sir Winston Churchill sonorously enumerates the places where we’re going to fight them. A burst of sound, a burst of pyros and light, and it’s all on! Rrrooooaaarrrrrrr!!!!

I’ve watched lots of interview footage with Bruce Dickinson (vocalist and frontman) over the years, and a consistent theme has been ‘it’s all about the audience’. He’s very conscious that the audience is there to have a good time, and that it’s his responsibility to put on the best show he possibly can for them. Steve Harris (bass player, founder and runner-of-the-band) has a similar aesthetic, just does it more quietly in the background, and that attention to detail shows in the sets and backdrops and showmanship. But the band also just look like they’re having the time of their life. They grin and gurn and run around and goof around – but the music comes first.

On the last tour (which didn’t make it to Australia), supporting their latest album ‘A Matter of Life And Death’, the band played that album in its entirety, leaving little room in the show for the classics. This show was pretty much a reaction to that – the newest song played was ‘Fear of the Dark’, from the 1992 album of the same name, but apart from that everything was from their heyday in the 80s. I posted the set list in the earlier post – all the classics, although of course with as many albums as these guys have done there were always going to be some favourites that would miss out. I’d love to have heard ‘Alexander The Great’ from ‘Somewhere in Time’, but it wasn’t to be. Hearing the 14 minute ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ live was amazing, though. I think ‘Revelations’ is still my favourite Maiden song, and may even be my favourite song ever.

So Bruce runs around like a maniac, has several costume changes, is incredibly entertaining and leaps around off the foldback speakers in a way that completely ignores the fact that he turns 50 later this year. Steve Harris plays to the crowd, gallops his finger-picked bass lines at a million miles an hour, sings every word at the top of his voice even though he doesn’t have a mic because he can’t sing in tune, and just has the time of his life. We can’t see Nicko McBrain, the big Irish drummer (voted one of the top 10 ugliest men in metal) directly, but a big screen above us and a great camera and editing crew keep us right in the action – and Nicko is grinning his head off for most of the night.

The band started out with two guitarists, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. Adrian left the band and was replaced by Yanick Gers about 20 years ago. There’s a long saga, that Cam can tell you, about how Bruce also left the band, and so did Nicko, and they played together on some of Bruce’s solo albums, and … anyway, the thing is, all three of them ended up back in the band, but by that time Yanick had been in the band for over 10 years and they weren’t going to dump him for the returning Adrian. So Maiden ended up with three lead guitarists. It actually works really well, and sounds great, with various guitarists taking solos, lots of harmony guitar work and a huge sound. Yanick in some ways is still considered the ‘new guy’ in the band, and some fans resent his very flamboyant stage antics – he plays the guitar sometimes by whipping the strings with the guitar lead, swings the guitar around his neck and jumps around more than the other two guitarists. But he’s an excellent player and a big part of the band – and the whole band works well.

It was a huge show, and a hugely enjoyable one. And given that the shows in every Australian capital city sold out, and extra shows had to be added in Sydney and Melbourne, which also sold out, I think the oft-repeated promise that it won’t be another 16 years before they make it back down under is fairly solid. I’ll definitely see them again if I ever get the chance – and if you get the chance, you should.


Libs in apology snub

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:29 am

From The Age:

A number of Liberal MPs appear to have boycotted today’s historic apology to the Stolen Generation.

After loudly reciting the Lord’s Prayer, WA Liberal Wilson Tuckey walked out of the chamber and fellow WA Liberal Don Randall was also reported absent.

Oh great. Don’t just boycott one of the most important gestures in Australian history, but tie Christianity in as you do so. Charming.

Today is the day Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, on behalf of the Australian government, says ‘Sorry’ to the ‘Stolen Generation(s)’. These are Aboriginal and half-Aboriginal children who were forcibly removed from their families by government and placed in (often physically and sexually abusive) orphanages, missions and foster homes as part of an intentional policy of race mixing with the goal of fully assimilating, and therefore making disappear, Aboriginal culture and language.

It’s a step Australians have been waiting for since at least 1988, and is long overdue. Many Australians still oppose the ‘Sorry’, saying ‘why should we apologise for something that previous generations did?’ I have three answers (or pieces of an answer): the first is that ‘sorry’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘sorry, I did it’ but ‘I’m sorry it happened to you’. If we hear that someone’s parent has died we sometimes say ‘I’m sorry’, for example. The second is that the Aboriginal people have said that it would be meaningful for them and would help them move on, and it’s graceless to deny them that. And the third is that white (and many other colour) Australians continue to benefit from living on the land that was taken from the Aboriginal people and that has led to their current plight, so it is appropriate to acknowledge the wrongs that were done.

I’m delighted that it’s happened – and continue to be horrified at the tiny souls of some ‘Liberal’ politicians.


Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:41 am

Words to come, but here are some pics:


This shows the angle we were on to the stage, and the platforms around it. From nearest to farthest, Yanick Gers, Steve Harris, Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson and Dave Murray.


Bruce waving the Union Jack in his Light Horse tunic, with the huge Trooper painting as a backdrop.


Adrian Smith playing in the direction of the hidden Nicko McBrain.


The whole band in action and motion.


Bruce in his feathered mask sings in front of the Powerslave backdrop.


Of course the camera chose the moment when 4 m cyborg Eddie was walking toward us to malfunction, so I only got his back.


01. Intro – Churchill’s Speech
02. Aces High
03. 2 Minutes to Midnight
04. Revelations
05. The Trooper
06. Wasted Years
07. The Number of the Beast
08. Run to the Hills
09. Rime of the Ancient Mariner
10. Powerslave
11. Heaven Can Wait
12. Can I Play With Madness?
13. Fear of the Dark
14. Iron Maiden
15. Moonchild
16. The Clairvoyant
17. Hallowed Be Thy Name

At The Science Centre

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:38 am

Cutest ever head on a platter

Tiny Cass

Tiny Alex


Top 20 Bands

Filed under: — Bravus @ 4:56 pm

My best mate Cam, his wife Jenny and their 4 kids have been staying with us for a few days because Cam and I are going to see Iron Maiden tonight (woohoo! – review here tomorrow, with photos (if they don’t confiscate my camera on the way in)). We went to the Museum and the Science Centre together today, and their nearly-6 year old twins have been enjoying our pool a lot more frequently than we do and giving Buffy (our dog) a lot more attention than she normally gets.

We definitely share a taste for Maiden as one of our favourite bands – I first heard them at his place when we were still at high school. In terms of the rest of our musical taste, I think mine is generally a bit heavier than his, but we’re pretty sure there’s a reasonable amount of overlap. So I’m gonna post my top 20 bands (for today, and in no particular order), and Cam is working in his list separately and it will be edited into this post when it’s done. If we feel keen we might even do something with a Venn diagram and/or colour-coded ratings or something…

So, my top 20, in no particular order (multiples are bands I consider so similar they merit one combined slot):

Iron Maiden/Bruce Dickinson
(early) Metallica
(middle period) Megadeth
Pink Floyd
Jethro Tull
Lacuna Coil
The Angels
Arch Enemy
Nightwish/Within Temptation/After Forever
Symphony X/Stratovarius/Sonata Arctica


I’m not sure I can be a Christian any more

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:22 am

I’m still struggling with it, not making any final statement. But I decided that I needed to get serious about it and do daily Bible reading and devotions. Bought a great new study Bible and a journal, and started on the Bible reading plan that my church follows.

The very first day one of the prescribed chapters (the plan uses some Old and some New Testament verses each day) was Exodus 32. Those who know their Bibles will know the story of the Golden Calf that Aaron made while Moses was up on Mt Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments.

Here are the relevant verses:

25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. 26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.

27 Then he said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’ ” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”

As you might also know, the tribe of the Levites then became the priests for the people of Israel forever.

This text is not the issue by itself, but it’s a perfect example of the problem I’m having. That is, I’m told by everyone that it’s ‘take it or leave it’ with the Bible, all or nothing. But so much of what it says just does not fit with my values. Do I want to worship a God for whom an atrocity like this is considered a laudable thing?

I’m left with a few options:

  1. I change my values to fit the values of God as shown in the Bible. I realise just taking one passage out of context is not really fair, so I go back in and try to read the whole thing, over a year or so, and get the big picture of God’s mercy and love to balance things out. But it’s not just the killing, it’s the attitudes to women, to gay people and so on, and a whole variety of other things.
  2. I do as some other Christians do and explain away some parts of the Bible as ‘cultural’. Not really intellectually honest or satisfying, IMO, just in the sense that it then becomes a matter of each person deciding which parts are and are not binding… which just casts us back on our own values.
  3. I consider that what was really going on in some of these parts of the Old Testament was Moses forging together a nation in a tough time and doing what it took to maintain order (that ‘laughingstock in the eyes of their enemies’ phrase is telling). But that’s similar to the alternative above – once you admit that any of it is anything other than God-ordained, where does that stop.

I guess the bottom line is that I have a set of values – about honesty and integrity, love, caring for others, justice and a whole variety of other important moral values. They inform my decisions and who I am. And the problem I’m having is that, far from being the foundation of my moral values, my religion is outraging them at every turn.

I’m still struggling with what to do with that.


Not Perfect

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:40 am

Tim Minchin is a musical comedian with wild hair… so he tends to get compared to Bill Bailey. That’s high praise, IMO, and although his schtick is quite different he’s damn good.

Most of his songs are comic first, poignant second, but this one is more touching and cool, though still funny: Tim Minchin – Not Perfect

Oh, you might need this photo of John Howard, our Prime Minister when this song was recorded:


Political Styles

Filed under: — Bravus @ 3:26 pm

Interesting. Kevin Rudd, the new Labor prime minister of Australia, announced a plan over the weekend to run a ‘summit’ discussion with 1000 of Australia’s best and brightest in a few months. The 1000 would be divided into 10 groups of 100 each, focusing on 10 key problems or issues facing Australia. He said his goal is to think about the future and the kind of Australia we want to build, beyond just the next 3 year election cycle.

I was a bit disappointed that education was not one of the 10 issues identified, although education will play some role in addressing several of the things that were listed.

But check this out – here’s a link to a newspaper article about the summit idea, but more importantly to the comments posted by readers: http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/comments/0,23836,23152435-952,00.html

I noticed an interesting trend. Of course, those on the left in politics generally liked the idea and those on the right generally complained about it… but that’s just to be expected. But the thing that caught my attention was that the criticisms were most often along the lines of ‘He was elected because he said he had all the answers, and now we find out he doesn’t have the answers” or “Is this Do It Yourself government? Leaders are meant to know what to do” and a variety of similar comments.

It helped me to realise that this is a fundamental difference – conservatives do, in general, seem to want a ‘strong’ leader who will just get on with doing what he thinks is right. Those on the left prefer more consultation and more of a voice in the process, and realise that a strong leader can still call on the wisdom of others… in fact that will make such a leader both stronger and more effective.

Maybe everyone else has known this for a long time, but I found it intriguing. And the evidence (so you can check whether it’s just something I made up) is right there in that discussion page.


Watching the cricket

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:23 pm

Still don’t own a TV, but I do own a TV tuner in a skinny USB dongle, so I can watch TV on the computer if I feel like it. It maybe gets used once a month or so. Tonight I’m watching the first one-day cricket match of the summer, between Australia and India (it’s being played here in Brisbane but is sold out). Exciting stuff.

Only 3!

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:21 pm

Random factoid from the sermon today: “There are 21 species of snakes in southern Queensland, but only 14 of them are venemous. Only 8 of those are dangerous, and only 3 of them are deadly.”

Thanks, I feel much safer now. 😉