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A Jewish victim of political violence speaks out on Osama bin Laden

May. 3rd, 2011 | 10:27 pm

(Cross-posted from Eine Kleine Nichtmusik)

I happened to be watching TV early yesterday morning when the news broke about Osama bin Laden's death, and I posted on Facebook that while I didn't normally celebrate anyone's death I thought I might make any exception in this case.

I don't retract it: it was genuinely what I felt, and while with a little distance I'm not exactly celebrating, I do find it difficult to feel sorrow for OBL's death.

Still, you make a Facebook friend of a minister and you have Jiminy Cricket in your pocket. You may recall Aric Clark, purveyor of beat sermons. Well, on Facebook Aric has posted a couple of apt quotations:

"Deserves death! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give that to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends.” Gandalf to Frodo on Bilbo's sparing of Gollum's life.

"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that"  Martin Luther King, Jr.

He also linked to a great article at his blog. The line that really caught me up short - because when I stop to think (instead of reacting) it's very much how I understand the Gospel message, was:

We recognize that this is a scandalous thing to say, but Osama Bin Laden was a beloved child of God for whose sins Jesus the Christ died.

I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised that Christ poses more of a challenge to conventional thought than Gandalf, but as someone who frequently quotes the Gandalf fragment I must confess I'd never quite made the jump.

Well, I ken noo.

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Census meme - with technology

May. 2nd, 2011 | 03:46 am

1961 - living in Droylsden, Manchester with my parents and big brother. I was five when the census happened. We had a telephone, which was on a party line with someone a hundred yards away. A black and white TV which only got BBC (and on which all the neighbours had watched the Coronation). A mains radio and a substantial Pye transistor portable. For transport we had a Hillman Husky which went with my father's job as a commercial traveller. Out in the big wide world, Yuri Gagarin would shortly make his first flight, and it would be two years before the first communication satellite relayed TV pictures from another continent.

1971 - we'd moved out to High Lane in Cheshire, and I was at Stockport Grammar School. We now had a telephone of our own, with an extension in my parent;s bedroom. When we first moved there in 1965 the phones didn't have dials: you lifted the receiver, pressed a button and waited for an operator to connect you. To call home you had to dial 100 for the operator and get connected manually. By 1971 we had dials, and it was around that time that we got an STD code so we could be direct-dialled from other parts of the country. The TV was still black and white, but bigger, and got BBC2 and ITV. We had a Marconi mono record player and a lot of LPs, mostly belonging to my blues- and jazz-mad brother, though we all had a fair number. My father had a car of some sort (we had an Austin Maxi by the time I went to Durham in 1973) and my brother had one of a succession of bangers (I think it was the Ford Popular at that point).

1981 - Married now, and living in a rented flat in Bromley, Kent. Hilary was living with her parents in Edinburgh and studying at the RSAMD while I stayed in London working for the Inland Revenue (programming ICL mainframes in COBOL on one-line-at-a-time printer terminals). (At this stage we were still expecting that the IR would transfer me to Cumbernauld, and round about census time we bought a bungalow in Stirling. The transfer fell through but we kept the house and I got a job later that year with Clydesdale Bank in Glasgow.)  The flat had a black and white TV, and we had a stereo (not very hi-fi) and my by now large record collection. Also a cassette recorder and some tapes. A transistor radio completed the entrtainment suite. We had a phone, on which I used to get calls in the middle of the night from a dopey-sounding woman wanting to know if Ricky was there and who seemed incapable of handling the concept of "wrong number". No car.

1991 - Still married, but now with a daughter and living in Edinburgh in a Victorian end terrace. By this time I had learned to drive, and we had a car. At this time it was a cream-coloured Citroen 2CV which we all rather fell in love with. I was working for Bank of Scotland as an IT capacity planner, and studying part-time for an MBA at Edinburgh University. We had a colour television (not very large) with a video recorder and a fairly decent hi-fi, with a cassette deck, a tuner, a turntable and (state of the art) a CD player. We even had a modest collection of CDs to play on it, mostly classical. We had a telephone with an extension upstairs. No computers yet though.

2001 - Same house, wife, daughter, but now with a son too. Still working for Bank of Scotland though our jobs had just been outsourced to Xansa (formerly F International). Now I was back programming (I'd spent most of 1999 testing programs ready for the year 2000 - we did actually find a couple of faults so it wasn't all a waste of time). Not long after the census Xansa asked for volunteers to go and work in India for a bit, so I ended up doing that from Oct 2001 to Feb 2002. Still programming mainframes, now IBM ones, in COBOL and good old-fashioned Assembler for which I discovered I had an aptitude. Hilary and I had mobile phones now as well as our home one: I also had a work mobile because I was on call sometimes. I had a work laptop I used when I was on call to dial in via the phone line, so needed the mobile to be able to talk to anyone while I was working.  I'm not sure what cars we had: our main car would have been a largeish Citroen, eithe a BX estate or an XM estate, and I think we still had the 2CV as a second car, though that eventually was replaced with a Saxo. (The 2CV was converted into a racing car: we all went to see it in action at Knockhill stadium!) And we had a computer: 3.25" floppies and not much hard drive, running Windows and with an Internet connection via the phone line.

2011 - Same house, same personnel. Cars now a Picasso and a Hyundai (each with radio/CD player)i. Fibre-optic cable bringing many TV channels to our flat- screen TV, as well as telephone service and high-speed broadband. Each family member has a laptop (plus my elderly work one) and connect to the internet via a wi-fi router. We all have mobiles (3 of us have iPhones). All except me have iPods. My son has a PS/3 games console and an old TV in his room, along with a DVD player. The TV has a hard-disk DVD recorder, the hi-fi has a twin-CD recorder/player and a minidisk recorder. Umpteen CD and minidisk Walkmans lurk in corners. There is a tape/CD/minidisk/radio system in the kitchen. We also have a flat in Ballater which contains a TV and DVD player as well as a CD player and wee speakers.

(The downside of all this connectivity was shown during my typing this post when I got a call from work, had to phone a guy in India on my work mobile, try to log in with my work laptop only to have it crash on me (I know what's up with it but can't fix it myself). So I'll need to go into the office tomorrow to do some work. At least I'll get paid.)

Thanks to Maggie for the meme.

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Just passing through....

May. 2nd, 2011 | 01:33 am

As you will have gathered, I have largely transferred my activity over to Facebook (where most of you now seem to be in any case).

I'm also still posting on my blog Eine Kleine Nichtmusik.

I'll pop back from time to time to see what's going on.

Main status updates since last year:

1) In February 2010 my brother died
2) He died as a result of alpha-1 antritrypsin deficiency (see here), and in March I was diagnosed with the same condition, fortunately much less serious as I gave up smoking years ago
3) Hilary isn't a carrier for the condition so while our children are carriers thanks to me, they can't actually develop A1AD itself. 
4) I'm taking voluntary redundancy from Lloyds Banking Group at the end of October. I can draw my pension immediately and there seem to be plenty of contract opportunities in Edinburgh.  
5) My daughter will be working in Mallorca over the summer and we're joining her for a fortnight in July. Good walking country though we'll need early starts to avoid being frazzled by the heat: not the season for long expeditions.  

Be seeing you....

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Reviewing the Situation

Jan. 4th, 2010 | 02:01 am

A couple of years ago I posted on the emergence of a Durham Concerto by Jon Lord, or Lord Jon of Deep Purple. In my post I was somewhat disparaging of what I remembered of his Concerto for Group and Orchestra. Well, it's humble pie time (not Humble Pie, that was a different band) because back in October Jon Lord put the concerto on in Edinburgh. It seems he does this a lot: he travels around arranging performances in various places with local musicians. In our case the orchestra comprised RSAMD freshers (and it will have done them no harm to play to a packed Usher Hall in the first few weeks of their courses) , The band was supplied by Stevenson College, where my wife Hilary is a senior music lecturer. She teaches on the classical course rather than the pop one, but knows all the students and was involved in some of the organistion. She met Jon Lord on some of his preparatory visits and was very impressed by his musicianship, his enthusiasm, and his general attitude.

Not only was it a tremendous experience for the students to be working with Jon Lord (and for those who haven't noticed, prog rock is having something of a resurgence so they were all rather in awe of him) but it was a great night for the audience as well. The piece itself actually bears up very well considering it's nearly forty years old. My guess is that it sounds much less dated than much of the straight classical music being written at the same time.

Here's what I wrote about the evening on my blog back on 15 October.

A week of prog part 1 - Concerto For Group and Orchestra

Last week was rather interesting. On Monday (5th October) I went to see Jon Lord (formerly of Deep Purple) performing his Concerto for Group and Orchestra at the Usher Hall. JL was on his Hammond organ, the orchestra was made up of students from the RSAMD (almost all first-years), and the band was Concertium, who are from Stevenson College where my wife teaches. Hilary was involved in some of the organising and met Jon Lord on one of his earlier planning visits to Edinburgh. The conductor was Paul Mann, who apparently does this piece with Jon Lord a lot.

The performance was outstanding. Concertium betrayed no hint of "student band" nerves or noodling: special praise goes to their singer Grant Barclay, guitarists Grant Kilpatrick and especially Thomas Temple whose solos were unfussy and inventive, and most of all to their drummer Oscar Mannoni. During his solo I saw violinists in the orchestra sitting in open-mouthed wonder, and they weren't alone. Even Jon Lord looked impressed. The majority of the orchestra were taking part in their first performance as music students, but no inexperience showed there either. As Jon Lord said at the end, listening to the guys on stage you know the future of British music is in safe hands.

JL himself looks older but sounds much the same as in Deep Purple's heyday. To hear the opening of the encore "Child In Time" - surely the second-best-known organ intro in rock history* - was to be transported back to my schooldays, lying stoned at a party listening to "Deep Purple In Rock". His Hammond organ is massive by comparison with modern keyboards, but makes a great sound so I can see why he still uses it. It has a minder who not only tends it but fends off finger-poking passers-by, and who never leaves its side. He was even sitting quietly behind Jon Lord in the concert. Someone described him as Jon Lord's monkey, but surely he has to be the organ-minder?

Support was by a combined folk group of accordions and fiddles from Stevenson College and the RSAMD, led by the ubiquitous Phil Cunningham. All in all, a terrific gig, and a fantastic experience for all the students involved.

* After "A White Shade Of Pale", obv.

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Hi. I'm back - and Happy New Year

Jan. 4th, 2010 | 01:40 am

I must say I was rather horrified to see quite how long it had been since I last posted here. Facebook has a lot to answer for, I can tell you.

Anyway, Happy New Year to one and all. In Scotland the habit is to wish people HNY the first time you see them in the new year rather than as you leave them in the old one, so not only will there be much hand-shaking when I get back to work on Tuesday (4th is a holiday here) but this will continue intermittently throughout the month as I meet people again. It took some adjusting to when I first moved up here.

I shall try to be a better LiveJournalist this year. But as it says in Manhood Perfectly Restored, We Hold Out No False Hopes.

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Someone's playing my tune....

Feb. 28th, 2009 | 04:33 am

This seems appropriate to the title of my LJ:

(From this strip.)

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Curiosity killed the cat - a meme

Feb. 23rd, 2009 | 12:26 pm

Describe me in one word- just one single word. Positive or negative.

Leave your word in a comment, before looking at what words others have used.

Copy and paste the meme to your journal to find out how people describe you when limited to one word.

Thanks to gauroth for this one.

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New Horizons in Bodice-Ripping

Feb. 18th, 2009 | 01:48 am

As she hasn't mentioned it on LJ (and for that matter I haven't heard the delicate steam-whistle sound of Othen Affrontata) I'm prepared to bet that Gillian O has not yet read of this planned film.

But what would you call the sequel? "Fear Of The Darcy"? "Never Say Netherfield Again"? Or perhaps a sideways move to "Concussion" (tagline  'All the privilege I claim for my own sex...is that of screaming loudest, when stomach or when head is gone" ).

I think I'm going to enjoy this......

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Sunday Book-meme: Genres

Feb. 11th, 2009 | 02:26 am

Genre fiction book meme (gakked from intertext)

1) Look at the list, copy and paste it into your own journal.
2) Mark those you have read however you want.
3) Feel free to tell your friends what you thought of them.

I've bolded the ones I've read, put a star beside particular favourites, and put in italics ones I've started but never finished or have only read one of.

1. *The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien Well, duh,
2. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
3. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien Got bored and abandoned it.
4. Foundation series, Isaac Asimov
5. *Robot series, Isaac Asimov For all their "Three Laws" cleverness these stories are as much about Susan Calvin as about the robots. Asimov at the top of his game.
6. Dune, Frank Herbert
7. *Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
8. *The Earthsea series, Ursula le Guin

9. Neuromancer, William Gibson
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham Like Intertext, I liked Chocky better (and not just because my copy was a Christmas present from one of my LJ readers[g])
12. A Book of the New Sun series, Gene Wolfe
13. Discworld series, Terry Pratchett Yes, but I've never gone overboard for them like some of my friends.
14. Sandman series, Neil Gaiman
15. *The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams Loved the books but loved the radio series even more.
16. Dragonriders of Pern series, Anne McCaffrey
17. Interview with the Vampire series, Anne Rice .
18. The Shining, Stephen King
19. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula le Guin
20. The Chronicles of Amber, Roger Zelazny . Read three of them and keep meaning to finish the set. My favourite RZ is Lord of Light though.
21. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke
22. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke Found it rather disappointing.
23. *Ringworld, Larry Niven. I liked the sequels as well.
24. Elric of Melnibone series, Michael Moorcock
25. The Dying Earth series, Jack Vance
26. Lyonesse series, Jack Vance
27. *The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever, Stephen Donaldson. I really liked the first series though they are over-written, I thought the way the second series was linked to the first via the Staff of Law was very clever, though I didn't much care for Linden Avery. Second series good in parts. Best Donaldson by a mile is the Mordant's Need series, though I keep waiting for someone to make a film of Animal Lover (short from Daughter of Regals)
28. A Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin
29. The Worm Ourobouros, E.R. Eddison
30. Conan series, Robert E. Howard
31. Lankhmar series, Fritz Leiber
32. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick. Great film though.
33. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
34. The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells
35. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
36. Eon, Greg Bear
37. Book of the First Law series, Joe Abercrombie
38. Miss Marple stories, Agatha Christie
39. Hercule Poirot stories, Agatha Christie
40. Lord Peter Wimsey stories, Dorothy L. Sayers . I've read one and can't remember which it was. Saw quite a fw on TV though.
41. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
42. The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
43. Sherlock Holmes stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Valley Of Fear is best.
44. *Cthulhu Mythos, H.P. Lovecraft. Best horror ever.
45. Inspector Wexford stories, Ruth Rendell
46. Adam Dalgliesh stories, P.D. James
47. Philip Marlowe stories, Raymond Chandler
48. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
49. The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth. Good fun, though the famous method of obtaining a false passport had been done years earlier in Adam Diment's The Great Spy Race
50. The Fourth Protocol, Frederick Forsyth
51. Smiley series, John le Carre The first one was OK though the plot wasn't as confusing as I''d been led to expect. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold: now that's a complicated plot.
52. Gentleman Bastard series, Scott Lynch
53. The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Steven Erikson
54. Watchmen series, Alan Moore
55. Maus, Art Spiegelman
56. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Miller
57. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
58. *Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling. I didn't actually cry during the last one but it was a close thing. And I'm prepared to forgive any number of infelicities from the author of Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow/Turn this stupid fat rat yellow.
59. Chrestomanci series, Diana Wynne-Jones
60. Ryhope Wood series, Robert Holdstock
61. Wilt series, Tom Sharpe. Funny-ish. Couldn't read his Porterhouse Blue without thinking of my old Durham college (and college bedder!)
62. Riftwar Cycle, Raymond E. Feist
63. Temeraire series, Naomi Novik .
64. *Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis. Duh, again.
65. His Dark Materials series, Phillip Pullman
66. Dragonlance series, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
67. Twilight saga, Stephanie Meyer
68. The Night's Dawn trilogy, Peter F. Hamilton
69. Artemis Fowl series, Eoin Colfer. I like the idea of the high-tech fairies.
70. Honor Harrington series, David Weber
71. Hannibal Lecter series, Thomas Harris The first one especially chills the blood more by what he leaves unsaid than by the words on the page.
72. The Dark Tower series, Stephen King
73. It, Stephen King
74. The Rats series, James Herbert
75. Dirk Gently series, Douglas Adams Liked the first much more than the second, though Catastrophic Structural Exasperation Syndrome is a great coinage.
76. Jeeves and Wooster stories, P.G. Wodehouse Read What Ho, Jeeves! Loved the Fry & Laurie TV versions..
77. The da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
78. The Culture Series, Iain M. Banks
79. The Duncton series, William Horwood
80. *The Illuminatus! trilogy, Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson Utter genius.
81. The Aberystwyth series, Malcom Pryce. A new word for surreal, and irrestistible.
82. Morse stories, Colin Dexter
83. Navajo Tribal Police stories, Tony Hillerman
84. The Ipcress File, Len Deighton
85. Enigma, Robert Harris
86. Fatherland, Robert Harris
87. The Constant Gardener, John le Carre
88. The House of Cards trilogy, Michael Dobbs
89. The Dark is Rising saga, Susan Cooper
90. Psychotechnic League and Polesotechnic League series, Poul Anderson
91. Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton
92. Star Wars: Thrawn trilogy, Timothy Zahn
93. Ender's Game series, Orson Scott Card
94. *Gormenghast series, Meryvn Peake I did cry when reading Gormenghast, twice. (Fuchsia's death and Flay hearing the Twins' cries but not being able to find them.) Never got into Titus Alone though.
95. Miles Vorkosigan saga, Lois McMaster Bujold
96. The Once and Future King, T.H. White . Odd-numbered books great, even-numbered, meh. Lancelot fighting his way out of Guinevere's bedroom is still vivid after more than 30 years.
97. Fighting Fantasy books, Ian Livingston & Steve Jackson . Who needs computer games?
98. The Stainless Steel Rat series, Harry Harrison . Hilarious. Moreover, I have a Fighting Fantasy-type book based on these! And Harrison's Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers is simply the funniest SF ever: even better then HHGG.
99. The Lensman series, E.E. 'Doc' Smith
100. The Cadfael stories, Ellis Peters

Some I haven't read stare accusingly at me from the bookshelves.

Ten which were not included but should be:

101. *The Falco series, Lindsey Davis. Best historical detective stories by far, with wonderful detail and characterisation.
102. *Flying Dutch, Tom Holt. A hilarious exploration of the myth of the Flying Dutchman. All his books are great fun though.
103. *The Tarot trilogy, Piers Anthony. Thank heavens for the SF abbreviation: are these fantasy or science fiction? Very clever and unusually for PA, not funny (though there's a caricature of Aleister Crowley in one that had me howling with mirth).
104. *The Brentford trilogy, Robert Rankin. Rankin is a genius in general, but these first efforts are his best.
105. *The Mma Ramotswe stories, Alexander McCall Smith. Laid-back and humorous detective stories written wih real affection. His other (Edinburgh-based) books are great too.
106.*The Restoration trilogy, Neal Stephenson. Best big historical fiction series since Dorothy Dunnett, and just as exciting.
107. *Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson, Probably my favourite SF novel of all time. A writer who can have you on the edge of your seat wih suspense over a pizza delivery: what's not to like?
108. *The Max Curfew novels, John Brunner. Thrillers where the hero is a KGB-trained black man, which makes for some interesting perspectives.
109. *Stand On Zanzibar, John Brunner Cleverly structured dystopia.
110. *The Jerry Cornelius books, Michael Moorcock Indescribable. No, really.

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I should think so too

Feb. 10th, 2009 | 11:47 pm

NerdTests.com says I'm a Cool High Nerd.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and talk to others on the nerd forum!

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