Thursday, December 24, 2009

New blog!

In contrast to life, there hasn't been much happening here of late. Sorry!

However, I have just started a blog relating to the Research Project I've started at Swinburne.

You can read about what I'm doing over at The GLoo Factory. It assumes a fair amount of programming knowledge, so apologies if it doesn't make any sense :)


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Confused Twitter accounts: an observation

I checked my email last evening and discovered a new batch of Twitter users had started following my account. As I always do, I visited their account pages and looked for those I might be interested in following back. Unlike many Twitter users I know, I don't automatically follow every non-spam account that follows me: I look for people and organisations that I can interact with, converse with, gain value from.

Of late, I'm seeing a lot of accounts that just seem, well, odd. I pondered this out loud, and when Tim Malone asked me what I meant, I thought I'd try and distill my thinking into something coherent.

There are a number of things these odd-looking accounts have in common:

  1. The accounts have a real person's name attached
  2. The backgrounds advertise a company or an organisation
  3. Their tweet streams don't fit either profile

Let me explain what I mean:

  1. This isn't unusual at all, and by itself doesn't mean much — in fact, I expect most twitter accounts to have a real person on the other end. However, if I follow a personal account, I expect the way they tweet to reflect their personality, who they are, how they think. This is partly what makes Twitter such a rich online experience: opinions, conversations, jokes, games – there's always something going on.
  2. I have no problem with corporate twitter accounts per sé: if you're using social media and networks to spread your company, good on you for being proactive! I follow a number of companies / organisations that I support, because they are focused and provide me with information and interaction that I wouldn't get otherwise. It provides a central point of contact for customer service, and makes hearing from these organisations easier. If I follow a company, I expect their tweets to be about services they offer, responses to customer feedback, or content that directly pertains to them.
  3. What makes these accounts so strange to me is that they try to be both, and end up being neither. I don't expect a person tweeting as themselves to plaster advertising all over their Twitter page. On the other hand, I don't expect a company account to post quotes or links to online news stories that are of limited relevance to their organisation.

I am not a Social Media Expert (thank goodness!) But I do offer these suggestions under the umbrella of Common Sense:

If you're a person: don't sell yourself, be yourself. If you're a professional, no one is going to hire/collaborate/communicate with you because of your awesome Twitter background that contains half your resume. They're going to do those things because of how you act and interact online (just as they do offline).

If you're a company: keep your tweets directly related to company material. I don't expect a company to tell me about a news story, or give me an inspirational quote. I want to know what you're doing, and how you're making things better for your clients/customers. That doesn't mean every 2nd tweet should flog your product, but it does mean stay on message.

Decide what type of account you're starting, and stick with that. If you want to do both, make two accounts. Trying to be both just looks weird, and ends up being neither.

Photo: Southend: Van Looy's Sandwich Board by DBullock. Used with Permission.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bible Study update

We've had a few weeks without studies since the last update, what with a scheduled break and the mid-semester "holiday". There've been a couple of studies in that time, though, so apologies for being a bit behind.

First one is by Jeff, an introductory look at the highly controversial topic of gender roles (especially inside the church). Study + Notes [ZIP]

The second one is one I took on Leadership in the Church, and Paul's teachings on the sorts of leaders churches deserve to have. Study [PDF]

I hope these provoke questions and thoughts as you go through them :)

EDIT: Oops, Jeff's study notes are in a zip file, not a PDF. Fixed...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meditation of the week

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bible Study: Thank God for Grace!

We're back from a scheduled break for just catching up, hanging out, and getting the low-down on how each other was getting on with life, study, etc.

This week, Paul takes a time-out from teaching Timothy to give thanks and praise to God for the grace He has given to him. He thinks about the implications of this, and we learn from his response.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What's wrong with Mr. Bingley?

I've noticed an interesting thing in my facebook feed of late – among the endless stream of inane quizzes (seriously, who really wants to know what Pocky flavour you are, or which of Elizabeth Taylor's husbands you best fit?) are a couple of Jane Austen-themed quizzes. These purport to tell you which Pride & Prejudice character you are, or (if you're of the female persuasion) which Austen hero you "get".

Quite a number of my female facebook friends expressed disappointment that they didn't get Mr. Darcy as their companion of choice. One expression of annoyance in particular caught my eye – my friend had the result of Mr Bingley, the affable companion of Mr Darcy's. Her response? "Slightly dissatisfied"!

I'm surprised that Bingley gets passed over so much in favour of Darcy; there are no real flaws in his character, apart from considering others' opinions too highly. His heart is in the right place, and he never treats any of the other characters with anything other than genuine friendship and affection (something almost every other character is singularly incapable of). While monied, his fortune is the result of work, not lineage, and he seems to be loyal to a fault.

On behalf of all the Mr. Bingleys of the world: What's wrong with that?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

CU Bible Study, Week 2: Law

Week 2 of the CU Bible Study Jeff & I are running looks at the law this week. It is sometimes portrayed as being a necessary evil, something that Jesus destroyed for us. But is this really the case? Check out the study and see for yourself!

Week 2: Law and Freedom [PDF]

Creative Commons: umjanedoan on flickr

Monday, August 31, 2009

Can't Send Mail in Snow Leopard? Try this

Upgraded my Macbook from Leopard to Snow Leopard on Saturday, and all seemed to be well until I couldn't send emails from this evening. A google search revealed that others seemed to be having the same problem, but one of the fixes outlined on the Apple forums seems to have done the trick.

  1. Close if it is open.
  2. Open Finder, and go to your user folder, then Library (that is, the Library folder for your user, not the system-wide one).
  3. Rename the "Mail" folder to something else.
  4. Re-open It should tell you that it needs to import mailboxes. DO NOT click Continue just yet!
  5. Go back to the Finder window, and rename the Mail folder back to "Mail" again.
  6. Switch back to, and now click Continue.
  7. Mail should reimport your messages, and you should now be able to send email again just fine!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bible Studies for Semester 2

I know earlier in the year I promised I'd put up the Bible Studies I was taking with Jeff for CU, but these never really eventuated. Sorry!

This semester hopefully will be different :)

Jeff Reddan & myself are conducting Bible Studies on Paul's first letter to Timothy, on Tuesday afternoons. We've got roughly 5 people or so that have said they can come (although we've not yet had them all at once!), and it promises to be a really great time.

Here's the first study as led by Jeff:

Week 1: False Teaching [PDF]

UPDATE: Jeff's provided me with some more material for this study. [ZIP]

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spiritual Learning, Part 2: Food

Good Food sign
I like the rich Biblical metaphor of food and nutrition: both Old and New Testaments are full of similes comparing God's Word, and knowledge of His ways, with food. The Scriptures are described as honey, a few times as milk, and as solid food — like a baby's diet and digestive system change and expand as he/she gets older, so our spiritual diet should grow, change, become deeper as we learn more about God & His character.

Food is a powerful metaphor; we know we need nutrients for our bodies to survive and thrive. If we don't eat, we get hungry. If we try to eat too much in one go, we can struggle to digest it properly.

These ideas extend, I think, to the way we treat Scripture, and spiritual nourishment in general. Are we getting enough? Are we benefiting from what we do get? These are both traps we can fall into.

I like Christian author Steve Farrar's description of these pitfalls: in his book Point Man he calls them "Spiritual Anorexia" and "Spiritual Bulimia." Spiritual Anorexia describes those of us who simply don't get enough Bible nourishment — we know it's good for us, we know the benefit that it brings, and yet we simply don't get it into us. It can be laziness, excuses ("I'm too busy / I don't have time"), or straight-out pride ("I don't need to"). All of us at some stage struggle with this spiritual eating disorder.

Spiritual Bulimia, on the other hand, is different: we "gorge" on great teaching, Bible reading, fellowship. We listen, we taste, and we say "wow, that was great teaching!" — and then we effectively go and throw it up by not letting it affect us and change the way we live. We like the taste of spiritual nourishment, but we don't want it to make us grow.

Following on from my first post on this topic, which is more of a problem for you? I struggle with both: in my day-to-day life I believe I can get by without daily Bible reading (the spiritual equivalent of skipping meals). At the same time, however, whenever I'm blessed with amazing teaching (like a great sermon, an amazing camp, or a helpful book or podcast) my tendency is to say "wow, that was really tasty!" – and then throw it up as if it is of no use to me. Both of these are unhealthy habits, so I need to be constantly working on my spiritual diet.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Music mixes!

Just joined, a site that allows you to easily throw music tracks together to form a virtual mixtape.

Here's the first one I made, hope you like it :)

Monday, July 20, 2009


So today is that day, the one that distinguishes itself every year for not being an unbirthday. They seem to come around more frequently as time progresses.

What have I learned in the past 12 months?

I Love People (but not enough!)

The past 12 months have brought so many amazing people into my life in such ways that I couldn't, wouldn't have believed had they not happened. 2 countries, 4 cities, 3 churches, 2 universities, countless individuals – it really blows my mind how many awesome people I didn't know just 12 months ago (well, 18 for some, but I hardly knew you guys then). I'm coming to realise that I love interacting with people more than almost anything in the world. What makes you special? What makes you tick? What are your gifts, talents, abilities? I want to know!

I Love God (but not enough!)

There have been times in the last 12 months when I have doubted my faith, when I have questioned whether the God I believe in is capable and trustworthy. Can He do what He promises?

There have been so many reminders (including one just last week at Summit – thanks Pete Leslie!) that the answer is a resounding, overwhelming YES! All through the Bible there are reminders for weak people like me who have asked this question all through history. And every time, God has not let them down.

I Love Coffee (just a little too much!)

…which will come as a surprise to precisely no one…

Looking ahead

The next 12 months will be an interesting ride. I've nearly finished my uni degree, and I'm not hanging around for honours, so the question of what to do will be on the agenda. (It'll be something, at least) I have some ideas, including some slightly off-the-wall ones; but we'll see what pans out. Gotta actually graduate first, that's priority #1!

I think these words of the apostle Paul will be my catch-cry for the year ahead:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Philippians 3:12-16, ESV

Press with me, won't you?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mondays with McGonagall: Magistrates, Blegh!

It's been some time since we delved into the priceless treasures contained in W. McGonagall's poetry. Today our protagonist has been banned from performing in the Royal Circus in Dundee, and he is most unimpressed. He is so put out at being treated in such an unfair manner that he's had enough, and is going somewhere he'll be appreciated. Hrumph.

Lines in Protest to the Dundee Magistrates

Fellow citizens of Bonnie Dundee
Are ye aware how the magistrates have treated me?
Nay, do not stare or make a fuss
When I tell ye they have boycotted me from appearing in Royal Circus,
Which in my opinion is a great shame,
And a dishonour to the city's name.

Fellow citizens, I consider such treatment to be very hard;
'Tis proof for me they have little regard;
Or else in the circumstances they would have seen to my protection;
Then that would have been a proof of their affection,
And how Genius ought to be rewarded,
But instead my Genius has been disregarded
Why should the magistrates try and punish me in such a cruel form?
I never heard the like since I was born.
Fellow citizens, they have taken from me a part of my living
And as Christians they should have been giving;
But instead of that they have prevented Baron Ziegler from engaging me,
Which certainly is a disgrace to Bonnie Dundee.

Who was't that immortalised the old and the new railway bridges of the Silvery Tay?
Also the inauguration of the Hill of Balgay?
Likewise the Silvery Tay rolling on its way?
And the Newport Railway?
Besides the Dundee Volunteers?
Which met with their approbation and hearty cheers.
And has it come to this in Bonnie Dundee?
But, fellow-citizens, I will not submit to such an indignity
For I am resolved to leave the city
And bid the city a long farewell,
For I cannot get protection in it to dwell,
Therefore I'm resolved from it to flee
For a prophet has no honour in his own country,
And try to live in some other town
Where the magistrates won't boycott me or try to keep me down

No more shall the roughs of Bonnie Dundee
Get the chance of insulting or throwing missiles at me
For I'm going off to the beautiful west
To the fair city of Glasgow that I like the best,
Where the River Clyde rolls on to the sea,
And the lark and the blackbird whistles with glee.
And your beautiful bridges across the River Clyde,
And on your bonnie banks I'm going to reside.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Spiritual Learning, Part 1: Head/Heart

Some weeks ago now, my church small group split into two (as small groups that grow should!). We still catch up with each other from time to time, see how each group is growing and changing.

Last time we did a combined dinner, one of the leaders did a short talk/study on the spiritual discipline of teachability. Wiktionary defines teachable as "Capable of being taught; apt to learn; Willing to receive instruction or to learn."

What does it mean to learn in a spiritual sense, though? People often talk about "head knowledge" vs. "heart knowledge"; knowing something is different from "knowing" it. It's not enough to simply know and declare something to be true; the real proof that you understand something is in how you demonstrate it through your actions.

Unfortunately, all of us tend to favour one over the other: we place more importance on one aspect of our learning than the other, to our detriment. Some worry too much about understanding and doctrine, but then don't live it out. Others think that our walk and experience are more important than the deeper details of what we believe to be true, without realising that how and what we think affects the way we act.

Personally, I fall into the first category far too often: I say I care about the Truth, but do I actually let it change the way I live?

What about you: to which extreme do you tend? And how do you combat it in your life? Love to hear from you…

Creative Commons: mathieustruck on flickr

Saturday, June 13, 2009

If only…

…the gaps in exams could be completed this way:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Free music from Re:Sound

Sick of Christian music that sounds, well, the same? Loved a song's musical style, but cringed at the lyrics? Re:Sound is here to help. An idea born from The Resurgence (itself spawned from Mars Hill Church in Seattle), Re:Sound promises music that is "Theologically Unified, Stylistically Diverse, Musically Excellent." And as a taster before their official launch on June 11, they've got an 8-track sampler for free download! I for one look forward to seeing what they come up with…

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

AoM Better Man Challenge: Day 1

The first activity in Art of Manliness' Better Man Challenge is to outline one's 5 Core Values: the principles/things that you hold as valuable above all others. But it's not enough to simply state them, one must clearly define them as well. So here we go, in order:

Over and above anything else, the thing that defines who I am is my faith. I'm a deeply committed Christian; I aim to know what I believe and why I believe it. If it weren't for the saving death and resurrection of my Lord Jesus Christ, I would have no strength for today, no hope for the future, and no security and purpose in who I am and what I'm here for.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a people person. I love spending time with others: interacting, learning, growing together. I love my family, with all our quirks [quirks, Andrew? Surely not!] – I see little pieces of all of them in my character and makeup, and I wouldn't change that for anything.

Same goes for my friends – my closest friends are like family to me: brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts. Particularly my brothers in arms: strong Christian guys who fight the same battles, decry the same lies, share the same dreams. I love you guys.

The Bible says, "Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore, get wisdom."

I like Princeton WordNet's definition of wisdom: "the trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight."

Knowledge (see below) and experience aren't much use if you don't deliberately try and learn and grow from them. One can be extremely intelligent, or extremely successful, and still be a complete fool. One can also be poorly educated, have never been anywhere much, and still be incredibly wise.

I want to be known as someone "who understood the times and knew what [to] do." (another Bible reference)

I'm an inquisitive person by nature; a true generalist (sometimes to a fault), I find most things fascinating, and strive to constantly learn new things. Sometimes this means that I'm not as focused as I should be, but I'd rather be "jack of all trades" (and "master of none") than someone who knows everything about very little.

Finally, I believe life is an adventure waiting to be lived. There is interest to be found even in the seemingly inane, and fascination in the humdrum; the trick is to look for it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Art of Manliness Better Man challenge

The Art of Manliness have announced their "30 Days to a Better Man" project. It looks interesting, and I'm going to try and follow along with it as it goes. I'm not promising to post everything (or anything, for that matter) but I'll be doing my darndest to keep up with them, uni/life timetable notwithstanding.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mondays with McGonagall: The Battle of El-Teb

This week, we're looking at our poet's take on the second Battle of El-Teb. It doesn't seem to be a particularly important battle on the world stage (particularly for the residents of Dundee, or indeed anywhere), but thanks to his efforts, we can learn about it in a form other than prose...

The Battle Of El-Teb

Ye sons of Great Britain, I think no shame
To write in praise of brave General Graham!
Whose name will be handed down to posterity without any stigma,
Because, at the battle of El-Teb, he defeated Osman Digna.

With an army about five thousand strong,
To El-Teb, in the year 1884, he marched along,
And bivouacked there for the night;
While around their fires they only thought of the coming fight.

They kept up their fires all the long night,
Which made the encampment appear weird-like to the sight;
While the men were completely soaked with the rain,
But the brave heroes disdained to complain.

The brave heroes were glad when daylight did appear,
And when the reveille was sounded, they gave a hearty cheer
And their fires were piled up higher again,
Then they tried to dry their clothes that were soaked with the rain.

Then breakfast was taken about eight o'clock,
And when over, each man stood in the ranks as firm as a rock,
And every man seemed to be on his guard --
All silent and ready to move forward.

The first movement was a short one from where they lay --
Then they began to advance towards El-Teb without dismay,
And showed that all was in order for the fray,
While every man's heart seemed to feel light and gay.

The enemy's position could be seen in the distance far away
But the brave heroes marched on without delay --
Whilst the enemy's banners floated in the air,
And dark swarms of men were scattered near by there.

Their force was a large one -- its front extended over a mile,
And all along the line their guns were all in file;
But as the British advanced, they disappeared,
While our brave kilty lads loudly cheered.

Thus slowly and cautiously brave General Graham proceeded
And to save his men from slaughter, great caution was needed,
Because Osman Digna's force was about ten thousand strong;
But he said, Come on, my brave lads, we'll conquer them ere long!

It was about ten o'clock when they came near the enemy's lines,
And on the morning air could be heard the cheerful chimes
Corning from the pipes of the gallant Black Watch,
Which every ear in the British force was eager to catch.

Then they passed by the enemy about mid-day,
While every Arab seemed to have his gun ready for the fray
When a bullet strikes down General Baker by the way,
But he is soon in the saddle again without delay,

And ready for any service that he could perform;
Whilst the bullets fell around them in a perfect storm
That they had to lie down, but not through fear,
Because the enemy was about 800 yards on their left rear.

Then General Graham addressed his men,
And said, If they won't attack us, we must attack them,
So start to your feet, my lads, and never fear,
And strike up your bagpipes, and give a loud cheer.

So they leapt to their feet, and gave a loud cheer,
While the Arabs swept down upon them without the least fear,
And put aside their rifles, and grasped their spears;
Whilst the British bullets in front of them the earth uptears.

Then the British charged them with their cold steel,
Which made the Arabs backward for to reel;
But they dashed forward again on their ranks without dismay,
But before the terrible fire of their musketry they were swept away.

Oh, God of Heaven! it was a terrible sight
To see, and hear the Arabs shouting with all their might
A fearful oath when they got an inch of cold steel,
Which forced them backwards again and made them reel.

By two o'clock they were fairly beat,
And Osman Digna, the false prophet, was forced to retreat
After three hours of an incessant fight;
But Heaven, 'tis said, defends the right.

And I think he ought to be ashamed of himself;
For I consider he has acted the part of a silly elf,
By thinking to conquer the armies of the Lord
With his foolish and benighted rebel horde.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mondays with McGonagall: Autumn

No explanations this week, just the stanzas...

Autumn Reverie

Alas! Beautiful Summer now hath fled,
And the face of Nature doth seem dead,
And the leaves are withered, and falling off the trees,
By the nipping and chilling autumnal breeze.

The pleasures of the little birds are all fled,
And with the cold many of them will be found dead,
Because the leaves of the trees are scattered in the blast,
And makes the feathered creatures feel downcast.

Because there are no leaves on the trees to shield them from the storm
On a windy, and rainy, cloudy morn;
Which makes their little hearts throb with pain,
By the chilling blast and the pitiless rain.

But still they are more contented than the children of God,
As long as they can pick up a worm from the sod,
Or anything they can get to eat,
Just, for instance, a stale crust of bread or a grain of wheat.

Oh! Think of the little birds in the time of the snow,
Also of the little street waifs, that are driven to and fro,
And trembling in the cold blast, and chilled to the bone,
For the want of food and clothing, and a warm home.

Besides think of the sorrows of the wandering poor,
That are wandering in the cold blast from door to door;
And begging, for Heaven's sake, a crust of bread,
And alas! Not knowing where to lay their head.

While the rich are well fed and covered from the cold,
While the poor are starving, both young and old;
Alas! It is the case in this boasted Christian land,
Where as the rich are told to be kind to the poor, is God's command.

Oh! Think of the working man when he's no work to do,
Who's got a wife and family, perhaps four or two,
And the father searching for work, and no work can be had,
The thought, I'm sure, 'tis enough to drive the poor man mad.

Because for his wife and family he must feel,
And perhaps the thought thereof will cause him to steal
Bread for his family, that are starving at home,
While the thought thereof makes him sigh heavily and groan.

Alas! The pangs of hunger are very hard to hide,
And few people can their temper control,
Or become reconciled to their fate,
Especially when they cannot find anything to eat.

Oh! Think of the struggles of the poor to make a living,
Because the rich unto them seldom are giving;
Wereas they are told he that giveth to the poor lendeth unto the Lord,
But alas! they rather incline their money to hoard.

Then theres the little news-vendors in the street,
Running about perhaps with bare feet;
And if the rich chance to see such creatures in the street,
In general they make a sudden retreat.

Photo: Denis Collette on Flickr.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Time for Blogging

I really don't know how some people find the time to write decent-sized, quality blog posts on a regular basis. I have plenty of ideas and think "ooh, that would make a great blog post"; more often than not, however, they either end up in a drafts folder never to be seen again, or they are soon forgotten about.

How do they do it?

Photo: cattoo on flickr.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Shopping: Latest Trip to Koorong…

…resulted in some eclectic purchases – a dead white guy, some not-quite-dead white guys, some nowhere-near-dead white guys, and a nowhere-near-dead black guy:

The Kierkegaard book is out of curiosity – I'm certainly not about to become a knight of faith! I do think that the Emergent movement takes a lot of ideas from his philosophy, so I'm interested in finding out more about it.

I know Carson & Sproul are solid, and I didn't have these works of theirs already; I'm sure they will be edifying (Carson's is, I think, a collation of talks and a fairly short work; Sproul's one a bit longer).

Musically, I'd enjoyed hearing the singles from the Falling Up album on radio, and decided to spring for the whole album. Enjoying what I hear so far.

The most unusual (for me) item on the list is the last one; I've never been a huge fan of hip-hop/rap, so this is something of a musical diversion. I figured if I was going to try out a new genre of music, I might as well choose an artist who fills his lyrics with Jesus.

Already listened to both CDs, but the books will have to wait until end of semester.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mondays with McGonagall: Ode to Edward VII

This week's McGonagall (late, I know – I'm sorry) is an ode that William wrote for the coronation of Edward VII of England. My guess is he'd been itching to write a coronation poem for years, having spent most of his career during the long reign of Queen Victoria.

Oh! God, I thank Thee for restoring King Edward the Seventh's health again,
And let all his subjects throughout the Empire say Amen;
May God guard him by night and day,
At home and abroad, when he's far away.

May angels guard his bed at night when he lies down,
And may his subjects revere him, and on him do not frown;
May he be honoured by them at home and abroad,
And may he always be protected by the Eternal God.

My blessing on his noble form, and on his lofty head,
May all good angels guard him while living and when dead;
And when the final hour shall come to summons him away,
May his soul be wafted to the realms of bliss I do pray.

Long may he reign, happy and serene,
Also his Queen most beautiful to be seen;
And may God guard his family by night and day,
That they may tread in the paths of virtue and not go astray.

May God prosper King Edward the Seventh wherever he goes,
May he always reign victorious over his foes;
Long may he be spared to wear the British Crown,
And may God be as a hedge around him at night when he lies down;
May God inspire him with wisdom, and long may he reign
As Emperor of India and King Edward the VII. --Amen.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mondays with McGonagall: Loch Leven

More from William's autobiography this week, except this is a poem, with the somewhat hubristic title Magnificent Poem on Loch Leven:

Beautiful Loch Leven, near by Kinross,
For a good day's fishing the angler is seldom at a loss,
For the loch it abounds with pike and trout,
Which can be had for the catching without any doubt;
And the scenery around it is most beautiful to be seen,
Especially the Castle, wherein was imprisoned Scotland's ill-starred Queen.

Then there's the lofty Lomond Hills on the eastern side,
And the loch is long, very deep, very wide;
Then on the southern side there's Benarty's rugged hills,
And from the tops can be seen the village of Kinross with its spinning mills.

The big house of Kinross is very handsome to be seen,
With its beautiful grounds around it, and lime trees so green,
And 'tis a magnificent sight to see, on a fine summer afternoon
The bees extracting honey from the leaves when in full bloom.

There the tourist can enjoy himself and while away the hours,
Underneath the lime trees shady bowers,
And listen to the humming of the busy bees,
While they are busy gathering honey from the lime trees.

Then there's the old burying ground near by Kinross,
And the dead that lie there turned into dusty dross,
And the gravestones are all in a state of decay,
And the wall around it is mouldering away.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Made it!

The week is up, the period of mourning is over. My latest "week without caffeine" push has finally finished.

As has proven to be the case most times I've done this, day 3 and 4 were the worst, although the ways my body has rebelled have varied. This time, I didn't get the migraines that I did the first time I detoxed, but I did have almost constant low-grade dull headaches. On day 4 (Wednesday), I found it almost impossible to focus on anything, felt irritable, restless – it was like I'd drunk a bottle of red cordial neat. I can't imagine what it would be like to have to battle that every single day :S

The picture in this post is my tribute to the hot drink that helped me get through the 168 hours of torture: Rooibos. Unlike tea, rooibos is completely caffeine-free, but is still rich in minerals & anti-oxidants. I think it may be in my top 3 hot drinks now (sorry, green tea!), and I expect to be drinking a lot more of it in the future.

Okay, now I'm off for a cuppa, see y'all later!

Photo Creative Commons: wilnora on flickr

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mondays with McGonagall: Peas

This week's Monday with McGonagall comes from his autobiographical writings, and explains his first performance-related encounter with peas…

My Dearly Beloved Readers, – I will begin with giving an account of my experiences amongst the publicans. Well, I must say that the first man who threw peas at me was a publican, while I was giving an entertainment to a few of my admirers in a public-house in a certain little village not far from Dundee but, my dear friends, I wish it to be understood that the publican who threw the peas at me was not the landlord of the public-house, he was one of the party who came to hear me give my entertainment.

Well, my dear readers, it was while I was singing my own song, The Rattling Boy from Dublin Town, that he threw the peas at me. You must understand that the Rattling Boy was courting a lass called Biddy Brown, and the Rattling Boy chanced to meet his Biddy one night in company with another lad called Barney Magee, which, of course, he did not like to see, and he told Biddy he considered it too bad for her to be going about with another lad, and he would bid her good-bye for being untrue to him. Then Barney Magee told the Rattling Boy that Biddy Brown was his lass, and that he could easily find another – and come and have a glass, and be friends.

But the Rattling Boy told Barney Magee to give his glass of strong drink to the devil! meaning, I suppose, it was only fit for devils to make use of, not for God's creatures. Because, my friends, too often has strong drink been the cause of seducing many a beautiful young woman away from her true lover, and from her parents also, by a false seducer which, no doubt, the Rattling Boy considered Barney Magee to be.

Therefore, my dear friends, the reason, I think, for the publican throwing the peas at me is because I say, to the devil with your glass, in my song, The Rattling Boy from Dublin, and he, no doubt, considered it had a teetotal tendency about it, and, for that reason, he had felt angry, and had thrown the peas at me.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Caffeine: ultimate love/hate

Anyone who knows me knows I love my coffee – plunger, espresso, flat white, short macchiato, I'm there. Unfortunately, my love for caffeinated goodness often means my consumption goes up in direct proportion to my busyness levels, until I find myself drinking too much of the stuff.

Not being the sort of person that's really capable of doing anything by halves (including coffee drinking), I combat this by going on caffeine fasts, where I'll not drink anything caffeinated for a period of time (usually a week). As I sit here with a nearly-empty thermos of plunger coffee, I can't help but think that it's time for another one.

So as of midnight tonight, I'll be completely off caffeine (in any form: tea, coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, whatever) for the entire week. Usually by day 3, my body goes into full-scale rebellion, and tries to make life miserable. Thankfully there aren't any uni classes this week.

Wish me luck…

Photo Creative Commons:
GIRLintheCAFE on Flickr

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Happy Tartan Day!

McGonagall in a kilt
As my good friend Stephen McDonald reminded me, today (well, yesterday) is Tartan Day, a day designed for those of Scottish heritage to rejoice in the glories of their forbears. As a proud bearer of a Scottish name, I thought it only fitting to use today to start something I'd been meaning to do for some time.

It is my endeavour to post weekly excerpts of the works of William Topaz McGonagall, widely hailed as Scotland's (and possibly the world's) worst poet. I think that his work is greatly underappreciated, and if through this blog I can introduce more people to his magic, then I will be satisfied.

For those unfamiliar with the great bard, here is an excerpt from his entry on Wikipedia:

Born in Edinburgh, of Irish parentage, McGonagall was working as a handloom weaver in Dundee, Scotland when an event occurred that was to change his life. As he was later to write:
The most startling incident in my life was the time I discovered myself to be a poet, which was in the year 1877.

It was with this that he wrote his first poem An Address to the Rev. George Gilfillan, which showed all the hallmarks that would characterise his later work. Gilfillan commented "Shakespeare never wrote anything like this."

McGonagall has been widely acclaimed as the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms of his poetry are that he is deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly. In the hands of lesser artists, this might simply generate dull, uninspiring verse. However, McGonagall's fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings generate. The inappropriate rhythms, weak vocabulary, and ill-advised imagery combine to make his work amongst the most spontaneously amusing comic poetry in the English language.

Here, then, is the inaugural Monday with McGonagall (albeit incorrectly, and somehow appropriately, on a Tuesday):

A Requisition to the Queen

Most August! Empress of India, and of great Britain the Queen,
I most humbly beg your pardon, hoping you will not think it mean
That a poor poet that lives in Dundee,
Would be so presumptous to write unto Thee

Most lovely Empress of India, and Englands generous Queen,
I send you an Address, I have written on Scotlands Bard,

Hoping that you will accept it, and not be with me to hard,
Nor fly into a rage, but be as Kind and Condescending
As to give me your Patronage

Beautiful Empress, of India, and Englands Gracious Queen,
I send you a Shakespearian Address written by me.

And I think if your Majesty reads it, right pleased you will be.

And my heart it will leap with joy, if it is patronized by Thee.

Most Mighty Empress, of India, and Englands beloved Queen,
Most Handsome to be Seen.

I wish you every Success.

And that heaven may you bless.

For your Kindness to the poor while they are in distress.

I hope the Lord will protect you while living
And hereafter when your Majesty is ... dead.

I hope the Lord above will place an eternal Crown! upon your Head.

I am your Gracious Majesty ever faithful to Thee,

William McGonagall, The Poor Poet,

That lives in Dundee.

Poem found here

Thursday, March 26, 2009

This weekend…

…I will be back in Adelaide for the first time since I left there at the end of 2008. I'll be there for the Equip Conference, a Christian training event run by the Evangelical Fellowship of Anglican Churches.

I'm a little apprehensive about going back, as coming back to Melbourne from overseas made me feel almost as if I'd never left (being so busy didn't hurt, either, of course :) I don't know why this suddenly comes at me; it happened just before I left Adelaide to come back to Melbourne after Christmas.

Whatever the case, it's bound to be a valuable weekend of sound teaching and great training, and a chance to see some old new friends for the first time in a while :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Something that has really been weighing on my heart the past few weeks is that of sufficiency – what does a life need in order to be full, to have everything it needs?

The obvious, "Christian" answer ("just love Jesus, He'll give you everything you need") always seemed rather trite – I knew it to be true, but I always found it difficult to act that truth out in my life.

Something that I really found during my trip away was that God was showing me that He was enough, that all the things I wanted to retain control over had to be handed over.

The problem (?) is, there's once you pass that point, truly hand control over, there's no going back. You're committed to finding joy in everything that the Lord shows you and takes you through, even if it doesn't fit with the plans you've supposedly laid down.

The biggest struggle, then, is to keep from second-guessing. It really reminds me of the Israelites – they'd seen God's amazing hand in delivering them from slavery in Egypt. They'd seen plagues, miracles, and signs worthy of being passed down through the generations as examples of God's power and faithfulness – but as soon as things got a little hard? They wanted their "control" back, to feel like they were in charge. They needed constant reminders (and more than a little discipline) to remind them of Who they depended on for their very existence.

My prayer is to be able to echo these words of Chris Tomlin:

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

You are my supply
My breath of life
And still more awesome than I know
You are my reward
worth living for
And still more awesome than I know

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

You're my sacrifice
Of greatest price
And still more awesome than I know
You're the coming King
You are everything
And still more awesome than I know

More than all I want
More than all I need
You are more than enough for me
More than all I know
More than all I can say
You are more than enough for me

Image: 96dpi on flickr

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Uni Bible Studies

One of the things I'm doing as part of my involvement with Swinburne Christian Union this year is co-leading a Bible Study on Monday mornings. I hope to post a more fleshed-out version of what I'll be going through each fortnight on the Monday or Tuesday after I've taken the study. First one is this week, hope it goes smoothly.

Now, to actually finish writing it…

Friday, March 13, 2009

New year, new blog

…So last year's effort to blog properly didn't really work very well. That's ok, more learning curve. I'm hoping that having everything hosted and managed for me will make it easier for me to just write, and ignore all the fiddle.

We'll see how it goes…