« June 2006 | Main | August 2006 »

July 31, 2006

If all our heroes are yobs .....

The latest outburst of football mania has seen the usual crop of hero worshipping youths imitating their footballer idols. Now I have no doubt that the young men who play the game are very good at it, but their behaviour on and off the ptich tells me that they are little better than hooligans in their private lives. Taking the recent world cup behaviour of the French Captain and the Italian player in their contretemps - what does this say to youngsters? That it is OK to behave in this fashion? Or taking the English footballer Rooney who has trouble controlling his temper at any time? Is this saying that its OK to vent your temper on everyone around you?

It seems to me that the hero models which young men and women adopt as their role model will influence their attitudes toward others, their behaviour and their expectations for their own lives. It cannot be otherwise. It would also explain in large part, why our society is now beset by yobs, managed by vandals and seemingly rewards the very worst traits in humanity. Looking back over the last few years I have to ask myself why wearing one's wife's underwear (I'm told that some people do and are still very nice people ...) should be something one's wife would tell a journalist - or why the journalist would ensure it is headline news. Why should boys be encouraged to aspire to the achievements of a man who cannot string together two sentences without expletives and, however good he is with a ball at his feet, cannot control his temper and behaves violently toward anyone who challenges him. Why should we expect our sons and daughters to idolise the Pop stars who use cannabis, cocaine and other 'hard' drugs, consume vast amounts of alcohol and throw up in public, and still grow up knowing that this is not how decent people behave in a society that actually has some sense of decency? Obviously we need to think carefully about this and other related issues, there is likely to be no 'quick fix' to it and there is certainly not going to be a short term solution.

Looking at the heroes of the likes of Mr Blair and his cronies in office you rapidly discover that, although they now try to hide it, their heroes were the likes of Lenin, Marx, Che Guevara, Castro and other equally evil men. Those that did not go for that clutch are adherents to the cults of Dr Spock, Freud, Scargill and other "worker" leaders, most of whom one soon finds lived the life of Riley at their "members" expense. It is Blair's "60's" generation who have raised the anti-hero to the status of saint, actively promoting people whose attitudes and actions have caused the collapse of decency, morality and even of the societies they were supposedly reforming. Dr Spock himself stands exposed as a man who wrote best selling and extremely damaging claptrap about raising children while not following any of it himself. Lenin was possibly the most evil man of all time - millions died for his version of Marx's flawed theories and Che Guevarra is described as a psychopathic killer - but these are the portraits one finds decorating the studies and offices of our leaders today. Mass murder for "socialism" is evidently justifiable, as long as one can categorise the dead as "capitalist swine", "bourgeois pigs" or "fascist obstructionists" and instantly turns the perpetrator into a hero for the Left wing liberal.

Looking back at the heroes of my own youth, I find that there were one or two sportsmen, mainly cricketers, and a couple of round the world yachtsmen, but the main 'heroes' in my life were people around me, people who knew life, who had fought in the War and had learned the lessons of life in a very harsh environment. Several were decorated pilots, one was a decorated naval officer, others were likewise ex-servicemen with and without decorations. My heroes of literature and the media included Winston Churchill (and I know he can be described as a drunkard and all sorts of other things), a couple of Admirals who had served their country well - and a Bishop who had likewise served. Many of them were ordinary people - the most ordinary being a man who held the Distinguished Service Order for acts of bravery bordering on lunatic disregard for his own skin whom I had the privilege of meeting - yet they not only knew how to behave with decency and respect towards everyone they dealt with, but they applied common sense to everything they did. Boy's comic magazines of the period provided lots of decent, clean-cut and, yes, idealised stereotyped heroes for youngsters. Some readers may even remember "Roy of the Rovers" in the old Lion weekly, an idealised football team that seemed staffed entirely by good role models, but sadly, todays equivalent seems to be as foul mouthed as the real ones.

I grew up admiring the likes of Nelson, Tyrrwhit, Jellico, Keys, Fraser, Sommerville, Cunningham and Ramsey (surely the only Admiral to have ever flown his "Flag" on an MTB?), Hipper and Scheer also featured as did Graf von Spee. My fathers tales of having served under Mountbatten (and meeting him several times) gave an interesting insight into the way these men behaved and how they led the men under them. Do we have anyone of that calibre leading our young people today? I'm afraid not, so I think we can expect our society to continue its downward slide into oblivion. A pity to waste so much that was good - squandered by the likes of Blair and his cronies for their short term benefit while they exploit a situation of their own promotion. Our society will not improve until our current crop of anti-heros are replaced by real ones, the politicians, popstars and footballers, replaced by real leaders of men and women who are true heros and not the money-grabbing, coke snorting, foul mouthed and ill-behaved shower of complete ordure we currently have shoved at us in all the media.

As the old Yorkshire saying is, "Clogs to clogs in three generations", their success will be measured by its duration. And so, sadly, will our present society's success.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:41 AM | TrackBack

July 30, 2006

Theatre on the lawn

Over the last two nights we have enjoyed Oscar Wilde's wonderful bit of fun "The importance of being Earnest" on the lawn at Abbey House. The Vicar kindly opens his garden to those who enjoy a picnic supper and the play, several of us provide a Pimms Bar and refreshment and a group of young actors provide the play.

Over the last few years we have usually had an offering of Shakespeare, but this year the players decided to do Oscar Wilde's ascerbic comedy - and it has gone extremely well. Not least, I imagine, because of the setting against the Georgian facade of the Abbey House and sprawling across the drive and lawns. The house itself becomes a prop as the actors and actresses enter and exit the stage through its various doors, gates and across the lawn and flower beds themselves. The audience is almost a part of the play and caught up in the action itself.

What can one say of the play itself? A wonderfully tangled story of two privileged young men in Edwardian society, caught up in a web of their own boredom and deceits - the perfectly respectable Mr Worthing having invented for himself a second persona in order to manage his escapades to escape respectability - are finally found out. Lady Basingstoke, the formidable "Grand Dame" of the piece ploughs across the play like a huge battleship until eventually defeated by the determination of her own daughter and the exposure of "Mr Worthings" true origins. It is hilarious, but it is also a very barbed commentary on the society of the time.

The young actors who deleivered this piece for us deserve to be recognised and to have brilliant careers ahead - and as soon as I can find the playlist and their names, I will publicise them on this blog.

The weather on our first evening was kind, warm sunshine, gentle breeze and all the feel of an English summer evening at its best. Last night was cooler, breezier and threatening rain - the problem of having weather instead of a climate - but everyone coped brilliantly and the rain held off until it was over. The setting, the weather and the play could probably only happen in England.

One line brought the house down on both evenings, so I'll share it. Imagine the setting, Abbey House behind the players, the great Abbey Church itself next door and looming large over the garden to your right. Algernon addresses his new found beloved and says "Where is the church", facing away from it. She, without a word, merely points behind him, and he turns slowly, his eyes travel upwards as he takes in its bulk and says, "Ah!" Exit, stage right.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 29, 2006

The Secrets of NIM

Ever heard of NIM? It is a fascinating game for two players. It can be played anywhere and at any time because it requires very little preparation. All you need is a handful of small things like pennies, pebbles, sea shells, tooth picks - whatever you like. The beauty of the game is that there is a mathematical theory behind it and the player who understands the underlying principles will almost always win.

Let's choose pebbles to play with. First you arrange your pebbles in any number of piles wiht any number of pebbles in each pile. The the players start the game by alternately drawing any number of pebbles - but at least one - from any, but only one pile. That means, one player may take away a whole pile, a part of or only one pebble from that pile. The player who draws last wins.

Now, how do you know you are in a 'win' or 'lose' situation? For simplification let there only be one pebble in each pile. Apparently the player who succeeds in leaving an even number of pebbles for his opponent to draw from will win. For example, if 4 piles are left with 1 pebble each, the player who takes the first of the remaining 4 pebbles will lose. If 2 piles with 2 pebbles each are left, again the player who takes the first pebble or pebbles will lose. If he takes 1 pebble the other player will take one pebble from the other pile and win, and if he takes a whole pile his opponent will win even quicker.

The real game can be slightly more complicated. To find out if you are in a winning or losing position simply write down the number of pebbles in each pile in the binary system. Then add them up in the ordinary decimal way. If all digits of the resulting sum are even it is a winning otherwise a losing position.

4 pebbles in 2 piles: a winning position

2  1 0
2  1 0
    2 0

6 pebbles in 3 piles: a winning position

1    1
2  1 0
3  1 1
    2 2

8 pebbles in 3 piles: a losing position

1        1
3     1 1
4  2 0 0
    2 1 2

Taking away any number of pebbles from one pile will obviously change the parity (oddness or evenness) of at least one column of the sum. Thereby it is possible to change a 'lose' into a 'win' situation. 8 pebbles in 3 piles (1,2,4) is a lose situation but taking away 2 pebbles from pile three will turn it into a win situation (1,3,2). See?

Have fun trying this out on your unsuspecting opponent....

Posted by Mausi at 07:27 AM | TrackBack

July 28, 2006

A slight bump ....

Yesterday was not a good day for the Monk. It started out OK, except that the moment he was half way to his garage, the heavens opened and by the time he'd got the garage open he was more than slightly damp. Taking that in his stride, the Monk made his usual journey and arrived moderately drier than he started. His morning went reasonably well up to the point he had to go from one part of the site he works at to another. Having already handed over the site vehicle to someone else, he used his car to fetch some items he had left behind. That is where it started to unravel.

Starting to reverse out of the parking bay, the Monk failed to see a white van pull across from his left as he started to move. The rest is, as they say, academic. Neither vehicle was moving very fast, but the damage to the Monk Mobile is decpetively slight. Several panels have realligned themselves and will take considerable work to straighten out. The lamp cluster and the bumper took damage as well - the bumber being penetrated by something on the van - which ironically has a dent in a door and a smear of the Monk Mobile's paint.

The damage to the near side rear fender of the Monk mobile.

Now comes the real question, if the damage repair is more than the value of the car - and everyone admits that the Monk Mobile's marque is heavily undervalued at present. The Monk could be facing a large bill for replacing the vehicle - something he is loathe to do especially as the present one is reliable, comfortable and, until now, in good condition!

THis will be one to ponder deeply. Apart from the damage to the car, the Monk is especially chagrined by the fact that this is the end of his unblemished accident record, slight as it is. A lesson driven home rather pointedly that one can never be too careful.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 27, 2006

Sometimes the truth can be a little too sharp!

An interesting throw away on Gorse Fox recently caught my eye. He has put up a post on sayings which all too often appear to be true. My favourite is definitelty the following.

"Light travels faster than sound. That is why some people appear interesting until you hear them speak."

And I can assure you that the rest are just as sharp.

On the other hand, humour can sometimes be on the button as well, judging by a recent offering from Ozguru on G'day Mate. Its worth a visit to go through this list of fairly simple statements - my favourite is "You are depriving some poor village of its idiot."

Well, its a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hitching a ride?

The Interstate 75 is an interesting highway, running North to South from the Canadian border to Florida, it sees freight, tourists, local and long distance motoring and some interesting vehicles - like the set in the picture below. In a long procession of motorhomes, people towing boats, freightliner trucks and other assorted vehicles and motorcycles, we passed this set of trucks heading south. I should think the truck doing all the work would be the one to avoid buying once they have been built into whatever they will become at their destination - inless you want one that is fully run in and tested.

Express delivery? Or simply a case of the three hitching a ride and heading for the sun?

You certainly see some interesting trucks along the I 75!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

The management myths.....

Following on from yesterdays post, I felt I had to say a bit more about the myths of management, this time a little closer to my own situation. I am currently working to a management made up entirely of people who call themselves "professional managers" yet none of them have any experience or knowledge (beyond what they have learned listening to the rest of us "professionals" that they "enable" by "taking the management functions off us"), of what we do or how it has to be done. Yet these are now the people who tell me that their efforts make my life easier because they "take all the management tasks off me."

Well, the most noticeable thing about that is the fact that I now spend two thirds of my time writing ridiculously complex reports for them to explain what would be blindingly obvious to anyone who is a professional in my particular profession. They don't make my task easier, because they have increased my workload some 250%. Need to replace a piece of equipment - do a business case explaining why it would not be cheaper to (a) repair what you have, (b) actually need the item and (c) why it could not be replaced with something cheaper. Then, assuming you finally get the wording exactly as the "manager" wants it - he or she presents it to a board of equally ignorant people who then discuss only one part of it - the price tag. The really irritating part of this is that, until recently we had a management team of real professionals - professionals who managed the organisation - and I could put the same request to them without having to explain much beyond that it was (a) essential we replace it and (b) how I proposed to do so. An answer would be forthcoming and we would get on with the process. Not any more - now we have "professional managers" who are unable to make a decision and when they accidentally do make one and it turns sour on them - they expect the "professionals" who are not competent to manage in their eyes - to fix it.

It is very interesting when you take account of the fact that, of my colleagues, some fifteen of us have been senior and very senior managers in our chosen profession and most of us have a number of diplomas in management and several, myself included, have Masters Degrees in it - and I'm not talking the dreaded MBA here. Yet, among our new "Professional Managers" there are only three with Bachelors degrees, the most senior have none, one has a dreaded NVQ (stands for Not Very Qualified) and two have "Diplomas" from the Institute of Management. One of my colleagues who held a very senior position in a similar organisation until he retired has the following: Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, four Diplomas in various technical matters related to our profession and around twenty years of real management experience - yet he is no longer considered "competent" to manage - an assessment made by our present underqualified and incompetent "professional managers".

When "managers" parachute into an organisation, it is not unusual to find that within days they take one of two initiatives. If the new manager is from a similar professional background - ie: is a professional in the field they are now to manage - they may begin to institute changes to bring the organisation they have joined round to the way things were in the organisation they have left. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does need to be done sensitively and with due consideration given to the fact that there may be very good reason why it will not work the same way. The second, and more disasterous situation is the one where the new "manager" is a so-called "professional manager" and knows nothing at all of the organisations function and purpose. They parachute in at whatever level and immediately initiate a "re-structure" of the department, or "re-organisation" of the whole organisation if they are high enough up the tree. The purpose is self defence - basically they feel insecure and threatened by the professionals they are now required to manage and whose function, expertise and actual knowledge is knownm only by the fact that a job description may exist somewhere - and the easiest way to ensure you are not undermined or threatened by these nasty types who actually know what they are doing and how to do it - is to make them insecure and destablised. So you change all their jobs around and create new layers above them. It is disasterous precisely because it destablises the entire organisation and that ultimately leads to its becoming unfocused and losing its direction. Everyone heads off defending their own little patch on their own and the organisation unravels very rapidly. Each subsequent "re-organisation" simply increases the instability. Interestingly it has also been credibly identified in a number of detailed studies of business failure, as the single most important factor leading to that failure.

Discussing this state of affairs with a friend in the NHS, she observed that this was what had gone wrong in the Health Service. The medical professionals had been eased out of the management positions and replaced by "professional managers" who managed everything on one measurement only. "How much will it cost if we don't." If not doing an operation will mean getting sued they will find the money - although sometimes they prefer to be sued as this allows them to run back to Whitehall and squeal for more money to waste on lawyers when they could have got the job done right the first time - by allowing the real professionals to manage the operation themselves.

Administration is not a profession, they are little more than glorified filing clerks and should be paid commensurately. Far too many are now earning the salaries that used to be paid to the real professionals who managed, but don't take the responsibility when their decisions go wrong or kill someone. That is the real reason for all the form filling and "business case" preparation they demand - it provides them with a trail to someone they can blame for their own incompetence by saying "but we asked the professionals".

Nice work if you can get it I suppose - after all, you never have to bear the consequences of your decisions - assuming you made any.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:30 PM | TrackBack

July 25, 2006

Professional Managers - a 21st Century Oxymoron

One of the great myths of the late 20th Century is that there is a such a thing as a "Professional Manager", someone who is not an expert in anything except the management function. In short, someone who knows nothing whatever about the actual operation of the organisation, company or service except how to "manage". Interestingly, at a recent seminar on "modernisation of management structures" - shorthand for "get rid of anyone who actually knows how whatever we do is done, and replace them with people who know how to run meetings and write memos" - and had one speaker stand up and tell us that the difference between a "Leader" and a "Professional Manager" is as follows:

When a group is lost in a jungle, a leader will climb the tallest tree, survey the tree tops and then tell his team "we are in the wrong jungle". A Manager will reorganise his team, set tasks and targets, and manage the team out of the jungle.

Funny, he seemed to think that the burst of derisive laughter from almost all of us present, was approval and agreement. It took a while to disillusion him.

The problem is obvious to those who care to look closely at what is happening in public services, in commerce and in industry. "Professional Managers" breed bureaucratic procedures - PRINCE 2 is an obvious, if somewhat extreme example. Because they have no understanding of the functions they are supposed to be "managing" the people they "manage" spend inordinate amounts of time explaining why the procedures they want to put in place will not work, cannot work or will simply prevent anyone from doing the job which is the primary function of the organisation. Prime examples are "Health and Safety" policies which prevent people from changing light bulbs until scaffold towers have been erected, safety harnesses donned and a safety net installed. Another is the manager who demands "make a business case" for everything from buying new batteries for the torch you need to check the interior of a roof void as a building inspector to building a new office extension - but will happily approve the employment of another dozen or so "administration officers", "personal assistants" or the redecoration and refurnishing of a suite of offices for another batch of like minded paper shufflers while essential plant and machinery continues to break down because it is not properly maintained because "we have to make economies" or it is considered "non-essential" to the "core business".

In short, there is no such thing as a "professional manager", there cannot be, since a manager who does not fully understand what it is that they manage, how it is done and how it needs to evolve, is not a manager at all. This is why we see the ever increasing reliance on "committee decision making" - shorthand for "if the committee made the decision I can't be blamed if it goes wrong" - and for "Quality Management Systems" so that we can have "audit trails" to the person to blame when it goes wrong. This myth of the "professional manager" is a pernicious one because it eventually leads to a state in any organisation where communication fails because they peiople who know what the organisation does refuse to talk to the "decision makers" because its a waste of time trying to tell them about things they don't understand. Eventually the organisation splits in two halves, with management thinking all is rosey and the working end knowing its not, unable to do anything about it and just keeping things going because they need to job and the income.

Look at some of the really big business failures and at some of those that have come close to failure and what do you find? Boardrooms stuffed with Accountants, Lawyers and "Managers" who have never had contact with the shop floor and have no understanding of it (The failures in the Home Office provide another excellent example - most of the senior civil servants who write the rules and procedures have never processed an asylum seekers application and wouldn't even know what it looked like!) and senior management who are likewise "professional managers" selected for their ability to speak the language of the "bottom line" but with siometimes even less knowledge of the shop floor than the Board.

Another indication of the "Professional Management" is the myth that they do listen. Staff Opinion Surveys are now another of the tools used by these "professionals" and in a recent one done in a place I work for, 87% of staff said they had no confidence in the management team, 3% opted for "no opinion" and 10% said they thought management was wonderful. Unsurprisingly the staff of the management suite equals about 10% of the total staff. Now a leader would be worried by this, but not this crew of "professional managers" - they blithely announced that they had noted that staff didn't understand some of the "tough decisions" they are making, but were encouraged by the fact that 13% of the staff were fully behind them and they would work on encouraging the rest to swing behind them too. Watch this space, the site the organisation currently occupies will be a business park within the next five years.

"Professional Manager" is a complete oxymoron, you simply cannot be professional if you do not have a good working knowledge of the thing you are managing. There is no "two week course" which will make you an expert in any field - if there was I'd have applied to be First Sea Lord years ago - I rather fancy myself as an Admiral of the Fleet. After all, its only a management function sending ships around the workld and managing their supply and crewing. Isn't it?

You can be a "professional" and a "manager" - but you cannot be a "professional manager".

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 24, 2006

Soccer Probabilities

Although the USA could be talked into hosting the soccer world championship in 1994 and millions of people went to watch the matches soccer has never really become popular in the US. I still remember comments from American sports reporters stating that the game was simply boring with so few goals scored during the matches. They also proposed enlargening the goal so that more goals would be scored. But would that really make soccer more interesting?

Mathematicians tell us it would not - because more goals scored during a match would increase the chances of the better team to win even more. Now, how can this be? Consider two teams, A and B, with A being twice as good as B. This will translate into the probability of 2/3 for A and 1/3 for B scoring the next goal. Now let's see what happens if different numbers of goals are scored during a match:

  • 0 goals B gets 1 point!

  • 1 goal
    The probability for A to score this goal is 66% (2/3) and 33% (1/3) for B.

  • 2 goals
    Probability for A to win 2:0 is 44%
    Probability for B to win 2:0 is 11%
    But the probability that the match will end in a draw is also 44%!

  • 3 goals
    Probability for A to win 3:0 is 30%.
    Probability for A to win 2:1 is 44%.
    That leads to an overall probability of A winning the match of 74% as a draw is not possible in this case.

  • 4 goals
    Probability for A to win 4:0 is 20%
    Probability for A to win 3:1 is 40%.
    Overall probability for A to win one way or other: 60%

  • 5 goals
    Probability for A to win 5:0 is 13%
    Probability for A to win 4:1 is 33%
    Probability for A to win 3:2 is 33%
    Overall probability for A to win is 79%

  • 7 goals
    Probability for A to win 7:0 is 6%
    Probability for A to win 6:1 is 20%
    Probability for A to win 5:2 is 31%
    Probability for A to win 4:3 is 31%
    Overall probability for A to win is 88%
  • These examples show that the probability for A to win the match increases with each goal that is scored in a match. What I found most interesting that if only two goals are scored in the match the probability to actually win for A only 44% and equal to the probability of the game ending in a draw, although the team is supposed to be twice as effective at scoring as their opponents.

    Funny how calculations can sometimes prove your intuition wrong.
    I think we should not tamper with the dimensions of the goal. Who would not like to see the underdog win against all odds?

    More details of the calculations are given in the extended post. Have a try yourself!

    As one sports reporter said during the last soccer worldcup: "The match ended in a draw, 1:1, but it could easily have been the other way round!"

    Here's the example for 7 goals, the others work accordingly. A could win with the following results:

    7:0 p=27/37
    6:1 p=(7!/(1!(7-1)!)) x 26/37
    5:2 p=(7!/(2!(7-2)!)) x 25/37
    4:3 p=(7!/(3!(7-3)!)) x 24/37

    The overall probability of A to win is then simply the sum of all.

    Posted by Mausi at 09:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    July 23, 2006

    Being there ...

    One of the many joys of being part of the ministry team of a place like the Abbey, is the opportunities that it provides to meet people. Yesterday afternoon I was the duty Chaplain. It was a strange sort of day, hot, humid and even a passing thunderstorm - it missed us but dumped a months rain on the other side of the valley - brought lots of people just looking for a place to sit, a place to be out of the soft rain that began around 2 pm and perhaps even to explore a building they had not seen before. We all have different styles for carrying out this duty, my own is to be seen, to be there if anyone wants to talk and to share the building and its special feeling with anyone who looks as if they want to do so.

    Naturally we also have a special sequence for prayer and to make people welcome as well, and it is always interesting to see how people respond to this. Yesterday we had the majority seating themselves and taking time out to listen to the prayer intentions and to join in the prayers. Equally interesting are those who seem to think that you are interupting their exploration of a museum and some will actually raise their voices in conversation while you pray. It doesn't bother me at all, since we must all respond in the end to God as we see the need - and some simply don't like to admit that they need to pray. I frequently feel sorry for these folk as their lives must be very limited if they have no hope of anything beyond this. On the other hand it is really humbling to have people from the other end of the spectrum, those who do need to pray and who visit to find more than a historic building, seek you out to thank you for leading the prayers or for saying what they could not find the words to say.

    There are those as well who find the fact that we let dogs (on leads) and sometimes strangely dressed people in and wander at will difficult. But the whole purpose of the building is to provide everyone - congregation and visitors - with the opportunity to encounter God. That is why we try to have Chaplains on duty throughout the summer and over the major festivals. It isn't always easy to do this, and sometimes one does encounter those who are either hostile or rude, but as we remind ourselves, the Apostles suffered far worse.

    Being a Chaplain is both a privilege and a service. We are there for those seeking, for those who do not know they seek, and above all, we are there to serve God. A privilege indeed.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:44 PM | TrackBack

    July 22, 2006

    Social responsibility

    Wandering around the blogosphere briefly while checking some facts and waiting for someone to finish a late running lecture session, I stumbled on something the Rev'd Mike recently posted and got to thinking. Though the quote from his blog below was written with the US specifically in mind, it extrapolates rather too readily into the present state of Britain. We have become a nation which expects "someone else" to sort out the lack of discipline in children, the lack of respect for another persons rights, the breakdown of morality and the collapse of the entire edifice on which our society is built.

    We laughed at the John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett sketch which lined up the three comedians in order of size and began with the toffee accented John Cleese saying "I look down on him because he is ... " and finished with little Ronnie Corbett saying "I look up to him because ..." Since then the liberationist movement has successfully undermined every single facet of family, school, and political life to the point where we have all become suspicious of authority, surly when told to do something and entirely to ready to shrug our shoulders and say "someone else" should deal with it.

    I quote the Rev'd Mike's blog verbatim as he has written under the title "Are you pulling this wagon; or pushing it?"

    Twenty years ago, Neuhaus correctly saw that the chief threat to our republic was not communism (as many thought at the time), but “a collapse of the idea of freedom and of the social arrangements necessary to sustaining liberal democracy.” But he seemed reluctant to follow his own analysis to its natural conclusion. Though he mentioned in passing the “lethal liberationisms that reached their apex in the late ’60s and early ’70s,” he did not explore what that social revolution was doing to the cultural foundations of our republic. Though insisting, as did many of the Founders, that our regime of ordered liberty requires certain moral qualities in its citizens and statespersons, Neuhaus held back from pondering the condition of the principal settings where those qualities are acquired. It is now clear that the years of adult “liberation” took a dreadful toll on children, and on the nation’s principal seedbeds of character and competence: families and their surrounding communities of memory and mutual aid.

    What many Americans now seem to want is for other people to be “incorrigibly religious” (or at least to behave as if they were). They want other people to cultivate the self-restraint that makes social life possible, other people to hang in there when family life gets tough, other people to be ethical in business dealings, other people to pay taxes, and other people to provide children with attention and discipline. While Neuhaus was urging free citizens to claim their rightful places in public life, we were becoming a nation of free riders, coasting along and spending social capital that is rapidly running out.

    Neuhaus had it right, society is falling apart precisely because the liberationists have lost sight of the key point about a truly liberal democracy - it's called personal responsibility and it is the glue that holds any society together. Unless we all accept responsibility for our own welfare, our own actions, our own growth and development - and yes, our own failures - society rapidly becomes first an oligarchy and finally a dictatorship. Britain is now run by Whitehall and Westminster along the same lines as a Nanny running a nursery. We are not trusted to know how to take care of ourselves because, thanks to the cultivation of the victim menatlity and the dependency of social handouts, we are frankly in the main capable of looking after ourselves. Parents cannot discipline chil;dren any longer because Nanny says its not good for them, thus Nanny is now promoting indiscipline and contributing to the further degradation of society.

    In the US many have turned to fundamental Christianity in response to the growing collapse of morality they perceive about them, here even more seem to have turned to Football Mania, Pop Star worship or the nurture of "saint" cultures such as the one surrounding the late and largely unlamented Princess of Wales. If you look back in history you soon recognise the pattern, ours is a dying culture - and perhaps that may not be a bad thing in the longer term - it will be hell for those of us living in the short term!

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    July 21, 2006

    Blood cries out for blood .....

    The tragedy unfolding in Lebanon and Israel should concern us all. Now I will declare in advance that I do actually side with the Israelis on this, they have a right to exist as a nation and they are, with all their faults, the only truly democratic country in that entire region. However, there does come a moment when you have to step back and ask yourself how this will end. And for my part, I am pretty sure it will end badly.

    If you look at the history of the region it is not a happy one, particularly for the Jews. Since 70AD they have officially not existed as a nation. The British took Palestine off the Ottoman Empire in 1916 -18 and promised the creation of a Jewish homeland, then reneged in 1919 under pressure from the French and the Arab's many sympathisers. In the meantime, in Europe, the seeds were being sown for the holocaust - which the Arabs still deny even occured (check the Arab press on sale in London) - and for the tragedy that would follow Lenin's revolution in Russia and the pograms initiated by Stalin and his cohorts. In the 1940's it was mooted that the Jews should be offered a place in Palestine and certain expectations were raised again. Then came the decision by, surprise, surprise, a Labour Government with distinct Communist leanings, to hand the whole of Palestine to the Arabs who had been declaring their intention to "purge" the country of "decadent Jews". On the eve of the handover the Jews took the only action open to them - they seized the country and, if you care to look it up, declared that never again would they place themselves in a position to be treated as they had been in Europe up to 1945.

    Though it is vehemently denied now, the simple truth is that Whitehall and the British establishment were, and I believe still are, anti-semitic, or more correctly, anti-Jew. We have seen a constant stream of legislation to "protect" and "nurture" Islam while attacks on Jewish people, businesses and places of worship are rising steadily - yet there has been nothing done about it and nor will there be. The establishment subscribes to the Guardianista view of the likes of George Galloway and Ken Livingstone who represent the mainstream of the Labour Party on their thinking about Israel and the Jewish people per se. The trouble is that they can always find an excuse for the Palestinian, Hizbollah or Hamas terrorists, but when the Israelis strike back, it is "genocide" or "disproportionate". Even the much quoted Benjamin Netinyahu statement that one Jewish life was worth a thousand Arabs is frankly a misrepresentation - his original utterance, ill adivesd to be sure, was to say that the Jews are outnumbered and therefore their response is necessarily harsher.

    As usual, we have the EU ministers "demanding" a ceasefire and "demanding" that Israel withdraw and subject itself to the International community of the UN. Why should they when the UN is little more than a mouthpiece for the Arab League when it comes to Israel. For the Israelis nothing has changed in the last 2,000 years - the world is still against them, despite the platitudes and assurances mouthed by flagrantly anti-Jewish political establishments across Europe and the West. As one Jew I knew was fond of saying, if Moses had turned right instead of left at the Jordan the world would be chummying up to them and kicking the Arabs.

    None of this history however, will be resolved by conflict and it is a long way from either side being prepared to take a more reasoned approach. Each time an Arab bomber kills an Israeli the blood cries out for blood and the Israelis will bomb the hell out of some Arab settlement. And so the spiral continues. The real bottom line here is that, until the latest kidnappings, the Israelis were keeping their side of the bargain struck to allow the Palestinians some breathing space. By and large anyway. So you do have to ask yourself why the Palestinian government then allowed one of its "agent" terror groups to kidnap an Israeli soldier and to try to infiltrate the country with malicious intent? And why then did the Lebanese government allow Hizbollah to operate from its territory and strike into Israel? There can only be one reason - both parties hope to provoke a general war involving all their allies. After all, both Hamas and Hizbollah are surrogates of Syria and the Iranian Ayatollahs from whom they receive funding and arms. Is it really realistic to expect the Israelis - who have the intelligence data on this in front of them - to sit back and allow these incursions as Mr Livingstone and Mr Galloway and other left wing anti-Jewish politicians seem to think they should? Is it realistic to think that the Israelis would be prepared to allow terrorists to kidnap their troops and their citizens at will and not respond? Would we simply sit back and let it happen?

    Of course not, and it is unrealistic in the extreme to think that the kidnapped soldiers are even still alive - their captors are not in any way men of honour, they are thugs and psychpaths, and they certainly do not operate under the Geneva Convention. Those young soldiers will have been tortured, abused and no doubt beheaded within days of their capture.

    So lets see less of the handwringing from Europe and a damned sight more honesty. We murdered six million Jews because it was politically inconvenient to look at and admit what Hitler was up to. That makes us partners in that crime - and even more so in the several million more that Stalin and his henchmen murdered between 1927 and 1945, because that traitor Attlee thought "he was a friend of the workers, a man we can do business with!" It is time to set out a few home truths for the Arab and Muslim world.

    1. The Jewish State has a right to exist.
    2. The further promulgation of the "Blood Libels" by the Arab press should be punishable as an international war crime,
    3. All terrorist organisations living in Palestine or the surrounding states are to be disarmed and brought to trial for murder and wilful prosecution of an illegal campaign of ethnic cleanising by non-governmental forces.
    4. Jerusalem should become an open city, governed by an elected body and protected by forces neutral to all sides until such time as one side or the other can be trusted to police it themselves.
    5. The Knesset may continue to sit in Jerusalem in acknowledgement of the fact that it is the ancient capital of the Jewish nation and will continue to be so.

    Europe and other states must acknowledge their bias in this conflict and sit down to act to find a solution instead of being, as they are, a large part of the problem.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:04 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    July 20, 2006


    Sitting outside in the garden last evening and enjoying an ever so slight breeze bringing along a whiff of cool air I suddenly heard a hissing sound above. A hot-air balloon had noiselessly approached the village but now had to turn on the burner again to gain some height and clear the houses.

    On an evening like this travelling in a balloon must be an unforgettable experience

    Hot-air balloons are quite common around here at this time of the year and this one was a truly magnificent specimen with its bright colours. Sometimes they don't make it over the hill and you see them go down somewhere in the fields around here. Always good fun to watch!

    I couldn't resist the temptation to use the computer to try out a few GIMP gimmicks on the photo I took of the balloon...

    Inspired by something I've been reading tonight I tried the Supernova first of all.

    This is supposed to be transformation into Polar Coordinates but somehow reminds me of a certain picture by Salvadore Dali..

    Good old Fractals

    Amazing what you can do with a few mouse clicks. This has been a bit of fun - more fun would have been a ride in the balloon itself .... Sigh!

    Posted by Mausi at 09:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    July 19, 2006

    Interesting things

    I've been browsing through a biology magazine today which contained a number of interesting articles. Did you know, for example, that no sharks exist below sea levels of 3000 m? Now that's a relief! No, seriously, for quite some time scientists have thought that sharks who are cartilaginous fishes (Chondrichtyes) and therefore belong to the oldest known group of fishes are present in deep sea. Apparently there's a food related reason for this. Sharks do not have a gas bladder to keep them afloat but achieve this with the help of their oil rich liver. The growth of that liver requires a lot of energy, i. e. food, that is simply not present in great depths. Modern bone fish (Osteichtyes) on the other hand do have a gas bladder and have been observed at depths of up to 9000m (29500 ft). Amazing!

    I suppose at least the dedicated gardeners among you are aware that plants though rooted to the spot are not as helpless as they look when it comes to defending themselves against enemies. Some of them have quite impressive thorns and some can even start a chemical warfare on their aggressors. Ever been stung by a nettle? And that's just a mild form of defensiv weapon. But did you know that quite a number of plants, among them soybeans, potatoes and tomatoes, try to starve their enemies? They contain proteins which will inhibit the metabolism in the attacking insects. The insects will simply not be capable of breaking down the bits of tomato they have eaten into amino acids and synthesizing the proteins they need themselves from these acids. Instead it leaves them with a tummy bug and a hungry feeling inside.

    I have no doubt that the insects have the appropriate countermeasures at their disposal to survive even this. Judging from observation of those living in my garden their numbers never seems to decrease - quite contrary! Ah well, I suppose Nature will find a way of keeping a balance...

    Posted by Mausi at 09:05 PM | TrackBack

    July 18, 2006

    Summer evenings

    This is the time of the year when I rejoice in my little garden. However tiring and hot the day at the office may have been the garden welcomes me with a cool breeze and tranquillity. Alright, so I have to share it with this black-and-white tiger who likes to spend days like this sleeping somewhere in the cool shade of the undergrowth but comes out to greet me as soon as I get home.

    Mausi - undisputed Queen of the garden

    Mausi and I like to spend the hours of last daylight in the garden reading, napping, and watching the teeming life around us. There seem to be animals around who do not seem to feel the heat at all like the bumblebees.

    060718_garden-02.jpg  060718_garden-03.jpg
    060718_garden-04.jpg  060718_garden-05.jpg
    Bumblebees collecting goodies from the lavender plants

    Although it doesn't show on these photos the bumblebees in our garden come in all sizes and colours. There are the small brown "furry" ones and then the giants, about 2 cm in size the last segment of their bodies covered with white furry hairs. And there are quite a few others in between, there must be at least five or six different kinds in our garden.

    Sometimes the bags on their hindlegs are so full that you are afraid they will burst any moment. And the bumblebees are covered in yellow dust from head to foot. My favourite time for watching bumblebees, however, is spring when they make a dash for the first crocuses. The tiny crocuses are not capable of carrying the weight of the bigger bumblebees and will sway from side to side. But the bumblebees don't care in the least and just continue walking from crocus to crocus like drunken sailors. Great fun to watch!

    Posted by Mausi at 09:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 17, 2006

    Aaah - to be a kite ...

    Now with the haymaking season in full swing we have "our" kites regularly patrolling the fields around the village. You never know where mice have been stirred up or frightened to come up to the surface.

    060717_kite01.jpg   060717_kite02.jpg
    A magnificent bird gliding effortlessly through the morning sunshine

    Near our village live at least three of these birds. As the village is situated on a hill with a valley running below the kites usually do patrols starting along one side of the valley and then coming up along the opposite site. This way they pass our garden several times a day.

    We had quite a bit of fun observing them a few years ago when a pair had a young one and was trying to teach it to fly. The parents were circling above the young one shouting commands and the young one was trying its best to stay airborne. You could almost hear the young one crying: "Mummy ..... HELP". This went on for several days but with the parents' coaching the young one turned into a perfect glider in the end.

    It has always fascinated me how birds of prey can detect their food far down below. Apart from having a sort of built-in magnifying device in their eyesight, falcons for example can also detect the fluorescence of mouse urine in the ultraviolet. Fancy, catching your food by following piss trails ... yuks! Amazing, isn't it, what Nature comes up with to ensure the survival of her creatures.

    Posted by Mausi at 08:23 PM | TrackBack

    Irritating "Error" messages

    As one who seems to be able to obtain a 404 Error message for just about anyhting, I thought this one about takes the prize. Try this and see for yourself. My thanks to Ozguru at G'day Mate for the laugh.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:24 PM | TrackBack

    July 16, 2006

    Sunday thoughts ....

    The past few weeks have been quite demanding, not least because I have, with others, had to deal with a number of difficult and thorny situations. It is never easy and lets face it, life can be downright difficult at times, especially when you are having to deal with some of the more unpleasant human attributes. Tonight I am the preacher for Evensong, and so I looked up the Lectionary for the service last week - and found myself having to deal with readings from Job and from Romans - neither providing a natural sermon topic!

    Taken with the events in the Middle East, and whichever side of that tragedy one stands, there is plenty to pray over there, I have had a rough passage trying to find a topic to explore in a sermon that isn't a political statement or a collection of platitudes. The G8 Summit doesn't help and neither does the current obsession with "green" issues.

    So I have opted to explore the underlying message of Job, which is about our view of God and of faith.

    It could have been worse - ever tried finding a children's sermon in readings that cover the beheading of John the Baptist? Well, for the record, the Lord Abbot managed to do a pretty good job with that one this morning.

    Grace, mercy and peace be with you.

    Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? Let Him who accuses God answer Him.

    The Book of Job falls into the group of Books known as Wisdom literature; but it is more than that because it is a wonderful piece of poetic writing, some authorities calling it a masterpiece. It can be a difficult book for the reader, because, on the surface, it suggests in its opening passages, that God is willing to strip the righteous and just of their all – just to put them to some sort of loyalty test. Now, for myself, I will happily admit that my faith would probably be at least as shaken as Job’s is in places – I would certainly rail against God over some of the things described here – the death of his children, the leprosy and the infliction of ‘friends’ who are more doom sayers than helpers among them.

    That said, the real purpose of the book is to explore the readers perception of God. Job’s well meaning and irritating comforters have a very narrow view – one still heard today – and Job himself is in part guilty of too limited a vision of the God he claims to follow. In our reading tonight we heard a part of Eliphaz the Temanite’s opening argument – his view of why Job is suffering. This reflects the view held in the early period of the Jewish Kingdom – and still reflected in many believers thoughts today – that God rewarded the good in this life with riches and prosperity, and inflicted pain, disease and poverty on those who weren’t so good. Therefore, in Eliphaz’ reasoning – Job must have been up to something bad for God to do this to him. In fact this is nothing more than an exposition of the thinking that prevailed then that there was no hope of life beyond this – that in fact if you didn’t get any rewards in this one there was no hope of anything better in the next, because there wasn’t one!

    In many ways our present society is reflected in this mirror of the past since many of the people we deal with on a day to day basis, some even within the fold of Christianity, have a vision which stops short of any hope of a life beyond this one except in the vaguest terms. Most will say they do believe in a life beyond the grave, but when challenged, fall back on concepts more akin to Buddhism than Christianity and some even less formulated than that. There is a persistent view in today's world that wealth and possessions are associated with somehow having lived a “good” life and enjoyed its rewards. There is in fact a drift away from any understanding of God. The vision has shrunk.

    In our pursuit of a “personal” God or a “personal relationship” with God, we tend to make the same mistake as Job – we have too small a view of God. As Job discovers, God is not some celestial Judge to whom we can “put our case” and expect justice, He is the creator of all things and cannot be bought or swayed. He is just and He is good, it is we who need to learn understanding and patience.

    The writer to the Romans says “I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of Christ.” And there is a key to what we miss if take the road advocated by Job’s comforters. To them, God could be appeased by the performance of certain rituals, by the following of a set of rules – rules which bind mankind, but not God. “Justification” and “good works” do not bring the reward of heaven, faith and trust in God does – and that means relying on God and accepting whatever befalls us with equal joy. Thus the writer to the Romans can say with equanimity that he has prayed for relief from an affliction and accepts God’s refusal.

    Now some among us may feel that this statement was a little boastful, and perhaps it is a case of “look at me; I have a personal dialogue with God and He said NO!” and perhaps it is another way of countering the charge of “Physician heal yourself” from one who is recorded as having performed miraculous healing on others, yet is himself afflicted. I don’t think it really matters which it is, the fact is that the writer has sufficient trust in God to be able to say that he accepts this situation.

    It is clear from many references in the Gospels and in the early letters that the concept of God rewarding someone who obeyed “the Rules” with health, wealth and ship loads of “happily ever after” was still a prevalent view even in Christ’s day. People expected to be rewarded for their being good worshippers, and trotted off to the next temple when their expectations weren’t met. Job’s strength of faith is what redeems him in our poem. He isn’t in it for the money – even his ranting at the injustice is aimed at seeking an explanation, not redress, and it speaks volumes for the faith we need to encourage among all those who seek to build a relationship with God.

    Like Job’s comforters we can hold to narrow a view of God – it is all too easy to do so, especially when hemmed in by all the conflicting ideas and ideals of our modern world. But equally easy is to make God much to big for our understanding and our comfort. If we envisage a God so vast He becomes so remote and impersonal that we shut ourselves off from him. The balance lies somewhere in the middle where we neither promote ourselves to equality with God, nor anthropomorphise him to equality with us.

    Christ came to give us the Gospel – the message that God loves and cares for us, that there is a life beyond this, one in which there are no more tears and no more pain – all we have to do is accept that in due time God will reveal Himself to us and give us a share in that rich harvest of love.

    This is what Job discovered when God finally has had enough of his comforters and their narrow mindedness and of Job’s complaints and demands for justice. Yes, Job remained faithful despite all that happened to him, but he did it with, at times, such ill grace that eventually he is made to confront the realities of creation – the full meaning of the breadth and scope of God’s glorious love. Can he catch the crocodile with a fish hook? Can he tame the crocodile? Can he make the lion, the lamb or a single bird? No, and neither can we – despite our efforts to clone sheep, dogs and even human embryos!

    The book of Job has an important message for us in our age, just as it did for the age it was written in. We need to look carefully at our relationship with God. In Jesus Christ we have a different perspective to that held by Job’s comforters, we have the promise of Christ that there is a life beyond the grave, that rewards are not necessarily given in this life, but that in the next all will be made plain, that all will be made good and that we have only to trust and have unshakeable faith that God is just and will keep His promise.

    In the last Chapter of the Book of Job we find our hero confronted by God – and having seen God he is forced to change his view of God. I suggest to you that we too have seen God, but did we recognise Him? He is here with us, and He is everywhere with us, but do we ‘see’ Him? Do we hear Him when He speaks to us? Job’s comforters do not seem to have heard, seen or understood, having, according to the end of the book, seriously annoyed God. I hope we have not done so, I pray that we are not among those described in John 1 v 10

    He was in the world and though the world was made through him; the world did not recognise him.

    God works in, through and around us, our perspective of Him needs to be able to see that and to recognise that, though we may not understand or even see fully what is happening, we are asked only to hold to faith and all will, in God’s due season, be given to us.

    We have one great advantage over the group described in the Book of Job and it is simply this; we do have the belief and promise through our Lord Jesus Christ that, though we may suffer much in this life, we can look forward to a life hereafter in Christ. Perhaps that is what was revealed finally to Job.


    Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 15, 2006

    An absence of morality .....

    For a government that trumpetted their "squeaky clean" credentials just over 9 years ago as the "new" force in politics, the force that would sweep away forever the sordid wheeling and dealing, bed hopping and dirty tactics that have marked the last fifteen or so years particularly, our wonderful cuddly bunny and completely vacuous PM is now facing being "interviewed" by the police. It is hard not to gloat. It really, really is. Politicians clean up their act? Not until hell itself plunges into the ice age to end all ice ages. Politicians on the Left being "fair" or "even handed"? Check the weather forcasts for Hell! All that is left to really make my day, is a report that Blair has been arrested. I think a bottle of Irish Whiskey - 12 years old when I got it ten years ago - will be just about right for the celebration, even if I have to go out into the highways and byways to find someone to share it with.

    This is a government which arrived proclaiming an end to sleaze, and end to the politics of tax and spend, and an end to the politics of "them and us". They failed on all counts right from day one.

    This is the government which has introduced a new and insidious form of apartheid which they have termed "affirmative action" or "positive discrimination" and argue that this is "necessary to redress the balance of unfair selection biased in favour of white males". It falls into the same category of meaningless utterance that is categorised as "institutional racism/sexism/genderism." By this measure as long as you are female, sexually alternative or belong to a minoroty group and a religion other than Christianity, it is alright to discriminate in your favour, but not the other way round. The majority no longer rule, it is now about minority rule in every sphere, which we spent nearly forty years fighting and marching against in its original guise of apartheid. The problem with any form of discrimination in any sphere of life is that the balance between "positive" and "negative" discrimination depend entirely on which group you belong to.

    This is also the government that has created more peers, apparently on payment of large sums of money (loans rapidly become donations after a few Honours have been handed out!) than any previous government, yet their attempts to stuff the Lords with cronies have failed, all that has happened is they have devalued and brought into disrepute the entire system of Honours. This is also the government which has promised not to raise tax, but has done so by the back door, raising death duty by stealth, fuel tax (and blamed the Tories for the mechanism) income tax by raising the upper thresholds for National Insurance and rewarded themselves with ever larger perks and salaries. They have raided pension funds and turned a problem into a crisis by their greed and they have almost destroyed the armed forces, the police, the justice system, the fire services and - despite huge increases in spending - the NHS. Anyone who still votes Labour after this is living on a planet somewhere with more than one moon in its orbit!

    To crown their achievements, we have seen Minister after Minister and Civil Servant after Civil Servant caught with their incompetence showing or with their trousers down in someone elses bed - but we have seen very few of them depart until forced to do so. They have railed against bullying in everything from Industry to the Public Sector, Education and Hospitals, but are the biggest bullies on the block. The worst of the situation is that the media, particularly the BBC is now nothing more than the propaganda outlet for Labour, a point that they are beginning to worry about as more and more bloggers call into question their reporting and the selectivity and biasof their reports - so much so that a blogger has now been threatened by a media group. Visit the blog of one Guido Fawkes to read about this.

    As I said, it is difficult not to gloat as the pigeon dung mounts on Blair's head and shoulders, but I shall do my best not to celebrate to wildly when he is finally thrown out of the Office he has now disgraced completely.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:21 PM | TrackBack

    July 14, 2006

    Here's another nice mess .....

    Its good to know our money is being so well spent isn't it. After all, we are constantly told that Whitehall is such an efficient and non-corrupt organisation constantly worrying about expediture that they even have targets for measuring how much value we get for our tax pound. At least that's what they would like us to believe.

    The revelation that the drive introduced by Tony and his Cronies to "revolutionise" Whitehall's delivery by launching a great drive to install IT for everything has run out of control and is a disaster from start to finish really should come as no surprise. You only have to understand two things about it - first that it is being scoped, specified and managed by Civil Servants, and second that it is being managed under the "Prince 2" project management system. As anyone who has ever worked with or to the Civil Service knows, they are incapable of managing a Binge Drinking session in a Brewery and as for the "benefits" of Prince 2, all it really ensures is that there is an "audit trail" of forms completed against every motion or activity connected to the task, not that the task has been properly scoped or even has achieved what it was supposed to. It only ensures that if the project is not properly scoped or planned, it will deliver all the faults and all the pitfalls - but it will do so consistently.

    The wastage on IT runs into billions of pounds in one department alone (The Home Office naturally!) and even the Passort Office is having (five years on and more billions of tax money) having to revert to filling in forms manually - because the "online" version is either unusable or unreadable. To this bit of IT lunacy one must add the hugely expensive and still only partially operational NHS system and the Air Traffic Control system which has taken several potentially major disasters and a lot of kicked butts to sort out - again millions over budget, and the morons at DeCLoG - the Department that replaced Prescotts empire at the ODPM - have already issued contracts (open cheque books more like) to "prefered suppliers" to build the Regional Control Rooms for Fire Police and Ambulance Services which no one, except Whitehall and their toadies in the "management" of these services, wants.

    How many more billions must we watch these incompetents throw into the pockets and bank accounts of their chums on the "preferred supplier" lists the Treasury issues, before we throw the whole damned lot in jail for fraud? We have pensioners suffering hardship because their pensions are inadequate (thanks Gordon Brown for the ongoing raid on pension fund incomes), we have our armed forces relying on outdated and unstable equipment and vehicles because Whitehall Wallahs spend the money on fancy chairs and decorating their offices, and we have a Health Service in crisis because the Civil Service has loaded the entire thing with worthless managers who know nothing whatever about managing a Health Service and manage by committee!

    Time to clean house. Time to make the Civil Servants responsible for these failures and the the wastage accountable. Time to treat them in the same way that any director of a private company that behaved as they do - sack them and prosecute them for fraud.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 13, 2006

    Cluttered roads, Grockles and Gromit Pods ....

    Checking on the Gorse Fox (His excursion into Roman Toga for a party is quite something) recently I came across his thoughts on motorists towing caravans and those who buy, rent or drive huge motorhomes - usually with a spare vehicle towed behind - and block rural roads with them. His piece entitled Unusual View makes him a man (fox) definitely after my own heart! Please somebody allow me to mount a Plasma Cannon so I can blast caravans and motor homes out of the way! Think of the satisfaction you would get passing through the dispersing cloud of ionised gases that would be all that remained after a hit from such a suitable Star Wars weapon!

    This is, of course the season for the influx of visitors towing things or simply driving slowly so they can sight see along the route. It can be irritating as all get out when you are the tenth car in the tail behind them and your forty five minute journey is rapidly doubling in time. The other irritation - and I was amused to see that, like me, Gorse Fox uses GPS - there do seem to be an inordinate number of people who either can't read a map or won't invest in GPS around at the moment. I travelled behind one recently who spent almost ten miles slowing to a crawl at every signpost - and then accelerating as soon as anyone tried to ease past him.

    OK, so I suffer a bit from the "but I live here" syndrome and often don't think about the fact that there are parts of the County I could easily get lost in, but I do think these visitors frequently seem to have a major blindspot or a complete absence of rear view mirror to help with their major disability - any form of consideration for the poor motorists trapped behind them!

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 12, 2006

    Slug alarm

    Have you ever encountered slugs in your garden? We get them in all sizes around here and at the moment you can watch them grow at least an inch every day. Oh yes, I know they munch up all the nice flowers in the garden SHE is so proud of but that's no reason to expect me to chase them away! Have you ever trodden - accidentally of course - on one of them and felt it squishing through your toes? Yuks! I am not a hedgehog, am I? There's a couple of those spiky ones living in the next garden but the neighbours are feeding them on cat food and some special hedgie food they import from England supposed to be very nutritious (and you should see the bellies those hedgehogs drag through the garden!). Small wonder they turn their noses at the common garden slug.

    You should think that my people have acquired some skills in slug warfare by now. They were really quite green when they moved into this house. During the first summer they detected some slugs and tried to catch them in a beer trap. A beer trap of all things! Hrrmmmppfffffffff! It just resulted in the slugs telling their mates where the pub was and the garden was positively invaded by armies of slugs!

    Next spring they decided to sow some kohlrabis because HE likes them so very much. When the first tender green came out the slugs came as well and did quite an effective mowing job. Still the kohlrabis struggled on, never giving up, but remained rather small in size. No wonder! As they were growing one after another was invaded by a hungry slug until only the biggest was left. That one showed no outward sign of slug attack and was tenderly looked after by them. Then came the day to harvest: on lifting the kohlrabi out of the soil and turning it around it was discovered that it had cunningly been hollowed out by a fat slug that was still sitting inside, munching and grinning at them! All further attempts at growing kohlrabis in this garden were speedily abandoned.

    But gradually THEY learnt from experience. Now only plants are allowed in the garden which are not considered food by slugs. That worked quite well for a couple of years but suddenly the little buggers are back. How much generations of slugs would it take to adapt to a different diet? Not many is my educated guess.

    Well, if THEY want to get rid of them THEY'll have to think up something between themselves. I flatly refuse to have a paw in this. There's only one place for a cat to be in a garden like this ...


    Posted by Mausi at 09:06 PM | TrackBack

    July 11, 2006

    Airbrushing out history

    After reading the news at the weekend, I have had to introduce a new category to my postings on this blog. The item that first got me going was the news that one of Merseysides feminist Labour apologistas has managed to score what must rate as a huge own goal. Her proposal to airbrush out of the City of Liverpool the names of some of the city's traders who made it one of the wealthiest cities in the Empire - because they were slave traders - is about to erase the street made famous by the Beatles. Penny Lane is named after a ship owner whose ships were used in the slave trade, so it is one of the many streets about to get new names if this politically correct nonsense goes ahead.

    The point that got me going on this is not that I agree or disagree with what the people who took part in this trade did or did not do, they are a part of our history and these stupid and mean minded attempts to airbrush them from our memory are as moronic as is the mindset that demands that we apologise for everything that some sections of the politically correct pundits don't like. Everything that is from the discovery of vaccines (by testing them on a servant girls son) to the fact that we settled and built infrastructures in parts of the world that didn't want to trade with us. As I discussed with a friend recently, the colonial settlements initially grew out of the fact that having sailed in unseaworthy ships three quarters of the way round the world to trade with someone, getting there to find that he'd attack you and steal everything you had before refusing to give you anything in return was likely to ensure that the next expedition had the force to make the trade swing the other way - and had the means to make sure it didn't happen again!

    The real root of this lunacy is the obsession so ably developed and fostered by the liberal left in this country for the last hundred years or so of the "victim" of European aggression and evil Christianity being everyone who was colonised or forced to move out of the stone age. This Victim Culture is even now fostered and nurtured by the PC brigade who see every minority as a "victim" of an oppressive society - and to hell with the truth that they generally chose to become minorities by either moving to that country or by cutting off their particular "culture" in a ghetto of their own creation. It is not our history we should be ashamed of, it is the attempts to rewrite it in the most negative manner possible that should excite our disgust and raise our resistance.

    The most damning thing these PC morons always overlook is that it was our sense of morality which brought about the demise of slavery in the West - a Judeo/Christian morality. It was our Royal Navy which brought an end to the slave trade from West Africa and other areas, and it is the very cultures the PC lunatics wish to promote as superior to our own that still practice slavery. Let's see them speak out against that for a change!

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:57 AM | TrackBack

    July 10, 2006

    Circus Maximus anyone?

    Can I really be the only person who can see the link to the Roman Circus and the present day obsession with football (soccer to my American, Australian and South African readers) and pop stars and concerts? The terminal decline of the Roman Empire and civilisation in the West can be marked, in large part, by the rise of the 'stars' and 'star' attractions in the gladiatorial arenas dotted all around the empire. The more spectacular the circus went the reasoning, the more likely the populace is to not notice the fact that the country is falling apart, the politicians are robbing us blind and the civil service is corrupt and self serving. Distract everyone with a big spectacular and keep them happy while we make off with the silver.

    The only beneficiaries in the longterm are the overpaid football stars - who judging by the few seconds worth I have had the misfortune to see - are all either members of Equity or just plain foulmouthed thugs and the Pop Stars are no better, popularising cocaine snorting, drug taking and excessive lifestyles that provide very little of virtue as a guide to future generations. It is my considered view that the obscene salaries paid to footballers and the wealth pouring into the pockets of pop stars are merely a symptom of a society that has completely lost its way and will rapidly be be reduced to irrelevance when it is seriously challenged by an ambitious new empire. I don't know who the threat will come from, I suspect it will be internal, and may even be already gathering strength, but I do know that our present society is about as secure as Rome was in its last few years of hedonistic pursuit of self aggrandisement among its political classes.

    Western society had better start to look at how its pursuit of "freedom" and "rights" are masking the underlying weakness of our entire system of political government and the burgeoning bureaucracy which, again in parallel with the Roman model, is slowly but surely strangling it.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    July 09, 2006

    Panem et circenses

    Today is the last day of the soccer world championship Germany has been hosting for the last four weeks. Suddenly we Germans are faced with the problem of what to do with our evenings now that there are no more matches to be watched. Alright, soccer certainly is the most popular sport in Germany but no one really expected these waves of sudden enthusiasm that have swept over the country during the last weeks. Not only were the stadions packed with people but also the public viewing places with their big screens. Even long standing members of the "I am not watching soccer on TV because that's as interesting as watching paint dry on the wall" suddenly found themselves dragged before the TV set by family and friends to watch the German team play. And I've never seen so many German flags around on display.

    Much of this is owed to the coach of the German team who over a period of two years - against all odds - patiently built up a team of young entusiastic players who suddenly thought it an honour to play for Germany and not a nuisance. At least that is the impression I had about the old team. If I am wrong, I apologise. Before the championship not many would have bet money on the German team to last longer than the first three matches. But the players have demonstrated impressively that a real team is more than just the sum of its individuals. They richly deserve the 3rd place in the tournament they won yesterday against Portugal. They've played an attractive game of soccer all the time that is interesting to watch. And the fans never stopped supporting them even after they lost the semi final against Italy. That was probably the biggest surprise for the team.

    With our President Horst Köhler and our Chancellor Angela Merkel being present in the soccer stadium every time the German team played one really got the impression that a whole nation stood united behind their team. Suddenly there seemed a breeze of optimism blowing through the country. Breweries were making a fortune, shop keepers were quite pleased with additional income from longer opening hours and even the stock exchange was affected positively.

    But politicians would not be politicians if they would not grab the opportunity when everyone else was apparently only thinking "soccer" to pass a few bills of legislation almost unnoticed by the public. The first is about a "reform" of our National Health system". The reform is that I will have to pay higher premiums to my health insurance company and get less in return. We wouldn't have needed a reform for that. That has been the development over the last years! I had the hope that something would be done about the structure of the system itself. Do we really need more than a hundred insurance companies? Stupid me, of course we - to provide jobs for a lot of admin people!

    The second bill concerns the relationship between the Federal Government and the Federal States. Up to now quite a number of bills that affected the Federal States in some way or other had to be approved not only by Parliament but also by the representatives of the Federal States. That meant that during the last ten years almost nothing got through because we had a socialist government and christian democratic dominated representatives of the Federal States. Now responsibilites between the State and the Federal States have been reorganised and a considerably lower number of bills will have to be approved by the representatives of the Federal States. We live in hope that now some at least will pass the parliamentary hurdles.

    The way the responsibilities have been reorganised makes you wonder, however, if we are about to fall back into the old times when the present Germany was just a cluster of little principalities and kingdoms. Up to now each Federal State had its own police but now they will also have their own civil service meaning that they are free to decide how much they will pay a civil servant. Before a civil servant in Schleswig-Holstein earned the same amount of money as his colleague in Bavaria. Bearing in mind that for example teachers also belong to the civil service in Germany it makes you wonder what impact the arising competition between richer and poorer states will have on the quality of the civil service they provide.

    And from now on the Federal States will also have their own representatives at the EU negotiating their own affairs. That will be interesting to watch, indeed!

    I know, I shouldn't be so pessimistic with all that new optimism around me, it might all work out for the best, I just don't wee it at the moment ...

    Posted by Mausi at 11:27 AM | TrackBack

    July 08, 2006

    Mighty Ships

    Alright, I am another one of those who like ships. With so many different kinds of ships to be seen I had a field day during our cruise through Helsinki harbour. The one below, for example, is a ship that is not easily detected even inside a harbour basin because it is so well camouflaged. I had to look twice before I eventually spotted it.

    Fast Attack Craft

    The Gray Monk has told me that this kind of ship is called a Fast Attack Craft. Her raked superstructure deflects radar so that she will have a smaller signature on radar than a normal craft of her size. The idea is to make her appear less threatening and allow her to get in real close to launch missiles or torpedoes. As often before I wonder at how much creativity goes into the design of destructive weapons.

    Opposite her in the harbour was moored the German Frigate BREMEN. Her main task is to fight U-boats but she is equally well equipped to fight aircrafts and other ships as well. She doesn't look it but she is 130 m long and her top speed is 30 knots. She carries along a crew of 219 men. I cannot imagine where they all fit in, must be a bit of a squeeze. Pity, we couldn't get on board and have a closer look around.

    Frigate BREMEN with the coat of arms of the City of Bremen (a big key) visible on her bow

    Another breathtaking sight on our cruise was the group of icebreakers basking in the sunshine at their summer mooring place enjoying the warmth no doubt. They must be pretty busy in winter keeping the passage from Helsinki to Tallin in Estland free of ice. These icebreakers are designed to break up an ice layer of up to five meters! Amazing, isn't it? I'd like to sail on an icebreaker myself one of these days, just once, in winter of course ...

    The mighty URHO and her five sisters

    The next turn to starboard brought us back into the harbour basin and our cruise to an end. What a way to start the day ...sigh...

    Posted by Mausi at 07:36 PM | TrackBack

    July 07, 2006


    One of those birds that most us have heard about at some time, but have not seen, is the "State" bird of Kentucky, the red Cardinal. Its bright plumage is striking and it is a quick mover. One visited my friends home in Richmond every morning, but I could never catch a shot of him as by the time I had switched on the camera, he had darted away again. I got lucky when we went to see a fascinating garden in a small town called Berea - sitting on the porch, this one came to snack at the bird feeder just as I finished taking another photograph.

    The Red Cardinal considers the salad bar on offer in this garden.

    The garden is home to a wide variety of birds, darting in and out of the foliage and descending squabbling on the bird feeders strategically placed in various beds. It is not a grassed garden, every inch is taken up with shrubs, annuals and perrennials. There are two water features and the fish teem in these. It is a lovely shady place - but I would guess very high maintenance!

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:14 PM | TrackBack

    July 06, 2006

    Mr Prescott's slips showing again .....

    Oh dear, Mr Blair's favourite bully boy has apparently been caught with his snout in the trough. So now we have the prospect of a Deputy Prime Minister famous not just for his trousers down carryings on with his diary secretary (Strictly forbidden in the Civil Service Handbook by the way and a dismissable offence for any Civil Servant - unless you have 'friends' in the right places!), but he is also apparently doing deals with a billionaire who wants to buy up the infamous Dome for a song so he can turn it into a Mega Casino. Dear old John is obviously considering his retirement and needs the money, after all, two jags and three houses is a lot to maintain on his Parliamentary Pension or even on an MP's generous allowances and salary if he manages to be re-elected.

    Interesting that we are still not hearing the howls of "Sleaze" that would have been trumpetted by the BBC and the Murdoch Presses under the Conservatives. To be expected really, the BBC is after all, merely the Labour Party official mouthpiece and Murdoch probably has a Life Peerage coming from dear old Tony. I wonder how much of a 'bung' Murdoch has shoved into Labour's coffers recently?

    Time this lot of crooked and treasonous charlattans were kicked out of office completely.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:00 PM | TrackBack

    July 05, 2006

    The Gorse Fox

    The Gorse Fox has finally been tracked to his den in West Sussex for real and the Blogosphere for the rest. A man of many talents and an ability to sum things up well .....


    Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    A Dulcimer lay ....

    Visiting the small town of Berea, Kentucky is fascinating, not least for the fact that it was established to help develop peoples skills in trades and art. Sometimes the two combine and you find yourself considering a skilled tradesman making musical instruments which he also plays and teaches.

    Antique Dulcimers on display

    The dulcimer is an instrument which enjoyed popularity among minstrels back as far as the 13th Century, probably having its origins in Italy or France. It is laid flat and played by fingering the strings (four of them) to the fret board while plucking the strings with the other hand. I have seen them played with either hand so it seems to be a matter of choice for the player! The sound is not unlike that of a violin played "pitzicato" or a guitar with a slightly strident voicing. The music is, however, extremely listenable and pleasant.

    A modern dulcimer on sale with the 'teach yourself' playing kit laid out below. The wooden doll on the left shows how the instrument is held to play.

    Those who enjoy "Bluegrass Music" played by bands from this area will have heard the instrument but may not have identified its unusual sound for what it is. An ancient instrument, still making merry music and with a growing band of players among the young.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 04, 2006

    Don't park that ship here ....

    My thanks to a former colleague and new reader of this blog for the photographs in this entry. The harbour entrance to the City of East London (South Africa in case you were confusing it with that other small city in the UK) is very tricky at the best of times. East London is South Africa's only river harbour and the tides and flows from the river make entering and leaving quite an artform. The city always had the services of three huge tugs (680 gt and developing around 100 tons bollard pull each under full steam power) but these have been replaced by small Schottel and Voith-Schnieder tugs of less than half the weight and bollard pull.

    Saf 2.JPG
    The SA Agulhas hard aground on the West Bank - the wrong place to try and park any ship at this port!

    The latest casualty at this port is the SA Agulhas, a Safmarine "feeder ship" which collects containers for distribution along the coast, dropping off and picking up as she goes. She lost power as she cleared the bar at the extreme end of the Western breakwater that extends for almost a mile into the Indian Ocean at the mouth of the Buffaloe River and was taken by the tide, wind and current onto the shore behind the breakwater. This is a very rocky shoreline and thus far attempts to pull her off have failed.

    saf 14.JPG
    The SA Agulhas aground off the Western Breakwater at East London. The entrance channel is in the forground and is between the viewer and the short pier visible with its fixed beacon in the picture.

    In recent years several ships have been stranded in this position - all of them still there. The Agulhas would seem to be the latest victim of the unmanned engine room scenario so many ships now operate under. Minimal manning means that the engine room is frequently not manned at all once the engines have been started and run up to operating temperature. This, in turn, means that the "running maintenance" that used to be done by the oilers and greasers is also no longer carried out - and engine failure due to undetected minor problems suddenly becoming bif ones is becoming a more frequent problem. When an engine fails and cannot be restarted in a position where the ship is close to the shore, the results can be very expensive indeed.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    July 03, 2006

    Cruising around Helsinki

    If you like to live near or on the water Helsinki certainly is the place for you. There is water and islands all around. Much of the area is owned by the town of Helsinki and open to the public. There are marvelous places to spend your weekends or holidays.

    Surely you cannot live in Helsinki without owning a boat...

    Whereas people in other countries might have a boat house on their property Finns own a sauna. And they use it all year round - no kidding. I suppose in winter they have to whack a hole into the ice first for the after sauna bath. From my experience a sauna is good fun once you've got used to it.

    A house at the sea, a private sauna and a boat close by - what more can you want?

    The landscape around here was formed about 2000 years ago. The land is still rising about 3mm per year. That doesn't seem much but it amounts to 3m in 1000 years!

    There's nothing like cruising through these waters on a day like this.

    The shore line is mostly dominated by natural bedrock. There are a few sandy beaches to be found, however. A new part of the town has been built close to this one. The design of the area won a prize for being especially children and family friendly. Hard to see from far away, though.

    One of the few sandy beaches around Helsinki

    On returning into the harbour we me this little beauty of a sailing ship going out with a group of people in historic costumes on board.

    A Ketch sailing out towards the open sea

    I could have spend a lot more hours on this cruise. Summer is special in Finland.

    Posted by Mausi at 08:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    July 02, 2006

    Helsinki Cathedral

    Visitors coming to Helsinki by ship are greeted by the outline of a strikingly white cathedral towering above the town. It is undoubtedly one of the landmarks of Helsinki.

    45 granite steps lead up to the cathedral and make a splendid resting place for the weary tourist

    The cathedral was designed by the Tsar's favourite architect, Carl Ludwig Engel, and completed in 1852. The layout of St Nicholas Cathedral is a regular cross, much in the style of a Russian Orthodox Church, although it is a Lutheran church. 93% of the Finnish population are Lutherans. The four small domes which can be seen on the photograph were added to the original design after Engel's death.

    Although the white colour looks brilliant on the exterior of the cathedral against a dark blue summer sky it makes the interior of church looks bare and even austere.

    Inside St Nicholas Cathedral

    Three niches are occupied by the famous reformers Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon and Michael Agricola. Michael Agricola was born in the small town of Pernaja in Finnland in 1510. He went to Wittenberg in Gemany as a student to learn more about the reformation from Luther and Melanchthon. Returning to Finnland three years later he started the refomation process in Finnland and also invented the written language of Finnish. If your eyes and your tongue have ever struggled through the pronounciation of run-on Finnish words (like Pohjoisesplanadi = North Esplanade) - now you know who's to blame!

    The organ, on a balcony opposite the altar

    To me the cathedral looks well suited for an organ concert but for a service I would prefer Temppeliaukio Church any time - it had a much more welcoming and hospitable atmosphere. But if ou ever come to Helsinki by all means don't miss the opportunity to judge for yourself.

    Posted by Mausi at 03:52 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    July 01, 2006

    Kentucky ramblings

    With the conference over yesterday, I travelled south from Cincinnati to the Richmond home of some very good friends and am now sat in their porch enjoying the greenery, the birdsong and the gentle breeze making the warmth of the day pleasant. I had hoped to have a chance to see more of Cincinnati, but the location of the conference hotel and the schedule meant we were not able to get out much at all! And, when we could, it was too far from the bits I would have liked to see anyway!

    I had hoped to catch a meeting with a couple of fellow bloggers, Laughing Wolf being one, but again, the conference schedule and the distance between Cincinnati and the Wolf's Lair, made that a non-starter, especially as I had missed a communication about going to Richmond post conference. My apologies to Laughing Wolf for the confusion I caused in having missed everything. I did at least manage to keep a date with the family of a placement student who came to stay with me in May 2004. This young man was a delight to be able to provide the opportunity for and now that I have met his family I can say that he is a credit to them and a product of their support and encouragement. It made me wish that I could do this for more young men of his calibre as I am sure there are many more out there, it was just my good fortune to have met Miles. Now he is working hard to break into the career path he would like to follow and I am sure he will succeed.

    I like the US and I have always had a great respect for their belief in themselves. It is my experience that they are friendly, will go out of their way to help a stranger and are generous to a fault. Yes, there are problems with the worldview one sometimes encounters and I know that many outside the US worry about the fuel and oil consumption ascribed to a "wastefull" or "greedy" populace, but we forget that a century ago these worldviews were being expressed with a great deal less consideration by a number of European "Empires" - whose legacy has driven much of 20th Century history. On the whole the majority of Americans I have had the pleasure of meeting are sensible people, defensive of their national position and very conscious of the issues everyone faces such as global warming, wealth creation/distribution and a peaceful world society that is free and fair to all. That they do not subscribe to "quick fix" solutions like the scientifically deficient Kyoto Treaty says a great deal about their genuine desire to find real solutions to some of these issues rather than political posturing.

    Yes, I can be accused of being an apologist for the US and I do have reservations about some of the things I see here - but I have similar reservations about Blair's Britain, or the Bureaucrats vision of a United States of Europe. Let's face facts, most of the critics of the US have never been here, and have not studied at first hand the problems this country faces in its own right. Their opinions are informed by the biased reporting of the Sun, Mirror and Guardian and reflect the bias of the reporters. Much of European thought on the US and its worldview is, in my opinion also a reflection of the biased vision of the "Internationalist" view of European Liberal Socialisim which detests the fact that the majority of the American population will never subscribe to their view that they and they alone are capable of providing a "free and fair" world society. Long may it continue so!

    Yes, I like the US, and yes, I like a lot of what they stand for. Most particularly I like their attitude of self help and self advancement. A quality lacking in far too many populations today. That said, I note with interest that their bureaucrats are as bad as ours in dreaming up unnecessary and complex forms and procedures to hinder everything and everyone. Airport security is so complex now I wonder anyone actually gets through it and I really do wonder at the insistence that baggage - all baggage - must be collected, then is removed to be x-rayed again at the US destination and collected again after clearing customs. At what point was I supposed to have accessed it to put in some weapon of mass destruction during the flight? Or is it just a case of they don't trust the bureaucrats at the departures end to have done it properly? Whatever, its still a nice country!

    I will be winging my way home again onm Saturday and hope to have some pictures to share then!

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack