Have you been Googled? 
Monday, 1 February, 2010, 09:20 AM - Not TFTD
I have, rather painfully as it happens, and so it appears have many of you.

It all started innocently enough on Saturday morning when an email that I'd seen the previous day on my laptop failed to appear on my desktop machine. Several hours of investigation later and I finally understood the meaning of all those emails from Virgin Media explaining that they were going to improve my email experience by migrating all my email to Google, but not to worry, just sit back and they would handle everything smoothly and seamlessly for me.

Most personal email gets sent around the internet using a very well established protocol called the Post Office Protocol Version 3 (POP3). It hops from server to server until you eventually download it to your PC when it gets deleted from your ISP's server. Most email readers have an option to defer the deletion so that you can read your email on laptops and mobile phones but still download it later to your main PC. It's not a particularly secure system. Any of the servers that route your mail to you can eavesdrop on what gets sent, although you can always encrypt messages if you feel that strongly. It's a very well established, unsexy means of communication.

A growing alternative has been web based email such as Hotmail and Google Mail (Gmail). These work quite differently. In this approach all your emails get stored on a central server, possibly forever. This allows the holder of your emails to scan them for personalised advertising and other nefarious purposes, but that's OK because you agreed to that when you signed up to their service. (You did read all that small print, didn't you?) I've always avoided services like this. I don't particularly have anything to hide and even if I did, I wouldn't be so naive as to put it in a plaintext email, but I just don't like the idea of some mega-corporation routinely scanning all the mail I send and all the mail I receive. Even if I agreed to their terms and conditions, the people sending me emails certainly didn't. As the case of the Chinese human rights activists shows, such platforms are also inherently less secure.

Imagine my horror therefore, when I went to my Virgin Media Webmail on Saturday and discovered that every email sent to me over the last month was now sitting on a Google server, including every comment posted to this blog. Naturally I've deleted them now and taken steps to ensure that no communications from this blog now go anywhere near Virgin Media. I'm also in the process of migrating my personal email to a new address that also doesn't use Virgin. It's only taken me the bulk of the weekend. Virgin Media, one of the largest ISPs in the country, no longer has an industry standard POP3 service available. The reaction when this is pointed out on their help forum? "That's the platform and it isn't going to change."

Just be aware. If you have a Virgin, Blueyonder or NtlWorld email, or you send to such an address, or comment on a blog that communicates via such an address, then you're being Googled.
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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic person who talks a lot about religion  
Monday, 1 February, 2010, 08:47 AM - Theology, War, Longley
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

As with so many aspects of daily life, when deciding when to go to war, one naturally consults a theologian. Of course, most theologians are dead and have passed into the invisible magic world. We obviously can't talk to people in the invisible magic world (to claim that would be just silly) so distinguished personages and opinion formers, such as the distinguished Editor of The Times, consult distinguished Catholic gentlemen such as oneself, for a summary of theological arguments.

Saint Tony of Bliar, a distinguished Catholic, may not have consulted with his distinguished chancellor on whether to invade Iraq, but he did consult Thomas Aquinas. Unfortunately, not being so skilled in theology as distinguished persons such as oneself, he got it wrong. Aquinas was trying to understand Christ's entreaty to "love your enemies". Obviously this is not meant to be taken literally. As a highly skilled theologian of the Catholic Church, Aquinas was able to show that what Christ actually meant was: "invade their territory, destroy everything they've built, steal all their riches, kill all the men, rape all the women and enslave all the children". Thus demonstrating, once again, the wide ranging, practical value of Theology.

It is a sad indictment of our modern world that the Chilcott Enquiry spent virtually no time whatsoever consulting distinguished theologians such as Saint Thomas Aquinas. Instead, they seem to be obsessed about pathetic little details like whether the Iraq war was legal. I mean, who cares about International Law? George W. Bush, a distinguished Christian gentleman, certainly didn't.

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Brian Draper, associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity  
Saturday, 30 January, 2010, 01:50 PM - Humility, Draper
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Brian here, in Southampton, an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we envision and equip Christians, and the leaders, churches and organisations that serve them, with the biblical framework, practical resources and models to engage biblically, relevantly and vigorously with the issues they face in today’s world. Hi.

Can you summarise a life in six words? "Andy Murray nearly won at tennis?" or "JD Salinger wrote a good book" or "Saint Tony wants to invade Iran."

Most of us, well most of "you" actually, will never be remembered - not even having been on Thought For The Day. Most of us (i.e. you) will simply disappear down the plughole of history; your insignificant, pointless little lives forgotten by all. We spiritual people have freed ourselves from ambition by recognising how irrelevant you all are. We also recognise that the universe couldn't possibly continue without us and therefore there must be an afterlife.

Mother Teresa who became so famous for helping the poor, achieved stardom by not being a star. If you gave up all ambition then who knows, maybe you too would become famous.

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Rhidian Brook, writer, celebrity and Christian  
Friday, 29 January, 2010, 08:56 AM - Brook
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Billy Bragg has started a campaign to withhold tax until Royal Bank of Scotland bonuses are curtailed. As a hard working writer, celebrity and Christian, I'm tempted to join him. Then I remember the education, social services and health care that all my hard earned tax provides for less fortunate people like you, and I relent. America, the most Christian nation in the western world, still hasn't quite decided whether poor people ought to be treated when they're sick.

Naturally, as always in holy discussions about tax, we refer to the famous Gospel passage on the subject. Jesus, a sort of 1st century Billy Bragg, asked by the Pharisees to give a straight answer to a straight question, replied "Give what's due to Caesar and also what's due to the Invisible Magic Friend, i.e. me." This is clearly a complex, multi-faceted instruction that has to be examined at different levels in order to extract its full implications. Fortunately you have a famous writer, celebrity and Christian here to disentangle its meaning, to explore its many and wondrous theological ramifications, and to derive the moral and humanitarian message buried within. Jesus is in fact instructing us to meditate upon our priorities in life while filling in our tax form.

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Reverend Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Benet's, Cambridge 
Thursday, 28 January, 2010, 08:54 AM - Democracy, Morality, Tilby
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

There are some good things in the recent Social Attitudes survey. Most of us are now more tolerant of gays and divorcees. On the whole this is a good thing, unless they want to become bishops of course. The Church, as always, has been at the very forefront of championing gay, cohabiting and divorcee rights.

However there are also some bad things in the report. Church attendance is down as is willingness to vote. Coincidence? I think not. I don't think anyone would argue that there's any causal relationship between the decline in church influence and more tolerant attitudes, however not going to church clearly affects people's willingness to vote. The fact that, ideologically, there is nothing to choose between the two main parties has nothing to do with it. You see, as people stop going to church they become less moral, lazier and more self-centred. Without the discipline of sitting on a hard wooden bench, listening to the Invisible Magic Friend speaking through me, you've lost that willingness to fulfil your civic duty. You no longer have any sense of justice, honesty or virtue. So naturally, with no conscience any more, you just don't care and so can't be bothered voting.

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Is there a doctor on the blog? 
Thursday, 28 January, 2010, 07:17 AM - Not TFTD
A medical doctor that is, not a Reverend Doctor, or possibly a virologist? The reason I ask is that I've come down with flu immediately after my return from Florida. Nothing unusual in that you might think. Except it happened the last time I returned from Florida and the holiday before that from Vegas.

Three times in a row I've returned from the States and been struck down with a debilitating virus. It always follows exactly the same pattern: extreme runny nose, violent coughing (so violent on the first occasion that I ended up in hospital with the most excruciating muscular pain I've ever had), followed by a day or two of being completely out of it and then a very sudden recovery (I'm still waiting for the recovery bit this time).

It could be coincidence but I'm beginning to wonder. I think I read once that bugs get recycled by aircraft air conditioning. As I've got diabetes, it's possible that a lowered immune response makes me more susceptible to infection. But if it's that simple, why do I never get ill on the way out?

There are a couple of possibilities.

- Adrenalin and excitement on the way out might help.
- Night time flights on the way back seem to keep the cabin air temperature lower.
- I tend to be exhausted after our holidays - pushing a guy around in a wheelchair for two weeks is hard work, that I have to admit I'm not used to. I'm thinking I may just opt for a beach holiday next time with lots of reading and being drip fed pina coladas.
- The Invisible Magic Friend is punishing me for gross over indulgence.

Any ideas anyone?
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Holocaust Memorial Day 
Wednesday, 27 January, 2010, 09:53 AM - Lessons of history, Sacks
I'm not going to do a POTD today. Holocaust Memorial Day is too important an event to be used for mockery. The lessons of hatred and prejudice, exercised on the industrial scale of the Nazis, still haven't been learned, as the people of Rwanda can testify. Only the other day we had the fascist thugs of the English Defence League attacking mosques and intimidating Muslim taxi drivers. We all know who these people are. They're not brave defenders of secular values, or even of Christian values, they're the Paki-bashers of the 70s out in force again, egged on by the constant demonisation of Muslims in rags like the Daily Mail.

It's because Holocaust Memorial Day is so relevant today that I found the Chief Rabbi's TFTD so uplifting, until that is he started rabbitting on about Faith and deliberately confusing Faith in his god with more verifiable and tangible forms of Faith. I don't know whether Faith in God or Faith in humanity inspired the fighters and archivists of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. I do know that they must have been very brave, very angry people, willing to stand up to the might of the German army rather than calmly accept the fate that had been decided for them. Their nobility and humanity speak for themselves. To use this as a propaganda instrument for his Invisible Magic Friend demeans their memory.

Answer me this Chief Rabbi: where was your God during the Holocaust?

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Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, the international director of Micah Challenge 
Tuesday, 26 January, 2010, 08:49 AM - Democracy, Edwards
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Amidst its first post civil war elections, tension is mounting among the majority Buddhists about the role of the minority Hindus in Sri Lanka society. Meanwhile, amidst postponed elections in Afghanistan, tension is mounting between the fanatical religious extremists, the Taliban, and the slightly less fanatical religious extremists that constitute the remainder of the population. Meanwhile, amidst power sharing problems in Northern Ireland, tension is mounting between Catholics and Protestants.

Some foolish, naive people, who aren't even Rev Dr Drs, might conclude that religion has a corrosive effect on the democratic process. Nothing could be further from the truth as centuries of history throughout the world ably demonstrates. The isolated examples above are simply the exceptions that prove the rule. True religion, my religion, is a big fan of democracy and always has been. Even today, Christianity continues to press for democratic reform of the House of Lords and the removal of the privileged position of the bishops.

True religion, my religion, has a long democratic tradition. When the people of Israel demanded a king, the Invisible Magic Friend dissuaded them. He told them to form a constitutional convention to establish checks and balances between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary and to agree a fair system for free and regular elections, thus banishing theocracy and hereditary monarchy from Israel forever.

So we should welcome the role of religion in bringing democracy to the world. If only Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland would embrace true religion, my religion, then they too would benefit from the peaceful democratic values that true religion has given us.

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Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic person who talks a lot about religion 
Monday, 25 January, 2010, 11:56 AM - Sex, Longley
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Surprisingly, the government and opposition are disagreeing about something. This time it's about marriage. The Conservatives (fine upstanding Christian party that they are) want everyone to live in a state of holy matrimony, whereas Labour (evil socialists) want everyone to wallow in sin. The Invisible Magic Friend has decreed that lifelong heterosexual monogamy is the only allowed form of sex and it is therefore the Church's business what you all get up to between the sheets. It's why so many people care about what the Church thinks about marriage.

Catholic Priests have taken a particular interest in the sex lives of young boys, making them confess to any sexual naughtiness that they might get up to in orphanages, Church schools or Scout troops and making sure that they are properly punished over a priest's knee. This ensures that Catholics grow up with a healthy, guilty attitude to just how dirty and shameful sex is.

To hear some people talk you'd think the Church was obsessed about sex but the Catholic Church is actually notoriously liberal on the subject. We have to be. Marriage is big business. So to capture our fair share of the market we can hardly go around denouncing the filthy, sinful lifestyles of debauched cohabitants. We'll happily overlook their squalid past provided they hire the church and the priest and hand over the money. As always, it's so nice to see the Church taking the moral high ground.

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5 comments ( 449 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.1 / 198 )

Brian Draper, associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity  
Saturday, 23 January, 2010, 12:54 PM - Evil, Gibberish, Draper
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

Brian here, in Southampton, an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we envision and equip Christians, and the leaders, churches and organisations that serve them, with the biblical framework, practical resources and models to engage biblically, relevantly and vigorously with the issues they face in today’s world. Hi.

The horrific tales of torture perpetrated by two young boys, reminds us of the good old days when things like this never happened, or at least, never made the papers. Things would just seem to be getting worse and worse and worse and everything's just falling apart because everyone's stopped being Christian.

Or is it? Latest crime figures show an unexpected fall in crime, despite the severe recession. This is, of course, exactly what is scientifically predicted by Christianity.

The Invisible Magic Friend initially made us perfect, apart from one little flaw that enabled us to eat some forbidden fruit on the advice of a talking snake. At that point we became irredeemably evil, until the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend sacrificed himself to himself to save us from himself, and we've been getting better and better ever since, in perfect agreement with the revised crime figures, but not yet completely recovered as the occasional episode of juvenile sadistic torture shows.

It's so useful to be a lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where we equip Christians with the practical resources to engage relevantly and vigorously with the issues they face in today’s world.

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