Wednesday, 30 June, 2010, 10:13 AM - Not TFTD...that His Hollowness, Reichsführer Benedict the umpteenth will not be addressing us on TFTD. We will therefore have to forgo the supreme Ponstiffs' much needed moral guidance on such issues as child care, family planning, same sex relationships and whether your sin is original*.
I know this will be a tremendous disappointment to all of you. The Reichsführer is renowned for his way with words, delighting even his opponents with his friendly, affable, well considered opinions.
As you will see from the above piece in the Telegraph, TFTD is open to all faiths (except Scientologists, Wiccans, Pastafarians, Jedi, Satanists and of course, horrible, smelly atheists). I will continue to pray that the Vatican will change it's mind and not deprive us of this unique opportunity to summarise and comment on Benedict's singular wisdom.
[* With apologies to Tom Lehrer.]
Oliver McTernan here, from the NGO Forward Thinking, a proactive, demand-driven, facilitative organisation that works to promote in the UK greater understanding and confidence between the diverse grassroots Muslim communities and the wider society including the Media and the British establishment, to promote a more inclusive peace process in the Middle East, and to facilitate a global dialogue between the religious and secular worlds. Hi.
Has anyone mentioned the world cup yet? Just to follow on from the previous discussion about collecting Panini cards, FIFA are to look again at introducing goal line technology into the game. The head of FIFA has traditionally opposed this. "It would change the game by introducing more correct decisions," he said.
He has a point, which leads me seamlessly to what I want to talk about: the Invisible Magic Friend. Scientists have shown that technology is a bad thing. And these aren't just any common old scientists, these are neuroscientists, and at a top university too. So when they say technology is bad, you know it must be true. They almost have as much authority as the Big Book of Magic Stuff - that's how much authority they have.
By constantly interacting with technology, everyone is forgetting to stop and think about the Invisible Magic Friend. You can't think properly about the Invisible Magic Friend while playing Grand Theft Auto IV. The famous 18th century French Jesuit, Jean Paul de Cuisson, whom I'm sure needs no introduction, agrees with me so I must be right. The present moment has so many possibilities. Why waste it by doing things when you could spend your time more profitably thinking about the Invisible Magic Friend?
A lot of people ignore the present. They're constantly either in the future or in the past instead of being where they should be, in the now. You must learn to flap your arms like a pigeon so that you can soar above the clouds of things from other times. And when you get tired of all that flapping, don't allow your tiredness, weariness, laziness, bone idleness, indolence, apathy, procrastination, jealousy, distrust, hatred, greed, rage, murderous intent, lust, or desire for a beer overcome you.
To put it another way, people are naturally cautious.
The government is cutting Incapacity Benefit, and about time too. All those lazy, apathetic, bone idle, good for nothing layabouts, sitting in their wheelchairs in front of day time TV all day, stuffing their faces with crisps, paid for with my hard earned taxpayers cash. They should get up in the morning and do something useful, like me.
Jesus, whom you will recall was the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend and therefore to be obeyed, gave us the parable of the talents. This tells us that everyone must work hard to increase economic productivity. Cutting Incapacity Benefit is therefore the policy that Jesus would have implemented. More growth, more profits, greater consumption - these are the commands, ordained by God, that we must constantly struggle to obey.
Jesus didn't hang about, when he found someone who was crippled, he healed them, got them back to work. Stopped them from being feckless and useless and a drag on proper, healthy people.
This is the kind, caring, compassionate society that Jesus wanted. Finally, the new coalition government is going to really help disabled people, by taking their benefits away.
Has anyone mentioned the World Cup yet? Wasn't it awful?
Anyway, Toy Story 3 is just brilliant! Or at least, so they tell me. It's so good that it's making grown men cry. The Disney Corporation are really, really pleased with it. So go and see it when it opens in the UK. If you liked Toy Story and Toy Story 2 you'll just love Toy Story 3. Everyone agrees this is by far the best Toy Story film yet. You won't want to miss it. It's the film that everyone is talking about.
In these days when Radio 4 listeners are obsessed about possessions and never do anything to help their family and friends, it's good to hear about a story like this, where a young person gives away his childhood toys to a day care centre. That's proper human behaviour that is. So cast aside your selfishness and give a few more dollars to Disney to see this remarkable film. I'm even going to stop Canon Precenting for a while to go and see it - it really is that good.
But what exactly is it that makes this film the runaway, unmissable, family blockbuster that it has undoubtedly become? Toy Story 3 is an animated feature, a made up story, a modern myth and that's what makes it exactly like religion. In fact, religion is almost as good as this must see film, coming to a cinema near you soon.
[Canon Lucy Winkett is not affiliated with Disney Corporation or any of its worldwide subsidiaries. Canon Lucy Winkett does not hold shares or have any interest in Disney Corporation or any of its worldwide subsidiaries. Canon Lucy Winkett does not have a crush on Buzz Lightyear.]
Saturday, 26 June, 2010, 08:04 AM - DraperRating 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.
I remember when I went to Glastonbury, it was so big, so loud, so messy, so... so... BRILLIANT! Sadly, now I'm a bit older, a bit more responsible, and with the busy life of an associate lecturer at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, I can only look back nostalgically at my crazy, wild youth.
Speaking of crazy, has anyone mentioned the Invisible Magic Friend recently? Did you see what I did there? I took one word from my wistful yearnings of the past and deftly used it to switch to the subject I really wanted to talk about. You've never seen anyone on TFTD use that trick before, have you?
I'll bet Jesus is up there in heaven right now, looking down on Earth and saying "I was there you know. Yes it was rough. Yes people followed me around in crowds demanding miracles. Yes being tortured to death was a real pain, but I was there, in the flesh, a real live human being. I'd love to go back, I really would, but all three of us, by which I mean all one of me, is just so busy holding all the atoms of the universe together, there just isn't the time to go back and be temporarily sacrificed again."
Believe me I know how he feels, I miss Glastonbury.
Copiously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord...
Friday, 25 June, 2010, 08:08 AM - HarriesRating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)
I met a good friend of mine who, like many of my friends, had spent forty years running a large business. When he retired he found that he had no hobbies or interests and was utterly dejected. He wanted to go back to making larger and larger profits, which is all he knew how to do. Contrast this with yesterday's announcement that the retirement age is to increase. For many this only prolongs the misery of work. Not every one is fortunate enough to have had a job where they can be as creative and productive as I was as a bishop. Some people find that their work stifles their creativity and prevents them pursuing their real interest.
Why do most people, apart from my friend, share this creative spark? Is it because human beings, more than any other creature in nature, evolved to use problem solving and cooperation as a survival tactic and that that talent requires us to have a vivid imagination that constantly throws up new and exciting ideas? No. It's because Adam and Eve, from who we are all descended, were made in the image of the Invisible Magic Friend. The Invisible Magic Friend is constantly creating the universe so that it holds together and doesn't fall apart. He spends lots of his time making electrons perform energy level transitions so that they emit a photon of light of exactly the right frequency. As you can imagine this keeps him pretty busy a lot of the time, which I expect is why he doesn't have time to answer every worthy person's prayers.
We've inherited a little bit of this creativity which is why we are all, apart from my friend, constantly being creative. Even I am constantly being creative. At least, I think you'll agree, the explanation I've just given you for human creativity is pretty creative.
A poet said something about retirement once. Indeed several times.
Gen Stanley McChrystal has been fired by President Obama. The general will no doubt have been surprised to learn that rubbishing your boss in the national press is not generally a good idea.
Having a swipe at the management is fairly common in offices up and down the country. This can be a useful safety valve that helps release tension and promote bonding between those lesser mortals who do not bear the burden of management responsibility. But as well as being a good and useful and positive thing, it can also be a bad and detrimental and negative thing. It's not nice. It's being nasty about other human beings. It devalues your superiors. You really ought to show a bit more respect for those in authority. After all, authority is a jolly good thing.
You'll have to pay for it you know. Oh, yes. When the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend comes back to judge us all, and just like for the last 2,000 years that could be any day now, you'll have to explain why you called your boss an overpaid, ignorant, lazy, arrogant, bullying, useless clown. You're subverting the established order, being revolutionary, taking an independent point of you. It is the height of arrogance on your part to think that someone as humble as you could be as good as your betters. Just who do you think you are? Such attitudes are unacceptable and must be crushed, as General Stanley McChrystal has now learned.
Has anyone mentioned the World Cup yet?
Someone said there's an England match on this afternoon. But why do people get so excited about football? After all, it's only a game. It's not as if most people's lives are going to be significantly changed by the result this afternoon. Yet enthusiasm for the game is a worldwide phenomenon. Did you know, there are more members of FIFA than the UN? Not a lot of people know that.
As it happens there is an ancient Hindu text that explains people's obsession with football. A football game is in fact an illusion that doesn't really exist. Fans give themselves over to that illusion and start to get excited when they imagine England get possession and get upset when they lose possession. This is like life in general, which is another illusion, this time taking place inside the illusion of the football game.
The more we tie ourselves to material things, as many non-Hindu Radio 4 listeners tend to do, the more we get caught up with this illusion within an illusion within an illusion that is materialism within life within a football game. In fact, it is widely known that poor people are much happier than rich people. So George Osborne yesterday was actually just trying to spread a little happiness around.
So, now that I'm aware of the illusory nature of football, please, please, please, please can we get through to the knockout stage? Please?
Yesterday marked the grim milestone of the 300th British death in Afghanistan. In each and every case, we see a level of bravery and sacrifice that few of us can imagine. Hundreds of other NATO personnel and thousands of civilians have joined them.
They have made what is often called the "ultimate sacrifice". I'll bet you can't tell where I'm going with this, can you? You've got no idea what I'm going to say next. It'll totally surprise you and be completely different from what every other Christian TFTD presenter has ever said on thousands of previous occasions. Brace yourself for this revelation: Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice, for you, a worthless sinner. Of course he only gave the ultimate sacrifice for two days before coming back to life again, which he knew he was going to do, but I think a temporary ultimate sacrifice is just as good as a permanent ultimate sacrifice, don't you? Some unknown writer says so in the Epistle to the Hebrews, so it must be true.
Where do our brave young people get the ability to sacrifice themselves for our benefit? Obviously the kind of worthless sinners that Jesus temporarily ultimately sacrificed himself for wouldn't be able to do that. That kind of superior courage can only have come from the Invisible Magic Friend, just as it does for the hundreds of suicide bombers who're largely responsible for killing them.
So remember, when the chancellor puts 20p on a bottle of wine today, others are suffering just a little bit more than you are.
Monday, 21 June, 2010, 04:31 PM - Not TFTDThis problem has been doing the rounds for a little while, including a solution in New Scientist a few weeks ago. I thought I'd offer my thoughts on it to anyone who's interested.
Gary Foshee presented this puzzle at the Gathering for Gardner convention.
"I have 2 children. One is a boy born on a Tuesday. What is the probability I have two boys. The first thing you think is 'What has Tuesday got to do with it?' Well it has everything to do with it."
He then got off the stage, giving no further information and set maths blogs around the world wondering what he was getting at. You might think he's hinting at variations in daily birth rates or male female birth differences, but the solution is actually much more interesting and profound than that.
To begin with lets look at the simpler version of the problem. Assume we know nothing about the day the boy was born. He has two children, one born first one born second and they can be (almost) equally likely of either sex. The possible combination of sexes, first child first, are:
We know it can't be the last one because he's already told us that one of the children is a boy, so out of the remaining three combinations: BB, BG, GB, only one out of three has two boys in it - so the probability is 1/3.
Now we are told that the boy was born on a Tuesday. What possible difference could that make? On the face of it, the day a child is born shouldn't make any difference. To see why it makes a big difference we need to list all the possible combinations of boys and girls on different days. To simplify things, I'm going to invent a new week with only Mondays and Tuesdays in it. So the possible things that can happen are:
boy born on Mon (BM)
boy born on Tue (BT)
girl born on Mon (GM)
girl born on Tue (GT)
We now draw up a table of all possible combinations of first and second child. There are 16 combinations.
BM+BM BM+BT BM+GM BM+GT
BT+BM BT+BT BT+GM BT+GT
GM+BM GM+BT GM+GM GM+GT
GT+BM GT+BT GT+GM GT+GT
The four on the bottom right consist of 2 girls. So in terms of the easy problem (no mention of days) we now have 12 combinations with at least one boy, of which 4 (top left) contain 2 boys - so we still get 4/12 = 1/3 as the probability of two boys when we don't know that one was born on a Tuesday. But look what happens when we do know that one boy was born on a Tuesday - most of the possible combinations disappear.
----- BM+BT ----- -----
BT+BM BT+BT BT+GM BT+GT
----- GM+BT ----- -----
----- GT+BT ----- -----
We now have only 7 possible combinations of which 3 have two boys in them giving a probability of 3/7 - very different from 1/3.
For a seven day week we just imagine a 14 x 14 table. This gets whittled down to one row and one column that all have a BT event in them - so there are 14+13=27 possible combinations, of which 7+6=13 will be two boys. so the final probability is 13/27 - almost 1/2.
This is a brilliant example of how you have to be very careful when trying to figure out probabilities. Even experts often get them wrong. The "boy born on a Tue" event space is completely different from the "boy born any day" event space.