Friday, March 31, 2006

North by northwest

During thursday the cable tv box broke, and despite my numerous attempts to get it replaced swiftly, the best they could manage was monday eve. Well ok, there was an option of a technician coming sometime between 8am and 7pm on sat, which I just laughed at. How inconvenient is that! Anyway, despite the broken tv, I had previously recorded north by northwest, which me and v watched after eating. To be fair the movie is pretty poor despite it's acclaim, rather predictable with the laughable donning of sunglasses to go incognito. Still it has shots of mount rushmore, and we tried to remember who the images depicted. Interesting to read the monument's history later, finding out that it was built cos there wasn't a great deal to come to south dakota for.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


what I think about parsnips
Image by Dave Walker.

It seems that talk of parsnips is all the rage on the blog front, so I thought I'd join in. Actually all this talk of parsnips probably resulted in me purchasing a number of said vegetables yesterday. Cooked them for me and v, 5 min in microwave to soften, then roasted in hot oven, with honey glaze for about 30 min.

There were other things on the plate too.

My sis rang last night and reminded me to tell you that her b'day card for me did arrive. It was about 3 days late, and I must point out, it had absolutely nothing do do with how she had written my post code. No, not at all!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A nuclear future, could energy use become a form of oppression?

Recently it seems that energy demand is back in the news as the labour party announce that we are not on line to meet proposed pollution reduction targets. This brings to light again the ongoing debate over utilising nuclear power to enable such pollution targets and energy demand to be met. David b sent me a link to a report by a group called christian ecology link, which can be read here, who oppose the use of nuclear power.
Thankfully this report was produced stating that this was not the view held by all christians, which is good, so often it seems that people are talking on behalf of the entire christian community without acknowledging the communities diversity. But what do I think, well, it certainly is a difficult issue, but if we want to continue using energy at the current rate then I see that nuclear seems to be a sensible option. Even if we don't use nuclear power in this country, we continue to import energy from places like france, which of course gets most of it's electricity from nuclear power. It's not something I'm really clued up on, but it seems that nuclear energy is probably the best solution to meet growing energy needs and pollution reduction targets.
I'm no economist either, but I realise that energy use and consumption is linked to economic progress, and simply moving high energy consuming, and large polluting businesses to other countries solves the problem only for the uk. I think that if we are to consider these questions in the light of being stewards of God's creation, then it is important that we consider the creation as a whole. I don't believe it is prudent for the West to begin implementing stringent pollution and energy reduction measures on the entire world, that will of course result in economic slow down in those developing countries. This is where my argument for the use of nuclear stems from, though I don't believe that this is the answer alone, it needs to be part of regulated energy saving and increase use of renewable sources too. If we wish to see africa exit it's cycle of poverty, and see the continued development of the developing countries, we must expect their energy demands to increase. It's extremely unlikely that we in the West will wish to change our lifestyle habits to use less energy, despite increasing costs. Though some of the extreme energy wastage like air conditioned gardens should be abolished. So in order for these developing countries to meet such growing energy demands, whilst trying not to increase pollution, nuclear would seem a prudent option. I know there are all kinds of concerns about nuclear waste and the threat of terrorist activities, but is it right to inhibit the economic growth and the energy consumption of the poorest nations by imposing strong anti-nuclear and anti-fossil fuel legislation. To me this becomes yet another form of oppression of the rich on the poor. Nuclear perhaps isn't the best answer, but i think it will become a necessity. I'm well aware of the carbon and financial costs of building and decommissioning nuclear reactors, but if we develop a good system of management and safety that is implemented worldwide it could create an industry in itself, thereby reducing much of these costs through competition.
hmm this is a bit rambly, and it is a difficult issue, and perhaps requires more thought and prayerful consideration by christian communities. Of course it won't, they seem too busy faffing around with their own internal structures or worrying about gays and women.

But if you want to have a go at working out a good electricity energy use strategy for the uk by 2020 the bbc have a good electricity calculator you should give it a go.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

We've got ten thousand dollars!

We've got ten thousand dollars!
We've got ten thousand dollars!
We've got ten thousand dollars!
We've got ten thousand dollars!

well I don't really, but I feel like wayne and garth getting a tv programme deal, because I've just secured tickets for a world cup match on the re-sale feature. First into the shop to purchase tickets for saudi arabia vs tunisia, all together too. Yeah ok, it may not be the match of the tournament, but it is a world cup ticket nonetheless. Get in!!!!!!

wish I wasn't at work, cos I want to dance around the room - maybe I will anyway!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

nice day

It's been quite a nice day today. It started with being gently awakened from my slumber by the morning sun filling my bedroom. Much better than being rudely torn from some strange dream and forced into reality by my radio alarm clock! I'm probably still quite tired, but feel much better for waking up naturally. Got up, had a bit of breakfast and then tentatively rang up for radiohead tickets. I rang up about 8 mins before the 9am start, and got through to the queuing message, so I hung on. Ten minutes later I was purchasing a couple of expensive tickets. Excellent, the first time I've been successful in claiming tickets for an oversubscribed event. It's going to be fantastic to see this band live for the first time, even more so in a relatively small venue.

Took some bottles and jars to the recycling point and popped into tescos to get a few bits and pieces for the church coffee morning that I'd be hosting. Quite a few people came round and we enjoyed chatting over tea and coffee, mainly trying to work out which items from our old building we still wished to keep and which could be given to a new home, scrapped, or archived. Fascinating to hear some of the stories behind certain of the items from our elder members.

Afterwards I took a stroll into town to pay in a cheque, the weather was really quite fine, lovely sunshine, almost t-shirt weather. After paying in the cheque I began browsing some clothes shops, but after forking out for the tickets this morning I felt I'd spent more than enough already. Decided to head up to the library, got asked to do some market research, which I agreed to. Fairly dull questions about fizzy drinks. Eventually I made it to the library, and after borrowing a dvd, I headed up to the Graves gallery. I'm ashamed to say that this was the first time I'd browsed this gallery since moving to sheffield almost 8 years ago! However, it was great just to amble around the galleries and enjoy some of the artwork on offer. I'm not much of an art connoisseur, and can't really articulate why it is that I like some works more than others. Aspects I admire are the use of colours, the technical skill required in the piece, the questions or challenges the piece might be making. During today's visit I was struck especially by two pieces. One was a sculpture called 'the kiss', which depicted a naked couple in a passionate kissing embrace, the girl much shorter, reaching up to meet the stooping boy. The embrace really felt loving, and it was only as I walked around the sculpture for perhaps the third time that I realised that the couple were both physically handicapped, perhaps the result of their mother's taking thalidomide during gestation. It was amazing that this realisation was merely secondary to the image of love I saw. Which I think says volumes about love and discrimination.
The second work that struck me was a portrait, there was something about the features of the portrayed girl that drew me to the painting. I was delighted to see it was by Degas, as I had previously admired some of his work in a gallery in edinburgh, which made me pat my artistic taste on the back.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Kenya update

There's a new update from siobhan and her experiences in meru. Today she descibes some of the kids in the home, becoming more accustomed to kenyan living and translates some kenyan phrases. As always it's a fascinating read.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

28 pence later

I'd noticed the last few days that the bp petrol station near the barnsley office seemed to be changing the petrol price frequently In a morning it would be 88.9 and in the evening 89.9. It dawned on me that the reason was due to the fact that they had not set the sign correctly, so on one side (facing me on the way into work) it said 88.9 and 89.9 on the other. Well this morning I needed to fill up with fuel, and this discrepency was still present, so before filling up I enquired what the price was. The staff said it was 89.9, I said that it was advertised at 88.9 and that is what I would be paying. "How are we going to work out how much it will be?" was the response!! So I made it easy for them, filling up with exactly 28 litres, that'll be 28*(89.9-88.9) hardly a testing bit of maths. I told them I expected 28p back, which they duely gave me, though I'm sure if I said I was owed £2.80, they would've still obliged. On my way out I noticed a guy with a magnet on the end of a big stick carrying a number 9, going to correct the mistake. Apparently no one else had noticed it.

birthday boy

It was my b'day yesterday, and though i don't really feel old, i'm now noticing signs of ageing: grey hair, slight wrinkles around the eyes. Of course, like christmas, birthdays now fail to have the excitement and expectation of years gone by. I've not been giving my age in ever increasing fractions, in anticipation of using a new integer either. However, the day passed off ok, work was fairly busy, so it made the day go quickly, got a few b'day texts and emails, including a text from siobhan in kenya!

unfortunately my sister's card has got lost in the post, and I was quite disappointed at this. She's been taking card making classes, and I wanted to see what kind of a card she had made. I hope it arrives soon.

v came round in the eve, and had fastidiously wrapped my present in an old copy of OK (or some such celebrity mag) that she got from her room mate, cleverly disguising an england shirt in her desk lamp box. It's great, and I shall definitely be wearing it when i head over to germany during the world cup.

Met andrew, dave, matt and emma for a meal at a nice italian restaurant in croookes. I had a really nice meal, and enjoyed having my friends around too. Just a shame about the tina turner best of cd playing in the background. Emma suggested that the restaurant should be bring your own cds as well as wine! I think that would be much better. Though just thinking about it, perhaps the music was for me, you're simply the best! ;)

Yorkshire dales

On saturday went to visit jonah up in skipton. It was good to meet up again. He'd planned a great walk in the yorkshire dales, more specifically litton dale. It was actually a fairly tough walk, the hardest part being walking up onto old cote moor top. It was a pretty steep climb, and this was made more difficult by fairly deep snow and a bracing icy wind. The weather on the tops was in stark contrast to the mild, still weather of the valley below. The scenery was stunning, lovely brown colours of the hills, streaked with white snow, finally giving way to a white expanse as the summit was met. I do enjoy a really good walk.

After finishing the 12 mile hike, we were both tired and hungry, so finished the day with some fish and chips washed down with a few pints of real ale.

Got up early on sunday and drove back to sheffield in time for church. The journey back was made frustrating by the fact I came through leeds to pick up the M1. Whenever I go to leeds I can never get onto the motorway, I've no idea who did the town planning and sign distribution, but it's absolutely terrible. I know I'm really close to the motorway, but due to the one way systems, I follow the signs to lead me back to the road. Instead the signs seem to lead me in ever increasing circles, until i'm finally flung from some ring road system, completely disorientated, and more often than not, travelling in completely the opposite direction then that I was anticipating. It's the road equivalent of pin the tail on the donkey. Eventually I made it onto the m621 after following a sign for hull!!!

After church on sunday, went to my parents house with v for some sunday lunch, and to receive some b'day presents. It was a nice meal, and good to see m+d.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Una Cena

una cena

Yesterday we held a circuit service where the focus was on sharing a meal and conversations. Had a few technical stresses with the projector, but dp was able to sort it out, whilst I sorted out the sound. The tables were beautifully set out by some of the women from around the circuit. Baskets of fruit, bread boards with fresh bakes loafs, and plates of cheese. A simple liturgy was used to accompany the meal, starting with a song, some words, and then into the meal. About an hour was spent eating and chatting, and it was great to see everyone chatting away, so often there seems so little time to have a decent conversation with people at church. In fact I enjoyed a conversation with the super intendent minister, who has been around for about 4 years, but whom i knew very little about. Whilst the meal was taking place, I left a looping powerpoint presentation showing some nice scenery, interspersed with ideas for conversation. Why/when did you come to sheffield?Which church, if any, do you attend? What is your favourite record? What annoys you about church?

The meal concluded with the sharing of communion, followed by sharing of stories. Three people from around the circuit, shared a short story of how God had affected their life. It's so much more inspirational to hear real stories, from their experiences.

After the singing of a final song, people were encouraged to have a cup of tea and continue the conversation, perhaps with people that they weren't sat with, and it seemed most did.

It was an enjoyable evening, and I hope something we can do again.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


It seems they're headline news again.

And indeed they are a wonderful drug in lowering cholesterol levels, but only if suffering from a condition that elevates LDL cholesterol levels, for example familial hypercholesterolaemia. A word of caution though, in my opinion I don't think these drugs are the best way of lowering LDL cholesterol for the general public, and it annoys me that they are available over the counter and this is why:

apologies for the technical nature of this, but it's important.

How statins work:

Statins are chemicals that bind to the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, and in so doing inhibits the conversion of HMG-CoA into mevalonate. This is the rate limiting step in the chemical pathway that the body uses to produce cholesterol. Yes that's right, we actually produce our own cholesterol, because it is a very important molecule, and the production of this molecule is highly regulated. The liver is the main production plant for cholesterol, and it is here that it can become packaged with other fats and proteins in the low density lipoprotein, the body's transport vesicle for lipids. Incredibly a single liver cell can somehow measure the amount of cholesterol present (i'll spare the details) and if it is too low, the cell will begin to produce more of the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme. If there is sufficient cholesterol, then no more of the enzyme is required. Sometimes this pathway doesn't work properly and the cells continue to make the enzyme, and thus more cholesterol, which becomes packaged in LDL and can be dangerous.

Taking statins is really useful in these cases, as it inhibits the cholesterol produced by the body (de novo synthesis), thus the only cholesterol the body is utilising is that recieved from the diet.

All well and good, but in my investigations into the controlling mechanism that links the levels of cholesterol to gene expression, I carried out a few experiments using a cholesterol reduced model - ie a hamster fed diet supplemented with statins. Comparing the activity of the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme in livers from such treated animals to those fed a normal diet, I was initially amazed to find that it was around 10 times more active in the statin treated individuals. It was obvious when we thought about it, the statins had been washed away from my sample, during preparation of the assay, and the results suggested that in the statin treated animals there was far more of the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme present. Of course, because without the enzyme the level of cholesterol in the cell can't be regulated, and the cell thinks there isn't enough cholesterol present, so makes more of the cholesterol synthesising enzyme (which can't work in the presence of statins in vivo. So a positive feedback loop is produced, making more and more of the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme.

So you see, if anyone starts a course of statins, it's extremely dangerous to come off them, as the huge amount of emzyme produced would immediatley synthesise a whole load of cholesterol. So once started, you're on them for life. Very good for the pharmaceutical companies that sell them!

Cholesterol is also incredibly important in the developing embyo (exactly how is a mystery and something i'd love to investigate) and so these drugs are also very dangerous if you are pregnant.

My advise is this, if you don't have a genetic condition or illness that is raising your LDL cholesterol, then I suggest altering your diet, reducing foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol, a much better way to solve the problem.

Monday, March 13, 2006

snow and church

Woke up on sunday to find it snowing, and i thought to myself, i bet margorie (our nonagenarian member) will be really excited. Whilst I was setting up, one of the carers from the nursing home came round with a lady who wanted to go to church, I'd not seen her before and when I asked him what her name was he said 'margorie' I had visions that he'd been instructed to take margorie across the road, but had got the wrong lady ready by mistake. Much like when grampa simpson goes to fetch marge's mum, and brings the wrong lady. Anyway, after the confusion was settled, it seems she was new to the nursing home and wished to go to church. As expected when we did go to pick up Margorie, she was very excited to go out in the snow, and in fact on the way back I made her a snowball, which she took inside with her and dispatched at one of the careworkers, much to her amusement!

It was a nice service once again, and interesting discussions arose from our continued look at conversing and 'time to talk of god'. I found it a very rewarding time.

Chatsworth and Spirited Away

Went to Fopp on saturday morning to purchase the new mogwai album, mr beast, but whilst I was there I ended up purchasing much more....again! I see so many records that are relatively cheap and I just want to add them to my collection. In the end I only bought 4 cds, which I think was really good of me. A collection of mogwai radio sessions, isobel campbell's new album and 'songs for the deaf' by queens of the stoneage. Then met up with v and went to Bakewell for a browse round a peak market town and purchase some world famous bakewell pudding. We then walked over to see Chatsworth house, it's not too far away, just a couple of miles. The route we took was mainly small roads and bridle paths, but one of the paths going up through the woods was incredibly muddy. The previous days rains had turned the path thick with mud, so we decided to take a detour on the way back to miss it out. The weather was quite cold, but fairly bright, interspresed with the odd shower of snow. This snow was a bit weird, a bit like if drizzle turned to snow, not proper flakes, just little balls. We ate our picnic on a bench in the grounds of Chatsworth, being amused by flocks of sheep crossing the road and causing problems for passing motorists.

sheep crossing
chatsworth house in the snow

In the evening we watched spirited away, which v recommended, one of her favourite films. It was really good too, stunning animation, attention to detail and crisp colours, all in that typical anime style (which always reminds me of 'Battle of the Planets' or 'Ulysees 31').

Spirited Away

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

65 Days of Static - teletext review

Got my 65DOS review on teletext yesterday:

ok, so it's not scientificaly accurate (but they may have been using radio mics, and it was being recorded by cameras), but it's artistic licence to put over a point ;)

Email from Meru

Another installment from Siobhan can be read here.

On another completely unrelated point, i watched the barcelona vs chelsea match last night. Ronaldhino - what a genius, i've never seen such perfectly executed flicks and tricks in a match. A footballing magician! If England are going to win the football world cup, then he is going to pose the biggest stumbling block.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Circuit meeting and brokeback mountain

On saturday we had our circuit meeting, where members representing all the methodist churches in the sheffield(west) circuit meet to discuss various issues. Recently we started trying a new experimental format for the meeting, as the previous evening meetings used to go on well into the night and were tiring. Now we hold the meeting on a saturday, starting with some opening worship to remind us why we are gathering. This is followed by some business, and then for an hour before lunch we split into groups to discuss various issues. This is a great way of meeting other people from around the circuit, and enables us to come up with some ideas and recommendations for the meeting, which can then be ratified in the afternoon business. During this time, the ordained members of the meeting serve us with tea, coffee and biscuits. A free lunch is provided and results in more time for fellowship with others, plus any reports from the group discussion can be prepared. After hearing the reports, further business is conducted, before the meeting concludes with a further act of worship. On the down side this new format does take up a fair amount of time on a saturday, but I think the benefits outweigh this.

At this meeting I joined a group discussing conversing and the 'time to talk of god' report. I found it a very useful and stimulating time of conversation, and we highlighted, amongst other things, the need for local preachers to pick up on items of current affairs that may result in conversations about God in the coming weeks. For example, what we might make of tony blair's comment that god will be the judge of his decision to invade iraq.

In the evening I went to see brokeback mountain at the cinema with a friend. I'd been meaning to see it for a while, see if it lived up to the hype. It didn't, despite some nice cinematography, I found the storyline a little disjointed as it tried to cram in details from the lives of these two cowboys over a period of several years. The onscreen chemistry between the two cowboy lovers seemed to take a while to ignite, and it seemed to start out of the blue, without any obvious feeling of affection or love between the parties. The storyline particularly highlighted the effects that society has on driving a loving homosexual relationship to the fringes of society. Causing people to be dishonest, leading double lives, as they try to fulfil their love without receiving the hatred of a bigotted society. Whatever theological stance one might have on this issue, to me it is clear that god would not wish such duality to cause bitterness and harm in a variety of ways, some of which are highlighted in this film. Thus i think the church, as witnesses of god through christ, should oppose societies hatred or bigotry towards homosexuals. Something that enrages me whenever I see coverage in the popular tabloid press, who claim not to be homophobic, yet produce huge headlines should anyone be 'caught' having a homosexual relationship.

This is my 200th post!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

65 Days of Static

On Friday night I went to see 65 days of static and they were truely superb.

The night started with hardcore/metal act The Mirimar Disaster and although this genre is not my fave, I quite enjoyed their energy onstage, particularly the bass player, who seemed to be just one mass of long hair, with a few arms protuding, holding the bass guitar. The way his hair was flaling in all directions would've looked great on a L'Oreal advert. It quite amused me that between songs the singer was quite articulate and clear as he talked to the audience, to become some hoarse throated screaming incoherent babbler when he broke into song.

This was followed by a display in interesting beeps and electronica from Chris Clark, and although the music was interesting and challenging, the sight of a guy slowly twiddling knobs on a mixing desk just doesn't have the stage presence of careering around the stage with a guitar. I'm sure what he was acheiving is technically very difficult, but hard to appreciate in such a setting.

65DOS were greeted onstage by a video montage created by the media lounge a group of vj's who complemented the music with loads of incredible moving images throughout the gig. The sound tonight was absolutely stunning, the fusion of electronic beeps and mogwai-esque rock guitar music is simply like nothing else you've heard before. The guys on stage play and move around with incredible enthusiasm, and at times I'm afraid they are going to accidently hit each other with the bridge of a guitar. This is the future of gigging right here, electronica, rock, vj's all combining to produce an ecelectic cerebral experience, you could almost hear the synapses in my brain firing as they tried to cope with such aural and visual stimuli.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Another one of those...

My Morning Runner review was on teletext yesterday! Maybe I should be a music journalist...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Church council pancakes

We had our church council meeting last night, and with it being shrove tuesday, we had decided to meet at 6:30 and have some pancakes before going into the business of the meeting. We came up with this idea at our last council meeting back in November, dp had said that he'd be prepared to organise the cooking. So on sunday I asked him if he'd sorted anything out for it. "Oh yeah, I forgot about that, I'll put together a chilli and bring that along". I said I'd make a cheese and ham sauce. Sorted. So last night whilst cooking cheese sauce (with flour lump surprise) and dp was making litres of pancake mixture we wondered how we had managed without sixteen preparatory meetings and committees to discuss logistics, cutlery requirements, numbers of people, cost etc as is par the course for methodism. We'd just got on with it and a great meal was enjoyed by all, everyone mucking in to wash up and find cutlery etc. If only church was like this more often, it's so much simpler. The meeting went well, and we had time for a good conversation about where we go next, having just decided not to go ahead with our planned purchase of a building. A lot of time and effort had gone into the project, but it became apparent that our small congregation size would struggle to manage to cope with raising money for scheme, increasing weekly income to enable building to be a feasible venture, low numbers of people to manage building. It just seemed like too many inhibitory factors, though we continue to recognise that our way of approaching church is so different to what many people are doing. Our task is how to become better known in the community and amongst people who are becoming dissatisfied with traditional church.