Thursday, 27 May 2010


I don't do facebook. I am a "Facebook Refusenik". I've always thought there was something dodgy about it. So, these days, after a continued (continuing?) series of stories about bad Facebook security, I can feel pretty smug. I don't want to say I told you so (but...)

So, what's it like to be on the outside? Never having had a Facebook Account (and yes, I *have* been tempted) is a strange experience. Let me elucidate.

Firstly, I am left-out. There's lots of stuff I don't get to see. That's obvious and expected and I can cope with that... There are various photos and games and jokes which have passed me by. Fine. My time is busy enough without Facebook. After all, I'm on various other social-networks: Twitter, Flickr and Last.FM are my favourites. I'm also on MySpace, LinkedIn and even Odadeo (a network for Dads) but I don't use those much.

But there are other aspects of being on the outside. I am occasionally beyond the reach of some companies advertising. Sometimes, a gig, or flash-mob or festival or some event I'd *like* to go to escapes my notice because I'm on the outside. I might see an interesting link, and attempt to follow it, merely to be presented with a Facebook logon. Damn.

But the darkest aspect of all this is the suspicion I have that Facebook *does* know about me. There probably are photos of me on Facebook. I've probably been identified and tagged. I believe I even have fans on Facebook! (I guess that's cool, yes!?) And yet all this is entirely beyond my control. Of course, I could take (some) control of this, or at least be more aware of some of this data if I signed-up. But only by submitting more data to them.

I think that's sneaky. Which is why I refuse.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Stealth Christianity

On occasion, I'm asked about my beliefs: "Are you an atheist?" And I suppose I should state for the record that I'm not.

Actually, I am compelled (by historical evidence) to take the strange and remarkable life and teachings of a certain historical preacher of ancient Galilee seriously.

This is of course a troublesome and difficult discovery. It puts me (in many people's minds) in the same pigeon-hole as a whole variety of nut-jobs, humourless homophobes, scientific nay-sayers and most recently even those that have protected child-abusers. Ouch.

So firstly let me say that when other people are offended by such bigotry, I am offended too. And possibly more so; since I *ought* to be able to call some of these people my brothers and sisters. But no. I can't possibly defend them, except to say that they have failed egregiously.

Yet other people will point out that science has now, more or less, removed our need for such superstition and replaced it with reason. And I have to agree that they have a point. But actually, I don't see that science has done very much at all to disprove the existence of God, it merely explains the mechanics of the universe. It's true that we don't need to see demons behind every tree and rock; but to be honest, I never did.

Also, a good number of my friends are atheists. And I can understand that too. I used to be one. And some atheists would find that a very strange statement, since they understandably equate atheism with rationality and religion with superstition. More specifically, many people will complain that science specifically disproves the creation story from Genesis. And that I must therefore be stupid, blind, ignorant or stubborn. Well, actually, I'm not that much of a creationist. I don't read Genesis 1 in quite that way. In fact I'd send creationist and scientist alike to go read Job:38:4 where God says "Where were you when I laid the Earth's foundation?" After all, no matter how loudly any of us shout about how complete our knowledge of the universe is, I don't know anyone who was actually there when it was put together. It's a great leveller.

To those who might complain that I'm being half-hearted in my faith, I'd simply say that I don't think Genesis 1 is supposed to be read like that. In fact maybe you should go back and read what it does say (and notice what it doesn't say) and then maybe you'll join me in wondering how or why plants were made before the sun & moon. It's far more poetic than scientific - and should be read as such. Maybe (just maybe) God created plants before he created the sun and moon; but I doubt it. Maybe one day I'll understand what that means and why; but I don't imagine that the detail is going to affect how I live my life too much.

So, is Christianity irrational? Actually I believe it's based on historical evidence. Albeit historical evidence for very extraordinary events. It's not like science. It is supposed to be about real-life, and yet it's supposed to be extraordinary too. The events described in the Bible are NOT everyday events. (And you can't do experiments on them either.)

Anyway. I don't push my beliefs on other people. I'd be happy to talk about it; but I know many folk find such subjects uncomfortable, so I tend to adopt a kind of "Stealth Christianity". It's not because I think it needs to be stealthy, but simply because my reasons take a bit of explaining.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Family introductions

I have a pretty amazing family. And it's about time you heard about them, simply because it's not really possible to explain anything about myself without referring to them in some way.

Firstly, my local, immediate, nuclear family...

My wife Annette is a remarkable and strong woman, - she's a bit older than me and full of wisdom and practical common sense. She's not too geeky, but she is intelligent (even if she doesn't think she is.) When I first met her, she was a single mother - who managed to bring up 4 (count them: Ben, Jason, Adam & Jodie) - yes four children and somehow still managed to do all sorts of other things too. I'm sure I really don't credit her enough, but she is immensely supportive and for some reason really believes in me.

So, when we got married, I found myself with four step-children (aged 10-15 at the time) and since then we've had two more sons: Josh and Will. Over the past few years all of the older ones have left home so we're (a bit) more like a normal-sized household.

So, next I'll mention the older four in (a tiny bit) more detail.

Ben - (who, as I write this is living with us again for a short while) is a bit of a geek like me, and into gaming, gadgetry, computers, android-phones and can turn his hand to all-sorts of things.

Jason - who is married to the lovely Jo and lives in Newport. They have 2 sons themselves and most recently a daughter. Jason is an electrician.

Adam - who lives in Birmingham with Bexx. He runs a music promotion business he started last year.

Jodie (my only step-daughter) - who lives in Cardiff and works on a voluntary basis for a local charity. She is very arty and creative. She's also a great organiser and loves spending time with children.

Next Josh & Will...

Josh is our resident rock-god. He's only small for a 14 year-old, but since he picked up a guitar 3 years ago he has scarcely put it down again. He loves a variety of musical forms (notably Prog-rock, Punk, Metal, Folk etc...) Other than that he's very much like me - he has a geeky nature and a great sense of humour. Josh and I have a special bond - so we always understand each other.

If I love Josh for being just like me, I love William because he's different. William is a great artist - he draws every day. He's also immensely empathic - with a talent for picking up on other people's feelings. He is more mature and sociable and sensitive than almost anyone I know.

Incidentally, both Josh and Will were home-educated until high-school age. Annette stayed at home to teach them and hasn't gone back to work since. So the next episode of our great adventure in family-life is to do some fostering. So far we've only done a little respite-fostering; but this week we're due to have a 2-year old come to live with us for a year or so...

Of course, I also have other family... back home in Hampshire - my Father and his wife Jeanie (my Mum died when I was 30) - my brother Tim and his wife and 2 children. And many more friends and relations of more distant sorts scattered across the globe. I should say that there are quite a few people that we count as "family" - simply because Annette's hospitable nature means that some friends become "attached" to our household on an ongoing basis. Some have even lived with us for a while - that's what it's like here. We are family - we do community - it's an important expression of who we are.

I might add, that for a geek, all of this has been a learning process. It hasn't come naturally - I'm really a bit of an introvert and I like my own company and my own space. But I do really get a kick out of all this busy-ness around me.

Anyway, I hope this is useful background to understanding what I do with the rest of my time.

Nos Da!