Blissfully in-between

For those of you who notice these things – it’s been quiet here for the past week or so. Back on Friday the 13th (ominous I know) I finished up at work, and so for the past week and a bit have been taking it easy and not doing any more than I need to. There has been a few things to do: we had an open for inspection for our current house that required a bit of preparation, and managed to get a golf game in with Dad on Friday (followed by a brief but intense period of not being at all well). We’ve got another week off coming up: and we’ll be down at Rye for most of it.

Starting to think that unemployment is looking like a pretty sweet deal.

Berlin Wall – then and now

Say what you want about print media, the New York Times come out with some freaking cool stuff on their website. Their current feature on the Berlin wall has some fantastically interactive pictures of Berlin from 1989 and today. Stop reading this and check that out, because it’s freaking cool.

The Brandenburg gate in 1989, and today
The Brandenburg gate in 1989, and today

The fall of the wall in Berlin seems to me to be one of those events that the West has a pure love for: mostly because (at least in the retelling) it is a triumph of “democracy, freedom and capitalism” over the tyranny of communism. It’s a story we can tell where we can unambiguously claim the moral high-ground. And make no mistake: this is a beautiful story: a triumph of the force of will of a people, to overthrow their oppressors. How nice it is to be sure that you’re the good guys in the story.

But I couldn’t let this opportunity go past, and while I have no ability to verify the accuracy of this story, that doesn’t change it’s worthiness. In my year 11 German class, we were studying a bit about the fall of the Berlin wall, and saw a great film: “Das Versprechen” (The Promise). In one scene they were showing the East German guards in their guard towers, while just the other side of the wall, West German propaganda was blaring from cars driving alongside. Through the loudspeaker came one of my all time favourite quotes:

“The Roman soldiers would wear red so that their enemies could never see their blood, and your soldiers wear brown pants”

Feel free to get someone to explain that to you if it doesn’t make sense at first pass.

Ken Henry: An ETS Should Hurt.

So far, the main thing occupying the minds of our business people and politicians is how we can introduce an emissions trading scheme without hurting anyone.

Henry offers the tart observation that the introduction of such schemes ”is intended to cause a significant shift in the structure of the Australian and global economies over coming decades; quite possibly the largest structural adjustment in economic history. That is the point of doing it.”

Translation: It’s meant to hurt because that’s what changes people’s behaviour. If it doesn’t hurt it won’t work.

via Ross Gittins.

Found this quote a few days ago, and thought it was a valuable insight; worth cutting through the bleating of both sides of the political aisles as they attempt to make the ETS policies hurt the least they can.

The rules of arbitrarily picking a team

Ben Roethlisberger - Not pretty

As much as I love my footy (AFL) and cricket, I’m probably almost more of a generic sports nut. Put a sport on TV and within 5 minutes I’ve probably decided who I want to win and why, especially team sports. And with the world series on, the NFL and NBA seasons both underway (and being shown on One HD!), UEFA Champions League being played there are ample opportunities to watch games that you have no earthly reason to get excited about, but for the fact that it’s a competition and just 10 minutes ago you decided you had someone here to cheer for.

With that in mind, I offer you the following rules. These have been tested over many meaningless contests, and while they will likely give you a less than 50% winning ratio in two-horse-races, they do guarantee a vaguely satisfied feeling when you’re recently aquired team happens to sneak the win. Except where otherwise specified, an earlier rule trumps a later rule: ie – Rule 1 is unbreakable, and overrules any later rules,

Rule 1: No “Collingwoods”

Also known as the “No Yankees”, “No Lakers”, “No Manchester Uniteds” rule. You can’t support the team with all the money and all the supporters. There’s no satisfaction in that. There’s no glory. That just makes you a sell out, supporting the team with the most money and the least heart. I broke this rule once: as an 11 year old in a foreign land and opted to support Manchester United out of a self-preservation instinct. To this day I am ashamed at my weakness of spirit. It’s not OK.

Rule 2:  A team that could hurt a “Collingwood”

I can’t emphasise enough how key it is that the “Collingwoods” of this world are brought down. So while this rule is less frequently invoked, it remains the second most important rule. In the event that the result of the game you are watching can have a negative impact on a “Collingwood” as defined in Rule 1, then you ought to barrack the the side who is able to inflict damage to that team. Naturally this only comes into play at the end of a season, or perhaps in a group phase of a cup competition: there’s no point choosing a team just because they’ll go a spot above in the middle of the season. The only other addition to this rule is that when a franchise team has an ugly duckling team in the same geographical area – thou must cheer for them. For that reason, teams such as the LA Clippers, or until recently (when a huge injection of funds rendered them to also be a “Collingwood”) Manchester City should automatically have your support – in order that the bigger brother might be shamed. This does not hold true in the event that the sister team wears purple (eg. Fremantle Dockers, Minnesota Vikings).

Rule 3: The underdog

If there is one thing that is sacred, it is the role of the horrendously unlikely underdog. The best example of this would be in FA Cup finals. Because of the nature of the FA Cup, in some rare circumstances you can have a lower division team who has managed to sneak into the biggest day on the English Football calendar. In that instance it is your duty to cheer your heart out for that team. Hasn’t worked yet. But that’s not to say that this strategy never sees any success, in 2002 the first Superbowl I’ve ever watched saw rank outsiders New England Patriots beat the  St Louis “14 point favourites” Rams, and do it in a last play of the game field goal from quite a decent way out. That allegiance for the underdog gave me the superbowl winner in another two Superbowls since then, as well as a very almost perfect season.

Rule 4:  The “Personal Connection” team

Once you still don’t have a team after adhering to Rules 1, 2 and 3,  you are left with the choice that comes down to somewhat more frivolous matters. Once stopped off in the airport of a team? It’s totally OK to choose that team over the other. Does one team have an Australian player/assistant coach/water boy? That could be your farnarkling team for life. Have a friend that goes for one team – probably best that you go for the other team, lest you be left with nobody to rib over your newly found teams superiority.

But always remember

There is one additional principle that must be held truly sacred: once you have chosen a team, that team must always be held above the team you have not chosen. The endgame is that you might eventually have a clear heirarchy of teams in your mind: for instance watching the NFL post-season I was cheering heartily for the Arizona Cardinals (had Ben Graham in their side) and the Pittsburg Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger is the least pretty boy Quarterback in history) all the way to the Superbowl, and was then forced to make a choice. Suffice to say I was lucky that my dislike for Cardinal’s quarterback Kurt Warner was enough to have me choose the Steelers, and I managed another Superbowl win. But the next time these two teams play, there is no longer a decision to be made: even if Roethlisberger was traded to Arizona for Warner, you have to stick with your decisions.

So there you have it, consider yourself ready to go out into the sporting world and find meaning in otherwise pointless contests. Or if you have any additions/suggestions for the rules, I’d be glad to hear it. Just as long as you don’t barrack for Collingwood.

The disappointment of Rudd’s immigration compromise

””Rudd has an approval rating of 68 per cent [71 per cent in the Nielsen poll]. He has the unanimous loyalty of his caucus. He has an almost non-existent Opposition.

He is in a unique position to change the debate. Changing the way Australia deals with race would be pretty special – that’s Labor hero stuff.”

Paul Howse, quoted by Peter Hartcher.

When Kevin Rudd was promoted to opposition leader, and then voted in as Prime Minister, there was a great deal of optimism about what that might mean for Australia’s policy framework; specifically with respect to adopting a more compassionate approach, specifically after having read some very very positive things in Rudd’s essay on “Faith and Politics“. And initially it appeared that the hopefulness was justified:  there was an apology to the stolen generation, temporary protection visas were scrapped…

But this recent asylum seekers debate has seen KRudd taking a distinctly Howardly line: “I make absolutely no apology whatsoever for taking a hard line on illegal immigration to Australia.” (source) I can understand Rudd needing to tow a party line, with respect to this issue; but the tone of the rhetoric is bordering on insulting, from the same man who wrote the following:

“Another great challenge of our age is asylum seekers. The biblical injunction to care for the stranger in our midst is clear. The parable of the Good Samaritan is but one of many which deal with the matter of how we should respond to a vulnerable stranger in our midst.

That is why the government’s proposal to excise the Australian mainland from the entire Australian migration zone and to rely almost exclusively on the so-called Pacific Solution should be the cause of great ethical concern to all the Christian churches.”

I still firmly believe that Rudd, for the most part, wants to do the right thing here. But it’s one thing to write of lofty ideals while you’re the shadow foreign minister. Quite another to carry that out when you’re the guy in charge.

Album Review: “Sigh No More” from Mumford & Sons

"Sigh No More" by Mumford & Sons
"Sigh No More" by Mumford & Sons

I’ve spent the past two days marveling at this album. Having heard the first single: “Little Lion Man” – I was excited about the album from Mumford & Sons. I was expecting the raw emotion you heard in that track: not too stylistically different from the voice of a Glen Hansard. What I didn’t expect was to find an album packed full of spiritual references, alluding to some genuine struggles with faith in a similar lyrical bent to a Nick Cave type writer (though perhaps with a touch more optimism).

There’s already been a bunch of lyrics I’ve wanted to quote (and indeed have put a few up on Twitter already):

“it’s not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome I receive with the restart”

“If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could have won”

“It seems that all my bridges have been burned. You say that’s exactly how this grace thing works”

“How can you love what it is you have got, when you took it from the weak hands of the poor? Liars and theives you don’t know what is in store”

“These bodies they will live, and these bodies they will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life. ”

“Love it will not betray, dismay or enslave you it will set you free. Be more like the man you were made to be.”

There’s plenty more too, this is an album has anger, disappointment, love, optimism and sadness. I realise that this feels like it has shifted from being a review to more of an advertisement, but it’s probably now sufficient to just say that I love this album. But be aware little kiddies – “Little Lion Man” does have include some vocabulary best avoided in polite company. All in proper context though.

Four Years On

Today marks the fourth anniversary (blogiversary) of TheGeoffRe(y)port. A lot has changed personally in the past four years. I have:

  • Met a girl, flirted with her, started going out with hertaken a trip with her, got engaged, married, had our first anniversary and are now approximately 22 months into marriage.
  • Grown tired of my job, commenced a new job, decided that job wasn’t for me and that I wanted a new career and signed up to become a teacher.
  • Taken on a bunch of different roles within the youth ministry at YVV, then stepped back from youth, then moved to Ranges, and are now soon to be looking for a new church in the Northern suburbs.
  • Moved house three times, and setting up to move a fourth
  • Seen the engagement and wedding of my sister, and the engagement of my littlest sister-in-law

Kind of feels like I’m just about due a chance to take a proper breath. But life continues at break-neck speed, so hopefully we will have things to write about here for a while to come. Thanks for reading these past four years, and commenting intelligently (for the most part), and making it worth sharing thoughts, ideas and stupid little YouTube videos with the rest of the world.

Carbon Obesity – Blog Action Day

Yesterday, October 15th was “Blog Action Day” – an event I’ve participated in before where each year bloggers around the world all write for the same cause on the same day.  This year the cause is global warming, so once again that’s an issue I’m keen to write about. Given that it’s still the 15th in some parts of the world, I figure I can sneak this one in. You should definitely check out some other blogs who are also participating at the Blog Action Day website.

In considering the issue of global warming, the immediate temptation is to think really big picture, and in so doing effectively out-source any sense of responsibility. But societal change rarely finds leadership in political leaders: rather in the gradual change that comes about through considered action from the general populous.

So as I think about my own reaction to the climate change reality, I’m struck at the paralells with our current attempts to lose weight. Both recognise that the way our lives are structured at the moment is essentially unsustainable. Both are fighting against greed and laziness. I thought I might share the closest I can come up with for a method for fighting my carbon obesity.

1. Make the big decision

For Bec and I, we’ve had enough discussions about Climate Change to recognise that we both believe that it’s a reality for the world, and that we are compelled to do something about it. Making the big decision that you want to change something about the way you’re living has to be the starting point.

2. Make millions of little decisions

Having done the easy part: deciding that you’re going to side with the good guys in the battle for societal change, there now comes the much harder part. In the same way as you make a weight-related decision every time you reject or accept the opportunity to snack on a deep fried mars bar – there are millions of decisions we make (or fail to make) that can have an impact on our carbon footprint. Some are big (our two houses since we got married were deliberately near train stations so we could use public transport as much as possible), others not so big (switching the lights off).But the bigger point is that every time you make any decision: whether a big imposition or not, you change something in your mindset. And it becomes easier to make the right choice next time

3. Journey with other people

The reason that we’ve seen relatively positive results with our latest health-kick has been that we’ve done it with my family. All of a sudden you have a group of people that you’re taking the same journey with: people you can encourage, spur on, get competitive with, etc.

So that’s my advice. Save the planet, one light switch at a time.

Scot McKnight hates sermons

OK. Maybe that’s not quite true. But he’s certainly advocating a fairly dramatic reconsideration of how we do “teaching” in churches, and specifically the place of the sermon in that.

“What is most needed is a complete spiritual formation approach to the entire church and for each person; outcomes need to be formulated by the leaders and the church so that the whole approach is embraced. Within the overall approach to realizing outcomes, which I would say are loving God, loving others and a life of holiness, sermons play a role and sometimes an important one. But serious formative changes occur when the individual and the group participate in, activate, and integrate what is being taught. (By the way, that last sentence requires pages of discussion.) And these formative changes take place within a set of outcomes. And, perhaps most importantly, they take place with spiritual directors, pastors, teachers and friends who come alongside to help a person.”

via Third Way Preaching: A Proposal – Jesus Creed.

There’s little doubt that this represents a fairly radical departure from the way that churches work: there’s still very little support for any model of discipleship that doesn’t include Sunday morning (or Sunday evening, or blah blah we’re so original on a Thursday) at the center, whether explicitly or just demonstrated in the way a church runs. The sermon has become sacred, a pillar of Christianity rather than a medium of communication.

Interesting thoughts at least.

Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

I’ve signed up for a program to review books from Thomas Nelson, and get to keep the book in return. The first of these is Donald Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”.

“A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” is Donald “Blue like Jazz” Miller’s latest book, and it certainly shares Miller’s free-wheeling, conversational style. Miller recounts the experience of turning his life into a movie: and the weirdness of having to make “Don” a more interesting person for film.

It’s a touch ironic that in a book centered around needing to flesh out a narrative structure: that it does feel in lots of ways that Miller is missing any real meat. Million Miles is a nice book, but if feels like having a discussion with a good friend that you haven’t seen for too long: you just keep waiting for the small talk to get deeper. There’s no question that Don Miller is a genuinely good writer, but I’ve been following his blog for a while now and I really just ended up feeling like I wasn’t sure that I was getting a lot more out of this than I would a good blog post. Perhaps he’s just a victim of being a good blogger.

If you’ve enjoyed “Blue like Jazz” and want a nice, relaxing read: this is a book for you. I was hoping for a book that would challenge me and build on some of the more profound parts of his previous books: and this didn’t do that as much as I expected. A good read, a nice book, but not exactly a life changing one, for me at least.