Saturday, August 03, 2013

So to re-cable my (OEM) Rega RB300 tonearm, I have have to use feeder wire, in my case, a high E string from my electric guitar. (As the folk in the guide on Vinyl Engine did). It has to be straight to go through two narrow holes. 

At this point it enters the main arm body, but it needs to then go forward, but of course, it doesn't want to. 

The Vinyl Engine guide recommends kinking the wire, but I couldn't get a kinked wire to exit the lower part. 

Anyone got any advice?

Update 25th July2014: I'm going to send it back to Audio Note for repair. It's far too hard and I broke the earth wire.

Friday, June 21, 2013


I popped along to Friday prayers with some Muslim colleagues and friends from Ericsson, Three and Huawei. 

We didn't go to one of the mosques, but to a local community centre where the Tanzanians meet and pray. The sermon (khutbah) was in Swahili (we think!) and then Arabic and all the prayers were in Arabic. My friend had lent me a small book explaining the main praying part (the salah) so that I'd have some idea of what was going on. 

The quiet, polite listening from about 45, mainly African guys sat around on the floor was in itself a display of peaceful, reverential devotion. 

The actual communal praying was the most interesting part. The chaps all lined up facing the same direction (in this case, due to location, the corner of a room). The stood toe-to-toe, and just about shoulder-to-shoulder with each other. (As my friend said later, "brother-to-brother").

Then in almost synchronous union, move to the kneeling/kneeling whilst bending forward poses we associate with Muslims praying. This level of communion or oneness across peoples from many corners of the globe and social classes was as good, if not better than in the best churches. 

Some men arrived early and some stayed later to perform extra prayers. It would be nice to see a similar level of devotion and religiosity amongst Christian men!

All-in-all it was an enlightening, calm and reflective experience. We all believe in the same one God, we just perceive the truth in slightly different ways. 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Muslim Prayer Rooms in Catholic Schools

This post originally appeared as a comment on the Linen on the Hedgerow blog.

1. Should Catholic schools only accept Catholic pupils?

My gut reaction is to say yes, but then we have to ask, "which ones should we close?". In areas outside the large cities where there isn't demand to fill an existing school, what do you do? Shut it when there is one non-Catholic pupil? Or 10% or 50% of the pupils aren't Catholic? Even inside cities, moving demographics mean that there may not be enough Catholic pupils to fill a school.

2. Should Catholic schools accept Muslim pupils?

As far as I know, you can not say, we'll only allow non-Catholics providing they're C of E or agnostic (etc.). I'm not convinced that this is a morally acceptable solution either. Some people seem to view Muslims as "worse" than atheists. That is an interesting judgement.

3. Should you have a "prayer room" for Muslim pupils?

So, if your school has Muslim students (either because of demographic shifts or an admittance policy with which I, personally, would not agree) should you offer them a prayer room? If you have just one Muslim student, it is only polite and right to offer them a room in which to pray. (The semantics of whether this is a dedicated prayer room, or a room which is suitable for Muslim students to pray do not really interest me.)

Finally, to quote Pope Benedict XVI,
"Religious freedom is the pinnacle of all other freedoms. It is a sacred and inalienable right. It includes ... freedom of worship. It includes the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public. ... Muslims share with Christians the conviction that no constraint in religious matters ... is permitted. Such constraint, which can take multiple and insidious forms on the personal and social, cultural, administrative and political levels, is contrary to God’s will."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Unsavoury World of British Online Catholics

Among the British Catholics online there appears to be a certain amount of animosity, jealousy, cattiness and paranoia. For someone who would like a certain amount of spiritual and practical advice from knowledgeable, cradle catholics this has been so disheartening that I have an almost complete blanket ban from interacting with members of said community. If you're one of these people, there is a good chance that I no longer follow you on twitter, for my own sanity. Indeed it doesn't matter if you're the abuser of others or victim (or probably both) - I can't get involved. If I still interact with someone you view as being on "the other side", I'm sorry.

I'm not naming names, or taking sides, but you people really need to take a look at yourselves; the way you act is not christian and you are failing the church you claim to love and represent badly.


You constantly judge each other for failing to live up to your gold standard of orthodoxy. I feel I must point out that Our Lord told us not to do this! Here is Matthew 7:1-5

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye."


I also detect a certain amount of intellectual snobbery (and possibly some of the usual kind). I urge you to look in your hearts and see if you are guilty of this. Do you look down on those less gifted than yourself? Do you disdain those with less class than you claim to have? These are the poor of certain kinds that Jesus said are blessed and you are being uncharitable to them and failing to see Christ in them.

As a specific example, if that is what draws you to the Latin Mass, then that is the wrong reason to attend.

Paranoia and bullying

One common theme I've seen for the last year is the accusation and counter-accusation of others using sock-puppets to anonymously defame each other. This shows the heightened tension between people if this level of paranoia has been reached! What Christian would use a sock-puppet? None I know of. I personally don't believe that anyone I've encountered has actually done this (though many throw the accusation about). I'm inclined to say that all accusations of sock-puppetry are paranoid delusions.

Now I know there are plenty of people who keep their identity secret online for various reasons. I have never been keen on doing this, but I can see some people have reasons (they may write personal things they'd hate anyone to know, or are worried their views may affect their career prospects, etc). There are many fine catholic folk who use such accounts.

But then there is the anonymous bully. Like the best bullies, he keeps a coterie of people happy with his jokes which they find so funny they either turn a blind eye to, or approve of his less savoury activities (giggling behind the victim's back). I don't care what someone has done in the past; we do not treat each other like this.

Known sins

One final thought. There are those in our community who have admitted their sins publicly or lead a life which is observably sinful. Do not use this in arguments with them or against them; we are all sinners, but most of us are lucky enough to have our sins only known by God and our confessor. Think on your own sins, not someone else's.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Homosexuality, Sensitivity and Christian Religiosity amongst Men

It has long been asserted that gay men are often more "sensitive" or "in touch with their feminine side". So much so, that sensitive, caring, or even camp men are often accused of being gay. In more enlightened times, such claims, whether jovial or not, will disappear.

Now, according to rumour, there are a large number of (hopefully celibate,) gay Catholic priests. We know that there is a prevalence of gay men in the Anglican clergy. As Father Gareth Jones has said, if it wasn't for gay priests there probably wouldn't be a church at all.

There seems to be a confluence of the three conditions: homosexuality, sensitivity and Christian religiosity. It is certainly not unusual for a man to have two of these aspects.

Due to the high rate of incidence of gay men with religious conviction (and importantly, in a pastoral role, a high degree of empathy, should they fulfil all three criteria) the orthodox Christian position is frustrating. For many it is so upsetting that they are pushed away from God (and the Church in particular).

The default answer is that Jesus told us to pick up our crosses and follow Him, and that some crosses are harder to bear than others. Which is easier said than done; ask Cardinal O'Brien.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

My Confusing Relationship with Margaret Thatcher

If you're looking for intellectual commentary, or partisan worship or defamation, you've come to the wrong place. This is a ramble through my confused thoughts on the late, former Prime Minister.

I'm 42, so Lady Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party about the time I started at primary school. She became Prime Minister before I left, but she remained Prime Minister throughout my years at secondary school and college years and was only forced out when I was an undergraduate.

This means that she was running the country during my (politically) formative years. Now where does a young person receive wisdom about politics? Obviously in my youth, it wasn't from the InterNet. Nor did I ever read my father's paper (which was then The Telegraph - which I now read (on-line), and he doesn't). I learned all I needed to know from Spitting Image and various late night Radio 4 sketch shows. Later these were augmented or replaced by Friday Night Live (compered by Ben "Mrs. Thatch" Elton) and whole host of other equally, let's face it, biased programmes.

Somewhere in the mid-80s I started to watch the news, and we were prompted on a daily basis about how many more people had lost their jobs. For those who don't remember, they used to show maps and list the numbers put out of work at various businesses. There was also the highly negative view placed on her association with Reagan (who, like Bush Jr. would be later, was portrayed as an idiot in British satirical comedy) - atlanticism was an anathema to many Britons, and still is. Add in anti-nuclear sentiment that trickled down through the media, (some) teachers, etc. and she was on a hiding-to-nothing.

Now, I did know some people who liked Mrs. T at the time; these were the children of working class parents. They liked her, because they believed that thanks to her, they would be able to be rich when they grew up. Oh how I grinned inwardly at the time in my superior smugness. Now it may be true that many of them have not grown up to be rich, but at least they had the hope; the dream and possibly the chance. They also probably own their own homes. (I suspect many of my better-off, middle class friends were also Tories, but kept their opinions quietly to themselves.)

Not being at all business-minded, I didn't understand what she was trying to do. Why de-nationalise?  I didn't understand or hadn't heard of the terms "free market" or "competition" or why these would be advantageous. I also didn't understand the idea of free enterprise.

So what else have I learned since then? And I don't mean by watching such accurate social documentaries as The Full Monty, Billy Elliot and Brassed Off.

  1. She had to get the country out from being in thrall of the unions. 
  2. Manufacturing in this country had already been fatally wounded before she came to power by a combination of: aforesaid unions; the legacy of British superiority, leading to weak management, a lack of innovation and thus lack of competitiveness in the marketplace.
  3. Her Atlanticism kept Britain in the power loop. See how cast adrift we are now that Obama has turned his back on us. (America doesn't really need us as much as we need them).
I'm still confused on some issues. Her social conservatism was a bit hit-and-miss. I still don't fully understand the issues around the miners. Was it all about stopping the powerful NUM from being able to shut down the country as it had in the 70s? Were the mines really unprofitable? 

She lead the country out of the terminal decline it was in, but into what? Like a doctor who heals the patient only to throw them out onto the street without a plan as what to do next. The new manufacturing our union-free land could now attract never transpired. Perhaps this was the flaw in her plan; perhaps it was globalisation.

I'm also conflicted on the moral decline that Thatcherism lead this country into. Despite her best intentions (she was a Methodist) the one highly significant, negative legacy of her time in office, is the new materialistic nature of British society. By making people believe they could want more and have more, they now focus on getting more, even if this is at the cost of their fellow man, friends, and family.

So was she brilliant, focussed, hard-working and a great leader? Yes. Was she good for the country? In that, we couldn't go on like we were before, then begrudgingly: yes. Is society better now than it was before? I would say that it has been severely wounded, and thus, no.

requiescat in pace. Margaret Thatcher 1925-2003

Thursday, April 04, 2013

It's Alive

Oh yeah, baby! I'm bringing the blog back. Blog 2.0. Whatever. More uninformed content will follow. Soon.