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As basically anyone will know who has been following the news lately, Israel and Palestine- or more appropriately Hamas- are out to kill each other yet again. It seems to follow the same old pattern every time- Hamas fires rockets out of Gaza, Israel turns around and responds by trying to utterly blitz Hamas into the ground and ending up killing way too many innocent civilians in the process. Or maybe things are quite different than that. The pro-Palestinian lobby claims the Israelis are deliberately targetting civilians as part of a deliberate genocidal campaign to get rid of the Palestinians and turn the whole of the Occupied Territories into a complete Jewish state, the pro-Israeli side claim Hamas are deliberately using civilians as human shields (and get free international support for their side). As usual, it’s the ordinary folks, who may or may not otherwise be politicized, suffer, in huge numbers. Maybe the odd Hamas rocket, most of which are ineffective, get past the Iron Dome and hit somebody. Certainly a few Israeli soldiers have been killed.

And of course there are desperate pleas from the international community and all concerned for a permanent ceasefire for the sake of ending this dreadful suffering. Yet when all sides agree to a temporary ceasefire for three measly days to give the Gazans some time to patch things up, what happens? You go to bed hearing on the radio it’s going to happen, and wake up in the morning ot find it’s been broken yet again. Israel claims Hamas broke the ceasefire by firing more rockets, and responds with shelling; 53 dead. Hamas denies firing anything. Some civilians reported as acting as if the ceasefire was going on still, however. An Israeli soldier gets captured, 2 more are dead. And the whole bloodied roundabout goes on turning.

Now, as a Christian of the sort who believes the modern state of Israel to be some partial fulfilment of Bible prophecy, I really want to support them; I believe the idea of a restored Jewish state, in the wake of the centuries of persecution they endured, is a good thing, but not at the expense of those who were living there already. It does seem hard sometimes, when you see what the Palestinians have had to put up with since 1948, and when you see what is happening now (Gaza completely blockaded, settlements in the West Bank, seemingly disproportionate reprisals every time Israel gets attacked) you begin to wonder. Yet Israel has throughout its history been under threat, first from its Arab neighbours, now militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Can you blame them for trying to neutralize the threat of constant rocket attacks? I wonder.

In all honesty, feelings in support of both sides run so high, and there seems to be two completely different versions of events, that you don’t know what to believe. As with the Ukraine in more recent days, everything gets lost in the haze of propaganda and the fog of war. What I do know, is that people are suffering, and that there seems to be no easy end in sight. I’ve almost come to the conclusion that, if both sides could stop their fanaticism, maybe the two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders might be the best stop-gap until the Lord returns. I know, somehow, it won’t. But we must try to make the best of a bad situation.

 

Of course I’ve missed bits out- the murders that started the whole thing off, the new phenomena like the tunnels Hamas are now digging into Israel to attack it, and the Israelis going in on the ground in response, instead of just the usual airstrikes.

 

In time I may follow up with comments on the general insanity of it all, with more mention of Ukraine; and certainly it would be worth a discussion on what makes a just war, if at all. (To my mind, whilst conflict may occasionally be necessary, few actual instances seem truly justified, all things being weighted in the balance.) But that is for another day. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34).

This is going to be yet one more of those times where I want to try and critically re-evaluate my life and try and work out in what ways I can try not to be an idiot. I was going to make some Mid-Year Resolutions but seeing as more than half a year has already passed, and I know it is difficult to have the willpower to keep out-and-out resolutions I decided it might be better to make some monthly goals. So, without further ado (and in not particular order of importance):

 

1. Make sure I manage my time well and waste as little of it as possible, especially when I should be busy. This especially means staying well away from the usual distractions of the internet and television during those times, and ensuring I have plenty of time to complete tasks I have allocated myself. This is a biggie which I really, really need to get right.

2. Seriously avoid wasting money on useless stuff I don’t need, unless I am sure I really want it and can afford it. Even if it only costs 30p (i.e. the i newspaper). I simply cannot afford it. Another biggie.

3. As a corollary to goal number 2, since most such stuff involves books, videos and the like, to make more of an effort reading and watching the ones I already have. So, I will aim to try and get the following finished:

 

Books (to include all those I am part-way through):

  • Will Hutton- The State We’re In (the 1995 edition of the book, basically an analysis of the state of British society from an economic and political standpoint in the previous few decades- he may be a bit Keynesian and anti-Tory for at least one of my readers but it’s certainly interesting!)
  • Monica Hill- Rich Christians, Poor Christians (stuff those of us in the Western world can learn from Christians in other parts of the world, it would seem; this is one I started years ago and never quite got round to finishing).
  • Sermons of the Great Ejection (transcripts of the “farewell” sermons of various notable Puritan ministers who got kicked out of the Church of England after the 1662 Act of Uniformity- very challenging in terms of living the Christian life, and probably not a bit controversial a choice at least from the point of view of my non-evangelical readers! Another one I’ve been half-trying to read over the past few years and never finishing…)
  • Roy Medvedev- On Socialist Democracy (I’ve mentioned this one before)
  • Michael Moorcock- A Nomad of the Time Streams trilogy (something a bit more SF/fantasy for a change in contrast to most of the other more “serious”, non-fiction books- mostly a bit of escapism to indulge my interest in alternate history, at the same time has some quite serious points to make about imperialism and false utopias. The first novel, at least, has some hints of steampunk in it and seems to have been pretty foundational, though done in quite a realistic way- steam engines have supplanted the internal combustion engine, and yes, airships abound (of course!) but technology has moved on into the electric realm, along with radios and even an atomic bomb! Overall, very inventive and well-imagined, as well as plenty of adventure to boot!)
  • Vince Cable- The Storm (an analysis is the 2008 financial crash from the Lib-Dem politician and economist- I thought worth reading in spite of concerns about the Lib-Dems having “sold out” joining the coalition!)

 

(I know this wasn’t meant to be a review post- sorry if I am getting carried away!)

 

DVDs (going to be focussing on the anime here):

  • Ergo Proxy volume 1 (sort of suspense/psychological thriller set in a dystopian future, supposedly quite philosophical; already seen the first episode)
  • Starship Operators volume 1 (again, already seen the first episode; it’s a space-operaish series about a bunch of cadets who decide to fight against an invading power after their government capitulates, and get sponsored by a TV network in order to get the funds to do! Yes, seriously…)
  • Dai Guard volume 1 (a deconstructive parody/homage to old ‘Super Robot’ shows)
  • Yugo the Negotiator volume 1 (again, seen a bit of this; all I can remember is it involves a guy who gets hired by this girl who’s trying to save her father(?) who’s been taken hostage by terrorists in Pakistan, and seems quite interesting)
  • Possibly also Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (sequel to the classic cyberpunk film, the original needing no introduction for most anime/manga fans!)

 

VHS tapes (again, focussing on the anime):

  • Patlabor: The Movie and Patlabor 2 The Movie (an attempt to do a ‘realistic’ portrayal of giant robots but turns into more of a police drama/political thriller with SF elements; seen the first one, but will watch both again and review)
  • Metal Angel Marie, a.k.a. My Dear Marie (only 1 episode of the 3 to go; it’s basically a case of boy fancies girl, but can’t bring himself to ask her out, so builds a robot duplicate of her(!)- if that sounds a bit dodgy, that’s only the start of it- it’s meant to be a comedy but not sure if I should have got it! Nevertheless, will watch and review.)

 

Anyway, I digress, as I have gone into way too much detail on something that isn’t really all that important a goal. Back to the important stuff…

 

4. Stop snacking and generally eating too much crap. I need to lose the gut at least a bit before I go on holiday. And remind myself buying flapjacks from Aldi just because I felt like having one, and they’re cheap, is not excusable.

5. Ditto with the booze. Limit to twice a week at tea with aunts. If at all.

6. Try to update this blog at least on a weekly basis, and with something substantial. No going for months without a post.

7. Make sure I get ready for holidays (2 weeks in Florida with my mother from the 31st). Get sandals/other shoes, any additional clothing, overnight bag?

8. Try to get my bedroom tidied out for real, for once…

9. Also try to do my bit to keep rest of house tidy and do routine household tasks whenever possible. I mean, it’s not like I don’t have the time to do them…

10. Possibly try to revise/brush up on spreadsheets and science stuff, to refresh myself on anything I’ve forgotten.

11. Whether or not my non-Christian readers will think this is important, try to spend a bit of time daily in prayer and reading the Bible. And most importantly, trusting God and not worrying about what His will might be if I’m unsure.

12. Possibly try and get back in touch with certain friends I haven’t kept in touch with for a while, bu keep meaning to.

13. Try to sell at least one thing on eBay.

14. Attempt at least one of the small collection of exercise videos I have managed to accumulate from assorted charity shops/flea market stalls etc. No, they’re not just for women (well, mostly not)- no reverse sexism here please! Might do a bit to help lose the gut…

15. Aim to have managed at least two or three of the above goals, but not be too bothered if I can’t manage them all. There are four more months left in the year, after all, and probably plenty more, if the Lord tarries.

 

(And yes, if a certain person can think of any more, or add criticisms, she is quite free to add suggestions in the comments box!)

… so it might as well be now.

Reviews of 2013 I think might have to go by the board- I might yet complete that article but seems a bit late now March is well underway. (Doesn’t time fly!)

And 2014 has had it’s fair share of crazy goings on. As if we hadn’t enough turmoil in the world, now it’s the turn of Ukraine. I rather wish I could understand the whole business, but I only half remember the kicking out of some leader as part of the Whatever-It-Was revolution some years back and now they’re back for Round 2. (I really need to do more research.) What I do know is that there seems to be tension between the main part of Ukraine which is looking towards Western Europe for support, whereas the ethnic Russians in Crimea and the east are obviously still wanting to stick with the Big Bad Bear for support. That Crimea “should” be a part of Russia again seems only right to me- as it was only in the Soviet days it became transferred to what I presume was the Ukrainian SSR and stayed after independence. But, with Russian troops being sent in to protect their holdings, and what seems like a fair amount of intimidation and trying to force their hand by turning off the Ukrainian TV channels in favour of Russian ones- talk about objectivity? I think not!- this referendum looks somewhat likely to be skewed in its outcome.

It would seem that whatever the Western governments might say about it being illegal, international law is barely worth the paper it is printed on. After all are the same Western governments not also guilty- do we not recall that little thing a few years ago known as the Iraq War? Of course Saddam Hussein was, by all accounts, a thoroughly nasty piece of work, and Iraq was not de jure annexed by the United States or Britain. But an invasion, on shaky pretences which turned out to be false, of a country without waiting for genuine UN approval, is not something that I thought was done in the modern world. Yet when Russia decides to take back what was pretty much rightfully its in the past anyway, with what seems to be the backing of at least some of the population, in he midst of a chaotic and questionable turn of events in Ukraine, it’s all bad.

 

On the other hand I have started dabbling with an interest in the history of the Soviet Union and Russia in general. Whether I can find anything about the Ukraine or Crimea in actual book form I don’t know. What I have managed to get is the following:

- “Life in Russia” by Michael Binyon. Binyon was at one point foreign correspondent for The Times for the then USSR, and manages to get a mixture of his own experiences, some interviews, and even references to the Soviet press itself for what is a surprising look (given the Cold War era it was written in) at the pre-Glasnost USSR. It is quite well balanced, neither railing against Communism nor without a sense of its shortcomings, and demonstrating what life was like for ordinary people.

- “On Socialist Democracy” by Roy Mevedev, who was a Soviet dissident who was interested in reforming the system from within, and apparently agreed with a lot of what Gorbachev was doing, before history overtook matters. He is still thoroughly Marxist-Leninist, and therefore I would probably not want to hold entirely to his views, but he has a lot to say about the rigid bureaucratic nature of the system and its failings, and how dissent is necessary. He also heavily criticises Stalin and attempts to rehabilitate him posthumously.

Quite a few interesting arguments about democracy reside in this book, which could well form the basis for the article I mean to write on the matter some day. The idea being that, in a totalitarian system with no real freedom to offer criticism of the system, the system cannot function adequately. Of course I question whether that has to be in a movement like revolutionary socialism, which is ideologically constrained. In order for a truly democratic society, the people should be able to choose what direction they want their society to take and to do so without bloodshed. (Alas I dream.) Of course I would hope, as a Christian, they would follow in the ways of the Lord, impossible also under an atheistic ideology that only tolerates religion on sufferance and as long as it doesn’t rock the boat. (Or in other words, not too different from what the West is becoming with creeping secularisation and unbelief, albeit yet without any real persecution.)

But I digress.

The book isn’t really history as such, but does offer an insider’s view of what was going wrong with Soviet Communism and how it could have been fixed within the system.

-“Survey of Russian History” by BH Sumner. Seems to be an overview of various aspects of Russian history. Dated now (written in the ’40s) but what I could find cheaply at the time when bought in a bookshop in York. I am sure my fellow members of counter-factual.net could recommend some better ones.

-“The Princess of Siberia” by Christine Sutherland. Bit of an odd one this and bought on a whim, it’s about a certain Princess Maria Volkonsky, wife of one of the leaders of the 1825 Decemberist Uprising who followed him all the way to exile in Siberia away from the Tsarist court. By the looks of it something of a romantic, idealist figure.

I don’t know what insight I’ll get with these books if I can ever get round to reading them all. But it is a start.

And, in all this, jobs are to be done. I wonder if I am slipping with the jobseeking habits, but I’ve managed to have some success from the mad push in December. Firstly I get no less than three interviews in one week. All unsuccessful, but with one coming from a speculative application and still managing to impress the employer and leave them willing to forward my CV to partner organisations and clients, another one willing to take me on for voluntary work/work experience, and then I get a part-time self-employed job distributing Betterware catalogues. I am seriously. seriously wondering whether I cannot simply make more of this and “sign off” the “dole” as the whole jobseeking thing and the Jobcentre is getting to me. Or, is that just me needing to wake my ideas up once more? I really don’t know what to think. I suppose I could make some money from this- possibly more than the “dole” on a good week, but it’s not a regular income and I’d have to work hard at it and really know what I was doing.

What I do know is that whatever I am doing now should ultimately be regarded as a stepping-stone to other things, and giving up applying for other jobs ought not to be something I should do.

Back to the Ukraine. I recall a rather interesting post Christopher Nutall, a fellow counter-factual.net member of note, wrote (http://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/a-lesson-from-the-ukraine/) about how the Ukraine should have kept its nuclear weapons for the day the Big Bad Bear threw out the rulebook and started giving it trouble. The idea of nuclear weapons has always been confusing for me- whilst I can see the deterrant potential, these wepaons not only have the power to destroy the world as we know it, worst case scenario, but what happens if every nation feels the need to have one? What about North Korea? And is not even the major powers and so-called “responsible” nations having it not encouraging such questionable regimes to pursue their own nuclear ambitions? Non-Proliferation Treaty or not, as I said, international law ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on half the time. Yet even the North Korean regime surely isn’t so irresponsible as to sacrifice its own self-interest by actually launching the few piddling nukes it has and essentially getting slammed hard by the Americans and the South, with probably China pulling the plug on support. So, why even bother with non-proliferation, especially since there are so many advantages to having nukes to defend yourself against a powerful and encroaching neighbour?

 

Maybe I should stop worrying about these things and start being busy with my own affairs, I guess. I waste far too much time on such matters. And other distractions.

 

Watch this space, I hope, for rants on the decline of Stockton High Street, more musings on religion, politics, current affairs, life, the universe and everything, and more anime reviews. I could at least do Wings of Honneamise, which was an interesting and quite unusual film sadly unreleased on DVD in the UK. (Like I care… I still prefer VHS*, heh, heh, heh…)

 

* I be a sad retro-obsessed fool, I be.

I would like to wish all of my readers a happy 2014, a year I hope holds considerably more promise than the tumultuous 2013 (and maybe, in my case, a job…)

Review of the old year to come, with possibly a little bit of ranting. I may just start from scratch instead of repurposing an old draft article I never finished, which I was going to use.

Well, the presents have been opened, the Midnight Mass has been gone to (at an old church I used to go to but left as wasn’t sure about it- but sometimes I bother to return…), and the relatives… haven’t arrived yet.

Still need to bag some for the others and write out the rest of the cards before they do.

And with the way things have been changing with benefits and the Jobcentre, I’ve at least had to search for a few more… it’s Christmas, beepit! But best to be on the safe side.

(Once I get any outstanding jobs applied for, I might just have a few things to say on that general matter…)

Well at least I got the June Christy CDs (currently playing in the background) and complete poems of Emily Bronte I was after. And a rather amusing “A Very Klingon Khristmas” book (yeah, one-time Trekkie here, sadly, who still watches it sometimes). [ERRATUM: I am told the Klingon book was from my sister, and the other presents listed were from my mother, when previously I had assumed they were all from my mother. This inaccuracy has been removed.]

(Who is June Christy, you may ask? By the seems of it, a now sadly neglected jazz singer. The fount of all knowledge tells all: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_christy)

Well if anyone should be reading this and wants to share their Christams experiences, feel free!

And a surprisingly quiet one, but for the odd premature firework.

Well much has happened since the Iron Lady’s death. The Boston Bombings, the woolwich murders, alleged chemical weapons in Syria… can the world get any worse? (Your mileage may vary on gay marriage, though. Or the re-introduction of Power Girl’s “boob window”.)

In other words, plenty to write about.

I’ve also managed to get most of my college work out of the way, which is one possible excuse for not updating this blog. I am supposed to be finishing CCNA stuff off- that’s the industry qualification provided by the company that makes all the networking equipment. And I’ve jobs to apply for- plenty to keep myself busy. In theory, at least.

But eventually we shall see some real meaty updates. 100% prime cuts I would like to hope. Including my thoughts on what might constitute the ideal democracy (very difficult to conceive of), the collective madness of society, and maybe some questions as to my own sanity, too.

Well, hopefully. One of these days.

Watch this space, anyway.

So Margaret Thatcher, the first female British Prime Minister, the so-called “Iron Lady”, has died today. And whilst some persons (including of course Cameron) are on TV waxing lyrical about how great she was and how much she will be missed, the people who were just waiting to use her grave as a urinal are already leaping for joy and coming out with the hate. Truly the Marmite of politicians.

Whilst it lasts, here’s a Youtube clip from the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ showing a certain song. Whilst it lasts, see how many of the comments are inspired by the passing Baroness….

Respect for the dead you’d have thought might be in order, but not a bit of it. I guess the handling of the miners’ strike, her reputation in Northern Ireland, calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist, and the Poll Tax -sorry Community Charge- all do that.

But can’t it wait a bit, at least?

2012- what a year. A crazy one, which perhaps I should go over in another post. Many big occasions (Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Olympics in London…) good and bad things (civil war in Syria, school shootings…)

But nonetheless, let’s just celebrate another year, a new start, in which hopefully bad habits might yet be broken (yes I know, believe it when we see it and all that…) Let’s just enjoy the moment, for now, as the last fireworks blast their way to a short but beautiful end.

Happy 2013, dear readers!

Well, another month has passed, the mad pre-Christmas rush, plus the day itself, is over. (The world, contrary to what crazy New Age misinterpreters of Mayan calendars might have had us believe, is not, however.) Technically it’s still Christmas, but few seem to be that bothered during the lull between Boxing Day and New Year. When the latter comes, it’ll be time to put to bed any misguided ideas about Old Year’s Resolutions and start thinking how to make some ones for the New one.

And I said I was going to make some and update you on them.

Mentally of course I wanted to do loads- spend more time with God and reading the Bible, studying harder, wasting less time on the internet, buy less useless crap- but I never formalised any. Such, as one member of my church did remind me, is perhaps tantamount to legalism, when we as Christians ought to be free and not trying to live by rules- even self-imposed ones- to the letter. Probably quite right, but the bad habits need fixing and new ones put in it’s place.

About the only one I managed to keep up to now is, “Don’t buy any more comics.”

Yes, that’s it.

Not that this is a bad thing. At £2.40 a time, not to mention the danger of possibly forming obsessions of the wrong kind where Supergirl and Power Girl are concerned, it can’t be entirely a bad thing. Not that I haven’t tried reading other sorts of stuff, and haven’t tried enjoying it for the storyline.

Magazines I have almost kept to not buying to- until the allure of the Christmas Radio Times proved too much to resist. And the latest monthly special of the Micro Mart soon followed, as it might contain useful info on possible computing bargains and new tech to come- as a would-be budding IT person it would be wrong not to at least try to keep up. Possibly with a more up-to-date means than a paper magazine, but they have their uses. There is plenty of room for the old stuff.

Whilst I am being worried by that Sushil Yadav guy on the Powerswitch forums (look him up if you dare) suggesting “Industrial society Destroys Mind and Environment”- and that the only decent thing we can do is cut all production back to food, clothing, shelter and that’s it (yeah right) or the warnings of impending food crises elsewhere, plus the dreaded Fiscal Cliff that the States might fall over and lead to further economic turmoil nationally and internationally, perhaps it could be a wake-up call. Or perhaps I should not be worried so much as all that. Yet materialism I wonder could be going too far, no less so in my case.

But, as we learned a week ago gone Friday, it’s still not the end of the world, yet. And I hope we can make 2013 a slightly worthwhile New Year. I wish you all a good one.

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