Skye Singing Holiday April 2011

We’ve recently returned from an awesome week’s holiday on the Isle of Skye, made new friends, enjoyed some singing, and marvelled at amazing Scottish scenery on Skye and on the journey. Interesting detours included the Fallso of Falloch just north of Loch Lomond, and Glen Orchy with more stunning waterfalls!

Find my photos here:

The holiday was led by Candy Verney who runs singing holidays, choirs, and workshops including Singing in the Round which I am part of.

More great photos on Candy’s blog

Genetic mutations aren’t always bad.

Reading an obituary for actress Elizabeth Taylor I see that she attracted attention even as a child actress because of her unusually thick eyelashes: she had two rows of lashes on each eyelid due to a genetic mutation. The obituary also speaks of how she was admired for her un-airbrushed authenticity, in contrast with some modern 'stars'.

Impressed by Lacock Canal

We went for a walk around Lacock today – a walk we had not done for about a year. We enjoyed the sunshine and part of the route was along the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal. This has been derelict for nearly a century and is being restored by volunteers. It was impressive to see a continuous waterway in this area where last year there had just been occasional stagnant pools in an uneven trench. When complete, the canal will again connect the River Thames at Abingdon and Cricklade with the Kennet and Avon Canal at Melksham on a route through Swindon and passing near Chippenham. Impressive!

The world is not about to starve…

Catching up on the newspapers after our holidays, I notice an article by Matt Ridley in The Times.* While many people seem to be worried about food shortages due to population growth, he contends that we've “never looked less likely to starve.”

'Population figures may be rising, but the rate of growth has been steadily decelerating, halving from 2% in the late 1960's to 1% today. World population “quadrupled in the 20th century; it will not even double in this”; and it is set to peak at a manageable 9.2 billion in 2075.' Furthermore food 'prices are 30% lower than in 1980… and crop yields are increasing dramatically.' The present world population is approximately 7 billion.

The article does not mention this, however it may be interesting to wonder about the demographic profile of ethnicity (see my previous article) and age. Population increase is not uniform across the globe. I just read an article saying that by 2100 a third of the population will be over 60, but we probably cannot imagine what the experience of being that age will be at that time!

Unless it is a different Matt Ridley, last year he wrote a book called The Rational Optimist. In a thoroughgoing way he argues that so far “the human species, through our unique ability to exchange ideas and thus innovate at the speed of thought, has overcome all the challenges that have ever confronted us, and will do so in future.”

*I can't give you a link to this, because they not charge for access to online content. This is part of an extract printed in The Week on 22nd January 2011.

Does the Internet help or hinder you in making wise decisions?

I've just read a fascinating article by Tim Weber, BBC News Editor, reporting from the 2011 World Economic Forum in Davos as he chats to business leaders in a sea of laptops and other mobile devices.

He reflects on how we are now “hyperconnected” with mobile devices now outnumbering both laptops and toothbrushes. Is all this information which is changing the way that we relate and shop, that is “the abundant distractions of the internet” a help or a hindrance? If the size of my inbox is anything to go by, I suspect it is a hindrance!

In this age where people's brands or reputations can be destroyed in seconds, advice to leaders is “treat your employees with respect and stick to your values” and make sure you find time to think and to reflect. This sounds like a good summary for success in the 21st Century information age.

Full article here: the photo brings the message home!

Piers Corbyn predicts mini ice age

Have you come across Piers Corbyn? He is reputed to be more accurate at long term weather forecasting than meteorologists, and accurately predicted the very cold weather in Europe at the end of 2010. For his forecasting he uses activity and cycles of the sun and moon, which he says dominate our weather patterns.

He claims that the famous “hockey stick” graph that “shows” that temperatures are increasing fast because of increases in carbon dioxide levels ignores temperatures in the middle ages that were higher than now. It also ignores the fact that despite rising carbon dioxide levels temperatures have been dropping over the last ten years.

There was a mini ice age a few hundred years ago when temperatures dropped by a few degrees Celsius and he predicts that the same will happen in 2035. There is some risk that this could trigger a full ice age, as we are overdue for one.

Interesting stuff! Why would (other) scientists falsify data? Take a look at Piers' Corbyn's Weatheraction website, his page on climate change which has some informative links, and an article summarising this from the Daily Telegraph of 19th December 2010.


Ananias is one of my heroes

Today, January 25th,  is the festival of the Conversion of St Paul – in the Church of England and a few others besides. I read again today of the extraordinary event of Saul losing his sight and being healed miraculously by Ananias. Maybe many people yearn to have a dramatic conversion like that which turned Saul into St Paul. I admire the quiet heroism of Ananias who heard from God that he should visit and bless the one man who had been most responsible for the murder of many of his friends. This man whom we hardly know recognised and trusted the Voice, had the courage to do what was asked of him, and the course of history was changed.

Materialism, by John O’Donohue

John says: “All materialism – be it for money, power, possession, or people – has to do with an epistemology of quantity… the mistaken belief that, through an accumulation of quantity, you can settle the task of your own identity.

I'd like to write about what I like about this, but is seems that any attempt by me to to so would merely detract from the depth and insight of this statement. I've just been catching up on my reading of the Church Times (14/1/2011) which includes a never-before-published interview with John (who died three years ago) by Martin Wroe. That is where I found this quote and some other interesting ones.

I also like John's belief in blessing: the “speech-act” of one person speaking a blessing over another person. He sees this as something anyone can do, which “might be the coolest thing of all. It has a democracy and equality about it, a sense of well-wishing that is concerned more with the destiny of someone rather than their destination.”

Priest, poet, philosopher, speaker and author: his most famous book may be Anam Cara (Gaelic for soul friend) which was published in 2007. Full interview here.

Epistemology, noun, the branch of philosophy dealing with the study of knowledge.

Earlier article on this blog about John O'Donohue.