Thursday, 27 October 2011


The Telegraph newspaper reports the death on the 24th October of John McCarthy, the originator of probably the worlds coolest and arguably most influential programming language LISP. As undergraduate Physicists, we had to struggle endlessly with FORTRAN, a clunky mess of a language that I could never get to do what I wanted it to do. FORTRAN caused me hours of frustration and I loathed it. The Mathematicians were all using PASCAL and that seemed better, in a "grass is always greener on the other side" kind of way. But my Computer Science friends were using LISP and it just seemed worthwhile, sensible and logical...My fellow physicists laughed at it and mocked the endless parentheses, but scoot forward in time and see just how influential it has been...

So thank you John MaCarthy for the neatness and elegance of your work and for making programming nearly fun.


Aisle Rats:
When traveling by train, I like to use the "quiet carriage"; a marvelous invention where mobile phone and loud conversation are prohibited. Imagine my annoyance when two quiet adults decided to park themselves in the quiet carriage with a tribe of aisle rats all under the age of 7. How can you be quiet if you have with you mobile, random noise generators with no off button? Yes, you may look like the type of people who do not make use of mobile electronic devices, but the quiet carriage is quiet and cannot be so with your children racing and screeching down the aisles.

A bit like church really. We are expected to suffer distracting noise if it is child related. Does this really extend to suffering children who do not know how to behave in the environment in which they are placed? Does a rendition of the fireman sam song during the consecration really improve the liturgy?

We are not allowed to say anything though are we, we get accused of not liking children, we get accused on not seeing their innocence for what it is.

Children will imitate the reverence of adults around them with time and good example. Families really ought to have some sort of oratory or prayer space at home where they get used to reverential quiet and may help. And if it doesn't, take the little one out, please! Father has spent a fortune making sure the you can still hear and see the Mass from behind sound proof glass.


St Paul's Cathedral
I'm feeling that the whole sorry mess of the tented community encamped outside and preventing the cathedral from opening is a reflection of the weakness of the evangelical "what would Jesus do?" theology. Let us not forget that the ever so practical and down to earth Saint Francis de Sales used this phrase too, but he never used it out of the context of the commandments of loving God and neighbour.

Our tented friends may have a grievance that some will sympathise with, however, they took advantage of Christian niceness and some misguided belief that Jesus would be supporting them and tenting with them to the exclusion of the bankers and money men.

Remember folks; Christianity is about personal holiness and abhorrence of sin because of the love of God. Everything stems from our right action caused by our right motives and reliance on God. Maybe we ought to see being p***ed on by greedy capitalists as some sort of necessary mortification for our salvation.

The C of E does seem particularly prone to being hijacked by "causes" that then take advantage. Very sad, very sad indeed.


Anonymous said...

I went to the botanical gardens today with my children, to play on the swings and roundabout. It was all they way down at the quiet end of the park, tucked away behind a nice high hedge so none of the unencumbered, strolling noiselessly amongst the damp autumnal trees in their sub-Wordsworthian reverie, had to suffer the sight or sound of them.

I was so grateful.

Rita said...


Children behaving properly in proper places is always a delight and as you say, you have a lot to be thankful for.

Anonymous said...

I was being sarcastic. Our paradigm rejects children, an aspect of which is the expectation that they behave in ways they are not designed to, not capable of.

What is 'proper behaviour'? What is a 'proper place'?

Screening off the messy, the actual, the noisy, cluttered, chaotic and so on, is extremely offensive. It's why we have old-folks homes. This epicurean desire central to modernity would be only heartbreaking if it weren't actually sinister.

mum6kids said...

I really do get fed up when parents bring unchurched children to church and let them play up or play dingy dingy toys. I am trying to keep my 4 yr old quiet and concentrating, which is a challenge. Her 6 yr old sister was never this difficult at Mass.
If other parents could at least try and do the same, it would make life easier for all of us surely!