Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Goodyear/Badyear?

Sometimes we can look back on the year that passed - as we are wont to do at this time of year - and consider that it was a good year; other times, we look back and see a bad year. Usually, however, these terms are more likely to reflect what happened in December than what took place over the year.

'Good year' and 'bad year' are such subjective, fickle terms.

I could easily look back on this year and see a fairly bad year. I found it difficult to find a place where I felt comfortable and at home (7 residences in a year and a week), I lost my best friend of 4 years, I deferred my studies because I had severe difficulty recovering from that as well as do everything else I was doing, and December has left me a little empty.

On the whole, I've got a lot of reasons to look back on this year and say 'bad'.

But, this year wasn't a total write-off, either. I've been involved in starting some pretty awesome activities (like a new mission parish, a new mission endeavour and expanding a church's cycle of services), had the luxury of taking time out from studies, got to live in West End (albeit for a short time), lived in Shanghai, figured out that I'm actually pretty good at teaching。Looking at that, the year actually starts looking pretty good.

But, looking at the past is only of value in assisting when looking towards the future.
So, what's 2009 bringing?

Well, in January and the first part of February, I'll be completing the third semester (i.e. first semester, second year) of my studies in theology. After this, from March to June I'll be completing the final semester of my studies in education. Concurrently, I'll still be chanting at a number of services, and beginning work with a new organisation promoting Orthodoxy in this part of Australia. I also intend on continuing my public speaking development, hopefully attaining my first Toastmasters' award, and in learning more about Orthodox liturgics and continuing research into genius and expertise. I am, however, intending on scaling down my adjudicating commitments.

On the whole, I'm looking forward to the year that shall be :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

So, what's happened this year?

January, I started off living in East Brisbane. I did this semester's worth of the theological course I'm doing. I also got glasses and joined Toastmasters.

I found that sharing a studio was difficult, and moved in with my best friend and her housemate in around February. Had an operation in April (around Easter, no less), then did my prac at an all-girls Catholic school. I finished the semester with pass marks and a very positive recommendation for my prac.

Sadly, my domestic relations deteriorated after May, and I felt forced to move. I moved back home in July until I found a new place. I tried to continue university in second semester, but the combination of completing the next semester of my theological course and the disintegration of those domestic relations meant that I found myself unable to complete the final semester of my university course. I deferred my studies, unsure if I would return to them.

I moved to West End, fulfilling a desire I'd had since mid-high school, in around September. I attempted to find a job, but couldn't find any. It was during this time that I recommitted myself to finishing my education degree, which I will complete in June. I made a number of plans at this time, including doing my field experience in west Africa.

At the end of October, I visited China for just over a month, visiting my brother and his girlfriend. I came back in late November and, for various reasons, decided to move back home (making a total of seven places, in the last year-and-a-week, that I have lived in for longer than a month). As my last milestone for the year, I was blessed to be asked to deliver the Christmas message at the carols night at our church.

Other things that I did include teaching high school Orthodox Religious Education for the year and adjudicating high school debating during the year.

And, here I am - about to be half way through my theological studies (another 18 months to go), halfway through my education degree (6 months), back to living at my parent's house. I've got about five months until my field experience, after which is holidays and (hopefully) some family celebrations, and then...who knows!

It's bizarre, and a first for me, but it's kinda liberating to be able to look at a year ahead and not know entirely what's going to happen next. As I'm currently saying to everyone, after September, no promises as to where I'll be...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Scene from the Vicar of Dibley

This was a scene from the Vicar of Dibley that I particularly enjoyed - particularly seeing the love that the character had (kudos, Dawn French!). It was a Christmas special (entitled Winter), and happens to be one of my favourite episodes - immediate Christmas SpiritTM. I hope you enjoy it as well.
A warning - a couple of the jokes are somewhat off-colour...maybe PG rated.


Vicar: Right. Well, thank you everyone for an excellent day’s rehearsal… after a slightly shaky start. Right. The poster. What do you think?
Owen: Well, I don’t know about that.
Vicar: What?
Owen: Well, I just don’t think it is the greatest story ever told. I mean, there’s that great story about the people whose house was burgled, and they thought that the robbers hadn’t taken anything, and then they developed their photographs months later, and they found pictures of the robbers with toothbrushes up their bottoms.
Vicar: So, what – you think I should write, ‘the second greatest story ever told’.
Hugh: Yes, there is, there is fantastic story about the woman whose husband got out of the car, and she heard this banging on the roof, and the police said ‘get out of the car, and don’t look ‘round’, but she did look ‘round, a-a-a-and it was a lunatic, actually banging her husband’s severed head on the roof of the car.
Vicar: Well, perhaps I should just write, ‘one of the top 10 greatest stories ever told’.
Owen: That’s forgetting all those great Jackie Collins stories – The Beach, The Stud…
Frank: And Beatrice Potter, of course. She wrote lovely stories.
Hugh: And News from Southeast have some excellent local stories.
Vicar: Right, right. Sorry. Can we just stop, right there. Can I just remind you all a little bit about the story we’re actually telling here. Two thousand years ago, a baby is born in a stable. The poorest of the poor. And yet during his lifetime, He says things that are so astonishing that millions of people are still living their lives by them today. He said, ‘love thy neighbour’. He told us to turn the other cheek, whatever people might do to us.
Owen: Does that include that Simon bonking you like a beachball?
Vicar: Yes, it does, Owen…sadly, it does. But most astonishingly, I believe that this tiny little baby Boy, actually was the Son of God. And when He was younger than I am today, He was brutally crucified, for simply for telling people to love each other. And the men who killed Him thought ‘that’s it, He’s dead, He’s gone’. And yet, here we are. Two thousand years later. In a village, in the middle of England, doing a play about His Birth. Now, I think that’s a pretty great story.
[muttered affirmations]
Owen: Yes, all right, it’s a good poster, leave it as it is.
Vicar: Thank you. Although I do admit, the one about the toothbrushes is pretty gripping, perhaps we’ll do that next year.
Hugh: Perhaps Frank plays the toothbrush.
Frank: Yes, please.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Internet Censorship - Australia says 'WTF, no way!'.

Those who have known me for a long time have known of my long-time hatred of internet censorship - ever since 1998, in fact, I've researched and opposed internet censorship at every turn. Not based on performance or anything like that - based purely on the principle of freedoms of speech and information.

I've mellowed since then. There are things that should be censored. I fail to see any benefit in allowing, for example, child pornography and bestiality to be shown. I don't exactly think I'm alone in my revulsion.
In short, there is a definite line that should not be crossed. We may not know where that line is, but we can tell when something has unquestionably leapt over it.

As I make no attempts to hide, I'm an Orthodox Christian, and that does govern a lot of my own thoughts and actions; I also choose to live in a liberal democratic society, the upshot of this is that I do not believe that government should legislate for all morality and believe that everyone is accountable for their own actions (and, FWIW, I would be shocked if someone could come up with evidence that Orthodox theology says anything else).

So, there is one problem - where is the line to be drawn. I would draw it where over 90% of the Australian population agrees that a thing is wrong. Gonna be hard to achieve that kind of consensus? Damn right, and that's the way it should be. Our constitution, to function, necessitates our freedom of speech (termed 'implied rights'), and that's the way it should be, and that's the kind of freedom we need to have to gain knowledge to elect good leaders - never mind take part in the world and resurrect the economy.

That doesn't take care of the second problem: how is the line to be drawn. Well, there's really no good answers. But, no computer program can do it. None. All have false negatives and false positives at unacceptable levels (even taking aside the certainty of decreased performance).
Rather: employ someone to basically add sites to a filter. A moral philosopher, a trained ethicist - someone with a good head on their shoulders for that 90% consensus - whose job it is to manually go through and add sites to the blacklist.

These are sites constructed by humans, and - if they are to be blocked - they deserve to be blocked by humans.

The third problem of censorship is, of course, performance. Australian internet performance is currently sub-par, at best. We want to slow it down further? Sorry, that's just dumb.

(more travelblogging coming soon)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

An article caught my eye - it's listed on the OrthodoxMissions group on Yahoo!. I'll be happy to link it to the original article...if it's still existing.

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PASSIVE EVANGELISM

The Church is called by our Lord to evangelize. Unfortunately, this is an area in which all of us has fallen short. Admittedly, active evangelism is difficult, and most of us are not called to be preachers or teachers. However, there is much that all of us, and all of our parishes, can do that is relatively easy, that falls in the class that I call "Passive Evangelism".

First of all, we must live our faith to the best of our abilities, and be both an example of a good Christian and of a good Orthodox Christian. We must make Orthodoxy attractive by what we are and what we do. In addition, we must acknowledge publicly that we are Orthodox - this does not mean preaching, but rather, things like explaining when asked that the Church we attend is the Orthodox Church , and (again, when asked) that we are abstaining from certain foods because we are Orthodox and the Orthodox Church has made this time a period of fasting and penitence.

Likewise, when we are asked about the Orthodox Faith and Orthodox practice, we should answer without apology. Of course this means that we must ourselves know what the Orthodox Church teaches, why the practice is the way it is, and what the meaning of the practice is. Providing a pamphlet (oriented toward the inquirer rather than the student) is also appropriate, but saying that you will get them a pamphlet that explains things better and then giving it to them later smacks less of "proseletyzing" and is less threatening than pulling one out right away. In addition, this provides a second opportunity to discuss Orthodoxy.

There is passive evangelism for the parish as well. Most of these things are obvious, but think back on how many times they are not done and how annoyed you as an Orthodox were. Then think about the impact on someone who would like to know more about Orthodoxy.

The Parish must be discoverable. This means that its existence must be public. As a minimum there should be an entry in the Yellow Pages of the telephone book. Along with this should be an answering machine that gives time and place of the Sunday and other major services and directions to the Church (but don't clutter up the message with every service and activity!). If the local ministerium publishes a directory of churches, get in it. If a local Internet provider has a Churches section get in it. Other Church Directories can be effective, such as listings in local newspapers and Motel/Airport directories - after all, when someone is waiting in an airport, he or she will read almost anything to pass the time. Likewise, prepare a sheet with a listing of services, phone numbers, and directions to the Church (8 x 11, pre-punched) and distribute to all the motels, college and hospital chaplains, etc.

Consider advertising, but make sure that what you do is effective - a small notice stuck in the middle of a whole page of larger ads for Christmas services may be unnoticeable, where a medium size ad for Pascha may stick out, especially if Latin Easter precedes Pascha. A few large ads with bold type and lots of white space are much more effective than many small ads that get lost in the clutter. And keep the message simple - you want to make the Orthodox Church known and invite others to learn more, rather than inform members about your activities. As a practical note, a two column ad is more visible than a one column ad of the same size.

Use your activities to publicize the Church. People will notice an ad or an article about a Pirogi or Baklava sale when they pass over a notice about the Church itself. A booth at a local shopping mall will provide greater exposure than the same activity in the Church hall. Although it may be more expensive at the mall, remember that each new family represents $500 or more in contributions. Ethnic festivals will also attract people, but be careful to insure that the festival does not suggest that the Church is only for Greeks, Arabs, Russians, Serbs, or Romanians.

Use snow day announcements, even if all your members know whether you will be open or closed. This is probably the one media offering that people listen carefully to, and it's free.

Make sure that the Church is identifiable from the street. Architecture can help, but a sign is essential, and the sign should at least provide the time of Sunday Liturgy and a phone number.

The Church must be findable. This can often be difficult because the Church is where it is, frequently in what had been an immigrant neighborhood or where land was affordable. If there is a choice of location, look for a street or road that is well known. A "prime" location isn't necessary, but local people must be know where the street is. In any case, prepare directions from a major convenient landmark. Don't look for the fastest or shortest way - look for the simplest, most foolproof way. Have someone who is only slightly familiar with the area check it out (a visiting cousin is good). You want people to be able to find you the first time; when they start coming back they will find the way that is most convenient for them.

Use signs. The Church should have a sign visible from the street that is large enough and bold enough that anyone looking for it can easily say "There it is!". Make sure that there are standard street signs at each appropriate intersection and that they are readable. If you can, put up directional signs at any significant turnings, especially onto secondary streets.

Once people can find the Church, make sure they know when services are (at least the Sunday Liturgy - if they come to Liturgy you can tell them then about Vespers, Bible Study, the Ladies Society, etc). This is information that should be on an obvious sign, by the street or at the main entrance.

The Church must be welcoming. The Liturgy is solemn, but it is also joyous. The congregation should act as though they were glad to be there. The greatest single inducement for others to join us is that we want to be there.

Welcome newcomers, give them a service book and a bulletin, and show them where in the service book the Liturgy is (it's sometimes hard to find, even when you know what to look for). If they appear to be non-Orthodox, tell them where in the service you now are. If your neighbors seem confused, help them find their place. If you are in Matins or Hours, tell them that a preliminary service is in process and that Liturgy will start at 10, and then tell them when Liturgy starts. Realize that even other Orthodox have different specific practices and signs of devotion and that non-Orthodox p probably have very little understanding of what we are doing and why. Let the visitor sit, and perhaps even tell them that although the Orthodox commonly stand for most of the Liturgy, they are welcome to sit whenever they want. Any visitor who is not intending to show disrespect will be respectful by his standards and try to make a reasonable accommodation to our standards.

Invite newcomers to coffee hour, and then talk with them, finding out where they are from, answering any questions, and if appropriate giving them one or two pamphlets. Don't overload them, and select pamphlets oriented to the newcomer rather than texts for the old member who wants to learn in detail. You want the newcomer to come back and learn more about Orthodoxy and your church, not convert them on the spot. You may organize teams of greeters, but have several people talk with them, and especially members who have things in common with the visitors.

Have a meaningful and attractive bulletin. Include not only the special events, but also the times of all regular services. The bulletin is probably the only reminder that the newcomer will keep that has this information. After all, you want to make it as easy as possible for the visitor to return.

Appropriate pamphlets must be available. The goal is to induce the visitor to come back and to want to learn more about Orthodoxy. An attractive small booklet that provides a short description of the parish, a brief introduction to Orthodoxy, and a short explanation of icons in Orthodoxy, together with a tour of the Church, identifying the various icons (and giving their significance), and a listing of services can be very popular. Whenever you have an open house, group visitors, etc, make sure that something like this is available

The Church must take advantage of curiosity. Encourage college Christian Clubs, Sunday Schools, college classes in Religion or History, and other churches to visit. When they come, make sure that each person has an attractive reminder to take home - an Icon card with the schedule of services on the reverse, the tour booklet, etc.

The Church must have attractive programs. This is a sign of an active parish, and whether we like it or not, people are attracted by programs. Examples are a good church school (an hour on Sunday, not a full elementary school), a youth group, adult Bible study, etc. As appropriate, establish special interest groups such as a Widows/Widowers group or a single parent group.

The Church must reach out to the local community. Major programs like a homeless shelter may well be beyond the capability of a small parish, but any parish can do a used clothing drive, toys for the orphanage, hospital/nursing home/hospice visiting, etc., and can cooperate with other organizations on major activities.

The Church must reach out beyond the local community. As a minimum, it must support the usual appeals - the Seminaries fund, the Diocesan and national Charities funds, the Earthquake Relief funds, etc. Beyond this, any parish, regardless of how small, can adopt an orphan or help support a mission priest (especially a native in Africa or Asia). Likewise, cooperate with the other Orthodox parishes in the region, supporting their activities and requesting them to support yours.

These things are not substitutes for active evangelism, but they are all steps to making it as easy as possible for an Orthodox person to become associated with an Orthodox Church when moving or traveling, and as easy as possible for a receptive non-Orthodox to become Orthodox. This is the minimum we are bound to do.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Confucian Temple? Try maps and earphones. (5:21pm illustrated)


I went on my first lone trek around Shanghai today.

It's an intimidating city. No surprises there.

I wanted to go to a Confucian temple. I knew it was nearby, because I saw it on a map. But, that was out of date (a lot has changed since 2006), and we needed a new one, so my first mission was to find a tourist map. I've found several – all in Chinese. Not exactly much help when part of the reason you need a tourist map is because you don't speak Chinese.

Silver lining, though – I think I learnt the Chinese word for map. Or, at least, the word that all the vendors seem to understand – ma̅-pù (apologies if that doesn't turn out right – accent marks are an important part of transcribing Chinese into Pinyin).
(turns out, not the Chinese word for map. Maybe next time.)

Also had another adventure, of sorts. I went into a computer market. Pushiest. Salespeople. Ever.
I remembered that I was really looking for some noise-cancelling earphones. So, I decided to purpose myself – and came across some earphones. Figuring that there had to be noise-cancellers around somewhere, I came across some in a short order.

They had no idea what I wanted. Turns out, talking slower and clearer in a language that they only functionally understand doesn't help much. Shock.
Until, that is, I pulled some earphones out of my pocket. Then they stopped thinking that I needed another laptop (or something) and we got to talking. They pulled out a pair of Sony earphones and told me that it would be 380 yuan.
For the Australians out there, that's about A$90. Unsurprisingly, I looked at them like they'd just kicked the cat.

It was an instinctive reaction. See, I hadn't realised, but I was actually in a bargaining-accepted place. I had been told previously, however, that in a bargaining situation, the first price is just an opening offer. Once I said 'no, no way' and they said 'well, how much do you want it for then?', I realised my position and changed my tack. Slightly.
I offered 200 yuan (A$50). They mocked it and talked about 330 yuan. I stuck to my guns, and said 'that's okay, I'll just go somewhere else'.

There are a number of countries that do bargaining. I've been in Mexico and seen it done by my father (who took to it like a proverbial duck to water), and now I'm in China. Turns out, neither country wants you to take your business elsewhere, and both are quite happy to provide substantial discounts when your counter-offer is 'no deal'.

His last price was 300. He became my friend all of a sudden, and offered $280. I took two steps away. Suddenly, my new best friend offered $230. No dice. 200 it was.

Last price my butt.

Then I walked back down the street to the cool cafe I went to on my first night here. Nice place, called Unicolor (full endorsements). I ordered an ice chocolate (which, btw, is awesome, as per usual) and settled down to blog my day and read my textbook.

Confucian temples will have to wait.

(As I left, I saw the best No Smoking sign ever. Ever.)

Another day in the PRC

The Toastmasters meeting was cool - a company based club. I evaluated a speech. Very impressed with the memorised speech - particularly considering that it was her first one in Toastmasters.

After that, went and visited my brother at work, which was cool, and ate at - I kid you not - Cold Stone Icecreamery. Far cooler, though - they'd, like, throw the ball of icecream in the air and catch it with the cup, that kinda thing. So much better than what I'm used to :D

Got set up with someone on a language exchange (someone my brother works with) - basically, I teach someone English, and in return, they teach me Mandarin. Or, more correctly at the moment, I teach them all the rules and pronounciations of English, they teach me how to read Pinyin (looks like English, but a few important differences, like 'zh' becomes 'j'). Working out really well, I think :D

On the way to the language exchange that evening, I passed a sign which I found amusing - in the centre of the image above, it has "THUMB Keeping In Good Health Health Care Spa". I can see how easy the mistake was, but it's still a little jarring :)
That said, I'd rather almost-English than no English at all, like Australia has for all its tourists...

Today, I'm planning on seeing a Confucian temple that's nearby, and maybe pick up a tourist map (the one from 2006 is, sadly, quite out of date...)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Photos!

For those of you that don't otherwise know - I've updated my last three posts with 2-3 photos (each) - check 'em out!

Breakfast, subway, interviews, traditional-modern contrast

Yesterday, had breakfast with brother, brother's girl and friend of brother's. To get there, we went by subway. Good experience. Subways here are very different to trains in Australia that I've experienced: they're stable and, often, they're crowded. The former has been attributed to less turns (they're basically straight lines), while the latter, well hey, it's a densely populated city and driving isn't a standard means of commuting.

Having WiFi basically freely available in cafe's is trippy, too. Awesome, but trippy.

After that, a trip around that area - on the other side of the city centre (People's Square) - where we went through an old neighbourhood. Got some good photos of the contrast between the old neighbourhood and the new skyscrapers, too. Still surreal to be the focus of everyone's faded-out sentences :)

Had an interview that afternoon. Didn't work out because they were looking for someone who would stay a minimum of a year, which I obviously wasn't planning on doing. But that's okay, I've already another interview lined up. May need moving to another city - Suzhou - which is about 45mins west (60kms - awesome that the trains actually work well!), but that's cool - it's a very different city to Shanghai, and I think it'll be an awesome experience to be around that kind of ancient, traditional culture (which, sadly, has probably been largely knocked down to make way for modernity) - even if I have to fit it around work (which will probably work out for the best anyway). The plan is, I should be able to get back in time for church on Sunday morning at the Russian embassy - here's hoping, anyway!

For today, another Toastmasters meeting. Looking forward to it already :D

(and yes, photos are coming - I want to upload it from a decent-sized computer...)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happening Place is Shanghai

So, things just keep happening :D

Yesterday felt soo full...I was sent off from home with little more than a page of scribbled instructions on where I lived (in Chinese), the promise of a rendesvous in 3-4 hours and directions on how to get to the waterfront and a 10storey set of shops. And I thought the Myer Centre was big.

Well, I did want to go shopping.

So I ambled down the street. Took a metric truckload of pics, including a few things that I thought that people just wouldn't fully comprehend (or even believe) if I just told them. Things like the movement of traffic rules to traffic guidelines - such as, beeping just means 'please don't dawdle', intersections are massive and can be a separate bit of road and is less governed by 'my car should go here' and more governed by 'my car should not occupy the same space as another car'.
Eventually, I got to the end of the main street. Construction got in my way, so I made a panic phone call and found out that I was lost exactly where I had to be. So I went to the waterfront, and spent a leisurely hour or so walking up and down what was essentially the equivalent to the walkway at Southbank. Y'know, with a greyer skyline and river.
I remembered what it was like to be a minor, short-term celebrity...there were what seemed to be several classes of primary school (or creche) students, and a whole slew of them were gawking at the tall foreigner who strode past...kinda funny to get no reaction from a wave :)

Then I returned to the shopping centre nearby. That 10 storey shopping centre. And I thought the four-storey Myer was big. I strolled through, checking out the clothes stores, and tried a particularly nice pair of trousers on.
I was underwhelmed when I didn't fit the XXL size.
Who the superlative has to get tailor-made casual trousers?!

Had a wonderful hot chocolate...as it turns out, I happened to stumble across a high-quality coffee place. And, wonderfully for me (disappointingly for Australia's standards as a technological nation), every coffee place has WiFi capabilities. Fan-tastic.

Went home, chilled for a little while, then went for a walk and saw some more of the sights. My back seriously hurts from wearing Trenchie. Had some beautiful Mandarin Fish, learnt that Chinese restaurants have table-wide meals, then went to the top of the Shanghai World Financial Centre. Incredible views that put the 'zing' in amazing.

It's kinda weird to be in a situation where I understand absolutely nothing of what's being said in the world around me. I've experienced that - and, bluntly, the whole 'foreigner' experience - before when I started going to the Greek services at church, but I've actually understood a bit of it in the past year or so, enough to at least track the conversation and laugh at the same time (although, I'm sure, due to very different things - I was probably laughing at my machine-like translation!), which makes going back to that kinda...weird. At least here, it makes sense.

Went home and went to sleep very quickly.

Today was a bit of an easier day - stayed home, did some research work, got an interview (ESL teacher - *fingers crossed for tomorrow*), experienced more cuisine...it's a sweet life, if I may borrow the phrase myself :)

The computer I'm currently using, while having a full-size keyboard, has some deficiencies, like reading SD cards...so I'm going to have to upload some photos separately. They are coming, though. They're coming.

Monday, October 27, 2008

First Day in Shanghai


Wow, I'm in China now. Even the concept is kinda cool :)

I'm in Shanghai, and the city is very cool, I've gotta say. I'm staying with my brother, who is living on the 24th floor of one of the buildings. The view is so good it's surreal - there are construction sites that take up what we Australians would consider entire blocks...and these are just small parts of the block.

Traffic is crazy. What we in Australia would consider laws and, therefore, unbreakable and unquestionable tenets of driving and staying alive are more, well, advisory. Road rage is non-existant, even beeping horns aren't terribly common (although, as I write this, the outside decides to prove me wrong...), which is extraordinary considering how everyone drives. Lanes are the closest thing to a rule, and indicators seem to be used more for decoration. Oh, and seatbelts are an optional extra.
Yet, as crazy as all that sounds (and multiplied by the fact that Shanghai has just short of the population of Australia into, like, half the size of the Sydney), there's not that many accidents. Drivers from China seem to have a built-in sense of caution where the possibilities of danger are anticipated and avoided...hence, no accidents. It's as if the driving school instructors all said 'look, you want to get from a to b. Here's a system, work around it to get from a to b without stopping to exchange insurance details'.

Haven't seen too much of the city as yet, looking forward to seeing some - and to shopping, since I packed lightly with that in mind.

Was able to get to a cafe last night - like the Central Perk in Friends, except far less, well, yuppie-y. And the food! The food is so cheap - and good! I spent 28 yuan (about A$7) and got this great meal of Singaporean noodles - so cool!

The only downside so far is that I can't charge my new Eee PC yet - in a brilliant stroke of foreplanning, I forgot an adapter. Most things can plug in to plugs here - for some reason, Australian plugs are okay - but only if they have the third prong (the earth one)...so, I'm classing that under 'oops'.

Totally looking forward to the rest of my time here :D and yes, photos will be coming soon!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A month of bloglessness

Well, it's been a month. A lot of things have changed...

I didn't end up getting work in an office. Rather, I'm a lowly-paid research assistant, studying the formation of children into geniuses and experts, as well as how experts do their job, well, expertly. It's really cool - cool enough that I don't mind the rather lowly pay.

I'm still going overseas in ~25 days, which is still awesome - I'll be able to continue my work over there, and be able to stay with my brother. The plan is to stay for a month, but I may take the opportunity to stay for six weeks or so and come back in time for Christmas.

I've also been spending a fair bit of time updating my other blog, so I haven't had a complete hiatus.

I've been very relaxed generally, actually. Not much to do...it's a good break. I've been taking the chance to get into quantum physics a little, actually - plenty of respect for the theoretical physicists out there!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lightbulb for Brisbane Private Schools

I'm not sure if I've posted this before, but I'm going to post it again...because I find them so funny! (and with disturbing amounts of truth...)

The 'How many does it take to change a lightbulb', for Brisbane schools!

I've found two of these, so I'll post them both...just a warning, it's all just words, but the content is somewhat NSFW.

*******

Brisbane Girls Grammar - One. She holds the bulb and the world revolves around her.

St. Laurence's - Two. One to change the bulb and one to figure out how to get high off the old one.

Gregory Terrace - None. They're all too drunk to notice and even when their sober if they spot a hole they just put dencor rub in it.

All Hallows - One. She'll put through a call to maintenance staff because there's no way she's going to do manual labour.

Kenmore High - None. That hole looks better in the dark.

Lourdes Hill - Six. One to change it but only after the other five have found an interpreter to translate the English instructions.

Indooroopilly High - Seventy six. One to change the globe. Fifty to protest the globe's right not to change and twenty five to stage a counter protest.

Brisbane Boys Grammar - None. Those poor bastards are keeping their backs to the wall even if it means standing in the dark. "If you can't get a girl, get a Grammar boy".

Somerville House - Five. One to change it, two to make sure her hair ribbons are still in place and another two to make sure her bag looks cool at all times.

Ipswich Boys Grammar -Six. Four to break into the store, one to steal the globe and one to install it.

Brigidine - None. It is too unsafe for pregnant girls to attempt such a dangerous task.

Brisbane State High - where?

TSS - 10. One to change the bulb. One to call his dealer and eight to talk about how gnarly things got at Kirra during the last cyclone.

Nudgee College -Five. One to install it, and four to tally the number of times he says F*** or talks about rugby while he's doing it. Their wives and children shall all watch the process.

Ipswich Girls Grammar - None. Everything not welded down had been flogged long ago.

Marist Bros, Rosalie - None. Everyone is either suspended or wagging (including the teachers).

Marist Bros, Ashgrove - Three. One to put in a formal complaint about the imposition, one to change the bulb and one to make the observation that it isn't half as bright as the light shining from their arses.

BBC - Two. One to insert the bulb the other to jump start it via mummy's Volvo.

Churchie - None. In the company of canines one needs less imagination in the dark.

TGS - None. Electricity has yet to make it west of the great divide.

*******

Springwood:
None: cos even tho the prinicpal trys 2 say how gud the skool is he cant actually string his sentences together, while trying to explain that we will have to lock the classrooms now and everyone must sign in and out a key when they go to class because someone has vandalised the new light bulb, a massive group of islanders playing there guitars try to steal the new lightbulb, but cant fit it in their bag because of the sterios blasting their gangsta music are taking up all the room

Churchie:
Three - one to call the electrician and one to call daddy to pay the bill. I think we know what the third guy is doing.

CHAC:
Only one, but they get 6 demerit points for breaking it in the first place.

Moreton Bay College:
One - she holds the bulb and the world revolves around her.

Lourdes Hill:
Eleven - one to screw it and ten to support its sexual orientation.

Balmoral:
Three - one to change it and two to try and figure out if you can get high off the old one.

St. Laurie's:
Ten - one to change it, one back up if the first guy's too drunk and the other eight to pray that it works.

Cooparoo SHS:
Eight - one to change the light bulb and 7 to figure out whether to knife it to death or sell it on the cooparoo shs drug market

St Margaret's:
the whole school; 2 to spread a rumour about the light bulb being a slut, 3 to say how they wish they could be as thin as the bulb, 3 more to call those 3 fat then go throw-up, 1 to buy the light bulb with daddy's credit card and 1 to invite Churchie so the rest can find a rich Husband. hopefully the principal will actually show up to do the honour but there is always the vice.

Kelvin Grove (Queensland Dance School of Excellence):
Five - one to change the bulb and four to do an interpretative dance about it.

Carmel College:
Seven - one to change the light bulb and six to throw a party because he didn't screw it in upside down this time.

Wynnum North:
None they don't have light bulbs...they are too fucked up...people smash them and try to kill them selves with them but if you told someone there was a broken light bulb they would probably try to fix it even though there isn't one there because they are so stoned to get light bulbs for the school!

Sommerville:
None - with fluoro green uniforms, its better in the dark.

BBC:
Seven - one to change it and the other 6 to stand around playing soggy sao's while he does it.

Iona:
Five - one to change it, 3 to stare at his arse while he does it and 2 to burn a hedge down, just for the hell of it.

Girls Grammar:
Five - one to change the bulb, one to make sure her nails don't break, one to curl her hair, one to make sure her outfit matches the light and one to make sure her shoes match as well.

Nudgee:
None - they don't have any money left after all the imports.

Toowoomba Grammar:
none - they don't have electricity yet.

All Hallows:
Four - one to change it and the other three to bitch about what a shit job she did.

Terrace:
Two - one to screw it in, and the other to gel his hair while he does it.

Villanova:
Two - one to fix it and one to look in a dictionary to discover what the heck a "light bulb" is anyway.

Ipswich Grammar:
None - they can't find a shop selling light bulbs within a 200 km radius of Ipswich.

St. Eddies:
just one guy to make the light bulb fall in love with him... but it doesn't matter cause he'll just go screw some other light bulb anyway...

Boys Grammar:
Twenty One - one to change the bulb and 20 to hang out at the Queen Street Mall...

Brisbane State High:
Ten - one to change it, one to break the old one and stab the guy fixing the light cause he looked at him 'funny' and a crew of eight to fight them both for no particular reason.

Wynnum State High:
Thirty One - one chic to actually change it, fifteen guys to look up her skirt, ten guys to see if they have enough money to pay her for a one night stand and five to smoke pot while they are skipping class.

MSM College:
None - they call the Marist guys and get them to do it for them.

Marist Ashgrove:
None - they return the call and get the MSM girls to return the favour.

Ferny Grove:
None, their tree friends help them out.

Stuartholme:
5, one to screw the bulb, 2 to hold her up there and the other two to hold the chair that the first two are on.

Mitchelton State High:
none - why waste money on light bulbs when they can waste it on their cricket fields??

Our Lady's College:
none, they all seem to have older boyfriends who do everything for them

Loretto College:
First you gotta find the blasted place (hint: Year 10 Marist Dancing Lessons... remind most of you?

Loretto College: 10, 3 to change the light bulb, two to sit on their arses watching and 5 to sit around wishing their boyfriends where there to help.

Redlands College:
1 to ask Mr patterson if they can... wait while he asks god if its ok ... oops none coz mr patterson (and god) would say no coz it promotes sex.

St. Mary's:
i dunno... but i'm sure they'll make it into an act at their musical next year.. at least it would be more interesting then this year...

Malanda High:
the entire school population coz its the most exciting thing that's happened there since the freakin school opened!

Forest Lake College:
none, they're too busy pretending they don't live near Inala

Clayfield College:
doesn't matter, those girls will screw anything

Macgregor High:
3 to change the light bulb, 2 to act as interpretators so they can understand each others' languages, 2 to work out why a scottish school has no people from Scotland in it and an extra 3 girls trying to find new ways to make their skirts shorter.

Queensland University of Technology (QUT):
1 to design a nuclear-powered light bulb that never needs changing, one to figure out how to power the rest of Brisbane using that nuked light bulb, 1 to change the light bulb, 1 to crack under the pressure, 10 to share the experience, 5 to write a report on the importance of light bulbs in today’s modern society, 50 to protest the light bulb's right to not change, 25 to hold a counter-protest, 1 to write the computer program that controls the wall switch, the whole creative industries faculty that to commemorate the event with an interpretative song and dance routine, 20 that turned up for the extra 6 credit points, 1 to hand out the coffee and guarana refreshments, 5 that stumbled over from the bar to see if there is going to be a party, and 1 to say loudly how a QUT student can change a light bulb just as well as any Griffith student ............ (it’s a whole campus affair)

Rosewood High:
if they're anything like Jacqui, they'll just be standing around ringing BRISSIE people asking 'What does that mean? Lightbulb what?'

Sunnybank High:
Well once they find out Macgregor has 'changed' a lightbulb, they'll have to get the whole school to change all of theirs, before bashing up the Macgregor 'changers' in the pathway up to Garden City.

STMC:
10... 5 guys to try and work out how they actually screw in a lightbulb, their gurlfriends standing behind bitching about how girls at Clairvaux/Sunnybank/Macgregor/Browns Plains are such sluts, and a few others just standing around trying to convince people that their school REALLY is a private school ('see it says college!')

Park Ridge High:
The whole 'How to change a Lightbulb' class... its right after there 'Teenage Pregnancy' class and right before 'How not to look stoned at School' class...

Browns Plains High:
None... they're all over at the 'Grand' Plaza hanging around the bus station

St. James:
5...One chick to change it and 2 other chicks to give their boyfriends blow jobs on a park bench.

Holland Park High:
all of them...the schools the biggest shit heaP that no one could care less but they would all go and hide and smoke pot.

Whites Hill College:
none...They are too busy wondering why the hell they'd change the name of the school to make it sound remotely sophisticated when clearly it's not!

Wellington Point SHS:
10, 3 to steal the old bulb and use it as a bong, 2 to miss it all together because they’re skipping class, 4 to bitch about the light bulb because they think it is ‘up itself’ while seeing how high they can pull up their socks and 1 to show the private schools that light bulb changing is a sport, and that’s why Wello is great at it.

Ormiston College:
10, four year 12 boys who have been asked by their year 9 girlfriends to help, four offering to do it “because its all about school spirit” (they are competing for prefect) and two spoilt little rich girls to bitch about the slutty light bulb and how it would break for anyone.

QASM:
just 1....but he does it with his mind

Clairvaux Mackillop College:
It probably wouldn't ever be changed. Knowing Clairvaux. It takes a whole freaking year to clean out a blocked and overflowing sink in the toilets.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back to Better

Well, I'm no longer that sick. I've got a persistant cough, and my voice doesn't feel like what it used to be, but aside from that, I'm entirely back to normal.

I'm taking a fairly lengthy look at That '70s Show - I'm trying to get through the entire series of 200 (over 8 seasons) before I start working.

Which (cue neat segue) will hopefully be fairly soon. I'm registered with two temping agencies, which should ensure some work. I've also clocked in at 87 words per minute (net), which is awesome, since the last time I was employed in data entry, I was at 72 words per minute. I'm confident.

The sickness did take it out of me, though. Out of willpower (rather than good sense), I went to church on Saturday night - stayed through the service (mostly seated) and went home right on the dismissal, sleeping in for Sunday morning. Like I said, very sick. The last Saturday (being of fairly decent health), I went to church, and went to a mercy meal (the anniversary of a person's repose) afterwards. Then on Sunday, went to church again.

This week, an interview and a skills test (aforementioned), and this weekend a birthday celebration. House blessing planned for next week.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Still sick

Being sick has multiple downsides - currently, that means a perpetually runny nose, a rather vicious cough, a temperature and sporadic headaches, the combination of which meaning that there's not a lot that I can concentrate on. On the positive side, I suppose, it means that I have very little to blog.

Went to church last night. Didn't serve, didn't stand (no energy), stayed very incognito (as much as I can, anyway) and left right on the final 'amen'. I suppose it came more under an 'act of defiance' thing...

Aside from that, I've just been watching movies (Who Framed Roger Rabbit - a classic that I had totally missed - and it explained Toontown at Disneyland!) and TV shows (That '70s Show, How I Met Your Mother and Scrubs, in that order)...haven't even the energy to plug in my Wii, let alone play it...

Hopefully, we'll be well enough to reschedule the houseblessing to sometime this week...fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

so much so that i forgot a header

I'm sure I'm not saying anything new, but...
...being sick sucks.

It all started yesterday. Well, it probably started on Sunday night, but I started to know about it yesterday. I'd gotten an appointment for temporary positions (i.e. you're employed by a company and they send you to various places that particularly need office workers for a short period of time), which was nice, and I had a dry throat all that morning. My flatmate, on the other hand, was just short of asking for Unction.

Which, sadly, just gave me an idea of what I had to look forward to. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

So I went to the interview, did a good job (I think) and then came home...when the sickness set in. Temperature, massive headache, lack of ease in using joints and, for continuity, a dry throat. That was rather unfortunate, since I still had to do the Word, Excel, Typing and Alphanumeric tests. So, in a temporary let-up, I took a Berocca and plowed through the tests. I'm pretty sure I did okay - one wrong in the MS Word test, a few more in the Excel test, and my typing was as fast as I could go.

But, with the illness still with me, I went to the final lecture on the Ecumenical Councils - this week, going into the 'universally recognised as whole-Church binding but not as Ecumenical' Councils: the Eighth Ecumenical to repair the "Photian" Schism (basically, it affirmed St Photios as rightful patriarch - negating previous Papal claims to the contrary - and refused any changes to the Nicene Creed - an explicit rejection of the Filioque); and, the Ninth Ecumenical to affirm hesychasm against scholasticism/rationalism. We also touched on the Sigillion of 1583 (Old/New Calendars).

Sadly, I was quite unable to enjoy it, or to derive much from it - though in my apartment, I'm at an acceptable level of sickness, when I was in the Church, I did not have the same level of comfort. At one point, I had to go to the back and lie down, where I felt much better.

Today, I don't feel too badly, on the scale of how-bad-one-should-feel-while-sick. I'm hoping that my standard hasty recovery time will serve well - the apartment is getting blessed tomorrow, and I'm hoping that we'll be okay for that.

update 8:21pm - had to cancel the house blessing. even if i might have been able (optimistic), my flatmate certainly isn't.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ecclesiastical New Year!

Well!
Some big and great news came in today - I got my theology essays back, and not only did I pass both (Old Testament a 'B'-equivalent, Church History 2 a 'A'-equivalent), but the comment at the top of my Church History response was that I have the potential to be a Church historian. Very, very happy indeed!

I've pretty well settled into my new place, all going well thus far. I'm definitely straight back into the uni lifestyle of getting cheap, cheap stuff - the lack of uni studies, at present, regardless :)

Overall, I'm pretty happy.

Last night was the Vespers for the Environment, which basically became the Greek Orthodox contribution to the ecumenical group here (Queensland Churches Together). The Orthodox priests served, and other leaders read most of the readings. I suspect, however, that a lot of the readers were used to things basically changing from week to week...the readings were so slow! I was almost drifting off in one particularly slow rendition. If we did that, our services (already long) would basically double in length. But, OTOH, most people in attendance hadn't heard an Orthodox vespers before, so it was probably not the worst thing...just horrible for us who are used to brisk reading, particularly for the unchangable parts (which are the same every Vespers!)

Well, that's my big news...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Moving day.

Today, I moved into my very central new place of residence. Very happy, albeit somewhat tired and exhausted.

Have been quite preoccupied by my hopes and dreams, how to make them happen and (more importantly) what length of hope/dream they are (lifelong or short term, that kinda thing).

Life is much more relaxed. I'm enjoying this time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Change of Life

So, I've gone on a leave of absence from uni - I've decided to take this semester off entirely.

In a couple of months, I'm intending to take a trip to visit my brother in China, and stay there for a month; then come back for a month, hopefully make another trip for a couple of months. That should take me through to first semester next year, when hopefully, I'll be fully refreshed and able to tackle the wonders of educational theory and practice.

But, to lifeblog this month...
  • All theological essays were submitted on time, much to my relief.
  • I managed to make it to most of the Supplicatory Canon services this Dormition fast. Gave me a good reason to get out of the house - today, actually, has been the first day in quite some time when I had neither reason to get out of the house nor thing to do for the day!
  • Was asked to adjudicate three debates in the state debating finals series this year - two for year 9s, one for year 8s. Was very impressed with one of the debates, was appalled by one and indifferent with the third. Not all debates are top-notch affairs in the first round of finals - you have to weed out the ones that come from lesser regions (which, not to sound snobbish, usually includes those furthest away from the capital).
  • Have been treated to a lecture series on the Ecumenical Councils these last weeks, from the First through the Sixth (as of last night). I already knew the basics around the councils, of course, as well as a number of the key players, but particularly as we got past around 400 I found my knowledge of the background of the councils being somewhat deficient, so I have found significant portions of the lectures to be quite beneficial. I must say, though, that these do seem to be quite advanced lectures - bordering on tertiary standard - so I'm curious as to how many other people are finding the lectures.
  • Met the other landlords for the place that I'm moving into; quite nice people.
  • Delivered my second speech for Toastmasters. The third will be done on the Wednesday coming up.
  • The Archbishop came up on a Sunday. We had discussions about various things, particularly about the future. I've also put an idea to him - keeping posted when it occurs.
  • Trying to get my passport stuff all in hand.
Well, that's about everything for this month. So far, at least - there's still a week to go, after all!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Part Time Everything

Well, turns out my last post was even being optimistic.

I've decided, instead, that I'm going to drop down to one subject this semester - which means that I'll be studying one subject in education, three half-subjects in applied theology (they're called full subjects, but they're really not) and, on top of that, doing admin work - data entry or something along those lines - to pay the bills. Added to that I'm moving in twelve days time and it's all going to be very stressy!

My rationale is that if I go on a leave of absence (i.e. drop all the subjects), I'll be very much inclined to say 'well screw this for a bad joke' and drop the degree completely come November - this way, I can keep my essay-writing skills up and polished.

I think that if uni started, say, last week I'd have been okay and able to finish my assignments in time. It didn't, obviously, hence why I'm in damage control. On the positive side, I got in just on the last day to withdraw from subjects without financial penalty (and well before the last day without academic penalty).

As it is, however, I have four subjects to go - one this semester, one in summer semester, and two in first semester - one for a subject, the other for prac (which I'll need either leave or resignation to go on, but I should have enough money to do that by then).

I've an appointment with the give-money-to-people-before-they-find-a-job people next week, which should be thrilling. I really don't think I need it, though - I think that my willingness to accept pretty well any level of pay should set me in good stead.

I realise I haven't life-blogged about anything else in ages. Will set that right next post, I think.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

And then there were three...

I think that I've found a solution to my previous post's problems.

I was looking through the subjects I was doing and found that one in particular was going to be very difficult for my next deadline. Coincidentally, the one that I'm having the most trouble in. But, I fear that this is also the subject that will qualify me as an English teacher - sadly, it had to be dropped.

But what I wasn't anticipating was that it's possible to do a subject in summer semester. Now, I've done summer semester before - not saying that it's a piece of cake, but it definitely gives you something to do over the holidays. Plus, it's a subject about classroom behaviour management - something that I happen to be acceptably good at, but would always be interested in knowing more.

So, I'm feeling a lot more relaxed about doing three subjects this semester. Three, I think I can cope with easier. It does change my statscheck, though...

Deadline August 22 - 2100w, 70% (of 200%), 14 days; 150w/day, or 5%/day.
Deadline September 26 - 5900w, 130%, 35 days; 168w/day, or 3.7%/day.

So yes, I'm doing much better, thanks for asking :)
I'm still not sure if education is a good career choice, however - nothing's changed on that front.

Gives a new definition to 'down the drain'...

Here's a tricky one - what do you do if you're in the middle of a degree - or, rather, pretty close to the end of a degree - and you realise that you don't actually want to do what the degree trains you to do?

That...is a terrifying realisation. It totally destroys all motivation, robs of the joy...

I should have realised a long time ago that when I said 'I'm just trying to do something to finance what I really want to do', I was going a rather circular route to do it badly.

It's long been a guiding principle (to me, at least) that the purpose of university study is to prepare you for life in the workplace (sans the 9-5 bit) - for example, law students have 100% exams, and philosophy students have plenty of essays. Doing Education and Theology simultaneously is too much, and I think that that's going to continue, regardless of how much I went into it believing that it was complementary. It may be complementary, but it's too much, and it'll continue to be too much.

Will I complete the degree, though? I think so. But I don't think I'll be a teacher.
That said, I may well be wrong, and this may simply be a coping mechanism caused by trying to do too much - it's happened once before, after all. At this point, however, it seems that this is where I am at.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

57 days

On a more lifeblogging bent...it's not often that I go off about topics - greatly enjoy them, though!

Almost finished my theology essays - just have to expand one paragraph, write a concluding summary and a conclusion.
The fact that I'm almost done is both good and bad - as much as I can complain (and, don't worry, I have done), I do like studying theology - I just don't like having to write about it without having first studied it properly. Education, not so much, and the end of my theology essays (for now) means that I have to get stuck into doing stuff for education - the thing that will actually pay money.

I've done a Statscheck up for it - rather elementary at the moment, but since I haven't started anything...
Keeping in mind that I'm doing four subjects - one of them is prac, which means that the other three have to be condensed into, like, 10 weeks (and all before Midsem - thanks, Uni!).
I have two due dates for six pieces of assessment. The first is in 21 days time, on 22 Aug, with a total of 120% (out of 300%) due, with the need to write 4100w. That means that, each day, I need to do 5.7% of an assignment - that is, 195 words every day.
After that, I can breathe a rather small sigh of relief, because the next due date is 35 days later, on 26 Sep, with a total of 180% due, comprising 7900w; meaning that, each day, I need to do 5.1% of an assignment - that is, 226w every day. More words for less percentage, bad deal, but do keep in mind that a lot of those words are basically repetition - lesson plans, for instance, will always have some things just ripped out of the syllabus wholesale.

200 words per day is actually rather standard, particularly knowing previous semesters. The concern is that usually my first two weeks are spent doing nothing. Instead of going from lazy to stressed (or, if you will, from good to bad), I'm going from stressed to moreso (or, from bad to worse).

On another note, I got a shipment of books yesterday and today: Hannah Arendt's The Life of the Mind - which, based on the wikipedia article, looks absolutely fascinating - along with three Orthodox books - Fr Seraphim (Rose)'s biography (which is about two inches thick), the latest Bible study book by Fr Lawrence Farley and the Divine Liturgy study by, again, Fr Lawrence. Greatly looking forward to reading all of these, somewhat saddened that the next time will be in September, when I'll probably have to be studying for what I'm going to be teaching...eek!

57 days...

It's not arrogant to simply be correct

Something that occured to me today...

Orthodox are sometimes castigated over what is seen as sheer arrogance - particularly the audacity to claim that we are the Church that Jesus founded and that we have the lone claim to the fullness of the Faith.

And, I can kinda see where that viewpoint comes from - when you come from a viewpoint that has the truth being like shards in a broken mirror, and when you put it all together you get the whole truth, it's very confronting (or, at least, counter-intuitive) to have someone say 'actually, we've got the whole mirror, unbroken'. I can kinda understand why someone would say 'you think you've got a mirror, nuh, no way.'

But real practise, we don't find Orthodox beating their chest or waving pom-poms saying 'we've got it ri-ight' or anything like that. Surely, though, one leads to the other, so why isn't this the case?

The problem here is that:
IF when you believe that you have the fullness of the Faith, and
IF you know that it's not like you made it (i.e. we believe that we got it passed on, unchanged, from Christ),
THEN any kind of decent self-reflection is going to mean that you don't consider yourself worthy of this; which means that you're going to go 'this is awesome' and love it, but it's not like you can be that triumphalistic about it.

Orthodoxy is fantastic and I love being part of it, but it's not something I can laud over people. It is something, though, that I can, with full confidence, say 'this is the Truth' - not because of me, or anything that I've done, but because this is God's religion.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Responsibility

Oh, and while I can still get in a post and have it count as July:

I'm so sick of hearing girls say 'all guys are the same'.

It runs into a bigger problem, of course - not taking responsibility for one's own actions.

I keep wanting to say 'it's not that all guys are the same, it's that all the guys that you are attracting are the same, and if you want something different, you have to change what you're doing'.

There. And, off my chest.

And, for what it's worth, exactly as annoying when a guy says 'all girls are the same'. They're not, you're doing something wrong, see above and switch the terms.

Monday, July 28, 2008

60 Days until a Holiday

Well, it's all looking official regarding the move - looks slated to happen in the last weekend of August. Very excited - I've wanted to live in that inner-city-ghetto-turned-yuppieland since around the turn of the millenium, so it's fulfilling a long-time dream of mine :)

One more essay is done. Just have a book review to go...four pages and my theology essays are done. Of course, then it's straight back into education essays, so I'm never quite free until, like, mid-September, for a week (which is after all the due-dates but before prac).
I'm particularly worried about that. Quite literally, I haven't had a real holiday since February - the midsemester break isn't a holiday anyway (and that's when I had my surgery), and the combination of problems with my last place of residence, moving and doing theology essays has wiped out a solid six weeks of holiday. I'm really worried that I won't have the right perspective and that I won't be in a clear headspace, nor one able to focus on unit outlines and such things. I'm hoping that I can hold out for the next 60 days, until the end of September.

One other exciting thing - I may be nominated to represent my Toastmaster's club at District level. We'll need to do some things quickly to fit into the rules, but it's looking good so far.
And one disappointing thing - a friend of mine was slated to be ordained soon, but as it happens, well, it's not going to happen. I was greatly looking forward to the event, but I'm taking as my lesson that we can never count chickens before hatching - we can say that something is certain when it has already happened, but until then, things are not entirely in our own hands.

I'm feeling somewhat confident about my Education course this semester. And by confident, I mean 'not a nervous wreck'...hopefully, I stay that way (with reason) through the semester! Today's English curriculum subject gave me some hope that I'd be okay - good lecturer.
I also taught R.E. today, which I enjoyed. We talked about the Liturgy - a very fun activity for me, and since I didn't get that many interruptions (not sure if that's my teaching ability or the topic), I have to assume that I had some success, which is a little encouraging.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Four down, Two to go, Ten days to do it in

Well, I finished that essay. Finally. Two more to go, though - a minimum of 9, 1.5 spaced pages (i.e. six real pages) to write. Let's hope I get it done...

I was listening to a podcast done by re/CALL - it's a podcast done for teens, but I like to listen to it because I figure that they must be doing something right, and it's very easy to listen to. The most recent podcast (listen) is about a very effective means of Orthodox evangelism - to be precise, lifestyle evangelism, or sharing one's faith through who one is. It only works if Christ is genuinely a part of our life...which is good, because if He's not, one shouldn't be evangelising anyway, IMHO.

This time, I decided to take some dot-point notes, which I'm going to share. If you want explanations of these dot-points, listen to the podcast itself and there should be a fuller explanation.


The goal of evangelism is to introduce other people to Orthodoxy, and then to involve them in an Orthodox community, and it is fundamental that Orthodoxy is presented (as it is in actuality) as a living faith, one that creates, forms and shapes lives in Orthodox Christians that others want to be a part of.

Part of our deal is to let our 'light shine in the world' and to be salt and light. Salt has three relevant features - it makes people thirsty (i.e. we should live such that people are thirsty for the Living Water - Christ), it gives things flavour (i.e. that we have communities that support) and that it is a preservative (i.e. against decaying social relationships). Light is in reference to the joy and power of Christ within us.

Christians generally have pretty bad PR - hypocritical and stupid. To show something different, we have to be something different - to have integrity and courage to lead people to glorify God. We can do this in a number of ways, particularly in helping one's neighbour - whether in institutions like soup kitchens or in helping someone who can't help themselves.

Part of lifestyle evangelism is that we need to reach beyond ourselves and those who think like us - it's very easy to stay in Orthodox enclaves, but this, well, isn't Orthodox. Our practise of Orthodoxy should be apparent - visitors to houses can see the icons on the walls, and if they are interested, they will ask, giving us an opportunity to speak about their role in our lives; getting people food can provoke questions about not eating a meaty/dairy food because of fasting, giving us an opportunity to speak about prayer and fasting; people talking about their favourite TV shows can lead to the response that one doesn't watch them because they're in church at vespers (or Liturgy in the evening, in some places), which can provoke questions with responses about the beauty of the church.

In short, be properly Orthodox and don't hide or be ashamed of your Orthodoxy, and you're halfway there.

Friday, July 18, 2008

OT, History, maybe-move.

I'm currently doing an essay on the history of Israel. Or, more specifically, I'm currently doing an essay on Israel between the division between Judah (two tribes, successors to David) and Israel (ten tribes, not successors) and the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians, which is about a third of the way through 3 Kings (or 1 Kings, for those with the Protestant Bibles) to about two thirds of the way through 4 Kings (or 2 Kings, again, for those with the Protestant Bibles).

Not exactly thrilling stuff, I've gotta say. I'm not entirely sure how practical it is, too. It seems that the editors of the OSB agree - having some very sparse notes on the topic - and I'm just not sure how often a person is going to ask 'hey, I was thinking one day and wanted to know why Hoshea had a conspiracy against Pekah'. Because I've gotta say, after writing this essay, I'd probably say '...are you serious??'.

Maybe it's not my cup of tea. Fascinating as history is, of course...well, actually, no. I know, I'm studying to be a history teacher and all, but my interest is in modern history...and really, in events, watershed moments. Talk about the apartheid and I'm interested - talk about all the details in the 70 years (or whatever) between apartheid's institution and it's demise and I'm...well, yawning.

*sigh*. The things we do...

In other news, it looks like I'm moving out from my parents' house, sharing an apartment in the inner-city. I've gotta say, I'm really happy with how things are turning out - it may take a short while for God to step in after a succession of bad, but wait a week, maybe a month, and good things can, quite seriously, just start happening. It looks like I'll be making the move in mid-September...which will make it five places that I've lived in since the start of December. After over 20 years in one place, I think I'm making up for lost time :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Week and a List of Metrakos Articles

Sunday night, went to the Youth Committee meeting. Not a lot happened, just administration and stuff like that.

Monday, went to a meeting for Religious Education teachers at the school I do R.E. at. The most interesting discussion was when it was brought out that Buddhism and Christianity see a different emphasis in what they're trying to portray to students - Christianity, Christ; Buddhism, basically ethics and conduct. A shock, I know.

Tuesday, went to a careers fair for future teachers. Lots of demand from the UK, which got me thinking about spending six months or so over there. Bit of demand from South Australia, too. Also finished off my third essay...three to go!

Today, I'm going to start working on my fourth essay. It's basically a history of Israel from Jeroboam (the one after Solomon, when Israel is divided) to the fall of Samaria - for those with Orthodox Bibles, that's in 3 and 4 Kings; those with Protestant Bibles, that's 1 and 2 Kings.
(and people ask 'what's the difference'...!)

But, in a bid to procrastinate from that...I've found a few good essays by Fr Aris Metrakos that, well, I found very insightful.
He talks about conceptions of a parish - whether a cruise ship (where everyone is tanned, free of responsibilities) or a battleship (where everyone has a job to do at the best of their abilities), and suggested that most parishes need to get serious about what they're doing instead of being "bloated and afloat".
He talks about his views on what a third millenium Triumph of Orthodoxy would be like - there would be pan-jurisdictional unity on the focus of the Gospel (and, hence, Church life) being on making new Christians and helping the needy, with a knowledge that those who are Orthodox but don't come to Church are, for all intents and purposes, outside the Church (and, hence, the parish); and about priests - that services are the beginning and the end, but in between, there's a lot of pastoral work that needs doing, and also that the laity need to stop whinging about their priests unless there's a serious problem (like, they're immoral or seriously and decisively not doing their job).
He talks about parish composition, and how ethnicity has given way for cultural diversity and religious fervour, but the part I found most insightful (to me) was his view on missions - we shouldn't be starting up missions in the same area, it's just silly.
He talks about mixed marriages (i.e. an Orthodox and a heterodox Christian), and how people can whinge all they like about an Orthodox who marries a non-Orthodox and stops coming to church, but the real problem is usually that said Orthodox was probably not that settled in their Orthodoxy anyway.
He talks about who the lost sheep really are - that they're not the ones who are Orthodox but make the decision to reject church, they're the ones that don't know about the church but that we're not reaching because we spend too much time on the ones that reject church.
He talks about a definable American Orthodoxy - which is pertinant, because that'll probably be Australia in about 20 years.
He makes an argument for a long-term pastorate - as compared to the wisdom of some time back that a pastor should stay for 7 years before moving on to pastures greener.
He talks a lot on what it takes to be in the priesthood, a very good article indeed. He also writes about the odd questions that priests are sometimes asked and good ways to engender good council meetings.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bringing a whole new meaning to Yes, Minister

Well, it turns out that some things have been happening...stay with me on this one, because the tenses might get confusing.

The parish that I am normally present at on Sundays is a rather small parish, one that I go quite some distance to get to (the second city away, actually). As you may imagine, a pain both to wake up on time and to get there at the right time.

That aside. I'd previously - around the December-January time - said that there was very little utility in my being there, and I was a long way away from the closest church to me (which, btw, is the standard church that one should attend). However, I was all-but ordered to continue to attend this church and to help out where I could, which I diligently and faithfully did. To do so, various people were asked to give me a lift from the train to the parish. Due to a shortage of available people, I asked someone myself.

The one in clerical authority has just returned from a trip to Alaska, among other places, and it seems that this trip has meant that he has come back ice-cold towards, well, anyone who has directly spoken to the one in episcopal authority.
Said one in clerical authority today delivered what was essentially a pre-sermon, summarising Fr Michael Oleksa's letter and being quite sure to emphasise Bp Nikolai's dictatorial style of leadership (which I am utterly certain will have repercussions) on the pretext of keeping the faithful aware of abuses in other parts of the world (despite this having happened three months ago in another continent and under another jurisdiction).
This, btw, is arguably an abuse of the pulpit, but I digress.

Surrounding this, said priest essentially asked me not to be at that parish under these conditions, as there was no utility in my presence and I could just as easily be at the parish in my city.
Both true. But why now?

At some level, I'm somewhat aggreived by how this whole thing has been done. At the same time, I'm relieved that this has finally happened. But it is a sad indictment of the place, and I shouldn't need to refer to certain Eastern European proverbs about fish...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

For Blog's Sake

There's very little further to blog, really.

I've finished another essay - two down, four to go - and am a good way through another essay (note-taking done, just the writing itself to go), which means that I have to do three in the space of as many weeks. Not my most difficult challenge, really.

Presented a speech at my Toastmasters group - my first one. It was about how debating looks similar, but is actually rather different, from public speaking - debating, whether done poorly or well, is about analysis and attack, but a rounded public speaker can entertain, motivate, console, inspire or introduce - quite different again. Ironically, my evaluation was that I sounded like a debater in delivering that speech...

I suppose, though, no news is basically good news.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Breakdowns, moved

Turns out, I've got a few things that I can be annoyed about. Some personal relationships have gone quite sour without any warning, which makes me feel resentful and somewhat self-conscious - not doing me any favours at all. But, some others have just started to open up. I'm not sure, but I think that I've been given what I need to persevere, but I fail to see how this is a good environment...

It is going, in some way, towards illustrating to myself my frustration with those who are ignorant and arrogant. Don't know how I'm going to get around that.

I've settled into my new place. Haven't done much else except, well, settle in. I've got a bunch of essays that really need doing, though - and I'm certainly well behind the page-per-day schedule I'd set up for myself (I'm supposed to be on page 14, when I'm more on about page 6; and I have to do a total of 30 by the end of this month). Hopefully, I can focus more now. Hopefully.

Not much else has been happening.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Moved.

Well, it's official. I've moved.

I'm still kinda annoyed. It's not like I moved because I was deliriously happy, and the way it's been fixed has left a rather sour taste in my mouth...not because of what happened (although I was less than impressed with that), but because it's possibly a pattern. I'm not a big fan of conflict, and my general response ranges between angelism (i.e. acting aloof, or otherwise being above it) and retreat. As far as living in this world goes, that's a definite bad thing - and now I need to figure out if I need to change it, and if so, how. It's not something I'm looking forward to.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Stolen Goat

A few things have come up in the last couple of days, but even in the environment of this - a blog where only those who have connected me with it actually know who runs it - I don't feel comfortable divulging all the things that have really - what's that quaint expression - gotten my goat.

I'm currently studying a course that is, at most, an avocation - I don't feel called to be a high school teacher. Yes, I'm fairly good at it, and enjoy it, but I know what I'm supposed to be in life. So, I've got what could be loosely termed as my occupational problems; there's my domestic situation (of which the less spoken of, the better); and it appears that I'm about to become embroiled in a rather explosive political situation with a major protagonist being someone that I thought I could trust. While most of those were wearing on me - a person not known for a surplus of either patience or tact - the last was the straw that, well, unleashed the avalanche on the proverbial camel.

There was a question that I asked myself a while back about someone - what am I supposed to do without [them]. Sure, it's a quote from an episode of one of my favourite TV shows (That '70s Show), but it seemed very pertinent to me.
I watched that same TV episode tonight, thought about that person, and realised...I'm going to be just fine. Maybe because the hole has been gradually filled by other people, maybe because that person's true colours have unmistakably shone through, I don't know - and doubtless it's a bit of a combination, probably with a few other factors that I've forgotten - but I don't need that particular person in my life anymore.

These have been, to me, really big issues. They've occupied a lot of my thoughts for quite some time (and I do a lot of thinking as part of, well, who I am), because they've been about issues of who I am and, in a mutually-effecting role, who I'm going to be - what I'm supposed to be doing, who are the people who can support me, where am I going. I've always kinda figured that the first two will basically lead to the third, but external circumstances have forced my hand - if I want to go in a particular direction (which may actually be the best way to live out the whole 'who I am' bit), I'm going to have to run with that and, at the risk of using inaccurate language, to defend that and put a bit of my self on the line.

In other news...
There was an ordination on the weekend, which was totally awesome - hierarchical Divine Liturgy with an ordination is always rockin'. I was one of the chanters for matins, which was awesome, and was in the altar for the rest, which was similarly awesome - especially the ordination itself, which is just awe-inspiring.

Today I went to church in the morning, which was cool, then went and played mahjong, which was also cool. I like mahjong.

I've done about, oh, one essay out of the six I'm supposed to have done - and one of the smaller ones, too. Really going to have to get past the issues and just finish these papers...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not Many Holidays

It's only been ten days...
In that time, I've been posting the sermons that I've been presenting on my Facebook account, along with some of the theological essays that I've completed thus far, so I haven't entirely neglected the blogosphere.

I mentioned last post that I was largely sans activity, well...not anymore! I checked my inbox and found the next batch of "exams" (really, essays), so I've got six essays to write in six weeks - half of them 4-5 pages, the other half 5-8 pages, which worked out to being about 9000w in total. This wouldn't be intimidating - at university, this might be the amount expected for two first year subjects in a non-theological area - but I haven't even looked at the textbooks all year. Unfortunately, to read the textbooks is actually the point of the course, but just like in my philosophy degree, I kinda skipped that.

Sunday was the last Sunday that I've been asked to deliver a sermon, which is...well, what it is. The Sunday upcoming, the bishop comes up and ordains a deacon to the priesthood, which I'm (obviously) looking forward to.
The Sunday just past was the beginning of what I'm going to call the 'forty hour fever'. It began as a headache (and I had to do a sermon through it - not cool!) and increased so that I was, literally, needing a wet facecloth to get to sleep...then I somehow cottoned on that I was sugar-deficient, and on Tuesday I just had it where if I moved my head too fast it would hurt, and Wednesday, all over. Strangely, it still hurts if my eyes move too much too fast...which I don't understand, but hey.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Some cool links...

Humour related to the Orthodox Church: http://turtlemom3.wordpress.com/2008/05/29/eastern-orthodox-humor/

Kapsalis, on the missionary character of every Orthodox Christian: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles8/Kapsalis-Fishing-with-Jesus.php

Tingley, on the unscientific nature of modern athism: http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=21-05-020-f

GraphJam. Trust me, it's awesome: http://graphjam.com

Orthodox Monk, translating the service to make someone into a Rassophore (a midpoint between Novice and Monk): http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2007/05/service-for-beginner-putting-on-rason.html

Orthodox Monk, translating the service to make someone into a Schemamonk: http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2007/05/rubrics-and-service-of-great-and.html
And continuing with some commentary: http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2005/10/comments-on-vows-of-tonsure-to-great.html; http://orthodoxmonk.blogspot.com/2005/11/discussion-of-asceticism-and-vows-of.html

I adjudicated two debates last night, which was nice, and as far as I know, that's the end of my debating season. I'm kinda glad, because it means that my Wednesday nights are back so I can go back to Toastmasters - writing debating speeches is good, but I'm more hoping for diversity - there's a lot of ways of writing and presenting a speech, but I've only got a couple of styles at the moment, so TM should help with that.

It's kinda an odd thing that I can look at my diary and have nothing to do until...y'know, Saturday.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

P's make degrees, 4s open doors...

So. I submitted my assignments. Turns out, I got most of my other assignments back, too - basically, I'm sitting on all fours (no pun intended - for those unfamiliar to university scoring, that means I'm getting somewhere between 50-65% overall for all of my non-prac subjects). I'm okay with that. Not thrilled, mind you, but okay.

Saturday, celebrated my father's birthday (last week was the family celebration; this week was the friends-plus-family celebration). Fair bit of friction between two people (myself included) and one particular person, basically based along the lines that (if I was going to be charitable) she was used to running the show and wasn't about to stop that just because she, ahem, wasn't actually running the show. Bit the metaphoric tongue quite a few times. The irony was that half of the conversation was centred around the explicit theme of disproving her lack of intelligence. It sounds horrible, but she was actually the person who brought that topic up. I'm not quite sure exactly how much of a contradiction-in-terms the entire ordeal was, but I was glad to have an excuse to amuse myself in other areas.

After that, I caught up with a friend who was going overseas. Y'know, eventually - her flight was the next day, and some things needed to be done. Unfortunately, time got away and we ended up talking basically through the time for church. Considering her departure and my going to church the next morning (and, hey, that it was stimulating conversation), well worth it.

Speaking of which, went to church the next morning, had breakfast and coffee afterwards. It's probably the shared experience of the people there (all been/being involved in some form of ministry), but I'm really enjoying the discussions and the interplay.

Monday was busy, went to church in the morning, had breakfast with a couple of people, then did R.E. I was wondering how my first week back would be, and thought that I'd just have some fun with it. Bad move, cardinal sin of teaching is to walk in jovial and then get serious, because it never works without some kind of transition. Especially when, in this case, there were about 45 students there. Afterwards went to lunch, then went home.

Today, I did...almost nothing. If I didn't need to go to the shops and get some milk (among other things), I probably would have stayed in tracksuit pants for the day. Tomorrow will be largely the same, except for debating in the evening; Thursday the same again (without debating), and Friday will also be sans activity.
Sometimes it's good to have nothing to do, but where I am, it's actually sucking quite a bit.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

End of Semester! *Relief*

As of about 4:30 this morning (or so), I finished all the assessment due for this semester. YAY!
I just need to proofread the two pieces and submit them today, then I am done. Oh, I don't normally proofread. But this assignment was hard - probably the hardest assignment I've done to date - and I did parts of it over a number of weeks (about five actual sessions of writing); but, that's kinda to be expected, because it was an assignment that had some primary research in it (mine were surveys). Because of the uniqueness of the area, I'm considering submitting it to a journal of some kind (after some more polish, of course).

Trust me, I'm very happy that - marks going well - I'm half finished my course.

Other things that have happened...

On Friday, as you may have guessed, I finished my practicum and got a 'Very Good' (basically, on a scale of A to D, I got a B), which I'm very happy with. Considering where they expect us to be at this point regardless of how much education we've done, very happy indeed. And I know my supervising teachers well enough to know that they're not just playing nice, either. As I've said previously, I was lucky enough to get people that basically gelled with my personality type, and that means no unworthy praise - which, of course, means more.

Saturday was my father's birthday, so I spent the day over at my parent's with them and my brother, who has come back from Shanghai. Sunday was church in the morning, where I preached a sermon (on the Gospel of the First Ecumenical Council, appropriately enough), and afterwards went to the youth bbq that was being held at another parish.

The birthday of the Queen went largely unnoticed on Monday (uni student, remember) except for changes in bus timetables. I went out to coffee with one of my housemates, which was cool, and bought a pair each of athletic shoes and sandles, which was necessary. Nothing flash - I think I got the cheapest pairs in Payless Shoes, which should say something - but I'm quite happy with the purchases.

Tuesday was a day when I false-started on the assignment, only to watch TV shows; then, on Wednesday, did largely the same thing. Now, I had two assignments - the research one and a reflection - to go, which was only about 1500 words, but I had no idea on the latter assignment and a lot of things to research in the former. So, I did the logical thing and decided that I would be better able to do the assignments if I was doing them in the wee hours of the morning.
Sound plan, right?
So at about 4pm, I realised that I had my Toastmasters meeting at 6 and wouldn't get home until 9, and then I discovered that State of Origin football (i.e. the biggest three-match series of the year) was on that night. Finding myself entirely unable to do my preparatory snooze has, well, made me doubt my work, hence where proofreading comes in. On the positive side, I'd had that bottle of V in my fridge for too long. On the negative side, I still have half the Red Bull. And as someone who has tasted Red Bull, trust me, it's a negative.

So today, I plan to submit my assignments, pick up the marks that I've already received, and then go home. I'm not sure what I'm doing with my day, but you can be quite certain that I'll not be spending it doing anything terribly radical like, say, moving.