Twitter Mission

Twitter. Facebook. Passing ‘Web 2.0’ fad, or useful tool? (expanded from an article written for Together magazine)

Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ platform: like texts from your computer, or your mobile phone; they can’t be more than 140 characters long; & can have hyper links to web pages on the internet. Twitter posts can be linked to update Facebook or LinkedIn status, & have geographical position data attached with the likes of Foursquare or BrightKite.

So, it can be a bit of fun, yes. But can it be useful? Or are these Social Media just a waste of time, and a distraction from our Christian call, and God’s mission?

Firstly, Let’s not forget the influence of Facebook, with more adherents than the population of some continents. If you’re on it, you’ll know; and if you aren’t, most of your friends and family certainly are. As are many of the people in, and what is more important here, on the fringes of our churches. These sorts of social media, that are all about making relationships – however tenuous. Relationships are what churches should be about too.

Secondly, these media are very immediate. Twitter is often how news now spreads most rapidly – as we say with Continue reading “Twitter Mission”


OK. The Prius. It’s not going to solve global warming on it’s own. But it is a step.

A while ago I was moved by a speech by Bishop David Walker of Dudley, at General Synod, on climate change and Shrink the Footprint. He said that he and his wife had made a decision to: fly as little as possible, use public transport wherever possible, and on the occasions they had to use a car, to drive at no more than 56 miles/hour to maximise the efficiency of the engine.

When last year my then 17 & 16 year-old daughters said ‘Dad, when will you get a car that is younger than us?’ of my 18 year-old VW Passat; I started thinking about what sort of vehicle I should change to – or whether to get one at all. After looking around for a bit, I settled on a white 2nd generation Toyota Prius Spirit. It has a hybrid petrol-electric drive system.

Toyota Prius Spirit
Toyota Prius Spirit

This particular one, despite huge mileage on the clock, is in very good condition, and drives brilliantly. The hybrid drive, and a display giving constant feedback of fuel consumption, can help adjust the driving style. Warmer weather makes a difference too. But the single most significant thing that helps fuel economy, is reducing the speed you drive at.

On a recent trip, I was able to settle for a steady 60mph on the cruise control, tweaking it up a bit down the hills, and down a bit up the hills. After over 300 miles, the average fuel consumption was a stonking 69.7 MPG. There is a thought between the knowledgeable Prius geeks that the display possibly slightly over-states the MPG, but only minimally.

Prius 69MPG reading
Prius 69MPG reading

The photo above shows the Prius fuel consumption display. The bar-graph shows average MPG achieved in 5 minute segments. As the car was stationary whilst taking the photo (!) the final column is showing zero, but in movement shows the current MPG in real time. The stats at the bottom show the miles travelled since last fuel tank refill; and the average total MPG over that tank-full so far.

Jeremy Clarkson may be able to take the mickey out of the Prius in a rather unfair test (I would love to have seen a reciprocal test, driving both vehicles as a Prius is designed to be driven, and compare the fuel consumption then too…), but for a car of it’s size and class, that is quite impressive.

I’m App for IT

iPhone Apps
iPhone Apps

I’m wondering if my reputation of being a bit geeky is catching up with me. I was just checking the number of iPhone Apps, or applications I have. It’s 112. That’s quite a lot, I admit – but I am sure many people have lots more. And in my defence, these have all been free ones so far.

But I suspect the bit that might imply uber-geekyness is that – I don’t even have an iPhone. Nor even an iPod Touch that most of these apps also work on. So how ‘sad’ does that make me?!

Well, not so much sad, really, as stubborn, and stingy. I am sometimes an ‘early adopter’ of new technologies as they come out, especially Apple’s; but if what is about to be released is not perhaps quite as developped as I would hope, I can wait until the next update comes around. For example, my existing 3 or 4 year-old mobile phone takes excellent photos (for it’s size and age). A 2Mpixel iPhone camera couldn’t compete. I waited.

Rumour has it that next week the Apple Developers Conference is the likely place for the next generation of iPhone to be launched. And, not just because it is likely to have a better camera, I think this time around I may go for it.

After all, I need somewhere to keep all those Apps I have been storing.


Friend is into flight simulators. I think his are computer based simulators like X-Plane, for learning the rudiments of flight, for fun.

Gatwick FlightSim
Gatwick FlightSim

We have other simulators locally, being close to Gatwick, as much training of airline pilots takes place nearby. More than just for fun.

billywells22 and friends landing with a bump at Gatwick!

It got me thinking though about other simulators, perhaps for other jobs. If they can do it for flying aircraft and car driving perhaps they can do it for other professions…

I have occasionally been involved in interviewing people for new positions, and there are times when I wish we could put people on some sort of simulator, to see what they may be like in practice on the job. Will they be any good? I suppose some places do it in some ways – I remember being sent off on Teaching Practice from Westhill College in Birmingham (sadly no more), which is that of a sort job simulation for teachers.

The idea of an apprenticeship has been revived in recent years – and not just by Sir Alan. Working alongside a more experienced colleague, to learn from them, as many trades in Britain and abroad have done, has value. It is also a pattern we see modelled in the Bible, whether it is Moses & Joshua, Elijah & Elisha, or Paul & Timothy. Thinking about it, that is also why after sending people to theological college, after ordination, new clergy work as a curate alongside a senior colleague. I suspect that, as with some other simulators, not everybody qualifying via these various apprenticeships are always great practitioners. But many are, because of it.

“Life is not a rehearsal”, as David Brudnoy would like to remind us. That is often the received wisdom, that we only have one chance at this life, so get on with it; make the best of it.

Gavin Ashenden, however, would beg to differ. On his Sunday morning radio broadcast (26 April 2009, briefly available to listen again), he mooted the idea that for those who believe in a resurrection life, this is indeed the rehearsal. A chance to make mistakes, get things right. Perhaps this is the ultimate simulation.

Public Platform

OK, so you have a chance for a national platform.

What are you going to do? What are you going to say?

Antony Gormley, of Angel of the North fame, has a new project up his sleeve. And maybe up your sleeve too.

Angel of the North - Antony Gormley
Angel of the North - Antony Gormley - photo Alastair Cutting

The Fourth Plinth, in the North-west corner of Trafalgar Square is the only one that does not have a permanent sculpture on it.

The Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, an initiative of the Greater London Authority jointly funded by the Mayor of London and Arts Council England, has commissioned Antony Gormley/One & Other to produce a new work of art, and for it, he is planning to use 2,400 individuals each allowed on to the plinth for just one hour each, between July & October 2009.

One & Other
One & Other

How do I get onto the plinth?
You will be put onto the plinth by means of a special mobile lift designed for the purpose.
What can I do when I’m on the plinth?
You are free to do whatever you like, provided it’s legal!

What will I do, if I get the chance to be on there? Well, I think something visual, as I think something audio isn’t going to work well. I might, if I get selected, pursue a long-held interest in signing, possibly trying to use some British Sign Language. Wife & No.2 daughter are already well on in evening classes, and I am rather jealous. And without being offensive to those of other religions, I would like to do something on the plinth – should I get the chance – that reflects my Christian faith.

Well with the opportunity of such a national platform, being set on such a pedestal, what would you do?

When I got my application in, they were still under the 2,400 required (see above) – but fear not, all places are going to be randomly apportioned, making allowance for gender and approximate area distribution across the country. So if you would like to join in, than apply by clicking below. Looking at the regional map, after the first 24 hours, over 5,000 had applied, and proportionately, if you were from Northern Ireland, you stood the strongest chance of gaining a place.

One & Other

Amongst previous occupants of the Fourth Plinth is the beautiful Alison Lapper, in the white marble sculpture by Marc Quinn:

Alison Lapper Pregnant sculpture by Marc Quinn - photo Kokeshi
Alison Lapper Pregnant sculpture by Marc Quinn - photo Kokeshi

Made as she was pregnant and expecting her son Parys, Alison (an artist in her own right) has brought him up on her own, even though she was born without arms. The sculpture and the person are both exquisite; a moving, breathing Venus de Milo. Alison, like so many, is able in ways that I and others are not; and dis-abled is such an inappropriate, ill-informed and presumptive descriptor.