Tuesday, 23 June 2009


At long last I've been tagged on one of those tag things that do the rounds of blogs every now and then. Usually these pass me by, almost like no one cares what I think. But, high-5 to Jools for including me in the list of people of whom he wants lists of five books that have changed how you read Scripture, and how you think theologically.

So. Hmm. Let me think. I assume we're not allowed to say the Bible, like in those nights on a CU weekend where someone says 'What one person, living or dead, would you like to have lunch with?' and everyone says 'Jesus', because it sounds spiritual, even though they're really thinking 'David Beckham' or 'Zippy'.

Anyway. Here goes*:

Five books which have changed how I read Scripture:
1. The Contemporary Christian, by John Stott. Before I read this, I didn't really read the Bible as such, just sort of scanned it for interesting bits.
2. The Teenage Survival Kit by Pete Gilbert. Before I read this, I didn't even scan the Bible for interesting bits.
3. Can We Believe Genesis Today? by Ernest Lucas. OK, so it's only about Genesis. But it made me read Genesis differently, which made me read other bits of the Bible differently as well.
4. Streams Of Living Water by Richard Foster. It has bits about lots of different people and traditions, which gave a different perspective on the Bible and helped me to have a bigger view of it.
5. Excellence In Leadership by John White (I think). Looks at Nehemiah and applies the book to leadership issues today - one of those books that made me see how relevant the Bible still is.

Five books that have changed how I think theologically:
1. The Last Battle by CS Lewis, or really anything by CS Lewis. I like how that Calormene bloke (?) gets let in.
2. From Fear To Freedom by Rose Marie Miller. An excellent book about what it means to be a child of God.
3. Prayer by Philip Yancey (and, as a subcategory, What's So Amazing About Grace, also by Philip Yancey). By the end of page 1, I was excited about praying again.
4. Seasons Of The Heart by Janette Oke. Made me realise that not all Christian literature is good.
5. The Cross Of Christ by John Stott. The first book I read that made theology accessible.

So, now I tag:

* The usual caveats apply: these lists are not exhaustive, have not been extensively thought through and opinions expressed by the author of this blog are not necessarily her own.

Monday, 22 June 2009

The Six Ways Of Atheism

Now this is good. Atheists have at long last found the answer to "Answers In Genesis" (that group of out-on-the-edge crazy people that makes all vaguely religious people hide under the table at mention of their name). In the form of a chap called Geoffrey Berg (no relation to Ice, heh heh heh), who has come up with "Six Improved Arguments For Atheism" - "New Logical Disproofs Of The Existence Of God".

Now, at first glance, this all looks like a Hitchkins-type production: 'God does not exist', 'I went to Cambridge' etc., and one might indeed be impressed by the thought of not one, but SIX simple arguments which have been unknown to philosophers everywhere for millenia and yet have revealed themselves to Mr (Dr? Prof?) Berg all in one fell swoop. But then you read them, and realise they're crap. So crap, in fact, that I'm going to assume that atheists everywhere are hiding under the table with their fingers in their ears every time the man's name is mentioned, and not blame them in any way at all.

Before we look at the arguments, it is important to note that Mr Berg has published the book himself, and sent copies to libraries. As he points out on his website, one of the libraries even wrote back and said thank you, which (as we shall deduce from the quality of arguments 1-6) almost constitutes a 7th argument.

We turn now to the 6 arguments which prove that God does not exist.

1. The Aggregate of Qualities Argument
In order to be God, you'd have to be really, really good at everything, right? Like, you'd have to be good at being good, and at making worlds and zebras and stuff, and good at football, and spellings, and good at knowing everything. What are the chances of that? How many people do you know who are good at everything? There are arty people, and there are science people, and there are sporty people and chatty people. But you don't really get anyone who's really, really good at absolutely everything. Like how many spelling bee winners go on to Olyympic Gold? So God can't exist.

2. The Man And God Comprehension Gulf Argument
We're dead small and God would have to be really big, like infinite. So if God existed, Geoffrey just, like, wouldn't get it, like, at all, so God doesn't exist.

3. The 'God Has No Explanatory Value' Argument
There are all these dead big questions, and the answer to all of them should be 'God'. Like, how the feck did this man ever get a degree from Cambridge? Since the answer to these questions is not God (and we know it isn't, because Geoffrey said it isn't), God doesn't need to exist, so it's probably best to assume He doesn't. A similar case can be made for George W Bush.

4. The 'This Is Not The Best Possible World' Argument
I actually heard him talking about this one with William Crawley on Sunday, and laughed out loud. The argument is thus: if God made the world really really good (which He had to, if He was God), then how come we made it better by inventing lip balm and Big Brother and Sky+ and that? Also, people in the future might invent even better things, so it's not fair because we won't have those things. So God can't exist.

5. The Universal Uncertainty Argument
This one was also discussed with William Crawley, and was presumably only half-concocted when Mr Berg was distracted by something bright and shiny at the other side of the room. Unfortunately he'd already committed to six arguments, so it had to stay in anyway. It is summarised as 'God can't exist because if He did He would have to know He was God, but since He can't know He is God, He can't exist'.

6. The 'Some Of God's Defining Qualities Cannot Exist' Argument
If God existed, my life would have purpose and meaning. However, on reading this book I have lost the will to live. Therefore God cannot exist.


Happy Birthday To Us

As some of you will be aware, last week was WhyNotSmile's birthday, and I tell you this: I partied like it was 1999. Specifically, that part of 1999 during which I had a bad flu. I had a lazy day on the sofa, read some books, and ate chocolate. If I throw in a visit from Dozavtra, I've pretty much done the day justice.

WhyNotSmile's birthday is quickly followed by Mama Smile's birthday and Fathers' Day (unless WhyNotSmile's birthday is on Fathers' Day, which happens from time to time), and this happy collision of events inevitably warrants a Smile Family Barbecue (Sister Smile has her birthday a little earlier in the month, and gets a sort of honorary mention).

This is Father Smile cooking the barbecue:The large quantity of smoke is coming from raindrops falling on the barbecue; please note that the grill itself is not your ordinary every day sort of barbecue, but a 'Grillmore', as designed and made by Uncle Smile.

Here are Mama Smile and Sister Smile sheltering from the rain:

I have to say, I thought the addition of a table cloth to the plastic garden table was a little unneccessary, what with the rain and all. But who am I to argue?

So we sat around the table, drinking rapidly diluting Shloer, trying to eat the cheese before it went all weird and mushy, the way cheese does if you add water, and agreeing that it was the most fun we'd had in ages. Rain and wind always remind us of that other Smile Family favourite, camping trips, and I was thinking I must tell you about some of those some time (Sister Smile is trying to convince her boyfriend that they should go camping; so far he seems wise unwilling; I am not fully convinced that Sister Smile would still think it was such a good idea once she got there).

Anyway, then my aunt came and laughed at us for barbecuing in the rain, and we all went inside.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

On Things You'd Rather Not Have Known

When you have a web page of any description, you are naturally curious as to who's visiting it, and why. One tool which helps with this is Google Analytics, and it is this which graces the pages of WhyNotSmile. Now, the advantage of Google Analytics, and other similar things, is that you can go and have a look, at any time, and find out how many people have viewed your site, where they live (like, roughly, i.e. which country, not their street and the colour of their front door or anything), and our topic for today, how they found you.

How they found you is split into various sections, including referring sites (the sites which have links to yours) and 'keywords', which are 'what they typed into Google and which led them to you'.

Referring sites are sometimes interesting, because you find links from all sorts of random things (at one point our church site was being linked to from a porn site), but keywords are even more fascinating.

The top one is usually the name of your site, and then the next couple are variations thereof: for instance, my top 3 keywords (well, phrases) are (1) "why not smile", (2) "why not smile blog" and (3) "whynotsmile". So far so good. Further down the list are things like "why not msile" and so on.

Number (4), however, is, rather unexpectedly, "Important anniversaries in 2009". I have no idea why, but it is true that if you type this phrase into Google (without quotes), WhyNotSmile is your top result. Furthermore, there are at least 6 further variations on this theme as you go down the list, and no less than a dozen people have been led to these pages in such a way.

The statistics also show that by far the most popular search terms (when you lump the variations together) leading to WhyNotSmile lately have been variations on The Apprentice, including "Lorraine fancies Ben The Apprentice", "Yasmina + Debra holding hands" and "Yasmina Debra relationship". Did I miss something? If I did, I'm not honestly sure I regret it.

However, my absolute favourite is at number (5) on the list: no less than 3 people have found WhyNotSmile by powering up Google and entering the immortal phrase "gay sex omeath".

I kid you not.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Things That Really Feck Me Off: #1, Hiccups

To the outside world, I am a placid and tranquil person, who does not get unduly upset over those minor irritants that drive the more manic to drink and drugs.

But this is all a front. Inside, I am a seething mass of anger, ready to explode at the merest provocation and eat the offending parties if they don't move fast. I just hide it well.

Anyway, I thought I would introduce you to some of the things which could potentially provoke such a reaction, just so you know.

Number one on my list: hiccups. Hiccups in general, but more specifically, people who laugh at me when I have hiccups. Some time ago, we charted 'discomfort' vs 'sympathy' for a range of afflictions; had hiccups been added to this chart, they would have been moderate-high on discomfort, and negative for sympathy, because, and I have no idea why this should be, hiccups make people laugh at you.

The first problem with hiccups is that they are really quite sore. You forget this, when you don't have them. They hurt, albeit only a little bit, but repeatedly, and seemingly without end. It's not even the kind of pain that is included in such pithy witicisms as 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger', because hiccups are of no discernable benefit whatsoever. Where pain in the knee, for instance, alerts you to the problem in your knee, hiccups are a sign of nothing except that your body has given up and turned against you.

The second problem is that this makes people laugh at you. Hiccups are funny, as long as they are inhabiting someone else. They also happen over and over and over, so people laugh over and over and over. But you can never sound properly angry when you have hiccups: any threat issued while hiccuping just makes the whole thing even funnier for spectators.

Thirdly, and finally, hiccups strike without warning. It's like that norovirus thing, where the first you know about it is when last night's dinner lands on your lap. Hiccups are no respecter of situations, and can strike in the most solemn of business meetings, funerals or solicitor interviews.

And this is why I hate hiccups.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Apprentice and Facebook

So Yasmina won, and they had to make chocolates, which was ok but not hilarious, and everyone else came back to help so there was a brief 'thing' about whether Kate would choose Philip for her team.

But onto a discussion I have been having with MilesToGoBeforeISleep, which is to do with people who add you as friends on Facebook. Such people fit into several categories:

1. People you know. Every now and then, you get a friend request from someone you had never realised wasn't your friend already. In fact, you are fairly certain they were definitely your Facebook friend at some point in the past. This is slightly disturbing, because it makes you wonder whether they fell out with you and removed you from their list, and have now re-added you, having made it up, all without you knowing.

2. Blasts from the past. The person you were good friends with until 3 years ago, when they started going out with someone and didn't contact you any more. Inevitably means they're about to get married and need you to make up numbers at the wedding. Or they've split up and need you back.

3. Relatives. Your mother, for example, who has heard people in work talking about Facebook and wants to know what it is. Sort of gets the hang of it, but types everything into the status box instead of on people's walls, so you get an obscure and slightly worrying insight into her conversations. Not 'worrying' as in, 'I didn't realise my parents still did THAT', but 'worrying' as in 'Betty, can we change it to 3.15 instead of 2.45 tomorrow, I have an appointment to watch paint dry?'.

4. Work people. By which I mean the ones in work you don't like (as opposed to actual friends from work, who you'll have added months ago so you can have conversations in work without anyone noticing). Generally best not to accept.

5. Blasts from the non-existent past. People from school that you never spoke to. Often with a new surname, which you are supposed to guess. They will never send an accompanying note explaining who they are, they will just send a friend request and expect you to work it out. Heck, why would they send a note? It's not like you've ever communicated before.

6. Nutters. People who add you, with no explanation whatsoever, who you are certain you've never heard of, who live in a different country, who cannot be related.

7. Fishers. People who add you as a friend, with a short note saying 'I saw u were in the Dragonslayers Group to!!!!! That's really cool!!!!!! mind if I add u as a friend??!! Were r u from?'. Or people of the opposite gender, who say 'I see you are a friend of Mark. I'm friends with him too. I thought I'd say hello.' - guaranteed, 100% of the time, when you check their status, they are 'Single, looking for a relationship'. Every. Time.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Just A Thought...

I don't know if you've heard, but Sir Alan Sugar, he of The Apprentice fame (for those bored of The Apprentice, I promise I'll stop going on about it after Sunday. Or Monday. Depending on when I get round to watching it.) has been appointed something or other in the government. Enterprise tsar, I believe. Sir Lord Alan Enterprise Tsar, to be precise. Whatever.

Anyway, this got me to thinking. What with half the government having resigned, why not elect all the Apprentice candidates instead (no, really, bear with me on this)? We know who they are (anyone else ticking boxes at random on the old ballot papers yesterday?), we know what they can do (very little, but it's not like competence is a requirement) and it would get them out of the world of business (surely a good thing).

So let us consider. First, we must establish what all the cabinet positions are. According to Wikipedia, there are lots of them, including things like "Minister for the Olympics", but not, as it happens, "Minister for Employment". Ah, a skewed sense of priority. A good start.

Now, we're not going to be able to fill all the posts, but thankfully it seems (according to Wikipedia) that it is permissible to double-job. I think what we'll do, rather than starting with the posts and appointing people, we'll start with people and see where they'd fit best.

Also, people who went out early on were a bit hard to get to know. Anita, for instance (the sulky looking one who got booted off in episode 1 for spending 200 quid on dusters). Or Rocky (the wee skinny streak of pee who owns a load of pubs). No idea what they'd be capable of. So we'll ignore them; they can divide among themselves all the jobs that are left over at the end.

Here are my suggestions:

Debra: the obvious job is Secretary of State For Defence. If anyone even thinks about invading, she'll eat them. But then, she might also eat them if they hadn't thought of invading, and that's the sort of behaviour that Causes Problems. So to Debra we shall allocate "Leader of the House of Lords", and "Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster" (positions currently occupied by one Rt Hon The Baroness Royall of Blaisdon PC - I've no idea whether these posts have to go together, but we'll assume they do). These titles sound nice and grand, what with having things like "Leader" in them, but, as far as I can tell, serve no practical purpose whatsoever. We must apologise in advance to the people of Lancaster, though.

Mona: something where she can show how not-homophobic she is, and how much she really doesn't mind gay people all that much, and how in fact she thinks maybe it is ok to have a few of them here and there, but mainly there, especially if 'there' is London, Brighton or Manchester, but not so much if 'there' is Kent. This most likely falls under the mantle of "Minister for Women and Equality" (I'm guessing), and I don't think Mona minds women at all, as long as she can be sure that they are really women and not men dressed up or anything.

Lorraine: I think Lorraine and her psychic powers should have the "Secretary of State for Defence" job. She could tell when someone was about to attack us. At all those foreign meetings, those strange foreign chaps would only have to glance in her direction and Lorraine would Know. Also, she has two accents, which is always useful as a disguise.

Ben: no. Just, no.

Philip: I'm sort of torn here, between thinking "Culture, Media and Sport" (due to Pantsman, the crappy Pantsman advert, and the Bum Ball or whatever it was called, respectively) and thinking "Nah. He's a tosser". But then so is Peter Mandleson, and he seems to have successfully retained employment as First Secretary of State Lord President of the Council, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and President of The Board of Trade, so maybe Philip could do those? Or maybe we could take Women off Mona (she'll have her hands full with Equality anyway) and give them to Philip instead (figuratively speaking)?

James: Prime Minister. Everyone likes James, and he doesn't do much. He'd be perfect.

Yasmina: Foreign Affairs. Remember how diplomatically she shafted Nooral off the Bum Ball poster in favour of Philip, because Nooral was foreign-looking? But she got away wiv it, see, 'cos she's efnic minorty too.

Anyway, this is what I've come up with so far. Please feel free to add suggestions, using the comments form.

In the meantime I'm off to watch another Apprentice spin-off, this time called something like "Why I Fired Them". You mean other than that (1) they're a bunch of idiots who couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery, and (2) because that's how the programme works and it'd be a bit rubbish if you didn't fire them?

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Apprentice: Almost There

Admittedly I haven't quite caught up with the full offerings from last night's The Apprentice; as I write, I have The Apprentice: The Final Five playing in a pop-out window. Since it is basically a summary of all the things we've heard so far, and not a crucial part of The Events, I think it's ok for me to comment on the actual episode even at this stage.

So last night was the interviews; we have 4 high-up people in suits interviewing the remaining candidates, and their job is to establish that their CVs are esentially rubbish.

Sorry, getting distracted here by The Final Five in the pop-out window, telling us about how Kate's granny died in the middle of the whole Margayte fiasco.

The remaining candidates are: Kate, Debra, Yasmina, James and Lorraine. At the start, we hear them all saying how they love interviews and do really well at them, so it's a safe bet that they'll be universally hopeless (as if we didn't know that from the previous weeks' performances).

It cannot be denied that everybody likes Kate; the worst they can throw at her is that she's a bit robotic, and not very exciting. Which is probably true, but not all that interesting when you want a night's entertainment.

Debra is better; the consensus is that she's extremely nasty and everyone who has ever met her thinks so too. On asked about this, Debra explains: "When you're successful and people hate you, you have to wonder whether they hate you because you're so successful". Or not, Debs.

Yasmina has always, to my mind, been something of a dark horse - she owns her own business but demonstrates nothing much in the way of competence, and you have to wonder how. In the food task, she made disgusting food from cheap ingredients, and won mainly because the boys did more or less the same while wearing togas. So she has the wit not to wear a toga, but what else is in there? Well, an incapability with numbers, for a start, as demonstrated in the 450g of £100000000/kilo oil debacle. Apparently this is not a strong skill in real life either, as we learn from her financial records ("How much profit does your business make?" "About 4% of turnover" "What's turnover?" "It's like, you know, the money we make" "Gross or net profit?" "Net" "It says gross here" and so on). The best part is when Yasmina is torn to pieces, leaves the room, and when asked by the others how it went, says "Yeah, really good! They were really nice! Went really well."

Better yet is James, who is told his CV is "exceptional", as in "exceptionally bad". It also makes no sense, other than the bit where he says that one of his strengths is that he "brings ignorance to the table", which explains a lot.

Onto Lorraine, and if I hear one more sodding thing about her sodding instinct, I think I shall gouge my ears out with toothpicks. So, moving on.

After a briefing from the Interviewers, Sir Alan brings the candidates into the board room. We have been informed that at least one of them will be sacked, but it could be up to three of them. Sir Alan goes round the table and tells them, more or less, that they're a bunch of tossers, which is a fair summary.

Then, to keep things moving, he fires James and everyone cries. They all get sent outside for hugs and cuddles, and then are brought back in to fight again. Next down is Lorraine, which is reasonable enough, and that leaves Kate, Yasmina and Debra. After once again saying how useless they all are, Sir Alan fires Debra, and a nation holds its breath - will she leave peacefully, or eat him? She leaves peacefully, and we are down to the finalists: Kate and Yasmina.

(An aside: in the pop-up window, I am witnessing James' dad saying how great James is, and he appears to be from Co Tyrone, which is vaguely interesting).

Sunday is the final: Kate and Yasmina will go claw-to-claw in chocolate-making (or something). The glorious joy is that everyone else is coming back to help them! Hurrah! Ben is back! Pantsman returns! James lives to pee another day!

We look forward immensely.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The Apprentice Marathon

Holy moley. Tonight sees not one, but two (yes two!) episodes of The Apprentice. Or at least a double-length one. Or something. AND THEN, the final episode will be shown on Sunday.

(WhyNotSmile takes deep breaths and tries to calm down)

Later, folks.