Tuesday 25 November 2008

On Internet Debating and Good News

Back in the day, there was a time when, if you wanted stuff, you had to pay for it. Newspapers, for instance, survived because people paid money to read them. With the advent of the internet, this has changed - newspapers can now be read online for free, and so they have had to find other ways to make revenue. The prime source, of course, is advertising, but in order to make money from that, you have to prove that your site is popular. Hence, newspapers are trying to produce content which makes people click on their site.

The Guardian appears to have hit upon a system: they have discovered, I think, that a good way to generate page hits is to allow people to comment on articles; furthermore, they have discovered that certain articles attract more comment than others, and that articles about religion attract the most comment of all. Hence, they are littering their site with articles, blogs and other miscellanea on the topic of faith, religion, atheism, and anything else they can find in that sort of vein. It doesn't really matter what the topic is, the ensuing discussion will provide plenty of page hits and will pretty much always delve into a pointless discussion (because let's face it, pretty much all internet discussion is pointless) about who's better: religionists or atheists.

Now of course, there's nothing WhyNotSmile likes better than an inane, aimless and heated internet debate, especially of a slow Wednesday afternoon, and so it was that a few weeks ago I found myself in a frenzied argument with a chap called J, on the topic (and even as I type this I'm thinking, "that was an hour of my life I'll never get back") of whether atheists or Christians are better (I've no recollection of how the debate got to this point, of course; the original article was along the lines of encouraging Christians to have more of a say in public matters, or something - not, incidentally, a widely-supported view on the Guardian site).

J, I assume, is an atheist (although that's the other thing: you can never really be sure that people are what they say they are - for all I know, J could be the Archbishop of Canterbury). But J was trying to argue that if an atheist does something good and a Christian does something good, the atheist is better because he does not get an eternal reward. Now, either this was a fairly shaky argument to start with, or some of its subtleties had passed me by, but such niceties are not what we will discuss today, for I pointed out that even if it's true that actions done for no reward are better than those done for some reward, Christians do not get rewarded for their actions.

Boy, did this start a tangent (the great challenge of internet debating - how far can you stray from the topic in hand before you get flung off by a moderator?). So J basically falls over in a shocked heap, and says that of course Christians are rewarded for their actions: Heaven is the prize at the end, and you get to go there if you've been good. So I point out that this is not, in fact, the case, and that the Christian Gospel is that you go to Heaven because of faith in Christ and that good actions should come from being a Christian, rather than making you a Christian (and that anyway, going to Heaven is not necessarily the main point of the Gospel, but J didn't seem all that interested in that).

So we got onto a discussion about forgiveness, and eventually J said 'So you say, that if Hitler had repented on his deathbed (honestly, sincerely repented), he would be forgiven and go to heaven?'. And I said 'yes'.

And J nearly erupted, claiming that he'd never heard the like of it and that it was completely scandalous.

And this reminded me that the Christian Gospel is completely scandalous, and that's why it's good news for sinners like me.

Every Crunch Has A Silver Lining, Part 2: Unemployment has been made easier

We have already seen that the Credit Crunch has brought about the welcome demise of the Office Christmas Party, and we are pleased about that. However, the cloud of the Crunch is positively teeming with linings of silver, and we now turn our attention to one which is particularly pertinent for WhyNotSmile.

You see, the Credit Crunch is rather a good time to be unemployed. This is for various reasons.

Firstly, you're not really expected to have a job in the current economic climate. It's not like a few years ago when you practically had to fight jobs off with big sticks. Nowadays, one is perfectly entitled to be unemployed, and therefore one does not have to add shame to the misery.

Secondly, if you can't afford to live anyway, then what's the point of a job? Every now and then I look at the state of my bank account and think, despairingly, about what I could buy if I had a job (house, food, heating etc). But then I remember that even if I did have a job, I still couldn't afford these things, and at least this way I can be a scourge on society from the comfort of my own sofa.

Thirdly, if I were in work right now, I'd have to listen to people moaning about how they can't afford stuff. I am one of those People That People Moan To. Always have been. Need to complain about something that no one can do anything about? Come to WhyNotSmile! Need a friendly ear when everyone else has told you to clear off? WhyNotSmile will embrace your words, and possibly even make you tea. Frankly, I never get a moment's peace. So, thankfully, I get to spend my days not having to listen to anyone I don't want to listen to.

So what with all of this, this is not a bad time to be unemployed at all; this is not to say that I don't want a job, of course (just in case my parents are reading), just that I don't really think it would make that much difference.

Friday 21 November 2008

Things To Know About Living Alone

I have now been living alone for 3 weeks, and some important lessons have been learned. I will share my newly acquired wisdom with you now.

Things To Know About Living Alone

1. You need to own a lot more pants. This is because, when you share a house, clothes washing happens more often. If your housemate is doing a load of washing and you know you're running short on underwear, she will always have room for enough pairs of pants to tide you over (as it were) until the next time you're doing a wash of your own. There is at least one wash a week, so owning 10 pairs of pants is sufficient (including allowing for drying time). When you live alone, you only do a load of washing once a fortnight, and even then you're looking for stuff to make up the full load. Hence, you need to own at least 2.5 weeks' worth of pants.

2. There's no one to blame but yourself. Hairs in the bath/soap/your food are your own. Which is nice. If something is broken, you broke it, and you must fix it. On bin days, it is up to you to decide which colour of bin we're on this week, and to put the bin out and bring it back in. And so on.

3. The contents of the fridge remain the same between visits. So, if you have a party in work, say, and there is leftover cheesecake which you bring home for supper (I'm just expressing this as a hypothetical scenario; this would never have happened in my last company), and you put it in the fridge, you know that it will be there when you go back for it, which is a good thing.
On the other hand, you never come home and find an unexpected piece of cheesecake in the fridge, which is a less good thing.

4. The arrival of post is less frequent, but more certain in what it delivers. All parcels, letters and postcards are for you. There's no more spotting a great-looking parcel coming through the letterbox, only to find it's addressed to your housemate. Although sometimes it is still addressed to number 2a, but they wrote the a like a 9 so the postman put it through your number-29 door.

This is what I have learned so far, but I will update you with any further lessons.

Thursday 20 November 2008

The Living Room Ceiling Saga

My parents are prolific redecorators. As a child, I don't think I can think of any period of more than about 6 weeks during which there was no form of redecorating/rearranging/building going on. In fact, on the day I was born, my dad took my mum to the hospital, came home and took the roof off the house. We had to live with my granny till I was 6 months old.

Now the fact that my parents now own 2 houses (theirs and mine) is of course a cause for joyous wallpapering and painting at every opportunity (that my dad is a painter and decorator helps with keeping costs down). So as I said in the previous post, having completed most of my house (and most of theirs), we have come full circle and are starting at the beginning: namely, my study.

So Papa Smile came up last night and papered the study, and very nice it is too. Then he painted some ceilings, which was also nice. I was out (for safekeeping) while this happened, and came home expecting to find the entire house redone in white emulsion (it wouldn't have been the first time he got carried away with a paintbrush and an empty house), but was pleasantly surprised to find that all was looking fresh and lovely.

But then we came to the living room ceiling, which was damaged in one of the 'leaky bath' incidents about this time last year. I can't remember whether I mentioned this or not; compared with what else was going on around then, I may not have felt that water pouring through the living room ceiling was worthy of note (I distinctly remember when I noticed the flood at first, just kind of thinking, "aw, stuff it", sticking a bucket underneath and leaving the house). Anyway, there had been water pouring through, which warped the plasterboard and made the paper fall off.

So last night Papa decided to stick the paper back on; this did not work, so he decided to cut it off instead (it was still attached, just hanging off). Then we realised that the plasterboard was really quite warped, and maybe it should be fixed before the paper went on. So Papa decided to remove the old plasterboard, with a hammer.

I need not tell you that it ended badly.

Saturday 15 November 2008

On a Quiz and Wallpaper

So Mama Smile is visiting this weekend and we are having quite a time of it. I thought she was coming mainly so she could go shopping in the City Centre today, and was also coming along to our church quiz last night, but it transpired that in addition to these things there was DIY to be done.

Now, you may be thinking that since I am almost constantly doing DIY my house must be a palace by now, but in fact we have, I think, completed the full circle and started from the beginning again. So we're doing up the office/study/box room, and I was hauled off to Homebase to look for wallpaper. This was not a success, as the place was quite messy and they didn't have much within our price range.

So we came home and scraped the old wallpaper off instead.

Anyway, we ('Cuthbert and the Bs') then went to the quiz, which was lots of fun, and came a quite impressive second pace. As well as the two of us, the team consisted of Alex and Leona (from old work) and John (from church), as well as the mascots, Cuthbert and the Bs (Bunty and Bungee). Virtual Methodist was next to us and on the winning team; I spent much of the evening deciding whether to go and introduce myself, but he seemed to be deep in conversation every time I looked, so I shall remain anonymous for now.

This morning dawned bright and early and we went off to Q&B to buy wallpaper. Now you can say what you like about Q&B (as we well know), but they do a fine range in wallpaper.

So Mama Smile has now gone into the City Centre to meet Sister, and I am left in peace and supposed to be stipping wallpaper, but am actually writing this and about to have lunch.

First, though, I think I will eat the sweets I got last night: the winning team were very generous and shared their prize amongst everyone, which was nice, and probably more than Cuthbert and the Bs would have done.

Thursday 13 November 2008

A Depressing Facebook Notification...

In today's Facebook notifications:

"Last week you were viewed for dating 2 times and no people expressed interest in you."

Thanks. Thanks, Facebook. Fecking thanks.

The Largest Bar of Soap Update, and Some Comments on Financial Matters

Now I'm sure you'll all be wondering how the Largest Bar of Soap in the World is doing, particularly since CrookedShore has been astute enough to observe that the Largest Bar of Soap in the World is a cunning metaphor for the world economy, and its decline is therefore highly symbolic.

Thus, an update:

  • 7th October 2008: 15.4cm
  • 13th November 2008: 15cm
Other relevant features:
  • Brown cracks developing at both ends
So it is getting smaller, turning brown and cracking up, which is surely extremely pertinent.

Anyway, in the previous post on this, I mentioned briefly that I barely know how a bank account works, but that is not to say that I do not have some ideas.

I was generally under the impression that the reason you would have a bank account was that if you kept all your money under your bed, someone might break into your house and steal it, and this would be a bad thing. To help with this, banks opened up, with giant beds under which they would store your money securely.

When you put your money in, they gave you extra money back in the form of interest. I have always been a little bit fuzzy on how this works, since essentially they are doing you a favour by looking after your money in the first place, so there seems no reason for them to pay you to do that.

Anyway, now it seems that they have been paying interest to people by taking other people's money out from under the giant bed and giving it to the first people as interest. In the meantime, new people (or maybe companies) would put their money in and the bank would put that money under the giant bed, to replace the second person's money that they took out to give the first person. And this was all ok until all the people wanted their money at once, and then they looked under the giant bed and it was empty, apart from some cobwebs and toenail clippings.

But I'm not sure that this is really how it works at all.

I once went for an job interview at a bank. I spent all of 2 evenings reading the Financial Times and The Economist, in a bid to look like I knew what I was talking about (somehow it didn't seem to occur to me that they might see through the fact that the only things I knew about in the way of finance were things that had happened within the past 2 days). So I went in and they asked why I wanted the job, and I spouted all this stuff about how interesting the financial sector was and how I wanted to use my degree in this area and stocks and shares and bulls and bears and blah blah blah, and then the guy said "Well, actually, this is a software development post, and you wouldn't really be doing much in the way of financial work, to be honest.".

So I had to swiftly backtrack on all that; I did this convincingly enough to get through to the next round, which was a written test on various computer languages. There were (I think) about 50 pages of questions, with about 5 questions on each page, and I answered, in total (and I promise you I am not making this up, this is Actual Fact) 6 questions, of which 3 were ones I knew and 3 were guessed. At the rest, I could not even hazard a guess.

Despite a score of 6/250 on the test, I was invited back for a third interview; at this point I decided their standards were too low and pulled out of the process.

Monday 10 November 2008

Comedy For Your Monday Morning

Maybe I'm just easily amused... but I've just spent an hour LAUGHING OUT LOUD BY MYSELF at this blog: A Collection Of Poorly Chosen Photos From Real Estate Listings.

Sunday 9 November 2008

And Another Thing...

Came across the following celebration of Ireland's latest American President, Barack O'Bama, thanks to Virtual Methodist. Absolutely brilliant!

My Week

Apologies for the quietness of the week here at WhyNotSmile; I got rather caught up in making things for the church Craft Fair, and then with being at the Craft Fair, hence the silence.

Anyhow, this is what I made for the craft fair:

Some kittys, which may look like Hello Kitty, a little bit.

Some baby booties and a hat.

Some Christmas decorations.

The Craft Fair itself went well (it's a proper Craft Fair, with proper craft people and everything, not just tat); there was a momentary burst of exertion when it was realised that the Saturday dance class which normally uses the church hall was going to have to be relocated. Since the Craft Fair was basically everywhere, there was nowhere for them but inside the church itself, so I was roped into helping to shift 200 chairs out of the way, and then putting them all back in place afterwards in time for the service today. I don't wish to complain, but I think I sprained something.

In this week's Other News, Papa Smile came up on Tuesday night and we fitted loft insulation. This, naturally, meant we had to clear the roofspace, and, since this house has been in my family since it was built in the 1930's, we were expecting to find all sorts of gems; we were not disappointed.

There were the usual family portraits, old vacuum cleaners and an ancient Family Bible with no names in it (which is one up on the Family Bible we found after my other granny died, which was full of names, births, deaths, marriages, all fairly recent, but not a single one that anyone recognised). There were the kind of hideous pictures that all houses in Belfast probably had at that time: nice Victorian people meeting in woods, falling in love, cuddling babies etc. Our particular favourites were the 'Guardian Angels' ones: small girls with no shoes being guided over bridges and around cliff paths by angelic beings floating a few feet away.

We found much evidence of my ancestors' Loyalist sensibilities - a large Union Flag (the one they used to put out for the Twelfth), and another one which we didn't recognise (red background, circle of white stars, Union Flag in the corner - anyone?) and some leaflets from the Royal Family detailing their testimonies (I'll get these typed up some time soon, they're worth a read!).

Lots of this was wrapped up in old copies of the Belfast Telegraph, which I will also peruse and report back on - we have lots of July 1968 ones (the Twelfth fortnight, grandparents must have put the time off to good use by tidying the house and putting the broken vacuum cleaners and old pictures (carefully wrapped in newspaper) into the roof space).

You will hear more of this.

Saturday 1 November 2008

In Which It Is Explained That WhyNotSmile Is As Close To The Trinity As Any Blog Can Be

Thanks to (perhaps a tad unexpectedly) QuestionMonkey, I have realised that WhyNotSmile is a rather handy guide to explaining everyone's favourite theological conundrum, the Trinity.

Consider. The Trinity (for those who are not at all sure what we're talking about) is the idea that God is Three in One and One in Three; in other words, there is one God, but he has three 'persons': the Father (also generally referred to as 'God'), the Son (Jesus, the 'Word of God'), and the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost, or 'the Counsellor'); these 3, however, are all very much God in their own right. This is why, in Genesis, God says 'Let us make man in our own image' and not 'Let me make man in my own image'.

And this is rather like WhyNotSmile. WhyNotSmile has 3 parts: the blog (and you're always glad you came), the online actual-me presence (Facebook etc.), and actual me (in real life, going on holiday and so on). And yet, WhyNotSmile is all one person (I know it is hard to conceive of such a multi-faceted personality of such great depth belonging to just one individual, but it's true.

And hence we see that WhyNotSmile is rather like the Trinity, and I think we should tell Richard Dawkins, because he has been most perplexed about this.