Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The strange case of the Glasgow Tron Church's domain name

Interesting to note that the domain name "thetron.org" which is used to address the web site of the Glasgow Tron Church lists as its owner:

49 St John Street is the closest street number to the Church of the Holy Rude where Rev James Guthrie was the minister and a prominent covenanter. The postal address 49 strictly speaking serves the adjacent Cowanes Hospital.

To find out about the life of James Guthrie click here.

From another web page:

Guthrie accepted the call to Stirling in 1649, where he remained for ten years. During this time his uncompromising stance on his religious convictions led to the physical division of the Church of the Holy Rude into the East and West Churches. On the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, Charles 2nd ordered the execution of James Guthrie. As the son of a Laird, James Guthrie had the right to die by the axe rather than the noose, but his sentence condemned him to the gallows. He was hanged in Edinburgh on June 1st 1661, and his severed head was displayed in the Netherbow Port for twenty-seven years until removed by Alexander Hamilton, another Stirling minister. Hamilton found Guthrie’s final sermon in the manse years later; it was published under the title ‘A Cry from the Dead’ by Ebenezer Erskine, the Stirling minister who founded the Secession Church. Guthrie’s portrait, chair, and ring are now in safe keeping at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum.

It seems that someone is trying to identify with Rev Guthrie.

Monday, December 17, 2012

How did Littlewoods overpay their VAT?

Given the publicity over interest rates on VAT reclaims generated by the Littlewoods and barclay brothers case I have struggled to find the reason why they received a VAT reclaim of over £400m. It turns out that they were wrongly charged VAT on commission paid to home selling agents between 1973 and 2004.

 From the Deloitte web site:

The Littlewoods case relates to catalogue-based home shopping. Littlewoods distributed catalogues and sold the goods shown in those catalogues through a network of agents. The agents earned commission on sales. This commission was mistakenly treated for VAT purposes as payment for services provided by the agent to Littlewoods. It should correctly have been treated as a discount against the goods. This meant Littlewoods had overpaid VAT between 1973 and 2004, and so Littlewoods reclaimed that VAT from HMRC. HMRC agreed to repay the VAT, leaving the question of how to calculate interest on the repayment. HMRC’s view was that simple interest should be paid at a statutory rate (which, since 1998, has been 1% below the average base rate of leading banks). Taxpayers were then faced with the following difficulty. VAT law did not make it clear whether the VAT Tribunal (which on 1 April 2009 became the Tax Tribunal) was the correct forum in which to seek compound interest. Some taxpayers chose to appeal to the Tax Tribunal. Others chose to seek redress by another route, namely by making a civil law claim against HMRC in the High Court. Littlewoods chose the latter route, and in 2010 the High Court referred their case to the CJEU for guidance. The CJEU’s decision today is the answer to the questions asked by the High Court.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Solutions to Ebay non payment issues

Over the past two years I have seen a large increase in the number of non paying bidders on Ebay. For every five items I sell there is one that does not get paid for. This seemed to start right after sellers were stopped from leaving feedback on buyers in 2010. It also coincided with Ebay starting to market itself more as a shopping outlet on TV ads. People used to companies like Amazon may not realise that bidding is a binding contract and if you are buying used goods from an individual its a private sale you are  not covered by distance selling regulations.

In general there is an expectation by buyers that a sale can be cancelled or reversed at the sellers expense, but Ebay is not Marks and Spencer. I think this affects people like me the mos because I only use Ebay to sell my own unwanted items. I don’t buy things and sell them for profit so I have no profit with which to fund people’s non payment habits.

There are a number of options available to deal with this. I have reviewed them here based on my own experience and then explained how I am trying to deal with it.

Only sell at fixed price with buy it now and immediate payment required.

This is fine of you know the value of an item, but you may not get the best price for it this way and the fees are considerably higher. Because listings run for longer this is only an option if you are going away anywhere while the listing is running.

Use the “second chance offer” facility

If an item has been bid on by several people and the winner refuses to pay you are given the option of offering it as a “second chance” to the first losing bidder. If they don’t respond you can offer it to the third and so on. The problem with this is you don’t know if the original buyer really has refused to pay - there is usually no communication from them - so you have no idea if they are going to pop up a week later and try and pay for it.

I have tried this method a few times and never had any response from anyone I have made a second chance offer to. It may work for you, but it hasn't for me.

Phoning the bidder

I have never done this as the items I sell are usually low value, but its possible to get the buyers contact details from Ebay and phone them. I am not sure what good this would do though.

Report the non paying bidder

It is possible to report the non paying bidder to Ebay in the resolution centre. This will not get the item paid for, but it will get you a refund on your final value fee. You won’t get the listing fee back, but as the item has not sold you may be able to relist it free anyway.

Automatic Unpaid Item Assistant

This is how I deal non paying bidders, as it reduces the time involved in reporting non payers and stop the buyer leaving negative feedback. You will find full instructions for setting it up on this page on the Ebay web site.

The process works like this:

  • The auction ends.
  • I use the “send invoice” function to send the buyer an invoice.
  • If it is not paid within four days a dispute is automatically started.
  • If the buyer does not pay within three days Ebay marks a strike against them and refunds my final value fee.

The advantage of this is that many sellers have their accounts set to block bids from people who have had multiple non payment strikes.

How to block bidders who have a history of not paying for items.

Do the following:

  • Sign into My Ebay
  • Click on the Account tab
  • Click Site preferences and scroll down to Buyer Requirements.
  • Edit this to add: “Have received 2 unpaid item(s) recorded on their account within 12 month(s)” and “Have a Feedback score of -1 or lower.”

This will prevent repeat offenders from being able to bid on your auctions. If all Ebay accounts were set like this by default the non paying bidder problem would be significantly less.

X-Factor Voting Figures

I don't normally comment on these sort of things, but the voting figures from this year's X-Factor (2012) have been released and make interesting reading from a behavioural perspective.

Although Christopher Maloney was massively in front from week one he lost his lead in week eight after Ella Henderson was knocked out. Her vote seemed to entirely transfer to James Arthur along with bits of everyone elses.

So does this mean that viewers were voting for who was the best singer or who was most likely to win? I suspect, that like political elections, there is a strong tendency to want to vote for the winning candidate.

Click on image for larger version

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Are Christian Concern really Concerned Christians?

I don't normally pay much attention to Christian Concern (full title Christian Concern for our Nation). Their repeated theological ambulance chasing just doesn't strike me as the sort of thing Jesus would do, but I do follow them on Twitter and I noticed that their recent response to a consultation by the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority  on Medical Frontiers contains no mentions of God, the Bible or any issues of faith or theology. You can download a copy of their full response from this page on the Christian Concern web site (although to be fair neither does the Church of Scotland's reponse).

I then had a look at Christian Concern's campaigns and there was nothing specifically Christian in very much of it. I suppose I was hoping for some theological reflection on the great ethical issues of our day, but I was disappointed. Their opinions are not any different from those of the average Daily mail reading UKIP voter.

Their Choose Life campaign web site doesn't seem to have anything specifically Christian on it. Their other campaigns seem to be heavily weighted towards issues of human sexuality.

Their Not Ashamed campaign seems to equate getting into trouble for being insensitive at work with suffering and persecution. maybe they would like to move to Pakistan, Iran or even Israel - where Christians really do suffer from repression and persecution.

Given that "Christian" Concern does very little theological reflection and seems to operate more as a business  I thought it would be interesting to look into their finances and see where the money comes from.

Faith Truth and Hope
Christian Concern grew out of the Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship which is a registered charity and can't get involved in politics. Christian Concern is not a charity, but it IS a limited company: CCFON Ltd. As a limited company rather than a charity it is very difficult to find out where its funding comes from.

Interestingly Christian Concern do solicit charitable donations through a separate charity called Faith, Truth and Hope (Registered charity 1121897). According to the Charities Commission web site Faith Truth and Hope had an income of £195,499 during 2010/11 and spent £192,484 of that.

The trustees are listed as:

  • Rob Andrews 
  • Andrea Rose Minichiello Williams (also a director of their limited company CCFON Ltd)
  • David John Clark (also a director of their limited company CCFON Ltd)

According to their Annual Report and Accounts to 30th June 2011 Faith Truth and Hope sponsored policy consultations on these issues:

  • Civil Partnerships in Religious Premises
  • Public Sector Equality Duty
  • Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act
  • Marital Property Agreements
  • European Commission on Human Rights Reform 

Their income was made up of:
  • £177,100 of voluntary income (donations)
  • £18,399 of tax reclaim from the government under gift aid (so they are not averse to taking a bit of Government cash when its offered)

£186,596 of this was paid to CCFON Ltd for "related work carried out on its behalf".

The limited company had a turnover of £711,438 in the year to 30th June 2011.

You can view download a copy of the company's 2011 accounts here.

If I am reading these correctly (and I might not be - so be warned) two of the directors of CCFON Ltd who are also trustees of Faith Truth and Hope are receiving salaries of £31,951 and £45,451 respectively.

Click on image to see a larger version

There are also payments being made to the Christian Legal Centre which shares the same two directors.

I don't know where the other £500,000 plus comes from. They must have big donors, but who?

Update 9th December 2012

According to this article Christian Concern has joined forces with the Alliance Defence Fund to run the Wilberforce Academy.

The following article from the Guardian sheds some light on the issues:

Questions have been asked about from where the centre – and its sister organisation, Christian Concern For Our Nation – obtain funding. Accounts show both organisations have little in the way of income.
Williams said all of the centre's work was done on a pro bono basis by committed Christian lawyers and that what money it had came in small donations from more than 30,000 people who received its regular email updates. "We never ask clients for money," she said. "Very often they fear losing their case and having to pay the costs of the other side. Part of our ministry is to ensure they are not burdened with that."
Close observers of the centre believe it is adopting the tactics of wealthy US evangelical groups, notably the powerful Alliance Defence Fund, which, through its Blackstone Legal Fellowship, trains an army of Christian lawyers to defend religious freedom "through strategy, training, funding and direct litigation".
The ADF, which according to filings had an income of almost $40m last year, is funded by prominent benefactors including Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater private security giant, the Covenant Foundation, which is financed by a leading member of the Texas Christian right, James Leininger, and the Bolthouse Foundation, a charity that rejects evolution, insisting "man was created by a direct act of God in His image, not from previously existing creatures".
The ADF has joined forces with the Christian Legal Centre and Christian Concern For Our Nation to launch the Wilberforce Academy in the UK, which aims to train delegates "for servant-hearted, Christ-centred leadership in public life" having equipped them "with a robust biblical framework that guides their thinking, prayers and activity in addressing the issues facing our society". Several of its delegates have already gone on to work for the legal centre and Christian Concern.
"The ADF are a fantastic organisation," Williams said. "We have been inspired by their work and that of the Blackstone programme, which seeks to raise a new generation of lawyers to defend Christianity in the public sphere. They've got some of the best attorneys in this field and we have the great privilege of hosting them, but they don't pay anything towards the academy."
Those who attend the academy programme, held at an Oxford college each year, say it increases their enthusiasm for using the law to defend the Bible. A typical comment on its website reads: "For the past four years I have sensed God calling me to the legal profession and during the Wilberforce Academy I was humbled to realise that, although we may feel like David facing Goliath, given the right weapons we may step boldly up to the task ahead."

Updated 15th January 2013
Evidence of further links between the Alliance Defence Fund (now renamed Alliance Defending Freedom) and CCFON from this page on the ADF web site:

Alliance Defending Freedom provided funding for the case of Nadia Eweida in the domestic courts. In 2011, Alliance Defending Freedom and former Slovakian Prime Minister and key figure in the Velvet Revolution Jan Carnogursky intervened in defense of the four Christians. Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Paul Coleman was present at the counsel’s table during the September 2012 European Court of Human Rights hearings alongside Barrister Paul Diamond. Diamond is lead counsel in the Chaplin and McFarlane cases and one of nearly 2,200 allied attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Romans 1:3 and the virgin birth.

A slight issue concerning the Davidic descent of Jesus and the virgin birth I noticed in Romans Chapter 1:
1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God
2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures,
3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh
4 and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, (Romans 1:1-4 RSV)
If Jesus is descended from David according to the flesh then it means he is descended from Joseph as it is Joseph who is stated to be descended from David in both genealogies (Luke 3:23-38 and Matthew 1:1–17).

There have been a number of historic attempts to get round this.

  • Augustine  (in, De consensu evangelistarum On the Harmony of the Gospels , pp. 2.1.2–4) states that it is sufficient that Jesus was the adopted son of Joseph as this confers the same lineage in Jewish legal terms. I think the use of γενομενου here rules this out as that is clearly meaning born. The tantalising use of σπερματος could be misunderstood, but the whole phrase does seem to emphasise physical descent.
  • Tertullian, argued that Jesus was descended from David through his mother Mary. However his argument is circular reasoning based on Romans 1:3. In other words "if Paul said it was descent by flesh then we must be misunderstanding the genealogies and they relate to Mary not Joseph".

The problem we have here is not the divergence of the two genealogies, but the divergence of Paul from modern Christian theology. Paul clearly thought Jesus was descended from David. It may be that his emphasis on spiritual descent is an attempt to reinforce opposition to the gnostic idea that Jesus was solely spiritual.

The importance of his descent from David is the idea of kingship and this is clearly the important point for Paul rather than the virgin birth.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Scottish Independence Referendum opinion polls don't looks good for SNP

According to UK Polling Report opinion polls on referendum voting intentions held during October 2012 make gloomy reading for the SNP and other pro independence parties:

Don’t Know
Ipsos MORI/Times
Panelbase/Sunday Times
YouGov/Better Together
YouGov/The Courier

This means that even int he best case scenario the Yes campaign will need to persuade 12% of don't knows and 1% of no voters - just to get to 50%. At worst they will need to persuade 6% of the No vote to switch sides as well as gaining all the don't knows.

My prediction is that the vote will probably be NO to independence, unless the Yes campaign can come up with a compelling reason why being, in effect, a crown dependency is really independence or that having some sort of semi independence from the rest of the UK is better than the current devolution arrangements.

These are fairly fundamental issues and I don't think that the commonwealth games or another year of homecoming will make any great difference to the outcome.

So if Scotland does vote no, where do we go from there? There are a number of threats and opportunities that a No vote will bring:

  • There is a real risk that a Conservative government in London would take the opportunity (no doubt fueled by their back benchers) to slash and burn public services north of the border.
  • The SNP vote would largely collapse. Where that vote ends up will be crucial. Labour will take a lot of it but the Greens and Liberal Democrats could gain from it in some areas.
  • Talk of independence would die away for a number of years and there would be greater concentration on gaining more powers for Holyrood and possibly greater independence for the UK political parties Scottish sections. Although it could go the other way and head towards more centralisation of party structures in England.

Right now i am willing to bet on a No vote, but you can never tell what is round the corner. One thing is sure though: no matter how the vote goes things will never be quite the same again.

Update 24th January 2014

Polling figures do not seem to have improved for the Yes campaign.

The most favourable poll for the Yes campaign during December 2013 was one conducted by Ipsos MORI for STV on 5th December.

Yes             34%
No              57%
Don't know 10%

The general trend has been less favourable.

If this poll is accurate then the Yes campaign still have to persuade all of the don't knows and 7% of the No voters to vote Yes in the referendum.

See my article on how £500 could swing the result of the referendum.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My simple soda bread recipe

A soda bread loaf I baked from this recipe

Soda bread originates in Ireland where the local wheat strains were usually too soft to use for yeast breads. Soda bread is made from the same plain flour you would use for biscuits and pastry with bicarbonate of soda as a raising agent. You do not need expensive flour. I use supermarket’s own brand cheapest flour for this.

I have reviewed a number of recipes for soda bread. Most require buttermilk which I am unable to find in a local supermarket. I have substituted this with plain yoghurt (supermarkets cheapest), There is also some disparity about the amount of bicarbonate of soda. Some recipes say one teaspoon, some say two, so I have opted for two level teaspoons which should be somewhere in between.

It takes about 15 minutes to heat up the oven and make the dough plus a further 40 minutes to bake it. Because there is no yeast you don’t need to wait for rising and proving prior to baking.

500g plain flour (not strong bread flour)
2 level teaspoonfuls of bicarbonate of soda
1 level teaspoonful of salt
500ml tub of plain yoghurt


  1. Put the oven on at 200C (190C for a fan assisted oven).
  2. Wait until the oven is nearly at the correct temperature.
  3. Grease a baking tray.
  4. Put the flour in a mixing bowl.
  5. Add the salt and bicarbonate of soda.
  6. Stir thoroughly.
  7. Add the yoghurt a bit at a time and stir in using a table knife.
  8. Bring in more of the flour and keep adding more yoghurt until you have a dough with no flour left (you should need between 400 and 500 ml of yoghurt to achieve this). It doesnt matter if the dough is slightly on the wet side as long as its workable into a ball.
  9. Empty the dough onto a floured board and bring it together into a round lump.
  10. Do NOT knead it other than folding it over to form it into a lump and make it the correct shape).
  11. Place the dough on the baking tray.
  12. Take a wooden spoon, put some flour over the whole handle, then put it on top of the bread,  push it down until you feel the baking tray at the bottom, then turn it 90 degrees and do the same again.
  13. Dust with flour.

Bake in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes at 200C (190C for fan assisted ovens) or until it is baked and tapping on the bottom of the loaf makes a hollow sound.

The bread will rize to about twice its original size.

For a brown loaf use 370g white flour and 130g wholemeal flour.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Moorcroft Debt Recovery and Virgin Media

Has anyone else had problems with a company called the Moorcroft Group recovering debts on behalf of Virgin Media?

If you have then you might like to comment on my article here:

Moorcroft Debt Recovery and Virgin Media

Friday, November 9, 2012

Is Obama a Muslim?

Following the 2012 presidential election many Christians are seeing the election of Barak Obama as a sign of the "end times" and pointing to his apparent Muslim faith as evidence that he is some sort of antichrist figure.

According to a survey by Public Policy Polling in 2011, a majority of Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi believed that President Obama was a Muslim. In Alabama, 45% of Republican voters thought Obama was a Muslim, while 41%were not sure.

I hate to disappoint people, but Obama is actually a Christian.

Excerpts from Barack Obama's search for faith, by Jodi Kantor, New York Times, Monday, April 30, 2007:

His embrace of faith was a sharp change for a man whose family offered him something of a crash course in comparative religion but no belief to call his own. "He comes from a very secular, skeptical family," said Jim Wallis, a Christian antipoverty activist and longtime friend of Mr. Obama. "His faith is really a personal and an adult choice. His is a conversion story."
"I remained a reluctant skeptic, doubtful of my own motives, wary of expedient conversion, having too many quarrels with God to accept a salvation too easily won," he wrote in his first book, "Dreams From My Father."
It was a 1988 sermon called "The Audacity to Hope" that turned Mr. Obama, in his late 20s, from spiritual outsider to enthusiastic churchgoer. Mr. Wright in the sermon jumped from 19th-century art to his own youthful brushes with crime and Islam to illustrate faith's power to inspire underdogs. Mr. Obama was seeing the same thing in public housing projects where poor residents sustained themselves through sheer belief.
In "Dreams From My Father," Mr. Obama described his teary-eyed reaction to the minister's words. "Inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones," Mr. Obama wrote. "Those stories — of survival, and freedom, and hope — became our story, my story."
Mr. Obama was baptized that year....
Mr. Obama has written that when he became a Christian, he "felt God's spirit beckoning" and "submitted myself to His will and dedicated myself to discovering His truth." While he has said he shares core Christian beliefs in God and in Jesus as his resurrected son, he sometimes mentions doubts. 

At this point I would like to remind my Christian fundamentalist friends of some verses from the bible:

"that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9  

Meaning that if Obama has been baptised as a Christian, made a confession of faith, and believes in the resurrection he has done exactly what you are tryng to persuade people to do through your evangelistic activities. He is just as Christian as all those people you have been involved in converting. He is also just as much a Christian as those people from around the world who you hold up as examples of  persecuted Christians - catholics, orthodox and coptic - although you rarely mention Palestinian Christians).

However, the fact that President Obama is a Christian does not mean you have to agree with his policies.

Being a Christian does not make anyone - and that includes you and Mr Obama - perfect or holy or beyond criticism so remember this:

"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone". John 8:7

You may not agree with Obama's policies, but that doesn't stop him being a Christian or make him a Muslim.

The biggest problem facing humanity today is our inability to continue liking someone with whom we disagree  on some political or religious issue. We see it in religious, political and our own social circles where people are congregating in smaller and smaller groups of only like minded people. People seem to feel endangered by ideas they disagree with and distrust those who think differently. They only way they seem to be able to cope is by demonising those they disagree with.

Lets remember how Jesus acted. He was not scared of associating with people who had other ideas, were of other religions or even oppressors.

I will leave the last word to him:

Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Mark 2:13-17

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Paddington Borough Silver Prize Band

This silent newsreel clip is from 1930 and is an early one for a brass band. The band was also known as GWR & Paddington Borough Silver Prize Band.

Click on the image below to go to the British Pathe web site and view the clip.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My complaint to Virgin Media

I am posting this here along with the complaint address for the Virgin Media complaints department in case anybody else is looking for it. This letter was posted today and speaks for itself. I will update this page with any progress as it occurs. Some personal details removed.

Anyone who knows my background in customer service will know why this sort of thing annoys me so much. This has gone beyond the point where an apology will suffice.

Virgin Media
PO Box 333
Matrix Court

30th October 2012

I have been telephoned by somebody called xxxxxxx from a company called Moorcroft Debt Recovery who are looking for settlement of a debt to your company. I had previously had a call about this by a company called CSL. I had explained the situation to them and they had referred it back to Virgin Media. I have since heard nothing from them.

I have never received any letters from you about this and you have not provided me with any services so I am at a loss to understand why you are now pursuing me through a debt collection agency.

Here are the issues I need you to address:

1. Before I can consider settling this debt I need you to provide me with the legal basis for this charge. In other words, you are going to need to provide me with evidence of a contract and technical evidence you actually provided a telephone and ADSL service on the circuit number that serves my flat at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

2. I require you to pay me a sum as compensation for all the calls I made to your 0845 number on my mobile phone while trying to get the service to work in July. The sum is just under £30, but since then I have spent a lot of time dealing with Moorcroft and generally worrying about it, and you need to reflect this in any offer of compensation you make to me. This payment to be made by cheque or BACS, not in vouchers.

3. I require an undertaking that you will not make any report to any credit reference agency which is detrimental to my credit rating.

The background to this case is that when I lived at my old address - xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx -  I used your cable service (account number: xxxxxxxx). In June 2012 I ordered a move of service from you to my new flat, but you were unable to do this without a change to your “national” service as there was no cable service in my area. I agreed to this and it was all arranged. However, on moving to my new flat the service did not work even though you had contacted me to say it was. I called you on numerous occasions, running up a bill of nearly £30 on my mobile phone doing so, but got nowhere. You were even unable to locate my new account in your system.

It is clear that it had not been provisioned correctly at all:

  • The phone socket in my flat continued to be live on the previous owners number. 
  • I had been promised a modem from you. which never arrived, in spite of Yodel showing it as having been signed for (it wasn’t).
  • You have not been able to spell my name correctly.
  • At the time the move was ordered your operator had significant problems entering my new address, because your database could not accept my address format (they had to try and enter it manually). According to Moorcroft you have my address listed as “xxxxxxxxxxx”, which is incorrect.

In the end I had to contact BT and they were able to get me connected, but I was left without a phone line for six weeks - something which was entirely your fault. To be pursued by you now in this aggressive manner via a third party without so much as a letter is not the way to treat a long standing former customer who left his previous account in a positive cash balance.

This whole issue has been caused by a problem with your provisioning system. I did my best to resolve it and had a number of lengthy (and expensive) phone calls to you, followed by the inconvenience of being left without a phone line or Internet access for six weeks.

I await your response.

Yours etc.

Update 30th October 2012
Found an interesting web site here with a reader comment indicating that Virgin Media or their agents are leaving default notices on people's credit records even after the bill has been paid:

I wrote to customer complaints. They cut the bill in half and apologised. So I paid, wanting never to talk to them again.
However, what they wouldn't do was remove the default from my credit report. I have since spent days on the phone, written to everyone imaginable and still they refuse.
This is beyond incompetence and into malice. Completely vindictive and unnecessary persecution of an everyday consumer.
My credit record was impeccable. Now I can't even get a small loan. All because of Virgin Media. For a service I could never receive and for a bill that I have actually paid. Astounding.
RMC - 30-06-2012 http://www.notvirginmedia.com/Comments/Comments_p01.html

Judging by all the stories documented there it looks possible that I might have to take preemptive legal action. Being no stranger to litigation this does not frighten me, but it should not be necessary when I am dealing with such a large customer facing organisation. We will see.

Update 6th November
I received a holding letter from Virgin Media. However, it was addressed to my old address not my new address - which was the address I sent the letter from. Fortunately I have a redirection from the old address.

I have also received a letter from Moorcroft Debt Management saying they have suspended their activity because I am in dispute with Virgin Media.

Update 12th November
Well, I got a very nice phone call from Virgin Media this afternoon stating that they can find no record of an account and con firming that they have never provided me with any services at my current address and they can find no trace of ever having done so. They will be writing to me confirming this and will tell Moorcroft to stop pusuing me.

However.... A few hours later I got home to find a letter from Moorcroft on my doormat which included this:

Further to your recent communication in respect of the above account, we write to confirm we have been in contact with Virgin Media who have advised us that the services were successfully installed at the property and that there is call usage on the bill which conforms this.

Of course, they have not forwarded me any of that evidence. I assume they can't as Virgin Media say they never installed the service. So who can Moorcroft provide me with copies of their correspondence with Virgin Media and can they provide records of these calls? I suspect not.

So I am back to square one.

I am now going to make clear to Moorcroft Debt Recovery that I will not be paying them anything without a court order and they should not bother contacting me again until they have obtained one.

Second update 12th November
I decided to call Moorcroft and make it clear I would not be paying them anything.

Here is an edited recording of the call. I have clipped out the name of the person I was speaking to, and the section where I had to prove my identity and a lot of gaps where he was typing up notes.

The section from 2 minutes onwards is very interesting. Their representative claimed that Moorcroft were not asking me for any money, that it was Virgin Media asking for money, until I pressed him very hard on this issue.

Or download the recording here.

I will be continuing to pursue my request for compensation from Virgin Media and will let readers know how I get on.

Update 16th November

I have now written a further letter to Virgin Media:

I refer to your letter of 1st November which was sent to my previous address rather than the address I had written from, and which is stated at the bottom of this letter.
I received a telephone call from you on Monday 12th November stating that you could find no record of me owing you anything and that you would attempt to recall the debt from Moorcroft. I returned home on Monday night to find a letter from Moorcroft stating that they had contacted you and you had confirmed that calls had been made on a line assigned to me and that I was therefore liable. This contradicts what you said to me.
In order to satisfactorily deal with this complaint I require you to:
1. Write to me stating I owe you nothing, send a copy of the letter to Moorcroft and recall the debt from them.
2. Pay me a sum in compensation for all the calls, time and inconvenience I have suffered in this issue since July, and which you will find detailed in my previous letter.
3. Ensure that no default is registered against me with any credit reference agency in relation to this.
Please reply within 14 days or I shall be instructing my solicitors.

It is sad that an organisation the size of Virgin Media does not have the ability to resolve something like this, but apparently they don't.

Update 22nd November
I have received two letters today:

  • One from Moorcroft stating they have contacted Virgin Media, who have (once again) confirmed that I owe the money.
  • One from Virgin media confirming I owe them nothing and that they have recalled the debt from Moorcroft.

Are Moorcroft lying to try and get me to pay them money? Remember, they have already admitted that the money was to be aid to their account not Virgin Media. I don't know, but I have reasonable doubts that they have ever spoken to Virgin Media about this account.

The main issue now is that Virgin have failed to compensate me for my time and phone calls dealing with their error since July. They have also not given me an undertaking that they will not register a default against me at a credit reference agency. This is what I am really concerned about because there are reports online of them doing this to other customers who were not in debt to them.

My only option now seems to be legal action.

Update 23rd November
It appears that Virgin Media breached the data protection act twice by passing my personal details to Moorcroft.

I have written to Virgin today repeating my previous requests and detailing the two breaches of the DPA:

I note your letter of 16th November, but am not satisfied. 
I had asked you to: 
  1. Write to me stating I owe you nothing, send a copy of the letter to Moorcroft and recall the debt from them. 
  2. Pay me a sum in compensation for all the calls, time and inconvenience I have suffered in this issue since July, and which you will find detailed in my previous letter.
  3. Ensure that no default is registered against me with any credit reference agency in relation to this. 
Although you have addressed point (1), you have not given me (3) an undertaking that you will not register a default against me at a credit reference agency.  
You have also not dealt with (2) my reasonable request for compensation to cover my  out of pocket expenses incurred through:
  • Calling your 0845 number on my mobile phone during the period when you had left me without a phone line - due to your incompetence.
  • Dealing with increasingly aggressive overtures from Moorcroft - including their claim on 19th November that you have confirmed that I do owe you money.
  • My inconvenience for being left without a phone line for six weeks - which was your fault.
In addition to this there is the risk to my reputation and credit rating as well as the stress involved in dealing with this. 
Fortunately I am well educated, articulate and able to robustly defend myself against Moorcroft. An elderly or infirm person would probably cave in and pay them. In fact they wrote to me two days after your last letter stating that you had confirmed the debt to them and they will continue to pursue me. I had paid them they would presumably not have passed the money to you. They also send repeated letters to me and continue to call me.  
I should also point out that you breached the terms of the Data Protection Act by passing my details to Moorcroft. Specifically that you did not satisfy the conditions for processing my personal data by not having a “legitimate interest”. If there had been a real debt and you had failed to recover it from me by normal means this would have constituted a legitimate interest. As there was no debt and you had not asked me for the money before passing it to Moorcroft you did not have this and therefore breached the act.  
You also required my consent in order to pass my personal data to Moorcroft. From the Office of the Information Commissioner: 
Consent is not defined in the Data Protection Act. However, the European Data Protection Directive (to which the Act gives effect) defines an individual’s consent as:
“…any freely given specific and informed indication of his wishes by which the data subject signifies his agreement to personal data relating to him being processed”.
The fact that an individual must “signify” their agreement means that there must be some active communication between the parties.  
As you had not written to me about the alleged debt no such communication had taken place and this is a second breach of the Act. 
I am sorry if this letter appears heavy handed, but I do not appreciate being hounded by debt collectors and I would prefer to be treated by you as a previously valued customer. 
I am surprised that a company like Virgin Media are unable to deal with a complaint  like this in a satisfactory manner.  
I await your response - in writing - on the two issues you have failed to deal with.

We will see what happens next.

Update 4th December
Its 11 days later and I have received a holding letter from Virgin Media as if it was a fresh complaint I had sent in. I have submitted my complaint to the Office of the Information Commissioner under the Data Protection Act. Their advice leaflet can be downloaded here (PDF file) and the form can be downloaded here.

Update 6th December
A further letter has arrived from Moorcroft. Play close attention to the words in bold:
If you do not contact us following receipt of this letter we may have no alternative other than to recommend to our clients that solicitors issue legal action against you which may follow.

This is designed to frighten people into paying, but read it again and you will see its an empty threat.

It also proves that Virgin have not recalled the debt from Moorcroft - which they have told me twice (once by phone and once by letter).

Update 21st December
Its now several weeks since I last wrote to Virgin and they have not responded within their own seven day promise.

I have, however, received a letter from Midas Credit Services (just another name for Moorcroft):

We are now reviewing the account prior to the possible recommending of legal action by external solicitors acting on behalf of our clients.

Interesting to see where they go with this. I know that they never actually take anyone to court, but I do harbour a fantasy of humiliating them in court by calling their client as a witness in my defence. Meanwhile, in the real world, I need to escalate my virgin complaint as they still have not given me an undertaking regarding my credit history.

I phoned Virgin and was put through to the debt department who have sent another recall form to Moorcroft. I then got a call from the complaints department stating that this issue may refer to a "national account" which has a different complaint address to the one given to me by Moorcroft at the beginning of this process! I would need to contact them with my address details (which were in my original complaint letter)  and account number (which I have never had as the service was never provisioned).

I then got a second call saying they had found my national account number.

I am now going to raise this with the independent adjudication service www.cisas.org.uk.

Updated 4th January 2013
I have now submitted my complaint to CISAS for ajudication, pointing out again that no line was ever provisioned on the BT circuit serving my flat. Hopefully this will be irrefutable enough to get some action. I will have to wait and see.

One aspect of contract law that affects this is that if both parties agree to a contract, but the supplier fails to provide the service then the contract becomes void, this would mean that if Virgin failed to provide me with a service then any cancellation fee applicable under the contract would be unenforceable.

Incidentally, I received another letter from Moorcroft today saying the debt had been passed to their home collections division and that a representative "may" call on me. Clearly they have ignored my previous statement that I will pay nothing without a court order.

Updated 14th January 2013
CISAS have replied confirming receipt of my documentation and stating

We acknowledge receipt of an application for adjudication by the customer, a copy of which
is attached for the attention of the company.  Please note that any further documents submitted after this date may lead to your
application being restarted in order to give the company time to consider them.
In accordance with the rules of the scheme, the company is now required to submit two
copies of their response to the claim, which should be returned to us within 14 days of
receipt of this letter, that is, on or before 24/01/2013. The company should list all papers
being submitted, and where possible submit their response by email.  A copy of any
defence to your case received from the company will be sent to you and you will be given
the opportunity to make any comments about it which you wish to make.
Please be advised that the company may contact you in order to negotiate a settlement of
your claim.  If they do that but no agreed settlement is reached they must still submit their
defence to your claim by the due date above.
The company may decide to settle your claim in  full, ie to give you everything you are
claiming in your application.  Under these circumstances the company will notify us and we
will write to tell you.  We will close our file at that time because the adjudicator has no power
to award any more than is claimed.  

Updated 17th January 2013
CISAS have dropped the case after Virgin objected on the grounds that Virgin claim I have never been a customer. Meanwhile the debt collection letters keep coming.

Updated 25th April 2013
I thought I would update this article given the publicity today of the bill that Virgin media sent to a dead person.

I have not heard anything from Moorcroft for a couple of months but I have had calls from a company called HL Solicitors which I am ignoring. I think the debt has been sold on to them.

Update 17th June 2015
Over two years later and it's not over yet. The debt has now been sold on to a company called NCS!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Trumpet or Cornet?

The debate about the choice between playing the  trumpet or cornet has been going on since the trumpet switched from low F to mezzo Bb around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. Louis Armstrong switched to trumpet in 1927 when he started playing in a dance band, and it seem to have been the dance bands that promoted the trumpet.

In this article by Nat Gonella from 1933 he points out that it is the streamline look of the trumpet as much as its greater projection that makes it more suitable for "modern" music.

Click here to read it online.

(From Modern Style Trumpet Playing by Nat Gonella, Henri Selmer & Co, 1933)

This Jimmy Savile stuff just gets weirder

Apparently he put his name to a ghost written children's book the 1980's as part of a child protection campaign:

The introduction makes particularly chilling reading in light of recent events:

And back in the 70's he even got round to writing a book about his relationship with God:

I promise you - none of these have been photoshopped!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Christians beheaded by 18 year old here in the UK

John Baird and Andrew Hardie were weavers and leaders in the "radical war" of 1820. They were executed in Stirling on 8th September 1820. Lots has been written about them, but one of the overlooked issues is their religious faith. Both Baird and Hardie were practising Christians and their demand for democracy and justice was something that grew out of their understanding of the gospel.

In today's folk religion of fundamentalism there is an assumption that the persecuted will be right wing Christians and the persecutors will be Muslims. Yet, here in 1820 we have the persecuted Christians being remarkably left wing and the persecutors being the state with the established church as its spiritual wing. You might like to reflect on how the biblical idea of justice intersects with modern expressions of Christianity.

The execution of Baird and Hardie was a remarkable event and will be described shortly, but first:

The Players

Andrew Hardie - weaver and revolutionary.

John Baird - weaver and revolutionary.

Rev Dr George Wright DD - minister of the East Kirk, Stirling.

From Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae

Rev Dr Alexander Small - minister of the West Kirk, Stirling.

From Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae

The East and West Kirks were in the same building, the historic Church of the Holy Rude which was divided with a partition after a fall out within the congregation:

“Covenanters were not without divisions among themselves. Mr Guthrie had a ministerial colleague in his work at Holy Rude. The two did not see eye to eye. The solution resorted to by the Town Council was the erection of a wall between nave and choir, thus providing a separate church for each of the disputing ministers. This wall, somewhat adapted over the years, survived until the mid-1930s, when the separate East and West Congregations were at last united and the building, like the congregations, made one.” (From the guidebook: http://www.holyrude.org/guide.htm)

Rev Archibald Bruce- Minister of the North Kirk, Stirling (recently refounded after a number of years disuse following the Erskinite secession)

From Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae

The Executioner

John Prebble in “The King’s Jaunt” claimed that the headsman was an 18 year old medical student. Nobody had been beheaded or quartered since the rising of 1745 and the Stirling hangman Tom Young (known as the “staff man” because of his staff of office) may not have wanted to do it.

I can't confirm this or find his source, but the execution of James Wilson, another weaver who was sentenced to be hung, and quartered at Glasgow was carried out by another medical student called Thomas Moore who was twenty years old (although the crowd's anger prevented the body being quartered). Prebble's assertion is not unlikely:

On Wednesday afternoon, 30th August, 1820, dressed in prison garb and securely shackled, Wilson was led from the gaol and bound onto a hurdle or gate. The horse-drawn hurdle sounded hollowly as it trundled over filthy cobbled streets on its way to Glasgow Green where a multitude of more than twenty thousand people waited in silence. It was just a few minutes to three o'clock when the prisoner, his head high, dignified and proud, calmly walked to the scaffold steps where his executioner waited.
[Thomas Moore was a twenty-year-old medical student who had volunteered for the macabre task. He was somberly attired in a grey coat with black trousers and fur hat. A strip of black crepe masked his face. At his feet lay the black bag containing tools of his trade: The scalpels and saws that would soon be utilized to surgically eviscerate, decapitate, and finally quarter the victim.]
The headsman appeared to be about 20 years of age, of a genteel appearance, and executed his obnoxious task with the most determined coolness. The whole ceremony of the decapitation did not occupy above a minute, and at four o' clock the ground was clear, without any material accident having happened.
(from Glasgow Herald Friday September 1, 1820)

Broadside concerning the execution of the Radicals, Andrew Hardie and John Baird

Click on image above to see the original.


A Full, True, and Particular Account of the Execution of ANDREW HARDIE and JOHN BAIRD, who were Hanged and Beheaded at Stirling, on Friday the 8th September 1820, for High Treason, together with their Behaviour at the Place of Execution.
YESTERDAY, 8th September, 1820, the preparation for the execution of these unfortunate men having been completed the previous night, this morning the scaffold appeared to the view of the inhabitants. On each side the scaffold was placed a coffin, at the head of which was a tub, filled with saw-dust, destined to receive the head. To the aide of the tub was affixed a block.
The clergymen of the town (the reverend Drs Wright and Small,) and the reverend Mr Bruce, throughout the confinement of the prisoners, were unremitting in their duties. The morning previous to the execution was spent almost solely in devotion and reflections, suited to the awful situation of the prisoners. About 11 o'clock a troop of the 7th Dragoon Guards arrived from Falkirk, and were assisted by the 15th Foot quartered in the Castle.
At a quarter after one the procession left the Castle, and was seen to move down Broad Street, the unfortunate men in a hurdle, their backs to the horse, and the headsman with his axe sitting so as to face them. They were respectably dressed in black, with weepers. The procession was attended by the Sheriff depute and his Substitute, and the Magistrates, all with their staves of office. The troops lined the streets so as to permit the whole to pass slowly and undisturbed to the spot intended for the execution. During the procession, the prisoners sung a hymn, in which they were joined by the multitude.
At 20 minutes to two o'clock, the hurdle arrived at the Court-house. Hardie first descended. He was followed by Baird, then the headsman. Hardie, by mistake, was conducted into the waiting-room. He bowed twice respectfully to the gentlemen who were present. The Reverend Dr Wright accompanied Hardie. The Reverend Dr Small, and Mr Brown, were with Baird. Hardie turned round, and observing how few persons were present said to one of the clergymen, "Is this all that is to be present." Dr Wright read the whole of the 51st psalm. He then delivered a most impressive prayer; after which, a few verses of the same psalm, from the 7th verse, were sung by the prisoners and others present, Hardie giving out two lines at a time, in a clear and distinct voice, and sung the same without any tremulency. The Reverend Dr Small then delivered a prayer, remarkable for zeal and fervour; after which, the 103d psalm was sung, Hardie giving out two lines at a time as before.
The conduct of these two men while in the Court-room was most calm and unassuming. Some refreshment being offered, Hardie took a glass of sherry, and Baird a glass of port. Hardie said something the exact import of which we could not collect. He begged the sheriff to express their gratitude to General Graham, Major Peddie, and the public authorities, for their humanity and attention; he then bowed to the other persons present, and drank off the whole of the contents of the glass. Baird then addressed himself to the sheriff; and begged to convey sentiments of a similar nature. When they were pinioned Hardie mentioned to Baird to come forward to the scaffold. While in the Courtroom both prisoners particularly Hardie, seemed less affected by their situation than any other person present; his hand, while he held his book, never trembled. On their arrival at the scaffold, there was a dead silence. After a few minutes, Baird addressed the crowd in a very loud voice. He adverted to the circumstance in which he was placed, and said he had but little to say, but that he never gave his assent to any thing inconsiatent with truth and justice. He then recommended the bible, and a peaceful conduct to his hearers. Hardie then addressed the crowd. He commenced with the word "Countrymen." At something which we could not completely catch, and which we must not guess at there was a huzzaing, and marks of approbation. After a few moments silence as if recollecting he had proceeded too far, and had excited feelings inconsistent with his situation, he spoke again. He advised the crowd not to think of them, but to attend to their bibles, and recommended them, in place of going to public houses, to drink to the memory of Baird and Hardie, that they would retire to their devotions. After the ropes were adjusted, a most warm and affectionate prayer was delivered by the reverend Mr Bruce. At eleven minutes before three the necessary arrangements being made, Hardie gave the signal, when they were launched into eteraity. After hanging half an hour, they were cut down, and placed upou the coffins, with their necks upon a block; the headsman then came forward; he was a little man, apparently about 18 years of ages he wore a black crape over his face, a hairy cap, and a black gown. On his appearance there was a cry of murder. He struck the neck of Hardie thrice before it was severed then held it up with both hands, saying, "This is the head of a traitor." He severed the head of Baird at two blows, held it up in the same manner, and used the same words. The coffins were then removed, and the crowd peaceably dispersed.
Edinburgh :—Printed for William Cameron.—PRICE ONE PENNY.

Some points of humanity to add to this story

Granny Duncan who hid letters to the two men at the bottom of their bowls of porridge:
The narrow passage leading from the Esplanade to Upper Castlehill and Ballangeich is supposed to have received the above name from one Millar, who resided there, and was for a long time tacksman [taxman] of the petty (or penny) customs of the burgh. Here lived "Granny” Duncan, who attended the political martyrs, Baird and Hardie, while in the Castle awaiting execution, and was a great favourite with them. It is said she was in the habit of making porridge for them, and was thus enabled to carry in letters from friends. The plan she took was to allow the porridge to cool, turn them out, lay the letter on the bottom, and replace the food. Granny attended the two men to the place of execution. She died at the age of 96.
(From: Auld Buildings Of Stirling, Its Closes, Wynds, And Neebour Villages By William Drysdale (Stirling: Eneas Mackay, 43 Murray Place 1904)

You might also like to read copies of the letters sent by Andrew Hardie to his uncle and his sweetheart dated, Stirling Castle, 5th September 1820 which you will find here (PDF file):


Friday, October 5, 2012

Email forwarding from domain to Gmail not working

Sometimes forwarding email from your domain to an existing address makes more sense than having a separate email account. For example, you may have a special address for an event which is used infrequently or only for a short period of time.

However, if you forward your email to a Gmail account it may not work. Here are some of the possible causes and solutions.

If you send yourself a test email and it does not arrive
When you set up your forwarder the first thing you probably did is send yourself a test message to make sure it was working. If this did not arrive then it does not mean your forwarder is faulty. Try sending an email to your forwarding address from another email account (not the Gmail one you are forwarding it to). It should arrive in your inbox.

Here is the reason why this happens:

If you forward mail from you@domain.com on another host to a Gmail account then any mail sent from that gmail address to you@domain.com will be dropped by Gmail without generating an error message. This is to prevent the risk of forwarding loops. Emails sent from a different Gmail address or from any other email address will get through. This is a weird rule of Gmail's and not part of standard email protocols. 

Possible solution (unverified):

If you add your forwarded address as a sending address in your Gmail account and verify it there is some evidence that this disables this block. The evidence I have for this is that the forwarders I have to my own Gmail account that are also set up as external sending addresses in Gmail are able to send mail to themselves.

If your forwarder is not working at all
If you have checked the configuration at the hosting company providing the email forwarder and tried sending from a test message from a different address and it still fails then then the most common reason is that the hosts mail servers are blacklisted by Google. Unfortunately, Google do not publish a list of what they are blocking as this is constantly changing, but in my experience the bigger the hosting company the greater the likelihood of them being blocked. For example  Enom's mail servers have been regularly blocked by Gmail over the past few years.

I hope this helps someone work through these issues which are known to affect web hosts using Cpanel and other control panels.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

When an answer to prayer is not actually a prayer answered.

Morningside Baptist Church (now renamed "Central - Jesus at the Heart") are reporting an answer to prayer on their web site here.

The story begins with the church meeting on the evening of Sunday 24th September. I will  let them take up the story from there:

During the final stages of the evening, we prayed as a group for the issue of drugs in Edinburgh. This was a specific time of contending for change for a specific issue. Before we started to pray, a testimony was shared about a group of Californian intercessors who prayed for the same problem in their region and how they had seen their prayers answered though a report in the newspaper.
Sitting in small groups, we each simply asked God to bring about a shift – in effect, that God would bring justice to this issue (Luke 18). Today (Monday 25th) we prayed for this issue again during a leadership meeting in the church. At 12:48pm (during the end of this meeting), a report on BBC news Scotland was published that the police had seized a £30,000 cannabis haul in Leith.

The report can be found here on the BBC web site.

There are two issues I have with this story. Firstly, they did not pray for any specific outcome so attributing an outcome to being the result of prayer is tenuous, particularly in a city where there are drug incidents involving the police at least once a week. There simply isn't a logical connection between the two. Trying to attribute cause and effect is not unlike cold reading and its quite unbecoming of Christians. Who are they trying to kid? Secondly, the raid in which the cannabis was seized took place earlier on the Sunday, before any of the prayers were made. The investigative work which led to it would have been ongoing for some time.

I think whats happened here is a case of people wanting to bolster their faith by seeing a pattern of cause and effect that is not there. Its not the first time I have seen it either. I knew of someone who had found a lump in her breast and was referred for tests by her doctor. Her church prayed. The tests results were that it was a non malignant growth. The church declared it as a healing miracle. Other more skeptical observers might take the view that she never had cancer in the first place.

There is still drug addiction in Leith.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Origin of the Hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

As I am playing this hymn at a brass band contest next week I thought I should look up the words and see if they would influence my performance in any of the verses.

It turns out the hymn is actually the last few verses of a poem called "The Brewing of Soma" by John Greenleaf Whittier (December 17, 1807 – September 7, 1892) which compares the practice of ancient civilisations using drugs to experience the divine with modern day Christians who use "... music, incense, vigils drear, And trance, to bring the skies more near, Or life men up to heaven."

Whittier was a Quaker which is why the poem ends with the "still, small voice of calm". The hymn is not about hearing God's voice through troubling times, but about hearing God in the small things of life rather than large spiritual displays.

I wonder how many Christians today realise its origins in comparing certain worship activities to drug induced shamnism?

Here is the full poem with the verses used in the hymn in their original context (the quote at the beginning is in the original):

 "These libations mixed with milk have
been prepared for Indra: offer Soma to the
drinker of Some." Vashista, translated
by Max Muller.

The fagots blazed, the caldron's
  Up through the green wood curled;
"Bring honey from the hollow oak,
Brink milky sap," the brewers spoke,
  In the childhood of the world.

And brewed they well or brewed they ill,
  The priests thrust in their rods,
First tasted, and then drank their fill,
And shouted, with one voice and will,
  "Behold, the drink of the gods!"

They drank, and lo! in heart and brain
  A new, glad life began;
They grew of hair grew young again,
The sick man laughed away his pain,
  The cripple leaped and ran.

"Drink, mortals, what the gods have sent,
  Forget you long annoy."
So sang the priests, From tent to tent
The Soma's sacred madness went,
  A storm of drunken joy.

Then knew each rapt inebriate
  A winged and glorious birth,
Soared upward, with strange joy elate,
Beat, with dazed head, Varuna's gate,
  And sobered, sank to earth.

The land with Soma's praises rang;
  On Gihon's banks of shade
Its hymns the dusky maidens sang;
In joy of life or mortal pang
  All men to Soma prayed.

The morning twilight of the race
  Sends down these matin psalms;
And still with wondering eyes we trace
The simple prayers to Soma's grace,
  That verdic verse embalms.

As in the child-world's early year,
  Each after age has striven
By music, incense, vigils drear,
And trance, to bring the skies more near,
  Or life men up to heaven!

Some fever of the blood and brain,
  Some self-exalting spell,
The scourger's keen delight of pain,
the Dervish dance, the Orphic strain,
  The wild-haired Bacchant's yell, -

The desert's hair-grown hermit sunk
  The saner brute below;
The naked Santon, haschish-drunk,
The cloister madness of the monk,
  The fakir's torture show!

And yet the past comes round again,
  And new doth old fulfill;
In sensual transports wild as vain
We brew in many a Christian fane
  The heathen Soma still!

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
  Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
  In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard
  Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
  Rise up and follow Thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
  O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
  Interpreted by love!

With that deep hush subduing all
  Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
And noiseless let Thy blessing fall
  As fell Thy manna down.

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
  Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
  Thy beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the hearts of our desire
  Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be numb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
  O still, small voice of calm!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Facebook stopped working in Internet Explorer

This has been driving me batty for the past week.

Internet Explorer and then Chrome stopped opening Facebook even via an SSL connection. The best I ever got was a view of the first block of posts on my timeline but without the ability to click on anything.

I tried clearing the cache, then deleting and rebuilding my Chrome profile, but this had no effect. However, in Internet Explorer I went to Tools > Manage Add-Ons and disabled all of them for testing. It turns out it did not like Script Proxy by McAfee. I now have Facebook working on IE. Now just to try and get Chrome working.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

If your Gmail on iPad stopped working after the iOS 6 upgrade then you should read this article.

After upgrading  my iPad to iOS 6 the default mail app stopped connecting to the Gmail server to receive or send mail. Its not clear why this happened, but it stopped working completely.  I had been using my mail via the Gmail account option rather than the Exchange server one. I have now updated my previous article on synchronisation and tested Gmail using this method in the standard email app. It is working perfectly and the new mail notifications are being pushed in real time.

To read how to fix it and set it all up go here:

How to set up an iPad to synchronise with Google Calendar and Gmail.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Besson (Boosey and Hawkes) Serial Number List 1974-2002

This chart is primarily intended to help with the identification of Sovereign Cornets but will help with Identifying other Boosey and Hawkes made brass instruments.

Serial numbers are in the format 928-817061.

The first part represents the model number (in this case 928 which is a cornet) and the second part the consecutive serial number which you can look up in this list taken from a document compiled by the Horniman Museum:

Year     Start        End
1974 560000 569517
1975 567737 583312
1976 578306 601352
1977 591769 623413
1978 612344 641318
1979 624239 653623
1980 637772 667268
1981 647826 679500
1982 666619 691319
1983 691320 709999
1984 700510 724054
1985 716470 737749
1986 737750 unknown*
1987 unknown* unknown*
1988 unknown* 765125
1989 762522 773114
1990 771972 784856
1991 782271 791785
1992 789702 800024
1993 799610 808444
1994 807947 817773
1995 817061 829673
1996 829373 841892
1997 841677 854404
1998 851390 866712
1999 862689 876718
2000 873832 885438
2001 884565 889618
2002 887436 890008

* The factory serial number books for 1986-1988 have been lost.

The reason for ranges overlapping the years is that serial numbers were assigned when instruments were ordered by dealers and before manufacturing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Breatharian video blog

I came across this interesting series of video blogs made by a woman aiming to live without eating food by gradually reducing her calorific intake:

You can view her YouTube channel here.
[She has now deleted these videos - see below for the explanation]

Interesting to note that after 28 days she is still only down to 1300 calories, when a diet of 1000 calories per day is quite normal for people trying to lose weight. I suspect the problems will start when she gets down to 800 or 900.

My prediction is either:

1. She will stop posting videos or remove the existing ones and we will never know why.
2. She will fail to become breatharian blaming either herself for lack of spirituality or the bad effects of outside influences.
3. She will prove that breatharianism is possible and world hunger will be solved.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome is.

Update 13th November 2012
Well, I followed her progress via YouTube and she reduced her food intake by 100 calories per day till she got down to 700. This took about six weeks. At this point she had to do a lot of visits to family and found the social side of eating made it difficult to keep up with the regime. She has now said that counting calories is not the way to do it so she has stopped and switched to  a juice only diet without monitoring the calories.

This was prediction #2 that I made at the start of the process.

Update 11th December 2012
I notice from my YouTube subscriptions that she has deleted all the videos made during her attempt to go breatharian and stop eating food. That was my prediction #1 from 9th November. She has started a new YouTube channel and is attempting to become "liquidarian" (only taking a liquid diet). You can see her first video of this process here.