30 January 2009

How To Help a Relationship Die

From Jim Martin's A Place for the God Hungry-

Sometimes relationships start and then quickly end. Sometimes relationships exist and then gradually erode, perhaps after many, many years. What happens quite often with some people is that the relationship finally dies a slow, lingering death.

I am thinking this morning about a certain kind behavior that contributes to the death of a relationship.

Passivity

Have you known passive people? The exist in their recliner, passing the time away. They seem content to watch life happen from a distance while they refuse to initiate, risk, or make any overture toward investing in someones life. They seem to wait for someone else to initiate, someone else to risk, and someone else to invest.

  • Why doesn’t anyone call me?
  • Why doesn’t anyone come see me?
  • Why doesn’t anyone ask me to help?

Passivity will kill relationships.

Perhaps you have been to a dinner, where a family went on an on about life in their community, their children, their problems, etc. and never once asked you about your own life. Perhaps you go home from such a dinner feeling as if you never really connected with these people. Why? There was not the healthy give and take of mutual interest and concern. Passive people often talk as if their world, their city, their church is the center of life and express little interest in anyone else’s life.

Something I’ve noticed. Passive people ask very few questions. They ask very, very few probing questions or follow-up questions. They don’t typically respond to another person by saying: "Say more about this, please." Instead, they will often shift the focus of the conversation to themselves.

Eventually, after years of family members, friends, church members, etc. showing little interest in one another, the relationship dies emotionally. No, I don’t mean that it formally ends. Rather, we just finally lose interest and disconnect emotionally from one another.

As I write this, I am thinking about some of my own relationships that need attention. No, I cannot control the response or lack of response from others. However, I can make sure that these relationships do not suffer from my own neglect.

Question: In what ways have you seen passivity erode relationships?

In contrast, how would you describe the behaviors that show interest, enrich, and deepen relationships?

Wisdom

  • A wise person can discern the core of important problems.
  • A wise person has self-knowledge.
  • A wise person seems sincere and direct with others.
  • Others ask wise people for advice.
  • A wise person's actions are consistent with his/her ethical beliefs.

Confucius stated that wisdom can be learned by three methods: Reflection (the noblest), imitation (the easiest) and experience (the bitterest). According to "Doctrine of the Mean," Confucius also said, "Love of learning is akin to wisdom. To practice with vigor is akin to humanity. To know to be shameful is akin to courage (zhi,ren,yi..three of Mengzi's sprouts of virtue)." Compare this with the beginning of the Confucian classic "Great Learning" which begins with "The Way of learning to be great consists in manifesting the clear character, loving the people, and abiding in the highest good" one can clearly see the correlation with the Roman virtue "prudence," especially if one transliterates clear character as clear conscience. (Quotes from Chan's Sources of Chinese Philosophy).

Buddha taught that a wise person is endowed with good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct & good mental conduct (AN 3:2)
  • He who arbitrates a case by force does not thereby become just established. The wise man is he who carefully discriminates between right and wrong.
  • One is not wise merely because he talks much. But he who is calm, free from hatred and fear, is verily called a wise man.
  • By quietude alone one does not become a sage (muni) if he is foolish and ignorant. But he who, as if holding a pair of scales, takes the good and shuns the evil, is a wise man; he is indeed a muni by that very reason. He who understands both good and evil as they really are, is called a true sage.
Luke 6 is a prime example of Jesus' wisdom teaching.
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.

35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

Do Not Judge Others
37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.[c]

39 Then Jesus gave the following illustration: “Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch? 40 Students[d] are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.

41 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[e] when you have a log in your own? 42 How can you think of saying, ‘Friend,[f] let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

The Tree and Its Fruit
43 “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 44 A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. 45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.
Building on a Solid Foundation
46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

29 January 2009

Piety can be itchy.

Saw a little boy being tortured in church today.
He might have been just over 2 years old; hadn't learned to whisper yet.
He'd brought his train, not sure if it was Thomas or Gordon. Mama was pregnant. Daddy was bored. Sitting with daddy was more fun. Mama kept telling him to shhhhh. He cowered when she talked in his ear. Maybe he was just ticklish. Maybe.

Why was he expected to sit quietly through a full Eucharist at the Anglican cathedral? His Spiderman shoes suggested action! The immediate message in his ear, which was not getting through, was, "Sit still!".

Up. Down. Wiggle. Little voice loud. Shhh! Down. Finally after tormenting the little prayer book, using it as a hat, an airplane & a fan, he found the dog.

Yes, in the cathedral was, what I perceived to be, a very pious dog. It followed its human as he stood, as he sat, as he approached the altar. Black & white, medium sized Border Collie, seemingly well-known and part of the congregation. At the time I refer to, said dog was resting quietly under its human's pew which was directly in front of the pew of the tortured boy's family.

Spiderboy froze suddenly, having seen fur and then trying to process where he was and what nature of threat it might be. Then his brow relaxed and his eyes lit up.
"Dog!"
"Shhhh."

Undeterred he stuck out a tentative hand and patted the fur. By now, spiderboy was sitting on the kneeling bench between the pews. He now had a different view than he'd had as a little person on a pew. He drove his train along the tapestry of the seat. Oh, what's that?

Sticking his hand through the gap between his family's pew seat and it's backrest, he could punch a needlework pillow hanging on a hook. Things were looking up! Fun was to be made!

The young man sharing my pew must have remembered being a small boy. He smiled down at the pillow bouncing against his knees.

The little boy got a blessing later in the service as he knelt between mama & daddy at the altar rail. I'm not sure the dog did, but I didn't see him kneel. He did sit in the middle of the aisle and had a very satisfying scratch as his human went into a side chapel after the service. Piety can be itchy.

28 January 2009

Conversation?

Hi.
I know you may read Conversations@Intersections daily, while others tend to catch up on things once a week or so.

There's a super little gadget built in to Blogger that allows YOU to COMMENT on what you are reading. It does not LIMIT you to COMMENTing on just that, but allows you to COMMENT on anything you'd like to comment on.

Go ahead. Click on it!

I'm not being cheeky or sarcastic. (It's kind hard to read tone of voice online sometimes.)

I see the stats for those who lurk/read the blog.
I'm glad you're there.
I'd be thrilled to hear from you!

A conversation is communication by two, three, or more people, or by one's self. Conversations are the ideal form of communication in some respects, since they allow people with different views on a topic to learn from each other. A speech, on the other hand, is an oral presentation by one person directed at a group.

Those engaging in conversation naturally relate the other speaker's statements to themselves, and insert themselves (or some degree of relation to themselves, ranging from the replier's opinions or points to actual stories about themselves) into their replies. For a successful conversation, the partners must achieve a workable balance of contributions. A successful conversation includes mutually interesting connections between the speakers or things that the speakers know.

I write this blog because it is good for me to write. I guess I wonder sometimes why you stop by and read it. Curiosity is a trait that I both enjoy and suffer from.

Keep reading as it suits you. Comment when you can. Thanks!

Hello, my name is Change.

This video was produced here in Auckland by friends of mine. I like the idea of individual participation and the individual lights making a much brighter glow than any one of them could. I didn't need to explain that to you, did I?

27 January 2009

NZ in Pictures


I found this, and several other amazing photos at METVUW. It was taken on the west coast of NZ's South Island as the weather was changing, yet again.

To be in the right place at the right time with your camera set for just the right exposure . . . . amazing.

I love photos that seem to take you into the space it captured . . . . or the ones that make you stop. . . . and look deeper.

I took some in India that look like monsters or scarecrows, but it's just the way the ivy was growing on the powerlines.




This image showed up above Auckland City. What do you see?











"This impressive cumulus cloud was building over Alexandra at 19:15 on 12 January 2009 on a typically warm (30°C) Central Otago evening. It has just begun to unload its rain or hail. Photo taken on a Panasonic DMC-LZ2 digital camera" wrote Gavin, the photographer.

Salvation from what?

I found this post on Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed. Your comments?

by Mary Veeneman, professor of theology at North Park University.


In the speech he gave the night before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. said these words:

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"

See this.

When I teach students about liberation theology, I always play them a video clip of this part of Dr. King's final speech. I always explain to my students that there are debates about whether Dr. King's theology fits under the rubric of Black theology and that is not a debate into which I want to enter here. This part of King's speech is a great example of liberation theology, though, because King so clearly alludes to the Exodus account. In doing this, he identifies the oppression of African Americans in the United States with the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt and this is a classic move in liberation theology.

Among a number of others, one characteristic of liberation theology is a reading of the Exodus account that sees the events of that account played out in the contemporary setting. In light of that understanding of the Exodus account, liberation theologians argue that the salvation brought by Christ is not simply a spiritual salvation, but is also supposed to be a salvation from oppression on the ground.

J. Kameron Carter seems to be asking questions about similar theological moves in chapter seven of Race: A Theological Account . In writing about Frederick Douglass' Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Carter states, "On [Douglass'] autiobiographic reading of things, the Pasch [Passover/Easter] proves to be not an alternative political and social arrangement, but the cultural allegory, the sacred myth even, of the American political order" (305).

Carter writes that in the course of Douglass' Narrative, "the Easter story...structures the American sacred mythos. This structure has provided the terms and meaning of identity" (305). Not only does the Easter "mythos" function in this way, according to Carter, but theology has played a supporting role.

The Easter story has been used, according to Carter, to support the status quo of white racial power. At the same time, Douglass has taken the story of the resurrection and applied it to his own situation. It is at this point that he arrives at the problem, writing, "Douglass' error is that he has mimed the style of religious thought that he is actually trying to resist....He does this precisely by putting on display what happens when theological discourse functions as nothing more than the symbolic or religious superstructure of the materially or so-called real order of things" (307). Carter further wants to be clear that it is quite possible to do this even in the context of articulating the historic Christian faith. When Christian theology is used in this way, he argues, it does not actually tell us anything real about salvation.

In some ways, this sounds like a common critique of liberation theology from more conservative thinkers whether Protestant or Catholic. Often these critiques will talk about the idea that this earth isn't ultimately our home and that we should look for the salvation that comes from Christ and saves us from eternal death that that we should not look for any kind of liberation or salvation in the here and now. Often this comes in the context of an assumption whether explicit or implicit that the here and now is not important.

I want to be clear in my own statements: the "spiritual" salvation that these critics will talk about is, of course, of utmost importance. A focus on one's physical conditions with no attention paid to spiritual conditions will in the end miss the point of a significant portion of New Testament writings. At the same time, to only talk about the spiritual conditions of various people and pay no attention to their physical conditions ultimately misses the reality that Jesus seemed to deeply care about the here and now of the people he encountered.

Going back to Carter's critique ... he is making a deeper point than are the above-mentioned critics of liberation theology. What he seems to be saying is that when we map biblical texts onto our own situations without any consideration of life beyond our own context, all we end up with is "purely human religious knowledge that is Gnostically accessed though some cultural calculus or discursive technique of power." When that happens, we have lost the true import of the New Testament altogether.

The question I want to leave for you is this: How do we avoid reading the Bible in a way that only leaves us with human religious knowledge, but also does not lead us into the error of the critics of liberation theology that see no connection between the gospel and our own immediate context?

Comment on Jesus Creed and read many more intriguing posts there.

26 January 2009

To have loved and lost or . . .


Ask any widow or widower.

From Indexed

Science & Religion: Complementary

Intelligent Design or Intelligible Design? It's a matter of Faith

Whether the topic is embryos or evolution, religious interests sometimes try to influence how science is taught and practiced. Frequently the perceived conflict between religion and science is understood as a debate about matters of factual observation. As a philosopher friend commented, "If your religion requires six literal days of creation, then it clashes with science." I find that the difference between the claims of religion and of science can be far subtler — a reflection of distinct human attitudes toward experience based on different types of faith.

By religion, I mean William James's inclusive description — the religious attitude as belief that the world has an unseen order, coupled with the desire to live in harmony with that order. James's description encompasses what we typically call religion: communal beliefs and practices as well as spirituality, the person's individual quest for meaning through spiritual encounter with the world.

that the world has an unseen order desire to live in harmony with that order communal beliefs and practices as well as spirituality the person's individual quest for meaning

Some years ago, I heard the following example used to illustrate the ability of scientific and religious attitudes to divide the me/here/now of everyday life experience into distinct potential domains of understanding and action. Imagine walking along a beach and coming upon a large and unusual rock. Two sets of possible questions arise. First set: What kind of rock is this? How did it get here? What can be done with it? Second set: What does it mean that this rock and I are sharing the beach together at this moment in time? What can this moment (or rock) teach me about the meaning of life?

The first set represents science and technology. Knowing the answers enables the control essential to obtain and use the rock according to one's needs and desires. The second set represents religion and spirituality. It concerns the meaning and purpose of the individual and of life. If your religion requires six literal days of creation, then it clashes with science. But if your religion teaches that the unseen order of the world has purpose and meaning, then is it at odds with science?

A conventional way to contrast scientific and religious thinking attributes reason to the former and faith to the latter. That approach obscures what seems to me to be a central element in trying to understand the relationship. Science, too, requires faith. The British empiricist philosophers emphasized that point in their critique of the possibility of knowledge. We have no assurance of our own existence or of matters of fact beyond immediate sense experience and memories. The idea of cause and effect, a central tenet of scientific thinking, depends on one's belief that the course of nature will continue uniformly tomorrow the same as today, a belief that cannot be proved.

Such ideas presented a potential challenge to the development of modern science — a challenge that science ignored completely. Instead, commented Alfred North Whitehead, we have an instinctive faith in the "order of nature." Einstein described that as faith in the rationality of the world, which he attributed to the sphere of religion. How ironic! I call it faith in intelligible design — faith that nature's patterns and structures can be understood.

Those of us who practice science share a faith in intelligible design. But when we do our work, how do we go beyond the me/here/now of personal experience, along with its potential for misinterpretation, error, and self-deception? The answer is that by sharing our experiences with one another, we aim to transform personal subjectivity into communal intersubjectivity. Through that transformation, the discovery claims of individual researchers become the credible discoveries of the scientific community — knowledge good for anyone/anywhere/anytime. Of course, the credible knowledge of science always remains truth with a small "t," open to the possibility of challenge and modification in the future. Nevertheless, given the extent to which humankind has succeeded in populating and controlling the world, science's faith in intelligible design appears to be well justified.

Just as science requires faith, religion requires reason. A provocative image of reason in religion is the analogy pointed out by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik between the development of Jewish religious law and the formulation of a mathematical system: Validity depends on logical rules applied correctly to starting assumptions, but the starting assumptions need not be grounded in the shared experiential space in which we all live. For instance, at the time mathematicians developed non-Euclidian geometry, the world was experienced as fully Euclidean. Although science and mathematics are frequently taught together, mathematics, unlike science, is a closed, deductive system in which conclusions can be derived from assumptions even if the assumptions do not correspond to any known reality. In short, it is not the absence of reason that distinguishes religion from science, but rather the willingness to accept starting assumptions from outside of shared experiential space — James's unseen order — sometimes including the miraculous. Those starting assumptions can be found in every religion — for instance, the elaborate revelations of such great leaders as Buddha, Krishna, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad.

Because each religion embraces a different set of revelations and assumptions about the unseen order, fragmentation is inevitable. We have not one but many unique, reasoned frameworks that provide guidance about values, meaning, and purpose of life. To maintain the differences, the religious attitude depends on a credibility process much different from that of science. Credibility in religion requires certification at the outset that an individual's insights are consistent with a particular religion's unique understanding of itself. Unlike the scientific attitude that settles for truth with a small "t," the religious attitude begins with certain everlasting Truths. Through acceptance of those Truths, an individual chooses to become part of a particular religious community.

Intelligent design offers a good example with which to distinguish faith in religion from faith in science. The ID movement has received widespread attention as a result of the legal battles over what should be taught in the science curriculum regarding evolution. The question has been turned into a political issue. Underlying the ID argument is a discovery claim called irreducible complexity, which denies the possibility of a common ancestry of life forms as described by modern evolutionary biology. ID proponents say that because of the limits imposed by irreducible complexity, the possibility of evolution depends on intervention of a hypothetical force outside the known laws of nature.

Supporters of ID are not interested in further investigation of irreducible complexity or of this hypothetical force. Instead they appear to be satisfied that they have arrived at the Truth of the matter. ID supporters would agree with Einstein about "the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought." However, rather than Einstein's "cosmic religious feeling but no anthropomorphic conception of God," ID supporters follow the glance of Isaiah 40:26: "Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these?" Whatever one might think of the merit or failure of intelligent design in terms of religion, having faith in the Truth of the matter situates the movement outside of science. Consequently, ID has no place in science education.

What is the relationship between scientific and religious attitudes when viewed as different kinds of faith? Bicycle riding frequently is offered as a metaphor to describe these attitudes as complementary. Having a bike makes riding possible. Other factors influence the direction in which the rider will choose to go. Science provides the technology for doing things. Religion provides the values to determine what things should be done. Notwithstanding the importance of the functional sense of complementary relationships implied by the bicycle metaphor, a different and more profound sense of complementary relationships can also be found.

The physicist Niels Bohr introduced complementarity in 1927 to account for the failure of classical physics to explain the nature of light. Two sets of evidence and two theories — waves and particles — had become associated with light propagation. Bohr argued that, at the quantum level, there could be no distinction between the object and the experimental circumstances that permitted the object to be observed. Unlike the conventional notion of complementary perspectives, in which observer and object remain separated, in complementarity, observer and object make up an interacting unit. Two observations that exhibit complementarity exist side by side, mutually exclusive, yet each adequate within its own experimental framework. Both are required for a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon under investigation. When he was knighted, Bohr symbolically expressed his commitment to complementarity by choosing the yin-yang symbol as his family crest.

Bohr suggested that complementarity might be extended beyond physics to other domains of experience, including science and religion: materialism (science) and spiritualism (religion) as two aspects of the same thing. Although he did not develop that idea, one can imagine the religious and scientific attitudes as filters that reveal distinct domains of knowledge — domains that cannot be observed or inferred or negated from the other perspective. The religious attitude gives us James's unseen order, to which the individual seeks to conform. The scientific attitude gives us the anyone/anywhere/anytime of intersubjectivity. The domains are separate but not separated. Rather, they merge into a holistic yin-yang framework that cannot be harmonized or resolved further. They exist in dynamic tension, constantly bouncing off each other and inevitably offering distinct types of answers to fundamental questions about the self and the world.

Recognizing the limitations of our understanding is one of the most important insights from Bohr's complementarity. Perhaps there is no single correct path. Solving the world's problems may require both scientific and religious attitudes — two types of faith, not just one or the other.

Frederick Grinnell is a professor of cell biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas. His book Everyday Practice of Science: Where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic is being published this month by Oxford University Press.


http://chronicle.com Section: The Chronicle Review Volume 55, Issue 18, Page B5

What's your response? click COMMENT below

Graeme Finlay, a faithful & godly scientist at Auckland University, says,
Debate over the evolutionary paradigms of science continues to divide the church and distract it from its essential commission. This task is to serve God in society and the world, making known the good news of reconciliation through Christ. The scientific ideas debated in these controversies extend over the range of natural science. To many people, the issues seem irresolvable. By their very nature, the artifacts of a remote past seem unable to provide straightforward interpretations that could satisfy the skeptics and allow Christians unitedly to address more substantial matters.
Is there no truly tractable issue, in which some aspect of evolutionary science could be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt, and so illuminate authentically biblical faith? Of course, to the confirmed sophist, no demonstrations carry any weight if they threaten to overthrow cherished a priori commitments. But it is hoped that people who are motivated by a ‘love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith’ (1Tim.1:5; GNB) could sustain a search for truth, even if they are anxious by what they may find.
What's your response? click COMMENT below

Famous Scientists who believed in God.

Podcasts you might want to peruse:

25 January 2009

Parachute Music Festival

I'm at the Parachute Music Festival this weekend just south of Hamilton, New Zealand; me and 25,000 - 30,000 of my closest friends!

It'll be hot, or muddy. It'll be crowded, but friendly. Food will be expensive and not of the quality I'd prefer, but hey . . . it's Parachute and that's how it is one weekend out of the year. Most of the young people will be staying in a tent city. I'm in a motel in town complete with showers and sheets!


Some people come for the sports, others for the new bands. I like the acoustic stage.

There are seminars and politicians and justice forums. Money is collected to meet needs in Rwanda. Specific items are collected for Women's Refuge. Organisations and missions are available for conversations. A few huge tents sell merchandise: books, music and promo items. Everyone has a wristband on and ought to have sunscreen on!

It's one of the exciting times in NZ where being a Jesus freak is normal, but as I look through more and more of those photos, I don't think anyone goes to Parachute to be normal. I hear normal's just a setting on the dryer anyway.

Conversation Starters

Name badges as conversation starters
This is an interesting ice-breaker that would work well with a group of people who don't know each other too well or perhaps have met only for the first time. We blogged this technique in November 2007.

Ask everyone to write something interesting or quirky about themself on a name tag or post-it and wear it as a badge. It could be one word like 'Blue' or 'Led Zeppelin 1989'.

Allow 10 min for the group to mingle and hear as many stories they can that reveal the choice of words people have used and in doing so learn something interesting about each other.

You could have a lot of fun with this and spark some great conversations too!

Here are a few possibilities from the conventional to the quirky:

  • your nickname
  • sports you love to play or watch
  • the footy team you follow
  • your favourite biography
  • what's on the cover of your diary
  • a thought provoking quote
  • your personal motto
  • the beginning of an interesting story
So this year, create a name badge for yourself for all the conferences, seminars and workshops you attend and let the conversations flow.

Margaret Moon suggested an interesting variation of this technique that can be used for an in-house team building activity. Ask people to write a fact about themselves (a skill or talent) that their team members may or may not know about. Cluster the post its on a wall. Invite participants to guess who the post-its might represent. That will surely get the energy going in the room and might even get a few laughs!

24 January 2009

Community or Isolation: Heaven or Hell

A holy man was having a conversation with God one day and said, ' God , I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.' 



God led the holy man to two doors. 

He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. 
 
In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water. 
 
The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. 
 
They were holding spoons with very long handles, that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. 
 
But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. 
 
The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. 
 
 God said, 'You have seen Hell.' 
 


They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. 

There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's mouth water. 

The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The holy man said, 'I don't understand.' 
 
It is simple,' said God . 'It requires but one skill. 
 
You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.'

Mobile GPS Apps

Crazy Apps People Are Writing!
From Wired Magazine, here are the top ten new mobile GPS apps.

While my primary use of GPS technology involves a Garmin 60 CSx handheld GPSr and geocaching, others are finding a plethora of uses. Read on.

1. Trapster, available on iPhone, Blackberry. Free. Allows users to mark locations of traffic cops, and share them with others.
2. iNap, iPhone, $1. Fall asleep on the train, and iNap will wake you when you get close to your stop. Won't work on Subway.
3. JOYity, Free. Play location based games, such as a virtual game of tag where you see others on screen.
4. Cab4Me, Free. Stay in place, find cab company, they find you.
5. Shopsavvy, Free. Scan barcode with your phonecam, check prices online and NEARBY stores, access reviews.
6. Google Earth, iPhone. Free. Zoom into your location, view aerials, streetview, wikipedia entries. Future: click on text in pic?
7. Locale, Free. Train your phone to know where it is, ie. shift to vibrate automatically at movies, post Twit for location.
8. GoSkyWatch, iPhone. $10. Point back of phone toward night sky to identify constellations.
9. SafetyNet, Free. Program bad hoods in phone - phone shifts to watchdog mode. Shake phone - you location is broadcast to friends, picture taken, speaker on, broadcast warning, dials emergency number.
10. Sitorsquat, iPhone, Blackberry. Free. Find closest restroom with decent user ratings.

I'll be at a huge music festival this weekend. We'll use our cell phones to locate each other, figure out how and where to meet up, keep track of time and the programme. People will pay a fee to recharge their mobile devices as most will be tenting on non-powered sites. It'll be kinda like the Jetson's but this is reality, not kiddie sci-fi.

23 January 2009

Elemeno P's Scotty Pearson

By Ben Kendrew

Scotty Pearson is your friend. You may not have met the likeable bleach-blonde
drummer from kiwi favourites, Elemeno P, but it’s safe to say you’d get along with him
– he is, after all, a cult hero in some circles…

A few years back, when Elemeno P were just starting to gain some popularity here in Aotearoa, t-shirts that read “I KNOW SCOTTY PEARSON” became a crazy fashion fad at Parachute Festival. Scotty, whose face was emblazoned on the t-shirts, seemed to be the dude you really want to know. “I just try to be obtainable for people,” he chuckles, admitting he’s happy to chat with pretty much anyone.

Scotty’s been a regular at Parachute for many years and his history in the music industry is colourful: he played in Kiwi worship-rock band, Form; he’s traveled the US with ‘90s alternative Christian band Hoi Polloi, who played with big names like DC Talk and the Newsboys. That band had a taste of cross-over success too, “We wanted to establish outside of the Christian scene, because we believed the music was up to standard.” The musical escapades for which Scotty’s best known in this country lie outside the Christian sub-culture too, as the tub-thumping, harmony-singing drummer in Elemeno P.

When we chatted, Scotty was in the midst of a heavy promo schedule for the band’s new self-titled album and following nationwide tour. “I’ve talked about the album a lot in the last few days,” he admits, explaining that they took a fresh approach to this, their third LP. “The first album surprised everyone and so that meant the second had quite big expectations,” Scotty recalls. He freely admits they weren’t overly thrilled with their sophomore effort, claiming they lost some of their vibe and edginess in the studio. That wasn’t the fault of the engineer though, he assures, noting they used the same guy this time, “But we were more comfortable in our roles… Plus, we felt like we play well together now, so we had a lot of fun laying the tracks down all together.”

Scotty says it’s all part of a more relaxed Elemeno P. “We’re seven years into this now, so we know each other pretty well!” He says as they’ve grown (including some marriages and births, which have extended the Elemeno P family), they’ve become happy with who they are as a band and learnt to give away the strain and strive that just causes stress. “Part of the beauty of this album is that we’ve kind of given away ambitions, rather than push and push – which is quite freeing actually.” The result musically is a little more room to experiment, nothing too out there, but some variation from the straight pop-rock feel. For example, “Louder, Louder” has a shuffle reminiscent of old-time boogie, and Scotty describes “Loaded Gun” as a “shanty-ish” number.

Scratching below the surface, you get the impression Scotty’s stoked to be doing this music thing with good friends, but there lies some as yet untapped potential in this ensemble. Scotty says his Christian faith tends to have an under-the-radar effect on people – the “oh, there’s something different about him” kind of reaction – and his parting statements hint that there may be more to this foursome than just singalong party anthems: “I think we still haven’t got there with Elemeno P in terms of what we’re gonna communicate. I’m not sure what that is yet, but that’s another reason why I want to carry on because I feel like there’s more for us to do.” Maybe there’s a mission amongst all the chilled out fun after all.

Liner Notes Elemeno P is: Dave Gibson, Justyn Pilbrow, Lani Purkis & Scotty Pearson
Tunes: Love & Disrespect [2003] Trouble in Paradise [2006] Elemeno P [2008]

Web: www.elemenop.com

Tea cosy & Gadgets

I love this tea cosy.
I was looking for a photo of the one I saw at the gallery and then saw this one. Life's too short to be purely functional. Why not have some style, some pizazz, some fluff!

A friend of mine was given a small croc, like in the shoes, for Christmas. Her mum intended her to use it as a cell phone holder, possibly even using the cord to hang it round her neck. A convenient and stylish idea, but I have yet to see it it in use as intended. Design meets function. Nice.

Another friend of mine has a star that sits on top of some wire that attaches to a 9 volt battery. It is just wire and battery and a glowing light. I like it!

Another great thing I saw this week was three dots on the wall of a friends' kitchen. They were magnets that held her knives. They must have been hung on bolts in the wall but just seemed to float there. Function meets design!
Like the ones pictured but hers were just three bright coloured dots!

22 January 2009

Blog Recommendation: Tash McGill

You read my blog and I'm glad.

Can I recommend another one that might interest you?

What I like is not necessarily what you like. You might be offended by things I don't notice or already know many of the things that surprise & enlighten me.

Anyway, go to Tash McGill's blog and see if there's anything at all there that resonates with you.

Tash does not blog everyday, nor several times per day. She writes when she has something worth reading. Subscribe to her blog via RSS and then you'll know when there's something new. Or you can have it chucked in to your email or . . . oh, I don't know all the ways. Figure it out.

CSI: Facebook

From The Guardian, UK.

For those who dismiss Facebook as a time-waster's plaything, where "friends" post unflattering pictures and smart-arse colleagues write cryptic status updates, a little story from New Zealand may make them think again.

Police in Queenstown, southern New Zealand, are trumpeting their "first Facebook arrest" after they posted security-camera footage and pictures showing a man's face as he attempted to break into the safe of a bar on Monday. The local man, 21, is due to appear in court today.

He was caught thanks to "members of the public viewing him on Facebook and also seeing him on TV after the Facebook images were displayed on the news", police said in a statement on their Facebook page.

It appears that our would-be thief was not the sharpest tool in the shed. Local media said the man got too hot while trying to break into the safe, took off his balaclava and showed his face to a security camera.

"He was a very silly young boy. The room is really small and it gets really hot in there at the best of times," said the bar's assistant manager, Mel Kelly.

It is not the first time the social networking site has been used to track down criminals. Last November Facebook helped a seafood restaurant owner in Melbourne identify five customers who walked out without paying having spent $A520 on oysters, trout and fine wine. One of the diners had asked about a former waitress. A quick stroll down her friends later and the bill dodgers had been spotted.

Last month an Australian lawyer served legal documents on a couple via Facebook. Mark McCormack tracked them down after they defaulted on a large loan and was given permission by the Australian courts to use the social networking site to file papers against them.

Great to see social networking sites spearheading the fight against crime, but it does raise the question: who dawdles on a police force's Facebook profile?

CNN's version-

Police in southern New Zealand nabbed a would-be burglar after they posted security camera images of him trying to break into a safe on the popular social networking site, Facebook.

Having removed his balaclava after his efforts made him hot, the would-be burglar looks up at a security camera.

The Queenstown police are calling it their first Facebook arrest. The police department created its online presence on the site just two months ago, said Constable Sean Drader.

"It's pretty popular, isn't it, this site?" Drader told CNN Wednesday, surprised at the quick success.

The 21-year-old masked man allegedly broke into a local pub through a roof early Monday morning and spent considerable time trying to crack open a safe using an angle grinder.

"It's a very small room that he broke into, and it was hot weather. It's summer here," Drader said. "There are sparks flying all about him. And after about an hour, he gets too hot and takes his gloves and balaclava off."

Unable to break open the safe, the man gave up and got ready to leave, Drader said.

"He looks around to see if he's forgotten anything, and he looks up right at the camera. It was rather silly. We got a good look," he said.

The police department posted the surveillance camera photos on its Facebook page. By the next day, the man was in custody, fingered by viewers who recognized him from the images on the site, and from TV segments on the Facebook posting.

Police did not release the suspect's name, but said the Queenstown native is charged with two counts of burglary.

Facebook, the Web's most popular social networking site, allows users to create personal profiles. They can then connect with one another, upload photos and share links. The site boasts more than 90 million active users.

In November, Facebook helped a seafood restaurant owner in Melbourne identify five customers who dined on oysters, trout and expensive wine and then bolted without paying the US $323 bill.

According to media reports, the owner remembered one of the diners asking about a former waitress.

The waitress suggested the restaurateur look through her friend's list on Facebook. A quick scroll later, the owner spotted one of the bill dodgers.

From The TechHerald.com

Not that it will come as a surprise to many, but social networking colossus Facebook has now officially usurped the reign of the once invincible MySpace, surpassing the News Corp-owned network based on June’s global online audience figures.

Facebook unceremoniously shoved MySpace from its throne yesterday when online statistics released by the number crunchers at comScore revealed that Facebook drew a massive 132 million viewers in June, while MySpace managed just 117.5 million.

While June’s figures put clear distance between the two social network heavyweights, comScore has also noted that Facebook first deposed MySpace as far back as April of this year and has experienced a 153 percent growth increase in the last 12 months.

. . . it’s not just Facebook that’s benefiting, with the total global draw and attraction of social networking having increased by a huge 25 percent to 580.51 million people, according to comScore’s figures.

In terms of regional coverage improvements, North America registered a jump of around nine percent, while the Middle East and Africa saw a huge climb of 66 percent and Europe posted an increase of some 35 percent. Latin America registered a user increase of around 33 percent.

Remember Names: Memory Tips




How are you at remembering names? The following are my suggestions with a few links for other tips and tricks. Find what works for you. People are important and their names are somehow a part of them, of their identity, and therefore, important too.

1st thing is you have to want to remember them. Sometimes we just don't concentrate, we don't listen.

2nd thing is to tie the name to the face, to remember something unique or make an association between the name and the person.


3rd. Use the name. Repeat it back to the person in an appropriate context or tell someone else who the person is. Make an introduction.

4th Write it down with a note on something you know about the person.

I meet lots of people. I remember more than I forget, but I'm still not as good as I'd like to be. The hardest thing is when I meet someone again but in a different context than the initial contact! Ahhh!

Dr. David Eubanks, a man I hugely respect, was superb at remembering names no matter where he met the person again. A gift, but a gift I think he works hard at getting right.

Read more about names and how to remember them. How to Remember People's Names.

Oh, another thing I often do is to visualise the name written out. Works for me.

LifeHacker's tips & comments.

eHow's article.

See also Conversations@Intersections post on Odd Names

21 January 2009

Rep. John Lewis: He was there.


Watch CBS Videos Online

Rep. John Lewis talked to Harry Smith about segregation, the civil rights movement and a hard fought road to Barack Obama's inauguration. January 20, 2009


After seeing this man focused on in the crowd during the oath of office and then President Obama's speech I went in search of both his identity and his significance.
Here's what I found. This journey has been a long and personal one for John Lewis.

John Robert Lewis (born February 21, 1940) is an American politician and was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played a key role in the struggle to end segregation. Lewis, a member of the Democratic Party, has represented Georgia's 5th Congressional Districtmap) in the United States House of Representatives since 1987. The district encompasses almost all of Atlanta.

Early life and activism

Born in Troy, Alabama, the son of Meline Thas, Lewis was educated at the American Baptist Theological Seminary and at Fisk University, both in Nashville, Tennessee, where he became active in the local sit-in movement. He participated in the Freedom Rides to desegregate the South, and was a national leader in the struggle for civil rights. Lewis became nationally knownSelma to Montgomery marches, during the first march police attacked the the peaceful demonstrators and beat Lewis mercilessly in public, leaving head wounds that are still visible today. At the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom of 1963, Lewis was the youngest speaker due to his involvement with SNCC. after his prominent role on the

Historian Howard Zinn wrote: "At the great Washington March of 1963, the chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), John Lewis, speaking to the same enormous crowd that heard Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, was prepared to ask the right question: 'Which side is the federal government on?’ That sentence was eliminated from his speech by organizers of the March to avoid offending the Kennedy Administration. But Lewis and his fellow SNCC workers had experienced, again and again, the strange passivity of the national government in the face of Southern violence."

"John Lewis and SNCC had reason to be angry. John had been beaten bloody by a white mob in Montgomery as a Freedom Rider in the spring of 1961. The federal government had trusted the notoriously racist Alabama police to protect the Riders, but did nothing itself, except to have FBI agents take notes. Instead of insisting that blacks and whites had a right to ride the buses together, the Kennedy Administration called for a 'cooling-off period,' a moratorium on Freedom Rides.

Edible Chips: Uhm, yes, but what flavour?

Grandma's pillbox with the days of the week neatly marked is set to go high tech. Tiny edible chips will replace the organizer, tracking when patients take their pills (or don't) and monitoring the effects of the drugs they're taking. Proteus, a Redwood City, California, company, has created tiny chips out of silicon grains that, once swallowed, activate in the stomach. The chips send a signal to an external patch that monitors vital parameters such as heart rate, temperature, state of wakefulness or body angle.

The data is then sent to an online repository or a cellphone for the physician and the patient to track. Proteus says its chips can keep score of how patients are responding to the medication. That may be just the beginning, as the chips could improve drug delivery and even insert other kinds of health monitors inside the body. Now doctors may have a better answer to a common patient complaint — they will know exactly how it feels.

Outlook: If proven in clinical trials, edible chips could let physicians look into a patient's system in a way that could change how medicine is prescribed and how we take the drugs.

Lincoln & Obama; to Washington by way of Illinois

I'm from Indiana, not Illinois, but we're neighbours and share much the same history and values. I like what Scot McKnight wrote.

We in Illinois are proud today; we in the USA are proud today. The Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, an Illinoisan, has taken a new step forward that Lincoln never imagined. Our attention today is on another Illinoisan, someone upon whom Lincoln looks with pride, the 44th President, Barack Obama, an African American, who -- with us and the world -- today will realize some of what Lincoln dreamed. My favorite biography of Lincoln is called With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln , and I hope that theme -- with malice toward none -- will guide Obama's Presidency. May freedom and liberation spread anew, may they spread wider than ever imagined and may they penetrate deeper into the heart and soul of all of us. May God, in his mercy, grant us this request.

Jesus Creed Prayers for Obama-

Our prayer today, Our Father, is for our President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Our prayers include [Please add your prayers as well]:

That You, the infinite font of wisdom, might grant him wisdom daily, for our country and for the world.

That You, the loving God of all, might grant him love for you and for others, including especially our enemies and with a renewed commitment to work together for peace and justice. That not only the teachings but also the cruciform life of Jesus may shape his vision for our world.

That You, the holy and righteous God of justice, might empower him to do what is right in all that he does and that he might pursue what is right from the moment he arises until the moment he sleeps.

That You, the Lord, might grant him the charisma of insight to lead in this turbulent world and time and that this charisma might be used for the good for everyone in the world. We pray this especially for the turbulence in the Middle East where suggestions are simpler than solutions. Give him the insight to speak peace to all.

That You, the One God, might grant him the graces of unity in bringing together our divided country, including our Senate and House, our financial wizards and the common worker, and our leaders and people.

That You, the Healer, might grant him the grace of reconciling damaged relations in this country and in the world about us. That healing might occur between all races, between all countries, between men and women.

That You, the God of Life, might grant him a commitment to act for all -- the unborn and born, the young and old, the civilian and the soldier -- to preserve life and honor that each of us is fashioned in the image of God.

That You, the Father, might grant him the time and wisdom to father his two young daughters and love Michelle, his wife, and her mother.

We commit ourselves, also, to pray for his family as a family.

And that you might deliver him from the powerful temptation to pride, that you might remind him daily that we are mortal and that you alone are Immortal, and that humility may attend his every way and day.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

20 January 2009

Gardens @The Gallery

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Auckland Art Gallery today as it was FREE Monday!
One of my favourite exhibits was a tea cosy of a cottage with a garden all around it. You'll have to go to the gallery to see it cause I can't find a photo of it.

I enjoyed the paintings and etchings and installations. I love gardens and gardening and art, so it was an exhibit bound to please me. I haven't been in to the gallery since last year as my trip to India and then my surgery derailed my normal day-off routine.

Ended up with a friend at the Mezze Bar for tapas. I got the lentil & tomato soup and she got lamb skewers.

SOUP Turkish lentil & tomato soup drizzled with lemon juice & paprika oil,
served with hot Turkish pide bread

Lamb Tapa grilled lamb on skewers with hummus, tahini & spicy Moroccan harrissa

Hadn't been there since Cheryl was here in August!

Oh, and there's a geocache just round the corner from the museum, but I've already found that one.

The Creative Habit

The Creative Habit from self-reliant film

Getting Things Done/David Allen’s notion of “Collect. Process. Organize. Review. Do.” is echoed in Twyla Tharp’s quoting of Stephen Kosslyn’s notion of how you can act on ideas: “Generate. Retain. Inspect. Transform.”

If that sounds familiar, check this out:

Everyone has his or her own organizational system. Mine is a box, the kind you can buy at Office Depot for transferring files.

I start every dance with a box. I write the project name on the box, and as the piece progresses I fill it up with every item that went into the making of the dance. This means notebooks, news clippins, CDs, videotapes of me working alone in my studio, videos of the dancers rehearsing, books and photographs and pieces of art that may have inspired me.

The box documents active research on every project….

There are separate boxes for everything I’ve ever done. If you want a glimpse into how I think and work, you could do worse than to start with my boxes.

The box makes me feel organized, that I have my act together even when I don’t know where I’m going yet.

It also represents a commitment. The simple act of writing a project name on the box means I’ve started work.

The box makes me feel connected to a project. It is my soil. I feel this even when I’ve back-burnered a project: I may have put the box away on a shelf, but I know it’s there. The project name on the box in bold black lettering is a constant reminder that I had an idea once and may come back to it very soon.

Most important, though, the box means I never have to worry about forgetting. One of the biggest fears for a creative person is that some brilliant idea will get lost because you didn’t write it down and put it in a safe place. I don’t worry about that because I know where to find it. It’s all in the box….

They’re easy to buy, and they’re cheap….They’re one hundred percent functional; they do exactly what I want them to do: hold stuff. I can write on them to identify their contents… I can move them around… When one box fills up, I can easily unfold and construct another. And when I’m done with the box, I can ship it away out of sight, out of mind, so I can move on to the next project, the next box.

Easily acquited. Inexpensive. Perfectly functional. Portable. Identifiable. Disposable. Eternal enough.

Those are my criteria for the perfect storage system. And I’ve found the answer in a simple file box.

19 January 2009

Odd Names

Was talking with a friend this AM at Cafe Sofra in Browns Bay about funny names. It reminded me of an article in the NZ Herald about odd names and about a judge allowing a child to change her name as he thought Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii was not quite the mantle a little girl should carry through adolescent years.

See article on BBC, in The UK Guardian, on CNN.

From ABC's Water Cooler, "A family court judge in New Zealand has had enough with parents giving their children bizarre names here, and did something about it.

Just ask Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. He had her renamed.

Judge Rob Murfitt made the 9-year-old girl a ward of the court so that her name could be changed.

Do you have a Unique Name?
Share your story and read others.

"The court is profoundly concerned about the very poor judgment which this child's parents have shown in choosing this name," he wrote. "It makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap, unnecessarily."

In his ruling, Murfitt cited a list of the unfortunate names.

Registration officials blocked some names, including Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit, he said. But others were allowed, including twins named Benson & Hedges, Number 16 Bus Shelter and tragically, Violence.

A judge in the U.S. state of Illinois allowed a school bus driver to legally change his first name to "In God" and his last name to "We Trust."

When I taught in Zimbabwe I had a student named Pedzisai which means last or finished in chiShona. I asked him if he was the youngest in his family. He replied, "No, I'm sixth. There are three after me." Sorry, mum! More to come!

A story is told too about a baby girl born in Southern California that was registered as Female, pronounced fee-mah-lay, as the non-English speaking mother thought that was the name the hospital had given her baby.

How about a guy in the UK called, Justin Kayce?

Russell Sprout has a great sense of humour. "My unusual name hasn't affected me at all; in fact, it has helped me make friends and improve my confidence, especially since leaving school."

Egnorwiddle Waldstrom, is a caterer in London who goes by Eggy.

If we can have an Ashleigh, why not a Kurleigh? Maybe Brian and Rachel Bell will name their new baby Taco! We hope Michael & Janelle Breckell won't name their new little one Freckle. Was at event this weekend where half the guests were named Guest and a few others were Slack.

Jokes have been told for years about a preached named Ivan Odor and another called Harry Pitts. There's more than one Richard Burton and they tire of the "How's Liz?" response. A good friend of mine here in NZ is Amy Grant. She doesn't sing or have a Tennessee accent.

My name is Jill and I reckon I should marry Jack Hill. Whaddaya think?
I've found a few online. who are described as a film director, a doctor and U.S. Senator.

18 January 2009

The Art of Conversation: A good chinwag!

Rachael told me she'd read about this book in The NZ Listener. Seems like just our kinda topic.

Where do our relationships go without conversation?
How do we understand and respect each other without conversation?

While some will reduce it to a formula, I prefer the concept of conversation as art. We rarely get it right at first. Takes some time, attention and practice.

From Guy Somerset's article in The NZ Listener:

Blyth tells of an exchange involving an old friend: “They were on a train, heading to an academic conference, sharing pleasantries and peanuts. Then, having inhaled the nuts, the other man picked up his book (almost certainly by Schopenhauer) and handed my friend the empty packet, saying, ‘This is all our conversation is. Exchanging rubbish.’”

The joy of talking - from Big Brother to Henry James By Elizabeth Day in The Observer, Sunday 9 November 2008

Elizabeth writes, "I wanted to hate this book, I really did. A while back, a friend and I had the same idea: to write a nifty little guide to the lost art of conversation, preferably in time to seize the Christmas market and make our fortunes. Then we heard that Catherine Blyth was doing it, so that put a stop to our daydreams of becoming the new Ben Schott or Lynne Truss.

Buy The Art of Conversation at the Guardian bookshop

Anyway, I tried my hardest to dislike The Art of Conversation, but it is hard to dislike anything that quotes Chanelle from Big Brother in the same breath as Andrew Marvell and Henry James. Chanelle is used to exemplify how a person can fashion a spoken exchange to hear what they want to hear, rather than what is actually being said. So when her reluctant on-off boyfriend Ziggy admitted in the prime-time glare of reality television that he wanted 'to finish this', she cannily shot back: 'This conversation?' It took him, Blyth notes, a further week to dump her.

But the book is less about Chanelle-esque manipulation (although a chapter is devoted to acerbic putdowns) and more about resurrecting the simple joys of talking to each other. Blyth argues that, while face-to-face communication is essential to human intimacy and development, we are now presented with fewer and fewer opportunities to converse. We're all too busy emailing each other emoticons and using our BlackBerrys to update our Facebook statuses to bother with the old-fashioned practice of everyday chatter.

'Historically,' Blyth writes, 'the periods when conversation was most revered have been among the most fruitful for reason, invention and respect for the individual; times when people believed their opinions could change the world... just as Jimmy Connors raised John McEnroe's game, so Coleridge spurred on Wordsworth, so the Almohad court propagated scientific and cultural advance.'

Blimey. For the Almohadly challenged among us, Blyth offers a 15-chapter crash course in how to get the most out of conversation by various means, including sincere flattery, careful listening, judicious flirtation and, if none of the above is working, a lethal retort. Take as your cue radical journalist John Wilkes who, when told by Lord Sandwich that he would die 'either of the pox or on the gallows', quickly responded that it would depend 'on whether I embrace your mistress or your principles.'

The Art of Conversation wears its erudition with similar levity, splicing advice with historical bons mots. It has clearly taken a great deal of careful research and, occasionally, Blyth's sentences try to cram too much in, becoming overloaded with ideas. When analysing the term 'quality time', she writes: 'Such language is also a licence to dole it out grudgingly, as if to convince us it is proper most hours should be distracted, second best or negligible; a warrant to neglect that we like to imagine is benign.' In other words: the idea that some time is 'quality' means we feel free to waste the other minutes of the day that aren't valued so highly. But it took me several rereadings to get there.

Blyth is at her best when casually revealing valuable nuggets of information. In a section on the value of silence, we learn that when Solon, the founder of Athenian democracy, was asked to remove the best and worst bits of a sacrificed animal in a test of wits, he selected a single item: the tongue.

Sometimes, the book's structure feels unnecessarily limiting, as if it could not quite decide whether to be a self-help manual or a chatty polemic of the Eats, Shoots and Leaves variety. There are sporadic attempts to reduce complex and subtle ideas to an equation, such as 'Attention + Interest = Conversation' or 'Incongruity x Credulity = Surprise!' as if we are sitting through a powerpoint presentation at a motivational management seminar. This sits uneasily with Blyth's natural tone of elegant drollery.

But perhaps, as Woodrow Wilson once opined of the US President Warren Harding, I am simply in possession of 'a bungalow mind'. I hope that reading The Art of Conversation has furnished me with a staircase or two.

See also Carnegie on Conversations posted here on Conversations@Intersections on 14 January 2009.

Or for an example of a bad conversation go to A Conversation?