Polls excoriate Bush, Britney, praise Bush, Oprah

Only in America can you have a poll like this:

Biggest Villain of 2006:
1. George W. Bush (25%)
2. Osama Bin Laden (8%)
3. Saddam Hussein (6%)

Biggest Hero of 2006:
1. George W. Bush (13%)
2. American Troops in Iraq (6%)
3. Jesus (3%)

Worst Celebrity Role model of 2006:
1. Britney Spears (29%)
2. Paris Hilton (18%)
3. Mel Gibson (12%)

Best Celebrity Role model of 2006:
1. Oprah Winfrey (29%)
2. Michael J. Fox (23%)
3. George Clooney (12%)


Some surprising Cricket Trivia

Matthew Hoggard has now taken 235 Test wickets. Two more and he will be 6th on the all-time wicket taking list for England.

Glenn McGrath has been not out 50 times while batting for Australia. The next highest on Australia's list is Steve Waugh with 46.

Brett Lee is Australia's most uneconomical bowler. He's taken 225 wickets but averages 3.57 runs per over. In Australia's test history, only two other players who have taken 10 wickets or more are more uneconomical - Simon Katich (12 wickets at 33.83, rpo 3.69) and Jo Angel (10 wickets at 46.30, rpo 3.71).

Gerald Ford wouldn't have invaded Iraq

Describing his own preferred policy toward Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Ford said he would not have gone to war, based on the publicly available information at the time, and would have worked harder to find an alternative. "I don't think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly," he said, "I don't think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer."

- Washington Post


When trouble comes, victory needs an accountant

Stuart Clark, Australian pace bowler, is currently studying a Masters in Commerce degree. When he completes his career for Australia, he says he will study Law.

Look at the current Australian team. What sort of vocations do you think these guys would have if not for cricket? McGrath would be a safe cracker; Warne would be a confidence trickster, slamming his mansion door on cameras and reporters who have exposed his wrongdoings; Lee would be a surfboard wielding Wall Street stockbroker making massive gains and massive losses; Michael Clark would be an actor on Neighbours; Hayden would be an aging bodybuilder.

Stuart Clark? He would crunch numbers every morning and afternoon and get excited about new changes to income tax laws. He would think fondly of his Professional Year and would be cynical about anyone who claimed to be a CPA.

To me, the measure of a player's worth is his consistency. Don't just look at the times when a player excels - look at the times when he is working in the background.

Clark's current Ashes campaign looks brilliant - at this moment in time (after day 1 of the 4th Test) he has taken 18 wickets at 17.88, an economy rate of 2.26 runs per over and a strike rate of one wicket every 47.4 balls. However, it's his consistent performance that needs to be lauded here:


These are not the performances of a man who will single-handedly win a test. However, they are the performances of a man who assists others. He acts in the background, receiving praise from everyone who sees him play but is never on the podium receving man of the match awards.

This used to be Jason Gillespie's role - except that Gillespie never had figures like these. When Clark ambles in he does not strike fear into the hearts of opposition batsmen, and nor is he a target of crowd attention - the Barmy Army ignore him, the Aussie supporters walk away to buy a beer.

If Clark was a batsman, he would be accused of "playing for his average". At the end of each innings, you could imagine Clark looking at his figures and doing the calculations to see whether he is still averaging under 20, and how many runs have been taken off him.

For statistically-minded cricket tragics like myself, Clark is a welcome antithesis to the blond-haired anti-tank cannon that is Brett Lee. Lee is a showman - his wickets are exciting and his joy is unparalleled, coming as welcome relief from the boundaries that get hit off his overs. Clark is similarly overjoyed when he takes a wicket, but his celebrations look more like an end of financial year party attended by the boring and mundane who have had one too many glasses of shandy. Lee's wickets are a celebration of life in the midst of death; Clark's wickets are merely entries on the ledger, occasionally highlighted in yellow and admired by the green-inked scrawlings of auditors.

Deadly yet predictable

Yet another bunch of Nigerians get burned to death from an exploding pipeline. Horrible? Yes. Predictable? Yes, sadly.


The incredible Evangelical exploding brain technique

Why is it that Evangelical Christians are often depicted as being close-minded, ignorant and prone to herd mentality? Perhaps it is because it is true... broadly speaking that is.

I just read, yet again, the Jack Chick tract "Dark Dungeons" - an evangelistic comic written in 1984 that exposes the great evil inherent in satanic games like Dungeons and Dragons and ends with a gospel invitation.

I'll start off with the positive. Chick's presentation of the Gospel in the final page is spot on. Although it is obvious that the guy is a KJV-only-er, anyone who reads that presentation of the gospel and who prays that prayer will be converted. As an evangelical myself I concur with everything that Chick says on the final page of the tract.

That's the good news. Now the bad.

The basic thrust of "Dark Dungeons" is that Dungeons and Dragons is part of a satanic conspiracy. Players are unwittingly involving themselves in witchcraft and pagan rituals to try to get them "further up" into a hidden world of evil people trying to win the world for the devil. The books, dice and other items are actually real magical items and deserve to be burned (Acts 19.19).

My problem with this is obvious - none of it is true.

Not 6 feet away from me is a box containing al my D & D stuff from high school. I still have the Players Handbook, the Monster Manual, the Dungeon Master's Guide, Deities and Demigods, Unearthed Arcana and others (all 1st edition). Even back in the early 1980s when I was playing it, I knew that there was nothing terribly anti-Christian about it. Sure, there were certain temptations (I would've loved for my characters to meet a Sylph), but there was nothing satanic in it at all.

I'm saying all this because I've just read a commentary of the Chick tract (profanity warning) from a non-Christian who has played enough D & D to know. Chick's dedication to a completely off-the-wall understanding of D & D has not been a good witness to say the least.

But Chick's tract is merely a part of a wider problem within Evanglical Christianity - the propensity to embrace urban myths, rumours, innuendo and even outright lies as fact is a recurring problem. Consider the following examples:

1. There are hidden covens of Satan worshippers who are sacrificing and sexually abusing children and praying against churches.
2. A Christian picks up a hitch-hiker in his car who sits in the back. After a rather strange conversation the man says "Jesus is coming soon" and disappears. The Christian then realises that he has "entertained an angel".
3. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, publically states that she wrote the books to spread witchcraft and satanism around the world.

Evangelicals have probably heard these three examples in their church life. Certainly I have been told by earnest, wide-eyed Christians of the first two. The problem? None of them are true. They are just rumours (1), urban myths (2) and deliberate satire (3).

Between 1990 and 2001, Americans who stated that they had "no religion" on their census forms rose from 8.4% to 15.0%. Contrary to the claims of triumphalist Evangelicals who rein in thousands to their megachurches and millions of dollars to their ministries, America is turning against God and Christian belief. American evangelicals are willing to place the blame anywhere - the ACLU, the Democratic Party, Hilary Clinton, Hollywood, even Soy Beans. Instead, the blame should be placed firmly amongst evangelicals themselves.

How many times can the sexual and financial sins of evangelical leaders continue before unbelievers take notice? Think back to the 1980s when Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggert were put through the public wringer. Now Ted Haggard has gone through it. These public spectacles damage the credibility of the church and give the impression that evangelicals are quite good at telling the rest of the world what to do but are themselves unable to do it. Did I say "give the impression"? Sorry, I meant to say "show beyond reasonable doubt".

In the early church, Christians were called atheists and baby killers by the Roman pagans. Of course such accusations were wrong. These days Christians are more likely to be labeled as "ignorant hypocrites" - and there is much truth in this statement.

Evangelicals should stop blaming everyone else and realise that they themselves are the cause of the problem. Moreover, they should take time to realise that God himself is communicating this to them by the criticisms from the world.

As an evangelical myself I am fairly ambivalent towards the ungodly behaviour exhibited by "unbelievers." I spent five months teaching in country NSW recently and was exposed to all sorts of drunken revelry, marriage breakdowns and vicious gossip exhibited by non-Christian teachers. Am I concerned about this behaviour? Yes of course, but I know that these people are unbelievers - they are only doing what comes naturally to them. Moreover, I know that any attempt by me to confront or change their behaviour will be met with incredulity and resistance. As an evangelical, I know that it is only by the Spirit of God that a person can change their thinking and behaviour to become more in line with that of God - and that this process can only occur with a clear and unambigious communication of the Gospel of Christ. Rather than lecturing these people on their sins, we should tell them about Jesus.

Yet if those in my church exhibited the same sinful behaviour, my reaction would be much harsher. The church is the place in which Christians are able to regulate, model and promote godly behaviour. Sin, especially major sins like sexual immorality, violence or greed, should be addressed where possible in the church. Although I don't expect perfection, I do expect Christians to at least fight against their sins and work hard against them - as opposed to keeping these sins hidden away somewhere and putting on a mask of godliness (like Ted Haggard and Jimmy Swaggert did).

Unbelievers see our lives. If we are hypocritical and ignorant, they will easily dismiss Christianity as worse than useless. Any cursory reading of the Bible will show that ignorance and hypocrisy are not virtues that should be embraced.

From the Theosalient Department

© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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This is probably one of the better Christmases I've experienced. Since I only arrived back home on Friday, I was only exposed to the full Christmas consumerism for a few days.

My main present was an iRiver T30. I selected this brand because of its ability to play ogg sound files (since I am unreasonably committed to free open source software). One problem with the player is that it is designed to plug into computers using Windows XP while someone like me runs Kubuntu. The upshot of the problem is that it takes a rather long time to download music files to the player. Nevertheless, it works well enough for me to be happy. It would've been nicer to have more than 1gb - and have enough to have my entire CD collection (12.8gb) but there's no flash-memory mp3 players of that size yet (no moving parts is good).

Ah... December 26. The most wondrous day of the year. Apart from the cricket, Christmas is 364 days away!

Oh... Anna got Kinetic Combat for the PS2 while Aiden got lots of pirate toys.


I'm home

Left Griffith at around 6.00am and arrived back in Newcastle just after 3.00pm. It was a good trip - I gave a lift to a teacher's daughter's boyfriend who actually turned out to be a Christian who attends "Smokin!" Barney's at Broadway. We had lunch at the Scottish restaurant at Sally's Corner and half way through Peter Hughes walks in. Peter is some big wig at AFES these days and he and I were on MTS together back in 1994-95, so it was good to catch up. His kids are named Calvin and Kia "A Reformer and a car" he explained.

It's great to be back with the family. Aiden and Lillian jumped all over me when I got home. Lillian is so grown up now (she turns two in March) and helped me unpack the car.



On Saturday my letter to the Herald stated that 50% of Griffith were migrants. Wrong wrong wrong. 2001 Census figures show that Griffith's migrant population is 16.8% of the population, which is actually lower than the Australian average of 21.9%.

But there are some notable differences. 24.9% of households in Griffith speak a language other than English. This means that Griffith migrants are not English speakers and that even some Australian-born people speak another language at home (it's the Italians).

Tamworth's 2001 census figures are also notable. This country town has only 4.9% of people born overseas - and most of them are from England, Scotland and New Zealand. Moreover, 94.9% of Tamworth residents speak English at home.

And my letter may have communicated the idea that everything is peachy here in the multicultural utopia of Griffith. Far from it. But it is, to my mind, a very successful multicultural town.


1 week to go

... before I go back home to Newcastle. For those who don't know, I'll be returning to Newcastle and trying to find work there. I had hoped to bring Anna and the kids here to Griffith, but Judy, Anna's mum, is very sick and we need to stay in the Hunter.

If you can, please pray that I can get work. Anna has 3 days per week guaranteed at Centrelink but we would both prefer it if I work and she stays home looking after the kids. I've just applied for a teaching position which I won't get but I suppose it's important to try.

I got a Christmas card from one of my students the other day. It's notable because she's a Turkish Muslim.

Some teachers are being farwelled this weekend at a party at one of the local clubs, including me. I've had a good time here at Griffith High School. If I ever needed confirmation that I was an effective teacher and could make it in a hard school then these past few months have been worth it. It has been hard yakka but it has ultimately been rewarding.

It has also interesting being a "bachelor" again and not having wife and kids around - it has certainly had its advantages but I would rather stay with my family any day.

I have a letter in tomorrow's Sydney Morning Herald about Tamworth and its rejection of Sudanese refugees. One of the other teachers here is a guy called Kevin Farrell who often gets letters into the Herald and has inspired me to return to my letter writing.

Hopefully I'll also return to more regular blogging. It has been very difficult to blog and get emails here in Griffith. Today, for some reason, I can sit at the desk in the staffroom and blog but on other days I can't.

What will I miss about Griffith? The Spaghetti Campagnola from Belevedere's restaurant; the very short drive from school to home; the teachers I have made friends with, especially Shannon, Naomi, Venessa, Sally, Murray and Katie; Five of my year 9 students - Dean, Carla, Trent, Kimberley and Matthew - who were very entertained by my "stories" and worked hard when needed; the lack of traffic lights; the brothers and sisters at Griffith Presbyterian whom I never really got to know too well; Mrs Pascoe, one of the parents of a year 7 student, who appreciated my input; the long drives to Rankins Springs, Ivanhoe and Cobram.

What will I not miss about Griffith? The desert heat; the flies; the mozzies who are even now breeding in the pool of water outside our house; kids who couldn't give a damn; the taste of the town water supply; the lack of a Thai restaurant; the lack of trees; the lack of doctors; the lack of adequate funding for public education; the traffic down Banna avenue; going shopping and bumping into students you were yelling at 60 minutes beforehand; the lack of channel 10; kids who truant class and go swimming in the irrigation channels and return to school with wet undies; and, of course, being away from Anna, Aiden and Lillian for such a long time.