John Stott

John Stott passed away on Wednesday aged 90. He was a hero to me and every Evangelical you would care to meet. His impact upon the Church in general and the Church of England in particular was profound. The New York Times has a nice obituary, and summarises his approach well:

"For him, Christianity means probing the mysteries of Christ. He is always exploring paradoxes. Jesus teaches humility, so why does he talk about himself so much? What does it mean to gain power through weakness, or freedom through obedience? In many cases the truth is not found in the middle of apparent opposites, but on both extremes simultaneously."

I only had the privilege of hearing John preach once, and that was during a college chapel service when I was a student at LBC (now LST). He began by saying that he had 17 points, we laughed thinking it was joke; it wasn’t! The Cross of Christ, and Basic Christianity are well thumbed and sitting on my bookshelf. I recommend them whole heartedly.

Today is St Swithin’s day

Swithun (or Swithin) was bishop of Winchester when he died in 862AD. He had a reputation for works of charity and for the founding of churches; and also is recorded as having the gift of healing. He was buried in the graveyard of Winchester Cathedral in a spot where “the sweet rain from heaven might wet his grave”.

According to folklore:

“St Swithin’s Day,
if it does rain full forty days,
it will remain St Swithin’s Day,
if it be fair For forty days, t’will rain no more”

Given it’s Mrs P’s 40th tommorrow and we have a huge marquee in the garden, and it’s forecast thuderstorms for Saturday I’m trusting in St Swithun – though the evidence is that there’s not a lot of evidence to back up his reputation:

Numerous studies have been carried out on past weather observations and none of them have proved the legend true. In fact, since the start of records in 1861, there have neither been 40 dry or 40 wet days following the corresponding weather on St Swithin’s Day.

Ho hum…

Any truth in St Swithins weather folklore? – Met Office.

Loving the Kindle

I posted a while ago about the impact of Ebook sales and the Kindle in particular on local bookshops. I had a couple of comments in person about how awful it was that our beloved bookshops were being killed off by the evil Amazon Empire and their weapon of mass book destruction the Kindle. I therefore feel something of a hypocrit confessing that I am now the proud owner of a Kindle. I got it in February  as a birthday present form the family and have been using it ever since. To be honest it is great! If you haven’t got one yet here’s what I love and one or two things I don’t love quite so much.

What’s to love?

(1) It looks and feels great.

Ok, that might seem a pretty shallow reason to endorse a gadget, but for a book reader it’s central. We have an emotional connection with books. Those of us who are keen readers don’t just love the information or stories we glean from books. We love the experience of reading too. Holding a book, flicking through it – a loved book is a prized connection. For ebook readers to catch on we have to love them too. And the Kindle succeeds on this key point. It’s smooth, it’s just the right weight, the right size. The aesthetics are spot on. Like the iphone give one to a non-believer to hold abd before long they are cooing with delight.

(2) It works

Any consumer device to succeed in todays market has to do what it purports to do exceptionally well, and the Kindle does. The epaper e-ink or whatever it’s called technology does work fantastically well. Reading a Kindle is not exactly the same as reading a book, but before long you get used to it. At first you are looking for screen controls and expect backlighting, but once you start to treat it like a book and not a tablet you are away. You can easily read one handed in bright light outdoors. Buttond for navigation are intuitive and work well.

(3) Convenience

Buy it from Amazon. It comes set up with your Amazon account all done for you. Buying books then becomes ridiculously easy. Find on Amazon – one click – 30 seconds later it’s on your Kindle. Storage isn’t an issue, so you don’t need to choose which books to cart around with you, and no-one knows whether I’m reading Grudem’s Systematic Theology or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, (both excellent by the way).

What’s not to love?

Well a couple of things. It seems churchlish to complain given this is sucha good product but a couple of things need thinking about IMHO.

(1) Cost of Kindle editions of Books

Increasingly the books I look at buying cost more in Kindle format than Paperback. Now I know e-publishing could easily wipeout dead tree media and so a realistic pricing structure is needed as e-versions of books sell in increasing amounts, but c’mon – more for an electonic version of a book than a ‘real one’ you actually make?

(2) Navigating Menus

Gave it to my 9 year old to look at. He’s pretty techie savvy but was completely lost using menus and buttons. ‘Backwards’ and ‘forwards’ and ‘home’ – Menu trees. It’s decidedly old school in it’s navigation. Maybe that’s a retro bookish thing but in a world of touchscreens and ipads it feels like a step backwards.