Saturday, June 27, 2009

Weddings, Weddings, Weddings

Today I broke a personal record - or rather it was broken for me. A wedding due to start at 2pm in fact did not begin till 3.15pm - a full 75 minutes late (not quite the 90 minutes which I thought - put that down to an arithmetical error). My previous record had been only 40 minutes and that was more than a decade ago.
Fortunately I was not running against a deadline, such as another wedding, and I kept very calm if a little hot under the chasuble on a warm summer afternoon. Our organist, cool and professional as ever, was perhaps a little more put out than I. And justifiably.
The reasons, as so often, were trivial, and one of those unfortunate-series-of-events: the bride overstretched herself doing the hair or the bridesmaids herself; one of ushers, sent ahead with the orders of service get hopelessly lost just a short distance from the Church and despite being given directions on the phone got more and more lost until he found himself on a car park just a few yards from the Church. We sent the photographer to fetch him. When he returned with the lost sheep, he then decided another of group photos were required.
All in all it would probably make a not unlikely script for a situation comedy. Though we might say 'Well, funny yes, but a bit far fetched'.
I seem to have been involved in more and more weddings recently. Two of our daughters married last year. We have more weddings in the parish this year than for a few years, and already have a few booked for next year, though to be very honest, the numbers are still pretty low. And the couples who come to tie the knot, with few exceptions, have been living together for quite some time.
One reason for the decline in weddings has to be that our expectations of the wedding day are so high - in terms of ceremony, and all the trimmings, and all the expense: and of course (as no one would deny) that is the wrong focus.
I said to the gathered congregation, who had waited for so long for the ceremony to begin (so long that many had to go out of the Church to put extra time on the parking meters) that one thing we had learnt today is that things don't always run according to plan.
If that's the one thing Stefan and Georgina take from this experience, it will stand them in good stead. Our expectations for marriage should be high - not because it will always be perfect, but because it won't be, and (that little word which is used to mean so many different things) Love is not about perfection, but about perseverance, endurance, forgiveness and healing. Oh yes ... and patience.

[I took the photo above on my phone - the b&w setting was accidental, but is, I think, quite effective. As the family still chatted outside the Church they didn't notice me - I was sneaking off to the Coachmakers for a Very Important Meeting. This is true. There is nothing wrong in enjoying work. And this was (sort of) work.]

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson RIP

I've never been a particular fan of Michael Jackson.
In the 70s, when I was a teenager, the girls seemed to followed the Osmonds or the Jackson 5 and I looked down on all that music (though now I'll admit they were in rather different leagues). I was a Rock fan, and prog rock at that.
In the 80s I could see the skill of the dancer and the great showmanship of the videos, and I realised that this was popular music of some influence and quality, but it never really got to me. I never bought one of his records, never downloaded an album, and never even played one on or Spotify.
But there is one thing we had in common, and that is we were born in the same year. So, in a bizarre and incongruous sort of way his life has run alongside mine. There are very few comparisons to be drawn, but I suppose this little fact has made me just a bit more interested in the life of a celebrity than I might otherwise have been.
I've noticed not so much the music, but the bizarre way in which this life has unfolded in the media. The accusations. The operations. The increasingly bizarre facial appearance. The dysfunctional husband and father. I've not followed this avidly, but - probably like many other people - I have been unable to avoid the news, the gossip, the information.
In a society which values celebrity most highly, and in which young people yearn for fame, here is (yet another) casualty. He had some achievements, certainly, great ones, and they should be remembered and celebrated, but he was also a victim of the age (and he too, perhaps, had his victims along the way). He was talented, but wounded  - not by his talent and ability, but by the lifestyle which the fruits of this talent made possible for him.
Today, and for the next few days, there will be much said about his abilities and achievements, which are real.
But for me, much more real, is the sadness at a wounded and damaged individual, never quite at terms with himself, for whom wealth and fame certainly did not bring happiness.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Memorial Service at Carmountside Cemetery (21st June 2009)

Tomorrow (Sunday June 21st) I am speaking at the annual memorial service at Carmountside Cemetery in Stoke-on-Trent. The service is broadly Christian, in that we are having Christian hymns and a Christian minister (me) to lead it, but in other respects is non-confessional, even non-religious in the way that an area with a long and firm tradition of non-conformity thinks is 'ordinary'. There will certainly be those there (many of them) who never go to any forms of worship, and probably that last time they heard a hymn or said a prayer was at the funeral of the loved one they are coming to remember.
This year the service is being held out of doors (an act of faith in itself), so I thought some reflection on the beauty of creation would not be inappropriate. I am going to read St Francis' Canticle of the Sun (slightly adapted) and then try to draw out a message of hope and comfort.

You can read the reading from St Francis and the Homily itself here

Sunday, June 14, 2009

First Holy Communions at Sacred Heart, Hanley

Today, the feast of Corpus Christi, nine children of our church family made their Holy Communions for the first time.
The occasion reflected something of the makeup of our diverse community. Our grandaughter, Jessica was the only child whose grandparents were born in the United Kingdom. Of the other eight, two have Ukrainian, Italian and English grandparents, one is the grandson of post-war Italian migrants, another was born in Malawi, another in Kerala (India), and the other three were from Ireland, Sri Lanka and Slovakia. This is Hanley!

The Church was packed (and noisy) and we were especially privileged to welcome Canon David Goodwin, celebrating the Silver Jubilee of his ordination, as principal celebrant of the Mass. The weather also added something very special to the celebration.

It was difficult for me to take photos myself, so I am relying on families and those present at the celebration. The photos so far feature rather largely our granddaughter, Jessica. I'm hoping to add more in the next few days. The photo gallery lives here.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

How To Choose Very Strong Passwords That Are Easy To Remember

This is entirely plagiarised from an email I received from TweetLater. I just thought it is really good and very useful and worth sharing (can't just link to an email). I'll not say whether I'm going to use it, but is certainly a good idea. It is very much better to the method I was told to use when I worked in the prison service, which was choose a six letter word, then add 01, and when required to change the password, just change it to '02' and so on. In conversation recently with someone working for a local authority I discovered they have the same procedure - now if that advice were replace with )! then )@ (mac keyboard) and so on ... well, read on below:

"What makes a password strong is the combination of different alphanumeric, special characters, and capitalization that you use, and of course the length of the password.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to remember and type an epistle when I fill out a password field. And, ideally, I don't want to use the same password on many sites, because if one is compromised then my entire life is unlocked.

I want to show you here how to choose very strong passwords for every website that you use, that are different for each website, and are each only 9 characters in length max.
A study found that an 8-character password that's constructed in the manner I'm going to show you has 7.2 quadrillion different combinations, and will take 83.5 days to crack if the hacker can try 1 billion different passwords per second.

Step 1: Pick 2 Starting Characters

To make it easy to remember, all your passwords are going to start with the same characters. But these are not just any characters. Pick 2 characters from the list of special characters that you see above the numbers on your keyboard and to the left of the Enter key.

These characters are: ~`!@#$%^&*()_-+={}[]:;"'<>?/|\

Pick any two of them as your password starting characters. To show you an example as you read through the steps, let's pick $ and % (pick your own two).

In my example, all my passwords are going to start with $%.

Step 2: Pick 2 Ending Characters

In exactly the same way as above, pick two different special characters that will be at the end of your passwords. Don't pick the same characters as your starting characters.

For the purposes of my example, let's pick * and ^. Hence, all my passwords are going to end with *^.

Step 3: Construct The Middle Part Using The Website Name

This is the fun part. Take the first 6 characters of the website domain name where you want to use the password. If the domain name is shorter than 6 characters, then use the full domain name.

In my example, let's create a password

The first 6 characters of the domain name is "micros".

Now we're going to substitute some characters and capitalize others.

Substitute the following characters: a becomes @, e becomes 3, i becomes 1, o becomes 0, and u becomes ^.

Now we have "m1cr0s".

Now, decide on a standard for yourself regarding which character(s) you're going to capitalize.

For this example, let's say we're always going to capitalize the 3rd consonant.

So now we have "m1cR0s".

The next step is to drop the last character ("s" in our case), and append the Ending Characters (*^) that you picked in Step 2.

Our password is now "m1cR0*^".

The last step is to add the Starting Characters (Step 1) to the beginning of the password.

The final password is "$%m1cR0*^".

A Few More Examples

Domain:, Password: "$%tw1Tt*^".
Domain:, Password: "$%tw33T*^".
Domain:, Password: "$%f@c3B*^".
Domain: Password: "$%3b@*^"


Pick your own 2 starting characters and your own 2 ending characters, don't just use the same ones I used in the example.

In addition, make your own capitalization rule (you can capitalize more than 1 character if you want to.

You can also use more than the first 6 characters of the domain name if you want to. It just means your passwords will be slightly longer.

Is This Password Strong?

Yes, it is very strong. With this method you're potentially using any of 30 special characters, 10 numerals, and 26 lower case and 26 uppercase characters.

Unless a hacker happens to have a water-cooled supercomputer in his briefcase, he will not be able to crack your password.
Making It Even Stronger
If you're concerned that some hackers might know about this password construction method, simply pick 3 starting characters and/or 3 ending characters, or as many as you like. Any slight variation of the method makes your passwords even more secure.
This password construction method was designed by Sammie, a person with a brilliant technical mind.
Thank You For Using TweetLater

Best Regards,
Dewald Pretorius  "

Good eh?