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Insurance and libraries - John C. Kirk

Jun. 22nd, 2006

11:21 pm - Insurance and libraries

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I've just read a couple of interesting stories on the BBC website, which I think deserve comment.

The first is Sisters lose second coming cover. The idea is that three sisters took out insurance to cover child-raising costs in case any of them had a virgin birth; the title is slightly misleading, in that they appear to be three siblings rather than three nuns. Anyway, what strikes me about this is that someone hasn't been reading their bible very well; the idea of Revelations is that the Second Coming won't mimic the first, but instead that Jesus will return as an adult at full power. So, flaming chariots across the sky, that type of thing, rather than nappies that need changing. Another issue is that he's not due to turn up until the Antichrist has ruled for 1000 years, so the ladies are probably being a bit optimistic about their own lifespan. Anyway, given all of that I can understand why the Catholic church complained - I had a similar reaction to Kevin Smith's Daredevil storyline a few years ago. The most charitable interpretation is probably to say that they don't believe Jesus of Nazareth was the "prophesied messiah", i.e. they think that their theoretical child would be the First Coming; if that is the case, it just means that the BBC have been letting journalistic standards slip a bit. Of course, I'm sure there are plenty of people who don't believe in the Bible at all, but if you do follow it then it's probably a good idea to read it once in a while...

The second article is Love it or lose it: there's a suggestion that various public libraries might be closing soon due to lack of usage, and I think this is worth paying attention to. I remember an advert from my childhood, set in what was then the future, where an old man is showing his grandson a statue of a milkman, and the idea was that doorstep delivery had become a thing of the past - the message was that you needed to get milk delivered if you wanted the service to remain. I haven't seen any milk floats recently, and I get all my milk from the supermarket nowadays, so that advert does seem like a fairly accurate warning in retrospect. Regarding libraries, I am a member of my local one, but I've only borrowed books from it once, which was about a year ago. I used to go much more often when I was a kid (to the public library and the school library), but nowadays I tend to buy books instead.

One reason for that is logistical - based on the opening hours for Croydon's Central Library, it would be quite difficult for me to get there on a weekday. Admittedly my hours tend to be a bit skewed (e.g. 11-7 rather than 9-5), but even so I'd feel as if I was taking the piss if I stopped off at the library en route. They're closed on Sundays, so that just leaves Saturday, when I'm often on SJA duty. I don't really like wandering around in uniform when I'm off-duty, but it also seems a bit silly to do two round-trips through the town centre in one day, so I just don't get round to visiting.

Mind you, I think that there is a wider issue about spending patterns. When I was younger, I'd borrow books from the library, and only buy a book if I'd read it several times and intended to read it several times in the future; I wouldn't buy something just to read it once. Now that I know my tastes a bit better (or arguably now that they're narrower), I think it's reasonable to buy some things "sight unseen". For instance, I've really enjoyed all of the Harry Potter books so far, so the chances are that I'll also like the next one; the same thing applies to Bujold's novels about Miles Vorkosigan, or Peter David's New Frontier novels. On the other hand, there are books like The Dice Man, that I've only read once - it was ok, and I may re-read it sometime, but I would have been better off borrowing it, if only to save on shelf space. This doesn't quite work for computer books, but I have considered joining the Kings library as an alumnus so that I can get at their academic textbooks. (One of the newsletters offered this service, but I couldn't find any mention of it on their website.)

The same thing applies to other media too. Comics are enough of a fringe interest that I think the industry would basically collapse if people stopped buying issues that they'd only read once. For that matter, there are titles that don't sell enough copies to keep going if people "waited for the trade", but that's a separate ramble. What I would like to see are more e-comics; Neil Gaiman recently suggested the idea that people could buy them through iTunes, which sounds quite appealing. That way, it would be a bit like Sluggy Freelance or Megatokyo - I can read the story on my computer, and then buy the paperbacks when they're published later for the stories that I want to read over and over again. (I do something similar for Fables and Lucifer at the moment, where I buy the loose issues and the paperbacks, and I'm hoping that I can offload the original issues soon before I completely fill my second filing cabinet.)

However, I think that DVDs fit in nicely with the library model, which ties in to my recent interest in Amazon's DVD rental scheme (which I'm very satisfied with so far, by the way). Nowadays there seems to be a perception (at least among people I know) that if you liked a particular TV series or film then you will buy the DVDs when they're available, rather than just doing this for the ones that are particular favourites. The Motley Fool did a good article a couple of years ago: Ten Tips To Get Out Of Debt. One of these said: "Take a good look at your vast DVD/video/CD/book collection and ask yourself if it's really that important for you to be able to watch Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl whenever you feel like it!" I currently have a backlog of DVDs that I've bought and not watched, all of which are films/episodes that I've seen before, so I'm now trying to be a bit more selective. And while I'm linking, Raymond Chen made a valid point about office clutter: "When you're young, you want to have as much stuff as possible. 'The kid who dies with the most toys wins.' As you grow older, you realize that material goods are a burden and you try to get rid of them in order to simplify your life."

Anyway, I still need to get my finances/clutter under control, but I think I'll re-visit the local library this weekend.


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Date:June 23rd, 2006 05:42 pm (UTC)
Of course, I'm sure there are plenty of people who don't believe in the Bible at all, but if you do follow it then it's probably a good idea to read it once in a while...

First of all, there are tons of Christians out there who haven't actually read the whole of the Bible - I was one of them. It's quite an undertaking and, while most churches will encourage you to do it "one of these days", it's not something they usually push you to do. Most believers are left with the impression that they can know all the relevant points about their faith just by having grown up in a church and just by having read the more interesting passages.

Secondly, the Bible is rather open to interpretation, especially the Book of Revelation, which has spawned all sorts of churches with all sorts of eschatological theories. I'm sure there's some way to twist things so that the Second Coming is going to be another baby born of a virgin mother.
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Date:June 23rd, 2006 06:07 pm (UTC)
First of all, there are tons of Christians out there who haven't actually read the whole of the Bible

Yes, absolutely - I certainly recognise that, but I stand by my comment that I think it's a good idea to change that. Admittedly, I haven't read the entire book cover to cover myself, but then again I'm not expecting to be playing a significant role in the grand scheme of things either :)

One of these days when I have enough spare time (hah!), I am going to write up my religious views. As a quick preview, though, I did try reading the entire Bible when I was an undergrad. There's a scheme for doing the whole thing in a year - as I recall, the idea is to read 5 chapters a day Monday-Friday, then 7 chapters a day at weekends. I think I was doing a mixture of Old Testament and New Testament, to avoid getting too bogged down in all the "X begat Y" stuff.

Anyway, I started out with my copy of the New English Bible, which is written in relatively modern English (e.g. "you" instead of "thou"). A friend of mine then saw me doing this one day, and said "Ew, no, you can't do that - you have to use the King James version!" So, after that I'd basically do my daily reading with both books open in front of me; I'd start out with the King James version, get confused, read the New English version to get the gist of what was going on, then go back to the King James version to make sure I was getting an accurate meaning. This did slow me down a bit, to the extent that I eventually got out of the routine, and I haven't resumed it yet. Mind you, it turned out that my friend had actually been joking when she said that - oops :) William (who you met at my flatwarming) has said that I was effectively doing basic theology at that point, by comparing different versions of the text.

More recently I've got hold of a Greek version of the New Testament, although I haven't used it yet. I think that most English translations of the Bible will be reasonable if you want to get an idea of what's going on, but it's pointless to do any kind of debate about controversial issues (e.g. homosexuality) unless you go to the source. The same thing applies to the Old Testament, but I did classical Greek up to GCSE (which is fairly similar to Testamental Greek), whereas I've never studied any Hebrew.

I'm sure there's some way to twist things so that the Second Coming is going to be another baby born of a virgin mother.

So, yes, there are probably idiots who will come up with stupid theories about everything (cf "hollow earth"), but unless they've done a detailed study of the original Greek then I'll cheerfully ignore them.
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Date:June 23rd, 2006 07:05 pm (UTC)


Milk is delivered both where my parents live in Wiltshire and where I live here in Snowdonia. Up here it's done from a pick-up truck as a milk float would never get up the hills.

On an unrelated note, I was was mildly involved in a fight on the back of a milk float that was traveling down the A4.....
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