Our July newsletter

Our latest personal newsletter is here (PDF). I wrote this in July, but it is still valid except that we have now been in Virginia more than two months.

We intend to send this newsletter out a few times each year. If you would like to subscribe to it, please request this through the contact form or by e-mail.

Introducing Italia Performing Arts

Italia Performing Arts logoSorry for the lack of posting for the last few weeks. My wife and I have been very busy settling into life in Virginia, USA, and preparing for the opening of her dance studio business.

We are now launching the business, Italia Performing Arts, and preparing for our Grand Opening on August 24th. The business website is ready, apart from a few tweaks. If anyone in the Winchester, VA area reads this and is interested in dance classes, please click through and sign up.

We’re moving to Virginia, USA!

Peter and LorenzaMy wife Lorenza and I have exciting news to share! On June 7th we are moving to the USA, to the beautiful state of Virginia.

Lorenza, with my support, will be opening a dance studio business in Winchester, VA. We have applied for and obtained E-2 visas for the USA, allowing her to start up this business. These are not “green cards”, so we will have the right only to be temporary residents. I will simply be an accompanying spouse, but will have the right to work. We expect to be living in nearby Woodstock, in the Shenandoah valley.

It has been a long and busy process for us to get this far. It started last summer when we fell in love with Virginia and made new friends at a church there, Portering the Glory. Since then we have been back twice, to decide on our business strategy and to make detailed arrangements. The final step was last week in Rome, Italy, where we went to get our visas as Lorenza is an Italian citizen.

We have booked our flights for June 7th. That will give us not quite three months to get our building ready to open for business at the beginning of September. We expect to be busy! So if there is little or no activity on this blog for some time, you will know why.

By the way, this explains why I am selling my car. I wish we could take it with us, but apparently a huge amount of bureaucracy would be involved to prove that it has had the minor modifications required to make it legal in the USA. I might buy another one the same in Virginia, but will likely have to pay quite a lot more for it.

This also explains my interest in US politics. We won’t have votes in November, but we will have to live with the consequences of how others vote.

2006 Suzuki SX4 1.6 GLX 5dr Auto Hatchback £3,900

We interrupt our regular programming (or at the moment lack of programming) for this commercial announcement. But it’s not a paid ad, as I am selling this myself:

2006 Suzuki SX4 1.6 GLX 5dr Auto Hatchback5 Door mini-SUV style hatchback, Red, Petrol, Automatic, 7 months MOT, Low mileage, Air conditioning, Power assisted steering, Trip computer, 3×3 point rear seat belts, Remote central locking, Immobiliser, Folding rear seats, Priced for a quick sale. £3,900.

UPDATE: Missed this important point: only 44,000 miles.

If you are interested, please contact me in a comment or using the contact form. Or go to the full ad at Auto Trader.

Does this heartless thief now have a saint’s heart?

Sorry for so little blogging recently. Life has been very busy, for reasons which I hope to be able to explain soon.

The heart of St Laurence O'TooleThe BBC (also Joel Watts in a retweet, but surprisingly he doesn’t seem to have blogged about this yet) reports that the heart of Dublin’s patron saint has been stolen from the cathedral where it was kept. The 12th century relic of St Laurence O’Toole was stolen from inside a cage with iron bars. The thief apparently ignored nearby gold chalices and candlesticks and intentionally took only the heart.

Interestingly, this is an Anglican (Church of Ireland) cathedral. It seems strange to me as an Anglican that a relic like this is, or was, kept in one of our church buildings. It is of course of historic interest. But if it had become an object of veneration, it is perhaps good that, like Nehushtan in 2 Kings 18:4, it has been removed.

Perhaps the thief realised how heartless he or she was, and thought a saint’s heart would help with mending ways. Of course wrongdoing is never the road to repentance. But it is only God, through Jesus, who can give such a person the new heart they need:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Ezekiel 26:26-27 (NIV)

Does this heartless thief now have a saint's heart?

Sorry for so little blogging recently. Life has been very busy, for reasons which I hope to be able to explain soon.

The heart of St Laurence O'TooleThe BBC (also Joel Watts in a retweet, but surprisingly he doesn’t seem to have blogged about this yet) reports that the heart of Dublin’s patron saint has been stolen from the cathedral where it was kept. The 12th century relic of St Laurence O’Toole was stolen from inside a cage with iron bars. The thief apparently ignored nearby gold chalices and candlesticks and intentionally took only the heart.

Interestingly, this is an Anglican (Church of Ireland) cathedral. It seems strange to me as an Anglican that a relic like this is, or was, kept in one of our church buildings. It is of course of historic interest. But if it had become an object of veneration, it is perhaps good that, like Nehushtan in 2 Kings 18:4, it has been removed.

Perhaps the thief realised how heartless he or she was, and thought a saint’s heart would help with mending ways. Of course wrongdoing is never the road to repentance. But it is only God, through Jesus, who can give such a person the new heart they need:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Ezekiel 26:26-27 (NIV)

Now officially a Master of Mathematics

Back in March I wrote that I’m a Master of Mathematics, they tell me. The award from the University of Cambridge took longer than I originally expected, but at last on Saturday I graduated as MMath. As I am now living back only an hour’s drive from Cambridge, I decided to take the degree in person, and give my wife a chance to taste the university atmosphere. The ceremony in the Senate House was conducted in Latin, with everyone in full academic dress. It was followed, for the group of us from Clare College, by a formal lunch in the college hall which was reminiscent of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. All this was on a fine sunny day, nice enough to tempt some people on to the river in punts. So here I am in my robes on the college bridge:

In academic dress on Clare Bridge

The Turkish Apostrophe

Tim Chesterton offers a “rant” about misplaced apostrophes in English – see also my comments there. In recent years I too have noticed increasing misuse of these little punctuation marks. Now I don’t like to be over-prescriptive about language, which should be about how people actually speak and write, not about how some elite says they should do so. But I do get annoyed by elementary errors in spelling and punctuation. I agree with Greg McFarlane’s points, if not his tone, in a guest post today at Problogger There Are 3 Thing’s Wrong With This Head Line:

When your posts are loaded with spelling and grammar mistakes, you’re telling your readers one or both of two things:

  1. I can’t be bothered to learn the language I’ve chosen to communicate in.
  2. My content is so vital and compelling that its form is unimportant. …

In 2011, with so much of the world’s knowledge available to any of us, it’s astounding that there exist bloggers who’ve advanced past adolescence yet still don’t know that plurals don’t take apostrophes.

Writing plurals with apostrophes is only one of the errors which I seem to see more and more often, but it is an interesting one. According to Wikipedia, for what it is worth,

It is generally acceptable to use apostrophes to show plurals of single lower-case letters

– but in no other cases. A Turkish apostrophe on a road signThe unnecessary apostrophe in other plural’s is sometimes called the greengrocer’s apostrophe, because of its common use with fruit and vegetable’s.

Interestingly, this apostrophe seems to appear most frequently in the plurals of proper nouns of some kind – or at least of nouns written with a capital letter, as in the deliberate error “Thing’s” in McFarlane’s post title. I regret picking on Kurt Willems and his excellent Pangea blog, but the following was something of a distraction from his otherwise great review of The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight:

the Gospel’s are designed to have these elements as their focal point.

Where did this popular misconception come from that an apostrophe should be used before the plural suffix on a proper noun? Strangely enough this follows regular practice in Turkish, as described by Wikipedia:

In Turkish, proper nouns are capitalized and an apostrophe is inserted between the noun and any following suffix.

Other languages use apostrophes before suffixes added to foreign names, but Turkish seems unique in using it also with local words used as proper nouns. Could this usage have been borrowed into informal English from Turkish? This seems unlikely, but is not impossible.

Well, whether or not that is where it came from, that is where it should go. The Turks are welcome to their apostrophes, but in English they should be restricted to contractions and possessive endings.

"Miracle babies" pastor to be extradited

Pastor Gilbert DeyaThe BBC reports: ‘Miracle babies’ pastor to be extradited to Kenya:

An evangelist who claimed to have created miraculous pregnancies through prayer is to be sent back to Kenya to face child abduction charges.

I wonder, did Pastor Gilbert Deya really claim to have created something? Or did he claim that God did something in response to his prayer, and were his words misrepresented by a sub-editor?

The report continues:

Infertile or post-menopausal women who attended his church in Peckham, South London were told they would be having “miracle” babies.

But the babies were always “delivered” in backstreet clinics in Nairobi. …

“The couple went to Africa, came back into the country with a child that the authorities found out was not theirs through a DNA test.”

Pastor Deya’s response:

The miracle babies which are happening in our ministry are beyond human imagination.

It is not something I can say I can explain because they are of God and things of God cannot be explained by a human being.

Well, God can do miracles like this, and if he creates a baby it doesn’t have to have its parents’ DNA. After all, on the orthodox Christian understanding of the Virgin Birth Jesus must have had different DNA from his single biological parent – but, as I argued a few years ago, there may be more to that story than meets the eye.

But the evidence in this case seems to suggest that the babies in fact came from Kenyans unrelated to the childless couples. The child abduction charges are arguably not serious because the real mothers were very likely willing to give up their children for adoption, although clearly the legal formalities were not completed. What is serious, although perhaps not technically criminal, is the way in which Pastor Deya apparently deceived people into believing in miracles.

I know some of my readers here think that I believe too easily in claims of miracles made by preachers and evangelists. What I have always said is that we should look for evidence, and that if none is available either way we should not reject the claims of our Christian brothers and sisters or call them liars. In this case, however, there does seem to be clear evidence of deception. And so it is right that the minister be discredited, and be punished for his criminal activities.