Make a Difference

Day: January 31, 2009

Serena Wins Australian Open Final

Serena Williams is an amazing athlete. The first set of the final over in 22 minutes without conceding a single point on serve.

This makes her the highest earning female athlete in history, with total earnings now approaching $25 million.

It also means she joins an elite group of only six other women with ten grand slam victories. At the top and surely unassailable is Australian Margaret Court Smith with twenty-four.

Congratulations Serena, and thanks for some great entertainment.

Prayer Request

My much loved sister Amanda has suffered from depression for the last two years, including two periods of hospitalisation.

Last week she was hospitalised again in Wanganui in New Zealand. Three days ago she jumped from the fourth floor of the hospital.

She was on 15 minute observations, and hospital staff and doctors were warned at least twice by her own doctor about the possibility of her attempting suicide. She had also told them that morning she did not feel safe, and asked to be transferred to the secure part of the ward. Despite this she was able to walk out of the pysch unit, 500 metres across the hospital grounds, up the stairs of the main building, and throw herself out the window without anyone noticing.

After emergency surgery to remove her spleen and repair her liver, she has been transferred to Wellington.

Her lungs were punctured by fractured ribs. They are still full of blood and problematic. She has fractured vertebrae in her neck and lower back, a fractured pelvis, and a multitude of other less serious injuries, including head injuries.

Although now stable, she is still in serious danger of death.

She has been kept unconscious so her spine can be stabilised. Doctors have said they will reduce the level of sedation later in the week.

I hope to fly to Wellington on Wednesday so I can be there when (if!) she regains consciousness.

Would you please keep Amanda in your prayers, as well as me and the rest of her family?

Thank you.


Sixteen PS3s = Super-Computer

If I’m playing anything other than World of Warcraft on my PC, it’s usually Halo, Gears of War or some other Xbox 360 game. But the PS3 is a great console.

Scientists have linked sixteen PS3s together to form a ‘PS3 Gravity Grid’ which can perfom complex calculations to investigate the behaviour of black holes at a fraction of the cost of a super-computer.


Traditional Marriage Supporters Worried About Violent Retribution

The mandatory disclosure of thousands of contributors to Proposition 8 on the secretary of state’s Web site has led to numerous acts of vandalism, boycotts and even death threats, lawyers for the Prop. 8 campaign said in a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.’

Even if this is an exaggeration, and there’s no reason to think it is, recent history, and in particular the use of privileged personal information to target individuals, churches and businesses, suggests they are right to be concerned.

This is not about ‘hiding their shame’ as some gay news sites have suggested. It is about being protected from violent and abusive behaviour.

These words from a gay man who is a retired LA police officer:

I thought about the events that took place even before the election:

•The Modesto man who was beaten for trying to place “Yes on 8” signs on his lawn
•Five gay men arrested in Fullerton for the destruction of “Yes on 8” signs (they had just left a gay “No on 8” rally.
•A gay Palmdale man posted a message on MYSPACE which stated, “Burn down the Mormon Church!”
Even where I live in sleepy little Acton (California), I saw several young men destroying “Yes on 8” signs. After committing their crime, they ran to a waiting car with a “rainbow” sticker attached to it.

Earlier this week, a gay man in my circle of friends (a West Hollywood resident) used his Los Angeles City computer workstation to transmit an E-mail in which he suggested his intent to commit “cyber terrorism” against those who provided money and support to the Yes campaign. Many of the addresses he posted also were government addresses, and the City of Los Angeles has strict policies which prohibit the use of City equipment and computers for personal reasons. LA City employees and police officers have been disciplined and fired for the misuse of city computers.

Long Beach protesters were arrested for crashing through police lines. In Palm Springs, angry mobs forcefully ripped a plastic cross out of the hands of an elderly woman in a yellow dress. What COWARDS! What kind of courage does it take to attack an old woman and stomp her cross? As the hateful mobs of intolerant idiots stomped her cross into oblivion they nearly knocked the women down. Given her advanced age, any fall could have caused her serious injury.’

Fox to Take Over Narnia Series

Let’s hope they do a better job than Disney did with Prince Caspian.

Disney cited ‘budgetary issues’ as one of their reasons for not continuing the series. Prince Caspian earned $420 million, compared with $745 million for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. No wonder. Prince Caspian was a dog of a film.

Some Hollywood directors seem not to have the slightest understanding of their target audience, or even of the fundamental workings of drama. The prime audience for any of the Narnia series are people who have read and loved the books. Drama works when people care about the characters.

So why include in the first ten minutes scenes which are not in the book, which serve no positive purpose, and which make the audience dislike or distrust the characters who drive the story? These were the scenes of Peter and Edmund fighting in the railway station, and Susan lying to a boy who wanted to befriend her. These scenes made the key characters look violent, self-important, selfish, dishonest and shallow. This impression was confirmed by their behaviour through the film. It is impossible to care what happens to characters like this, so it was impossible to care what happened in the film.

Some teenagers (and some adults) are like this. But the characters in Lewis’ books are not. They are fallible, sometimes weak, always human. But they are also courageous, caring, even noble. The exception in the film was Lucy, who was delightful. But she could not carry the film on her own.

And then there was the idiotic attempt to suggest sexual tension between Caspian and Susan, which culminated in a passionate kiss. Pathetic.

I remember watching an episode of the US made version of Dr Who, originally a BBC programme I had loved for years. The special effects were brilliant, the Tardis looked better than ever. Then the Dr kissed his assistant. Instant reach for the remote.

You can make your own cirque de so lame programmes with kissing in them. Well, some of them aren’t so lame. But put kissing in Dr Who, and you have crossed a line, my friend.

Likewise with the Narnia stories. You can make films about shallow teenagers finding themselves, and maybe some of them aren’t so bad (though I’m struggling to think of one).

But don’t make a film that twists into dullness the characters I love from the books, that leaves out all the themes that were Lewis’ reasons for writing the book – honesty, courage, dignity, forgiveness, the balance between trusting God and taking responsibility – and then tell me that’s Narnia, and expect me to pay to see it.

Charles Krauthammer Agrees With Me

I wrote a couple of days ago about Imanutjob’s demand that the US apologise to Muslims everywhere as a condition of better relationships with the Islamic world and with Iran in particular.

To apologise is to acknowledge that something is your fault. Untruthful apologies – apologies for things that are not your fault – may be convenient, they may even make you feel better. But they bring no long term benefit either to the person who apologises, or to the person to whom the apology is given.

An apology from the US would be taken as acknowledgement of responsibility, not just by the US, but by the West as a whole, for the sorry state of many Islamic societies. The response would not be ‘Gee, thanks. That’s OK, apology accepted.’ It would be continued and renewed blame of the West, accompanied by further demands for withdrawal, compensation, etc.

Instead, the responsible thing to do is quietly and patiently and repeatedly point out, as Charles Krauthammer does in this article, the many ways the US and its allies have helped Muslim communities around the world, often at considerable cost and no obvious benefit to themselves.

Human Produced CO2 Causing Irreversible Ocean Damage

Oh puh-leese! 

Researchers warn that ocean acidification, which they refer to as “the other CO2 problem”, could make most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050, if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase.’


Coral and coral reefs evolved in the Mesozoic era, when atmospheric CO2 levels were up to 100 times higher than they are today. Corals and other marine creatures have survived the last 150 million years with variations in temperature, sea level and CO2 levels orders of magnitude greater than the minor changes over the last 100 years.

In addition it is becoming clearer that human impact on CO2 levels is so small it cannot even be reliably discerned against the background of natural processes and fluctuations. CO2 increases follow (there is no evidence they have ever caused) global temperature increases. It is highly likely that the minor 20th Century rise in atmospheric CO2 is the predictable natural increase as we climbed out of the ‘Little Ice Age.’

A better headline would be “Human Produced Nonsense Causing Irreversible Damage to Credibility of Science.’

Large Hadron Collider May Be Dangerous After All

It might have been better if they had worked this out before turning it on.

It is off for repairs at the moment, and despite the scary headline, what the scientists are actually saying is that while any black holes produced may last longer than they first thought, the chances of any of them surviving for long enough to cause a problem is pretty close to zero.

But then, when you are talking about the end of the world, pretty close to zero is not really quite good enough.

Labor Leader Says Something Sensible

While not exactly ‘hitting out at the US Congress,‘ as his words were described, Simon Crean, Australian Federal Minister for Trade, is right to express concern about increased trade barriers in the proposed porkulus package.

I thought one of things President Obama wanted to do was open a new era in US co-operation and friendship with the world. Setting up trade barriers is not going to do it. The impact on Australia may be substantial, but we’ll cope. The impact on developing countries will lead to increased poverty, and growing resentment of the way the US uses its economic power.

Way to make friends, BO.

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