Christmas Eve, 1968: Apollo 8 mission

December 24, 2009

Earthrise from Apollo 8

Anyone who was alive then will remember Christmas Eve of 1968.  On that day, the Apollo 8 became the first manned mission to orbit the Moon.  The crew, Mission Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders, launched on December 21, 1968 and reached lunar orbit on Christmas Eve.  Over a period of 20 hours the spacecraft orbited the Moon ten times.  On its fourth pass across the front of the Moon, Anders took the famous Earthrise photo pictured, later selected by Life as one of the hundred photos that changed the world. Read the rest of this entry »


The real “happily ever after”

December 12, 2009

Sûsî Gees (my motorbike) and i had a bit of an accident yesterday evening returning from Stellenbosch when i clipped a run-off channel on a farm road. Neither of us sustained any serious injuries (i got away with just a sprained thumb, some roasties, and injured pride, while Sûsî Gees needs a little doctoring to fix up broken indicators and speedometer and a bent headlamp housing and mounting bracket), but it did give me pause to think last night about the fragility of life and our mortality. Now, i’m not afraid of death, for as Paul writes to Timothy, “I know Whom I have believed”; i know i’m ready when that time comes. But i know also that i have so much more to live for even in this life than does anyone who lives for this life only. In Elbert Hubbard’s words, which i’ve taken for the by-line for this blog, “Life is a preparation for the future.”  Or my own thoughts on what LIFE is: Life Is For Eternity.

CS Lewis captures the enormity of this future, of eternity, so beautifully in the closing words of The Last Battle from the Narnia series:

“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands – dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.


December 7, 2009


i finished the last of my third-year psychology and linguistics exams two weeks ago, and have been messing around with admin and work and reading since. It will still be some time before Unisa publish the results, and there were a few exams about which i was not supremely confident, so i’m not going to talk just yet about where on the wall to hang my BA.  i really struggled to focus this time around.  This year’s studies have felt a bit more of an ordeal than the past few years’.  i guess part of the reason has been the feeling that several years’ studying were about to come to an end and that end couldn’t come soon enough.  It’s been quite an anticlimax. But now i’m glad it’s over :)

Redeeming the time

October 31, 2009

My friend Bradley keeps exhorting me to “redeem the time” (echoing Ephesians 5:16) — something i’m trying to take to heart.  Some years back, when i first started exploring Project Gutenberg and the Christian Classics Ethereal Library and playing with text-to-speech synthesis, i discovered that i could “read” some of the classics, or articles and lecture transcripts while messing about the house or waiting for sleep to come.  i managed to “read” through Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby, Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, and many other great books in the public domain like this.  Now, as broadband has become cheaper, i’ve been able to collect some fantastic audio resources over the past few years.  i always keep a few series of lectures or sermons on my phone, ready to listen to while washing dishes, walking to places, or waiting for trains.  i intend to highlight some of these here over the next while.

When i’m at my computer, i use VLC Media Player for playing media files.  One of the benefits of VLC is that it allows one to speed up playback without affecting the pitch.  i find that i can generally increase the playback speed by 40-50% or more and thus listen to an hour-long lecture in only 40 minutes.

i seldom go anywhere without a book and Bible in my bag, but i have still found it useful to keep an electronic Bible on my phone.  i’ve downloaded a couple of free ones from GoBible (KJV) and BiblePhone (various translations in several languages available).  From the latter site i’ve also downloaded a Greek New Testament (Westcott-Hort text) and Hebrew Old Testament for my phone — so now i can continue my attempt at learning Greek wherever i am.  These are all Java MIDP 1.0 or MIDP 2.0 applications, so they should work on most recent Java-capable cellphones (mine is about three years old).

Augustine on language acquisition

October 27, 2009

i’m busy studying for my final psychology and linguistics exams, but Augustine is more interesting right now.  This is from Confessions, Book I, Chapter VIII.  Confessions is one of those true gems that i will never tire of reading.

That a child learneth not to speak by rules, but from the gesture and words of his parents.

Passing hence from infancy, I came to boyhood, or rather it came to me, displacing infancy. Nor did that depart,—(for whither went it?)—and yet it was no more. For I was no longer a speechless infant, but a speaking boy. This I remember; and have since observed how I learned to speak. For my elders did not teach me words (as, soon after, other learning) by any set method; but I, longing by cries and broken accents and various motions of my limbs to express my thoughts, that so my will might be obeyed, and yet unable to express all I willed, or to whom I willed, did myself, by the understanding which Thou, my God, gavest me, go through the sounds in my memory. When they named anything, and to suit the word turned towards it, I saw and remembered that the called what they desired to point out by the name they uttered. And that they meant this thing and no other, was plain from the motion of their body, the natural language, as it were, of all people, expressed by the countenance, the glance of the eyes, the movement of the limbs, and the tone of the voice, indicating the affections of the mind, as it purses, possesses, rejects, or shuns. And thus by frequently hearing words, as they occurred in various sentences, I collected gradually for what they were the symbols; and having broken in my mouth to these symbols, I thereby gave utterance to my will. Thus I exchanged with those about me these symbols of our wills in utterance, and so launched deeper into the stormy fellowship of human life, yet depending on parental authority and the beck of elders.

“Evening” by GK Chesterton

February 21, 2009

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?

Studies 2009

January 30, 2009

i received most of my study material two weeks ago, but i’ve been somewhat slack in getting underway with it, largely owing to busyness with work (and work-avoidance behaviour such as that in which i’m presently engaging…) Read the rest of this entry »