Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

December 2005

TravelThursday, December 29th, 2005, (6:40 am)

So another trip Stateside comes to an end. I’ve packed my bags and compacted my belongings and all things new into what seems like an air-tight mocrocosm of luggage space. Packing is always such a drag. But as Erin commented as she met me from Houston Airport in the summer, I travel amazingly light, but still somehow seem to bring too much.

I’ve had a lot of fun as usual visiting with friends and enjoying a slightly low key Christmas in unseasonally awful weather in Oregon. A trip for a couple of days to the coast allowed us to catch up on movies most of the time as the bizarrely warm rain simply only stopped for a short time. If it had been the summer I would have been dissapointed, but this trip was more about kicking back and relaxing rather than anything else.

Hanging out with friends, and interacting with some of lifes colorful characters at the Portland Coffee house was fun. Plus I got a hotel suite for a couple of days in downtown Portland with my own personal hot tub on my balcony overlooking the people on the streets below. That was cool, or actually it would be more correct to say it was damn hot! Christine even came and enjoyed the experience with me before we went to get some suchi, my favorite food of choice in the Northwest (though I’m quite sure Sushi would be good most anywhere).

Portland itself is a great city. Its full of a fine selection of the some of the best examples of American wierdo’s and wacko’s that I think anyone could hope to find. From the snooty snobs of the West Hills in their beautiful homes and pristine clothes, to the crazy ‘tweakers’ who rome the streets arguing loudly with their imaginary friends.

In the Portland Coffee House, Christine and I were greeted warmly by a very normal looking black guy who seemed happy just to chat with us, so much so that he offered to buy us our drinks. However it soon became obvious that he was one of lifes ‘special people’ when the two normal people we thought he was with beat a quick retreat looking back at us with that ‘now he’s your problem’ look on their face. Pretty soon he was accusing me of being a racist because the inside of my jack was orange!?

I went all over the place seeing friends and getting into the whole seasonal scrum that is shopping. I pretty much hate having to fight my way around a mall at the best of times, but Christmas is the most loathsome time to get into that game.

I did check out Saturday Market in Portland though, which is a must for anyone who finds themselves anywhere near the city on a weekend. It’s the opposite of one of those nice heated malls that seem ubiquites in the States. Saturday Market is open air and at this time of the year is cold too. But the little stalls are about as far from any brand name you could hope to get in the North West of the United States. Local artists sell all kinds of things from clothing weaved from hemp, to home made soda. It’s one of my favorite places to visit when I’m in the area.

We also headed to the mountains of which there is quite a generous choice. On this occasion it was mount hood and the ski resort of Timberline Lodge. Though I’ve yet to see the lodge really under a deluge of snow. We can blame that on global warming I suppose, although I met some Americans on this trip who informed me that global warming was not actually a problem and more than that is “just a lie peddled by those liberals” in order to push trade agendas with names and motives that I really can’t remember.

And talking of “liberals”, we didn’t hit one strip club this time around. Usually Missy and her friends take me along to a strip club for reasons that I forget not, but really aren’t important. I think initially they took me to one because, hard as this is to believe, I’d never been to a strip club before, let alone one where the stripper wiggle around in their birthday suits.

All in all it was another good trip.

GeneralSunday, December 25th, 2005, (5:02 am)

It’s Christmas! So let me wish you all a very merry Christmas! And I want to stress that I am wishing you all a happy Christmas!

What is the big deal with using the word Christmas? I’ve seen a number of stories on the TV news here about whether or not the use of the word Christmas should be used when greeting someone this holiday season. Should we say “happy Christmas” or “happy holidays?” – WTF??

Now I’m not going to rattle on about the ‘reason for the season’ because this isn’t so much a religious question but more a question of plain old common sense. I mean it’s Christmas time for goodness sake, so why say happy holidays? This question of whether or not saying “Christmas” offends people, I’m curious as to who the hell is offended by the word Christmas? It seems to me like the only people who are ‘offended’ by that word are the suit wearing ‘pc’ type who take pictures of romeo and juliet off the walls of registry offices because it might offend gay couples who want to get married there.

Heck, even Georgie boy Bush can’t bring himself to officially say the word Christmas (despite the fact God apparently chats with him about invading countries half way across the world). It would seem that the President doesn’t want to mention the C word because by doing so he might upset someone. He spent years swaggering around and pissing off the entire world and now he worries about upsetting people? That’ll be another empty stable firmly secured then.

Happy holidays is so nondescript, I mean that could work for any holiday surely? I mean I’m an Englishman and I am often in the United States on the 4th of July, would anyone seriously suggest that you tone down the stars and stripes because it might offend an Englishman?

The argument that the word Christmas should be avoided because it’s a religious holiday is rubbish! Yes Christmas is of course a religious celebration, but the Christmas season is more focused on the shopping, gifts, food, drink and parties than the birth of Christ.

I very much doubt that people of other faiths are truly offended by the word Christmas. If anything you’d think that it would be the Christians themselves who should be offended by the use of the word by the Gods of consumerism. Surely if anyone should be campaigning for the removal of the word Christmas from shops, bars and restaurants it should be those who actually see the day as one of religious significance?

Could you imagine the outrage if we started to campaign for Ramadan to be renamed. Perhaps we should change the focus for the religious festival from fasting to feasting and rename it ‘ram-it-down?’ The Hindu festival of Diwali didn’t offend me when I was in India and neither would it offend me if someone here wished me a happy Diwali.

So once again, HAPPY CHRISTMAS!! I hope you all have a great day, and for those of you who aren’t returning to work on Monday, you can celebrate ‘boxing day’ like us Brits, Aussie’s and Canadiens. Though don’t ask any of us what boxing day is actually about. I’m thinking it might have something to do with beating members of your family after the Christmas truce?

The cheesy home-made postcard style ecard features picture I’ve taken here in Oregon. From left to right starting at the top:
The area around Mount Hood, Mount St Helens, Timberline Lodge ski resort.
Rockaway beach (just got back from this place), Tillamook rain forst, Pioneer Square – Portland.

Sports and TravelTuesday, December 20th, 2005, (1:46 am)

If America does one thing better than any other place on the planet, it’s put on a show. As Erin is witness to, I really get into the whole atmosphere of a sports event. And in America it seems that any kind of sports event is as much a show as it is an event. Half times shows, cheerleaders, the whipping up the crowd, the big screens etc. It’s great – I love it!

Last night I went to a Blazers game with friends. We had seats real close to the courtside, but due to some mad snow storm the place was actually quite empty so they told everyone in all the seats to come and sit closer. So had I paid $131 for those seats (rather than getting them through coporate hospitality) I might have been a little pissed off.

Tonight I was due to meet up with Christine but we getting freezing rain now, so the roads aren’t safe enough for her to try and get into the city here. So I am all on my lonesome here in the Portland Coffee House watching the world go by, doing my billing and chatting to Pam who keeps annoyingly going offline?!

On Wednesday night I’m going on a ride-along with the cops. My usual idea of fun, as strange as that maybe. I’ve been on a ton of ride alongs, ran after suspects even. I’m a lunatic really when you consider the dangers involved.

I’m not really sure of what the other plans are. It seems everything we actually plan to do gets cancelled for whatever reason. We’re due to go to the beach later this week, but the way things are going I expect that to get cancelled too.

Ah well, here’s hoping the weather improves.

GeneralMonday, December 12th, 2005, (6:57 am)

I don’t know if you guys have seen these scenes from the oil depot here in England that mysteriously exploded yesterday and is now gripped in a fire of almost apocalyptic proportions. Today it is feared that all clues as to why and how the fire started will actually be lost due to the fact that there simply will be nothing left once the fire is put out.

The blast of the initial explosion yesterday morning at around 6am damaged a vast number of homes and was felt up to 50 or 60 miles away. It seems incredible to imagine, but the last were so loud that they woke many people across the entire south of the country and were even heard as far away as the Netherlands!

A friend of mine living about 15 or 20 miles from the site spoke of how her house actually shook “as if in an earthquake.” She went onto say “It woke me up and then my son rushed in to our bedroom. I looked out the window thinking maybe a plane had crashed close by, maybe in another street or something.”

Although firefighters say the inferno is under control they also admit that fighting a fire of this scale is “uncharted territory” and it may yet be days before the fire is out. Their is now growing concern about the toxic levels of the huge cloud of smoke that is covering a vast area of the south of England. People living where the smoke is drifting are still being advised to stay indoors with the windows closed.

Firefighters tackle Europe’s largest fire
In pictures

Faith & ReligionSunday, December 11th, 2005, (3:16 pm)

The other day I was chatting with my girlfriend on the subject of Church, and how some are a little more relaxed that others. I was particularly referring to the preachers who lead them and then I used the term “liberal Christian.” This term got a surprisingly negative response and detracted from the actual conversation we were having. Clearly she felt that being ‘liberal’ was a bad thing, I wasn’t overly surprised as she is actually very conservative, but when I said that she became very defensive and claimed that if one was a Christian then being a conservative was pretty much par for the course.

The discussion didn’t end on the best of terms, and another attempt a few days later to smooth that over went in pretty much the same direction with her claiming that ‘liberal Christians’ do not believe the Bible and are basically ‘pick and choosing’ the bits of the Christian faith that suit their lifestyles. In other words they are not ‘on the level’ and should be viewed with a great deal of skepticism.

Then last night I watched the episode of the West Wing in which they recorded the live Presidential debate. In that republican runner used the term ‘liberal’ in an accusatory tone against the democrat. It reminded me of my conversation with Posh, and indeed many Christians, who seem to start foaming at the mouth whenever I use the word ‘liberal.’ Indeed the West Wing’s republican Presidential candidate character cited that even liberals now don’t like the word and have re-branded it as ‘progressive.’

So what’s the deal? Is liberal really a dirty word and if so why?

The dictionary has the following definitions:

lib-er-al P Pronunciation Key (lbr-l, lbrl)
Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism.
Liberal Of, designating, or characteristic of a political party founded on or associated with principles of social and political liberalism, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.
Tending to give freely; generous: a liberal benefactor.
Generous in amount; ample: a liberal serving of potatoes.
Not strict or literal; loose or approximate: a liberal translation.

con-ser-va-tive P Pronunciation Key (kn-s-rv-tv)
Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.
Traditional or restrained in style: a conservative dark suit.
Moderate; cautious: a conservative estimate.
Cautious: avoiding excess; “a conservative estimate”
button-down: unimaginatively conventional; “a colorful character in the buttoned-down, dull-grey world of business”- Newsweek

The thing is, I would say that I am conservative in some ways (not many I’ll admit) but liberal in others. But isn’t everyone a little of both? Without that being a reality then wouldn’t we still, for example, be shipping black people around the world shackled as slaves?

Now I know a lot of you are who read this blog are Christians and I’m interested in hearing what kind of Christian would you say you were. If you were to be given a tag by someone (if not yourself) would that tag be that you were conservative or liberal? And what is your understanding of those tags?

I’m not looking to start a row, and I promise not to attack anyone for anything they say with regards to liberal or conservative. I genuinely am interested in what you understand of these titles and where you feel you lie and why.

I’ve noticed that when I ask pointed questions like this it tends to send many people into retreat. I understand why of course, some of the issues I’ve raised might mean that in responding people could reveal more than they are comfortable with. I’m not looking for anyone to give the pad responses of “God is the only one who can judge you” or “you must accept Jesus Simon and find your own path of faithfulness” etc. I’m fully aware of the standard responses to this question, I guess I’m asking for something a little more personal. And I’m hoping some of you will help me out on this one.

GeneralSaturday, December 10th, 2005, (9:47 am)

I took this picture of the desert menu the other night when I went out with Posh and Will for dinner. They say “you are what you eat.” Lets hope not!

— EDIT —

These links might answer some questions.
What is ‘spotted dick’ anyway?
Make your own ‘spotted dick’
Brits don’t mind eating dick
You might also come across another Brit dish, bubble and squeak.

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