Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts
Simply whatever comes to mind. Probably about St. Helena but not always . . .

Thursday 14 March 2024

A brief history of Christianity


Jesus (who really did exist https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus) started preaching inclusivity, peace, love and understanding in Palestine, and picked up a few followers. His teachings upset the religious authorities because it undermined their power, so they conspired to have him killed.

About 50 years later Saul ("Paul") picked up the stories of Jesus and adapted it into a religion, largely by putting all the threats and punishments back in, borrowed from traditional Judaism.  He called it "Christianity".

Missionaries spread this "Christianity" thing far and wide, but each telling a slightly different, and in many cases contradictory version of the story, so in AD340 the Council of Nicea got together and “standardised” it, cutting out the bits they did not like.

The Council of Nicea produced a Bible, but they wrote it in Latin so that ordinary people could not read it, thus enshrining the power of the Church to “interpret” it.  

Seeking to strengthen its power base and finances the Church invented lots of new twiddles not mentioned in the Bible (but as only they could read it, it didn’t matter) – e.g. “Purgatory”, where you go after death until a relative still alive pays the church to release you, and “Papal indulgences”, where you pay in advance before committing a sin – which succeeded in making it one of the largest and richest non-governmental organisations the world has ever known.

Martin Luther came along and actually read The Bible, as created by the aforementioned Council of Nicea.  He realised that the Church was not sticking to it and proposed a new “back to the Bible” version of Christianity, Protestantism (because they were protesting against the Church).

In England, King Henry VIII had fallen out with the Pope, who wouldn’t allow him to divorce his older wife for the younger, sexier Anne Boelyn.  He sided with Luther and created the Anglican Church.  There were now two versions of Christianity: the “Catholic” variant and the “Protestant” variant.

This “rejecting the established church” idea caught on and soon Protestant Christianity was split into many sects, divided over trivial matters of doctrine, each of which claimed all the others was “not really Christian”. 

This is pretty much where we are today.

Thursday 4 January 2024

A poser for any Christians reading this

Imagine there’s a man travelling in the depths of the Amazon jungle, who comes across an isolated village with a tribe of people living happy, mutually supportive and caring lives.  Unbeknown to him, the tribe had never previously encountered anybody from outside their village, and they do not welcome him.  He is armed with an assault rifle and in a fit of rage he slaughters all of them; men, women and children.

When the killing is complete he is overcome by an overwhelming fit of remorse.  There are none left that he can save, so in his anguish he falls to his knees and earnestly prays to God for forgiveness.  He prays for some time, going back over his entire life asking for forgiveness for everything.  Exhausted and overwhelmed he dies as soon as he has said Amen.

Now, according to the Bible as I understand it, two things then happen.

1) The man, who has asked God for forgiveness for all his sins, and who has died before he can commit any more, will be immediately welcomed into Heaven.

2) The people in the village, who have never heard of Jesus Christ, and hence have not accepted him as their saviour, go to Hell.

Is this correct?

Monday 1 January 2024

2024 has begun well

First we're kept awake until 02:40am by the disco on the Bridge, which we measured at 84dB on our balcony, making sleep impossible.  In the immortal words of Lt. Roger Murtaugh in the film Lethal Weapon: "I'm too old for this kinda shit".

Then we discover that a hit-and-run driver has damaged our car while attempting to drive home past our house.  One can only assume they were drunk, which is why they carried on and did not stop to report the incident and apologise.  And as the incident occurred some time after 2am, we did not hear the crash because of the loud music.

2024?  Things can only get better.

Facebook Friends

I guess if we're all completely honest, we do not actually know all that well many - possibly, most - of the people we are "friends" with on Facebook. I certainly have "friends" who I've never met. Some are friends-of-friends; some are even people who asked to be my friend and I thought "why the hell not" and accepted their friend request. I presume I'm not unusual in this.

Perhaps, therefore, I should have predicted that it would happen, but I saw a post today from a "friend" openly supporting the atrocities being committed in Palestine by the Israeli army. I was shocked to discover that someone with whom I had occasionally exchanged greetings could hold views so completely opposed to mine, and so abhorrent to me.

[For the record, I do not support Hamas, or approve of its use of violence against anybody.]

So when people tell you that Facebook is self-supporting because you only see opinions that you already agree with, it isn't true.

And, incidentally, did you know that you can't block a Group on Facebook? So if one of your "friends" shares posts from the Group with which you disagree, you can't block the Group to avoid being annoyed by the posts - all you can do is block the friend.

What a strange thing Social Media is (surely an oxymoron).

Happy New Year

 According to the BBC World Service news at 10am this morning, there's been a major earthquake in Japan and five nuclear power plants are at risk; the Israelis and Palestinians have this morning continued trading death and destruction; The Ukrainians have continued trading death and destruction this morning with the Russian invaders; and Britain may be about to go to war with Iran in Yemen.

Happy 2024!

Sunday 10 December 2023

3,814 times is the charm ...

I publish an email address on Saint Helena Island Info and people use it to contact me about all sorts of things related to St Helena, most of which I am happy to help them with or to pass on to someone who can.

But I also get a lot of spam.  Some is just tedious crap and some is either mildly amusing or laugh-out-load funny (I’ve listed some of the funnier stuff here: http://sainthelenaisland.info/contact.htm#readmore).  Under the “tedious crap” I include all offers of SEO Services to “make my site #1 on Google” and people wanting to make me a video “about the business” (me sitting at my desk typing does not seem to me an entirely riveting plot for a video, even if it is mildly amusing watching me type one-handed with the more-than-occasional missed key and the resultant swearing).

But one thing always puzzles me about the junk I receive. So, in case it’s not obvious, I would like just point out to any prospective spammers out there, that sending me exactly the same email 1,000 times from different email addresses will not persuade me to read it, let alone take any action on it. 


Saturday 2 September 2023

Isn’t competition wonderful?


Imagine a race with only one entrant.  Or a football, rugby, cricket or skittles match with only one team.  What would be the point?  The team wouldn’t bother to give of their best because there would be nothing to fight against.  Nobody would watch because the result is obvious from before the start.  It would be completely boring.

It’s exactly the same in business.  If there was only one shop selling some essential thing they could charge almost what they liked for it and the customers would have no choice but to pay it.  And if they treated their customers poorly they’d still be in business because nobody could go anywhere better.  Competition keeps prices down and improves customer service, because if you don’t like what one business is offering you can go to a better one.

SURE just found this out.

Until recently it could charge pretty-much what it liked for Internet usage because customers on St Helena had no alternative.  As a result, St Helena had perhaps the slowest and most expensive Internet access on the planet.  Then Starlink came along and a lot of SURE’s most profitable customers deserted for the much better package offered by Starlink.  If you want to get a business’ attention you hit it in the bottom line.

My guess is that SURE then pressed SHG to take action against Starlink - hence that “cease and desist” press release - but it soon turned out that a) our 35-year-old Telecoms Ordinance just didn’t give SHG the power to ban something as modern as Starlink; b) nobody on the island had the equipment necessary to prove that a Starlink system was being used, which would be necessary for a successful prosecution; and c) there were already so many Starlink users (and despite the press release the number continued to grow) the courts would have been backed up for years trying to prosecute them all.

So, faced for the first time with a serious competitor, SURE has responded.  It has clearly constructed the new tariffs announced last Friday to allow it to seize the market back from Starlink.  And, for all but a very few extremely high volume users, I suspect it will succeed.

To compare Starlink against SURE’s new top package:

1.      Both offer an unlimited connection.  That means no more being cut off mid-month or charged an arm and a leg for excess data usage.  With both you can allow your machine to update itself (especially its anti-virus) when it needs to without worrying how much data it will use.

2.      SURE’s fastest package is only 1/10th the speed of Starlink, but most of us don’t need all that speed and couldn’t really use it if we had it.  People I know with Starlink say they never exceed 50Mbps, and then only occasionally (when all their friends come round bringing their laptops and phones).  20-25Mbps is more normal and its usually lower.  20Mbps from SURE should meet most people’s needs.

3.      Starlink costs about £750 to buy and set up, and around £200 per month to run, where SURE’s package costs (I understand) nothing to switch to and only £120 (plus 10% government tax) per month.

A few other things: For Starlink you need access to a UK bank account, whereas for SURE you can pay locally.  Starlink needs unobstructed access to the sky (difficult in a valley like Jamestown) but SURE comes down your ordinary telephone line.  Be aware that if you live in an outlying district, even with SURE’s top package you may not get the full 20Mbps because of the long telephone line, whereas in country districts away from obstructions Starlink should operate at its best.  Don’t think you can share a Starlink system with your neighbours to split the cost– that IS illegal under our antiquated Telecoms Ordinance.  Lastly the Latency on SURE should be much better than with Starlink (if you want to game online you’ll know what Latency is, and if you don’t it probably won’t affect you!)

Unless you really need Starlink’s 200 Mbps speed it’s an easy choice: go with SURE.

Would SURE have done this anyway, once it could connect to the Cable (which is much cheaper for it than the old Satellite link)?  I have my doubts.  SURE is in business to make money and few businesses ignore the opportunity to exploit a captive market.  It is my firm belief that SURE would have improved their offering once the Cable came online but would not have gone this far if it had not been forced into it by competition.

Competition is good.

Now we just need to find a way to deal with the island’s other effective monopolies whose prices are too high and whose customer service is below par - the bank and Connect.