Sonnet 121 (William Shakespeare)

Tis better to be vile, than vile esteemed,
When not to be, receives reproach of being,
And the just pleasure lost which is so deemed
Not by our feeling, but by others’ seeing:
For why should others’ false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?
No; — I am that I am, and they that level
At my abuses reckon up their own:
I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown;
Unless this general evil they maintain,
All men are bad, and in their badness reign.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Proposed European Super League

There has been a widespread negative reaction from football fans and others to the announcement by twelve major European clubs to form a breakaway European Super League. English teams Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham are part of the group.

It’s wrong on so many levels, and it’s hard to believe it was even thought of, but less so when you realise that at its heart is greed on the part of the teams’ owners. As I commented on social media: Behold, how the gods of football doth contend, to sacrifice the beautiful game on the twin altars of greed and self-interest.

As Susie Dent appropriately tweeted: Word of the day is ‘ingordigiousness’: extreme greed; an insatiable desire for wealth at any cost.

A statement given by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden about the European Super League proposals was spot on. I quote some of it below, but you can read the whole statement here.

Football is in our national DNA. We invented it, we helped export it around the world, and it has been a central part of British life for over a century. Football clubs aren’t just businesses; they define communities across the country.

So along with almost every member of this House I suspect, I was appalled by the announcement made late last night that a handful of clubs are proposing to form their own breakaway European League. These six clubs announced this decision without any consultation with football authorities, or with the government. But worst of all, they announced it without any dialogue whatsoever with their own fans.

It was a tone-deaf proposal, but the owners of those clubs won’t have been able to ignore the near universal roar of outrage from all parts of the football community over the past 24 hours. This move goes against the very spirit of the game.

This is a sport where a team like Leicester City can ascend from League One to the Premier League title in under a decade, earning the right to go toe-to-toe against European heavyweights in the Champions League. Instead, a small handful of owners want to create a closed shop of elite clubs at the top of the game – a league based on wealth and brand recognition rather than upon merit.

Season after season, year after year, football fans demonstrate unwavering loyalty and passion by sticking by their clubs. But their loyalty is being abused by a small number of individuals who wield an incredible amount of power and influence. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that football is nothing without its fans. These owners should remember that they are only temporary custodians of their clubs, and they forget fans at their peril.

Reading List in Google Chrome

How do you save web pages you want to read later?

Until recently I’d been saving web pages in a variety of places, including Facebook and Twitter bookmarks. I still use those, but now I’ve become better organised. Sites I visit regularly are bookmarked in Google Chrome (so they synchronise across all my devices) with my top sites on the favourites bar as icons only.

I don’t know how long Google’s [Reading list] has been available, but I’ve only recently discovered it. If it’s not showing you can activate it after typing the following command into the address bar and pressing [Enter]. You can also use the same command to disable it.

chrome://flags/#read-later

Anything I want to read later now gets saved into my [Reading list] by bookmarking and choosing that option. Most recent pages are saved to the top of the list and get moved to the bottom of the list (below a divider) when you’ve read them. You can then delete them, keep for future reference, or transfer to another bookmarking service.

For long-term bookmark storage I use Pocket, which I’ll write about at a later date.

Enjoying my blog posts? You might like to Buy Me a Coffee.

Peace be with you

This Sunday’s devotional comes from a Lectionary reading for the Third Sunday of Easter (2021), namely Luke 24:36-48 in my preferred translation (NIVUK):

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

This is one of the post-resurrection appearances of the Risen Jesus recorded in the New Testament. But, before you read on, you might like to read the preceding verses and last Sunday’s devotional Walk humbly with God.

The news of Jesus’ resurrection was becoming known; the disciples were gossiping the good news and enjoying wonderful moments of fellowship and food.

As Christians, the moments we share with each other in worship, fellowship and feasting are so important. The Last Supper in the upper room was a highly significant occasion, as well as being a tremendously poignant one. As we meet together, we’re sharing something divine. The Risen Christ comes and blesses us with his presence.

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

Jesus spoke about peace on many occasions. In the Beatitudes he challenged his hearers to be peacemakers, not just peace lovers.

On Palm Sunday he wept over Jerusalem he longed that they might have peace, but it was hidden from their eyes. They didn’t want to see it.

In a passage from John’s Gospel, where Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, he says to the disciples: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Later he says: ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ John 16:33

What incredible moments these must have been as they gathered in the presence of the Risen Lord. Such moments of collective insight and clarity, everything falling into place, especially as Jesus opened up the Hebrew scriptures to them.

The lights came on in their hearts and lives, and he outlined the message they were to declare to the world.

Thinking about the peace Jesus brings, I conclude with these later words of Paul: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Philippians 4:6-8

See also The Letter of Joy (Chapter 4) and Peace (Henry Vaughan)

Funeral of Prince Philip

I write this immediately following the funeral of Prince Philip on Saturday 17 April 2021, one defined by coronavirus restrictions with only 30 mourners.

The image of the Queen on her own is a very profound and significant one. Whilst no one should be allowed to grieve alone, a solitary Queen served as a powerful identification with so many of her people during the ongoing pandemic.

Prior to the service I posted on Facebook: Whatever your views about the monarchy (and that’s a debate for another day) we currently have a Royal Family, and we pay them respect. Not because they are better than us, but because the Queen is our head of state. Although not perfect, she and Prince Philip have served us well over the years in a variety of ways.

Let me share some words of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on BBC Radio 4: To set aside your own rights and interests in order to serve others is always difficult, but as we reflect on the life of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, we are reminded of how much it is possible to achieve when we dedicate our lives to larger causes than ourselves. Prince Philip shows how someone dedicated to bringing people together and encouraging the journeys of others achieved so much more than we can ever hope to on our own.

You can read the whole text here.

Peace (Henry Vaughan)

My Soul, there is a country
Afar beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentry
All skillful in the wars;
There, above noise and danger
Sweet Peace sits, crown’d with smiles,
And One born in a manger
Commands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious friend
And (O my Soul awake!)
Did in pure love descend,
To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the flow’r of peace,
The rose that cannot wither,
Thy fortress, and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges,
For none can thee secure,
But One, who never changes,
Thy God, thy life, thy cure.

Henry Vaughan (1621-1695)

The Joy of Spring

We’ve had a good week. The weather’s been good, we’ve got lots of jobs done, and I’ve given our grass the first cut of the season.

Today, we had the chance to meet friends at Stewart Park in Middlesbrough. It was great to get out in the fresh air and enjoy life’s simple pleasures, things we’re all learning to appreciate more since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

You can see all the photos I took by clicking here.

Night Thoughts (Goethe)

Stars, you are unfortunate, I pity you,
Beautiful as you are, shining in your glory,
Who guide seafaring men through stress and peril
And have no recompense from gods or mortals,
Love you do not, nor do you know what love is.
Hours that are aeons urgently conducting
Your figures in a dance through the vast heaven,
What journey have you ended in this moment,
Since lingering in the arms of my beloved
I lost all memory of you and midnight.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
translated by Christopher Middleton

NAPS2 Scanning Software

For years I’ve been using ScanWiz for scanning documents, but it hasn’t been updated since 2012 and I’ve been having some issues using it with the latest Window 10 OS. Since last year, I’ve been using PaperScan Pro made available free during the coronavirus pandemic (until April 2021). This no longer works now, although you can still get a limited free version.

Needing to scan some personal documents I stated looking for some open-source software that would do the job using the helpful website Alternative To. I came across NAPS2 and it’s just what I needed. Check it out for yourself here.

Enjoying my blog posts? You might like to Buy Me a Coffee.

Google Photos (OCR)

I’ve been using Google Photos for ages, but it was only recently that they added an optical character recognition feature. Basically, if you take a photo of text on your smartphone, check it out in the Google Photos app or (after it’s been uploaded and synchronised to the cloud) computer web browser and you get the option to optically scan the text in the photo and convert it to editable text. It will even read it aloud for you.

While we’re on the subject of Google and text, there’s also another app that’s very useful, one that I use all the time. One of the features of Google Keep is that you can record audio notes that are automatically transcribed into text. It’s remarkably accurate and useful for those times when you have an idea and are unable to type. I used it for this blog post and it required minimal editing to finish it off.

Enjoying my blog posts? You might like to Buy Me a Coffee.