Saturday, March 28, 2020

Inopportune Zoom

A minister last week sent me a link, with which I could participate in a meeting with Zoom. I didn't use the link, nor did I have any connection with Zoom. Zoom, without my consent, then opened an account in my name, sent me an "account update", and notified me:
We may gather the following categories of Personal Data about you:
 Information commonly used to identify you, such as your name, user name, physical address, email address, phone numbers, and other similar identifiers
 Information about your job, such as your title and employer
 Credit/debit card or other payment information
 Facebook profile information (when you use Facebook to log-in to our Products or to create an account for our Products)
 General information about your product and service preferences
 Information about your device, network, and internet connection, such as your IP address(es), MAC address, other device ID (UDID), device type, operating system type and version, and client version
 Information about your usage of or other interaction with our Products (“Usage Information”)
 Other information you upload, provide, or create while using the service ("Customer Content"), as further detailed in the “Customer Content” section below

Electronic Organiser

I was a (very) early adopter of electronic devices in ministry. This was an early organiser by Sharp, the Sharp ZQ-1200, now about thirty years old. OBSERVATION: These are still freely available today, at a good price. I didn't stay with organisers. To this day, I find pen and paper more useful.

Hiring a Wife

In urban ministry, I several times came across the problem of the hired wife. It might sound like a wonderful idea, yet the reason I came across it was that it was ruinous to the men who hired them. They came to the Church for counselling, in tatters. Adjusted for inflation, the hired wife (an economical one) cost about R15 000 a month -- plus upkeep. Paradoxically, if one didn't want her full-time, it was a lot more expensive. She needed her own pad. OBSERVATION: Some of the problems were that the men fell in love with a woman who was mercenary, they continued to hire her when they couldn't sustain it, the wife was doing other business on the side -- and so on.

Friday, March 27, 2020

My First Quarantine

South Africa, today, is in its first day of a three-week "lockdown". The whole country has been shut down, and the army deployed. I remember my first quarantine. We had arrived at Ocean Island -- once described as an "extremely remote corner of Empire". My sister and I had (had) measles. On landing, we were taken straight to a room with a high ceiling and high windows, which was shuttered and dark. I remember the day I was released, as though it were today -- the English boy now released into a magical new world. There was a long footpath in front of me, under tall coconut palms. I walked down the path -- beside it flowers which were a blaze of colour. The island dropped off steeply to my right, to the ocean below, which stretched vast into the distance. OBSERVATION: Wikipedia describes the island as having a coastal woodland. The woodland is "made up mostly of mangoes, flame trees, guavas, tapioca, and common Kiribati shrubs such as the saltbush."

Wash Day

I took this photo two years ago, of my mother-in-law on wash day. She is carrying the washing to a nearby water pipe. Now, in her retirement, her children have bought her a washing machine. OBSERVATION: She is a diligent, jovial, devout person -- and wields an iron sceptre when required. In Xhosa tradition, I have purchased her daughter, so that the relationship with my mother-in-law is free from expectations -- as one may have in other cultures. I am very blessed with my mother-in-law.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Estimating Fever

There is a simple yet fairly reliable method of determining a fever if one doesn't have a thermometer to hand. First, one needs to know one's pulse at rest (mine is about 60). For every ten beats that it rises at rest, one may add 1°F or 0.555°C to one's temperature. With last week's attack of rheumatic fever, my pulse rose +65 above normal at rest. That suggests a 40.6°C temperature (105.1°F), which is into the danger zone, above 40°C. By the time I saw a doctor, I thought it had dropped. However, he said it was "very high". I just forgot to ask how high. OBSERVATION: It's just a rule of thumb, but it can be useful. Rheumatic fever is now making a comeback in the northern United States. Incidentally, it does not always require a noticeable fever.

Flower Girl's Fatigue

I took this photo at a wedding. Without anyone so much as noticing it, the flower girl slowly sank to the ground. I took a few photos before I pointed out that she was down.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020


It is hard to imagine the grandeur of this pass -- the Seweweekspoort -- 340 km east of Cape Town. It is hard to capture on camera, although some would seem to come close. Every now and then, this valley is flooded, and the pass destroyed. At the moment the pass is being repaired, but the road is open (with delays).

Racial Distancing

There is extreme polarisation in the new South Africa, with regard to who mixes with who. Just recently, it was not practially possible to know who mixed with who -- yet now we have (for example) lists of Facebook friends. One sees now that a person of one race group (if there were, strictly speaking, race groups) will typically not mix with more than 1% of another race group. This is astonishing. Moreover, in the case of persons one would expect to mix -- ministers, for example, or academics or consultants -- I estimate 2%. 10% would be very unusual. I could be wrong, but it is easy to take a look. OBSERVATION: Does it matter? I think yes, very much. A Black man said to me recently that racism is what happens when you make assumptions about another race: "Would they ..." have said or done this if they were not White, Black, and so on. This is a very broad definition, but the point is, if there is (say) 1% mixing, can one really minister, practice, perform, execute things effectively? 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Digitising Film

Last year, my mother gave me a hoard of old films, slides, and negatives. Yesterday I ordered a Kodak device which will digitise them. It will digitise 8 mm film, too -- invented in 1932, and superseded in 1965. It will only do this frame by frame -- however, there are some precious clips which might be worth the effort. I remember, as a boy, standing with my father as he filmed men making fire -- before the advent of matches, at least before their regular supply. That is likely to be on 8 mm film. OBSERVATION: The slide on the right is transferred with a backlight and a digital camera, which is a slow process. The Kodak process is fast.

Wrong Doctor

I have come out the other side of rheumatic fever exhausted but fine. The question with all rheumaic fever, though, is whether it will bounce back. In fact, this was a case of it bouncing back. A while back, my now ex-doctor would not treat me for rheumatic fever. Another doctor gave me a box of medication for something else, and it cured the rheumatic fever. I went to see my doctor, put the box on his desk, and told him the news. He thought for a while, then tapped his fingers on the box, and smiled: "This ... cured arthritis?" That was goodbye. Last week a new doctor said: "You have a history of rheumatic fever. We have all the symptoms here. Try this." He gave me the same box, and it cured me.  OBSERVATION: Doctors are trained beyond what ordinary people can imagine, so one doesn't instruct a doctor. In this case, however, the first doctor was wrong, and he was jeopardising my health. (It's an abridged story, but it is correct).

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Giving of the Poor

I have long experience with ministry in a (very) diverse congregation. Speaking too generally now, I found that the most generous members, proportionally, were the poorest. Paradoxically, it is when you have good income from the poor like that, that you have sound income as a whole. The mathematical mind might count it up and say that their giving is nothing, or it is the people who 'give' that count. However, the giving of the poorer people is worth far more than it seems. In my experience, their giving is a marker of financial security for the Church (or not). OBSERVATION: Why? There could be a few reasons. One is that their giving shows larger spiritual health in the Church.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A Different Perspective

To put it indirectly, my blog has been indisposed. It seemed possible that I had come down with COVID-19, although it turned out to be rheumatic fever (I am not yet restored). This, however, gave me opportunity to think -- and write -- about COVID-19, with the energies I had. I am privileged, too, to have a famous co-author for this piece. The article is to be published in the morning (in half a day's time) at this link: COVID-19: Let It Be. OBSERVATION: We have put forward a different perspective, and while it is philosophy, there is a (perhaps dominant) religious theme.

POSTSCRIPT: This almost instantly shot into the charts. We thought it might do.

Friday, March 20, 2020


Thank you for your get-well wishes, of which I received many. I had a 'very high fever' this week, and could hardly stand up. Symptoms were similar to COVID-19, but the doctor's first guess was rheumatic fever (I had not been in contact with any known carriers of COVID-19). I was isolated for a day, until rheumatic fever was confirmed. With a high-tech drug, I am better so far, although still weak and feverish. OBSERVATION: Rheumatic fever is an immune response. Very few people who catch the bacillus get the fever (30 million a year worldwide). This was a bad one. I am fit and well, and in the space of hours I was in big trouble. Rheumatic fever has a higher mortality rate than COVID-19. It is a bigger problem in some parts of the world, as the map shows.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Contactless Church

A Church which I attend took a radical approach to preventing COVID-19 from spreading. Yesterday I witnessed a trial run using Zoom, and it worked well. In next to no time, the Church has shut down (almost) all personal contact, and by the looks of it is keeping the Church fully functional. If it keeps on working, it is quite an accomplishment. OBSERVATION: The law says no gatherings bigger than 100, so some Churches are taking that route. A minister friend, a Pentecostal, is ignoring the law -- in fact defying the law.