Wednesday, 28 February 2007

May I make a request? Can we only use post labels if we think, at some point in the future, someone might actually want to look back at all the posts about X? I think it's a bit of a stretch of the imagination, for example, to say that in two years time someone will think "I really want to know what thoughts the Dobsons have had about boxes over the years."

Message ends.

I should post about my job at some point, but, equally, I should go to bed.
Viva Results

The Examiners will make one of the following recommendations for a PhD:
i Award the degree of PhD with no corrections
ii Award the degree of PhD subject to minor corrections
iii Invite to revise and resubmit (on only one occasion) for the degree of PhD with possible further oral examination
iv Award the degree of MPhil
v Award the degree of MPhil subject to minor corrections
vi Invite to revise and resubmit (on only one occasion) with possible further oral
examination for the degree of MPhil
vii Reject, not permitting resubmission

The viva went very well, and my results are good.
I've not passed. There's an issue with deducing the infinite results from the finite results that needs resolving, and this issue affects most chapters of my thesis. The examiners felt that a pass with minor corrections (which gives you four weeks to make the corrections) would put me under too much time pressure. There's no further oral exam, but I need to sort out the issue and resubmit, at which point I'll pass. Unfortunately this could involve a fair bit of reorganisation and possibly typing.


Off to the pub now.
I managed to mess up being on JSA already, by missing my first sign-on day because I got the date wrong, curse my numerate dyslexia. This was not helped by having new smoke detectors fitted in my flat on the same day. Or receiving my JSA letter which states I have the disabled and severely disabled bonus, the latter of which I'm not sure I should be eligible for, so I asked my support worker to check that I'm not getting money that I shouldn't be getting and get in a proper muddle.
I only discovered my blunder long after the Job centre had shut, and after going to the Job centre twice today I am waiting for an appointment tomorrow to hear what the decision will be. Plus there hasn't been a single suitable job in the paper or websites, unless I fancy moving to Bradford or Liverpool. It's really annoying how many jobs want "good communication skills", "excellent telephone manner" and "customer service". Just what I can't do

And now for the good news
My Student Loan is finally down to about £600, at my current rate I'll have repaid it by this time next year.

Thursday, 22 February 2007


It's my viva on the 28th of Feb (Wednesday) at 2:00pm, so whenever I get out I'll be off to Kro Bar on Oxford Road for a few beers, then off to the Manchester Ceilidh at Jabez Clegg (8:00 kick off, I think, and entry's £5 or £2.50 NUS) round the corner for a few more. Not sure when I'll get to Kro, as vivas finish when they finish, but hopefully by about 5:00 or 6:00 or so.

*crosses fingers*

Come for a beer if you're in the area.

Monday, 19 February 2007

It was really nice to have Mum and Dad around last week, even nicer that I could treat Mum to a day out at Plymouth Aquarium (her choice) as her birthday present. Like many males I'm often at a loss as what to get Mum for her birthday, and this seemed like a good idea.

It seems a little strange to me that all of my siblings have paired off, and all of them all either from another country or in Emma's case her father is from another country. But then it almost seems like a family tradition, one of my uncles was born of European immigrants, my Dad's sister emigrated to America with her husband and my Nan's sister emigrated to Australia. Personally I think it's down to good taste, Emma and Monica are both lovely people, can't really comment on Ann (Nicholas's girlfriend), since I've yet to meet her.

I'm now on Jobseeker's Allowance, things have changed a little since last time. I now have to apply for at least two jobs a week. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, the obvious flaw is that there are so few suitable jobs for someone with Asperger's Syndrome, and if there is the possibility that I will have to apply for an unsuitable job. The good thing is that I will be making much more of an effort to find a suitable job than I would otherwise. The only positive thing is that failing at the interview stage is much more likely for me even if I try, so there is less risk of getting an unsuitable job. This may sound a little unethical but given the choice between being unemployed and having a job that will exhaust and discourage me, I'd rather be unemployed.

I found one possible job, helping people with learning disabilities cope with independent living, sound like the sort of thing that might appeal to me. The other bit of good news is that even if I'm still on JSA, I would be able to help with the forthcoming parental unpacking when they move to Bushbury.

I spent the rest of the afternoon having a bake-fest. My housegroup is having a meal together before this week's meeting, I offered to bake a cake, and then decided to have a go at baking a non-gluten-free loaf for the mini-communion after the housegroup talk. Also baking a cake for the staff meeting at Mortimer House, partly to use up the leftover eggs, partly because I like baking cakes and like people to enjoy eating them.

Thursday, 15 February 2007


Well, we're into the new house, and out of the old one (with the exception of some cleaning at the old place). Spent Saturday cleaning the new house, Sunday doing the remaining packing at the old place (plus an amazing roast dinner at Ben and Vicky's), Monday moving (three trips with a 3.5 tonne van plus an extra one for stuff like barbecue & bikes which are a little filthy) with large amounts of valuable help from Rosy and Vicky on the first two trips. Pete helped out with the unloading of trip three. Tuesday morning was spent moving our bed (obtained from our 'ex'-landlord) upstairs via a window halfway up the stairs using a rope and a (slightly dodgily borrowed) ladder. Thanks to Dave for his assistance with the bed.

The furniture is pretty much where we want it now. The clothes are mostly unpacked (thanks to Emma), and the kitchen is useable. It's starting to look like our house now, albeit with boxes everywhere. It's nice to be back on real food - takeaway gets boring very quickly and is expensive.
Next time we move (not that I ever want to move house again) I think we'll pay someone else to do it. We're not students any more, and it's no longer just a couple of car loads to shift!

Now I've got my PhD viva in just under two weeks, so I'm back to work on maths in preparation. We should have a BT line in place in early March, and internet a couple of days (hopefully) later.

EDIT: I might be overstating this, but we've had a hell of a lot of help from quite a few people during the move. I'm not sure we would have got it done otherwise, and all the help meant that it was a tiring and stressful experience, but not a horrible one.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

I got a letter today which was a written job offer - a step in the right direction, but it seems I won't be starting until a week this Monday.

I think I'll stop claiming. I didn't want to pointlessly look for work for one week, let alone two. And, having contacted all the agencies to say I don't need 'em anymore, I don't want to phone them again to ask for work.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Bye Bye

To home internet access. Packing proceeding well.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

We now have the keys to our new house. And why is Philip always right, yes it was an anticlimax going round to look at it. Now all the furniture is gone it is easy to see all the bad bits of the house and I think we will be decorating a few rooms in the near future. Philip right again about keeping the money I have saved to one side for a month after moving in before putting into the mortgage.

The new boiler is a combi boiler and looks good. However it is much smaller than the old one and so above the boiler is a right mess. Nice grey actual walls of the house. And its the same under the worksurface where the washing machine was when we looked round. Not very nice. Adrian would now like to do some work on the kitchen sooner than we originally thought. The fridge freezer is excellent though. Nice rack for storing bottles of wine and they have left it really clean.

The main thing that I am worried about is that we did not rush to buy a bed which we need as Alex said that he was leaving one. However the bed frame is ok but the mattress is absolutely awful. I would be much more comfortable on the floor using my camping mattress. And that is only an inch thick. We are going to get in touch with our current landlord and find out from him where he got our bed in the old house. He might even be willing to sell us it as he bought it in new for when we rented the house. Its quite a nice bed as well. Any suggestions on beds appreicated.

Anyway going to go and clean the house now. It will look better without all the cobwebs in the corners.

Friday, 9 February 2007

I have a job.

I had two interviews yesterday - one for Sanctuary Housing Association, which went well, and one horrible one for EDF Energy, which went horribly. Quite close to the end of the second four-hour-long abomination I checked my phone and found an answerphone message saying that I'd been successful with the first - result.

I need to phone a person called Vic to take it up, and after a trial period of hanging around the house, phoning pretty regularly, as I'd like to get to mass if I can (not possible now), in as much clothing as is necessary for both normal life AND working life, I decided I'd kill time by blogging about it.

I will be in the glamorous position of admin assistant in estates management, arranging for people to move into vacant properties. Sanctuary do affordable housing (very necessary round here, as we have high house prices, comparable to London I think, relatively high council tax due to the way it's calculated - the Council is always pushing to reform this - and some of the lowest incomes going by region), housing and care for the elderly and student accommodation as well, though it's not much of a problem in Exeter, so I guess that's mostly elsewhere.

I start on £12,594, which is fine, rising to £13,327 when "proficient" - pretty close to what I was on after two and a bit years at the Council, accompanied by what sounds like a rather swish benefits package including:They put holiday under the heading of benefits, which is a bit of a cheek when paid holidays were made statutory in the early twentieth century (or so I seem to recall). Anyway, it's 26 days, which sounds pretty good to me, plus bank holidays. I think it might work out as about the same as the Council, as I think they were pretty generous with Christmas. Oh, and 35 hours rather than 37, which doesn't sound like much of a difference, but - a whole hour every day for lunch! Brilliant!

I don't know when I start yet - hopefully Monday, as it means I'll be able to sort things with the Jobcentre, agencies and take a pop at our front room, dining room and kitchen, all of which resemble bomb-sites to varying degrees.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Bricks and Mortar

As of today, Mum, Dad, Emma and myself are the proud owners of some mud, plants, bricks, wood and plaster, tastefully arranged in the shape of a house and gardens. Oh, and we owe a few quid to the bank for the priviledge. Wooooo!

Update: Emma and I are planning to shortly, and our internet access will be affected by the move. No BT line has graced the property for several years, so we'll have no landline or internet access at the new place until an engineer turns up.
So it's mobile contact only for a few weeks after the move.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Why I am a Catholic

Here's a post I've been meaning to compose for a while, a post I feel more comfortable writing now that I have been a Catholic for a little while. Not having a computer these days, I'm not really at liberty to elaborate or defend what I say here on the web - if you want to say something to me, actually say it to me. I don't want to be too biographical or even too thorough in making my case for the reasons that I give. It'll just be a statement of some reasons why I can still say
I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.
as I did on this day.

This is not going to be an explanation of why I am a Christian, which I have been for much longer. One of the main reasons why I continue to be a Christian is addressed here, but I should mention that I was raised within the Anglican tradition (though I had a believer's baptism aged 10) by virtue of the fact that my Dad is a vicar. I remember having an Anglican confirmation, which is odd, because I don't remember feeling any particular attachment to Anglicanism; I would say I was non-denominational with an Anglican background. In addition to church, I attended various house-parties, youth-groups, Spring Harvests and CU meetings, where I picked up a fair bit of information about God and about being a Christian, which I have yet to put into practise. At University I started going with Will to Belmont, which used to be a brethren church, but which now eschews such labels. I don't remember having any real exposure to Catholicism except that afforded by Chick Tracts. I didn't pay a great amount of attention to Mr. Chick's arguments, as I wasn't a Catholic.

In my second year I began to live with, among other people, a Catholic called James. He came to University feeling that he ought to develop his faith, fell in with the CU, some of whom told him that it was a very-bad-thing that he was a Catholic and that it wasn't a patch on real Christianity. He looked into things and decided that it was Catholicism that was right rather then these CU people, and so when I met him, he had a head full of arguments for Catholicism (albeit without so much rhetorical skill). I liked to talk religion. James liked to talk religion. We talked about religion, so I was in turn exposed to pro-Catholic apologetics. I didn't just swallow it, obviously I would hope, but that's where it began, talking with a friend. I started living with James in 2001 (I think) and decided to become a Catholic on February 28 2004, so I'd had a little while to chew things over.

So, there follow some of the reasons that gradually compelled me to become a Catholic and, as I see it, complete the faith that I received years earlier by coming into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Sola scriptura is really a major consideration, one which, once decided against means that you have no option, as a Christian, but to consider where else authority may be found - so it opens the way to consideration of the authority of a historical Church. And I must say, sola scriptura was dropped pretty quickly by myself - I'm not sure it's even an intelligible belief, let alone a correct one.

The canon of Scripture is not decided by Scripture - it is a collection of books which has been given a table of contents and a name from an outside source. For the canon of Scripture to be of any use to us, we must know that it comes to us from God. How can we know this? It really is terribly important. As a non-Catholic (and this is of course an unreliable imaginative exercise) I think I would have been obliged to say that the historical consensus on the canon was the proof that we had. Further, that the Church maintains the Hebrew Scriptures together with the Apostolic witness always recognized by the Church as such. When there was one visible Church, it had the ability to declare the canon in the name of God, and this is what what remains to us today.

Except it simply isn't. If there ever was consensus even on what Christian doctrine was, it vanished pretty quickly, let alone the canon. Certain biblical passages suggest a nascent gnosticism, whose various schools later came to possess their own scriptures: 1 Tim 6:20-21, 1 Tim 4:3, 1 John 4:1-3. The process of canon selection is also contentious. The heart of the reason why Catholics and protestants have different books in their bible is because of the circulation of two separate collections of the Hebrew Scriptures at the time of the birth of the Church, the Hebrew version for protestants and the Greek for Catholics, to over-simplify it. The writers of the New Testament quoted the Greek version and it was a natural step to take the Greek version with it's extra books as canonical. After (I forget when, but it was substantially after) the Church began to make its presence felt, it was decided among the Jews that the Greek version was not canonical - it was in any case being abused and misinterpreted by Christians. The Church decided not to follow suit, as the Greek version was good enough for the apostles. I daresay that it was a contested decision, especially as time went on, but such it was until Luther decided that we should use the Hebrew version, as did the Jews. (It occurs to me that, for this to be a really consistent argument, Luther should also have prescribed circumcision) A firm decision on the New Testament of the Church was not made for some time. In certain communities, books that orthodox Christianity does not accept were treated as gospel (I'm thinking of the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas) and certain books that we now take as gospel were deemed spurious, such as Hebrews. I believe the Catholic Church basically laid down it's canon at around 300 AD, but you may want to check it out yourself, as I think it was finalised somehow much later. That, with the removal of certain Old Testament books for protestants, and additional differences for the orthodox churches is how we have come to understand the contents of the bible. It was a declaration by a Church which believed it had the authority to make that declaration. How then is it possible for someone outside of that kind of Church, which believes that it can collectively make binding decisions of such magnitude, not to question that historical decision?

I already sense that I have begun a gargantuan task, which I can't help but expend a lot of words on. Never mind.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. - John 16:13
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. - Ephesians 4:3-6
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. - Matthew 16:18
When I look at the history of protestantism, I think it demonstrates the exact opposite of what the above verses expect and call for.

Whatever you may say about it, Catholicism confidently proposes dogma where private judgement of Scripture inherently generates disunity. Maintaining the principle of private judgement is to my mind, a natural route to the kind of liberalism that says that a symbolical resurrection is as valid as an actual one, and further to the whole tedious and insular business of post-modernity. It is obvious that encouraging everyone to form their own opinion results in different opinions and leads away from "all truth". The pool of protestant dogma seems to slowly shrink away - where it has shrunk away to nothing it is an extreme liberalism which still wants to maintain the name of Christianity - quite why, I could not say. I am incapable of feeling that "mere Christianity" is a desirable state of affairs.

Once I was invited to talk about Catholicism to a group of people studying the history of the reformation on the Moore course at Belmont. So I did. I talked a little about the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and mentioned that it wasn't really contested until the ninth century. The retort was that what the Church practically unanimously believed for eight centuries was quite capable of being wrong. Now, to my mind, if, for eight centuries the whole Christian Church held that a piece of bread was a fit object of worship and not, in fact, a piece of bread, then the gates of Hades did overcome the Church, and pretty soundly at that.

Cardinal Newman is reputed to have said that "[t]o be deep in history is to cease to be protestant." I make no claim to be deep in history, but that ecclesial history which I have made a study of, prior to the reformation has given me no indication of a Church which looks more protestant than Catholic. You can, in fact, find lots of evidence of contested opinions among church fathers, including some which sound quite protestant, but which are hedged in with what now pass for Catholic distinctives. And you can also find lots of schools of Christianity which profess some protestant-sounding doctrines, but these tend to be hedged in with what both protestant and Catholic alike would call heresy.

From the protestant side, it is generally alleged that Catholicism corrupted the true Christian Church, but when I looked for the Church that resisted the major heresies of gnosticism, Arianism &c. it looked like the Catholic one, and I couldn't find anything that looked non-denominational, or even Anglican.

I was surprised to find Catholic theology unjustly maligned as unbiblical. I couldn't begin to enumerate all the instances in which I was able to see that Catholic exegesis had quite a point. Of course, if you maintain that the bible is the only resource from which you can determine doctrine, I can still see how it looks ad hoc and forced, but as I say, I was inclined to ditch the idea. I found that these Catholic distinctives either existed clearly, or were visible dimly, in the belief and practise of very early Christian communities and though Scripture did not prove them, it could support them and did not in fact contradict them.

As an example of theology which I found surprisingly satisfactory: faith and works. Simply put, I find Catholic theology accounts for all of the following, whereas protestant theology falls over itself so as to affirm grace to the detriment of other sentences of Scripture, not uncommonly in the next verse.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:8-10
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. - Phillipians 2:12-13
You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. - James 2:24
Sometimes it seems that every interpretation but the Catholic one is licit. For example, someone recently told me that they weren't comfortable with the idea of sins being forgiven by men, to which the obvious retort is "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." Without blinking they asked if it might not apply equally to all Christians, which is of course a complete about-face (but it's okay because it's a biblical about-face).

Anyway, faith and works is one example. I found Scripture to be far more accommodating of Catholicism than I had suspected hitherto, and Catholic biblical apologetics to be, cumulatively, very coherent, more so than protestantism.

I suspect that the story is different in poorer countries than ours, but it seems to me that protestantism takes its cue from academic theologians, which seems to be the wrong way round.
I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. - Luke 10:21
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. - 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
I do not mean to imply that the study of theology is a bad thing - by no means - but I don't see much of a precedent in relying for our doctrine on the learned. What we have received, in Christianity, is a superficially nonsensical religion built on such apparent paradoxes as wrath completed by mercy, strength in weakness, glory in shame, dying to live. It has frequently been necessary to appeal to what has been traditionally believed by Christians in the face of the-latest-thing. I might mention Arianism and gnosticism again, and the various heterodox tendencies of the Alexandrian school. I might also mention that, though neither I nor the Catholic Church deem it necessary to believe in creationism, we are both sneered at for refusing to acknowledge that science has killed off any possibility of believing in God.

Our bishops may or may not be clever men. The reason that they are our leaders is because the Church has seen fit to entrust that ministry to them, as Jesus entrusted his mission to the Apostles, and they entrusted their ministry to their successors.

I think that perhaps that will do. I intended only to explain myself a little, so I would be surprised to hear that anyone was, in the parlance of our times, "challenged" by it. As I said at the start, if you want to talk to me about any of it, talk to me about it.
Wined and Signed and Stolen Wheels

As a consequence of the timings of buying a house and Ma & Pa Dobson's movements, Thursday evening was a marathon paperwork session for four of the Dobson clan. Having been the sole person with any opportunity to actually read any of the paperwork before it was signed (this was carried out the previous evening in the company of a couple of lagers and the sounds of Wednesday losing to Southampton on the radio), I naturally fell into the role of thrusting a series of documents at each person (Dad, Mum, Emma (who was trying to plan lessons upstairs), myself, plus Nigel and Liz from next door who kindly witnessed where required) and telling them where to sign before moving on to the next victim.
Two bottles of wine later, everything was signed, dated (incorrectly then crossed out, corrected, initialled by four of us (my fault, would you believe?)) and ready to go.

I'd taken the next (Friday) morning off work to pick up some furniture from Saddleworth, as a colleague of Vicky's was moving house and getting rid of some useful items. By Thursday evening, I was expecting that the pickup was cancelled, as we'd had no word from Vicky's colleague regarding where she actually lived (can I have a show of hands from people familiar with Saddleworth? No, I didn't know either). The relevant information reached us by 10:30pm. Fortunately Dad was free and has recently got one of those GPS navigating thingies so finding the place wasn't an issue. Ben (Vicky's boyfriend) was also free, so after collecting him we set off, dropping Mum in town for some family history research. We fortunately hired the correctly sized van (we had no idea how big the furniture was prior to arrival) and made it over to Saddleworth in good time.

Nice furniture: we've collected enough from various places that we don't need to buy much to survive in the new place. The new pieces from Friday are crammed into the lounge (by Ben and myself, with management from Dad) along with an increasing number of boxes.

Now this was when it got more interesting (well done for reading this far. Signing legal documents must be a gripping read). On the way return the van, Dad's phone went off. It was in his pocket, so we didn't answer and assumed it was Mum wanting picking up. I checked the phone: 1 missed call from a Manchester number and a voicemail message. The message was from the van hire, asking us to phone them urgently regarding the vehicle we were driving.
Bomb on the van? Wheels about to fall off? Brake cables cut?
It turned out that the vehicle had been reported stolen, and could we let them know when we were returning it so that the police could have a look? Oh, and if we get pulled over by the police, give them a ring.
On returning the van we found out that the last bloke to hire it had gone walkies without paying, and it had been reported stolen by the hire firm. Someone had let it go out again before the police could see it and take it off the stolen list. We did get £25 off as a consequence, which was nice.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Speaking of which Neil, Lego Treasure Hunt ahoy.
Well, it's not a very good quiz (Luke couldn't do any better than me - in a good quiz he would), and I certainly do not know verse numbers, but it's good to get 100% in something anyway.

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

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