Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

April 2009

Faith & Religion and GeneralThursday, April 30th, 2009, (3:39 am)

Shortly after strutting her stuff in a bikini in front of a TV audience of millions tuned in for the Miss USA beauty pageant earlier this month, Miss California, 21 year old Carrie Prejean, was asked for her opinion on same sex marriage by a pageant judge, Perez Hilton. Smiling while speaking, as all beauty queens should, Miss California gave her answer.

“I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what? I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.” She said.

Her response created a tempest in a teacup which the U.S media has treated as a welcome distraction from the economic doom and gloom. Gay rights groups decried Prejean’s opinion as Christian groups hailed her as heroine for the cause of keeping marriage between a man and a woman.

Nearly two weeks later with the subject still in the news, it seems that while she didn’t win the crown of Miss USA, Miss California certainly stole the show. Her comments have put her right in the middle of the debate over same sex marriage that rages across the United States.

A religious and political group called the National Organization for Marriage plan to use her comments in a new TV ad. The group recently ran a controversial TV ad entitled ‘A Gathering Storm‘ which they claimed brought viewers “face to face with the growing religious liberty threat posed by same-sex marriage.”


I’m not trying to be controversial here, but maybe someone could explain what the big deal is with this subject? Surely couples who make a lifetime commitment to one another should be afforded the same rights under the law regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. In the UK we have civil unions which, as I understand it, are essentially the same as a marriage in all but name. Would this not work in the U.S, and if not then why?

Is it because the Bible says something about marriage being between a man and a woman? If so then why is it that groups like the National Organization for Marriage don’t object to non-Christians getting married?

Is it because of some moral objection? In which case why aren’t Christian and moral groups equally as impassioned and vocal about moral issues such as world poverty, social justice, and women being portrayed as sex objects as they parade around in bikinis at meaningless beauty pageants?

Taking the heat and the hate out of this question, can anyone explain to me why same sex marriage is such a problem?

Miss California gets heroine’s welcome at San Diego church
Miss California to star in TV ad from conservative group
Miss Teen USA 2007 : South Carolina answers a question
Miss Rehab USA
Some people are gay, get over it
[Video] National Organization for Marriage : Gathering Storm
[Video] Miss California speaks about marriage at pageant
[Video] Miss USA bikini contest

GeneralMonday, April 27th, 2009, (1:44 am)

Sunday night had run away from me and I hadn’t eaten because I was still feeling full from a big breakfast. Midnight was less than an hour away and I think I read somewhere that you shouldn’t eat late at night, but the chances are I would be up for hours yet so I didn’t think having a light supper would hurt.

Killer soup

‘Soup,’ I thought. ‘That would be perfect.’ I still had a bit of a baguette left and, accompanied with a glass of wine, the meal would indeed hit the spot. My favorite soup is home made broccoli and stilton, but as I’ve never cooked it myself the ready made variety will do just fine as long you add a little more stilton cheese.

I didn’t have any of that soup in my refrigerator but I was sure there was a tin of something at the back of my cupboard behind the baked beans, peeled plum tomatoes, and jars of Lloyd Grossman’s pasta sauce (which had recently been on a 2-for-1 offer at the store).

Sure enough, in the corner and under a tin of beans was a can of Campbell’s ‘double the value’ vegetable soup. ‘That should do the trick,’ I thought to myself as I reached into the cupboard. My wrist negotiated its way around the jars and tins like a snake through long grass.

As I lifted the can of Campbell’s I noticed the label seemed a little faded and somewhat grimy. I didn’t remember buying this can of soup especially since vegetable isn’t a variety I’m particularly fond of anyway. But, with the baguette and remaining wine from the bottle my brother and I drank yesterday, this soup would be perfect.

I rummaged through the kitchen drawers for a can opener. Locating one, I placed the can on the counter-top then stopped just as I was about to open it. ‘This isn’t dirty,’ I thought to myself as I went in for a closer look. ‘This can is rusty!’

I figured that if the can had been sitting in the back of my cupboard long enough to accumulate a fair degree of rust then there was a high probability that the product may well have passed its ‘use by’ date. On the base of the can, stamped in generic dotted typface, was ‘04 1999.’ It wasn’t merely out of date, it was from another century!

I picked it up and inspected the label that was discolored by the grime and rust. ‘Does soup get better with age? Does it mature like whisky or wine?’ The picture of the soup on the label sure looked tasty, and I had heard from somewhere that canned food never really goes off, so it had to be fine, right?

I opened the antique and examined the contents like a hazmat officer. I sniffed it, trusting that my nose would detect all traces of imperfections that my eyes might fail to notice. It smelled exactly like soup from a can. ‘It’s fine!’ I told myself as I poured it into a saucepan already filled with the stated amount of water.

Minutes later my soup from a bygone era was steaming and ready to be enjoyed. It looked just like the picture on the label, and while the taste hadn’t particularly improved in its maturity, the soup that was ten years out of date was every bit as good as it would have been back in the 90’s.

Killer soup

There’s more… Read what I had for desert!
Best before
Restaurant review
Food for thought
Do Food Expiration Dates Really Matter?
The Truth About Food Expiration Dates
If it smells okay, can I still eat it?

Found on the webThursday, April 23rd, 2009, (8:08 pm)

Have you ever just wanted to stop what you’re doing, get up, walk out the door and just keep walking? I know I have. I’m not sure if that’s how it went for Hakim Maloum, but last year with just $217 in his pocket he left Union Square, New York, and began walking.

In his series, ‘Interviews 50 cents,’ NPR’s Alex Chadwick happened to meet Hakim Maloum on Venice Beach Boardwalk, Los Angeles, as the Algerian born resident of New Jersey had just come to the end of an epic walk across America. It was a journey of some 3300 miles that had taken the 31 year old five months and thirteen days to complete.

“I just packed a backpack and put it on my back.” Said Maloum who described himself as 45 pounds overweight at the time he left the east coast bound for the west coast. He had rules too. “I couldn’t ask for any help, including asking for food, water, money, nothing.” He explained, adding that he could ask for water if he hadn’t had any for two hours.

He wasn’t sponsored and didn’t have an organisation behind him, he was just a guy who decided to walk across the United States and rely simply on the kindness of strangers, eating meals with strangers, and staying in the homes of people he had only just met.

“It’s really amazing. The story is not about me but about the American people and how much help I got from them.” He told Alex Chadwick. “I knew people would help. I just didn’t know this magnitude.” He continued.

It wasn’t easy of course, walking across the entire stretch of the United States wouldn’t be. Along the way he was almost electrocuted by lightning in Texas, lost a brand new pair of shoes in knee-deep mud, got shot at by a some guy with a BB gun, and had a bottle of beer thrown at him. However, on his journey he experienced the magic of kindness. People he didn’t know gave him drinks, made him food, washed his clothes and gave him places to sleep.

He eventually arrived in California where he told Susan Derby, of the LA Times, that he hoped to get a job and maybe stay around for a couple of months to explore the place. After that he had no plans.

“If you really want to get up and do something you really could.” He told Alex Chadwick as they sat across a small table from one another that afternoon on Venice Beach Boardwalk. “Everything else is just excuses.”

There seems to be no information about what Hakim is doing now. Maybe he spent a few weeks checking out Los Angeles and now he’s walking back to New Jersey? Whatever he’s doing I hope and suspect he’s following his heart, after all, as he said “Everything else is just excuses.”

Hakim Maloum’s very long walk
Q&A with Hakim Maloum
Good magazine on ‘The Walk’
Well dressed wisdom
Crazy in love
Married five times

GeneralTuesday, April 14th, 2009, (10:53 pm)

Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t care that you just “played an amazing game of TextTwist” or that you “took the ‘IQ test’ quiz and the result is: Very Good!” I am not the least bit interested to know what hippy name you have, or that you “took the ‘What is your ministry calling?’ quiz and the result is: Missions and Outreach.” I could have been quite happy not knowing that you just joined the ‘Global Water Balloon Fight’ and that you “really want a KFC” and I didn’t need to know that you’re “on the bus feeling tired.” In short, I no longer want to be your facebook friend.

Facebook is more than five years old now and I’ve had an account since about 2006. At first it was slow moving, using it was like walking into a nightclub so early that nobody is at the bar let alone on the dance floor. Eventually though, I began to accumulate friends, quickly amassing an impressive list of people I knew, kind of knew, had met a few times, knew by association, or had met at a party – once. Some were friends, but most were just virtual connections whom I added in my enthusiasm then didn’t have the heart to delete later.

I don’t really understand where facebook is supposed to fit into my life. Once I had exchanged a few messages with distant friends, checked out pictures of old ex-girlfriends to see how fat they had become, and taken a few of the dumb quizzes sent to me by people on my friends list, I was left wondering ‘Now what?”

So called ‘friend requests’ were coming in thick and fast. Names I had to strain to recall were wanting to add me to their ‘friends’ without so much as a “How are you?” or a “What have you been up to lately?” I would closely examine their profile pictures, squinting at their eyes as if this might sharpen my recollection.

Eventually my account (and my email) was filling up with alerts telling me that this person had just done this thing, or that thing, taken this quiz or joined that group, installed this application or become friends with some other random person. Status updates would tell me that someone who never speaks to me in real life was having a great afternoon, or that another person was “cleaning their house”, or that someone else was “at the hairdressers.” Pretty quickly I found myself wondering why the heck I needed to know this crap?

I decided that I didn’t need to be up to speed with the daily drudge of some old squeeze from back when Bon Jovi were singing about Beds of Roses. I didn’t need to get up-to-the-moment updates of rush hour traffic in Chelmsford, or the benign rants of a clearly depressed ‘friend’ who was having issues with her “fuckhead of a boyfriend” (whom I had never met). It seemed pretty clear to me that the time had come for a facebook ‘friend cull’, and with that I began systematically ‘de-friending’ people.

At first I felt bad, like I was being disrespectful or something. De-friending someone on facebook seems like the social equivalent of telling someone their baby is ugly. But after the initial opportunity to catch up with someone from way back and spend a few minutes curiously peering into their lives like some government CCTV operator, how else was I to gracefully exit the exchange?

Fortunately most of the promiscuous ‘friend whores’ (people with more than two or three hundred people on their friends list) didn’t notice I had ditched them. A couple did, and one or two people even got upset about it, saying more to me in a message expressing their annoyance than they had said to me in the entire time we had been enjoying our new found digital friendship. I did my best to explain it was nothing personal, and for the most part I think people were okay with it.

And that’s just it, Facebook is nothing personal. It’s an endless precession of worthless crap spewing onto the world wide web like effluents from a burst pipe. Yes I know, some people like it because they can keep up with their friends, but if the site were to be switched off tomorrow, how many of those people would make a real world effort to continue sharing crap with one another?

Of course, coming from me this might all seem like a contradiction. As a blogger I am a person who spends a significant amount of my time sharing what some might regard as “worthless crap.” Indeed, one of my friends remarked that blogging was “stupid” and “simply pointless.” She decried that bloggers were “stupid people who wanted to make themselves feel better by writing stuff on the internet.” Oddly enough, my blog hating friend has since become an active facebook user with a long list of friends. She probably gives no thought to the fact that when she makes a facebook status update she does so with much the same motivation as the average blogger.

I’m not the first person to tire of the witless rubbish that swamps my facebook account, but as a web professional myself it’s hard to see where the site is going. Several (real) friends of mine have commented that they like facebook because of the pictures, but if it hopes to cash in on the value of its astounding number of users then it needs to do so sooner rather than later; people can only add so many friends, or do so many pointless quizzes. If facebook doesn’t find a place of real value soon the fickle people of the digital world will leave the site for something new as quickly as they deserted the likes of Xanga and myspace.

I might not have been an altogether early adopter of the site, but I’m going to be an early deserter. My friends know who they are, we email, we talk on the phone, we visit one another. They know that just because I don’t care about their facebook status, that doesn’t mean I don’t care about them.

It was fun for a while, but I’ll be closing my facebook account this week.

Facebook is bad for the brain
Judge rules that facebook friends aren’t friends
Facebook’s growing problem
Adbusters : Quit facebook
Quitting facebook gets easier
What to do when old photos of you appear on Facebook
Why I don’t get facebook
Get your face on my comments!
Share on Facebook

GeneralFriday, April 10th, 2009, (10:12 pm)

Welcome to ‘Say Anything Friday!’ Your chance to say whatever the heck you want. Tell a story, write an open letter, blurt out your favorite fizzy word, or just head-bang the keyboard because that’s all you’ve got at the end of another long week. Whatever you feel like saying, just come right out and say it!

Here’s how it works:

Whatever is on your mind you just write it here as a comment. Let rip! Have a moan about something or sing from the rooftops (or comment-tops at least) about that great thing you’re all excited about at the moment. Whatever it is you get to just get to say it here.

There are no limits to what you write, how long your comment is, the subject, or the amount of cuss words you use. It’s an open space where you can go crazy.

So go ahead… say something!