All entries for December 2005

December 16, 2005

Political question

Apologies for the return of the recurring subject, but I rediscovered something I wrote down several weeks ago which is too interesting to ignore.

In a Radio 2 interview:

"The greatest political power in the world is religion"


December 15, 2005

A significant change of subject… bread!

In a departure from the recent serious topics adorning my blog, one of my favourite things: FOOD

When munching on some delicious white cranberry-filled bread yesterday (kindly provided by Warwick Hospitality for our Proteomics course) the conversation switched to bread and the eternal debate between brown and white: which is nicer? Do people who eat brown do so just for their health? Is the bread type filling-specific? Particularly potent was the fight about bacon sandwiches: should they always be made with white???

December 12, 2005

C.S. Lewis… a manipulator?

Another entry on religion…

Was (again) listening to Radio 4 recently and heard a debate between a Christian and an atheist about C.S. Lewis's Narnia series. The atheist said he had really enjoyed 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' when he'd read it as a very young child but that he'd felt utterly manipulated by the author when he became older and realised the Christian message behind it.

We live in a free country, thought I! Every author we read writes from a certain point-of-view and puts forward his own opinions through the medium of text. Should we ban any writing that is any way persuasive? In that case the removal of advertisements should be at the top of the list for risk of influencing people!

Are people not capable of reading the opinions of others and assessing them, thus coming to their own conclusions? The atheist is not crediting human beings with much intelligence. He had, himself, read the story and yet still come to the conclusion that he did not believe in God. He was clearly not 'manipulated' sufficiently to change his mind.

Why do we apply different rules to Christianity than to any other religious, or other, idea? Noone would ever think to criticise a Hindu or Buddhist for writing something that enabled people to understand their religion better, or in a different way. Why are so many people desperate to purge the persuasive media of the Christian message?

December 07, 2005

The application of Christian morality

I was listening, for only 5 minutes before I arrived at work this morning, to an interesting programme on Radio 4.

There was a guest who, I unfortunately can't remember her name, has an agony column in a national newspaper. She was talking about her responses to the letters she had received for her column, and was asked about the influence of her strong Christian faith. She said, interestingly, that she thought Christian morals could not be taken separately but had to be considered within the context of a strictly Christian life. She said this was because Christians have the promise of a life in heaven as a reward for their lives on earth, which atheists cannot look forward to. This seemed to me to be an unusual viewpoint, and one with which I don't think I agree. I no longer count myself as a Christian, but nevertheless lead my life, in the most part, according to Christian morals.

Do Christians live good lives, according to the morals of their faith, only so that they can get to heaven? Is it not a fundamental part of what makes us human to want to be law-abiding and good, irrelevant of our faith? Why shouldn't non-active Christians or atheists lead their lives according to Christian morals? Are the people in this category, in fact, morally more virtuous as they lead upstanding lives without the hope of a reward at the end of it?

How can you remove Christian morality from life in a country whose society, laws and customs are based on it and whose citizens have, in the most part, been educated in it?

December 01, 2005

Customer service? The NTL saga continues…

Please forgive me, for I must rant.

Those Gods of organisation!
We, foolishly, decided to go with NTL for our internet and phone last year, mainly because we had no phone line and they are the only ones who do free installation. I rang them and asked them to come and install broadband and a phone line at the beginning of the year. They came… and only installed the broadband. I rang them and they said they needed someone else to set up the phone contract seperately. So my housemate Amy agreed to do this and organised to have them come and fit it. Three engineers came on three seperate occasions, all with different and wrong ideas about what we wanted and all unable to complete the job. Each of these times someone had to make sure they were home to let them in.
Meanwhile, they had begun charging Amy for the phone line we never got. After many phone calls we got fed up, decided a phone line wasn't worth all the fuss, and Amy cancelled the direct debit and told them we didn't want the service. We then had a series of threatening letters asking for the money Amy wasn't paying them. We had lost count of the amount of times Amy had rung them (from the phone box at the end of the road, I may add, because we had no land line and our mobiles did not permit freephone numbers!) to reiterate that we didn't actually have this phone line and that they could come round whenever they wanted to check!
Eventually they got the message. But that's not the end of the story…
Our broadband contract ended (as far as I thought) at the end of June as we were on the 10-month student contract. So, bearing in mind our previous experiences, I cancelled the direct debit once we'd paid up. In mid September I began to get calls from an 0800 number to my mobile phone. I couldn't answer because the microphone on my phone was broken, and anyway I don't normally return calls from unknown numbers unless they leave a message. So when I got my new phone I answered the 0800 call and – surprise, surprise – it was NTL wanting to extort another 3 months' broadband charges from me because they'd forgotten we were on a 10-month contract! I corrected them and the bloke said that my account would be updated. A week later I received another call and had the exact same conversation with someone else, so clearly my account hadn't been changed at all. Thereafter the phone lines went quiet for a while so I thought it might all be resolved…
Until about 3 weeks ago. I received several missed calls from them before they rang me when I could actually pick up the phone. This time they wanted to check with me why I'd stopped my contract with them and ask whether I wanted to use their services in my current property. I told them, emphatically, no, and asked if they would please stop contacting me.
Since then I have received a phone call from them nearly every day, and have picked up at least three times, each time reiterating my previous sentiment and asking them to stop calling. To no avail. So I am going to send them a letter saying that I'm reporting them to the Trading Standards Agency and see whether that makes any difference.

I haven't finished yet!

The SoftBack Preview…
Is a book club to which I belong. They do the usual thing of sending you a recommended title every month which you must reject if you don't want it. I sent them a letter two weeks before I moved house, in June, to give them my new address. I was unable to change my personal details online, as there is no facility for it, or by phone (which I'd have preferred), because their entire phone system is automated and doesn't involve any real people! By the middle of August I had become suspicious that they had ignored my letter as I hadn't heard anything from them.
So I sent them another letter, reiterating the change of address and asking them to cancel any orders I hadn't rejected since the end of June, as I hadn't received them due to the move. But, lo and behold, three weeks ago I was sent a book I never had the opportunity to reject.
So I then rang up their automated service to return it. They operate a courier service to collect returned books. However, they don't even commit to a specific day, let alone a time, when they will call and they charge £3 a time for the service even if they don't pick up the book! So, living in a house of students with erratic timetables, I decided I couldn't take the risk, and I presume every other working household in the UK would have a similar problem.
Thus, I sent the book via Royal Mail to them, asking them to refund the price of the book, the delivery cost they charged me originally (as I'd already told to cancel everything from June until the date of the second letter), and the £7 I spent on posting.
And, what a surprise, this week I received a bill from them for the book and the postage…
Which means another letter…

Seriously though, how do companies get away with such ineptitude? Everyone I know has at least one company that they've had to deal with that have been similarly useless, so why can't something be done?! The removal and outsourcing of call centres and lack of proper administration and communication is costing millions of people lots of time and money. When will we really get to the end of our tethers and decide that something has to be done?!

December 2005

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