Monday, July 11, 2011

South Sudan and the Burning of the Castle

Two events caused me to think more than usual the other day.

Early that morning I read that the southern part of Sudan had become a separate nation after years of strife between the northern part and the southern part. South Sudan, the 54th sovereign state in Africa and the world's youngest country also is one of its poorest. According to UN officials it has the world's highest mortality rate for women during child birth.

Late that evening I attended the fireworks display put on several times each summer, mainly for tourists, by the city of Heidelberg, Germany. It is a spectacular display and commemorates the burning of the castle by the French in the late 17th century. At least that is the official label given the fireworks, designed to couple the tourist trade with history. The “uhs” and “ahs” around us in several languages showed that the attraction was fulfilling its mission of attracting tourists.

I have seen the fireworks many times and each time they remind me of war. I hear booming of cannons, I see rockets streaking into the sky after some unseen enemy, and I see explosions sending shrapnel in all directions into the sky. This year for the first time I saw fireworks being fired horizontally from the Old Bridge out over the river. It looked like machine guns firing tracer ammunition which then ended up in fire-spewing fountains on the surface of the water as if some small ships had been set on fire.

At that point I remembered South Sudan. For this tourist attraction, city streets were closed to traffic by police, all public transportation in the viewing area was halted, emergency vehicles and personnel were stationed at strategic locations. I cannot estimate the cost of these ancillary preparations. Then, of course, there is the cost of the fireworks display itself. Again, I cannot estimate it, but I have a feeling that one could build a modest hospital in South Sudan or at least provide medicines or other useful services for what it costs to put up such a fireworks display. I for one would gladly forgo one or two of the annual “burnings of the castle.”

When E-Mail Was Young.

As I was writing the previous blog entry (church newsletters) I was reminded of my first encounter with e-mail. It was in 1996 and I had just gotten a new job after an almost two year break in formal employment. I was given a desk in a large room which was subdivided by partitions into cubicles that contained three to five desks each. It took a few days for the network administrator to set up an e-mail account for me, but being new to e-mail (a lot had changed in the time that I was not working in an office, including the way to communicate) this didn't concern me.

One day during my “e-mail-less” time, my cubicle and, as I found out later, all the other cubicles, mysteriously emptied out and I was the only one diligently bent over my desk, probably trying to learn what my job was all about. I didn't notice that I was all alone and I didn't take notice when the desks in my cubicle were occupied again. It was when one of my cubicle-mates asked me why I didn't go to the farewell party (with coffee and cake ) for a departing coworker, which had taken place in the conference room, that I realized that I had missed something. It turned out that the invitation to the party had been sent by e-mail, which I didn't have yet. That is when I learned something about the new way to communicate: It is all done by e-mail and not by word-of-mouth anymore.

I wonder now what other, maybe important, meetings I missed because I didn't get the word (the e-mail).

P.S.: Whenever a funny e-mail, such as the church newsletter extracts, circulated among the offices, snickering and downright laughter could be heard up and down the large room, that is when we all knew who had gotten the same e-mail.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Church Newsletters

I was rummaging around some old collector's items and found this summarizaton of actual messages taken from church newsletters.  I recall that when I read them the first time, tears rolled down my cheeks from laughter.  Reading them again had the same result.  I don't know where this collection of extracts from church newsletters came from, they were one of the humorous items passed around the office when e-mail first became the way to communicate in and among offices.  Enjoy!

The outreach committee has enlisted 25 visitors to make calls on people who are not afflicted with any church.

The Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.

Evening massage - 6 pm.

The Pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.

The audience is asked to remain seated until the end of the recession.

Low self-esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 to 8:30 pm.  Please use the back door.

ANNOINTING OF THE SICK: If you are going to be hospitalized for an operation, contact the pastor. Special prayer also for those who are seriously sick by request.

Usher will eat latecomers.

The third verse of Blessed Assurance will be sung without musical accomplishment.

The sermon this morning: WOMEN IN THE CHURCH.  The closing song: RISE UP, O MEN OF GOD.

The sermon this morning: GOSSIP - THE SPEAKING OF EVIL  The closing song: I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY.

The sermon this morning: CONTEMPORARY ISSUES #3 – EUTHANASIA.  The closing song: TAKE MY LIFE.

The sermon this morning: PREDESTINATION - WHAT ABOUT HELL?  The closing song: I'LL GO WHERE YOU WANT ME TO GO.