The South Bull Wall

Having already done my customary 4 mile run in the morning,  Ali had an appointment at St Vincents and whilst waiting for her I explored the South Bull Wall, at 4km it is one of the longest in Europe according to Wikipedia. I then found out Ali would be even longer than anticipated so I extended my run to include the Grand Canal basin.  It may look as if I was running on water - in fact the tide was out and the bay is almost level so the sea proper is way, way in the distance.

My track, 12 miles in all

Irishtown power station

Sealink ferry departing

Poolbeg lighthouse

Derek, I believe

Wall art and the lighthouse

Stunning - I don't know who they are though

Complete with fog horns

Howth, from the end of the wall

and in the opposite direction, Dún Laoghaire

Looking back towards Dublin

A cargo ship departing


The Grand Canal exits through this lock into the Liffey

Grand Canal basin lock

from the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre


Easter weekend

Easter weekend and amazing weather, the temperature in the 20's. Too good to stay at home so having free afternoons I made the most of them and visited some favourite haunts. My method on both occasions was to cycle and then walk / run.  Although not much running. But once off bike I was bare-foot of course. I took a new ascent route through some forestry above Ballyknockan and thus made a round trip. I have a principle that, where feasible, the outward and return journeys should not used the same route.

Saturday track

Ascent through the forest

After the forest I followed a sort of path

Unusual to find company at the summit

He followed me to this pool where I turned back

Mullaghcleevaun in the distance

Descent to Ballyknockan quarry road

After the Sunday meeting and shared lunch I set off again on my trusty bike, this time to explore forestry tracks under Tonelagee. 17.5 miles cycling round trip, max speed 40.3 mph.

My plan was to use the track as a new way to Mullacleavann. But when I eventually got out of the forestry I figured I had insufficient time and so instead turned right towards Tonelagee (3rd highest in the Wicklows). I met three pairs of hikers, and overtook a fourth single man on the way down. I habitually run most of the way down from Tonelagee - it's good for the leg muscles!

Sunday track 6.51 miles
The forest track, Tonelagee in the distance

Showing the layer of peat that covers these mountains

Towards the Wicklow Gap

Having left the forest, looking back towards Mullaghcleevaun

From Stoney Top, the path to Tonelagee summit

Stoney top is hardly a peak in its own right, the descent to the saddle with Tonelagee being slight. The saddle has an area of naked damp peat which is glorious for running barefoot on. I wonder where Stoney Top gets its name from?

Some joker planted this false peak marker

Lough Ouler and me

The quick way down to Lough Ouler

The true summit, Turlough Hill reservoir in the distance

The descent - note the small lake to the right

Wicklow Gap tourist car park

Upper reach of the Kings River, under the main road

The old Annalecka bridge, close to my bike parking lot

Map of the area, my route in red

The map identifies the small lake I saw to the right of the Turlough Hill reservoir as Lough Firrib. No, I have not yet swum in Lough Firrib but I intend to some hot summer day. The red square is where I parked my bike.

You can click on the images to enlarge them.

The trouble with dogma

One of the problems with being dogmatic is if you are wrong. Apart from being like a dog and his bone, the dogmatist refuses to acknowledge and blinkers his eyes to any alternative view. This tendency of humans to think they are right is known as confirmation bias.

Good science eschews confirmation bias and yet how often, when processing a data set in the course of my work or teaching, have I been tempted to exclude a datum because it disagreed with my preconceptions.

My father was dogmatic in his views on eschatology - I cannot even recall what his views were, but he got angry when I suggested things might be different to what he believed. There were a couple of very dogmatic Calvinists I knew in college days and it was futile to disagree with them. I have even been known to be dogmatic myself!

A good deal of dogmatism is expressed in the young earth / intelligent design / Darwinian evolution debate. Whichever side you tend towards you probably hate the arrogance shown by some of the proponents.

Would you be prepared to die for your faith? Personally I think 'faith' is the wrong object - rather, that you should die for your friends? Stories that have this theme are the gut wrenching / tear jerking ones. One step further - the One who died for the sake of his enemies. Would you call him dogmatic? For he insisted that he was the son of God. And there's the rub, like I said in my recent post I have been taught to "hear God and obey" - but to an onlooker who disagrees with my stance I could well come across as being dogmatic.

The link I started this post with suggests that open mindedness is the antidote to dogmatism and I am inclined to agree, except that if you open your mind too wide you invite all manner of nonsense in. That's where discernment comes in handy. But discernment is a dynamically adjusted filter and has to be developed and thus can be mislead. And so people end up believing weird things.


Wicklow Gap and 20 miles

The day after 16 miles on bare feet I figured I'd give them a rest and exercise my bike, which has been a desultory couch potato for some while now, as a precursor to possible longer rides if I get let out on a suitably warm and still day later in the year.

Although the sun was shining some of the time it was cold. Too cold to stop and take photos. Even too cold at the summit to eat my chocolate bar. Total distance 20.7 miles, max speed 35 mph, average speed 11.2mph, elevation gain 475m. So there.

On the ascent a girl cyclist passed me - I called out asking her for a tow. On reaching the summit I saw that she had turned around and was returning by the way she had come and she smiled when I waved. So maybe I am not so looney for cycling there and back for no better reason than the challenge!


Silsean and 16 miles bare foot

Ballyknockan, Silsean, Granabeg

We had no work party this morning so I had a leisurely start with my usual breakfast, followed by brunch at the bungalow. Once dishes were done I had to force myself to go out but, once forced, I was glad for it. I figured it was about time I climbed a mountain (at 698m some would call it a hill). So I did. As you can see I chose the nearest one to home. Even so the return trip was 16.17 miles, barefoot of course, average speed moving a mere 4.55mph (lots of hills) and elevation gain 784m.  Here are some photos I took so you can get the atmosphere without having to retrace my steps.

Half way up

I followed a stream

Some snow near the top

A very muddy place (I collect them)


Hazy view descending

Back to civilisation

A quarry near Granabeg

It's that time of the year - I love gorse!

That's the mountain I was up a short while ago

Does it matter what you believe?

All manner of atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. Their perpetrators earnestly believed they were acting on God's behalf. Like Paul. And there's the crunch. We are taught that we need to hear the voice of God and obey it. But of this "hearing"... some say like "I felt God was telling me to..." and I wonder are they really hearing God's voice? What if one party earnestly believes God is saying X and another party Y and X and Y are major issues and mutually exclusive? Is this how splits and new denominations happen in the church?  There are rather generous estimates of up to 43,000 denominations within perhaps 40 main variations. Which gives the new convert plenty of choice. So does it matter what you believe?

If the deep outer veneers of difference are scraped off, what core value, common vision is there that defines a true Christian? Like the simplicity of Peter's "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house".

I was pleasantly surprised to find this discussion of what it means to be a Christian on the BBC site - surprised because my son-in-law eschews the BBC considering it to be very biased. The site says "It's about a friendship - a friendship with Jesus Christ." But what does it mean to have a friendship with someone that cannot be sensed in the usual way? I am reminded of Chocky who, in the story, is thought to be a childhood invention but turns out to be real. And here is my conundrum: those seemingly more stable Christians with whom I fellowship will claim that they do have a friendship with Jesus, that they hear Him speaking to them, feel His presence, and so on. I've thought I did but now I am not so sure. Don't get me wrong - I love the concept, so aptly portrayed in the Narnia books, like But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, "Courage, dear heart," and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan's, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face and I long for such an experience in my own life, a longing that is as close to "faith" as I can muster. Or maybe, horrors, my spirit has somehow grown cold like the dwarfs within the stable in The Last Battle.

On the other hand I've seen some pretty amazing things that I can put down to the hand of God. That I got married at all, let alone to an amazing woman and with resulting four amazing children. Even my closest friends at the time agreed it was an unlikely thing to happen. And more recently, after waiting in hope for so many years, J and S's adoption of a Thai child happening so fast and at such a time that one could not help comparing it with Joseph's sudden rise to second only to Pharoah. Or when I open my eyes and see creation in all its detail.

But I, being human, need constant reassurance of things unseen. Working on some scaffolding the other day I cantilevered a plank to help me reach, making the other end fast by a G-clamp to the scaffolding tower. It looked good. My knowledge of levers confirmed my observation. And yet still I very cautiously committed my weight to the projecting end of the plank. I needed more assurance than physics theory offered. And I need more assurance than Christian doctrine offers.

A recent visitor alluded to numerical patterns or "gematria" found in the scriptures, for example as purported by Vernon Jenkins with his 37 x 73 argument. This is all very fascinating but at the same time I am cautious. Many of the patterns only work in base 10 as this site observes, but then one might argue that the decimal system is God given because He gave our hands and feet 10 digits. And does Vernon also believe that the Earth is flat or is at least the centre of the universe?

Another guy came up with the Bible Wheel but has more recently debunked his own theory and now no longer calls himself a Christian. I followed this story because it is unusual for a theorist to publically recant. Without reading every word it seems that he fell into that trap of emphasising data that supported his theory whilst disregarding the rest. Commonly known as a biased sample. I think Christians are wonderfully good at this - wonderfully because it takes some guts, some perseverance and commitment, to persistently believe one thing when so much evidence points another way.

And thus Paul argues in the book of Romans: for what can be known about God is plain to them [unbelievers], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. Doubtless Richard Dawkins would not agree. If I had to choose between him and Paul I'd choose the latter any day, but still I find Paul's argument curiously hollow. Conversely the anthropic principle says the world is as it is (all those physical constants having just the right value to sustain life as we know it and all that) because here we are to prove it, and this also seems to me a hollow argument lacking substance.

In all these musings I find myself coming back to the man Jesus and his claims of deity as recorded in the Gospels. But that was a long time ago and, like Trumpkin the dwarf, I find myself thinking "Do you believe all those old stories?" and "But who believes in Aslan nowadays?".  In this story Trumpkin's unbelief mercifully ends with "Son of Earth, shall we be friends?". Maybe that was just  the author's fancy.

I crave such mercy.


Old kettles for new

At present we have these two kettles in our kitchen. The one on the right has perhaps lasted the longest of all the many kettles we have got through over the years. I have nursed it through several minor faults. It doesn't burn you when you pour (unlike the other one). It pours nicely (unlike the other one). It doesn't leak (unlike several of its predecessors). It is very obvious when it comes to the boil (unlike the other one). It is a pleasing shape (unlike the other one). In short it is a very friendly kettle and I like it and I use it every morning and at other times for my tea in preference to the other one. And yet They want to retire it, to replace it. If this happens I shall of course whisk it away to a save haven before anyone can trash it. Maybe I'll be forced to take my tea elsewhere. Or maybe I will in due course give up and follow the status quo and get myself used to its replacement. And thus progress is made.