Saturday, December 30, 2006

Moral Fashion

When my five year old came home from school chanting:
"Eenie meenie mynie mo..."
I thought, here we go...
"Which will stay and which will go...?"
I'm sure we used to say, "catch a nigger by the toe." Ah hem. I flinch as I type this. "If he squeals, let him go..." Ah, stop! Excuse me. But no one battered an eye back then. I suppose a few did, but I wasn't aware. I didn't even know what a nigger was!

This year I've been fascinated to watch the new ethical fashions come and some of the old go. There's been a clear establishment of the view that drug sellers are bad while drug users are victims. With the five murders in Ipswich there's been a surge of acknowledgment that those selling sex are victims while the users are bad.

I think it's fair to say that these were not widely held views a generation ago. Fashions in morals seem as fluid as any other field. Perhaps more so with the abandonment of an absolute standard in the slide to a secular society.

There are issues we debate, and there are underlying assumptions accepted by both sides of the debate. A few swim upsteam... one columnist had the audacity to suggest that the prostitutes lives were of less value than most - no great loss, he implied. He was roundly put down by left and right, by legalist and libertarian. Most agree that an individual murder victim's social position should not prejudice the vigour of the investigation nor the exactness of justice. But that has not always been the prevailing moral climate. There is little reason to think it will remain as it is now.

There are two possibilities here. Either we have just arrived at the final and complete set of ethical standards for humanity... or fashion will change again. (It would be a remarkable coincidence if this is the age that finally figured it all out.)

It is a near certainty that our children, as post-enlightened adults (or whatever they'll call themselves) will look back on some views held today with a roll-of-the-eyes and mock embarrassment - "oh, that's just how people thought in those days." So I asked myself, what thoughts and values are approvingly smiled upon today by the great and the good, but will seem ridiculous to a new generation?

Perhaps discrimination against the thick will become unacceptable. Nowadays stupid people get an awful rough time, low pay, over-representation in prisons. In future, employees telling jokes about dummies will be frog-marched to tolerance classes. We'll observe Meat-Head Awareness Week, and Dim Pride! No longer will promotion by merit sound so noble... perhaps.

I'm not making judgements about what morals I approve or disapprove of here, I'm just wondering what current standards will prove less enduring than they feel today.

Any other ideas?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Putting Christ Back Into Christmas - Again

Ok, the Christmas post is late. But so is Christmas!

Jesus was not born in December. And if you check with your local C of E vicar, I'm sure he (or she - but that's a post for another day) will tell you that no one in the church is seriously suggesting that Christmas is the anniversary of Jesus' actual birth.

The pagan celebration of the winter solstice and the Roman feast of the birth of Sol (the sun-god) are among the pre-Christian festivals whose timing and customs were adopted when their adherents converted to Christianity. That's when they first put Christ in Christmas, so-to-speak.

Today as a wave of atheism purges 'Winterval' of any Christian reference, a rearguard of Christians urge us to remember what the season is all about! I read one columnist (Jeff Jacoby) who hurls any Xmas card without Christian reference straight into the cylindrical file. "Remember the true meaning of Christmas that we've trowelled on after we pinched the celebration from the pagans!"... lacks a certain ring as a rallying cry.

(Now I don't mind trying to be accurate about the birth of Jesus Christ since the subject comes up at Christmas. So while I'm at it...
There is no mention in the Bible of three kings at the birth of Jesus. An unknown number of magi visited the young child Jesus, perhaps years after his birth.
The angels never sang, they spoke.
The angels didn't fly, neither is there any suggestion of wings, they stood.

But Christian friends, please don't alter the words in Christmas carols to make them Biblically accurate. Oh, it hurts.)

I find myself trying to balance two arguments. On the one hand, the Apostle Paul said he rejoiced that Christ is preached "whether in pretence or in truth". In other words, be thankful that someone is speaking up for Christ, even if they got half the facts wrong. So sing those ridiculous carols! On the other hand, Paul and the first century church got along fine without "Christ in Christmas".

I guess Jeff Jacoby wouldn't accept any Christmas cards from First Century disciples. Especially if they look like this.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Drinking for Longevity

I've always thought you should pick your health studies by how much you like the conclusions (and never read the small-print). There are always a few around that extol the virtues of tobacco, coffee and chocolate.

Here's a study that says drinkers live longer.

Instant Family

A woman with two wombs has had triplets. Identical twins from one womb, another baby from the other. "The odds of having triplets from two wombs are around 25 million to one."

I'll bet this woman knew she was pregnant! Well done.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Girl Gives Birth at School

I loved reading that a 15 year old Catholic school girl had arrived for class in the morning, gone into labour, and given birth before the ambulance showed up. She was apparently unaware of her pregnancy! The youth and vigour of it all is inspiring, don't you think?

A Spokesman for the Catholic Diocese said "It is not going to help to go moralising on the whole situation. That is not important..." Is that the new Catholic position on morals? The Catholics have had a few run-ins with morality over the years, and wouldn't want any morals ruining their Christmas good cheer. "...the girl is OK, the baby is OK, and hopefully they will be home this weekend and spend Christmas at home," Lovely. (And of course it makes no different that this was a Catholic school, other than to spice up the story a little.)

Now I find morals uplifting, not oppressive or condemning as the Catholic spokesman seems to fear. Given the right moral framework, I think a 15 year old can be well equipped to raise great kids. Mary was about that age when she gave birth to Jesus. What an impressive culture that produced teenagers morally and emotionally prepared for marriage and kids!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Spoof Belgian Split

A public television station in Belgium ran a two hour spoof story that the Dutch-speaking half of the nation had declared independence. It was half an hour into the report before "this is fiction" appeared on the screen. By this time thousands were taking in, including foreign ambassadors in Brussels who "sent urgent messages back to their respective capitals".

I won't laugh at those who fell for this, it must have been convincing. Even current politicians in on the joke gave spoof interviews. They're not laughing in Belgium either. But then, Belgians don't laugh much.

The TV channel thought to provoke debate, and it seems to have worked. If the Flemish are inspired and emboldened, they may just gain some form of independence. It's upset many too, which is another plus. Of course, unless they split from the European Union altogether, they'll still be serfs to the unelected council of busybodies in Brussels.

Having been on several business trips to Belgium, I can offer my informed and balanced opinion that Belgians are barking-mad. But not in a good way. If you don't know what I mean, go to a restaurant in the Flemish north and try ordering in French.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Lib Dem Says Loose and Quit

Liberal Democrat MP, Sandra Gidley in a caricature of her over-prescriptive, hater-of-excellence, all-must-be-mediocre, far-left self has called for an end to school sports days. She says schools fail to consider the feelings of children with little sporting ability... school sports days publicly humiliate children who finish last.

What a wonderful example of a socialist solution. Some fail, so no one can be allowed to succeed! All must be prevented from excellence so that no one's feelings will be hurt.

Apparently Gidley's feeble efforts on the school sports track left her so bitter that quitting was not enough. All must quit.

A right-of-centre solution focuses on individual freedom. I would insist on the right of children to refrain from public sports just as others choose to compete. I would also encourage participatory games that are more fun for the less competitive.

And perhaps more important for parents, teach children to enjoy participating in a variety of activities with different levels of proficiency. Win with grace, loose with dignity. Respect your opponents, give your best, develop character.

Coming last on sports day is not a humiliation. Sulking all the way to Parliament is.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Marriage is Best

Half of co-habiting parents split by their child's fifth birthday, while only one in 12 married couples do. The Conservative policy group has pointed out this stark reality that deluded lefties have denied for years.

This family breakdown leads to massive problems of poverty, underachievement, hopelessness and unemployment, crime and drug abuse. The Tory group costed this at £20 billion a year.

For years socialist politicians have insisted that any "loving, stable relationship" is of equal value, arguing for equal recognition of de-facto or same-sex relationships. The sad debris from this social experiment is the feckless underclass that expect to contribute nothing but dead weight.

And yes, there are thousands of tremendous, contributing individuals who come from broken homes (and there are worthless scum from married parents). The individual can overcome any "statistic". But is it willful ignorance to deny the superiority of marriage over de-facto relationships in family outcomes.

One of the greatest things people can ever do for children is marry and make it work. About the greatest thing a father can ever give for his kids is faithfulness in marriage to their mother.

In response to the BBC article:
He [Ian Duncan Smith] insisted that the focus of the report was not to "lecture" people to get married, but to help couples, both married and co-habiting, to stabilise their relationships.
And they will fail because they are still too spineless to conclude the obvious - that co-habiting will remain inferior and less stable than marriage because it is a deliberate rejection of the traditional commitment. The outcomes for children are catastrophic.

No one is asking the Conservative party to "lecture" people what to do, just tell the truth!

Mr Duncan Smith said he was not making a moral judgement about marriage.
That's because the Tories have no morals. They abandoned conservative morality when it went out of fashion.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Microsoft and Spam

Three years ago Bill Gates predicted that the problem of junk email would be solved by 2006. Well, he's got three weeks to go (giving him a couple of days off for the festive season). Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that spam email has doubled in 2006.

To be fair, most of us in IT don't really need Bill to provide the solution. We just want him to stop being the problem! We just want him to stop Windows PCs from being hijacked to spread spam.

From the NY Times article: " conscripting vast networks of computers belonging to users who unknowingly downloaded viruses and other rogue programs. The infected computers begin sending out spam without the knowledge of their owners." That's your machines, Bill!

Microsoft Word and Zero-Day

There is another zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft Word. This means that the attacks are out there and there is no fix available.

Microsoft says the "Vulnerability in Microsoft Word Could Allow Remote Code Execution". In other words, slime-bags can write and run malevolent software on your computer. (Nothing new for Windows users.)

Microsoft's suggestion is that users "not open or save Word files," even from trusted sources. Not really an acceptable recommendation, is it. And comments from Microsoft such as "users should always exercise extreme caution when opening unsolicited attachments from both known and unknown sources" are not much help either. As a software professional, I'm not sure how to exercise extreme caution opening an attachment in Windows when there is no fix for the vulnerability available. Perhaps you close your eyes and cover your important bits with one hand while clicking the mouse with the other. Do any non-technical users out there have any ideas?

I exercise sensible caution by running Linux on my desktops - at work, at home, and on the kids' machine. (The kids' must see computers at school and wonder what all that windozy zero-day stuff is.)

UPDATE: 8/12/2006

Still no patch for Word scheduled.
Now another zero-day exploit, this time in Windows Media Player. Ouch!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sampling American Food

I'll be away for a the land where python eats alligator and bursts.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Traffic Signs and Thinking Minds

Sometimes you wonder whether a story is a spoof. Apparently, it's real - seven European cities are felling their traffic signs and signals, and asking drivers to be thoughtful and considerate!

Bravo! It may be a function of our highly regulated culture that I am initially slightly nervous at the prospect of removing the road signs. My first reaction is wonder if we can make it without someone telling us how to handle each junction. But pretty quickly the 'less is more' instinct kicks in. Best government is small. Best legislation is minimal and simple.

The linked article is littered with unhelpful terms like 'anarchy' and 'utopia'. Of course, this is neither. It is a realisation that the more busybody regulation lumped on people, the less they think. Someone finally had the courage to ask - what if we allow intelligent people to engage their own brains? What if the driver is actually best placed to make his own decisions?

My favourite quotes from the article are: "The many rules strip us of the most important thing: the ability to be considerate." That's right! Rules replace thinking.

..And: "The glut of prohibitions is tantamount to treating the driver like a child and it also foments resentment. He may stop in front of the crosswalk, but that only makes him feel justified in preventing pedestrians from crossing the street on every other occasion. Every traffic light baits him with the promise of making it over the crossing while the light is still yellow."

This does not mean there are no road rules at all. And a legal framework is still necessary to judge situations when things go wrong. It's just a huge shift in balance... coming at the same problem from an entirely different angle. And apparently it's working - from the article, "the number of accidents has declined dramatically."

Traffic-light controlled intersections are governed by computers. Anyone who has sat at a red-light on an otherwise deserted intersection knows the unique blend of humiliation and fury of trying to reason with the machine-in-charge.

This is why round-abouts work so well... though an entire mystery to our American cousins. They give a guiding direction to the traffic flow rather than interrupting and controlling it. The rules are simple and elegant - go clockwise... give way to those already on the round-about - that's about it! It scales beautifully from the lonely white circle painted in a village centre to the huge garden-planted island in a city rush-hour.

Most shoking of all about this story is that someone in the European Union is actually thinking about trusting people rather than bossing them around.

Top CDs of the Autumn

Here are some cracking CDs I've had on this Autumn.

Shine Like It Does - Eileen Rose
Brash and beautiful from the opening chord. This album is tuneful rock with a story-telling Irish lilt throughout. It's bluesy, a touch nostalgic, and very human.

Love and Theft - Bob Dylan
A rough album. A gutsy collection of rugged ballads and thumping blues. Lonesome Day Blues has one of the best blues guitar riffs I've heard.

The Storm Inside - Laura Michelle Kelly
Sweet voice, contemplative piano and vocal lead tracks. A quieter sound. I haven't a clue what the lady's singing about.

My CDs from the Summer are all still top picks.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Top English Ales

Having lived in England for more than a decade, I have some English ales to recommend.

  • In third place: Tangle Foot. Not to be underestimated.
  • Runner up - Bishops Finger. A favourite when guests come 'round.
  • Outright winner - Hen's Tooth. Bottle conditioned, dry - just right.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Islam and Islamism

In response to the Queen's speech, British MP Paul Goodman spoke thoughtfully in Parliament about the government and nation's approach to terrorism and security. (Hat tip to Melanie Phillips. The speech is not short, but worth reading.)

Interestingly, he makes the distinction between Islam - a great religion various, as complex, as multi-faceted and as capable of supporting a great civilisation as Christianity.

... and Islamism - an ideology forged largely in the past 100 years...

  • First, it separates the inhabitants of the dar-al-Islam-the house of Islam-and the dar-al-Harb-the house of war-and, according to Islamist ideology, those two houses are necessarily in conflict.
  • Secondly, it proclaims to Muslims that their political loyalty lies not with the country that they live in, but with the umma-that is, the worldwide community of Muslims.
  • Thirdly, it aims to bring the dar-al-Islam under sharia law.
I do not agree with this analysis. It seems to me that the Islamic religion is oppressive, aggressive and regressive. The 'moderate/radical' distinction is that so-called 'moderates' are influenced by the western style pick-and-choose belief system. They pay more attention to the nice parts of their religion, and wish-away the slay-the-infidel-wherever-you-find-em bits.

Those very committed to every tenet of Islam will of necessity oppose freedom and peace. Islamism is Islam's response to 'corrupting' and particularly, western influences. 'Moderate Islam' from a western point of view is really just 'back-sliding Islam' from the committed.

I think it's fair to say that Islam is not going to 'go away' anytime soon - though frankly, I'd rather it would. (I don't consider it a 'great religion' or even helpful in the world.) The next best is that it be watered-down, westernised and marginalised.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Actual Conversation

me: Can I ask you a question?
Four year old son: Daddy, you can ask me three questions.
me: Ok. Question one - are you going to finish your pasta?
Four year old son: Yes.
me: Can I save my other two questions for later?
Four year old son: Yes, you can use question number two and question number three next time.
me: Will you answer my two remaining questions?
Four year old son: Yes.

As pasta disappeared, I savoured the knowledge that I had gained the upper hand in some future interaction... if only I use my questions wisely. Patience.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Management Consultants Strike Again

I laughed when I heard this story - until I realised it was our millions in tax money down the drain.

HM Revenue and Customs brought in management consultants to improve efficiency. The consultants implemented such a dim-witted litany of busybody rules (no personal photos on desks...) that they completely alienated the workforce. Now they're dealing with work-to-rule and overtime ban among 14,000 civil servants. Improve efficiency? Not likely.

I've previously posted on what I think of pointy-haired rules. If Revenue and Customs really want rules to improve efficiency, they might try some long-term thinking:
1. Show staff a little respect.
2. See rule 1.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

World Heroes

I was interested to see Linus Torvalds (author of Linux) makes Time Magazine's heroes of the past 60 years. The programmer is listed among 'Rebels and Leaders' alongside Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher.

The rest of the list is peppered with the brave, the visionary, the busybody do-gooders and a fair number of names I didn't know.

Any other surprises in there?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Human Rights and Drugs in Prison

Our embarrassing government is handing over our money in settlement for alleged breeches of 'human rights'. Prisoners denied illegal drugs while in prison had to tough out cold turkey.

So what are rights? This is a fundamental question and the Government of this country is getting it all wrong. A 'right' must be free. If a right costs something, then does it become someone else's obligation to pay? That would be an infringement on others' rights! This is why there is a right to freedom of speech, not a right to a microphone, air-time and an attentive audience.

The Americans understood this. They have a right to 'the pursuit of happiness'. Not a 'right to happiness'. If you want it, pursue it for yourself! The rest of us have no obligation to make you happy.

In Britain we hear so much about human rights to education or health care. This really makes no sense as a principled position. How much education is a right? Primary, secondary, university? If there is right to health care, does that mean any treatment possible must be made available? If these things are human rights, then people become victims of human rights abuses whenever they get less education or health care than someone else.

The only realistic way to provide this equality is to prevent the most resourceful from getting the excellence in education and health care that they might otherwise obtain. This perverted idea of human rights breeds envy, mediocrity and victim-hood.

The right must be to pursue education, to pursue health care. If I work hard to achieve something for my family, that hurts no one else. I am not preventing anyone else from providing abundantly for their own. But the twisted ideals of human rights bring ever increasing taxes to level-down achievement so that even those who do little or nothing to look after their own can have what the rest of us must work for.

These were convicted prisoners wanting illegal drugs. The moral vacuum in which they can successfully fleece the rest of us for compensation is beyond belief.

The Home Office said it "reluctantly" decided to settle out of court to "minimise costs to the taxpayer". They won't even fight. Utterly useless.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Nick Griffin, the BNP and Islam

The court has cleared Nick Griffin of 'hate crimes'. The leader of the British National Party had said that Islam is a "wicked, vicious faith". This was a test of new religious hate laws criminalising speech that is likely to stir up racial or religious hatred. I'm pleased he was cleared as I believe we need the right to criticise religions. My observation is that criticising Islam is likely to stir up hatred. That in itself is a criticism of Islam.

If we lose the right to criticise religions, how long before we are not allowed to criticise political parties? What is the difference? They are both made up of groups of people with common beliefs that they take personally. Some people care passionately about their politics and are easily offended. How long before they require equal protection from offence?

Widespread offence only happens when the criticism might be true. If I say that the Ladies' Crochet Circle is wicked and vicious, no one would take it seriously. When Griffin says Islam is wicked and vicious, the authorities worry it may be more believable.

Government minister Lord Falconer, has said there should be "consequences" from saying Islam is "wicked and evil". Why? It is the expression of an opinion. It infringes no one else's rights. Neither does it incite others to illegal acts. If the opinion is misinformed, let us put the counter argument.

So is the statement correct? Is Islam a wicked and vicious faith? This is too general a statement to be either true or false. Islam is not one thing, it means something different to each adherent, and different things again to the rest of us. To describe Islam as 'wicked and vicious' is as ridiculous as asserting that Islam is a 'religion of peace'. It certainly isn't a religion of peace to all Muslims.

I think slightly more specific statements such as "Islam is conspicuously over-represented among the wicked and vicious", or "Loads of Muslims want to kill each other and the infidel" are more verifiable.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Victoria Beckham

Now I wouldn't normally comment on fashion, but I'm hoping this new look from Posh catches on. Think of the savings to the family clothing budget!

Even with a few more kebabs inside (which the doctors must surely recommend), you could loosen the binding-twine, shake out some more sacking, and it's still a top look. Respect!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

I read an essay the other day suggesting that, while Christians talk about loving the sinner, hating the sin... when it comes to homosexuality, in practice they often hate the sinner, too. The author gives examples of the particular disgust shown for homosexuals above exponents of other sins. I enjoyed reading the article (while disagreeing with several points), and it got me thinking. Other immoral or sinful behaviour doesn't elicit such disgust. Is this a case of double-standards? Jesus railed on hypocrisy much more than he talked about homosexuality.

First, homosexuality is disgusting just as genuine sex is attractive. I can't explain why either is the case, we're built that way. Some may say it's just my perspective or preference. I believe God made it that way. Sex is good and attractive, and a perversion of it is repulsive.

Other sins may not provoke the same emotional reaction, but it is instructive to consider how we do respond. A man who keeps his life in sound balance and cares for his family wins my admiration. One who becomes alcoholic and lets his family down - I pity. It's a different emotional response from disgust... in me. Honesty wins respect, hypocrisy or lying earns distrust and a whole different flavour of disdain.

My emotional reaction to the bad may well be the opposite (or in stark contrast) to my response to the corresponding good. It then follows that where one becomes ambivalent about the Godly design of sex, there will be no strong reaction to the perversion of it.

Emotions are far from any guarantee of a balanced response. But they are part of being human, and often they get us to an appropriate response faster than our intellect can fully analyse the facts. Emotions depend largely on our conditioning. So the way we condition our minds is likely to be reflected in our emotional response to both good and bad.

Jesus responded with compassion at times, and at other times approached people with anger (Mark 3). Emotion can form part of our full appreciation of the situation and can add some zing to our response. If you are conditioned to a Godly design of sex, then you may well consider homosexuality disgusting.

Of course, to genuinely help people, emotions must be kept in check. A group of likeminded people can get carried away with a common emotional response. A group of Christians may be over-the-top in their disgust of homosexuality. As in all things, a balance is needed. Wishing injury or disease on homosexuals is also a perversion. However, I consider it sound to strongly dislike the practice and promotion of homosexuality because I care about the way God designed life and sex.

Often when we see homosexuals on TV, they are flaunting this perversion. There is an exaggerated gay walk and talk. Why is that? - if not for marketing and brand-recognition. When an alcoholic is portraited in a film, he is likely to be a sad case in need of help. But homosexuality is likely to be celebrated in modern media. This is particularly galling.

In contrast, when I work with others who are homosexual, there is no problem. We co-operate in meetings and projects. This is where it makes more sense to speak of loving the sinner, hating the sin.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Visual Arts

Of all the visual arts, sculpture and photography do it for me. Only one of them works on a computer screen.

Check this moon over waterfall by Harry Reid.

The Trouble With Performance Targets

Good people work hard and care about what they do. They also understand what they do and why it is important. When some authority comes crashing down from above with performance targets, it invariably cocks things up.

1. Targets measure the wrong thing. In the old Soviet days there was a directive to produce so-many shoes. So the manufacturers produced that many shoes. They may have been hideously uncomfortable and all of them brown, but the targets were met.

2. Targets prioritise the management of the task above the task. In Britain the New Labour government introduced targets to cut hospital waiting lists. So the hospitals treated all the easy cases first - this reduced the waiting lists, but it increased the waiting time for anything non-routine! Think about it... the length of the waiting list doesn't matter a bit! It's how long you have to wait that counts.

So now our beloved leaders have introduced targets to cut waiting times. And now the quick treatments are prioritised to lower the average waiting time. The result - patents needing slower treatments need to wait even longer!

All along, the targets are there to get the government re-elected, not improve health care. In the health service, targets pervert clinical priorities. Good practitioners don't need targets. Government does.

3. Targets make the right thing damned inconvenient. Yesterday we heard the report that a Welsh police force had reached its targets on tackling violent crime. Good news? Only if you're a violent criminal. In response, the police have stopped collecting intelligence in the field because it would lead to a higher target the following year. So the target becomes an incentive to do a worse job.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Top Books for 5 Year Olds

Old Blue - The Rarest Bird in the World - Mary Taylor

This non-fiction account of the Chatham Island Black Robin brought back from the brink of extinction is a compelling tale. The real-life drama of setbacks and victories tell a memorable story.

Guess What Happened at School Today - Jez Alborough

A collection of fun poems about the trials of school life. Unless you're the model student, you'll identify with the characters in these verses.

Awesome Dinosaurs Giant Plant-eaters

Full of facts and illustrations. It's not a 'story-book' but it gets the imagination rolling. Adults and kids love these awesome critters, perhaps because we never met them!

The Dog That Dug - Jonathan Long and Korky Paul

This is one of my all time favourite children's books. This is also great with kids younger than five, but years later, the zany characters and ridiculous turns in the story still work brilliantly.

How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen - Russell Hoban

A cracking story of laughable adults outwitted by a mischievous rascal. You know it will be a happy ending, but it's better than that.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Top Books for 4 Year Olds

Hello Ocean - Pam Munoz Ryan and Mark Astrella

This book is stunning. Beautiful illustrations and a quietly intelligent narrative make it something special.

How to Catch a Star - Oliver Jeffers

The twist in this book got me - I never saw it coming. A gem for its uniqueness and for offering no explanation to distinguish between the real and imagined.

George and Sophie's Museum Adventure - Thomas Taylor

A detective adventure. A bit scary in the shadows... Good triumphs over evil, kid-heros save the day.

What Do People Do All Day? - Richard Scarry

Good question! I remembered this book from my own childhood, and even details of the illustrations had stayed with me.

Bible Story Book - Egermeier's

This is a big book of almost 600 pages. It's not dumbed down. Bible records are retold for children, and the outstanding illustrations will help shape the Bible reader's thoughts for many years.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Top Books for 3 Year Olds

Tiny - Paul Rogers and Korky Paul

Being an astronomy fan, I just love the scaling up from Tiny the flea to the universe! The illustrations are so gritty and full. This is a Dad's favourite.

My Grandson is a Genius - Giles Andreae

Thick with irony. Perfect for a grandparent's gift. The humour works from the perspective of each generation - young and old can laugh at themselves in these pages.

The Great Big Little Red Train - Benedict Blathwayt

So much to find and examine in these illustrations. Loads of trains and lorries - the belittled becomes the hero. Great stuff.

My Mum and Dad Make Me Laugh - Nick Sharratt

Oh, yes they do. Whether kids are interested in colours and patterns, or the eccentricities of the family are beginning to dawn on them, this book is a real chuckle.

Winnie the Pooh - A. A. Milne, Illustrated by E. H. Shepard

It'll take another 30 years for kids to get the characters and humour of this great book. Inseparable from Shepard's line drawings, this one's a masterpiece.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Top Books for 2 Year Olds

Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs - Ian Whybrow and Adrian Reynolds

Good characters hold together a blend of reality and imagination. Especially worthy if you like dinosaurs.

The Jumblies - Edward Lear

A nonsense classic. Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve. If it doesn't work for you, that's probably a good thing.

Fix-It Duck - Jez Alborough

We had this on CD also, so now everyone knows the story off by heart. You'll love it if you know someone like Duck (or the Frog).

Horton Hears a Who! - Dr. Seuss

Great children's books have to work for adults. This speaks to anyone who's swum upstream, defended an unpopular cause.

Hairy Maclary's Caterwaul Caper - Lynley Dodd

Not for bedtime! The kids love making the animal noises. And yes, the moral is not lost.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Top Books for 1 Year Olds

Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd

A quiet book with a beautiful rhythm. Great for settling the little ones to bed. Unspoken extras, like - find the mouse on every page.

Monkey Puzzle - Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

The humour and unexpected turns work well. This book is exceptional for reading out loud.

Guess Who? - Pam Ayres

Pam has class. I can't tell you why this book works so well. You can hardly find a copy on the Internet. Simple, but with a puzzle on each page.

Diggers - Usborne Touchy Feely

This book makes the list because the big heavy pages and rough textures match the subject matter. It's rugged.

Counting Kiwis - Kevin and Andrew Ward

An imaginative implementation of the classic 1 to 10 counting book with a New Zealand theme throughout ... Seven kiwis sail in a Cook Strait gale...