Friday, 19 September 2014

Back to trying more OSs for the next build.

Our main PC stopped working a few months back, and on Monday night/Tuesday morning I built me of our son's cast-off PC parts (not fast enough for gaming, faster than what I had before) into the old PC case, then tried to get it working.

The 2 hard drives that both had Windows 8 installed worked, one more evenually than the other, and both required re-activation due to be placed in new hardware arrangements. The openSUSE Linux disc also kinda worked, but couldn't see the network or the internet. Not a winner. I tried installing on top to repair the old install, and that finished around 3.30am after a couple of hours downloading updates etc. The install medium could access the internet, but the final installed version refused. Bums.

So having installed an evaluation version of that same openSUSE Linux on the old 256GB disc tht had one of the versions of W8, I was reminded of some of the more irritating aspects of that OS. Frustratingly, it failed to find the NAS that was on the network, and generally behaved as though the network didn't really exist - I've never seen a Linux OS manage a connection when the network manager is off and there's no network connection listed - even though firefox and YAST were happily talking to the internet. I was probably doing something dumb, but this isn't rocket science, and I've set up network connections often enough before.

Digging through my stack of previously used distros I came across several for Pear Linux. Pear 8 was the last of the pearversions, and it's as slick and polished as anything that came out of Cupertino. And very dead, because the guy who created Pear Linux shut down when he was bought out and hired by another company. There are no updates available, not even for the Ubuntu OS under the Pear desktop. Dead end.

Pear 7 was much less pleasing, and generally a bit messy compared to 8 (IIRC 6 was better than 7) and although there WERE a few updates from Ubuntu repos and even a couple of pear updates lurking online, it wasn't enough to have any kind of future.

So Pear is dead, for now.

Also in the disc box was a copy of Fedora 20 Gnome (still current) and Mint 17 Mate edition (sounds like a condom).

Fedora got put aside fairly quickly. I've tried it several times: it always seems like a great idea, looks good, Gnome behaving in the way Gnome does, which is workable if you don't mind thinking outside the box a little.But then there's always the problem of finding repos with codecs that will install properly, printer drivers and software addins that work the way I want. So back in the box it went.

Leaving Mint Mate.

Mate was intended as a replacement for the old Gnome 2 desktop environment that was ditched by Gnome developers, and that Linux luddites everywhere mourned over. Icons are  crude and use simpe primary colours, menus aren't slick, but instead are large and coarsely populated. But OTOH it works fine. Including downloading updates, it took about 25min to install from DVD. It recognised the NAS, found drivers for the Samsung 1210 mono laser printer (really handy for music for church, Christmas fliers etc) and was ready for work very promptly. Given the pedestrian and aged nature of the hard drive it's running off, I was quite impressed with how snappy it is. I've not doe the DVD playback test yet, but have no reason to believe the people at Mint won't have sorted that aspect too.

So I'm a lttle torn at the moment.

I could carry on with Mint Mate for a bit (and probably will) or I coul install Linux Lite OS like I have on the little laptop (lightning quick, lacks finesse and some of the tools I like) openSUSE could be used again, though I'd like a change, or I could try Mint KDE, although that has always lacked the polish of other KDE-native distros.

So we'll have some wait-and-see pudding, but I'd just like something solid that won't break with every other update and that I can keep using for a year or more without trouble. I don't actually *like* having to rebuild every few weeks any more.

By the grace of God, the Union remains.

I think we have been given a chance, and as a people have been spared much hardship. Hopefully this won't go round and round, the same question being asked repeatedly until the required answer is given, unlike another vote I can think of recently.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Bloomin' computers (mutters under breath).

Facebook friends will know Ben passed on his old motherboard, processor, memory & power supply so I could build a new base unit for use in the living room. Since my last (free) PC base unit died I've been using the little Philips laptop that I bought cheap in the spring last year as a 'disposable' to take to Africa. It's been sat on the desk with a big mess of wires as a 'quick fix' for a problem thet never got fixed. The little lappy did well considering it's probably 9 years old and was running 1.6GHz/2GB memory, but it was slow for web work.

But the course of new love never runs smoothly. So Moday night I bolted the new bits into the old case, whacked in the drives, spent a couple of hours cleaning up & recabling (much better by the way) and then hit 'go'.

First up was an old 256GB seagate drive with windows 8, and it chundered away for 10min in the new hardware before reaching desktop. OK, but it wanted activation, and of course it won't recignise the old sound card either. Then came the drive (called FAT Store) that had Windows 8.1, and the boot time was much shorter, but had the exact same issues. Finally I went with the drive that had openSUSE and much of my data, and this booted best of all. But alas, it refused to recognise the network hardware, and even using the original openSUSE disc to reinstall over the top (took more than 2 hours of downloading the latest updates :-( ) would not get it working. GRRRRR.

Last night I installed a copy of the now defunct Pear Linux 8.0 on the W8.0 drive, and it whizzed on, working nicely but refusing to update at all because Pear is now closed, David Tavares the developer having been 'bought out'. I'd hope that because it was based on Ubuntu there might still be common updates, but not a chance. Shame really, as it was nice, but when the crowd funding effort failed (wanted to raise 100,000 euro if I remember correctly) the writing was probably on the wall. Would have been nice too, as a reminder of how OSX could have been if done right.

So on went openSUSE 13.1, and that worked fine except there was no audio. I had also changed the wiring on the amplifier I use, so that might be the cause, but to change it back is going to be faffy.

So I guess that there's still work to be done. Ho hum.

Anyone know of any nice new distros that I really should evaluate instead of using openSUSE?

I'm a engineer.

Yeah, but I'm a scientist, right?

A few weeks back I took one of those Facebook tests that promises to tell what kind of job you should have, and without a great deal of surprise it gave me Engineer. I was reminded just now when putting the milk bottle back in the fridge at coffee time, where it was instinctive to place it as close to the door hinges as possible because doing so would reduce the strain on the hinges and prolong the life of the door.

This is how I see pretty much EVERYTHING around me. At times I've wondered if I'm CDO (I wonder who will & won't get that?) to require the cutlery to be stacked in the dishwasher in a specific order (knives nearest the door, then forks, then large spoons, then teaspoons) and slightly off my head. The reality is that the end containers in the cutlery holder have more and larger spaces, so we always have more teaspoons and knives than other implements, plus paring knives have deeper blades and need a larger slot than other implements - an OBVIOUS engineering solution to the problem of sorting cutlery.

EVERYWHERE I see patterns and behaviour in this way.

It used to make me cross that people wouldn't do things 'properly', never realising that they hadn't a clue that there could be a logic and order for tasks. At work they often seemed to be doing the equivalent of coming home drunk and dropping their clothes randomly through the house on their way to bed, rather than working to a plan or understanding the task they were expected to complete. This may may seem crazy to some, but it has enabled me to train those who worked for me to see patterns and reasons for working in particular ways, and many have been able to build on that themselves and gone on to senior jobs and good careers.

So I'm an engineer, with that kind of approach. That calls for much patience on all sides.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

What everyone is talking about.

Is the imminent possible sundering of Great Britain - rarely has a political flap caused so much debate among all & sundry.

There have been comparisons between the present situation with Scotland having their referendum for independence and the French speaking Canadians with their (unsuccessful) bid for separation. There was a Canadian chap speaking on the radio about how the rest of Canada did an 'I love you' campaign to ask them to remain, but the chances of that happening here are zero. Most English and Northern Irish (heard nothing from any Welsh) fed up with the character of the whinging Scot that's been forced on the country, wishing it was over and they had gone already. And if the vote had been put to the whole of Britain (as it should have been, since everyone here is affected) then independence would be guaranteed.

At times like this I'm aware of my non-British heritage and don't feel anything like the same attachments as many obviously do. But I am aware of the undercurrents - I might even say spirits - at work in this situation, and the feelings of anger, betrayal, mistrust and even hatred they are provoking.

It's easy to see how, with a charismatic leader and disillusioned population, Germany could be whipped up in the way it was before WW2. The likely political landscape of an independent Scotland would also be one of national socialism, which ougyht to make a few twitch a little too. Yes voters are being presented as True Scots in the independence campaign, and unionists as traitors, and feelings are running high. The 'better together' campaign is, by comparison, a bit wet, negative and almost totally lacking the same fire or zeal for reasons that are obvious. Divisions are becoming deepened, and I'm seriously concerned for the future of those north of the border, regardless of which way the vote goes, because almost half the population will be feeling angry and disenfranchised, whichever way it pans out.

So where ever you are, please pray for this little island and its future. There's a lot at stake for a lot of people right across Europe and, what ever happens, life isn't going to be the same as it was. These are momentous times, and yet they are just slipping past.

Monday, 15 September 2014

My dear friend - I will miss you.

But now I'm stepping back from up-front ministry, maybe I can start to be a bit more outrageous to make up. ;-)

More words? That helps how?

I may have mentioned already my relative negativity over books by US authors being verbose. I found someone on a forum ranting about how the New Testament was really written in Hebrew and not Greek plus a bunch of other stuff including talking about how the bible was confusing and people couldn't find the truth so would read lots of versions. He then quoted lots of passages from the King James version. There was no real clue what he was trying to say.

It's kind of funny, really.

Made me decide to go look up a few scriptures I'd remembered from a while back.

Ecclesiates 5 v7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.

Proverbs 17 v27 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.

Ecclesiastes 6 v11 The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone? 

I guess the word 'exhaustive' doesn't work for me - it's just too darn tiring. The word 'helpful' does though, and it encourages me and makes me want to live and do well.

 Marc - that Dallas Willard quote has sharpened my awareness of this, though I regret saying anything on your blog now, because that obviously works for you guys. Sometimes it just feels like "my utmost for His highest" really means " I must strain harder and harder in the hope that I might be worthy", and the grace element of salvation gets left behind as being an endorsement of ordinariness.

Or maybe I'm just getting old and slow, with a 5sec attention span.  

I'm still trying to condense John Bevere's "The Bait Of Satan" down into something that can be used as a church study series over about 6-7 weeks in a housegroup. The condensing isn't too bad really, but I'm just struggling with the sheer volume of words. It's ironic too, that reading a book about dealing with offence, I struggle not to be offended by the sheer self-promotion of it all. It doesn't help making the narrative pivot on very specific and carefully selected wording from specific translations, which feels dishonest to me, and failing to deal with, quite literally, life & death questions.

Certainly worth a read - there are some really good things in there - but despite testimonies before every chapter telling otherwise, so easy to put down and so hard to pick up again.

Today is not a good day to think differently in Russia.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Break taboos?

There's a taboo that's grown in British society, and last night I carefully, gently broke it.

Yesterday evening was the licensing and installation of a new team vicar for Cherwell valley benefice, bringing the ministry team up to 2 people. For various reasons Chris and I were organising the car parking, she in the field where visitors were to go and me standing guard at Lower Heyford village green to prevent cars filling up and blocking Church lane, inconveniencing the village residents.

Just after I got there, a girl of about 10 or 11 came out the the door to The Bell pub and was playing on the steps. She was aware of me, and when I kicked a stone (bored, waiting) she started kicking stones too. We got talking, then exchanged names, talked about favourite colours, school (being back, what she liked etc). When Abby found out my favourite colour she disappeared off behind a car, then came back a moment later with a balloon that colour, which she gave to me. Her little sister came out and wanted the balloon, so I passed that over & she promptly then blew up her one other balloon and gave that to me to make up! She was a lovely, open, generous, articulate and friendly child.

Eventually her mum came out with 2 other children in tow and took her off in a car.

The thing is, in Britain it has become almost verboten for an older male on their own to talk with children. There is such an atmosphere of fear about sexual abuse, abduction, of being accused of such things, of taking photographs for nefarious purposes that it *feels* like there is a state of siege on relationships outside the immediate family unit or school. I wondered a little about Jesus at the well with the Samarian woman: how would his conversation have been seen?

Societies seem to work like the adage about crabs in a bucket, and if anyone tries to climb out the rest work together to pull that one back down. It would be terrible to think that she might be abducted by a stranger, but should that fear create a taboo that made her assume all adults she didn't know were predatory. This also makes me wonder what we are telling our children to believe about other people generally? It *FEELS* like this society lives in fear, that every person is guilty until proven innocent and that invisible barriers have been raised between children and everyone else.

I hope that through her life she will find people who are caring, gentle, whose company she can enjoy and who have good motives, just as I often did while growing up. Yes, there will be some who are very unpleasant, and I also hope she will avoid them just as I seemed to.

I hope and pray this is not a taboo that becomes entrenched.

Where to next?

Chris's plan is for Croatia next year, not least so we can visit the guys at Novimost in Bosnia Herzegoniva, and that's probably what we'll do. Unless any of our Canadian friends have plans for 2015 that might dictate otherwise......?

However I've just seen a picture of another fort in India on G+ (I do visit the wastelands occasionally) and would really like to go back. Not sure when we'll manage it, if at all, though 2016 sounds like a good idea. IF we do, then a self-crafted trip is likely to ensue, scary as it may be. A couple of friends our age went backpacking round India last year and coped fine, so if they can, we can. Probably.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

So that's official, like.

That probably makes as much sense to our Canadian friends as the phrase 'Canada eh?*' does to a Brit.

So after all the talk of transition and being uncertain about the future, it's now public that we are moving churches, feeling called to return to Bicester Community Church from Heyford Park Chapel.

Sometimes I wish it could be done simply, just tell a few key people and migrate. But it's important to do this well, not least because it's important to break the pattern established by so many before us and provide an example of leaving well. We've not fallen out with anyone, we're not offended or moping or running away and we are leaving with the blessing and release of the church.

I also have hope and expectation that people are going to step up, that we aren't just abandoning them and leaving gaps that can't be filled. There are people I can see that will be able to step up and take our places - exactly how it should be - and the church will continue to grow, very much business as usual.

It's also my hope that those who felt they couldn't be a part of HPC because we were there - because I was there - might feel able to come back again. The church will be different under Stephen Griffiths, and that's a good thing, because he's the man God has called to lead and take responsibility for it. He has a different outlook, different theology in some areas, and is much more at home within a church of England structure than we could ever be. He'll make mistakes, but they will be his, rather than having to live with ours while we're around.

So off we go. A new beginning with some old friends and some new ones. Hopefully a time of healing, restoration, re-catching a vision, restoration of faith and expectation.

*Canada eh? - I never heard a single Canadian say this in the 2 weeks we were there EXCEPT when we asked about the phrase. For sure.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

If your eye would lead you to hell, would you pluck it out?

That's all well and good, but what if it were social media?

So 3.30am found me going to bed after surfing into the wee hours. I wasn't surfing anywhere really bad, but it also wasn't good, not going to build a man up to walk well before God either. I have a love-hate with the internet very often, and know that it actively tries - sometimes succeeding - to take over my life.

It's all too useful. Keeps me in touch with distant friends, and that's pretty much the SOLE reason I have a facebook account, for the few people who are important but would never contact direct. And the forums are fantastic sources of information, learning, even relationship & support sometimes. Sometimes.

So it's a little bit like that question.

I know 'plucking it out' will be inconvenient, possibly a bit painful in some ways (though a lot less than losing an eye!) and it will definitely narrow my field of view. So I don't do it, and the things remains, a little snare hidden in full view. And if facebook and the few forums I still use go, what will I replace them with? A sudden new-found desire for prayer & solitude? A re-kindled desire to blog more likely (:p) . Another hobby/centre of fascination/topic of interest?

I need to change.

There's not an enormous amount of faith that might happen right now. Things have genuinely been different since our holiday, partly because decisions have been taken and choices made, and God's been around and brought some hope & renewal. But. But. (By the way, I DON'T like big butts - yeah, the sense of humour is unredeemed still too) so much of the life and hope and expectation of the goodness of God seems to have been sucked out in 2014. I KNOW God is good, and righteous and loving and cares for me. No doubt. But.

There's a hymn that I may have blogged about before, that contains a line that talks about no longer dreading the fires of unexpected sorrow, yet my experience is that being a Christian does not prevent one from experiencing that fire. And I don't seem to be walking in a faith that would cope well with that scenario right now, having been dangled over that particular precipice in the last couple of days.

So there is hope and a future in progress, despite my miserable ramblings here, but it's a future hope, rather than a here-and-now hope, and I'm hanging on until it becomes a bit more here and now.

So the question is, can social media be allowed to continue to have a place in my life? The easy answer, in some ways, is to make the same choice I did over TV and simply say a firm NO: a choice I never regretted. The only thing really making me hold on is that this would mean detaching from so many people, but is that connection more important than living well, since I don't seem able to exercise sufficient self control? I don't yet know.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Hello Sunday morning.

Yesterday, thanks to the efforts of my brother and sister-in-law we met up with a bunch of people who had been (and still were in some cases) involved in the church we were part of before we married (marriage was a break-point, and we moved on straight afterward). Some had changed no more than 30+ years required, while I would never have recognised another, even if we'd been introduced in the street as having previously been friends, but had not been given names.

So here I am again, having sorted through and printed music, put the song list and liturgy together for projection, updated the powerpoint show for this weeks events, made breakfast and showered. I'm wondering what the future holds, what will happen and where we'll be 12 months from now. My *expectation* is that I shall not live another 30+ years, and I'm fine with that: dotage and the 'reeds and pipes' (not to mention the crippling infirmities) of extreme old age hold no attraction for me.

Melancholy? Yup.

Thoughtful? A little.

I miss the energy, the confidence, the assurance of youth. It feels like my eyes have slipped off the objective, and now I'm just drifting through, reacting to situations as they arise because they need to be dealt with. There's stuff to work through in the near future, some of which is fine & some I'm not looking forward to at all. God is present in all this, so...... Well, we'll have to wait & see.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The British on holiday

So we went to Weston Super Mare last weekend (as some will know from facebook) which turned out to be a nice traditional British seaside town full of traditional British holiday-type things. We may well go back sometime.

Inevitably I took the camera (my mistress, as Chris calls it) and managed a few pics in the first couple of hours. I've processed them as monochrome, which is a bit like using instagram, but less chavvy and more pretentious. ;-)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

To comment or not comment? Mark Driscoll

I don't actually want to comment on him personally - I don't really know the man at all, and have only heard snatches of things he's said or written. Many of them have seemed good & right to me, and he seemed a man who would stand up for biblical principles, sound teaching and a man on fire to see the kingdom of God built where ever he could.

Now it seems he's had feet of clay a long time, apparently hidden in cool trainers.

I wonder if this 'fall' (though as far as I know there's no specific fall, other than a long history of character flaws that haven't been addressed that have become public) was almost inevitable. There seems an almost impossible balance every church leader has to maintain:

Adherence to an orthodox faith, yet with an inclusive theology.
Determination to continue against all hell may throw at them, yet a soft and gentle way with those in the congregation who throw things.
An unstinting giving of oneself to the work, and an ability to say NO in order to keep one's marriage and family together.

The list could be longer.

Over the years I've known a lot of guys in leadership. Some very few have not been good, many have been incredible. Some I've pedestalled for sure, and some of those have come of their pedestal later when I've seen a bit more inside their heads (warning - facebook can completely uncover you, magnify your weaknesses while masking your strengths).

What's this about?

We've made our church leaders into people who cannot, must not fail, and as leaders we've bought into the myth often enough too, to sometimes kid ourselves. I can see where this has come from, historically speaking, and it makes me wonder if the next part of restoring the church needs to be the restoration of the leader as a brother in Christ, instead of the guy on a pedestal who cannot fail in anything more than a minor way without the world crashing down.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Wasn't really happy with yesterday's pic

Went back this morning in wellies to re-shoot.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The depressive comedian.

Inevitably the death of Robin Williams has provoked all kinds of comment, from those who knew him or felt they did lamenting his death through to lots of publicity for and talk about depression. But when I read this article on the BBC website it rang a few bells for me.

As a small child I was happy, but can recall having periods at junior school which I would now recognise as depression, and this increased into my teenage years, culminating in a strong desire at 16 to kill myself. It was at this age that I became a Christian, and it took a year of gradual healing before I was reasonably recovered. Then came Chris, marriage, children and the rest, as they say, is history.

Except history is still being written.

I had long been a happy character, mostly outgoing, often inclined to make people laugh (at one stage I was told that humour was inappropriate in serious work situations). Then we moved churches and within a year I found depression had returned. Not that it has been able to suck me in and swallow me - I could fight - but what I'd thought was in the past suddenly became very present, and has ebbed and flowed for me to a degree right till now. I've changed in other ways too, going from distinctly acquiring energy from being in company to needing my own quiet space to recharge, even to the point of putting earphones in to watch a movie on the laptop. Not completely ideal - I've just realised that I'm deliberately shutting everyone out, as I write this - and will need to deal with it.

There was a bit from that article that - to a degree - made me think "that's like me":

"We found that comedians had a rather unusual personality profile, which was rather contradictory," Prof Claridge says.
"On the one hand, they were rather introverted, depressive, rather schizoid, you might say. And on the other hand, they were rather extroverted and manic. 

Maybe it was the grace of God that kept me from depression until recently?  Some areas of my life have certainly not been either easy, nor had the foundations of conventional life that provide stability for most people in the last few years. I do know depression is not an unbeatable monster, but rather an ugly set of lies that will come and deny the truth to my feelings. The best defence for me is the truth, knowing who I am, both in Jesus and in my own self, and having a loving wife does no harm either.

And I do still have a (subdued) sense of inappropriate humour.

This isn't meant to be a sob-story, but it's altogether too easy to look at people like Williams, maybe even like me, and think "they couldn't possibly understand how I feel".

Monday, 11 August 2014

Storm's a comin'.

Yesterday, down in the fields.

Monday, 4 August 2014

So I stumped up 30 bucks for hosting my images.

I've been using a free Photobucket account since Feb 2005, and it's been a good experience until the last couple of years with advertising increasingly being intrusive and sometimes even inappropriate (hot mature singles looking for meetings without committment? Really?). I had a warning message a couple of months back that I was up to 8Gb on my account limit of 10Gb (that's a total transfer of 10Gb, ever, rather than 10Gb/month/year) but not worried, only to find that posting my recent holiday pics had carried me way over.

I can't really complain.

9 years of free image serving is pretty good, but the upgrade options were disappointing. I don't want more space, but I would like more bandwidth. I like the idea of the site being advert-free for me, but I'd like it to be advert free for EVERYONE that visits my pages - this is why I have stopped linking to galleries from the blog.

My initial reaction to the images not being served was 'well stuff you then' which was more than a little churlish considering the excellent 'free' service I'd had, and some thought fairly quickly changed that. I'd quite like to get a proper photo site going from where I can sell prints* & usage rights, but that requires investment and great design skills to be effective. I've also been looking at paid accounts 500px and Flickr, but both seem clunky and Flickr is STILL painfully slow based on performance of other photographers images I've seen hosted, even though some do make sales through that site regularly. Flickr also discontinued their 'pro' account for new signups, or so I've been told, with the new equivalent not being anything like as useful.

So PB will continue for another year, but I shall be looking to move my hosting elsewhere over the next 12 months.

* It occurred to me the other day that landscape images are like other people's children - you look at them, make admiring noises and say how beautiful they are, but no-one actually wants to take them home. Or maybe that's just me. ;-)

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Highest temperature in this office yesterday.

was 29 degrees centigrade, according to the (uncalibrated) max-min thermometer I have by my workstation.

I'm trying to get myself into a frame of work-focussed mind, with a need to write a document instructing someone in another company with different ways of working to test samples on an instrument I've not used since the mid 2000s, and in a way that complies with current international quality standards. My mind's not really interested, and would rather work on image processing etc. After a holiday this kind of tussle is quite normal, but there's usually someone driving me to 'get fit' for work again, sometimes even myself.

Right now it's already a slightly sticky 27 degrees and climbing. The sun comes in through the window directly behind me until midday, and although the vertyical blinds are closed and windows open, fan on to move air around, it still feels too hot.

In other news, Ben made it back safely last night, around 9.30pm, from his tour of Europe.

He's had some interesting times, including riding after a full day at work across to the ferry in the rain, the riding from Calais through more rain, up through France and Belgium, unable to find a room for the night until stopping at 5.30am for a couple of hours sleep under a porch. Losing a wallet while travelling was also not so good, and that caused not a little inconvenience and extra delays/mileage. But he seems healthy, happy and is not visibly damaged, and we're glad to have him bad for another few months.

Life here is 'pending' right now: so many 'what next' questions. At the same time, things ARE different to how they were before our trip, though it's early days to say how, exactly. There's also a choice as to how different and in what ways, for us to make - I hope we're making good choices.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Trouble oop mill.

Was a cliche. So may be these.

A couple of shots of the old mill at Chipping Norton on our way out. I'm trying to learn not to 'over-cook' skies in image processing, and have to fight the temptation to make everything bolder than everything else in my desire for a really strong image.

We have a few images on their way from a printer called Snapmad, enlarged as canvases. Despite the name, they've done some really good work for me, and the prices are more than competitive. There has been a minor hiccup, with colour space handling problems on output from Lightroom, but running the images through GIMP seems to fix that, though I've no idea why exactly. Images saved on the Mac were perfect too, so it seems a windows-related issue.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

For those that blog

Do you ever look at previous posts and think "Cor, I wrote some pretentious old tosh"?

Friday, 25 July 2014

There will come a time.

.... soon when I can talk a bit more openly, but it seems that the way ahead is becoming clearer, we are growing in faith that we have made the right choice and that there is a place for us.

Why is sexual orientation such a big deal?

After returning from Canada, it feels like the issue of sexual orientation is being pushed in my face more and more. Sorry for the visual pun I've deliberately tried to create in your mind, but it should be good for grabbing attention.

This has come through both 'Christian' and non-christian channels.

The first meaningful intrusion was through Premier Christianity Magazine (formerly just Christianity magazine) that I've mentioned before, where the Evangelical Alliance had removed Steve Chalke's Oasis trust from membership. Oasis had taken a line that accepted same-sex marriage and affirmed relationships of any sexual orientation "within faithful, lifelong, monogamous relationships" (their words - I notice that might not include marriage). The Evangelical Alliance, while far from a conservative or theologically conservative group, have drawn a line in the sand - far braver than the Baptist Union, who, while not openly endorsing gay marriage, have produced a form of service for Baptist pastors wishing to marry same-sex couples. I applaud EA for this stance, and having the courage to actually DO something counter-cultural.

The magazine article was viewing this as one of the dividing line between evangelicalism and liberal theology, and I am inclined to agree with them here. While I can see one might be carried along by a love and concern for the lost and feel one's heart breaking for those trying to find love in same-sex relationships, there is a significant abandonning of the heart of the scriptures required to embrace homosexual practice. However one of the contentions, and the reason for my original title, is that for a long time many Christians and church streams have turned a blind eye to heterosexual practice outside of marriage, to the point that with some streams and countries, protesting about homosexuality is un-ashamed hypocrisy.

Enough of reality.

I picked out some science fiction to take with me on holiday, but didn't actually get around to reading it until after we got back. That first week at home was a mixture of wonderful (no responsibilities in church to prep for other than lead worship the following Sunday, so plenty of time to be 'us') and the terrible, where I could not sleep most nights and wanted to cough. The 3 books I'd chosen were: Dominic Greene's Small World, Mark E Cooper's Hard Duty, and an older, free on kindle copy of Lightspeed Magazine.

Hard duty was classic space opera, and a late 20th century-style take on an EE 'Doc' Smith novel, though none the worse for that. Interestingly for the purposes of this piece, the heroin is a 'believer in God' but without any reluctance over casual sex (mentioned, never described).

Greene's Small World is meant to be a comedy, and indeed it is, though with its take on religions it would likely upset those with affection for traditional symbolism or modern churchianity. However quite early on there is mention of a law requiring 25% of the crew of a space ship to be homosexual following government regulations. This is obviously intended as the entry point for poking fun at large and hypocritical government in general and sexual preference doesn't get a mention anywhere else in the book, but it was a curious place to bring it up at all.

And then finally, the first short story (A Separate War by Joe Haldeman) from Lightspeed moves humanity forward to the 25th century where heterosexuality is effectively outlawed and homosexuality compulsory in order to balance population and to keep the masses quiet and peaceful. The story does a bit of an "isn't the way we are now good really, even if it's odd and old fashioned" glance back over its shoulder at the end.

In both the last 2 books there is an automatic assumption that sexuality is going to be a) directed by government, and b) increasing homosexual in nature. Neither of these stories were new, with Small World written in '99 and A Separate War prior to 2012. I've been aware of an increasingly vocal but extremely tiny minority of the population shouting about themselves for many years, but haven't engaged with modern SciFi writers to see what they thought of it.

I wonder if, since humanity seems to go through cycles of cultural behaviour, the present trend of people being defined by their sexuality is preceding another crash of civilisation while God takes us back round the learning loop again? How should that make me live as a Christian?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The joy of the guitar riff

Was a BBC program you can catch up with here for a few more days.

I did something unusual for me and watched it to unwind the other evening - it is almost unknown for me to watch TV, even through iPlayer. Chris was in the room at the same time, and we got talking about guitar music and riffs, how they make you feel excited, energised, a little bit naughty and rebellious. That may be good or bad (or both) depending on theology and world-view.

Then it got to the Smiths and Johnny Marr.

They talked about how he refused to listen or be influenced by metal or rock, returning to a clean, bright tone (I know he also tuned guitars above concert pitch to make them sparkle and discourage string bends). After hearing him play a bit, Chris made the observation that he deliberately took away all the things that made guitar sound good, exciting and fun, then used what was left. That pretty much covered it. For those who care, there was also an amusing bit where they were talking about Rickenbacker jangle while the guitar actually played was a telecaster, but I guess it's hard to find music journos with a background in music.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Apparently I astound.

With my weirdness. According to Chris. I continuously surprise her with my hitherto unimagined ways.

Comment resulted from seeing I'd taken a picture of a steel washbasin on Granville Island.

Well, I finally finished processing images yesterday.

We've made our selection for printing (152, down from 1935 of mine and 270+ of Chris's) and soon I hope to get some on-line galleries up. Her initial comment was that she'd like to print all 530 shortlisted imnages!

Working through them again I kept seeing mistakes, some of which could be rectified by careful processing, while those cropped a little too tight couldn't be saved at all. Using Adobe Lightroom has made the processing quicker in some ways, but by providing more tools it has also encouraged more manipulation which has the effect of slowing things further. I've deliberately not worked on the 'best' images more than necessary because I just wanted them done good enough for 6X4 prints and low res web work.

I really appreciated the tools in lightroom that enabled identification and selection of specific images for printing and upload, and it's made the whole affair enormously easier than trying to process in one package, then shuffle copies the actual post-processed images around in order to ID selected images. Last time we ended up writing file numbers in notebooks (that got lost) and still managed to miss some pictures. It's so much less stressful when the images are stored in a single database along with all processing information.

The techie bit.

For those interested, this experience has really brought home to me how much better it is to process RAW data files than .jpeg images. With RAW output from the Sony and careful exposure it was almost always possible to retain data in clouds, flowing water etc (though not in chrome parts on cars) and pull detail from shadows. By comparison the .jpeg files from the Panasonic almost always had blown highlights and muddy shadows, and any kind of image recovery resulted in colour noise and detail blocking up. Noise reduction just made loss of detail worse. On top of that I was surprised at how much colour correction was necessary for the Panasonic. Files from the sony still needed correction, but it was *usually* a tiny amount, where the camera was being fooled by large areas of a single shade.

This very much reminds me of why I've abandoned using the old Samsung compact - image processing was always damage limitation and control for anything above websize.

Marc - you were asking about Lightroom on the MBA. Adobe have a free 30 day trial, and I'd definitely recommend giving it a go. Then wait & see if they have any 'very special' offers like they did last Christmas.

Did an image ever speak to you?

This one did to me, even though it's one of my own:

I've called it The Pastor, and I wonder if everyone who has ever had any kind of pastoral ministry would recognise themselves in it? You know sometimes that rock will be sticking out, other times it will be buried below the water that's rushing over it. Most of the time it will just be there, whatever swirls around it, being worn down a bit here, maybe smoothed a little there.

Then one spring you may go back again and find it's gone, washed by a greater force to reappear somewhere else.

In the warmth of a day like today it's hard to imagine being immersed in meltwater, rushing down from a mountain. That morning in Banff was also very warm, but while the water looked inviting, it was incredibly cold and fast flowing, and wisdom dictated staying out of it.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Vancouver is also known as Raincover apparently. Wonder why?

These were all taken on our first walk around the city while fighting to stay awake so we coule adjust our sleep patterns. And now bed for me, since thats just what I'm doing again.