Monday, 27 October 2014

While we were out with friends

and their children were running around on stuff at Cogges manor farm in Witney, I managed to grab a quick portrait of Chris. She was not especially aware of this, I think.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Christian films - very mixed feelings.

There's a story here on the BBC website about a pastor wanting to import Christian films from the US and have pastors able to pray for people after the films.

I love the idea of being able to reach out into the community, for those who would not hear the good news of Jesus Christ to be reached this way. On the other hand, having seen a few Christian films, my over-riding reaction is that they aren't really helpful, painting a 'nice, American Jesus' picture, while often dangling the viewer emotionally over a false premise. Maybe, as much as anything, I cannot accept this kind of performance because I don't want made-up stories entering the Christian heritage as truth or fact. The traditional streams of church have done the made-up story thing too well, with a resulting loss of credibility and intergity.

This is definitely a case of praying 'God's will be done' because I can't step back far enough to be un-biased.

Friday, 17 October 2014

I wonder what you'll do?

After we've moved churches.

I'm talking to you - the ones in the shadows at the back, who used to be part of Heyford Park Chapel and now come around here to see whether there's any goss to be had, any stories to share. Will you keep coming by or will you get bored and move away?

FWIW I very much hope you guys do go back to the chapel, once we're out of the way. I hope Stephen turns out to be someone who can help you grow, find Jesus, find a home with God's people and see you built up. I'm sorry we couldn't work things out together and walk down that road for that stage in our journey. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

How much compromise is acceptable?

If it was suggested you could compromise your integrity a bit to be more successful and popular, to extend your reach to more people, why wouldn't you do it? After all, your core values were un-changed, and what you were trying to reach them with was really good: surely that would be worth it, wouldn't it?

The right answer may, or may not be obvious.

I've mentioned before how horribly compromised I've felt (compromised to death was, I think, the expression) but I'm grateful someone else who is less lubricious than me has said "enough". There will inevitably be fallout, but it's much better to deal with fallout for the right reasons than knowing you're acting from expediency.

This has been a time of learning, and I'm not in then least sure I have enough backbone for church leadership. (edit - enough backbone AND enough gentle lovingness - the 2 are needed together).

Monday, 13 October 2014

If anyone still cares - Mint Cinnamon

I've settled - for now - on using Mint Linux Cinnamon distro at home as my main OS of choice. Reasons: basically it seems solid, works quickly (and everything works - networking, printer, NAS etc etc) and is easy to use. On Sunday morning I came to print some music for the first time since installing and the printer was not yet set up, so I went to the printer control, clicked 'Add', it showed me our samsung ML1210 was connected. When I selected it the software downloaded the appropriate driver and 30sec later I could (and did) print. It feels like the bad old days of hunting for drivers, HPLIP and CUPS profiles is long gone.

Elementary Linux has been installed on that 250Gb 'testing' drive for more experimental use. Plus I still have my windows drive attached for when I can be bothered to call microsoft and re-activate it with the new hardware, though there's less and less chance of me doing so right now with this Dell Laptop available for editing images at home.

In my last Linux post I mentioned KaOS Linux. This looked really good at first try, but networking seemed difficult, with a refusal to recognise any devices on the network. I know that's not a characteristic of KDE, because openSUSE was fine. There were a couple of other oddities that made me decide in the end not to follow it any further. I might well bung openSUSE 13.1 on the testing drive too in order to have access to the different tools available in KDE, though logic tells me that I should just install equivalents into Cinnamon & work entirely from there. I don't know why, but I *prefer* the KDE desktop, even though it sometimes behaves a little oddly and is very resource-heavy.

Once again, if anyone is thinking about trying Linux then I'd definitely recommend giving Mint (either Mate or Cinnamon) a go - everything works out of the box, or for things like printers, can be added with minimal effort.

Life is a rollercoaster (imagine that sung by 10CC).

This business of moving churches makes the emotions flap considerably: because of what and particularly who we're leaving behind, because of the feeling of leaving gaps that put extra pressure on others to fill, because of things we see happing to friends that we feel powerless to help with. All kinds of stuff.

Yesterday I led worship in church, which is pretty much always an emotional and draining experience. I used to get really charged up playing guitar, but actually leading, singing the sings, trying to feel where things should go, being a little the pivot around which that phase of the meeting turns leaves me really drained and tired.

Then we went for lunch.

The church we're returning to is re-structuring into a new form of small groups, and a couple of days before we had been very kindly invited to come along for lunch and to get to meet everyone again in one of these groups. Most people we knew already, and in one sense it was like we'd never been away, yet at the same time there's a sense of being a very different person. I've had a lot of corners knocked off in this past while, and no longer feel the same inside - it's not that they've changed, so much as I have (they will have changed too, of course).

Chris described the feeling as coming home, to be welcomed and so obviously loved and wanted and cared for and honoured.

To me it was different from that. It's made me realise what I've been missing this last few years: there's a sense of not just being valued, but a richness of spiritual experience and family that I'd not felt in *this* way since moving - an presence of God in the relationships that can't be touched but can be felt. It felt a little like the prodigal son, returning from a foreign land where the wealth had been spent trying to survive and then having the fattened calf despatched & a feast (well, hand-crafted bread & soup) prepared.

I went in cautious, heart gently flapping, trying to watch my words and feeling a heaviness, but over an hour or 2 that lifted, and I felt I could be myself with these people.

It's life Jim, as we knew it. :-)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

So which lightbulb do I buy?

Technology has made so many things better, I won't bother to even describe it because you'd be a determined luddite not to recgnise the fact, and no explanations from me would help you. But an odd aspect of the changing way we have developed lighting means that no-one really has much idea which bulbs to buy now.

We had, as a country, a brief love affair with the compact fluorescent light unit. A great idea in some ways, due to ease of manufacture and efficiency, the quality of light from a fluorescent tube has always been ugly, even with modern coatings  (though OK if bounced off a painted surface). Worse though, they contain mercury, which makes disposal quite specialised and they are NOT something one can just pop in the bin: far from ideal when not everyone can really be bothered to dispose of stuff carefully.

But hot (pun intended) on their heels came the LED. This one-time curio is enormously more efficient than an ordinary incandescent or even fluorescent bulb, but the technology is maturing and developing rapidly. So rapidly that no-one has no idea what kind of bulbs to buy now.

I've been getting a catalogue from CPC for a while, and they supply, among many other things, LED lightbulbs in a wide variety of performances and styles. What we obviously want is a nice simple way to buy light units, and instead of using watts as a guide, instead one should use lumens (the measure of light actually put out). Except that some manufactures are a little more conservative than others, plus there is the issue of colour temperature, since many LEDs actually put a LOT of their light output into the blue end of the spectrum, and a difference of 20% output is not unusual between std and warm white. There are also a lot of older designs around (often quite expensive) with multiple low output LEDs instead of a single large and efficient unit (the multiple small jobs also produce a messy beam & hot/cold spots) and it becomes a bit tricky. Finally, if buying spots to replace small halogen GU10 spotlights that seem almost ubiquitous in modern light fittings, there is a issue of beam width, since the old halogen units have a relatively soft, wide beam instead of the narrow, harsh beam one gets from cheaper LED units (and the older incandescent spots had a softer beam still that was very pleasing and flattering).

This was all pleasantly academic for me until we bought Chris a mother & daughter combined uplighter & spot recently, and had to find bulbs for it. I've been replacing as many bulbs as possible with LEDs, and went straight to our stock of spot bulbs, plus popped in a spare 7W LED screw fitting bulb replacement.

The result, while not exactly dazzling, was WAY too much light, and the spot was like a searchlight. After some fiddling an swapping about I found a GU10 unit from Ikea that struggled to manage it's 120 lumen output for the spot (around the equivalent of a 10-20W halogen unit) and a 20W fluorescent unit for the uplighter (11W would have been enough, but all my 11W fluorescent units are bayonet fitting, rather than screw).

So I'll say again, no-one really has a clue what bulb to buy these days.

Final whittery post - getting stuff off my chest.

I've always said that I like badly produced science fiction, but it seems that's changing, or rather the scifi being produced these days is missing the point.

Scifi has pretty much always been unbelievable, to a degree, which is what keeps it charming. Or it's made very believable, with full-on realism, which can make it rather slow and intellectually stimulating, if a little boring.

So. Star Wars. Space ships cannot fly between planets and attack each other like Spitfires and Messerschitts from a scene in The Battle Of Britain because the laws of physics can't be repealed and it's obvious that 2 spaceship-size objects closing together at the few hundred kilometers a second required for space travel can't then dogfight. But the charm of the movie makes us happy to suspend all worries about reality and enjoy the show, just because.

So. 2001 A Space Odyssey. A film made with incredible and entirely believable realism, set at a glacial pace (in keeping with pretty much everything Clarke wrote) and mundane with it's making fascinating things ordinary - like eating chicken sandwiches while flying across the lunar surface in a shuttle bus. And yet one comes away wondering about so many things afterward that might actually be possible in that universe.

Many recent films have been trying to blend the 2, with greater or lesser degrees of success (Avengers and Ironman did well, Thor less so).

CGI has made things worse.

I've seen 2 films recently that have convinced me CGI is not helping: Guardians Of The Galaxy and Pacific Rim.

GotG was seriously sucky, but was clearly intended to be a spoof. I've heard that some audiences stood and cheered at certain points, where a baddy was brought down, though that's hard to believe because it's all so hokey. But the super-real GCI made it feel wrong because the denial of various physical laws had become too unbelievable and it broke the acceptance of what could not be, while the story line lacked that Star Wars charm which prevented one from objecting.

Pacific Rim is an 'obvious' Boys Own fun film. I mean, giant robots fighting enormous alien monsters - what's not to like? But there's that super-real CGI thing again that makes you start asking questions instead of accepting the solutions as presented in the film (like why make man-shape robots and all the rest when you can build nuclear powered plasma cannons in smaller, armoured vehicles or aircraft etc and blast the monsters from a distance, etc etc.). I'm not one to question these things normally, but you know something has gone wrong when I DO start worrying about the faults instead of thinking about the fun and spectacle.

I'm tempted to mention the second Tron film in this, because so much of Pacific Rim felt borrowed from it (and from The Matrix) and that film felt like a transitioning point in the use of CGI, but by it's nature the unreality of that film was acceptable still, except for the idea of applications going for a drink after work. :p

Or maybe it's just poor story writing, with CGI being used to cover up the weakness? I'm still waiting for someone to film Ringworld, as an antidote to Marvell.

We don't need no, publication.

Last Friday a good friend responded to my request for an invitation onto Ello.

I've been back once since.

Just reading through comments in the Blogroll Redundant post I noticed Fern said "But, lately another trend has kicked in, as people feel really fragmented, spreading themselves too thin across too many platforms."

This is true. If there's anything worth saying then I say it through the blog. If I need to see how friends dispersed round the globe are doing then I look at facebook, and to a degree Libertree, because many of the people there have become web-friends too. Most of my friends from the second fastest declining secret forum are also Facebook users, and the SFDSF has become a place of tumbleweed and cobwebs.

Ello reminds me for all the world of Google+ when it started: new set of strangers, odd interface with clever tools that don't really make conversation easier, cool intents from the management. It doesn't have the libertard feel that, say, Diaspora had at the beginning, and I'm already asking why I would want to use it. I should spend more time in there before making a final judgement, and it may be that it will grow and become the obvious 'free' alternative to facebook it would like to, but I also keep remembering it's VC funded, and therefore there MUST be a profitable exit strategy.

Things that make me grumpy - software updates that automatically reboot.

Like Dell's back up facility. It did at least give me the option to not start the installation and then also to finish the installation, but did not include the warning that finishing would cause a reboot. At least I didn't have any unsaved changes in a document at the time, or I'd have gone from grumpy to very cross.

Last night was my last PCC meeting.

This is an unusual place to be.

When we moved to Heyford Park Chapel we took a full year of meeting with both churches, transitioning between them and adapting to the new situations we found ourselves in. The change was a seamless ramp of activity. This time it's like getting ready to emigrate, as some other friends are doing with their transition back to Africa, with a clear and absolute break point.

We talked about Christmas: the meal, the possibilities for services. There's a sense of relief that this year I'm not the one responsible for organising everything, and that I won't have to go searching for suitable music, sort catering or write a Christmas message. That sort of thing was always do-able, but always a pressure too - I'm not happy being the centre of attention like that.

It's not like we're stepping off into the unknown, yet in a way we are. Churches change, as do people, and we have all been through quite a bit separately.

While we were meeting a couple of the guys that used to be part of the music and worship side at the chapel were getting together in the main hall, singing and playing and sounding good. I'd love it if, by my stepping away, other people were able and encouraged to step up & take my place with God organising it, instead of it just being my contingency plans.

Roll on November.

p.s. I wonder if many of us from the community church we're returning to have been through a period of training in ways that we simply could not have been trained if we'd stayed put? There's others, friends, who have also been to other churches, worked with them or run around a little in a wilderness for a while, then returned.

Friday, 3 October 2014

So today is our 33rd wedding anniversary.

It was about this time on that Saturday that I drove over to Chris's family home to try and see her before the wedding: superstition said it was bad luck to see the bride on the wedding day, and I wanted to do all I could to break superstition. Plus it WAS nice to see her and anticipate what was coming later.

I won't write something gooey about love, but I'm very much looking forward to the coming years with her.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Blogroll redundant?

Not because I use a feed, but because so many of my good friends have now effectively stopped blogging. This isn't an attempt to bully people into posting, so much as an observation of change, mixed with a bit of sadness.

I've just done the Linux equivalent of Star Trek.

Although mine was more of a 90minute mission, and didn't involve killing any guys in red shirts.

I'd thought that I'd more or less got my head around the main Linux desktop environments by now. They all followed a few common themes, which had become reasonably predictable and mainstream:

KDE is windows for those who want security and freedom on their computers, without fear of infection or spyware. Distributions using KDE pretty much work out of the box, as much as Windows 8 does, and if you've used anything from Vista onward then it will feel reasonably familiar. Of all the DEs it has the most functionality baked in (open an audio CD and it will offer you the audio in several different formats and bitrates - you'll never even realise you're ripping, it's so seamless) and as a result it's a real heavyweight for a linux DE. Occasionally it will fall over, but then if you've used windows (or OSX) you know how that feels already.

Gnome 3 was a hare-brained idea to emulate iOS in Linux, and it's a fascinating experiment in how to sod up a perfectly good interface. It was so cleverly done that a couple of years later Microsoft borrowed heavily from it to create the metro/modern way of working for W8. I want to love it, but it's clunky, obstructive and a little too TOYS-R-US to really make me want to stay for long.

XFCE/LXDE - both have slightly different ways of doing things, both are super-lightweight for a modern GUI and both have strong reminders of windows XP. Linux Lite OS that I use on an old laptop (1.6GHz dual core, 1 Gb RAM) runs XFCE (if I recall correctly) and it's quick & responsive. Ironically it's not a DE that I've fallen in love with, even though it's so good, because it just feels a little clunky: just like XP does when you've been using a slick modern desktop. Definitely recommended for an older machine with limited RAM.

Ubuntu Unity seems to be a real marmite option, with most either loving or hating the odd colour scheme, launch bar on the left side by default, font choices etc. I tried it last Christmas in whatever was the current distro then, and found it buggy and a bit unstable. Ubuntu's popularity is inexplicable to me.

Cinnamon/Mate (Gnome 2 updated) is the continuation of what one might consider the classical Linux desktop by the Linux Mint group. I have 2 Mint installations with Mate and Cinnamon on this machine (using Mate right now) and visually they are the same, though I believe the significant differences are under the hood. Both are quick, neat, lighter than KDE, a little old fashioned looking and without so much built-in functionality (want to rip a CD - install a ripper). The feel is slicker than XFCE/LXDE and the interface more pleasing if your computer is less limited.

Finally there are the Rat Poison/crunchbang desktops that are practically not DEs at all, and work without a mouse, everything being driven by keyboard commands. Not my cup of char, and I stay well away.

What's new then?

Tonight I tried 3 distros on live DVD as a first look-see.

Elementary have a new version in beta, code named Freya that is rather sweet and reminded me a lot of Pear linux. As well as the OSX-style dock many of the icons and functions seemed similar and felt familiar. It was nicely responsive, looked attractive and made me want to see what the full release will be like. There's a current version, but I'd heard good things about the new beta and wanted to try it. Here's a video (there are probably lots) which gives an idea of how it looks. For me it worked without any fiddling, but I wasn't trying to use slightly fussy recording software like the reviewer in the video.

Bodhi linux uses the Enlightenment DE, and is designed to be minimalist and fast, yet interesting and attractive. There were a lot of warnings and caveats with this one, both in the instructions for download & DVD burning and then during the boot process. There also seemed to be pressure to donate with this distro that I've not felt with other linux versions.

So when offered the choice during boot I went for a desktop with more widgets. It looked pretty, but the clock was set on US central time without an obvious way to change. Then I couldn't get the network manager to work properly. Navigating the desktop was a bit different too, with an 'everything' menu launching when pressing alt-escape. It *looked* fascinating, but also felt like a desktop designed by a small group of friends to work *just for them*. Cool, neat, but I'm not part of that group.

KaOS uses the KDE desktop, but have re-worked the appearance and components to give a very clean, smooth DE that looks fresh and interesting, and different from the (often clunky) implementations of KDE that we see with Kubuntu, Mint KDE, PCLOS and even to an extent with openSUSE. All their packages are built specially for their version, and designed to work well, rather than being the very latest version available. I comes bundled with Calligra office, which seems clunky & old fashioned compared to Libreoffice, but would probably serve fine if you didn't want to install LO. I'll partition & install this to run alongside the existing Mint installations for a while to test performance & see whether it is stable and appeals longer term.

There y'go then, a little more exploration of places unknown. That was quite fun.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

I seem to be producing a lot of images in monochrome.

But that doesn't mean everything is black and white.

Ever have a run-away day?

Not a day that gets out of hand, though I've had a few of those, but a day where you really just want to run away, and everything feels like it's too much to cope with.

I've coped with far higher workloads, enormously more stress & pressure. Sometimes though it just feels a bit overwhelming. I've come to the conclusion that work and mental exercise is very much like physical exercise, and sometimes there's a pain barrier to push through, in order to keep going. Last night I managed 2.8 miles of slow running (about 10min/mile, which is pretty pathetic, though livable for someone >50 who isn't a runner) and there was a pain barrier overcome. Today I'm faced with various tasks, and it quite literally causes internal pain to overcome my weakness and lack of drive, feelings of inadequacy and lack of ability.

But sitting around self-entertaining will do no-one any good. Need to press on.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

So today I went hunting.

We have a walk-in storage space under the stairs, which is neither large nor grand, but it IS useful.

And used.

It's floor to ceiling with 'stuff'.

I was looking for some picture frames that had been donated sometime in the last 25 years (probably in the 90s) and although I knew roughly where they were, because of the sheer quantity of things in there I had to 2/3 empty it before they could be accessed. This wasn't a bad idea anyway, because the last time everything came out was about 18 months ago, and the front area, where tools and electrical items that are needed regularly get stored had become a mess.

This will sound funny, but I get really down, depressed, when I see how much stuff I own.

It feels like I've passed that peak, where it's so good to accumulate (actually it went by a while back) and now I like things to use, but not things to just 'own'. I've always been a bit like that (you won't find any nicnacs in out house* - I loathe them, and they're too much work for Chris) but there was a time when just owning something felt good. That time is well past, and now if it doesn't serve some practical function then it no longer warrants the space it occupies.

It would be very easy to get rid of all the junk.

It would be a terrible thing to get rid of all this useful stuff.

Some things, like the burned out computer power supply that was stored so I could raid it for components sometime has been thrown. Likewise the last bathroom fan heater that I kept 'in case I could find a way into the sealed case' to repair has gone. I have a lot of radio controlled aeromodelling stuff in there, 3 camera bags including my Bronica ETR outfit (and a horrible Practika outfit belonging to a friend, who kind of dumped it here - he also owns one of the planes in that cupboard).  There's 3 decent size combo amps and a tower of 1X12 cabs and speakers, a couple of guitars (some in bits) and the boxes for the Roland guitar synth plus other processors. There's a large pile of (good, useful) tools including several drills, belt & orbital sanders, electric and hand planes, heat guns, soldering irons, jigsaws (the circular saw is in the shed). Right at the front is the vacuum cleaner. :-)

I could go on.

It's all away again now, and that leaves me feeling happier. It just seems wrong to own so much when there are so many poor people.

*re-reading this, I realise I do have things that are meaningful to me from times past. There's a tiny magnifying glass with a silver frame that has been 'mine' since I was a boy, along with a couple of old toy cannons. There's a brass 'tortoise' desk ornament my mother gave to me 20+ years ago. Probably a few other similar bits. They all sit there, tucked away, brought out occasionally. Maybe it's self-justification, but they seem different from just having 'stuff' on display because of the meaning they possess.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

If anyone wonders what I've been photographing recently.

 In date order - a couple from Stowe gardens.

A couple from Canons Ashby on Sunday.

And a couple from Somerton.

 I apologise if they're a bit big, but most of them were sized for Facebook optimal resolution.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Time to try Linux Mint - Cinnamon edition.

Having done the Mate option (and very good it is too, if old-looking).

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.