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.

Monday, 14 July 2014

At some stage I plan to write things up.

But it might not actually happen.


Had a bizarre thing that started just a few minutes into the flight home, where the slightest movement of my head made me feel out of control and dizzy, and at the same time I broke out into a clammy sweat and felt queasy: Chris said I went an odd colour. Pretty sure it was pressure changes, and I'd been having occasional wobbly moments throughout our time away, but it *felt* like it might be the start of food poisoning. After an hour or so everything settled down and I was OK for the rest of the trip.

Another curious thing was that, unlike when we've done North America to arrive early in UK in the past, there was no night-phase to the trip. The plane went pretty much over the pole, resulting in a flight through endless daylight and a reduction in a desire to catch sleep.

Getting back was good, since here is where home is. The smell of a land long lived in, driving a car with a manual gearbox (oh the joy of a direct connection between engine and wheels) road signs as one expects them, glorious countryside, gentle sun and cool breezes.

And finally getting home went fine. When we opened the front door our poor old house ponged to high heaven downstairs, and getting the windows open and rubbish outside became a matter of urgency. We managed to put a wash on, have a nap, then I got shopping in - life is going back to normal pretty quickly then. But at this point I'm determined not to go back to how things were before we went away - maybe more later on that. We did have a great time away, but more than that, I think we have more clarity on how to move in our situation here, even if there isn't a specific direction yet to move in.

So here we are, back in the land of the overcast sky, but not quite the same as before we left.

Waiting for the bags

Good old Gatport Airwick. Never been through passport control so fast before.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

This man isn't Moses

I believe this to be true because he told me so just now.

But he's shown me Jesus over the last few days in a way that's brought refreshing and, if not a specific way ahead, a chance to think through things and to seek a way forward in a better way than I would otherwise. Randall and Lauralea have welcomed us into our home and spent precious time with us, and I'm honoured they would value us to do it. Tomorrow morning we leave and fly home again.

We've known each other for a long time now, and I am grateful for that knowing.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Sat in a quiet house in a field

It's a hot afternoon outside - probably 28'C - and we've been out, had brunch, then wandered round Ponoka, picking up goodies in thrift stores. Now we're back to nap & relax for the rest of the afternoon before I start dinner (as promised).

We have a big decision to make when we get back, and I really don't know which way it will go: do we take the path of struggle and being discouraged or do we take the path that has been life and encouragement.

Monday, 7 July 2014

So we are sat.

.......outside a house in a field. Travelling time was a little shorter than previous experience led us to expect and I've been able to hop on our gracious hosts wireless connection.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

The curiously named lake Minnewanka.

Canadians don't double entendre by halves, and this place is right by Johnson and Two Jack.

Pun aside, it's beautiful.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Mountain life

Mount Revelstoke, yesterday.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Faith and expectation.

And having put a title I now don't want to write.

And when I started writing, the words I wanted to put didn't bring life, but reinforced a negative message. Which I shall not accept.

In many ways it's been a really good afternoon, putting together the maps and directions for our trip to Canada. That was a challenge in itself with one particular place requiring me to 'drive' 42km from Jasper along highway 16 with google maps to find the place we're staying.

The Macbook (my travel computer on this journey) has just finished updating, and I'm getting the Kindle app to download the latest books. Next will be to sync Kobo app and delete unwanted information from the drive to make space for photos.

I think that I shall leave the office shortly (and a little early) to go for a run so that I'm recovered in time for dinner, followed by packing. Going through clothes >24 hours ahead of departure is always a good plan to avoid panic.