Tuesday, 29 June 2010

We caught the bus to Mytilini this morning.

Daphne, when she heard what we were doing, recommended that it was better to visit in the afternoon, when it was cooler: to us that seemed a contradiction, because normally things get so much hotter after lunch, but she might have been right. We spray on sunblock and depart.

20 minutes of air-conditioned bus ride later.


Chris and I have been asking why we keep coming back to Greece? Everything is messy, half-working (in the ordinary places – not the expensive tourist hotels we never use) a bit dirty and very basic. I think it reminds us of a culture that used to exist in England when we were growing up: where people don’t have so much but are happy, everyone lives by ‘make do and mend’ and you have to use common sense instead of creating more and more regulations about how to live. The warmth, both of the climate and the people helps a lot too, though certainly not all Greeks will greet you with a smile, and they’re just as normal as anyone else, but there’s a believable spontaneity to their greetings. And the food does no harm either – mostly – though more on that later.

But despite the mess, dirt and building-site countryside it all kind of works and that’s, as much as anything, a reason to never want Greece to resemble Germany or Switzerland or even England.


We should have left the bus at the IKA building on the north side of Mytilini town as recommended by Iannis, but in a moment of indecision we missed the opportunity and dismounted about half way round the harbour in the south-central part of the town.

What’s Mytilini harbour like? Well, quite a lot like Marseilles, only warmer and with Greek Orthodox accessories instead of Roman Catholic ones. The open end of the harbour faces East, and coming from the North side this puts the water on our left hand side. There’s lots of colour from the shops and cafes around the outside, mostly yellows and oranges, and there’s a large ocean-going liner (Ocean Queen IIRC) moored up, plus all the usual fishing vessels, a customs ship and a couple of small-medium naval vessels with guns wrapped up. On the opposite side of the harbour there’s a long causeway that narrows the mouth, and at the end of that, a small building painted white and blue with a café restaurant.

Everything looks superficially the same, but there are a few changes, or maybe things we overlooked on our first visit. Some of the bars have girls in skimpy costumes (by Greek standards) to serve, and there are beggars and tramps, that we never saw before.

I could hear a loud voice over a PA from across the water as we make our way along, and joke with Chris about someone running a beach outreach campaign, for which I get a mild grimace. In the middle of the central section of pavement of the harbour we could see a crowd gathered, being exhorted in charged and emotional Greek, presumably to resist the government’s austerity packages. There were flags in various colours, a small bus, also in similar colours. A rounded and shortish male of about 30 with bushy beard and long curly hair in a ponytail in jeans and regulation black Tee shirt was trying to enthuse around 100 slightly bored looking people, despite the heat. Later on we saw them marching along the main street by the harbour, carrying flags and holding up the traffic. We also came across their rendezvous set up in a space behind the town hall: a PA consisting of a couple of large home-stereo floor speakers and a small amp playing that music peculiar to Mediterranean cultures which mixes deep sadness and stirring martial attitude.

It’s quite a task, threading through the streets running around the harbour – maybe the marchers had the right idea, taking over the roads. Almost every bit of frontage opposite the water is used for café space, and you have to choose between dodging waitresses and squeezing past ‘substantial’ old ladies with shopping in the narrow shady tunnel between the wall and the rows of tables, or walk freely in the sun in the road. Now that might seem the obvious thing except that the roads are full of myopic farmers in old, dusty trucks, lorries carrying building materials, enough teenagers of both sexes on scooters to scare a Bangkok native and older machismo Greek males on big, fast enduro bikes. The sheer volume of all these engines assaults the senses, and the scooters diving and weaving through the traffic very nearly assault the body.

After 50 yards of coffin-dodging on the road I spotted a narrow passage between 2 cafes and we left all that excitement and give ourselves to the shady confines of the pavement and the old ladies.

We navigated around about half the harbour before turning down a side road and onto the agora. Traditionally the agora was a mix of high street and market place where you’d buy and sell, and it’s still the main shopping street running through Mytilini. Chris observed that the Greeks like their shoe shops, and there’s certainly no lack of them. She also observed that the Greek girls seem to have similar issues to the English: there are fewer tall, slim and stunning young women than we remembered, and how figures have softened and grown. It was a great excuse to spot and point out just how many Greek lovelies there are still! We turned left up the agora toward the ‘posh’ shops and town hall.

Just past the turning we came across our first beggar. He’d lost an arm, but more disturbing was the damage to the top of his head, where a couple of deep indentations and a long scar were clearly visible. This looked for all the world like the result of military action, but if he was a soldier then why’s he begging? I had no change at the time, and now feel guilty for not leaving a small denomination note. I don’t know whether I missed it or not.

Further up the road lay the Greek Orthodox temple/church and the posh shops. On our first visit we bought ice creams from a very swanky confectioners there. The hall – it was too long, high and grand to be called a shop – was full of glass fronted display cabinets carrying the kind of cakes that are like eating chocolates (30+ euro a pop) amoretti, fancy biscuits, conventional cakes and, of course, ice cream. On this occasion we decide to leave it: the ices we had first time were not only eye-wateringly expensive, but also tasted of little but artificial flavours and sugar. The shop was also meltingly hot as a result of running all those refridgeration cabinets, so we left quickly, glad to be back in the relatively fresh air outside.

We made our way right round the harbour following the agora, then out onto the causeway that narrows the harbour mouth to take a couple of pictures before turning round and heading back.

Going the opposite way is interesting. Everything looks dingier and grubbier than it did on our first visit 2 years ago, and I’m not sure if it was the novelty then or, rather like looking at a polished surface from a different angle, simply coming from a different direction made it look scruffy instead of charming. About half way down there’s a couple of shops selling bridal gowns. It seems the Greeks know how to dress up a bride, because these are amazing confections of silk and lace and pearls, all carefully shaped and moulded at (no doubt) amazing cost.

Part way down the agora we came across another group of marchers, again complete with flags. Now here’s the bizarre thing. Running ahead of them was a mixed group of dogs, some large, some small, one with 3 ½ legs and, right at the rear and struggling to keep up came an old and really fat dog. It was just like something from Cats and Dogs, only lacking the feline element for completeness.


Mytilini town is built across a peninsula, which is low at the point it joins the main land, rising up at the end. Naturally various people have used the end of the peninsula for military purposes, and there’s still an old fort there that once held the Turkish garrison. Just outside and below the walls is a ruined Turkish bath house and a building that was last a brothel, also derelict, in decent walking distance for the soldiers. There was also once a harbour on the north side, and the ruins are still visible, complete with harbour wall and beacon to stop people hitting it.


Because the ground is low inland from the peninsula and the agora runs between north and south Mytilini we are able to walk across on a level road from one side to the other. When we reached the north harbour we crossed the road and sat in the nearest shady café. I can state now that we experienced first hand that society as we know it is beginning to crumble, for the people running the café apparently didn’t know what a ‘coke’ ‘cola’ or ‘pepsi’ was when we ordered. For various reasons we just missed our bus, and had to wait in the ‘warm’ sunshine nearly half an hour.

On the way we stop at the LIDL supermarket. There’s not a lot of ‘super’ in it, but prices for food are reasonable, though we forgot to buy the yoghurts we SPECIFICALLY wanted from there. Laden with more Feta, a funny salty cheese that doesn’t work for English palates, fruit and some plastic bread we then spent another nearly half an hour waiting because, again, we just missed our bus.

This afternoon we have been quietly sitting in our room. Chris seems to have acquired a urinary infection and my tummy was slightly in rebellion about the change to an almost vegetarian diet (Sunday I ate no meat at all). Things do seem mostly OK for me now, so maybe it’s time for a swim.

Monday, 28 June 2010

They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday’s just as bad.

This is long.

I can see clouds in the distance, over Turkey, and there was a rumble just then from behind too. However above us is blue sky, and the sun is strong and hot: without the breeze coming off the sea it would be a little uncomfy, even in the shade.

Yesterday was a little more interesting, weather-wise.

At breakfast time it started out cloudy, but that drifted away as we ate, and by around 10.30 or 11ish the sun was quite strong. We’d decided to embark on a little walking expedition, following a route we’d been shown on our first visit. The walk starts at the shore front right outside the hotel, and heads down the coast away from Thermi port past the old Roman port and the pre-roman settlement. Along the shore the ground rises up to form a hill about 15 feet high, apparently formed by the cycles of destruction and rebuilding of the settlement. There is a narrow trail between the sea and the cliff formed by erosion of the settlement mound, littered with chunks of rock from the ‘cliff’. We can see the lines of pebbles used as flooring, together with some larger stone blocks that (presumably) denoted walls etc. There’s also a surprising amount of fine white marble in large chunks laying in the narrow gap between the side of the hill and the sea, though it’s impossible to be sure that they have non-random reasons for their presence.

We carried on walking along the shore past the archaeological site entrance for about another half mile until we’re round the point and out of sight of the hotel. There’s more hotels here, but they look fairly conventional, with rows of sunbeds, conical sunshades and beach bars playing 80s soft rock hits mixed with modern Greek pop music.

We continue walking past these, but there’s not that much more of interest, so we head back again, taking a road up and away from the sea.

Across the main road that runs through Thermi lay slopes and olive groves, and we find the road that leads to a small chapel with some ancient stones embedded in the wall. Inside there are oil lamps alight and a smell of incense, along with typical Greek Orthodox paintings and polished brass hardware. On from there and further up hill to a much larger church with some Roman frescos in the outer wall.

The weather has changed again, and the clouds have returned, bringing a close, stormy feel. As we climbed higher, Chris spotted a largish snake slither quickly off the path and into the trees, and when we reached the spot, not only was there the snake, but also a large rat (or smooth-tailed squirrel) in the trees.

While we were looking on we started to feel the first raindrops fall. Initially warm, they were few and far between, though very large, and we continued climbing upward. There came a point at which we realised the rain wasn’t going to hold back, and so had to find shelter. The trail was mostly a broken track with low walls and wire fences on either side, but at a junction we found an entrance gateway for a private house, with double doors and a small overhanging roof that was JUST sufficiently deep to protect all but those parts that protrude furthest. This was just in time, and within seconds of reaching the porch the heavens opened and huge drops of rain fell, a few catching our feet, my tummy, Chris’s boobs. Flashes of lightning could be seen against a clear blue sky in the distance, as the clouds rolled overhead.

After a few minutes it slackened and thinking reprieve was near, debated whether to step out or stay put. But while I wondered, the noise from the tin roof of a garage just below us on the slope began to increase. Not only was it thundering, but we also had hail. The clouds had clearly been only limbering up, and now we enjoyed a real display of enthusiasm, with hailstones the size of peas striking a tattoo on the roof opposite, thunder rolling every minute or 2 around us.

All good things must come to an end, and the clouds having shown us what they were capable of, move off to honour others with their display. A few hundred yards further up the hill we found the trail dry and dusty: it seems our display was very localised, and other guests at the hotel reported unbroken sunshine during that time.

Eventually we came to the church of Panagios Timotelli. This building has an old section with wall paintings and a much more recent part with ornate panelled ceilings. It’s interesting, but not hugely, so we continued down the hill back toward the hotel, turning off the main trail to follow a footpath/agricultural trail through the olive trees, back to the road and the hotel.

Lunch was simple. The day before we’d bought bread, Feta cheese, a cucumber and some yoghurts, and just enjoyed these on our balcony. Up in the mountains the gods were still moving their furniture around, but down here there was birdsong and insects hard at work

That afternoon the wind dropped away to nothing and the sea became un-naturally still. The air was warm, though not hot, and a slightly misty sky took the furious heat from the sun and a swim seemed just the right thing to pass the time. Getting into the water required a small amount of will power, for it was swimming-pool cool, rather than the gently embracing warm sea that we’ve often experienced at other times in Greece. Steeling myself for the shock that never came, I pushed away on my back from the jetty that marks the area of deeper water in front of the hotel’s dining room.

There was a sense of almost unreality as I swam gently away from the shore, the oily water forming lumps and small hillocks that quickly flattened and disappeared again from my flippered feet.

As I swam, the birds seemed to have taken a siesta and were quiet. In the port a single cylinder diesel engine thudded away for a few moments, then fell silent. The only sounds were the small sploshing noises from my swimming actions and the sound of a child practicing piano in the hotel. A confident Allueta came first, then a classical piece, then Kum By Yah. Beneath my body were weed beds masking rocks, then empty spaces with sandy bottoms and shells, then more weed beds and rocks. And all the while the sea barely rippled or moved, and I could see right across to the town in Turkey on the opposite shore a few miles away.

Eventually the moment broke with a car driving along the main road, followed by a couple of scooters buzzing with noisy, frugal voices, and I returned to shore.

Later that afternoon and evening we cooked with Daphne, the mistress of the hotel, and Nina, a Norwegian woman who met a Greek, fell in love and stayed on the island. The dishes were entirely vegetarian, most using either Aubergines or Courgettes as the main bulk ingredient and cheeses and/or cream for their fat content. And everything contained olive oil. The cooking was a little like a class/demonstration and a little like working with a friend who has a party to cook for and whom you were helping.

We also met 2 other guests while cooking: Tom, a climatologist from California who enjoys cooking and has a great sense of humour, and Christina, a German woman who upped and moved to South Africa 30 years ago and made it her home. Christina also has terminal cancer, and because she was in so much pain that day, couldn’t do some of the more demanding tasks, but was still able to watch and participate in the conversation. We didn’t talk about it, but this is likely a case of doing things that there was never time for when there was time, and creating happy-sad memories of final good times with her husband, who we met later.

Later in the evening we have a small ‘ouzo party’ held by Daphne, Iannis (her husband and hotel owner) and Nina, along with other guests the families of those who also cooked. We discover that another couple who also arrived on the same day grew up just a few miles away from where I also lived before we married. The world is indeed small.

Eventually it’s bed time. The ouzo was ‘sneaky’ and suddenly caught up with me just as it was time to go. I shall have to watch that in the future.

And now – time for a dip.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry I lied to you recently, at least a bit.

The truth is, I don't trust you or feel comfortable with you, and I certainly don't really believe that you'll treat me fairly or honestly. That may be unfair on my part, but I've learned to be cautious around you from experience.

You're like a pearl - all beautiful, iridescent, and with a little grain of scratchy grit that has been covered and smoothed over as you've walked with God through all the years. But when you turn over there's still a sharp piece of grit sticking through, and when people get close they get scratched.

I know God's doing something about it, how He wants His love to flow out of your heart and cover that part of you too, and I'm praying for you that it will happen: for your sake as much as everyone else's. But I still feel the scratches, and some are quite deep, sore and a bit festery. Healing isn't instant, even in ideal circumstances, and we aren't ideal.

So I'm sorry I didn't tell you the complete truth, but I don't think it would be helpful to drag up now. I hope one day I'll trust you again, and we'll be friends.

And hope is a good sign.

Oh look - we have internets again.

That must mean that England have finished their game in the world cup.


Why do we polarise?

Originally from the FT:

We have all become more polarized in how we respond to news and institutions. We now cannot simply raise an eyebrow in response to a topical item, but respond in either the extreme positive – or negative.

We now live in an age where we are either Brand Talibans – whatever the organization does, good or bad, will actually reinforce our negativity – or at the other end of the spectrum – Brand evangelists – stoutly defending the organization, whatever is thrown at it.

This increasing black / white polarization, I would suggest, is down to our increasing alienation in a faster moving world, where we have to resort to fundamental good / bad safe / unsafe judgment calls to maintain our sense of well-being. Hating or loving BP reinforces our world, as we choose to see it.

Yes there are those who will hate BP more (if they are so inclined), but equally there are others who will become more resolutely pro-BP, whatever the headlines it continues to spill.

From here although in their context they've asked why Apple are either loved or hated.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Fathers day is one of the least pleasant days of the year for me

It's a knife in the side, a constant reminder of what is available no more. It hurts less than it did, and I can return the love of others in their kindness remembering me, but it's a day I'd prefer to never re-visit.

I love my son, but somehow it's separate from what this day brings to me. A sense of loss mixed with futility and impotence. Of life spent and a future lost.

Givin' it up, givin' it up, yeah.

Was that cool and the gang?

I'm seriously wondering if I need to let the whole blogging/facebook/forums thing go to spend time with God and my family more. My net usage IS excessive, even though it's better controlled than it has been. I'm starting to wonder if the simple fact of spending more time on the net than I do with God (or possibly even talking with my wife) is a sin and a snare to me, more so than all the really bad places I could go.

This isn't about a show, taking a break to be creative or trying to make everyone to bring encouragement so I feel better. On the contrary, it's about recognising an issue and dealing with it. Unlike one or 2 of you I don't have a pastoral ministry on teh intarwebs, except maybe a little bit in Facebook, but with people I already know in meatspace.

This blog may have had it's time too.

And if people love me that much they can always email me.

Calling Georgia

This link is just for you: it's the location to the right, the one on the left is in the village. Sorry it's a little late.

Everyone else.... nothing to see here. Move along please.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

What was I saying about download or... steal?

The interesting part is toward the end of this article although I'd recommend reading all of it. It's a 'what if' scenario of google acquiring distribution of music online.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

More on the synth.

Played the guitar synth last night, and after a false start I really enjoyed it. Some sounds are silly, some develop too slowly for guitar use and some are abrasive in the way that only synth can be.

But some sounds are wonderful, and I'd love to use this live. Flute was brilliant - with a light touch on the fretboard it can be made to soar and trill just like the real thing. Trumpet was great, and both solo and harmonised trumpets sounded realistic, particularly when carefully punctuated and playing riffs. Some of the organ sounds are monstrous: they make the guitar *feel* just like it does when you have a really huge, crunchy and thunderous overdrive going on - I can see why Jon Lord fitted into Deep Purple so well. Sax was OK, but nothing special. Banjo was reasonably authentic, but lacked sustain a little. Piano would be usable, sounding particularly authentic with picked arpeggios, but doesn't set the world alight. There's also a tremendous bass patch that sounds much better than my bass rig!

The guitar tracks well with relatively few glitches, particularly when playing single notes, but even chords were fully acceptable for some patches. It needs a little care not to fret notes that aren't intentional, since even though they'd normally be un-noticeable, the synth picks them up and responds. But it was really fun to try to get into character for each instrument. It seems my natural playing is probably much less rock-guitar oriented and much more toward a wider musicality that I'd expected.

Would I buy one? At the right price, certainly.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Occarina or pan pipes anyone?

I've just been loaned a Roland GR30 guitar synth by a friend here. It's compatible with the Godin xtSA guitar synth controller.

Just the right chance for me to work on my trumpet and sax solos.

Just looked at the weather forecast

for Mytilini (they spell it mitilini) on the beeb weather page.

The lowest expected daytime temperature at the airport for the next 5 days was 37'C, night time low was 24'C.

That's warm, and it's the mid June.

Friday, 11 June 2010

At long last.

The great re-install finally seems to be happening.

The story is long and complicated, and it's been difficult to reach this point, requiring an arcane set of software tools, but most especially useful was the XP-pro DVD. Yep, that's right - Installing linux required the use of XP. This knowledge is the fruit of 3 evenings labour!

The story is that although each version of linux contains it's own set of disc partitioning tools, most of them are flawed. Thus when I partitioned the disc with PCLOS is didn't create clean free spaces, but instead marked them in some way for PCLOS use only. PCLOS had to go on first because Sabayon uses logical volume management: a great tool that seems to good good access to storage space, but which locks out PCLOS and Ubuntu (mostly). PCLOS also fails to install a bootloader properly, so that windows will always boot into windows regardless - not clever.

The answer was to do a full format in XP (a 'quickie' wasn't 'deep' enough) to create a single 1.39Gb partition. PCLOS was then installed by taking space from the NTFS partition, taking about 139Gb. Because it doesn't load GRUB properly it was then necessary to reboot it into the live CD again and resize the NTFS partition (I could probably do this using the XP DVD, but familiarity made me want to use the partition tools in Linux).

So having created 800Gb+ of apparently free space, I found that for both Sabayon 5.2 and 5.3 (running off live CDs, remember, so several minutes boot up time each try) the installers were crashing because the space, while not formatted, was also not 'free'. Load up XP again, and I could see that although the 800Gb partition was not formatted, it was also not truly free space either, so using XP tools this time I deleted all data in it.

And re-booted with Sabayon 5.3 again.

THIS TIME it saw the space as truly free, formatted it (seemed to take forever) and then installed. I've just updated the software update manager - called entropy - to the current version and refreshed the repository lists (Linux software is held in central stores, rather than pulled from anywhere on the web).

My final installation will now be Kubuntu, if it will go in. Why not Ubuntu? Because Gnome doesn't seem to posses the tools to establish a wireless network in a sensible fashion, and I also like the KDE 4.4 interface. That will hopefully allow me to create a KDE version of Ubuntu Studio that can also connect wirelessly and allow for updates etc. Plus Ubuntu uses GRUB 2, which has excellent automatic recognition of other OSs, and will allow access to PCLOS that was first installed.

Let's hope I don't just Nuke the system and have to start again!

So here we go - I hope i don't

Could Joseph Ratzinger be a prophet?

There's something I read from here that I found via Hamo. The original post is:

Paul writes – I was struck by the following, a quote within a quote from the June 7th 2010 issue of Time Magazine. The article I’m referencing was the feature article on the Papacy and trouble besetting the world-wide Catholic Church

It reads:

“…One vision for the future echoes from the past. A conservative website is circulating a prophecy uttered by a 42-year old Catholic theologian in 1969, amid the turmoil of that year of radicalism and barricades.

The priest envisaged a post-imperial papacy, shorn of wealth and pretences of earthly power. “From today’s crisis, a church will emerge tomorrow that will have lost a great deal,” he said on German radio. “She will be small and, to a large extent, will have to start from the beginning. She will not longer be able to fill many of the buildings created in her period of great splendor. Because of the smaller number of her followers she will lose many of her priviledges in society. Contrary to what has happened until now, she will present herself much more as a community of followers… As a small community, she will demand much more from the initiative of each of her members and she will certainly also acknowledge new forms of ministry and will raise up to the priesthood proven Christians who have other jobs… It will make her poor and a church of the little people… All this will require time. The process will be slow and painful.”

The theologian was Joseph Ratzinger. And his vision from 40 years ago may now unfold in ways he could never have imagined…”

I can’t see these kinds of changes happening anytime soon – well not in my lifetime. Invariably the potentially radically nature of such a vision gets undermined by lesser dreams, pragmatism and political obstructions.

Personally I don't think this was prophetic, so much as a young man with an understanding of the Roman Catholic church, the bible and enough insight into changes in the world reading and understanding the times. Of course for some that may be what they think of as prophetic. Never the less, it IS an interesting thing to read now, considering all that's happened and how the RC church is being viewed after so many hidden things being made public.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Well the 1.5TB drive is here.

However Linux is darn reluctant to install on it in any flavour.

Popped it in the box yesterday, Sabayon disc initialised it but couldn't create an NTFS partition, and since it uses logical volumes it actually prevents any other OS from being installed alongside.

So spat that disc out, in with PCLinuxOS. Created an NTFS partition, a 100Gb partition formated in ext4 and a 1TB unformatted main partition.

Back in with Sabayon. Point it at the empty space and pressed 'go'.

It hung after partially formatting.

Back in with PCLOS, wiped the debris from Sabayon, started an install.

Hung after partially formatting.

Linux Mint, ditto.

2nd round of Sabayon and PCLOS now failing to recognise presence of hard drive at all!

SUSE 11.1, Ubuntu 10.04, 9.10 and Kubuntu 10.04 all balked.

XP. Ah, XP.

Popped disc in, quick format, no worries.

Sabayon & PCLOS rinsed and repeated earlier performance.

XP disc in, slow format O/N. Install this morning - dang, that disc is fast. No more than about 6 or 7 min from the time enter was pressed after entering the license code. XP *appears* completely fine.

And that's as far as things have got. If I get time later this evening I'll try another re-partitioning and rebuild, but this is just damn silly so far. It's a virgin disc for heavens sakes, and apparently fine, since XP + SP2 installed without any trouble at all. Maybe I'll do a WUBI, if Kubuntu will do that, and see if it really can work.

One further thing puzzles me - why can't any Ubuntu builds access their repositories, even over a cable connection? That's weird.

I’ve just noticed something interesting.

Working as a consultant, but not very much, coupled with the small amount of labwork I do means that I’m a bit rusty and not as good in the lab as I would be doing it all the time.

It makes me plan.

When I’m good at something (and I can be GOOD) it can all be done on the fly, decisions taken as questions arrive, trouble shot as it pokes it head up.

Does planning indicate lower adequacy - those who can, do, those who can't, plan?

There’s a thought.

When the darkness closes in, Lord… what will I say?

In fact do we even have an idea of what this means? It’s not about a “one way ticket to hell and back”*

It’s a good, emotive song line, But 21st century church theology isn’t particularly hot on understanding about “when the darkness closes in” and what we should do when it does.

I can ‘see’ several spins on what this phrase might mean: difficult circumstances, hardship, disasters. Those are all good times to proclaim the Lordship and ‘blessedness’ of Jesus. But what about when things are a little closer to home, not in the big and external pressures and struggles, but the ones when the darkness closes with things that affect us in our daily lives.

Paul talks about us not being aware of the enemy's plans, in this case in the context of relationship:

2 Corinthians 2:10-11
When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.

He also talks about the mind being a battleground, and the need to take thoughts captive so that they may be brought under the authority of Jesus, instead of being allowed to rule us. So in this context I’d very much see the mind as being one of the places that darkness closes in on, in order to sway and divert us.

This is quite personal for me. I’m very much aware of some of satan’s evil schemes, and the damage he’d like to do to me and others through them. How much harm would it do if I had an affair? How many would be wounded in the church if I were (more?) careless or lacked self-restraint in my words with fragile people I’m supposed to care for? What about if I stole things in order to help my business survive? The mind is a battle ground.

It’s natural to assume that as a Christian, the more mature you are, the less of an issue these things become: you recognise where they come from and you deal with them almost out of habit. I’d strongly suggest this is not the case, and that in fact these things are a daily battle for anyone living out in the world. Certainly one can expose oneself to greater risk, but to think that you’re safe just because you’ve 20 or more years experience is foolishness and begging for a practical demonstration otherwise.

Sunday night is when HPC has a prayer meeting bordering on a Quaker approach, with times of waiting and times of sharing. Certain words came out for me that have continued to resonate (now there’s a good PoMo word!) about Elijah, living in difficult places, receiving food from unclean/unacceptable sources and the need to run across a desert to find God.

One of the interesting things that came out from discussion afterward was the point of view that Elijah didn’t have to go through the times of difficulty that he did – if he’d just had faith, God would have taken care of him.

There was certainly a time when I’d have agreed in an “all you need is… faith” kind of way. Like every situation can be sorted out if we’d just deal with it right – take it to God and all will be well again. But now I’m not at all sure – Jesus walked past plenty of sick and hurt people without healing them. It seems so often that God does take us through pain, struggle, uncertainty, distress, trauma in our walk with Him. And sometimes we come out of it stronger, more able, more useful.

And sometimes we come out worse.

There’s also an aspect of the oft quoted phrase “in all things God works together for the good of those who love Him” that makes me wonder if this is quoted to just keep people having a bad time quiet and hopeful. A friend recently commented that the church is the only army that actually shoots it’s own wounded, and she’d certainly witnessed plenty of that too. Is God at work for the good of those who love Him when that happens? How long a view do we need to take? Does everyone get a ‘Joseph outcome’ in the end?

And cynicism is a VERY dangerous thing too.

So what’s this blog post about? Well, it could be just a vaguely themed stream of consciousness kind of thing, and it could also be a challenge for those who just mindlessly sing song lyrics because the song is cool and apparently anointed. It’s not intended to be an expression of personal angst, though it is a way of expressing carried thoughts. But one of the most subtle, hard to spot, yet most devastating areas in which we can be affected is our minds. I am not convinced that quoting Ephesians 6 is the entire solution.

What do you say and do when the darkness closes in?

*It’s the title of the last album from a band called The Darkness. Without a sense of humour you might as well just stay miserable.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Looks like another computer rebuild.

The HDD on that Linux box I moved across too appears to have just failed - the MoBo recognises it on booting but can't read the OS. The drive itself is a Seagate 250Gb SATA unit I bought 4 years ago: now out of warranty, fairly well used, so I guess it doesn't owe us too much. Some warning about imminent death might have been nice though (what's the point of SMART then?).

So if you sent an email, don't expect me to reply for a few days until the rebuild is done again.

Mikey Mo - is there an advantage (like an optimised kernel) to installing Ubuntu Studio over standard Kubuntu and then installing the packages?

This is where it gets a little silly. I'll have a terabyte+ of drive space to play with (once I've backed up this PC). I'd quite like to try a bunch of different OSs while keeping Sabayon as the main OS: Kubuntu, Open SUSE 11.3, PCLinuxOS, Linux Mint, maybe even do a Hackintosh. I just wonder if this is a darn silly waste of time and energy.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

To buy, steal by download or... read on google?

There's a book that I've been loaned by a friend in another company here: Bioconjugate Techniques by Greg Hermanson. It's a major tome that has become THE seminal work on bioconjugation methods, and is likely to be an essential reference work for me in the future. The obvious step is therefore to buy it.

A quick hunt on google and Amazon turned up legit copies for sale, and also a lot of sites, mostly torrents, offering to let me download it free in .pdf format, which is obviously piracy. Or is it? The book is also available free on Google books.

Now I've been aware for some time of Google essentially taking/breaking copyright on books that were out of print, and fair enough in many ways. However this appears to be the latest edition, no more than 2 years old and available for purchase from any number of bookshops internationally. There is no justification, therefore, for Google publishing it 'online'.

There was a time that I felt like the LAW was an absolute, laws (in the UK at least) as they had been made were reasonable, just and for everyone's best. The older I get the more I see laws being designed as tools for shaping society to fit the desires and wishes of a few. Whether it's enforcing slower and slower speed limits on roads, knee-jerk reactions to substance abuse or in this case, quietly subverting copyright rules for written work while there is a major furore over the exact same thing being done by individuals to recorded music.

Never before was the law an ass like it's an ass now. And it seems there's no limit to the loads this ass will bear on it's back to benefit some and not others.

In case you wonder, I'm going to buy the book so the the author will receive a royalty. It's worth it in the hope it will inspire others to write similarly useful works.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

To criticise or stay quiet?

There's a Christian worship musicians website that I enjoy (HMI - see the link on the left) with a strict "No Criticism" policy. One or two nudge the limits occasionally, but most people stay within the (reasonable) boundaries of decency.


However there's a problem.

It stops reality.

I can and have criticised certain artists, styles of music and song content from here, and that can reflect reality, rather than just being a matter of opinion. But although I'd love to talk about these things over there, I can't bring myself to break the site rules. The danger of a lack of criticism is that any and every old tat gets given acceptance. The danger of permitting criticism is that you end up with a pit of vipers, and the snake with the longest fangs/slipperiest skin gets to guide everything.

I wish there was a place of reality in the middle, where a spade was simply described as such, rather than having to either skirt an issue or present pictures of the politician you didn't like dressed as Hitler/Bin Laden to make your point.

Bloomin' Christians are such a difficult bunch.

Talking of migrating OSs

I'd hoped to move my personal data across this evening from the XP box downstairs. Now I'm running 3 OSs on a 250Gb HDD here, and although they're hardly cramped, there's no large chunks of space available either (the biggest single partition is 90Gb-ish).

So I went to look at just how much space I'd need for personal files only. Bear in mind that I don't download music, rip CDs much (just for the MP3 player) or DVDs. I do have a few youtube videos saved, a few Gb of digital images and some guitar recording, plus there is some duplication from earlier hard drive evacuations.

Total of my *personal* data came to 115Gb.

This is irritating. I suppose I could back up the email and browser personal settings on here once again, then nuke and re-install to a single partition, but that's darn inconvenient, and it's good to have options for fiddling. Looks like I do need another HDD to complete the migration, and I really didn't want to spend the money.

Just tried

The latest build of openSUSE 11.3 in KDE flavour.

Colours are nice, it found and enable me to use the wireless card (I think all the wireless issues are gnome-related, rather than individual OSs) and it felt crisp. Icons and various customisations look really good. Available apps were the usual suspects for KDE plus a couple I didn't recognise.

OK, the bad side: notice I said I 'tried' instead of 'posting from'. Firefox just crashed every time it was started. Konqueror couldn't connect to the network (probably defaulting to IPV6, and I don't know how to alter the settings). Fonts were a bit scrotty, smeary and bleeding like a Ubuntu installation in O_o, and that would mean an absolute and automatic rejection from me.

No-one's knocking Sabayon off his perch for now, although I may have to try to find a way of importing the icoms and maybe wallpaper of Ubuntu Studio (gnome, spit) since they actually look better. I really like the muted, functional look of windows classic, US etc. Toy-R-us Icons are for kids and marketing departments.

Welcome to June

Sometimes called 'Flamin' June' on account of the way it seems to rain so much.

I'm quite happy to be shot of May though - it's never a good month for us, and always a time of emotions flapping around, of distress and changes. The last 2 weeks, apart from recovering from the cold I had were hardly what I'd call focussed or productive. So good riddance, May.

There are a number of things I'm thinking about that are 'life-changing' at the moment, one of which is to do with work, though that's nearly resolved again. I'm also considering whether certain qualifications are required to move forwards and be taken seriously in certain circles, and although it makes me squirm a little, sometimes squirming mustn't be a barrier. We need to look into the compromises such a step would require, and whether it's possible to retain integrity while making those compromises. For some, the promises that would be required are a complete non-issue, and for some they'd even seem right, but somethings can be just a step too far. I remember a lot of mixed feelings seeing my good friend dressed like this. I guess that sometimes if a goal becomes important enough, one swallows the toads to acquire the tools for what has to be done.

Sorry to talk in obtuse language. It may be what you think, but it probably isn't.

I do carry one fear with me though. We had/have a good friend who went to help with a new church plant, taking his family from one country to another. I remember hearing him preach on various things, including the need to run away from the very thing that finally caught him and tore him from his faith and his family. It scares me that someone who was obviously going on with God was still able to fall away like that, first letting his relationship with Jesus go bit by bit before walking out on the woman that loved him. I know I carry within me the same capability that he did, and that's something to be frightened of. Does this area carry the same or similar spritiual forces at work as some secular, humanist nations? I wonder.