Friday, 19 April 2013

Can we break the pattern?

There seem to be patterns of behaviour that can go with a pioneer spirit. The positive side is self-starting, strength of character, determination, faith and hope. But as we were talking last night in church, the flip side of determination is stubbornness: and so follows independence, imposition of will, expectation and drivenness. I know these characteristics well because, in my time, I've been a pioneer and displayed the negative aspects of them freely, even taking a certain amount of pride in doing so.

As a church we have been displaying them as well, all too clearly. So many activities that we've had seem to have been started by someone 'deciding' it was going to be started. Obvious, d'uh? Yes, but the answer as to why it's an issue is inherent in that statement.

The Church is meant to be the body of Jesus on earth. A body cannot walk well if a left foot decides to move off one way while the right foot decided it really likes the place it's already reached. What happens at meal times if the hands are carefully coordinating the transport of food, but the mouth is busy talking? So it is with any kind of church activity. If I go ahead and start a discussion group for single Asian men below 5'8" because I "feel God is calling me to do it" then we may have a group for short, light brown, unmarried men for a while, but despite everyone that comes to it being part of the church, it isn't a church group. And if, after a few years, there is a need for me to do something else, well, the group is 'mine' so I can just close it and move on.

I mean to throw no stones, but as a church we have modelled independence instead of inter-dependence as a pattern for church life.

So God is trying to break the pattern in us.

Talking after last night's meeting with Eddy made me realise this is why I'm trying to submit the things I think we should be doing to the overall church leadership, even though the reasoning was unconscious for the most part. A few times it has seemed as though it would be so much easier to get 'forgiveness than permission' - actually among men at least, we almost seem to use that expression with pride instead of shame - but God has been very gracious in keeping me from that course of action. There have been times I've walked away from those leadership meetings feeling down, ineffectual and frustrated, yet at the same time I KNOW we need to agree together on a course of action before we take things to the church.

Is this really the right way? Leadership by committee?

If this were just a committee then I'd say firmly 'NO', but I'd say that each person on the leadership team is there because that's where God wanted them to be, and we are a VERY diverse bunch with all kinds of views and perspectives. Yet at the same time there IS a unity present among us, and a determination to seek God for the best for His church at Heyford Park. We are learning to submit to each other, and the result of that seems a different atmosphere in the church, a lightness, an openness, an acceptance that we never had.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Just amazed at the grace of God tonight.

In particular, the way He seems to line things up for us. I'd already planned to use this video (thanks Mikey Mo for providing the link).

We began sharing, and John provided the natural introduction, talking about how he'd seen himself and how he'd been seen by others, all completely unaware of what was coming next. And the grace of God was very much present for all of us, with not a single person staying silent or being left out. I love watching people share their struggles and weaknesses, insights and understanding, being built up as they hear and as they share. It's so much better than me standing at the front, telling everyone how it should be and how they should live.

The video is interesting on many levels, and while it's been very carefully designed to be emotionally provoking (and it's highly effective too) as well as being personal it could also be applied to churches. I had a real sense that some parts of the church would see themselves as ugly (or worse, see other parts as ugly). But Jesus loves this church, died for it, and instead of telling us we don't look too good, He's bringing words of encouragement, comfort and reassurance to us.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

One gig two.

And so I reverted.

Back to Pear Linux 7 that is.

Mint KDE worked, mostly, except for DVD playback - though it wasn't opening DVDs at all until the region code on the drive had been set - which was too much to expect of an older machine running a demanding modern operating system. I really like the way that when opening an audio CD, KDE's file manager offers the audio for download to the hard drive in every format for which the machine has codecs loaded.

But it was sluggish and the machine ran warm all the time, even when idling, which was going to kill battery life quickly. Less good was the lack of hard drive encryption, and if I am to take personal data with me then I really don't want to risk it falling into anyone else's hands.

I'd been discussing the issue of getting 'non-free' codecs onto pear with one of the guys on the forum, and it turned out the problem the previous day was my failure to direct the machine properly. So a quick reinstall, a few minutes on the command line and the install of a bunch of updates and voila, DVD playback!

Security is better with pear too, and to access the machine a hard drive decryption password is required as well as a (different) user password to access both the desktop and any control functions. A real time battery life check gave a genuine 2 hours including some thrashing of the hard drive when too many programs were open at once while installing updates. Audio quality through some cheap Radiopaq headphones (£1.99 at ebuyer) is also more than fair, and Dire Straits Lady Writer was clear, detailed and involving.

Looks like that's pretty much sorted then. Just need to set up email accounts and it should be ready.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

How do you cope with only 1 gig?

Sorry - this is geekery, rather than music.


If you're going to travel somewhere that theft is apparently natural and property considered to be common, is it a good idea to take shiny, desirable bits of kit or is it better to haul something old and borderline disposable?

This week I picked up an old laptop from another business owner where I work to take away. He'd put Vista on it when he first acquired it 7 years ago and had hauled it round to use making presentations, gradually silting up the OS under layers of applications with varying degrees of usefulness. It had got to the stage of taking about 5min to boot and then another 3min to open a powerpoint talk, while battery life had dropped under an hour. The poor little thing only had 1 gig of RAM (hence the title) and was thrashing the hard drive just to start up.

The plan was to swap out the original 80Gb HDD for an old WD 320Gb drive (warranty replacement for a failed drive) I had laying about. The memory was a bit more problematic, because although it would *probably* take a 2Gb stick, there was only 1 slot, and the theoretical max was 1Gb. Plus I didn't really want to spend £25 on a 2Gb stick of PC-5300 laptop memory if it was going to get nicked.

So the trick is to find an OS that can cope with 1Gb RAM and still not play the waiting game.

I tried a bunch of different OSs run 'live' of DVDs and to my surprise Pear Linux 7 came out well ahead. Now this seems wrong because it's basically Ubuntu (slightly slow) with a heavily modified  Gnome 3 interface (also slow) but running a newish kernel (3.7 - fast). So on it went and it was very usable indeed, except that some aspects were broken and I couldn't be bothered to keep trying to fix it. I moved down the Pear scale and installed 6, but that hung & crashed.

Right now it has Mint KDE on and has just finished updating. Tomorrow I'll see how KDE copes on a 1Gb platform.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

On a slightly geeky topic - .png or .jpeg

Those who are observant and care about these things will have noticed that all the images posted recently have been .png files. I've begun using this format because it doesn't degrade the image quality, however the file sizes are a little bit bigger than a similar size 'jpeg file.

One of the image sharing sites I've used will not allow anything but .jpeg files, and it got me wondering how much difference there really was between the 2 for file size and image quality. I'd be interested in any opinions you might have.

About hearing God

When looking in from outside, I think many atheists see us wacky Christians talking about 'hearing God' and are pretty sure we're either:

a) Barking mad and dangerous.
b) Gently self-deluding.
c) Inclined to invent stuff that gives us permission to do what we want.
d) Trying to fit in the the rest of these odd people.

So I don't want to talk about the mechanics of hearing especially, other than to say that various (strong Christian) people have come to me independently all saying the same thing - it makes you start to take note when you hear that, especially when they aren't necessarily even doing it to help you.

But regardless. :-)

This morning I was sat at breakfast, just reading the bible as usual, and it seemed to me the Spirit said "you need to make some notes about this and that, because the man who was due to preach may not be there this morning". And that's how it turned out. So today I actually spent less time in preparation than I did speaking, and I felt far happier about what was said and the response it produced than last week when hours were spent in preparation.

There's a sense of Deju vu

It can be SO hard to be different from one's parents, unless one has a strong determination not to follow.

This afternoon Ben asked for help with a soldering job again. Yesterday we replaced a component in the CPU of his Mazda MX5 that should make it run cleaner and today it was fixing a loudspeaker by re-attaching the flexible braid for the voice coil. This is JUST how things used to be for me growing up, where my father had all these skills and I had some jobs I just knew he'd do so much better than me. When he was in hospital with the mangled leg, again the echoes of things that happened to me were so strong (I mangled my left leg too, although I was hospitalised properly for a week with a broken rib, punctured lung & concussion after falling from a motorcyle).

Our children are such a mix of us though. In some ways he's much more like Chris, in others very like me. I hope he's able to make many of the good decisions that I was mercifully able to, and not end up with the trainwreck of a life that might also have been mine. He is his own man though, and I'm glad for that.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A little magnificence

I've found taking pictures of naked trees round here much more rewarding than when they are covered in leaves. There's a marvellous structure that's hidden by summer clothing.

Hello Mr. Hedgehog.

This morning in men's study group we were talking about opening up the armour that keeps our tender selves protected and allow others in, even though we will get hurt. The comment was made about how some of us know that there's someone waiting to stick a barb into us if we do, but I had much more the picture of 2 hedgehogs trying to embrace. Neither hedgehog feels like he's spiny and both know they are soft on the inside, yet when they get close to each other they both feel spiked (I know this is anatomically incorrect, but go with the idea, OK).

So it seems with church life. 

And married life.

And family life.

In fact, put any 2 humans together in relationship and at some stage they'll start driving spikes into each other.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Just a couple more pictures.

Trying to find the glow in wood.

The above image looks lovely on my screen at home: subtle, rich, warm and detailed. However on my (Dell IPS) work monitor it looks dark, dull and uninspiring. The image below of the catch for a farm gate looks similarly uninspiring on this monitor, but not so muchthe others in that set. I've re-worked the image to suit that monitor, and would be interested to hear which, if either, people preferred. That would also give me information about how my images are appearing on other people's screens.


Image version 2

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A change is as good as.....

doing something different.

Geek post alert.

I've just switch operating system/desktops again, this time migrating to openSUSE 12.3 running KDE 4.10, which I briefly reviewed a few weeks ago.

The last time I selected openSUSE as my main OS was 3 years ago IIRC with 11x, but back then it was a bit unstable, inclined to slow down at odd times and badly lagging behind in application updates as the developer played it safe. However with 12.3 the developer really pulled out the stops, bringing a quicker and cleaner DE with subtle but pleasing theming and very up to date apps. It seems to be well supported by software developers too, and Raw Therapee* that I mentioned in an earlier post already has a bleeding edge version in the repos that looks very slick indeed.

This time it was mostly software that made me switch, but not alone.

I really like Pear Linux. Except it was still too Maclike. And even though it was all fine, familiar etc, and some VERY attractive design work had been done, software versions were still >12 months out of date, audio codecs didn't work and half the non-free bits & pieces that make software nice to use (like non-free fonts for browsers and office apps) were missing/not working from the non-free sources.

So after a couple of goes at fixing things without success, having switched between hard drives in the boot sequence so I could use openSUSE to edit images properly, I decided not to switch back and just simply imported all my data into the openSUSE home folder.

Now I have sharper graphics again under KDE instead of Ubuntu/Gnome and a nice slick interface. I never thought it would happen, but I'm missing the dock to launch applications and 'mission control' from the top left of my screen (although I don't need it since KDE has a taskbar at the bottom) and (so far) everything is working well. I've no idea whether I'll stick with this OS, although if I'm going to be doing much photo editing in the future then that will be a major factor in not choosing a Ubuntu-based distro. That said, this is still somewhat slower than pear during some operations, but for the moment it's nice to be back again.

I wonder what Ubuntu studio is like these days? ;-)

*available for the Mac, but only under OSX10.6 or earlier. Yes, I tried. No, it doesn't work on 10.8, which seems to be a theme with some other image editors too, judging by comments in the app store.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


Yes, probably, but it's so much fun. As an added bonus it is unlikely I'll ever be made into a cardboard box.

More spring pics.

I'm gradually learning and adapting, plus have started using Raw Therapee to manipulate the .raf files from the Fuji. Raw Therapee has much more subtle tonal controls, plus a better de-speckle, while DigiKam is better at gross tonal changes and sharpening.

The Fuji sensor seems good at more subtle colours than the Samsung, though not without considerable help, but the Samsung is very much cleaner, even though it's an 8+ year old design. Noise doesn't show up at these sizes, but even at 100ASA it leaps off the page when pixel peeping.

But the good thing about the Fuji is that it makes me want to take pictures again, even with the hit & miss results it produces.

Monday, 8 April 2013

If only they could talk.

Something that keeps coming back to me right now is how much we don't say to each other of our thoughts. In un-christian society, keeping one's thoughts to oneself greases passage and allows people to move past each other while remaining unaffected and untroubled by the contact. Little is transferred between people and each generally remain as they want to be.

I'd more or less moved on from this topic, but a post on a friend's blog reminded me and triggered these thoughts. Ineke had posted links to videos by Rend Collective Experiment, and the lines on The Cost (last one on this page) reminded me:

I'll chase you through the pain,
I'll carry my cross,
'Cause real love is not afraid to bleed.

Would we be different if we were willing to bleed a little for each other, to be able to be open about the stuff we thought and felt, instead of being socially lubricious (good word that!) and sliding smoothly past each other. Me, I'm guilty as anyone of that, except for very occasionally when I might forget.

I'm not really a great shopper.

But it was nice to receive a couple of things in the post today from Amazon: a ball & socket head for a monopod to let me take steadier pictures, and the book Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna to maybe help me see churchy things a little more clearly. I'm sure neither are perfect - the B&S head is cheap and gritty, and it's likely that the book isn't necessarily the accurate historical account I'd really like - yet at the same time they should both help anchor things a little more.

@Marc V - I seem to have developed your habit of reading multiple books. Currently on the go I have Reimagining Church by Frank Viola, War and Peace (yup, the door stop size classic - Kobo reader) A Popular Account of Dr. Livingstone's Expedition To The Zambesi by David and Christopher Livingstone (Kobo app on the phone), the Confessions of Saint Augustine (kindle app on the phone), and I've just finished a biography of General Ulysses Grant (Kobo app on the phone).

And that is an interesting observation, that I'm reading multiple copies of electronic books, not on a single device, but spread across multiple devices and applications, just as if they were hardcopy books. To be honest, e-readers are OK for linear reading only, and seem particularly useless for any kind of reference reading. No-one seems to have found a way to let you 'flick through' an e-book effectively yet, and as such that makes them of very limited use. That said, I AM consuming books through them more than if they were not available, but certainly less so than if I did not have the internet and instead were to visit a library on a weekly basis. There's something about separate books being SEPARATE, rather than living in a kind of information soup that seems right, and having multiple works active on the same device tends to blend things together. I guess reading has always been a tactile and olfactory experience as well as one of the mind, and I miss the smells of an old or a new book.

Anyway, we're mostly set for Zim. Maybe need a little clothes shopping still: I've thrown away worn-out underwear since the last time we had a holiday and I'm still wearing many of the tee shirts, now with small holes, that we bought before our trip to Canada in 2006, and while they aren't exactly in rags they have also become more than a little tired.

And that's another thing: where to go next year. But that will have to wait for another blog post.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Well, it was nearly sunny.

And we did (eventually) manage a short walk around Lower Heyford.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

This isn't what I expected.

Looks like I'm preaching tomorrow on Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Should be just in time for Pentecost. :-)

Friday, 5 April 2013

Various things on the go right now.

But tonight I'll probably be installing Pear Linux 7 to update my system at home. Probably.

Earlier this week I installed openSUSE 12.3 on a spare hard drive to give me access to better photo manipulation software - DigiKam 3.0 has image control information to correct RAW image files for the Fuji HS30, and hopefully that will fix some of the lens distortion artifacts.

In other news, I'm coughing so much that sometimes lights flash and bits float around inside my eyes. Bluergh. But at least I'm not ill.

Sat here, I have the sun streaming through the window, warming my back. Now THAT is a nice change.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

I'm going to have to find another image host.

Photobucket has started showing 'mature dating' and 'lonely housewives' adverts, and that really isn't helpful to anyone (except the guys making money off the porn sites). They don't even offer the 'pro' paid version of the site without ads any more, but only additional space. I already have more than 1500 images up there in a couple of Gb and have used less than 20% of the available storage.

This doesn't work for me guys. Not at all.

A re-evaluation of digital content as property?

From a system designed to permit resale of digital audio tracks by completely removing them from the seller's computer has been declared illegal. To me, this changes the way I would see such content, and would remove ethical barriers to copying content without payment. I might still obey the law - because it is the law - but if I 'buy' something and am then told that it is not mine, it also makes me think that it was not 'theirs' to sell in the first place.

Probably not a particularly good argument, but this doesn't look like it's headed any place good.

Where do you go as a fundamentalist?

And I AM still at heart a fundamentlist, yet I also want to read the bible with understanding that God has given me, rather than shutting my eyes, ears and mind tightly in order to accept the absurd so that I can be 'in faith'.

Now this post isn't a pop at anyone, but it is definitely a result of my interactions with others. My stance on a whole bunch of stuff has been affected by friends - people I love and respect - but have found at times that I cannot agree with. It has been prompted by this thing of "just read it and do it", with the unspoken suggestion that if you don't do it and believe it like I do then you have it wrong.

Cue this post from Hamo at Backyard Missionary.

There's a danger in permitting interpretation, and it isn't an imaginary one, nor a straw man set up to protect the fundamentalist way of thinking. Some would suggest that truth is relative and everyone's point of view is valid. I cannot accept that is the case - there MUST be absolute truth in absolute reality, even if that reality *appears* different from where we are standing. The problem for us as humans is that we only see our own reality, and therefore struggle to interpret what that truth is, but that does not take away from the absolutes of truth and falsehood.

The tricky bit comes when we start defining what is true.

It's as though we've been given telescopes of varying quality to examine the world through, and some can actually see quite clearly while others have a terribly blurry view of things, while yet others will have been trained to interpret black as green and white as yellow, valleys as mountains and seas as deserts etc. This becomes a problem when we start thinking about absolutes of what it means to be a Christian, since by the nature of the argument, one man's absolute is another man's negotiable, and that doesn't detract from the accuracy of his observation!

So for me, when I start reading tricky parts of the bible - like God authorising the use of slaves, wiping out nations to the last woman and child, the connection between human sexuality and the manner in which it represents the interaction of God with the church to name but a few - then I start asking what was God's heart behind this likely to have been and why would He apparently do things that are repugnant to us. This enables me to be closer to God, to maybe understand Him and the principles he works by a little more instead of trying to hold my 'faith' out like a magic talisman - I have it in my hand and I'm using it like I've been taught, so it MUST be obeyed/protect me.

And sometimes I suspect we doubt or fail to understand the width and breadth of the grace of God to us.

It's as if all our misunderstandings were fine (because they're ours, and we have enjoyed God's grace) while those of someone else are not. That's not to say that we cannot have some assurance about what is right and true, because we can observe the results of certain beliefs and ways of living in those around us, and of those throughout history. If nothing else, it might convince anyone with a passing knowledge of English history that religious dogmatism and evil were close bedfellows. And hopefully we can also listen to the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to bring life to what are otherwise nothing more than words on a page.

So bearing with one another in love would seem to be at least part of the answer to living with theological differences. I'm sure it's not the only part, just as I'm sure there IS absolute truth available, but hopefully with some of God's grace we can work out and through our different understandings, and maybe even come to eventual agreement. I'm trying to avoid using caveats again at this point, because the flip side of this is that we may never speak the truth to each other - in love or otherwise - and therefore all continue as blind and foolish and mistaken as if we'd never been in relationship with anyone else. As an aside, on Saturday in the men's group we're talking about endurance and 'staying power' from the book we're following, and the need to endure and hang on, even when we hurt and are deeply unhappy. It's been my experience that sometimes I have to hold myself in the place of frustration, pain and unhappiness in order to grow a bit more, see a bit more clearly, maybe even fulfill some of what God has planned for my life.

In this context I've been considering the idea of the church having 'the mind of Christ' when it comes together, but I've been in enough church meetings (and church tradition also rather confirms this) that if one were to assume the mind of Christ were always and only at work in gatherings of churchy people then Jesus must be a furious schizophrenic. But THAT discussion is another blog post.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

So the sun was shining

And I snuck out of work around 5ish to go take photographs of the valley, now most of the snow has finally melted. It was also an excuse to start learning how to use the Fuji HS30 a little better: maybe I'll do a mini-review, but in quick summary, handling is good, zoom reach fantastic, but image quality very low - the images straight out of my old Samsung are significantly superior in terms of definition and noise. It's all down to sensor size again.

Anyway, here's a quick sample, most processed from RAW files. More in my photobucket account.