Friday, 30 April 2004


Read here.

A subtle fear

At about the age of 40 my father had an increase in responsibility in his job, becoming a director of the business and, on the death of the original owner, taking on the administration, responsibility for accounts etc. Over the next 2 years I watched him become increasingly stressed, tired and fed up, culminating in the first of his heart attacks.

After a little while he 'retired' from the model business he'd run for years, and went to work for Spurgeon's College as a kind of maintainence man. This was a slightly flexible arrangement, where he was able to pace himself according to the energy and tasks available. In his later 40s he became seriously ill with further heart attacks, and had a multiple bypass operation, which probably extended his life for an additional 4 or 5 years.

He eventually retired on medical grounds at the age of 52, and died just a few months later at home.

About 2.5 years ago (when I was 40) the company I work for was taken over by a US company, and my responsibilities increased. I have become increasingly tired and stressed (as well as suffering significant demotivation at the beginning). Now 2 years on I'm struggling with a body that just can't keep doing the things it's always done before - I've been taking pain killers to keep going here this week, and my legs are continuously painful from spending so much time on my feet.

The subtle fear I used as a title isn't about dying - I'm not afraid of that, although I'd prefer it not to hurt too much. No, the fear is that I'm on a slope downward, where my body becomes increasingly useless and fragile, and I'm less and less able to support me in the way I need it to.

This is probably irrational, but I've seen and felt a lot of things line up. I even look enough like my father for people who knew him but that I'd never met before to recognise me. There are some major differences in that I've not had hepatitis, smoked or had a weight problem. But these similarities keep haunting me. It may be one of the reasons I've been regressing to teenage practices in some areas, like the mountainbiking, playing guitar too loud etc (which also helps reduced stress). I'm determined not to give in, but sometimes it feels like my body is betraying me.

Monday, 26 April 2004

Another lovely spring day

and I'm stuck here, a manic day in the lab about to happen.

One of my technical staff has just rung in to say he's really ill (and he sounded bad on the phone). Since I'd just been planning out how best to share the workload with him, this isn't ideal. Having said that, if I'm alone I can just go for it at a run and not have to worry about anyone else.

On your marks.

Saturday, 24 April 2004

It's been a beautiful day here.

Temperatures in the 20s, blue skies and sunshine. It's enough to make you want to go on holiday!

And I finally managed to get out on a ride with Ben this evening.

This had it's good and bad points. The good - I needed the exercise, and enjoyed a chance to ride again. The bad is that not only am I tired and sore (my bum has obviously softened up a lot) but that Ben is at the point of having as much, if not more strength than me now, and was difficult to stay with at times. Will have to do some secret training. I also had a few knee probs - it feels like a nerve has been trapped (this is quite familiar to me) but it is worrying.

Anyway never mind. Bed soon - I need to make up for last night/this morning(some time after 3 am).

Friday, 23 April 2004

The weekend starts here!

Right, all tasks for the week finished (or not as the case may be). I've got a near full tub of sour cream and onion pringles, a glass of scrumpy jack cider, ZZ Top playing (Tush has just started ;-) and a few hours of my own to enjoy.

Tonight we had our first proper worship band rehearsal in months and months, and you know what? It was OK, in a kind of loosely timed, out of tune and unbalanced way. Thanks everyone that prayed for me/us. People got on with no hassle, the issues that came to a head this week have backed off and we could play through and even worship a bit.

Helen, who's really a singer and flautist was kind enough to play keyboards when our keyboard player did a 'no-show' (he also helps run the youth group on a Friday - not a gig he can miss easily). At the end she was just running through some chords that she was familiar with, rather than struggling to play songs she didn't know too well. Now I've been getting slightly worried about the Les Paul. It looks fabulous, but although it sounds great in the living room, it's not actually been that great live. Although it's been OK, the Strat actually sounds significantly better for chord work; string separation is better, and with a higher action you can really dig in when strumming. Anyway, Helen was playing away, and I dug out a patch on the effects processor that I'd created for the washburn - a silly high gain, compressed and enormously overdriven patch. On the LP I hooked the neck PU and sudddenly it was singing in that way that I'd always wanted. It was smooth, full of character and expression, yet sustained evenly for ages, even when the strings were tickled.

I found myself playing new stuff, sliding in and out of emotions, pushing things to a peak, backing off, then winding up for another peak. It's amazing the length of a run that you can squeeze into such a small number of frets. Usually I'm restricted to the top 4 strings - with the strat playing like this, the bottom 2 lose precision and clarity, but here I could run all the way across the fingerboard and back again, slide up on the G and B strings, bend gently (shorter scale length - strings are under less tension than usual) so as not to overshoot, then back again. And all the time it's just singing away under my fingers. Makes me get a lump in the throat just at the memory. Even Helen, who's fairly cool about guitars, was quite happy to be playing for me. It all came to bits at the end; I stopped to talk to someone as they were starting to pack away, then couldn't recover the thread.

Ah well, there's more water in that well to be drawn, now I know it's there :-)

Now, how shall I finish winding down? Surf, Mech-commander II or a DVD?

Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, 22 April 2004

We were talking

In the lab just now about "beauty therapists", as they are euphemistically known. This followed on from a conversation about "init" and how it was forever associated with names like Candice and Charmagne.

And how the only Tracey I know is a hairdresser ;-)

Thought I'd give Gmail a try

Although I'm wondering if I really need another email account. The handle is:

Amariner a.t.

That makes, erm, 3 work accounts,, bigfoot, UK2, lineone, mcmail and one other that I can't remember right now. The only hiccup I can see with gmail is that it's browser based access, and I can't see a way to collect all mails into a single client based package, as I do all my personal and work mails.

The idea of searchable email content IS cool though, since I really hate having to wade through folder after folder to find the one I want.

Wednesday, 21 April 2004

A little more thought about free will. (edited)

Does God have free will to do what he wants with His church? Including shake it to bits?

There is a subtle irony, bearing in mind what I posted a week ago on Linea's blog about suffering being of relatively minor account.

What I'm working through is my current lack of faith in where we've been with the changes to the church and leadership since August last year. I've previously been in another church where the leader has seen a pattern, thought it looked 'great' and applied it where it was never intended to be applied. That took a lot of recovering from. I'm experiencing a sense of deja vu at the moment. Barrie (leading elder) is moving to plant a church where things won't be centrally focussed, but instead will be small groups that occasionally come together. That's his vision. But God has been talking to him about this for a long time, and what I'm feeling is - have all the changes that we've been through been a result of the mis-application of this vision? This has resulted in my 'loss of faith' in the present direction. I'm running on nothing more than obedience at the moment.

But what if?

What if?

God knew what would happen when he started sharing those things with Barrie. What if He also wanted to shake the church to it's core, causing all but the most determined to leave? What if this was intended to boot us substantially further down the road to maturity through suffering? What if he wanted to 'plow the ground' for new church leadership?

There were a couple of 'words' given at a meeting on Monday night about how a pot had been created by a master potter, who left it alone. God had then come along and smashed the pot, removing many of the pieces so that it couldn't possibly be re-assembled. He would then make something different from it.

I can feel a measure of faith in that, but we still have the potter here - he's not gone yet. I don't see the next steps to remaking the pot differently. And there are lots of people: awkward, difficult people, hurting people, all of whom want things to suit them. This is why I need to keep plowing ahead, while trying to avoid falling into any traps, running aground etc.

Guess I've learned a few things.

Tuesday, 20 April 2004

Think I may have had a narrow escape tonight.

Ever found yourself close to snapping?

That happened this evening for me. I was when I was driving back from dropping Ben off in another village, all the pressure and everything just felt overwhelming. I ended up talking to God about how I really just wanted to go and hide somewhere.

When I got back there was still stuff to sort for the worship team. I ended up seeing very red over a couple of things (one of which was my unreasonable reaction - thank goodness for writing emails off line - now deleted). But tonight has been difficult, and I don't know when it will get better. Church is a mess ATM, and the biggest source of hassle. And both Chris and I are finding it difficult to find faith in the way the change of leadership is being handled. We've promised we'll keep working with whoever heads up the fellowship, but if we hadn't done so, I suspect we'd have started to consider if there was somewhere else we my contribute instead.

God knows what we can take, and I'll trust he'll keep me from going over the edge. Just that I prefer to be a few feet further back from the cliff most of the time.

A new addition.....

To the Blogroll.

Welcome, Liz, from Somewhere Green.

Do babyblogs violate children's privacy?

The BBC asks:

"It is easier than ever before to post family snaps online, and an ideal way for grandparents and friends to stay in touch. But is it fair on the children involved?"

Backlash against the blog?

Your Foetus

The BBC are putting out a program on abortion which is bound to ruffle a few feathers. The maker had a termination herself, but then re-evaluated her feelings after having her second pregnancy and carrying through to term.

She suggests that every woman having a termination will have to experience and consider all the things that come out in the program. My thoughts are that most will neither intellectualise nor consider their experience, and many will be in denial after the horror of it all. 'Ordinary' people don't seem to cope well with this kind of stress.

Monday, 19 April 2004


Just one more thing. Ever made a minor mistake that you just know is going to bite you later?

Like clipping toe nails (probably an un-mentionable body part, but what the heck) and over-doing it? I had one attached by a tiny thread, so rather than clip it I pulled. 2 days and 1 weepy toe later, I now regret my hasty action :-(

Too many things...

So little time.

There have been to many things to want to blog about this last week, but I've been WAY too busy really. Here's a few:

BBC radio 4 had a program about the 'romantic' poets; Byron, Shelly and Keats. It was all do very matter-of-fact, but it appears Byron was sexually abused as a child, and subsequently bisexual with serious personality problems, Shelly couldn't choose between sisters, so had them both (amoungst others) and Keats was seriously anti-christian. In fact a major force for admiration of Byron and Shelley by keats was their atheistic stance, even to the point of replacing Jesus with themselves in certain pictures..

I've been reading Plutarch's "the age of Alexander" recently. Greek society around 400BC was strange. Women were like a seperate species (which is stranger, in many ways) and they really did use young boys for love. All the urban legends I'd heard about this era have so far proven true. Throws Romans 1 into perspective.

Just heard some friends of ours want to get divorced. This is REALLY not good news - since becoming christians a couple of years ago they have really been through a lot. If you're up for it, pray for Andrew and Jane and their children.

AS a church, we're going through 'interesting times', with Barrie, our community head moving on to plant another church. We need clarity as to where the next leadership should come from. There is a couple in the church that we all know will lead a church one day - they clearly have that mark on their lives - but a number of us feel 'not now'. We feel the church needs fresh direction and leadership, and it would be hard for someone to arise within and provide that. Not impossible, but difficult. We need wisdom, insight and sensitivity to hear what God's saying. Nuts to working it out with human intellect.

Pray for 'Ricky Ralph' - a guy I met in Texas a couple of weeks ago. Apart from playing guitar really well, he needs a job that covers the bills.

I survived leading worship yesterday afternoon. It's all very well making statements about us "not being adequate, so God has to move" but for me it's literally true, and this does not create a comfort zone. Especially when some friends were having their daughter dedicated, and a large number of family were present. But God was gracious to both them and us.

Our next door neighbour is having a complex back operation today. His spine has some crumbling vertebrae, and the sciatic nerve is being pressed, causing considerable pain. If the op goes wrong then he could end up partially paralysed with no bladder control. If it goes well then he'll be pain free and happier than he's been for some time. Pray for Andrew.

And finally......

It's a beautiful morning here. Sunny. Dry. Clear. And with a darned thick layer of ice on the windscreen. We live in a valley with it's own micro-climate. It's quite common to find the temperature several degrees different where we live compared to the area above. Looks like we had a layer of cold air trapped by us, while everywhere else had warmed up. Should be a nice day.

Now, work calls.

Tuesday, 13 April 2004

New image

My other family in the fotopic gallery.

More images added - the complete family is in there now.

Saturday, 10 April 2004

End of day 2 - the return.

Loads better now. Slept around 9 hours last night, and although I started slow and dopey (no difference there then) I feel close to normality now. The family seem pleased to see me too.

There's good news and bad news today. The good news is trivial, but I've managed to set up the new guitar so she plays and sounds great.

The bad news is much more serious - satan is trying to get at Wendy and Jordon Cooper. The best thing we can do is pray for both them and the guy that did all those things to Wendy. Pray they all get released from this, and that Wendy, Jordon and Mark are protected from it having a deep negative influence in their lives. Also that they would draw close to God and find their refuge in Him at this time.

Friday, 9 April 2004

Back and Bushed.

But nuffin' to do wiv Dubya.

My body thinks it's almost midday, and I've had 1 hour's sleep since about 5.30am yesterday. Oh well, bed in less than 5 hours :-)

Really good to see the family again. And they seemed pleased to see me, which is nice ;-) Ben likes his guitar, especially as the CD he just bought shows 'Jimi' with a white strat on the cover. I even managed to make it sound a little like the intro to a live version of 'Foxy lady' with the long sustained note, then that E chord. Now how cool is that?

Alas the 'woman' is turning a bit grumpy. Don't know if it suffered in transit or this was the real reason it was sold, but it's probably the worst set up guitar I've ever played! And it was supposed to have been done by a pro. The actions too low, so it rattles and chokes. The intonation is so far out it's almost un-tuneable and I'm not convinced about the pickup quality either (seymour duncan '59s). Did anyone ever deserve to come to earth with a bump? And I paid an unreasonable amount of duty on it through customs too.

Never mind, I'm sure it's nothing a decent set of strings and a couple of hours with some tools and a tuner can't fix.

I'm really pleased to be back :-))

Thursday, 8 April 2004

I'm comin' home

The flight is at 4ish, so I should leave here around 1.15pm to 1.30pm.

Had a good, if slightly curious time last night. Curious because of the context. I was invited along with some of the other people here back for dinner at someone's house. They also had some relatives staying and we all sat outside while the sun went down, eating and talking and generally having a good time. Now it was known that I played guitar and had bought a couple while here, and so the lady of the house offered to let me strum hers. On taking it frrom the case (everyone was outside) they were then all called in 'while Toni plays minstrel'. I explained that I might not be able to play stuff they knew because I usually played in church, at which point some people started naming songs from church, including stuff I knew.

So anyway, I ended up playing a bunch of worship stuff, but feeling slightly uncomfy. The people couldn't have been nicer, and it wasn't anything they did, but it was because there were some there that I suspected strongly didn't really feel the same way, so I was just playing instead of relaxing into worship (what I wanted to do). Half of me wanted to make it like when we get together from the church, half of me was saying "just entertain". I had to fight the temptation to shut my eyes and just float off in the Spirit. The hold up was, as much as anything, my self-consciouness and vulnerability. I didn't want to appear 'kooky' or religious, and to lay myself open for mocking, but I also didn't want to embarass those that were not Christians. Maybe it says more about how I value myself?

It is certainly making me rethink what is needed for worship to happen.

Wednesday, 7 April 2004

She's here!

The woman I talked about has arrived, and is now waiting for my caress here in the apartment :-)

Actually, it's no substitute for my wife, who, for various reasons I find incredibly frustrating, I haven't spoken with for the last 2 days. Yes, I'm missing her lots.

But anyway, when she arrived I whipped her out of the case, tuned up roughly and (unplugged) launched into first a bit of rock'n'roll (actually a kids song from church ;-) then 'All right now'. Even more amazing, no bum notes and the people around me recognised it!

As a minor aside, the job I'm here for seems to be going well (thanks if you've prayed for me) with me finding things as I'd expected, and good acceptance of my proposed countermeasures so far. If the data I want to generate in the next couple of days continues to support things then Robert is pater's brother, as they say.

Here's hoping.

Monday, 5 April 2004

Well that was a fun afternoon.

I had arranged to meet a guy from Victoria (a couple of hours drive away) to buy a Strat for Ben. The plan was for me to borrow a car from work for the W/E and drive to meet him part way. Well, the car never materialised, so I got a cab over there anyway.

Had a great Time with Richard, his wife and their friends. First had dinner at the Mambo seafood cafe, then tried the guitar. Finally we went to the guitar centre where the friend (Julian) was planning to trade a pile of guitars for a new Les Paul. Literally spent the afternoon there, to the point where they were locking the doors. He got his 'Paul though, and I've now got Ben's strat sat here. Looks lovely in a creamy ivory colour with tortoiseshell pick guard. It's got some interesting PUs in it, and is nicely aged too. Plays well, with a good neck shape. The body is reasonably resonant, but not quite as much as mine, as well as being a bit heavier. It's almost too good to learn on!

Anyway, think I've made some new friends. Never know - they might visit the UK sometime too.

Sunday, 4 April 2004

Day 2, feeling a little 'delicate' today.

Yesterday afternoon I walked along to the Baybrook mall from the residence inn, which is right by the space centre, did some shopping and walked back. "Big deal - why's he telling us?" I hear you ask. Well, that describes a nearly 4 hour excursion, walking beside busy roads that mostly had no pavements etc - I felt like I had done a 10 mile hike through countryside. There was certainly a good few obstacles to navigate.

By the time I was back I was footsore and aching, managed a few lengths of the hotel pool, then shower and out to eat. Being alone, I went to a local mexican restuarant. Now I was so bushed that I really didn't want more than a quiet meal, but you know how it is - people want to know what you want to drink etc from the moment you walk in the door, so I let the guy select a mexican beer (Bohemia, quite nice actually) and I managed to choose some food. Well, the beer was only in a half pint bottle, so I had a second during the meal, paid and left. When I got to the apartment I really WAS tired, and was stupid enough to just lay down. Bompf.

Some hours later I managed to rise, brush teeth etc before getting into bed properly. Hence my delicate condition today. That must be some beer.

Saturday, 3 April 2004

Getting right in the swing of Texas

I really understand about the shape now.

Out for lunch at a restuarant called 'BJs' (you could NEVER call a place that in the UK). We ordered a large pizza between 2 of us. They made a mistake, and gave us a medium instead. That was actually the right size, however they INSISTED on making us a second medium to make up for it. That pizza is now sat in a box in the fridge here at the apartment.

Worst of of - it's calling to me!

I. Do. Not. Need. More. Pizza.

Think I'll put some jeans and an old T on and go for a walk. Or at least dodge the traffic anyway.

Just one more interesting thing - our company warehouse is literally just a hundred yards from a 'Vineyard' church, which is also built in one of the warehouse modules. I'm actually tempted for the first time ever to go visit another church on a Sunday morning. We'll see.

Well, here I am in steamy Texas

25'C and 99% humidity certainly qualifies as steamy to me! It does smell wonderful though, all spicey and tropical compared to the cool 'agricultural' smells I've been enjoying in the uk. The hotel here has a complimentary broadband connection in every room, so at least I can blog, check emails etc.

It's taken me about 10 minutes to type this. Yesterday I went more than 25 hours without sleep (I've just - sluggishly - calculated this) and although I got about 6 hours last night, my brain is playing catchup on me now.

It's 6.30 am now, and I'm off to the gym to work off some of last nights' steak before breakfast.