Wednesday 28 February 2007

Off to Grenoble tomorrow morning.

Just on a 2 day work trip.

Anne-Sophie, if you and Richard are around that way still it would be nice to see you again (and meet him!) The oxbio email address doesn't work any more but if you post in the comments below, I'll try to contact you.

Monday 26 February 2007


For the next few days I’m going back to being a ‘lowly technician’ and just hammering through a pile of lab work that needs to be done. I’ve always considered my lab skills as being the very core of my ability to work effectively, and as there’s a pile of stuff to do it does no harm to sharpen them again.

One of the key areas of thinking that’s been running round my head these last few weeks is contrasting how life was when Chris and I were first married. We had no agendas and no pre-experience of either marriage or living away from our parents homes. It was a fantastic place to start, and we were unashamedly open to each other, determined not to hide our feelings and thoughts or keep anything back from each other: partnership was what we wanted. That model of the three-fold cord with Jesus as the third strand. We weren’t disappointed, although we did need to knock a few lumps from each other on the way.

Simplicity and openness are very difficult to retain.

What prompted this blogpost was what I did this weekend. I spent around 3 hours on Saturday and around 8 hours Sunday (into Monday morning) trying to install a stable copy of Windows 98 on a used hard drive in order to make a PC system that could be used for playing old games.

That is one darn’ bucketful of time to allow me to spend more time being entertained in a non-productive fashion.

So this morning as I dashed around the lab getting things ready my thoughts ran along the lines of:

“We should simplify, live less sophisticated and demanding lives”

“But you know you can’t do that. It’s not possible to turn the clock back”

“Why not?”


Actually I can think of many *good* reasons for not exactly doing that, but they are all in the grey areas that an older, more mature vision brings. Youth sees everything in black and white (as we did then) and while it can make life simpler, it also means a lot of opportunities are missed.

What would happen if, for instance, if I decided that I spent too much time on the internet? The only way I could easily reduce it would be to decide I couldn’t use it at all – I’m not especially great on self control and moderation, which is one reason we don’t have a telly (although it also did our children a huge amount of good too – gave them the option to think for themselves). But blog-relationships aside, apart from finding more cheap stuff to fill our house with the only USEFUL application for the internet is knowledge – all the rest is entertainment and vanity.

Of course the computer (not just the www) isn’t the only area to simplify, although it’s the one that eats the most time. We currently have 3 vehicles belonging to Chris and myself, plus Ben’s beetle (with a second being arranged). As we have always found, vehicle ownership (with insurance, tax, MOTs and everything) are a significant source of stress. However we live in a village – no way out of owning cars, and preferably 2 of them, since transport here is realistically impossible without.

What else? I could make do with 2 guitars (currently have 9 here) and 1 amp, although more of both are useful in a variety of situations. Coupled with internet usage, my GAS drives some of the hassles and complication in my life. When we were first married we had no money to spare for guitars (mostly) so GAS wasn’t really a problem – I’d look, but never touched as I couldn’t afford and didn’t worry about it. Mind you, If I thought things could be *made* affordable I’d tie myself in knots to manage it.

What I’m working round to is that the answer to all these issues is both self control and being satisfied.

Further thoughts I had while running around in the lab (this post is being written incrementally) is that I spend more every month on the acquisition of ‘bits’ for my guitar playing than we give in aid to charities. Maybe I should qualify that, in that we believe tithing is the right thing to do, so our church gets 10% of our income, plus other stuff as needed and I’m happy with that. But we’re now very well off *compared to how we were when first married* and certainly as a result, much less aggressive in our giving.

Now I have no desire to become one of those people that lives on the borderline between poverty and enough because they feel the need to give everything they don’t *need* away. Yet at the same time I AM aware of our wealth, relative to so many. And as I observed above, having less DOES make life simpler

Now at the moment this is all safely in the realm of thoughts and wonderings. As such it’s just visual hot air – a way of expressing short comings, a bit of on-line hand wringing, an expression of regret. All dealt with through an internal shrugging of shoulders and just getting on with things as they were. But should these thoughts become action? And if so, what sort? It’s easy to write about stuff, but sometimes more is required and that’s not quite so much fun.

Lent. I don’t do lent.

Sunday 25 February 2007

I've just found the EXACT right guitar for worship use.

I want to blog. What can I say?

Trivialities mostly.

Could I mention my total failure to successfully install Windows 98 on a separate disc for a triple boot system? Lets just say that NONE of the tools that have served me so well over the years seem to work effectively on this one. The boot sector of the disc has been messed up by GRUB (a Linux bootloader) and I can't make a bootable drive out of it now. Seagates disc wizard is a disc dummy (man, that software is RUBBISH!) and as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

The learning from this one is to not do silly things. Wonder if I've got a spare HDD laying around somewhere?

On a different note, drunkenness reveals all kinds of things about people or accentuates certain sides of their characters. We were at a party last night with a lot of drunken people (some extremely so) and it was informative to observe them while they were having fun or otherwise. As designated driver, let me tell you, drunks are a lot less entertaining than they think they are when you're stone cold sober. But then I've never got the point of drinking so that getting to the loo is a major adventure in route planning and limb control.

What was apparent to me was how people get drunk in order to suppress their natural inhibitions so they can experience intimacy. It's a variation on beer-goggles that allows behaviour that the individual *wants* to do, but cannot find a way of doing it while all their natural inhibitions and hangups are in force. This has me thinking as a Christian, about how I am intimate and how I manage my intimacy with people. This isn't particularly about physical intimacy, so much as getting close and having a freedom and openness to express ones feelings and thoughts. In the case of the party people, a lot of it was sexual motivation, but I think also a lot was from a desire for friendship and acceptance that wouldn't happen in normal circumstances.

Something to keep in mind when we reach out to people.

Thursday 22 February 2007

Pancake day pics

Now if you thought the 'Top Gear' video was insulting, you've not seen some of these. Follow me on the downward spiral.......

Pancakes courtesy of the lovely Jane and her kitchen. Janine (behind) is struggling to decide whether to drink or snort her sloe Gin.

And Jane manages a perfect flip despite Janine pushing her finger into Janes ear.

Chris however knows better. She realises that pancakes are really the eggs of an alien life form, planning to take over the Earth, and that they are activated by the act of flipping.

Janique was quite unaware of this. Here you see the pancake larva trying to enter Janiques body through her right eye socket.

Being male, Ian's problems are much more fundamental. Like "how do I clean pancake from Janes ceiling".

Fortunately he managed to catch it back in the pan when the brute wriggled free.

This is also Jane. In front of Jane. Who is horrified to see her pancake rising from the pan in an attempt to escape the heat of the flames. Oblivious to events behind her, Jane was confident that the Alien could be contained safely by the pan.

Unfortunately she was wrong. This one can be seen trying to scuttle off down the hall, having escaped.

Have you ever noticed how some people just look *perfect* all the time? How they whip out the movie-star smile at the drop of a hat, or look cool, calm and collected whatever the situation?

Meet Madalena.

From her clear pleasure in the act of flipping I rather suspect she is the mature form that these larval pancakes grow into.

How many people find this offensive?

'This' is a top gear video hosted on google video.

It portrays a very specific view of America and middle Americans. It is NOT either fair or balanced, nor even particularly accurate in its reporting of events I suspect. It seriously upset a number of people on a Christian forum, and I can see why. The thing is, British humour IS different, and this is as funny as Hugh Grant acting as the wet English fop in Hollywood movies.

So tell me - do YOU find it offensive? If you're sensitive about your culture just feel free to pass this one by. Jonathan - I'd be particularly interested in your comments, with the proviso above.

Tuesday 20 February 2007

New blogger is pants.

Font size control is flakey. Sure there's a bucket full of spanky new features, but I wish the *basic tools* just worked right. Ho hum.

On a more serious subject...

....we could probably do with a bit of prayer for Friday evening.

Chris writes:
One of the leaders at the Oxford church has been asked by BBC Radio Oxford to do a series on the subject of 'Faith Journeys'. He is interviewing a number of people from OCC for the series on a variety of subjects, particularly on how they came to faith. He has asked us if we would be willing to be interviewed about how our faith helped us when Sarah died & how her death affected our faith, etc.

We have hesitantly agreed to do the interview as it seems too good an opportunity to miss to tell people again about God's faithfulness, but talking about it all is a costly exercise. We have got to a point of equilibrium. Sarah is never far from our minds but we have learned (mostly) to live with her loss, to keep the pain compartmentalised, & to function fairly normally. Stirring things up disturbs all of that & I think is probably at least part of why Toni has been struggling recently (see his post entitled 'I've been quiet' on 18/2).

We have done the preliminary interview when Mike 'got the story' from which he will devise a number of questions, & the recording will take place on Friday evening. Please pray that we will say the right things that will really speak to people, that we will cope emotionally (both at the time & afterwards) & that God will lead the right people to listen to the program. (Since this is costing us we want there to be some payback!)

BTW the series will be aired on 95.2 FM on Sunday evenings between 9 & 10 pm starting on 4 March when one of the interviewees will be a lass who recently became a Christian & who has joined our church. Our interview will go out on 11 March & you can also hear it on the BBC website at the time & for a week after the event (, choose radio, English local radio, Radio Oxford (No 30), listen live or listen again). Since this is via the internet I assume you can do this anywhere in the world.

Thanks Guys,

Since you were apparently dying to see

Just what we looked like:

So now you know. The colours are crappy, but I'm too tired to fiddle intelligently right now: bed.

Monday 19 February 2007

Well I wonder?

I've been forcibly migrated to the 'new' beta blogger. I wonder if it still looks the same?

Sunday 18 February 2007

Do fairies wear makeup?

I've been quiet.

But not particularly so earlier.

I've not felt like I did earlier this afternoon for a LONG time.

For the last couple of weeks I've had memories of Sarah coming back, dreamed of her, visualised her on hearing a song, felt the sadness. Got reminded by someone I'd not seen for years last night at a party and went through the whole "I'm really sorry about your daughter" thing (she was good and didn't prolong it too much - I muttered something about life going on - she may have got the hint).

But that's not what I'm writing about, though it may have made me more susceptible. There's other issues too, by body doesn't love me much right now.

It's a long time since I broke something through temper.

It was a little device for switching channels on guitar. It refused to reassemble properly, and when it did go back together it broke the LEDs inside. Likewise something snapped in me - the bits are now sat in the bin.

Is aggression the first sign of senility?

Wednesday 14 February 2007


I think Chris liked her 'radio'.


We're off to see Martin and Jenny (en famille) of 'A church in prevence' fame later in March. Looking forward to that!

Maybe goodbye - for a while.

I'm about to pull this PC down - swap hard drives, multiple OS install, generally play silly beggars with it. Y'know the kind of things I do for a laff.

So it may be a little while before it's back up and running. If you want me, just call.

If you've wondered why I haven't replied to any emails

it's because my UK2 account is still inaccessible.

I may have to switch to Tiscali or wanadoo for a while.

Tuesday 13 February 2007

Well, it looks like I shall be going to Germany at the end of March.

Lucky me ;)

BTW ever bought anything online that you just *slightly* underestimated?

Ebuyer (purveyor of all things computing, electronic etc) had a special offer going – 2 in fact. One offer was for free shipping if you spent over £50. As I was already buying a bunch of stuff, that took me close but not over that limit.

The second offer was for a radio. What’s exciting about that you ask? Well it was a radio built into a pair of floor standing HiFi speakers. Chris had mentioned how she’d like a radio in the kitchen: we used to have speakers there connected to the living room HiFi system with very long wires. Times and equipment change, and last year I ended up uninstalling all of it as it no longer worked well. Anyway, on the web page these looked OK, reasonably versatile at a decent price, so I ordered them.




The box they’ve been sent in is, shall we say, of *generous* dimensions.

Weight is listed on the side is 24Kg, and I’d say it’s not far shy of that.

I suspect that once unpacked these will seem a lot more modest, but it was a bit of a shock to see this box with my name on it. I’ve now got to find suitable places to put them (not really a problem, provided the wires will reach and there’s enough RF signal). They even have a remote control and a bunch of inputs for CD/MP3 players etc etc on the back. With their 25W RMS per channel they’ll be good to cart outside in the summer for BBQs etc.

Wonder what Chris will think? 8^o

Well the bits arrive tomorrow.

80Gb HDD, new IDE cables and a few odds and ends.

I want to make a triple boot system, with XP or 2000 on one partition, 98 (for games) on another, Mandriva on a third and keep the data etc on a fourth. If one OS goes belly-up for any reason then I only have to re-install that partitions OS. I'll use GRUB as the bootloader.

I wonder if 98 will be obedient and install on a partition other than C: ?

Monday 12 February 2007

Ever notice how things wander into your life and connect?

Someone I know has just found out they are living near a putative paedophile. They were astonished, as they’ve been friends with this person for quite some time, been to dinner with them and their family and done all the sorts of things normal friends do. It’s been quite a shock: police have been crawling all over the area, neighbours have been talking about moving to protect their children and no-one really knows if it’s actually true or not.

Setting aside all the implications that has, I read in the paper today about a 50+ twice divorced male that had met a girl of 15 (in church) fallen in love and after a couple of years got married. The tone of the article was a little along the lines of “isn’t it incredible that despite pressure from the church, parents and the difference in age that they are still married and in love a couple of years later”. My thoughts were “You bastard – you pulled here from her parents, against all good advice. You took a vulnerable 15 year old from the church and family for your own pleasure”. Again, who knows the truth and reality behind the story?

And so to the third set of thoughts that ran on this line.

Anna Nicole Smith. In 1994 she married a Texan oil billionaire. She was 27 and he 85.

Isn’t it funny how just a few short years extra and the roles of victim and predator are reversed in our minds.
I wonder who was the more vulnerable in this situation? Or was it a fair trade, her youth and beauty to pleasure an old and dying man? Sheesh – that must be some of the most expensive live-in home help ever!
Would it make you feel any different if you knew one of the putative fathers of her daughter (according to her sister) was her long-dead billionaire husband, with fertilization using frozen sperm?

I’m not going to draw any conclusions here from this lot. Look through and see what crawls out to challenge your vision of normality, decency and right thinking. Fallen society can get itself in a helluva mess, but sometimes we draw some curious boundaries too.

I've been struggling

to know how to lead the family group tomorrow night.

God just seemed to drop a little idea into my head, and so we're going to watch Jabberwocky and learn about the inventor of the inverted firkin.

Sunday 11 February 2007

I've just sorted email out

It's been down for a week. My UK2 account had 71 emails, most of which are probably ebay notifications, but what the heck.

Wonder if there's anything *useful* in there?

Saturday 10 February 2007

Back from a slightly bizzare 24 hours.

Oxfordshire Community Churches runs a 'training course' for people with leadership potential, and as I've not been dumb or vulgar enough for a while we were invited to go.

6.30pm Friday to 6.15pm tonight (Saturday) about 45 of us were confined in a hostel in the wilds of Wantage. The basic idea is to group people into teams with a range of abilities and then face them with a number of different kinds of exercises to stress them in order for them to discover their strengths and weaknesses. There was also a nominal teachy bit, although to be honest, this was rather waffly and didn't actually say too much. Or maybe it was just aimed at someone completely different from us - I hope so.

The exercises were designed by various people to stress the teams in different areas: logic, creativity, teamwork in physical activity and communications/information. I made the mistake I'd sworn never to make on this type of weekend of allowing the activity to matter to me, although really it was for the sake of the guys in the team more than anything else. It's completely dumb really - you know it's a game, but you also can't let the others down.

After the physical activity exercise a good friend of mine who is a serious scholar and utterly non-sporting was spitting bullets about the stupidity of it all and having to take part. I've never seen him angry like that before, mostly the anger of frustration.

For me the communication game was the one that wound me up. Obviously considerable thought and effort had been spent on finding ways to make it play badly and wind people up, and it succeeded well with me. I'd say it was most frustrating because even after tweaking on the fly it still played best as a solo game, with a single person doing everything constructive and the rest of the team just waiting for a few seconds of action. I guess the good side is I got reminded that I don't keep my mouth shut when I think something is stupid and I'm cross. Maybe I can learn from the negativity of it? Maybe.

Good to meet a lot of new people too; many I wouldn't normally get to know from Oxford and Witney churches. It didn't work for Chris as she was tired and a bit damaged (from an earlier exercise) but for me, the best part was praying for people at the end.

The key issue is: we survived.

Friday 9 February 2007

BTW I've just installed Seamonkey

It's like firefox and it's like Navigator. It's also quick and just feels 'neat'. YMMV

Thursday 8 February 2007

Chris really wanted

to show you her snowman.

That's him.

And so to this morning

We had about 4 inches during the night, and it's still snowing now. When this has uploaded I'll go get the bike out :-)

Out front

From our bedroom window

Our doorbell

Chris has (sensibly) elected to take the day off, however I CAN'T as I've stuff running that will be useless tomorrow and this is day 2 of a 3 day process. If I binned this lot it would be lots of high-value raw materials down the drain.

Hope Marvellous Mair is here today - I don't want to do her assays as well as my plate coating, but I just get this feeling....


all this snow seemed so far away.

Wednesday 7 February 2007

On an unrelated topic – consumption.

Our MD was heard to declaim loudly about a 15 year old he knew involved in a rowing team. Said boy had been told to eat at least 5000 calories a day, and while it was a matter of astonishment to him, as someone that competed as a teenager it seemed quite natural. In the interests of science and observation then, my diet at the age of 15:

6 weetabix + 1.5 pints full cream milk.

Steak & kidney pie or pork pie or 1/2lb cheese + rolls.
3 cream slices from local baker

Home snack
Approx 1/3 loaf of white sliced bread.

Normal full meal sans vegetables.

Supper snack
More bread, biscuits, cheese or whatever was laying around and edible.

I was riding around 300 miles a week, although with this kind of eating pattern you may wonder how I had time. This has resulted in the slightly bizarre scenario where I’ve been reducing my diet since I was about 17 almost continuously.

This has to be worth blogging.

Looks light good ol’ Blighty is trying to compete with our friends across the pond in her own small way. Chris checked the temperature in the car first thing and popped back out again grinning: -8’C. It didn’t *feel* a great deal colder than many of the other frosty morning this week, and I actually chilled less in my fingers and toes than yesterday. However one noticeable difference was that direct sunlight wasn’t touching the frost – no sign of it thawing anywhere, despite the sun being strong. Also as I rode into upper Heyford some moisture (condensation from my face) on my glove froze a finger to the brake lever, and just past the turn up camp rode I found my moustache had frozen too.

The landscape was quite lovely, sheathed in white and draped in a soft mist. Unfortunately the camera only had a single image left.

I’ve almost fully thawed now except my right foot, which is often quite reluctant to stay warm. If I’d been a little less eager to get out this morning then I’d have put on overboots and that would have largely solved the issue. Still, there’s no harm done

Monday 5 February 2007


Really nice having Penny and Kita here yesterday evening.

Penny is our friend from the Alpha course. A lovely, generous and fascinating lass with an amazingly developed spiritual awareness.

Chris and I were wondering

what we might go as to Kita's party. Fancy dress required, theme Heroes and Heroines. I'd wondered about Odysseus and Penelope, but we might be the only ones there who knew who Penelope was. I mentioned that I should take a horny bow, as that was the weapon used to kill most of the suitors, at which Chris said 'Carnage!'. My reply was that was a place over near Turkey, from which came Hannibal and his elephants, and she said that was usually called cartilage.

If guess we could always try the other end of the spectrum and go as Flash and Dale, although Gordon is usually presented as being somewhat younger than me.

How many heroic old gits do you know of?

Well it's been good so far.

Chris's birthday, that is.

She loved the bear from Kita and Dan - filled with a special kind of wheat, it's heavy, soft and lavender scented. It can be micro-waved to make it warm as well. I still reckon it should have been placed in the bag upside down though, so the first thing visible would be a bear bottom.

Alison + Pete - thanks for the 'shared' prezzie with Ben.

The other honourable mention goes to a basket full of interesting choccy bars and snacks. Almost all past their best before date (one was dated use by Jan '06). We did find this funny, and it made me wonder if the way to know you're senile is whether you can distinguish between being drunk and sober. No difference? Then you probably are!

What to do now? Brizzle is around -3'C right now - should we go?

Sorry I'm not around much

With the wiping of that drive (and taking 2 days to restore stuff, for the same reason it got wiped - greed) I've not re-established email functionality. Just about to order a replacement drive (thanks ebuyer). Maybe I can salvage this one at some stage, which theoretically should be possible the Mandriva One partition tool can see the spare space.

Chris's birthday today.

Happy birthday to her.

Pete and Alison - I hope you didn't buy her cutting dies, as I've got a bunch.