Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Fern - you were asking my opinion

about those 750Gb Samsung drives.

Mine died last night - electro-mechanical failure.

I had the PC running shortly after getting home. read some blogs, checked mail etc, restarted to run Linux.

Click, click, click, click. PC starts to post, hangs at 'WINFAST' bios entry screen before reaching beeps.

Tried several times, eventually removed data connector, clicks still heard but PC now boots fine. Removed power connector, no clicks.

Looks like an RMA, possibly with a like-for-like replacement depending. It's very disappointing, as it was quiet and very quick. It's also a real nuisance being without that drive. Glad I didn't migrate everything across.

Reading through the ebuyer reviews of SATA drives in general, they seem to fail much more than the equivalent IDE drives. It doesn't seem logical, but that's definitely the impression I got.

Medicine that is hard to swallow.

Not Amoxycillin, but a cure for the ridiculously over-inflated British housing market.

It seems that house prices are starting to fall.

We desperately need cheaper housing - prices have become ludicrous as cheap loans became available and larger mortgages more affordable. At one time a mortgage of 2.5X the larger income, 1X the smaller was all that any building society would offer. Then came Maggie Thatcher and the ethos became greed is good - house prices skyrocketed at the rate of £1000 a week in London in the mid 80s (that's £1000 a week on a £35,000-£40,000 house). We moved from our maisonette to a 3 bed house at this time, and in the next 5 years it went from £36,500 to about £100,000, then back down to the £74,000 that we sold at to move to our present home in 1990.

At the time of our move we met many in the trap of negative equity - owing more on a mortgage than their house was worth. It was also the time of crucifying interest rates, at 15% or more, and many simply lost everything they'd worked for, unable to maintain mortgage payments or recover equity after selling their homes.

Chris and I still remember the young couple whose house we viewed in Didcot: he was a builder, and there was no work, they'd bought at the crest of the boom and done the house to suit themselves. The girl was younger than Chris and had a baby in her arms - the look of despair on their faces was painful, and we almost wished we could buy the house to help them, except that wouldn't even clear their debts. And there were many like that.

The result of that era, plus joining the EU laid the foundations for todays housing market. A shocked mortgage industry found ways to make mortgages more affordable, while the European banks required UK interest rates reduced down to their levels before allowing the pound to be linked to Euro rates. But underlying that is the fact that housing stock never depreciated back to the level it was at before the boom started, and has remained far too high ever since. Conditions aren't right for a market crash like we experienced then, and as long as interest rates don't escalate it'll never happen. But we do need a reduction in the price of housing compared to salaries, and this is the part that will hurt. If they could just remain static for the next 15 years then that would help a very great deal.

Heard Gordon Brown on radio 4 this morning.

I'm sorry to say that he wasn't hugely impressive, although that particular interviewer has shredded lesser mortals. I feel slightly sorry fro Brown, as he really isn't prime minister material - OK in number 2 position probably, but not the man up front. He's having to smile way too much.

Wonder what sort of government the next round of elections will bring?

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Please turn off....

All your bloggy widgets, twitters, youtube inserts and all the rest of the guff that's slowing down the web. Apparently bloat is a real problem.

So this morning

I go to the doctors.

This is all feeling horribly familiar: no energy, fuzzy fuzzy head, continual deep coughing, distorted sense of taste, filling up with goo from bacteria growing happily somewhere they don't belong, joints aching for no good reason.

10 days like this now, It has the feel of when I had pneumonia about 12 years ago, although less severe - then I was really ill, and took a fortnight off work. Now I just feel bushed all the time, but not SO ill that I can't get some stuff done. Hey ho penicillin, I bet we meet again.

Chris is struggling right now too. Not with health, but with feelings. May is THE month we're reminded our personal world stopped for a while. I joked this morning about emigrating to Australia, as the seasons would then mis-match the names of the months, and we'd be less aware of the time of year.

There are a number of changes happening in this household.

Chris has resigned her job, effective end of May.

Ben has resigned his job, effective end of now.

If anyone hears of motorsport-type apprenticeships going, he'd love to know. It's where his heart has been the last couple of years, and we've had the cars to prove it.

Monday, 28 April 2008

First post from within Ubuntu

Midnight, feeling fairly bushed after an evening of attempted song-writing and still 'enjoying' the pleasures of this cold, including an unhelpful headache that's been around all day.I'm sat here with a substantial amount of sloe gin in the hope it'll quieten the throat and stop me coughing all night.

I ended up losing my blogger password, so I've re-set it and can now blog from previously un-used places.

The Ubuntu font issue has mostly resolved itself. Further reading indicates that many, many others have found the same thing, and it's a result of especially poor 'standard' font choice coupled with badly implemented anti-aliasing. The anti-aliasing is what makes the font actually blur. The poor font choice just makes the page bad to read in exactly the way you would expect regardless of operating system.

In some manner completely unknown to me, most of the anti-aliasing issues have disappeared now, and I'm left with icky fonts. I know how to change standard fonts, but I just need to install decent (i.e. true type) ones. This may be where Sabayon wins, as the Italians appear to understand aesthetics, while the rest of the world just looks on and wonders how they're so stylish.

So Ubuntu works. - Randall, this is probably *the one* for you, using WUBI.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Seems it's always one of us.

Chris is in bed now with a migraine, while I've actually felt better today (thought I was going to pay the price for working yesterday - 1st thing was a bit grim). We've had some good weeks together, and now we're not. Best be grateful for the good times rather than grumble about the bad ones.

Talking of good times, spring has arrived, truly.

Outside temp is around 20'C. I've been cutting the grass with my shirt off. Contrast this to earlier in the week when I was ill, sure I had a temp, but the house felt freezing, even with the heating on. My hands went numb a few times.

Great, great weather. Hope it stays warm tonight - we've friends coming over IF Chris is up to coping.

After being less than encouraging about WUBI

It sounds like a woman's name, spoken with a lisp. I was probably being grumpy because of illness.

Anyway, Randall suggested Ubuntu and WUBI together. Bearing in mind that Ubuntu 8.04 has been out for about 2 days I thought I'd give it a go last night. In addition, WUBI is supported and recommended by the Ubuntu people, and isn't (as I imagined) a flaky independent add-on by a couple of guys in a dark room somewhere.

WUBI is a small program that runs under windows which creates a Linux partition within a windows partition and automatically installs Ubuntu, sets up the bootloader etc. You choose the size of the partition and the place it's created (I bunged it on the Samsung drive) and it installs a bootloader that is run AFTER windows begins booting. To install you can either use the Ubuntu CD (download the iso file and burn your own) or if it can't find that it will try to download ubuntu direct from a mirror.

My first go wasn't successful as I had both WUBI and the Ubuntu ISO file on an external hard drive. Of course as an ISO the data weasn't visible to WUBI so it tried to download the OS, which I stopped. D'oh. I un-installed WUBI, burned a CD, popped it in a drive and then re-ran WUBI. It found the CD, asked me how much space to use (default 15Gb) and where to install, user ID and password then just got on with it.

After around 10 mins it asked me to remove the CD and reboot. A menu was offered after starting to boot to carry on to XP or start Ubuntu. On selecting Ubuntu it completed the install, taking around 15 mins more. Bear in mind that if you were installing on an older system it might be quite a bit slonger - I'm running 4Gb RAM, and that Samsung drive is really quick.

Install completed, one more reboot, select Ubuntu and it worked first go. Firefox beta 3 v5 is the default browser - no IPv issues here, and it worked from the start. It also detected I had no proprietary drivers installed for my graphics card, and offered the option of downloading and installing automatically, which I accepted. One more reboot and it's all there. The reminder then popped up to tell me I was using non-open source drivers, and in fact popped up after EVERY boot. Hope there's a switch somewhere to turn that off.

The good and bad:

Good - it's free, easy to install like this, quick, seems to have automated driver installation (one of the most awkward areas of Linux for years)and is very functional. By reputation it's the easiest to use, most friendly version of Linux available, and it does have a warm, fuzzy, friendly feel to it.

Bad - screen fonts are, frankly, just frightful: all smeary and blurry. I used the correction tools built in (Mandriva used to have them - now does it automatically) and it became bearable but not good. Fonts in Mandriva are MUCH crisper - I'm using a syncmaster 206B 20" LCD at 1680X1020 and in windows the fine dot pitch makes for very clean fonts. Mandriva shows some of the smear issues, but nothing like as bad. I may try to import the imported windows fonts from Mandriva to Ubuntu. Another irritation is the lack of joined-up control, where each time you want to alter a key setting you have to log in as root instead of just working through something like the Mandriva control centre.

Based on my experiences so far, there seems to be a trade off between display quality and stability in Linux OSs (don't ask me why!). Sabayon is still far and away the best in terms of appearance, with the sharpest fonts, coolest interface, but is way unstable. Mandriva is second, with OK fonts and crisp, clean interface that feels like a marriage of OSX and XP. Ubuntu threw no glitches in the short time I tried it and has a pleasant feel, but I'd struggle to spend a day working in front of that display.

Guess that's sealed my pigeon-holing in the backwaters of geekdom.

Friday, 25 April 2008

You may wonder

why it's been so quiet here this week.

Frankly, my health is just pants right now. I've been off Mon-Wed, went back to work yesterday because we had a grand fromage visit, and today I came in against all the wishes of my body and because there's stuff that needs to be done, and I can't drive it from home. Plus our IT systems are being switched across today, and I REALLY need to be here for that.

So quite honestly I'm ready to crawl under a rock and go to sleep, except that sleep would last about 15 mins. Better keep working then.

Actually, lunchtime calls.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

History and perspective?

I may have posted on this before, but I can't remember when. Lurgy has settled in firmly, so if this is a little vague thn please accept my apologies.

Chris and I spent the afternoon with some good friends in Lemington, plus 2 more that had come up to visit the first couple from London. We all go back more than 20 years, and it's great to get together.

As it was a mostly female bash, Simon and I wandered out to the kitchen to make drinks and chat. We talked about how people interpret history from the perspective of their own current views and those of the society around them. While there is clearly some measure of independent thinking, much of they way we understand various actions and events is coloured by personal experience.

Simon then said something which made me pause. I forget the exact words, but the way I understood it, he basically said "God does some very strange things in the bible". We've known Simon a long time. He's a lovely guy and a great father to his children. And he's done alpha, been to church a bit and decided that it isn't for him, at least AFAIK.

Chris and I have had somewhat similar conversations from time to time. How could God order the deaths of all those people, men women and even babies? Why does the psalmist ask God to 'break the teeth of the wicked' with his fist, for the women and children of his enemies to go hungry and homeless? How can someone asking for disaster to come on other people then proclaim their own righteousness AND GET AWAY WITH IT? And what about all the seemingly capricious things God appears to have done.

It's tempting to just brush off these things as "God can do what he likes" and "we're all just God's clay pots to make and break as He chooses". Or worse, to take these as articles of faith to guide our actions, allowing us to do violence to others that don't agree, to behave capriciously too.

Just as we interpret events around us in the light of our understanding and culture, so we tend to perceive God. To a degree we 'make God in our image'. As Christians we expect God to interact with us, and through that process we also develop a picture of what He's like, His character and way of dealing with us. So we have this rather mixed view: some of our understanding of God is sanctified and some of it sinful and cultural.

Now imagine a culture that has seen God at work doing astonishing things. A culture less familiar with the idea of 'miracles' being done today and the impossible (in a movie at least) being normal. Imagine a culture where there are rules to follow on a purely human level - no strengthening through the Spirit of God for most people, no way into Father's presence. Consider that culture having grown out of and being surrounded by civilisations that are brutal in the extreme. For whom it is normal to use prostitutes in religious practice, to burn children to death as sacrifices, to mutilate prisoners that have been captured and to keep women as concubines and slaves.

In these circumstances, I wonder how we might describe the things we observed of God? Even if we were inspired by God's Spirit (as the writers of the bible were) how might our culture, education and surroundings affect the manner in which we described things or what we asked for?

And what about those odd things God seems to do, like being angry with Moses and wanting to kill him when he's on his way top meet Pharaoh? I have this image in my minds eye of a scene from a film, where an innocent man helps up a girl who has fallen over, has his photograph taken holding the girls hands in an apparently compromising position, and then his wife judges him on the evidence of this image 'proving' his unfaithfulness.

There's probably a great book that could be written from this stuff, and in fact may have already been written. IMO there are already too many Christian books, and I'm certainly not going to write this one, but it IS worth considering next time you read a passage and thing "how could God DO THAT?".

Friday, 18 April 2008

Anyone fancy going on Safari?

It seems Apple is now offering Safari to Windows users.

I'm a hypocrite.

I decided a year or more back not to buy cheap Chinese stuff. The mower I bought is clearly made down to a price, and although it's starting its 3rd season now, performance is quite inferior to the mountfield I'd run for years before. There were good reasons for buying a brand new mower, but experience (and much fore-thought) tells us that you frequently get what you pay for, and in this case there are environmental and sociological reasons to spend more on a European made device too.

Fast forward to this week. Ebuyer have had a bunch of cheap power tools in for some time. I do occasionally build stuff, and have wanted a circular saw since my old Black and Decker died (from cutting up firewood - knackered gearbox, burned brushes). So I ordered one to go in with some other stuff and get free postage.


It'll probably work fine, and I'm helping feed poor people somewhere, but I've also contributed to being part of the problem rather than part of the (local) solution. Now I can come up with some compelling arguments too, about how purchasing goods in huge amounts from china is a *good* thing, and it's making them dependent on the west and therefore more likely to be supportive of this society as they become ascendent while America vacates the position of dominant super-power. But I also see this situation as an unrighteous outcome of the excessive and unbridled greed of the west.

My greed, too.

I trust God to work in every situation for the good of those who love Him. But what about when that situation is brought about by greed, of which I have contributed a portion.

What future legacy have we created for our children?

Thursday, 17 April 2008

While we're grumbling, I'll mention Linux.

Remember the 'good' old days of Windows 3.0 and Windows 95?

Software worked, kinda, with regular lockups, crashes and just plain not doing what it should do?

Welcome to Linux.

Like web browsers that won't work because they use IPv 6.

Like web browsers that DO work. A bit. Like Konqueror, that apparently will access the net through a perfectly ordinary NIC chip (unlike Firefox) but won't allow posting of comments to Haloscan (Dan - it did manage to post on your blog last night).

Bill Gates has nothing to worry about. Really. I have been reading around on the forums for a number of these OSs, and even the 'experts' regularly get the sort of hassles we left behind when windows moved to the 98 flavour. Anyone who's run 2000 or XP on a reasonably spec'd machine will be familiar with the idea that a machine is stable for days, can resume from hibernation or screen saver without hanging and expect smooth scrolling and sharp fonts. I love the *look* of sabayon (even mandriva isn't so bad these days) and really like the idea of a M$ free environment (an apple has all the same issues that makes M$ unattractive, namely feelings of excessive control). But right now the price is too high for it to be my sole means of computing.

Shortly I will have a 750Gb Samsung F1 drive arriving, and I'll partition it up for Linux multi-boot. I'm very interested in learning, especially as these OS have become more less non-intuitive, but I'm very desperately unimpressed at what I've learned over the last month or so. If I can find a way of making a stable, attractive and non-M$ system then I'll certainly consider migrating. Until then...... I'm still a fan of XP.

Fings ain't what they used ter be.

I've been working in the lab pretty much since I was 17 (the school lab doesn't count - Lab? hah!).

Since that time I've been using automatic pipettes made by a company called Gilson. They have been the final word in pipetting performance since that time, despite being compared to a number of other popular brands. Gilson pipettes are legendary for reliability and performance.

Recently we've decided to equip every person in the lab with their own set. Some of these were our old pipettes, sent off for service and calibration, others were bought brand new. In a previous company we operated a scheme like this, with internal calibrations and each person testing their own set every month. Reliability was high and failures few and far between: we had internally produced specifications that were both real and tight.

We had issues about a year ago, when the instruments we had were last serviced. They came back with issues that became progressively worse and were 'fixed' internally, rather than be without our pipettes for a few weeks. This should have been a warning to me.

Our new pipettes are, frankly, lousy.

Some vary considerably between operators. Some require specific tip types, and not all the same. Precision is often not great and accuracy has been laughable for some instruments. We've been evaluating them for a ridiculous amount of time now - it should have been a case of the instruments arriving, bashing through the tests and just approving them. Instead we've each spent nearly a man-day testing, only for half of them not to come up to spec. A little while ago the UK Gilson distributor ran an advert warning people about using other suppliers that 'might' service them using cheap parts made in China, leading to problems with reliability. The manner in which these pipettes behave is JUST LIKE the way they described the copy parts performance.

If I ever start buying pipettors from scratch again I shall look at someone else's instruments. We have had to invest far too much time in these shonky things, and I've lost faith in the ability of the UK supplier to do a worthwhile job. I need to consider carefully whether I'm willing to take on the paperwork burden required to go through non-conforming a supplier under the quality management system.

Sorry to talk shop.

What is it about

politics and web forums that makes people on the western side of the Atlantic so combative, aggressive and just plain nasty. I've seen behaviour like this before, but it still shocks me. Worst of all, these people are Christians, people that genuinely love Jesus, but also genuinely care more about being right than they do their fellow man. How ashamed some of these people make me feel.

I think this is why I love those who are a little left of centre, despite being firmly conservative in outlook. We may not agree, but there seems to be a grace that is missing from the right right.

Monday, 14 April 2008

The missing

5 minute Linux manual for morons.

I've just re-started reading The Register, after a break of a couple of years.

Brilliant stuff, with just the right level of knowledge, cynicism and humour.

And the BOFH.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

And yesterday

All our grass had it's first cut.

In the winter I bought a bench grinder at Aldi for about a tenner. It made a nice change to just offer up the mower blade to a grinding wheel instead of filing it by hand. Nice not to have the invariably chipped knuckles that accompanies the blade-filing exercise too.

We drove to Banbury in the beetle with the top down, only to have to put it up at some traffic lights when the rain started. 12'C isn't *really* warm enough.

We rounded the day off with a curry. There's a Bangaldeshi restaurant in Deddington that does all kinds of dishes we never heard of anywhere else. Last night we had Chicken Silsila (sweet and mild) and Lamb Achaar (semi-dry, sharp, hints of citrus and astringency) with rice, nan bread and onion bahjis. The time before we had a Sathkora (very strong citrus flavours) with butter chicken. Each time we seem to have chose something bitter and something creamy and sweet: fortunate, since alone any of these would have been a bit much. Together there's a good balance. Bit like a good marriage really: balanced.

Time I was outside in the sunshine.

Linucks and windoze

I have an interesting combination of OSs available to me now: Mandriva 2008 and Sabayon on one hard drive, XP on the other.

In the process of installation I've discovered that:

Sabayons disc partitioning system is stinky and ambiguous.

Mandrivas partitioning system will only operate if the partition you want to resize isn't actually being used by any part of the OS

Sabayon appears to not offer an equivalent level of control through the GUI to Mandrivas control panel

Mandriva is unstable and unpredictable

Setting up a bootloader that can cope with different HDD formats (Linux on IDE, windows on SATA) is 'tricky' despite being apparently obvious.

Chris thought Mandriva was pronounced "Man Driver" - the white van man of the OS world?

So at the moment I swap between OSs by disabling the IDE drive in the BIOS - there appears to be a boot hierarchy, with IDE before SATA. Fine by me, but a little irritating. I suspect 30s in google and a couple of hours reading and fiddling will fix it fine. My biggest irritation about Linux is that it is highly un-intuitive unless you already know all kinds of stuff, while *mostly* windows is very intuitive and noob-friendly. Sure there are exceptions (no-one ever tells people who to enter the MAC address of a wireless dongle so that the base station will recognise it).

Now I need to go recover all my various passwords so that I can start accessing things through the new OSs. I DEFINITELY don't remember what my blogger password is.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

I've been asking 'why' a little recently

The 'why' is about why I'd like to build a Linux PC?

I already spend more than enough time on the PC at home. The aspect of having a box that's relatively impervious to viruses and M$ automatic update is nice, but does that justify it? Also Linux is hardly the ultra-stable OS that it used to be - do something wrong - BOOM!

Monkey curiosity?

Surfing without leaving (too many) traces?

I dunno. It's been a tennet of computing faith that one day I'd do it, yet here I am, more than 10 years down the road and still convinced Windows XP is actually THE best operating system for normal home use right now. Mac-users - you have the nicest hardware, even if it's too expensive and a bit slow. Sure I envy you for garageband, but I can get by with Audacity if I don't need to fiddle with your widgets.

So I'm still wondering about Linux.

The box upstairs for watching DVDs is multi-boot with XP, 98 (for games - great older games environment) and mandriva pro 2008. Mandriva will import windows documents and settings, but can't manage drivers for my wireless network dongle and the NDIS wrapper didn't wrap. Being chicken (and sensible) I'm not going to partition the drive on the downstairs PC (linux-created partitions don't always seem reversible either). Ben was going to provide an old 60-80Gb HDD, but it hasn't turned up.

So I sit on the fence.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Does it worry you to criticise other people's music?

Marc V had a post asking why various Canadian bands and musicians just didn't make it big internationally (he was thinking especially of the tragically hip). I left some comments having had a listen, only to feel commenters remorse.

I've been lent an album this week by a good friend. The band is prayer chain, and more than half the album pushes all the wrong buttons. They were described to me as the 'best christian indie band he'd ever heard'. 5 songs on the album are good but the rest really didn't want recording - it's not just me: Ben listened in the car and quite agreed.

Then there's a forum where someone posted a link to the Luna trinity guitar being played by Vicki Genfan. Incredible playing, but it's that ghastly sucky tapping tuneless style style pioneered by Andy McKie and now being ripped off wholesale by all and sundry. I liked the funky tones of the guitar, and this piece is better than most snappy poppy stuff, but still rankles.

People identify with music, and that's where it becomes a problem.

Hate my musical taste - hate me, is so often the message.

So it bothers me to criticise. It doesn't stop me, but I've tried to tone it down over the years.

I guess not everyone can share such good taste as mine.

Well - she's home.

Collected my mum from Banbury around 4.00pm this afternoon. She's tired but seems effectively OK.

Once again, thanks for your prayers.

Does anyone else

have those times when you wonder why you're here, really, instead of somewhere else?

I'm sure it's just selfish laziness, but I'm here in the office with someone grumbling in the background, a long day ahead and a mother back in hospital. My thoughts have been running along the lines of:

"Wonder what it's like in Brussels - sunshine and flowers instead of frost?"

"How about in Greece? Is it chilly at Phillipi?"

"Have the spring flowers come up yet in Houston (from memory, the greenrer parts around Houston are actually lovely at this time of year - like spring in England with summer temperatures)".

I've just discovered too that someone isn't in today either, and it's not completely convenient, as I want to talk to them.


I mentioned my mother being back in again. She had a lot of fluid around her heart that had obviously been building for a week or so, and it was pressing on her heart and lungs, causing severe breathlessness. Yesterday evening she seemed much better, but was staying in hospital at least overnight. She got very worried because the ward that she had stayed in before had all gone down with C. Difficile - an infection would probably kill her. It's apparently all cleaned up and clear now, but they were planning to let her stay in the MAU overnight, so hopefully all is well.

Thanks everyone that prayed yesterday.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Back to my roots this afternoon.

I've been sawing wood and splitting logs.

Somewhere in the dim and distant past are woodsmen, and although it's *probably* purely in the mind, it *feels* like there's something right about cutting wood.

I started off using a bow saw, then quickly realised it was too much like hard work and dug out the chain saw. I've not had the old girl running for years, literally, but after unwrapping and closing up the spark plug and cleaning then air filter it started easily and ticked over happily.

There's a feeling of immense satisfaction at the way a chainsaw carves it's way through a tree. It feels like the sort of sensation everyone should enjoy at least once in their life. Assuming they're an intelligent, careful and capable individual, of course - Texas chainsaw massacre types need not apply.

Unfortunately my poor old saw needs a new chain, as the old one has been resharpened so much that there's not much tooth left and it now cuts off to one side.

So now I'm thoroughly bushed. Had a cold come on, and my nose has been literally dripping this morning. I've now got a thick head that feels like it'll go to a headache tomorrow, and my body already aches from the effort of chopping and guiding the saw so that bodes well for having church round here tomorrow. Still, I'm sure they'll survive me, even if I am dozy and vaguer than usual. Probably slightly hung over too, as it's a celebration tonight for a good friend, and there's going to be lots of cows bottom and some nice red wine to wash it down.

See you in the morning.


I seem to be caught schizophrenically between a rock and a hard place.

In my years of working in this area I have developed into 2 separate Toni’s.

Number 1 is Dr. Research mode: fast, messy and creative. I can run large multivariate experiments using lots of variables, all in an untidy and cluttered environment, and with great speed and accuracy.

Number 2 is Mr. GMP mode: careful, tidy and methodical. I perform line clearance before starting, proceed carefully through a detailed method following every step and only do one single operation at a time.

Like I said – schizophrenic – these 2 ways of working are poles apart, quite contradictory and very highly incompatible.

My present job increasingly needs me to marry these 2 sides of my work ‘character’.

We are literally starting to validate a new product (beginning next week). Validation requires time, materials, resources. I have *some* of all of them, but not enough. Validation also requires things to be worked through in a very precise and careful, painstaking fashion to be meaningful. However the truth of it is that we’ve had the product to actually work with from the lab that did feasibility since the end of Jan this year, and there’s only been time for a single shot at making it into a form that can be put in a box and sold to the outside world, and it’s not 100% solid. Yet.

Now the No.1 side of me says “oh heck, just re-formulate – it’ll be fine – you KNOW what works”. The other side of me is saying “ but you haven’t tested THAT formulation, and you don’t even know how many kits you’ll need for sample value studies, or how you’re going to calibrate the standards that you haven’t made yet”.

The danger is that when I do this schizo thing, my brain just shuts down and says ‘go play – you’re bored here and should find something else to do’.

I really need to find the middle ground – where I can develop and move forward fast, while providing all the evidence and supporting data needed to let the product go forward. My tendency is to slide off into one side or the other, usually the Dr. Research mode because that’s more fun and gets things done MUCH faster.

Fortunately a little adrenaline goes a long way. It’s amazing how you can force yourself to write a document when you REALLY have to. I’ve given up living off stress and anger (want to be really productive – learn how to focus anger) as it spills over into home life. But sometimes one just needs to kick ones own butt a little, and I guess that’s what I’m trying to do now.

Wrote this yesterday while at work. I really could do with spending my weekend writing documents, but instead I'm going to work in the garden and have church here in our house tomorrow.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Are we willing to be unattractive for the sake of the gospel?

BTW I know I'm something of a snob, and I don't have problems with that.

Tuesday night as part of this discipleship course we had a talk from someone that has truly pioneered a church in a difficult area of Oxford. It’s a council estate, full of poverty and unemployment, and most especially, full of the side of current culture that makes me glad not to live there.

He moved there about 5 years ago, as a youngish guy with his wife, and started getting to know people. He became *like* them.

This was brought home to me when he was talking about winners and losers. The characters referred to were football managers – not people I would see as admirable in any way.

I’ve been turning this over and over in my head since then. Why would someone of reasonable intelligence accept ‘sun-newspaper’ culture and actually make it their own – at least where it did not clash with un-negotiable Christian values.

I think I know.

There’s a tension within my feelings about this. It’s easy to think that he’s got it nice – cultural values of beer and footie, everyone has a particular accent and way of delivering ideas – cushy number for a younger guy. But he’s actually identified himself with those we (both society and me – I’m guilty too) would see as contemptible, as worthless unless they change. Instead of doing the impossible for the unwilling (trying to get them to ‘come up to my level’) he’s gone in there and down to theirs.

And some ARE rising up.

It’s good and it’s challenging. It’s not comfy, but comfy is for those insulated and ineffective.

If I were to try to do what he’s done there, could I succeed? Absolutely not. I don’t have the right interests, accent or thought processes. But I admire the way he’s “made himself nothing” to do what he’s doing, and to walk in integrity with it.

These days I sound like a product of the culture I’m surrounded by, even if I don’t entirely think and behave like that culture. I wonder where I need to become nothing to make a difference?

More challenges.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Can you get 'prayer fatigue'?

One of the things I've been finding in this weeks episode of the Toni show is that praying isn't easy.

I called a friend tonight, Mark, and we talked about stuff we're working through. I've never been one of the amazingly spiritual people who will always remember that the answer is to pray - I'm much more likely to try to work my way through stuff in some practical fashion. and I've a suspicion this is the right thing to often do.

But there are times prayer doesn't come easily and I hate to hear myself speaking cliches and regurgitated phrases.

Now a part of it is definitely that we're busy at work, and because there are so many balls in the air I'm finding clear headspace difficult. Sure there are times when I'm empty-headed, but that's not the same as being in a place of quiet and waiting. And for me, prayer was never right as a list of needs and wants (even for other peoples benefit) or recitation of a list of trite 'worship' phrases.

So I can see there's a place I need to enter, but haven't quite accessed it yet. Tomorrow, my mind being what it is, this mysterious place will have slipped away and life will carry on as normal. Probably.

How much hypocrisy do we need?

Nearly everyone in the UK must by now have heard about Max Mosely, chairman of the body that manages F1 (the FIA) being filmed acting out a Nazi prison camp scenario with 5 prostitutes. Somewhat unfortunate, in view of his history and childhood nazi links.

Not great or clever.

However it appears that the world is up in arms about it.

From the little I know of it, this *kind* of imagery has been a staple of the porn industry for years. I know such films have been made because I’ve seen advertisements for them. While the man is in a senior position within the formula 1 world, this behaviour does not seem any more at odds with his position any more than ordinary people having affairs or visiting prostitutes while married. Which is clearly not unusual, if not common in some circles. No-one apparently bats an eye at net porn outside a work context, with people doing much less pleasant things to each other than in this situation.

I am quite sure that the journalists that have blown this up in the face of the world are fully as sordid as the man himself, yet no-one ever questions their integrity over publishing such details. Of course people are interested and of course they will buy papers – this will give a substantial number a sexual thrill thinking about the carefully almost-described goings on. I wonder if any of those who wish they’d been able to watch would ever think of themselves at least as guilty as the man that made their pleasure possible?

How truly foul and guilty are people in ways that they do not even see?

I don't especially agree with this comment in the Times either, but at least they seem able to think a little more rationally about the whole sordid business.