Thursday, 30 October 2008

This must be a good sign.

I've finished lunch and would now like a chocolate biscuit.

Plus my belt is only loosened by one notch.

The digestive system is beginning to work again and no longer feels like Battersy Rise on a Friday night.

What is it?

Why the sudden interest in Twitter?

It's like sending text messages by phone, but without any technical need to restrict the amount of data other than the software design. And with all due respect to those that do twitter, it mostly seems to consist of inanity.

Am I getting old so that these little fashions just seem stoopid instead in exciting?

Monday, 27 October 2008

Is there no end to the lurgy?

I seem to have tummy troubles now, but it's affecting far more than just that.

Noticed it a bit yesterday, feeling increasingly rough yesterday afternoon, a bit dizzy at times (I actually forgot to play a chord during a song yesterday and my fingers just wandered aimlessly on the fingerboard). Dan and Kita came over yesterday evening, and it was lovely to see them: really didn't want them to go, yet I was struggling to keep going all the time.

My joints are fairly angry (a good sign of infection) and I just ache as well as having the dizziness, bloated feeling, temperature and no strength. Managed a couple of hours sleep, but it wasn't good. When I got up at 3am my stomach gurgled so loudly that in my confused state I though Chris was calling out to me from the bedroom. It wasn't until it happened for the 3rd time I realised where the noise was coming from.

I can't even sit at the computer comfortably, as it compresses my stomach and I feel sick. Just finished emailing the guys in the lab with stuff to do today - took 20 min for a few lines of text and a lot of confused head scratch.

Hope this is gone soon. :p

Friday, 24 October 2008

And now for something completely different.

After my concerns about music on Tuesday last night was the best time of worship yet at the chapel. Thanks to a happy accident there was a bit more of a break between songs and it made opportunities to pray out. And ego aside, the alternative chords I provided for Majesty and Be Thou My Vision did get used and did work really well instead of sitting there all uncomfortably. I don't feel 'vindicated' because there's nothing to prove, but I am so glad that it did flow instead of being gratingly uncomfortable.

Also kind of funny.

The chap speaking was Dennis Niziol who heads up a church in Bicester. I've known Dennis for years and he's the front man of the 'Panic Street Preachers' that I've gigged with a couple of times. He's very much into ministry through music too, and at the end he got me to join him on guitar while he went through a bunch of songs. It's funny, because with the 6 month rule I've not played here publicly at all, and I've even been wondering if I should consider not joining the worship team after all. We'll see on that front, but at least I know it's something I'm willing to give up, even if it means struggles further down the line.

But it was good. God really turned up while we played, and there were a number of people on the floor, being prayed for, receiving and letting stuff go. Overall a good evening.

How's life for you at the moment?

Challenging was my answer.

But not necessarily in ways you might expect.

Last night I met someone who had been a friend, albeit not a close one, from a few years back. His wife had sung with the worship team at the church, he'd looked after sound and they'd been involved, at least to some degree. I'd also been aware that his business was having difficulties (manufacturing in the UK for anyone in engineering has been desperate these last 20 years) and that family life wasn't easy with a couple of small but very energetic boys.

Then they drifted away, bit by bit. I got the gist that married life was difficult, money ditto. To my shame I didn't pursue and they were outside my pastoral care & I was pretty busy anyway.

Fast forward to last week, I mentioned seeing someone I'd thought I recognised? Well yup, that was them. Still same rugby-forward frame, but with the addition of breasts, long hair, dress, 'curious' voice and handbag, minus 5 o'clock shadow.

Chris and I had discussed 'what if' during the week, which was a good thing because it all came true. What do you do in this situation? Denounce them in front of everyone? Start expelling demons? Ask sharply pointed questions about their wife while calling them by their previous name? Ask them if they can still stand up to pee? We discussed none of those things specifically, but both considered the question.

And so it was that she saw them (I'm not saying him or her right now) sat down and talked, with some degree of care in a way a woman could and a man couldn't without confrontation. I came over later after I'd dealt with the things I needed to do and then dodged the issue for a couple of minutes more before doing a psychological 'scruff of the neck'. We small-talked, uncomfortably, feeling things out a bit. It must have been difficult for them because my face is often effectively a screen for whatever's going on inside my head, and it certainly wasn't easy for me. They're currently going to a liberal and 'inclusive' church in Oxford, but that's not very local.

The question it came down to is the corny old saw WWJD?

Would He have condemned them, sent them away in shame. Would he have accepted them with more grace than I had as someone who fouls up - like we all do. The level Chris and I are at right now is that we'll take them as we find them: I don't really see there's another option, and see where it goes from there. Who said life had to be simple?

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Interesting MS treatment

From the BBC here.

This is especially interesting to me because I'm pretty sure that's something I worked on when I was still working for Wellcome Research Labs at Beckenham. Then it was called CAMPATH 1 and was a crude antibody (the latest version will have the same binding activity, but have been 'humanised' by grafting the binding regions into the constant regions of a human antibody structure.

That sounds so easy, doesn't it?

My part in this? I put together an assay to measure the activity of the original antibody. It probably made no difference to the final product, but it's interesting to see that some things I've touched have gone on to become significant for some people.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

How do you tell right from wrong?

I'm not talking about good and evil (well, not strictly anyway) but instead good arrangements from bad arrangements for worship music.

One of the advantages of the position I've 'enjoyed' in BCC is that I get to review how we put our music together. While I'm by no means perfect (my dear friend Jane often has to correct the keys I try to use, and occasionally vice versa ;-) I can hear when a chord arrangement doesn't suit a song for ordinary people to sing together. So it's been interesting being involved in another church that uses other peoples arrangements (not their own) and CDs.

There are a lot of really lousy arrangements out there, being recorded by professionals.

In fact that's the key, really. Because they are professionals they can sing through the innappropriate chord choice, poor rhythms, ridiculous pitches and naff styles while making it, if not good, then at least not screamingly awful.

Examples? In church a couple of weeks back we had 'There's a place' used from a CD (I have no idea whose recording it was) that at first listen sounded like the bland mix used for congregational worship. And then we tried to sing. It must have been pitched a good 2 tones above what was comfy for most people: you could see peoples bugging eyes a strained expressions as they tried to push for the higher notes. But worst of all, the arrangement completely emasculated the song, using a turgid progression in the chorus that sounded more like 'Puppy Love' than 'Rockin All Over The World', which is where it should be.

Another example came last night.

The song 'Majesty' has been around seemingly forever. I remember learning this one around the same time 'Make Way' was happening (Graham Kendrick moment anyone?) and the chord progression that should support the song is clear, obvious and unambiguous. In the chorus there's a strong movement of contrast that requires a B chord, before resolving back down to D - "Magnify, come glorify Christ Jesus the king". This was written into the music when I learned it, and if it hadn't been I'd have wondered what should go there and sought it out.

So why is it that every other version I find as online tab (including some apparently official ones) hold a G there before resolving to the D? It is singable, sure, but it crunches like a bull in a room full of Wedgewoods finest. There's a whole bunch of other obvious chords that lead the musical progression through the song that have been lost/left out/never noticed too.

After worship practice last night I played through the version I knew of the song to one of the other guitar players and someone heard what I was doing and sang to it. His immediate reaction was "can you score that for me?".

Maybe it's the internet age, that lets every man do what's right in his own eyes and then tell the world about it. For the same reason I have trouble with 'ordinary' people writing 'Christian' books (too many of them seem un-necessary and indulgent) people publishing tabs that are wrong for songs don't help others, so much as confuse the issue. And when something has been recognised as RIGHT by making it into print (albeit tab from a website "I know it's true, I found it on the internets") it's darn difficult to unpick and correct.

Maybe I'm now just old skool and old fashioned (tune - who needs one of those?). This was not meant to be a rant. Hmmm.

So, other musicians out there, how do YOU tell good from bad, right from wrong, wet from rocking, or do you just accept whatever is presented to you and like it?

p.s. if anyone would like 'my' arrangement let me know.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Just cooked

Toad in the hole.

Must be at least a couple of years since I did this, but it's winter (feeling) out there, and the calories can be semi-justified.

Yorkshire pudding does something slightly glorious to the taste of a sausage.

I'm wondering if we should invite some of the guys we know from Zim round for an evening of English winter food. Toad, Steak and kidney (better not call it snake and pygmy like I usually do) pie, Liver and Bacon and mash. Yum, my tummy is swelling at the thought.

Finish with some kind of steamed pudding and bucket fulls of custard thick enough to stand up.

Then..... sleep, if I'm not too bloated.

For Marc, who's apparently lost his google ;-) have a look here for an explanation of toad in the hole. However I'd use no water and adjust the amount of unsieved flour until I got the right thickness.

Man tries to sue God

Suit dismissed with prejudice.

Some people have too much free time and not enough imagination. Why would God recognise a courts decision as binding?

Just tired now

The lurgy seems to have lifted, mostly.

Still coughing 'productively' as the expression has it, but I don't feel ill so much as weakened. Got a full days work ahead, but I might bail out this afternoon and take a 1/2 days leave: we'll see.

So getting better at least - this is the first cold in a long time where I've not had antibiotics to get over it.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

I NEED this enhancer pedal set.

Youtube and dragonforce content.

Robyn - calling Robyn Freisen.

This pic made me think of you.

Wonder why?

Wonder why the world seems to be in financial difficulties?

There's a great post on Leighton Tebay's blog that explains it all in quite simple terms. Sure it IS more complex than that in detail, but the post covers off the essentials very well.

Friday, 17 October 2008

The lights are flickering.

Ben is outside welding up a new exhaust, the old one having fallen off and been crushed under a truck. The current draw is actually dimming the fluorescent bulbs in our livingroom and making them flicker on the edge of stability.


Well, respiratory infection more than skin, actually.

Lurgy - how yah doin'? Ain't seen you for a coupla weeks.

Well that was the night that was.


We'd been to the chapel yesterday evening.

Rewind that - I'd been on the run since leaving work. Got home, cooked dinner (Chris was busy, hadn't noticed the time and I cook faster than she does) thoroughly heated the food for Alpha, drove it over, took a portion round to the lovely Jane with a bad back, then drove home so Chris could pick up stuff, then drove to the chapel.

We'd been there a short while when someone I think we used to know walked in. *Richard* had long hair, a skirt, handbag, breasts and a smoothish chin. If I'd not know them before I might have overlooked the fact that *he* is about 6'3" and built like a rugby forward. But I wasn't QUITE sure enough to go up and greet them with the name they used to use, and in the end, to my shame I bottled it.

*edit* Ben saw his wife at the Tim Hughes concert in Oxford earlier in the week. Ben hadn't been aware about the change, although we had heard it mentioned. He asked what would make someone so obviously masculine try to change like that?

Meetings at the chapel tend to be short, in that the organised bit is usually max 1hr 15, often less than an hour. But people want to fellowship, so they just do it before and after the meetings. So people start getting together at 7.30, meeting starts at 8ish, finishes about 9.15 after which there is a discussion group. There were more back in the main hall fellowshipping than there were in the discussion group, and they were there still after the small group finished, up 'till about 10.40pm when the place really needed locking up.

There's a learning in there.

So we got home, unwound for a while, then went to bed.

But not to sleep.

Not at all, really.

So you try all the things that help to bring sleep, both individually and together. There's lots of stuff bouncing round in my head, and FWIW having a bad night after chapel meetings has become normal for me. I don't know whether it's the extra concentration required to work across cultures (and many Zim guys are holding hard to their culture) just the effort of trying to get to know people or if there's a spiritual aspect to this as well. No matter.

Eventually Chris went downstairs to the settee because she was coughing and I wasn't, probably about 2.30am

I must have got some sleep as there were definite gaps, but around 4.30am woke up again.

By 6 I'd had enough - it's when I'm rising now anyway, so just sat up, managed about 20 min very sleepy incoherent prayer in bed before shaving, bathing etc.

Today one of my staff is leaving, and I really want to be there, to say goodbye and thank you, otherwise this would definitely be a sickie. There's that feeling of pressure inside my head from blocked sinuses and insufficient sleep, and no amount of flu-strength paracetamol will clear it. :-(

Thursday, 16 October 2008

I worry occasionally

about how much I've spent on hobbies. Stuff like guitars, mountain bikes, R/C planes. Y'know the stuff.

Some of the guys I know over on the BM formerlies forum were taking about how much their riding has cost them over recent years. Estimates were rolling in around the 10 grand mark (I reckon my riding since '98 has cost less than £2000 and my riding as a teen racer can't be more than £1000 on top of that). One of the slightly 'less cautious' guys just estimated at £20,000 in the last 8 years.

Makes me seem pretty moderate.

Errr, Darling.... About that Les Paul custom.....



The CV is finally done.

There's little I find harder than to say nice things about than myself.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

There's a lot of catching up to do

but most of it's boring.

Both Chris and I have colds. Mine has gone mostly to my head, which aches whenever thought looks like it will be required. Chris's has been mostly her throat, head and anything else that shouldn't feel uncomfy but did. She's mostly better today, but I took the day of as leave because I wanted more freedom to do stuff (more later) than I can allow myself when on a sickie.

Saturday was supposed to be a day off for us to be together. Having done chores we were talking about where to go when Ben got up and asked if I'd be able to 'help him' a bit this morning. 'This morning' turned out to be a visit to the breakers, spending a number of hours removing various parts from various cars, then returning around 3pm. We did manage a nice picnic by the canal though, sitting on a blanket in the warm sunshine.

Saturday evening I reversed into a car that had just whipped into the space I was trying to park in. She first told me that I was parking in the space next to the one she was in, then told Chris this afternoon that I had been stationary when she parked. The broker thinks it will go knock-for-knock but she's having none of it. Ho hum.

On Monday Chris put 945kg of 20mm shingle on our parking space, single handed. Looks great, smells of fish. Presumably it was freshly collected from the sea bed somewhere just before delivery. "Oh I do like to be beside the seaside" an' all that.

Tuesday we skipped housegroup - not cool as we're supposed to be leading, but frankly, the only place my head was taking me was the next box of tissues. We sat next to each other and watched 'Return Of The Jedi'.

And so to today.

The cold has taken most of my sense of taste and smell - therefore it is the perfect time to cook for the Alpha tomorrow night. 40 mains including 2 vegetarian please.

When in doubt, resort to chili con carne (sans any actual chili, of course). 5kg lean mince (plus a 2 person portion of quorn mince) and several hours later it's all done. Tastes OK as far as I can tell. ;-)

During the latter stages of cooking one of our cats decided to throw up in the kitchen. I managed to catch it on a plastic mat, for which I am truly grateful. The cat then started washing repeatedly round it's bottom, never being happy and continually stopping and licking. When approached it showed feline embarrassment, walking just out of sight before washing again. I chased it upstairs, then back down before finally cornering it in the livingroom. A section of the plastic tube that Pepperoni sausages are made in was sticking out of it's bum.

No wonder it was embarrassed.

There was a little resistance, shall we say, to it being removed (gently - I don't like cats, but I'm not cruel) but it came out easily enough. The cat now seems a little less distressed and hopefully will not be sick again for a little while.






Ben is out tonight at the Tim Hughes concert in Oxford. He wasn't going, having hear enough TH at soul survivor, but then Kita called and asked if he'd be there as she was coming up for it.

There you go. All (mostly) caught up.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

I have a real sense of closure today.

It's 'funny' because I'm watching my good friend Randall packing up ready to leave, yet here I am, sat at the same desk, capping the same bottles, reading the same rubbish on the net.

Today I told the personnel people that I didn't want to look at other job opportunities within the company, and that I'd prefer to be made redundant when the company closes 31st December 2008. I had a few 'bells' going off in my head to do with security etc, but Chris and I talked and I think it's the right thing to do.

This is the second US controlled company I have worked for. The severance package is generous, but I hope it will be the last.

I was also turning over the way things are on the Christian Musicians forum in my head before God (does anyone understand what I mean - it's like discussing stuff in front of Jesus) especially the stuff from some of the more dogmatic. The conversation finished:

"Why do you do this?"

"Well, errr, it's interesting, I show them some stuff, I learn things, they learn things."

"You're done there"

So Mike, Steve, Roy, if you read this, I'm not upset or anything, but I feel that just as I had to take it up, now I've got to put it down.

Life on the net and in the blogosphere HAS been good for me in terms of my development as a Christian. Not just learning to deal with temptation (please keep it away from me!!!) but learning how to relate to others with 'wrong' views.

Before I got into the whole blog discussion thing I was like a teenager who 'knew' the right answer. A bit like Donkey from Shrek "pick me, this is THE answer". I couldn't see why others could not see the *obvious* answer that was so clear. I still feel that way sometimes, but feel neither the pressure to prove I'm 'right' nor the need to show them where they're wrong. I can also spot Marc's 'sleeping dogs' and leave them laying where I found them. ;-)

Perfect? Not yet, but better.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

It's always good to try something new.

In this case I was inspired by Joe Bonamassa and crossed it with SRV's Texas Flood. I've not played a slow, steady blues like this for a long time, and it was really fun (though hard work on fingertips - all those string bends).

Now if only I could have recorded it.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Now here's an interesting thing (PC content)

In 2002 I build a PC to use with a piece of lab equipment. I just knocked it up from some older parts we had laying around including a Pentium 233, 3dfx card and some odd RAM. Installed windows 98 because that's what we had a spare license for and the equipment specific software required it.

Fast forward to Friday last week.

When I finished in the lab for the weekend I shut the PC down and it just closed, snap, within a couple of seconds. That was 'new PC build' fast. My curiosity was piqued, so I restarted it. After the half minute of so, waiting for the MOBO to finish posting and the HDD to spin up it booted quickly and smoothly. Not quite so fast, but still very quick.

Now this box just runs office and the plate reader software (plus solitaire and minesweeper for those 5 min incubations where there's nothing else to do). It's never been patched, upgraded, connected to the net or networked in any way. No exciting software has been installed or removed. It has just been left to run, all day, every day (inc many weekends) with the occasional reboot for the last 6 1/2 years.

Now, what does that say about win 98 being unstable and needing annual rebuilds?

Monday, 6 October 2008

First frosty day

So it's the first frosty day this winter.

1.2'C outside our front door, but the cars were covered in thick ice. By the time i got outside the ice on the plants was already melting, but we'll have to scrape the cars.

Wonder if we beat Canada?

Sunday, 5 October 2008


Neither of our tummies was great during the night, nor particularly wonderful this morning - when I first got up I expected to see myself all distended, sticking out in front, and it was just normal. What is it about 'nice' food that so often has this effect? I didn't eat excessively (I've certainly eaten as much at home) and the food wasn't that rich. We've noticed this for the last 15 years or so, but it's becoming more pronounced.

We are seriously considering a major review of our diet, after discussions in the bath just now. Looks like curry sauces in jars are out and fresh veg/pasta/rice and more 'natural' sauces are coming in, at least for a while. We've both had digestive system issues that have become progressively more noticeable, and I'm not happy about that.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

The credit crunch strikes locally

We went out for a *nice* dinner tonight. Our favourite great value restaurant still does great food, but as I expected to happen a couple of years ago, has stopped being great value now. Interestingly, it was also half empty this evening - I have never seen so few diners in there. Makes me ask, was it the price rise that put them off or did the rise come to compensate for the lack of custom?

Really knackered feeling.

4 hours + driving (OK, puny by Canuke standards, but your roads are less busy) and a day in a meeting I didn't find helpful. Plus God putting me back in a place I didn't find AT ALL comfortable and gave me a real obedience tussle over, probably all so Simon Shaw could borrow my acoustic guitar for a workshop.

Chris said "well, what happened to free will", to which I replied "It's sat waiting for me at the cross, along with all the other stuff I left there".

I don't *plan* to go to any more DI days - they all left me with various degrees of frustration and disappointment. At the end there's a questionnaire handed out asking for comments. In a sudden burst of novelty I couldn't find a nice way to put my feelings into words, so decided not to say anything at all. Apparently Walt Disney has managed to instill the Thumper principle into my life now.

Friday, 3 October 2008


Woken around 3.30am by Chris coughing this morning. Sleep would not return, and the copiously streaming nose (allergy?) would not go away.

Felt lousy, especially after the cycle in to work (first since June) but just put it down to lack of sleep. Now I seem to have a temperature & headache.

Welcome to the first cold of the autumn (almost certainly what kept me awake). This weekend should be really full: tonight (our 27th anniversary) there's prayer from 8.00 to 12.00, a worship musicians day in Derby on Saturday, then out for dinner in the evening to make up for tonight, Sunday 2 church meetings plus post-christening social. We've also had no nights free this week, and next is looking busy too.

Mutter mutter, oh well, at least we're all effectively OK still.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

G for ??????

I just had to deal with a technical enquiry from Belgium. The line wasn't great and so I spelled out an email address for the caller: pee yew gee haitch. That's Peter, Umberella, err.... err... err.. Gonad, Helicopter.

Well, it's the industry we're in, for heavens sakes. It's what we deal with (it's NOT what we handle). Why would I think of Ginger?

That's all!

Cue very amused lab staff sat around me in the office.