Sunday 30 November 2008

Almost 10 years ago.

This afternoon we helped baptise a young couple. Luke and Hayley have become almost like our (grown up) children as we've got to know them during the last couple of years. I've seen Hayley go from panicky girl to calmly beautiful. Luke from uncomfy and evasive to relaxed and - if not *quite* comfy with man-hugs - confident.

It was almost 10 years ago that we baptised Sarah in this particular church. After she died we felt God tell us we'd have many other children, and this afternoon it really felt like that had been proved true again. We were enormously proud and happy to baptise Dan and Kita, and while L&H are different from them, this has again produced those kind of feelings. I can't tell you too much about them, but these guys have really set out to honour God, and in return I honour them and love them very much.

And well done Jon, my fearless assistant.

*edit* Chris looked up Sarah's baptism date - April '97. She was 7 1/2.

Thursday 27 November 2008

Oh the fun

of trying to find a memorable domain name.

Oxford and Assays, when shortened and combined sounds like something BS comes out of!

How true this could be.

Looks like I may be going to Sweden in January.

Only for a week or so.

There's a lab there I visited a few years back. They have a bunch of samples they would like run to close off a particular study, and it's better economics for them to get me to do it there than to have one of their staff learn to use the assay before running the tests.

Now I need to sort out registration with the tax office as a 'sole trader', find a way to invoice people etc etc. It's good. I hope.

True british food

The English appetite has toyed with foods from all kinds of places: the curry has won many friends over the last couple of centuries, French cuisine likewise but for much longer, Chinese style cooking has become widespread in the last 50 years.

But there's one thing that the British do best in their own way.

The Sausage.

When I returned from circuit training last night there was a baked potato, baked beans and, glory of glories, some excellent 'finest' Tescos sausages with Bramley apple. What more can one ask after a punishing workout (and it as punishing, as my body testifies this morning) than rich, savoury food to replenish the energy spent. It had just the right balance of fat, carbohydrate, protein, fibre and that great balance of warm rounded flavours that weren't too strong in anyone direction.

I had my sense of the British sausage as 'quality food' rekindled the last week too.

One of our guys was leaving, so we took him out to The Horse and Groom at Caulcott: also known as THE Sausage pub round here. They've changed management again recently, and the sausages (ordered in advance) were some of the best I've ever had. One of my regrets when Randall and Laura came over was not to have taken them here - sausage, mash and gravy (in this case real onion gravy, made where the dark brown colour comes from hours of caramelising onions) is something not to be missed. The real ales aren't bad either.


It's a wonderfully rounded, wholesome word.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Finally got around to......

.....reluctantly joining facebook.

I've not been 'approved' yet, so I have to put code in each time I 'invite' someone to be a friend.

The code can be amusing: "$110,993 broad" for the last female I invited and "social insight" for Marc Vandersluys who was the person after them.

Annointed & Equipped

Chris writes:
Toni said I should blog this so here goes.
Last night, in a BCC church meeting, we said a bit about why we we moving on & people prayed for us (very heart warming & encouraging, thanks folks). One guy, Mark, had a word for us which included some very familiar phrases. He said we had been anointed & equipped for the task ahead & that in our weakness we would find God's strength.

The thing is, that in the summer of 2005 (that year), when we were at 28:18 (Church Camp) I clearly felt that God had anointed us & equipped us for the task of discipling our group of young people (Dan, Kita, Olivia, Ben). It had to be in God's strength because we had nothing of ourselves to give at that time - & looked at how well that worked out! So for Mark to use those exact same words feels significant.

Julie also had a picture of us walking along pushing a wheelbarrow full of compost & tools, i.e. everything we needed to plant our new garden. Thanks to both of you for your encouragement.

There was also some warnings in what Mark said about not having pre-conceived ideas of what we should be doing at HPC but letting God work out how we would fit in.

Musing over all this on the way home in the car I was remembering how a couple of years ago we had felt that God was preparing us for something new, I remember us discussing it & talking to Steve & Tammi about it, so I guess we should hardly be surprised at these developments. It feels as if he has been training us up & preparing us for this, so although stepping out of the safety & security of BCC is somewhat daunting I know we can trust God to provide all we need.

And talking of daunting, the situation with Toni's work is somewhat scary too. I don't want to say too much as this is really Toni's to blog, but there is a strong possibility of Toni & some of his colleagues carrying on the business themselves. Now many years ago I worked for the Collector of Taxes & that experience convinced me that running your own business was a risky proposition & best avoided, so this is a prospect I find somewhat scary.

However from first hearing about the redundancy I have felt strangely confident that it would all be OK. I haven't even prayed that much, not from a lack of faith, but more from not feeling the need. We both had a sense of peace & that all would fall in to place. Well, this is what seems to be falling in to place, so logically I should have peace about this too. The problem is, this is such a big thing. If we make the wrong decision here there could be serious consequences both financially & also in terms of Toni being caught up in time commitments which cut across the things we believe God wants us to be doing. Please pray for Toni to have wisdom here.

It looks like next year is going to be exciting!

Tuesday 25 November 2008

It's a very odd feeling.

For some time now various people from other companies have been wandering round, looking at bits of kit, asking questions, making offers. In one case we had some guys turn up just gone 5.30pm on a Friday asking to take away some filing cabinets. At least they realised we were literally going, and only took one (they wanted 30 min to take 3).

The sensation is slightly like being sold in a market, although most people are more polite than that would suggest.

The company is dying a little bit at a time, gradually nibbled away like a piece of floating bread surrounded by small fish. By dint of careful planning and hard work we're ahead of our manufacturing schedule, building what we hope will keep peoples labs supplied for the next year. At the same time, key bits of kit have been sold and personnel gone, so that we'd struggle to make the basic components even if our closure was rescinded. In 3 weeks time all the labs are required to be clear and ready for return to the landlord, and in 5 weeks time we shall be completely closed.

Both Chris and I feel at peace over the future. Not sure what's going to pan out still, but I'm sure it will be interesting. I DO hope it will pay the bills in less than 12 months from now.

Saturday 22 November 2008

We've just got home

From an early Christmas shopping.... party, I suppose.

Lots of stuff from Chamomile Barn that looks really nice, but just wouldn't fit in our house because it's already full of our junk. Italian olive oils of various kinds, Cards, jewelery, a manicurist and tablecloths from 'Brightest Africa' in Zimbabwe.

Chamomile barn is run by a lovely couple that we're just starting to know, and they were serving mulled wine to their guests. Now we both had empty tummies, and it's several hours post lunch. I could feel it (and the lack of sleep too) but Chris.... Chris felt quite dizzy, poor thing. She thought her cold had suddenly got the better of her until I pointed out she'd had 2 cups.

So we're home now, with a table cloth, scented soap and unusual olive oils. I'd better go cook some dinner.

Milton Keynes

Is apparently satan's layby.

Link courtesy of

On a totally different topic.

Opera 9.62 is really attractive - I've just downloaded and it's been tweaked very nicely indeed.

So here I am not sleeping.

A mixture of circumstances and carelessness to blame.

Circumstances 1: Chris and I spent a little time talking about *the future* and plans that I had this evening. I'm really in a place where I want to get on and start a business (with other people). I have products in mind, I have ideas about how they might be generated and contacts that we could work with to make it happen. I know of people who might help fund it, I know people who can help me get grants to kick it off and where I can rent space to do it.

But I also need to work through all the stuff required by the present employer and complete all they need in order to secure the redundancy package, and that means I can't really get started yet. But all this stuff is whirling round in my head, looking for ways to get out and become real.

Circumstances 2: There's a number of people that I care about that I feel the need to pray for right now over a range of issues. That's just hanging there in the back of my head all the time, and in a good way, doesn't go away. If you're one of them and reading this, don't let it worry you. I'm happy for it to be like this.

Carelessness 1: About 9.15ish I decided I wanted to get on with one of my amp projects. A couple of years ago I put together a 5W amp based on 1 12AX7 and 1 EL84, called it the Metisse amps 'Purity' because it was so simple and sweet sounding. However further listening had me deciding it wasn't so sweet sounding after all, as it produced some slightly odd harmonics and had a nasty whistle at high volumes without a guitar plugged in. So it's sat on the shelf mostly, being brought down, played and put back occasionally.

So I would like a lightish amp with 12" speaker and plenty of sparkle and a bit of drive that I can carry easily.

I've got a couple of lightweight pine 1X12" cabs I built laying around, so the idea became to fit the little amp into a cab with a spare G12H (also laying around). The G12H is a great speaker, sparkly, HUGE but controlled bass response and classic tone. It is also dead heavy, which is one reason it's not in my (already heavy) 18watt clone.

Now wisdom suggested that before I actually fit the amp I should just check it sounded OK. Um, not completely. So out came the schematics, all 20 min before bedtime, and suddenly I had a head full of resistors, caps, layouts and plans. Which did not subside after I laid down my head and turned out the light.

Carelessness 2: I'm still thinking Mac vs PC. Mac vs PC. And that doesn't quite shut up and go away either.

So here I am. Sat up at 1.00am.

Not sleepy yet. I could usefully replace the wireless router with a more recent version (this one will only allow 1 machine wireless access at a time) that doesn't drop the connection/has better software & noise rejection. I could also usefully put back the 2nd DVD drive that Ben had to borrow to load a game months ago. I could also usefully dismantle the seagate external hard drive I've borrowed to see if it will work as a USB drive caddy to back up a work laptop. I'm also highly tempted to attempt downloading the hacked version of Leopard to install on a PC (while the net is quiet and speeds are higher).

To quote Fungus the Bogeyman "what does the night have to do with sleep?"

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Another Mac question - for UK mac users especially

Is there a good reason to buy a Mac from the Apple shop instead of the 'bay? There are plenty of guys selling new Macs for around 80% of the Apple shop price (no VAT in some cases) which makes them a more sensible choice as a *personal* working tool.

NB I realise VAT can be reclaimed by a business, but not paying for it up-front is not a bad thing.

Chris had

a bad night last night.


Coughing, snoring, bunged up and feeling grotty.

I'm taking vitamin C, as it's something my mother insisted worked for her (with *some* evidence to support this) and I'm just a bit sniffy. Joints are grumpy though.

Peaceful sleep would be nice too - maybe tonight.

Crossroads time again

I'm slightly reluctant to talk about this right now, but it feels very much as if we're transitioning in more ways than we've even talked about. As many know, for a variety of reasons the company I presently work for is being closed, and I shall be unemployed from Dec 31st.

By the grace of God I don't HAVE to find a new job immediately, and we've enough financial cushion to carry us through for some time. This opens up certain possibilities that I would never normally countenance. We shall need a lot of wisdom through the next period - I was going to say 5 years, but I don't know. I'm also concerned that a wrong choice could be made that would load me down and tie me up with stuff that is not part of what I should be doing. The choices..... may be obvious, but the RIGHT ones need to be made.

Monday 17 November 2008

I've been thinking about that Hackintosh

Actually been digging and reading a bit. Seems it's quite do-able with suitably adapted software downloaded free from a torrent.

And therein lies the rub.

That is, basically, theft. Unless I buy a full copy, in which case it's breaking a (what should be unlawful) copyright, although that doesn't especially bother me as no-one's been done out of cash. But new the OS is £88, and I refuse to pay that for the privilege of trying out some slightly shonky software that may work with an uncertain degree of success (not all hackintoshs work properly y'see).

Now I may splurge on a copy off the bay, if I can find one for about £25, because I'd risk it for that much. I'd still have to download the illegal version, but hey, I've got original media, and in my economy that gives me an ethical carte blanche. I have 2 XP machines here, both with authentic licenses for conscience sake.

The other thing that left me unhappy - or reminded me that this is coming from a contaminated source - was that hunting on a torrent through google took me through to a porn-loaded page. Sure the correct software was on there too, but it was a reminder that it's apparently hard to keep clean if you're going to walk along the edge of the 'law'. I found other sources without the 'window-dressing', but that was enough to make me stop and walk away for a bit, reconsider the whole deal.

So for the immediate future there will be no hackintosh happening here. Not until I get a pukka copy of the OS at the very least. Annoying really, as if I liked it better than M$s offering it then an apple would almost certainly be my next work laptop. As it is, that's highly unlikely right now, and I'd certainly not trust it without some experience. My recent Linux experiments have taught me to be wary of smiling people offering 'better ways to work'.

Sunday 16 November 2008

A question for all you mac-users.

When you switched from windows to Mac, how did you migrate your data?

I'm still juggling the idea of a Macbook as the laptop I'd use in my next 3 years of business, but to do that I'd need to be able to import directly all my office documents and email from outlook. If that's not possible then I think it will finally close the door on any desire I have for a Mac.

Also there's the question of that 13" screen. Is it as tiny as it looks? I couldn't bear to work on that regularly (I'd need to plug into a decent monitor for normal work) but is it tolerable for occasional use? Sorry if that's all you've got, have to struggle with it every day and you wonder what I'm complaining about? In my experience a 17" screen should not operate at a resolution >1024*768 and a 15" at >800*600 for comfortable reading of normal sized fonts.

I'm also mildly tempted by the idea of creating a hackintosh to see if I could actually live with a Mac. Since I doubt Apple would lend me a Mac to find out, I feel justified in attempting this, with the likelihood that I'd actually buy a machine if it was good (or reformat if it was no better than the linux OSs I've tried). Anyone with any hackintosh experience out there?

Monday 10 November 2008

Friday 7 November 2008

I've just been looking at Macs

For the first time in a VERY long time.

I feel kind of dirty now. The designs are reasonably attractive but the prices.... the prices are why I feel soiled. Maybe I've enjoyed low cost PCs for too long, but I'd forgotten quite what the world of Mac finance was like.

I may need a new work laptop fairly soon, and like Randall, the though of owning the Mac I could never afford before ran through my mind. To rub salt into the wound it appears that Garageband isn't even included any more - this is the one app that would differentiate owning a Mac above a PC for me. At least M$ office is the same price as for a PC.

The one saving grace is the Mac mini. The spec is not impressive, but it's probably adequate for most purposes. Sure you'd have to use non-Apple hardware too, but it would probably work for general office and net use.

I can't tell you how disappointing this is. Dan - HOW hard did you say it was to upgrade these things yourself? What about an iMac - is it really a laptop than never closes or does it use 'normal' components?

Blogging without a PC

Yesterday I went to visit one of our long-term customers in London, to see how we could best help them handle things when we're gone. As I was on public transport and wanted to travel light I left the laptop behind, but once stimulated by the journey I just wanted to blog. There is a lot to be said for writing by hand, and that's exactly what I did: roughly 3 sides of A4.

So here it is, pretty much 'as is'.

Train travel is curious after being a car user for so long. Heading to central London on a commuter train this AM, the train is smoother and quieter than I remember. Most passengers are guys in suits using laptops - wished I'd brought mine, especially as there's probably an open wireless connection here too. But the work laptop is really a portable desktop and I'm happy to be just carrying a small zipped organiser and pad.

The countryside out there is lovely. Green, brown, yellow, red: rolling and sweeping. The chilterns always were lovely, although I'd normally be viewing them from the saddle instead of a carriage. No-one is looking - most people probably see it everyday. I suspect, based on the way I am, that when you notice these things then you want to be out among them. And being out doesn't pay the bills or bring prestige. It is safer not to notice and be happy with whatever career one is trying to build.

I can hear one voice carrying over all the others. A chunky lass is briefing an older (60ish) guy about finances, councils, charges, growth, potentials and arguments.

From here I can see a number of shiny shaved heads. Some belong to 'smart' people, others to ordinary guys. Apart from the big lass there's only men in the carriage. Everyone is in their own world - earphones, PCs, mobiles and the woman/old feller being briefed.

London arrives. First the ground flattens and colours dull. Then buildings, car parks and concrete appears. We pass a couple of places with 'tube' trains parked. Pre-fab buildings, all corrugated sheet steel, bridges, a Tesco store, graffiti covered walls and houses and then the rows of cheap family homes from the 1900s, now with dirty yellow brickwork and concrete rendering painted white and yellow.

There was a time, up until about 5 years ago, when I'd have been happy to move back. Now it seems so grubby, so densely packed I'm not at all sure. Maybe an apartment somewhere higher up and central. I'd have to have another motorcycle for getting around, use public transport when it was wet.

Or not.

Last Friday when we went to that funeral, the house in which Chris's uncle Laurie lived was right by the Thames. Back windows faced westand the sun setting over the river looked spectacular. London has a lot of green space and you could forget that you lived in one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities on the planet. But walk out of the front door and that idea goes to hell-in-a-hangbasket, with parking at £1.80 per hour and no spaces to speak of. Fulham palace road is almost always jammed up too, and although driving isn't really worse than other cities, because of the sheer size (>1 hour to drive across) that makes it feel closed in.

Interesting meeting.

Met the guy who supervises the lab. He said he was really looking forward to hearing about all the new markers we were going to suggest they used. They were a bit taken aback by us explaining that the lab was closing and they would need to manage/run their own assays now.

Interesting the things you see travelling in the opposite direction. Like the large blue IKEA building.

London was fascinating to walk around. This area seemed much nicer and cleaner than the area I grew up in - no litter, tidy houses, neat shops. And once again I was reminded of how much open green space and parkland there is. By comparison Oxfordshire has little space for leisure, even though you can walk across fields.

Thinking about the idea of Linea and Leo, Marc and Dixie coming over, this journey into London on the train is one I think they'd love, but it's so darn expensive. £45 for me (because I left before 9.00am) but even at the £25 cheap rateit's stupid expensive compared to driving 4 people in with a car and parking somewhere closer.

This is not an Obama comment.

And you'll notice I've not mentioned him here previously.

But this IS a comment about how my fears were that all was not quite as it had been presented in the republican camp.

Now I accept there may be bias in the UK media - there is certainly both bias and blame in the republican camp. However this article in the times is interesting because it hints at what we have been spared. When certain people in the republican camp were presenting Sarah Palin as the Spirit-filled, bible believing alternative to Obama I felt very uncomfortable. Maybe she might have been, but I rather suspect otherwise.

Although I expect few American conservative evangelicals to agree, I think that the defeat of Jon McCain was very likely the grace of God to both their nation and the world.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

And tonight

We return to circuit training.

I'd like to believe health is returning, and on that basis, it would be good to push the fitness levels up. Let's hope it doesn't half-kill me.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Knocked up

There is an interesting article on the beeb site that talks about research showing that watching sexual content on TV can be linked to an increase in teenage pregnancies. This should not come as a surprise: if you see something that looks exciting then you'll want to try it, and teens don't tend to make themselves prepared for the future. They do discuss the need for parents to talk about sex with their children, but even if they (we) did, I'm not sure it would defuse the link.

No-one said research didn't have to record the obvious.

What would you like for breakfast?

Chris normally has a mixture of fruit - banana or orange segments - and yoghurt with some kind of bran or muesli for breakfast, but this morning we'd run out of yoghurt.

In the top of the fridge I found a pot of 'fresh' custard that I'd bought a couple of days ago and offered her that, but somehow it wasn't *quite* what she wanted. It did however make me reminisce about how, when I was small, my mother would make me custard for breakfast sometimes. Chris also mentioned her mum making her sausage sandwiches, because there was a lot of stuff she didn't like, and these were an exception.

I wonder if we drove our mothers slightly to despair with our fussiness?

But we are both grateful for what they provided. It's nice to have happy memories of the old yellow-painted kitchen at the doctors surgery (my mother was receptionist, and a modest flat went with the job). I also remember it being completely dark outside when the custard was made for me, so heaven only knows what time my mum would get up every morning to make the place ready for patients.

Monday 3 November 2008

Living life on the edge.

Now doesn't that sound brave?

Doesn't that sound corny?

Yes to both.

Reality is altogether more mundane, as is normal with human things. We're living life on the edge of our health and energy, and that's enormously un-exciting. Saturday was great for me, with lots of energy and finding stimulation on the Pastoral Training Course. Saturday night was OK, but Sunday.....


I was just desperately tired by the meeting in the afternoon, and all I really wanted to do was hide. Slightly funny actually, because I was leading worship, not that I 'lead' very much, but it didn't seem to matter much. Just read over on Mikey's blog about how they had a spontaneous song. Well, we seemed to have a spontaneous meeting, where, as we were starting I was asked "can you do one song before the word, then we'll worship afterward?".

Fine. I was barely in control anyway, so that really caused few problems, and meant I couldn't abdicate responsibility to the set list.

Now I'm wittering - a sure sign of no energy.

Basically we're coping, but only just. Now if we weren't ill we'd cope better etc etc, but maybe we're unwell because we're just running in 10% overload. We have both realised that we NEED to start withdrawing officially, and although circumstances have rearranged themselves to reduce our actual commitments, it's still all a bit much. I wonder if just having *responsibility* for things creates its own burden that draws out energy.

Tomorrow night we've got a church meeting at which we should be officially telling the church we're moving on - it's already been talked about, blogged about and is no secret - and that we expect to be putting stuff down. The thing is too, when you're THERE the situation is often unchanged. The young guitarists coming up through the church won't really get to PLAY until I move away and stop playing. So I need to get out of their way too, and give them space.

We have also been part of HPC for >5 months now, and are starting to wonder if our 1 year transition was too long. It felt right at the time, and I still feel it's right on some levels, but from this stage in the process seems too slow.

What to do? What to do? It's tricky getting it right, and there IS a tearing in separating from family, even if by only a small distance.

Also, we don't want to *leave* the family, so much as go out as part of it, almost like missionaries. This is interesting times we walk through.

Saturday 1 November 2008

What do you do when......

..... you want to get to be part of a new church?

Go to everything they do.

Tonight we're at a 'beautiful brides and glamorous groomes' church social.

That means we've had to dig out our stuff from 27 years ago. Chris can still get her dress on, approximately, and ditto me with the jacket. I don't have my original trousers or shirt and neither have original shoes.

Let's just say I'm both more muscular and fatter than I was before (and I DO carry a lot more muscle bulk, even though I have less strength).

I do confess that this kind of social makes me sigh and wish for a quiet dinner with another couple or 3 where we can talk about meaningful stuff and know each other in a bit more depth. But this is where things are right now, so this is the flow we've got to go with and enjoy. And I guess it's a non-threatening way of drawing closer to some of the more peripheral people with well established social groups.

I hope so anyway.

Heard at the pastoral training course

"Listening is the queen of complements"


*Said by a man with a hearing aid in each ear.

Eunoia is the shortest word in English containing all five vowels

It's supposed to mean 'beautiful thinking'.

There was a radio 4 program on a couple of days ago about a book of this title written by a Canadian poet, Christian Bok. He was inspired by a French group from the 1920s and 30s who had produced poetry based on restricted use of vowels and with a complex set of rules to see if it was possible to break the normal 'requirements' of language and still retain meaning and artistic value.

In each chapter he'd very carefully used words that only contained one of the vowels and brought out the innate character each of those vowels carried. It took him 7 years to write, and rather than do it haphazardly, he'd carefully worked through some-or-other dictionary, carefully selecting words, categorising them as verbs, nouns and adjectives, then using at least 98% from each vowel.

The BBC carries a report and examples if you care to look.

So after a long description of the processes involved, his feelings on the characters of each vowel etc, the guy actually read some of his 'poetry.

Let's just say that it makes a better story than it does poetry. The 4th comment down under the article sums it up well.