Sunday, 23 December 2012

Sorry for the delay.

And finally, the original and best.

I'm not sure it's a sign of maturity or simply old age, but I'm gradually losing the will to be right on the internet. Life is too short, and in particular I'm becoming too lazy, to correct all the liberals, conservatives, freaks, weirdos and humanists out there. So I posted an opinion and yours differs? Great. And you're probably not going to be convinced by any of my carefully thought out arguments, witty songs etc than I am by yours - so let's be friends for a bit and see if we can get along, OK?

This post IS meant to be tongue in cheek, OK.

I'm also going to have to return to posting in HTML instead of blogger's Compose tool. It really stuffs up the spacing with images etc.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Inappropriate advertising

Someone needs to tweak the algorithm.

Just been reading an article on prostatitis. To the right, beside the article was an advert for Snickers chocolate bars with the words "get some nuts".

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Useless theology

About 4 weeks ago I engaged in a minor debate on +G with a friend and a stranger over the rejection of women as bishops by the CofE general synod. Those who've known me through the blogosphere for a long time will know that my views are quite conservative and orthodox in this area, and also fairly strongly held. The final comment in the discussion came from the stranger asking why I thought what I did.

4 weeks passed before I answered.

Now I've been busy, true, had stuff to think about etc etc. So I'd been putting off preparing an answer although genuinely meaning to do so, until the same question (sort of) come up again and I had an hour free to cobble stuff together.

I've come to realise that this is 'useless' theology, and as such, I've gradually un-burdened myself of it over the last few years. Not that it isn't important or true (as far as I'm concerned). But it is also not a central doctrine of the faith - no-one is going to be saved through holding fast to complementarianism and no-one will go to hell because they refused to renounce a liberal or egalitarian interpretation of the role of women in church government. No-one will see their life turned around from wickedness to righteousness by taking one particular side or another and we won't see miracles or healings because of our stance on this.

So I've been gently and unconsciously disconnecting myself from the immediacy of this piece of useless theology.

Now, having called it useless theology, it's still important to understand, but it's one of those issues that for me, once settled doesn't normally need re-visiting time and again. The recent debate and subsequent failure of this motion through the CofE ruling hierarchy, and in particular the reaction of some leaders, has caused me to drag it back out and ask whether the understanding I had seemed to be what God wanted. I'm reasonably convinced it is, and I'm happy to set the whole business aside and forget about the whys and wherefores of it.

So aren't I compromised to death by being part of a church organisation that actively promotes women into government and is pushing this change? To an extent, yes, but I also feel that the shame of it isn't from the women. God frequently asks "who will step up and serve me?" and if few men respond, is He going to send those faithful women away? So the shameful state of the Church of England is the shame of those men who have not stepped forward - not a shame brought upon it by having women in government as such. On that understanding I have to fulfill what God has called me to do where ever He's called me to do it.

Is that an end to it then?

And the obvious answer is *not quite*. Last summer the church called St Georges Tron in Glasgow seceded from the church of Scotland over the ordination of clergy who were practicing homosexuals. They seem to have been treated badly - arguably unrighteously - by those who they could no longer be covered by, and the whole thing has been a mess. Where's the connection? When we start finding ways to explain away odd bits of scripture because they don't match the enlightenment of the age, then we start a path of our own. So for me, there is a very direct connection.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Frosty pix anyone?

I can do some of these as wallpapers if anyone wants.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

I am a miserable, if somewhat self-controled b*st*rd.

People seem to keep posting little quips here and there about grand children, daughters etc etc. All perfectly reasonable, but it's just hard sometimes not to post something sarky, cutting or just plain miserable.


I wrote this yesterday, having had a difficult week: stressed by interaction with a customer, by the need to organise certain things in the church, certain things at home, by my own wishes and desires, struggles and weaknesses. And there are simply times when my buttons are being pushed and knowing the truth of it doesn't stop the feelings flapping around, even though one understands why they are.

This morning we talked through flights for our trip to Zimbabwe next year. It's a major commitment to us because that is *it* for a normal holiday, and neither of us really see it as a holiday in the usual sense of the word. And we're hesitant because it means relying on other people for everything while we're there, and rightly or wrongly, we view Zim as a hostile place. But it feels like the thing we *should* be doing. At least there's a bit of faith in there too!

And just now I've ordered a program of work to be started on my behalf, that might finally allow me to create the assay I was going to make 2 years ago. I'll be late to the market, but pretty sure there's space for at least a couple of players. Sending this order off has created a sense of release, though it's hard to say why, other than it's a decision point passed. I like doing the assay development work, and I've been really grateful for the income, but we really need products out there that will sell to generate a future and stability for the business.

And possibly a chance to employ other people. Now that's a scary thought.

Back on theme, I've also managed to order the Christmas presents that need ordering, and *hopefully* I'll remember to send the emails I need to when I get home tonight to arrange availability of equipment for Sunday evening.

Sunday evening - now that's another hurdle.

We're hosting a Christmas meal for the people of Heyford Park. The ordinary people as well as the church people. It's not huge, but it's not tiny either, and in the end it's my responsibility to make sure we have enough food, that it won't give people food poisoning, that they can sit and that we have carols etc. I'm really grateful to the guys helping (some may not know it yet) and especially to my friend Enrico Ramaglia who is sorting the majority of the cooking.

That's one event where I WILL breath a sigh of relief when it's over. 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Looking back can be interesting

And helpful - provided it's not with anger.

I've just collated almost every bit of assay data together with all appropriate assay parameters for each individual occasion a particular assay has been performed for a certain customer. It's times like this having a 24" 1980X1200 monitor does not seem at all luxurious, and something rather larger might increase productivity.

Glad that's done anyway. My head is gently seething with all the numbers that have passed before my eyes, and the need to be meticulous about each little bit of information and where it is allocated. It *seems* to be there now, and hopefully will also make sense at the other end.

Now, time to go cook dinner.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Silly things amuse.

Posted on a favourite forum in a thread about someone's new-born. Those 'wonderful' people who encourage women everywhere to breast feed their babies, described as Lactivists and the Breastapo.

Is there a higher form of wit than the pun? I don't think so.

Monday, 3 December 2012

iTunes update this morning.

That's a 198Mb download.

For a media player and file transfer system.


Microsoft have just been out Microsofted on the bloatware front.

Another curious thing - Apple computer related.

Not a complaint as such, but an observation.

Since changing to OSX 10.8 the Macbook battery was 'odd' in that it wouldn't charge fully, only reaching 80% or 90%, then very gradually increasing over a couple of days. Then up came the message 'Service Battery' when I checked it's condition in the system report. Pretty poor considering it's only done 100 cycles and I'm careful about discharging & recharging fully on a reasonably regular basis.

A quick google told me lots of people who did the update had the same issue - perfectly good battery suddenly entered failure mode, but that was supposed to have been fixed in an update 2 updates back. A quick reset of all the odd hidden controlling firmware (SMC and NVRAM/PRAM) appears to have fixed the issue, which is good. But it's annoying that this kind of thing needs to be done, and would be so much better if Apple sent out a general advice email (since this is a common problem on completely controlled hardware) suggesting users do this.

Not that they'd really want scads of 'upgraders' buying replacement batteries, oh no. Even I'm not *quite* that cynical that I'd actually believe it was deliberate corporate policy. Much more likely someone just made a dumb mistake and didn't want to take steps to fix it and risk exposing themselves. I hope. Map app anyone?

Another Amie recipe

I discovered how to make the gravy Ikea serve with meatballs. 

Mix 'blue' (full fat) milk & water 1:1, heat in microwave until boiling and then add bisto granules, a little maggi seasoning and some of that fried 'salad' onion. Voila, looks right, tastes close (but better) and no-one is going to know.

You simply need add some fairly nasty meatballs, reconstituted chips and a dob of cranberry sauce to complete the Ikea restaurant experience, all in the comfort of your own home and without the aching legs/wallet that usually accompanies a visit. It's up to you who clears the crockery and trays away.


Right, Heyford Park Christmas celebration fliers have finished printing - I'm off to cut & post (that was typed correctly).

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Freetards reprieve?

Remember my comments earlier about photo hosting and photobucket? Well, it seems a number of other people are also finding the 'free' service less impressive these days, and one of them posted a link to this article comparing hosts.

So I shall be exploring, but either Minus or Abload look like good alternatives to PB.

Grateful for not insignificant mercies.

Like our fridge.

We've been married 31 years, and in that time have had just 3 fridges. Our first was a princely £5 from a friend at work, and lasted (if I remember correctly) about 6 years and 2 house moves. The next I have no specific memory of - it's just a fridge, you know? It died a few years after moving up to Oxfordshire, when we bought our present Electrolux.

So Tuesday night I got home from shopping, bunged the cold stuff away in there and then realised it wasn't doing anything. This is significant because it's tended to keep running all the time, rather than stopping, and occasionally freezes food because it gets too cold, even on the most minimal setting. Items in the fridge itself were cool still, and after fiddling about with the temperature switch I just packed it, closed the door and went internet-searching for a replacement.


Perfect timing before Christmas. Thanks Father - you know what we need.

But next morning our fridge was cold and apparently working fine. It's scruffy but working, and for that I'm grateful. Hey, that sounds a bit like me!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Facebook and Google+

Are starting to find a place in the on-line conversational ecosystem.

Facebook is where you stay connected with people (mostly) talking rubbish.

Google+ is where you talk to people who are interested and interesting about theology or guitars or how oil refineries mess up the environment.

I can see this is going the way of newspapers, where a small number will read the Times, Torygraph or even (spit) the Grauniad, while millions buy the sun and mirror.

How can God possibly be at work in that?

Do you ever look at the politics, the wrangling, harsh and frequently bitter words spoken by those who have dug deep trenches in the their battles against those they disagree with, portraying their enemies as unscrupulous, wicked, or even worse, liberal or conservative, and wonder how God could possibly be at work in that?

So it seems that the CofE has once again stepped back from appointing women as bishops, at least some bits of it. Ironic then that the first woman bishop has already been appointed in Africa, with the church there well known for its stand again immorality.

Ho hum.

But I do genuinely wonder if this rejection isn't the dying final thrust of a hardline group of anglo-catholic conservatives, but a little more of the grace of God for His church, so desperately running after a credibility that the world will never give it. Could He be saying "come back and believe me - in what I've said and what I've had written for you. Your credibility is in me, rather than from a world that you can never hope to satisfy and whose demands to you will endlessly grow".

It's hard to see God at work in the church, but now and again, I think there are signs.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for freetards?

I guess some people would classify me as a leech.

I happily use all the 'free' services available on the internet for my own pleasure and entertainment, picking and choosing without guilt those that work best for me. And most of the time this approach has been completely fine.

The above image is the 1001st I have uploaded to photobucket.

When I first started using the service sometime in 2005 or '6 they offered a 'free' starter account with various levels of paid account that had increased functionality. Prior to that my images had been on who compressed the life out as part of the upload process (unless you had a paid account) and would not allow direct linking (unless you had a paid account). About 3 years ago they finally went bust after other freetards moved en masse to image hosts like photobucket, Flikr, Picasa etc. That's business and all that, sad, but how it is in the fast-movng world of t'intarweb.

Since clocking over the 1000 images level - probably the equivalent of half a gigabyte of images - Photobucket has been misbehaving and only accepting a single image at a time. Now it might be purely coincidental, especially as someone independently mentioned that it was misbehaving for them too, but I wondered if I'd passed the 'enough is enough' barrier and it was time to start paying for use, but further investigation seems to show that there is no longer a subscription model available for photobucket, and they've become a completely 'free' host, supported by advertising. And all those millions of Fox news subscribers (Fox own Photobucket) of course.


OK, so what alternatives are there?

Well, I'd consider not leeching free services any more, but for Smugmug the lowest rate is still $40 a year, and that's a bit more than I want to spend as a purely casual image poster. 500px already has me as a member, but there were restrictions (forget what they were now) on the account and I find the linking system there a complete faff.

So I dunno now.

Suggestions for an alternative host are welcome, though I reserve the right not to act on them for purely arbitrary reasons or just plain laziness. A key part is that I retain control of the images (so Facebook, Picasa, Flikr are out) and that the service is fast, easy, convenient and not too expensive (say $20 PA tops, prefer free).

And this also begs the question; what about blogs?

Google appears to have the free blogging market sewn up with blogger, though there are other players too. Right now I'm happy with TBOTAM and hope this appearance (and address) will continue functioning for another 9 years if required, though I'd prefer if the template would re-size to match the browser window, like the old one did, instead of being fixed width. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Would you take your own advice?

I had a 35-40 min conversation with an ex-colleague and friend earlier today, and among the many things we discussed was smartphones and replacement computers.

Well wash my mouth out - I may have just recommended someone get an iPhone and a Mac.

My friend is smart, clever (not always the same thing) and an experienced manager and scientist, yet at the same he's not a computer nerd and sometimes struggles with changes in technology. He's been using the same Dell laptop and Nokia candybar for the last 4 years, and they're both getting pretty tired, to the point where they are starting to look a bit 'unprofessional'. He also travels with his computer, and the Dell is a big lump to lug with its extended battery pack.

So we discussed options.

The very worst is the present one I have: Android phone and Apple computer. The lack of compatibility and synchronisation is terrible, and I've still not spent the hours necessary to remove the many hundreds of duplicated contacts created by the Macbook when it tried to sync between entourage & contacts, then contacts and the phone.

So we talked about phones first. The thing is, he wants a small phone with a large screen. He wants a phone that's small and light enough to carry comfortably in a trouser or shirt pocket with a screen that's large enough to read emails, web pages and articles on. If possible it would be big enough to take around instead of a computer. His wife has an Android phone, but he's stayed well clear until now.

In the end I suggested either an ultrabook (lightweight windows based laptop that's somewhere between an ordinary laptop and a Macbook air for those who don't know) or a Macbook like mine, plus either an Android/WinPho to go with the windows machine or an iPhone for the Macbook. To be honest I think my friend is a natural candidate for Apple, as he's a man who needs to do without wanting to worry about how it's done. But he's also not rolling in cash, and apple solutions do require an excess of green stuff to be thrown at the various toys and accessories that make life 'easy'. I could well imagine this little lot costing £2000 if bought outright.

But even so, wash my mouth out!

It may also be a sign that making the jump to Snow Leopard and an SSD was a good thing. Somehow the little changes that have been made between 10.5 and 10.8 have made it less intrusive and plain annoying, and as such much more bearable. I STILL wonder if I could actually work using a Linux install running Office under WINE, except that wouldn't solve the phone issues. My present contract expires at the end of the year and I'm also going to have to make some similar decisions, considering that the Macbook is 4 years old too.

We'll see.

Less bad this morning

I had anticipated an easy day yesterday, having completed a data set for a customer the day before.

Then we started email tennis.

And then I ended up with another 2 1/2 days of work needed to be completed urgently. Starting lunchtime on Thursday.

By the end of the afternoon, despite having taken 'max strength cold & flu remedy' I was shivering in a lab at 24'C, fingers literally numb with cold, joints really sore, stomach smouldering away like it's not happy. Finally crawled out at 6pm, dropped in on Chris running her polling station and then went home to make dinner, arrange for someone else to lead last night's meeting and light the fire. Fire could not be lit due to down-draught in chimney that would not reverse - it seems the new register plate arrangement is highly susceptible to down draught and will need changing pronto. Bums.

Another dose of meds and I was less shivery.

Found it hard to get to sleep, but once there managed a few hours before waking around 4.30ish. Then Ben got up. Got up at 5.30 for Ibuprofen and went back to bed, chilled/sweated & drifted a little until 7. 

So here I am at work. Wee samples thawing ready for extraction, posting stupid stuff on the blog and hoping I can hold it together for the next few hours.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Hello manflu my old friend

You've come to groan with me again.

Chris was up at 5am this morning (30min after Ben!) so she could set up the polling booth for Somerton for the Police and Crime commissioner election. I stumbled out of bed at 6.05, legs and ankles barely working, to find that she was already in the car and leaving. Bluergh.

Got to the polling station on my way to work at 8am, and was the first to vote. She seemed quite chirpy, although it's going to be a long day for just over 200 adults to come in and vote.

So here I am in the office.

Not sure how long I'll be here, since I managed to complete the data required for a customer yesterday, and have tidied the lab so it's spick & span. Just the usual writing up to do, plus a quote for someone that's a little complex and will be expensive if I get it wrong.

Thank goodness for cold & flu remedies.

One thing I'd be interested to know is if those who are musicians that read this blog find their musicality affected by colds. I find it kills my sense of timing and melody. I've been wanting to record over a particular backing track for the last few days and also to start recording some of my own work, but have really struggled to produce any sense of music from my hands. Or maybe that's an excuse for being a lousy guitarist who doesn't practice or play enough any more to maintain the illusion of ability.

Anyway, up and at 'em.

Monday, 12 November 2012

A new garden visitor

We've never seen a nuthatch before, but had one come around the peanuts yesterday afternoon.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Recipes from Amie.

Ever get inspired by something someone else has come up with but thought to yourself "what a load of hassle"?

A while back Chris borrowed the Jamie Oliver 30 minute cookbook; all recipes designed to be cooked in 30min by someone moving as fast as humanly possible and supported by a team who continually provide prepared ingredients and clear everything up. She once followed one of these recipes which took around 2 1/2 hours to prepare, while struggling to get some of the ingredients. It was delicious, but a huge faff and quite expensive too.

To me, anything that is to be cooked in a pan should take no more than 40min tops, genuinely, from start to finish, and maybe a bit more if you want to plan in jacket potatoes or similar needing a long time in the oven. The essence of pan cooking is to be tasty, exciting and quick. So here's a recipe from Amie - just a bit less effort than Jamie.

Amie's stuffed chicken breasts.

Buy whole chicken breasts, 1 per person, skin on or off (you'll remove it anyway) that look decent and suitable to present for a nice meal.
Greek feta cheese or similar - feta is nice, but expensive, and I used Tesco Greek 'style' salad cheese for my first go at 75p a pack (not so good, but acceptable).
Green pesto.
Green olives - a small pack from someone like Crespo, with herbs rather than chilli, although you could use garlic stuffed too.

Remove all fat and manky bits from the chicken - veins, connective tissue etc, leaving a whole attractive breast. Slit it open to make a pocket that can be easily held closed during cooking.
Slice the Feta into slices around 2-3mm thick.
Open up the breast pocket and add a good teaspoon full of green pesto - NOTE if working from the jar, don't put the same spoon back in that has touched the chicken breast - use a fresh spoon for each time you take pesto.
Coat the inside of the pocket with the pesto, then add a layer of feta, filling out the pocket. Seal the pocket up and hold closed with cocktail sticks.
Cook in a pan lightly greased with olive oil, on a low-middle heat (I use 2 out of 5 on my hob) for about 15-20 min, turning twice, until you're sure the chicken is cooked all the way through. Keep the pan covered to keep the heat in.
After turning the chicken for the first time slice the olives lengthwise and add to the pan so they cook alongside.They will add tangy saltiness to the chicken on the outside while the feta does the same on the inside.

If I'd not been so bushed from log stacking then I'd have done dauphinoise potatoes: par boiled potatoes in thin slices, layered in an oven dish, covered with cream and baked until golden on top. As it was Tesco had some sliced potatoes that could be just cooked direct in the oven to come out like nicely sauteed potatoes, and they worked really well too, but you could also serve this with jacket potatoes, spiced rice or green lentils. To accompany I'd also suggest fine green beans or carrots (sometime I'll describe carrots a la Tamoiselle that would go well too).

The chicken and the olives generated a bit of juice, so to serve the cocktail sticks were removed and the juice poured over the breasts, leaving some olive slices on top.

I'm sorry there are no pictures - we ate it too quickly!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

And 3 more....

Anyone for autumn pictures?

If anyone is interested I might start making some wallpapers.

Well that was hard work

We now have a shed that's stacked with wood.

And we now have aching hands, legs and bodies.

Hopefully it will last a fair while, since although we bought less than last year we also had it delivered 2 months later than last year.

Good tip from the delivery man, suggesting putting the load onto a tarpaulin first, so catching all the fragments instead of them getting mashed into the gravel. Chris loaded up the barrow and I stacked in the shed (stacking is like dry-stone walling, needing both careful fitting and continual reaching and lifting. This was also from a different supplier than usual, and many of the logs were too big to fit our stove, so I ended up doing a lot of splitting at the end.

I doubt I'll be up for playing guitar much for a couple of days.

Friday, 9 November 2012

After a slightly disturbed night

I seem better today.

That's the second migraine I think I've had in the last couple of weeks, though the last one didn't come out as a sharply painful headache, I did have the visual disturbances (even more severe) and bumbly imprecision that made me feel slightly drunk. Wonder if there's a trigger or something else at work.

I did take one of Chris's migraine medications last night, and that seemed to back it off, just leaving me tired and woolly headed. Hopefully that's it now, and life will go back to normal. We should be having some firewood delivered tomorrow afternoon, and that will need lots of energy for stacking away. Let's hope for a dry Saturday.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Today I have a headache and visual aberrations again

Bluegh, really.

And it feels like a temperature now too (that's why my face was hot in the car this morning).


Today's task is preparing a few dozen urine samples (again) with all the stinkiness one might expect from that.

And I thought the article below deserved a double facepalm?

Double facepalm

We are quite seriously considering trying to visit friends in an African country next year. Not a trivial undertaking, but not too bad either, and with flights available from Birmingham (1 change in Amsterdam) the journey should not be too arduous.

And then I started search for information on visas.

Now, we're not entering this blind in that we understand the country is not run like a European country, but searching for visa information, and particularly landing on what appeared to be an official site, resulted in the above image seeming entirely appropriate.

I'm normally pretty good when it comes to sifting truth from lie and spammer from government web site, but on this occasion I'm going to have to speak to people, I think, to be sure of what's fact and what's fiction. The site that *appeared* to be the official embassy visa page is full of spam, and trying to follow a link to specific information takes one through to an endless stream of adverts. Now if this were a different nation I'd just assume that I'd found a spam link and move on, but other sites seemed to be pointing toward this place and then there's the stories one hears of corruption and greed.....

I have very mixed feelings.

It would be good to see our friends, but I have very little desire to see Africa - possibly even less than I have to see the United States again. That may be unfair of me, but a country and a culture are intimately linked, and everything I see of African culture (and the imported European culture too) makes me want to run a mile.

But I loved India, regardless of the utter poverty, the squalour, the smells, un-varying food, the need to watch where you put your feet, and I would go back - not in a heartbeat, because it would need planning - very readily. So maybe I'll come home after Africa and already find myself wishing to return, instead of breathing a sigh of relief that we're still in one piece and have retained most of our property.

I love to travel, and to a degree I feel we should do this for our friends as much as anything. But the picture that has been painted for me is pretty darn ugly, and no amount of wildlife, sunshine and lakes can plaster over the cracks.


I'm still trying to understand what it is that has produced such a strong antipathy in me toward Africa. Several things are at work, not least of which was me feeling pressured and unwell at the same time. Some also is that I have listened to how the Africans I know have talked about their own country, and some of their feelings have come out of fear, hurt, loss and anger. Words we speak have power, including the ability to affect others quite deeply, possibly subconsciously. 

And there's a small matter of obedience too.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Bought W8 Pro upgrade at the W/E

£25 as a download - I wonder if Microsoft are catching on with Apple a little?

It will initially download a small application that checks whether you are running Windows, whether your hardware is suitable and compatibility of your applications. A list is produced telling you what can and cannot be migrated (office 2003 professional is NOT W8 compatible!) and offers you the chance to upgrade over the top or create a completely new installation. If you select the latter then you can download W8 as a complete .iso file for burning to a DVD. I have been *told* that this file will install W8 on a virgin HDD, and does not require a pre-installed copy of windows to be present - I'll confirm later.

The idea of microsoft catching up with apple is not entirely tongue in cheek.

Apple's business model was that they were a hardware company who sold (highly restricted) software to promote their hardware business, hence the relatively low cost of OSX upgrades, iWork (not that it offered microsoft any real competition) etc. Their hardware was always well styled, even if they sometimes engineered the internals badly, and their software came with deliberate built-in obsolescence of hardware.

Microsoft have always tried to be as platform-agnostic as possible, running on everything, being compatible with (almost) everything or making versions that would work cross platform and supporting legacy hardware and operating systems for as long as feasible. In contrast their hardware was often forward-thinking (they had the first tablet computer) and worked well (various MP3 players had a reputation for sound quality) but their styling and user interface was pretty much a disaster.

And now they seem to have started modelling themselves on Apple.

At least, a bit.

They haven't quite shrugged off their microsoftishness completely, but they are working hand in glove with Nokia to create phones that reflect the microsoft phone they would like to have. The new surface tablet is reputed to be good, and that IS their own hardware.

Just a feeling, but I wonder if they've looked across the gulf, seen a small struggling competitor grow into a muscle-bound and aggressive behemoth and thought how they'd like a piece of that action too.

It's also interesting that Windows 8 and Windows RT/phone interfaces are genuinely novel (at least recently - subject to a lawsuit from someone who designed a tile-based interface about 10 years ago) in the way they interact, while OSX and W7 are effectively similar to what has been down for the last 15 years.

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft have finally discovered a way to design hardware that looks good and works well, along with a better way of interacting with the user.

Or maybe this will just be another Microsoft venture, doomed to eventual failure either through lousy final design, or through a market that doesn't want 'new and better' but instead 'old and comfortable'. Wouldn't be the first time.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Well at least today was productive.

Cleared the shed ready for a firewood delivery next week, fitted the register plate for the stove in the chimney and cut the flue to fit. Shopping done, further pedalboard fettling and been out to some fireworks tonight as well.

Time for bed I think.

Blog comments up and running

and now mostly used by spammers. Thank goodness for moderation.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

OK feedback time

Assuming anyone as well as from Fern and my brother actually reads this blog. What's lousy & needs changing? Is there anything that's good enough to pursue further?


Is the number of this post.

I wonder if the blog is working again, comments available (they seemed to be for earlier posts EXCEPT the first post after I updated).

Still not been able to move time & date stamps from above to below posts, but we're getting there. All the links should be updated and working, a couple of dead/inactive links have been deleted and there's a little movement where blogs simply aren't updated much. More hacking about later to make the new format fit a bit better.

Curiously enough I was just comparing the old format in my minds eye with what I've seen of Windows 8, and reckon the simplicity of that flat layout isn't far off.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Well, here's something I hacked together.

It turns out my last saved temple *on my home computer* dates from 2008, hence goofy links (gummy worm pizza anyone?) and my Macbook isn't to hand (I KNOW there's a recent saved template there from September).

Fiddle about guys, see if you can break anything.

Tomorrow I may review the blogposts on TBOTAM with a view to copying across anything appearing worthwhile.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

TBOTAM - Life in transit

I have created a new blog - - as a temporary place to post while I sort out The Blog Of The Ancient Mariner.

Comments work, it looks a little reminiscent of this place, but it's got that 'new car' smell to it. Wander over, say 'hi' and try the upholstery. Sometime I'll get round to fixing up this place. If I can be disciplined then I'll cross-post so that both have the same content, but don't count on it.

See you there.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Pear Linux 6 - Bartlett

So I gave in and upgraded to PL6 Bartlett.

It's pretty good with a few teething issues so far. Lighter and quicker than PL4 Comice that I ran previously, there's a few cosmetic tweaks in the menu bars, plus Dockey (the dock application) has been replaced with plank because of it's very low overhead. Plank is much less refined, but does have a much lower overhead. All round it's been sped up generally, and apart from start up it feels quick zippy.
Problems? Well it wouldn't play DVDs to begin, all down to libdvdcss. The library containing a version of libdvdcss was installed, but didn't seem to be working (even though it had worked in PL4). Downloading libdvdcss2 fixed that, though playback glitches with a very brief pause about every 7-10min. Also mouse scrolling was reversed by default (like Apple's un-natural scrolling that I understand was a feature of Lion and ML) and the switch to undo that 'feature' wasn't obvious (hidden in pear tweaks applet). the appstore was also temperamental, sometimes falling over if 'pushed' a little.

Is anything new?

There are native apps for facebook, G+ and twather. Never thought I'd care, but it's nice to have 2 less tabs to keep open or hunt for in firefox, and although they aren't the greatest interfaces, it's still less effort than firing up a browser & then hunting down the page.

Also in the appstore was Calibre, which is a program for importing and converting ebooks between different formats, loading them onto readers etc. I've not tried it yet, but those who use it consider it essential for ebook reader owners, and since we both have Kobos it should be handy.

Worth mentioning that icons and text etc have been crisped up a little, each iteration making linux better and better as an operating system. It's not that icons or fonts are a really big deal, but having a crisp, well defined display takes a degree of strain out of use and generally helps the user to settle and work more efficiently. Maybe it's because I spend more time in from of non-windows computers these days, but I don't find W7 especially nice to use, though XP is still pretty much the benchmark in efficiency and user-friendliness. I would be happy to use pear Linux as my everyday OS now, and that is a huge step forward compared to 2 years ago.

So if you're a windows user and want something that has a Mac-ish look and feel, but runs lighter & quicker and with fewer design flaws (and less features, granted) PL is only an 850Mb download away.

32 bit (as I'm running now) and 64 bit (as I'll download & migrate to shortly) here:

Hitting 50? Better put the brakes on.

When I was younger I remember seeing various 'old fellers' on bikes. Ken at Reg Barnett's bike shop & De Laune CC in Peckham was over 70 and still riding around (slowly) when I was 15. On my return to cycling in about '99 I was reasonably sure that I'd be able to keep going for another 10 years or a little more, probably up to the age of 50.

Now I'm 51.

There's a side of me that's wanted to go riding still, but I've come to realise that it's all too much effort for not enough fun and enjoyment. If I can't go fast, do silly things & come through relatively undamaged, generally lark about and have fun on a bike then I'm not interested. Over the last 3 years I've made several attempts to re-start cycling, each one ending after a few weeks due to illness or, in the case of this last time, several broken bones. The first ride after recovering had me drop the front wheel down a (concealed) hole and go over the bars again, though without injury. My right calf also still has 4 teardrop-shape scars from catching a chain ring earlier this year.

So I'm seriously considering giving up properly, since I can't seem to get started properly any more. Wonder if I'm being told something?

And TBH I don't have significant amounts of free time or energy now. To keep riding I need best part of every Saturday, preferably with occasional serious week nights out too. There's no way I can manage that, and I already feel torn between the need to be at a men's group and the need for one day of the week where I don't have to be up early to do stuff for the church or work.

So I've pretty much come to the conclusion that my cycling days are over. My bikes both need some attention too, and I don't want to spend £150+ having shock absorbers serviced, plus trying to get new bushes etc and the cost of a new machine is out of the question.

Time to close another chapter of my life then. Maybe I'll ride again if I make it to retirement?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Are you offended?

No, because I choose not to take offence (however I am wounded, because you are a friend).

Now, how should we view the wounds of a friend, if the wounding was actually from them? Worth considering, especially as many will wound - if they can - who are quite distinctly not friends.

Many things to think about. Wish I slept better.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

It's 11.30am Thursday 11th October and here is the news.

We seem to be experiencing accidents recently.

A couple of weeks back we had someone lose control of their car while driving down the hill outside our house, coming to rest part-way into our garden having hit the wall by our gate. The car was quite drivable, but we now have an extra 'rockery' feature from the pile of stones that remain from the wall, plus a permanently open gate. It's not a real problem except for the hassle of getting quotes for the re-build (and no-one wants to give quotes for an insurance job they might not get) and the stress of having to deal with it (thank you my love).

And then Monday Chris borrowed my car so she could take my mother to the hospital (the wheelchair won't easily fit in the beetle) and was rear-ended by someone not paying attention. To add insult to injury, it also meant that the boot could not be opened, negating the purpose of having that car, and the car itself could not be locked because the central locking detected that the boot lid wasn't shut. So again, for her more hassle calling insurance companies, repair & hire centres* etc.

And we've both been coldey this week too, me worse, but none the less neither great. Sleep is less than ideal (partly self-inflicted, but an aspect of having a cold is that my body won't relax and my mind doesn't rest) so I'd rather like to go back & re-start our time from when we came back from France!

The good news is that Ben passed his full motorcycle test this week, and is now driving a Yamaha Fazer 600 instead of having to cycle to work. For non-brits, the test is in 4 parts, with an initial computer based assessment, then compulsory basic training (CBT - you have to demonstrate basic handling skills on a 125 before being allowed on the road) followed by 2 practical riding examinations. Riding conditions in the UK are very demanding due to the density of population & traffic, and much more hazardous than the happy days when I could sling a leg over a 100mph motorcycle on my 17th birthday. We're both hoping and praying that he won't bin it while he's still acquiring riding skills and familiarity over the next couple of weeks (nor afterward).

Ben is not immune though, and received a couple of speeding tickets yesterday in the post from his holiday time in France back in August. Wonder if I'll get some too?

More good news is that I finally got the Rayburn (kitchen range-type cooker & heating unit) running again last weekend. When I'd shut it down in the spring it was running fine, but trying to start it in September was unsuccessful, with it running briefly and then producing clouds of oily smoke. I'd known there were some issues and sent it away to be serviced/repaired (which they did to the tune of £341) but the same pattern of behaviour was repeated when it was refitted. Further investigation showed the section of the rayburn transferring hot gasses to the chimney to be full of soot, thus preventing it running. D'oh. We removed almost a carrier-bag full of soot and it then ran fine. Makes a huge difference to have a source of background heat in the house.

That's pretty much it.

*Hire centres:
I have a courtesy car while the pug is being repaired: a brand new Ford Fiesta, with just 120 miles on the clock. Interesting to compare it with the Peugeot 206+ I had in France a few weeks back. It may be the newness, but it's much harder to drive smoothly than the 206, with brakes being 'sticky' and steering somewhat twitchy. It might be better for hammering round corners and it certainly *looks* sporty by comparison, with smoother lines and a low roof. However the low roof means that I hit my head getting in! The interior is 'nice Ford' and has more gadgets and visually exciting stuff than a typical Peugeot of a similar level, but also looks more 'video gameish' and faffy. A less than impressive aspect was the lump of black material under the clearcoat on the drivers side rear pillar - if this car were mine and brand new then it might well have gone back for that - not good! Over all, on one days driving, this is not a car I'd choose to buy unless it were on looks alone.

The guys at the hire centre were really nice dealing with us, and it's heartwarming to receive pleasant customer service in an industry not particularly noted for it.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Tonight I'm a little sad.

I had a friend, or rather friends, because at one time a couple we knew well took their family out to France, feeling they had been called there.

Cut a long story short, my friend met someone else on the internet while he was going through a difficult time with the church and in other ways, and decided that was the end of things. His stance became increasingly angry and bitter, taking a stronger and more offensive anti-Christian (and sometimes other faiths too) stance in his facebook posts. There was less and less good and more and more that was barbed and designed to wound.

Tonight, I expressed how I felt, how he'd become eaten up with hatred, how the friend I once ate with and made music with had gone.

At least being de-friended when the friend you once had no longer exists doesn't hurt.

I mourn the loss of the man I knew. Of the husband he once was, the father, the friend, the leader. Life can never be the same for him, never to know the purity of a first and only partner, of children growing in an unbroken family.

So he was all to blame then?

I don't know. Nothing is ever straightforward in marriage, but sometimes you can ride the feelings like surfing on the crest of a wave, while other times you just have to swim against the current of feelings to stay still. But in the end, a marriage will stay together as long as both parties choose it to, and will fall apart when that ceases. No marriage will ever fail without deliberate sin, and if one party has chosen that path, there's little one can do to stop them unless they want to be stopped.

I'll still miss him, but not as much as his family will miss the man he once was.

I'm evaluating/testing Pearlinux 6

And I have to say that it makes this system feel like I've just added an SSD.

It's WAY quicker than my SSD-equipped Macbook, running off a relatively slow WD 320Gb 2.5" drive.

This install is just an alpha version, but if they can keep the speed up (and there's a lot to suggest it can be done) then this will be a very worthwhile upgrade. I'm genuinely impressed.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

I have a generous wife.

And a new Kobo reader as an anniversary gift.


At least we won't be competing for hers now.


Thursday, 4 October 2012

Somehow, someone managed to publish a comment

I'd love to know how they managed it, since I can't see comments at all!

It was on the 'do you ever watch' post.

Thanks Johanna.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

31 years ain't shabby.

If you'll forgive the colloquialism.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Do you ever watch

and wonder whether you're seeing someone quietly (or otherwise) lose their marbles as they blog?

And if you did, would you try to help them (as if you even could) or just keep looking from the sideline, wondering without ever knowing if the online life they posted was their best or worst expression of how things really were. Hard to tell if someone is really a loony or just trying to be radical in their own way.

Lets hope it's only the latter, and assume I simply don't know them very well.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Debating a move.

With the comments debacle remaining un-sorted at this point in time, I'm debating migrating across, at least temporarily, to one of the other blogs that I started/named over the last couple of years.

Before you (those who read regularly) wonder about this secret blogging life, I can tell you that I started 2 blogs over the last 7 years. One was from an idea about a seed dying after we lost Sarah, and might have contained thoughts about fruitfulness from loss. The other was last year when, after years of "should I/shouldn't I" over getting a band together, when my music and worship life had stagnated and died, God seemed to say "OK then, if you want to", just weeks before then seeming to take me into the next stage of what He *really* had for me. Neither blog has content, although Throwing Back Starfish has one post speculating what I might do.

And both have working comments.

So I might migrate across there while I try to fix TBOTAM, probably migrating to a new template and then repairing all the damage that will cause to appearance.

Some might say "about time you updated your crappy, old fashioned blog face.

My feeling is that content IS king.

Some seem to update a couple of times a year to remain fresh and create a semi-commercial draw. Some have periods of shift out of dissatisfaction. Some just update because they have the skills and like to do that kind of thing. For me, blogging has never been about the blog face, other than it MUST be simple, easy to read and provide good access to posts over a longish period. When I read a blog, if it is written like a professional magazine article then it's unlikely I'll manage more than a few lines before switching off: a blog is, for me, a personal space rather than a pulpit or storefront.

But this blog is more than 9 years old, and I'd like it to make a full 10 years continuous posting.

Those who have my email address of facebook contact, let me know what you think.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Why do we do youth work (like we do)?

My good friend Randall (see over there on the left) posted a link to this article on google+.

One of the striking things I've noticed about youth work over the last couple of decades is how little it actually brings youngsters into the church and, if you DO see them, they don't stick around for long. Some youth groups semi-recognise this and sever the link between them and church completely, other than using the building.

Here's a quote that made me double take:

Here’s a little test I’ve developed for determining real values (which, by the way, are the driving force behind the real meaning of “Youth Pastor” in your situation): resource allocation reveals values. So, your church might say, “we have a high value on our youth pastor building meaningful relationships with teenagers.” But if your resources of time, money, energy, focus, creativity, people and space are dominantly used for prop up a Christian-y social club for teenagers with the measuring stick of how many are coming, or how many don’t leave, then that value is suspicious.

I read But if your resources of time, money, energy, focus, creativity, people and space are dominantly used for prop up a Christian-y social club for adult churchgoers, because the automatic assumption was there that a church that cared about youth would put it's resources there, and one that didn't would be building a social club for churchgoers. The idea that putting resources into youthwork might be a fruitless waste of time was a new recognition for me, even if I'd been aware of the relative uselessness of so much youth work before. "It's sharing Jesus with the kids" had always been justification of itself, and it was just a sign of how hard our area/society was that it didn't bear any fruit.

Now, youth work isn't something that I naturally gravitate toward. I have funny memories from when we were newly married, being part of a New Frontiers church in London and asking to get involved in the youth work there because that's what our previous mentors had done at that stage. So we went along, being only 21 & 19 ourselves, and after a few sessions we were allowed to lead when the current leader & church pastor was away. I forget how it went, but I'd been praying about things and felt God say certain things for certain people, to encourage them, so shared that.


Teens didn't quite understand (and we were new still) and parents were concerned. Cue closed-door chats with pastor etc about what we'd 'done' to the kids. But the curious thing was that a lot of the stuff we'd put into words came to pass, and - related or otherwise I've no idea - some of them are still involved in church and have gone on to good things. However that was the end of my 'youthwork' era.

But I am concerned when a youth group doesn't have a direct connection & feed into church, to participate in the family life and bigger picture of the church. I'm pretty sure but there's a link, almost for certain, between the disconnection between multi-generational church and the relative failure of youth work. My generation was the last to grow up as a *kid* with the church like a bigger family, at least in my experience, and our kids didn't do it very much, even though we were so very involved and active. I'm saying no more now, but want to ponder this.

Food for thought, and maybe action.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Monday, 24 September 2012

All it requires for evil to flourish is good men to stay silent

I've been thinking about this for some time now, but I seem to be seeing it again and again. A Facebook comment by Marc V (him, over there on the left, now a trained pastor) about a Ricky Gervais meme provoked me a little. A comment by Paul Mayers - another friend, no longer on the blogosphere - linking to this article made me see a little red and actually respond in some detail.

As Christians in the UK, particularly in the face of the madness of some sections of the Islamic world, tend to be reticent, pacifist, mealy-mouthed and cautious. It is not my nature these days to be confrontational, but sometimes we just need to stand up for righteousness, rather than keep quiet and let the wicked behave as if what they do is perfectly reasonable and acceptable.

Balanced view? How many lives should they screw up, including their own, because we tried to see their side of the argument?

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Friday, 21 September 2012

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Wot, no update?

I've been using Pear linux 4 since the spring, pretty much once my long-running install of Sabayon had gone belly up again. In that time I've seen Sabayon release 2 further updates (9 and 10 - just out) Pear linux in version 5 and recently 6 in alpha, Open SUSE has pushed out V 12.2 and there have been innumerable others from various distros I've dabbled with.

What's changed?

Mostly, Pear 'just works'.

That was also largely true of Sabayon, but while I loved the interface (KDE is so much better than OSX-alike desktop environments) the tools were much more powerful and the versions of software much more up to date, it was always a bit too bleeding-edge, and stuff just kept breaking. I get frustrated that the pear/gnome file manager hides the mp3 files on some CDs, despite them being clearly visible under KDE. It's irritating to have to make do with last years version of DigiKam GIMP if I want to continue using the standard repositories and not worry about maintaining dependencies like I might if I installed new versions myself.

But I like stuff like DVD handling. Pop a disc in the drive and it appears on the dock. Click it and you're offered the option of playing the movie, exploring etc; all completely rational stuff.It's not a big deal for me to have to hunt down the disc through the media player interface under KDE, but it IS a problem for Chris, and I want her to enjoy the machine too. And then it had become relatively slow to use too (though not as slow as my Macbook running OSX 10.5, but still annoying).

So I've stuck with Pear. So it's making me dumber. And lazy. But it works.

Yesterday I downloaded Sabayon X (Apple has a lot to answer for) burned it to DVD tonight and ran it live.

Looks nice. Crisp fonts, clear colours, clean interface. But I just simply can't be bothered with migrating all the data AND run the risk of unreliability in order to get some slightly better tools and a more powerful interface.

So, no update yet for me. I shall be trying Pear 6 when it's released on evaluation, but until then, despite my son's occasionally snarky comment about changing OSs every week, pear is staying.

And sometime I'll upload the last couple of French holiday blogposts and some images.

And then maybe even sort comments.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

I’ve been very impressed by many of the French we’ve met.

Not that I should or shouldn’t be, but they’ve almost all been so terribly nice. We did have one girl go all snooty when we bought stamps and cards, and on another occasion that we tendered a 50 euro note for a 10 euro item in a supermarket, but generally they have been really nice.

Occasionally we’ve obviously been a bit scary to approach after it was first clear we didn’t understand too well. The local accent is quite thick, and there’s a distinct difference between the accent of a northern Frenchman (I can hear the words ‘Il fait pleut’ along with a shrug) and the way French is spoken here. It’s faster, thicker and with a greater density to the tones. The result is that it takes us longer than usual to translate the spoken into written French in our minds (see previous post) and the poor waitress is greeted with blank looks to her perfectly reasonable enquiry as to what we would like to drink before ordering our meal.

But the amazing thing is, we’ve always managed to get drinks/food/fishing tackle/diarrhoea medicine (not needed this time, I’m VERY pleased to say) when needed.

It may be that they don’t get many English tourists here, and so we’re something of a novelty. And we always try to manage a bit of French. Never the less, we’ve had some of the warmest receptions, nicest smiles and helpful attitudes that we’ve ever seen in France, from the people in this area.

Why do we try to learn a language twice?

And other musings.

It is a long time since I did schoolboy French (and a little less since I tried student German) but it seems to me we always teach 2 languages at the same time.

What do I mean?

Spoken language is taught, certainly, whatever the language being imparted, but side by side with that is the written language, and they seldom seem to work side by side. I became aware of this when trying to pay for fuel to a petrol pump cashier and realised that I was trying to first translate the sounds that I had heard into written French so that I could analyse and understand it before replying.

Crazy, no?

We find it much easier – well, many do anyway – to learn a written language because it does not require us to retrain our ears, minds and instincts in order to comprehend.

My initial reaction was that this is because I’ve had to learn French by reading stuff written in French during various holidays and visits, and that’s why I have this duality of understanding. However I recall when at school that everyone found the written stuff much easier because it was real and solid and interpretable through judicious use of dictionaries (no babelfish then). I put the theory to Chris and she agreed whole heartedly (and she has done conversational French classes since school too).

Now I understand why things are done this way. You have a class of unruly 11-14 year olds, and they get French lessons for 45min maybe twice a week. They are expected to go away and learn French (or German, or Spanish, or Latin, or Chinese) on their own on the days and weekends in between. Of course they have to, because you don’t have daily classes with them, and language only comes with practice and use.

No self-respecting schoolboy will do non-essential practice – he’ll do the minimum he possibly can to scrape a pass. So that will mean covering off the written stuff and then hoping he can bluff his way though any oral sections in the class if necessary. With evening classes it’s not quite the same, but having an hour once a week makes doing the oral stuff for 30min daily impossible.

So we teach 2 languages: written and oral.

There’s another catch too.

Those beastly foreigners don’t know their alphabets properly and can’t pronounce the letter’s sounds correctly. And worse still, they mangle the letters together in ungodly combinations that no decent English tongue (I’m an Austrian, so this is written with MY tongue firmly in my cheek) should ever have to be wrapped around.

And then to make it even MORE fun, teh mynd doss thet clyvir trek ov mekking sence of ninsonce. Or we read what we think is there instead of what is really written. Not a problem when you’re in a place of quiet and study, but when you’re trying to understand things on-the-fly it makes for fun.

Took me a while to read paradillas correctly as parilladas.

But there’s hope.

When we’d finally realised that the petrol pump cashier wanted me to hand over my credit card and he already knew which pump I’d used then the transaction went through fine. Without thinking I answered “merci m’sieu, au revoir”. It seems that if the analytic process is kept firmly locked away then I can say the right thing sometimes after all.

Or maybe I might simply speak the same old nonsense I do in blighty, but to a different people group.

The weather with us.

Last night we were sitting in the apartment reading quietly, when we heard distant rumbles. The promised storm that had supposedly been due earlier had finally arrived. In the distance we could see occasional flashes, followed 10 to 15 seconds (possibly more) later by the rumbles.

After one quite spectacular flash we decided to go for a walk along the promenade by the lake, to watch proceedings in the dark and open.

Things were quiet for a long time. We stood leaning on the wooden rail, looking out over the quiet waters, waiting for the next flash. Scents of pine drifted across to us from the cooling forests that are still the main income from this area. We could also smell barbecued food from the parillada restaurants further round the lake, the lakes own warm, salty odour came to us, mingled with hints of sun oil, and in one place, fish.

After we’d been down for some time the fireworks started in the distance. They were at least 5 miles away, possibly more, and we could barely hear the thunder at all. Occasionally a yellow-orange flash would leap from the clouds, sometimes branching across between clouds too. With the dark of the night, around 9.30pm, the clouds were completely invisible to us except when lit by a flash, and the air over Port d’Albret was pretty much clear except for enough haze to block the stars.

After about 20min the guys lighting the fireworks had clearly run out of stuff and we went back in, mocking the idea we would have rain.

So this morning everything had been soaked in the night.

It can’t have rained hard because we had our windows open for fresh air, and would have heard it. Never the less there were puddles of water on non-absorbant surfaces and the timber of the promenade was still dark with dampness.

We popped out around 9.30 to buy our bread for the day from one of the local bakers (une baguette traditionel s’il vous plait). The air was cool and fresh as we left the apartment, but even by the time we were heading back it had begun to warm in the strength of the sun and the humidity was very noticeable, leaving skin sticky.

Since we had enjoyed a week of rest and relaxation, mostly anyway, we planned to spend more time visiting nearby points of interest. It’s always good to pick up a little of the local flavour and way of life too, and France likes to display its life openly in its cities. So today we drove to Mont de Marsan, which is the Lande departments capital, having already seen Dax.

Rather than describe it in detail, it’s probably fair to say that it’s like any slightly scruffy provincial city (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) with most of the hallmark French architectural styles, just like Dax, though about 1000 years younger. The highlight, from a sightseeing point of view, is the confluence of rivers La Douze and Le Midou to become La Midouze (which flows into another river further down etc etc). There are also some old buildings and a lot of sculptures of naked people dotted around, plus pleasant gardens. Good place to spend a few hours.

We came back mid-afternoon and went straight to the beach, where I spent more than an hour leaping about in the waves, pretending to be a little heroic and behaving like a teenager. It was interesting to see I wasn’t the only one with grey hair embarking on this kind of behaviour.

There’s a curious thing one can do too; a study in herd mentality. If one person starts floating in the water with their feet sticking out then other males will imitate them. It’s almost as if it’s a signal that says “I’m so cool I can cope with these little waves and just float here unperturbed”. It’s a very childish thing to do, but there always seem to be at least a couple of other guys who will quite promptly start floating with their feet out of the water too.

We also tried our new Hawaiian Tropic sun oil that smells of bananas and leaves your fingers & skin really sticky (makes handling a book a challenging affair).

And so home.

Tonight I cooked chicken pan-fried with butter, shallots and garlic, a little oregano and Maggie , then mushrooms in a crème fraiche sauce and served up with basmati rice. Pud was an excellent pear tarte, washed down with Normadie cidre and a cabernet rose.



One of the apartments down below has been hosting a party. There has been clapping and now there is singing. It sounds for all the world like a gallic version of a traditional cockney song – you can almost see the pearly kings and queens gyrating to their dulcet tones. Not quite ‘Knees up muvver brahn’ but well down that way.

Now they’re onto the drunken laughter stage, and Chris has shut the window. Looks like it’s not just the brits who ‘like a good drink’ on holiday.

I popped outside to see how they were doing, and from one of the restaurants further round the lake could be heard something like the sound of the ‘Captain Pugwash’ theme tune on an accordion and clapping in time to the music.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Sometimes it seems like the world passes through the Lande.

We keep seeing people that *remind* us of friends.

Like a woman on a bike who looked like a certain Dixie V.

Like a lass walking past who looked just like Ben's g/f.

Like the woman we saw in Dax that even dressed and walked like Jane M.


The young French males have their own particular walk. When I was a teenager we all adopted a particular "well 'ard" walk that involved swaying side to side - our school masters would ask if we'd just got off a ship. The guys here do something similar that involves walking with stiff legs and short steps. Initially Chris thought it might be from wearing flipflops, but that's not the case.

Today it was supposed to be stormy, but we've seen 28'C with a light overcast sky.


Friday, 7 September 2012

Not a holiday diary blogpost

But an observation of people.

We've seen an amazing variety of people here.

On the beach today we saw a lass that looked like a slim and lovely Helen Mirren, in at least her mid 50s, possibly older. Chris commented before I did!

At the other end of the spectrum we can reassure those in doubt that French women do indeed get fat (contrary to a particular book!).

We saw someone who would be indistinguishable from a friend of ours from behind, even down to the same clothes, the same walk and way of standing, the same hairdo - quite astonishing.

Port d'Albret is full of 'ordinary' people from France and Spain, very different from the classic holiday destinations of many English tourists. It seems that France and Spain have their equivalent to 'the Blackpool set' too.

Meeting another English-speaking person is a little like bumping into a long-lost friend, so few are there.

Not entirely unrelated, but I seem to have been reading stuff with recurring themes that make observations on people. I quite like entertaining junk: by that I don't mean 50 shades (from the little I know of that, I think that even as a schoolboy I'd have been ashamed of being caught with it in my bag - porn to be ashamed of) but classics that have now become silly but remained entertaining. One of Edgar Rice-Burroughs 'John Carter' martian series was the first and James de Mille's A strange manuscript found in a copper cylinder was the second.

Both used similar plot devices that were as bad as if they'd been Ellis Peters Cadfael series book. However the 'strange manuscript' was interesting in it's attempt to create a society that was a deliberate reversal of Victorian England, and to a degree, present society. A people are found who reject the acquisition of wealth and power, light and fresh air, where the most highly esteemed are the paupers and the most worthless those in positions of highest authority. There was also a twist in that the poorest of all paupers was so because he had outdone all in his determination to get to the top/bottom of the pile, and was as power-hungry and vicious as we might expect any politician of a cruel society to be.

Curious stuff indeed, but well worth thinking about in a church context; both how we should be determined not to accumulate wealth and how we might re-shape society based on raising others above us.

The preset reading matter is a Nicky Gumbel book about revival, but it *feels* like it's aimed toward a post-alpha audience in the NG style, and is also a little dated, drawing most of its references from the late 90s and earlier.

More all about people stuff then.

When I get back I also want to obtain a copy of Frank Viola's Pagan Christianity for another take on the church in society (or possibly a take that lines up with stuff I've thought for a long time).

Anyway, that's enough blogging. Time to do some work.

A little retrospective, but....

Holiday blog (wot – anuvver?).

Oh the joy of rising at 3.30am!

What time should we get up? Well, lets work this backwards. The flight leaves at 8.10am and gate closes at 7.45. We have bags to check and want to try to get decent seats (this is easyjet, with it’s free-for-all, but old habits die hard) so need to be there 2 hours before departure. So meet & greet (these days no more expensive than long term onsite parking) is arranged at 6am. Gatport Airwick (thanks Jeremy) is about 85 miles away, so allow around 1hr45 – 2 hours travel time in the small hours (3 hours during the day). We want a shower before departing, so allow 15min each, plus 15min to assemble everything and pop it in the car, check it all off etc.

So the alarm went off at 3.30am and we were on the road around 4.15am, arriving about 5.45am for a better than expected journey. Great.

Then the plane was delayed 30min waiting for ‘paperwork’ to arrive. easyjet are slipping.

I’d slept around 30-50min the previous night, and manage a few mins on the plane too, but the flight time was only about 75min total, which again was great (and it was a real sardine special, so a short flight was an even bigger bonus). We went straight from the plane to dragging luggage round Bordeaux Merignac airport while hunting down the car hire desk.

Bordeaux to Biarritz/Bayonne was a shorter journey than I remember it, at around 200km-ish, though we had started off fairly well south of Bordeaux already. On the 2 previous occasions we’d done it I seem to remember getting to Bordeaux around 4am (one year we had a 90mph blow out just before reaching the ring road!). The Gironde estuary is enormously wide, and the main road crossed over on a huge suspension bridge with spectacular views. Once past the city the road then became dual carriageway, threading through pine forests and sandy excavations until just before Bayonne and the peage, when it would open out to reveal housing that was more Spanish than French and industrial units etc. We would arrive at the camp site around 7.30-8am.

(Note - a couple of days after arriving we did this final section of the journey in reverse. To my shock it took almost an hour to get back to the place where we turned off, confirming my memory wasn’t far out after all.)

The apartment is located in Port d’Albret, Vieux Bocau (old Bocau) that are having been a quiet fishing village before being developed heavily for French tourism. There is a large marine lake (I want to write marin lac) surrounded by apartment blocks and complexes that look like they were built in the 80s and early 90s, so around 20-30 years old, mostly in decent condition and refurbished some time in the last 10 years, some manky on the outside.

Our map of France (a large volume) didn’t have enough detail of the actual town, and even the map I’d printed courtesy of google wasn’t really cutting it – Port d’Albret is a network of small, often one-way streets, named using tiny signs and full of similar looking accommodation. At first we couldn’t make head or tail of where we were, and since check in for weekly stays was after 5pm (!) we parked up and wandered a little (just round the corner as it happened). Come the time we drove round a couple of times before finding a sign to our apartments and squeezed into the carpark of le Boucanier (well buckle my swash etc).

First impressions are the ones that last: the check in process made me think that this was Butlins a la Francais, but the girl on reception was so nice and so enthusiastic in a genuine way that we were pleased to be here. The apartment itself was, as the lass on reception described it, really nice. 2 balconies (1 in sun, 1 in shade pretty much all the time) spacious, clean and even with separate loo and bathroom.

We were really tired after our journey and the last few weeks of having so much happening, so didn’t really want to do much. There was however a large market going on in the main town, and after dinner we wandered round, more than a little dazed, marvelling at the prices (so high) and the sheer quantity of stuff being sold.

Bed was welcome.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Sunny skies and a sea at 22'C

A loving woman by my side and not too much to do. Does it get better than that?

Friday, 31 August 2012

Clear skies and cool days

Make for chilly mornings. 4'C this morning, one cat refusing to go out.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

I've cut out comments

Since Haloscan are going belly-up shortly. Apparently no-one knows the answer to why google comments don't work. You'll know if I get them working again.

Oxford 26th August.

There might be more later.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Do you ever wonder about marketing people?

Especially when they are trying to shift computer parts etc? carry a range of base units and mini systems that someone is trying to sell just too hard. They are just a bunch of slightly dull black and grey boxes, somewhere between the size of a shoebox and a midi tower, so how do they get names like hellspawn, hellscream, punisher etc?

It's just a grey and black box with some commonplace electronics inside designed to run Windows beige-world 7.

Even the kids that live in their parents basements and play WoW and MW3 are going to be cynical, let alone anyone who has actually had a job. Sometimes it feels like people actually believe the things they invent.

And there's a penny dropping moment.

Men have always wanted to invent things that needed to be worshiped, creating rules and scenarios in which to frame and sell their ideas. Only now instead of worshipping in darkened caves and temples, it's spare rooms and cafes.

I'm quite torn about the whole computing and the internet aspect of modern life. There is so much potential good, and yet there is such a strong draw, and I very much recognise my own weakness to that, to spend too much time just on the computer, not talking or sharing face to face, but in simulated company. There's a side of me that would love to just ditch computing completely, but it IS so useful.

Of course the challenge is to handle these things well, just like food and drink, just like reading and socialising. For those things society has created expectations and training from a young age, and we can see the effects of their failure in obesity as much as alcoholism, in those who live to escape and those who cannot stop themselves talking. Would future generations develop their own social limitations to internet use, if the internet were to be around for another 150 years?

Monday, 20 August 2012

So we just went to dinner.

Last night, after a day of stuff.

Up at 6.30 (as always) putting songs together for worship at the church.

Into work at 10am to print off sheets about forgiveness.

In church at 10.30am, setting up for the morning meeting (not too hard, since cups already out and urn on).

Around 2.30 Chris out for cream teas and networking at a local village event, me cutting grass.

4.00 through the shower and quickly out to see our good friends and amazing people of God Mike & Liz Beaumont before they left for 9 months in Vancouver. We both come away, having met some of the other guys in leadership in Oxford Community Church realise what we've been missing - the wisdom, the depth of faith, the family and the trust between men of God who have chosen to walk openly with each other. It was just as if we'd never been away, and some of the guys we were only passing acquaintances with.

6.05 (oops) back at Heyford Park for the evening prayer meeting. A good time sharing stuff - almost too much sharing, then prayer where I really became aware of the Spirit of God moving, and catching a bit of His heart.

7.45 Done for the day and into Bicester. So we just went to dinner at Anica (I want to call the place either Arnica or a knicker) which is a decentish curry house. We've been out to dinner a number of times recently, which is unusual for us, since money has been tight, but there has always been a purpose and always in company. It's good to just be the 2 of us, together. No need to make conversation, but able to talk about almost anything that we want to. I need times like this with my wife, who is also my friend.

Chris has been asking when I get a sabbath, and the answer is that I get by. Sabbath has begun to happen, even though I have lots of work on in the lab right now. Tuesday night there's another meeting, but it *feels* like sabbath has already started in preparation for the holiday.

Ben might be home tonight, after HIS holiday. That will be nice.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Confession and forgiveness

Sometimes messages are easy to write, and I have felt almost guilty to be completed in 2 or 3 hours.

Sometimes they just don't flow *easily* and require some real work.

So I'm speaking on confession and forgiveness tomorrow. This has been real work. I hope it is actually useful.

And maybe they'll forgive me. ;-)

Friday, 17 August 2012

I'm having trouble enabling blogger comments

As can be seen, the Haloscan comments that I used for the last 9 years are being discontinued in October. I have enable google comments in the settings, but cannot see anything that suggests they are actually working. Do I have to use a new blogger template for them to work, or are comments exclusive (i.e. if I have external comments enabled does that disable blogger comments)?

Suggestions welcome.

Y'know how some mornings the sun shines

.........and it's all great.

Cat sick on the kitchen floor, and it was raining first thing.

We just feel really battered this morning, mostly because we went to bed last night feeling battered. We did the 'Are you OK. Yes, are you?' thing, but the feelings obviously remained, though for me they are seeping away now I'm starting to do stuff.

Some stuff isn't fixed easily, but one thing's for sure; we're not getting any more cats.

Thursday, 16 August 2012