Saturday 31 March 2012

Pear linux revisited

I've mentioned Pear linux 3 a few times here, including using it for a week or 2 while deliberating over reinstalling Sabayon as my main OS at home.

Well, just over a week ago Pear Linux OS4 Comice (French for pear) was released as the full version, and I'm posting from it right now. In many ways it's a lot like version 3, but more polished and with cleaner icons and a better app store manager. It also has a lot of commonality with OSX (if you're a Mac user you may find it unsettling because it is different yet the same) so expose/mission control work alike as does file preview and a bunch of other stuff.

Now the other thing that makes this so good is that I've stuck it on a memory stick that's been made bootable (using UNetbootin in linux) so that there's no laggy DVD to use, and everything operated from flash memory almost as quickly as a HDD install.

It's almost too mac-like, but being Linux it is customisable - something very distinctly not possible with a Cupertino product. I'm tempted to try it on the Macbook, just to see if it will work OK. I use nothing Apple-specific on there, despite all my hopes for Garageband, however my copy of office wouldn't work, since wine only works for windows applications.

So if you are a Mac user but didn't like the windows-like appearances of most other Linux distros - this one is for you. Finally a change to escape the evil empire without having to join the other one. Read more here.

Thursday 29 March 2012

Is the sublime just a lemon?

Why do I make more puns when I'm tired?

Worked 12 hours yesterday.

Worked 14 hours today.

Tomorrow will be at least a 12 hour day (with a long break in the middle, else it would be more).

Working a few hours Saturday.

Will Sunday be a day of rest, I wonder?

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Language failure

I must have been tired over the last few days, judging by a general language failure. Ho hum. Hopefully the intent is clear, even if the writing is a mess.

Got back from a worship team practice a little while ago.

It's good to have Mark back. At some stage I should bung up a link to us when we recorded something a while back. Not exactly technically great, but it gives an idea of what we can do together on a first or second time through basis.

We've been out walking a little recently.

There are a few more in my main photobucket gallery.

Plus, if you ever wondered what her card worshops were like, here's a 'before' shot - there's a during shot in the gallery.

Monday 26 March 2012

Well, we finally managed to sort out holidays

At least, in terms of accommodation. Then came the ferry.

Suddenly the chunnel looks extraordinarily good value. £340 for a return crossing seems like a lot of money to me. We'd hoped to use Tesco vouchers to make it more affordable, but they won't work for our route. We can, or course, completely cover the cost of the chunnel, but that's another 250km to drive, putting the first destination >1000km away.

Meh, as Johannah used to say.

Chris was looking at the other offers available. We're planning to visit Lille for a conference soon - at the same time she could get us a 1 week holiday in Corfu or Zante for £70 each in vouchers. Not that I'm burning to visit either (we did go to Zante about 15 years ago, and I've not particular desire to return - unfavourite bit of Greece) but it would probably make a nice change.

And today I am mostly

Achey, tired, trying to keep going.

It's been a busy weekend: preaching and covering worship music Sunday morning, Manic puncture repair session and then bike ride Sunday afternoon, Prayer meeting Sunday evening, Saturday was spent shopping, writing, walking in the afternoon with Chris (nice, but not entirely restful) and out in the evening with friends. Not exactly back to work for a rest now, but just in need of letting things settle down a bit.

Thank you Mr. Marks, Mr Spencer and Mr. Tesco

Saturday morning means, apart from the 'normal' early rise for mens group, shopping in Tesco later for all the stuff to keep us going until Tuesday when Chris does the main shop run. Milk, bread, fruit and meat.

Ah, meat.

Supermarkets seem to have adopted the concept of meal-deals from M&S - they sell you the ingredients to make a decent meal for less - in keeping with their character. So M&S will flog a pre-prepared 3 course dinner with a bottle of wine for a tenner. Tesco OTOH are happy to just let you have the basic ingredients at around half price and let you make a mess/cook great food according to your ability.

So this Saturday we found their £5 meal deal consisted of a medium size fresh chicken, a bag of Estrelle (I think) poatoes, pre-packed unwaxed lemons (yum) english Onions (not yum - usually way too strong) and a pack of picked parsley.

I wasn't aware of the offer before we hit the store, there weren't any recipes readily visible and wasn't interested in spending time searching online for how to cook stuff, so making it up as we went along seemed the way to go. It turned out so nice that I thought I'd share, in case anyone else wanted to give it a (higher-priced) go.

The main thing about this seemed to be the lemons and chicken, so I quartered up 2 of the lemons along with a couple of small cloves of garlic and stuffed the cavity fairly tightly. The chicken went into a roasting tray on a little olive oil and more oil was poured over the breast. Dried oregano was sprinkled on the breast and then each side covered with a piece of smoked bacon. This was baked at 45 min/kilo plus about 25min, and was just perfectly cooked all the way through, with the bacon being crisp and all fat rendered out.

Chris boiled (reluctantly - isn't that boring?) the potatoes and some carrots in the normal way, and they were covered in melted bertolli & parsley before serving. Gravy was just the juices thickened with cornflour - no need for extra salt or flavouring.

The result was excellent - savoury yet slightly tart sauce, tender & very juicy meat, and with a flavour that made a nice change from the usual chicken roast with bisto overtones. Worth the effort.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Posting from Linux Mint 12

I've been wanting to play with the Gnome 3.2 desktop, and one of the best versions around is probably Mint. I had already downloaded Mint 12 as an ISO (for burning to DVD) but instead of doing that I also installed an application called unetbootin which let me create a bootable memory stick from the ISO file. The advantage of this is that it provides a much faster load time and better responsiveness when in use - it's not obviously much slower than a HDD install - however the trade off is lack of data persistence (some versions can also be set up to work like to true install).

It seemed to recognise my (nearly 5 year old) hardware OK. Everything seems to work including the onboard network connection. I've not tried a wireless dongle, but it's likely all the common chipsets are catered for, and there's a utility for handling windows wireless drivers.

Gnome 3 actually seems pretty good in this version: basic operation has been sorted now, and switching between the main window and application launch window makes much more sense (probably thanks to the Mint team tweaking and adjusting). It's also striking how much Windows 8 beta was like this, but with winpho style graphics and a bias toward the 'metro' interface instead of desktop. It did seem very clunky and unintuitive by comparison.

What about usability? I dug around a little and adjusted the aliasing of the screen fonts, resulting in a huge improvement over the standard mess that characterises Ubuntu/gnome distributions. Not KDE-sharp but no worse than a Macbook. Overall it's quite nice to use, though I still prefer Pear linux (also gnome-3 based) overall for the apps that are available and general appearance. If I were obliged to move distros then I'd certainly consider this one.

So if you're interested in another distro, this is worth checking out.

Saturday 24 March 2012

Fabulous weather this morning

18'C by about 10.30, and with more warmth to come. I've turned off the central heating, and we're just using the rayburn for background heat and hot water now.

Now, time to prep for tomorrow. Unity when the family scraps.... which they never do, of course.

Friday 23 March 2012

How to spend it?

Among the papers that get delivered here on a Friday is a colour supplement from the Financial Times that bears the name in the title. It's full of all the little and large treasures that an industry designed around making the rich and opulent feel, well, rich and opulent.

While looking at apartment designs involving lots of marble, glass and wood I couldn't help wondering how much of the resources required to live like that had to be taken from others on the planet. If the price of shiny but ordinary IT kit here is huge workforces in China on low wages, how much more must the kind of incomes required to acquire this kind of stuff require others to be kept in poverty.

A childishly simple, and slightly incorrect way of looking at things, but I cannot help seeing grubby children wearing jumpers with holes in behind those pictures of exotic wrist watches and exciting clothes in which to dress the trophy wife.

IT can be a curious field to work in

Most readers will know I'm an Immunologist by training, but have picked up some IT on the way. For a number of years I was sys admin in the last company before the role was absorbed by their IT dept, and that meant dealing with all sorts of hardware as well as software issues. In addition, one of the various bosses had a real penchant for 'toys' that he very generously handed out to people who he believed would do good things for the company.

This morning I read this episode of the BOFH and then the comments afterward. Deja vu.

The computer industry has been utterly frightful about making hardware proprietary and then rapidly obsolescing it within a very short space of time (Nokia is a notable exception - I know of just 3 nokia phone charger fittings). IT depts everywhere are inundated with old junk that can't be used anywhere, and I was no exception when it came to shutting down our old company at the end of 2008. Among various things I had a scanner, complete with ISA bus pseudo SCSI card (it didn't really uses scsi, just the same connectors) a bunch of power supplies all US-specific, a few sets of nasty speakers (all US specific again) a couple of USB floppy disk drives, CD label printing kit, about 200 blank CDRs courtesy of a little 'over ordering' and a mistake at ebuyer, several functioning but obsolete printers and the inevitable OS and driver CDs and floppies, all out of date.

The old palm that I enjoyed for the first couple of months (stored in a draw, ran out of charge, forgot EVERYTHING, could only ever sync with the first computer it touched) was passed to a colleague also being made redundant. Some things, including my shiny 6 month old laptop went back to the UK headquarters, but they already had enough junk themselves, and we were asked to quietly dispose of it in a way that wouldn't cause environmental issues.

I still know where there's a USB floppy drive - wonder if any modern OS would know what to do with a floppy disk?

IT is also curious because there don't seem to have been any radically new developments that make one wish to ditch all one's old computing gear for new stuff in the last 5 years. Everything has become a bit faster, a little lighter and more portable with longer battery lives. But blu-ray drives: who cares? SSD memory: nice but non-essential. Quad core: do most people even know how many processing cores their processor has? DDR Ram: what number are we up to now? Did anyone even notice the change from IDE to SATA hard drives, let alone SATA 2 or 3?

In many ways this is great, since the tide of junked hardware seems to have slowed to a trickle. It has also taken the excitement out of computing, which may or may not be bad, so that computers have become just functional tools instead of sources of intense fascination.

Guess I'm grateful my almost 5 year old home PC is still decently functional too, even if it's too old to run windows 8, or maybe my changed perception is because I'm a linux user now, and out of the upgrade rat-race? That may be a good question to ask, since this Macbook *makes* me want to upgrade but my Linux box doesn't, despite being older and slower. How much of the pressure to change is built in to the OSs we use? Some years back the IT press would refer to the Wintel hedgemony, that would force a round of upgrades and purchases every 2-3 years. Now Microsoft has refocussed a bit, Intel isn't the utterly dominant force in processor manufacturing it once was and computers have had much more power than they needed for most people to surf, watch movies and create text documents. My *perception* (which can be dangerously wrong at times) is that the charge to consume and discard is being lead by Apple, with a fresh bunch of shiny boxes and a new operating system version every year.

It's nice that they are at least giving share holders a dividend this year.

Well that's a lot of rubbish I've just written, about a lot of rubbish I've accumulated.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Fernando has just reminded me how much I like odd, junk films.

Mars attacks - great fun.

Sky Captain and the world of tomorrow - just like reading the Eagle.

X-Men, Batman (both with Val Kilmer and Christian Bale) Ironman, Terminator (the later, less serious ones) and GI Joe etc. I like the junk scifi movies etc that many don't.

So I'm really looking forward to watching John Carter, except that the film has been panned (and is the biggest losing film Disney ever made, apparently). Haters gonna hate, if I don't see it in cinema then it will be one of my very few 'must have' DVD purchases. Maybe it'll be in Tesco for £3 soon.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

How do you knock someone off course?

Well the obvious way is to make them feel unhappy, that they aren't wanted or they're in the way. If they have abilities then you arrange to prevent them being useful in those areas and undermine them to lose confidence.

What if that didn't work? Well, you can make them a better offer.

I've just seen some jobs advertised over near Cambridge, with a really interesting company that might be a lot of fun to work for. They've been doing good and innovative things in the industry, and with my background I'd fit right in. A regular salary wouldn't do any harm too.

But I'm quite sure that, for the moment, it's not what I'm called to do. It's not *really* tempting, but it did make me stop and think for a moment what it might be like to relocate somewhere else without responsibilities and able to re-start relationships with a blank slate and a good reason for being there. Actually it would probably be a bucketload of hard work, but when you dream everything looks easy.

If you're a 'nail'

does everyone who comes toward your head look like a hammer?

Or if you feel like people have always let you down, how can you learn to trust those who say they want to help?

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Why do we do it?

Irrational stuff that hurts each other, I mean.

Sometimes I wonder if the people of God have a built-in self destruct button, and a few that either suppress it or learn how to force their way to the top/bottom (depends how you look at it) end up in church leadership. I'm not talking about anything or anyone specific, but one of the things I see time and time again is people hurting other people unintentionally, just by doing what seems right to them at the time.

There was a phrase I came across a while back on harmony central. It was made in a non-christian context, but it sums up the sinful nature of man so well: "People are just bastard covered bastards with bastard filling".

I know there's a side to me that shows I still have some bastard filling, and there's plenty of people I know and walk with that have some too. At times, I wonder why we can't all just join together, hold each other, share our deepest hopes and aspirations, our worst fears and what hurts us deeply and then all walk forward together. Instead we seem to keep our bastard covering in place so that, even though many of us could open up, we don't.

It goes deeper than 'being nice' to each other.

There's a side in each of us that isn't changed yet, that does scream like a badly brought up child or holds us to ransom like Violet Beauregard (go read Willy Wonka). But it's so hard to love someone that just stiffed you in front of a bunch of other people, who took away something that helped you draw close to God or who exposed your weaknesses in a way that felt embarrassing (yes, I am thinking of specifics now). The fact that they may not have even meant to do it is of almost negative comfort - they crapped all over you and they didn't even notice!

Love covers a multitude of sins. It's one of the things we learn (or not) when we marry and discover our partner does all sorts of things that are intensely aggravating. Often, out of love, one or both sides will eventually just swallow it and learn to move on despite some of the feelings that have been generated. I'm talking about where both sides love each other, of course, rather than where one side is abusive and being cruel to the other because their twisted nature thinks that's how it works.

So it is with the church, often illustrated from marriage. Yes we're the bride of Christ, but we're also joined together in both a mystical and tangible way. We don't generally all have to wake up together but often we have to walk together through highly demanding and stressful situations. Stretching the metaphor slightly, I'd say we're more like syringes than toothpaste tubes. Squeeze a toothpaste tube and you'll certainly get toothpaste, but that just leaves the tube a bit thinner. But with a syringe you have to push something in at one end to get something out of the other. I wonder if (REALLY stretching things now) choosing to love in difficult situations gets a bit more love in one end and pushes some of the bastard filling out of the other?

I wonder if half the difficulty is that we don't actually see anything in each other that we think is worth the pain of loving?

Well, it looks like comments have gone AWOL.

almost 8 years of interaction has just disappeared. I may try to recover them, but that could be tricky, since I signed up for Holascan comments in 2003 and the email address I'd used very quickly became redundant (due to a corporate policy change). Since comments weren't something that required a great deal of maintenance I 'just let it be', attempting unsuccessfully to acquire control a couple of years later.

So for now, it looks like 8 years worth of comments have just evaporated.

This may be a good reason to switch to google based comments. It's not something I really want to do, but it will make updating the blog template a lot easier, since Haloscan were only compatible with the most basic of blog templates.

Monday 19 March 2012

At this place of transition

I'm wondering if a part of our struggle is that we haven't really begun to transition.

If a key person or people move on in an organisation, the temptation is almost overwhelming to replace them, to look around and see who can be recruited and put them in that slot. For Heyford Park Chapel, Ian and Erika were a huge part of the structure and in a very real sense everything revolved around them and how they saw things should work. They brought ability and strength that was unique to them and much of what the chapel did was rooted in their ministry.

I realised this while writing to a good friend this morning. For the Sunday morning meeting we've barely changed a thing, apart from the actual songs we sing (and many of those are still the same). This Sunday, as with all the others when I've lead worship recently, I found myself doing 'what Erika did' trying to involve the kids. I started off leading them walking with big comic steps to the song "I walk by faith" marching round the church. Eventually they realised they could go faster by walking normally - and did, getting away from me and not playing the game any more. The silly thing is - it's not me - I don't do silly walks and playing like that.

It has made me realise how much we're trying to replace them, instead of trying to do what we've been called to do as ourselves.

I'm seeing how true this is with my struggles over the way worship is. We've been using CDs because I don't have the ability to produce enough of a sung performance to carry everyone when they do what they want to do for worship. The church has not experienced everyone bringing their contribution so we all carry the worship together frequently enough to feel comfy with it, so right now that doesn't work. There's another key element too, in that there is a situational expectation: in another very small and intimate setting I've seen some who struggle with communal worship moving freely, worshipping and singing in the Spirit quite freely.

Now we've asked for people to step forward to cover several roles: Sunday school, pastoral organisation, singers and musicians for worship (probably others I've forgotten) yet no-one has stepped forward. I'm wondering if, rather than being hard hearted, instead people are being obedient and not coming forward because we are trying to do something we've not been called to do. I'm starting to see what I think is a pattern in this, not that I know the shape of things to come, but that the shape we were isn't the shape we are called to be or one that represents who we are.

We're going to need a lot of grace for each other in this stage, because that shape is going to feel very scratchy and uncomfortable as we move across each other into place, and some are likely to be unhappy about it for a while.

Reading newspapers is highly inconsistent.

So often the news is yada yada yada, riots, famines, rebellions, corruption - none of it trivial, and all of it commonplace in it's terribleness. Then you'll see a bunch of stuff that's really striking.

Big photograph in today's Times of a footballer wearing a shirt with the words Pray 4 Muamba on the front. A young footballer had, unknowingly, a heart defect and collapsed and is in critical right now. There was a caption about his life being in God's hands, which is very striking for a newspaper that's not overly sympathetic to God.

Then in the supplement was printed an except from a book by the (then) 17 year old sole survivor of a plane crash in South America. The description of the plane entering a storm, being shaken around, her mother in the seat next to her saying "this is it then" and suddenly finding herself falling through the air, alone and still strapped to the bench seat is the stuff of high temperature nightmares. She awoke in the jungle underneath the seat, injured but able to walk eventually. After 4 days she came across another seat like hers, buried deeply in the mud with other passengers still attached and their legs sticking up. She had to look at them to make sure her mother wasn't one of them, only remembering afterward that her mother had been sitting next to her.

And then finally, a story about a young guy, a new graduate all full of ideas about women's rights and values, going out to Marbella with his father to set up a strip club. After a short period his father goes back to England and he's left to run the thing on his own. Now he's touring, talking about the experience as a sort of standup act, but not exactly comedy. Some things were funny, like being taken to a lap dancing club and his determination to show the woman dancing that he refused to objectify her and will only look into her eyes - she got cross and wanted to know why he won't respect what she's doing and look at her bum.
His conclusion was that it damaged a lot of people through its deceptiveness, since in essence it gave the customer the expectation that one day they'll get to sleep with the girl, but of course that day could never arrive since he would stop being a customer. There were some love affairs, but they ended quickly and badly because the fantasy presented was never real, and outside the club the women were just normal and sat around in tracksuits etc. The girls also wanted to come in, work for a month to make some money and leave, but after 6 months they would still be working without a clear way out. He's been left unable to trust either women or people in general. I'm sure the story has been tweaked slightly for pathos, of course.

So an interesting selection of stuff today. My mum finds the Times boring, and sometimes she's right, but there's often little gems to dig out as well.

Comments seem to be playing silly beggars again.

Think I might look into trying to import them into google comments, if that's possible, or going back and harvesting comments from a few key periods if not.

Saturday 17 March 2012

I have surprised myself a little

by playing it safe.

Well, that's not entirely true, but I've gone back, reinstalled Sabayon 8 from scratch. The minimal install (if you followed the saga) was too much of a mess, and while I might well have got it all working just so eventually, right now there's been more than enough re-installing going on.

The new install seems quicker than the old one, and the evidence is in lower utilisation of CPU when resting (around2-9%) suggesting something was happening out of sight (that wasn't revealed by the system monitor) and slowing the whole machine. So all my data has gone back on, FF & Thunderbird are restored and most of my app preferences are back again. I've also removed all the games I won't ever play to keep updates smaller (and because they are too weak to bother with).

It doesn't have that snappy crispness that Pear has, but sharp fonts are very welcome. Pear was very impressive though, and I'd certainly recommend it to those who like the Apple way of working but would like to try Linux. If it was just a little more windows-like I'd have VERY seriously considered keeping it, even with the reduced software availability.

Tonight there will be a software update. Not sure I want to expose my newly re-built box to it yet!

Napster was better in '99 than Spotify is in 2012.

Apparently anyway, not that I ever use either of them.

But an interesting comment from a social and business perspective from el Reg, if you care about that sort of thing.

Friday 16 March 2012

You don't have much choice about belonging to a family

But you can choose whether to be part of it and enjoy the love and protection it offers, or not. And the family can also chose to accept or reject you.

Interesting time (in a good way) last night with the chapel. God has been talking to us about change, about things being better than they were before and about entering a new place. I think we saw another key step in the journey, with both an acknowledgement of the need to be love each other as family, and the need to embrace each other in openness.

IF we can accept and work with each other in love. IF we can love the unlovely (and we're all a bit unlovely at times, even the good looking ones. IF we can build family in reality, where we honour each other, support each other, trust each other and love each other. IF we come to do those things then I genuinely think we will have come into a different place from the one we were.

What will be our enemies - fear, division and selfishness.

It is also going to be important to look to the future, rather than looking back. There were lots of prophetic words when we left BCC about entering a land without walls, gates or even paths, and yet when we arrived nearly 4 years ago we entered a land that seemed closed, locked and defined. It has been one of the most difficult times of my whole Christian life, yet we had to endure it in order to be part of the family that is being built, part of the future. Both Chris and I are aware of elements trying to persuade us to give up and go back to our 'family' (and we'll never stop being part of that family) but this is where we've been called to be.

I'm wondering what is going to unfold over the next 4 years.

Well that was a waste of a perfectly good night.

Windows 8 ain't great. I hope the final release is less buggy and supports 5 year old hardware.

AVLinux 5.03 went on, worked in it's own quick and minimal way, refused to update properly, complaining of broken dependencys that refused to be fixed. Not the end of the world, but less than ideal too, because some things that worked in the last version seem broken now.

openSUSE went on next, failed to detect that another OS was already installed and overwrote the bootloader for AVLinux. That also proved buggy, refusing to shut down after first boot, then also havinging issues with updating, this time yast (yet another software tool) repeatedly crashed.

There's an OS called Damn Small linux. I've discovered 2 I'm calling Damn Silly linux.

Sooooo what to do now?

Mildly tempted by a Gnome 3 build, but that's likely to be nearly as silly to use as W8 and OSX Lion, and gnome suffers lousy fonts. Presently downloading a Sabayon 8 Core CDX, which will install Gentoo and the X server, but no desktop manager. I'll then do a minimal KDE install on top of that to give me Sabayon without the stuff I don't use (and hopefully needing smaller updates, more robust etc). We'll see how it goes. Looks like I might be back on SL sooner than expected.

Thursday 15 March 2012

For better or worse, I've sold out to the dark side

I'm trying Microsoft Windows 8 consumer preview.

It's funky, monkey, and what I assume is the metro side looks just like I'd imagine the windows phone to be. Not at all sure it'll stick around, and it expires Jan 2013 - only took 35min or so to install though.

Probably dual boot this with something else for a bit.

Or not.

That lasted about 30min. Lots of stuff didn't seem to work, and the soundcard (an old PCI128 soundblaster) wasn't recognised. Life is too short to do someone else's beta testing, and it's already been wiped and is being replaced with AVLinux 5.03 - a lightweight LXDE desktop on Debian that should be super-quick. When that's on then I'll add openSUSE 12.1 which will likely be my main OS, with AVLinux reserved for recording.

Every OS is different to install. Windows 8 lead the user carefully through a bunch of options, but has been designed by someone who is impatient: click on an option & it starts with no return. There was no select & confirm - whoever installs needs to get it right first time.

AV Linux make a real song & dance about getting exactly the right keyboard and provides a huge list (I needed en-GB|UTF-8). It then asks you to confirm in multiple different ways which keyboard you have. Then comes the fun or partitioning - not too bad really, though needing care after a glass of wine, and then finally installation. It needed more interaction than windows, but took about 25min tops. In fairness W8 is near 4.5Gb while AVLinux is around 1.1Gb (with more tools than you can shake a stick at for audio work). Annoyingly updates seem stuffed, but that may not matter if it works OK 'as is'.

Now openSUSE is going on next. The installer is much easier to use and offers sensible choices about partitioning, keyboard etc. Irritatingly it didn't ask me for the non-free software (on a second CD) as it has in the past before starting an install. Pretty sure that can be added later, though I've a feeling I'll still need to find LibDVDCSS and ffmpeg codecs for playback manually.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Not having a terribly spiritual day today.

Tonight is another training sesh. I'm starting to understand why seminary/theological college sometimes destroys faith, and often changes participants from being full of hope, clarity and expectation into woolly, vague individuals who often seem on the edge of double-talking.

Or maybe it's just me.

When it comes to church, I'm not one for inclusivism. I want clarity, direction, unity and something we can run with. I guess the lack of critique, coupled to an almost enshrining of things people did over the last couple of thousand years and the making up of stories to justify a position are getting to me. Last weeks session on evangelical spirituality was a useful lesson about how people pigeon hole and lump vague groups together, with charismatics and pentecostals all being treated as one. The old myth about this group being all full of emotion and empty of theology was also brought out - an interesting comment when so few native Anglicans seem to know their bibles.

Maybe I'm just being grumpy this afternoon.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Sat just inches away

are 3 DVDs.

1 contains Windows 8 preview, 1 Sabayon 8 and 1 AVLinux 5.03.

And I shall be out most of the evening... :-(

Monday 12 March 2012

Nice to see this blog loading OK again.

Hopefully everything will be working well now, and likewise I can get Sabayon up & running properly again.

I'm getting to the point where a little OS migration is looking attractive right now. Even though Sabayon is not super-fast, it has very much become 'home' in computing terms over the last couple of years. Yet for all that I like it, updates keep breaking it, usually resulting in hours of re-installation and data recovery. Even worse, the Application I like it especially for - DigiKam - may well be the source of its fragility and load issues. I've yet to manage to recover the files that will let me re-establish Mozilla and the last 4 months worth of emails from Thunderbird too, and if those go that will be another nail in SL's coffin.

But lets hope it can be fixed more easily.

In the mean time I'm quite tempted by the latest version of AVLinux 5.03 'Tube' (that's Uhmurkhan for valve) which promises to be faster and sweeter, though I'm not so keen on the rather too minimal Debian/LXDE interface and the rather weak photo-editing side (weak because GIMP is the only image editor of significance in there). Pear linux was tempting, but the interface is annoying for many of the reasons OSX is (and that's by design) so probably not a great idea.

We'll see.

Lying, cheating, socially aggressive?

It's likely that you've been watching a soap then. It should come as no surprise that people mirror the behaviour of those they associate with, even when that association is through a TV program.

We learn by example, and what we see portrayed as the 'norm' is what we'll set our behaviour patterns against. The thing is that when you're part of a group it is possible for 'better' individuals to influence the behaviour of the rest of the group, changing outcomes. With a TV program you get whatever the writer wants you to have, and there's no option or escape (who ever turned their TV off in the middle of a 'harmless' program?).

While the Sabayon box awaits a fix

I've dragged out the Pear linux system so that Chris has a PC downstairs for hotmail etc. Considering it's based on Ubuntu 11.10 and is running with only 2Gb RAM it's doing pretty well. The Apple style interface is half pleasing, half annoying, but it runs so much more swiftly than the Macbook it's not *so* bad.

Did an update on the system, and suddenly very few menus are in French, plus FF is up to version 10. Tucked away behind the scenes are some good tools too: Dolphin file manager, DigiKam is in the app store (nice, since that's a KDE app) as is GIMP and Audacity.

The way the program launcher has been configured is good - sits in the dock and when activated you get the full Gnome 3/OSX Lion screens full of app icons, but they behave just like the Dashboard in OSX and go away when you click somewhere on the screen.

Typical for Ubuntu, fonts are a bit weak, but definitely less so than before, especially since I'm running the Nouveau driver. The one weakness so far is that I'm using an ATI based card (5850 IIRC) which has a very noisy fan that runs continuously, and the catalyst drivers don't work. Ah well, can't have *everything*.

I have Windows 8 beta here ready to install, but somehow can't be bothered right now.

*edit* Pear Linux - an update

I'm impressed with some of the stuff that's been implemented - using the space bar to preview a file is a good feature in OSX, and something they've reproduced here. Neat. I'm wondering if an Fn key will also perform an expose-style resizing of multiple open windows (which helps make up for poor window management through the dock) - scrub that - there's a Docky applet which does that instead. Also the intelligent dock is nice, disappearing if it's in the way, staying up when it isn't.

Just like OSX, making changes to the look & feel is much more restricted than usual for Linux, but in this case that would stop it looking & functioning like (a very fast version of) OSX. And regarding speed, it really is quite snappy on the whole. One of the dock applets displays system resource usage as a colour change (green to red) and it is possible to hear the CPU fan accelerate and slow almost instantly in response to load. If I thought I might keep using this system then I'd seriously think about some quieter fans, maybe a passive graphics card.

And windows management occasionally does unpredictable things with window sizing, just like etc etc. Humph.

Sunday 11 March 2012

Today seems to be a day for computer issues.

The comments system from Haloscan is down in a big way, but I've no idea why right now - their site isn't giving any hints.

The weekly update for Sabayon went pear shaped, and as a result of trying to fix it I've stuffed my system for now. KDE (the desktop manager) has been misbehaving since moving to version 4.8, and the latest update killed digiKam. I tried uninstalling that and a search application and took out the whole desktop package. Interestingly the Linux OS underneath still runs, so I can use it with the XBMC X Box Media Centre or with a command line interface (like I'm nerdy enough to do THAT).

Saturday 10 March 2012

My backside feels like it's in ribbons.

Pride comes before a sore bum apparently. I'd been thinking about doing 2 1/2 to 3 hours on the bike this afternoon, but the last 30min of the ride I did was agony, both in undercart and legs. Glad I didn't head off to the Chilterns, because that would have been even harder, and without shortcuts.

The bike is in the shed with mud coating intact, and I'm staggering off to the shower shortly.

Friday 9 March 2012

Are we back to 1936?

The program on radio 4 this morning discussed George Orwell's book The Road To Wigan Pier; published in 1936 it dealt with poverty in the 1930s. There were a number of interesting comments from the guests, including that by 1950 it was acknowledged that the kind of poverty Orwell described had been eradicated, presumably by the welfare state that had been established post-war.

However the most interesting comment of the program followed shortly - that as a country, there were people living in poverty just as bad as in 1936 again. The guest cited an example of someone they'd met personally, living in a hostel on £2 a day because they had missed a job seekers interview and had their benefit stopped. The woman in question disappeared from the hostel shortly afterward, having been offered accommodation with comfy beds, warm showers and food by a couple of men. He was able to list other examples of similar desperation and 'awfulness'.

Pause for thought.

Thursday 8 March 2012

I have a terrible urge right now.

The Chilterns are calling to me, and I want to go mountain biking up and down *real* hills.

Snuck out of work early and went for an hours ride yesterday evening, just before it got dark. Felt good, even though I fell off in the first 1/2 mile. Also, because of the rain during the early afternoon the trails were squishy, and that watery slip-like mud is well named - off camber sections pointing down toward the canal were 'exciting' at times, even though I didn't fall in. This morning in the bath my 'sit bones' were quite tender too, and another ride so soon would be a bad idea. But the weather is getting warmer, I'm gradually getting fitter and the possibility is coming closer. Wonder if Ben would be up for a tazz through the woods one Saturday?

(It's Chicksands, rather than the Chilterns, but that's the best I could find for now).

Oh, and I also fancy building a rigid singlespeed, but I don't have a spare set of MTB wheels any more, thanks to a bike getting nicked a few years back. Nice idea otherwise.

Now why do we have to put up with lousy resolution on laptop screens?

If the new iPad can have a 2048X1536 resolution screen and be sold for £399, why do the new 'ultrabook' laptops that sell for around £900-£1100 have screens with 1366X768. Frankly, that's derisory, and one of the few things that I actually prefer about the Macbook (1280X1024 for a 13" screen).

So who wants to be afraid?

OK, how about if I asked the question differently, who is wants to see change happen under the guidance and control of somebody else?

Same answer.

Few ever really want to see change happen unless they're in control of it, and especially if they have strong views on how things *should be*. Yet as a church change is inevitable for us, especially with the change in leadership and the loss of community head. I'm still trying to understand how and why the Anglican church works as it does, but it seems to me that the present model of benefices (several churches covered by a small team of priests) leaves churches leaderless and rudderless: sometimes communities, but with a pattern to maintain the status quo.

We went to a very curious meeting on Tuesday night, the name of which escapes me right now, but titled along the lines of PCC members learning about discipling or some such. I would have loved it to have genuinely been about that, but it seemed a mix of internal PR opportunity and attempt at en masse small group discussion. It was being run as a roadshow by some seriously experienced people, which made it's vagueness and lack of meaningful content all the more worrying. There was a feedback form to return, and I only hope I can find useful things to say that will help in the future.

Why mention that?

Because that's how things seem to be. It's all about maintaining the structure and tradition, keeping it nice and allowing everything to just keep on.

The thoughts that initially triggered this came from a conversation with a friend - a man I'd love to know better and develop a deeper friendship and trust with. We discussed doing something different, and I saw fear in his eyes, behind the careful control of emotions. It reminded me of how I've felt numerous times over the last few years, where I wasn't in control, and my life was subject to being turned upside down at the whims of others. That wasn't the problem - I've lived like that a long time - the problem was that I did not trust them and felt like they did not have my best interests at heart.

It seems amusingly ironic that our present Thursday night theme is all about someone who brings disruption, change and freedom to a traditional and religious community.

Now it uses the film Chocolat as a way of exploring this theme as well as telling a story, and of course, like most films, there is a happy ending after a build up of tension and then crisis. If only church could be like that - things get really tense, then characters are suddenly able to be the best of friends and everything works out beautifully.

We'll have to wait and see how this all pans out, but my prayer right now is that we'll come closer as a fellowship and we'll trust both each other and the leaders to make the right decisions - and they will make the right decisions.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Why is Matt Redman smelly?

If you have the album 10,000 reasons you'd know that 'never once did he wore cologne'.

Not my joke, but y'know.

Influential albums?

My good friend Mikey Mo was posting about the albums that have influenced what he he expresses in his worship music, and it got me thinking about where my influences came from. This is a bit of a 'thought experiment' really - a case of writing down stuff *to see what comes out*.

So in sort of chronological order.

Wine of Lebanon - Achor 1976.
Back in the days before easy recording on computers, CDs and in fact digital music in any useful shape at all, some guys calling themselves Achor actually paid to use a recording studio and recorded this album. The style of music was very much late 60s/early 70s, all acoustic stuff and vocal harmonies, and somewhat cliched even then. At the same time it confirmed that worship music could do it's own thing, and at the time I heard it (probably '78 when I was 17) it made me want to make music for worship *BETTER*. Bear in mind that I was part of a sleepy Baptist church, playing electric guitar when relatively few did and rebelling by pressing further into God.

It's amazing what praisin' can do - Ishmael
So here was someone 'avin a larf, yet also writing songs that made you want to sing them (Chris and I still quote "It's amazin'" to each other occasionally. It also helped me realise that worship songs could be a lot of fun, instead of so terribly serious as they so often are still. I can remember little of the album in detail now, because this was loaned to us by a friend who was passing through our church, and it was only available on casette (so unlikely to be many functional copies in existence now).

I suppose around this time there were a couple of distinctly non-christian bands that had strongly influenced the music I created and wanted to create for some time:

Argus - Wishbone Ash
I borrowing licks and style off this album for a long time - twin guitars, brilliant solos, stories in songs that could be taken several ways - what's not to like? It was a more natural fit than the Led Zep and Deep Purple I'd been listening to around the same time.

Live Cream II
So it's a compilation. The band had already been gone nearly a decade when I bought this, but this captured the energy and spirit of how music should be played, for me. At one stage, shortly before we got married, I ended up in a schitzophrenic band (the 'leader' wanted a punk band, the other guitarist rock'n'roll, I wanted to play heavy rock and the bass player didn't seemed to care as long as his chest moved each time he hit a note). We did a couple of gigs in church halls, and ended up doing a 25 min version of Sunshine Of Your Love. We also played Greenbelt, which wasn't great, and then I got married & we went our separate ways.

Then came Shine Jesus Shine - Graham Kendrick (no album cover).

Strictly speaking this wasn't an album for me, because I only listened to learn the songs, but for a couple of years all the local churches put on the 'March For Jesus' walks through various cities. I ended up playing for the local march through Thornton Heath, then the next year, on a float through the middle of Croydon. The songs were highly influential in that they made me adapt them and develop my own style of playing to bring out the very best in terms of feel and fit.

Subtly, this is where (I realise now) my requirement to make songs work, rather than just copying the stuff off the CD, came from. I never viewed music the same after playing these, and ever since I've always altered songs to make the flow, work with a congregation etc. But Shine Jesus Shine got played to death within a couple of years, and while the music has (mostly) disappeared it changed the way I played guitar and arranged forever.

Day of favour - Stoneleigh band
A live worship album with an incredible, funky arrangement to the title song. We used a number of songs from this in the church over the years, though not the title. I got asked to reproduce that on a Sunday morning, but without a decent bass player and drummer (neither of which were around at that time) it was impossible. Now I'd just rearrange it, but back then I was being asked to replicate album stuff note for note, and this very much didn't work.

Around this kind of time came Delirious? and all their music. We played a lot of their songs, both in church and in a band that we had going at the time, but even though plenty of people who owned copies loaned them to me, I never bought a single album. 'Worship' music was going through an uncomfortable change in this period, becoming big business, and the results - musically, and I suspect ethically - did not work at all for me. Also almost every band sounded either like U2 or After The Fire, and that made me want to run away as fast as I could.

Yesterday, today and forever - Vicky Beeching
The first 'new' worship album I'd owned in a long time that made me actually want to listen to it. We tried some of the songs in church, and they didn't sit that easily really, and people struggled to sing them. Listening again more recently I can hear that I filtered it through what I like to hear - it sounds badly dated now, which is a shame.

Majesty - Audacious band (no CD cover)
And this was the second that made me want to listen. People singing songs like they meant it, a real sense of energy and excitement and great straight ahead rock tones and not a dotted eighth delay in sight. Sure the songs were a little shallow on theology and could get repetitive, but this was music with life in it, rather than music without life. It made me want to play guitar again - helped me feel like there was strength and joy in the instrument, rather than just half-hearted strumming. It's a glorious overdriven answer to insipid acoustic music.

Now here's an interesting thing. I am never likely to play any of these songs (not even their version of Be Thou My Vision, though I know the woman who could do it justice with vocals). Our church simply wouldn't know what to do with them, and to be honest, they belong in a youth worship time anyway. But I found the album so encouraging. It came at a time when I'd acquired albums by some of the biggest names in worship music, and one of them was so bad that I wouldn't lend it to anyone at the church for fear it would be used. I feel guilty about the way I dislike one in particular, but I can't help it.

So that's only 8. Is there really nothing else? As intimated above, there are definitely bands and artists that have had a negative influence on me. There are some songs that I've also picked up along the way, but when I've acquired albums by those artists they have almost always been full of 'other music' different from the one key song. There's a couple of Noel Richards albums that nearly got listed, but I realised they were never really influential. I've robbed Joe Bonamassa for licks recently too and I love some of his music, but it's too early to tell if he's really influential, especially since the stuff I've used is a re-arrangement of what I already played for years.

So that's it really. Who'd a thunk it - Graham Kendrick helped make me what I am.

Stunning new apple devices to follow the iPad 3.

Well, according to the Register. Imagine the precision that could be unleashed by coupling the cursor/pointer directly to hand control, and the ease of inputting text using a panel with direct haptic feedback to the fingertips and no touch screen?

From the people who advised development of the iPad mini when everyone else said it wouldn't happen.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

A friend recently reminded me about not breaking bruised reeds.

The church (in a wider sense) has been happily gung-ho about snapping them off, however, for a long time. There's something about being 'right' that makes one think it's perfectly acceptable to do so - I know because I'm a natural 'snapper' when it comes to abstract situations.

So I'm trying to see how I can bind them up, rather than break them off according to instinct. How does one get close enough to actually help when those who are hurting and feeling damaged don't want to let you? When people become people instead of being just those who do things differently, it's possible to care about them instead of just writing them off as being in the way and un-willing to change.

And I keep coming back to the various callings that I think are there in my life. I've been unconsciously reading through the books of judges and Samuel for the last few days, and seeing how leaders rose up and how they did the various things they did and why. Just trying to wait and see what God wants to do and what he's saying, and at the same time make sure I'm in the right place to be available when He calls. The bits I'm afraid of are speaking out what I feel I'm called to, partly for fear of looking foolish and presumptive, partly because I don't want to scupper possibilities. And there's a bit of me that's always wanted to hold on to being a slightly rebellious outsider.

Actually, that last is interesting, because in the last few years as part of BCC that wasn't true at all. We were were we should be, doing what we were called to do, and I loved most of it, even when it was draining. Yes, there were times of putting my head in my hands and wondering how we'd cope, but I've a feeling that if you don't do that occasionally then you're not really trying. I can remember places where I didn't embrace it, and still feel some guilt, and in many ways that's a good sign too.

Sp we'll see.....

What a great combination.

Running out of heating oil and frosty mornings - don't you just love it?

I am truly grateful for log-burning stoves right now.

Sunday 4 March 2012

For a bit more photographic fun, here's a Dutch girl on a bike.

Dixie - she reminds me of you. I don't suppose you were cycling around in Amsterdam last spring, were you?

And here are some more dutch bikes.

This is a curious thing to say

And I'm starting a little late too.

Basically, I'm fasting the entertaining side of the internet.

As my wife can tell anyone who asks, I can spend countless hours in forums & social networking sites (Diaspora especially recently - it's like facebook, but with privacy and varied & intelligent people - nothing against my FB friends - if you read this you're probably not the dumb ones ;-))

But between now & easter I'm giving up* the forums and social networks. Now I need to make sure the extra time is invested usefully.

*quick addendum to that - I may try to keep up with people on FB through my phone. Why 'doesn't this count'? Because a phone is a damn silly way of using facebook, and I couldn't bear to be on there for hours.

Tonight my hands are sore.

My weekend was not meant to be defined by fitting a radiator, but that's the way it seems to have been.

Our central heating was fitted about 15 years ago by a local man called Bob McGarry, and he did a great job. However 15 years is quite a long time, and it seems that no-one makes radiators 1280mm long any more. So after literally weeks of hunting for one the right size (not helped by some sites publishing odd sizes) I finally bought a 1200mm unit (actual size, 1210mm).

Problem 1 - how to make up for the missing 70mm?

Plan A was to buy an angled fitting (direct swap) with a special bleed valve on the body for draining the rad. However that proved too short, so was replaced with a straight (cheap!) connector and a 90 degree elbow fitting.

Problem 2 - this rad is HEAVY and needs manly fittings.

The last one was quite light by comparison, even with water in the bottom. Now the wall this is fixed to is made of lathe and plaster, and is just one step up from wattle & daub in terms of strength. Previously one end was screwed to a wall stud and the other to a thin piece of wood screwed in multiple places to the wall to spread the load. Wanting to do a good job, I made up some bearers which were screwed to studs, then the bracket was attached to these. Strong, neat, great.

Except all this is behind wall panelling, which means it has to be removed (with damage) and replaced. Eventually done, and the rad looks great, except:

Problem 3 - the pipes no longer line up.

I'd been at great pains to make sure the brackets were the right height to align with the existing pipes, and I got that bit spot on. However my nice timber bearers had moved the rad out about 1/2" from the previous position, and it no longer lined up. Now, normally copper piping has some give to it, but not this one. No way, no how - discovered after drilling a deeper slot in the trunking for it to have space!

So I dug around in the shed found some 15mm copper pipe, started trying to make a small bend that would allow the 2 to work together. To add to the fun, that pipe emerged from the trunking at about 20 degrees off vertical. However with my new, longer connector there is no longer sufficient space to make the adjustment required. A cut appeared on my right hand from the scalpel-sharp edge of freshly cut copper pipe - I didn't even notice it happen, and wondered initially where the rusty material on my hand had come from.

The solution, of course is to mount the radiator on the (mud & sticks) wall.

Problem 4 - how to mount a radiator on a wall made of mud & sticks.

If you're from building regs or CORGI registered then you can stop reading here, OK?

So off with all the panelling again, breaking more bits off the tongue and groove, then off with the bracket and carriers. I ended up drilling a bunch of additional holes all over the (wide) section of the bracket before gently screwing it to the wall with about 10 plasterboard screws. Underneath went a timber batten, screwed to the studding, to support the weight if it started to drop, another above to help hold it in place and a 3rd piece clamping the wall side of the L bracket against the wall.

Panelling back on, mount rad, everything lines up. Whoo hoo.

Make up fitting with 90 degree elbow connected to straight rad valve. cool, a plan is coming together. Shut off water, check pressure is off (hot water tank and CH share a tank supply) by turning a tap. Bingo.

Problem 5 - Central Heating water is still under pressure.

I had expected some weeping as I unscrewed the rad valve that was to be replaced by the elbow, and wasn't disappointed. However I was a little surprised at the vertical jet of black water that shot from the bare end of the pipe, covering a substantial part of the bathroom and it's occupant in wet black droplets. A 50th birthday may have come and gone, but I'm pleased that my reactions still seem pretty quick when push comes to shove, and I did both of those, popping the new elbow and the (closed - I had thought this far ahead) rad valve smartly into place.

Things nearly came unstuck when trying to tighten the new rad valve to the fitting in the radiator, and because of slight angle and distance mis-matching initially a thread actually tore out in a fine, sharp sliver of brass. I then got Ben to help lift & push with me, and the extra few mm was just enough to get everything home and snug.

Problem 6 - everything home & snug?

Almost everything.

I happily turned on the valve where I'd been working and removed one of the plugs at the top of the rad to let air out while it filled. Chris then came to talk to me while I was struggling to re-apply PTFE tape, and I got the plug back in JUST before water come out of the port. However I was blissfully unaware that I'd only done the other valve seat up hand tight, and this was happily weeping away, with enough water to run into the kitchen. Ho hum - at least it drained properly & won't be hanging around under the floor.

So here we are, Sunday night, warm bathroom radiator (been a while since we had one of those!) and me with various aches and pains as a reminder. Yesterday I actually bruised my soft, girly hands doing up a screw (mind you, it was a big, meaty screw at 5.5mm dia and I did snap one off). Knees especially have developed an allergy to being knelt with and my back has a place of ache to tell me I was daft lifting that rad about all the time.

But everything seems to be working, and I'm not permanently damaged, so that's fine then.