Friday, 28 June 2013

I'm trying out a couple of new distros

And typing this from Linuxlite, running live off CD.

This particular distro is designed to have a very small footprint in memory - 160Mb tops, and would have been an excellent choice for that Sony Vaio I had through my hands a couple of weeks back. It is also meant to have low processor overheads, meaning longer battery life and cooler running in a laptop. I'm running it in the Philips Freevents laptop I took to Africa (now with replacement keyboard - excellent!) because that's got a slow processor and 1Gb RAM.

There were a couple of 'interesting' hiccups to begin. The CD started fine and the desktop came up reasonably quickly. Took a minor amount of fiddling to get it to find the wireless router, possibly because it was running live and therefore a little slow. Then I couldn't enter the wep key because it automatically switched the num lock on and this is a laptop keypad. Once figured out it was no problem, and connected fine.

It picked up the hardware well. Screen brightness works fine, battery charge and time remaining (reckoned 2.21 - I usually get 2.40 from Pear on this machine, but that's a HDD install & much more efficient, plus with auto-dimmed screen. Pretty fair then. Audio worked, but a known bug is that the pulse audio control may either have the volume set right down or, as in this case, was muted. VLC comes as the multimedia player, and unmuting gave entirely normal audio playback.

Despite running from CD the OS felt snappy and entirely acceptable - certainly enormously faster than that Sony with XP. The desktop environment is XFCE, and it's like a well polished version of Gnome 2 with some nice refinements and better crafted icons. Wallpapers are good enough for me to wonder about saving them for use in the pear install.

I can't test DVD playback because the one drive is in use, but it might well be fine if Libdvdcss is to be found.

Why wouldn't I install this?

Well, DigiKam isn't going to run without installing half a Gb of KDE with it. Libreoffice is old - 3.8.4 instead of 4.04 and several other apps are a little old too but very functional. GIMP is current though, at 2.8.4. It runs so nicely I'm really asking myself why I'm not setting up a dual boot system right now, except the answer is that I'm about to test PCLOS with the LXDE front end. And I've just remembered that this HDD is encrypted and will probably not take kindly to dual booting without a wipe & reinstall.

Looks like tonight is geek night! TTFN - back in an hour or so.

In a mo I'll shut down and pop the other CD in. Might just explore a little more though


I'm back. Did you miss me?

This time in PCLOS with the LXDE desktop from a live CD.

About 4 years ago I ran PCLOS as my main system for a few weeks before and after Christmas. It was kind of good and kind of frustrating, not least because it *feels* like someone's home-customised system, with a particular take on icons, widgets, set up etc. This is no illusion because, just like pear linux by David Tavares, it is very much one man's creation and very much his particular style (*assisted these day by a bunch of other guys). So although this is very clearly LXDE themed, and has a very smart immediate impact, after a few seconds you start noticing the PCLOS customisation.

OK - first impressions.

As soon at it had finished starting up (slow) with an attractive blue wallpaper & LXDE logo, a dialogue box appeared asking if I wanted to connect to a network, offering wired and wireless options and connecting first go. Brilliant! Off we go then.

It's similar to linuxliteos in many ways, but a bit more stately, a bit sluggish by comparison and a little less clean and crisp. Some of the tool bar icons are hard to work out on a 12" 1200 X 800 screen. And while there seemed to be lots of icons to look at, they weren't the one's I'd have expected. When I unplugged the power supply I could hear the CD start up, but nothing popped up to tell me. Eventually I added a widget to monitor battery life, but why wasn't the laptop auto-detected & one added immediately?

From here things were less good. Screen brightness keyboard controls didn't work, unlike liteOS's, and worse, none of my USB sticks could be mounted. There may be bug fixes for this, but is't annoying with a live distro that you might wish to run without network connection.

Software wise there's a slightly different range of applications available, and this runs on a fork of Mandriva Linux, while linuxliteos runs on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, itself a fork of Debian. Both have the GIMP, though PCLOS came with more additional software. It also comes with Abiword and an option to install libreoffice, which is not included on the disc, unlike LLOS. There are players & various internet apps available, but from less well known sources. Worth noting that LLO also comes with Steam pre-installed - important if you're a gamer.

Now, if I'd just had this disc to try I'd have simply given it a whizz, decided it wasn't too bad but wasn't special either and decided that pear was a much better choice. However having tried LLO, I've been quite blown away by it and have realised that this version of PCLOS really isn't all that special after all. For those who like a very comprhensive distro the have a package called the full monty (ooh eer) with a KDE windows like front end and separate desktops for office, internet, games, multimedia, music creation and graphics. It looks really cool in a PCLOS style manner, but it's a 4Gb download and would benefit from being run on a heavyweight desktop.

I'm tempted to try PCLOS LXDE on my desktop machine, just to see if things work better there & it's snappier with 4Gb RAM and an Intel E5300 processor, but that also makes me wonder whether LLOS would be much faster still? That's not a migration I want to make, but I may well try a separate HDD in here to see if I want to supplant pear on here.

Interesting stuff.

I ran PCLOS LXDE live on my desktop system and it displayed the same faults - refusal to mount USB drives and icons that were hard to see. Also on a larger screen the text was crummy, just like Ubuntu used to be. These issues may be sorted by a couple of updates & tweaks (and there may be something on the PCLOS forums about them) but they were not caused by hardware.

Well, it won't be photobucket.

While I'm grateful for them hosting my images, I finally got an answer about their plus account & advertising. Basically, if the person visiting is not logged in to a plus/pro account then they will see adverts, and since the major reason for me to pay for an account was to prevent that happening then it's a loser for me.

I looked briefly at smugmug, but it was pay-only, and I'm not interested in trying it that way. 500px is image olympics and flickr are doing some odd things with their accounts/site (according to some flickr pro users I know). We'll have to wait & see.

It's very curious seeing how different compartments work

My social life in the internet is fairly highly compartmentalised, largely due to enjoying several different hobbies that have only marginal overlap.
Thus most bass players who frequent aren't particularly geeky when it comes to computers, and tend to be firmly left-wing liberal atheists.
The guys I know on are mostly US citizens, and therefore right wing (even the Democrats, relatively speaking).
On they are further right, mostly, than harmony central, and also evangelical Christians with just a few exceptions.
My friends on the second fastest declining secret forum (boring URL though) are mountain bikers from a variety of disciplines (including a real rocket scientist, laser technician, bike shop owner and a lot of less exciting jobs) but conversations are often about which tour rider will confess, who has died recently and about squirrels.
There's libertree, which is full of privacy and activism advocates, all keen to put the world to rights and display the politicians and bankers for the criminals they are.
Then there's google+, which is gradually filling up, but is still pretty exclusive to a geeky few.
Finally there's Facebook. It's like a small river in which everyone has come to swim, and in so doing, caused the water to trickle muddily along, making everyone who lives there seem like a child playing in a puddle.

There are just a few who cross the spaces between, but it's VERY strange moving from place to place, wondering how the discussions would go if people from one group began to interact with people from the other.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Still trying to understand the tensions.

So yesterday we played the Rector Selector game, which was all well and good, but naturally has its own fall out.

Over lunch I was drawn aside by a friend who keeps a foot firmly in 2 camps, and encouraged to seek non-stipendiary ministry. The 2 camps are the traditional Church of England, in which he holds a non-stipendiary role, and a Charismatic church that probably plays close to the opposite edge of what I would see as biblical Christianity.

So we had a discussion, both with the candidates and afterward about worship forms, as one might expect, since some churches in the benefice have a distinctly Anglo-Catholic inclination (jokes about smoking handbags were made - google the word thurible) while the Chapel gently pretends to be Charismatic (or at least, some of us would like it to be, rather than like a smallish Baptist church). Some present didn't care to cover their distain for things evangelical (the lip-curling was almost amusing) and quite a few people didn't have the background to understand what speaking in tongues, prophesy and words of knowledge were. Us 'charismatics' were outnumbered, so of course stayed polite. We had some generally interesting discussions, but I mustn't say more than that.

The tricky part - the bit with tension - is the great divide in practice that exists over worship and interaction with God. That's obvious. But where it gets messy is that different bits get tolerated as seen to be a bit wrong, but it *feels like* they are allowed to continue as "they are important to some people, so we can't just shut them down". And that works in both directions. None of us are sitting down and saying "why are you incensed by incense?" and no-one really says "how can you possibly claim God would speak to you about me?". Some DO stand in both camps in good conscience (since I know he'll be reading this ;-) but my impression was one of grudging tolerance for the differing.

Now I don't need my ducks in a line, but I also need a clean heart and clear conscience. Fudging only makes me feel a bit dirty in a bad way, rather than bringing faith and hope. Maybe I'm un-sophisticated in my approach to faith, but while I can appreciate a nuanced approach to understanding and perspective, in the end, truth IS an absolute, and where our opinions vary then we need to shift our position, rather than accepting that we can believe what we want because we have a particular training/upbringing/background/preference.

So the tensions.

It must be darn hard for someone in the position of that particular bishop to walk well through things. There IS a very clear edge in his attitude, and that is intolerance of the things we believe to be right and have fought for will not be tolerated. But otherwise he's got to be seen to be fair to all, regardless of whether he is able to personally embrace them or not.

So over the ministry. I'm torn, a little, because there's a side that says "let's put down roots, throw ourselves whole-heartedly into the work here and get really dirty in the Anglican church in order to move things forward". This is tempered by a very strong sense that doing so would be giving in to the weak, shameful and self-gratifying side of life, and I'd end up a pile of tasteless white powder, fit for nothing.

And there is a very strong sense of connection back to the community church.

Something I've noticed in other people here that have had to leave a country they loved is that they would really love to go back, and while they won't fight God's will for them, they do find their hearts and appreciation are somewhere else. I've worked really hard not to pedestal our old church, but I know a part of my my heart and my family are there, and there's something in me that says "just another year, then you'll have done what you were called to do. Just stick it out a bit longer and you can return".

And that's dangerous.

What happens when your homesickness overcomes your desire for obedience? How about when you're disappointed and told you can never go back? I see the need to throw myself whole-heartedly at what I'm called to do, but there's a side that really doesn't want to let go of the place of wholeness, and purity, and righteousness and cleanliness and love. And no, it wasn't all those things, all the time - and it certainly might have seemed different if we'd been closer to the top of the slippery pole - but it still was those things much of the time, for us.

An interesting quote from the BBC

From the Kermit Gosnell trial.

District attorney Seth Williams ties Gosnell's attitude to money directly to the murders. In a legal abortion, the foetus is injected with a lethal drug before the mother gives birth - but Gosnell didn't do this.
"That takes money and it was cheaper for him to just induce labour and then murder the child," Williams says.


Opponents noted that murdering babies was already illegal - it's just that in Gosnell's case, no one was enforcing the law.

There's a curious contradiction, in that giving a baby a lethal injection when it's still inside the mother is not murder, but taking the child's life after it is outside the mothers body IS murder. Regardless of the ethics of abortion, I wonder what legal and ethical hoops were jumped through to arrive at that conclusion?

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Well the BBQ was good.

The rain held off until 1.30ish, more people than last year and a good time. Many good people mucked in and helped - excellent.

Here I sit

Is the start of a schoolboy rhyme, and also my present action waiting for friends to arrive with a van plus industrial scale BBQ, bouncy castle and the paraphernalia that goes with putting on a public event. Hopefully the rain will hold off, and the day remain breezy and mild.

While collecting stuff from the chapel just now I was also wondering about how we put up with each other, despite differing views and backgrounds. Sometimes I think it is a miracle that we DO get along at all, judging by some of the tensions and differences.

Person 2 has arrived. To work.

Person 2 did not stop. Ah well.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

From Harmony Central.

My theory is that missing trem-arms go through some sort of Worm Hole, and end up in "The Box", where the Keeper of The Box looks into your soul, and if he finds that it is pure, he sells you a trem-arm for a couple of bucks.

I still own 3 guitars with their original tremolo arms - what can this mean?

That reminds me of the net meme that went 'round a few years back that finished with the phrase "and who was phone?" But I can't remember the rest or why it was so hugely funny at the time

Irony always was lost on the majority of our friends.

I understand the man who revealed that the US was guilty of spying on everyone has been charged with spying by the US. Not unexpected, all things considered.

As a good friend commented recently, talking about Guantanamo bay, America repeatedly struggles and fails to do the right thing again and again. Not that other countries, including this one, haven't had a long history of also repeatedly and determinedly getting it wrong, in complete defiance of what they claim to stand for, but it seems that history really does teach us nothing.

As I'm sure those who suffered in the Maumau uprising would observe, being compensated decades later does not make up for the wrongs done originally, especially when they were even clear and obvious at the time.

Africa pictures now on Photobucket

Follow this link for the central gallery of pictures from Zimbabwe.

There are 7 individual galleries:


Naturally there is a little cross-over between some, but this seemed like a more interesting way of grouping images than simple cronology. The galleries themselves make most sense if sorted by filename, and that's how I have set the default order.

As before, not all images are 'show' quality, but some have been included to provide more visual information about the place. Many pictures, particularly those of people by the roadside and in Harare, were shot from a moving vehicle through the windscreen, and that has not improved quality too much. The thing is, there are so many things to see on a trip like this that it's not possible to stop and shoot carefully every time something catches the eye, and in any case it would drive my friends and my wife mad having to wait for me!

I have also found my processing technique developing (no pun intended) as I have progressed processing the images, finding what suits the output of the Fuji best as time went on. Probably familiarity with the camera improved things too, after more than a thousand frames.

So hopefully the pictures can be enjoyed, and maybe you'll catch a little more of the flavour of the place that's so often missing with the 'perfect' images of wildlife that we expect from Africa.

Included for the first time ever are panoramic shots. I have mixed feelings about these, as they are definitely a gimmick, yet do give an immersive feel. There may be more blogging about panoramas later too.

One more image - nowhere seems to have sunsets quite like Africa.

The first gallery is up.

African animals from our trip to Zimbabwe in April.

They should display in order of file name, but if they appeared to be randomly scattered then you can probably request filename sorting. The images are a combination of both of ours. More tomorrow, but a quick taster for now.

I've had to do some 'housekeeping' so have re-done the links.

Friday, 21 June 2013

One more post.

A piccie!

Tweaked especially for Marc. And the rest of you, of course. :-)

You can tell this one was taken with the Samsung by the fine detail in the white head, lack of detail in the greens and lack of grain.

Sarcasm is not the highest form of wit.

Nor is cynicism the sharpest kind of thought.

I've just stopped myself writing posts to Facebook complementing someone I know who uses an iPhone without instagram, and takes good pictures. It was all about digging at various instagram users I know. Their continual use of warped colours, tilt-shift and vintage focus effects is tasteless and distressing, but it seems unlikely that pointed comments will ever help them stop mangling images in the name of creativity.

More's the pity.

I wish for a facebook one could pay for to remove advertising and one's data being re-sold. I wish for a facebook where I could block images from certain people - not just the terrible instagrammed images a friend keeps posting - Simon, you're a great worship leader and musician but step away from the filter options.

Gemma - I'd be glad to see your pictures appearing more often too.

*edit* - Marc, Randall, this was not prompted by any images you've posted recently.

*edit 2* - What I really want is a filter that just blocks all instagram content - not likely as long as instagram is owned by FB, but it would be a feature worth a small annual subscription.

It arrived yesterday.

Chris's new e-book reader.

I want to call it the nobo (because that combines both names and sounds slightly rude) or the nookie (because that's very much more fun than a plain nook). Nookie is likely to stick, however.

In the box you get the nook itself, a USB cable and a basic manual; the main users guides are, not surprisingly, on the actual reader. It seems the nook reader software for Mac and PC have been dropped by B&N, though they do have a W8 app, but it's still possible to download them. Registering as a user is easy, but they require credit card details, even to download free content. Meh, as Johanna would say. Over the the Gutenberg project then. At some stage we'll probably try to use Caliber software to extract the books from Chris's Kobo in .epub format for use on the nookie. Memory capacity is smaller (forget how much now) but there is a slot for a micro SD card that makes it a non-issue at around £5 for 8Gb that will hold more books than most people could read in a lifetime.

After charging up on the computer I registered the device and popped a book in .epub format into the /books folder.

Overall it's much faster handling than the Kobo, and might even be realistically useful for other tasks. Text entry on the touch screen is no worse than the 2009 generation of smartphones, and all touches seemed to register and produce a quick response. The screen is slightly wider by a couple of mm, and the bezel around the edge much wider, making it rather less comfy to hold. I could very seriously imagine these being useful as devices for service engineers etc to carry rather than expensive iPads etc (Mike Hulley - take note if you're reading).

Operation is 'similar' to the Kobo, but the menu button on the front brings up a toolbar at the bottom of the screen, rather than just dumping the user straight to 'home' like the Kobo equivalent button. I'd say the Kobo software was designed for a non-computer user user, and is simple & intuitive at the expense of being clunky, while after just a few min fiddling, I'd say the nook software was designed for computer users and is consequently less intuitive but more functional and efficient. Last year, after evaluating several readers including the Kindle and Sony devices I bought a Kobo for my (80+ year old) mother, and she had no trouble reading with it - despite the poor performance of the Kobo software in terms of speed, I still think that it would be better than the nook in her hands.

So if you need a really cheap e-book reader that you can take on the beach, don't mind giving your credit card details up front to B&N (Kobo only ask for card details when you buy a book) then I'd recommend the nook. However there are a lot of cheap android tablets around now, and £50 will buy a 7" tablet of almost identical performance to my old HTC desire, on which tiny screen I read several books while on holiday in France last summer - and you can run Kobo, Kindle and nook applications on the one device. If you're willing to spend what a new Kobo cost last year, an £80 tablet will give a lot more power for surfing, watching movies etc, as well as a higher res screen, though still with short battery life.

Chris hasn't tried the nookie yet. Yesterday she'd had a challenging time, and was feeling too frazzled to try something new, but maybe tonight we'll give it a go.

Love - how should I know?

We had an interesting discussion last night at church, about love, and how it was the mark of those who are really Christians. There's a lot one might say about all sorts of aspects of this, but I am reminded of Jesus' words that no man has greater love than to lay down his life.

So, all else failing, that is the clue I'll look for - self sacrifice for others. It cuts through the fluffiness and pretense nicely.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

I'm not angry, but sad.

A friend, the wife of a friend, the son of other friends, has what appears to be incurable cancer.

Puts all the trivial stuff, silly things and pettiness back in perspective in a fairly sharp and brutal way.

We all have to go, but I'm really sad for them to experience this so early.

They don't deserve that to happen.

Ever heard those words, usually uttered by someone that observes someone else's tragedy, and seeing neither a solution nor a convenient guilty party, decides it must be God's fault.

This is curious theology from a Christian point of view: what did we deserve, and what do we usually get instead? Worth considering next time we feel down in the dumps.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

One of the more curious things about people.

For me, at least, is how they don't want to know you if you don't line up with them. Facebook is an eye opener, where people's lives are laid bear and umbrage freely taken that one might have differing views. And heaven forbid you might actually discuss something where you disagree.

There are exceptions. I really Appreciate Grahame Baker, with whom I've cycled occasionally. He has diametrically opposed views to mine on a whole bunch of core stuff, yet we're still friends.

Certainly it's much easier to get along with people if you're not watching your back continuously, but if that's the case, is it really friendship anyway? I've expressed before on here a desire to really speak what I think, but either I really am a much freer thinker than many (seems unlikely) or I lack the social conscience that requires certain things that may be considered unthinkable to be thought but not said.

For example, I've found it funny how people do religious stuff 'out of respect and reverence' for God. I pray sometimes when I'm sitting on the loo (bet some of you do too) because God doesn't have to wait quietly outside the room until I'm done & he's not fussed about the biological stuff that we hide. Ever thought that He's there with you while you're making love to your wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend? Or while you're washing up? Or fixing the car, covered in grease and oil? Or muddy and stained after working in the garden? Could you talk to Him at such moments? So who are we dressing up for on a Sunday again?

Maybe I understand why people don't like what I think sometimes after all.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Bargains and caveats.

For more than a year we've been a Kobo using family. I bought Chris a Kobo for mothersday last year IIRC, and although she was initially slow to begin, having become familiar with it, this device is now the mainstay of her reading time. In order to get revenge (and stop me stealing hers) she then bought me another for my birthday last year.


But there's a feature of the kobo that 'ain't great.

It        is        slow.

This slowness seems built into EVERYTHING about the Kobo, including the software than runs on Mac, PC and Android, download speeds, updates, and especially a complete lack of enthusiasm for the readers to actually DO anything before tomorrow. Maybe here's a link to my post about mediocrity and computers again? I can see no reason why a simple piece of software to render data into text and track ownership of said data need be either so large (the Kobo app is around 40Mb IIRC, Kindle about 27Mb - still huge) or so slow. Especially so slow. The Kindle, both hardware and app, are much faster at almost everything.

Chris, it seems, is driven nuts by this mediocrity, and to be fair, her reader (possibly a slightly early model) is glacial at times. Just like a machine running windows without enough memory, you don't know if it's sitting there apparently not doing anything because it's pedaling like mad under the hood to finish other tasks.... or it's simply not doing anything. Sometimes I sits and thinks, and other times I just sits........

Anyway, the Barnes and Noble Nook e-reader is quick - quicker even than a Kindle - and very cheap. Both Ben & his GF have them, and Ben's seems enormously quicker than the Kob, especially of you turn pages with buttons instead of swiping the screen. B&N had an offer, apparently lapsed, with the basic reader (with touch screen & wifi) for £30, and yesterday afternoon Currys were still happy to take my order & confirm it for one at £29.99 inc shipping.

Bargain, no?

So the caveats. Kobo do a (very slow, usable) app for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. Amazon do a Kindle app for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. B&N do a Nook app for Windows 8, iOS and Android. They withdrew support for a general Windows and Mac app a month or so back, and apparently newly purchased content no longer appears in the application. In a way I don't really care, but something nice about Kobo is that I can have books across all my devices, from Mac to phone to reader. I do have a few Kindle books on the phone,and could probably convert & sideload them to the Kobo if I wanted, but it's no big deal. However having a Nook adds another layer of disconnection, which is irritating.

So Chris will get the Nook (same screen as Kobo, clumsy, bulky body) to use in place of the Kobo, or possibly alongside, assuming we can share content between devices. Lets see how we do. I'm holding out for a bit longer yet, with a view to possibly pickup up a cheap tablet in another year or so - no good on the beach, but pretty handy sat on the settee. It might also convince me to go back to a real candybar phone.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Fathers day - sometimes tricky.

And today was no exception, but not so much for the more usual reasons.

However this afternoon Ben and I finally hoisted the engine from his old BMW ready for re-shelling into a less rotten chassis. He did the hard work, I gave the advice - sounds like a bargain.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

A little bit of local beauty.

On the day when a woman has the right amount of self esteem, the universe will implode.

Not really, but it can feel like that.

A few weeks back at The Big Church Day Out the first act we heard was female solo artist Philippa Hanna. As the big TV screens showed, she was pretty, blond, had a great figure and we could all hear a good voice. After about 15min Chris leaned across and said "every song she's sung is about self esteem", and Chris was absolutely right. Even if it wasn't the central message, the same issue seemed to crop up again and again.

This weekend there's a 'ladies day' in Cheltenham (called Splendor, but we can't help make the connection with the sugar substitute) that's been previously well supported by women from the chapel. Chris has been before, and was feeling almost obliged to go, before realising that she didn't really want too. The recurring theme has been self esteem, and how women never have any (we'll gloss over those with an excess).

This reluctance on the part of my wife to go along is almost a validation of me as a husband, that she does not have low self-esteem. And while I'm not proud about it (why should I be - I'm doing no more than I was called to) I am enormously grateful that's the case.

It's bizarre to me that a sense of being worthless seems to dog most Christian women continually. Shouldn't low self esteem be one of the things that gets dealt with like all the other besetting sins, in the first year or so after salvation, and then just move forward knowing that they were loved for who they were? Isn't there something freakish, that poor self-esteem is apparently a central characteristic of a modern woman - an even wider spread addiction than that to porn in men? One of the things I don't get about Christian wives who have been married to good men a long time and daughters brought up in loving Christian families is why they seem to have self-esteem issues. It is as though self worth drains from most women like tea through a strainer.

At risk of sounding kookie, I wonder if we need to consider setting up deliverance ministry for women, specifically on this issue.

It's not a case of women needing empowerment - I believe that is a humanistic and sinful self-centred way of dealing with the issue, because it takes the power and places it in the person. It says "you are in charge: you belong to yourself and you are the most important person". Instead if we understand that we ARE poor, weak, helpless, make mistakes and fail, yet are also loved by God, forgiven, made new in Him and able to please Him then our thinking can be changed and we get our sense of self-worth from God instead of pretending we have it all together.

Having typed that I then stopped and asked myself why people often flourish when shown love and sometimes whither when treated badly.

Humans, it seems to me, were made to live in harmony in family, and for most people there is a need both to show and receive love. In a way, the family models church and the church models family, in that both are environments of intimacy between adults in various degrees of relationship that are places where love and affirmation should take place. Sometimes they are battlegrounds, particularly where individuals involved have an expectation and experience of warfare in such environments, and sometimes where people's self-esteem comes from believing in themselves, rather than in God. In such situations, having to give up something, lay it down, work in submission etc. becomes a direct threat and challenge to their self-worth and maybe even identity, and may shake them to the core.  So rather than recognise that they can hold onto nothing and own nothing, they retain delusions of adequacy and fight to retain the things, in the end, don't actually make them of value anyway.

I'm not looking for an answer in this post (well, not exactly, anyway) so much as thinking through my fingers, because if find it much easier to order thoughts on a page than in my head. This is not intended to be a pot shot at anyone in particular either, though I seem to know so many women with poor self-esteem that there's bound to be someone who could think I were talking about her. But I also think that we cannot be tackling this correctly because it keeps coming back again and again and again.

Going out on a limb a little, one of our regular discussions in our men's group is about the portrayal of men and fathers on TV and in advertising. Bear with me here, because I see almost zero TV, so this is observations through they eyes of others. Husbands and fathers, I am told, are presented as foolish, weak, risible and lazy. Women are presented as strong, long-suffering, wise, decision makers, hard workers who carry responsibility for the whole family. They also have great figures, look beautiful with good hair and skin, have great dress sense, live in spacious modern homes and can afford all the latest things. Someone I know posted one of those images on Facebook with text about how women weren't strong because of what they carried before they broke, but because of what the carried after they broke. Nuts. just nuts.

Could it be that the self-esteem issues in normal healthy women from happy secure backgrounds - not those abused or mistreated - are due to continual bombardment from the media, about who they should be and how empowered they are?

Could it be that my wife is happy and secure, not just because she knows who she is in God, that I love her and demonstrate that frequently, but also because she simply doesn't get bombarded by lies through the TV?

Food for thought.

Friday, 14 June 2013

What ever happened to....?

Was a song by the Stranglers.

Was adopted as a cruel taunt by a bunch of teenagers (I was one).

Is a question I just asked myself about the race for faster and faster computers, as a result of reading the latest email offerings from and

For as long as I've had computers I've always fiddled to get better performance, whether it was upgrading the Apple ][ e that was my very first machine in 1990 or '91 (freebie, ex-Wellcome - thanks Pete) building our first PC on the kitchen table with Trevor Brunwin or later trying to wring better performance for games and faster download speeds from the internet in all sorts of ways. More recently the modifications have been focussed toward aesthetics, philosophy (free - as in thought, rather than beer) but still with an eye toward performance.

So this mornings email crystallised the change I've noticed in my thinking recently - performance isn't an issue any longer.

For so many years the computer industry had been about speed, and with good reason, because many computers, even mid range versions, were embarrassingly slow to use, even for normal business use. Take the Sony Vaio with pentium 3 processor & 256Mb RAM that I mentioned in the previous post - that was a premium product, probably costing £1200-£1500 when new in 2002 or 2003, and straight from the showroom, with Norton and a bunch of non-function adware installed was already sluggish, probably taking 2min to start up and be ready for use. After a few windows updates it would probably have been taking 5min+ and then after it picked up the viruses that I found on it, even longer. After I'd cleaned it up, replaced Norton and allowed Microsoft to finish installing SP3 and malicious software removal tools etc it was taking 7-8 min to start up and settle.

But there came a point about 6-7 years ago where the hardware was fast enough to run sensible software selections more than quickly enough. The AMD based system I'd built in at the end of '06 would happily run lots of things under XP all at the same time, and startup was under a minute. I ended up installing and running Linux of various flavours on this, not because of performance issues, but because of the freedom philosophy I mentioned at the beginning, and because they looked exciting like computing did in the early days. And because I like to tinker, and this tinkering was free.

The key to performance, of course, being sensible software.

As I started writing this I remembered helping a young friend out last autumn, who had bought a brand new cheap Toshiba laptop. Either his friends had borrowed it or he'd been doing a bit of left-handed surfing/warez hunting, and it had become riddled with viruses, so a fresh re-install was in order. It was running W7 with (IIRC) 2 Gb RAM and a minimum spec AMD processor, and re-installing from a partition on the HDD. If that had been XP then I'd have expected the job done in 20-25min, plus, say, another 15min for drivers. We started at about 10pm and finished around 1.30am, at which point it had ONLY done the basic install plus the Tosh driver etc kit, but that etc also contained a lot of malware, and took more than 2 1/2 hours to install. And from a fresh boot it ran like a dog and was no more responsive than that Sony lappy with the Pentium 3.

What's all this ramble about?

People no longer expect their computers to be fast.

The advertising from the big players has backed off on the speed side of things, with a focus on just doing things smoothly and pleasingly. There are exceptions - obviously the chip makers need a reason for us to buy their stuff other than lower power use - but so many seem happy with mediocre performance these days. The chap whose son is getting the Sony laptop told me his home computer (probably 5 years younger) was slower and less responsive. And when I get involved with other people who are also having computer issues I usually find that their expectation of performance is so low that just having applications like firefox, word or excel open in under half a minute seems like a revelation.

So is that it - people expect mediocrity? You've nothing better to say?

Last night I sat down with the little laptop I bought to take to Africa, rather than risk having the Macbook stolen. The keyboard is glitchy and unreliable, but the small size, low weight and aesthetic of Pear Linux actually makes it nicer on my lap than the Macbook. Really. And although the Macbook has a faster processor, 4Gb RAM and an SSD hard drive, it only feels a little faster in use, and for stuff like surfing or DVD playback there's no difference at all.

And that is my point really.

So looking at the £400, £500, £600 bundles of components (not including graphics cards that cost more than a well-specified laptop) I find myself asking what ever happened to the performance race?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Do you have any idea just how slow a pentium 3 computer with 256Mb of RAM running Windows XP and, worst of all, Norton antivirus, is?






















And a bit slower  and even more annoying than that. :-)

More geek/anarchist stuff.

I suspect using the advice here will be beyond many, and will probably not stay secure all that long, but it's a starting point.

Personally I'm in 2 minds about the whole PRISM issue, in that I rather expect the US (and to a lesser degree, UK) governments to be somewhat malign, yet at the same time they need to monitor what's going on. As much as anything, the issue is one of denial and lying about surveillance, rather than just advertising that it was going to happen. Most people are much less fussed about privacy than the somewhat geeky, anarchistic individuals that I occasionally like to talk with. From the lack of public reaction over the revelations so far I'd say that having been bought & sold over Facebook and google use, most ordinary people simply don't care at all.

Just in case I've not been geeky enough recently.

I'm wondering whether I can set up a wireless print server to let me put my work laser printer on a filing cabinet instead of on my desk. We'll see.......

Is that a can of worms? Where's my tin opener?

Sunday night Chris and I watched the film The Way, with Martin Sheen as Tom Avery, an American ophthalmologist whose son dies while walking the pilgrimage route to Santiago di Compostella. We didn't know the plot (other than the obvious) and had fairly mixed feelings about the story, but the countryside was at least somewhat familiar (and completely wonderful) and it went easy on the religion for non-religious people.

One thing really stood out in the film - spoiler ahead if you've not seen it. There's an incident where a female character strikes Sheen as hard as she can, but rather than belt her back as she expects, he stops, recovers, then deals with her graciously. She asks why he didn't hit her, and he explains that he was taught not to hit females by his mother, who gave him a good thrashing every time he hit his sister until he learned not to do it.

Violence begets violence has been a mantra of a recent generation seeking to make corporal punishment abhorrent in the eyes of an unthinking public, yet many of the best and most gentle people were brought up to expect corporal punishment in an age when violence (real violence) to children was still acceptable. It made me want to ask the question "is there a difference between violence and discipline or punishment, and if so, what is it?"

For me, it has to be the context in which the 'violence' happens. Is it done by those who love, who expressly want the best for the child and display affection, encouragement for right behaviour, love, sacrifice and provide good clear guidance? In that context it doesn't seem to be the violence that is painted in colours of red and black, but instead a tool used to penetrate childhood foolishness and even deliberate wickedness and bring re-direction where a word or other more meditative action would not be effective in shaping character. Obviously this kind of punishment isn't useful where it's not needed, but where it is then there's no kind or effective substitute.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

PRISM fallout & amusement.

By now the whole world knows that the NSA in the US have been collecting and screening data from Microsoft, Facebook, google, Apple and a bunch of other companies, likely sharing it with Britain through GCHQ too.

Amusement 1 - Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook issued a personal statement flatly denying reality. You have to be impressed with the effrontery if nothing else.

Amusement 2 - In the UK the Labour party have been demanding an explanation from the government  about how GCHQ have been able to obtain and use this information. Now bearing in mind that PRISM has been running since 2007, it is extremely likely that the Labour government originally brokered the data sharing deal.

TBH I'd say the biggest surprise was the admission that the story was true. Considering the state of the world, it would be almost irresponsible of a government NOT to be monitoring communications like this if they were capable of doing so.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Conspiracy theorists......

It seems some of you were right.

Left-wing bias at radio 4 - shock horror probe.

It may be no surprise really, but I was seriously disappointed yesterday to hear the interview with Liam Byrne, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary. Had the interviewee been Conservative he'd have been torn to bits, but one could hear the interviewer assenting readily to the need to cut various bits of welfare or not re-establish some that had been cut by the present government (with much weeping, wailing & tooth-gnashing). One could see heads nodding in the studio in agreement, such was the desire to move swiftly on before the policy being discussed was too obviously unpalatable for Mr. and Mrs public.

To be expected I suppose, but usually the BBC manage to at least make a show of being the un-biased organisation they are chartered to be.

Thursday, 6 June 2013


As I like to call them.

I just saw a yellow sports car......

drive past our gate.

He wasn't going all that quickly, but he was being followed by a police car.

With a flashing light.

We heard a siren in the distance, suggesting things were not going to end well for someone.

That 'free' book on Amazon Kindle?

The one I mentioned on Tuesday.

I've started reading, and it's (halfway through chapter 1) enormously better than I ever expected.

Over the last couple of years, for various reasons, I seem to have been through a number of books about manhood and masculinity, all of which focussed on the tender warrior/cowboy/king/elder go wild thing, and none of which have sat well. This actually, so far anyway, looks believable and biblical (some have had a concept, then seemed to find scriptures to support it).

Or maybe it matches some of my theology & worldview, and because it flatters that then I'm being sucked in. Who knows.

Assuming it still works, the link is:

From a post on a worship forum.

Someone had started a thread with the following:

I recently overheard a conversation between two elderly ladies: "..all that twanging on the guitar, it's more about musical prowess than about worship"!

This was followed by questions about how we were seen, false judgements and what the place of musical prowess was.

I recently read Martin Smith's biography. Essentially Deliriou5? started off as a worship band that made an increasing number of 'artistic choices' because of what they were doing. They remained at heart a worship band, but also pushed the prowess and showmanship envelopes as hard as they possibly could. I don't think Martin has any trouble with his conscience about it, and many many people loved what they did, yet depending on the heart of the observer they could have been either incredibly gifted or blatant showmen.

Purely as an observation, I find that the songs which have endured from that creative stream were those written in the earliest days as Cutting Edge - Lord you have my heart, did you feel the mountains tremble - etc. rather than the later material. Make of that what you will, and others may feel differently

From some of the discussions on that particular forum it could be seen that for some, musical prowess is next to godliness (there had been a suggestion by one person that if you didn't use a click track live then you were dishonouring God with poor precision) while for others it is a small part of what is required. It is important that we are careful about our hearts in this, but also that we have our eyes and ears (and hearts) open to see the effect that what we do is having on people. Worship should go much deeper than whether we filled the hall/sanctuary/auditorium with people that waved their hands in the air and sang in the Spirit. We need to consider whether it spills over into their every day lives and how it enable or prevents them from finding ways of worshiping God personally.

Now I have certain perspectives about this, that simplicity and slight inadequacy among the worship team are much better for corporate worship than burgeoning talent. Is worship about doing what we want, how we want - would you ever say (or think) that a particular time of worship failed to meet your needs? It would be good to consider whether corporate worship is like an evangelistic rally where hundreds of people respond but very few actually go on anywhere afterward, or whether it is the coming together for lives that have focused on God during the rest of the week, and a source of inspiration to press on deeper into Him in the next week.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The gospel according to Jesus, Queen of heaven.

Is the title of a meeting happening at a church in Oxford that has sought out those who do not fit sexuality and gender norms. It's a generous orthodoxy, and might please Brian McClaren, but valid?

I was reflecting this morning about how we re-write the Gospel and Jesus teaching and behaviour to fit our worldview, rather than his, and the mess that always leads us into. One way or another, we seem to find ourselves steered carefully into cul-de-sacs, untenable situations, conflicts of interest, places where we're damned if we do and damned if we don't take one or other option. Some of that is down to other people's expectations and the ideas they've been sold, while some of it is down to the age-old issue of "what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable" that is so often displayed. So.... how can the gospel fit my sexuality, ambition, race etc.

One of my almost constant wishes is that I could slip away, start a community somewhere with a few people who simply wanted to try to live as Jesus did, without all the history, legacy wickedness, etc etc. A problem with this is that, even if I could find a group of like-minded individuals (that wouldn't be so hard) someone would come along who had made Jesus in their own image instead of ours, and then it would be back to conflict, recriminations, demands for rights or just simply scowling at people as they walked past without greeting them.

I was thinking about this in the context of the 'difficult' situations Jesus walked through.

How did He not get compromised dealing with the woman at the well in Samaria? She was clearly living a life that would fit perfectly with current society, having been married once, then having a series of live-in partners and probably a bunch of children who didn't know who their father was and called all adult males 'uncle'. The gap we have isn't talking to such a woman, nor sharing Jesus with her, nor even seeing her get 'saved'. The problem is, what happens to her once she joins a church, goes along and doesn't fit? Did Jesus change her character too, when she responded? Did He enable her to give up everything she'd held onto - even the man she'd probably worked so hard to catch - in order to follow Him? Did she become miraculously free of depression, bi-polar disorder or find a way of earning a living without prostitution? Did the people of the town suddenly start accepting her into their homes, when the day before they'd have shunned her, or did she have to walk faithfully through being isolated and rejected while they came up to speed with the way she now was? If we were her, don't ask WWJD but what would I do?

I'm struggling to see the real Jesus in the gospel we often have as churches, and the gospels that get created by people who want Jesus to look like them instead of wanting to look like Jesus.

One of the things that I picked up fairly early on with community churches was the concept that we lay down our wishes, desires, lives etc in order to follow Jesus. A compromise that makes me feel ill even thinking about it is that there seems to be an attitude of holding on to the things we *think are right* and shaping the gospel around those. Hence my reaction to Monday night's question of women priests, regardless of the right of it or otherwise. And yes, I do it too, and that brings me no pleasure either. We sing it, sure: "I'm laying down my life and all that is within, I'm giving up my rights for a promise of new life" but at times practice may be different.

I don't know where this goes, but I want to see the real Jesus in our church, at work and moving rather than fitting in with a nice religious meeting where everyone goes away feeling smug and safe.

Something I frequently pray is that God will reveal hearts and things hidden. That has happened, to a degree, and there's a peace and a lightness in the church - a sense of this being a Church - that I've not felt here before. Maybe we're not ready for it yet, but I wish there was a power active too, that would do that setting free I talked about above. Something else to keep praying for.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A free book - maybe a bit pants.

Last night, as mentioned below, I went to the meeting where we talked about applications for the position of rector, and during the meeting came across the most amazing amount of reverse-prejudice regarding women in the priesthood. There has obviously been a lot of history, and opinions are deeply entrenched - something that I observed last year regarding a letter from the bishop about the motion for women bishops in the CoE being defeated, where there was not the least hint that any kind of differing opinion could possibly be accepted.

That particular bed seems to have been made, tucked in, the sheets & blankets nailed to the bed frame, and he's laying in it, quite firmly.

But these thoughts also took me on to thinking about men, women and the bible. and a link passed on by a friend on Facebook, to a free download from

Egalitarian and chauvinistic thinking have corrupted our ideas about godly manhood. With boldness of heart and pastoral wisdom, Rick Phillips leads us back toward biblical manhood—masculinity grounded in the cultural mandate, the cross, and the ordinary means of grace.”
Eric. C. Redmond, Senior Pastor
Reformation Alive Baptist Church

This book carefully avoids stereotypes and legalistic rules, while unfolding with clarity and practical simplicity the biblical vision of men as individuals and in relationships to other men, to our wives and children, and to the church of Jesus Christ. I learned much from this book and look forward to sharing it with my sons.”
Iain M. Duguid, Professor of Religion
Grove City College

I've downloaded it (why not - it's free) but it may prove to be a bit pants. We'll see. Everybody wants to push their own ideas about Christian Manhood, everyone seems to have their own interpretation of scripture. It's all a bit (lot) crap TBH and I just want to get on and try to work things out with those around me who God seems to have raised up or were will to step forward. Not all of them are men, and in fact most of them seem to be women, although this IS the CoE so that shouldn't be a surprise.
BTW if you want the free download outside of the US then you'll need to log in to Amazon in your own country and then search for the book.

Monday, 3 June 2013

The title 'rector selector'*

Sounds like it belongs to some kind of video game. However we are going through the shortlisted CVs tonight  to help select Cherwell Valley Benefice's new rector.

*I also liked the idea of a game called 'Pastor Blaster' but that's a post for another day.