Friday 29 November 2013

Instruments and weaknesses.

I've been part of various internet forums involving music and playing for a long time, and have noticed that guitars and basses seem to get played by people with certain characteristics.

Guitarists - tend to be over the top characters, even when they're bedroom-bound. No woman is ever lovely enough, music is an olympic sport (you have to play faster and harder than everyone else) and GAS is king.

Bass players - tend to be socialist, depressed or married to someone who is depressed, introspective, technically obsessive and need to be in control.

It's curious, since to look at them, there's relatively little difference between the instruments, yet they attract or engender such different characters. I wonder if it's down to the required approach to music, and whether that shapes their thinking.

These days I play both guitar and bass (though mostly back to guitar right now) so maybe that makes me a little schizophrenic?

Thursday 21 November 2013

Riding the rollercoaster

Of feelings.

Today we said goodbye to Lisa, mother of Sam, wife of Nathan. She was only 40.

Times like this you come back and ask what's going on, did you not hear right etc etc. There were a lot of memories in todays time.

There's a time to live and a time to die. I know that - read the book, worn the tee shirt, buried the daughter. There is, however, a human continuity that goes on for those whose time it was not yet, and the fracture with those whose time it was is difficult to handle. I rather suspect it's back to God putting a little piece of eternity in each of as, and a sense of what it would be like to not be a fallen part of creation, subject to entropy.

Seeing in stripes

In this office there are vertical blinds made of broad strips of material that hang down - standard office types. When I look through these from a range of about 3 feet it is close enough that only a single eye can see through to a given section of the trees outside.

Now I have 1 eye that is moderately short sighted and one that is long. The result is that I see the trees in vertical bands of sharp detail and soft focus low contrast. And they join without a break or border. It's curious.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

That well seems empty

One of the things we do as a family is to make lists of presents we'd like to receive from each other - it saves all the silliness of getting stuff that cost money and energy that, frankly, one would really have preferred not to receive. I usually ask for a bunch of odds and ends according to whatever I'm interested in, including some worship CDs to pick up new material for the coming year.

So I've had the usual emails from Eden etc who sell such things online here, followed up the links, listened to the samples.

That well seems to have run dry.

There are some big names in there.

I just listened to another bunch of samples of songs crafted around one man's vocal style and stage manner, with odd vocal hooks and strange sounds in the background: sure it probably sounds cool at a gig, but not to sing as a congregation in worship together. There was another where the songs were all awkward, melody doing odd things and not sitting well in a tune, although at least the backing was more accessible.In fact, to be quite honest, all the samples I listened to didn't really seem to have much of a God-centric and congregation friendly focus at all.

I've had other worship albums in the past, and while some have been great, some I've really struggled to find more than 1 song that can be used, and then with a bit of flinching and the feeling that people aren't objecting out of politeness, rather than because they actually like it.

There are exceptions. Keith and Krystin Getty have done some good songs, although their album arrangements tend to be a little too 'Disney epic' with strings and stuff, and they are mostly hymns requiring some consideration, rather than covering a range from exuberant praise through to deepest worship. Matt Redman has been another oasis in the desert, and I really appreciate him writing songs with a tune, but it's nice to have material from a greater range of sources.

Maybe I should be looking to other sources and countries outside of the traditional white 3? (That's North America, Australia and the UK). Would Africa and South America have anything to bring? Salvadore from Spain were one of the highlights at a certain Christian Music pop festival earlier this year.

I don't really want to go backward too much.

Last night at worship practice we went through He Brought Me To His Banqueting Table, which was a song we did in the 80s, though a classic of the style. What style? Well the way we ran through it wouldn't have been too out of place in Soweto apparently, and I'm still buzzing a little this morning from it.

One of the signs that God is at work in His church is that He inspires worship in His people for them all to worship together. I'm not really seeing it so much, at least in terms of material being recorded and published. I wonder if the worship simply isn't commercial enough, and is therefore relatively invisible? Is there an underground spring of worship somewhere that is a source of fresh water, now the obvious spring on the surface has run dry?

Monday 18 November 2013

A post from a couple of weeks back.

I’ve just received an email about which I have very mixed feelings, advertising The Ligonier 2014 Alaska study cruise with RC Sprouls (father & son) and Michael Morales.

One half recoils a bit at enormously wealthy Christians studying theology in bourgeois surroundings (the boat looks like a real gin palace) while drinking in the beautiful surroundings. The other side says ‘why not choose to take a beautiful holiday and get built up along the way? Isn’t that a good thing?’.

Chris and I were talking in the car about what we might have done with my redundancy money instead of setting up the business and investing our lives in the chapel. The idea of travelling for 6 months or a year (or more) has enormous appeal, but I’m convinced we did what we were called to do. And yet at times it feels like, just by being us, we do more harm than good and we’d have been better off blowing the lot on a year off than sticking round.

This is, of course, living in abstract, and we could never have done that for the sake of my mum, if for no other reason. But y’know.

I guess there’s a bit of bourgeois Christian alive and well inside me too.

What winds me up?

Otherwise potentially sensible people taking a deliberately diametrically opposite stance and trying to argue as though you have taken the extreme opposite viewpoint and they themselves are holding some orthodox middle ground: twisting all you say to fit a view they would be embarrassed by in different circumstances.




Sure the internet is a great place for it. Somebody is wrong on the internets and all that. Makes me sad when it happens in real life too, in church, when you’re trying to have a discussion and build people up. When young Christians see, instead of people growing in unity and purpose together, someone coming up with ‘devils advocate’ contrived answers to pull your discussion off-line and invalidate anything good.

It’s not happened recently in a Christian setting, but a silly online discussion just reminded me.

Somewhere along the line I’ve downloaded an html version of The Book Of Common Prayer. One of the chapter titles under ‘occasions’ is Scrofula, which made me grin a little, even though there’s nothing funny about the condition.

Another was Commination, which was all about recognition of and repentance from sin, and some of the words were good, though the older English does it no favours (smiting has all the wrong religious overtones).

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Really sad this morning

A friend and the wife of a friend lost her battle with cancer yesterday, although at least she was at home with her family, rather than in hospital and covered in pipes and wires. Please pray from Nathan and Sam, her husband and son, and the respective parents and inlaws too.

So much code - so much fail.

It seems that I can no longer post by copy and paste direct from word:mac into blogger without the formatting being seriously messed up. I'd written a couple of long catch-up blogposts, of which the text below is a later sample, only to paste them in & find fonts, spacing and some characters messed up.

Of course where there's a will there's a way, and (hopefully) Libreoffice to the rescue - text without formatting.
Note: it appears that blogger is messed up, rather than the word processing applications. It will no longer change text copy/pasted in to the default blog style, either font face or size, and doesn't interpret spacing well. So it seems the only way to write off line for now is to put them in as html and add spacing etc manually. Nice - not.


Blogpost 5th November 2013
No gunpowder, not especially much treason either. Plot? Lost a little now and again.
Time to resume writing about things and catching up.
First off: I’ve just finished book 1 of Josephus’ Wars of the Jews. It seems amazing how nothing has apparently changed in the way people in that part of the world treat each other over the last 2000 years. While it may not be factually absolutely accurate (which Josephus himself refers to in Antiquities) it does paint a picture against which one can understand Herod the Great’s killing of all the boys under 2 in Bethlehem to try to eliminate Jesus. Compared to him, the Tudors look positively trusting and benevolent.
It has also been helpful explaining the political backdrop and recent history to the period in which Jesus ministered. It was my assumption that the Jews had been invaded and conquered by Rome, rather than the reality, which involved the Romans more or less being invited in to help one of the heirs of the leaders of the Maccabean revolt attain ascendency over his brother. The slope downhill from there was steep and bloody, and mostly down to local politics than Roman military action and greed. Loonies, the lot of ‘em.

In other news, we’re in the middle of the bathroom saga.
We had hoped to have the shower all sorted while on holiday, but life doesn’t seem to be like that, and here we are, several weeks down the line in the absolute opposite of what we wanted, with a bathroom that looks like a building site. Progress is happening gradually, and this week I finally got agreement from the people we bought the shower cabin originally to refund instead of just giving us a credit note. They didn’t have anything else that was a suitable replacement, and after talking with a sales guy they weren’t at all difficult. However we haven’t actually seen the money arrive yet, but hopefully that will be a mere formality.
In terms of sourcing an alternative, it’s curious. I spent an hour with someone in a bathroom centre showroom yesterday, and he was really struggling to understand a) what I wanted and b) why I wanted it. There was a bunch of stuff on their company website he seemed completely unaware of, and kept diverting me from when I tried to talk about it – a little disappointing since talking about this stuff was the POINT of visiting in person . Ho hum. We kicked ideas around and he made suggestions which we’ll probably adapt to move forward. Essentially it’s going to be a custom build (nuts) which will hopefully not create yet more problems – or more leaks.
Why is it people don’t get the idea of a shower cubicle that stands freely, and is designed not to leak from around either the tray or the sides by being self-contained instead of butting against a wall? Love will find a way, but it’s tricky to help someone adjust their thinking when they have ‘always done it that way’.

And on to worship and music.
I so appreciate the guys I’m working with right now, and really not to throw stones at anyone else but it’s wonderful that there’s no tension under the surface, no ‘precious’ bits or demands to “do it my way” (I hope they feel like that about me too!). And the chemistry is good to, with each of us doing things differently from how we’d do them alone, and working together to create a whole. There are times we don’t even need to look at each other to know where we’re going next, and that has caused a certain amount of amusement too. Each one has different strengths they can bring and different preferences, and I hope we’ll follow each of those a bit further too, so that we don’t just sound the same all the time following mine.
But it’s been so good to be able to go along, try stuff out, laugh when it’s not worked (and when it has sometimes, for the sheer fun of it) and to have a sense of worship when it’s flowed. There’s a way to go, but this is bringing healing for me after the previous 5 years.

Camera? What camera?
There is a natural path in me that’s hard not to follow. Once the gates of acquisition are open it can be a real struggle to start closing them, but this is exactly what I need to do. Over the last few years I’ve been really careful not to buy stuff like I did when I had a regular & substantial salary, but then recently we have been able to ease that a little. I don’t buy junk or tat and I don’t buy toys – everything is useful and has a purpose. But since getting the camera I’ve spent hours online trying to identify which lenses to acquire in order to be able to create really good images.
For a lot of people this would be really tedious, but the thing with research about technical stuff is that it fills a work and knowledge shaped gap in me that enjoys and embraces the all consuming nature of that kind of thing. I am therefore trying to back away from all that for now, do the things I should be doing, maybe even spend a little time in quiet and prayer instead of giving myself to anything else. There’s nothing wrong with hobbies, research etc, but when they start to become consuming then you know there’s something wrong. I had become very consumed and not in a good place.
So I’m leaving it at home, making time to pray, to be alone a bit, to do the bits of work I naturally shrink from. Does it make me righteous or holy? Nope. Does it help me walk with Jesus instead of polishing my own pleasures? Yes.

And sometimes I see stuff that makes me shake my head at progress.
I came across the application of LEDs in the kind of spotlights used for building sites, PIR intruder lights etc in place of 500W halogen bulbs recently. We’re not talking about those silly lamps with a 1000 bubble-style LEDs pushing out 50 lumens either, but of a 50W LED delivering a theoretical 5000-6000 lumens, or about 6-8X the output of a car headlight. The lights in the chapel building have given trouble over the years, and it would be really nice to replace them with something using 1/5th the electricity and having 20X the lifespan of a big PAR floodlight. It was then but a small step to look at the other kind of LED lights available, and to find that the cost of crazy-bright bicycle lights was now so low as to be laughable – less than £20 for a 2000 lumen output system. And that’s just nuts.
Chris was behind a cyclist last week whose rear light was so bright that she was unable to see the road ahead. Being sensible she decided to hang back, and could then overtake in a wider, better lit area. There used to be regulations in the highway code surrounding type and output of lights on bicycles, but they seem to be changed now, only requiring a steady white light at the front and rear.

Finally Canada. We bought a book on Saturday (rough guide to Canada) and Chris is gradually working her way through, becoming familiar with Vancouver* and what we might do while there. She had already picked out some highlights (the Capilano suspension bridge, Granville Island and others) and has now decided we probably don’t have enough time to see & do everything. C’est la vie. Next chapter is the Rockies, and I suspect we won’t have enough time there either.
My suspicion is that the Rockies will be lots of woods, mountains, lakes and wilderness. Lovely to look at, but pretty similar most of the time, but we’ll have to see. That’s not in any way a criticism, but natural beauty is ever changing and yet so often the same, and we have been spoilt over the years for natural beauty and sometimes been disappointed. So I’m not going to pre-judge this one, just like I tried so hard not to pre-judge Africa (occasionally fantastic, but mostly dull - or maybe it seemed that way because I am calibrated to appreciate a certain kind of beauty?) and we’ll see what we’ll get.

*I notice that the Mayor of Vancouver is in the news right now, smoking crack cocaine and being drunk in public (he apologised for not staying home to get drunk). A supporter they interviewed was speaking up for him, describing him as a rock star. One can only shake one’s head sometimes, but it seems the electorate do get what they deserve.

Friday 8 November 2013

A valley full of mist.

And in this case disappointment too, for not being able to photograph it well.

Sunday afternoons

Don't have to be like Douglas Adams saw them, especially in beautiful countryside.

It seems every make of camera has it's own typical colour presentation, and the Sony series are no exception. I recognise these blue tones from Chris's little Sony compact (no longer functioning) that we bought her 7 years ago.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Where is my charabanc.

Having a day out at the Lab Innovation show, here at the NEC. Lots of people have styled lab kit after popular consumer products, with iPod and tablet styled interfaces. In some ways it's a neat idea, but if the gear is working in 10 years time, no-one will remember how to work an iPod.