Saturday, 27 December 2014

It does not help

Our resolve to have low-cost summer holidays in 2015, when Canadian Affair (who we booked this years Canada trip through) send us information that looks both good and decent value too.

We are going to stay in Europe this coming year, and spend time away with the church in the summer.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Well, I've just pushed a red button.

Wonder what kind of process that's set in motion (though I rather think I know reasonably well). More later, and it might have to be quite a bit later.

Friday, 12 December 2014

I have never known a time when shopping online was so lousy.

For several years now we've been shopping online, but this year, along with a real growth in the online retail industry, there seems to have been an increase in the number of retail sites that either work really badly or simply fail to work at all. I've just been trying to use, and apart from being a tram-smash of a design and nasty sneaky people who make the default subscription option a direct debit, the page where you actually put in addresses etc simply doesn't work.

And there's a kicker.

You have to give them your email address before you can go through to the address form, meaning they have it on record, but you don't have a password (because that's not been set up) so when you try to buy again on a different platform you can't get past their login. Now I have an email address I give to the retailers only, and it gets spammed by them 6 ways from Sunday, but I REFUSE to give a decent, working email address.

Wonder how I'm going to unpick this one?

Suddenly, going shopping in really shops seems a really attractive idea.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

I'm guilty of neglect, indiscretion and looking forward to a dump.

Partly it's trying to re-focus myself, get life back in order etc. To a degree that's helped, and I've rediscovered energy for work, which has been so lacking these past months, though I'm hardly a ball of dynamism and enthusiasm yet. I'm also finding that I just flop into spending time on social internet in the evening when I could be doing so much other, useful stuff, and it's a real waste.

So the blog has gone-hung for a bit.

Old habits are hard to break as well, and I can't easily say what I think anymore because having ones thoughts on stuff actually out there is difficult for people who don't like to hear things that way. I would liken it to Nigel Farage's comments about breast feeding in public - courtesy and good manners require that such a natural process is done discretely, rather than flaunting it in front of people. There are many things that we all do which, never the less, are much better done quietly and discretely away from the public eye.

And talking of discretion, I'm really looking forward to a big dump*.

Of snow, that is.

In Morzine, France.

We're off to see Ben 'at work' in in Les Gets in January, and hoping for plenty of snow to arrive by then. We'll be staying in Morzine, the next village along, because Les Gets was just a bit too spendy for us (£1000 each for a hotel for a week? Are you out of your mind??!) but if there's enough snow it should be possible to get a lift up to the top of the crag in between and ski down the otherside into town, and if not then there's a shuttle bus between. At the moment the resorts are warm and green with the exception of Avoriaz that's at about 1800 meters and has a foot or 2 of snow already. There's still a few weeks to go, so I'm expecting plenty of the weather my dear Canadian friends hate so much in time - why do you guys insist on living in the flat bits? ;-)

*Link entirely safe for work.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Thoughts fly away, like birds in the garden.

There's been quite a bit of stuff running round my head - almost always when I can't write about it - and when I do get time then those thoughts fly away.

There are also things I'd like to write about that are not for now, if ever, and there needs to be a bit more time passed and space given before putting them down. I am, however grateful for the grace of God, that enabled me to keep doing the things I HAD to do, not letting me go when I did the things I should not do, and allowing me to hear when it was essential to do so.

Stepping out of leadership creates odd feelings in ways I'd not expected. Like suddenly only having 2 church activities a week at most. Not having any preparation to do either, but to just turn up and have other people serve and try to bless me seems amazing. I'm sure it won't last, but at the moment I can just go home and do whatever I want most evenings, and while there's a certain amount of guilt, it's also good to just relax and enjoy the time without pressure.

Friday, 28 November 2014

I'd like to ask forgiveness.

From those that I've offended in my time at Heyford Park Chapel, whether in the time I was in leadership or before that.

My earlier post and some of the posts before that produced a response from people who were hurt by things that had happened. There was a feeling that I was washing my hands of responsibility, of blaming those who were hurt.

Well, it feels like God has been talking to me about it being more important to be in good relationship than to feel justified and to demonstrate that "I'm OK whatever other people do". I don't have contact with a lot of you, and some of you may never have met me, yet still feel offended on behalf of some of those who did get hurt through things I did at the chapel.

There are a couple of people I feel it's important to see, but if you would like to talk things over, feel like I've hurt you and want to restore relationship then I'd love to speak with you face to face. I'll put contact details in a comment after this post.

Funny how we get infected.

Black Friday.

It doesn't sound like something to look forward to, yet it seems the UK has suddenly discovered and embraced this alien concept, rushing headlong into a flurry of panicked shopping. If you get a bargain then I hope it's useful.

As a kid I recall queueing with my parents outside Perrins in Croydon, the night before they had a special sale. They queued literally all night (in the summer) in order to be able to buy a piece of furniture that we could never have afforded otherwise as a family. Now most of us in England are amazingly affluent, yet we still seem to have a lemming-like un-thinking need for more stuff. I find I'm drawn by the idea of a bargain too, yet it's also repellent when I see how much I have at home.

I'm sure I've posted something like this before.

Another aspect of society being overly affluent is that it's really hard to sell slightly used things without almost giving them away. I tried to move on a bunch of stuff earlier this year - not at all tat, and not over-priced either - and there was only a very little interest. Yet I see people throwing away to landfill things that are still quite functional, useful and otherwise good apart from being a couple of years old and out of fashion. I appreciate consumerism drives development, and the pace of development and creation of new, often extremely useful and powerful technologies has never been so fast. Yet it's as though we're gambling the future by burning through stuff as fast as we can in the hope we'll invent a way out of resource limitations.

I was fascinated to see an electric car has been recently type-approved for use on European roads that uses sea water and nano-flow cell technology to generate electricity. This naturally begs the question whether this could be scaled to put power stations on the coast, and then raises the next obvious objection as to what impact the output water would have on marine life. TANSTAAFL. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

It's Christmas, but easter is coming

I find it very hard to give myself to Christmas celebrations because I know easter is on the way. Likewise the build up to easter is never the mournful occasion that tradition would have it be, because Christmas is around the corner. Church traditions and seasons have become increasingly bizarre for me over the years - while I live in the 'now', it is always the same now: of Jesus having been born to bring life through His death on the cross.

Somewhere along the line we made stuff up to divert the pagans (who seem to have effectively taken it back in popular culture).

I've been reading Mark's gospel, well, just started it this morning. The intro in the NIV version I have talks about John-Mark (the author) and his ups & downs with church leadership, which then got me thinking about Peter and HIS ups & downs too, compromises and mistakes. Not the ones before Jesus death, but the ones after he became a significant figure in the early church. In a way it gives me hope, and yet I see the same compromises in the church today, yet magnified down the ages, and that's discouraging. Are we all so compromised as individuals that, even with God at work in us, we still produce fruit that's compromised too?

The answer is, of course, yes. But that's no reason to stop doing what we're called to do.

Stepping out of church leadership has meant discovering I still had opinions and feelings about things that had been suppressed in order to cope with the compromises. They no longer need to be kept quiet in order to allow everyone to get along and not upset people. Whether that's helpful or not I don't know. My rather offensive sense of humour is still there too, not quite so hidden away now as well, though that's *mostly* suppressed still. ;-)

Friday, 21 November 2014

A couple of weeks back I started getting sore patches on my head.

They were appearing mysteriously and randomly, looking like scratches on my scalp. No idea how they got there or why.

I discovered this morning my shaver foil has a tiny hole in it.

I've owned this shaver since 2006, and this is the second time the foil has needed replacing. The previous shaver was from Remington, and not only did it leave razor burn all over me, but the foils wore out in less than 12 months and cost 75% of the purchase price of the shaver, and the batteries were failing after 2 years. Junk.

It looks like Amazon have the correct parts, as do Glad they're still made, even though they're >1/2 the original cost.

Parts ordered, including a 100ml bottle of Wahl lubricating oil for £2.60 - a bit better than the 5ml bottle supplied by Braun originally and used very occasionally to conserve supplies. This should last quite a while and hopefully reduce wear significantly.

A photo from Belfast

Well, I could hardly not take the camera, could I?

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

This is getting to be a habit

Posting while waiting to travel. The bombardier dash is like a big cigar tube with wings, but one got me here so I'm sure it will make it back too.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Sat waiting for the gate.

That's about as greyhound-like as I get. :-)

I'm off to Belfast for a couple of days work, going via Birmingham. Travel here was about as painless as it can possibly get, as transit through was easy too. Brilliant.

I bought a bottle of water in Smiths: £1.89 alone or free with a paper costing £1.40.

My one nervous moment was taking some antibody samples through security. Obviously they are in small tubes with hand written labels (I was tempted briefly to label 1 as anthrax, but that wouldn't really be funny). They swabbed the samples, found they were negative an handed them back. No worries. The tubes are in a bag with my toothpaste and deodorant, do they had BETTER be safe. ;-)

Still saying 'gate open in 5 min' after 10min wait.

Monday, 17 November 2014

It's sometimes helpful to go over old prophetic words and insights.

I've been looking for some old documents I had saved in order to progress a discussion about corruption of the early church. Instead I kept finding prophetic words stored up from before, plus some insights etc running from 5 to 12 years ago. This one came up:

Look to God to develop worship ministry further. Question mark – is guitar playing becoming too much ‘what I do’ – will I need to put it down so I can move on?

Well putting guitar down certainly happened. If it was what I did it's certainly not what I've really done for a long while now.

Monday, 10 November 2014

D'you ever have a problem with your sense of self-worth?

It's not been a big problem for me for a long time, professionally speaking, but I've just come face to face with it, and found myself struggling. I've just put together an invoice for a customer who used me quite a bit in October (that's great) and it came to enough money to make me ask whether a) it could really be that much and b) whether I was worth it?

These are not the right questions to be asking when you are the sole employee of a tiny business.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Today is the day....

you have made. I will be glad in it. :-)

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Pillbox.

Trying some different processing - it's always good to experiment.

Down by the canal.

Today I did something for the first time since 2012

Updated and forwarded my CV. Lets push this door, see whether it'll open or not.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

And tonight we say..........

goodbye to the housegroup.

We'll miss them: I'd like to take all these people with us, but that's not possible, so we'll just have to miss them instead.

Back at the NEC - 'tis an odd place.

I'm here for the Lab Innovations exhibition. Chris came too for Hobbycrafts. Our halls are as far apart as possible.
The trades Union UNITE are holding a conference here too, and walking between the different venues I kept passing men trying to look like Ed Milliband (the Labour leader for non-brits). I did see a bunch of ordinary people go in - these are the ones who actually 'do' stuff - but there was a difference between them and the ones looking like they were holding power. Quite curious.
Dixon's Carphone were having their Peak event to keep the managers fired up, and the people emerging from that seemed mostly male, late 20s/late 30s and dressed all in black. There was the occasional 'older sales-type' but they were rare.
Hobbycrafts attendees were almost entirely older women, older than Chris. Not of any one type, though obviously well off.
And so to my own exhibition.
This years show felt a little smaller than last years (part of the hall was blocked off, which I don't recall previously) with nothing exciting or new to discover. The job title MD got me a VIP entry which was a much smaller deal than it might be, causing me to grin at the silliness of it.
Seriously though, the 'Lab Week' exhibitions in London Olympia in the early 80s were huge, with the world flocking to sell lab equipment to an innovating British science industry. That there was no show for a long time, and this one is so small tells me a lot about science in Britain now. There have been a lot of mergers, rationalising, downsizing etc. But as much as anything I wonder if the animal rights protesting has simply caused the work to go elsewhere with fewer restrictions and a workforce who are really pleased to work in something better than telesales.
As for me, I think the time may have come to get a proper job again.

I'm not sure posting from a phone is a great idea.

Friday, 31 October 2014

What are you reading right now?

It's become a question asked much more frequently on forums since e-readers have become popular. Whether there's a connection with the rise in electronic books or not I have no idea, but they have certainly made books much more readily accessible to a generation or 2 turned on to electronic media consumption.

In my case I'm half way through Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian wars, that records the battles between the city-state of Athens (a tyranical democracy) that was gradually subsuming the Hellenic races, and the Peloponnesian alliance (also called Lacedaemonians, and including the Spartans) who wanted to retain their freedom. Sound familiar?

It's interesting to read about historical events in areas we have visited and know a little, but more to the point, it really brings home how little people have changed and how, generally speaking, bungling governments and organisations are. As is so often the case, a few key individuals appear to have shaped history, whether by brilliance and careful planning, or by self-seeking and failure. Men are sometimes cruel, sometimes cowardly, sometimes brave and sometimes driven by emotions of various kinds to do things they regret and wish to undo later.

There is a passage that sticks in my mind after the Lacedaemonian forces have been defeated and surrendered on Pylos, the survivors having been taken back to Athens as prisoners and hostages. They had a reputation before that point of preferring death to surrendering their arms, and a passer-by distainfully asks one of the captives if the men who fell were honourable. His reply was that arrows and spears cannot choose the type of man they kill.

A translation of the book is available as a free download here if you want it.

How much is historically accurate I cannot say. Ancient historians appear to have disregarded the truth happily in order to create a better story, to affirm their prejudice or to shape their book to suit their patron at the time, even while sometimes complaining loudly about the errors of other writers.

This has not been the best time to develop a cold

Like there is ever a good time?

Colds do odd things to my head: I can't concentrate, often think & say irrational stuff, give me mood-swings, make critical mistakes with work, enable me to make bad choices and are generally not helpful. You should see some of my un-corrected typing! (or maybe not). I am full of admiration for those who keep working through their colds as though merely carrying just a little more weight.

This isn't intended as a grumble, so much as keeping the personal blog personal. We just need to finish this phase well, before we start the next, and I'm aware there's a big battle going on in the background to attempt to cause maximum harm.

Monday, 27 October 2014

While we were out with friends

and their children were running around on stuff at Cogges manor farm in Witney, I managed to grab a quick portrait of Chris. She was not especially aware of this, I think.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Christian films - very mixed feelings.

There's a story here on the BBC website about a pastor wanting to import Christian films from the US and have pastors able to pray for people after the films.

I love the idea of being able to reach out into the community, for those who would not hear the good news of Jesus Christ to be reached this way. On the other hand, having seen a few Christian films, my over-riding reaction is that they aren't really helpful, painting a 'nice, American Jesus' picture, while often dangling the viewer emotionally over a false premise. Maybe, as much as anything, I cannot accept this kind of performance because I don't want made-up stories entering the Christian heritage as truth or fact. The traditional streams of church have done the made-up story thing too well, with a resulting loss of credibility and intergity.

This is definitely a case of praying 'God's will be done' because I can't step back far enough to be un-biased.

Friday, 17 October 2014

I wonder what you'll do?

After we've moved churches.

I'm talking to you - the ones in the shadows at the back, who used to be part of Heyford Park Chapel and now come around here to see whether there's any goss to be had, any stories to share. Will you keep coming by or will you get bored and move away?

FWIW I very much hope you guys do go back to the chapel, once we're out of the way. I hope Stephen turns out to be someone who can help you grow, find Jesus, find a home with God's people and see you built up. I'm sorry we couldn't work things out together and walk down that road for that stage in our journey. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

How much compromise is acceptable?

If it was suggested you could compromise your integrity a bit to be more successful and popular, to extend your reach to more people, why wouldn't you do it? After all, your core values were un-changed, and what you were trying to reach them with was really good: surely that would be worth it, wouldn't it?

The right answer may, or may not be obvious.

I've mentioned before how horribly compromised I've felt (compromised to death was, I think, the expression) but I'm grateful someone else who is less lubricious than me has said "enough". There will inevitably be fallout, but it's much better to deal with fallout for the right reasons than knowing you're acting from expediency.

This has been a time of learning, and I'm not in then least sure I have enough backbone for church leadership. (edit - enough backbone AND enough gentle lovingness - the 2 are needed together).

Monday, 13 October 2014

If anyone still cares - Mint Cinnamon

I've settled - for now - on using Mint Linux Cinnamon distro at home as my main OS of choice. Reasons: basically it seems solid, works quickly (and everything works - networking, printer, NAS etc etc) and is easy to use. On Sunday morning I came to print some music for the first time since installing and the printer was not yet set up, so I went to the printer control, clicked 'Add', it showed me our samsung ML1210 was connected. When I selected it the software downloaded the appropriate driver and 30sec later I could (and did) print. It feels like the bad old days of hunting for drivers, HPLIP and CUPS profiles is long gone.

Elementary Linux has been installed on that 250Gb 'testing' drive for more experimental use. Plus I still have my windows drive attached for when I can be bothered to call microsoft and re-activate it with the new hardware, though there's less and less chance of me doing so right now with this Dell Laptop available for editing images at home.

In my last Linux post I mentioned KaOS Linux. This looked really good at first try, but networking seemed difficult, with a refusal to recognise any devices on the network. I know that's not a characteristic of KDE, because openSUSE was fine. There were a couple of other oddities that made me decide in the end not to follow it any further. I might well bung openSUSE 13.1 on the testing drive too in order to have access to the different tools available in KDE, though logic tells me that I should just install equivalents into Cinnamon & work entirely from there. I don't know why, but I *prefer* the KDE desktop, even though it sometimes behaves a little oddly and is very resource-heavy.

Once again, if anyone is thinking about trying Linux then I'd definitely recommend giving Mint (either Mate or Cinnamon) a go - everything works out of the box, or for things like printers, can be added with minimal effort.

Life is a rollercoaster (imagine that sung by 10CC).

This business of moving churches makes the emotions flap considerably: because of what and particularly who we're leaving behind, because of the feeling of leaving gaps that put extra pressure on others to fill, because of things we see happing to friends that we feel powerless to help with. All kinds of stuff.

Yesterday I led worship in church, which is pretty much always an emotional and draining experience. I used to get really charged up playing guitar, but actually leading, singing the sings, trying to feel where things should go, being a little the pivot around which that phase of the meeting turns leaves me really drained and tired.

Then we went for lunch.

The church we're returning to is re-structuring into a new form of small groups, and a couple of days before we had been very kindly invited to come along for lunch and to get to meet everyone again in one of these groups. Most people we knew already, and in one sense it was like we'd never been away, yet at the same time there's a sense of being a very different person. I've had a lot of corners knocked off in this past while, and no longer feel the same inside - it's not that they've changed, so much as I have (they will have changed too, of course).

Chris described the feeling as coming home, to be welcomed and so obviously loved and wanted and cared for and honoured.

To me it was different from that. It's made me realise what I've been missing this last few years: there's a sense of not just being valued, but a richness of spiritual experience and family that I'd not felt in *this* way since moving - an presence of God in the relationships that can't be touched but can be felt. It felt a little like the prodigal son, returning from a foreign land where the wealth had been spent trying to survive and then having the fattened calf despatched & a feast (well, hand-crafted bread & soup) prepared.

I went in cautious, heart gently flapping, trying to watch my words and feeling a heaviness, but over an hour or 2 that lifted, and I felt I could be myself with these people.

It's life Jim, as we knew it. :-)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

So which lightbulb do I buy?

Technology has made so many things better, I won't bother to even describe it because you'd be a determined luddite not to recgnise the fact, and no explanations from me would help you. But an odd aspect of the changing way we have developed lighting means that no-one really has much idea which bulbs to buy now.

We had, as a country, a brief love affair with the compact fluorescent light unit. A great idea in some ways, due to ease of manufacture and efficiency, the quality of light from a fluorescent tube has always been ugly, even with modern coatings  (though OK if bounced off a painted surface). Worse though, they contain mercury, which makes disposal quite specialised and they are NOT something one can just pop in the bin: far from ideal when not everyone can really be bothered to dispose of stuff carefully.

But hot (pun intended) on their heels came the LED. This one-time curio is enormously more efficient than an ordinary incandescent or even fluorescent bulb, but the technology is maturing and developing rapidly. So rapidly that no-one has no idea what kind of bulbs to buy now.

I've been getting a catalogue from CPC for a while, and they supply, among many other things, LED lightbulbs in a wide variety of performances and styles. What we obviously want is a nice simple way to buy light units, and instead of using watts as a guide, instead one should use lumens (the measure of light actually put out). Except that some manufactures are a little more conservative than others, plus there is the issue of colour temperature, since many LEDs actually put a LOT of their light output into the blue end of the spectrum, and a difference of 20% output is not unusual between std and warm white. There are also a lot of older designs around (often quite expensive) with multiple low output LEDs instead of a single large and efficient unit (the multiple small jobs also produce a messy beam & hot/cold spots) and it becomes a bit tricky. Finally, if buying spots to replace small halogen GU10 spotlights that seem almost ubiquitous in modern light fittings, there is a issue of beam width, since the old halogen units have a relatively soft, wide beam instead of the narrow, harsh beam one gets from cheaper LED units (and the older incandescent spots had a softer beam still that was very pleasing and flattering).

This was all pleasantly academic for me until we bought Chris a mother & daughter combined uplighter & spot recently, and had to find bulbs for it. I've been replacing as many bulbs as possible with LEDs, and went straight to our stock of spot bulbs, plus popped in a spare 7W LED screw fitting bulb replacement.

The result, while not exactly dazzling, was WAY too much light, and the spot was like a searchlight. After some fiddling an swapping about I found a GU10 unit from Ikea that struggled to manage it's 120 lumen output for the spot (around the equivalent of a 10-20W halogen unit) and a 20W fluorescent unit for the uplighter (11W would have been enough, but all my 11W fluorescent units are bayonet fitting, rather than screw).

So I'll say again, no-one really has a clue what bulb to buy these days.

Final whittery post - getting stuff off my chest.

I've always said that I like badly produced science fiction, but it seems that's changing, or rather the scifi being produced these days is missing the point.

Scifi has pretty much always been unbelievable, to a degree, which is what keeps it charming. Or it's made very believable, with full-on realism, which can make it rather slow and intellectually stimulating, if a little boring.

So. Star Wars. Space ships cannot fly between planets and attack each other like Spitfires and Messerschitts from a scene in The Battle Of Britain because the laws of physics can't be repealed and it's obvious that 2 spaceship-size objects closing together at the few hundred kilometers a second required for space travel can't then dogfight. But the charm of the movie makes us happy to suspend all worries about reality and enjoy the show, just because.

So. 2001 A Space Odyssey. A film made with incredible and entirely believable realism, set at a glacial pace (in keeping with pretty much everything Clarke wrote) and mundane with it's making fascinating things ordinary - like eating chicken sandwiches while flying across the lunar surface in a shuttle bus. And yet one comes away wondering about so many things afterward that might actually be possible in that universe.

Many recent films have been trying to blend the 2, with greater or lesser degrees of success (Avengers and Ironman did well, Thor less so).

CGI has made things worse.

I've seen 2 films recently that have convinced me CGI is not helping: Guardians Of The Galaxy and Pacific Rim.

GotG was seriously sucky, but was clearly intended to be a spoof. I've heard that some audiences stood and cheered at certain points, where a baddy was brought down, though that's hard to believe because it's all so hokey. But the super-real GCI made it feel wrong because the denial of various physical laws had become too unbelievable and it broke the acceptance of what could not be, while the story line lacked that Star Wars charm which prevented one from objecting.

Pacific Rim is an 'obvious' Boys Own fun film. I mean, giant robots fighting enormous alien monsters - what's not to like? But there's that super-real CGI thing again that makes you start asking questions instead of accepting the solutions as presented in the film (like why make man-shape robots and all the rest when you can build nuclear powered plasma cannons in smaller, armoured vehicles or aircraft etc and blast the monsters from a distance, etc etc.). I'm not one to question these things normally, but you know something has gone wrong when I DO start worrying about the faults instead of thinking about the fun and spectacle.

I'm tempted to mention the second Tron film in this, because so much of Pacific Rim felt borrowed from it (and from The Matrix) and that film felt like a transitioning point in the use of CGI, but by it's nature the unreality of that film was acceptable still, except for the idea of applications going for a drink after work. :p

Or maybe it's just poor story writing, with CGI being used to cover up the weakness? I'm still waiting for someone to film Ringworld, as an antidote to Marvell.

We don't need no, publication.

Last Friday a good friend responded to my request for an invitation onto Ello.

I've been back once since.

Just reading through comments in the Blogroll Redundant post I noticed Fern said "But, lately another trend has kicked in, as people feel really fragmented, spreading themselves too thin across too many platforms."

This is true. If there's anything worth saying then I say it through the blog. If I need to see how friends dispersed round the globe are doing then I look at facebook, and to a degree Libertree, because many of the people there have become web-friends too. Most of my friends from the second fastest declining secret forum are also Facebook users, and the SFDSF has become a place of tumbleweed and cobwebs.

Ello reminds me for all the world of Google+ when it started: new set of strangers, odd interface with clever tools that don't really make conversation easier, cool intents from the management. It doesn't have the libertard feel that, say, Diaspora had at the beginning, and I'm already asking why I would want to use it. I should spend more time in there before making a final judgement, and it may be that it will grow and become the obvious 'free' alternative to facebook it would like to, but I also keep remembering it's VC funded, and therefore there MUST be a profitable exit strategy.

Things that make me grumpy - software updates that automatically reboot.

Like Dell's back up facility. It did at least give me the option to not start the installation and then also to finish the installation, but did not include the warning that finishing would cause a reboot. At least I didn't have any unsaved changes in a document at the time, or I'd have gone from grumpy to very cross.

Last night was my last PCC meeting.

This is an unusual place to be.

When we moved to Heyford Park Chapel we took a full year of meeting with both churches, transitioning between them and adapting to the new situations we found ourselves in. The change was a seamless ramp of activity. This time it's like getting ready to emigrate, as some other friends are doing with their transition back to Africa, with a clear and absolute break point.

We talked about Christmas: the meal, the possibilities for services. There's a sense of relief that this year I'm not the one responsible for organising everything, and that I won't have to go searching for suitable music, sort catering or write a Christmas message. That sort of thing was always do-able, but always a pressure too - I'm not happy being the centre of attention like that.

It's not like we're stepping off into the unknown, yet in a way we are. Churches change, as do people, and we have all been through quite a bit separately.

While we were meeting a couple of the guys that used to be part of the music and worship side at the chapel were getting together in the main hall, singing and playing and sounding good. I'd love it if, by my stepping away, other people were able and encouraged to step up & take my place with God organising it, instead of it just being my contingency plans.

Roll on November.

p.s. I wonder if many of us from the community church we're returning to have been through a period of training in ways that we simply could not have been trained if we'd stayed put? There's others, friends, who have also been to other churches, worked with them or run around a little in a wilderness for a while, then returned.

Friday, 3 October 2014

So today is our 33rd wedding anniversary.

It was about this time on that Saturday that I drove over to Chris's family home to try and see her before the wedding: superstition said it was bad luck to see the bride on the wedding day, and I wanted to do all I could to break superstition. Plus it WAS nice to see her and anticipate what was coming later.

I won't write something gooey about love, but I'm very much looking forward to the coming years with her.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Blogroll redundant?

Not because I use a feed, but because so many of my good friends have now effectively stopped blogging. This isn't an attempt to bully people into posting, so much as an observation of change, mixed with a bit of sadness.

I've just done the Linux equivalent of Star Trek.

Although mine was more of a 90minute mission, and didn't involve killing any guys in red shirts.

I'd thought that I'd more or less got my head around the main Linux desktop environments by now. They all followed a few common themes, which had become reasonably predictable and mainstream:

KDE is windows for those who want security and freedom on their computers, without fear of infection or spyware. Distributions using KDE pretty much work out of the box, as much as Windows 8 does, and if you've used anything from Vista onward then it will feel reasonably familiar. Of all the DEs it has the most functionality baked in (open an audio CD and it will offer you the audio in several different formats and bitrates - you'll never even realise you're ripping, it's so seamless) and as a result it's a real heavyweight for a linux DE. Occasionally it will fall over, but then if you've used windows (or OSX) you know how that feels already.

Gnome 3 was a hare-brained idea to emulate iOS in Linux, and it's a fascinating experiment in how to sod up a perfectly good interface. It was so cleverly done that a couple of years later Microsoft borrowed heavily from it to create the metro/modern way of working for W8. I want to love it, but it's clunky, obstructive and a little too TOYS-R-US to really make me want to stay for long.

XFCE/LXDE - both have slightly different ways of doing things, both are super-lightweight for a modern GUI and both have strong reminders of windows XP. Linux Lite OS that I use on an old laptop (1.6GHz dual core, 1 Gb RAM) runs XFCE (if I recall correctly) and it's quick & responsive. Ironically it's not a DE that I've fallen in love with, even though it's so good, because it just feels a little clunky: just like XP does when you've been using a slick modern desktop. Definitely recommended for an older machine with limited RAM.

Ubuntu Unity seems to be a real marmite option, with most either loving or hating the odd colour scheme, launch bar on the left side by default, font choices etc. I tried it last Christmas in whatever was the current distro then, and found it buggy and a bit unstable. Ubuntu's popularity is inexplicable to me.

Cinnamon/Mate (Gnome 2 updated) is the continuation of what one might consider the classical Linux desktop by the Linux Mint group. I have 2 Mint installations with Mate and Cinnamon on this machine (using Mate right now) and visually they are the same, though I believe the significant differences are under the hood. Both are quick, neat, lighter than KDE, a little old fashioned looking and without so much built-in functionality (want to rip a CD - install a ripper). The feel is slicker than XFCE/LXDE and the interface more pleasing if your computer is less limited.

Finally there are the Rat Poison/crunchbang desktops that are practically not DEs at all, and work without a mouse, everything being driven by keyboard commands. Not my cup of char, and I stay well away.

What's new then?

Tonight I tried 3 distros on live DVD as a first look-see.

Elementary have a new version in beta, code named Freya that is rather sweet and reminded me a lot of Pear linux. As well as the OSX-style dock many of the icons and functions seemed similar and felt familiar. It was nicely responsive, looked attractive and made me want to see what the full release will be like. There's a current version, but I'd heard good things about the new beta and wanted to try it. Here's a video (there are probably lots) which gives an idea of how it looks. For me it worked without any fiddling, but I wasn't trying to use slightly fussy recording software like the reviewer in the video.

Bodhi linux uses the Enlightenment DE, and is designed to be minimalist and fast, yet interesting and attractive. There were a lot of warnings and caveats with this one, both in the instructions for download & DVD burning and then during the boot process. There also seemed to be pressure to donate with this distro that I've not felt with other linux versions.

So when offered the choice during boot I went for a desktop with more widgets. It looked pretty, but the clock was set on US central time without an obvious way to change. Then I couldn't get the network manager to work properly. Navigating the desktop was a bit different too, with an 'everything' menu launching when pressing alt-escape. It *looked* fascinating, but also felt like a desktop designed by a small group of friends to work *just for them*. Cool, neat, but I'm not part of that group.

KaOS uses the KDE desktop, but have re-worked the appearance and components to give a very clean, smooth DE that looks fresh and interesting, and different from the (often clunky) implementations of KDE that we see with Kubuntu, Mint KDE, PCLOS and even to an extent with openSUSE. All their packages are built specially for their version, and designed to work well, rather than being the very latest version available. I comes bundled with Calligra office, which seems clunky & old fashioned compared to Libreoffice, but would probably serve fine if you didn't want to install LO. I'll partition & install this to run alongside the existing Mint installations for a while to test performance & see whether it is stable and appeals longer term.

There y'go then, a little more exploration of places unknown. That was quite fun.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

I seem to be producing a lot of images in monochrome.

But that doesn't mean everything is black and white.

Ever have a run-away day?

Not a day that gets out of hand, though I've had a few of those, but a day where you really just want to run away, and everything feels like it's too much to cope with.

I've coped with far higher workloads, enormously more stress & pressure. Sometimes though it just feels a bit overwhelming. I've come to the conclusion that work and mental exercise is very much like physical exercise, and sometimes there's a pain barrier to push through, in order to keep going. Last night I managed 2.8 miles of slow running (about 10min/mile, which is pretty pathetic, though livable for someone >50 who isn't a runner) and there was a pain barrier overcome. Today I'm faced with various tasks, and it quite literally causes internal pain to overcome my weakness and lack of drive, feelings of inadequacy and lack of ability.

But sitting around self-entertaining will do no-one any good. Need to press on.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

So today I went hunting.

We have a walk-in storage space under the stairs, which is neither large nor grand, but it IS useful.

And used.

It's floor to ceiling with 'stuff'.

I was looking for some picture frames that had been donated sometime in the last 25 years (probably in the 90s) and although I knew roughly where they were, because of the sheer quantity of things in there I had to 2/3 empty it before they could be accessed. This wasn't a bad idea anyway, because the last time everything came out was about 18 months ago, and the front area, where tools and electrical items that are needed regularly get stored had become a mess.

This will sound funny, but I get really down, depressed, when I see how much stuff I own.

It feels like I've passed that peak, where it's so good to accumulate (actually it went by a while back) and now I like things to use, but not things to just 'own'. I've always been a bit like that (you won't find any nicnacs in out house* - I loathe them, and they're too much work for Chris) but there was a time when just owning something felt good. That time is well past, and now if it doesn't serve some practical function then it no longer warrants the space it occupies.

It would be very easy to get rid of all the junk.

It would be a terrible thing to get rid of all this useful stuff.

Some things, like the burned out computer power supply that was stored so I could raid it for components sometime has been thrown. Likewise the last bathroom fan heater that I kept 'in case I could find a way into the sealed case' to repair has gone. I have a lot of radio controlled aeromodelling stuff in there, 3 camera bags including my Bronica ETR outfit (and a horrible Practika outfit belonging to a friend, who kind of dumped it here - he also owns one of the planes in that cupboard).  There's 3 decent size combo amps and a tower of 1X12 cabs and speakers, a couple of guitars (some in bits) and the boxes for the Roland guitar synth plus other processors. There's a large pile of (good, useful) tools including several drills, belt & orbital sanders, electric and hand planes, heat guns, soldering irons, jigsaws (the circular saw is in the shed). Right at the front is the vacuum cleaner. :-)

I could go on.

It's all away again now, and that leaves me feeling happier. It just seems wrong to own so much when there are so many poor people.

*re-reading this, I realise I do have things that are meaningful to me from times past. There's a tiny magnifying glass with a silver frame that has been 'mine' since I was a boy, along with a couple of old toy cannons. There's a brass 'tortoise' desk ornament my mother gave to me 20+ years ago. Probably a few other similar bits. They all sit there, tucked away, brought out occasionally. Maybe it's self-justification, but they seem different from just having 'stuff' on display because of the meaning they possess.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

If anyone wonders what I've been photographing recently.

 In date order - a couple from Stowe gardens.

A couple from Canons Ashby on Sunday.

And a couple from Somerton.

 I apologise if they're a bit big, but most of them were sized for Facebook optimal resolution.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Time to try Linux Mint - Cinnamon edition.

Having done the Mate option (and very good it is too, if old-looking).

Friday, 19 September 2014

Back to trying more OSs for the next build.

Our main PC stopped working a few months back, and on Monday night/Tuesday morning I built me of our son's cast-off PC parts (not fast enough for gaming, faster than what I had before) into the old PC case, then tried to get it working.

The 2 hard drives that both had Windows 8 installed worked, one more evenually than the other, and both required re-activation due to be placed in new hardware arrangements. The openSUSE Linux disc also kinda worked, but couldn't see the network or the internet. Not a winner. I tried installing on top to repair the old install, and that finished around 3.30am after a couple of hours downloading updates etc. The install medium could access the internet, but the final installed version refused. Bums.

So having installed an evaluation version of that same openSUSE Linux on the old 256GB disc tht had one of the versions of W8, I was reminded of some of the more irritating aspects of that OS. Frustratingly, it failed to find the NAS that was on the network, and generally behaved as though the network didn't really exist - I've never seen a Linux OS manage a connection when the network manager is off and there's no network connection listed - even though firefox and YAST were happily talking to the internet. I was probably doing something dumb, but this isn't rocket science, and I've set up network connections often enough before.

Digging through my stack of previously used distros I came across several for Pear Linux. Pear 8 was the last of the pearversions, and it's as slick and polished as anything that came out of Cupertino. And very dead, because the guy who created Pear Linux shut down when he was bought out and hired by another company. There are no updates available, not even for the Ubuntu OS under the Pear desktop. Dead end.

Pear 7 was much less pleasing, and generally a bit messy compared to 8 (IIRC 6 was better than 7) and although there WERE a few updates from Ubuntu repos and even a couple of pear updates lurking online, it wasn't enough to have any kind of future.

So Pear is dead, for now.

Also in the disc box was a copy of Fedora 20 Gnome (still current) and Mint 17 Mate edition (sounds like a condom).

Fedora got put aside fairly quickly. I've tried it several times: it always seems like a great idea, looks good, Gnome behaving in the way Gnome does, which is workable if you don't mind thinking outside the box a little.But then there's always the problem of finding repos with codecs that will install properly, printer drivers and software addins that work the way I want. So back in the box it went.

Leaving Mint Mate.

Mate was intended as a replacement for the old Gnome 2 desktop environment that was ditched by Gnome developers, and that Linux luddites everywhere mourned over. Icons are  crude and use simpe primary colours, menus aren't slick, but instead are large and coarsely populated. But OTOH it works fine. Including downloading updates, it took about 25min to install from DVD. It recognised the NAS, found drivers for the Samsung 1210 mono laser printer (really handy for music for church, Christmas fliers etc) and was ready for work very promptly. Given the pedestrian and aged nature of the hard drive it's running off, I was quite impressed with how snappy it is. I've not doe the DVD playback test yet, but have no reason to believe the people at Mint won't have sorted that aspect too.

So I'm a lttle torn at the moment.

I could carry on with Mint Mate for a bit (and probably will) or I coul install Linux Lite OS like I have on the little laptop (lightning quick, lacks finesse and some of the tools I like) openSUSE could be used again, though I'd like a change, or I could try Mint KDE, although that has always lacked the polish of other KDE-native distros.

So we'll have some wait-and-see pudding, but I'd just like something solid that won't break with every other update and that I can keep using for a year or more without trouble. I don't actually *like* having to rebuild every few weeks any more.

By the grace of God, the Union remains.

I think we have been given a chance, and as a people have been spared much hardship. Hopefully this won't go round and round, the same question being asked repeatedly until the required answer is given, unlike another vote I can think of recently.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Bloomin' computers (mutters under breath).

Facebook friends will know Ben passed on his old motherboard, processor, memory & power supply so I could build a new base unit for use in the living room. Since my last (free) PC base unit died I've been using the little Philips laptop that I bought cheap in the spring last year as a 'disposable' to take to Africa. It's been sat on the desk with a big mess of wires as a 'quick fix' for a problem thet never got fixed. The little lappy did well considering it's probably 9 years old and was running 1.6GHz/2GB memory, but it was slow for web work.

But the course of new love never runs smoothly. So Moday night I bolted the new bits into the old case, whacked in the drives, spent a couple of hours cleaning up & recabling (much better by the way) and then hit 'go'.

First up was an old 256GB seagate drive with windows 8, and it chundered away for 10min in the new hardware before reaching desktop. OK, but it wanted activation, and of course it won't recignise the old sound card either. Then came the drive (called FAT Store) that had Windows 8.1, and the boot time was much shorter, but had the exact same issues. Finally I went with the drive that had openSUSE and much of my data, and this booted best of all. But alas, it refused to recognise the network hardware, and even using the original openSUSE disc to reinstall over the top (took more than 2 hours of downloading the latest updates :-( ) would not get it working. GRRRRR.

Last night I installed a copy of the now defunct Pear Linux 8.0 on the W8.0 drive, and it whizzed on, working nicely but refusing to update at all because Pear is now closed, David Tavares the developer having been 'bought out'. I'd hope that because it was based on Ubuntu there might still be common updates, but not a chance. Shame really, as it was nice, but when the crowd funding effort failed (wanted to raise 100,000 euro if I remember correctly) the writing was probably on the wall. Would have been nice too, as a reminder of how OSX could have been if done right.

So on went openSUSE 13.1, and that worked fine except there was no audio. I had also changed the wiring on the amplifier I use, so that might be the cause, but to change it back is going to be faffy.

So I guess that there's still work to be done. Ho hum.

Anyone know of any nice new distros that I really should evaluate instead of using openSUSE?

I'm a engineer.

Yeah, but I'm a scientist, right?

A few weeks back I took one of those Facebook tests that promises to tell what kind of job you should have, and without a great deal of surprise it gave me Engineer. I was reminded just now when putting the milk bottle back in the fridge at coffee time, where it was instinctive to place it as close to the door hinges as possible because doing so would reduce the strain on the hinges and prolong the life of the door.

This is how I see pretty much EVERYTHING around me. At times I've wondered if I'm CDO (I wonder who will & won't get that?) to require the cutlery to be stacked in the dishwasher in a specific order (knives nearest the door, then forks, then large spoons, then teaspoons) and slightly off my head. The reality is that the end containers in the cutlery holder have more and larger spaces, so we always have more teaspoons and knives than other implements, plus paring knives have deeper blades and need a larger slot than other implements - an OBVIOUS engineering solution to the problem of sorting cutlery.

EVERYWHERE I see patterns and behaviour in this way.

It used to make me cross that people wouldn't do things 'properly', never realising that they hadn't a clue that there could be a logic and order for tasks. At work they often seemed to be doing the equivalent of coming home drunk and dropping their clothes randomly through the house on their way to bed, rather than working to a plan or understanding the task they were expected to complete. This may may seem crazy to some, but it has enabled me to train those who worked for me to see patterns and reasons for working in particular ways, and many have been able to build on that themselves and gone on to senior jobs and good careers.

So I'm an engineer, with that kind of approach. That calls for much patience on all sides.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

What everyone is talking about.

Is the imminent possible sundering of Great Britain - rarely has a political flap caused so much debate among all & sundry.

There have been comparisons between the present situation with Scotland having their referendum for independence and the French speaking Canadians with their (unsuccessful) bid for separation. There was a Canadian chap speaking on the radio about how the rest of Canada did an 'I love you' campaign to ask them to remain, but the chances of that happening here are zero. Most English and Northern Irish (heard nothing from any Welsh) fed up with the character of the whinging Scot that's been forced on the country, wishing it was over and they had gone already. And if the vote had been put to the whole of Britain (as it should have been, since everyone here is affected) then independence would be guaranteed.

At times like this I'm aware of my non-British heritage and don't feel anything like the same attachments as many obviously do. But I am aware of the undercurrents - I might even say spirits - at work in this situation, and the feelings of anger, betrayal, mistrust and even hatred they are provoking.

It's easy to see how, with a charismatic leader and disillusioned population, Germany could be whipped up in the way it was before WW2. The likely political landscape of an independent Scotland would also be one of national socialism, which ougyht to make a few twitch a little too. Yes voters are being presented as True Scots in the independence campaign, and unionists as traitors, and feelings are running high. The 'better together' campaign is, by comparison, a bit wet, negative and almost totally lacking the same fire or zeal for reasons that are obvious. Divisions are becoming deepened, and I'm seriously concerned for the future of those north of the border, regardless of which way the vote goes, because almost half the population will be feeling angry and disenfranchised, whichever way it pans out.

So where ever you are, please pray for this little island and its future. There's a lot at stake for a lot of people right across Europe and, what ever happens, life isn't going to be the same as it was. These are momentous times, and yet they are just slipping past.

Monday, 15 September 2014

My dear friend - I will miss you.

But now I'm stepping back from up-front ministry, maybe I can start to be a bit more outrageous to make up. ;-)

More words? That helps how?

I may have mentioned already my relative negativity over books by US authors being verbose. I found someone on a forum ranting about how the New Testament was really written in Hebrew and not Greek plus a bunch of other stuff including talking about how the bible was confusing and people couldn't find the truth so would read lots of versions. He then quoted lots of passages from the King James version. There was no real clue what he was trying to say.

It's kind of funny, really.

Made me decide to go look up a few scriptures I'd remembered from a while back.

Ecclesiates 5 v7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.

Proverbs 17 v27 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.

Ecclesiastes 6 v11 The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone? 

I guess the word 'exhaustive' doesn't work for me - it's just too darn tiring. The word 'helpful' does though, and it encourages me and makes me want to live and do well.

 Marc - that Dallas Willard quote has sharpened my awareness of this, though I regret saying anything on your blog now, because that obviously works for you guys. Sometimes it just feels like "my utmost for His highest" really means " I must strain harder and harder in the hope that I might be worthy", and the grace element of salvation gets left behind as being an endorsement of ordinariness.

Or maybe I'm just getting old and slow, with a 5sec attention span.  

I'm still trying to condense John Bevere's "The Bait Of Satan" down into something that can be used as a church study series over about 6-7 weeks in a housegroup. The condensing isn't too bad really, but I'm just struggling with the sheer volume of words. It's ironic too, that reading a book about dealing with offence, I struggle not to be offended by the sheer self-promotion of it all. It doesn't help making the narrative pivot on very specific and carefully selected wording from specific translations, which feels dishonest to me, and failing to deal with, quite literally, life & death questions.

Certainly worth a read - there are some really good things in there - but despite testimonies before every chapter telling otherwise, so easy to put down and so hard to pick up again.

Today is not a good day to think differently in Russia.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Break taboos?

There's a taboo that's grown in British society, and last night I carefully, gently broke it.

Yesterday evening was the licensing and installation of a new team vicar for Cherwell valley benefice, bringing the ministry team up to 2 people. For various reasons Chris and I were organising the car parking, she in the field where visitors were to go and me standing guard at Lower Heyford village green to prevent cars filling up and blocking Church lane, inconveniencing the village residents.

Just after I got there, a girl of about 10 or 11 came out the the door to The Bell pub and was playing on the steps. She was aware of me, and when I kicked a stone (bored, waiting) she started kicking stones too. We got talking, then exchanged names, talked about favourite colours, school (being back, what she liked etc). When Abby found out my favourite colour she disappeared off behind a car, then came back a moment later with a balloon that colour, which she gave to me. Her little sister came out and wanted the balloon, so I passed that over & she promptly then blew up her one other balloon and gave that to me to make up! She was a lovely, open, generous, articulate and friendly child.

Eventually her mum came out with 2 other children in tow and took her off in a car.

The thing is, in Britain it has become almost verboten for an older male on their own to talk with children. There is such an atmosphere of fear about sexual abuse, abduction, of being accused of such things, of taking photographs for nefarious purposes that it *feels* like there is a state of siege on relationships outside the immediate family unit or school. I wondered a little about Jesus at the well with the Samarian woman: how would his conversation have been seen?

Societies seem to work like the adage about crabs in a bucket, and if anyone tries to climb out the rest work together to pull that one back down. It would be terrible to think that she might be abducted by a stranger, but should that fear create a taboo that made her assume all adults she didn't know were predatory. This also makes me wonder what we are telling our children to believe about other people generally? It *FEELS* like this society lives in fear, that every person is guilty until proven innocent and that invisible barriers have been raised between children and everyone else.

I hope that through her life she will find people who are caring, gentle, whose company she can enjoy and who have good motives, just as I often did while growing up. Yes, there will be some who are very unpleasant, and I also hope she will avoid them just as I seemed to.

I hope and pray this is not a taboo that becomes entrenched.

Where to next?

Chris's plan is for Croatia next year, not least so we can visit the guys at Novimost in Bosnia Herzegoniva, and that's probably what we'll do. Unless any of our Canadian friends have plans for 2015 that might dictate otherwise......?

However I've just seen a picture of another fort in India on G+ (I do visit the wastelands occasionally) and would really like to go back. Not sure when we'll manage it, if at all, though 2016 sounds like a good idea. IF we do, then a self-crafted trip is likely to ensue, scary as it may be. A couple of friends our age went backpacking round India last year and coped fine, so if they can, we can. Probably.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

So that's official, like.

That probably makes as much sense to our Canadian friends as the phrase 'Canada eh?*' does to a Brit.

So after all the talk of transition and being uncertain about the future, it's now public that we are moving churches, feeling called to return to Bicester Community Church from Heyford Park Chapel.

Sometimes I wish it could be done simply, just tell a few key people and migrate. But it's important to do this well, not least because it's important to break the pattern established by so many before us and provide an example of leaving well. We've not fallen out with anyone, we're not offended or moping or running away and we are leaving with the blessing and release of the church.

I also have hope and expectation that people are going to step up, that we aren't just abandoning them and leaving gaps that can't be filled. There are people I can see that will be able to step up and take our places - exactly how it should be - and the church will continue to grow, very much business as usual.

It's also my hope that those who felt they couldn't be a part of HPC because we were there - because I was there - might feel able to come back again. The church will be different under Stephen Griffiths, and that's a good thing, because he's the man God has called to lead and take responsibility for it. He has a different outlook, different theology in some areas, and is much more at home within a church of England structure than we could ever be. He'll make mistakes, but they will be his, rather than having to live with ours while we're around.

So off we go. A new beginning with some old friends and some new ones. Hopefully a time of healing, restoration, re-catching a vision, restoration of faith and expectation.

*Canada eh? - I never heard a single Canadian say this in the 2 weeks we were there EXCEPT when we asked about the phrase. For sure.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

If your eye would lead you to hell, would you pluck it out?

That's all well and good, but what if it were social media?

So 3.30am found me going to bed after surfing into the wee hours. I wasn't surfing anywhere really bad, but it also wasn't good, not going to build a man up to walk well before God either. I have a love-hate with the internet very often, and know that it actively tries - sometimes succeeding - to take over my life.

It's all too useful. Keeps me in touch with distant friends, and that's pretty much the SOLE reason I have a facebook account, for the few people who are important but would never contact direct. And the forums are fantastic sources of information, learning, even relationship & support sometimes. Sometimes.

So it's a little bit like that question.

I know 'plucking it out' will be inconvenient, possibly a bit painful in some ways (though a lot less than losing an eye!) and it will definitely narrow my field of view. So I don't do it, and the things remains, a little snare hidden in full view. And if facebook and the few forums I still use go, what will I replace them with? A sudden new-found desire for prayer & solitude? A re-kindled desire to blog more likely (:p) . Another hobby/centre of fascination/topic of interest?

I need to change.

There's not an enormous amount of faith that might happen right now. Things have genuinely been different since our holiday, partly because decisions have been taken and choices made, and God's been around and brought some hope & renewal. But. But. (By the way, I DON'T like big butts - yeah, the sense of humour is unredeemed still too) so much of the life and hope and expectation of the goodness of God seems to have been sucked out in 2014. I KNOW God is good, and righteous and loving and cares for me. No doubt. But.

There's a hymn that I may have blogged about before, that contains a line that talks about no longer dreading the fires of unexpected sorrow, yet my experience is that being a Christian does not prevent one from experiencing that fire. And I don't seem to be walking in a faith that would cope well with that scenario right now, having been dangled over that particular precipice in the last couple of days.

So there is hope and a future in progress, despite my miserable ramblings here, but it's a future hope, rather than a here-and-now hope, and I'm hanging on until it becomes a bit more here and now.

So the question is, can social media be allowed to continue to have a place in my life? The easy answer, in some ways, is to make the same choice I did over TV and simply say a firm NO: a choice I never regretted. The only thing really making me hold on is that this would mean detaching from so many people, but is that connection more important than living well, since I don't seem able to exercise sufficient self control? I don't yet know.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Hello Sunday morning.

Yesterday, thanks to the efforts of my brother and sister-in-law we met up with a bunch of people who had been (and still were in some cases) involved in the church we were part of before we married (marriage was a break-point, and we moved on straight afterward). Some had changed no more than 30+ years required, while I would never have recognised another, even if we'd been introduced in the street as having previously been friends, but had not been given names.

So here I am again, having sorted through and printed music, put the song list and liturgy together for projection, updated the powerpoint show for this weeks events, made breakfast and showered. I'm wondering what the future holds, what will happen and where we'll be 12 months from now. My *expectation* is that I shall not live another 30+ years, and I'm fine with that: dotage and the 'reeds and pipes' (not to mention the crippling infirmities) of extreme old age hold no attraction for me.

Melancholy? Yup.

Thoughtful? A little.

I miss the energy, the confidence, the assurance of youth. It feels like my eyes have slipped off the objective, and now I'm just drifting through, reacting to situations as they arise because they need to be dealt with. There's stuff to work through in the near future, some of which is fine & some I'm not looking forward to at all. God is present in all this, so...... Well, we'll have to wait & see.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The British on holiday

So we went to Weston Super Mare last weekend (as some will know from facebook) which turned out to be a nice traditional British seaside town full of traditional British holiday-type things. We may well go back sometime.

Inevitably I took the camera (my mistress, as Chris calls it) and managed a few pics in the first couple of hours. I've processed them as monochrome, which is a bit like using instagram, but less chavvy and more pretentious. ;-)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

To comment or not comment? Mark Driscoll

I don't actually want to comment on him personally - I don't really know the man at all, and have only heard snatches of things he's said or written. Many of them have seemed good & right to me, and he seemed a man who would stand up for biblical principles, sound teaching and a man on fire to see the kingdom of God built where ever he could.

Now it seems he's had feet of clay a long time, apparently hidden in cool trainers.

I wonder if this 'fall' (though as far as I know there's no specific fall, other than a long history of character flaws that haven't been addressed that have become public) was almost inevitable. There seems an almost impossible balance every church leader has to maintain:

Adherence to an orthodox faith, yet with an inclusive theology.
Determination to continue against all hell may throw at them, yet a soft and gentle way with those in the congregation who throw things.
An unstinting giving of oneself to the work, and an ability to say NO in order to keep one's marriage and family together.

The list could be longer.

Over the years I've known a lot of guys in leadership. Some very few have not been good, many have been incredible. Some I've pedestalled for sure, and some of those have come of their pedestal later when I've seen a bit more inside their heads (warning - facebook can completely uncover you, magnify your weaknesses while masking your strengths).

What's this about?

We've made our church leaders into people who cannot, must not fail, and as leaders we've bought into the myth often enough too, to sometimes kid ourselves. I can see where this has come from, historically speaking, and it makes me wonder if the next part of restoring the church needs to be the restoration of the leader as a brother in Christ, instead of the guy on a pedestal who cannot fail in anything more than a minor way without the world crashing down.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Wasn't really happy with yesterday's pic

Went back this morning in wellies to re-shoot.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The depressive comedian.

Inevitably the death of Robin Williams has provoked all kinds of comment, from those who knew him or felt they did lamenting his death through to lots of publicity for and talk about depression. But when I read this article on the BBC website it rang a few bells for me.

As a small child I was happy, but can recall having periods at junior school which I would now recognise as depression, and this increased into my teenage years, culminating in a strong desire at 16 to kill myself. It was at this age that I became a Christian, and it took a year of gradual healing before I was reasonably recovered. Then came Chris, marriage, children and the rest, as they say, is history.

Except history is still being written.

I had long been a happy character, mostly outgoing, often inclined to make people laugh (at one stage I was told that humour was inappropriate in serious work situations). Then we moved churches and within a year I found depression had returned. Not that it has been able to suck me in and swallow me - I could fight - but what I'd thought was in the past suddenly became very present, and has ebbed and flowed for me to a degree right till now. I've changed in other ways too, going from distinctly acquiring energy from being in company to needing my own quiet space to recharge, even to the point of putting earphones in to watch a movie on the laptop. Not completely ideal - I've just realised that I'm deliberately shutting everyone out, as I write this - and will need to deal with it.

There was a bit from that article that - to a degree - made me think "that's like me":

"We found that comedians had a rather unusual personality profile, which was rather contradictory," Prof Claridge says.
"On the one hand, they were rather introverted, depressive, rather schizoid, you might say. And on the other hand, they were rather extroverted and manic. 

Maybe it was the grace of God that kept me from depression until recently?  Some areas of my life have certainly not been either easy, nor had the foundations of conventional life that provide stability for most people in the last few years. I do know depression is not an unbeatable monster, but rather an ugly set of lies that will come and deny the truth to my feelings. The best defence for me is the truth, knowing who I am, both in Jesus and in my own self, and having a loving wife does no harm either.

And I do still have a (subdued) sense of inappropriate humour.

This isn't meant to be a sob-story, but it's altogether too easy to look at people like Williams, maybe even like me, and think "they couldn't possibly understand how I feel".

Monday, 11 August 2014

Storm's a comin'.

Yesterday, down in the fields.

Monday, 4 August 2014

So I stumped up 30 bucks for hosting my images.

I've been using a free Photobucket account since Feb 2005, and it's been a good experience until the last couple of years with advertising increasingly being intrusive and sometimes even inappropriate (hot mature singles looking for meetings without committment? Really?). I had a warning message a couple of months back that I was up to 8Gb on my account limit of 10Gb (that's a total transfer of 10Gb, ever, rather than 10Gb/month/year) but not worried, only to find that posting my recent holiday pics had carried me way over.

I can't really complain.

9 years of free image serving is pretty good, but the upgrade options were disappointing. I don't want more space, but I would like more bandwidth. I like the idea of the site being advert-free for me, but I'd like it to be advert free for EVERYONE that visits my pages - this is why I have stopped linking to galleries from the blog.

My initial reaction to the images not being served was 'well stuff you then' which was more than a little churlish considering the excellent 'free' service I'd had, and some thought fairly quickly changed that. I'd quite like to get a proper photo site going from where I can sell prints* & usage rights, but that requires investment and great design skills to be effective. I've also been looking at paid accounts 500px and Flickr, but both seem clunky and Flickr is STILL painfully slow based on performance of other photographers images I've seen hosted, even though some do make sales through that site regularly. Flickr also discontinued their 'pro' account for new signups, or so I've been told, with the new equivalent not being anything like as useful.

So PB will continue for another year, but I shall be looking to move my hosting elsewhere over the next 12 months.

* It occurred to me the other day that landscape images are like other people's children - you look at them, make admiring noises and say how beautiful they are, but no-one actually wants to take them home. Or maybe that's just me. ;-)

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Highest temperature in this office yesterday.

was 29 degrees centigrade, according to the (uncalibrated) max-min thermometer I have by my workstation.

I'm trying to get myself into a frame of work-focussed mind, with a need to write a document instructing someone in another company with different ways of working to test samples on an instrument I've not used since the mid 2000s, and in a way that complies with current international quality standards. My mind's not really interested, and would rather work on image processing etc. After a holiday this kind of tussle is quite normal, but there's usually someone driving me to 'get fit' for work again, sometimes even myself.

Right now it's already a slightly sticky 27 degrees and climbing. The sun comes in through the window directly behind me until midday, and although the vertyical blinds are closed and windows open, fan on to move air around, it still feels too hot.

In other news, Ben made it back safely last night, around 9.30pm, from his tour of Europe.

He's had some interesting times, including riding after a full day at work across to the ferry in the rain, the riding from Calais through more rain, up through France and Belgium, unable to find a room for the night until stopping at 5.30am for a couple of hours sleep under a porch. Losing a wallet while travelling was also not so good, and that caused not a little inconvenience and extra delays/mileage. But he seems healthy, happy and is not visibly damaged, and we're glad to have him bad for another few months.

Life here is 'pending' right now: so many 'what next' questions. At the same time, things ARE different to how they were before our trip, though it's early days to say how, exactly. There's also a choice as to how different and in what ways, for us to make - I hope we're making good choices.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Trouble oop mill.

Was a cliche. So may be these.

A couple of shots of the old mill at Chipping Norton on our way out. I'm trying to learn not to 'over-cook' skies in image processing, and have to fight the temptation to make everything bolder than everything else in my desire for a really strong image.

We have a few images on their way from a printer called Snapmad, enlarged as canvases. Despite the name, they've done some really good work for me, and the prices are more than competitive. There has been a minor hiccup, with colour space handling problems on output from Lightroom, but running the images through GIMP seems to fix that, though I've no idea why exactly. Images saved on the Mac were perfect too, so it seems a windows-related issue.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

For those that blog

Do you ever look at previous posts and think "Cor, I wrote some pretentious old tosh"?

Friday, 25 July 2014

There will come a time.

.... soon when I can talk a bit more openly, but it seems that the way ahead is becoming clearer, we are growing in faith that we have made the right choice and that there is a place for us.

Why is sexual orientation such a big deal?

After returning from Canada, it feels like the issue of sexual orientation is being pushed in my face more and more. Sorry for the visual pun I've deliberately tried to create in your mind, but it should be good for grabbing attention.

This has come through both 'Christian' and non-christian channels.

The first meaningful intrusion was through Premier Christianity Magazine (formerly just Christianity magazine) that I've mentioned before, where the Evangelical Alliance had removed Steve Chalke's Oasis trust from membership. Oasis had taken a line that accepted same-sex marriage and affirmed relationships of any sexual orientation "within faithful, lifelong, monogamous relationships" (their words - I notice that might not include marriage). The Evangelical Alliance, while far from a conservative or theologically conservative group, have drawn a line in the sand - far braver than the Baptist Union, who, while not openly endorsing gay marriage, have produced a form of service for Baptist pastors wishing to marry same-sex couples. I applaud EA for this stance, and having the courage to actually DO something counter-cultural.

The magazine article was viewing this as one of the dividing line between evangelicalism and liberal theology, and I am inclined to agree with them here. While I can see one might be carried along by a love and concern for the lost and feel one's heart breaking for those trying to find love in same-sex relationships, there is a significant abandonning of the heart of the scriptures required to embrace homosexual practice. However one of the contentions, and the reason for my original title, is that for a long time many Christians and church streams have turned a blind eye to heterosexual practice outside of marriage, to the point that with some streams and countries, protesting about homosexuality is un-ashamed hypocrisy.

Enough of reality.

I picked out some science fiction to take with me on holiday, but didn't actually get around to reading it until after we got back. That first week at home was a mixture of wonderful (no responsibilities in church to prep for other than lead worship the following Sunday, so plenty of time to be 'us') and the terrible, where I could not sleep most nights and wanted to cough. The 3 books I'd chosen were: Dominic Greene's Small World, Mark E Cooper's Hard Duty, and an older, free on kindle copy of Lightspeed Magazine.

Hard duty was classic space opera, and a late 20th century-style take on an EE 'Doc' Smith novel, though none the worse for that. Interestingly for the purposes of this piece, the heroin is a 'believer in God' but without any reluctance over casual sex (mentioned, never described).

Greene's Small World is meant to be a comedy, and indeed it is, though with its take on religions it would likely upset those with affection for traditional symbolism or modern churchianity. However quite early on there is mention of a law requiring 25% of the crew of a space ship to be homosexual following government regulations. This is obviously intended as the entry point for poking fun at large and hypocritical government in general and sexual preference doesn't get a mention anywhere else in the book, but it was a curious place to bring it up at all.

And then finally, the first short story (A Separate War by Joe Haldeman) from Lightspeed moves humanity forward to the 25th century where heterosexuality is effectively outlawed and homosexuality compulsory in order to balance population and to keep the masses quiet and peaceful. The story does a bit of an "isn't the way we are now good really, even if it's odd and old fashioned" glance back over its shoulder at the end.

In both the last 2 books there is an automatic assumption that sexuality is going to be a) directed by government, and b) increasing homosexual in nature. Neither of these stories were new, with Small World written in '99 and A Separate War prior to 2012. I've been aware of an increasingly vocal but extremely tiny minority of the population shouting about themselves for many years, but haven't engaged with modern SciFi writers to see what they thought of it.

I wonder if, since humanity seems to go through cycles of cultural behaviour, the present trend of people being defined by their sexuality is preceding another crash of civilisation while God takes us back round the learning loop again? How should that make me live as a Christian?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The joy of the guitar riff

Was a BBC program you can catch up with here for a few more days.

I did something unusual for me and watched it to unwind the other evening - it is almost unknown for me to watch TV, even through iPlayer. Chris was in the room at the same time, and we got talking about guitar music and riffs, how they make you feel excited, energised, a little bit naughty and rebellious. That may be good or bad (or both) depending on theology and world-view.

Then it got to the Smiths and Johnny Marr.

They talked about how he refused to listen or be influenced by metal or rock, returning to a clean, bright tone (I know he also tuned guitars above concert pitch to make them sparkle and discourage string bends). After hearing him play a bit, Chris made the observation that he deliberately took away all the things that made guitar sound good, exciting and fun, then used what was left. That pretty much covered it. For those who care, there was also an amusing bit where they were talking about Rickenbacker jangle while the guitar actually played was a telecaster, but I guess it's hard to find music journos with a background in music.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Apparently I astound.

With my weirdness. According to Chris. I continuously surprise her with my hitherto unimagined ways.

Comment resulted from seeing I'd taken a picture of a steel washbasin on Granville Island.