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.

Well, I finally finished processing images yesterday.

We've made our selection for printing (152, down from 1935 of mine and 270+ of Chris's) and soon I hope to get some on-line galleries up. Her initial comment was that she'd like to print all 530 shortlisted imnages!

Working through them again I kept seeing mistakes, some of which could be rectified by careful processing, while those cropped a little too tight couldn't be saved at all. Using Adobe Lightroom has made the processing quicker in some ways, but by providing more tools it has also encouraged more manipulation which has the effect of slowing things further. I've deliberately not worked on the 'best' images more than necessary because I just wanted them done good enough for 6X4 prints and low res web work.

I really appreciated the tools in lightroom that enabled identification and selection of specific images for printing and upload, and it's made the whole affair enormously easier than trying to process in one package, then shuffle copies the actual post-processed images around in order to ID selected images. Last time we ended up writing file numbers in notebooks (that got lost) and still managed to miss some pictures. It's so much less stressful when the images are stored in a single database along with all processing information.

The techie bit.

For those interested, this experience has really brought home to me how much better it is to process RAW data files than .jpeg images. With RAW output from the Sony and careful exposure it was almost always possible to retain data in clouds, flowing water etc (though not in chrome parts on cars) and pull detail from shadows. By comparison the .jpeg files from the Panasonic almost always had blown highlights and muddy shadows, and any kind of image recovery resulted in colour noise and detail blocking up. Noise reduction just made loss of detail worse. On top of that I was surprised at how much colour correction was necessary for the Panasonic. Files from the sony still needed correction, but it was *usually* a tiny amount, where the camera was being fooled by large areas of a single shade.

This very much reminds me of why I've abandoned using the old Samsung compact - image processing was always damage limitation and control for anything above websize.

Marc - you were asking about Lightroom on the MBA. Adobe have a free 30 day trial, and I'd definitely recommend giving it a go. Then wait & see if they have any 'very special' offers like they did last Christmas.

Did an image ever speak to you?

This one did to me, even though it's one of my own:

I've called it The Pastor, and I wonder if everyone who has ever had any kind of pastoral ministry would recognise themselves in it? You know sometimes that rock will be sticking out, other times it will be buried below the water that's rushing over it. Most of the time it will just be there, whatever swirls around it, being worn down a bit here, maybe smoothed a little there.

Then one spring you may go back again and find it's gone, washed by a greater force to reappear somewhere else.

In the warmth of a day like today it's hard to imagine being immersed in meltwater, rushing down from a mountain. That morning in Banff was also very warm, but while the water looked inviting, it was incredibly cold and fast flowing, and wisdom dictated staying out of it.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Vancouver is also known as Raincover apparently. Wonder why?

These were all taken on our first walk around the city while fighting to stay awake so we coule adjust our sleep patterns. And now bed for me, since thats just what I'm doing again.

Monday, 14 July 2014

At some stage I plan to write things up.

But it might not actually happen.


Had a bizarre thing that started just a few minutes into the flight home, where the slightest movement of my head made me feel out of control and dizzy, and at the same time I broke out into a clammy sweat and felt queasy: Chris said I went an odd colour. Pretty sure it was pressure changes, and I'd been having occasional wobbly moments throughout our time away, but it *felt* like it might be the start of food poisoning. After an hour or so everything settled down and I was OK for the rest of the trip.

Another curious thing was that, unlike when we've done North America to arrive early in UK in the past, there was no night-phase to the trip. The plane went pretty much over the pole, resulting in a flight through endless daylight and a reduction in a desire to catch sleep.

Getting back was good, since here is where home is. The smell of a land long lived in, driving a car with a manual gearbox (oh the joy of a direct connection between engine and wheels) road signs as one expects them, glorious countryside, gentle sun and cool breezes.

And finally getting home went fine. When we opened the front door our poor old house ponged to high heaven downstairs, and getting the windows open and rubbish outside became a matter of urgency. We managed to put a wash on, have a nap, then I got shopping in - life is going back to normal pretty quickly then. But at this point I'm determined not to go back to how things were before we went away - maybe more later on that. We did have a great time away, but more than that, I think we have more clarity on how to move in our situation here, even if there isn't a specific direction yet to move in.

So here we are, back in the land of the overcast sky, but not quite the same as before we left.

Waiting for the bags

Good old Gatport Airwick. Never been through passport control so fast before.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

This man isn't Moses

I believe this to be true because he told me so just now.

But he's shown me Jesus over the last few days in a way that's brought refreshing and, if not a specific way ahead, a chance to think through things and to seek a way forward in a better way than I would otherwise. Randall and Lauralea have welcomed us into our home and spent precious time with us, and I'm honoured they would value us to do it. Tomorrow morning we leave and fly home again.

We've known each other for a long time now, and I am grateful for that knowing.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Sat in a quiet house in a field

It's a hot afternoon outside - probably 28'C - and we've been out, had brunch, then wandered round Ponoka, picking up goodies in thrift stores. Now we're back to nap & relax for the rest of the afternoon before I start dinner (as promised).

We have a big decision to make when we get back, and I really don't know which way it will go: do we take the path of struggle and being discouraged or do we take the path that has been life and encouragement.

Monday, 7 July 2014

So we are sat.

.......outside a house in a field. Travelling time was a little shorter than previous experience led us to expect and I've been able to hop on our gracious hosts wireless connection.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

The curiously named lake Minnewanka.

Canadians don't double entendre by halves, and this place is right by Johnson and Two Jack.

Pun aside, it's beautiful.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Mountain life

Mount Revelstoke, yesterday.