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.