Wednesday, 30 December 2015

I love spaghetti

Like this.

To update this post, I was in work Wednesday/Thursday this week. Wednesday morning there was a certain amount of stress from the lovely Jacqui, trying to get the phones working and not knowing why they weren't on. The last time I'd been aware of the phone system in the building was when the digital exchange was in a beige box the size of a chest freezer up in the coms room, but when we went in there was only empty space where it used to stand. 

After a bit I managed to trace the phone line to some Samsung rack units of about 1/50th the size of the previous unit, that were not showing any signs of being powered up, and from there became aware of a faint high pitched whine over the sound of the other kit that appeared to be coming from a UPS. Hum. The UPS unit was, in fact, very interrupted, and about 10min after plugging the phone control system back into the mains communication was restored.

Gotta love coms room wiring :-) 

Sunday, 27 December 2015

In the near future facebook will have to go.

I find it too difficult not to say a moderated version of what I think, rather than say nothing at all.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Not everything is as it seems.

Including people.

This is interesting for the different images it produces, and one has a sense that 'Michael' is actually directing the photographers through the information he feeds them.

A point at a tangent to this is how accepting we are of people's stories, without questioning their veracity or asking if a viewpoint is valid. In this situation the photographer's job is just to take a great picture showing the character presented to them, but I wonder if things would have been different if they had questioned more deeply? It also makes me wonder if we are also just too accepting of the reality presented to us, and whether we should challenge that a bit more often, rather than just accepting that as valid 'because it works for you'?

Saturday, 19 December 2015

A theology of suffering.... ?

I'm trying to understand why the church is the shapes it is in the present, and particularly get to grips with the early church and how it wandered from being Spirit-filled and apostolically led to becoming a religio-political instrument that didn't reflect new testament values.

And reading that last sentence back makes me wonder if I have become what I rejected so hard as a fundamentalist.


Various translations of Eusebius history of the early church are available free of charge through the Kobo book store, and it seemed daft not to take advantage, especially since the latest updates to the software has made the reader far more useful and responsive than it ever was before.

Some of it is, frankly, as dull as ditchwater. Some demonstrates that the behaviour we see on facebook is common human nature, indulged in by people at every level including appointed bishops in the church, spreading lies and stories (calumnies) about each other. Some demonstrates that discipleship does not, in fact, reproduce after the discipler but in fact seems to easily give rise to all kinds of intentional heresies and false teachings.

That's not really what I want to mention.

There's quite a bit on martyrs, which is not surprising given how severely the early church was persecuted, but the descriptions of persecutions in Lyons and Vienna around AD180 have, at least partially, kept me awake tonight. It's hard to imagine how people could live through, let alone continue to testify to their faith after being tortured and made to suffer as many of them were - the Romans really make ISIS look like a bunch of schoolboys. And the church, faced with such utter awfulness, had a theology that declared being able to suffer for the name of Jesus was a wonderful thing.

I'm trying to see where this can fit into 21st century western Europe, where any kind of suffering or pain is immediately bad, and every kind of hardship must be relieved (except if you're from a poor people who must supply the wants and needs of us rich ones). The comparison is enough to make me ask if comfort in the way we have it right now is actually wrong at a basic level, and is calculated to produce people addicted inescapably to wealth and more comfort.  I feel the draw myself, the desire for more and more things to enjoy just owning and with which to fill my home, never mind whether they are needed or are ethically produced and sourced.

A nagging question I've had when reading about ISIS and their evils is "what would Paul do?".  I could imagine his first reaction would be to get out there among them, seeing a new and fertile ground in which to plant a church and disregarding the risks for the sake of growing the kingdom of God. To the best of my knowledge there are some Christians out there working among them, but they don't come from the Christian west. Could the western churches embrace a theology of suffering that would enable their best to go out to such places, knowing some at least would die in horrible ways, and seeing that as wonderful instead of earth-shatteringly dreadful?

It also wants to make me ask if such a reaction is right, and if it is, how have we been seduced?

I was gladly radical as a new Christian, happily fundamentalist, certain that as Christians we should expect persecution and hardship. I read a book about a Russian soldier (Vanya) tortured and eventually killed for his faith.  Somehow my theology that recognised Satan at work in people, inspiring and even driving them to do terrible things, has been blurred by the comfortable lifestyle I now have. I wonder if the church is going to have to rediscover a theology of suffering before it can start looking like the body of Jesus again?

Best stop there - it's now 1.53am.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

So I guess this is goobye.

In contrast to our Spanish trip we've been really cosseted this time. Heathrow T2 was great, Lufthansa was nice to fly out with and now Frankfurt T1 is actually luxurious on the pre-security side. Even in the B departure area it's colourful. And there's free WiFi without the need to even sign in!

Packing was a little tight for the return, with a pack of marshmallow kisses/nipples tucked away. My camera is going to have to board the plane in a coat pocket. :-)

Electronic boarding cards were absolutely fine, expected even, although both phone and tablet were carefully charged last night.

I'm naughty. Chris read a passage from a book to me, where the author is trying to sell an idea by telling the reader a factoid that he can't prove and can't easily be denied for lack of evidence. I called a brother in Christ a tosser, out loud. :p

Back to travel. 'persuaded' me to download Tripcase to manage the booking. Initial annoyance moved to acceptance when it was useful in identifying the location of certain sites. It just popped up a message telling me which gate our flight was leaving from, without me having to find a board: guess I'm at the grudging admiration stage now.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

What was that rushing sound?

Probably my comfort zone whipping past.

I am no Luddite, but even I get nervous with electronic documents being stored on mobile computing devices, especially when they are boarding passes for our flights home.

Now I've seen guys waving their phones etc over document readers and all has been fine, but there's nothing as reassuring as a piece of paper with solid print and bar codes on it. Unfortunately luggage allowance did not include a printer for online check in.

The trams of Frankfurt

Don't always run when they should, but we've managed to get around a little.

On the bank of the river Main opposite the Romerberg where the Christmas market is based there was a vast flea market. I was reminded of a similar market in Vienna, where it is said that all goods stolen during the week appear. Seeing someone trying to sell a teenage boy a racing bike that was far larger than he could ever happily ride made me wonder. Probably a good place for curio shopping.

In some ways Frankfurt reminded us of London with it's large river and mix of old and new, plus very strong multi-ethnicity.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Ruthless efficiency

May not be the German's forte anymore, but they are darn good at designing a fat delivery system to push calories into a body. Best for this purpose are probably kartoffel puffer - shredded potato with onion mixed in batter and deep fried. Served with an apple sauce, they are solid and substantial, though the onion keeps reminding your taste buds something isn't quite right

Paprikawurst was spicy and gently warming, and very nice, while schnitzel was OK. Lebkuchen we picked up were Aldo moreish, and had a strong liquorice or aniseed undertone to the flavour.

We walked our legs off tonight and haven't seen everything. Tomorrow we'll brave the tram system.

The place of the sausage

I have never been to Frankfurt before, which is probably not a tremendous loss, but anyway we are here now.

Actually getting here was mildly challenging, with us leaving the house 20min later than planned, then less than 5 moles from the airport being held up for 30 min by a burning car (police shut the road just as we got 200m from it). Then the plane was delayed another 30min, and some fellow passengers were very stressed about missing a connecting flight (you allowed 1 hour tops, really?).

It was actually a pleasant flight, and our first on a non-budget airline in such a long time that we automatically refused the food and drink offered. Muesli and yoghurt looked nice too.

We had lunch in the underground mall at the airport - a feature of Germanic travel is that almost every small station and the bigger tram stops have a mall with really nice filled rolls etc plus a few shops, and if you need fuel then it's a great alternative to nasty fast food. Comedy moment experienced when I asked for one kind of roll by name while pointing at another.

Finally we hopped in the train to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhoff. Or rather we tried various ticket machines until we found one that could take payment, because most of them refused cash and all the various cards we had. The train also had announcements in German and English for all stops except the main station where we got out. Rolls eyes.

So we're in the Bristol with it:s friendly Costa Rican receptionist, in a small but clean room. Chris is 'breathing deeply' recovering from various headaches and I'm going to wake her soon so we can explore as it gets dark.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

I've been reading the book of common prayer this morning

Doing some research.

It strikes me that the words were not written by someone with an expectation of actually knowing Jesus, and for a people who, like Israel, would not expect to have a relationship with God themselves.

It's quite sad.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Is being conservative a good strategy when there's no time?

By making small, cautious changes to a system that barely works, can you deliver something that's fully functional, or would it be better to make sweeping changes in the hope of understanding the problem better and finding a solution.

I'm not sure, but it's not my call.

Friday, 13 November 2015

For possibly the first time ever

I found myself looking at guitars, in the hope that buying another guitar might make up for my lack of ability to play properly these days. A new axe is no substitute for practice, even when it looks like this:

And yes, I would play one of these in church, just like I did when I had a flying V - makes a change from all those worship guitarist identikit telecasters. Maybe I should dig out the Washburn A20 for this Sunday. ;-)

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Ever wish you were an innocent, trusting people?

Sometimes ignorance seems like, if not bliss, at least a comfy way of walking into difficult times, rather than feeling concerned before they arrive.

Trust takes time to build, and I get the feeling that it's not building yet.

Cryptic, yep. :p  I have some real bad feelings.

Monday, 26 October 2015

It's been quiet.

Quieter than intended, since a post would upload from my phone.

Still alive here, working through stuff, trying to understand why we get cross or emoted with things that are supposed to be good.

And unrelated to the above, I re-started reading Floyd McClung's You See Bones, I See An Army that I began about 3 years ago. It makes me wonder if the traditional church is almost entirely built on human designs and man-made structures to further men's ends - and it amazes me how much of our sinful activity God is able to redeem and use.

Monday, 5 October 2015

So where is that summary of summery Spain?

Puns and word play may be the highest forms of wit, but that's no excuse for not writing up some final thoughts on the hol. The truth is I've been busy since returning, flying back in one Thursday night & then heading off to work Friday morning. Our weekends have been a little more relaxed in some ways, but we've been trying to get out of the house often, and when we've not done that then have been hundreds of images to wade through.

It's now exactly 1 calendar month since we went - over 4 weeks - and the memories are starting to fade.

First impressions, if I can remember back that far. People who have followed my travelling will know that one of the first things I normally do when arriving somewhere is to take a big lngfull of air, have a good sniff to get a feel for the place. Spain didn't smell of very much at all most of the time, though the rain falling gently on Seville when we first arrived may have damped things down. There was a kind of herby smell in the car while travelling, but I suspect that was more related to the cleaning agents used than anything from the environment.

Once out of the airport and on the road everything looked really dry, never mind the little precipiation that had petered out as we began driving, and the fields were yellow-orange-brown with occasional areas of green from olive trees. The roads seemed to travel through industrial areas, with scruffy factories and lorry parks, farms that ranged from crumbly to smart, occasional retail areas (meubles seems to mean the same as in France). We passed signs to Utrera so often I had Chris confirm from the map that it was a town and not Spanish for 'exit'.

I may have mentioned already, our car was a Peugeot 208 with about 40,000 km on the clock, a small petrol engine (size unkown) and somewhat scuffed body. Inside it was nice as peugeots go, with comfy seats and a large satnav panel in the middle. No car manuals were in evidence, and the satnav system defied all our early attempts to actually input any kind of destination. I'd brought enough detailed maps, so *mostly* finding our way was OK (apart from some roadworks & re-routing that caused just minor deviations - the satnav wouldn't have understood either) and probably better than if we've used the navigation system because that would have tried to take us through central Seville, as it always did whenever possible later on.

We finally figured out the sat nav just before arriving at Osuna. On this occasion I was really grateful because the town is full of narrow cobbled streets and a one-way system. Being guided took all the stress out of this final stage, and we arrived at the hotel in better nick than otherwise.

The hotel was grand, though that was expected, and our room probably covered the same surface area as the downstairs in our cottage. It was also distinctly Spanish in that different rules seemed to apply to anywhere else we've been, and most of the time there was a distinct absence of staff, though when they did appear they seemed very cheerful and helpful regardless of language issues.

Looks like this is turning into an essay after all. That's probably enough for now.  ;-)

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Well, happy thirtyforthiversary to us.

So we get a day off together. And lunch. Now eaten.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Well what do we do when feelings don't match what we want them too?

You could make it rhyme.

I'm having a 'ranty' day inside, though those are becoming more common.

Playing a 'worship' music CD by a well known international artist, and they lyric just seem to be a rehash or the words love, power, lord, need, worship, bow, you, me with a few handy joining phrases. I am aware that I may not be able to write any better (but hey, I don't take a living from selling this stuff) but that's not enough to make it legitimate. The backing back is polished and bland at the same time.

At work I want to rant about how we have forms and paperwork carefully created in a quality system, yet it feels like there's never enough data being generated to move forward above a snails pace. No-one will give a wet slap if our forms are stamped with 'uncontrolled document' or not if we don't have enough data to create a working product.

And I'm probably just being mr. grumpy-busy because I want to try to cram 2 days worth of experiments into a single day AND fit a run in tonight. My digestive system still hasn't really settled down from Spain, and the dull ache from that and nagging joints all collaborate to make me grumpier.

The study I'm supposed to be taking the housegroup through next week (based on a book) is meant to be about life-style and seemed to be pointing out sin and failure in those who don't respond well (distinctly iffy theology about Moses being shy too). I want to re-write it to use Elijah as an example of burnout from serving God, maybe add in Paul as an example of someone who suffered depression and couldn't cope with everything they were called to do. Not happy about this idea that says "if you walk right with God then you'll never burn out or get depressed".

Probably good I'm alone on this one today then. There's always a silver lining (except when there isn't).

Just re-read this and seen the typos (and they lyric). Ho hum - looks bad for a spelling and grammar nazi. :p

Sunday, 27 September 2015

It's that time of year again.

Normally we wait for the first frost, but the sloes are ripe early this year. Think we may need a little more gin.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

It's hard to believe

That a week ago we were still swimming up through sleepiness, in a hotel room in Spain that was as large as the ground floor in our house.

Planning to go swimming, after we'd found our way back to the fresh water lake recreational area that we'd discovered by accident a few days before.

In another hour we wandered down to get breakfast: fruit juice, slightly disappointing bread, chorizo, jamon, queso of some kind, maybe a yoghurt.

And warmth. Strong sunshine and mild air. About 23-24'C in the shade.

This morning the car thermometer said it was 9.5'C outside and the lab downstairs is 17.8'C according to the pH meter temperature probe.

Feels like longer ago than a week already.

Over the last few days I've been doing image selection and basic processing, having whittled down to around 450 images which were put through DXO Optics pro software, then loaded back into lightroom, only for them to look rather pale and watery instead of glowing and crisp as they did in DXO - every package stamps it's own 'mark' on a picture.

I did a quick re-development on a DXO image that I was particularly disappointed with, then into Perfect Effects to polish. It looks nice and very detailed, but the process is slow and batch processing won't really work. Ho hum.

More, better, pictures eventually. If I have time later I'll pop up examples and 100% crops to show the difference the processing makes.

Friday, 18 September 2015

¿Se puede imprimir mi tarjeta de embarque

Per favor?

Which caused a smile and subsequent helpfulness yesterday from the pretty lass on reception.

Patience is required.

Images from my Sony A58 are about 20Mb each as RAW files, and I've just uploaded around 35Gb of images to my main computer, then imported them into Lightroom. I've often loaded in 300 or 400 images at a time and it's been fine - a little laggy, but coped OK.

Not this time.

Lightroom didn't exactly freeze, but it did go VERY slowly. This machine has 16Gb of RAM, which normally would swallow a modest import and let me carry on working while it processed in the background, but not this time. Once this is finally done then I'll go through making basic selections: which to delete now, which to process soon and which to hold as spares/alternatives if I want to do reprocessing later. If I were wise (debatable) then I'll set up a batch process to give everything the basic processing treatment too (lens profile, remove chromatic aberration, 15 units of luminance noise reduction, 10 units of clarity). The rest will then be the usual tweaks specific to each image of black and white points, exposure and maybe a gentle tweak to colour balance. Best images will go out to perfect photosuite for a polish and in a couple of cases some anticipated cloning/removal of unwanted objects.

Once that's done then Chris can go through the selected images and see what she wants to have printed for this years scrapbook and I'll choose a few for printing a bit bigger.

Someone on a photography forum found a 'bargain' 64Gb SD card that can transfer data at 150Gb/sec (my nice Sandisk card will only do 90Gb/sec) but I'm asking myself if that's actually something I'll use.

And so to work.

Englnd felt more damp and grey than usual this morning - more han it usually does even after a holiday in the sun.

I'm really grateful for a good trip. By that I mean that the weather was kind, we got along well, there was relatively little stress and lots of opportunity to see fascinating things, we managed to see 2 different sets of people that we knew from England and all the arrangements worked out as they had been planned. There's so much planning that goes into holidays like this and so many things that could easily either improve or spoil the experience, yet we were blessed with good treatment even down to getting seats in the first row with all that extra legroom on the way out.

I'm grateful.

It's also making me ask if I want to be back, with 2 jobs and a slightly complicated lifestyle. To an extent it's natural for me to 'spend' all my capability currency to the limit on the things I do, rather than leaving reserves, and that's how I prefer to live. At the same time I'm starting to wonder why, and whether another change in lifestyle would be 'better', whatever better is.

And I would like (nearly wrote need) to lose the 7 or 8lbs I seem to have gained while we were away. :p

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

And so our last day passed.

We swam in a fresh water lake out near Algondales (that reminded us of Minnewanka, but warm) and sunbathed in between. On the way back up from there we found the north end of the Cambionita del Rey through a long tunnel/cave that was dimly lit, then took final pictures as the weather closed in.

Tonight both our preferred restaurants were shut, but we've managed to remember enough Spanish to get good tapas from another bar here. I've heard the rain rattling on the windows since we've been back - looks like it's time to go home.

It feels very final

when you check in or flights for the next day in your hotel room. I'll be glad to get home: comfy familiarity, hassle-free dining, friends, guitars and all the rest. But I'm also sad to be going.

Today we'll head back to a lake/reservoir for swimming.


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Hello Pueblo Blanco trail

We drove up, down, around and around for nearly 350km today, reaching a maximum altitude of almost 1200 meters and managing not to drive off the road into the valley below. We drove past an artificial reservoir or 2, having lunch at a place that reminded us so much of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, complete with trees still sticking out of the water.

Monday, 14 September 2015

A desirable diversion.

We just fancied another day at the beach today, so set off on the road to Malaga about 120km away. However the sky was increasingly overcast and as we drove the temperature actually dropped from around 23'C starting to just 20'C as we neared Antequerra on the A92.

Not so good for the beach we decided (little did we know).

So Chris looked up a route to the El Chorro canyon, with its spectacular and previously highly dangerous walkway, attached to the rockface high above the canyon. I say previously, because thanks to the miracle of EU funding, a new, shiny and safe walkway has been built, in places directly on top of the previous version that still remains underneath. The route to reach the southern end, with it's spectacular gorge and hydro-electric power station took us through tiny hamlets, swooping up and down on narrow roads past precipitous drops and yet more amazing views. The sun came out, providing more amazing and constantly changing lighting through the rapidly moving clouds, and eventually the day heated up to about 30'C again.

So we arrived, hiked a couple of kilometers to the start of the trail only to find that, being Monday, it was shut (all activities of interest are shut on Mondays in Europe - it's a rule apparently). The smells of hot pine trees and local herbage were wonderful, but it was bloomin' hot and there wasn't much shade.

We eventually returned and drove on toward home, passing a variety of, once again, spectacular landscapes, huge reservoirs of water high in the mountains and a previously unknown (to us) water sports area near Ardales. At this point both the map and satnav failed us (road signs worked OK though) and while the roads seemed to be where we expected, reality broke down with a lake on the wrong side of the road! We also drove back through a windfarm accidentally on the way to Campillos.

Eventually we got back to the hotel for showers, rest, image uploading eventually (shortly) dinner.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

We began touring the 'white towns' of the mountains.

Driving back through the mountains south of Osuna, we were reminded of how amazing this area looks - with the right lighting, of course. One week on from our first drive here, it was just as amazing.

You know they have good mobile connectivity

........when your phone is down to 27% power after 5 days, instead of the usual 2 or 3.

What else is different about Spain?

I've mentioned in the past about the airport 'sniff test', but there was nothing overtly different in the scent when we first got out. However there seemed to be a subtle herby scent, almost like oregano, in the background when driving out in the hire car (possibly the interior cleaning spray!) and many foods had a similar earthy, spicy taste. There have been plenty of places with nice floral smells, usually produce by local plants, but no 'typical' smell.

We've mentioned the tapas thing, where you order small plates of food instead of a single large dish and the local prices being good. One thing we did notice was that there tends to be a lack of green vegetables, so that it's easy to slip into a diet of meat, bread and fried materials. Yesterday Az and Abby - our friends in Badajoz - took us out for churros for breakfast. Think freshly deep-fried English doughnuts (the ring type - not filled) but extruded in a sausage with a star-shaped cross section about 12 inches/30cm long. What I would describe as a fat delivery system for poor people needing lots of energy.

Driving has been mildly hairy at times, but not so different from Greece (less organised than France's roads) and only really stressful in the major cities like Seville and Granada.

We've slowly picked up a little language, but our progress isn't what one might call impressive, however we have always managed to get the necessary food & drink, fuel for the car etc, so that's good.

Anyway, it's been a good time so far. :-)

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A little catch up.

Yesterday morning, from the top of Osuna.

Black Iberian pigs, growing ready for making Jamon.

In Zafra, on the way to Badajoz (bad-a-hoth to non-lisping peoples)

Thursday, 10 September 2015

No pictures today

We had a day off, down to the beach at Malaga, a little swimming, a little sun burning bathing and generally not doing much apart from reading. In order to save time we used the functional but tedious motorways, which removes the possibility of stopping for pictures, and so the camera remained in the boot.

Eating has been something of a challenge for us, not really having any Spanish between us, but with the good graces of the locals and some Spanglish on both sides we cope most of the time. On the day we first arrived we headed for the main street, which seemed to be a restaurant-free zone (cafeteria & cervezeria was a common sign, but without food being evident in the evening. We ate in the hotel 3 evenings in a row until the restaurant here was closed.

A chap (and chapess) needs dinner.

We drove round until we located people eating outside at tables, managed to squeeze into a tiny parking space and settled ourselves in the Torre Vera tapas bar. A bubbly, cheerful waitress with enough English to help made life much more fun and took the dread out of dinner time. We've eaten there a couple of times now, and only went somewhere else tonight to make a change. Locals prices does no harm either, and we're trying to avoid doing 'English' style menus with their single large dish at the same price as Tapas for 2.

Tomorrow we have a long drive to see some old friends from Bicester, who now live and work near Badajoz.

Sleep well.

At 10am we shut the windows

And closed the heavy shutters to keep the fierce sun out of our room. It's warming up again, so this time we're off to the sea.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

And today we were very Seville with each other.

Well, y'know - it *sounds like* civil.

We were also there with an old friend, Mike, and a new friend, Bev, who married him a while back. :-)

We visited the cathedral, the university and wandered through various gardens and tiny lanes. We all declined to join Mike in a meal of pigs cheeks, and then regretted it afterward because it tasted so good. Really.


Neatly illustrating some of the problems with traditional 'Christianity'.

Honey - I shrank the street.