Thursday, 31 August 2017

Lord of the flies - but with women?

The times, they are a'changing.

Apparently there may be plans to film an all-female version of LotF, but the idea is being poo-pooed with the suggestion that women would naturally just band together & look after each other.

Naturally this produced a number of thoughts fairly spontaneously, not least that western millenial males often behave like women too, and would be much less likely to create such a toxic microcosm. And building on the millenials theme, when I was at school there was a distinct minority of girls that would have fitted in to the story just fine, with some being physically violent and others quite poisonous in the way they tried to manipulate others. Finally this is a story about children, rather than adults, and children do still often get themselves in a social pickle.

But y'know, everyone has to have something to be offended about in the news. ;-)

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Heard in the office

If you get it wrong then put snopake on your boobs.

From an earlier, more innocent age.

But is this a loss?

Terry Pratchett had up to 10 unfinished books left on a hard drive - now apparently crushed according to the BBC.

I've not read a novel in ages, but Ben had "Raising Steam" from the library to keep him company while recovering from his op recently, & I've been reading it now he's finished it.

Disappointing is a good word.

Basically it just seems to lack imagination: lets bring 19th century technology to the magical discworld. Also let Dwarves = Islamic fundamentalists, but let them just be cardboard cut-out characters, written from a deliberately myopic understanding of people.

Pardon the pun, but all the magic that was present in The Colour Of Magic has by now been thoroughly drained to create a society that kind of looks like ours, but one which can be used to protest about what's wrong with the world and where a main character falls dully and predictably in love. It's boringly moralising, despite trying to raise a sense of outrage at the mistreatment of (fictional) goblins, predictable and not much fun.

The more the Discworld has been developed, the less exciting and novel it has become. I'm not sorry there won't be any more novels from 'beyond the grave' (that's a phrase that should resonate with Pratchett fans) though if a different writer had been at the helm then perhaps they would have been more enjoyable.

What shapes our thinking?

I came across 2 New Scientist articles today that both talked about perception in different ways.

The first was discussing how the types of images of people we viewed affected what we saw as desirable, though of course the title had to be worded as click-bait instead of offering a balanced view.

The second, and this one triggered me wanting to post this, discussed creating a video game based around entering the world of someone with psychosis. (note - first image is disturbing) it was a quote in the article from psychiatrist Paul Fletcher that made me want to post:

“Someone — I’ve never been able to find out who — said that perception is controlled hallucination. This is true. You bring what you know to bear on what you sense. That is how we recognise things.”

To flip that on its head, a sales person I once worked with described perception as reality when it came to dealing with customers. If the customer thought something defective wasn't "that bad" then they'd live with it, or if they though it was broken even when it wasn't bad at all then they would complain & reject things. This can also be quite malleable, as I once found out when - as part of a joke - they told a customer whose instrument I was servicing, that I was breaking it. Ever after I was 'unwelcome' in their lab, despite having a good track record there, and soon after someone else had to go in to service it.

In a way we are talking about faith & expectation, and how we view the world: you bring what you know to be true to bear on what you sense.

I can feel there's a long article sitting there about what we tell ourselves about the world, what we take onboard to feed our senses and perceptions, how we calibrate our internal compass to know what's real and what is not etc. etc. I don't want to go there, but as a Christian struggling to come to terms with things that have caused a major re-alignment of internal compasses, I want to be able to carefully pick a path that doesn't lead to the edge of a cliff or a large pit - to mix metaphors again.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

I wonder why modern society treats drug abuse as cool?

Part of my job is to scan the scientific press for interesting articles to post on Linked In in the hope of promoting the innovation centre and labs. New Scientist often runs articles designed to be easy reviews or editorials that can be digested comfortably by those without expertise in a particular discipline, and to cover a broad sweep of technology.

I came across the following recently: psychedelics-pioneer-keeps-his-inner-hippy-in-check.

One thrust of the article is about how investigation of psychoactive compounds has long been frowned on, and is potentially hazardous for the career of anyone investigating medical application. That's sensible. But then it seems to be continually trying to make drug abuse look like something smart people can do, almost presenting it as desirable, something essential to become part of an in crowd.

Great that many compounds aren't addictive, and even better that they may have useful applications to medicine in the future. But do we have to make drug consumption look like something the smarter echelons of society are doing? I'm far from blindly opposed to use of psychoactive compounds as medicines, provided their use is based on the same kind of trials performed routinely to establish efficacy of medicines, but their use does need to be supported by that kind of evidence.

BBC News was slightly surreal this morning

Rescued piglets served up as sausages to firefighters here.

How stone poses became a surreal hobby here.

Labour MP says merit in "women only" train carriages here.

Vaginal seeding 'risky' warn doctors here.

Trump: I'll close government to build wall here.

All are legitimate articles, but collectively helped make the BBC front page seem quite strange.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

I get paid to surf the internet

But not quite like that, although LinkedIn seems to be a healthier place than Facebook since no-one makes a fuss if you're gay or straight, look good in a bikini, or find it difficult to keep the house tidy.

So an article popped up - apparently tech firms in Ottawa are recruiting thousands of staff. This is just a little premature, y'know? ;-)

They're probably all coding and other software jobs, I suspect, and no use to a practical scientist anyway. And Ottawa is a long way from the sea. :-p

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Is there anything sweeter than the unintended pun?

A previous tenant of the Innovation centre had been involved developing a device that would allow a female to urinate tidily while standing up. In conversation with a receptionist yesterday, I mentioned finding a she-wee, and if it was useful then she was welcome to it.

Her comment "I'll pass on that".

Actually yes, there are things sweeter than an unintended pun, but I still enjoy them.

Monday, 7 August 2017

There's a question.

Kinda funky embedding, google.

So last week we were at 'Transform' - a church camp with the theme Taking New Ground…..Mission, Miracles and Multiplication”. If you visit the page, those are our friends Vic and Owen caught unawares last year in the video still.

When we saw the title we both groaned out loud - Mission. 

Mission has felt like being part of a group of lemmings, rushing toward a cliff that we can feel coming and going harder because of it. Churches have been shrinking as people melt away - often those who were once quite committed rather than fringers - and for us at least, there has been a combined sense of being under pressure to find people to bring to stuff, along with a feeling of failure for not bringing people along to stuff, together with a feeling of holding on with slipping fingertips. The more mission, the seeming faster the shrink*. Talking with some of the other guys there during the week, it seems we've not been alone in feeling that.

And last year was a bit poo for us anyway.

Opening speaker on Saturday night was Grace Wheeler, evangelist for Youth For Christ. Her message was one carefully judged to demonstrate God was at work, she was ordinary and could still be used, scattered with examples of the things she was seeing happening. Standard fare for someone doing the kind of work she does when speaking to people who don't do the kind of work she does - the lass was good, but too many more of those and we were going to be exploring the nearby Malvern hills while other people sat & listened. We escaped feeling moderately guilty/failed & went back to our accommodation wondering how much more of this there would be.

Somewhere in the first day we were there, we heard about a couple we knew who were leading a small church not far away, who were planning to move to lead another congregation. There was a question about their replacement and something inside said "you could do that". Humm. After our church experiences of the last 8 years I've been actually wanting to walk away from church completely.

Sunday morning came & Chris had a migraine, so we missed the meeting where it was explained how various leaders & groups had fallen out over the last 3 years, but it was all sorted out now. We didn't know that was going to be the subject, of course, but it partly explains the last few lines of my blogpost from 2 years ago, when in retrospect I realised there had been an atmosphere that wasn't healthy.

The next few days are slightly hazy in terms of ways to express the content, and I don't want to do a blow-by-blow account of the content.

Basically the 2 key speakers, Paul Manwaring and Malcolm Duncan did not drum in the message about mission, miracles and multiplication, but instead brought teaching, guidance, encouragement, insight and hope. On one occasion Malcolm Duncan started slowly, as though trying to hear where what he was saying should be going instead of launching into program teaching. It's felt like a long time since I had a sense of the Holy Spirit at work in something like this, and I'm grateful that I was able to respond instead of staying in the trench I'd dug to help preserve some sanity. So I have a sense of what's next, possibly, and hopefully also a bit of freedom from things of the past. Both speakers had aspects to them that made me think "I'm not at all sure that scripture means that" or made me feel quite uncomfy with celtic stuff, but they both seemed to bring what I think God had given them, and for that I'm really grateful.

I've not mentioned worship so far. That's because it a) was not significant and b) is something I'm finding very difficult right now. The band was tight, the mix was the best I've ever heard there, right from the first night, and it was loud enough for door stewards to give out ear plugs to anyone who seemed to be walking out because of noise. Our old friend Mr Smoke Machine was hard at work, but at least the lights were kept shining on-stage only, so thumbs up to Dave Knott for getting that sorted.

Where does this leave us?

Y'know - I'm still me. Still Toni who is wary of people, wants to do things his way, has a bunch of un-healed scars, who still struggles with the idea that God is good & doesn't let us down, and in many ways would STILL like to walk away from church. Chris says she'll follow me where ever I go, and I think she would, trusting I'd not screw both our lives up. But change is around the corner, and will be here before too long, at least a bit.

*Talking with a good friend who IS missional by inclination, he agreed that when we had a real sense of the presence of God powerfully at work among us then we were much more inclined to reach out to people outside the church, and to do it with faith and expectation. It's not that we want to feed Christians so they become fat, but that we want to see God at work in the church so that we can see God at work outside the church.