Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Musicians, eh?

Time is like a river. You cannot touch the water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life.

As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless military man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Nova Scotia back country. As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and because the area was so isolated I couldn't ask anyone for directions.

I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late.

I went to the side of the grave and looked down: the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I've never played before for this homeless man. And as I played "Amazing Grace", the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head was hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, "That was beeyooteeful! I never seen anything like that before, and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."

Monday, 12 November 2018

My mind is going, I can feel it.

Well, that should catch your attention a little more than the usually quoted line "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that". Bye HAL, you'll always be one step ahead of IBM.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Doesn't everyone just hate white, middle aged, middle class men?

We seem to be the whipping boy for every radio discussion, social media frenzy and twitter feed. Arts councils discriminate against us, company boardrooms are wrongly full of us and we dominate business. We are paid more for the same work, make worse decisions and create an atmosphere of resignation and disillusionment among the women that work for us who know so much better. We letch and bully, abuse and willfully harm for our own benefit.

I could go on. :-(

Misandry appears to have become entirely socially acceptable, and we are the scourge of western society.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

A little humour before bed.

Two 70 year old men, Mike and Joe, have been friends all of their lives. When it's clear that Joe is dying, Mike visits him every day.

One day Mike says, "Joe, we both loved football all our lives, and we played football on Saturdays together for so many years. Please do me one favour, when you get to Heaven, somehow you must let me know if there's football there."

Joe looks up at Mike from his death bed," Mike, you've been my best friend for many years. If it's at all possible, I'll do this favour for you. Shortly after that, Joe sadly passes on.

At midnight a couple of nights later, Mike is awakened from a sound sleep by a blinding flash of white light and a voice calling out to him, "Mike--Mike."

"Who is it? asks Mike sitting up suddenly. "Who is it?"

"Mike--it's me, Joe."

"You're not Joe. Joe just died!"

"I'm telling you, it's me, Joe," insists the voice."

"Joe! Where are you?"

"In heaven", replies Joe. "I have some really good news and a little bad news."

"Tell me the good news first," says Mike.

"The good news," Joe says," is that there's football in heaven. Better yet, all of our old friends who died before us are here, too. Better than that, we're all young again. Better still, it's always spring time and it never rains or snows. Our wives are there too, and young and pretty as ever! And best of all, we can play football all we want, and we never get tired!!"

That's fantastic," says Mike. "It's beyond my wildest dreams! So what's the bad news?

"You're in the team for this Saturday....

Do you ever wonder about stuff people do?

You don't HAVE to answer that question, though it might be amusing to do so.

If the current government loses the next elections (when ever that might happen) then this person might well become the minister responsible for cyber security among other things. Which would probably not be an entirely good idea.

And in an age when one can decide to change ones gender and ones name, why should you not be able to change your age and birth date too?

I am pretty much convinced that gender-fluidity, the current opposition to conventional male roles and stereotypes and the general post-modern relativity that society is reinforcing are going to lead to mental health issues and depression, especially among men.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

A little taste of home.

I've just discovered the austriansupermarket.com while looking for Stroh 80. The baked good section reminds me of the various things that we'd get as children around this time of year, but good grief, it's a bit spendy.

Free shipping to Europe if you spend >99 euros, which is significantly less baked goods than one might imagine.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Good morning from Tesco

Saturday morning routine. Visit mum, go shopping. In summer there's grass to be cut too, but not in November.

Clothes are silly cheap these days : for £50 I can get 2 pairs of trousers and 2 shirts. This year it seems that flower power has returned.

BTW yes, I'm slightly off my head with a cold right now.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Hello! My nickname in darknet is des53.


My nickname in darknet is des53.
I hacked this mailbox more than six months ago. Through it I infected your operating system with a virus (trojan) created by me and have been monitoring you for a long time.

Even if you changed the password after that - it does not matter, my virus intercepted all the caching data on your computer and automatically saved access for me.

I have access to all your accounts, social networks, email, browsing history.
Accordingly, I have the data of all your contacts, files from your computer, photos and videos.

I was most struck by the adult sites that you occasionally visit.
You have a very wild imagination, I tell you!

During your pastime and entertainment there, I took screenshot through the camera of your device, synchronizing with what you are watching.
Oh my god! You were so funny and excited!

I think that you do not want all your contacts to get these files, right?
If you are of the same opinion, then I think that $900 is quite a fair price to destroy the dirt I created.

Send the above amount to my Bitcoin wallet:

As soon as the above amount is received, I guarantee that the data will be deleted, I do not need it.

Otherwise, these files and history of visiting sites will get all your contacts from your device.
Also, I'll send to everyone your contact access to your email and access logs, which I have carefully saved.

Since reading this letter you have 48 hours!
After your reading this message, I'll receive an automatic notification that you have seen the letter.

I hope I taught you a good lesson.
Visit safe websites only, and don't enter your passwords anywhere!

Good luck!


Ha ha. Ha hah hah.

Faecal brain.

If you get sent one of these, just delete it and move on.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Excuse me, but have you heard the teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Chr-AI-st?

Apparently AI can do bible translation versions.



We just had a mini-discussion about biscuits.

A friend brought some from an Indian baker. They were very (VERY!) short, sweet, slightly fragrant, the shortness making the biscuit crumble into powder in your mouth.

I was asked what I thought about them an hour after trying one and, while gathering thoughts and memories, said "Well, it was very interesting" at which point I was slightly leapt-upon for not just saying it was nice.

The thing is, I take her seriously and value the stuff she says to me & the foods we share sometimes. I could have just been shallow, or instead could actually try to say something useful. If there's music in the background then it gets analysed, and if there are photos on the wall they get critiqued, so why not treat food like there's a value in it too?

And is this what I'm doing with faith somewhat too? Do I look at the bible and think "that bit looks a little made-up in the light of these other bits".

What's wrong with me?

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Something's not quite right.

Ever since we've been back from Canada I've not really felt well or quite right, from struggling to re-adjust to UK time to just feeling off-balance inside. I've got a couple of thousand pictures that I've not really worked on or culled and I'm struggling to work well and effectively again.

There's nothing where I can say 'this is it', but it's there lurking in the background.

Monday, 22 October 2018

What do the passages in Exodus tell you about God's favour to people He has chosen

I was supposed to be preparing a bible study for housegroup on Wednesday, but the more I read and think about this, the more I see a bigger picture of suffering, brutality and cruelty on all sides. I find it hard to see the favour without the suffering, and because I know some history too, I know what the career path of the Jews will be over the next 3 1/2 millenia, and it ain't pretty.

The stuff I still struggle with the most is the miracles in the story vs the miracle-less present. There was none of this 'God needs to give everyone free will, so won't visit us now'. Back in the day it was more like "God says let my people go or I'll do horrible things to you until you DO let them go (p.s. you don't have a choice because I won't let you give in until it's all done)". Sure that's not an orthodox reading of it, but it's really hard not to see it like that.

11 years on

From this post about rocking out, I'm now playing in a rock band and finding I don't have the drive or energy (or fingers) any more. Bummer.

Is it time to hang up the guitar?

An Android phone without Google search and Chrome?

Apparently it should cost makers an extra $10 to $40 per phone, depending on resolution of the screen (I'm sure there's a logical reason, really). I've been using duck-duck-go for a while on my phone, and prefer its speed over conventional google.

Why is it faster than google? That's a very good question, that a measure of paranoia may provide an answer to.

I've also replaced Chrome with Brave browser, which works well for an advertising blocker like me.

Only in Canada

People leave their front doors unlocked and get their house cleaned for free.

I thought it might be a radical church group working on a practically sensible missional program, but it was just a case of mistaken address.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

I appear to have erased the blogroll


Guess I'll fix it sometime.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Learning how to blog, kinda.

So Somerton Village has a new website, built on wordpress.

I'm sat in a darkened hall, watching a chap called Nick explain how the village web site can be edited, have content uploaded etc. It's like working with blogger, only more flexible and therefore more difficult. Nick has done a good job balancing a lot of different wishes and needs.

Pictures are a bit mangled from over-compression (and I'm a fussy b*st*rd when it comes to pictures) but apart from that it's nice and clean.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Hagiography, Hamartography? Lets call the whole thing off.

I was moderately amused by this article on Steve Jobs, commemorating the 7th anniversary of his death.

Spoiler - it's tongue in cheek, but the tongue is spiky, and the cheek armour plated.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Don't worry.....

Be very afraid.

Far be it from me to link to or approve of what the Guardian usually writes, however this was the first place I read the story, and it seems to be a straightforward piece of reporting. Perhaps this should be no surprise, as mainstream Christianity apparently becomes more concerned about an emotional response in worship than one based on understanding and the 'next big thing' is all about being contemporary and missional while forgetting the need for sound doctrine and pastoral care.

As the person who first drew my attention to this noted, the vision of demons and flames should have made them think a little harder about what they were welcoming.

Just to add to this, it goes to show how careful we need to be over 'prophesy'. Not that we should assume it's all fake, but that it always needs scrutiny and firm debunking if susceptible in any way. So in the case of this lot, releasing cures for cancer an Alzheimer's - sorry, but they're just making up stuff out of their own head to prey on the dim and gullible.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

There's a recurrent theme in my blogging about God

So this evening I've been re-reading old blog posts for an un-related reason, but have found a continual and recurring theme, looking for authenticity of God at work - for it to be real and truthful and genuine in a physical sense that can be touched and demonstrated, rather than carefully explained away. It's partly a frustration in this area that is more and more making me wonder if the whole thing is just emotions and careful organisation with some carefully crafted explanations thrown in.

Yeah, whatever.

But also, I've noticed this thing of 'God helps those who help themselves'. I don't mean what it could be understood to be that God's not real and it's just clever powerful people who create opportunities for themselves, yet at the same time I DO wonder if that's how things are supposed to work, at least somewhat.

So I look at churches and church leaders. So many churches make it if they have the right leader/fail if they have merely good leaders. I look at the residue left by CH Spurgeon, that of the Wesleys. Now that guys like Barney Coombes, Terry Virgo and Arthur Wallace, will the churches of Harvestime, New Frontiers and Salt & Light descend further and further into mediocrity and decreasing meaningfulness as the movements of previous generations of Christians - all of whom were on fire for God in their time - have done?

It's not just an annointing, and it's not a case of training to do the same things, so much as specific and key individuals leading willing groups of people, who built those groups of churches. Yes, there did seem to be the Holy Spirit at work, but if that was the case for the original leader, surely it should be much more so in the people he personally trained and equipped to take the work on when he stepped down. Yet this is CLEARLY not the case for the group of churches of which we're part - they just seem like any other church doing the usual things that those kind of churches do, running out of money as everyone goes somewhere else.

But not all of them are dying this slow death.

I know of at least one Baptist church that, with the right man at the helm for just a couple of years, has gone to needing 2 meetings on a Sunday morning in order to get everyone in. I'm not aware that they're doing anything strikingly different, but I am coming to suspect that just a small number of key individuals are able to draw people - with or without God being overtly present - and if you don't have one of them then you're just pushing water up hills of varying steepness depending how slick your product is. .

This is dumb.

It doesn't in the least resemble new-testament Christianity as described in Acts & the various letters, and only vaguely looks like the Christian church of the first 2 centuries as described by Eusebius. There is a superficial similarity, in that key people like Peter and Paul could draw large crowds and speak effectively, but particulrly there's never any tangible proof of God turning up. When people experience 'great worship' it seems to have resulted from their internal responses to songs with emotionally charged and often self-absorbed lyrics hung on tunes which are designed to provoke those feelings. Singing about a 'peace so deep I can hardly think'. I'm starting to loathe the song that line comes from.

I also heard on Friday night of another really quite 'successful' church going down the crapper because they bought into missional communities & 3DM ministries, with the system basically forgetting about all the ordinary people when the focus changed. That's pretty much what I'd have expected, and I'd say that Oxfordshire Community Churches had a narrow but lucky escape by not getting sucked in.

Where is the reality?

I talked with someone I respect a couple of years ago about praying for resurrection of the dead, and got the reply that if I'd been in Africa then God would have done it because they are desperate over there and don't have modern medicine. My reply, that the situation could have not been more desperate regardless of where I was, did not produce any discernable wisdom or helpful theology, though it did get an apology for thoughtlessness. Yes, we hear amazing stories coming from Africa, but that's what they tend to remain.

Frankly I'm sick to the back teeth of excuses and running a good show. If that's all there is then please let me know and I'll just step back and let the church carry on it's own way while I stop bothering and reclaim my Sunday morning. Having said that, it's still quite nice to play guitar there sometimes, so maybe I shouldn't rock the boat.

Roll into this mix frustrations with reading bits of the bible that make one question veracity.

An example. Moses actions are described in early parts of Exodus in a particular way, yet the chronology given in exodus 7 conflicts. His rash behaviour in killing the Egyptian is not the action of a 40 year old with experience. On the way back to Egypt the now almost 80 years old Moses nearly dies and yet Zipporah is able to save him by circumcising their (young? Infant?) son and touching Moses feet with the foreskin. Sure, these bits were likely added to line up with Jewish mythology or some kind of numerology at some stage, but then if they were added, what else was?

Paul would sometimes pick out bits of the old testament and mis-use them in his letters to prove whatever his point was in a way that would hopefully get most bible teachers laughed out of church today. 

10 years ago 'faith' would let me ignore stuff like this - it's not important, it doesn't affect the core truth of salvation, I still 'feel' God at work so it doesn't need answering. Now my pursuit of wanting to know the truth won't let me leave it alone any more. Chris has long found more questions than answers when reading the bible, and now it seems to be both of us. I don't want to put my fingers into nail holes - I DO want that stuff about healing and God at work to be real in something more substantial than getting a convenient parking space or even a cash donation.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Only in this business

When someone comes back from a tropical country feeling a bit unwell and then has a rash, we all get excited about the idea of drawing some blood and testing for disease markers using the products we're developing. It's a matter of frustration that we don't have a trained phlebotomist on site.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Apparently I've become a country guitar player.

This may cause a certain amount of amusement in some quarters, but if you mosey on down to http://gospelbell.com/ and scroll down the page to the second set of songs listed on soundcloud, you can hear me play slide all over most of the set.

It's not great or imaginative playing (pretty chord-based actually) but I can fake a C&W slide solo now apparently. ;-)

Edit - this is all first take improvisation BTW (2 takes for a couple of songs) so nothing was 'finely crafted’ first, as is probably obvious to real slide players. 😉

Monday, 24 September 2018


The title should be read using a William Wallace type voice.

It seems that Amazon are trying to get voice-activated kit built simply and easily using their Alexa-on-a-chip system. The geek in me thinks "wow, cool" but the paranoid privacy advocate that sits on my other shoulder sees it as an 'end of the world' scenario when we sell our civilisation finally & irrevocably to to a corporate retailer.

What's WW got to do with this? Will they ever conquer the Scottish accent - doubtful.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Ever read a headline with a question?


This article from auntie Beeb does just have such a headline "Why is IVF so popular in Denmark" and then goes on to discuss all the effects of a *need* for and changes to regulation of IVF without once mentioning the reason.

Danish men make the least viable sperm of all nation groupings in the world.

I remember going to a conference at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen in 1998, where this was discussed by Dr Anna-Maria Andersson and Prof Niels Skakkabaek. They had a large collection of historical samples (I forget the exact details - it's >20 years ago) where various reproductive regulatory hormone levels could be demonstrated to be at reducing levels over time within given age groups of men. There was work going on to find causality, but I don't recall conclusions being available at the time, though environmental oestrogens were one suggestion. It's a slightly scary problem, and one the Danes seem to have dealt with in their own way.

This listing of papers by Prof Skakkabaek is interesting.

But regardless, social agenda much? BBC, you are increasingly disappointing.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

And when the time comes.

It's good to go home. YYV is very keen on it's gay symbology, full of shiny marble floors and loud announcements. Interesting selection of food too. One thing that IS impressive are the water stations for refilling empty bottles.

Our gate was due to open 5min ago, but hasn't. C'est la vie.

Friday, 14 September 2018

It's good to be here

In the corner of a field in the middle of Alberta. And to see the owner of the bird and sprog blog plus missus shortly too.


Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Technology is a drag backwards

Multiple meanings aside, I'm transferring images from an SD card onto my (10 year old) MacBook using a USB 2 adapter. A couple of gigabytes took 8 minutes instead of around 30 seconds as it would on the Dell (4 years old).

Patience isn't just a virtue, so much as a necessity. At least I have nothing else pressing.

Friday, 31 August 2018


Is the bloke who just sat next to me. 😣

Monday, 27 August 2018

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Looks like the new phone was actually the upgrade for Chris that I hoped.

Not only does it work well, but from first charge on Friday afternoon it went until Wednesday evening before recharging appreciably quicker than the Lumia, despite the battery being 4000mAh vs 2500mAh.

The one fly in the ointment has been that because it's running Android 8, that comes with more options & customisations, I've needed to turn off a lot more device tracking and data scraping stuff. So Google maps really REALLY wants you to photograph & rate locations nearby, tracking you all the while you're there. And they want you to do it so badly they'll keep sending requests that you do it until out of irritation you search through & find the off switches.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Happy birthday darling.

Hard to believe 29 has come round so soon. I wonder whether you would have children yet, or have chosen a career? I'm sure we'd have been proud of you regardless.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

A little lunchtime reading on the BBC

And I came across this article on the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Scan down to the bit below the picture of Dubcek near the bottom. While the downplaying of the Soviet invasion's negative points nicely illustrates the section heading about historical amnesia, the comment that "When the Soviets invaded, there was no napalm. There was no Agent Orange. Czech women were not forced to become prostitutes for Soviet troops," he went on, taking a swipe at America's war in Vietnam. is very telling.

How is it that when a 'Christian' nation becomes involved, situations are often worse than before. This behaviour is certainly not unique to the United States either, historically speaking, although the impression I have is that the relatively atheistic Europeans have done less of this in the last 50 years.

While we're on short grumbly posts

Driver of the lilac Nissan Pixo in front of me this morning - your vaping habit is..... not pleasant.

I would not have expected the sickly fumes to fill my car when we were driving at 55mph with a 30 yard gap between us. I can't imagine how noxious that vapour must be in your lungs.

Good morning world.

It's funny how one forgets things.

I keep saying how I'd like to go for a run, but just don't feel like it, so encouraged by my wife on Sunday afternoon I did actually run a little. All was well that evening and yesterday at work, but last night legs, joints etc were all grumpy and sleep was scarce. This is quite normal, but it's easy to forget it.

Owning a cat is like having a baby.

You have to keep clearing up faeces and vomit, and it cries piteously when nothing is wrong and it doesn't need any more food. At least it can be locked it the kitchen at night and it will tidy itself away at around 18-20ish years old.

Friday, 17 August 2018

I’ve just started reading my first ever Braille horror story.

I think that something scary is about to happen…

I can just feel it...

Friday afternoon.

The replacement for Chris's Lumia phone arrived today - a Xiaomi Redmi* Note 5. Now we have the fun of setting up, trying to move WhatsApp and other data, photos etc. Guess I know how my evening is going to be spent. OneDrive may get used for some stuff, though I'm not sure how to get text messages across yet.


OK, so the phone is now set up & working. It's snappy, the screen is really good plus as a bonus it's running Android 8 and may possibly get 9 at some stage. In the hand it's nicely rounded, yet also surprisingly thin, which is something that the included jelly case doesn't spoil.

First thing was a major GUI update plus security patch, taking security to June this year same as my phone. There was some brief fun & games setting up Outlook, since just a few days before Chris has been forced to change passwords on outlook and, uncharacteristically, had failed to record or memorise the new PW, so we did a quick reset before her email etc account could be set up. Then we did fingerprints to unlock, which took a few goes, but works very effectively.

Further detailed set up took some time, since the OS gives many options for each application in different places, although it's great to be able to control permissions for individual apps, and I also tried to delete a fair bit of the cruft (first victim was facebook - wonder if it's left tracking malware** behind?). Getting contacts across was difficult at first despite instructing Outlook (the email, calendar and contacts manager on the previous phone) and google drive (from the earlier still Android) backup to sync with contacts. Eventually I was offered the option to import a vcard from each, rather than it happening automatically, and then went through the business of merging duplicated contacts (about 40 in all) before the address book was finally over and intact. 

Whatsapp went in & recognised her old account without trouble, and I installed a bunch of tools likely to be useful including HERE with off-line mapping for navigation without internet access, Open camera (phenominal image stabilisation using the phone gyro to stabilise video) plus various other bits & pieces.

Overall it seems a nice tool. I wish they had made something of this spec with a 5" or smaller bezelless format when I bought my phone a few months back - it feels quite laggy by comparison.

*I just noticed the spill chucker changed Redmi to Redmond. Amusing when it's Redmond that is being replaced.

** Yes - it's called Whatsapp.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Pertinent to my earlier post about google tracking your location

Is this article from El Reg.

Also as a matter of interest. I noticed that after I visited the myactivity.google.com site, without making any changes to settings, the blogger app stopped working on my phone, requiring me to enter my password, which was rejected as 'pattern unrecognised' each time. The phone had clearly remembered my google account settings (I could access gmail) and the only fix was to delete and re-install blogger.

I suspect this is probably a legitimate concern, both from a personal and governmental standpoint.

If you can't drive in the rain

then don't go out in your car.

Grey Toyota Aygo Go! model - I won't put the registration number - driving between 38mph and 51mph on the B4260 (speed limit 65mph). The really frustrating part was that they were continuously accelerating and decelerating, so driving was a case of on and off the accelerator, up and down the gears. In the 50 limit for the last couple of miles into Kidlington it was down to 31-41mph, and mostly high 30s.

It was raining, but only lightly, and since they were the car in front (stupid Toyota advert strapline proving to be true for all the wrong reasons) there was no issue with spray for them, so it really couldn't have been THAT difficult. Unfortunately there was an SUV, another car and then a lorry between the Aygo and my car, and there was never a long enough stretch of clear road to safely overtake what had become quite a strung-out series of vehicles.

Am I imagining this?

Well, when I first caught up with this group there were only 2 cars behind me, but after 5 or 6 miles the stream of headlights behind went back as far as the road allowed me to see, which was a good 1/4 mile and possibly more.


Wednesday, 15 August 2018

It looks like privacy concerns may be the least of Australia's worries.

It seems they are capable of electing interesting people to parliament. I'll just park this without further comment.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Which Bible Will You Choose? We've Got 'Just The One For You' In Eden's Big Bible Sale

I've been thinking a lot about the bible recently: it's authenticity, origins, reasons for being like it is and infallibility as 'the word of God'. While that particular discussion is probably one I'm unlikely to have outside my own head, there was something about the title of this email, posted above, that made me consider how disposable the bible is in modern Christianity. "Don't like that bit of theology? Well here's another translation that puts a different spin on the words".

I was also thinking about some of Paul's writings, how they came to us and why they were written, about whether he'd be as dogmatic about things now as he was then. It also occurred to me that, once I started analysing in a less God-focussed, more intellectual fashion then all sorts of things like women in leadership seem much more reasonable - essentially the further I am from God, the more sense they make.

I've made a big jump over the last decade, from being essentially fundamentalist but wanting to know the truth to viewing things with a far less faith-driven eye and being much more questioning. Is this good? Some would say so, but it's far from ideal, having neither the assurance of knowledge, nor the reassurance of faith.

Do you care whether your activity is tracked by google?

Peering out from under my tinfoil hat for a moment, I'm not *entirely* sure I do, not least is because the aggregated data from millions of android phone users like me is actually useful to those users as well as advertisers.

Ever wondered how google knows where traffic jams are located, or why sometimes routes get changed on the fly?

But at the same time I hate giving my personal data away, which is why I went through my Xiaomi phone when I first got it, turning off and disabling apps & tracking, access to contacts etc. When Chris's Redmi Note 5 arrives (her Lumia 650 is becoming unreliable and the battery only lasts a day or so) in the next few days we'll need to do the same for that.

If you want to check to see whether you've been bleeding data without knowingly allowing it then wander over here. iOS users - this may apply to you too, if you have ever used any services from Google. I was pleasantly surprised to find all my tracking settings switched off, probably thanks to being scrupulous with the Xiaomi, with the exception of youtube content which is useful occasionally (they suggest good videos far less often than one might expect, although there's recently been a run on Marina Sirtis comicon appearances that had me chuckling - she's a real Lundun gel wiv a right norf an sarf).

I almost wish my phone had a sandbox mode, for openly sharing stuff that doesn't matter like location when using maps, and a private mode that locks away contacts etc so that applications which demand access are unable to filch the stuff they have no business sharing (why does an audio recording app require access to contacts?)

And while we're mentioning phones, my Xiaomi 4X did a recent OS update at the end of last week that made it go all slow for a few days. It was getting to the point where I was going to see if there wasn't some way to step it back when suddenly it became all snappy again. Weird. I miss the better wireless performance of the Lumia 640, but I don't miss the apps that didn't work, laggy performance and short screen-on time. I suspect a large part of the excellent standby battery life of the Lumia was simply because the aerial system was very good, and the phone used much less power hunting for a weak and difficult signal. Other manufacturers might learn a lot from the Lumia people.

Australia is not going to be a good place to live

if you value personal privacy. As someone said in the comments "welcome to China".

Monday, 13 August 2018

Where do you go to my lovely?

Isn't quite a correct title, but it does please me a little.

Thinking about the Bill Hybels thing, where do you go when you've fallen in a way that you can't hide and is pretty much guaranteed to bite your bum?

Or possibly worse, where do you go when you have serious doubts, as I do now, yet you are stuck in a leadership position (which I'm not, thankfully) upon which your career and income depends? Do you do the 'honest' thing and step down or do you keep going, hope faith comes back and try not to open your mouth in 'unfortunate' honesty to those around you.

A question I have for those who I've seen in their blogs appear to talk about how good it is to be in a place of doubt & and uncertainty while yet remaining Christians, possibly even leaders - how did you do it? If you can't bring more than someone else's words of assurance, should you even try to lead others?

Some of this comes from yesterday's church meeting where Gospel Bell played. It was a 'nice' CoE church with a warm and inclusive welcome. The vicar borrow bits from CoE and celtic traditions, plus wore a hat that fitted with English folk traditions of nature (and probably a bit of paganism) and it all felt very....... I dunno, meaningless I suppose. A construct designed to provide a mix of entertainment and some religious input, some affirmation, but hollow. I made it back to the meeting of the Banbury church we're part of for the last 15min where there was some fairly intense prayer & worship, and that felt odd too, although it did at least feel like there was something solid about it.

It may be because I'm not leading Chris into good spiritual places either, but I don't think the present format of church we are involved in builds us up. Or perhaps it's just me, although I suspect that's not all of the issue.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Here I am, sat in church

It feels a lot like when we were in Israel last year, with religions that weren't mine going on around me. As it is, I'm here to play with Gospel Bell at a fringe event run by the local church at the Fairport Cropredy festival. Being a 'wise virgin' I'm here early so as not to rush or scramble for a non-existant parking space.

The church interior is quite attractive, but this definitely feels like a 'not my church' type of place, and I think I can smell incense too

Thursday, 9 August 2018

I'm a little sad to hear Bill Hybels has had to step down

It seems there's been some long-running sexual misconduct going on that eventually came out.

Little surprises me these days about people failing, although it's disappointing when they've been getting away with it for a long time, assuming the BBC is reporting accurately (which may not at all be the case - it's not exactly a paragon of virtue, impartiality and truthfulness any more). We're all human, but it can be hard to not be all too human.

Monday, 6 August 2018

This had a certain salty appeal.

Not least because it's a little personally pointed.


Although AFAIK I don't have Alzeheimers, but both of us forget stuff these days. And I do find this kind of humour amusing.

I should probably also point out that the slightly eclectic, rambling words and pictures below were an attempt for me to re-live my childhood memories, visiting the Zoologiocal Society of London gardens at Regents part via canal boat. It was warm (30+ celsius) we got a bit tired and my blogging was less careful and descripive than it might have been.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

We all have our foibles and weaknesses

But sometimes one finds something new. Like the chap opposite with a ' superdry' label dangling from his sunglasses. Said chap seems to move his head to make the label swing around.

Chris wondered if it were to counter a problem with flies, like the corks on a jolly swagman's hat.

No pictures, because.

Won't you take me back home (Slade)

On the bus again.

In transit.

Brownings pool.

Waiting for the bus.

In transit

Off to relive a memory

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Another year older

I'm grateful the debt isn't mounting, however. Nice to have the wider family around for lunch.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Must. Stay. Awake.

Spent 30min watching a tutorial on calculating root mean square values in excel, then applying it to some data. Followed that with another tutorial on calculating EC50 vales from sigmoidal curves, at which point I almost fell asleep.

We know how to have a high old time here. 😋

Sunday, 29 July 2018

What do you want to do for your birthday?

It's a question I was asked as a child, and when I was small I always had the same answer "visit the London zoo".

As a family we were poor as church mice, but somehow my parents always found the money to manage the trip, plus on a couple of occasions in included travelling on a boat, right into the zoo itself. Having just enjoyed a little remembering back to childhood, it was natural to spend 30sec in google, and lo & behold, it's still possible.

We never did this for my son, and at this point in time I sorely regret it (we were dirt-poor too at that stage) although he might never have actually been interested*, but no matter. Perhaps I'll get to take the grandkids sometime.

*Retrospective regret is a useless fantasy. I frequently beat myself up with it, when the reality is that a) we did the best we could at the time and b) Cadbury world was of greater interest then. I hope he has good memories of those trips, like I do of the trips my mother took me on.

Yesterday my most looked at post was from December

A few years ago *

Back then I was helping lead a church. How different today, when it's really not something I want to do any more.

I still care for people, still want to see truth and righteousness at work, but there's no way I could lead in the way I used to because I have more questions than answers and am sure things aren't like I thought they were. TBH I don't know how you can lead people if you have doubts yourself - it seems dishonest to me. So I'll serve where I can and try to cope with the tension while hoping I'm not just another hypocrite.

* it was this post.

Friday, 27 July 2018

The great photographic session draws close to a finish

Photo finish?

Currently exporting all the images from Lightroom to a USB stick, ready for hand over tomorrow night. There is some good stuff in there and nothing 'bad', but I still hope they go down well.

*export finished!*

Buy me and stop one.

Just seen on Amazon deals: Durex 'surprise me' variety condoms.

My first thought was "She's pregnant - how's that for a surprise?"

Just. Don't. Go. There.

Remove ads in 'real life'?

Another Friday, another Dabbsy article on El Reg.

For years I've heard the objection to the wearing of branded clothes, about people becoming walking advertisements, but it's never bothered me. I see no cache in branding (no woman ever approached me in the street and asked to have my babies because I wore Adidas trainers or Levi Strauss jeans) though I know for some it can make a difference *for them*. I think I've removed brand names a couple of times, but usually because they were a) embarrassingly naff, but even more b) simply large and ugly.

No, the big objection to online ads is that it simply fills the space one withes to view with garbage and consumes available bandwidth and processor cycles.  I like the idea of paying some kind of small subscription in order to view pages ad-free (I'm going to block those ads anyway, so you get NO revenue otherwise) but it's hard to envision how such a system might be managed? Could it be like royalties for music? Probably not a great idea, since the rich b*st*rds who already run the music streaming systems will cream off most of the money instead of giving it to the people actually making it. I know they guys who started the Brave browser were looking at something, but that's gone quiet recently.

There has to be a better system than the non-system presently operated, but it would need to work across borders and legislatures, and it's hard to see how that might pan out, especially given the moronic rush for everything to be free in terms of cash transfer, but expensive in terms of energy, efficiency and giving away of data.

Perhaps the (in)famous GDPR will help?

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Living abroad II* (with retail therapy)

Britain is becoming crowded.

Look, I grew up in London, granted in a relatively spacious street, but just around the corner from '2up-2downs' with a front door that opened directly onto the street. It was fairly crowded, but we knew that 15min drive up the road was countryside, fields, woods, open spaces and very few people. It may have been this way for the last century or so, but it *feels* like this place is disappearing under concrete faster and faster, with the gaps between villages and towns getting ever smaller.

So Brexit.**

No, it won't fix it.

Last night we semi-jokingly talked about retiring somewhere else, as in another country (Brexit may kibosh that, although I am still an Austrian citizen, therefore European) and we talked around where we might go. Italy, where we've just stayed, isn't exactly crowded but I doubt it's terribly affordable on a longer term basis. Then I suggested going all 'Marigold Hotel', and Chris wondered how she would manage to do the shopping.

All our married lives, we've shopped in a supermarket, and India, very sensibly for their local traders, has effectively banned supermarkets as we know them.

But there was a time when supermarkets like that didn't exist. When we were children.

I have distinct memories of being taken around Caters in Croydon by my mother (memories from the pushchair - so probably 1964ish) but I have many more memories of the local (as in South Norwood) fishmongers with live eels and crabs, butchers with fake grass and porcelain statues of bullocks, bakers, grocers, hardware etc shops. Yes, there was a small Tesco in the town, even then, but it wouldn't even qualify as a mini-market now, with just a single set of shelves of good running the length of the small store and an aisle that looped around it from the front door to the rear & then up the other side to the tills. There was a shop that sold working cloths and teddy-boy gear (Wolfs) in Portland road, several sweet shops (the nearest was Foucaulds - pronounced foldcards by us higgerant locals) and a toyshop (one of 3 in the town) called Noteus (which local pronunciation mangled into notice's).

I mention this lot because Bicester has no toy shops and 1 chocolatier (a Thorntons franchise) which might possibly be classed a sweet shop. It's not that I'm being nostalgic for those businesses that have closed since we moved here in 1990, but as a nation we probably have no idea how to 'go to the shops' any more.

And then, once shopping was done you would have to carry your goods home, often long distances, instead of loading it into the back of the car. I bet if this was the only way to shop, our houses would have a LOT less junk in them.

I wonder how difficult it would be to move to Jaipur?

*This has nothing to do with previous post, apart from the title.

**that's another post.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

I seem to be living abroad

While I can remember long periods of sunny, dry weather here in the UK, most of those memories are childhood ones and therefore slightly suspect. Yesterday was another day of 29-30 degrees, blue skies, beating sun.

Because of the heat, Chris didn't want to do aerobics in the village hall, so I cancelled running & we walked for a couple of hours in the evening after dinner. The fields round here really are 'white for harvest' in a way that we've not seen before, and the wheat and barley or definitely not golden this year. Even more curious, although many of the fields looked really dry & the ears a little shrivelled, in fact they were still somewhat tender and had not finished groing.

The farmers are hard at the harvesting in some parts, clouds of dust rising like smoke in the air. I hope harvest is good this year, and not blighted by drought.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Living life on the edge

well, maybe near it, anyway.

There's a game that it's difficult not to play with cars, where one tries to get the maximum mileage from a tank full of fuel (the other option, minimum mileage, is neither wallet, nor license friendly). Apparently I had 4 miles remaining, although just before getting to the petrol station it estimated only 1 mile, however it's the other figure of 510 miles on a single tankful that I'm pleased about.

And this reminds me of the first time we filled the car in Italy. The 'self service' petrol station wouldn't, so the attendant wandered over and we got a mutual understanding of 'full'. And he took it as a personal challenge. He rocked the car several times, went slowly with the filling speed, all to get a full 60 euros into the Fiesta. I've never seen anyone so determined to squeeze every last drop from a sale.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Final thoughts.

Cleaning the house & subsequent journey back was relatively uneventful, flights were OK and pretty much on time, and our car was delivered by the parking people in exactly 15 minutes after making the call to say we were ready.

Italian drivers have 2 speeds: too slow and too fast, plus no inhibitions about overtaking multiple cars on short straights with blind bends coming up.

The Ford Fiesta we had as a hire car was really great on the tight, twisty and even unmade roads where we stayed, with supple suspension that absorbed small potholes yet remained flat with little body roll on tight corners. It was completely ideal for this driving and so pleasant to drive that I wondered whether it might be a good consideration as a next car. However driving back to the airport on the motorway was a completely different experience - what worked well between 30kph and 90kph became a slightly white-knuckle experience around the speed limit of 130kph, with the car feeling like a frightened cat trying to walk on ice and spreading it’s legs wide to cling on tight around motorway curves. While my mini would have been much harsher on the bumpy roads, I really appreciated the assured and safe driving experience on the 2 hours back from the airport.

Food was good value to eat out, but not in the supermarkets. It was a relief to get back to a diet not based on wheat products (i.e. pasta or pizza). Since returning I’ve eaten 3 Indian-style meals, 2 Chinese style, plus fish & chips (home cooked) and are due for more Indian-style food tonight. Such is the traditional British diet. ;-)

I'm gradually cranking my way through the photos. Including Chris's there were >2200, first cull dropped that to 800, second cull to about 300. Some are challenging to process because of the considerable mistiness present at times, while others are completely simple with just a few tweaks to levels. Overall pleased with some of the landscapes so far, but the next set to do are the interiors.