Monday, 15 December 2014

Well, I've just pushed a red button.

Wonder what kind of process that's set in motion (though I rather think I know reasonably well). More later, and it might have to be quite a bit later.

Friday, 12 December 2014

I have never known a time when shopping online was so lousy.

For several years now we've been shopping online, but this year, along with a real growth in the online retail industry, there seems to have been an increase in the number of retail sites that either work really badly or simply fail to work at all. I've just been trying to use, and apart from being a tram-smash of a design and nasty sneaky people who make the default subscription option a direct debit, the page where you actually put in addresses etc simply doesn't work.

And there's a kicker.

You have to give them your email address before you can go through to the address form, meaning they have it on record, but you don't have a password (because that's not been set up) so when you try to buy again on a different platform you can't get past their login. Now I have an email address I give to the retailers only, and it gets spammed by them 6 ways from Sunday, but I REFUSE to give a decent, working email address.

Wonder how I'm going to unpick this one?

Suddenly, going shopping in really shops seems a really attractive idea.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

I'm guilty of neglect, indiscretion and looking forward to a dump.

Partly it's trying to re-focus myself, get life back in order etc. To a degree that's helped, and I've rediscovered energy for work, which has been so lacking these past months, though I'm hardly a ball of dynamism and enthusiasm yet. I'm also finding that I just flop into spending time on social internet in the evening when I could be doing so much other, useful stuff, and it's a real waste.

So the blog has gone-hung for a bit.

Old habits are hard to break as well, and I can't easily say what I think anymore because having ones thoughts on stuff actually out there is difficult for people who don't like to hear things that way. I would liken it to Nigel Farage's comments about breast feeding in public - courtesy and good manners require that such a natural process is done discretely, rather than flaunting it in front of people. There are many things that we all do which, never the less, are much better done quietly and discretely away from the public eye.

And talking of discretion, I'm really looking forward to a big dump*.

Of snow, that is.

In Morzine, France.

We're off to see Ben 'at work' in in Les Gets in January, and hoping for plenty of snow to arrive by then. We'll be staying in Morzine, the next village along, because Les Gets was just a bit too spendy for us (£1000 each for a hotel for a week? Are you out of your mind??!) but if there's enough snow it should be possible to get a lift up to the top of the crag in between and ski down the otherside into town, and if not then there's a shuttle bus between. At the moment the resorts are warm and green with the exception of Avoriaz that's at about 1800 meters and has a foot or 2 of snow already. There's still a few weeks to go, so I'm expecting plenty of the weather my dear Canadian friends hate so much in time - why do you guys insist on living in the flat bits? ;-)

*Link entirely safe for work.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Thoughts fly away, like birds in the garden.

There's been quite a bit of stuff running round my head - almost always when I can't write about it - and when I do get time then those thoughts fly away.

There are also things I'd like to write about that are not for now, if ever, and there needs to be a bit more time passed and space given before putting them down. I am, however grateful for the grace of God, that enabled me to keep doing the things I HAD to do, not letting me go when I did the things I should not do, and allowing me to hear when it was essential to do so.

Stepping out of leadership creates odd feelings in ways I'd not expected. Like suddenly only having 2 church activities a week at most. Not having any preparation to do either, but to just turn up and have other people serve and try to bless me seems amazing. I'm sure it won't last, but at the moment I can just go home and do whatever I want most evenings, and while there's a certain amount of guilt, it's also good to just relax and enjoy the time without pressure.

Friday, 28 November 2014

I'd like to ask forgiveness.

From those that I've offended in my time at Heyford Park Chapel, whether in the time I was in leadership or before that.

My earlier post and some of the posts before that produced a response from people who were hurt by things that had happened. There was a feeling that I was washing my hands of responsibility, of blaming those who were hurt.

Well, it feels like God has been talking to me about it being more important to be in good relationship than to feel justified and to demonstrate that "I'm OK whatever other people do". I don't have contact with a lot of you, and some of you may never have met me, yet still feel offended on behalf of some of those who did get hurt through things I did at the chapel.

There are a couple of people I feel it's important to see, but if you would like to talk things over, feel like I've hurt you and want to restore relationship then I'd love to speak with you face to face. I'll put contact details in a comment after this post.

Funny how we get infected.

Black Friday.

It doesn't sound like something to look forward to, yet it seems the UK has suddenly discovered and embraced this alien concept, rushing headlong into a flurry of panicked shopping. If you get a bargain then I hope it's useful.

As a kid I recall queueing with my parents outside Perrins in Croydon, the night before they had a special sale. They queued literally all night (in the summer) in order to be able to buy a piece of furniture that we could never have afforded otherwise as a family. Now most of us in England are amazingly affluent, yet we still seem to have a lemming-like un-thinking need for more stuff. I find I'm drawn by the idea of a bargain too, yet it's also repellent when I see how much I have at home.

I'm sure I've posted something like this before.

Another aspect of society being overly affluent is that it's really hard to sell slightly used things without almost giving them away. I tried to move on a bunch of stuff earlier this year - not at all tat, and not over-priced either - and there was only a very little interest. Yet I see people throwing away to landfill things that are still quite functional, useful and otherwise good apart from being a couple of years old and out of fashion. I appreciate consumerism drives development, and the pace of development and creation of new, often extremely useful and powerful technologies has never been so fast. Yet it's as though we're gambling the future by burning through stuff as fast as we can in the hope we'll invent a way out of resource limitations.

I was fascinated to see an electric car has been recently type-approved for use on European roads that uses sea water and nano-flow cell technology to generate electricity. This naturally begs the question whether this could be scaled to put power stations on the coast, and then raises the next obvious objection as to what impact the output water would have on marine life. TANSTAAFL. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

It's Christmas, but easter is coming

I find it very hard to give myself to Christmas celebrations because I know easter is on the way. Likewise the build up to easter is never the mournful occasion that tradition would have it be, because Christmas is around the corner. Church traditions and seasons have become increasingly bizarre for me over the years - while I live in the 'now', it is always the same now: of Jesus having been born to bring life through His death on the cross.

Somewhere along the line we made stuff up to divert the pagans (who seem to have effectively taken it back in popular culture).

I've been reading Mark's gospel, well, just started it this morning. The intro in the NIV version I have talks about John-Mark (the author) and his ups & downs with church leadership, which then got me thinking about Peter and HIS ups & downs too, compromises and mistakes. Not the ones before Jesus death, but the ones after he became a significant figure in the early church. In a way it gives me hope, and yet I see the same compromises in the church today, yet magnified down the ages, and that's discouraging. Are we all so compromised as individuals that, even with God at work in us, we still produce fruit that's compromised too?

The answer is, of course, yes. But that's no reason to stop doing what we're called to do.

Stepping out of church leadership has meant discovering I still had opinions and feelings about things that had been suppressed in order to cope with the compromises. They no longer need to be kept quiet in order to allow everyone to get along and not upset people. Whether that's helpful or not I don't know. My rather offensive sense of humour is still there too, not quite so hidden away now as well, though that's *mostly* suppressed still. ;-)

Friday, 21 November 2014

A couple of weeks back I started getting sore patches on my head.

They were appearing mysteriously and randomly, looking like scratches on my scalp. No idea how they got there or why.

I discovered this morning my shaver foil has a tiny hole in it.

I've owned this shaver since 2006, and this is the second time the foil has needed replacing. The previous shaver was from Remington, and not only did it leave razor burn all over me, but the foils wore out in less than 12 months and cost 75% of the purchase price of the shaver, and the batteries were failing after 2 years. Junk.

It looks like Amazon have the correct parts, as do Glad they're still made, even though they're >1/2 the original cost.

Parts ordered, including a 100ml bottle of Wahl lubricating oil for £2.60 - a bit better than the 5ml bottle supplied by Braun originally and used very occasionally to conserve supplies. This should last quite a while and hopefully reduce wear significantly.

A photo from Belfast

Well, I could hardly not take the camera, could I?

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

This is getting to be a habit

Posting while waiting to travel. The bombardier dash is like a big cigar tube with wings, but one got me here so I'm sure it will make it back too.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Sat waiting for the gate.

That's about as greyhound-like as I get. :-)

I'm off to Belfast for a couple of days work, going via Birmingham. Travel here was about as painless as it can possibly get, as transit through was easy too. Brilliant.

I bought a bottle of water in Smiths: £1.89 alone or free with a paper costing £1.40.

My one nervous moment was taking some antibody samples through security. Obviously they are in small tubes with hand written labels (I was tempted briefly to label 1 as anthrax, but that wouldn't really be funny). They swabbed the samples, found they were negative an handed them back. No worries. The tubes are in a bag with my toothpaste and deodorant, do they had BETTER be safe. ;-)

Still saying 'gate open in 5 min' after 10min wait.

Monday, 17 November 2014

It's sometimes helpful to go over old prophetic words and insights.

I've been looking for some old documents I had saved in order to progress a discussion about corruption of the early church. Instead I kept finding prophetic words stored up from before, plus some insights etc running from 5 to 12 years ago. This one came up:

Look to God to develop worship ministry further. Question mark – is guitar playing becoming too much ‘what I do’ – will I need to put it down so I can move on?

Well putting guitar down certainly happened. If it was what I did it's certainly not what I've really done for a long while now.

Monday, 10 November 2014

D'you ever have a problem with your sense of self-worth?

It's not been a big problem for me for a long time, professionally speaking, but I've just come face to face with it, and found myself struggling. I've just put together an invoice for a customer who used me quite a bit in October (that's great) and it came to enough money to make me ask whether a) it could really be that much and b) whether I was worth it?

These are not the right questions to be asking when you are the sole employee of a tiny business.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Today is the day....

you have made. I will be glad in it. :-)

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Pillbox.

Trying some different processing - it's always good to experiment.

Down by the canal.

Today I did something for the first time since 2012

Updated and forwarded my CV. Lets push this door, see whether it'll open or not.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

And tonight we say..........

goodbye to the housegroup.

We'll miss them: I'd like to take all these people with us, but that's not possible, so we'll just have to miss them instead.

Back at the NEC - 'tis an odd place.

I'm here for the Lab Innovations exhibition. Chris came too for Hobbycrafts. Our halls are as far apart as possible.
The trades Union UNITE are holding a conference here too, and walking between the different venues I kept passing men trying to look like Ed Milliband (the Labour leader for non-brits). I did see a bunch of ordinary people go in - these are the ones who actually 'do' stuff - but there was a difference between them and the ones looking like they were holding power. Quite curious.
Dixon's Carphone were having their Peak event to keep the managers fired up, and the people emerging from that seemed mostly male, late 20s/late 30s and dressed all in black. There was the occasional 'older sales-type' but they were rare.
Hobbycrafts attendees were almost entirely older women, older than Chris. Not of any one type, though obviously well off.
And so to my own exhibition.
This years show felt a little smaller than last years (part of the hall was blocked off, which I don't recall previously) with nothing exciting or new to discover. The job title MD got me a VIP entry which was a much smaller deal than it might be, causing me to grin at the silliness of it.
Seriously though, the 'Lab Week' exhibitions in London Olympia in the early 80s were huge, with the world flocking to sell lab equipment to an innovating British science industry. That there was no show for a long time, and this one is so small tells me a lot about science in Britain now. There have been a lot of mergers, rationalising, downsizing etc. But as much as anything I wonder if the animal rights protesting has simply caused the work to go elsewhere with fewer restrictions and a workforce who are really pleased to work in something better than telesales.
As for me, I think the time may have come to get a proper job again.

I'm not sure posting from a phone is a great idea.

Friday, 31 October 2014

What are you reading right now?

It's become a question asked much more frequently on forums since e-readers have become popular. Whether there's a connection with the rise in electronic books or not I have no idea, but they have certainly made books much more readily accessible to a generation or 2 turned on to electronic media consumption.

In my case I'm half way through Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian wars, that records the battles between the city-state of Athens (a tyranical democracy) that was gradually subsuming the Hellenic races, and the Peloponnesian alliance (also called Lacedaemonians, and including the Spartans) who wanted to retain their freedom. Sound familiar?

It's interesting to read about historical events in areas we have visited and know a little, but more to the point, it really brings home how little people have changed and how, generally speaking, bungling governments and organisations are. As is so often the case, a few key individuals appear to have shaped history, whether by brilliance and careful planning, or by self-seeking and failure. Men are sometimes cruel, sometimes cowardly, sometimes brave and sometimes driven by emotions of various kinds to do things they regret and wish to undo later.

There is a passage that sticks in my mind after the Lacedaemonian forces have been defeated and surrendered on Pylos, the survivors having been taken back to Athens as prisoners and hostages. They had a reputation before that point of preferring death to surrendering their arms, and a passer-by distainfully asks one of the captives if the men who fell were honourable. His reply was that arrows and spears cannot choose the type of man they kill.

A translation of the book is available as a free download here if you want it.

How much is historically accurate I cannot say. Ancient historians appear to have disregarded the truth happily in order to create a better story, to affirm their prejudice or to shape their book to suit their patron at the time, even while sometimes complaining loudly about the errors of other writers.

This has not been the best time to develop a cold

Like there is ever a good time?

Colds do odd things to my head: I can't concentrate, often think & say irrational stuff, give me mood-swings, make critical mistakes with work, enable me to make bad choices and are generally not helpful. You should see some of my un-corrected typing! (or maybe not). I am full of admiration for those who keep working through their colds as though merely carrying just a little more weight.

This isn't intended as a grumble, so much as keeping the personal blog personal. We just need to finish this phase well, before we start the next, and I'm aware there's a big battle going on in the background to attempt to cause maximum harm.

Monday, 27 October 2014

While we were out with friends

and their children were running around on stuff at Cogges manor farm in Witney, I managed to grab a quick portrait of Chris. She was not especially aware of this, I think.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Christian films - very mixed feelings.

There's a story here on the BBC website about a pastor wanting to import Christian films from the US and have pastors able to pray for people after the films.

I love the idea of being able to reach out into the community, for those who would not hear the good news of Jesus Christ to be reached this way. On the other hand, having seen a few Christian films, my over-riding reaction is that they aren't really helpful, painting a 'nice, American Jesus' picture, while often dangling the viewer emotionally over a false premise. Maybe, as much as anything, I cannot accept this kind of performance because I don't want made-up stories entering the Christian heritage as truth or fact. The traditional streams of church have done the made-up story thing too well, with a resulting loss of credibility and intergity.

This is definitely a case of praying 'God's will be done' because I can't step back far enough to be un-biased.

Friday, 17 October 2014

I wonder what you'll do?

After we've moved churches.

I'm talking to you - the ones in the shadows at the back, who used to be part of Heyford Park Chapel and now come around here to see whether there's any goss to be had, any stories to share. Will you keep coming by or will you get bored and move away?

FWIW I very much hope you guys do go back to the chapel, once we're out of the way. I hope Stephen turns out to be someone who can help you grow, find Jesus, find a home with God's people and see you built up. I'm sorry we couldn't work things out together and walk down that road for that stage in our journey. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

How much compromise is acceptable?

If it was suggested you could compromise your integrity a bit to be more successful and popular, to extend your reach to more people, why wouldn't you do it? After all, your core values were un-changed, and what you were trying to reach them with was really good: surely that would be worth it, wouldn't it?

The right answer may, or may not be obvious.

I've mentioned before how horribly compromised I've felt (compromised to death was, I think, the expression) but I'm grateful someone else who is less lubricious than me has said "enough". There will inevitably be fallout, but it's much better to deal with fallout for the right reasons than knowing you're acting from expediency.

This has been a time of learning, and I'm not in then least sure I have enough backbone for church leadership. (edit - enough backbone AND enough gentle lovingness - the 2 are needed together).

Monday, 13 October 2014

If anyone still cares - Mint Cinnamon

I've settled - for now - on using Mint Linux Cinnamon distro at home as my main OS of choice. Reasons: basically it seems solid, works quickly (and everything works - networking, printer, NAS etc etc) and is easy to use. On Sunday morning I came to print some music for the first time since installing and the printer was not yet set up, so I went to the printer control, clicked 'Add', it showed me our samsung ML1210 was connected. When I selected it the software downloaded the appropriate driver and 30sec later I could (and did) print. It feels like the bad old days of hunting for drivers, HPLIP and CUPS profiles is long gone.

Elementary Linux has been installed on that 250Gb 'testing' drive for more experimental use. Plus I still have my windows drive attached for when I can be bothered to call microsoft and re-activate it with the new hardware, though there's less and less chance of me doing so right now with this Dell Laptop available for editing images at home.

In my last Linux post I mentioned KaOS Linux. This looked really good at first try, but networking seemed difficult, with a refusal to recognise any devices on the network. I know that's not a characteristic of KDE, because openSUSE was fine. There were a couple of other oddities that made me decide in the end not to follow it any further. I might well bung openSUSE 13.1 on the testing drive too in order to have access to the different tools available in KDE, though logic tells me that I should just install equivalents into Cinnamon & work entirely from there. I don't know why, but I *prefer* the KDE desktop, even though it sometimes behaves a little oddly and is very resource-heavy.

Once again, if anyone is thinking about trying Linux then I'd definitely recommend giving Mint (either Mate or Cinnamon) a go - everything works out of the box, or for things like printers, can be added with minimal effort.

Life is a rollercoaster (imagine that sung by 10CC).

This business of moving churches makes the emotions flap considerably: because of what and particularly who we're leaving behind, because of the feeling of leaving gaps that put extra pressure on others to fill, because of things we see happing to friends that we feel powerless to help with. All kinds of stuff.

Yesterday I led worship in church, which is pretty much always an emotional and draining experience. I used to get really charged up playing guitar, but actually leading, singing the sings, trying to feel where things should go, being a little the pivot around which that phase of the meeting turns leaves me really drained and tired.

Then we went for lunch.

The church we're returning to is re-structuring into a new form of small groups, and a couple of days before we had been very kindly invited to come along for lunch and to get to meet everyone again in one of these groups. Most people we knew already, and in one sense it was like we'd never been away, yet at the same time there's a sense of being a very different person. I've had a lot of corners knocked off in this past while, and no longer feel the same inside - it's not that they've changed, so much as I have (they will have changed too, of course).

Chris described the feeling as coming home, to be welcomed and so obviously loved and wanted and cared for and honoured.

To me it was different from that. It's made me realise what I've been missing this last few years: there's a sense of not just being valued, but a richness of spiritual experience and family that I'd not felt in *this* way since moving - an presence of God in the relationships that can't be touched but can be felt. It felt a little like the prodigal son, returning from a foreign land where the wealth had been spent trying to survive and then having the fattened calf despatched & a feast (well, hand-crafted bread & soup) prepared.

I went in cautious, heart gently flapping, trying to watch my words and feeling a heaviness, but over an hour or 2 that lifted, and I felt I could be myself with these people.

It's life Jim, as we knew it. :-)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

So which lightbulb do I buy?

Technology has made so many things better, I won't bother to even describe it because you'd be a determined luddite not to recgnise the fact, and no explanations from me would help you. But an odd aspect of the changing way we have developed lighting means that no-one really has much idea which bulbs to buy now.

We had, as a country, a brief love affair with the compact fluorescent light unit. A great idea in some ways, due to ease of manufacture and efficiency, the quality of light from a fluorescent tube has always been ugly, even with modern coatings  (though OK if bounced off a painted surface). Worse though, they contain mercury, which makes disposal quite specialised and they are NOT something one can just pop in the bin: far from ideal when not everyone can really be bothered to dispose of stuff carefully.

But hot (pun intended) on their heels came the LED. This one-time curio is enormously more efficient than an ordinary incandescent or even fluorescent bulb, but the technology is maturing and developing rapidly. So rapidly that no-one has no idea what kind of bulbs to buy now.

I've been getting a catalogue from CPC for a while, and they supply, among many other things, LED lightbulbs in a wide variety of performances and styles. What we obviously want is a nice simple way to buy light units, and instead of using watts as a guide, instead one should use lumens (the measure of light actually put out). Except that some manufactures are a little more conservative than others, plus there is the issue of colour temperature, since many LEDs actually put a LOT of their light output into the blue end of the spectrum, and a difference of 20% output is not unusual between std and warm white. There are also a lot of older designs around (often quite expensive) with multiple low output LEDs instead of a single large and efficient unit (the multiple small jobs also produce a messy beam & hot/cold spots) and it becomes a bit tricky. Finally, if buying spots to replace small halogen GU10 spotlights that seem almost ubiquitous in modern light fittings, there is a issue of beam width, since the old halogen units have a relatively soft, wide beam instead of the narrow, harsh beam one gets from cheaper LED units (and the older incandescent spots had a softer beam still that was very pleasing and flattering).

This was all pleasantly academic for me until we bought Chris a mother & daughter combined uplighter & spot recently, and had to find bulbs for it. I've been replacing as many bulbs as possible with LEDs, and went straight to our stock of spot bulbs, plus popped in a spare 7W LED screw fitting bulb replacement.

The result, while not exactly dazzling, was WAY too much light, and the spot was like a searchlight. After some fiddling an swapping about I found a GU10 unit from Ikea that struggled to manage it's 120 lumen output for the spot (around the equivalent of a 10-20W halogen unit) and a 20W fluorescent unit for the uplighter (11W would have been enough, but all my 11W fluorescent units are bayonet fitting, rather than screw).

So I'll say again, no-one really has a clue what bulb to buy these days.

Final whittery post - getting stuff off my chest.

I've always said that I like badly produced science fiction, but it seems that's changing, or rather the scifi being produced these days is missing the point.

Scifi has pretty much always been unbelievable, to a degree, which is what keeps it charming. Or it's made very believable, with full-on realism, which can make it rather slow and intellectually stimulating, if a little boring.

So. Star Wars. Space ships cannot fly between planets and attack each other like Spitfires and Messerschitts from a scene in The Battle Of Britain because the laws of physics can't be repealed and it's obvious that 2 spaceship-size objects closing together at the few hundred kilometers a second required for space travel can't then dogfight. But the charm of the movie makes us happy to suspend all worries about reality and enjoy the show, just because.

So. 2001 A Space Odyssey. A film made with incredible and entirely believable realism, set at a glacial pace (in keeping with pretty much everything Clarke wrote) and mundane with it's making fascinating things ordinary - like eating chicken sandwiches while flying across the lunar surface in a shuttle bus. And yet one comes away wondering about so many things afterward that might actually be possible in that universe.

Many recent films have been trying to blend the 2, with greater or lesser degrees of success (Avengers and Ironman did well, Thor less so).

CGI has made things worse.

I've seen 2 films recently that have convinced me CGI is not helping: Guardians Of The Galaxy and Pacific Rim.

GotG was seriously sucky, but was clearly intended to be a spoof. I've heard that some audiences stood and cheered at certain points, where a baddy was brought down, though that's hard to believe because it's all so hokey. But the super-real GCI made it feel wrong because the denial of various physical laws had become too unbelievable and it broke the acceptance of what could not be, while the story line lacked that Star Wars charm which prevented one from objecting.

Pacific Rim is an 'obvious' Boys Own fun film. I mean, giant robots fighting enormous alien monsters - what's not to like? But there's that super-real CGI thing again that makes you start asking questions instead of accepting the solutions as presented in the film (like why make man-shape robots and all the rest when you can build nuclear powered plasma cannons in smaller, armoured vehicles or aircraft etc and blast the monsters from a distance, etc etc.). I'm not one to question these things normally, but you know something has gone wrong when I DO start worrying about the faults instead of thinking about the fun and spectacle.

I'm tempted to mention the second Tron film in this, because so much of Pacific Rim felt borrowed from it (and from The Matrix) and that film felt like a transitioning point in the use of CGI, but by it's nature the unreality of that film was acceptable still, except for the idea of applications going for a drink after work. :p

Or maybe it's just poor story writing, with CGI being used to cover up the weakness? I'm still waiting for someone to film Ringworld, as an antidote to Marvell.