Friday, 31 August 2007

Are you?

Courtesy of Fernando.

NOT living in harmony

On the news today, Phoenix Az has just set a new record.

110'F for 29 days straight.

It was a paltry 95'F here today (apparently it's milder now than the beginning of August) and at times 99% humidity. Chris has suggested it's good training for Thailand.

I mentioned a hire car last night.

It's a fancy new Infinity CX35.

All the shiny bits are... shiny. It smells expensive, with leather seats, fancy screen, GPS etc.

It looks like a sports saloon, drives like a truck complete with quietly creaking suspension.

Fuel 'economy' is interesting too, with careful driving around Webster giving around 12mpg. Really. The 40 mile freeway drive from the airport gave about 22mpg average, and I couldn't do more than 70mph, mostly 50mph to 60mph. Automatic gearboxes have a lot to answer for.

Well it may please Chris that.....

......I didn't buy any guitars today.

Tried a bunch after work, many nice, none perfect and none that cried "take me home".

Probably a good thing.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

So it’s goodbye Toronto.

I’ve been here around 27 hours, although Air Canada are doing their best to prolong my stay. If they were doing my job and paying expenses this would actually be quite welcome in some ways: I think I could like Toronto. Being by a lake, it appears to have the charm of Chicago without the feel of quite such a hard edge. Despite the intense mugginess of the city and the blatant squalour it has less of a dirty, sordid feel. However it seems bizarre to walk around the corner from the (expensive) Delta Chelsea hotel to find crumbling buildings and sex shops.

This trip was also a little odd too so far. In a smallish room in a shiny new building a Frenchman, Iranian, Englishman and Austrian met to discuss the business of a company in Texas, and what we might do to help it. This was actually very positive, and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it.

Back to things closer to hand, Boarding is supposed to be starting now, but I don’t see a plane yet. And while I’m grumbling, if I ever have to go through US immigration again it will be too soon. The lure of cheap guitars and big steaks has almost lost its grip after standing in line while a single immigration official is left to service a queue of around 80 people, while aircrew push in front of waiting passengers. Eventually a second officer was found (after I’d reached 3 from the front of the queue) and I then whizzed through. Filling in 2 forms before I can go through isn’t especially cool either, but it’s way better than waiting in the sweaty hell of George Bush international airport while that same bored immigration official gradually works their way through your application.

This time I had fingerprints taken both left and right hands PLUS face scan taken. Guess I should be honoured to be subject to such careful scrutiny.

BTW as things were running a bit late I grabbed some marble cake and a milkshake from the airport starbucks. The milkshake was a cold vanilla flavoured coffee – probably made by someone else so they’d not had a chance to sod it up – and quite nice. The marble cake was ……. *interesting*. Chocolate and vanilla sponge with a bucket full of cinnamon through the middle. Quite nice, but not marble cake (it was spelled Marbol cake – should have guessed) as I’d know it.

Amazing how one night in a new time zone can change things.

The laptop says 23.20pm, but it feels like early evening (which it is here). It’s around a 4 hour flight, then I’ve got to find the car hire place, get the car and hope the ‘Never Lost’ can live up to it’s mildly optimistic name. It’s traditional after flying on business to go out for a steak and a beer before hitting the sack. I hope they have reasonable food on this flight, because I’ll be getting to that hotel around midnight Toronto time and about 5.00am UK time. You’ll know how tired I was by whether I’ve uploaded this by first thing on Thursday morning (in the UK) or Thursday afternoon.

Well – waddayahknow. They’re about to start us boarding, only 20 mins late. TTFN.


Mr. Grumpy back. The plane was an hour late leaving. Made up some time, but I arrived at 9.50 local, bussed to the car rental centre, collected car, programmed GPS and hey presto, at 11.35 I’ve just opened my bag and plugged the PC in.

Mr. Grumpy?

No food on the flight.

I know I’m in Texas though – people as wide as they’re tall seem to be standard issue, so I’m almost pleased to be feeling hungry as it’s keeping my belly in check.

The sheer sweatiness of this place has to be felt to be believed though. Think every butterfly house, every tropical/rainforest experience enjoyed. This is that experience at 11.30pm.

The aircon in my room is a howling gale (moderate exaggeration for humorous effect, but you know what I mean). The windows are all covered in condensation like raindrops on the outside, and despite setting the car aircon for 73’C it had the windows misting up while driving, again on the outside.

It’s stickier than a used honeypot.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Well that's sorted then

Just completed online check-in while co-ordinating with the MD so that we'll be seated together tomorrow.

One night in Toronto, 2 nights in Houston.

He (lucky chap) gets a different flight every day until Saturday.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

It was a nice evening here.

So we went for a ride to toughen Chris's bum up a bit.

We only did about 6 miles/10km but it was enough to get her moving.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Thank you to.......

Emma (again)

Sarah B




Dave, Sue Chris and Frankie.

And, of course, Dan.

It's very special when other people remember too.

The malt loaf with 18 candles was brilliant! The decorated fondant fancy was great too.

You did really well to make us laugh.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Happy Birthday Darling....

.... I hope you're celebrating with the angels.

Love Mum

Today Sarah would have been 18

Emma - thank you so much for leaving that card and flowers.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Well it looks like we've FINALLY chosen a holiday.

Now Chris is concerned about being fit enough to manage 2 1/2 days of trek, 6 hours canoeing and 30Km bicycle ride. She has a month to build up for it, so I'm sure we'll be OK - IF I can make the booking tomorrow.

Monday, 20 August 2007

I'm home again part deux

Some may remember this post. This time I managed the same thing in 55 min - around 16mph. Bearing in mind I was in shorts and light riding top (but still carrying that rucksack) I'd say fitness hasn't improved one iota.

Oh well.


The holiday we were hoping for is fully booked.

C'est la vie.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

So why do we have all these 'books'?

There was a question recently on Smulospace about the origins of the bible and how the writings that we now officially recognise as scriptures came to be so. As is often the case, this generated plenty more questions and stated points of view.

In the past I’ve seen people taught academically about the origins of scripture and I’ve seen the confusion that (bad) teaching has brought. This has certainly served to harden my attitude toward theologians and Christian academics and such teaching, even becoming convinced that most theologians had ‘missed it’.

But blissful ignorance can only carry one so far.
Now I don’t think that a working knowledge of how the bible came to be is AT ALL important for the faith of the average Christian, but it is *interesting* and potentially useful if one is that way inclined. I am so inclined, and therefore in my own fumbly and pitfall-strewn manner am trying to learn a little.

As part of this learning, I’ve begun reading some of the books that are rejected by what one might call the ‘post reformation’ church, but accepted by the older streams – the Apocrypha. This collection of writings dates from around the end of the old testament through to the re-established state of Israel after the return from exile in Babylon prior to Roman occupation. The books seem to be a mixture of the prophetic, historic and story telling, rather jumbled up together, and in some cases, having significant overlap.

Now if I said I was trying to read through prayerfully, that would sound ‘cringy’ and be only half true. For example the book of Tobit starts off like a genuine historical account but eventually ends up reading just like a Jewish version of the Arabian nights tales, and is, I’m pretty sure, a distillation of popular myth and stories. The first part may well be a genuine account but the latter part involving the son seems to be just a bit of fluff, added to ‘prove’ to the reader if you’re righteous everything will come good in the end. There's nothing complex about it, and the distinction *seems* obvious.

The 2 books of Maccabees are interesting because they overlap with different perspectives. It’s hard to be completely objective because I automatically distrust the writings and feel as though I want to find things wrong, proving to myself that these books aren’t ‘scripture’. However they have the feel of historical writings that have been massaged to emphasise certain points of view, and don’t feel totally consistent (I’d need to do a event-by-event breakdown to feel happy with this conclusion). I also felt a little ill at some of the descriptions of torture.

Esdras is interesting – I’m still reading through – and it's the strangest so far. Parts of the book I feel are genuinely prophetic, almost shockingly so, yet other parts miss the mark so widely. I took this one to God because I really wanted to know, and I believe what I heard was that the prophetic word was for then but is not for now – it was made to a very specific group of people. I am SURE that the book has also been very substantially added to or modified as well, because the manner in which it talks of God does not seem to honour Him or reflect a character consistent with either the old or new testaments.

In fact the kind of God reflected in most of what I’ve read so far lines up much better with the characters of gods in Greek mythology: capricious, wasteful of human lives and suffering and uncaring for His people. I very much wonder if there is a substantial influence from Greek culture in these writings, as Greece was the major military power in the area at this time, and seemingly constantly at war with Jewish culture. This is probably not helped by the translation I’ve got – the ‘Good News’ version was never more than approximately right, and although easy enough to read, lacks anything like precision. I’m not sure that the benefit of this kind of knowledge actually justifies spending money on a better version, so we’ll have to wait and see.

So based on my reading thus far I’d say it was definitely right to exclude these books from the canon of scripture. While they have a spirituality about them and use some of the right words, they do not provide a presentation of God that is consistent with the rest of scripture as I recognise it. I don’t *think* that I am just reading it that way because I already know them to be excluded.

Those of you with a great deal more knowledge than me, feel free to chip in on my conclusions. Who knows – I might even agree. For those who’ve never read them, unless you have a thirst for this kind of knowledge, don’t bother, there’s nothing there to push you further into God.

Am I racist?

Or elitist.... or a grumpy and difficult old man?

We've just finished a period of recruiting, and thankfully have managed to fill all our vacancies now. It's not the first time we've done this and I'm sure it won't be the last, but there was something different about this occasion.

I've never seen so many applications from foreign nationals.

This post has been a long time brewing, prompted by a CV and application letter that landed on my desk about 3 weeks ago. It was from a young feller with an unpronounceable name living in India. He had good qualifications and some relevant experience, the covering letter was polite (although way too obsequious) and he seemed like a nice chap. What was special then - nothing! Or rather what wasn't special was the spelling, use of words and general inability to communicate in an appropriate manner. This letter was also typical of the applicants from other foreign nationals - we've had Russians and Poles for example.

Am I racist? I judged this application in exactly the same manner that I would one from someone born here - poor communication skills, inability to write well, inappropriate choice of words. It didn't get as far as the shortlist.

And BTW a general word of advice for those that are applying for jobs etc from school/university. Use spelling (and grammar) checkers if you aren't sure. Capitalise and punctuate. Learn to write in paragraphs. Do not punctuate frequently - you are not writing a blog. Ask someone difficult and crabby to proof-read your application before you send it. I have been dismayed that students of apparently graduate level produce job applications looking as if they were typed from a mobile phone. There are hundreds and thousands of people like me out there that will put your CV in the waste bin if you don't give them a reason not to.

There are quite a lot of potential employers that will also reject you if you don't wear a tie and jacket to an interview. I'm not one of them. Yet.

I am seriously considering changing my bank right now, because I HATE dealing with foreign call centres. We're with HSBC, and ALL calls MUST go through an Indian call centre. I have nothing against people from the Indian subcontinent, however I do find that a strong accent makes communication very hard. The same would be true if the call centre was full of Geordies exercising their accent to the best of its ability. When I am the customer, why should I have to struggle with someone who I cannot understand well and who in turn struggles with me? I took a call recently from the VISA card service of our bank, and the lady on the other end was very pleasant, but completely mis-communicated essential information to me. I also called them this week, and was barely able to communicate with the first person and utterly unable to communicate with a second.

This is unacceptable.

It isn't helped by another evil of modern communications - the IP telephone system - used to save money because it's cheaper to send call traffic through the internet than by conventional means. Call quality has gone to hell in a hangbasket, but that's another rant.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Apparently I am....

Which famous guitarist are you?
Your Result: David Gilmour

You play from the heart. You also deliver a great show anytime. You have skill, but you really don't like to show off. You let the music come in second to the visuals of the show. You prefer to play with people who know what they are doing.

Jimi Hendrix
Jimmy Page
Adam Jones
Tom Delonge
Synyster Gates
Dimebag Darrell
Another dumb quiz?

It's actually not *too* far off, in that the music I play is second to the worship going on, so I'm happy with that.

Sunday, 12 August 2007


I wonder if gummi-worm pizza is home yet?

Private speakers.

I'm not normally one that cares about home movie systems and all that stuff, but I've been impressed recently.

When I moved the other computer upstairs to make a place where we could play movies I bought a cheap 8 channel soundcard and 5.1 speaker system.

My first try using them wasn't spectacular, as the Power DVD software refused to play back more than 2 channels of audio unless I had either an expensive creative soundcard or paid to upgrade my version of the software. Stereo using a subwoofer is *ok* for movies, but that's all.

Enter VLC media player.

It has a clunky interface, partly because it does lots of things. However it's free AND plays back DVDs with full surround sound. This time, even though the movie we watched was the derisory 'happy feet' (how to put a political message in a kids film and make it annoying) the speakers handled the sound in a way no 2 speaker system could have. OK, I'm sold.

Well that was the week that was.

Thanks to Alan Whicker for the title.

I had all these posts floating around and now my head is just idea-soup.

The funeral for Chris's mum was on Thursday - a really big thanks to all the wonderful people that made cakes (Sandra, Jane, Jackie).

*edit* Really special thanks to Kita, who made teas and coffees and served everyone on one of her rare days off - how could I forget you in this list?

We've recruited 2 new people for work, and said goodbye to to one of our guys that's been with us for about 2 years - we'll miss Nick. Looks like being a manager is now unavoidable. Guess it's skills I'll need later.

Chris has been grinding through the probate paperwork - probate is effectively permission to manage the estate and administer the will, after you've told the government about how much EVERYTHING is worth.

Ben seems to have found someone interesting.

We watched 'Happy Feet' last night, recommended by Janique. That's 1 1/2 hours of my life I'll never get back.

Another guitar has arrived, but it's destined for someone else.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Chris has a sense of humour.

Good job too!

Last year I bought my Mexican strat:

and she made me this birthday card to match.

Some of you will remember I bought Kermit this spring:

So she made this card for me this year.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

We're back.

And this isn't the first time I've used that title.

Good time away.

Much needed break.

Now we need to digest what we've heard, including stuff about the future and what we should be doing. There's a strong sense of stepping into a new phase, but not *quite* completely yet: or rather the new phase has already started, but the fullness of it won't be here for a few more years yet. More changes/growth required in both of us before we're fully ready.