Thursday, 30 September 2010

Has it really been a whole year?

I was looking through Fernando's blog archive when I realised it's been a while year since Snow Leopard was released. This is pertinent because at the time I was a little dissatisfied with the performance of this Macbook, and the new OS was supposed to speed things up. So here I sit, 13 months later, having not upgraded and becoming even more disappointed as performance has been degrading further since that time.

There are several reason that might be the case, but it's likely I've been a victim of software updates. One upgrade I've really fancied was an SSD replacement for the hard drive: several offer quite astonishing data transfer rates, with users describing startup times as astonishingly quick, applications opening 'instantly'. However investigating the murky world of upgrading an Apple leaves one seriously wishing that a) Apple wouldn't 'upgrade' their software and b) that one hadn't bought an Apple to begin with.

It seems that Apple's OS isn't really ready for handling SSD properly (for technical reasons to do with how data is written, erased and then written to the same place again). It seems that the SS drives they supply are only capable of slow data throughput. The hardware on which Macbooks are based was capable of SATA 2 speeds, but were crippled down to SATA 1 speeds for a variety of reasons. Many users found that SSD drives capable of SATA 2 simply would not work at all in Macbooks (especially Macbook pros from mid 2009). Apple did eventually send out an 'upgrade' to the EFI chip, but the effect this had was than many people saw the spinning beachball (a sign that the OS is waiting for the hardware to do something) much more frequently than they did before. Some users even found a way of 'downgrading' to the previous version of the EFI software to fix the problem. It seems there were also issues down to a poor quality SATA connector, but that's another story.

Why do I grumble? I see that darn beachball far too often these days, even when the external HDD is not attached, and I'd *like* to upgrade to a super-fast SSD but there's every likelihood that it won't help much. I'm still tempted by the idea of upgrading to Snow Leopard, but wonder if I'd just be opening an even larger can of worms than is already sat in front of me.

To be honest, I can't see why this company seems so determined to do silly things to make life less sweet than it might be for its users. The thing is that they didn't have to place artificial restrictions on their hardware, but they chose to. It makes no sense, other than to try to shorten the useful life of a brand that had a reputation for longevity and a great customer experience.

In some ways I'm grateful for my Mac experience, in that it helped me to feel more comfy with non-microsoft operating systems. I've been running openSUSE 11.3 on my main home machine for several weeks now, and it seems mostly stable, reasonably fast and a decent user experience. However I'm finding that the more I use it, the more it highlights the shortcomings of OSX's weak window management and file handling. What's curious is that in some ways it's like OSX but yet does it better: combining the best of Apple and microsoft.

If I can learn how to use the WINE windows emulation package to run M$ office then I'd seriously consider rebuilding the Macbook with Linux and ditch OSX altogether. Now that's a thought and a seriously geeky one at that!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

It's Apple wot made me do it!

This isn't my usual whinge about the Jobbsian flavour of Big Brother. Also, can you spot the film reference?

One of the (genuinely) attractive - though terribly time wasting - features of OSX is the ability to display images from a chosen folder as a moving screensaver. It shows sections of the image gradually sliding across the screen.

The full height and width of the screen.

This means that I have become familiar with the way many of my images look at the equivalent size of at least 20"X28" and probably larger even than that, since this is a 20" widescreen monitor and the image has to be made larger so that it may be 'moved' across the screen. Many of them look glorious, with tiny details too small to easily see at my 'standard 1024X768' resolution size being clear and catching the eye.

Maybe I was a little slow on the uptake, but this is why I can't see the point to 450X600 images any more - they are now my thumbnails - and the truly postage-stamp sized images shown on some sites as thumbs are too small to be worth paying attention.

A part of this issue is also monitor resolutions and sizes. When I started out on my own system we had a 17" CRT monitor (large for the time) with a resolution of 1024X768. Images at 600X800 were both large enough to look very full, detailed and satisfying, and large enough to take forever to download across a 33K (later 56K) modem. But as resolutions have crept up, we seem to be cramming more pixels into a proportionately smaller space - at least visually so - with images that were once striking and detailed appearing small, weak and over-busy.

My solution has been to post 'outrageously' large images. Outrageous, that is, for a relatively slow (512K max at this end, frequently slower) broadband and utterly unacceptable for anyone on dialup. I should not be surprised if it becomes necessary within the next 5 years to raise the size of images again to keep up with ever finer resolutions, or maybe to start scaling images by screen-inches instead at higher underlying res.

One further observation. This size issue is also driving me to try to simplify my images. The less detail calling for attention, the better an image survives being miniaturised. I have always liked simple, striking images (although I like them to have fine detail that becomes apparent when they are enlarged - like the temperature gauge below) but this is forcing me to try to find ways of reducing images to simple light/dark constructions with fewer lead lines. It's good for some things, but makes landscapes much harder to capture since so much of the glory is in the fine detail and texture - at least for local stuff.

There are times I wish I could arrange a feed direct from my optic nerve to the hard drive, but that's just wishful thinking, and I'd still not be satisfied. And I'd then want to upgrade the eyeballs - but that's just a memo about a small proportion of the population.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Today I felt like that ethnic minor in the lignacious fuel supply.

Earlier in the week we had a delivery of wood, ready for the winter, and so today I stacked about a ton of it in the shed (we already have a small wood store in the garden). The back has probably survived, but is occasionally reminding me of it's presence, though Ibuprofen helps!

Here is is, stacked and safe.

But now I've got to get this lot back in!

Done it!

Have a look here, here and here for some 'woody' shots.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Since this IS becoming more photographic

I'm going to try to be a little more organised about it (goes against the grain, but hey, that's life).

So I'll try to reduce the numbers/sizes of images I post up and will attempt to create more galleries on Photobucket with hotlinks off the images themselves to the galleries. If you see an image that you like then click on it to see more. FWIW I've noticed that in opera hovering over a linked image doesn't always produce a change in cursor in the way that hovering over linked text does.

One thing I promise - that I won't inflict flikr on you. Every time I visit a flikr based gallery it makes me grit my teeth at the obstructiveness of the site design from the viewer's point of view. Maybe it's great for gallery owners, but the slowness, small image size and relatively linear way it displays images just doesn't work for me.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

This is rapidly becoming a photoblog

So maybe I should find somewhere else to host images (of buy a pro subscription to photobucket?).

Pictures taken wandering round the now disused airbase where I rent lab space.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

I had a good ride last night

About 14 miles, on and off road. It's interesting having music playing with the MP3 player set on alphabetical: one moment there'll be a worship piece and the next some Def Leppard or Fleetwood Mac. As I was riding past some farms on the way back, Johnny Winter was playing through some country-blues, it it really fitted well. I'm tempted to pick up a small DV cam and put together sections of rides with suitable backing music.

Anyway, pix of the countryside before me:

Monday, 20 September 2010

Life is nothing if not an adventure

It seems we're off to Prague in a couple of months. Sleazy jet and Laterooms both offering deals that seemed to good to refuse. Do they take euros in the Czech republic?

How would you say 'Aeaea'

Greek pronunciation and spelling is fascinating (if you're funny like that).

I'm just over half way through Robert Fagles' translation of The Odyssey, and the names of places and peoples require a little care, even when saying them in your own head:

Phaeacians (fee-ay-shuns)
Oechalia (ee-kay-li-a)
Onetor (o-nee-tor)
Aegae (ee-gee)

and of course

Aeaea (ee-ee-a)

It caused a certain amount of amusement yesterday when we heard the name Onesimus pronounced 'wun-si-mus' and Philemon as 'fil-a-mon' (if that means nothing to you, look here). It just goes to show how much we take for granted and how lucky we may have been to have a bit of Greek or Latin tucked away from when we were growing up. I can remember my grandmother reading from a childrens book of Greek mythology, telling me stories about Perseus, Hercules (Heracles) and Jason. The illustrations were all pretty 1900s-style impressions of a 'nice' Greek mythology, but I guess they whet my appetite.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Church leadership is odd.

When you're a 'wee nipper' of a Christian you look at church leaders and think "wow, what amazing people! Wish I could be living in what Bryn Jones/Terry Virgo/Bob Mumford/Arthur Wallace/Steve Thomas/Arthur Mullard* et al were living in! They must be such men of God".

And then you live a little with them - well, not most of that list, but other, more local MoG and although they still seem pretty amazing, you start to realise they aren't *completely* perfect.

Then there comes a time after you've been in the church a long while, and you look at those in leadership - please note this is NOT specifically about churches we've been in, but in a more general context - and you realise there are some real character flaws in there. Some of them are relatively minor, causing rows & hurt with some people they can't get on with. Some are more serious, where the teaching is twisted a bit to suit the preacher/teacher's purpose, rather than the truth. Some are very serious indeed, like the guys that have affairs or kiddy-fiddle.

It makes me stand back and wonder. There are some who should know better than to pedestal leaders like they are something special** ( a little flashback to Harry Enfield's Kevin & Perry characters, talking about their prospective girlfriends, suggesting that they were so perfect they didn't go to the toilet!). While it's right that leaders are honoured and respected, and at the same time given room to carry out their responsibilities, things get crazy when we lift those people out of the ordinary, and anyone self-pedestalling needs a little reality brought.

One of the things I've tried to deal with when I've heard the phrase used is the concept of 'full time ministry'. I'm called to do what I do full time. Chris is also in full time ministry (sometimes it feels like 2 lots of full time ministry to her!). But that's another topic.....

What am I saying?

Good question. There's an expectation that we have to reach a certain peak of 'Godliness' before we can see ourselves as worthy (ha ha, like we ever can be) of leading people, of serving God. Looking around I see leaders who on one side love God and want to serve Him with all they are, but sometimes all they are includes them being manipulative, insecure, domineering, disobedient and religious. It makes me realise that there is no bar to reach in order to hear and respond to the calling of God. And also, that accidentally making a mistake is not the worst thing you can do.

* Maybe not this one, but you get the idea.

** Some are something special, but they are usually the ones who are naturally humble, telling you how ordinary they are.

Ever have 'an idea' and then want to justify it?

I was reading a couple of weeks ago about the harp & bowl concept (coming before God with worship and petition - it's a revelation-style image) and the 24/7 style worship that some organisations in the US mostly (international house of praise - not the restaurant chain IHOP) are starting to develop.

The desire was for a day or a weekend of 24 hour worship, effectively non-stop worshiping before God, involving musicians and churches from across the whole of Bicester. Sounds great?

Sounds like a 'good idea'. :P

'Good Ideas' are almost always 'bad ideas', and I don't want to just do something because I've had a great idea, energy and enthusiasm has given it legs and suddenly there's an event that's actually based on little more than hype and wishful thinking. Too many times in churches we've embarked on things that were 'good ideas' and I've wondered why on earth we were doing such and such.

But it's also not gone away.

Now I suspect that I can justify this with a bit of 'made up' theology that might even be based on something real, if I need to sell the idea to others (as I would do if it were to happen). But part of the reason for popping it up on here is to see if, having talked about it, the idea will now just fade into the background or remain. If it does, I'm going to have to get other people to buy in and feel it for themselves.

There are also some inklings about touching the villages with worship events, but that's another story.

That's me it seems: too many 'good ideas' and not enough trousers.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Is 'brain swell' normal?

because I felt like my brain was swollen and a bit livid when I got home tonight, and it's not a sensation I enjoy.

I'm getting so I want to punch the screen on this Macbook.

OSX windows management is SO badly implemented that it's driving me mad.

Why, Steve Jobs please tell me, when I close a window in an application, should all the other windows also from that application have to pop up, one after the other. I'd give up that tool that spreads all open windows at reduced size across the screen in exchange to that feature being turned off. You only need that tool anyway because the Dock is crappy, and takes up too much screen space compared to the windows taskbar (and minimised windows are too hard to find when you reduce the dock AND that 'magnify' feature becomes incredibly faffy after a few minutes real world use).

I'm seriously thinking again about dual booting this thing - if only it didn't require expensive software I think I'd have done it by now. No Mac love here.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Waiting, just outside our door.

Which is better than inside, where another 3 have been found and killed.

This was a hornet, dozy from the cold and unable to fly on Friday morning last week. It was clearly afraid (with good reason) lifting it's front legs at me, snapping it's jaws and finally, trying to bring the sting round to face forward just after I took a couple of pictures. When these things fly past your head they don't buzz, so much as emit a low droning rumble that sends chills to your spine and thoughts of running to your legs. It's about as menacing as an insect gets in this country.

There are few insects that can look one in the eye as if to say "come and try it, if you think you're hard enough".

Looking at that hornet's face makes me think of a furious and completely mad jester.

An editor of the Oxford English dictionary

was making love to his secretary when his wife walked in unexpectedly. "Well, I am surprised!" was all the poor woman could manage to say at first. Her husband, however, was keen to correct her. "No, my dear; we are surprised; you are astonished"

I'm a fundamentalist - - - I'm a liberal

Well, by many standards I'm not either, but there was a time when I was most definitely a fundamentalist, and in some ways my outlook hasn't really changed.

Except that I see screwed up people.

The natural fundamentalist approach is to make rules for everyone to live by - I suppose in some ways fundamentalism is a Hebrew approach, truer to the old testament. At the same time, making rules for some people will just alienate them, while not helping them move forward or change. However agreeing with them and telling them "it's OK - you're fine as you are" like a liberal leaves them to sink deeper in their own excrement.

So I'm trying not to make rules for people to follow, but I can't help thinking that if they DID do the right thing for the right reasons they would be so much healthier and happier.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

So I get an email at lunchtime

It has links to web pages about visa waivers and requirements for entry into New Zealand by UK residents. This is *slightly* my fault, as I was supposed to look at this info LAST NIGHT. OTOH having more than 24hr notice might not have done any harm.

It's not surprising that there shouldn't be a problem, but it's also not surprising that this caused a mild ruffling to the usual feathers of urbanity and calmness.

On the website that the links took me to there was an image that invited me to 'register an interest in living and working in new Zealand'. I confess to being seriously tempted to explore, although I may be a little too old to be of interest to the Kiwis now.

Monday, 6 September 2010

This is a little foolish.

I've been looking at Christmas markets and looking up hotels 'with a view'. Suddenly I'd really rather like to visit Stockholm in winter again, walk along the Stadtsgardsleden and Stadtsgardshamnen, cross over into Gamla Stan or wander up up into the Sodermalm district. It would be good to see Gunvor and Bo, who I got to know a little better on my last visit, and (if I had the gall) go visit the lab I worked in and ask them why they don't buy my stuff!

Y'know the old adage

"If something looks too good to be true then it is"?

I've just booked us a night in a hotel with steam rooms, swimming pool etc for 40 quid including breakfast. For 2 people. It had a lot of good reviews too.

It looks like have just supplanted expedia for bargain accommodation, although they do lack the extra-ordinarily useful travel arrangement facility of the older company. I still have this nagging feeling about not paying enough, but I'm hoping that by saving here we can afford to have a weekend in Bruges before Christmas.

Workflow and photographic packages

I've just started using a new package on the Linux box - DigiKam, which was bundled with open SuSE 11.3. Seems versatile but very slow handling after Irfanview's nimble simplicity and familiar interface - I cannot recommend Irfanview highly enough for those without complex image manipulation needs, and it's still my benchmark for easy high-throughput preparation.

While I've only spent a couple of evenings using it, I like the interface over GIMP for relative clarity and simplicity. However it is also quite complex under the skin, offering quite a lot of options and advanced tools for sophisticated image manipulation.

The biggest downside is that it does seem terribly slow, taking 20sec+ to process some 8MPix images and even to acquire the images from the camera. The other issue is that workflow seems a bit lumpy, despite all the care that's gone in to providing thumbnails etc to help. We'll see if things become easier as familiarity increases - I do hope so, as it seems to do almost everything I could want (though I've not tried using layers with it yet).

It's also free and open source, and apparently available for the Mac. I shall have to try it here soon (when I've worked out how to install it!).

Jet planes, leaving: what words do you associate with those?

Ben is off to New Zealand tomorrow night.

In a way it will make just a little difference, because he's been living his own life for pretty much a year now, just eating and sleeping here (mostly). And yet knowing he's across the world will make all the difference. I've spoken to a friend there, and I know she'll be a contact point for him if there's issues, but even so, it's a long way.

Looks like we're finding out what an empty nest is like for real.

Sad? A little. Concerned? Ditto. Hoping he'll come back a bigger, stronger, wiser person? Absolutely. Hoping he'll not stay? Mostly that too. Nothing stays the same forever.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

For those who are interested in the Anglican church in the village community.

I took some pictures at the Christening of our friends daughter, Melissa.

And for those who read the comments on this blog, that's Eddie on the far right.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Beware anyone who says to you "I'm a bit of a control freak".

I'd like to quote a friend's post from an online forum, on her experiences elsewhere. It was in a thread about leaders that micro-manage:

We've experienced being micro-managed by a church leader. It was painful, frustrating, humiliating, dis-empowering, controlling and eventually crossed the line into bullying. We ended up having to leave that church for a season. The whole episode (lasting over a year) was one of the most difficult times of our lives.

The ideal is to equip and release people into their own ministires, not to hold on to power for no good reason. The first multiplies workers for the Kingdom, the second depletes those numbers. I think it's a 'Christendom' versus 'Kingdom' issue. The Christendom model is very much about control, heirarchy, top down 'management' of believers in churches. The Kingdom model is more about flat-line ministry, a genuine priesthood of all believers, a missional approach, seeking to build God's Kingdom by telling people about Jesus and making disciples.

This is not to say that I don't believe in leaders. I do. Some are gifted at drawing out the best in people. Others are useless and even toxic. It can take years for a church to recover from a leader like that and begin to grow by conversion again.

When we found ourselves leading a worship team again after that episode, we strove to encourage people in their walk with the Lord, discover individual gifts, to help train people, give them opportunities to test their giftings, equip them with a foundation in Bible knowledge and build up their confidence so that they could each take over from us sooner rather than later. We've been trying to do ourselves out of a job. LOL!

We did a lot of soul-searching after the accusations of being 'unteachable'. Eventually, after several months of praying and crying out to the Lord, we began to believe that we had not been at fault. We love to learn. It was rather the leader who had abused his position by calling us that. It's the ultimate weapon, isn't it? It destroys a person's reputation and makes it hard for them to come back from.

Ah well, enough of that personal experience. Just a plea, please equip and release people into ministry rather than seek to control under the guise of leadership.

A mark of a Godly leader is that he'll always be looking for ways to move people up, to grow them, to bring them into a bigger ministry. His own ministry won't be threatened by people of greater ability because he knows his place in God, and is secure in that.

I've been on both sides of that camp, as a 'servant' and as a leader. Being insecure and afraid for one's position is one of the ugliest things that can take place in a leader, and has to be fought tooth and nail. Working for an insecure leader isn't much better, except you can't win by fighting and no-one comes out of it well if it's not dealt with very quickly.