Archive for June, 2008

A long week

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Last week was a long week. I was down to Craigavon every evening for my church’s annual summer work – a Holiday Bible Club (a la CEF) for the children, and a summer scheme for the teenagers. Must have done 50 miles every night, and wasn’t home until 11:00 any night.

But we had a really good week. We had a team from Briarwood Presbyterian Church, which is in Birmingham, Alabama with us, and I have to say they were really good. Thanks to them going round the schools to promote the clubs, we had a good number of kids through the door, and thanks to them being there, we had enough leaders to run the clubs properly.

But more than that, we had a team who were just full of energy and enthusiasm, who were happy to do anything to help, and were really good with the kids. This year we had a very mixed team, of male and female, yound and old, mental and quite sensible, and it was quite nice to see that variety at work. I guess it gave it more of a feeling of a family.

And of course the real excitement came from the fact that on the final night, five girls became Christians, which was brilliant.

Anyway, much respect to the Briarwood team of 2008. They completely rock, and I hope they have a fantastic time in Maze and Ballinderry this week.


Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

The long-awaited Lisburn 10k was this evening. Four of us ran it for ACTS Ministries – Nikki, Stephen, John and myself. I am pleased to report that we all made it safely round, and got our medals at the end.

It was an interesting experience. I followed my race strategy, which was to put my MP3 player on at the start (a small, light one – not my big clumpety iPod), and ran to the music, as I usually do. It worked pretty well for me. I started to flag a bit coming up to the half-way point, but was revived by knowing I was half-way, and listening to Hey Ya, by Outkast. This set a faster pace, sounds a bit upbeat, and gave me the chance to ponder the lyrics:

If what they say is ‘nothing lasts forever’
 then what makes, then what makes,
then what makes, then what makes
 love the exception?”

which I thought was worth some consideration.

Likewise at about the 8km mark when James Morrison sang:

Well I know that it’s a wonderful world,
 but I can’t see it right now
 I thought that I was doing well,
 but I just want to cry now.

it didn’t feel completely out of place at that stage in the ordeal.

But at the end, I felt pleased to come in at under an hour (54 mins 34 seconds by my watch – official timings still to come), and to be still able to walk. Never have I been so pleased to hear the Kaiser Chiefs, which was the music for a final fast push to the end. Mind you, it took nearly as long to get out of the car park afterwards as it did to run the race. Anyway, I’ve achieved something unexpected, and I’m pleased. Goodnight world 🙂

The times they are a changing

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Or to be more precise, I suppose, the times have already changed.

I heard a piece on the Today programme about publishing and buying books, focussing on a row that’s brewing with Amazon.

It started me thinking on how things used to be, not that very long ago. Because I work near the city centre, I usually go out for lunch with my friends, and we get some food and have a bit of a wander round the town. We’ve been doing it for years, but I realised with some surprise that it has changed over time, and I hadn’t noticed.

We used to regularly go round all the bookshops (Easons, Dillons, Waterstones, and some of the second-hand ones too), and the music shops (Our Price, Virgin, HMV), probably at least once a fortnight. And now we hardly ever go to a bookshop or music shop. Now why should that be? Partly it’s because none of us tend to buy as many things from those shops (the ones that are still open of course).  I don’t think I’ve bought anything from one of those shops since Christmas, and maybe not since the Christmas before. But we never used to buy books every week, so that’s not the whole story. Part of the pleasure of a bookshop or CD shop is the browsing to see what’s there, but now that we have a whole world of books and music at our fingertips all the time, it doesn’t seem necessary any more. Especially since we now get emails all the time advertising all the new books and CDs, so we don’t even have to go and see what’s new.

That kind of disappoints me. I like bookshops, and music shops, and it kind of shocks me to think I’m not visiting them. So next week’s resolution is to go and make friends with some bookshops again.


Monday, June 9th, 2008

I happened to read the start of Galatians chapter 5 the other night. In my bible (the Good News Version) it read as:

“Freedom is what we have – Christ has set up free! Stand, then, as free people, and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again.”

This year, there has been a lot of celebration of the end of slavery,  and yet when I read this, I realised that slavery is still going strong. Yes, Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin, and also from slavery to the law. But now that we have this freedom, what do we do with it? We manage to enslave ourselves once again. It’s so easy to be enslaved by career, by money, by the tv schedules, by fashion, by our bad habits, by public opinion, by fear – the list goes on and on. We seem to have a built in tendency to make new chains for ourselves, as we slide into patterns of thought and behaviour, and then get stuck in them.

I think I need to break a few chains again. Here’s to freedom!

Oh the things I have seen

Saturday, June 7th, 2008
  • Following up on an earlier post, this week’s Doctor Who was “The Forest of the Dead”, the second part of a two parter written by Stephen Moffat, who will be the new guvnor at Doctor Who. I thought it was very good. He writes scary stories, but rather beautiful endings.
  • And this week’s Heroes (Chapter 7) was the point at which the series got its mojo back – it shifted up a gear, and things started to get a bit more interesting again. Suddenly I can’t wait for the next episode, like I was last year.


Friday, June 6th, 2008

This article in Wired caught my eye this morning, and made me think about one of my favourite things – gadgets. Their theory is that the iPhone won’t catch on much in Japan because they’re already got supercool phones that do a million things, and won’t be interested in a phone that only does a hundred things, even if it does those things in very nice way.

It’s an interesting question, and one that boils down to one of the age-old dilemmas – do we want quality, or quantity? Some restaurants thrive because their portions are very big, but others because their portions are small, but completely delicious.

So what kind of shopper am I? Well, I think anyone who knows me who agree that I am a bit of a gadget fiend. I like complicated things. While I am shocked and appalled at some of the things that are sold in Japan, that’s generally because of the horror of the marketting (go away Hello Kitty! I am not interested!), rather than not liking the over-engineering of some of their ideas.

As some of you may know, I am no lover of Apple. I suppose some of that was the dumbed down simplicity of some of their products, like the old one-button mouse, which I particularly hated. But that’s old Apple. New Apple computers now run on top of Linux, practically the most complicated way to run a computer on the planet (beaten only by MVS on IBM mainframes I’ll wager). And the new Apple mouse is so over-engineered it’s astonishing. But the result of this is something that at first glance looks simple and uncomplicated, but underneath has enough complexity to make a hacker weep with joy. It’s a killer combination, and has gained them a lot of friends. It’s quality in top, with unexpected quantity underneath.

And so although the iPhone may not go down well in Japan, in the computer world, they’re winning over the gadget lovers. Oh, I hates them. Nasty hobbitses…

The end of the beginning

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

I’m sure we’re all relieved to hear that the selection of the Democratic candidate for the forthcoming American election has now finally finished. What a waste of time, money and effort! It has taken months, and cost millions of dollars to decide which of the candiates gets to be number one, and which one gets to be number two (because let’s face it, it’s inevitable that they would go into the actual election together, one way or another). I admit that if they had decided by tossing a coin, or sitting down months ago and negotiating it, it might have had a different outcome, but set that risk against what all that they’ve gone through, and it starts to look like a reasonable solution to me. I think there’s a number of lessons in it.

  • Never put the word democratic in the name of a political party. Sooner or later there’s a time when it would be better for a group of leaders to make a decision, instead of putting things to a massive vote, but because of the name, the party is left with no choice. I can see the DUP hitting something like this too in the near future.
  • There would seem to be a long tail arrangement in the Democratic primaries – one analysis this morning indicated that the Clinton campagin focused on fewer, bigger states, with the assumption that the smaller ones would come into line. Obama seems to have foxed that strategy by winning a large number of smaller states, which added up to more votes in the end. That’s very Long Tail (which I haven’t finished reading yet, but I’m getting there).
  • I can’t help being depressed that at the end of all this, the actual proper election campaign hasn’t even started yet. It’s always possible that the American people might choose McCain instead. Let’s face it, after all this effort, it’ll be a real disaster if he doesn’t win the actual election, and ends up having to make environmental documentaries.
  • There’s a part of me that is vaguely troubled by the media coverage of American politics in general. The British media has very little good to say about George Bush, ever, and yet his popularity in America has only slumped fairly recently (after all, he did win a second term in office). I think that means that the American media are probably presenting him differently to ours. Is it possible that the truth lies somewhere in between? If that’s the case, do I really understand enough about American politics to have an opinion on any of this?