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Sabbatical, Day 34: Computer Troubles, The CT Scan, Christian Music And Animation

Recurring computer frustrations this morning. McAfee Security Center is trying my patience. Twice this week it has thrown up warnings, saying the PC isn’t protected. It invites you to click a button to fix the problems, and it doesn’t. Earlier in the week, it demanded uninstallation and an upgrade. That seemed a bit rich, given I was subscribed over a year in advance. That time and today, forcing a search for updates seemed to solve the problem. If it keeps misbehaving, I may write off what I’ve paid ahead of time and replace it with a  high quality free anti-virus offering such as Avast and the excellent if rather talkative firewall from Comodo.

The other sinner this week has been our Canon Pixma iP5200 printer. We keep getting documents printed without that rather crucial colour, black. And that’s a disadvantage with text! Each time, it’s the same fault. One of the two black cartridge nozzles needs cleaning. It has been an excellent workhorse, but I’m beginning to suspect built-in obsolescence. It’s three years old, and everyone knows manufacturers make little money from the printers themselves, cashing in on the inkjet cartridges. And in an economic model like that, the manufacturers are being pushed hard by the widespread availability of compatibles. What a ghastly parable of our whole creaking economic system.

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This afternoon began with the CT scan on my sinuses. Thanks to Olive for her lovely comment on yesterday’s post. It was a strange experience, different from what I was expecting. For a start, I was seen on time, so congratulations to the Radiology Department at Broomfield Hospital! I was taken from the main radiology waiting room to a separate CT scan waiting room.

Asked if I had any jewellery, I mentioned my watch and wedding ring, neither of which I had to remove anyway. And although they are both strictly jewellery, I never think of them that way. ‘Bling’ is not a word anyone who knows me would associate with me. The watch is a tool for a job, and the wedding ring is my visual aid to remind me wherever I am that I have the privilege of being married. 

The nurse also asked me if I had any questions, and I explained my main concern was with lying still on my back, given that’s the position in which I find it hardest to breathe – and ironically the reason why I was having the test. The appointment letter had said the procedure would last between ten and thirty minutes. However, if I was under the scanner for five minutes, that’s all it was. Sinuses are among their simpler cases, apparently – and thankfully!

Lying under the scanner, I had certain expectations of what would happen. I thought it would be one long, steady, slow pass through what the staff referred to as the ‘doughnut’. Actually, I went forward and backward two or three times in semi-jerky movements. The whirring, flashing ring reminded me of something from Star Trek, perhaps a glorified version of the sight gadget Geordi La Forge wore. (No, I’m not a Trekkie: I had to research the character’s name.) When it slowed down, it sounded like a tube train coming into a station. From Geordi La Forge to Underground Ernie, I guess. 

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I’m tired tonight, so nothing intellectually demanding. I’m reviewing some CDs for Cross Rhythms. Every couple of months, they send me four releases to write up, and the musical styles can vary greatly.

First off tonight, a compilation from the now defunct American girl-pop trio Zoegirl. It’s highly professional yet very derivative of other teen pop. Like Andy Crouch, I believe Christians should be Culture Making rather than culture copying. However, it does have the merit of lyrics that attempt to boost the self-esteem of teenage girls. I suspect the members of Zoegirl are utterly sincere Christians, working within a less than entirely honourable industry. Hits: Greatest Zoegirl is their third compilation since 2005. It came out last year, and there’s another comp of them being released next month! It’s hard to have kind words for an industry that behaves like that.

Currently playing while I’m typing is Hold On For Life by the Arkansas Gospel Mass Choir. Right now, I’m only seven tracks out of ten through a first listen, so any opinions now are highly provisional. It doesn’t break any new ground in the black gospel genre, either musically or lyrically, and some annoying pseudo-live sounds are overdubbed, but you can’t get over the extraordinary power and quality of those voices, and a great brass section. 

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I’m signing off tonight with an amazing piece of animation. A friend just sent me the link to Animator Vs Animation by Alan Becker. It’s an amazing treat.

Goodnight!

Sabbatical, Day 31: Links, Lent, Movies And Books

Before today’s news, here are some links. Let’s kick off with a survey. What kind of technology user are you? The Pew Internet and American Life Project has a quiz. I am an ‘ominvore‘. (Via the Comodo Monthly Insider email.)

The Evangelical Alliance has a resource launching on 5th March entitled ‘Square Mile‘. To quote their email:

Mercy: demonstrating God’s compassion to the poor
Influence: being salt and light in the public life of the community
Life Discipleship: equipping Christians for missional living as workers & neighbours
Evangelism: faithful and relevant communication of the gospel
Square Mile is an exciting initiative, designed to catalyse and equip the UK Church to take a truly integrated approach to mission in partnership with the Alliance and Community Mission.
Square Mile resources include a new DVD-based course designed for small groups, which explores these four areas of mission. Featuring insights from: Shane Claiborne, Mark Greene, J John, Tim Keller, Elaine Storkey, Jim Wallis and N.T. Wright, as well as examples of grassroots projects around the UK. A journal is also availabe containing daily readings, reflections and activities covering four weeks – ideally used alongside the DVD course.

Ruth Haley Barton has an article for the first week of Lent: Practising Repentance.

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If it isn’t one, then it’s the other. Mark went back to school today, and Rebekah was off sick. She had diarrhoea in the night and this morning. I’ll spare you further grisly details. 

Thus today I have been a teacher and an entertainer. Not that far removed from ministry, is it? I helped her with her reading, her spelling homework and her Maths game.

As a reward, we allowed her to paint a mug. Not one of our existing mugs, one that came in a box with paints and brushes. She has decorated a couple before, but I put the last one in the dishwasher and the paint began to peel. If everything King Midas touched turned to gold, most things I touch shatter into several pieces.

Either side of lunchtime, Debbie, Rebekah and I watched ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang‘ on DVD. It came out in 1968, and I saw it at the cinema first time around. If I didn’t feel old enough already, what with the fact that tomorrow I enter the final year of my forties, I felt even more decrepit remembering that fact.

As I watched it, I mused on this thought. Today, we are used to discussing serious themes in films. Organisations like Damaris Trust and others produce first class material to help in that matter. Usually, the movies chosen are not children’s titles. Yet Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has some simple ideas that would bear some exploration. Here are just a few. 

Career-wise, do you follow your dreams, imagination and creative talent, even into penury that affects you and your family, in the hope it will work out in the end, or do you just take a routine mundane job? (Caractacus Potts)

How do you deal with the fact that evil is sometimes blatant and other times disguised? (The Child Catcher)

How do you hang on in the face of evil while injustice reigns? (The villagers keep their children underground, not seeing the sun, while the Baron and his forces seek to eliminate children.)

Can you have successful marriages and relationships across wide socio-economic barriers? (Caractacus Potts doesn’t propose marriage to Truly Scrumptious until he realises his invention of Toot Sweets is going to make him wealthy, just as she is.)

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And finally, just a little tiny bit of sabbatical work today. Some of that was reading the terms and conditions for signing up to Survey Monkey. I’m glad I read these. I have to be very careful how I word emails in which I invite people to complete my survey, and include various items to avoid Survey Monkey deleting my account. Clearly they are protecting themselves against use by spammers. I have to include an ‘unsubscribe’ link and my snail-mail address. The problem with ‘ubsubscribe’ will be that I may not be using a mailing list full of individuals, so I’ll need to think of a way around that.

The other thing that has happened is this. You may recall my recent series of posts on The Starfish And The Spider. There was another similar book I also wanted to read. Well, at last, after several weeks on order and being number one in the queue to read it next, ‘Here Comes Everybody‘ by Clay Shirky found its way to North Melbourne Library today, and it is sitting on my desk at last. I had taken to reading something that is not sabbatical related, but which is thought-provoking on a general theme: ‘The God I Don’t Understand‘ by Chris Wright. I may need to return to that later now.