Story Telling (Part 3) – The Hero’s Journey (aka, Story Circle).

So this is Part 3 of my seminar / workshop on Story Telling that I did with the Logos Hope On-Board events Team. Here’s Part 1, and Part 2.

There’s an interesting alternative theory called, “The Hero’s Journey” (or “Monomyth”). There’s books written about this, some really cool ideas.  A very approachable version is by Dan Harmon, the creator of Community.  Ant Webb was the guy who introduced me to both Community, and the Hero’s Journey.  We’ve been discussing it and used it as part of Matt’s Blog.

Slide16The Hero’s Journey theory says good stories are circular. You end up back where you started. They’re a journey from home, from comfort, from the concious, down into the subconscious, uncomfortable far away place, and back eventually home again. Of course, changes happen along the way.


The full theory has all kinds of Freudian stuff to do with being forced out of the mothers arms by the call of the father, eventually defeating the father, and returning eventually as a mother or father all that… (Seriously, Freud had issues.) Also, there’s loads of details that are reasonably important, and do make the story more compelling, but also, with much added complexity.Slide19So lets go look at Dan Harmon’s Story Circle instead.

Dan Harmon's Story Circle MainHe takes the circle concept, and breaks it into 8 simple parts.

1-youWe start off at “You“. This is where “you” the audience relate to the main character(s). Preferably, the character should be in a place of comfort, or at least, be connected to some kind of easy-to-relate-to “home” situation. This could be a sailor at sea on the bridge, or a little bear playing a balancing game, or Garion at Faldor’s farm, a new student enrolling at community college, etc. It’s a starting point that the audience can relate to, and feel comfortable understanding. They don’t have to dig deep emotionally to connect with the main character. It happens automatically. This is the concious, mental understanding area.

2-need Next is the “need“. Something isn’t right, or some how the stable situation will be pushed off-balance. This is pretty close to the “problem” concept from the 3-act play model. Note, we’re still basically in the stable conciousness.


So, since there’s a need, I guess we’d better “Go” do something about it. This is where the Hero decides to actually leave their safe familiar environment, and go out into the world to solve the problem. We finally dep3-enter-unknownart the concious, and head into the scary subconscious / unconscious. The going can often be the most emotional part of the story. Or at least, the most emotionally motivated or driven part. Once the Hero is actually off fighting dragons and saving maidens, they’re too busy actually doing stuff to be all soppy and emotional.

Slide27Now that we’ve actually left, comes the big difficult part of the story, the Seeking, or Searching. We may not exactly know what it is we’re looking for yet – but we’ll find out. Many different avenues can be explored, different people met, etc.  This can be long, arduous, and challenging.  The main character should be growing and changing here.

5-findEventually, we Find what we’re looking for. This is where we can start looking at the more interesting parts of the theory.  Up until now, it’s all been pretty pedestrian, but behold: the magic!

Slide32Each point on the circle has an opposite point.  OK, to be honest, that’s more like geometry than magic, but whatever.  They’re kind of similar.

Slide33Find is directly opposite on the circle from You, for instance. All opposites have extremely strong ties to each other. So “You“, signifying conscious comfort and familiarity, can either be used here with direct parallels, or with polar opposites. But either way, it’s linked. Garion is tempted most by Torak by images of family and a safe life with Aunt Pol. Little Bear realises it’s dark and thinks about going home. Frodo and Sam reminisce about home, talking about planting the acorn from Loth Lorian in the Shire, deciding it’s all worth it to stop Sauron’s Hoards pillaging and burning everything they hold dear.

Let’s move on:

Slide29So we’ve found it – but to actually Take it, there’s a Cost. As Rumplestiltskin so repeatedly says in Once upon a time, “Magic always comes at a price!”. Here, again, is a link across to “Need“, the opposite number again.

Slide36If the need doesn’t balance the cost, then why would you pay it? Too high a cost, with too little benefit, and the audience feels like the hero is crazy, or just doing it because the script says to. Too small a price, and the audience feels cheated. It’s too easy.  So again, making links between the two helps strengthen the story.

Note: Often the Find and Take are very close together, the 8 points on the circle don’t need to each have equal screen-time.

Slide30Having paid the price and Taken it, now we need to Return home. This is where we can start to bring home the conscious message of what we’ve taken. It’s the balance point going back into the safe lands again, and can be quite emotional again.

Slide35There’s nothing really left to do, so it’s beginning to relax time, which means all the stress of the journey can begin to surface and be dealt with.

Slide31As the Hero returns home, presumably, hopefully, they’re somewhat Changed. If the hero hasn’t actually changed, then really, what was the point of the whole thing? This is where sit-coms and soap operas cheat like mad. Since they don’t actually want to seriously change the situation, but leave it ready for next week, they have to paint lots of obvious messages about what the characters have learned, even to the point of having characters sitting around saying trite crap about, “I guess now we know that…”, “So next time I won’t do that again…”, so that the audience feels like they’ve seen a change, although actually, next week, they’ll all act exactly the same as before. (Sad, isn’t it?)

Slide34The Link with Changed is Search.  It’s usually through the questing / searching / learning part of the story that the Hero has changed.  This is done extremely obviously in Lord of the Rings (the books, of course) when the 4 hobbits return to the Shire and kick out Saruman and Wormtongue.  The LOTR movies don’t have that section, so they try to show that they’re “changed” through a soppy emotional “Oh Gosh How Deep We All Are Now” load of rubbish with the 4 hobbits making calves eyes at each other.  They do show Samwise actually going to ask his sweetheart to marry him, finally, which is good.  But still.  There is actually a reason for the section they cut out.  And the  movies suffer for lack of it.

Let’s look at our example, Little Bear, again…

Slide45And so that’s the basic overview version of The Hero’s Journey.

Pretty cool, innit?

And that concludes my mini-series from the workshop.  In some ways, I wish I could have just told the Events Team “Go Read Dan Harmon’s Blog Posts, and watch Glove and Boots!”, but the ship’s firewall blocks half of it for profanity, and it would shock the heck out of the team for actually containing said profanity, and doing a workshop is actually a lot more meaningful to many people than simply reading it on a blog.  But since you, dear reader, have read my blog, here’s a link to the stuff Dan Harmon wrote about it. It’s also in several parts.  And probably quite a lot clearer than what I wrote.  My audience was a bit different, and I was simplifying in different ways because of the direction I’m trying to influence them.  Read what he wrote.  There’s good stuff there.

Glove and Boots also did a video about The Hero’s Journey, which covers the more character-centred side of the theory:

Anyway, I should stop waffling now.  I’m writing a lot of this while sitting on a cold floor in Changi Airport in Singapore with my wife and 1-year-old son sleeping next to me at 5:30am.  I think I’ll wait until I get home to proof read it once more before publishing…

Story telling (Part 2) – Of Aristotle and Acts

This is the second part of a 3 part series, transcribing / “article-ifying” a training seminar I ran with the on-board events team on the Logos Hope.  Here’s a link to the first part.

Aristotle and a suuuper simple model

Waaay back in 350 or so BC, a clever Greek dude (Aristotle) said that he reckoned a good story (or theatrical performance) had 3 parts to it:

  • Beginning
  • Middle
  • End

Yep. It’s what you’re taught in primary school creative writing. Expanding those a bit:

  • Beginning: Introduction to the main characters, and “The Problem”
  • Middle: The struggle or conflict, where the main characters confront “The Problem”
  • End: Where either the main characters or “The Problem” win, and everything resolves.

In some ways, the most important thing from this is that without a problem, there is no story. There has to be “something rotten in the state of Denmark”. Or else what keeps your audience more interested in the programme, than in what’s on their phones?

“3 act plays”

Taking this concept a bit further, is the traditional “3 act play”. Often our events aren’t done in acts, but the concepts are useful for thinking, “Where should I put the refreshment breaks?” and thinking how the story energy levels should map out best.  Whether or not you actually use this model, it’s still an interesting one to look at, and see if it helps you.

The 3 acts are pretty close to the “beginning, middle, end” concepts from before, but expanded.

Confusingly, sometime the 3-act-play can be broken down in to 4 parts:

3 acts, 4 parts

which progresses through the main character (and audiences’) perception of ‘The Problem’.

There’s “potential” for an interesting story – you set up the main character(s), and the problem.  But they’re not actually in conflict yet (at least, as far as this specific narrative goes.)  There’s resistance to the conflict – things get in the way, the problem isn’t fully understood yet, etc.  Finally the conflict itself, actually doing something, rather than just trying to understand the problem, and finally the outcome, and cleaning up.

I mentioned that the Main Character and the Problem may not be in actual conflict yet.  Just to note here, this is for the purposes of this narrative.  For instance, in David and Goliath, Israel and Phillistia are at war at the beginning of the story.  However, the Main Character, David, isn’t actually in personal conflict with Goliath, until much later.

So how do these 4 parts map onto a “3 act play”?4-parts-3-acts

Act 1.

Starting off the play, you need some kind of event which introduces the reason for the story.

The children of Israel are at war with the Philistines. Jeff Winger starts at his new Community College; Darth Vader boards Princess Leia’s diplomatic space ship and takes her prisoner; The orb of Aldur is stolen; Little Bear is playing, and it’s getting late.inciding-incidentSometimes, this is called the ‘inciting incident’.

One thing to note is that this might not involve the main character. It’s setting the scene for the whole rest of the story, and may in fact be the cause for many different stories to happen. A murder has happened, but at least so far, the main character may not yet have been put on the case.

As “The Problem” now develops, at some point it’s going to bump into the main character, and eventually, somehow, they’re going to have to do something about it. They may not be keen on the idea, they may need to be persuaded, or dragged kicking and screaming into it, and often it’s more fun if that’s the case.

first-act-turnThis point, which causes the main character(s) to actively attack the problem, is sometimes called the ‘First Act Turn’.  David visits his brothers on the battlefield, and sees Goliath challenging them all, and no-one having the guts to do anything about it.  Luke Skywalker’s Uncle and Aunt are killed and he decides to go with Obi Wan; Mr Wolf and Aunt Pol tell Garion that they’re going to leave Faldor’s farm; Little Bear decides to ignore Mama bear, and play instead.

Now you’ve actually got the audience hooked to the story – they’re interested in the character, and now the character is about to go do something interesting. This is a good ending point for the first act, so you might as well try and sell some refreshments, as you know the audience will come back to find out what will happen.

Act 2

Curtain up again, time for Act 2. It’s been joked about that you should just skip Acts I and III and just go with II, as that’s where all the interesting stuff happens.

In the four stages listed above, you can see act 2 divided in half.  The first half is typically about understanding the problem, the second half about actually going to do it.

So first, we learn more about the problem. Often there’s a lot of discovery, trying to understand the problem first, and then later transition into actually doing something about it.  David starts asking his brothers about Goliath, and they despise him. The Prodigal Son is burning his inheritance, not realising the consequences.

Sometimes, around about the mid-point, there’s a good point to stop, pause, and say, “Right. Now we know what we need to do, lets do it!”


The mid-point can be the major turning point in the story.  David’s questioning about Goliath finally reaches the ears of King Saul, and he calls David before him.  The Prodigal son’s money finally starts to run out.

Now we’ve finally got to a place where the Main Character will come into actual conflict with the problem.  David tells the King that he’ll go fight Goliath.

However, often the “doing” is more complex than originally thought, and it can all go terribly wrong.

The King tries to give David his armour, but it’s far to big, and David falls on his face.  The Prodigal Son thinks he can still be self-sufficient, but his “friends” reject him, and goes on the hunt for jobs.  Eventually he finds he has no skills at all, and ends up feeding pigs.

Obi-wan dies fighting Darth Vader; Garion decides to leave his friends, his Aunt, his safety, and go to fight Torak himself; Little bear realises it’s dark and he’s all alone, and he doesn’t know the way back home.


This sudden swing – it looks like the hero will be defeated, or the current route is blocked is a really good way to bring the audience up short. Things might have been challenging before, but at least it was going somewhere. Now what’s going to happen? This is the “Second Act Turn”. Again, roll out the popcorn and drinks; art doesn’t pay for itself, you know.

Act 3

The third act needs only 2 main features:

  • Resolving the conflict (The climax)
  • Tidying up the loose ends and making the audience feel good.

3 acts with points

OK, you may not always want the audience to feel good at the end. Sometimes a tragedy is more moving, and you know what, frequently life sucks. But you want them to feel satisfied that they got their money’s worth, and that it’s probably worth coming again.

There are other subtleties you can add to this basic overview, such as adding “The Question” as a (sometimes hidden) subtopic to The Problem. The Question can be something more personal, or more meaningful than just solving The Problem, and it’s only through The Problem that the main character can understand The Question.

So, that’s the “3 act” model of telling a story (at least, a version of it).  In some ways, quite complex, but it explains pretty well how the energy-concepts from Part 1 can map onto a longer story.

As a bonus, here’s Good Night Little Bear:

Slide44Next time, I’ll go into the “Hero’s Journey” model.

We interrupt this series…

Since we’re only on the ship for a few more days (!), I thought I’d post a few photos.


It was a friend’s birthday, and so various people filled his office with balloons.  David already loves coming to visit him (Tommy), and this visit was even more fun.


Prayer night on board.  They’d decided for a “gather around the fire” kind of set up, the evening being led by the Africans on board, so I added a few lighting touches to make it feel even more campfireish.


This is the new lighting control system.  We’ve got rid of the old, difficult-to-teach, increasingly flaky Zero88 LeapFrog Desk, and put in place a computer, with a USB->DMX interface.  The software we’re using is free, called “QLC+”.  It’s got a few bugs, but is *incredibly* much more easy to teach people, and allows us to do cool things like play music from the software, with lighting cues at specific times in the music, make the moving-head lights bounce around in time, etc.  Cool cool stuff.


David enjoys playing table tennis with us.lifejacket-smaller

Muster drill today, David got all dressed up in his lifejacket, and looked stunningly cute, in a marine kind of way.  He had fun, anyway.


This is a project I’ve wanted to do for a while.  The equipment in this office is “AVC” (Audio-Visual Central), and the main hub for all the AV routing around the ship (sending video & audio to the dining room so people can listen to devotions while finishing breakfast, for instance.  Or displaying big programs in the theatre in the Logos Lounge as well as an over-flow venue, or as a place for ship’s company to watch, etc. etc.).

Anyway,  This whole wall of racking is quite a mess.  This office used to be the IT office, and backs on to the server room.  Things have changed now, and it’s the on-shore-events team who work here, so having 19 inch racking makes no sense.  And they need more storage space, and the IT folks need more storage space too.

So I suggested (about 2 months ago) moving the AV equipment into the far left rack, and then turning the other 3 racks into cupboards facing both ways, with plenty of space for the IT guys in the server room, and plenty for the on-shore teams in this office.  Nothing came of my suggestion, so I thought, “oh well, the carpenters are too busy.  whatever”.  But now they’ve got a couple of enthusiastic project workers on the job, and everyone’s quite excited about how much more space they’re going to get.

rack_back-smallerAlthough I’m wondering if I was mad to suggest this project, as it does mean quite a lot of moving cables and equipment around…. I hope I don’t break anything.  I want to do this while I’m here though still, as none of the A/V team have any experience doing racks/patchpanels/routers/install type stuff.

It seems really odd that we’re going to be leaving in less than a week.  Hard (in some ways) to think we’ve been here 3 months.  In some ways it seems like a lot more, and in some ways it feels like we’ve barely arrived.

Story Telling (Part 1) – Energy

Recently I had the opportunity to do a workshop / seminar with the Logos Hope Events team about Theatre & Storytelling.  I love theatre, and am very passionate about making (especially Childrens’) events into engaging stories, rather than just variety shows with a 5 minute message tacked on the end.

This is kind of a summary of what I covered, with some of the slides I made.  There’s quite a lot of content, so I’m splitting it up into 3 posts.

Warning, guides


To start off, we looked at 3 of David’s books, which I brought along.

  • Mealtime
  • Peekaboo Forest
  • Good Night, Little Bear

Mealtime is basically just a list of items you might find at mealtimes:

Spoon and Fork,
Sippy cup,

and so on. Not staggeringly inspiring. Often, however, events are organised in a similar manner. Get a list of things we want to put in (Introduction video, Korean fan dance, Refreshments, Sermon, Singing), have an MC or host link them all together (“Wow, that was amazing. Next we have…”) and suddenly you’ve got a programme.


In terms of energy levels of the audience, it looks something like this:Mealtime-energy-flowEach individual item may be all right, but they’re not really connected, and nothing really keeps the attention.  And it doesn’t get more exciting, and … well. I forgot what I was … er, better check facebook.


Peekaboo Forest is quite a bit better. Each page asks a question:

‘Who is hiding behind the spruce?’

there’s then a nice crinkly page to turn over:

Peek-a-boo! It’s the Moose!

So each page has quite a nice “energy” flow:


with good anticipation, etc. But in terms of overall story-arc, it’s very dull.


It really doesn’t go anywhere, and often programmes are like that too. Each individual item may be great, but you don’t lead the audience anywhere, and don’t have everything tied together.

Good Night, Little Bear is much more interesting. We read this to David almost every night, and even though it doesn’t have crinkly pages, he still seems to really enjoy it. The story is (essentially) little bear not wanting to go to bed, instead he goes off to play, until eventually he watches the sunset, it gets dark, and he realises he should have listened to Mama bear, and in fact he’s lost now and can’t find his way home. But then Mama bear, assisted by Little Bear’s friends, Mouse and Squirrel, come to find Little Bear. He hears them calling him, and runs to Mama Bear’s arms. He’s now feeling tired, and goes to bed. It’s really well told, with lovely pictures, and so on.

Little bear energy

A much more complex rough energy flow chart.

So that’s the “energy flow” concept.  Reasonably simple to grasp.  If we are making an event which is a variety show / sandwhich programme, or a concert, then it’s worth thinking about this stuff, and saying “How do we want to start?  Something big and fun to grab the attention, and then we can settle down a bit, work our way up to a climax, and then slowly bring it to a close…”.

Thinking about the age-group as well is very important.  How long are attention spans, what is important or exciting?  If there is going to be a verbal message / talk, then at what point will the audience be willing to sit and listen?

If we want to make the event into a story, then we’ll need to go a bit deeper.

For that, we’ll have to wait until Part 2…

At sea!

We’re sailing again!


It’s so lovely being back at sea, and David seems to quite like it too.  He actually slept right the way through the night the first night!  Amazing… (If only he’d do it again…)

AV work is going reasonably well.  We’re doiteamng loads of training, as much as possible, but still trying to get everything working again too.  It’s really hard trying to arrange work for people to do, who know nothing about A/V at all, and may not have even touched a sound, lighting, or video console before joining the team.  Still, they’re all great people, and we’re having a lot of fun.


fanroomOne very frustrating thing was that I had to fix the Deck 4 music and paging system.  For whatever historical reason, that’s part of A/V’s responsibility, rather than the electricians.  The rack is located in a loud noisy fanroom, full of dust and grime.


wiresThe rack isn’t very accessible, and getting in to the wires is really really awkward and scrapey.


It’s not massively well documented (another task on my list…), and I think several people had tried to fix it recently, so all the settings were messed up.  In the end, I pulled out the entire system, took it down to our storeroom to clean and test and set up, and then brought it back and plugged it in.  It all worked!  Which was great.  It just then took ages of walking around with the team getting them to tell me which zones were connected and had the right volumes, and so on.  Not fun, and as it needs to be working before we arrive in the next port, it meant I had to do that for 4 days rather than work on any of our venues. Grrr…

The new portable ‘fender’ sound systems that we bought are a huge success.  They work really well.  I asked one of the new A/V team to paint ‘Logos Hope A/V’ on the side of them all so that they don’t get lost, or apprehended into some other department.  I was expecting something ugly but functional.  Instead I got this:


Really cool!

Anyway, to end this post, here’s a photo of David from when we took him to the kids water zone at the mall in Singapore.  Wet as a fish, a nappy as wet as he, and as Becky puts it, “Happy as Larry”. (Whoever Larry is…)


Off day.

We just had a pretty awesome day off.  We woke up pretty late.  Well, that is to say David woke up very early, and we were too tired to try and persuade him to sleep in his cot again, so he came to join us in bed for a couple more hours.  Eventually we all got up, and had a bit of breakfast.

I then went to the galley to get some supplies (icing sugar, cocoa powder, carrots, pears, and dry pasta) for us to make cakes for some of our ‘ship family’ birthdays coming up, the rest for making food for David.  You can guess which ingredients are for which activity.

I then took David to run around and play in the Logos Lounge, while Becky did some laundry.  We then had lunch, and then (finally) got around to giving David his first toothbrush, and first teeth brushing!

brush-teeth-2 We next headed out by MRT to the Singapore Botanical Gardens.  It was lovely – really peaceful and green, but extremely well paved and buggy friendly.  We found a somewhat random statue of Chopin,

chopinwe managed to prop up the camera on the buggy for a family photo too:

familyDavid wasn’t totally convinced by all the shots, though:

kissWe spent a few hours there, and headed back.  We bought a couple of extra bits from the supermarket, and got back just in time for dinner.  On the way through the mall, Mini were giving out free balloons – so David got his first balloon as well!


At Dinner, our friend Maria, one of the new AV team, came and sat at our table and said, “So, we’re playing settlers tonight, right?”

So we went up to the cabin, and had a lovely game of Settlers of Catan!  David loved it, and for some reason went in to giggles almost every time Maria rolled the dice for the first half of the game!  Funny boy.

settlers-babyWe finished the game – Becky won, with 10 points (short game), by stealing the longest road from me and Maria would have won on her turn, again, by stealing my longest road.  We were just about to pack away, when Becky looked really puzzled, and realised that I should have won the previous round, as I also had 10 points (I’d forgotten about a hidden victory point)!

So.  Quite even.


A good day.


Cleaning and Settling in.

So we’ve been here almost 2 weeks now. It seems to have passed extremely quickly. The AV team have been hard at work, cleaning, installing, cleaning, Cleaning the AV Storetesting, cleaning, training, and cleaning. I’ll try and post some more photos of the new equipment and nerdy stuff like that soon. But for now – here’s a photo of the 3 new recruits down in the AV store room cleaning it out. There’s a couple of tank man-holes in the store room, so often during dry-dock deck teams go in through there to work in the tank, and so everything gets covered in dust and grime. It would be nice if they told us in advance so we could get stuff out of their way and protected… but more of that another time.

So. That proves we’re actually working, (or at least that I’m making other people work – which is basically the same thing) now for some more fun photos.

me-and-babyWe’re all settling in. David is loving all the attention and stuff going on all the time. It’s lovely being able to eat with my family every day at basically every meal at the moment. Becky is finding it a bit odd, and lonely at the moment, as she didn’t really know many of the other mums, or what things there are to do. She misses cornerstone and the community there. Things are starting to pick up though.


Playing with David is always fun – we’ve been leant loads of toys for him to play with, which is pretty cool. He’s always so active, and wanting to run around. He loves this walker, and spends plenty of time just coasting around the chairs too.

walker-ownHe’s such a happy baby most of the time. The two things he hates are sleeping, and ending a meal. No matter how much he’s eaten, he’s always sad when we stop feeding him and wipe his face. I wonder if he’ll be a chef one day…

Oh. And since some toys are magnetic, and we have a metal deck-head in our cabin (ceiling)…


Hello, WordPress, hello Logos Hope

I use WordPress at work, it’s the engine behind, and most of the other sites that we run for clients.

I’m in two minds as to whether I like it or not. Some things are great. For users (content authors, the people writing blog posts or static pages), it’s fine. Easy to understand and use. For writing plugins and templates, it’s… Well, kind of messy and ugly, but doable. For instance, rather than have 1 HTML template “base” file, with a block saying, “put posts here, and wrap each one in x,y,z”, you have a header.php which has only the start of all the HTML, and a footer.php which closes it all, and a content.php, a content-post.php, and so on, and you have to keep them all synced up. Also, since it’s designed for running on old PHP, it doesn’t use namespaces or other ways of keeping code clean, so all functions in all plugins and all templates are all global scope, so to avoid bumping in to each other, you have to name all your functions stuff like, “madprofs_teapot_plugin_get_resource() and similar. Then at the same time, WordPress has multiple global functions of its own, some called things like, the_post(), others like wp_get_cached(), (so prefixed with wp_), and others in other styles. Messy.

Still, it gets the job done.

So when I wanted to update and clean up the brummie@sea blog, I thought I’d just stick with blogger. It works, it’s what I already had. But then, accidentally, while trying to update it, I lost the entire design, and putting it back together was this awful mess of Google-XML/HTML confusion, I thought, “you know, stuff it, I’ll just use WordPress.” So I span up a site on the server (in about 2 minutes), pointed the blogger importer at, let it chug away for a few minutes, and here we are.

I’m just using a very simple built in design for now, (with my own background), but it seems to work. I now don’t have to worry about Google turning off blogger like they did with Reader and GoogleCode, and since I use WordPress at work, I understand what’s going on pretty well.

That all said, we’re now on the ship, trying to settle in. We have a really nice cabin. Jet lag wasn’t fun, especially with the baby, but we’ll get through it. Yesterday Becky drank a big milky drink by accident – we thought it wasn’t cows milk but plant based, and last night and tonight David has been awful – screaming for ages and refusing to be comforted or to sleep lying down in his bed. So that does seem to confirm that maybe it is a lactose intolerance at the moment – hopefully he’s back to normal in a day or so.

Work so far is just cleaning the various venues. We’ve not even begun to start installing new equipment or doing anything really technical. We’ve got the lights out of their bags and air-blasted them all, cleaned many surfaces and TVs and vacuumed and dusted. It’s going alright. Still sooo much to do.

For Becky and David things are a bit odd still, it’s quite odd not having a fixed job to do, not knowing what to do most of the day, not having cornerstone to visit, not really knowing many people yet, and so on.

Anyway, we’re here, the flights weren’t bad at all. We couldn’t check in online due to some weird computer bug, but at the terminal while we were checking in we asked about getting a bassinet for David to sleep in, and they said they could get us one, but the lady recommended us instead to not get one, as he is quite big, and had a seat booked, and instead found us a row of four seats with no one else on the row, so we could make a bed for David there, which gave us all a lot more room. So on the second flight, both mother and baby could actually lie down and get some proper sleep, and arrive not looking like zombies.

I now have this weird mental image, after that last sentence, of a zombie “madonna and child” (very un-)orthodox icon…

That aside, we’re here!

It’s been a while.

So. It’s been a while, blog.

9 months ago our son was born, and he kind of took priority over writing.  I’m sure you understand.

Anyway, the reason for this post is that once again, the brummie will soon be at sea! This time with Mrs. Brummie, and Baby Cumbrian.  I don’t know if Becky will object to being Mrs. Brummie, as she’s actually from Yorkshire, but whatever.

So we’re heading out to the Logos Hope again for 3 months.

Becky and I were on board for 3 months just over 2 years ago, helping with the A/V and Events teams after the 6 months dry-dock in Subic Bay.  This time, the ship has just come out of several months in dry-dock again, this time having the generators replaced.

I’ll be working with the A/V team again, doing training and helping getting everything back on track and working again.  We’ve bought some new equipment, as most of what’s there now is from the original install 6+ years ago, and is in need of some serious overhaulage.

During the Subic Bay drydock 2 years ago, none of the A/V gear was packed away properly, which is part of why everything is in such bad condition now.  At least now, since then, it’s become part of A/V culture to do a serious pack down at the start of every dry-dock.  All of the lights on the truss get plastic bagged, all of the lighting dimmers get unplugged and tagged out, the desks get bagged and covered, etc.

In some ways, I’m extremely excited about going back again.  For the last couple of years I’ve ended up doing more and more I.T. work here, making and maintaining websites for,,,, and, as well as a few internal projects (including stuff-management and streetsign).  It’s kind of interesting, some days, but also pretty frustrating too.  I feel I’m more of a creative ideas person, rather than a server-maintenance guy, so the initial creation of websites or programming projects is kind of fun, the on-going maintenanace and bug-fixing drives me to despair (not to mention having to work in PHP with WordPress…).

I love the ship’s work, I love doing events (especially the school visits and other kids events and actual theatre type events), and am quite excited about not having to do I.T. stuff here for a while.

It’s really strange to think that when we get back from the Logos Hope in 3 months time, it’ll be 10 years since I started this blog, when I first went to Doulos for 3 months….

Anyway, time for dinner, and I need to go play with our son.  I’ll try and post something a lot more regularly this time.  Writing is theraputic, and I suspect I’m going to need it…

LVM snapshots for a resetable machine

I have ended up maintaining a few websites which we are hosting on a machine off in Germany somewhere.

I want to get everything automated, so I have less work to do if something goes wrong.

I’m using ansible, which is wonderful, and have a nice set of playbooks I’ve written which take a raw CentOS install, and install everything, (php-fpm, nginx, etc…) set up the virtualhosts, install wordpress & joomla and all that for the sites that need it, etc.

Until today, I’ve been using a virtualbox on my local computer to test on, and it works great.  I haven’t bothered with vagrant, as I tried it for a couple of days, and it crashed my whole computer twice, so I gave up.  With virtualbox, it’s almost as simple.  I have a virtualmachine which I can spin up, install stuff on, and then when I want to go back to a fresh machine, it’s a matter of turning it off, and clicking ‘restore snapshot’ to the snapshot I made when it was clean installed.

It’s practically instant, and just works.

However, running a virtualmachine on my primary work computer all the time does make everything else somewhat sluggish.  So I’ve scrouged an old computer that wasn’t doing anything, and am now using that instead.

In order to get snapshots and restore points going well, here’s how I did it:

  1. Install CentOS, leaving a bunch of free space on the LVM primary group.
  2. Make a snapshot when it’s first installed
  3. Restore (merge to) that snapshot whenever I want it back to original settings.
  4. Reboot

To make & restore the snapshots, I’ve written the commands as scripts so I don’t have to remember the lg-whatever stuff. (vg_localtest is the name of the volume group I set up for the HD when I installed):


lvcreate –size 100G -s -n original_snapshot /dev/vg_localtest/root


lvconvert –merge /dev/vg_localtest/original_snapshot && reboot

It works great so far.  One improvement I’m making, since I one time forgot to make a snapshot, and so couldn’t restore to a blank slate without re-installing the whole thing (which, admittedly, only takes half an hour or so):

I’m adding ‘snapshot_make’ into a boot script, and then modifying it to remove itself from the bootscript once it’s made the snapshot.  That way as soon as the machine reboots into it’s original snapshot, it will automatically re-create the snapshot.

This looks like:


lvcreate –size 100G -s -n original_snapshot /dev/vg_localtest/root

sed -ine ‘/snapshot/d’ /etc/rc.local

and then /etc/rc.local will look like:

#… whatever it has