Back in the UK – for a while.

Hello Blog.
Hello everyone who reads this blog.
Hello google-bot.
Hello world.

It’s me. Daniel. Back again. Exciting, wot?

So, we’re back in the UK. I arrived back here literally 4 hours before getting on to a bus to go to TeenStreet in Germany, which we (OMNIvision) were doing video and some sound and lights and so on for. After two weeks of running this event, which I will tell you all about – later, which was very cool, we came back to the UK.

10 days later, Adam, Becky and myself went across to the Nederlands for our friends Jurgens and Eleanor’s wedding. Which was lots of fun. We came back after that to the the UK again.

(from that biggish place near New Zealand… um, forgottern what it’s called. Aus something? Something with trailers? or something?) also came with us back to the UK, and was here with us for about a month, hanging out, working at OMNIvision, and so on.

Then 10 days ago (or so) Bridget took us over to Malta, so see the Logos Hope for a few days, and also Becky’s dad and church there. I’d never been to Malta before, but Becky grew up there, so that was VERY cool. Malta is beautiful.

I’ll be posting more detailed stuff and photos later.. This is just to catch y’all up to date, you know.

So. We then came back to the UK, last week.

Now for the next scattered layer of events in between those all.

Yesterday we ran the video and lights for the Northern Women’s Convention, which we’ve been doing for the best part of a decade every year now, I believe.

On friday morning, we set up our whole smaller OB unit (the bus – aka “The Tardis”) at the main office for devotions, we filmed a bunch of stories people were telling. We hadn’t set up the unit in a while, so this was good to check everything was working before the Women’s convention… one bad camera cable, one missing focus adaptor, not much else actually wrong.

Two weeks ago, just before going off to Malta I ran sound and we did a spill-over room for the local Baptist church – as they had a new minister arriving (for the first time in decades) and so there were a few hundred people along. I’m in the middle of overhauling our sound equipment / side-racks stuff, so it’s good as well getting these smaller gigs to test things on.

I also went down to the Quinta and ran sound for them for their big 30 years Quinta+OM celebration a few weeks ago.

I do enjoy doing live sound stuff. I still wonder quite frequently if I should somehow go and do some more official training for it…

Oh well.

So, that’s the grand scope of my last few months, I’ll post more details soon.

at quinta again

Back from Spain. It went really well. Really great people, and it was cool helping to support technically all these guys who are so excited by what they’re doing.

Quite a surprise that some friends from Cyprus were particpants at the conference! So it was quite cool meeting up with them!

We’ve been back a week now. Becky was with some friends down south, and I was up in Carlisle finishing off some projects, and then we met up again on Friday, here at the Quinta.

Last time I was here, was for a few days break after my first 2 years on Doulos. I’m now here with Becky for a couple of days debrief with our home-office, and talking to some of the new people who are joining the company in september about life on board the ships.

It’s again quiet, relaxing, and also very good hanging out with some of my friends from the Doulos who are living and working here now.

I managed to spend catch lunch with my brother and some friends in Birmingham on the way down.

Here’s a crazy story:

Trying to buy tickets to get here, straight from Carlisle to Quinta would cost 40 pounds+… but if I booked Carlisle to Birmingham, and then Birmingham to Quinta, it cost 26.

I do NOT understand why. I blaim computers. They’re evil. It’s all a conspiracy.

We only have a few weeks more at Carlisle, for now, and hope to fly to Cyprus in about a month. Probably.

Then, hopefully, God willing, etc, to come back here for a few years starting some time in the summer.

We’ll see how that all goes.

Travelling again…

This evening we’ll be heading down to catch a ferry to Spain.

Exotic holiday time? Um, no.

Eloping? Um, also no.

Work? Yes. My name’s Daniel, and I’m a workaholic. I know.

So, there’s a conference in Spain, which our team here is covering the audio/visual side of. So we’ll take the Outside Broadcast bus down by ferry, stuffed to the gunwhales (if busses have gunwhales, but anyway. Stuffed…) with equipment, and also a blue van equally stuffed full of equipment. Due to ferry time-tables, we arrive a bit earlier than we need to, so Becky and I can visit her mum for a day or so en route – which is pretty cool! Then we’ll arrive at the hotel, and set up. The reason for the whole bus is that they also want everything videod and recorded, so we’ll be doing a 3 camera shoot, and producing DVDs of it.

Becky will be running a camera, while I’ll be in the bus operating the Camera Control Units, routing, recording, graphics and so on. I’m quite new at this – and while I got to do some last time I was with the team 2 years ago, I’m also quite glad that it’s the usual chief engineer directing, so I can learn from him.

Anyway. Time to go and pack…

So… Blogging.

Today marks 2 months of Becky and me being at OMNIvision, up in Carlisle. Time… is weird. It has gone so fast, and yet it seems like we’ve been here for only a few weeks, and yet Doulos is like another world away in the past.

I guess there will be another 200 odd people around the globe feeling the same way right now… and about 300 people every year have been feeling that for the last 30 years.

Our work is a bit random – we hardly know what we’ll be doing, one day to the next. We spent a lot of time in our first week or two pulling wires out of a big OB truck, then about 10 days sorting out books, inventorying, etc, then a few days moving a server rack across the building, including making and crimping all the new cables/extensions. Then a bunch of random small editing projects, a live concert in Manchester (me on a camera, Becky as my “cable monkey”), Becky is working a lot on admin stuff – figuring out some of the shipping arrangements for equipment, and writing the OMNIvision manual, and I’ve been doing some cleaning, sorting, lighting design, editing, fixing stuff, inventorying equipment, measuring cables, pulling electric cables through ceiling spaces, writing 30 second advert clips, and so on…

Yes. Quite busy.

And yet, not… it feels in some ways a lot more relaxed and slow than Doulos… yet also it feels a bit like I have less free time.

Becky and I live about 20 minutes walk apart, and neither of us have cars. The Office – where we go 2 mornings a week – is 15 minutes one direction, and the Studio – where we work the rest of the time – is 20 minutes the other direction. Busses are slow, somewhat irregular, and expensive, so we’re spending a LOT of time travelling. Also all the regular domestic stuff – cleaning, cooking, washing up, etc, takes time. On Doulos, I’d frequently be working until 6.15, pop down to the dining room, grab a plate of food, and the continue working while eating my meal. Same for lunch, and often Breakfast. Here, a meal can take over an hour. I guess it’s good, helping me to slow down… but BOY is it frustrating.

Like yesterday, I hoped to get a video project edited and finished… but then after Prayer Breakfast at the Office, I got a lift to the Shed (where we keep the vechicals), and picked up some equipment there, then got a lift to the Studio, and it was already 12.30. At lunch, there were a whole bunch of announcements and talking… and then with computers taking a long time to work, and Final Cut Server being a pain, I didn’t actually get to editing until 2.30pm!! And then Final Cut Pro decided to act stupid and to forget half the work I did with the Multi-Camera Editing tool (which otherwise is VERY cool…)…. So I only really got about 2 hours work done. Still, I’d done enough prep work with the lighting to make the keying and stuff a fairly easy job. I spent most of today editing too, and so that’s another piece basically finished.

I’m not sure if I like editing and that or not… in some ways it’s a lot of fun, and I do enjoy it. Yet I also miss “live” theatre.

So. That’s a bit about what we’ve been up to. I’ll blog more about future plans… in the future.

There and back again

Before I begin today’s tale, there are a few things I must first explain. The first is that the UK has these things called “Bank Holiday Mondays”, which basically means most people with office-type jobs don’t work on random mondays throughout the year. Nobody whom I’ve asked seems to know what these Bank Holiday Mondays are in aid of, nevertheless, they seem quite keen on them, generally as they happen to be some of the people who don’t work on these aforementioned Bank Holiday Mondays.

The second thing I’d like to mention is that I’m kind of used to the Doulos work week, which means that also, most people don’t work on Mondays, however, we do work every other day, including Saturday and Sunday.

So being here in Carlisle, where the team has 2 days off per week (Saturday and Sunday) is quite a rare and interesting experience. Then these Bank Holiday Mondays on top of that, wow! It’s surprising they get any work done at all! We had one of these Mondays about 2 weeks ago.

The third thing, is that you should now promptly remove all of the above from your current thoughts, but allow it to drift uninhibited and unwatched into the depths of your subconcious general knowledge. This will put you in a better frame of mind for listening to the rest of the tale, but also put you in roughly the same state as I was 4 days ago.

I got up as usual, showered, dressed, and made myself a rather tasty cappuccino with my breakfast. I headed early to the Shed to start getting some audio files ready for posting later on this week. So I got to the shed about 10 past 7, my housemate was still asleep when I left, and while I was walking to the Shed, I thought
“Once I’ve got these files going, I’ll try walking to the Office (which is on the opposite end of town) for 9am devotions” (that we have together with the Office staff 3 times a week).

So once my audio files were happily working, I set out from the Shed at about 8:15 and started walking at a reasonable pace towards the office. I kind of hoped to see the bus at the bus stop as I went past, and maybe see my housemate on it.

No sign of the bus.

“Hm,” I thought, checking my watch.

“8:23.. that bus must be a bit later than I thought.”

I picked up the pace a bit, thinking, “I wonder if I can get to the office before the bus and my housemate do!” and briskly hopped down the steps to the underpass, and headed through the park.

One cool thing about Carlisle is the rabbits. There are wild rabbits all over the place! I’m sure the local farmers hate them and so on, but I quite enjoy seeing them all over the place as I walk about early in the morning, and while along the footpath I saw a rabbit jumping out of my way.

I continued up the main road, noticing a large car boot sale in the yard of the Catholic church, St. Augustine’s.

(USAian translation: a “car boot sale” is a kind of a communal garage sale not in a garage, where people bring stuff in the trunk of their car (which they call a boot) to some church or other parking lot and hopefully make a bit of money for the church or whoever as well).

I’d still not seen the bus, so thought “It’s 8.45, I’m sure it can’t be behind me, and should have overtaken me by now, if it was, which means it must have been ahead of me when I passed the bus stop, so I must be quite a way behind schedule if I’m going to get there by 9..”

So I again increased my perambulatory velocity, and strode purposefully past the church, and up the hill towards the industrial estate.

The road was longer than I thought, and so soon it was 8.50 and I still wasn’t at the office, so I again sped up and was charging along the road at as fast a walk as I could happily manage, wishing I hadn’t worn my safety boots that day. I felt sure blisters were developing on my heels.

Eventually I got to the estate, and negotiated the roads between the shops and warehouses, noting the fact that it was now 9.05. Oh well, I’d be a bit late, but not too bad. I got to the office, and paused at the door.

There were no cars in the car park. That’s a bit odd.. And no-one arriving late.. that’s even odder. I was about to go in anyway, when I remembered that I don’t remember the alarm code, and if in fact no-one was in the building, I’d have no way to switch it off, and the police would show up and drag me away and lock me up for years and years, and I’d never see my beloved ship again.

The thought didn’t appeal to me too much, so I rang the mobile of one of the others on the team, to ask what was going on.

“Hallo” said he.

“Hallo” said I.

“Where is everyone?” I queried, “I’m at the office, and no-one is here.”

“Ah,” came the response, and with it enlightenment, “It’s Bank Holiday Monday.”

“What?!” disbelievingly quoth Yours Truly, “Another one?!”

Whereupon he laughed and verified that yes, it was another Bank Holiday Monday.

I sighed, squared my shoulders, and slowly began to make my way back towards the opposite end of the town, and the Shed again.

As I left the estate, I began to laugh, realising that I had indeed managed to reach the office before my housemate, but that it had done me no good at all, and all I had gained was the knowledge that the bus is indeed faster than walking, and perhaps a few more blisters on my feet.

What I really wanted was somewhere to sit down, drink coffee and rest my poor feet for a while. Pubs in the UK don’t seem to open before 11am, so I couldn’t even stop for a beer anywhere, which would have been equally welcome.

As I got to the church, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps they might have coffee and cakes there. So I popped into the yard, and went in search of coffee. They did have some, but nowhere to sit, and no cakes, only what a sign called “a biscuit” which rather put me off, so I wandered though the cars, and managed to find a few things I’d been looking for: a couple of small espresso cups, a mug tree for the kitchen, (40p the lot) a few more books (20p each), a cork pin board for my office (50p), a maglite and multi-tool (3 quid the pair), and a small filter machine for 2 pounds which I could take to the conferences.

Bundles of cheap second-hand clutter in bags, I continued to hobble on my merry – if slightly painful – way.

A few streets on I was accosted cheerfully, if rather extremely frailly, by an old lady who wanted to know if it was a Sunday, or in fact a Bank Holiday Monday, as they all seem the same to her. Apparently I either must deceptively look knowledgeable about such things, or I’m just perhaps the only person in this country who seems to pay any attention to other people around them. It’s really weird. No-one ever wants to make eye-contact.

Anyway. I explained about having been bitten by the situation myself, and we chatted for a while. She told me (twice) that she was from the highlands of Scotland, that I shouldn’t ask her why she was living in England, and that the reason she was living in England was because her husband had told her (when they were much younger) “We’re going to live in Carlisle”, so they did.

A brief aside: I promised my friend Kris from Doulos that I’d mention her in a blog post, and so I’ll just mention that the little old lady I met was about 50 years older than you, Kris, and about half as tall.

Anyway. A very sweet lady, and quite funny and friendly too. She told me I mustn’t go to work, but should go home.

I didn’t however, and instead went back to the Shed – after meeting briefly a beggar in the underpass who was being ignored by the rest of the general population walking past him in that peculiarly oblivious British way – and spent the rest of the day finishing those sound files. By the end of the day my brain was almost toast after having stared at audio waveforms for almost the whole day, and half of the week before.

At least I got some exercise, I suppose.

Of Boys, Toys, JWs, Anoraks, and St. Augustine (or, The Coffee Maker, Part 2)

I always knew a few people who loved trains. I even knew one or two people who built model rail-ways at home, usually in some deserted far off loft or study.

I’ve suddenly discovered, much to my surprise, that this is not one or two isolated individuals, but in fact apparently a large percentage of the male population of this part of the UK.

I never expected to learn that.

They call themselves Anoraks, and about a third of the people I’m working with belong to this group.

OK, So trains can look quite cool, and I am working with the media and computers team of the company, so it’s no surprise, I suppose, that you find a higher pecentage of people here with high IQ / arcane / obscure hobbies…

But it’s not just little nerdy geeks with glasses wandering around with notebooks and flasks of tea getting all excited about 7.25″ gauge K1 engines and 1937 liveries, it’s a lot of guys, of every background, upbringing, shape, size, character and personality.

We had finished setting up for one of those J.John conferences, and were hanging out round the back waiting for it to be time to start, when this anglican vicar looking bloke wandered up, and they all ended up chatting about trains.

And all the rest of the guys too: those few who don’t have a thing about machines that roll around the place on parallel tracks get excited by all kinds of other things.

There’s a bloke here who gets very excited about trucks, vans, busses, and other large automobiles.

When I say “excited”, I mean in the kind of “eyes light up, bounces up and down and starts talking animatedly and waving his arms around” kind of way.

And he’s not a tiny geek. He’s an (roughly) 8 foot tall construction yard manager from London.

I watched two guys across the room at a pizza evening last week. They were discussing the intricacies of the AT command set, and the fun to be had trying to fix router systems by logging in backwards through a modem to solve networking problems.

Let’s turnout to a diverging track for a few moments, and I’ll see if I can work us back to this rail at the next set of points.

I went out yesterday an bought a whole load of books at charity shops. I finally got a copy of St. Augustine’s confessions.

“Even now I cannot fully understand why the Greek language, which I learned as a child, was so distasteful to me… “

I found this sentence funny, in itself, but lets keep reading for a while, and a few pages later get to this:

“For I understood not a single word and I was constantly subjected to violent threats and cruel punishments to make me learn.

“As a baby, of course, I knew no Latin either, but I learned it without fear and fret, simply by keeping my ears open while my nurses fondled me and everyone laughed and played happily with me.

“I learned it without being forced by threats of punishment, because it was my own wish to be able to give expression to my thoughts. I could never have done this if I had not learnt a few words, not from schoolmasters, but from people who spoke to me and listened when I delivered to their ears whatever thoughts I had conceived. This clearly shows that we learn better in a free spirit of curiosity than under fear and compulsion.”

Here we go! A rallying cry for Home Educators world wide, written over 1600 years ago in 397 AD!

OK.. so it’s a bit longwinded, and in Latin it’s not really the kind of thing you’d stick on a banner and wave at demonstrations.

Unless you’re at very well educated classical demonstrations, or something.

“… in those days ‘one and one are two, two and two are four’ was a loathsome jingle, while the wooden horse and its crew of soldiers, the burning of Troy and even the ghost of Creusa made a most enchanting dream, futile though it was.”

And Augustine is worried by all this. He calls it sin, and says how sad and fruitless it was.

Yet, I can’t help but think it’s not quite so black and white as he does, nor in fact sinful to be enamored by stories and battles and glory, and not by Arithmetic.

If Arithmetic is your thing, hey, go for it. I’ll ask you for help with my accounts. And a certain amount of maths is useful for everyone, sure.

Now let’s take another track again, and yes, we are headed back to the first line.

Yesterday, before I went out book-shopping, two JW’s came and banged on my door and told me they were here to encourage me to read my bible. I had literally just closed my bible to come and answer the door.. So of course I invited them in for tea or coffee or something. Not that I ever got around to making it.

Anyway. They spouted scriptures at me for about half an hour, gave me a couple of “Watchtower” magazines, and then headed off home to make tea for some of their friends they were expecting.

A few things struck me. Firstly, they seemed to put all their faith in their organization. Well, no surprise, I mean, they’re followers of Watchtower. The magazine basically defines who they are.

They asked questions about what I do, and tried to distance me from the rest of the church and the people I work with. Yes, I don’t agree with everything absolutely that the rest of the people I work with believe, but so what? We are different, and although I am not a complete relativist and believe there is no truth, I do believe that our view of the truth will be different from everyone elses. God made me to reflect his light in a way that *no one* else can. We’re all small panes of glass in the magnificent stained glass window that God is building, each one of us reflects and refracts the light differently, each one of us is a different shape.

Take a look at this awesome stained glass window at coventry cathedral.

So yes, some times there are bits of glass which look like they might be part of the window, but in fact are from a totally different light source, and instead of pointing you towards sunlight and freedom, they actually have you shooting for a big ugly wall lamp.

Not all roads do lead to the truth, but the truth is bigger and more beautiful than any one person can fully comprehend.

The JWs didn’t seem to get this, and seemed to want me to join their organisation.

Great! Just what I want to join! A group of people calling themselves Christians who are even more strictly extra-rule-keeping, pharisaical, exclusionist and cultic and anti-everyone-else than the ones I currently hang out with! Whoohoo!

I mean, heck, even if they didn’t totally abuse and twist scripture more than the whole Purpose Driven thing does, and even if they didn’t have a completely messed up un-biblical view of Jesus, the trinity, the church, the bible, and virtually everything else, I think that’s about the last thing I need.

So now, how are we going to get back to the Anoraks, and what was the purpose of quoting Augustine? And why on earth could this possibly be anything to do with coffee makers? Well.

My housemate has been laughing at me because of the coffeemaker. And he hasn’t even read my blog post about it all. He’s laughing, because of the explosions of milk and so on.

I learned very quickly:

“Don’t open the steam valve while holding the nozzle above the top of the milk, unless you like getting milk and steam all over the kitchen”.

Useful thing to learn.

Anyway. He kind of teases me about it being a toy and a mad hobby of mine, and if I like getting clouds of steam all over me, and having milk all over the place to clean up, then he’s fine with that.

I’m glad he’s fine with that.

And the coffee actually is coming out quite well, these days. I’ll post some photos, soon. I’m not really spilling anything anywhere, or exploding anything any more.

The point though, for this post, is how it is kind of a hobby, I suppose. Yes, a good cup of coffee is *really* nice, but also it’s more than that. I really want to learn, and am enjoying the learning/developping thing more than the actual coffee, I think.

And I guess it’s the same with the train-people and the truck enthusiasts.

I don’t think it’s wrong to get all excited and enthusiastic about “stuff”. I think God made us that way. A lot of evangelicals seem to be almost gnostic, and have a kind of misplaced ascetic idea that “if it’s fun, or you enjoy it, then it’s wrong“, kind of like Augustine seems to be leaning towards.

Sure, if it distracts you or pulls you away from more important things, or becomes an idol, or god, then there’s a problem. And I think it almost did become an idol to me. Even before I bought the silly machine. Now how sad is that?!

But God made us to enjoy delving into deep things, seeking out answers, becoming experts and specialists. We’re not all the same, and God’s creative genius made the universe so enormous that there’s plenty of room for all of us to explore and become brighter and brighter, and keep on refracting more of His glory.

It’s about time for me to go home and make some lunch, and have another go at making some really tasty coffee…