Something called good

courtesy BBC

This guy Hartman who built and maintains a 25 acre theme park firstly for his disabled daughter, and now is free entry to any guest with a condition. He stands to loose a million dollars a year short of fundraising and partners. I don't know whether this man believes in God and you can talk about dead vs. spiritual works for all you like but I see in the actions of this man something good.


Morning with Marty

Marty in the Morning is an early morning show on Lyric-FM and I like his repartee. Yesterday morning, on the way to the airport to pick up these visitors, I was spoilt by his choice of Cat Steven's well-know rendition of Morning Has Broken

followed by Haydn's Trumpet Concerto In E Flat and then Terry Wogan's rendition of the Cornish Floral Dance, all of which brought back sweet memories.

Checking up on the Floral Dance I find the song is all the better for being based on the composer Kate Moss's actual experience.  Wikipedia has it that the music and lyric were written in 1911... The song tells the story of an incident that apparently actually happened to herself on a visit to Helston during the springtime 'Furry Dance' celebrations and the song was reportedly written directly afterwards as she was going home on the train. She introduces the original Furry Dance tune in the piano part just as the singer is describing the sound of the band.

As for the Furry Dance, Wikipedia tells us it is one of the oldest British customs still practiced today. It takes place every year in Helston, Cornwall, early in the month of May. Regrettably Terry omits some of the lyrics.

As I walked home on a Summer night
When stars in Heav'n were shining bright
Far away from the footlight's glare
Into the sweet and scented air
Of a quaint old Cornish town
Borne from afar on the gentle breeze
Joining the murmur of the summer seas
Distant tones of an old world dance
Played by the village band perchance
On the calm air came floating down

I thought I could hear the curious tone
Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone
Fiddle, 'cello, big bass drum
Bassoon, flute and euphonium
Far away, as in a trance
I heard the sound of the Floral Dance
And soon I heard such a bustling and prancing
And then I saw the whole village was dancing
In and out of the houses they came
Old folk, young folk, all the same
In that quaint old Cornish town

Every boy took a girl 'round the waist
And hurried her off in tremendous haste
Whether they knew one another I care not
Whether they cared at all, I know not
But they kissed as they danced along.
And there was the band with that curious tone
Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone
Fiddle, 'cello, big bass drum
Bassoon, flute and euphonium
Each one making the most of his chance
All together in the Floral Dance

I felt so lonely standing there
And I could only stand and stare
For I had no boy with me
Lonely I should have to be
In that quaint old Cornish town.
When suddenly hast'ning down the lane
A figure I knew I saw quite plain
With outstretched hands he came along
And carried me into that merry throng
And fiddle and all went dancing down.

We danced to the band with the curious tone
Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone
Fiddle, 'cello, big bass drum
Bassoon, flute and euphonium
Each one making the most of his chance
Altogether in the Floral Dance.
Dancing here, prancing there
Jigging, jogging ev'rywhere
Up and down, and round the town
Hurrah! For the Cornish Floral Dance

Kate Emily Barkley Moss 1911

Inconsolable grief

Non-family readers of this blog may not realise that a great family reunion is taking place. C&L with three of our grandchildren and J&S both live here already. J&R with four more of our grandchildren are visiting from Alaska, and K is visiting from Oz. Not only that but we also have an (unrelated) family with four children visiting, and a single woman visiting. So we are full to the gills. And things get noisy too.

So strange to think that my wife, four children, and seven grandchildren would not be if I had not (as a butterfly) flapped my wings those 40 years ago or so. Of course, in this story of life we are never told what would have happened.

The other night I dreamed that J and his family were leaving, I know not where too but I knew I would not see them again, or at least not for a very long time. And I was overcome (in my dream) with inconsolable grief. I felt like I would go on crying for ever, or at least for a very long time. And yet, curiously, another part of me knew that I could to some extent control this grief, that I was choosing to wallow in it and, given time, I would get over it and life would proceed as normally as it ever does. And it made me wonder what grief was made of.

Vast numbers of pictures are emanating from this reunion some of which and will, I suppose, appear either in this blog or on social media at some stage but frankly it is rather busy here at the moment and I don't know how I am even finding time to write this.


The man who swims to work

I saw this in a news channel and I salute the man who swims to work - it is the same sort of lateral thinking as goes into barefoot running. Kind of flying in the face of tradition.



Last night I joined the young lads here on a trip to the Big Screen to watch Dunkirk. I was impressed though harrowed. One could hardly fail to be impressed. And if you were not harrowed then you are inhuman. Although it might have helped to have read up about it beforehand as I am slow to join the dots... There is no point in me describing the film - check out the reviews if you will - but I will make reference to the sound track - which was Awesome. I loved Hans Zimmer's rendition of Elgar's Nimrod when the boats finally arrive, a fitting plagiarism for what was so very eminently an English thing. And Zimmer's use of the Shepard Tone - which reminded me of my blog post titled Cathedral sounds.

Thou shalt not

Timothy update 26 Jul: no new is good news, but still limited contact with other people in order to reduce the chance of infection.

Asher update 24 July: This is Asher's first bath in over 8 weeks! We are down to one tiny little dressing that I can redress every day.

Good news, but the journey is not through yet...


Community is...

Arriving at the appointed 18:00 for the evening meal and finding no-one else is there.

Apart from the kitchen staff. When as a boy I attended church with my parents, there was a family who lived in a building adjoining the church so they had only a few steps to go - and yet they consistently arrived late. Maybe a pattern - the shorter the journey the more likely folk are to arrive late.

When working for the BBC an important meeting was called by the department head and I arrived just a few minutes late. I was lambasted with the usual there are 12 people here and we've all had to wait 5 minutes for you - that adds up to an hour of time! I have never forgotten that reprimand.



I mentioned my panic attack in a recent post and some time earlier too. I blame my fear of water on bad experiences in the bath as a baby. Wikipedia defines panic as a sudden sensation of fear, which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking, replacing it with overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Which goes plain contrary to the usual instinct for self preservation - how does that work?

And how would I have fared two days in a dark underwater cave running out of oxygen?  I like to think I am a survivor but, frankly and thankfully, I haven't yet had all that much to survive from.


Switzerland - walk to Lake Zurich

As promised, here are some pictures from our afternoon stroll down to the lakeside and back. We passed some notable buildings - the older buildings in Zurich appear to be very robust.

Robust building

I think this chap was looking (in vain) for money

Not sure what this splendid splodge of human flesh was about

This one was made of glass

Sad, but couldn't get any closer though

Some park or other

And then we discovered (entirely by accident) Kirche Enge, or translated into the vernacular "narrow church". It was almost was wide as it was long, so clearly not narrow in that sense. But it had an organ. I may have mentioned that I like organs. This one appeared to be under renovation as there were large numbers of pipes stacked in in the balcony.

Kirche Enge

Organ pipes stacked in the balcony

A few up there too

The congregation

Cool windows (not 10)

The organ manifest

You will be aware that a decent organ is split into a number of divisions or organs of which the great, swell and pedal are the most well known. The pipes you see will belong to the great or pedal. Pipes in the swell are housed in a box with shutters that can be opened or closed to regulate the volume. And then there is the echo organ which is located distant from the console in order to give an echo effect.

From the inside the apex of the dome is a false interior window. The exterior dome towers far above this and is built to illuminate said window. The echo organ or Fernwerk (translates as "remote") is apparently located in this void as I discovered from the stock photo below. Which I figured was kind of cool. I would have liked to have heard the organ playing.

The dome from the outside

Stock photo of dome interior

Stock photo of fernwerk above the dome


Switzerland run #3

I travelled anticlockwise, total 12.1 miles

My third barefoot run was on Monday morning, after purchasing stocks of Swiss chocolate at Denners and figuring out how to store my homeward boarding passes on my phone-less Smart. The primary goal was to investigate the wooded hills overlooking Zürich. The first hill I aimed for is apparently called Käferberg at 571m. The lake is 406m above sea level so not much of a hill, but worth exploring all the same.

Whilst seeking an entrance to the network of wanderwegs covering the hills I found myself at a dead end facing a boar. I hastily retraced my steps.

A boring photo

From near the Käferberg summit looking NW

Lake Zurich in the distance

A mill on the Limmat

Hill'ed out, the next place of interest was the river. Whereas others may go to cities to ogle at buildings or spend money in shops and restaurants. I wanted to explore the Werdinsel island between the mill race in my photo and the Limmat proper, but there was no bridge on this side and by the time I had ran further to find the first bridge I was tired enough to give it a miss. Having checked it out since, I wish I had, because the island includes the Flussbad Au-Höngg a public swimming area apparently renowned for naked swimming.  Not that I would particularly want to swim naked in company.

Crossing the Limmat by footbridge

Handy boardwalk avoided the sharp stony footpaths

Bridge over Limmat to Werdinsel island

Whilst I agree that Switzerland is tops when it comes to public transport and its amazing network of signposted wanderwegs, I have this much against them - many of the paths are dressed with sharp stones that do not make my feet happy.

River'ed out the next point of interest was the railway. My route had been vaguely planned to cross over the railway rather than under it as in the outward journey, and I was not disappointed. According to Wikipedia Switzerland not only has the world's most dense railway network but it is also world leader of kilometres travelled per inhabitant and year. The gauge is standard.

Looking towards Zürich Hauptbahnhof (Zürich HB)

Ditto, a bit further across the bridge

Ditto, even further across the bridge

And a map of what we are looking at...

Not the double slip in the second photo and, generally, the gentle radius on all the points - as precise as a Swiss watch!

Kate's apartment - imagine Swiss cheese on the table

On returning to the apartment Kate was there waiting for me having managed to skip work somehow. So after refuelling with Swizz cheese and bread we walked together to the lake. But pictures from that walk will have to wait for another post.


Switzerland run #2

I suppose my second run must have the same day as my first. The idea was to suss out those hilly bits north of the city, but it was hot and I was tired so I aborted in favour of exploring the river Limmat. As a result I discovered the Letten River Pool, clearly a favourite swimming place. It is in fact a mill race and on passing through the, I suppose disused, mill it empties back into the Limmat.

Letten pool mill

Weir at head end of the Letten pool, river Sihl on right

The Limmat proper passes over a weir at the head end of the Letten pool, with the confluence of the Sihl river just below the weir.  Possibly most of the Limmat flow goes along the mill race.  It is, in any event, about 25m wide, over 400m long, probably 5m deep, and with a constant current that I later found almost impossible to swim against. In short a swimmer's paradise. Apart from all the other people there! Click on these photos to see them full resolution.

Kornhausbrücke bridge - Caught in the act! (not me)

Letten pool deck

Letten pool from south end (weir on left)

On reporting back Kate decided a swim was better than study so off we went together to experience the Letten pool for ourselves. Here's Kate starting upstream and letting the current do most of the work. I did it too but could not very well photograph myself, and in any case funked it - I panicked a bit (I don't like being out of my depth) but managed to complete the course but refused to go in again.


Almost home!


The foolishness of preaching

Dictionaries define "preach" somewhat unhelpfully as the art of delivering a sermon, and a "sermon" as a talk given during a church service. I would go further and suggest it is a means for a leader to communicate his or her beliefs to the masses. Charisma, peer pressure and even hysteria can be contributory to the apparent success of this operation. The apostle Paul remarks that it is foolishness, but concedes that it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

I was brought up in a Christian family and have attended church meetings fairly consistently from an early age. As such I might have endured over 3,000 sermons in my life, so I figure I have some basis on which to judge preachers. The vast majority made no apparent impression on me. Some I remember for the wrong reasons: one for his sheer ear-piercing volume and passion, another a lovable man with a twinkle in his eye and humorous illustrations, several who jump up and down in a bizarre fashion, others who drone on monotonously and interminably. A very few stand out as having changed my life. One, I have no recollection of who or what he said, resulted in me committing my life to God.

Some people have the "gift of the gab": I do not. There are folk who can talk the hind legs off a donkey, who can command an audience, can even effect change in the listeners - but that does not necessarily equate with Godly anointing. For me the simplest, the shortest utterances, whether in or out of a meeting, have affected my life the most.

And besides there are other media whereby truth can be promulgated: books, films, music, art immediately come to mind, and to this I might add the humble blog.

A church service generally commands a sizeable congregation. Although I can remember accompanying my father to a mission hall where he was due to speak: I think the only people present were the mission hall's pastor and his family. I put half a crown in the offering on that occasion and this was a lot of money to me at the time (equals 5 standard chocolate bars). After the meeting the pastor gave us a gift towards our travelling expenses out of the offering. Had I put more in doubtless we would have got more out!

But whether or not there is, at the time of delivery, an audience for a sermon or for any other medium is not necessarily a measure of its success. Many, perhaps most of the best, artists have gone unrecognised in their lifetime and have died in poverty. Indeed, taking a short-term view, one could conclude that Jesus' ministry was a failure. But in retrospect it has certainly stood the test of time.

I have been criticised for setting down my thoughts in this blog as opposed to using more conventional media. But to write a lengthy book I cannot, and when I speak publicly my thoughts get tied up in knots and I do not say what I mean, and I am no artist.

Not that long ago I was counselled to drop a conviction I had (and still have) because "it obviously wasn't working". True, it was not, and still is not apparently "working" but I do not consider that this is a proper test of whether or not it was valid. The longer I get in the tooth the more I realise that the common measure of success in life is not necessarily, indeed is rarely, the right measure.

With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?


Switzerland run #1

A spur-of-the-moment trip to Switzerland to visit Kate, arriving late Friday. Saturday was our Grand Day Out in the Lucerne area, amply covered by Kate's blog and my FB post. Kate had to study some of Sunday, and work some of Monday, so I took advantage and tried out barefoot running in Zürich.

Sunday run (anticlockwise) to the lake 7.6 miles

Showing the Sihl and Limmat rivers

My first run was to explore Lake Zurich aka Zürichsee. I was mistaken in thinking the river near Kate's apartment would take me there - in fact the Sihl manages to run roughly parallel to but separate from the lake for almost its whole length.

Towards the bottom left of my map my route turned abruptly to the right - this was because there was a cordon straight ahead and a man waving me in that direction, so I duly acquiesced and found myself with other runners and soon I could see the finishing line ahead and there were crowds either side cheering me on. I felt quite elated, until an official told me I shouldn't be there. Later I found it was the Gigathlon Switzerland 2017.

Having realised the lake was being allusive, I turned eastwards and eventually found myself beside it and sufficiently far from the city to afford some places to swim. The advantage of running barefoot is that one can simply swim without needing to change, or needing to dry afterwards. Running shorts dry pretty quickly.

I returned along the lake shore to where the main river flows out (the Limmat, which eventually discharges into the Rhine).

Now almost home I found this curious drinking fountain. I wasn't thirsty...


Community is...

Community is... not knowing which way around the loo-roll will be hung.

When on the throne your hand goes instinctively to the loo-roll and precious moments can be lost finding the loose end. If not immediately obvious you spin the roll first one way and then the other, meanwhile one's business is crying out...

It is an old debate - you can find many internet sites that get involved in the argument. I think this one has the definitive answer but I know that even this would not convince All The People here who evidently believe it should be the other way, any more that the rich man's five brothers would be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.


God of Chance 2

In my recent post God of Chance I intended to insert a link to an online paper that deals with the subject, so here it is: God and Chance: Christian Perspectives.



My last post left him in a hospital. Ten days later he is apparently still there and the family need some encouragement. If you are the praying type, please pray and invite others to do so. If not then at least hold him in your thoughts - for Timothy to know that so many folk are are standing with him must in itself be an encouragement.


The world is my gym

Lough Ouler, close-by hidden gem #swim #hike #run #cycle #love

They want to purchase more gym equipment. I cannot deny that exercise is good for you especially if your occupation is otherwise sedentary as is so often the case now-a-days, so I'm not exactly against such purchases. But I may have mentioned once or twice that I find and enjoy my exercise principally in jogging or hiking barefoot or cycling. They want to buy another rowing machine, but we have a lake half a mile down the road and it was only a few months back we got rid of a dinghy because no-one could see a use for it. They want another cycling machine, but I have two bicycles and there are others here, and cyclists come to this area from all around because of its beauty and its relatively quiet roads. We have mountains to climb, forests to explore, a lake-side which is often walk-able, smaller mountain lakes that you can swim in, all within walking distance. They want to buy another bar and weights, but we have many outdoor activities that require arm muscles like stacking logs, digging, mucking out.

With all this so close how could anyone want to spend good money on, or use, imitation exercise machines cooped up in a small room, except possibly in the dead of winter and in the unlikely event of a snow storm?

Instrument of torture


Yesterday I made a life changing decision

Electronics?  I love this video's portrayal of the evil of electronics!

Almost 30 years ago I started my Microlite business, this was after a number of years of being totally out of electronics doing stuff like building and driving instruction during which time Bill Gates invented the PC, unknown to me. So I decided to launch out self-employed as an electronics design house: a one-stop-shop from client's vague concept to the reality of pilot production. The name suggesting a shedding of light on micro-electronics with hints of low-cost and providence.

Yesterday I decided to begin to wind down and retire Microlite, specifically to extricate myself from the stress of long drawn-out, complex, firmware-intensive projects, and clients unwilling or unable to pay in a timely fashion. I will continue to support existing clients but be very selective about any new work I take on, and aim to reduce the business to a part-time occupation.

Today I am faced with taunts of "failure", "you gave in to pressure", "you are letting people down" - thoughts of Churchill's never give in, never, never, never, in nothing, great or small, large or petty. But even he follows this with an "except" category into which I fit. I am in fact taking hold of my destiny. I believe it was God's idea to start Microlite and I believe that this is the time for it to end or at least change course. In case you are asking "why?  here are some of the ingredients:

  • An increasing gut-feeling that Microlite is past its sell-by date;
  • Precipitated by the particular project I was limbering up to which has proved to be more complex than I had bargained for;
  • A recent chance remark made by someone here that I might retire from electronics one day;
  • Ongoing stress caused by unmanageable clients vis-à-vis their unattainable expectations and unwillingness or inability to pay in a timely fashion;
  • The ever-increasing complexity of electronics systems often surpassing what a one-man-team can manage;
  • The ever-decreasing scale of electronics component so that my ultimate resolution of my PCB CAD can no longer cope, but to upgrade would be expensive plus a steep learning curve;
  • My junior assistant programmer having recently left, on whom I was relying on more and more for software and firmware solutions;
  • Increased needs here for my involvement in building maintenance due to other folk being otherwise deployed;
  • Our finances being no longer so dependent upon Microlite income now another community business has taken off;
  • Recent bad experiences with certain projects taking much longer than expected or clients not being fully satisfied.

Maybe I'll post again when the dust settles and it becomes clearer what all this really means.


The God of Chance

I have previously posted how my paternal grandfather Ginty was infatuated with organs, and some of that has rubbed off on me. Mozart apparently coined the organ the King of Instruments, an accolade many would have a hard time with. The operation of an organ flue pipe is similar to a flute or penny whistle. A stream of air is made to play over a sharp edge or labium which causes chaotic vortices which make a hissing or noise-like sound.  This sound contains a continuous spread of frequencies rather like sunlight is composed of a continuous spread of colours. And certainly not seven! The tube-like body of the flute, whistle or organ pipe acts as a resonator and thus amplifies or selects a particular frequency (i.e. tone or musical pitch) and the result is the familiar flute like sound which includes the background sibilant hiss.

The point I am making is that it is possible to draw order (a pure tone) from chaos. The resonator can be thought of as a filter that only lets through what is desired.

I once read a Sci-Fi story in which it was proposed that all human learning and civilisation was no more than a filtering process and the hiss or noise that it filters is everything that is possible or, as they say, All The Things. And therefore anything is possible, given a suitable tweaking of the filter. In the story the proponent, to prove his theory, arranges a conference of world class scientists at which he announces that a foreign power had invented anti-gravity. This discovery clearly proved it was possible and he instructs the scientists find out how it was done and report back in a year's time. During that year several of the scientists independently discover the answer. It was only after each reports at the second conference that the proponent tells them that he had lied - no foreign power had in fact invented anti-gravity.

In this morning's meeting we were reminded of how great our God is, for example in being to orchestrate all the ingredients necessary so that at just the right time... Christ died for the ungodly. (NIV). But it's too easy to make a statement like this in retrospect - it is just such logic that the anthropic principle seeks to debunk.

In my diagram 'O' is the origin of the universe - Big Bang or Creation as you will. Everything coloured to the right is All The Things that ever there were, up to the present time.  'B' is the beating wings of a butterfly and the purple area is all that might have been influenced by this butterfly effect. Conversely everything that might have influenced me 'M' is shown in pink. That's a lot of stuff that had to be there at just the right time for me to be me. The anthropic principle says that, although it happened by chance, it had to have turned out as it did else I wouldn't be me. That I exist proves that this particular chance succession of events, unlikely as it may be, actually happened like it did.

Isn't it amazing that we humans, clever clogs that we are (didn't we invent the smart phone and the internet?), don't know why we are here and what happens after death.

Throughout the Bible there are instances of God's will being sought by casting lots, the principle being The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. (Prov 16:33). At the other end of the spectrum evolutionists ascribe all that we are, know and see to pure chance.

The laws of statistics (aka chance) require there to be a large "population" or number of events before  the drawing of statistical conclusions becomes valid. Whilst the probability that a flipped unbiased coin will land "heads" is 50%, after one such coin lands "heads" it becomes a fact of history and the concept that it could have been otherwise becomes meaningless. So, if I lay out  a fleece to determine God's will and the unlikely outcome occurs and I conclude that God is telling me to do X, is this really a valid use of the term "unlikely"?

If you determine your fate by casting lots you may believe that in fact God is determining the outcome, or you may put it down to chance. What difference would it make to an outcome whether or not God was there in the background somehow pulling the strings? After all, we are taught again and again (and here is my difficulty) that Christianity is "all by faith" and thus it is by definition impossible to demonstrate. But I see a flaw here, some circular reasoning, and I don't subscribe to this kind of "faith". Personally I reckon faith must be more than blind belief, that faith must have substance as its goal. The well known By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible can of course be read either that creation was a result of faith, or that we believe that God created.

I may take this line on faith, and I do, but I haven't seen much evidence of it working. But that's also provided for in the creed: And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Where does that leave me? Often I want to run away from It All - I hate the hypocrisy, religiosity, rote, expectations, language - none of which I see in the stories we have of Jesus' life. But I cannot deny those stories and What He Did makes me hold on... For the time being anyway.

We humans survive because some of us are prepared to doggedly believe the impossible, against all odds. Indeed I think all true Christians have to do this - it is what true faith does. Maybe this is why that something which we might call "good" wells up inside when for instance the Von Trap family make it over the mountains, or Ellis (in Mud) finds love in the place he least expected it or Hugo finds meaning after the devastating death of his father. These stories are tear-jerkers because they touch that very tender place even the hardest if us have inside. Stories like the one that Lucy couldn't remember about a cup and a sword and a tree and a green hill. Or the truth in the well known hymn:

There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.

We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin.
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in.

Oh, dearly, dearly has he loved!
And we must love him too,
And trust in his redeeming blood,
And try his works to do.