I hear the mission bell…

Delirious? The Mission Bell album cover

Back at work yesterday and I was still feeling a little dizzy and headachy but delighted to be back. Feeling a little fragile, I listened to Delirious? The Mission Bell. (If you don’t believe me just check Last.fm!)

I’m quite particular about the music I listen to: for example, I’m one of these people that likes it to be an enjoyable experience listening to music. And of course taste hides a multitude of sins.

I remember as a child wondering why so much explicitly Christian music was … well, rubbish. I mean I know that their hearts were in the right places, but still … there was so much really awful, tacky, cringeworthy stuff out there in the 70s and 80s. (And you wonder why I got into Slayer and Megadeth!)

The first album of Christian music that made me sit up and begin to believe again in Christian music was the first worship album from Holy Trinity Brompton, the Church of England parish in London from which emerged The Alpha Course — a ten week course introducing people to the basics of the Christian faith, a faith which believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God … I’ll stop clarifying everything now shall I? It rocked! It had great tunes, was played with passion and skill, and the lyrics had integrity and depth and meaning, and I related to it.

A few years later, having moved to London, I discovered Delirious? Originally a worship band for a Christian youth event called “Cutting Edge” Delirious? have been around for over ten years now, and I’ve pretty much loved everything they’ve recorded. Their worship songs aren’t like the standard, stereotypical worship choruses typified by this parody:

This is just another Graham Kendrick song!
This is just another Graham Kendrick song!
Sing the first line twice,
and then you sing it again!
This is just another Graham Kendrick song!

I could relate to the songs, to the lyrics, to the attitudes, to the desires to worship God in a meaningful way. And importantly none of their songs use phrases like “I’ve been bathed in the blood of the lamb who has washed my sins away”, which speaks to me more of animal sacrifice than a meaningful, everyday faith in a living, loving God.

Every now and then I just need to do a little bit of modern, music-style worship, and Delirious?’s are often the albums that I reach for. While at times I listen to Gregorian chant which chills me out and in which I find a place of peace, sometimes I also find myself unexpectedly worshipping God listening to Soulfly‘s music, or certain Megadeth tracks, as well as explicitly Christian artists like Delirious? and Matt Redman. I’ve returned to listening to the most current Depeche Mode album too, and find a lot to give thanks for in that. That’s one of the great things about God: he can find you in all sorts of unexpected places.

Powerpoint

Next month the monthly Powerpoint event starts again. Held at St Thomas’s Scottish Episcopal Church on Glasgow Road, Edinburgh, Powerpoint is a monthly youth event held on the second Friday of each month (the third Friday in April).

The band is pretty much the same as last year: Neil Costley on lead acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Tim Cocking on lead keyboards and backing vocals, Mike Arthur on lead bass, me on lead electric guitar and lead REAL METALâ„¢ and the legend that is Andy Weir on lead drums, lead percussion and backing vocals. And I’m really, really looking forward to it.

If it is your discipline, please pray for Powerpoint, for us as musicians and Christians that we’ll be able to lead people into a place of engagement with God’s Holy Spirit through the worship, and for St Thomas’s who are undergoing serious renovation work in the hall which will make things rather tight for space during the October gathering.

I’d better get my guitars dusted down and do some practicing…

What can YOU do in 10 minutes?

Gareth wearing a 24 hour blood pressure monitor.
Gareth sporting an attractive 24 hour blood pressure monitor.

I was all ready to return to work today and then yesterday I got hooked up to a 24 hour blood pressure monitor at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee and that scuppered all my plans for the next 1440 minutes.

The 24 hour blood pressure monitor is like a standard digital sphygmomanometer only this one is about the size of an old Sony Walkman and is attached to the belt. Every 15 minutes (30 minutes at night) it beeps twice, the cuff inflates, and your blood pressure is taken. If there is an error with the reading the machine waits for three minutes and then tries again.

I got about 45-60 minutes of sleep last night because every time I started to drop off the thing started again. And because I was restless it failed and tried again. On average during the last 86400 seconds I’ve had my blood pressure taken for 24 minutes of each hour. It really was quite unpleasant.

However…

However, as I lay awake last night thankful for the BBC World Service I was able to spend quite a while praying and giving thanks to the amazing things that God has afforded us.

  • I marvelled at the stars last night which were amazing above such a clear sky. I was looking up at Ursa Major and marvelling at just how small and seemingly insignificant we are here in this tiny planet, third from the Sun.
  • I gave thanks that I was only attached to a portable BP monitor for 0.14286 of a week and that I’m not attached to a kidney dialysis machine.
  • This week, and particularly these last two days I got to spend more time with the lovely Jane, whom I love more and more every day.

Like tapas…

From 15:30 yesterday to the same today I discovered just how many things I can do in 10 minutes. Today was like tapas, I told Jane: small portions of this and that, but nothing to really get my teeth into.

I discovered that I could shower and dress in less than 10 minutes; I could pull my trousers up without the BP monitor falling to the floor only if I held the end of my belt in my teeth (yes it was as uncomfortable and awkward as it sounds!), I could make myself breakfast and bring it back to bed and put it down just in time for my left arm to be squeezed to a pulp by the now-too-tight cuff.

At 15:30 today Jane drove me back to Dundee and I handed it back; I get the results on Wednesday 4 October.

What can you do in 10 minutes?

Last.fm for Windows

Last.fm for Windows

I’ve been using Last.fm for a little over a year now, having been introduced to it by my dear friend Steve Lawson, and it appears to have just got better with the introduction of a new application called Last.fm for Windows (or Linux, or Apple Mac OS X, or FreeBSD, etc.).

Last.fm — both the stand-alone program and the website — is one of those applications that could easily be grouped under that broad and enigmatic term: Web 2.0. It is online, it is about community, it is about sharing, it has gradients and rounded corners and thousands upon thousands of people are using it.

Here is what happens and why it is so cool. When you fire up your media player of choice (if you are a Windows user then this will most likely be either Windows Media Player, iTunes or WinAmp) then a special add on, called a plug-in, automatically sends details of what music you are listening to to the Last.fm website where it is registered on your account.

Tracks and trends

When you view your Last.fm account you can not only see what music you’ve been playing recently, but you can view your listening trends too. Here is my Last.fm account: www.last.fm/user/garethjms. I can see that my top ten list of most listened to artists are:

  1. Metallica
  2. Sepultura
  3. Queen
  4. Slayer
  5. Megadeth
  6. Anthrax
  7. Soulfly
  8. Marillion
  9. Iron Maiden
  10. System of a Down

which doesn’t surprise me too much; apart from the last one, I’d never have guessed that SOAD would be in my top 10. I also wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that my most played track is Metallica’s cover of the Motörhead classic Too Late Too Late. You learn something new every day.

Didn’t you mention something about a community?

As well as your own listening preferences, you can also see who your neighbours are. Who else is listening to the same sort of stuff as you? Why not listen in to it with the Neighbour Radio? You can blog and read other people’s blogs, and you can also connect with your friends (mine include jameswfrost, civroc, SoloBassSteve and calamateur). At one point a few weeks back civroc was also my neighbour and my friend. Isn’t that lovely.

Plugins out, Last.fm for Windows in

Having just reinstalled Windows on my PC gradually over the last two weeks, I was keen to get my WinAmp and iTunes back up and running and audioscrobbling (that is uploading listening data to Last.fm (formerly called Audioscrobbler). I installed the last version of WinAmp Pro 5.3 and discovered that when I setup the Audioscrobbler plugin it brought my system to a standstill. The CPU was reporting that it was working at 99% on WinAmp alone. Hmm… very odd.

So I uninstalled WinAmp Pro 5.3 and returned to WinAmp Pro 5.24 … which worked perfectly. Even odder.

It took me some digging around the Last.fm forums to discover that the separate plugins are like SOOOOO yesterday. They’re like SOOOOO Web 1.0 it’s unreal.

In their place is this lovely, shiny application called Last.fm for Windows which automatically scans your PC for your media players of choice and downloads and configures the appropriate plugins for you. Not only that but there is also a separate Last.fm desktop application that gives you more information about the track and artist that you’re currently listening to.

Last.fm for Windows screenshot

It’s not all one-way. As well as it shovelling out bucket-loads of information to you it will also allow you to interact with your account, assign tags to your music, tune in to your Personal Radio or Neighbour Radios, and if your memory is really bad: find out what you’ve just listened to.

Anyway, I thought I’d give it a mention because it confused me why the audioscrobbler plugin wasn’t working. Now I know, and so do you. I hope it helps somebody out there.

The only downside that I can see is that now you must have Last.fm for Windows running as well as WinAmp in order for any tracks to be audioscrobbled to your account. I don’t like running too many applications in the system tray / notification area if I can help it.

I’ll now sit back and wait for the “Why aren’t you using iTunes?!” onslaught. Or Foobar2000 if you’re called Mike!

What you’ve been looking for this month

Magnifying glass

The Search Meter WordPress plugin is a plugin that helps you find out what your users have been searching for. The idea is that it therefore can help you to deliver the content that they want. Or it’s just really useful if you’re nosey.

So here are the search terms that Search Meter reports YOU have been looking for on my blog over the last 30 days:

  • risk
  • homosexuality
  • kadesh
  • lenovo
  • cdb
  • christon bank
  • congregation
  • forms
  • html forms
  • Iain and Lisa
  • james hopewell
  • kiss cake
  • loyalty
  • metallica
  • october
  • plumber
  • PSIWIN
  • risk anglican communion
  • rover
  • SCART

Notes:

  1. Who or where is “Christon Bank”?
  2. “Iain and Lisa” are our new next door neighbours, who are great fun and lovely (if they were the ones looking for themselves mentioned on my blog!).
  3. “Iain and Lisa” are our new next door neighbours, who are great fun and lovely (if they were not the ones looking for themselves mentioned on my blog!)
  4. There isn’t a month that goes by without someone looking for “kiss cake” and “plumber”.

A slow, but good, day

Coloured lights from passing cars.
When I typed the word “slow” into stock.xchng this is what I got: an image of fast cars travelling at night!

At last things are improving at Saunders HQ, certainly in terms of my health. My dizziness has almost completely gone and yet I still seem to have about a month’s worth of anti-dizzy pills left, and I had to go back to the chemist today to collect my last seven tablets as they didn’t have enough when I filled my script on Friday (check me out with my pharmaceutical terms!). Are they like antibiotics, do I have to complete the course?

Late this morning I walked into Anstruther. I wanted to see how I was doing on the road to recovery but had to make do with the road to Anstruther! (Boom! boom!) I returned pretty worn out and slept for much of the afternoon. On my bean bag. On the floor in my study. I had intended to sit and read for a bit, and managed about a paragraph before dropping off.

During my amble into town I visited the Anstruther Post Office for the first time (most of these shops are closed when I return from work) and posted my Psion Series 7Book to POS with a kind letter asking them to wave their magic, technological wand over it and make it better. I now officially have never owned a Psion that I’ve not sent to POS to fix. (If that was too many double negatives for you: I have now sent every Psion I’ve ever owned to POS to fix.) I should be more careful in future.

The rest of my day has been spent:

  • sleeping
  • reinstalling Windows XP on my PC
  • evicting flies and wasps from the house
  • grinning that we’ve now sold Kadesh (more details tomorrow)
  • reading about Search Engine Optimization and the Rule of St Benedict (not in the same book!)
  • copying thousands of files from backup DVDs to my new 300 GB hard drive
  • stroking Spot (the cat) whom we got back yesterday … and who cost us £735 for that last episode!
  • viewing a(nother) house with Jane
  • sticking my head in next door’s cement mixer and speaking like Darth Vader
  • getting better

and now I’m off to do that sleeping thing again.

Don’t give a storm a window of opportunity

Storm clouds

Here’s a top tip for you: if you are going to leave your Velux (roof) window open overnight in your study while there is a torrential storm raging outside don’t leave your Psion Series 7 sitting beneath it on your desk because by the morning it will have stopped working properly.

It’s also not a great idea to leave your laptop there either. Or your telephone. Or PC monitor. Or books. Or … indeed maybe we ought just to agree that it’s a good rule to close the window at night.

I’d left the Psion to dry out during the day today but the keyboard is now being completely random, even after a hard reset. Looks like I’ll be getting in touch with POS Ltd in the morning again, who are the masters of Psion repairs. Yet another expense we could do without.

I have the brain of a cabbage today

Inside of a cabbage

Today I appear (at least from the perspective from inside my head) to have the brain of a cabbage. I’m feeling quite dizzy, quite muddled and quite confused. Ironically I suspect that it may be a side-effect of the anti-dizziness pills I’m on.

For example, I was just standing having a perfectly coherent conversation with the fridge earlier this morning, and for some reason I just couldn’t understand a single word it was saying.