Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year's Tech Resolutions

It is that time of year again to make some New Year's resolutions.


These are my tech resolutions for next year ....




  1. Read Steve Jobs biography which I had for Christmas
  2. Save up for a new MacBook Air to replace my 4 year old white MacBook
  3. Backup my MacBook every couple of days and use Time-machine more effectively
  4. Be much more organised when saving files by giving them meaningful names and using meaningful folders - not "To be sorted later ...."
  5. Write a blog post at-least every over day


Tramadol - part II

Earlier this year I blogged about my experiences of taking Tramadol.  


I blogged whilst taking Tramadol and was going to write about what happened after I stopped taking it.


Taking Tramadol was a very interesting experience and I still think that there are gaps in my memory from when I was on this drug.  Coming off the drug was a scary three day experience and I am still haunted by the experience of the bad dreams.  I don't normally have bad dreams and generally sleep well but whilst coming off Tramadol I had some of the scariest dreams I have ever had which really tapped into my deepest fears.


Would I use Tramadol again?  I am not sure.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Why have I added adds to my blog?

It has taken much thought but I have decided to add adverts to my blog.  I applied to Google Adsense  to se if my blog qualified to host adverts and it did!




I don't think that I will get rich with the number of hits I am getting but I do have on eye to the future! I am confident that with Google's contextual adverts being displayed I may actually link to an advert that someone may want.  I was really pleased to see that one of the first adverts I displayed was for Christian Aid - a charity which I totally support.


So please don't hate me for selling out to the corporate machine!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Social Media - why the hype?

One of the great gifts I was given for Christmas was the Social Media Bible. This isn't some sort of interactive Bible but actually a business book on the best uses of social media in promoting your business.







I am very interested in Social media and have been since I first logged onto the Internet in approximately 1995/6 at University.  


I have been thinking recently about what being connected through social media means to me and these are some of the questions I have come up with.
  • What does social media mean to me?
  • Is it more than just writing endless blog posts or posting annoying Facebook status updates?
  • Do I have a social media strategy?
  • Am I trying to get famous (or more worryingly infamous)?
  • Is social media a way of earning money? (you may have seen the adverts on this page already)
  • Do I ever think about the trail I have left on the web which one day a future employer might see and put them off me? (I hope not)

I read recently a great article on how to succeed with YouTube by a really popular American guy called  David Di Franco at Teksocial.com. This got me thinking about some of the questions I posed above.

I want to share some of my passions, interests, thoughts and experiences with like-minded people around the world.  I want to create high-quality, meaningful content that people will want to read, enjoy and hopefully learn from.

By doing this I have to be very careful.  Being a teacher I have extra responsibility about what I produce and the opinions I share.  Also there is a world of trolls out there, and while my motto is "Don't feed the trolls" by replying to them, this is sometimes hard to do.



Apple Magic Mouse

Can you justify spending over £50 on a mouse ......


Today I spent £52 on an Apple Magic Mouse to replace my wired Apple Mouse which broke the other day.





So what makes spending this amount of money on a mouse worth it?



  • The design - the Magic Mouse feels really natural and comfortable in the hand.  I actually find using a new mouse quite painful for a while as my hand gets used to the new shape, but not with this one.
  • Built-in Bluetooth - the mouse connected to my MacBook almost instantly and with no extra cables, adapters it was simplicity itself.
  • Laser accuracy for pin-point movement.  Apple claim that the mouse will work on most surfaces due to the laser guided tracking.  So far I have found it to work on any surface.
  • Multi-touch gestures - to be able to swipe between screens, zoom on the page and scroll through a web page with just gestures is excellent.
I would also highly recommend the app Magicprefs from magicprefs.com.  This gives you a wider range of configurable settings.

Monday, 26 December 2011

A Christmas Creed

I found this prayer yesterday and thought it was worth sharing


I believe in Jesus Christ and in the beauty of the gospel begun in Bethlehem.

I believe in the one whose spirit glorified a little town; and whose spirit still brings music to persons all over the world, in towns both large and small.

I believe in the one for whom the crowded inn could find no room, and I confess that my heart still sometimes wants to exclude Christ from my life today.

I believe in the one who the rulers of the earth ignored and the proud could never understand; whose life was among common people, whose welcome came from persons of hungry hearts.

I believe in the one who proclaimed the love of God to be invincible:

I believe in the one whose cradle was a mother's arms, whose modest home in Nazareth had love for its only wealth, who looked at persons and made them see what God's love saw in them, who by love brought sinners back to purity, and lifted human weakness up to meet the strength of God.

I confess my ever-lasting need of God: The need of forgiveness for our selfishness and greed, the need of new life for empty souls, the need of love for hearts grown cold.

I believe in God who gives us the best of himself. I believe in Jesus, the son of the living God, born in Bethlehem this night, for me and for the world. 




Saturday, 24 December 2011

Prayers for Christmas Day


Christmas Gift Prayer

Thank you, God for the wonderful gift of your son, Jesus, as we celebrate His birthday. Help us to remember Him as we give and receive gifts, taking time to pray for each person and for those who have nothing. Help us, Lord, to fill this Christmas with you and with your love, peace and joy.
Amen


Christmas Manger Prayer
O God,
whose mighty Son was born in Bethlehem
those days long ago,
lead us to that same poor place,
where Mary laid her tiny Child.
And as we look on in wonder and praise,
make us welcome him in all new life,
see him in the poor,
and care for his handiwork
the earth, the sky and the sea.
O God, bless us again in your great love.
We pray for this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.


Christmas Prayer for Present Opening

Lord Jesus, Wise men traveled for miles to bring you the first Christmas presents. So may we, too, remember with thankful hearts the love that comes with each present we open. We also thank you for the amazing love you have for each of us, and we thank you for the many gifts that you give us.
Amen
               


A moment of prayer for Christmas Eve


Christmas Eve Prayer


Give us, O God, the vision which can see Your love in the world in spite of human failure.
Give us the faith to trust Your goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness.
Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts.
And show us what each one of us can do to set forward the coming of the day of universal peace.



-- Frank Borman, Apollo 8 space mission, 1968




Friday, 23 December 2011

Get Well Soon Prince Philip

When people are in the public gaze you sometimes forget how old they are!  I was a little bit surprised to be reminded that Prince Philip is 90.



After hearing on the news about his heart operation last night where Prince Philip was treated for a blocked coronary artery. It got me thinking about how old the Queen and Prince Philip are and if they will be retiring from public duty soon. I wonder who our next king will be, will it be Charles or William?

Anyway - get well soon Prince Philip.

Prayer for Christmas Eve


Loving God, Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate
and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake.
Amen.

Robert Louis Stevenson



Christmas is getting nearer - a prayer

Christmas grows closer Lord Jesus, Light of the world, 
John told the people to prepare for you when you were very near. 
As Christmas grows closer day by day, help us to be ready to welcome you now. 
Amen                                                          

Thursday, 22 December 2011

It's every parents' nightmare .... a week at home with the children before Christmas.

This is always a great opportunity to get out the craft materials and do all the things that you never have time for!

So yesterday I did.....

  • Handmade candle rolling using sheets of beeswax
  • Foam craft (sticking bits on top of each other in a tasteful way)
  • Last minute card making

Check out the video of the candle rolling.

video

Visiting Father Christmas

Today I took the boys to visit Father Christmas (Santa) at Hatton Country World.

Whilst this was fun and the boys got nice gifts we do have the difficult question of do we say that Father Christmas is real or not?

Visiting Father Christmas at Hatton

What do we say?

  • Presents are from Mummy, Daddy and relatives
  • Jesus who we celebrate at Christmas is real (see some of my other posts about being a Christian)
  • Many people believe in Father Christmas but we don't

What don't we say?
  • If you are naughty you won't get any presents (would we really follow this through?)
  • Father Christmas is real and brings you gifts
  • If you don't believe in Father Christmas you won't get any presents

Why don't we say he is real?

We want our boys to really know Jesus for themselves in their lives.  We are worried if that they find out one day that Father Christmas is not real then they may think that Jesus is not real.

Does this make us bad parents?

I don't think so.  We have had one difficult moment when Philip was in Reception class (aged about 5) and told his friends that there was no such thing as Father Christmas.


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Help! I'm cooking Christmas lunch!

Each year we take it in turns to visit the in-laws. This year we are staying at home so I am cooking the Christmas lunch. I am applying my scientific method to this (after all cooking and chemistry are basically the same!) This is my military time plan for the meal.


I am fairly sure it will all turn out ok!


This is my worse nightmare!


Monday, 19 December 2011

Our Christmas Tree - 2011

Traditionally we put up our decorations as soon as the school term has ended.  This year was just the same.

Saturday morning saw us heading off to Woods Christmas Tree Farm (in Shirley)

Woods Christmas Tree Farm

We are very traditional when it comes to our tree.  The same decorations (including home made by the boys) come out.

We always love the boys helping us with decorating the tree so everyone gets involved.





Do something nice everyday

After much waiting the school holiday's finally arrived.  The only problem with school holidays for me is that I just want to relax.  With all this spare time I just want to watch TV, read and make movies.


BUT!


With a wife (who is not a teacher) and two small children at home simply relaxing is not possible! So how do I manage to get time for myself and still be the loving husband and father for my family? Well - the answer lies in doing something nice each day...


Every day I plan to do at least one thing nice for my wife, my two boys and for myself. This actually takes more discipline than you would expect especially with the boys.  Sitting on the settee watching TV with the boys is really for me.


We will see how this goes! 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Apple iPhone 4S Siri Santa Advert

Yesterday I blogged about an advert which I really enjoyed.  Today I have been really impressed with the latest iPhone 4S advert to feature Siri.  Unfortunately this advert is not available in the UK but I have found a copy on YouTube (I hope the link stays for a while).


This is exactly how I imagine Santa would use an iPhone 4S.

Great ad - well done Apple.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

John Lewis Christmas Advert 2011

I have really enjoyed watching the John Lewis Christmas Advert (2011)



It's been really interesting reading the comments on YouTube because apparently (according to the Trolls - sorry) the video is racist.

In my opinion the advert is extremely well crafted and tells a lovely visual story.  The ad doesn't try to tell the real meaning of Christmas but does say that it is better to give that receive.

Acts 20:35

New International Version (NIV)
35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”




But after reading many of the comments I agree that because the family is a fairly affluent middle class white family this does not make it inherently racist.


I think that today branding someone a racist or an action racism is done very quickly without thought of what was actually said and done.  A good definition of racism is:


Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination.


I don't think that the John Lewis Christmas ad demonstrates this.  If anything this is more a video based on Middle class values and experiences.  Perhaps if we are being picky the video could it have also included a boy in social housing on the middle of a housing estate?


I think the video is great - well done John Lewis!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Free downloads from iTunes

It's that time of year again when Apple will be giving away 12 free downloads over Christmas.

For the last two years there have been a great selection of music, videos, apps and books available.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Advent Antiphons

I found this today while looking for a simple prayer for Advent.


Advent Antiphons

From Mary's sweet silence
Come, Word mutely spoken!

Pledge of our real life,
Come, Bread yet unbroken!

Seed of the Golden Wheat,
In us be sown.

Fullness of true Light,
Through us be known.

Secret held tenderly,
Guarded with Love,

Cradled in purity,
Child of the Dove,

COME!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Monday, 28 November 2011

What is God calling us to do locally?

Today I listened to a really good talk on goals and sacrifice at church.

Do we have a big goal that we are working towards in our lives or our church.

The first part of Romans 12 could be Paul's.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God---this is your spiritual act of worship. [2] Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is---his good, pleasing and perfect will.

His was radical because the sacrifice would be normally carried out on alters.

Sacrifice is important. We don't like things that cost.

What is cost all about? Is it the bad before the good. The cost and the value are both connected.

The cost is part of the journey and the prize itself.

What are we being called to?

Do we have a big goal that God is calling us to?

Some of us will be in the middle of what is God is calling us to at the moment. Some of us will not yet know where God is calling us.

If we are struggling knowing where God is calling us we can think through these areas:

What are my ...

Spiritual Gifts
Hopes
Abilities
Personality
Experiences

The answers can be really illuminating in clarifying where God is leading us.

But what is holding us back from being able to do more or realising God's plans for our lives.

We may have to move out of our own comfort zone and do something new or challenging.

But the cost may seem to high.

- tiredness
- our own busy lives of ferrying kids to school etc.
- time
- money
- time with friends

We may be called to use our time, bodies or intellect.

God does not leave us to do it on our own. Through prayer and in the body of Christ we are never on our own.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Advent

I love Advent, it is one of my favourite seasons in the church calendar. This is seen traditionally as a season of expectation and preparation.

Today we put together our Advent candles and light the first one.

Some verses to reflect on at the start of advent.

Romans 13:11 (NIV)
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

Romans 13:12 (NIV)
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Psalm 24:7 (NIV)
Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

Revelation 22:20 (NIV)
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Conflict of identities - Jonah

Listened to a really good talk today at church.

Jonah had a conflict of identity. He as a Jew didn't want to preach to the Gentiles.

Jonah 1:2-3 (NIV)
"Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." [3] But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish . He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

We do something similar when we have a conflict of identity.

The desert place can be a time where God can speak to us. When Jonah was inside the fish he was in a desert place.

It doesn't taken a lot to do mission but to take a step.

Jonah proclaims his identity

Jonah 1:9 (NIV)
He answered, "I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land. "

But his action didn't reflect it.

Why did Jonah want someone else to throw him off?

Jonah 1:11-12 (NIV)
The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, "What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?" [12] "Pick me up and throw me into the sea," he replied, "and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you."

It is very easy to leave it (missionary) to someone else.

Jonah also had a conflict with what God wanted him to do.

Jonah 1:10 (NIV)
This terrified them and they asked, "What have you done?" (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

Mission starts with taking a step.

Eg. Peter walking on water.

Matthew 14:28-29 (NIV)
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." [29] "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

God calls to challenge our identity. Do we live as a Christian when we say we are.

Do people know who we are from our identity. Does our behaviour reflect who we really are?

God is amazing but we still need to do mission. We are all called to be missionaries.

God is working in our lives.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Living in loving relationships

Just listened to a really good talk on living the life described in Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5:1,3-6,8-11 (NIV)
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children [3] But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. [4] Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. [5] For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person---such a man is an idolater---has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. [8] For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light [9] (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) [10] and find out what pleases the Lord. [11] Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

We need to choose to live a new life, but also need to do it every day.

Imitate

Ephesians 5:1 (NIV)
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children

We need to live a life of love. We need to imitate Christ and follow Him.

We need to be honest in our thoughts and actions.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children [2] and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

We need to be vulnerable in our honesty with our friendships and relationships.

We need to admit what we struggle with.

Invest

The new life that is loving and faithful involves investment in relationships.

We are told not to be involved in specific things.

Ephesians 5:3-7 (NIV)
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. [4] Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. [5] For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person---such a man is an idolater---has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. [7] Therefore do not be partners with them.

Is Paul trying to keep sexual temptation out of our thoughts and talks.

We need to live to a different standard.

Our society says that sexual immorality is ok.

If we truly want to love others we won't to get involved in sexual immorality.

No one is immune but imitating God is the starting point.

Ephesians 5:4 (NIV)
Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

If we are talking thanksgiving there is no room for sexual immorality.

We should also invest with out expectation of return. We should love others rather than wanting to use them.

Illumination

Ephesians 5:8 (NIV)
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light

We are children of light and can live in the light.

This doesn't necessary mean trying to catch people out but shine the light on the path for others.

Ephesians 5:9 (NIV)
(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)

We will see ...

- goodness
- righteousness
- truth

We don't have to try and live in righteousness but will come as the fruit of living in the light.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Can you write down prices in shops?

This article from the Guardian really interested me after a bad experience I had in Currys in Shirey (West Midlands).

Guardian journalist almost arrested for writing down prices in Tesco

Although after reading more about this Tesco have apparently not passed a new law prohibiting the writing down of prices in their stores.

So what was my experience ....

Recently I went into Currys to buy a piece of hardware for my son's computer. Wanting to get a good price I scanned it with my phone to use a comparison app. I was practically jumped on by a member of staff who said: quote "that is stealing". Forgive me for being thick but I really don't see how scanning a barcode can possibly be considered stealing!

Perhaps this is the new economic climate where you can't go into a shop, scan bar codes and then look elsewhere.

I really want to go to Tesco with a notepad.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

How well do we support and encourage others?

Encouraging and affirming

Ephesians 4:29-32 (NIV)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. [30] And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. [31] Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. [32] Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Christian faith is about living better with God in God's world.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Be very careful with what you say that it will be encouraging.

To encourage, build up, support.

Ephesians 4:29,32 (NIV)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. [32] Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

How does this apply to our lives?

Home - Look for situations where children are doing well and praise them for it. It doesn't help to pretend that a child's failure is not real but we can focus on the future and things that will go later. Don't just reserve praise for their success, because if it doesn't come they will feel it more when there is a lack of achievement. It also involves encouraging your friends and partners. This then becomes crucial with us. Do we praise and encourage the little things, the everyday stuff.

Workplace - praise lots and criticise less. Each member of a company contributes different strengths and these should be rewarded.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

What does this look like in the community? - Do we ever say a well done, thank you?

Church - do we do it at church? Do we encourage one and other in the church to develop the gifts and skills that each have.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. [32] Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

This will be discouraging world, we do need one and other to build each other up. It is a good way to live.

But is more than that ...

Ephesians 4:30 (NIV)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children [2] and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Discover Dorset: Swanage Railway

Even if you are not a huge train spotter the Swanage Railway to Corfe Castle is a great day out.

Swanage Railway

Discover Dorset: Swanage - a seaside gem

We have been visiting Swanage as a family for over 3 generations and really love it! Swanage is a seaside town that has not been tainted by the 'cloned high street'. While you are there have a ride on the Swanage Railway.

Discover Dorset: The Blue Pool and Teahouse

One of our favourite outings in Dorset.

The Blue Pool and Tea Rooms

One of Dorsets best loved attractions since 1935.
Set north of the Purbeck Hills between Wareham and Corfe Castle off the A351.
The Blue Pool at Furzebrook constantly varies in colour. Very fine clay in suspension in the water diffracts light in different ways, producing a spectrum of colour sometimes green sometimes turquoise.
Set in a deep clay bowl, steps lead down to the waters edge or up to views of the Purbeck Hills. The Pool is surrounded by 25 acres of heath, woodland and gorse interlaced with sandy paths that seem to take you to another world.
Opening Times
1st March to 30th November from 9:30am
Closing time 5pm - later in the summer.
The Tea House, Museum,Shops and Plant Centre are open daily:-
16th March to 30th October from 10:00am Closing Times vary through out the season.
Prices:-
Adults £5.30
Children 5 - 14 years £3.20 (under fives free)
Seniors & Concessions - £4.50
Family Ticket - 2 adults and up to 4 children £13.80
SEASON TICKETS ARE AVALIABLE

Discover Dorset: Lulworth Castle and Cove

Dorset is such a beautiful part of the country, explore Lulworth Castle and Cove with me.