Archive for the ‘Everyday Life’ Category

Who’s to blame?

March 5, 2008

So much for thinking that I’d have another post up within a week. Fortunately, news stories of mislaid data from UK government departments arrive about every week, so this is still a topical issue… As I mentioned in the last post, the UK tax revenue department lost two CDs containing confidential information relating to about 25 million UK residents. This is a lot of people, and many many families – including mine – were affected by it. As far as I’m aware, the CDs are still ‘lost’. There have been lots of other stories of people or companies losing confidential data since, but this is still the one that sticks most in my memory.

One of the reasons for this is that I’m an IT manager, responsible to some extent for my organisation’s data. What if some of our organization’s data were to be mislaid too! The thought sends shivers down my back, and is enough to make sure that this whole area is looked at long, hard and regularly. I can’t but ask, however, how such a colossal mistake could possibly be allowed to happen?

But wasn’t it just a mistake? We all make them. It’s just that this one had such huge consequences, and hence made the news. Was it the fault of the poor guy who put these CDs into an envelope and then into the internal post? No doubt a large part of the blame has to be directed towards those higher in authority – those who gave the orders and who were responsible for making sure that things were carried out properly. Whatever, it’s unlikely that it was done maliciously, or with any real awareness of how serious the consequences of such a stupid action might be. Can we really get so indignant about what happened?

Yet we (rightly I think) feel that we can’t just pass this by as another everyday mistake. The stakes were too important for such mistakes to be allowed. Yes, a junior official my not understand the potential ramifications of sending such data in such an insecure, and easily lost, way. And more senior ones may not undersand all the technical options for securing, reducing, or transmitting the data. But there were surely others around who did and do understand such things – they could and should have been asked, and the ‘mistake’ should have been avoided.

And this is a ‘mistake’ which all of us too easily fall into – thinking we know enough about what we should do, and being too proud / not bothered enough to ask. We are human and can’t be expected to know everything, or have the wisdom to always make the right decisions. But there are others around who know more about the things that we don’t understand, and we are all at fault when we don’t make the effort to find a better answer elsewhere. 

“If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure” (The Message) 

Nothing to say…

September 10, 2007

One of the points of a blog is to provide a chance to say whatever’s on your mind, regardless of whether or not anyone’s listening. You hope that someone will read it, and indeed my experience seems to be that plenty of people at the very least quickly scan through something I’ve written before moving on. However, being realistic you can’t expect that most blogs get a wide readership – as a blogger I can’t say that I have that much time free for reading other blogs.

However since returning to work from study, I haven’t written much. Is this because I no longer have much to say. Perhaps it is! – at least in one sense. I’m now quite tired when I get back from work. After reading 20 books to my daughter, helping eat the family evening meal, washing up and all the other househould responsibilities, I find that time’s getting on and I don’t feel like thinking and reflecting on the lessons for life from today’s experiences. Rather I’m full of the outstanding tasks from work – How on earth does Microsoft licensing work? Will the air conditioning in the server room survive the weekend? Indeed I’d never realised before that there was so much scope for dreaming about software licensing issues in your sleep!

At college, one of the privileges was that we had to think about life, about what we were reading, about what was going on around us. Although work was still busy, thinking was a part of that work. Outside of my IT tasks however it’s hard to have such time to think, reflect and learn. This is a shame, as life is poorer without it. So perhaps we all need a blog to get us to stop and think – and an avid readership hanging no our next perceptive insight! What do you think?

Variety and change?!

July 28, 2007

Oh dear. I haven’t posted to this blog for ages. This isn’t because I’ve lost interest, merely that I’ve had a crazy last couple of months. In this time I’ve finished my course at Redcliffe and started a new job two days later, then worked away from home for two weeks, moved house, been away at a conference for two weeks etc. Now I’m beginning to settle into normal routine again, and every night this week I’ve thought I should write something on my blog – only when I’ve finished the urgent tasks for the evening, I’ve looked at my watch and it’s either been tomorrow or close to it, so I’ve thought maybe not tonight…

So now a short post, although I may write more again on this soon – especially if you have anything to comment on it yourself. In short the last couple of months have been full of change, and to be honest I don’t much like change. This may sound strange as only recently (ish) I was writing about variety and how much I like it. And surely change is quite similar to variety, only on a larger scale. This may be true, but there is a difference. Perhaps variety turns into change when it becomes overly stressful and makes life far too busy. What do you think?

All the same, although I don’t like change so much, I do suspect that it can be good for us. Particularly with an interesting, varied – and comfortable – life we can get too settled, and stop growing and learning. Change helps to unsettle us and I think sometimes that God brings change about in our lives to help us to learn and grow. And for me he always demonstrates that I can trust him to help me through the change. So change is perhaps so not enjoyable but good for us all the same.

As long as there’s not too much of it at one time.

Variety

June 4, 2007

I love variety. I did think of giving my blog a name with ‘variety’ in it, however the domains I searched for were all taken. Variety in work can help to keep it interesting and exciting. It also means there’s often something new to enjoy and learn about. And I’m not the only one who enjoys variety. My daughter does too, for example at tea time she likes the variety of drinking out of every cup that’s on the table! There’s another reason I like variety, but I’ll leave that for a later post.

My final college essays are now all written and handed in – hooray! This meant that we could all go out for a day trip on Saturday to the nearby town of Newent. There is a nice, small lake in the town. Just going round it, I was struck by the variety in the beauty of nature that we could see there. Nothing particular unusual or outstanding, but beautiful and tremendously varied all the same. The photos below are just a taste of what we could enjoy.

Our little daughter loves ducks at the moment, and there were many of them around of all sizes.

Ducklings with parent

There were plenty of squirrels around too, but photographing them is more difficult. This one was up a tree, and needed a flash to make it light enough. This meant some bad animal eye glare which I’ve had to try and artificially touch up. Hope it looks OK all the same.

Squirrel up a tree

It’s impossible to capture all the beauty of moving water – I could watch it for ages. The portion of one photo below just illustrates an element of it, produced by a fountain in the middle of the lake.

Moving water from fountain

Science and Faith

May 9, 2007

When I was in Spain, the people in the church we were visiting discovered that I was both a Christian and a scientist. They seemed surprised at this, and I seemed a bit of a celebrity as a result! They asked me to ‘star’ in a couple of discussion evenings where we discussed all manner of topics related to science and faith, genetic engineering, counsciousness and ‘the soul’ etc.

In fact various people I’ve met seem to think that science and any sort of faith seem somewhat incompatible. I guess Richard Dawkins has promoted this sort of perspective. But actually it’s not true. In my time studying and researching science I met a very large number of Christians who were also scientists. In fact the ‘prestigious’ institutions where I studied, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, seemed to have more Christians than the less ‘prestigious’ universities. And a large proportion of these were scientists. Scientists, I think, tend to have more polarised views about religion, but they’re certainly not less likely to be Christians, instead the opposite seems to be true (in Britain at least, maybe not in other countries).

I think this topic is of considerable interest to lots of other people too. So I’m starting up a new section of lloydaboutlife on Science and Christianity. I’ve started it off with a few thoughts and articles, and links on these pages. However, I’d like this section to be really interactive. After all this is what blogging is in part meant to be about – an interactive online community sharing thoughts and ideas. So please make comments, and ask questions. I want to expand the section, but I’d like to write on topics which are of general interest, not just to me. To do this I need some feedback. And pleae do vote on my science and faith poll on the right hand side!

Chocolate matters

April 4, 2007

I watched an article on Newsnight last week about the exploitation of child labour on the cocoa farms of the Ivory coast. The BBC web site recently posted a similar article about how child Cocoa workers are still exploited. The likelihood is that the chocolate we eat day-to-day is made at least in part from cocoa beans grown on farms where children are slaves.

Frankly this is shocking – that thousands of children are still being forced to work as slaves so that one luxury product for us can be a few pence cheaper. As always the issues are complex, and need the government’s involvement, are greatly exacerbated by corruption, are ultimately caused by extreme poverty and will not be easily solved. But my heart goes out to these children who face grave risks and are forced to work with no reward for what reason? Surely more can be done?

Fortunately there is some chocolate that is guaranteed to be ‘traffik free’, such as fair trade chocolate – see the Stop The Traffik website for more details. I’m often a bit lethargic about campaigns, but I just can’t rest in my heart in being lethargic about this. I think we should all refuse to buy any chocolate that might be produced as a result of child labour. Effectively this limits us to buying fair trade chocolate and fair trade chocolate products.

This involves some sacrifice. Only buying fair trade chcoclate bars isn’t so hard – they’re a bit more expensive, but usually taste nicer! But I also like food with chocolate in it. Shortly after seeing this news item I went to Tesco for the weekly shop – great they have some Value plain chocolate digestives I thought! Then I thought, oh no, it’s not traffik-free chocolate. In fact there are far fewer fair trade chocolate products. In the end I had to buy biscuits without any chocolate in them. I can tell you that they’re getting eaten a lot slower. But sometimes we need to do something, no matter how simple or small it is, in the hope that this one day may make a difference. If I don’t, what will I be able to say to my Lord – and the child slave’s Lord too.

Broken tooth

March 27, 2007

Last week when eating breakfast I felt a twinge of protest from a tooth as I crunched on a hard bit of cereal. Shortly afterwards I crunched on something even harder – it was about a quarter of one of my teeth which had broken off, leaving a rather exposed bit of ‘inner tooth’ (I think dentine is the technical name)!

Fortunately the fracture hadn’t gone through to the root so I wasn’t in pain, but I was bit unnerved by a large section of missing tooth in my mouth, and thought I’d better go to a dentist soon. Only one problem, however. We haven’t registered with a dentist here in Gloucester. We were looking to find a health service dentist who wouldn’t charge too much, as money is not an overabundant commodity when you’re studying at a mission college. However these are few and far between and we haven’t yet found one taking on new patients.

Never mind, I thought, there’s a phoneline for emergency treatment for patients who don’t have a dentist. After an hour of trying, I got through – and was told that unless I was in severe pain I’d have to go on the waiting list – 10 months! Not so sure that was going to be much use. After lots of frantic effort I did finally manage to find a dentisit in a nearby village who had an available appointment and was willing to see me, even though I wasn’t registered with them. He was able to fix the broken tooth for a not-too-exhorbitant fee. I now have a pin in my tooth, surrounded by filling. However I’m still a bit anxious about really ‘testing’ it too hard – at least until we’re properly registered with a dentist …

This is not the only example I have of not quite getting round to something until it was almost too late. A few years ago I had got a bit lax at making backups of our documents, Emails etc on our computer. After all it was a very good PC and never went wrong. At least until it did, and the computer was unable to read the hard drive. After multiple attempts it did at last start up, and I managed to get the disk spinning again. I didn’t switch off the PC until everything was burned onto CD. That hard drive never worked again, and I only just rescued the data in time.

Often we (or at least I) don’t get round to important things as there’s always something more urgent to do. Only when the emergency happens do we realise that the important is more important than the urgent. And perhaps one day we won’t be able to do it just in time.

Why is my life so boring?

March 17, 2007

Looking through the search strings which have brought people to this blog, I noticed one question – why is my life so boring? I don’t know why my blog got listed from this search – hopefully it’s not the search engine’s judgment on the content …

But actually quite often life does seem rather mundane. At the moment it’s largely comprised of a series of essays which always need some work, combined with rocking a baby to sleep, playing with baby, eating, sleeping, the occasional weekend away, shopping at Tescos, chatting to my wife. Nothing particularly earth shattering. Talking with other friends about how things are going, we all seemed to feel much the same at the moment – it’s just carrying on.

So what stops life from being ‘so boring’. What do you think?

I’m no expert on the ‘exciting life’ – but I might as well give some thoughts on the matter having raised it. I’ve certainly had plenty of interesting things happening from time to time – going to Spain for 6 weeks recently, the arrival of our baby last year, etc. And I enjoy our holidays when they come round. But I don’t think that an exciting life consists of having more and more of these ‘exciting’ and ‘fun’ activities. When I used to have long student holidays (those were the days!) I was pretty bored after a couple of weeks, and longing to do something else instead. I think variety can help, but still I don’t think that’s the whole secret of of an interesting life.

In most of what we do in life there are elements of interest, beauty and fun as well as elements that are boring and hard work. I may not enjoy writing essays, but I do enjoy the reading that leads up to them. Long car journeys are pretty boring, but you can see some beautiful scenery out of the window (usually). I think I need to learn ‘contentment’ more – to see what is interesting, fun and good in the everyday things of life, and enjoy them. We have to realise that God has given good things even in the mundane parts of life, and I think we will always be somewhat bored until we learn to open our eyes.

Onda

February 24, 2007

Well I’m back from my six weeks college placement in Onda, Spain. We had a great time and I’ve got lots to say. But for now I’ll just post a portion of one of my favourite photos of Onda. Onda is a thriving and growing industrial town, but it has plenty of history and a lovely old castle up the hill overlooking Onda. This is lit up at night, and is well worth seeing – below. It’s a bit hard to get a view without street lights, other buildings etc in the way, but this is the best I could manage. It also goes to show that if you don’t have a tripod, a baby pushchair can serve the job, if not quite as well, at least satisfactorily!

The caste at Onda, Spain, lit up at night.

Snow!

January 31, 2007

I´m currently ín Spain for a college placement. I don´t have much internet access which is why I´ve not written anything here for a while. Sorry about this, but there´ll be plenty to write about when I get back shortly!!

Anyway for now, I´d just like to talk about snow. My memories of my childhood are of heavy winters with foot deep snowfalls, making hundreds of snowmen, snowfights behind walls made of snow, sledging downhill, our cat sinking up to its neck in the snow etc. It may be just that my memories are exaggerating things, but at least since I´ve moved to live further South in England, these things have become something of the past. At most we get one or two snowfalls, with only 1 or 2 cm of snow at best, and it only lasts a few hours!

Spain isn´t the place I´d expect to come to be reminded about snow – being a LOT further South and hence you´d expect milder. And indeed where I am on the mediterranean coast snow falls about once every 10 years, and we enjoyed 24 degrees C in the daytime a week ago! However, most of the Spanish TV news has been about the heavy snowfalls in many of the other parts of Spain, with drifts over head height and several feet of thick snow not seeming that unusual.

I think the snow here is particularly heavy this year, and many have been suffering in the severe weather. But it´s just funny how your childhood memories can be revived in the unlikeliest of places.


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