Job + God + Birthday = Lots of cake

Job + God + Birthday = Lots of cake

Even as a blogger who doesn’t write about a certain theme, or isn’t exceptionally literate or poetic, its nice to pick up a few messages over the last few weeks wondering why I’ve not been posting on here. Could it be I’ve finally stepped away from the keyboard and actually visited the real world?

Not really no.

February and the start of March, which saw me posting only two short re-reviews about films (Star Trek, Leon), was largely quiet because of a few factors.

Work – what work?

LAMP Developer doesn't involve me making lamps people!
My new title is LAMP Developer, which before you make a joke, doesn’t involve me making lamps ;)

As many of my close friends will know, the situation at work hasn’t been “ideal” for a long period, mainly due to a very frustrating and prolonged period of business-like-limbo enforced by our parent company. This, combined with a desire to push myself as a developer (and a great testimony of prayer) led me to applying, being offered and accepting a new job all within 14 days.

These two weeks were a hive of interviews and research – something that understandibly took me away from jolly old blogging.

This new roll seems great, with lots of potential and in a brilliant (and growing) company in the East of Swindon.

I’m rather excited to be kicking off this new opportunity on the 25th of March.

Study

This came as a bit of a two pronged assault on my blogging time – continuing and developing my skills as a web developer (thats my job) as well as preparing/hosting talks for our small group.

Research...
Research – not exactly my forte…

Web developing involves knowing a lot of skills, methods and languages – all of which are constantly changing and ‘improving’. Honing my grasp of theses is thankfully quite an enjoyable process… at least most of the time :)

Also a large part of my lift is involvement with my church, of which I was able to share some recent research I did on the apostle Paul to a small group. I’m not gonna lie, sitting down and pouring through books isn’t how I prefer to spend my evenings (especially the cold miserable ones in February), but it focuses me onto God and the Bible – both of which I know I would benefit from doing more.

Play – ‘cos its ma Birthhhhday

Birthday stuff!
Games, cards, music, presents, bears, sweets and penguins!

February, one of the greyest and wettest months of the year also happens to contain my birthday – whoop whoop.

Most years I don’t tend to do much and don’t ask for much – I’m usually quite content on letting it roll by without too much attention. This year though, it seems I managed to do quite the opposite. Yesterday, the second week of March, saw the last ‘official’ celebration of my birthday, with cake and presents. I’ve managed to draw the 2013 birthday out for several weeks. Go me!

This has meant meals out on several evenings – great for fun – bad for wallet/waist/blogging (haha, that’s not a real complaint!)

Not that drawing it out is the important thing – but being able to celebrate it with so many people – that’s the key thing.

I’m very blessed with some truly epic friends.

Unfortunately I should probably now take down all my lovely cards… even if they do make my lounge a lot more colourful :)

Support

As mentioned a few times on this blog, I’m very blessed to be able to help out with our Alpha course at church, an opportunity to help people learn more about the Christian faith. Once the last course finished at the end of 2012, I have continued to meet with several of the Alpha people on a weekly basis to continue their Q/A sessions.

Alpha - its for anyone
Alpha – its for anyone

Thankfully I don’t lead these little chats, we’re fortunate to be able to go to one of our Elders (church leaders) house and fire any questions at him. I’m mainly there for support (and to eat some wonderful cakes).

This is a regular commitment that I absolutely love attending (not just because of the calibre of baking, honest!), not only is it great to see young Christians developing their faith, but I’m learning lots too. Day-to-day life in the secular world often makes it hard to focus on theological issues – these Alpha nights are a brilliant way for me to again, re-focus on God.

With a new Alpha course starting at Gateway church (Swindon) soon, this weekly group will be absolved by multiple other weekly groups. Us helpers and Alpha leaders will then start welcoming in dozens of new people to church – people who often have never stepped foot into a ‘church’ before. Lots of new faces, new questions, new issues (and yes, new cakes!)

So February was busy!

With getting a new job, focusing on God, celebrating my birthday over several weeks and meeting up with the Alpha guys – its culminated in a rather quite period of blogging.

What I should do is write up my notes on the apostle Paul and any questions raised in Alpha – as well as posting photos of social events, that’s what I should do… but who has the time…

:)

Oooo I’ve also been running away from zombies too…

That should probably be explained in another article though …

 

First snow of 2013

First snow of 2013

Some photos from the start of 2013 as Swindon is draped in sheets of snow.

All taken on my Galaxy S2 phone, so none with my DSLR.

Insta-grateful

Insta-grateful

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably already forgotten half the stuff that happened to you in 2012.

Last year I started using the photo sharing app’ called Instagram. Looking through my 2012 archive I’ve put together a small collection of photos that represent the things I’m thankful for, for it is said:

I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
among the throngs I will praise you.
[Psalm 35:18 NIV]

For freelance work, happy clients & a salary

Although it would be nice to have more coppers in the old money jar, I never needed more than I had. 2012 was a year of long days and some 70+ hour weeks – but through those times I met some great clients and even better friends. Friends who came alongside and taught me many a new skills.

work keyboard-freelance-work

For friends, new and old

I find it hard thinking back and realising that I didn’t know several of my closest friends this time last year. It’s been a pleasure getting to know them and building on existing friendships too.

new-friends friends

 

For rest and relaxation

Taking time out of work is hugely important and something I must discipline myself with more in 2013. Whether its relaxing with friends over coffee, or strolling through frosty parks on your own, it’s definitely something we all must find more time for.

coffee-sign cobwebs-in-the-sun port relaxing

For being able to help on Alpha

In 2012 I helped out on a couple of different Alpha courses and was able to witness lots of people giving their lives to Christ. A rather emotional roller-coaster at times, but also a great honour. Thankfully we’re only tools in the whole salvation process too.

alpha-god the-bible

 

For amazing talents of complete strangers

As a massive music fan of nearly every genre, it is fundamental to my day to listen to music. It can conjure up or shut down various emotions, help you focus or help you express. Films also play an important role of being used to unwind.

born-and-raised-john-mayer the-beatles-love-album cd-art the-matrix

For family

Not the obvious choice of photos for the people closest to me, but I rarely Instagram the times together with them. Much better to live the moment or take proper photos on the DSLR.
christmas-traditions broad-town japanese-sake-present me-mirror-me

For laughs, thrills and games

Many people will know that board and card games fill a small but significant part of my life. Great excuse to bring friends and strangers together; over wine, sugar or pizza

chrononauts-game enchiladas-and-friends dvds settlers-of-catan

To 2013…

I hope every reader of my blog, and every friend who doesn’t, a prosperous and blessed 2013. Where we take the rough with the smooth, acknowledging the bad and being thankful for the good.

Mayan’s, apocalypse & spheres

Mayan’s, apocalypse & spheres
We all survived – bring on Christmas!

I’m sure many people reading this know that the ancient Mayan civilisation predicted the world was going to end on the 21st of December 2012. Thankfully those ancient Maya must have their calculations wrong ‘cos the world didn’t end!

Ha, in your face ancient civilisation.

Strangely enough though, even the Maya didn’t think the world was going to end on the 21st. Yet we as a ‘more intelligent’ civilisation, interpreting their calendar, we thought they thought they did.

Ha, in your face modern civilisation!

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about…

The Mayan ‘apocalypse’

A pyramid built by the Mayan
A pyramid built by the Mayan

The Maya people lived from around 2,500BC to 900AD, at which point their empire collapsed. The Maya had a calendar very similar to ours, grouping their calendar into the equivalent of days, months and years. Their calendar also had an extra metric of time, a block of 5,125 years, called the ‘long count’. The current block of 5,125 years, ran out of days on the 21st of December.

The Maya however believed that after the 21st, a new era simply starts. The calendar resets. Much in the same way we’ll celebrate the 31st of December as the end of one era and the beginning of another. I’ve never heard people discuss the apocalypse or end-of-days before breaking out with Auld Lang Syne.

In fact, this ‘doomsday’ marks the end of the 13th era. So as a world, we’ve survived 13 doomsday’s already. Go us!

Yet even without the creators believing it, the modern world has been whipped up in a media frenzy about doomsday.

Faith, the Mayan and the media

Many religions mention an end-of-days, or apocalyptic time. Whether that be to mark the start of a new era, or to rapture people to their god is irrelevant to this article. I don’t have a problem with people having faith in a system that predicts the end of the world. People shouldn’t however, believe the world is going to end and then go look for a religion that fits it. Or worse, read the world’s going to end and then just accept it.

BBC onboard with doomsday scenario
BBC onboard with doomsday scenario

If you genuinely believe the world is going to end, you must have come to understand it from some point or another. You’ve also done more than understand it to, you’ve adopted that theory into your worldly beliefs. The source of your information is what your belief is based on.

As an example, I believe the rapture is possible in my lifetime. I believe it because the Bible talks about it. Jesus talks about it. My faith is in those things, not the rapture itself.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that 99% of people who have heard of the Mayan date of the apocalypse did so through the recent flurry of media stories. A further 99% of those people, didn’t go to any museums or libraries to learn about it further. The majority of these people probably didn’t know the Maya existed until they read articles about the coming end of the world.

People have based all of their understandings from mainly one source, most likely one medium too. They essentially created a belief system off of the understanding the world was coming to an end. Ouch.

It’s easy to sit there and think people who believed this ‘event’ are gullible or less mature, yet as you’ll see below, people have now destroyed their lives based on this.

The media is an insanely powerful tool in any society.

No wonder James Bond tried to save us all from a media tycoon in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Mayan ‘Apocalyphiles’

Yes I’ve coined a new term. There’s probably already a term for it, but I like this new one. So I’m running with it.

Below is a few stories and pictures found online showing how the Mayan doomsday event has changed people’s worlds.

French village of Bugarach closes borders

bugarach-closed-off-franceThe police have had to stop an influx of people entering the village of Bugarach in France after some connection between the Mayan ‘prophecy’, the Bugarach mountain and UFO has come about. Apparently when the cataclysmic end of the world occurs, aliens will leave from this mountain and take some people with them. I actually don’t know how to even process this. Why would a south American civilisation pick a mountain in France for their escape route? Where has the idea of aliens being involved come from? All rather strange.

Bob around the world in safety

A Chinese farmer took the survival of the Mayan doomsday into his own hands, spending about $350k to build seven floating “survival pods”, or “ping-pong balls” as he refers to them as. Liu Qiyuan has spent 2-3 years building these guys, so he was well aware of the Mayan date before the media jumped on board. Gotta’ give him credit for that foresight.

Liu Qiyuan posing with survival podsSadly I have no idea how many of the 84 seats he managed to sell, but hopefully all of them at $4.1k or greater, otherwise he’s going to have some serious explaining to do to the banks.

Made of a mix of fibreglass and steel, and holding 14 people each, I’m not entirely sure what the plan was. Ride out the 3000 foot wave he had built them to withstand (???) and then casually bob around until they found land?

Man builds ark of safety

Lu Zhenghai builds Mayan ArkIf bobbing around aimlessly in the ocean isn’t your thing, then perhaps a nifty little boat would be better. Some guy has spent his life savings, some £100,000 to build an ark to literally ride the wave of chaos that we should have experienced.

Inspired by the 2009 film about this special date in December, starring John Cusack, many people have linked ideas from the film with everyday reality. I’m no expert in naval technologies, but my money would be on this boat not surviving any apocalyptic wave.

Panic buying in Russia

With pending doom around the corner, shops in Russia have been hit by panic buying survivalist. Demand for products have gone through the roof for candles, fuel, matches, torches, drinks flasks and tinned food. Needless to say I don’t think any amount of candles is going to stave off meteors or tsunamis, but you can never be too ready for the apocalypse (I have to say that, you never know when the zombies will rise!)

Surviving – what’s the point?

If tomorrow some archaeologists dug up ancient proof that the world was going to end soon, later to be conclusively agreed upon by dozens of experts in various fields and nations, why prepare to survive it?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all up surviving the fall of society due to war, zombies or man-made scenarios. What I’m not entirely clear on, is why people would try to survive a scenario put in place by a god, ancient or otherwise.

If this hypothetical dug-up proof talks of worldly destruction, decided upon by a god(s), how is buying candles and fuel  useful? Will billions of other people die because they didn’t have enough tinned food? Unless the doomsday event specifically addresses that all logistics will fail around the globe, it’s unlikely to help.

By definition, “doomsday” means “The last day of the world’s existence”. So being ready for it with physical products isn’t going to be much good.

Police and US Military were issued orders of "shoot to kill" as the looting got so bad following Katrina
US police and military were issued orders of “shoot to kill” as the looting got so bad following Hurricane Katrina

On the other hand, if the people are panic buying products because they predict a collapse of society, due to the reaction of others to a non-existing doomsday scenario, that’s another situation all together. Society collapsed for large parts of the state of Louisiana in 2005 when we saw Hurricane Katrina tear through it, causing looting and desperate mobs taking to streets after the disaster. Nothing drives the need of survival more than the fear, whether real or implied, that society is going to be destroyed around them.

I think if this hypothetical proof were ever dug-up, societies all around the world would tear themselves apart in terror…

Ironically producing some sort of horrific situation that borders on the apocalypse.

Merry Christmas 😛

 

A couple of sources if you wanna read around the subject:

 

If you like’d this rather long post, I’d really appreciate a share or like. You may think otherwise, but a lot of work was put into this. Getting people’s feedback would be lush and make it all more rewarding. You’re a star cos I know you’ve already liked it on Facebook…  ;)

Rant over Facebook’s New Events

Rant over Facebook’s New Events

More Facebook failingsOur lives are changing again. Why?

Cos’ the Facebook Elves has been tinkering again.

These aren’t even the nice Christmas Elves either, these are the ones that add more useless features to the highly addictive system they’ve built. Features that aren’t needed, are badly implemented, and detract from the fact Facebook used to be useful (and fun).

Today’s rant is about their new promoted upcoming events.

We’re used to being told of upcoming events in the top right corner of our ‘wall’. Those events were the ones we’d been invited to and either hadn’t RSVP’d or had reluctantly accepted. They were borderline useful. They’d remind you that the friends gathering tonight is at Adam’s house and not Pete’s, or that it was at the slightly earlier time of 5pm for example.

However, now we’re being told of upcoming events that our friends are going to. So event’s we specifically haven’t been invited too. Well isn’t that nice.

Well either your friends haven’t told you they’re going (i.e. they’re not overly bothered to ask you to join them) or they know you wont/can’t join them. Or perhaps a 3rd more shocking reason – you’re not actually friends! It’s a shock to suggest such a thing… I do apologise. I’m sure we’re all extremely close to the 100(?), 200(?), or even 500 ‘friends’ we have on Facebook.

Less and less control on Facebook events
Further loss of control on Facebook with their new ‘upcoming events’ posts

Over the last 24 hours I’ve been told of Steak House events in other countries. Oh and a sewing event some 50 miles away! Now I’m seeing a Christmas Carol service 100 miles away.

I guess the Facebook engineers actually think that we’re all really chummy and ready to drop everything to spend a few minutes with any of the 100’s of friends we have on Facebook. In my experience, that’s not what any Facebook user is like.

So how exactly does this latest change enhance my user experience of Facebook? Anyone know?

Option to remove event

At least they give you an option to remove the event.

However again, they have and they haven’t. There seems to be a way, but only if the advert is offensive or explicit it seems. This removal system seems horribly implemented…

Facebook fail options

Unless I’m missing something, where’s the option and freedom to just say this advert is irrelevant to you?

How about the simple option to hide it?

I very much doubt the Christmas Carol service has scenes of a sexual nature (ah the irony as there wasn’t any!) or any songs of hatred. Plus I have no evidence to suggest that Citygate Church in Bournemouth is purposely spamming me or harassing me in any way.

So none of those options are useful.

So just pick any of the reasons!

Well yes I suppose could select any of the options and the advert is likely to disappear, but that’s a) a horrible user experience, and more importantly, b) detrimental to the real event. Why should that churches event (or any event) be blocked from advertising simply because users had no other option than to make up reasons why they wanted it hidden.

If you mouse over the [?] box near the title of ‘Upcoming Events’ it tells you that these are nearby events. A hundred plus miles away is not nearby Facebook!

Plus I don’t want to be told of events my friends are going to nearby… unless I’m invited to them. You’ve already built that feature, don’t add nonsensical spamming into the mix to.

Perhaps if 20 friends were going to this then it could be excused for appearing, but the 3 events that I’ve mentioned above had ONE friend attending. I don’t need to be informed of that!

Just me ranting?

I have been known to rant about rather frivolous topics, but what do other people think about this? I’m hoping other people have seen these events pop up?

Have any of them been relevant or even vaguely close to you?

Have they enhanced your user experience of Facebook?

I don’t mind if you completely disagree with me, just love to hear your views.