Monday, 21 November 2011

Relentlessly combatting evil since 1981

Today, I'm 30. Of course, my conventional age is 30 in hexadecimal. But now I can celebrate being 30 for another reason. It was 30-years ago that I first made a decision to follow Jesus. Despite the sometimes awful modern connotations of "Born-Again Christianity" - that is precisely what Jesus described to Nicodemus - the pharisee.

Nicodemus has been a kind of hero to me since that day 30 yeas ago when I read about him. Supposedly as part of the Jewish religious elite he ought to have known about God. But when faced with Jesus he knew that here was a man who *really* knew - someone who spoke with authority. And Nicodemus was curious enough, and intrigued enough to go and seek out this most remarkable carpenter one night, because he couldn't just ignore those questions nagging him. Despite what his fellow pharisees might have thought of this outrageous Jesus, Nicodemus had to find out for himself.

And Nicodemus was the reason I came to Jesus too.

(You can read about him in John's Gospel: chapter 3.)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Gadget Geek?

I might be a Geek. But I'm not exactly a gadget freak. In fact, I'm not really so sure that the two are necessarily related anyway. I tend to think of gadget-freakery as being simply a symptom of common materialism.

Here's how my geekery works out...

I don't own an Ipod. If I did it would be some old 2nd or 3rd generation model running Rockbox or Ipodlinux. When I walk to work, I'd rather not have earbuds in my ears. I prefer to be more aware of my surroundings. I like to say "Hi!" to those few people I recognise on my commute. And of course, I like to think. Now, Ipods are remarkable things, but I need some silent spaces in my life so I haven't succumbed to that temptation yet. Ok. It would be great to have such a handy container for all my MP3 files, but I still don't NEED an Ipod.

Actually, some of my dislike of earbuds may be related to my dislike of sunglasses. I'll wear sunglasses when driving, but not when talking to people. I'd rather have eye-contact. (Actually I do like my sunglasses - merely because they're old 1960s things from the antique market. But I don't wear them much except when driving - which is also when I tend to listen to music most.)

Sat-Nav? It seems like an unneccessary expense. (Yay. Skinflint!) I'm sure they're very good at what they do. I'm sure they save some hassle and embarrassment. But I've always coped with either knowing where I'm going ahead of time -or using a god old fashioned map. Now a GPS unit could be fun - for Geocaching or some other 21st-Century geek sport; but Sat-Nav? When would I ever use it? Actually, I find being lost (as long as I don't have to be anywhere in a hurry) is actually fun - a learning experience.

Mobile. Yeah, I've got one. But I don't use it much. I'm clearly not of the right generation to have a mobile-phone centred social life. And even when I send SMS messages - I obstinately spell & punctuate things 'properly'. It'd be nice to have a more capable device; but as I mentioned; I'd rather not throw too much money at such a luxury.

I do understand the 'play value' of gadgets. And play-value is something I find of extreme interest. But gadgets? Nah... Beyond the minimal setup of a laptop.

But this brings me to a particular question. What *SINGLE* mobile computing device makes most sense? Actually, I do quit like the idea of having something to read internet pages on when I'm out and about. So what should I get? An e-book reader? (I like the e-ink displays and long battery life of such things.) Or an android phone? Or a bigger tablet device. I can't see me affording ALL of these things. So if anyone has any advice on the matter, let me know.

Also, I should mention Kevin Kelly, who has influenced my thinking on these things - or maybe he's codified what I already think. He's undoubtably a geek - having been one of the founders of Wired magazine and a consistent writer on the subject of technology - and yet he's very picky about how he integrates such technology into his life.

So. Geek? Yes! Gadget freak? No.

(Tools are different. I'm fascinated by tools. And instruments - I'm completely fascinated by those too.)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Cardiff - Capital Village of Wales?

I grew up in a village. And while I did eventually "run-away to the big city" as a grown-up - village life has informed my view of life and my politics immensely. When I was growing up, I knew my neighbours, I knew the shopkeepers and somehow, everything worked better with community.

Of course, Cardiff is not a village exactly. But neither is it a BIG city. (It's comparable in population to: Bradford, Coventry or Leicester) But it does have some village-like qualities - it is possible to walk down Queen Street and bump into friends. And this is also possible in some of the wards and villages that comprise Cardiff's suburbs. I think it's true of Roath, Whitchurch, Cathays and Canton and more besides; but not all areas have the necessary infrastructure to support this village-like community.

Actually, community in the 21st Century is not necessarily a geographical phenomenon; but a matter of what we do with our lives and who we cross paths with. Community happens in the pub, the market and the art-centre. I've seen it in the church (yes, really.) It's found outside the school gates and at the sport-ground and in the park. As such, Cardiff has some excellent centres where community can crystalize. We're truly blessed to have such a variety of theatres, art-centres, outdoor and indoor markets where people can meet, eat, drink, trade, tell-stories or share in the drama of a sporting event or performance. These are the things that give Cardiff a sense of community.

Unfortunately, not all of Cardiff is equally well served. While the centre of Cardiff is the right place for many of these venues, the outlying suburbs have fewer local shops, fewer eateries and very little infrastructure to support any community. It's a sad fact that big supermarkets, for all their convenience, do NOT help create much in the way of local identity or community. Those 'dormitory' housing estates where people don't know their neighbours have to work far harder to get any local life of their own.

So, if you want to find some community, get out there and meet some people. Go to see some live music, join a club, or say hello to the folk walking their dogs in the park. Say "hi" to the person that always serves you in the post-office. Go to the market, help-out with charity work or take an evening-class. I know it's not easy for everyone; but there is community out there if you can find it. And what's more it's waiting for your contribution too.

As for my politics, I don't really think about left or right. I believe in community. I think many of our social problems can be ameliorated by community. It may not eradicate crime or poverty; but it is a big help. So come on in, join the fun. Don't stay at home watching the TV; be a part of our city