Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fixing my HP Officejet printer

I can't remember how long ago I bought my Officejet 6500 wireless printer, but it must be quite a few years now. Alongside my Samsung laser printer, this printer has been used to primarily to scan stuff or copy it. When the network works well, it's great to be able to print to it wirelessly and, since it lives downstairs, not to have to run upstairs to get the print!

Recently it's begun to misbehave and not pick up the paper. At first it was reluctant, but with a little encouragement it would work. Now it just doesn't want to know. A long time ago, when I got my first monochrome HP inkjet I had a similar problem for HP supplied a fix in the shape of a piece of glass/sand paper on a block and a bit of software to get the rubber roller running through a cleaning cycle.

Perhaps, I wondered, could it be that the pick up roller on the 6500 was suffering a similar fate and had become smooth or dirty to the point where it could no longer grip the paper? This called for a little experiment!

Staring into the paper tray I watched as the pick roller vainly tried to grab a sheet of paper. I could see the small rollers spinning around on the surface of the paper like slick tyres on a Formula One car on a wet track!

The MK1 Roller Cleaner!
So I went into the garage and got a piece of 320 grit aluminium oxide paper and double-sided taped it to a sheet of paper where the roller picks up. I then inserted the paper into the tray and held it gently in place while I set the printer copying some piece of paper.

You may be able to see the marks made by the roller as I did this several times. The printer simply reports "out of paper" and I just kept hitting the button to set it going again. Eventually I reloaded the paper tray and let it go. Hey presto, it picked up and printed!

I don't know how long it will last. Perhaps tomorrow it won't pick up again, but I'm guessing that dirty pinch rollers were the source of the problem and now they are clean the printer should be good for a while longer. Saves sticking it in the bin!

If you try it, remember not to let go of the paper while you're cleaning the roller. Otherwise you'll get a print copy at best and maybe it will get jammed at worst or even worse the sandpaper will damage the printer somehow.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An open letter about Gaza

Much of my blog is mundane, even trivial. A random collection of partially worked out thoughts and ideas, reflections and stories. Occasionally I stumble into something thought provoking and even more occasionally articulate something thoughtful in response. I range from theology to sport, work to leisure, politics to biomechanics. It's wide, it's eclectic and it's me.

Some things bother me deeply, Gaza is one of those things. It's a mix of politics, theology and centuries old issues and rivalries. Palestine is not the only region of the world where this is true, but it does evoke all sorts of responses within the Christian community. As an evangelical Christian I've often been confronted by those within my broad theological fold who support Israel come what may. Citing all sorts of biblical passages, they often seem to have little time for those of us who do not share their perspective.

So I'm going to make my thoughts as clear as possible and risk the retribution that may come my way. Some thoughts will be far from complete, but that's me and I make no apology for thinking out loud.

I am deeply distressed by what I see happening in Gaza. As the body count rises I see no end in sight to the shelling and exchange of fire. By God's grace I hope a ceasefire comes sooner rather than later. Leaders on both sides must accept responsibility for what is happening. I am not so naive as to think one side is more to blame than the other, although Israel's response always seem out of proportion to the threat. If you've not seem Jon Snow's moving account of his recent visit to Gaza, then find it and watch it. It raises a lot of questions.

For me, an attitude that supports Israel on the basis of some theological conviction that there is some divine right to the land is both misplaced and highly questionable. Is it not a reasonable reading of Scripture that disobedience has consequences and historically the loss of the land was once a consequence of a failure to obey the Law? Does some eschatological expectation of the Messiah returning through a specific gate really abrogate that principle?

Perhaps we should go one step further and say that given our understanding of the cross and its central role in the redemption story, that the land no longer figures in the same way it once did and that the nation of Israel is now a secular state and not an all important immutable part of God's unfolding plan.

Where the solution lies in such an intractable situation I do not know. While Hamas, and others, continue to dedicate themselves to the destruction of Israel, it's unlikely that the region will be ever see peaceful coexistence, but that does't mean that such coexistence is not on our radar of hope, and in the case of those of us who believe in prayer, on our list of topics that we bring before God.

Tony Campolo has pointed out in the past that God loves Palestinians too. We ought not to forget that truth. Whatever the political right and wrongs, whatever the theological arguments may be, people are dying, children are dying, and personally I believe that grieves the heart of God. Let's not forget that even in the Old Testament, Israel was under instruction to care for the foreigner in its land, and was repeatedly warned about the consequences of not doing so.

So enough is enough. Let governments and organisations around the world do whatever they can to bring an end to the carnage and to work as hard as they can to broker peace among the people of Palestine, and let the Christian community be unafraid of challenging those who need challenging because of either misplaced theology or a sense of guilt over the past.

First Aid Kit

The more I think about First Aid, the more I see how important it is to be prepared but also how important it is to be able to improvise too. Not having a fully stocked with you is not reason not to be able to do the best you can.

Having said that, I've taken a bit of time to sort through some of the First Aid stuff I have and think about what I would put in a kit that I had in the car for example. I know you can already buy ready stocked kits for different situations, but who wants 3 or 4 different kits? Well, apart from me that is!

The point is I do different things. When I'm walking I don't want to carry excess weight in my bag, so a small pouch with a few essentials does the job. I guess if I were on some sort of expedition and responsible for First Aid in some way, I'd carry a lot more stuff. But it's usually only my own feet that cause trouble, so Compeed* other dressings and tape and scissors along with ibuprofen is about all I need. something for bites and stings is also useful.

Pitch-side you need a different stock. I haven't started doing pitch-side yet, but I'm guessing nasal sponges, more gloves, ice sprays and tape will be needed. If it's a travel bag, then the Immodium or equivalent would be added. You get the idea.

So I've come up with a basic list for a simple kit to keep handy. This includes things like:

  • Dressings
  • Irrigation
  • Plasters
  • Compeed
  • Paracetamol and ibuprofen and aspirin
  • Small scissors
  • Triangular bandage
  • Face shield
  • Wipes
  • Bite and sting cream
  • Small tweezers
  • Gloves
  • Ice packs

Ice packs might be a bit cumbersome, requiring a larger bag, and maybe a small roll of gaffer tape would be useful!

All this needs to be in an easy access bag and I found what I think is just the job. Lifesystems do all sorts of outdoor equipment and this includes First Aid kits. Pre-stocked they do a kit for Camping, travelling or mountain climbing. My small walking kit is a Lifesystem kit with a few extras added. What's nice about the empty bag I bought is that it has three sections with clear pockets so the contents are easily visible.

Hopefully, being bright red, it will be easy to find amongst other bags, although my rucksack is also red! In the car it will certainly be easier to spot than say a black bag.

Even if you're not First Aid trained, it might be worth thinking of buying a ready stocked kit in case you find yourself helping someone who is and who either doesn't have a kit to hand to needs extra dressings etc.

Now all I need to do is stock my new bag!

*Compeed is a gel-like blister dressing, just in case you didn't know or it goes under another name. I do not get any royalties for mentioning it by name and I even have a similar, generic product in my bag too!

Walking vicariously!

Maps are fascinating things. At least in our household! While we don't have a compete set of OS maps, we have quite a few. When you scan the collection, memories of weeks in the Lakes District and the nearly trip to the Peaks come flooding back. We'd not been married very long when we planned to explore camping in the Peak District, only to be summoned to Nottingham for a family crisis. Looking back perhaps we should have said no and stuck to plans to have a holiday, but we're not wired that way at least we weren't then, and we duly took the train to Nottingham and did what we could.

Wherever we've lived and holidayed since, we've always bought maps. Spread out across the dining table, we have searched out footpaths and measured routes for possible walks. When we've gone out to walk we've often got a little lost or followed paths that aren't paths (my lack of colour sight doesn't help distinguish county boundaries from footpaths occasionally). But you do end up discovering places and scenery you never expected to see. You turn a corner and emerge from a wooded area suddenly to discover an amazing panoramic view falling away from you down some valley, or you find yourself wandering through the industrial docklands along the south bank of a river or canal. All very interesting.

Along with the maps are the many guidebooks we've collected. I suspect we could spend several years, if not decades, completing all the walks in all the books that occupy the maps box in the loft! This is when, if you're not careful, you walk vicariously! After all, reading the book is a lot less effort than actually lacing up your shoes and risking getting lost. We joked about this a little yesterday as set out to walk from Limehouse east towards the Thames Barrier.

Now, it's important to note that on Friday I went out for a walk around the village in a pair of trainers I thought were okay but that in fact were not. I ended up with two rather large and nasty blisters on my heels. Not unusual for me, I have awkward feet. But it did mean that they were still rather sore yesterday, and even with padding they were still a little painful at times. This meant that by the time we reached the O2 my feet had had enough, and although I'd have made it to the Barrier and back, it was better to head for home and leave that bit for another day.

So our walk began from Limehouse station via Canary Wharf. Anne was on call, so we had her laptop with us and we dropped it off at the office just in case she got a call. We figured that our intended route meant that she was always in reach of the office if needed. Having deposited the computer, we went off in search of maps and a drink while we decided the route. Two maps and two books purchased from Waterstones, we settled down on Pret a Manger to prepare ourselves.

The route is not complicated, and you don't really need the maps, but we like maps! We followed the Thames Path as is drifts to and from the river front passing all sorts of interesting little places. For example, there's an interesting little site where a large boat was launched broadside into the river and a little further east we discovered an old wharf, now redeveloped, that had the most stunning building, at least o my eyes. It looked rather mill-like with a chimney on one side, and although somewhat asymmetrical in design, it was just wonderful. Turns out it was a colour making factory.

We followed the path the Island Gardens where the Greenwich foot tunnel emerges on the north bank of the Thames (if I remember correctly this is the left bank by convention). Walking under the Thames is a nice cooling break from the hot sunshine we were enjoying above ground. Two idiots came past riding their bikes where they shouldn't be riding, but there are idiots everywhere and these were fine specimens of the species!

On the south side of the river we set off eastwards towards the O2 past the historic building of the Naval Academy. These opulent buildings eventually gave way to more modest architecture and industrialised areas the further east we went. Redevelopment was rife, with new and newish houses and apartments lining the riverside.

A few more twists and turns and we reached a sign that gave us two options. One offered us a mile long walk to the O2 via the riverside, the other a 3/4 mile walk to the same destination but cutting out the bend in the river. We were gong to go the shorter route, but when I saw the footbridge over the road at the entrance to the Blackwall tunnel, I opted for the the extra yards of the riverside path!

We were now in working wharf country as we passed Morden Wharf. Thames Clippers were powering up and down the river creating quite a wash as they did so, and the drone of large machinery at work among the graded sand piles of the wharf, reminded us that this was a working docklands still, no matter how much it has changed in the last 30 years.

Eventually we arrived at the O2 having walked a good 8 or 9 miles so far. Sitting in the restaurant we'd chosen for lunch, we decided that this was far enough for the day and after a lazy lunch we made it to the pier just in time to catch the clipper back to Canary Wharf to collect Anne's laptop and buy ice-cream. I convinced Anne to go for yoghurt instead and we took it out to Woods Wharf where we discovered a large screen and fan park for the Tour de France.

Suitably refreshed we set off home via the Jubilee Line and the C2C from West Ham, bumping into a couple we knew from Upminster. It's a small world!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday, July 25th 2014

In my late teens/early twenties, I discovered Alistair Cooke's "Letter from America" on Radio 4. A quick Google search reveals that it ran for almost 60 years and over 2800 episodes. The letters were reflections on current events sprinkled with anecdotes and stories. I sometimes wonder how different the media might be if we had a little more time for reflection rather than the soundbite journalism to which we are so often subjected.

Take for example the news item earlier this week about the Mayor of London failing to reach his target for affordable homes. There was the inevitable politicking about the numbers but no reflection on the value of the target, was it meaningful, too ambitious or not ambitious enough. No one seemed ready to point out that had there been no target then it's quite possible that very few, if any, affordable homes would have been built at all.

When you think about it, the process of reflection would be helpful in a whole lot of situations. One only has to look at the intractable state of affairs in Gaza to realise that politicians and leaders need to do some careful reflecting. They need to ask themselves some tough questions. After his presidency was over, Bill Clinton spoke at the Labour Party conference and raised some interesting issues. I remember him saying that it was time we asked ourselves in the West why the militants working under the guise of Islam hated us so much. A question that perhaps George Bush and Tony Blair ought to have asked before diving headlong into Iraq. I'm sure there were some wise people around who could have balanced the analysis. I still wonder if the only reason the Americans were so sure that there were weapons of mass destruction somewhere in Iraq was because they had provided them in the first place.

In the Old Testament David sought out the men of Issachar because they "understood the times and what needed to be to done." When I wrote to then Prime Minister about Iraq I was informed that Mr Blair knew better, and I got the feeling that my questions about democracy and the legitimacy of invading a sovereign state were simply dismissed. Let's hope that somehow the UN can become the vessel of wisdom for places like Gaza and Ukraine, to name but two regions in turmoil at this time.

On a lighter note, the Commonwealth Games have begun. Perhaps not as exciting as the Olympics, but still quite a spectacle. What's more, para-athletics are integrated into the games, something that is logistically difficult with the Olympics because of the scale of things. I found myself caught up in watching the Triathlon and a bit of the cycling. riding a tandem is a scary thug in itself. Doing it at speed around a banked track when you can't see much at all sounds insane! Very impressed. And as to the triathlon. I'm not sure i could any one of the three disciplines in the time they do all three. I really felt for the guy who got lapped on the swim.

It was interesting to watch the two Brownlee brothers running together. Alistair's ankle looked far less stable than his brothers. Could this be why he suffers more injuries? Can't imagine his stiff upper body helps either. Ah, the wonders of biomechanics!

Monday, July 21, 2014

First Aid Training

I've just posted something about First Aid training on my other, work-related blog In2Motion. If you want to read it you can find it here.

I spent the weekend doing a two-day pitch-side sports first aid course and it was exhausting but so worthwhile. I won't go into detail here, you can read my thoughts and rave review of ReactFirst in the other post.

I spent the better part of my life avoiding First Aid training. I really don't like role play, and role play is really the only way to learn to do FA. I also don't like getting things wrong, especially in front of other people, and you make a lot of mistakes on a FA course and everyone gets to see them! Imagine my horror then when the trainer puts a scoring system up n the board and tells you pretend casualty to score your treatment.

First time around everyone is so nice and scores you pretty highly until the trainer asks a question and you realise you missed a vital step that falls into the "lethal" category and you score goes from a generous 4 (very good) to a 0 (lethal)! Even at the end of the course, having worked to burn the process into you memory, you might still score 1 or 2 because of something that needs work.

So it's tough, as it ought to be. After all we're talking about basic life saving protocols, not putting a plaster on a paper cut. But the skills are so important, and ! have to say that although I still hate role play with every fibre of my being, I will probably continue to do these courses because I keep learning so much and somewhere there's someone who one day will be grateful for what I've learnt. There might already be that someone, I found him on a train unconscious and slumped in his seat.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Reflecting on church and missional living

I've had a couple of conversations recently that have revolved around the theme of church and missional living. Of course the church ought to be defined as missional, but we all know that in many places it is stuck in a legacy model of church focussed primarily on meeting the internal needs of the members.

So, what shape church should take in order to fulfil its primary mandate of being a people living on mission with God, partnering with him, incarnating the gospel in everyday life? For me it begins with what we believe about Jesus, this in turn shapes our mission which then shapes our view of church. Christology, missiology, ecclesiology.

The order is important because if we put church before mission we will define the mission in church-centric terms. The world becomes a dark place full of people bent of doing evil, a place that threatens the purity of the church and seeks to undermine our faith. When I first became a Christian in the mid 70's discipleship seemed to demand that you left your non-Christians friends behind. Spending time with them caused question to be asked about your spiritual life. Unless you could demonstrate that you'd "shared the gospel" it was almost assumed that you were "backsliding"! Putting church before mission feeds a doctrine of separation from the world and mission becomes a sort of commando raid into enemy territory.

When you allow missiology to flow from Christology you get a different perspective on the world and the church. Mission becomes a life to be lived, the world becomes the residence of those missing from the kingdom rather than those enemies of the kingdom. Church becomes a gathering of those who live missionally, a place to share stories of God's mission, to encourage each other in that mission as well as a place to engage in worship, prayer and reflection. To me this seems a far healthier and more biblical view of church.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Where's the connection?

I've just started reading Steve Peter's The Chimp Paradox. For those who don't know, he's the guy who's been working with British Cycling and other high performance athletes and sports people.  I've only just started the book, so I can't give you an overview of the whole thing, but I did start to think about the theological implications of the way he describes the brain.

Using a very simplified model of the brain, he divides into three parts: the human, the chimp and the computer. The computer is the storage centre and the other two the active controlling brains. Put simply, the human brain is who we want to be and the chimp brain essentially interferes with our fulfilling of our potential.

What struck me as interesting is that theologically we talk about the will and talk about how sin affects our ability to do what honours God. I hear the echo of Paul's words when he speaks of doing what he knows he shouldn't do and not being able to do what he knows he ought to do (Rom. 7).

Now, I'm not trying to find a theological correlation or interpretation of Steve Peter's work in order to make it somehow Christian, rather like the quest for finding parallels between the Star Wars saga and the gospel. All I'm saying is that i'm intrigued by the the concept of a part of me that interferes, that gets in the way of me becoming that which I have the potential to be. That concept seems to have resonance with the way I understand the gospel, redemption and the whole of the Biblical narrative.

When we declare that we can't help it, the simple truth is that we can. Just because we're tempted we don;t have to fall for it. We always have a choice. When I first came to faith one of the first verses of the New Testament I committed to memory was 1Cor.10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

I've always thought that is possible for us not to sin, but probable that we will sin. This is the battle we face, the battle of choosing. This makes reading The Chimp Paradox an interesting prospect!