28 December 2015

The Black Dog: A Video Introduction


Ever wondered why people who have depression talk about their condition as "The Black Dog"? If so, I would recommend the following video as a useful introduction for you.

http://youtu.be/XiCrniLQGYc

25 December 2015

Happy Christmas!

Love the present I got today!
 
 
Have a terrific Christmas, folks. 

4 December 2015

It's All Gone Pete Tong

The title for this post is a reference to a piece of modern cockney rhyming slang, a reference to the BBC Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong. It means that "it's all gone wrong."

Sometimes, all the pieces fit. It all comes together. It's all proceeding well. As I often say, "it's going like a well-oiled machine"...

And yet, I'm still not entirely happy.

I'm still looking out for the problem. When things are going well ("perhaps too well" -  why do I say it that way?) - I always tend to be looking over my shoulder for something to go wrong... I don't know where it is - or indeed, what it is. But I know it's there to trip me up...

Ahhh, self-sabotage. There you are again! I'm familiar with the way you operate. Why is it that you show up about now, so that I always end up thinking that way?

Is there somehow something deep inside me that still cries out:  

  • "It's never going to happen. Not for you..."
  • “I’m not worth it...”
  • “I can’t...”
  • "Someone else might be able to achieve this, but not me..."
  • "I'm just not ready for this yet.."

Is it fear? An overwhelming fear of exposing myself and my point of view to the outside world?

Some part of me that says I don’t deserve to be happy or content?

Or is it a lack of belief -  perhaps I don't have what it takes to make this work?

This is not true. 
I don't need to look over my shoulder. 
I can do it.
I need to keep telling myself. 


19 November 2015

An Attitude Of Gratitude


Why do some people stumble their way through life, lurching from crisis to crisis, enveloped in a cocoon of doom and gloom, with a (figurative) black cloud perpetually over their head?

And there are others that are quite the opposite. They seem to be full of boundless optimism, full of positive energy. They are - well - happy. And amazingly and genuinely so. Their positivity shines through!

What is their secret?

It's hardly what some people would call normal. Because these positive people are so rare nowadays.

But I'm assured that it is possible.

It's a question of attitude. And as a church we explored this briefly in our Sunday meeting at the Corps last week. And we were each given a challenge.

To sit down and to list three things to be thankful for at the end of each day.

I must admit, even I found it tough. We're surrounded by negativity all around us, so much so that such negativity starts to become second-nature to us. It doesn't need to be. On the first day I had to sit for a long time to come up with my list of three. There was no problem in getting the one. One is usually possible. But three? Regularly? Every single day? Even the days when everything seems to go wrong, when the computers crash, the trains are not running to time, that household appliance finally gives up and dies?

Yes. There will be something. Don't assume that your day (even if it has been awful) is truly all bad. There will be some positives to hold on too. And finding three isn't as hard as it sounds.

I'm told it's worth the effort. You see, without gratitude, happiness is rare. With gratitude, the odds for happiness go up dramatically.

And do you know what?

It's not only possible. It actually gets easier as the days progress. And you'll start to feel better..

Try it yourself! Count your blessings. Jot them down.

"Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done."
(lyrics: Johnson Oatman, jr)

11 November 2015

9 November 2015

Dare To Be Different, Choose To Be Careful

"I dare to be different, I dare to believe;
I dare to be different, God's Spirit receive.
I dare to be different, my life sacrificed;
I dare to be different by living like Christ."
(lyrics: Dick Grommenhoek)

I appreciate the need to live a life that is different from other people. Jesus sends his followers out to make a real difference in this world.

But we also need to be mindful of others. Not only being aware of other people's opinions or beliefs, but sharing your own with tact and diplomacy. We need to take care to do this wisely... remember, Jesus said:-

"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16, NIV)

Sounds like quite a juggling act, doesn't it?

A snake is a keen hunter, wary, attentive, wise and yet still eager to learn. They possess tremendous subtlety, and yet with the ability to win against overwhelming odds.

A dove is innocent, harmless, meek and gentle. Remember when the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove?

The challenge - my challenge - is to find the ways of witnessing without apology, without giving offence.

And without abdicating the responsibility to others.

Be different. But be careful...

31 October 2015

Self-Medication

These are the TV series that I watched during last month and this month to get me through a few weeks of frantic activity, followed by spates of inactivity which triggered off a few 'lows' whenever I stopped to take a break. In some cases, I must admit that I tended to binge-watch shows to get me through! I recommend this method of 'self-medication' over large quantities of intoxicants (which is how some people of my age seem to self-medicate). And it's cheaper, too!
  • Blake's Seven, season one (YouTube)
  • Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish (Dave)
  • Doctor Who (BBC, Watch, Horror)
  • Flash, season one (DVD)
  • Flash, season two (Sky One)
  • Humans, season one (DVD)
  • Hunted (Channel Four)
  • Star Trek (CBS Action)
  • The Prisoner (DVD)
  • The A-Team, season one (DVD)

30 October 2015

Putting Faith Into Action

Mark 11:24 (CEV)
"Everything you ask for in prayer will be yours, if you only have faith."

Sorry? Can you just say that again? I am having trouble getting my head around this...

OK, try this...

Mark 11:24 (NIV)
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Faith is not simply believing that God can do something in your life. Faith is not a desperate hope, a lifeline to cling to.

It's assurance.

It's having confidence that God will provide for you. If you are in tune with God, with the way that He thinks, then you should trust that He will hear your prayer and will answer it.

And that means thanking Him in advance.

What? I’ve got to thank God in advance before I get it in order to get it?

It's part of that assurance.
  • If you thank God after you’ve got it, that’s gratitude.
  • When you thank him in advance, that’s called faith.


15 October 2015

Fake It Until You Make It

Do you know that phrase? Have you ever heard it? Is it true for you?

I hear it a lot in the City of London. I see it a lot, too. Some say that it's all to do with confidence, a form of therapy to assist you in getting on in life. Act like you belong - or like you have some ability that you don’t - and eventually you will figure it out, the doors will open.  An example of a positive feedback loop.

But isn't it all about being someone that you are not? Putting on a mask, trying to project an image of someone who you want to become, but aren't ... yet. Are you lying to the world - or lying to yourself?

I don't want to be 'fake'. I want to be myself - whole, complete, the person I am intended to be by God. Which is not necessarily who I want to be - it's who God wants me to be. Listen to this:

Galatians 6:3 (NIV)
If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.

I don't want to be 'fake'. I want to embrace who my Father in Heaven has made me to be. To be true to myself.

And so, that's more to do with 'faith' than being 'fake'.

It's about trusting God when things aren't going the way you want them to - not covering up and pretending that all is well.

And that's when it comes down to you and God.

If God has called you to do something, you need to be faithful in that. Be faithful in the small things that are open to you.  Trust Him. Give Him everything that you've got and eventually you will make it to the next level; a door will open.

8 October 2015

Risky Business

There's been a lot of discussion over the past week about vulnerability. It has came up in conversation; as part of this week's Bible Study; as a topic in a recent podcast. It's been cropping up pretty much everywhere! 

And I know it's a regular challenge to me!

I'm quite a private person, as I think most of you might know. I try and keep myself to myself. However, I'm also called to make a difference in this world. Which means I need to do a few things that can make me uncomfortable. It's a risky business...

Can these two aspects of my personality coexist?

You see, I don't particularly want to be vulnerable. I feel vulnerable because I've been hurt before - by people who should have known better! However, I have to make that sacrifice if I am to be true to myself. I want to reach out to help others. And this means leaving myself wide open. 

Please don't abuse this.

“I want to experience your vulnerability but I don’t want to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me. I’m drawn to your vulnerability but repelled by mine.” – Brené Brown)

22 September 2015

In the Lion's Den

In our church, we have been looking once again at some of the more familiar stories in the Bible. You know, the stories that some of us may have been taught at Sunday School. But they still have plenty to teach us even now.

Last Sunday we looked at the story of Daniel - and in particular, the time when he was thrown into a den of lions (Daniel, chapter 6, if you'd like to look it up)...

I won't go into too much detail about what happened - I'll let you read the account for yourself - but I'll simply stress what a horrible experience it must have been to be thrown into such a dangerous place. Most of us aren't subjected to threats of death because of our beliefs (although I know some do, even today...).

However, you might already have something similar in mind. Your own personal 'den of lions', a part of your life when you have difficulty being true to yourself - there's danger. Where you run the risk of getting your head bitten off - or worse - every day.

Have you got what it takes to stand up for what you believe in? We can look to Daniel's story as an example to how to stand up for our beliefs, to be faithful.

The key is not to look at the situation - but keep your eyes fixed firmly on God. Focus your prayer time on God, on His authority. Keep putting your faith in God to see you through.

15 September 2015

O P O

I was in the middle of catching up with one of my favourite podcasts, when they said something that grabbed my attention and sparked this blog entry. This was when one of the hosts alerted the other to the dangers of something they called OPO. I was intrigued. The acronym was new to me, but I understand from subsequent research that it was a recognised abbreviation, although not a popular one - there were over 30 other acronyms with those particular letters!

So what was this intriguing but oh-so-dangerous threat?
  • Optical Parametric Oscillators?
  • Organ Procurement Organisations?
  • Orbiter Project Offices?
Nope. Even more dangerous...

Other People's Opinions!

I used to love listening to this sort of thing. Phone-in programmes on the radio, vox pop interviews on the TV. I've consciously and severely reduced my intake of 'public opinion' in my life - because the one thing I needed to focus on was what I thought rather than what other people thought...

I can't cut it out completely. We are surrounded by other people's opinions all of the time - in fact, constantly bombarded with them. Reviews, political commentaries, disparate points of view. And don't get me wrong - each can be useful in getting an idea of what others think. But it's still vitally important to make up your own mind.

To have an opinion of your own.

Don't just believe what people tell you. Test it for yourself.

Experience it, prove it in your own life. Put it into practice.

Did you hear that review for that new TV series? Yep, they said it was rubbish. However, don't let that sway you, why not watch it for yourself...

Don't just take the easy route out, and follow popular opinion, "what the papers say" - think it through, apply it. Yes, you may well come to the same conclusion - however, you might not, you may end up with a completely contrary view.

And while we are on the subject - the same thing applies to my own life, and to those of my family. I am absolutely thrilled that the way we live our lives is of such interest to others. And if those others wish to impart on us some wisdom or otherwise useful information - or even help us a little - that's great. However, if these others are just criticising to give themselves the moral high ground - shame... shame on you.

"A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows the public opinion." - Chinese proverb

"You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant." - Harlan Ellison

10 September 2015

Too Loud, Man

(title taken from "Banana Boat (Day-O)", the Stan Freberg version of the Jamaican folk song that was released in 1957. It features a bongo-playing beatnik (Peter Leeds) who "don't dig loud noises". Neither do I. Check it out here. )

Modern life is just too loud. It's as if they've turned the volume way up, and then wrecked the controls...

I started thinking about this topic a while ago, debating on why I tend to use headphones while travelling to and from work. Here's the post. I've developed on a bit since then, realised that this is mostly my own particular aversion to noise. So, why am I so sensitive?

There are times when I simply can't stand the cacophony generated from an excessively noisy world. However, it's a little more complicated than that. Of course it is.

Because a good deal of the noise comes from inside my own head.

You see, my mind constantly hums with thoughts, ideas, and dreams. Some of these thoughts get processed in this blog, or get channelled into other writing. A small proportion is kept to myself - heck, I simply daren't share for fear of upsetting anybody... it's between myself and my Lord...

Add to that the background noise of everyday life, and that's why it can get to be overwhelming.

I can't hear myself think.

Perhaps that's why the peace and quiet of camping appeals to me so much... it reduces the input, allows me time to process and digest some of the things that I am thinking about.

It also explains why it takes me a while to drop off to sleep at night. If the hamster running around in my head never rests, neither do I.  I guess that's why my mind gets extra busy right before bedtime, preventing me from dropping off right away...

5 September 2015

Putting Words In My Mouth

I'm actually fairly good at stringing a few sentences together on the printed page or on screen - even if I do say so myself (and I'm definitely one of those who believe self-praise is no recommendation).

However, put me on the spot and tell me that I have to come up with a few choice pearls of wisdom face-to-face - that's quite a different matter. You're more likely to get some long rambling thing rather than those few nuggets of gold that you may be expecting. I can easily get tongue-tied, then start spouting clichés and half-formed ideas. I need a bit of time to arrange my thoughts...

However, it can happen differently. I was out the other day, plodding my way through the roads of my town for The Salvation Army (it's the Army's door-to-door appeal this month, entitled 'The Big Collection'). A lady came to her door and then proceeded to ask me a question.

And out came an inspired, even eloquent answer. Just like that.

I remember thinking to myself, "Where did that come from?"

I don't know about you, but it's proof positive to me that God gives us the words we need to say when the time is right.

Luke 21:15 (NIV)
"For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict."

3 September 2015

Absent-Minded

I've lost my car keys. Again. Does that make me 'absent-minded'?
 
According to Wikipedia, absent-mindedness is "where a person shows inattentive or forgetful behaviour." The article goes to outline three different ways that people could be described as 'absent-minded':
  • Not paying close attention (you 'blank' or 'zone out') - one that parents of teenagers will know quite well;
  • Paying so much attention to one single thing (apparently, something called 'hyperfocus') that you become oblivious to everything else going on around you;
  • Being distracted from the one thing you should be doing by 'irrelevant thoughts' or simply other stuff going on around you.
In my own head, I tend to associate this concept with the 'absent-minded professor', a typical character found in popular fiction, a talented academic who is so focused on his work that he forgets his own surroundings. Hence, the pic of Doc Brown from 'Back To The Future' at the top of this entry. Other professors are available...

OK, I've lost my car keys again. 
 
Does that mean I'm on a slippery slope to Alzheimer's disease?
 
No.
 
It's simply that our modern-day, multi-tasking society is just so busy.

The bottom line: the busier you are, the more likely you are to be absent-minded.

I need to find ways to remember the things I so often forget. The details that fall through the cracks of my memory. Like what I was doing when I put those keys down? Hints and tips are welcomed...
 
Aah, there they are. Found my car keys.

Now, where did I park my car?  :)
 

27 August 2015

26 August 2015

Z is for Zero-X

Zero-X is the first manned spacecraft to land on Mars. It uses two separate lifting bodies as wings whilst in the Earth's atmosphere, allowing the craft to take off and land from a runway like a conventional aircraft. One in the upper atmosphere, these detach and return to Earth, as the ship heads off.

The Martian Exploration Vehicle (MEV) at the front of the craft is the ship's main control centre, which detaches on arrival at Mars, leaving the main body (and one astronaut) in orbit. The MEV then lands, using extendable caterpillar tracks to travel on the rocky surface.

The Zero-X appeared in two Gerry Anderson productions - the 1966 film Thunderbirds Are Go and the 1967 TV series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

"Zero X launch" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Zero_X_launch.jpg#/media/File:Zero_X_launch.jpg

25 August 2015

Y is for Yamato

It's the year 2199, and an alien race is raining radioactive meteorites onto the Earth, rendering the planet's surface uninhabitable and forcing the population underground. All seems lost... until a discovery gives mankind one further slim chance to save the planet. All efforts go into restoring the hull of a battleship that was sunk during World War II. This becomes the Space Battleship Yamato, and supplemented with the installation of a new type of propulsion system - the wave motion engine. The ship then sets off on its journey to the planet Iscandar -  there's a device there that can heal the ravaged Earth...

Space Battleship Yamato ( 宇宙戦艦ヤマト ) is a Japanese science fiction anime series. The name of the ship may be more familiar to US and UK audiences as it was also used as the name of one of the Enterprise's sister ships in Star Trek: The Next Generation (NCC-1305-E).

24 August 2015

X is for X-Wing

The Incom T-65 X-wing starfighter is the primary interceptor and dog-fighter of the Rebel Alliance and the New Republic. Each X-wing is equipped with four laser cannons and a pair of proton torpedo launchers. The fighter has two flight modes: one where the wings are flat and another when they are expanded into attack position, making an X-shape and thus giving the wing-tip laser cannons a larger fire area.

Star Wars is an epic SF franchise, created by George Lucas in 1977. The first film in the series became a worldwide phenomenon, and five further films were released - all became box office successes. A further film is due to follow at the end of this year...


23 August 2015

W is for Winnebago (Eagle 5)

An unusual one, this. This spacecraft is in fact a 1986 Winnebago Chieftain 33 with wings attached, forming the 'Eagle 5' spacecraft. It comes complete with a periscope, secret hyperjets and an infrared scanner.

Spaceballs is a 1987 comedy film, co-written and directed by Mel Brooks. Essentially a parody of the original Star Wars trilogy, it also made references to the Alien and Planet of the Apes films.

22 August 2015

V is for Valley Forge

Picture this: all plant life on Earth has become extinct. A few specimens have been preserved in enormous, greenhouse-like geodesic domes - attached to a fleet of American Airlines space freighters, outside the orbit of Saturn. One of these ships is the Valley Forge. Unexpectedly, they receive orders from Earth to jettison and destroy the domes (with nuclear charges), returning the freighters to commercial service.

After four of the six domes are jettisoned and blown up, one Valley Forge crewman rebels...

Silent Running is a 1972 environmentally-themed SF film,  directed by Douglas Trumbull.

21 August 2015

U is for United Planets Cruiser C-57D

The United Planets Cruiser C-57D is a saucer-shaped starship. A smaller dome under the main saucer houses the starship's faster-than-light drive engine and central gyroscopic landing pedestal. On landing, the saucer's gangway and two conveyor-loading ramps swing down at an angle from the underside hull, near the edge of the lower lens shape.

Forbidden Planet is a 1956 American film, and is said to be the first SF film in which humans are depicted travelling in a starship of their own creation. The film has been cited as one of the inspirations behind 'Star Trek' - indeed, C-57D inspired the look of the saucer section and interior design of the USS Enterprise.

20 August 2015

T is for Thunderbird 3

Thunderbird 3 is International Rescue's single stage to orbit (SSTO) space vehicle, which is designed for space rescue, and also for maintaining the systems and crew of the space station (Thunderbird 5). The ship is is 87m long, with a 7m wide body and a 24m span (including engines). It uses chemical rockets for lift-off and boost, an ion drive for propulsion while in space and chemical retro rockets for reverse thrust in space. It could travel from Earth to within range of the Sun in 65 hours.

Thunderbirds was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, and produced between 1964 and 1966 using marionette puppetry and scale-model effects. Two series of 50-minute TV episodes were filmed. A reimagined CGI series entitled 'Thunderbirds Are Go' has recently aired in 2015, giving us a further 26 20-minute episodes, and a second series is to follow. (Note: in the new series, the three protruding buttresses on Thunderbird 3 can fold out into grappling arms, which can be used to grab onto things in space. Useful! )

19 August 2015

S is for Serenity

Set in the year 2517, Serenity is a Firefly class transport ship, a older model that is generally poorly regarded by many. The ship is referred to as a 'flying piece of gos se' (the phrase is Mandarin Chinese, and it's not very pleasant), however its crew regularly defend the reputation of the ship.

Firefly is an American space western SF series created by writer and director Joss Whedon. Regrettably, the TV series was cancelled after only eleven of the fourteen episodes (produced in 2002) were aired. The show continues to have a strong fan base, which led Whedon and Universal Pictures to produce 'Serenity' in 2005, a movie which continues the story of the series.


18 August 2015

R is for Red Dwarf

Operated by the Jupiter Mining Corporation, the spaceship Red Dwarf, is vast - 6 miles (9.7 km) long, 4 miles (6.4 km) tall, and 3 miles (4.8 km) wide. Unfortunately, an on-board radiation leak of cadmium II kills everyone on board -  all except for the ship's lowest-ranking technician Dave Lister (Craig Charles), who is in suspended animation at the time, and his pregnant cat, Frankenstein, who is safely sealed in the cargo hold. What will happen to them once the radiation drops down to an acceptable level - some three million years later...

Red Dwarf  was merely another half-hour sitcom when it was first devised back in 1988 by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. The BBC series has since achieved a cult following, mixing influences from across the whole spread of the SF genre with British-style comedy and satire. The 11th and 12th series are now in pre-production and will air on Dave in the next few years.                          

17 August 2015

Q is for Galaxy Quest: The Protector

The NSEA Protector is an Evolution Heavy Cruiser that serves as the flagship for the NSEA (National Space Exploration Administration). It is Earth's most powerful interstellar spacecraft and has a full crew complement of 600.

Galaxy Quest is a 1999 comedy film, written as an affectionate parody of Star Trek; therefore, there are similarities between the two ships... for example, the Protector has a registration number of NTE-3120 which alludes to some sort of similar space federation. In reality, the letter prefix stands for "Not The Enterprise" - that's according to visual effects co-supervisor Bill George in a 2000 interview with Cinefex magazine.

16 August 2015

P is for George Pal: Martian War Machines

The Martian War Machines are shaped like copper-coloured Manta rays, with a bulbous, elongated green window at the front, through which the Martians observe their surroundings. The ships glide along on three electromagnetic legs - visible only where the legs touch the ground. The ships are armed with a heat-ray, on a goose-neck above the ship.

The War of the Worlds is a 1953 American Technicolor film from Paramount Pictures, produced by George Pal. It was a fairly loose adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel of the same name. These particular ships were designed by Albert Nozaki for the movie.

15 August 2015

O is for Oh I Really Couldn't Ignore This One

The TARDIS is a time machine and spacecraft - the name being an acronym for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. Properly maintained and piloted, a TARDIS can transport its occupants to any point in time and space. Dimensionally transcendental (the interior is much larger than its exterior), it can blend in with its surroundings using a 'chameleon circuit'. It also provides its users with additional tools, including a telepathically based universal translation system.

Interestingly, the best known version of the ship is that owned by The Doctor - an obsolete Type 40, Mark 1 TARDIS. Its chameleon circuit is broken, so it's stuck in the shape of a 1960s-style London police box. It's meant to be piloted by a crew of six, which makes life a bit tricky if you are trying to fly it on your own. And the ship itself is unpredictable - although it is later revealed that the TARDIS takes The Doctor 'where he needed to go' as opposed to where he 'wanted to go'.

Doctor Who is, of course, a British science-fiction television programme produced by the BBC from 1963 to the present day. The show is such a part of British popular culture, that the TARDIS is now much better known that the Police Box that shares its image.

14 August 2015

N is for Notes

This spacecraft is something a little bit - special. The main body is a kind of rowing boat which was built by Major Clanger, originally based on a Leonardo DaVinci design. It doesn't quite work - but then Tiny Clanger and Small Clanger pick a dozen ripe notes off the sentient music trees, attaching them to one of the sticky striped cheeses to create a musical wheel... They attach the musical wheel to the failed rowing-boat - and the boat rises slowly into the air, enabling them to fish for space debris... The awesome power of music! :)

The Clangers were created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. This children's TV series (set on a small moon) ran for twenty-six episodes on the BBC from 1969 to 1972. It's still tremendously popular. Good news - a new BBC series has just started airing - another fifty-two new episodes for 21st Century audiences to enjoy. (Note: the original episode featuring the musical boat is entitled 'Fishing' - here's a link!)

13 August 2015

M is for Moya

Moya is a sentient bio-mechanical spacecraft, a member of the Leviathan race. Ships of her kind have no offensive capabilities, but do possess an impressive defensive manoeuvre called a Starburst, which allows her to pass through a tear in space-time. She is maintained by DRDs (Diagnostic Repair Drones), small, beetle-like robots that Leviathans build as they grow.

Farscape is an Australian/American SF series, conceived by Rockne S. O'Bannon and produced by Jim Henson Productions and Hallmark Entertainment. Four TV seasons were produced (1999–2003). A movie spin-off is currently in development.

12 August 2015

L is for Liberator

The Liberator is discovered, abandoned and drifting, close to Cygnus Alpha. It's amazingly well-equipped, technologically advanced, an awesome design. It has powerful weapons; a full system of battle computers, and an overall AI computer which runs the whole ship. It even has a working teleport system - something other ships in this particular universe lack.

And this is the ship that Blake and his band of freedom fighters suddenly stumble across and quickly master. What a remarkable piece of serendipity!

Blake's Seven was produced by the BBC between 1978 and 1981. There were four 13-episode seasons made for TV.

11 August 2015

K is for Kryten - and Starbug

The Jupiter Mining Corporation transport vehicle Starbug is a small green shuttlecraft. It has three sections - the cockpit, midsection and engine rooms, therefore the ship resembles a bug from the exterior.

The craft is often to be seen in Red Dwarf, a British comedy TV series, a character-driven sit-com in a SF setting. The show first aired on the BBC in 1988; new shows are currently in production.

The show started to use Starbug following the introduction of Kryten (Robert Llewellyn) as a main character, as this required a bigger shuttle to hold the crew. And this, in turn, gives me a plausible excuse to use this as my 'K' entry...

10 August 2015

J is for Jupiter Two

The Jupiter 2 is a rare example of a once common archetype from science fiction - the 'flying saucer'.(see the original 1960s version of the ship, which is illustrated here)

This ship is designed to transport a single family to nearby Alpha Centauri in order to start a colony. Cryosleep tubes are therefore installed on the ship, as are a 'space pod' (shuttlecraft) and 'chariot' (amphibious, caterpillar-tracked vehicle).

Lost in Space  was produced as a TV series by Irwin Allen, and ran for three seasons between 1966 and 1968. A reimagined movie version was produced in 1998. A further reboot of the show is currently in development.

9 August 2015

I is for Interceptors

The Interceptors form the first line of defence against alien attack towards the Earth. Operating in groups of three and launched from SHADO's Moonbase, these single-pilot interceptors attempt to destroy the alien craft using large nuclear missiles fired from the spacecraft's nose. You only get one shot - so make it count!

UFO was created by Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson, with Reg Hill. It was the Andersons' first totally live-action TV series, released in 1970, and their first aimed at a more adult market. Sadly, it lasted only one season.

8 August 2015

H is for Heart Of Gold

The starship Heart of Gold is the first spacecraft to make use of a remarkable form of propulsion called the 'Infinite Improbability Drive'. Unfortunately, at its official launching ceremony, the ship gets promptly stolen. And stolen by Zaphod Beeblebrox - you simply don't expect the Galactic President to steal the very ship that he is supposed to be launching!

The ship features in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a comedy SF radio series created by Douglas Adams and which aired on BBC Radio 4 in 1978. The show has since been adapted in a variety of formats, including stage shows, a "trilogy" of five books, a TV series, and eventually a movie version, produced in 2005. Further versions are eagerly awaited. The photo above shows the ship as depicted in the movie.

Note: Karey Kirkpatrick, who worked with Douglas Adams as part of the movie adaptation in 2005, has described the Improbability Drive as a "plot contrivance machine", as it allowed Douglas the wonderful possibility of building elaborate plot-lines based on the wildest of coincidences - which, in other narratives, would be considered too improbable to be believed.

7 August 2015

G is for Galaxy Class

The Galaxy Class USS Enterprise is a entirely different ship to its predecessors. With a total of 42 decks, this Enterprise was twice the length and had eight times the interior space of the Constitution Class ships of over a century earlier. She carried a combined crew and passenger manifest of 1,012. The ship has a whole host of phaser arrays and torpedo launchers, which can fire both photon torpedoes and antimatter mines.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (which is often abbreviated as TNG) is the second TV series based on Gene Roddenberry's original premises. Aired some twenty-one years after the original series debuted in 1966, seven seasons were produced between 1987 and 1994, with four movies subsequently produced.

6 August 2015

F is for Fireball XL5

The World Space Patrol has a fleet of at least 30 separate patrol ships in this class (an XL30 is referred to one episode), however it is Fireball XL5 that we're most familiar with. When taking off from Earth, the ship uses a mile-long launch rail to build up velocity. It separates from its rocket boosters just as the rail ends with a 40-degree incline, or sky ramp, sending the ship skyward. When arriving at its destination, the main part of the ship remains in orbit, with the winged nose cone (known as Fireball Junior) landing on the planet.

Set in the year 2062, Fireball XL5 was produced in 1962 by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. A black and white TV series, it ran for one season.

Note: initial development of this new show was under the name 'Nova X 100'. Before filming started the name was changed by Anderson, based this time on a popular brand of motor oil — Castrol XL. A change in phonetics created the name 'Fireball XL', with a '5' added for good measure as the name 'seemed a little flat without the numeral'.

5 August 2015

E is for Eagle Transporter

Eagle Transporters are modular in design, with various different types of centre section available according to mission requirements (for example, passenger transport, freight, or rescue). Although these ships were never designed for use as a military craft, Eagles used at Moonbase Alpha have been retro-fitted with laser emitters as standard equipment as well as an arsenal of missiles.

These ships are from Space: 1999, the last TV production by the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. The show ran for two seasons between 1975 to 1977.

4 August 2015

D is for Dark Star

The scout ship Dark Star and its crew of five have been alone in space for over twenty years... their mission, to destroy unstable planets using intelligent 'Thermostellar Triggering Devices'. However, with the captain now dead, the ship malfunctioning around them and mind-numbing tedium threatening to engulf the remaining four crew-members, forced to live together in such a confined space - what else can possibly happen...?

Set in the mid-22nd century, Dark Star is a low-budget black comedy from John Carpenter, released as a film in 1974. Fondly remembered.

3 August 2015

C is for Constitution Class

(of course, I just had to have the Enterprise. But there's been so many versions of this legendary starship...)

The Constitution Class USS Enterprise is 289 metres long, with 21 decks and a crew complement of 430. One of 12 ships in this class, this heavy cruiser is armed with phaser banks, 6 forward photon torpedo tubes and an aft torpedo launcher.

Of course, this Enterprise comes from Star Trek, the TV series that was created by Gene Roddenberry in 1966 and ran for three seasons. Because of the unprecedented success of the show and its later development as a franchise, the series is now known as Star Trek: The Original Series (or simply TOS) to distinguish it from the other versions of the show.

Note: this version of the Enterprise has a registry number of NCC-1701. Since the 1920's, N is the indicator for any aircraft from the United States, and C means 'commercial'.  Some people say that the Soviet Union designation was CCCC - thus, one N and 2 Cs together made it kind of international. Others say the extra C was simply added just to make it look better. In the show, they justified this by coming up with a Starfleet abbreviation for 'Naval Construction Contract', which was comparable to what the U.S. Navy would call a hull number. And the 1701? This was chosen to avoid any possible ambiguity; the numbers 3, 6, 8, and 9 were 'too easily confused'.

2 August 2015

B is for Battlestar Galactica

The Galactica has over 700 crew members and can operate as a fighter carrier, a battleship and as a mobile base of operations. It carries 75 Viper fighter craft, 12 Landram land based troop transports and 12 shuttlecraft. (specs are as per 1978 original TV series - that's the one that I best remember!)

Created by Glen A. Larson in 1978, Battlestar Galactica ran for one TV season, and with a less popular 'Galactica 1980' series produced soon afterwards. A reimagined version of the show was produced in 2003, a three-hour mini-series which led to five more seasons of shows (2004–2009). A further remake is on the cards.

1 August 2015

A is for Andromeda Ascendant

The Andromeda Ascendant is a Glorious Heritage Class starship which is discovered trapped in time, along with its captain Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo). Awoken after a 300 year sleep, Hunt must now assemble a new crew in an attempt to restore order to a galaxy.

The ship has an impressive artificial intelligence (AI) system, which appears to the crew in three different formats:
  • on the two-dimensional monitors
  • as a three-dimensional holographic projection
  • as the avatar Rommie (all three played by Lexa Doig). 
The TV series Andromeda was based on material written by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and developed after his death by Robert Hewitt Wolfe. The show premièred in 2000, and ran for five seasons.

31 July 2015

A-Z: Spacecraft

Yep, August is just around the corner, and so is my summer break - an opportunity to set aside some quality time to be with my family. At this time of year, I put aside my regular blogging, choosing instead to set myself an alphabetical challenge on a topic that interests me.

This year it's back to science fiction - I've come up with a listing of spacecraft I have known and appreciated over the last 50 years as a SF fan. Some of these craft may be new to you - why not check out the shows or films mentioned?

Have a terrific summer.

22 July 2015

Nothing To Do?

We're entering a bit of a slack period at work. It's nearly holiday time, so things are simply not as busy as they usually are. There is time to breathe. Time to relax. Time to think.

It's awful. And I know why I feel that way.

I'm one of these people who need a degree of formal structure to their day. I like to be busy. Both at work and socially. Take away that structure, that busyness, and I start to struggle.

I've been looking closely at my social life today. And it's very clear to me that even here I've been particularly drawn towards structured activities over the years. Clubs, societies, voluntary work. Working as a steward at a large SF convention or at a church event. I've actually lost count of the number of different voluntary roles I have had.

Don't get me wrong - it has been good. It's taken me to places that I would never have visited without that impetus. And I suppose it has given me more control over my social life. There have been so many committees in my life, voluntary roles that gave me a role to play.

Or perhaps, one to hide behind.

Sure, these things have helped boost my self-confidence, however someone reminded me today that that was only in certain ways. If I take off my volunteer's badge, my steward's jacket, what am I?

Do I start losing my reason for being?
Do I start to drift?
Am I becoming Captain Dunsel?

That's my big fear. Without the safety of that form of structure, at work or socially, I end up a bit... well... lost. The world becomes a bit of a scary place. I'm exposed; vulnerable. In extreme cases I may end up without a clue what to say, or even how to behave...

I know quite a bit about time management, how to structure my day to maximise output, achieving deadlines which seem to get tighter and tighter. I pat myself on the back when I scrape under the wire to smash yet another tight deadline... squeezing another little job for someone into an already packed day.

What my real challenge is...

...is slowing down to do stuff for me.

Even when I have an evening off, I usually end up doing some little job or another. I start feeling guilty if I do something for me and mine. I really do.

It's something that I will be unpacking over the next few weeks. When I will have much more time on my hands... And it's my free time.

18 July 2015

Doing Something About It

" If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food,  you shouldn’t just say, 'I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.' What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help?"
James 2: 15-16 (CEV)
 
There's a great deal of kindness and charity in our world which is expressed by good wishes; perhaps even good intentions. After all, not all of us have the means of doing something to help the poor and the needy, so we give a kind word. Or sympathy.
 
However, how does that change if we do have the means?

Or do we simply choose not to help?

James 2:26 (CEV)
"Anyone who doesn’t breathe is dead, and faith that doesn’t do anything is just as dead!"

15 July 2015

Amazing Grace

"My chains are gone, I've been set free
My God, my Saviour has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace...."

(chorus from the Chris Tomlin version of the hymn)

"I started doing some research on Amazing Grace, and I was blown away that the last verse (When we've been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun) was written about 100 years later. The original verse by John Newton was The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, this incredible verse that I'd never seen in a hymn book. I started thinking about where John Newton came from, the slave ships, and what God had done in his life. We're all made slaves to sin in our life, but God has set us free. He has ransomed us from our slavery. I just wanted to add this idea that I hope brings freshness to the heart of the song." — Chris Tomlin

That last verse:
"The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Will be forever mine.
You are forever mine."

13 July 2015

The Times They Are A-Changing

"Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'... "
(Lyrics of the song by Bob Dylan)
 
This post was inspired by my son John's recent post on his blog (now, where is that Watchmen DVD?).
 
Yes, things change. In fact, they never, ever stay the same. And time often moves far too quickly!
 
However, it's only becomes a really big deal when something that is good or useful in your life comes to an end. We mourn it, don't we? Often, we then take the trouble to try and recreate or rebuild it. Sometimes, in vain - it's gone for good. And we have to wait for the next opportunity... which hopefully is just around the corner.
 
And we don't really mind when bad or troublesome things reach their end. In fact, we are keen to celebrate their passing. It's party time!
 
The art is learning to embrace change when it happens. Or making it happen, when it doesn't. I blogged about this recently, here.

That's where I struggle - the whole concept of making things happen. It's tough. Some days it feels tougher than others. It sometimes feels like I'm pushing a boulder uphill (hence the picture). Which is interesting - when I went to the 'net to find a picture to illustrate this entry, I got into the Greek myth of Sisyphus, which is where we get the boulder reference from.  His punishment was having to endlessly roll a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down again. Modern scholars say this has become an analogy for 21st Century life.

Is that how I feel? If I can change anything - can I change that feeling...

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.(The Serenity Prayer)

How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?
Dr Seuss

10 July 2015

We Share This Earth

It's so easy to knock other people.

We seem to make judgements about people's actions or beliefs based on minimal information. Are we scared of finding out more? We jump to conclusions; allow ourselves to be influenced by public opinion or gossip; make up stuff that seems to it. All rather than take pains to form an informed opinion of our own. We are quick to dismiss other people's views, without finding out why they think that way. Perhaps it's because it's safer to stay within our own prejudices.

One of the podcasts that I regularly listen to touched upon this earlier this week, when talking about our experiences using motor vehicles. Comedian George Carlin made the following observation in one of his stage shows: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” It's true. Because we're safely cocooned in our cars, the other drivers are fair game. We hardly ever relate to the drivers concerned personally. So the 'maniac driver' who we will never meet face-to-face is a safe target (perhaps that's why we have such a problem with road rage - we're so used to - and even enjoy - being angry at other road users that we can't control it on those occasions when do meet up).

We do all have something in common. That big blue marble that we live on. We share this planet with so many different types of people. Some are markedly different from us; some are the same. We can easily identify with those who are the same as us. We find it tougher to find common ground when all when can see is a barrier rather than an opportunity.

The truth is - we are all unique. You and I. Everyone is different, and there is no one on this Earth who is quite like you. Someone could find you so different, that it could make them uncomfortable, even scare them. Could that explain why other people behave differently?

We all need to embrace diversity. Step out of our comfort zone. That's the way we can grow.

Star Trek fans have a simple way of summarising this into one symbol. The Vulcan IDIC (pictured above).

Infinite Diversity, in Infinite Combinations.

Let's rejoice in our differences. Be glad that we are not all the same. Learn from each other, not criticise.
Make this world a better place. Dare to be different.

8 July 2015

Less Is More

It wasn't quite right. And I knew it.

I wasn't actually sad - it was more like a kind of lingering, persistent melancholy. The world was no longer painted in glorious Technicolor, it was simply so many shades of grey. Even when things were going really well, there was something not quite right with the world.

Something was missing.

I tried to join in with other people's versions of 'a good night out' - they wanted to 'cheer me up'. However, it didn't satisfy me, the evening was 'empty'. I'd far sooner had a good chat in a corner of a room than go out clubbing all night!

I was trying far too hard. Trying to be somebody that I'm not.

I needed to stop, and take stock. Where am I heading to? What am I actually looking for?

The answer was very simple.

Less. And More.

Less activity, and more meaning.

Fewer friends. More real friendships.

Less phonies. More real people.

Less of what the world offers. More of what Christ offers.

Isaiah 55:2 (CEV)
Why waste your money on what really isn't food?
Why work hard for something that doesn't satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and you will enjoy the very best foods.