Monday, March 27, 2006

speeding towards redemption and rest

i got a chance to redeem my poor sporting efforts in the last day of competition at the workplace commonwealth games, teaming with a more senior member of my team to take out silver in our pool at the "swimming" - basically a relay race on foot wearing goggles, a swimming cap, and with one of those foam "noodle" flotation devices between our legs. despite a nearly botched changeover (my teammate's glasses got caught up in the headwear when he was taking them off) and a false finish (i forgot to run back to the starting point to complete the last leg of the race), i managed to outdash another team who made the same mistake at the penultimate stop, squeezing in for a silver medal finish.

and while we were waiting for competitors to assemble at the muster point, i had a few more practice throws at the darts ("archery" event from day 3 of competition) and to my chagrin was having much more success landing them (and having them stick) on the scoreboard... maybe with better preparation, we might not have come last overall... maybe we could have been a contender :p

then on saturday night, after a long day out, i was finally headed home after another false start (forgot to take something back with me, so had to double back). looking forward to some much needed sleep, i drove past a speed camera unit on the way. i saw it as i approached, checked my speed, eased off the accelerator (i was a bit over the limit), and cruised by, thinking i was safe, only to notice a flash of light from behind as i passed by. there were no other cars around in either direction that were near enough for me to think that the flash was intended for me - guess i'll have to wait and see if the postman brings me a fine delivery in the next few weeks...

when i got home, i saw this video, a meditation on the speed limit, waiting as a headline on my rss reader. bemused at the apparent irony of the title, i watched it, thinking it was going to further chastise my conscience about obeying the laws of the land etc etc. but it was actually setting out to show how the laws are stupid (not that i necessarily agree on that point), through staging a "stunt" involving having a group of cars bunched up and travelling together, at the speed limit, across the width of a motorway, and seeing the reaction of other motorists. a remark by one of the guys involved in the video was somewhat striking - he said something to the effect of "we were dangerous, but we were dangerous because we were doing the speed limit".

speaks volumes about the rest of the drivers on the road, doesn't it?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

sporting sob stories

in light of the current commonwealth games, my workplace has put on a little competition of its own between the various teams in our area. each team had to adopt a commonwealth nation, and send two representatives to compete in each of 5 modified sports.

after 2 other team members claimed bronze in the first day of competition, i was up next in "netball" and "archery" over the last two days. netball was really a toy basketball hoop thing, and archery a toy/velcro darts set.

i sucked. big time.

out of 3 practice shots and 4 actual shots in the basketball, i probably airballed half and barely managed to hit the rim or backboard with the rest. so the balls were terribly light and the ring rather small... and most people struggled so i didn't feel *too* bad at scoring zero for my efforts.

today in the darts, i had about 4 practice throws and 3 actual scoring shots... i don't know how the others did it (i think everyone outscored me by a significant amount) but most of my thrown darts went tumbling through the air, failing to hit the board head first and just bouncing off! my only scoring shot was hanging off on one or two velcro hooks, dangling very precariously and threatening to fall off... but it didn't, so at least i didn't walk away with nothing.

so thanks to my very paltry efforts, our team is running a very distant last 3/5 of the way into the comp. i'm not usually a very competitive person but doing this badly (even in a competition i don't care much for) has me shaking my head... oh well, guess i should stick to doing what i'm paid to do...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

super bowl ads

yeah i know i'm a bit behind the times on this topic, but i don't watch or follow the sport so i don't really care. happened to be trawling through the google blog archives recently and came across a listing for the ads shown during super bowl, hosted on google video. couldn't watch all of them (some restriction cos i'm not in the US??) but there were a few picks from the bunch which i found particularly funny/creative (though you'd think that it should be a darn good ad for the amount of money advertisers pay to get their 30-odd second slice of airtime):
good for some short term diversionary entertainment :)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

swings and roundabouts - part 2

all this to-ing and fro-ing had some parallels in a recent series of decisions i had to make. my mobile phone of 5+ years had been out of contract for a long time, and i had never gotten around to getting an upgrade of the phone and/or plan. i guess a big reason was that most of the plans available these days do not represent as much value for my usage patterns as the plan i was already on. however, since my contract was finished, i no longer had a phone to pay off, yet was still spending the same minimum monthly amount - that didn't quite make sense either.

and so, over the course of the last few weeks, i started doing some serious research into the current mobile market. i checked various service providers and resellers, and investigated their plans and avaialable phones. because there was no standout winner, i ummed and ahhed over a shortlist, and was almost excited to have discovered a solution which which i was sure would save me money. that was until i read the fine print on the terms and conditions of one of the plans that was part of my scheme, and that put a serious spanner in what i was proposing to do. my little scheme turned out to be too good to be true, and i was back to the drawing board.

on the spur of the moment, i decided to visit one more shop, and there i found new options to consider - a normally more expensive phone (and thus one which i had ruled out of consideration) available for free on a plan i could consider. and i found out that i could actually apply for a business plan (thanks to the ABN i got a few years ago but have never used), which meant cheaper rates! but i would lose access to yes time and yes weekend, which i've been holding onto these last few years. oh well, i was prepared for that from the beginning anyway.

after a bit more research, i decided that this represented the best deal, even though i wasn't sure whether i liked the phone all that much. and so i went in last week to sign the paperwork and get my new phone - a phone that was new enough and uncommon enough that would, as a FOM noted, draw comments a plenty every time i pull it out of my pocket. however, after about one night's playing with the phone, i concluded that i didn't like it enough to keep and use it. so i looked at selling it and using the money to buy the phone i was hoping to get in the first place... albeit one that was rather common among people i knew.

thinking through that decision a little more led to consider simpler phones... i don't really need an integrated camera (i have a dedicated and amply capable digital camera for this purpose), an mp3 player (haven't needed one so far, and can play mp3s on my PDA if i really wanted to), or radio and polyphonic ringtones etc. i just need a phone that can make and take calls. and i was surprised to find that there are actually some models out there that are just phones, and without all these additional bits and pieces. and they were cheap too, so i could have a fair bit left over in my pocket at the end of the day.

so then i started thinking what i could do with this excess, and remembered a request i had received earlier in the year for some financial support. i hadn't responded/committed to anything, but figured this "profit" may as well go towards meeting that need. then i realised that i don't really need a colour screen, and i already have a phone that just makes and takes calls, and it's still working ok (having survived being dropped in a bucket of water, and several falls onto concrete/cement surfaces)...

anyways. i've sold the new phone, and will use the proceeds as a medium of blessing. and i'll keep using my hardy nokia 6210... it took a while for the dazzle of technology and prestige to wear off on this self-confessed geek, but i'm glad that in the end i've been able to apply some of what i've been learning in "redefining success" (book by omar djoeandy, which my cell group has just finished reading) and the "cash values" bible study book. and i hope that my sharing about this does not come across as a 'sounding of the trumpets'... feel free to rebuke me if it is?

Friday, March 17, 2006

swings and roundabouts - part 1

that's the term a colleague used to describe the movement of staff at work... we were talking about the situation in which i found myself just over a week ago. shortly before christmas, a few of us in our usual business line (BSL1) were approached with an opportunity for "development" - a temporary deployment, to a different business line (BSL2), to begin after the new year. it was meant to last 3 months.

while working in BSL2, those of us from BSL1 noticed how busy BSL1 seemed to be. in order to not breach a client service standard, a practice known as "callbacks" is employed whenever the waiting time for clients ringing in looks likely to reach the 10 minute mark. this practice involves answering the call for the sole purpose of arranging a return call at a later time - the theory being that this gets through a large number of calls fairly quickly, thus reducing the overall queue wait time. many dislike this practice, as it is typically seen as a bureaucratic means to be able to say that the service standard was not breached (since the call - though not necessarily the question - was answered within 10 minutes). usually callbacks only happen during our peak season. this was not peak season, yet callsbacks were occurring on a daily basis, and multiple times each day. those of us on deployment were glad to not be part of that action.

then there were rumours that our deployment would be extended for another few months, because BSL1 had to cut staff numbers (budgetary constraints) and were busy deploying staff elsewhere. nobody could quite fathom how this would help with the call load situation. then we (the deployed staff), along with other normal BSL2 staff, started being told to assist BSL1 by taking some of BSL1's calls. this became a daily routine - sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for the whole day. it made absolutely no sense - take someone from BSL1, move them over to BSL2, but still have them effectively work for BSL1. the cynics will say this too is a budgetary thing... since our time is being paid for out of BSL2's funds.

then came the official announcement that yes, our stay would be extended.

before the morning was over, this changed. now, instead of staying on another 3 months, we would be going back to BSL1 three weeks ahead of schedule! and so, as quickly and unexpectedly as it all started, it has now ended. i've been back for 1 week, and i can't say it feels good to be home.

Friday, March 10, 2006

lego links

FOM sent me this link via msn... top 10 strangest lego creations. it really boggles the mind that some of the creations listed are actually functional items, like the harpsicord, knitting machine (see a movie clip of it in action), difference engine and pinball machine.

i do recall playing with lego in my younger days, but it was a few worlds away from these efforts - maybe if i had more blocks, and a lot more time! hehe. well i guess God just didn't give me the gift of lego design... if i did have such a gift though, would i use it to make something that helps to bring glory to my name, or to His? without detracting from the skills of these mentioned above creators, i can't help but think that something like the brick testament (using lego to illustrated selected passages from the Bible) is a rather more fruitful application of such gifts, for it points the viewer to, and helps them to know, the Creator who made them.

although it's not quite the same context, this reminds me of a few lines from a song
Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you
There is no greater thing

Saturday, March 04, 2006

video goodness

some nice videos on the net that i've come across recently...
  • Animusic Sample - Real-time rendered version of Pipe Dream created for the ATI video card line.
  • The Creation - sand animation sequence performed at the closing ceremony of Seoul SICAF 2003.
  • viscount6 - performances from a concert given by this group of four asian (and presumably) christians singers, accompanied by a guitar.
watching the last lot of videos remind me of the simple pleasure and enjoyment of singing with friends. one memory of such an occasion is during my trip to KL last december, where one evening i found myself sitting in room full of (mostly) strangers, and not really minding the fact that there were only two people there i had known/met longer than a few days, since everyone was chilling out and having a good old singalong. having pretty much made their way through the christmas carols by the time i got there, next up were oldies from the 60s. now i thought that i had a passable awareness of english 60s tunes for an asian, but there was one girl there who was younger than me but knew so many more songs than i! below is a video of her and my host, singing "all i have to do is dream", accompanied by a backing chorus and two guitars - it was a very cool feeling to be in the midst of such atmosphere :)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

the funny thing about martyrdom

(not funny as in haha funny, obviously.)

i recently re-read "through gates of splendour" - a book by elisabeth elliot which tells the story of the 5 missionaries who met their death while attempting to bring the Gospel to the auca indians in ecuador in the mid 1950s.

last weekend i went and bought a copy of "the shadow of the almighty", which is the biography of jim elliot, one of those 5 men whose life was taken by the ones to whom he was trying to bring real life. in the preface, elisabeth (again the author) writes:
Jim's aim was to know God. His course, obedience - the only course that could lead to the fulfilment of his aim. His end was what some would call an extraordinary death, although in facing death he had quietly pointed out that many have died because of obedience to God.

He and the other men with whom he died were hailed as heroes, 'martyrs'. I do not approve. Nor would they have approved.

Is the distinction between living for Christ and dying for Him, after all, so great? Is not the second the logical conclusion of the first? Furthermore, to live for God is to die, 'daily', as the apostle Paul put it. It is to lose everything that we may gain Christ. It is in thus laying down our lives that we find them.


When Jim was 20 years old he prayed, 'Lord, make my way prosperous, not that I achieve high station, but that my life may be an exhibit to the value of knowing God.' His life was that to me, who shared it more intimately than any other. Was it extraordinary? I offer these pages so that the reader may decide for himself. If his answer is yes - if he finds herein the 'stamp of Christ', and decides that this is extraordinary - what shall we say of the state of Christendom?

i've emphasised the last sentence in the hope that others will avoid the mistake i almost made in reading it too quickly on the first pass, and thus be in danger of failing to grasp its wide and deep implications.

it's ironic then that the back cover of my copy of "gates" refers to these men as just that: martyrs. but let not the possible pedantry over definitions prove puncturous a perfectly powerful pedagogical point!