A day in the life

Bath taps

Who says that clergy don’t have interesting and varied days? Not me, for one.

Mine began, as usual, waking up to the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4. When I got up, boy was I sore from weights and cycling the last two days. Having read something the other night in a small Men’s Health booklet I rediscovered that long, deep, white bucket in the bathroom and soaked myself for 20 minutes while reading the latest edition of Private Eye that Mr Postman had kindly delivered. What a decent fellow he is.

Just as I was about to go out to see my Spiritual Director the telephone rang. It was a retired medical doctor ringing to get help with his Psion Series 7 and copy of PsiWin (the software that allows you to connect a Psion to a PC).

That sorted and the promise of a follow-up email about connecting a Psion Series 7 to the internet I headed out for my six weekly appointment with my Spiritual Director. The theologian Kenneth Leech prefers the term “Soul Friend” but the idea is the same. As Leech says

“The spiritual life is the life of the whole person directed towards God”
(Soul Friend, p.30)

During these sessions I speak about what is important in my life, what is happening on all levels, not just my prayer life but everything. My Spiritual Director listens and asks questions; usually the right questions.

Today we focused a lot on what I’ll do once my current post ends at the end of April. My Spiritual Director helped me to look beyond my immediate feelings of guilt about leaving a full-time stipendiary ministry post to explore the next stage in my personal development and journey. What I do next — whatever it is — is not about me giving up my ministry or my priesthood. Rather, it is a continuation of it, and further use of the gifts that God has given me, some of which I’m not able to use fully in my current role.

This afternoon after lunch — which had to be quickly replanned after I discovered that the low-fat mayonnaise I’d just dolloped onto my can of tuna was seven months out of date — I prepared for a meeting with my colleague Nicola this evening, where I would begin to hand over information about St Salvador’s, as she will be heading-up the St Salvador’s end of things at the end of this month. Our official handing-over service will be on Sunday 29 January; the Sunday after next.

During the afternoon I followed up an email from my cousin Zack in the US who is currently working on a screenplay. I ended up phoning South Eastern Trains to ask them what they announce aboard trains as they are about to enter terminal stations. Never a dull moment my life, I tell you!

This evening, having returned from the handover meeting, and having discovered how much the church would like from us in rent should we stay on in this house after April, I helped the Americans overthrow a Chinese military coup. Like you do.

Oh, in Battlefield 2, I meant to say. And now Jane has returned from her two-and-a-half day work-related jaunt in Highland, Caithness and Moray.

Still no word from Eddie and Rebecca about how Owen is. He got out of SCBU yesterday and was back on the ward. They were due to get home today.

What did you do today?

Game, set and no death-match

Lego Star Wars: the best game in the universe, ever™ (Photo courtesy of Gamespot.)

An interesting article (found via Digg.com) written by Henry Jenkins, a Professor at MIT entitled “Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked

A large gap exists between the public’s perception of video games and what the research actually shows. The following is an attempt to separate fact from fiction.

The eight myths refuted (with evidence) are:

  1. The availability of video games has led to an epidemic of youth violence.
  2. Scientific evidence links violent game play with youth aggression.
  3. Children are the primary market for video games.
  4. Almost no girls play computer games.
  5. Because games are used to train soldiers to kill, they have the same impact on the kids who play them.
  6. Video games are not a meaningful form of expression.
  7. Video game play is socially isolating.
  8. Video game play is desensitizing.

Whew! I don’t play many games but I do enjoy them once in a while. Regular readers of my blog will know that the games I play most often are Star Wars Battlefront, Star Wars Battlefront II, Battlefield 2 and Lego Star Wars. I also have a few versions of Mah Jong and Chess installed.

I’m glad that there is some credible research being done in this area. It disappoints me that people are often so quick to point the finger at things like computer games, rock music and TV/movies as the causes of violence in (mostly young) people. One thing that I do agree with, however, is the age-restrictions assigned to different games — I don’t think that ten year olds should be violent playing games like Grand Theft Auto 3, even if it is ‘cartoon violence’.

One of the great things about computer games, in particular, is how easy it is now to network with other players all over the world. That kind of communication and networking has to be a good thing.

This evening I’ve been on MSN Messenger with a few folks. I’ve helped Rob out with an creative writing assignment; talked with Mike about his girlfriend; got stuck on Suzie’s English structure homework; and discussed my new blog theme with James. As it happens I’ve met 3/4 of these folks, but I could easily have been chatting with Arsi in Pakistan, Justin in England or Kira in the USA, none of whom I’ve actually met and shaken hands.

Computers are an amazing thing. The internet is an amazing thing. Life on this planet will never be the same.

Tip: always use the latest drivers

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum

It just goes to show that you should always keep your device drivers up to date! That was my task this lunchtime.

Having installed the drivers that came with my Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum everything appeared to be working fine. Listening to music in WinAmp everything sounded lovely: responsive, crystal clear and other phrases that you might read in a Hi-Fi magazine.

Battlefield 2 was another matter. BF2 is the only game so far that has been developed specifically with the X-Fi soundcard in mind:

Digital Illusions, Electronic Arts and Creative Labs worked closely together for six months to optimise Battlefield 2’s audio engine for Sound Blaster X-Fi. The Digital Illusions coders were among the very first engineers outside of Creative Labs to get access to Xtreme Fidelity technology, well before details of the new sound card were even released to the press…

Battlefield 2 benefits from super-accurate sound placement, stunning audio quality, and powerful audio acceleration when you have a Sound Blaster X-Fi in your system.

I fired up BF2, clicked on the Options page and selected Creative X-Fi as my audio renderer (the other options were ‘software’ or ‘hardware’) clicked Apply and I was dumped rather unceremoniously back on my Windows desktop. A couple more attempts resulted in exactly the same response. After a quick search online for a solution, I headed over to the Creative Support website and downloaded the latest drivers and installed them.

For those who aren’t quite sure what device drivers are here’s what the ever-wonderful Wikipedia says:

A device driver, often called a driver for short, is a computer program that enables another program, typically, an operating system (OS) (e.g., Windows, Linux, FreeBSD) to interact with a hardware device. A driver is essentially an instruction manual that provides the operating system with the information on how to control and communicate with a particular piece of hardware. In layman’s terms, a driver is an important, vital piece to a program application; the main ingredients of the system.

So, it should be fairly obvious then, if your device drivers are out of date then you can’t expect everything to work as well as it should.

What I do wish, however, is that Creative improved the information on its website about its latest drivers and applications. It’s not the most intuitive of layouts for those of us who simply want to download the latest files and update our systems. While the ATi Radeon support site presents one file (the latest one) the Creative site has a list of umpteen files. Do I download both driver updates, 0003 and 0004? Or are the updates from 0003 also contained in 0004? Who knows, because it doesn’t make this clear! Rant over.

I downloaded 0004 file in the hope that it did contain the 0003 updates too. Installed. Rebooted, so that Windows could load these newly updated files as it started up, and ran BF2 again.

I can happily report that this time BF2 was willing to accept the X-Fi settings and that the sound quality is incredible. Sitting at my desk, with my 6.1 surround sound speakers about me it feels as though I’m emersed in the game environment. I can hear computer generated characters moving about behind me. The sound of my character’s feet walking or running on gravel sounds remarkably different to when my character is walking on grass, or tarmac.

BF2 is a game that makes me nervous anyway, it’s an all-action FPS with alot going on. Now there is so much more information from the sound that it makes the game so more immediate and intuitive.

I’m still not very good at it, however.

The answers appeared obvious to me

On the left the Prima Official Star Wars Battlefront II Game Guide, on the right Simple Solution Cat Stain and Odor Remover.

After I took five boxes of rubbish to the recycling centre at our local Tesco, I popped next door to Pets at Home and PC World for a couple of essentials. In both places I was asked questions the answers to which appeared obvious to me.

Pets at Home

I handed over a bottle of Simple Solution Cat Stain and Odor Remover to the woman at the cash desk.

Me: This is great stuff!

Woman: “Really? What do you use it for, … cats?”

Me: [Pausing to stop myself saying something sarcastic.] “Yes. Cats.”

She’s now got me wondering, what other things can I use it for? Does she have recipes?

PC World

The only reason that I got any good at Star Wars Battlefront was because of the Prima Official Game Guide. So I reckoned that the appropriate guide for Star Wars Battlefront II might be similarly useful. So I popped next door (from Pets at Home) to PC World.

At the front of the queue I handed over the book to the woman at the till. She took it and scanned it.

Woman: Is this for home use?

Me: [Pausing to stop myself saying something sarcastic.] Yes. Home use.

How do much I wish that I could have said, “No. No, this is for the first Scottish Episcopal Church All-Clergy Star Wars Battlefront II Online Gaming Expo next month”! It could have been a taxable expense if there was such an event.

SWBF online, pt.2

This evening I thought I’d give Star Wars Battlefront another go online. Except this time I ran the dedicated PC server on the bedroom PC, upstairs and tried to connect to it via Gamespy. And look:

Star Wars Battlefront Potting Shed server on Gamespy

it was listed on Gamespy, for all the world to see. And connect to. If only they had the secret password. My friend James managed to connect. But unfortunately not at the same time as me.

Getting the port, firewall and router settings was the hardest thing. But Yoda’s Help Desk came to the rescue, as did the Gamespy support site.

In other news, Star Wars Battlefront II is now listed on Amazon UK. The release date is now set for Monday 31 October 2005, and this is the cover:

Star Wars Battlefront 2

SWBFII promises to be bigger and better than the original, with space battles, playable Jedi, and more scenes from all six the films, including aboard the ship at the beginning of Episode IV (the very first Star Wars movie).

Okay, I’m now remembering that I’m 33. I’m going to calm down now. Ahem…!