Sunday, January 25, 2015

Model Hovercraft

I was reminded today that I tried once to develop a remote controlled hovercraft for a magazine. Before starting with the electronics, I needed to design something that would fly at all. I ordered two fast, lightweight motors from the UK for counter rotating propellers. I designed a hard skirt. I was very pleased when the hovercraft flew on water, but even with the counter rotating propellers it gyrated. Also, there was interference between the air-flows of the two propellers. While trying to solve the latter problem, the hovercraft suddenly took a dive and sank. And that was that. OBSERVATION: On the Internet there seem to be few remote controlled hovercraft which really work.


I have come across various things in ministry which would be very hard to explain. Here is an example, just as it happened. J., a young man in our congregation, suddenly struggled to breathe. The hospital wouldn't attend to him. He waited there for five hours. He snoozed a while in a chair, then he opened his eyes, and said to his brother: "I want you to settle my affairs. I want you to take instructions." His brother said: "No, don't talk like this! You're talking crazy! You'll be OK!" J. said to him in English -- which was a language foreign to them both: "Listen carefully. God told me this! God!" So his brother took instructions in English. Then J. went into convulsions and died. In the three months before his death, J. contacted any number of people to settle his affairs and say goodbye.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Stricken Text

I did hard work today revising a chapter of philosophy I wrote. It was a short chapter of 1 300 words, yet I ripped out more than a thousand words, and inserted more than a thousand again. Only then did it occur to me to check the editor's comments on my original work. He wrote: "This is very professional stuff!" Well so much for that.

Dung Beetle

Yesterday I spotted this beetle on a branch overhanging an inner city street. It is a white spotted fruit chafer (Mausoleopsis amabilis). Strangely, it is a dung beetle. One would not expect to find a dung beetle on an inner city street. I took it with my now restored Leica. You may click on the photo to enlarge to 300k.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Marks Of Empire

South Africa is filled with marks of empire -- which is, the old British empire. This is a house in the suburb Oranjezicht, in Cape Town. One reads on a nearby electricity pole (at bottom right) the origin of the pole: LONDON. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Audi Test Drive

I test drove an Audi today, as a favour for a friend. I don't even know what kind of an Audi it was. However it was going second-hand for nearly a quarter million. I said it was boring -- by which I meant no doubt that it was solid. And powerful. And comfortable. And quiet. Something that had me confused was a little thing called a finger-brake. I've never come across one before. Apparently it's a thriller if one pulls it at speed. The car will be engulfed in a ball of smoke. Make sure there's no one behind you.

The Power Of We

I have been married for two years to a fine woman who calls herself "a Xhosa child". With this in mind, I continually enter her culture(s). My own greatest struggle in this has been what I have called "the power of we". It is not the same as "the power of we" in European culture: family honour, for instance, or an influential family head. Rather, to put it too simply, the self is gone. If the self is gone, then (to a greater or lesser extent) so too are doors and walls, personal conversations, discreet space, own possessions, private bedrooms, recovery time -- around the clock. On the other hand, if one has a need or a problem, one won't find oneself alone with it. It is "our" problem then, and we are there for you. No, with you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Visitation Vexation

This is about a pair of painful experiences I had re visitation. In my first (major) ministry, a woman stood up in a Church Meeting and said: "The minister never visits!" In fact she was the most-visited (and a much visited) member of the Church! I was caught off guard and didn't respond (I just fumed). In my second (major) ministry, we put checks and balances in place: I regularly ran my visitation programme past the Church Meeting, I set aside special weeks for visitation, I announced them, and put out regular invitations for members to indicate whether they would like me to include them. Then I gave the Church feedback. But again, the visitation accusation came up. Someone asked the Church for a show of hands as to who the minister had visited over the past six months. Of those who were there, it was few.  Yet I had visited as planned, as announced, more days than not. My focus had been special visitation, in crucial areas: "shut-ins", personal crises, newcomers to the Church, inter-Church relations. Again I was caught off guard and didn't respond (I just fumed)! Curiously, we had just received a pile of complaints that Church office-bearers didn't visit. OBSERVATION: What should one do? It is difficult. Greater spiritual preparedness on the part of the minister would have helped, so as to have a kind and ready answer. Also, critics were not acting in good faith. They should have thought twice. As a matter of interest, traditionally visitation is not basic to Congregational ministry. However, I myself regard it as essential. (I snapped the kitten on visitation).

A Thirty-Year Project

The project I completed today in draft (see the previous post) was under development for more than thirty years. I made several attempts at writing it: the first of which more than thirty years ago. Yet they all seemed to stall, from the point of view that they encountered what I considered major conceptual blocks. Two of my attempts were made for professors in the USA, and on a rank-based grading system I scored a C (a middle student) and an A (a top student). What is different with the current attempt is that I could see about a third of the way through that the concepts were now working. OBSERVATION: The next step is to do a sweep of the whole project to see that, in keeping with the Society's aims, it is all "clear to the interested reader".

Finished (For Now)

Today I completed a draft of my New Metaphysics, a project for the "sister site" of the journal of the Philosophical Society of England. I finished one day ahead of schedule. The project today reached 25 000 words, or about the size of a novella. Thanks to editors Martin Cohen and Pierre-Alain Gouanvic for creating the on-line space to develop it. Thanks to Martin Cohen for giving me the special impetus and encouragement to get started. Now come the refinements.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Special Person

Still awaiting the restoration of my Leica, someone happened to give me a seven-year-old Chinese camera. The difference between it and the Leica is not subtle. However, it takes photos. Also, it runs off batteries -- very useful where one cannot use a charger. I took this photo last week of a certain special person with a friend. You may click on it to enlarge. OBSERVATION: The friend (in the background) is an experienced company accountant who has just qualified as a para-legal -- still available before somebody snaps her up. The cap was a Christmas present from me.

Smooth Operator

Not seldom in ministry, I have been in situations where people have needed to respond to very awkward questions (in Afrikaans, to a tameletjie, or sticky toffee). From my experience, the finest answer is always the straight one, even if it is the most difficult one. I would think it is worth a person's risk of being straightforward. Anything else comes across, at best, as revealing a smooth operator -- and as they say, first impressions last. That's my sense, from the outside looking in. OBSERVATION: And the straight answer, in the long run, tends to pour oil on troubled waters, too.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cicada Season

News in Cape Town is that the cicadas are suddenly out. Thousands and thousands of them. One hears their shrill chorus all over mountainside roads, such as the Glen. They are like giant (really giant) fruit-flies. They suck sap from trees, and are eaten by birds and squirrels. In some countries (not ours) they are a delicacy. The photo is not mine -- I don't know which species of cicada is pictured here. OBSERVATION: Not being very clever creatures, they may mistake a human arm for a tree branch, and leave a painful (but harmless) bite.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Images And Iffiness

I took this photo several years ago. It pictures, for me, the ambivalence in South Africa towards photographers. It's a free country, yet photos may often be forbidden -- or both accepted and forbidden in similar situations. One photographer might get a great shot in the heart of a prison, another might not be allowed to photograph a public place. Or, at one hospital I visited (Groote Schuur), camera phones were allowed in, but cameras were impounded. This is the Cape Town Highlanders regiment.

Seminary and Ministry

Today I discussed with a theology graduate the well known problem of theological education vs. ministry practice. My own first great shock was when I was called upon to visit an attractive, young(ish) mother dying of cancer. The cancer had metastasised. I didn't know what to do, or what to say. I was so deeply shocked that I didn't (wouldn't) go back -- but I conducted her funeral service. I remember what she said to me on that one visit. She requested the hymn: "When morning gilds the skies." Twelve times, the hymn repeats: "May Jesus Christ be praised!" OBSERVATION: From my experience, the best kind of practical training is observation, or apprenticeship. (In later ministry, I was able to deal with such situations comfortably).