Bolts and other bits and bobs 

Ever wonder what a stainless steel bolt looks like when it completely rusts into oblivion?

Well. Now you know. This fell off one of our lifeboats. Makes you feel very secure, right?

This is the latest addition to the AV room:

It’s getting quite full, these days. Well, it has been for YEARS now. Any time we want to change anything, it gets quite major and complicated, trying to shuffle things around. Basically, I was fed up of having our stationary drawer jam because of too many tools inside it, so had the carpenters make us this. Makes me feel all reminiscent of the keyshop. *sigh* good old days.

Here it is, in place. As you can tell, the room isn’t all that tidy, still. Just SO MUCH STUFF! Other additions, the mug hooks on the wall, the per-day form hooks too, and also a removable wall-mount for the fan (which always used to just sit on the floor and get kicked…)

and lastly, we’ve FINALLY got the slot on the door for request forms!

exciting! I’ll post pictures of the opposite side of this amazing slot soon. It’s small, subtle, elegantly engineered and discreet. You’ll love it.



Avoid Sudoku! 

I hardly ever do Sudoku.

But occasionally I fall into temptation, and picked up the following problem:

[4][ ][ ] [ ][ ][3] [ ][9][ ]
[5][1][ ] [ ][4][8] [ ][2][7]
[ ][2][ ] [ ][9][ ] [ ][8][ ]

[ ][4][ ] [3][7][ ] [2][ ][ ]
[7][ ][2] [ ][8][ ] [9][ ][ ]
[ ][ ][6] [ ][1][ ] [ ][5][3]

[ ][ ][7] [8][6][ ] [4][ ][9]
[9][6][ ] [ ][ ][7] [ ][ ][2]
[ ][ ][4] [ ][ ][1] [ ][7][ ]

Apparently DEAD EASY to do. It took me about 2 minutes.

Except the last 4 squares, which are impossible.

I’m almost annoyed enough to almost go learn what the rules for making a sudoku are, and find out which one this particular sudoku has broken.



“I don’t like being a Post-Modernist” 

It sucks.

I’m somewhat tempted to leave the post at that, but feel a little elaboration may be at least polite.

We are finite individuals. We cannot know completely, comprehensively. We can only know in part.

Modernism claims that we can know definately. That our knowing something to be true can be true, and right, and accurate.

I don’t believe that. Our finite, human perspective is so limited, so small, so warped, that how can any one human’s perception be absolutely comprehensively true? It could, in theory, be an absolutely honest viewpoint, but a small, finite, limited and warped honest viewpoint, nevertheless.

So then. Where does that lead us?

Claims of truth being relative.

Counter-claims by modernists that not believing in God as absolute truth absolutely denies you access to Him.

Declarations of nonsensical “Pan-Everythingism” as Francis Shaeffer would call it.

Refutations by absolute logic.

Definitions of logic as equally relative and therefore meaningless.

I dunno.


There is a road, and along the road there are signs pointing along it. Some travellers wear green-tinted glasses and so say “The Signs are Green! Unless You Believe In the True Greenness Of The Signs, You Will Never Reach The Destination!”

Others have red tinted glasses, and so say exactly the same, “The Signs are Red! Unless You Believe In The True Redness Of The Signs, You Will Never Reach The Destination!”

Others wear glasses where the tint is red at the top, green at the bottom, yellow on the left, blue on the right, and purple in the middle. “It depends which way you hold your head!” They say. “Everyone has their own perspective on the signs. There is no absolute colour of the signs.”

I have several sets of glasses, and I can put them both on. Neither of them really fit my nose, but without them my sight is so poor I can barely see anything. Everything looks distorted, confused, and wrong when I wear the glasses, and I don’t want to settle on any one of them.

I want the sign maker to come, take my hand, and lead me to His home: the destination at the end of the road to which the signs point.

I trust Him. I don’t know fully where I’m walking, but maybe that’s enough.


broken stuff 

I don’t like broken stuff.


Our main pulpit/lecturn mix suddenly for no apparent reason completely died. No signal, *nothing* any more.

About half the outputs of the audio distributor. Why? I dunno.

The door request form box (as of about a month. The carpenter finally came around yesterday, and said maybe he’ll get a chance to fix it sometime in a few weeks time…)

Two more of the TVs in our “Main Lounge” auditaurium seem to be going on the blink, just a little.

The main desk connector for the camera control unit doesn’t seem to be able to last longer than about a month. It’s broken again.

The door between our main and forward lounges. This time the carpenters don’t seem to know how to fix it or what to do.

The main stage floodlights dimmer knob has become suddenly wobbly and probably the whole unit needs taking off and fixing.

The port side BOSE speaker is making funny noises. It sounds like it’s bust a cone or something. Fluttery. I need to investigate that as well sometime soon.

The main rack preview monitor is (I think) giving out some kind of weird electrical/magnetic/radio/something interference on to every other video signal in the vicinty. As soon as it’s switched off, a whole bunch of problems go away.

The AV room amplifier/speakers are distorted.

Almost all of the mics seem somewhat wobbly on the ends of all the cables, and occasionally drop out.

For some reason I’ve not been able to get our usual wireless bodypack to connect to the violist’s pickup/bodypack, and so have had to use a SM57 for him for about a month. It always worked before, and I can’t see anything that’s changed. We only ever encounter problems like this during a 10 minute line-check and so don’t have time to fully explore what’s not working.

I’ve only got 3 mostly working DI boxes left.

I’ve got 4 VHS tape players in the rack, because they are all only capable of playing some kinds of VHS tapes correctly.

All of the amps have been dropping out occasionally, randomly.

The book shop sound system is falling apart, I fear. The fan in the amp sounds about as loud as a whole fanroom is supposed to.

The main computer VGA->composite video scan converter is distinctly unhappy, and takes about 10 minutes to turn on.

The computer sound input is *very* noisy. I don’t know why.

I have two wireless mics in the UK for repairs right now. Hopefully they’ll make their way back here in a fixed condition at some point.

The video distributor for the Book Ex screens seems to be glitchy.

All of the jackfield/patchpanels are somewhat … odd. I’m working my way through cleaning them all, but some of them just seem sad and tired. the sockets wiggle about and the connections as glitchy as you would expect.

The folding doors between our port and main lounges seems a bit squint and is now very hard to open or close.

The rubber mats on the starboard side one is equally falling apart.

Our chair broke again today.

The beanbag is more like just a bag now.

All of the music stands are slightly broken.

All of the mic stands are slightly broken.

And that’s just off the top of my head right now.

I’m just plain tired of it all.

I have no training or knowledge about anything. I’m just a headless chicken, running around bleeding all over the place.

And I suck so much at delegation and actually getting other people to get things done, that it feels like nothing is getting done.

I know that’s not true.

I’m just tired and complaining. I should shut up, finish the port shedule, and go to bed.

Oh yes. I just remembered the whole point of this post.

Yeah. Anyway. So, we’ve got so much *stuff*. It’s insane. So many things. We’re incredibly blessed, I guess is the good christian way of saying it. We could do without so much. We don’t, honestly, NEED a lecturn mic. Yes, a mic on a stand next the lecturn looks ugly, but hey, looking good isn’t a need, right? Most of what gets actually spoken through it is boring anyway. And we don’t need non-distorting preview speakers in AV. Just enough to hear “oh yes, there’s sound!”, right? Most of the sound we have to play sounds bad in the first place, so what’s the point of telling just exactly how bad it is? And it doesn’t matter if there are wavey interference lines all over all the TVs, becauase as long as the audience can see at all, anything else is just “nice” but not “needed”?

I dunno. I’m frustrated. I don’t know what is actually needed or what is just nice. I could make most shows happen with just a boom-box, laptop, and kareoke mic. It would sound and look a lot worse than currently, but it would still happen.

So much of the musicians themselves are so undertrained and unarranged, getting better speakers in the ceiling would help a little, but somehow persuading them “y’all don’t actually have to strum every single chord in every single bar in every single song!” would help a lot more…

I’ve lost perspective, I think. I’m working out of what I think I can kind of expect, given the current state of things, but it’s hard to know what stuff is my vision for improvement, what stuff is worth replacing, what parts of the work should be continued, what should be scrapped, etc.

The grass is always greener, though, hey?

If I could actually spend my whole time teaching music theory, I’d wish I could just do easy stuff like fixing mic cables and not have to worry about how to explain syncopation.

Funny. Being human and all.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”


A few days mixing 

You know you’re not going to enjoy the evening when you get told before sound-check “make sure I’m very quiet in the mix, because I’m out of practice”.

That was a few days ago. Today:

Our keyboard output stopped working between soundcheck and performance. We didn’t know until there just was no sound as the musician hit her cue *after* the soloist started singing. We couldn’t do anything in time, eventually we managed to get it working for about half the piece, and they carried on very professionally, but it died again. She left the stage in tears. That really makes you feel crap as a sound-guy.

We then got a SM58 microphone and clamped it to the top of the keyboard’s built in speakers. That worked well enough for the rest of the show.

I hate stuff like that.

It’s fun, showing up at venues, and having comments like “Oh yes, well, all the tweeters are blown, that’s why it sounds bad. We haven’t replaced them yet”. (Well. Thanks for telling us the same day we need them!)

I spent about an hour today trying to figure out the wiring for the venue on shore, it was “broken”. everything held together with tape, wires coming out of the wall without labels. I managed to get some working, and watching the little blue sparks flying around was quite amusing when I was trying to find which speakers were attached to which wires, and which amplifers actually worked… I gave up eventually and just used our own speakers.

I screwed up a lot today. It could have been a much better performance. I didn’t manage to get the compressors hooked up into the system in time, even. And the MC and translator were all over the place with their level. Crying out for compression. Painful, even.

If someone feels like randomly donating something expensive to me/Doulos, I really wouldn’t mind about 4 or 5 of these:

I really need to start playing worst-case-scenario with my people more. I can generally problem solve and get something working “well enough” fast, but they can’t (yet), and I could do so much more, and better, if I could a few arrange things ahead of time, and think in advance, and not do everything by the seat of my pants.

*sigh* So much to work on. So much to do.


TV stuff 

Here’s a conundrum for you.

If you’re not interested in video, then this may be boring as anything for you.

Then again, you might find it facinating.

OK. Here’s the deal. A conference, and it’s Mandarin. The main speaker is American, and speaks no Mandarin whatsoever. So he has a translator. No problem. Now say you have an audience of 300-ish, and are using live video to show the speaker on TVs around the room so people can see. OK, again, no problem. But, since the speaker and the translator decided to stand far apart, if you show a shot wide enough to get them both, they’re so small on screen that it’s totally pointless putting them on screen. Usually, I believe, it’s normal to just go for a close-up of the speaker. So, then, if you have audience who are all old people and probably somewhat hard of hearing, they’ll want to lip-read the translator at least somewhat. So. What to do? Cutting back and forth between two cameras is too much work, and tiring, and probably more annoying to watch than anything else.

I tried to be a bit clever and “TVish” this time, but I still am not totally pleased with it.
If the speaker and translator decide to move around a lot, remote cameras just will not cut it.




Can you fix this? 

“We dropped this. I think it’s broken.”
“Can you fix this please?”

Long time no update 

Hi Blog.

Long time no update, I blame I.T. and specifically I blame Blip, who works in I.T. I don’t blame her because it’s probably her fault, but because she deserves it. I can’t access blogspot, so have to go back to the old email-mum-with-stuff-to-blog method.


So. Many changes in the last few months.

I went on break for a week last port in Manila. Yes, Manila again. So I’ve been there 3 times now, total of 3 months. Quite cool. Anyway, we only managed to actually get to where we wanted to go for 2 days of the week of shore-leave, but it was so peaceful there. We went up to the mountains, near a place called Taal where there’s a volcano and so on.

Back on the ship, AV wise, I’ve been doing a bit more guerrilla carpentry.

Here’s our laptop/workstation. Things to note: the amazing wall-mount for the screen. Made from 100% recyclable natural products. Also, the big screen is showing mac OS. This is from Ant’s mac mini which is also hidden in the shot. The laptop is the A/V laptop, and running windows. The big screen can also show the A/V second screen quite happily, just by pressing a button on the screen. So. Two computers, but only one mouse and keyboard? Yep! Thanks to the amazing “Synergy” software, you can scroll the mouse off the left of the laptop screen and it jumps onto the mac, and vice versa! Very cool.

We had a Jazz recording session last monday, our amazing sax player just left the ship, so before he went we spent a whole afternoon recording with the band, and then had an evening for the ship’s company to come and hang out while the band jammed in a quiet atmosphere. This is the old 4 channel data minidisk recorder that we found in a closet and used for recording each channel individually as well as the main mix on the computer.

And team changes. Here’s one of the mainstays of the AV team, who just left yesterday. She’s finished her commitment on Doulos, and has gone back to Europe. I’ll miss her a lot. She’s American. On the team currently we have a Swedish guy, two German lunatic men, an American videographer dude, or cat, or whatever historical term of endearment he currently is using, one strapping British lad who’s currently in the UK for 2 months cross-training/work with the team there (like I did last year) and me.

Notice anything? Yep. All Westerners, and all guys. In a sense, that’s pretty understandable. Of the kinds of people who join the ship, the western guys tend to be the group who are into tech/arts. But, it’s also quite unbalanced. So in a week’s time, we’ll have a new member of the team, a Korean lady! She’s worked as videographer in a big church in Korea for several years, so that’s quite exciting. Both of the Germans will be leaving at the end of this port, around the 30th, and the Brit will be coming back. So we’ll be somewhat smaller again, hopefully we’ll get someone else soon, but who knows.

Anyway. It’s a time of changes. I’m excited, and hope I can use these changes to bring better changes throughout the whole team and work we do.

And finally.

This is proof that the evil sock monster exists. We put all our underwear into bags before it goes to laundry, to keep it together and not let anything get lost, and yet, somehow, I’ve got here 7 – yes, count them – 7 non-matching socks.

What the heck?!



Part 2 

OK. So finally I’m getting around to an explanation of the previous post.

My current – I’d use the word dialemma, but it’s not. It’s more a trilemma or quintalemma or something – is (somewhat) about copyright. The laws are fairly complex as what we’re doing here is basically a live theatre venue, church, theatre company, video, dance and creative arts training and production centre, bible-school, and a few other things too. The people who were supposed to be taking care of the whole copyright thing have been doing a really poor – or at least misled – job for a number of years now, either that or else no-one ever bothered even trying to figure out what taking care of it really meant.

We’re slowly getting there, I think, I hope. But currently I find myself saying more and more “no, sorry, you can’t do that, that’s illegal”, without really having much viable alternative to offer.

And that sucks.

Part of the thing is what is copyright law really saying?

“This is mine, for me, and not for you, or for God. It’s mine. Shove off.”

Which people object to, obviously. Thus an argument often raised is

“Well, the artist who made this is a Christian, and so wants to glorify God, right, and we’re trying to glorify Him too by using it, so we’re fine to copy and edit it…”
Well. If the artist wanted you to just use it for whatever you want without checking with them first, then they wouldn’t have put “Copyright 2003. For personal home use only. All rights Reserved” on it…

It gets worse with the internet.

“Hey, my pastor just sent me this really cool video I want to show in the programme tomorrow!”

“Well. The music backing to it I recognise, it’s a song by Hillsong UK, and there is no copyright notice anywhere in the clip at all, one of those opening still-pictures you can see has part of a copyright label in the corner, but half cropped out, so we can safely assume that many of the images are taken uncredited from the internet, and even the one you can half read it’s web address isn’t being credited properly. That interview clip with the kids outside the theatre is almost certainly just filmed without their parents consent, and you want to show this clip to paying public?”

“But they played it at my church last week!”


“So it must be alright!”


“What can we do instead?”


So now the whole issue of making our own material. Last week a couple of the programme staff went out with a camera and asked a bunch of random people on the street questions, then asked me how to edit it (for 2 days later). So I kind of pulled stuff together, found an old recording of a couple on-board musicians jamming which kind of fit.

The end result wasn’t great. In any sense. It shouldn’t even have passed my own quality control.

Nevertheless, I’m trying to get the programme staff to come to us, the AV team, when they want multimedia materials, rather than them spending hours and hours making them themselves improperly, and then asking us to either fix it, or show it anyway.

Trying to build up relationships and trust and the kinds of working interaction I believe is vital for where we MUST go.


A big part of me wants to scrap using most video stuff altogether, as most of what we have, or can do, sucks. I want to have a very high standard, and just drop anything that fails to reach the bar.

But I want to do that with other live programme material too. Skits, songs, dramas, sermons, personal stories (yes, most personal “testimonies” suck. It’s not that the people telling it have anything wrong with them. But they suck at telling it.).

So, if we want to “compete” in the world of mass <-> mass media (to coin a phrase), then we have to have some standards. Most of the visible world seems to not care tuppence for copyright, and is happy enough to disregard it on every corner.

Likewise for many issues of video “quality”. Framing (putting peoples faces (and everything else) in the correct size/ratio in the right part of the screen), using tripods, cutting “with” rather than “without” the backing music, colour correction, audio normalising, S/N, compression, codecs, details, details, details.

We (in both terms of the ship, and the world), seem to have become very used to absolute crap video production quality, and to absolute crap copyright and control quality. Many argue that we should join in the mass production of media as publicity from us. I’ve thought about it myself, it would be very cool to have weekly video “podcasts” from the Doulos.

But can we get the video quality (including copyright) sorted out and good enough to actually DO this at a “good” level?

And production of videos for on board? Even showing of videos on board?

Is my refusing to show a video because it (to me) looks shoddy just interlectual snobbery due to some small background in multimedia?

Is my refusing to show a video because it breaks copyright me being pigheaded and daft over laws which (honestly), no-one in the room watching cares about?

So, personal integrity, and God.

Does God care if we break the law?

I think so.

Does God care if we show crap videos?

I think so too.

“But it’s powerful!”

So are many things. I don’t think it’s stretching the truth to say a vast majority of the church and their spirituality would benefit from being more relaxed, but we’re not going to start distributing tranqulisers.



“The Good is often the greatest enemy of the Best.” – Maxwell
“If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable” – Proverbs 28:9

Which is better, to spend ones time sitting with street kids loving them and giving them hope for the future, or sitting in an office, wading through tedious documents that it’s actually your duty to understand?

Which is more worthy, to slog away at understanding a law you know that 99% of people really care nothing about, nor even believe in, enforcing it over others and creating unheaval and more work and stress for all of them, or to spend time creatively working on more fun and generally well-recognised projects?

How do you find motivation to inconvienence yourself and others to a phenomincal degree, appearing to red-light and be negative to all the other people you want to encourage and help, in order to fulfil a law you don’t even agree with yourself?

For the Christians in mainline western churches:

If your country declared it illegal to meet in groups larger than 15, would you keep meeting
as normal in defiance of the government and protest the loss of your “rights”, or find a way to keep “doing” church and fulfilling the call of the bible within the constraints of the law?

Which is more important: Comfortably doing what you’re used to, or uncomfortably denying yourself in order to be a righteous and unimpeachable testimony?