Monday, 26 January 2009

Thankfulness and Positivity

As we rolled into 2009, I'd already been preparing to start my "Thankfulness Diary", which is a cross between a prayer diary (inspired by Bill Hybels "Too Busy not to Pray") and a focus on that for which I'm thankful on a daily basis. I often like to get things "right" and both my thankfulness diary and this blogs are areas in which I want to play and see where the path takes me (in a similar way to how I prefer to travel!), as for paid work it's a lot more focused, but without that space for creativity, no new thinking will emerge.

Thankfulness Diary
I bought an A4 page-to-a-day diary (and would you believe how long it took to find one which had full pages for Saturday/Sunday as well as weekdays, finally, a £1 shop!), and either in the morning or the evening I combine my chapter of Bible reading with some notes from The Word for Today and then I let myself at it. Text is still my primary medium, but I let myself at the scribbled drawings too, and who knows what else might come to mind as I relax into it more!

Whether to go morning or evening depends on my mood, and each has different benefits. In the morning set off for the day with a particular spring in the step, in the evening can really think back over what has happened on that particular day. 

I have noticed a difference as with "the current economic climate", the fact I'm living out of a suitcase in a friend's spare room whilst job-hunting I could just focus on the the mountains to climb, but instead am concentrating on a step at a time (and looking back at the steps already taken) as I'm incredibly grateful that I do have a roof over my head, I'm picking up some bit-work which all adds to the portfolio, and there's space for some creative thinking, further learning whilst I move through the process.

It's not an "instant fix", and it certainly doesn't mean walking around on (or in!) a cloud of hot air all day. A bad news story, e.g. "more jobs lost" can still knock you sideways, but looking back at all the things there are to be thankful, and looking at it within the bigger picture wins the battle.. eventually!

I wondered if anyone had set up a positivity blog to counteract the current negative thinking, particularly focusing on positive news stories. Not found one like that, but the first entry on Google does have a lot of tips for creating a positive mindset for yourself, and in fact offers a specific "Positivity Challenge" which chimes with the above.

Linking Note
To note, if you wish to create a link to a long URL (I'm especially thinking if you want to create a posting in Twitter) use Tiny URL to create a short URL which doesn't break-up in emails, or use up all that space.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A New President

Never have so many watched one global event with so much attention. What more needs to be said, right now Barack Obama is giving a hard speech on the current crisis being a result of greed... so what comes next?! 

Chat Acronyms and Text Shorthand

LOL: "Laugh out Loud"... I thought lots of people were sending me "lots of love" when I first received this! 

HTH: "Hope this helps"... 2 years later, and thinking I was pretty savvy with the text speak, I had to look this simple one up too! 

If you're wondering about the latest online lingo, checkout:, there's a whole lot more there than I thought there would be!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

We Aim to Please

A whole heap of my PhD was about how you persuade people to change behaviour for the public good, and I've always thought this sign (in the toilets at Otford Manor) is particularly good!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Eclecticism in action

Well, I said that this blog was going to be an eclectic mix. I thought I'd check out my ex-housemate Gemma Shepherd to see which radio station she was now producing on, and was chuffed to see that she's now presenting... all about going for your dreams, and working your way through the not-so-good stages to get where you want to be!! Gemma, you're an inspiration!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Christianity and Contemporary Culture

Just a few things I've seen recently


Damaris Culturewatch
Culturewatch helps you explore the message behind the media

London Institute of Contemporary Christianity
Working to equip Christians to engage biblically and relevantly with the issues they face, including Work, Capitalism, Youth Culture, Media and Communication - helping you to make a difference, where you are.

"The Book", The New Testament, Magazine Style
A 300 page glossy magazine full of modern, artsy pictures with the new testament written in book form. The pictures range from beautiful to provocative, making the reader want to hunt down the passage the picture is related to. Created by Dag Soederberg, a Swedish businessmen, he says his mission was not “from God” and that he is “not particularly religious”. Contrary to what one may think, he is not a Christian. He says “It’s the most sold book in the world, but the least known. I want to take it off the shelves and put it on the coffee table”

Christian Hymn makes it onto American Idol

Saturday, 10 January 2009

I didn't know Westlife could be so profound...

Westlife Lyrics: "What I Want is What I've got"

All that I want in my life,
is the feeling of peace,
deep within me truly

I took a chance,
I let go,
I promised myself,
that it wouldn't scare me,
Miracles appear i know,
Now i can see it show,
Cause i,

Found out what i dreamt of,
and i looked it up,
At this very moment,
what i want is what i've got,
Found out what was missing,
and i looked it up,
And at this very moment,
what i want is what i've got,

Life is too short to hold back,
I won't live in the past,

being lonely now i know,
This is the time of my life,
Yes i'm sure,
what i want is what i've got......

Job Centre Experience

Things went from humbling to comic. Gill's circumstances did not fit any of the boxes on the official's computer screen. And if she defied classification she could not exist. “Tell me what your job was and I'll do a job search for you,” said the official. “Operations director for a Footsie plc,” said Gill. “It's not coming up with anything. What about ‘area manager'?” “Yes,” sighed my friend, by this time a broken woman, “area manager will do.” (The Times, 30 December 2008)

Gill, felt strongly enough about the process to write to Harriet Harman, but has not received a reply. “I amuse myself thinking, what if it had been her? If they did a job search for her - Cabinet minister or secretary of state - they'd probably come up with cabinet maker or office secretary.

It's good to laugh in times of distress, and this article, which my mum has just sent me in the post, did that! Having taken voluntary redundancy in December 2006, I chose to go travelling, in the full expectation that (as always before), I would be able to get a job on my return, and preferably this time, it would be a more fulfilling job. On return from round-the-world travels, I was then offered the summer season to work with Oak Hall, which was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

On returning back to the UK, I found I'd walked right slap-back into the middle of the credit crunch and things were going to be be maybe a little different, so, in order to ensure the continuity of my National Insurance coverage (why was I worried about that, I'd not paid them for the previous 2 years), I "signed on". Fully expecting, as my friends had, to be offered 13 weeks in which to find an appropriate professional job, utilising my academic experience and web skills, I was told that as I hadn't been in that kind of field recently, I would have to go for ANYTHING, even though on my first job application I'd received an interview and had been the second choice for the role! The experience was one of the least favourite experiences of my life, but I decided that if I was going to have to apply for work simply to pay the bills, then I should at least look to do so in an area where I had friends - Winchester! 

Moving my sign-on process to Winchester was a much pleasanter experience, so they are not all like this! With another interview in the pipeline, and having done some freelance web work (see web-project) in the meantime, the parameters were changed, and 13 weeks were accordingly awarded! With further web-work offered this week, I've officially been signed-off for this week, with the expectation that I'll need to go through the rapid reclaim process when this short-term project expires. With another web project agreed, and other possibilities in the pipe-line from the temping agencies, hopefully I won't need to go through the process again, but I will as necessary, and it's good life-experience to aid in the setting up of my business as a life-coach, for which I will be trained by March 2009.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Winchester Holistics

Winchester Holistics is a holistic myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, hotstone massage, stretching and reflexology service based in Winchester, Hampshire (UK), providing complementary therapies. The site was created under the banner of my business MyDesigna, we initially created a site for Reflexive Feet in early 2007, but decided that New Year 2009 was time for a fresh look. I discussed the needs of the site with Tina Hitchens, holistic therapy practitioner and owner of Winchester Holistics (which we decided to rebrand as Tina has developed a wider range of therapeutic skills than reflexology and hot stone massage, which was the initial business). I then redesigned the site, purchased the images from StockXPERT, researched and wrote up new content. There's still a bit more to do, but this site is already SO much better than the previous one, we can polish it off as time goes on... and to be honest, is a website ever completely finished?!

I can't believe it's not Facebook

I love meeting new people, and I love making connections, therefore networking must be the thing for me, right? If I'm unconsciously networking, that's works, but at some point we need to shift to consciously networking, and I'm looking to ways to do this. 

I have used Facebook for online networking since end of 2006, although I didn't really get into it until about April 2007, since when I have used it quite a lot. Great for keeping in contact with people you meet on travels, especially guests from my Oak Hall trips. More and more people are joining in, it's not just for the 'youngsters' as it was seen in the early days! The concept of friendship, however, is an interesting one, and one for further debate!

University of Winchester
So in returning to Winchester, the University is the obvious place for me to hang out and renew my connections. I've worked for many different departments on and off since I first came to the University in 1994, and have left a trail of positive feedback behind me, which I'm pleased to see! I have gained all of my work through the University by checking in with contacts I already know, and for now it's generated a few things, including current work on the 'Learning' section of the website. Interestingly, depending on when you see this, you could see the 'before' version, the mid-process "a few bits have been edited" or the streamlined and re-ordered, jazzed-up version... interesting that the web never sits still.

Business Networking
On Tuesday I went to my first ever formal networking event at Business Networking Basingstoke. I was encouraged to go as they were doing "What type of Gem are you" personality testing... and I find any kind of personality testing fascinating. They help you understand and accept yourself, and also other people. In this context the idea was to understand who you may be selling to:

Sapphires are stimulating, enthusiastic, and on-the-go people. They like fun, being the center of attention, and receiving tons of recognition. Enjoying people, influencing others' decisions, and being popular is their style. Skip the details with them, just make the buying process easy, fun, and spontaneous.

Rubies are risk takers, go-getters, and like challenges. They like to win, be right, and are fast paced. They need control, authority, and thrive on commission. Their bottom-line approach helps them make quick buying decisions. Sellers, be prepared!

Pearls are patient, relational, and incredibly harmonious. The quality time they spend with others is seen as supportive. Their relationships are longstanding and oriented to helping the team. Don't push them from their low-key approach, or your sales style will overwhelm and scare them away.

Emeralds are effective, thorough, and detail-oriented. Their behavior of following rules, collecting data, and completing tasks pushes them toward excellence. These are the detail people who need to carefully conduct their research before making a buying decision.

Thanks to Business Know-How

It can sometimes take a while to work out which you are! I put myself in the Sapphire group, but I also have strong affiliations with the Rubies! We're all a bit of everything, but Emerald is definitely the one I have least affiliation, although I work methodically through websites/projects (the challenge to complete) and enjoy creating structure out of a mess (a challenge to create order?)!

Two other Basingstoke networking events were drawn to my attention through this event, the Athena Network and Ladies Who Latte. Looking for a Winchester event, I then came across: OutThere (which uses Facebook style social networking from Ning), so there clearly are lots of options out there!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

“There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

"The slogan itself is a great discussion starter. Telling someone "there's probably no God" is a bit like telling them that they've probably remembered to lock their front door. It creates the doubt that they might not have done so.”

Read more on Christian Today

Science can't explain the big bang - there is still scope for a creator

We should not dismiss the concept of intelligent-design lessons in school, says Thomas Crowley
The Guardian, Tuesday 6 January 2009 

You reported a recent poll which indicates about 25% of UK teachers support the teaching of creationism in secondary school science courses (Would you Adam and Eve it? Quarter of science teachers would teach creationism, 23 December). In a sidebar, Professor Richard Dawkins states that it would be a "national disgrace" if such a high percentage of teachers believe this, adding that the teachers must be either "stupid" or "ignorant".

But an important point of confusion involves the poor use of the term "creationism" in the original poll question: "Alongside the theory of evolution and the big bang theory, creationism should be taught in science lessons." The question is ambiguous because there are at least two interpretations of "creationism".

A "hard" definition is that the Earth is about 6,000 years old and that God created man and all the other creatures as in the Book of Genesis. This definition is out of line with virtually all scientific evidence and cannot fit in a science course. Sir Michael Reiss says: "Some students have creationist beliefs. The task of those who teach science is ... to treat such students with respect". I agree - if for no other reason than that sneering sarcasm almost never changes someone's mind.

But a softer definition of creationism is not as easily dismissed. Although science can state a great deal about what followed after the big bang, it cannot in fact explain how "something" (the energy of the universe compressed into a volume the size of a golf ball) arose from nothing beforehand.

This yawning logical gap leaves open the possibility that something else may be going on. The history of life is consistent with Darwinian evolution, although life's increasing complexity - including the very recent appearance of modern man - is also consistent with (but not proof of) the possibility of some special creative agent existing.

A further point of confusion is that "intelligent design" - again a term not properly clarified in the article (or apparently in government guidelines) - is not just a figment of Christian fundamentalist thought. It is embedded in any Christian religion that continues to treat the promise of a messiah, the incarnation and the resurrection as historical fact (the reasoning being that, if God is responsible for creating the big bang, then the incarnation and resurrection would be child's play by comparison).

This could be used to make a case against outright dismissal of the concept of creationism and intelligent design in the science classroom. However, if included at all, it should still take only a small amount of total class time to discuss. And it is essential for any teacher to point out that, even if "soft creationism" and "intelligent design" are true, they cannot be considered science until they make predictions that can be falsified.

But as long as science cannot explain how our universe evolved from nothing, scientists should not be so quick to dismiss the "soft form" of creationism. And the subject certainly does not warrant arrogance from those who seem to think that scientific materialism is the only logical option for the 21st century.

• Thomas Crowley is a professor of geosciences at the University of Edinburgh and has previously taught evolution in a US university with many fundamentalist students.

The Guardian, 6th December

Monday, 5 January 2009

Wisdom from Bill Gates

When questioned about his incredible success, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, offered these ten insights to anyone starting out. They are worth considering:
  1. Life isn't fair - get used to it
  2. The world doesn't care about your self-esteem; it expects you to accomplish something before feeling good about yourself
  3. You won't make $60K a year right out of school, or be a vice president with a cell phone. You have to earn it
  4. Do you think your teacher is tough? Wait till you have a boss - he's not tenured
  5. Flipping burgers isn't beneath you; your grandparents called it opportunity
  6. Your parents weren't always boring; it came from feeding you, cleaning your clothes and paying your bills. So before you rush out to save the rain forest from the 'parasites' of your parents' generation, try delousing your own closet
  7. Some schools may have abolished winners and losers, but life hasn't. They may have eradicated 'failing grades' and given you as long as you want to get the right answer. This bears no resemblance to reality
  8. Life isn't divided into semesters. You don't get summers off. Employers aren't interested in helping you 'find yourself;' you do that on your own time
  9. Unlike television, real people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to work
  10. Be nice to nerds; chances are, you'll end up working for one someday!

The Bible says: 'Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.' 'The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied' (Proverbs 13:4 NIV). No shortcuts; you've got to work for it!

Taken from: UCB: Word for Today  (29 December)

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Careers: General Sites

So, New Year is over, companies should speed up those job adverts (although of course all those people who've reassessed things over Christmas will be back on the hunt too)... so let's identify some of the good general job-hunting sites (most of these have been sending me job-search emails on a regular basis for the last couple of months, yielding some decent jobs):
Whilst travelling, I was continually asked that question "where do you come from?"... well.. that can be complicated! I grew up in Sussex, I studied/lived in Winchester for 10.5 years (and consider it my adopted home), then I lived in Manchester for 1.5 years before redundancy gave the option of travelling, where I made my official base with parents who had now moved to Suffolk. Suffolk's too remote for me, great for a retreat, but Winchester is definitely the place I'd still choose to make my home... so places to look for local jobs:

I'm sure there's going to be more information to add to both categories!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

The Challenge of Daily Bible Readings

OK, it was a resolution I made last summer, challenged by Alastair McKenna to try and read the Bible more regularly. On my RTW travels, this didn't really happen, but I had lots of time out to think and check out God's creation. Once I hooked up with Oak Hall for this summer, again with Alastair on my first trip, I decided I'd go for the 'Bible in a Year' option. I tried using one of the plans where you jump around the Bible, combined with my study Bible, but I got bogged down. There's plenty of those kind of options on Amazon. Whilst at the Manor (Oak Hall), someone left 'The Message' in my pigeon hole in August, and I challenged myself to read one chapter per day (more if I wished), and about 95% of the time this is happening, so I'm slowly getting there... result!

Online Helps
I've found it quite helpful to have some daily readings come in.

Seeds of the Kingdom
Written by staff from Ellel Ministries, this short daily devotional provides a verse or 2 from the Bible, and then a commentary, which is usually quite a thought-provoking but practical focus for the day, plus a brief prayer.

What did they say today about New Year's Resolutions?
But what would happen if all believers approached the New Year with a different question and asked God what were His plans for them? And then we spent some time with God waiting on Him so that we could listen to His still small voice? We would then have fresh vision for the year ahead - and if it is vision from Him then we wouldn\'t run out of soulish energy in no time at all, but we would discover His sustaining power, enabling us to press on toward the goal He has put before us.

Word Live
Written by Scripture Union whose aim is "Using the Bible to inspire children, young people and adults to know God."I got rather overwhelmed by this as it seemed quite long, but this is designed to offer options, rather than necessarily working your way through the whole-thing, and offers a multi-media engagement with the Bible:
  • Read the translation you prefer
  • Listen to music and podcasts
  • Meditate with images and video
  • Dig deeper into further Bible study
  • Use WordLive on the move, whenever and wherever
What did they say today to welcome in the New Year?
A poem by Samuel Johnson: 1709–1794 to highlight that a new year is always an opportunity for a fresh start. Our God is a God of new beginnings.
Almighty God,
by whose mercy my life has been
yet prolonged to another year,
grant that thy mercy may not be in vain.

Let not my years be multiplied to increase my guilt,
but as age advances,
let me become more pure in my thoughts, more regular in my desires, and more obedient to thy laws.
Let not the cares of the world distract me, nor the evils of age overwhelm me. But continue and increase thy loving kindness towards me,
and when thou shalt call me hence,
receive me to everlasting happiness,
for the sake of Jesus Christ,
our Lord.

A short Bible passage arrives in your inbox each morning, with further information available online if you so choose to click through (for a variety of translations and languages). The aim of E-Word is to set up a good daily habit and understand God's plan for your life. Also included in your e-mail message is a Christian Thought for the Day, words of wisdom from Charles H. Spurgeon, and a short Sermon Snippet. The on-line edition also includes direct access links to today's most popular on-line devotionals in text and audio formats.

What was Spurgeon's thought for the day today?
"I believe we must either go forward, or we must fall. The rule is in Christian life, if we do not bring forth fruit unto the Lord our God, we shall lose even our leaves, and stand like a winter's tree, bare and withered."

All of them have subscription options so they arrive as a little prompt in your inbox. I'm sure there's lots of others, but these are the ones I've used!