Monday, May 28, 2007


This week has been a time of supervising a number of projects. We are just about to go live on a site that will help Arab speakers who want to know more about Jesus to study what the Bible says about Him... so I have been checking everything is ready for the launch and then we are trying to set up a Skype conference call to check that everyone involved is happy before it is made live. Trying to co-ordinate 4 people in 3 time zones and 3 continents to approve this has proved somewhat trying and we still haven't had the meeting.

Alongside this I have been supervising our new trainee on a project that will help us monitor all the servers better... and... trying to get someone else working on a mac-mini that is supposed to be sent to Bagdad. But... the mac-mini that was absolutely promised delivery this last Tuesday didn't turn up. Cyprus is part western, part middle eastern so in some ways its not surprising. However, what is surprising is how I solved the problem. I bought one in Egypt, having transferred money to a friend. He bought it and gave it to another friend who was over there and he brought it back, so I went to the airport at 10:30pm yesterday to pick it up from him and hopefully now the project can progress.

I think I should run a competition to see if any of you can guess how many visits to shops, telephone calls, SMS messages, Skype calls and messages I did in order to just buy this one mac-mini.

New Boat & Regatta

A couple of weeks ago a Tornado hit the sailing club destroying my first boat. Because this was the beginning of the season I set about immediately looking for a replacement. Eventually I bought a Wayfarer dinghy. It's old but seaworthy and although it needs some maintenance work I sailed her the day after I bought her last weekend. This is a picture of my first minutes sailing her with Neil, a friend who is a good sailer and there to give guidance if needed. The Wayfarer is one and half times the size of the Mirror and develops much more power. After about 30 minutes we swapped crews to have his 11 year old son as my crew [which has become our normal crewing arrangement].

Oh and yes, the sails are filthy because the boat had not been sailed for a few years!

Last Saturday I took my youngest son and a couple of friends out sailing in her. We had a great time. Later in the day I did a minimal amount of the maintenance needed [changing the main sheet to original centre Wayfarer layout from a somewhat difficult to control end of boom main sheet arrangement for the sailors amongst you] ready for today...

This week in Larnaka is the celebration of Kataklismos, which is a rememberance of the flood when Noah, his sons and animals were saved. So logically I suppose, on the Monday of Kataklismos the sailing club has a regatta where we all sail round to the main Finikoudes sea front of Larnaka. Here's the club group picture I took. There are only two English families in the club, all the rest are Cypriot. The club is sponsored by McDonalds for this, so you can guess where we had lunch! You can probably see the McDonalds t-shirts on some of the members.

Among the flotilla we had three knock downs and a couple of capsizes on the mini-cruise, fortunately we were not one of them. I was sailing very conservatively, I had hurt my back slightly a day or so before and decided that I did not want to practice capsize drill today!

Sailing conservatively meant that there were only two other boats arriving after me on the outward leg and we were the last dinghy back on the return leg. Admittedly the club boats are 470s and Lasers so even if I was sailing hard I could not have caught them up. Anyway it was great fun.

This is the Google Earth map to show our route. The zig-zag at the top is sailing back and forth waiting for the rest of the flotilla. Somehow the GPS lost some of the track so there are gaps. Oh well... interesting anyhow. We sailed 11 nautical miles today.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Panic Stations

The last few weeks have simply flown by. About three weeks ago I had a dream, not the normal dreams that we have but one of those significant dreams that you sense is God speaking to you. The dream seemed to indicate that we would be having more help in the office. At the time there was nothing on the horizon so I put it away wondering if the dream was just a way of God encouraging me.

It was about a week later that I received a phone call offering a short term worker to help with reviewing all the different projects that we are involved with and to help us develop a method for evaluating what we do in the future. This is something that we have wanted to do for some time and made a start on but go nowhere. So come Monday this person started working with us and staying in the guest flat.

About a week later someone at out Friday evening group asked if we could do with some help from a student programmer. So we met with this young man and he started with us the following money. He is being supported from people in the UK and will be with us we hope for 12-18 months.

About a week later a friend said they now had more time available and might it be appropriate for them to help as our administrator... and they will start tomorrow.

Another partner agency has brought over a short-term volunteer from South Africa and he is working with us for a couple of weeks in developing a component for a joint project. The hardware hasn't arrived in time for him to start that so he has been helping us with other work for us.

OK, so with all these extra people around the place why have I titled this 'Panic Stations'? The reason is that yesterday morning I came into the office to find one of our two main servers down, which meant all of our websites were down and all of our radio stations. I rebooted the server remotely and started looking with Peter to see if we could find out why it crashed. While I was doing this the server crashed again.

I contacted the service company for the hardware and the computer restarted... and crashed again. By the end of the day I was very frustrated and sent out an SMS message to about 40 friends around the world saying 'please pray'. Eventually the server came up around midnight... and crashed again at about 6am this morning! We rebooted it and it stayed up for a couple of hours and crashed again... we rebooted and it crashed again... eventually it came up long enough for Peter to look at it and find that it crashed as a result of what was effectively a Denial of Service attack through a fault in one of the websites we host. So we took that site down till the programmers can re-write and fix the problem.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Those of you who read this blog regularly will that I have a weakness to work too hard [some have even remarked on this]. However, I have a hobby which helps me relax and recharge and get closer to God. The hobby is sailing. A couple of years back I bought a second hand Mirror dinghy very cheaply and have been learning to sail. And loving every minute of it!

Only last weekend I had a really great time with sailing around the bay here with the 10 year old son of a friend of ours as my crew. The weekend before I had this lad and my 10 year old nephew as crew. We had a really great time and I was looking forward to sailing again this weekend as the week has been very tiring... we have a couple of new staff members [one short term] and have been supervising them and remotely supervising development in Egypt and... yes it goes on at the normal pace of my life.

Friday morning I woke to see the curtain dragged out of the window and the windows rattling and storm around. It was louder and more violent than any storm I have experienced before. The rain was nothing like rain in the UK, it was kind of like opening a fire hydrant from the sky and letting it rip.

We have had heavy rain before and I was concerned about what was happening at the office as last time some water had come in through the office roof and though I had asked a builder to look at it, he had not yet had time to come. In God's provision one of the two staff members was staying in a guest room at the office and so he got up and moved some of the computers and boxes and boxes of software out of the water pouring down through the ceiling. Roads were flooded... this is what it looked like on one of the roads between the office and our home.

When I got to the office, the french windows from the balcony to my office had blown in and water had also come across the floor of my office. Attached to the balcony is a satellite dish which downloads material off satellite which we then re-encode to upload to the Internet. The dish was no longer pointing at the satellite but at a neighbouring tree. It took a while to re-point the satellite dish correctly and get the radio station re-broadcasting on the Internet.

While I was doing this I had a phone call from a friend of mine saying that a tornado had crashed through the sailing club and although their boat was fortunately undamaged, mine was not so lucky. They had put it back on the trailer, but I was not going to sail her this weekend. So after lunch I drove down to the sailing club with my wife. On the way we saw this caravan that had been about 50 metres away on the beach last weekend now wrecked alongside the road.

My dinghy had also been lifted and blown from one end of the sailing club to the other. My friends had put all the parts together and put it on the trailer, but closer inspection showed it was not going to sail again without extensive work.

The hull had been punctured in many places and almost all the panels would need replacing to sail her again. The number of holes was too extensive to look at just a patch here or there.

Because it had been bashed about so much the fibreglass stitching that holds the panels together had all come adrift and it would be almost impossible to get new fibreglass to take to the old wood even if it were repaired. The Bible has something to say about trying to patch old wine-skins with new. Fireglass to old marine ply is pretty similar!

I had spent the winter stripping down and re-varnishing the boom, gaff, mast, rudder and centreboard. Now the gaff [part of the mast] had been damaged and would need a new gaff. All the buoyancy tanks had been damaged, ripping pins and panels apart.

Some of the structural pieces were also damaged. The boat isn't matchwood, but I don't think it's ever going to sail again as it would be much quicker to build a new one [quicker, mind you, not quick] than trying to repair this one.

So... I am feeling low. Sailing has been my sanity preserver and we are at the start of the sailing season not the end.