Friday, 1 September 2017

How Not to Leave The [Imaginary] Art Club

This is a story that is not true. Here goes. I am a member of The Art Club (as it happens, I am not regarding a similar group, but let's assume I am). It costs sixty pounds a year (seventy euros and falling) and then paying the models is effectively another sixty pounds a year and then there is the cost of materials. For this I get to paint among a number of people, and join in ad-hoc events and get to enter exhibitions and via voting make policy decisions.

However, I've never liked the group, not really, due to my imagined background of apparent self-sufficiency, and after a long membership I have decided to leave. However, The Art Club is a fact on the ground, and it arranges models and venues and has these exhibitions each year.

Still interested in being an artist, one option is to crash out. I would have to find my own models and venues and see if I can get into various ad-hoc exhibitions. I am not allowed to arrange these until I cease to be a member. Now they think I am a decent artist and would like me involved, but realise I do want to leave. After all, I've said so for over a year now.

So we have started to negotiate a withdrawal that will hopefully be practical, whilst clearly The Art Club wants to uphold its own future, membership and events, and why one should join it for the benefits of membership.

Meanwhile there is a complication that I have a friend in The Art Club with whom I wish to continue to paint. We joined at the same time. We used to argue a lot, but now we are very friendly, and we must keep this friendship - and yet I am withdrawing and he is not. How can we remain artistic friends, when his art benefits from all that The Art Club does? He is going nowhere because being a member has defined the direction of his art.

Not wishing to crash out, and lose important access to models and venues plus exhibitions, there is an option of associate membership. It costs to have these venues to paint or draw the models, and there are these model contacts, and it costs to join in with arranged exhibitions. But friends who dislike The Art Club say that to join these specifically is pretty much the same as being in the Art Club, and the payment in is just about as much. The Committee still decides what I'll end up doing, and the rules to obey, but I'll no longer vote.

So I ask The Art Club to be "imaginative". Using all the insights and arrangements of The Art Club, I will nevertheless call the same "My Art Club" and ask it to be recognised by The Art Club. Payment might be nothing or perhaps minimal to The Art Club, and yet the benefits seem rather the same. Being the same, but different, I can paint along with my friend.

Understandably, The Art Club says we can't have individual painters picking and choosing like this. You are either in the club or your are not. The Art Club negotiator asks, "Do you want to leave or not? Why do you want to leave and yet things remain the same? We have everything set up here and a Committee to rule on it." Meanwhile one of The Art Club's leading members says my proposals sound: "like someone wanting to join in the near future, not leave."

My proposals are a "fantasy island", they say, because I want to paint their models and use their venues, and yet go out and get my own models and my own venues (unlike The Art Club members). As for exhibitions, I will always join in the exhibition with my painting friend, but not necessarily other exhibitions, although I can, I argue, and yet will add in my own exhibitions - should I find any.

While this flexible in and out is being arranged and set up - my club that is like their club - we will have a transition of flexible withdrawal from their club.

Obviously I am told that this is not on. Anyhow, meantime, I claim that the talks are making progress, The Art Club instead asks for clarity given the known constraints, and I contact the local media to back me up by slurring The Art Club for being "rigid".

Meanwhile I have a different and as yet inactive advisor, who hints that for a transition period I simply stay with The Art Club's venues and models, and indeed its exhibitions. This will be the specific arrangement so I no longer vote for or sit on the Committee. I do this for a transition period - "as long as necessary and as short as possible" - which presumably involves 'crashing out' at some point in the future, being unable to arrange models, venues and exhibitions while having The Art Club arrangements in place.

Increasingly friends ask why, if I want to paint models, have good venues and enter in exhibitions, I don't stay in The Art Club after all.

As the time runs out for talking, The Art Club says it is fed up with such talking when what I want is so indecisive. It won't extend negotiating for negotiating's sake, so either leave and there will be solicitors' letters on costs to pay, or stay, or stay and this time join in fully and properly.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Bye to Free Hosting

Technology gets so complicated! Hosting websites can be even more complicated and frustrating: it's a constant learning curve. This is the story of the Website.

My website started in 1998. That was its first page, and it peaked at some 1800 .html and .pdf pages. For a long time, it was on Freeserve (remember that?) and FreeUK using dial up. There were many accounts and the website had many 'absolute links' to transfer between accounts and act as a whole. After some time I dropped Freeserve and everything went via FreeUK, and indeed I put many websites I made for others on FreeUK. I knew its File Transfer Protocol drill, the means by which files are uploaded.

I needed multiple accounts because each one had limited website holding capacity. You were allowed to have as many accounts as you liked, so long as each was maintained through use of each one's specific dial up. I could reach all the FreeUK accounts through any of its dial ups, but I had to use them all to keep the website going.

Basically a website is made with files that interlink within a folder and subfolders. When this is uploaded the very same structure must be created and files uploaded. You test it on your computer, that all the links work, and then upload, and then all should work with the website as created that comes down from online.

 During this period of growth I purchased - a name used by some in a Unitarian progressive faction. It also suited my personal outlook. I have retained this name ever since. I have always used to purchase and maintain ownership. You go through a third party like this to secure a name from Nominet.

Along came broadband, always live and active, unlike dial up, but frankly the price of having broadband web-hosting where I was on dial up was prohibitive. Then came along a very neat solution, better than anything. Dropbox. Dropbox had plenty of free capacity for my website, but what was even better was its folders. Once Dropbox was installed, a folder and all those within it and below it had an automatic file transfer. What this meant was no need for any FTP work using a special program. All I needed to know was the Dropbox identity for the index.html at the top of the website structure. Then, at I did a transfer of the pluralist name to that Dropbox index.html address. The index.html always links throughout the website: on my website it is a frames page (yes, I still use frames) from which all else appears on that arrangement, with separate pages for large images and presentations.

As a result all the absolute links (full URLs) had to be changed. Folders on different FreeUK accounts with the same name, but needed absolute links specifying FreeUK account hosting, could be combined. All these named links became relative, that is within the structure only. On Dropbox, my website became unified.

And then, in 2016 Dropbox changed its approach. It determined that it would be for file-sharing only. The way it did this was to end displaying webpages as webpages - an HTML page would only be shown as its code. Already Dropbox was becoming restrictive, but as an early customer I retained abilities that new customers could not achieve. Not without paying. Even then the whole policy was for future file-sharing only.

Other file-sharers were as strict and stricter regarding webpage non-display: basically, Dropbox was catching up in making the distinction between file-sharing and web hosting.

As a result I had to find a web-hosting company and return to using FTP programs. Indeed I had to do this for a number of small websites under my creation and continued influence.

One I settled on was, and this looked good as a free provision for small and educational websites (mine is educational with religious plus personal). Indeed I did something new: I transferred the DNS to this provider and this meant for the first time the was the name that defined all pages: previously acted as a ghost name that covered Dropbox: individual pages and released frames might show the Dropbox URL instead. Now I had learnt how to get a pure name.

Then one day I uploaded a file and it was refused. Another FTP program told me the server was full. Although email contact support was not available on the free account, I did ignore that and they did reply, suggesting I upgrade and pay. But they also moved my website to another server - it instantly filled up. Now, apparently, they guaranteed that a paid account would not fill up, but I made the point that this gave no confidence. Notices appeared on their website that servers can fill up and should upgrade. So I argued that if they cannot provide a reliable free service, they should not, and to their credit if you go on to Hostinger now they do not offer a free service any more, even to educational sites.

So I recovered the DNS from Hostinger and put it back to easily and went with a redirect to 5gbfree. This meant ghosting again and the 5gbfree website name would appear on some separated pages. I then discovered only after a few months what was already in online comments: that after a while this just chucks you off. I was unable to upload and although I could see my website this also disappeared. If I'd read it more carefully it says 5gbfree is for small and temporary websites. Ah.

I found another free one but it stuck its name on every page, and it turned out to be Hostinger based anyway. So Hostinger retains a free element, one that has been around a while. Now one can guess what might happen there. Then I found a German firm that looked all the better, except it did not allow me to upload .ZIP or .MP3 files. Now I have a few to illustrate edited hymns, and ZIPs are for archiving unusual formats (e.g. a .BMP image file).

Now the solution to this was to edit the pages linking to .MP3 and .ZIP files: get them via Dropbox! The links would go to specific Dropbox presentations of these files (how they do it) - but that would be acceptable.

But the obvious thing was to secure a proper relationship with a hosting company, and that means paying. My website is just under 600 mb, so it comes within the 1 gb limit of Easily's basic Linux server service. Now I know that Linux means Unix and all it means is strict adherence to lower case and upper case - best to maintain lower case. Most servers are Unix. So Friday 25th August I made the purchase and did the uploading (as far as I can tell it's all gone up, and inserting the FTP details worked first time - that's a rarity); after a struggle worked out that the redirect has to direct inwards (from the 5gbfree) to the account name, Easily's W rather than D in the menu.

It will take a day or so, but hopefully very soon the website will reappear (the whole Internet needs to be 'informed') with I also hope the operation of the name throughout.

Basically, the days of the free Internet and money income by other means are coming to an end. Those that get money by advertising now make it more and more intrusive and directed, Hostinger was cleared, I will ignore 5gbfree as they ignored me, and the rest I will clear up. These days firms rightly charge but also they can have massive computer storage power and websites like mine can offer a few pounds a month as an income stream. It all adds up.

From time to time I do send someone a Dropbox link for a file - not for a webpage, obviously - but the website is still located within my Dropbox folders.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

If She Can Say It, More Can...

Baroness Ros Altmann was a member of the Labour Party prior to 2007. She has been Conservative from 2015. She likes to think of herself as politically independent regarding social justice, including pensions campaigning and became Minister of State for Pensions 11 May 2015 until 15 July 2016.

She appeared 16 August on Channel 4 News, pointing out that democracy moves along and that if there is no way to come out of the EU without huge damage then we should consider consulting or some other means to stay in. She points out the threats people receive who say anything like this, and hopes there is a space for people like her in the Conservative Party.

She wants to stay Conservative, but is interested that a centre party suggestion shows people who'd come together to stay in the EU or as close as can.

The latest absurdity is the Irish border. To show how absurd, it wasn't exactly long ago that David Davis was claiming technological solutions with number plate recognition etc. at the Irish border.

Now the government has published and this is not suggested. There is to be no border between the parts of Ireland and no border between Ireland and Britain. In fact, the proposal is a full Schengen in effect between Ireland and Britain, regardless. Such a non-existent border is a nonsense without the Customs Union.

How does that work then? The government says, when it comes to immigration, which is what matters, it will work by employers showing that employees can work in the UK.

But that's not what it is about. Look at it the other way around.

Suppose we fall out of the EU and tariffs begin. Britain might say 'oh sod it' and have a open border with Ireland. We vote in each others' elections, after all. But what of the goods from Britain going into Ireland. There will be external tariffs to pay for going into the EU. How is the EU going to collect them, or will it simply have to declare the situation illegal via Ireland...

No one in the news media has looked at it that way around. They assume stuff coming into Britain and Britain saying let them in.

Now 15th August we had this UK position on a transition customs arrangement. This would not be the EU Customs Union but a bilateral UK-EU Customs Union. It would look exactly like the EU Customs Union. But it would allow the UK to negotiate trade deals for itself, not allowed under the EU Customs Union, which is collective.

Like the Irish proposal, this is just bonkers. It is more than wishful thinking. What we have is a clueless government. They come up with ideas that are just silly.

There are very simple alternatives.

One is crashing out, and damage to the economy. Presumably the House of Commons and House of Lords will stop it, given the balance of forces in each House.

The second is to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union. That makes sense, except it means we lose sovereignty as a satellite of the European Union without a say in its decisions, and we contribute to the club. Plus immigration is by European rules.

The third is to stay in. Now Baroness Ros Altmann might see this as the logical way forward, but she needs to be joined by others.

Not just we have to stay in because it's worse to come out, but what sharing sovereignty actually means in a world of multinationals and borderless finance.

As she said, the economy continues on and we have not left yet. However, on this unemployment the lowest since 1975, don't believe it. They are not comparing like with like. We have schemes galore and people heavily underemployed. The Labour market in 1975 was more stable than now and nowhere near as fragmented. Nor were benefits being squeezed and squeezed as now, forcing many into underemployment. People are going into low wages and at the same time there is a skills shortage.

Nevertheless, stability in the economy comes within the European Union. If we crash out the only survival game is as an offshore cheap labour low productivity country, whilst high value headquarters and plant relocate to the European mainland and, er, including Ireland. Where, of course, companies, people, goods and services will be able to travel in and out of Britain at will...

Come on politicians. Like Baroness Ros Altmann, start saying the obvious.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Why Roulette Does Not Need to Cheat

I had one of those highly enjoyable, loud, blistering arguments in the pub Sunday evening about roulette and its television presentation. I noted with them that ITV's presentation has an automatic wheel and one presenter often looking silly, and Channel 5's commercial presentation of SuperCasino used to have a presenter and a "trained" spinner of the precision craft-built wheel. [In fact it varies between one and two.] I have never gambled on any and I never will, and for the reason why see my website.

But what my two friends insisted upon, and I know another of our drinking party on Tuesday agrees with them, is that it is all a fiddle. I insist it is not, because it does not need to be.

Their contention was that there is an algorithmic computer that instantly gets the biases of the bets on a throw to come, and picks the video to produce a number outcome to maximise profits. That this suggested fraud would finish their broadcasts, end their credibility, and lead to a hefty fine matters not, they said, because the television history of game shows is that these phone in and similar contests have been fraudulent, they were found out, they paid the fine, and simply carried on.

My argument is that there is enough profit in the structure of the game guaranteed, and so little to be gained by the elaborate set-up needed to cheat that it isn't worth the additional effort. I was told that I am not cynical enough, and that there is never enough profit for capitalism. But, against that, I said if the profit is guaranteed then planning can take place. All of these 'offers' are for new players, and there is every reason to have new players: not simply more profit, but more stability; these offers come with restrictions (to come within the margin of profit - 'free money', so called, is somewhat like the old Truck money in shops, at least for long enough).

One friend mentioned the button trick in the real casino to bias the result. But that's in a game where there may be say 50 players around the table. The bets will vary from game to game to a visible bias. And even then they don't. We agreed on a playing number of 100,000 per random number generation (I cannot discover any statistic): at that level the numbers are so great that everyone ends up betting on all the numbers more or less evenly. And if they just about don't on one number generation, they do over a small number of throws of the ball over the wheel.

That's the point, and the only point. The more players, the more certainty for the casino providers, and it is simply a means to create money. With huge numbers on just one table, fiddling a result is ridiculous. That was and is my essential argument.

There are all sorts of gambling fallacies that people come up with to suggest cheating, and my friends are not stupid enough to have mentioned any of them. One is that a string of say reds (or any other characteristic) makes it more likely that the black (other characteristic) comes up next time. The likes of SuperCasino do participate in this fallacy, calling them "hot numbers" and "cold numbers". If they were really hot and cold, then the wheel really would be wonky. Probabilities have no history: they are all future based.

Another fallacy is the strategy to win, which wasn't suggested, but which I volunteered in order to make a point. In a celebrated evening in a church hall raising funds many years ago, I took my roulette set. Children were losing money and going away. So I said, to a few, I could improve matters: bet on evens only, or reds only (all 50-50) and be moderate. When one wins a penny or twopence, next time play just the penny or tuppence, but if one loses then double up, and soon there's bound to be a win, and the money is restored and it will continue to build up. Soon children started to gather round because they could see others winning. Parents became interested too. But one by one, the children (their parents, watching with interest) ran out of coins, ran out of money. And when they did, I told them to learn a lesson: "You cannot win over the long run. Never gamble."

Something not mentioned at the pub. There is a book that I think has a million of five number sets, randomly generated. It is a very boring read, apparently, but does have some highlights. One is a sequence 12345 and another is 00000. They appear a percentage number of times. The book shows that when people complain that a number sequence is not random, it usually is. I also did not mention the fallacy that the universe is so critically and necessarily specific that it must be designed, otherwise it would collapse in on itself or fail to function. That's easy. I have a rule for this. Suppose a pack of cards has to be in numerical order for hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades and jokers in that order for everything to take place; if not all collapses and vanishes. But here we are, and we see that order of cards. We are bound to say, it MUST have been arranged: but no. The cards were dealt, from random arrangements, over and over and over again, collapsing any future every time (other than dealing cards). Suddenly, once, after billions of card orders, the magic arrangement appears and everything can go ahead and be stable. Stability is also evidence that chance happened. Indeed the longer something goes arranging and trying again, the more chances exist for the infinitesimal outcome to happen - and once it does, that's enough.

My friends attacked "economics" in all this (i.e. capitalism). No no, economics has this covered. What I did say at the pub was that roulette on screen and online generates profit through negative utility. Profit ought to come about from increased utility, cost but meeting need, but there is only a small 'entertainment pastime' utility in a gambling pastime (and it has a very steep marginal utility curve). Thus creating a gambling supply, e.g. a casino, as a form of economic regeneration is false, because profit is based on misery. Indeed, a want that is addiction is a false utility -  a negative demand. It deprives people. For all the winning names that the likes of SuperCasino display (something probably random or first in), the same sort of list can be shown of losers. And the probabilities and mass numbers mean that there are always more losers than winners, and each throw generates profit from losers who could know better.

Oh, SuperCasino says that it tests each precision craft-built wheel for random number generation. Number outcomes are shown being tested. Well, that is misleading, because a sequence of 11111 is as likely as 49318. And so on.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

On My Congregational Travels

This time my congregational travels did not take me far: local Methodists. Despite living in this house for nearly eight years I have not been there once. And as I said afterwards, back in 1980-82 I attended a youth fellowship group and made it into part of my Ph.D research, using the misname Risemere Methodist Church and compared it with an evangelical Anglican church in an estate. (One person who was a leader then is still attending now: he was 28 when I was 21. I'm 58 now. I recognised no one else, which is also a testimony to living an anonymous life even in a suburban village.)

It was perhaps the wrong service to view, because it was a special service for children especially and thus had a swollen congregation. There were forty mixed age adults and fifteen primary school children. I was told after that the congregation normally averages out at thirty. These children have a 'messy church' on a Wednesday, apparently. The fact is that there is this outreach, as there is to scouts and others. I mentioned going to a URC 'Fresh Expressions' service kept going by attendances from within, and because they'd gone home it was cancelled and so I went home never to return. (And it also has outreach into uniformed youth.)

A chap I asked outside tagged on to me for a few food items and drinks afterwards in the church hall, so I spoke to him and another chap in particular. I didn't speak to the minister. I didn't even know she was the minister until she called herself it during the service.

This service was the 'Wastewatchers' service, and the Master of Ceremonies (let's say) said if it was waistwatchers then he would not qualify. For his age he said he was 6 with another 6 after it. Good strong voice and I think it was amplified even at a distance. It seems these children had recently had a pretend wedding. A girl was the bride and a girl the groom, probably because of the fifteen attending Sunday only three were male. Like in a real wedding, they'd made promises, and these were "what Jesus would have wanted" like being kind and being good (etc.). The 66 year old, a rather younger female youth worker, giving her last hurrah before going off to Birmingham, and an in between (age-wise) female gave a sort of theological theme. If I have it right, it was something out of nothing, something special out of something, and then (I think - but I was flagging by now) look after it all (as in wastewatchers, I take it.)

Thus we had the creation, and then (the linkage) that at this wedding (where who got married wasn't mentioned) Jesus mother was approached and Jesus turned water into wine, which was better not worse towards the end, and then presumably living with these. The youth worker took a jug of water and concealing the bottom of the glass as she held it, tipped the water in and some pale blackcurrant colour was evident as the water rose up the glass. And she said that, as well all know, Jesus went on to perform many miracles, and this had been the first.

Thus in one fell swoop the whole point of the miracle stories was lost, and the notion of 'reluctance' to perform miracles in the text was lost. Jesus was God and he was a magician. Now I know the objection here to my objection: it's only for kids. So is Santa Claus. The whole point of the water into wine tale is that it is an allegory of the Kingdom of God. Is it that difficult to express that message somehow, even to youngsters. After all, some of these sermonisings throughout could only be captured by older people than the children present.

Interesting that there was only one prayer in this, with the Lord's Prayer afterwards. The hymns were one "television viewers think is the only hymn we sing," the wearisome All Things Bright and Beautiful, followed by a very secular marriage hymn and then some terrible indigestible Jesus cult hymn (as I see it) by Graham Kendrick. I can't sing such, and didn't, and, as I say, I was flagging by now.

I was interested that, even in a local Methodist church, there were four television screens (too small for the distance of viewing). One was high among the organ pipes, presumably for anyone using the balcony (a "health and safety" issue, said the 66 year old during the service and thus no one was up there), two were one each in front of the aisles, and one faced the preacher off centre. The audio seemed to come from the back. The chap who met me and chatted afterwards was a steward and he operated the computer that put the words on the screen. The wedding hymn had words too small, but the rest were easily seen two lines at a time.

Interestingly, when I told him afterwards over drinks and eats that I used to attend Unitarian services, he never batted an eyelid, but when he said he and a friend attended St. John's Newland to see how they did all their music and the rest I said, "Ugh," as it is a Reform and nasty homophobic part of the Anglican Church. I was talking about once doing the music via prepared CDs and also the magazine. He said how useful I could be at their place. I said of also once doing the website, although another person who'd also left did the website most recently, and did it well. I said of about where I lived, and the connection between my charity landlord and the church, and yes by historical accident there is this funding but also funding for a number of other churches relating to the charity's founder.

As for the past minister there I knew best, I knew more about his movements and his final rather frustrating ministry (too many churches) prior to retirement. However, an interviewed for my Ph.D 'Liberal Methodist' minister was a name my chatting partner seemed to recognise, and I said of his movements and where he has been now for a long time. I also told of a traditionalist Methodist minister, who was a high Methodist like Wesley was before he set out, and thus became a lay Anglican, married to an Anglican vicar in Lincolnshire.

The one person I knew there told me where other leaders back in the earliest 1980s had gone. He was just the same, even down to satisfying his charismatic leanings in other gatherings from time to time. Back in the 1980s he was frustrated by the traditionalism of the worship approach, but presumably it has moved just enough in his direction to keep him. But he was never likely to move elsewhere.

I had a good chat about my academic background (describing the Ph.D, the MA in Theology), what I'd done. He asked me if I'd ever considered being a minister myself. Yes, I spent a year at Unitarian College but, "I was too heretical for the heretics." And this is the point. It wasn't as if I was some local who just turned up, but came with a baggage and a preference that really rules me out of joining in with this theological expression. They may have said, "See you next week," (er, there isn't one 'next week') but I said I'd be out of the Unitarians for about two years and I retain one social link there.

That was the danger, and the resistance from me going there, that I'd be pulled in. I left thinking I may go again but not soon. I'm more likely to resume going the the Quakers, but again from time to time only. Theology matters. If you don't believe it, you cannot express it.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Notes on a Successful Liberal Ministry

I am not involved in congregational religion now. From time to time on Sunday I will do no more than visit some churches and meeting houses in Hull, and get a sense of what is happening.

If I am asked, like on an application form, for my religion, I still put Unitarian: by which I still mean an open, evolving approach to faith, with an institutional identity and potential directions. If I am asked what my beliefs are like, I tend to say at the very liberal end of Christianity within Religious Humanism and something of a Western Buddhist soteriology. History and the limitations of doing history are important. I don't believe in 'cults of individuals' and so I follow no one. I am not a Christian in simple terms.

Nevertheless, I can still reflect upon what makes a successful liberal congregation and ministry.

For a liberal congregation to function well, it needs some characteristics and a ministry that draws the congregation together.

It needs to discuss: where its religion has come from and where it is journeying (directions). The notion of 'spiritual but not religious' gets us nowhere, a blank sheet that invites anything in. Because: the discussion has to be critical, has to discern the evidential and a consistency with the sociology of knowledge from the superstitious and interventionist supernatural. Identity and mission is important: that what happens is worth happening.

Yet such a congregation ought to give space: space for the quiet and for reflection. It's not all about discussion or content in the busy sense.

There should be a positive emphasis on including the other. It is unfortunate that not every congregation will be inclusive. Certain forms of religion attract certain social groups. Nevetheless the ethos should be inclusive socially and culturally: respect and expect respect. It's about breadth of vision and breadth of who is 'in'. Clearly the tribalist, racist, homophobe must be argued against.

From this follows a social vision that leads to practical action in the context of what a congregation can do.

If the church doesn't do reflective worship then it isn't really a church. There are many resources, traditional and liberal, and about identity, that can be used for reflection and contemplation and even generating a stance for action.

Hierarchy isn't always bad, but it ought to be justified by demonstrable spiritual experience, training, and emotional intelligence. Hierarchy is not an alternative to accountability, it should only exist with accountability.

A minister who thinks everything is down to personal leadership is going to come a cropper. Ministry is with the congregation, and a minister assists its ministry - not the other way around. A minister may help co-ordinate, but it is not that congregations are in the passenger seats with a minister doing the driving. A minister learns. Ministers do lose some people, and attract others, but a minister should always seek to keep who formed the place over time as others come in to add to change. Harmony means different notes playing together. A minister who loses people because of obsession with projects, or where others are said to frustrate his or her ministry, will simply cause the congregation to decline and argue, often out of earshot of the minister. Ministers should genuinely bring people on board, and not have a fake kind of 'consultation' whilst forcing schemes and intentions through, attempting to push a congregation one way or another.

Don't end up like this!

Of course there may not be a minister, in which case a congregation needs to develop patterns of leadership and service to try to co-ordinate and bring all on board.

A successful liberal ministry involves participation, gathering from the back to the front, and offering the benefits of training and emotional intelligence. In worship these purposes are nurtured. The congregation is the vehicle that requires careful driving skills, where the energy is drawn from the congregation.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Activating Web Links in a Text (HTML) File

This probably means nothing to most and is clumsy to a very few. But it works. And a more efficient method was sent to me that does not always work...

What follows is relevant to a piece of software called NoteTab Light. I have used it for years. every fortnight I make a webpage that I append to another webpage and upload to my website. It contains links to webpages that are labelled and described. The Pure Text editor will save a pure text document to HTML with paragraph tags and other essential code, within a template the user can make (as I have). But the links are simply as they were. You could copy, paste into the URL browser area and activate them that way. But as we all know, we click on links.

Many a Rich Text Format editor (it allows some formatting like bold and italic, a pure text file does not) will display links as active, but only a very convert to HTML with active links. Copywriter is one, but does not recognise https:// because it is old software. Other big Word Processers (with complex formatting) will not activate links until RETURN is pressed, and then saving to HTML produces ridiculously user-unfriendly complicated and repetitive code.

NoteTab Light has clips to do more with both flat text files and the HTML files (and XML). And I have written one that works and with one press activates all links in a file. And here it is:

^!SetScreenUpdate Off

^!Jump Doc_Start
^!Find "http://" S
^!IfError END1
^!MoveCursor 1
^!Select Url
^!Set %url%=^$GetSelection$
^!InsertHTML ^%url%
^!Goto Loop1

^!Jump Doc_Start

^!Find "https://" S
^!IfError END2
^!MoveCursor 1
^!Select Url
^!Set %url%=^$GetSelection$
^!InsertHTML ^%url%
^!Goto Loop2

^!SetScreenUpdate On

It depends on the very useful ^!Select URL, because it grabs the URL - although moving the cursor by 1 just makes sure you are on it rather than to its left. I like to make sure, so I have two loops so to include the https and the http. Each loop means the same instruction happens as the finding goes down the document and the 'error' is when there are no more URLs left to find. I am told I could use a ? for the s or no s in https and thus have one loop but I have not seen this ? in the help file. The screen writing is switched off so it is quicker. S also means a silent Find - no messages. I think screen updating comes on automatically at the end, but I like to be sure.

It's not my skill, such code writing, but I can see enough how others do it to put something together to achieve something else.