Adam Oellermann's blog
It's been a long while since I've blogged, but I have an excellent excuse. Michelle and I have moved house! North Ballaird was our dream home, the little smallholding in the country, but God has been calling us on to greater things. This includes me going back to University to study full-time to become a pastor. We are both very excited about this new phase in our lives, and selling North Ballaird was an enabling step which reduced the size of our budget considerably. We bought a three-bedroom semi detached in Dailly, a lovely little place with decent-sized rooms and high ceilings (built in the 40s) but in a terrible state. We have been sanding and skimming and painting and flooring and everthying else that might be needed to sort out a house, and ultimately have got it mostly done. We still need to do the entrance, staircase and dining-room... and unfortunately we weren't able to get finished before we moved, so the dining-room furniture is packed into the lounge, and enormous piles of boxes are packed into the dining-room! Having moved from the farm, we have large quantities of generators, power tools, timber and other useful stuff from the outbuildings - and really nowhere to put it (the new place has no garage). So we've piled it in the dining room.
But here's the plan: this morning I finished spraying the roof timbers with boron (to kill off the light woodworm infestation the surveyor picked up before it gets out of hand). This was an appalling job, and ended up taking about 10-12 hours to do (more if you include clearing the old fibreglass insulation, which was even worse) - thankfully there was only about an hour and a half left to do today. It's done properly, and the woodworms won't think much of the accommodation now. Next is to insulate at the roofline with spray-foam insulation; this will prevent the loft from getting damp, further cramping the style of the woodworm. I also have to strengthen the ceiling joists so that we can put loftboards down and shift all the dining-room piles into their long-term storage in the loft. While I'm up there I'll put some lights into the loft, and PIR-activated security spotlights for the front and back of the house.
That will put us in a position to fix up the walls in the dining room, paint, lay laminate flooring, move the furniture in from the living room. That will give us room to breathe, but we'll still be against the clock to get the last bits done - as our baby is due on 24 September, and I'm starting at Scottish Baptist College on the 21st!
Exciting, frenetic times - but we know that God will see us through them!
We have a static caravan on the little farm which we converted to use as our home office. This is great from a space point of view - our little wee house remains (relatively) uncluttered, and we get to have decent working space when working from home. Unfortunately, the old static caravan does not cope at all well with cold weather. It's about 10m x 4m, and the floor is a thin piece of chipboard - with the result that you can have a 2KW heater running full blast, with temperature in the mid 20Cs at ceiling level - but only marginally above freezing at floor level. This is not good for productivity in winter.
Consequently we spent some time thinking about insulation. The greatest weak point is the lack of thermal isolation at the floor, so that's what we decided to tackle first. I didn't like the idea of cutting pieces of isomil to fit - it seemed like an insensibly-large job. I didn't think fibreglass matting would handle being fitted to the underside of the van (too much water) and there isn't really clearance to raise the floor. We finally settled on a closed-cell polyurethane spray foam, which is available in a DIY kit . I finally got around to applying it this weekend. Donning a disposable paper boilersuit and a vapour filter mask, I felt I looked like an extra from a B-grade NBC disaster movie. Michelle took the obligatory silly photos, which I'll post here one of these days for giggles, and I set about it. I should point out that the spray foam kit includes to canisters containing some fairly nasty stuff which, when mixed, is fluffy, gets everywhere, is sticky, and sets hard really quickly. It is extremely hard to clean up - soap and water, spirits and petrol do nothing to shift it - the brochure says that once set it can only be removed using "mechanical means". In my case this involved a painful application of potscourer to hands. The paper boiler suit with silly hood is ABSOLUTELY indispensable, don't use this stuff without it. Lying on your back in 2ft of clearance under the caravan, rolling in gravel and nettles, is unpleasant enought on its own - getting the gravel irreversibly glued to you in the process is just delightful. The vapours produced are also quite an irritant - while the vapour filter initially seemed like overkill, I certainly recommend it. Stupidly I didn't where gloves - a pair of disposable latex gloves would have saved me a great deal of trouble.
In spite of all that, the foam is amazing stuff - you spray on a skinny layer of mousse, and it quickly expands to a few inches thick. Within a few minutes it's set hard, and can be cut with a saw. It's really easy to spray into awkward corners, where it will expand to provide good coverage. It's pretty much totally waterproof, and is one of the most effective commercially-available forms of insulation. The old van is already maintaining temperatures well above ambient with just the server and UPS running. I'm not sure if that will be enough - we may need to do the roof, and possibly the walls (they do a version which expands more slowly, suitable for injection into wall cavities), and maybe double-glazing - but just doing the floor has made a significant different already, to the point where the oil-filled radiator will hopefully be able to cope, even if it isn't very efficient. Also, I've always wondered about the wisdom of having chipboard more-or-less exposed to the elements - now it's nicely sealed off. The van is clearly quite old; hopefully this will help it last a few more years!
As many of you will know, I regularly wander up and down the length of the British Isles for work reasons. In fact, I spend as much as 10-15 hours a week in the car. Audio books have been a real blessing to me, as I have been able to redeem the time listening to teaching from a wide range of authors, including people like John MacArthur, J.I. Packer, John Ortberg, Billy Graham, John Piper, Phillip Yancey, John Stott, Rick Warren and others, as well as the NIV and ESV bibles. I can tell you for sure that if you spend 10-15 hours a week listening to this sort of thing, any complacency and contentment you might have will be shattered. You will be challenged, and your notion of God's plan for your life will be considerably stretched. Mostly I have obtained my books from http://www.audible.co.uk , which has good pricing but really obtrusive DRM (Digital Restrictions Management), meaning that it becomes hard work to listen to the audio in your car.
I recently came across Christian Audio, which is much like Audible, only focussing exclusively on Christian books. Christian Audio have a pretty good repertoire, as well as a goodly collection of free stuff - mostly older titles or lecture content, with some really good stuff in there. This led me to wonder if I couldn't get hold of seminary-style stuff to listen to, which would continue to bless my time in the car but would also help me to prepare for the upcoming semester at HTC? Following this line of thinking on Google led me to BiblicalTraining.org, an amazing resource founded by Dr Bill Mounce, New Testament Chair for the ESV Bible, and author of the Greek textbooks I'll be using next semester (as well as a host of other titles). Solid guy, it would seem. Anyway, the Biblical Training site is loaded to the gunwales with theology material of all kinds - stuff for new believers, foundation-level stuff and advanced seminary level/leadership materials. It's an impressive collection, must be thousands of hours of edited audio in there, and - wait for it - it's all free and has no DRM. I have already benefited from Dr Craig Blomberg's NT Introduction and Dr Mounce's own Biblical Training Institute, and am keenly looking forward to working through more of the materials. Heartily and enthusiastically recommended!
While Biblical Training is fast becoming my first port of call, I like to mix things up a bit and have also found a number of other sites providing free MP3s. The following are all well worth a visit:
- Covenant Theological Seminary (the seminary of the Presbyterian Church in the USA)
- Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
- Third Millennium Ministries
While I have already spotted some theological disagreements with Covenant and Third Millennium (I am Reformed but most definitely not Paedobaptist!), for the most part they also seem to have some pretty solid stuff.
Last but not least, it's worth mentioning that Dr Wayne Grudem, author of a leading Systematic Theology, has also been conducting a series of lectures for lay people which are available online .
I am so impressed by all this - this is stuff that I (and many others) would have been glad to pay for, available for free. What a blessing to us as individuals, and to the Church corporately! Go and have a look, and a listen, and maybe check out the donation pages as well!
I have loads of ideas for implementation as LAMP applications. While I'm a pretty quick coder, it is quite disheartening (not to mention time consuming) to write basic database structures, data handling code, class wrappers for tables etc. The last three turns around I have almost decided to write a code generate to spit out the necessary. The idea is that you'd model your data structures in an XML file, and then you'd have some code which would generate the necessary MySQL code to create the database, as well as generating the necessary PHP classes to deal with the data - maybe even generate a rough-and-ready user interface.
Well, I've got fed up with wasting time writing boring code. Code generators can be a wee bit tricksy, of course, but I reckon the productivity gains will justify the time investment - especially as I have a number of cool applications which I want to implement at the moment! I've started work on it, and plan to complete it in the following stages:
- Process model, validate. Also generate MySQL code to create the database. (DONE - it was a bank holiday weekend)
- Generate PHP classes to handle the data model. Produce a decent front-end for the code generator. Document the model format and use of the system.
- Generate some UI bits as well - forms, grids and so forth.
- Iterate a model - given previous model and new model, generate ALTER TABLE statements for MySQL, or else data migration scripts or something.
Once it's further along (no earlier than after completion of step 2) and a bit more robust, I may open-source it. There seem to be a few similar ideas floating about out there, but none really suited the way I want to work, so maybe others could benefit from my work...
I have received my results for the exams I wrote - "Jesus and the Gospels" and "Former Prophets". I did much better than I had any reason to expect, and am really fired up to put much more into the coming semester. This semester I've signed up for "Pentateuch", "Introduction to the New Testament" and "Early Church History". I've enrolled for three modules this time because:
- Based on real experience from last semester, I believe that if I work diligently through the term I can manage the workload
- Because I started with my HTC studies in the second semester, if I do an odd number of courses in the first semester this year and next, and an even number of courses in the second semester, I'll get to a position equivalent to if I had started in the first semester, avoiding 1st/2nd semester prerequisite issues later on (of course I could achieve this by signing up for four courses this semester, but I think that may be over-the-top workload-wise!)
- I'm pretty much determined now to do the whole BA (Theology) degree (my original plan was just to do the first year); at a rate of two modules per semester, this will take 6 years...if I can demonstrate that I am able to sustain a bigger workload, I might be able to knock a year or two off that
I have received all the textbooks and am raring to go!
I don't think I've mentioned this here before, but about six months ago I signed up for a BA Theology (part-time, by correspondence) with the Highland Theological College. I have a twofold purpose: to improve my own knowledge on matters theological, thus (hopefully) bolstering my Christian faith and knowledge of Christ, and also to put myself in a position of being more useful to our local church. The degree is four years full-time; after completing the eight modules of the first year, you have the option of taking a Certificate of Higher Education (which is a sufficient qualification for Readership in the Church of Scotland).
Anyway, I signed up for the modules "Former Prophets" and "Jesus and the Gospels". Full-time course load is four modules per semester; the modules are supposed to require a total effort of 150 hours each. Of course, I've been busy this last six months (what else is new?) and so haven't been putting in the hours that I should have. This has led to an absolutely intense exam-prep time, with some very long days/short nights. I managed to do enough that I think I'll make it through the exams, but probably not do as well as I would have liked. It was also a rather painful and stressful process, so I am determined to be a better student next semester and spread the effort over the semester - which should relieve me of a great deal of stress, and hopefully allow me to get better results (as well as internalising the new knowledge more completely)!
Anyway, in spite of the super-intense, stressful time that I had in preparing, it was made joyful by the subject matter. Both modules have been very rewarding, and I heartily recommend the HTC to anyone looking to take their Christianity to the next level. The staff are great people, evangelical and reformed in their doctrine, and combine sound academic rigour with a genuine passion for equipping people for ministry. It's good to be studying with them.
The first release of the Free Internet Morabaraba Server (FIMS) has been completed. You can connect to the server by using:
telnet fims.morabaraba.org 5000
Details on how to use it, as well as the source code, are available from the FIMS web site.
My next priority is to get a graphical client working for Windows and Linux, after which I can start making improvements to the server.
The first Morabaraba game has been played on FIMS, the Free Internet Morabaraba Server! It was a pretty poor game, with me playing against myself (I lost...), and so I haven't recorded the game (well, FIMS has it in the database but I'll be cleaning out the database pretty soon. There is a bit of testing and tying off of loose ends to be done, but the server is up and running and should be launched very soon! Of course, not many people will be comfortable with the Telnet interface, so it will probably only be when a client is available that things really take off. I hope to have a (Windows|Linux) client released not too long after the server's first release.
FIMS will provide a place where players from all around the world can find an opponent and play a game. The server also provides rudimentary chat facilities, which will be expanded in future versions. By design, it should scale to very large groups of users (although that hasn't been tested), so I hope to see it become the definitive place for online Morabaraba (which currently has no online place).
If you're interested in beta testing or contributing to the project (it's in C# on Mono, runs happily on Windows and Linux) please contact me . If you just want to play, keep checking out http://www.morabaraba.org , where details will be posted when it goes live.
The first release of the Free Internet Morabaraba Server is nearing completion. The telnet server has been running continuously on a server for a few days without problems, so the network code seems to be stable. A lot more functionality is in, too, including online registration with email based confirmation. The code which understands Morabaraba positions and validates moves for legality is finished and tested (I've written a small test suite to exercise the code, though there may still be lurking bugs). The actual gameplay mechanisms are next, followed by a little bit of documentation and packaging for GPL v3 release!
I haven't done any scalability testing, but the design of the code and supporting database should scale to (at least) thousands of users on reasonably modest hardware.
Anyway, after the first server release, I aim to follow up quickly with a GUI client as well as an interface to allow my Morabaraba-playing program to join the fray (that way a willing opponent will always be online). After that, a number of "nice-to-have" features (ideas borrowed mostly from FICS) will be added to the server. The server design is such that it could be genericised relatively easily, allowing one server to support Morabaraba, SesothoMorabaraba and many other turn-oriented board games (draughts? mancala games? anything else?)
If you're a programmer (preferably C#) with an interest in Morabaraba, and you'd like to help work on FIMS, now is a good time to contact me (email@example.com) and get involved!
I've spent some time today moving the Free Internet Morabaraba Server forward. I have abandoned the PHP-based telnet server (though it was cute), and implemented a .NET based server. I'm doing the development in C# using MonoDevelop on Linux, which I haven't touched for ages. I'm very impressed with how it's come along - MonoDevelop is stable and capable, and Mono is much, much easier to set up than it used to be (it was a doddle on Ubuntu).
Anyway, I have the basic telnet handler set up, backed by a MySQL database for user registrations and so forth. Simple communications between logged in users are done, and the next step is to automate registration and implement the gameplay features. The protocol is inspired by FICS, though much, much simpler - but in time I should be able to add ratings etc. The server design should be quite scalable, and, because it's Mono-based, it will be cross-platform. Another day or two's work would probably see a first version in place, although unfortunately I suspect it may be another week or two before I get to do said other day or two of work!
After that, I will need to create a client - but given the Lazarus GUI stuff I already have for Morabaraba, I may just do the first version quickly in Lazarus.