Will programmers cure cancer?

I saw someone asking whether programmers will cure cancer.

Software engineers are methodical people looking for challenging problems where they can improve the situation through building systems, processes and tools, and so software is finding its way into improving everything.

They’ll help directly cure cancer through improved tools for prediction, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as indirect things like programming the medical devices, programming the factory production lines to create the medical devices, programming the operating system, IDE, and compliers the above programmers use, as well as hospital logistics and supplies management software including hospital robotics. Some hospitals have barcode systems to ensure you can’t get the wrong medication, and to notice if your medication was missed. It’s all controlled by software that someone somewhere has written.

I work on battery chargers. Probably the hospital forklifts, floor cleaners, or robots will use one, and the team I’m on will be contributing a little bit. Colleagues of mine work on power systems for medical devices. A past colleague worked on a system to help scientists share patient medical information securely so they could do research. One software expert I met recently worked on software for MRI machines to improve the images they captured.

Encourage your kids to realise mathematical/logical thinking is valuable and should be nurtured.

Encourage them to realise computers are tools that can be learnt and understood and not something to be intimidated by.

Ignite curiosity to solve problems.

Knowing how the world has already changed in your lifetime, explain how the future will be totally different in spectacular unimaginable ways. Excite them to build that future.

Inspire them to understand how much is possible when people work together.

There’s a reason so many of the world’s richest people were software engineers originally, even if they don’t write code now. They realise they can create the things that they today only dream of.

Here’s some dreams I’ve had of what the future could be:

– a personal healthcare tracker that plays the 20 questions guessing game with you every so often, and identifies what’s wrong better than any human genius doctor ever could. One team of 150 people have been working for 7 years on this, and they’re getting near the level they’re as good as a doctor. Give it 10-20 years and it’ll be basically free and instant for the best diagnosis possible without tests, and it’ll recommend the most appropriate tests if they are needed (maybe even booking them for you).

– education apps free for the entire planet that know (1) what you already know (and when you learnt it so maybe it’s forgotten) and (2) how you learn and (3) can explain things to you at your speed. People are building this.

– much cheaper energy, enabled by software simulation tools, which enables a massive drop in the cost of food production, goods production, recycling, etc. This will come.

Don’t tell your kids to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. Inspire them to system builders who care about people – their health, their education, and their well-being.

We’ll value people who care for us in the ways machines can’t. The people who give us purpose, and understand the deepest needs of our souls. The people who can understand our emotions, and care about us enough to lift us up. But of those people, the ones who will have the best impact will be those who collaborate with others and use technology to its best and highest end.

Many programmers are hardworking, resourceful, and especially purposeful.

They are helping cure cancer, and they’re changing the world.

Your first chance to SEE the New Testament Book of Psalms

There are many misconceptions about the Book of Psalms, so I am starting a short series of blog posts under the subject “The New Testament Book of Psalms”.

  • I’d like to show how the Book of Psalms are FOR the New Testament church, especially in showing how we can understand them better now that Christ has come than the Old Testament Jews ever could.
  • I’d like to ease the difficulties people can have trying to understand the Psalms.
  • I’d like to demonstrate how relevant all the Psalms are and to show how the Old Testament is not disconnected from or out-of-touch with New Testament Christianity.
  • I’d like to help people to enjoy the Psalms more, particularly by revealing Christ in them.

But firstly, to get started, I’d like to begin with the following superb illustration from the work of OpenBible.info. This shows cross-references between the Book of Psalms and the New Testament.

When you see this, do you think the Psalms have a lot to add and to contribute to the New Testament church? Does the prospect of discovering this excite you?

There are excellent logical arguments in favour of the Psalms, such as are based on the Regulative Principle of Worship, and explaining how when Paul wrote “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” he was referring to the titles that head up the Psalms in the Greek Old Testament they had at the time. But I think we also need to engage the modern church with the content of the Psalms so that the Psalms are better appreciated and the good logical arguments are more palatable.

Logical love: Opposites attract

Is the phrase “opposites attract” grounded in how we admire the strengths and skills of others especially in particular areas where we aren’t so skilled?

Does this explains the scope of where we can be opposites, in terms of skills and roles, and how in the remainder of who we each are and where we’re going we need common ground?

Does it also explain how we become more and more like each other, since we desire to be like what we admire?

The differences give rise to the greatest potential for conflict, because they’re where we each pull in separate directions, but if we make up for one another’s deficiencies, then don’t “you complete me”?

The tea lover’s self-deceiving heart

Having realised how passionate I am about tea from my previous post, I’ve funnily got another post to follow up with. This time I’m not praising tea.

Confession time

When I was younger I’d heard a few people talking about caffeine affecting sleep. Now I loved a cup of tea every evening, or two, and never made a connection with struggling to fall asleep. Especially not when I heard we don’t absorb as much of the caffeine in tea as we do coffee, and when I heard one person saying that they had a cup of tea to help them sleep.

Therein lay my golden excuse that I repeated to myself for the next decade.

I’ve only recently realised over the years that as I enjoy tea more, and crave it to be stronger and stronger, that I’ve been using it as a stimulant.

I’d use it to be alert until late in the evening (often with two to six chocolate digestives per cup), and then I’d crash exhausted and sleep.

Explains something of why I’ve been so worn out.

Eureka epiphany

As I’ve started getting up earlier lately, I’ve decided not to take caffeine in the evenings before bed. I discovered a few things. I start to feel tired, and my dreams have changed.

Before, my most vivid dream I remember is that adding milk to my tea turned it grey. Since I’ve stopped taking tea I’ve noticed that my dreams have become very real. I thought someone at work gave me a large bunch of equipment to store, because I dreamed it, and it was only sitting at my desk today that I realised it hadn’t happened. This is a totally strange experience for me – I used to think that I didn’t dream because I never ever remembered a single dream. I saw someone else online reported having longer, more realistic dreams too.

I’ve also realised that I start feeling tired in the evenings. The previous desire I used to have to stay up late is rapidly vanishing as I’m starting to realise I’ve less time I’m alert for and to use my energy better. Going to bed has always been the hardest thing for me, and it seems that removing a few cups of tea could be the easiest change for me to make to fix that.

I’ve been using an app that monitors my sleep, and so I know how much I sleep and try and catch up if I fall behind. I’ve been feeling tired lately but I think my body probably needs to adjust from all the long term sleep debt its accumulated.

Important points to remember when making a British cup of tea

Tea’s a hard thing to get right. But it’s worth getting right, because we’re all very opinionated about how we like our tea. I’ve some pointers I’ve learnt over the years below:

Impatience kills a good cup of tea.
Let the teabag actually get into the water, and leave it there a while before removing it. I’ve known people who’ve made half a dozen cups of so called tea with a single teabag. That would fill me with disdain, except that it usually fills me with sorrow as I’m going to have to drink one of those cups. The correct response for “what do you want with your tea?” in this instance, is “a teabag” please. And you better hope you can get one in before milk is added, because,

Adding milk stops the infusing process.
If you like pouring milk in the cup first, then make the tea in a teapot. Don’t get impatient and add milk while the water & teabag are doing their thing making that wonderful elixir. Whoever put a chicken in the preheated oven, and then instantly removed it? It needs time to become a wonderful succulent roast chicken. So too does a cup of tea need time to develop strength. Time can be reduced by the skillful use of a spoon – don’t chase the teabag round the cup, swirl water through it.

Bend the spoon.
Not always literally, but it has to happen sometimes. The teabag needs every last drop of strength squeezed out of it. My friend Rob supplied me with the “bend the spoon” test to tell whether you’re squeezing the teabag hard enough.

Normal tea is not broken. It doesn’t need fixed. Stop with the alternatives, alright!
I think what we enjoy is known as “breakfast tea” in other parts of the world. At a stretch, maybe some Earl/Lady Grey is about as adventurous as we’d like to go. Green tea is not tea, or it would just be called tea. Chai tea is not tea, or it would just be called tea. Peppermint tea is not tea, or it would just be called tea. If you offer me a cup of tea I should be sorely disappointed to get one of these alternatives. I’m saddened by the watering down [BOOM BOOM] of our tea legacy by the recent popularity of Rooibos tea, which seems to have claimed its niche as caffeine free (and somehow therefore better for before bed?). If caffeine before bed wakes you up, it’s because you’ve not had enough caffeine earlier in the day for the stimulative effects to lessen in effectiveness. I’ve known people to have a cup of tea before bed to send them to sleep. Drink more tea, the real kind.

Don’t drink stewed tea. Keep it fresh, people, keep it fresh.
Some have been known to keep a teapot on the stove, and they top it up with water and teabags as it gets used – so it can get stronger and thicker throughout the day. I’ve known that to put people off tea for life.

Thank you for listening. I shall now dismount my soapbox.

The dangers of ubiquitous technology for a Christian, or Your smartphone’s killing you

Having a high tech phone always on you can mean:

  • the quiet moments are about self-amusement or social interaction. A relationship with God is forgotten.
  • sleep, and other forms of rest, are relegated to second place as there’s always a constant distraction. The needs God made us to have are ignored, and we suffer as a result. Tiredness leads to a kind of weakness that can make us very vulnerable to temptation.
  • the world and eternal stimuli are constantly being pumped into us. We become immune to soul-searching or self-examination, and act/think like the crowd around us. The world is good at making that which is exciting and enticing, and in applying significant pressure on us to fit in. Psalm 1 refers to the blessings of the upright man who isn’t influenced by worldliness.
  • the occasions for temptation multiply. We are in more situations where we can act on our sinful thoughts, as mobile devices have plenty of opportunity to feed/stimulate gossip, envy, pride, bullying, greed, and carnal longing’s for instant gratification. Dangerous.
  • devotional time is squeezed out by more engaging media. Talking with my wife I was realising I often read blogs/twitter in the mornings to “try and wake up”, but all too often after I’m awake they continue to eat into the short time I have for personal devotions before family devotions and work.

There are plenty benefits, but for most of us that’s not what we need persuaded of. We’ve really got to be on our guard.

To try and take some action in the fight back against it all, my wife and I were realising the need to get all technology out of the bedroom, so we can guard sleep and devotions particularly. I hope that, with repentance, is a good start.

If you’ve any other thoughts on the dangers we face, or the way to put the right boundaries around our use of technology, please contribute them below. Let’s use technology to help each other out.

How to read a book


Pick a book you have some reason to read.
Good reasons are:

  • Healthy curiosity,
  • A trusted recommendation,
  • or the expectation it’ll be fun/mindblowingly-helpful/wildly-interesting/exciting.

Enjoy the journey:

No distractions. Turn off facebook or twitter (unless you plan on posting/tweeting quotes, in which case storm ahead, as it may encourage you to read through and identify what’s actually good).

No starting other books. Only read one book at a time. Otherwise that will constantly distract you – bouncing from one thing to the next, ultimately, gets you nowhere. Imagine you’re a tennis ball on a court, being hit to and fro for hours – you may have travelled miles and yet you’ve gone nowhere. It’s a journey, so travel it.

Know when to finish it:

This usually happens when you hit the last page. This can be with feelings of joy and satisfaction, and is wildly exhilirating.
Finishing can sometimes also happen somewhere during the book, but usually it’s accompanied by more disgruntled feelings. The desire to avoid these feelings can push us on to finishing the book, where we feel relief, but we should often try and avoid this. Often you’ve finished a book in the middle but you don’t realise it. It’s been read a bit, and found to be boring/hard/not worth the effort, and you just don’t pick it back up. Realise this is what it is and get excited about intentionally closing it completely and starting another book.

Share it:

Having filled yourself up on books, let it all flow out, with witty anecdotes, thrilling stories, and golden nuggests of information interspersed through your chat.
Update your www.goodreads.com profile, if you’re into that. I am, it’s great fun.

So, I’ve been married 22 days and it feels like a lifetime


I’m a happy man. Richly blessed.

In a good way, it feels like I’ve been married all my life – it feels right, something like what life is supposed to be.

In some ways I feel ready for it, in other ways I’m daunted at the challenge (living close to someone really does expose our own selfishness). Exciting times ahead :).

I’m not planning a big post, but just to get back into the way of it, a few thoughts:

My wife is afraid of underfeeding me, and I’m afraid of offending her by not eating everything (and it does taste delicious), so I’m pretty sure I’ve already put on weight [I’ve been attempting this for years now, and it took a wife barely weeks to manage it].

I relish the opportunity to serve Debbie, because in doing so I can help one I dearly love [and have a long term vested interest in ;)], but I find it a great blessing to my soul to do so too. Serving others doesn’t ever lead to us losing out. For example: Today I was trying to encourage her to do an essay that she was finding hard, and I tried to explain how we need to be thankful to God for our work (to me that’s the easiest litmus test to see how we feel about it). That, was a real reminder to myself too, and I’ve had one of the best days at work that I’ve enjoyed in months – I felt I worked well, and still came home and felt energetic. And when she seems helped too, it makes me really happy :).

The few days that Debbie’s not at home when I come home, already feel so strange, and the flat feels so cold and empty. Her place by my side is so new, yet it feels so essential. I started to appreciate how Christ must yearn for His bride, having gone to prepare a place for her He must surely desire her to be there. Few thoughts have encouraged me to pray more for the coming of Christ (specifically, as opposed to His Kingdom coming).

The devil hates Christian homes, and especially wants to stir up strife in them. I heard this in a sermon as I drove home from work yesterday, agreed with it, and saw it illustrated instantly in what he tried to provoke in my heart. To my shame I had too much of a “that’s true, but it won’t apply to me/I don’t need to worry about that yet” attitude, which just illustrates how deceitful my heart is. Knowing we’re sinners, and we’ve been forgiven so much, by God’s grace we really can bear with one another’s weaknesses and glory in their strengths.

Learning to feel more deeply, and living with someone who does feel deeply, is really making me appreciate the coldness and hardness and deadness of my heart. I’m seeing how the Lord’s at work to tenderise me.

I’m blessed with a wife who deeply wants to encourage peace, harmony, and a general happy attitude between us and all we meet with. It’s almost as though she’s pained by anything other than deep joy and satisfaction abiding in those around her – I don’t really understand it myself, can I use the excuse I’m a “man”? It’s always about positivity. Negative things are said in the most gracious, kind, positive way. Beauty is appreciated for being beautiful, so I’m starting to find a world of enjoyments I never delighted in before [as I write this, she just pulled me through to look at the sunset in the other room].

Anyway, I’m away now. The wedding photos should be available soon – send me your info if you want to get the link :). If you want to read some more, my father wrote a blog post on the wedding day.

400 year old advice: Don’t miss the point, when singing the Psalms

A friend was telling me about books written in a “how to” way on subjects like prayer, etc. He warned me that they can miss a focus on Christ and how it relates to him, because they focus on the mechanics of what they’re teaching instead.

I came across some rules for psalm singing from The Practice of Piety by Lewis Bayly (p154-155), I think they help point us towards a right attitude. I found them very interesting and I hope you do too:

  • Don’t sing divine psalms just for fun, mixed in with all sorts of unholy songs. They are God’s word: don’t take them lightly.
  • Sing David’s psalms with David’s spirit (Matthew 22:43).
  • Practice Paul’s rule: “I will sing with the spirit, but I will sing with the understanding also.” – 1 Corinthians 14:15.
  • Behave appropriately, with a suitable reverence as though you were in the sight of God, singing to God with God’s own words.
  • Make sure that the content makes more melody in your hearts (Eph 5:19, Col 3:16) than the music in your ear; for it’s singing with grace in the heart that pleases the Lord.

Beneath Hill 60

Beneath Hill 60 is an Australian war film from 2010 based on a true story about miners who dug tunnels under enemy lines in order to plant explosives.

The story cuts between the situation in the trenches and the principle character’s love interest. I’d suspect the latter is to make the film more palatable to female audiences, and it is well done, but to be honest I’d have thought the friendships between the guys in the trenches would have humanised a war film sufficiently for it to appeal to women. Maybe I’m mistaken – do tell me what you think please!

The film flows well, though it can be nail-biting at points – the story and characters are sufficiently well developed (with the knowledge that it’s true) that you really care for what’s happening. The balance between what is predictable, and some of the big uncertainties about how it will work out, is excellent.

I wasn’t sure about watching it (I’d got it on recommendation), as it is rated 15, but the rating comes from the subject matter addressed. I was glad for no gratuitous glorifying of sin or bad language. It felt pretty real.

Moving and thought provoking. Some of the decisions the characters have to make aren’t easy, and some of what they have to go through is harrowing – imagining ourselves in their place means we have to ask some hard questions.

The historical note at the end tells us the explosion (somewhere in Belgium) was felt in London and Paris. At that point it was the biggest man-made explosion the world had ever known. A momentous event in world history, albeit a costly one in sad circumstances.