Friday, 24 April 2009

Songs of Protest

We are reducing the clutter in our home ready to make a move round the world to the UK from New Zealand. As part of the process, we are having to make decisions on items that we have stored for years.

Both my wife and I used to buy long play (LPs) records back in the days when they used to produce 33 rpm vinyl records. One of the things that I noticed was the number of artists that are part of our collection that were singing protest songs. These include Arlo Guthrie, Donovan, and Joan Baez. These artists were around the time of the Vietnam war but there was an era of speaking out that seems to have gone quiet amongst the popular artists of today.

Protest movements still happen but the popular artists don't seem to be picking up the protest issues and making them part of their repertoire. It seems that we have become more accepting of a financial system that advantages the rich and enslaves the poor, and accepting of war as a mechanism for subduing those who disagree with our approach to life.

I am not a singer but I would like to hear more artists raising their protests in their music and speaking out against the injustices of the day. “Live Aid” might raise millions to feed the starving poor but it isn't challenging the systems and corruption that cause the suffering to occur. We need to be doing more than opening our wallets. We need to be challenging the systems and seeking redress at the very foundation of our society. This includes challenging the very attitudes that we have in terms of our goals and objectives.

If you want a bit of a challenge then I suggest reading Viv Grigg's book “Companion to the poor.” Viv worked amongst the squatters in Manila and the book highlights some of the issues that he faced and the struggle that he had in reconciling his beliefs with what he saw happening. Viv isn't the only author who challenges us to rethink our attitudes on prosperity and the treatment of others.

Let's rekindle the protest movements and speak out for a society that has real compassion for people and seeks to understand and not enforce conformity. I will speak more on variation in conception and using variation to aid understanding and increase learning in later blogs.

Event mechanisms

Working in Flex, I have been exploring the different ways in which the event structure is used. Form my perspective, the basic event mechanisms are those of the observer pattern. The object that wants to act on the event subscribes to the event and the event is fired by the object that owns the event. However, in the Flex environment event usage has follows a number of different patterns. Three of these are in use in the Flex application that I am working on and in order to understand their best usage, we need to understand the mechanisms that they use and the type of pattern that they implement.

In general event mechanisms are used as a way of notifying that something has occurred in the system. The basic event structure is common to many languages. However, the basic event structure isn't always the best solution to the problem.

The issues that arise when considering event mechanisms are:

  1. who is interested in acting upon the event?
  2. who will manage the event?
  3. who or what will cause the event?
Other issues that need to be considered are:
  1. how many objects will want to respond to the event?
  2. can the event handler respond to the same type of event from many different dispatchers?
  3. how many object will dispatch the event?
  4. is the event monitoring of the event related to the dispatcher of the event or is the dispatcher irrelevant to the dispatch?
  5. what data is to be passed in the event?

I am sure that there are other issues that influence the decision as to the type of event mechanism to implement.

The basic event mechanism

The basic event mechanism is associated with a specific owning and dispatching object. This wanting to respond to the event register their interest through some form of subscription mechanism such as add and event listener to the expected dispatching object. When the event is dispatched all the listeners are called with the data passed in the dispatch.

With this approach, the dispatching object has no knowledge about the listening objects. It allows any object to register a method to process the event and passes across a data packet that allows the listener to determine what caused the event.

An event listener is not restricted to handling an event from just one object nor is it restricted to listening for just one type of event. However, the handler becomes more complex as the number of different types of events that it processes increases.

One the dispatch side, an particular event is associated with a particular object although other objects may fire the same type of event.

This mechanism is used extensively in Flex to handle user gestures and to notify of changes to objects through the data binding mechanisms. Data binding monitors the changes in the object that it is interested in and updates the object to which it is attached. Many objects can be bound to the same underlying property or object. This provides a one to many form of notification.

Detaching the event

There are cases where the sender of the event isn't that relevant or possibly more correctly, the owner of the event isn't relevant. In the Flex frameworks, the Cairngorm event mechanism appears to be detached from any object other than the command controller. Pure MVC provides another alternative in the form of a notifier. By detaching the event from a specific object, it is possible to implement a broadcast pattern. Any object can fire the event, and any object that is interested in that event can respond. This is the basis of the PureMVC notifier mechanism.

The broadcast mechanism is appropriate where the listener acts on the data passed in the event and is not concerned about who originated the event. In effect it can be a many to many type notification. In this situation, the registration of interest in the event isn't with the possible initiators but rather with some generic event manger that registers the subscriptions and receives the notifications that cause the event to occur.

Restricting the handlers

The other alternative is to restrict the number of objects that can handle the event. This is the way that the Cairngorm events are implemented. A Cairngorm event is designed to cause a specific command to be executed. As a result, it isn't possible to register interest or to listen for the event. All object can do is cause the event to occur and pass in the data that the command processor might expect. The dispatcher of the event doesn't now the object that is registered to handle the event nor whether an object is registered to handle the event. It simply dispatches the event.

Events are attached to specific command objects through a command controller. This is like a method call where the caller has no knowledge of who they are calling but they know that the listener is there and will perform the required service.

This structure implements a many to one form of processing and the Cairngorm framework implements this for its command processing structure.

Which is best?

That is really the wrong question. Each of the mechanisms have there appropriate use.

If the object that needs to receive an event knows the originator then the basic event mechanism resolves the problem. It can record its interest and respond to each occurrence of the event. This is the data binding situation. A field in a visual component want to reflect the value of some property of an object in the model. The model doesn't want to have to manage all the objects that might need updated so it dispatches a property change event when the value changes. All objects bound to that property are notified and can act on the change as required.

If the object interested in receiving an event doesn't know who will cause the event then the notifier or broadcast mechanism works well. The receiving object simply registers its interest in the event and not a specific object / event combination. The objects causing the event have no interest in who will process the event and simply ask the event manager to fire the event thus leaving them selves free of any knowledge of who will process the event.
If an event is to cause a specific processing action and the object that causes the event has no knowledge of which object will process the event then the Cairngorm event mechanism is appropriate. However, in the Flex case, where the code is single threaded, the Cairngorm event behaves like a disconnected method call. The object that handles the event is called immediately unless the processing is delayed by a remote object call or specifically by the call later mechanism.

Problems occur when the mechanisms are used to implement a style of processing that they were never intended to handle. Of course this applies to any design or elementary implementation pattern.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Walking in relationship

To some extent this continues yesterday's blog. There I talked about God having a greater plan of healing and not just being focused on the individuals who are sick but that he is seeking to heal those around them. However, healing isn't just something that happens to individuals. God seeks to heal communities, nations, and the world.

But what is the key to healing? It can take a long time and be a difficult road to become in tune with God and to hear what He is saying. In Luke 18:35-43, Jesus is walking with his disciples teaching them. Barclay says that it was common for Rabbis to “discourse as they walked.” The picture that came to mind was of a group of cyclists out on an afternoon ride. As they cycle, they chat. Sometimes about riding technique but often about a range of issues. In the process some learning goes on.

Yesterday, I was at the Wellington Civic Centre talking another 360ยบ image. As I worked away many people came up and talked with me wanting to know what I was doing. Some would have gone away a little wiser about how some image are created. Just in the everyday activities, there are opportunities to teach if we are ready to respond or for us to learn if we are open to listen.

I am increasingly seeing Jesus walking with me as I go through each of life's situations. Sometimes, it is a quite word. Other times, it is an insight give just when it is required. As we go about our journey in of life, helping where we can, learning, and teaching from our experiences, Jesus walks with us providing a gently word or reminding us when we haven't lived up to the commitment that we made.

As Jesus walked through life, he saw opportunities to heal and to give but he also saw the opportunities to teach. He healed ten lepers even though only one returned to praise God (Luke 17:11-19). That one was a Samaritan, despised by the Jews. The others, we assume where Jews. Jesus didn't heal because he knew all would seek to praise God nor did he reject the Samaritan because he was not a Jew. He healed all and then used the response to teach a valuable lesson to his disciples. When Zacchaeus climbed the tree to see Jesus, Jesus saw the need in Zacchaeus and went to his home to share with him (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus taught not just by word. He also taught by deed.

Our journey is always in a context of events that surround us. We need to be involved and not separated from those events. We give where we can and grow through the interactions. We are taught through those events and we become God's tool to teach others.

Barclay finishes his commentary on Luke 18:35-43 by saying “Men may respect an orator but they love a man with helping hands. Men admire a man with a great mind but they love a man with a big heart.” As I walk through life, I want to teach and encourage but in order to do so, I must be able to do and to have a heart of compassion. I have stated one of my goals as to study, to do, and to teach (Ezra 7: 10). Maybe more importantly is to recognise the context in which this is appropriate and have the compassion to recognise the appropriate way to respond.

Increasingly, I am seeing healing and teaching as walking in relationship with Jesus. When I walk in relationship with him then he helps me to see what to say and how to respond. As yesterday's Good Friday service ended, I had the renewed sense that “Jesus walked and taught. He continues to do so now.” We have to be willing to hear and to act as he leads.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Faith and Healing

This is Good Friday and maybe a day for reflection on our walk with Christ. This thought is driven more by feedback this week from two people with different forms of cancer. One has been through a lot of treatment and has now reached a point were it seems incurable. The other with a milder form of the disease is in the beginning stages of treatment.

It would be easy to pray that God would relieve the suffering of the first person and heal the second quickly but we believe that God seeks to heal all people. We therefore pray that the cancer would be driven out from both of their bodies. We believe God will heal but what is God healing in these situations?

Often our vision is narrow and focused simply on the physical healing. God remove the sickness, we plead but God has a wider vision. This is reflected in Jesus journey to the cross (Luke 18:31-34). The disciples and the people of Israel were waiting for an all powerful, all conquering messiah. He would drive out the occupying forces and restore the Jewish state. Their narrow focus was on the survival of the state of Israel and no doubt their prayers went forth with a strong belief that God would avenge the nations.

But God's plan is different. He seeks the salvation of all men and seeks a relationship with all men. Jesus goes to the cross to cleanse not simply the nation of Israel but all peoples. The disciples hopes are shattered. The dream of the messiah collapsed on the cross. But Jesus rises from the dead and in that new life comes a new understanding for the disciples. A new relationship and walk begins.

In the illness of our two people, we need to ask who is God trying to touch? Who is God reaching out to heal? Lord, we pray heal these people but not my will be done but thy will be done. Lord don't just heal these people but heal those close to them, heal the nation, heal this world. Lord work out your plan and help us to see your plan.<\p>

Are we prepared to pray as the hymn writer wrote: “Even though it be the cross that changeth me”?

Do we really understand this phrase from the Lord's prayer “Thy will be done. Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”?

If we really believe in God's kingdom coming, what is the implications for the way that we live each day?

Yes, we pray for the healing of these two people. We pray that God would drive this disease from their bodies but more importantly, we pray that God would bring about that which he desires through these illnesses and reach the people that he needs to reach. May his healing be brought about in the lives of these two people and in the lives of all who interact with them and may we understand more of what God is seeking to do in our own lives and in the lives of those that we come in touch with.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Debt Financing

I am endeavouring to catch up on a number of blog themes that I have reflected on in my personal and work journals over the last few months. Between work, family issues, and preparing to move, blogging has taken a back seat. This entry was stimulated by the current economic crisis and some biblical reading on 8 March 2009.

My thoughts are about the world financial crisis and the emphasis on debt financing if the economic system that I believe has led to the crisis. This really isn't a new thought for me as my father was involved in the Social Credit movement in the 1970s and 1980s and has accumulated books on the Christian view of money. I have read some of C H Douglas' writings but more importantly I have reflected on Kingdom Economics and their meaning for everyday life. More on that theme at a later date.

In the current crisis, those who have borrowed heavily to advance their dreams now find themselves losing their dreams or at the very least struggling to clear the debt accumulated.

It could be argued that progress in the west has been made because of the ability to borrow and debt finance research. But the cards tumble easily when one person in the chain finds that they are no longer able to meet their financial commitments.

In the US, big companies are now in danger of total collapse because they have built their empires on debt and requirements for large cash flows. As their markets dry up, they can no longer sustain the cash flow and thus move deeper and deeper into debt.

Living on only small amounts of debt leaves us with freedom to do things despite the economic downturn. We are not forced to earn large amounts simply to live nor are we enslaved to a system of accumulating more wealth.

One of the things that we are realising as we attempt to reduce the clutter in our home is that by having less and living simply, we are able to do more for others even when the times are tight.

But Jesus also challenged people about their desire for more possessions (Luke 12:13-34). Having lots of possessions doesn't bring us life nor can we be certain that we will enjoy all the things that we posses. Jesus encourages us to live more simply and enjoy life. Don't spend all your time working for possessions that you may never get the time to enjoy.

Recession and Ripping People Off

What does a recession mean to you? Is it less income or falling prices? We are in the process of selling things off not because we need the money but because we are endeavouring to be able to travel light. Some things we will give away. There are a number reasons for selling off things we have gathered over the years. Most importantly, it is so we can spend time with our grandchildren, daughter, and her husband in England (we currently live in New Zealand), and being able to move closer to our son if necessary because his wife has Hodgkin's lymphoma. Regardless a lot of possessions simply weigh us down and don't get much use.

On one of our recent attempts to sell something a perspective buyer asked us to drop the price further even though the current market price is above what we are asking. The buyers reasoning was that it was a recession and we should expect to sell at lower prices. This left me thinking about what recession realy means to people.

Before the recession kicked in, there were already cases of people in low pay countries being exploited to deliver cheap goods to the more affluent countries. The idea of paying a fair wage for work done hasn't reached all countries yet and the more affluent nations seem willing to exploit these low income regions for their own personal gain. Many of these workers already can not afford to live. So in a recession should we expect prices to drop further and the wages of these workers to shrink further?

Of course there is the other consequence. If we see a recession and an opportunity to buy things at reduced price then producers are going to stop producing or at the least reduce production. Workers will be laid off or companies close down simply because producers can't afford to continue to produce at a lose. The recession deepens and there are more lay-offs and more people struggling to survive.

Regardless of whether it is a recession or a healthy economy, we should always be considering all sides of the supply and sale of goods and services. The buyer shouldn't be ripped off simply because times are good neither should the buyer expect producers to be ripped off when times are bad. Look to pay a fair price regardless of the financial environment.

At least we are fortunate. We are not forced to sell so we will just remove our goods from the market or look for other ways of disposing of them to people who really have a need for them and are not simply trying to exploit others.

One of the things that we are endeavouring to sell is our house. The real estate agent assured us that it didn't need painting to put on the market but we have gone ahead with some repairs and with the painting. We are not forced to sell. We simply prefer to sell. However, if we were to retain the property then we want to ensure that it is in good condition so we will go ahead with repairs, upgrades, and painting. If prospective buyers aren't prepared to pay for that work as part of the purchase then we will look at other ways of using the property that will free us to be more independent of the commitment to it. We don't want to rip buyers off or leave them in a position of more expense after the purchase. All we seek in return is that prospective buyers look to give us a fair price so we can live wherever we end up. Preferably that would be with the same debt level as we have now.

When looking at economic transactions whether in or out of a recession, consider th importance of “living simply so that others may simply live”. That is pay a fair price for all goods and services so that others can simply afford to live.