Thursday, November 29, 2001

Well the database migration on Monday night went smoothly enough. Finished 5 minutes early after a 10 hour slot - not bad estimating eh? I've just about got my sleep patterns back to normal now, only to shatter them tomorrow with an overnight flight to Nepal!

So no more postings for a couple of weeks probably - unless I get to an Internet cafe while I'm over there. But don't forget to come back on 17th December!

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Notice the horrible times on these postings? Yuk! I hate missing a night's sleep sitting in the office watching progress bars. Thankfully everything is going smoothly so far, so I might get away at a reasonable time.....
Next time you buy a new CD, check the small print! New Scientist: Consumers unhappy with playing difficulties with the world's first mass-market copy-protected CD can now get a free, unprotected replacement.

Monday, November 26, 2001

Quite right too! Star Wars named all-time favourite film: The films won the title following an extensive poll by Channel 4, which sought to decide the greatest-ever film by polling its viewers.
Almost forgot - it's my birthday today! Not much chance to celebrate, as I am back at work this evening for an all-nighter. However, I got home earlier today and had excellent presents from my parents and from Phil to unwrap. Both gifts were history books - the Mammoth Book of Kings and Queens (amazing book, two thirds of it is pre-conquest stuff, I thought no-one knew much about the Dark Ages?!) - and Enemy at the Gates from Phil. How did he know his Dad is interested in military history?! I also wandered into Salisbury and bought myself a lovely brown leather briefcase - a floppy old-fashioned one with brass buckles. Beautiful!

And Phil also sat me down after dinner and played my favourite wargame with me - Up Front! But even though it's my birthday, he still beat me as usual.

Of course the best present of all would be for this database migration to go smoothly......
Our conductor David Gibson never loses his temper with us (the Basingstoke Choral Society), but at last Friday's rehearsal he came very close. He was almost as jittery at the dress rehearsal on Saturday afternoon. But on the night it seemed to go very well. The Brahms Requiem is a demanding piece, lots of tricky notes, and terrifying fugues taken by David at breakneck speed. But we got through without any major mishaps. Two of my friends were there, John and Fiona, and they were both very impressed, and we got lots of applause, so perhaps it was better than "no mishaps", it might even have been "pretty good"!
Stephen Pollard on the curious disappearance of mass anti-America demonstrations: In the streets of Peshawar, where a few weeks ago riot police charged mass crowds which cheered attacks on America (and, of course, Israel) and burnt effigies of US President George Bush, today "portraits of Osama bin Laden go unsold" and the few policemen present look like "a bunch of old friends on an afternoon stroll".

Friday, November 23, 2001

Oh dear, here we go! - it's the Carcassonne River expansion. What next - Carcassone in Space?
This is for Nick's benefit really - a discussion from the Consimworld Paths of Glory forum about keeping an aggressive German player (ie Dave) out of France: I need some advice. I'm new to PoG and, as the AP, I'm having no luck whatsoever keeping the Germans out of Paris in 1914.
Minden Games, makers of Retro ASL.
Some interesting postings on Consimworld about Retro ASL: Gary's variant uses an IGO-HUGO sequence of play, most apparent (and surprising initially) is the absence of opportunity type fire as such. Rather, an INSPIRED game mechanic of 'hesitation' that causes units moving within Line of Fire of certain weapons to test for hesitation. If they pass, they may continue to move, if they fail. they stop - simple, tense and excellent for solitaire play.

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Isn't the Web fantastic! Here's the answer to my question - the national game of Nepal is Bagha Chal (Tigers Moving Game).

From The Online Guide to Traditional Games.
I've been wondering what to take to Nepal in the way of games. It needs to be highly portable, interesting, colourful, easy to teach, and so likely to get the interest of locals on the trekking trail! I've decided the best choice is my Aquarius deck together with printouts of the solitaire rules from this link.

I'm also hoping to pick up local games. What do they play out there, Chinese Chess perhaps?
Meeting Richard Borg: Richard said that GMT Games was working on releasing Command and Colors Napoleonic. Possibly this would have a high P2000 benchmark, requiring 2000 preorders before development, possibly due to the large number of plastic figures. Also, Command and Colors Ancients was a possible future release from Descarte-Editeur Eurogames. Both release seemed to be over one year away. Nice photos on this page as well as the interesting news about follow-ups to Battle Cry.

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

George Orwell quoted by Andrew Sullivan "The mentality of the English left-wing intelligentsia can be studied in half a dozen weekly and monthly papers. The immediately striking thing about all these papers is their generally negative, querulous attitude, their complete lack at all times of any constructive suggestion. There is little in them except the irresponsible carping of people who have never been and never expect to be in a position of power." - England Your England, 1940.

Sounds familiar? I also like this from Andrew today: Forget the broad coalition for action against al Qaeda. Forget the U.N., which has once again been shown to be essentially useless in a real crisis. Forget the E.U., which also dissolves into constituent parts at the first sign of gunfire. The only real alliance worth anything right now is a tripartite arc from Washington through London to Moscow.
I'm going to need one of these next week: US3150831--Birthday Cake Candle Extinguisher (via BleuBlog)

Monday, November 19, 2001

Excellent discussion of Harry Potter controversy within some Christian circles: By the way, I talked by e-mail with Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham. He said that much of the response that we’re seeing to Harry Potter is similar to what Lewis received when The Chronicles of Narnia first came out. Christians attacked him. They said his stories were filled with witchcraft. They feature gods and goddesses, spirits of trees, and river gods. (via Relapsed Catholic)
Nick and Ann dragged me along to see the Harry Potter film yesterday - in the gloriously pseudo-medieval Screen 1 at Salisbury. What a treat for the inner child! This is a wonderful film. I loved the galaxy of British acting talent on display. I loved the visual richness - the animated paintings, the echoes of Gormenghast, the Railway Children, and Oliver. The children were great. And I wouldn't have believed it was even possible to film a Quidditch match! I'm really glad I didn't miss this one - I'll be going back for a repeat viewing in a few weeks.

Friday, November 16, 2001

Well what a surprise, go-live is postponed for a week. Another review meeting next week - I wonder what we will decide then? My upcoming holiday (2 weeks in Nepal starting 30th Nov) was mentioned about 4 times during the meeting! I feel more and more as if my holiday is going to take the blame for the whole shambles!
James Lileks: It all comes back to 9.11: no treaty would have stopped it. No amount of multilateralism on the US’s part would have turned aside the heart of Atta et al, and in the end nothing short of guns and bombs would have snapped the Taliban’s spine and let kites fly over Kabul. Ah, but what of the problems we face NOW? We’ll face them, I presume, and imperfections will follow, since imperfect beings are all we can field. Sometimes all available options suck. What counts is doing as much of the right thing as you possibly can, and not accepting some Olympian standard of omniscient perfection as the rod against which all human efforts are compared.
Silly season at work today. Project I've been working on since August is supposed to be going live on Tuesday, but dark forces are gathering intent on knocking it on the head. Emotional meeting expected this afternoon.

Moreover I was out too late last night at Ceroc, and didn't sit out enough dances, so don't feel I have much energy today!

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

I stayed over in Newport Monday night to work on the database server in an early morning slot. Driving over to the office at 3:45am I switched on the radio and got BBC World Service, and an excitable John Simpson broadcasting live from the centre of Kabul. "I don't know how to say this modestly, but the BBC have just liberated Kabul!"

What an amazing moment, the collapse of the odious Taliban regime is just a beautiful, unexpected thing. Children flying kites, women - faces uncovered - smiling from windows, pop music playing, young men getting a shave. OK, a mixed blessing, there will still be ugliness and violence in the weeks to come: but you'd be crazy not to see that this is a time of new hope for Afghanistan.
Nelson Mandela: I also want to say that one of the reasons for coming here is to be able to express my support for the President for his action in Afghanistan. The United States of America lost 5,000 people, innocent people, and it is quite correct for the President to ensure that the terrorists, those masterminds, as well as those who have executed the action and survived, are to be punished heavily. (via Scripting News)
Anne McElvoy: The anti-war case is as flawed practically as it is ethically. The bombing, we have been warned, would "never work" and would only succeed in strengthening the Taliban's support in the population. The events of the past two days do not look like a decisive swing to the Taliban to me.

Friday, November 09, 2001

James Lileks is on blistering form today: I’ve written here before about people who believe that skepticism is not only an obligation - which it is - but a modus vivendi, the only possible option for a Thinking Person. The end result of this philosophy is intellectual paralysis.
GMT GAMES: Clash of Giants: this game looks great - simple, fast to play, low counter density, 8-page rules booklet. But why, oh why does it cost £40 over here?
What isn't there somewhere on the Looney Labs website? Making Custom Card Boxes: Among the problems that weigh on the minds of card-game players everywhere are these: Why do some games come in those annoying double-wide packages? Why do some games come in boxes that are fragile or don't stay closed? Is there any alternative to those stupid plastic baseball card boxes or rubber bands? What do I do if I expand my deck so that it no longer fits in the original box? What do I do if the box my cards came in distintegrates? What do I do if the cards came in a big envelope instead of a box?
Spent the last two days at work battling with a massive Nimda virus attack. It's scary what a big impact this thing had. It's incredibly infectious - it spreads itself by email, it scans for vulnerable web servers, it modifies your web pages with malicious Javascript, it scans for shared folders and copies itself into them, and it makes "guest" an administrator. Clever stuff - you have to admire (grudgingly) the guys who write these things!

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Quick game report: James kindly came over on Sunday for an ASL teach-in. We played a scenario called "Operation Gavin" (I think?) - this was a simple infantry-only affair. I played the American paratroopers trying to work around a group of Germans in a village and stop them getting back to a bridge. I started well, using smoke to dash across open ground in view of his MGs. As I got closer to the bridge things continued to go well, with several German squads breaking. However, the tide turned when a broken German squad unexpectedly rallied and opened up with a machine gun at point blank range.

We had lunch, but I wasn't feeling too well so James was packed off home - nothing to do with me losing the scenario, honest! I really appreciated James coaching me through this daunting game system. Without having to worry too much about the mechanics- James was doing all that - it was a great wargaming experience, very tense and exciting.
I had a good laugh last night - Phil and Harriet came to Ceroc with me. Against all their 17-year-old principles of "coolness" they really enjoyed themselves - in fact they want to come again!
Thomas Sutcliffe: Coercive ceremonies of togetherness like that organised by Islam Awareness Week push us still closer to the notion that it is an inalienable human right not to have your feelings hurt – that tolerance means the agonised avoidance of all offence. And as someone who thinks the bedrock of a tolerant society is the acceptance that offence should sometimes have to be endured – I find that redefinition troubling.

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

I scored 56% in the Are You A Blogaholic? quiz. Sad or what? (via Hopeless Romantics)

462 people have taken this silly test so far.

140 people have scored higher than you.

284 people have scored lower than you.

38 people made the same grade as you.
Happy 21st birthday Gavin!

Bit worried that when I phoned you at 11:30am you were already drunk, but I suppose that's what your coming of age means - I can stop worrying about you.......
Phil was knocked out last night when I played The Mock Turtles - Can U Dig It? for him. He was particularly impressed that this track dated from 1979 - it sounded so indie to him. Unfortunately I got the dates wrong, it was more like 1989, as I found out from this link. But I also got the interesting fact that their front-man Martin Coogan is Steve's brother!
Major Religions Ranked by Size (via nutlog). Who says Christianity is dead?!

Monday, November 05, 2001

Calling all lovers of fine music

I'm singing with the Basingstoke Choral Society in a concert at the Anvil on Saturday 24th November. The highlight of the evening (i.e. our bit!) is the Brahms German Requiem. This is wonderful music, very moving - it's hard to imagine a more appropriate piece for the times we are living in. Tickets start at £8, I would love to see you there and buy you a drink afterwards in the Anvil bar.

Here's a link to the Anvil website with booking details.

Or just call the box office on 01256 844244.

Friday, November 02, 2001

Victoria Wood tour: note to self - don't don't don't miss one of these.
This game played with trading cards must take the prize for this year's funniest tie-break rule. (via textism)
Words of wisdom from Gavin:

Mac users are just like Linux users: they all write this kind of irrelevant bollocks because they are inherently insecure about the lack of popularity their chosen operating system has received. They are like religious fanatics.

Gavin's weblog is worth a visit today (for once) for a detailed account of a moonbow he saw last night. I heard about these in a physiology lecture years ago, but I've never been lucky enough to see one.

Thursday, November 01, 2001

The Mac Observer - I Wonder If Chess Will Do For OS X What Solitaire Did For Windows?: I've tried my hand at Solitaire, but can never see the point. It's monotonous and grossly uninspiring. I can understand why it's included with Microsoft Windows. The two are a perfect match.
Thursday nimrod sessions?

A few of you may be wondering what has happened to the Thursday sessions at my place. Well, I'm afraid November is stacking up to be a pretty busy month for me. A major project at work that I'm heavily involved in is going live on 20th November. This will involve a fair few broken nights between now and then. And the choral society's concert is only a few weeks away, with extra rehearsals to fit in. I'm also running a Divorce Recovery group at my home during the next few weeks. And I have to start preparing for my Nepal trip in December. So all this adds up to a fair bit of extra pressure on my time, so gaming sessions, especially mid-week, will have to give for a while. But once I'm back from Nepal I'll attempt to get the routine started again.

Don't forget everyone, it's Nick's birthday next Tuesday! He wants lots of nice new boardgames, so get shopping!

Spookily, it's also my son Gavin's 21st next Tuesday. Here is his birthday list, in case anyone is interested (I'm not):

21 yr old bottle of whisky (preferably bowmore legend)
BA return to Paris from Bristol (
DTT3500 Digital Surround System
Red faction PS2 game

I remember when he was little he'd be satisfied with £10 worth of Lego......
Heard Patty Loveless doing a live set from her latest CD Mountain Soul on Radio 2 last night. Beautiful bluegrass music - got to get this one!