Friday, April 30, 2004

After a traumatic half-hour this morning being taught how to put in my trial contact lenses and take them out again, the optician said "I'll just go off for 5 minutes while you try it on your own." Within about 60 seconds I had managed to lose one. Permanently. I wondered if she would think I had lost the lense deliberately, in order to cut short the ordeal.

"Don't worry" she said in a resigned voice when she came back, "this happens all the time."
Some lovely ideas on this website. I'm thinking of using one of them next time I lead Workshop worship. The Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project: Before you look through the site a few comments: Take your time. Much of the material here is grounded in years of conversation and practice by churches, youth pastors and youth. Try not to 'scan' the site. Notice when a sentence, idea or image catches your attention. Notice what attracts you as you engage this material. Take time to stop and reflect on how God might be seeking to meet you through whatever it is that interests you here. (via Jonny Baker)
From a conversation with a furniture delivery man on Wednesday.

Delivery man: This is a nice flat, very spacious.

Me: Yes, I'm really pleased with it. I've just recently moved in.

Delivery man: Yes, I thought so. I thought it looked a bit unfinished, you know, still lots of things to sort out.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

I am The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis apparently (which is spooky seeing that this is one of my favourite books by my favourite writer!)

You were just looking for some decent clothes when everything changed quite dramatically. For the better or for the worse, it is still hard to tell. Now it seems like winter will never end and you feel cursed. Soon there will be an epic struggle between two forces in your life and you are very concerned about a betrayal that could turn the balance. If this makes it sound like you're re-enacting Christian theological events, that may or may not be coincidence. When in doubt, put your trust in zoo animals.

Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I picked up Final Fantasy X again recently on my PS2. A few months ago I got completely killed by Seymour Guano and his horrible "aeon", and was so demoralized that I gave it up for months. I just didn't see how he could be beaten. I think part of it was the impact of the graphics - that pain spell is horrible to watch, and the underground hellfire thing, well I'm still haunted by it.

But I had another go last week. Spent a good deal of time buying all the latest weapons, making sure the gang were all properly equipped and skilled up, had the right overdrive settings etc. Saved it all then walked into the hall for the big confrontation. It went like a dream. Went straight in with all 3 of Yuna's aeons, and by the time they were all dead Seymour was only a few big hits away from defeat. Most gratifying.

Now I'm stuck on the stupid puzzle that comes next......
As one of my readers has asked: I am using Norton AntiVirus (only £20 and far too important to leave to freeware) and the XP firewall. Not sure how best to configure the firewall so I just left it to the defaults. Everything still works, but then the door may be wide open for the bad people too. I used to administer a corporate firewall as part of my job but all that knowledge seems to have slipped away in the intervening years.....

Monday, April 26, 2004

This is great! I've just got my wireless ADSL router working. I bought an Ebuyer (ie Origo) router and card and a connection from PlusNet. I set up the router with my laptop plugged in on Friday night - very straightforward indeed. Today I planned to put the wireless card into my PC, but it was with a sense of forboding that this was likely to be the tricky bit. 10 minutes approximately from opening the case to posting to my blog.

Better stop blogging and get AntiVirus and a firewall installed........
The 30th birthday of Dungeons and Dragons makes the front page on the BBC News website! BBC NEWS | Magazine | Whatever happened to Dungeons and Dragons?: In the 1980s millions of teenagers world-wide would battle dragons armed with just a few dice, paper and pens. D&D became part of youth sub-culture but as the game celebrates its 30th birthday - is anyone still playing?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

BayCon last weekend was good fun. Held at a fairly run-down motel 5 miles south of Exeter, staffed by underpaid migrant workers, with crumbling windowframes and peeling decor, nevertheless it offered gaming space and fairly cheap rooms for a large number of gamers, many of whom are personally large as well. Why do geeks always tuck their T-shirts into their jeans, no matter how big the beer-gut?

Anyway, I played lots of games, losing most of them, and failing to get into the top 100 list. At a convention with about 120 attendees, that's a pretty bad performance. Enjoyed trying some new games (new to me anyway) such as San Juan, Alhambra, Medici, Attika, and Age of Mythology. Nick played a 2-day epic game of GMT's Napoleonic Wars. I was woken by him when he finally staggered into our room at 5:30am Sunday morning, only to sit in bed punching out his new copy of Attika!

My favourite discovery of the weekend was a game I had taken along with me but never played - Scarab Lords. A really excellent two-player card game by Reiner Knizia, marred only by tatty American-style production values (how come Blue Moon, another similar Knizia game, which costs about the same money and is manufactured in Europe, has about 10-times better physical quality?)

Talking of Reiner, he was there apparently, but I never saw him. So I never got the chance to do a Waynes World on him ("We are not worthy!")

Monday, April 19, 2004

Nimrods: three years old today!

Ho-hum. Ever onwards, I suppose.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

At last, GMT's sequel to Battle Cry is available to preorder. However, they are setting the threshold quite a bit higher than usual - they need 1250 preorders before they will commit to producing the game. Well, there's one here.

Commands & Colors: Ancients: Unlike its younger brother, Battle Cry by Hasbro/Avalon Hill, Commands & Colors: Ancients is moderately more complex and contains additional historical details without the battlefield clutter. Most scenarios will still play to a conclusion in less than an Hour.
Hmm, let's see, things I have discovered during the last week or so:

1) I am a complete lightweight. I was lured out of my flat yesterday evening by the sunshine, and wandered down to the William Cobbett where I sipped a leisurely pint. One pint. Followed by a large glass of water when I got home. And this morning I have a headache.

2) Shaun of the Dead is a wonderful film. British, very funny, exciting too, and it hasn't got Hugh Grant. The new Ster Cinema in Basingstoke is a lovely cinema, huge screens, steeply raked and very comfortable seating - BUT the sound is so loud that even ordinary dialog sounds like giants shouting. Very uncomfortable, and breaks the illusion of reality as well. Won't be going back there.

3) Axis and Allies: Europe is good fun but flawed. Went to Dave's place on Monday and played it with John. It soon became apparent that the whole game comes down to a titanic struggle between two huge stacks on the Moscow space. It is also a bit weird that the British cannot reinforce Egypt, but that can be easily fixed with a house rule. But basically the game needs completely new victory conditions.

4) It's a pain dealing with BT. I want broadband on my PC in the spare bedroom, so I called BT to get a line extension put in. The girl at the call centre agreed to send an engineer round first thing, so that I wouldn't have to take a day off. But the engineer was actually booked for a 1pm slot. Stuff them. I am going for a wireless router, and PlusNet as a provider. (They do a £19 a month contract with no access to binary newsgroups, which is good for me as it removes the temptation of all those mucky newsgroups!) I'll let you know how this works out.

5) There is some wonderful countryside near Farnham. On Good Friday I drove over to Selborne and walked a section of the Hangars Way, stopping for lunch at a wonderful Free House called the Hawkley Arms. Lovely folded chalky country with hanging woods on the steep hillsides, and secluded little valleys and villages. This is my favourite time of year, the countryside looks so beautiful, but it's almost saying "You haven't seen anything yet! Just wait till the leaves come out!"

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Went (with Nick, Debs, Suzy and others) to see Polly Paulusma play at Bush Hall in Shepherd's Bush last night. She's a folksy-modern singer-songwriter. Thoughtful, melancholy lyrics make a great combination with her sunny, mischievous nature. Nick - who is a creative web-designer type - was more taken with the striking visuals created by strongly coloured spots cutting across images projected onto the ornate plasterwork of the back wall. Wished I'd taken my camera in. A good evening spent soaking up much-needed nourishment from the arts.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Gosh, this is probably the first time I have ever been nominated for a Most Eligible Bachelor award!

Friday, April 02, 2004

A Media Studies student emailed me with a questionnaire about blogging. Here for posterity are my magisterial answers:

1. How long have you been a blogger?

3 years

2. What made you create your blog initially?

I was inspired by a blog called "Relapsed Catholic". I thought a weblog would be a good way of communicating with my (then) boardgaming group in Salisbury - notifying of events, writing up game sessions etc. I initially envisaged my friends contributing postings as well. It didn't work out like that - it rapidly broadened out to include other things I'm interested in, like music, Christianity, my job etc etc. It bacame mor of a personal journal I suppose.

3. When you write your blog do you write with an audience in mind?

Yes: mainly friends in the boardgaming hobby, my children, people who leave comments. Sometimes I think I'm just writing notes to myself - which would be a good enough reason for doing it. Of course I keep my eye on my stats and wonder who these 40 unique visitors a day are and why they visit!

4. In your opinion, what is a blog?

It's a journal-like website format, mediated by software which makes it very easy for the non-technical writer to post to it.

5. Would you consider your blog a form of journalism?

Some blogs certainly are: not so much news reporting, but a valuable substitute for newspaper opinion pieces and columnists. I don't consider mine to be journalism.

6. Do you think blogging is just a passing phase?

No, it's pretty firmly established now. There are plenty of people who seem to have a need to blog or read blogs.

7. What form do you think blogs will take in the next few years?

I think there will be new technologies for separating the wheat from the chaff, making it easier to navigate through the "blogsphere" and quickly find out where the latest buzz is happening.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Book Group tonight! No not the TV show, the book group in Richmond that I belong to. Things I like about my book group:
    We have good coffee and cake (usually)

    We read and chat about some great books that I would not otherwise have touched, for example, tonight we will discuss "Under the Net" by Iris Murdoch, which was surprisingly comical, and contains possibly the best pubcrawl in English literature.

    I am the only man there. Apart from me, the group consists entirely of lovely, intelligent young women. No really.

    One of whom (Helen) always cooks me supper before the book group starts.

    Did I mention the coffee and cakes?
More opera last night - Simon got tickets for Eugene Onegin with Welsh National Opera (and Amanda Roocroft) at Southampton Mayflower. In contrast to ENO's Rhinegold the production was superb, beautifully staged and costumed, with great acting as well as singing from the cast. I've never experienced a Tchaikovsky opera before, and it was a revelation to me. His music is so flexible and lyrical and well-paced, never descending into routine "let's get this conversation out of the way" stretches, always serving the drama and charged with emotional weight.