Thursday, April 28, 2005

At the risk of casting doubts on my sexuality, can I just rave for a moment about Acorn Antiques the Musical, Victoria Wood's new show, which I saw yesterday with my Mum at the Haymarket Theatre. Phil says disparagingly that Victoria Wood is a one-trick pony. Well if that's so (which I dispute), it's a great trick.

It was Julie Walters' bingo night (well that's what the programme said) so we were treated to Ms Wood herself on stage as Mrs Overall. There was so much funny dialogue in this show, which I had expected, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the music (which Victoria also wrote) - wonderful bubbly stuff with great tunes. There was even a touching love-song thrown in, delivered absolutely straight by Miss Berta. My favourite was Mrs O's song about her preference for tray bakes over sex (a favourite VW theme) and there was also a great 70's disco pastiche with some incredible crotch grinding dance moves from Duncan Preston.

I love the English quality of Victoria Wood's humour, the use of place names for bathos ("I'm a Brummie - that's God's way of making you live in Birmingham"), her affectionate taking a rise out of nostalgia (in the middle of a conversation about breast enhancement: "In my day we used two Cornish pasties. If he didn't fancy you naked, at least no-one went hungry"), the frequent allusions to the ailments of old-age for comedic effect, the deflating of sex's grand promises, the perfectly accurate capture of regional (especially Lancashire) patterns of speech. It was hilarious, heartening stuff. Among the cast Celia Imrie in particular was wonderful, and only Neil Morrissey grated slightly. I'm very tempted to go back and see it again when Julie Walters is on.
Saudi Police Arrest 40 Pakistani Christians:
Saudi Arabia’s religious police arrested 40 Pakistani Christians while the group met privately for worship last Friday morning in Riyadh. The house church gathering was a joint Catholic-Protestant prayer service held weekly in Riyadh in recent years.

According to a Riyadh source, several carloads of muttawa (Islamic religious police) from the Committee for the Propagation and the Prevention of Vice raided the worship meeting just before noon on April 22.

Surrounding the house, the police halted the sermon ... then proceeded to beat some of the worshippers, upsetting the furniture and breaking Christian artifacts and symbols as they searched through the house.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Google Maps is amazing - only in Beta at the moment and a bit flakey, but already so much more quick and clever than StreetMap and MultiMap. (via Sashinka)

Monday, April 25, 2005

I haven't done that much gaming recently. The week before last I played 80 Days Around the World with the Farnborough group. This was a reasonably interesting but not gripping game - the timing mechanisms are quite clever, but the whole thing is a bit linear with no real strategic decisions to make as far as I can see (but maybe that's why I lost!) And then there is Yinsh, a beautifully produced abstract game, a bargain at £15, which I picked up from Playin Games in Bloomsbury. I've played this a few times with Phil, it's a great way to fill 20 minutes with intriguing tactical gameplay. Excellent.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church's prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.

- Soren Kierkegaard (via Sojourners)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Today is this weblog's 4th birthday. I find it hard to believe I have been doing this for so long. My 2nd ever post was about which games I was going to sell to make some space. I'm pleased so say that I have indeed sold all those games, but the space problems are still with me. Oh well. My home may be overflowing with games that I never play, but at least I have my weblog......

Saturday, April 16, 2005

I visited the John Virtue exhibition at the National Gallery today. Came out feeling inspired and did this sketch on Jubilee bridge.

Friday, April 15, 2005

I have finally posted a photo gallery of Phil's 21st birthday, which took place last weekend. It was a great time, and I really enjoyed the company of the guests (from left to right): Jo, Nimmo, Will, Famous Jon, Kez, Tom, Gaz, and Ruth. I gamely tried to keep up with them, and I matched beer for beer and bet for bet all through the BBQ and the poker game, but by the time we got to the William Cobbett I only had energy left for one pint before I crawled home in a daze - the rest of them kept going till about 3am, finding after hours drinking facilities at the Art College apparently. Amazing stamina these youngsters have......

Thursday, April 14, 2005

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Lab fireball 'may be black hole': A fireball created in a US particle accelerator has the characteristics of a black hole, a physicist has said. It was generated at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) in New York, US, which smashes beams of gold nuclei together at near light speeds.

Are these guys completely nuts? Haven't we got enough problems, without the possibility of a mini black hole escaping the lab and tunneling down to the centre of the earth - then eating the planet from the inside out? Try sending Bruce Willis to nuke that.......

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I don't know if I am losing my stomach for wargames - not the moral dilemmas of sending piles of cardboard to a certain death, that has never given me more than occasional twinges of conscience - the problem seems more that I am losing my appetite for mastering 20+ page rulebooks, punching hundreds of counters (that don't want to be punched, they want to tear, tear!), and assimilating a constant trickle of errata. As a result I have a growing backlog of brand-new wargames that I haven't played or even punched yet, sitting on my shelves and at the back of my mind like an accusation of bad faith. Here is the litany of shame:

Grand Illusion Ted Raicer's latest work on the Great War, this looks very innovative with its enormous hexes and battle board. In my mind at least though Ted is getting a reputation for shipping unfinished work. Barbarossa to Berlin was a major example of this tendency - it has been hugely revised since it was published and can now only be played with yellow stickies on just about every other card to remind you of the changes. But worryingly Grand Illusion has already had one fairly major rule change since release. This sort of thing puts me off making the effort - maybe I should stop reading ConsimWorld?

This Accursed Civil War I have yet to find a tactical wargame that I really enjoy, they are usually fiddly with lots of markers on the map and lots of exceptions in the rules. This one has one big advantage going for it though - Richard Berg was not involved. I have high hopes and would love to refight Naseby, Marston Moor etc. And those double-size counters look so cool. This also has the draw of being the first of an ongoing series so learning the rules could pay off in the future. Must get punching!

Von Manstein's Backhand Blow If tactical is not my thing then I have loved some operational games in the past - Breakout Normandy for example. I was drawn by this game's reputation for simplicity and elegance, and I like the big counters and low counter density. Another one I would love to play but just haven't had the time for yet.

Rommel in the Desert This doesn't quite count as backlog. I have already put a significant effort into learning the rules, and set it up solo a couple of times (although this one is a favourite with the cat - I found a half chewed German AT unit under the armchair the other day). The problem here is finding an opponent - it's a complex game and I'm a bit short of experienced wargamers in these parts. Maybe I can entice Dave over for a day....

Empire of the Sun Alright I haven't received this one yet but it's coming any day. And this game is *complex*, I'm sure of it. The whole Pacific Theatre in card-driven format, by Mark Herman no less. Couldn't resist the premise - having owned and drooled over but never played Pacific War for about a decade - but have I got the stomach to actually play this one?

Monday, April 11, 2005

The weekend's most blatant self-indulgence was these lovely PX200 lightweight headphones from Sennheiser (picked up on Saturday from Basingstoke's hi-fi shop on Feathers Lane). I spend a lot of time at work listening to my CD Walkman while I'm writing code or whatever, and I was getting a bit tired of the cheapo earbud phones that came with it. These new phones are great, they are enclosed so that office noises are excluded and my neighbours don't have to listen to my stray sound, they have much better bass than the earbuds, and I can hear so much detail. For example, I could never make out what was said after the cough at the end of Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying". But now I know.....

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A couple of drawings from my moleskine, from my trip to Austria the week before last:

This one is my usual drawing style - fairly delicate, just trying to register what I'm seeing as accurately as possible. It was done from the Kristallhutte cafe on HochZillertal during one of my frequent coffee breaks.

This one is my other way of drawing - more focussed on the drawing than what I'm seeing, using heavier pen marks and using the direction of the marks to build up textures. It was done from a sunny bench outside the hotel in Schlitters, relaxing after a hard day on the slopes.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Am I the only man who does this I wonder? When I am shaving I sometimes run the blade over my ear lobes. It's depressing, but as I get older bits of my body that used to be smooth are now growing hairs. And bits of me that used to be hairy (like the top of my forehead) are becoming less so. Being 46 years old means: having to shave your ear lobes.....

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I'm still playing Final Fantasy X, but I've reached a point where I need some help to get past the next challenge (for those in the know, I've just retreated from Mt Gagazet back down to the Calm Lands, where I am trying to level up my party enough to defeat Seymour...again!) Most FFX walkthrough sites are blocked by the proxy/firewall at work, but Bella magazine isn't blocked - and they have this great Final Fantasy X Walkthrough - by Lisa! So thanks to a women's magazine I can plan my next moves from the office when I should really be working.......

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Reminder to self - consider booking up for Crucible: Creating Church on the Margins:

Christians in Britain (and across western culture) are facing profound challenges and fresh opportunities. The long era of Christendom is coming to an end. We now live in a plural society, with multiple religious options alongside secular assumptions, in which Christianity has largely lost its position of dominance and privilege. Although we seem to be declining in numbers and influence, this new environment offers many new possibilities – if we have the courage and imagination to grasp them.

Crucible is a new training programme for Christians with courage and imagination.
Last week in Austria was great fun. I actually think I am getting better at skiing. The conditions were quite difficult - icy in the morning, slushy after lunch - but I only fell over three times, a record for me. And I was taking the black runs with no problems at all. Most days I got up early and skipped breakfast so as to make the most of the morning - if I have to choose I prefer skiing on ice to slush. On two days I also made the 2-hour journey up to the Hintertux Glacier. At 3250m it was much colder up there and the snow in much better condition, so those were awesome days for both scenery and skiing. It was an Oak Hall trip so I was with a large group of Christians - which I realize might sound pretty dreadful to some of my readers - but for me it was a great friendly atmosphere and I made several new friends. I took Zendo along with me but only managed to lure people into a game once. Anyway the holiday was so busy that gaming was pretty low on my priority list, for once.