Sunday, April 30, 2006


10 days in the life of a conker tree...

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Major down time

My ISP had a MAJOR hardware failure on Wednesday night (lost the storage server) but luckily they were able to get it fixed by today AND had a newish backup. To get the Blog back to normal I just had to republish from Blogger and copy up a few photos of the garden - my own full backup (export from FrontPage) was from the end of January so I was a bit worried. Google came in handy - while the server was still down I managed to retrieve all the missing blog entries (just in case) from cached visits of the Google crawler to my site. I will, of course, put some proper backup processes in place so I don't have to worry. The FrontPage Server Extensions look screwed, though, so I may have to do it manually.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


HOW evil?!?!

How evil are you?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


All your MySpace are belong to us

I finally have my own MySpace now. I didn't set out to set one up but blame Alec. First start point was innocent enough - Randy Cassingham wrote in his most recent THIS is TRUE:

"LOOKED FOR FRIENDS, found lots: My space on MySpace has expanded dramatically in the week since it's been there. Already more than 325 TRUE readers have found my page there and linked to it from theirs (by asking to add me as a "friend"). Better, the networking works: there are already new TRUE subscribers who say they found out about TRUE on MySpace. AND I enjoyed reconnecting with an old friend because she found my page there. It's astounding to watch MySpace expand. I knew it was popular, sure. But in the week since I joined they've gone from 68 million members to 71 million, a 4.4 percent increase. If TRUE's distribution had gone up by a similar percentage, I'd have 5,280 more readers this week over last. is my page there, if you'd like to check it out. If you're a MySpace member (and odds seem to be pretty good that you are), I'd be honored to have you add me as a friend. Just click the "Add to Friends" link below my photo."

so off I went. Now I join up to various sites all the time so never keep track of logon details. MySpace recognised my email address but none of my passwords so I requested my password. Once I received it, I was in although it seemed to have been set up by somebody from Seattle. I quickly realised that the guy was the complete dick-head causing me to get more spam addressed to Alec. Basically he's one of those bastards who doesn't use his own email address when registering for anything to avoid Spam engines getting his real address. Thanks, Alec, for using mine. As a show of gratitiude, your MySpace is now my MySpace and as MySpace says:

Find me on MySpace and be my friend!


Monday, April 17, 2006


At last, we attack the garden

Back in July last year we started the redevelopment of the garden with a fancy fence for plants to climb up (in preference to the neighbour's rusty chain-link). Today we dug the soil over and planted things! A hundred bulbs, three roses, a tree and various greenery. A really productive day.

All the big plants we already had living in pots for a year or two. Sue likes to buy plants from garden centres; I plant what I find on the floor. My collection includes 2 Horse Chestnuts, an Ash and a Sycamore (not forgetting the long-suffering avocado). The conkers I picked up maybe 10 years ago and potted at our old house; the Ash was a thin stick hiding in the front garden of our current house, spotted by my eagle-eyed dad, dug up and subsequently potted; the sycamore was from seeds that regularly fall from the full-grown trees across the road, the crown spread of each being bigger then our garden.

Now our garden (measured from Google Earth satellite photos) is only 12 metres long so we need to be careful what trees we plant. According to the Association of British Insurers, we can get away with fruit trees and evergreens so the Pear Tree we transferred today from pot to soil near the end of the garden should be OK. The Horse Chestnut, Ash and Sycamore would grow way too big for the garden so none of these will ever be removed from their pots and put into the garden proper. It would be a great shame to watch them grow to a decent size, only to chop them down years later when they became a problem. Maybe we'll treat them to some bigger pots one day although there is a limit - I have to be able to lift them without causing myself damage. 

Relative Subsidence Hazard of Full-grown Tree, i.e. Safe distance (metres) from tree to building.

 Type of tree

Actual safe distance 

Willow40 metres 
Poplar 35 metres 
Oak, Elm30 metres 
Horse Chestnut23 metres
Plane22 metres
Ash21 metres
Cypress, Lime, Maple 20 metres
Sycamore17 metres 
Beech15 metres 
Hawthorn12 metres 
Cherry, Plum, Rowan11 metres 
Apple, Pear, Birch10 metres
Laburnum9 metres
Pine 8 metres
Spruce7 metres
Holly, Laurel, Magnolia, Yew5 metres

The Leylandi that was torched 2 years ago finally came in handy today. We had chopped up the branches and trunk last summer (unleashing chemical warfare on ourselves as we did) and used the thinner logs as a wavy border. Can't wait until it is time to trim the grass at the edge of the lawn...

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Open Gaming Category, Student Nationals 2006

Here are the 6 mighty players (and 2 GMs) that fought for the title of Best Open Gamer:

Back row: Sue Breakwell (6th), John Breakwell (4th), Andrew (2nd), GM, Dave (5th).

Front row: Winner, GM, Andy (3rd).

Games played:

Day 1

Day 2


Roborally is hard work although the mechanics are simple. You program a robot with 5 move instructions (forwards, backwards, rotate left/right) based on cards in your hand. There are conveyor belts and rotating areas on the board to add some complexity. Also, the other players' robots will bump into you too. And there are lasers. Mustn't forget the lasers. Oh, I'm dead (1st life gone). I seem to have also forgotten that I am on a rotating area and so program my robot off the map. (2nd life gone). Did I say not to forget to the lasers? (3rd and last life gone).

Pirates of the Spanish Main is a collectable game where you punch out pieces from plastic cards and build your ships. Being a US manufacturer with a large US market, there are American ships in the game even though the British still ruled that colony at the time the game is set. Who cares about history when there's money to be made? Anyway, in our game the object was to search out as much buried gold as possible in the time allowed and get it back to your home island. I decided that an alternative approach was to ensure you were last-man-afloat. Tragically this tactic, although heroic and daring, resulted in a fleet of derelict ships...


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There's always some building that makes you wonder

Obviously the original architects had no idea this place would become a pawn brokers and an amusements arcade. The large red banner is scandalous.

So what was the building for originally, and what's the mysterious belfry about?


Saturday, April 08, 2006


We like trams

Trams are still a novelty - they make the place feel a little bit continental (only because they had all been removed from the UK by the time I was born). I really wish there hadn't been such stupidity in the 1960s over what the future of transport should be. A few years before the railways were torn up in 1963 after Dr Beecham's report, Sheffield had already abolished its tramway system to make way for the car (poor, misguided fools). By the mid 70s, Sheffield decided that it needed a transport system to attract people away from the car but it wasn't until October 1995 that the final phase of the Supertram was completed. Thirtyfive years to replace what had been there all along.


Friday, April 07, 2006


Off to the Student Nationals

For the 2nd year running, the Reading University Games/RPG/LARP Society sends a representative team to the Student Nationals. Yet again that means me and Sue as no-one else seems interested enough. That's a pity as we had a good time last year at Bradford (the winner of each National becomes the host for the following year so we are now on our way to Sheffield, the wiiners of the 2005 event).

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006



While down in Portsmouth to drop off Samantha with my parents for the week and celebrate Sue's birthday with a family meal out, we took advantage of the end-of-season sale at Snow and Rock. I didn't initially want to buy a board - they are expensive and I'd have to use it to make the purchase worthwhile but hopefully often enough to outweigh the accumulated rental charges from not having a board.

This is a 163cm K2 Access board, reduced to £200. There are five storm designs, one for each size of board - pretty cool designs.

Because of my weight, I need quite a long board - I assume to stop me sinking so easily into the snow  :-)

Anyway, I look forward to getting the bindings on it and setting off for the dusty slopes of Bracknell ski centre. Maybe I'll be able to build on the experiences of the Andorran snow break?

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