Thursday, December 28, 2006


Log jam in the Solent

I bet the gin palace owners we saw cruising past were glad this little baby wasn't still at sea - it must have been a good five feet long. Gently being caressed by the waves can also been seen a wooden pallet normally seen being carried by a fork lift truck. Ah, the delights of Southsea beach...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


How's My Drinking?


Thanks, Lorraine, for the T-shirt - I'll put it to good use.
Also thanks to Sue for pointing out there's no apostrophe - which is amazing coming from someone who NEVER uses one.


The Hunt!

Such a contrast in the car as we drove down to my sister's for Boxing Day. In the passenger seat was me, quietly excited by the novelty of seeing a real hunt trotting past (even if it was sans vulpes). Next to me, Sue slowly stewed away, incensed that an illegal hunt of all things should be allowed to get in her way. I was half-expecting her to pull out and drive them down a la Blues Brothers...

Jake: Hey, what's going on?
Officer: Ah, those bums won their courtcase so they're marching today.
Jake: What bums?
Officer: The fucking nazi party.
Elwood: Illinios nazis...
Jake: I hate Illinios nazis.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


So what should Santa bring me?

Christmas wish-lists are always difficult. During the other eleven months of the year, I usually buy what I need or want so it is often hard to think of what to ask others to put in my stocking come December. I'd rather people just bought me what they want to as the results can be surprising/entertaining/enlightening. There are those, though, who don't know what to buy me - my parents I can understand but others have no excuse. In the end it started to sound like the haggling scene from "Life of Brian" as they beg "please tell me what to buy". So I gave in a compiled a list (Amazon is very useful for this although the down-side is that you can see items disappear as they are purchased by gifters, removing part of the surprise). Normally I try to compose a mixed list of "video, audio, books, games, miscellaneous" which seems to do the trick but it does get a bit predictable.

The books category is always the latest Pratchett paperback, the latest Pratchett 'science' paperback, the latest Pratchett non-standard item (map, art book, etc) and so on. David Gemmell is out of favour at Christmas as I still have maybe half a dozen to read - it's been so long since I read one that I've started to forget the ones I HAVE read. A replacement I have seen is the series of history debunking books by Terry Jones and Alan Ereira - anything that reveals accepted knowledge as rubbish is always a winner.

The music list is hard to compile - I don't often buy any CDs and most of my listening is to Internet radio stations such as Virgin or KNAC. Luckily the latter brought DragonForce to my attention so they were added. Also, my Magnum collection has some large gaps so another easy choice.

Games for the Xbox or PC can be like falling off a log, especially as I bought a huge pile from a Christmas sale at work and EVERYBODY got Xbox games this year. I did pick "Gears of War" as everybody seems to love it although I know I'll be really poor at it. I'm adequate on the PC with mouse and keyboard but on a console with a controller I am worse than useless - even Sue can beat me at Halo on XBL. Same goes for Doom3 - I've already played a lot on the PC a while ago and need to start all over again on the Xbox (probably until it gets too scary).

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Blokes and Buttons

Blokes (as opposed to men in general) can be pretty lazy and I'm no exception but now I'm learning a new skill as a result. In Debenhams I was looking for some new jeans and picked up a few pairs to take into the changing room. Once in, I realised that all three were button fly - disaster! I'd always been a zipper fan, man and boy, so I was in a real dilemma - should I go back out and spend ages rummaging around to find some more with zips? Or should I just take the button-fly jeans that fitted to the till, buy them and leave?

So now I'm learning how to use the damned things - a quick visit to the loo takes AGES now. Pah.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Mitch Benn


Wednesday, December 20, 2006


What's in a name?

It's always interesting to read about other people's names (well, it is to me) and groaning about the parent's selections for new-borns. As a "John", my name was a safe bet - no weirdness there and also named after my grandfather. My mother wanted Miles and thank the stars she didn't win that particular discussion.

This article is a good read. Also, you can visit the Namebrain and check out your name's popularity over the last century.

Looks like "John" is still failing fast after decades of domination.


Still going strong...

It's almost Christmas and the roses are still persisting in flowering.

This site looks scary - you cut HOW MUCH off the plant in February?!?!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


You can't take photos in fog



Alarm Clock

A clock of varying usefulness. On one hand (no pun intended) it is totally useless and telling you the time; on the other, it is essential for those manic drinking races that you get into... apparantly, so I'm told.

This is in a very nice pub in Reading opposite the station currently called the Oakford Social Club (vaguely ironic as it used to be the ICL Social Club until that company went down the pan, then opened as a pub called first the Flyer and Firkin and then The Forum). The food is nice and the beer good although the staff seem a bit clueless. In addition to the website, it even has a MySpace - how 21st century!


Please stand clear...

"The next train is not scheduled to call at this station."

Really? Going straight through to the Basingstoke line, is it? Maybe the "PLEASE STAND CLEAR" warning is because there is going to be so much wreckage in the next few minutes that you won't want to be hanging around the buffers.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Microsoft - change the world or go home

Here is a great image from Hugh

As Hugh says:

The headline works on a lot of different levels:

Microsoft telling its potential customers to change the world or go home.
Microsoft telling its employees to change the world or go home.
Microsoft employees telling their colleagues to change the world or go home.
Everybody else telling Microsoft to change the world or go home.
Everyone else telling their colleagues to change the world or go home.
And so forth.

Me, I'll opt for the third one.


Friday, December 15, 2006


A million people without power ... but what about my blog?

It's a small world after all. 95 mph winds in Seattle and my blog goes off-line. Sadly three people died in the storm so it's difficult to be overly light-hearted about it (I must be getting old).


Thursday, December 14, 2006


Billy Bragg storms the Town Hall

Billy Bragg is always a good entertainer. He can play the guitar well and his singing isn't bad; his stories are interesting and his delivery confident; he's not scared to stand up for what he believes in and woe betide any hecklers that haven't thought ahead past their first few words. I have a lot of respect for the man even though I don't always share the same socialist point of view or taste in Woody Guthrie records.

So we are here in Reading to see Billy again - we caught him in Cardiff in April - and this is his 70th (!) gig so far in 2006. Tonight Billy performed a two set show (no support) and its only now that I realise that - as usual - there were no backing musicians. Just his voice and a guitar - you don't notice that the rest of the stage is empty; it doesn't occur to you to wonder where the drummer or bassist are - they're just not needed. Even when there SHOULD be another musician, such as a trumpet player, it's not important - as Billy said during "The Saturday Boy", you just fill that part in from memory.

Billy is an act that grows old but doesn't age. I'm sure he has changed since I first saw him on stage back in the early 1980s but not in any ways that matter. I don't think "he's still going?" like I do for some other acts, like the groups that have become tribute bands to themselves with a handful of songs the audience recognise and nothing new to offer (or, at least, nothing worth listening to). With Billy Bragg you feel that his life does go on instead of just being a looped recording of some past period of popularity. So good luck to him. And don't forget - Stop The BNP. It amazes me that people believe a word they say.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Separated at birth...

Sue BreakwellProdigy
Sue BreakwellKeith Flint

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Evil is the new love

I just LOVE this web comic advert (and the comic itself, of course):

Friday, December 08, 2006


3rd time lucky

Finally, I have my 47th MCP exam under my belt - "Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft® Clustering Services by Using Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Advanced Server" finally fell to me at the 3rd attempt and I maintain my one-a-year record. The exam schedule was full so if I'd failed today then that would have been it for 2006.
Next up will be the 'bleeding edge of technology' exam, "Migrating from Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 to Microsoft Windows 2000" which I failed BADLY (59.5%) way back in September 2005.



The Mexican...

Sue wanted to see what I looked like if I stopped shaving for a while. As you can see, a full beard is not really going to ever appear. The chin coverage is going to be patchy at best. Needless to say, I shaved it all off before my parents could see it :-)

Monday, December 04, 2006


Still trucking along

As I don't believe in fate, I don't worry about tempting it. Anyway, my Xbox360 is still working fine, as is my original Xbox (although obviously the latter does not see quite as much usage - when a game isn't backward-compatible on the Xbox360 normally). So all is not doom and gloom in Xboxworld - delivered January 5th, 2006 and still going. As I bought it in the UK, it has a proper 12 months warranty - hmmm.... one month left on that so should I get an extended warranty as a Christmas present for it?

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Sunday, December 03, 2006


Disaster! Almost...

The weather reports said that gale force winds were on the way (around 3am) so I knew I should do something about the flimsy greenhouse. Except I went to bed and hoped it would manage - that dustbin of water should be heavy...

except that I had let it all evaporate without refilling. Oops.
The greenhouse wasn't fixed to the wall {must get round to that}...

and was blown to the end of it's string that I'd tied to the outside tap.
And the Avocado? Happy as Larry. I could almost imagine it smiling at me as it sat there in the exact place I left it inside the greenhouse initially.



16 years working for the Evil Empire...

... and counting.

Did I think that when I started at Microsoft in 1990 that I would still be working there in 2006? No, of course not - I would have found it hard to think past the coming weekend, let alone into the next century. Nothing changes, apart from the hairline.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Dragonmeet 2006 - I spent how much?

Dragonmeet, again, went well. It's so sad that the event only lasts 8 hours. But the time was well spent. Yet again, I started in a Cthulhu (by Gaslight) game run by the Phoenix Games Club. In a strange twist, Sue jumped into Team 8's Paranoia session (which I had enjoyed last year).

Steve Knott - Cthulhu By Gas-Light "The Last Voyage of the Plutonia"
- "In the autumn years of Queen Victoria’s reign, with the approaching new century, signs & portents foretell of the coming of an Agent of Fortune. Nothing will ever be the same again, a time of change is upon us, when only a motley group of faded, burnt out Investigators can hope to save the Empire…or not."

We managed to complete the game within the 3 hours without losing too much Sanity. Only one character lost their body but apparently in the epilogue we find that they will be getting a new one, which is always encouraging. Steve ran a reasonable game although it seemed he was having to think up content on the fly at times - the adventure was mapped out from a GM's perspective but there was not necessarily as much preparation for what the players might ask about.

I played my first Settlers of Catan - one of those simple games where the rules take a few minutes to learn but tactics take a whole lot longer to pick up. I'm not sure if I'd want to play it a lot as it didn't leap out at me as being
hugely appealing. This is not just because I didn't win - maybe I need to play a few more games. Note - The polystyrene tile set below is NOT what you would be able to buy in the shops!

Settlers of Catan

In complete contrast was the Dungeoneer card game which started off looking really, really complicated but after an hour or so it all started to make perfect sense. Also, unlike Catan, I didn't feel that my initial choices were going to screw me up for the rest of the game. Dungeoneer is like an advanced version of "Sorcerer's Cave", reference to which brought blank expressions from the other players. There is a connecting network of locations (cards) which covers all the places you can go to. The turn system has 2 different phases which is novel to me - you first act as the dungeon master and use monsters to attack other players' characters and then you take on the role of your own character to try and complete a few quests (which revolve around some of the locations). Of course, an alternative win condition is Last Man Standing - I did manage to kill another player's character but died ended up dead at the hands of another player later. Failing to complete one quest with 6-7 consecutive dice rolls where I had a 50-50 chance of success did not help at all.

Dungeoneer card game

Shopping was performed - it is difficult to go to any games convention and NOT buy something. As I enjoy making up weird and wonderful monster/character combinations for D&D, I bought "Savage Species" for £17 from Leisure Games - actually cheaper than from Amazon, which was a surprise.

One attraction of the convention is the Charity Auction. Whenever I am at an auction, I try and pick off something cheap as I am not too interested in giving to charity. If I had loads of money to spare then this might be different. Usually, though, there is someone else more charitable and richer than me that is willing to part with their hard-earned cash so I usually come away with nothing. I didn't win the pseudo-leather bound core D&D books, for example - I already had those in non-fancy covers and that would just be too indulgent. I did, though, bid highest on two lots of D&D books and ended up parting with £110. The books were brand new, donated by the game shops to the auction.

That averages out at £14 each which is less than retail but more than through the outlets on Amazon. I have since sold off half of them for £40 to some friends (two of the eight books I had already and another two went because I'm not into Eberron) which leaves 2 books I definitely want to keep (PHB2 and FC1) and 2 that I'm not sure. So, overall, the charity did "OK", I added to my growing collection and my friends got some cheap books - winners all round.

Dragonmeet auction


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