Speechless

For a society flush with hi-tech successes, and ever increasing numbers of hi-tech startups, there are aspects which lag somewhat behind other mainly western countries. For example, much of the bureaucracy refuses to accept email and insists on fax messages. (An MK proposed legislation to fix that, but whether it becomes law is still open to question.) As another example, official websites can be a bit clunky, are often ugly, and have not quite grasped the concept of the need to refresh and maintain content. And there’s also the issue of blindly following a website template, even when it’s patently not suitable. The last category is amply illustrated by the following web page, as pointed out to me by Sarah-Lee.

As of writing this link generates:

A world first? An FAQ with no questions?

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Memory and Aging

One of the disadvantages of aging is losing your memory. It happens in fits and starts – little episodes of absences from your recollection. Time lines are broken by voids; little mystery spaces where you do not know what happened. So they tell me…

Meantime, I have developed a new form of aging impaired memory: instead of forgetting things, I make them up. For example, in a recent session report, I said that Rosalynn won the San Juan game we played. Apparently I remembered it wrongly. In fact, Sheer won.  Oops. Apologies all round.

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Not only is the Law an ass…

Check this out, and try not to laugh while you read it. Only lawyers could tie themselves up in logical knots about the intellectual property rights of a macaque monkey.

The famous monkey selfie at the heart of the storm (Copyright: David Slater. Or Naruto the monkey. Not sure which) Caption: The Register

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Prosperity Gaming

Last week’s session was a five person spot of prosperity gaming: Azriel and Rosalynn brought Dominion: Prosperity, and – along with Peleg and Sheer – we played two games of this fine Dominion expansion. The expansion is, as you would expect from the title, one that focuses on money, wealth, and the generation of those key assets. It’s a shame this expansion is out of print, as it was fun to play, and merits further attention.

As for the two games, I won the first – using the recommended “Beginner” mix of cards – and Sheer won the second – using a more interactive recommended set. One potential downside of Prosperity is that there are a few attack cards, but bugger all I could see that would work as an effective defense. Perhaps the Watchtower card – which allows you to draw till your hand is at six cards – is the best tool in the box for defense.

Afterwards, we moved on to Reibach and Co, which all of us had played before except for Azriel. I explained the rules, but must have done a bad job, as he really struggled and did not get much of a score. However, Azriel did say he wanted to play it again, so it cannot all have been bad. Sheer, Peleg, and I managed to mess up each other’s scores so well that Rosalynn skipped into first place in the last scoring round. Yeah for Rosalynn!

Another fun night. You cannot ask for better than that.

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Quote of the Week

“After decades of being able to attack Israel with no opposition, the PLO has no idea how to handle someone who actually shows that the emperor has no clothes.”

The Elder of Ziyon on target. There’s lots more to enjoy, so read the whole piece, here.

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The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

This is a fantasy novel – the first in an as yet unfinished trilogy – which was highly (and repeatedly) recommended to me. It’s the life story of Kvothe, who starts off as part of a travelling troupe, becomes a street urchin, and then a somewhat unlikely and down at heel student. The book begins with Kvothe in the role of an innkeeper who, eventually, starts telling his whole story to a travelling scribe. Therefore, we get the first person perspective driving the main narrative, with the occasional intercession as the focus switches back to various scenes with Kvothe taking a break from his story to deal with several issues, like customers, and wandering mercenaries.

The following are worth noting:

  • The world around Kvothe is vast, but more hinted at than completely described
  • The magical system is lovingly rendered, and adds real weight to the sense of awe
  • The characterization is good
  • The storytelling is mostly good, too, though there were a few patches that I thought were over written
  • This is no Tolkien ripoff, nor juvenile fantasy; it’s solid, believable, and gripping

Despite all of the above, while it is a good book, it did not hit me the same way my first contact with Joe Abercrombie or K. J. Parker did. So, while I am happy to say that I enjoyed it, for me it does not quite reach the top rank. It’s absolutely worth reading though, and I do recommend it.

 

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A night with Andreas

Last week’s session saw Azriel, Rosalynn, Sheer, and me have a night of two games by Andreas Seyfarth. Both are classics, of some age, but still endure.

First up was the meaty challenge that is Puerto Rico. To give you an idea of how seriously some people play this, the Puerto Rico sessions at the World Boardgame Championships used to record the players’ moves. Frightening. I don’t think any of us are likely to be in the finals of that event for a while. Anyway, off we jolly well went, and had an engrossing game that ended – surprisingly – in two ways.

The first, and biggest, surprise was that I won. The second surprise was that Sheer later confessed he hated the game. I should have taken the hint when he asked for several rules explanations, though he had played it many times. He really must hate it to have so emptied his excellent gamer’s brain of the Puerto Rico basics. I promise, Sheer, we won’t play that one again! Rosalynn and Azriel had decent scores, but just couldn’t get enough points to claim the win.

Second was Andreas very cut down card game version of Puerto Rico, San Juan. Funnily enough, Sheer likes this game, and he did pretty well. Unfortunately for him, Rosalynn did better, and claimed a memorable win. It was memorable for me, because I so badly played the opening rounds that I was doomed to finish last from then, and knew it. But I smiled sweetly as we played and played and played until we got to the end. Azriel’s got a good handle on the game, but he just lost out to Sheer for the second place. I was so far back, I should have finished fifth…

Despite the San Jaun disaster, I had a great night with Andreas’ games. Thanks to Sheer for playing Puerto Rico, and to everyone for coming along.

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Die of Shame – Mark Billingham

This is a crime novel which features a therapist (Tony De Silva) and the attendees of his Monday night session. These people – all on the road to recovery from one sort of addiction or another – share their feelings and their secrets, guided by De Silva like some form of shepherd with a wayward flock. One of them is murdered, and so far as the police are concerned, it’s obvious that another member of the group must be the killer. But who?

I found this a little underwhelming. First, the police investigation is almost on the periphery. Instead, up front and center stage are the group members. Second, there are pages of dialogue and description covering several therapy sessions. It’s realistic, believable, and also numbing. It went on for too long, and I lost any empathy for the characters. That lasted until the mystery was solved, but by then it was time for the book to end.

SPOILER ALERT!

There’s a bit of a recovery in the closing pages when the author introduces one of his regular police characters, and not so subtly leaves the reader wanting more.

Overall, I was disappointed. It’s well written, clearly been fully researched, and seems grounded in reality. But it largely bored the socks off me, and so I can only say it was OK.

 

 

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The Bone Field – Simon Kernick

Twenty six years ago, a young woman went missing in Thailand. She was never seen again. Back in the here and now, that woman’s bones are discovered in an English field. Shortly after that shocking discovery, her former boyfriend – who reported her disappearance – is dead. The something of a loose cannon that is DI Ray Mason is part of the team investigating the crimes. Inevitably, he goes one way as the team goes another. The action and dead bodies pile up in this relentless tale, which is full of twists and turns, and does a good job of conforming to its page turning description.

So, from one point of view, this was an enjoyable read. However, it’s very much in the light entertainment category as far as I am concerned – think airport reading and you won’t be far wrong – with some clunky writing that sometimes stopped me in my tracks. A sharper edit might have substantially improved the experience. There were times when I almost cried out loud in frustration at the prose.

Mason is the lead character, and is reasonably well done. Private Detective Tina Boyd’s guest appearance – apparently she is a character from other books by Simon Kernick – is also pretty good. But the rest are less believable, and simply did not work for me.

It’s not a bad book, but it is bad in places. One to read and forget.

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