Saturday, 31 March 2012

Happy Birthday, Nathan!

Actually, it was earlier this week. However, today a group of us got together to wish my friend Nathan a belated happy birthday. We've been planning this for a while, and somehow managed to stop him from getting wind of it. Unfortunately, Berni couldn't be with us, as her treatment renders her highly susceptible to infections, but we shall make up for that once she's finished the course and is on the mend again! Lest anyone think it cruel of us to have this do when she couldn't attend, don't! I have been in touch with her repeatedly to make sure, and her utmost desire was that Nathan should get to see everyone else, and have a spot of time to himself. He has been a ministering angel recently. So I picked up Nathan and Laura, and headed down to Stone. He was under the impression that the three of us were going to have a quiet pub lunch, and things could not have turned out better if they had been planned, rehearsed and disaster-proofed. For when we walked into the local Wetherspoon's Nathan walked right past Iain, who tapped him on the shoulder. Pleased as punch was Nathan!

So off we walked to the bar, and then someone else tapped Nathan on the shoulder, and there was Si C! Back to ordering drinks and there's another tap - Si P and Tammy. Then we picked up our potables and retired to a table. No sooner had we begun chatting than appeared Matt and Kath (and their wee one, Hannah), whom Nathan hadn't seen in a year and a half, it turns out! You know how it is: one of you moves somewhere a bit far away, and meeting up goes from being a ten-minute drive to a couple of hours. It strikes us all. Then we all had a spot of nosh and some drinks. Well, let me just clarify: Laura wasn't drinking, Tammy and Kath are both pregnant, Si P, Si C, Matt, Iain and I were all driving. Not to mention Iain doesn't drink! So we all drank non-alcoholic drinks, and Nathan stood out! :-D

We had a grand chat for ages, and by and by everyone trundled away, then I took Nathan and Laura back home. Nathan was very pleased to have seen everyone, especially Matt and Kath, since it had been so long, which he rather regrets and blames himself for. It was a lovely time, and I hope we shall repeat it before too long. From a dispassionate point of view, several of us revealed ourselves to be hopelessly aged, spending perhaps a quarter of an hour lamenting the poor driving of others. Though one of us confessed to having been a bit naughty with an on-ramp. Tsk-tsk! I trust there won't be a recurrence, o secretly shamed one! ;-)

It was a wonder that we managed to get so many of us all in one place! If any of you have tried to get half a dozen people from all over the country (Si C had driven from London!) into one place , then you'll know it's easier said than done! All in all, I think every one of us had a great time. I got a couple of photographs, and should have taken some more. I'm not in them, naturally, but I've missed out Kath at one end and Iain on the other. My skills at photographing people are as great as my skills at photographing bunnies in far-away fields, it seems!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Big Board: River, Bridge and Hill

Today the temperature fell, so instead of sawing in the garden, I have begun work on a long-considered project: a Wild West river board. I made the bridge for this ages ago, but only acquired the 2' by 4' chipboard the other day. I marked out where I wanted the river to go first, and decided it would be an imposing 6" across. I wanted to have the bridge toward one end and on the other side a small ford, with line of sight between the two blocked by a flat-topped hill. So I grabbed the hot glue gun and some bits of polystyrene, and set to work. Having completed that initial task, I dug out some old elasticated bandage and some tissue paper, and secured them to the polystyrene with some diluted PVA glue. I wanted to make it appear that there was a viable way to the summit, and I think I've succeeded. I shall almost certainly add some more bits and carve others away, but I shall leave that until the glue has dried. For the time being, here are two photos. The first after the initial building and the second following the mummification of the polystyrene lumps. The softening of the corners that the mummification effects makes the hill look a lot nicer than when it's just bare polystyrene and wood.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Wildlife and less wild life

Ba-dum-tisch! For your enjoyment today, some pictures of the baby bunnies in next door's field, the horses and sheep in another field, several shots of the new guinea pigs, whom I am calling Bold and Nervy for the time-being (though Captain Pugwash is a name that just occurred to me on account of his "eyepatch" and nervousness), Spot, our bunny (Mum suggested people will feel we are co-ordinating our animals' appearances!), and a robin, who launched himself into flight as I tried to photograph him, but who then sat quietly on a bench while I snapped him. I hope you like them. :-)

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The fields are alive with the sound of quacking

Would that have been as highly regarded a film as Julie Andrews'? I think we can safely say that the answer is no. As I was saying the other day, I haev been out in the garden a lot lately, and so have been snapping ever more pictures of the various critters hereabouts. We also recently got two wee guinea pigs, of whom I append a single snapshot. The majority of these pics are of wild bunnies, ducks and squirrels, with a couple of shots of Mr Pheasant, whom we hadn't seen lately. Most of the ducks are normal mallards, but you'll see two unusual ones here. There's a female white duck, who last year produced three crossbred males, one of whom you can see below. They've a rather pretty blue grey head on them. My brother can tell the difference between the females she produced and the regular ones, but I can't! I haven't enclosed many shots of the rabbits this time, as my camera is not designed for long distances, so long-distance shots are indistinct. I have marked with red three rabbits in a photograph below, but I think there were four when I took the picture. I can't find the last one now! See if you can guess where s/he is!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Easter Approaches

This may easily be discerned by looking into the fields hereabouts (and even our yard!) and seeing kittens, bucks and does (baby, male and female rabbits) playfully leaping about. The edge of our garden is fringed with daffodils, too, so that's another handy hint! To fill out all the visual metaphors, some oviparous critter had left a large whitish eggshell in the middle of our back garden. Rabbits, daffodils, eggs - all the reminders of nature are about! The weather here has been very sunny, so I have beenslightly sunning myself in an attempt to restore my vitamin D levels. I've taken a few snaps of the bunnies in the fields over the last few days, and I hope you enjoy them.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Works on the desk right now

Everything here needs some little touch-ups, but is largely completed. There's a two-foot long rampart for snowy landscapes, a Hellhound I finally got round to completing (yes, it needs some mud) last night, a shed/toilet for the Wild West, and a building (storehouse? Access to an underground complex? Scientific laboratory?) for snowy terrain. They're all pretty much on the verge of completion, so I doubt I'll get round to taking any more pics of them. Here you go!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

A friend's fight with cancer

A friend of mine has very nobly and bravely begun a blog about her experiences fighting cancer. I said some time ago that I'd put a shout out to her on here, but I have only got round to it now because I wasn't wholly sure she wanted that and wasn't just being polite. My appendix bother last year doesn't compare, but I found the media attention exhausting and irritating, which is another reason I have been a bit tardy. So apologies, m'dear! For those of you who are interested, and perhaps feel a personal connection, here's the link to her blog. Her good humour is thoroughly inspirational, and she's a lovely lady. I'm sure she'll be glad if you pop over and have a look.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Woe is me: computers and cars

Technology is our bosom friend and most frightful foe. Well, most blasted irritating. I have mentioned before that my PC is too outdated for me to send Hotmail messages, use MSN (or whatever) Chat, post comments on Facebook, &c, &c. Currently, some technological wizardry is stopping me from commenting on blogs, too. So don't blame me, blame something with microchips in. Speaking of blaming microchips, I find my car eminently useful, but its utility is decreasing as its age increases. The engine warning light has been on since about 2005 or 2006. It goes off when I get a service, which I put down to the car's computer being reset or told to stop being silly by a firm-voiced mechanic with a magic wand. The little yellow light comes on as I drive away. Cheeky!

The air-conditioning died this winter, about which I have been in denial for months. I am greatly perturbed at the thought of relying again on leaving the windows fully open, as it's deafening at high speeds and near-useless at low ones. Don't even suggest the expense of repairing it: I'm too alarmed even to look into what that could cost! There's a little light that tells me when the front passenger airbag is on, and these days its certainty varies every time I start the car. The other day I tried repeatedly to start the car, and nothing happened. So I left it for two days and just as Dad was about to hep me charge the battery, I gave it another go. Bob's your uncle: it worked fine. There's no good reason for that.

A few weeks ago the oil warning light started up. I checked it out, and all was well. It kept going on and off, so I asked a friend who understands cars, and he double-checked it. Apparently, his snazzy car even has a warning light to apprise him when his dashboard warning lights are malfunctioning. I could do with one of those! Lest you think I exaggerate when I say I don't understand cars, here's a salutary story of my ignorance. For perhaps as long as I've owned this car (2004, I think) the rear passenger doors have been stiff and creaky. I just assumed this to be an insurmountable technical problem. Then in Wales the other week my friend, Kev, noticed this, popped into his house, and returned with WD-40, which he applied with miraculous results. Nobody had ever suggested that before, though whether this was out of ignorance comparable to mine or a desire to spare my thinking myself an idiot with automobiles, I don't dare say!

Inconsequentiality is generally the theme of these little rambling asides, so let it be forever. The big questions of the day tend to cause disagreement rather than good cheer. Nonetheless, I intend to introduce a somewhat serious topic next time, so if you prefer your Pete rambling to be wholly light-hearted, be warned. It won't be controversial, mind you. As something of a segue to that topic, I'll recount something not so heavy, but still somewhat serious to which I was lately a distant party. Last Sunday I was supposed to see a friend, but she rang and cancelled. While out cycling, she had been obliged to leap from her bicycle and rescue some poor child, who had fallen into a canal. Needless to say, being rather soggy and less than fragrant, my heroic friend felt a bit indisposed. So we rescheduled for tonight. The silly dear has been far too British - one doesn't go to the doctor's for no reason, and we regard anything short of near death as "no reason" - so was feeling too under the weather for tonight's meeting.

Happily, I have prevailed on her to see a doctor tonight and get pumped full of antibiotics so she will be up to rescuing small children again this weekend! Every hero/heroine needs an Alfred to whisper in their ear, "Look behind you, remember you are only a man" or somesuch. ;-) Next time more serious matters and some quite remarkable courage, but for now, so long folks!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

You always become what you hate the most: Charles Dickens approaches with my doom in his hand

A quick recap of the situation to date. Our hero, that bloke wot writes this blog, had been turned off Literary Classics by the receipt and reading of some truly dull books at school in which nothing happened. These literary greats having compared terribly with Watership Down, The Prisoner of Zenda, Dracula, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and even the gentle Swallows and Amazons, our hero abandoned tedious literature in which nothing happened, his decision crowned by his first failure to finish a book: Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. Thus fortified in his beliefs, he set out into a world of sci-fi adventures, rabbiting rodents and Terry Pratchett. Now read on!

In the last couple of years I decided I would give "Classics of Literature" another blast. After all, I'm twice the age these days that I used to be, and many of my tastes and opinions have changed, so why not this one? When I was in hospital, about a year ago, Mum brought me The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney to read. I shan't lie. Some things do happen in it, and the characters also think. It is a melancholy work, I advise you, but I urge on you more strongly to read it. It contains incident and characters worthy of interest, which leads us back to my first paragraph and Great Expectations. Fans of Boz will doubtless have felt outrage at my characterisation of Great Expectations and similar as "tedious literature in which nothing happen[s]". Imagine you're a teenage boy and you have before you that work and, say, King Solomon's Mines.

The former has an escaped convict, a mad, love-ruined, broken-down old woman in a love-ruined, broken-down old house, a pretty girl who is insufferable, and a main character who does practically nothing. The latter book has an enthralling tale of lost treasure, a missing civilisation, great riches, peril as the heroes nearly die of thirst in a terrible desert, interesting (rather than boring) treachery, fights, guns - I'll stop now as my point is made. Great Expectations has thinky stuff and explains it slowly. Whereas an adventure story such as I mentioned actually captures one's interest and does not let it go. A reasonable (if not altogether fair) comparison might be between a romantic comedy film and something by Michael Bay, Lord of Explosions.

As one gets older, one does not necessarily lose one's taste for visceral things, although one's interpretation of them might be in a quite different light. When first I watched Predator, for instance, it was exciting and filled with incident. Nowadays, mind you, I enjoy remembering comic lines, amusing hyperbole, overblown acting and so on. I enjoy the same film for different reasons. I reread Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World last year, and it was as enjoyable as ever. Really, how can Dickens compare to dinosaurs in the mind of a teenage boy? Frankly, he can't compare to them these days in my mind. But I have to admit that he doesn't have to. Chocolate cake does not compare to curry. Even thinking of the two together makes one's brain lash out at the odd association.

I have lately been reading George Eliot's Middlemarch, in which, to be honest, nothing happens. There are no dinosaurs, lost tribes, spaceship battles, hideous or hilarious aliens, nor even so far (about six tenths of the way through) any great villains or heroes, harridans or heroines. It is a sedate and long-winded - if George Eliot can use fifty words when one would do, she will! - description of several love affairs and related circumstances in a small provincial English town around two hundred years ago. Despite the fact that "nothing happens", I am interested by the characters and their stories, and wondering what will happen next. There lies the title of this piece. Ever so slightly more happens in Great Expectations than happens in Middlemarch, so there's a pretty good chance, when I come to have another stab at the former in a few months' time, that I will enjoy it more than the latter. You see the terrible fate which approaches: I may be doomed to enjoy a book! Horribile dictu! Let us only hope that years of reading Clive Cussler have spared me the ability to enjoy a bit of that bearded Victorian!

On a related literary note, I have opened my eyes to the fact that I am none too bad at exposition - though reading Eliot has made me more verbose than even I usually am - and so have penned one short story and am considering another. The other will be suitable for mass consumption, so you may expect to see it here some time. Don't worry about length. I mean to make it just four paragraphs long. It will be an experiment to see how densely I can pack artifice into the available space. The short story will not be here. It deals with dark themes, and having written it last night, I found I couldn't sleep afterward. I don't intend to expose you, dear reader, to that sort of thing! Until next time: that's all, folks!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Bits and bobs: some thoughts toward my immediate terrainifying future

Anyone reading the other week will be thinking, "Pete, you've got loads of stuff on the go. Why ain't we done seen it, boy! Why, shucks!" OK, anyone from 160 years or so ago in the Wild West will be saying that, though don't ask me how they got their hands on a computer, let alone internet access. I think we can blame the boys at NASA for this - or the girls at Stargate Command - or the Smizmars at Futurama HQ. I've exhausted my genders, so goodbye, joke!

I have all that stuff, aye, and it's all still ready to come to life. I have an oddly regular hill (we'll say it sits on a spaceship's cargo container), a snow-bound rocky dwelling, that big ol' trench, this ruin, that ruin, that VAST ruin, that thing with the protein powder containers, the fuel thingy, and now a doormat. "Why a doormat, y'weirdo?" I'm glad you asked me that, though I disapprove of the tone in which you asked it. "Answer me!" Well, I want to make some more cornfields, don't I? Years ago there was an article in an issue of Wargames Illustrated by a chap who had the excellent idea of using doormats for fields. Then his wife had the even better idea of cutting bits out to so that models could be temporarily placed within rather than hovering over the fields like flying saucers.

I bought myself a mat, cut half of it up, then foolishly let Mum espy it. I couldn't refuse her request to pop it outside the back door. Then I ran low on funds, and by the time I'd recovered them the local DIY place wasn't selling them - just fancy ones. Then it shut down. Shucks. Today I perambulated around a nearby Sainsbury's, which sells all manner of mad stuff - stuff I never would have predicted as a child that Sainsbury's would sell when I had stopped being a child. Physically, at least. So there was a doormat for a fiver. Bargain! So I shall be making some more fields.

As well as all this, the other night I found myself watching Quentin Tarantino's renowned WWII film. The film obviously made a big impression on my unconscious, as I had a truly terrifying nightmare afterwards. I think I am getting more squeamish in my old age. Would those of you who are now pelting me with sticks - because you do not believe thirty-one to be old - please desist! Anyway, during the film I made some techy roads. Which is to say that I got some 0.5mm plasticard, carved bits out of it, glued other bits atop the whole, and am now prevaricating about the painting.

In short: roads, ruins, earthworks, buildings and . . . rivers - I keep wanting to do something with rivers. The three things about the Spanish Inquisition! Wait, four - four things - no, five! Yes. So I'll see you next time, folks!

Joining the dots: general ignorance and prejudiced juries

Earlier on today I popped downstairs and caught an episode of Pointless. It's an entertaining BBC quiz show, hosted by Alexander Armstrong, ably supported by his "Pointless friend", Richard, and one I have mentioned before. A pair of friends of mine have even been contestants. None of that is relevant tothe topic above, but who doesn't like a bit of local colour before visiting the boring relations? ;-) The show revolves around a central conceit. They ask a hundred people to list or name something in a hundred seconds. One of today's tasks was to cite a year in which a British general election occurred. Two contestants seemed to think that the UK is America, believing that elections run on a four-yearly basis. They don't. I'm not unhappy saying I couldn't pin down whether it was five or six, as the current government has faffed about with the previous system for no good reason, reducing it from a possible maximum of six to a steady tick-tock of five. I would be happier if I had known without doubt, but that the change is so recent makes me feel less alarmed that I possess the right to vote. ;-)

The hundred people asked to list years in which elections had occurred since the end of WWII then managed to muster a score of thirty-eight people (38 of the 100) who were aware that there had been an election in 2010. That's the most recent general election we have had. I cannot offhand think of a reason to know when elections happened. I know that Thatcher came in around the time I was born (actually 1979), and Blair got in when I was at school (1997), and that Churchill got turfed out at the end of WWII (1945, though I couldn't recall whether it might have been '46 - sorry, Mr Atlee!). But I make an exception for the last election that happened. If it happened two years ago, you can remember it. Or if you can't, then let's slide onto the second point to which I referred in the title.

I just ambled downstairs to bestow my wisdom on the folks, as I am nothing if not generous, and happened to see the ticker running along the bottom of the BBC News screen. It told me that as a result of someone's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, it had been said/claimed/declared that any jury considering some claim would be inevitably biased, and so there was no prospect of a fair trial. A couple of years ago, some folks broke into my house and stole some of Dad's things. The police's system of protecting the identities of suspects is hialriously full of holes, so we know who they were. That is to say, Mum told me and I shortly thereafter forgot. But Dad surely remembers. So if one of us had to serve on a jury considering a charge against one of them, it'd be reasonable to consider us biased, and remove us from the jury.

But the country I live in has tens of millions of people, tens of millions of people eligible for jury duty, and a large share of them don't even know when the last general election was. In the face of that sort of evidence, I don't think it sensible to believe in the impossibility of a fair trial. There is a vast number of totally clueless people out there. And, hey, in here! Ask me to consider a matter of economic theory and watch how speedily my brain turns to jelly. Ask me even to look at my bank statement and you'll get a glare, a flicker of the eyes toward it, and a wholesale flight from the room! In a word, if you just ask enough people, you will eventually find a dozen - enough to fill up a jury - who know bugger all about whatever's happening. Your only problem then is that they might not know anything about everything, and if that's an argument against juries, then they should never have been brought into existence. Unless you happen to believe that everyone a thousand years ago was brighter than wot we is today, milud. Of course, juries are older than that (don't strike me, fellow Classicists), but I'm mainly discussing the biggest nation on the British Isles right now.

We have evidence of ignorance of facts absolutely fundamental to participation in our democracy. So why not see this as a good thing? We'll never, not even if we fasten everyone to chairs for spoon-feeding of information, get everyone fully up to speed on all the details of the nation. So let's use this as a positive and refute the idea that it's possible to pollute juries to the extent that they cannot give a verdict. These days we simply have too many people for that to be true.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Icy pond

I shall make this short and sweet. I got this technique from the aforementioned Osprey book, and it's simply awesome.

1. Get a base and paint it black.
2. Get a spot of plastic. I used a DVD case, but the book recommends something a bit less transparent.
3. Melt some candle wax onto the back of said plastic.
4. Get an iron and turn it on. Put some grease-proof paper over the solidified candle wax.
5. Pass the iron briefly over the paper. The wax drops should now be smoothed down pretty flat.
6. Get some PVA glue and with it secure the plastic to the base you earlier painted black. The flattened wax droplets ought to be facing the black surface. Allow it to dry.
7. The book recommends Humbrol glass etch, a specialist product I lack. So I applied "too much" matte varnish spray from "too close" a distance. You wouldn't be use such a thick coat from so near on a regular model, but in this instance, it's great. Allow that to dry.
8. Use a hot glue gun to secure the embankment (made of polystyrene) in place.
9. Coat the non-pond bits with diluted PVA, and apply sand. Let it dry, then apply another coat of PVA atop the sand to secure it. Let that dry.
10. Apply white paint to the sand. I was going to have a go at a Baking Powder technique I had heard of, but apparently it's most unwise. Baking Soda sounds as though it's OK, but I don't have any.
11. Glue some shrubs in place to add a little colour, add drybrush their tops white as if a little snow clings thereto.

Friday, 2 March 2012

1, 2, 3, 4!

I read a report on the BBC website that left me aghast earlier. No, it wasn't the report in toto, as I rendered much of what was worrying about it irrelevant by mindful egocentricity. For instance, on reading this -

A YouGov poll for the charity suggests that while four out of five people would be embarrassed to confess to poor literacy skills, just over half would feel the same about admitting to poor maths skills.

- I was not unduly alarmed, as I don't rate my maths skills terribly highly. I have a friend who's a maths teacher at a secondary school, and another with a doctorate in the subject, so I have a Socratic consciousness of my inadequacies in the field. I'm not even up-to-date: I believe I remember finding out that Fermat's Last Theorem had been proved a year or two after the event. On the other hand, I'm quite happy with my literacy. I am prone to loquacity, as a glance at my over-long last blog entry shows, but I have a very reasonable vocabulary and can manage enough allusions to old books that I don't sound entirely dense. In fact, I was reading Middlemarch earlier - "Stop namedropping, Pete!" - hah! Nothing of the sort. I'm reading it because school put me off classics of literature, and something Dorothea says in Ch. XXI thus struck me personally. 'It is painful to be told that anything is very fine and not to be able to see that it is fine - something like being blind, while people talk of the sky.' She is speaking of art rather than literature, but the parallel is exact.

So I know a few words and I have read a few books, but I found certain aspects of Maths GCSE ridiculously difficult. We had a piece of coursework for which we had to craft a formula to work out how many smaller triangles fitted inside a larger one. Three or four guys in the class worked it out, then everyone copied off them, as I remember. Tut-tut! Never my sort of thing, that. So I and one other guy in the class failed to find this impossible formula. I turned in two sides of head-scratching, baffled failure, and was pretty shocked when everyone else was turning in seventeen or eighteen sides of working of the proof. It makes an impression, that sort of affair!

Anyway, I never felt much kinship with figures. My brother has always been the more mathematically-minded one, taking more closely after Dad. He was in the first set for Maths at school, and so took his GCSE a year early, then did an AS-level. He may even have sat an A-level in the sixth form. I forget. Anyway, I'm the English one and he's the Maths one. So in my own family I have long been accustomed not to rate my mathematical abilities highly, and among my circle of friends I am a very long way from being the best! So I tend to be a bit amazed when something comes along like the test that accompanied that report. Here's the test.


The label instructs you to use 40mls of bleach in five litres of water. How much should you use in half a litre of water?
A) 2ml
B) 2.5ml
C) 4ml
D) 20ml
Were you right? Click below to find out.

Bear in mind that this is not some sort of test for primary school children. This is a test to see whether someone reading the BBC's website can do maths. It's by far the most shocking thing I have read recently. I simply cannot imagine how anyone could have such a poor understanding of maths that they could not answer that. OK, two exceptions: if the respondent were mentally handicapped or if the respondent were ignorant of metric measurements. Bear in mind that the UK half-heartedly switched over to the metric system some decades ago. Problematically, when I was at school neither system was taught in its entirety, so a lot of my knowledge is pieced together from some very strange sources.

I still cannot recall the area of a hectare, and so have to look it up. The approximation of a mile as 1.6 kilometres I owe to a Star Wars Technical Manual. That there are 1,760 yards in a mile I owe to looking it up in one of Dad's books when I was a teenager. That an inch is 25.4mm is fixed in my mind because I was trying to work out why an artillery piece was designated as 76.2mm. That 568ml is equal to a pint I know from seeing it on milk bottles. When it comes to weights, my understanding is that 454g is equal to a pound, but there I rather run out of steam. I know that gold has two fewer ounces  in its pounds than the regular pound, and I know that thanks to a Scooby Doo annual!

I can only hope that they do cover both systems properly these days, but this article suggests the system is far worse! How a system could be worse than a child having to learn rates of conversion from sci-fi and cartoons rather than getting taught them properly in school, I really don't know. But in a nation where the concept of dividing by ten is regarded as a test of mathematical fortitude, I can only weep for the future! Still, if mathematical knowledge is so very atrocious, I should perhaps put my apparent treasury of knowledge to use. I can recall SOHCAHTOA, πr2  and Pythagoras' Theorem. The last I even have occasion to use once in a while when knocking up a bit of scenery. Indeed, some years ago a group of friends and I were going to make a shed, and ran up some nifty calculations - only to be disappointed as pre-fabricated sheds cost less than the raw materials we wanted. Tsk! I even recall using it back when I used to 'game and one had to guess how far Basilisks could fire. We played some huge games back then, and the individual boards were 2' by 4', so it was a simple enough matter to translate that into inches, determine the difference on the x and y axes separating the gun and the target, then use Pythagoras' Theorem to drop a shell 5' 7" away and obliterate a Rhino or whatever! Amusing stuff, that! There you go, kids: a real world application of maths that you can't do any more, the rules having changed! :-D

Hills, a frozen pond, crates and more bits and bobs!

Yesterday I did my general burble about relationships. Over on the exquisite Roundwood's World I saw a grand link to Wordle, a site which analyses everything you've put up in the last however-long and makes a "word cloud" of it all. You might see one for here soon, you lucky, lucky people! I'm currently waiting for Dad's PC to be free so I can print off a set of plans for a nifty little faux-hill from the excellent Confessions of a 40k addict blog. I am avoiding idleness, mind you! Don't you go about deducing from me faffing about online that I'm doing nowt, you villain! :-p I could be doing more, of course, if I weren't wasting precious minutes doing nothing, working the whole day through!

No, really, I have not been remiss (good word that - use it more, reader!) in my non-duties. I have hot-glued a faux-hill together. I am not quite sure where to go with it, but my current inclination is to slap some paper towels on it, then a ladder, and pretend it's a weird-looking cargo container. When I was driving down to Wales the other week I saw a great little train. The engine was quite humdrum, but the wagons had sides that slanted up from the sides and the back just so: / \ - and this little hill is in part inspired by them. Second, I decided to make some ponds, and first of all a frozen one. I bought a great little book some years ago, an Osprey Masterclass in making scenery, and I recalled it had a section on making frozen rivers or ponds. The book, which I highly recommend, is of more use to makers of dioramas than people who want to make rough, tough stuff that will withstand kids chucking it into a box every week. I don't believe it cost that much when I bought it, but I used to be more profligate than I am these days.

As well as the pond, I finished the pile of crates, which I placed beside my Wild West stuff earlier. I think it fits in nicely. Next I have that vertically-raised fuel tower and a blockhouse-kinda-thing together with half a dozen Sallies (2 Salamander Command vehicles, 4 regular Salamanders). As well as that, I have dragged that huge hill I made aeons ago out of the Pool Room, and am set to glue bits to it to break up its horribly regular form. The trench and ruins are also looking well. So, yeah, lots of stuff on my plate. Let's see what I first consume.

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