Wednesday 29 August 2012

Millennium: a review

This is one confusing show. That would be a generous summary of Millennium. A more accurate appreciation is that this show was strikingly mishandled, rather like The X-Files, and for a similar reason. In the case of the one with aliens, the network threw money at it to keep it on the air, necessitating a wholesale reimagining of the show's mythos. The same sort of thing happened with Millennium, which received an unexpected reprieve after it ended the world at the end of Season 2. This necessitated dropping the end of the world, and led to a poorly handled recasting of the Millennium Group as villainous, and Peter Watts as malign. When the show began, Watts was a good guy and the Millennium Group, although sinister in its secrecy, was on the side of the angels. There is a clear intention in the show to reveal that they are not all that they are cracked up to be, and every bit as much sinners as sinned against.

The problem with this is that they are too evidently on the side of good at the start of the first season, and that in the second season there is too rapid a descent into unconscionable practices. I am currently halfway through the last season, and they have become wilfully obstructive of justice and public safety, acting behind a mask which ironically brings to my mind the French Revolution's Committee of Public Safety, a real body avowedly opposed to evil which perpetrated a great deal of it. Had there been a few more seasons, this could have been done well. It is clear from the introduction of the two factions, Owls and Roosters, in the Millennium Group, in Season 2, that there was a long-term plan to introduce faction, and set one side against the other. The lack of time demanded a swift change of direction, and made the whole business too confused and self-contradictory.

The worst casualty is Peter Watts, who introduced Frank to the Group, and mentored him. By the end of Season 2 his character arc has snapped, and his character barely blinks at having to sacrifice his whole family because the Group refuses to take perfectly reasonable measures. The actor does his best, but no actor who has ever lived could rescue such a situation from descending into farce. Nobody can hold this sort of nonsense together for long, though Lance Henriksen merely has to react to the Group's sudden and inexplicable villainy rather than alter his character to justify it.

This is not to say that Millennium is a bad show. There are some amusing comic episodes, including a crossover with one of my favourite episode of The X-Files, featuring the quirky fictional writer Jose Chung. The dark episodes are nearly ubiquitous, but the striking human (and other) monsters unveiled do make for memorable and compelling figures and stories. The real problem is that one is left wanting more, not in the sense that one is rubbing one's hands for a sequel, but in that one is watching a car crash with a certain knowledge that there is no way out for the victims. I am going to finish this show off in the next day or two, and might add a codicil to this post covering the final episodes, but like so many shows - The X-Files, the new and old Battlestar Galactica - this show could have benefited from the maxim of Augustus: festina lente (more haste, less speed). It was good, but disappointing.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Star Fleet: The Battle of the Adelphos Nebula (illustrated)

The Greek is well-chosen for once, as it means brother, as any Philadelphians reading this probably know. The use of Nebula is purely artificial, as there wasn't one on the table. My brother and I had a go at ACTA: Star Fleet the other day. We used the same ships as before, he taking a Klingon D7 Battlecruiser and F5 Frigate, and I taking a Burke-class Frigate, Drake, and a Constitution-class Heavy Cruiser, Enterprise. I forgot about Special Actions for the first two turns. D'oh! I must make myself a Quickplay sheet for this game. In the first turn we both advanced and attempted some desultory long-range drone firing, with me realising the Federation has a special Anti-Drone rule. The second turn we got into close range and our two big ships blasted the heck out of one another, Enterprise losing most of her shielding and a quarter of her hull points, suffering Critical Level 1 Damage to the Dilithium Chamber and to the Crew.

The Enterprise's port phasers were out of arc, so I fired them at the F5 rather than waste them, and managed to cause 1 pt of damage, halved by the Klingon's forward shields, and then rounded back up to one again. Er! Enterprise did very little damage to the D7 herself, but did pummel her shields so badly that the Federation frigate was able to down them and cause a little hull damage and inflict Critical Level 2 on the D7, damaging his targeting sensors and knocking out his portside Phaser-2. The Federation had blown all their Photons in this attack, and so would have to reload before they could use them again, yet the damage to Enterprise's Dilithium Chamber meant she would be almost unable to manoeuvre without repairing it. Damage Control parties on both ships achieved a big fat nothing at the end of turn 2, and we broke for a bit, which let me remember about Special Actions. Now onward to turn 3!

The Klingons won the initiative again. I ordered All hands on deck! on Enterprise, hoping to fix some damage. I really should have done this the turn before reaching combat, so that if I had sustained serious damage in the first round of shooting, I could have had a better chance of fixing it. I must remember that for next time. I manoeuvred her slightly to bring the D7 in range and arc. Drake launched a suicide shuttle. The D7 remained still as the suicide shuttle crashes into him. However, since they don't blow up until the End Phase, the F5 opened up and blasted the shuttle before firing on Enterprise. I did advise my brother against this, as I assumed that whichever of the Klingon and Federation big ships got to fire first would munch the other. Anyway, Enterprise fired on the D7, crippling her and causing lots of damage. Between now and the end of the battle the D& would end up with Crew at Critical 1, Dilithium Chamber at 3, Impulse Drive at 4, and Weapons at 2 (a recovery from 3). Enterprise and Drake send some fire toward the F5, but don't do much damage.

Now Star Fleet strikes back, seizing the initiative in Turn 4. Both Klingon vessels launched shuttles. So I had Drake swing around behind the F5 to avoid that pesky front shield problem, and Enterprise reversed. F5 locks Tractor Beams on Drake. We realised the next turn that the F5 has no Tractor Beams. Oops! In Federation Special Actions, Enterprise reloaded her Photon Torpedoes, and Drake launched a shuttle. There then followed some inconsequential fire that failed to quite kill either Klingon ship. In the End Phase, my brother managed to recover Weapons slightly, and was poised to strike in the next phase.

Again I retained the Initiative, in a display of improbability. Enterprise and Drake overloaded their weapons in a gratuitous display of overkill, and Enterprise closed in, hoping to mangle both Klingon vessels with her guns alone. In a classic demonstration of my die rolling, having overloaded my Photon Torpedoes, I missed with all four of them, and had to take out the F5 with Phasers. The D7 having recovered some Weaponry, she managed to inflict several Critical hits on Enterprise before going down to the overpowered Photons of USS Drake. Since shuttles vanish (Q, was that you? Maybe the Organians?) when their capital ships die, we ended here. Enterprise had lost her shields, almost half her hull, and had taken level 1 Criticals in every one of the five fields. Only my brother's unfamiliarity with the devastating impact of being shot at point-blank range without shields let this happen.

He rather enjoyed this, so we'll be having another game with a few more ships next time! I have downloaded a Star Trek Dingbats font, but I am still working out a good (aesthetically pleasing) way of linking it up with the pictures. I should have sorted that out by the time of the next skirmish.

Monday 27 August 2012

Expendables 2: Review and summary (2/2)

When we left our heroes, poor Billy had been stabbed through the heart by the villainous Jean-Claude Van Damme. Mr Stallone takes this rather amiss, declaring his response to be to "track 'em, find 'em, kill 'em", delightfully evoking an irascible John Wayne. Sly meets Bruce Willis, and you can tell he's angry and upset, because he tries to pick a fight with him, saying he never gets his hands dirty, always sending people to die for him. Brucey plays his cards right, and refuses to get suckered in. With the help of Maggie, Sly et al set about tracking down the Nasty Chaps.

Having been introduced to the baddies as pretty mean, since they killed Billy Don'tBeAHero, we now see that they are even nastier than that. It turns out that the doodah from the downed aeroplane is a map to an abandoned mine in which the Russians left 5 tons (or is it tonnes? This is an American film, so surely the former) of plutonium - dun-dun-duh! Jean-Claude and his villainous cronies want to extract the plutonium and sell it to as many wealthy terrorists as they can for as much money as possible. They are a little wary of dying of radiation poisoning, so they kidnap all the men from the villages surrounding the abandoned mine to collect it for them. J-C's 2-i-C espies a crushed villager cradling another man, clearly poisoned and weak, and speeds up the cradler's return to work by shooting the sick man. Remember that these baddies are gloriously two-dimensional in their villainy! It's wonderful! 2-i-C is ordered to collect all the remaining villagers to speed up the process of mining everything out inside three days.

Arriving some hours away in the aeroplane, Sly and his crew decide to have a bit of a recce before doing anything. They espy some sinister chaps with satanic neck tattoos, and intend to beat them up for information. Maggie kindly steps in with a bag of scalpels and offers her services. There's a tasteful cut to the next scene. I suspect if that scene ever was written, that it was one of those horrifying moments excised when Chuck Norris was attached to the production. Information "acquired" our heroes decamp to an abandoned Soviet army base, where the Russians trained to attack New York, apparently. Doubtless this is a nod to the approaching remake of Red Dawn. Mr Statham is sent back to the aeroplane to fetch a lot of guns. Our heroes encamp in a building, and there follows a little comic scene with Terry Crews having brought proper food while everyone else is eating horrible ration packs. We have a touching moment between Sly and Maggie, when he says he keeps women at a distance as people around him get hurt, and she advises him that this is no way to live.

It's next morning, and Terry's having a cup of lovely coffee in a porcelain cup, and Dolph Lundgren is snoring like a chainsaw. Suddenly the villains arrive! A gunfight ensues, with our heroes fleeing the deathtrap of a building. They are vastly outnumbered, with little hope of victory or even survival, and Sly telephones Statham to have him hurry up and bring a tank as they are badly outgunned. Then around the corner comes . . . a tank - but it isn't driven by dear Jason. Nope, the baddies have a tank. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Things look bleak for our heroes. Stallone has a single round left, and so he leans round the corner to take a final shot. BLAM! The baddy goes down. BLAM-BLAM-BLAM-BLAM-BLAM! BOOM! All the other nasties are cut down in a hail of gunfire, and the tank is taken out of the equation by a judiciously aimed ATGM (or something along those lines). Puzzlement abounds! I didn't do that. Did you do that? No, I don't have any bullets left! Then who?

Up pops the internet's most-popular meme, Mr Charles Horatio Xavier Norris. A spot of friendly banter ensues, and our heroes thank Chuck for helping them out. There's a reference to the memes in the form of Chuck's character saying that a King Cobra died after biting him. Boom-boom. But he works solo, and so off our heroes trot, Statham having arrived with more shooty things. They still need to find that base, after all! Through a scenic village (grey, sad people in drab clothes), when suddenly they come under fire. As it turns out, the ladies of the village had mistaken them for the villains, and decided to shoot first in an effort to save their little boys from being kidnapped to work in the mines. Villagers: "Who are you?" Sly: "We're American." Statham: "I'm English!" Maggie: "Chinese!" Terry: "Cherokee!" Randy: "You're all idiots." There's a slightly confusing moment as our heroes mistake themselves for hard-headed people solely out for revenge as opposed to a hilariously violent A-Team.

So the villains turn up in trucks to kidnap everyone else in this village. They are divided around the village and ambushed by various of our heroes. There is some rather comic gunfire from Dolph, and some lovely, balletic knife-slinging from our Jason, disguised as a priest. It seems a little odd that the villains hadn't kidnapped an old man in priest's robes beforehand, given they had stolen away every other weak old man. Maybe these are secretly devout Orthodox villains with satanic symbols on their necks. It's a delightful inconsistency. You might mistake that for a criticism, but these small scars make me love a silly film all the more. The baddies having been wiped out to a man, Sly et al decamp to spy out the enemy base. It's protected by a minefield, anti-tank weaponry (was that an old German 105mm gun?! I don't care if it wasn't, I like the idea too much!), AA weaponry - quad 0.50 cals, I think, and then one has to cross a bridge before one can get into the mine. This is going to be a challenge.

Unless you have an aeroplane with an artillery piece in the nose and a "bomb-bay door". Zoom in, shoot things, drop explosives onto the bridge's defenders . . . and then crash straight into the abandoned mine inside a disintegrating aircraft. Excellent! Ridiculously, wonderfully, gloriously over-the-top! After a little groaning from our heroes, they pop out and gun down all the villains, only to get caught in the mine by J-C, who blows the roof supports, and hightails it out of their with his convoy of trucks. Dolph, a former chemistry genius, apparently, has a way out: set fire to the phosphorus in the walls. No dice, Dolph. Too damp, apparently. But what's this? It's a large drilling machine coming through the wall of the chamber they're trapped in. Who's that driving? Why, it's only Arnie! He's both paying back the favour when Sly's chaps rescued him at this film's opening, and he's referencing Total Recall. Nice one, Arnie!

Bruce, seemingly stung by Sly's earlier chastisement about never turning up, beckons everyone into helicopters, and off they race ahead of J-C's column of nuclear trucks. Rather than any sort of planned ambush, they just stand in front of the them and blaze away very loudly! Veering off the road, J-C details a few men to hold off Bruce, Sly and Arnie - a foolish move, as they all end up dead. Then it's into the airport. If J-C can only massacre his pursuers, load five tons of plutonium onto an aeroplane, and then evade the CIA, and then sell his plutonium, he's home free. Ah. There are some very nice bits in the airport. As the baddies tear about, shooting at civilians, we see three figures, side-by-side, open fire from behind panes of opaque glass. It's Bruce! It's Sly! It's Arnie! But what's this? Sniping from a perch is the redoubtable Charles Fortescue Mornington Norris! What a lot of bullets. Huzzah!

Meanwhile, Mr Statham has a very pretty (if you find these words ineptly chosen, please feel welcome to substitute "artfully choreographed") fight with J-C's 2-i-C, culminating in shoving his head through a helicopter's rear propellor. Bruce and Arnie get into a small car, which Arnie declares is smaller than his shoe. They then drive by villains, with Bruce spraying SMG fire and Arnie blasting them with what I assume from its volume and ROF is an automatic shotgun. I could be wrong, mind - I have only a vague idea of weaponry. It looks and sounds right for Arnie, and that's the main thing. Then Sly and Maggie catch up with Jean-Claude, and there's a very good final fight scene. Needless to say, the good guy is victorious. I shan't detail it - you'll just have to watch it and enjoy it yourself. The film ends with Bruce providing the guys with a large biplane in which to fly off into the sunset. Roll the credits and closing music. In a word, do go see this film. It's fun.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Per ardua ad astra

Yesterday a renowned man passed on. Neil Armstrong's is a name we shall not soon forget, if ever. He was the first to walk on the Moon, and perhaps today we do not know what that means. It is rare to slip the surly bonds of Earth, and it was rarer, harder, deadlier when Armstrong did so. It was a dreadful, terrifying experience, and the threat of death haunted every minute of that incredible voyage. So let us not be sad. He piloted fighter-jets during the Korean War, walked on the Moon, taught others what he knew, and has carried that demarcation, that individuality, that glory, since then. Now he has died at the age of 82, having fulfilled a long, fruitful, benign life. His legend did not recede into the vanishing nothingness. He has died in the fullness of time, and now, as once long ago, he walks on another plane, separated from us, yet joined by our shared humanity. As we live today, let us think of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Expendables 2: Review and summary (1/2)

BANG! Always open with a bang when you're making an action movie. That advice probably applies when writing about one, too. Beware spoilers below, folks. Now read on. BOOM!

If you saw the first Expendables movie, you will have guessed that this is a series that does not take itself terribly seriously. If you missed this, then my opening paragraph starting and ending with silly sound-effects should have clued you in. I have to admit, first off, that I didn't really enjoy the first Expendables flick. The main problem I had with it was that the villains were both too nuanced for a traditional action flick and yet of insufficient depth for a thoughtful piece. I like my cerebral stuff, and I like my mindless explosion-based nonsense. Separately. Also, it seemed to lack the surfeit of explosions I had hoped for. I am happy to report that neither of these is a problem I had with this film. In fact, I had no problems with this film.

We are directly thrust into the action with a daring raid in Nepal. Some villainous chaps have abducted one of our heroes, and have fastened him to a chair to beat him up. In roar Mr Stallone's Vice-Presidential Action Rangers, with lots of shooting, and some amusingly modified vehicles. You will have seen the battering ram in the trailers, but I don't recall the plough myself. Actually, this is an American film, and my spellcheck is admonishing me, so perhaps we should call it a plow. Yes, I remember that from Sherlock Holmes. Anyway, explosions ensure, lots of chaps end up as dead as a 0.50cal HMG round can make you - which is very. Dead. Very dead. Our heroes then decide to eliminate a helicopter, not with their small arms, fair enough, nor their 0.50cals - more questionably, but maybe they expended all their ammunition eliminating the Blue Meanies - but with a motorcycle.

This attack confirmed for me my enjoyment of what I had experienced thus far. Those of you who follow Bruce Willis' comedies (any good action film is a comedy in my book) will recall that the last Die Hard to hit the silver screen featured just such an anti-aircraft moment. I do like nonsense in these films. One of my favourite examples of the genre remains Commando, which all aficionados will recall as stuffed to the gills with nonsense, excessive brutality, a ridiculous death count, a villain modelled on Freddie Mercury, and the use by an air hostess of a missile launcher on an American police van to free Arnie. Speaking of Arnie, our heroes drive through a building, blast the baddies, and rescue - some Chinese chap whom we haven't noticed before, and then the man in the chair, who is everyone's favourite Californian governor.

He is rather upset at having to be rescued, and one does wonder to what extent his mild vexation mirrors his unexpected return from politics to cinema. No time to worry, however, as it is time for a ridiculous escape down some wires, preceded only by literally washing away the baddies who would chase them in a manner reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Those of you who enjoy a complete novelty in their films are probably wondering whether to watch this film now, and I can only ask what you thought you were going to get from a flick with Arnie, Stallone, Statham, &c, &c, &c! So it's down the zipline, where we meet that sniper we know from the trailers who shoots the chaps who surround Stallone and Statham. Most of our merry band board some zippy little boats, which some more baddies pursue. Messrs. Statham and Stallone, however, have collected an aeroplane (another perfectly cromulent word my American spellchecker doesn't believe exists), and Sniper Billy pops the heads of some nameless (and literally faceless once his rifle has banged up their noggins) naughty fellows in slightly different zippy boats, chasing our heroes in their other boats.

This chase scene is revealed to have been arguably superfluous, as everyone gets onto the aeroplane, Mr Statham having shot up the nasty men's boats with a machine gun. A meany boards the aircraft shortly beforehand, allowing Stallone to beat him up and throw him out the door, in the finest traditions of action cinema. So everyone gets onto the 'plane on their jet-skis, at which point I began to wonder how much money was being spent on this rescue, and then Statham loads the big gun (75mm? 105mm? Someone check out Wiki) that lives in the nosecone, and they start shooting at a raft on which some baddies are standing. This having been blown up with some HE rounds, they squeak over the top of a dam, and zoom away. They drop off the Chinese billionaire (which explains where they got the money for jet-skis) together with Jet Li (who suggests he might come back for Expendables 3 if he's free.

Homeward bound, they are, and there's an engagement party for Mr Statham, who is getting wed to Cordelia from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wait, didn't she die and become a prophetic ghost? Sorry, I never saw Angel. Apparently, Carpenter's character cheated on Statham between this film and its predecessor, or Stallone's pre-wedding banter is just some odd masculine nonsense. We then get some relationship stuff which is so classic I think it came from an old black and white movie about WWII. Or a silent movie about WWI. Anyway, Billy the Sniper doesn't think this life is for him, so Stallone encourages him to go and be with his lovely French nurse girlfriend whom he met when he was in serving in Afghanistan. Stallone then drives off, moodily thinking about being alone all his life, and goes back to his surrogate woman: the aeroplane. Mr Church (Bruce Willis) is there, and with quiet viciousness excoriates Stallone for the events of film #1, and bids him take a specialist with him to collect a mysterious MacGuffin from a 'plane downed in Albania or Bulgaria. We don't meet any Bulgarians or Albanians, so I forget. Anyway, the new young lady appears on a motorised bicycle, and refuses to be ruffled by Stallone's "no wimminz" policy.

To Albgaria! Everyone, including this pretty new young lady, gets into the 'plane. On Jet Li's departure, Dolph Lundgren had demanded whom he know could bully, and Li remarked "You'll find some other minority". This new young lady being of Chinese extraction, there inevitably follow some gently humorous failures by Dolph to woo her. So they land and trundle off to the crashed 'craft. I remark privately on the inadvisability of wearing white jeans if one is supposed to be a covert mercenary - I doubt I would mention this to Mr Statham were I to meet him. Anyway, everyone trundles about slowly in a very clumped formation designed to favour cameras over sensible deployment - which is damned right for this sort of film! No fancy-schmancy sensible military tactics here, please! Needless to say, they find the downed 'plane, perform some amusing strength exercises, and send off Billy the Sniper to sit somewhere safe to keep an eye open.

Out of the fog emerges the diabolical, the evil, the deplorably French-sounding Jean-Claude Van Damme. Billy, don't be a hero! Billy has been taken prisoner, and now J-C makes Stallone's people put down their guns, threatening to shoot Billy otherwise. So they put down their guns and hand over the doodah they got out of the downed 'plane, and so J-C stabs Billy to death and nips off in a helicopter. The dastard! You know J-C is a naughty boy because he has a tattoo of a stylised goat's head on his neck, and he advises us that the goat is the Devil's pet. I'd missed that. I knew of the theory that the god Pan was conflated by early Christians with Satan, hence all the goat-stuff, but I realised at that point that I was over-thinking this film. So tune in tomorrow and find out what happens to our heroes? Will Flash Gordon save Earth? What of Professor Hans Zarkov, formerly of NASA? Wait, wrong film! More on Expendables 2 tomorrow, folks!

Friday 24 August 2012

Star Trek: The Battle of Oinos IV (illustrated)

Captain's Log: On patrol near the Klingon border we have noted energy fluctuations, and been deployed to investigate in company with USS Drake. First Officer Spock suspects the Klingons intend to launch an attack. If that's the case, we will be ready for them.


"Federation ships dead ahead, Captain - a heavy cruiser and a frigate."

"Bring us in closer, and let them taste our Disruptors!"


"Klingon wessels to port, Keptin Kirk! USS Drake's keptin is requesting instructions."

"Full speed ahead, and bring us to port, Mister Chekov. Let's see what these Klingons are up to. Order Drake to stay to our starboard. She's too small to take the punishment we can."

"The Federation vessels are staying close together. Let us swing round and attack the cruiser from either flank, then defeat the frigate at our leisure. Do it!"


"Sir, the Klingons are moving to flank us."

"Good news, Spock. Let's keep them divided. Slow to half impulse and launch a shuttle and, Uhura, have Drake follow our lead."

Pew-pew! Shake! Shudder! Wobbly camera movement!

"Damage report, Mr Chekov!"

"Shields at 83%, Keptin! The Klingon bettlecruiser and frigate are concentrating their fire on us."

"Just as I planned. Drake is still undamaged. Uhura, order her captain to swing round that asteroid belt, and threaten the Klingon's lower left flank. I have a feeling that might just work."


"Captain Phlegm, the enemy frigate is moving to our lower port flank. They could-"

"Aha! Now is our chance to divide them! Hard to starboard and full speed ahead, Helmsman!"

"But, Captain, that-"



"Chekov, as they swing past that moon, hit them with everything we have!"

Screech! Zap! Kaboom! Screech!

"Keptin, their shields are down, and their hull is heavily demeged, but they are returning fire - as is the enemy frigate! They heff also launched a shuttle which is hetted in our direction!"

"Uhura, signal the Klingons to surrender and stand down their weapons."

"Captain, the Klingon commander is dead. I have an Engineering officer on the Comm prepared to surrender. The Frigate has turned for Klingon space and is retreating at speed."

"Uhura, accept his surrender. Doctor McCoy, prepare to receive Klingon casualties. Stand down from Red Alert, Mr Chekov."


The first turn involved both sides advancing on one another, and the whole game involved me forgetting that the Klingons are a lot more fragile than the Federation and simultaneously forgetting the benefits Klingons get for being shot in the forward shield arc. So I'm improving my knowledge of the game as I am more aware of what I've forgotten. It's too late to help this time, but still in time to help next time! I remembered to use shuttles this time, but didn't get any closer to using terrain, simply skirting around it. I did remember that crippled ship can only lose one weapon system, which would have saved Enterprise in the last playtest. I am just about happy next time with adding another player, so look forward to either my brother, Niall, or my friend, Nathan, taking on a commodore's role next time. In fact, with another player I might actually remember all of one side's special rules, and not to fly right in front of a Federation Heavy Cruiser and get shot to pieces by point-blank photon torpedoes! I decided to finish the game at the end of turn 3 as there was only one Klingon warship that could do any substantial damage, and it was hopelessly outclassed by the two Fed ships, one of which was quite untouched. I might increase the number of ships next time to three aside, and see if that works out well.

The system name is pretty much meaningless: I'm just picking random Greek words and assigning Roman Numerals. I'm a veritable John Logie Baird. For those paying attention, the last battle's name, Xiphos, means sword, and this name, Oinos, means wine. I think I am correct in remembering that oinos is one of those words that was preceded by a digamma (pronounced w) before the digamma died out in less ancient Ancient Greek! So it would have been pronounced woinos - find yourself back in ancient Greece, you know how to ask for a drink. That's woinos if you're with Homer, and oinos if you're with Plato. ;-) Don't ask me for help if you can't pay, though! Get your obols ready beforehand! Enjoy the pics before you get sucked into the time vortex, folks!

Thursday 23 August 2012

Damned Clever Idiots

We seem to have a lot of these about nowadays. There is not any inevitable delineation according to political alignment or nationality. One right-winger believes that women cannot get pregnant when they are the victims of "legitimate rape", whatever that means, and one left-winger believes that it is not rape if you rape someone when they are asleep or if you have enraged the American government. These brainless lies should not go unchallenged, lest they corrupt others. I find that sometimes the best thing to do here is to use analogies. Let us think on the latter idiot's position first. Imagine you have a book. A friend asks if they can borrow it to write an essay. Then you need it back so you can do your work. If the person who borrowed it breaks down your door and steals the book, you would not think that it was ok. If someone else defended him, saying that you had already let him borrow the book, so it was merely bad etiquette for the thief to break down your door and steal your book, you would be angry, rightly angry, and regard that argument as bad, invalid, weak, and possibly even evil.

Now let us think about the first idiot. The first baffling thing here is his terminology. What is "legitimate rape"? Is it perhaps like "legitimate theft", where you need to steal bread or you will starve? No, because nobody is going to die from not attacking someone else. So what could it mean? Perhaps it means that this idiot believes that half the population has to conform to a dress code or a manner of behaviour or walking only on certain well-lit streets or they deserve to be attacked. That's not just stupid, it is evil. Nobody deserves to be attacked for being in the wrong place or for wearing non-standard clothes. If you wear a Star Trek t-shirt and a Star Wars fan attacks you for that reason, you know he is the one with the problem, not you. Mark Mardell of the BBC said, "If someone talked about 'legitimate murder' or 'legitimate burglary' we would be left scratching our heads as to what they meant”.

Some of you will be reading this and thinking what George Galloway wants you to think. We are human, and we do get distracted and misled. Nothing of what I have said above about George Galloway's words means that Julian Assange attacked anybody. Nothing of what is above means that he has not enraged the American government: they do want to see him locked up. That is not pertinent. Two people have alleged they were attacked. That should be investigated, not ignored because he is a gadfly to America. There are people out there with no respect for others, and they are numerous, even multitudinous. They are encouraged to ignore, dominate and torture other people by these disgusting statements made by public figures. Nothing of what I have said above touches on the good or evil of abortion. I have not given my view of abortion. I have given my view of an evil statement which wrongly seeks to delineate between certain kinds of a particularly vicious assault.

When someone in the public eye makes an evil statement, one which strengthens the cruel and the vile, they should be challenged. They should retract it or they should learn that such evil as they promote and endorse must not be allowed to prosper. I may well have sounded furious to you as you read this. I am furious. No man or woman is my toy, existing solely for my enjoyment. No man or woman is anyone's property. We can change our minds from yes to no, or expect to sleep without being attacked. We are all people.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Form Square! Back to 6mm Napoleonics

I was inspired last night to a spot more work on my Baccus 6mm redcoats. I follow my own basing method with these lads. The little chaps come four models to a strip. The recommended basing method is two strips deep and three wide on a base, with one of those being a command strip (officer, two colour bearers, and a drummer), yielding a group of 24 models. I only use the command strip on every third base, as I have both fond memories of Shako with plastic 1/72 chaps, and a desire to get round to my place the chaps I played this with at uni, and have a few games with the 6mm chaps. In the Shako small-scale rules, an infantry battalion is three stands in size, you see. With the 1/72 models we had representative units of 9 men, and this way there are 72 of the little fellows. I am not quite mad enough to go for 1:1 ratios of men yet! Anyway, I was inspired by seeing Ian's 54mm project, peering at my Sharpe DVDs again, and a chap on Warseer who's making some Napoleonic-themed Imperial Guard. I find it is often the case that I will notice one little thing, which makes me notice something else, and then things snowball!

The weather here continues to be unpleasantly warm, so I continue to imbibe drinks from glasses that are 80% ice cubes. I'm dawdling my way through Millennium, as I paint, and have reached the start of the final season. Rather bizarrely, the world clearly ended at the end of the second season, only for the makers to have been granted a reprieve from cancellation. I fancy a post-apocalyptic season would have been more honest a continuation, but there would probably have been some trouble in having the central character continue to profile serial killers when almost everyone is dead. So it was only a little outbreak of death, and society is back to normal again with a slightly different cast list. Rather amusingly (or jarringly), the makers seemingly realised finally that all their main characters were white, and that they had also got rid of the two major female characters. So there's a new FBI agent added to the mix, who's black. "Pete, I'm not getting what's comic or jarring about this." Ah, just wait. They introduced her in an episode which dealt with lots of blue-eyed blonde clones. To quote Giles of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, " I believe the sub-text here is rapidly becoming... text".

Coming up soon is a week of frenzied activity. Dad is going to be out most of the day at church, as there's some sort of harvest festival thing going on. So I will be taking advantage of his absence to get as much painting done as I can. To recapitulate for those just tuning in: the house needs a bit of painting done, but Dad is a bit of a stickler, and insists on overseeing or painting himself, so won't let anyone else do it. However, he has no time, so he can't do it. Fortunately, we men are not the observant half of the species, and his sense of smell is a bit degraded by years of smoking, so I have been patching up this window ledge and that peeling bit of wood for several weeks now, and have yet to be detected. The main problems are drying times and that Dad is often at home working on church stuff.  Since he's going to be out all week, I doubt I'll be painting any soldiers then, but you might end up seeing some proud pictures of gloss-coated outdoor wood! For the time being, here are those Napoleonic redcoats.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Facebook Fantasies

I glimpsed some odd adverts on Facebook today. I am to buy cheap Jaguars (the car) with a military discount, go to Manchester Metropolitan University, and while in Manchester avail myself of Manchester Escorts, get myself some public liability insurance and some heavy-duty shelving. Clearly, this is how I should be arranging my life. I should sign up at MMU, join the TA, buy a car to collect escorts, and then stack them on sturdy shelving - once I have registered myself as a company. If the ladies fall off the shelving, I shall be all right, because my public liability insurance should cover any legal problems resulting from such a fall. I just have to register my company's purpose as being to store young ladies on shelves, and have a health and safety risk assessment done.

I admit that this is not the way I had planned to live, and I'm still not at all sure how to make a profit out of having young ladies on evening gowns sit on resilient shelves. Perhaps I have misconstrued the adverts. What do you think of this alternative reading? I hire several young ladies, one to join the military and buy several cars on my behalf, another to attend MMU and learn how we can make a profit out of this, and a third to assemble some redoubtable shelves on which I can stack all these cheap Jaguars I shall be buying. I'll get the public liability insurance for her in case she injures herself while assembling the shelves.

No, no, how about this? I go to MMU, and get myself a student loan. Rather than study, I sign up and buy myself a new car, which I register as a public company, making one of these escorts the Finance Director or somesuch. I take it with me to a war zone on completion of my training, and wait for someone to start taking pot shots at it. I also have to take some sturdy shelves, from which I shall construct a barricade behind which I can hide from whoever's shooting the car. With the large insurance payout I can repay my student loan.

I think that's pretty much a foolproof plan.

Monday 20 August 2012

The Dickin Medal

Ahoy, folks. A friend of mine has written a book about the Dickin Medal, and I am sure that some of you historically-minded people will be interested! Here's the write-up from Amazon.

"Sixty-three animals have won the Dickin Medal, the highest award for animal bravery. Their inspiring stories are told, for the first time in one book, The Animal Victoria Cross. Four types of animal have been honoured, dogs, horses, pigeons and one cat. Simon, the feline, is credited with saving an entire ship's crew. Canine breeds include Alsatians, Terriers, Collies and Spaniels. The majority of awards were related to war service and the conflicts include the Second World War, Korea, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. The Al-Qaeda attack on the Twin Towers as well as the Blitz saw great courage exhibited by animals such as Rip, the dog who saved many lives. In addition to British animals, there are American, Canadian, Australian and Egyptian winners of this unique award. This delightful book will be treasured by animal lovers everywhere. It is ideal to 'dip' into or read from cover to cover."

-- Peter Hawthorne is Head of History and Lecturer in Law at Stafford College. He lives near Telford, Shropshire.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Star Trek: The Sky Full of Stars

Well, not so much the sky as an old table tennis table. I mentioned the other day that I had not bothered to take any pictures of my second game because I had as yet no pretty table. So I found some black paint in the back and set to work sprucing up the scratched old thing. Space is not just black, of course, so I grabbed a few cans of spraypaint: red, green, and a nearly dead white one. I squeezed a few spurts from that last, and misted a little white onto the table, too, creating the appearance of stars and interstellar dust, then I misted some red and green onto the table to suggest nebulae. It's come out pretty well, although the same cannot be said of the pictures I took of the table painted gloss black after the paint had dried. A disagreement between the flash and the paint is probably to blame. Here are a few shots of what the table looks like now. In a while, once the fumes have dissipated out the windows, I may manage to have a game and take some shots.

Thursday 16 August 2012

The Battle of Xiphos Alpha

I beg leave to report to Starfleet Command that this battle was a very bloody affair. A Constitution-class Heavy Cruiser and a Burke-class Frigate on the border with Klingon space changed course to investigate mysterious energy fluctuations, and ran into two Klingon warships, a D7 Battlecruiser and an F5 Frigate. The junior Klingon commander, being over-confident, advanced too rapidly into the teeth of the Federation ships' firepower, and his ship was soon reduced to dusty wreckage in space. The Federation ships, having concentrated on first eliminating the Klingon frigate, found the Battlecruiser overmatched them, and the Federation Heavy Cruiser went down with all hands to a point-blank volley of Disruptor and Phaser fire. Before her demise, she had reduced the enemy vessel to such a parlous state that the Federation frigate was able to finish her off.

So this is the third (I think) game I've played of these Mongoose rules. I want to drag in some other folk, but I feel I should first get my head around how everything works, which necessitates getting a few more games under my belt! I cleared off the table in the attic and had a bit of a shufti at things. I rather ignored terrain. Despite deploying a couple of small moons and an asteroid field to the table, none of my ships flew through, into or around them. I have developed a slightly better grasp of the rules, but since I mainly avoided things such as Crew Quality checks, Suicide Shuttles and the like, I am still a long way from being "Admiral Kirk"!

I have been throwing together a few plans for refighting historical battles, but they are still some way from being brought to completion. I am quite drawn to The Battle of the Plate Nebula, which will see a longer-ranged Klingon vessel attempt to defeat superior Federation vessels with shorter-ranged weapons. I am also rather keen on The Battle of the Dennish Strait, in which a couple of Federation Dreadnoughts will have a go at slapping a Klingon Dread and accompanying cruiser (of some sort). I had a funny idea yesterday about doing a chase of sorts with the Klingon warships Goeben and Breslau, but the first step in all of this is to get my head around the rules. I do not yet have a nice, pretty little table, so I shan't pain you with photographs of models being manoeuvred around a scratched table-tennis table.

In other news, Ian over at The Blog With No Name is running a gift giveaway to celebrate reaching a hundred followers. He's a top bloke and there are some grand prizes, so pop over there and have a gander!

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Living the Catch-22 life

I was out yesterday, shopping with my girlfriend. I can do this in the middle of the day because I do not have a job. I received a call from a lady who was considering me for a position. She was interested in why I had not worked for several years. I explained that it was because I had suffered from a social phobia. In plain language, strangers scared me half to death. I got better last year, but almost nobody wants to employ someone with a half-decade gap in their employment history. She asked me to ring her back this morning, so I did. Unfortunately, she had chatted to some colleagues and already made up her mind not to take me on, lest the stress cause me to have a relapse. In vain did I say that it would not happen. So that's that.

Inevitably frustrated, I decided to tug at another loose thread. Back at the end of last year, November-December time, I took a course to be an assistant-teacher. To get a placement, so the company said, I needed a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau - to see if one has done anything dangerous that means one ought not to be around children) check and two referees. At the time I had not the latter, but asked the company to go ahead with the former. I sorted out some references, and rang back around February, only to find out that the CRB had not been sorted out. Financially, I could have paid for it in December, but when I rang back I was bust. I would have put it on the credit-card mountain, had it been done. As it had not, I decided against continuing. A few months later I had a spot of spare cash, and rang up again. The lady at the other end was busy that day or the right person to take my call was not about, so she promised to ring back the next day. I waited. Then I got distracted by Easter, birthdays, weddings and other important things. She never rang back.

Today, spurred on by the first irritation, I rang back. The company no longer does CRB checks "as we weren't getting the volume". They have not done them for a month. I laughed rather bitterly. Then I was asked if I had looked at any schools that I wanted them to contact on my behalf. I replied that I had not for two reasons. First, the company had told me that I needed the CRB check done, and second, the company promoted itself to me on the basis that it would seek out employment opportunities for me. The general wording was that "we will keep looking for jobs until we find one for you". Well, bravo, I say. Bravo. They might not be able to keep their promises (and they clearly employ staff who meet that core value of dishonesty or vapid uselessness), but they certainly know how not to keep someone who has given them money informed, and bestow him with an acid temperament.

Well, I am off to sort out a CRB. I trust you folk are having a finer start to the day than I am!

EDIT: Oh, no, I am not! It turns out that I cannot.

Can you apply for your own criminal record check?

The self-employed or individuals can't legally apply for a criminal record check on themselves. This is because they are unable to assess their own suitability for a job.
Instead you may wish to:
  • register with an agency that can ask for a CRB check to assess your suitability to work for them
  • apply for a basic check from Disclosure Scotland which will provide details of any unspent convictions
  • make a subject access request under the Data Protection Act to your local police force to find details of any criminal record
 So I cannot apply for a check that I need before I can get a job. The agency that told me it would sort it out would not. I know I have not got a criminal record. The only time anything has come up is when I accidentally drove past a traffic camera in Slough (never been there before nor since) at 40 mph, thinking it was a 40mph zone. It was a 30mph zone. Bloody bureaucracy.

Monday 13 August 2012

De rerum magicae artis

Do you use magic? I find I do. You will not find me dancing naked in a field at the full moon, attending a seance or excising newts' eyes. There are some things I do that are irrational yet produce results. Yesterday I was filling out a form. I finished around lunchtime and left it on my desk. I did not put it anywhere else, nor did I tidy anything up. Today I needed that form. I saw it and got on with filling my bag with some other bits and pieces. My brain was a little distracted, so I assumed I had put the form in my bag along with some music, a book, a pen, some paper, an umbrella, some sunglasses and some sunscreen (the weather here is very mutable at the moment). After I had walked half a mile, I had one of those panicky little moments. "Did I pack the papers?!" Sure enough, on rifling through my bag the papers were not there.

Darn. Well, I shall just have to ring home and get Dad to find them for me. They're probably on my chest of drawers. I rang. He looked. He did not find. I returned home. The papers have gone. They are not on my desk, my chest of drawers, my bed, my floor, or anywhere. "Yeah, Pete, that's because you clearly put them somewhere else!" Nuh-uh! I shall run through the events, Mr Holmes, and let you solve this problem. I had the papers yesterday. I was working and finished with them around midday. I left them on my desk. I then did a little painting around the house. I did not take the papers with me. I have never tried taking a form with me when painting a window-frame. I did a few other things, none of which involved me removing the papers from the room.

I was distracted this morning by a problem with my laptop. It's new and so much better than the EeePC I had before. Funnily enough, it's another ASUS. The problem was that Rome: Total War is a little too old for it (vintage 2004, would you believe?). So I was in a bit of a hurry when it came time to leave. I knew the papers were just on my right, and must have thought I would grab them when I had got everything else together. I loaded my bag, and went downstairs where I put my boots on. I have retraced my steps from here to the front-door via the kitchen (an erstwhile fire-place in there is now a cupboard where my footwear lives). The papers are not in any of the rooms I passed through, nor on the staircase I descended. They are not in the hall or the porch. They are not commingled with the other papers I put in my bag. They are not scattered among the papers remnant in my room. Yesterday they were here and today they are gone.

The options I can see are these. 1) My papers fell out of my bag in the first nine minutes or so of my walk. This is unlikely. I habitually wedge them down among heavier items, and my bag, although not zipped shut, had a flap covering the contents. 2) The papers are still in my room and I have developed a selective psychosomatic blindness. That sounds a bit alarming. 3) I ate or otherwise destroyed the papers in my sleep. Nobody has ever mentioned to me that I sleep walk, so I doubt this. 4) My papers have disappeared somewhere and will only reappear when I perform the correct ritual. I am going with this as an explanation, as I have had success here.

Have you ever put something down, and reached for it only to find it had gone? Perhaps it reappeared on the other side of the room, perhaps to your left when it was on your right. Maybe it never came back. I do think you should have a proper look for stuff when you lose them. We are absent-minded creatures, and it is almost always the case that a few minutes' search will solve The Mystery of The Missing Pen. In fact, this is always the first part of my magical ritual. I search the area where I know something has gone missing. It is best to mumble the name of whatever you are looking for, say researchers. People may well think you are a bit mad when you do, especially if you cite an article in The Daily Mail as your back-up. Once I have searched the area, I start searching any areas where I might just perhaps have left what I have lost. If I have walked into a room since I last had the item, perhaps it is there. If I've lost a pen, maybe I really did just pop it down on the table while pouring a glass of water, only for someone to ask me a question and distract me from picking up the pen.

So far you might be shaking your head wryly, "Pete, where's this magic?" Well, that's it. I think of magic as doing something that doesn't make any sense. I know exactly where those papers were, where they could be, and should be. They are not there, so I am looking in a lot of places I know they are not. If they turn up, that is magic. But that is not the last stage on this ridiculous trip. Next I have a look in places where the missing items could not be. For instance, I know which rooms of the house I have been in since filling out the form yesterday. So if the piece of paper turns up in a room I have not been in, that is impossible. I have experienced that before. More normally the final result is that I search everywhere: the place I left the item, the places it could be, the places it isn't likely to be, the places it cannot be, and I come back, ritual complete, to find the missing item demurely in exactly the place I left it and searched so exactingly originally. I get the missing thing back. I like it. Not a lot, but I like it.

EDIT: The story has the expected ending. I filled out another form with as much detail as I could piece together, placed it very carefully and consciously in my bag, and went to bed. I got up the next day and stripped my bed to wash the bedlinen, which I would have done the day before if I had not been rushing about trying to find the missing papers. Underneath a pillow - where I'm sure we all secure our important papers! - were the missing documents.

Thursday 9 August 2012

English as she is spoke

English is a frightful language for me. It is my native tongue, but this does not mean that I know it as well as I like to think. For instance, no English teacher I had in my five years of secondary education gave me a comprehensive run-down of English tenses. Instead, I pieced together elements of Ancient Greek, Latin, French and German (and overheard once that Russian has a future pluperfect, which sounds delightfully over-the-top). None of those languages is English, and even the education I received in those languages failed to cover things properly. For instance, on learning Greek I was told that Greek's aorist tense was an element in had in common with English, as no other language could say "I did", instead requiring either the imperfect (I was doing, I began to do, I used to do) or the perfect (I have done). For years I believed this to be the case, and made quite a fool of myself when I ran into someone who knew better than I. If you want to read up on this sort of thing, it's one of those funny little areas where Wikipedia is quite reliable.

This is not simply a modern problem. It was my father who taught me Ancient Greek, and he was at school in the fifties and sixties. He clearly did not receive a comprehensive grounding in English grammar, either, and had to flesh out his understanding by way of other languages. I presume that there are tiny cliques of people at secretive schools who are inducted into the ways of English, perhaps abroad, and it is only through their efforts that English grammar can still be understood! Perhaps you think I am being unreasonable in being sorrowful that English teachers do not cover English in its entirety. After all, it has clearly not been demanded for decades.

I recall faintly what we did cover in secondary school. To quote Henry Reed, " Today we have naming of parts." We got out our little green English exercise books, and copied down definitions of what a verb was, a noun, a conjunction, an adjective, and all those other little ephemera. I remember too the catalogue of collective nouns: a murder of ravens, a pride of lions, a troop of monkeys. I really can only remember those three, as we never revisited collective nouns. We had spelling tests, which were usually so easy as to lull one into a false sense of security. These were based on whichever book we were reading at the time. In my first year, I had to read The Red Pony, which I found awfully depressing. There was no spark of hope anywhere in it, nor in my life at the time.* We also read Walkabout and Kpo the Leopard, neither of which made strong impressions on me at twelve, and which some of my contemporaries have wholly forgotten. I assume we did more things than this in the first year, but they have all rather slipped out of my mind, like the leaves of a badly bound book.

The remaining years are less fixed in my mind. We went to some plays (Macbeth, Death of A Salesman, Great Expectations) and read a variety of texts that often bored me rigid: Macbeth, Great Expectations, Julius Caesar, a selection of war poetry (Henry Reed above, for instance, Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, &c), some Shakespearean sonnets, and a very disturbing book called The Collector, which I cannot recommend as reading material for teenagers of fourteen or fifteen. One of the less perverse things about that particular book was that it contained references to The Tempest, which our teacher had to painstakingly explain, as our Shakespeare play that year was Macbeth. Some elements of English were introduced to us: synecdoche, for instance. I usually found that I got a more comprehensive grounding in terminology from my Classics teachers. When it came to the metre of Shakespeare's plays, for instance, it was introduced as Iambic Pentameter, we were given a brief rundown on how it worked, and then we dashed off. I do not remember it coming up again. Introducing us to The Aeneid, our teacher took us through all the rules of hexameter, including all the oddities. When we studied Euripides' Medea, that teacher took us through the new meter found in the parts spoken by the characters.

I rather lost faith in English as a subject, and have yet to regain it. Maybe I am just being a naughty little naysayer, viewing the bad things and blindly ignoring that I did at least learn a few collective nouns, read a few good . . . no, I can't call any of those set texts good. Anyway, I did learn something about verse. It was not a complete waste of time. It is just a bit sad that I learned more about English from studying ancient languages, and even then I erred. Anyway, today is apparently Women's Day and Book Lover's Day, so I conclude by inviting you to go read a book that has women in it - which is fairly easy, I should think! I'm settling down to A Passage to India again.

* At the time I was being bullied, and my teacher (form teacher, English teacher and the man who chose the book) refused to help. It is hence that I can trace my earliest dislike of "classic literature". A depressing book, that is supposedly a classic, makes you want to kill yourself when you already want to kill yourself because you're being bullied.

Monday 6 August 2012

The Indefatigable Federation!

As you can see, the Federation reinforcements are now pretty much done. They have a few more spots that need work - starboard running lights and some small details. Anyway, allow me to present to you the newest ships in the fleet. The new Dreadnought is USS Alliance, NCC-2113, the new Battlecruiser is USS Montana, NCC-1765, USS Mecca is the Chicago-class New Heavy Cruiser, NCC-1659, USS Mutso, NCC-1506, is the Kearsage-class New Light Cruiser, and last and also least is USS Ortega, NCC-700, the name ship of her class of Destroyers. You may have noticed a theme here: all the ships have short names. I have only violated my search for the tiniest of names once, in the case of USS Enterprise!

Friday 3 August 2012

Rushed off my feet!

It is a bit of a busy old time here at P Towers. As well as working on several different bits of gaming-related stuff, from Star Trek to 28mm terrain, I'm also doing a spot of courting, and having to deal with my automocar. The infernal device has been giving me such grief of late that I had already decided to stop driving it. I was coming back from somewhere the other day and had to turn it off and on to reset the computer. It's an automatic, and keeps trying to start at traffic lights in third gear. I am as vexed as other drivers! Anyway, I pulled over, turned it off and on again, and nothing. It clicked a bit. I had experienced this before, so gave it ten minutes. No. Another ten minutes. No. Ring the accident guys. Wait another forty minutes. Try it again. Yes! Cancel accident guys. Drive home. Hate car with a passion! So yesterday I had to ring my insurance folk to cancel it, which was a breeze. I filled out the form required for a partial refund of road tax, also declaring the car off-road.

The saga is not over yet. I need a car to get to a wedding in September. Public transport won't cut it. So I also rang Mum's insurer, who had to ring someone else, and eventually discovered that I can't get insurance on her car for the two days I would need. Insurance companies say the darnedest things! So now I need to sort out a rental car. I have also tried to book the hotel, but they are having trouble with the code for the wedding, as they were yesterday, so they are calling me back some time today. Whew!

Last night I went to see a friend, which is to say she picked me up, as her house is either inaccessible by public transport or would demand a ridiculously circuitous route. Some time this morning she'll bring me back, I'll try to field a call from the hotel at some point, and my young lady is coming over about midday. We would like to go for a walk, but I managed to slash the side of my left foot on a piece of dead and ancient computer the other night, so any footwear hurts. Telly instead, then! Then I need to catch a bus down to see some more friends in Newcastle in the evening.

Everything seemed fairly quiet on Wednesday. I read Iain Banks' The Wasp Factory, which is a thoroughly disturbing little book, and started nibbling
around the edges of my copy of A Passage to India, which is as stuffed with introductions as a pepper is with rice! I am going to dissolve them before going on to the main event. If it gets too dark - and from what basic knowledge I have of the storyline, that seems fairly likely - I shall break off and read some Betjeman. I began reading him the other day, and he's very moreish. Yes, I am on something of a literary kick at the minute. I read Cold Comfort Farm the other day, and very funny it was, too. As I have mentioned before, my formal schooling included a lot of very successful work by my teachers (and the devisers of the curriculum, no doubt) to put me off classic literature. I am now returning to conquer that mountain of unread paper! Wish me luck.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Federation Reinforcements

All is going well on this front, folks. I have blocked in the main colours, repeatedly washed the starships, and am now having a bit of a think about highlighting and names. I am also grudgingly fiddling with the Dreadnought. I had not been paying attention, and had glued her rear nacelles on angled rather than all flat and horizontal. I realised and attempted to rectify my error, but discovered that only through GS and some judicious use of props (paintbrushes and a syringe) could I sort out the trouble. The nameless Dread is still sitting in place. This is inarguably one instance where resin models would have been easier to secure than metal ones. Still, there is no use crying over misplaced bovine lactation - or soya substitute in my case.

I am going to knock up a wee campaign for what ships I have, including a few merchantmen you can see pictured below. I hope to get a few games in, either with my brother or a friend, or perhaps even both! It's a bit of a shame that the first will be the first wargame of 2012 for me, but there we are. I am very much behind the rest of the gaming world at the minute. There is no likelihood of 40k's 6th Ed appearing on my shelf in the near future. The money is lacking. I may buy a couple of packs of those pretty Musketeer Miniatures BEF Early War cavalry. Until such time as that happens, take a look at what I have similarly won from Mongoose and the few vessels I decided to scratch or kitbash into something I could pop on the battlefield.

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