Why I wasn't at Travcon 2019

First Trophy
First Trophy! Aidan wins the U10 Foil

Usually, at this time of year, I'm at Travcon, a gathering of fans of the Traveller RPG held in Sawtry run by BITS. This year, I was at the Qualifiers for the British Youth Championships for Fencing for Yorkshire, held at Penistone Grammar School[1]. Usually, Jill would handle this on her own[2], but it was the first year that both of the boys were competing to enter. I reluctantly bailed out, my solace being that I'd get to see the lads competing and also that North Star isn't that far off.

Aidan did brilliantly, fighting his way through to a Gold Medal and - to his delight - a trophy! He loved it so much he took it to bed with him when we got home. He also used it as bragging rights with his brother, who has never won a trophy for fencing (only medals). He's turning into a sharp little fencer. He does have the chance to get his name on this three times, something no-one else has achieved.

Nathan had a harder path. He's consistently been #2 in Yorkshire, and any medal position would guarantee his qualification for the Championships. He came second through the poule stage (only losing once) and then had a difficult semi-final. The lad he was fighting wasn't a better fencer, but there's something about his style that means Nat has to grind out a result. It went the full three periods and he was pretty exhausted at the end. Being placed second from the poule also meant that he had less of a recovery period. He lost the final but put up a determined fight. Across the whole competition, he scored 9 points against his opponent (10:6 in the final) which was considerably more than the rest of the field managed against him. His opponent's win was deserved, but that didn't take away the disappointment. Anyway, he was safely qualified.

A worthy 2nd place in U12 Foil

Just after we finished, we had a major disappointment. British Fencing has pulled the U10 Foil class from the Championships. Their reasons?
It is the view of BF and the Home Countries, based on the latest evidence and research about participation and performance, that fencing for children under the age of 10 should primarily be about having fun and getting opportunities to practice their skills without the pressure of competing in or winning a National/British Championships. Young fencers should also be encouraged to participate in a variety of sports. If parents and coaches do wish their children to compete they are encouraged to do so at a developmentally appropriate inter school/local/regional level competition.
I find this pretty bizarre as fencing isn't a sport that you do casually. You'll most likely be learning at a club, having lessons and fencing others for fun and challenge. Fundamentally, it's a direct person-to-person sport and the competition/winning is at the heart of the whole thing. It's mock trying to stick a piece of steel through an opponent in every fight; at its heart, it's Darwinian, even. You learn fencing better fencers. Aidan loves it[3] and was upset when he found out; he's currently performing at the top of his class in the region but will have to wait another two years to try his hand nationally. He wanted to fence (and turned down a birthday party so he could go).

In my heart, I suspect that funding and organising time and effort may be part of the real reason.

[1] Let's see if that makes it past the firewalls and morality checkers...
[2] She's the original fencer in the family.
[3] He also swims regularly and enjoys a variety of other sports.

What has the EU ever done for us?

EU/UK flags

In case you're curious, have a look at https://myeu.uk/

EU funding in area around Wetherby
Quite a lot, actually..

How much did I pay for this? Well, https://euworthit.uk/ has a ready reckoner based on the data that HMRC publishes.


What have the Romans ever done for us?

This was on my mind tonight.


New Theme


A further bit of modernisation tonight for the website with a new theme. This one - Florence - is from Brandon Lee Design and should be responsive for different device sizes. I liked the clean looks and the use of grey and orange (which is a hangover from my old site). Unfortunately, the way that it displays images doesn't work well with the stacks[1] page that allows me to link my Blogger feed to my website, otherwise, this would be topped with a glorious image I had from Mexico in 2013.

I may change the theme again, but not for a while. The themes cost money, and I'll use this for a bit to get some value out of it. One of the challenges with the new themes is that you have to get an idea in your head how they will look on the page because they are very flexible with multiple fonts, colours and layouts.

Feel free to let me know what you think about the change in the comments below.

[1] Stacks is a modular technology for Rapidweaver that allows very flexible design. It was developed by Yourhead software. http://yourhead.com/stacks
Comments (1)

Going Forward...

This stream is now my main blog. I have maintained the old posts as an archive and hopefully will get them onto the Blogger platform soon.

You may see old posts appearing before 21 February 2019. These will either be the old blog merging in, or some of the backlog of posts I wrote and never published (while I neglected my old website) which I'm gradually working through.

Migration - Interlude

RapidBlog logo

The blog is now showing at https://www.deltapavonis.net/ but I still need to find a way to synchronise the old blog into Blogger. For that I need to get a licence for a Rapidweaver plugin called RapidBlog, which will export and synchronise between the two platforms.

Little steps, but progress forward.

In transition

Blogger logo
Nothing to see here yet, not until I manage to export my existing blog from Rapidweaver.


Stepping off the Upgrade Cycle

Stepping off the upgrade cycle

I love technology, and I’ve had a long love of Apple products. My computer through university (and this was bought at the time that 286 Intel processors were state of the art) was an Atari ST, whose entire operating system (TOS) mimicked the graphic user interface of Apple’s System 7. I only had an ST because the price of Apple devices was somewhat eye-wincing.

When I graduated, I managed to convince the financial director in the first company I worked for to include Apple computers in the company interest-free computer loan scheme and soon after I had my very first computer, an Apple PowerBook 190cs, rocking a 68040 processor and a gorgeous keyboard and style. 3 years later, I had a desktop to match it - a Performa 6400 mini-tower. I’ve loved these devices and carried out up the cycle, upgrading every 3 to 4 years.

iOS came along, and initially I ignored it as there was no way that I was going to get a contract with O2, and my first device was an iPhone 3GS. From then on, I was on the two year cycle; 4S, 5S, 6S.

Today I stepped off that cycle. Unlike the older iPhones, the 6S doesn’t feel sluggish. This reflects on Apple’s superb silicon chip design. I looked at the iPhone 8 (which arguably could have been the 7S) but decided that I couldn’t justify the contract costs (nearly £60 per month if you pay through the contract for the device). I could get an iPhone 7 for around the price of my existing contract, but that isn’t that different to my 6S. Or I could go SIM only and triple my data allowance for £14. I took the 12 month SIM-only.

The money saved will go towards replacing the iMac that died last year, or perhaps the iPad update I’m hankering after. I’m not leaving Apple or losing my passion, but the 20% hit on the pound to dollar thanks to the Brexit vote hurts and affects these decisions…


On the passing of David Bowie

It may be heresy, but David Bowie never figured greatly in my musical journey through my teenage years and beyond [1]. Sure, I recognised that he had written many songs that were a backdrop to my life - Space Oddity, Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Let's Dance to name a few - but something never clicked. Perhaps it was the fact that pop and rock weren't really a strong part of my growing up (my father preferred classical music and my mother was more into Andy Williams, the Carpenters and so on), or perhaps it was part of the revulsion that I held for the 1970s.

I went through a New Romantic phase (Ultravox), then a rock phase (U2, Queen and Simple Minds) with an eclectic side mix (Lloyd Cole, The Cure) before settling into prog rock with Marillion and later Pink Floyd Metal, Goth and Industrial happened in University, later moving into Trance. But somehow, no Bowie. I'm not sure why. Somehow I even missed the fact that groups like Simple Minds had a Bowie influence (their name) and others that I liked often covered him at concerts or on cover's albums (Fish, Mr h). Makes me feel slightly daft.

My biggest memory of discussing him came from an English lesson at secondary school when one of my class-mates - Louise Dixon - gave a five minute talk on 'David Jones', which gave me a background on him I never had. I think I dismissed him as a 70s star in my mind.

Having caught a lot of the media retrospectives over the last week I bought a few of his earlier albums. And, wow, I'm impressed. I think I missed something by just listening to the greatest hits. I think the continuity of style and approach in the albums has hooked me, whereas the collection jumps around in style too much. So now I need to explore his catalogue further. I think it'll be exciting.

26 Jan 2016

[1]: A few years back, I realised that I was missing out here, so bought the greatest hits album, and was amazed how much good stuff was there. It wasn't an album that I listened to a lot, but I liked it.


Simple Minds - Big Music


I’m pretty excited about Monday’s release of a new Simple Minds album, more so than I have been for a long time. From the snippets that I have heard, it’s a definite nod to their earlier style (pre-stadium rock).

Simple Minds were the first band that I saw live, driving over the Pennines in my mum’s old Mini Clubman (we’re talking 1989 here, so it’s a small car rather than the current Giants) with several of my friends to see the concert at Roundhay Park in Leeds, around the time of Streetfighting Years. I can’t remember exactly who I was with, and the photos from the day are in storage too, but I think it may have involved Mike S, Christine M, and possibily Caroline R, Liz M and Nigel McN), but I do remember that it was a long day, but great fun.

Simple Minds are one of the best live acts that you will see, whether it is at a small intimate venue or a stadium. They have an ethos that you’ve paid to be entertained and they make sure that they put on a good show. So much so that when I saw U2 on the Zoo TV tour at exactly the same venue a few years later it was a disappointment and definitely overhyped!

I first found the band through the Once Upon a Time album, which was a loan from our local library (and I eventually bought the Vinyl and a cassette of it from them when they cleared it as surplus stock). Naturally, the vinyl got copied to cassette before that as I loved it, and I probably drove my parents mad singing along (badly) to ‘Ghost Dancing’, ‘Oh, Jungleland’ and ‘All the Things She Said’. I used to play this loud before exams to calm down, something that probably annoyed Jon H and others who shared a house with me.

I very quickly found the older albums recorded in their Arista days, like Life in a Day, Reel to Reel Cacophony and Empires and Dance, and really liked their more synth driven style, but the record that really hit a mark was New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) which includes some of my favourites like ‘Hunter and the Hunted’, ‘Someone, Somewhere, In Summertime’ and ‘The King is White and in the Crowd’. Synth driven slinkiness with a hint of rock.

Sons and Fascination / Sister Feelings Call - packaged as a double album - sat between Empires and Dance and New Gold Dream, and has some fantastic tracks such as ‘Theme for Great Cities’ and ‘Love Song’. They still feel modern and raw.

Sparkle in the Rain, which includes ‘Waterfront’ is the transition record to ‘Once upon a Time’. I have to say that it’s an album I need to be in the right mood for.

Most people who know Simple Minds from their stadium rock era will be thinking of ‘Don’t you (forget about me)’ – as written for the brat pack movie ‘The Breakfast Club’ and not by Kerr/Burchill and friends – and ‘Alive and Kicking’ or even ‘Belfast Child’ or ‘Mandela Day’. The earlier materual will be a bit of a shock but it’s worth a listen.

My first CD was the double disc Live in the City of Light, which is a cracking recording of two nights in concert in Paris during the Once Upon a Time Tour.

Street Fighting Years shifted in style, more openly political, and I overplayed this in Sixth Form. It also marked a shift in perception of the band; they dropped from being ‘cool’ as indie and Madchester were hitting but frankly, I didn’t care. Real Life came out when I was on my year out working before University. I played this a lot in the long haul up from Cheshire to north Cumbria, and I associate it very much with this drive[1]. I think the album is under-rated and it remains a favourite.

The next release was Good News from the Next World, which I mainly remember from the fact that I was in bed for two weeks with chronic Bronchitis at University and my then-girlfriend Sarah went out and bought it for me. It’s very listenable, but not hugely memorable.

I actually missed the fact that Néapolis was being released, stumbling upon it just after I finished University in the Asda in Bromborough. I quite liked it again, but it hasn’t been one I want to go back to. In fact, I started to wonder whether I would bother to buy another album if it came out.

The band then seemed to disappear. I didn’t know at the time, but they had an album prepared - Our Secrets are the Same - but it wasn’t released until the Silver Box collection due to record company politics. I can’t remember how I found them again, but I bought the CD of Cry soon after it came out, and loved the more modern style in it. Caught them touring part of this in Liverpool as well, and Jill & I used ‘New Sunshine Morning’ and ‘One Step Closer’ in the mix for our wedding. In fact, the latter was our first wedded dance.

The next release was Black and White 050505, which again seemed another step back towards form, removing some of my doubts. However, Simple Minds had definitely fallen behind Marillion in my pantheon of favourite bands.

Then, in 2009, Graffiti Soul was released, and was surprisingly playable. ‘Rockets’ was pop-tastic rock, and ’Stars will will Lead the Way’ had a killer guitar riff. As an album, in five years of owning an iPhone, it’s not been off the music stored in iTunes for on-the-go.

There was a greatest hits release last year (Celebrate), along with remasters of the first five albums, but I have to confess that I have ignored these. I may have a listen to X5 (the remasters) to see if the quality from the remix is worth replacing my existing versions, but the thing that excites me is the new album Big Music. The tracks that I’ve heard remind me of the early albums, but more polished.

So, don’t disturb me if you see me with headphones on Monday, because you know what I’ll be listening to.

For the record these are the original formats I bought:
- Life in Day - cassette
- Real to Real Cacophony - cassette
- Celebrate - cassette
- Empires and Dance - cassette
- Sons & Fascination - cassette
- Sister Feelings Call - cassette
- New Gold Dream (81—82-83-84) - Vinyl 45
- Sparkle in the Rain - cassette
- Once Upon a Time - Vinyl 45
- Live in the City of Light - CD
- Street Fighting Years - Vinyl 45
- Real Life - CD
- Good News from the Next World - CD
- Néapolis - CD
- Silver Box (Our Secrets are the Same) - CD
- Cry - CD
- Black and White 050505 - CD
- Graffiti Soul - Digital download
- Big Music - Digital download (subsequently CD)

8 December 2014

Update 27 December 2014
I’m really pleased with Big Music, and I have hardly stopped playing it since I bought it. This doesn’t happen that often…

[1]: Along with New Order’s ‘Substance’ and Depeche Mode’s ‘Violator’.