Chromebooks and Hangouts and Gaming

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Lenovo N23 Yoga Chromebook in all its modes
Most of my gaming these days is either done at conventions or over Google Hangouts (where I'm playing in two extended campaigns[1] with friends I met at conventions).

We had a lot of shenanigans with this week's Esoterrorists session, with a period where people couldn't hear each other. We eventually resolved it (or rather it may have resolved itself at Hangouts end) but before we reached that point at least two of us changed machines.

I tried my Chromebook (a Lenovo Yoga N23 which runs on a quad-core ARM processor) with some trepidation. My old Chromebook (a Lenovo N22) had really struggled, but it seems that the beefier processor and jump of system RAM to 4GB does the trick. It was probably better than my MacBook (although that has an excuse being over 10 years old).

The Chromebook is definitely hitting 80% of what I do on a computer. I'd have a Mac in preference, but I'm not rocking Apple money at the moment, especially after the pound/dollar depreciation following the Brexit vote. I definitely recommend this machine if you'd like a convertible with a decent screen, good battery life and a great keyboard.

29 March 2019

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[1] The Esoterrorists (Worldbreaker) and The One Ring (Darkening of Mirkwood)
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Deep Sea Adventure

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Deep Sea Adventure Box
Deep Sea Adventure, a small boxed game
A fortnight ago, I went into Harrogate with Nathan to get him some new trainers for fencing, and once we'd finished that errand, we popped into Games Crusade, a local boardgame shop near the theatre at the centre of town.

Nathan picked two games - Cat Crimes and Deep Sea Adventure. We tried both out while we were away.

Deep Sea Adventure contains a submarine template, an air tracking counter, meeples for divers and a selection of ruins (potential treasure) and blanks. The players share an air supply which starts to deteriorate once ruins (treasure) is picked up. Each item of treasure costs a point of air each turn, and you only have 25 total.

The game is simple and played in three rounds.

Each player takes a turn as follows; decide direction of travel, decrease air by number of treasures carried, roll 2d3, move that far, chose to pick up a treasure up to the maximum, or drop one down. Each treasure also reduces your dice roll by one, so six would mean you can't move.

The treasure counters are set in long path, getting deeper (further from the sub) each time. More valuable treasures are lower down.

Players take turns until they run out of air (in which case all carried treasures are dropped) or they're all back on the sub, at which point the round ends. Treasures brought back are scored, and the player with the highest amount is the winner at the end of all three rounds.

It was quite good fun - I realised that a Traveller GM at last years Travcon had used a riff on this in an asteroid adventure. I think we'll be playing it again as it landed well with the whole family.

Oh, you should visit Games Crusade if you get a chance, they're knowledgeable friendly people.

25 March 2019
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Catching up with old friends

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I managed to get some more of the Lyonesse writing done on Friday, in the gap between work and leaving to head down the M1 (with fingers crossed that Yorkshire Truckers for Brexit weren’t going to be in the way).

Dancing with the Stars
Dancing with the Stars
We travelled down to Stourbridge to catch up with some old friends, Jon and Becks. I’ve known Jon since we shared a house at the University of Southampton; we’ve kept in touch ever since but it’s been more sporadic since they moved to Germany when he took up a role in the aerospace industry. They’re some of the people who have been hard done by with the referendum - no say in something that fundamentally affects their lives because Cameron pitched it as an advisory vote.

The service was in an old, grade 1 listed church, St Thomas’. The connection to Stourbridge was that the vicar was a friend of theirs from Germany who used to preside at the Anglican Church there. 

We had a lovely day, also catching up with Ceri (my former lab partner in the first year of university), Nick and their daughter. As all these days go, you find yourself wishing you had more time to just chat with old friends, like you did back in the day. We played a few board games back at the Premier Inn, but it wasn’t a late night.


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Family Group


We’ll work our way home today, probably stopping off at Cadbury World to give the kids a bit of fun.



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Back to Middle Earth (The One Ring Season 7)

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The One Ring image - By Xander - own work, (not derivative from the movies), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1953341

Tonight saw a return to our ongoing Google Hangouts game of The One Ring RPG, run by Paul Mitchener. We've been playing for a number of years now, and this is the 'seventh season' if we looked at it as a TV show. It certainly has that kind of feel and reminds me of what I love about campaign play. I think that it's the longest ongoing campaign that I've been involved with, certainly since I was a teenager. The plots have been based loosely around the Darkening of Mirkwood supplement. Our characters have grown; there is a core group of three characters who have been there from the start, and a number of others who have passed through our Tale of Years. Paul has written up the background so far on his personal blog here and there's really nothing more I can add to that except that it is deeply satisfying to drop back into this.

The core comprises my character; Nali, a Dwarf from the Lonely Mountain; Elina's character Aeldra, one of the Woodland Folk; and Miriel, a Wood Elf played by Jag, with whom Nali always argues. Tonight, we were joined by Simon R, playing a High Elf from Rivendell, and the deep long term perspective of one of the firstborn immediately changed the dynamics again, in a good way.

The story and the characters grow; one day our heroes will fall out of the tale, but along the way, they've told a wonderful story and held a candle up against the darkness.


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Why I wasn't at Travcon 2019

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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.

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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.

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[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.
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What has the EU ever done for us?

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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.


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What have the Romans ever done for us?

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This was on my mind tonight.



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North Sea Hijack (aka 'ffolkes')

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aka "ffolkes"

I'm not sure why this film from 1980 sprang to mind last weekend, but it obviously made an impression on me when I saw it on TV in my early teens. I couldn't even remember the name, just that it was set in the North Sea and had Roger Moore in it. Google (or rather DuckDuckGo) was my friend. "North Sea Hijack" it was. Or "ffolkes", if you were in the US.

It's a reasonably simple thriller at heart; a North Sea supply ship is hijacked, and an oil production rig and drilling rig (whose majority shareholder is the UK government) are held to ransom. The Prime Minister - a Margaret Thatcher clone - and ministers decide that the only way forward is to engage ffolkes, a wealthy eccentric specialist retained by Lloyds of London to help defeat the hijackers. With less than 24 hours to go, the film is an enjoyable action romp as plans are made and changed as circumstances shift. Roger Moore is joined by James Mason and Anthony Perkins who seem to be enjoying themselves.

The one part of the film that hasn't aged well is Roger Moore's character's misogyny. This was a deliberate part of the plot in both the book and the film, and his character has a background story that explains why. The narrative for the film itself makes it clear that he's meant to be a dinosaur, and has some knowing looks between characters when he's at his worst, but it definitely jars. I don't think that it would have been written like this today but, to its credit, the film and character's responses to ffolkes are very clear that the attitude shown is wrong.

Nathan watched it and enjoyed it; the underwater sequences and the characters facing off were his favourites.

10 March 2019


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Captain Marvel (Spoiler free)

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We had a family outing yesterday to see Captain Marvel at the Vue in York, despite all the hate that certain sides of the internet have been spreading because it has a strong - and vocal - female lead. We all really enjoyed the film[1]. For me, it wasn't the best Marvel Cinematic Universe film, but it was right there at the top. I'd put Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.1, Black Panther and Captain America: The Winter Soldier above it, but it was really close.

The film has interesting character development, a diverse cast and a great action plot. It meshes the more traditional Earth-bound MCU movies with the films with the more space-bound films, and leaves a great set up for Avengers: Endgame later this year. I quite liked the way that we saw some of the Kree before they become villains in the earlier films. The digitally de-aged Samuel L Jackson is splendid and brings his best singing voice to the film! The second cut scene is funny too. I'll never look at our cats in quite the same way!

10 March 2019
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[1] Captain Marvel[2] is 'cool in both ways' according to Nathan (12). I've not managed to get him to expand on that yet.
[2] And I believe it should be Captain Mar-Vel according to Carol Danvers (although Nicky Fury disagrees).
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New Theme

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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.

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