Saturday, 1 August 2015

Hunting in America

With all the furore over the killing of Cecil:

One then has to just smack your hand on your forehead over this American story...

Yes, a baby get a lifetime permit to hunt and fish!...

Only in America, that is, only in the country where food and wealth are so abundant do people still feel the need to hunt, and the parents comment that it's a family tradition and

"it was only natural we kind of keep it going"

It just ludicrous, my family name comes from an invading Knight who came with William the Conqueror... So should I keep invading places?... My other family side name comes from being a Money lender, should I continue to be a loan shark?

I mean, it's just stupid, "yeah we live, yeeehaw, in the wild west, and after we been a huntin' for possum, we go to Walk Mart for sprinkles to put on it's corpse!"

But the ultimate idiocy in this whole story lies with the officials whom thought the "Newborn Lifetime Combination Hunting and Fishing License" was a good idea.

I mean, the US has been reporting lately of species decline, and that report was linked to the domestic cat, but look at all the Gun toting citizens out there, blazzing away at anything with nipples and you really just have to beg belief.

Friday, 31 July 2015

NHS Typo

I've had a mystery appointment text'd to me today from the NHS, nice to see them using some good technology, my GP surgery uses an SMS based reminder system and I think it's a fabulous addition to the NHS armoury to reduce wasted appointment times.

Unfortunately, I didn't recognise this appointment, so checked it out and came to this page...

I was so sad to read the paragraph:

"If you believe the hospital has incorrect phone numbers recorded you will need to ask them to change their systems as we are note allowed to make changes to that data."

They are 'note allowed' to make changes to the data?... NOTE!.. NOT... It's a mistake, a typo, a small one, but the thing that bugged me was there was no way to tell them.

This site is powered by ZenDesk, so that page is just an entry in their knowledge base, but there's no way to give feedback.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

World of Warships: Draggin' The Line

How can I tell it's going to be a long and defeating game?

When as the LOWEST level cruiser, I'm dead, and I got 66% of the team kills to that point....

Yes, heroic I think I was, but bollocked I always was.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

D&D Session 2

This is a couple of months late, as session two of our three player (plus one GM) D&D adventure took place in May.  However, I've been busy and only just got around to reviewing the game I set up and ran.

My players started and remained level 2 throughout, the dungeon started with the group having to solve a simple pattern to visit a certain house (in a small four house village) there they heard about a third party none player character called "Bard", and suddenly they were confronted with "Bard" in a carriage to take the group to his country estate... I gave them the option of "The Easy Way" or "The Hard Way".

However, both options were for the group to be knocked unconscious and to awaken without any gear, two of the group woke in a large stone holding cell, which happened to have a dwarvish door, which could be opened by interpreting the magic runes, so the wizard in the group had to read magic and got the runes saying "I open when wet".  The group struggled with this, and in the end I had to intimate they could spit, or find any other body fluid, to touch the door with.

When it opened the stone unblocked the noise of the third party member being tortured, the free members burst down the door and a hand to hand fight ensued.

Upon beating the two goblins there, they had a dagger and all were free, they used candles to find their way to a store room where they found their gear had been picked over, but was present, but upon picking up their stuff the door behind them opened and two more goblins plus a goblin boss attack them.

The fight ends, when the boss drops, any remaining goblins ran away, or they were all killed.   In the event they concentrated fire on the boss and burned him down very fast, finding a set of keys, opening the door they found they were in a basement sort off, but two cells had been erected and inside was a trembling figure in one bed, and an Elf Wizard was in the other, she had a friend, an armoured Guinea pig, which would fight for her later.  The other figure though was Bard.

The real Bard, he had been duplicated, the group learn now that the creature in the carriage had actually been a doppleganger.

The elf is called "Eluna", along with Bard they join the party, and Bard explains, this is his mansion, bought for through all the concert ticket sales he's made being a... well a Bard.

He explains the evil cult took over and banished him here, but had sent a note just before for help, that was the note the group got at the beginning.

Leading the group into a corridor the group have to fight flesh eating worms in the dark, then they enter the old kitchens and fight a guard, and finally enter the main hall of the mansion, and there fight two twin swordsmen, who both had to die together, the doppleganger and the boss "Bolvier", the cult leader.

A great moment came when the Wizard in our party grasped she could do anything, and came up with using a belt knife to cut down a tapestry and having it float over the heat of one of the twin swordsmen and wrapping him up whilst they fought the other characters.  This was the first time the group benefited from any form of crowd control, and it was epic.

The session ended with the group taken into the mansion to relax and recoup with Bard, Eluna sets off to report her troubles to her Priestess bosses.

The third session was meant to happen last week, but one of our members, the youngest, was not being a very good girl, she was very annoying and not bothering to play Scrabble... And so because she couldn't be arsed to play Scrabble... She wasn't allowed to play D&D.... Despite her moaning "But D&D is the best game ever".... yeah, it would have been if you'd have applied yourself to Scrabble.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Ghosts & Spirits I've Experienced in Nottinghamshire

Recently I've had questions about my religion, now I've no religion, but I do believe in a spirit something inside us which drives us, and which is sort of beyond the here and now.  So, I lost my dog Dude and I chose to believe he's still around, not least because sometimes I don't feel him, but other times I really do, and both the wife and I can say we heard him slouching down after he'd passed away.

Another item is that my Grandad passed away when I was 18, he'd not smoked at the end of his life, but had all this life, all the time of my growing up, and smoked Golden Virginia and he had a very distinctive smell to himself, a unique "That's Grandad smell", when he was on his death bed; dying of smoking related lung cancer; and I hugged him I kept that mental memory of that small... And promised him I'd never ever smoke, and I never ever have.

But sometimes, I smell him, the most common places are when I've had a stressful day, I can open the car and get in and I smell him so strongly.  My car usually smells of wet dog, or old MacDonalds, never Golden Virginia, and if I notice the smell I feel he's around and it can go.

So it is that I think we have spirits, but have I ever seen one... 

I think I've seen one, once, the day of my aforementioned Grandad's funeral, we were at the house, and from the position of the kettle you can look through an internal door (with frosted glass) out the front door (also with frosted glass), the house has always used the side door.  So I'm stood there, my Dad is next to me and we both see a figure coming up the drive, my Dad's doing tea and so he sends me "Go bring them around the side", and I go out the side door next to us...

The shadow figure was at the front door, short, a fat rounded man, indistinct through two frosted panes of glass.

I stepped out onto the drive, no sign of anyone... I go to the front, no sign to the left, they couldn't have gone anywhere else without leaping into the front room or over the fence into the neighbours yard.  But I turn around and go look in the back yard, just to see if they did pass in front of me before I opened the back door and went out... Nope... No-one out the back.

I go back in, and my Dad asks "Who is it".... My reply "No-one"... and we just look at one another, the obvious is not said, but I'll say it now... That shadowy figure didn't half look like the Grandad, short, rounded physique.

Another interaction I think I have had with a Spirit was in the Salutation Inn in Nottingham, I was sat with a friend, we were alone in the upstairs bar area, with a round table, up there is a corridor to a lone Gents toilet, or there was in circa 1997, when this happened.  So, we're sat talking, the table has only our drinks on it, and suddenly I feel something land into the fold of my trouser bottoms.

It was a 20 pence piece, as if it had fallen off the table...  No change, nothing but out drinks had been on that table.  But as I touched the money I felt cold.

Later on, we heard Tony Robinson and film crew had been in the building filming a 3 way challenge story to choose the "oldest pub in Nottingham", they came to the wrong conclusion, however, they reported to us that they had suffered cameras being randomly turned off, and one chap said he had found a coil dropped into an open tape door; these stories were added to the end of the episode we later saw aired on Channel 4... The landlord attributed there goings on, at the time, on Rosey, the name of the little girl spirit, whom was supposed to live in the caves below the building.  There were three spirits supposedly present in the building, and it was without double the most comfortable Inn in the city.

(Jump to 17m16 for Rosey breaking the camera,
Jump to 26m55 for Rosey the Ghost Comment)

However, once of a busy night the place was packed and myself and four mates found ourselves drinking in the entrance way, where there was a door down to the Caves and little wooden plaques to Rosey and other ghosts in the property, until we'd sort of said hello to Rosey, we felt very uneasy, but once we'd said something about the plaque, acknowledged it, everyone agreed to stay for more drinks... That was a strange feeling, and one we all shared.

The final spirit, one I saw many times, was on the B600.  I used to live in Top Valley, but drive up the B600 to Selston everyday; ironically I now only live a stones throw from where this sighting was and can probably explain it; but in 1996-1998 driving my little clapped out Ford Fiesta 1.1 at 6 in the morning and not leaving work til gone 6 at night I had no radio, save medium wave so listened to a badly tuned in Capitol radio and the Chris Evans show, or I had the radio off completely.  I only ever saw this spirit on dark mornings, and only after rain, and only without the radio on, as you come out on the straight of the B600 in to Underwood is a dead tree, under that tree, as if sheltering from the rain I saw a man in a long grey great coat, an old style 1940's almost uniform like, grey coat.  The coat had mud around the hem as if he'd been bending at the knees to lift other things off the ground.

He stood under the tree and variously looked up over the hedge, or up and down the road, he always acted as if it were raining, pulling the collar up on this coat, but his features; if I saw a picture today I'd recognise him; his hair slick but shaved around the sides... And I'd be past him and gone, never a sign of him, no reason for him to be stood there, it's a large dead tree.  And I never had a funny feeling about this, until much later.

I heard that there had been a German Prisoner of War camp in the village of Brinsley, just over the hill behind this tree, and the men had Marched up this area and into the farm lands from the A610 Erewash Valley all the way up the B600 and down into the farm lands around Felley Priory just up the road from Underwood.

That great coat he was wearing, the colour, and his hair... Both strongly suggest he may have been a German POW, waiting not under a dead tree, but sheltering from the once living tree from the rain as he was about to March to his days work in the fields, hence the muddy coat bottom.

I have no proof for this last story, I gain nothing posting it, but I saw this fellow maybe seven or eight times.  I mentioned him once to a chap I worked with called Stuart and he told me about the POW camp, today I live in Brinsley and I know the area better, but I now use the B600 after 9am each morning, and I'm yet to see that figure again all these years later... I may have to start heading to the office earlier to see if I do.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

RAF Typhoon Retirement - Disgrace!

I am shocked and appalled to read that the number of RAF fighters is to drop to an all time low, not least because part of the fleet being retired is the first tranche of Euro-fighter Typhoon jets.... Now, I have a long history with the Euro-fighter, I actually "flew" it in 1994, that is I played the EF2000 Simulator on my Pentium 60Mhz PC at the time... And we expected this amazing new jet to enter service soon...

But soon was almost a joke, the first jets only reached RAF hands on the 9th August 2007... Just look at those dates again... 1994 to 2007... That's eleven years... Eleven years from a simulated touted version, it was for a long time meant to be the new fighter for the RAF to take them into the new millennium, it was the Euro-fighter 2000, then the Euro-fighter Typhoon 2000, and then when the calendar over marched progress on production it became just the Typhoon... And still even more years before it was in squadron hands.

Before the computer game, the real aircraft had finally taken it's first flight just a couple of years before in 1994, but it had been touted as in design for a decade at least by then already!  I'd seen news of it at Farnborough for year upon year, but that plane never wanted to appear.

What's this got to do with today's cuts in 2015?... Well, they're retiring 53 of the first tranche of Typhoons... So those planes delivered in just 2007... That's about the same age as my car... This is a total disgrace!  Just shy of twelve years service, and they're binning them, we don't have dry deserts in which to moth ball aircraft, we don't have hermetically sealed hangars, so these planes are going to be dumped, scrapped, destroyed.

We already lost our fast-jet fleet ability pending the even more delayed F35B, and now we're throwing away Typhoons!

This is senseless... Ridiculous, and perilous with Russian aircraft buzzing our borders!

Monday, 20 July 2015

To Kill a Mocking Bird (1993-2015) My Journey with the Novel

As part of my GCSE English Literature in 1993-1994 I had to read, and digest the American Novel "To Kill A Mockingbird".  There couldn't have been a worse choice for a detached reading topic to a teenage boy from inner city Nottingham in the early 90's ever made.  It was so alien.

Remember, 1993 was a time before the internet, I didn't even personally see the internet until 1996, we had no easy way to look up topics like "shining leather shoes with cold biscuits", what that meant to me was rubbing rich tea on a shoe, and was just ridiculous, but it's just as ridiculous to me now when I know an American biscuit is something like a scone, only more fatty... Why would a fat riddled cake be good at buffing leather shoes?...

From the rendition of the book we had, it was also heavily redacted, I found my copy of the novel last Friday, and over the weekend I've read it, and it's a good book, but from being 15 til now at 37 I've learned enough to make sense of the book, not least the themes of racism, anti-racism is common place now, but when I was a kid at school there was no such delineations, we didn't have division of the British Caribean pupils from ourselves, they mixed freely, the delineation was with the majority of the Pakistani kids.

The Muslim kids in our school kept themselves together and out the way, they whispered in corners and didn't mix.  One exception would have to be the sole Muslim from my class Zahid, he mixed, but he was a dick; I personally remember him and his cronies washing their heads under the science room tap and declaring themselves Mormon... Yes, they were that stupid.

The sole Sihk pupil, Gurpal, was also alright he mixed with me and my gang of cronies, not least skiving Physics, which I'm sure he'd never like to admit to, but then our physics lessons in the final year were more a war between the teacher and one particular trouble-maker, so we were learning little in class.

Back to literature though, from this background, and the lack of any depth to our looking up topics, reading Harper Lee's so called classic was hard going.

The school then took it's own redaction pen to the text, or perhaps the exam board did, and several chapters were wiped out, and I can see this in my own copy of the novel, where I had put crosses on page after page, and then made a note in the back cover: "Jem was made, with scout, to go read to Miss Dubouse for a month as she died, this made her a hero"... No explanation, no thought, not depth there... At 37 I look back at my writing and read the book and realise it's a sham of teacher, I was taught wrong, and one of the corner stone lessons from the text, one I myself learned for real very soon after was deprived of me.

We were apparently not allowed to know about heroin, in the early 90's, remember this is pre-release of the adaptation of Irvin Welsh's "Trainspotting", which brought the heroin subculture to the fore, we're in the  90's the time of the yuppies on cocaine and the hippies or afro's being on the weed, or highly strung people being on "Valium" in American shows.

Anti-depressants in the home were still not common, and if anyone were on them they were ancient 1950's developed tricylics and had names which didn't appear in film or TV, so the drug culture I grew up in was limited.  I suppose then to hear from a 1930's point of origin piece of literature there were Heroin addicts like Miss Doubouse would have blown my tiny mind!?!?!?

I add here, I was an avid reader of history at the time, and was well aware of Herman Goering having been a heroin addict, though I had no reference as to what Heroin was.  This redaction of the sub-plot in the book clearly robbed me of a frame of reference.

So what else did the younger me miss?... Well, the dialect of English being used, not only in the book is it colloquial, and hard for anyone as young as I was to picture, but it's hard to frame.  Later I saw the film adaptation and heard the accent, but in 1993, I'd no reference whatsoever for the southern accent.  I'd never watched the 'Dukes of Hazzard', 'Forest Gump' was a year from release and the Southern Accent was not common, the only southern Americans I'd ever heard were actors on 'Fletch Lives'.

No the English as spoken I grew up with was already a tainted version of English, it was a thickly accented Nottingham English.  People spoke fast and harsh, we used slang more than actual words, I'm sure compared to today with our mixing more widely through media, we sounded like proper Nottingham gutter snipes.  How anyone expected us to relate to the heat and repressive atmosphere of the Southern United States I don't know.

Least we forget, the English eye on history is that history is a long time, a very long time, we pretty much start to talk about Britain as a Stone Age state, ten thousand years ago, we follow Britain into the Bronze Age, our history classes taught us how two thousand years ago Britain was part of the Roman Empire, locally in Nottingham there was history of the Romans.  And then we had the Saxon settlements and Danelaw in Nottingham a thousand years ago, the Norman Invasion affected the town in 1066 and the Dooms day book has many records of Nottingham and it's outlying lands... So, to then find this book presented to us, with people hanging onto a past, a history, of the Confederate states just twenty years before as a "history" as a "past"... as the Finches being an "old" family was just strange.

Nothing in America was old, everything was new, everything was young.  Remember this is 90's England, this was before America itself had really a conscious acknowledgement of it's destruction of the Native American tribes, or the taking of their lands, so to think of anything in a country just two hundred and twenty years old as "old" was ridiculous, totally stupid, just not right at all... yet, we had to swallow this, because this was Harper Lee... One of the greatest American writers, up there with Twain, and our GCSE mark (I nearly said grade there) depended on it.

I mean, we were kids who played in woods where there were tree's older than America, there were paths with history going back to the 1300's, and the coaching lodges were older than that!

It was just so ridiculous.

Only now, can I appreciate the scale, and the turmoil of forgetting in that community, and only now having experienced more than 15 summers, and experienced the heat of North Africa, can I understand the repressive heat of the days as extolled by Harper as she takes us through the annuls of, what I presume, is her experience of the Souther Climate.

So, why did I re-read the book?  I read it because I knew I didn't understand the topics, I knew though I'd analysed this book for an exam, I knew nothing about that book.  I knew the rote given answers to who was who, when it was set, the court case, but I didn't know the details.  For example, I didn't know what happened to Jem & Scout at the end, I didn't know they were attacked by Bob Ewell, I certainly didn't pick up that the knife had made the glistening streak down the wire of Scouts costume.

Aunt Alexandra and most all the back story of Finches Landing was again redacted from my memory of the book, and I noted none of those sections had notes added to them by myself back when were analysed the text.

It really was a teacher steered analysis, not my own following of the text.  And probably not worth of the GCSE mark I eventually received, as I clearly missed the point of the story.

Having missed the point back then, I'd certainly not missed the recent news of the new book from Harper Lee "Go Set a Watchman", in which many fans of the original have expressed their distain for their finding out Atticus, the father and one of the main characters is actually a racist, unlike their recollection of him in the original.

Now, remember I'd never seen the film, and only just re-read the book, so I take Atticus at his base, as presented, and I can't see any specific mention of his not being a racist, he tries to not pass on his history with race relations to his kids.  This is partly, and mainly through his living apart from this family, whom clearly had their own and history with using Negro slaves and workers via the mentions of "Finches Landing".  It is clear the family have their own ideas, and that's reinforced by the comments clearly made by the rest of tha adults before their children that Attitus is a "nigger lover" in defending Tom Robinson.  This under plot can be ignored, but it's there, Attitus's sister says "this is not like your past" to Attitus about his defending a black man, about his roots, and his not indoctrinating his kids as anti-black.

But none of this ever meant Atticus was not racist, he's mindful of his not prejudicing the court of law, he's mindful to keep that frame of mind that the one place a man, white or black, should get a square deal is before a court of law, but none of it ever said Atticus was not racist in his past, present or future.

Atticus is a calm character, a cool none-knee jerk reactionary, which is seen when Ewell confronts him and of course while he is in court.  However, this never says he's not able to express his own back story.

And his back story stretches fifty or so years by the time he's raising his kids alone as a widower, you could read into his treating of Calpuria as a part of the family as his being an equal rights employer, but he's just than an employer, and despite his saying Calpurnia will not be let go when his sister arrived, Cal is never part of the family, she is a servant, almost like a dog as a member of the family, there to look after the kitchen and children, or to help as a conduit to let Attitus enter and communicate with Tom Robinsons then widow.  But she never emerges from her place, and when his children spend time with her as a human being rather than a servant; when they go to church; Atticus makes no effort to stop his sister from refraining Scout from wishing to take that further.  The children never spend time with Cal outside of their own white home, they have no mixing with Blacks other than with Cal, and their time in the court house; and those two mixing's are of the childrens', not parents, initiation.

So, how anyone from reading this can assume Atticus is a noble anti-racist campaigner or saint, whom in Watchmen is now falling, it just silly, it's their memory.  Or as I believe, it's their imposing on the Atticus whom Harper Lee wrote the ideals and all-round good guy image of Gregory Peck whom played Atticus in the film adaptation.

But for my re-reading I just can't see any anti-racist in the character, nor can I see any sense all these years on of it being part of my GCSE Literature, it's American English, we were studying British English, some of the tonal plots were redacted out, and we had so little exposure to "Southern US" culture as to make it almost impossible to engage with.