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Evil Spider Mastermind

Posted on 2010.08.20 at 02:02
Tags: , , ,
Living in a flat with a garden means lots of spiders. You really have to get used to them and you can't afford to be an arachnophobe. Nonetheless, when confronted with a spider the size of my palm, even I couldn't help but feel a little disturbed by its presence. Long ago, at some point in my childhood, I lost the ability to pick up spiders with my hands. I started to find the sensation a little bit... *shiver*. I also don't believe in killing spiders. Not because I think it's bad luck, I just don't believe in killing them.

Now long-time readers may remember the saga of Gerald and my encounters with Boris at my old flat. To summarise, I thought I had a giant spider that turned out to be a mouse and just when the mouse seemed to vanish I had a few encounters with a giant and tenacious spider.

Here, I've had no direct mouse problems. Ironically, upstairs has had mice and sometime I hear the little bastards scampering of nibbling in the walls, but they don't seem to be in my flat. Spiders are a something else. Spiders are everywhere in every shape and size. I'm fairly used to seeing them, but every now and again there's one the size of your palm or the size of your fist that forces me to grab a glass and an envelope and forcibly eject it from the premises. Most big spiders tend to be quite gangly, unmistakably a spider and catching them without accidentally breaking one of their delicate legs is something of an art...

Tonight was different. It was not a mouse, that much was sure, though I doubted myself for a moment. I was sure it was a spider. It moved like a spider, but it was the size and speed of a freakin' mouse as it scurried under the TV unit that had, in the last flat, been the focal point for most of my early Gerald sightings. I figured it had just disappeared, as spiders do, and that would probably be the end of it... for tonight, at least. But then, I saw it crawling up the wall... Not even the wall near where I had seen it, but the side wall... Big, black on the white bit of wall above the gas fire. This was no gangly spider. It had muscles. It had texture. These were not legs that looked like they would accidentally snap. These were legs that looked like they could punch through anything too flimsy, like glass. This was hairy scary spider territory.

I hit pause on my V+ box for a film I'd seen a dozen times, hoping the act of freezing the action of the film would freeze the action of the arachnid and commanded it to stay put. "Don't you move, you bastard! You're way too big to stay!" I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a suitably sized glass and envelope, dashing back, half expecting to see it gone. But no, exactly where I left it. Curiously, it didn't scamper away. It made a few cursory moves as I adjusted the ornamentations that were in the way of my capturing it in the glass, but otherwise it put up little resistance. In fact, when the glass came down, it leapt from the wall into the glass as though welcoming it. Nonetheless, I carefully slid the envelope without breaking "the seal", and escorted it to the bathroom window, the farthest point of re-entry and threw him past the spider family living around my bathroom window (about half a dozen of them, competing in their daily web-design championships) and into the garden.

Afterwards, I gave a shiver. A genuine and heartfelt shiver. I swear I could see a little crown upon its head, declaring that it was king spider. And a little twirly moustache, perhaps even an eyepatch (no wooden legs). Ok, those might have been fancy, but it barely struggled. It just... looked at me. Grinning.

What is Anansi planning? Her minions have already firmly infiltrated this place. Why so blasé about her capture? I have no doubt that this is not Boris. Oh no. Anansi was not afraid. Not in the slightest.



Posted on 2010.07.16 at 23:58
I voted at the Ennie Awards 2010


Off to St. Donat's

Posted on 2010.07.02 at 16:44
Current Mood: busy
Tags: ,
It's been a long time returning, but Beyond the Border is finally back and happening this weekend. In less than 20 minutes I'll be heading off to tonight's fun. Looks good for the weather holding out for tomorrow, but Sunday looks like it'll be a wet one. Oh well, not the first time. Just glad to finally have our storytelling festival back. I hope it'll be a good one! There's a lot of catching up to be done.

Funnily enough it's come at a really busy time, and the change of date for Continuum in Leicester means missing that con, so ironically I could have done with it not happening... at least, not on this weekend. No matter. Time to stop thinking of work and put on my fun weekend of music and storytelling hat.


UK Games Expo 2010

Posted on 2010.06.09 at 15:32
Current Music: Seasick Steve - Hobo Low
Tags: , , , , , ,
Well, after nearly missing the train to Birmingham, the stress of running around trying to coordinate going to my storytelling gig as well as heading up to a convention, my back threatening to utterly break on me at any moment and munching ibuprofen and paracetamol like breath mints, the weekend itself (as usual) was fun, but not without a few bumps.

This year particularly busy and a first on a number of levels. I started going to UK Games Expo demoing for looneylabs with cartimandua . Sometimes I would do a whole weekend, other times I could only stay for the Saturday. With the end of the official support for the demonstrators program for Looney Labs (imminent for a re-launch, I believe), I started to distance myself a lot from officially demoing, but would still offer support for Jenny when I could at a con. I still enjoy the games, but my push towards demoing came at a time during which I was feeling a little disheartened with RPGs and had shifted my focus to board games. I would still occasionally play a game, and maybe run the odd one-shot. Eventually, however, I started getting back into running RPGs and my conventions became divided between those in which I predominantly did RPGs and those in which I predominantly did board games. UK Games Expo was always one of the latter.

However, this year I was asked if I wanted to demo a game for cubicle7 , who as many of you will know I've been working for recently. This marked two distinct shifts in UK Games Expo. The first RPG I've run at UK Games Expo (despite having been every year since its start) and the first time working the Cubicle 7 stall outside of IndieCon.

With the ONS Fun Day on the Friday, I wasn't going to be around on the Friday, but many of the traders weren't going to be there until the usual Saturday anyway. I arrived at Birmingham just before 10pm and was ready for an early start the next day.

There are two major criticisms I have about the venue for UK Games Expo. The lack of decent coffee (though that can be said of nearly every convention) and the lack of decent food (especially for a vegetarian). On the Saturday, me and thoughtfulwolf  had stopped at Tesco before arriving at the venue to get some cash in hand for the weekend, but I also took the opportunity to buy some dried fruit (brilliant convention food!), despite the policy of no outside food. Well, start catering properly for vegetarians and I'll stop bringing in outside food. Last year it was cereal bars. I managed to get through the day with just needing to buy an egg salad baguette for a bit of extra substance, but the dried fruit sustained much of my snack needs.

Unsure for a long time whether I'd be there for the full weekend or just the Saturday, I told angusabranson  that I'd only run a game on the one day. Having never run a game at this con, I figured it worthwhile finding where I was running. So, I went up to the desk and asked where I would be... and then somewhat more worried was asking where I was on the list. I could find no reference to my game. For a long while, I thought I'd been left out. I went back to the desk later and decided that I would just put it down for the Sunday morning. As I filled out the scenario name, the man said "Oh, that rings a bell. Is it anything to do with [the name of the Dr Who scenario which also had the word scarlet in it]". "No," said I. "It's... oh, it's right there above it." Instead of writing down that the game was Qin, they'd simply put the scenario name. I had no one signed up. No wonder. Nobody knew what the hell it was. This was a shame since I know that a lot of people would have been interested in playing Qin.

I did, however, get to run the game with Kat Hepburn and Linda Pitman along with Louise Williams (one of the folks from who actually came to the con for the Saturday). It only dawned on me afterwards that this was the first all-female group I'd run for. Not that it changed any of the usual craziness I would have expected from players. Having only three people did mean a lot of ad hoc scaling down of the threat levels of the encounters, though I did allow for the first official rolled for PC death in Qin that I've had happen (not to be confused with scripted deaths as part of the scenario). It was a lot of fun, but the room was horribly, horribly hot. On a day with temperatures in the 20s, the whole building was kinda warm as it was. In the rooms, it was sweltering. Towards the end of the slot they finally came around to offer everyone ice-cold water and even later we had a fan brought into our room, which had three tables running.

The evening was also a first for me at a UK Games Expo. I popped over the road to the pub to grab some food and have a few drinks. In the past, because I've been staying with Jenny and Chris, I've usually left with them. However, with Janos staying a little, this was a great opportunity to grab some food and socialise some. The food was brilliant! They had a vegetarian fish & chips on the menu (the "fish" was a battered cheese - one beginning with P that I forget the name of - that retained a fairly solid but squidgy texture) that was yummy-yummy-yummy in my tummy. In hindsight, I really don't know why I didn't go there for lunch on Sunday. Instead, I found myself impressed by the vegetable lasagne served at the convention. Impressed because I didn't think it was possible to find a lasagne worse than the one I'd been served on an airline.

Sunday was far busier than I'd experienced Sundays in the past and, as Saturday with the exception of when I was running my game, I floated around between the Cubicle 7 stall, the Looney Labs table and various other stalls around the convention chatting to people and playing a quick game or two.

Unfortunately, where the plan had been to have a mock-up done for my card-game ready in time for Expo, I'd not quite had all the art back yet, so instead I printed out four of the pieces to put on the Cubicle 7 stall as a bit of a promo. Had some great responses to the art, including Andy Peregrine stating that even if he hadn't played the game, he'd probably have bought it anyway just for the artwork. George Catronis should be very pleased with the responses. I know I was and I only wrote the art brief. Next year, however, I suspect most of my time might well be spent demoing my game.

UK Games Expo this year was probably the best yet with other highlights including having to tell my players that "A dog is for life, not for combat", being sexually assaulted by a Dalek (not so much a highlight, but certainly not something you'd find happening on Dr Who on a Saturday), winning the very fun Monkey Dash on the first time playing it, playing the new version of ExoFluxx, and breaking a stand-up comic.

Cthulhu Corp

The Story of Storytelling at the ONS Fun Day

Posted on 2010.06.04 at 23:02
Current Location: Birmingham
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
Things could have started better, let's face it. By Thursday I was left with a lot to prepare. I was off to Birmingham for the weekend and I still didn't have my tickets. I needed to go out and find a tripod for the camcorder and generally make sure that everything was set since I wouldn't have much time between coming home from Newport to grabbing my stuff and heading out for the train to Birmingham. To top it, my back decided it was time to start playing silly buggers again.

Since friends had requested that they wished to see/hear my storytelling, I'd arranged for it to be filmed and recorded on minidisc. I was borrowing Guy's video camera, however, didn't have a tripod, so I needed to get one and I didn't have a microphone for my minidisc recorder, having lost my very, very expensive microphone that I'd originally bought to accompany it, way back when. Needing it for another project anyway, I bought the same microphone on Amazon and even at half the price, it was still very expensive. The tripod was less so.

Read more...Collapse )

Invader Nim

Awesome Timing!

Posted on 2010.06.03 at 15:54
Current Mood: annoyedSomewhat irked

Today I have been running around buying a tripod, sorting out travel for tomorrow morning to Newport for my storytelling gig and the evening for Birmingham to be up at UK Games Expo for the weekend. I forgot to buy some extra DV tapes, so I'm going to have to go out early tomorrow morning to buy some before heading to Newport. Today I still have to print out everything I need for Saturday, run the first session of Elric this evening, pack everything because I'll only have about an hour (if that) between coming home and needing to go out again to catch the train.

What's so awesome? Reliability. There's one part to all of this that has not let me down. My back. In pain. Right now. Waiting for the ibuprofen and paracetamol to kick in. Looks like I'm gonna be munchin' them all weekend! Nice timing, back! You never fail to cause me pain at my busiest moments.



Discordian Gardening

Posted on 2010.05.28 at 19:31
Current Mood: drunkI has been drinking some already
Current Music: Jefferson Airplane - Wild Tyme
It's weird. After joining Facebook a lot of people who didn't really know that I had a garden have found out and been commenting to me about it. Gardens, I'm told, make me seem really "grown up" and "adult". It's funny, of course, because I'm probably the last person in my family to actually do any gardening at all. I grew up with my Dad going off to his allotment, my grandfather also growing veg, but never once put my hand in. I was an indoors type even before I started suffering from hayfever. Even my sister (younger than me) has been growing her own veg (and fruit!) for years at an allotment. For seven years, I lived in the top floor of a flat without a garden. Now, since moving to this flat two years ago, I think it would be a shame to waste a garden and it's not without much help that I've got my garden the way it is. I think, left to my own devices and without an occasional push from family and friends, I'd probably end up leaving the garden grow wild, grabbing herbs and only once in a while thinking to plant something in a small patch somewhere - hell, I still haven't planted my runner beans, despite my Dad's urging and the good crop I had last year. However, the real thing that matters is this: despite what people say the garden gives me free food. Free food! Now you can't get better than that. Free!

So far I have not bought a single thing that's gone into my garden - not the seeds, not the plants, not the pots, not even the big bag of compost I'm still using from last year. The only major thing I've done is bought myself some garden gloves and string. I remember reading an article that weighed up the pros and cons of growing your own food and whether or not it really was cheaper. Well, for me... yes. Yes, it absolutely is. With people offering me seeds they can't or don't want to use, I've got a fair bit enough to keep me busy for quite some time, so that's just awesome (and thank you very much Sarah and Jenny!). Only if I want to grow something I don't already have seeds for do I really need to worry. Even the apparently "expired" seeds, still appear to be worthy of planting (what's the worst that can happen? They don't do anything. No loss.).

So today I have gained some random salad style stuff. Last year I had radicchio as my salad plant. I had no idea, really, what to do with it, but now I have true random gardening tactics. My Dad went and bought a tray of random, unidentified, miscellaneous, extraneously and redundantly emphasised oriental salady type stuff. It turns out he bought more than he can reasonably plant and I've ended up with, like, twelve of these random plants. There's at least four or five different types of leaf there, but they're all salad leaves, that much I know. So, today, I have planted them into two areas that last year I attempted to grow radicchio (partially successfully and utterly unsuccessfully) and, well, let's see what happens.

This, I have to admit, is kind of guerilla gardening at its most fun. Beans, I know. Herbs, I know. Radicchio I had no idea what to do with it and it forced me to explore new foods. The salad stuff now I don't even know what they're called, but so long as nothing nasty happens to them they'll provide me with a kind of random taste sensation that I won't necessarily get by purchasing the usual pre-packed salad stuff from the supermarket.

Invader Nim

Endings: The Spoilerific Edition

Posted on 2010.05.24 at 23:30
Current Mood: tiredtired
Tags: , , , ,
Note: This post contains SPOILERS for the final season of Lost and the final season of Ashes to Ashes. If you watch both, but have not yet seen the final episodes, you probably want to, I dunno, bookmark this and come back to it later, or just completely ignore it, or maybe just skim through it to the relevant parts of interest to you and try not to read anything you might regret. Alternatively, if you watch one but not the other, then, hey, y'know, maybe you want to read it or something. If you want. I make no promises that it will all make sense by the end...

This weekend, two serieses I watch ended. For good. One of them was the six year saga of Lost, the other was the TV spin-off/sequel to Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes. The reason I bundle the two together is that they make for a perfect example of how to end a show and how not to end a show. Firstly, let's deal with them separately:

Lost FinaleCollapse )

Ashes to Ashes FinaleCollapse )

ComparisonCollapse )


Tastes of Israel

Posted on 2010.05.15 at 18:10
Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic
Current Music: Thievery Corporation - The Heart's A Lonely Hunter (Feat David Byrne)
So, while I procrastinate other work, and having just planted some veg in my garden and with a new bottle of Arak at hand, I figured it was high time I started to write a little about my experience of Israel. It's worth noting that this was in no way my first trip to Israel, but it has been over 16 years since I was out there... so that's nearly half my current lifetime ago.

However, rather than simply present a travelogue, I thought it might be a bit more interesting to talk about some of the experiences in themes than a linear fashion, so this post deals with some of the food and drink of the country.

Let's start with the first meal of the day, and something that I actually didn't get around to experience first-hand, which I regret and shall be sure to correct upon my return.

An Israeli BreakfastCollapse )

Houmous - Israeli styleCollapse )

Falafel - Israel's Fast FoodCollapse )

Pitta As It Should BeCollapse )

The Israeli SaladCollapse )

HilbaCollapse )

Fruit and Fruit JuicesCollapse )

ArakCollapse )

There may be other foods that I've forgotten to mention, but for now, these are some of the tastes of Israel that I miss.


Carrion Wars

Posted on 2010.05.06 at 18:35
Current Music: Clannad - Siuil A Run
I've not really ever seen anything quite like it before. As I sat at my computer, a flurry of feathered fury unfolded outside my window when suddenly falling from the branches of a tree, a young magpie slammed into the ground underneath the claws of an adult crow. Two magpie adults tried in vein to rescue their youngster while another adult crow fended them off. Meanwhile, the young magpie, pinned to the concrete by the formidable crow was repeatedly pecked, unable to raise itself and escape. Surly, it looked as though this crow would not stop until it had slain the young magpie.

I'd seen just how territorial members of the corvidae family could be when, early last month, I sat in the garden and was witness to a great cacophony of two pairs of magpie fiercely squawking at each other, disputing their right to claim the area at the back of my garden as their own. While of a different genus, I know that robins can be so ferociously territorial that they have been known to fight to the death.

Outside my window, I was certain I was about to witness such a deed with this young magpie brutalised by these aggressively territorial crow. I decided that enough was enough and went to my front door and opened it. The act of stepping out onto the pavement was enough to scare away the crows and the poor magpie was left in the gutter. I could see no blood, thankfully, and it was still breathing. When I saw it kicking the air with its legs, I thought perhaps it was having difficulty righting itself and was maybe more injured than I thought. I approached with the intention of helping it the right way up and upon it and crouching before it flipped over and flew away, albeit into a car window.

Perched on the door of the car I left it. If it could fly, it probably just needed a moment to recover from the trauma. Even as I write this I saw one of the crows return to the kerb opposite my window where the magpie had been. Seemingly frustrated that its prey had now gone it flew off to scare off a wood pigeon.

And now... the fight continues. Just as I was about to hit send the crows and the magpies are fighting again, this time over in the park. I suspect that I only really postponed the inevitable for the young magpie.

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