Monday, 31 December 2012

Ievan Polka – Confession Time!

When I posted this recently I deliberately didn't include a link to the English words, although they are on the same site as the Finnish original for which I did provide a link (indeed, I had found the English page first!) – but why?

Well, the answer is that Miku was in fact singing nonsense words (written in a kind of pseudo-Finnish style), not a Japanese translation of the original song. It was a little bit obvious, I suppose, but not necessarily to I thought it was worth trying out, to see if anyone commented to that effect – which no-one did(!)

Anyway, here are those nonsense words, along with some 'Welsh onion' action, in this somewhat different-style video of the same vocal performance...

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Another Mikaru Song

This is rather sweet, actually, and again has English subtitles. As usual, the singer is Mikaru's original voice actress, Yuuko Gotou, so is performed in the character's voice...

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Daughter of Evil

This is such a funny song – at least the way that Rin Kagamine does it, with her sweet voice and gestures – that it deserves to stand alone, though it was taken from one of the live concerts. It is only half of the full song, as that was all that was performed at the time. "Such a disrespectful cut!"

I do hope we get the full version at a future live concert!

This video has the advantage of including the (occasionally rather roughly translated) English words, so we are able to follow the story. For some reason Rin is particularly cute when being evil, so this is quite an interesting (and catchily-tuned) song in all sorts of ways...

Lucky Star does Haruhi Suzumiya Intro

Yup, in addition to all those other Haruhi Suzumiya references from the Lucky Star anime (about which I know very little indeed, but perhaps in the New Year...) here's Konata Izumi from that series re-creating the Bouken Desho Desho? opening sequence.

It's a brilliant tribute, and quite amusing to see how it has been slightly changed here and there to work for Izumi & Co. For example, note Konata's regular schoolday lunch (the chocolate cornet) sneaked into the background imagery...

Miku Coming to Scotland!

This short post is about a fan-produced event that is being planned for 2013, and presumably won't necessarily be like the full-projection concerts I have already featured here (Sapporo and Singapore) though no details are yet available from the website for this event.

Of course, if it should turn out to be to that standard, then I shall no doubt make arrangements to go to the event myself. I hope they remember to make provision for selling glowsticks at the venue – but I have already found a UK supplier so can if necessary get them in advance, to take with me north of the border. No 'Welsh onion' ones are stocked there, though, but I'm working on it...

Friday, 28 December 2012

Gangnam Culture

This at The Commentator poses a question that, I suppose, hasn't really been looked at all that much in the mainstream media – probably because economic, political and military matters dominate those sources for obvious enough reasons.

It is true, though, that cultural influences spreading through the (nowadays much more open, thanks to the Internet) international scene are making their mark just as much.

I have highlighted in recent weeks a fair range of far-eastern cultural examples that have gained great popularity in other parts of the world, including my own country (though you might need to check out a selection of newsgroups and other types of forum to discover just how big this really has become), and it goes a long way beyond Gangnam Style that is quite rightly being held up as the big example of the present day.

Personally, I think that as we find through their culture that the peoples of these other nations are really just like us at heart – with cultural differences, yes, but they still live lives that are not significantly different from our own (apart from in the Communist-run States, of course, but that's only because of impositions and restrictions) – barriers will continue to be dismantled and we shall more naturally become more of a one-world species than could ever be done by those whose agenda is to impose their New World Order upon us.

We'd also be a more natural and thriving race, rather than a self-appointed elite with the rest of us no more than slaves, as is the intention by those with that agenda.

Thus I welcome and – as has been evident for a long time now – embrace this trend, and shall continue to showcase examples I discover, though not as frequently as I have during these past few weeks. Indeed, this now gives me the excuse to post that slightly cheeky Lucky Star version of Gangnam Style after all, which is a it of a turn-up that I couldn't have predicted(!)

Yuki Nagato Live!

Okay, so it's really her voice actress, Minori Chihara, singing Yuki, Muon, Madobe Ni-te in the character's voice, in front of a large and enthusiastic audience. The Haruhi Suzumiya stories and all that goes with them are very big in Japan as this event indicates, and in a number of other countries as well.

You might recall this song from one of the Wii-generated dances I posted earlier this month; but this one has English subtitles so we can now get a real feel for what Yuki was telling us, the viewers, through her song. Believe me...

Vocaloid Concert in Singapore

Mainly as a form of proof that the Vocaloid fan-base is spreading, here's an 11-minute set by (probably) the classiest of the female Vocaloids, Luka Megurine, ending with her signature song Luka Luka / Night Fever.

I have to admit to being somewhat impressed by this 'lady', despite the poor lighting on this occasion that results in a less well-defined image than we saw at the Japanese concerts. Listen to her voice, watch her move, and I think you'll realise why I am as impressed as the highly enthusiastic audience so obviously are...

St Trinians, Japanese Style

I have been having a brief look or two at the Lucky Star series, and the characters are somewhat like those notorious young ladies of British film fame from several decades ago, at least in some respects.

Apart from Miyuki who is smart, helpful and polite – though also somewhat clumsy – they are a dodgy-looking bunch!

For all that, the series is actually quite entertaining as a 'slice of life' type of scenario. Konata, the blue-haired one with an attitude, is lazy and prefers manga/anime and gaming to doing homework (but then, I suppose most schoolkids would) which is the excuse for introducing all those references from other series, such as the Haruhi Suzumiya references compilation video I posted here recently. There are plenty more, including Pokémon (which of course pleases me).

It's not something I intend to spend too much time on myself, though I expect to dip in on almost a random basis from time to time, as it is comparatively harmless. For example, the first episode is largely concerned with a discussion on how best to prepare and eat various foods. It's a lot more entertaining than any description I can give, so I'd suggest is worth pursuing if it sounds like it's your kind of thing.

Oh, there's a well done video of these ten doing 'Gangnam Style'  – but I don't think I have the courage to embed it here(!)

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Ievan Polka

I do like this! It's a jolly little tune, performed by Miku Hatsune (the Vocaloid) very nicely. The original, performed by the Finnish vocal group Loituma, can be found in an embedded video on this page containing the original lyrics. Theirs was good; this is better!

The title is often spelt as Levan Polka, which I think derives from the Finnish pronunciation of the name Ieva (whose tale is featured in the lyrics) sounding a bit like an 'l' at the start.

Incidentally, this seems to be the song most closely associated with the "Welsh onion twirling" that has been around in anime for a while, and explains the 'leek'-shaped (as often described: it's actually a spring onion) glowsticks you might have noticed at the Vocaloid concert in Sapporo that I posted here recently. There are several videos on-line showing this twirling in action, which I mention just in case you wish to pursue this further (I've already looked: it really isn't all that exciting!)

This song works really well for Miku, especially in this setting and if anything even better once the scenery blooms nearly half way through. Yo!

Mikuru's Song

It's Mikuru's funny song from the Haruhi Suzumiya anime, with English subtitles which helps! I thought we needed something a little lighter today. Those who have watched the Sigh story, either here or elsewhere, will of course recall the 'Mikuru Beam'.

Hmm: I wonder whether the infatuated Kyon has even noticed her problem in hitting the high notes (which is actually all part of the fun of this song), but Mikuru tells me that's "classified information" so we might never find out...

The World – Live!

This is the highly evocative scene-setting intro for the gaming world of the .hack//sign anime series, followed by the glorious song that goes with it, here performed live. It's yet another of the amazingly talented Yuki Kajiura's excellent compositions, with the lady herself on piano, and her four-lady singing group Fiction Junction performing the vocals.

Although I don't think the ending is done as well here as it could have been, overall this is still another of those powerful yet haunting themes from this series, all thanks to Yuki-sama...

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A Stray Child

Another haunting song, once again featuring Emily Bindiger as vocalist, that comes from the .hack//sign anime.

Just right for the evening of Boxing Day, I think...

Beyond Vocaloid

As usual, the Japanese are not content to stand still technologically, and not only has their Vocaloid software recently reached version 3, they are also going beyond Vocaloid and into non-holo/projection technologies, such as the singing robot featured in this four-minute video (in English, with subtitles where needed).

This has several new technologies on top of or even supplanting the Vocaloid tech' with which they started. All this was a couple of years ago now (though not very well known about in my part of the world) so who knows where they have got to by now...?

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Miku's Christmas Greeting

This short video is of vocaloid Miku Hatsune in a Santa-type outfit giving us her seasonal greeting in her customary style – singing...

Christmas Eve, Sarajevo – Official!

Yes, there is now an official version of this annual video I post, and it allows embedding, so here it is!

Long-term visitors will already be well aware of this truly excellent video, featuring the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and a really great child as the production's fully deserved star, as I am sure the TSO members would unanimously agree...

Christmas Greeting

This short greetings video comes from a Vietnamese studio, and is quite effective. I think it serves well as my one-minute-past-midnight 'blog greeting for Christmas Day!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas 2012 – O Holy Night

Well, this is that night, as we celebrate it, regardless of what history tells us now, told us before, or might tell us one day in the future. As this appears, it is just a couple of minutes before midnight on Christmas Eve.

The important thing is the celebration of Jesus Christ's birth on Earth, the fact rather than the precise timing, so for us this is that Holy Night, and to bring us to it is that most beautiful of carols O Holy Night. As per my own tradition, it is again Michael Crawford and the Sarajevo Children's Choir, along with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and this is because I still have not found another version that is as special as this one...

The Cutest Stage Show in the World

Guaranteed! Now this is what advanced holographic projection was intended for, and is far and away the best use I have yet encountered for the technology.

You don't need to go through it all, but just a few minutes at the start and a few dip-ins along the way should give you the flavour. It's truly amazing, and the 'performances' are extremely well done. The main act with a strong opening set (after a brief intro by another performer) is Miku Hatsune, the world's first purely holographic pop star – but there are around a dozen others appearing either as solo acts or as duos, with Miku-chan re-appearing from time to time..

The holo-performers' voices are called Vocaloids, apparently, with the first (i.e. voice-only) performances created back in 2004. The complete performers with visual charaterisations have been around for about five years now, since Miku Hatsune was created back in 2007 (launched in August of that year, I think). The anime-style visuals have resulted in what we see in the video below, and the whole persona is nowadays referred to as a Vocaloid character.

I hope this brilliant show has won awards – it certainly deserves to do so. This video was shot at a live performance in Sapporo last year. It has been taken to other places, including Singapore and Los Angeles.

I suddenly feel a strong desire to go there (or wherever the show is currently being staged) one day soon...

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Gentle Dawn

That (Yasashii Yoake) in Japanese)  is the title of the closing theme to the .hack//sign anime episodes, and here it is in a 'clean' form – without the credits or anything else, so no English words this time.

That omission, though, doesn't matter this time: just enjoy this original performance of the song by See-Saw and the closing sequence, which – though relatively simple visually – is highly effective in its context, and rounds out each episode very well...

Pi on CNN

Here's a short-ish item about the Raspberry Pi computer that recently appeared on CNN.

It's just the right kind of British good news story that gives us a welcome break from the festive season for a few minutes and should leave us feeling positive afterward...

Brilliant! You won't be expecting this!

Thanks to His Grace, who has an interesting matter of his own to raise at that linked page, I have become aware of this delightful New Zealand production of much of the Christmas Story, told by youngsters...

It is notable that the youngsters so often 'get it' with this kind of subject, keeping to the heart of it (and it is so obvious when one watches this). We adults, though, can go completely off the track, for example focusing on political correctness as the 'big thing' even in this season of the year, as in this tweet from someone in the church not far from me...
"Ugh! Forgot to correct the non-inclusive language in a hymn I brought! Hate it when that happens! "
Cultural Marxism (for that is, as I have shown previously, what all of that is and always has been) reigns supreme in much of the church, even today. Many of us are so disgusted by the Lefty (i.e. Satanic) influences that abound in the churches of our nation that we simply don't trust many of them any more – and who can blame us?

Whether the above example (one of a fair number I have encountered, incidentally) is one person's own corruption or a policy within his own church I do not know; but either way it is not God's way and it certainly isn't Jesus' way. It's no more than a veneer, a fake front put up to deceive.

I for one shall have no truck with any of it! Instead, I shall watch the above video again: much closer to God's message to His people than any amount of language tampering...

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Songtaran Carols

Who is singing? No, it's not Who, it's Strax the Sontaran, with his own (brief) offbeat take on some seasonal Earth carols...

Friday, 21 December 2012

Yuki Nagato – SELECT

In these – possibly – last hours of existence (UPDATE: we're still here!) let's listen to Yuki Nagato's song SELECT, and also ponder upon the possibility that Haruhi Suzumiya might well create a brand new world for us. I wonder whether we shall notice, at least straight away, if so...

This song comes with the English words as subtitles. It helps to have seen the Disappearance story for it all to gain proper context and relevance, but is anyway an insight info Miss Nagato's nature and plight. Yuki means 'snow', by the way, which explains one reference in the song.

Some of the comments at this video's YouTube page show just how moved some listeners/words-readers have been. Click the YouTube button on the video player if you wish to go there and read those comments.

Meanwhile, here's Yuki. Just click SELECT (the left mouse button in RISC OS parlance) below...

Don't Respond to Cold Callers

There is someone going around this area (Chatham) at the moment cold calling on residents, supposedly advising them about "telephone exchange upgrades" and quizzing them on their present telephone and/or internet arrangements. He claims to be from Talk-Talk – or at least did to me.

Obviously, this is not how such companies operate, and most of them have said so to their customers, i.e. 'we do not cold call by telephone, email or personal visit' or words to that effect.

I have checked with the council as a Trading Standards matter, also Citizens Advice, and let them know the details. They agreed with me that they are well aware that companies such as Talk-Talk do not cold call – so this is near-enough certain to be a scam.

Be Warned, and don't respond or give out any information!

The Eve of Destruction?

I'm old enough to remember the record...

The Mayan prediction that the world as we know it will come to an end on today's date (and several other international sources back it up with their own foretelling) has two big problems.

Of course, where the Mayans lived runs either five or six hours behind us here in Britain, so their doomsday won't even begin until either 5 or 6 am GMT. I don't think any particular time of day was ever specified, so presumably it could happen any time within the following 24 hours.

Anyway, those big problems...

First is the fact that it is all very geocentric, in that everything has to align to the Earth and our solar system in terms of time, plane of the ecliptic and other factors. The galaxy isn't going to twist itself about all of a sudden, just to align with us – or into any other shared alignment either. The timing relates to cycles geared to the Earth's annual rotation around the Sun, and is altogether too round a number to be valid in such matters anyway. Also, there is no mysterious planet (Nibiru?) approaching the Solar System...

The other problem is, in actuality, even bigger; and that is that this can happen only with the Second Coming – and that, as we have been made unambiguously aware, is to be at a time that no-one apart from God the Father knows. It will come "like a thief in the night", we are told, at an unexpected time and day.

Thus I do not believe this will actually happen within the next 28 hours or so (as I write this), primarily for the above two reasons.

(UPDATE) Meanwhile, as we wait to find out, here's NASA's FAQ on the topic which, although not to be taken as absolute knowledge, does provide some useful information, including backing-up much of what I wrote above last night...

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Key Of The Twilight

If you enjoyed (or were simply amazed by) the first .hack//sign offering, here's another 'twilight'-related song in the same vein but distinctly different as well, with multi-part vocals by Emily Bindiger.

This song is featured in the background of parts of the first and second episodes, by the way...

Here are the words, again by Yuki Kajiura...

Come with me in the twilight of a summer night for a while
Tell me of a story never never told in the past

Take me back to the land
Where my yearnings were born
The key to open the door is in your hand
Now fly me there

Fanatics find their heaven in never ending storming wind
Auguries of destruction be a lullaby for rebirth

Consolations, be there
In my dreamland to come
The key to open the door is in your hand
Now take me there

I believe in fantasies invisible to me
In the land of misery I'm searchin' for the sign
To the door of mystery and dignity
I'm wandering down, and searchin' down the secret sun

Come with me in the twilight of a summer night for a while
Tell me of a story never never told in the past

Take me back to the land
Where my yearnings were born
The key to open the door is in your hand
Now take me there
to the land of twilight

In The Land of Twilight, Under the Moon

This anime theme comes from .hack//sign (yes, that is its actual title, including the dot at the start!) and is truly amazing, here accompanying some powerful scenes from the anime.

The multi-part vocal is, I believe, by Emily Bindiger, as for the next of these I shall be posting (this evening), who performed a total of ten songs for the series. There are also several others not featuring her, by See-Saw alone.

Do share these journeys with me, and play these anime-related videos: you are probably in for a brand new experience – or several. This one is even better in headphones, I found...

Here are the full song's words, by Yuki Kajiura...

in the land of twilight, under the moon
we dance for the idiots
ring-around-the-roses, jump to the moon
we sing with the castanets

Who will sing for crescent moon
dancing with the castanet
as the end will come so soon
in the land of twilight 

I will sing for crescent moon
dancing with the castanet
as the end will come so soon
in the land of twilight

now you are watchin' us outside the circle
wanna be in the company
boy, but you are lonely
dance with nobody
run away child, to your hiding place

high and loud, the sound of your bell of the twilight...ringing..
all alone, it rings and echoes in the twilight

in the land of twilight, under the moon
we dance for the idiots
ring-around-the-roses, jump to the moon
we sing with the castanets

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

You Get To Burning

...whatever that title is supposed to mean! It doesn't really matter: it is the name of the powerful yet beautiful theme to the anime series Martian Successor Nadesico. Well, while I am in the anime mood...

This often poignant, generally funny and very complex story that brought us boson jumping, the Akito fan club (every female on board the ship, just about!) and the sad but strangely compelling Ruri Hoshino, was one of the very special such series in its day.

Anyway, here is the full-length version of You Get To Burning over a still image of the series' main characters. As with some other musical items from the genre, it always has me snuffling with warm and soft emotions. Perhaps I'm just at a funny age...

Parish Notice – December 2012

I have had to take the roadworks widget off the 'blog as it stopped showing any current/upcoming roadworks a few weeks ago. In case it was just a fault waiting to be fixed, I let it ride for a while, but kept an eye on it.

Since then, it has become clear that not only has the ELGIN (Electronic Local Government Information Network) that provided the widget now ceased to be, there is also no replacement or substitute available that I can find (and I really have had a good search around). The current site does not offer such a facility, only email alerts.

Therefore that quite useful facility has gone – hopefully not permanently, but certainly for the time being. I shall keep a watch for a replacement widget or similar that I can include on this 'blog, as I know it was considered to be of value to several regular visitors here.

Lucky Star – or is it?

For Haruhi Suzumiya devotees: there are lots of Haruhi etc references in the Lucky Star series, and this is a compilation of all of them.

Some are obvious, others are more subtle, but it really is quite fun to spot 'em as they unfold. It's the Japanese language original, so you'll need to keep an eye on the sub-titles and also watch for the occasional explanatory caption.

Do excuse the lower technical quality of this video than my usual standard, but it's worth it..

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

We Have Not Forgotten

...but for those who have, or have fallen into the (admittedly easy) trap of dismissing it all on a probably unwitting error, here is a timely reminder from the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and School in the USA...

Monday, 17 December 2012

Doctor Who – Children in Need 2007

This short was actually quite an enjoyable bit of nonsense (as Who tends to be in the new era anyway, if we're being honest about it) featuring the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) dressed exactly as we remember him – if a few years older – complete with celery, along with the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)...

Christmas 2012 – John Lewis

This year's John Lewis Christmas television advertisement is a bit so-so, I thought, despite a (more gentle than the original) version of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Power of Love as the soundtrack. You'll probably be seeing it quite a few times over the next week or so anyway.

Therefore I am featuring last year's offering instead, which is extremely good and very well performed, especially by the young boy who was perfect for this...

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Christmas 2012 – Wizards in Winter, New Light Show

Yup, this light show to accompany the Trans-Siberian Orchestra classic Wizards in Winter is new this year, and is actually quite good and well worth an airing here (by now, you know just how much of an old fuss-pot I have become)...

Awareness or Merely Stunts?

I have had an interesting Twitter conversation this evening regarding one of those Fire Service demonstrations of cutting someone out of a car. The idea is to show what so often happens after a car crash, of which there still tend to be too many at this time of year filled with pre-Christmas parties and the like.

One of our local Conservative members quite rightly asked about the cost of this stunt – an especially pertinent question as passers-by had been reporting only a handful of public in attendance. However, at least the local media were there: one as the 'victim' who needed to be extricated from the 'wreck' and another to photograph and report on the event.

I have to confess that I was certainly unaware of this until it was actually happening and the first photograph from it was posted on-line. From the numbers reported as being in attendance, it is clear that much of any value this potentially had was lost straight away, even if it is covered well in Monday's local newspaper.

Whether it should have been done at all is the bigger question that both the original questioner and another local Conservative were really asking; and that is a more complex matter to answer than the one-dimensional 'yes' or 'no' that no doubt they and others might like.

The problem is that the statistics are still not good; and if the emergency services don't try to do something as a deterrent-through-awareness exercise they will be criticised if the figures continue to show too much December carnage on our roads this year. Not only do prevailing circumstances drive such activities, they also provide a ready-made excuse for them.

The correct approach is for our elected local representatives to get hold of the figures for our are for a period of several years, and also to find out what was  done each year, at what cost and to what degree of demonstrable success. (Yes, this sounds like the sort of activity in which I have specialised for years, though of course I have had no access to non-public data for the past several years so cannot pursue this one myself.)

Armed with all of that information, elected members can make suitable input to challenge, guide and steer the emergency services in such 'awareness' endeavours for future years, or even stop them altogether if they are found to be ineffective or insufficiently effective.

Simply going directly against the whole idea without that evidence simply sets one up for opposition members and their buddies elsewhere to be able to have a go, and of course one would be virtually defenceless in such a circumstance. All it needs is one tragic accident that "could have been prevented if they had only known of the possible consequencesbeforehand" (or a similar line) during the next couple of weeks or so.

This is why I have tended to be so thorough and painstaking in building up my library of facts, figures, documents and the rest of it before taking a firm approach. I can then be authoritative and leave opportunists (especially Medway Labour, who really hated me with a passion for this!) no room to criticise. That's why they rarely try, of course, and why it is so easy to deal with them when they do.

In this case, people's lives and well-being are at stake, so it is doubly important to get it right. Criticise activities such as today's stunt by all means, but only when you have the evidence to definitively show that it was a bad idea and why. It's how I'd do it!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Rondo Veneziano (and Papagena) 2001 and 2010

This is specially for my brother, as a demonstration of the musical instrument he learned – the oboe – is perfectly capable of being a solo or lead instrument.

There aren't many pieces that feature the oboe, but Rondo Veneziano specialised in this as the counter-voice to their strings and percussion, and it worked very well, as the first of the two items presented here demonstrates. They also had an excellent oboeist...

As if that item were not a strong enough illustration of the point, here's their La Serenissima that kick-started their international fame and is one of my all-time favourites too. This extended version is from a fairly recent (July 2010) live performance...

Christmas 2012 – Christmas Canon Light Show

This is my perennial Christmas Canon by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and the Sarajevo Children's Choir – but this time we don't see the children, just a new light show produced this year.

It isn't one of the best of these light shows, but it works well enough with this canon, and is enjoyable enough to be well worth the sharing...

Friday, 14 December 2012

Hare Hare Yukai – Live Action

Yes, it can be done, and this is actually very good. It is a particularly pretty dance anyway, and it's great to see that one doesn't have to be a cartoon character in order to be able to accurately perform this complex and rather energetic dance, especially in costume!

Yuki Nagato's Dance

Well, its full title is Yuki Muon Madobe Ni-te. Anyway, it's another dance from Haruhi's intrepid trio, this time featuring Yuki Nagato (appropriately) in pole position...

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hare Hare Yukai Dance

This is a very well-done recreation of the Hare Hare Yukai (Sunny Sunny Happiness) dance featured at the end of a couple of the Haruhi Suzumiya series/books. This is a full-length version, lasting over three minutes, and features just the ladies of the SOS Brigade this time. The fellas have the day off, for once(!)

I've grown to quite like the dance, after initially being a bit unsure. See what you think: I suspect you'll also need to become accustomed to it via a few playings over several days, but then: what do I know?

And, as a bonus item, here's another dance from the same trio, the song this time being Bouken Desho Desho? (It's An Adventure. Right? Right?) which again you'll have heard by now, but during the opening title sequence of the programme...

Medway's Holiday-time Waste Collections

This is a reminder to Medway residents that the waste collection arrangements over the Christmas and New Year holiday period have been posted on the Medway Council website, and this information reproduced below for convenience...

Bin and recycling doorstep collections

The arrangements for waste collections in Medway during Christmas and the New Year 2012/13 are:

Normal collection day Revised collection day
Monday, 24 December Monday, 24 December
Tuesday, 25 December Thursday, 27 December
Wednesday, 26 December Thursday, 27 December
Thursday, 27 December Friday, 28 December
Friday, 28 December Saturday, 29 December
Monday, 31 December Monday, 31 December
Tuesday, 1 January Wednesday, 2 January
Wednesday, 2 January Thursday, 3 January
Thursday, 3 January Friday, 4 January
Friday, 4 January Saturday, 5 January

The Full Haruhi 'Disappearance'

This fourth book in the Haruhi Suzumiya series is a very complex story, so you will need to be paying close attention. It's worth it, though – and we do get to meet the grown-up version of Miss Asahina, as a bonus...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Severed Dreams

Here is the half of the very middle Babylon 5 episode Severed Dreams that includes the battle with Earth Force – and a fair amount else besides.

I can't find the whole episode anywhere on-line, but even just this half should show just why this won the awards it did, in one case gaining more votes than all other entries put together.

Stand by for 22 minutes that will touch you on many levels. Trust me on this, seriously...

Severed Dreams - Mod DB

He Is The Doctor

Just in case anyone had forgotten, and might have even been a little puzzled by my previous post, here is a particularly fine remix of I Am The Doctor, with its characteristic breathlessly always-running feel, in what I think is the best version I have encountered to date. This has no visuals beyond the image you see here, but it doesn't warrant distractions anyway.

Anyway, as the Doctor once said to the Atraxi: "I am The Doctor.!"

Beware the Smiling Snowman – With Teeth!

Here's a new half-minute trailer for the Doctor Who 2012 Christmas Special...

Pope Writes On Tablet

Not a tablet of stone, as in Moses' time, but in order to post his first Tweet, the Pope can be seen sending it from a modern tablet here...

I hope the Italian is easy enough to follow; but if you have difficulty, here is the English version..

The Full Haruhi 'Boredom'

This third story in the Haruhi Suzumiya series is just as entertaining as those we have (I hope) already watched. It even includes a murder mystery on a remote island. What more could anyone possibly want, even a bored Haruhi?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Rochester and Strood Looking Up

Quite apart from the Rochester Airport improvements I mentioned yesterday, there are several other items of good news within the Rochester and Strood parliamentary constituency that is represented by Mark Reckless MP.

In Rochester West ward is the news that the historic Eastgate House on the High Street, effectively made famous by Charles Dickens via references to this Tudor town house in two of his stories, is to receive substantial funding to re-vitalise this always-popular tourist attraction within historic Rochester.

Real life is full of ups and downs, and for Eastgate House the last several years have not been as good as they had been previously, for various real-world reasons. This two-million Pound investment is just the kind of boost the place needs (follow the link for some more detail, which is worth realising in order to better understand this sentence) and comes at just the right time...

Meanwhile, across the river in urban Strood, a public house that boasted its own Dickens connections but suffered significant fire damage some nine months ago, has been bought at auction by a local enthusiast who clearly strongly desires to restore the Crispin and Crispianus to its former glory. Indeed, the purchaser paid considerably over the odds to be sure of getting it. Now that's dedication!

I have walked past the place a few times during this year, and it makes for a sad image indeed. Once again, though, life has its ups as well as its downs, and this latest news is welcome indeed! I shall make a point of visiting the place after it re-opens – even though it's something of a trek from here and means a special outing for me, even if I were to go there by 'bus (which is another option, if I plan it fairly precisely in advance).

Incidentally, that area has had at least one other fire in the last year, in nearby Barton Road, behind the Beaney Bakery. The remnants look quite ghastly on the latest Google Street View image of that place, dated July of this year (the previous image had been taken before the fire). Let's hope there isn't a trend developing around those parts!

Thus we can see that, even in a world and our own nation full of generally bad news as it usually is these days, there is still good stuff happening. If the cold and frosty weather is getting you down, and your newspaper (or other news resource) isn't offering much good news in among the doom and gloom, perhaps these indicative stories will help put the spring back in your step – even though 'spring' as such is still a few months away!

The Full Haruhi 'Sigh'

The second book in the Haruhi Suzumiya anthology, in which the SOS Brigade try to make a movie and avoid Haruhi making any Closed Space and shinjin giants in the process. Again, as in yesterday's story, the narration by 'Mr Happiness' Kyon is just so good...

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Full Haruhi 'Melancholy'

Well, the first volume, anyway. I'll post the others when you've had a chance to recover from this one! This is the video of the first book, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. We shall move on to her Sigh, Boredom, and Disappearance in the later movies-of-the-books.

This one is long enough, over two hours – but I suspect a number of visitors here will be surprised at the sheer quality of the writing and storylining and will stick with it. It's actually very impressive overall (once one accepts the interesting basic premise), as I hinted a few days ago, and great fun. The downbeat battle-weary narration style of the main protagonist, Kyon, helps make it work even better than it otherwise might have done.

It's also very easy to get hooked. There are plenty of moments when you can pause the video and return to it another day, to give yourself a chance to come up for air(!)

I'm sure there'll be some here for whom it will fall flat, or be too manic in places; but I think it's worth everyone's while at least giving it a try – though there are a very few moments that might warrant a Parental Guidance (PG) caution, so it isn't quite suitable for the youngest viewers. Anyway, without further ado...

Welcome to the SOS Brigade and their adventures!

Happy Monday!

This is Rondo Veneziano with their delightful Fantasia, set to some very well devised (and often glittery) imagery that – although it isn't all to my personal taste – is well worth checking out.

The 'Monday' reference will become obvious as you go through the video...

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Moore To Him Than Many Realised!

Sir Patrick Moore left us today, to become part of the Sky at Night (I bet we see his twinkling in the night sky from now on!) and the world has lost yet another of its special – and unique – people. There can never be another...

The closest I came to him was when he was at a restaurant I frequented – though far away, up at the opposite end. I well recall his tropical-style printed shirt on that occasion in London Victoria!

He wasn't always as deadly serious as his countenance suggested, and this clip from an appearance on The Big Breakfast's 'The Crunch' offers us several clues. It's a good tribute in its own offbeat way, and no doubt there will be many more (or 'Moore') to come in the days and weeks ahead...

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Mr Steed and Mrs Peel

A true classic TV theme to a quintessentially British series – this is The Avengers as it was always destined to become once Ian Hendry and Honor Blackman had left. Not that there was anything wrong with either of them, but they were in effect just the warm-up for what was at that time still to come.

Who could forget those endings in particular, often involving Champagne, sometimes in a 'fountain'...

Here is the extended version of the theme, along with some stills from episodes of that era...

Friday, 7 December 2012

Gillingham People

After the success of the Rochester People community resource site, an equivalent for Gillingham has now been started, called (naturally enough) Gillingham People. I have bookmarked the site and am adding it to the relevant section of my blogroll.

They have also recently started tweeting (though under the name @gillinghamlocal, for some reason), and I am of course following that feed as well. I suggest that anyone reading this who has any interest in or connection with Gillingham in Medway, Kent does likewise with both the website and (if you are on Twitter) that feed also.

Medway's Year of Celebration

It really has been a tremendous year with many celebrations, festivals and other significant events in and affecting Medway during 2012.

Only looking back now at what actually has happened (no longer merely promises and hopes, as some might have thought mere months ago) can we now appreciate the sheer extent of this year's special events and what they signify.

I'm not going to go into great detail here, as there are many resources that cover one or more of these events and celebrations much more fully than I ever could – especially (though far from being alone) the excellent Rochester People website.

Briefly, though, on top of the usual Dickens Summer and Christmas festivals, FUSE, the Will Adams Festival, Sweeps, the new and traditional markets (including this and other Christmas Markets) and the other regulars, we had our first River Festival, the Dickens Bicentenary celebration, our City bid and all that went with that, various sporting specials (not just what we did here for and during the London Olympic Games) and no doubt at least one or two others I cannot recall just at the moment.

On top of those, we also participated very strongly in the Queen's Jubilee celebrations with a host of street parties among other very visible activities. Indeed, I saw the bunting still up in a couple of roads a week or more later on my own travels around the Towns...

While reading these words doesn't in and of itself mean much to anyone who hasn't 'been there', for those who have (such as the intrepid Jaye Nolan and Cllr Chris Irvine, whose presence at – and photographing/videoing of – just about everything that happens has become near-legendary) it really does mean something. In fact, it means a lot!

Indeed, I have been at a number of events this year, as previously, but not as much as I'd have liked owing to my ongoing health issues. This fact is a stark reminder to me of just how much I am now missing, though involuntarily, and perhaps that above all else brings the significance of living in a truly vibrant community home to me.

For all its faults, the frequent cynical demeanour of many of its people, and the 'Chaviness' that seems to permeate at least some of its High Streets and by-ways, it's till a great place to be. Let the year 2012 be a strong and powerful reminder of that fact!: it deserves to be

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Let It Snow, Let It Snow...

This hilly area of the five Medway Towns (it's much flatter on the peninsula side) is always a tricky place to be once the slippery winter weather arrives – but we cope.

By means of a very good road gritting programme and nearly 300 salt bins around the Medway area as a whole, despite the inevitable grumbles, we really do cope just about as well as current human technology (limited though it is) permits.

The cold air coming off the river that weaves through the full east-west spread of our area, and the quite high altitudes (in one of which I lived for almost thirteen years) make winters hereabouts more severe than they tend to be in many other places. Again, we handle it and live with it, because we have to and because we have done so in years before.

Today, we have had a light snowfall, the first of this winter.

During my eight years on Medway Council I had virtually no issues to have to deal with in regard to our winter provision as a council, with the only matter of any significance being the overturning of salt bins by the yob element that fed down to my former home area from Weeds Wood – which is why the main effect was to the salt bin in Holland Road, which they passed on their way onto my 'patch'.

Without fuss or public moaning, I devised the idea of fixing the bin into the ground (it was done by having several metal coils attached to the base of the bin, and the whole thing sort-of 'screwed' into the earth) so that it would be next to impossible to overturn. As a Councillor taking the job of representing and supporting my residents seriously, that was naturally enough my approach then as always.

Now I see via a Twitter conversation between Labour councillor Tristan Osborne and Conservative Joe Armitage that the former has apparently been claiming that the ("Tory-run", of course!) council's provisions are inadequate, and the latter has been calling him out on the claims of a volume of complaints.

Okay, all this is typical stuff from Labour, especially around these parts – but what does this really mean?

Well, for a start, what has changed from last year, which was much more severe than we have experienced thus far this year? It was the same (Labour) councillors representing that ward – Luton and Wayfield – and the only change since that time of which I am aware is those councillors' move of one of the salt bins away from Lawn Close (Bin SB033 in the council's database of such bins) a number of months ago.

They were being rather secretive about where it had gone, as I recall at the time when I tried to work it out for myself. I never discovered why they were so coy about this, especially when I received no response to my guess (I have all of that Twitter-based conversation on file as proof, if need be)...

Anyway, the bottom line of today's business is that local Labour are 'moaning in public' and making claims (that they have since tried to deny) regarding the level of public contact they have actually had on this subject, and they have also evaded answering Joe Armitage's request for some more detail of which and where these purportedly 'inadequate' bins are.

I jumped in with a trio of brief (i.e. tweet-length!) summaries of my own experiences, but the Labour guy ignored that, and switched his tweeting to a completely different topic – an old and frequent practice that always means he doesn't have an answer so isn't going to bother responding.

It is an interesting example of how some people will try to manipulate just about any situation that arises for self-serving party political ends, rather than just doing their job and dealing with actual issues quietly and behind the scenes, like the rest of us have always done. No doubt they'll be able to devise excuses for their approach (they always do) but it doesn't wash.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Luton and Wayfield community just get on with their own real lives, probably with disgust at how their elected representatives come across as being much more interested in playing political games with their situation than in being on top of this from the outset – that is, on the assumption there really is an element of truth regarding the 'inadequacy' claim, which has not been demonstrated...

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

RasPi Talk at Hackerspace Charlotte

This is a really interesting talk by the Raspberry Pi Foundation's Eben Upton. If you're at all interested in this area of technology, do reserve forty minutes or so for the talk and slide show (but not the Q&A session, which has been cut out) in order to go all the way through this. While some of the content is, naturally enough, background material, there is also a lot of quite fascinating stuff in here, if you keep with it...

Monday, 3 December 2012

Haruhi Suzumiya

I have started going into the anime stories revolving around the distinctly interesting character of Haruhi Suzumiya, of which there are several, starting with her melancholy and the effects that has on the world.

They are very well done, actually; and the English dialogue versions (the ones I've so far encountered, anyway) are among the best I have yet encountered in the genre.

There are hardly any language or verbal style 'clashes' when someone didn't get it quite right. I have found that happened quite a lot in years gone by, but it seems to be almost entirely eliminated here, and it's very colloquial.

Of course, my (by now an open secret) preference for cuteness leads me to having developed a soft spot for the shy Mikuru Asahina (the other possible candidate, Yuki Nagato, turns out to be an android, unfortunately), and who even has her own fan club, I notice – but that's just me, and getting to be so predictable of me, I suspect...

Anyway, it's an interesting set of stories, involving time travel, reality warping, androids, aliens and espers, among other ingredients, and yet quite easy to digest and not too difficult to follow all the twists and turns. Recommend for sheer enjoyment and for being very engrossing!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Dress-up Game

This game is good fun, and has been very well done, with CBeebies' Sid and Rebecca reacting appropriately to every garment you place on them. These include hats/crowns/tiaras, tops/dresses and trousers/skirts.

You can take a snapshot of the finished results, like those of mine that I have included here.

Just living here, for now...

A while back, it occurred to me that – with the knowledge that we are not part of this universe – perhaps the best way of looking at who we are in the context of the universe is "not a part of it, just living here for now."

I suspect that many of us have realised that we are just peering out at the world (and the universe beyond) from behind these eyes; hearing the world from between these ears; and touching those material things we encounter again indirectly and (small scale) remotely via our arms and hands. Taste and smell are similar. We aren't really 'here' in the literal sense.

Atheists really haven't a clue about themselves or anythng or anyone else, because they either will not or cannot grasp this reality, among others.

I long ago worked out that the main categories of atheists seem to be (a) those too lazy think about what life is really all about and why we are here, (b) those too dim-witted to handle even that basic a question, (c) those too evil to openly acknowledge the truth (mainly Satanic – and remember that even Satan believes in God and has very good reason to do so), and (d) the pseudo-intellectuals (e.g. Richard Dawkins) whose entire standing depends upon that false perception he propounds.

Today, after much thought, I feel I should add a fifth category, (e) those too scared to face the Big Question. I can understand this, and have been on the brink of it myself many years ago. It can be a difficult barrier to surmount.

It is for all these reasons, and for the majority of those types, that I often urge unbelievers to just go outside and take a good, proper look at the world out there. It's amazing what one notices with an open and 'feeling' attitude. I have my own, personal tales to tell on this score, and have mentioned a few occasions where my own sensitivity has come into play, reported briefly both here on this 'blog and in other places.

All any of us needs to do, though, is to think beyond just our being at a basic level, and realise that our totality is so much more – yet, for the time being, it is right and appropriate that we 'live' here in this form and in this place. It's not scary, once one accepts this and applies some intelligence to it: after all, there's nothing we can do about it anyway, so just enjoy it!

Accepting what is, rather than trying to manipulate people's perceptions into a false structure that suits one's own agenda, is a good, honest and 'clean' way to be and to live. Dawkins, Gnosticism and other wrong tracks can be avoided with a little thought and the preparedness to just look at Creation and gain at least some feel for what it is.

That's how I started, decades ago, and I have managed to avoid the pitfalls in all that time, because I used my brain, my senses, and my own 'gut feeling' of what is and what isn't. I have long realised that 'science' (meaning 'knowledge') merely attempts to explain what already exists, and creates nothing itself. Thus I never fell into the Dawkins trap or any similar ones.

It's simple when one knows how – and we were all created with that ability to discern it! I, for one, am enjoying living here for now, with all of life's ups and downs (more downs than ups for me these days, too) and hope that you, dear reader, will do so too.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Santa Fun Run 2012

Once again the Rotary Club of Medway has held its annual charity Santa Fun Run. The ever-excellent Rochester People – though nowadays without the wonderful Jaye Nolan, but still coping well despite that – covered the event, and has posted a couple of short video clips and a photo gallery. I notice some Olympic torches being brandished by several of the runners...

We here in Medway are really good at events, from festivals via national and international sporting events to 'fun runs' (including our own Medway Mile), even if not everything always goes perfectly.

Most of the time it does, though, or near enough in all but the – extremely rare – very worst cases. It is unusual indeed to encounter a significant issue, and then everyone with an axe to grind pounces on that and makes it out to be more than it really is, detracting somewhat from all the good things that we do here. I advise us all to concentrate on the overwhelmingly predominant great things we do!

In reality, we are very good at this stuff, whether council-driven or not. As the photos in this event's gallery show in particular, from the very first photograph, we have the setting: that's taken at one of our castles, with our cathedral in the background. The settings adds a 'feel' to every such event, that if you are there yourself you will feel it to some extent, even if you are engrossed in the activitity of the day itself.

You cannot help that: it's an inescapable part of not only what we do here, but how, why and where we do it. All these are interlinked.

The Santa Fun Run stands on its own (running!) feet, but it also reminds us of the special character of any event we hold here in Medway, and especially in the heart of historic Rochester.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The New Yorker

I'm not quite sure about the New Yorker sandwich I just tried (bought at Sainsbury), which comprises pastrami, Emmental cheese and gherkin mustard mayonnaise, all on malted bread – so to get in the right mood, here are the Gremlins mounting their musical number, featuring that Sinatra favourite of related name...

Saturday, 24 November 2012


I've never been all that clear about how best to interpret pageviews figures for this 'blog, and indeed had ignored such information for most of the past four-and-a-half years that it has been running.

Nonetheless, I thought it might be an interesting exercise to watch them for a while, and report them here, perhaps weekly. As Blogger provides a handy graph of pageview numbers on a range of timescales, it seems easiest to post a suitable image here.

The weekly graph doesn't actually show a great deal, so I shall at least start with the past month's graph, which does at least look interesting and contains enough information to have some signbificance. Here it is, for the last thirty days...

Notice that I have 'good' and 'bad' days, the latter mostly on the weekends as far as I can discern. The occasional peak is less than obvious, in that it is usually nothing to do with any of my very latest posts but something a few days old that has been picked up by some popular indexing site.

Now, I well realise that next to the likes of Guido, Political Betting and Iain Dale these figures are tiny, but from what other local bloggers have been telling me about their own figures, my own are quite respectable within that sector of the blogging scene.

I find this comforting, as I put a lot of effort, thought and research into much of what I post here; and inevitably it is sometimes going to seem hardly worth all of that if it isn't achieving very much. If no-one reads what is here, the information will have no discernible effect.

Anyway, regardless on that, I plan to treat this as an academic exercise, just to see if there is anything useful I can glean from how the pageviews go over time. I haven't yet decided whether to post regularly on the topic or perhaps just to keep the bulk of the weekly data just within my own files. I'll think about that....

Friday, 23 November 2012

Baba Yetu

On a somewhat different stylistic note within the video game music genre, and as kindly recommended to me by local Twitterer Lauren Wright, here is the theme to Civilisation IV, with some interesting graphics (I was particularly taken with Abraham Lincoln and also by the space station scene), titled Baba Yetu, and is also on Christopher Tin's Calling All Dawns album.

Although it isn't quite to my own personal taste, it is genuinely good and very well composed and arranged. I gather it has won a Grammy award, the first composition for a video game to have done so...

Into The Fire – Part One

This might be considered as the overture to the whole suite; and especially on that basis it is very good at doing that job. Although there is a slightly weaker short section than the rest in the middle, even that is without any significant fault in and of itself: it's a good piece.

At least, that and my other observations are my quick assessment of pieces I had never encountered before this evening, so do forgive me if your own findings do not accord with mine.

Anyway, the image this time is of an Earth Force Omega-class destroyer, with a rotating habitable section to generate artificial gravity (that's why it's 'lumpy' to one side) with around a dozen Starfury fighters, exiting a hyperspace jump point that the destroyer would have generated itself (i.e. it doesn't need a jumpgate)...

Into The Fire – Part Four

This track has a slightly more upbeat tempo than those I have featured thus far, often urgent, occasionally even impatient, one might say. Play it and you'll understand what I mean(!)

The still image is of a Minbari 'Sunfish' top-end warship, along with a cluster of one-person fighters. The Grey Council travelled in one of the big craft, and the Black Star that John Sheridan so famously destroyed during the Earth-Minbari war was another...

Into The Fire – Part Three

Possibly the 'classiest' (in some ways) of the tracks so far, from the cancelled video game project. This is all Chris Francke, and obviously so from its underlying stylistic character, though not derivative in any other way from other work of his with which I am familiar.

Despite the half-dozen or so almost-jarring pitch shifts that are mentally unexpected during the first half, this is quite an extraordinary piece, and is one of those that anyone like me will appreciate having had the opportunity to listen to "once before I die", as the expression has it.

The still image is of a Narn heavy cruiser parked alongside the rear residential part of the Babylon 5 space station: there is only the power-generating reactor behind that...

Into The Fire – Part Five

This music for the cancelled Babylon 5 themed video game is turning out to be of real interest, so I plan to feature more tracks as I find them.

This is the fifth soundtrack, again with the Chris Francke sound and sheer class, along with what to me sounds like a Rondo Veneziano influence in the middle section (in two parts, separated by a non Rondo-ish segment) but a rather sudden end, which is uncharacteristic of Francke.

Here it is, accompanied by a still of Kosh's personal ship in its usual bay at the Babylon 5 station...

Into The Fire – Part Two

This is another Babylon 5 soundtrack, but one you almost certainly haven't heard before. It was intended for a video game, but it seems that project was cancelled – so now it has nowhere to go apart from YouTube or similar, as it is here along with a still scene of (mostly) Centauri warships, with a Narn heavy cruiser in the near distance.

(Note: this is soundtrack No. 2 of what is clearly a suite of tracks, so I shall endeavour to find the other parts during this evening.)

It's distinctly Christopher Francke material, with many of his signature motifs – especially B5 ones – but I detected a handful of what to me sound like Jarre influences at around eight minutes in, lasting just half a minute or so...

Voices of Authority

This excellent and highly evocative piece by Christopher Francke for the second Babylon 5 CD really needs to be listened to in a partially-darkened room, at a quiet time, and in a receptive mood. It needs to be at a decent volume level, but not over-loud – it doesn't need it...

Thursday, 22 November 2012

I Can Be Intolerant Too

Occasionally I have a bout of bringing to a head all those 'connections' that have been annoying me for a while. In the case of Twitter, I go through a (generally short) session of what is known as unfollowing a few others I had been following. I have done so with three tonight.

Those I select for this procedure tend to be ones whose on-line version of verbal diarrhea – usually on one or perhaps a few subjects, continually repeated – just gets to be too much (so goodbye to AngelNeptuneStar and PolleeTickle) or obsessive on an unpleasant – to me – topic. Therefore, goodbye also to LoveThyTruth, whose obsession with the ladies and making what is supposed (by any decent person) to be private embarrassingly and perpetually public.

Interestingly, with the former, I might have developed an interest in looking into the HS2 railway business, but this experience has put me off completely and I now have next to no interest in it.

I'm really not interested in that ego trip any more than I want my Twitter timeline to be bombarded with endless tweets about HS2. Anyone competent would know how to summarise and thus ration their output in any session/day on the same topic. The rest of us know how to do it, so it isn't exactly difficult.

The bottom line is that it takes a lot for me to snap, but when I do I will not hesitate to cut offenders out of my consciousness. Perhaps if and when they learn how to handle the medium properly I could then re-follow them – but I'm not interested in doing so until and unless that happens!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Shake On It

Just a brief mention of what happened to me in Rochester today...

A fellow who was obviously a little over-indulged on drink collared me on Star Hill and rode back to Chatham (and, in his case, beyond) from the 'bus stop.

We talked about this and that in those few minutes – but then came the handshake as I 'dinged' the bell for the stop adjacent to Wickes.

It was a normal (and firm) handshake first, immediately followed by what I think must have been a masonic one, which came as a surprise to me. No doubt I failed that test; but it was interesting that he tried it on me, presumably suspecting that I might have been a Mason myself – or whatever it represented (it wasn't one of those usually shown being practiced by famous people)..

I can never be a Freemason or anything similar, of course, and it has never even been seriously suggested to me – but it certainly was intriguing to have this happen to me today and I thought it worthy of a brief mention here.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Favourite Simple Game

Back in the days when a chap ('Bill R') and I ran the DTI Computer Club, Bill brought in a game that was simply a signalling exercise based on a seven-hour shift at Kings Cross railway station in London.

On the BBC Micro this involved a track display screen, switchable to/from a loco yard screen, and operated in four basic colours (Mode 1 on the Beeb) of black, white, yellow and red.

It was very effective, and not all that frenetic – though it does have its moments at certain times during the shift. Being judged Excellent, let alone Outstanding, wasn't exactly easy to achieve, despite the deceptively straightforward nature of the game and its sometimes seemingly leisurely pace.

It was really all about locomotives: getting the right type attached to outgoing trains, getting the locos that brought the trains in subsequently out of the platforms and (in most instances) to the station's loco yard for refuelling. The judgment on one's performance was based around timekeeping – essentially, getting trains out on time, and not keeping them waiting to come in from elsewhere on either of the 'up' lines (Up Fast and Up Slow). Although the slow line arrivals always keep to time, there are random early and late arrivals of various time-shifts on the Up Fast (UF) track.

Come forward several years and Acorn's Archimedes computer and its successors supplanted the old BBC Micros for most purposes (there are still some Beebs running factory machinery and doing other jobs even today). I was delighted when The Data Store in Bromley released an updated version of the KingsX game to run in the newer computers' desktop, fully multi-tasking, and all in one display...

The loco yard now appears at the bottom-right of the display area, rather than in a separate screen as it had to in the old Beeb version. From this we can see a few of the complications.

For example, the West Bay (WB) where the Motorail from time to time asks for a shunting locomotive (Class 31) to take some coaches to the Ferme Park depot near Finsbury Park. The loco Hold point (H) causes a blockage of the Up Slow (US) line every single time a loco moves to or from that point. It takes three minutes (the game advances in half-minute 'jumps' at ten times real life speed, i.e. every three seconds) for a loco to get to the Hold point from a platform or the yard, so it's quite an impediment.

On top of this, the occasional parcels train needs to go into platform 1, so that has to be clear of stock and locos in time for their arrivals – and those trains can (and often do) run early or late, sometimes by quite a few minutes.

The two suburban services – half-hourly to Royston and the hourly semi-fast – have to go on platforms 9 and 10 (and nothing else can go on either of those platforms). Sometimes an incoming train doesn't form an outgoing service, but after a while asks for a (shunting) loco to take it to the depot.

Thus we end up with a surprisingly complex scenario; and at certain times during the simulated work-shift it becomes just about impossible to keep to timetable, even when everything arrives on time thus creating no deviations from a nominal pattern. For example, at just after 9 am, a situation arises whereby there just isn't any platform available for an incoming train until after it has been held up at a red signal outside the station.

There is no way around this; and even solving that with a minimal delay then, of necessity, holds up the outgoing semi-fast suburban service at 0908 hrs, which ends up departing a minute late. There are a couple of other sticky moments in a similar vein; and several periods when, because of other movements, it is very difficult to get all the needed locomotives out of the yard and attached to trains in time for their scheduled departures.

Overall, this relatively simple simulation is actually quite a challenge. A hugely bigger such game, called simply Signal Box, is vast by comparison, and unless one has a display some 4,000 pixels wide will always involve sideways scrolling so one never gets an all-at-once view of what is going on. I can't really do that one, I have found.

Perhaps if someone were to produce something in between that will fit on a modern HD (1,920 pixels wide) display, that might be manageable. In the meantime, I still have an occasional go at KingsX, at which I am now usually rated as Outstanding!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Monaxle Photo-Walk Pictures

Back in August 2009 I participated in the photo-walk in recognition of the ordeal through which local photographer Monaxle had been put by over-zealous police. Mark Reckless, at that time just a candidate and not yet an MP, posted this concerning the incident.

At the time of the photo-walk I posted this short item with the photos themselves being stored and made publicly visible elsewhere.

Since then, that photo-hosting social media site has been taken down, so here is the full set of 35 photos I took on that occasion. Clicking on any of the following images will display a larger version (though still reduced in size from the original to be manageable on a normal computer display) and your browser's Back button then enables you to return to this page...