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...

Music and Images from Dinotopia

This is a good reminder of the striking imagery of James Gurney's Dinotopia, which for me at least was probably the most compelling aspect of the mini-series (I was never as keen on the full episodic series) and of Trevor Jones' music, of which there are several themes in this selection...

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday 2012

This year Remembrance Sunday has fallen on the 11th day of the 11th month, and as always the two minutes silence was observed at the 11th hour of this day.

I was at the War Memorial on nearby Victoria Gardens in Chatham, along with around 180 other adults and (less visibly, but only because of their height, or lack thereof) a good sixty or more younger folk, many from Scout/Cub/Guides/Cadets troupes and similar. There were a few dogs with their owners too, including one with poppies all around its collar.

We also had the local Salvation Army band, who played Abide With Me, Rule Britannia, some themes from around the United Kingdom (e.g. Men of Harlech and The Londonderry Air) and finally the National Anthem.

I carefully and respectfully took a number of photographs non-intrusively at the event itself, and another batch close to Chatham railway station as the band-led procession marched past on its way back from Victoria Gardens. Here are just a few of the more than thirty I took.

First, at the War Memorial...

Then, the parade...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Tweet of the Day – 8 November 2012

From local Lib Dem blogger and twitterer Chris Sams, the 'Ginger Liberal', quoting Winston Churchill...
"Churchill once said 'if you aren't a liberal in your youth you've no heart. If you aren't a Tory later in life you've no brain'."
I hadn't encountered this before. Of course, as regular readers here will no doubt have spotted already, this echoes the sentiments I have expressed on a few occasions that – looking at the same thing from another direction – there are clues in the fact that older folk are generally more likely to vote Conservative, whereas youngsters tend on the whole to be more on the Left in their outlook including voting patterns.

It takes a rare kind of youngster to bypass that early Lefty stage – although doing so doesn't actually, in and of itself, make them 'heartless' – it's more complex than that, as life tends to be, i.e. multi-dimensional, not merely black-and-white as some (typically those with vested interests of one kind or another) like to portray such matters.

Thus, yet again from Winston, a seemingly simple enough sentence carries layers of understanding within it, and the genuinely perceptive will recognise those nuances.

Pokémon Opening Themes

All fourteen of them, with the words provided as well! Now, all together...

"I wanna be the very best, like no-one ever was..."

Monday, 5 November 2012

Please to Remember

Yes, it's Guy Fawkes' Night tonight; and Cranmer offers us his customarily thoughtful angle on what happened all those years ago that resulted in this annual event.

It's a good one, reminding us how the actions of a group of Catholics (along with a couple of Jesuit priests) led to a religion-based exclusion in a number of important areas of occupation of Catholics from the capital of England. The incident helped make it easy to add to a period of existing persecution of Catholics here at that time.

His Grace's closing paragraph sums it all up, as an ongoing lesson for us all...
"Today we celebrate our national freedom, and remember the many innocent observers who were caught in the fray. Never again must a foreign prince have authority in this Realm, and never again must religion be a tool of hatred, oppression and persecution."
It can be very difficult, when an authority figure or body is under pressure from a mass of outraged public who are demanding action, to avoid falling into one of the prepared (by the devil, usually) traps. In an attempt to satisfy the people that action has been taken to avoid a repetition of anything of similar nature, a common element that can be identified and therefore managed can be the only apparent way out of a situation.

Any deferral for wiser counsel to ultimately prevail will be attributed to dithering, cowardice or even of being secret complicit in the crime (or whatever it was) – and when one has political opponents they will use any such delay in any or all of those ways, and no doubt others as well, if they can devise them.

Such is human nature, and the ability of the unscrupulous and self-serving to manipulate others and events to suit their own ends. It is one of the reasons I am so hot on the trail of that aspect of political life, and why I expose it from time to time, to remind my readers that this is how some operate. I could make a full-time job of that side of things alone, but that would become tedious and, eventually, even boring – so I moderate that part of what I do here.

However, as an object lesson, the fallout from the Gunpowder Plot serves as a useful lesson from history that applies equally to today's world, and even to today's England or Britain.

We have seen how whole groups, able to be described in simple enough terms to be used as tabloid headlines (for example), have been tarred with a particular brush, even in recent years. Sometimes there is a broad correlation between the category/description and the problem/criminality, whereas in other cases there isn't.

We, as a species, need to mature enough to avoid the pitfalls of easy categorisation (if that's a word!) which we clearly haven't done so far. Because of the numbers game, and having to appeal to – and be understood by – the lowest common denominator in our society, simplistic solutions are an easy and attractive option.

As the Gunpowder Plot shows, though, simplistic extrapolation on the basis of (say) a religion is not, certainly in most cases if not all, the right approach, and can so easily lead to completely disproportionate and inappropriate consequences..

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the essence of today's lesson: be prepared to let wiser and cooler heads prevail without pressuring them when one's thinking is clouded by excessive emotion. Passionate feelings about something can be a useful tool when applied wisely, but all too often lead us all astray, especially in mob, party and other group situations.

We all need to be alert to the danger, and resist the pressures of others to head in a bad direction, especially at times of outrage...

Tweet of the Day – 4 November 2012

From Sophy Ridge of Sky, on the US presidential race...
"In Colorado Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson looks to be stealing more votes from Obama than Romney.Vote on knife edge,could make big diff"
With just two days to go, this is significant late-in-the-day news. In fact, Romney is probably doing better in general than some think – though whether it will be enough we shall not know until it's all over and the final result is announced.

Meanwhile,over here, Paddy Power have already paid out the 'winnings' to those who bet on Obama – two days early!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Tweet of the Day – 3 November 2012

One for the IT geeks, from FactHive, re-formatted for ease of reading...

"Price of 1 gigabyte of storage over time:
  • 1981 $300,000
  • 1987 $50,000
  • 1990 $10,000
  • 1994 $1,000
  • 1997 $100
  • 2000 $10
  • 2004 $1
  • 2012 $0.10 "

In fact, this was tweeted a couple of days ago, but I don't follow FactHive (I hadn't even heard of the account before) and picked it up from a re-tweet dated today. I thought it might be of interest to at least a few of my regular readers, so worthy of inclusion in this series.

The point this tweet makes is of course the old one about the costs of any particular technology reducing over time. Once the costs of developing a new technology have been recouped, that can come off the sale price of the end product, aided also by refinement in production techniques gained with experience, mass-production when it goes mainstream in the marketplace, and competition from others in the same line of business.

It happened with pocket calculators (originally sold for well over £100, now often given away with something else) and many other technology-based innovations. I saw a lot of it happen within the hi-fi market during my time working in that sector's retail business, so for me it is old hat: I've known of the phenomenon for more than four decades now.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Long Before the iPad

The current popularity of 'tablets' such as Apple's iPad is an interesting development. The earliest such device I am aware of, though, goes back to 1996 – yes, sixteen years ago!

This was Acorn's NewsPAD (News Personal Access Device) that downloaded news and similar information automatically, according to your specifications. Thus you could pick from categories, and also set up include or exclude filters (e.g. include pets but exclude hamsters) to tailor your downloads.

Here is the NewsPAD...

The device was designed specifically for Spain, where the data structure and download facilities to provide the information and work with the (then new) technology were being put in place. The NewsPAD itself operated via a touch-screen as is the norm for such devices...but note from the photograph that it was a RISC OS system (the icon bar is a real give-away) on a 10·4" display of 800 x 600 pixels.

It could also drive an external monitor at up to 1,600 x 600 pixels, though at a reduced colour depth. As one might expect, it had CD-quality stereo sound capability and even a built-in speaker, as well as the headphones output for top-quality listening.

Of course, it also featured the world's best and clearest text display with no colour fringing (unlike on Microsoft and Apple systems, for example), there was a docking station facility and much more besides.

Thus it is worth remembering that, when you next power-up your shiny new iPad or whatever, it's really not that new an idea at all...