Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The tiniest X Wing

Bit more Lego therapy today.

There's more of that to come because a Rather Large Parcel arrived in the post ... More of that later. But first .... teaser pic !
What could the new arrival be ?
From humble beginnings ...
A sturdy shell.
An elegant fuselage.
Four powerful engines.
A pair of wings ... Wait. Something's missing ?
There we go. And it's already off to battle the Empire.
Cruising to the scene of the battle ... (and yes, that is an envelope providing my contrast background !)
S Foils to Attack Position ...
And form up in formation, STAY ON TARGET ! And watch out for those Tie Fighters.

This one was from Comic Con and it was a lovely little quick build. If you want one, Ebay should point you in the right direction, here's the packet with the kit number !
But I've had the mini XWing waiting for me for a while. What arrived today ?
Something shiny. Looking forward to putting both of those together.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book 20 - a Story of Battletech (plus more from the weekend)

Is it cheeky claiming the story of a game as a book ?

Perhaps. Some games are blurring the line there though. Either it's a game that's more about the story or it's a visual novel with gameplay elements within. And then there are the old Fighting Fantasy style books that were a game in a book.

But Battletech ... a common element of strategy games like this will be to use a story to tie together the missions perhaps with a good few randomly generated missions thrown in too for either padding the game length out or to give your people something to do between story missions to make them stronger.

I'm going to start off with a : The story isn't awful.

That's a really bad thing to say about it isn't it .... The story in Battletech starts off brightly with you having to flee the planet where you are employed, escaping just ahead of a coup. It is a classic set up where the bad guys take over at the start and your role is to gather strength so you can counter usurp them later. Oh and the bad guys are really really bad. Our people are plucky mercenaries pretty much on the neutral side of neutral. But we're getting paid the big bucks to help out the former leader of the Aurigan Reach.

I definitely enjoyed the game ... but there is some real boneheaded stuff in the backstory leading through. Sometimes it feels like characters are doing stupid things just to kick off elements of the story.

Mind you, the movie Interstellar was just like that as well and that's a film I'll watch repeatedly. Sure, the set up is nasty but what they do with that is fantastic.

There's good voice acting here, I actually thought it was Maggie Q playing the leader for a while.

So Battletech - a great game, story could have been better as it reached its end but then the aim of the story in these games is to set up great missions and I think it does that. It may actually prompt me to look at some Battletech books. A while ago, I read the Mechwarrior Dark Age - Ghost War book by Michael Stackpole and highly enjoyed it.

But I'm not likely to go straight back in to replay the campaign. I'm actually more likely to replay MechCommander 2 from a good few years ago.

To the weekend ?

I needed the recovery time from Lords. My legs were definitely feeling that. And then I go straight into an all nighter watching Le Mans. Not as good a race this year as the racing has been. Let's see :

Toyota were unchallenged and their only reliability issue this year was an error in the head of one of the drivers when he missed his "You need to pit now" and almost ran out of fuel.
Jenson Button's car decided to throw a bad sensor, which put them 50 laps behind. They were racing hard when they got back in the race but the car expired about 90 minutes before the end. A shame. Hope he's back next year.
Aston Martin's car just didn't work for them this year. They said it was very good with speed and handling up to a certain point ... where it felt like it was hitting a brick wall. So the Aston Martins came nowhere. Hope they figure that one out.

Gaming - finished Battletech ! See above.
Finished Motorsport Manager too, with the last few races of the season. The other teams were keeping me honest by making sure I couldn't get away without thinking through strategy for the last few races but my team still reigned supreme. This is a snowballing type of game, where if you set things up right, the team will continue to march ahead of the competition. That gets boring ...

All nighter ? I managed to stay awake for the whole of the race ! I wouldn't recommend that. I think the hallucinations were starting to come in at about 9pm last night and I was definitely feeling it even by around 4pm yesterday.

I may have ordered more Lego too.

The laptop replacement is being pushed right again. The place I'd get it from have pushed the price up by £50 and that definitely tips it over into "ain't worth it". Oh and one of the issues with the last one where I thought the screen was burning out has been fixed by ....... turning the brightness up.

Back to work tomorrow ! More chill out tonight.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Sporty Saturday. And Thursday. And Sunday.

Le Mans today !
Actually been quite busy over this week, although busy actually means "busy recovering" for some of that.

Wednesday was a business trip, Thursday was Lords. Friday was recovering from Lords (left house at 7am, got back in at 1am, needed until about 3.30am until sleep would be reasonable). Saturday morning currently sees me watching the build up to Le Mans on the telly* and the cricket in another window on my desktop as I type. I also have the Idle Champions game running in yet another window. Having sport on my desktop means no gaming ... but that doesn't exclude the simple clicker game.

Cricket will continue until probably 7pm, at which point I'll head off to acquire pizza while I have Le Mans paused for catching up later in the myriad advert breaks. Le Mans racing will go from about 2.30pm to 2.30pm tomorrow.

*Cricket on desktop, Le Mans on telly ? Hopefully it has improved but in previous years it has proved a nightmare to watch the Eurosport on computer. You usually have to buy another subscription for something I already have a subscription to watch. Not doing that.

Lords ?
Was looking great as usual. There was a light drizzle as I arrived, heading through the back of the ground to the main stadium. Off to the left is the Nursery practice ground with that curiously modern Media Centre (wiki link) opened in 1999. Crikey, almost 20 years ago already.
Home of cricket putting its best sides forward, despite the drizzly start. They did very well to get play happening on time.
Army batting first against Navy bowling. It was a tight start but the Army batsmen broke out of the shackles later on to score 149.
As is usual for these, click for bigger. Most of the pictures are from my Canon Ixus 265 compact digital camera, which I love. A picture like the one above was taken at full optical zoom (16x) with it braced rather agriculturally on my knee. It's great for these long shots when it has that bracing, not so much for close shots where the focusing isn't quite quick enough to cut out any shake or motion blur. I do like it when I get the timing right to get the ball in shot though.
Navy celebrate the fall of another Army wicket.
A comfortable crowd providing a little bit of atmosphere. These games pull in a few people, both from Interservices support (like me!) and a few Lords regulars who want to watch the cricket in a great stadium. They open up the Mound and Tavern stands to the public but not the other stand on the other side. The Pavilion is for members only. Smart people. Not me !
We had drama throughout the day, including here where the fielder looks perplexed and more than a tad frustrated after his efforts to secure an excellent running in catch were wiped away by it being a no-ball for the bowler overstepping.
Half time and we're off to hunt down some tea.
Pitch must have been nicely lively.
Especially with the Army bowlers lobbing in grenades.
We had a minute of silence observed on Thursday for the Grenfell Tower Block disaster. The teams paused the game a few minutes early to line up in front of the Pavilion.
And the crowd stood in their own mark of respect. A wonderfully observed minute of silence and I'd particularly note how everyone anticipated it, like this picture being taken a couple of minutes before with everyone standing in respect already. It was more like a 5 minutes of silence.
Back to the cricket and the Army celebrate a steady fall of Navy wickets. This time a batsman looking rather perplexed at being given lbw.
An aggressive stride ! But I don't the ball has gone quite where he intended ... To steal a phrase from history, "What's wrong with our bats today ?" "Sir, I don't think they're using their bats." Navy come a distant third, losing by 42 runs.
The winners get a break in this tournament with the losers staying on for the second game, so next up was the Navy vs the RAF.
RAF started brighter but the wickets started coming again. This opener got a tickly one.
RAF get 149 again, time for the Navy to take their turn. They have an ok side but haven't been in the same league as RAF or Army for the last few years.
Lots of ambition though.
But they could never keep up with the rate as the wickets fell and were well short at the end. RAF win by 49.
There is no lonelier figure in cricket than the Number 11 batsman walking away from shattered stumps at the moment of defeat.
Time for another break and the best tea shop in Lords ! It's under the new Warner stand.
Game 3 ! Army vs RAF, winner gets the trophy. The RAF batted well here with power and occasional skill :
A subtle guiding of the ball and the RAF finish on 147. Time for the Army !
The Army walked into a bit of a stranglehold, struggling to get any runs away. This was representative of the energy shown by the RAF in the field, appealing vigorously for this lbw. His partner was out shortly after and the Army continually struggled to get up with the run rate.
More subtlety on show, this time from the Army batsmen guiding the ball down to the boundary.
And more lusty blows. Oh and look !!!! SHADOWS !!!!!!! The sun was hiding for most of the day but came out to play a bit later.
It was not to be for the Army though this year as wickets continued to fall, like the sharp stumping above. (I'm especially happy with this shot, the focus is decent, the centreing is reasonable and .... flying bails !)
At the conclusion of proceedings, handshakes all round. Recognition of great play and sportsmanship all round. RAF come out the winners with tea and medals following soon after.

The results weren't particularly close or tense like in previous years but it was a very enjoyable day at the cricket again. The old master can be proud again of what he overlooked :
I'll be back again to say hello to Lords and Old Father Time.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book 19 - A Luciferian Tragedy

Hmm.

Book 19. Oh dear ...
Blake's 7 was a series I was hooked on as a kiddie. It was about a band of intergalactic freedom fighters ... well ok, a bunch of criminals who were on the run from the all powerful and totally evil Federation who wanted to take them down.

There was a lot of nonsense in Blake's 7 with the storylines, as is typical for 70s/80s scifi but you had excellent characters, a classic ship and a couple of remarkable computers. It lost a bit in series 4 (spoilers) but it was still a massive highlight when it came on. I must watch the dvds again at some point.

The theme tune was magic too.

This book is about one character in particular, Kerr Avon and is written by the actor, Paul Darrow. It's published by Big Finish Productions and I'm now incredibly wary about reading any more of their books. The only thing consistent with the series here are the names of the characters Avon and Servalan. Servalan is consistent ... but then it doesn't take much to portray true, ruthless and vicious evil. Avon is a bit different. The series Avon could handle himself in a fight but preferred to avoid fights ... This Avon is a one man unstoppable army.

The setting is different, almost nothing of the technology and universe of the series is carried through to the book. Instead, we have technology that doesn't make sense. A galactic current that carries ships. Helijets going between planets. And other daft stuff that's just .... rubbish.

So if Big Finish have allowed this book to come out ... and it's part of a series, what are they doing with their other books ? Are their Doctor Who books actually Doctor Who ?

At the moment, I'm not too interested in checking them out. You could say that the disastrously bad novelisation here is the fault of the author. But I'd prefer to point the finger at the quality control. This particular book shouldn't have been released with the Blake's 7 label on it.

The story is actually fairly reasonable ... but it doesn't belong in the Blake's 7 universe. I seem to remember saying that about another film/series too quite recently ! Wish I could remember what :-).

On a better note ....

Book 20 is Blake's 7 Afterlife by Tony Attwood who compiled the B7 Programme Guide. When the characters were introduced, they were instantly recognisable. I haven't seen B7 in years but when ... characternameredacted ... spoke, I pictured him in my mind saying the words with the character's mannerisms.

More about Afterlife later. Gotta read it first ! :-).

Friday, June 08, 2018

Boaty Exhausted

I had an unscheduled and a bit spur of the moment visit to Cardiff yesterday ...
Whales in Wales ! And boats too. The Volvo Ocean Race is in town at the moment for the Cardiff stopover. Just two more legs to go in this race and it's been good to be able to follow it closer than previous editions. Things like twitter and Facebook help out a lot there.

One comment before I go any further - if you're interested in going to see the Race Village, go now. They'll be gone on Monday.
Don't miss the boat ! So to speak.

The village is a fair distance by foot from the car parks though so be prepared for that. (Don't do what I do and neglect your fluids and calories, I was impaired and close to flaking out)
A nice view out over the bay.
An odd looking building. Knowing Cardiff's Doctor Who heritage, has it been inspired by the aliens ?
Remember the fallen. This is a WW2 merchant sailors memorial, click for bigger and hopefully legibility on the writing.
I passed by more bones and relics of things long gone. These must have been crane anchor points ? The shore side seemed a bit too shallow to support ships and boats getting in close enough to offload.
There was a decent bit more walking to go from here. This is a different boat shed with a Volvo Ocean Race sign on it.
The most interesting thing in the village for me was a cutaway yacht, showing how the boats are designed. It was a bit of a revelation for me as it corrected errors in the mental map I had for where things were on board. I never realized that the interior would double back underneath where the crew stand and control the rigging and rudder.
Hopefully these will never need to be used, although it was sad to hear of the tragic loss of one of the sailors in the Southern Oceans this year.
The compartment above the engine is where they sleep and forward (right of pic) is the storage and the loo. Aft (left of pic) is the hatch to the outdoors. Bit ickle !
A view of the deck, plus a little bit of the detailing involved. Keep the design neat, understandable and it'll be easier to keep it in good condition and to fix it if it breaks. The domes aft are for the communications, safety and global navigation systems, with the compartment below the deck being where the navigator lives.
A view from the inside. I didn't explore too much because it was a shoes-off area and the carbon fibre floor was very slippy.
Engine ! Not to be used for moving the boat, although that's possible if they lose the sails. This gives power for the systems on board, both electrical and hydraulic. The modern ocean racing yachts use a canting keel. A conventional yacht keel is a big mass that's suspended directly below the boat. It acts as a counterweight when the boat heels over to stop it from capsizing. A canting keel can change the angle, swaying to port or starboard (left or right!) to gain more weight advantage from the mass.

Translation - it swings left and right and makes the boat faster ... but needs hydraulic power to make it work.
A view from the helm. The pillars and levers in the centre are where the grinders operate the winches that trim the boat and raise and lower the sails. You can see the little void in the centreline where the ropes run to the rigging.
But where are the boats ? They said there would be boats !
I've been following Turn The Tide On Plastic most of all, here is their stern. There were lovely sounds coming from the water lapping at the boats.
That's Scallywag,
A few more of the boats,
Vesta's 11th Hour,
A better look at TTOP,
There's AkzoNobel, a company which provided most of the high technology materials, knowledge and design that goes into these boats,
Mapfre,
Dongfeng and ...
Turning back for a better look at Team Brunel's boat. We could get reasonably close access to the boats but the general public was kept away from the jetty where they were moored up.
This looked incredibly tempting and my brain was trying to get me to partake. I should have listened ! :-D.
Back to the old. I wonder how long it has been since these gates were opened. They serve no purpose now, except for tide barriers, as they have filled in the channel behind the bridge I took the picture from.

Merchwise, the village is quite poor. They have bags, waterproofs, hats, more hats, beanies, shirts and the rest but it's very expensive. I'm not paying £30 for a hat. I didn't come away empty handed though :
Think he needs a booster seat. I then disappeared off to the Happy Place :
Which had the desired result :
They're a friendly bunch in there and the girl who was on the till was very keen to talk about Star Wars things.

Fun afternoon/evening out, although I was a bit too late to raid the music shops of Cardiff for a few things I'd like to get hold of. My legs hate me at the moment though. Too much unaccustomed :
They'll get over it and I could do with having more exercise. :-D