Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Impossible Mission of Gromit Hunting Adventures

More Gromits have been found !
That's Cupid, the latest one from tonight. Very pink. Extremely pink. I actually drove past this one the other day but ... no pic, no claim ! And I don't use the phone when I'm driving :-). (There are exceptions).

Except for some downpours over the weekend and scattered downpours since, it's been very hot over here. Not as hot as a lot of places ... but a bit too hot for British buildings designed more to keep the heat in. So I've been holding off on the big Gromit Hunt that'll involve walks of around 7.5 miles in Bristol centre.

However ... I did have an excuse to do some driving (read - hiding in the car with the air con) to visit some of the outlying Gromits.
There's Pickles McPrickles over in Southmead. I just noticed that the poses of the Gromits are different. Bit tricky to find this one.

A quick hop over to the big open space of Blaise Castle :
I think there was more Castle too somewhere but I was parked in an awkward spot and needed to hustle !
Peek A Boo ! And a need to hide the little girl who was in shot. Gotta hide that from the internet due to the weird people.

(Bums of people retreating from shot are fine !)
A hop over to Thornbury where I found a book shop ... I didn't see much of my favoured scifi in there so I moved swiftly on. I had some time ... but not that much. And the rumbly belly was telling me to go eat too.
A very green Honeysuckle Rose keeping an eye on Thornbury's High Street.
Last one ! This one is an extremely colourful Toto residing for now in Winterbourne.

I'm at 11 now out of 67, with most of them in the city centre. More to come !

After Toto, the plan was to head back into almost the centre to what's become my favoured cinema over at Avonmeads. It's a pretty dead cinema (was just me plus 3 stranger people) which means minimal interruptions.

The film ? The latest Mission Impossible. These films just keep getting better and better. They are silly action movies but pull it off with great style. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Recommended !

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Adventures in Azeroth (and laptop temptation)

I've been enjoying my time in Azeroth since coming back into World of Warcraft.

I've switched servers again to join a guild run by the lovely Katherine Of Sky. Well, she doesn't really run it, more like being the Queen of the guild while the Guild Master type stuff is done by another couple of players. I've been enjoying having that guild chat going again while I descend into that power levelling focus I get myself into.
The guild is called Chasing Rainbows and there's Tashmetu, my shaman, enjoying the new tabard. It has a rainbow on it ! Oh and I have a hat. Hats are awesome.

Tash's story started on an island. Except it's not an island ...
Big turtle ! While you play through the story of that zone, you can see the turtle's flippers going up and down in the background. Good stuff.

There have been other escapades so far, like spraying a Mosshide fella with something that made him irresistable.
Curse that sudden yet inevitable betrayal. That line worked better in Firefly though.
It was an excellent disguise though. Oh, the shaman runs around as a puppy too.
At least, most of the time as a puppy. For this character, the playstyle tends to be to run around as the Ghost Wolf, dash up to the mobs and then ... Suddenly Shaman ! WHACK. Here seen admiring the lady in green.
And later, on a mission. Tash determined to get the dwarf his ale before the head dissipates.
Oh and Tash's Guide To Not Allowing Fish To Escape : Catch it with rod, hit it with the hammer.

It's not all work though. Here we come back to that dancing figure of the first picture ... Heroes gotta let loose and have some fun too sometimes.
Auction House dance party. Good times.

It's been very enjoyable coming back in to play with the Chasing Rainbows guild. You can find out more by having a peek at Katherine Of Sky's videos (link to the right). She's been doing a series of very short videos on pet battles. Well worth a peek.

Oh and I appear to have booked a week off work just as the new expansion hits. A complete coincidence of course ... One target is to get my boosted maximum level character through all of the previous expansion's zones before then. I have been enjoying the shaman more though. There's a kind of story that unfolds as you go through, rather than the BANG max level of the boosted character. The lower levels are simpler too, it feels like there's a lot going on to try and keep up with at the highest levels.

Laptops and temptation ?

I nearly bought one tonight. I'm very curious to know what readers think of the Asus laptops. That's the stand out favourite for me at the moment. The one at the local pooter store has been discounted to £750, whereas I could buy a marginally better one online for £700.

Temptation is real ...

But I resisted tonight. The Mall run was successful :

Chinos acquired - for Gromit Hunting and wear while it's so hot (Britain is melting). My current jeans were too thick and stifling for comfortable long distance walking.
Potion of Brain Freezing - lush.

PS Addon. Don't give the Bitdefender people any money (They're an antivirus company). You will never hear the end of it ... I just got another begging email from them today asking me to buy their latest product despite me deleting my account there and unsubscribing my email from them.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Books 24 and 25 - Classic Wraith Ships

Haha. Not Stargate Atlantis, although the Wraiths in that were a fairly decent (if over melodramatic) enemy.

Nah. Two more books completed, Wraith Squadron by Aaron Allston and something I picked up called Classic Ships. I enjoyed both of them and the Classic Ships book was a nice little in between one before I dive into the next Wraith Squadron book.

What is Wraith Squadron ?
It's a book that I feel is very definitely inspired by the X Wing games and the successors that were so excellent for their time on the PC.

They're from the first age of space games on the PC and the X Wing series had massive competition from games like Wing Commander (never played) and later Freespace (own but too busy with Tie Fighter). The screenshot above is from X Wing Alliance, which was a fairly late entry in the series, almost the last game actually.

The systems from the games are interwoven into the series of XWing books. It doesn't restrict the books at all, it somewhat adds to them as the game mechanics give them a skeleton to build up good space combat action sequences. But the stories aren't all about that.

Whereas the Rogue Squadron books were about a squadron of elite pilots, Wraith Squadron is about a far more interesting set of misfit characters who are on their last chances before losing their chance to fly space fighters. And it's not just about the space combat, the characters are brought together for their covert intrusion skills.

It all makes for a quite packed book where you really don't know where it's going to be going next. And that's just the plot. It's jammed full of character interaction too. The characters grow throughout the book. They change in more obvious ways than is usual for a book, at least the books I've been reading lately. Oh and the author has huge amounts of fun with his characters as well, with a few running jokes going through the story and relentless humour brought out when you're least expecting it.

If you understand Star Wars, you will definitely enjoy this book. If you're coming into it without reading too much of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe (the one that's been written out now!) then I think you'd enjoy it as well.

One thing about Wraith Squadron is those characters ... Outside of a couple of the regulars, they are all unknown. Which means no plot armour .... (Plot armour is when you have a major character like Luke, Leia, Han who has to stay around for future books, they won't be dying). And no plot armour and the style of this particular series means that death can happen at any time to the characters involved.

I like that. It adds in a certain uncertainty that adds a lot of interest to the book for me. In fact, one particular superbly dramatic scene had remained in my memory from my last reading which must be many, many years ago.

Next up is the second Wraith Squadron book, Iron Fist.

I quite enjoyed racing through Book 25 yesterday evening as well. It was Classic Ships, which I picked up thinking it would have lots of lovely pictures in (it does). A short book of just 123 pages, it goes from Tall Ships, to working ships, to ocean liners and gives you a few words about each.

It's curious to see how the ship designs changed over the years. I was especially curious about the low, thin and very long designs of the tall ships and the earlier steam driven ships. It feels like we started with clean lines, went all bumpy around the two World Wars and now we're back to cleaner lines again.

An enjoyable read.

In other news ...

Tap is still winning. I get the feeling it needs the old adaptor and its pipe chopped off and a new fitting applied. That's a job for a professional plumber.
Me ? I am super tired but I've booked a week off work in 3 weeks. If it gets cooler then that'll help. The heat wipes me out. This weekend will be chilling out with a few domestics to do.
And more healing too. Almost there.

And reading ! Around streams and Warcraft that is. Never go adventuring without a great looking hat.
That's Tashmetu, Shaman in Training.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Book 23 Between Planets, between ..... taps ...

Short one tonight cos I'm behind on these book posts again !
Book 23 was Between Planets by Robert Heinlein, not one of his best. Not quite as bad as what Farnham's Freehold turned out to be (a great premise but went in a really bad and highly racist direction). But nowhere near the standard of some of his other books like Starship Troopers, Time Enough For Love and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. Oh and Friday too. Friday is an exceptional roller coaster of a book, may have to read that one again.

This one follows young Don Harvey as he escapes Earth just at the .... spoilers redacted ... Ok. Less spoilers. The story is about attempting to get between Earth and Mars, to reach his parents .... while ending up in other areas of the solar system.

The books dates somewhat, as a book written in 1951 is missing much of the innovation that followed. That rarely matters in a Heinlein book though, he writes exceptional scifi about characters, political systems and the somewhat shady arms of enforcement (not necessary legal enforcement) that back up what the political systems are attempting to achieve.

One consistent factor in Heinlein books is that his characters have to survive by either application of force or they have to evade force being applied to them. And often his characters are on the wrong end of Who Has The Bigger Stick.

That's definitely the case in this one where our Don has to escape Earth mostly on his own resources and across the solar system definitely by his own initiative.

A bit of a slog this one, even for a 170 page story. I wouldn't recommend it but do check out the books above, plus a few more in the Lazarus Long sequences and the multiverse sequence. The Cat Who Walked Through Walls may well find itself in my reading list soon.

Oh ... the reason why I'm somewhat squeezing out this post is because I've already read Book 24. But that's one for another day.

Taps ?
Not that kind of tap.

I've been doing the plumbing again ... I think the mains water pressure has gone up over the weekend as a consequence to them fixing something and I believe that's too much for one of my old taps. It has been dripping ...

I have the replacement tap and know how to fix it but. The new pipes are the wrong size ! And I can't use the old pipes because they're brazed into the old tap !


It has defeated me tonight but I shall return anew. With different pipes. I've left things in a state where there are no drips so the old taps will be good for a few more days. Water pressure is a bit low though.

And it's still too warm ! Also humid. Hopefully it'll cool down soon but after doing a little walk to Arnos Vale cemetary on Friday for another Gromit viewing :
That's number 6 for me, Dias De Las Perros. Oh ... after realising that my jeans are a little too heavy a material to go walking long distance in. Will have to investigate options before embarking on the very long walks.

Film was good too. I saw Skyscraper as the only person in the showing (Avonmeads is like that and it's why I keep going back there). I'd sum it up as enjoyable garbage. Dwayne Johnson does have a habit of making highly enjoyable films to watch. Sure, the plotline and background is complete garbage ... but they're fun to sit through and they cheer you up.

Mindless fun if you will and it set me up well for the weekend.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Concorde ! And More !

Oh well so much for the football. I actually watched the game this time. I don't tend to watch much football because it's a pit of dishonesty and the players are by and large, the opposite of good sportsmen playing totally without honour.

But it's been a good world cup so far with some unpredictable results. Predictability is boring.

And I never predicted what I'd see at the Bristol Aerospace museum last week ...
Although I did know that the lovely lady of the skies, Concorde would be there. Beautiful aircraft, hopefully we'll see something similar in the future. In this case, form fitted function and function led to a design which was one of the most gorgeous, iconic shapes there has ever been for an aircraft. A technological marvel too, overcoming so many obstacles and making a success of the concept.

But Bristol Aerospace wasn't just about the Pretty Plane. (Did you like the segway from World Cup to Fun Stuff by the way ? :-D ). No. I was hunting the slide rules. Most of what you're about to see was designed before the computer age. Minimal technology, just rulers, protractors, skilled draftsmen and .... (hushed tone) .... slide rules. The calculators of most of the 20th century and before !
The exhibition opens with a pair of biplanes, which look in so good a condition they could probably still fly. And land. Landing is important, especially landing without crashing. Above is a Bristol Fighter and below is a Scout Replica :
These planes were designed around 100 years ago. Not just planes :
If my memory's good, that's a Hercules 9 cylinder rotary engine. Crankshaft is in the middle and drives the prop, probably through a reduction gear. There's a display on how they used to build the propellers too.
And the tools used to design them. Still haven't found that slide rule yet.
A Centaurus rotary combustion engine. This one weaves another bank of cylinders in around the crankshaft.
And the Bristol Beaufighter cockpit that would be in the middle of those engines. (Until the Merlin arrived!) Curious to see what conditions our airmen would have fought their wars in.
Early twin rotor transport helicopter, a forerunner of the Chinook. I believe the front end had a Bristol postcode and the back end had a Bath postcode. This was looooong!
No computers in that airliner cockpit ... Oh - click for bigger by the way !

They didn't just have planes and helicopters there ... This is the Bloodhound missile. Kerbals would be proud of it. More boosters ! Not enough ? Add even more boosters ! This was our long range air defence missile last century.
And more missiles :
From left to right that's :
Rapier - British Army short to medium range surface to air missile;
Sea Wolf in a canister - Royal Navy short range surface to air missile;
Upper layer - Sea Wolf out of its canister. Thought it would be bigger !
Upper right - Sea Skua, a small scale Naval antiship missile.
Lower right - Sea Dart, a medium range air defence missile.

Good stuff !
As was this, the Olympus gas turbine engine which powered planes, ships probably trains too. Bit big for automobiles and I think it got retired in favour of engines like the Trent because it's thin .... the wide body diameter of modern gas turbines is due to a bypass fan which is of much higher diameter than the rest of the engine, which leads to the much quieter operation demanded by pretty much all operators and airports now.
An old Harrier, we believe Sea Harrier (I should have looked more closely !) because the nose is big. As a rule - Sea Harrier : has a big nose hiding a big radar that's used to do targeting for missiles. Harrier GR series - small nose without much of a radar in it. Sadly the Harriers became too expensive to keep going so we had to give them up. Looking forward to good stuff from the F-35 though.
There we go. The museum is great but the main even is definitely the retired Concorde.
There's a quite informative and interesting set of movies played on the skin of both the front fuselage and :
Showing the innovation in those engine systems that allowed effective and efficient operation across the whole speed range of the aircraft.
First civilian fly by wire cockpit managing all of the technology. They had a few standalone displays off the aircraft, showing how much the pilots and crew would need to manage to engage safe and efficient flight.
More cramped than I thought it would be .... Both my elbows were touching the sides here.
All in all, I had a great excuse to spend my Friday afternoon cooldown time hunting a Gromit and checking out an exhibition of aerospace in Filton tracking its history over the last 100 years.

I would thoroughly recommend giving it a visit. Oh and until September, it will have my excuse to visit :
Gromjet !

PS Never did find the slide rules.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Book 22 - A Mercy Kill (and other things!)

Book 22 - Mercy Kill by Aaron Allston.
This one is another Star Wars book, picking up the story of Wraith Squadron in the old (non-canon) Expanded Universe about 10 years after the conclusion of the Yuuzhan Vong war. I have to admit, I stopped reading the Expanded Universe books sometime around the middle of the Yuuzhan Vong books, so I've missed a lot.

But that doesn't really matter that much here. There are a series of flashbacks that bridge the gap from the earlier (up to about 5 years after RotJ) books up to this one and it's centred after one returning character in particular with a couple of cameos from older characters as well.

I really enjoyed this one. It's a worthy successor to the earlier books and is a great addition to the series. The really sad thing is : the author died a few years ago at an early 53 so there won't be any more ! He didn't write many books outside of Star Wars EU but this book made me remember the earlier Wraith Squadron books and I'll be reading those again sometime soon.

What is Wraith Squadron ?

Whereas the normal Star Wars thing is about heroes, this one is about the misfits. The original trilogy picked up from the earlier Rogue Squadron books, by having Wedge Antilles (ace pilot) recruit a set of misfit characters who were decent pilots but what he really wanted was intrusion specialists. So whereas Rogue Squadron had elite pilots with average intrusion skills, these were characters who could operate behind enemy lines with minimal support and get the job done.

And along the way, much fun is had with these very special characters. You get attached to them, you laugh at the unexpected japes that pop up throughout the books and the books always surprise you with their humour. And then they'll also surprise you with how you feel for the characters when they get hurt, trapped or ... die ... Yep. While the normal Star Wars characters like Han Solo, Luke, Leia, Chewie have a certain plot armour*, these characters definitely don't ... And that adds a certain tension to the books.

*Chewie's end in the first Yuuzhan Vong book is spectacular - you're unlikely to read it so spoilers : he's left behind on a planet which is having a MOON dropped on it by the Yuuzhan Vong. The Falcon leaves, with Han Solo unable to rescue his life buddy leading to PTSD through the next few books. Chewie howls his rage at the moon before being engulfed.

Yep. Wraith Squadron Mercy Kill - great book. I'd thoroughly recommend it for the Star Wars fan but .... definitely read the earlier Rogue Squadron books by Michael Stackpole and the other Wraith Squadron books first.

Other things ? Here's a taster :
And ....
 Shiny things were looked at yesterday. It is darn hot though :
See that 34 degrees C ? I've seen hotter temperatures from the sensors in the car but not that much hotter. To be fair, this was taken when coming back to the car after Bristol Aerospace and the car was facing the sun.

Let's just say I checked phone stuff for a few minutes before attempting to drive so that the cooling systems could cool the cabin (and the steering wheel) down a bit. Safety note - picture was taken while the car was technically engine on (Ready light) but if you take a peek, the P says it's in Park mode (not going anywhere) and the red indicator is for the parking brake. Oh and the EV on the left is declaring that the engine isn't on too ! Running on battery at that point.

I have a few posts lined up for writing too - I'm almost through Book 23, which is a Heinlein book and I have a good few more pics to show from Bristol Aerospace.

Apart from that - busy viewing today with cricket, Formula 1 and .... perhaps even football on. Oh and the new washing machine has arrived !

Monday, July 02, 2018

Gromit is Coming

I've been remembering 3 years ago today.

Not 2nd July 2015 but a more generalised period around that time. It was the time of the Great Shaun Hunt :
I managed to get around 37 of the various Shauns dotted around Bristol, I'd have liked to do more but I hadn't quite recovered enough at that point.

It's curious to remember back though. I was comparing Shaun Counts to a few people. Can't remember how I did compared to their Shaun Counts. I know that the treasure that is Snow Queen managed to see the lot. I ran into the Snow Queen again today and she's still a little wonder.

LTK saw a few more than me I think, as did the Eve fanatic that is Luth. I mentioned the game Empyrion to Luth today. Maybe tempted him. It's in my Steam sale shopping cart now, haven't quite bought it. It's been amusing to watch the FuzzyFreak (see link to the right) stream Empyrion for the last week or so. It was a shaky start until she got into the spaceships but it's a game that's all about the space ships.

And it's given me a few ideas and thoughts for ships that I'd build. A few of them would resemble the scifi spaceships like the Babylon 5 Starfury, BSG Viper is a bit boring, the Star Wars ships are definitely candidates. Oh and a couple of capital ship ideas that would look suspiciously like a Death Star (call it the Dragon Ball) or the Galactica (call it the Dragon Star).

We shall see. I happen to have a template for what could become the Dragon Ball :
Oh ! There was another person who couldn't take part in the Shaun Hunt when it was on because she had suffered a badly broken ankle and wasn't mobile. So it became a mission to do the walks myself and get pictures across.

At least as far as I could get around the trails.

This was 2015 when I was starting to get into the recovery phase for my battered arms and legs. I think my legs had returned to their normal sizes instead of being swollen and my arms were starting to repair too. And it's taken another 3 years for repairs to continue ... and the repairs aren't quite finished yet.

Part of that is my fault again due to redamaging the bits that are struggling to heal. Part of it is down to just how extensive the damage I got ended up being.

Almost healed now. There are a few hold out bits on my knees and toes but ... almost there.

I'm holding off on doing the trails just yet though. It's still freakishly warm in a very uncomfortable kind of way. Felt perhaps a little better today wearing my light coloured jacket while outside though.

They're around for a couple of months. If I could find a downloadable map, I'd post it (sadly no map online although it's in the app). I'll hold off a little until it gets cooler, plus I'm planning to take some leave in August which should be a good opportunity.

Some of them are spread around a bit in car trip kind of range. Possible coffee shop crawl ?


PS In other news - XWing Wraith Squadron Mercy Kill - finished. Excellent read, must post review soon. Robert Heinlein Between Planets is next.
PPS I had another PS but my brain melted before I could post it.
PPPS That was it ! Golden Globe round the world yacht race started yesterday. Definitely following that one and cheering on Brit lady Susie Goodall. She's in the middle of the fleet at the moment, early days.