Thursday, 23 October 2014

Welcome to Night Vale Live

So on Sunday I headed up to my home city of Birmingham and went to the Glee club to see the Live "Welcome to Night Vale" show. I was surprised about the number of youngsters in the queue with their parents. Apparently the podcast has a high number of young female listeners!

The show started off with a set from The Weather - Mary Epworth. To be honest, i could have done without this. I'm sure she's very good with a band, but her solo guitar playing seemed hesitant at times and she did a song using backing track from an ipad. I couldn't help but think that if you aren't going to have your band with you, then maybe you need to pick different songs from your set to play.

Anyway. On to the show!

Jeffrey Cranor as the mc, who gave a humorous recounting of healthy and safely and rocked an awesome bow-tie. 

Cecil Baldwin as Cecil! You can tell that not only is he an excellent voice actor, but has also done a lot of theatre. He knew how to play with the audience and with his gestures and body brought us into the story further.

And then we have Joseph Fink as Intern Joe. He looks completely different to how I imagined, and it was great to have him on stage.

Then Jeffrey came back on to do a turn as "Dave" the voice of American Express.

Kate Jones as Michelle Nguyen was a lot of fun, and the eye rolls add so much!

Desiree Burch as Pamela Winchell, because we need emergency press conferences about Librarians.

The entire cast, including The Weather by Mary Epworth.

The show was funny, and interactive. I thought more people would cosplay though. I saw a Kevin and a few Cecils. There were also a lot of people wearing Night Vale t-shirts, which violates the gig-going code.

Overall it was a great experience, the cast clearly loving the experience and the feedback from the crowd. I know they stopped around outside to take pictures and sign posters for the young fans. 

I'd be interested in seeing Baldwin in another role, as he is so closely tied to Night Vale but is clearly a very good actor.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Ticket to Game

One of my favourite games to play with non-gamers is Ticket to Ride. The rules are simple and easy to pick up, there is a good mixture of chance and strategy and the board and pieces are of a high quality. I have got my mum and my sister, who only play cluedo and monopoly, to play this and it went to down very well.

I was really pleased when we got this out for games night, and here is my view of the board. I'm black, and I think i was in 3rd place at this point in the game.

Then the whiskey was bough out. Really delicious with a massive ball for an ice cube. Yes, jokes were made. Yes, i am really about 13 years old.

Here we are a bit further into the game. It looks like I'm quite a long way behind, but the beauty of this game is that you can be building up your routes and carriages and then suddenly place them and leap into the lead! I think I came 2nd or 3rd overall.


So this past weekend I attended a mini Gathering. I've written before about a game I used to, and still do, play called The Stone. Meet-ups were called Gatherings. I'm not sure why, maybe from a rolling stone gathers no moss, or maybe some other reason. I haven't been to one in years.
I fact the last one i went to was probably 11 years ago.
But that changed this weekend. There was supposed to be a nice sized group heading to Stratford (the real one, not the fake one in East London) but over the weeks people dropped out. The organiser asked if my hotel was refundable since so few people were going, I replied that it wasn't but also that I wasn't fussed about it being smaller than Gathering I had attended in the past.
In the end it was myself, a player from my neck of the woods back in the Midlands, and the organiser, her husband and their daughter.
It's funny, I thought I hadn't met them before, but it turns out that I had! At the very first Gathering I attended, they had been there, along with their daughter who was a babe-in-arms, I just didn't remember. Mostly because I was quite drunk.
It was a lot of fun, after I had checked in, the organiser bemoaned that myself and the other midlands should have brought our research notes on the game, so that she and her husband could help. There was a pause, and we both replied that we had!
As if i was going to pass up the opportunity to get some help on puzzles I had been stuck on for years!
Anyway, after we met at the hotel, we took a slow walk into Stratford and the marina by the theatre. I've been to Stratford many times, since when I lived in Birmingham it's under an hour by car, and it's usually a bit touristy for my tastes. I think picking September was a good idea, although it was touristy, it was a lot quieter than when I have been in warmer months.
We took a tourist cruise around a section of the Avon, which was fun. Although I consider myself a land-locked Brummie, I have a fondness for rivers and canals. We sailed past very expensive houses, and pondered how much we would have to win on the lottery to be able to afford them. 

After this we trotted off to the Old Thatch Tavern to have a delicious meal. I had a massive portion of steak, mushroom and guiness pie, with gravy (not pictured!) with chips and seasonal veg. I almost wished that I had asked for a children's portion as it was so filling.

Of course I had to have dessert, and went for a vanilla creme brulee with a top that was so thick and solid it really required a good hard crack with a spoon.

Then it was time to roll down the road back to the hotel. People can be snobby about Premier Inns, but the bed was good and the room clean, although it had a slightly strange smell to it and the windows don't open to let fresh air in. The staff were all as polite and helpful as one could wish. One obligingly took a group photo for us, and let us have an ice bucket for red wine. 

Although the bars on the windows of my room were a little off putting.

We spent the evening chatting and trying to get myself and the lass from the Midlands a little further in the puzzles we were stuck on. Generally, a good time was had by all!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

New home

So three weeks ago my partner and I completed on a house. It's a 70's build sort of end terrace which basically hasn't really been lived in for the past 5 years, or even longer. It was originally owned by a university friend of both of ours, so we knew the house quite well having stayed there individually, and with together over the years. Our friend moved in with his girlfriend, and to be honest never spent a lot of time there as he worked away from home a lot. So whilst we knew the layout, i think we underestimated how much work we are actually going to have to do to get the house liveable.

The bathroom, for one, is in a state. I think there was a leak there one year, which meant pipes had to be replaced, so the flooring was ripped up. 

The hot water was turned off as the hot tapes for both the bath and the sink leak. And by leak, i mean gush. The shower also does not work.

The original thought was that it would be a simple washer repair job on the taps, but trying to remove the nut proved impossible, and ran the risk of damaging basin and pipes. Cue a discovery that was seen on Dragons Den! The tap splitter gave more leverage and support and allowed the tap head to be safely (and easily!) removed. 

The tap glands was probably the original one and was looking the worse for wear after several decades of limescale and a good few years of no use at all.

The upside though, is that for about a tenner, new tap glands for all four taps in the 

 bathroom were purchased, and fitted. No more gushing!

The shower is proving more difficult. It's a 1980's shower, and the limescale means that it leaks and the hot/cold dial is very tough to turn. We bought a service kit for 15 quid, and started following instructions that we found on youtube, but getting the cover of the shower off proved too difficult. We're still deciding how to tackle this, as we don't really want to fork out hundreds for a new shower and fitting (pipes and tiles add up) when i'm sure it just needs a good descale and washers and o rings replacing.

We've also discovered the the front door, if you open it from the inside, go outside and close the door is effectively locked. Oops! This meant that on our second door, my partner had to scale the garden wall to get back into the house. Not the best way to introduce yourself to the neighbours!

The wall he scaled is also missing a few bricks on the top couple of rows, so we need to do this to add a bit more security to the place. 

The kitchen isn't really to my liking (I know the 80's are back, but 80's country kitchen style is not the most attractive out there), but it works and it can be spruced up at some point.
The garden is a state, with dead wood in the back garden, and a very over grown front garden. Although cheap is good, I think we will end up paying a professional for the garden as one of the trees is some type of fir which is a)very tall and b)very close to the house. I know a professional will know the best way to chop it down to size, and be able to get rid of the waste easily.

The downstairs toilet also has to be seen to be believed. The picture below doesn't really do it justice. The toilet is an acid yellow and the carpet (which I hate in bathrooms and toilets) is navy blue. Coupled with the pine wood which can be seen below, and goes around the basin... well there really aren't words.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Ingress Smashing

So yesterday I met up with some Enlightened Ingressors who are part of the Middlesex Massive. One I had met before, and two were new to me. 

We had a great time meeting by a tube station, and working our way down a road. The two higher level players smashing blue portals, and me and the other lower level, deploying resonators and creating fields to give us some much needed AP. 

I made level 6! This is good news as each level allows you to use higher level bursters, which are more effective in smashing enemy portals.

But that's rather beside the point. The point for me was meeting up with like-minded people, and have a fun evening strolling about and getting a little bit of exercise. I think it's going to be quite different when I move to Wokingham, as I don't think you can walk for a mile or so and run into 8 or 9 portals!

I guess when I move I'm just going to have to start walking further! Or maybe cycling...

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Friday night is panda night

Another Friday, another games night. This time - Takenoko. Our host had picked this up for about £30, from (i think) The Works, and he felt that it was a bargain. I had seen this played on Tabletop, though it was quite a while back, so i was familiar with the concept.

The idea is to build up the game "board" by drawing tiles, and take cards which give you outcomes that you need to achieve. The panda character eats bamboo, and the gardener can grow bamboo.

Here you can see that I have to get the Panda to eat two yellow bamboo for 4 points, and for 7 points there needs to be three sticks of yellow bamboo, three pieces high.

This is the board in action with plenty of tiles down and some bamboo growing, and some irrigation going on!  The parts of the game are very nice quality, with wooden bamboo and water and some well printed tile pieces. It is a pretty quick game to play, we played for no more than an hour, but one that still has elements of strategy and yet would be appealing to non, or new gamers. Who doesn't love a panda, right?

I didn't win, in fact I came last, but it was good fun and I'm sure we'll be playing this again!

Then, in a change from our normal games, the host suggested poker. I've played exactly once, but who am i to turn down a game when there is a proper poker set to use?

Those chips had a nice weight about them!

The only time I played poker before was at a charity event at a previous job. I think we all put in a small amount of money (maybe a fiver) and played. I lost and was out fairly early on. This time round, even though I couldn't really remember how to play, I did managed to bluff my way and won a round! However, there were some much better players around the table, and I was second to leave the table.

I'm not really one for gambling games. I know I have an addictive personality, and something like this would be very easy for me to go down a slippery slope. I'm more than happy to bet a pound or play for pennies, something where if (when?) i lose, it doesn't really matter. I enjoyed the game itself, but there was talk of playing for higher stakes and for me I think that would be a no-no. 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Games night - with added drama!

In a change from my gaming group host's favourite game of Talisman, we played a game that was new to our group. It was one that our host picked up at UK games expo called the Fires of London. The board was really lovely, with a drawn map of London and wooden pieces. 

To begin the game it said that the first player was the one who had been most recently to London. We sat around...we were in a kitchen in London! We agreed the host could go first as he had been to Soho that afternoon, and this counted as being more "in London"  than the 
area that the flat was in.

It took a while to set up, with stickers to fix to wooden pieces, and I had the strange occurrence of picking 5 starting cards which were all exactly the same. The game specifically states that you should swop if this happens, so i swopped two cards with another player and managed to get exactly the same two types of cards back!
A second attempt and I got some cards of different types.

We played a round or so and then...disaster! With an outflung hand, the host knocked a glass of water all over the board. There was a mad scramble to try and save the board and cards. I suppose that's one way to put out the fire of London!

We set the board up again and gave it a good go.

We gave it a good go, but I think we must have been doing something wrong, as the fire didn't really spread very far and it seemed a little simplistic and very quick in comparison to the amount of time it took to set it up.

To round off the evening I proposed a game of Cards Against Humanity.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Ingress Week 3

I think this is now week 3 on Ingress? I got out and about with my other half on Saturday, turning a few portals from blue to green. He doesn't really get what I'm doing, and prefers geocaching. I do enjoy geocaching, but somehow I always seem to end up rootling through bushes and having to put on latex gloves. It's a look anyway!

Sunday was a trip to Ramsgate and Kent. The Kent countryside is really beautiful.

, and i hacked a few local portals down there before battery and data allowance ran out. Almost immediately I was contacted by a local, I love how people are so friendly in this game! I don't htink they have too many players down there, and it's not the sort of place where people pass through frequently, though I know Margate has had a bit of a resurgance recently with the art gallery and the high speed train.

Sometimes though it's the simple things in life that you enjoy. No need for games on phones, just fish and chips by the seaside.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Ingress Week 2

So Saturday I headed into London to see an exhibition at the British Library, and I knew that there would be Ingress portals along the way to hack and own and generally just try and a get a few points so that I could level up. The people that I've met told me that ti's not worth trying to take down portals until level 4, and I was so close.

I hacked a few whilst on the tube coming in, most stations seem to have a portal and most were blue, so that gave me nice little bits of easy points. 

The British Library is a short trot from Kings Cross station and I was there within a few minutes. I hacked a few portals along the way and then went into the Library.

I was lucky to get a left-over concessionary ticket to the exhibition, which saved me a few quid. and i have ot say i was glad i didn't pay full price as i was a little disappointed with it. There were far too many people there, and you had to stand with your nose against the glass as the comics were not always that close to the front of the display cabinets and I found them difficult to read. There were too many people, and it was almost constant queueing for the hour and half that I spent in the exhibition. I would have liked to have seen some of the images blown up larger to give some visual variety.

The theme was art and anarchy, and there were a lot of indie and boundary pushing publications there, but i'm not sure that an illustrated copy of Lady Chatterley's lover really counts as a comic, to be honest, but i saw the point that they were trying to make.

Anyway, back to Ingress. The British Library has around 4 portals within a short area, so i hacked them all and linked a couple. Then i decided to go to the Southbank. a friend of mine had posted on instagram about lobster Mac and Cheese from B.O.B.'s lobsters. It looked delicious, so i knew i would have to try it.

The southbank is such a vibrant place, and i'm hopeful that even when i move out of London, i'll still head into London by train, get off at Waterloo and stroll around there. The mac and cheese though, what a disappointment. For a start it was covered in fried onion, which i loathe, but that is a personal preference so i don't do them down for that. But for a tenner, i expected more than just so-so mac and cheese and the lobster was realy hard to eat with the utensils provided. I think i could make a tastier mac and cheese, and flake some crab into it for cheaper, and i think it would be more delicious. 

I headed out to the back of the Royal Festival Hall, and picked up some salted caramel brownies to take home, and a frozen plain yogurt with "Eton mess" topping. It was pretty tasty, although it melted quite quickly in the heat!

My phone had run out a long time before, so no chance for some cheeky portals on the way back.

One thing i have learned is that if i'm going to be doing this regularly, i'm going to need a backup power supply. I did bring my charger with me, but it was too warm and sunny to look for a spare socket inside the Southbank centre.

Sunday, I decided to head out locally. I live not far from the very pretty village of Pinner. I knew by looking on the intel map that there were some portals in Pinner Memorial Park. I knew roughly where it was, but hadn't ever been in it.

What a surprise, the entrance i went into had tall trees, which reminded me of parts of France and it felt so cool after the hot days we've had recently.

There were also wooden sculptures

And some kind of house that appeared to be serving afternoon tea.

and an expanse of grass, which some people were using to picnic on.

It was a really lovely place to spend an hour or so, and I would have never gone there if it hadn't been for Ingress!

One things I have learned over the past couple of weeks is that if I am going to make the most effective use of my time playing Ingress, then I need to plan. You get more points for creating control fields (linking 3 portals together), then just linking two together. The scanner (the map that's displayed on the app) is pretty small, and you can't always see the nearest portals, or see the most efficient way to link them together. So on the Sunday i went out with the details of the portals that I wanted to link together.

For the most part it was effective, although in between me creating this plan and me going out, someone had linked a couple of portals together! I'd also slightly misunderstood how it worked, as some of the fields that I wanted to create, i couldn't as they already had links running through the area that the control field would have been in. At least, i think so!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Games night... on a Wednesday?

In a slight change to normal routine, games night was held on a Wednesday. The usual mob turned up, plus the oldest friend of the host. Everyone was up for a good laugh and a good game. Since it is the host's favourite game, Talisman was on the cards. This time with the dragon expansion.

It's not one that i'm familiar with, but i'm pretty easy going and up for giving any game a try. I decided to play the Warlord. A new character for me, and one I hope i'd be able to make a good bit of headway into the game with. My friends prefer spell-cycling, but I haven't completely got the hang of doing that yet, so i usually stick with the bashing aspect of the game.

Well, having to pull dragon tokens and perform whatever actions were necessary as well as having a standard turn really lengthened the game. Good job i was by the Rolo cookies and hummus.

With 5 of us, at the 2 hour mark, none of us had really made any head way at all. Then i pulled a card which meant that dragon cards had to go onto almost every space in the outer region.

I was so low powered that every turn I lost a life, and within a short space of time I was nearly out of the game. It was 22:00 and given that I had work the next day I called it a night. 
I think everyone agreed that this was the most dull and frustrating game of Talisman we had ever played. It's doubtful that we'll play it again. I can't help but think that maybe we had misunderstood the rules in some way. Or perhaps it's more suitable to 3 or 4 players?

By the way, this is what happens when Death goes to the Tavern and gets drunk...

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

I'm on a boat!

So, one of the co-founders of the company that I work for decided to leave the company (presumably having made quite a lot since the company was sold to a Canadian company) and had a party to celebrate his going. I don't know him at all, having only recently started at the company, but I am never one to pass up a good party. Particularly one that is on an island.

The Thames flows through more than just London, and throughout it's course there are lots of little islands. some which are uninhabited, and some which have a building or two on them. Coming from the Midlands where my experiences with water were restricted to trips to the seaside and canal trips, I could not resist the opportunity to go somewhere on a boat. Even if it was a very short trip.

Not really knowing anyone, it was a bit of gamble getting there. I didn't know which bank of the river to go to, or who to look out for. However i spotted a slightly geeking looking chap standing in a boat chatting to some lads who i thought i vaguely recognised and went for it. BINGO! Here was my ride over to the island. The boat was a sort of wide flat bottomed affair and at first i attempted to stand up, but gave up and sat on the little seats on the side of the boat. It was a very short trip to the island, but first of all the boat went round to the other bank to pick up more people, and a bike! 

Look at the view from the boat! 

We landed on the island and after scrambling up i was immediately handed a glass of champagne, very civilised! I managed to find a couple of work colleagues that i knew and hung around with some that i knew only by sight.

Great t-shirt, right?

The food was delicious. This was a vegetarian lasagne, which the wait staff insisted I try. I am a fairly committed meat eater, but they weren't wrong in telling me that this was a tasty dish. They later came round with mini pastries. I would have taken a picture, but they were so covered in icing sugar, flaky pastry and chocolate that my fingers were too sticky to hold the camera. I dread to think how much this party must of cost the host. But then, i guess if you have the money why not spend it on a terrific party?

People enjoyed themselves sitting outside in the garden in the sun.

There was a live band, who started off playing chilled out, jazzy mellow vibes.

Which then progressed to a a second and third set consisting off party classics.

There was a free, and open bar. 

Also a lot of boats, i presume some belong to the owner of the house, but i think some guests may also have arrived by boat.

The view from the island 

Inside the house, i'm loving the pink effect.

It has really made me want to get a boat and sail up and down the Thames. Seeing as I am moving to Wokingham, which is not exactly far from the Thames, i think this is a dream which is achievable.

I left at around 10:30pm, since I had an hours drive back home. But i think the party went on into the wee hours, and probably involved some people getting into the hot tub that was next to the bar...