I know that I am finished with all the writing, studying, etc. I am not yet in the state of mind where I can think of other things to do as things I can do now, as opposed to their still being things I can do at some later point. The actual results will be out later in the summer, and I am intensely relaxed with regard to them. The overall result will be a good 2.1, or if one of the dissertations got very good marks, maybe a first. Either is good. Either will get me into the MA in Local History in Maynooth, which is my current vague intention - but I will not be entering that until Autumn 2016 at the very earliest, and possibly not for another year after that.

I am developing a mental list of projects, which will become a physical or least electronic list of projects in the reasonably near future. It will include things like getting back to various RPGs, writing a paper for a conference in the summer, getting myself to inbox zero, various DIY things, a number of SCA craft projects, getting considerably fitter and losing some of the belly, getting armour together, getting into it and re-authorising as a heavy fighter, finding a place for archery practice in Dublin, and stepping up as Kingdom Social Media Officer for Drachenwald in June.

I also plan to have more of a presence on various blogs and so forth, although that's a plan I've had before.

What's notably absent from the list of projects is an MMO. I thought long and hard about getting back into Wurm Online, which I love, or EVE, likewise, or even some other MMO that people I know are playing. But they are such incredible timesinks that I don't think I can justify it; it would be one, or two, or three evenings a week going into something that has no output, and probably has an overall negative impact on my health. I may well continue to dip into Neverwinter once in a while, because it's free and takes no ongoing commitment, but other than that, computer games will be the offline sort with a distinct end point.

Cotswolds and England

We're currently on holiday in the Cotswolds. It's a grey, damp day out there, and both of us had SCA paperwork to complete, so we're making use of the wifi connection in the cottage. It's not as good as the connection at home, but it's still perfectly usable.

There is a thing that is puzzling me as I look around here, and as we travelled across from Ufton Nervet to Burford and Burford to here (here being the charmingly named Upper Slaughter). Namely, everything is very neat. I don't just mean that things are well-kept, although that's true (except for the roads, which occasionally achieve 'decent', but don't always make it). I mean more that there is overall care taken for the look of the landscape.

In Ireland, we have (some) scenic villages with old stonework and thatched cottages. And less than 200m from the scenic zone, as it were, you'll have an estate of modern 2- and 3-bed semi-detached houses, and a crop of white bungalows extending to the next village. These houses are nothing bad in and of themselves, but they don't match the landscape the way the older buildings do, and they're right there on top of them.

In comparison, Upper Slaughter seems to have only a very few 20th century buildings. They're built from the same sandstone, have the same slate roofs, and if it weren't for their more modern window shapes, I don't know that I could tell the difference. In another few decades of weathering, they'll have blended pretty completely with the 16th and 17th century neighbours. The same is true in Lower Slaughter, and in the countryside all the way up to Stow on the Wold, which has a few modern buildings tucked into places they can't be much seen. Burford has a good kilometre of village street, all of which dates to before 1900. This includes two or three banks and a Co-op supermarket.

Further, the hedges are neatly trimmed, there are areas of woodland (named on the map as Something Copse or Someone's Wood), there are sizable trees in the hedgerows, there are public footpaths everywhere, including through fields, and there are footbridges, styles, kissing gates, two-in-one gates and so forth all over the place. Any area which is too damp to be a real field (and there are plenty) is given over to be woodland or wetland, not left as a soggy, useless field.

I'm sure this is the result of being some sort of special conservation area. But the point is that we don't seem to be able to do that at all in Ireland. We can manage the "no new houses" thing in parts of Wicklow and Kerry. But that doesn't seem to get rid of the horrors constructed in the 60s and 70s, and it doesn't stop the construction of new bungalows as far into the scenic areas as permission can be persuaded. Where it occurs, it's a plain ban on new houses; those that are constructed in traditional forms as well as monstrosities. We just plain can't do hedgerows, as far as I can see.

I have been trying to think why this is, rather than merely decrying it, but I can't see any good reason. Unless it's "the British made us have orderly landscapes and now we don't have to no more, so there", which is a rather poor reason.

On Remembering Unexpectedly

It has been twenty-six years and only
Now does my own mind begin to chide me
For the forgetfulness. It's not lonely -
It never has been. In books I bide me
As you showed me, and in new family
Chosen with care. I think you'd like them all.
I used to dream about you, absently
Comforted at your return, your morning call
Yet not so lost when waking, you still gone,
For it seemed as though I'd met you, some way
While I slept. Now another death holds on
To dreams, to waking hours, and treats you ill.
The season's the same, and the turning year
Brings back reminders I had long left still.
Though we forget, the memories stay near.

Heroes

Those are the Sunchase Brothers.
The woman behind them is Wild Marge.
She's eighty-two, and looks it, but she claims
That she danced in temples when she was younger.
The elder brother is called Stone,
The younger Junior. They're twins, they say,
But Stone aged himself twenty years by accident.
Junior's forty, if he's a day.
Once, Wild Marge was hungover - she employs them
To taste the vodka she distils,
But that night she drank it herself -
And the brothers went into battle by themselves.
They were having fun at first,
But Stone got bored.
He leaped up on his brother's shoulders, and shouted,
"Run away! Or I shall take off my eye-patch!"
And he began to lift it with his thumb.
The enemy ran away. Stone chortled,
And went to find something to drink.

Tags:

Salinger, A Sonnet

It's not as though there's anything enlightening
In their conversation. Mostly, it's those
Details; the precise lists, the brightening
Of the sunlit patches, the stances he chose.
I'm not sure that I like either of them.
Perhaps I like her better. He seems proud
Where pride's not justified. Each thought a gem
Which he expects to have received, aloud
With praise and gratitude. And then again,
She's passive, all the time. Only the cat
Bears any consequence. And there's that yen
For a direction, to be given that
Which one should find oneself. But I come back,
Re-read, and think, and even more, unpack.

Blatantly Stolen Thing

(This quiz thing stolen in turn from malinaldarose. Mine now.)

1. What time did you get up this morning?
The first time, 07:40. The second time at 09:20. Both times because Isambard was barking at magpies. The magpies were taunting him, to be fair.

2. How do you like your steak?
Very, very rare, please, and none of your sauce business.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
I think it was the second new Trek film. Cinema happens about twice a year, because it requires a four-hour chunk of time that is not work, study, gaming, or SCA, and that leaves very few such chunks.

4. What is your favourite TV show?
I think it has to be Fringe. In a world where almost all the TV shows I like are not as good as they could be, Fringe stands out as being better than it really should be.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
I quite like where I am now, to be honest. In years to come, I'd like to move a bit further into the country, and into a bigger house. But I like Maynooth, and I like this house.

6. What did you have for breakfast?
Eggs, bacon, two doughnuts, and an enormous quantity of coffee.

7. What is your favourite cuisine?
Medieval English Noble. Oh, you mean modern? If I had to stick to on, I like Scandinavian food, but mostly I like to pick and mix.

8. What foods do you dislike?
Lettuce and tripe. And I'll eat lettuce. I am the original omniovre.

9. Favourite Place to Eat Out?
The Witchery in Edinburgh is the best restaurant I've eaten in, I think.

10. Favourite dressing?
People have favourite dressings? I don't know, Caesar Salad dressing? Plain wine-vinegar-and-olive-oil-with-herbs?

11. What kind of vehicle do you drive?
Nissan Almera, although I'm not licenced yet.

12. What are your favourite clothes?
My SCA garb, which is vastly more comfortable than any other set of clothes I own.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?
Current top of the list is Iceland, I think. But it's a long list.

14. Where would you want to retire?
I don't understand the question. Retirement is for people who intend to stop doing things.

15. Favourite time of day?
Nighttime, by far.

16. Where were you born?
Holles Street Hospital, Dublin. And an inordinate number of significant events in my life have happened in a square mile around there - went to college, met my wife, had the civil wedding ceremony, got my first job, and so on and on. I work within a short distance of it now, and pass by it frequently.

17. What is your favourite sport to watch?
Ice hockey, or hurling, but watching sport is so low on the entertainment totem pole that it essentially never happens.

18. What's your dream job?
If I knew that, I'd go and do it. I like the current one a lot, but I think some combination of academia, consulting, and writing would suit me a bit better. Something where I can pick and choose the work I'm doing, and not end up doing paid advertising for a plastic surgery clinic, for example, on which I currently spend about 5% of my time.

19. How many siblings?
Two, both younger brothers.

20. Favourite pastime/hobby?
It's a difficult choice between running and planning tabletop RPGs, and the SCA. The SCA is something I can relax into; I don't need to be thinking all the time for it. But thinking nonstop is fun too, so gaming works well.

21. Who are you most curious about their responses to this?
What an odd question. I answer these things more as a thought exercise than for anyone's curiousity, including my own.

22. Bird watcher?
Not really. I like birds, and I seem to recognise more of them than most, but I wouldn't generally go out of my way to see them.

23. Are you a morning person or a night person?
Night. I wake up somewhere between two and four hours after I've got up.

24. Do you have any pets?
One dog, Isambard Kingdom Spaniel, and one cat, Shandri.

25. Any new and exciting news you’d like to share?
My pre-Christmas assignments are all submitted? I think making a fuss of new and exciting things only encourages them, and a life full of new and exciting is a life that's going off the rails.

26. What did you want to be when you were little?
For quite some time, a woodworker like my father. Then a writer. But every single job I've ever had didn't exist when I was a kid, so it's not a terribly meaningful question. I never really wanted to be an astronaut, mostly because I was firmly convinced that space travel would be ordinary by the time I grew up, and who wants to be a bus driver? Mostly, I think, I wanted to have time and peace to read.

27. What is your best childhood memory?
I don't remember much before seven or so, and I had to do a lot of growing up quite quickly around nine or ten. But I think a summer in my mid-teens, when I sold honey on the side of the road in Ashford in Co. Wicklow, and read my way through every fantasy and SF book in an excellent second-hand bookshop that was there qualifies, as a sort of conglomerate. I would get up in the morning from my bed in the caravan, eat breakfast in a trucker café, go to the bookshop and sell back the previous day's books at half price, pick up some new ones, and read them while people stopped and bought honey from me at the stand. In the later evening, I'd get fish and chips, and finish the books. Repeat the next day. I don't know how long I did it for, but it was fantastic.

28. Are you a cat or dog person?
Both, but slightly more on the feline side.

29. Are you married?
Very much so, and very happily.

30. Always wear your seat belt?
Yes. Quite apart from it being illegal not to here, I think it'd be remarkably stupid not to.

31. Been in a car accident?
A few minor ones when I was a kid, nothing serious.

32. Any pet peeves?
Quite a number, but I'm getting good at selecting the right dialogue choices to avoid them, as it were.

33. Favourite Pizza Toppings?
Meat. Also eggs. Breakfast pizzas FTW.

34. Favourite Flower?
Uh... I don't know. Never given it a moment's thought. Cornflowers, maybe?

35. Favourite ice cream?
Haagen-Dazs Strawberry Cheesecake, I think. Although I've had some very good pistachio ones.

36. Favourite fast food restaurant?
I am a Burger King loyalist.

37. How many times did you fail your driver’s test?
Not taken it yet, but I don't intend to fail it if I can help it.

38. From whom did you get your last email?
Like, top of the inbox? I get a few hundred a day, most of which get filtered off. Top of the inbox is a message from a SCAdian currently living in Paris, who's coming to Dublin and wants to know if there are any practices on while she's here.

39. Which store would you blow all your money in?
A good armour shop, where I could try on stuff and get all the pieces I need would be a Very Good Thing. No such beast exists on this side of the Atlantic, and possibly not at all.

40. Do anything spontaneous lately?
Not really, nor will I for the next while. Work, study, and hobbies occupying most hours mean that spontaneous now usually means some form of pain later. Unless deciding to do a dungeon run in Neverwinter instead of just poking around solo counts, and I don't feel it does.

41. Like your job?
Very much.

42. Broccoli?
Many years ago, a friend mentioned that the only way he could stand to eat broccoli was to pretend he was a brontosaurus biting the tops off trees. I've felt more positive toward broccoli ever since.

43. What was your favourite vacation?
Cruise up the coast of Norway, from Bergen to Kirkenes and back, in late winter, having gone by train from Oslo to Bergen.

44. Last person you went out to dinner with?
Nina. And there's the shire Christmas night out coming up, to which I am looking forward immensely.

45. What are you listening to right now?
Isambard occasionally woofing at the magpies.

46. What is your favourite colour?
Black, realistically. Green, otherwise.

47. How many tattoos do you have?
One, a simple spiral on my left shoulder.

49. What time did you finish this quiz?
It is now 14:30 on 07/12/2012.

50. Coffee Drinker?
Oh gods yes.

What I'm At

Livejournal is back on the default tabs in my browser. I've been checking in from time to time, but there's something about the content here which is distinctly different to most other social networks, and it's also old and comfortable.

So here's what I'm doing these days, as a sort of general update.

I'm still working in Elucidate, where I'm the Online Marketing Manager. It's a small consultancy company, so I don't get to do much with our own marketing; most of my time goes on clients. Clients vary from very tiny companies who have our services via prize funds up to the national Post Office, An Post. The work suits me very well indeed, I'm largely self-directed within the parameters of the projects I work on, and very often I get to try very cool and interesting new stuff in Adwords, social media, or other bits of onlineness.

We've returned to the SCA. I had a bit of time that wasn't accounted for, and I knew a number of people who were interested in the hobby, but weren't about to investigate without knowing someone involved. So I went to an event, and went to a shire meeting, and lo! I am now Chatelaine for Dun in Mara, and dragging the shire firmly into the 21st century, social media, regular updates, and actually doing stuff. I'm ably abetted in this by sabayone and the rest of my newly formed SCAdian household. Aside from the Chatelaine-ing, I'm doing heavy combat (re-assembling armour bit by bit at the moment) and some A&S stuff, including calligraphy, horticulture, and the making of my own garb, which, let me tell you, is pretty terrifying and also very pleasing.

I'm doing a BA in Humanities in DCU's Oscail Programme. The setup is that you can do between 1 and 4 modules a year, in six subjects, with a few other restrictions on which modules you can take at the same time. When you've done twelve modules, it turns into a degree. 4 modules per year would be a full undergrad course-load; I'm doing 3. I did foundation level courses in Sociology, History, and Literature last year, and I'm doing a more advanced module in History and two in Literature this year.

Studying is difficult when you've done none for three months and it's not an easy introductory course, but I'm getting the hang of it again. I sit down at the kitchen table three evenings a week, and one weekend day, and hammer through the reading and comprehension necessary, and I'll soon be starting the first set of assignments. I really like studying, even when it's tough going.

I'm also running a couple of tabletop RPG campaigns, one weekly, the others less regularly as time allows.

We got a dog, too. Isambard Kingdom Spaniel is a black cocker spaniel. He's mostly past the chewing people phase, and will probably finish the chewing things phase soon. He tries very hard to be a Good Dog, but the details are still a bit fuzzy. He caused some serious stress by breaking out of the back yard on a regular basis, but we've now turned the place into something only marginally less secure than Fort Knox, unless you happen to have opposable thumbs. He gets walks twice daily, and I think he may be coming into his power as a rain god.

And I'm learning to drive, gardening, doing some necessary bits of DIY, playing Skyrim on the XBox and Wurm Online on the PC, my usual amateur meteorology, blogging in various places, and watching some odd bits of TV (Wartime Farm, Parade's End, Arrow, and until the end of the half-series there, Doctor Who) here and there as time allows.

So. What're you at?

Two men, stopped

A little over two years ago, I was mugged by a sestina. Today, I was again assaulted by a sonnet, which is Very Definitely in the same setting. I still don't know anything more about it, mind.

Two men pass by on the street. Well, no, wait,
That's not where this begins. Well before it,
When they pushed through that crowd, that sought to sate
The need of winter seasons, streets bright lit,
Each knew the other's presence, and set out
To pass, and unacknowledged, only then
To stop. And there they stand. There is no shout
That could be louder, none more clear, for when
They stop, they both stop, standing there, quite still
The people move around them, back to back,
One dressed for business, one for war, and ill
Is chance, to bring them, narrow, white and black,
Together. And wind-caught smoke, ensuring
A scent that mixes colder, and enduring.

I am


  • I am still alive

  • I am still reading LJ

  • I am posting more on Google+ and on my blogs than anywhere else

  • I am also posting on Twitter from time to time

  • I am starting a BA in Humanities in DCU in October

  • I am putting thought about that on a college blog here

  • I am, with sabayone, running the Charity Bring & Buy Stand in Gaelcon again this year

Steampunk, Social Position & Representation

Over the weekend, I caught one edge of a discussion bluedevi was having with some other folk about Steampunk, and the way in which it reflects only the upper edge of Victorian Society, ignoring the poverty and the downright abuse of the rest of the population at the time. The fact that we were all lounging around in a castle partially re-built in the Edwardian era to a rather Victorian outline was not lost on me, but still.

I've been thinking about it since, and it ties in with some thinking I've been doing about my own campaign world. sabayone has pointed out on several occasions that there's very little sense of poverty or injustice in the world as depicted in the games I run. This seems to me to a very closely related issue, for two reasons. First and foremost, my thinking for the world is that it's very plain that the position, the wealth, and the situations that the player characters move about in can only exist, given the available technology and magic, in a world that has distinct levels of poverty and exploitation.

As far as I'm concerned, the existence of a sword for a given price requires a smith, miners, tanners, farmers, woodworkers, and their families, all of whom get along on less than the price of that sword. And as you go down the chain from smith to tanner to farmer to cowherd, there's a lot less money at each step. At your 75gp for a longsword, the cowherd might be seeing 2 coppers a month, over his room (stable loft) and board (porridge, bread, greens, some meat on a feast day). There's your poverty, and hey, he has a job and a roof, he's doing better than some.

Likewise, I look at a faux-Victorian steampunk costume, and I can see the lacemaker, the coppersmith, the tanner again, the tailor, the weaver, the basketmaker, and so on, back into the middle distance; they're all implied by the costume. That costume, as it would have been made in the Victorian era, could not exist without those people.

But that's not necessarily evident to the player, who doesn't have my economic-minded approach. To help handle this in the game world, I've been doing some background writing for my campaign world, depicting a day in the life of each of a selection of characters, ranging from a professional enchanter down to a "procurer", so far, and which will include more as I go. This does mean adding reading for the player, because there's no way these people are going to appear as more than a passing glimpse in the actual events of the game, any more than a steampunk costumer might mention the good leather from Staffordshire.

Trouble is, I can't think of a way for this to appear in a steampunk convention. Sure, in the literature or the music, or even the art, you can include some details - but steampunk is about costume. And the costumes of poor people in a faux-Victorian era are even less fun than they were in the real world, because they're an extra step removed from the added cogs and goggles. And while there's absolute validity in saying that the depiction is of the upper crust of an exploitative society, the main point is the fun of the depiction. How can you acknowledge the rest of Victorian society more explictly, without making nonsense of it?

K2 Chili

K2 is this weekend. On Sunday, I will be cooking a large pot of chili, which will be served with rice, sour cream, and whatever other bits of appropriate side dishes I can find. It will not be very hot - no hotter than an average Chinese takeaway curry, say.

Should you wish to partake, let me know before Friday afternoon, with a comment here, that you will hand me a fiver to cover costs at some point over the weekend. giftederic gets it free because he paid for it in Gaelcon's charity auction, and bastun_ie is trading haggis. I am open to other such deals, of course.

Also, if you know someone who's not on LJ, but wishes to partake anyway, this entry will accept anonymous comments, so they can still comment here and let me know.

Communal Living Conspiracy Theory

Some vague rambling about the concept of communal living, particularly in economic terms. Written over about two weeks now, so excuse disjointedness.

So, in times past, there were several sorts of communes. I don't mean the hippy communes of the 60s and early 70s (and in some places in Ireland, right into the 80s). I mean places like monasteries, convents, and multi-generational families. Places where you have multiple sources of income, and single flows of outgoings. All these groups became, over time, more prosperous, as long as they stayed intact. Monastic communities were repeatedly broken down by secular authorities over time because they became so rich, and it wasn't until the modern "family unit" of parents-and-kids-under-18 that the multi-generational family stopped.

Let's look at some of the particulars of living in the modern world. Let's say you're a family of two adults, two children. Ignore pets for now, let's make this pretty utilitarian. Both parents probably have to work, unless one has a very high income. This means that when the kids are not in school, childcare of some kind is necessary, which is a cost against the benefits of working. There's some maths to be done there, and as far as I can see, it usually works out that if there are one or two kids, working is a net benefit, and if there are three or more, it ends up costing more than you get from working. But still, you're not getting the benefit of the work you're doing, because a chunk of the earnings go on childcare.

So what else are the earnings going on? The mortgage or rent. Food. Utilities. Insurance. The car(s). They are spending €X per month on all of these, plus possibly house maintenance, before they buy anything else, go on holidays, etc.

Now, let us postulate that our hypothetical couple have relatives or good friends in a similar situation. They too have jobs, childcare, mortgage or rent, food, utilities, car(s), etc. At the moment, these two families are spending €2X.

What if they get hold of a larger house and move in together? Now they're spending 2€X and they have no privacy or time to themselves, right? Well, no.

For a start, the rent or mortgage on a house that can accommodate 8 people is rarely twice that of a house that can accommodate 4. The utilities are definitely less, because you're not paying the "account charge" on two sets of bills, only one, and the costs of electricity, heating, etc, for one large house are not 2x that of one, they're more like 1.5x, sometimes as low as 1.25x. While you may need two cars for one family, you don't need four for two. There's only one set of house maintenance. And if one person does the childcare work, you've got three incomes left, not one.

If you go into this intentionally, and build, buy or rent a house whose layout allows for some privacy for each couple or family unit, then I think the costs of living will probably drop by about 30% per person.

Now the question: why doesn't this happen all the time?

It does happen. I know a number of people who are sharing houses with friends, relatives or parents. Most of them are in this situation only because they have to; they'll get out of it as quickly as they can, even though it will cost them a lot more.

But it seems to me that the pure economic sense of it is massively in favour of communal living.

The first argument against is one of privacy, having one's own space, and so on. I am very suspicious of this one, to be honest. I have shared houses with other people for most of my life - I've never lived on my own. My grandfather lived with us when I was a kid, and pretty nearly every family I knew had a grandparent living with them. Besides, privacy is a one- or two-person thing. People don't generally avoid having kids because they fear the loss of privacy by having another person in the house. Doors close, and an intentionally built house can give plenty of private space.

Here's my theory: we've been brainwashed into the single-family-unit by media and advertising. The more we're divided up into small units, the more we can be sold to, the more they can charge the nonsense "account fee" on utilities, the more cars and houses we have to buy, and so forth. So we're shown the nuclear family, or individuals, in media, in advertising, in films and magazines and books, in all manner of things. We're never shown larger groups living in one place without them being made out to be strange, temporary, or outright wrong.

Houses are built for the nuclear family by builders because the builder can, for the same materials and costs, get a lot more for two small houses than for one big one. And then we're treated to the bizarre sight of large houses - inherited from a time when families were bigger - which are either divided into apartments and sold off individually, or have parts of them closed up and left unused because the single family occupying them can't afford the heating.

This has all happened in the late 20th century. I'm wondering if it's a blip in the numbers in domestic history, or if it's something that will now take hold and stay in place.

Wales

In which a week-long trip to Wales is more or less summarised:

We arrived over on the Saturday, having got up early for the ferry. Leaving Dublin was, as always, fascinating; you can see bits of the city you never otherwise do. The crossing was calm and steady and almost completely foggy; I can't judge distances well at sea and in fog, but I'd guess visibility was well under 100m. Coming into Holyhead, it was still foggy.

Holyhead is a grim little town. I don't know what they do to it, but it feels like Trainspotters was shot there. Nevertheless, we were very amused, on the way out of the port, to be passed by a car with a huge window decal for Ensiferum, the same very obscure metal band whose tshirt I was wearing.

We drove down as far as Caernarfon, and stopped to get some groceries and poke around a bit. We were standing in a parking garage staring at the ticket machine (pay in advance, coins only, of which we had none at that stage) when a woman leaving the car park leaned out the window and said, "Would you like a ticket? There's about an hour on it." A very nice welcome to Wales. Poking around a bit revealed several bookshops, one of which was second-hand, vast, and specialising in books about outdoor adventure and exploration. Their all-books-£1-6-for-£5 was an excellent selection; I managed to only hand over £3. We scouted the castle, and parking for it, got the groceries, and also some lunch in a fairly ordinary Chinese, and headed on toward the Lleyn.

Navigation got a little bit interesting after we passed Clynnog Fawr. The instructions said to look for Gryn Goch, a village which is more a short row of houses, and then for a left about half a mile after, just after a safety barrier. We spotted what looked like a likely left, and tried it, but it rapidly went into a near vertical ascent, and left us at the top of a cul-de-sac of the kind which made turning interesting. sabayone is very good at these things, though, and managed it with a minimum of effort.

The next left - which was, indeed, after a clearly visible safety barrier - turned out to be the correct one, and we found the cottage. Trydden Hywel is lovely. There's the old cottage, of which the walls are the best end of a metre thick, which contains the sitting room, and the two bedrooms, and then the kitchen and bathroom are in lean-to extensions. It is far and away the best equipped self-catering place I've ever stayed in; there has as yet been no kitchen implement I've wanted and not found, there are cookery books, plant and bird books, guide books, maps, a beginner's guide to Welsh, a host of novels, cd player, dvd player, flatscreen tv with an impressive array of channels, a pair of bincoculars, and even a stack of boardgames, cds, and dvds to match nearly any possible taste.

After we'd established where everything was, we walked back down to Clynnog Fawr to get some other odds and ends. There are footpaths all the way, which fascinates me; this is a very rural road, and yet there's provision for pedestrians along all of it. CF itself is a small village, with a rather impressive church, and we're told by the guidebook, a dolmen, though we haven't seen that yet. There's one shop, attached to petrol station.

On the way down, we saw what looked like a bird of prey hovering and gliding down nearer the sea. We've since worked out that it was a buzzard, and they're rather common around here; we've seen the same one again and at least two more.

On Sunday morning, we roused ourselves from the very comfortable bed, briefly visited a Sunday market in Pwlheli, which wasn't all that, and toddled off to Beddgelert to start a 10km walk, marked as "Easy" in the Collins ramblers book. The route over was impressively mountainous; twists and turns and the chance to casually look over a roadside wall and down on the back of a soaring buzzard. There are some very fine ruins up there as well.

Beddgelert is a very touristy village, but with good reason; it's very pretty indeed. The walk, on the map, went down the river, through a gorge, around into an old mining valley, up to the head of that, down the next valley to a lake, and back around to the starting point. It did that in reality as well, but failed to mention that the haul up the old mining valley - Cym Bychan - was a long, long upward slog over occasionally boggy terrain, and that the descent to the lake on other side was very steep. In fact, the guidebook says it isn't particularly steep. I'd love to see their definition of 'steep', and possibly also of 'easy', because we were both knackered after it. It was an excellent walk, though, and immensely varied, and the views, particularly down over the lake, Llyn Dinas, were fantastic.

We debated driving home to eat, and also the possibility of eating there. In the end, we looked for and found a table in a very odd little bistro/antique shop, where most of the specials menu consisted of game. I had pigeon, sabayone had pheasant, and it was all excellent. Homeward, then, via Carnarfon rather than the mountain road.

On Monday, we walked down to the local beach, a few kilometres along it, and back up to the house, which was a lengthier ramble than expected, but also very pleasing. We took it easy for the rest of the evening, cooking, eating outside, and watching an impressive sunset over the sea.

[The above was written on Tuesday morning, I think. It's now Saturday evening, and we're back in Ireland. I shall attempt to reconstruct what we else did, although the order in which things were done is getting fuzzy.]

We went to the Wednesday market in Pwlheli, which was better by a considerable amount than the Sunday one, and acquired goods for dinner, and went to a small fishmonger's/deli, in which we got red mullet and anchovies. The mullets ended up being fried, and they were superb.

We drove down to the end of the Lleyn peninsula, being mostly unimpressed by it on the way, and then very pleased with the village nearly right at the end, Aberdaeron, which has a sheltered beach (well covered in stranded jellyfish, which we stepped around), and then being stunned on the way back by the view from the village of Rhiw, from which you can see all the way back up the peninsula, and into Snowdonia for good measure.

There was a massive storm one of the nights, which left trees and branches down all over, and brought the owner of the cottage up in the morning to check if we a) had power, and b) hadn't had a tree come down on us or the car. We'd been inside the metre-thick walls, and hadn't thought it was all that bad. Apparently, there were thousands of places up and down the coast left without power, and we saw trees down all over the place over the next two days.

We visited Chester, wherein I was very pleased by the walls and by the second gallery level of the streets in the older parts of town, while at the same time bemoaning the effect whereby, due to chains of shops, every town in England is now effectively the same. There is a very good old-style sweet shop opposite the cathedral, though, which was well worth the investigation.

We also did a drive up Llanberis Pass, and back through Beddgelert, Tremadog, and back up to the cottage. Llanberis runs past Snowdon on the "far side", from our point of view, so we circled the mountain, even if we didn't as much as consider climbing it. It does appear to attract bad weather; there was almost always an area of rain and heavy cloud in about a six, seven mile radius centred on the mountain itself. This does give rise to some fabulous waterfalls coming down the sides of steep glacial valleys, though.

And we visited Caernarfon castle, which I recommend to everyone, as long as you can handle lots of steps. For the first time ever, I got the museum effect from a castle - the one where I run out of attention span, and have to leave and go do something else, because the cool-stuff-to-look-at buffer is full.

North Wales does not appear to do good pubs. There were pubs, certainly, but they had a distinct impression of having learned how to be pubs from a book, or possibly a correspondence course. A randomly chosen pub in Chester was superior to every pub we saw in Wales. This seems, having done some reading, to be due to the principle of sobriety being a strong one in the Nonconformist religious traditions of the area.

There's also evidence to suggest that the reaction to rock in Wales has historically been to take a pick to it, on an industrial scale, and Wales is made of rock. There isn't a single valley that hasn't signs of slate quarrying, copper mining, lead or tin mining, or other extraction of stuff from the ground.

It was an excellent trip. We were trying to pick out the best bits today on the way home, and kept coming up with more and more new ones.

Music: Týr

Ideally, this will be the first in a series of posts about music I like. Or it might just sit here on its own, but I think it's worth getting out there anyway.

Týr are one of my favourite bands, ever. They're from the Faroe Islands, and their songs deal largely with Norse mythology and heathenism.

For a look at what they're all about, the 2009 single, Hold the Heathen Hammer High is a good example:

YouTube videos follow...Collapse )

Týr have a combination of really good guitar - a fundamental part of metal, of course, alongside complex musical structure, which differentiates them from many of the Anglophone bands, who tend to stick to 4/4 and the expected chords, even if their playing is otherwise excellent. And they have lyrics which appeal to me, either in words when they're in English, or in sound when they're in other languages.

Týr's MySpace (actually a decent MySpace page, which is terrifying in its own right).

Tags:

High-tech Post

I'm writing this on the iPhone while I wait for the train. It's not the most comfortable way to write, but it's better than the alpha-numeric keypad. You didn't get a daily entry yesterday, mostly because sestina writing ate my spare time.

So, Monday was a blur of work, and Tuesday was very similar. It's the last week of the month, so time is being spent filling in the gaps, and doing some training with the Intern. He's getting better; still not quite understanding things sometimes, but he has more patience than I do for the slow, uninspiring work of link acquisition, for example. He did a day of pretty much nothing else yesterday, which would have driven me spare.

Monday evening saw some gardening done - watering and weeding, for the most part. Everything is growing well, with the exception of the pumpkins, of which there's one straggly, slug-eaten example showing.

Yesterday evening was largely spent online, talking to people and getting some game writing lined up. And this morning, sabayone is off with a cold, so I'm taking the train in.

I see the hawthorn - the May flower - is in full blast. This year is running late on everything; it would normally be headed for over by now. In other weather signs, I was observing an oak and ash near each other; the oak is in full leaf while the ash is still working on it. That's supposed to indicate a good summer.

Posted via Journaler.

She carries fire and stone in her heart

So, while I was walking at lunchtime, I was mugged by a sestina. This arrived in my head pretty fully formed, and all I had to do was make sure the lines came in the right order, and that the syllables fell out right. I do not know who the writing character is, nor exactly what happened.

She carries fire and stone in her heart

Flames rise. There is a pounding in the blood.
It begins as it was never written
There is nobody who would have been close
Enough. None who knew that scent of leather,
None who knew the way her grey eyes were stone,
And none who knew the way her words were fire;

Except me. And even now, watching fire
Take all that she was away, there is blood
Between us. That will never change, though the stone
I stand on, her epitaph is written
On, should crack and crumble, like old leather.
I turn, and see, the guards are coming close.

From the ghat, it's easy to leave. So close
To the heart of the city. Perhaps the fire
That will burn there will last. Or the leather
She still wears - wore - will be noticed. The blood
Of cattle is not spilled here. Written
Accounts abound, of those pelted by stone

And stick for striking a cow. But no stone
Will ever hurt her again. Even close
To her departure, I am glad. Written
Words will never capture that fast-burnt fire
Between us. The grey sadness in my blood
Is matched by anger. And her leather

Burns. I catch the scent; there is no leather
Here to burn, but hers. Now between the stone
Steps, I go quickly. Not born here, her blood
Comes from farther places, and I must be close
To the time to go. To carry the fire
Or word of it, abroad. I have written

To them. But, perhaps, I should have written
Sooner. Now, when I go (cars with leather
Seats will meet me, how strange) they'll still need fire
From her, and not yet really know, that stone
Is all that's left. We never came so close
To what she lived for, wanted, her blood

Desire, written ancestral fire, as when she
Died. The blood, the leather, all of this will
Need to be kept close. To be cast in stone.

He wishes to speak clearly

I want to diagram my mind. No, not
The brain, but the associations. Why
The sound of a sitar is not as hot
As the crunch of snow. The sitar leads, by
Memories' path, to olive oil, a door
That stands open, whereas the snow sound leads,
By that same way to firelight on the floor.
Words that others use always carry seeds
Of things in my mind, that I want to show
On paper, in words or images that
Others can read; have those seeds go and grow
In other minds, that they would know, get at
The things I mean rather than, as today,
To get along with what I write or say.

Test post

Don't mind me, just trying an LJ client on the iPhone.

Posted via Journaler.

Anniversary

Nine years ago today, sabayone and I had our first wedding. This was the legal one, in the registry office.

I would like to thank her enormously for putting up with me for nine years (and indeed, a good while before that). I love her enormously, and reckon she is the best thing in this or any other world.
From bedlamsbard:

Cut for randomnessCollapse )

If you want 5 questions, tell me what your favourite striped animal is.

Current Use of Social Media

Someone was remarking at K2 that I'd been quieter than usual online. I think I stared at them through a haze of beer and game rules, and indeed, I do not now remember who they were. However, they were probably correct in terms of output visible to them. It's difficult to keep track of what I'm doing unless you're on all the services I use, and that's not easy either. Further, a lot of my day-to-day communication goes out on an IRC channel with about twelve people on it, and doesn't really get further transmission. Nevertheless, here's my current usage:

Facebook: I'm not really using Facebook, to be honest. I log in once in a while to check the inbox and confirm any friend requests that are not from completely unknown people, and occasionally scan feeds for people I have no other contact with, but I don't read the whole feed.

Livejournal: I read a lot here, though I no longer try to read everything. I've learned to distinguish between the notions of "I want this person to have access to my journal" and "I want to read everything this person writes", and I'm making that distinction. I post when I have something to say that doesn't go on my other blogs.

Twitter: I love Twitter. It's a global chatroom, where I can filter down to the people I want to listen to, and the conversations between them. Twitter is currently my "main input" stream, alongside Google Reader.

Buzz: I am not making much use of Buzz at the moment. This may change once I have time to work out what it does better than Twitter. At the moment, it seems to include material from people I don't know, sometimes in quite long chunks of text, and that's not interesting. Buzz appears to suffer from several of the geek social fallacies, particularly #4.

Google Reader: This is currently one of my two main inputs. RSS feeds into Reader provide me with about two to three hundred chunky items to read every day, which is just about comfortable. My podcasts also come in here, allowing me to pick and choose which episodes I download.

Wave: Wave is great for event planning and project management. It's not a general communications tool, though.

Email, Inbox: Baseline contact form, this. I don't use email for much these days beyond password messages, the occasional newsletter, and very rarely getting in touch with people who don't respond to anything else.

Email, Mailing Lists: I have not looked at mailing lists much in months. They pile up, I occasionally look at them, but mostly, they don't contain content of interest any more.

Text Messages: I'm not sure where I stand on texts. On the one hand, they're a convenient way to get messages in transit. On the other, they're easy to miss unless I'm actually looking at the phone, and most of the time when I'm in transit, I'm not doing so - I'm reading, listening to podcasts, or plotting something nefarious.

Phone Calls: Yurk. The more I use the phone for work - which is quite a lot - the more I dislike it outside of work. Send me a text or email instead, unless you need an answer right now. Also, be aware that if it's between 07:30 and 09:00, or 17:30 and 19:00, I may not hear the phone ringing.

IM: I have an IRC channel populated with a number of my favourite people. This is an excellent thing. Other than that, IM is seeing very little use from me at the moment. It requires attention in the moment - and if I'm at a computer, chances are I am concentrating on something else. In most cases, it falls into the gap between email and phone conversations - if you need an answer now, phone, if not, email will do fine.

MMOs: Of course MMOs are a communications channel. However, I'm not playing much of any of them at the moment, mostly due to not having time to spare. When I am on, it's on EQII, EVE (in brief bursts), occasionally on WoW, and on Allods, when it hasn't broken itself by patching.

Jambalaya at K2

Last year's K2 cookery, the jambalaya, appears to have been a success, such that I've had several requests to do it again this year.

For those who don't remember or know: Jambalaya is a rice dish, with chicken, prawns and some other stuff in. It's spicy (though not very) and I'll have pita bread or naan or something to go with it. I'll also be doing a hotter version for those who prefer it - same dish, more spices. As per last year, the prawns will go in at the last minute, so those who have an unreasonable objection to our decapod crustacean friends can avoid them by getting their serving before this happens.

I'll be making the jambalaya on Sunday afternoon/evening. There will be either pancakes or waffles on Saturday "morning", from about 11:00-ish on a first-come first-served basis, for no cost (although bribes of good beer and EVE cards will get you extra).

Ticking either of the first two boxes here means I will come hunting for money. Those of you who suffer from compulsive poll-filling, but will not for whatever reason be able to partake of the food, may go for the last option.

Poll #1518223 Jambalaya

I would like to buy in on:

Standard Jambalaya, at €7
5(38.5%)
Hot Jamabalaya, at €7
5(38.5%)
Tickybox! For Free
3(23.1%)


(See also sabayone's chocolate cake poll.)

The Future

I am not in the shiniest of moods right at the moment. Nothing is wrong in any major way, but an accumulation of minor things - work stresses (largely other people's), the icy-slippy-surface-but-no-longer-snowy weather, the fact that the water is still off here three days after we first noticed, and the difficulty of scheduling games, among others - are putting me into a state where I'm more easily annoyed than usual. So this thinking about The Future goes under a cut tag, because it's probably rather bleak for most people's tastes.

The FutureCollapse )

This entry is not f-locked, and I'd welcome contributions from people not on my friends list. Anonymous, untracked comments are enabled, as usual, although I'll be keeping an eye on them.

Incidentally, I feel much better for getting that entry out of my system.

Silent Monks Sing Hallelujah

I'm not entirely sure I've ever posted a video before, but this is just far too good to miss.

Postal Addresses

If, for any reason, you reckon I might not have your postal address, and you think I should, this would be a good time to provide it. Likewise, if you've moved since about 2007, I once had your address, and you still don't object to my knowing where you live, please tell me your new address.

Comments are screened.

Accent

I am rarely aware of my own accent. I know it's there, and I know it sounds vaguely Irish to most non-Irish people, and vaguely non-Irish weird to the Irish, and sometimes archaic to everyone. I have always used 'ye' as the second-person plural, for instance, instead of the more modern Hiberno-English 'yous' or 'yiz'.

However, in the progress of a recent Living And the Dead session, I noticed that due to accents, only sabayone and shootbambi can pronounced the word 'realm' correctly every time. olethros, carawyn and I always insert an extra vowel - a sort of mini-u - between the l and the m. utterlymundane, being a well-spoken young fellow, gets it right about two attempts in three, but falls on the third hurdle.

Myself, I seem to be physically incapable of excising that extra vowel - and now that I've noticed it in my own speech, I can't un-hear it. Terribly irritating.

Gaelcon

It's time for GAELCON!

I am leaving work shortly, and while I may be online over the weekend, expect little coherency or attention. If you want coherency or attention, turn up to Galecon 2009 and bring me something I can sell for charity at the Bring & Buy stand.

Otherwise, I'll see teh internetz sometime around Tuesday next week.

Gaelcon 2009 Bring & Buy Stand

We're running the bring and buy stand at Gaelcon again this year. If you're in Ireland, and have games or gamer-y stuff you want to get rid of, please let me know. 20% of the sale price goes to charity - you can give more, of course - and the remainder back to you. Gaelcon's charity fund basically goes to children's charities of one kind or another, so it's a good cause.

Gaelcon happens on the weekend of the 24th of October, so let me know soon if you have stuff.

(If you're abroad, and willing to post stuff, let me know that too.)

Adsense on Livejournal

As a note, if you're intending to try the new Adsense on Livejournal thing - I am - you'll probably want to disable the setting under the privacy tab in LJ's options that says

"Search Inclusion [] Minimize my journal's inclusion in search engine results"

... cos otherwise you won't pick up much, if anything, from Adsense.

Anyone else opting in to this?

Work Blog

I've just finished setting up a new blog. Yeah, I know, I do that every few months, and you're all getting bored with it. However, in this case, it's new and different because it's not for me, it's for work. Check out the Elucidate Blog, add it to your feedreaders, and prepare for an onslaught of about a post a day on Stuff Drew Thinks About The Internet.

Any statements about post frequency here are aspirations, not promises. There will be contributions from other writers as well.

Play EQII

It is, as observed by many of you, my birthday. Some people have asked if there's anything I'd like. There is.

I would like you to come play Everquest II with me. EQII is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. I think it's very good. I would like more people to try it. Also, if I can get people to sign up for it, even for one month, the nice people who run it will give me a free month's play per person (there's probably an upper limit to this, so you don't ALL have to sign up). There is, in any case, a two-week-long free trial.

If you might be interested in this, leave me a comment with your email address (or mail me at gothwalk@gmail.com, if you don't want your email visible), and I shall get you one of the special refer-a-friend trial invites, as they get you more benefits than the ordinary trial (I think), and get me my free month if you decide to buy in after your two week trial.

If you don't feel like Everquest II, or indeed MMOs, are your thing, that is, of course, your particular brand of crazy, but I probably still like you.

A Great Fear of Piggy Sniffles

So a kid - a teenager, to be fair - in a school uniform got on the Dart this morning. He looked a bit unwell, red-eyed, pale. He started to sneeze just as the train moved off, and I swear, there was a tidal wave of people moving away from him. He looked around and said, "Dudes. Hay-fever."

Tuska '09

sabayone, paape and I are going to Tuska '09. Tuska is an outdoor metal festival held in Helsinki, and it's this weekend. I know some of the bands playings, but I'm doing brief bits of research on the others, so as to have SOME idea which stages I want to be at when. So far, I've the following in mind:

ScheduleCollapse )

Apart from Korpiklaani and Amorphis overlapping on different stages, it's fairly nicely distributed.

So, anything else there anyone would recommend?

I knew I liked Twitter for a reason!

A bloke I follow on Twitter (@JohnBatDell) posted a brief competition today - tell him why you're the biggest geek, and win one of these: http://www.dypce.ak.com/html/products/gaming/rocker100/

I replied, concerning Shakespearean MMOs, and the next I know is there's a message saying I've won. Rock!

Fire and Cat

Having completed various runnings around today, we sat down, and since it was a truly manky day here, lit the fire. shandri_cat came to sit on me, and sabayone took some pictures, of which this one is my favourite.

Summer Party

The date for our annual summer party - now with brick barbecue - has been settled. You should be making your way to our place on the Sunday of the August Bank Holiday Weekend, that is, Sunday the 2nd of August. We'll be starting to cook in early to mid-afternoon, will refuel the barbecue a few times during the day, and will keep going until such time as people leave or fall asleep.

Quilldragon

For anyone not reading dukestreet, I'm now making contributory posts to the overall efforts at Quilldragon, a group blog about fantasy literature. Go over and have a look, add us to your feed reader, that kinda thing.

Business Survey

Elucidate are doing a survey of business changes in 2009 in Ireland, and we'll be circulating the results at the IIA congress next week.

If you're in business in Ireland, we'd love to have you fill in the survey.

And feel free to pass that around to other people as well - the more data we get, the more useful it will be!

Dreamwidth

One Dreamwidth invite code available; first person to comment here gets it.

Feel free to leave more comments; I'll undoubtedly have more codes in future.

EDIT: Excessive use of semi-colons; no apologies.

DreamWidth

Thanks to cissa, I now have http://gothwalk.dreamwidth.org/ - still debating exactly what to do with it, but go ahead if you want to add me there. I've applied for invite codes, and note with some pleasedness that paid accounts there can add Google Analytics on their journal pages, which is rather nice. Not quite enough to make me get a paid account yet, but if I end up using it regularly, it'll be a strong persuader.

DW

Alright. Someone send me a Dreamwidth invite code, please.

Voice

evilrobotshane does a gaming podcast. It's rather good, and I'm not just saying that because he and his co-host had me on to talk about K2. But they did, and if you feel the need to hear about K2 (or just hear what I sound like), have a listen.

It appears I don't hate the sound of my own voice anymore, which is nice. I can't place my own accent, though...

Writer's Block: Celebrating Friendships

Over the past ten years, many friendships have started and/or been renewed on LiveJournal. Of your current LJ friends, who have you known the longest?


I've known brucius since he was born, which is, uh... 25 years. He's my brother, so that may be cheating. Other than that... I think I've known kehoea since about 1991, which is... 18 years.

Surreality on a Thursday

So, sometimes I am more than half convinced I'm in some sort of music video.

This morning, crossing Baggot Street, I was passed by a black convertible sports car, trailing cherry blossom from the raft of the stuff on the bonnet, driven by a woman wearing a white wedding dress and dark glasses, blasting out Bryan Adams[1] at top volume.

Thirty seconds later, a robot dog ran past me.

Now, the robot dog was pursued rapidly by three film students[2], one with a camera, one with a remote control, and the guy with the remote was shouting "fucking thing won't stop!", but still... it was a nicely offbeat start to the working day.

[1] (Everything I Do) I Do It For You
[2] I assume they were students; they were all wearing identical UCD-branded polo shirts.

Zork/Narnia Crossover

So, one of my Zork characters seems to have ended up in a group with Susan Pevensie.

Legends of Zork

If you're not playing Legends of Zork, you totally should be. It's what Kingdom of Loathing could be if it laid off the juvenile punning.

And before you dive too fully into it, take a look at my 4 Quick Tips for Legends of Zork.

Feet, Back On

I am back on my feet, more or less, after the argument with Mister Bronchitis. I'm still tiring very easily, I find, and my comprehension isn't all that, but I'm upright, not coughing too much, and able to physically be in work. This is a considerable improvement over the last few days.

Special thanks go to sabayone, who has been utterly wonderful throughout, taking the best of care of me, getting me medicines, best-liked foods, magazines, and generally making sure that I was comfortable and able to get better.

I have been reading LJ, but may not have been all that great at comprehension, so if you were expecting a response to something, and didn't get it, feel free to point me at it. Likewise, I know I drifted off midway through a couple of IM conversations; sorry about those!

Koff. Koff.

So I've been feeling coldish ever since we got back from K2 - had a few days late last week when I reckoned I was better, and was promptly proven wrong. After spending last night feverish and coughing, I went along to our nearest doctor today - who turns out to be about eight minutes walk away, actually within the estate, which was useful - and was told I have bronchitis. "All the way down", apparently, and a bit worse on the left. So I have some antibiotics, which are huge pills, and steroids, which are tiny pills of which I have to take lots at once, and special cough sryrup. And I'm to stay home until Monday, at the very least.

Which is a complete bugger, because we're already mad busy this month in work, and there are things I need to have finished by the end of quarter. I can do some from home, but not all of it, and in any case I'm hampered by the fact that I get stupid when I'm ill.

This post brought to you by half an hour's careful typing and typo removal (if there are any left, please be merciful), while listening to the BritAsia music channel, which is great.

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