Sunday 31 August 2014

That Was the Month That Was

Well, it's the 31st of August, so it's time to have a little bit of a review of what we've been up to this month and what's coming into the future. Before we start, I'd like to thank my mum, the EVAC Blaugust crew, and Belghast and the crew over at the other Blaugust, who've kept me entertained and engaged this month, and my wife for allowing 'blauging' to be a reason for me to delay real-life things that need doing. Anyways, let's get into it:

Mondays at the Vatican:

I felt like the pope comic really didn't go anywhere this month, and as much as I'd have like to actually get the story moving I instead spent the month trying to re-learn and re-imagine some of the characters that I plan to use. I'm ok with this, as it feels a little bit like progress, but we fell short of where we wanted to be, so I guess that's a failure. Still, I intend to keep up the general pope-related content on Mondays on a bit less of a demanding schedule, almost certainly not every week, so if you're interested in seeing what the fellows get up to, stay tuned on future Mondays.

Tuesday Book Club:

I'm definitely enjoying the reading challenge that I've set myself, but with four weeks down and almost four-hundred to go, I guess that it's a bit too early to judge. Still, we're going to keep doing this weekly and see how long we can keep it up. If you'd like to join the reading club, I'd love it if you'd like to jump in, the requirement to read 100 pages a week is pretty light, and it can be even lighter if you only join in for part of the syllabus.

Wednesday Quiz in Exile

Quiztime continues to be a lot of fun to create, but I'm kind of struggling to come up with good ideas to keep up a season of high-quality content. I'll plan to keep this going weekly until we've had a season of eight quizzes and then we can review then. The big thing stopping this from working well is a lack of ideas of what I know well enough to challenge other people's knowledge on, so feel free to suggest some topics.

Thursday Night Games

Tracking the EVAC diplomacy game has been the hardest content to keep up given how busy I generally am on Thursdays, and it doesn't seem to be a particularly popular part of the Blaugust schedule, but I feel like it's a useful and necessary part of running the game, so I plan to keep doing it, but don't be surprised if this starts slipping into Tie Friday territory here and there.

I've also jsut started recording the games that we play each week and the winners thereof, and I'm considering expanding this into reviews of our modest selection of board and card games, though I know there's plenty of people out there doing it better than I possibly could, so I don't knw if we'll end up going down that path. If we do, I'd expect that to start trickling out on Thursdays too, so if you'd be interested in seeing that, being part of it, or have any ideas on the topic, I'd love to hear about it. And of course, if you're free on Thursday nights in our neck of the woods, come on down and join in!

Friday Ties

Ties are a reliable staple of the Leaflocker, and I see no chance of that changing any time in the near future. I'm aware that some of you feel like Ties are just filler content, but even the best need a break sometimes and I'm loath to abandon yet another project before I've seen it through to its conclusion, so Tie Friday's will keep happening most weeks if at all possible.

Saturday Projects

I'm not sure what to say about Saturdays. On the one hand, I got around to making a bunch of Wesnoth videos, but on the other hand, I didn't exactly get that many projects off of the ground, so I'd say it failed in it's aim of getting me to do real-life things. Anyway, I'd expect Saturday to become the domain of Raptember this coming month, and then we'll see if any actual useful projects or ideas for other youtube series suddenly appear.

Sunday Spirituality

After a good start, I've let myself down on this one, having produced only a couple of pieces of content, and even those were pretty superficial and less insightful than I hoped. I'll continue to plan to reserve Sunday for religious content in general, but I'm not expecting there to be many posts in the near future, unless our spiritual blog-mother Michael5000 gets us all inspired on some kind of biblical quest.

In Conclusion

It's been a lot of fun getting back into the habit of blogging again, but I'm very glad that the month and the foolish requirement I set myself of posting once a day is now behind me. I hope that I'll be able to keep up producing new stuff, as it's been a lot of fun to spend the time each day writing and even branching out to making videos, and I look forward to sharing it all with you.

And last of all, thanks for reading and commenting and making Blaugust fun for me. I wish you all the best in your endeavours and hope that you'll stick around to join us for Raptember, the annual Rap-a-thon I share with my friend and nemesis Dan once the madness of Blaugust has passed. If Dan's prior for mis anything to go by, you'll be richly rewarded if you do.

Saturday 30 August 2014


A day out is great, terrible Jackie Chan movies and all, but it doesn't help me get blog content, guys! So, I guess my project for this week is finishing up my set of Blaugust Wesnoth videos. I've kind of enjoyed making these things, but as I've pretty much exhausted any content that I could possibly provide I guess that it's time that the youtube channel went into hibernation unless I get really organised and throw together something for Raptember.

Anyway, if you've got a spare eighty minutes, you can watch me try (and fail, a couple of times) to finish the final level of Tale of Vaniyera. With that behind me, it's time to do something constructive for the day before calling it a night.

A good last day of Blaugust to you all. Tomorrow I'll be reviewing the month that was and looking to the future. I hope to see you then.

Friday 29 August 2014

Tie of the Week

Our tie photo this week is not on me because this was a very short week in the tie department and the tie only got worn for two days earlier in the week, since a more casual dress code was the order of the rest of the week. Instead, you get this tie on a home-made duct-tape mannequin that Mrs. Owl brought home from her craft night tonight. She has all the cool parties.

If you did have a photo of me, you'd notice that the hear situation is a little more under control, since Mrs. Owl got desperate and went for the scissors earlier in the week.

Tie Number: 013
Designation: The Penny Green
Provenance: ?
Manufacture: Midtown
No. of Comments: 
Most Favourable Comment: N/A
Least Favourable Comment: N/A
Observations: This is pretty boring, conventional tie, hence the lack of comments. Probably means it's actually a nice tie or something, but I don't wear ties to look good, after all. Its only saving grace is that the patterns on it remind me of postage stamps, and postage stamps are fun.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Autumn 1902: Let's Get Dangerous

It's 1902 in old Europe, and the alliance structure is becoming a little clearer. Russia and France are scrambling to make up ground after their slow progress in 1901, and early leader Germany is trying to look unthreatening. It's that fun time around the board when things really begin to start happening.

ENGLAND (F Lvp - Wal, F Lon S F Lvp - Wal, A Yor S F Lon, F Nwy S A Fin - Swe)
After a safe build, King Maximillian continues on his defensive route, ensuring that the French are repelled and buying a Russian ally by offering support into Sweden. The English aren't getting a build this turn, but with the Germans all over France they can at least be reassured that they're not even close to doing the worst in the theatre, and while Germany continues building armies the English will be content to sit back and pick up a centre or two where they can.

FRANCE (F ENG C A Wal-Pic, A Wal - Pic, A Spa - Mar)
The French saw the writing on the wall and chose to save the army for the autumn at the cost of doing anything particularly useful with their fleet. With hostiles of the Germans in Gascony and Burgundy, and Italians in Piedmont, whatever the French try to do in the autumn will be taking a big chance of losing even more home centres. Just goes to show how important an early-game ally as one of your neighbours can be.

GERMANY (A Par - Gas, A Mun - Bur, A Hol - Bel, F Den - Ska, F Kie - Den, A Ber - Sil)
The problem with being so far in the lead after 1901 is trying to preserve that lead when all your neighbours suddenly get spooked. The Kaiser (Fuhrer?) has apparently decided to deal with this issue by moving quickly to eliminate the French while gearing up for a protracted war against potential Russian aggression. If the Austrians are friendly, it could work really well, but if that army in Bohemia has hostile intentions, we could be looking at a new game leader very soon.

AUSTRIA (A Vie - Boh, A Bud - Gal, A Tri - Bud, A Ser - Bul, F Gre S A Ser - Bul)
That's the wonderful thing about Austria. Often you'll see them sandwiched between the Turks, Russians and Italians and squished in a couple of years, but when they find an ally or two they have an incredible ability to explode and be suddenly everywhere. If the move to Bohemia is a feint, then Austro-German co-operation could assure Moscow and give the Austrians a chance at Rumania or Bulgaria too, and if it's not, a Russian alliance could result in quick expansion into Germany.

ITALY (A Pie - Mar, A Tun H, F ION H, F Nap - Tys)
Not quite sure what Italy is doing, but I guess that biding his time before deciding if his opponent is France or Turkey is a nice option for a cautious Italy. I worry that whatever booty might be gained from an alliance from Austria or Germany might be reduced by taking the extra time, but at least there's the advantage of still not really having any enemies. Except for France, of course, but one wonders if France is going to remain a factor for long.

TURKEY (A Bul H, F Con S A Bul H, F Smy - Aeg, A Syr - Smy)
Things might look kind of dismal, but they are going about as well as the Sultan could hope at the moment, as with the Russians barely involved in the theatre it was always going to be an uphill battle for Turkey. It will all come down to which way the Italians fall. Either way, the Turks are prepared for a long protracted battle and winkling the wicked witch of the East out of her home will be a difficult task.

RUSSIA (A Fin - Swe, F Bot - Lvn, A Lvn - War, F Sev - Rum)
These moves are pretty confusing to me, to be honest. Gaining Sweden is great, but with the fleet back in Livonia the Tsar is beholden to the English to allow him to hold it. Warsaw is in danger too if Germany and Austria are friends, and when the Russians are already in conflict with the Germans in Scandinavia and the Austrians in the Balkans, that's a disturbing possibility. Still, given how poorly things seemed to be starting out, I'm not discounting the Russian just yet.

And that was the week that was in Europe. By this time next week the powers will be shaping up for the Spring moves in 1903, and who knows what the board might look like. See you then.


I've had a request to let everyone know what games were played each Thursday Board games night, so here we are. Apparently it was actually Thursday Card Games night, but I guess that happens. I sat out the first couple as is my custom when the lasagne is in the oven, and Stephen and Daniel swept the night.

Game 1:Samurai Sword
Loyals (Laura and Stephen [17]) defeated the Ronin (Rochelle [6]) and the Ninjas (Matthew, Callum and Daniel [4]).

Game 2: Samurai Sword
Ninjas (Laura, Callum and Daniel [10]) defeated Loyals (Matthew and Stephen [8]) and the Ronin (Rochelle [0])

Game 3: San Juan
Stephen and Daniel [33] defeated Callum [31] and Matthew [27], and drew on cards as well.

Game 4: 500
Daniel [540] defeated Matthew [350], Stephen [210], Callum [100] and Thom [-20].

Game 5: 500
Stephen [180] defeated Daniel [60], Callum [-10], Matthew [-250] and Thom [-580].

Why is it that the first night that we record results I do so terribly?

Wednesday 27 August 2014

The Wednesday Quiz: Poster Boys

It's quiz time again! This week, it's nice and simple, all you have to do is name the band from their portrait as it appeared in Rolling Stone's 100 greatest artists of all time. Should be easy, right? Especially if you are familiar with my lack of taste in music.
(It was going to be TV show themes, but I just got stuck listening to Cheers and couldn't're lucky there's a quiz at all.)

A little bonus because I couldn't bear to leave them out

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Uncommonly Jolly Now

Reading was not a thing that I managed to find time for this week, so there's a little bit of a scramble to get this post up for tonight, but here we go...

Week in Review

Last week: 115 pages
So far: 321 pages

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Part One, Ch. 14  -  Ch. 19
 Still behind on Lolita. This will be updated shortly.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Volume i, Book Second, Ch. 1 - 8.
Whoa, in comparison to the complete lack of movement so far, we've had a relative flurry in these eight chapters. A mysterious vagabond comes to town and is turned out of all the inns, before being put up in grand fashion by the good Bishop, who knows that this is the notorious Jean Valjean and does not give a hoot, as is his nature with which we are already so very familiar, dear reader.
Well, actually, that all happened in the first five chapters and the last three were a little bit of discussion on the penal system and the nature of rehabilitation. But they also include a large part of the history of the man and since these chapters provide and explain in great part some of the motivations that will carry him through the rest of the novel, they are useful chapters indeed.
The Jean Valjean we see here portrayed is a hardened criminal, and he hates all the world for making him so. The sympathic reader cannot help but be concerned for the wellbeing of our hero, the good Bishop. What harm will befall him and his household?

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Book the First, Ch. 12 - 16
I thought Mr. Dickens was going to come through for me there for a moment, I really did, but the mysterious woman that turned up on the doorstep stayed just that, a mystery woman. A mystery woman with an unhealthy interest in and enthusiasm for Mr. Bounderby and his activities, to be sure, but not one that suddenly leapt up in the service and stopped poor Louisa's wedding to the man. Mr Dickens, I am both disappointed and delighted that you've let me down.
Louisa is so delightfully sarcastic that I cannot help but like her, but she seems to be going to her marriage with a good deal of stiff upper lip, which is right and proper and all, but a bit crap. I'd hoped for a little fire. Not even Sissy shows any fire any more, having been thoroughly Gradground. What a pity. The only fire we even got close to seeing was from the enigmatic Mrs. Sparsit.  Not sure quite what's going on there, but it's Bounderby fun (Oh man, Classic. Gonna have to try and make a literature pun a week from here on in, I think).

Letter to Horace Greeley by Abraham Lincoln
Well, this was disappointing. Definitely Lincoln, written with the no-nonsense precision I've come to somehow expect from him through the zeitgeist somehow, but lacking the fire. Apparently written in response to an editorial in which he was criticised for not doing enough to free the slaves, the only reason I can see that this letter has any importance at all is that it was apparently written just after (but published earlier than) the Emancipation Proclamation, and thus its moderate tone constitutes Lincoln's attempt at playing the mild mannered Bud Abbott in order to set-up the punchline for the EP's Lou Costello.
I think I'll be more careful picking up the Americana in the future. It was an experiment, but not one I care to repeat in the near future. And I can't leave this without mentioning that in all the portraits, Horace Greeley is shown to have some impressive neck beard thing going on...either he wore hair shirts a lot or that man has a hairy chest to put the Teen Wolf to shame.

The Enchiridion by Epictetus
In contrast, this little number blew my socks off. You should read this, guys. By half-way through, I was pretty much convinced that were I not a practicing Christian I could be a Stoic in the mould of Epictetus and be damn happy. Sure, I'd probably be about as good a Stoic as I am Christian, but it seems to me to be an attractive way of living, if you were actually capable of meeting a state of mind even close to the prescribed ideals.
What I really like, though, is that instead of just stating the impossible to attain premise, Epictetus goes into depth about how to attempt to achieve this in the real world, and softens it. I've always associated philosophers, especially the Stoics, with a kind of brittle iron, but Epictetus' stoicism boils down to 'follow your path as best you can, but be considerate of other' or 'do unto others as you'd have them do unto you', and I can definitely see the attraction. Any mindset that doesn't insist that it's the only right way and go around insisting upon it to others is fine with me.
I should mention at this point that Mrs. Owl disagrees, and says that I am not a ceramic cup, that she would be sad if I died, and that Epictetus is a big dummy. She may have a point there.
The Missus 1 - Philosophy 0.

The Killers by Ernest Hemingway
Yep, well, that was a thing I read. If there was something deeper to it I didn't really get it. Doctor J is right that it feels a little Waiting for Godot, but as an Australian I can go further and say it feels like Waiting for Godot if it were written by an American, all bluster with all the nervous tension and the good jokes stripped out, and an undercurrent of racism that feels like it's there just to make sure you know that you're in the good old US of A. Fine read and all, but if it weren't written by a master no-one would look twice. I suspect that Hemingway fans feel let down by it too.

Week 4 Readings

Doctor J's reading list for this week see's actual GBWW content! We're officially off and racing with a little light Plato. The rest we can pick and choose, though, and as I've read The Tell-Tale Heart before, the only other thing that we're going to pick this week is a some Stevenson.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#not_gbww #copyrighted #fiction #english
Part One, Ch. 20 - 23 (26 pages)

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
#not_gbww #fiction #french
Volume i, Book Two, Ch. 9 -13 (16 pages)
I know what happens next, and so does pretty much everyone who's ever read the book or seen the play or the film. Short of another tangent, these are the formative chapters coming up, so hold on to your seats.

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
#not_gbww #fiction #english
Book the Second, Ch. 1 - 4 (32 pages)
Let's see now... Mr. Bounderby get embroiled in a shoddy business deal and loses all of his money, forcing Gradgrind to bail him out. Cissy catches sight of a stranger who she thinks might be her father. Blackpool's wife fails to do anything useful at all. And it's still not too late for romance to bloom for Mrs. Sparsit. I dunno, I'm making it up.

The Lantern-bearers by Robert Louis Stevenson
#new #oneshot #ggb #essay? #english
(10 pages)
It's been many long years since Mr. Stevenson and I were last acquainted, and since I seem to recall reading most of Jeckyll and Hyde while waiting around in hospitals and doctor's surgeries, I hope that we might met in better circumstances this time around. From the title I'm expecting something dark and gothic, so that could be fun. Mind you, it's found in a collection called 'Collected Essays', so maybe not so much. Let's find out.

Meno by Plato
#new #ggww #oneshot #philosophy #greek
(17 pages)
Let's start the GBWW in fine style, with a shot of Plato. I feel like a little boy again, excited for my first day of school, or my first chance to bowl with an actual cricket ball or my first chance to see Shakespeare. This week, I read my first Socratic dialogue!

Happy reading to you all.

Monday 25 August 2014

Fools! There Will Be A Pope!

Pretty happy with this Paul VI and JP I

When real things arise, it's hard to justify the time to draw pictures of popes, and I'm sure that Pope Francis wouldn't approve of me drawing him instead of getting my hands dirty, so I'm going to go ahead and do that instead of blogging tonight. My heart's not in it anyway.

Benedict XVI would undoubtedly quote someone unapproachable, and end up coming up with a justification that makes perfect sense but is utterly impractical for the real situation at hand. Sorry, Benny, tonight you get it, I guess.

John Paul II recognised the need to take time away from the serious business of governing worldly affairs to be approachable and relational. Someone else can always do the governing stuff later.

John Paul I would probably suggest that talking to an imaginary audience about problems instead of dealing with them is a very cathartic experience. Man I love John Paul I.

Paul VI would undoubtedly lay down the law and get me off my ass to do things. I might not like him for it, but I gotta respect him for his stance.

Pope John XXIII would just make a wisecrack and move on, but I know he'd keep a place for me in his prayers later.

(And just for you, Michael, Pope Telesphorus would probably tell me that I'm going about this all wrong, but he'd be nice enough to be friendly about it anyways.)

Super pleased with this Francis and JP II

Sunday 24 August 2014

Lazy Days (Are Sundays)

I guess the home-straight-of-blaugust blues are really getting to me, but I can't bring myself to talk about Doctor Who or religion tonight. Not for want of trying, it's just that some days are games for video-games and ignoring both the real world and the timey-wimey world (I am excite) and just playing games. Escapism is something I need sometimes, and tonight, when the weight of the world is really getting me down, is one of those times.

I have a long and rambling post on a topic that I've been working through this week, but I'm not really ready to show the world just yet (you know it's half baked, if even I, self-proclaimed king of cop-outs, won't share). So I'm afraid that yet again, my friends, you get a Wesnoth video.

In this attempt, I try and fail to show people how easy it is to win a level of my Orbivm campaign by getting all my guys slaughtered, an important life lesson, but not really conducive to showing off my video-game prowess. So, this is how not to do it, and I'll be back later in the week to show you how it's really supposed to be done.

Saturday 23 August 2014

The Imperial Era Lives

So, today is kind of a big day for me, because I finally got rid of enough bugs and made enough changes that I've been able to release the next version of the Imperial Era, and have it actually work. This change has been in the works for...almost two years, and in that time I've redone some of the changes more than half-a-dozen times as I've struggled with version control, data loss and the general incompetence of the coder, not to mention changing my mind on what I want to do a number of times too.

This means that if you're running the latest development version of Battle for Wesnoth, you can download both the Imperial Era and the campaign that I've been exhibiting in my videos this month Tale of Vaniyera, from the 1.12 add-ons server, and have a play for yourself. (The other campaigns will pop up eventually when I've killed off all their gamebreaking bugs).

As well as fixing a multitude of bugs, I've also made a number of balance changes (though it's still FAR from fair) and most exciting of all, I've added the first new art for the era since 2008! Thanks to willing artists amorphous and freeforestify, I present the new Orcish Paegnarius and Bestiarius, in both sprite and portrait form. I can almost scrape by coding the simple stuff, since WML is an easy language, but drawing the pretties is always going to be beyond me.

A bit later today, if the video ever finishes uploading, I'll also post my next ToV video here too, coming to you from the lofty heights of Wesnoth shiny! I just can't be sure that I'll get it done in time, so I'll post this early to make sure that we don't have any more....incidents.

Friday 22 August 2014

Tie of the Week

Our photo this week was a bit of a rush job by the ever-obliging Sylvia, taken while I was in the process of making one of far too many cups of tea during our boardgames meet last night. Yes, this is the best of the four attempts. I think she was trying to make up for her scoundrel of a husband saying mean things about this little gem, while the the person that went all the way to Cambodia and picked it out for me was sitting next door to him as well.

These phone cameras really are getting better and better. You can see how desperate the hair situation is becoming in brilliant colour!

Tie Number: 012
Designation: The Colonel
Provenance: The Other Brother
Manufacture: Handmade in Cambodia
No. of Comments: 4 (Moderate)
Most Favourable Comment: 
Least Favourable Comment: It's like vomit on grass, isn't it?
Observations: For me, this will always be the tie that brings out the mustard in my eyes. A painful affliction that requires me to always have this one nearby. 

Thursday 21 August 2014

Autumn 1901: Zeroth Coming of Hitler

Welcome back to our ongoing coverage of the current EVAC email diplomacy game. We've just finished up 1901, and there's a great power imbalance emerging between our great powers.

A Burgundy > Paris
F Denmark > Sweden (*BOUNCE* with Russian A Livonia [1v1])
A Kiel > Holland

He went through with it! Paris falls to the Germans in 1901, cue the mocking press broadcasts: "Where is your Revanche now?". The Kaiser has opted to take Paris now and look to pick up Belgium next year; and also to bounce the Russians out of Sweden. He's made himself a couple of enemies this turn, but managed to arrange it that neither of them got control of any surplus centres, and is probably counting on his three builds to make some quick progress against them both before any of the other powers can leap to their defence.

F Gulf of Bothnia Convoy A Livonia > Sweden
A Livonia > Sweden (*BOUNCE* with German F Sweden [1v1])
F Sevastopol > Rumania (*BOUNCE* with Austrian A Budapest [1v1])
A St. Petersburg > Finland

Safe play from the Russian after an aggressive start, but the lack of builds might hurt him with the German boucning the convoy in Sweden and Rumania failing too. But, the Tsar has probably assured himself Sweden next year unless there's and Anglo-German alliance forming, but might have to scramble to defend Warsaw if the Germans come East in force. The south seems to be shaping up like a promising Russo-Turkish alliance, though you never can be sure of anything in this game.

A Edinburgh > Yorkshire
F North Sea > London
F Norwegian Sea > Norway

Good safe play by the English here, opting to ensure that the French will be repelled if they attempt a convoy, at the expense of the North Sea. Things might have gone poorly if Russia had chosen to bounce in Norway, but instead, England is looking pretty secure if limited for options for expansion in the near future.

F English Channel Convoy A Picardy > Wales
A Marseilles > Spain
A Picardy > Wales

Opting for the convoy to Wales at the expense of the defence of his own homeland, the President won't have won himself any friends amongst the English here. Unfortunately for him, the Russian didn't bounce in Norway, allowing the English to build and ensuring that the French have no hope of making any gains in Britain.

F Albania > Greece
A Budapest > Rumania (*BOUNCE* with Russian F Sevastopol [1v1])
A Serbia Support A Budapest > Rumania (*CUT* by Turkish A Bulgaria)

Austria seems to have found a probable alliance in her Eastern neighbours, but a faithful friend in the Italian. With the German focused on France with a possible front opening against Russia, and two builds on the way, Austria is sitting pretty, and can choose if she's going to go into a full-frontal assault on her Russian neighbour who has no builds coming, or turn on the Italian.

A Apulia > Tunis
F Ionian Sea Convoy A Apulia > Tunis
A Venice > Piedmont

Italy, ever the opportunist, has decided to go after France will he's down, which should spell the doom of the Republic unless the President can find an unlikely friend. A slow start for Italy as it so often is, but the build phase, and the choice of an army in Venice for defence or a fleet in Naples for offence.

F Ankara > Constantinople
A Bulgaria > Serbia (*Bounce* by Austrian A Serbia)
A Smyrna > Syria

Turkey either has a Russian ally here, or is confident that she at least doesn't have an enemy in the Tsar, and is mobilising her forces to become a naval power in the Med. With the army in Syria (which looks odd, but is a sign of goodwill for Russia and a warning for opppents attempting a Lepanto), presumably there will be a fleet build in Smyrna, and the race will be to secure the Aegean and get the Syrian army into position to support Bulgaria to hold. 

I'd hoped to talk about the builds too, but I'm up against a deadline tonight, so we'll go in to them shortly.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Dead Man Switch

If you're reading this, I have failed at Blaugust, and am even now looking for a swiftly flowing stream...

This is a Naruto / Hikaru No Go plot bunny that came to me in the middle of the night and just wouldn't go away until I wrote it down. I am sharing it with you all because I am a terrible person, and also because I'm perversely proud of it. If you haven't read Hikaru No Go, do yourself a favour and borrow it from your local library, it's the best manga about a Go-playing ghost around. If you haven't read Naruto, congratulations. If you've read neither, this will probably not make that much sense to you.

I'm basically going to try and tell the story of Hikaru No Go if it happened in the Naruto universe, with Hikaru's quest to become a go pro being replaced with a quest to become a ninja, Hikaru replacing Naruto wholesale and Sasuke replacing Akira. Yes, I expect it to be a terrible schmozzle, but I was having fun, so what the heck. I don't expect to get that far before I get bored of the premise, but let's run with it for now.

The basic idea is that the first chapters of Hikago will form a kind of prologue to Naruto, the insei chapters will correspond with Naruto's passage through the ninja academy, and then the Pro exam will be approximately equivalent to the Chunin exam. By this point I expect the universe to be so hideously malformed that it will collapse in on itself and explode, but if that ever happens we'll blame it on the 'Eye of the Moon' plan.


The sun set on a regular peaceful day like any other in Kohonagakure. Trainee ninja terrorised escaped family pets, friends casually attacked each other with lethal weapons; and in the civilian quarter, two teenagers explored a storage shed.
"Hikaru, are you sure about this?"
"Grandpa won't mind, he never even comes out here, he won't notice if we borrow some old junk."
Sure, Hikaru didn't plan on ever returning them, but Akari didn't need to know that. There was a lot of  junk in his grandfather's shed, back-issues of magazines piled to the attic roof, old sports equipment littered the floor, he'd never find out if Hikaru acquired a few things. A boy had to live, after all.
Once he edged carefully past the piles near the door, Hikaru found the good stuff, some antique-looking gobans (too heavy to move easily), a set of illustrated hard-bound novels by someone called "The Great Jaraiya-Sama" (too embarrassing to properly examine in front of Akari), and a non-descript, but obviously ancient, scabbard.
"Hey Akari, check this out! Man, my grandpa must have been a total bad-ass when he was younger" he called out as he drew a sword almost as tall as himself out of the scabbard. Even in the dingy half-light of the shed, it was clear that the sword had a razor edge.
"Hikaru! Be careful with that! You could put your eye out!"
"Weird, it's got this strange stain on it, have a look..."
"Don't point it at me! All I can see is a huge sword waving in my face!" 
"Look, it's right there. It's looks like dried blood or something..."
You can see the stain?
"Whoa! Who is it? If you're a burglar you'd better watch out! I'm armed... and dangerous!"
"Keep that thing away from me! If you screw up my haircut, Hikaru, I'll never forgive you!"
Can you hear my voice?
"I mean it! Show yourself!"
"I'm out of here before you poke your eye out or something and try to blame me!" Akari disappeared out of the shed, leaving her friend alone to wonder if he'd just imagined the mysterious voice. He didn't have to wonder for long.
Hikaru felt bewilderment and fear rising up in him as a humanoid shape appeared out of nowhere in front of him, filling his vision. He struggled to keep on top of his emotions, but he didn't do anything dumb and girly like fainting away. Even if neither he nor anyone he knew was a ninja, people appearing out of thin air was a common occurrence in the Village Hidden in the Leaves, it was practically a leaf ninja signature move, after all. Besides, he had a sword.
Thankyou, kami-sama. I will now return to the living world.
Hikaru might have been confronted in his grandfather's shed by the sudden appearance of a strangely-dressed woman (or man?), but he was still an inquisitive twelve-year-old boy. Encouraged by the comforting weight of the sword in his hand, he asked the first thing that popped into his head.
"The living world? Where were you before?"
I was...elsewhere. It is a long story.
"We've got time, you're not going anywhere until you tell me what you're going here."
Oh? It would obvious to anyone that follows the way of the sword that you have no idea what you are doing with that. And even if you did..."/ the man moved towards him passing straight through the sword and Hikaru to the other side, /"...I am a spirit. An earthly sword will not harm me.
"You're a...a spirit...a ghost?"
Please allow to me introduce myself. I am Fujiwara No Sai. When I lived, long, long ago, I was a tutor to the Emperor in swordsmanship and martial arts...


Hikaru sat in history class and tried not to look too bored.
So, Sai, you were so sad when you couldn't teach any more that you killed yourself? You really like martial arts that much, huh?
Of course I do. When you're facing an opponent in combat, a rival, there's nothing else, just you and he. It's simple and beautiful, like Go.
Go? That old man's game with the black and white stones? Talk about boring.
A game of the mind that is a reflection of battle. Strategy is the key to both.
Bah! They're both boring. I'm not going to play go, and I'm definitely not going to do any fighting. Martial arts is for losers and wannabe ninjas... Suddenly, Hikaru doubled over with a terrible pain in his stomach, like that time he hadn't noticed that he'd drunk week-old milk.
What the hell? I think I'm going to be sick! Sai, is that you?
Sorry! Sometimes when I feel strong emotions they flow over into my host.
Whoa. You were so sad about not being able to fight that you felt like you were going to chuck? You must really love martial arts.
I really do, Hikaru.
I thought you were taking over my body or something. Like a horror movie, you know.
I would never do that without your consent!
But you could, though, right?
I could, but only if you were willing for me to do so. I'm not strong enough to overcome your conscious control of your body.
This is weird. You've done this before, haven't you, Sai? Like, you've had other hosts before?
Once before. Hundreds of years ago now. There was a man called Bennosuke. I found him when he was very young, and we travelled all over Japan, fighting in many duels and battles. In his body, I met and fought many strong opponents...


"Shindo. Are you daydreaming again?" His teacher's voice interrupted their conversation. 
"Ah...sorry. What were we doing again?"
"You were writing about the Heian period. And if you're not nearly done you're going to fail. Again."
"Don't worry, sensei! I'm on it!"
Hey Sai, what do you know about the Heian period?
The Heian period? But that was when I was alive. What do you want to know?
Great! How about you try taking over for a bit and write in the answers for me?
Hikaru, are you sure?
Hey, I can't do this myself, I never listen to this guy, he's really boring. It'd be nice to surprise my grandpa by actually passing history for once. I'll get my body back when I want it, right?
Of course. Very well, this will feel a little strange.
A sensation like an ice-pack being slipped inside his shirt filled Hikaru's whole body, and all of a sudden he was outside his own body, watching the back of his head from where Sai had been just moments earlier.
Weird. Really weird.
Do you want to switch back, Hikaru?
No, I'm ok, I think. Besides, I have to get something handed up at the end of this lesson.
It took him a little while, but eventually he got more used to it, and settled down to watch Sai fill in his assignment with flowing and intricate calligraphy that was so foreign to Hikaru's habitual scrawl that it might have been another language altogether. Something about the Emperor and his concubines... Hehe. His teacher and his grandpa wouldn't know what hit them.


Hikaru's teacher had been putting off the chore of marking the last paper in the stack for an hour now. It wasn't that Hikaru was a bad student, exactly, he was just easily distracted, and one more graphic description of a soccer match allegedly occurring between rival armies might be enough to ensure a fail mark for the term, or give his teacher a mental breakdown. Taking a deep breath and steeling himself for the worst, he turned it over and began to read...
The sound of chair and body hitting the ground brought the teachers from the nearby offices running.


Walking home took a lot longer than usual, since Sai had never been in a ninja village before and had stop to examine every little thing, from the televisions in shop windows to the display of ornamental kunai. Hikaru kept having to wait for him, causing the nearby shopkeepers to eye him suspiciously.
As he doubled back to look for whatever had distracted Sai this time, he found the spirit lurking in a tree looking over the old Uchiha compound. Everyone in the village, ninja and civilian, knew what had happened to the Uchiha.
Hikaru! Hikaru! Look at this!
Whoa. Sai, come down from there. People don't go near the compound! There's like a family of ghost ninjas haunting it and they might kill you or something.
But Hikaru, I'm already dead! And look, that boy seems to be alive.
Hikaru climbed up beside Sai to see what he was looking at. In a small maintained area in an otherwise overground training ground, Uchiha Sasuke was performing a kata at ever-increasing speeds, flinging his body around as he dispatched hordes of imaginary attackers.
Oh, yeah. That's the last Uchiha. His brother went mad a few years back and killed everyone else in his whole clan.
Look in his eyes! Like a hawk ready to pounce on its prey! For one so young to be so committed to the arts of war...ooh!
He's a ninja! Bred and trained from birth as a killing machine. And you want to fight him?!
Yes! Oh, can I?
If you get beat up, won't it hurt me?
Hikaru! Trust me. I'll look after your body, just let me fight him!
Well, if you can do my history homework for me, I guess I can at least let you have one little spar. Just be careful with my body, OK?
Of course.
Hikaru leapt down from the tree and fought his way through the undergrowth to the training ground.
"Hey, Uchiha. Fight me!"


Talk about out of practice. All I can say is that most thirteen year-olds write better than I do, and I'm sure that I wrote better when I was thirteen too. I am truly sorry.

The Wednesday Quiz: A Regular Betsy

John and Michael currently share the lead for this season of the quiz, with 9 points apiece, Michael having played the old 'Usonian ignorance of Australian Poetry' card for a bonus point. Pichy has 7 and Alethea has 4.5. It's never too late to start and catch up, though, and if the points are important to you, and you promise not to peek, I'll let you do the past two quizzes too.
This week, in the absence of a clever idea, we've run to an old Leaflocker fallback in testing your vexillological knowledge. To score points you'll have to describe the modifications that would need to be made to the first national flag to convert it into the second (proportions and exact shades of colours will not be considered), as might be required in case of an invasion or sudden change of allegiance. For example, to convert a French flag to that of the Netherlands, just rotate 90 degrees anti-clockwise. Half-points will be given for good efforts, google and other references are to be avoided. Simple enough? Okay, let's go.
1) Ireland to Côte d’Ivoire
2) Australia to New Zealand
3) Italy to Bulgaria
4) Jamaica to Scotland
5) Lebanon to Thailand
6) Japan to Greenland
7) Ukraine to Russia
8) Palestine to Sudan
That's it! Best of luck with all your dyeing and sewing this week. Shaun is also running a quiz today, so if movies are more your thing than flags, or if you’ve got some time, maybe check it out?

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Matters with which this book is only indirectly concerned

Last week's Wednesday Quiz will be marked in about 24 hours, and it's got a lot more love than the week before. If you'd like to get in on the love-in, this is your last chance.

A fortnight ago we began to read the greatest books of all time. We're only 200-odd pages in so far, so it's not too late to catch up, or you could just start where we are. This was a bit of a shaky week in terms to getting the reading actually done, for the twofold reasons of constantly misplacing my copies of the various books and having to read Lolita. Why, literature, why? Anyway, spoilers await below.

Week in Review

Last week: 109 pages
So far: 206 pages

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Part One, Ch. 10  -  Ch. 13
 We've met Lolita. You can tell, because chapter 11, in which she is introduced, is a monster 18 pages all by itself, in contrast to the three or four page chapters leading up to this point. Once she is introduced, nothing else in the story really matters, the narrator's obsession is impossible to escape or overlook. Everything and everyone else in the novel becomes background and incidental, as if the author disdains to spend any words on them, preferring to devote the pages to long descriptions of the curves of shoulder-blades, sunlight dappling on bare skin, and casual touches turned into something sensual and so illicit that it makes my skin crawl. Good writing, really emotive, descriptive and flowing and beautiful, but creepy as hell.

Taking the book in small bites, Lolita seems like quite the conniving little witch, to be perfectly honest, but it's hard to tell how much of that is actually her character and how much is our unreliable narrator, writing presumably to clear himself from conviction but unable to repress his true emotions. I really hope that she has no idea what she's getting herself into. Humbert the arch-manipulator wants us to think that she's getting herself into it, anyway, when I think it's pretty clear that he's leading her and her family down the garden path.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Volume i, Book First, Ch. 10 - 14.
 Yep, bishop Mary-Sue of Digne sure is a dude. He is not perfect, though, as he... wait for it... He doesn't like Napoleon! Going so far as to... (gasp)... not go to meet him when he was in town! Cold, man, cold. For hipster Hugo, not liking Napoleon is a grave sin indeed, but you can redeem yourself if you didn't like Napoleon before it was cool. The reader will forgive him this one big sin, though, since he is, after all, a dude.

Hugo really gets rolling here, with some half-page-long sentences and pretty turns of phrase. Sometimes I think he wrote by coming up with a good line and then writing a chapter just so that he could finish on it. It smacks of sensationalism, but when you write lines like 'A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in - what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars' and  'All this is what men call genius, just as they call a painted face beauty and a richly attired figure majesty. They confound the brilliance of the firmament with the star-shaped footprints of a duck in the mud', I can forgive that too.

In an amusing note, there's a bit where Hugo says he can't reach further into a topic 'without going into matters with which this book is only indirectly concerned...' . Given that this in the middle of yet another completely superfluous chapter introducing a minor character, I find it ironical to the extreme.

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Book the First, Ch. 8 - 11
No real fun and games to be had with Sissy yet, just some discussions with Louisa about how each of them is so very wretched. We're also introduced to Mr. Bounderby's fallen-from-gentility housekeeper Mrs. Sparsit, about whom I haven't yet made up my mind, but who seems to be the sort of lady that is perfectly civil until she snaps and pours a tub of boiling fat over your head; and Mr. Blackpool, one of Mr. Bounderby's staff who pursuing the lovely Rachael, fleeing his dreadful wife, and getting aboslutely no sympathy from his employer. 

Plenty of stuff waiting to happen, but Mr. Dickens undoubtedly has more things to stack up. That is generally his way. And yes, just in case we weren't sure before, there's more confirmation that Mr. Bounderby is, well, a bit of a bounder.

Of Truth by Francis Bacon
 To be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely convinced I've got where Bacon was trying to go with this. These two pages were hard work for me, and basically boil down to "Lies have their place, but the truth is better; also lying is a sin". Glad I'm not studying this, 'cause I don't know where I'd start or end.

Excerpt from Anabasis by Xenophon
Book IV
Part history, part autobiography, all very Greek and all a lot of fun. Very accessible, and it's interesting how similar to ourselves and how relatable these ancient Greek warriors are. I wasn't moved to tears or anything, which doesn't speak much for my ability to enjoy Thucydides or some of the 'heavier' histories later in the project, but my heart raced a little at appropriate moments and I enjoyed a little chuckle at the few humourous parts.
Still, it compares favourably to other autobiographies that I've read in recent times, despite the age.

I don't think much of the military thinkers involved, as Xenophon had to suggest variations on theme of 'Let's not fight them on the good ground, let's just go around instead' a significant number of times, but it was a good read, and if I ever learn ancient Greek, I think I will come back and read it again.

Particularly of note are the different ways that various local tribes greet the Greeks as they travel through, from feeding and housing them, to saying they'll do so while actually massing armies nearby, to directing them through their enemies lands, to throwing their children and women off of a cliff. The famous scene in which the Greeks finally reach the sea was not quite (but almost) everything that I hoped it would be; more significant to me were the closing pages, in which the weary roadworn warriors throw themselves body and soul into staging victory games to Hercules. No flat soft ground for wrestling? Better not get thrown, then! Hard men, methinks.

My First Play by Charles Lamb
 Cute, lovable, so packed with literary allusions that I struggled a little, though like all good inside jokes they added to the text without detracting from it in the eyes of the uninitiated. Lamb has a way with words, and his love of the theatre is obvious, but I think I'll need to try something a little longer to get a better sense of the man. Noting to write home about in this little memoir, though, methinks.

Week 3 Readings

Time for picking and choosing based on flights on fancy from Doctor J's selections from the plagued books for this week. I see why he wanted to include a lot of this stuff after all, but since I'm not reading in the US I think I'll skip the US history stuff. Except Lincoln. Ooh, and we'll keep the Hemingway short story. And some stoic philosophy, just because we've all been having too much fun.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#not_gbww #copyrighted #fiction #english
Part One, Ch. 14 - 19 (23 pages)
 One assumes that the dear old Mother is going to realise that something is going on sooner or later. Or possibly she has romantic aspirations of her own towards Mr. Humbert...I can see that going wrong fast.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
#not_gbww #fiction #french
Volume i, Book Second, Ch. 1 - 8 (33 pages)
We're primed, let's get this story moving! Short of an essay on the nature of the French penal system, I'm hopeful that we'll at least meet Valjean and maybe even see him get released this week. I'm not sure it will move fast enough to have him meet with the apparent main character, the bishop, but you never know.

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
#not_gbww #fiction #english
Book the First, Ch. 12 - 16 (? pages)
Guessing hopelessly...despite his advice to Blackpool, Bounderby's mysterious and never-before-mentioned estranged wife turns up, and he refuses to do right by her, in order to continue to pursue young Louisa. Also, Mrs Sparsit falls in love with a chimney-sweep.

Letter to Horace Greeley by Abraham Lincoln
#new #oneshot #ggb #letter #english
(2 pages)
It's two pages, apparently describing the complexity of reasons for and competing philosophies behind the US civil war, written by the man that led the winning side. I don't know if this is an important document, but it might be interesting.

The Enchiridion by Epictetus
#new #ggb #oneshot #philosophy #greek
(19 pages)
We're going to read Epictetus' discourses at some point, but I figure we might as well start weaning ourselves onto philosophical texts anyway, since they're going to make up a large portion of the syllabus. I have my doubts that this will be much fun at all, but we'll try. Googling the thing got a lot harder since Adventure Time put out an episode with the title.

The Killers by Ernest Hemingway
#new #oneshot #ggb #short_story #english #copyrighted
(9 pages)
The problem with any list of books is the focus on those books that are popular at the time and place of writing. English lists place too much emphasis on Kipling, publishers lists focus too much on recent best-sellers, and American lists generally hit Twain pretty hard. There's rarely love in these lists for Hemingway, though, despite him being a favourite of many writers and critics, so I figure I'd throw him (and my friend Peter, a big Midnight in Paris fanboy) a bone and read this.