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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Yup, it's still winter.

Wrote this over two days. If you're not interested in football (the round ball kind), or PC games, you might want to just avoid reading it. :)

Tuesday, 19 August

Winter is definitely still here. Rain, rain and more rain, with a forecast of, yes, you guessed it, rain for the rest of the week. I don't mind a day of it here and there, but it's been going on now for four days. Yesterday I didn't even want to leave the house because it was so bleak, windy and wet. When I did get out, to mail off the entry form for the annual Art Works! competition, it was only for half-an-hour. Entry form, paper, some groceries, then home and back to the computer and what appears to be my latest gaming addiction – X-Com: Enemy Within.

But more on that later. I'm happy to say that the soccer team that I'm with, North Rocks 35/7's, managed to earn a draw on the weekend, thus ensuring a place in the play-offs. As it turns out, we secured third place, thanks mostly to an unexpected loss to the fourth placed side, who would've leap-frogged us had they won. It's just as well none of it went to a for and against tiebreak. Our season record of 10-2-6 looks pretty good, but our for and against of 46-44 doesn't. (To think, I had 12 of those put past me in the first three games of the season.)

As you can see, very bleak conditions at Bella Vista Oval as the game got underway. 
The rain started no sooner after I sat down on the reserves bench.

Our 3-all draw though was thanks to something else. I have often said that football is a game of inches, or even centimetres, which could mean the difference between a win or a loss. In our case, it saved our season. With the home side up 2-3, they got what was a very contentious penalty, an accidental handball in the penalty area. This season any penalty against us was a certain goal, but this time round, it wasn't. With the home side needing to beat us to get into the play-offs, a fourth goal, with around fifteen, twenty minutes to go, probably would've been enough to get them there seeing their tails were up and ours were down. However, a tired forward kicked it straight into the keeper's left-hand post (rather than the bottom left-hand corner that he usually aims for, the gent told us after the match) and the ball ricocheted away. I said at the time, whilst on the bench, that the football gods were definitely smiling on us.

And they were. A few minutes later, we get a corner. It hit the back of one of our mid-fielders and went in. The team lifted, and went close to bagging a fourth to win the game outright in the final minutes of the game.

It was a game that I wished had been filmed. With very grey clouds overhead, we took to the pitch, knowing that just a point was all we needed to get through. The rain started to fall not long after the match commenced, and those of us on the side-line were huddled under umbrellas trying to stay dry until we went onto the pitch. We scored twice in the opening ten minutes, taking advantage of the wet pitch and ball and a keeper that was having trouble hanging onto it. I missed seeing the goals, distracted by something else at the time. The second one I didn't even think had gone in. A long range shot was fired in, the keeper parrying away it with his hand. I chose that time to look down and grab my water-bottle, only to see that the sides were setting up for a kick-off. I then learnt that the keeper hadn't pushed it over the bar, but into the top corner of the net.

But the opposition came back at us. Two goals, the second resulting from an uncontrolled pass, popping up nicely for the forward who raced away, then got around the keeper to score. At 2-2, I then make my way onto the pitch to steady the ship and take my place in the back-line of our 5-3-2 defensive formation. The scores stayed locked until half-time. Thankfully the rain stopped not long before I got on the pitch.

To be honest, they didn't have much variation in attack, long, hopeful balls played forward through a midfield that we controlled. What they did do however, was switch players around, keeping me on my toes especially. I wasn't marking the same bloke for most of the time that I was on, I had three different players coming at me. Then there were attempts to draw players wide, which our defensive mid-fielders on the flanks had to be wary of. They were meant to go forward when we attacked, then drop back in defence. As a central defender, I wasn't meant to go wide, but on occasions, I had to.

And on one such occasion, they scored, because the player coming through in the centre wasn't picked up. I was marking a player, who was going wide, and starting to make a run. I had thought the defensive midfielder had picked up the other player coming through. He hadn't. (In fact, the DM thought that I had picked him up he said to me after the game.) So, split-second assessment. Do I stay on the wide player, or go after the one in the centre? I went after the one in the centre. End result, I don't get to him in time, he gets past the keeper, and the ball gets past my outstretched left leg on the line for the third.

I was quite furious after that. Both me and the defensive midfielder get pulled off, and I'm thinking that that's my game over with for the day. Thankfully, I get back on for the last ten or so minutes, as the central defender on the right was absolutely knackered and needed a break.

It wasn't a pretty result, but we took it anyway. I don't know what it was, whether we just switched off (collectively) after we went 2-0, or our opponents found some inspiration, capitalising on a couple of errors to get themselves back into the match. Defensive errors just cost us way too much in matches. We have a little mix-up, one of the rare errors I make on the pitch, and it almost costs us the game, and the season. You can imagine how I felt being called off the pitch after 2-3. Thankfully, we live another week, and I can breathe a little easier. I got home around 9pm, having stayed for drinks and a chat, and the bus driver for whatever the reason failing to stop at the stop I wanted. Still, it allowed me to get a celebratory Chinese takeaway feed, even though it was a later than usual, and wet.

So, now it's just a case of waiting to see if the rain stops. I've been informed that there are two likely scenarios. The first one (and the most likely one) is that one week of play-offs is eliminated, and the second week becomes a straight knock-out, 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3, with the winners going straight to the grand final. The second, which makes the fourth place side's loss very beneficial for us, is that the first week of the play-offs gets scrapped, and the second week sees the fourth placed side gets eliminated without playing, leaving 2 vs 3 to contest the final, the winner to take on the first placed side in the final, who benefits from a week off. (A mid-week play-off is unlikely at this stage I should add.)

At this stage I can hardly see the boys getting onto the training pitch tomorrow. (The bulk of the team trains. I'm excused seeing I live too far away.) The grounds at North Rocks must be underwater by now. I even took a squiz at the Bureau of Meteorology site, the rain has settled in from Wollongong right up to Port Stephens.

Right, enough of the weather. I briefly mentioned earlier that I braved the poor conditions to go off and post my entry to the Art Works! competition, which is in October at the art gallery in East Gosford. The entry form has to be in by August 25, which seems a bit odd, but hey, one goes by the rules of the competition. The form asks for the usual material, such as picture dimensions, price (if it's for sale), as well as a brief blurb about the contributor. Normally I would frame the image first then fill in the form, but this time I decided to guestimate the size of the frame I would be using, seeing I've all of September to get the image framed. I've even upped the price. My entry this time round shall be of a spotted smooth-shelled crab that just had his eyes poking up through the water's surface. Strangely enough, I took it on the water's edge behind the very art gallery the competition will be held at. 

Peek-a-boo!

I've even found a few more competitions to enter, one local, and two related somewhat to the mental health group that I belong to. Thankfully, entries aren't due until next month. One even has a poetry section as well, so I might just go through my old pieces and see what I could submit.

With all this wet and windy weather, one has almost felt obliged to stay indoors as much as possible. I did venture out last Monday (11/8) to Avoca Beach to see a special screening of Monty Python Live (almost) at the cinema there. Must say I enjoyed it, though it felt like at times that I was the only person in the cinema getting into it, singing along with all of the songs (I never miss a chance to sing I'm a Lumberjack or The Philosopher's Song, or even recite some of the sketches, like the Spanish Inquisition one) and enjoying the sketches, even though I've probably seen them dozens of times. (For a considerable part of the screening, the biggest laugh was for a fart joke during the Chocolate Frog sketch... ) Graham Chapman was featured, via the odd clip, and there were plenty of Terry Gilliam's old animation sequences dropped in as well. Carol Cleveland made an appearance or two, and some of bigger numbers had a chorus line to go with it.

Despite the bleak weather on the day, I even went for a walk around the beach and took a few pictures, most of which turned out quite fine. (I don't let a thing like grey skies stop me. In fact, I don't mind it at all, seeing it keeps people away and the beach mostly clear.) The lengthy bus ride home didn't matter. I was quite relaxed by the time I got back home.

It was quite chilly when I took this snapshot of Avoca Beach. A very good day to be indoors.

Well, the boys at the comic book store are packing up, so it's almost time to go home. I shall save this and continue it later on.

Wednesday, 20 August

And, typically, later on turns out to be the next day.

I've found another distraction. True Detective, another HBO series which had me hooked after the first episode. I saw something about it on the ABC News recently, after an Australian gent won an Emmy for the opening title sequences, which were rather good and really set the mood for the show. It's a creepy show, very bleak, with flawed, grey lead characters, that are played by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. The former plays a straight talking state policeman, who's marriage is experiencing difficulties (thanks mostly to him), whilst the other clearly has a personality flaw, very intellectual, and very much a loner. The story is being told from the present looking backwards, as the two law enforcers are being interviewed by two other officers.

The thing that really got me interested – Cthulhu references, second episode. Superb soundtrack, really sets the mood. Add a religious sect, a biker gang, dead women with strange markings on their skin, one posed with deer antlers on her head, and a Louisiana backdrop and I'm definitely hanging out for season two already whilst only being halfway through season one. Feels like I'm watching the X-Files mixed with Seven.

Queue background music – The Shadow out of Tim by Darkest of the Hillside Thickets. I'd like to get this finished today before I'm compelled to watch the rest of TD. So, what else has gotten me sidetracked lately? Computer games. I shouldn't have bought/downloaded them, but I did, and now they're taking up too much time. The only way I stop playing them is by getting out of the house, which I had to do yesterday. There's been a series of them, starting with Close Combat – Gateway to Caen, the latest instalment in the superb Close Combat series. Nothing changes, I'm playing the Germans, and doing rather well on the current grand campaign, with the Allied AI two levels higher than my units. I'm finding that my defence is quite costly, in men, armoured vehicles and guns. I'm yet to concede sectors, though one area has turned into metal graveyard, with tanks, tank killers and AVs littering the countryside. I'm looking at pulling back there, so that the allies have to push forward to a built up area, that I can defend better than open fields. The mixture of real-time battles and turn based strategy has long appealed to me, with one being able to alter the make-up of his forces prior to the battle, which consist of three companies, with one of them being dedicated support units/vehicles that you can mix and match to suit your perceived needs. The troops gain experience, just like in other games in the series, and yes, you can call in mortar, artillery, or even air support during the movement phase. If you don't use it, you can save it for the next phase of the campaign.

Next comes Tropico V, which I bought off the shelf whilst on sale at JB Hi-Fi. (Little side anecdote. A couple of months ago I picked up the game, plus some DVDs and walked out of the store. I had just reached the carpark when something compelled me to check my purchases. Sure enough, the sales clerk had forgotten to put the ruddy game in the packaging. Her excuse? She thought it was another DVD that was already enclosed in the box.) Been a big fan of the sim-island sim-dictator game, since a friend of mine bought me the original one well over a decade ago. Quite liked what they've done to the game, especially being allowed to create a dynasty, and have your family members run public buildings, and undertake some of the various tasks that pop up. Then there's the timeline. You start as a British colony, work your way to independence, then have to take sides during the world wars. After that, it's the cold war, and you're choosing sides again. You end up in the modern age, where there are additional factions other than Russia and the US to choose from, namely, the European Union, China, and the Middle East. One must research to unlock specific buildings, one can create a constitution, and one can still create policies, including the formation of a police state. Gone are the days that one could get through a game with just a barracks, an armoury and the troops of your palace guard to defend your island, I find if you don't build up your military as your population grows, you will be overrun, either by rebels, your own people, or foreign invaders.

For something different, I tried a third-person shooter, but only because it's the first part of a revamped series of an old favourite of mine, X-Com. I used to play Terror From the Deep and Apocalypse quite a lot, having completed the latter on two occasions. This one, The Bureau: X-Com declassified, is primarily a shooter, with some narrative thrown in which you follow along so that you can build up your character's knowledge of the situation he's been thrown into – that of an alien invasion of earth in the 1950s. You don't control research, you don't build ships or modify your base, it's just go out and shoot aliens, complete missions and earn experience, which then allows you to add new abilities to your operatives. It didn't take me long to realise why I don't play TPSs too often. The real-time shoot-ups leave my head swimming, giving me the occasional headache and disorientating me very easily. I found, even on the rookie level, the game quite hard, with my lead character (and the rest of my three person unit) often getting killed prompting multiple re-loads, which, as you can imagine, makes things extremely frustrating for me. In one such overwhelming battle, I was killed ten times in the space of five minutes.

I'm glad I completed it though (took 24 hours of game time to do so), for it was good primer for X-Com: Enemy Unknown, and the add-on, X-Com: Enemy Within. The aliens that you were blasting away in the 1950s were back to terrorize you in the modern world, and, as I have discovered, they're much easier to kill. This time, I'm back into the more familiar territory of modifying your own bases, conducting your research, and building (and arming) your own ships. There's a lot from the old games that I see in this one. Some of the aliens, such as the sectoids and the flying weapons disks, are back, along with friends from the Declassified game, as well as some new ones like the thin men, that promptly explode into poisonous gas clouds when killed. You have to shoot the alien ships down, undertake a variety of missions from crash site retrievals to base attacks (and defence), and keep the nations that pony up the dough to keep you operational happy, least you have them drop out and change sides. Your soldiers can be genetically altered, and they can even be turned into cyborgs. They can be awarded medals which can give them (and the unit they're in) specific bonuses.

And for me it's quite addictive. Days and nights just fly by when I'm playing this.

Well, what's up for the rest of the week? Tomorrow, a rare game of Blood Bowl in Sydney, for the current league I'm involved in down there. I'm really tempted to just find a cinema and go see a movie before the game. Friday, well, laundry has to be done sometime this week I suppose. Saturday, well, it could be soccer in the afternoon, then off to see Mythbusters live at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in the evening. If today's weather, that of clouds and sunshine with no rain continues, then I guess I'll be playing. If not, it'll be up to the comic book store, then high-tailing it down to Sydney for the show, seeing the store owners are going as well and they'll be driving.

And next Sunday (31/8), I'll be be hosting a Blood Bowl tournament up at the store. Just a one day event, and hopefully more people attending then there were last time I ran one.

Right. Time to post this. Cheers!

Note - all images in this post (c) 2013/14 Geoff G Turner.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Winter is definitely here

Definitely not “winter is coming” but “winter is here”. The sun may well be out, but there is a chill in the air, enough to make me want to rug up and stay indoors.

Which is what I have been doing a fair bit of, especially after sustaining another injury last Saturday. I wouldn't have minded so much had I stopped the goal, or the team had won, but we crashed to a 1-3 defeat to the side just below us on the ladder. All of that made it a pretty miserable afternoon for me. The train ride home felt longer than usual, and all I really wanted to do was to curl up on the couch as soon as I got home, after grabbing a bite to eat of course.

So, how did I do it? First half, around fifteen minutes in, a pair of attackers came straight through on the strength of a good ball, with only one defender to stop them – me. The sweeper had gone too far forward, and I had no idea where the right-hand defender was, which left me trying to get in-between both of them and somehow get to the ball. The keeper came out to the edge of the box, they got around him, took a shot at the goal, the ball rolling in about a second (if that) before I stretched out to try and stop it. I felt something go “twang” in my left leg, and I collapsed off the field beside the post. I tried to get up, and immediately discovered that something was quite wrong and just managed to limp to my bag to rub some deep heat on it. It didn't sink in until half-time that my game, for today, was over. An ice-pack was provided, and I spent about half of the second half with it under my leg.

It didn't help that goals weren't going in the other end either. Another penalty was missed (I don't think we've had one successful one taken so far this season), a few shots went wide, and their goalkeeper pulled off a few good saves that made well and truly sure that we weren't even going to get a point.

So it really doesn't look good for this Saturday. I'm one of two players injured, and two more are unavailable, leaving the side with about fourteen players. It's a crucial game too. Five games to go in the season, the manager reckons that we need to win three of them to secure a top four spot. We would prefer a third, so we don't have to face the team coming first in the first round of play-offs.

Can I walk? Yes, provided I don't try to walk too fast. Yesterday I had to scamper to get a connecting bus yesterday. It hurt. Stopping suddenly hurts as well, so whenever I can, it's a lie down on the couch and keeping the whole leg straight, seeing my left knee hurts as well if I've been sitting down for too long. (Another injury, which was sustained a few weeks ago after being fouled in the in-goal area.)

So, the world cup is over. Very few could argue that Germany didn't deserve to win the tournament. From their 4-0 thrashing of Portugal in the opening round, their 1-0 win over France in the quarter-finals, then their 7-1 blitzkrieg over a woeful Brazil in the semi-final, they had been a dominant force, without that much attention being paid to them. Whilst the football world was watching to see if the host nation was going to break their 64 year hoodoo, or if indeed it was going to be a South American final between Brazil and Argentina, the Germans picked off their opponents, then with a thunderous lightning bolt destroyed the host nation's dream, which was subsequently trodden into the dirt by the Dutch with a 3-0 victory in the third place play-off. Already there are hundreds of memes and pictures lampooning the poor effort by the hosts. The best one I've seen is of a selection menu of a football game, with Brazil being the bottom difficulty level after “Very easy”.

As for the final, well, it was well worth getting up for. The lack of sleep not a problem, seeing I was so keen to watch the match. Argentina had plenty of chances to win the game, and failed to take them. When the goal finally did come, 113 minutes into the match, there was little doubt in my mind that Germany was going to win. And what a winning goal it was. It was a goal worthy of winning the most important match in the world, one that every aspiring player could even dream of scoring. A wonderful cross, the ball chested down, and before it hits the ground the left foot lashes out and hammers it past the keeper into the right-hand side of the net. Sigh!

Ironic to think, that the host nation was willing the Germans to win. I don't think they would have ever been able to tolerate their arch-rivals Argentina beating the side that thrashed them 7-1 in the semi. And I can't help but thinking, from a theological point of view, that whatever deity the Brazilians were praying to before, during, and after that match was definitely not listening. In fact, he/she/it felt the need to punish them even further by having them trounced for the bronze medal match as well. One could well ask why they were being punished. I could offer a couple of reasons, the first being that they punished for their pride believing that they had a given right to win this world cup, and/or, that they obvious felt it was necessary to lavish millions of dollars on an event in order to win the tournament (to kill off the spectre that's hung over them since Uruguay beat them the last time it hosted the world cup) at the expense of all those who were deprived of health care, education, housing, food, and even law and order that those millions could've provided. One could say, that that is punishment enough.

Finally, I should add one little further thought. Germany won the world cup because they were the better TEAM. Football is a team sport, and the old maxim of “a champion team will beat a team of champions” can surely be applied here. Despite having a player pulling out of the side during the warm-up prior to the final, despite having a player (the very one that was brought into the team to replace the injured player) substituted off thirty odd minutes into the match, they didn't look any worse than their opponents. In the end, it was a substitute that scored the winner. Ten defenders and ten attackers the German coach said during the tournament. They weren't reliant on any one player, although their keeper Neuer, was brilliant, often playing as a sweeper at the back, and thoroughly deserved of the Golden Gloves award. (Which is more than what I could say about Messi being awardedthe Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament. One could easily say it was a “WTF?” moment.)

Enough of football. Apart from watching a lot of football, I have been distracted during the long winter days and nights at home by a) watching a lot of DVDs and recorded movies, b) playing computer games. I did find the courage to actually go for a walk last week (and was rewarded by adding another bird to my collection), but with all the cold weather outside, I felt it was wiser to stay indoors.

Anyway, in recent weeks, I have acquired a couple of computer games. The first, the latest instalment of the great Close Combat series (the Caen breakthrough), the other, Tropico V, one of my all time favourite games, seeing it allows me to become a dictator of a country in the luxury of my own home. Both definitely allowing me to kill plenty of time, and to provide distractions whilst the world cup wasn't on.

As for films, well, I've started to go through the recordings on the portable hard-drive and watch them. I've discovered that there were a few Shaw Brothers films on there, as well as a number of Wuxia films as well. And if that hasn't been enough, I've been re-watching my Bond collection as well. So far, I've watching all the Connery ones (including Never Say Never Again, though not part of the official franchise), all the Moore ones, and the first of Timothy Dalton's pair, The Living Daylights (based off a Fleming short story I should add).

Do I have a favourite Bond film? Have to admit, even though I don't like Moore as Bond, Live and Let Die still is my favourite (it was the first one of the books that I remember reading), marginally ahead of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. (To think, Lazenby could've taken over the franchise, but was warned off from doing it by his agent... ) The first one that I ever remember seeing was For Your Eyes Only, strangely enough, at the drive-in in Tamworth.

Favourite Bond? Lazenby. But in an argument over Moore or Connery, Connery is always going to win. (To think, Moore was first choice as Bond, but couldn't do it because he was doing The Saint television series.)

Finally, there has been one other thing that I have been working on. The comic book shop that I hang out in at least once a fortnight, Dark Dimensions, is having a trivia night this Friday. Yours truly is hosting it, and has gone to great lengths to even write the questions for it as well, 50 in all. Naturally, the theme is going to be pop-culture, which, I find, is pretty hard to define seeing pretty much everything can be pop-culture, just the same as anything can attain “cult” status. Anyway, there are questions about comic book characters, there are questions about fantasy and sci-fi movies, there are questions about TV series. I have tried to cover as wide as field as possible, but can't have a question on everything. (I didn't even put one in about the X-Files.) There are picture questions, there are sound questions, there are multiple choice and straight answer questions. I have even put in a trick question. One of the local cinemas has even given the boys some passes for prizes, and will be having a table at the event.

And more importantly, I'll be able to cross one more thing off my bucket list.

Oh, before I forget, I even found the time to play some Blood Bowl. July 6th, at Burwood, I made an appearance for the 10th running of Eucalyptus Bowl (and I'm one of a few that has actually made it to all ten). Three games, one win, one draw, and one loss, slightly better than my embarrassing effort at Can Con back in January.

Right. I think that'll do for the time being. Ciao!

P.S: I should also add, that on July 3rd, the mental health support group that I'm involved with celebrated their tenth birthday as well. Plenty of dignitaries in attendance, including the mayor, and both state and federal members.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Have I watched too much of the World Cup?

When I started typing this, the sky was blue outside (but it was cold, but at least not windy as it was yesterday), and I was inside half watching a reply of one of this morning's matches, Greece against Cote D'Ivoire to be exact. This has generally been the trend during the world cup, rarely staying up to watch matches, but either watching part or all of the last game of the day at 8am EST (when it's shown here), or sitting down for a marathon of replays during the afternoon when I've had a desire to, which has been most of the tournament so far. I was up in time to see 60% of the Australia vs Chile match (but missed the start), before having to leave to go catch my train for soccer, thus missing the end. However, I did stay up for the Australia vs Holland match. As for the Australia vs Spain encounter, well, to be honest, I didn't bother. There was nothing riding on the result, and settled for watching the highlights in the match reports.

But now, no more 8am matches, as the final group games are paired off at the same kick-off time, meaning you either watch SBS 1 or 2. Replays are still on though, and there are the morning wrap-ups, which I'm generally up for. What has interested me though, is the segment they've devoted to the social media trends of the world cup. Something happens, like, for example, Van Persie's spectacular diving header to score for Holland against Spain on day one of the tournament, and a few hours later that image has been photoshopped, memed, tweeted and facebooked hundreds of thousands of times. Today's unforgettable incident, Suarez biting an Italian defender during the must win match for Uruguay, has already received the same treatment, with plenty of comments calling for his immediate suspension from the tournament. (Personally, what sort of person goes around biting people on the football pitch? What drives him to do it? You see that sort of behaviour in kids and animals. And this is the third time he's done it in a match???) He made no effort to disguise the deed, even going down after the Italian playing was already writhing on the ground, checking to see if all his teeth were still there. Sheesh.

Of course, there are plenty of other things that have been happening. In the replay I've just finished watching, the winning Greek goal was a penalty with only seconds left in the match, that should not have been given. The replay shows the offended player having very clearly stubbed his foot on the turf as he went for a shot on goal before going down. The penalty wins the match and gives Greece a spot in the final 16. If there ever was a clear argument for a video referee for international football matches, that was it.

(Dinner break)

I needed food. Having spent pretty much all day inside, I decided to head out and grab a pizza. Not something that I would normally do, seeing the nearest pizza place costs a bit. Sure, the place is a little dearer than most, but the pizza was worth it. I have also taken a break from football, and have put on a DVD. A rather cheap DVD I picked up yesterday – Billy Connolly Live in New York, from 2005. I must say I like the way he dealt with latecomers in this – explaining to the audience that the theatre was built on top of an old Indian hunting ground and the local authorities still give them permission to pass through. Then there's his regular habit of starting a story, getting a sidetracked on something else, then something else, then jumping back to finish off the original story.

Much like some of my blog entries. I had been going on about the soccer. One thing that I have noticed, is that certain players are wearing two different colored boots. (What? Can't tell left from right that you need colors now?) Not only that, I've seen goalkeepers with two different colored gloves as well. I can only assume it's some sort of sponsorship thing, much like players being instructed only to wear Sony brand headphones when they're going from the bus to the dressing room. (But of course, some other players are sponsored by a rival company when it came to the headphones... )

I should offer a comment though on the Australian effort. As expected, they didn't progress out of the group, and, as the vast majority of tipsters tipped, didn't win a game either. (I had tipped them to at least get a draw against Holland... ) Yes, they tried, and at one point they looked like they were going to steal a win from the Dutch, but, like in the Chile match, a couple lapses in concentration and their opponents grab a couple of goals and win the match. Against Spain though we were just terribly outclassed.

But then there's all these remarks from fans, commentators, etc. about the boys gaining the world's “respect” in playing like they did and how “proud” they were of them. In all honesty, I was disappointed, which was the main reason I didn't stay up to watch the third game against Spain. Against Chile, we should've got a draw. Against Holland, we should've won. We should've gotten four points from the group, but we finished up with none and were out of the contest two games in. Yeah, they did well to get there, but they should've done better. They played well, but not well enough. Hell, we only scored three goals, and one of those was from a penalty. Without Tim Cahill, our for and against would've look pretty hopeless.

Then there's the talk of “respect” and how we earned it on the pitch. I'll tell you something, we earn a lot more respect from WINNING matches rather than losing them. We even get FEARED. But, to misquote a Ferengi rule of acquisition, respect and an empty bucket is worth the bucket. That's it. You don't get remembered for finishing last in your group at the world cup finals. The way I see it, a team doesn't go to the world cup finals for a “learning experience”. You go there to try and win the world cup. Ask Germany, France, England, Brazil, Argentina, etc. and that's what they'll tell you.

We've had discussions about this at soccer, before and after games. Australia, we feel, have long had this “underdog” mentality, which we take into contests like the world cup finals. We don't feel that we can actually win, but we plan to give a good account of ourselves. It's an attitude that seriously needs changing. Some of us feel that England is still under the impression it's 1966 and need to jump forward fifty years with the rest of the world.

Which nicely links it to the soccer that I'm involved in. Three wins in-a-row now, and we're in fourth place with a five point break on fifth place. Even better that our balance sheet has gone from -5 to +1. The results have been good. Round 9, a game that I volunteered to sit out (but still turned up for the game to cheer them on and take a few pictures), the boys won 4-2. Round 10, the local derby against the other North Rocks team in our division, and we win 2-0. Round 11, and honour has been restored, beating the side that defeated us under lights on my birthday 2-0. Played forty minutes, ran myself ragged (like I usually do), halted a couple of escapees, one as he ran down the side-line (I don't know where the winger was at the time that allowed him to get through) and one that went straight down the middle. This one in the second half ended up with me sprawled across the pitch, but I got the free-kick.

Fred, the oldest player in our side, volleys one into the net to make it 4-1.

Woke up very stiff and sore on Sunday. Couldn't do much. Tried to keep my legs still as much as possible, and keep them warm. I'm still having problems with my ankles, taking precautions to keep me on the pitch as long as possible, and on Saturday it felt like my thigh muscles in my right leg were seizing up, forcing me to go off. This week, we're playing the side that thumped us 1-6 first time round. A draw would be good, a win even better. This time it's a home game, and we'll have a proper referee, and possibly linesmen as well. Something that we didn't have last time.

And for the state of my mental health? Well, I'm hanging in there. My moods have been swinging again. Again, not sleeping properly hasn't helped. I did get six hours unbroken sleep this morning, but was woken by a very strange dream involving a take-away food shop. Or was it a supermarket? Anyway, I fell asleep again after the highlights program and didn't wake up until after midday.

At least with the internet now fully operational at home (and all it took was a simple phone call to my internet service provider, after finding out from Telstra that it wasn't their problem) I have been able to start on acquiring material that I used to have on VHS. Still plenty more that I need to find though.

Anyway, I think I'll finish this up, and concentrate on Ghost in the Shell – Solid State Society. Ciao!

P.S: 80% through the fourth book of Game of Thrones. Should have it finished by the end of the month I reckon.

P.P.S: Just had to add something more. FIFA are making a a case against Suarez, with his lawyer throwing this in as a defence.

"We don't have any doubts that this has happened because it's Suarez and secondly because Italy was eliminated," added Balbi, who is also a Uruguay FA board member. "There's a lot of pressure from England and Italy."

Oh, it's a conspiracy against him is it? Perhaps he should plead temporary insanity? The fact that he's done it not once, but THREE times in matches would hint that he has some deep down psychological problem that really needs sorting out. If a child does it at a day care centre, or pre-school, parents would be demanding action or pulling their kids out of the place. I'm glad to see that his sponsors are taking this seriously. After all, why do you want to be associated with a man who goes around biting people on the pitch? (Unless you're a leading brand of toothpaste, toothbrush or dentures. Even then that would be in bad taste.)

Some people though, had actually seen this coming. A Norweigian gambling agency had given odds of 175 to 1 that he'd do it at the world cup. 167 cashed in on it, with one punter picking up over $900. Not a bad day's work.

And hats off to The Wiggles for coming up with this little ditty. I can't get it out of my head... :)

Monday, June 02, 2014

A Sunday post for Monday

Typed up June 1, 2014. Posted June 2 whilst once again utilizing some free wi-fi at Erina. Note there is some Game of Thrones stuff later in the post.

I chose a very good day to stay at home. The first day of winter here on the coast is terribly bleak, overcast, and I'm surprised that at 3.30pm (when I started typing this) that it hasn't rained so far. Still, there are a few hours to go in the day so I'm sure the skies will crack open at some point.

I had intended to go up to the comic book store again today and utilize their wi-fi, that and perhaps do some more work on the trivia night questions. I have made a few notes today of things I feel I should have questions on, like popular video games, and fairly recent movie versions of old cartoon/comic book favourites. I even came up with a trick question, just to see who really does know their stuff. But to be honest, I haven't felt like setting foot out of the house. Come to think of it, perhaps I shouldn't have gotten out of bed either. Being awake at 5.30am wasn't the best start to the day, and after crashing on the couch for an obligatory episode of Lost Girl, I dozed off for a few minutes before having a very early shower, then going back to bed. Around 10.30am I was awake again, and decided that was it, and the PC was switched on, and hasn't been switched back off.

No real need to guess what I'm playing. Yep, Civ 5. It's windowed so I can rattle this off in-between turns as per usual. I did take a break for lunch, curling up to watch Dredd for possibly the tenth time as well. I don't get sick of it. The more I watch it the more I'm hoping that there is a second film to follow in the same vein. (Whilst I think of it, I must update my gaming blog as well. I played a game of Blood Bowl a couple of weeks ago and haven't put up a match report. Nor news that I'm hosting a tournament here on the Central Coast in August. How slack of me.)

Well, 45 minutes after I began typing this post, it's started to rain. Not much, barely a trickle, and hardly enough to get the plants wet at the moment. It's 1290 in the Civ 5 game that I'm playing currently, and the Celts have, for some unknown reason, have just declared war on me. Hardly surprising. More often than not when the Celts are in a game they'll declare war on me first chance they get. However, there's the added difficultly of responding this time seeing I'm playing on an archipelago map. Of course, it makes it difficult for them to attack me as well. (And here's me thinking that I was going to be at war with the Arabs to the West first... )

There's something I forgot to add when I made my last post. The block of units that I'm living in is up for sale again. They were up for sale when I moved into my unit way back in 2005 (has it really been that long?) and were on the market at least a year or two before being taken off it. I lost track of the number of people that walked through my unit (seeing I kept mine in better condition than the other three tenants at the time) which made Saturdays rather difficult seeing people were turning up on a regular basis at one stage.

But it does explain one thing. The owners have been renovating and upgrading fixtures on and off over the last year or so. New stoves have been put in two of the flats. I've been promised an upgrade, but that was like, six/seven weeks ago. I'll wait and see before I start visiting real estate agents from rental lists.

Now for football. Things haven't been progressing too well for us lately. In round six (the day before that unforgettable response to the SMS) we pulled off a rather good 3-1 away from home, with everybody putting in the effort for the win. I even had a memorable several minutes on the wing. However, rounds seven and eight saw us crashing to two straight defeats. We first lost at home 3-5, after trailing 1-2 at half-time, then yesterday we lost 2-3 to the competition leaders, which was also the half-time score. We were praised by our opponents after the game, saying that we had given them their toughest match this season so far.

 Webbs Avenue playing fields, Auburn. The venue of last Saturday's match.

But of course, praise means nothing when we're now (apparently) sixth on the ladder, and looking like we'll miss the play-offs altogether if we don't pull off a win in our next match. What even hurts more, is that we should've won yesterday, and we didn't. Their three goals could well have been avoided, seeing they came from bad play in the mid-field, or, in the case of the third goal, a free-kick near the penalty box. But even then the first two goals were one-on-ones with the keeper, which, well, I may well have reacted differently to. I'm definitely not saying I would've stopped them though. The first goal had our keeper coming out to a gent that I was trailing, and somehow the ball ricocheted off to the left. With the keeper down, I was the only defender between the attacker and the goal, and despite being right on him, he somehow managed to steer it straight around me and into the net.

The second one, well, I was off the field at that stage, seeing my ankles were complaining once again. I thought our keeper had gone out too far, some felt he hadn't reacted quick enough, and in the end he took down the attacking player, but didn't prevent the goal from being scored. Naturally, our opponents complained, appealing for a yellow or red card. One bloke carried on with it a bit too much, and started swearing at the referee. (It was a bit surprising, seeing the referee was from the same club as our opponents.) The referee responded with 'I don't need this' and was trying to get the game re-started. Eventually, the swearing player had had enough, took off his shirt, walked off the pitch, grabbed his bag, and left, leaving his team with no substitutes at the time. Must say, it was something that I hadn't seen before! (Well, not at this level of the game.)

**Break**

News, dinner, an episode of Lost Girl and a new episode of Silent Witness. The latter is good seeing I need something to watch on a Sunday evening (apart from DVDs). As for Lost Girl, well, it's a strange sort of a show, amusing to watch seeing it can be quite ridiculous at times. The story (over three seasons) revolves around a girl named Bo who has a deadly touch when it comes to sex, the reason being that she is a succubus, although it took a little time for her to find that out. Along the way she falls in love (and lust) with a werewolf, who turns out to be a cop (Dyson), picks up a human companion who has all the best lines and is adorably cute as well (Kenzi), hangs out at a bar that is run by a centuries old fae king, who's a dwarf (Trick), and eventually ditches the wolf for a human female doctor (Lauren) who's been “recruited” to help fae kind by the ruler of the light fae in this particular area, who, I should point out, have a rather strained ceasefire with the dark fae. The cop also has a partner (Hale) who turns out to be a siren (a male siren???), but he eventually becomes the leader of the light fae due to his family connections, and gets replaced by a Valkyrie (Tamsin), who just happens to be dark fae and has her own hidden agenda.

As for who's light and dark, well, that's up to debate. But we don't really get to know too much about the dark side, so we have to take it for granted that they're the bad guys. What we do know, is that both sides want Bo to join them, so, to keep the series “on edge” she declares her neutrality, even though most of her associates are affiliated with the light. Your average episode generally revolves around a) Bo having sex with someone (she's not fussy – male, female, light fae, dark fae, it don't matter), b) a mysterious, unusual fae or supernatural creature turning up that could be very detrimental to both sides, c) Kenzi dropping a funny one-liner, d) Bo and Kenzi stopping off at the pub (the Dal) to talk to Trick and find out what the hell is going on, e) Bo emerging triumphant. (It's rare that Bo doesn't have sex with someone, and even rarer if Kenzi isn't in the episode.) Top that up with a variety of modern pseudo-alternative music, and you have something that definitely distracts you for around 45 minutes at a time.

I'm just thinking, if it was made by HBO, the French, Spanish, or even one of the Scandinavian countries, it would be sooooo much better. I like it because it's no brainer sort of stuff, it's silly, and Kenzi (Ksenia Solo) is a doll. Sure, yes, I don't mind all the references to the mythological creatures, but some episodes you just got to wonder if they're not making it all up as they go along...

Oh, sorry, I was talking about football before I took a break. Yes, still playing Civ 5, and surprise, surprise, I'm at war with the Arabs, who decided it would be fun to declare war on me whilst I'm fighting the Japs, whom, I take it were a little peeved that I finished off the Celts by taking their capital and their final city. Thankfully the Japs were obliging with a peace treaty, and I'm now stuck in a long war with the Arabs. My main problems are a) I don't have access to much steel (which is vital to build such wonderful things as frigates and battleships) and b) I still don't have access to horses (can't build cavalry units with out them). Apart from that, they've made two determined efforts to take cities, and have failed, and I took one of their allied city-states. I'm also winning the game on points.

Right, back to football. At the stage in the game when the chap walked off we were down 1-2. But, it wasn't long before our striker managed to find his feet and slide one past the keeper to even things up. Their third one, well, it was typical of our luck so far this season. Free-kick thunders into the crossbar, it goes straight back to an attacking player, hits his foot and goes in. And try as we might for the entire second half, we couldn't pull that one back, even though we were outplaying our opponents for long periods of the match. As to why they're on top of the ladder, well, they passed well, and in the first half they took the chances presented to them. We could've scored several times, but in the end only got two, and lost.

The previous week, well, it was tougher. That week, we didn't play well, and probably deserved to lose. My mate Rod feels particularly bad about it because two goals came off deflections off him. Both in the second half, where one came off a corner, and it had been ruled to have crossed the line before our player cleared it off it. The second was a header from a free-kick. The ball was coming straight towards me, but Rod jumped, got his head to it, put it way over mine, and it landed at the feet of one of two players on me and he put it away.

Mind you, our first goal in that game was a cracker. One of our defenders took it upon himself to have a rather long range shot. He was inside our half, and from the moment it left his boot it never looked like missing, dipping underneath the crossbar at the last moment to go in. Our opponents nailed one as well from around thirty metres out, and in yesterday's match, one of our mid-fielders managed a similar ranged kick that found the back of the net as well.

Being dropped back to Epping station yesterday I was asked by the manager what's wrong with the side. I said simply that we weren't scoring enough goals. Whether it's a psychological problem with our striker, or some players are not turning up with the right attitude, or a voodoo curse, I couldn't put my finger on it. I did say what is frustrating for me (and, well, probably the rest of the backs as well) is that we're doing our darnedest to stop them from scoring, and providing good balls to go forward with, yet we're not seeing the ball go in to the back of the net at the other end. Then they come back down with it, and we're stuck defending all over again. The law of averages dictates that if they have enough shots at goal, they're going to get some in.

Defence starts at the other end of the field, pure and simple. If you want to stop them from scoring, you need to score at the other end. That, and if they don't have the ball, then they can't score, unless you do something incredibly stupid like give the ball to them.

And as for “the driver”? Well, he turned up in round seven for the BBQ, and even offered me a lift home (as if nothing had happened), which I declined. The plan sorted of backfired on me, as getting back to Strathfield from Parramatta was horrendous with all the traffic going into the city. The express bus to Strathfield arrived just in time for me to miss the train back to Gosford by seconds, yet have me twenty-five minutes early for the next one, making my trip home last a couple of hours. However, the point I keep making to myself is that I'd rather spend two hours on a train and a bus, than 45 minutes stuck in a car with someone I really don't like.

I actually told someone else in the team about that little incident, who was rather surprised yet amused at the same time. I didn't tell the manager, much as I'd like to. He wasn't in the best of moods after the loss on Saturday so I felt it best not to worry him any further.

Still, I look at all the reading time I'm getting on the trains. I'm a third of the way through the fourth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series (well, volume 3.2 to be precise) A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold. I have even picked up volume four, anticipating that I'll have finished reading 3.2 in a week or so. I have recently read the wildlings attack at Castle Black, which, I'm assuming will be depicted in episode nine of the current series on HBO. Seeing it hasn't aired yet, I won't spoil it by typing in what happened in the book. I have also read the part where Sam and Gilly bump into Bran, Hodor, Meera and Jojen at one of the abandoned watch towers. Daenerys is camped outside Meereen, and Sansa has just learnt of her mother's and Robb's death.

Although it just occurs to me that on the screen, Catalyn, before she's finally finished off, kills Walder Frey's current wife. In the book it's the halfwit Jinglebells (one of Walder Frey's kin) who bears the brunt of Cat's knife. In the books, Daenerys also has a guard called Strong Belwas, a former pit fighter from Meereen, who kills the city's champion outside the walls. On the screen, there's no sign of him, and Daario does the deed. She also has catapults when she's outside the walls, but in the book there's none to be had, as there are no trees. She also survives an assassination attempt from a chap known as the Titan's Bastard, who is killed by Barraston Selmay aka Whitebeard, who acts as his squire. Daenerys then learns that Whitebeard is indeed the former Kingsguard, and Ser Jorah Mormont was a spy for the late King Robert. Needless to say, she wasn't too happy when she found out. Daario though is rather sweet on her, does bring her flowers in the book (just like on the screen) but the description of him in the book differs somewhat to the screen presence.

But hey, one's allowed a little lee-way now and again eh?

Finally, I got back (from my aunt) some of my old entries to previous photo competitions yesterday, thanks to my mate Rod who picked them up for me before football. (I'll get the rest of them probably next week.) To be honest I had forgotten what prints I had given her for her little gallery project, but it didn't take long to recall what competitions I had entered them in. The four that I brought back with me were the two entries from last year's Gosford show, and two of my collection of decrepit boats. One of them, is a rather beautiful shot of the Woy Woy channel with a nearly submerged derelict at the forefront that I rather like. I'm thinking that one could well go around again in another competition, in a different frame. I would add it to the page with this post, but I just realised that I haven't watermarked it.

And I finish this post off with my current empire, Spain, at peace with the Arabs, though the Japanese had thought it necessary enough to denounce me again. At least now I know they'll be coming. Ciao!

P.S: The next match this Saturday is against the fifth placed side on the ladder. No pressure...
 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Assorted posts from various days

This is a collection of stuff from the last seven days. I would've posted them earlier, but the lack of internet at home makes things a wee bit difficult. Needless to say, as I type this, I'm utilizing a free wi-fi spot at Erina Fair whilst finishing off lunch.

Friday, May 23

Well, discovered two things today. One, the people who have been ringing my mobile at odd times during the day was a wrong number. Somewhere out there, there is an Ian who hasn't been getting those calls. Two, I can't access my Telstra message bank, so I don't know who else has been ringing me, though I suspect it might be Telstra (oh the irony), wanting to make an appointment so they can switch my i/net over to the NBN. They didn't consult me on appointment times on three other occasions, only the first time round when they didn't even show.

So I hear this morning that some areas in Australia have now been completely switched over to the NBN. Gosford is due to be disconnected from the old copper lines in October. I'm curious to know if they're going to have every household and business in the area done by then considering how long it's taking just to get appointments booked.

Whilst overly concerned about somebody's criticism of my SMS etiquette in the previous post, I neglected to mention about my recent entries in the Gosford Regional Show photography competition earlier in the month. Again, I came back empty handed, save for some feedback from the organiser and my two entries. Apparently, there was nothing wrong with my entries. The photographs were good (I entered two sunsets – one from Tamworth, one from just down the road), and they picked up votes in the people's pick awards. What let them down, was the frames.

Naive me just thought a photography competition was about photographs. I generally grabbed a neat, but inexpensive wooden frame, and did them myself. However, had I been a bit, well, generous with my selection of frames, or, if I had got them professionally done, I might have done a bit better, or even sold them. At least now I know. Perhaps now, for the Mental Health Art Works! competition later this year, I might splurge out a bit.

But what to enter? I really want to put in the sunset shot from Tamworth, even though it's already been entered in two competitions this year, but someone has suggested another shot of mine, one of a spotted smooth-shell crab that had just poked his eyes up through the water. Of course, there are plenty of others. Perhaps I really do need to have my own exhibition...

 I've affectionately titled this picture "Peek-a-boo!"

One thing that I did manage to get a shot of whilst on my way back from dropping off my entries to the photography competition at the Gosford showground, was of a red-bellied black snake. 

 

To be honest, I'd never thought I'd ever see one of these in my life-time, let alone two, and especially in a suburban area. When I was walking past, I looked down and saw the snake as clear as daylight. I originally thought 'that's a rubber snake', for it was so very, very still. When I saw it's tongue flick out though, rather than slowly step away from it, I reached into my bag, and pulled out my old pocket camera, and took a few pictures of it, safe in my knowledge of these creatures that I wasn't in any danger. Of all the Australian snakes to come across sunning themselves near a public footpath, the red-belly is the best one, seeing it's rather timid, and only gets vicious if you provoke it. I took the pictures, then just walked away. The snake had barely moved at all. The only regret I had was not having a better camera with me.

S'funny that. I was less worried about one of the most dangerous snakes on the planet than of how I might react tomorrow when this person turns up for the BBQ and/or the match that precedes it. Perhaps I am going nuts – again.

I think I'd best get back to what I was doing earlier. Having watched all seven episodes (to date) of series four of Game of Thrones for the second time round, I decided I needed something else to watch. Conveniently, when I went wandering through Erina Fair today, I ventured to Sanity to discovered series two and three of Lost Girl for $45. Naturally, when I got home, I started with series one. The sales clerk commented 'There's going to be a lengthy session when you get home.' I said 'Yeah, but it's such a nice day outside.' She said 'There'll be other nice days.'

So now I'm going back to watching Lost Girl.

Tuesday, May 27

Well, the house is still without internet, save for my old mobile phone. Trying to respond to e-mail messages on that is rather time consuming to say the least. It also chews up my credit, so I have to resort to other means, like visiting places that have free or cheap wi-fi, namely some of the fast food chain stores. Mind you, half-an-hour doesn't last very long. I check FB, my e-mails, respond to a couple, and it's gone. I even visit the comic book store in Tuggerah, but their internet is rather temperamental. Sometimes you connect straight-away, sometimes you could be trying for an hour without getting anywhere.

I did try to get things moving along. Twenty plus minutes on the phone to Telstra this morning didn't achieve much. Two operators later and all that happened was a message was left for my case manager to ring me back. (Telstra has case managers now? So if my case manager isn't there when I call who takes care of me then?) The best guess was 'within the next 24 hours'. Gees, thanks. All I want to do is book an appointment to get my internet switched over to the NBN so that I can access it. Couldn't anybody in their monstrous call centre do that?

At least I got to speak to an operator. AOL just kept me hanging on the line, repeating the same Vivaldi piece (I think it was a part of Summer) over and over again along with an inane 'we're too busy to take your call' type message. I'll have to try them later.

Thursday 29 May

No response from Telstra, but resolved my issues with AOL. All I needed them to do was cancel my ADSL, seeing Telstra has already switched the phone line over, thus denying me access to the net. (I already have the NBN plan ready to go, just can't bloody access it.) I think the switch occurred whilst I was out last Friday. Thankfully, I had done all of my on-line banking and bill paying first, but forgot to make my changes to my fantasy NRL side. Very time consuming doing that on the mobile. The limit of memory on the phone had me logging onto the site (and emptying the cache) at least three times before I could make all of my changes. The small screen didn't help either. It was a challenge trying to navigate around it. I think it might be time to upgrade.

This morning I find myself stuck at Gosford station. A freight train has broken down at Koolewong, which is the stop after Woy Woy if you're coming up from Sydney. So the north bound Newcastle train is now stuck behind it, no doubt at Woy Woy. It's so late now the next north bound train would have to be stuck behind it. Sucks to be a commuter sometimes. I am weighing up my options, seeing I could go out the front and take a bus to Tuggerah, but apparently the broken down train is on the move, so I might as well wait.

Friday 30 May

Thankfully, I didn't have long to wait. Barely had time to turn the power off on the lappy and put it in my bag when the train finally arrived. Of course, by the time it gets to Tuggerah, it's well after midday, so I venture to one of those fast-food chains and utilize their wi-fi, and have a burger as well. A bit surprised that I'm blocked trying to log-on to the footy tipping site, yet FB is fine. So, I can't make footy tips, but I can look at lewd and indecent pictures and videos posted on a social media site? Weird.

I finally got to the comic book store, and sat down to do some work on finding material for a trivia night the store is having in July. (I have a confession to make – writing questions for and/or hosting a trivia night is on my bucket list.) Even better that their wi-fi in the store is actually working for me today. (They don't allow just anyone to access it. I'm one of the privileged few. I'm like the employee that they can't afford to pay.)

Naturally, it's easy to get side-tracked, especially when I have one of the owners about two metres to my left working on one of his latest projects (a costume for a regular customer that's attending a games convention). He usually tells me of the latest idiots to come into the store (if they got a dollar for every dweeb who came into the store and cracked a Big Bang Theory joke or quoted the show... ) including ones that were under the impression that all their comics were written based on the TV shows/movies. Umm, yeah...

But there's other ways to get side-tracked. The net for starters. I'm looking for material for questions and find myself heading off on so many tangents. At one stage I'm looking at hilarious soccer bloopers, like this one from a penalty shoot-out in which the goalkeeper was celebrating just a bit too early. Anyway, the way I'm organising the questions, is in five groups. One is based on stuff from North America (I was just going to have USA, but there is stuff that has a Canadian origin/influence so I'm covering my bases), one from Britain, and one from Japan. Two are miscellaneous, and they'll be the first and last groups. Ten questions per group, but some questions have multiple parts. I'm trying a mixture of stuff. There are music questions, picture questions, and questions that just require a straight answer.

I'm trying hard not to make them too easy, nor too hard. Some would be rather simple if you know your stuff. If you don't, well, you'll be scratching your head. That's the whole idea of a trivia night. You sit with a group of people that either have a speciality in one area, or know a bit about everything. What one person doesn't know in your group, another person might.

Of course, if you go to your average trivia night specializing in say, football, you're going to be disappointed if there are only a couple of questions about football. It's the same with this. Writing questions covering “fantasy”, “sci-fi” and “pop culture” is tricky, seeing that covers a wide variety of things. So if someone comes in on the night with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Star Trek, they're going to be disappointed, for there won't be that many questions about Star Trek. There's a century of material to work with...

Take Britain for example. If one asks “name a British sci-fi show”, then the natural response (from a geek) could very well be “Dr Who”. Sure, it's the longest running sci-fi show ever (50 years is quite an achievement) but it's not the only sci-fi show that was produced in Britain. Off the top of my head – Thunderbirds, Blake's Seven, Red Dwarf, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and more recently, Primeval. And there are plenty more.

And what about other British contributions, not necessarily sci-fi or on a screen for that matter. Well, there's 2000AD for starters, that has been in publication for decades. It's “flagship”, Judge Dredd, thanks to the recent film adaptation, is probably the most well-known lawman on the planet. Then there's the Harry Potter series, the venerable Terry Pratchett and his wonderful collection of Discworld novels, J R R Tolkien, Alan Moore, etc. Then there's the acting talent. There are two in particular that have crossed many genres, and have been in the business for decades – Patrick Stewart and Christopher Lee. Not everybody may have watched Star Trek the Next Generation, but there are plenty who have watched The Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad who have heard Patrick's voice. Then there's the X-Men movie franchise. As for Mr Lee, well, I'll never forget him as Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, but he's also been Count Dooku, Saurumon, Frankenstein's monster, Count Dracula, even Willy Wonka's father.

So, how do I contain the British section to just ten questions? How do I contain any section to just ten questions? It isn't easy. I remember one thing, then I forget another. I put in one, then have to leave another out. Sigh.

I could go on with this post, but there are other things that I need to get done, like top up the groceries, get some lunch, purchase some i/net time so that I can post this, etc. I just know that I have to get out of the house today. If I don't, I'll end up getting terribly miserable, and just lie on the couch watching DVDs for the rest of the day. (It isn't that hard, seeing the weather outside has suddenly turned miserable. We'd been having so much good weather recently the grey skies are quite a surprise. It rained for a while last night as well.)

I could also go on with this post. I could talk about football. I could talk about Lost Girl. I could even talk about more of the considerable differences I've been noticing between the books and screen version of Game of Thrones. And one's a biggy. On the screen, Robb's wife Jeyne was murdered along with her husband at Edmure Tully's wedding feast, with Catalyn's uncle, Blackfish, having just avoided the blood-bath by slipping out to go to the toilet. In the book, Jayne stayed at Riverrun, with Blackfish, rather than go to the wedding at The Twins. The man who slipped out to answer a call to nature was Roose Bolton, who, I should point out, still has two of Walder Frey's boys as “guests” at the Dreadfort. The “Red Wedding” I should point out, though in series three on the screen, was actually well into the second half of volume three of the books. The one constant between the two, is that Arya almost made it to the wedding, but was spared from the slaughter by Sandor Clegane. (Who I'm really beginning to like.)

Of course, there could be something else that I'm yet to read about the aftermath, but that's for another day.

In closing, on Monday (26/5) I actually strolled down to the art gallery to see if I could capture (digitally) a few of the birds that were mesmerising me the other day when I was sitting down there rattling off a journal entry. I managed to get two of them – the one that looked like a wattlebird, which was in fact a juvenile Australasian figbird, and one of the big boys, a Pied Currawong. As I type this, I can hear them now, even above the traffic. On Monday they were swarming over a tree in the gallery grounds, feeding on the berries. Instead of trying to capture them with single shots, I should've filmed them instead. Had it not been for the limitations of the wi-fi service I would've posted them.

Ciao!

All images by Geoff G Turner © 2014.