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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Yawn.

Yawn.

I should know better than to have an afternoon nap, but, well, I had one anyway. I think I was asleep for ninety minutes, but I woke up feeling terrible and tired, thinking I need another nap to recover from the previous nap.

But just so tired. And so unmotivated today. I have hardly had the inclination to do anything, other than turn on the PC. Even getting out of the chair to have lunch felt like a chore. I'm looking outside and I see my washing on the line. I'm wondering how did I get the urge to hand wash my soccer gear? I also see, for some reason, a small pair of mismatched socks. I think they've been hanging there since Friday. The there's the large pile of wood chips that's been sitting there since Saturday afternoon. And I do mean large. You could bury small kids in it. Worst still, with all the rain we've been having over the last three days, it's a large pile of wet wood chips. I can't imagine why they're sitting there, unless the gent in number four has another one of his gardening ideas again.

Yesterday, different story. I actually forced myself out of the house, despite the inclement weather, and headed up to my mate's comic book store in Tuggerah. I actually felt alive yesterday, wanting to do something. Tomorrow, well, depends on the weather. I had wanted to go for a long walk, but, if it's grey and overcast again I won't be going too far. Come to think of it, three out of the last five days I've wanted nothing more than to stay at home, curl up on the couch and watch DVDs, or, just switch on the PC and forget that there's a real world out there.

Last Saturday though, different story. I played football. First (competitive) game of the new season. After three trial games, we felt ready, though it was a different case when we took to the pitch. Scored in the opening minute, then another not long after that, and twenty minutes into the game we were 3-0 up. I had only had to make one save during that time, a dive to my left were I got both hands to a low drive that was going in.

Next twenty, different story. I was rather busy. There was a lapse in the defence, I was covering the left post where the ball was, it was fired across to an unmarked player who just toed it in. Another occasion has me coming out this time, seeing they've come straight through again, and I've had to clear it, then race back into my goals. Then there's a penalty for handball inside the box, ironically caused by the other keeper who's now playing in defence. I initially thought 'right', but as the gent came in, I knew he was going left. I dived, got a hand to it, but couldn't keep it out. After that there was an indirect free-kick, nothing came of it. At half-time it was only 3-2.

Second half, well, similar to the first, except there was no trio of goals. Again, I hardly see the ball for the first twenty, then we score from a neat little header, and then I'm quite busy for the last twenty. Corners, free-kicks, they're coming down the right flank, occasionally the left, they score close to full-time. Again, not much I can do about it. I'm on the left post watching the ball, and on the angle, it was fired into the top corner of the right. We got away with the match 4-3. I think I touched the ball maybe ten times in the match, stopped (thwarted) five goal scoring opportunities. Elected to throw the ball out most of the time, more accurate that way. It may not sound like I was too busy, but trust me, for half the match I was. That's just the keeper's lot sometimes. Hardly see the ball at all, and you're wanting it to come your way so you can do something. Then when it's down your end, you can't wait for it to go away.

Still have one concern though. My left thumb was struck during the warm-up prior to the first trial game about a month ago, and still hasn't come right. It's still sore, though, if I strap it up prior to the game, I have no problems with it. I'm reluctant to go see a doctor about it, but, at the same time, I'm wondering if I have done something relatively serious to it, like my foot last year.

Haven't got much else to say about anything really at the moment. Prior to the opening match of the season, there was a trip to Sydney for a couple of games of Blood Bowl, where I won one and lost one. I managed to finish A Game of Thrones on the way back on the train, and have now progressed to the second book in the series, A Clash of Kings.

Still noticing differences between the books and the “live action”. For example, in the TV show, when Tyrion goes into battle (what turns out to be Robb's diversion, as he accompanies his main force to break Jaime Lannister's siege at Riverrun), he's knocked out by an errant warhammer and misses the entire thing. In the book, he's in the thick of, leading his tribesmen on the left side of the van, with The Mountain on the right. He even takes a knight captive and is wounded. It also transpires that prior to this, at Riverrun, Edmure Tully, Catlyn's brother, is taken prisoner, and is freed when Robb turns up and routs Jaime's forces, then takes him prisoner. Edmure is also portrayed to be clean-shaven with brown hair on the screen, whereas in the book his hair and beard are quite orange. Robb is 15 when he becomes King of the North. He looks a lot older on the screen.

But that's it though. The books are one reality, the screen is another altogether. It's like that when I'm watching The Walking Dead, or Neon Genesis Evangelion, or any number of movies based on books...

Was rather pleased with myself that I finished another chapter in the Feudball 2 project last week. Again, I'm doing the chapters out of order, with this one part of three near the end of the book that I have completed. I think it's eighteen chapters completed, with another four having been started, and the word count just broke the six-figure mark. Don't know when (or if) I'll work on it this week, especially if I'm going to remain unmotivated.

But then, tomorrow is another day. Who knows, I might get a decent night's rest tonight, sleep for eight hours and be up in the morning full of beans and ready to take on the world.

We'll see. Ciao.

P.S: Just running this through a spell check, was rather amused when the suggested word for “Tuggerah” was “Thuggery”. 

P.P.S: I do have something else to look forward to this weekend, other than another game of soccer. I'm going to see John Cleese in one of his evening chat shows at Chatswood. Should be good. Saturday is sure going to be a busy day, and a long one.
 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Keeping busy

Gees, Thursday already. Amazing how quickly this week passes when one finds something to do.

So, the transition back to not working after working. How has it been? Well, the trick has been to try and substitute what I used to do with something else. So, Wednesday where I used to tromp around Gosford giving newspapers to people who didn't really want them, I decided to go for a more enjoyable walk, this time only taking my camera and a few essentials in a backpack. The walk started at my place, went down to the waterfront, past the football stadium, through the sporting fields of West Gosford, and then followed the walking trail all the way to Point Clare. I had originally intended to go all the way to Woy Woy, which is about 12 kilometres (or maybe a little more) from my front door. However, a sporting injury from last year started playing up, and I pulled up at the train station and headed back home, having done around 7.5km, and taking over 400 shots along the way. I think next Wednesday, I'll take a train to PC, and finish the walk off – weather permitting of course.

The Point Clare side of Fagans Bay.

I could've done it yesterday, but decided to go to the other side of the suburb, walking around a fenced off reserve, and to the cemetery. I found a memorial to a 1948 maritime tragedy at the cemetery, which, I later discovered, had a little story attached to it as well. Was interested to discover a website dedicated to Australian memorials, and decided to submit the picture for use on the website. After a quick look at the site, realised that they didn't have pictures of yet another monument that I'm familiar with – the Boer War memorial near the police station in Mann Street, so I sent them a couple of old pictures that I had of it. I have since bookmarked the page, seeing that I may have more.

The "Joyce" memorial at Point Clare Cemetery.

The better pictures though were of the wildlife. It was a good day to take pictures of birds, and I got plenty. A group of dusky moor hens living in a stream near the sports fields in West Gosford, at least three types of ducks around the edge of Fagans Bay, a pair of little pied cormorants on a tree next to a stalking great eastern egret looking for food, even a white-faced heron which just plopped itself into a stream as I was walking past. 

 I had been scratching my head trying to figure out what birds these were. 
Turns out that they're juvenile Dusky Moorhens.

It was a good day for it. Both days I covered roughly the same distance. I even went out last Monday (17th) to Ettalong, for a very quick lunch, a few photographs of the beach, and a movie, The Monument's Men, which featured George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett. (And, strangely enough, it was parodied in the opening of last night's episode of Mad as Hell.) To be honest, one could hardly call it a movie. I felt it was more like a documentary, that the characters lacked any great depth, and the movie very disjointed. Two things that I did appreciate, was that Clooney's character did highlight the fact the Nazis weren't the only one going around destroying artefacts, mentioning the dreadful bombing of the monastery at Monte Cassino in early 1944, and Blanchett's character very suspicious of the intentions of the US wanting to get stolen works of art back off the Nazis. Still, it was something different, and the film only cost $8 to see, though one had to put up with retirees talking through it. One pair came in three-quarters of the way through it, the old lady making a fuss trying to find her way to a pair of women seated in the first row, then starting up a conversation with her! Sheesh!

As for work, well, don't miss it. Miss hanging out with a co-worker, who has visited me twice since I quit, but not the work. As it turns out, the boss didn't even see my resignation e-mail until the Monday (Feb 24) morning, four days after I sent it. (He had often complained that we weren't reading his e-mails... ) Turns out, according to the co-worker, the boss took no notice of the e-mail (which were straight replies to his), seeing it was 'irrelevant', that he had sent his work orders/complaints and they didn't need to be followed up. Come that Monday morning, the co-worker turns up and asks him who was going to be partnering him that day. The boss had no idea what he was talking about. Gees...

Then, to really confuse/infuriate me, he said to my former co-worker that he felt that I had been doing a great job. So, why the e-mail telling me the opposite?

And I thought I had problems.

Well, I still do. I must admit, I have been moody of late, hence the need to get out of the house and just try and walk it off. Even appreciative that the winter football season is starting up soon. I have a second trial match on Sunday. The first one was on March 9. We lost, going down 0-3, and yes, I was in goals. Yours truly turned in another man-of-the-match effort, despite the scoreline, my presence, as one opponent summed it up as we came off the field, being worth at least five goals. I felt I had an excellent game. I was seeing the ball well, the ball was landing softly in my hands, my clearance kicks were good, and I defused at least 13 scoring attempts on goal, including three one-on-one situations where I had to go out to stop the attack. (Unfortunately, one of the four got through. The only two goals came from a goal mouth scramble, where I had already stopped two shots, but a defender turned it in, and the other one from me guarding the near post, and the shot going wide and into the far corner. All three came in the first half.) For my efforts I copped a ball to the face, another to the chest (both at point-blank range) and my left thumb still hurts from where a ball struck it during warm-up. It bounced awkwardly, straight at the tip of my thumb, jarring it. I had to strap it to get on the field, then ice it when I got home. Strange thing though, bruises started appearing over the last week, which makes me wonder how badly was it damaged.

Thankfully, for my thumb, our starting keeper is back from his 'holiday' for this match, so I'll be back in defence for the next game. I don't expect a full match, seeing we have more than enough players. We have also been allocated our division, which is 35/6, the same division we won back in 2012, albeit with quite a different side.

From playing to spectating, I must say last week was a good week of watching the Mariners go round. I did try to take plenty of shots, but the camera that I have isn't cut out for taking close-up shots of sport in progress, under lights, and at night. (Day time, stills, no problem.) Sometimes though, one does get lucky. Anyway, against J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima (March 11), the side went behind relatively early (looking at the footage, one sees it was clearly a defensive error that allowed the goal), but fought back well, with retiring striker Mile Sterjovski netting two goals, the second a screamer from 30 metres that took an ever so slight deflection from a defender. The side then withstood a determined second half counter-attack to pick up their first ever win over a Japanese club in the AFC.

Then, last Saturday, a fine 3-1 win over neighbours Newcastle. The home side getting off to a fantastic start, netting twice within the first six minutes. The game being finally sealed with a third late in the match, after Newcastle responded with a well taken shot of their own. On both nights, keeper Liam Reddy was extremely busy. The first goal of the match was scored by veteran Eddie Bosnar, who, from about 48 metres out, drove a low free-kick straight at the goals. A wicked bounce saw the ball go straight through the keepers' legs, and barely 90 seconds had passed before the visitors had to kick-off again.

One types in "bosnar free kick" into the Google search bar to discover quite a few posts, but not necessarily about this particular goal. The man has form!

However, last night, they couldn't keep the momentum going, losing 1-2 to their Chinese opponents, Beijing Guoan. Their hosts scored practically on half-time, which has been a problem for the side after being competitive for the half. When they went two up around the hour mark, the game was over, though a late penalty did restore some pride. The Mariners do not have a good away from home record in this competition. From twelve matches, just one one win. However, one really does need to bear in mind that this was the third game for the side in just eight days, with another game, against Heart, this Sunday.

So, what else have I been up to? Yes, I have done a bit of writing. I finished a rather long chapter for Feudball 2, where the team has a rare encounter with a 'stunty' side. (Think LOTR... ) At this moment, 17 of the planned 34 chapters have a first draft completed, with 5 other chapters having some work done on them. I must say that I haven't started at the beginning and kept going through to the end. I find that if I have an idea for a chapter later in the book, write it down and keep going on it until I run out of steam. The first 15 chapters have been completed, and so has the last one, with another somewhere near the end. I should also mention that I have written a draft of the first chapter for book three...

I have also been watching DVDs. This time, Series 4 of Sons of Anarchy. In fact, I've watched it twice, the second time with the directors commentaries. I've now gone back to just watching Series 3 episodes of Game of Thrones that have commentaries. One episode I noticed (I think it's episode three) has two sets of commentaries. I can't wait to hear the episode that has Peter Dinklage's (Tyrion) thoughts...

And whilst we're on GoT, I've been powering my way through the first book, reading whenever I have a moment or two. I've not long finished the chapter where Bronn kills Lyra's champion, and Tyrion goes free. This lead me to make a few notes between the differences (in certain scenes) between the book and the series.

TV Series: The story of how The Hound became so hideously scarred is told to Sansa and Arya by Lord Baelish at the Hand's tournament.

Book: Sansa is told how he became so hideously scarred by The Hound himself, as he escorted her back to the Red Keep on the night of the tournament banquet.

TV Series: Ned Stark is speared in the leg by a Lannister guard as he fought Jaime.

Book: Ned's leg is broken by his horse falling on it during the fight.

TV Series: Bronn kills Lyra's champion and pushes him through a sky gate, at the conclusion of Tyrion's 'trial'. The fight was indoors. The trial happens pretty much at once after the Imp has 'confessed' to his crimes.

Book: The fight was in a garden, which takes place the day after Tyrion confessed his crimes. (No mention about him adding the extra 'ingredient' to some soup his family once ate... ) Bronn, after running the champion around for a bit, pushes a statue on top of him, then finishes him off whilst he's indisposed.

TV Series: Bran is accosted by a very small group of bandits who try to steal his horse, and are all killed, except Osha, who's taken as a slave.

Book: The group was considerably larger (nine I think), which had two women (including Osha) and two Night's Watch deserters. The outcome of the fight was still the same, with Theon skewering the last of them with an arrow, which Robb criticises him for.

Naturally, there are others. There are also conversations that haven't been used (like, for example, the crow actually talking to Bran in his dreams), characters being in scenes in the book, but not there on the screen (like Blackfish, Catelyn's uncle, being at the Eyrie when she turns up with Tyrion) and so on. I find though that the first series is actually quite faithful to the book, unlike some things that I have read. The Walking Dead comes to mind...

Anyway, I think that's enough for the time being. The laundry has been done, just have to pack it away now. Need to run the vacuum cleaner around the house for a bit, then tidy up. Rental inspection tomorrow. Gees, has it really been six months since the last one?

Until next time. 

P.S: If you follow the above link to the Monument Australia site, you'll find that my image is already up. :)
 
All images in this post by Geoff G Turner (c) 2014.

Monday, March 03, 2014

What an annoying week that was...

I had planned to be at a coffee shop to start this entry, but I was on the phone to Telstra for nearly 1.5 hours, sorting out the NBN, most of it, as one would imagine, was waiting on the line whilst listening to Tommy Emmanuel or Kenny G or whomever it was who created the on-hold music. I got transferred through a number of departments, finally ending with a very helpful lass who informed me that the NBN order for this block of units was 80% completed. (I didn't even know that.)

I hate ringing call-centres. I really do. I will put it off for as long as would possibly have to, before finally working up the nerve. The ones that irritate me the most, are the banking ones. I've only had to call mine twice in the last five years, and it felt like I was being interrogated, especially when I couldn't remember the secret password I had given them when I first set it up. Next on the list would be C-Link.

Anyway, that's all been sorted. I have the dates as to when the NBN people shall be here. My 'to do' list is now 100% completed. But, seeing it's around 11.30am when I'm typing this, it's overcast and miserable outside, I'm not really in the mood to go outside until I have to, and that's for the laundry later today.

It's been doing that a lot lately. Raining. It's made me just want to stay indoors and watch DVDs. I did brave the weather and go out for a game of Blood Bowl last Thursday (27/2) evening, then pay day Friday I just upped and went out for the day and thought 'screw the rain' and on Saturday it was the Mariners vs Sydney match in Gosford. Yesterday, during a break in the rain, I went for a walk through the reserve near my place, and got stung repeatedly by mosquitoes. Did get some nice pictures of magpies, ducks and a mushroom though. (Yes, I take pictures of quite a lot of things.)

And whilst I'm (briefly) on the topic of photography, I mailed off entries to the Bendemeer 'Colours of Autumn' exhibition. Last year I mailed off six, all of some rather artistic shots of decrepit boats (that I gave funny names to), but this year, decided I'd go for sunsets. (I've actually taken quite a few. I could do a book just of the ones I've taken down at the reserve around Caroline Bay.) I've even included one that I took on my Tamworth Xmas trip, taken from the backyard of my brother's place. Even the colours in the picture make it look very autumn.

It also has me thinking that I really should get my act together, and get some photo books done. When I first started getting back into photography, I had the notion of doing them through Lulu.com, do a small, limited edition run and just sell them though the net. I was even going to try combine photography and writing, perhaps do a book where I could write a short story to go with the picture.

I could do that now. I sure do have the extra time up my sleeve. For, as per usual, I seem to find myself in all sorts of trouble without actually having to do much. Let's start with the work incident.

Last Thursday morning, after having done a rather exhaustive walk around the Gosford CBD the previous day, I discovered a rather, well, obnoxious (for want of a better word) e-mail from the boss. Regular readers will know by now that this is not the first time I have received unusual communiques from the office, generally about what I'm not doing correctly, or what I should be doing, or why I should be doing it, from the boss. There were the e-mails about delivering extra bundles to a certain supermarket in Umina so that 'tourists would know where to get them', and for us to deliver to all libraries in the Wyong council area regardless of the fact that people rarely touch the newspaper at all (let alone read it) and that we may not get to certain libraries before they closed, which was of no concern to the boss and ordered them delivered anyway.

This e-mail, however, was different in the fact that it was rather abusive. The undertone being that the people who deliver the newspapers (the Central Coast News edition) were not doing their job properly, with the point being directed at yours truly, seeing most of it was about news deliveries in the Gosford area. He was critical of the fact that he regularly go top up the newspaper racks across the road, and that I had not bothered to inform him that the racks needed refilling, a job that I should be doing as well, on top of the nine kilometre hike I was doing.

To say that I was pissed off, was an understatement. My response, written rather heatedly, and trying to refrain from putting too many swear words in it, told him that I was 'terribly bloody sorry' that I hadn't informed him about the racks needing refilling (with newspapers that were nearly two weeks old???) but at that time, I was doing the rest of the Gosford CBD and was, well, kind of busy. (The office, I should add, is roughly 20 metres from the shopping centre. Anyone from the office could go across the road and take a bundle over.) I went on to inform him that the newspaper rack in question, near a certain supermarket upstairs, could only hold four bundles on each row because there was a loose wheel, and that any more newspapers piled up on it may cause it to tip over. I also reminded him that I drop 13 bundles (of a total of 31 allocated to my walks) of newspapers up there every second Wednesday. (I put eight downstairs, four upstairs, and share the other one between three coffee shops and a newsagent in the shopping centre.)

Then I proceeded to tell him, that if he wasn't happy with the way I did it, perhaps he should get someone else to do it. A minute or so later, I sent him another e-mail, saying 'come to think of it, do find someone else to do it, and the Wyong and Peninsula deliveries as well'.

For crying out loud, it was 2.5 days a fortnight. It wasn't worth putting up with this shite. Today, I would normally be on the Peninsula run, but I'm not. I've missed two calls from work so far today, and have no intentions of returning any of them. I would've like to have heard an excuse as to why he treats people like school-kids, why he feels the need to lecture people all the time, like he has cancer, or in the early stages of alzheimers, but there isn't one. He is just a pompous newspaper owner, who thinks he's out to change the world, and everything has to be done his way and woe be unto those who criticise him in any way. He's only nice when he wants something done.

Seriously though, how can a free fortnightly newspaper, which copies (word for word) press releases and e-mails, compete against a (three times) weekly free newspaper (which is owned by Rupert Murdoch) that has a horde of reporters and is well established (decades), in a digital age, where the preferred delivery of news is the internet? In Wyong shire, he's competing against three – Rupert's Advocate, a monthly one called the Village Grapevine, plus at the northern end, The Lakes Mail.

The sad thing is, I quite liked the gent whom I used to work with on the runs. We would talk about anything from world history, to why the mariners are going crap at the moment. He came around last Thursday to see how I was, and to ask me not to quit. I told him it was too late, I already had. I was actually quite touched by the fact that he came over, but I wasn't going to change my mind.

Thursday didn't get any better either. I got absolutely thrashed in my game of BB in Sydney. The worst defeat that I have had so far this year. The only consolation I took out of the day, was that I got seventy pages through Game of Thrones whilst on the train.

But the fun doesn't stop there. To really cap off a rather crappy week, I had a date on Saturday. For a couple of weeks I had been swapping messages with a Sydney lady (let's call her Linda) on one of the many dating sites. She was interested in yours truly because I still played football, and she thought I was rather handsome, even 'cute' in my goalkeeper's outfit. On Saturday, after swapping dozens of SMS, she called me. We talked for over two hours. Long story short, I invited her up to the Mariners vs Sydney match. She had never been to an A-League match before, and quite enjoyed it, getting right into barracking for the locals and I was impressed with her knowledge of football terminology. She knew more than I did. We even went out for a quick bite to eat before she went back to Sydney.

I walked her back to her car, and got a kiss goodnight. I felt sparks. I was in a very happy place despite the rain. Promises of further dates were made, including a home cooked meal when she had settled in to her new place. (Most of her belongings was still in the back of her car.) She was concerned about my well-being, asking me to SMS her when I got home. That was at 8.30pm. Around 11.30pm, her mood had changed considerably. She now wanted to get out of Sydney as fast as possible, and she was apologetic for 'wasting my time'. I replied that she hadn't. She didn't respond. (She was quite open about her troubles during the night and her past. I wonder how much of it was actually true... )

Yesterday, I discovered that I had been deleted from her contacts list on the site. In the space of several hours, I went from a delightful flirt that she was going to 'bang me very slowly' to I never want to hear from you again. WTF?

Naturally, all this has put me off dating again. Just when I thought I had found a rather entertaining, delightful lass the same age as me, there's the metaphorical kick in the nuts, and I'm back where I started from, with $60 less in my bank account. At least she didn't cost me as much as the previous football lady I went out with. (And once again, I'm glad I didn't sleep with her, or take her back to my place.) I believe, that yet again, I broke one of my dating rules – never go out with someone who's crazier than you.

But I live on the Central Coast. Like I'm going to find a sane girlfriend around here?

The highlight of a rather miserable week, was that the Mariners beat Sydney FC, for the third time this season. That, and I was able to have a couple of drinks with a pair of team-mates from football before the game. With the rather weird results from the weekend (second last Melbourne Heart beat their local top four rivals Victory 4-0, whilst a rather unpredictable Newcastle travelled to play the Wanderers, and beat them 2-0), three teams are now locked in third place, breathing down the Wanderers neck, whilst the Roar have opened up a sizeable gap on top of the ladder – again. It was a good result for the Mariners, who, after having capitulated rather badly against Victory and Wellington in previous weeks, and being one of three teams who had played midweek in the Asian Champions League, fought hard to win the game 2-1 in the wet at Gosford. The Mariners were the only one of the three Australian ACL participants who actually registered a win this round. The most memorable highlight, for myself (and no doubt for a number of Mariners supporters) was to see new recruit Kim Seong-yong bend a free-kick up and around the Sydney FC wall to open the scoring. Liam Reddy's spectacular save in stopping a del Piero free-kick was a close second, whilst Mitch Duke's winner was also right up there, though seeing DP get a yellow card for a challenge on Storm Roux was quite amusing!

White ball, top right-hand corner pocket...

Finally, I have been viewing a number of DVDs over the last couple of weeks. I had picked up Firefly on sale last Friday, and was quite enjoying the series yet again. I am still working my way through the growing collection of old-school martial arts films, including some classics produced by the legendary Shaw brothers. It's not hard to see who has influenced modern movie creators like Quentin Tarantino for example (especially Kill Bill). However, after watching a couple of Shaw brother films (The 5 Deadly Venoms and Duel of the Iron Fist) they immediately made me think of Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle.

In Duel... (which was part of an English dubbed 10 martial arts movie box), most gang members were using an axe as their weapon of choice, though the main fighters were using knives. (At one stage, you could see a gangster wielding a pick-axe in a fight scene.) In Kung Fu... the big gang in the movie was The Axe Gang. In The 5..., one of the five senior fighters was a master of toad style. Again, in Kung Fu..., the big villain was indeed a master of toad style.

But briefly back to Tarantino. In Kill Bill, the leader of O-Ren Ishi's bodyguard is played by Gordon Liu (he also plays the old master in the second movie). Gordon starred in a Shaw brother masterpiece – The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, a DVD I was very pleased to pick up for just $6.98. I look forward to watching it – again.

And on that note, I need some lunch, and to grab my washing before I post this. I'm hoping that this week turns out much better than last week...

Ciao.
P.S: Just finished watching two episodes of an 80's TV show that was on one of the disks in the movie box. The show was called The Master, and starred Lee Van Cleef, of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly fame, and featured, for about ten minutes, a young Demi Moore. All I can say is, Lee must've really needed the money...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Back in training

Well, outlived another doomsday prophecy.

This time it's the Vikings. Those of you who aren't familiar with the end of the world scenarios, Ragnarok, the battle to end all battles between Odin, Loki and hordes of the dead who did (or didn't) get into Valhalla, was apparently meant to be yesterday.

But rather than sitting at home all day waiting for it to happen, I went to Westmead yesterday for some football training, then came home and continued to watch Game of Thrones series three for the second time. (More on that later.)

So, here I am, Sunday morning, rather tired having not slept too well the previous night (meh, nothing new there), pondering which doomsday event is going to (not) happen next. I can recall being at high school twenty-five (or so) years ago wondering if Nostradamus' prediction was going to come true. More recently, it was the Mayans with that rather apocalyptic Hollywood visualisation of it as well. Did it happen? Nope. So let's move on.

Yes, back in training. Having missed the first session (which was scheduled on Feb 1, the same day my sister's 40th and niece's 18th birthday parties were held on), I promptly rocked up to the second one, which was held in Parramatta Park, a rather big park which one can enter in down-town Parramatta, then exit it a hundred metres from Westmead station. We trained at the Westmead end in our usual spot, not far from a group of volley-ballers (who are usually there every time we are). Most of the regular team was there, plus some new recruits and a couple of players that I knew from the first season that I played in the open division.

I wasn't out to over extend myself, mindful of the fact that I was using a new (well, new to me) set of boots, the surface we were playing on was mostly hard and uneven (I even saw some old pipes that had become partially uncovered at one end) and last season's foot and ankle injuries still fresh in my mind. Apart from running out of puff once or twice, taking a couple of tumbles whilst bringing the ball up, I got through the session okay and felt better for it. It appears that I will be primarily playing at the back again this year, either that or in goals, depending on what happens to our regular keeper. (I learned that he had moved to Queensland and was actually flying down for matches last year, so it remains to be seen as to how many games he'll play in.)

Returning home though, the gent whom I get a lift with, did something rather strange. Annoyed with the motorcyclist in front of him that was going too slow on the thoroughfare, he decided to overtake him (her?) just before a set of traffic lights, at a major traffic intersection I should add, which had already turned red. (This puzzled me, seeing he wasn't going to advance that much further.) The cyclist then proceeded to come up beside him (in the lane that's for turning onto the motorway), tapped on the window and asked what was he doing, to which my driver replied that he was going too slow. The lights then changed, and off we went.

Then the cyclist got ahead of us, and at every chance he got, then proceeded to stop and have a whinge to a driver in another car beside him, twice, when traffic had slowed to a stop. Then, to prove a point, the cyclist then slowed down once again. At the intersection for the Newcastle turn-off, he then came up on our left, where I just looked at him, shrugged my shoulders, and promptly proceeded to chew my nails. Once on the free-way, he was promptly left behind.

I'm thinking, my driver was in the wrong to begin with, obviously, but then the cyclist was in the wrong by proceeding to act rather childish afterwards, stopping in traffic to complain to random people, deliberately slowing down, etc. But then, how often do you see it happen? Somebody cuts you off, somebody drives to slow in front of you, somebody tail-gates you... every day of the week I would imagine.

And people wonder why I don't drive. My answer, too many idiots on the road. My anxiety levels are bad enough just being a passenger. Some days I wish I could find another way to get to training and/or games, but this method is more convenient for all involved.

Mind you, I should add that the gent who gives me the lifts down for the games, once called me on my mobile because, by his watch, I was late, by about fifteen seconds. I was literally just around the corner from where he was ringing from. (And, I should point out, was on time according to my watch... )

And I'm the one who spent two years visiting a psychologist and was on medication for several more. Sheesh.

Whilst I'm on the subject of football, I was at the Mariners' game last Friday night, and, well, was rather disappointed with the outcome. After leading 1-0 at half-time, the side capitulated rather quickly, and went down 1-4 to Wellington, who, I should point out, lost 0-5 the previous week, at home, to the side running last in the competition (Heart). (I should add, Wellington in the second half played rather well, and really looked like play-off contenders.)

I don't get it. It's one thing to be outplayed by a side, but to just give up, after your opponent equalizes, within ninety seconds of the second half starting, it was downright embarrassing. Sure, it's not the first time I've seen the side get hammered at home, but it's probably the first time I've seen them give up. You could see it. It was a physical change that just swept over the team. They had chances to get back into the game. A penalty for hand-ball. It's taken way too casually and the keeper gets a hand to it and knocks it away. Then there's a clear shot on goal, keeper gets a hand to it, it hits the inside of the post and bounces away. By that time you know it isn't going to be their night.

Not a total loss for the night. The 20,000th image captured by my current camera. 

Then there's the crowd. They applaud the side off the field at half-time. At full-time, they're booed off. First time that I have ever heard the side being booed off the pitch. (I wasn't surprised though.) I stayed until the bitter end, then left as soon as the full-time whistle sounded. I wasn't staying there a moment longer than I had to. Of course, no matter where I sit, I always seem to hear spectator's idiotic remarks. 'What game are you watching ref?' Me – he's watching this one. Remember, he gave us a penalty two minutes ago. 'What about the offisde?' Me – does it really matter? (We were down 1-4 at that stage.) 'Stupid linesman.' Me – it's not the linesman's fault we're losing 4-1 at the moment.'

So, what did I do when I got home? I cracked open a can of cider, and proceeded to re-watch Game of Thrones series three. I've almost gotten through it a second time. The next episode to re-watch is the 'red wedding'. I must say that when I first watched it, I was rather surprised when I figured out that it was the Starks going to be massacred. (I had expected it was going to be a rather big fight at Joffrey's wedding.) But of course, keeping in line with what had already happened, Robb and his mother being slain, along with other members of their retinue, was par for the course. Naturally they were going to go. Robb had reneged on his earlier pledge to marry one of the Frey's daughters, and the Lannisters had paid the old bugger off. (Earlier in the series, when Tyrion is sitting at his father's desk, you could see the elder Lannister writing the order. I could swear that I saw the words 'successful hunt' on the paper. Might go back to that moment and freeze frame it to see if I was right.)

Sansa being married to Tyrion though I didn't see coming. (You'd think the poor girl had been through enough by now.) Of course, it does create the rather amusing situation that Sansa is now a Lannister, and Joffrey's aunt. Of course, the family tree will get further complicated when (if) Joffrey marries Margaery, and his mother marries Margaery's brother. (My mind is having a meltdown trying to figure it out. Margaery and Cersei would then be sisters-in-law, with Cersei at the same time being her mother-in-law. But then, Sansa would also become Cersei's sister-in-law...)

Nice one George R R Martin. But, well, that's what it was like, eh? (And still is.)

There's only two things that are for certain in the series. One, winter is coming, and so is a ruddy large army of the undead. Two, Daenerys Targaryen is going to come home with a rather large army, and she'll have three fully grown dragons. The Lannisters, Baratheons, Starks, etc. are going to be caught in-between both of them.

Me thinks I'll probably have to start reading the books.

Right, that's my morning pretty much gone. I think I'll post this, finish watching the series again, then get back into working on Feudball 2. I have actually made some progress during the past week, writing new material rather than just re-writing old stuff. Still not working on it in chronological order though. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Yeah, very slack, don't I know it...

I had started writing this blog entry on January 24, whilst on my “pilgrimage” to Canberra for Can Con. I didn't get too far with it, as busy as I was with gaming, socializing, and more gaming for the Australia Day long weekend. I pretty much just returned to my hotel room just to sleep. Then, on returning to the Central Coast, became occupied with work, Civilisation 5, DVDs, and some other miscellaneous events that broke up the routine.

Needless to say, when I have been busy, I haven't been able to update the blog. When I haven't been busy, I haven't felt like it for one reason or another. I've been very slack. There are Blood Bowl teams I should've painted and match reports typed up, the second Feudball novel hasn't had much done on it this year, my website needs updating, there are photographs that need sorting (and others scrap-booked), and books that I haven't been reading.

Anyway, I'm on it now. I'll break up this post into a number of relevant sections, starting with my trip to Can Con.

CAN CON

Once again I find myself on the road, this time in the nation's capital. It's the annual gaming convention, and I'm here, listening to the news after a long drive from Strathfield with a gaming buddy, getting here in just over three hours. (Might have gotten here a little bit sooner, but I fun trying to find where he was parked. Turns out I was on the wrong side of the tracks.) The drive was rather pleasant, and we chatted most of the way here. Hardly noticed the hours or the kilometres pass us by. The inclement weather was soon left behind halfway into the journey, and the clouds actually made for a pretty nice twilight.

Unusual feeling sitting in a hotel room by one's self. Don't think that I have done this since, gees, 1993, when I stayed in Cootamundra for a friend's wedding. Just getting used to the noises around me, whether it be outside traffic, or people in the building. I'm just wondering how soundproof these rooms are. At least I brought earplugs with me. The room, well, is rather compact. Queen sized bed (with a single bunk above it), bench, sink, shower (in a small cubicle with the toilet), TV set, air-con, heater, and a clock radio. No fridge (communal one downstairs apparently), no cooking allowed in the room (not even a toaster), and must close the door whilst showering – the steam may set off the fire alarm. It's not much, but then, how long am I going to be in this room during the day? I really only need a place to sleep and that's about it. (Actually got a phone call on the mobile around 9.20pm asking if I still needed the room for the night. I said I'd be there in about twenty minutes. I appreciate customer service like that.) 

My prison cell, umm, hotel room. The word 'compact' comes to mind.

Must say the shower was just what I needed after a long day at work. Got to work early, at 8.45am, just as my driver showed up. We left early, and, despite the van sounding like that it was going to die on us at any moment, got through the entire day and back to work with the vehicle in one piece. We actually finished early enough for me to grab the 5pm service to the city, rather than the 6pm one I had originally intended to get.

So, three days, seven games of Blood Bowl, and the outcome? Not far from being the worst tournament (result wise) I've ever been in. One win, six losses, but, in my defence, I should say that in five of those losses I was only beaten by a point. (But then, it's not much of a defence, eh?) My one win, a 5-1 hammering of the poor kid that finished last, was the only thing that actually stopped me from finishing last.

Day One at the Blood Bowl Nationals.
I think the collective noun for a group of Blood Bowlers should be a "skull".

However, the social side more than made up for it. After gaming on Saturday, a large group of us went out for a meal and drinks at a (steakhouse) restaurant in Canberra. I had what I can only really describe as the mother of all breast fillets in my chicken parmigiana, which was so monstrously huge I couldn't finish it. After three ciders as well, I was in very contented state, and we just sat around for a couple of hours watching the tennis before retiring to one of the hotels for yet more gaming. Sunday wasn't exactly the same, but there was more gaming to be had that night, before it was brought to a sudden halt by a cranky old caretaker, who demanded that we finish at that instance, but was all smiles and sunshine when he was taking money off my fellow gamers for the accommodation the next morning when it was time to check-out.

As for my check-out, well, very painless. I handed the door-swipe card in, and that was it. (It dawned on me a little later that I had already given them the credit card details when I booked the room two weeks prior to the event.) All I had to do then was wait for my lift back to Can Con for the last day of play.

Monday, well, after the last round match, packing up the room, and the prize giving ceremony, we wandered around for a last shop before heading home. I didn't spend that much, but did purchase a shirt from B24Flak, a clothing producer that specializes in a lot of T-shirts that feature images of military hardware, mostly from WW2. I also grabbed a few miniatures that were on sale at the Good Games stall (I'm always on the lookout for items that can easily fit into a BB team), and was rather surprised when I discovered about a dozen copies of the Feudball book on sale (for $10 apiece) on the discontinued items table. (I had been under the impression that the only Good Games store that had taken and sold copies of the book was Gosford. Obviously my co-author had got them in, presumedly, in the store in Canberra.)

Then, as I was resting my feet for a few moments, I was watching the auction that was taking place, and was mildly surprised when I saw another copy of the book in an auction lot that had sold.

After that, it was home time. Most of the trip was a lengthy chat about the weekend just gone, other gaming interests, some history thrown in, and various other things, with a little break at Goulburn for a bite to eat. I was delivered safely to Epping, where the next train back to Gosford was barely five minutes away. After that, I got a bus from Gosford, and was home right on 7pm.

Didn't feel like doing much after that, except posting pictures of the trip, then catching up with the A-League highlights from the weekend. And, as expected, when I'm unable to get to the home game (the only one that I have missed all season), the Mariners recorded their biggest win of the season with a 3-0 rout of Newcastle on Jan 25.

WORK

Yesterday, I must say, was a good day at work. The driver was in a good mood, and we talked about a few things, like a show that was on SBS on Sunday night set in Warsaw in 1937 about spies, martial arts movies, football and the various “requests” that we've been getting from the office lately. One of them was of his “desire” to be able to print more copies of the Wyong paper and have them distributed, which was in response to by a rather frank report I sent in about Wyong shire libraries and how well the paper is being received by people going to them. (Of course, all this was originally inspired by an e-mail that had been sent from the Wyong shire library co-ordinator.)

The short answer is, it isn't. Out of the shire libraries, the papers only seem to be regularly taken at one of them, Lake Haven. I honestly told the boss that hardly anybody takes them at Bateau Bay and The Entrance, and that we (myself and the driver which regularly did Wyong before the changes in the delivery) never dropped them in at Tuggerah (seeing that was the walk-around person's job) and had never been to Toukley (seeing we were too busy doing the other dozen or so drop-offs in that area). The command is now, we have to drop them in at all these libraries regardless of how inconvenient it may be because of our schedules.

Once again, we have discovered that the boss has pretty much lost contact with reality. I told him we would be lucky to get to Toukley library before it closes on Friday (which is 4.30pm, as the Wyong shire council website states). The boss was under the impression that the, and I quote, “the library opens later to help kids with their homework”. Yeah, right. Dear boss, we have a dozen or so stops in and around Toukley, to which on a normal school day, we generally get there between 4-4.20pm. (You should know this already seeing I sent you the updated schedule at the start of the year.) Main Road (highly unoriginal I know), the main street of this hamlet, is rather busy around that time. Some of the side streets in Toukley are one-way, which makes driving around it all the more difficult. We cannot physically get to the library in time before it closes, and make all our other stops as well. We could if we didn't have to make a number of lengthy detours to other drop-offs along the way, such as Wyee, Mannering Park, Chain Valley Bay and Gwandalan.

Our solution, a rather simple one, is to inform the other driver that he has to do it. After all, he finishes his run in Toukley. He has less stops than us, and would be there well before 4.30pm.

He also asked us to drop two bundles of newspapers at a service station on Ocean Beach Road (Woy Woy) because he called in there and didn't see any of the papers there. (I don't know what day in the week this was.) We stopped there yesterday on our regular round, where I duly dropped two bundles off, and picked up five copies of the old paper which were sitting in the newspaper rack by the front door...

I really just don't get his notion that there must be leftover copies of the papers at places “so that tourists know where they can get the paper”. It makes no sense. Surely, it would be better for all papers to be picked up by readers and have none leftover? After all, if more people are reading them, the advertising would be being seen and that would make both parties happy. Unread papers, to me, are a waste, and when we retrieve them, they're only good for recycling.

The online web-testing work I completed (just in time before I headed off to Can Con) for a mate of mine is far less complicated than that.

DARK DIMENSIONS

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt have heard me mention this pop culture/comic book store that I occasionally hang out in. Last Friday (Jan 31), I assisted the owners move into their new premises on the highway at Tuggerah, roughly halfway between Tuggerah and Wyong train stations. As it turns out, their new store is a 15 minute walk from Tuggerah station and is relatively close to a number of fast food outlets, a couple of service stations, even a cafe.
 
 Must say, very spacious at 6/168 Pacific Highway. 
And this is just the main shop area...

Must say, their choice of venue is rather good. It's spacious, has an upstairs area (which, I have already commented to one person, is big enough to fit twenty BB players in), and plenty of parking, mostly out the back. During the course of the day, we made several trips back and forth to Ourimbah, where they were storing items from the store (to save them having to go back to the Wyoming). Time will tell if the decision to move is a good one or not, but at least now they can't complain about having a lack of workspace.

BIRTHDAY PARTIES

I had a tough decision to make for Feb 1. My sister was having her 40th birthday, and my niece was having her 18th. It was also the day for football registrations for the club in Sydney that I'm playing with this year. Though one can register these days online, I was still required to go down there for a new ID picture, that have to be taken when one has his age (this year) divisible by three. That, and my team-mates had arranged a little kick-around as well. (I had even managed to line up transport as well, which would have saved me a few hassles.)

Of course, the parties won, and I must say I'm glad that I went. Attending the event would be relatives that I hadn't seen for a while. Two step-uncles (my mother's step-brothers) and their father (mum's step-father) came down for the event, and so did my brother. Of course, this now creates the little problem of having to make arrangements for the ID picture. (My social calender is hardly filled these days, and I get two events on the same day that I have to attend... )

That Saturday night, I learned that teenage parties haven't changed much at all in twenty-five years. The choice of music is still bad, a lot of them can't really handle their alcohol, and guaranteed, there would be gate-crashers. (One in particular took some convincing to leave.) But, as parties go, this one was pretty tame. None of the emergency services were called, and my niece (and her boyfriend) did very well in sorting out any dramas between their guests.

It was amusing, for us. We sat out the back have a few quite drinks whilst watching the antics of the younger party goers. On one occasion, a couple of them were having a few words at the back door when a young lass looked around and realized that there were people sitting out there listening to everything that they were saying. The look on her face was priceless.

BOOKS

With all the traveling that I've done recently, there has been plenty of time to read. I finished Shirow Masamune's manga The Ghost in the Shell, Volume 1.5: Human Error Processor on the train coming back from Canberra. This volume was more focused on Section 9, containing pretty much all the characters from the two animated series. I was able to recognise certain scenes in the stories which were incorporated in the animated series, or the second movies. The most notable one was of a gruesome crime scene, where the body had been dissected, and entry into the gent's apartment had been forced, by a cyborg with a rather large, and over-powered, clawed appendage. I must say, I rather appreciate the author's little notes in-between panels, some of them which are rather tongue-in-cheek.

As for books, late last year I started reading William Shawcross' Deliver us from Evil, which discusses the often futile nature of UN peackeeping operations in war zones, going into detail about the absurd conditions volunteers found themselves in, especially in the conflict areas of Rwanda, Bosnia and Cambodia. I had used this book in a genocide studies assignment for uni way back in 2007, because it had some very in-depth material on the Rwanda genocide of 1994, where UN peacekeepers could do little more except watch it take place (and put themselves in danger, seeing a number of Belgian peacekeepers had been captured and executed whilst trying to protect officials), seeing they were under-staffed, under-supplied, and under-equipped. Added to that, was ridiculous political situation where Rwanda was, at that time, on the UN Security Council, and able to receive all the reports the UN commander in the field was sending to the council.

That book is currently on hold, seeing I picked up something recently at a sale. I had forgotten to take a book with me to lunch one day when I was out, and discovered Helen Morrison's My life among the serial killers. Morrison, an American psychiatrist, has studied, interviewed and profiled a number of serial killers, including Richard Macek (who sent her very detailed letters and once mistook her for his wife), John Wayne Gacy (who sent her handmade postcards and paintings), and Ed Gein, the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. It's a very disturbing read, but very hard to put down. She also explores the history of “serial” killers, examining such historical figures as Vlad Tepes and Elizabeth Bathory, discussing why they shouldn't be catagorized as such. However, another, Gilles de Rais, who had served with Joan of Arc, had murdered 140 children and was hung for his crimes in 1442, showed similarities with modern serial killers, having starting his spree after his grandfather died (who looked after him when his parents died), which was a similar trigger for killers Gein and Macek.

PHOTOGRAPHY

The camera has been used quite a bit of late. At the last two Mariners' matches that I attended (Glory on New Year's Eve, and Heart five days later), I took some rather superb shots of the matches, from two different locations in the stadium. I make it a habit of trying to sit somewhere else whilst attended games this year (unlike the previous season), and have shots of the games from different perspectives. I was mostly pleased that I was able to get good action shots, rather than waiting on stoppages of play (corners, free-kicks, yellow cards, etc.) with little or no blurring.

More recently, I felt the urge to go for a walk around my old haunt (the park down the road) one afternoon, and got some nice shots around there. Captured a few junior koels in pictures, but these were easily surpassed when I was off helping the boys setting up the new Dark Dimensions store, and managed to get a half-decent shot of a female peacock with three juveniles (they would've been bigger than your average sized duck) at Ourimbah, and also took a photo of what would have to be the biggest eel that I have ever seen, swimming around an urban creek at Tuggerah.

Remind me not to walk through that creek...

Not exactly the best shot of the peacocks. They were fairly well hidden.




Canberra also provided some interest sights as well. My hotel was on the outskirts of the capital, and roughly a ten, fifteen minute walk to Exhibition Park (EPIC) where Can Con was being held. So it was a walk on a dirt track, beside the highway, looking at yellow fields and trees. It was indeed a nice way to start the day on Saturday and Sunday. Along the way I spotted kangaroos, and various birds, and got some nice pictures of a male and female red-rumped parrots, far better than the ones I took of the same birds when I was in Tamworth. (It was rather strange. I literally stopped, and they were right there on the kerb in front of me, quite happily chirping away.)

Actually, I didn't even have to walk outside to get a picture of the parrots. 
They were right underneath my hotel room window on Saturday morning!

Unfortunately, due to my time constraints in the city, I didn't have the time to take in a few of the other sights (like the old and new parliament houses, the national war museum, and many others), which I would've quite liked. Hopefully, next year will be different, and the work roster is more “suited” to my holiday plans.

Whilst up at Gwandalan I also found the time to have a short stroll down by the waterfront and take a few pictures there. I had taken photographs down there before, but in different weather conditions. Last Saturday, it was warm and sunny, whilst the previous time (Xmas 2012) it was rather overcast. Nothing spectacular captured this time round, but I did get a couple of nice shots of a cormorant which had perched itself on the jetty whilst I was there.

MISCELLANEOUS

Well, this is a surprise, it is actually raining here. It's not a sprinkle, or a light shower, but a decent downpour. It has become quite cool, and, I must say, rather pleasant. I'm sure glad that I didn't have to work in this yesterday.

Have been working my way through a rather poignant documentary series on the American Civil War, simply entitled, The Civil War,a film by Ken Burns. The series, in nine parts, makes rather compelling watching. I am finally at the final episode, after having just watched Lee surrender to Grant at Appomattox, and will no doubt see Lincoln assassinated by Boothe in the final episode. The conflict seems to be full of ironies and coincidences. For example, a house-owner who had a kitchen wall struck by a cannon ball at First Manassas in 1861, also volunteered his homestead for Lee to surrender to Grant in 1865. Lee and Grant also served in the US Army in the Mexican War, and though Grant remembered Lee, the rebel commander couldn't recall Grant.

Looking through the photographs, one can't help compare them to later wartime images. The sight of many a fine southern city ruined after being torched by Sherman in his march to the sea, reminded me of images of French and Belgian towns torn apart in the fighting in WW1. The elaborate trench-works, with their dead at the bottom, WW1 again. Emaciated union soldiers, nothing but skin and bone, and you jump forward to WW2. I look at it and think that we never learn, regardless of the cost in lives.

Finally, discovered that there is a bit of a leap from Level 3 (Warlord) in Civ 5, to Level 4 (Prince). Once I had gotten used to the game, it became second nature to power one's way through it to achieve victory on Warlord. So I upped the difficulty, then discovered that the computer players are a tad more aggressive, with games ending even before they were really getting started. I wasn't able to expand as rapidly as I'd like, which slowed down my research, and I wasn't able to turn over as big profits as I'd like (if at all). So, I went back down, and have all but won the game that I started on Sunday, this time with the Germans. I had to go to war on four occasions. The first to get rid of the Dutch to my north; the second to take over Siamese to the south, who had been regularly pinching my technology; the third to take on the Aztecs, who had been bullying a city-state that was under my protection; and finally the Songhese, who had denounced me repeatedly. This current war has been going on for around forty years, and I have just captured the last of their cities that was on the mainland. (My empire looks like a rather big “U”, with the Koreans in the middle.) They have one left, on another island, which I won't bother about seeing I'm in the process of building the spaceship for a scientific victory.

Well, that's a big enough ramble for now. Time to get this sucker posted, and get dinner organized. Ciao!

P.S: Didn't have to worry about the Songhese. Made peace with them, then they got overrun by the Arabians. Finished the game, with the spaceship completed, just two turns slower than my victory with the Carthaginians last month. Even managed to build the United Nations this time, and complete the entire technology tree.