All I want for Christmas… Saturday, Dec 12 2015 


This is a time of stress for me. People will ask me what I want for Christmas, and get upset if I say “nothing”. So, here is what I want:
A couple of Saville Row suits, some handmade shirts from Jermyn Street, and hand crafted shoes from a traditional shoemaker. Oh and silk ties. One red, one dark grey. If you can throw in a Jackpot lottery ticket, a big house and an Aston Martin while you’re at it…

What? Too much? I suppose Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all People and a rebalancing of the World Economy is out the question then?

See, here’s the thing. I like Christmas. I like the shared experience that we have, that Northern European tradition of going “It’s cold and dark, and we’re on dried food for the next three months. Sod it, let’s have a big party.” Sure, it’s been hijacked over the millennia by various mystics, nutters and men in dresses, insisting it is all about their particular gods/goddesses/bunch of rocks/life force, but that is just the excuse: nights are long and days are cold, and people want to be together.

And that is the point. Take me for example. Yes I wargame, pushing toy soldiers that cost [mumble, mumble] across a table. But for me that isn’t the point; no matter how much I might say “I really need some dragoons/panzers/better dice” what I really want from my little lead men is the shared experience- the sitting across a table from a mate, having a beer and a laugh, telling each other stories, and laughing even though it’s the tenth time we’ve told it in the last two years.

It’s not about the possessions. It’s about the shared experiences they allow.

And that’s what I want. You can’t buy it. You can’t wrap it. You can only give it. It’s that shared experience, my sister in law saying something silly, and my brother ragging her on it, the Old Man acting like a silly old fool, the arguments over who had the best card in Apples to Apples. I want my wife not to stress about achieving the unbelievably perfect Christmas, just sit down and enjoy it, because people won’t care that you failed to hit 100%, only that you cared enough to do it

I want to know that in the coming year that my friends will be there for me, and for them to know I will be there for them. I want you all to find the man or woman of your dreams, no matter what your gender, sexuality, or even if you’re an ex! All I ask is that they are someone who deserves you, and loves you like you love them. (Side note to some of my female friends- No seriously, please stop hooking up with dickheads. What do I have to do, interview them myself?)

So stop buying me books I won’t read, clothes I won’t wear, and … ‘stuff’ (Just what the hell am I supposed to do with a lightsabre the size of my thumb?) Just give me the only presents I’ve really ever wanted for Christmas.
Your time, your company and your friendship.

Thank you

PS. My Birthday, however, is in February 😉

I High-Fived a vicar Sunday, May 17 2015 


Highlight of the weekend – it’s not something you do very often.

I ran a quiz for the local church last night. Although the building is 13th century, very traditional Church Of England, the vicar is from Florida You have to feel sorry for him at things like this. He always gives his full support even though he is often lost and bewildered, and I have heard he has problems at these Anglo-centric quizzes. So I wrote a round specifically for him.  (I say specifically, the questions were general enough for people to know.)

Question 3
In January 1861, Florida declared its secession from the Union and became a founding member of the Confederate States. However, in what previous decade had it joined the United States? It wasn’t a founding member.

He had to think hard, but he got correct answer – I’ve never seen anyone so excited when quiz answers are given!  OBVIOUSLY I had to High-five him.

I ain’t dead… Monday, Feb 13 2012 


…to quote Granny Weatherwax.

Between writing my ‘book’ (currently at 80,000+ words) and planning the Kriegspeil for this coming Saturday, I’ve been a bit busy, computer-wise.

The Kriegspiel is getting to be a bit big:  not only am I lead Umpire (PANIC), but it looks like 10+ attendees.  It’s different in concept to other K-S I’ve played/helped umpire: it’s all about the planning.  I joked that I’m looking forward to the 19th, as I get my inbox back!

Sunday I will (hopefully) publish an AAR, plus the rules I wrote, along with the counters etc.

War of Spanish Succession – Open Thread. Monday, Aug 15 2011 


A poster going by the name of ‘Little Keithy’ expressed surprise at hitting the thread on the riots, when he came here looking for stuff about the War of Spanish Succession.  He was obviously not expecting the somewhat eclectic nature of my blog (read ‘any old rubbish that comes to mind’, refered to by my wife as spending half the night on the internet ranting at people).  Unlike many wargamers this isn’t a wargame only thing. (It originally started as I wanted to share some fiction I had written with bloggers from other sites I frequent, for their opinion).

He wrote

Anyway what I was going to ask: what’s the allure of the WSS? I like the SYW as there is a variety of troop types plus nice uniforms to paint (not that I ever get round to painting them).

The WSS appears to the uninitiated limited in troop types (in western europe), tactics and pretty uniforms (nice whigs though). Is it more a test of skill having limited opportunities for a coup de grace or clever manoeuvre?

Well, to tell the truth, I chose the period based on hats… (more after the break)

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Random Platoon Generator for Troops, Weapons and Tactics Sunday, May 1 2011 


This spreadsheet will generate a random (British) platoon for Troops, Weapons and Tactics/Platoon Forward. Of course it can be used for any other platoon level wargame (NUTS etc) though you will have course have to tweak the stats. For reference TI is Tactical initiative, and runs from 1 (plodder) to 4 (heroic). The Big Man Bonus is the extra added when a leader is directing fire (Typically 3d6-3 for rifles up to 4d6+4 for MG42, the results table maxing at 36). Making the Big Man drop down YES shows the values for that man (TW&T is not normally interested in non leaders). I have defaulted the Lance Corporals, who lead the Bren gun group to BM, as they may well be called on to replace a killed section leader during a battle.

I suggest that you put ‘Workbook Calculation’ (found under Options/Formulas) to Manual, otherwise everything changes each time you change a cell. F9 is the manual update. Use Copy then “Paste Special –>; Values” to put the results you want to keep onto a fresh spreadsheet (this pastes results, rather then the formulae, so won’t keep getting updated).

Note – this is a Excel 2007 spreadsheet, so has the extension .xlsx (see below for a possible earlier version)

Random lists

This is the version saved as compatable with Excel 1997-2003. I can not guarantee which bits (if any) will work. If anybody wants to do a rewrite I’d be happy to work with them on it.

Random lists excel 97

Rights/IP stuff. I’m providing this free for personal non-commercial use, the basic work remains mine. I haven’t put anything malicious into it, but I can provide no warrenty etc etc yadda yadda yadda. Feel free to edit the names/platoon layout for other nations – I’ll happily upload it here or provide a link to where ever you host it: My Gmail address is (unsurprisingly) Last.Hussar@…

Rhyming ‘ough’ Thursday, Mar 3 2011 


John Betjeman famously wrote

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!

Such is the history of the English language and geography, that for non-native speakers – like Americans* – it would not be immediately obvious how to pronounce ‘Slough’, though the next line’s rhyme –

It isn’t fit for humans now,

would demonstrate it

However, if he had written

I’ve had just about enough

they would be none the wiser.  Of course he could have used

Your belching chimneys make me cough

and it would have still looked right, though I can not imagine how it would rhyme with

It is a God forsaken borough

Though (look another one) this would have let him go on to

You are not as fine as Edinburgh

to really confuse things.  Or maybe the second line could be

You’re roads have become really slow.

We are of course talking about the language where we have ‘mouse’/’mice’ but the plural of ‘house” is not ‘hice’, and the singular of ‘dice’ is not ‘douce’.

*Foot note

Listening to an American saying ‘Worcestershire Sauce’ is one of the great maddening pleasures of life.

First battle for my War of Spanish Succession troops. Friday, Dec 10 2010 


Last Tuesday Graham and I gave our newly painted War of Spanish Succession armies their first outing.  I used my Allied Imperial-Prussians (Austrians in grey in the diagrams, Prussians in blue), against his French (white).  The battlefield was fictional.  Rules are Black Powder, with modifications (as per other entries in the Barracks), figures are all Pendraken 10mm.

(Please- if you have any comments, please leave here, if you linked here from another thread not there.  I will be linking from a number of sites, and it would be nice if everyone could see all the comments, not just those from their boards)

INITIAL POSITION (Click to enlarge on new page)

The French drew up in two wings/brigades of 5 battalions, while I chose to have the two odd battalions as a reserve, under the direct command of the Commander in Chief, making each wing four.

Our first problem was who should move first.  Being Gentlemen of the Age of Reason, we both insisted we would be insulted if the other did not take this honour.  A duel (suggested by Graham’s wife) was impractical, so we agreed to settle as gentlemen in a fashionable club might, and rolled dice.  My 8, beating his 7, the Allied Armies moved first.  For convenience I will refer to the top as North, left of the table as West, an the end with the marsh as East.

(More after the break)

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Usable army! Wednesday, Nov 17 2010 


Finally painted enough figures to have a gamable army for Black Powder “War of Spanish Succession”.  2 brigades of 4 infantry battalions, a couple of guns, and 2 regiments of donkey wallopers.

Click the photo to see the rest of the pictures

Commander

or here for the set

Doctor Who LIVE! Sunday, Oct 10 2010 


Vorgenson, a travelling interstellar showman- part PT Barnum, part Ripley’s believe it of not, has come to Earth to show his collection of some of the scariest beings collected from across the universe – Judoon, Weeping Angels and Cybermen among them.  However there is one exhibit he would dearly love to have, which places his audience in mortal danger!

Vorgenson, played by Nigel Planer, brings his show to a number of locations around the UK.  I saw it with my family on the 9 October at Wembly Arena.  It is basically a ‘soft rock’ concert  – the music being from ‘NuWho’ – with a Doctor Who plot linking it together.  Matt Smith appears via specially recorded video clips, and as long as Planer doesn’t fluff his lines (he didn’t) they ‘converse’.  Various Who monsters are brought out, much as the beared lady or pig faced man may have been paraded in a 19th century circus, which we are assured are all under Vortgensons control (he has never had an audience killed yet- at least not an entire one!), and stomp through the aisles among the the audience, with the occasion sneering at little children, before being forced back into the ‘Minimiser’ by their new master.  In between the band play music from the series, while the big screen shows specially edited sequences from the 5 new series, scripted to be part of Vorgenson’s show.  One sequence was all the regenerations, with Tennant’s arrival as the 10th Doctor getting a huge cheer, slightly louder than the one where he became Smith.

The arena was full – this is one to take the kids to, rather than something for the purist fan.  It was similar to the BBC’s “Doctor Who Proms” – on it’s own the plot was a little thin to be a ‘proper episode’, though don’t be surprised if somthing similar turns up as an episode at some point.  Steven Moffet, the new head of the ‘Whoniverse’ had a hand in the production. Similarly you probably wouldn’t want to sit in the audience just to listen to the music.  However it works well as an excuse to see the costumes getting an airing in a sort of ‘living history’ way, and inthe context of the video, I found some of the music raising goosebumps.  There is something pretty cool about watching half a dozen cybermen stomp down the aisle 8 feet away.  Plus there are pyrotechniques which we could feel the heat of 10 rows back.

All in all a enjoyable family day out.

Official site

http://www.doctorwholive.com/

How did I ever program a ZX81? Tuesday, Jul 20 2010 


When I was 11, and in the first year at Secondary school, I found a book in the school library on teach your self BASIC, an early programming language (remember this was 1980).  I taught myself to program and thus started a love/hate relationship with silicon filled plastic boxes.  This has all been brought flooding back by the discovery of a ZX81 emulator to download.  In a fit of nostalgia I downloaded it. Mistake. (click below the break for more self indulgent memoirs)

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Reasons to be Cheerful Monday, Jun 28 2010 


Despite this weekend…

I’m going on holiday .

The Argentinians look like they will beat the Germans

I still have the box of four different Wychwood beers.

And a Cumberland Lakeland IPA.

And you can get it in Morrisons

Even if Pendraken have to put up their prices they will still be good value

I’ve got a new car.

Spurs look good under ‘Arry.

My wife is determined to convert the garage into a wargame room for me.

The Austrians should be better to paint than the Prussians I’ve just finished.

CDS, the scenario book and 2 army packs still come to less than £60 GBP

I’ve almost finished the WW2 Brits.

I’ve got an absolutely cracking Arnhem scenario planned for September.

I’m going Quad biking next week.

I’ve still got beer left at my mate’s house for our next game. (I Think).

There is are loads of places on the internet where you can avoid today’s match

and some of them have naked ladies on.

I could finally shave, no longer having to ‘back the beard’

Project Xenocide – A XCOM style wargame campaign Sunday, Feb 28 2010 


Due to this thread on TMP:
I am putting the files to the Xcom inspired game I ran in the latter half of 2008. They use Two Hour Wargames “Chain Reaction” rules (the basic rules are FREE), with some modifications (the armour effect) from the supplement 5150. Scenario 3 is a fighter combat game- the simple rules are presented here. It was a intro to the actual game – scenario 4.

I also ran two others. Scenario 5 was an alien attack on a town, with civvies running about. This is where I used the chrysalids along side normal warriors. If they ‘killed’ a human hand to hand, the human became a zombie type, and if that was killed it hatched another chrysalid.

Scenario 6 was an attack on the Aliens base on earth, hidden in Aztec ruins. I used a model of a Games Workshop Dreadnaught during this.

There was also a flash back scenario after #2- early hours of 6 June 1944, where the human player was the Germans dealing with suspected paratroops.

I ran the game as more of a GM/Umpire rather than play the aliens competatively. This allowed me to adjust difficulty on the fly. Part of this I realised that aliens were too few in number to be able to give first aid, so I came up with blood borne nano-bots. These make a first aid roll as though the alien was healing himself- ie roll REP or under. See Chain Reaction for details

1- Players Brief

1- Umpires Brief

2- Players Brief

2- Umpires Brief

3- Players Brief

4- Players Brief

4- Umpires Brief

Aliens

Fighter combat

FightervsUFO

Title page

Weapon stats

“The Greatest Show on Earth” Review of Dawkins’ latest book. Wednesday, Sep 23 2009 


Prof. Richard Dawkins, one of the worlds most famous atheists, has published a new book- “The Greatest Show on Earth” subtitled “The evidence for evolution”. (UK 1st edition Bantam Press, £20, 467 pages plus 32 pages full colour photos, as well as line drawn illustrations, bibiography and full index)

“Another Dawkins book? What can he add?” you may ask.  He has his sights set firmly on the evidence, and delivers broadside after broadside into forces of what he calls “history deniers”- in a way a title more satisfying than calling them ‘science deniers’ or ‘Creationists’.  That gives an indication of his target.  He isn’t ‘going after God’ as such, though he makes it clear where his thoughts on the subject lie, but rather those who deny evolution to be true.

He starts this assault with the first chapter title- ‘Only a theory’, one of the Creationist mantras.  Similarly Chapter 6 is “Missing Link? What do you mean missing.

The text as a whole is written in an easy to read style, suitable for the layman, and he assumes no prior knowledge.  Indeed at a couple of points he warns that the following explanation is complicated, and if the reader is tired they may wish to stop at that point until they are more awake.  Although this is a book of biology, he takes time for a ‘beginners guide to carbon dating’ as well as dendrochronology (using trees to date events), to show how we are able to sort fossils into ages.

He explains a number of different experiments showing how we can see evolution happening- from man forced evolution in dogs, to how certain dog like traits emerge in foxes when selected for breeding only on the basis of freindliness- you get dog ears and tail, even though the researchers never selected for this.  He also shows how labatory experimentation has been confirmed and repeated in the wild.  Plus he describes an expriment where E.coli have evolved an ‘irreducably complex’ trait, thus nailing that particular lie from the ‘Designers’.

On the way through he is not afraid to take a swipe at scientists, and how they can add to the confusion, giving hostages to fortune for those who wish to mislead the public. Taxonomy is one of his favoured targets, pointing out if we did have a complete fossil record at what point would we be able to say Austrolopithicus became Homo? Each child must have been close enough to the parent to be the same, but at some point the difference between long dead  ancestor and newly born baby must be big enough to warrant a new name!

The photos, like the text is full of ‘WOW!” factor, and many are beautiful in their own right as pictures.

The whole book is an easy read, Dawkins moving it along with a pace that a number of best selling fiction writers could learn from.  It assumes no prior knowledge, but for those already familiar with evolution is not basic.  Indeed, I found it was clarifying things that I ‘knew’, and may even have been ‘obvious’  but could not have articulated as well.  He also pays credit to other books, such as Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True”, not covering subjects too deeply where it has already been done well, and letting you know what to read.

This is very much an ‘everyone’ book- not just for those who already know evolution to be true.  It will cover those gaps left by the time pressured teaching of biology in schools, and any literate teen could read it.  In addition it would be a great book to lend to freinds who are open-minded enough to explore evolution, even if they never understood it beyond the soundbite culture of how it is presented in the modern media.

Go on, give your money to RD, not Dan Brown!

Star Trekking (across the Universe): Intech Planetarium Tuesday, Aug 25 2009 


Holiday: Day 1, Monday.
Last week we spent a few days in Hampshire. As is our usual practice we started the visiting on the day of travel before arriving at the place we stay (in this case a cheap family room in a Travel-lodge). This time it was the Intech Science Centre just outside Winchester.

http://www.intech-uk.com/ 
Lady Hussar had got money off vouchers from the ‘web, and I think it cost about £20 for a family ticket, plus another £2 per person ( four people) for the addition of the planetarium. (fold put in, as it is a long post- but my experience was amazing)

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Recipe – Cheesy Stuffed Baked Potatoes Tuesday, Jul 7 2009 


READ ALL THE WAY THROUGH FIRST, AND DECIDE ON TEXTURE WANTED.

Bake 1 large potato per person (or 3 to 2 if you think you need to). They must be large ones.

You can microwave, BUT THEY MUST BE FINISHED IN THE OVEN- the crispy/hard skin is a must.

Grate Cheese- Now grate a tad more. Now do another couple of grates per person. (this is n’t really a ‘measure’ recipe!)

Now

The Difficult bit

Cut potatoes in half- longways, and probably so the halves are shallow as you can get- you will need to stand these like boat hulls to finish, so think ahead

Now VERY CAREFULLY (No more careful than that) scoop the flesh out the skin. It is important you do not break the skin (which is why they have to be crispy). I usually cut round with a paring knife, then use a dessert spoon. It is better to cut too shallow- you can always scrape more out, you can’t repair the skin.

BUT you need to do this ASAP so flesh is still as hot as possible.

Mash flesh and cheese- add a knob of butter, but not too much- you are not going for creamy mashed potatoes- and a little black pepper and Worcester sauce. Basically you want thick (but not too lumpy) mashed potatoes.

Scoop the Cheesy mash back into the skins.

Sprinkle with a more grated cheese, (and Worcester if you like)

Finish under grill until cheese on top is golden (this may be a better place to add the second lot of Worcester, like cheese on toast).

I posted this on a wargame site, and a couple of guys thought up additions- chopped crispy bacon and/or chives, so don’t be afraid to try adding stuff.

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