My upcoming RockMonkey WikiGame is set to impress, I hope: I’m aiming for the most adventurous WikiGame ever created. There’s a screenshot available of the kind of thing I’ve got working so far. Probably a few weeks from completion, though.

Curry Tonight

The Usual Crew are having curry tonight at Cafe All Spice, 7pm (NOT the previously advertised time of 6:30pm). All welcome, BYOB. More details on request.

Build Library Here (Or Else!)

This last few days, Claire and I have been listening to a hell of a lot of the new Pagan Wanderer Lu album, Build Library Here (Or Else!). And it’s such an impressive album that I’ve decided to write a little about it here, in the hope that some of you who’ve never heard of PWL before will take enough interest that you’ll download a few tracks (or persuade me to pirate some in your general direction), that you might enjoy them and the world will be a happier place. Oh; and so you might actually buy a copy of Build Library Here (Or Else!), ‘cos the artist is a great guy but is somewhat penniless:

Build Library Here (Or Else!) touches upon a combination of things going on both inside the songwriter and in the bigger picture, all put forward through a combination of intelligent lyrics, guitar, keyboard, and electronic/synthesised music. The Ending Makes What Came Before A Story is a slow acoustic piece with a soft chorus, which always reminds me of quite how easy it is to find pattern in something that you want to; whether in superstition or self-confidence. Or perhaps it’s about finding closure in hindsight. Good Christian/Bad Christian is a very danceable electronic affair: “I come to you with plans to be your leader – I come to you sing I’m a believer: Good Christian/Bad Christian… Baghdad can’t tell the difference,” sings PWL, in this politically and religiously fired-up song, challenging the link between state and religion that’s more obvious than ever in our terrorism-fuelled God-fearing Western democracies, with undertones of the association people mistakenly make between religion and morality. Keep The Weather Out is happy and bouncy; telling – on the surface – the story of a young couple buying a house for the first time and “settling down”, and the things that they consider important to making their house a home… with obvious references to tabloid-inspired xenophobia. Claire plays concertina in the background, and a strange synth drum-slapping session two and a half minutes in acts as a reminder that you are still listening to Pagan Wanderer Lu… in case you’d forgotten…

(Sick of) Playing Solo is, as Claire put it, possibly the bluntest, least-subtle Lu song ever. So far as anybody can see, there’re no deeply hidden meanings to go digging for; no clever run-on concepts to trip your brain up on; no second-listen “magic”. It is, essentially, an advertisement: but it’s a really, really good advertisement. Right from the start (and players of The Game will hate the second line) it presents a catchy, listenable tune, with frequent breaches of the fourth wall as the musician makes reference to his absent band and the things he’d love for them to be doing right now – with demonstrations. It’s fascinating to think that, owing to the complexity of the track, we may never see it played live ‘solo’, and the meaning is somewhat lost played with a band. I laughed out loud the first time I heard this song.

The Memorial Hall is my favourite song on the whole album. Even it’s musical peculiarities are remarkable and fascinating, such as the fact that it changes from 3/4 to 4/4 time some way into the song, without an awkward ‘jump’. These two parts each carry their own musical style: sombre and slow, and happy and disco-ey. It talks about the reasons for war, the arguments resulting from them, and the reactions of the people ‘left home’ in times of conflict, and comes to the startling realisation that the only valid purpose of modern warfare is to allow folks to dance at their local memorial hall disco. It makes reference to The Ending Makes What Came Before A Story, and leaves a catchy tune in your head that’ll soon take over your life in the way that (You And Me And) Winston Churchill, an earlier Pagan Wanderer Lu song, did before. It’s a remarkable song.

Show Me Yr Knuckles is worth a listen, 2 Bullets is good, although I can’t help but feel I’m missing something when listening to it, O Peter! (Won’t You Hear My Mournful Strum?) is an unusually deep-sounding, dramatic track, At The Hairdressers… is a masterful song about life, and death, and the triviality of it all in the eyes of anybody else, Harp & Chainsaw is an enjoyable experimental-sounding romp, and Yr On My Shoulder is a spectacular dive into personal ethics on which Claire and I are undecided whether the author is concerned with justification of his actions to himself (in a Marillion “Uninvited Guest” style ballad) or to somebody else: the lyrics could be read either way. Either way, it’s a stunning song.

Jabita Nu-Orleenz and Goodnight / Nos Da are both a little… weird, even for me. They’re still quite listenable, but there are perhaps boundaries in experimental up-and-coming music that even I’m not quite ready to venture into.

All in all, a fab CD.

All Looks Well

I can appreciate how Andy feels: all seems pretty ‘well’ in my little corner of this little corner of the world.

Friday’s Geek Night involved a four-hour long, six-player game of Knights & Cities Of Catan, which Andy won, perhaps contributing to his good mood.

On Saturday, Troma Night was particularly laid-back and relaxed. This was, of course, partially a result of the server outage last week, as a result of which we had not been able to plan what to watch. But I suppose it’s also because a lot of the people present had recently completed large academic projects, including, in some cases, their dissertations. We watched a 1928 silent movie, an anime action film, and “Blood Gnome“, perhaps the least awful of the awful films I’ve ever seen, despite the unforgivable mistakes in framing shots, continuity, acting, plot… nice gore effects, though. And next week’s Troma Night looks promising, too. Or “radical”, or “hot”, as I probably should say, considering it’s theme.

Tonight, of course, is Knightmare Night, and tommorrow Claire and I are off to see The Australian Pink Floyd Show in Birmingham NIA (thanks Dad!)… so it’s lined-up-to be a fun little week.

Knightmare Night

The plan for this evening, for all those that are interested:

Knightmare Night will be running from 8pm to about 11:15pm: we’ll be watching season 2, episodes 10 through 16. BYOB, etc. I’ve even tidied the flat… a little. And Claire‘s done the washing-up.

But before this, at 7:20pm, we’ll be doing a “bottle bank run”, to dispose of (in an environmentally-friendly manner) about 400 glass bottles which are consuming space in our home. If you’re planning on coming to Knightmare Night anyway, please consider coming a little early and helping us move several bin bags full of bottles down the road to the bottle bank, in exchange for which (a) you get to smash them to pieces… that lovely breaky sound, and (b) you don’t have to sit on a pile of them later on.

Those of you who use the RockMonkey ChatRoom are advised that it has moved servers. If you use the applet version of the chat room (on the web site), you won’t notice the difference (except that Iggy is a little less annoying), but users of real IRC client programs will need to reconfigure them slightly.

Big.McLargeHuge Lives

Nobody on Earth, not even Gareth, knows or understands what happened to cause the server problems on Big.McLargeHuge yesterday, but, as usual, everybody’s blaming me. My apologies to everybody who was inconvenienced by the problems. It’s amazing how much damage can be caused by a MySQL server going down… almost all the sites on McLargeHuge are database-powered, not to mention the DNS server (the death of which caused problems accessing a certain other server I run [I’ve put in a few backup systems to help with this kind of thing in future]) and the mail server (which caused a ripple effect of delaying e-mails across the network)…

In any case; despite having no idea what caused the fault in the first place, steps are being taken to ensure that so much damage can not be caused again. Those who need to know know who to ask. Thanks to Gareth for all his help.

Celebrations Are In Order!

Celebrations are in order! Paul says so!

To celebrate Sian (and others) having completed recent dissertations and other academically-significant projects, the usual crew are cordially invited for curry at Cafe All Spice at 6:15pm, followed by the Ship & Castle (there’s a beer festival on!).

Another Knightmare

Peter and I, this time joined by Matt, JTA, Ruth, Andy R, Sian, and Katie watched another eight episodes of Knightmare (the first half of the second series) last night. Highlights include:

  • First ever winning team: they sucked up, they bribed, and they otherwise twisted the NPCs around their little fingers. Having seen this technique work, they tried being friendly to everything, with almost disastrous effects in level 3. Still slightly dozy, though: when they discover themselves on the nose of a large reptilian-looking creature, breathing smoke, they guessed it was a “crocodile”.
  • Wall Monster (giving riddle): This prince of Islam held all of Christendom at bay;
    To them he was known as Salah al Din;
    But how is it that we know him?
    Dungeoneer: Buddha?
  • First ever Asian dungeoneer (guided by three particularly stupid girls) comes across a giant, and Tregard says they need to “persuade it that they aren’t good to eat”. Matt chimes up: “Don’t eat me… I taste of curry!”
  • As Ruth describes: Dungeoneer’s guides repeatedly fail to mis-spell “shroud” (i.e. spell it in the wrong order), despite having just had it spelt for them on-screen.

After Knightmare, Pete, Matt, Katie and I sat up ’til about 2ish and debated religion, literature, philosophy, and 80’s television, in approximately the opposite of that order.

Knightmare again… next Tuesday!

“Spellcasting: Y-E-R-M-U-M.”

Spellcasting: A-L-C-O-H-O-L

Last night, Paul, Claire, Pete and I sat down, beer and gin and Dooley’s to hand, and watched the entire first series of 80’s kids TV game show Knightmare, taking a drink every time:

  • Team gives directions to dungeoneer that they can’t possibly follow. (“Go through the door.”)
  • Team gives wrong directions to dungeoneer. (“Turn left… no; I mean right…”)
  • Dungeoneer forgets how to differentiante between left and right. (“Take a small step to the right… I said RIGHT!”)
  • Dungeoneer gets to the next level.
  • Dungeoneer dies horribly.
  • Dungeoneer dies as a result of having not picked up a particular item in a previous room, but having been given no clue that they should have. (“You brought the silver bar, but you should have brought the gold bar; idiot.”)
  • Dungeoneer picks up an obvious red herring. (“On the table is a key, a ruby, and a small red fish.” “Take the fish! The fish!”)
  • Dungeoneer does something patently stupid. (“I know I can carry two items, but let’s not bother – let’s leave the obvious clues right here in this room we can never come back to.”)
  • Particularly clever riddle; one which none of us manage to solve.
  • Merlin.
  • Knight brutally killed by magic.

This, coupled with a gratuitous amount of shouting things like “Spellcasting! M-O-R-O-N!” whenever teams did anything particularly stupid lead to a fun evening for all.

My Footbone Hurts

I dropped a saxophone stand onto my foot this morning and I think I might have broken my little toe. I’ve not broken a bone before, but my foot feels exactly like people who’ve broken bones in their feet have said it feels: a dull pain in the affected area at all times, coupled by sudden, moderate-to-severe pain when pressure is applied. There’s no visible damage on the surface, but it’s giving me a decent limp.

Another Fab Weekend

Geek Night (must finish that web site) was great on Friday. JTA and Ruth were away in Shropshire, and so I thought I might stand some chance at Settlers Of Catan (now with the Cities & Knights Of Catan add-on. But Jimmy came, and – despite it being his first ever game of Settlers – did wonderfully well; and I just beat him.

Troma Night was a classic: our 1950-themed night was a great success, with the vast majority of people dressed-up in their best middle-of-the-century garb. We watched the (brilliant) Harvey (still one of my favourite films), Sunset Boulevard (okayish; nice and dark at times), and about a billion little newsreels, adverts, public information films, and cartoons… all from 1950. Great work, Paul for putting together such a fantastic programme.

Dan & Claire Hayley & Jon More people

And yesterday, Sunday, we played Careers and watched Knightmare (remember that show?) and Jam and ate Sunday lunch at the Angel (which was okay-to-good this week) and I kicked arse in my ongoing game of Civilization III: Conquests at Regent difficulty… all-in-all, a nice break from the work-weeks either side.

How To Sell May Ball Tickets

Every year the Students Union here in Aberystwyth puts on the May Ball, an excuse to dress up and party if ever I saw one, for students. For the last few years this has been held on-campus, in the Arts Centre, Students Union, and the concourse in-between the two. Live music and shows, dancing, and a fairground… and hundreds of students in ball gowns and tuxedos… Since the event had been moved “on campus” there have been less tickets available than ever, and demand grows steadily higher. As a result, students queue for hours to get their tickets.

This year, tickets began to be served at 10am, but the queue was 270 people long by forming by midnight: yes, people were willing to stand, all night, for ten hours, to be first in a queue for May Ball tickets. The Students Union have, of course, monopolised on the situation and will be selling drinks to the people queuing. Hey; let’s charge them twice.

Another recent problem has been that of ticket touting. Tickets sell for under £40, but can be re-sold to those desperate to go for as much as £100. Last year, the Students Union would not allow more than 8 tickets to be bought in a single transaction (and with queues so long, there’s no chance of queuing again), but that still meant that sly touts could easily earn up to £480 for a few hours work. This year, only four tickets can be bought by any single person, but this simply resulted in a longer queue, sooner, and I don’t think it’ll stop touting (if I was going to the May Ball, and therefore needed to queue anyway, I would buy my full allotted four tickets, regardless of how many people I was actually purchasing tickets for… and I know of dozens of others who follow this methodology every year, meaning that even as demand goes up, the touts take an even larger share of the profits).

Thankfully, I’ve been to the May Ball once and I’ll happily get by without ever going again. But I got to thinking, having seen the lunacy in those students who’ve spent all of this morning and all of last night queueing, that this isn’t the best way to be arranging this event…

A Better Way

Mockup showing how the May Ball site SHOULD work.

Here’s how it should be done. All the tickets should be sold online, by the Students Union. If you want to buy tickets, you connect to their web site and fill in the following details:

  • Your university user name – this ensures that your ticket is ‘reserved’ for you, and that you cannot buy multiple tickets.
  • The number and type of tickets you want to buy – only two tickets maximum per person.
  • How you’d like to pay and obtain the tickets: you can pay online (and have them posted to you) or you can collect them from the union building for up to a week afterwards and pay in cash.

An e-mail is sent to your university e-mail address to confirm that it really was you who ordered the tickets (and not somebody ordering in your name). If this is not replied to within 24 hours (as will be explained in the e-mail), the order is cancelled. The tickets (which are posted to you or collected from the union) are printed with “Your Name”, and “Guest of Your Name”, eliminating the risk of touting (assuming that reasonable checks are made by security at the gate – just checking the identity of every fifth person in would act as sufficient deterrent to those who would like to go to the ball using a ticket in somebody else’s name).

The e-mail confirmation also gives people a chance to change their mind: if their friends, who they wanted to go with, were unable to get tickets before they all sold out, for example, they would know about it and be able to cancel their order. But it would also ensure the identity of the purchaser without requiring them to pass their password over the network. Students collecting tickets from the union would have to produce photo ID.

Those tickets remaining unsold after the web server is hammered by requests for tickets (for example, those cancelled or released later) would all be sold in a “second wave” (which would be announced in advance).

It is terribly unfair for the union to make students stand out in the cold and the rain, without sleep, to get tickets to an event; it could even be argued as discriminatory (whereas the University ensures that all students have the capacity and tools to use an internet connection). There would be no queues, no touts, and no unfairness. There would be no fights for the limited amount of cash in the on-campus cashpoints. The union would save money in ticket salespeople and policing the queue. And a system like this could be implemented for them for a sum of money that could be measured in the hundreds, not the thousands, of pounds. Hell; I will quote them for it, if they ask: I’ve already knocked up a prototype. Why not send a message to the May Ball organisers and tell them what a good idea it would be, particularly if it would make the difference to you, personally, about going to the May Ball.

They still won’t listen.