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I have acquired, played or experienced some new board games.

The following are now in my house.

Fluxx
Tsuro
Dominion - Intrigue
Cabelloros
Alhambra

Also Dystopian Wars

I've played the following

Exploding Kittens
Lost Cities
Sheep Farm (my sister's work in progress game).

Fluxx

is mental. It's a card game. The rules change depending on what rules you cards you play. It's silly but fun. Useful I think for my games nights as a starter game or for late arrivals.

Tsuro

is beautiful. It is a tile placement game. You have to create paths for your counter to follow. If your path leads off the board or in to another player you are out. Last person standing wins. (The Captain can just about manage this game)

Dominion - Intrigue

is a Dominion expansion. I think I don't get to play enough Dominion.


Cabelleros

is a mystery. I've not played it. It looks complex.

Alhambra

is a game of deck building, using decks to purchase tiles to convert to points with a palace building theme. The Captain can just about play it although it's a little too long for him and (frustratingly) I interpreted the rules incorrectly the first time we played. These rules are now baked in his head as the RULES but they don't work brilliantly and because the game is both a little complex for him and a little long he can get aggitated.

Dystopian Wars has finally arrived and looks great. I'm looking forward to painting up the ships and trying out the game. The Captain was very taken with the ships and has helped my unpack them. They are made on a 3D printer. They look gorgeous. Mum was impressed by the detail. They are the first objects I recall holding that were 3D printed. Certainly the first objects I've knowingly owned that were 3D printed that were cost competitive with objects made using other production methods.

I played Exploding Kittens in the pub with Andy, Nicky and her husband.

It's fun and silly and quick (again, perhaps one for the begining of games nights) but as Andy says, it's basically Russian Roulette.

Lost Cities is a quick and simple deck building game which I played a couple of times with Andy. I liked it.

My sister's game had some play testing. It's certainly a workable game right now and a few tweaks will make it quicker and more dynamic. I'm looking forward to trying it again.

So a pleasant few weeks of board gaming over Christmas.
 
 
 
 
 
 
I had a very nice Christmas and New Year which I am now declaring closed.

A combination of a deliberate policy of doing an acceptable minimum coupled with general bonhomie and goodwill to all men meant that the whole period was both restful and enjoyable.

BB and my sister came for Christmas. MLW and I hosted the family (Dad, sister, BB, the Captain, her and me) to Lithmas dinner on Christmas Eve.

Herring by Jolly's of Orkney. Other fish and wine by Lidl. Vodka supplied by the back of the drinks cabinet. My sister, building on experience from last year did not get completely trollied by accident this year.

Christmas Day was our now traditional non-catering day. We don't cook a big dinner. I'll cook brunch for whomever is about before we open presents and then it's a your choice of leftovers, cheese and chocolates. Everyone got nice presents. I got some board games which I'll post about separately.

On Boxing Day dad hosted us for lunch.

There follows a hiatus whilst everyone eats leftovers and plays with new toys and so on. Andy came round for an afternoon of games. Other people may have visited. BB and my sister left for the south.

Hogmanay saw MLW and I hosting my dad and his new wife. We roasted some quail (Lidl again) and then watched the fireworks over the Castle from the Links. More people there than usual this year I thought.

Lunch round at Dad's on New Year's Day with him, my new step mum, my brother (and his dog) and two old friends of my dad's (former MP's).

I had a few more days off work before going back to the office - so I was very well rested and that has helped lots and lots.

Altogether a good break.

Extended festivities then rolled on to My Lovely Wife's birthday which, for this year only, included a celebration of my own birthday and our tenth wedding anniversary. We hosted a ceilidh, invited lots of people, had a dance, enjoyed a delicious and surprisingly romantic cake.

Most relatives came and my mum stayed on for a few days to catch up after her Christmas in Australia. She leaves today (earlier than I thought but she's keen to get on with her next adventure).

All in all the weeks of the dead of winter have been relaxed and enjoyable.
 
 
 
 
 
 
My mother is going to volunteer at the refugee camp in Calais.

She travels over to Calais a week on Saturday and is staying for a month.

As well as helping out with general duties (which I think largely involve sorting through donations in kind in a warehouse) she's hoping to set up a simple dispensary for first aid supplies. She's also going to have a look and find out about the people who are there.

Her trip has caused some drama and anxiety in my family. Some members, mostly those in Australia (with poor access to nuanced and factual reporting) are worried mum is going to be caught up a riot or stabbed. Her trip might coincide with the relocation of some of the camp residents - who are a bit grumpy about it.

Trying to tell my mum what to do is like pushing water up hill with a toothbrush. Also, she's a 70 year old, former director level consultant radiologist, she knows her own mind and even if she were under-estimating the risks those are her risks to run. So, even if I were particulary worried I wouldn't say anything. So I haven't. Except to wish her bon voyage, donate some cash and complain in long and bitter terms that she isn't taking the car and therefore won't be able to bring me a trunkfull of cheap beer and wine.

Bluebird has taught my mum to text message so she can keep in touch whilst in France. If anything interesting happens I shall post about it but I'm expecting her trip there to be hard work, a little dull and a bit uncomfortable - mostly how imagine working in a warehouse would be - and for her to injure herself in an improbable and convoluted way. She has form on self-inflicted injuries.
 
 
 
 
 
 
I'm against us bombing Syria on balance. I'm not sure it will have much effect for good or for ill expect to cost us some money, of which we are short, and to make us, rather than ISIS, directly and personally responsible for the death and maiming of civilians. So, given there is a certain financial cost and an uncertain moral cost but I can see it making little difference I'm against.

We are already bombing ISIS in Iraq. Many other people are already bombing ISIS in Syria. It's not clear to me that us spending my pension on additional jet fuel to join in in Syria will make that much difference in Syria or against ISIS. If it does, I'm not convinced that is a clear cut good thing.

The situation in Syria is very complicated. About the only thing that I'm clear on is that ISIL are utter bastards, anti-moral violent sociopathic ideologes who wish to export themselves at gun point and I'd more than happily kill as many of them as we can. This is a bit of an ususual position for me. I'm usually against extra-judicial capital punishment and against the death penalty at all and in favour, even in war, of the minimum necessary force. I'm making an exception for these people.

That said, I don't think killing them in large numbers will do much to improve the security of the UK or our friends, old or new, around the world. The Paris attacks used 9 people. ISIS has somewhere between 30,000 and 200,000 fighters. Assume perhaps that number again in sympathisers around the world who could be converted to active fighters if the conditions and the conditioning were right. So the numbers needed to attack a European city in a similar way to the Paris attacks is a very small proportion of ISIS available war-making capacity. As the US demonstrates on an almost daily basis one or two people who have taken themselves beyond morality and armed themselves with modest firearms are able to kill large numbers of people fairly easily. Bombing ISIS now won't, I think, prevent them having the resources to launch attacks in European cities over the coming ten or twenty years. Rather than bomb them to no effect we might as well put the time and effort in to removing the economic, ideological and political causes and basis for their support.

We find ourselves in a strategic trilemma. Perhaps a double layered one. Assuming we want a winner in the Syrian civil war we'd rather the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds won but the only think stopping Assad defeating them is that if he attacks them vigorously then he opens himself up to being beating in turn by ISIS. By bombing ISIS, if effective in damaging their conventional capabilty in Syria, we stop them pressuring Assad and the Free Syrian Army probably gets beaten and the Kurds beaten up. That assumes that we actually want the war to end with a clear winner. We may favour partition. We may favour a continuing war on the grounds that many of the states and non-state actors in the region seem keen on having a fight and we might as well contain that fight in Syria for 30-40 years until all the bastards and ideologes on all of the sides are dead. (In which case, we ought to be doing a much, much better job of finding new homes for the Syrians who are leaving. It's unfair to turn someone's living room into a boxing ring and then not offer somewhere else to go.)

So, by bombing ISIS we might indirectly help Assad beat the FSA and the Kurds. At meddling regional, global and super power level by bombing ISIS and helping Assad we might support a combination of outcomes that are not to our advantage or which are unhelpful to our allies or which lead in the medium term to a larger, wider, state on state conflict.

So, I'm not convinced that bombing ISIS in Syria will be effective in stopping them attacking us or effective in weakening their position in Syria and if effective in weaking their position in Syria I'm not sure this is an unalloyed good thing.

The causes of the conflict seem complicated. There are issues of democratic deficit. Issues of conflicting religious doctrine, both inter and intra faith, there are proxy considerations for neighbouring states who are concerned about the role Syria can play in bolstering their flanks or keeping their own internal political situation. There are issues of class conflict. There are issues of economics, trade, mercantilism and fundamentally, agricultural policy and water shortages.

(And I should add that my working model for what is happening in the Middle East is largely based on what happend in Europe during the 30 Years War. Which lasted decades and only really ended when all the various sides were dead. I am very sceptical that any diplomatic efforts will result in a lasting, binding peace. Too many people are looking for a fight in a context of too much bad faith and not enough money for any peace to hold. That's my guess.)

I tend to favour my brother's view that one of the most effective ways of preventing conflicts like the one in Syria is to give the citizens of those countries access to all the material goodies and opportunities for betterment that we in the West enjoy. Coca Cola and jeans, clean water and clean energy will cure more ills than our bombs can address. This requires us to give them access to our markets as a buyer and a seller, allow their young people to move here with relative freedom. Support their institutions in becoming as robust and transparent and governed by the rule of law as our own aspire to be. There is also a salutory lesson that if we in the West forget that our own security is built on a model of shared prosperity, freedom and opportunity we will create our own versions of ISIS and our own civil wars. Our polities are not exceptional except that we have done the right thing, more or less, for the last 200 years and we would be well advised to keep doing the right things.

Maybe bombing will help. I think not but it might. As I say, the situation is complex and deep. Weighing an uncertain outcome if we act and uncertain outcome if we don't act I'm for not acting. Evidence suggests that similar behaviour in the past has not helped either them or us. Evidence suggests that jet fuel and bombs cost money that we claim not to have. For me to support more bombing I'd need to be persuaded that either (and probably both) it would lead to a more or less certain improvement in the situtation in the short term and / or was part of a coherent plan to stabilise the region which even if not fully successful at least failed in a way that made things better. I'm not convinced of those things - so I weigh the certain cost of money spent on jetfuel and bombs that could be spent on my children's schools or my sister's health care and the uncertainty of any good coming of us intervening and I'm against us bombing Syria.
 
 
 
 
 
 
I'm feeling a bit of disquiet with Strictly at the moment. I'm feeling a level of artificiality on two fronts.

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Am I watching a pantomime?
 
 
 
 
 
 
I have auditioned for a role in a one-act play.

The play is the Rose and Crown, a JB Priestley short set in post-war 1940's London (although any large British city would do). It's set in a pub, where a bunch of depressed post-war Britons gather for a drink and to complain about their lot in life. Like other JB Priestley plays there is a touch of magical realism and metaphysics.

The play is probably the first bespoke piece of drama writen for British television. This rather shows in the structure of the play. Each of the seven or eight characters enters one after another, the play is set around a bar and you can just see the single, static, heavy camera being used as Point of View of the barman as he slilently serves the speaking characters their beer.

I think the play is going to be difficult to pull off. It's a play about depressing people being depressed in each other's company and then suffering a reverse. It's also naturally quite static. Largely people sitting round a bar. So to work the banter between the characters needs to be funny, both to amuse and to build sympathy for and empathy with the characters.Otherwise it's a brown play about brown people.

The play will appear in the Scottish Community Drama Association One Act Play Festival and Competition in February. If I'm appearing in it I shall let people know.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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A busy but enjoyable weekend.

On Saturday a trip to London to the Unlock Democracy AGM. It's always right to get a feel for the tempreture of the members on certain topics and good to meet up with other activists from around the country. Something I don't think happens enough.

On Sunday MLW was musically engaged with a "performance" with the church choir that she deps in to and attending a concert in the evening. The Captain and I had errands of mercy to run. The Captain and I set about our tasks with gusto. First to my drama group's lock up to help with moving set and props for this week's show. The usual standing around waiting for a van and the plan to turn up. In the end not a lot to move but a smaller van than usual. The Captain was incredibly good. He carried things, picked up things that had been knocked over, kept out of the way when dangerous things were being moved.

He loved the costume store and we played hide and seek there whilst waiting for the van to complete a round trip. He checked all the swords, daggers, pikes, spears, haberds He was charming and well mannered, if a little taciturn.

Pal (to the Captain): Hello, what is your Name?

Captain: Captain.

Pal: and how are you today Captain?

Captain: Good.

Pal: How old are you?

Captain: Five

Pal: Would you like to know my name?

Captain: No. Thank you.

He wants to come and see the show. It is an Alan Aykbourne play about failing marriages and Dungeons and Dragons and starts after his bed time.

After this we strolled across the Meadows to help my dad assemble a bed in his new flat. Again, the Captain lifted and carried. He's very strong. He even had a go with a screwdriver. I honestly thought he'd be slow and ineffective but he was actually better with getting in the screws than his grandad.

Home before the rain came back. We finished some constuction work on a marble run and listened to some music before we settling down on the sofa with a movie for an early tea of pizza and Indian snacks before MLW went to her concert. She got back just in time for the Strictly results show.

I was a bit surprised by the result. I thought Carol probably had another week in her before her warm public support met her lack of finesse as a dancer and she ended up in the dance off. More suprised to see Kelli and Kevin there but it's an aspect of the voting system that in the middle stages of the competition that votes can be spread thinly and catch out a few good contestants.

In a straight contest between a couple I think will be in the final and Carol it was a foregone conclusion (and nice to see the judges not pretend it was a difficult decision when it clearly wasn't). Farewell Carol.

The Captain, staying up past his bedtime to watch the results, managed to get himself sent summarily to bed during the last two minutes of the programme. He'd been warned several times about throwing things around in the family room, what with glasses and plates and hot food and so on. Just as Carol was eliminated he found a rubber ball in his pocket.

Captain: What would happen if I threw this?

Me: Just like the koala or the frog or the other ball and all the other stuff you've been warned about, you'd be straight to bed.

Captain: Just straight to bed? No second chances?

Me: No, immediately to bed.

Captain: *throws ball*

Me: *picks up Captain* Good night.

Captain: But I don't want to go to bed. I want to see the dancing programme...

There followed an evening of Sunday night television including an exciting episode of Downton Abbey. It really is the most searing political satire of our age.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The last episode of Doctor Who featured a Bootstrap Paradox. It was a pretty good two-parter and I enjoyed it.


But I can never forget that there lurks, deep in space and time and unimaginable evil. Well, a prosaic script-writer who's gotten a little over excited.

Fuelled by Moff-hate I've got a bootstrap paradox for you.

In the near future humanity invents a time machine. A secret society of disgruntled fans, calling themselves The Daughters of Romana, discover the location of the time machine and steal it with hilarious consequences.

Lost in time they eventually find themselves in the early sixties where they meet Sydney Newman. He's in a pub near Television Centre mulling over how to fulfil the BBC's aims of bringing entertainment and education to the masses. The Daughters of Romana bumble in the pub, full of their own excitement and legacy rightous indignation. The spill Newman's pint. Buying him another they fall into conversation and tell of their adventures. Fascinated but disbelieving Newman buys them all pint after pint in a determined effort to keep the unbelievable stories of their rambling through space-time from the dawn of their Moff-hate to the current day coming.

Now drunk and enraged by the fresh memory of what Moffat has done they take their time machine to the 2003 British Comedy Awards. Coupling, perhaps the best thing Moffat has done receives an award. Moffat has been quaffing the celebratory champers. He's already a little tipsy before the award. By the end of the awards ceremony he's fully cut and singing. The Daughters of Romana confront a drunk Moffat. Demanding an apology for a crime he has not yet committed they confuse Moffat who become beligerant. The beligerant Moffat hits every hot button of our Time Travelling Whovian Ultras. Moffat knows and he's not even sorry. Fear turns to Hate. Hate Turns to Anger. Anger leads to a Five Star Kicking. Punctuating each outrage with a kick or a punch or slap they give vent to their fury with a full list of EVERYTHING he has done.

Moffat, already drunk and now badly beaten slips into unconsciousness. Horrified by what they have done the Daughters of Romana load take their time machine into an ambulance and set of to The Borders Royal Infirmary A&E UNIT with a semi-conscious Moffat.

Moffat comes too in the recovery room with nothing but a vague, drug fuelled but utterly incomprehensible memory of a box with a siren and a very very very important list of timey-wimey wibbley- wobbley, Daleks in every episode, impossible girl astronauts, sonic Sunglasses, Galashiels Burning, nymphomaniac space archaeologists.

That's a bootstrap paradox.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Three things make a post and a welcome break from some dull balance sheet analytics.

The Rugby.

MLW, the Captain and I to Newcastle Saturday last to see Scotland play Samoa in the last game of the group stages of the Rugby World Cup.

Rugby is the family sport and we've been following the world cup pretty closely. I haven't seen all of the matches but I know who's played who and what the result was. Those of you kind enough to pay any attention to me on Facebook will have experienced my bafflement at the orang utan and my dismay at the quality and the partiality of the ITV commentary team.

But that is by the by - most of family go to Newcastle's St James' Park to watch the game. Scotland, the favourites, need to win to ensure they qualify for the quarter-finals. Samoa need to win to have any chance of third place and automatic qualification for the next world cup in Japan in 2019.

We travelled by train. A train so filled with Scotland supporters that it felt like the bar at Teucthars. So many Scotland tops, past and preseent it felt like a montage of Murrayfield Past, Present and Yet to Come. Not a seat unbooked on the train. We left at 11.00, arrived at 12.25, in time for a short walk to China Town for an all you can eat buffet at Lau's (a well made recommendation of f3f4 of this parish - both digitally and IRL).

This is not the first rugby match in Newcastle I've been to. I am a Falcons' fan of many decades standing. (FAAALC-ons. Who's Gus?) but it was my first trip inside St James - which is a magnificent stadium. The main stand is tall, highly raked and has a fabulous clear roof, making it both snug and a cauldron of atmosphere. With a capacity of about 50,000 and I'd estimate 30,000 travelling support it felt more like home match than many games at Murrayfield i've been too.

The game was tense. Samoa were clearly trying to pack a whole World Cups worth of skills and tries in to the first half. They scored. We scored. They scored again. So did we. Not since the cavalry revolution of the 5th Century AD has offence proven so dominant over defence. MLW, who had a several pints of beer, was swearing at the Scotland defence, the Samoan backs, the match officials, people in the crowd, me like a Valkyrie who had stubbed her toe, once again, on the corner of the door. In one of the highest scoring matches of the World Cup Scotland and Samoa traded scores with Scotland just doing enough to keep in touch during the first half.

During the second half Scotland had gathered their wits and sussed out a way of playing the Samoan team who had arrived rather than the earlier Samoan team who had lost to South Africa and Japan. This didn't stop them kicking to the corner a few times. This is a practise of which I disapprove, ranking it with incest and English country dancing. The score crept upwards with Scotland gradually gaining a slight advantage, Towards the end of the game I thought they'd won it when Laidlaw scored a try to take Scotland 10 points ahead with five minutes to go. Then I thougt they'd lost it when Samoa immediately hit back with a try of their own. A draw would be uncomfortable.

Scotland hold on for the win.

We then headed to the fanzone to hang out, get some food, watch a bit of the Australia vs Wales game and ride on the dodgems. We stayed a little too long and had to run for our train home catching it with only a minute to spare.

Home by 7.30 we watched the rest of Strictly and then to bed after an emotionally tense day at the World Cup.

The New Flat of My Father

*singing* Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

My dad has bought a flat. It is on the same park as my flat and about an eight minute walk door to door. Ground floor, main door He becomes the owner on Friday but as a courtesy the vendor has let him have the keys early. So on Sunday MLW, the Captain and I went round to help him do some thinking and planning. The flat is very recently refurbished so needs almost nothing doing to it but the furniture needs planning out.

Gloriously, the flat has a small private courtyard on the south side of the buillding. I've been recruited to do some garden design. I'm thinking fruit trees and birds and comfy sofas. I shall look forward to sitting out there on sunny afternoons in the years to come.

It's nice to have the old boy in the same suburb. I think, with three of his grandchildren in Australia, and one not living with her dad he might as well be as close as possible to one of them. The Captain will be able to walk down to see his grandad on his own within a year or so.

I help him move in a load of furniture this weekend and he'll move in properly over the coming weeks before giving up the rental flat soon.

Iron Sky.

I watched Iron Sky - the movie about Nazis on the Moon. It had it's moments but perhaps the kindest thing that could be said about it is that it is better fantasy movie about cartoon Nazis than Inglorious Bastards by Quentin Tarantino.

I'm glad to have seen it but mostly so I can now divide my life in to a period in which I may be tempted to watch Iron Sky (now, blessedly the past,) and a period in which I will not be tempted to watch Iron Sky (the future).