Friday, April 29, 2016


Twice now, we've had someone booked to come look at the flat. Twice now, we've put in a fair amount of effort to get it ready for viewing. And twice now the viewing hasn't taken place!

On the plus-side, at least this time the person involved let us know in advance, rather than simply not showing up. So that's a step forward, at least.

Still, it doesn't really seem fair.

#21: "Pathfinder: Wrath of Thrune", by Thurston Hillman

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Experimental Cookery 2016 #2: Nick Nairn's Cook School

For my birthday last year, LC got me a voucher for a course at the aforementioned cook school, which was valid for a year. Unfortunately, in the months since then I've found that the vast majority of the courses conflicted with other things that I had on, and so there was a lot of waiting for something that looked intriguing and that didn't conflict. And so, finally, on Saturday I attended my course.

It was a three-hour course run by Nick and Tony Singh. The menu was Peanut Butter Chicken and Passion Fruit Souffle with Coconut, Lime, and Chilli Sorbet.

It was an interesting experience, and not quite what I had expected. The session was split between demonstrations and actual cooking - demo, cook, demo, cook (and then eat). Which was pretty much as expected. What was less expected, though, was that I enjoyed the demonstrations considerably more than the actual cooking.

The course was very well presented - Nick and Tony work extremely well together, and they both have a very good, and very informal, presentation style. And it was very interesting to see them at work, and especially when things didn't go quite according to plan (at which point the key lesson was that there's always a way to salvage the situation). My one, tiny, issue was that at a couple of points both presenters were working on something at the same time, and it was a bit tricky keeping track of both at once. But other than that, it was a lot of fun.

However, I didn't enjoy the actual cooking nearly as much as I had expected. Partly, this was due to numbers - the plan was for people to work away in pairs, which was great except that there were 25 of us, and I was left as the odd man out. That's not a big deal, since I'm quite happy to just work away by myself, except for the bits where they said that one of us would do X while the other would do Y. But never mind - I just multi-tasked (because, yes, I can do that). Still, it wasn't ideal being the only one on his own.

The other issue is that it's surprisingly awful cooking in someone else's kitchen. That's actually tied to something they made quite a big deal of - they called it "mise en place", which is basically about having everything in its place. Which is never quite the case with a foreign kitchen, no matter how well arranged. So there was a frisson of panic as we got sent off for the first cookery step and I couldn't find anything.

(My other slight disappointment was that we actually only cooked the Peanut Butter Chicken, which was easy and I could have done anyway, and only watched the Souffle being made - that being the thing I've never tried before. That's fine, and I think I've got a decent idea of how it's done, but I think I would have preferred it the other way around. Still, no big deal.)

Still, it was a fun day. I learned a few things, and I was also reassured to have confirmation that a lot of what I was doing was indeed the right thing.

Would I go again? Well... perhaps. I think if I were to go again, I would go for one of the full-day sessions - the 3-hour format was fine, but perhaps a little cramped. And, in particular, if I were to go again then I wouldn't go alone - better to take a partner with you, and that way you're guaranteed not to be stuck on your own!

And that was the big excitement of the weekend.

#20: "The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes", by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (contains "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", a book from The List)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

An Important Question

While the Tories and the press have got us all looking at some not-very-damaging revelations about David Cameron's tax affairs, who or what have they got us all not looking at?

(Bear in mind that the Tories are all about power, and that they have a playbook going right back to the English Civil War. David Cameron is just the latest figurehead - and ever since he announced he was stepping down his main use has been as a blame magnet.)

#19: "The Long Utopia", by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Day 100: Update on Goals

Today is Day 100 of the year, which means it's time for another update on goals. And so, without further ado:

  • Weight: Yeah, there's nothing to report on this one, again. Poor, poor show.
  • Books: This one is going extremely well - I'm currently reading book nineteen of the year, and a large part of the way through book twenty as well. Given that I should be at 16.3 books read by this point, that's pretty good, and all the better when I note that I'm up-to-date on all the sub-lists as well.
  • Games: There's not really anything to say here - "Firefly: the Lost Episodes" is now on hiatus, and potentially cancelled. "Eberron: Dust to Dust" is ongoing, with three sessions done and the next scheduled, so that's pretty solid.
  • Super Secret Goal #4: This remains very stressful. Unfortunately, there's nothing to say at this point, much as I wish it were otherwise.
  • Band: The competition season is now only five weeks away, and things are looking okay. I kinda wish we had more time, but we are where we are. My students continue to make progress, although a bit more slowly than I had hoped. Still, that's all going reasonably well.
  • Church: We've now completed our commitments to the church, and so are all set for the move. Once we've moved, we will need to find a new church, but that's a matter for the future.
  • Lent: Despite some difficulties, this was completed successfully.

And so, this is much the same as last time - two going well and two less hopeful. The three "not really goals" are a bit more positive - two done and one well in hand - but those are, of course, not really goals.

All in all, that's okay, but it's a little disappointing compared with where I had hoped we would be. Oh well.

#18: "Wars of the Roses: Bloodline", by Conn Iggulden

Friday, April 08, 2016

The Cloakmaster Question

One of the benefits of the internet is that it has occasionally allowed me to track down a book that I've been keen to read that has been unusually obscure, long out of print, or both. Which is rather nice, really.

Many moons ago, TSR published a six volume series called "The Cloakmaster Cycle" set in their Spelljammer universe. I read the first two of these when they came out, and they were okay. I then read the next two when they came out, and they were much better. Then, finally, some years later I chanced to find volume five in a Virgin Megastore in Oxford (that places the event 23 years ago, since I've been to Oxford exactly once). The fifth volume was okay, but not great, but it did end on a cliffhanger.

And that was that; I never found volume six, which was apparently only published in very small numbers, and never reprinted.

As noted, the internet makes tracking down this last volume relatively easy. However, unlike those other books I've mentioned, "The Ultimate Helm" is regarded as being fairly poor, even by the standards of game fiction, and there's a fairly significant mark-up in the price due to the rarity of this particular book. Plus, I would have to reread the other five volumes before tackling this one, as it has been half a lifetime since I read them.

On the other hand, it would finally get me to the end of that series, and resolve a cliffhanger that has been stuck there for a very long time.

And so the question is obvious: do I buy this last book to complete the set and resolve the cliffhanger (and, of course, satisfy my sense of neatness), or do I simply let it go and leave the story unfinished?