Saturday, 26 November 2011

Backgammon IRL

I've been playing backgammon for donkeys years. I started in my late teens, or possibly early twenties. A few friends together, with beer or pot or both.

We would experiment with variants, such as acey deucey, and tric trac, and with different starting positions, like starting with all the men off the board. We'd even play for small amounts of money. But we never used the doubling cube.

Dutch coffeeshops used to almost always contain backgammon sets. Why backgammon? I really don't know, but they did. Last time I was in Holland, this custom was rapidly disappearing, and they seemed more like cyber cafes. I hope it doesn't die out completely.

Anyway, when I discovered the internet, one of the first things I did was start playing backgammon online. I've done so ever since, and I've gradually improved as a player, and now I'm capable of holding my own against some good players.

Backgammon is a mixture of luck and skill. You use the dice rolls you're given to maximise your chances and limit the options for your opponent. It's called Backgammon, or "The back game" because if one person ends up far enough behind in a game, they often get the opportunity to turn things around. Using the doubling cube properly is another important thing to be able to do. The stakes are initially set to one. Either player can double the stakes by offering the cube to their opponent. The opponent can either forfeit the game, and lose the current stake, or can accept the cube, after which the stakes are 2. The player that doubled can not double again until their opponent has doubled. The doubling cube is a form of psychological warfare!

Anyway, tonight, I went to Liverpool, where the Liverpool backgammon club holds a monthly meeting. There were about 12 people there, and I got to play real matches against 6 of them.

Some of them take things very seriously! There are rules and etiquettes to follow that just don't occur in online play.

For example, a player's turn doesn't end until they pick up their dice. If you roll your own dice before then, it's considered very bad form, and the player who hasn't yet finished his turn has the option of forcing you to either re-roll, or use the roll you took.

You must roll your dice onto the right hand side of the board. this presumably avoids confusion, although given the previous rule, how the two sets of dice could mistakenly interact is hard to explain.

Most of the players there tonight were of quite a high standard. A few were less so.

I beat a good player in my first match, partly because of some outrageous good luck. I lost to a very good player in my second match. Then to a less good player in my third match. I lost by the shaving of a gnat's whisker in my fourth match, to a very good player, and again in my fifth match, before beating a poorer player in my final match.

It was good fun, and I shall try to go to more in the future.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The road goes ever on and on...

 Today, I had no work.

I had a lie in until about 10.30, mooched about the house for an hour or so, then decided to finally do the Wirral Circular trail on my bike. Because of one thing or another, I actually left the house at about 12.30, and, noticing that the wind was blowing from the North, decided to start my journey southwards.

It took about 4 and 3/4 hours to get around the entire route, but I didn't rush, and stopped from time to time to take pictures.

The weather was perfect. Light winds, cool, but not really cold, and generally quite sunny. I knew I'd end up back after dark, but I have lights, and once I'd reached West Kirby, I had the security of knowing that if things got too much, it was only going to be a short bike ride to the nearest Merseyrail Station. I got back to my starting point at about 5.15.

Here's what it looks like in Google Earth.

 That blue line is exactly 36 miles long. The lowest point of the route is sea level, rising to 187 feet above sea level  on the straight bit along the bottom.

It was good to do this, but I'm suffering a bit now. My palms are a bit bruised. My wrists have taken a bit of a pounding. My thighs are a bit weak and achey, particularly if I go up or down any stairs. But all of those things pale into insignificance when you compare them to where my body intersected the saddle. Painful pressure points, perineum, pudenda and... patootie.

Here are some of the photos I took en route.

The trail does it's best to keep walkers and cyclists off busy roads. Occasionally busy stuff is unavoidable - probably the worst bit is getting across the A41 in Rock Ferry/Tranmere. That's a busy road, and you have to get across several lanes of fairly fast moving traffic. It makes use of the full 12 mile length of the Wirral Way and the pedestrianised sea/riverfront promenades from West Kirby round to Birkenhead Priory.

It's a good place to live in a lot of ways, Wirral. It's close enough to some major cities for a lot of culture to be within easy reach, but there's loads of open space and countryside too. There is quite a sharp difference between the east and west sides of the peninsula. All down the west side, it's very rural. A smattering of towns and villages surrounded by farms and woodlands (and golf courses), while the East side is pretty much one continuous conurbation, from New Brighton right down to Ellesmere Port.
driving lessons in Wallasey?

Monday, 21 November 2011


I was in a band when I was in my mid teens.

When I say "band", I mean me and a couple of mates in someone's garage, making a bloody racket and pretending to be rockstars.

We were called Incinerator, and we got the name, not because of some nihilistic graagghhh-metal doomslayery fuck-the-world-ness, but because Peter, who's garage we practiced in, had one in his back garden for burning garden waste.

We were truly awful. Cringingly bad. We somehow didn't realise this at the time, and harboured secret hopes of playing Knebworth.

I used to have a couple of fragments of us on an old TDK D90, but alas! It is no more. It would have been an exercise in self-flagellation to post any of it here.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

"Petrol prices have tripled in the past two decades."

Well what does that mean then?

If you have annual inflation of 7% prices would have quadrupled in that period.

Well, according to this site, the average inflation rate over the last 2 decades has been 2.017045%

The doubling time at that rate is 35 years, so clearly the price of petrol has increased above the rate of inflation.

Yet, as this table shows, as recently as 2009, petrol prices, when adjusted for inflation, were lower than in 1983.

So why 20 years? Well petrol prices were at record cheap levels in 1991 and 1992, according to the table linked above. It was actually cheapest in 1992, but saying "Petrol prices have almost tripled in the last 19 years" would have sounded a bit odd.

Want to make something sound expensive? Compare it to when it was cheapest.

So, allowing for inflation, petrol prices have doubled from the lowest point.

Most of that rise has occurred over the last 2 years. And the demands of Tory MPs and the Motoring lobby cannot be met for that much longer, no matter how strident the calls.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

sigh... not again...

My desktop computer has buggered up again.

It's a fairly high performance machine, but I keep having problems with the CPU temperature. Every now and again, the computer just suddenly switches off.

These sudden shut downs aren't good for operating systems, and sure enough, when I tried to restart, I found that a file was corrupt and windows wouldn't load.

The file is called vgaoem.fon and I have no clue as to it's purpose. It could be like the bit in the Hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy where the spaceship is kept from making it's journey because an automated system is waiting for a consignment of small lemon scented paper napkins. Or equally, it could be something crucial to the running of windows XP.

I tried using the console repair thing, but although it seemed to go through as it should, when I rebooted, I got the same error message.

Now there is another way. That involves going further into the install XP process, then selecting a repair option.

that's what I'm trying to do now. But...

I have two hard drives on my PC. The computer shows them both. My O/S is on the D drive, so I select the D drive and press enter. The computer responds by telling me that the C drive is unformatted, corrupted or formatted with an incompatible file system.

Not the D drive. The C drive.

Stupid bloody damn bollocking thing.
So the next step will I suppose be to physically remove the non o/s drive from my computer and try again.

It gets worse... Looks like the hard drive itself has failed. Time for yet another clean install. It's taking an age to reformat, and there's no guarantee that the thing will actually take an operating system.

In addition, my XP disk is now showing signs of wear, as disks that have been used quite a few times are apt to do.

What I do have, however, is a proper genuine serial number. Presumably if things don't happen, I can get a copy of XP via a torrent. More messing around though.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Unexpected Lyric Quiz!!!

Most songs just use straightforward words.

But every now and again, people will insert things from dustier corners of the dictionary.

Some of the songs and artists are pretty obscure, but many of them are mainstream acts.

No artists are represented twice in my list, but the point here is to find a song that contains each word. If it's not the same as the one I have, that's OK.

Happy Hunting!

  1. Parallelogram
  2. Pentathol
  3. Pneumothorax
  4. Pacman
  5. Stickleback
  6. Aplomb
  7. Pogonip
  8. Filibuster
  9. Posthumous
  10. Boobs
  11. Dermatitis
  12. Plebian
  13. Parasol
  14. Annoint
  15. Paramours
  16. Cubicles
  17. Mohair
  18. Yonks
  19. Spiffing
  20. Pesto
  21. Pompatus
  22. Epistemology
  23. Pancake
  24. Pavlovian
  25. Facsimile
  26. Humdrum
  27. Backgammon
  28. Pneumonia
  29. Gavotte
  30. Semolina
That's the list. I've thought of another couple, that I might tag on to the end later. They are, Silicosis, deliquesce, Fecundity, Contraflow and effervescing.

Below are some answers.
  1. parallelogram, Motörhead , Motörhead , submitted by John.
  2. pentathol, 
  3. pneumothorax, 
  4. pacman, 
  5. stickleback, 
  6. aplomb,  
  7. pogonip,
  8. filibuster, Birdhouse in your soul, They Might be Giants, Submitted by Jim Bliss
  9. posthumous, Forgotten Sons, Marillion, Submitted by John
  10. boobs, 
  11. dermatitis, 
  12. plebeian,Cry me a river, Various artists, submitted by Jim Bliss

  13. parasol, Parasol, Tori Amos, submitted by Jim Bliss

     Monster in your Parasol, Queens of the Stone Age, submitted by John.
  14. annoint, Silver Waterfalls, Siouxie and the Banshees, submitted by Jim Bliss
  15. paramours, 
  16. cubicles, 
  17. mohair, Mohair Locker Room Pinup Boys, submitted by Jim Bliss
  18. yonks
  19. spiffing
  20. pesto
  21. pompatus, The Joker, Steve Miller Band, submitted by Jim Bliss
  22. epistemology
  23. pancake, St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast, Frank Zappa, submitted by Jim Bliss
  24. pavlovian
  25. facsimile, The Collector, The Legendary Pink Dots, submitted by Jim Bliss
  26. humdrum, Humdrum, Peter Gabriel, submitted by Jim Bliss

    Humdrum, The Dean and I, 10cc, submitted by Nanook
  27. backgammon
  28. pneumonia, Dust Pneumonia Blues, Woodie Guthrie, submitted by Jim Bliss (could only find a cover version on youtube)Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu, The Flamin' Groovies, submitted by John
  29. gavotte
  30. semolina, I am The Walrus, The Beatles, submitted by Jim Bliss

    Semolina, The Residents, submitted by Nanook
Effervescent, The Effervescent Elephant, Syd Barratt, submitted by Jim Bliss

driving lessons in Wallasey?

I feel a quiz coming on.

Watch this space...

driving lessons in Birkenhead?

OK. It's a music lyrics quiz with a difference.

You see, if I was to post even obscure lyrics, they'd be somewhere in cyberspace.

So the quiz involves unusual words. The details will follow in the next few days, but there will be a list of words you wouldn't ecpect to find in a lyric from yer average modern beat combo. Simply find a song that contains the word.