Monday, November 29, 2021

Bookshelf juxtapositions - pre-Christmas 2021 edition

I like seeing books positioned on shelves next to each other that invite commentary. In the run up to Christmas my local Asda has suddenly got a load of books on the shelves. Someone put these two titles side by side. I wonder if they chuckled as they did it.


I think it's the expression on Daisy May Cooper's face that makes this. Like she is really fed up with Alison!

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Snack of the Month - Pepero cream and cookies sticks

November has flown past and I almost missed blogging a Snack of the Month! This month the snack is another Home Bargains discovery that claims to be Korea's number one brand!


I can't tell if the number one claim is for the Pepero sticks or for the manufacturer, Lotte. 

I thought I would give this a go as I like the 'Cookies & Creme' bars made by Hershey. (Cookies & Creme is about the only palatable "chocolate" made by Hershey, probably because they aren't actually chocolate!) Like other biscuit sticks from Asia, these come in a box with a foil bag inside. The sticks were thicker than I expected and the actual biscuit was quite plain, diluting the sweetness of the white chocolate. They definitely felt more like biscuits than sweets.


I forgot to count how many sticks were in the packet. There were about a dozen or so. Certainly a substantial snack for such a small box.

The back of the box is an abosulte blizzard of nutritional information, all saying the same thing but sliced different ways for the different markets this product is sold in.


I have a Christmas-themed snack lined up for December, which I am reasonably excited about. But I will have to wait a few days before snacking commences!

Monday, November 08, 2021

October 2021 - End of month review

We are now ten months down, past Hallowe'en, the clocks have gone back, and it feels like the end of the year is nigh. October was another busy month. I had some big meetings in work discussing possible changes, which prompted some very passionate discussions. Thankfully I had plenty of football to take my mind off things, including my first ever visit to Frome with its delightfully named stadium.


Other football-watching trips included Flint in North Wales and Merthyr Tydfil. In Flint I think I saw my long-passed paternal grandfather in a photo on the clubhouse wall. I attended seven games in the month - a new record for October. 

There were also some other milestones, including my 50th Barry game (a 3-0 defeat at home to Newtown), my 10th Grange Albion game (a 4-0 defeat at home to Aberdare Town) and my first ever Futbology badge for the first game at a new ground, which was also my 75th football ground that I've visited. (And blogged in detail here.)


In terms of another milestone, I posted my 394th blog post on my blog called Point 394. That felt very meta. I have been working my way through a large consignment of baseball cards and managed to post every day in October. 

Life is starting to get back to normal... ish. I went on my first trip to the tip in a year and a half. This sign amused me so much I took a photo. "Swmpas" is my new favourite Welsh word.


Another bit of normality was a cinema trip. I saw the new Dune movie with my friend Bryan. I am still processing my thoughts on it and will blog about it when I have time. 

I engaged in a bit of retail therapy as well. Playmobil have released their version of the A Team with their iconic van and I went and bought one. It's fab!


I also succumbed to temptation and bought yet another kit that I don't really have time to build - this time of a Treeman player to bulk out one of my Blood Bowl teams.


(Yes I bought him mainly because of the squirrel on his shoulder!) 

Although, really, technically, I should now buy the correct team who would have a Treeman player in their team. But I have several teams who have never actually played a game yet...

One other thing we have started doing is sorting through my late dad's stamp collection with a view to selling it on behalf of my mum. It was very disorganised and needed quite a bit of work just getting a rough idea of what we have in the various boxes. We have managed to reduce the bulk of it down quite a bit - originally we had two full car loads of philatelic material. 

I find it interesting seeing how much stamps have changed over the years. They are little time capsules that reveal a lot more about their cultural milieu than people might expect. For example, I found these stamps that were issued in 1979. This wording would not appear on a stamp today.


I'm going to keep some of the stamps. But not this one!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Snack of the Month - Snickers Creamy Peanut Butter

I saw this in the post office next to the till and thought I would give it a go.


I like Snickers. I like peanut butter. Seemed like a surefire winner.

There are three pieces in the packet. They probably ship it in three pieces because they couldn't get enough structural integrity into a regular length chocolate bar.


The consistency is upside down to a regular snickers where the caramel and peanuts sits on top of the nougat fluffy stuff. In these the caramel and peanuts act as the base for a sweetened peanut butter topping.


I liked them, overall. The caramel made them a bit chewy, but they didn't last long. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Marking football history on my doorstep

With Barry Town not playing on Saturday, I took the opportunity to see my hyperlocal team Grange Albion play in the South Wales Alliance Premier Division. 

Albion were away at local rivals Canton Liberals so it was a chance to chalk up a new ground as well. Literally! The game was the first match to be played on the brand new pitch that has been built for Cardiff and Vale College behind the athletics stadium near the Leckwith interchange.

The ground wasn't registered on the Futbology App, so I tweeted them the details and they added the ground and switched the match details. I feel I did my bit for the global accumulation of knowledge by sharing the information with them.

I set off early to find the new pitch. I knew it was near the giant dome that houses an indoor football pitch, just visible at the end of the road here.


The building work on the right is for the new Fitzalan High School building. The plans look really nice.

My first view of the pitch was over the top of a scrubby pond.


I could see the back of the two little stands and beyond them some players warming up. The A4232 elevated ring road is behind the screen of trees on the far side. 

They don't have changing rooms - they have a changing pavilion! (oooh)

The pitch looked incredible, worth every penny of the £1 million I was reliably told it cost. 


The match kicked off and Canton Liberals raced into an early lead. They were 3-0 up within 15 minutes and had missed a penalty in that time as well. They were a mix of goals - capitalising on a corner for the first, flowing moves for the second and third. The pick of the first half goals was the fifth one, which the scorer celebrated by doing a couple of back flips. 

Grange Albion, in their all-red away strip managed a couple of forays into the Canton half, but it really was one way traffic. Whoever was updating the Cymru Football scores app got a bit excited though and added an extra goal so the half time score on the app was erroneously claiming the score was 6-0.




The sun came out and it got surprisingly hot for mid-October. I'd worn a big coat and ended up taking it off as I was sweltering in the west-facing stand. At the half time whistle, the players headed for the shade of the trees. Completely understandable because they must have been baking. 


The half time team talk must have helped a bit, because Albion raised their game second half. The Libs added one more goal, to actually make it 6-0. But the damage had been done in that first 15 minutes. The Albion team looked very tired as they trudged off at the end.


The Libs are second in the table and unbeaten so far this season, and it showed. They were a disciplined and purposeful team that played high quality passing football. Having a fantastic pitch is going to be a real boon for them if they continue playing like that. 

It was a disappointing result for the Albion, who are struggling now at the bottom of the table. On a personal note, the disappointment was tempered by checking in on Futbology and getting a 'badge' for being at the opening match.


Because I'd been the one to tweet Futbology about the ground being opened, I feel I didn't just earn this badge - I made it happen!

I also got a bonus 'badge' for this being my 75th ground registered on the app. I have been to 9 new grounds this season (two of them with Grange Albion!). 


Getting a 'two-badger' was pretty cool. But I would rather have seen Albion win, of course. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Ffootball, Ffriendship and Ffamily (Maybe) in Fflint

On Saturday I went to watch Flint Town United play Barry Town United in the Cymru Premier. Another away day with Barry and a chance to meet up with a friend I'd made online for the first time.

Fflint, to use the Welsh name, is a small place on the Dee river estuary. The Wirral is on the other side. I was meeting up with James, who I had 'met' on a football message board. James is a Bury fan and had recently lived through the dark days of Bury FC collapsing and being expelled from the football league due to a malevolent owner. In one of our discussions, I invited him to come and join me at a Barry game in North Wales as it's relatively easy to get there from Manchester. Today was the day.

I was a few minutes early so was able to take a photo of a large sculpture that is sort of hidden away behind Fflint train station. It's a big ffoot. 


James arrived on the train from Chester. I took this ffoto from the ffootbridge. (That's enough double effs for now.)


We then made the two minute car journey to the football ground. Fflint play at Cae-y-Castell. It's next to the Castell, although there is a lifeboat station between the castell and the ground. 


Next stop, the social club.



I took this selfie before I gave James his Barry Town scarf, which inducted him into the Barry Massive. I wasn't wearing my colours yet either. We were so early we saw the Barry coach arrive and the Clubhouse were yet to open their doors. 

In the clubhouse I noticed this old photo on the wall.


That's the Flint Town FC team in about 1920. Now this is really interesting to me because one of the few things I know about my Grandad - my Dad's dad - is that he played football for Flint Town and Holywell Town. He apparently once played against my great uncle Tommy Matthias, the Welsh international who played for Wrexham. So that would have been in the early 1920s, probably. 

I do have some photos of my Grandad from when he was young, including this photo where I would guess he is about 14, maybe.


My Grandad would have been 19 in 1920. So the question is, do you think the young man in the middle of the front row of that photo could be the 19 year old version of the lad in the formal suit?



I think it might be, in which case, I'm pretty sure that was my Grandad in the photo on the wall of the Flint Town clubhouse. 

Anyway, poor James hadn't travelled all the way to Wales to listen to my family history. We had a football match to go to! 

The Fflint clubhouse is a hundred yards from the actual ground. There was a queue at the turnstiles.


Because of the queue, and because they didn't serve any food in the clubhouse, I was waiting in line for chips when the game kicked off. Barry scored almost immediately and I didn't see the goal. 

We made our way around the pitch to where the Barry fans had staked out their territory by laying out out their flags. Fflint scored twice to lead 2-1 at the break. We were very close to the pitch in the stand we were in and there were hardly any barriers due to a lack of advertising hoardings on that side of the ground. The grass pitch was in fantastic shape.


At half time I walked back around to get a cup of tea from the refreshment hut next to the big stand. It was a long queue, but it was moving quite quickly. Not quickly enough though. The second half kicked off. Barry again scored almost immediately from the start, just as I was placing my tea order. 

I said to the chap serving that I'd missed both goals while standing in the refreshements queue so obviously I should take up residence there, to which he responded "no, you can ffwc off", and laughed.



It was a very even game, with fast-paced breaks from both sides. Barry had two or three really good chances to go in front. With a few minutes to go James observed that "this has last minute winner written all over it". He was right. A chance fell to the Fflint number Ffour and he hammered home a screamer from the edge of the area. Barry couldn't force any more chances in the final few minutes and ended up losing 3-2.

It was still a very enjoyable day though - meeting a ffriend, an unexpected ffamily connection, and a good game of ffootball to watch as well. What more could I ask for from a day out in Fflint?

Thursday, October 07, 2021

New (old) music review - Saskadelphia by the Tragically Hip


For our wedding anniversary, Cathy bought me a new release from The Tragically Hip. It’s a six track CD mastered from sessions during the recording of Road Apples in 1991. The tapes were only rediscovered within the last couple of years, as this long form review and interview chronicles.

I realise this release probably isn’t of interest to most people, but I never I thought I would hear new songs from my favourite band ever again! 

Even though The Hip are my favourite band, I wasn’t expecting much from the CD. These are songs that didn’t make it onto the album, gleaned from thirty year-old recordings. ‘Lost songs’ are generally lost for a reason. However, I was pleasantly surprised at their quality. They’ve been touched up a bit by the band while working on the project. The key component from those original sessions would be the irreplaceable voice of the late Gord Downie, the lead singer who sadly passed away four years ago. Fortunately, Gord's voice was captured well on the tapes.

Musically, the songs definitely belong to the early part of the Hip’s career. They fill a gap in the timeline between the bluesy tracks on Up to Here and the more expansive songs on Road Apples. I would be interested to hear songs from the recording sessions for Fully Completely, the next album in the Hip’s discography, when their music went heavier on the basslines. Road Apples was a transitional album itself, but the band’s sound moved on considerably in the short space of time between the release of Road Apples and the recording and release of Fully Completely.

Who knows, maybe another box of tapes will turn up?

As a fan and completist, I was always going to want this album. I’m just really glad that it was better than my limited expectations.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

The joy of existing captured in Free Guy

This post contains mild spoilers


In Free Guy (newly released on Disney Plus), comedy genius heartthrob Ryan Reynolds plays Guy, resident of ‘Free City’, whose happy life is interrupted repeatedly by people punching him in the face, robbing the bank where he works, flying attack helicopters through the streets and so on. Guy just thinks this is normal and cheerily carries on with his life – saying hello to his goldfish when he wakes up every day, ordering his regular coffee with cream and two sugars, meeting his best friend who works as the security guard at the bank, and just shrugging off the mayhem around him.

Eventually Guy works out that he is actually a ‘NPC’ (non-playable character) in a video game. His life, which feels real to him, is entirely generated within the servers of a computer game company. This becomes more awkward when he falls in love with a player’s character who knows he is a NPC but also seems to be falling in love back with him. Guy has been programmed to love the character or has he? Falling in “love”, it transpires, breaks his programmed algorithms and sets him off on new courses of exploration and discovery.

That in itself is a lovely concept and one that could provide a useful metaphor for platform speakers the world over.

On the face of it Free Guy is a bit of a mash up of a few other film concepts. Cathy kept saying how much it reminded her of The Truman Show. The idea that computer game characters might have their own lives within the game was also explored in Wreck It Ralph. As someone with a lay interest in artificial intelligence, the concept of an AI algorithm reaching self-aware consciousness is fascinating to me.

But the bit that really moved me was about two thirds the way through the movie, when Guy is talking to his buddy, the security guard literally called Buddy, played incredibly well by Lil Rel Howery.  Through wearing game player spectacles, Guy has the capacity to see the world as gamers see it – picking up medpacks, ammo, and so on. Buddy doesn’t want to see the world as Guy sees it and refuses to put the spectacles on, but they remain friends.

When Guy is told that the world is about to end – because the villainous software developer who created ‘Free City’ wants to capitalise on its success by replacing it with ‘Free City 2’ – he asks Buddy why Buddy doesn’t want to know the truth about their world. Buddy’s reply perfectly encapsulated the power of living in the moment. He says something like ‘Maybe all this is just a game. But right now, I’m sitting here with my best friend who needs me. And is there anything more real than that?’

That really jolted me as a moment of truth in an otherwise fairly silly film. We have those moments when, yes, everything seems crazy and our worlds are rocked. But we still can connect. We can still hold those moments as real – the feelings we feel right then are actually the important things.

I really loved that brief scene. It elevated Free Guy from a decent way to pass the time to actually a movie with something to say.

We have the moment and in that moment, that can be enough. Because it is real.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

September 2021 - End of month review

Well that month seemed to pass really quickly. Maybe it was because I got to get out and about a bit with work, including a trip to Carmarthen despite the fuel panic at the end of the month.

From a footballing point of view, it was a much quieter month for me. Just four games, the biggest being a trip to Sheffield to see Shrewsbury play at Hillsborough against Sheffield Wednesday.


Shrewsbury managed to earn a very credible point, helped by Wednesday missing a penalty and a host of other chances. 

It was a couple of days after my nephew Zac's 8th birthday and he came with me and my brother on the trip. His verdict on the day out was "We went to the pub for lunch and now Maccy's for tea. This is the best day of my life!"

"And the football," I said.

"Oh, yeah..." was the reply. Ah well. I understand. Having chips for two meals in a day is pretty special. 

In other sports news, the San Diego Padres fell completely out of contention for any honours as their form went into a death spiral. Lots of things have gone wrong this year but their chief problem has been hubris. I have consoled myself with my baseball card collecting project - two big parcels of cards arrived this month and took my collection to over 1,000 cards featuring Tony Gwynn. 

And of course there was a welcome return to playing Blood Bowl!

At the end of the month, Cathy and I had our 23rd wedding anniversary. It feels strange to think that we have now been married for more than half our lives (we were both 22 when we got married!), AND that we are only a couple of years off our Silver Wedding Anniversary. That just doesn't feel right. Silver Weddings are what old people have! 

One of the presents Cathy got me will be the subject of its own blog post soon!

Monday, September 13, 2021

Blood Bowl Match Report - Ogres and skaven and dwarves, oh my!

This was the first time that Bryan and I had played Blood Bowl with new 'Second Season' rules. The main change has been the addition of a skill relating to how well a player can pass the ball. (Earlier this year I bought the new Second Season box set - read more here!)

Bryan has a dwarf team, which he has started painting but hasn't officially named yet. One of the possible names is the Dinas Delvers, so I've decided to go with that for now. I played with the skaven team with the addition of an ogre. Last time we played, my giant rats got really badly stomped on so I was hoping an ogre would give them a bit of protection.

Scrimmage line melee

What I didn't bank on was some of the dwarves (the "Trollslayer" characters) having an attribute called 'Dauntless', which basically took away the advantage of my ogre's higher level of strength. That led to a lot of shoving back and forth on the line of scrimmage and at one point my ogre ended up flat on his back.   

Ogre down!

MATCH REPORT

Dinas Delvers 0-1 Bayside Vermin

(Match abandoned at half time as it was getting late and both managers were tired!)

Because we played the new season 2 rules which meant we had to look a load of things up and that slowed us down. This meant we only played one half, of 8 turns each. 

There is a new kick off procedure and you have to roll to decide what happens while the ball is in the air and how far it deviates from where it's supposed to go. It then took a few turns for any of the players to actually get the ball under control. To pick it up, a player has to perform an "agility roll" - throw the dice and see if they score the target number needed. The Vermin kicked off, and then various Delvers fumbled trying to pick up the ball. 

In this version of the game, your team go ends if (when) you mess up a dice roll. So every time a Delver failed an agility roll, the skaven could get closer to where the ball had ended up. Eventually one of the Vermin's pacy Gutter Runners eluded the attentions of the Delver defence and made a beeline for the ball. 

Eyes on the ball

Then it was a sprint to the end zone for the Gutter Runner and a glorious touchdown!

SCORE!!!

As coaches, Bryan and I haven't got round to naming our team members and actually keeping any kind of record of what each individual player does. Over the course of a league campaign, Blood Bowl players earn Experience Points (XP) if they manage to do something like score a touchdown. However, any XP earned by this particular Gutter Runner would have been cancelled out, because on the next play he got pushed into the crowd and knocked out by violent fans!

With limited turns left before half time, the Delvers attempted a long pass over the heads of most of the players. The dice roll for the pass failed, but the Vermin player attempting to intercept couldn't couldn't catch it cleanly, instead knocking the ball astray. That meant more agility rolls. 

On the Vermin's very last turn of the half, with the ball loose and for the taking, the Vermin player failed an agility test! This was very annoying, as agility is about the only skill skaven players really have. But, that was it, he fluffed the pick up and that was it for the night.

Overall, this was a great learning experience. The dwarf team has some useful attributes and although the ogre didn't really achieve much, none of the skaven players were killed this time! Which in the crazy world of Blood Bowl counts as progress!