Last weekend I went off on a LARP event, organised by Curious Pastimes. LARP (or LRP) is "Live Action Roleplaying". Basically, it involved running around in the woods for a few days, pretending to be knights, wizards, etc. I really enjoyed it, and I've signed up for the rest of their events this year.
This blog post is partly "What I did on my holiday" and partly a way to document various things that I wanted to know before I went along. I'm certainly not an expert, so some of my impressions may be inaccurate. I apologise for the length; that's partly why it's taken me a week to write this post! For a shorter (and better written) report, I recommend The Curious Pastimes of LARP.
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Continuing the blog's zombie theme, I recently watched Warm Bodies at the cinema and In the Flesh on TV. I think they both deserve credit for doing something a bit different with the zombie idea.
Warm Bodies wasn't quite what I'd expected from the trailer. In fact, I stopped watching the trailer part-way through, because I was worried that it would reveal too much. I watched the whole trailer after I saw the film, and I'm glad that I stopped when I did. The first 35 seconds are safe to watch, because that's almost exactly the same as the start of the film. Up to 1m30s is fairly safe. Don't go past 1m55s unless you really want spoilers.
The only bit that actually made me laugh during the film was in the trailer (( Minor spoilerCollapse )), and I've seen something similar before in Shaun of the Dead. There were other bits in the film that made me smile, but it's more of a quiet film than a big comedy. That's ok, but just know what you're getting.
In the Flesh had 3 episodes (1 hour long each). However, I wonder whether it was originally intended to have 6 episodes (like Being Human); if so, that would explain why there's a bit of "mood whiplash" going on. There's one particular situation which is built up as a serious threat, but then when it actually happens it's off-screen and there don't seem to be any real consequences. There's also a sub-plot which doesn't go anywhere, so I'm guessing that they'll expand on that if there's a second series.
Minor spoilers follow for Warm Bodies and huge spoilers follow for In the Flesh. So, if you're planning to watch them, best to do that first and then come back to this later. I'm not sure whether Warm Bodies is still showing in any cinemas, but it will be out on Blu-ray and DVD on 4th June. In the Flesh is available on iPlayer until tomorrow (Sun 7th April). I think it's worth watching despite its flaws, but Narrative Devices advises against it.
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Today I went up to Reading for a Zed Events zombie experience. I really enjoyed it: it was expensive (£139 + train ticket) but well worth the money if you can afford it.
I heard about this through Emma Kennedy's Guardian column last year. Basically, it's the adult equivalent of playing "let's pretend" in the playground at primary school, e.g. "We're the spacemen and you're the Martians!" There is a storyline involved, so I'm not going to give away any significant spoilers here; this meant that I was effectively a character in a zombie film.
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Edit (08-Apr-2013): I now have a couple more photos:
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The same organisers also run a Manor event, which I'd like to do at some point. If anyone else would like to come with me, just let me know and we can compare diaries.
This has also got me thinking about LARP (Live Action Role Playing). I think it has a bit of a poor reputation, but is it really that different from an event like this, or what the Enterprise crew get up to on the holodeck? My main concern is that today I was just pretending to be myself in a different situation; I'm not so interested in pretending to be a completely different person. Still, maybe worth a look.
This weekend I've been at Picocon (ICSF's annual convention). I used to go every year, but my attendance has been a bit more sporadic in recent years, partly because I've often been busy with SJA duties. I'm now trying to get a bit more balance in my life so I made an effort to attend, and I'm glad that I did. This was certainly better value than the Star Trek convention that I went to last October.
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Looking at other upcoming conventions, the Sci-fi weekender is in Wales at the end of February. I was hoping to go to that, but by the time I'd sorted out my other commitments they'd sold out all their accommodation; they do have day passes, but it's a bit too far to commute (in Wales) so I'll give that a miss this year.
As the name suggests, Eastercon will be held over the Easter weekend, and I had considered going to that. However, I then booked a session at Zed Events for that weekend (simulating a zombie apocalypse). Maybe next year for that.
Also next year, Worldcon is coming to London (aka LonCon 3), so I really ought to make an effort to attend. Looking further ahead, Helsinki have put in a bid to host it in 2015, and the bid chair (Eemeli Aro) ran Picocon in 2004; I'm glad to see that he's gone on to bigger and better things. I'm planning to go to Finland next year for the Winter Swimming World Championships (I've paid the deposit to join the SLSC team), so I'll need to go via Helsinki to get there and I'll report back afterwards on what it's like there and how easy it is to get to. (I'd rather not fly, and The Man in Seat 61 has some advice about getting there by train/ferry.)
Over on Facebook, someone posted a link to this petition:
Home Office @ukhomeoffice: Change the law so 17-year-olds are treated as children in custody #4Joe
Basically, there's a discrepancy in UK law: if a 17 year old is arrested by the police then they get treated as an adult, but if they are subsequently charged then they'll be treated as a child (e.g. going to youth court rather than magistrates' court).
In particular, if the police arrest a child then they will automatically phone the child's parents (or legal guardian). If the police arrest an adult then they won't, but the adult has the option of phoning whoever they want. There was a particular incident where a 17 year old was arrested, but his parents didn't know anything about it until he killed himself 2 days later. They are now campaigning for a change in the law.
I have mixed feelings about this, but I've decided not to sign the petition. I realise that this will be a very painful situation for his friends and family, and I don't want to add to that. However, if we're considering a change in the law then I think we have to consider the wider implications rather than just looking at this specific case. So, I stand by what I'm writing, but if you knew him then you may not want to read any further.
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Last May I posted a bucket list of various activities that I'd like to do in London. One of these activities was to climb the Elizabeth Tower, aka the Big Ben clock tower. (Being pedantic, Big Ben is the name of the bell rather than the building.)
Anyway, I emailed my MP about this in February, and I got a reply from his PA a month later:
Dear Mr Kirk
Do you still wish to climb Big Ben? If so, could I please have the following information from you. Full name and address, date of birth and place of birth including town and country. This is because a security check is done on everybody who wishes to go up the tower. Also, you must be a British Citizen and be in good health. Are there any dates you definitely cannot do – if not, it will be much easier to find a tour time for you. Is it just for yourself?
I've received a letter from the Metropolitan Police regarding advanced stop lines. They've asked me to circulate it, so I'm putting a copy here. I assume that they sent it to me because I've previously reported some incidents to Roadsafe London. I'm surprised that they don't have a copy of this letter on their website or their Facebook page, so I'll understand if anyone is sceptical about this; there have been a few hoaxes going around which claim to come from the police. However, this looks legitimate to me, and it came from a suitable email address (...@met.police.uk).
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This is mainly relevant to people who use video cameras to record examples of dodgy driving, but it's also useful to be aware of the relevant laws. Personally, I often use a helmet camera when I'm cycling. I recently bought a Contour +2, since my old ContourHD 1080p is having trouble with the power button: I have to open the back of the camera and poke it with something, a bit like using a paperclip to open a CD/DVD drive. The old camera is out of its warranty period (1 year), and the support section of the Contour website says: "We do not currently offer true repair services for any cameras out of warranty since it is often much less expensive for a user to replace a camera than it is to repair it." That's not amazingly useful, but hopefully I can find a camera shop that would be able to help me. If I can get that fixed then I'll use it as a rear-view camera. In the meantime, the new camera has the same form factor so it works with my existing helmet mount, which is useful. They've also merged the power and record controls, so the slider handles both: that's a much better design, because the slider is more robust than the button and I can operate it by touch with gloves on (i.e. when the camera is on top of my head).
For those who drive, you may find that a "dashcam" (dashboard camera) is useful; the Contour cameras have a flat surface mount for this, as do cameras from other manufacturers (e.g. the GoPro). Apparently this is quite common in Russia, and the Guardian have a compilation video. I don't know whether any UK insurance companies would offer a discount for this, but it may be worth enquiring.
A few hours ago, I had a power cut. Bizarrely, this only seemed to affect my flat: I could see light coming under the door from the flat above, and the nearby shops all had power. (I'm not sure about the shop underneath me, because they were closed.) I checked my fuses, and they were all ok. My burglar alarm went off outside, and I couldn't deactivate it without power, so I had to wait until it timed out. (By law, alarms have to automatically turn off after 20 minutes.) This didn't seem to attract any attention, even though the people nearby were presumably oblivious to the power cut and I had the curtains open so they would have seen me walking around inside the flat if they'd looked. As with the times I've had to drill through the front door lock, it shows how much people like to mind their own business.
After an hour there was no sign of the power coming back, so I decided to phone up and find what was happening. However, who should I call? I get my gas and electricity from British Gas, but I switched over to e-billing a while back so I couldn't get the phone numbers from my bills without power for the computer to check my email. ( Read more...Collapse )
Anyway, the moral of this story is that I need to make a list of emergency contact phone numbers and keep a hard copy that I can refer to during a power failure. I advise other people to do the same, and I'd welcome any suggestions of other useful numbers to include in the list.
Edit: The power went off again at 23:40. I phoned UK Power to report this, and they said that the earlier fuse replacement hadn't worked so the engineers needed to shut it down for emergency repair. I mentioned that I hadn't received any updates after the last "Everything is sorted out" text message, and the person on the phone said that they don't send text messages out after 22:00. I assume that's because they don't want to wake people up, but maybe an email distribution list would be a better option. If I get some kind of advance warning that the power's going off then I can plan around it. I asked how long it would be off for, and she said that it would be a 4 hour window, i.e. they could guarantee that it would be back by 03:30 but anything else was guesswork. Fortunately the power came back on again about 10 minutes later, so I didn't have to get up in the middle of the night to turn off my burglar alarm etc.
Cycling home tonight, I was going downhill behind a Post Office lorry. This wasn't a "Postman Pat" style van, it was a much bigger lorry, presumably used to transfer post between depots. I saw the lorry braking, so I applied my brakes too. Unfortunately, these were less effective than I'd hoped, possibly because the road was wet. I had enough time to realise that a crash was imminent but not enough time to do anything useful about it. The lorry stopped, my front wheel hit the rear bumper (bringing my bike to an abrupt halt), and then I smacked face-first into the back of the lorry.
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Anyway, this collision was my own stupid fault, so please learn from my bad example: if you're driving or cycling, remember to leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front.
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