Saturday, 26 March 2016

Jerusalem Temple AGM

Does it worry anyone else that one week into working for a church I'm already getting dumb church jokes in my head?

I am assured that the youth group meeting on Friday had nothing to do with it.
I am assured that the youth group meeting on Friday had nothing to do with it.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Wednesday Quiz: Declaration of Independence

So, as you may have noticed by the fact that the Wednesday Quiz is appearing on a Thursday that it hasn't been a good week for getting things done here at the Leaflocker, where 'things' can be defined as anything other than watching cricket and doing actual work, and includes things like doing the too many of the 'weekly' readings for the Great Conversation. If you'd been reading along with us on that project, dear reader, or happen to be Usonian, you have a considerable advantage this week.

The quiz this week is an 'Is it or isn't it' quiz on the U.S. Declaration of Independence of 1776. Below are listed 10 phrases, some of which are direct quotes from the complaints in the document about the objectionable behaviours of the British, and some of which are sourced from other documents written during other time-periods about different oppressors. You need to identify which are the genuine article and which are the imposters (without looking up the document, obviously). Bonus points will be awarded if by some black magic you manage to identify the source locations from whence came the imposters. Clear as mud? Let's do this.

1) Imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.

2) Refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

3)  Endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property.

4) Dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

5) Made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

6) Hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie; they have mercilessly exploited our workers.

7) Plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

8) Denies us the right of worshipping the Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience, by the support of a national religion, calculated to promote the temporal interest of its human functionaries, rather than the glory of the true and living God.

9) Excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

10) Transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences.

One should also be aware of setting officers to eating out the substance of the people. Classic despot behaviour, that sort of thing.

Happy quizzing, everybody.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Board Report: Um Reifenbreite

Well, the job thing that I hinted about last week has come to pass, which has lessened the gaming that I've been able to partake in this week, but it's still been a pretty productive week in gaming of both the electronic and cardboard varieties, if gaming can ever be counted as productive. To celebrate this momentous achievement, I've ordered myself a new mug. Or I will, anyway, once my PayPal balance clears...

Um Reifenbreite

New game of the week, by virtue of being the only new game that I played this week, is Um Reifenbreite (or By the Width of a Tire). I got a little excited on seeing that it was a Spiel des Jahres winner that I'd not played before, but then I realised that having won in 1992 means that this game has ascended to us from the nether-regions of PRE-Catan gaming! *GASP* (Actually, it turns out that it's worse than that, as 1992 was a reprint of a game from the 70's).

My initial fears only deepened when it turned out that along with the cooky 90's cartoon artwork and never having been popular enough to justify an English reprint, it's a race game that you play by rolling dice. My only prior experience with race-games that have won the SDJ was Hare and Tortoise, a clever litttle game that I admire, but not one that I'll ever really have fun playing, as it's far too mathsy. At this point I was trying to find a polite way to back away from the table, with the ghost voice of my friend John raging at the non-gameness of Ludo clones ringing in my brain, but I stuck with it, and I was glad that I did.

Though it's definitely showing its age with its roll-and-move mechanics, there's some unique aspects that make this little number about navigating your cyclists through the hazards of a gruelling race better than I was fearing. The blocking/slip-streaming mechanics actually work really well to insert some serious tactics into a game that would otherwise be pretty straightforward. Instead, it becomes about grouping your riders together (where the dice and other players will let you) and using the different riders various strengths to push ahead of your opposition during the key moments of the race. Sure, the dice can and will still screw you up (as evidenced by the fact that I was lucky enough to win against an experienced player that I consider tactically stronger than me in 100% of situations), but they're mitigated somewhat and made to work for you by some classy but ultimately simple mechanics.

A game like this could never be made and probably wouldn't sell many copies in this more civilised golden age of board games that we find ourselves in today. That it won the prestigious SDJ 25 years ago is just an indication of how incredibly far board games have come during my lifetime. Still, it was an interesting diversion and I'm pretty confident that everyone playing had a very good time. I won't be going out to get myself a copy, and I don't think I'll play again next wee either, but if someone were to pull it out again some time next year, I'm pretty confident that I'd give it another go. 

Ongoing Gaming Goals

Get some Brasenose people to Board Games Night
Well, I got a person to come along with me, and he's been singing the praises of the club ever since, so I'm pretty confident that we'll be able to convince more people once everyone comes back from the Easter term break. Success! Looks like I need some more cardboard goals, but I can't think of....wait....

Try to get a Diplomacy board running
It looked like we might have gotten close to getting seven players who didn't yet hate each other but were willing to accept the possibility together in a room at some point during the last few months, but in the end we fell a little short. It's probably time for me to get back on my diplomacy hobby-horse (pun) and see if I can't have one last shot at it before this year's students all dig in for end-of-year exams.

Regain Nova I rank in CounterStrike
I'm a Nova again, and thanks to a respectable streak over the last few days I think I'm actually pushing the upper boundaries of Nova I into borderline Nova II territory. Obviously that's not going to last, though, so for the ongoing goal is just to retain my rank and never again sink into the depths of depravity and questionable strategy that is Silver-level CounterStrike.

Finish Train Valley
Ticked this one off over the weekend and wrote a big ol' review to the developers, who said nice things about it (which gives you an idea of exactly how big the steam fanbase is for this game). I'm not quite ready to put this game down yet though, as I have to tick off that one last Steam Achievement to get a clean sheet on the game, so it'll stay in the rotation for at least another week while I plot how exactly I'm supposed to get that many locomotives running at the same time without making an enormous mess all over the map.

Play Pony Island
I failed to get to Pony time yet again this week, but once Train Valley is out of the way maybe I'll be able to devote myself to it. I hear that it's best played in a single session, so at the moment it's looking like it might be a good project to occupy myself on the Easter Monday bank holiday.

Dota II
I don't have any kind of DotA goal short of eventually summoning up the courage to give it another whirl some time, but since it got popular demand in the comments and I'm nothing without my legion of loyal fans, I guess I'd better list it here. If one of you that plays (I'm looking at you, Tim and Peter) wants to suggest a realistic goal and help me work towards it then colour me receptive (kind of a puce-type shade, I suppose?).

Seems like a solid week to me, especially given that I now need to fit it in amongst working three days a week and still leave time to my 'weekly' reading goals...guess we just wait and see.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

A Very Brasenose Day

Apologies for the lack of photographs on this one. I actually took a whole bunch (not always an easy thing to do clandestinely in college) but my old camera is...a little sick.

Brasenose College manages to be a very down-to-earth and friendly place while at the same time being a strange mix of every Oxbridge stereotype that you've ever met. But no matter how at-home I feel there, one can't help but be struck by the sheer...Brasenosity (it sounds like pomposity) of it. I've struggled to put this feeling into words, so I thought I'd just try and describe a recent day in college and see if you get what I mean. Thus I present the following without further comment.

Thursday evening was the second 'Blurbs' evening, where members of the graduate common room (and even associate members, if they grease the right palms) get together to listen to academic talks given by their fellow members of the college. Traditionally, a Fellow and a graduate student present current research on a shared subject area, but apparently that's optional, as on this occasion one student presented a talk on baby linguistic development and another on prostate cancer, tenuously linked by the concept of 'big data'. What's not optional, this being Oxford, is that generous amounts of wine is provided for the event and that there is an intermission long enough for everyone attending to refill their glasses.

I thought the talks were quite illuminating, but it might have been all the red wine that I consumed.

One reason that Blurbs is such a keenly-anticipated event amongst the graduate students (tickets usually sell out in less than a minute) is that the talks themselves are followed by a High Table dinner. A regular college dinner is served on trays like any school cafeteria. A formal dinner (held three times in a regular week) is three courses (and three very respectable courses, if you ask me), but everyone with eyes knows that the people sitting on High Table gets the good stuff. Since most students don't get many chances to eat with the Fellows at High Table, a chance to have the fancy dinner (at approximately un-fancy prices) is highly valued.

It didn't disappoint. After the traditional college grace (in Latin, of course), entrée was some kind of baked cheese with salad accompanied by a sweet white (the menu says Toasted Cheese Crotin on Toasted Hazelnuts, Beetroot & Red Onion Compote & a Dressed Leaf Salad with 2013 Château Courac Cotes du Rhone Villages Laudun Blanc), then Fish and seasonal vegetables with a not-so-sweet white (Roasted Brill with Confit Leeks & Baby Spinach, Boulangѐre  Potatoes & a Vermouth Sauce with 2007 Chateau Girauton Blanc). For dessert...wait, they don't call it that here... Pudding was some kind of creamy jelly thing in miscellaneous fruit sauce (Rhubard & Ginger Soup with Vanilla Panacotta & an Orange Tuille) [I guess 2/3 guesses weren't bad?]. 

Pudding normally comes with port, I'm told, so there were a few disappointed faces around the table, but I didn't mind too much. I thought the whole thing was pretty nice, but it might have been all the white wine that I consumed.

After dinner was the common room tradition of 'second desserts', which involves the consumption of copious amounts of fruit, cheese, chocolate and enough port to make up for the dearth at dinner. The event takes place in the Old Library, which stopped housing books at some point in the 1660s, but is still called the Old Library for some reason. It's a very nice wood-panelled room, with the added advantage of having windows that open towards Exeter instead of the Old Quad, allowing air-flow without causing noise to overflow into the college, the sort of thing that gets parties shut down prematurely.

I thought the fruit and chocolate was all pretty enjoyable, but it might have been all the port that I consumed.

Despite the fact that the party was pumping, I abandoned it and headed back to the Brasenose Hall, the site of dinner an hour earlier, now converted into a temporary theatre. Brasenose doesn't have any kind of auditorium (heck, it only has three rooms capable of housing a class of 20) other than the chapel, which seats about 100 on a good day if most of those don't want to see, so any event that needs any kind of capacity ends up in the hall. Tonight the event in question was a musical written by one of the organ scholars called 'Less Milibandles', which promised to riff on the theme of the recent UK election to some recognisable tunes. The benches and windows were filling fast with undergraduates, but we managed to find ourselves some seats in the stalls.

We were well entertained with a long stream of British politics jokes, most of which went completely over my head as someone who has come to the country since the time period in question, but a politics joke is a politics joke and with lines like this, how can you go wrong?

One day more!
Another day, another argument
This never-ending road to Parliament
These men who wish to see me burn
They must not have a second term
One day more!

Given the lack of amplification and the slightly esoteric nature of the subject matter, the whole thing was generally understandable, with baguettes and insults thrown and only a few lines completely muffed, not bad at all for a cast performing on an absolute minimum budget of practice, what with being actual students during an actual term of a university that isn't known for its light workload. Students of all political outlooks left grumbling at the bias of the script, which is a pretty big win for one-off comedy script writers and national news networks alike.

All in all, I had a lot of fun, but it might have been all the flying baguette that I consumed.

Afterwards I headed back to the common room, where I found my fellow members still nursing the remains of the port and talking nonsense, so it ended up being quite the late night. Eventually I made my way home, artificially warm and singing all the way...

At the end of the day a new Parliament's dawning
And the sun in the morning is waiting to rise
Like the waves crash on the sand
They'll be in and out in a second
All the voters in the land
Have been rallied and heckled and beckoned
And there's gonna be taxes to pay
At the end of the day.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Varsity Quiz

Come the conclusion of Hilary term here in Oxford (the one those heathens over at Cambridge call 'Lent'), many of the big varsity matches between the two universities are soon to occur, where the sporting elite ('Blues') face off against each other for the pride of their respective institutions. It thus seemed appropriate that we have a Varsity match of our own here at the Leaflocker.

The answer to each of the following questions is either 'Oxford' or 'Cambridge', so you have at least a 50% chance to get them right. So let's find out how much you all know about this 800-year old, largely irrelevant grudge match and the institutions that just can't give it up.

1) 27 British Prime Ministers have studied at one of the universities, whereas only 14 have attended the other. Which university 'wins' in this category?

2) Punting is a popular pastime both on the Cam and the Isis, but you can't talk about punting for long at either university without being told that 'the other place' does it wrong. The traditional punt at one college has a snub-nose with a platform for the punter at one end, whereas the other has a more streamlined shape and can be steered from either end. Which university favours the single-end punts, pictured above?

3) One of the universities was founded by disgruntled scholars from the other, right back in 1209 AD. Which one is older?

4) The Lucasian Chair in mathematics is one of the most prestigious academic posts in the world, with holders including such luminaries as Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Babbage and Stephen Hawking. Which university hosts the chair?

5) Students at both Oxford and Cambridge have long worn the somewhat strange gown-and-mortarboard arrangement known as 'sub-fusc' at formal events. Students at one of the two recently voted not to have to wear it at exams, but the other voted strongly to keep it. Which university is crazy enough to want to keep the damn thing?

6) The Boat Race has been held regularly between the two universities since 1829, and the current record stands at 81-79 victories (with a single tie). Which university has won more often?

7) The Ashmolean Museum is widely considered to be the oldest university museum in the world, dating back to 1678. Which university town does the Ashmolean call home?

8) A number of constituent colleges share their names between both Oxbridge universities. Above is a photograph of Jesus College, but which one?

9) This is the 'Mathematical Bridge', a curved bridge made up only of stright pieces of wood, considered so beautiful that a copy of it was made and placed at the other university. Which university town plays home to the original?

10) The universities of Oxford and Cambridge are very similar places, but the terminology is often different, and is commonly used as a shibboleth to detect infiltrators from rival institutions. One such example are the grassed squares contained within college buildings, called 'quads' at one university and 'courts' at the other. Which calls them 'quads'?

Happy quizzing. As always, leave your answers in the comments and I'll be along to judge the results some time next week.

Last week's results:

1) The Pineapple hails from South America.
2) Spongebob Squarepants is reputed to live in a pineapple.
3) 'Rough end of the pineapple' is analogous to 'sharp end of the stick', but neither end of the pineapple is very nice, so it could also be considered 'worst of a bad deal'.
4) The Big Pineapple is in Queensland.
5) The other Big Pineapple is in South Africa.
6) The Tupi were one of the native groups of Brazil and the East coast of South America.
7) Figs and Mulberries are other common collective fruit. Dragon fruit don't seem to be.
8) Pineapple Head was a Crowed House single. 
9) The Philippines grows a lot of pineapples.
10) Epiphytes are plants that grow on other plants.

Thus, everyone who participated scores a well-earned 5 points. Congratulations, to The M Cats, Michael5000 and irac.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Board Report: Incan Gold

Discerning and intelligent human being that you undoubtedly are, loyal reader, I've no doubt that you've noticed that since I'm here in Oxford and I haven't got a job (although that might be changing soon, watch this space) I've got a lot of free time on my hands for gaming.

As well as far too many computer games (which we'll get into a little later) but I've also been indulging myself by joining the Oxford Board Game Society, which mostly involves spending every Wednesday night getting schooled at nearly everything that I try my hand at. There's a good selection of titles games, so as well as slowly indoctrinating my new friends with some of my favourites, I've also had a chance to pick up and play a whole heap of new and interesting games.

Incan Gold

The only new game that I ended up playing this week was Incan Gold, a 5-10 minute push-your-luck game that involves purloining as many pretty gems as you can from the depths of an Incan temple before the whole team dies in one of a number of interesting ways. Actually, the copy we played was a blend of Incan Gold and Diamant, the original version, combining the best parts of each (they're mechanically the same, but Diamant had some cool bits for each player that aren't included in the remake).

Each turn, a card from the deck is turned up, and that card is either some number of gems (ranging from 1 to somewhere around 24?), a unique artifact (worth 5 gems initially), or some kind of hazard. The benefits are split equally between all players in the temple, with remainders left on the card. After each turn, each player simultaneously decide whether they're taking their winnings so far to safety or risking them by remaining in the temple. If two of the same hazards are ever turned up, anyone left in the temple loses their winnings, the next round begins, and then the highest score after five rounds win.

It works pretty well for a short game, with each player trying to strike the balance between leaving early and guaranteeing their winnings, or staying in the temple and potentially winning big. It's made better since the remaining gems are split amongst any leaving players, so you generally want to try and predict what the other players are going to do in order to leave as late as possible, but not at the same time as anyone else. 

Having a game or two in your collection that can entertain a relatively large group of people for a short period is a pretty good thing, so I'd heartily recommend this one, given that it easily plays up to 8 players. I don't think that I'll be picking it up myself, given that there's lots of other games of this general push-your-luck type where a little diversity goes a long way, and also that I already already have access to this one for the next few years or so anyway.

Gaming Goals This Week

Get some Brasenose people to Board Games Night
I've got a bunch of people who'll happily play board games with me at college but keep wimping out when I try to get them to come along with me to club night because the have 'work' or 'theses'. Talk about lame. I have a good feeling that this week will finally be the week to break the drought.

Regain Nova I rank in CounterStrike
My big time-sink video game for the last year or so has been CounterStrike, a game that I used to think I was half-decent at, but it turns out that there was a problem with their ranking algorithym, so I've been recategorised as a 'Silver Elite Master' (actually pretty terrible). I think I'm just on the cusp of 'Gold Nova I' (slightly less terrible) rank, so if I can string a couple of good games together I think I can get back there and regain at least a little of my self-respect.

Finish Train Valley
The latest in the seemingly never-ending chain of light train managment games in my Steam queue, I've happily wasted a few hours on this little gem by a Russian developer. I've only got a couple more levels to go, to I'll plan to knock them off this week and then retire the title from my regular rotation until they release a few more levels (there's only about 25 so far, but apparently more are on the way).

Play Pony Island
My good friend Peter gifted me a game last month that I've yet to boot up. Given that Peter generally has pretty good taste (the last game that he gifted me was CounterStrike!), I'm looking forward to it, so I'm hoping that I'll have a chance to give it a bit of a try this week. Apparently it's pretty short, but I'm not exactly an expert at finishing games quickly, so I guess we'll have to wait and see.

There you go, if I can get half of that one it'll be a very productive week. Happy gaming (or however you prefer to waste your time) to you all.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Wednesday Quiz: Pineapple Panic

It is traditional at this juncture, it being a Wednesday (at least in some parts of the world), to produce a quiz. I had no idea what to do for a quix this week, so I asked Mrs. Owl what would be a good topic for a quiz, and she said 'Pineapples'. I was not convinced, but the challenge had been laid down, and I do like a good challenge.

1) From which continent does the Pineapple originate?
2) If television is to be believed, who 'lives in a pineapple under the sea' (absorbent and yellow and porous is he)?
3) There is an Australian idiom 'to get the rough end of the pineapple'. What's it mean?

4) This is the Big Pineapple, once a major tourist attraction in which Australian state? 

5) Not to be confused with the other Big Pineapple, which is in which other country in the southern hemisphere?
6) The Scientific name for the pineapple iAnanas comosus, referring to the Tupi name for the fruit, ananas. But wait a second, who were the Tupi, again, and where did they hang out?
7) Pineapple is an example of a multiple or collective fruit, in which a group of multiple fruiting flowers coalesce into a single mass. Can you name another fruit of this type?
8) Pineapple Head was a single from the 1993 Album Together Alone, by some band or other. Which band was it, again?
9) Once upon a time, the US was famous for pineapple production, but these days the five big producers are Costa Rica, India, Thailand, Brazil and which South East Asian republic?
10) Pineapples are a rare terrestrial example of the Bromeliad family, the majority of which are epiphytes. What's an epipyhte?

The rules are the same as ever, take your best shot at answering the questions without referring to outside resources, don't be ashamed if you don't know the answers, and leave your decisions in the comments some time this week so that I can have fun marking it some time next week.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Proceedings of a Noodle

You will remember, loyal reader, that back in August 2014 we started reading 'the Western canon' at a rate of about 100 pages a week, with the ultimate aim of having read the 'whole thing' after seven years. A good 20 months later, we're finally about to start week 10 of the project, which suggests that completing all 370 weeks of this little conversation that we've entered will probably take us the next 60 years or so. Seems like a long-term plan, even in comparison to ridiculous blog projects like Michael's Infinite Art Tournament.

I've actually been reading a lot more lately than I have in many years, having a lot of free time on my hands and access to a series of large and interesting public libraries here in Oxford, but Iain M. Banks and Isaac Asimov are a little outside the scope of the Conversation, as are all the graphic novels that I've been rabidly consuming, so little useful progress has been made.

It's time to get back on the horse, so without further ado, let's get on with the review for 'Week 9' of our little project.

Week 9 in Review

Last week: 124
Conversation so far: 1023

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Book the Third, Ch. 6 - 9
Well, we've finally finished up Hard Times, and I'm pretty sure that I can say without reservation that it's the least interesting Dickens that I've ever read. And there wasn't even the joy of a happy ending that you can always rely on from the man. A very odd fish indeed. Michael's recent review sums it up nicely, I think, in saying that if even second-rate Dickens compares favourably to most other fiction that this one probably isn't even second-rate.

It wasn't without positives, though. Dickens is still Dickens, a little ray of quotable and ridiculous sunshine in his dialogue, and I'm going to miss my 'weekly' dose, but overall I found Hard Times to be too preachy and predictable, well short of his best. It's also hard to read what with all them working-class accents the whole time. My advice, skip this one, or if you have to read it, get it on audio-book so that you can appreciate the accents instead of having to wade through them.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Part Two, Ch. 3 - 4
As good as my local library is, their single copy of Lolita is a popular item and I've yet to get my hands on it. I have read Pnin during my time in Oxford, though, so I've not totally abandoned Nabokov, but Lolita will have to go on Hiatus until I can acquire a copy.

The Odyssey of Homer
Books IX-XII
That child of morning, rosy fingered dawn, is all over the place here, but there's some other great lines too: 'However splendid a home he may have in a foreign country, if it be far from father or mother, he does not care about it'. Preach it, Homer. These books contain all the good stuff that you learnt about in your eight years of Primary School Greek classes, Cyclops, that big bag of wind, Ogres, Witches, visiting Hades, Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, all the best bits. He's really just packing it all in there. I mean, do I really need to read the rest?

Crito by Plato
Socratic dialogues are just so much fun, aren't they? I enjoy the clear paths of logical argument in this one, the whole thing flows nicely and Socrates doesn't get distracted by minutiae. This is the one that features Socrates friends offering to break him out of prison and him refusing on the basis that it would be immoral to escape since he respects the laws of Athens and it is the will of the city that he die. I had this idea from the Zeitgeist that he'd rejected them because he was stubborn, but in this version at least he seems to have some pretty good reasoning. I like this one enough to agree that it would be a Crito-cal text in my personal 'canon'.

If I were in his shoes I'd still be looking towards some kind of appeals process, though.

Of Death by Francis Bacon
Don't be scared of death, philosophers have no idea what they're talking about. That's it. With too many Latin quotes to keep the uneducated reader guessing. Let's hope that Bacon doesn't keep doing that so much or I might have to give up and learn the damn language. It might be faster than looking all these guys up.

The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon
So, turns out that this is an unfinished utopian novel, published by Bacon back in 1627. As a novel, it's...not very interesting, but I imagine that it's included in the list of 'great books' for its discussions about the scientific method in a period when 'scientists' weren't invented yet. Apparently the novel was part of the inspiration for the development of the Royal Society, but I wouldn't be recommending it. So far I've not been very impressed by Bacon at all, but at least one can understand what he's saying most of the time.

Some funny stuff in the readings this week. Maybe I should take a leaf out of Kate Beaton's book and make some little comics out of the weirdnesses I come across as I read. That could be be fun.

Week 10 Readings

If you'd like to read one or more of the coming weekly texts with me, here's what we're gunning for this week. It's a relatively short one in terms of page count, but I have the feeling that it's actually going  to be a pretty tough week, with Homer bringing the only Fiction for the week. Might be a good week to have something lighter on the side just in case, I'm thinking.

The Odyssey of Homer
#gbww #fiction #greek
Books XIII-XVI (40 pages)
What comes next in the Odyssey? To be honest, I don't actually remember, but now that he's manages to get rid of those pesky crew-members who keep screwing things up, maybe Odysseus is finally on the home stretch? That said, we're only just starting the second half of the text now.

Phaedo by Plato
#oneshot #gbww #philosophy #greek
 (32 pages)
We're really steaming through the Socratic dialogues, huh? Next up is Phaedo, the one which comes next chronologically after Crito and I'm pretty sure is the one that the old man finally ups and dies in. Then again, I had in my head that there were four dialogues and this is only the third we've read, so either we've missed one or there's one more to come after this. (Meno, you dummy!).

Elements by Euclid
#new #ggww  #mathematics #greek
Book I (29 pages)
Just to round out the Greek for the week, we're starting out on our first big project, a marathon read of the most famous textbook of all time. If we can get through this, not only will we have a better understanding of the fundamentals of maths, but we can draw a little confidence that maybe we'll be able to see through some of the drier texts on the list.

#oneshot #gbww #politics #english
(3 pages)
Just so the whole week isn't just Greek to me, we also have the US Declaration of Independence. It's not exactly Dickens, but it should make a nice change of pace, methinks.

Happy reading. 

Monday, 7 March 2016

Who's There?

When I left Australian shores and posted that shot of the locked door at Parliament House the day that we left it behind, I'd fully intended to get straight back on the blog bandwagon on arrival in our new home here. I had grand visions of turning the Leaflocker into some kind of fancy travel blag or somesuch, flitting here and there, taking excellent photographs and generally making the readership feel envious of my new life here in cosmopolitan Europe.

I guess it didn't really work out like that. First I had no internet access. Then I had no inclination to write. Then I couldn't find my camera. Then I'd waited so long I felt like I had to find a good reason to start again...

Now it's March. I left Adelaide five months ago, at the end of September. There's been plenty of great Oxford things to share with you all, loyal readers; Matriculation, Ale Verses, Turl Street Festival, Torpids, OxCon, Party Rings, the list goes on, but somehow it just...hasn't happened. With any luck, I'll be able to share my experiences with some of these events in the near future.

So what's the occasion that's finally got me to attempt to string words into a sentence again? Well, there isn't really one, so I've had to manufacture one instead. So we're bringing back Blarch, a blogging festival that last featured here at the Leaflocker back in 2012, which is exactly as serious as it sounds like it might be. Whatever it takes, right? Ale has vowed to think about contributing some art during the month too, so I won't be alone, that's always a nice encouragement.

So, what's the plan for Blarch? To post something 3-4 times a week for the next month or so, and to do so in such a way that I can keep on posting in the same vein (albeit on a slightly reduced schedule) until Blaugust. It's not like there's a lot else filling my time right now, after all. What can you expect? Well, I don't really know, but I'm going to aim for:

Monday Report (Weekly gaming review)
Tuesday Conversations (Reading Project)
Wednesday Quizzes 
Thursday Tourism (#JustOxfordThings)
Friday Funnies (Raps and cartoons and creative things?)

Not all these will happen every week, but I've always found having a little bit of a plan going into the month helps keep myself on track, so let's see how it goes.