The self-propelled vehicle of 2009 has been this two-wheeled skateboard-like contraption which seems to be propelled like a Venetian gondola by wiggling the aft wheel from side to side. I have no idea exactly what they’re called, but as a former skateboarder, I feel compelled to regard them as rather risible. They seem to be a skateboard designed by overanxious parents. You know the sort – they’re busy ensuring their children’s obesity by ferrying them to and from school because a.) you should see the amount of traffic on the roads (that’s all those parents taking their fat brats to school) and b.) the streets are crawling with perverts (it was in the Daily Mail or some other reputable fish-and-chip wrapper read by the credulous).
It was with some surprise that I saw a couple of kids with skateboards earlier this afternoon. If I have seen kids on skateboards in China, it’s been so long since I’ve seen one that I’ve forgotten the last occasion I did. But this is not a skateboard-friendly country outside of parks where the surface might be flat, smooth and unobstructed. The pavement here would give you average council in the UK nightmares because of the unevenness of the surface.
But a couple of skateboarders was nothing when a whole horde came thundering down 总府路 this evening, perhaps numbering about twenty-five to thirty. I noted that not one of them had a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads or any sort of protective kit. One of them turned to video the others on a stretch of road which is reasonably smooth, but has various manhole covers which might topple an unwary skateboarder.
I managed to pass them all just ahead of the next intersection where they did a little chant. Anywhere else, the police would probably have stopped them because what they were doing was dangerous to the skateboarders themselves. On that stretch of 总府路 there are only barriers between the cars and the cycle lane as you approach the intersection.
After that, I don’t know what happened to them. When it comes to taking off, I’m normally first across the road when the light goes green and I was anxious not to find myself negotiating my way through the horde along the cycle lane to 天府广场.
I don’t want my MTV.
I discovered that the reason why my MP3 player [probably my Aigo a5 –Mr B] is so contrary about the order in which it plays music is because it does it by title instead of the more reasonable folder and file name. As a consequence, I’ve been going through the music that I ripped off my CDs and editing the title information so that I’ll get the tracks from each album grouped together and played in the right order (sort of).
[28.07.14. I assume that Sony, Apple and other companies which manufacture MP3 players only conceive of music in terms of modern albums where every track is a discrete entity. On the other hand, most of the music I listen to comes in suites in particular keys. Such suites could be randomised so long as they remained suites, and not three Courantes followed by five Sarabands, etc.]
When I ripped the albums in the first place, I found one or two oddities such as information listed in Chinese or Japanese or some other language when I might’ve expected English. But such linguistic quirks were only the half of it.
When I reached disc 2 of Corelli’s Op. 5 (violin sonatas), I noticed that the tracks all seemed to have the same file names as those from the first disc, although the music was different. Fortunately, the Hyperion website supplied a listing of the tracks so that I was able to edit them and their titles.
François and Louis Couperin were this morning’s pains in the arse. Under artist information for each track, the latter had the name of the former. I have two different editions of François Couperin’s Concerts Royaux, one of which has them in their due and proper order (but the track names are generic), the other of which does not. One also has a couple of extra harpsichord pieces which I can’t identify.
Whether you can find a listing of the album tracks is a bit hit-and-miss. My attempt to find information about Louis Couperin’s Pièces de Clavecin played by Bob van Asperen revealed that it seems to be a back catalogue album which has probably been superseded by another performed by van Asperen which was released in 2007. What information I could find did not include a detailed listing of the album contents. I wasn’t even sure whether I’d found the right album. In fact, trying to find information about Louis Couperin’s works listed par ordre (or whatever the correct French phrase is; apparently en règle) seems impossible. When I found the a site selling the sheet music, it had the table of contents from the book in which the works were listed according to their key.
On the other hand, I found a good listing for the tracks on the album For Lute and Base Viol by the Geneva Baroque Duo. wikipedia has also been hit-and-miss. For example, it give precious little information about the Music for the Royal Fireworks by Handel. The album I have is the one with that work and Concerti a due cori (No.s 2 and 3) which was released in 1985. The re-release I’ve been finding online is for a 1997 album. But because I’m more cunning than the Count of Cunning (I’m sure this is a name which Shakespeare used for an exceptionally obscene pun in some play of his), I use Amazon to find the current album by Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert which has the two Concerti a due cori (No.s 2 and 3 – if I haven’t already mentioned that), and find the information I need.
The titles for the Water Music are a little better, but I need to do some editing to ensure they’re in the right order. Bugger. More tedious, repetitive work. And now, having listened to Bach’s French Suites and then the Complete Harpsichord Concertos this afternoon, I find myself listening to the French Suite in E flat major for some reason. More editing required. Ugh.
[Later.] Turns out that the tracks were merely on the album, but not actually part of the French Suites.
[Even later.] I thought I’d see what actual classical music I had on CD only to find that I have both Water Music and The Music for the Royal Fireworks, but played by the Academy of Ancient Music. I thought I’d already ripped the disc, but when I checked, I could only find the content of the second CD, which had apparently been ripped over the content of the first. I changed the folder name and ripped the first CD again, but as I was editing the title information, all the tracks, apart from the first one, suddenly disappeared. I found them in the original folder as the tracks as they had been ripped not as I had edited them. My suspicion is that WMP was behind it, but I don’t know.
The discs of the concertos by Vivaldi were the same in that ripping the second disc wrote over the firs, but this time, at least, there was no unexpected moving of files from one folder to another. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to separate the concertos into individual folders for tidiness if for nothing else.
[Even, even later. Well, 07.05.14. Since I wrote this nearly five years ago, I’ve acquired two Walkmans, which are a good deal more sophisticated than my original Aigo players (which are also still around, still sound, but only good for people who want to listen to individual songs rather than organised suites).
I did not originally appreciate WMP, which I thought was cantankerous, but which I now quite like for editing the metadata with music and for transferring music to my Walkmans.
I also have iTunes, which if I owned a Mac, I’d no doubt use in the same way. I’m not sure whether WMP does it’s job more efficiently or differently from Apple’s media player. At the moment, I’m using it for the creation of play lists of single suites.
I have a copy of Winamp, which was recently killed off, but which may see life after AOL. That’s the player I turn to when I want to play some music, but without a huge amount of fuss and bother. I normally use it in the mornings, playing music before I head off to school.
I’ve got Real Player at school, although I forget why. I think it might be because it enables me to download some videos and other things without a lot of fuss and bother, but I rarely use it like that.
I’ve just installed the latest version (RealPlayer Cloud) here at home, but it’s very slow and cranky, and seems to be obsessed with videos. I think I’m going to uninstall it, which won’t be the first time I’ve done that within half an hour of installing RealPlayer.]
By Peter Hopkirk.
Hopkirk’s book is about the activities of the Allied and Axis powers in Central Asia during World War I. The Turks were trying to re-establish the Ottoman Empire; the Germans were waiting for it to collapse so that they could take control of it; the British were trying to protect India; and the Russians were hoping to take control of Constantinople among other things.
The new Great Game was marked by marked by heroic events such as the trek Niedermayer and von Hentig made to Afghanistan, and their subsequent trips back to Germany; disappointments – the German embassy to Afghanistan; the bravery of the soldiers on both sides in the face of extreme odds; and murderous internecine rivalries among the various indigenous peoples in the region.
Hopkirk’s book paints an interesting picture of a region which seems little different today. It’s the same complex ethnic patchwork in which no one seems to be able to get on with anyone else, where the Great Game continues mostly with the same old players and a few new ones.
On the other hand, I sensed that this was a book written by an elderly journalist (he was born in 1930, I see from wikipedia). The language is often repetitive and emotive as if Hopkirk had forgotten what he’d written a couple of sentences previously and had forgotten that it was the 1990s not the 1930s. Nonetheless, the book is more enjoyable to read than those books by academic historians whose attempts at producing something populist never quite seem to work.
Sword of destiny.
When you were a child, someone decided to leave a shard of a broken magical sword in you, which didn’t kill you or even inconvenience you in the slightest. Until now. Your village of West Harbour comes under attack from Grey Dwarves, githyanki and their allies. That sends you to Neverwinter where you find a job with the local police routing out corruption in the force before making sure that some local orcs get their names on the endangered species list.
In Chapter 2, you’re accused of committing a massacre (no, not of the orcs) in the village of Ember. Don’t worry, they make you a squire and you get off on a legal technicality after you fight a duel against Black Garius’ chief minder. You even get knighted and a castle, which might sound nice until you find out that the previous occupant, Black Garius, wasn’t too keen on maintenance, leaving you saddled with a massive mortgage and recruitment problems.
In Chapter 3, when you’re not crippled by debt repayments, you’re a diplomat forging alliances and a sword, which happens to be the one weapon that can vanquish the King of Shadows. (Handy, eh?) And then it’s off to war. You start as the Captain of the regular infantry before joining the SAS to whack Black Garius (who must be a Diarrhoea Demon – he keeps coming back) and the King of Shadows. Unfortunately, the ceiling caves in and kills everyone – probably. The place must’ve had the same builders as the keep.
Unlike NWN, you actually get to run a party of PCs, although I still have a preference for the way things were organised in BG 2. The game seems to be trying to preserve some vague semblance of the grid-and-miniatures version of D&D as it inexorably shifts towards becoming a full-blown third- or first-person RPG like Morrowind or Oblivion. Although the final version of the game is less buggy than it was on release, there still seem to be a few hiccups such as occasions when PCs would become all shy, hang around doors, and refuse to come when called. They also seemed to display the usual sort of behaviour, either running off the leash or doing nothing. My character was quite good at doing nothing even although you’d think that the main character would move on to the next monster within a reasonable distance.
Game play was the usual sort of thing – pausing, trying to organise the troops and attacking. It seemed to generally ensure that no matter what choices you made, you kept going in the right direction, although there were times when a little more guidance was necessary. Some of the battles seemed to suffer from Custom Level Syndrome™ which states
If the number of monsters in an area is n and their Challenge Rating is m, then n and m must be greater than or equal to a number that can only be described as unreasonable.
In the battle against Black Garius, who’s merely a level 14 wizard (by this stage of the game, the party is about level 19 or 20), a balor (CR 20) appears along with a whole bunch of monsters. Out of curiosity, I checked the DMG to see what sort of odds the PCs might face. The answer was five or six CR 14 monsters or one CR 20 monster. Even with the larger party in the final two battles and a wand of resurrection, the Encounter Level is ridiculously high.
Unlike the traditional form of D&D, the game runs too quickly to take any reasonable action. Start quaffing healing potions and you’ll probably be cut down. Go to heal some other character, and someone’s going to die because you can’t be in eight places at once.
On the other hand, while the action in the game can be overly rapid (even if the entire battle sequence drags on), the cut scenes can be tediously long at times.
Anyway, my next stop is the original version of the game which I started a couple of years ago, but failed to complete partly because my old laptop was persistently overheating even in the depths of winter and partly because I was getting bored with the game. My main motivation this time is to find out what life is like beyond level 20 in the expansion packs.