Monday, 22 June 2015

Hockney Exhibition at Salts Mill

Suzanna has been learning about David Hockney at school so, being at a loose end on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, we went down to Salts Mill to look at the galleries. There was plenty of excitement every time we spotted a painting that she had seen at school like The Big Splash.

I wasn't that aware of Hockney's work and wandering round the 1853 Gallery I didn't see much that I really liked. A lot of his paintings seem too simplistic or childish for my taste. However, I did enjoy the exhibition on the third floor called The Arrival Of Spring consisting of a series of images created on his iPad, every day, on a lane through Woldgate Woods in East Yorkshire.

Inspecting all the paintings

On the face of it they are very colourful and well executed paintings from a distance.

A closer look reveals the smaller marks and effects that the app he has used has created

The overall effect is very impressive, especially considering the medium that he has used, even when you consider he's used a stylus for some more precise drawing.

Anyway the exhibition is well worth a look as is the rest of Salts Mill. The history of Salts Mill is interesting, the shops are nice to potter round (always loads of good books for sale) and the cake is good in the cafe too.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Android: Netrunner - First Impressions

In a rather positive move, The Guardian has started reviewing board games in it's regular games column. For someone who used to play Warhammer 40k when-I-was-a-lad I've been greatly cheered to see that it and some new contemporaries are still going strong. It's also interesting to read about games I was only dimly aware of like Magic: The Gathering.

Scanning through the "favourite board games" article, I noted the glowing review and subsequent article extolling the virtues of Android: Netrunner. Strategy, bluffing and an element of chance all in one game with a dystopian sci-fi theme? Sounds perfect!

One trip to my local friendly games shop and I was equipped with the "Core Set" which contains everything you need to get up and running.
** Support your local bricks-and-mortar shop! ** I bought my copy of Netrunner, and a couple of other games, from the friendly and helpful folk at IQ Gaming in Huddersfield. I kind of wish I lived a bit nearer and earned more money as I'd be down there a lot! Good service in helping me find the games I was looking for and directing me to places where I could find more info on the game and their regular game nights. A good vibe about the place with lots of games taking place in store even early on a Sunday morning.


There is a slickly produced video by Fantasy Flight Games which demonstrates the basic game mechanics. Whilst this gives a basic idea, the best intro video by far is Nam and Jeremy's which covers pretty much everything you need to know delivered with enthusiasm and humour.

Early Results

Me - "I'm going to play this."
Luke - "Hang on, what does this bit mean?"
* share a confused look* 
Both - "RULES!"

Following the recommendations in the manual, Luke and I have played 10 games with Jinteki (corp) vs Shaper (runner) from the core deck taking five goes at each faction. Overall score 6-4 to me and most of the games were very close. Playing with Luke is great because he likes geeky things too.

Luke and I showed the boy how to play and he enjoyed it so much he's been nagging to play again and again. I've also shown Louise how to play and, to my surprise, the really enjoyed it and demanded to play again despite us finishing our first game at quarter past ten on a school night!

Initial Thoughts

The game mechanics take a few games and some referencing the rules to get the hang of but we were into it by the end of the fourth round. No two games are identical, even when playing the same factions, due to the order in which the cards come out of the stack or R+D.

I was also surprised how differently the Shaper and Anarch runner factions played. Shaper is all about building your strong icebreaker rig steadily and a steady economy from Magnum Opus before launching a difficult to defend against attack. Anarch is, on the face of it, much more complicated to play with virus tokens everywhere. With Medium up and running you can quickly start to get lots of access to R+D. Throw a couple of Stimhacks in there and it just gets crazy.

More time is required to get the feel of the finer points of the strategy and I have the feeling that this game could very well being a long standing favourite with lots of replay value!

Geek out.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Musings on city running, art, the big and the small...

Just back from a long weekend in London with some friends which involved lots of catching up, lazing around, eating brilliant food (loads of sushi, Ian's courgetty spaghetti, my homemade focaccia), going to loads of museums and being a complete tourist. The British Museum was a particular highlight for me; seeing the Lewis Chessmen and the Rosetta Stone was well worthwhile. I've no idea how we managed to fit in as much as we did and the days flew past.

Some lovely noms

After eating a not insignificant amount of cake, sourdough bread and goats cheese the day before I felt like I really needed to work off some of the calories so went for a longer than expected trot.


Following the route we walked on Saturday, I headed out of Blackheath, across the heath itself and past the London Marathon start line before heading past the Greenwich Royal Observatory to find a great view of the city.

From there a short downhill hurtle, startling sluggish squirrels and ponderous wood pigeons and through the streets to the Cutty Sark where I met Albert the Harris Hawk (complete with trained hi-viz arm) on his Monday morning pigeon scaring round.

The waterfront afforded a glimpse of the Millennium Dome (or whatever it is called these days) and the sweep of the river around the Isle of Dogs. The smell of the Thames area seemed slighty salty, rotten and muddy like one of the old wooden jettys that still punctuate bits of the shore. The sounds were the wind, the washing of the river on the bank, clanking of the various bits of industrial units or building sites and the grumbling of passing boats and water taxis. It made for an interesting and pleasant running atmosphere, for the novelty if nothing else.

Pleasingly I had the Thames path mostly to myself apart from the odd jogger coming the other way. Having heard anecdotally that runners in London don't do eye contact, nods or smiles, I can confirm that this is most certainly the case. People in the city, more so than elsewhere I find, seem to exist in a tunnel wherein it is them, their destination and nothing else. I suppose it is a defence mechanism to stop them from becoming overwhelmed by the sheer weight of people on the pavement, on the roads, on the tube or bus. London is so crammed in, so squeezed that even the streets feel hemmed in and enclosed, almost pushing you inside yourself. I guess I'm just calibrated for open spaces.


There are several bits of modern artwork and sculpture along the Thames as part of The Line. The abstract signpost above is mounted on the Greenwich Meridian, pointing due north with the number representing the number of miles necessary to travel around the globe to arrive back "here" at the starting point. I'm pleased to see they used the correct figure that accounts for the fact that the earth is an oblate spheroid and not a perfect sphere which goes to show you don't stop being an engineer just because you are on holiday. Put that number into perspective with the amount of miles that people drive, run, or cycle every year and it gives you a bit more of a sense of scale as to the size of the planet and perhaps how small we are in comparison.

"A slice of ship, Vicar? One lump or two?"

Proving that folk will nick anything that isn't nailed down, this poor artist has had most of his ship purloined leaving on bricks. He's not going to be able to sail it anywhere, least in the name of art.

Beneath the Emirates Air Line gondola sits Antony Gormley's "Quantum Cloud" which seemingly crackles like static on a untuned radio. You can make out the characteristic Gormley figure inside the cloud and the whole construction sits really well against the backdrop of the sky and the city. Thinking about the relative vastness of space between the elementary particles that make up matter and the cloud of electrons around the nucleus making you contemplate the small through the medium of the very big. If that last sentence doesn't get me in Private Eye's "Pseuds Corner" then I quit.

A bit further than I originally planned to run but I continued out along towards the Thames Barrier. I'd never seen it in the flesh but I remember it being in a book on buildings I read when I was younger so was quite keen to take a look. They could have chosen to dress up these flood gates however they wished but they chose almost pearlescent art deco teeth, appropriate for the mouth of the river. Sadly the vistors centre wasn't open, and even if it was I'm not sure a sweaty Yorkshireman would be first on the list to get in.

So instead of the usual fell top views and ups and downs I traded it all in for the life of a city runner for a day. Whilst it's great to see the sights of The Big Smoke on a run I wouldn't swap it for a blowy moorland shuffle any day.


Having not run for this distance on hard surface for a long while, I can confirm that my legs were in agony for the next few days. I must meditate on my own advice once in a while!


Wednesday, 10 June 2015


Karl and I went to Gisburn Forest for a bash around the mountain bike trails last night for a cheeky (not as in Nando's) post work circuit. This is the first time I've been to Gisburn and the first time I've done a red trail having stuck to greens and blues before.

The evening got off to an auspicious start after we found a ticket in the parking meter that has already been payed for. If it was you chaps in the Hope van that paid for our parking then thanks! Karl says he's paid for it anyway as he runs Hope hubs on his bike.

There are several stunning views on the Red 8 circuit but I was too busy trying to hold on and keep up with Karl for most of the way to stop and take photos.

The climbing takes it's toll on Karl ;)
He was fine really!

The volunteers who have built the trails have done a superb job. There is a great mix of rocky climbing and descending, swooping berms, gravel road for the climbs, and "north shore" board walks.

Well worth mentioning Hully Gully - the most fun I've ever had on two wheels! Massive swooping berms, maybe 20ft high that you plummet down and whiz up the other side.

Hully Gully (C)
I swear it felt much bigger than it looks!

When you are descending with your bum hanging off the back of the saddle with your entire world and vision is this wall of earth approaching very quickly before the g-force pushes you back down into the saddle and SWOOP you are at the top and pointing the bars down towards the next one. I looked like the Joker when we got to the bottom I was smiling that much.

"And as you can see, I'm a lot happier."

Plenty of the trail was at the limit of my comfort zone if not necessarily my technical ability and it made for a superb evening out. However, I surprised myself several times after getting through a tricky section or managing to climb a steep rocky bit without stopping. The things I struggle with the most are technical rocky bits and low speed balance like narrow logs. However practice will make perfect!

Ride off into the sunset...