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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

"If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible, he is almost certainly right; but if he says that it is impossible, he is very probably wrong."- Arthur C. Clarke

My dear Bagginses and Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks, Grubbs, Chubbs, Hornblowers, Bolgers, Bracegirdles and Proudfoots.

Today is my 24th post!

Alas, twenty-four posts is far too short a time to post among such excellent and admirable hobbits. I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

I, uh, I h-have things to do. So this won't be too long a post! (Nothing like the previous one, well done if you got through all of that and feel free to comment)

So, yesterday I got back from the windy city. This was my last trip while in the U.S. (apart from the trip home, but I'm not counting that one). Unfortunately I didn't actually get to see any of Chicago itself, I did get to spend lots of time at Argonne National Lab (after they eventually decided to let a quite-frankly dangerous alien, possible criminal in). We were part of an experiment at ATLAS, since this isn't really meant to be a science blog I'll just say it was a fast timing experiment using some LaBr detectors, to study lifetimes in 181Au, people can read up more on that with the fantasticness that is google, or Phys Rev.

I spent most of the time there finishing off bits of my paper and got to play small amounts of the new Old Republic game as well as good old Skyrim! This was really good, kinda glad that I got to take my laptop!

We also managed to get down the pub a few times (definitely enough) for some farwell drinks with Nathan and Volker. Also finished up what was hopefully my last night shift ever on monday morning! Fingers crossed...

Right, so this will be the last blog post which I will be making from here in the U.S. Fortunately for all of you, I will be continuing this blog from the U.K. for those people in NEW England who want to keep up to date on what I am doing in OLD England, (or Wales).
This has been a fantastic year, full of wonderful experiences. I would like to thank pathfinder people again, mainly Ben and David for getting me into rpgs this year. Everyone at the lab, including those who visited and made for some great nights out and helped me along with my project, even if that was just loads of table football (which is what I need to start calling it!) Everyone at Nexus who kept my board gaming at a more than acceptable and generally the American populace for being so very welcoming and friendly. :)

I will miss America, it's wonderful sights and food (Buffolo wings). Looking forward to getting back to England now though. Looking forward to seeing Soph a lot now! Only like 3 days now!
And so,
I regret to announce — this is The End. I am going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell.

Achievement Unlocked!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

"Life begins at retirement." -Author Unknown

So, not actually the penultimate post people. But plenty of perfect alliteration in this opening prose!

So, it's gonna be back to gaming, more specifically Pathfinder, more specifically the retirement of Bunkle & Trig & Bungo & Morris & Arcadian (I think I remembered Art's character's name!)
So, after a pretty intense couple of months, playing Bunkle Findbiddle Murrik Nacklewinkle Turni (my gnome Barbarian) up to high levels, we were finally ready to face the retirement arc.

Woah Matt.... wait... they don't know about how awesome Bunkle is!
Better tell the story now then! Bunkle up! It's gonna be a long one... hahaha

So Bunkle grew to his ripe age of 136 in the small gnome community of Weltling, near Whistledown. A bit of a trickster, him and his best friend Bleebert were known pranksters about the village, mostly picking on the nearby Goblin population and the townsfolk (think Merry & Pippin). Well eventually things turned ugly, as they always would... they starting trying to out-prank each other... Bunkle was by far the more skilled of the two, getting into far more trouble, and getting his friend into far more trouble. Until... a passing magician came through Weltling, selling scrolls. Bleebert managed to pull a couple of scams to raise the money for a permanency scroll. He slept that night, so that his small amount of Arcane prowess would return (having already used dancing lights as a distraction to steal the gold pouch from Old Margaretta) and then crept into Bunkle's room as he slept, and cast prestidigitation on his hair, turning it white from it's once firey red! He then took out the studied scroll and attempted to cast permanency, making Bunkle believe he was Bleaching. However, Bleebert had very little training in the use of scrolls or the arcane arts, and it backfired! The spell acted as if permanency was cast, but as a curse on Bunkle, not allowing Bleebert to tell him what he had done!

Okay non- pathfinder people, if you're still with me... Bleaching... Basically gnomes in Golarion have to continually be awesome and fun and exciting, else they start "Bleaching". During this process they lose all of the once vibrant color, starting with their hair. This starts the end of a gnome's natural lifespan, and is thus to be greatly avoided!

Hahaha, Bleebert is upset!
So anyway, back to the story! Bunkle awoke and looked into the mirror, to his great shock! He at first did not know for sure that it was an arcane effect or the Bleaching itself. So, assuming it was Bleebert, he went and asked, knowing Bleebert was his friend, and would just laugh and fess-up to the crime, knowing that he had got the better of Bunkle. However, Bleebert was insistant, for days on end, that he had not done as such. So Bunkle fully believed he was Bleaching...

Bunkle knew he had to change his life and make himself far more interesting and fun than he already was being, and thus decided to change his tact. He went back on his previous tricksy ways, and decided to become an adventurer. But, he would need help in this. He managed to obtain some fantastic full-plate from the Armorsmith at the village, including an ornate helmet, to cover his affliction fully, including an intricate set of straps, such that it would never be removed! In preparation, he also took part in a dangerous ritual, suggested by the village Elder, to commune with passed ancestors, which would help him in his troubles. With their help in combat, he would be unstoppable. So, he headed off to the Isle of Kryta, to the Grand Lodge of Absalom, ready to start his new adventuring life, while Bleebert stayed, upset at what he had done to his best friend!

Yeah, something like that!
 His first few adventures with the pathfinder society were not as exciting as he would like. But Bunkle was always able to bring more fun into said adventures, and was more than able to make more danger. Most missions he was sent on ended with his felling several foes in a glorious rampage and then falling to a devious trap or stupid, backstabbing rogues! No honor! He also picked up Draconic to commune with his spirits better, but they still always seemed to make life difficult, fumbling with his items, or  dropping his prized Nodachi (from his missions in Tian Xia) off the side of waterfalls!

(so now we are onto actual gameplay {still with me}) Feel free to go and get a coffee, that's what I'm doing now! See you in a sec!

So, I'm back... You're back, everyone is back for more of Bunkle's story!

Right, so Bunkle met his fair share of awesome characters, such as Evedine and Azlebern on his adventuring, but none stood out to him more than Trig... Ah Trig. Also a gnome, also wearing full-plate, she was the most attractive and charming thing Bunkle had ever met in his entire life! Every time he adventured with her, it was amazing fun! He was also able to slice his way to glorious victories, against titanic foes and then not be knocked out in return! This allowed him to enjoy the thrill of more combats, instead of the glory of 12 seconds of combat! However, Bunkle was far too shy to ever ask Trig if she was interested, so he went to Azlebern, who now owned them both, and asked for his advice. Azlebern was slightly confused about this, but seemed fine with the idea of Trig and Bunkle, despite some mis-communication...

Sad part...

So Trig and Bunkle were sent by the Pathfinder society, with their friends, Maria, Daven and Morris (the crazy Pyromaniac gnome) on a mission to return some artifacts. They were given very little directions and thus had to try and track down the thieves... which no-one was very good at... so it was a fairly dull tracking through the woods, which Bunkle and Trig attempted to make more fun by jousting with trees and playing with dancing lights... However, eventually Bunkle had had enough and jumped into a sinister looking section of canal. Of course, he was instantly jumped by giant slug monsters and epic combat began, with Trig jumping straight in after him.
After a glorious victory over the slug creatures, Bunkle and Trig were hoisted out of the canal. Bunkle looked onto the shore to see a beautiful, shiny necklace, which he thought would look amazing on Trig, but he was too shy, so yelled "MINE" and put it on!
The necklace started immediately chocking him, as Trig and the rest of the party went through wand after wand of cure light wounds, wracking their memories and knowledge, thinking of a way to get the necklace off. Eventually Bunkle realized that it was useless, knowing that he would die, he didn't want Trig to see the life drain from his eyes, the very thing he became a pathfinder to avoid. He knew that Trig must first know how he felt, and the truth about him. So, with spirits still swirling around him, he began to unbuckle his helmet...
After the final buckle was undone, Trig wasting the final charge on her second wand of cure light wounds, he pulled his helmet off, Trig & Morris were stunned to see Bunkle to be Bleaching (both failing to spot it as the arcane arts it actually was). Bunkle then spoke 3 simple words, tears streaming down his face, before jumping headfirst, drawing his Tetsubo as he did so, into the murky waters of the canal, knocking himself unconcious with it after he submerged, thus allowing the necklace to finish it's job, killing him before Trig could get to his body...

The three words: "I love you Trig"

Bunkle was only told small amounts of what happened next, since he didn't really want to know what happened while he was dead... suffice to say, Trig carried him to the next place along their voyage, finding a noble centaur cleric, who was able to raise him.

Bunkle and Trig didn't talk about what happened that day for a long time, after Bunkle was brought back, they walked (hand in hand) around the newly found complex for hours, neither knowing what to say, while other party members investigated the missing items, including a demonic jar...

Eventually, they were called upon my the party and some friendly centaurs, including the cleric, as the auction for the stolen items began! As so often happens, things didn't go to plan at all. Some Bard, I forget his name, decided to start using the jar to summon demons from the Abyss. Demons of greater and greater strength began pouring out of the jar. Bunkle forgot his previous troubles and starting sending them back to where they came from, with a roar of "FOR TRIG" (which Trig didn't understand as it was in Draconic). Maria was shooting the jar consistantly, releasing bullet after bullet from her pistol, Daven summoned creatures from heaven itself to combat their opposites, flying over Bunkle's head and shooting into the fray. While all this time, a Balor was slowly materializing from it's own stream out of the jar.

 Bunkle finished off another great daemon, in a Death or Glory move, sliding between it's legs to cut up at it's torso, he turned, seeing the great deamon, now flying over the other side of the room, he jumped into combat with a new grace and speed, flashing his blade across it's face, making it snarl back at him with hatred. But a glimmer of silver caught his eye. Looking around as quickly as he dared, he saw Trig, now walking on the ceiling had drawn a ring, and thrown it down to him, it now lay in the ground at his feet. Bunkle didn't even think about the daemon as he scrambled to pick it up, it meaning more to him than anything he had ever received... Trig liked him... possibly even loved him too. As he grabbed he ring, the daemon's claws raked across his back, the tainted touch burning him greatly. He put it on, feeling a great connection to Trig, who dropped to the floor next to him. They took one look at each other, knowing what must be done, and began combat with the massive hulking daemon.

Bunkle finished the daemon, severing down one of it's shoulders, just as it was raking it's great talons towards his face, in a deadly maneuver. The daemon feel to the floor as Bunkle turned to face his new adversary, looking out of the window at the partially formed Balor. Bunkle began sprinting towards to window, Nodachi drawn, ready to hurl himself out of the window, slicing at the Balor as he did so, as a Bullet, aimed at the cracked jar whistled past his shoulder. The bullet split the jar in two, sucking the Balor with a howl back into the jar, banishing it from this realm. Victory was theirs!

Seemed appropriate...
Do I still have everyone? Sorry if it's a bit long...

 So, Bunkle and Trig's adventure continued in a similar fashion, after many great battles and continuous gnomish sqabbles, probably originating from who would pay for his ressurection. They went on, neither knowing what was meant by the ring's they shared, Bunkle was hoping it was a engagement ring, but no confirmation was given. That is, until one of their great adventuring companions, Bungo the eigthling, (8inch tall, random coloured halfling, so charismatic that he seems to attracts followers of every description, everyone wants to be his friend!)

So Trig, Bunkle, Bungo and some new friends, were on an adventure, saving a gnome village from the possibility of an attack by evil monstrous creatures, orchestrated by a pit fiend, from hell itself! After figuring out that the pit fiend was setting up a final attack on the village from a nearby lake, summoning it and defeating it with the use of several stone tablets they had bargained for that very day.
Just before flying out over the lack, Bungo asked the question: "So, are you two engaged or not?"
Bungo:"Well, it's about time you two got your acts together about it, I heard about your "engagment", and it would seem very fitting if I were to marry you two right here, in the presence of this Pit Fiend, as we defeat it"
Bunkle: " .... thank you Bungo"
Trig: "That would be awesome!"
(I don't actually remember exactly what was said, so I may have paraphrased a lot!)

So, ready to initiate combat marriage, Bunkle and Trig, with Bungo and other new friends (the Poppeteeress) flew out over the lake, searching for the Pit fiend, but found them first. 

Reaching out a great hand from under the water, the pit fiend, half water, half devil, grabbed at Bunkle. And so the ceremony began...
First, as Trig unfastened his helmet, Bunkle began slashing at the watery clasping hand, all the time Trig holding on to his shoulders.  Bungo then began the ceremony as Trig and Bunkle's helmets fell into the murky lake below...
The Pit fiend revealed it's massive form, raising out of the lake like a leviathan. It flew up to face Bunkle in combat, each slashing at each other, Bunkle barely able to hear the question asked by Bungo, but he knew the answer. With two great slashes of his sword, he yelled " I DO!" as the beast screamed in agony.
Combat continued, with the strange companion of the new gnome friend slashing into the creature with it's many claws and Maria sending Bullet after Bullet deep into the central mass. Bunkle barely heard Trig repeat his words from previously, due to the amount of excitement and adrenaline coursing through him. A couple more deft swings of his Nodachi, severing several of the viscious talons clean off, the beast appeared weak. Bungo flew next to them, Bunkle also feeling weakened by the force of blows striking him, and Bungo pronounced: "I now declare you, man and wife, you may now kiss the Bride." As Bunkle kissed Trig for the first time, he felt life and stregth return into his body, wounds closed about him, and a final bullet, shot from below erupted the creature, causing it to fall, defeated down into the lake, dead.
Choirs of angels sang about them as fireworks lit up the sky over the lake, with the words Bunkle & Trig Turni. (All created by Bungo). As they flew down, ciricling, Bunkle knew he had everything he needed, well.... nearly everything, but Bungo had that covered too!

After the chaos of combat died down, Bungo spoke to Bunkle.
Bungo: "Why have you changed your hair to be white?"
Bunkle: "What do you mean, I'm bleaching, though hopefully no more, now that I have Trig!"
Bungo: "No, I recognize that, it's been put there as a spell"
Bunkle: BLEEBERT!!!!

Bunkle ran Absolom, via the fastest means he could, payed for the highest level wizard in the grand lodge itself to remove the arcane curse from him. Bunkle emerged, his hair red with even more flame than he had previously, smile beaming across his face. Showing Trig was about as happy as he could have been, as they flew back to their island, purchased with favors at the Grand Lodge, just off the coast of Kryta.

So, I hope people enjoyed that part of Bunkle's story... If you're still here.
I would like that thank David and Jane mostly, for bringing this character's backstory out to be as much fun as it possibly could be. Also, to all of the other Pathfinder people, Alex, Aaron, Nihar, Michael and other people who dropped in, for making pathfinder the amazing game which it is.

This was meant to be a blog post about Anonycon, so I'll just say a sentence about that quickly here.

So David was in charge of Anonycon PFS this year, and did a fantastic job, mainly for letting me play! I got to play 5 slots I think, which never happens at conventions! It was a very fitting setting for my last convention in the U.S., since it was the exact same hotel as Conncon, though under a different name, which (if you look back) was my first convention here in the states. It was a great con, Ben came up from Texas to GM some games (including the wedding!) So even though it was fairly quiet in terms of recent PFS cons, it was fantastic!

Since then, we finished off the Echoes of the EverWar series, which was good fun, except Bunkle dying again in the final combat! This put Bunkle, Trig and Bungo onto level 12, or PFS retirement age!
So, before I left, back to Englandland, we decided to get the retirement arc done. Art came up (or down) from NJ to play and Nihar offered to run, so we could get that all done in a weekend!
I won't give anything away about the retirement arc, so avoiding all spoilers, it was great fun! Really surprising stuff and a good way to finish off these characters, though I hope to still be able to play via Skype through the high level modules!

I'm done now! I am NOT checking this for spelling or grammer because I just looked at how long it now is! If you see anything and it needs to be changed, let me know and I will fix it!
So, that is my tribute to Bunkle, now Venture Captain of the pathfinder society.
May he live long...

Not a bad pic of Bunkle, (Bunkle is more attractive)
Achievement Unlocked! (In fact, if you honestly read all of that, have two!)

Next WILL be the penultimate post, about my trip to Argonne National Lab, before I finally return to England, in LESS THAN A WEEK (look at the top right for more up to date!)

Also: Insert inside joke:

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love. ~Albert Einstein

Wise man. Also, very obvious... Still, an appropriate quote I believe.

On 18th November, I flew back to England.  Good old England... But I had a reason, I had a mission. I had a purpose...
My plan was to surprise Soph and turn up, fully dapper in her living room on the morn of her sisters' wedding, which she was convinced I was not going to be able to make it to.
So, after a night of not sleeping (to try and sleep on the plane), I was off to fly back to the green and pleasant land I call home.
Needless to say, lots of awesome comic book movies were watched on the plane etc... etc... and I arrived in LHR at 8:30am British time (3:30) having got no sleep whatsoever!

The wedding was at around noon, so I just about had enough time to rush home, change, grab some food (really had no idea what meal that was) and head back out the door. Onwards! To surprise Soph!

Watermark will be deleted when Lucy
get the pictures!
So, Soph's dad came up with a brilliant plan. As the Bride and Bridesmaids were getting their hair or something done, I arrived at Soph's house, looking rather dapper... even if I do say so myself.
Soph arrived back eventually and I hid in the garage, while her Mum pretended to get a picture of them all, so I could walk in and get Soph's reaction... (no, you can't see the video.)
Ah yes. Soph's reaction. I'm pretty sure it was all emotions at once. Impressive. Though eventually she was just really really happy to see me, even in my sleep-deprived 2 5-hour energy, state. (Does that make it 10-hour, or just 5-hour super energy?)

So anyway, we went off to the wedding...
It was a lovely venue and ceremony, with much tired dancing and an actual pint of ale (even if it was Boddingtons) afterwards. Lucy looked fantastic (as did everyone) and I managed to stay awake up until the final hour or so, where I crashed. (Coffee is a wonderful thing)

So, it then went to a week in good ol' England, most of which was spent in the company of people in Guildford, mainly Soph, which was awesome. I managed to surprise the physics guys by turning up at the end of their lecture. Got a pretty big man-hug from Travis for that! (I'm calling it a man-hug, but it was a wonderful, special moment of sharing feelings...) Also big hug from all the physics guys, meant I was pretty overwhelmed!
Hanging out in Guildford was awesome, got to go back to my old Gamesoc, which is still doing really well! Looking forward to getting back to that, for lots of awesome gaming. MORE 40K!

Finally, I headed home (to parent's house) on Sat, to spend time at home quickly, including seeing parents and Granny and meeting Rachael's boyfriend (finally) for a really nice meal out in Wewlyn (or however it's spelt)

Flying back to the US was actually a pretty nice trip, with extra legroom and everything, and I arrived in New Haven, for my final 4 weeks here at around 9pm on Sunday...

The next (and probably penultimate) post will be Anonycon! My final convention here! There might be some extra Pathfinder stuff in there, so stay on the edge of your seats people!

I don't think I could have not put this...

Achievement unlocked!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gary Gygax

Hey people.
We're back to gaming conventions! Specifically, PATHFINDER! (Massive surprise for anyone? No?)
The wonderfulness that is our NYC Venture Captain, Mr. Art Lobdell himself (round of applause) organised myself, David and Jane from New Haven to go up to CarnageCon, a rpg and board gaming convention up in Vermont.
First of all, most stunningly beautiful place for a convention I have actually ever been to (see photo)
That was the actual view out of the room from which we were playing pathfinder. Just take a moment to drink in that view, I'll let you.......
Done? Cool, then I'll continue.

Convention was 3 days of pathfinder, and as usual I was signed up to GM pretty much all the time, which was good because it was SO BUSY! It was so packed that we managed to play the battle interactive, which needs 5 tables all playing the same thing at the same time, which is fantastic for such an out-of-the-way convention.

We did have to chuck Jane into the deep end (of GMing, not the lake) due to this stupid amount of players, but I think with a 2 min coaching from David & I, she took to it amazingly and GM'd a table of 8 players to start off with (if you've ever GM'd, you know what that's like) followed by the BI.

This was indeed a shattering weekend, playing both midnight slots, for a total of like 4 then 3 hours sleep (thanks to the wonderful clock change half-way through the convention!) But totally worth it. Some fantastic tables, especially Sewer Dragons table, so if any of my players read this, then thanks again!

Keeping these a little short and sweet, since I still am playing catch-up, but the next one will be my impromptu return to England, to a certain someone's surprise!

Jane was nothing like this though....
Achievement unlocked!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

"Winging it is an exceptional and necessary skill" - Matt Hinton

Still playing catch-up here! It is very tricky to keep up with sooooo much other stuff to do.
So sorry people., but here is another installment right now!

So October something (don't remember anymore) saw the DNP come in, around a week after Elle left.
This meant that I didn't have very long to get my presentation finished and done before I had to talk about my project while here to a room full of Nuclear Structure Professors.

East Lansing was very cold and flat, yet still beautiful in fall. Spending most of the time in the seminar hotel meant that it was difficult to appreciate, but at least it was nice and warm.

My presentation was on the Thursday, the second day, in the morning. After a long travel, I was glad to have this out of the way early, especially as I only got it done the day before we left for the DNP itself.
The presentation went well, I believe, and I got a few people saying as such, which is always nice.

After the presentation, we had undergrads to please, by at least pretending to be interested in their presentations. However, to make this a bearable experience, they gave all the judgemental grad students and professors free alcohol! The guys from Richmond & I, whom it was really good to see again, had a fair number of drinks here. We then had the grad student event, with more free alchohol, so quite a lot was drunk that day...

Friday, with a slight hangover, was more presentations to watch and promoting Yale to the undergrads in the afternoon. Saturday was similar again, finally leaving MSU in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, we got stuck in Detroit airport for ages (like 7 hours) due to snow back in New England. By this point I did just want to be back home,  since my brain was fried from too much physics over the past week!

Just a quick post today, since I'm still trying to play catch-up! See you all next time for another convention post!

Achievement Unlocked!

Monday, 14 November 2011

"Failing to plan is planning to fail." - Alan Lakein

And I certainly wasn't planning in any way about getting this blog done at any sort of reasonable time.
Lots of stuff has currently passed and therefore need to do a bit of a catch-up, starting with a visit from Miss Elle!

I had a week break between Mandy and Elle visiting, which was kinda nice, meant I got loads of work done at least!
Elle arrived late (not as late as Mandy, but still late) at the completely wrong place on Tuesday 4th Oct (you can see how late this post is now) she soon settled in to life in New Haven, and was quickly complaining about all the things which British people have been commenting about when they visit here, the wooden houses, the accents, all of that!

First weekend here, I had arranged to run PFS (what else?) at a convention in upstate New York, Schenektedekdeddy, or something like that!
Convention was good fun, got to play lots of PFS and even got some board gaming in on the Sunday, so a big thanks to Art for sorting out my attending another great convention, met some really great people there.

Elle and I then had a week hanging out in and around New Haven, seeing the town and a quick trip to shop in Stamford. This lead up to Elle's last weekend here and the guarenteed trip to NYC BABY!!

We managed to spend 2 days in New York. Sat was sightseeing and meeting up with Mr Rosh et al, which was really awesome. Managed to get caught up in Occupy Wall Street, which was ermmm, interesting!
Sunday was shopping day, after a night at the YMCA (which was slightly too much like a jail for my liking!)  Still, lots of shopping was done, and after a VERY tiring weekend we returned to New Haven.

Elle finally dissapeared a few days later, leaving me alone here, with a LOT of work to do, getting ready for the DNP, but that's another blog. It was fantastic to see Elle, have missed everyone from home such a lot, but I'm sure I'll miss everyone here a lot too.
Managed to learn very tiny amounts of Polish while she was here, caught up a lot and got all of the episodes of Parks on Netflix watched, which is really good! :)

It's not actually too long now until I get back to England (as people can see from the corner of my blog)

So, until next time people!

Achievement unlocked!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

"Punch it, Chewie!" - Han Solo, Star Wars- Heir to the Empire

So it's onto my third audiobook review.
Feeling like getting my geek on a little more than usual I went for Star Wars- Heir to the Empire (Part one).

This is a sequel to the well known and well loved Star Wars Trilogy. (Yes, there are only 3 true Star Wars films.)

Set 5 years after The Return of the Jedi, the story follows all well loved characters from the films in their new struggled to hold the peace of the New Republic. Adding some new fruitful and interesting characters to the story helps keep this fresh, while not feeling out of place in any way...

As the title suggests, the story also follows an Imperial Grand Admiral and his mission to win back control of the galaxy over from Rebel Scum, but I'll try not to give too much away...

So, my main loves of this book:

Firstly it was certainly the continuation of the Star Wars story, which I have always felt to be somewhat incomplete. I personally love stories that continue on way after the final battle is won and the antagonist defeated, as people will know from my love of the David Eddings and J.R.R. Tolkien stories. This answered many questions from the films, which were left irritatingly unanswered and managed to use most of them as clever plot devices.

Secondly, the production of this audiobook was impressive. Not only does Marc Thompson have an impressive array of voices, sounding increadiably close to Mark Hammil,  Harrison Ford and even  Carrie Fisher! Add that to the laser shots in the background, the sound of the forest, R2D2 whistles and the well loved lightsaber sounds and this is a story you can easily lose yourself in.

Overall this is a complelling read, one which you can get stuck listening to for hours, very well written and read. Definitely a good pick! I am greatly looking forward to the unabridged release of the second book on audible, which I will snap up immediately, since this left such a massive cliffhanger that I need to know what goes on next!

On other notes I have much stuff to update this blog with, including visit from Miss Franklin, the DNP conference and probably some gaming conventions soon! So stay tuned for when I have time to do those!

My next audiobook will be Rides a Dread Legion by Raymond E. Feist, I am getting a little behind, but work has calmed down slightly now after the DNP and I should be able to keep up with the audiobooks.

and now for a classic...

Also, now on over 1,000 views. Awesome! ^
Achievement Unlocked!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Looking in their eyes, I see a memory, I never realized, how happy you made me. Oh Mandy! - Barry Manilow

Hey people,
Back on the blogging bandwagon with a visit from Mr. Andrew Knapton (Mandy)!

Mr Knapton made his way to the U.S. on the 17th Sept, for a 10 day visit here. Suffice to say, it didn't start off exactly as he had planed when, due to delayed flights and a ripped off taxi fare, he finally made it to my house in New Haven at around 3:30am. We both said a quick hello etc, and promptly fell asleep!

I won't go through everyday, especially since a large amount of the days were me working and then seeing Mandy in the evening for some kind of awesomeness (such as Battlestar Galactica on the projector) or going out for a tasty American meal. (I promised Mandy he would put on some weight and I believe he did, I win!)

So I'll just go over the main things. The main trip, in which we partook, was a crazy day of sights and everything in NYC. I enjoyed being a slight tour-guide for the city. Lets see, what did we see? Central park, times square, up the Rock, midtown comics, GC.... etc... etc... it was a mental day that also ended in a power walk to catch the last slightly reasonable train back to New Haven. Suffice to say we slept until 1pm the following day...

Oh, we also spent a long time in the Nintendo world, which is really cool! Mandy bought a strange squirrel-like creature, not sure why... :p

Mandy also joined in with playing Pathfinder Society, in my attempt to convert everyone I know over to the Pathfinder system (so far it's going well) he now has a 2nd level halfling, which is awesome!

We also played frisbee up the top of East Rock Park, Mandy saw Stamford and New Haven. We went to the gym and Mandy had a swim I believe. but chickened out early cause it was cold...

It was really awesome to see Mr. Knapton, just hanging out with someone around is really awesome. I hope he enjoyed his little holiday here in the U.S., since I had a great time!

Achievement Unlocked!  

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

"Imagine that Dungeons and Dragons and an '80s video arcade made hot, sweet love, and their child was raised in Azeroth. If you're not already experiencing a nerdgasm at the thought, I don't want to know you."- Reviewer

Okay it's time for audiobook review number two! (Hey, that rhymes!)
It's time for Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, read by Will Wheaton.

I really don't think that I can do as much justice as the above reviewer did with their finishing statements about Ready Player One. It really is an absolute Nerdgasm of a book. Fantastic.

Ready Player One is set in the not too distant future, 2044, when the Earth is ravaged by the lack of remaining resources and poverty is everywhere. The only escape for everyone is the OASIS, a MMO like no other. There are thousands of worlds within it, ranging from sci-fi to fantasy, to just worlds filled with schools! Everyone on Earth has some sort of OASIS character, even if that is just their job, everything is run through the OASIS.
The book starts with the will of the creator of the OASIS, leaving a final message: since he is heirless, he will leave his entire vast fortune to the one player who can find his Easter Egg, hidden within the game.
This creates wide controversy as entire clans, known as egg-hunters (or gunters) spring up to try and find the clues that will lead them to the gate, studying all sorts of 80s/90s nostalgia (since the creator was greatly known for his love of the era). The book follows one particular Gunter (known in the OASIS as Parzival), on his quest to find the Egg within the OASIS.

A very cleverly written and suspenseful book, filled with references to everything that geeks and nerds will love, this is certainly an enjoyable read. I'm really trying not to give away any of the plot here, since I 100% recommend, to each and every one of my geeky friends (you know who you are), to go and and either read this book, or get the audiobook. It is fantastic. Loved every second! (If you don't want to, read the title of this blog again, still no? READ IT AGAIN! then go buy the book)

Fingers crossed that my next book will be as wonderful, Star Wars: Heir to the Empire.

Achievement Unlocked!

Matt Out.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts. ~Author Unknown

Hello again people.
Not sure if anyone is still reading this, but hopefully there are some people stuff out there.

So from sometime in Aug (22nd) to early September (12th) my parents, sister (3 mentions) and Sophster came to see me, so this will be a blog about that.

Okay. For those of you that don't know my family, they look like this: (me, dad, mum, Rach), in cheers!

(yes it was tricky finding a picture of mum, because she likes to be behind the camera)

Okay, so how did we spend our time? We started off hanging out in New Haven, since I had to work. :( But this meant that my family got to see Yale and some of the New England coastline.

Then my parents and sister dissapeared off to the mountains for a weekend, so Soph & I were left in New Haven, since I had some work to get done, again...

This was about when Hurricane Irene hit. Which Soph & I might have slept through.... we still witnessed the damage though and the irritating loss of power which occurred on only my end of Edwards street! This meant that we spent most of the weekend at the lab, which had power and played lots of Quarriors (which is an awesome game, look forward to that one GameSoc!)

Soph & I left after the storm (still with no power at home) for Boston on then bus  Monday morning. We met my parents at the hotel in the afternoon and so my holiday could start!

We stayed in Boston for 2 nights and managed to see a large amount of the city, but the main highlight for me was going whale watching off the coast of Boston (see Soph's facebook for more pictures) It can only really be described by actually doing it, so I won't try here, but it was fantastic.
We also managed to see Harvard, which was really pretty, but not as nice as Yale (I think I'm under obligation to say that) and Cheers!

After Boston, we headed into RI, to see Providence. Here, we saw Brown University, went shopping, saw the city and had a really HUUUUGGEEE meal. We only stayed here for a night, before moving along to Cape Cod, where a more traditional Hinton holiday could start, i.e. a relax!

We stayed at a small resort with it's own beach and had a nice relax, pottering around to the nearby towns, or up the coast to another beach etc... which was wonderful, I was really ready for a rest at this point! So that really was great to do!

Following this, we spend a few days hanging out in New Haven, since I had to get back to work. My family did some more chillin' as we prepared to hit NYC the next (and final) weekend.

NYC is an awesome city. We stayed out in Queens and got the subway in each day. Having 3 days in total was a good plan. Meant that we weren't too rushed and managed to see loads of stuff. Statue of liberty, times square, central park, rockerfeller center, empire state, Macy's.... it goes on and on. There is so much to do in NYC. Oh, we also saw the Chicago musical, which was really good.

Soph & my family then left really early... really early... on the monday morning.
So overall it was amazing to see them and to see some parts of New England which I have not been able to see due to my lack of a car! I really did enjoy every minute, so thank you to my parents for coming to see me.

Stay tuned for another audiobook review & Mr. Knapton's visit!

Achievement unlocked! Sorry if it was a little long. I tried to keep it short.

Friday, 16 September 2011

“The sound came again. There was a whistle to it, and a moan. It was almost a hiss, and it could’ve been a strangled gasp. Above all, it was quiet, and it seemed to have no source. It whispered.” ― Cherie Priest, Boneshaker

Hey people once again! 
Look at this 2 blogs in quick succession, look at me go... 

I thought I would try something new, possibly even controversial with this blog entry. After having recently (well a while ago now subscribed to the fantastic audible service, I am now listening to ~1 audiobook a month. 

For my starting book, I chose Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, on the recommendations of my favorite "not too horrible" podcast, the d6generation. Thus I thought it might be a good idea to do a quick run-down of the book on here and then continue reviewing if people are interested in reading my reviews. 

Starting off, I will not give away any large spoilers or anything like that, since the aim of these will be to let people know whether it is worth reading, not to ruin the book itself. The book was narrated by Will Wheaton (whom some of you may have heard of) and Kate Reading, both of which did a fantastic job of bringing the story alive (I was thoroughly impressed by Will Wheaton's prowess as a voice actor, and was not put off by the fact that a grown up Weasley Crusher was speaking to me, okay maybe for a sec...) 

On to the book: This a a steampunk novel at it's heart, set in an alternate history to the Civil War (which unfortunatly isn't mentioned or used enough throughout the book). The Boneshaker, after which the book is named, was a huge drilling machine, built to mine through the ice under Seattle, to obtain the vast stores of gold hidden beneath. Unfortunately, due to the race of it's construction, it backfired. The machine produced a thick, heavy smog which slowly filled rooms, buildings and streets until it eventually had to be contained by a great wall build all around Seattle, making Seattle basically inhabitable, but some people stayed. 

The book follows the exploits of the Boneshaker's inventor's wife and her son (Zeke), as Zeke ventures into the city to try and find out more about his father and try to clear his name for the atrocities caused by the boneshaker machine. 

The book is really interesting, especially if you're a steampunk fan. It doesn't play on any of the standard steampunky types (like Victorian spaceships, or whatever), so it seems like it's own fantastic world. Which brings me to the first problem, the world is rich and wonderful, but is unused, it seems like a backdrop and never has any impact to further the story etc... it's only a minor thing, but would have been nice. 

The story is also creepy and a bit dark, with viscous (yet believable) characters and themes, which is always a plus for me. 

Also, it has airships. I frigging loooovvveee airships. :P

So in summary, since I will try adn keep these short, if you enjoy steampunk and are looking for something a little different with zombies (yes, steampunk zombies), then give this a listen. I also cannot recommend audible enough. 

Next will be Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, to which I am currently listening. 

Thanks guys & gals. 

Achievement Unlocked! 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

“In physics, you don't have to go around making trouble for yourself - nature does it for you.” - Frank Wilczek

It's been a while again! Ooops!

Thought I would quickly do a blog which isn't about gaming! (I know, dull huh?)

 Haven't put anything since GenCon, so let's start with just after that. I traveled directly from Indianapolis, gaming capital of the world (okay, so not entirely not about gaming), to sunny Durham, NC to help out at Duke University's HIGS lab.

 If anyone is interested, HIGS stands for High Intensity Gamma Source. It produces these high-intensity gamma rays (after which it is named) by Compton Back-scattering of FEL photons produced by "wibbling" the electrons  as they travel around the storage ring. This produces a mono-energetic, intense and well polarized beam which can be used to excited a target of interest to observe the levels (and hopefully discover new levels by looking at gamma decays from this target). It can also tell some of the characteristics of the levels due to the set-up of the detectors around the target itself.

So I was around Duke for 2 weeks in total, firstly for "our" experiment and secondly theirs as a further helping hand. It was really good to see Duke University, which has a beautiful campus, especially in the summer since the weather was wonderful all the time. It was a pity that the lab was kept at electronics temperatures, meaning that I had to put a jumper ON whenever I went into the lab.

Plus the ants were annoying, stupid ants and their lines...

Anyway, I'll leave you with this;
To honor my new PFS character, who is a wizard with a big-ass gun! (If anyone reads that as big ass-gun, he'll kill you)

Achievement Unlocked!

Friday, 12 August 2011

"The dragon, as it dies, falls on top of your unconsious companion, killing him." - Unknown (GM licence rebuked)

Okay, so some of you, probably most of you, based on how excited I was know that last week I was at GENCON! This, being the largest gaming convention in the world, probably deserves a blog entry for itself. Thus, with no further adjure, it begins!

I should probably start with what I was doing. During my time in America, I would like to thank Ben Lash, David Meierfrankenfeld and Ed Lehman for ensuring that I stayed into my roleplaying games. Ben and David also set up a good group of Pathfinder Society players, allowing me to get back into GMing, and allowing me to learn the Pathfinder system (from which I doubt I will ever return!) Due to this, at Connetticon, I met the venture captain for NY, Art Lobdell, who managed to organise me running as a tier 1 pathfinder judge at GenCon in Indianapolis. 

Yeah, that place. I think they get the point Matt! 

So, on Tue 2nd, I set off on the longest car journey of my life. Around 700 miles across 6 states to get to Indianapolis. But man was it worth it! 

Starting Wednesday, I had signed up to run 3 slots of PFS at Scott's Brewhouse, as a pre-GenCon bash. This was crazy busy, great fun with the awesome atmosphere of the pub, filled to the brink with gamers from all over, though I think I was the only English GM there! The place even had a special GenCon menu with items like "magic missles" and "Cthulu burgers", not sure what they were, but that was all part of the fun. 

The next day GenCon started! 8am slots meant that it was an early start for the PFS guys. Soon, outside the PFS room was covered with eager players, wanting some PFS fun! So, with a loud "Ready or not, here they come!", they crammed themselves in to the appropriately 70 tables, each complete with a grinning GM, ready to mercilessly slay them all at the hands of his budding minions... kidding! 
Players waiting for the GenCon special: Blood
under Absalom
And so the madness began. Each new slot brought new players, new modules, new plots and new sources of fun! It was awesome, (with the exception of one player, don't ask) everyone who played at my tables was a great guy (or girl) and I'm glad I met everyone there.
I won't go through each slot, because that will take ages, but some highlights included the writer of a module watching me run his module and him playing one of the NPCs throughout, some awesome Kobold roleplaying in "Sewer Dragons" and the sheer madness of the GenCon special event, even if my party were not greatly balanced. 

Just a small section of the Dealer's room. For more
photos, see my facebook album, which I'm about to make! 
Some notes about the con. Got time to check out the dealers hall and the open gaming area for a bit, watching and quickly playing some of the newest games, I'm looking forward to getting my copy of Quarriors soon, which is an awesome looking game. I was immensely surprised by the look of Battleship Galaxies, though I didn't have time to play it myself and Star Ward X-Wing looks like a great load of fun, though that might just be my star wars geek talking. Also there was a game using Rubber Duckies! (But I can't remember what it was called) 

After some close calls with losing my voice and killing party members (had 4 players down to 1hp off death...  , the con was over! I quickly got out on my plane to NC, for an experiment at Duke university, where I currently find myself. 

I'm currently looking forward to seeing Soph, my parents and my sister( 2 mentions!), 2 days after I get back from NC! Yup, it's all go atm! 

So, I'm sure I'll put another short blog about my time here in sunny NC (it's weird having to take my jumper OFF to go outside!) so ya'll can look for'ard t' that! 

Achievement Unlocked! 
Thanks for listening!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” J.R.R. Tolkien

I apologise for my once again delay in the writing of this blog, thus I would firstly like to extended my congratulations to anybody who keeps up with their blogs on a more frequent basis than I, which would be pretty much anyone.

So my most recent event was going to Connetticon over last weekend. Connetticon is a huge general Cosplay and gaming convention held in Hartford, CT (as I have mentioned previously). I played 5 sessions of Pathfinder over the weekend, bringing Professor Calaelen (my elven Alchemist character) up to nearly level 2. I even got to GM a game, which was really good fun.
I have been playing huge amounts of pathfinder recently, which is really good fun. It's good to get lots of rping in and I don't think I'll be returning to D&D 3.5 any time soon, so people back in Guildford should be ready for lots of pathfinder society play when I get back!

I'm really looking forward to my parent's and Soph's visit at the end of August for 3 weeks. I think the plan at the moment involves a mini road trip around the New England area, including Boston, Cape Cod,  Providence and New York. So I'll keep you all posted as to how good that is, as soon as it's done.

R2D2 Lantern which we made last year
I was sad to miss Rhythms of the World back in Hitchin, but I see that there was a fair amount of rain and thus maybe it was a good year to miss if I had to miss one. I hope that everybody had a wonderful time, hopefully James didn't drink all of the beer which I would have! This also a good time for me to mention that I am also sad to miss Towersey Folk Festival this year. I'm sure James, Michael and Katie will have lots of fun without me, but it might not be the same!

My board gaming has been continuing weekly, mostly playing lots of Castle Ravenloft at Nexus on Tuesdays, I am working my way through painting all of the minis and it is probably safe to say that I am "pimping" out this game pretty thoroughly. Apart from that, my game purchasing has been at a sad minimum, except for a preorder of Quarriors and Belfort, I have no games that I really need right now.

Back to work. The beam at WNSL is completely off now, unless I have said this before, I forget. My project is coming along fairly well, should be all finished shortly and then it will be time for me to start writing my dissertation for the year.

I'll try not to make this too much about gaming. I should going to GenCon this year to GM some more Pathfinder. This should be loads of fun, so I should let people know how that all goes after it's done. I have also been asked to do two more Conventions in November, so fingers crossed I should have a lot of experience GMing by the time I get back.

Thanks for listening.

Achievement Unlocked!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

“The crime problem in New York is getting really serious. The other day the Statue of Liberty had both hands up.” - Jay Leno

Hey everyone.

I apologise for my huge lack of a blog recently. I see that it has easily been over a month hopefully people didn't miss it too much!
The Typical Times Square Shot. (Man I'm a tourist)

Most of you will know that Soph visited me during May, since (what with the Royal Wedding and all) the British (who are still in Britian) get a quite frankly stupid amount of days off within a short period.

It was nice for me to be a tourist again, with a great visit to New York where we did all the touristy type things, Empire State, Grand Central (didn't have much choice about seeing that, as it's how we arrived!), Central Park, Lincon Centre and shopping!

The M&M store and Nintendo world were awesome, my only regret is not getting a certain pair of hilarious boxers from the M&M store! (People who want to know what they have printed on them should ask me, since I don't want to post it publicly!)

Central Park is beautiful. 

Soph and I spent our second weekend together visiting Hartford, which was slightly disappointing as a town. Despite being the capital of CT, there was a huge lack of things to see or do, unless you enjoy looking around Malls which have no shops in them (which was actually a little freaky). This meant we ended up just getting a taxi to a nearby (open) Mall and just shopped for the day.

I won't go through Soph's entire visit, just thought I would summarise it, since most of you can look at pics and stuff on facebook or can find out details other ways. It was really really good to see her and now that she has returned to the green and pleasant land (or whatever). I do miss her a lot.

Still my parents, sister (2 mentions!) and Soph have now booked their flights to visit on the 22nd of August till some time in September (I think 12th), so I'm really looking forward to that.

So, I'm here on my first night shift in a good while, which has been really nice and I am taking a break from work every now and again to update this. Things are progressing forward with my work here at the lab and we're all very much rushing around trying to get things sorted for our last 3 weeks of runs before the beam here is shutdown on June 24th (which also means no more shifts after that date!)

I'll deviate slightly into gaming for a second, to mention some of the stuff that I have been doing in my free time recently. In NY, after Soph left I picked myself up a copy of RuneBound, which I am looking forward to getting another game of on Tuesday, which should be awesome. Neuroshima Hex saw a lot of play-time while Soph was here and seems to hit the table fairly frequently at Nexus, so I might look at getting the expansions for that at some point.
Literally 10 mins before I turned up for this shift (probably would have been better to sleep, upon reflection...), I finished Portal 2. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, it was perfectly balanced in humor, difficultly and length. So well done! (Incidentally if anyone is interested in playing the co-op then I am definatly up for that).

I'm continuing my way through DA2, which I am actually enjoying. It seems to have got a lot more rap than I believe it deserves, but this could be since I am playing it as a role-player, not as a pc gamer (incidentally my character is a silly joker, especially in serious situations). My only complaint about it is the CONSISTENT re-use of areas, which I find really annoying. I understand that I do lots of side quests, and the game offers lots of side-quests, which is great, but slight changes in the areas, just different objects or textures in places would have been greatly appreciated.

I apologise for the massive delay in actually posting this. I entirely forgot about it.
I will ensure that it's not this long in between my posts other times. To make up for it, here is a picture to express my deepest apologies.

P.S. Happy now Elle? :p