Archive for the general Category

Apr 11 2014

Obsession 1

Okay – so my first obsession. I thought I’d make this one a bit easier on myself by making it very current and writing about my current obsession.


For anyone who doesn’t know what Minecraft is – a quick description. I’ll try not to go into too much boring detail, but I might get a bit carried way – this is an article about obsession after all.

Minecraft is a game. Not a ‘traditional’ computer game (if that phrase makes any sense) where there is a ‘story’ and you play through it. It’s part of the genre that tends to be referred to as ‘sandbox’ games. You are given a playing environment, there are some inbuilt rules (gravity, money, etc) and from then on you can pretty much do what you want. Grand Theft Auto (3) was probably the first really sucessful sandbox game but there have been many others since, of varying types. Minecraft isn’t really similar to GTA, but it is in (broadly) the same genre.

Even in GTA, there is a ‘story’ and you can play through it – or you can ignore it totally and just do your own thing. In Minecraft, there is no real ‘story’ (apart from a couple of very simple goals that you can freely ignore and in fact might know nothing about). Minecraft very simply allows you to build stuff. Simple stuff, complicated stuff, big stuff, small stuff, whatever you want. It’s a little bit like a giant Lego set (although pretty much everything is a 1x1x1 block)

When I first heard about Minecraft, it sounded a bit ‘arty’ – like it was for creative people. I’m not very creative, so I kind of ignored it. I remember, a few years ago, seeing a video of a guy who had built a scale model of the Starship Enterprise (from Star Trek) in the game, and someone who had built a working computer (of sorts) in game, but didn’t think any more about it. Then, through a couple of connected routes, I came across a couple of YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft and started to get a bit interested (this will tie in to a couple of my other obsessions as well – I don’t know why, but I love watching other people play games).

I played a demo, and really enjoyed it, so I but the full game and just never looked back. In many ways it’s a very simple game, but as with all really successful things, it’s simplicity is really a cover for some quite complex interactions underneath and it really allows you to do some very impressive things. Now I am no expert – I have never really been one for online gaming, and so I have never got into one of the most popular aspects of Minecraft – playing ‘online’ with lots of other people and all interacting in the same environment. I just play on my own. I actually would like to try out some online play, but I’ve never really looked into it too much.

So I just play along on my own, wandering around, collecting stone and coal and diamonds and wood and building little projects of my own. This was one of the first little houses I built.
First build
Which looks pretty rubbish – as pretty much everyone’s first house does. But I built it all myself.

This is my current major build.
Actual Survival build
Which is still pretty ugly, but is a fairly major undertaking for me. The big building in the top left is clearly my main base (with a tree farm on top). In the middle is another tree farm with some structures underneath it that I haven’t decided what to do with. At the bottom is my automatic wheat farm (you use wheat to make bread) What isn’t shown is about 5km of railway that I also laid, because it’s underground 🙂

This is a new game I have just started where I’m trying to think a bit more about how things look.
Not much to look at, but at least it looks a bit better than the big stone lump in my main game.

Why am I obsessed with Minecraft? I guess because it’s so open – there is really no limit to the game, and it’s a real pleasure to just while away some time and build stuff.

I guess I should put in some links in case you are that interested.
Minecraft website
Wikipedia page about Minecraft
A nice video series about a guy playing minecraft

Nov 13 2010

Night Boat to Cairo

Friends will be friends
When you’re in need of love they give you care and attention
Friends will be friends
When you’re through with life and all hope is lost
Hold out your hand cos friends will be friends
Right till the end

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while, but it concerns the events of the last couple of days, and things have been quite frantic. Even now things are still happening, but I really need to get my thoughts down or they will disappear entirely.

Firstly, a small disclaimer: I am politically naive to the point of embarrassment, and I freely admit that I have no idea about many of the underlying issues and causes involved in what follows. But happily, that is not my main concern. I am concerned about a friend.

Hobgoblin garden; me

On Wednesday night I picked up on a press release, linked to by a friend, regarding an aid convoy to Gaza that had run into trouble. The reason that this caused me some immediate concern was that a friend of mine, Kieran, was part of this convoy. It wasn’t a happy read, but things seemed to be relatively under control, and as it was 2am I went to bed.

At 8am on Thursday things had not improved, and there was very scanty information, which was the major worry. The basic situation was this:

The aid convoy, planned by Road to Hope, was to travel by road across the northern coast of Africa, through Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt before reaching Gaza. At the Libya/Egypt border they were basically refused permission to proceed by road, and were forced to find another plan. This plan was to charter a ship to take them by sea to the far side of Egypt where they could continue their journey.

It is at this point that I stop being very clear on what happened. Information is quite hard to come by, and most of it is coming from sources that are less than impartial. Still, my general understanding is that there was some sort of disagreement with the guy in charge of the ship, who decided that the best course of action was to take his ship to sea, without unmooring, with aid workers and port officials still on board, and without closing the rear door of the ship.

This is where I picked up the story. The aid workers on board ship were being described as hostages, and nobody really seemed to know what was going on, where the ship was heading, or anything of substance. To me, this seemed like a fairly major news story, especially given the events of May when the Mavi Marmara was boarded by Israeli soldiers and several people on board were killed. But to my surprise, almost nobody seemed to be reporting the story, and for a long time the only real coverage came from small local services, although I’m not really sure why they picked up the story.

Fortunately Kieran has a wide circle of friends, a group that I am proud to include myself in, and they decide not to let the lack of news coverage be a barrier. As has happened with increasing regularity in recent times, and online campaign quickly took shape, mostly utilising Twitter and Facebook, to raise awareness of the situation, and to try to get some information about exactly what was going on. Friends, kept each other up to speed, exchanged information, and hassled celebrities to spread the word as much as possible. The idea at this point was not to do anything in particular, other than to raise awareness of the unfolding situation, and make sure that the relevant people knew about it. This all happened very quickly, and it was actually quite hard to keep up with it all. Many celebrity figures were kind enough to pass on the story to their followers, which brought it to a much wider audience than could have been achieved through more traditional channels. Slowly, and with a great deal of effort, other news sources started to pick up the story, and by early evening it had made it to the newspapers – the Daily Record, the Independent and the Guardian among others. Notably, the BBC took a long time to come to the party, but they eventually did it with a bang, contacting a few of Kieran’s friends directly, and interviewing one of them on air (go Claire!)for a local news story.

The power of social media really came to the fore here. Although it was still quite hard to stay abreast of events, people were passing on as much information as they could get, and a real network emerged that was supporting each other in a very positive way.

I spent most of that night scanning the Internet for information, picking up small bits here and there, and passing them on as much as possible. Eventually, a slightly clearer picture emerged, that the ship was heading for Greece, where things could hopefully be sorted out. That still hasn’t quite happened. The ship has docked, but the situation is far from resolved, but it would appear that everyone is safe, which is a huge relief to many people.

What impressed me throughout the whole thing was that a very fluid, dynamic and above all supportive network of people emerged very quickly. Information was shared, support was given where necessary, egos didn’t come into it, and the concern remained the same – get people safe.

I’m fairly sure that Kieran will be as embarrassed as hell when he sees the amount of fuss that has been made about this whole situation, or rather the individual attention that has been paid to him. But this is only deserved, as he is a true gentleman and many people love and care about him.

It remains to be seen exactly what the outcome of this will all be. We live in interesting times. As I type, the situation is still unfolding, the aid workers are still on board ship and there has been talk of detaining them, or returning them – opinions differ. But my abiding memory is of a group of people who came together with a common purpose, to make sure that our friend Kieran is returned to us safely. Truly, a friend in need is a friend indeed.

Jun 5 2008

Did he or didn’t he?

I’ve never been much of a JFK fanboy. I didn’t really know that much about the story until the Oliver Stone film came out, and I mainly just accepted the story of the film, like the naive muppet that I am. Not that I believed every single thing in it, but I certainly came to the conclusion that there seemed to be some sort of conspiracy.

Having become more interested in skepticism and critical thinking, I recently re-examined much of the evidence surrounding the assassination of JFK, particularly as it was presented in the film, and I pretty much reversed my position.

That’s not to say that it was definitely Oswald, acting alone, who shot JFK, but certainly most of the evidence seems to point that way, and the evidence that points towards a conspiracy is pretty weak, and in many cases has been somewhat exaggerated, re-interpreted or just plain made up.

I have no real reason for posting this, other than it’s something I have recently been interested in and reading about.

One website that I found particularly interesting (although there are many others) is The JFK 100, which highlights the 100 most striking errors in the film. The page debunking the oft-repeated ‘Single Bullet Theory‘ is very well done.

May 26 2008


Slight change of style, which seems quite nice. And some of the page links may not be working due to my insistence on custom templates which I need to update after the upgrade to the latest version of WordPress.

Anyway, I’ve got a couple of food posts to make, and then I can get on with the general wittering, and my new favourite type of comment, what I have come to call the ‘Victor Meldrew’ post.

I think the name speaks for itself. 🙂

Current topic thoughts:

  • Generalisations
  • Psychics
  • Internet vs Web

Oh such fun 🙂

Feb 23 2008

Corn Dogs

I have been reading a thread on the James Randi forums for a while which mentions Corn Dogs as a food, without really having much idea what they are. I decided to find out – here is a recipe, and here is another

They actually sound quite nice. I may try that at some point in the near future. It’s hardly gourmet food, but it sounds quite nice, and very Scottish 🙂