Wulf's Webden

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Tuesday 27 January 2015
by Wulf
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Essaying

I’m working through my next Open University essay, due later this week. Unfortunately I didn’t quite manage my optimistic plan of writing each section at the conclusion of the relevant week’s study and then I was out for the count with flu the weekend before last.

Never mind. I’ve now covered the ground required and am now on the gruelling last leg of polishing each section up and trying to ensure that I’ve given sufficient information (and a suitable pool of learned references) for each bit. I could probably submit now and pass but I want to see if I can do a little better than the bare minimum.

Anyway, I need to get this one out of the way and then see if I can reach my counsel of perfection for number three in March.

Sunday 25 January 2015
by Wulf
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Burns Night

Burns night… my yearly excuse to enjoy haggis, neeps and tatties along with a wee dram of whisky. Time to go and start cooking!

Thursday 22 January 2015
by Wulf
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LARP: The Battle for Verona by Justin Calderone

Book cover

LARP: The Battle for Verona by Justin Calderone

I am a veteran of a few Live Action Role-Playing adventures and lots of running around in woodland armed with sticks and imagination, although both activities are now long ago. If I’d had a bit more money and a bit more transport in my late teens I might have done more but it was a hobby I was interested in and learned a fair bit about. Therefore, it was with a certain degree of fascination that I approached Justin Calderone’s novel where a group of enthusiastic LARPers get the chance to use their skills to save the day.

Another fantasy related thing I remember from my youth is the infamous Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, which catupulted a bunch of kids into a fantasy land where they became the heroes they had previously dreamed of playing. Regretfully, I’d have to suggest that Calderone’s novel does something similar except, remaining set in the “real world”, it becomes even less plausible. Would years of LARPing equip the participants to take over from the US military to free an island captured by a force that appears to be made up of would-be medieval Mongol warriors? Would the US military really be so concerned about collateral damage that it would consider the idea, even if the state governor turned out to be a former LARPer himself?

It sounds like the kind of fantasy that someone might dream up after an exhiliarating adventure (where they have spent a few hours ignoring the fact that the scenery and people are very familiar in order to share in the imagination of the story) but it ends up sounding childish, with limited tensions and a wilful avoidance of the difficult questions I wanted to ask about the scenario. I think Calderone would have done better to make his heroes in their late teens and aim for an audience in their early teens, where believability might not have been such a stumbling block. As it is, I think the story falls flat and the writing, while okay, doesn’t sparkle enough to make up for it. This isn’t the book to make the world sympathetic to the hopes and dreams of live action roleplayers!

Wednesday 21 January 2015
by Wulf
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Wipeout

One thing I didn’t mention when I mentioned my walk down to town for a study day last Thursday was that I was feeling a bit under the weather. I was very glad to get a lift back home at the end of the evening and for the chance to be able to collapse into bed. It wasn’t just tiredness because I hardly managed to do anything all weekend apart from, fortunately, arrange for someone else to look after the music at church on Sunday. This week I’ve been back at work but have been having to ease my way back into things and I’m still a little way short of full operational strength.

I will be glad to leave this bout of sickness — I think it probably was a touch of flu — safely behind me!

Thursday 15 January 2015
by Wulf
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Let’s Take a Long Walk

If I put a sound track to each blog post, this one would be easy: Jill Scott’s 2001 song Long Walk. Today I’m not in my regular office but working down at St Anne’s in Oxford on a study day for one of the trials I have supported. Originally I planned to cycle but that would have meant lugging around my cycle pannier to the evening meal and summoning up the energy to cycle back afterwards. Jane has kindly offered to pick me up so instead I took the 75 minute walk down to town and across to Woodstock Road.

So, that’s my brisk walk for the day taken care of; now I just need to finish rehearsing my talk for later on this morning and then I’m ready for the delegates to arrive.

Wednesday 14 January 2015
by Wulf
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Time Capsules in Paper

With a pile of books finished and ready to return to the library and, doutbtless, another pile soon to replace them, I thought I would sieze the opportunity to re-read something from my own shelves and picked out Walden Two by BF Skinner. It was originally published in 1948 and was one of the set texts for the university course I did on utopias as part of my history degree. It is a fictional vehicle for Skinner to present and examine some of his thoughts on how a modern utopian society could be created.

When I first read it, it was already over 40 years old but I was primarily concerned with grasping the ideas Skinner was putting forward. Re-reading it, and I have only just begun, what strikes me now is how different his concept of regular society are. For example, the protagonist is a lecturer and on the first page he meets an former student and the student’s friend, both of whom are veterans of World War II. They come to his office and barely have introductions been made before cigarettes are out and being smoked by all of them. I don’t think this would have been entirely implausible on my first reading but would be illegal if the setting were Britain (and possibly America) in the second decade of the 21st century.

It really isn’t a very long stretch of time and yet the contrasts with the present day are even more striking than when I read Cornwell’s All That Remains a few weeks ago. In fact, that would have been hot off the presses when I was first reading Walden Two but both stand as examples of how books act as time capsules in paper form.

Tuesday 13 January 2015
by Wulf
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Progress

Here’s a graphical summary of how desk work has evolved in recent years:

A desktop getting tidier as the computer takes on more tasks

Deskwork

A hat tip to Adam for digging that one up although it must be noted that neither my work nor my home desk look anything like as neat, being still cluttered with paper, pens, books and computers! A lot of my desktop is virtualised though; at least it depicts the metaphor if not the full reality.