Thursday, 31 March 2016

Help the Aged


 "Old age is the most unexpected of things that can happen to a man." - Trotsky



 "To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living." - Herman Melville


At twenty a man is a peacock, at thirty a lion, at forty a camel, at fifty a serpent, at sixty a dog, at seventy an ape, at eighty a nothing at all. Baltasar Gracian
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/baltasargr150625.html?src=t_sixty

At twenty a man is a peacock, at thirty a lion, at forty a camel, at fifty a serpent, at sixty a dog, at seventy an ape, at eighty a nothing at all.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/baltasargr150625.html?src=t_sixty

"The tragedy of growing old is not that one is old, but that one is young." - Ruth Rendell
At twenty a man is a peacock, at thirty a lion, at forty a camel, at fifty a serpent, at sixty a dog, at seventy an ape, at eighty a nothing at all.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/baltasargr150625.html?src=t_sixty

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

I Feel Fine

Some music seems in order today of all days. I have a full six decades to choose from, and selecting from that lot could easily take me another sixty years. I've gone with this one partly because of the past - it reminds me of people and places that I shall never see again, but which have understandably been much in my thoughts this week - and partly because of the present.



Monday, 28 March 2016

You are my fate

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

                  - e.e. cummings

Friday, 25 March 2016

And I went to the crossroad, mama

The last time we played the Seven Years War it was a playtest of some roads, which turned out to be excellent. This time around it was to playtest a whole raft of rule changes. Were they as good? Well, they were certainly better than my generalship and my dice rolling. Things started going wrong from pretty much the first thing I did. A Prussian unit moved into range of a unit of Russian Grenadiers, I turned a Musket Reload card and so I fired. In the exchange my unit ended up at half strength and shaken, and it was all downhill from there. James has blogged here about it - with pictures of the situation as it now stands - so I won't say much more. I still think the Russians have a good chance of winning - more troops and a lot more morale chips - but it won't be the most glorious of victories. And the officers are dreadful so a failed Major Morale check will probably see a lot of that morale eaten up.

James ascribes the way the game has developed to Peter having gone down to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil. Perhaps, perhaps not. His dice rolls weren't particularly good, and mine weren't especially bad; it was simply that his were consistently better than mine, and when I did beat him it was only just and not enough to cause any damage. Such is life.  Anyway, to the new rules:

Flank support: In Piquet units get a bonus when testing morale for having flank support. Under the previous interpretation (I have no idea whether this was the core rules or some house rule that grown up over the years) it was almost literally impossible not to receive the maximum amount. Famously encircled historical figures such as Custer or Gordon would probably have counted as having two secure flanks the way we used to do it. This has been swept away with a much simpler and harsher version of which I approve. It will certainly encourage both maintaining one's own formation and trying to puncture and then turn enemy lines

Routing: This has again been simplified. The anomaly whereby better armies ran away faster has been removed, the disruptive effect from the movement of routers is more logical and it is consistent with the ability to provide the flank support mentioned above. Again I approve, although I suspect that virtually no units will now ever be rallied from rout.

Overhead fire by artillery: The rules for this have been clarified - essentially in terms of James' current terrain setup - and one can now, under certain circumstances, fire over troops on the same level as oneself. I can't speak to the historical accuracy of this, but it will make artillery more useful in attack.

Infantry Arc of Fire: This has been reduced from 45 degrees to straight ahead only. I think there may be a few problems with this:
  • It is now possible - as we proved - to initiate melee against a unit that one can't fire at because it's out of arc; makes no sense to me.
  • It makes the Prussians' ability to oblique at full speed even more powerful.
  • I envisage units being manoeuvred to all sorts of peculiar angles so that they can shoot without being shot at, rather changing the nature of the game.
 So, mostly a thumbs up from me. I imagine that the new rules on flanks and routing will, when coupled with previously introduced changes to morale challenges, make games end a lot more quickly. We shall see.


Thursday, 24 March 2016

I'm worried now

But I won't be worried long




"Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." - Matthew 6:34

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

From the age of uniformity

"Sameness is the mother of disgust, variety the cure" - Petrarch

The main purpose behind the Great War project was to give me something to paint whenever I felt like painting. As it happens I have indeed been in the zone for a few days and so things have moved forwards. Inevitably this has required further thought on a variety of practical issues related to the rules and how it will all be manifested in a game - I'm thinking for example of basing conventions for crewed weapons - but it has also made me think about the aesthetics. Odd, perhaps, to focus on that aspect when everything is khaki and grey, but it's a side of things that does bother me.

My personal approach to painting has always been to do what is required to make the figures look OK when viewed en masse on the tabletop, and frankly not to waste time or energy by doing any more than that. I have continued with that approach into this project. The relatively small number of poses often available for figures has also never bothered me that much. Indeed for the rather stylised manner in which I have been playing Napoleonics (C&C rules on a hex/offset square grid) it seemed to me that uniformity in the ranks actually enhanced the look of the thing. Not so with WWI, my first foray into anything remotely modern for more than forty years. What one wants here, I think, and even when viewed at arms length, is the opposite: heterogeneity. I don't think the poses have to be radically different from each other - there are only so many things that one is likely to do with a rifle on a battlefield - just sufficiently so that the brain doesn't identify them all as identical as the eye scans across them.

I have no problem with doing a bit of figure remodelling; it scratches the same itch as painting. Sometime I shall have to post a photo of the model of a Napoleonic hussar dancing with a lady of dubious virtue that I wasted some time putting together a few years ago.  Anyway, as previously reported I have been chopping up Tommies throwing Mills bombs to try to get some variety, which as a consequence has left me with some customised riflemen as well. All in all the British should be OK. The problem is ordinary German riflemen. For perhaps obvious reasons most late war German infantry produced in plastic are Stormtroopers. I shall either have to up the level of my modelling skills, buy some metal figures or let the Germans do all the attacking.

Monday, 21 March 2016

More matter with less art

Well, I've had a good weekend, but you'll just have to take that on trust. I am tempted to write about my kettle blowing up, but although it was somewhat disconcerting when it happened, calm was soon restored; sadly not by the traditional British method of having a cup of tea, but restored nonetheless.

I am therefore going to break the habit of a lifetime and post a photo of some figures that I have completed. Not for the painting - which is, what's the word, crap - but for the conversions, which I rather like. The background is that I wanted my bombing section to be, well, bombing, but didn't want them all lined up on the table in identical poses. The lack of a decent camera makes it difficult to see the detail (it helps if you click on the photo to enlarge it), but nevertheless here they are:


The one on the left is the original, the others are the conversions.

Among the highlights of the weekend was seeing a concert by Martin Carthy, doyen of the British folk scene. Now I can stick my finger in my ear with the best of them and so I really enjoyed it. Here he is from nearly thirty years ago:



Thursday, 17 March 2016

Do your worst, for I will do mine

And so to the wargaming table, and about time too. However, although we brought to an end the recent barren spell, we didn't break the sequence of somewhat disappointing scenarios. We had the Seven Years War battle where no one wanted to attack (least of all me); then there was our first try of Lion Rampant where is was obvious from the very beginning that the convoy should have started on the table instead of off; just before our break we played an X-Wing game where the rebels (or possibly the Empire - I am hazy on the details of all this) didn't have the manoeuvrability to shoot down the razor blades; and now we had another Lion Rampant set-up which wasn't robust enough to cope with a series of extraordinarily bad activation rolls by the Ottomans very early on.

The 18th century stalemate was just one of those things, but the others were caused by unfamiliarity with the rules. In the case of Lion Rampant I continue to be impressed with their simplicity and playability. We need to make some clarifications and/or tweaks because of using multiple instead of individually based figures, but that's no real issue. In this particular case I think I hadn't sufficiently adjusted the basic messenger scenario (a) to allow for the larger table. If I were to replay it I think I would add to each side a unit of cavalry who had been sent ahead to seize control of the bridge and I would restrict the crossbowmen to the ramparts of the town wall, perhaps giving them a range extension in return. I'd also be specific that the Timar's wild charge needed to be tested for. Clearly none of that means anything to anyone in the absence of OOBs, scenario notes, maps or photographs, but it's my blog and I don't care.

In other wargaming news I have moved on to painting a British bombing section. The figures that I bought only contain two bombing poses (b) so I have been busy with the Stanley knife and the superglue. I'm quite pleased with the results, although as usual with 20mm plastic we find that kneeling figures would be seven feet tall were they to stand up. I particularly like a couple of my conversions which look as if they are throwing the grenades downwards into a trench. On top of all that the Great War project got a further boost with first of my second hand Ospreys arriving. It looks very new for a previously-loved book and, even better, has printing on both sides of every single page.

(a) we actually played the messenger as a kidnapped princess solely in order to get some use out of my kidnapped princess figure, one of many I own to not yet have seen any action.
(b) both of them pretty stereotypical; one 'third man throwing back to the wicket keeper' pose (first figure second row here) and one 'off-spinner planting his left leg on the popping crease' (second figure top row here)


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Aristaeus, c'est moi

And so to the opera. I have been for a bit of bouffe, in the form of an amateur production of Offenbach's 'Orphée aux enfers' by the Leeds Gilbert and Sullivan Society. There are many musical excerpts from opera that have entered the popular consciousness: Nessun Dorma from 'Turandot', the Toreador Song from Carmen, Figaro's aria from 'The Barber of Seville' and many more. But I would wager that this operetta contains the best known; a piece of music that everyone could hum (after a fashion), name (wrongly) and do the dance (badly).

This production was set in two competing underwear companies, a conceit which worked very well indeed. I especially liked the idea that the firm representing Olympus and the living world only produced grey clothes while those of the underworld were colourful in the extreme; Pluto's helpers (Pants People) were dressed as a sort of Victorian Steampunk meets Teletubbies mashup. As Nietzsche put it "In heaven, all the interesting people are missing".

The orchestra - whose limited numbers only really became apparent during the overture - were very good, the ensemble singing was excellent and while the singing of the principals was perhaps patchy, some (Diana and Jupiter in particular) were very fine indeed. A special mention must go to Jason Weightman as Pluto, partly for his kilt, but also for being the only one to do the splits during the Infernal Gallop. I had never seen this company before and didn't know what to expect, but I have to say that it was a highly enjoyable night out.


And, more relevantly than you might imagine, here's Roger Moore talking about tortoises:


Sunday, 13 March 2016

Curiouser and curiouser

So, I was in the Great Wen for a 60th birthday party, it being the (academic) year for such things. I have spent six months avoiding them as much as possible, but this one sneaked through my defences. A number of other survivors from Bradford in the 1970s - including this blog's Luxembourg correspondent - obviously had nothing else to do either and it was bona to vada their dolly old eeks for the first time in many years or, in some cases, decades. I wouldn't normally write a blog post about a private function, but the aforementioned visitor from the Grand Duchy positively insisted that I should, and he does represent a rather high proportion of the blog's readership. In addition there was a fine example of the synchronicity that fuels so much of my writing. So, apologies to everyone else for the self indulgence; I promise to return very shortly to being self indulgent in the usual way.

So, first things first, I can confirm that all Eurocrats present remained awake throughout, maintaining a steady stream of pithy, albeit unsolicited, advice to the DJ from the shadows at the edge of the dance floor. It was a 'surprise party', and there was some debate as to exactly how surprised the birthday boy was. In the end the consensus was that if he had known about it then he'd never have worn that shirt. What was no surprise was that large quantities of drink were taken, leading one former student colleague of mine to corner me for what seemed like several hours while he explained that his life had been ruined by his parents' failure to christen him Roy. So far so normal.

What raised the evening above the run of the mill was the decision of the wife of the man in whose honour the party was thrown, to dress as Alice in Wonderland and dance on the stage to 'Living Next Door to Alice', a song recently featured on this very blog, or, to be more precise, to the Gompie version, in which the crowd - represented in this case by the partygoers - periodically take up the refrain to enquire loudly, brusquely and in the demotic as to Alice's bona fides.

Who indeed?

There is a perfectly rational explanation for all of this, but I have trespassed on your patience for too long and will not therefore bore you any more by elucidating further.

By the way, there's a rumour that there will be wargaming this week, so watch this space.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Seek the lofty

I am off to the Big Smoke for a flying visit and thought I would bring things up to date before I left, just in case anything happens while I'm there that's worth writing about. First, there has been a satisfactory conclusion of sorts to the latest round of the Osprey book-ordering saga. Waterstones have acknowledged that a refund of £0 wasn't going to cut the mustard and have given me back all my money plus £5 as a goodwill gesture. I have immediately reinvested it in second hand copies of the same books from AbeBooks. They're no cheaper than the price of new ones, but surely I can assume that they already exist and are printed on both sides of the page; can't I?

Second, I have been to see The Matchmaker, the play by Thornton Wilder which was the original of the musical Hello Dolly. It was enjoyable enough, but also proved a truism that I have mentioned before: comedy is the hardest form of acting to do well, and farce is the hardest form of comedy to pull off successfully.

Third, and speaking of comedy/farce, I have been to see Hail, Caesar!, which was amusing, if somewhat unfocussed. It may presuppose a knowledge on the part of viewers not just about classic era Hollywood, but also of the life and works of Marx (Karl not Groucho), but 50% of the audience at the screening I was at were definitely experts in the latter; I can't speak for the lady sitting a couple of rows behind me.

Fourth and best, I have been to see Thea Gilmore. I have reported on seeing her before - indeed she was the recipient of the eagerly sought after Epictetus gig of the year award in 2014 - so I won't say too much this time. Suffice it to say that she and husband Nigel Stonier were as good as ever, still performing an intriguing mixture of her own stuff, plus covers of songs by bands such as Guns 'n' Roses and the Damned.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

And there we may rehearse most obscenely

In a moment of boredom some weeks ago I installed the featured post widget on blogger. It has been interesting for me at least to look back through previous entries, but it seems that a number of illustrations from the early days of the blog have mysteriously disappeared. I say mysteriously, but I think we can safely assume that some incompetence on my part lies behind it; indeed my working hypothesis is that it has something to do with what happened when I set up on Google+. I shall test this out by trying to track a picture through the system.

So, in order to get a good look at what goes on behind the scenes, here's Agnetha.



Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Se encuentra en todas partes y en ninguna a la vez

It was one hundred years ago today that Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico. I shall commemorate the occasion by not wargaming the Mexican Revolution, something I have been successfully doing for a long time now.

There has however been some small progress in wargaming in general. Not in the Great War project itself, but more in a sort of deck clearing to allow space to crack on with the next step in it - a British bombing section I think. Items completed have been:

  • French Napoleonic 3rd Lancers and an artillery caisson
  • Three crap () Celtic chariots
  • Ninety markers to allow To the Strongest! to be played on the Hexon terrain
  • And that's it
So not much then. What can I say? I'm a busy man.

Perhaps the markers would bear some further discussion. Following suggestions received, I spent some time lurking in garden centres and pet shops checking out possible options among the bags of gravel, but in the end I decided that if one wants something approximately the size, shape and weight of a penny coin then probably the easiest thing to do is to use a penny coin. Currently the annexe has a Lion Rampant scenario on the table, but once it's eventually played I think the next game to be set up will be TtS!. There are two choices. I always could use the crap (‡) chariots and the Hamian archers, both for the first time, in a Romans vs Celts game. Or alternatively, there's the Wars of the Roses. The attraction here is that old favourite, Tewkesbury. I've played it many times with bases perched unsteadily on top of hills strung together to represent the ridge. Now I have the wherewithal to make a proper ridge and it would only seem right to do so. And what of the new expansion to C&C Napoleonics? It will keep.

I have been advised by Waterstones that Osprey are now unable ever to fulfill my order of books on the Great War which were previously reported here as arriving with only the odd number pages printed on. Both books involved are naturally still shown as being in stock on Osprey's own website. My inclination is to blame the publishers rather than the retailer for the whole farrago, although Waterstones' offer of a refund of £0 following the cancellation of the order hasn't been received terribly well at Casa Epictetus.

And finally let me draw your attention to two other (proper) wargaming blogs. Over at Prometheus in Aspic, General Fwa has a very neat idea for rivers, which I like the look of. And at Wargaming Miscellany there are pictures of old rule sets that I had forgotten all about, but which take me right back to a different time and place.


()  © The Wench

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Partings Welded Together

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” - Charles Dickens

"Softly, softly"



And so to the theatre. The West Yorkshire Playhouse are once again on trend. In deciding for the second time in a couple of years to tackle a long piece of nineteenth century literature that Hollywood has fairly recently made into a film, they have chosen one in which the issue of forgiveness (or lack of it) looms large. Their version of Great Expectations is, how shall we say, pretty average. On the plus side, top marks must be given to the child actors playing the young Pip, Estella and Herbert Pocket who were all much better than one was entitled to expect. And then there was the set, which looked fantastic, a sort of rising wave of slatted wood across the stage space. However, whilst it served very well for the prison hulks - lots of hands waving symbolically through it - it didn't seem to have much relevance to the other two and a half hours and appeared to cause the actors real problems moving around on it. It rotated often and there seems to have been some intermittent malfunction causing delays to the start of each act which, when the play was originally three hours long anyway, gave rise to lots of people having to leave before the end to get their trains and buses. I moved for the second act to be nearer the door for a quick getaway and was advised that the seat I now sat in had a 'restricted view' and wasn't recommended. In fact it had an unrestricted view in that one could see the stage hands at work setting up the next scene behind the revolving scenery. Note to designer: keep it simple next time.


So, overall, don't bother. Instead watch one of the films (I enjoyed the most recent, which has Helena Bonham-Carter hamming it up as Miss Havisham) or, even better, read the book.

 “I went home, with new matters for my thoughts, though with no relief from the old.”

Thursday, 3 March 2016

The score never interested me, only the game

So said Mae West. And who am I to argue with her?

"Is that an expansion in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?"
With all that in mind here are February's games in which, for me, the taking part was the main thing.

Blood Bound: In a twist on what usually happens in hidden role games, the information gathering and deduction went well and the red team correctly identified and assassinated the leader of the blue team, only to find that the Inquisitor had placed a true curse on the red team's leader (an Alchemist; can you believe it?) and so had won the game himself. The moral of all this is to play with an even number of players. I hope that's clear.

Click Clack Lumberjack: A real guilty pleasure, despite my complete lack of motor skills and hand eye coordination.

Codenames: For some reason people aren't that good at judging whether they are the best person to take the role of giving the clues before they volunteer so to do.

Condottiere: As you know, I love this game.

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong: This is still good fun, but a pattern is starting to appear. If there are any more than, say, six players then the individual investigators start to feel that there is no risk in having a guess, so they do - and the game always ends very quickly.

Diamonds: "Goodness! What lovely diamonds." "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie." - Mae West again. This is a card game - with an only slightly modified normal pack of cards - spiced up with, unsurprisingly, some diamonds and some of those little cardboard screens that are all the rage at the moment. Personally I think the available strategies are a bit limited and are easily learned. It may be that replayability will only come from the luck of the deal. You'd be better off with Bridge or, a personal favourite, Solo.

Dragon's Gold: This is another game played with cards, gems and some of those little cardboard screens that are all the rage at the moment. It also involves negotiation, which was conducted at a pretty pitiful level of incompetence in the game that I played. My colour blindness made me even worse than everyone else; that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Elysium: Good game with an interesting primary mechanism.

Geistesblitz 2.0: Involves the need for quick reactions and pattern recognition; I was no good at all.

Gold West: Straight up Euro, very thinly themed around prospecting for precious metals in the Old West. I liked it a lot.

The Grizzled: A co-op game about surviving the Great War. Great fun, but surely impossible to win at. I am assured that someone knows someone who claimed to have heard about a game which was successfully completed.

Hau La: A 3D shrub growing game which I like more than virtually anyone else, but at which I am no good.

Imperial Settlers: An interesting, but weakly themed, slightly asymmetrical engine-building game. I won, as Genghis Khan, by developing lots and lots of villages which didn't seem to make much sense. I enjoyed it though.

Inhabit the Earth: As with the similarly themed Evolution this is ostensibly based on Darwinism, but bears very little resemblance to anything that the man himself would recognise. This is the better game of the two though.

Isle of Skye: A nice, balanced game with interesting gameplay that doesn't outstay its welcome.

Lords of Waterdeep: I've always liked this game. For the first time we played the expansion which, to my astonishment at least, made the theme come slightly alive. Given that this game is notoriously abstract to play - despite all the garish artwork and attempts at backstory - that is noteworthy.

Murano: Another game I'd enjoyed on my first play and was glad see on the table again. As someone once said: "I'll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure."

Paperback: Er, ditto. This is like Scrabble, but fun.

Rattus: A game tastefully themed around the Black Death, which I played twice. The second time was with the Pied Piper expansion and the correct rules. It was getting the rules right which probably made the most difference. It's actually rather good: plenty of strategy especially as one approaches the endgame, everyone in with a chance right to the end and not too long a playing time. Recommended.

Red7: I bought a copy of this for myself because I wanted to try the advanced rules and, finally, I did. I think they improve what was already a good game, and certainly give players a lot more options to think about.

Ticket to Ride: This is a great game, and I can't for the life of me understand why some people turn their nose up at it. We played the Asia map and, to great effect, tried the team variant. It is so frustrating to watch your teammate blithely using your carefully collected cards to build a link from nowhere to nowhere.


Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The mould of the body and mind

"Always be a poet, even in prose." - Baudelaire

A couple of readers have offered me some tips and pointers regarding the blog. The first - well-intentioned no doubt, but someone who perhaps isn't as au fait with the world of toy soldiers as he might be - says cut out all the stuff about teak varnish. The second says avoid anything risqué and include more poetry. Excellent advice from both I think. Varnish I can take or leave, but I love poetry, and have always felt - and I say this in the greatest humility - that I shared certain traits with some of the great English poets of the early nineteenth century. Byron was disreputable, Shelley was left-wing, and Keats was extremely fond of Fanny.

Miss Brawne

So, here is a quote from a letter that Keats wrote to his fiancée:

 "My dear Girl I love you ever and ever and without reserve. The more I have known you the more have I lov'd. In every way - even my jealousies have been agonies of Love, in the hottest fit I ever had I would have died for you. I have vex'd you too much. But for Love! Can I help it? You are always new. The last of your kisses was ever the sweetest; the last smile the brightest."

 "Tout ce qui n'est point prose, est vers; et tout ce qui n'est point vers, est prose." - Molière
 

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Pot53pouri

The hunt for za'atar is over. The bearded hipsters of Otley have transferred their attention to something else for long enough for Waitrose to be able to restock their shelves. It's time for some baked eggs, or perhaps some flatbread, or possibly both. That is obviously the highlight of the week, but there has been other news. I saw a goldcrest in the garden, and given that previous live fauna spotted there was a rat, it was rather wonderful.


I mentioned in the context of the 600th anniversary of Agincourt that I had taken a very interesting online course about it. I've watched a few more since on a variety of subjects and have always found them worthwhile, although the one on gravity was pretty heavy going. Anyway, there's another potentially relevant one starting next week called England in the Time of King Richard III, which among other things promises to look at the soldier's experience in battle during the Wars of the Roses. It can be found here.

I've struggled with my WWI reading, and not just because Osprey find printing on both sides of the page to be too challenging. I gave up - at least temporarily - on Wyndham Lewis because I didn't warm to him at all; he seems to be attempting to give pretentiousness a bad name, which is my job thank you very much. I turned with relief to the next in the 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain only to find that was no bloody good either. I shall persevere with the series because I've enjoyed the others so much, but I hope they buck up soon. In the meantime I can feel some P. G. Wodehouse coming on; he won't disappoint.

And finally, I have been meaning to post this link about unbalanced dice ever since it appeared on the Piquet mailing list. It certainly explains a lot. As my old mucker Sophocles put it: "The dice of Zeus will always fall luckily."