Recursive poetry

I’ve mentioned a couple of times in previous blog posts that I rather like the xkcd webcomic, which describes itself as being “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language”.

It’s a daily comic which I follow on my blog reader and I more or less enjoy every instalment. Some stand out more than others, for various reasons, and today’s was one of these:

Ozymandias (xkcd)

There are two things I particularly like about this.

Firstly, I’ve always been fascinated by recursion, which is the basic idea on display here.

Secondly, Ozymandias (by Percy Shelley) is one of my favourite poems and is also the only thing I studied for A-Level English. That was because, when I did my A-Levels I had hoped to do English as one of them and got as far as attending one lesson (in which we read and analysed this poem). Unfortunately a timetable change meant that English clashed with chemistry and since at the time I was intending to go on and study chemistry at university, that meant I had to drop English. Unlike some other choices I’ve made, I’ve never considered that I may have made the wrong decision on this one, but I do still feel it was a bit of a shame that I didn’t get to pursue my formal studies of English a bit further. Of course, that hasn’t stopped me retaining an interest in literature (and especially poetry) over the years.

Old Soldiers

I had a bit of a rude awakening today, when I came across an article on the Guardian news blog about the Warhammer battle game.

This was a game that I used to rather enjoy playing in my youth and it was a bit of a shock when the article pointed out that the game is now 32 years old.  Admittedly it shouldn’t have been too much a shock since I’m well aware that I’m several years older than that and I am mathematically literate.  Somehow, though, the realisation of how long it is since Warhammer came out made me feel somewhat older than reminiscing to the (younger) friends with whom I was watchingsome of the Star Wars movies last weekend about how I saw The Empire Strikes Back when it was first out in the cinema, even though that was several years earlier.

As I recall, my brother got a copy of the first edition Warhammer rules fairly shortly after they first came out (and when, of course, they were not “first edition” but just “Warhammer”) and it wasn’t too long before we had our first battles.  We later got a copy of the 2nd edition, as well as Warhammer 40,000 (the futuristic, sci-fi version, which was my fairly firm favourite), and played these from time to time over the next decade or so.

In fact, we were generally more into roleplaying games (including the Warhammer spin-off, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, which was our main RPG for a while before being supplanted in our affections by Shadowrun and various other games) but it was always nice to be able to have a bit of a tabletop battle for a change, even if we were limited to fairly small armies.  That limitation, incidentally, was more due to our available playing space (growing up in a fairly small terraced house) than the size of our miniature figure collection, which was fairly extensive (and provided an early boost to my interest in painting – though in later years I’ve tended to paint pictures, when I get round to painting at all, rather than figures).

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve played Warhammer, or indeed any other tabletop battle game (I did have a few games of a Napoleonic battle game called Shako with a friend about 10 years ago, and I’ve a vague feeling we may have played a little bit of Warhammer then too) and I don’t particularly have any great desire to go back to it.  I’d be much more interested in getting back into playing real RPGs – I still play occasional CRPGs (i.e. Computer RolePlaying Games) but it’s really not the same.

Nevertheless, Warhammer and other wargames did definitely have an important if not particularly large role in my early life and are a part of that rich tapestry of experiences that make me who I am.

And I’m probably not the only one to ever consider how the real world might be a much nicer place if, when opposing groups had a territorial dispute or some other such cause for conflict, they got together round a large table with a bunch of miniature figures, a bag of dice and a tape measure and settled their differences that way without having to tear up the lives of thousands or millions of real people.

In praise of green goo

An occupational hazard of doing your own bike mechanics is that your hands are liable to get dirty.

Bike mechanics is certainly not the only thing I do that requires a bit of a clean up afterwards, but it’s definitely one of the activities most likely to stretch ordinary soap and water beyond the limit of what they can handle, especially if I’ve been working on the chain or other greasy bits of the bike.

Fortunately there are stronger cleaning agents out there than just soap and water.  Over the years I’ve tried several different ones with varying degrees of success.

Recently I’ve returned to swarfega, which I used to use quite often when I was growing up but haven’t touched for probably the best part of 20 years.  I discovered that it’s actually just about the most effective hand cleaning agent that I’ve tried.

As an added bonus, its distinctive aroma and green, gloopy appearance and texture give me a nice nostalgia trip every time I use it.  And you don’t need to use a huge amount even if your hands are properly grubby, so the small pot that I bought about a month ago should last me quite a long time.