The Scented Llama of Doom Best not to ask really...

2016: A Year End Review

I wasn’t really intending this to be the first post of 2016. People will likely comment that it’s a tad late. It’s not like I wasn’t intending to post more often. I just didn’t. One of those things really.

In the end 2016 was a really rough year for me - for multiple reasons.

Reason 1: My wife convinced me to buy two Golden Retriever pups at the end of 2015. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Turns out the boisterous animals were a bit much for the place we were renting so…

Reason 2: We ended up buying a house to house said animals. Some people might call this an overreaction. It really wasn’t. Unfortunately the animals now loose on a property we had to maintain ourselves suddenly discovered a hitherto unknown talent for wanton destruction which led to…

Reason 3: Massive financial expenditure to ensure the house remained standing. Fences were erected. Locks purchased and installed. The entire garden had to be revived. This led to financial problems exacerbated by…

Reason 4: Difficult work conditions. I ended up with big projects and short deadlines. Not the best stress relieving situation. In order to try and make our deadlines I ended working from home a bit more often which was exactly the time when…

Reason 5: The dogs ate our electrical system. With every sign of enjoyment. You’d think it would be bad for their health but they showed no …

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NaNoWriMo 2015 - It’s Over

Well it’s over. And I made it.

The thing is, looking over the draft I’ve produced I’m forced to ask myself the question: is this… english? Have I just inadvertantly written a Norwegian bestseller? It’s either that or my spellchecker has started highlighting all the correctly spelled words, which is unlikely.

So things I’ve learnt:

It’s Easier than I thought it would be
Well, that is to say: it’s easier than impossible. In the end all it takes is to make sure you write no less than 1667 words everyday. That’s a lot and it cuts into your time - it took me a couple of hours each day. Still - if you can actually sit down and bang on a keyboard then you should be good.
It’s Much Harder than I thought it would be
Good. Grief. I thought I was a reasonably creative person but I’m pretty sure I’ve wasted days this month staring at walls trying to think of something to write. I’ve ended up writing tens of thousands of words of utter rubbish just to make the deadline. My plot makes no sense and I’m pretty sure all my characters have morphed into a single, slightly sarcastic detective who now talks to herself. Not exactly literature.

So - did it work? Did I end up with a novel at the end of all this? Well - not exactly. I think it’s going to take an expert …

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Nanowrimo 2015

Being a complete masochist I’ve decided to compete in this years Nation Novel Writing Month. The idea, if you don’t already know, is to write a novel within one month - a novel being defined as 50 000 words.

As of this post I’m just under 3000 words in which is a little behind the pace (I’m hoping to catch up this weekend). It’ll be a Raymond Chandler homage complete with hardboiled private detective, tangled plot and organised crime - although it already seems to be going off the rails into terra incognita so who knows where it will end up.

Anyway - the purpose of this post is to let y’all know I’m doing it so you can mock me mercilessly if/when I fail.

My profile page is here if you’re interested.

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I Prefer Au Revoir

I was a reclusive ten or eleven year old when I read my first Terry Pratchett book. I found Only You Can Save Mankind in our primary school library and absolutely loved it. At the time it was the only Terry Pratchett book available to me but it wasn’t long until I discovered Witches Abroad and the Discworld. It never occurred to me they were by the same author until I saw Only You Can Save Mankind in the list of other published books which are conveniently arranged in the front.

That was the start of it. I’ve read the entire Discworld series a few times over. I have a relatively complete collection of the books (although with numerous casualties via lending). I don’t think a year has gone by, since 1992, that I haven’t read something written by Sir Terry. I can’t even begin to explain how much of an impact his writing has made on my life.


‘Goodbye,’ Mort said, and was surprised to find a lump in his throat. ‘It’s such an unpleasant word, isn’t it?’

QUITE SO. Death grinned because, as has so often been remarked, he didn’t have much option. But possibly he meant it, this time.

I PREFER AU REVOIR, he said.


- Mort

Sir Terry Pratchett 1948 - 2015

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Spiders in the Water Closet

A few weeks back my wife and I were attempting to get a good nights rest. Like most people we did this by climbing into bed. I am now going to attempt to reproduce the conversation that occured:

Wife
That’s… a rather large spider.
Me:
Huh, that’s quite cool. You don’t see ones that big everyday.
Wife:
Are you sure it’s safe?
Me:
The big ones aren’t poisonous…
Wife:
I know that, you idiot, that thing looks big enough to dine on human - no poison required.
Me:
Yeah… Umm… It just climbed on the ceiling…
Wife:
Oh God it’s overhead…
Me:
It’s stopped…
Wife:
It’s looking at us!
Me:
Don’t show fear! They can sense it!
Wife:
Why isn’t it doing anything?
Me:
Maybe it’s priming itself for the leap?

We lay there motionless for a moment.

Me
(whispering):
Maybe if we ignore it it’ll go away.

Wife nods inclining her chin enough to demonstrate the gesture but not enough to actually appear to be moving.

Time passes.

Wife
(bravely):
Maybe if we turn the lights off?

We turn the lights off. An eerie silence follows. Moments pass. The lights are turned back on. The spider has moved not one inch.

Wife:
Thats it. This is officially an 804.
Me:
Remind me of…
Wife:
Husband Contract section 8 subsection 4 - The Husband shall be responsible for the removal of all scary critters (that is reptiles, insects, arachnids, various …

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The Siege of Dinokeng

Note: this is a true story. I may have exaggerated about the food but everything else happened exactly as I describe. This happened a few years ago when One Year Old was still One Year Old.

It only takes 1.2 million mosquito bites to drain the average human body which shows just how dangerous the situation was.

My family - numbering one Wife, one Teenager, one Middle Kid, one One Year Old, one of myself and exactly one Grandmother - had spent a nice day at the Dinokeng Game Reserve and we were returning to the flat that we had booked.

Said flat was situated in a small fenced off area, adjacent two other flats, that was wonderfully secluded from the rest of the reserve. Being the type of outgoing people person that frequents libraries, the back row in church and the corner behind the pot plant at office parties - this suited me fine.

The sun was setting as we returned and the bush was glowing slightly, outlined by golden fire. Wife immediately set about scouring the surrounding area for wildlife. Since we were in a Big 5 reserve that had recently been stuffed to the brim with animals she, naturally, saw trees, grass, more trees, more grass and the occasional stone. This disappointed her. She resolved to rectify this situation by attempting a stakeout and was sitting by our back door scanning the surrounding foliage for any signs of rhinoceros or elephant. They, stubbornly, refused to show themselves; no doubt …

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World Chess Championship 2014 Game 11

It’s all over and Carlsen has successfully defended his world championship title. At this point Carlsen has 6 wins and only one loss in world championship matches which is seriously impressive. A point down everyone expected Anand to come out swinging but he stuck with his Berlin Defence which really surprised me - I expected the Sicilian. The Berlin is famous for being the opening Vladmir Kramnik used to block Garry Kasparov in their title match - it’s a very difficult opening for white to beat but at the same time not very easy for black to win either. Most games end in draws (Apparently 38.9%).

Despite the opening tending towards a draw Anand played well and got into a promising position. Former woman’s world champion Susan Polgar thought that Anand had winning chances at move 25. Unfortunately Anand got carried away and played a bad exchange sacrifice. Carlsen jumped on it playing extremely accurately and Anand’s position slowly started falling apart. He resigned on move 45. That gave Carlsen 6.5 points out of 12 and secured his title.

All in all this was a much better match than last time and the difference between the two players was smaller than the 6.5 - 4.5 scoreline would suggest. In the end the difference was that Carlsen made fewer mistakes in critical situations. He won the ‘big points’ to borrow the tennis term.

I’ve learned a lot from all the commentators and analysis of the …

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World Chess Championship 2014 Game 6

At the half way point of the match it’s Carlsen leading 3.5 - 2.5. It could so easily have been the other way round. After two draws Carlsen had the white pieces and had managed to secure a small advantage from the opening. Commentators were critical of Anand’s opening play saying it was too passive and let Carlsen get a postion that suited his style of play. It wasn’t lost and could possibly have ended in another draw but at move 26 everything went wrong - for both players. Carlsen played 26. Kd2?? which resulted in the following postion:

This was a blunder - it would have allowed Anand to play 26. .. Nxe5! which would have completely turned the game around. The point is that after Carlsen takes the rook on g8 Anand can play Nxc4+! which would get the knight out of trouble, win a pawn and force the white king to move so black can recapture the rook. It would have won the game.

Incredibly Anand played too quickly and missed the winning move. He played 26. .. a4? which wasn’t good enough. After that Carlsen made sure he made no more mistakes and I think the fight went out of Anand as he lost quickly. Psychologically this must have been devastating.

To make matters worse Carlsen is playing white again today. Anand needs to come out swinging if he’s still going to have a chance in this match …

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