Me again.


It’s been years since I’ve looked at my old blog, so perhaps it’s time for an update. I was going to delete the whole thing, but thought I may as well hold onto it for the time being, for nostalgia if nothing else. I guess since I started using Facebook there hasn’t really been much point in sharing my ramblings here. When I first started writing I was preparing for my epic journey around Australia and it seemed like the best way to stay in contact with family and friends, at a time when I didn’t even know how often I would have access to email or even a phone at times.

Anyhow,  I’m still living in Japan, older and wiser maybe. I’m basically self-employed now, I teach English in a couple of universities as well as privately. It’s a pretty good living, the hours are good, although a little antisocial and I now work 7 days a week which can be inconvenient sometimes.

The big news is that I’m now a father, we have a little girl called Mei. She is 2 years and 3 months old, and, well, she is absolutely the best thing that has ever happened to us. She has completely turned our lives upside down in the best way possible and she is the happiest little bundle of fun you could ever hope to meet. I could talk about her all day, needless to say she has brought a lot of joy into our lives.

I’d like to take the family back to the UK or Australia soon, but finding work so far has proved far more complicated than I expected. Moving around was far easier when I was young free and single.

What other news, well unsurprisingly because of time I’m less into video games these days, although I still manage to make my way though a few a year. Still manage a few books and comics and over the last few years I’ve amassed a great jazz and progressive rock collection (it must be an age thing).

Recently I’ve returned to a hobby that I loved as a teenager, tabletop roleplaying games. I meet up with a group here in Takasaki about twice a month and we play Dungeons & Dragons. It’s funny to think that I was playing 1st edition and have skipped straight to 5th about 25 years later (I was playing before some of the other players in my group were born I think). We have a lot of fun, I’ve also played a fair amount online using the excellent Roll20 app.

Planning a return trip to Australia in the near future, can’t wait 🙂

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This months news…. unemployed (again)

The big news this month is that I have left my job at the school, basically I was really enjoying working there but at the start of this school year the vice-principle changed my timetable which meant that I would have 14 lessons a week with one of the teachers I really don’t like working with…. so I handed in my notice the next day. Life is just too short to mess around doing things you hate if it’s avoidable.  I was also pretty shaken up at the time by the death of a friend I was very close to at university which also helped the decision. The kids at the school gave me a nice send off and wrote me cards, they all asked me to sign their pencases, books etc. after the last lesson which was also nice.

So what have I been up to, well job hunting mostly, I had one interview via telephone for a job in Swansea (South Wales), but it didn’t go well. I was actually lucky to get that interview, most UK companies are very reluctant to interview anyone by Skype, Facetime etc. I would like to find a job back in the UK, but I’m also starting to remember Australia with good thoughts.

I’ve had a couple of weddings at the chapel which brings in a little money and it looks like I will have a  few more next month. I’m also of course walking with Satchi everyday which she appreciates and am playing a unhealthy amount of video games.

Haven’t done a great deal of travelling lately but I have visited Tokyo and a small onsen town called Ikaho a couple of times, it’s very beautiful and only one and a half hours drive from Takasaki.

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Point and Click

Ok, so I’ve been playing a lot of games recently from retro classics like Another World (which I remembered as being far more fun than it actually is) to modern classics like The Sword of Fargoal, a rebooted classic which is far more fun than it should be.

But by far the best gaming discovery I have made lately is ScummVm , an emulator for PC/OSX which allows you to play all the old classic point an click adventures. Most of the games are at least 20 years old so are not everyone’s cup of tea, but there are some real classics out there. The graphics are not great compared to modern games (although the animations can be superb) but they easily make up for this with great atmosphere and interesting and often humorous story lines.

So far I have played though Beneath a Steel Sky, Simon the Sorcerer, I have no mouth and I must scream and Full Throttle and currently I’m working my way though Broken Sword which is by far the best so far.

There are quite a few I would like to try as I was probably too young to appreciate them the first time round. I might blog some short reviews as I play though.

These games because of their age are generally categorised as abandonware, this means that they are often available for free on a number of websites because modern computer systems can’t support them and they are no longer commercially available. It’s a bit of a grey area but the software houses and original creators don’t seem to be making of a fuss about it.

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Adventure Games and Interactive Fiction

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the 1980’s choose your own adventure books and computer text adventure games such as Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork (although I never got very far with them). Recently I watched a great documentary called “Get Lamp”. I was surprised to learn that text adventures or interactive fiction is going strong. Whilst I am not ready to tackle something as challenging as Zork there is a lot of great Interactive Fiction available at the Interactive Fiction Database IFDB to play on-line, even better there is a great app called Frotz which allows you to play them on your iPhone / iPad.

There are also a few choose your own adventure books for the iPhone/iPad, I’ve just finished ‘An Assassin in Orlandes’ by Tin Man Games which as much as I hate to admit was 10x better than the old books.

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glorious MUD(s)

Something that I should give a short mention to while writing all this stuff about adventure games is Multi User Dungeons (MUD). I have fairly limited experience of them having only spent a few evenings playing around in a deserted and forgotten tiny computer room while at university. In this rather dingy room there were a few old 386 computers that struggled even running windows. They were however connected to the Janet network so it was possible to play some MUDs and I took advantage of this. They were fun and my first experience of online gaming….. and surprisingly some of them are still going strong. There are a number of good terminal interfaces and you can even play them on the iPhone or iPad using apps like Pocket MUD or the TMC game client. I recommend Arrdwolf or Discworld if you are looking for somewhere to start. Sadly I don’t have enough time to spend on MUDs, they are a lot of fun and still have a fairly large following. It’s interesting to compare them to MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. I’m currently using the Atlantis MUD client for MAC OSX which was very easy to set up and get started with.

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