My miserable attempts at blogging more have once again been overtaken by work madness. However I did manage to find time to update my Goodreads shelves, which may perhaps be of interest to someone somewhere. After falling a way behind on my challenge to read 45 books this year (Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds was fascinating, but sooooo long!) I’ve had a burst of catching up and am now one book ahead of schedule! We’ll see what the remainder of the year brings…

Moments of Wonder

On another procrastinatathon through YouTube, I stumbled across the gloriously named “Philomena Cunk” and her Moments of Wonder from Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe. Somehow I’d completely forgotten about this, even though it was only on in 2013 and I found it great at the time, easily the highlight of the show.  It seems like something my friends would appreciate, and the American contingent probably missed out on it too given the strong UK news/TV focus of the rest of the show. So here’s four of the segments, unfortunately the remaining two don’t seem to be on YouTube.

Interestingly Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris are credited as “program associates” for the show. I thought those names seemed familiar, and it’s because they’re two of the people responsible for The Framley Examiner, my favourite ever newspaper/website/book. I’ve owned the book for, ooh, something like 12 years now, and I can still take it off the shelf and find new things to chuckle about in it. There’s definitely echoes of the Examiner‘s absurd humour in Cunk’s ramblings.

Memories of Millom

Although to be pedantic I think it’s Haverigg in the photo. I really like the colours in this. Taken on my old Samsung Galaxy Portal, the first smartphone I had and certainly my first phone with a camera that was anything more than a novelty item.

Was reminded of Millom when I went to a bar in Stratford last week and they had “Duality” by Hardknott brewery on tap. I recognised the name: they used to be based on the same tiny industrial estate as Helpful Books where I worked! Pleased to discover their beer has made it all the way down to London, and still tastes great.

Zen and the Art of RollerCoaster Tycoon

I’ve been rediscovering RollerCoaster Tycoon (2) over the past few days, after a long time away from it.  It was partly prompted by this video analysing the genius of the level design in the original RCT.

Today I played the “European Cultural Festival” scenario, an interesting one where you start with a basic park, divided into five zones themed around different European countries (it’s from the Wacky Worlds expansion pack, and makes heavy use of that pack’s new scenery).


The beginning park is truly beautiful, but haemorrhaging cash when you take it over. There are few big attractions, a surfeit of staff, and path layouts which result in guests constantly getting lost. After a first attempt which was working out to be a miserable failure, I reset in order to concentrate from the start on making the park more manageable for both myself and the guests. This actually involved cutting off the British zone entirely (it was gorgeously themed, but only had one ride and a tonne of twisty little paths). There was so much to be done elsewhere, I hadn’t even re-opened it by the Year 4 end of the scenario.

Even with this I was struggling. My strategy this time had been to keep my loan as low as possible (due to the punishing interest rate) and concentrate on building up smaller rides and lots of shops whilst rationalising the pathing. The Russian section particularly was looking great. I was also keen to try and keep to the themes.


However this hadn’t been enough, and partway through Year 3 I was still well off the goal of 2000 guests. At that point I decided to just go for broke, maxed out my loan, and spent a (relative) lot of money on building my trusty triple launched corkscrew coaster in the French zone.


Not big or clever, but the Tricolore theme made it seem fitting. And what do you know, it started to bring the peeps pouring in. It may sound stupid, but I’d forgotten just how important actually building rollercoasters is in RollerCoaster Tycoon. That in turn meant more guests spending money at shops, and it wasn’t long before I was starting to pay down my loan. Before the end of the game it was below what I’d started with.

So I guess there’s two lessons here, and they can probably apply equally to RollerCoaster Tycoon and to real life:

  • Don’t be afraid to sacrifice things which aren’t working (sorry British zone!).
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks on big projects, sometimes it’s the only way to get the big pay offs you need.


Yep, that pretty much covers all eventualities

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Edit: Someone on Facebook pointed out there would be no items priced at exactly £1, which had occurred to me too. It got me thinking about an interesting quirk of English on display here.

If you were to say “Some of the fish are blue” then that implies nothing about the colours of any other fish. Similarly for “Some of the fish are yellow”. But just conjoin the sentences into “Some of the fish are blue and some of the fish are yellow” and suddenly it’s heavily implied that there are no red fish present. Not explicitly stated, but I would almost certainly read it that way and I guess others would too.


Popped into the new flagship Foyles* store on Charing Cross Road today. It’s very impressive, weighing in at a mighty eight floors (although only six are full of books; there’s also the now inevitable cafe, plus a “gallery” which I didn’t get chance to visit). Diamond Geezer has a much better post than I could write about the place, so suffice to say that I came away with a  couple of books that I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into. Could have spent much longer there, but that would probably also mean spending much more money!

I also enjoyed the many neatly arranged drawers of sheet music, and especially the blank manuscript paper section:

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* Interestingly they don’t have an apostrophe, yet seem to have avoided all the fuss Waterstones had to put up with when they dropped theirs.

DLR audio guides

South Quay DLR station - not actually on the guide I tried.
South Quay DLR station – not actually on the guide I tried out.

For those not aware, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is just what the name suggests  a light railway in London’s Docklands area (and beyond) — and a great way to get around. It passes through a lot of interesting places, and being elevated for much of its length, with only a few underground segments, it’s a good way to see them.

So it’s a great idea that the DLR have produced some free audio guides to point out places and facts along the various routes. Actually I was kind of surprised these aren’t advertised better, I just happened to stumble on them through a mention on someone’s blog.

Since I was visiting Canary Wharf yesterday anyway, I thought I’d skip the Jubilee line for a change and try out the Stratford to Canary Wharf guide (and the one in the opposite direction). So I downloaded the mp3′s, stuck them on my phone and set off.

The outward journey was a bit of a mess. The DLR is fully automated and has remarkably consistent timings between and at stations, which is another reason why the guides should work so well (and there are occasional beeps to synchronise with leaving stations in case something gets out of whack). However having listened to the instruction track I was under the impression that I should start playing the guide only once the doors closed and the train was moving out of Stratford. It turns out there’s a short introduction at the start of each track too, which meant I ended up quite a way behind where I should have been making it hard to get synced up (and I had to skip quite a few bits). Still: after catching up again there were certainly some interesting facts (and one terrible pun).

Coming back I was more prepared, listening to the intro in advance and then pausing at the correct spot before we set off, so the timing was much better. I even managed to bag a seat right at the front for the best view. It was slightly disappointing how much was just repeated from the opposite direction, but there were some different bits thrown in too.

On the whole the guides themselves are informative, and the narration is very well done. There were certainly plenty of things that I wouldn’t have known, or even noticed, on the route. I did notice one minor mistake (something was described as being on the right, when it was clearly on the left) but that was no big deal.

It would have been nice to have clearer instructions, or perhaps even bundle the files as an app. I’m usually against making apps for everything, but in this case it could also have the major improvement of splitting the guides more granularly so that one could start and end at any station, rather than having to travel the entire route (or struggle to find the correct starting point).

I only found out today that there actually is a mobile site which allows one to stream the tracks starting from any station. But so far as I can tell it’s not even linked from the downloadable guides page, plus there are plenty of bits of the DLR where mobile coverage would be poor or non-existent. Not to mention the data charges it could rack up for those not on an unlimited package.

Barring those improvements though, if you ever use the DLR I would recommend downloading them onto your phone/iPod to make your next journey a bit more interesting.

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