Electile Dysfunction – De-mock-racy in the UK

princepulpI have ranted and raved about this subject before.

In fact, last year I gave voice to my political apathy and general disenfranchisement with regards the general election.

A year on, we are half way through a local election and I’m at a loss as to where I should cast my vote.

There are two issues to be voted upon:

  • Local council representation.
  • Police and Crime Commissioner.

Whilst the latter seems pretty well defined race (with adequate information out there for the more inquisitive voter).

In fact, in West Yorkshire, if you toss aside the UKIP and I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-UKIP candidates, you have a choice between:

  • The guy who appears to have done a good job of it so far.
  • The untested guy who wants to add more CCTV.
  • The untested guy who wants to spend all the reserve funds but doesn’t clearly say what he wants to spend it on.

That’s quit an easy choice for me to make, to be fair. I don’t even have to get into partisan politics. The guy whose party I wouldn’t normally vote for is doing a pretty bang up job so why stop him now?

The council elections, on the other hand, are pretty much unsupported in my area, with little to no information available to the electorate.

pulprosette_largeI’ve had a mountain of spam from the local Lib-Dem candidate; spam that reads just like every other local election year.

Before “the Coalition” I was pretty much a die hard Liberal but the last 6 years have served to drive me further and further away from them.

Locally the conservatives seem to be doing more for my Ward than the other parties – but again, their literature reads like the tired old spin that gets reeled off every year.

The other parties are non-entities in my ward.

The single flyer I have had for the Labour candidate tells me nothing more than the chap’s name.  I feel racist for thinking it but I choose to interpret his standing as “Token Asian candidate in a Ward we’ll never win”.

The green party have a new name but through years of searching, I still have no evidence that they have done anything to look out for environmental issues in my Ward. Which is ridiculous when you consider how much effort both Tory and Lib-Dem candidates do on that front… the very least the candidate could do is ride their coat tails.

And so, later this evening, I’ll stroll down to the polling station and cast my vote blind – putting the mockery into democracy once more.

 

Ingress -Huddersfield Banner Mission

2016-04-09 10.56.24I’ve been playing Ingress for over 3 years now and yet despite this, I have not really written about my experiences playing it.

Ingress is a GPS based game, a sort of MMO where you play yourself in augmented reality.

With elements of capture the flag, tower defence and even (to a small degree) role-playing, Ingress has captured the imaginations of millions of players worldwide.

I am genuinely surprised that it has taken me this long to write about it.  I play Ingress daily, it is a part of my daily routine – a part of my life… and yet, I would only class myself as a casual player.

I have travelled to other cities and even met friends that I would not have met if I did not play the game.

After 3+ years I am still only level 14, with a current level cap of 16.  I have seen friends start the game and achieve the maximum level in around a year.

The game has evolved massively since I started playing both in terms of game-play and coverage.

In the early days, agents (the term used in game for players of the game) could submit “portals” – places of interest that can be captured, held and even linked to other portals to gain points within the game.

Portal submissions are no longer accepted (there are rumours this is a feature that may well return) but I did manage to rack up 118 successful submissions while they were.

The only way agents can improve or add to the game currently is by the creation of missions.

Missions (created from the Mission Authoring Tool) are a further incentive to play the game – if you didn’t find the game addictive enough to start with.

missions1I have created 39 missions, including 3 single line “banner” missions, I’m awaiting acceptance of these missions by Niantec (the organisation that created/runs Ingress).

Banner missions are by far the most interesting, rewarding and challenging form of mission.

2016-04-09 12.47.34A mission is a collection of 6 or more portals (or way-points from Google Field trip – but that’s another story) with actions that must be performed on them.

Actions can be sequential or performed in any order and range from a simple “hack” to capturing, upgrading or “modding” a portal.

Agents may even be requested to enter a pass-phrase related to the portal or area they are near.

The only reward an agent receives for a mission is a badge; badges are images created by the mission author and collecting them results in progress to wards the achievement of an in-game medal that aids towards an increase in level.

Banner missions creatively break down larger images into a mosaic of badges that, when collected in sequence, display the larger image in the agent’s in-game profile.

huddsbadgesThe Huddersfield banner mission is the first banner I have attempted and was created by a respected local agent from my team (Enlightened/Green), J0nny.

At 24 missions, this banner is not the largest I have seen (I came across a 60 mission banner in Eastbourne!); 24 missions across Huddersfield was still quite a challenge.

It took me 2.5 hours and led me, meandering, around Huddersfield, hacking my way through portals that have been familiar to me for years.

I tracked my progress using MapMyWalk as Ingress gives a useless estimate of 15 minutes per mission- this map should give you an idea of how long it takes a 40 year old, overweight Yorkshireman.

huddsmission_map

Starting at Huddersfield railway station, the missions lead you North, out of town under the viaduct and up towards Greenhead Park.

A spike up through the park then pulls back into town past the Civic centre and Town Hall then down to the University campus.

You have an opportunity here to drop into the Queensgate indoor market; I took the opportunity to pick up a couple of books from the excellent (and Ingress friendly) Kapow Comics.

A circuit of the campus (challenging at the moment due to the construction work in progress there) eventually brings you back into town and around St. Peter’s park before heading back to the railway station.

There is limited parking available at the station itself, so you may want to consider coming in by train.

If you are planning on attempting a banner like this, it is important to make sure that you are going to start at mission 1 and that you are starting a brand new line of mission badges, otherwise the overall banner will be askew when complete.

If you’ve made it this far and you’re not an Ingress player, well done.

If you fancy taking up the game then consider trying it out; it certainly gets you out more.

Also, choose Enlightened (Green/Frogs) over Resistance (Blue/Smurfs)… help us immanentize the eschaton… Hail Tsathoggua…

The Rabbit & his Shadow

RAHS1Just over forty years ago, I was brought into this world at Huddersfield’s Princess Royal hospital.

Like all newborns I’d like to think I entered the world full of innocence and without fear.

I don’t remember much of those early years in the mid-1970s but I do remember my first exposure to absolute soul-numbing horror.

As a toddler my Mother would often take me to visit her parents who would then read to me.

I love reading, I always have but in those days I would beg my Granny to read me a specific book; a book that both terrified and enthralled me.

After a recent conversation regarding the book, my Mother has kindly sourced a copy – all the way from the states – and so I present to you, the book that stands as a prologue to my love of supernatural horror.

The Rabbit & his Shadow.

TRAHS2

This tale of paranoiac horror was my first exposure to the concept of malign “other” that was a springboard to a world of imaginary darkness so terrifying that even now, as a grown adult, I haunted by the story’s theme.

From the age of 3 or 4 right up to the age of 7 (when I was reading the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis) I would ask my Granny for the book – so strong was the hold this tale had over me.

The story is a simple one (surprisingly enough for a children’s book).  It follows the woes of an innocent, yet nameless, rabbit who is being stalked by a dark and sinister shadow rabbit.

rahs3

Published as “A Happiness Story Book”, my adult eyes notice that the intention of the book is to show a transition in the rabbit from its initial unhappiness through to the joy of new found friendship at the end of the tale.

This is far from the case through the eyes of young Armaitus.

As we follow our tormented protagonist through the tale, we see it driven to despair as it tries to rid itself from the ever present pursuit of his shadow.

So desperate is the rabbit that it even tries to kill the shadow creature to gain some freedom from the beast.

rahs4

As a child, each step in the rabbit’s descent to despair carried me along with it.  Already open to the paranormal world about me, this tale taught me that I was not alone, even in the darkness, and that was somehow comforting in its discomfiture.

If I could gain this feeling from a book then it would suppress my own night terrors maybe… again, this was far from the case.

The tale ends with the rabbit risking its life to seek advice from a wise owl, an owl that chooses to offer advice rather than rend the tiny mammal in its razor sharp claws.

rahs6The rabbit attempts and succeeds in reconciliation with its nemesis, who displays an unnerving ability to both talk and move independently of its host.

Reading this tale again I realise that, subconsciously, I learnt an important lesson from this book.

It is better to embrace your demons and learn from them than flee and fight them in futility.

Top 5 Villains in Top Hats

Top 5 Villains in Top Hats

eviltophatThroughout all of history, there has been no more villainous or diabolical piece of head wear than the top hat.

A milliner’s delight and the most sombre of fashionable pieces, the top hat shows a level of both style and irascibility that represents the true villain.

In fact, it could be said that the stereotypical villain is a monocled Victorian gentleman sporting a finely twirled moustache and an enormous top hat.

Personally, I find that these Dick Dastardly types are at the very foot of the pecking order of villainy.  They are surpassed by a far higher calibre of villain and so I present to you my top 5 villains in Top Hats.

babadook_posterNumber 5: Mister Babadook

Spoiler warning – skip this entry if you haven’t seen the film titled “The Babadook”.

If it’s in a word,

or in a look,

You can’t get rid of the Babadook.

Whether you believe the Babadook to be a symptom of a mother’s grief at the loss of her spouse or a genuine supernatural creature of massively malign intent, the Babadook is a wonderfully menacing individual.

The Babadook forced its way into my list, displacing Oswald Cobblepot as my fifth favourite top hatted villain, with his attempts to convince a young Mother to throttle her irritating (and needy) son before persuading her into taking her own life.

His repeated chanting of his own name is so catchy, that I have set it as my text message alert – just to keep me on my toes.

MisterBabadook_scare_600

Like other great villains on this list, the Babadook gives off an eerie aura of east european origins.  Like a cross between Fagin and Freddy Krueger, I can imagine the Babadook nesting in a dark forested, fairytale home – amongst the bones of dead children.

I’ve been unable to determine whether Mr. Babadook is an original creation or based on actual folklore.  If you look into the mythology surrounding “shadow people” and other night terrors you can easily see a theme of long-clawed humanoid creatures wearing hats.  Take Freddy Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame; my nightmares were plagued by a Freddy clone years before the film was produced.

 

lazarouNumber 4: Papa Lazarou

Whilst Papa Lazarou pre-dates Mr. Babadook, he seems born of similar east-european origins.

Part gypsy, part black and white minstrel, Lazarou’s villainy manifests in an unstoppable urge to kidnap people to add to his harem (or zoo).

You wanna buy some pegs Dave?

wpid-IMAG0999.jpgPapa Lazarou features in the British television comedy series, The League of Gentlemen, a dark piece of social satire that dredges the depths of British humour with a shading of dystopian horror and fear of the North.

Merging aspects of racism in early television, stereotyped voodoo couture and the small village fear of outsiders, Papa Lazarou is more a creature than a man.

My love for Lazarou runs deeper than all that. A true bogeyman for its generation.

Whilst villains like the Babadook carry a threat of very real harm, Papa Lazarou offers a fate far worse.  Inescapable torment and servitude to a creature of pure malevolent chaos.

 

Number 3: Old George

OldGeorgeThe Wachowski brother’s cross-generational science fantasy piece, Cloud Atlas, met with very mixed reviews when it was released.

Cloud Atlas appears to have been overly ambitious in its execution.

That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the story it wove.

I found the concept of following the same old-souls as they enacted and re-enacted the tropes of their own lives to be fresh and inspirational.

Old George isn’t really named in the film, I had to research him to discover a name.

Played by the excellent Hugo Weaving, Old George is a persistent figment of Tom Hanks’ post apocalyptic incarnation.  Like the old Indian Chief guiding Jim Morrison through the desert, Old George plagues Hanks’s character like a promise of malice.

Clearly influenced by the next villain on my list, Old George is like a fallen guardian angel. An angel whose advice can only lead to pain and suffering.

Is Old George a kind of “Hungry Ghost”, included as a nod to the film’s eastern influences or is he merely a fragment of Tom Hanks’ psyche?

My recollection of the film left me with the impression that the latter scenario is the case… I’d like to believe otherwise however.

Number 2: The Hitcher

Hitcher

The Hitcher is a recurring villain in the collected works of The Mighty Boosh, a British comedy collective.

Do I look like a reasonable man to you, or a peppermint nightmare?

A green-skinned cockney villain who would happily slaughter his victims whilst filling them with Eels, this polo-minted fiend is actually called Baboo Yagu.

A parody of the Slavic fairytale bogeywoman, Baba Yaga, the Hitcher carries a similar supernatural taint.  He appears at a whim, when least expected and always offers violence or death.

The Hitcher shares traits with others from this list.  he is clearly the inspiration for Wachowski’s Old George and is as inescapable as Papa Lazarou.  His name even has ties to Mister Babadook.

Despite that, he is still only second on my list.

 

samedi2Number 1: Baron Samedi

There can be no greater top-hatted villain than Baron Saturday.

Propelled into popular culture through my favourite Bond movie, Live and Let Die, Baron Samedi is a voodoo Loa – a kind of spirit entity that operates between our world and that of the divine.

In the original story behind Live and Let Die, Baron Samedi is a role believed to be adopted by the villain-de-jour, Mr. Big.  The rumour spread amongst the West Indian underground is that Mr. Big is Baron Samedi. Mr Big maintains this rumour to maintain an atmosphere of terror amongst his people.

In the film, we see that this is simply not the case.  Mr Big (the actual villain of the story). Baron Samedi steals the limelight however.  We are left without a doubt to the Baron’s supernatural nature.

samediFrom the moment he is left as cracked porcelain shards to the final scene of the movie, we are shown that Baron Samedi is beyond death.  I’ve always interpreted this as the Baron being the influence behind Mr. Big.

In the book, Ian Fleming writes Mr. Big as working on behalf of SMERSH; I prefer to believe he was working at the influence of a greater villain.

So there you have it, the top 5 villains in top hats.

Notable top-hatted villains that didn’t make this list include Dick Dastardly, The Penguin, Raffles the Gentleman Thug and Mr. Hyde from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Fixing the Start Menu When Adding Windows 10 to a Domain

windows-10If I were a stick of rock and you’d cut me, many years ago, you’d have found the word Microsoft running through me to the core.

I game on XBOX, I develop software using Microsoft tools and I even used to (foolishly) adopt Microsoft products early.

The Armaitus of today is less of a Microsoft fan-boy or apologist and more of jaded ex-lover.

Whilst I upgraded to Windows 10 at home, for research purposes, I have resisted at work. Which is only a problem when you consider that I’m an IT Manager responsible for an estate of over 50 workstations.

Over the last day or so I have been trying to get a brand new Windows 10 laptop (Lenovo Thinkpad) onto our domain and working.

Thanks to to my decision to upgrade to Windows 10 at home, I was able to easily navigate through the various stages of adding the laptop to our domain.  That side of the process was pretty much as you would expect and not really that much different as for Windows 8.

The problems started once I logged in as the domain user that would be accessing the laptop.

Neither the start menu, nor the Edge would start.  Cortana remained silent.

A quick Google showed that I was not alone. From early this year to now, hundreds of Windows 10 users were suffering the same issue.  Worse, there were a myriad of possible causes and solutions to the problem.

I’m writing this 24 hours later, solution in place and satisfied at a job well done.  I’m also pretty annoyed that something so simple hasn’t been fixed by Microsoft yet.

My particular problems weren’t caused by a Group Policy we had in put in place – I’d list the cause as Microsoft not defaulting enough permissions throughout the system.

Microsoft would probably disagree and lay the blame at my not using a Group policy to manage my user’s system access to a granular level.

This link to Microsoft support, lists all the permissions required by the All Application Packages (ALL_APP_PACKAGES) system entity.

By ensuring that these permissions were granted on the laptop, the start menu became accessible once again.

 

Electile Dysfunction – GE 2015

Electile Dysfunction – GE 2015

ObeyI think I’m in shock

I don’t remember being this disenfranchised 5 years ago when the party I had supported for years entered into an ill-advised coalition with the Conservatives.

As a supporter of a working system of Proportional Representation, I’ve never really been happy with the British electoral system.  At best first past the post is a pseudo-democracy and at worst it is a form of dictatorship to those who do not support the leading party.

Last night, as I followed the frighteningly accurate Exit Polls, a sense of deep dystopic foreboding filled me.

Refusing to be sucked into a night of tooth-gnashing angst, I tried to sleep.

My dreams were riddled with allegories: Caledonian warriors defecting from union armies and assisting the enemy in subjugating the masses – that kind of thing.

I woke around 3am, something that seems to be happening more and more these days, and the results were still too early to call.  Conservative, Labour and SNP all at a similar level.

When I rose again, later that morning, the Conservatives were on a clear path to victory.  With only a handful of seats to tally, the outcome was touted as being pretty much a done deal – and that is when the shock set in.

This is my fifth General Election, I was a year and a bit too young when John Major won a Tory victory back in 1992.

Today, more than any other post-polling day, I feel like my voice has been discarded.

The party I support have a small percentage of the vote, a similar percentage to another party.

At this stage in the tally, my party have a single seat and yet the other has over 50; how is that fair and democratic?

Worse than that, I have a genuine sense of being lied to.

I appreciate that my social circle are predominantly liberal/socialist and so my world view is coloured a kind of orangey-green but are there really that many Conservative voters out there?

When I campaigned for the Liberal Democrats 5 years ago, the general doorstep feedback was pro-Labour but my constituency remains a solid blue.

For the security of the voter, voting is anonymous but how, then, do I know that the votes tallied are genuine?

For all I know the figures were set well in advance of the election; exit polls could just as easily be rigged as they retain the same anonymity.

I’m not saying that I 100% support this theory of electoral conspiracy but I find it difficult to push the possibility from the front of my mind.

So here I am, on the first day of the New Dystopia, shackled with the illusion of a free and democratic society, ready for another 5 years of tyrannical rule.

So long NHS, I’ll miss the Insulin more than you might think.

God I Love Being a Turtle (Fan)

MikeyI would like to share my thoughts on Michael Bay‘s Ninja Turtles movie.  I am attempting to do so in such a manner as to avoid spoiling the movie for those who have not seen it.

My introduction to the Turtles came at some point in the eighties through some kind of unplanned Pincer Strike.

On the one side there was a censored (and retitled) cartoon series and on the other there was Palladium Books‘ tabletop role-playing game based on the original comic series by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

The turtles were (nay, are) iconic and played a key part of my personal development through childhood to early adulthood.

Mocked at the time for being such a far fetched concept, many of the Turtles’ critics didn’t really get the message that the story held for others.

Eastman and Laird’s work parodied themes that were prevalent in comics at the time and yet portrayed strong heroic (and anti-heroic) character archetypes.

I’ve been a fan ever since and I’ve seen the Turtles evolve over the years, adapting to each new generation whilst still keeping to what they stand for.

From cartoon and action figure to previous live action movies. I’ve run tabletop role-playing sessions with the turtles and even seen them inspire a form of the lesser banishing pentagram ritual.

When I heard that Michael Bay was making a movie, I panicked a little. Having already ridden roughshod over another staple from my childhood, the man who twisted the Transformers into a mess of grinding girders now had his hands on the Turtles.

Last night, I finally plucked up the courage to go see Bay’s movie.

I’m almost ashamed to say it but I can often be “That Guy”. You know… the one who’s read the book before the film or seen the original before the reboot. So the chance was very high that I was going to spend the entire viewing criticizing and gnashing my teeth.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed it.

I feel I had just cause to be cautious. I had heard rumours that the liberties had been taken with the origin story and Megan Fox clearly isn’t red haired enough to play April… but actually, she did a good job and the revised origin made sense within the confines of Bay’s plot.

The only real complaint I had about the movie came with the inclusion of Mecha-Shredder.

Yes, Shredder is meant to rely on his barbed and bladed armour to give him the edge in combat but the I-Can’t-Believe-It-Doesn’t-Turn-Into-A-Fighter-Jet power armour that Shredder wore led to the kind of girder grinding battles that I hated in Transformers.

That being said, the origin story change wasn’t as bad as it could have been and by and large the characters were true to their archetypes.

No matter who your favourite turtle is, there’s something in there for every Turtles fan… except maybe fans of Casey Jones who doesn’t appear at all.

Most importantly, I left the cinema happy and not, as I expected to be, full of rage.