My feeling now is that I'll keep the big zoom, really don't use the wider end of the 18-55 enough to justify keeping it, and will probably replace the 18-55 and the 35mm with a good 50mm lens, it's more the sort of focal length I like to work with, and my experiments with the Yonguo lens on the Canon showed that I was getting some reasonable results. Needless to say the Nikon-fit 50mm lenses are hugely more expensive than the Canon-fit Yonguo. There is no urgency about any of this, of course, so the master plan is to get a good 50mm first (or possibly a 60mm Micro-Nikkor if one comes my way) and worry about the rest of it later.
As with the previous offer, the set-up is a world where adventuring is horrible and dangerous, and the most likely thing to happen is your disgusting and painful death or accidental triggering of an apocalypse or something. It's definitely not a fun setting, and I have to be honest and admit I still haven't tried it. This seems to be all-new material, adventures and settings, but does contain the game rules etc. for those who missed the previous offer.
"This is our second offer (a follow-up to the July 2016 Bundle of Lamentations, our top-grossing offer last year) featuring Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, a sinister and horrific twist on traditional fantasy gaming. Though the rules are a tight retro-clone of B/X D&D, LotFP's attitude comes out of heavy metal and Dario Argento horror films. You could call it "horror fantasy," but this isn't about werewolves or serial killers. LotFP is largely about forces from beyond our awareness causing great distress. Some might describe it as "sick." One review of Towers Two (in this offer's Bonus Collection) struck the right note: "This adventure has torn open a slime-laden murder-blunt-trauma hole in reality's sky and poured down the awesome."
Designer James Raggi explains: "The inspiration for LotFP is the basic belief that the life of an adventurer is a hellish thing nobody sane would want -- full of danger and violence, with no real home, no real family, no certainty, ever. Think of the classic RPG adventure form: You're going into some dark hole with a sinister history, fully expecting to encounter deathtraps and supernatural monsters and all sorts of things that want to kill you and probably eat you, and you're doing it for some money. Or 'glory.' In real life we get pissed and dream of quitting our jobs when our bosses want us to sit at a desk for an extra hour, and our 'glorious heroes' are the people that are victims of the most and worst gossip, and bloody hell this is all terrible. So let's drop the pretense of being noble heroes doing things for noble reasons and just spotlight the fact that 'adventures' are terrible, life-ruining traumatic experiences. And my love of heavy metal and horror movies provides wonderful inspiration for making them so. That's LotFP."
Lamentations has become notorious in the Old School Revival community for this unforgiving ethos. Many fantasy RPGs establish dungeons that are supposedly dangerous ("no one has ever returned"), and then the player characters waltz in and kill everything. But LotFP dungeons are seriously dangerous -- as in, "You're Definitely Going To Die Down Here, No Really." Touch something the wrong way and you're hosed, or sometimes you trigger an apocalypse.
In a metagame sense these doomed journeys teach players caution. They're "nega-dungeons"; they exist for the purpose of you not going there, and if you do, you've already lost. A place like this can help your campaign. As Evan Jeshka wrote in a November 2014 entry on the Bundle of Holding blog, "Welcome to Death Frost Doom, Now Turn Around and Go Away": "It adds grit and verisimilitude, and reminds you you're in a world that exists for its own purposes, not to feed you experience and treasure."
Lamentations made a big showing at this year's ENnie Awards, and this new offer presents the books that took Gold and Silver honors: Blood in the Chocolate, Broodmother Skyfortress, and Veins in the Earth. Along with several older titles not previously in Bundle offers, this collection also brings back three characteristic Lamentations titles from our past Old School Revival offers -- Death Frost Doom, The Monolith From Beyond Space and Time, and Qelong -- as well as the complete rulebook presented in the first Lamentations offer.
We provide each ebook complete in .PDF (Portable Document Format). Like all Bundle of Holding titles, these books have NO DRM (Digital Restrictions Management), and our customers are entitled to move them freely among all their ereaders.
Ten percent of each purchase (after gateway fees) goes to the charity designated by Lamentations publisher James Raggi, the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The total retail value of the titles in this offer at launch is US$117.50. Customers who pay just US$14.95 get all eight titles in our Weird Starter Collection (retail value $62.50) as DRM-free .PDF ebooks:
- Blood in the Chocolate (retail price $8): A magically horrific candy factory and its enigmatic, bloodthirsty proprietor. 2017 ENnie Gold Award for Best Adventure.
- Carcosa (retail $15): A weird-fantasy setting of dark and loathsome sorcery.
- Isle of the Unknown and Dungeon of the Unknown (retail $11): An island hexcrawl that fits easily in any campaign, and a dungeon that explores some of its many mysteries.
- The Monolith From Beyond Space and Time (retail $8): A reality-warping (and character-warping) entity drives an experience of cosmic horror. [Previously presented in the November 2013 Old School Revival offer.]
- Death Frost Doom Second Edition (retail $7.50): The anniversary edition, fully revised with all-new artwork, of the controversial adventure that launched Lamentations of the Flame Princess. [Previously in the November 2014 Old School Revival +2.]
- Lamentations of the Flame Princess Rules & Magic Full Version (retail price $5): The complete core rulebook by James Raggi of weird-cosmic-metal fantasy. Includes the introductory adventure Tower of the Stargazer (retail $6). [Also in the original July 2016 Bundle of Lamentations.]
Those who pay more than the threshold (average) price, which is set at $24.95 to start, also get our entire Appalling Bonus Collection with five more titles worth an additional $55:
- Veins of the Earth (retail $20): The massive treatise on the underworld environment by Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess (Fire on the Velvet Horizon, Deep Carbon Observatory). 2017 ENnie Silver Awards, Best Writing and Best Monster.
- Broodmother Skyfortress (retail $10): The super-awesome adventure/campaign design kit by Jeff Rients, Arch-Mage of Old School.
- Towers Two (retail $10): An unspeakably raunchy sandbox campaign co-designed by heavy metal musician Dave Brockie, AKA Oderus Urungus of Gwar. Truly not-safe-for-work (and maybe -life).
- No Salvation for Witches (retail $10): A gleefully gory adventure in 1620 England by Rafael Chandler (Pandemonio). Did we mention all these books are adults-only?
- Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess (retail $5): A village of gumdrops and candy canes run by fairies and teddy bears. Absolutely not for children.
Additionally "One random purchaser of this entire offer (Starter and Bonus Collections) will receive a full set of all physical LotFP books currently available from the LotFP webstore -- a value of over US$400! Lamentations publisher James Raggi will notify the winner within 48 hours of this offer's end; the lucky customer will have 48 hours to confirm a shipping address to receive this great big pile of books.
I'll be honest, I'm not particularly interested - I prefer a less visceral approach to gaming, and Call of Cthulhu pretty much monstered me out. But if you still go in for this sort of thing it looks like a reasonable offer, and the price seems OK.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (dir Martin Ritt, 1965)
A Legacy of Spies (John Le Carré, 2017)
‘Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, has retired to his family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London are to be scrutinised by a generation with no memory of the Cold War. Somebody must be made to pay for innocent blood once spilt in the name of the greater good.’
From that advance plot summary, I expected A Legacy of Spies to be a follow up to the events of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or its immediate sequels. In fact, it turns out to be a quasi-sequel to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Le Carré’s third novel but the one in which he broke out into mainstream success. I say ‘quasi-sequel’, because A Legacy of Spies revisits, and even to an extent retcons, the events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and indeed can to a substantial extent be seen as a prequel, setting up some of the important plot points and filling in some key events between that book at Le Carré’s first novel (and introduction of George Smiley), Call for the Dead.
I’d never actually read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, although I’d long ago seen a plot summary that revealed the key twist. (So, by the way, does this review, hence the cut below.) I read A Legacy of Spies when it came out, saw that it referred back heavily to the events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold so then read that, and then out of curiosity watched the 1965 film, which currently features on Netflix’s list.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (book)
I won’t spend too much time on the original novel; if you’ve read it, you’ll know how good it is. If you haven’t – well, rather than have it spoiled, I suggest that you go and read it yourself. It’s short by modern standards, very readable, and although the underlying plot is complex (as much as I can say without spoilers) everything is clearly explained.
(Spoilers from here)
( Discussion of crucial bits of plot )
A Legacy of Spies is highly recommended, although if you’ve not read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold I’d strongly suggest reading it beforehand. And once you’ve done so, look out the 1965 film, which stands up very well indeed.
Walking up to Beckman Auditorium (aka the wedding cake) from the south.
( As it happened. )
In reality, there were some impromptu science meetings at Caltech, one of which I attended in the morning. I slipped out just before noon, because I had someone to meet.
I headed down from Beckman to South Mudd to see my former JPL postdoctoral supervisor, from back in those heady days when I was still a lab scientist, for lunch. I hadn’t seen him since 2006. I eventually remembered where his Caltech office was. I could’ve found the JPL one much more easily, but it would have required me to check in and get a badge, which seemed a lot of faff for lunch. Besides, there are nicer places to eat in Pasadena. Once in the correct corridor, I spotted his technician hovering outside the door, plus another UK person from the physical chemistry community whom I’d never met but knows the bloke pretty well. There were lots of smiles and hugs, and we decided to head down to a restaurant over on Lake Street.
We had a very pleasant hour of conversation, reminiscing and catching up. I had a shock on hearing that their children, whom I remembered as children or young teenagers, were now grown up and had careers of their own. Of course I knew that would have happened in the intervening decade-plus, but it’s not until you actually speak together about these things that they’re driven home to you. They were equally shocked on learning that Humuhumu has started school - and has a younger sibling! The bloke and I had been remiss in our communication, clearly. We talked of science, of course, and of politics and its effects on research direction, and of our worries about the future due to Brexit and the current US administration.
I am still kicking myself for forgetting to take a photo. You must instead picture me with a group of men: one starting to disappear into the frailty of old age, peering out earnestly from large-framed glasses, one solid and grey-haired and mostly silent with twinkling blue eyes, and one cheeky-grinned middle-aged bear of a chap with a shock of brown hair and a beard. All sitting together in a booth of a Japanese restaurant, eagerly shoveling the contents of bento boxes into our faces, occasionally bursting into roars of laughter while cheesy ‘90s music played in the background.
We parted with promises not to let another eleven years pass before we met again. I was left with the warm glow you get from (re)connecting with friendly, kind, intelligent people. It was a lovely way to buffer against the excitement and strain of what was to come on Friday morning.
Chilling out in my JPL t-shirt before the end of mission.
I made Mike a card:
(I've only had the book on paper quilting for a year, after all!) Worth clicking to embiggen, ifIdosaysomyself.
Mike very kindly did all the mucking out.
(While he did so, I took Jo to the vet. Over the last week or so, she's been occasionally yelping or whining, but it's got more frequent and last night she had a particularly bad spell that involved her making a noise for a minute or so. The vet couldn't find anything particularly, but did think she was maybe not *quite* so keen to take her weight on one of her front legs. It may also be a neck thing, although she did have a good feel around there. Short walks and more painkiller than usual for a week, and we'll see how she goes on.)
We had a quiet lunch at home.
(During which I took some ibuprofen for a headache and Mike had a migraine pill)
After lunch, and Jo's walk, we headed off to darkest Sussex to look at a horse.
He's called Thunder Joe, a name which is definitely going to be unused in full.
We liked him enough to ride, and it seemed to go quite well.
Even if it did hail while I was on him, and we were in a field with overly-long grass, which is one of my least favourite places to ride.
We'll go back and see him again next week, with riding instructor, using a school that they can borrow just down the road.
If riding instructor answers her text messages....
Afterwards, we headed home again.
I'm not sure how the day has been utterly exhausting, but we're both worn out now!
We had a lovely special anniversary dinner...
(Party-left-over soup from the freezer, and the other half of the loaf of bread that neither of us ate much of for lunch
...and now we're on the sofa with a bottle of wine.
Thankfully, Mike did a run to France yesterday!
So, for example*, if you can take out a subscription to the Financial Times online in about 30 seconds online, by clicking on a few options, then you should be able to cancel your subscription by clicking on something on your subscription details on their site. And they should not require you to email their support desk, reply with a second email explaining why you don't want it any more, and then answer a phone call wherein they offer it to you cheaper and then have to insist that, no, really, you don't want it any more.
The rule shall, instead, be that if ten random people take longer to unsubscribe than they did to subscribe that your home page will be replaced by a big flashing sign reading "We will treat you badly in the hope of holding on to your money."
Secondary rule: No introductory offers. Free trials are allowed (but must be easily cancellable, as above), but you can't offer new people a better deal than your existing customers. Introductory offers are a way of tricking people into signing up, and then hanging onto them when inertia stops them from cancelling/moving. Instead you must offer a good deal in the first place, which is sustainable, and which is easily compared to your competitors. I know this makes life harder for companies who are trying to hide long-term costs from their customers. I really, really, don't care.
*Or, possibly, exactly what happened to me at lunchtime.
It was decided that it was fitting for Yoda to be allowed to direct us to JPL.
JPL tour badge with Curiosity on the front. We got to keep these.
( Tour, with side trips down memory lane )