Monday, May 30, 2016

J.U.L.I.A. Among the Stars


I recently enjoyed playing J.U.L.I.A. Among the Stars, a computer game designed by a two man Indie team who trade as CBE Software.

As I have grown bored with playing the ho hum, not another supernatural themed adventure game,  J.U.L.I.A. was a refreshing change of scene and is a Science Fiction adventure set aboard a Space Probe circling a distant solar system.

When the game opens, only one member of the original extensive crew remains. This is Rachel Manners, a young astrobiologist, who is wakened from cryo sleep by the probe’s onboard AI, named Julia, to assist in repairing the craft after it had been severely damaged in a meteoroid storm.

After repairing the Probe, it is time to wonder what happened to the rest of crew and this involves sending the third character, a huge reconnaissance robot called Mobot, to explore the various planets in the solar system.

Gradually the fate of the missing crew members is revealed as each planet is explored.

It’s an engaging, fun game with unusual puzzles that involve building circuit boards to upgrade Mobot’s capabilities, and hacking into the data pads of the missing crew.

Rachel Manners I found to be somewhat  naive, and slightly annoying, the AI Julia being a far wiser being than she.

Julia’s influence and independence of mind becomes clear as the game progresses. In some ways she has a sharper moral conscience than the human Rachel.

The game is available on both Steam and GOG. It was on half price sale when I purchased it at GOG, which made it good value for money.

I’ve just started on another game called Goetia, where you play a confused ghost roaming around a large mansion. The graphics are gorgeous and the game so far is quite intriguing.  It’s available on Steam for a reasonable price.

At least, playing computer games  is one way of whiling away the time during the – yawn – election campaign and a distraction from the winter chill.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Might and Power & The Hall of Fame

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Might and Power parading in the mounting yard at Flemington

Though I would not normally attend race meetings at this time of year, it being the off season, I made an exception when I learned that Living Legend, the great Might and Power, would be the special equine guest at the Saturday race meeting at Flemington.

I last saw Might and Power in 1998 winning the Cox Plate, and felt I couldn’t miss a rare opportunity to get close to him and give him a pat.

The race meeting at Flemington was part of the National Hall of Fame raceday, to honour the 2016 inductees into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.

Might and Power was inducted in 2002, but this year’s inductees include horses, Leilani, Luskin Star, Merman and Sydeston, Jockeys Pat Hyland  and  Noel McGrowdie, Trainers Neville Begg and Cecil Godby, and race caller Joe Brown and journalist Les Carlyon.

Arriving at Flemington around 12.45pm, I was in time to watch race 3, the Might and Power Handicap a race over 2000 metres, as I figured the eponymous champion would be present at the course for it.

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Race 3 finish – Turnitaround (red cap) fights out the finish with Second Bullet

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Turnitround returns to scale

I had chanced to speak to Dr Andrew Clarke, CEO of Living Legends as I made my way to the fence to photograph the race, so knew Might and Power would be in his stall. So thence I went after the race.

A small crowd of admirers was outside Might and Power’s stall and slices of carrot were being distributed to those in attendance to offer to the big horse. He enthusiastically gobbled them up and looked for more, allowing plenty of pats in the meantime.

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Might and Power outside his stall looking for carroty treats.

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Might and Power in his stall posing nicely for a photo

I was mighty chuffed when Andrew Clarke handed me the following badge…

…and was delighted to add it to my racing memorablia.

Might and Power was a force to be reckoned with back in the late 1990s winning the 1997 Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup and winning the Cox Plate the following year, the first horse to accomplish the feat since Rising Fast in 1954.

The feature race of the afternoon was the Listed Andrew Ramsden Stakes, a race over 3200 metres (the same distance as the Melbourne Cup). The winner gains a ballot free entry into the famous race.

It was scheduled as race 7, so there were three other races to watch before it was run.

As it was a mild mostly sunny afternoon that was not an ordeal, and it gave me the opportunity to try out the Nikon D3300 again.

I must admit it takes really good action shots; for instance the finish of Race 4, the Carbine Club Handicap, which was won by Mihany from Santa Rocks and Aurum Spririt. I was really pleased the photo caught the winning post moment.

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Race 4 finish at the post.

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Mihany returns to scale

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Santa Rocks returns to scale

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Aurum Spirit returns to scale

Race 5 was the Les Carlyon AC Handicap, a race over 1600 metres for three year olds.

It was won by Loyalty Man narrowly defeating Sir Sagamore and Whoop Whoop was third, a length back.

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Loyalty Man (no 1) and Sir Sagamore head to head to the finish

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Loyalty Man returns to scale

And so the afternoon flitted by.

My photographer acquaintance George, who doesn’t bet, but occasionally mentions his fancies, liked Amarela in the 6th race, and proved spot on when she won by half a length from Time to Test and Ashkannd.

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Amarela a nose in front of Time to Test approaching the finish line.

Half the field in the feature race, the Andrew Ramsden Stakes, were imported stayers from Europe and Ireland and there was even one from Japan. They were all it for a chance to run in the Melbourne Cup.

French import Glorious Sinndar ended up the eventual winner, narrowly beating Japanese import The Bandit, with Australian bred De Little Engine a distant third.

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Glorious Sinndar (blue silks) defeats The Bandit in the Andrew Ramsden Stakes

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Glorious Sinndar in the mounting yard

By the time Race 7 had run, the first train back to the city was almost due to depart, so I headed to the station and home.

It was pleasant to be back at Flemington on a sunny afternoon in uncrowded conditions, and I was pleased to have accomplished my mission to meet and pat Might and Power.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Chemical Wedding–Book Collectors Delight

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Chemical Wedding cover image from Small Beer Press

I know, I know, I’m still waiting for the publication of John Crowley’s 25th Anniversary Edition (I wish she would wake up!) of his best loved work, Little, Big, but I couldn’t resist pledging to the Kickstarter for The Chemical Wedding, a four hundred year old romance by Christian Rosencruetz (Johann Valentin Andreae), re-imagined by  John Crowley, who dubs it the first Science Fiction novel ever written.

To mark the 400th Anniversary of the work, first published in 1616, Small Beer Press will be publishing this new version in November 2016 in diverse editions, paperback and eBook, and have launched a Kickstarter to fund the more exotic limited editions – an exclusive Hard Cover Edition, a Numbered Edition and a Lettered Edition.

Small Beer Press is an American independent publishing company founded and run by husband and wife team, Gavin J Grant and Kelly Link. They publish a range of fine speculative fiction and non fiction. They also established Weightless Books, a DRM free source of eBooks from independent publishers. 

Anyway, The Chemical Wedding looks as if it will be a splendid edition and a real collectable, destined to become a rare book classic. Illustrated throughout with whimsical woodcuts by Theo Fadel, John Crowley’s artist of choice for the book, makes it extra special.

The Kickstarter offers many reward levels, and there are some tempting goodies, such as (limited) signed and inscribed first editions of John Crowley novels, if you pledge for the Hard Cover. Every level from $10.00 upwards receives a DRM free eBook of The Chemical Wedding in the eBook format of your choice.

If you are a serious bibliophile and love fine editions, the Kickstarter for The Chemical Wedding gives you the opportunity to acquire an exceptionally beautiful first edition at a good price.

Fortunately we will not have to wait 11+ years for it to be published, as Small Beer Press expect the books to be available in October or November 2016.

It will be interesting for me to see which book will arrive first in my mailbox – Little, Big 25 or The Chemical Wedding. Let’s say, I’m not holding my breath for Little, Big as there has been no news on its publication since December last year.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Instead of a Love Poem by Adi Sappir

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The cello is a melancholy  instrument that evokes a sense of yearning and nostalgia. It is the perfect musical vehicle for introspective and thoughtful songs.

Such is the case with cellist and singer, Adi Sappir’s recently released EP, Instead of a Love Poem, her tribute to Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai.

Adi is Israeli born but makes her home in Melbourne these days and is well known as one of the local trio, The Mercurials, whom I have reviewed previously.

I must admit I had never come across the poetry of Yehuda Amichai, but have since addressed my ignorance of his work, after Adi asked me to review her EP.  He is acclaimed in both Israel and Internationally as poet of remarkable intelligence and acuity, writing about the universal themes of love, death and old age in a fresh and interesting way.

Instead of a Love Poem contains six songs set to Yehuda Amichai poems.  It is a moving celebration of his work, masterfully expressed in music, Adi’s affecting voice blending with the rich tones of her cello to create a soundscape of mournful beauty.

The added accompaniment of piano, organ and vocals enrich the listening experience, interacting perfectly with the dark sad sound of the cello and Adi’s voice.

Track Listing

  1. Jerusalem
  2. Take Me To The Airport
  3. Air Hostess
  4. God Full Of Mercy
  5. Ecology of Jerusalem
  6. Such As Sorrow

You can purchase a digital copy of the EP from CD Baby or buy the physical article on Adi’s webite.  The buy option is hard to see, but look for the red text link above the EP cover image.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Ten Years On

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Talya on the outside table lying next to a pot of succulents

Today, May 4th, marks the 10th Birthday of Cat Politics Blogspot.

How the time has flown, though it doesn’t seem so. A lot has happened since I started. For instance I was still a member of the work force back in 2006, and one of the original cats, sweet Lizzie, is now four years dead, though Willy is still alive and kicking, albeit much older.

Cat Politics will continue into the forseeable future even if nobody reads my posts. I like constructing sentences and enjoy writing commentaries on whatever photos I snap or what captures my interest at a particular time.

Many Blogs that I used to follow have become frozen in time, which makes me nostaligic for the old blogger days of the early to mid 2000s, where the global community encouraged interesting and articulate commentary, rather than the triviality of such current popular platforms as Facebook and Twitter etc.

Of course there are still a multitude of bloggers who continue on doggedly offering their personal views to the world. Count me as one of them.

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Willy on the back door mat – expecting rain (paws curled in)

The above two photos of the cats are fairly recent, snapped in the sunshine of an unseasonably warm autumn.

As I write it has turned wintry with a cold front and blustery winds hinting at the changing of the seasons.

As far as the local cat situation goes, one has sadly departed. Pickle who was Willy’s comrade in mischief when they were kittens, was euthanised about a month ago, suffering from an untreatable thyroid condition.

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Pickle in the street

She was a lovely little cat who would run out to greet you if you were passing her house, and roll around at your feet while you gave her a pat.

Two new cats, both black and white, are agitating the cat republic. If there is a fight impending it is always one them invading another cat’s territory.

Before I publish this post I must mention the outstanding win by Chautauqua in Hong Kong last Sunday.  As usual he gave the rest of the field a start and lolloped along at the tail of the field until they turned into the straight, then unleashed his astonishing sprint to overtake the entire field on the outside and seize victory on the line.

He’s an exciting horse and a definite star of the turf, being regarded as the best sprinter in the world.  He has an excellent pedigree (Australian bred) being from Encosta De Lago and Lovely Jubly who were both talented racehorses in their day, whom I remember racing in the 1990s (Encosta De Lago) and early 2000s (Lovely Jubly).

Chautauqua will be back racing in the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival to give racing fans more thrills.