OK, time to try updating once more. Not sure how long this will last but here goes. So, to start with, a highly compressed catch-up on the last (OMG!) 5 months or so! SingaporePhotos
Rest of visit to Singapore was very pleasantly relaxing. Highlights included:
- The Ten Courts of Hell at the Haw Par Villas - miniature dioramas depicting the Chinese vision of Hell with clearly laid out punishments for particular offenses. I have memories of being traumatised by this place when taken there by my Grandfather at a very young age. It's still pretty gruesome stuff (taken from the display boards):
- First Court of Hell, Yama: King Qinguang
- In the First Court, King Qinguang conducts preliminary trials and recommends appropriate punishments to be carried out in following courts.
The virtuous are led across the Golden Path to Paradise
Those whose past good deed outweighed crimes committed are led across the Silver Path to Paradise
Evil-doers are sent to repent before the Mirror of Retribution then taken to a subsequent Court for punishment
- Second Court of Hell, Yama: King Chujiang
- Inflicting physical injury, Conmen, Robbers - Thrown into volcanic pit
- Corruption, Stealing and gambling - Frozen into blocks of ice
- Prostitutes - Thrown into a pool of blood and drowned
- Third Court of Hell, Yama: King Songdi
- Ungratefulness, Disrespect to elders, Escape from prison - Heart cut out
- Drug addits (sic) & traffickers, Tomb robbers, Urging people into crime and social unrest - Tied to red hot copper pillar and grilled
- Forth Court of Hell, Yama: King Wuguan
- Tax dodger, Refusal to pay rent, Business fraud - Pounded by stone mallet
- Disobedience to one’s siblings, Lack of filial piety - Grounded by a large stone
- Fifth Court of Hell, Yama: King Yanluo
- Plotted another’s death for his property or money, Money lenders with exorbitant interest rates - Thrown onto a hill of knives
- Sixth Court of Hell, Yama: King Piencheng Cursing
- Cheating, Abducting others - Thrown onto a tree of knives
- Misuse of books, Possession of pornographic materials, Breaking written rules and regulations, Wasting food - Body sawn into two
- Seventh Court of Hell, Yama: King Taishan
- Rumour-mongers, Sowing discord among family members - Tongue pulled out
- Rapists, Driving someone to their death - Thrown into wok of boiling oil
- Eight Court of Hell, Yama: King Dushi
- Lack of filial obedience, Causing trouble for parents or family members, Cheating during examinations - Intestines and organs pulled out
- Harming others to benefit oneself - Body dismembered
- Ninth Court of Hell, Yama: King Pingdeng
- Robbery, Murder, Rape, Any other unlawful conduct - Head and arms chopped off
- Neglect of the old and the young - Crushed under boulders
- Tenth Court of Hell, Yama: King Zhuanlun
- After serving their sentences, prisoners are brought before King Zhuanlun for final judgement. They are taken to the Pavilion of Forgetfulness where an old lady, Men-Lo, gives them a cup of tea which makes them forget their past lives. They then go through the Wheel of Re-incarnation where, depending on their past lives, they are reborn as humans or animals and to varying degrees of comfort or suffering
- At least The Ten Courts Of Hell I can understand. There's also a whole bunch of other, unlabelled exhibits that boggle the mind like the ostrich-riding tortoises and what appears to be a three-way war between rats, hamsters and rabbits, including rats bearing one of their own on a stretcher who's had his paws gnawed off! Alas, no guide book to explain what it all means! Answers on a postcard...
- Needless to say, visited lots of military history sites like
- The Battle Box - The final British HQ during the battle for Singapore. Very atmospheric in an old-fashioned sort of way, with some of the world's worst voice acting for the display of the final discussions before surrender.
- Bukit Chandu - Site of especially fierce resistance by a battalion of the Malay Regiment. Seems that Malay POWs were offered their freedom, all they had to do was take their uniforms off. Quite a few refused and chose execution instead :-O
- The Old Ford Factory at Bukit Timah Road, where General Percival surrendered to the Japanese. Key focus of the museum is very definitely on what a bunch of bastards the Japanese occupiers were. I get the feeling they don't get many visitors - no one at the ticket desk when I got there and when he showed up, the caretaker asked me how I knew about the place and even gave me a mini-guided tour (e.g. they've recreated the room where the surrender took place but the Australians have the original table!)...
- The Army Museum - very high tech, lots of multimedia and interactive displays, including an IMT rifle range simulator. Had a go on the SAR-21 (kind of Singapore's AUG clone), I've fired an M16 ;-) and was rather surprised to be rated as Marksman (given my predeliction for "statistical marksmanship" aka "spray 'n' pray" when airsofting). I can only conclude it was re-calibrated for tourists ;-)
Arguably the most enjoyable con I've ever been to. Highlight for me was defintiely running for Ruler of the Universe as Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart (i.e. evil parallel universe Brigadier) and winning with some 150% of the vote so thanks very much to colonel_maxim
for the original idea and to aeshna_uk
and the LOTNA for the great campaign and Ryman's for stocking nearly the right shade of yellow paper... Definitely had fun with the gags ("Platoon Under Leader, engage that citizen in vigorous political debate!") and comparatively cheap and simple campaign too e.g. easy uniforms - inkjet fabric is a wonderful thing. Bit weird though, having people randomly salute me or ask me if the production figures from the labour camps were satisfactory even some time after Redemption!
ROTU aside, the con was also enormously enjoyable for the programme of discussion panels and workshops. The main problem was trying to decide which programme item to attend at any given time (and trying to find a window to grab some food too!).
Strongly recommended to anyone who likes high tempo fun and actively discussing their fan interests. Next one is 25-27 Feb 2011, again at the Brittania Coventry. See http://www.conventions.org.uk/redemption/
for details. Disclosure: I have foolishly volunteered to be hotel liaison for Redemption '11!Eastercon
Con itself was pretty good although nowhere nearly as insanely fun as Redemption - main problem was being in a satellite hotel with a 30-40 minute shuttle bus journey with the last one running at a little past midnight. Still, we had a particularly lively panel on the ending of BSG which was apparently audible in the room next door. Also observed that if you're having problems setting up PS3 tech (for a Rock Band competition) and no one else can help, find a bunch of 8-year olds - they'll fix it in ~30 seconds! Bletchley ParkPhotos
Went up there with aeshna_uk
and it has got to be the perfect geeky day (or two) out - cryptography, reconstructed old computers, ripping yarns from WWII, brilliant examples of British lateral thinking. Also remarkably good value for money too - £10 gets entry for a year and access to the Computer Museum and various other onsite museums too (passed on the model train museum though!). Highlight for me has got to be the story of how the task of crackin the Engima codes was made much simpler by the realisation that the Germans tended to start almost every message with the weather forecast and sign off with "Heil Hitler"!Bovington Tank MuseumPhotos
Finally, after some 30 years in this country, I finally made it there (there was a muster nearby so Kate and I headed down a day early!). A truly impressive collection of tanks and other AFVs. Is it wrong to think the Tiger is a thing of beauty? Weird thing is that the Sealed Knot was having an ECW muster there that weekend too!New toys
- Having failed to replace my stolen Creative Zen Vision W in Singapore because a) of Sterling's appalling weakness and b) Creative no longer making HD players, I got myself a 250Gb Archos 5. Great screen and UI and for the first time, I have a player large enough to take my entire MP3 collection. Of course, I'm no discovering there are benefits to having to filter out your collection... Only thing I would have liked is Bluetooth as well as WiFi so the Internet functionality is more useful on the move.
- Griffin - my shiny Core i7-based PC from Cyberpower Systems. I'd left it so long since last upgrade there was so much I'd have to replace that I realised it'd be cheaper to buy the system complete than do my usual DIY upgrade. Runs like a dream - so much so I restarted GTA IV because it was now so much prettier!
- Charon - as a colleague was making a trip back to the US and coming back out here, I got myself one of those quad bay NAS chasis and populated it with 4 x 1.5TB drives running in RAID-5. Pretty neat. Even has onboard Bittorrent and Media Server software.