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Tim Gray

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KETCHUP! [18 Jun 2012|12:57pm]
Wow, three months since I posted here! And that was friends-only. You may deduce that I'm not really using LJ these days.

I am now on Facebook - though I haven't really gelled with it and, at the moment, don't expect to be a big user. I was thinking about it for a while, but put off by its utter refusal to provide info to prospective users. In the end I went on because some groups I want to follow are happening there. Also a stream of occasionally witty blathering on Twitter at @timgray101.

Serpents' Teeth, a supplement for my Jaws of the Six Serpents RPG, should be out in the next week (assuming no weird stuff has appeared in the latest print proof). This is mostly material by other folks who've run Jaws for home groups and at conventions. Some great stuff.

I've got a new business called your|clear|info, helping people make great written communication - plain language editing, improving websites, etc. Early days, and I'm fine-tuning the concept organically. 

As part of thinking about that (helped by sessions at the excellent Inspired Entrepreneur community) I realised I wanted to turn all the thinking and reflecting about communication that I've been doing over the last few years into a book. So that's a current project, titled The Radio-Controlled Message Bottle. Aiming for a short ebook - I may be too pithy for my own good... I think probably print if the final size makes sense.

Another project on the boil is a simple generic RPG system. My regular reader will know this is an itch I get periodically. It's going to be called Rocket Amoeba and it may be good. It's certainly drawing on my experience with PDQ and my own stuff.

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Happy new year! [01 Jan 2012|11:58am]
Oh, I missed wishing the LJ peeps happy Christmas. Well, hope it was. Dad and Beryl came down and took me over to sister Linda's on Christmas Day, where there were 11 of the extended clan. Unfortunately I was in the early stages of a cold so not terribly sparkly, but it was nice to see everyone - bit weird to do it all in one day. The cold has lasted all of Christmas week, limiting me to short shopping trips. Would have liked to get more done and go to a couple of movies. Will have to catch up this week!

In terms of years past and to come - well, of course 2011 turned out to be dominated by losing Mum, and all the arrangements following from that and zipping between here and Yorkshire. After a false start the house sale is now going through, so if all goes smoothly we'll draw a line there in the next few weeks. That will be sad; but also important for moving on. More positively, I got my Albion RPG out after several million years, which had been a major life milestone or millstone, probably both. I came out of a boring job to take the chance of some life navigation but then had difficulty using the time well due to sinus infections etc.

So I went to post on a forum thread about new year plans and realised I don't know much about what I'll be doing in 2012! I am working on supplements for two of my games, and want to get those out as soon as I can, and I'm tinkering with a little generic system that I'll put out for cheaps. Beyond that I have no ideas about RPG/creative stuff. Financially I have options I've never had before, though that goes with a responsibility to be wise and careful. I need to get an income, which could be a job or an assemblage of self-employed stuff. Goodness knows which of those looks more dubious at the moment! So that needs a bit of focused attention soon. And some holidaying and visiting people and stuff.

Some foundations for the future, some enjoying myself more. Those sound about right for non-resolutions. And perhaps getting dressed before lunchtime. Excuse me.
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Pivotal objects, transplanted [14 Dec 2011|03:54pm]
Yesterday a van of stuff arrived. My sister and brother-in-law had arranged to bring the furniture and objects we wanted from Mum's house, some for them and some for me. Apparently when I'd packed my boxes on Friday I'd done a rotten job.  ;)  One fell through; we're hoping nothing important got broken.

It's another stage of the end of an era. Linda says the house looks really bare and horrible now. (Though there's some more bits to bring, and the big furnitures are going to a charity shop when we finish the process.) On the other hand, it's good to have these things where we can look after them, and carry them with us. Lots of them have got stories.

Linda has the stone seat from by the rhododendrons: a big slab, apparently dug up from the garden, provenance unknown. I have the kitchen table of forty-odd years tucked away in the garage... from pure sentimentality, as I can't use it at the moment. The folding stepstool that intrigued me endlesslessly as a child will have to find a corner somewhere. I've just hung a picture on the stairs - a former cushion cover, of flowers embroidered masterfully by Grandma. And so on.

Perhaps Santa will bring me a bigger house. :\
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London trip [08 Dec 2011|12:01pm]
Was down in the capital yesterday. Wanted to go to an evening event by the Inspired Entrepreneur network, and found a cheap train that made it doable.

Arrived at St Pancras at lunchtime, so had the afternoon to suit myself. Did a fair bit of wandering round, looking at London things I hadn't seen before, but there was a really cold wind and I got chilled, which makes my tummy unhappy, so that took some of the shine off the day.

Lunch at one of the St Pancras shops - was a sandwich slightly too exotic to sit well, a mistake in retrospect. Walked on to PC World on Tottenham Court Rd as fancied a big techy shop for general geeking, and an Amazon promo mail had sparked my curiosity about Android tablets so I wanted to have a play. Wandered down TCRd and Oxford St till I got fed up of all the people and made a tube hop with my Lobster Card.

Next stop Fortnum and Mason, the upmarket gifts and accessories stall - spying for the lower classes! Nice inside, and staff very smart (men in tailcoats) but as expected it was mostly things normal people don't want at prices they'd never pay. Had tea and cake, which cost the same as a two-course meal at home - silly, but went with it as I don't expect to repeat the experience. Silver teapot, nice cake.

Down towards Trafalgar Square - dark by now, choir singing - possibly to do with the Olympics. Wandered in to the National Gallery for half an hour before closing. Art's not a big thing for me, so it was very much see what happens. Was struck by the glow of many of the paintings, and the impact particularly of the large ones - can see the power of them, even after several centuries. Nothing really grabbed me emotionally, though I was impressed by some scenes of Venice by Canaletto that were almost photographic in their detail. Next hop to a restaurant called Pho that does "Vietnamese street food" - I had a cousin of a Pad Thai that hit the spot very nicely.

The evening event was a mini-talk by Nick Williams to launch his new book Resisting the Soul, plus the Inspired Entrepreneur Christmas party - chance to meet a few people. The book is about resistance, a name for the psychological force that tries to prevent us from doing our authentic, creative work - something I'm exploring at the moment, which is why I wanted to go. (I say more about it on the timthinks blog.) A good do, over all too soon, followed by a zoom to the station and a return to a cold house shortly after midnight.
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Ketchup [03 Dec 2011|10:26am]
Crumbs, I haven't updated this in about three weeks! Time was, three days would have been a long break. I'm in a gradual process of falling out of love with LiveJournal. The community buzz has mostly evaporated, as folks have taken up with other social media. In particular, I think most people I know are flinging their thoughts into the ether via Twitter these days. Which makes it all more ephemeral but satisfies the need to feel you're communicating. I'm doing that myself, in fact. Also, I'm getting heartily tired of the quantity of spam comments on LJ, even despite their multilingual education potential. I started www.timthinks.net for public-facing opinion/polemic stuff. At some point I may well move a personal blog to Wordpress too.

Anyway, what have I been up to? I'm continuing to emerge from the sinus etc funk of the summer months and am actually doing some work on RPG publishing stuff now, though I need to re-educate myself on focusing and getting amounts done in a day. The peril of doing stuff for yourself; quite different from when I trooped off to the office for the day job under obligation to other people. There are supplements in the works for Jaws of the Six Serpents and Albion, due to come out as soon as I can get 'em ready!

On the personal front we're still in the process of selling Mum's house, and things are looking hopeful right now.

My main focus the last few weeks has been Dragonmeet, a one-day RPG convention that took place last Saturday in London. I was actually a (modest level) sponsor of the con, and had a Silver Branch stand. I had a really positive experience on the day. My main objective was to get Albion in front of people to increase the buzz, and I was able to show the book to lots of folks. I'd taken most of my other stuff as well. There was a good level of sales, covering a goodly chunk of the costs, which is always nice. Some folks were running Jaws and Albion at the con; many thanks to them. I was also one half of the panel on small press publishing, which was well received. Unfortunately the recording being made by Paco from GMS Magazine has got corrupted, so you'll have to take my word for it! DM is always a good networking con, and although I was on the stall pretty much all day I was able to exchange quick hellos with a bunch of folks.

The Dragonmeet experience was slightly marred on the way back to my B&B, when I tripped climbing the kerb with my suitcase full of books and did an impressive roll in front of folks at the bus stop. I've been nursing tenderised ribs and diverse bruises since, though it'smostly mended now. Shazbat. So that was added to post-con tiredness and possibly getting too cold before the pub lunch on Sunday, so apols that I was a bit muted, but it was nice to see people and chat a bit more.

I was slightly taken aback at the con by a few people wanting to know when the supplements will be out. In my head I'd only just started talking about them... So, yes, now to focus a bit more on those. And do some more of the life navigation that I was going to be doing the last few months and has got derailed. I shall need to be thinking seriously about income generation in the new year.
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Jaws review on Voice of the Revolution podcast [03 Nov 2011|07:28pm]
Nice surprise to come across this: Brennan Taylor and Rich Rogers do a really nice audio review of Jaws of the Six Serpents on the IPR podcast. :)

http://bit.ly/rBW06C

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Albion supplement [30 Oct 2011|10:08am]
Revisited what's to go in this, and got a provisional list of sections with page counts. That'll be really helpful for breaking it into chunks that can be ticked off.

I knew I wanted to put the otherworld stuff in here - more about the Danaan and Fomor, their plans, section on the Hobfolk, what's really going on with Cromm Cruach, etc. Stuff that's important for the GM in dealing with those setting elements.

There was a question about going broader, e.g. did I want to do more working up on the Druid Order, and maybe give it a book on its own. (I like the idea of just 'Order' as a title.) But that would involve a lot of new ideas/material. Looking at the rather low sales level so far, I think the best plan is to parcel up all the ideas/material I have already into one book, then it's all out there. So I can do short sections on blight creatures, crossing the Mistwall, etc in a section for Albion's secrets alongside Annwn's and Abred's. I like the triplicity.

The working title has been The Book of Willow for a while, but I'm heading toward The Book of Riddles (relating it to the Thread of that name). Softback, somewhere in the region of 96 pages. Out when it's ready. ;)
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Ketchup [17 Oct 2011|06:07pm]
Have had a very boring web presence for, oh, probably the last few weeks, as I whinged about being fuddled and fatigued by sinus infection/cold type stuff. Included a tooth that had been on its last legs (roots?) for a while and had started to abscess. Had that removed last week, and of course there's an energy hit just from trauma, but it means at minimum I don't have that toxic load to deal with and can fight other stuff better; and at maximum it might have been a cause of the sinus trouble. Felt crappy over weekend but am starting to feel more with it than I have for a while. If any solar power were available today *looks out vainly* I might even be zippy. Ish.

Still in the process of selling Mum's house. It's sold subject to contract, but that leads us to an extended process with a few bumps along the way... What we're doing with the contents would probably look like a ridiculously drawn-out process to most folks, but we're nibbling away when we can get up there - as we did this weekend. I seem to have shifted mental position and am looking at it more dispassionately. Still a nice area to visit though...but that might change as we have to drain and deactivate the heating system soon!

The weekend 7-9 Oct I was at the Furnace RPG convention in Sheffield. Played Ghostbusters and Spirit of the Century on Saturday, a very silly version of Wilderness of Mirrors (rescuing Pippa Middleton from evil mastermind Carol Vorderman) and Hellfrost using FATE on Sunday. Caught up with some folks, and generally had a good time. It felt generally a bit more subdued this year, though that might just be me projecting my tiredyness. I bought a wheely suitcase to take some books up for sale - the case worked fine but unfortunately no books sold!

Took a short holiday to Wales in the last week of Sept. Had a good time, and was OK that week with sea air and unseasonal sunshine. Went to Llandudno and Conwy. Must put some pics up sometime - took lots. Got myself a Kindle to talke along, and it worked out pretty well once I got used to using it. Read the first two of Charles Stross' The Laundry series (budget-conscious branch of British intelligence repelling extradimensional monsters) - enjoyed them, but a bit of brain work is mandatory.

Looking ahead, I've got a couple of RPG supplements to get together, and am thinking about convention attendance in the next few months. Also need to get back to the wider life direction stuff. Go go gadget Tim!
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Spammers harness spirit of Stanley Unwin [17 Oct 2011|11:33am]
Just about to delete a spam response from another post, but thought a couple of excerpts might provide amusement. The only link to the service it purports to promote is a Polish domain name.


Subject: hosting - Go like a bat out of hell5
Give a leg up 
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...

Bloke Employment 
Air force is another grave mien to make allowance for when shopping as a remedy for a host. Hosts offer a multiplicity of fellow usefulness options. Services offered can be 24-hour charge free numbers, 24-hour email assistance, Many a time Asked Questions pages and support forums. The amount of succour you authority need depends in general on your know and problems you face from the server. 

Reliability 
Checking revealed the reliability of a service is also exceptionally important. Hosts for the most part receive respective backup systems in example in any event something goes off beam with the gas main servers. They also can guaranty less "down time" past backup power systems such as a diesel generator.


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Sample freelance contract? [21 Sep 2011|07:28pm]
Does anybody know of a simple form of words for an agreement with people who are writing bits of a small press RPG product? (Based in UK law.)
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Crossing the Indiecon? [21 Sep 2011|05:29pm]
Thinking of giving this a second go, attempting not to be ill this time!

Anyone got a spare room in their lodge/chalet? I prefer quiet and civilised to raucous and staying up late.
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Jaws expanding? [20 Sep 2011|11:09pm]
I'm talking to a few people about the prospect of pulling together their adventures and setting tweaks into an expansion book for Jaws of the Six Serpents. Signs are positive.

If it comes off, it'll be the first thing I've published that I haven't written myself. I'd like to pull it together really quickly if I can, to tie in with an upcoming event, but we'll have to see whether that's workable.

I'm just emerging from a few days of nasty coldy stuff, and hopefully from some weeks of sinus-related unpleasantness, so fingers crossed that I'm about to get more thinking and doing capacity online. Other RPG projects I'd like to get on with are the Albion supplement (mainly GM info about the otherworlds), getting older products available in print at RPGNow/Drivethru, and writing up a minisystem I've been noodling with.

Beyond that, I don't know how much more RPG stuff I'll do. I certainly don't have a major thing in my head waiting to be made. (Though there are some little possibilities, if I make a connection that fires them up.) Might look at work hooking into more commercial rulesets. Might just leave it for occasional fiddling. It's one element of a life navigation phase in which I am in.
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Lincoln [27 Aug 2011|11:16am]
Back on 15 Aug I took myself off for a day trip to Lincoln, which is not too far away. It was an important town in Roman times and has racked up a bunch of history since.

I spent a good while wandering around the street plan. It's the main town for a flat, agricultural county, and was pretty busy with shoppers and tourists. There's the Brayford Pool area near the station, where the River Witham passes through and forms a bit of a marina, with eateries along the front. The university is nearby. Then you pass through the shopping area; then up the hill - including a street called Steep Hill, which is, and has a nice art gallery or two - to get to the main historic buildings up top.

For me, by far the town's most interesting feature is the cathedral. I'm not turned on by architecture or church history, but I do like places. When I visit Lincoln Cathedral I'm always struck by the amount of detail in the stone and wood carving, and the clear impression that these were people tuned in to the natural environment. I've put some photos up on Flickr, and here are a couple of them.

Lincoln 031

Lincoln 030  Lincoln 015

I was reminded that this is not just a tourist attraction, but a working church, as when I arrived a funeral had just finished. Later on the choir was practising - a lovely soundtrack to walking round. On the way out I was ambushed by an area set aside for quiet contemplation, which brought back recent events, so I left a candle.
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Consternation [22 Aug 2011|10:19am]
Spent the weekend at this gaming convention in Cambridge.


It's a small con and very laid back - to the extent that it didn't have preset timeslots for games, and most stuff seemed to happen by brownian motion rather than sign-up sheets. I was there primarily as a trader, with Albion and Jaws on a stand in the dealers' room. Might have liked to go in a game or two and spend time chatting to people, but folks seemed to disappear into the woodwork for most of the time, and I was clawing my way back from being ill with a sinus infection or something for most of the previous week, so lacking in initiative.


So I spent pretty much all my time in the trade room, chatting to the other traders, which was no bad thing. It was pretty quiet all told, but a few people bought books and more had a look at them, so it was a decent bit of promotion. On Sunday we resorted to Carcassonne between customers. Food was better than the average con, which tends to be stodge-heavy: salad bar plus baked potato decent veggie lunch for me.



I arrived on the Friday lunchtime, aiming to walk round Cambridge as I'd never been. After a couple of hours Mr Body pointed out that we were in recuperative mode and a return to base was in order. I'd gone through most of the centre though: nice town, felt like busy shopping centre first with heritage college buildings tucked away, but I can imagine it's very different when it's term time rather than tourist season. The feel of it didn't grab me as somewhere to return to. I also had a bit of a walk round the grounds of Murray Edwards College, where the con was held: obviously someone/s paying a lot of attention to gardening, with loads of container flowers dotted about and veg and herbs alongside the rear car park. I was particularly impressed by the long row of espaliered (I think) vines, with loads of grapes on the way.
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People destroying stuff for kicks [10 Aug 2011|08:26am]
So, hearing about the riots in London is bad enough, but now it's spread to Nottingham, where I live. By luck I don't live in the areas affected, but still.

The BBC site's round-up of what's been happening seems to include a lot of fire bombing. They've targeted police stations, cars, and one of the main local colleges, which is the thing that gets me most. Lots of reports of people having their car and house windows smashed.

There's a good article on This Is Nottingham, which is tied to the local paper. Lots of comment from local people, who pretty much agree that these are groups of bored, stupid youngsters copying what they've seen in London. This quote from an anonymous youth worker stood out to me:
“People aren’t doing it because they are linked in London. They are doing it because they think they can get away with it.

“They are not interested in any issues. They aren’t real anarchists. They are just bored people and they’ve seen it on the news. They’ve seen what they are doing in Tottenham and thought they can get away with doing that.

“I just think it’s stupid. It’s a stupid thing to do. It’s just destructive.”
 

Unfortunately the comments to the piece have plenty of racism, consipracy theory and general ugliness.

Our Member of the European Parliament is recorded as calling for the army to come in and shoot looters and arsonists. I get the wish for decisive action but, er, no.

A thought struck me last night, when someone told me this had been going on: there's going to be a lot of broken-hearted parents out there when they find out what their kids have been up to.
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Ketchup [08 Aug 2011|02:51pm]
Have mainly been pootling around doing stuff in the house, getting into cleaning and tidying, including stuff that's not been looked at since I moved in nearly three years ago. Things get moved from place to place and gradually the piles go down...

Have now got a working CD player. Bought an energy efficient fridge freezer, which I'd been thinking of for a while, to replace the one that was a present from Dad and Beryl on moving into the flat 17 years ago! Sad to see it go after such faithful service; but looking forward to lower bills. Also got a graphics card in the PC so I can play games occasionally - currently trying to make my mind up about Majesty 2.

Am currently in what feels like a saga of making jam (well, jelly) with blackberries from the garden. There's a big bush on a rubbly bit, and I haven't used the fruit before so this year I'm giving it a go. My only previous jam-making experiment was a long time ago, so there's room for a lot of learning...

Now that my sister's wedding is out of the way we're embarking on the process of clearing Mum's house ready to sell it. It's going to be hard, and we're trying to be very practical about it. Lots of memories as we find things in cupboards.

Can't say I've done much work after finishing at the day job. This is partly due to summer sinus congestion, and partly to lack of organisation. That's OK as long as I only allow myself a bit of it. Have got books into a couple of retailers; joined the lightning proofreading crowd on FATE Kerberos Club for a bit of practice in the RPG field (it's out now); and am attending the Consternation convention in Cambridge in a fortnight. Have done some blog posts at www.timthinks.net.

Next steps include getting some of my older RPG products into the RPGNow print programme, and coming up with some magazine articles and sending query letters. I've got a generic RPG minisystem I'm partway through writing up - my brain likes it and it should be pretty snappy in play once it's working. Oh, and I need to do that Albion supplement! Albion has had some very positive feedback, but it hasn't gained a lot of profile and sales are only ticking over. If you're in a position to leave positive feedback around the place, that'd be much appreciated!
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Linda's wedding [26 Jul 2011|01:42pm]

My sister Linda (younger, only sibling) married Robert on Saturday here in Nottingham. All went well, and the weather held fair for us.

With all their daughters there were 6 bridesmaids - they're a scary clan but fortunately they like me. ;) Dad looked very snazzy in a purple waistcoat with dragonflies - Rob's idea rather than his! So now we've given her away once each! Of course it was sad that Mum wasn't there - he made a nice little mention of that in his speech.

My job was basically to wear a suit, provide moral support and eat things. I think I did OK.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

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London trip [16 Jul 2011|11:53am]
Was in our esteemed capital Wed-Fri as a few things I wanted to go to aligned themselves neatly.

Travelled down Weds afternoon. The evening was Scanners Night. This is a monthly get-together for people who identify with the 'scanner' label: interested in lots of different things that they move between rather than diving deeply into a single area of interest. The speaker was Mark Walsh of Integration Training on 'Beyond time management - the Dalai Lama, Doctor Who and Fierce Integrity'. Given the limited time this was a rapid canter through an approach that relates time management to whole life stuff rather than making it dry and academic - interesting, but I felt I needed more time on key bits to make things stick. Will review my few notes. Handout at the end would have been good. There wasn't any structured networking of scannery folk after the talk, which I and the people I spoke to thought was a bit of a missed opportunity, especially as there were so many there for the first time.

Thurs daytime I was free. As my accommodation was round the corner from the Science Museum and Natural History Museum I visited those, which, actually, I haven't done before. They were good, but my eyes were a bit irritated and the dim lighting didn't help. The high point was the butterfly house out the front of the Nat Hist - full of beautiful tropical butterflies (and peculiar caterpillars lurking in the bushes). Spent quite a while in there. Apparently this is its last year, so do check it out if you're around.

In the evening I went to the Inspired Entrepreneur meeting, where the speaker was, on the face of it, an unusual choice: Kim Rosen on 'Saved by a Poem'. A lot of this was Kim performing poems by people like Rumi and Rilke to background music, around the theme of finding your own path and living authentically. I guess that could sound like hippie nonsense if you read it a certain way, but it was actually quite a powerful experience (and would have been more so if I'd been a little less tired and more focused). It was also an ephemeral one, as the details soon go, but I have Kim's book and accompanying CD so I'll look in there. Again the organisers hadn't built in structured networking, and I wonder if there's an unconscious assumption that people know each other by now.

Friday, I was at a day course on Climate Change: Effective Communication organised by Talk Action and run by Chris Church. (I met Chris long ago in Friends of the Earth and these days he's doing work with about a million sustainability and community organisations.) It was a good overview of issues, approaches and general tips for verbal communication on this broad and tricky issue. I don't think I got much that was new to me, but good to revisit it. Good group, with quite a mix of backgrounds from local authority and business folks to postgrads looking to get in to this area of work.

Pottered round London a bit, dropped in to Orc's Nest games shop, hung out in Covent Garden and got a highly indulgent ice cream, got train home. Phew! Need to spend a bit of time reviewing what I picked up at these events.
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A headline to conjure with [02 Jul 2011|10:08am]
'Singing penis' sets noise record for water insect

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New blog [24 Jun 2011|10:49pm]
I've started www.timthinks.net, as a place for me to write opinion piece mini-essays about whatever takes my fancy: climate, health, politics, personal development, that sort of thing. Probably won't feature gaming much. It's conceived as a public-facing thing, to show my writing and even do a bit of brand-building, as well as getting stuff off my chest. This here blog will still be the place for personal stuff, and more personal/sensitive stuff is here for friends list only.
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