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tzunder
05 October 2014 @ 05:08 pm

What this book contains within 144 pages, black and white interior, colour cover.

A sandbox setting for OpenQuest rpg, which is Greek, Hellenistic, largely fantasy classical but also clockwork tech, with a very Harryhausen clockwork owls jazz happening. The palette is deliberately limited to humans, dracorans, beastmen and dragons. This allows for a focused setting with a wide range of potential conflicts and alliances between and within the various groupings, all lightly detailed so as to allow low level gaming that can escalate to high level. PCs could become kings, liberators, oppressors and heroes, or just stay as dirty murder hoboes for hire.

Gaming in Pherae
This chapter gives players an outline of the setting, and character generation rules for characters from the island. If the player characters are from the island the “What the Trader told me” section is what they know about the setting at start of play.

The Land of Pherae
This chapter details the island, giving an overview of its history and inhabitants. A full gazetteer is included. This is simple, the style is very of the RQ/Glorantha tradition where the social setting is key, and yet here the society is quite low level, and at a turning point, like all good rpg settings this is a time and place where great things have happened, but now something different is coming..

What went before is a world ruled by dracorans who enslaved dragons and overthrew the Elder gods (conflict), which was then overturned by humans who dealt with demons and created the hybrid race beastmen (conflict). Humans then lost control of the demons and their spawn and had to fight to suppress the demonic forces (conflict). Society starts to decline, and a dragon seizes control of the main city whilst the dracorans and beastmen rule the island core. Oh, and there are some dwarfs..

The City of the Dragon
The city of Draxa, its inhabitants, a selection of very important people, districts and notable buildings are detailed in this chapter. I found this chapter a little chaotic, jumping from places to people and back again but quite manageable. It's worth pursuing since the interplay of the human bureacracy and competing Ministries, set under the dominion of the ruling dragon (who can also shapeshift to a human like dragon lady) is a potentially key driver of missions and intrigue that the PCs can interact with, at first as pawns but later maybe as 'players'.

Of Gods and Magic
The religions and magic systems used on the island are covered in this chapter, which also includes sixteen new cults and fifteen new magic spells. The gods of this setting may or may not be declining, and the authors are clearly allowing the GM and players to decide that for themselves. If you want a classic d100 cult based game then you have more than enough cults here, and a nice selection of new magic. I liked classic d100 so for me I'd embrace this set wholly, those you want a less 'theistic' game may keep this for NPCs or something to slowly reveal in play, perhaps even by the PCs breathing a new evangelical flame into religion on Pherae.

Heroes and Factions
Ten new organisations, which provide access to magic and skills, are detailed with their history and aims alongside a selection of eleven important heroes and villains who can be encountered as the player characters explore the island.
This is the meat of the matter, along with the city of Draxa in chapter 3, these are the organisations that will hire the PCs, or the PCs will join either at campaign start or in play. Of particular note to me were the “The Guild of Artificers”, the clockwork mechanics, and “The Sodality of Adventurous Antiquarians (aka The Cache Collectors)” who despite their grand name are a right old bunch of tomb looters under Kholincles, their leader. Each organisation has lore, skills, personalities and even magic, so that they can be used as much as cults as the primary social units for play. Note that some of the groups here are interlinked with the Lands of Pherae section.

Men and Monsters
A “stats digest” of the common inhabitants of the island, both monstrous and human. Which the Games Master can create encounters at the drop of a hat during play or use them as the basis to create fuller non-player characters for their own scenarios. Also includes rules for creating unique and individual demons and full encounter tables for the island by region.

Scenarios
This is a sandbox game but it also provides structured adventures. The first is in fact a very loose structure based around tax collection, in other words: an excellent excuse for some sandbox exploration. None of the adventures assume how the PCs will respond to the physical and moral challenges and choices they are presented with, and almost every group of players will leave each adventure with different tales and sagas to tell.

Artwork

I like Simon Bray's artwork, it is a very deliberately primitivist style that I appreciate and enjoy. There are great images of heroes, dwarfs, dragons and beastment through the book and I like the coherent styling. There are some very nice if idiosyncratically legended maps.

Layout

Newt likes a simple layout, with white space and no extra embellishments. It works fine although in Chapter 6 there are some open areas of abandoned space that I think might have been handled better. I found the Draxa Chapter 3 was a little chaotic, jumping from places to people and back again but quite manageable.

Typos.

Very few, which is good news since d101 can be prone to them. One or two mangled sentences, and one contradiction between Chapter 2 and Chapter 7 where the headman of the Town on Yanos isn't and then is Varbos One-Eye”, decide for yourself..

Summary

Crucible is a very well crafted setting book. It reminds one of all the best of Griffin Mountain from Glorantha's RQ past, offering enough of a detailed set of social organisations: cults, the city of Draxa, and the factions to paint a convincing backdrop, but makes none complusory and their relative importance one for the GM and/or players to determine. The history develops all sorts of relationships between a nicely limited set of species and factions, offering a flexible set of conflicts. These can be as nuanced or as black and white as the players/GM wish. There are a lot of good resources for a GM to write top down scenarios, and there is enough of an empty map for the game to be randomly arbitrated in play. There is a good set of stats, spells and 'game' stuff to add a localised sparkle to this OQ setting, or to be stolen for your own. It will therefore be enjoyed by modern gamers (loose flexible mutual game development), top down auteur gamers (there are metaplots here that can be exploited) or that terribly nouveau group, the OSR crowd who want a hex map and a randome encounter table. It's good value, it's illustrated in a nice primitivist style and it's a quick read: it has just enough and not too much.

 
 
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tzunder
26 September 2014 @ 05:10 pm
I am Tom Zunder, from the coldest climes of Newcastle upon Tyne, in northern England, looking for a few coins of research money, in my collection cap. Today I tell of Don Quixote, jouster of giants, who finds himself in the City of Charming, facing his greatest ever challenge: mobility manager.

Don Quixote and Urban Freight from Tom Zunder at NewRail on Vimeo.

 
 
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tzunder

Konica/Minolta C284 Bizhub Printer Via CUPS/Linux

So I had some real problems finding out how to configure my Linux system to allow me to print to the Konica/Minolta Bizhub C450 printer this morning so I though I'd do a brain dump.

First off, the Konica documentation sucks. They have 4 or 5 different websites and most of them are for sales only -- very little support information. I finally found the following list of bizhub documentation. In it, however, I could not for the life of me find documentation on how to configure a Linux system to talk to this unit. Grrrr. The 'Printing from Unix' document shows you how to do lpr. Thanks!

But Gray Watson gave me the information that I was missing. It showed me that the magic fu is that you need the lpd print queue to be 'Print' (uppercase P). There is also a 'Hold' print queue which does something different. So my complete CUPS configuration entry for this printer is now.

Name Konica
Location
Description Konica Bizhub C284
Device LPD/LPR Host or Printer
Device URI lpd://x.x.x.x/Print
Make Generic
Model Generic PCL 5c Printer Foomatic/hpijs (recommended) (en)

Hope this helps you. Obviously the x.x.x.x gets substituted with the proper IP or hostname for your printer.
On many linux systems you will need to install the hpijs driver using synaptic or apt-get or software centre. I reccomend this since the newer drivers don't always select the tray correctly and you have to manually release files, which is pants.

 
 
 
tzunder
07 October 2013 @ 07:10 am
Well I had brekkie, porridge, poached eggs on a english muffin with bacon and sausage and blackberries.
Then 45 minutes in gym in shoes that the hotel lend you (plus a tee and shorts and a free pair of socks), 30 on treadmill and 15 on cross trainers, then little swim. hotel lends you trainers, shorts, tee shirt, all for $5, it's to promote the shoe brand I am sure, actually I didn't like them at all, too tight and broke my big toe nail, bastards.

Then in convertible with top down and drove to Santa Monica on the huge freeway for 30 minutes, and spent a pleasant 30 minutes with gamers in hobby shop before visiting Santa Monica Pier and Beach and cruising down along Ocean Drive.

Queen Mary Queen Mary

Then off and away back to Long Beach to another hobby shop, different location but same fat gamers playing Pathfinder and boxes and boxes of old games and dusty miniatures. After a scary drive through the scary part of Long Beach (about 8 blocks back from the expensive bit) I decided to go see the Queen Mary, and before I knew it I was exploring the sun deck and then had dinner in the Seafood and Chowder Lounge as the sun set. I had Maryland Crab Cakes with  grated cabbage and then grilled mahi-mahi with a small mound of rice and some broccoli. Queen Mary nice, see pictures, but not THAT great. Avoided dreadful sycophantic St. Diana of the Underpass exhibition and possibly better "Legends and Ghost Stories of the Queen Mary" which is clearly their Halloween fun fair come ghost story thing. It's also a hotel, and pleased to have gone. Came back and crashed at 9pm.

Long Beach - 394Long Beach - 395
 
 
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tzunder
06 October 2013 @ 08:11 am
Set off from Heaton at 10.30 in taxi, flight from Newcastle to London delayed 30 minutes but not a problem since loads of transfer time in terminal 5. Had salad and quiche at BA lounge, confirmed that my Silver card will last until the end of November, cried a little inside that I won't be Silver anymore and then settled down to my new book 1491: The Americas before Columbus

Our flight to LAX was delayed, until 17:05 and in satellite C. So I left lounge at 16:25 and HORROR, the transit trains stopped running for a security check. I stayed calm. But when I got to the plane at 16:55, I appeared to be the last.. I need not have worried, many more were even later. But it did mean that when they puzzled and tore up my ticket and gave me a new one I didn't even look at it until I was at the plane and realising I had been upgraded to Club World. Oh happy days!
The flight was fine. I read my new book, watched episode 1 of House of Cards (USA), devoured 8 episodes of 30 Rock, and had a 4 hour kip towards the end.
One of the episodes of 30 Rock was about when Liz and Chris  go to IKEA, very funny, couples exploding in rancour over chairs and tables, creepy pale attendants watching with ghoulish glee as romances die on the floor of planet IKEA. The food choice seemed hard but I kinda think I got it right, a salad with some ham, a fig and some bread at the start; then a big salad with roast vegetables and plain chicken, no carbs; then some blue cheese on ultra thin crackers; but did then eat a teeny tiny piece of chocolate.
Breakfast was a cream tea, oddly, so I had the goats cheese and olive salad rather than little white sandwiches; and then a tiny scone with cream, no jam. I ignored the plate of 4 ultra delicious petit fois, grrrrrr. Drank water the whole way.
An Airbus A380 is just so huge you don't even feel your're in an aeroplane, it's more like a small hotel that you stay in for 12 hours. Very nicely done but functionally the same as the previous planes we did Club World in. Whilst I read I listened to the soundtrack to Lawless, which I have to say I loved, reminded me how much I like EmmyLou Harris.
I got off the plane fast and was early to Immigration which went quite fast, just a chapter of my book waiting, and then to baggage reclaim which was slow, and then customs which was a nod through whilst all the Asians from Philippines and China has their entire luggage inspected and stripped of food, well actually just some of the food and the people manning the scanners and inspection desks knew their stuff and had some friendly banter going on, not like the Aussies on that awful customs programme that I keep turning off on the telly. Then bus to Alamo lot and no queues and OF COURSE, I upgraded to a convertible.
So, after I asked, in a terribly British way, how to actually get the top down, I drove the I-405 to Long Beach with my Garmin GPS and with not too much fuss checked in. Yes.. valet parking, just 3 dollars a day extra. The hotel is very tall, quite like a refined Vega scale thing but refined, I said REFINED! Nice room, good bed, usual silly tiny USA bath, reasonable wifi and a nice coffee machine that I have just made a cup of joe with.
So, now it's 7.45, I think I'll read some more of 1491, then down to the restaurant for a light breakfast (that'll be VERY hard) and then probably a quick gym before going off and exploring the marina, look at the Queen Mary and generally relax.
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tzunder
22 July 2013 @ 04:08 pm
I had a good time, it was great to see old friends and new, and I am pleased that the house accomodated everyone well.

We started at 4.30 on Friday when the Sheffielders arrived (right on time, well done Simon).
Ann provided a buffet and then some of played the rather fun if esoteric game [i]Princes of Florence[/i] which was a Renaissance game of conspicupus patronage and prestige. It was good, Id play it again. Then we had a couple of games of Guillotine and happily executed many tumbrils of aristos' in this great beer and pretezels game of revolution. Fat was then chewed in a late night chat and drink session.

Saturday morning, Neil G joined for bacon and sausage butties and then we walked to Jesmond, then Metro to Tynemouth where we explored a flea market, had a walk to see Admiral Collingwood's monument, have a panoramic view of the Tyne, then fish and chips and back to Heaton for some more chilling and the usual gamr chitter chatter about new editions of FATE, old editions of Chivalry and Sorcery, Kickstarters for Esteren and Exalted and whether Graham had a date for Wednesday night. Andrew W and Duncan R had joined us by then and after a truly awesome meal of slow cooked lamn, potatoes and butternut squash, the evening games started.

Sadly Elaine wasn't with us so we were unable to have the true joy of game sign up sheets, but we managed. I played in [i]Edge of Empire[/i] run by Pete G, and as Neil says, it is a lovely gritty post Order 66, scum and villainy level of game. It took me half the game to understand the dice, but once I did they seemed intuitive. The combat was suitably close, as befits a fantasy game, and the product was beautifully made. What would put me off would be the sheer cost of starting up the game, but then again, we're gamers, when has that ever really stopped us?

Upstairs Simon B ran his [i]Stiff Upper Lip[/i] FATE game and I'll let those guys report on that game. Then we stayed up far too late drinking and eating cheese with Ann discussing the relative importance of exact conformance to current grammar norms versus ability to convey meaning.

Sunday started with a (as yet undisclosed) breadcake shortage followed by emergency situation gamma-4, e.g. Sainsburys closed when Neil got there so we deplouyed emergency plan alpha-16, and Graham popped around to Tescos for some some baps to put the sausages in.. ooer missus.

I ran my [i]Stormbringer[/i] game which was a multiversal plane hopping game in which Prince Yyrkoon, Sir Gawain of Lot and Orkneys and Brother Juan Claros of the Reconquista (??) of Iberia had to do lots of plane hopping to get stuff. I think I'll not say what since some of you may get to play a revised version at a con in the next years. I enjoyed running Elric! again and it reminded me that it is still my favourite BRP ruleset.

Downstairs Andrew W ran what seems to have been a very successful [i]Dungeon World[/i] game based on the Fighting Fantasy classic [i]Deathtrap Dungeon[/i].

Ann served up her Beef and Black Ale pie and all went home well fed. I had a kip.

I can only repeat my thanks for Ann's sterling work in providing vittals, and also to my fellow referees for running games, Andrew S for introducing us to the new boardgame and to one and all for being great roleplayers and convivial company!
 
 
 
tzunder
26 March 2013 @ 09:24 am
I have been on a bit of a mad rpg frenzy. Work has just got some heavy and so dense that I had to take a holiday in my head, so I've put in 17 hours playing Torchlight, read about 6 rpgs books straight, 4 graphic novels, and oh yes, stopped watching TV.

On the way I bought, read and have been playing solo adventures using Heroes and Other Worlds which is a retroc clone of the old Steve Jackson game The Fantasy Trip, a clear precursor to GURPS.

The game is simple, it's definitely evoking an OSR feel, and yet with a ruleset that I never owned or played, although I have played and run GURPS.. but it wasn't popular with my friends. Essentially you play an Adventurer or a Wizard, and it's cheaper for a Wizard to buy spells, and cheaper for an Adventurer to buy dexterity based skills.  There are 4 stats, STrength (ST), DeXterity (DX), Intelligence (IQ) and ENdurance (EN). Basically ST allows use of weapons, is the pool of hit points or magic points to either withstand damage or power spells, IQ is the default stat for which spells you can learn, how many spells/skills you can know, and the base stat for thinking type checks, DX is the go to stat for most physical stat checks. EN wasn't in TFT and is a fudge, it's a pool of easily recovered points to power spells and absorb damage. It seems to be a PC only stat, NPCs don't have it. As I said it's a fudge stat, but I can see from the solos and the stats of NPCs that without it a PC would die far too often to be fun.

There is an extensive spell list, many of which are short sweet and suited to the tactical combat nature of the game. There is a simple combat system that delivers a good hex/square based tactical game that is satisfying and yet not slow. The author delivers a bestiary that is clearly as influenced by D&D as anything else.

The referee section, ominously barred from player's eyes, is very good. The game is not billed as an rpg but as an "adventure game", and the emphasis is on adventure base upon combat, treasure, monsters and the ref section has a very good random dungeon system, a good random plunder system, a solo adventure (good luck keeping the player's eyes off that, and a well crafted adventure. Noticeably, although the author makes stance against emotive roleplay, the system neither supports or prevents as much narrative ham acting as you like, which is often the point made my OSR supporters. [Bit like Traveller.]

So, I created 4 characters and we launched into the solo adventure, alright, the 'programmed adventure', which is written by Dark City games. Wow, what a retro rush. I've not played a solo in years, and this, with it's hex sheet cleverly laid out to setup all the combats, it's multi PC style, and the simple flow of the story was great fun. Ann did laugh out loud when she saw me at my study desk "playing figures with myself", but it was fun.. dangerous and deadly for one of my PCs, but fun. Last night I downloaded another freebie adventure from DCG, The Sorcerers' Manor and bished, bashed and looted my way through.

So, what do I think? Well, the text is fine, albeit with a few rules issues that need a gentle tweak for newbies (I never played TFT so I suspect that the author sometimes assumes knowledge), one or two explanations need moving around, but the system is light enough that a competent reader can judge what's what, and in fact it's well drafted. The fudging of EN is necessary due to the inherent low power base of retro starting characters, but also since the development curve for the PCs is quite slow, and in this clone the core stats cannot be changed, which is a potential problem if, like one of my wizards, he really isn't clever enough to cast his spells, and will never get better. [There is a curious bit of text which implies that there is a skill bonus to spell casting but I can't see where from.].

Combats are tactical, finely balanced, and magic can play a really big role, which shows the TFT roots as a tactical game. The combat is a straight forward roll under stat+skill to hit, opponent may react with a parry/dodge but lose next move, and then damage is rolled, armour is subtracted from that, points come off EN or ST. The plunder rules are light and fun, generating interesting treasure, the spell lists are enjoyable, and the layout and illustrations of the core book are nice and redolent of the source material.

I like the idea of the Old Skool Revival, of playing simple fun games that recreate the hobby's youth. However I never really liked D&D mechanically, so for me this is a nice reminder that there were other games out there that are worth another look, have a similar 'feel' but had mechanics that IMHO were better. [Hey, like Traveller.]

So, expect an old skool game of Heroes and Other Worlds from me at a con.

8/10

Contacts: http://heroworlds.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.mediafire.com/heroworlds [there's a short rule set in the Caludron 0 magazine]
http://www.darkcitygames.com/index.php
 
 
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tzunder
02 December 2012 @ 02:15 pm
Do you oppose the regulation of the press by the state?
I have to say I do, I am not willing to sacrifice the liberty of the free press for Hugh Grant's vanity.
People hacked phones, there is a law against that, use it.
Police sold data, there is a law against that, use it.
News Corporation behaved badly, well let's use our media ownership laws to prevent one monopolist controlling too much media and influence.

What do you think? I value your opinion.
 
 
 
 
 
tzunder
24 August 2012 @ 08:26 pm
We arrived at Beijing airport to discover that despite explicitly asking British Airways and being assured that our baggage allowance stayed the same all round the world irrespective of airline, that our allowance on Cathay Pacific would plummet to 30kg each, and we had 97kg in total! After some outright blagging by Tom we managed to dodge the bullet. Cathay Pacific have a legendary rep for business class, but I have to say whilst it's very good on service (they have a lively multi-ethnic crew) the kit is showing it's age and needs an update. Still, their Cathay Delight mocktail is delightfully minty and we settled in.

We arrived and had no problems getting a taxi and a driver very happy to fit all our bags in the cab, with a bit of bungee holding the boot closed(ish) as we sped from the airport. Ann was able to see the Tsing Ma Bridge, over the Lantau crossing, a bridge that she worked on for a good while selling all the Hyclad stainless steel for it.

We were staying at a Crowne Plaza near to the Times Square shopping area, A very nice hotel indeed, with an Indian doorman, and we zoomed up to the top floor bar and drank cocktails with our old friend Mark Basford (also from the stainless steel days) and watched the flashing neon of the skyscrapers. The next day we found and joined the Big Bus Tour, which is our preferred way to acquaint ourselves with any city. It was a good example of the type and we got a good mix of history, architecture, culture and shopping fed to us in a very pleasant British voice. In the middle of the tour we stopped and took the Star Ferry around the main harbour. Whilst this was a very historical and appropriate tour, the voiceover was a curious mix of the official party line and what seemed to be extracts from developer's brochures. Well worth doing tho' and if we went again I might do it at night to see the sound and light show.


From Hong Kong China


We finished the tour and headed back to our very nice hotel room. [Did I mention that the hotel room was very nice?] Then we took a taxi up Victoria Peak, which is the hill that lies on Hong Kong island and overlooks the main bay. We watched the spectacular view of the vast array of skyscrapers as they pulsed with neon, the most spectacular night show we've seen on this trip, including Las Vegas. Then we ate with Mark and Kate Basford at the Peak Overlook restaurant, which was great, catching up and talking over life, kids and just what work is like in the post quiche world. Only odd thing was that there was no lighting on the table of any consequence, so we read the menus by torch!

The next day Ann was feeling a little fragile so she stayed in bed whilst I packed 18 kilos of dirty washing into a big cardboard box and the very nice conciere in our very nice hotel posted it all back the UK, hence reducing our luggage to 80 kilos in total. We then bought a new cabin bag to put 10 kilos in, and decided to use our small suitcase in the cabin (it's legal for cabin) therefore solving our baggage allowance problem. However, if you choose to book a round the world One World Traveller ticket, be very aware that your effective baggage allowance is that of the lowest allowance, making the vast British Airways allowance a it bloody pointless!

We explored the computer stall market that is 288 Hennessy Road and Tom resisted buying a zoom lens for his Panasonic, and also confirmed what we had seen all round the world, which is that the UK is usually cheaper or more competitive for electronics, and that nearly all souvenirs are made in China! We had a bite to eat in a local cafe, and we tried Hong Kong milk tea, which is basically very strong builders tea with condensed milk, Tom liked it and Ann didn't.


From Hong Kong China




The next day we flew to Thailand. I think. It's all a blur. We were fine on luggage allowance! We liked Hong Kong..
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Current Location: Hong Kong, China
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tzunder
16 August 2012 @ 08:43 am
Flew in on Japan Airlines, I like JAL. Like Tokyo we got a limousine bus from the airport to the Holiday Inn in Seoungbuk, a rather nice part of Seoul, with plenty of neon, a PC bang, Korean BBQ, bakery in the hotel, little supermarket, Karaoke bang, eateries and one or two mobile phone shops, with huge soaring apartment blocks on all sides. Seould has a population of about 25 million people, and yet a smaller ground area than Beijing and loads of green areas, it's a very dense place, and yet not too oppressive.



We started off with a Korean BBQ. At each table is a hole in the centre of the wooden table and a brass extractor pipe overhead. A bowl of hot coals is placed into the centre of the hole with a grill over it, and you grill your own choice of meat. It's a great idea, and apart from the fact that everything else around the table was weird or known to be ultra spicy, it was good fun. Noticeably I ordered some rice and got a small bowl, Ann ordered noodles and got a bowl of cold soup with cold noodles in, so we shared the rice. As time went on I realised we were in Northern Asia and rice isn't that common or plentiful but noodles, being wheat based, are more common.

The next day we took a shuttle bus to catch a round the city hop on and hop off bus tour. It was air cinditioned, thank goodness, and we saw quite a good bit of town before stopping off at Itaewon which is a rather tourist area, clearly focused at the large number of US forces personnel in town. Some people are a bit iffy about it, but frankly I rather liked it, and we went to a tailors and started the process of having a bespoke suit made for me! Hoorah! [Ate at Outback, a rathe good Aussie steakhouse chain we've seen all along our travels.]

That evening we went to N.Seoul Tower, which is a ruddy great tower on the top of a ruddy great hill in the centre of Seoul. The city is very much a sea of neon and so we (along with about 300 people and many millions of screaming kids) watched the city change from grey to neon through dusk.It certainly is a great city to view from up there, late at night, and some of the buildings have great displays, not to mention the tall red crucifixes that rise up from the very many Christian churches (usually architectural monstrosities). At the end we took the cable car back down, which I rather enjoyed despite my dislike for heights.

http://flickr.com/photos/55048848@N00

Picture by Andrew Bell, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


The next day we went to the DMZ. The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea which runs along the 38th parallel north. The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and the east end lying north of it. It is 250 kilometres (160 miles) long, approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) wide and is the most heavily militarized border in the world. The Northern Limit Line, or NLL, is the de facto maritime boundary between North and South Korea in the Yellow Sea and the coastline and islands on both sides of the NLL are also heavily militarized. [Previous paragraph, source Wikipedia, see page for licence details, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Demilitarized_Zone]


Frankly we did not have a great time. The guide was good, but the day consisted primarily of a very long coach trip, a very long wait in a very hot car park, then a near lethal walk down a very steep tunnel to a very low wet tunnel to look through a tiny hole at a another tiny tunnel, then a closed railway station, followed by a viewing platform where we look across opend land to North Korea. Ah well, bucket list and all that. On return we explored a rather nice small area of town called Insadong where we had a nice cup of coffee (good coffee is an expensive treat in Asia) and browsed some typical arts and crafts, tried a Korean doughnut (yummy), ate at Burger King (yummy) and staggered home in a taxi.

Cuteness even extends to the fuzz in South Korea!
The next day the skies opened and it rained. No, that really doesn't cover it. Someone threw a bucket of water thru a sieve over Seoul. I've been in a few tropical rainstorms in my time, but this was unbelievable. I was in a cagoule and I was drenched in about 15 minutes. Anyway, all part of the fun. We went and had a fitting for my suit and then zoomed off to Gyeongbokgung Palace, where we drowned as we squeezed from palace to palace. I kinda liked it, Ann was quite dispirited, and Steve Culy would NOT have been able to call it a 'clearing up shower', although truth be told, when it did clear up, the city was ruddy clean!


From Seoul, South Korea

We then visited the Hongdae area is a region in Seoul, South Korea near the Hongik University, after which it is named. It is known for its urban arts and indie music culture, clubs and entertainments.

We used a mixture of taxi and the metro in Seoul, and whilst taxis are simple and inexpensive, the congestion is unbearable and the driving quite aggressive and bad. The metro, on the other hand, is clean, fast, simple to understand, and uses a smart card payment system called T Money that makes life uncomplicated. I particularly liked the fact that you can get little mobile phone charms that act as smart cards for payment, rather than using a card, obviously there was a Hello Kitty one! We also found the fact that you can pay for your taxi ride with a T Money device as a great recognition of the true potential for integrated ticketing. We'd like to send out a big thank you to Canadian Andy, who we met in a B&B in California, who gave us some great advice on where to go in Seoul (not all of which we followed) and also her T Money card.
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Current Location: seoul, south korea