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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Essen 2013 (2)

I’m on my way back.

At least at the time of writing this. I’m sitting in gate G03 in Vienna’s airport waiting for my flight back to Larnaca. I have 4 hours until departure time so I do have some time on my hands.

So, how was the trip to the greatest annual board games exhibition in the world?

Our first day!

Well, I got an overload of new board games and the culture which exists in (and not only) Germany around this hobby. I think that’s what I’m taking back with me. This culture that I have seen here and which is missing in Cyprus. In Cyprus and many other parts of the world this is just another geek hobby. In Germany it’s also a family activity. I’ve seen families and friends sitting around a table (and even on the floor) playing board games together. Thinking,  arguing,  laughing together. Even crying! Kids’ games can be cruel sometimes.

At the exhibition there were 3 big halls divided into booths with publishers and designers promoting their board games. From Hasbro promoting the next Monopoly variant to Andre (the Dutch) with his first board game design developed in collaboration with a friend. I actually ended up buying Andre’s game after his explanation of how it plays and reading the rulebook. The last time I made such a purchase,  basically without reading or watching reviews, I ended up getting an awful game which I traded for another game. I’m not sure if it’s going to turn out any better this time but that’s not the point. The point is that you sit down with these designers and feel their passion while they are explaining their game. They are tired and anxious but the love for the hobby drives them. It’s definitely not about the money. There isn’t any. Nor fame. Apart from a couple of designers no one knows these people outside the hobby. It’s just love.

Three Little Pigs – What a lovely game. This is going to be my god daughter’s Christmas present! Shhh!

You could of course also buy games. Many people had trolleys and boxes filled with dozens of them. Yes I mean dozens and not small boxes either. This was especially evident on the first day.  I bought some games for myself and I also broke the rule of not buying new releases. 3 out of the 5 games I bought are completely new.  But games I could buy at anytime.  I did not need to come here to do it. However, I did manage to get one signed by the designer whom I greatly respect and listen to his podcasts regularly. There is an intimacy here you don’t find in video games that often.

The loot (does not include the gifts)

Of course it wasn’t all perfect. I feel exhausted. For different reasons, some which can be explained and others which cannot, I barely got 4 hours of sleep every night. Combine that with the walking and standing from 10:00 to 19:00 in the first couple of days, and until around 14:00 the other two. The crowds (especially on Saturday) and the noise. You get the picture. If you remember from my first post I don’t expect to get sleep tomorrow either since I’m heading to the office first thing in the morning. It’s a bleak picture in physical terms.

Live auction of games!

So,once again. Was it worth it?

Yes.

Just to see that this hobby is not marginal everywhere in the world.  That there are countries where women and men of all ages play them.  That families and friends still enjoy each other’s company and are willing to spend time together by playing these games. Without having a tablet or a smartphone next to them.

Would I come back here again?

I doubt it.  I’ve seen what I came for although I did not realise what I was looking for when I left Cyprus. I came here looking for board games to play. Designers to see. To meet other board gamers from around the world.

But I have seen something greater than that.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Board games, Travel

 

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Essen 2013

I’m writing this on Wednesday, morning 23 October 2013. I’m sitting at my home desktop, drinking my coffee with a plan to visit M&S bakery later for breakfast. Mmmmmmmmm…..

However, by the time this has been published i will be back in Cyprus from Germany. In fact i will also be back at the office. My plane lands at 00:45 Tuesday morning and i have to be at work that day because we have a Human Resources assessment from the UK. It was my fault…

The good news though is that i will be returning from Essen. The Mecca of board games. The biggest board games exhibition in the world which is from 24 to 27 of October. I’m going with a friend and we are flying through Vienna and Dusseldorf and then finally to Essen by car or train.

It’s the first time that i’m traveling somewhere and spending most (basically all) of my time at a single location.

The schedule goes something like this.

Wake up
Breakfast
Travel to Exhibition Halls which open at 10:00
Leave the exhibition around 18:00 or 19:00
Grab a bite
Head back to the hotel for a shower and some rest
Then down to the ground floor of the hotel to play board games with other hotel residents

That basically sums it up. What i expect these days to be like.

I’ve already made my list of board games to check out, downloaded quite a few rulebooks (64 actually) and also left as much space as possible in my bag (half empty). I’m not planning to buy games but i have to be realistic. I will buy a few. It’s inevitable.

And that’s what’s making this trip so fantastic. A friend of mine went to Florida and to the Disney theme parks. This is something that i don’t find appealing at all.

However, i do understand the feeling. It’s the feeling of being 10 years old again and i’m loving it!

See you on Tuesday!

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Board games, Travel

 

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Movie of the week – Cyrus

Every now and then a movie catches you by surprise. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly in what Cyrus excels at but the overall impression it left me was just “wow”. Jonah Hill i like a lot and Marisa Tomei i’ve been in love with ever since My Cousin Vinny. John C. Reily though…. What can i say. I hated him as an actor and probably every single movie i watched in him. But in this one he is tremendous. Absolutely tremendous.

I adored Cyrus

Cyrus

 
 

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Cyprus National Football Team – the team that nobody cares about

File:Cyprus FA Logo.png

On Tuesday night i went to GSP Stadium to watch the Cyprus National Football Team play it’s final 2014 World Cup Qualifier match against Albania. We drew the game 0-0 and finished bottom of the group with just 5 points. Albania was the team above us with 11 points. It’s one of the lowest points in the Team’s history.

The problem is that nobody cares.

Players

First of all most of the players don’t seem to be really bothered or proud to be playing for the national team. It just seems to be a nuisance to them. It’s remarkable that i thought Dossa Junior, who was born in Portugal but is now a Cypriot national, was the team’s most committed and best player against Albania. In fact, he was also one of the few players who applauded us the fans at the end of the game. It’s clear that we lack the quality to compete and Cypriot clubs use mostly foreign players but it’s not only that. There is an evident lack of pride for this team and shirt.

Fans

That lack of pride is also evident in the stands. There were a couple of hundred people at most on Tuesday. Not once did we cheer on the team. Even during a good 10 mins spell we had in the 2nd half. Most football fans in Cyprus either don’t care for the team or are just happy supporting the Greek National Team. Greece has given me the proudest and happiest moments in sports which will probably never be surpassed. However i wish people gave some of their love to our team as well. It will never reach the highs that Greece offers but that’s missing the point. We are who we are. A small island of less than a million. Support that. Even the Brazilian and Italian national teams get more support from Cypriots.

Media & CFA

Finally the media and CFA. There is absolutely little to zero coverage. I had to click on 2-3 links to dig up articles in the sports newspapers on the day of the match. Even the day after it was almost impossible to find something to read. It’s all about the clubs. The CFA again pays more attention to clubs instead of the National team. The interim manager is atrocious. His substitutions on Tuesday reminded me when i was playing Sensible Soccer and Championship Manager when i was a teenager. The ticket price for the game was EUR10. How can you expect people to show up after all the above when they have to pay EUR10. Especially during times like these. Do the 1+1 offer again. Even free tickets. These have been done before. That’s one way to make it more attractive.

In the end it seems that we will only start paying attention again if by luck and only luck we get a team of good players again and start playing better. Then all these people and institutions will give their attention to the team for a few years.

Planning and vision? Do we even have these words in our vocabulary anymore?

Pride for the National team? Please…..

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Football

 

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Movie of the week – The Way Way Back

I have a soft spot for coming of age movies. Maybe it’s because i’m still going through mine! The Way Way Back is such kind of movie and it’s a wonderful one as well.

The Way, Way Back

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Movies, TV & Documentaries

 

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Exercising and setbacks

I expected this to happen at some point.

My ankle and knee have been hurting one and off for a few years now. After i started exercising i managed to go around it by focusing on upper body exercises. I still do leg exercises but can do them lightly or sometimes skip them for a week depending on the pain. It usually is enough.

However, now my right wrist has hurting for a few weeks now. I think it’s tendonitis. It was worse over this past weekend which i can’t understand why since i don’t use the pc mouse as much as i do at the office. However i do quite a few demanding exercises using my wrists and i did those on Friday. So that’s probably the reason. So now i have to adjust again.

One positive thing with arthritis is that you get used to making adjustments. It’s pushing you back and you can either surrender which is what i did for 3 years or push back. Now i’m more confident of pushing back and focusing on finding other exercises which don’t need me to use my wrists.

Of course, i have to wonder how far back this thing will keep pushing me and whether i will be able to be positive in finding new ways to adjust. Right now though i am pushing back.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Antidote, Exercise & health

 

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Tablet (2)

I enjoy sharing articles and videos a lot.

I used to do most of this using emails i.e. sending the link to specific groups of people who would be interested in the particular topic i.e. life, technology, board games, football.

Although I still do that, now i share most articles through facebook and twitter. This is something that has definitely improved with the tablet. With the Kindle i often read an article, made a note to share but then forgot to actually do it. Now i can do that instantly. It’s not only that though. I can now follow the links included in articles, something i could never do with the Kindle.

Of course there is a drawback with this.

I’m always tempted to share too many things because it’s so easy to do which can result in a flood of links and information. When you do this you basically end up spamming people. So sharing has become easier to do but now it requires more self control and a better filtering.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Lifestyle, The Web

 

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Trilogy of the week

Loved it and it got better and better with each instalment. I only wish i had watched each one when it was first released. I’m not sure if it would have the same impact on me but i would have loved to grow old together with these characters.

Before Sunrise

Before Sunset

Before Midnight

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Movies, TV & Documentaries

 

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Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the invisible industry that brings you 90% of everything (3)

The importance and impact of the Shipping Industry

Although it’s not a perfect book, with a few chapters that i found to be weaker, even fillers, there were some that i enjoyed because i never expected them to be included. For example the impact of shipping on sea life and in particular whales was one of the strong ones.

“We lay cables across its (ocean) bed and drive piles into its floor. We fire airguns that have the force of dynamite to carry out seismic surveys. Our fishermen send out constant pings – echolocation – to find fish. Our militaries deploy sonar that induces the bends in doplhons, porpoises and whales, so that they arrive in mass standings on beaches with blood on their brains and coming from their ears; with air bubbles in their lungs; with all the signs that unfortunate divers display when they rise too soon through water.”

In an extraordinary week following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, for the first time noise pollution was temporarily removed from the oceans because all commercial aircraft and ship movement was suspended. As a result,

“…underwater noise was lower by 6 decibels, and the levels of whales’ stress related faecal hormone metabolites were lower too.”

It’s a strong chapter throughout.

Another fascinating chapter is about the important role played by the merchant navies in World War II and how the demise of the US and UK merchant navies and the reduction of available men from these countries could impact a future war.

Rose George covers a lot of other areas such as the Suez Canal, religion on ships, psychological problems faced by people who are at sea for months and rescues of sinking ships.

However i will not go into them and i will end this trilogy of posts on Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Shipping, Inside the Invisible Industry That Brings You 90% of Everything with how it begins. With the importance it has in international trade and in our daily lives.

“The biggest container ship can carry 15,000 boxes. It can hold 746 million bananas, one for every European, on one ship. If the container ships of Maersk alone were lined up, they would stretch 11,000 miles, or more than halfway round the planet. If they were stacked instead, they would be 1500 miles high, 7530 Eiffel Towers.”

In 2014 bigger ships are expected which will be able to carry 18,000 boxes.The triple-E. Maersk has ordered twenty of these ships from South Korea’s shipyards.

 

All these volumes have helped to make shipping so cheap that “it makes more financial sense for Scottish cod to be sent 10,000 miles to China to be filleted and then sent back to Scottish shops and restaurants, than to pay Scottish filleters.”

Even though it’s a huge industry and vital to trade, it has a darker side.

For one, shipping’s success comes at a cost. It’s more efficient than trucks and planes in terms of grams of CO2 per ton per mile but because of it’s size the total emissions from ships are more than aviation and road transport. In fact:

“Ships create more pollution than Germany”

Also in terms of how it treats the people who serve in it and the complicated ownership structures used with flags of convenience.

I will end with the following two appropriate quotes which raise the question of how proud we should be here in Cyprus to have our shipping industry and to be a flag of convenience.

“Imagine you have a problem (as an employee) on a ship while you are on that ship. Who do you complain to, when you are employeed by a Manila manning agency on a ship owned by an American, flagged by Panama, and managed by a Cypriot, in international waters?”

“In 2001, 63% of all ship losses at sea were registered to only 13 flags of convenience. The five worst performers were Panama, Cyprus, St. Vincent, Cambodia and Malta.”

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2013 in Books

 

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Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the invisible industry that brings you 90% of everything (2)

Somali Piracy

Somalia, until a few years ago, was the first country that came to mind when people talked of a failed state. A poor country with desperate people living in it. Much like Afghanistan and the Taliban era, this allows terrorist organisations like Al-Shabaab to grow. Most people are now aware of this organisation after the mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya.

However, Somalia has been on the map of the shipping industry for a few years now.

“544 taken hostage in the first six months of 2010, with 360 still being held. Thirteen ships hijacked.”

File:Somalian Piracy Threat Map 2010.png

This piracy has forced nations from all over the world to send warships in the area to patrol and protect merchant navy ships in the area.

“…patrolled by military ships from three coalition counter-piracy forces: one from the EU, one run by NATO, and the Combines Task Force, led by the United States……. Besides the task forces, there are other navies acting independently of coalitions, including those of Russia, Korea, India, Japan and China.”

“The Chinese Navy is on piracy patrol, but is also well placed to support its growing presence in Africa. If you want a window into future geopolitcs, the Indian Ocean has a good view.”

The pirates adjusted to the increased presence of military ships by using captured ships as mother ships and also expanding their reach to a wider range as you can see from the map above.

Prosecuting captured pirates has been almost impossible because nations are unwilling to take them. Only Kenya and Seychelles do so, after accepting aid from richer nations.

With the counter-piracy measures taken and also the armed security personnel hired aboard ships it seems that piracy in East Africa is now dimming with increased piracy now taking place in West Africa.

The piracy chapters are some of the most fascinating in the book. Who would have thought that the early 21st century would be prove to be a golden age for piracy.

The third and final part is tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2013 in Books

 

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