Sunday European Campaign – on target so far…

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Two weeks in, the “Sunday European Campaign” is going well. The SEC, as it’s been shortened to, is an event within the game of Aces High 2 where players from all over the world virtually fly world war 2 aircarft and virtually kill each other. The irony is that this (and many other online games like it) are bringing people together from all over the world. The group of online friends I fly with are mostly German and it’s great to know we’re at peace now when playing a game recreating a war just 60 years ago.

Anyway, when our squad moved to this new game from warbirds a year ago, we missed a regular event on Sunday nights where we flew historically based missions over 2 hours. Different to the “main arena” style of game play, these events would encourage a foundation in history, tactics and planning, and very careful flying, given only 1 life per hour.

After some encourage among the players, I had a list of 80 or so players who were interested in the idea and the support of the game creators. Some players volunteered to run the event (on the server setup side), some for future event design too. The big question was would they actually turn up to play?

I’ve just finished playing the 2nd frame of the first event (3 frames = 3 Sunday nights per event) where 100 players from all over the world joined in! Last week we also had just over 100 players, so it looks like there is a genuine interest for the events to continue.

The picture on this post is what’s left of my Hurricane during the first frame. You’ll notice (ok, you’ll notice because I’m telling you not because you’re looking closely) that it’s missing both ailerons. For those with a love of flying, you’ll know the ailerons are the important bit that lets the plane roll and therefore turn. You might also know of the “secondary effects of control”, where using the rudder will roll the plane. That and a little use of elevator meant I landed safely, just, with a fuel leak and other damage too. The screen shot was taken by Odee, a player from Virginia USA. The game has a recording facility and he replayed from my view point to get the shot. Thanks Odee <S>

Rotary – Charter Night

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Jumping back along the time line for a bit, I’ll tell you about ‘Charter Night’. Charter night is different from Inauguration. I think inauguration is the formal welcoming into Rotary whereas Charter night is more of a celebration of the new club joining the Rotary family.

Our Charter night was June 21st 2008. I confess I had nothing to do with the organisation of the event. In fact, not many in the club did – it appears mostly the work of our first President, Jarle. We used a large room at Kent County Cricket ground for a formal meal. Rotarians from all over the district came to join us along with the President of Rotary Internation in Britain and Ireland, Allan Jagger. He gave a very entertaining speach welcoming us into Rotary and set a challenge I think we have no hope of achieving. He joked that ‘your club has in a single swipe halved the average age of Rotary’, the challenge is that in 10 years time we keep the same average age as now. Our club was given gifts by other clubs of things that a new club will find useful. Chains of office for the President, President Elect and Tresurer, a table lecturn, a bell (I assume that Rotarians are generally rowdy and need calling to attention by bell) and lots of pennants.

The event was also used as a fund raiser for Odyssey. A gambing area was set up on the floor below. For a donation of real money you got some tokens to play with. At the end of the night if you had lots of tokens left you might win a prize that had been donated by a member. The crupier (or whatever they’re called) told me how to play roullete. I’ve decided I’m still not a gambling person.

Rotary – Club Visit 4 to Medway

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There’ll come a time when I’ll visit a club and not learn anything while I’m there. At least about Rotary, though there is perhaps infinite scope to learn from meeting people anywhere. My fourth club visit was much closer to home, the Rotary Club of Medway. I grew up in Medway and a long time friend (someone I met in the early years of starting Roots) has been a member there for longer than he’s known me. I’d said to Clive a few months ago that I really need to visit and just as I was coming back from holiday he suggested meeting for lunch. Instead of lunch, I said I’d meet him at his Rotary club before dinner (Medway is an evening club).

All was set, this time I told Jarle I was going so could pass the presidents greetings with conviction. It was a special meeting in a way as the District Governor, John Wilton, was also visiting to set out his goals as governor for the Rotary year. Something else special happened too, but more on that latter.

A district governor serves for one year. Before then they are District Governor Elect. Before that (so 2 years before being District Governor) they are Vice District Governor… I think. Coming soon – Acronym Dictionary for Rotary! Anyway, I missed his presentation to our club as I was on holiday so this was quite good timing. Despite the tendency people in his position can develop of talking rubbish or in such a way as to send the audience to sleep, I found his speech (about 45 minutes if I remember correctly) pretty specific, relevant and interesting. Of course, this is the first time I’ve seen a District Governor speak so perhaps it’s the same every year but from a different person so may have been very boring to everyone else. He clearly set out the current focus of Rotary on an International Level and it’s chosen charities. He clearly set out the current focus of Rotary at a national (RIBI) level. He clearly set out the current focus of Rotary at District Level. He did make it clear that while all of those are good causes it really is up to the club to choose whether to support it or not – its not mandatory for each Rotary club to support those charities but support is welcome. He said that District is there as a support framework for the clubs and should be used as such. If there is a problem, let him know and he will do his best to keep the wheels in motion effectively during his year in office.

He then took questions from members one of which was, to me at least, was nice to hear. The question was “Shouldn’t we be focussing on more local charities than all the National ones?” or at least words to that effect, I paraphrase. The answer from the District Governor was; each club sets it’s own goals and local good causes are normally expected to feature but it is for the club to decide. I stood (not being frightened of standing and making a fool of myself) and added my two pence. Starting with the question “Has anyone here learnt the Object of Rotary by heart?” – answer given without exception – “No!” I continued, that as a new Rotarian, in a new club, I hadn’t learnt it either. I had though reduced it to three words that I could understand and work towards… “Do Good Things”. That Do Good Things applies to our activities locally, nationally or internationally, that Do Good Things is not defining any amount of money to be raised and given, but includes things as simple as collecting tents left behind at a music festival to distribute to youth clubs free of charge, or raising 50,000 (we hope) in an event in aid of the Pilgrims Hospice. My close was rubbish – that’s what you get for not planning to speak – in that I agree we shouldn’t forget the local charities. I’ve not thought how I’d close that properly, but thinking now I’d say it doesn’t matter whether we do things locally or nationally or internationally, just that whatever we do is as effective as it can be and meets the aim of “Do Good Things”. I think that’s what the Object of Rotary says, just in 103 more specific words than my version.

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Just before I visited this club our club Pennants arrived. What’s a club pennant? It’s like a little flag that when clubs visit each other they exchange. I mentioned them all around the walls when I visited the Rotary Club of Lochabber. Jarle posted me one and at this meeting I exchanged our first club pennant with another club. One more step along the road to club traditions and the honour fell on me. I’m a lucky chap. Here’s the photo of me exchanging the pennant with Medway Club President Bob Curtis

If you thought the pennant exchange was special, well, it was, but not so much as this astounding event that occurred at the meeting. There were two visitors. I was one, the other visitor was member who joined his local club near his home Brisbane in Australia just 11 months ago. His name is Derrick Coppack and he was visiting the UK for just 2 weeks. Nothing unusual there…

As a teenager I went skiing with my family and a group of friends in France. Derrick Coppack was on that same trip. My Dad used to do plumbing work for him when he lived in Rochester but he returned to Australia about 8 years ago to look after his parents. I haven’t seen Derrick in over 15 years. I recognised the name as familiar but knowing this visitor had arrived from Australia the same day of the meeting really didn’t think it would be the same person. What are the chances of that? Both of us joining Rotary this year, both of us meeting in a club that we would never normally visit. I’d work out the mathematical probability….but it’s late so feel free to do it for me if you fancy a challenge.

Learnings from this meeting:

  • Jarle probably has a suitcase full of pennants given to us by other clubs. It would be nice to display them, another Rotary tradition for us to work on.
  • I met and spoke with 3 members at the club who’d been members for less than a year. Fresh enthusiasm is contagious.
  • It’s a small (and friendly) Rotary world.

Rotary and it's impact on our holiday (Part 2)

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After the bonnie hills of Scotland we headed south for two more destinations before home. Our plan was to drive to York and find a camp site there for a few days. I remember going to York as a child and reading of Vikings and it seemed as good a place as any to head. We thought we’d make it but a late start meant we wouldn’t get to the area until about 7pm. As we didn’t have a camp site booked, we decided to stop at Ripon. Arriving about 6pm we discovered the camp sites were all full. Something to do with it being a bank holiday weekend…. oh, forgot that was coming up! We did find a site eventually in a small village about half way to York. They had 1 space for 1 night so we took it.

Leaving as early as we could the next morning we carried onto Windsor. Windsor, for those that didn’t know, is where there’s a very big castle where the Royal Family have been known to visit. As James will tell you, it’s made from hundreds of lego bricks, and look, over there, a lego boat. Yes, our primary draw to Windsor was nothing to do with the real castle, Legoland held far more attraction to the children. Arriving there around lunch time we went to the tourist information centre to get a list of camp sites. Every site we phoned was full. The 7th site said they did have one pitch left, they don’t normally use it because it’s the nosiest pitch… it was 10 metres away from and below the level of the M4. We took it! To be honest, it wasn’t that noisy. As the road was above us I think most of the noise didn’t reach us. It was a bit loud compared to our previous remote camp sites but at least it could be home for a few days.

Day 1 in Windsor we visited the (real) castle, saw the Dolls house, read about how the fire had damaged the building and how it had been repaired. There was an exhibition area with displays of original Leonardo Da Vinci drawings and some of Prince Charles’ things, including his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s award book opened on the expedtion page. He assessor said the prince completed it “satisfactorily” if I remember correctly.

We had a couple of Days in Legoland too and then, on the Tuesday evening, I visited another Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Windsor St George. Rhonda, Nicola and James had dinner in the restaurant and were very patient while I was in a very long and enjoyable meeting. I mean, how many people can say that they were one of only 30 or so people at a dinner with Al Gore! Mr Gore spoke for about an hour and gave a very interesting speech about his work. Did you know, the origin of the term “Police Station” comes from when the Railways had police posted regularly along the track? I’d often wondered what made it a ‘Police Station’, rather than a ‘Police House’ or ‘Police Office’. Oh, perhaps a little clarity, you thought I was speaking about Al Gore that’s an American diplomat or something didn’t you? Sorry, couldn’t resist. This Al Gore is a member of the Rotary Club of Windsor St George and was giving a talk on his occupation. He gave a very thorough history of Policing Railways from beginning to current day.

Another local club had visited in force (around 8 of them) as their regular club meeting place was closed. It seems there is a practice of having ‘scatter’ meetings, where instead of meeting as a club, members will go and visit other clubs. It seems a good idea as it pretty much forces people to go outside their comfort zone and meet other people.

Once again everyone was very friendly. Also visiting that night was a girl from a “Rotaract” club. Rotaract is like a young version of Rotary for people aged between 18 to 30. I gather they still work towards ‘do good things’ as a goal, but have a greater focus on social things and less protocol and formality.

I’m also wondering whether club presidents need to have unusual names – at least names I’m not very familiar with. Our president is Jarle, and the Windsor St George president is Emrys. Emrys used to be Mayor of Windsor and offered to show my family and I around the guildhall the next day but unfortunately our holiday time was up and we had to go home.

Learnings from this visit

  • It is tradition to bring greetings from your president to the club you visit. I stood and introducing myself as a New member in a new club, said I’ve just learnt of this tradition and although I’m sure Jarle would send his greetings he didn’t even know I was coming. Everyone saw the fun side
  • As a club funds raising technique, they had a “Master at Arms” who would fine members (and visitors if he could) for anything that might add to club funds. A few pennies here, a few pennies there all helps. If you visit and you’re from Kent, decide whether you’re a Man of Kent or Kentish Man before you go. Don’t expect it to help as there’ll be something else to fine you for but you wont fall into the same trap I did!

So, that’s a total of 3 club visits but before returning to my regular Wednesday morning meeting I was meeting a friend at a 4th…

Robert Robertson, talented young singer

Continuing from previous writings, I went to the Alexandra Hotel bar in the evening to use their free wi-fi to catch up on things using my laptop. The only downside of the arrangement was having to drive there from the camp site – diet coke only for me!

When I got there I noticed the microphone and speaker setup in the corner and found out there was live music on that night. Decisions decisions…. should I stay or should I go? If the music was really loud or the bar became packed I wouldn’t be able to work. I stayed, very glad I did.

I really like live music. I’ve a musical taste that covers something from everything, I know what I like, I know what I don’t, and I rarely ever manage to remember the name of the songs being played, or the person performing them. I was a little nervous at first when the singer arrived. Clearly young, he turned out to be just 14, I had a feeling this was going to be a very amateur performance with a limited range of songs. It brought back memories of me as a young teenager going to events in a white school shirt and black school trousers. How wrong first impressions can be, this lad was superb!

I should expand on superb. To begin with he was playing an instrument I’m not a huge fan of, the accordion. Playing like a professional, singing well along side it. I could appreciate the talent of this young man by the end of the first song, just not my thing. Still, I could carry on typing on my laptop as it certainly wasn’t bad background music. Then the switch to guitar. I hadn’t even seen the guitar hidden in the corner. I much prefer a guitar with some good vocals and as soon as he started playing the work rate on my laptop slowed to a near halt. This was great music. He kept switching from according to guitar, then back again. Playing a range of songs and styles, with a strong flavour of Scottish songs. As the evening progresses he picked up a feel for the audience and managed to get people singing along. Fortunately you’ll be pleased to know I didn’t join in. Aside from the English accent I would introduce thus spoiling the atmosphere, I didn’t know the words.

I recorded one song on my camera phone. The phone doesn’t do any justice to the singer or the song, but if you recognise it maybe you can tell me the songs name. Yes, I recognise it, but as I said earlier I’m very bad at remembering the names of songs

Aces High 2 – Sunday European Campaign series begins!

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If you know me, you probably know I play a flight sim from time to time called Aces High 2. Some of the players (me included) have been working a new series of events to run on Sunday evenings in the Euro Time Zone.

The first event will be Sunday the 21st September. If you’re here looking for more information, you need to be looking here for the original show your interest page or here for the official launch forum pages on the game creators site

Rotary and it's impact on our family holiday (part 1)

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I’m not writing this quite in chronological order. Now I’ve mentioned one club visit I’ll carry on and write about the other visits before returning to things like our club’s Charter Night. The observant reader (assuming there is a reader of my waffle) will have noticed the title is “Rotary and it’s impact on our family holiday (part1)”. Yes, even on holiday I ended up ‘rotarying’ (I’m sure that’s not a word but I’ll use it anyway).

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Our family holiday this year was based around 2 weeks of camping. Leaving mid week we drove to the Lake District and stayed in a camp site near Lake Windermere. (here come the holiday photos!) Having spent a few days there our next stop was Fort William, the Scotish town next to Ben Nevis. Rhonda walked up Ben Nevis with her parents when she was young and we decided to try walking it with our Children. James made it over half way much to our surprise and when he and Rhonda turned back Nicola and I continued to the summit. Nicola bouncing along as if it was just a small hill, me feeling every metre of gained height in my legs. I’m not as fit as I used to be.

While at Fort William I decided to look for a Rotary Club to see if I could join them in one of their meetings. It turned out the Rotary Club of Lochabber meet in Fort Williams’ Alexandra Hotel just a couple of miles away from our Camp Site. I sent an email to their contact the day before (I know, not a lot of notice!), confirmed the times and went to join them at their lunch time meeting.

Visiting this club became an important part of our family holiday – not just for me, the children were glad I went too. One of the tenets of Rotary is fellowship. Talking and getting to know people can create opportunities that wouldn’t exist without it. For the meal I was sitting on a table with a lady called Mairi. She turned out to be the curator of the West Highland Museum in Fort William. I’d only walked through the high street once before and I hadn’t noticed the museum (despite the huge banner across the pedestrian area). I hadn’t really considered visiting any Museums in the area. Being a small town I imagined a quite small museum with things of minor interest but not quite enough to spend any time in, especially with two hyperactive children in tow. As a result of meeting Mairi we decided to stay an extra day and visit the Museum. I’m so glad we did! We must of spent over 2 hours looking at all the exhibits squeezed into the building. Mairi was talking about plans for an extension over lunch and I can see why the museum needs it. Nicola and James enjoyed it too, Nicola deciding that she’s going to try and create a secret painting just like the one in the museum of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The secret painting is only visible when a reflective cylinder is placed in it’s middle. The image is viewed in the reflection.

There was another reason my family liked this meeting. They weren’t going to the meeting with me, the plan was for them to go swimming in the nearby council pool and for me to walk along and join them after the meeting. Unfortunately the pool was closed due to a strike so they came back to the hotel to leave a message for me. The hotel gave us a free pass to use the nearby Ben Nevis Leisure Club swimming pool instead so despite the strike they still went swimming. I also discovered they had free Wi-Fi internet in the hotel bar so returned that evening to catch up on emails. They had a great (and surprisingly young) singer that evening but more on that in the next post.

Back to Rotary, things I observed and learnt from this meeting:

  • The room was surrounded by pennants from other clubs. They were pinned to bigger backgrounds that looked as though they could be rolled up and stored between meetings.
  • I always find it interesting talking to people. At this meeting, aside from Mairi and the West Highland Museum, I also had interesting conversations with several other people. We (the family) almost went to a Highland Country Dancing evening that night which was covered in formal part of the meeting
  • . Despite being part of RIBI, the club is further away than the French club we (Canterbury Sunrise) are working on twinning with. Scotland is another country to England so perhaps this should count as my first international visit too 😉