In 2020 I was mostly listening to…

Reel Big Fish, according to Last.fm which has counted up all of the tracks I’ve scrobbled over the year in order to tell me where my tastes have been over the course of the past year.

The Album I have most listened to has been Life Sucks… Let’s Dance by! the same band which, and I hadn’t really thought of it before, does sum up the year remarkably well.

The song I have listened to most, though, goes all the way back to 1997 with Save Ferris‘ cover of the Dexys Midnight Runners song, Come on Eileen.

So here it is.

Lightly Seared in 2020

It’s nearly the end of the year, so now seems to be as good a time as any to take a look back at 2020. Looking back at the most popular posts that were actually written in 2020, and then excluding all of the ones that were just a link (or collection of links), I have come up with the following arbitrary selection of the best of the blog.

First up, and the most popular post written this year is Life’s too short for bad books in which I face the realisation that acquiring freebies gets in the way of buying books I actually want to read.

It appears that there are a fair few coffee drinkers looking at this site. The second most popular post is the one about my (not so new anymore) Aeropress. I’m still using it — a lot — and am probably now drinking even more coffee than I used to.

It being 2020, the Coronavirus can’t be ignored and nor can some of the absurdities that cropped up as various rules and restrictions conflicted with each other. Like this Spanish edition which revolves around working and cycling.

Surprisingly, since it was only written four weeks ago, my experience with Scratch comes in at number four.

Belgium held federal elections in 2019 and the coalition negotiations continued into 2020. Long into 2020. And in August, the country broke the record for the longest political crisis and longest period without an elected government.

The sixth most popular post on this site this year was Dead animal disposal. And I was slightly surprised that The sound of solitude, which wasn’t really about anything (I was trying to maintain a streak at the time), was the seventh most popular post on the site.

Oops is the amusing tale of backfiring public-spiritedness and number six in on-site popularity terms.

2020 was the year in which I started taking a camera with me when going for a walk. The photo I took of a Speckled Wood butterfly comes in at number nine.

All the way back in February, I talked about The Prisoner episode Hammer Into Anvil. In April, I was asked to reduce my working time to four days a week. In November I went Back to work. In October, we had a laptop disaster and an emergency upgrade.

I have been ranting about Brexit — on and off — for most of the year, but it wasn’t until December and the post Brexit Hell that anyone started reading any of these posts. That said, A classic of the genre, which was about Brexiters, was only slightly less popular.

And finally, Not a dragonfly was about a damselfly.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

So, 2020. It’s been quite a year and it’s still not (quite) over. And, with this being the first year for a long time that we will be spending at home, I’m at a bit of a loss. I have no last-minute packing to do, no long journeys to worry about and all of the presents are already under the tree.

So all that remains is for me to open a bottle, pour myself a drink and wish you all a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2021.

A Year in Beer

Untappd is yet another social application, this one aimed at beer drinkers. It allows you to check in what you are drinking and where and note what you thought of it. The social features always feel a bit basic, or maybe it’s just me, but I do find it a useful way of keeping track of beers that I have tried — especially the ones that I drink infrequently and which I can never remember what I thought of.

The app also comes up with an annual year in beer which summarises what I’ve been up to over the year. I could get more data by getting a paid account, but the simple stats are enough for someone as cheap as me.

These tell me that I checked in 153 times in 2020, getting through 31 unique beers. As for preferred beers Brugse Zot Dubbel and Chimay Red top the list for me, with 21 check ins each. Unsurprisingly, the style of beer I drank most is Belgian Dubbel.

It’s when we get to venues that 2020 really shows it’s hand. My most frequented venue this year is “at home”, with a total of 112 check ins and most of the beers I drank came from the local drink shop.

None of this really tells me I didn’t already know. Most of my drinking in the summer was in the garden, either after weeding or during a barbecue, or both; and most of my drinking more recently has been at home with pizza, or a film, or both. I have probably gone through a much more limited selection of styles because I haven’t spent much time in restaurants, and none in bars this year.

It will be interesting to see what my year looks like when Covid is behind us.

Brexit Hell

What was Brexit like? America’s declaration of independence? A man leaving a golf club but demanding to still be allowed into the bar? Over the years, I went through a few analogies, but the one that persisted was of a married man who has for years enjoyed casually flirting with a work colleague. One evening he makes his traditional half-hearted pass, and instead of rolling her eyes, she replies: “Go on, then”. A month later, he’s living out of his car and negotiating through lawyers to see his children one weekend a month, and he can’t really tell you how it happened.

Robert Hutton looks back at the unrelenting mess of Brexit and notes just how stupid the whole thing has been.

And so it remains, with the UK government managing to come up with a toxic combination of compounded stupidity, wilful ignorance and stubborn refusal to face reality. After the (stupid) referendum, the Tories rushed into Brexit without having the faintest idea of what they wanted to achieve or how to achieve it. Or anything.

So here we are, approaching the finally final (we mean it this time) deadline for a trade agreement there is still very little likelihood of anything being agreed, and probably less that any agreement being ratified.

Britain has gone from being part of the largest free trade zone in the world to having a free trade zone smaller than the UK. And for what? To be as independent as North Korea?

Was it really worth it?

The Dead Pigeon Mystery

Yesterday evening, Eve informed me that there was a dead pigeon in the chicken run. I had no intention of trying to deal with a bird corpse while it was both dark and raining, but I did promise to get rid of it this morning.

This morning came and went and, shortly after lunch, I went out to deal with the dead pigeon.

It had gone.

So now the question arises as to who might have been sneaking into our garden on Saturday morning to help themselves to a Columbidae corpse.

I have my suspicions.

Bang!

This is a game that was given to us almost a year ago. When we opened it, however, we realised that what we had was the French version, which was a tad problematic — for me, at least. So the game ended up being put to the side and largely forgotten. A few weeks ago, however, Alex picked it up and suggested we give it a go and a quick search for a translation of the rules ensued.

Luckily, the publisher has downloadable rules in a multitude of languages. They also provide a handy description of the game:

When a man with a pistol meets a man with a Winchester, you might say that the one with the pistol is a dead man… unless his pistol is a Volcanic!

In the wild west, the Outlaws hunt the Sheriff, the Sheriff hunts the Outlaws, and the Renegade plots in secret, ready to join one side or the other.

Before long, bullets start to fly!Which gunmen are Deputies, ready to sacrifice themselves for the Sheriff? And which are the merciless Outlaws, looking to gun him down?

The world’s best-selling wild west card game is back in a new, richer format. Easier to learn and play than ever before!

I’m not sure about that last line. There can’t be that many wild west card games in existence and being the leader in a field of one isn’t as impressive an achievement as it sounds.

As for the game itself, I shall start by noting that I may be being a little unfair to the game here. A lot of the information necessary to play is printed on the cards which should make for a reasonably fast flowing game. However, with all the cards are printed in French, I have to keep referring back to the rules in order to understand both the character abilities and what the cards can do.

It’s not a bad little game, but nor is it great.

Bang! is a card game and it’s about players shooting each other. It’s not open warfare, though, as each player has a role. In the four player game, there is a sheriff, who has to eliminate everyone else from the game; two outlaws who have to eliminate the sheriff and a renegade who needs to be the last man standing.

Each turn, the player draws two cards, plays as many cards as they can and then discards excess cards until they no longer exceed their hand limit (which varies from player to player and over the course of the game). And I think it’s the need to discard cards that is my main issue with the game because this makes everything heavily dependent on luck. If you have a card that can be played, you really need to either play it or lose it and this makes it near impossible to hang onto a card in order to spring a nasty surprise later in the game.

The game is also a lot easier for the outlaws to win, and very difficult for the renegade, which can make for some very frustrating gameplay.

Linked to this is the fact that the large number of defensive and recovery cards can cause the game to drag somewhat. This is especially notable as players are eliminated and those remaining become increasingly difficult to knock out. This is not helped by the fact that only one Bang! card (the main method for shooting opponents) can be played per turn.

That said, at it’s core the game is a good one and we have played it several times, so much so that the game is flowing a lot more easily. With a bit of tuning, it could be a great game.

We may play around with the rules a bit at some point in the future, just to see what happens if we ignore the hand limit as well as the rule about only playing one Bang card per turn. Because, for me, a Spaghetti Western should end in a massive shootout, and not a long slow grinding of each other down.

Time Warp

Tenacious D‘s cover of Richard O’Brien’s timless classic was released in October and appears to have been released in order to encourage people to vote in the US election. I didn’t see it then, which is why I’m posting it now.

While not the greatest version of Time Warp ever recorded, the video is worth watching for the stream of celebrity cameos that keep popping up. Some of them I even recognised.