The Goddard-Willcox homepage

10 DEC 2007

Alex is 3! (months)

To mark baby Alex's three month birthday I've added a new set of photos to our gallery.

Category > About Us

5 DEC 2007

A collection of terror overreaction stories

I’ve been noting down a few stories recently as they’ve come up in the news and now seems as good a time as any to mention them. As before, they all seem to be triumphs of cover-your-ass judgement calls over any kind of common sense. Part of the problem is the calls from the government and police for us, the general public, to remain vigilant and report any suspicious terrorist activity. But what is suspicious activity? What does a terrorist look like? And there’s the problem; there’s no simple answer. Instead, people notice what they perceive to be different, non-mainstream behaviour, or actions that they can’t comprehend, which make them uneasy. Does the average person know enough about bomb-making to distinguish between a real device and an advertising sign? Anecdotal evidence suggests not.

1. Police taser man in diabetic coma

This incident actually happened just before the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, but has only just come to light. The victim decided to speak up after the police involved were cleared of any improper conduct.

Nicholas Faubert was traveling on a bus when he had a hypoglycaemic attack and collapsed into a diabetic coma, ending up slumped over his rucksack on his lap. When the bus arrived back at the depot and the driver realised he was still on board, rather than check if he was OK the driver decided to call the police. When he didn’t respond to police instructions (because he was in a coma), the police tasered him and he fell off the seat face down onto the floor. As it happens, one of his arms was trapped underneath his body when he fell, which the police didn’t like, and when he failed to respond to requests to move it (because he was in a coma and now tasered) they shot him again, just to be sure. It was only in the police van that they noticed the medical tag around his neck that warned of his condition, and even once he was taken to hospital the police refused to remove his handcuffs while he was treated.

2. Blind musician accused of being a terrorist and feigning his condition

A steel band was removed from a Ryanair flight (why am I not surprised it was Ryanair?) due to a passenger’s concerns that their blind drummer may have been feigning his condition. The passenger became concerned when he noticed that the band, who had been together in the terminal, were sitting mostly in separate seats. He then thought he saw the blind drummer reading a paper, when in fact his companion was reading out the football results to him from it. When another couple of families overheard his concerns the crew decided to call in the police and the band members were taken off the plane. Despite quickly proving that he was indeed blind, and the plane remaining on the ground for at least an hour after that, the pilot decided not to let them re-board the plane because he was worried it would increase the tension with the other three families. He made all these decisions without ever leaving the cockpit or talking to anyone directly involved.

3. What it’s like to be a terror suspect

This is quite an old piece by a journalist who was actually arrested as a terror suspect in the weeks following the London bombings in July 2005. It’s an interesting article as he recounts his experience, best read as is from the link in the title above.

Category > Miscellaneous

29 OCT 2007

The cost of player absenteeism

As I was tidying up my emails this week I uncovered this gem from way back in August 2005. A brief summary of the night before by the DM at the time, it illustrates in just a couple of paragraphs all the dangers of missing a D&D session. Sorry if it brings back bad memories Baz…

Sorry Baz, you are surrounded by 5 clerics, paralysed - so they are all about to coup de grace you. We are all in a massive silence area so we can’t cast spells.... (including remove paralysis)
Looking on the bright side - we are 5 rounds into a MAJOR battle and you are still alive having taken no damage.
We have 10 Minion Clerics in front of us (including the ones surrounding you)…
6 commander clerics behind them...
a big bugger cleric behind them...
and a Vrock behind us - which is why we couldn’t run away (it teleports at will and cut off our retreat as we started to try to run away)

As it happens, the next session ended with a major rout; half the party died horribly and the others (including my character Hadara) escaped with a last ditch teleport.

Category > RPG > D&D

28 OCT 2007

How to keep yourself amused in prison

I imagine prison must be a boring place most of the time, and so anything to break the monotony must be worth trying. It must take a whole lot of organisation to get as far as this prison in the Philipines though, who have managed to enact a mass version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller". An absolute must-see, especially on the run up to halloween.

You can find other performances of theirs on YouTube, such as a thousand or so people all simultaneously playing air guitar and moshing to "Canon in D, rock version", or the more sedate "Do the Hustle".

Category > Internet

10 OCT 2007

Alex's First Month

Alex is one month old today, "HIP HIP HOORAY"! To celebrate, here's a few more photos (any excuse will do really). As you can see he's already holding his head up well, and he's more or less started smiling too. Having bulked up to about 11lbs he's also looking like a baby at least twice his age already.

Category > About Us

6 OCT 2007

World of Warcraft RPG Tech Devices Primer

A group of us WoW RPG gamers got together a while ago to try and produce a free netbook of additional material for the game, with the aim of producing it in as professional a style as we could. For various reasons that book hasn't yet seen the light of day, but one thing that has come out of it so far is a good primer on the use of technological devices, one of the more complicated additions that World of Warcraft brings to the RPG table. I've added a link to it in the main RPG section, and you can look the pdf here.

Category > RPG > World of Warcraft

6 OCT 2007

Hi-fi snake oil

In the audiophile world of high-end sound systems you can spend quite ridiculous amounts of money for top of the range kit, with all kinds of special benefits. Below I’ve collated a few of the most amusing accessories you can buy, most of which require their very own set of the rules of physics (not supplied).

1. The Furutech RD-2 Demagnitizer

De-magnetise your CDs for clearer sound with more dynamics and power and for only 400 Euros! Yes, demagnetise your, um, polycarbonate plastic CDs. Plastic being a famous magnetic material. Oh hold on, CDs do also have a thin aluminium layer on one side to make it reflective… nope, not magnetic either.

If you’re as geeky as me you might enjoy looking at this pdf of their principles of operation, including their hypothesis that “electronic current generates magnetism when it flows”, one of the fundamental rules of electromagnetic theory since about 1820.

2. The Stealth Dream power cable

Must you have the absolutely perfect audio-visual system? Then you need Stealth Technology! Yes! A mere $3200, yes that’s $3200, gets you your own 2m cable (though remember you need one for each bit of kit) with its proprietary helium para-vacuum (15 times better than a normal vacuum). Unlike a Dream cable,

other cords have ground path which is not RF transparent enough to realistically dump the electromagnetic pollution to the ground...and thus compromise perceived clarity of the sound.

What’s great about this company is that they even admit they’re conning you on the page you’re looking at:

This is a theory, and it's based on our own "model" of how things work. Some people would disagree (there is always someone who disagrees with any theory).

3. Anything from Machina Dynamica

These guys are just full of all kinds of bizarre gadgetry. Maybe you want a pair of Ultra Tweeters? For $400 they'll sit on top of your speakers and

provide better definition, greater depth and transparency of soundstage and more solid imaging. The improvement to sound quality is also apparent in the upper bass and midrange frequencies.

This is all the more impressive given that they apparently work above 1 GHz, which is both way above the audible frequency range of the human ear (20 Hz - 20 kHz) and far above anything your amp could actually be producing.

So maybe we should try something else? How about some Brilliant Pebbles? No fiddling about with cables here, simply place your jar of highly-specialized, proprietary minerals/stones in the corner of your room and they'll act as a "vibration node damper", an "EMI/RFI absorber" and they'll "reduce comb filter effects caused by very high sound pressure levels in the corners when music is playing". Only $129, a relative bargain.

Category > Internet

4 OCT 2007

Three weeks old and growing well

Alexander is now a little over 3 weeks old and is bulking up considerably - he's now just over 11 lbs and has been confirmed as being 57cm tall; both measurements being right at the top of the scale for babies of his age. Maybe being born during the rugby world cup means he's destined to be a second-row forward for England in the future.

He seems to have decided that his most awake, active time should be around 9pm-1am, which is nice of him, but on the positive side he does tend to sleep for a good 4 or 5 hours straight during the night to make up for it. Now I've just started back to work we'll have to see how it all works out...

Category > About Us

4 OCT 2007

More terror overreaction

Oh dear. The smell caused by a Thai restaurant which was cooking up its annual super-chili dip was assumed to be some kind of chemical attack and a small area of Soho was cordoned off and evacuated while fire crews with specialist breathing apparatus investigated. It would be interesting to find out who was able to escalate the affair from "hmm, what a strange smell, let's try and find the source" to "OMG!11!!1! WE'RE UNDER ATTACK! PANIC!1!! EVACUATE!". It's also interesting to note that the restaurant's been there for 17 years, so presumably the previous 16 years of the annual event have passed without any problems.

Category > Miscellaneous

15 SEP 2007

Our new arrival

Kirsty gave birth to baby Alexander Micah Goddard-Willcox on 10th Sep at 4am. He was a rather chunky 9 lbs exactly. Needless to say he's absolutely gorgeous bundle of baby, and there's a load of pictures of him in our gallery.

Category > About Us

6 SEP 2007

A little common sense please

There’s a lot of worry about terrorism these days, and in more and more cases things seem to have got completely out of hand. The people in positions of responsibility are so worried about covering their own asses in case something does happen that they go to ridiculous lengths under the proviso of “just in case”. Cases in point:

1. Earlier this year the Cartoon Network advertised their new series of "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" by putting up neon signs instead of advertising boards around ten major cities. After a couple of weeks the Boston police suddenly noticed them and decided that they must be bombs and immediately shut down large sections of the city, as well as interstate, rail and river traffic.

When they realised they’d made a mistake, rather than apologise for overreacting, they decided it would be better to arrest and prosecute the two designers for “placing a hoax device to incite panic”. Bruce Schneier had a good article about it on his blog. Here’s what the signs looked like:

Neon Sign

2. A 13-year-old boy was suspended for 5 days after he drew a picture of a gun on the back of his work because he was bored in class. The principal said it was “absolutely considered a threat”. What do you think?


Category > Miscellaneous

4 SEP 2007

Website redesign

Right, as of now our website has a funky new look, which of course you'll only know if you've been here before. There's also a new Gallery section which will house some of our photos as I get round to sorting them all out. Hopefully there'll also be more frequent content updates, so watch this space.

Category > Miscellaneous

4 SEP 2007

The deterioration of the Kinder Egg

Dave Gorman has a brilliant examination of the deterioration in excitement provided by the toy in a modern kinder egg, or Egg of Numbing Inevitability as Bill Bailey would call it. Yes, it matters. I don't know why.

Category > Internet

3 SEP 2007

New photos of Kirsty's baby shower

The first addition to our shiny new gallery is a collection of photos from Kirsty's baby shower back in July. The baby's due date is 7th Sep, so we're almost there right now... hopefully there'll be plenty more on this over the next few months!

Category > About Us

1 SEP 2007

Iron Heroes

My gaming group has recently started playing a d20 variant called Iron Heroes, originally published by Monte Cook but now under control of Fiery Dragon. Written by Mike Mearls, it takes place in a high fantasy, low magic setting, where your abilities are more important than the equipment you carry.

Expanded uses for skills in and out of combat, and new mechanics for combat challenges and stunts makes combat far more dynamic and stops the "I full attack; the enemy full attacks; repeat to end' style which can end up characterising a lot of D&D combat.

My character is Tal, son of Cairn, a Berserker. Every time he is hit in combat he gains a fury token, and as these build up he can use them to activate special berserker class abilities, such as improved Strength and Constitution, or immunity to mind-affecting abilities.

Tal is tall and well-built, about 6'4". He has a mohican, a large tattoo of a snarling wolverine's head on his chest and a wolverine pelt cloak. He draws on other less permanent tattoos with a red-colured dye which has powerful psychotropic properties; it gets absorbed into his skin and lets him enable his berserker abilities. As a side-effect, they also dull his senses somewhat, so he's a bit short in intuition and subtlety. He's not stupid though, and doesn't like being patronised. He's the son of a tribal shaman whose clan worship animal totems, his main focus being the wolverine. The clan are somewhat primitive and traditional (men do the fighting and protect the women, elderly & children) so he's still having some problems adjusting to the fact that two of his new companions, Melody and Ann-See, are fully competent adventurers.

As befits someone in line to be tribal leader, Tal tries to be noble and just, and is not motivated particularly by amassing personal wealth, though he does still want enough to be able to better himself. His main aim is to experience & understand how the rest of the world works so he can return at some point to his clan and become the best leader he can be.

Category > RPG > Iron Heroes

1 JAN 2007

Meet the cats

We've got 2 cats, Shortie and Max. Shortie's been Kirsty's cat for many years and is now living in a relaxed and sedate manner. Max is relatively new to the household, and is a complete raving loon.

Shortie Shortie Max Max

Category > About Us