G.R.R Martin makes me angry.

So, I just happened upon a chapter in ‘A Storm of Swords’ today that I’d not been looking forward to reading. I’d had this particular event spoiled for me quite early on so I knew it was coming. Worry not those who wish to avoid spoilers, this will be as vague as it possibly could be. As a heads up, its the Red……

Knowing what was going to happen before it happened was worse than if it had been a surprise. This way, I spent every other sentence for about three chapters thinking ‘No, don’t do that, get out of there, don’t let them do that, get that thing back, turn around, fly you fools’.

Not even a cup of tea and a scone made the bitter pill any sweeter….

I don’t even particularly like the characters involved. I mean, one of the Houses sure, but not really the characters. It’s the way it happens. Just plain wrong. There is something which is broken; and to me, something like that should never be broken. Gives me goosebumps.

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General Ramblings on my A Level Results

For my A Levels, I took Law, History, Use of Mathematics and (for AS) Business Studies. History, followed swiftly by Law, being my favourite with Use of Mathematics rather further behind (I enjoy maths, I’m just poor at it). I ended up with B’s in Law, History and General Studies and C’s in Use of Mathematics and AS Business Studies. I was about 2 marks off an A in Law and about 4 off a B in UoM.

Now, not to make excuses or anything, but that Law grade isn’t my fault; my Year 12 teacher mucked up dreadfully but I’m still bitter about that and don’t really want to rant about it. I thoroughly enjoyed my Year 13 Law class even though about 4 of the 6 students in the class didn’t really understand, or want to understand, the work – the teacher made concessions and worked for the best of everyone – the slowest and the quickest learners. History was also excellent; The Tudors, Vietnam, British Raj and the rise of Totalitarian Regimes (1900-35-ish) are all fascinating topics to cover and with the help of engaging teachers it made the classes immensely fun to go to. Use of Mathematics was another small class but equally with a passionate teacher who helped out a lot; I just wish I’d managed that extra few marks to get a B. I just never really ‘got’ Business Studies.

Anyhow, sometimes I look at my results and wonder what they could have been had I not spent the majority of the time playing Countdown and Risk on a SMART board in between card games….Then I realise the Countdown number rounds were probably more useful for developing numeracy skills than Use of Mathematics. After all, I can’t really remember how to differentiate or integrate, but I can remember how to add, takeaway, multiply and divide (and that was more than a slight dig at the British Comprehensive Education System).

I suppose what I want to say is that A Levels are not the end of the world. I was quite disappointed with my results I’m not going to lie. And I feel like they aren’t just impacting badly on myself from a personal point of view, but Law firms also use them to ‘cut the wheat from the chaff’ so to speak, and I lie on the edge. And that worries me. But, remember A Level students. you can always resit. You can always retake a year; you’ll have plenty more for working, one more won’t hurt. Make sure you get them right. 

Unless you’re a law student. In which case, please just give up. Competition’s hard enough as it is.

A brief history of… Mario

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I daresay that there are very few people out there reading this who don’t know who Mario is. The lovable little American-Italian plumber is arguably the most iconic gaming character in history and polls suggest he’s even more famous than the cartoon figurehead Micky Mouse. But what do you really know about Mario? Probably a lot more than me, I’ve only played a handful of his games, but for those also lacking, here’s a brief history of the moustachioed star.

Despite being the mascot of Nintendo for as good as three decades, the famous Mario actually started out playing second fiddle as an unnamed character (titled only as ‘Jumpman’) in 1981’s ‘Donkey Kong’ and it wasn’t until a year later he became Mario (in ‘Donkey Kong Junior’ – the only game Mario has ever been an antagonist).

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I have nightmares about this scene. I mean. Just. Another Castle…..

The Mario we know and love today came into being in the 1983 ‘Mario Bros’ which also introduced his long suffering younger brother Luigi. However it was 1985’s ‘Super Mario Bros’ that really expanded on the universe by introducing the Mushroom Kingdom and tasking Mario with saving Princess Toadstool. Today this single branch of the Mario series has sold more copies than any other complete games series.

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Seriously though, there’s something fun about wandering around cleaning things. Note: This is not Mario with an ASBO.

The games led to numerous sequels and spin offs (such as the delightful Super Mario Sunshine which I played on the GameCube where you basically go around cleaning pollutants and graffiti) and there seems little the plucky little plumber can’t do – he’s even been to space. There is literally nothing Mario won’t do to save Princess Peach, especially if it means beating arch-nemesis (and serial kidnapper) Bowser or his childhood rival Wario.

 

Mario has also had several successful trips into Sport-themed games taking on both friend and foe on the race track in the phenomenal ‘Mario Kart’ series, clashing with Sonic (the megastar of Nintendo former-rival Sega) at both the Summer and Winter Olympics as well as knocking seven bells out of other famous gaming characters (ranging from Pokemon’s Pickachu to the lovable ‘Kirby’) in ‘Super Smash Bros’.  As well as being an award winning sportsman in his free time, jumping and plumbing are far from Mario’s only skills and over the years he’s also worked as a soldier, demolitionist, Doctor, Baker and President of Mario Toy Company.

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I have all the Gold cups for every track on Mario Kart Wii. It is a ridiculously fun game.

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For a portly plumber, Mario doesn’t do too badly in the Olympics. Even against a Hedgehog well known for travelling incredibly quickly. Videogame logic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mario has been recognised as one of the most prolific characters in gaming. In 2009, the Guinness World Records found Mario had appeared in 116 distinct titles (not including remakes or re-releases) spanning every single year from 1981 until now (2014). According to Wikipedia, the Mario series of games is the best-selling of any game series with over 445,000,000 sold games; putting this in perspective, the next best-selling series is ‘Pokemon’ which has sold around 245,000,000 so it has a very healthy lead indeed. And all this is without even mentioning the comics, tv shows or film (yeah, FILM) in which he features.

And if you still don’t think Mario is cool, then you clearly don’t know he’s been on the side of lunch boxes for years. And that is the epitome of coolness.

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Post Script: Many thanks to Google for the images.

Post Post Script: I forgot to mention this in the actual article, but please have a moments silence for Luigi. Mario7

My sincerest apologies

Dear readers,

For a start, thanks for reading this. If you’ve checked this blog out a few times over the last year you’ll probably be surprised to see this! I can but apologize for my absence. Last year I started the first year of a University Law degree and this blog got left by the wayside. I hope now to re-start writing regularly (hopefully I’ll be posting things every few days or weekly at least).

If it’s any consolation, at least I wasn’t wasting my time when doing University work instead of updating here: I received a 1st and I was only 3% behind the chap who got the best marks in the year so, considering its Law, I’m rather pleased with it. And from the looks of the stats, the blogs done better with me not posting than it ever did when I was! I’d be lucky if I’d get a view a week last year, now we have daily views which is lovely to see.

I have a ‘A brief history of…’ ready to post later today so I am prepared!

Your humble writer
The Consulting Gallifreyan

A brief history of: Henry Kissinger

henry-kissinger-speaking-to-senateName: Henry Alfred Kissinger
Occupation: Statesman and Diplomat
Birth date: May 27th 1923
Time in Government: 1969 to 1977
Political party: Republican
Religious Views: Judaism

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Henry Kissinger is a German-born American statesman who was born on May 27, 1923. A recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, he served as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Kissinger played a prominent role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. During this period, he strengthened the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, organised the opening of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, and was a major player in the Nixon Administration’s Vietnam policy.

(Should you come accross vocabulary you don’t understand, it may well be in a small glossary at the end of the page).

The Early Years
As a child, Kissinger encountered anti-Semitism daily. An avid soccer fan, he defied laws banning Jews from professional sporting events to attend matches, receiving several beatings at the hands of the stadium guards. These experiences made a lasting impression on Kissinger.

He excelled at the local Jewish school and had hoped to attend a prestigious state-run high school. However, by the time he was old enough to apply, the school had stopped accepting Jews. Sensing the impending tragedy of the Holocaust, aged only 15, Kissinger and his family decided to flee Nazi Germany.

On August 20, 1938, the Kissingers set sail for New York City by way of London. His family was extremely poor upon arrival in the United States, and Kissinger immediately went to work because of it. However at the same time, Kissinger enrolled at New York’s George Washington High School, where he learned impeccable English and excelled in almost all areas of study. He graduated from high school in 1940 and continued on to the City College of New York, where he studied to become an accountant.

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Even at this early stage, Henry Kissinger had a reputation for being a tough negotiator with a very high intelligence

World War 2

In early 1943 Kissinger was drafted into the US army, and in June 1943 he was officially naturalized as a US citizen. Because of his fluency in German and his intellect Kissinger was swiftly moved into military intelligence. During the American push into Germany, Kissinger was given the role as administrator of a City (despite only being a Private at the time) and he swiftly organised a civilian council. Following his administrative successes, Kissinger was promoted to Sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star for hunting officers of the Gestapo.

Harvard
It was during the war that Kissinger decided he did not want to follow Accountancy and instead wished to study the Political Sciences and as such, when he returned to the US in 1947 he enrolled at Harvard. He graduated with his degree in 1950, however he stayed at Harvard to complete both a Masters (1952) and Doctorate (1954) before taking up a teaching position at the same institution. While he was focusing on Academia, he also rose to fame by publishing several books on US foreign policy (particularity regarding Nuclear Weapons) and was a special adviser to both President’s Kennedy and Johnson. Kissinger’s term with Harvard finished however in 1969 when he took the position of National Security Adviser to President Nixon.

Time in Government
Kissinger held two positions in the United States Government: as National Security Adviser from 1969-75, and then as Secretary of State from 1973-77 (and in the process becoming the first person ever to do so who was born outside of the US). A stringent supporter of Foreign Policy always promoting US Interests, throughout the Nixon Administration, Kissinger had three main priorities: creating more amiable relations between the United States and The Soviet Union, the creation of formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and a US victory in Vietnam.

imagesThe first two priorities could be done almost simultaneously as Kissinger planned to put pressure on the Soviet Union to lower hostilities by showing the US thawing relations with China (which I wanted to do anyway, even if it hadn’t had the same result on Russia). Kissinger brought about the closer relationship with China through two groundbreaking meetings between President Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong (in 1971 and 1972) while at the same time he was getting the Soviet Union to sign two pacts limiting the use and creation of Strategic Arms. While Kissinger’s policy regarding China and Russia was arguably a success, diplomatic relations were overshadowed by the Watergate Scandal in the later years of the Nixon Administration. (See Nixon and Kissinger pictured).

The greatest problem which Kissinger faced while in Government was the situation in Vietnam. By the time that Nixon and Kissinger were both deciding policy, the war in Vietnam was already very unpopular, expensive and out of control. In implementing Nixon’s promise to gain ‘Peace with Honour’, Kissinger implemented the large scale bombing of Vietnam and eventually Cambodia while also playing a key part in the creation of Vietnamization. He attempted to mediate negotiations between the US and North Vietnamese for some time before finally being able to issue a ceasefire and withdrawal order to the US troops in Vietnam after the 1973 Paris Peace Talks (however US troops didn’t actually fully leave until 1975 when the North Vietnamese overthrew the South and pushed the US out).

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It was because of the apparent peace that Kissinger and Le Duc Tho (The North Vietnamese Negotiator) were jointly offered the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize. Kissinger accepted, while Le Duc Tho refused.

Pictured left: Kissinger celebrates being named jointly Time’s ‘Men of the Year’ with President Nixon in 1972

Following Vietnam, Kissinger also helped resume diplomatic relations between the US and Egypt and he remained in office under President Gerald Ford after Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Kissinger’s role as a main player in the US Government however ended when President Carter beat Ford in the 1977 election.

 The Later Years
Following his role in Government, Kissinger was offered a position at the University of Colombia, however this was met by such strong student opposition that they were forced to cancel the offer. Despite this, the University of Georgetown offered Kissinger a job in their Centre for International Studies which he then accepted. He also continued under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush to serve on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board as well as supporting the Government on various international commissions and investigations.

As well as returning to Academia, Kissinger continues to participate in policy groups, such as the Trilateral Commission, and to maintain political consulting, speaking, and writing engagements.

Only rarely in history do statesmen find an environment in which all factors are so malleable; before us, I thought, was the chance to shape events, to build a new world, harnessing the energy and dreams of the American people and mankind’s hopes.

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Glossary:
Detente: The thawing of foreign relations with another power.
Gestapo: The Nazi Military Police.
Peace with Honour: The idea that the US could back out of Vietnam without losing its international credability.
Vietnamization: The process of training up the ARVN (South Vietnamese Army) to take over from US troops.

PS; Special thanks to Google for the images!

Reintroducing the bear and wolf to Britain: valuable for our ecosystem or too dangerous to be attempted?

This morning while watching the news, it was mentioned that across Europe (although particularly in the Eastern countries) we are seeing a variety of long lost animal’s being reintroduced into their old habitats. This has revived somewhat the debate in Britain as to if animals once at the top of the food chain here, such as the brown bear or wolves, should be reintroduced.

Now, I remember reading up on the topic a few years ago when it was (I think) last brought up at a National Level (rather than for just the Scottish highlands) and I was stringently against the idea for reasons I’ll come on to, and this recent debate hasn’t changed my mind.

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The Brown Bear was last seen in Britain probably around 1000 years ago. Despite their occasionally cuddly appearance  there should be no doubts as to how immensely powerful they are in the flesh.

I mean the effort to introduce animals such as the beaver and lynx as well as those such as the bear and the wolf will undoubtedly have positive effects on our natural eco-systems. I was reading research done by Nature England which stated that beavers could reduce the risk of flooding which would be excellent, and also we have a rather large deer problem in Britain which would be helped a lot by introducing creatures such as the Lynx and Wolf who would begin to hunt them (preventing the need to cull herds). On the other hand, the modern landscape of Britain must be taken into account on such an issue; and the general consensus among experts is that we do not have a sustainable environment for these creatures to live in without significant risk to either people or their livelihoods. As much as people may say that highland farming is not important or ‘too small’ to be significant clearly don’t understand that for their new eco-system to work it’s got to build upon what we have now and not what they want to have.

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The Wolf; last seen in Britain around the beginning of the 18th Century. Powerful beasts with a pack mentality, close control would need to be kept to avoid groups of them demolishing herds or even people who venture into the lovely British countryside.

Organisations such as humansandwolves.org argue that these species have considerably more positive than negative effects on our society, our economy, and indeed, on our eco-systems. However, I don’t think the extra £300 (rising from £500 to £800) in income for deer estates has as much influence on anything meaningful to the majority of people as the supporters are suggesting.

I have read a few different articles on the topic, and I find most commentators saying that such animals pose a threat to humans in argument against the supporters of the reintroduction who state that properly educated humans will have no fear from the animals in their natural habitat. However, and I think this is something to be stressed, what about when the animals venture out of their natural habitat? Let’s take an example of the common fox; over the last couple of decades we have seen an explosion in the levels of ‘urbanised’ foxes moving out of their natural homes in the countryside and setting up shop in cities, towns and urban areas. Not only this, but the competition for food has meant foxes being in the news for breaking into houses, stealing food, terrorising people and even attacking humans; most shockingly, the young. Now, I don’t have any expert opinions backing up the idea that given 20 years wolves or even bears may have lost their fear of the urban environment, however in the modern environment with suitable habitats shrinking it means its ever more likely that these creatures could very well move ‘out of the wild and into civilisation’. It may not even be cities, but towns or villages. Situated much closer to their habitats in the countryside and with a much less imposing human presence, as the animals become ever more confident attacks will, I would say, rise dramatically.
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The urban fox has developed into just as much a menace to city-goers as to country bumpkins (such as myself!) 

Don’t get me wrong, I most certainly don’t want to see any of these species go extinct, or anything like that, but I most certainly don’t want to see them suffer by being forced into an area too insufficient for them to the point where they are forced into conflict with humans. Because if that does happen, it’s not a fight that’s going to turn out well for the creatures, the supporters of reintroduction or the attitudes of the public towards sustainability and creation/cultivation of clean eco-systems.

Post Script; All images courtesy of Google.

21 Tips For People Who Don’t Drink

A really very good set of advice for those who don’t drink or those who have met new people who don’t drink.

I don’t and never have drank. Even though I have clear reasons in my mind, it is still a very daunting thing to have to go to university as I am and try and hold back the whole drinking ‘scene’.

Thought Catalog

1. It’s okay to drink.

2. It’s okay not to drink.

3. Know why you’re saying no. My sophomore year, I had an existential alcohol crisis. I was invited to a New Year’s party with good friends (who were also seasoned drinkers) and for the first time in my life I seriously considered drinking. Not just drinking, though. I arranged a pre-drinking drinking training with my best friend from home. She would obtain the drinks, I would drink them, and then I would wait. For what? Who knows? But I would drink and then I would be ready. (I may have been a novice drinker but I was an advanced-level over-thinker.) Somewhere in the middle of the planning, my best friend began asking me questions, specifically Why? Why now? Why not before? That was when I sat down and started contemplating the answer to these questions. In the end, I…

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