Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Meet Charlie

Meet Charlie, the new addition to our family. Charlie is an 8 week old apricot miniature poodle. He arrived yesterday and has already made himself at home. He has a lovely temperament and enjoys cuddles and the attention of the girls.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Official dwarves group photo

The official composite of Thorin and all the dwarves has been released over at the theonering.net site. Click on picture below for a larger image.

(Left to right) Jed Brophy as Nori, Dean O'Gorman as Fili, Mark Hadlow as Dori, James Nesbitt as Bofur, Peter Hambleton as Gloin, Graham McTavish as Dwalin, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield (center), Ken Stott as Balin, John Callen as Oin, Stephen Hunter as Bombur, William Kircher as Bifur, Adam Brown as Ori and Aiden Turner as Kili in New Line Cinema’s and MGM’s fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo by James Fisher)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

End of an era

I just watched the last landing of the Space Shuttle Program with the safe touchdown of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. I saw this happen live via NASA TV on Ustream. It was a moment of historical significance.

I remember watching the very first launch of the Space Shuttle Program with Space Shuttle Columbia back in 1981. Now, 30 years later, with the landing of Atlantis, it's the end of an era in space flight that I feel privileged to have lived through. Congratulations to NASA and the United States of America on the achievements of the Space Shuttle Program.

I look forward to seeing mankind's next stage in the continuing quest to explore and understand space.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pacific Black Duck

Here is a pair of Pacific Black Ducks I recently spotted at Marchant Park at Chermside.

The Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa) is a dabbling duck found in much of Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Indonesia and many islands in the southwestern Pacific area. The Pacific Black Duck is one of the most versatile of the Australian ducks. It frequents all types of water, from isolated forest pools to tidal mudflats, and is found in all but the most arid regions of Australia.

The Australian Museum fact sheet for this bird says that this duck is mainly vegetarian, feeding on seeds of aquatic plants. This diet is supplemented with small crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic insects. Food is obtained by 'dabbling', where the bird plunges its head and neck underwater and upends, raising its rear end vertically out of the water. Occasionally, food is sought on land in damp grassy areas.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thorin and Company

Wow! Check out this Photoshop compilation of all the dwarves in Peter Jackson's upcoming movie, The Hobbit. It was created by user Lotroel over at theonering.net. Click on the image below for a larger picture.

Thorin & Company

Awesome stuff.

Patting a kookaburra

It's not every day that a kookaburra lands on our back deck. This one in particular seemed relatively unafraid of humans and even consented to me giving his head a little scratch.

Check out the video I took below.

I'm not sure if this is the same kookaburra that sheltered here for a while during a rainstorm back in January.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thorin Oakenshield

They've released the final image of the dwarves from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. This picture is from theonering.net and what a picture it is! This is the leader of the dwarven company, Thorin Oakenshield.

Thorin Oakenshield

Thorin is played by Richard Armitage.

As a young Dwarf prince, Thorin witnessed the destruction and terror wrought when a great fire-breathing Dragon attacked the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. After slaughtering many of Thorin’s kin, the great serpent, Smaug, entered The Lonely Mountain and took possession of its vast store of gold and jewels. No-one came to the aid of the surviving Dwarves, and thus, a once proud and noble race was forced into exile. Through long years of hardship, Thorin grew to be a strong and fearless fighter and revered leader. In his heart a fierce desire grew; a desire to reclaim his homeland and destroy the beast that had brought such misery upon his people. So when fate offers him an unusual ally, he seizes the chance for revenge.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Minecraft solo adventures

I've been playing Minecraft regularly since I first downloaded it back in March. I find Minecraft to be a very addictive game and love the creative aspect in which you can build virtually anything you want within the limit of the available world resources.

I also love the survival aspect and the natural (virtual) beauty of the randomly generated terrain. I enjoy just wandering about looking for interesting features. I might stumble across a secluded pond in the middle of a deep forest, find a waterfall in a hidden valley, see towering snow-capped mountains in the distance, or sight a pool of lava bubbling away in the middle of a desert.

In one of my first worlds I found a nice area and decided to build a castle. It started from a humble cobblestone house on top of a hill to protect myself from the monsters that come out at night. I built a mine and during the days delved deep for the ores that would aid me in developing my little piece of the world. Over time I gathered my resources and expanded and modified my domain.

Here's an in-game screenshot of my castle taken back in May. I did not use any mods or editing to gather my resources. It was all built with my own virtual elbow-grease.

I flattened the land opposite my castle for the purpose of building a massive pyramid. On top of my pyramid I constructed a magical portal through which I can travel to the Nether. The screenshot below is taken from the top of my castle and without the in-game inventory being displayed.

My 10 year old daughter Maddie is also a fan of Minecraft. In fact she plays it more often than me! She has constructed some amazing buildings and has even shown me a trick or two.

For a tutorial on how to survive your first night in Minecraft view this YouTube video by Paul Soares Jr.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Balin & Dwalin

Another image of dwarves from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been released. This latest picture is from Time.

Balin & Dwalin

On the left is Ken Stott as Balin and on the right is Graham McTavish as Dwalin.

Dwarf Lords in their own right, Balin and Dwalin are close relatives of Thorin. Beyond this, these brothers are two of his most loyal and trusted friends. An old warrior, Balin has lived through hard times and fought many battles, yet he harbors doubts about the wisdom of the Quest to retake the Lonely Mountain. Dwalin has no such forebodings - his belief in Thorin's leadership is unshakeable. A powerful and bruising fighter, with a natural tendency to distrust anyone who is not a Dwarf, particularly anyone who might be an Elf, Dwalin is not someone to cross lightly.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bombur, Bofur & Bifur

Another image of dwarves from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been released. This latest picture is from IGN.

Bombur, Bofur & Bifur

From left to right we have Stephen Hunter as Bombur, James Nesbitt as Bofur and William Kircher as Bifur.

While most of the Company of Thorin Oakensheild is related to the royal and noble line of Durin, Bofur, his brother Bombur and their cousin Bifur most definitely are … not. Born and bred in the West, descendants of coal miners and iron workers, they have joined the Quest for the Lonely Mountain partly to seek their fortune and partly because they were told the beer was free.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fili and Kili

They've released a third image of dwarves from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. This latest picture is from MSN movies blog The Hitlist.

Fili & Kili

On the left is Dean O'Gorman as Fili and on the right is Aidan Turner as Kili.

Two of the youngest Dwarves, Fili and Kili have been born into the royal line of Durin and raised under the stern guardianship of their uncle, Thorin Oakensheild. Neither has ever travelled far, nor ever seen the fabled Dwarf City of Erebor. For both, the journey to the Lonely Mountain represents adventure and excitement. Skilled fighters, both brothers set off on their adventure armed with the invincible courage of youth, neither being able to imagine the fate which lies before them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Epic Ancients

I arrived home today to find a parcel waiting for me. Milsims had a recent online discounted sale and I had ordered two expansions for one of my favourite war games of all time - Commands & Colors: Ancients by Richard Borg.

I have the first three expansions for C&C Ancients but decided to take the plunge and order the two remaining ones - Expansion Pack #4: Imperial Rome, and Expansion Pack #5: Epic Ancients II. Hey, I'm a completest.

Unfortunately #4 Imperial Rome was out of stock so they have back ordered it for me at the discounted price, but I now have #5 Epic Ancients II in my hot little hands. This expansion allows up to 8 players to fight larger historical battles on a double-sized map board and contains a number of updated scenarios including Marathon 490 BC, Gaugemela 331 BC and Lake Trasimenus 217 BC. It can also be played by two players with each commanding a side.

It was while writing this post and referencing BoardGameGeek that I became aware that GMT Games will soon be releasing a further expansion for C&C Ancients entitled Expansion Pack #6: The Spartan Army.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Bilbo and the dwarves

Here is another production photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly from the set of the new Hobbit movies directed by Peter Jackson.

This photo shows Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins at Bag End with the dwarves in the background. The dwarf with the black beard is Richard Armitage who will play Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the dwarven company.

Freeman certainly looks the part and and I'm sure he will be great as a young Bilbo.

The first of the two films, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will be released in December 2012.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dwarves from the Hobbit movies

I came across some cool production photos of some of the dwarves from Peter Jackson's upcoming Hobbit movies. The photo just below is an edited version of two separate photos (further below) available on Jackson's facebook page that was provided to theonering.net by user Paul.

From left to right we have Jed Brophy as Nori, Adam Brown as Ori, Mark Hadlow as Dori, John Callen as Oin and Peter Hambleton as Gloin.

Here's the official description for the two photos:

Nori, Ori & Dori

These three brothers, all sons of the same mother, could not be more different from each other. Dori, the oldest, spends much of his time watching out for Ori, the youngest; making sure he’s not caught a chill or got himself killed by Wargs or Goblins. Nobody quite knows what Nori gets up to most of the time, except that it’s guaranteed to be dodgy and quite probably, illegal. Dori, Nori and Ori are intensely loyal to each other – and whilst they are perfectly happy fighting amongst themselves, woe-betide anyone who means harm to one of these brothers.

Oin & Gloin

Distant cousins of Thorin Oakenshield, these two doughty Northern Dwarves join the Company out of a sense of loyalty to their kin, and also because they have a substantial sum of money invested in the venture. Along with Bombur, Gloin is the only other married Dwarf in the Company (there being a shortage of female dwarves in general). His wife is an acclaimed beauty with a particularly fine beard. Gloin is the proud father of a young son, Gimli, who will go on to become part of the famous Fellowship of the Ring.

What strikes me most about these photos is how they have been able to give each dwarf his own individual style and look. My concern had been how they were going to portray the 13 dwarves in Bilbo's adventuring company but I am now reassured by these photos. They look simply fantastic.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Family day out

It was a beautiful mid-winter day here today. A typical mid-winter day in Brisbane is a cool morning and evening, but a warm day with a clear blue sky and not a cloud in sight.

Fortunately it was also a day off work for me. I had made plans for a family day out with my wife Deb, daughters Maddie and Georgia, my Mum, my brother Mike, his partner Sharon and her son Tom.

The seven of us arrived around 11.30am at Progress Park at Scott's Point on the Redcliffe Peninsula for a BBQ lunch.

Progress Park is a nice little area with tables and free gas barbecues. It also has a lovely view of the beach below.

After lunch we went for a walk along the beach.

Georgia found a piece of coral shaped like a duck.

We then drove to Scarborough at the other end of the peninsula where we spent some time flying some kites I'd brought along.

After that we were all feeling like a treat so we drove to a Baskins-Robbins for some ice-cream.

Later that afternoon Mike took us to a park at Clontarf where he did some metal-detecting.

We found a bit of rubbish like bottle tops, cans and old ring-pulls, but we also found some coins and a couple of pendants, one of which was Stirling silver.

All in all a great family day out.