Archive for February, 2010

epic.LAN – Day 2

Late start today, funny that, but we’re all up now and we’re McD’s breakfast fuelled for fun (the Jolt Cola helps too). The story of our morning will be with you shortly, so get off the edge of your seats…

10:00
Wake time involved being hit in the head, as the ear-lugs are far too effective.

10:30 to 12:30
After hopping to my machine, still in the sleeping bag, we resolved to get Gazz on line once and for all. Owen had brought his Mac along, in place of Gazz’s now discarded machine. Cue much derision from every passing person and the supplier of said machine becoming increasingly defensive. Then we tried every Windows DVD we had so that it would take it, we got a long way with XP Media Centre Ed. then had to change discs and the Mac doesn’t have a hardware button to eject the disc (nice going there Mr Jobs, looks nice but functional it ain’t). We got there eventually though and now Editor Hayes is well on his way into the ARG, catching the leaders who had a head start due to their good performance yesterday.

With the help of Gazz’s 1.5TB external drive, I sorted out my shares and figured out how to use DC++, then I was away. Hurrahh!!
-Ado

13:00 to 14:00
Gazz is looking at videos to solve his ARG issues, I’m looking at everyone and their mother’s shares and Owen now has the side off his PC. RAM issues, it would appear, causing inopportune Blue Screen issues at random intervals. So the second member of our party has PC problems, that makes 2/3, I’m ow feeling rather lucky to have a functioning machine, but don’t want to curse it. Anyway, he seems to be running now, but reduced to 4GB RAM from his initial 6GB.

The next game I’m looking forward to is TF2 at 17:00, preceded by 1 hour of CoD:MW, which I don’t have. I have Modern Warfare 2, which we wont be playing as it doesn’t have support for Dedicated Servers at LAN events (or generally in fact), good call there Infinity Ward, you’ve managed to make people not play the latest iteration of one of the biggest gaming franchises at what is surely the fanatical level of PC gaming. Nothings says “we’ve sold-out for the casual audience” like a massive game that’s not played at LANs. Seems like terribly case of foot-shootage to me. After all, what happens at these events tends to effect things elsewhere further down the line.
-Ado

14:15:30
Well I’ve been ARGing since about 12 and am currently 11th of 50, so I still have some work to do to catch the leaders. The last puzzle was particularly taxing, involving autokeyed vignere’s, decoding video clip clues, map overlays and frantic running around the racecourse like the fillies I’m prohibited from spending on. Fun though. The next puzzle seems pretty cryptic, may need sustenance before I tackle it. Also werewolves last night was fun, there are more games due tonight so I’ll fill you all in on that later.
-Gazz

15:30-17:00
Well I finally finished the ARG, some pretty good puzzles, right up my alley. Unfortunately I don’t think I finished high enough to have won anything. TF2 will be starting shortly, and I know Mr Cooper is keen to strut his stuff in that particular forum…

Saturday, February 27th, 2010 Ado, Gazz No Comments

epic.LAN – Day 1

Well… we’re here, we’re alive and we’re set-up… sort of. FYI; I’ve also not showered and have my PJ bottoms on as underwear… Living the dream or what??

12:00 to 13:15
My car wasn’t ready so our learned friend Mr Ashcroft kindly made his way from Manchester to Uttoxeter via Chesterfield. He arrived at 11:00 and by 12:15 we were away (“I hardly even faffed at all” – Ado exaggerated). The drive down was standard, save for the 15 mins in traffic on our Uttox approach in which our dastardly driver was heard to say “…someone better have died, else it’s not worth it”.
-Ado

13:15 to 13:45
Feeling rather famished after the morning’s efforts we stopped in at our favourite American chicken eatery. As we walked in the colonel seemed to have a rather unsettling look in his eye and we didn’t have to wait long to find out why. As we began to order we were all told, in turn, “I’m afraid we have no pieces chicken”… Yep, that’s right, KFC had NO CHICKEN… well for at least a half hour. Bemused but rendered powerless by the white-suited warriors secret special scent, we ordered our burgers and waited.
-Ado

Putting the ass back in fast food
-Gazz

14:00
Arrival at the LAN and initial set-up. Everything seemed to be going so well… until…
-Ado

15:00 to 15:45
PC break-down. The nightmare of every LANer. At approximately 15:00 Gazz changed his power configuration, simply unplugging his base and monitor from the main supply into a 4-gang splitter. Imediately tragedy hit, nothing on the monitor, no signal and no PC :o(

For the next 45 minutes we collectively tried to save her. Plugging the monitor and graphics output in to various different pieces of equipment to evaluated what the problem may be. Trying every different config we could think of but to no avail. The power was on throughout, but no-one was home with-in.

Eventually the monitor sprung to life, connected through VGA (instead of DVi) into another machine. Whilst this was good, the bad news was that the PC was at fault with the most likely suspect being the graphics card.
-Ado

16:00 to 16:30
Graphics being isolated as the possible scupper to plans of LANtertainment, Gazz struck out to resolve the issue. The guy from Kustom PC had arrived with his boxes of goodies, but upon questioning had inexplicably brought no graphics cards… One quick Google search later revealed several component shops in striking distance, a few phone calls later and we had a winner. A GeForce 9600 for £80 and just a spit away. Our chauffeur had to leave for a Motor Head gig in Manchester at 17:00 (and they call me disorganised) so Gazz and he made their way to the jalopy and sped their way to retrieve the requisite part.
-Ado

16:30 to 17:00
Upon their return the task was took in hand with speed (well, WoW Mountain Dew – Gamer Fuel/Jolt Cola (or beer for the men amongst us -Gazz)). The card inserted and the machine powered up, but still nothing. People crowded, suggested solutions, tweaked and prodded but nothing would work. Time of death was declared at 17:05
-Ado

sob
-Gazz

17:05
Our transportation master had to leave, but he would return after the gig and he promised to bring a laptop on which the increasingly unfortunate Gazz could game forth. Until that time, however, he would try his hand at the epic.LAN ARG using the machine now left vacant. That was until that all went a bit squiffey too.

17:30 to 18:30
Thought worry ye not Owen (and laugh ye not at the luckless Mr. Gazz’s plight), after a few epic.ADMIN looks at the browser and a soft reset or two later, connections were restored and displays relit. On with the gaming I say… OOONNNNNNN!!!!
-Ado

18.30-20.00
I don’t play many FPS games, quite a disadvantadge at a LAN event, however epic.LAN has a rather fiendish ARG style treasure hunt to exercise my cerebral muscles. Starting as I have, much later than my fellow gamers, I have no chance of finishing first today; in fact people finished before we arrived. However, the grand prize is won tomorrow, so all is not lost. I am currently up to a puzzle that involves locating areas shown in a video clip, presumabley for letters or clues left there. Unfortunately it is now dark and doesn’t exactly lend itself to clue hunting. I may need to return to this tomorrow.
-Gazz

20.01
Maybe it was the break and the clarity it gave but as soon as I editted this, I went back to the puzzle and it jumped straight out at me. That was the final clue too, until 12 noon tomorrow. Wish me luck :)
-Gazz

20:30
Well Gazz is happily playing a bit of Battlefield 2 on Ashcroft’s machine, and me? Me dear reader, I’m sat here waiting for the patch to be uploaded into the FTP for me to apply before I can join in. What was that? Download it you say? Ah yes, well I would but it’s a 2Gb patch from the original disc version I have. I just hope they get it there in time for me to play in the “Big Game” at 21:00. It’s one of my favourite games too, only let down by the lack of “Fritz” to fight. Now I wait in hope…
-Ado

20:40-20:45
Still waiting… and Gazz has moved on to King’s Bounty now. Much more his style I think.
Woot!! They are here, so very relieved…
-Ado

20.45-22.45
King’s Bounty was a little wordy for a LAN game, maybe when I have more time to get immersed it will be fun, just not right now. It’s ok though, the ‘big game’ of BF2 started at 9. Turns out it’s quite good fun to play as the Arabs and kill the infidels.  Right time for a bit of Champions Online to help me stop the trigger-finger-twitch
-Gazz

23:30
Ok, interesting things going on all around, but I’m not involved :o( Counter Strike Source is being played 1v1 knock-out for a trifle as main prize and there’s a group of people playing a game called “Werewolves” over at the other dies of the bar (they’re rowdy but I can’t seem to figure out why or what’s going on). A small number of folks are playing L4D2 and a growing number watching videos of one type or another. Oh and there’s a Trance DJ set on, not my thing but it’s inoffensive enough for me to ignore.

As for your intrepid Stup. Ed.s; After losing patience with the FPS style, Gazz has paid the extortionate sum of £2.99 is downloading Civ3:Complete and I’m doing an install run of Fallout 3. It was either that or Bioshock, as that’s still in it’s shrink wrap, but I was advised to finish one first before starting the other.

You see, it doesn’t matter that we’re not playing against each other, just that we’re all playing here together… ahhhh
-Ado

05:01
And now it is to bed I must go, or at least the floor about 10 yards away. I’ve watched an updated a lot of stuff in this time, prepared my shares for tomorrow and Gazz has played many games of “Werewolves”. I think it may be something you all come to know more about, I’m sure he’ll explain tomorrow. Night night…
-Ado

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Friday, February 26th, 2010 Ado, Gazz No Comments

The Calm Before The epic.WEEKEND

Ah, lovely stuff…

And as you tune in, good reader, here I am happily preparing for my weekend’s entertainment. Thursday was my Friday this week, hazzah!! So, instead of working on Kinderday©, I and one other Stupor Ed (plus 20% of our readership, in our mate Owen) will be making the short journey down to a place know primarily for it’s racecourse, the sleepy market town of Uttoxeter. It is to the Racecourse we will go, however not, I hasten to add, to fritter our money away on young fillies, but to fritter our time on this earth away playing in computerised gaming constructs and basically leeching all the files we can get our grubby mitts on from the other sci-fi/fantasy/anime geeks in attendance.

epic.THREE is our destination and we plan on reporting the goings-on live directly to you, fair reader, from the trenches of PC gaming itself.

Yes, between Sappers destroying our grounded F16s with explodey jeeps, me shooting some guy’s face off with a Flak Cannon and Gazz trying to conquer all of Asia using diplomacy, we will endeavour to keep up a “Live Blog”, giving you details of what we observe happening on the front lines of the hardcore gaming community. If it helps, you can imagine it a bit like Twitter, but longer and on a web-page.

Anywho, I’m as organised as ever. I presently have no car (it’s in the garage having it’s head changed), have just installed a 1.5TB hard disc I’ve had for a fortnight (for the leeching mentioned above), am backing up my Steam games to said drive in order to repartition my old drive into one and subsequently reinstalling Windows 7 plus games. All this whilst bunged up with cold, running on a portion of chips with two “brown circles” and three quarters of a bottle of Spitfire.

I have now corrected my introductory statement. Now leave me alone… but be sure to tune in tomorrow for exciting instalments of our fumblings with “The Gamersphere”©.

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Friday, February 26th, 2010 Ado 1 Comment

Why does the media love homeopathy?

Ok, so I’m sure many of you share my vitriol at homeopathy. I’m not going to go into all that again, many people have done it much more eloquently than I. Besides, it wouldn’t do much anyway, after all the BBC* seem to be undoing all my hard work anyways.

Homeopathy was in the news again today, as the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published their report on the use of NHS funding for homeopathy, concluding that: “Homeopathy should not be funded on the NHS and the MHRA should stop licensing homeopathic products.” Not that you’d know from watching said news.

Now I’m all for balanced journalism and there’s certainly enough of a story to warrant opinions from both sides of the camp, however this didn’t seem to happen. Sure the homeopaths were given their chance to bring up studies that cherry pick their data, avoid controls and have, at best, dubious methodologies, but why was there no scientist allowed to chip in on this issue?

Radio 4 seemed to have an MP in rationalities corner, however all the other reports I have watched or read seem to leave it at the homeopaths explanations, making it seem that there is a substantial evidence base for homeopathy. Let me just remind you all of the facts:

Homeopathy has never been reliably shown to out perform placebo” and “ should not be funded on the NHS

If you want to buy sugar pills fine, just don’t use my taxes to pay for them.

Interestingly the Chief Scientist at the Department of Health, Professer David Harper, seems to think that there could be something in the memory theories associated with homeopathy. It’s ok though, he gets the closest thing to a bitch slap that the committee could muster:

“63. We would challenge Professor Harper’s comment that research funding should be directed towards exploring theories that are not scientifically plausible. Research funding is limited and highly competitive. The Government should continue its policy of funding the highest quality applications for important scientific research determined on the basis of peer review.
64. The Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor John Beddington, has told us in unequivocal terms that he is of the view that there is no evidence base for homeopathy. We recommend that the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Professor Harper, Chief Scientist at the DH, get together to see if they can reach an agreed position on the question of whether there is any merit in research funding being directed towards the claimed modes of action of homeopathy.”

*Other news channels are available…

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Monday, February 22nd, 2010 Gazz 3 Comments

Maple Breakfast Delight

We here in the Stupor Cave have recently been racking our brains for new articles and features we could run, perhaps on an irregular monthly basis. Whilst on sabbatical in Manchesterton this weekend two of your intrepid editors stumbled upon an idea that was too delightful to resist. Get your amusing piny out and ready yourself for the first recipe of the undesignate period…

What you will need for this dish:
One Kripsy Kreme glazed ring doughnut with Maple icing
Four smoked bacon medallions
A hefty knife
A frying pan
A disdain for the advice of medical practitioners

Method:

Go to Krispy Kreme and buy no less than one dozen doughnuts. If you do the maths when making your purchase you’ll find that by not getting a minimum of 12 lovely sugar filled, sugar coated sugar balls you wont save as much money as you could. However, do share them with a friend or two, or you may die an immediate diabetes related death.

Yummy Time

Take your hefty, preferably serrated, knife and saw a glazed Maple iced dough ring in two. Try not to get your fingers in either the the icing, as that will spoil the look of your creation, or in the way of your cutty piece of metal, that might ruin your digital-dexterity based superiority over all of natures other creatures.

Cloven in Twain

Now it’s time for the meat. Get your pan, warm her up and throw in the pig flesh and fry until nicely cooked through. For the Jewish or Muslim person, smoked turkey rashers can be substituted. For those perverse individuals who shun the consuming of animals, you might want to take a minutes to think seriously about what you’re doing with your life, then strap on a pair and get with the program.

Close to the meat

Time for the assembly. Place four medallions on the base and put the top half in pride of place atop the mound of meat. Again, be careful not to ruin the effect you’ll feel when viewing the completed delight by splodging your fat fingers in that maple loveliness. Once it’s all together, sit back and admire your handy work while you psych yourself for an experience of a life time (if you eat more than one your heart my instantly explode through your chest).

Plated Beautifully

And there we have it, nomage ahoy hoy, and one Stupefyingly lucky editor enjoying his Sunday breakfast. Truly the best start to a day of rest.

Nom nom nom...

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Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 Ado 3 Comments

Cheaper Than Drugs: Fractals!

I’ve just spent about 10 minutes watching this, and now I have a serious case of ‘Guitar Hero Eye’.
I’m also giggling uncontrollably and wearing a sombrero.

See teamfresh on Vimeo for more.

For more chicanery about the Mandelbrot Set see Mr. Jonathan Coulton‘s album Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow.

Shamelessly stolen from the mothership: Boing Boing.

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Tuesday, February 9th, 2010 Neil No Comments

Homeopathetic; Or how the 10.23 overdose campaign will probably do nothing

Cartoon credit: worldofweirdthings.com

You may have heard about the planned mass ‘overdose’ that was done on Saturday. If not then I guess it failed anyway, but basically a group of homeopathy sceptics from Merseyside all took a massive ‘overdose’ of homeopathic remedies in a bid to “raise awareness about the reality of homeopathy.” In an open letter to Boots they state that they don’t expect to find products on the shelves of a trusted pharmacy brand that don’t work. In fact Boots’ own Professional Standards Director, Paul Bennet, has readily admitted before the Commons Science and Technology Committe that he doesn’t believe homeopathy to be efficacious. Unfortunately the very reason that people believe homeopathy to work will be the reason that Boots continue to sell homeopathic remedies by the idiots-shopping-basket-full. Let me explain…

So What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a type of medicine treatment that works on the principle that like treats like. Burnt your sausage fingers getting your frozen pizza from the oven? Don’t worry, just hold them over the gas rings, that’ll sort it right out… And it gets better, as the whole discipline is further based upon a dilution scheme, whereby the tincture is diluted first one part into one hundred parts of water (1c), then further diluted to 30c. You don’t have to be Avagadro to realise that there is nothing left of the original tincture. That’s ok though, a homeopath is able to create an energetic imprint of the medicinal substance through a process called succussion, or ‘shaking it up a bit’. Presumably that’s how they differentiate the intended energetic imprint from every other substance that has ever been dissolved in water. Homeopath = magician…

That sounds mad, surely science has something to say?

Scientific literature including double blind, randomised, controlled studies have found little evidence in support of homeopathic remedies. An oft-quoted study that appeared to support homeopathic remedies (Inflammation Research, vol 53, p 181) in which Madeleine Ennis studied the effects on basophils, white blood cells involved in inflammation, which were treated with ultra-dilute solutions of histamines was later shown to be unrepeatable and the responses that were seen were blamed on poor experimental design. (Citation needed)

Wait, I’ve heard that Quantum Entanglement explains it all…

Quantum Entanglement is the theory that a connection can exist between two objects at the quantum level that defies classical and relativistic concepts of space and time, and that measuring an observable state in one of the objects, such as spin, will give you information about the other object in the entangled pair, regardless of distance. Many homeopaths use this to postulate that the universe is all connected. Victor Stenger explains it much more eloquently than I could in his book ‘The Unconscious Quantum’ but essentially a pair of entangled photons just have the same observable phenomena, this has nothing to do with healing, and the effects will average out given the number of photons present in your average sugar pill

OK, but where’s the harm?

Ordinarily I go along with the adage about fools and money, but this can be a problem where proven treatments are ignored in favour of the homeopathic remedies. In fact there is a veritable catalogue of potential outcomes to delaying treatments. According to one such catalogue there have been 368,379 people deaths and 306,096 injuries directly attributable to homeopathy. In fact there are many children on that list that have died of treatable illnesses like pneumonia and epilepsy because their parents would rather give them a ‘safe’ alternative to medicine.

Furthermore it is my taxes that are paying for £4M worth of NHS homeopathic treatments. Not cool Brown, Not cool.

So why do people use homeopathic remedies at all?

There are numerous sources of anecdotal evidence ‘proving’ that a homeopathic pill cured Aunt Margaret’s cold, or whatever. Clearly the placebo effect is a powerful one, that still needs a great deal of study before we understand what is going on, but knowingly selling a sugar-pill with only the patients belief as an active ingredient is dishonest and, for, me the 10.23 effort didn’t go far enough. Instead of overdosing (on nothing) the group should have taken Boots to court under ‘Fraud by False Pretences’ as they are selling ‘medicines’ that they (in their own words) ‘don’t believe to be efficacious’.

So why was the campaign doomed to fail?

Big Pharma may have it’s faults, and without going into tin-foil-hat territory I have equal disdain for GlaxoSmithKlein as the homeopathic snake oil dealers, however it was clear to me that no amount of media posturing was going to win over the homeopathic remedy crowd. It is their very belief in these remedies that make them work, and if someone believes that a sugar pill treated with an energy imprint can heal their ailments by exposing them to the same thing that is causing their illness then no amount of logical debate or scientific evidence will change their minds.

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Monday, February 1st, 2010 Gazz 5 Comments

This Sceptred Isle – Chapter 1

You all thought I wouldn’t do it. I know you did, don’t deny it! But I did, and I’m only a day late.

What is this? This is chapter one of a novel I’m attempting to write by publishing a chapter (or two) a month. Here I’d normally tell you what the story is about, but it’s not all planned out yet. What an adventure, eh? I CAN tell you This Sceptred Isle will be about technology, protest politics, geeks, makers and Canadians (well, probably only one Canadian). This is my first attempt at creative writing, barring Transformers slashfic (Oh, Bumblebee! was my favourite), so I need feedback. I need it now, if not yesterday!

All this stuff is going to be collected in that little link above. See it? No? Clicky here for it. You can also download this as a fancy txt file.

For your delectation I present chapter one of my attempt at writing a novel. Settle down children for This Sceptred Isle…


Ward lay on an unfamiliar bed, staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. His friends had told him plenty of different mind hacks to overcome the jet lag, but he’d decided to ignore them and sort it out the old fashioned way; sleeping and misery. It turned out he should have listened to them.

The travel alarm clock on his bedside table hovered the digits 20:04 in green above its little plastic shell, however Ward’s body still told him it was two in the afternoon. People were still walking the corridors of the hotel and the traffic noise outside the windows hadn’t clamed down any. Giving up on the idea of sleep, Ward decided he’d try going out for something to eat and wobbled the few steps to the bathroom. The bright fluorescents sputtered into life as soon as he set foot in the bathroom, Ward groaned loudly. He hadn’t seen how the lights knew he was in the room yet but figured there must be a small passive secreted somewhere. As soon as he found it he’d introduce it to a roll of duct tape.

Ward showered, dressed and walked out the door of his room. He’d taken four steps before he realised he’d left his keycard inside. He stopped, shut his eyes, raised his head and shouted incoherently to the universe in general.

He hadn’t had a very good day. The buses, taxis and flights from Moose Jaw to London had sapped the little goodwill he had remaining, even then he wasn’t even sure why he really needed to be at the Technology Industries UK conference. It was the same old sales corporate sales pitch but he’d been asked to go along ‘To take care of any questions the geeks might have’ about their new P2P enterprise documentation system, FogUP. Admittedly he’d sat in on the planning meetings when the software was still a gleam in a designer’s eye and seen the code through to its release, but he drew the line at actually having to sell the damn thing too. But that’s how MautiSoft worked, they liked to show how ‘joined up’ and ‘synergistic’ their business was. Ward had been working with them for six years and knew the difference between what impressed the suits and the people that had to implement their ‘ware and that’s the real reason they had asked him to be there. Assuaging the fears of the guy who actually had to sit down and plug FogUP into an already complex system.

—–

Stephanie had been working at the Ibis for eight weeks and was still enjoying it. She’d been in the country a lot longer as it had taken her three months to prove her fitness to work. She’d had three physical exams, two written exams and a supervised skills audit, as well as having to write her abridged life history, which had been sent back to the US to be verified before being granted a long term visa. She was glad she’d stayed the course though; she’d recently been promoted to front desk duty during the late booking out hours and prided herself on progressing so fast. She had just finished checking out an elderly Spanish couple as a young, thin man walked up to the desk. He was wearing a thin coat for this time of year, jeans and a black t-shirt all topped off with a poodle perm.

“I’ve locked myself out of my room” he said in an almost familiar nasal whine.

“Sir, that’s not possible” said Stephanie in her most helpful voice

The young man’s expression visibly darkened. She felt a little sorry for him.

“Oh, I assure you it is. Card on bed, me outside.”

“Sir, our card keys are RFID enabled. If the card is still in the room the door will not lock. There should have been an alarm to notify you as you left your room.”

“Oh” said the man, shaking his head. “Sorry about that. Epic jetlag, you know.”

He paused and looked off into space for a second. After a beat he said “So my room is unlocked right now?”

“That’s right Sir. Would you like me to call an engineer to check the status of the alarm?”

The man’s eye’s widened, his jaw dropped then he turned and ran back to the stairwell. Stephanie stood blinking as the door to the stairs slowly closed itself. She felt a little bit bad for being so glib, but she hadn’t even had a chance to ask his room number. She should get a security guard to the room to make sure everything is OK. After a couple of seconds thought she turned to the computer, deftly typing on the key membrane she pulled up a list of unlocked rooms. 217, 130, 412, boy, people were cautious around here. She checked the room numbers against the EUID they’d booked the room under. 412 and 130 were both verified IDs for the EU, whereas the resident in 217 had a different looking code. It wasn’t one she recognised, but Stephanie was sure she new the man’s accent.

Stephanie touched the icon on her terminal’s screen for the Government ID Database. The screen filled with a sparse green and blue login prompt. She filled in her ID, her passphrase and pressed her thumb to the biometric reader spot on the keypad. A second later the login screen was replaced with another equally sparse one asking for an EUID or Foreign ID. She pasted the ID for room 217 into the field and pressed submit, the screen froze for a second or two and then brought up the personal records for a Wade Matthew Everett; Age – 26; Residence – Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada; Employer – MautiSoft; Previous Employer – People4Work.com; Marital Status – Single…

The list went on, but Stephanie could see that the photograph attached to the file was the same man who had just been at the front desk. His picture was getting close to expiry and his hair had changed a lot but it was clearly him. She closed the ID Database and picked SECURITY from the list of VoIP numbers at the side of her screen. She was sure nobody would have broken in, but being helpful cost nothing.

—–

Wade rushed up the carpeted stairs, funny how hotel corridors all smelt the same he thought. He arrived at the second floor panting, half through exhaustion, and half from the beating the dead tree novel in his coat pocket had given him. He heaved the fire door to the corridor open, narrowly missing an Asian man in an aggressively cut business suit and pink shirt. As he barrelled past Wade shouted an apology, but if the man replied he didn’t notice. All he could think of was his laptop. Yes it was turned off and encrypted, yes it was secured with a 150 character passphrase and biometrics and yes it was stuffed behind a pile of un-hung clothes at the back of the closet, but if that laptop was stolen he was here for a trade show with nothing to show. It would definitely cost him his job, and Wade decided it would probably end his career as a software engineer too. Word travelled fast through the professional net.

He overshot the door a little, still thinking about what to do if the laptop was missing, skidded to a halt and paced back to room 217 and tried the handle. Stupid! The door swung open and Wade surveyed the room for signs of a break in, nothing seemed out of place. Warily he entered the room and slid open the cheap closet, a few seconds of panicked rummaging produced a gloss black brick no bigger than a magazine. Wade clutched the laptop to his forehead, shut his eyes and breathed out deeply. Shortly he became aware that someone was knocking on his room’s door.

He could tell it was a security guard by the way the man stood, arms crossed, legs apart. His plain white shirt and black tie emphasised the guard’s huge build and proclaimed his function louder than any vest with SECURITY stamped across it ever could. Compared to Wade this man was a mountain.

“Hello?” said Wade. It was half question, half statement.

“Good evening Sir. We had a report from reception that there were concerns about the security of this room. I have been asked to check the accommodation and ensure there is no problem.” the guard had a thick London accent but appeared to be consciously suppressing it.

Wade, thinking back to the conversation with the clerk in the lobby, couldn’t remember telling her his room number. Still, having a security guard come by to check the room was a good idea. He made a mental note to thank the clerk later.

“Oh, well thanks, I guess” said Wade “There doesn’t seem to be anything missing.”

“You will have to provide me with some identification before I can let you continue.”

Something about the way he phrased the statement bugged Wade. Who was this man to prevent him going out, especially from his own room? What if this guy was some scammer trying to skim his ID? Wade glanced at the man’s belt and spotted his ID badge, he looked like bona fide hotel guard.

“I gave my ID at reception, haven’t you got my picture on file already?” he felt a little silly arguing with this guy, but we wasn’t going to hand over his credentials without a reason.

“I’m afraid the picture we have on file for the resident of this room does not match your appearance. UK law dictates that all identity photographs must be updated if a person’s appearance changes significantly. In these cases we have te ensure the identity of a resident with your EUID or visa in your case.”

Wade remembered the picture on his CanID; it was taken five years ago just before he’d started at MautiSoft and still wore his hair long. Long and greasy. It was amazing how a lack of income could affect your shampooing habits.

“I can see you’re trying to make sure everything is OK, but I don’t think I have to surrender my ID to you.”

The guards demeanour changed almost immediately. While he was polite but threatening before, his body language became hostile.

“I am a Police approved Warden, Sir” the guard spat the word out “and as such I am granted stop and search powers the same as any Police Officer. If you fail to verify your identity to me, I have the power to detain you until an Officer of the law arrives and places you into custody. At that time you will be fined and prosecuted if it is deemed necessary. Is that clear, Sir?”

The speech was rehearsed, they probably had little Miranda cards they handed out to these guys and this one was just waiting for a chance to use it. Wade wanted to list the stupidity on show, complain about the day he’d had and how he’d just gotten over being terrified that his laptop might have been stolen. Who was this trumped up doorman to come and tell him what to do?

“Sir, if you cannot verify your identity to me right now you will be detained.”

Wade sighed. He just wanted to get out of the hotel. He fished out a beaten leather wallet and found his Canadian ID card, along with his UK visa which translated the CanID into one the EUID systems could handle. He handed them over to the guard.

The guard scanned the card with a miniature handheld, and asked Wade for his password and thumbprint. With a perfunctory “Thank you, Sir” he headed off to the elevators. Wade closed the door, leant against it and shook his head. He felt weak, like he’d caved in under pressure. Like he’d been bullied into surrendering a tiny bit of his freedom. He found his card key on the bed, stuffed his laptop under his arm and left.

The girl who he’d spoken to before wasn’t on reception, so he left his laptop with a smiling, white shirted Indian guy manning the desk. Suppressing the urge to berate the man, he charged the cost of a safety deposit box to his Visa, making a mental note to claim it as an expense. Minutes later he was out, storming across cold, busy streets replaying his encounter with the security guard over and over.

It was more than a month until Christmas, but already lights had been strung across smaller streets and every shop or bar was playing the same Christmas songs. Wade didn’t mind so much, he hadn’t heard some of the songs before and the Christmas decorations brightened his mood, if only a little. He stopped for a strong Americano and an over priced sandwich at a coffee chain, tried to read some of the novel he was lugging around but found that he couldn’t concentrate on it. Still restless, but much calmer, he decided to go and find a way to trade his jetlag for a hangover.

—–

The George and Dragon was little more than a corridor squeezed between an Italian restaurant and a solicitor’s. The bar was made of some old, age blackened wood, heavy with bronze fittings and ran the length of the narrow pub. Wade had ensconced himself at the seat furthest from the door, keeping himself apart from the clique of regulars, nursing a warm, flat, bitter ale that was a far cry from the ‘Crisp clean taste!’ of his usual drink. Just as he was about to give up on the pint and ask for a Coke instead the door to the pub opened, bringing with it a blast of bitter cold and a figure in a thick winter coat and military gas mask.

The newcomer strode over to the last unoccupied barstool and unceremoniously dumped herself onto it. She pushed the mask up from her face, where it sat pinned to a clutch of bleached dreadlocks.

“White wine please George.”

She turned to Wade, shooting him a brilliant white smile. Offering a strong, calloused hand she said “Hello, new friend.”


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This Sceptred Isle by Neil Holmes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
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Monday, February 1st, 2010 Neil 2 Comments
 

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