Space Engineers: Pesky automated turrets…

It’s been a busy old week for me at Astra Station, between the Space Engineers updates for June 12 and 19… Although I’d been pleased with the actual mining performance of my ship, Scarab III, I was far from happy about the amount of mess I’d been leaving behind (no collector attached, you see). And even though we still have many millions of tonnes of rock to chew through, I’d very much prefer to reduce my wastage!

But when I came to look at the size of a small-ship collector, I was stunned… It’s bloody huge! I thought it was going to take a single block space… so I decided that I was going to have to start again from scratch, and make Scarab IV. And because I didn’t just want to channel the collector into a drill’s storage compartment, I chose to go with a large cargo container, and slam everything into that. I figured I might as well go with a large reactor, too, to cover any potential power problems.

And then, just as I got IV up and running, and collecting nicely… the June 12 update happened, adding large-ship drills, and my eyes grew wide with wonder (*cough*… and greed, I suppose, even though all resources are always shared with my fellow engineers). So IV was abandoned, and I got to work on making a large ship, which I chose to call Bear, since it was going to be too damn big to be a Scarab :)

The large-ship drills have eight times the capacity of their smaller counterparts… but this is only because the smaller drills, since June 12, now have a quarter of the capacity of what they had before the update. I guess this is what comes of players demanding tools for both ship types… And, since I had lots of room to spare on the front, I stuck on three collectors. Gotta be better, right?

After getting it all completed (and also bearing a large reactor and large cargo container, like a humongous version of Scarab IV), I flew off up to the Csteroid and got to mining. It didn’t take long for the front two landing legs to be ripped off, along with the three front-mounted thrusters, so I couldn’t reverse away from the asteroid. But then it was a pretty dumb idea to mount the thrusters there anyway. I know my therapist and I agreed that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, but this really was taking the cake. Besides, she hadn’t seen this particular ship design ;)

So I hobbled back to base, figuring that I’d just stick the ship in the grinder and make Scarab IV again. When I first started with Space Engineers, I’d quickly found that me and large ships do not get along, so I figured I’d made a mistake.

2014-06-15_00002

Bear, hovering above the grinder, awaiting its fate.

But I probably didn’t help myself, calling it Bear… I’d become a little attached to the big guy, and so I added reverse thrusters in better positions, and left off the front two legs, figuring that they’d get ripped off again if I wasn’t careful. Off I went to mine again!

And I forgot all about the fact that I was piloting a big ship, with all the inertia that comes as standard on these models. Let me give you some figures:

  • Scarab III: 13 tonnes
  • Scarab IV: 40 (approx)
  • Bear: 400 tonnes

So it’ll come as no surprise to you that I released the W key way too late, and smacked into the asteroid, drills thrumming away, at about 30 metres per second. The drills didn’t just break off – they were vaporised. The large cargo container went the same way, losing the few tonnes of materials I’d mined on the previous outing. Amazingly, the cockpit simply detached, with me inside it, so I survived. The reactor made it, too – here, take a look:

What happens if you fail to properly take inertia into account. Poor Bear.

What happens if you fail to properly take inertia into account. Poor Bear.

That was it for me, as far as a large mining ship was concerned. I got busy with the grinder and tidied up the mess, reattached the cockpit at the other end, and flew the shattered, tattered remains of poor Bear into the grinder. Back to a small mining ship for me!

Unfortunately, the new Scarab IV (and yes, it probably should have been called Scarab V by now) isn’t faring so well under the current design. The drills are too high up from the collectors, the collectors themselves keep being vaporised, and I smashed a landing leg on… well, landing. So I’ve settled IV next to III on our launch pad for the time being – because of decoys!

Scarab III (left) and Scarab IV, my erstwhile mining ships.

Scarab III (left) and Scarab IV, my erstwhile mining ships, waiting their turn.

Since the update which activated the pesky turrets, being able to capture cargo ships has been bugging me, so I decided to turn my attention to the use of decoys (especially since there’s no EMP cannon as yet). It would have been nice to be able to launch them from missile tubes, but at the moment, they can only be placed as blocks. Time to make lemonade, as it were.

My first effort was a rather brute-force approach, so to speak. Rather than make a ship and add decoys, I made a ship of decoys:

The ship of decoys. Rather like a ship of fools, I suspect.

The ship of decoys. Rather like a ship of fools, I suspect, but with fewer human casualties.

The plan, such as it was, was:

  • Fly into the range of the turrets;
  • Eject myself from the cockpit;
  • While the turrets were busy targeting the decoys (which the turrets prioritise higher than everything else), I’d jetpack to the ship and disable all the nasty weaponry.

As I flew over to the target ship, I quickly learned that there were turrets on the other side of the ship which hadn’t been occupied with blasting the (unnamed!) decoy ship into smithereens. Naturally, they became occupied with blasting me into smithereens1.

OK, maybe I needed to spread the turrets’ fire pattern. Cue decoy ship 2:

OK, so how about a wall of decoys?

OK, so how about a wall of decoys?

Eighty-one decoys this time, but with an actual frame on the thing, made of heavy armour, so it’d hopefully take more dents after the decoys were shot off, even though it was a small ship (so 30x fewer materials per armour block than large-ship blocks).

I can’t actually remember if I even used this ship, because it was around this time that Kristal was online. When I told her what I was up to, she told me that she’d seen a ship with decoys on rotor arms, like a turboprop. She added that she didn’t have a link or picture to send me, but I figured I could work something out, even though I couldn’t understand why that particular engineer had gone with a rotor.

Regardless of my lack of understanding, I built a test ship:

Windy Miller Mark I. Spin those decoys!

Windy Miller Mark I. Spin those decoys!

Despite my considerable reservations about large ships, I decided to make one; I felt that using the bigger parts would provide more resilience against the onslaught of bullets and missiles. I’d taken a look on a Space Engineers wiki, to check out the armaments of each cargo ship, and decided I’d start off steadily, by waiting for a Mining Carriage to come along – only one Gatling turret on those things.

You’ll note there’s a beacon on there, because I had high hopes of bringing this one back. Maybe it’d be bloodied and bruised by the time it returned to Astra Station, but it’d be intact. I broke with the animal-names convention this time around, and called it Windy Miller. At this point, British readers over the age of 40 will either be smiling or rolling their eyes – Windy Miller is the name of a character from an old stop-motion children’s series called Camberwick Green, and he’s (surprise!) a miller! This link has a clip :)

Anyway, off I flew… and Windy Miller did come back – because I had enough caution to stop when things got hairy. But he held up well on the rotor side of things, thanks to the large armour blocks. During the encounter, I realised the obvious reason for the use of rotor arms – to decrease the chance of them being hit – and also realised I was most likely turning the rotor too slowly. I think I was initially using 1-2 rpm (out of concern that the rotor’s mass might tear it apart at higher speeds), and cranked it up to 15, out of a maximum of 30. On the way back to base, I further tested the strength of the rotor, and only stopped at 30 rpm @ 60 m/s because I needed to avoid crashing into the station!

But what the ship did need was more mass overall in the body – just thrusting, without the rotor turning, dragged the ship downwards horribly, though it was pretty easy to overcome. Still, anything I could do to counteract that would be welcome.

I took Windy out again, after putting on a load of armour blocks, and this time, I went up against a Commercial Freighter (four Gatling turrets). I didn’t make it as far as exhausting the freighter’s ammo supply, because I had the cockpit exposed at the top, so it was targeted when there were only three decoys left. But again, the rotor held up well – here it is after getting back to the station:

Windy, battered and bruised, but otherwise holding up well.

Windy, battered and bruised, but otherwise holding up well.

A close-up view of the damage to the rotor. Gotta love those large-ship heavy armour blocks.

A close-up view of the damage to the rotor. Gotta love those large-ship heavy armour blocks.

The only real problem I had was getting the rotor to stop turning – which didn’t happen before! I eventually realised that I didn’t have any braking torque… and when that didn’t work, I also realised that if your turning torque is 33,600,000 Nm, trying to stop it with a braking torque of ONE Nm ain’t gonna do shit ;)

I became bolder, doubling up the thickness of the rotor arms, got myself into pursuit of another craft, and tested the structural integrity of the rotors: worked fine at full 30 rpm, and 104.4 m/s – lovely! On Kristal’s recommendation via Twitter, I also moved the cockpit smack-dab in the middle of the body, for safety. But I was too bold: I’d gone up against a Mining Hauler, which has 4 Gatlings and 2 missile turrets. BIG mistake. It was quite probably the missiles which caused the bodywork to collapse so badly that it popped me out of the cockpit, and quite probably the Gatlings’ bullets which took me out as I was squirted out of the back of the ship like… well, never mind.

Luckily, despite Windy’s beacon being taken out in the encounter, I pointed myself in the direction of the hauler, and spotted twinkling of sunlight on body parts. This is what I found:

Windy Miller, R.I.P.

Windy Miller, R.I.P.

Foolishly, I’d gone out to the site by jetpacking, instead of taking St. Bernard the rescue ship – so I wasn’t able to reclaim much in the way of materials. I was forced to leave Windy’s corpse behind, clipping along at about 25 m/s – and I actually felt bad for doing so. OK, so it doesn’t even remotely compare to losing an actual human being (I do have some sense of proportion, folks), but in the brief time that Windy and I had worked together, he had served me well, taken a lot of punishment, and my hubris cost him dearly. Maybe it was because I’d named him (and referred to him as “him”), but there was a sense of loss.

But Windy shall rise again, and this time, I think he shall have teeth… I’m planning to equip him with automated missile turrets; between Kristal, Deamon and I, we’ve mined enough materials to make a few thousand missiles (OK, OK, we’ve got the assemblers on 10x as well, so that helps – under Realistic, we could still have made several hundred, which is awesome in itself). And I promise the ghost of Windy Miller, and the nascent Windy Miller II, that I shall be more careful. I’ll stay away from ships with missile turrets for the time being, and try not to run before I can walk!

So, onto the June 19 update! Although it doesn’t have much in the way of new content, what it does have is pretty damn useful! First of all, it’s now possible to set the world’s size, from unlimited all the way down to 10 km. Beyond that world border, you will die – but you get a warning before this happens, so it’ll only really take you by surprise if you’re zooming along at full speed.

Other great news is that there’s now automated trash collection, so it’ll remove ships drifting in space without a pilot – the feature can be toggled, so you’re not obliged to have it in place. But potentially, it could help a lot with reducing lag…

Landing gear can now be set to auto-lock, and you can also set a break force, so that when that force is exceeded, the gear auto-unlocks. This is set on a per-gear basis, so you can have everything set up just as you like it.

Oh, and if you’re on a dedicated server, rather than doing “host & play”, you can now ban players!  Very handy for if you’re suffering from griefers…

Happy space engineering!

1 And that’s led me to look up the etymology of “smithereens”. Wiktionary says it comes “from Irish smidiríní, diminutive form of smiodar (‘fragment’).” Cool!

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Hello again, quesadillas!

Since leaving America back in 2012, I’d missed a couple of things in particular: quesadillas, and my George Foreman Grill. I’d actually been given a proper quesadilla maker by a former boss when I was in the States, and I loved it – but even if I’d had enough room in my suitcase for it, I’d probably have had trouble getting it working with British AC current. But I only found one UK version, and it was on eBay; I didn’t have the money at the time to buy it.

As for the George Foreman Grill, I’d managed to pick up one of the little ones (big enough to do a couple of burgers) from a Goodwill store in Danbury, CT for just $4, and it had worked a treat. And, since getting back to the UK, I was getting a bit fed up of my burgers swimming in grease in the frying pan, so I definitely wanted another grill.

And I figured that I could kill two birds with one stone: Perhaps if I bought a large enough model of grill, it would be big enough to accommodate a tortilla, and I could have a crack at making quesadillas on it, instead of pining for my lost quesadilla maker. Yes, it’s true that you can make quesadillas in a frying pan, but I didn’t fancy the prospect of trying to flip the food to make sure both sides were nicely tanned. So I was really pinning my hopes that using the George Foreman would work; if not, at least I could use it for its intended purpose.

Well, a few weeks ago, I ended up with enough money available to be able to buy one – and a few minutes ago, I finally got around to slapping quesadilla ingredients on the thing.

George Foreman Grill

I’ve been wanting to get my paws back on one of these bad boys for ages… but would it make my quesadillas?

It’s the ideal substitute, as it turns out… The tortilla does have to be folded in two – a quesadilla maker is like an oversized sandwich toaster, so two tortillas are used, opened out; the George Foreman model I bought just doesn’t have the room to do that. But it matters not one bit to split the ingredients and fold the tortilla. And the quesadilla is ready in a couple of minutes, if that – and yes, I did remember to point the thing with the fold facing forwards, so nothing melted out and ran out of the grill!

I’m thrilled that my plan worked, so I can once again satisfy my cravings for those tasty Mexican treats!

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Space Engineers: Not simply “Minecraft in space”…

In 2029, The Second Space Race revitalised global efforts to conquer and colonise space, and at the forefront of humanity’s activities were the Space Engineers… Now, it is somewhere after 2077, and the plucky band of men and women who choose to spend most of their lives inside spacesuits has grown to over five hundred thousand…

A few weeks ago, Kristal and I watched a video by NerdCubed, about a game called Space Engineers, by Prague dev studio Keen Software House. A couple of instalments of Dan’s Let’s Play, and I knew I wanted the game… Kristal, meanwhile, had had it on her Steam wishlist for months!

Well, the pair of us got the game on May 2nd, and we’ve been having a blast. Even though the game is in Early Access, there’s still a great deal to keep the pair of us occupied, together with our Krash Palisades friends Wedgehog and DeamonEngineer :)

So what is Space Engineers? Well, the first thing that springs to mind is “It’s Minecraft in space!” – which is exactly what BitBurner said when he came to visit our game. And sure enough, the main parts of the game at the moment ARE mining and crafting. But simply to leave the description at that would be doing Space Engineers a terrible disservice. The game is a sandbox – you can create spaceships of any size and character you choose, capture unmanned ships which fly into your territory, and even try to cope with meteor storms which can devastate your hard work…

Additionally, you can either choose to brave the wilds of space alone, or with up to 16 other people; options allow you to play offline, privately online (I actually don’t understand the reason for that option), with people on your Steam Friends list, or make your world fully public. Because I wasn’t sure how well my PC would handle the game in multiplayer (it works great in offline mode, so long as I don’t choose more than four asteroids), I made sure the meteor showers were turned off, and set the inventory size to 10x (4,000 litres), because I knew how much Kristal hates having to deal with a poky inventory! (So do I, for that matter.)

Pretty soon, we were joined by Wedgehog and Deamon, and we’ve been having quite a few daring adventures in space since then! Here are a few:

Kristal was mining the “Csteroid” (a C-shaped asteroid, unsurprisingly), just minding her own business, when she suddenly died for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, the drills were still on when she died, causing the ship to whirl around madly – instant death for anyone trying to get to the cockpit. So Kristal had the idea to take another ship that we’d built, and slam the mining ship into the inner wall of the asteroid in the hopes of stopping it spinning, so that I could get inside. It took two or three attempts on Kristal’s part, but she managed it – and I was able to rescue the ship.

On another occasion (and after we’d been able to set the drills to be controlled with the mouse button), Kristal was again killed while mining, but this time, her cockpit had been completely destroyed. (We think it was caused by a delay in synchronisation between client and server.) I flew up with my suit’s jetpack to see what was going on – not that I was confident of helping – and saw the ship was, as in the last anecdote (but a different mining ship), whirling madly, with the drills stuck in the “on” position. With the cockpit gone, there was no computer to tell the drills to stop going. After staring at the thing for a few moments, I suggested to Kristal that she get some target practice in with the missiles she’d manufactured.

But before she went to go grab her assault ship, I realised that it wasn’t spinning in the same way as the other ship: this time, it was spinning in a flat plane. So, I was able to go and get the parts to make a cockpit, come back and position myself over the axis of rotation, build the cockpit, and get inside – which caused the drills to instantly stop.

Possibly my finest hour – and I sure as hell felt heroic afterwards – was when we were trying to grab a Mining Hauler. Now, the computer-spawned ships are unmanned, but set on a particular course and velocity, and you have a certain amount of time to take them before they de-spawn. But most of them come with booby traps (and, since a recent update, automated Gatling and missile defences), and Wedge had discovered this on a previous occasion with the Mining Haulers.

However, at the moment, Space Engineers suffers from a high degree of “rubber-banding”, where you and the ship will snap back and forth due to sync problems (they stop once you take control of the ship). This doesn’t happen so much for the person hosting the game – and at the time, it was still me hosting… so it was down to me, the least confident member of the group, to get inside, locate the warhead, get rid of it, rebuild the reactor, and activate the ship’s inertia dampeners to bring it to a halt. While the ship was moving. With no gravity. With my jetpack’s inertia dampeners off, so I didn’t get slammed into the ship walls at 10m/s and die…

Luckily, getting into the ship was easy – the turrets weren’t programmed to fire at the time this took place – but it turned out that the warhead was beneath the ship’s large reactor, next to a reverse thruster which blows up the warhead if you turn on the ship’s inertia dampeners. Even with the expanded inventory, it still took several trips between the diminishing reactor and a handy storage container to get rid of the thing and expose the warhead below.

We were all in Skype, so there was a running commentary from me, and welcome encouragement from Kristal and Wedge, as I struggled to get to the warhead. Amazingly, I managed to do it without becoming a bloody mess on the ship’s walls. I’d built a second cockpit on the thing, and took a break to get my adrenaline back down to reasonable levels. But when I got back, Kristal and Wedge told me that the game had glitched out, and the ship had blown up and vanished – all my hard work was for nothing! I did actually laugh about it, rather than raging…

It also turns out that there was a much easier way to deal with a Mining Hauler. Build a cockpit on the outside of the ship (power and computer control runs through all connected blocks), and then turn off the only small thruster on the ship… the one next to the warhead. Then you can safely enable the ship’s inertia dampeners without setting off the explosive! Of course, now there’s the issue of being able to get to the thing in the first place, without being chewed to pieces by bullets or missiles…

Lest you think that I’ve been nothing but an all-conquering hero: I’ve been in need of rescuing on more than one occasion. This is the first of a couple of incidents where my fellow engineers have had to come to my aid…

For some reason – I can’t actually remember what it was – I was trying to get back to base, from about 21 km out, with just my jetpack’s thrusters, before my suit energy ran out and I died… Turning off the inertia dampeners (whether it’s your ship or your own jetpack) is a great way to save energy. But even having done that, the prospects of survival were still pretty grim for me. So I was calmly reading off the remaining distance to the station, my speed, and my suit energy level every minute or so, awaiting the seemingly inevitable.

But then, at about 2km out and with my suit energy well below the 20% threshold, Kristal flew out to me in one of her ships – and I couldn’t figure out why, because there was only one seat, so she couldn’t fly me back. I expressed my confusion, to which Kristal replied, “I’ll get out of the ship, so you can get in and recharge, and make it back the rest of the way!” Derp…

On another occasion, Deamon very kindly took it upon himself to rescue my Scarab mining ship when I’d died, and ended up leaving the ship drifting out of control. I’d all but given up the thing as lost…

Speaking of Scarab, we somehow ended up with a naming convention for most of our ships: animals… We have:

  • Crow, Kristal’s mining ship;
  • Old Crow, the mining ship provided by the scenario, which Kristal had adopted;
  • Raven, Kristal’s assault ship;
  • Gnat, a tiny ship of my design which I’d done half-jokingly to see what was the smallest possible usable ship that I could make. It proved very useful as a runabout and reconnaissance craft, so I built several more for all of us;
  • Scarab, my mining ship;
  • The Mole, Deamon’s huge mining ship;
  • The Mini Mole, which Deamon made in response to us learning that using The Mole causes a lot of lag;
  • Bumblebee, Wedge’s grinder ship (he said he didn’t want to mine, as he already does that all the time in Minecraft!);
  • St. Bernard, a rescue ship that Kristal and I took and expanded its purpose, to serve as a mobile base for when we’re on deep-space missions.

Kristal also has a repurposed Military Escort ship – and it’s called Giblets… Oh, and there’s The Murder, too. As in “murder of crows”!

We’ve been having so much fun with Space Engineers, this post barely covers it… The game is pretty damn polished as it is, but weekly updates are helping to round it out with more features, plus bug-fixes, of course…

The devs have decided to garner loads of community feedback to shape the game, with the reasonable caveat that any proposed additions should be theoretically achievable for the late 21st century. And there are a couple of things that I’d love to see in the game:

  • First of all, with the Gatling turrets and missile turrets now coming online, I’d like an EMP cannon to be able to temporarily disable them, and provide a window of opportunity to take ships over.
  • Perhaps more importantly, I’d like conveyors to be able to both pull items out of an inventory (such as an assembler or cargo container) and sort them to go through different outputs (like the diamond pipes in the Buildcraft mod for Minecraft, actually).
  • What would also be useful are passenger seats… Players don’t seem to suffer from rubber-banding so much (if at all) when sat in cockpits, but there does seem to be flight-control issues. A passenger seat could give access to everything except actually flying a ship, so things like the control panel would still be accessible.

At any rate, with updates every Thursday, I love seeing the new stuff that Keen comes up with in Space Engineers… oh, I’d better go – I need to recharge my spacesuit!

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Henry’s now on Kindle and Kobo! BUT…

I got a rather delightful surprise, back in March, when I learned that Lulu was expanding its eBook distribution service to include both Kobo… and Kindle! So as soon as the options became available on the website, I chose them – it’s all well and good when you tell people they can buy the ePub version of Henry and convert it to their own desired format, but it’s much better to be able to tell them that they don’t need to do that any more!

So here are the relevant linkages for the UK and US versions of the five sites through which Henry is now distributed:

But… Notice something iffy about those prices? They’re all over the flippin’ place – and I didn’t set them that way… Look, these are the settings on Lulu:

2014-05-17 Henry Price ListThe price is set via one price box, which is meant to propagate through the other four channels within 30 days. I’ve only just done it, which is why Lulu is £1 and the rest are 99p – and I changed the price in the hope that it’ll be corrected to £1 or its equivalent in the remaining channels. If not, I’ll have to get onto Lulu and ask them nicely if they can help sort it out.

(Oh, and the reason I’m raising the price instead of lowering it: I’ve been having to change the price a few times in order to try to make it propagate, so I hope you’ll forgive me for alternating between 99p and £1, rather than keep lowering it by a penny every time!)

At any rate, enjoy the lower pricing in the meantime, especially if you’re in the USA, or you’re a UK Kindle user! (I may be getting less than I was trying to set, but even a lower amount is better than none at all!)

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An audience with Marian Call and Scott Barkan

A little while ago, while noodling around YouTube, I came across the videos for w00tstock – and in amongst the footage for 4.0, my brain exploded when I discovered the joys of singer-songwriters Marian Call and Scott Barkan

Marian is based out of Juneau, Alaska, while Scott hails from New York, and the two of them clock up thousands of miles, entertaining fans in the USA and Europe. Marian asked me if I was on her email list, so I could be notified about the UK section of their tour schedule; I was off like a shot to her website to sign up!

And it paid off: Back in mid-October, an email showed up with details of the European gigs – and there was to be one in Sheffield, only 20 miles or so from me! And given that the gig was taking place in mid-November (yesterday, in fact), it’d give me plenty of run-up to get the money together.

Trouble is, as excited as I was (i.e. very), I was also very nervous, because I didn’t really know how these things were meant to go. That sounds very n00bish, I’m sure, but in the entire 42 years of my life, I have never intentionally attended a concert or gig. A few weeks ago, I was in Cask Corner in Doncaster, and a gig was taking place – but I was there to meet my best friend, John Croucher, so that definitely doesn’t count (and I wasn’t paying attention to the band; the venue seemed nice, though).

Still, if Marian and Scott were really as nice as they came across on the w00tstock vid, it would all go OK. Right. Right?

Marian (and Scott), live at The Harlequin, Nursery Street, Sheffield.

Marian (and Scott), live at The Harlequin, Nursery Street, Sheffield.

So this is the part where I have to avoid gushing too much… *deep breath* OK, here goes…

My tweet during the interval.

Ah. Meant every word, though.

Well, there goes that plan.

Now, I’ve watched videos of other artists’ live performances before, and all too many times, they’ve sounded much better in the studio versions. Marian is one of those rare artists who makes great music in the studio, but her live performances are very special indeed.

I’m sorry to say that I’m not as familiar with Scott’s work, but I loved the performances I saw on video. And it was even better to hear him in person, singing his own songs as well as providing the backing melodies for Marian.

Speaking of which… Marian and Scott work so well together. Call it “professional chemistry” (I did, when I was trying to explain to Marian), but the level at which they’re in sync with each other really stood out for me.

I wasn’t expecting audience participation, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to be the grouch who sat it out! Besides… er… I was already quietly singing along with “The Nerd Anthem”, “Good Morning Moon”, and “Karaoke”; hopefully quietly enough so as not to ruin the experience for the other 15-or-so audience members. (The Harlequin Pub is small, charming, and cosy. Loved it.)

During the interval, and after the show, we got to hang out with Marian and Scott. They’re so personable, charming1 and sweet! *squee* I hope I didn’t make (too much of) a dork of myself; it’s an unfortunate trait of mine (as previously documented). Though I did ask a deliberately dorky question of Marian: “Was your first five-syllable word ‘cartilaginous’?”2 Hope Marian can forgive me for that ;) (For the record: her first five-syllable word was apparently ‘indubitably’, from Mary Poppins.)

Marian and me. Marian is not as blurry as that in real life. And despite appearances, I was drinking nothing but cola all night!

Marian and me. Marian is not as blurry as that in real life. And despite appearances, I was drinking nothing but cola all night!

Scott and me. As friendly as he is talented, which is a lot.

Scott and me. As friendly as he is talented, which is a lot.

I did probably let slip a little too much of my life story (*facepalm*), as well as unveiling my super-villain name (“The Enabler”), and showing off my evil laugh… It helped somewhat that there was still a couple of other audience members/friends of Marian that stayed behind after the others, so I didn’t feel too awkward. (At that point, I still had half an hour before setting off for the train station, so I was relieved when they all kindly said it was OK for me to sit with them.)

I’m pretty sure I blew Scott’s mind when I told him it was my first-ever gig (Marian already knew), and he – like Marian – said he was honoured that I had chosen their gig as my first. I was honoured to have the chance to see them, so close to home (and I wasn’t the only one from the audience who used that description while talking to the performers).

And when it was time for us all to say goodbye, I got autographs and hugs from both Marian and Scott, which was just awesome. Thank you so much for undertaking such a gruelling touring schedule, Marian and Scott. Naturally, I can only speak for myself, but if your other fans enjoy your shows even half as much as I did last night, then I hope we all make it worth your while.

Marian and Scott very kindly autographed one of Marian's postcards - yay!

Marian and Scott very kindly autographed one of Marian’s postcards – yay!

For me, the whole experience really was magical3, and should they return to the area for another show, I’ll be doing my damnedest to go again (so long as I’ve not made either of them too uncomfortable from this blog post’s gushery!).

If you’re in the UK, and want to experience Marian and Scott’s awesomeness for yourself, the following tour dates remain:

Bath, UK // Wednesday Nov. 13 – Friends Meeting House
An intimate concert right in the heart of Bath, downstairs in the old Quaker meeting house. Free, 19:30, £10-15 donation recommended, all ages. At the Friends Meeting House, York Street (between Terrace Walk and Abbey St. near the visitors’ center), Bath, BA1 1NG

Manchester, UK // Thursday Nov. 14 – NEXUS Art Café
The Nexus Art Cafe hosts Marian for a big show! Special guest Scott Barkan, plays a set featuring his new album Flightless Bird. Bring your friends for what is sure to be a great evening. 20:00, Nexus Art Cafe, Dale Street (opposite Vinyl Exchange), Manchester, M1 1JW.

Birmingham, UK // Friday Nov. 15 – Urban Coffee Company (Church Street)
An evening at Urban Coffee Co. with the entire venue dedicated to the concert. Free, 19:30, £10-15 artist donation recommended. 30 Church Street, Colmore Business District, Birmingham B3 2NP

London, UK // Sunday Nov. 17 – White Lion Pub
Join Marian for a repeat show at The White Lion, a lovely cozy pub in London.  19:00, free with £10-15 recommended artist donation. Quick heads up: Google Maps may bring up the wrong pub, but the address definitely is Central Street. White Lion Public House, 37 Central Street, London, EC1V 8AB.

You can sign up to Marian’s email list to be notified of shows; you get two or three emails per year. USA fans sign up via her own website’s contact page, while fans in other countries should head on over to her page at Fanbridge. And Marian’s main website is, of course, mariancall.com; links are available on that site to listen to, and buy, her music.

I couldn’t find a sign-up page for Scott’s email list – at the show last night, he asked us to write down our email addresses on his clipboard. But you can find his website here, where you can also check out his music – particularly his latest album, Flightless Bird (I bought it last night at the show!). Click the “Download” link  if you want to purchase a digital version.

Flightless Bird, Scott's new album - BUY IT!

Flightless Bird, Scott’s new album – BUY IT!

If you do find yourself in a position to be able to attend a live performance, I urge you to jump at the chance. You won’t regret it…

1 The pub was charming, and Marian and Scott were charming. Deal with it ;)

2 In case you’re not aware, the “first five-syllable word” lyric comes from The Nerd Anthem, while “cartilaginous” appears in Shark Week, both of which you’ll get to hear if you check out the second link in the first paragraph!

3 Marian commented, after seeing that tweet, that she’d thought I might have been exaggerating. I pointed out that, due to my own issues with self-esteem, I don’t like to screw with anyone else’s. In short: I don’t give false compliments :)

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