A.J. Walker


Gigs... It's Been A While.

Been a while (ages) since I've been to any gigs. I used to go to loads but with one thing and another I just haven't been gigging lately. But I've actually got a couple coming up now and I can't wait.

Firstly, next week I'm going to see Kathryn Williams at the Liverpool Philharmonic in the Music Room and I've got tickets for Calexico and Iron & Wine in November also in the Philharmonic Hall. Last week I got their recent album 'Years to Burn' which I've hardly turned off. It's bloody brilliant. I saw them play in Manchester many years ago in the Academy. Acoustically the Phil will be miles better - the acoustics in the Academy seem better designed to magnify the volume of people chatting away about the current issues on Eastenders than the bands. Why do people spend money to go to a gig then chat all the way through it - just to say they were there? That said I would rather be standing than sitting. So the Phil will be both better and not as good - although very comfortable.

Calexico and Iron & Wine: Years to Burn

Anyway roll on Wednesday, and Kathryn. It'll be the first time I've seen her live. Perhaps I'll write a wee review. In the meantime if you don't know either of the artistes I recommend you check them out. I've put a link to a song each on YouTube for each of them (click on the photos) and their websites and Twitter details are below. Happy listening.

Kathryn Williams: Monday Morning

Website: www.kathrynwilliams.co.uk
YouTube Video:
Monday Morning

YouTube video:
Father Mountain

Words with Bots

I've been playing Words with Friends with… well, with friends, for years now. There's only a couple of people I play with regularly now, which is good - when I used to play more people it could eat into a lot of time. Now I just slot it in every now and again.

Last week something odd happened when someone I didn't now invited me to play. I know it always asks you to '
play with someone new' and gives you 'coins' if you start a match with someone that way. So I thought maybe it was someone winning a few coins for playing a match with me. Anyways I beat her easy enough and wondered if she'd play again afterwards, but no. Instead a few minutes later another 'woman' invited me to play. The timing could not be a coincidence; no new people had invited me to play for many months so to get two consecutive like that was clearly wonky. I suspected bots.

I went back to the one I'd just beaten and saw on her profile she played in multiple languages (six or so), not just English and American English. And so did the new invitee. I smelled a rat. Since then I've declined all these games, as they keep coming.

I like the game. I like challenging friends not a bloody computer. So why does the App do this? And why suddenly now? I'm assuming it's to collect more ad money. If I'm playing more games then I'm seeing more adverts. But who knows, perhaps there is some other more nefarious reason for this uncalled for activity. Or perhaps it has something to do with the recent hack of Zynga from Pakistan?

Interestingly all these new players have attractive women avatars with professional looking shots–apart from one; which had a cat. Their algorithms aren't working if they thought I'd go for a cat! There doesn't seem to be a setting to turn off these bots. And I haven't seen anything from the software maker, Zynga, on their use. All in all; very poor.

So far the bots who have invited me to play were:

  • Holly Rose
  • Emma Radcliff
  • Gaby Spiers (the cat)
  • Alexa Dimitrov
  • Tara McClusky

If you play Words with Friends keep an eye out for these characters. You may find you're playing them too.

Microcosms Results

The Microcosms website still seems to be having severe issues. I posted the results off a couple of weeks ago and due to those issues the results have yet to be posted up. In the interim whilst the website elves deal with the gremlins here are the results. Hope the Microcosms site is sorted soon.


As someone who never spins on principle I was surprised at how many did this week. That said, I hadn’t looked at the page until after I had completed the judging (which reminds me: thanks Sal for sending me the stories minus the authors so I could do the judging blind). I assume the spinning was to avoid the steampunk form, which may be a bit constraining and not an obvious choice so I do understand the spinning; and after all the option is there for a reason.

There were eight entries this week, but one was using the previous week’s prompts which I’ve discounted - not sure whether this has appeared in the wrong section due to some of the current issues the site has been experiencing.

There was a fun range of stories taking in time-travel to Stonehenge, steam-driven aeroplanes, environmental activism, transcendentalism, and the mundanity of war. Well done to all, it was pleasure to read them.

Favourite Lines

Earth Daze
After the massive marches in the States, the exhilaration of them, the fear of what they signified, Lucy asked, “What if…” and she hesitated a fraction, “what if we dedicated our lives to the earth?”
Sunset At Stonehenge
All human eyes were fixed on the sunset, so none noticed the otherworldly traveler who stepped from the shadows of the eastern arch.
The Transcendental Artist
‘I’m going to paint my way out of here,’ I told myself.
Five Words Screaming
But the message itself – the message was always the same:
I regret to inform you…
Per Ardua Ad Astra
It was a large machine, larger than any steam-powered aeroplane flown so far, it had to be to accommodate all the coal required to reach the fabulous speed expected of it.
The Gold Mine
A gigantic steamy bird is taking off: miners are on board cheering and screaming towards the freedom
On Pain of Death
“Everyone,” her voice cut through the flurry of screams. “Remain calm.”

Oscar (previous week’s challenge)
“Having trouble finishing my sentenc… ” Oscar said. Oscar 99-101 refilled his bowl with organic, unsalted puffed peas.
Er… maybe an issue with the website?

Five Words Screaming : Ellen Grace
Tightly written story and evocative of the hopes and expectations of the protagonist. Dreaming of helping the war effort, sending messages that would impact on the war effort–help in winning it. Then these hopes to be dashed (and dotted) by being given the task of sending out death notices time and time again. Well done. Lovely job.

The Transcendental Artist : KJ Watson
What fun we’d have if we could paint what we needed or wanted to happen. Great idea, nicely paced, well written and totally fun.