Thursday, September 18, 2014

A to Z - L is for Love of music

Sometimes I leave lots of days between posts. Sometimes that's cos I want to give certain people a chance to read the post. Sometimes it's because I like the top post so much.

I wouldn't say I enjoyed writing the last post. Enjoy is the wrong word for something that gets close to bringing out the waterworks. But - when a post feels very, very right ? Yeah. I like to leave those as top posts.

But ... I like my music posts too and we're overdue the rest of the L post. (I'm almost into N albums). Where were we ? Ah ha ! Last album was the Lily Was Here soundtrack.

Did I include Norah Jones' Little Broken Hearts in the L part 1 post ? This one is her latest. Norah's moving to a more poppy style, which is not a bad thing. She's still cranking out some cracking tunes. Happy Pills is no exception.

One of my earliest album buys and one of the best was Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos. This one has a wide array of varied and incredible songs. My favourite from this album is Happy Phantom although the wonderful Silent All These Years comes close. My voice is nowhere near the quality of this amazing angel of vocals but you can bet I'm belting out the words along with Madame Tori.

Mansun come in with their Little Kix album. Not bad. Bit samey.

If Tori Amos was one of my first albums, All About Eve were the first. And they've been a prized part of the collection ever since. They come into L with the Live & Electric album. AAE have had their back catalogue well and truly raided over the years as the label seemed to want to get every last penny out of spanking this horse. Live & Electric is good but there's not much here that isn't on the albums. That said, I'll always stop and listen to tracks like Martha's Harbour.

My sister has sent me a few highlight tracks from the Radio 1 Live Lounge albums. These have tracks being performed live by assorted artists. These have led to me buying everything that certain artists have come out with. But which artists and which songs ?

Ting Tings - Standing in the way of control
The Hoosiers - Lovestoned (ok, these guys have gone off but this cover is sublime)
Paramore - Love's Not A Competition
Goldfrapp - It's Not Over Yet (this song is so good !)
Bat For Lashes - Sweet Dreams

You got it - listing all those was pure excuse for listening to them again !

Next ! I heard about Rodrigo Y Gabriela through their tracks on the Puss In Boots soundtrack (will mention those at P!). Their self titled album is well worth a listen for chilled out rhythm guitar based sounds.

What did Mark Knopfler do after Dire Straits ? Movie soundtracks ! Well, this one actually came early. It's the magic Local Hero soundtrack and this is the closing theme. It's a movie about a city boy come to check out a remote Scottish town for oil. And he falls in love with the place and its people. Must watch it again.

EXCITED ! Next up, possibly the best album in my collection. Oh wait, that might be Super Extra Gravity.

It's the Cardigans ... with Long Gone Before Daylight. This album is magic. It's full of wonderful anthemic songs that you can sing along to quite happily. (Well - maybe if some of them weren't about domestic abuse!). I think I've linked everything here at some point, maybe not Feathers And Down ...

Soundtracks - you know they were coming. I have two Lord of the Rings soundtracks, Fellowship and Return of the King. They're both excellent soundtracks that fit and set the mood of the films perfectly.

Clannad are in here again with Lore. I dunno, it's a good close eyes + relax album but I'm not sure about highlights from it.

On the other hand, I found Lene Marlin through the Sitting Down Here single and have continued to pick up her albums. She has a delightful Norwegian tinged voice that couples with excellent songs like How Would It Be from the Lost In A Moment album.

Aimee Mann is another with an excellent voice, her Lost In Space album has highlights like Invisible Ink.

Another live album, this time from Neil Diamond with Love At The Greek. Honestly ? Leave this one on the shelf and pick up Hot August Night instead. It has a better collection of songs and is performed better.

Last but definitely not least is Love Over Gold by Dire Straits. This is only 5 tracks but they're all pretty decent, showing off the skills of each member of the band pretty well when they go into instrumental mode.

That's it for L ! I'm off to listen to Cardigans songs :-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thematic Exposition - In The Pink

This post has two parents ... Or sources of inspiration for it.

The first is Mr Carmi Levy's Thematic Photographic series, the latest is In The Pink. Here's mine ! I've only really got one Pink themed picture and people who have been here for a while will know what it is.

But ... there's another inspiration, Twitter has taken me to numerous people, one of whom is the wonderful Nika Harper aka Nikasaur. Here's a link to her Youtube channel where she posts Wordplay challenges. I thought - I can do one of those ! My problem is a lack of creative inspiration. I'm very definitely an engineer type who Does Things. Sometimes I do them in an unorthodox fashion but it's usually in response to a task. Thinking up the task is another thing entirely.

However - I thought I could tell the story of the Pink Hat. Hopefully it fits the theme of Exposition !
There it is - the infamous Pink Hat. And the Smiling Person beneath just happens to be ... me ! On to the story :

There was a boy who was not quite a boy any more. Years had taken their toll. Friends had moved on. Situations had evolved. People and their teams came and went. But the boy could always remember being young through sheer joy of Running. That's running very fast. And he could run, fast enough that the wind whistled through his ears.

The boy's usual excuse for running very fast was that a cricket match just happened to be breaking out at the same time.

However, the boy knew that his time when he could run very fast was coming to a close. The years were drawing on. Injuries were comparing notes and conspiring to make him slow. But the boy thought he could give something back.

But how ? He could run very fast but not for very long. He knew that typically, giving something back through running meant running a long way, which wasn't his strength. Cricket was his game, because cricket rewarded that warp speed running but also allowed a chance to recover.

And then he thought of the Pink Hat. Wherever he could, he would wear gear with a Pink theme. And that took some finding ! Eventually, he found the Pink Hat of legend. But why Pink ? Because of the Rose.

The Rose joined the boy's team quite late. She was part of another group who were added to the boy's team. She was perfect. She was tall but not stretched. She had an easy elegance and an understated beauty. She had a little smile that positively glowed. She was a genuinely nice, lovely person. And it was all taken from her by the ravages of breast cancer. Although the boy didn't let anyone see, he was devastated inside. How could someone so amazing be lost so young ?

And so he chose to wear Pink, not so much for raising funds. He didn't feel comfortable asking people for money. But definitely for awareness. Whenever anyone would mention the Pink Hat during or after a game, the boy would tell them about the Rose.

Sometimes there were tears. Sometimes the boy was combative in defending his Pink Hat. But everyone who saw it knew the reason for it. And so the boy achieved his objective of making people aware of that cruel illness and they took away a memory of that impossibly perfect Rose.

And it inspired the boy too. Whereas he would have acceded to the whims of a body which was struggling to run quicker than the wind, he continued to play. He only played 8 games that year but helped his teams to many wins, all in honour of the Rose.

The boy hasn't played much since that last year. But the boy, who struggles to show how sad he can be, was glad for a chance to show his feelings through the Pink Hat. And he's remembering now, the lady with the little smile framed by blonde hair typically drawn back in office friendly tails.

And that's what he'd like you to do. To remember. Remembering everybody who is lost is too much. However. Remember those close. We have all lost people like that. Remember them at their best. As I remember the Rose. As I remember my grandfather who was lost to prostate cancer. As I remember my nan.

Remember.

The End !

(back to blog mode)

Gosh writing that has awoken some feels. I can feel a tear or two choking up inside. But I can also remember that wonderful face of The Rose as she caught my Grin and answered with that little smile of her own. I think it made her feel welcome in the team her group had been parachuted into. They felt rather isolated at first having been mashed into one of the most integrated and tight knit teams around. I hope my Grins made things easier for them.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A healthy illusion

We all do that act quite well don't we ?

We see everyone around us as a glowing picture of health and we wonder - how come we're not like that ? It makes us feel bad that we're an odd one out who is being slowed down or otherwise compromised by the problems that we're carrying.

But hold on - there's a secret ...

Everyone has these problems !

Remember that.

But don't think of it as them handling things really well but you're not. It's just some people can maintain that illusion better than others.

Personally ? After the Zombie Patches healed and the bad bits could be hidden under clothes, I don't think many people realise how much of me was damaged. There's still a fair bit damaged but I'm hoping that it'll be all clear by Xmas (first time in over 3 years). But it's still a daily struggle for me.

Lots of people at work know now, cos I told them but what they see is my trademark Big Grin, my damaged hands when I show them and a definite struggle to start moving when I stand up. (Oh and occasional yelps when I upset my hip plus my attacks of the bad bits are ... noticed).

But it's what they notice - they notice the good and don't really see the bad. When people look at the lady who sits opposite my desk, they see a very beautiful, stunningly attractive woman. They don't see the pain I see in her eyes when the back pain gives her a reminder. With another, they see the energy but they don't see the difficulty she has in starting to move.

With a couple of my oldest friends, people see the Kick Butt 100% Competent ladies they both are. They don't see the doubts, the difficulties they both hide behind the Public Face.

We all do that too. We have a Public Face that we let the world see and a Private Face that says what we are really feeling.

One of my secrets is that when I'm in an empathic mode, I will see right through the surface and see the person within. I'll see the beauty within but I'll also see the pain. It's one reason why I see the hyperactivity as a mixed blessing. It's a fun ride but it makes noise which blocks the empathic senses.

I heard that someone I have a massive crush on has been having lots of problems lately. Chest infections and an energy debt that's meant she's had a lot of difficulty getting healthy again. I was shocked to hear that ! The Public Face didn't give any inkling to the problems. I guess that's one reason for that crush, because hiding the problems so well and presenting a Public Face that represents FUN, FUN, FUN and endless mischief means there's a lot of inner strength there.

That said, I'd have done anything to be nurse for this particular little lady. Being the person giving the hugs, bringing the soup (I'm rather partial to soup, not had any for ages !) and generally trying to lend a bit of my strength to help out the other person. I've not had much chance to do that lately and I kinda miss it.

That's what being partners is all about though. We enjoy each other and help each other out when we're struggling.

So how about me ? I've already said that my Public Face seems to be one of a bouncy, a little goofy youthful person who's a little too smart. And that it doesn't betray the health issues. But what's lurking beneath it ? I'll leave the skin trouble aside as I'm hoping I'm winning there. What else is slowing me down ?

My legs have been my strongest point yet they're very out of shape. I hit the trigger to Go Fast and the tank's empty. (There's a reason for that, I've not been using them enough, it'll come back).
My hips hate me - but only for a limited range of the total movement.
My diet is subject to allergies - I don't know what they are yet but I'm just about repaired enough that I can have an allergy test to confirm things like having to avoid orange juice.
My shoulder !!!!! I stops me bowling but it only affects about 5% of the movement range. No big deal.
Neck & Back - again, it's awkward now but as I normalise, I'm hoping it'll come back on its own.

For me, I'm not there yet but the prognosis is good. When I tried running on Saturday, everything still worked but it was just weak from disuse. I suspect that with the weight I've lost, I'd have a lot of fun zooming around a cricket field when those legs got conditioned again. I'm getting older chronologically but when I get the birthday donuts for the team in 2 months, I'm still hopeful that I can pull an under 30 guess out of at least 1 person when I ask for age guesses.

Did I mention that my Public Face has Kiddie Looks ? That said, I'm not a Milky Bar Kid any more. My shiny-blonde hair has darkened over the years and my ever present glasses aren't the NHS Big Plastic Rim style any more. Actually, I need another picture of that Public Face because the ones I have show ... chubby.

I guess I better close before I Wall Of Text too much ! Last message :

It's ok to struggle. We all are in our own way. Struggling, that is. Even the ones who look amazing, if she has an amazing figure then she may be hiding an eating disorder. The confident hyperactive (me!) may collapse in a puddle when he gets home. The Kick Ass lady who knows her job inside out may be riding the crest of a wave of doubt. The gym addict may be hiding a crippling self esteem issue (another reason I'm glad I have natural fitness!).

I know someone in Birmingham who is stunningly beautiful but has crippling issues with arthritis. She's staying strong and is earning lots of trust at work. You don't see the pain because the personality is so strong, in Public Face at least.

I'd like to have the chance to help someone out with their struggle. To be the person they turn to when they need a natter. To help someone frame the most difficult thoughts so they can sort them out into order and make sense of them. I talk a lot about my inner problems here (and I hope I don't bore you too much with them !) and it helps me sort out my own difficult thoughts.

But there are other problems I hide behind that Public Face which don't go here. There's a fair bit that doesn't go here actually ... and I'd appreciate someone to talk to about them.

We are stronger together*. Especially when we can drop that Public Face with someone we trust to see the Private Face. (And I do appreciate it hugely when my friends who trust me most let me in there)

*(A laughing PS - this is not a comment on the Scottish Independence vote. Although I do think they'd be mad to secede. Honest personal opinion : Scotland needs GB more than GB needs Scotland.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

iDevice Mania

Pre post confession - I feel like I been hit by the exhaustion hammer ... rationality and quality may be compromised !

Apple have hit the headlines again with the announcements about their latest kit. I thought I'd say what I think about the various classes of computing devices out there. I'll refer to the Apple devices throughout but I think what I say about the various device size classes applies to them all, whether they're Android or from people who believe Microsoft can deliver reliable and usable kit.

(That last comment - it's my firm belief that Microsoft are playing a private joke on us all by steering their software to unusability and they're seeing how far they can push it)

However ... Apple does have that lock in thing, both with making it difficult to move away and by attempting to force you to use particular versions of software. I refuse to downgrade to iTunes 11 because I rely on the iTunes DJ function within iTunes 10.7. This means I'm staying to iOS 6.1 and older versions of MacOS X.

First up - the iWatch. I'll just say right now, there's not a cat in hell's chance of me getting one of these. I own an Accurist wrist watch which got bought last century. It keeps time almost perfectly (not quite as good as it was but 30 secs between daylight savings time changes) and I can never remember how many times it has had a new battery. Here it is :
Gosh that's an old picture. Or is it ? I can't honestly remember. Anyway - that watch does all a watch needs to do, although it did go mute on one of its battery changes. I can read it in very low light and I can read it without my glasses on. That's the advantage that analogue watches have for me over digital watches, it's easier for me to see the angle of the hands than for me to decode the fuzziness of a display.

I can see some of the functions that a smart watch may have would be useful for some people - it's in contact with the skin so it can detect things like pulse and temperature. But - it's a device that has no purpose for me.

iPods - I own an iPod Nano which saw a decent amount of service with music in the car. But I don't use it any more because my phone provides the same facility. It's a shame this one has become redundant but if you have a device that does the same without any effort involved in hooking it up, then one device gets left to gather dust.

iPhone - I'm thoroughly addicted to using smart phones now. I'm not sure what I would do without easy access to the internet. It's not just the Facebook, email and twitter. It's the ability to look up maps, weather, sport, radio. All that stuff. It keeps you connected to the world. And it's a phone.

Incidentally, that last is why I ditched my Android phone. It failed as a phone by having 1 in 5 calls go to pure static. That may have been solved with newer software but it was a Sony Xperia that was OEM locked into an archaic version.

I firmly believe the smartphone is here to stay, although I suspect they are getting too big now. They are bridging the gap to :

iPads - to be painfully honest, I will not buy one of these. I can see their purpose, they're a perfectly acceptable mini computer while having the screensize that almost makes watching movies or streamed telly, or reading books, making those activities viable. But there is that lock in that makes it difficult to e.g. watch Skygo on a telly from an iPad. (I think iPlayer works with that but Skyplayer failed).

For me, the iPad is a device in the middle. My phone does what it can do and for times when I'd use the iPad, I would have my laptop available. I don't require that device in the middle. It's an unnecessary purpose. I can see its appeal as a gadget but before you expend cash on these things, make sure you actually need it.

Laptop - this is my main computing device. My Macbook is where I communicate by email and it does the internet thingys as well. I also run my iTunes listening from the laptop. But I don't use it for gaming or for the occasional graphic manipulation. The advantage of laptops is their portability but this is also their disadvantage due to smaller screens, less computing power and awkward UIs. The keyboard and touchpad on the Macbook Air are excellent but I wouldn't want to manipulate pixels with them.

Desktop - gaming powerhouse. If too many applications go on a desktop, it slows down (Microsoft effect). So mine is aimed purely at watching video, gaming and that occasional graphic manipulation. You can load up a desktop with hefty graphics hardware that won't fit too well in a laptop. Mine has over 1000 parallel processing cores in the graphics chip. That's lots. But I won't do the gaming when I visit the mom and dad, so I don't need the hassle of moving the powerful thingy around. The laptop does the job.

So :

iWatch - spawn of fashion. Will avoid like the plague although it'll be the next big fad that everyone has to own.
iPod - gathering dust on the shelf cos the phone does what it does.
iPhone - essential for everyday satisfaction of internet addiction.
iPad - device in the middle that is a bit redundant if you have iPhone and laptop.
Laptop - computing on the move, general purpose applications.
Desktop - for gaming and stuff where a big screen is handy.

Other people's uses will vary - that's my honest take on what's useful.

And I can feel my rationality slipping - The skin's improving but I'm feeling pain from stomach muscles that I think I've torn somehow plus a few more internal niggles too. I also feel like I've been hit by the exhaustion bat, so it could be early shower tonight, retire early, hope for some sleep.

PS I think I'll be buying a camera sometime this year too. Any recommendations for a sub £100 camera ?

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Random thoughts

And now for something utterly random :-)

Firstly - happy Pete is happy. I managed to coax a very special little lady to have a look here. Hopefully she liked what she saw ? Although I have to admit, I dislike talking about my own condition which has been a recurring theme lately.

That's a thing actually. I've been struggling for worthwhile things to post about. I get the feeling the A to Z's are skipover bait. But listening to music and singing along to sexy ladies is what I love most. At the moment at least, singing actual duet would be even better.

I need a camera. Specifically, I need a new digital camera and I need decent image processing software to go with it. Here's the latest creation :
Go on. Say it. It's a bit naff isn't it. That one was a picture of the moon taken from my iPhone 5. It's ok in daylight but as you can see, a low light picture of the moon is ... crap. I don't swear much here, just where it's for emphasis. So if I swear about that picture, you know I mean it.

I used to use a combination of a Nikon digital camera (so old the number was in runes) which came with Photoshop Elements v1. There. That shows how old it was. And no, it didn't use punchcards to export the pictures. It was a very good combination though. Both for sparklies :
And for pictures of very good friends who I don't see enough now :
That's a high quality picture isn't it. Of course, it does help that the lady there is brim full of fire and passion. She's another little bundle of awesomeness and inspiration. How she's kept going with all her troubles, I don't know. May she outlive all of us !

Where was I ?

Yeah - the moon pic was made for someone with the intention of "I see the Jade Rabbit !" It was the Moon Festival on Monday, celebrating mid Autumn. It's one of those happy festivals which is all about giving gifts. Part of it is about potential matches too, which caught my eye. One of the traditions is that ladies seeking husbands throw their handkerchiefs to the crowd in the hope that a suitable bloke will catch them. You can bet that caught my eye !

But - not a great source pic, plus I'm lumbered with using The Gimp as a photo editor. I don't get on well with GIMP. Its selection method boggles my mind and I'm struggling to find the old tools that let me merge images together seamlessly. Here's another oldie project for a sig I used for Eve :
Can't beat a bit of duck tape.

News is filling up its time with two favourites at the moment. Please ! No more Oscar Pistorius. We don't care. But we do care about Scottish Independence. That could honestly go either way. My opinion ? Give them exactly what they ask for. If they go independent, we must give them that. It would be an utter disaster for Scotland but ... that's what they're asking for. However, SNP are painting a picture that hides the fact they'd need to invent a currency overnight, plus we'd be pulling all our support for their infrastructure.

But that's enough about politics. Politics are bad. Especially if you're in a job where you're not supposed to talk about them. At all ;-)

Weight - another person has noticed I've lost weight. I have to say, it's nice to feel the profile of your middle and feel a straight line there instead of a couple of bulges to left and right. My brakes are still awful but I'm feeling that weight effect by being more nimble. And my ankles are improving to the point where I might be agile again soon !

Happy days.

Which reminds me - special little person peeked here ! Happy Pete Is Happy.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

A to Z - K (and a bit of L too)

Oops - I'm kinda running behind on these, I'm actually through the L albums already.

Before I dive into the music, there's problems on Youtube again ... Apparently it's my ISP (virginmedia) doing funny things with how they send the videos through. If you have problems on with Youtube videos, try uk.proxyfree.com. It might help out.

On to the music !

Kasabian kick it off with their self titled album. It's a respectable album but they're not really my thing. Sometimes with the more mainstream music, I fail to see what people are so excited about. But that's just me and my fascination with sexy female voices.

I have Christmas music ... Keep Calm With Xmas Classics has a tonne of old Xmas music. Some is fantastic, some is Nasty. One the whole, I'm glad I bought it (it was maybe £2-3 a while ago). It's good variation and you know I like my variation.

Ketevan is the latest by Katie Melua and it continues her tradition of soft vocals, great melodies. Decent album.

Talking of sexy female voices, here's Kate Bush who hit the headlines with her live concerts starting this week. But it started way back with The Kick Inside, an album full of character and incredible songs. Check out one I don't think I've linked before, Moving. It's ... moving ?

Quentin Tarantino is one of those love him or hate him directors. His best for me is the two Kill Bill films. The soundtracks are excellent, starting right from the opening Bang Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down sung by Nancy Sinatra.

Another old classic, Queen did the soundtrack to the Highlander movie and turned it into the A Kind Of Magic album. Some decent songs here but my favourite has to be the poignant Who Wants To Live Forever.

Where would we be without a bit of classic glam rock ? And who does it better than Adam Ant. Kings Of The Wild Frontier was another of those excellent albums that's great from start to finish. Including that title track.

One singer who had my heart for tracks like Days was Kirsty MacColl. She was taken from us far too early but leaves us with memorable collections like Kite.

Mansun come in next with the 3 Kleptomania albums. These have a lot of their classic tracks but the best for me is I Can Only Disappoint U.

And I just started diving into the L post a little early ... Shall I keep that for later ? Nah - L is going to be Massive. Here's where I got to :

I'm a Clannad fan. I have most of their albums and there's a few that slot in here. First is Landmarks with the amazing Fado. I'll close my eyes while listening to that and imagine I'm there. Their second L is the soundtrack to the 1980s ITV Robin Of Sherwood (the Michael Praed series). It's a brilliantly carefree sounding album that fit the series perfectly with tracks like Together We. And the third is Lore,

Soundtracks ... The Last Federation is a game released this year, not bad. I haven't played it as much as I should have. (I'm not looking to learn new systems while my mobility is compromised)

Classical - there's a few brilliant classics here :
Carnival Of The Animals - which has been well raided with tracks like Aquarium and Fossiles
Last Night of the Proms - always a highlight of every year. They're joyous.

Enigma sneak in with their third, Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi!. It's ok. But it's lacking the character that made MCMXC AD shine. Perhaps running out of ideas.

Bob Marley is an excursion for me - and another who was taken from us too early. An inspirational person in his country with pieces like Redemption Song.

A few one liners :
Gabriella Cilmi's Lessons to be Learned - highlight Sweet About Me
Avril Lavigne's debut - Let Go - with the brilliant Sk8r B0i
Voice of the Beehive - Let It Bee - may I be someone's Man In The Moon
George Harrison - Let It Roll - with the brilliance of My Sweet Lord (I'm not religious but that makes me believe in something)
Levellers - Levelling the Land - hopefully not too long before I can be The Boatman ?
Cardigans - Life - with the brilliance of Daddy's Car and Tomorrow
Madonna - Like A Virgin - will she be a Material Girl ?
Lucy Rose's debut - Like I Used To - nice album, has promise
David A Stewart & Candy Dulfer - Lily Was Here soundtrack

I used to use the title track with the sax and the guitar from Lily Was Here to set up my speakers. There was a sweet spot where the guitar sparkled when you got the treble balance just right.

I have to admit, I've kind of rushed this one out while half listening to the Strictly intro show. So I haven't listened to all the videos before posting (just quick link/quality check) in case there's surprises. Not quite sure what to make of Strictly this year, I don't instantly identify with any of the celebrities which is hurting my interest in the show for this year. I think I'll watch but I'm not ... excited about it.

We shall see !

Hopefully it'll be a good year for Strictly and if we get introduced to another Caro Emerald with the wonderful Dr Wanna Do (that's not Caro singing, this is) routine, yes please.

L post soon :-) But not before I do a few more different posts. Cos I do like to have gaps between these you know ;-). And I wanted to give someone time to read the last one. (I don't think she did but I had my hopes - lol).

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Dining for one

There's a kind of social stigma attached to that isn't there ?

I mean - going out to a restuarant on your own to have a meal out. And there's a few reasons that people would like to push on you for feeling bad about it :

1 - The "can't you find a girlfriend ?" factor. There's a definite social stigma to being single. Our psychology tells us that it's not normal. We're biologically programmed to be in relationships. Well - I have a couple of things to say about that :

It's tough to meet people these days. Route 1 is to meet people at school or uni. Well, I went to a boys school and wasn't very interested (that way) in the lads there. I had a long term relationship going at uni but that one was sadly doomed. Work is an option but I dunno - I'm not sure if you should mix work and relationships.

That said, I know a small number of ladies at work who are : Pretty, Interesting, Give Great Smile and Funny. But there's that barrier between chatting to them at work and asking if they'd like to join you for a drink. There's a lack of knowledge where people keep their private lives out of work, which is one thing that contributes to not knowing what the answer to the drink question might be. I wonder if some people in the office think I'm involved with someone outside of work.

I've also been using the Okcupid site for a little while now. And ... shock horror ... have actually contacted a few people on me. The resounding response there is sadly ... silence. (I send hopefully nice messages that show I've read the profile) Ok, I have had a few conversations on there but they've gone no where.

I'm very curious about one lady on there though. I recognise her from something else. Which is I think a big problem for her, because I think a lot of other people may recognise her too. I think she's looking for someone who won't want in on what she works on. But I think the responses have made her think the people are more interested in what she does than who she is. And it's led to her deleting not one but two profiles on that site.

So if that wonderful little sweetheart recognises herself there, I follow what she works on but I'm not particularly interested in being involved. It's a bit too public ... Plus there's big chance of spoilers and I do like following her work.

No - I see the person behind the work and am very interested in knowing more. If I got that chance. But ... it's getting that interest that's the problem.

I was talking about Dining Solo wasn't I ?

If you're looking for a meal out but don't have someone to have along with you, don't hesitate. Go anyway !

You have as much a right to be in that restuarant as anyone else. Plus if you're on your own, you aren't inflicting screaming kiddies on everyone else in the place. Or running kiddies. Or interpersonal drama.

I'd say it may actually be more socially acceptable to dine on your own than dine with people who really don't know how to behave in public. I can accept the behaviour of the kiddies there but not the attitude of the parents/owners/guardians. If the kiddies misbehave, it's the responsibility of the people who put them in that position.

And I'm rambling.

I'll continue the Harvester "Eat All Meals On Menu" quest although it'll take me ages. (I'll only go when I go shopping) and I'll go to other places too. I've become a fan of the Frankie & Benny pasta, although the last one was burned in places ...

Don't be ashamed or otherwise have negative feelings about eating out on your own. Do it anyway.

That said, I miss the intimacy of an evening out with a loved one.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hibernation ?

Back to work tomorrow.

The main objective of this holiday was to get some healing in. That's mostly for the troublesome skin thing but partly for energy too ... I think I'm there with the energy thing for a few reasons :

I can feel that fire of the hyperactivity lurking in the background. It's like an electric charge where your hair stands on end and there's temptation to bounce off the walls. It also makes it much harder to get to sleep too, which is an especially terrible thing for me at the moment because if I can't sleep, I damage the skin even more when I fidget. (I know - bad me).

So yeah - I think the energy is back, although I'll see what I'm like tomorrow evening after a day at work. I have to watch the hyperactivity actually, as it makes me act without thinking. Which can be good, unless I'm behind the wheel where I drive ... faster. And scare people. But I view the hyperactivity as a wave to be ridden and enjoyed while it lasts.

Skin ?

It's improving, gradually. Some of my bits are much tougher than they used to be, although my ankles are still a disaster. I'm still my own worst enemy with it, I just can't resist damaging it even more. We'll see how it does over the next week at work. But I do see general and visible improvement with it.

What have I been up to ?

Lots of cricket watching :-) Some good (the county games), some really bad (the England games). Still worth watching for the cricket addict though. There was supposed to be a local England game in Bristol on Monday but that got abandoned due to the horrible weather we've been having. It's ok at the moment (looks outside, sees Yellow Face, hides).

Some gaming - I'm still not back to wanting to learn any new gaming systems so I've been on Moo2 and Defence Grid a lot. Moo2 is a space strategy game, Defence Grid is a tower defence game. I've been beating high scores on Defence Grid and trying to beat Moo2 again. I have a quite slow but if it gets enough time, irresistable strategy in Moo2. Trouble is, the vaguaries of the AI lead to it having enemies go from My Friend to I Hate You inside a turn.

Many music hours - iTunes tells me it's 796 unique tracks listened to since Friday 22nd. That's a bit down on my usual, which is a sign of how much cricket has been on the telly. There's been a tonne of good albums in that batch, I'm due posting the A to Z - K list soon and coming up very soon is one of the very best albums in the collection - Long Gone Before Daylight by the Cardigans. It's chock full of outstanding tracks.

And a film - we watched Lucy on Thurday.

Interesting film, very well made as you'd expect from Luc Besson. Scarlett Johanssen is as good as we've come to expect. Strange film actually, it's liberally interspersed with jump cuts to things like leopards chasing gazelles (it kinda makes sense in context)

When I watched Lucy, my mind was going back to another film called Limitless. They both share a theme that drugs are the path to unlocking the power of the mind. They go about it in different ways though. Limitless rubbed me up the wrong way by glorifying the power of the drugs. It gave a Drugs are for Winners message, which I wholly disagree with. I avoid drugs, if you don't absolutely need them you shouldn't be on them. Things like painkillers, if I used those I'd do even more damage to myself by not heeding the warnings from abused bits of body. Mind you :

I am on 2 antihistamine a day (8 hour ones).
I could probably do with sleeping tablets to knock me out and stop me fidget-damaging myself.
I'm still taking the vitamin tablets.

Anyway - Lucy's message is more a highlight of the dangers. The character quickly came to realise that the drugs would kill her, which is the antithesis of the message of Limitless. I'll stop there to avoid spoilers, although the Mind Over Matter thing was a little bit too much scifi for me. The brain is a massive computer, while there are unexplained phenomena like alleged clairvoyance and telekinesis, I can't rationally believe that even a hopped up supercharged brain can achieve these metaphysical feats.

Fun film though. Well worth seeing.

Last bit ? I've continued to lose weight ... I think there's two parts to this :

At the start of the holiday, my knees and legs were exploded. They were so swollen that it felt like someone was trying to lever off my kneecaps with a screwdriver. Now, my knees are nicely knobbly. Little bit scarred but that's the damage for you. I think some of the weight was in the swelling.

Eating properly - the weight's started coming off since I rediscovered the pasta stuff. So that's the F+B dinners, plus the pasta bakes I get from ready meals at home. I could do with learning how to do those myself. Home ingredients are more controllable. Plus there's the leftovers.

At the last check, I was down by 1.5 stone, to a weight of 12.5 stone. That's pretty good and is a decent target weight for my current build. Less would be better. I don't need the weight of muscle on my legs any more, although it's a good supplement to weak arms. Like, lift with the legs with a straight back, instead of breaking things by being all bent over. We'll see how the weight goes but I've shifted into trying to maintain a weight instead of losing more.

But only cos I don't want to have to buy new trousers !

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bring me cookies

I'm off work for a week !

Hurrah !

Yeah. Having a break for a bit. It does help that I can have a week's worth of leave for the cost of only 4 days of annual leave, courtesy of us having Monday off anyway. I'm not quite sure how I'm doing actually. Some times, I feel absolutely mentally and physically shot. I definitely need the break but I'm not in quite the same bad way as I have been on some of these.

A quick summary :

My ankles hate me. A lot of me is still shredded but my ankles are the most painful. Most of the shreddies aren't actually painful, just messy. But the ankles have been badly swollen and I'd actually admit to pain from them that's been extremely distracting. However ... if I'm moving around, they're ok. I have full stompiness available, except for the first few steps.

My hips hate me too, I'm not quite sure what's happening there but sometimes they hurt so bad I'll get close to letting a howl of pain out. My neck too, that's been feeling like grinding glass in there when I move it but it doesn't make me quite as uncomfortable as the hips and ankles.

But - I'm not actually that bad. I'm counting on the aches and pains subsiding as my body decides to return to normal. The aches are there due to swelling from the damage so as the damage repairs, I should normalise. My ankles and knees are already normalising.

Yey me.

I suspect switching some of my diet over to the pasta bakes is really helping there. The extra carbs are giving my body the energy it needs to keep on fighting. Plenty more of those to come tomorrow as well, it'll be Twenty20 Blast finals day and I fully intend to grab a pizza at half time. Timings are awkward actually, Doctor Who starts up again too and I NEED to watch that. (It'll keep on the recorder until Sunday)

Intentions for next week ?

Tomorrow's the county cricket final. Monday will be the first one day international. It's in Bristol, so I suspect rain ;-). I intend to have a very light week, trying to leave my shredded body alone enough for it to get some healing in. I think if I can give it 3 clear days, it'll make a massive improvement. But things like the ankles don't get that chance when they're under socks and in shoes.

We shall see. It's that mental battle again.

Sunday will also see the Belgian Grand Prix. It's known as the fans' GP. I'd love to go, was considering it this year but alas, haven't healed enough to consider putting any plans together. Perhaps next year. Things like motorsport tend to be better on telly because they have cameras all over the racetrack but I'd like to go for the experience of it. The smells, the sounds. All that good stuff.

I'll be listening to a massive amount of music. iTunes tells me there's 6 days to listen to still, that grew with :
Foxes - Glorious - it was going for £3 (dirt cheap) so I thought what the hell, I'll try that. I'm listening to the first track right now and ... very mainstream but promising. There's a good voice there.
Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack - awesome movie, excellent soundtrack. It's the "Awesome Mix Number 1" album.
Bobby Vinton greatest hits - this was playing in Frankie and Bennys the other day and I went "how come I don't have any of this ?"

I have a new quest that'll be indulged at some point when the food runs out. There's a Harvester restuarant next door to the local Tescos. The quest is to eat my way through the menu. It'll take a while because I'll only go in there when doing shopping but ... it is sooooo good. As a suggestion of how good, there's a good Dominos pizza shop there too. I'm a pizza fiend, yet the Dominos will have NO CHANCE next to that Harvester.

They're that good. Hopefully they'll stay that way. There is a downside though, their vegetarian selection is derisory.

I'll go see Lucy at some point too. It'll either be with Cyberkitten and BionicDwarf or ... someone from Okcupid ;-). Yep. Been having a very pleasant natter with a lady on there today and she'd like to see Lucy. Maybe ? That would be particularly awesome. (And I owe her a post about why I find cricket so special)

But it started today actually with a wander around the centre of Bristol. I find doing the shopping wander therapeutic. I don't usually buy much but it gets me out walking around in relatively fresh (as city air gets) air and around people. That's another of my contrasts. I can get really uncomfortable in a crowd but I also have to be around people.

Perhaps the Big Grin needs to be fed some answering smiles occasionally ? It definitely got those today. My ankles called an early close on the town run and sent me home via the cookie shop. And the girl on the cookie shop stand definitely caught that grin.

It was amazing - and so was the triple chocolate muffin.

That might end up being my epitaph (hopefully in a few decades) - Here lies Dwagonman, powered by smiles in life.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A to Z - J for Joy of music

Another day, another music post :-).

It's the J's this time. Not so many this time around.

It starts off with a soundtrack - the Jade Empire soundtrack. This game was the first that Bioware tried on a world and combat system they invented all on their own. Before, they'd done games based on the Dungeons & Dragons rules. This one had mixed reviews, perhaps it was a little too simplified to make it go on consoles. Great atmospheric oriental style soundtrack however.

Alanis Morissette is in here with her debut, Jagged Little Pill. It still stands up as an excellent album today. Stand out tracks include the hypercute Perfect.

I've always been a huge James Bond fan. The movies are usually highly worth watching. My favourite Bond I think is Timothy Dalton. He was a suitably tortured Bond personality, yet definitely fit the role of master hit man. My collection is from before his time though and includes songs from the Connery and Moore era. My favourite is Carly Simon's Nobody Does It Better. I suspect a slight crush on Barbara Bach's super spy ...

I get some of my pointers for new music from Itunes Single of the Week. It's a freebie from random people. One time it was Lucy Spraggan. She's a singer songwriter who won X factor with her own songs. And if they're songs like Tea Or Toast, you'll know why. This one came on in the car and I almost blubbed. While driving. Fantastic song.

An old classic ? U2's Joshua Tree is one of their better albums. I don't follow them too much because a lot of their music, while excellent, mushes into anonymity. And their political views are batshit crazy. But it's not about the politics, it's about songs like Where The Streets Have No Name.

And that's actually it for the J albums ! Short and sweet today - so ... how's me ?

I'm seeing genuine progress. When I let it happen. My legs have been swollen and my ankles super sore. But ... that's because I've been attacking them. I managed to leave them alone more this morning and was rewarded with less pain throughout the day. Hopefully I can continue that theme.

I've also lost something and can't find it. It's a full stone in weight. You can probably tell I'm quite happy about that and I'm trying not to find it ... How have I lost the weight ? It's the pasta addiction I think. My body has a habit of developing cravings. They'll be pretty random and form a conversation with myself that goes pretty much :

Body : "I need food !" "Give me what I need ?"
Brain : "Ok, what do you need ?"
Body : "I dunno, just gimme food !"

And I pile into the biscuits, which just leads to the craving continue and the weight going on.

I think with the pasta bakes, the food need was probably carbs. My usual diet is solid protein. I guess I may have needed the carbs to give me the energy to fight what's been holding me back.

I have a week off work coming soon. I'm hoping to heal up some more over that week. 6 more working days to go though.

Cya soon !