Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Randomy randomness

Time feels like it's going in a blur at the moment !

Mind you, last weekend was busy. Actually feel really busy at the moment.

Oh ! Thumbnail pic :
That's the latest.

The hair is better. I'm still rubbish at faces. What's on the skeleton needs work. I cheated on the bike wheels and pedals, plus the bike is not tall enough. (The bike is too long and shallow). I like the dog though. And it's made people laugh. To get chuckles from people is the whole point of doing the drawing.

I'm steadily learning more about the Paint programme that came with the graphics tablet. I'm using a pencil tool to do the outlines, the hair highlights (and attempt at braids) and the freckles. The colouring is done via the airbrush tool. That's one odd thing, the Painter programme is very much additive colour. Adding something on top of something else will change the colour of both, even if you're working on different layers. That's a big difference to GIMP, where something on a higher layer will cover up what's below.

The Painter programme feels more natural to sketch in though, compared to GIMP.

Oh - this one was done at work last week after an incident where we lost our network connectivity.
Click for bigger as per usual. These were sketched in pencil over lunchtime (I had a longer than usual lunch in order to get that idea out of my head on to paper where it wouldn't cause any trouble - ideas can be distracting). And then it was later digitised via the phone camera at home (hence the rubbish quality !) and you'll probably detect where I was struggling with the paint tool in order to cover up the boomerang (supposed to be laptop!) that got turned into the keyboard and screen.

That's enough of the pictures for now though.

Last weekend felt nuts !

Friday was spent having a quick wander through Cardiff on the hunt for music shops and other curious places. I didn't find new music but I did find more sherbets. The sherbets have disappeared already.

I also learned to not attempt to escape Cardiff at 5pm on a Friday. You end up escaping Cardiff at around 6pm having not moved very much in the meantime.

And then I retreated my exhausted bones back home (via Sainsburys for a little recycling !) Ahh. Domestic stuff. Since I've been putting the plastic bottles in the recycling bins, my waste bin has needed emptying far less often by the bin men. The bottles used to go in there and they're a decent amount of volume.

I may have watched 24 hours + of motor racing last weekend. The World Endurance Championship was a decent 8 hour race and the next day I was following the Lexus RCFs again in the 12 hours of Sebring at the same track. The two Lexuses decided to take bites out of each other though and didn't repeat the promise they showed at Daytona.

And then there was the Formula 1. A decent season opener and it was good to see Valtteri Bottas emerging from out of the shadow. He had a really poor year last year. It's sad to see what's happened to Williams, from being up with the leaders, they're now firmly at the back. You can pretty much expect who's going to be fighting for the win in F1 but there's usually a decent amount of interest down the field for what's going on in the teams.

What else is going on - it was good to have the run in the car to Cardiff and back ... and I'm getting longer shakedown runs later in the week too.

Random aside - it's really sad to see the state of international cricket at the moment, he says after seeing yet another bowler resort to throwing the ball. Throwing has become endemic in international cricket. The door was opened with bowlers maybe 10 years ago getting away with the occasional throw ... and now certain bowlers are doing it all the time. A blind eye is being shown. Dale Steyn was an incredible bowler when he started, now he throws the ball and is actually less effective for it. Lasith Malinga had a wonderfully weird slingy action when he started. Very round arm but definitely a beautiful example of how to bowl in a completely different way to how you are taught to. Now it's like a javelin throw. It's also less effective because the throwing means he doesn't get the last instant boomerang swing any more.

And there are more in a similar vein too. It's quite sad to see once great players have to resort to that either through injury or age. Bowling the ball means you can put a lot of spin on it, which stabilises it for seam movement and gives gyroscopic action which causes the ball to swing round corners if done right. Throwing doesn't impart that spin on the ball.

I better stop whinging about that before the trolls find me !

Hectic couple of weeks coming up ... then I'll be escaping and chilling out for a week before Easter. Been feeling the need to take myself off somewhere and disconnect. The neurons feel a bit toasty. I do like to keep up with the various streams and communities though.

That'd be the fear of missing out ! Need to post more too :-D

Monday, March 11, 2019

11 Fictional Places to Visit

A meme ! Haven't seen this one before either.

At least, not before seeing it on Cyberkitten's blog on today's catch up. Here's a link to his post and his list. I've had a quick peek but I'll have a good look after I hit publish for this one. Don't want to be led too much by it :-).
Ok. The meme is 11 fictional places that you'd like to visit. You'll probably quickly guess what a few of these will be ...

First up, as suggested by the thumbnail is the Federation of Star Trek. And the other assorted worlds and empires that make up the Star Trek universe. They created such a rich and varied universe in Star Trek and around the various war areas, it seems a great place to live in. A utopia. But it's that richness that attracts one to Star Trek, there's something new to see in every light year and the ability to travel to see it.

In more fantasy territory, there are the Dragonriders of Pern. These are from the books of Anne McCaffrey and it was a fantastic series until it kinda ran out of steam when it finished its main arcs. However ! It has dragons. It also has fire lizards, or miniature dragons. The books I liked the most were the Menolly books, where she escaped from her early life and found wonder in music.
Third one will be the Culture universe of Iain M. Banks. You'll probably notice a theme where I'm looking out for the variety in the universe and the Culture is no exception. Humanity are overseen by Machine Minds, who take care of their whims. Humanity joins in with the ultimate variety via self modification. It's most definitely a utopian society, however there are always things nibbling at the sides, threatening the integrity of that utopia. And then there are the Minds and the often irascible drones that are a vital part of this system.

Fourth up is the Belgariad world from David and Leigh Eddings. These books were amazing for their character interplay, which brought a huge amount of fun to the books. However, the books also form a journey through the diverse countries and cultures that make up this world. Always something new to see and fanatic cultists to avoid in case they turn their beady eyes to your chest and the heart within.

Let's see. Babylon 5 has to be number 5. This was a very special series from the 90s and I was utterly glued to it throughout. This series was utter brilliance from start to finish. Threads were set up early that took seasons to develop. You had spectacular interplay between characters such as Londo and G'Kar. Susan Ivanova was an especially inspiring character. There was high drama, there was fun to break it up. It brought spectacular battles through innovative cgi. Hopeless battles and last ditch fights. Inner struggles and galactic wide conflict. This series was amazing, brilliant and I think I'll be watching it again after I'm done with Stargate.

These next two will probably go together. I'm a firm fan of The Expanse, although I'm not too sure about where it's going ... It's another rich world to lose yourself in although it's perhaps a little too polarised between the various communities. A dream given form with ports where diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs and wanderers gather. All alone in the night A dangerous place but our last best hope for peace.

Oh wait ... that quote is from Babylon 5. It's the season 1 intro and it's quite brilliant. Here it is voiced by Michael O'Hare who is sadly no longer with us. He had to leave the show due to severe mental illness, although his character Cdr Jeffrey Sinclair had a chance to return and complete his story. So many things about Babylon 5 were incredible and I would thoroughly recommend giving the series a watching.
Number 7 is the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. These called out to me right from the start as a triumph for engineering, especially Nadia's story as she's setting up the first Martian city.

Hmm, what shall 8 be ? Larry Niven's Known Space series is also an excellent example of diversity and wonder. But watch out for those Kzin because they'll eat you. The Rimworld books are books I would heavily recommend.

Number 9 is back to fantasy and it's a really dangerous place. It's the Warhammer Fantasy universe with a planet inhabited by your classic fantasy cultures, with man split up into several nations, there are the dwarves and elves, dark elves across the ocean and a few other cultures and races dotted around too. Always something happening, usually weird, usually with influence from the portals at the poles of the world from which chaos boils forth, corrupting the land around. Another dangerous place but full of adventure.

I think Number 10 has to be the near future, as a mix of the various cyberpunk worlds of games like Shadowrun and Deus Ex. Everything is possible, everything is feasible ... at a cost. These worlds dive into extreme modification and high technology with our minds breaching into the cyber world or being melded to cybernetic technology in the real world.

If the first is Star Trek, the last definitely has to be Star Wars. This is another galaxy of endless wonder and variety. There's always something new to see, a new scam to run, a scheme to evade and something of wonder to find. I think I'd choose the prequel era to avoid the Empire or the Old Republic era of the games, which was set around 4000 years before the films.

That's it for my 11, although honourable mentions must go to worlds like : Anne McCaffrey's Brainships, Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Moon's Sassinak series, the Honorverse from David Weber, Elizabeth Moon's universe that started up in Hunting Party, the Forgotten Realms of Faerun, the grim dark future of Warhammer 40k, the multiverses of Heinlein and .....

How could I miss this one out :
I'll make it 12 places and add the Discworld as the last one.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Upgrades and Sequels

Friday was car day !

This means you need a picture ....
There we go. Old grey shiny and new red shiny. And me, showing them both up.

It didn't quite go as per the original plan ... I'm feeling the burn out exhaustion creeping up on me again, which is one reason why there haven't been as many posts lately. I have my first week off of this year coming in the middle of April. Not too long to go. I'll have to find some excuses to go to places.

Plan A was to head off into Cardiff but I emerged from the car place a little too late for that. I also hadn't had any lunch because an unwelcome distraction at work needed stamping on. We're organised into Functions and mine has just woken up to something in my profile that I want to avoid doing ... I'll be removing it from my profile tomorrow, it's a skill thing which could pigeon hole me into a soul destroying dead end. I'm happy using that as a minor part of a main job, as I am at the moment but it's an area of non-engineering that I'm looking to avoid being dead ended into. However the functions think they can move people around to suit the whims of people demanding that other people be found to meet gaps they can't normally recruit into.

It's a really bad system and it's causing massive retention issues.

Anyway .... car ! Here's another angle :
The red works well.

The spec between old and new is pretty close. I have had a couple of upgrades though in a Protection Pack which includes parking sensors (very nice, I'd missed those), something shiny and chrome and some bits to protect the boot.

I think there are a few other small upgrades as well.

Plan A was to head off into Cardiff for some shop wandering and while I was at it, take some pictures of the car at the viewing spot by the Severn Bridge. Rain intervened with the bridge pics and I'd have arrived at Cardiff at about 4.30, just in time for traffic mayhem and with no time to bimble before the more interesting shops closed up.

But I did get a picture by a bridge :
So shiny you could see your face in it ! Maybe not. But if you look really close, there's a reflection of a me in that picture ... And the Avonmeads bridge behind it.

The travelling (including lunch at the really nice Gloucester services and a raiding of their farm shop) got me to Avonmeads just in time for the Lego Movie 2 which .... was still fun. Maybe not nearly as inspired as the first movie but still a lot of fun to watch.

That was pretty much me toasted for the weekend though, got back in time (via the supermarket !) to watch a great England thumping of the West Indies in the cricket. Definitely enjoyed watching that.

Oh and .... cake ?
Need more cake. (And the dwagon needed bigger legs !)

I've been in the games a little bit again as well, I dredged up an old save in Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2 (Kotor 2) yesterday and enjoyed bimbling around that. It feels incredibly linear compared to the first game though. Odd. There's a lot more shades of grey in this one though compared to other Star Wars games.

Need to have a look at Mutant Year Zero too, which arrived courtesy of Humble Bundle. It's another tactical style game.

But before then ... Roll4it has their Stargate Horizons finale tonight, there's more Eng vs WI T20 and I'm looking forward to a bumper weekend next week where it's :

World Endurance Championship at Sebring on Friday night (I'll record this and watch it Saturday);
Formula 1 is back in Australia (same with recording to watch at a more hospitable time)
And the finale of the Six Nations. It's looking like a Wales Grand Slam this year ... unless Ireland stop them.

Later !

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Preparations, Plots, Pizza ?

My mind seems a little fried still at the moment !

The bugs from last week must have had a bit of an effect. I'm still feeling the effects with a cough that isn't going away. (Feels like something stuck in the back of my throat being ticklish).

Hot chocolate helps.
That's a mk2 version of the Dwagon Pushes Coffee mug from last week. One of the streamer people who I occasionally watch is called Avery, aka Littlesiha (Twitch link). She's usually to be seen playing Just Dance and bopping along to it. She hopefully has as much fun playing and dancing as it seems on screen. Anyway, I thought I'd modify the mug to be a dancing Avery lady mug :-).

Still learning. I'm probably overcomplicating the drawing still as you can do some amazing things with simpler line art. Here's a childhood child favourite :
I don't rate his chances. That's from Calvin and Hobbes by the brilliant Bill Watterson. Check out his stuff.

But you look at what actually constructs that scene and the artwork is surprisingly simple. And very precise. I'm missing precision still.

But I'm having fun with it now that my brain seems to want to get back into drawing again after the bugs.
Anyone for pizza ? I'd like a bit of pizza.

Maybe Friday. That's the big day for car changing and it needs a little preparation ... which I think I'm pretty much there on. Hopefully won't forget anything this time. Let's see :

Registration document - got it;
Insurance all changed - sorted;
Extra key - found;
Blingy valve caps - gotta switch those (I use basic plastic ones because kids steal the metal blingy ones and set the alarm off)
Work car park pass - to do, early next week. There's no real rush here.
Empty all my rubbish out of the car - pretty easy because I try to keep things out of the car.
Can't think of anything else there. I'll wipe the car's memory as well before doing the handover.

I want to find where I put my Pebble extra battery for the phone, I haven't seen that since Roll4itcon in December. I suspect I've put it down somewhere and it's been covered up by books.

That's part of the plotting for Friday's pick up day actually. Plan is to head up to Cheltenham to do the switch in the afternoon and then I'll head back down the motorway with camera to take pics (and raid the fancy service station too). I'm planning to check out the viewing area for the Severn Bridges and then most likely, head into Cardiff for a wander.

Cardiff has books. Cardiff also has a Lego shop. (Mind you, Lego hasn't brought out many kits that I'm interested in lately).

I'll also undoubtedly pick up more music too as Cardiff has a few good shops for that as well. Film watching is likely too with Captain Marvel coming out this week. Should be good. I enjoyed watching XMen Apocalypse again on Friday evening.

My current book is Embers of War by Gareth L Powell and it's intriguing so far. Santorini by Alastair MacLean was excellent, I'll pop up a quick review of that one when I've drawn some Sleepy Does Cover Art for it.

One last one and then it's back to the penultimate episode of Stargate Horizons :
Not sure if that one has worked so well. But I think he's going to be enjoying those noms.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Bugs, Tablets and I may have bought something .....

Been a bit under the weather this week ...
The bugs hit on Wednesday and they felt really bad. I was still heading off into work but very definitely reduced capacity. Still not right but closer to normal again. It's been the classic hot/cold with a dry cough but add crippling headaches and joint pain to that as well. The headaches were intense on Wednesday. (Meningitis did cross my mind, thankfully it wasn't.)

It did mean I didn't have a chance to play more with the new toy acquired on Tuesday though. Yep. Acquired a tablet ... graphics tablet. It's a Wacom Intuos thing which is purely input. There's no screen on it but you can have it on your lap, keep your eye on the screen and it's fairly intuitive linking the hand movement to the screen when you get used to it. (It seemed to be fighting me today though which could easily be Windows).

Anyway ... I thought I'd try a sketch or two and this happened :
Click for bigger as per usual. I've been attempting to learn more from a group called Inklings, where the lovely pair of Steph (@sourfruitjunkie) and Aria (@genkisoda) have huge fun just drawing things while talking about the techniques that go into what they're drawing.

One thing I'm taking from it is ... there's a huge amount of work that goes in before it becomes as apparently effortless as when an expert does an activity. As a beginner, you look at what you make and think it looks rubbish. You forget that there's a massive amount of work and practice between the beginner and the expert. The thing to tell yourself is that by practicing, you're making the steps to becoming much better and you should learn as much as possible from your early efforts and from watching other people.

There's always room to learn. And it takes ages to get to an expert level. The underlying message though is that drawing is fun. Keep at it.

Here's another sketch :
This one is for the lovely Random Tuesday who had a birthday last week. I was doing more learning about the brush tools available in the drawing package (still far from getting the best from them) and looking to apply some of the skeleton lessons. Everything has a skeleton (even dragons!) ... and remembering that will make your drawings look a bit more real. So in here, I've used a pocket dragon as a reference again and added in customised arms and fingers to make the symbol on the middle. I hope she liked it.

The last one of the evening was for the weekly Mage Cast show, which has been huge fun to watch. One of the cast members has been busy doing other things for the last few weeks though. Where could he be ?
The original had lines which were far too faint, I hope the brightness adjustment makes it more legible. That's another lesson to learn, my AOC screen is extremely good but I think it's bringing out details that other screens cannot. Hence the one above having detail that's too faint to read.

One of the issues I'm fighting with myself on is that I want to unleash the drawings as quickly as possible, before refining them to be up to good standard. I dunno, I get ideas that I think will make people chuckle and I want to get them the chuckles as quickly as I can.

One last sketch before closing thing ... anyone need coffee ?
That one's from coming back to drawing today. I'm trying to keep the style to simple outline with filled colours (I'm surprised at how many drawings and animations actually are simple outlines and flat colour!) with highlighting coming in as appropriate.

But yep. Felt more like drawing today after the bugs in the week. Maybe could have yesterday but I wiped myself out with stuff going on in the morning.

Car service trip up to Cheltenham and ...
My cards were nearly wiped out by a bad reader in the petrol station (I may actually have flipped their PINs in my head, yep - bugs)
Scarily friendly receptionist. As in scary.
Distance travel. Not much but energy is very low still.
I'm changing the car again.

Yep. Lexus number 4 is on its way as part of an offer I couldn't refuse (of the nice kind, not the Godfather kind). I think they're terrified of Brexit and it's led to an offer where :
I pay the same monthly amount;
It holds off the "what happens at the end of the period" issue where I have to either fund buying the car or let it go;
They'll pay 3x services;
Massive deposit contributions - I'm basically not giving them any extra.
Possibly one for a disclosure note ? Maybe. The usual thing where disclosure is necessary is where you tell people how good stuff is without saying whether you were paid to say that. The incentives are all there above and I haven't said anything why I'll be on Lexus 4. (They're fantastic, solid, reliable cars with great performance and spec - what's not to like!).

The next one will be red and one reason to change is that while IS no 2 was better than the first, there were still a couple of thoughts like "It's not giving the economy of the first" and an issue with the phone which I was a bit perturbed about.

More in a few weeks there. In the meantime, I can feel bug affected legs threatening a pain flare up so I'd better hit "post" and say bye !

PS Check out Inklings on Geekspace.tv (twitch link). One more session on Monday evening (Tues 0.00 GMT) in this current run but I hope they'll be back. They're fun.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

More book ! Children of Time

And with my new found quest to learn how to draw, you probably know what's coming for the thumbnail ....
There we go.

Gosh, this one has felt like a grind which is a shame because there was a lot of good stuff in there. Book ? Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

The book has a two main threads running throughout and it alternates between the perspective of the creatures on the planet and the humans on board the Gilgamesh, an ark ship with the last remnants of the human race fleeing a dying and toxic Earth.

The planet they arrive at is the subject of an ancient terraforming project headed up by Dr Avrana Kern. However ... at the culmination of the project, all sorts of crazy people erupt and overthrow the old order. Humanity is thrown into chaos, all sorts of bad things happen and the original subjects of an accelerated uplift project all burn up in a firey reentry.

Hopefully going to avoid the spoilers !

With the monkeys all gone, what's left to inherit the uplift project ? The book is split up through various epochs, where the crew of the Gilgamesh wrestle with Dr Kern and with themselves in various vignettes.

Similarly, the spiders on the planet steadily evolve into far more complex and intelligent creatures and face their own challenges.

The book ended well and the various challenges were well written. It's a very well written book looking back on it.

But I didn't really enjoy it and found it a bit of a slog to get through to the finish. maybe due to the constant swapping between perspectives ? I don't think so, I've read similar books and enjoyed them. I suspect I formed a low opinion of this one quite early due to the tiredness and general burning out feeling but I didn't want to give up on it.

What's next ? Not sure actually ! I might well go back to an older book. Nah. I've got a few books on the Kindle waiting to be read.

PS That's totally not a Thargoid up there that's hosting Dr Kern's Sentry Pod.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Old Meme, remembered

People have had me looking for a cake joke just now and I found an old meme ... You know me and memes, can't resist. And I couldn't resist updating this one.

But ... cake ?
Cake from the archives ! This was great cake.

Meme ?

The idea is that you will learn a lot of little things about your friends that you probably didn't know already. It's going to be curious how many of these have changed since the original post in 2006.

1. What time did you get up this morning? Awake 0710 ish, on the bus at 0730. My morning routine resembles a terrified realisation that quite soon I will be in work and terror can be a powerful motivator. (I skip breakfast at home, have a teacake at work and gradually wake while on the bus).

2. Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds are more sparkly ? Yep. Same answer.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? That time it was Narnia. This time it was Battle Angel Alita, which I would highly recommend for a bit of anime style action fun.

4. What's your favourite TV show? Currently, it's Star Trek Discovery because it pulls off what it does with a certain style and it has continually kept me guessing as to where it's going to go.

5. What did you have for breakfast this morning? TEACAKE !

6. What's your favourite cuisine? Pizza. Yep. Still pizza.

7. What foods do you dislike? Foods that are too mushy or are hassle to eat.

8. What is your favourite crisp flavour? The Flaming Bacon type flavour.

9. What's your favourite CD at the moment? It was Alisha's Attic Vaults cd 1 back then but I've since developed a heavy Nina Persson addiction and it's between the A Camp self titled album and Long Gone Before Daylight by The Cardigans.

10. What kind of car do you drive? Back then it was a Puma, now it's a Lexus IS300h. Both are fantastic cars in their own ways.

12. What characteristics do you despise? Misplaced Arrogance - gotta agree there. Still the same.

11. Favourite sandwich? Ham tea cakes. Not had one of these in years ! (I don't keep butter in the house any more because I waste it by not using it quickly enough)

13. Favourite item of clothing? Clothing with no holes in the wrong places. Jeans, t shirt, leather jacket. Same ! I have a newish T-shirt with a kitty in a ball of string that says "It was like it when I got here !" that's a favourite (link !).

14. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Kennedy Space Centre on the way to the Moon. No change here !

15. What colour is your bathroom? Blue and yellow (I haven't repainted it since moving in). And it's still the same colours.

16. Favourite Brand of clothing? I avoid clothing brands that put their name on the item as they're not paying me to advertise their stuff. No change there, although I would happily recommend Genki Gear and Fuzzballs (link)

17. Where would you retire? Caribbean probably - cos of the cricket. Might not like the heat there though. Not any more, due to attitude of people observed while the cricket coverage is on. Now it would be on a canal barge, touring the canals.

18. Favourite time of day? Getting home from work. Same ! Oh and stream time or any time I get nice messages from good people.

19. What was your most memorable birthday? Can't remember many of these ... The last few when I've had gifts :-D

20. Where were you born? Birmingham. No change there ! I have not been cloned since the writing of the last post. I think.

21. Favourite sport to watch? Cricket. No change there !

22. Who do you least expect to send this back to you? It's not really a sending back to thing any more ....

23. Person you expect to send it back first? See above

24. What fabric detergent do you use? Was Persil. I actually have issues here now due to my outsides. Believe it or not, I am allergic to hypoallergenic washing blobs. Nowadays it's Persil blobs (still!) and Tesco softener, although I'll switch the softener when it runs out.

25. Were you named after anyone? No. Don't think so ...

26. Do you wish on stars? No. Although they are very nice to look at.

27. When did you last cry? 17 - just before going into an exam. (Tears weren't due to the exam !). That's changed ! The tears come a little more often now, the emotions seem to have woken up a bit more. Last time was actually Friday, with a few tears pulled out in bits of Alita.

28. Do you like your handwriting? Nope. Can barely read it. And ... it hasn't improved much at all.

29. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you? Aye - Unless I'd rubbed me up the wrong way. Haha, no change there.

30. Are you a daredevil? Yep. I'll risk stuff, although I do wear a helmet when batting now. I'm older now but I'll still go for stuff. It's just moderated by what my body currently lets me do.

31. Do looks matter? Only to those who don't look at the personality beneath the looks. Are they worth knowing ?

32. How do you release anger? I get aggressive and try to release the aggression on sport. I try to redirect the anger/aggression into driving myself harder. Tough one, I don't think this has changed much, except I don't have that release in sport. I generate much less anger now because I redirect it into better emotions.

33. Where is your second home? Lincolnshire with the parents. Same !

34. What class in High School was totally useless? Previously : Foreign languages. Make them speak English ! Muahahaha. (heh - kidding). Now : Religious Education.

35. Do you use sarcasm a lot? Yep. When I can, although sarcasm tends to be destructive and I prefer to use constructive humour. I try and use it more now too, hiding daftness behind words that take a little time to decipher.

37. Favourite movie? Previously : Sky Captain. What would it be now ? The Martian is right up there, Rogue One. Must watch Sky Captain again.

38. What are your nicknames? Then - Sleepypete or Ice. Now, I've adopted Sleepydwagonman as the nickname I tend to use online.

39. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? Yes - makes it easier to get them back on. No change.

40. Do you think that you are strong? Reasonably - can hold my own in cricket but I suffer from injuries too much. Haha, not any more ! My legs are probably above average strength but they're not getting the exercise at the moment while my arms are affected by really unhappy shoulders.

41. What's your favourite ice cream flavour? Vanilla. It's Mint Choc now.

42. What are your favourite colours? Then : Red, blue. Yellow for cars. Now : Blue's a good one, last two cars have been dark grey metallic, which has worked well with them.

43. What is your least favourite thing about yourself? Easily distracted, absent minded. Add "has difficulty with wrods" to that now.

44. Who do you miss most? The dogs. Oh yes. Muttleys are awesome. Add my dad in there too.

45. Do you want everyone you sent this to send it back? Muahahaha - maybe :-) Lol, if anyone who sees this does a copy/paste/change, let me know !

46. What colour pants are you wearing? Then : Dark blue, unless you're going by the American definition in which case it's black. Now : Erm ... exactly the same. And they're not the same two items of clothing. Oh wait ! Switch them around. And no the underpants are not on the outside.

47. What are you listening to right now? Then : 3 phone conversations and 2 people (inc me) tapping a keyboard. Wonder what the other person is doing ... An Enter Elysium video, Heychrissa streaming on the laptop and the current iTunes track is "It", the first track on the Chaleur Humaine album by Christine and the Queens.

48. Last thing you ate? Then : King Size Twix. Now : a small Smarties Easter Egg. Yes. I have no shame in that. HA !

49. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Then : Rainbow. Now : probably green for the dragons.

50. Last person you talked to on the phone? Then : Mortgage people. (Wonder what that was for ? It was +1year after I had to remortgage). Now : a fella at work about a training solutions meeting tomorrow.

51. What is the first thing you notice about the opposite s*x? Then (I believe being sarcastic !) Hair. Unless I'm sitting down or they're way taller than me - then it's breasts. Now : eyes and what the eyes are saying in their silent way, curiously though, I can never remember someone's eye colour. Then hopefully a smile :-D. The grin tends to bring out an answering smile.

52. What's your favourite drink? Coke (diet). Same !

53. Do you wear contacts? No but I have glasses on through most of my waking hours. Now - I still have the same glasses I had back then. I need new ones ....

54. Favourite Day(s) of the Year? Christmas, days out of work and the day I bring the donuts in to work (sometime near birthday). No change ! Although add in Comic Con plus the Lords trip in the summer.

55. Scary Movies or Happy Endings? Then : Happy Endings but endings that are definite. I.e. not a Spielberg multiple ending. Now : happy endings. Movies that have a satisfying ending.

56. Summer or winter? Cricket season. <- br="" this.="">
57. Hugs Or Kisses? Hugs, although anyone I know who I spot with Iceangel is in danger of a good tickling. Now : Hugs are awesome.

58. What Is Your Favourite Dessert? Then : Chocolate fudge cake - must resist ... Now ? Hmm. Still cake ! Although the lunchtime thing if I have cake is usually a lemon muffin.

59. What Book are you currently reading? Then : The Apocalypse Troll by David Weber. Now : Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

I meant to slot a few tasty pictures in there to break it up but I think the way I copy/pasted it in made the format go a little wibbly ... However !
Historical accuracy is everything.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Alita, shops, arty ideas

Seem to be busy again at the moment !

Definitely missing the chance to do more posts. Things happening lately and I'm ending up crashing out when I get home and turning the brain off as much as I can. I did feel like an escape to something where I definitely could turn the brain off though .... this was Friday pm.
What's that ?

Friday's escape was a film called Battle Angel Alita. Without giving too much away (like some of the images that Google will show you !), this one is a live action / cgi film set about 500 years in the future where all of the cities of Earth have fallen in an apocalyptic war, save one. The film is set in Iron Town, below the flying city of Zolom. (I may be getting a couple of the references wrong here).

I really enjoyed it and .... a tear or two may have escaped at certain points. Actually, I've been feeling the crispiness of impending burn out this week* and it feels like this film gave me a much needed reset. Films tend to be like that.

*(what I mentioned last weekend, plus I damaged my eye last Monday which was getting me down too. It's ok now.)

Anyway, the story picks up with our Alita being found in a junkyard and being put together by Dr Ido, very ably played by Christoph Waltz. She has no memory but everything that she sees and experiences is met with total joy and absolute commitment.

And there are those big wide eyes too that take in the world. But there is more to Alita than the big cute eyes and a personality that wants to jump into absolutely everything.

And the story leaps off from there. As usual, there is daftness involved with the storyline and shortcuts to make it all fit into a film. But ... lots of action, plenty of spectacle and I thought the central character was incredible.

Thoroughly recommended.

Friday's escape wasn't just about the film though. (It was on at 5pm so I needed to find something to occupy until then ! Plus lunch).

One thing I've been observing over the past years is that our High Street is steadily disintegrating. It started with a few big names collapsing when the banking collapse happened. But it's continued ever since then.

My theory is that the continuing austerity regime means that people don't have any disposable income any more, so the shops that thrived on that have been driven out of business. The curiosity shops with knickknacks and trinkets. Fun stuff. Useless decorative stuff that makes you smile when you look at it.

Those shops don't exist any more. We have expensive clothes shops, nail bars and vape shops instead. I'm not interested in those. I'm not sure if I'll be doing the old run across to our local Mall any more, with the closure of the HMV shop there. That place now has an increasing number of empty lots and the HMV was one of two shops I'd regularly have a look in when there. (The other was the Lego place).

It's a similar story in town, except that it still has its HMV and its Foyles bookstore. (And Waterstones too). The HMV thing is curious actually, they've just suddenly closed another 27 stores out of their 127 and some of them are very painful looking closures indeed. (Here's the BBC story with the list).

It's only part austerity though. Some of it is down to the online people who don't play fair. Like Spotify who draw you into their renting model and other places who don't pay their taxes. Places like Waterstones and Foyles can't get away with that and compounding that, have their prices fixed by the publishers. I'm not even seeing the old Buy 1 Get 1 Free type offers that the bookshops used to do.

I choose what I buy based on what's more economical to buy, which means favouring Kindle over Paperback. But .... I'd much prefer to buy paperback if it were the same price because ... paperback will always be better and you're helping to support the awesome people who work in the Foyles and the Waterstones.

Oh and I'll always want to own my music rather than use Spotify. Even better to acquire the music from places like Bandcamp or as downloads from the artist's own site. Spotify and Youtube are rubbish for supporting the creators ... and if those creators aren't getting the recompense for making stuff for us to enjoy, they will quit and get jobs to let them eat. I'd rather see them making videos or music.

I sense I should come down off that particular soap box though. I did acquire a few things on Friday :
Seal - Standard
Jean-Michel Jarre - Equinoxe Infinity
Ed Sheeran - divide
Lorde - Pure Heroine
It might take a while before I get to listen to them though, there are still 6,000 unlistened to tracks in the library and I'm going from A albums to Z albums .... (After 6 months with the laptop, I'm in the C albums).

There's a Steam sale going too .... and games called Frostpunk, Unavowed and Blood Bowl 2 have been acquired. (Maybe a little dealing with Sad by buying stuff ? Haha, maybe).

Last bit ... I'm trying to develop the drawing still. I have ideas, one nearly emerged for today but after cogitating on it over the last week, I didn't get a solid enough idea. Not like the one someone gave me the other week ... Here we go :
There we go. A Sleepy Wagon Man, dreaming of pizza.

I've been enjoying watching as much of the Inklings streams on Geekspace.tv, led by Steph the sourfruitjunkie who has a thing for crows. She saw the Sleepydwagonman username I use on Twitch and wondered what a Sleepy Wagon Man would be like. And then there's pizza.

I quite enjoyed making that one, as I'm enjoying learning more of technique from teaching streams like Inklings and by observing what I'm seeing. When you look at cartoons, drawings or animations, keep an eye open for the technique. It may surprise you how flat the colouring of the picture is ! Gotta keep it simple though, as less seems to be more.

Erm. That "it's getting a bit too more" pinger is going off, especially as I haven't had me dinner yet and it's getting later ! Cya.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

We've had snow again ...

Snow seems to be coming at convenient times at the moment here !

Last year, I can't remember the circumstances but I spent the Thursday working from home, so I missed the announcement that said the site was closed on the Friday. We have laptops, which is pretty much all we need to enable working from home. That said, the laptop hooks up nicely to a big screen while in the office and you can talk to people more easily. (And they do teacakes which I could do here but ...)

I could hook up the laptop to my home monitor but ... I'd honestly prefer not to do much rearranging of the cables.
Wait ... snow ! It arrived a few hours later than advertised, starting properly at maybe 8pm instead of the predicted 2-3pm. We got a little less than last year, maybe a couple of inches and it was actually starting to melt even as the last of it was falling.
The snowman above was made by a neighbour. It's glorious isn't it ? Definitely pretty snow when it started coming down.
As always, click for bigger. Most of these are phone camera but there are a couple with the proper camera.

I was able to do my usual Friday thing of working to around lunchtime and then taking advantage of accumulated flexi credit during the week to disappear. I used to have the standard 9 to 5 pattern, plus leaving a little later when I wanted to finish something off. I still have the pattern of hanging on until about 5pm but I start earlier ... means I build up those extra hours.
Yep. Totally not noping out of venturing too far. (I'd left my boots in the boot of the car).
The main roads had been fairly well cleared by the time I ventured out at lunchtime. The pavements were still pretty dangerous though. What I can't believe was that idiots were cycling on the icy rutted pavements still, instead of sticking to the clear roads. Well, that's cyclists for you. They're not smart round here.
There was, of course, a battle still raging on the surface of Hoth ...
And up in orbit.
A snow kitty was looking on from afar.
Which gave me ideas ....
A path to chips ? (And pizza).
That wasn't the idea that popped into the head, although I did raid a rather busy local Chinese later. I do love the muffled crump crump crump as you walk through snow.
Before I go, a proverb. The early bird beat the snow and got the worm, this is the late bird.
I wonder if my new front door guard is still there !

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Sketchily sketching sketches

I've been attempting to learn to draw again ....

Before I launch into that though, lots of things are still going on and I feel really busy and I can't remember very much of it ! Honestly, I think I got a little burned out doing Star Wars Advent this year and I'm still bouncing back from that. I hoped they were high quality posts and I enjoyed the making of them but I was definitely feeling a bit of pressure to get 3 distinct books every day without just going down the list of one, two or three particular authors.

Oh - there's been some background feelings going on that are affecting me but I'm definitely not going to be going into those here except to cryptically say that it's 1 year on.

Sketch ? Here's the latest :
There we go. Art skills of a 5 year old. Except that's probably an insult to your typical terror with crayons.

That's actually one inspiration for the drawing thing. Ideas have been popping into the head mostly as per the usual thing. I'll see something and an idea will spark off. Usually an idea that is way, way beyond my talents but .... maybe in quite some time (I reckon a decade and by then arthritis will probably have overtaken my hands).

Talking of a 5 year old with crayons, here's one from last week :
Yep. Stick men. I thought .... skill level of a 5 year old ! Let's own that. And it was most amusing to see people in chat requesting fan art of a non player character called B'ebb (he's a massive show favourite) and .... people following that by saying that there was fan art by B'ebb ... and linking it.

I depend heavily on my self confidence and when I unleash one of these creations on an unsuspecting world, my default is to think that people hate it. That's the way my mind works. No feedback = they think it's nasty. The depressive side of manic-depressive tendencies really sucks that way.

So when people, totally unprompted (I was hiding), pull out the pictures and show them to the stream ... and people seem to love it, yep. That's me going to Super Happy Sleepy Mode.

Oh ... there's a lot of references there and you'd need to be up to speed with the show (on Roll4it link to the right) to catch them. It's been great fun tuning into this light hearted capering on a Sunday evening.

That was the second Stargate drawing ! Here's the first again :
Jaffa Kree PD ! Last picture from the Stargate selection so far :
Chalk this time ! So a mix of two types of arty thing this time. The original blackboard was nicked from a stock site but the rest is me. So there's chalk from our B'ebb with the stick men again ... with all of the cast this time. Papa'Rak (aka Ga'Rak) is intentionally twice as tall as everyone else. And then there's me looking to draw people again.

I think that's it for today with the really bad art.

I hope I'm showing signs of improvement. There are other pictures that have been done that you aren't allowed to see :-D. One is a pic that might not be seen by anybody ... (Too scared) and the other is one that was supposed to be a "We're all here for you" message for a person on one of the Discord servers who is in a really bad place at the moment and the Discord people are rallying around to give them an internet hug. Hope they're ok. I struggle to know the right words to say at times like that (and coincidentally this particular day today for me and I'm not going to expand on that) but sometimes the best thing you can do is keep being around people, give them time, let them know that they're free and encouraged to show their emotions around you. And that's especially the sad ones.

Cos if we bottle those sad emotions in, we'll break.

I hope you all got some positive feedback today.

Oh and that Dragon in the Easter Egg pic may well be a harbinger of this year's Easter Avatar ... Not felt like eating that egg yet though !
That's last year's Easter Pic. Nite all.