Monday, May 22, 2017

Conserving Strength

Gosh !

I'm proper exhausted at the moment. My brain is still good for barking off in random directions doing all sorts of things, usually several at once. But the body is needing new batteries.
I think it's a combination of things. The first and big one is the bugs that I'm still fighting off. It was a classic 4 days of gunky nose bug plus sneezes. On the Saturday, it took all I had to put the washing in the machine.

I was able to do the work thing all last week but that's mostly sitting at the desk getting stuff done. That takes mental energy but not necessarily physical energy. I'll be ok with a break, which will happen next week and I should be good to get through this week, the weekend and the Lords trip on the 8th. Oh the other thing is potential Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which is becoming more widespread. I definitely have a kind of feeling where I should have energy but that energy is locked up in an iron cage and I can't release it.

It be Comic Con next weekend. It's been great for the past few years that I've gone to them. Lots of shopping yes ... but also lots of amazing stuff to see, particularly the cosplay mob. Maybe this year there will be stream meet ups too. I'll keep my eyes open, although I don't think we'll dive into the video people's stand. Perhaps though .... a little learning from last year to meet a celebrity actor or two. That's awkward though. The way they organise it involves a long queue to buy a ticket to get into them and then more queue to actually get the photo with them. And this needs to be done an hour or so in advance.

Good to see that Yogscast is back in the good graces there. There was a falling out last year which seemed a bit silly. I watch barely any of their stuff now (I'm not their target audience any more, they've shifted to catch young adult/adolescent) but we need content creators like that to get on and succeed, because that opens doors for other content creators.

It'll be great to go back this year. I must collect pictures for posting.

Had a great day yesterday too. Pub lunch with great company :-).

Friday - Alien Covenant. I actually quite enjoyed this movie, which probably showed in me not finishing the popcorn bucket (it was a rather large bucket). It's a pretty decent scifi movie but like Prometheus, it has no business being in the Alien franchise. In that, it's a cheap cash in on the Alien universe, a classic example of how you can destroy a story by telling too much of it.

Without dropping into spoiler space, it adds detail that completely and utterly clashes with events in other movies. I just can't see how they would resolve those conflicts.

That said, I'll probably pick it up when it goes ultra cheap on the bluray. Not a 2 for £25 movie like Passengers and Fantastic Beasts or a £10 movie like ST Beyond and XMen Apocalypse. (Guess which 4 blurays escaped with me last week !) Maybe a 5 for £30 movie.

I've also picked up Alastair Reynolds Revenger which has a promising start (and is reminding me about writing narrative!) plus Jack Campbell's first prequel to his Lost Fleet series.

I'll enjoy reading those.

When I have more energy !

Oh wait .... reading doesn't actually need much energy.

Read more !
Reading is good for you. As is orange juice apparently, which is on my list of "drink this and die" (It stops me breathing).

I promise that reading will not kill you ! Erm. Going now before my exhausted rambles get too random :-).

Monday, May 15, 2017

A few more writey ideas

First up :

I'm improving after the ManFluPlague ! As ever, when I write about something that's getting me down or making me anxious, expressing the feelings seems to either trigger some kind of weird karma or helps me turn around the not so good feelings.

So .... I got through today at work without too much trouble from the ManFluPlague. The main symptoms let up a fair bit, my nose behaved and I don't actually move around that much at work so the energy problem wasn't a handicap.

And my friend who had gone off the grid is back ! Hurrah ! I had a feeling I knew what she was up to, although I thought that was actually happening next month. Must listen better.

That's me feeling better (not fixed yet) and the anxiety about the friend dispelled. How about the writey ideas ....

A lot of the writey ideas at the moment are for the book and they centre on two themes. Setting up the colony, expanding the colony and ... how to murder a planet full of people. (The murder thing is essential for part of the plot)

I think I have the idea for the murdering thing. A Big Falling Rock usually does the trick but .... it's the build up to that incident and the how to make that work which is the trick. If a culture has the technology to tow Big Space Rocks around a solar system, then just a standard Big Falling Rock isn't going to cut it. The Naval ships in orbit would see it coming a long way off and just tow the Big Falling Rock to somewhere safe.

Unless it's actually a small moon that's being dropped on a planet - I saw that written into David Weber's Armageddon Inheritance. Gave me a Holy Carp moment when I was reading that. Oh and it was also in Star Wars - Vector Prime, which is a book that is now in the Star Wars Expanded Universe which has been cut from the canon. It had the end of Chewbacca, howling his rage at the moon as it dropped on him, having been left behind by Han. That set up themes that ran on for a few books.

The original set up of a Destroyer and an Auxillary ship stands, although I won't land the Auxillary ship any more. The vision in my mind is of fleets supported by Auxillaries that have to deploy for long periods away from an industial base to support them. So the Auxillary ships basically eat asteroids, smelt them into minerals and metals and then 3d print spare parts and new bits. It makes sense to keep your factory ship in orbit so it can eat asteroids that are towed to it. It doesn't make sense to land the ship and then drop the asteroids down on it.

So the Auxillary ship creates prefab bits for the colony, which are then landed on the planet. It would also be on station to provide emergency response from orbit while the Destroyer has fun rolling around the system. The explanation for them paying off is that the ships have a limited number of hyperspace jumps they can before the hull crumbles and our two ships are very close to that limit. (A new Battlestar Galactica idea !)

How to do scouting ?

Bike gangs !!! This colony is about the disadvantaged, the unwanted escaping a society that's basically out to get them. There's not much love for cyclists out there, except by the cyclists themselves. Car drivers don't want them on the roads, pedestrians definitely don't want them on pavements and the cyclists don't stick to the cycle paths. But .... what if there are no cycle paths ? What if there is open country to roam in ?

I'd see a cycle gang or two recruited to basically tour around the countryside around the colony, mapping it, taking pictures of everything, taking samples to either analyse on the spot or send back for further analysis. It's a new planet to these people, the best way to explore is to be out there seeing what there is. And cycles give a chance to cover decent ground while still being able to see Stuff.

The bikes would be built in the colony too - things like solar charged hybrid motor assist bikes, which is good cos these people will be sleeping in the open. Light weight is important for letting them carry the survival gear. Not too much though because :

Drones are getting more popular now aren't they ?

We'll take that, we'll use it. First, set up a low orbit space infrastructure with an equivalent of GPS satellites. GPS is pretty nigh on essential to our daily lives now. It doesn't make sense not to have it in our colony. Our bikers (and everyone else) could be located via their GPS which would allow help and supplies to get to them quickly.

So our biker scout gangs would be resupplied in the evenings by Drone carrier bots, which would also allow the samples to be returned.

The 3d printing would also extend into elements like medical science. Bit like Star Trek has its replicators which magically appear Stuff out of thin air. I don't think our replicators can be quite that advanced though. 3d printing inorganic stuff (metals, plastics) seems fairly feasible but I'm not so sure about doing that with organic stuff. Better to grow it.

This society has most medical stuff licked though like being able to produce replacement parts that Just Work without any of the rejection or matching problems that we have at the moment. One element I'll draw in is more ethical and it's to do with reproduction and sexual orientation. I touched on this in the April 1st post ....

In an advanced medical society, it makes no sense that it hasn't stretched into methods such as cloning. Or even tailored babies. I'm not going to go as far as tailored babies though, at least ... not to the point where the parents choose sex and looks of the kid. That cuts out diversity and ... a new colony needs genetic diversity to survive.

The idea is that any two people who want to have a child can. Best to do it with a womb (if the mom agrees !) but the medical science also allows for artificial conception and incubation of Little One. Not just for LGBT+, also for the couples who can't conceive in the natural way and for ladies who can't carry to term. This society would not require couples to go through the anguish of not being able to have a child if they want one.

The need for genetic diversity is far more important than an outdated of idea about what type of sexuality is right or wrong, especially in a Space Colony when there aren't that many people to work with. The rule would be that everyone has to provide their genetics to at least 2 children. I.e. 2 people's genes needed per child.

The secret though is to make all this sound very natural. Like it's the done thing. Like doing anything different (i.e. how we live today) would be odd. To expose people to a different way of thinking.
To make people think more. To have them question their ingrown beliefs, their prejudiced ingrained through their history. If you can make someone think, to challenge their preconceptions.

If you can do that, you're winning.

I haven't talked about entertainment yet .... I talk a fair bit about the Youtube watching and the Twitch stream watching. I think we'd continue that. Perhaps a disabled streamer coming with us who has problems in the higher gravities which the medical science can't fix. She'd stay up in orbit, enjoying low gravity and would broadcast from there. It would also be a substitute for colony news.

Entertainment and a way of getting the important info across.

And I think I just invented Reality TV. IN SPACE !!!

Pardon me while I run and hide from my conscience.
Only kidding. I'm curious to hear what people think though, even if I'm still not back to the level of mental focus that would allow me to write something coherent.

Nite !

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Beware Patient Zero

So I picked up a ManFluPlague again ...
It's not too bad. Certainly not something that'll keep me away from work tomorrow.

I'm actually far more worried about a friend at the moment. They've been out of contact for a little while now. Hope they're ok. If you're that friend and you're reading this, drop us a text or a FB message (my phone has been reluctant to receive texts ...), let us know you're ok.

As for me .... ManFluPlague started to make itself felt on Wednesday and I kept my bugs home on the Thursday with a first spell of working at home for a while. I got away with it on Friday before going splat when I got home. Saturday had the Radderss 12 hour charity stream going and now back to regular streaming today. I'll be back at work tomorrow.

I have my work laptop again now .... although it's actually stationed at work again due to a daft desk sharing policy we're starting next week. Yep. Even dafter than cramming a team that needs maybe 20% more desks than we have allocated to us into the space we have. Tomorrow morning could be mayhem.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Yep. That ManFluPlague isn't too bad. I don't tend to get sick too often, at least I don't usually notice it when sniffles are actually sniffles and not the ever present allergies. This time, it's a bunged up nose, stuff in my lungs, a distant lack of energy and focus that's going missing.

The energy debt is what leads to the lack of focus though. I did manage to put the washing in the machine yesterday but that took pretty much all I had. It took a while before I could summon up the energy to take it out of the machine. (I did and it'll be good for work tomorrow).

It did mean that while I did dive into the games, I found myself making the daft errors that tend to be costly in the games I'm playing at the moment :

Darkest Dungeon - maybe I'll see this one through into a campaign playthrough again ? Maybe :-).
XCom 2 - this can be brutally unforgiving. Run a soldier too far ahead of support and they'll activate a group of enemies with murder on their minds. I'm making excellent progress on the current play through. I have a group of soldiers with the skills and gear to complete the final mission now but I'm farming as many Steam Achievements as I can get.

And I didn't even think of going back into Elite or Mass Effect Andromeda. Elite wants focus and shooter games like the Mass Effect series wind me up to a level that demands energy that I don't have at the moment.

I think I'm coming out of the bugs at the moment though.

It was good on Thursday to listen/halfwatch into a stream by Kim, who I used to talk about a fair bit here. I'd lost touch because the videos had gone away from what I'd been interested in. She's best with indie style games with a story, where she can ramble on around the story and genuinely include the viewer in what she's playing and talking about. And that came through very strongly on stream too.

I'd originally tuned in to have acceptable background noise (I'm not inflicting daytime TV on me) on while doing the working at home thing. I find silence to be intensely distracting and need something in the background. I'm glad I tuned into Kim again and it's got me talking to some of the great people in her Discord chat server too.

So yeah - ManFluPlague and the continuing effects of the damage to my outsides (it is gradually repairing still ... gradually) but hanging on in there.

Good people to chat to;
Fun people to watch live;
Warm feelings from having people say "Get well soon";
(in person behind a breath mask and online!)
A lot of worry about a missing friend;
(she'll just be busy - I hope!)
A steady supply of tissues (for the nose);

And hopefully not too much longer until the bugs are gone.

Be well everyone ! Which probably means not being near me until I'm no longer contagious.
Can't promise anything about those smiles though :-D.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

A novel meeting in a pub, far, far away

I mentioned book writing a while ago didn't I ? The ideas have been bubbling away still. I thought I should probably let some of them out of my head. Because you know, there isn't that much room in my head and sometimes it rattles.

A "vomit draft" excerpt starts after :
"So, what are you having Charles ?"
"Thanks Matt. After that meeting, something really strong but .... just a soda please."
"Ahh. Yes. Ok !" said a slightly confused, rather worried looking Matt on his way over to the bar.
The two suited men made a curious counterpoint to the varied denizens of the Lonely Spaceman, a joint most people would describe as a den of despair, a pit of piracy, a lounge of larceny or a place where they sell drinks you can't get anywhere else on the planet. The spacers' bar was actually a central point for the various traders ... and smugglers ... filtering through the planet of Larson's Point. You could obtain almost anything in the Lonely Spaceman, an always temporary cure for loneliness in whichever form you chose, legal items and the occasional illegal item. But don't tell anyone about the latter.

Whatever happens in the Lonely Spaceman, stays in the Lonely Spaceman. Or in the various docks around the port. The spaceport was typical for a developed planet like Larson's Point. It could handle all sorts of ships, from the smaller hyperspace capable fighters, through shuttles, through orbital cargo lifters, up to the sub capital corvettes. Proper freighters, trade ships, naval warships stayed up in space. Once those came down to a planet, which was possible, they didn't tend to leave. Built in space, staying in space.

"Here you go Charles. It looks like you have something on your mind, out with it bro." As Matt made his way back through the smoke to the private booth Charles had taken up residence at.
"After that meeting ? After what's been on the news lately ? Tonnes. Booth, privacy screen activate." Charles had invoked a rather standard feature in the Lonely Spaceman, a system that isolated them from the rest of the lounge. No observation was possible, either by visual means or recordings. Now you see why this bar was so popular with those who didn't necessarily want to have the authorities knowing all about their business.
"Matt, I'm worried. Sooner or later, this planet is going to blow. We're seeing it already with intolerance, some very strange politics, hell there's a general breakdown in the behaviour of people around here."
"Sure Charles, we saw some of that today as well. The board were definitely looking to protect their own interests even ahead of the company. They've never done that before, the company has always come first. But now ? They'll happily drive the company into the ground if they can retire, fat and happy on what the asset strippers will pay them for the shell of the company."
Matt looked up at this point, the first dawnings of comprehension that his friend might well be about to suggest something radical. Dangerous even. But definitely out of character.
Matt asked, intrigued, "You have a plan don't you. Go on, out with it ! And you're right too, the board will tear down what we built together. How come you let them in anyway ?"
"Aww Matt, you know that we're the builders and the movers ... all that corporate stuff is just downright boring." And, hiding a smile behind the glass holding his untouched drink Charles whispered in a conspiratorial tone "I have a plan."
"You're going to make beat it out of you aren't you. Come on ! I'm damn curious now."
"The next colony mission, I want you", pointing a finger, "Matt on it. With me. And we stay this time instead of running at the first sign of authority starting up."
"Yep. Setting up is fun, running the show is boring. Are you sure though ? Being the Man in charge is a huge step."

The two directors of Larson's Point Colony Movers paused and looked at each other as if contemplating something so unpleasant, they would prefer a short spell in the New Snowdon Uranium mines. Nobody had long spells in the uranium mines. Even with the advent of biological prolong, which effectively ended ageing and 33rd century medicine which largely eliminated natural causes of ill health and death, there were occupations so dangerous that they were widely regarded as death sentences on a world where the death sentence had never been introduced.
However, Larson's Point was not a unified world, it had fractured shortly after establishment and some of the factions were, let's say, not as enlightened or forgiving as others. There was no death penalty but there were the mines where the unwanted might end up. Temporarily. And there were places around Larson's Star which were deadlier than the mines.

Charles broke the silence with a sentence laden with foreboding, "Something is coming Matt, I can feel it." And the drink disappeared in one gulp.
"Gosh Charles, you are spooked ! Ok. I'm in, your instincts are always spot on, although there was that incident on Obsidian Rift." Matt chuckled, that twinkle in his eye shining all the way into a half smile. And a wink.
"Oh Matt ! What happened on Obsidian Rift, has to stay on Obsidian Rift. How was I to know she was a nephew ! I mean, I got nothing against gender fluid ... except if it's in the family."
"Haha, ayeaye Captain Admiral Charles. They had me fooled too. Besides, I think they were trying to drag you back to the rest of the family on Earth. You would have had to follow if it had got serious. True Earthers treat family ties like iron chains. And the mess they made of our old home ! So crowded. Earth is a dead hulk of a planet now, a shadow of what it was. The only thing living there now are the people and with True Earth Unity in charge, I'm not sure if they count as living."
It was now Matt's turn to down the remnants of his drink, as Charles saw a pair of particularly noticeable individuals at the bar.
"Another one Matt ? My round."

Charles left his friend in the booth and made his own way through the scented atmosphere of the bar, stopping beside two figures, as conspicuous as the two men in suits. In their own way. One was short, with a clean crisp naval uniform. His eyes darted across the bar, simultaneously sizing up the denizens, evaluating whether they would be threats both in the bar and whether he would be facing them in space. The other was a very imposing figure. She also had the bearing that instantly identified her as military but in an effort to blend in had attempted to wear civilian dress. Clothing that apparently had been acquired in a rush, from a person 20 centimetres shorter and considerably less wide.
"Ken, Carrie, you had to murder anyone here yet ?"
The short man replied in a drawl that must have had its origins with the TexAm faction, "Hell Chuck, we've only been here 5 minutes ! I was getting worried about Hulk though. People round here are looking upwards at that outfit ..."
"Ken, one more word about this outfit and that pole you keep glancing at after looking at me ? I will bend that around your head." Commander Carrie "Hulk" Banso of the Naval Auxillary was not one to be taken lightly. Especially by tailors who were typically gripped with feelings of terror at seeing her walk into their shop in search of new dress uniforms.
"Chuck - two spacehoppers, whatever shortie is having and we're yours for an hour. Seriously, just an hour, we have to be back at Wellingrad before we're missed."
Charles passed the order onto the now very apprehensive barkeep. You see, if naval personnel entered the Lonely Spaceman, it usually ended with violence ... and breakages of furniture. Or violence and breaking of people. There was usually less fuss about the furniture and Carrie was starting to look at the people instead of the furniture. The party made their way back to Matt and the booth.

"Matt, I brought friends. I think it's time."
Matt responded with "Your plan ? Let's have it then. I sense these two are involved ? The typical colony set up with an Auxillary ship as base and a Destroyer having far too much fun running around the system ?"
"Aye. Commander Ken Warner here is in charge of the LNV Dauntless, which is due to pay off in a year. It'll be his last command. Commander Carrie",
Carrie interjected with a "Just call me Hulk, babe, I don't bite."
Matt laughed, said "No biting huh ... I'm guessing that with a nickname like Hulk, you smash instead ?"
"I like this one. He can stay. Do we have to keep the Navy Pygmy though ?" There was a light chuckle from the giant, plus an actual half smile towards Commander Ken.
"Hey ! That's Commander Pygmy to you ! Or I'll call you Stoopy again." The look of feigned indignation from Ken drew a giggle from Hulk and relieved laughter from the two men in suits. There was to be no violence today. Perhaps.
Charles gave a quite cough before continuing, "Yes, Hulk of the LNA Star Rider, which is, you guessed it, due to pay off in a year."
"It is so convenient for us when ex Larson Navy Vessels and Larson Navy Auxiliary ships are about to pay off isn't it ? Older ships, still capable", Matt had noticed the knuckles of the two military personnel whiten as they tightened their grip on their spacehoppers. Navy people don't like the suggestion that their vessels might not be useful any more. Matt continued, "Ideal for our purposes actually. Still used, still maintained, usually with good systems, much better than pirates at least and ...."
".... Yes. We use the Destroyer to run around the system scaring off the pirates and setting up the space side infrastructure, while we land the Auxiliary and make her the centre of the colony. And you two are happy to join us ? We're not planning to bail out at the first sign of impending responsibility this time, we're staying."
A chorus of nods, accompanied sips of spacehoppers.
Matt was curious, "Say, what's in those spacehoppers, I've never actually had one."
Ken explained, "It's a traditional Navy drink. It's related to old Navy Rum from the old days. Legend has it that press gangs would descend upon a bar, offer a free round of the rum to everyone and then the locals who couldn't handle it would be carted off to a sailing ship and wake up in the Bay of Biscay, next stop Australia."
Hulk continued, "And now all the young, smart spacers have left, the old spacers are looking at the exits instead of us and the young, dumb, drunk spacers have been left in the middle as a target. We don't do pressgangs any more but .... Well, Larson Navy doesn't. I wouldn't say the same of those nutters over at New Holyhead. Either a pressganging onto one of their hulks they call frigates or ... the New Snowdon mines."
Charles laughed, "You know New Snowdon might be on the list of places to grab people from ?"
Matt nudged his friend, "You should be aware, this one is a bit of a risk taker with who he takes on board."
"Ahh, you start with a strong core, people you trust for skills, motivation, persistence, loyalty. You need investors as well, we try and get skills and motivation with them too. This planet has tonnes of money, you can usually afford to be choosy although you do need a certain amount of muscle around too."
"And your Colony Movers company foots the big bills and does the negotiations for ships like ours that you need ?", an interested Hulk said.
"Yes. We still need the company to actually make it happen. Usually, we'd land the colony, stay for 6 months and then come back to start preparations for the next. There is so much population pressure here that the Larson government, at least, help subsidise fairly constant emigration. But that's typically for flearidden rat trap setups that can't fend off pirates, or set up with an infrastructure that can't sustain itself. We move someone in, they stay."
Ken looked at his watch, "Hulk, we better get back to Wellingrad. You have to be back for repairs, I'm shipping out for patrol tomorrow. Chuck, you got an idea of where we'll go ?"
"As you happen to mention it ... there is an interesting looking system on your next patrol route. Goldilocks zone planet, normal 0.9g gravity, Nitrogen Oxygen atmosphere. That's what spectrograph tells us anyway. It could do with a proper survey. If you happen to find yourself there. I'll send the coordinates."
"Haha, I think I could find an excuse to find a new home to bounce around for a while. Maybe even set foot there, scope out my house, pick the best beachfront spot before you two reprobates and Hulk get a chance. Hulk will need the whole beach. OW !" Ken started to rub the sore rib that Carrie had just tested.
Charles stood, turned off the privacy field and said "That's great. It was fantastic catching up with you two again. And you bro. I'll see if I can get the barkeeps here to lay in an ample supply of Space Hoppers for next time."
The older spacers remaining in the bar started shuffling towards the exits at this point.

And with this, the group of 4 departed the Lonely Spaceman and melted into the gathering gloom.
That's enough for now I think !

That would be an opening chapter perhaps after a prologue that saw these 4, plus assorted other characters actually departing. I'd see these meetings in the pub being interludes showing a tension gradually building before the leaving date happened. Perhaps even having a couple of elements of tension building in parallel. Danger before, danger after, with both dangers getting steadily getting more real as the story progresses.

There would be lots more to come, as well as what I've written above. That's essentially a Vomit Draft, where the words come out of your head unedited and unpolished. Names would change, although I'd like to keep Ken and Carrie in there as tributes to Kenny Baker and Carrie Fisher.

I'm curious as to what people think. Did you enjoy looking in on that meeting in the far off spacer bar ? Would you want to read more if I wrote the rest of the book ?

Thursday, May 04, 2017

May the Fourth

And all that !
It's about the Star Wars thing but it's also a great excuse to wish people a happy day. How was mine ? Exhausting. Things are hectic at work at the moment, although that hectic is being combined with getting a few things done that have been held up. Always satisfying to clear awkward stuff out of the way.

Bit like on certain games ....

I loved the various Star Wars games I've played over the years but they were made in a time where games weren't quite so accessible to players ... To stretch out the content somewhat, they went in for incredibly challenging missions .... The main one I can think of for that is Star Wars X Wing where you had two missions like that :

Scan an Imperial Fleet ! In an A Wing fighter that is pretty much made of rockets .... and paper. And you're being chased by TIE Fighters.
Disable a shuttle carrying prisoners to rescue ! Not so bad, except the shuttles liked to suicide on fighters which would be an instant mission fail.

There were a lot of those instant fail conditions and it didn't necessarily come down to the player doing something wrong. But these games though ....

XWing was the first and was one I came back to later. It was playable on quite early PCs. The legend was that XWing sold more 486 processor PCs than any amount of the business software the machines were intended for. It brought starfighter combat to a world of gamers that previously could only play things like this in arcades. (Or on the BBC micro playing Elite).

I was highly addicted to the TIE Fighter game which followed, which had you working as a small cog in the big Galactic Empire. You got to fly with Darth Vader in your wing at one point and one of the missions was to protect the Emperor's shuttle.
Yep. Emperor.

I gave up on the XWing and TIE Fighter games after a while as the missions became more and more intricate and silly. They kinda offended my sense of strategy by just having stupid setups. TIE Fighter got it right by having a storyline that effectively showed how the pressures of a long term deployment wore down the squadrons. Like having to use Bombers because the Fighters and Interceptors were either destroyed or needing repairs. In XWing vs TIE Fighter's campaign, the end mission sent starfighters into an anti-fighter minefield to attack a space station. This was from a Super Star Destroyer that would have pounded the station to dust from outside the minefield.

Yeah - the games got to be more frustrating than fun.

It was similar with other games like Star Wars Rebellion (or Supremacy - it had multiple names) which I hoped would take over from Master of Orion 2 - they were both space strategy games. However .... it was just BORING ! And there isn't usually much comeback if a game is boring like that.

I played other Star Wars games too, although not actually all of them. I'll almost certainly get Empire at War again, it's another strategy game and at £3.50ish it's worth another look.

I really enjoyed the Pod Racer game. It was fast and fun. It hasn't been re-released though and it would need some work to make it playable again. It came out when Windows XP was still a thing and it has amnesia when you run it on Windows 7 (couldn't find the save games). I've seen a possible way around that though. Worth a shot.

I also enjoyed Knights of the Old Republic. This was a role playing game set 4,000 years before the films and instead of being a straight shooter, it owed a lot to translating D&D rules to something that looked real time and it did a great job both with that and the story.
Spectacular too.

I played the first Star Wars shooter game too - Dark Forces. I quite enjoyed that, although I didn't bother with any of the sequels.

I still have Lego Star Wars unplayed and on my system !

(If you want to indulge the nostalgia for the Star Wars games, there are offers on right now on Humble Bundle and GoG for the old games)

Oh and the Lego too. There are offers here as well in several places. However .... there's not much I want to buy at the moment in the Star Wars !

I know. Tragic.

I would heavily recommend the black X Wing and the Falcon. Not so much the Tie Advanced. You like your Lego to look like the original ! I didn't get that so much with the TIE. But it's definitely there with Falcon and X Wing.

It's not all about the merch though. Ok. Maybe it is ... Lucas created a universe that was great for selling lots of Stuff and everyone with that merch takes every opportunity to try and get us buying more of it ... There is a lot of fun in there though.

And I am having severe temptations for dropping some cash on that Empire At War game !

May the Fourth be with you. Today and every day.

One last thing though .... I need to go back into Elite at some point. Soon. A new megaship was added to the game in the last update with a unique name and Commanders have been making a pilgrimage to this special place.
Yep. I too need to have my spaceship clinging on to the side of the Fisher's Rest.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Novel voting

I did something I haven't done .... ever !
We're going to have an election over here in the UK on the 8th of June. It's a bit quick for us, coming only 2 years after our last one. We usually have elections every 5 years but our current ruling party want to make sure they're in power for the full extent of our withdrawal from the European Union.

So we're choosing our ruling party again ....

This poses me a bit of a problem because I fully intend to be in London for all of the time of day that the polling stations are open for. It's the Interservices Twenty 20 tournament again (cricket) and I've been enjoying going to that for a good few years now. Here's the post from last year (link!).

You might be thinking there .... I'm away for the day :
Today's activity was to initiate the postal voting process. I haven't actually done that before, I've been able to do all of my voting in person on the day. But this time, I'll put that early postal vote in. It only took about 5 minutes to register that I needed to do the postal vote.

I'm not entirely sure who I'm voting for and I wouldn't dream of giving you advice on who to vote for. There are far more obnoxious people who will do that for me and you'll be sick of seeing their advice over the next month. I will say a few things though :

Vote on people's records. Not just on what's reported (because our media is very biased and self interested) but on the facts. And those facts of how people really behave often contradict what they say they are going to do.
Don't overdo it with the propaganda. I have a few Labour fanatics on my Facebook timeline .... I would actually quite like to mute them for a month because they're more biased than the media. I can't believe anything they say any more when it comes to politics.
(I similarly know Conservative fanatics who try to push your vote the other way)

Don't believe anyone when they say your vote might be wasted. Vote in the way you want to vote but ... above all else : PLEASE VOTE ! The only wasted vote is the vote that was not cast.

I'm pretty sure I know which way I'll be voting. I won't be telling anyone or advising anyone. I'll just be happy that I've had the chance to vote for a leader.

And that's what counts.
Don't disappoint staring puppy !

Oh and ....
I think I need that t-shirt. Or ....
I'm not sure if I believe that.
I haven't been piloting in the Elites. It's been a while, I should really blow the dust off the hyperdrive again at some point.

Hopefully you can ignore all the lies we'll be peddled over the next month and rise above the temptation to indulge in the nastiness that always mars election campaigns ! But .... above all else :
A politician said that a few years ago and it just highlighted his increasing megalomania.

Go vote !

Thursday, April 27, 2017

I think I broke something

I don't bounce much any more.

I used to .... Hell, I'm pretty sure I've broken fingers, a leg and dislocated shoulders and still kept on playing.

Tonight it's a couple of things but it's mainly from going crunch on the bus just before the stop. I must have hit my shoulder just in the wrong spot. It happened when coming down the steps ... and the bus hopping over the speed bumps in the road or braking to a halt. I hit the shoulderblade of my weak right shoulder on the hard bit of what was behind me, immediately went OUCH. It was definitely a CRUNCH moment.

And then more ouch after getting myself off the bus. Getting walking again helped, I did the Tesco run (no Harvester sundae tonight - more in a bit) but I can feel the after effects of the bump.

I definitely don't bounce any more ! The problem is that you react to the bump instinctively, which can then upset more parts of you. So as well as a numb arm (it's not too bad but I think I'm in for a rough Friday, I also have the sore neck ....

This is going to sound a lot like me feeling sorry for myself, which I do apologise for. You don't want to hear the sad. You want to hear the bouncy hyper sleepy.

But yeah. At the moment, it's a poorly shoulder, a really unhappy neck that had me ouching yesterday morning anyway (one of the ladies in the meeting I was in starting waving manically in my direction - I thought to me ! But it was to someone outside and when I turned my head to look ... bang - ouch .... poorly neck tells me off again). And the hip that is steadily getting more and more destroyed.

Yep. Am old and feeling that today.
But it's not all bad though. I have people looking out for me, who both cheer me up and tolerate me being mad and bouncy around them. It is nice having people like the Canteen Ladies have my lunch ready for me to pick up. I don't ask for that ! Although it is a sign perhaps that I am far too predictable (Turkey in a Baguette). Work gets stressful (because we push ourselves hard there) but I like to think that the smiles and grins I give and receive there help us clobber our way through.

It definitely helps me keep on going through.

And then there are the people outside work as well who are .... amazing. You know who you are !

No Harvester ? No sundae ?

I have to admit, it's been a long time since I have raided that Harvester. Which is a shame because munchies there tend to give me a pick me up. As well as the physical stuff though, I'm working through after effects of me eating something or somethings that my body hasn't appreciated. (Am ok, just not feeling right down there) So I thought I should spare my tummy the effort of coping with a lactose laden sundae. Nope, that wouldn't be smart right now ! Maybe next week for the sundaes.

Yep. Not feeling my best at the moment, which is one reason why I'm not doing the travelling thing this weekend. (Part of it is also bank holiday traffic and not wanting to murder my ankles again).

It's not all bad though.

The week off work did me a lot of good. I've been getting the signs of hyperactivity again, I'm more focused than before the break (I am seeing silly errors that I did before which are being fixed now). My ankles and feet are much better ! Yeah, I'm scared about setting that healing backwards but that's just a symptom of how the condition has imprinted itself on my brain.

If you've been sick for a while, you'll know what I mean. If you have doubts coming in from mental issues, any mental issues, you'll know how those doubts can cripple you. In my case, I know that the various cricket ball vs head injuries have changed me. My memory is damaged from them, I think* I'm different, I'm slower.

*The scary thing is not being able to quantify the damage. To not know what the difference is between before and after. To have your sense of Self impinged upon.

In my case, I know it's from the cricket ball incidents. People who suffer from depression are not so lucky. It can be coldly considered as a chemical imbalance in the brain, which manifests in crippling doubt and an inability to see self worth. I'm lucky that I don't have that but I think I understand people who do. They don't want to be sad or unhappy, they just are due to their bodies and minds working against them.

Give them your understanding, your love and support. Give them recognition when they reach out for support. It's so difficult to come out and say when you're struggling. I try and distract people with silliness or humour when I think they need it.
And definitely the daft cat memes.

Yep. I have the hurts at the moment but I also have a quiet weekend (plus a little Guardians of Galaxy 2 tomorrow) to recover from it.

I sense the weekend will have lots of sleeps, a healthy dose of chill out, some remedy of chatter and a prescription of fun. Plus a teacake tomorrow morning at work.

Not quite sure if the XCom 2 campaign (or the Darkest Dungeon run I may start) counts as Fun (more like .... terror) but I definitely enjoyed my first play through of XCom 2 and I have bought the expansions since then.

I hope you all have great weekends whatever you are up to !

PS I haz tobbleronnie, easter egg, popcorn, lemon sherbets, lemon sherbet popcorn, MINI EGGS !!!
I'll be ok.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Thinking about that tech again


A big thought in my brain at the moment is looking at what the next tech acquisition is going to be. And that could be either laptop or desktop.
So this post is going to be all about what I particularly want in my computers.

Personally, if it wasn't about the games, I would be quite happy just using a good laptop and the smartphone. Laptops are very flexible beasties and their only drawback that you can't work around is the upgradeability. You can add monitors, sound, keyboards and mice to them to turn them into a desktop replacement, some even support external graphics acceleration and network storage makes them have higher capacity. And you get the portability as well. You just can't fix them easily if something goes wrong. (Like my Macbook Air with faulty wifi).

That said, I wouldn't drop the desktop for gaming with or having as an always on machine. I got tired of moving the desktop around a long time ago though, I rarely even synchronise files between the two like I used to. (Outside of the desktop being an iTunes backup).

That makes :

Laptop for internet browsing, email, music, occasional streaming of Sports channels to the telly.
Desktop primarily for gaming. But I'll also heavily use it for internet browsing, video watching and stream viewing.

Laptop screens are a bit small for comfortably watching a TV episode. And while it is possible to continually connect it and disconnect it from peripherals, I really can't be bothered to do that frequently. Things stay connected to the desktop and I use wireless when I can with the laptop.

The laptop has a while to go because .... I'll basically try and run it until it breaks or it runs out of hard disc space. It's a Macbook Air with a 250GB drive and there is 57GB free space remaining. Loads more music can go on there.

My next laptop will be something like the following :
14 to 15 inch screen. At least 1080p and preferably an IPS display. The screen dominates everything else in a laptop, 13 inch is ok but bigger is usually better. And IPS displays (as demonstrated by my desktop one) are super high quality.
A keyboard and trackpad I can get on with. The Macbook Air has excellent examples of both, it's actually one reason I switched over. You can have external keyboards and mice for laptops but it's pretty essential that the ones that come with it are good. Your typical external keyboard is usually heavy and won't fit in a laptop bag.
Sound ? Meh. Bluetooth is an excellent substitute for sending the music across to your hifi or there is the Apple Airport Express Airplay system.
Lots of ports that don't interfere .... the Macbook Air fails pretty hard here. There are only two USB ports and they are both too close to other ports to support wide USB devices (like my wifi widget which Apple locked out anyway).
Light weight - if you're having it on your lap a lot then you don't want a cinderblock impersonating lava.

And the rest is pretty much of a muchness. Some processors are better than others but .... does it really mean that much at the end of the day ? One thing I'd say for processors though, look out for the laptop spec ones. The Intel U or T processors. They're designed to run cooler and you won't notice the performance deficit outside of games.

Ok - what laptop ?
I haven't mentioned Operating System yet. My next laptop is likely to be Linux. Yep. Maverick time .... Apple are increasingly going anti consumer and I really don't trust the way Microsoft are going with Windows 10. I don't want to be fed advertising by the Operating System .... That's abuse of users. Especially when the system itself is becoming less stable with each update. Win10 was really good when it first went on my machine but has become less so with Anniversary Ed and now Creators Ed.

Oh and it adds £92 to the cost. Here's an example from PC Specialist (at this link). I'm curious about PC Specialist. They seem to offer great laptops at decent prices but I haven't actually seen one to evaluate quality and that keyboard and trackpad. There's no substitute for putting your own eyes on stuff like this. And your fingers. But yep. That one with an Intel i5 processor, 8GB memory and a 500GB Hybrid SSD drive. Cut Windows off so you can put Linux on it and it comes out at an affordable £495.

About those popups - Linux and Mac will always be far more secure than Windows simply down to how they are built. The trouble is finding suitable software. Everyone designs for Windows, although more people are designing for Linux these days.

And I'll need a competent way of getting iTunes on the machine or a replacement that offers the iTunes DJ / Party Shuffle automatic playlist system which was removed in iTunes 11. Also iPhone integration, although Android integration would be better.

Desktop ?
The rapid list of bits would be (and this will be jargon heavy for brevity) :
AMD Ryzen 5 1600 cpu - £225 + Noctua cooler for £45.
(big expensive coolers are worth the money, they make machines go silent)
16GB DDR4-2400 and an Asrock B350 mainboard (the better one) - £124 + £105
And that's actually all I'd get. I would be reusing everything else from my current machine. That makes ... £505 for a core upgrade. I don't need to be spending that at the moment.

Adding in the other items makes :
Case - £35. Shop around for one you like.
Gigabyte nVidia 1060 graphics card (the not as good 3GB one) - £186. Personally, I don't think you get sufficient performance boosts from even the next one up - the 6GB 1060 for £240 (Gigabye one again for fair comparison).
Drives - a 250GB Crucial SSD for Windows to go on plus a 2TB drive for everything else to go on. That's £94 + £59
And a 650W power supply for £65. You don't want to skimp on the power supply, if it's working too hard then it'll overheat, break and probably break more stuff too when it dies.

With Windows at £89, that's a total of £1035. Nope.

Not doing a full machine upgrade any time soon, I don't need to. That's actually + £200 on my usual ! Looking at the prices, it looks like a general set of small increases across the board, although that cpu is +£50, the graphics is up a bit, the memory is + £80 on the 8GB in this machine and the drives look more expensive.

That's the real question you have to ask - if what you have fits your need, stick with it. There is no need to spend money on shinies that you don't really need.

Buy when you have to, not when the sales make you think there's a bargain to be had. You save money not by having discounts but by not spending it in the first place.

And as this machine still runs Mass Effect Andromeda (despite being below minimum spec!), I'll hang on to it for a while ! Time to clear that Scan shopping basket before a misclick happens ....
Now where did I leave those Easter Eggs and the Mini Eggs .....

Friday, April 21, 2017

When tech and chocolate meet ....

And a bit more too.
I think this week at work showed that last week's chill time let me recover a fair bit of the energy that's been lacking lately. I'm not back up at the level I should be .... but I do have more energy than I had before.

I was a bit worried this week actually because my usual pattern is to heal reasonably over a long time ... and then reset that healing very quickly. And I do have problems with the office at work due to the atmospherics there (it's a very dry atmosphere, more people than me have problems with it). My outsides are doing much better in general, although the healing isn't finished yet and I still attack the healing bits out of just wanting to remove the imperfections.

I think I'm doing better at resisting that. Hopefully it won't be long. It wouldn't be quick enough to support playing cricket, as the April 1st post wishfully looked for. Besides, I have too much pain in my right hip and my reactions are not nearly good enough any more.

About those reactions ....

I got a little scared reading a post on the News about a judo player. She'd been suffering really bad symptoms from repeated head injuries incurred while doing the judo. Her symptoms were worse than mine, with tunnel vision joining the slowed reactions. Different head injuries are different. I get the odd dizzy spell with mine plus my memory is still garbage compared to what it was. But that slowed reactions was a curious correlation. My memory problems started with the Nose Job incident in 2005 but my reactions were ok until I almost ate a cricket ball in ... 2011 ?

That was my last year and the big warning signs from it were 3 dropped catches due to just not reacting fast enough. My hands were ready and in position to take the catch, I saw the ball all the way in but ... I just missed the moment to cushion the ball into my hands. Ok. That's not the whole story ... the one catch I took didn't involve reactions (it was a bob up into the air gentle one) and one of the drops was when my feet literally went out from underneath me due to the ground conditions ! Haha. Plant feet for catch, next thing I know I'm on my bum watching the ball sail above my head.


No - the moment for me to be enjoying playing the cricket is past now. Those reactions are too slow, the hip is too far gone and the shoulder was most definitely too damaged !

I do get a little worried though sometimes. Relieved maybe. Definitely thinking I am lucky to have avoided more serious injuries with the running around. I was hit on the head without a helmet twice, which has had long term effects but pretty light ones. Especially compared to the ongoing seclusion of Michael Schumacher, who is still very unwell after bouncing his head off a rock while skiing. (A cricket ball is a different shape but is just as hard as a rock !)

Take head injuries seriously ! If you get a bump on the head that affects your consciousness, even just to the limited extent of getting headaches, see a doctor ! Get checked out. There may be more going on than you know about. I wasn't aware of my memory being damaged, I figured that out after. I didn't connect slowed reactions with the last head injury, I just thought that was old age.

Wait. Chocolate and technology.
When I went up to the Mall on Tuesday evening, I came away with a Thorntons Easter Egg. They're on sale now until the stocks run out. These are £7 250g eggs for £2.50. Bargain ! Or 3 for £5. When I finished it last night, I was immediately sad and regretful that I hadn't taken advantage of the 3 for £5 so I'd have two more.

What does this have to do with technology I hear you wonder ...

I break up my Easter Eggs by dropping them from a suitable height onto a suitably hard surface. Lately, that's my computer desk and the tray the keyboard sits on.

Pick up egg;
Drop egg;
Ponder why the youtube video I was watching went on pause;
Investigate dropping the egg again (it was too solid to break on just one dropping).

Yep. The shock of the egg was activating the microswitches in my keyboard, which made the video pause.

At some point, I must research this .... I need to have something like Notepad open to investigate this shock thing some more. What mysteries will my keyboard write when subjected to more Egg Dropping Shocks ?

I thought I should check this out more. Do research.

And it is for these purposes of research that 3 more Thorntons eggs (other eggs are/were! available but they are nowhere near as solid as what Thorntons do) escaped from town with me today. I'll check that out at some point. Munching my dinner at the moment and I have Mini Eggs to consume as well. Mini Eggs are life.
Oh and I'm also looking into acquiring more tech.

Desktop upgrade - which will be almost certainly to AMD's new Ryzen chip. It'll be either a Ryzen 5 with 6 cpu cores or an Intel i5-Kaby Lake processor. The upgrade would go into a new box with 16GB of memory but would harvest as much as possible from my current machine.

Laptop change - I'm thinking more seriously about this as issues start to mount with my Macbook Air. It's a late 2013 model, so it owes me more life but .... the wifi is ok for home .... but can't support streaming Sky Sports at my mum and dad's place. However, the laptop is how I run my music and I have a lot of investigating to do there before I make any jumps. I'll want something that supports audio streaming to my hifi (might switch to Bluetooth) and the Party Shuffle feature which is the reason why I hang onto iTunes 10.7. Oh and I want it to sync music with either my Android phone or my old iPhone.
Oh and that laptop might well be running Linux after I lose patience with Apple's attitude to customers (you don't own what you buy from Apple, they think you're effectively leasing it) and Microsoft's Creators Update on Windows 10 is showing worrying signs that Microsoft is going the same way. Stability of Windows 10 was good when it came out but .... it's showing bad signs that emergent bugs might be coming in.

Linux is the alternative but there are many software compatibility issues with it.

We shall see !

In the meantime, I am curious as to what masterpiece may emerge from my keyboard when I next subject it to the shock of an Easter Egg bouncing on its tray.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Back to work with .... randomness ...


Didn't really mean to leave it a week since my last post before adding something here. I guess I must have been very distracted by .... not doing very much at all !
That was actually the plan. To rest up, recover, see if I could heal up some, to take it easy and bounce back in better shape to face the summer.

I think it's worked. My ailing feet and ankles are in much better shape (not out of the woods yet but they're in far better condition now than they were a week ago). My arms have improved ... same again though. The damage on my arms is mostly caused by me attacking it, whereas the damage to my feet is more down to the effects of wearing shoes all day at work. The Aveeno moisturiser is helping too ... Sometimes it needs Aveeno, sometimes steroid cream, sometimes Eurax. The trick is to feed the bad bits the right gunk at the right time.

The energy deficit was largely down to me lacking so much sleep over the past few years. I think that's coming right again too, although I've having the yawning into the pillow problem again (a lot of that is due to not wearing my body out over the easy days) over the past few nights. I've been sleeping better lately and I think that's led to the hyperactivity coming closer to the surface.

I like the hyperactivity. It does make me more impulsive, which can get me acting without thinking sometimes. That makes me sad when I say things that might upset people (it happens) but most of the time, the hyperactivity is a wave that's fun to surf on.

That's the way I think of what's probably more a light touch of manic depression. The depressive sides are tough and tend to trigger when I reach out for feedback and don't get any. I'm my own worst critic, rarely seeing much value in what I do. It takes other people to point out me doing Good Stuff. The manic sides are a real rush and the usual sign is a wave of hyperactivity.
The trick is to enjoy going up to Super, without going full out crazy.

What have I been up to ? iTunes tells me I have listened to 1371 unique tracks for a total of 3.2 days. That's a lot of music. Highlight albums over that time include .... Dubstar's Disgraceful, Kate Bush's The Dreaming and Not Too Late from Norah Jones. And then there was the late night Sing Along To Youtube session which saw me dipping into the Goldfrapp, Cardigans/Nina Persson, Tori Amos, Ting Tings ... and the rest.

I escaped the house twice .... once for pre Easter supplies, again on Sunday. Go see Handmaiden if you like the foreign language films ! I enjoyed this one with a lovely friend on Sunday. It kept us guessing all the way through and it's an excellent piece of cinema around that great story too.

Game playing has been mainly two games :

Mass Effect Andromeda - space explorer ! In space ! Well ... a lot of running around on the surface of planets and driving the Nomad around.
This one has its critics due to poor production values with the faces and the animations but they seem to be working on fixing those. Behind those is a game that I'm finding to actually be a really fun game to dive into. It's less serious than the first Mass Effect games and I'd recommend it ... but shop around for cheaper prices.

Motorsport Manager still holds my attention. My team is now in the middle tier and has a couple of wins in my second season there so far. Building steadily towards being world beaters. I've put over 250 hours into Motorsport Manager so far and it's one I'll probably hit over 1000 hours in ... wow. That's a lot of game time. Because I got tired so much, games like Motorsport Manager suit me pretty well because they are limited interaction. There is skill in determining when to make an interaction and ... you can genuinely have your team win races they shouldn't by making the right interventions at the right time. But for the rest of the time, it's sit back and enjoy watching the race.

I bought the latest Stellaris expansion yesterday ... And my Mk2 Space Raptors were born ... The latest patch allows you to do all sorts of things with captured enemies that you couldn't do in the game before. You can assimilate them into your empire, enslave them and now .... munchies. Yep. Space Raptors are hungry ...

And I've been catching up on the watching of games too with videos from people like :
Aavak playing Stardew - a marvellllllous rolling Welsh accent here. His Stardew videos are so relaxing;
Enter Elysium - what can I say about EE .... most intelligent youtuber with tonnes of wit ?
Meta Selene is another youtuber playing Stardew at the moment. She has that Scandinavian accent which I miss from the Warcraft days. That accent might be why I enjoy listening to Nina Persson singing so much.
The Flame in the Flood is a game I might well pick up when I see it on sale again, I'm evaluating that through a short series of 8 videos.
Shenryyr playing Darkest Dungeon - a curious game. Definitely a tough one ! I'll have another run at this at some point, for now ... I'm enjoying watching others play it.
And then there's the two streamer ladies, Radderss currently playing Witcher 3 and HeyChrissa about to move on to something new after enjoying Mass Effect Andromeda.

I also mean to kick off another XCom 2 campaign to kick the aliens off the Earth again.

Oh and there were loads of Easter Eggs too.

I still have some Easter Eggs. (Not for long !)

Why aren't I munching the Easter Eggs now ? Seeya !
PS Latest album is the actually really good A Hundred Million Suns by Snow Patrol. One of their best.