Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Adventures of Commander Sleepy

I've been really enjoying being space pilot guy in the new Elite game.

And I have to admit, it's actually Cmdr Iceangel in game, not Cmdr Sleepy ! But before we dive into fictional spaceships, here's (not quite) a real one :
Looks like a successful launch today ! SpaceX are doing something new. It's their second attempt, hopefully it works this time. What are they doing ? They're attempting to land and therefore recover, the first stage of their latest rocket but having it do X marks the spot on the barge above.

They called it "Just Read The Instructions". Gotta love ship names which have character. I've been trying to carry on that theme with the Elite ships. More of that in a bit. Looks like they have repairs to do to JRTI. The launch went off well, hopefully the Dragon spacecraft it's carrying will rendezvous with the International Space Station in a few days but the first stage rocket landed too hard to be recoverable. They'll learn and figure out how to do it.

Thought I'd better say that it's not all games ...

Been back at work for 2 fairly hectic days now. It's been tiring but we've been getting stuff done so that gives its sense of reward.
Bathroom needs sorting out. I know there's a leak under the bath but when I've had the chance to try and find the leak (i.e. using the bath!), no fault find. That'll drive me nuts for a while but ...
I think I want to get that bathroom changed and sorted out anyway. Must investigate options.
Skin is steadily getting better but it's ridiculously easy to damage it. Especially when I'm trying to get to sleep and fidget-reflex takes over. But it's getting there.
Feeling older. I've put the weight back on (meh). I think it's due to the Cetirizine anti-histamines I was put on by the doc's a while ago. Those have had positive effect in the past but also side effects - taking one before a game would give me slightly better breathing but would also take all the power out of my legs and make them feel heavy. We'll see what happens when they run out in a week, plus I'll hopefully get the munchie discipline back again. I don't like being too heavy.

But that's all banalities. I'd rather think about fun stuff :

Meeting up with Cupid's Gift ! May that not be long before it happens again. She's fun and we can really open up to each other with the natter. And she gives Great Hug too.

And the gaming. At the moment, the favoured game is Elite Dangerous (when the next Deus Ex game comes out, it'll be that). In fact, Elite is sufficiently good that it's verging on addiction again. It's not - I recognise the signs of addiction and to be honest, I think I've broken gaming addiction. Although I should really be reading more than I am. I do suspect I may end up playing Elite more than I should over the next week or so.

Adventures of Cmdr Sleepy ?

I've done most of what Elite has to offer now. It lets you be a space truckin' hauler guy, a bounty hunter and it also lets you do exploring. I started out doing the space truckin' thing, before making a decent amount of cash smuggling rare stuff around. I've done a bit of exploring, although I'm yet to do the excursion to the galactic core. There's a super massive black hole there ... And I'm currently doing the bounty hunting thing.

I've had the various thoughts while playing it. Excited, bored, playing it to avoid being bored, risk/reward cycling and just plain enjoying escaping this mundane (see banalities above) world to be that space pilot little boys dream of being. I think that's why I'm still playing it, despite having seen most of what it has to offer.

So which of its toys have I been playing with ?
(click to enlarge and legibility !)

You start off in the humble Sidewinder. It didn't take me long before I could upgrade that to an Adder and after that, the Cobra Mk3 from the first game. The Cobra is a marvellous ship, nimble, cheap and with a cargo hold that's starting to get usable.

But then I switched to the get rich quick scheme of running rare items around and that meant downsizing the hull to get a Bigger Engine. So it was back to a small unarmed hauler, then upgrading through Adder, Cobra, a Type 6 Lakon and finally an Asp. The haulers aren't much fun to fly. They get you from A to B but they're slugs to maneouvre. So in a dogfighting game, they can't get the hits in. Pirate people will run rings around you and your only option is to run away. It was great fun in the Asp because I could start firing back ...

However, a Community Goal came along and the Asp was suddenly not big enough ... I like these in Elite. It feels like you're in a living galaxy and then they add in tasks for you to help with. I've helped twice so far, once was an exploration effort with the premise of finding colonisation sites. The second was to get as many metals as possible to a station to help with the building of a fleet of Imperial Clipper ships :
Pretty ship, although that cockpit and forward fuselage does look a bit airlinery.

I don't have one of those though. Due to a lesson learned ...

If your ship is blown up while trying to Run Away Bravely (Not screaming - honest), then it's a good idea to throttle back to zero when next leaving a space station. Yep. You guessed it. Throttles were still set to full forward and I didn't help matters by hitting the afterburner booster button while looking for the "up" button on my stick. And I ended up immediately following my first loss of a ship in the game by pancaking a second into the side of a space station.

Oops.

I kinda had enough of hauling stuff at that point, so I sold the Type 7 hauler (name - Has All The Cookies) and replaced it with a Vulture fighter.

This a small instrument of death and destruction via pew-pew and boom-boom. I have it set up to have one laser (good for shields) and one Big Cannon (good for putting holes in hulls). And this is where the game scores. If you get bored with hauling stuff, then you can go bounty hunt for a while. If you get bored with the pew-pew, you can go exploring.

I'll be doing the pew-pew thing for a bit, hopefully to earn enough reputation (and cash) to let me buy one of those Clippers.

I'll see you in the spacelanes. Mine will be the one with Pink Furry Dice hanging from the cockpit mirror and a line of dwagons on the dash.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Gaming and housework

Those aren't things that usually go together are they ?

I'll come to the link in a little while.

Some games can be really brutal on your ability to escape from the keyboard. Whether it's 2 hours of continuous action in Warcraft, where a step away from the keyboard can lead to disaster. Or the indeterminate time of a roaming patrol in the space game Eve, where leaving the keyboard can lead to you being left behind. And you have to roam in packs in Eve as stragglers often get picked off.

Online games are especially brutal on your opportunities to get away. They rarely have a pause button and even the games based on repeating rounds can lead to quite some time without a break. Dota can last up to an hour and League Of Legends took a while too.

Need to loo ? Better have a bottle to hand. (Yuk)

At least in the Warcraft, you could pick your moments when your absence wasn't critical. And to avoid being left behind, you could /follow the raid leader* (or other person) so you could keep up.

*It was a privilege I had for quite a while to be on Guildlink's officer chat. Where our revered raid leader, the lovely Overqueen Sarai, would run herd on us apes. This was in the day of 40 person raids and you can imagine how difficult it could be to coordinate all of those people and have breaks suitable for all. And you do need those breaks. Anyway ... officer chat would occasionally have Sarai giving "follower count". It got as high as 5 (hazy memory!) at some times. We never /followed Sarai. We could see her chuckling comments in the hidden chat where she was attempting to tow her follower chain through the lava pools.

Beware the chuckling raid leader.

I jest. Guildlink, while it lasted (up until the Burning Crusade beta) and was having Good Times, was a genuine pleasure to be involved with. I've not had better times in an online game since then, although the Eve crowd were always awesome out of game.

So about this housework ?
I've been playing Elite Dangerous a fair bit over the holiday. As you can see, it can be quite a pretty game ... There's not that much variation in the cosmos presented but what's there, is gert lush. From boiling suns, to eclipsed planets, to the variation in the space stations you dock with :
That's a Coriolis station, a design harking back to the days that the first Elite game hit the BBC (and those other pretender platforms that were never as good as the BBC*)

*Yes - I was a BBC boy back in the day, the Spectrum was too unreliable and the Commodore 64 was ... I dunno. Not a BBC. This was the equivalent of today's Xbox vs Playstation console wars. People would pick a favourite and defend it to the death.

I must have been in my second freighter, a Lakon Type 6 (ugly boxy thing) called "May Carry Cookies", when I took that. I'm now in a Very Shiny Asp explorer ship which has been upgraded considerably. I'm quite enjoying piloting that and blowing away any pirate foolhardy enough to knock me out of the high speed supercruise*.

* Elite Dangerous has a slow speed dogfighting and docking mode but for travel inside a system, Supercruise is used. This is a warp drive (in the Star Trek term) which folds space. So far I've seen the speed reach Warp 9, or 729 times the speed of light (speed times light = the warp number cubed). It does help to keep the mind awake, calculating the warp number while travelling in system.

Elite is an online game, although you can play it in a solo mode. You're still always connected, with the reason being that the economy in game is driven by all of the players interacting with the server. 1000 players buy Copper in a system, there won't be much Copper left there and it'll drive the prices up. I like that idea, it's what assuaged my concerns where I thought it should have an offline mode. The solo mode stops other players trying to pirate you. There's been players in this game for a very long time now, so they have some Very Shiny Ships which would quickly deal with my upgraded Asp ...

So how does the housework fit in ?

I've been running the rares routes. There is a 71 stop trading route taking in every station that sells rare goods that you can only get in one place. (The 70 stop salesman route is better - it's more efficient in jump distance and more even in cargo space needed). The further you go between seller and buyer, the higher profit you get for your rares. I'd typically get 600-1000 profit per tonne with normal goods, the rares can get 15000-25000 profit per tonne.

It's a get rich quick scheme. Definitely more satisfying to play than the place to place hauling I'd been doing before in the game. That didn't seem to be getting me anywhere so I was getting frustrated and bored. The rares route is far more gratifying.

But ... and this is where the housework link comes in ...

You only get a small amount of your quota of rares when you first arrive at the station selling them. To get lots, you have to wait for the game economy to tick over. This takes 10 minutes ... Of replying to a Cupid's Gift text message (the highlight of these for sure!), sorting out the playlist on iTunes, looking at all the new messages on Twitter and Facebook, to ...

Doing the housework.

Honest.

Here's another screenie :
Did I mention it's a pretty game ?

Monday, April 06, 2015

Musical Masterpieces

Ok, so the A to Z's series is all done now.

To be honest, I think that's a series that more than outlived its welcome. It turned into a bit of a "oh look what a ridiculous amount of music he has in his library". Boastful perhaps instead of highlighting the really good stuff.

So what do I consider to be the really good stuff ? First of all. There has to be a rule. Only one album per artist or group, including people like Nina Persson who, so far, I have 10 albums that she's been involved with. And they're all amazing albums, although she has improved as she's made more albums.
(I was looking to modify one of my dragon pics for headphones, asked Google and up popped this fella. Credit to Spreadshirts, there's definitely some stuff there I Want).

Music ? I just mentioned the Cardigans and Nina Persson. The last album to play through was A Camp's second album, Colonia. But that's not my best pick. To be honest, all of the Cardigans, A Camp and solo Nina albums are packed with incredible songs but in the end, it's a close one between Super Extra Gravity and Long Gone Before Daylight. I pick Long Gone. It's possibly the best full album in my collection. And one of many brilliant tracks is Feathers And Down. A little sad maybe but so much emotion coming through those words, that playing and that voice.

Another emotional album is Illumina by Alisha's Attic. Those girls must have been going through the rollercoaster with this one. My favourite is the ultra happy The Incidentals. My shyness stopped me doing car karaoke with Cupid's Gift on the way to Comic Con but this track nearly got the voice coming out.

(To be honest, I had a really dry throat which is never good for sing/croaking and we were chatting so much there was no time for car karaoke)

I do listen to bloke voices occasionally ... And I listen to a lot of what Mark Knopfler comes out with. His best will always be seen as Brothers In Arms but to be honest, there's a few duds there I dislike. Nah - my pick is Making Movies with crackers like Expresso Love and my track of choice, Romeo And Juliet for that signature guitar, drum, voice, keyboard interplay.

Keeping on with the blokes ... and I'm looking forward to this one because it'll come up in the queue really soon. It's Snow Patrol with their highlight album, Eyes Open. These guys continue to improve, with tracks like another raw one, You Could Be Happy.

But it's not all about the voices. I'll happily listen to the odd classical album too. Last Night Of The Proms is a definite favourite and I'll drum the fingers along to Mars too. But my pick is Carnival Of The Animals by Saint-Saen. You'll recognise Aquarium but that's just one highlight of this suite of music.

A series of books I really enjoyed (until it outlived the stories it could sensibly tell) was Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern. The book Dragonsong introduced a character called Menolly, who had an unhappy life being denied the music which was her gift. Excellence with both instrument and voice, matched to a gift for catchy song writing. The voice of Menolly for me has always been Julianne Regan of All About Eve, due mostly to me listening to their best album (the self titled one) on repeat while reading it. My highlight there is Apple Tree Man but youtube isn't good for that. Go have a listen to Martha's Harbour instead. Gorgeous song.

Kate Bush is another massive favourite and my pick of her albums is Hounds Of Love. This is an album of two parts, the commercialised songs are in the first half but the second half just flows together as its own story. Kate Bush always made fantastic albums, not just excellent singles and this is a classic example. My favourite here will be Mother Stands For Comfort. I think we can all identify with that can't we ?

Back to the boys - Arctic Monkeys started out really well. They've not been inspired lately as they were with their first albums but what an album Whatever People Say ... was. And it leaves a lasting final impression with the sublime A Certain Romance.

How could I leave off Garbage ? They've carried on, albeit with a huge gap before Not Your Kind Of People came out. All their albums are pretty good but I prefer Beautiful the most for tracks like Androgyny and my favourite, Cherry Lips.

Movies ... I have a fair few movie soundtracks and the thing to consider here - do you remember the film, the soundtrack or how they accompany each other ? Pacific Rim and Iron Man vie for my favourite here but it has to be Fifth Element for that Diva Dance scene.

More recent is Bat For Lashes. She keeps on getting better and better and her Haunted Man album is another stunning piece of music. Highlight for me is definitely Laura. So much emotion here too. Perhaps that's why I go for certain tracks ? They may touch a part of me that's hidden behind walls of armour.

Fancy a stage show ? We nearly went to see the new War Of The Worlds but ... very pricy and the new stars didn't appeal as much as the old stars. People like Justin Hayward singing Thunderchild.

Ok, this one's getting a bit long now and I know I've missed a heap of people out. Time for a couple more ...

Game soundtracks don't really stand out much, unless it's Adagio for Strings which nearly had me in tears when it started up in That Scene early in Homeworld. But that's music from outside that was grabbed for the game. No, my highlights for game soundtracks are Darren Korb's Transistor and Tomas Dvorak's Machinarium. Here's a haunting one from Transistor. One thing about Transistor, if you sit still and do nothing in the game, the main character will hum along to the soundtrack. Oh, here's a bonus from his other game soundtrack, Bastion.

And to echo a theme from yesterday, here's Fleetwood Mac's legendary album Rumours with You Can Go Your Own Way. This is another album born out of raw emotions.

Perhaps the other side of raw and heading into manufactured. But still with a soul come Gorillaz. They make great collections as albums. I think their best so far is Plastic Beach with songs like Empire Ants which starts slowly before exploding in your ears.

Hannah Peel is a little bit different ... Her signature is the tiny music box that often sets a counterpoint to her lovely voice. She's only given us one album so far and a couple of EPs but The Broken Wave shows massive promise with songs like The Almond Tree.

But I'll close off with another personal favourite, this one is Goldfrapp's Road To Somewhere album. They've written a lot of good singles in their other albums but this album comes together amazingly well. It's a great one to chill out to from start to finish. Here's Some People.

And I better close it there or I'll be here all night indulging in listening to some of my favourite songs via the youtubes ! There are tonnes more that should be here :

Edie Brickell, Madonna, Lucy Spraggan, Lisa Miskovsky, Mindy Gledhill, Norah Jones, Seal, Sleeper, The Staves, Suzanne Vega, the Ting Tings with We Started Nothing, Tori Amos.

Yep. Too much good music. Why limit yourself to listening to one band's music over and over when there is so much rich diversity of excellent music out there ?

Sunday, April 05, 2015

No politics here please

Crikey.

It's only ... so many days since Parliament broke up and it's been wall to wall politics ever since.

I try and avoid politics and politicians as much as possible. Decoding what they say and judging whether or not it's trustworthy is massive effort.

We have a pretty bankrupt political system over here. The two main parties are entrenched, not in ideals, but in the search for your vote. And they'll do anything, say anything to get that vote.

No - I don't trust them. But I also judge them by their outputs :

Conservative - have steadied the ship after the economic chaos of the last decade but ... I'm a civil servant (see below) and I haven't had a worthwhile pay rise (1% each year only, which is effectively a pay cut) since they've been in while the MPs have (don't mention expenses).
Labour - are why the country was in such bad shape. Leaving notes like "there is no more money" on the desk for your successor to find is ... irresponsible, idiotic and a sign of your own incompetence.
Liberal - ruined themselves with this coalition. Both from the broken promises and the reality that some of them are raving lunatics.
UKIP - just as I was talking about the raving lunatics.
And that's just the big ones, there's also the SNP who will have an influence on the next parliament. There are the Greens and Plaid Cymru (the Welsh nationalists) as well.

Note - those are all my personal opinions. I said above that I'm a civil servant, which puts certain limits on me at these times because we're supposed to be impartial at work. That's true, whichever group gets in, I'll ignore them all the same as the last mob. I'm at a certain level that lets me get away with that. It's rare that the politicians get involved with us although I'll dig up info for questions and their decisions affect whether we get to buy the stuff we want to get.

So I'll not tell you which way to vote, I'll not even say anywhere which way I'm intending to vote. But I will advise :

Make up your own mind.
If your vote is affected by prejudice (including location), examine that prejudice.
Listen to what they say ...
... ignore the spin the media put on it ...
... decode whether or not to believe it.
And most of all, don't think the way other people want you to think.

(This path leads to sheepishly voting in people who are not your preference, they're the preference of who you listened to).

Yep. After this post, I'll hopefully ignore election type stuff here. You'll be sick of that from the main media ... hmm ... already probably !

But there's better things to think about today (and I needed a pic for the thumbnail) :
Happy Easter everyone !

Oh ! Before I go ... I have a couple of amazing songs for you. Both Bunny themed.

First - Bat For Lashes with "What's A Girl To Do"
Second - The Cardigans with "For What It's Worth"
Both are amongst the best in my library.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

And ... relax

Hurrah ! Easter break.

It seems like it's been a long time coming. Oh and yesterday's post ? It was a brilliant (to me at least - lol) idea for an April Fool which I simply couldn't pass up.

Being in a band would actually be pretty awesome but ... you didn't hear the practice recording I did for my potential 1000th post. That got deleted as soon as I listened to it back. Putting my voice on Youtube ... crime against humanity. Honest.

Oh - here's the pic, courtesy of robbing it from a Facebook person earlier :-) :
I'm off work now until after Easter which means :

Lots of relaxing.
Lots of music listening.
Making a dent in what's recorded.
Seeing if I can get enough moulah in Elite to finish fitting out my Asp Explorer ship ...
... and setting off around the galaxy.
But it's not all about play :
Got a lot of tidying up to do as well to make this place fit for visitors again. Cos it would be nice to have someone around. Especially if it's someone just over 5 foot tall, highly cute, with a great taste in music and is one of very few people I can take my emotional armour off when I talk to her. I think I know someone like that.

Lots of work to do before then though and I've been too tired/unhealthy to even think of doing it before now. I've been improving, so I need to kick my butt into gear and stop being so lazy.

I hope people enjoyed yesterday's April Fool Band post as much as I enjoyed writing it. All the codenames in there refer to real people I've mentioned before. If you didn't see yourself in there, I'm so sorry ! I tried to fit in as many people as I thought I could get away with, without making it a megamonster post.

I hope people enjoy whatever time off they get over Easter, it's tough for some because places like retail demand people to be in over a really busy period. So if you go Egg Hunting or sales sharking, have a thought for the poor harried people behind the tills. They want time off too !

Give 'em a smile instead.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT ! Career move

I'm really excited.

I have news. An announcement. A seismic shift in what I'll be doing. Beating a new path even.

Yep. With a very special group of friends, I've decided to give up that day job and form a band. It's going to be called Dragon Dreamers, or The Dragons for short. What else could it be ? Perhaps the Another Mondays :
Actually, I quite like Another Mondays now that I think of it.

I'm going to be on the drums.
Yep. That's me. Oh and there'd be a mic there too. You know me, a catchy tune, a good rhythm, great atmosphere, I'll be joining in the singing for sure, rumbling away in the background.

On guitar, we'll have my very good friends Cyberkitten and the Bionicdwarf :
There's CK as a youngster, practicing that lead guitar which will knock your socks off. Bionicdwarf is all about that bass. Great tunes. You'll love it.

On keyboards and another of our main vocalists is the Pixie. She suffers terribly from joint pains, so can't stand up for long (you must understand when we take our bows at the end of the set) but she's a wizardess behind the ivories. Great voice too.
Lead vocals ... now who could that be. We tried to call in Hannah from the Yogscast but she's way too busy. Besides, we really don't know her that well. Not well enough to pull her away from the videos. What a voice though. Any band would be well blessed to be playing along with her.

Nah. It'll be the lovely Alex from the Warcraft people. I heard this lady singing on the guild voice chat server and it was so good, it got me joining in too. And I'm very shy about exposing people to my singing voice. And I can guarantee that it'll have you joining in too.

That's the main band. But there's always room for more. How about that saxophone ? I bet Cupid's Gift would be perfect. Not so much the blues, more a sheer joy that she'll bring into your heart.

You can't keep those backing singers out of the picture either. They support us in soo many ways.

First up has to be Crazie Queen. She keeps us on the right track. She's our manager. The person who'll protect us from the machinations of the industry. A legend amongst women.
Next is the original finance Angel. Great with the figures, fantastic with the high notes.
And our last performing member is the indomitable Snow Queen. She'll also be the one who makes sure all our kit gets set up just so and with a practiced ear, tuned from listening to great music. We'd never keep her off the stage. Those heels she wears are not heels. They are shoes with spears. Not arguing with those !

There's more too. I've known Bobkat* for years now. Decades even. She used to be involved in professional theatre, setting up the stage and making sure all the behind the scenes stuff ran smoothly. So while Snow Queen will have got the electronics set up perfect, BK will get everything else sorted and will be the one fussing over the bits and pieces to make sure they stay good during the show.

* (Bobkat took her online name from her much missed black and white cat. She lost him to old age a few years ago and he's still missed but fondly remembered. So if you see the odd random picture of a lovely little kitty around the stage, that'll be us remembering Bobkat by touching the picture for good luck on our way on stage.)

You need people to get your bits and pieces to where they need to be - I just happen to know a lady who is an absolute expert in logistics. And we have an expert marketing coordinator in Dianne, the Fork Lady, who will be sure to have us front page news in the USA when we tour there.

Can you tell yet that I'm excited ?

We could even try and get Real Musgrave (creator of the Pocket Dragons) out of retirement to make us some new dwagons !

Who are our influences ? Sleeper for sure. A little bit of Alisha's Attic. Definitely the Cardigans. Alex brings in those Abba roots.

We won't have anything for you to listen to just yet. But wait precisely 1 year from today (exactly this date in 2016) and we'll have an album out and we'll be embarking on that first tour.

Keep a look out for us ! We will rock you.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On the bright side

I'm feeling better today after yesterday's post about me struggling.

Part of it is rationalising the thoughts about that dear friend who's had that major trial. A lot of that is trying to understand what they've gone through and how they're dealing with it.

If someone's struggling, you shouldn't be telling them how to deal with it. Unless you happen to have gone through that same trial yourself. That goes for everything, from pain, to illness, to the impact of psychological or physical attacks. Unless you've experienced the same, you can't tell people how they should be dealing with it because you don't truly understand it.

But what does that leave ?

Gentle support. Let them talk through their issue. Let them explain their pain. Remind them that they're strong enough to stand up to the people attacking them.

We all have that strength within us, although we sometimes forget. We can remind those who have forgotten that they're strong.

For me, it really does help to at least think through my problems. And sometimes the problems of others. I'll write things out here, like I'm doing now. But I don't write everything here, some of it stays within my brain. Like the trial my dear friend has gone through, like the trials other dear friends have faced (and still face) over the years.

We can listen, we can support, we can tell people how brave they are in being that awesome person. We can step back in amazement that they bend, not break under that strain.

And when we can't give them their answers, due to not totally understanding their pain, there's always the all-enveloping bear hug. I hope I give good hug. I definitely give good smile, it's contagious.
I've definitely cheered up today. And there's a few reasons for that :

Expressing the feelings yesterday. We have to do that, bottled up feelings just fester and make the strain worse.
Lots of good chat. Hello SQ and LTK !
A fantastic friend who tolerates my geekiness and often challenges it (Hi CK!)
And more friends too.

Not to mention - messages from Cupid's Gift that turn a slightly pained shamble into a hyperactive bounce and a struggle :
Into :
In fact, I just saw the pic from Comic Con again and ... instant Silly Grin.

Yeah - I'll struggle. But I bounce back. Usually when people remind me that I have a certain strength inside.

So if you have a friend in need, if they're struggling, give them some help. Don't tell them how they should deal with it, you may make their situation worse through misunderstanding. Let them explain what they're going through. Let them talk through it.

Support them. They'll appreciate it. And they may well return the favour when you need a little help too.

I know I have those friends I can send random stuff to and they'll make me feel valued with a little chat back. I'm a lonely guy, that chat back is the fuel that feeds my smile.

PS There's an announcement coming here tomorrow morning ... be sure to check it out.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Quietly Struggling

Yep.

Time for one of those again.

I'm really looking forward to Easter. This time of year is always especially hard for me. It's a long drag from Xmas across to Easter and I believe I'm one of the hordes that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Perhaps getting a special day lamp might help me out. The light I get in my main room is a little dingy (it's an energy saving bulb and they're always dim) and more yellow than it should be.

So yeah, I'm grimly hanging on until I can rest up over Easter.

The daft thing though is, I should have enough reserves in me to have lots of energy. That is, I've gained the weight back so there should be energy waiting to be unlocked. Perhaps that's two sides of a problem ? Chubby = lack of energy = low metabolism that doesn't burn off the fat ? Could be.

There's more though. I've been thinking of one person in particular lately. She's been through something that no person should ever be put through. I'm not saying much more there because the trial is ... severe. You might be getting the idea that it's pretty major though. So major that while I have my own need to talk to people about it, I've kept what's happened with me and only me (which is how it will stay).

My need to talk is coming from what my unconscious empathy has picked up. I do that. I'll pick up on what other people are feeling and it'll often either confuse me or I'll go numb to defend myself from it. All unconsciously ...

My thoughts are definitely with that one person. Right now typing this, when I'm trying to get to sleep, when I wake up, when I hear a notification on the phone "yey ! message !". You get the idea. It's daft, I have trouble saying things like that to people, yet I can write it here. I think she's one of those irregular readers that keep coming back, so I hope she reads this and takes it as a safety-hug.

But what I can do is :

Never think of someone in one of those trials as broken, they're not. They have strength and it's up to us to remind them of their strength.
I can gently support.
I can be a friendly ear to let them talk through the trial. This is more necessary than people think, bottled up feeling (like what I've done a few times) is very harmful, especially when it breaks out.
And I can offer all enveloping safety bear hugs.

And there's the daftness I try and inject when I talk about things.

So yeah. There's a very special and impossibly strong person out there who I have in my thoughts, from waking to sleeping. I'd like to help her out.

And if the call came, all tiredness would be (temporarily !) forgotten and you just know I'd come running to help out.

Cos that's who I am. I think more of helping others than I do of helping myself. It goes further than that, the problem with my outsides has continued so long because I've neglected myself, making it worse instead of helping it.

How is that ?

I'm definitely improving on the outsides. Skin is gradually normalising, some patches have been reclaimed to soft, pink skin. More patches are steadily improving. But I have to allow it to heal, which is tougher than it sounds due to my "IMPERFECTION DESTROY" compulsion.

House still needs a lot of work and it seems like the jobs are piling up. I may need to rip out the bathroom and replace it ... The reason, lots of wear and tear and there's a leak under the bath which may need destruction to access. I also need to get the heating sorted still. The system can heat the water but not the house ... and it makes a racket while heating the water.

The house is something I really need to get sorted. It's a mess at the moment and I'd be too ashamed to have anyone come in the front door. See that comment about me jumping to help others while ignoring the help I need to give myself.

I always like to end these downer posts on an upper though.
Despite the depression attempting to have it's way, I can still count those blessings.

Lots of friends who I can talk about (most!) stuff with
Friends I can joke around with
An imperfect, painful body but a body that's steadily getting better and is mostly intact

But most important - there's a little lady out there who brings out, not just the Standard Pete Grin, but the Silly Grin that banishes all bad thoughts and brings out joy. She's being a bit quiet at the moment, which I fully understand.

May you all have that person you can turn to that banishes the dark and brings out the light.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A to Z - X is for Xylophone (also has Y's, Z's and 0's)

We don't hear enough of the xylophone in modern music.

Create a new cause ! Bring Forth The Xylophone Bands !!!

So what have we got in X ? I am going to cheat too. There will be Y's, Z's and Number Albums here too because we're that close to finishing off.

First up is Coldplay with X and Y. Another good album from them but their main problem is that so much of their stuff just sounds the same as the last track. Which is sad. Great individual tracks, bit of a bore of an album. But still very listenable to.

Next one up is a game soundtrack, this time from Xenonauts. Very creepy soundtrack, rather fitting to the game, which is an Aliens Invade And We're Not Ready game. It's set in maybe 80s time and typically for these, you're outclassed at the start and racing to catch up and then keep up with the technology the aliens have to play with. If you'd like to see more, there's an excellent playthrough from Scott Manley (linky).

The XX are a group that emerged a few years ago. They quickly stood out with a fairly unique sound, with the two vocalists blending in with the instruments in a way that was inspired and sublime. Their self titled album is a cracker to listen to. Highlight ? Crystallised was the track that introduced me to them, it was a freebie from iTunes single of the week.

And we're quickly into the Y's with Franz Ferdinand's You Could Have It So Much Better. This one's a great one to listen to as well. I've been listening to several Kings Of Leon albums too, their Y is Youth And Young Manhood. Again, a decent album but ... it's not that female soaring vocal archetype that gets me sitting up and listening.

No Z's ? That doesn't seem right for a Sleepy Person. Must see if I can find some Z albums.

The Beatles have always been an incredible band and I picked up their 1 album quite a few years ago. Still enjoy it, it's loaded with cracking songs like Eleanor Rigby, Yesterday, Something and Let It Be. They made some very sweet music in their time.

I picked up Air's 10,000 Hz Legend which is another decent album but none that really stand out sadly. Still worth a listen if you can find it cheap. Air are different enough to be very interesting :-).

In seeking to expand my classical collection, I picked up the 40 Most Beautiful Classics album. Classical can benefit from collections. With vocal music, I prefer to avoid collections and get the main albums but classical collections cut out the filler and just have the excellence.

Kasabian's latest is 48:13. Again, a really good album but the songs mush into each other. It doesn't have the character of Velociraptor. Another mushy together album was Kate Bush's 50 Words For Snow. It's a shame Kate Bush reached her zenith with The Sensual World, the rest of her albums were missing that early brilliance. (Must listen to The Kick Inside again soon).

One album of sheer brilliance is Suzanne Vega coming in with 99.9 degrees F. This one is loud, tuneful and showing off some unusual ways of making the music. Possibly her best (after Solitue Standing) and the highlights just keep on coming, including Blood Makes Noise (which makes impressive use of stereo) and the sad songs like Blood Sings and Bad Wisdom. Highly recommended.

Last one for the A to Z's :

2001 was a great movie. Ok, perhaps it was a little slow in parts but it still stands today as one of the best movies ever made. In my opinion :-). The special effects still stand in excellent stead in today's era of computer graphic animation. And what ties it all together is a soundtrack that shows off some of the best classical music. I'd thoroughly recommend watching the film and listening out for that soundtrack.

That's it for the A to Z's ! I may do another at some point for all the music that's appeared since I started these. All those albums that missed out the first time around. I think The Staves with Dead and Born And Grown was one of those. I'm enjoying working my way through listening to their new album but I'm listing it here just so I get an excuse to listen to the amazing Wisely And Slow. Great harmonies.

Great music.

I hope if anyone's been reading these, they've been introduced to some new music they've taken a liking to. That's the main reason I do the music posts, to expose people to new stuff that I hope they enjoy.

As I hope you enjoy this one ! (Listen to the Staves ...)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Raiding Comic Con

Yesterday was a great day.

We raided Comic Con in Birmingham. We ? Cupid's Gift came along !!! In her words : "woop woop". :-) Happy Pete Was Happy.

Still happy actually.

What happens at a Comic Con ? Some would say the attraction is in the stars that come along. Quite often it's stars from series long gone or stars not that well known from more recent shows. To be honest, the only one I recognised was Virginia Hey, who was an especially beautiful flower from Farscape. But the blue was having terrible effects on her skin so she was written out. Nah. I don't go to places like this for the stars (who charge lots for autographs).

The main attractions are split into the writers, illustrators and creators of some very special comic art. I wrote about the lovely Nina Serina from the last Comic Con, who couldn't be there this time around. That's a shame because meeting her and nattering was a highlight of the last Comic Con. Plenty more on show though.

There's a lot of merchandising happening at the various Comic Cons. It can be anything from t-shirts, to art, to badges, emblems and statuettes, to videos/dvds, to games, to computer games, to imported munchies (just finished a brownie - yumyum Cheers CG!). You get the idea. CG picked up some pretty Kitty bowls and a few more bits and pieces too. T-shirts. I'm a bad influence (definitely!) so more t-shirts escaped than otherwise might have. Including ...
Yep. After hearing Cupid's Gift say those words "Evil Fluffy Bitey Thing", she had to have the t-shirt. It's not the words, it's the addition of Hypercute to them in the delivery. Definitely heartmelting. She's an immensely strong one that also brings in that adorable cuteness too.

Yep. I'm considering myself immensely fortunate to have crossed paths with her.

Where's the t-shirts come from ? These and the next couple are from Genki Gear. (Linky). They sell that Covered In Germs mug too which attracted more than a few groans at work today. Which was the exact intention behind buying it. Hahaha.
Release those attack kittens ! There will be no escape. Or maybe later :
The words in the bubbles are :
"Was that a gentle breeze or your so-called fire breath ?"
"We deride your mayhem causing abilities"
"You're barely 120 foot tall"
They will pay. Mark my words.

I bought a couple more but I'm not going to show pics because I intend to surprise a few people with the one on Friday. It's quite mild compared to some Friday subversive t-shirt specials I've had. Come to think of it actually, it better be because it might end up on my next passport photo !

The last bit about Comic Cons is the cosplay. There weren't as many at London Comic Con but it was maybe 30% in Birmingham. The level of effort varies. There's some simple ones which are pretty much just onesies. There are nearly-there's. There's some scary ones (like the Everquest girl who was very large and not wearing very much - my eyes ! my eyes !) and some intentionally scary ones like the pair of Predators. That was cracking cosplay. There's the nigh on perfect, like the two Nialee's (a League Of Legends character with fur bikini).

And there's the show stoppingly spectacular :
Hail The Emperor, long may he watch over us and protect us from the demons.

This guy must have been seriously at least 8 foot tall in the costing, with the Khorne symbol dominating everything. He must have been baking in that suit but so totally well done. I salute you, even if you are Chaos Ridden Scum. (On the outside, the guy inside is a legend).

Yep. A good day out. For the show but most especially :

Because I helped a Pretty Lady thoroughly enjoy her day and come out with massive smiles.

And that makes it so worth it - and what makes me hope it won't be as long again before I see her again. Because if a Pretty Lady is smiling because of something I've done, that's me feeling on top of the world. I'm tired now but I'm not feeling it because ... Pretty Lady Smile !