Thursday, November 26, 2015

Buy Nothing Friday

I saw this post today, thought it was pretty cool.

It's about Buy Nothing Friday, an answer to the rampant consumerism that's overtaking our modern world. And a picture :
(credit to the person who made the site linked above)

We've had Boxing Day and January Sales for as long as I can remember. (Which is mixed cos of age and occasional cricket ball induced amnesia). They've usually been fairly ok, as people have been more concerned about the Xmas festivities than heading out to do shopping. Although saying that, it's still been mayhem. I think the Boxing Day and January Sales fever is moderated somewhat by it occurring over a decent period of time, from Xmas to when people go back to work a week or so later.

Black Friday is another thing entirely. It's concentrated over a single weekend with the peak happening on the Friday. So all that WE MUST BUY BARGAINS mayhem is crammed into one day. I don't think that can be a good experience for anyone. Not the shoppers who end up in fights over items, not the retailers who hopefully won't be trampled in the rush.

It is an example of modern day insanity.

I've been seeing the sales pop up online too. I'll be acquiring a couple of games on Steam pretty soon, they aren't as discounted as I'd like but with games of around £5-£10, a little is still a decent amount. And you have to consider that with small game studios, if they get less cash, then that's less cash to plough into making their next game.

Same with people like pop artists and other content creators. If you give them no consideration for their product, i.e. if you pirate the songs or use adblockers on the youtubes, that means they can't pay the rent, buy food and they have to get a proper job doing something that isn't making something you enjoy. Yep. I look at people like Alisha's Attic, where we only got 3 studio albums + 1 ebay album out of them before they quit the business. Perhaps if less piracy went on, they'd have stuck in the business and made more amazing songs.

Back to Buy Nothing Friday ...

I will buy a couple of things ... I'll be working for the first half of the day which means ... TEACAKE ! Yep. Can't do without that. And then there's lunch too. I did consider heading to Bath for their Xmas market but ... There's still a couple of weeks of that and there happens to be an England cricket game on tomorrow late afternoon. So I'll avoid the Black Friday mayhem and chill out to the cricket.

Back to the picture ...

Be content - I have lots of stuff already, I don't really need any more. And if England play like they did today (close game, good win), then I'll be very content.
Massive savings - haha, cos I've done my sales buying today. Unless come up with some tempting offers.
Cup of tea on the sofa - maybe, although mine will be a coffee and I may well take a (120?) minute for myself and watch a movie from the sofa after the cricket finishes.
Hugs, Fun - they both go together kinda :-). A hug would be good but I'll look forward to when someone's in hugging range.
Yep. Beware.

Staying warm ? It's got a bit warmer since the threat of snow last weekend. Yep, I'll be warm tomorrow :-).
Phoning your gran - sadly I have no more living grandparents but I do still remember my granddad trying to bowl to me way back when. (It hurt him because he had the beginnings of prostate cancer). And we lost my nan almost two years ago. We had a little family tension (who doesn't?) but I do still remember that face coming alive with mischief and chuckles. That's the memory I'm keeping.

And I'll chill out some more by reading more of The Martian. I need more ebooks. I still have my paper books but left them on the shelves for ages because I was afraid that the damage on my arms would damage the books. My arms are much better now (not fixed but getting there), so I can go back to those paper books again. I do like ebooks though. They just need an occasional tap on the screen, rather than the wrist tension of holding the page open. Yep, the RSI in my wrist can be that limiting sometimes ...

Taking a walk in fresh air with a friend ?
Sure ! Anyone ?

Have a good Friday people (oh wait, that's not this time of year, oops). Have a pleasant, chilled out Friday !

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A to Z of hte Human Heart - C and D

Yey ! More meme. I like memes. Can you tell ?

C is for Criticism. Both within and without. The faults you point out in others are often faults you know are in yourself. The way you look at the world is the way the world looks at you. Criticism is a form of self harm, go easy.

Wise words indeed. I take criticism very much to heart. I depend heavily on the opinions of others, which is one reason I seek out the opinions of others. Good opinions will make me smile and go harder, negative opinions can be crushing.

If you criticise someone, you never know how they will receive it. Will they see it as constructive guidance in how to do things better ? Will it kick away the foundations of their confidence. Be wary of how other people receive the treatment you give them. Keep them on your side, instead of driving them into corners where they feel caged.

Going back to the cricket, I was a very noisy player on the field. I think that's one reason the captains liked to have me in the team. But I always directed that noise into positive encouragement for the team. Lots of claps, lots of GO TEAM (and similar). Shouting "Next time !!!" if a close run out was missed. Joining in with lbw HOWZIEEEEEEEEEEE !!!! appeals. Never sledging*. Bascially trying to jee all of the team up, the biggest danger for a fielding team is when things go quiet because players then go to sleep and miss the chances.

*There was one incident and it happens to be on my Twitter pic - a colleague in my section at work was playing for the other team and he was just coming in to bat. He and I had been involved in several run out incidents that season so I had to. Definitely had to. Yep, I piped up with a "This fella won't last long until we run him out". MUAHAHA. Think that's the only sledging I've been involved with and he took it in good heart. You never can tell with players, sometimes sledging will fire them up and you come off worse.
Cricket is always a great teacher.

C is also for Compassion.

To live with love. Caring for the sick ... and the healthy. It is giving and being gracious when receiving.

I think I have this (although it may not show while I'm driving). I'll have to go to others to see what they think. I don't give everything to everyone else, you spread yourself too thin by doing that. But I do like to spread the smile around, even if I do save the very special smiles for a select very few.
D is for the D word - Depression.

So many of us have this. So many of my friends. I suffer from it and am very prone to downwards dips that get hidden behind my emotional armour. When they hit, I am less effective in everything. I look at the messiness of my house and it depresses me to the point where I do nothing about it. That's a typical self reinforcing depression factor that we suffer from. I should get off my butt and sort out one little area at a time, I know that would make me feel better but that depression paralysis intervenes.

Mine is also triggered by Criticism. And by being ignored. It was a harsh wilderness I found myself in when I was reaching out to quite a few ladies over the decade I've lived on my own, only to find promising signs turned to total lack of contact. That's in the past though. There's a few ladies who seem to appreciate me sending them daft messages and one in particular who brings out a MASSIVE SMILE when a text comes in.

I depend on others to help me with my depressive tendencies. Whether it's just a smile, or a message. Hugs are awesome. Depressive tendencies are tough. But much tougher if they stop you reaching out.

And I just looked in the book to see what it says ! It echoes the Talk advice. Whether that's friends, a doctor or a therapist. The bad stuff will only get worse if it's allowed to fester in your head. You need to talk it out to someone, if only so you can analyse it enough to frame it into rational thoughts. And then have a "You're not alone" hug.

D is also for Daring.

It is stepping knowingly into the unknown. Being first to try something. It gets things done.

Someone with a lot of daring found out how to get milk from cows. Or they were just someone very strange who had an accident that turned out happy for the rest of us.

Ok, maybe not the best example.

But you know what I mean. A little bit of daring saw me step into playing the cricket and I enjoyed every minute of doing that. Even the injuries. Ok, maybe not the times when it was so cold my muscles started to freeze ? It takes a bit of daring when I reply to posts on Twitter (fear of being ignored again) or when I was initiating contact with people on the dating website.

But that little bit of daring got me in touch (eventually!) with a wonderful little lovely lady who really brightens my days up when a message comes in. (I've deactivated the account on that site now ;-) ).
(post ed, slight correction - I've unsubbed from the paid part of the site but the account is still active. Haven't looked at it for ages though)

Try stuff. Dare yourself to do things. I'm glad I did the Shaun Hunt in the summer, it proved that these aging muscles and bones can still do things like that. I needed that for my fragile self confidence. Similar with meetings, positive feedback reminds me that I might actually know what I'm talking about and have good ideas. It helps offset the lack of appreciation from other areas. And it took a little bit of daring to gather the self confidence to pipe up in those meetings.

That's it for today I think ! E and F at some point in the near future.

I thought about maybe doing last year's Christmas Photo Meme again, I really enjoyed doing that last year but ... I think I'd pick out most of the same pictures again. I need a new meme !

After this one. Cya !

PS I'm going to keep linking the book in these posts. I'd thoroughly recommend picking it up for feel good feels.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sales Time Cometh ...

Sales times are weird.

Case 1 - They override our good sense and make us buy stuff we don't really need. But we buy it cos its cheap.
Case 2 - Those things we thought were over priced become incredibly tempting and the discounts overcome our resistance.

In the last years of Winter sales, I'd been eyeing up the tellies. I still want to upgrade the telly from the 32" LCD telly I have. I'd kinda like a bigger one with more dots. MORE DOTS ! (Sorry, something triggered a Warcraft moment). But I have better things to spend the money on. Like a £150 graphics card !


Think of the essentials first.
Keep an eye open for getting stuff you need at discounts.
Peek for shinies that your friends might want.
MARKET FOOD ! Yep. I am a sucker for a good bit of sausage.
(Of the SausageInnaBun kind - I dunno what you were thinking - haha)
And a general mooch around at what's on offer.

I rarely buy stuff when I go round the shops or around market places. But I do enjoy getting out and about, for a while at least until the throng of people gets the better of me and I need to escape to somewhere quieter.

Cue the online sales ... And places like Amazon ...
I need more books.

I need more music because before acquiring a Jimi Hendrix album yesterday, I've listened to all of my music library. Definitely need more music.

Need more games too. Ok, maybe I don't need more games but I do want to expand the collection. Partly because games have soundtracks to listen to (especially on who have started their Black Friday sales early). Steam have a sale starting tomorrow and I suspect I'll spend a little money on it. I've saved not-spent a little tonight by checking reviews for Horny Rat (aka Warhammer - Shadow of the Horned Rat). Check reviews, it lets you avoid frustration and Horny Rat (quicker name than the full version) is supposedly very unstable and crashes too much. Bad show.

That's another sales lesson - don't jump in just because it's cheap. Do the research as well to make sure you understand what you're buying. Don't buy rubbish. That seems like a really obvious thing to say but ... so many people (cough-buy-Bieber-cough) get stuff they never use (like me with games!) or buy stuff that is substandard compared to what they could have got for similar money.

Sometimes sales are just a means of getting customers in the door to clear out the stockroom of stuff no one in a sensible frame of mind will buy.

But books ? Books are always quality. Keep your eye open for good books. I'm reading the Martian again and remembering how amazing that book is. I thought the film was pretty good, the book is far superior. All of the stuff that was dumbed down or cut for length in the film, is in the book. The science makes more sense and is explained far better than you can do on film.

That pic ?

22% would rather be reading - yeah, I'll read stories or watch other people play through games - cos I like the story.
4% spend rent money on books. Ok, not done this (since uni!) but I know people who definitely do. Yep CK. Lookin' at you.
8% No such thing as too many books. Looks at bookshelf stacked 2 deep with books. NEED MORE BOOKS.
25% Books are better than people. Depends on the people. I know a few with wonderful smiles, great hugggers, sparkling conversation and I know a very few who combine all 3 of those. Yeah, it's heresy but some people are better than books. Especially if you can talk about books with them.
10% arrange bookshelves by emotion. Erm. My bookshelves are a bit too chaotic for that ... They've just ... been added to as new books arrive.
8% mourning fictional characters. Poor Wash. He will be missed. And ... too ! Death by electric spark. That wasn't in the movie.
11% literary references no one gets. Roll pods, cross that T and give 'em a broadside. Roll sides against the answering barrage.
(Let me know in the comments if you get that reference)
3% forgot to eat or sleep. Forgetting to eat would be good for me because I need to lose the weight again. The Martian is such a readable book that I would quite happily start now (after hitting publish!) and read until I had to leave for work tomorrow.
9% waiting for Hogwarts letter.

Ok, maybe not Hogwarts but it would be wonderful to be beamed up, whisked away and put to good use making Space Engines Go Faster. I would be over the moon if that happened. Need to write that story ! I have another couple of ideas for episodes within that space scifi tale. How does galactic commerce fit into an interstellar society with no faster than light comms, how do banks work. And how do you rob them ...

Haha. Crime can make for the better stories.

Time to get back to the stories actually. I suspect I'll indulge in the Steam sales (Cosmonautica is the favourite and has allayed my fears for it, having been updated yesterday) although I've talked myself out of the sale.

If you indulge in Black Friday or other Winter sales, may it be money well spent and I hope you don't get trampled in the rush. That's from the retailer side and the customer side. People's behaviour in sales times can be ... pretty below average. Don't be one of the morons !

Cya there :-).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Alphabet of the Human Heart - As and Bs

I mentioned that someone special had bought me a book that's going to spark off a meme ...

The book is the Alphabet of the Human Heart by Matthew Johnstone and James Kerr and each page is a letter. One side of the book is positives, the other side is negatives. But the negatives side isn't so much about describing the emotions that burn us, more how we can redirect them to better ends.

Here goes for the first few letters ! Some of this is from the book, most of it is me ! All me.

A is for Anger. What makes us angry ? Fears, griefs, insecurities ? We have to understand our anger, absorb it, overcome it. Harness it but in doing so, direct it in positive directions. "Control the emotions and everything will be cool."

Most of the time, I'm a fairly placid character but there is that inner fire that has potential to lash out and burn. When I dropped a catch in the cricket, I would get very angry at myself and damage my weak shoulder by throwing the ball back too hard. When a team mate fluffed something easy, I'd bite down on the nasty comment and give encouragement instead. There's often a snarky comment being directed at other drivers on the road as they do something silly. When people at work are less professional than they should be, there is a cold fire burning. When I see prejudice, towards me or towards others, that's really bad for my sense of calm.

But we need to direct those reactions to positive ends. Although that does often mean at work that people don't realise that I walked away so as to not explode. With the cricket, the anger and passion would drive me to play harder but always fairly. I'd bowl meaner, run faster, throw harder (not good for me!) but I would not cross that line into unfair play. If the batsman annoyed me, I'd try and run him out or bowl him out. I wouldn't (intentionally*!) bowl or throw at their heads.

*The flaw in my shoulder made me lose all control of bowling length and meant that balls could come out directed at people's heads - so I stopped bowling because combine that with swinging deliveries that follow the batsman as they try and take avoiding action - potentially lethal.

Direct your anger but do that in positive ways. Don't let it turn hurtful to others, your conscience will make you regret that later.

A is for Adventure. It is the opposite of television.

I love the German Market coming back every year. It's new. It's different. My favoured activity in Elite is to go trading in new places. In Warcraft, it would be to travel through the zones seeing what's new. With people, people are unpredictable and it's fun being on that adventure with them. I like seeing things that are new. I'll hopefully get to the Bath Xmas market when it opens at the end of this week, I've missed that for the last few years.

Adventure is fun. Don't miss out on it. Embrace the unpredictable.

B is for Boredom. Oh what an appropriate one to follow Adventure ...

The cure is curiosity. Do something different, learn new things, see new sights. Ask a kiddie what to do, they have an uncluttered, unspoiled, unprejudiced mindset which can be absolutely gold. Tune in to life. Turn off the tv.

I have to admit, an episode of The Flash is on the telly while I tap this post out. But I see that as one sign that I tune into life and away from boredom. The story of The Flash tv series still interests me, although it's not as good as the new Supergirl. However, contrast that to The Walking Dead, which I stopped watching cos ... boredom. It's not as good as when it started out. But that's telly. There are more stories out there.

Some of the time, I'm putting my mind through familiar patterns that some would see as boring. It's the repetitive task or game that is the opposite of adventure or new. But it is a certain kind of cathartic activity that lets my brain relax while simultaneously racing. My brain seems to like doing that. I like seeing new things but I also need to switch off.

One thing about cricket, why I find it compelling, every game is different. England have done pretty well in the one day games but you'd never have called a 3-1 series win for them in this series when it started. Jos Buttler, our wicket keeper, was in such bad form that the fastest ever 100 by an Englishman was totally unexpected.

There's a few things I want to see fairly soon, although I'd like to see them with someone :
Bath Xmas market while it's on.
SS Great Britain.
Bristol Planetarium.
Snow ! Infinite patterns and infinite possibility of snowmen.
And people who surprise me with smiles.

Because smiles are awesome. Even if I never really believe that it's me that made them smile.

B is also for Balance, which gets us full circle to Anger.

Where there is anger, the answer should be calm. Yin, Yang. Acid and sherbets (hey ! It's been working for me, the sherbet lemons have been counteracting the excess acid I make). Balance is the tension between opposites, day and night, warm and cold, ice and fire, conversation and silence, sociability and solitude, love for another and love for yourself. We always strive for balance, weigh up the options that will let you achieve that.

When I feel anger, I ask : How will others see me like this ? This moderates my reactions when I drive. The need to not show that Horned Demon side helps me hide it within and suppress it.

Day brings sun, night brings sleep. And stars. Stars are pretty. One thing I've never done is to go out in the country somewhere on a cloudless night and see the stars open up before me. Never had the excuse.

Warm and cold, ice and fire. I like being warm but I don't react well when it gets too hot. Cold brings snow. The fire inside turns to ice as I redirect it.

Conversation is great but silence can also be that intimacy of enjoying another's company without needing to say anything. To have a comfortable silence. To not know what the other will say but to be in tune with it. To not rush it by being sociable when the other wants to talk and giving them the space of solitude when they want a quiet moment.

And most important, giving a little love for the other and not making it all about yourself. I fall down a bit there as I think I turn the conversation round to me a little too much when I talk to other people. How do others see that ? It's something I'm aware of that I do, perhaps I'm seeing something that isn't there.

I do like to keep an eye on the close friends though to see if they're ok. I keep an eye open for pictures that I think will make people smile. I see things that remind me of others and think "Will they like that?" Yep. I think of other people a lot, possibly more than I do myself although my attention has been drawn to me rather too much as I get healthy again.

That's an odd thought - I may be properly healthy again soon, with the problems with my outsides steadily receding. There's still damage to repair but ... it's getting there. Just have problems on my insides now !

Haha - I'll leave it there. Back for more A to Z sometime soon :-).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tired, Pizza, Music You Really Don't Want To Hear

I have the tireds again ...

It's due to a big week last week followed by travelling last weekend. The travel always knocks me out. But if you saw the pics of Ben in the last post, you'll see why it's worth it.

And that's just the pooch. It's good to see the family again, even if the extended family (Double D as I may call them, they'll love that - hahaha) couldn't come too. I expect I'll meet up with them sometime soon, where Junior D will game me to death. Maybe :-). Or I might be able to summon up some last vestiges of reaction time and skill to keep the upper hand.

I do feel a little bit behind still in reactions. I tend to make up for that by concentration harder, so if my attention fades out while you're talking to me during driving or other concentration things, that's why. I haven't been gaming much at all this week so far. Ok, some Motorsport Madness on the iPad but I don't really count that as an activity game. You pick your strategy for the race and take decisions according to the race situation.

I've managed to resist getting games in the sales that have come up - had a decent sale going. The one that has my attention at the moment is called Cosmonautica, a space sim type game that would appeal to the Farmville / Facebook game fraternity. It looks ok in concept ... but as usual, when it comes to execution, reports say it falls down somewhat with bugs and other limitations. I expect I'll acquire a few games come the Steam sales for Black Friday and the big one at Xmas.

I need a new graphics card too - this one is having issues and I get the feeling it's just nursing itself along before it fails. A lot of that is the software that drives it, like turning the fans down so it gets melty. I have the sums* turned off at the moment while a video is playing in another window, so it's running at a cool 37 degrees C.

* Sums on a graphics card ? Signal processing, like what SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Aliens) does, works by taking a bit of data and running lots of sums on it. The sums are very simple, so if you can do many at once, that makes it so much quicker. The processor in this desktop has 4 cores which can each do up to 16 very simple sums at once (trickery!). The graphics card has 1024 individual texture processors or CUDA cores which can be used for reasonably complex sums as well when they're not turning picture maps into lovely 3d worlds. This means a SETI work unit that would take 2 hours on a processor, would take 5 minutes on the graphics card.

It does stuff for Science and it heats the house too.

A big week ? Last week was :
Monday for shopping (was almost out of popcorn - this is bad)
Tuesday Mall to pick up something I needed resulting from the shopping (an adaptor)
Wednesday Cupid's Gift ! Lovely evening with a lovely little lady. And if you've seen the Facebook pic, with a lovely smile too. And a lovely taste for gifts, one of which will result in a meme series sometime soon ...
Thursday - can't remember. Think I did quiet stuff at home.
Friday - watching the cricket (England won ! Hurrah) and travelling for the weekend.

I hope you can guess what I was looking forward to and remember most from last week, most of the rest of it is a blur.

I have a hankering for pizza ...
I do like pizza. Even if I am more sensitive to the cheese than I like these days. It's my go to comfort food when I need to turn the brain off and have something that will make me close to food comaness.

Hopefully we'll have another pizza and movie chill out night soon, we're overdue that.

But in the meantime, I believe Friday evening will be pizza accompanied by watching Interstellar again. Ok, some of the plot line and science is atrocious but the bits of the plot that matter (the relationship between Coop and Murphy) gets me in the feels. And it is good to feel things.

Music you really don't want to hear ?

A work friend was saying she was freaked out today (I may be misquoting, forgive me) by a coffee machine. It was singing to her ...

So as my brain was being overcome by mischievous thoughts ... I wondered - what might you hear from a singing coffee machine ? Here goes.

Queen - Another One Bites The Dust
In our place - They Might Be Giants - Minimum Wage
Before home time - Road To Hell or even Road To Nowhere with our traffic
Ironic by Alanis Morrissette - definitely
Back On The Chain Gang - crack that whip.
Musical Chairs music with our desk booking system
Manic Monday or I Don't Like Mondays
Another Brick In The Wall with I Don't Need No Education definitely sums up some of the denizens of Asda I saw on Monday during the cake run.
Garbage had a brilliant if sad song - Cup Of Coffee. And then the machine asks if you want Milk.
Oh and there's Fix Me Now when it's bust. Coffee machines aren't the most reliable devices.
Four Seasons In One Day summed up our weather today. No snow yet though.
Algebra and Mathematics (A Camp and Little Boots) would be favourites of our Finance People.
Oh carp another bunch of Changes (David Bowie) is coming
Hahahah - Mercy was always Duffy's best boppy song
Nine Million Bicycles ... riding on the pavement.

I think that's enough amusement from the singing coffee machine for now, I better stop before I pull out something like Frozen that might get be in trouble.

One more ! You make your choice, you put the cup where it needs to be, the machine starts hollering "Money, Money, Money" at you. Or the older "Money" from Pink Floyd.

Monday, November 16, 2015

In The News ...

... and how we react to it.

Everyone will have heard about what happened in Paris, at least if you've been near a Western news agency lately. I'm not going to talk about that though (much), you can hear much more informed (hopefully!) info about it from elsewhere. I just get my info from the same places as I expect you do.

No - what I do want to talk about is people's reactions to it.

Shortly after the event, people started altering their online avatar pics to overlay a French Tricolor flag on top of their normal avatar. I did it too. It's my quiet way of showing solidarity with the people inflicted with a shocking event.

Not too long after that, we see people popping out of the woodwork (or their personal crevices) to criticise those people overlaying the tricolor. Why didn't we show the Lebanese tree ? Why didn't we do something for the Russian airliner or the Malaysian airliners ? How about the Japanese tsunami or the massacre in Kenya which I've just found it very tough to find on BBC news.

These people were churlish enough to criticise those who did not react to every single tragedy, while paying no respects of their own. It reminds me of what someone did near the end of the London Olympics. He posted something (and that I remember shows how appalling I thought it was) along the lines of :

"Go Team GB, please ... go"

As in, he was sick of everyone else joining in with that nationwide excitement over the Olympics. A completely different way of feeling but consistent with people criticising those caught up in the moment. That statement had me a click away from banishing him from my friends list.

We do need to keep looking outside of our own existences at the world around us. I keep a fairly watchful eye on the news, events in other countries affect us in very subtle or very overt ways.

What I don't agree with is the overt cause pushing that we see from a lot of people. However I will make my own quiet gestures when I feel the need. That I don't do that for the people in Kenya, Nigeria, Japan, Russia, Malaysia and so on is no indication that I care less about them. But at the same time, I won't follow each and every cause with a token gesture. To criticise those who give the occasional gesture ? Churlish as I've mentioned before. This isn't about those who don't make the gesture, not everyone is glued to social media and not everyone has access to it 100% of the time. It's about the ones who attack the people showing support.

So why France ? Why this time ? Why was this one closer than the rest ?

It was more immediate, the situation was unfolding in front of our eyes on Friday night and we knew exactly what was going on. It took a while for the Malaysian airliner over the Ukraine and we still don't know what happened to the Malaysian airliner over the Southern oceans. Similar for the Russian airliner over Sinai. That uncertainty makes us unsure how to react.

It was closer. A colleague had been in Paris the day before (he's ok) and my sister and her bloke may well have been in Paris this weekend. People that close were nearly caught up in this event.

And that's the big reason why I reacted. And I will react again at a future event. You'll see it when it happens. If I'd been home with access to GIMP and the source file, I'd have done a message dwagon like the Je Suis Charlie single tear dwagon this time with the Eiffel Peace symbol.

A message of quiet support should not be criticised. If you need a little help and people show that quiet support, how will you feel if people bash those who are holding out that helping hand ?

Remember others. Keep the peace. Spread the love. Help people who need it.

And talking of love ... Also this weekend ... I got slurped ...
I was off to see the mum and dad this weekend. And Ben the Staffy. He is the epitome of love in a canine shell. He'll check you out and have a sniff and a lick. He'll take the cues from mum and dad as to whether a visitor is ok. He'll give a little love and accept a little love back in the form of snuggles, strokes and belly rubs.

He's a typical Staffy.
He still struggles with that poorly paw;
But that doesn't stop him getting excited whenever it comes to meat carving and meat scraps time. There he is waiting intently but patiently with a full body wag of the tail. It's great when a dog does that and it's great to see a dog doing the full body tail wag.
Excitement does get the better of him though, as seen by all 4 paws off the ground and bouncing out of shot.
It does tire him out though. Ben's an old dog now and a little bit of bouncing is followed by zzzz's. Although in the pic above, the grand prix "racing" was on the telly and Ben's zzzz's there are an accurate reflection of how interesting the racing was. He never was one for chasing cars.

Ok - I better close up now !

Great weekend, coloured by what happened in Paris and various churlish people's reactions to how various people showed their support for those left behind.

But you then look back to That Face and the love embodied on those 4 paws.

Be more dog. But I would warn you against coming up to random strangers who walk past and giving them a slurp. Dogs can get away with that whereas it tends to lead to Huggy Jackets for us.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cake, Hype, Cake, Cake, Games, Cake, Film, Cakecakecake

I need to post more !

And I have another idea for an ongoing meme too. I really enjoyed doing the Xmas December Photo Challenge last year and I think it did some good in changing up how I do posts. As in ... more pictures.

Talking of pictures ... I have cake.
There was a third, which was as gertlush as the other two there look. I have lots of cake here at the moment (German market visit yesterday!) but those two there will be the ones disappearing first. Homemade cake always has a certain something extra that market or shop bought cake is missing.

Oh - those words ... Yep. Another birthday coming ... tomorrow. I'm getting older ! Feeling older too. Tiredness is hitting but that just means I need to find a way of unlocking the energy that is within the excess baggage I'm carrying around again.

What does help with the motivation is getting smiles and hugs. People on my Facebook will have seen a picture where I caught a special little lady in a moment of sheer joy. Huge smile and it gives an idea of those bubbly chuckles I keep talking about.

I had a lovely evening last night, one of the better birthday evenings for a good few years now. Presents, a film (Bond), tasty munchies (Wagamama) and excellent company. What more could you want :-).

Bond was pretty good, although I do remember back to the old Bond films which were all about the entertainment, the toys, the corny jokes, while still keeping the spectacular and often silly action going. New Bond is far grittier, the scripts are better and they don't descend to the level of cliche that spoiled Die Another Day. It does help that Daniel Craig is one of the best Bonds to have played the part.

Yep. Spectre is a pretty good film, way up there in the standard of Bond films. It is very brutal though, not suitable for kids (this is picking up on a discussion on the radio). There are scenes there that would give kiddies nightmares (some adults too I bet), which is not what Bond films should be about.

Oh that cake is being very tempting ... but I shall resist until I hit Publish and make sure it's on the Facebooks and the Twitters.

That gets me to hype, which is currently bridging both the film and the games. Bond is heavily hyped, as are others where you probably see more minutes of trailer and advert before you see the film than there are minutes in the film. The Star Wars film is a classic example, hopefully it will live up to the hype. Hype is a dangerous thing, it raises expectations past a point which is utterly unrealistic. I've enjoyed films best where I go in with no expectations at all, except to be entertained by what I'm about to see. When I saw Star Trek Nemesis, I'd read the book before and the book was fairly ok. The film, however, was an absolute travesty that killed off Star Trek until the new films came out.

There's a lot of hype in the gaming world as well at the moment. There is a category of game called the AAA title, which are the games with most money thrown at them. You've probably heard about Call of Duty, Fallout 4, the Star Wars game and a bunch of others ...

Call of Duty - I avoid these like the plague although I did enjoy the first CoD. It was a solid, well made single player game. The newer CoDs are all about the multiplayer, which is a format I do not enjoy.
Fallout 4 - has massive hype and I'll enjoy watching the Hannah playthrough (linky) but ... I got grabbed far quicker by the start of her Rise of the Tomb Raider playthrough (linky) which is written by the ever fantastic Rhianna Pratchett.
Star Wars Battlefront - meh. Another bad multiplayer online shooter with no depth and apparently very poor balance. Just living on the licenced setting. Try Team Fortress 2 or Planetside 2 instead. Don't pay the EA idiot tax.

Yeah - I won't be buying any of those games, in fact I swore off getting anything that DICE (makers of Battlefield and Battlefront) are involved in after being unable to play Battlefield 3 due to game breaking bugs. I built a computer for that ! (Ok, it was to showcase the graphics a new machine I was building anyway was going to have).

I may acquire Rise of the Tomb Raider when it comes to PC. They've released it on a console as an exclusive and it's coming to other platforms later. That's not a bad way of doing it, means the game is properly sorted out instead of being the mess that Batman Arkham Knight (another megahyped game) was on launch.

Hype comes from two different places :

People who have experienced something and who are telling everyone how awesome it is.
People who want you to buy something, it hasn't been released but the expectations are out there.

The first is me with that German Market and the Happy Cookie Place. It deserves its hype. The other is people being blind to past performance by the people making what the hype is about. In the case of Fallout 4, it's by a company called Bethesda who have a massive reputation but I've never really got on well with their games. The games are gorgeous :
That's Skyrim from a few years ago. But they are also deeply flawed in terms of their gameplay (this matters in games above all else but is quickly forgotten under the hype), storyline and evolution of that ongoing free to explore world.

I'll give Fallout 4 a miss, although I'll watch the Hannah playthrough to see how it evolves. It's telling that she's completed Rise of the Tomb Raider already. I guess that one is going to be a 10-15 hour game, so I'm looking forward to lots of videos. The best games grab you and their story keeps you playing when you should really be going to bed before the sun comes up.

Oh - one reason I'll keep watching the Hannah playthrough is because her commentary genuinely adds to the experience. Must play through the first Tomb Raider at some point, I've watched the play through twice ! And enjoyed it both times, both for story and the added commentary. (Link to Hannah-channel)

That cake is becoming irresistable now so it's time to hit that Publish button :-).

PS The meme will be from a book called The Alphabet of the Human Heart. I see lots of trigger in there for things to write about. Cheers to little Cupid's Gift for the gifts ! :-)

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Mad Fireworks

I like fireworks. I miss them too.
Those are some from quite a few years ago now, taken at Thornbury fireworks just up the road. Actually a lot of years ago ...

The 5th of November is remembered in Britain for Guy Fawkes, a revolutionary mercenary who almost succeeded in an attempt to blow up our Houses of Parliament. If I remember my history lessons right (they were from more than half my life ago!), he got taken in by a bunch of amateurish noblemen who had been thoroughly infiltrated by the spymaster of the time. The plot got them all out into the open where they could be quietly arrested. Guido was caught under the Houses, close to being able to blow them up. This was in a flour warehouse ... And flour is quite flammable and explosive under the right conditions ...

Yep. Plot failed, although I suspect more than a few people would like to see a contemporary equivalent. There's nothing wrong with our system of government, except for those who sit in the house. The unelected privilege based house appears to have the voice of sanity at the moment, unlike the elected house. Well, a majority voted for the elected half.

Enough politics ! That way lies insanity ...

We used to do an annual meet up with the work-ish mob (CQ, CK and BD) to let off a few hundred pounds worth of fireworks before retreating into the warm with pizza and movies. Those were fun chilled out nights and it's a shame we don't do them any more. Part of that is not having suitable places to let off the fireworks. That brings me to point one :

Pets and fireworks don't mix. All that unexplained banging is really bad for the nerves. Mine too ! Ish. I can put it out of my mind immediately and possibly even look out the window for them (not really fast enough to do that). For me, it's not as unnerving as when the car alarm decides to disgrace itself by going off mysteriously. (It happily hasn't done that since I started turning off half of the alarm system).

But yeah - it's a really bad time of the year for pets with all those noises going off. (This is one reason why one of our firework hosting places is off the list). It's worse than just one night a year though, People seem to think it's acceptable to let the fireworks off for a period of around 3 weeks around the 5th.

That's partly policed by the supermarkets, who will stop selling the fireworks soon. There's scary point 2 actually ...

This time of year, you can buy explosives freely in the supermarkets. (They happen to go up in the sky and make pretty explosions but they're still explosives). And we sell these to anyone, including those who cannot give any evidence that : They can read, Can follow safety instructions*, Are sane, Have any good sense. I'm going by what I see daily on the roads there. There are a huge number of morons out there.

*(Let's be honest, you've read that "25 ft minimum safe distance" warning and followed it every time right ? right ?)

One of my biggest fears around this time of year is hearing a knock on the door, followed by a "TRICK OR TREAT" and shortly after that, a bang as a firework is let off under a car. Yep. I have that high/low an opinion of modern society. Perhaps that's why I'd like to escape to somewhere with less people ?

But being around people can have its positives :
Happy Cookie Place is back and it has Happy Cookie Customers ! Yep. They're expensive. But they taste so good (as well as being massive). There was no one there when I rocked up but by the time I'd started walking away with a bag full of cookies, there was a tidy queue there.

Yep. German Market is back, complete with lots of stalls selling touristy type stuff plus assorted munchies. There's a Cake Place as well but their standard may have dropped somewhat. I'll check again on Wednesday but the cakes there yesterday weren't as good as I remember from last year.

After picking up the cookies (first stop ! VITAL!), I had a lunch of bratwurst and hot chocolate. Word of warning - be sure to ask for your deposit back on the cups. It's a £2 deposit that I really shouldn't have had to do a "And the deposit?" for after handing the cup back.

And then 3 (4) cds walked out of HMV with me. Yep. Got caught by a 2 for deal where I didn't have much idea what the second would be. The cd's are Laura Marling's Alas, I Cannot Swim, Carly Rae Jepson with E-Mo-Tion and Iron Maiden's latest which is a double album. I have to stop buying things now because it's the birthday soon and it wouldn't do to buy anything that someone else might be looking to buy me.

Did I mention cookies ?
Let me take a moment to explain how that picture got taken ... My camera can talk to my phone. You can run an app on the phone that controls the camera. It means I could point the camera without having to look at its display, as the view was being replicated on the phone. So :

A dishcloth that I wish I'd ironed formed the backdrop, dangling from the front of the sofa.
The dwagons and cookies were on a plank of wood that forms my makeshift table (no room for proper table!).
Diorama posed to satisfaction (and then picture retaken as I realised that crumbs from the cookies were on the plank!)
Camera propped up on my knee (as all this was on the floor)
Phone on the floor within easy picture taking reach.

Yep. First time I've taken a scene like this. Perhaps I should have gone for the blackscreen backdrop as I have done in previous diorama type pics ? That's where I put the scene on top of my subwoofer with a black PC box base behind that. I think this one would have been a bit big for that. I also like to pose the light as well, which limits where in the room I can pose it. Natural light is far better than flash light.

Did I mention I'd be checking the German Market out again soon ?

HURRAH ! Wednesday. Looking forward to it because I'll have a little bundle of chuckly smiles along too who I suspect will encourage me to acquire more cookies. Not seen her for ages and it's only in the last week or so where her wounded ankle has improved to the point where she can get out and about again.

Watching Bond too. Am looking forward to a really fun evening.

PS And the dwagon pic drew a comment of "Holy mother of god" from one of the Twitter people. Made my day.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Interstellar mailman

I think I have that elusive thing.

A possible story idea. I don't think I'll dive into doing NaNoWriMo, although it would be fun to see what would happen if I did so. When I write posts like this, it'll start from a basic idea and usually just flow into a Wall of Text. With occasional picture.

I'm curious what would happen if I shunted the writing over to story writing. I've thought about doing that before but didn't actually translate much into story. I think I'm in a better place now though, after coming out from recovering from bad outsides being what dominated my thinking. It's weird looking back at posts from even just one year ago and remembering what I was like then. And that was when the decline had been arrested and I'd started to very slowly recover.

Hell, it's been a year and a bit now since that recovery started and I'm still not all fixed up yet. It's getting closer ... but it's still a state of always improving, never actually fixing. And although work tends to tire out my brain to the point where I don't really want to exert the thinking too much at home in the evening, I think writing stories would be somewhat cathartic.

You know that feeling when you're reading a book or watching episodics on telly ... where you wonder what would happen if they went further, did things different or just didn't fall into the scifi trope of having a magic solution happen in the last 5 minutes of the episode. Where you think you could write a better story. Where you think they missed opportunities. Yeah, I get that a bit.

One of the really magic space scifi series of the last little while was Firefly ...
I think my story would owe a lot of influence to that series, although I would set it in a different universe. It would be Post Diaspora Earth universe. I.e. humanity's home would still be Earth in our Sol system but we would have spread out through the stars. Firefly has humanity jumping ship to a massive solar system with loads of planetoids. I love the series but I'm not a fan of the setting.

I'd have a setting with faster than light travel, possibly hyperspace. There's a few examples of that :

Star Wars - has hyperspace and a magical means of space drive when not jumping between the stars. The type of drive that seems to depend on drag and other weirdness.
Star Trek - faster than light warp drive and sublight impulse. This makes a lot of sense, although it wasn't really used much in the series or it was dealt with in an inconsistent fashion when it wasn't just ignored for thin plot devices.
Firefly - I think this uses sublight exclusively. It takes a while for them to transit from planetoid to planetoid in that system.
Farscape - lol. Again, love the series but its means of travel made no sense whatsoever.
Andromeda - probably the king of scifi space travel. This had a slipstream drive where ships travelled rapidly across the galaxies by riding cosmic strings and then by sublight when in system.

And there are more, like David Weber's Honorverse using gravity drives that go quick in system and go to higher dimensions for interstellar travel. They don't explain that one all that well.

Yeah - I'd want to go with a warp drive and sublight. Gene Roddenberry was a genius for making scifi sound realistic, although a lot was sacrificed to allow it to get to our screens.

But this time, it's not about the journey. Errrm ... misquote. It's not about how you make the journey, it's what happens on the journey.

Interstellar mailman ? So much scifi ignores communication delay. They have a magical system where base can talk to ships many light years away, in real time. If your comms are bound to light speed like our's are, then if you beamed your message to a neighbouring system 5 light years away, they'd get it in 5 years. That's bad.

So my story could well be based around an interstellar mailman. One of many. They'd be contracted to move the messages from system to system. They'd file a course plan jumping through several systems and would load up with the messages that needed to be sent on. That way the messages get there so much quicker than beaming them from system to system.

That wouldn't be all they did though. That'd be kinda boring and ... it sounds like government contracting. That doesn't pay very well.

Enter the Firefly influence ...
If a ship is going from system to system, lots of people will want to move more than messages. There's also the potential for nefarious dodgy deals to happen before moving on. Exciting things. Way more exciting things than just delivering the mail.

I'd want to go a bit further too. There's potential for things happening on the home ship. It'd be an old battered, beat up tramp freighter (how many times have we heard that trope !) with a character of its own. But we'd want to do things off ship too.

One of the better books I've read for getting the feels out is one called Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein. That's a series of shortish stories woven together by the central character, a protagonist of many Heinlein books called Lazarus Long. One who is so in love with life and those he comes into contact with that he just keeps on living. Several thousand years and counting. One of the more memorable parts of that book is where he goes homesteading. The intelligent mule character is adorable. Anyway yeah, one of the miniplot ideas is that our protagonist has to disappear off the grid for a while and he just happened to be carrying homesteading kits* along with the mail.

*A homesteading kit would be a wagon with all the bits needed to start off a homestead away from support from a town, Time Enough For Love sets up the concept pretty well. There's more to it than you'd think ... And the people going would need to be jack of all trades to survive without that trader/crafter support.

Curious concept. It's bubbling away in part of my head looking for the ideas to develop into something more usable.

Actually there's another couple of influences popped up while I took a moment or two away from keyboard ... 3d printers ! Essential for that homesteading kit. Except that I think that 3d printers now are restricted to cutting nylon. The future 3d printer would do that with metal for hardier bits and pieces. And you'd have another machine for getting the metal.

Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey is also a great influence. It goes several thousand years backwards from her Dragonriders of Pern series and it is a fantastic tale of setting up a colony from scratch.

So many influences. The challenge is to keep them all consistent and come up with a tale that's truly Your's. Or Mine.

Hopefully the tale will still be coherent by the time it escapes from my head. That's what has happened before, I haven't had the mental energy to go keyboard tapping and the idea fades before I do type.

Or it turns into something completely unrelated to what I started typing. Wall of Text Alarm ! I better stop there :-).

Saturday, October 31, 2015


I mentioned writing the other day didn't I ?
I feel there's a novel or few in me wanting to get out. Tomorrow sees the start of NaNoWriMo month or National Novel Writing Month. It's a challenge to write a 50,000 odd word novel inside a month. I have it on that list as something I want to do someday.

I have 2 modes of writing that I do normally. The first is this blog. I try for a conversational style, where I attempt to make each post a conversation between me as the writer and you as the reader. I try and anticipate the questions that you're asking as you read and to provide answers. I attempt to keep you engaged in the post, so you come back for the next one.

I hope I do ok in that, although I don't get much feedback on what I write. What feedback I do get is hugely appreciated. Whether it's a like on the Facebook, a chat about what I've written or a "Good post" "Great post" from some very lovely people. The April Fool post got a lot of chuckles when I showed it around the office.

The other form of writing is quite different. It's the report writing I'll do at work. This writing is far more formal and structured. It's Formal English far more than Conversational English. But at its heart again, I have to keep the reader engaged and I have to ensure they keep up with what I'm talking about. That means not diving immediately into the detail. It means warming up the audience before hitting them over the head with something very heavy.

Yep. Death By Powerpoint.

But yeah, I see too often where senior people have forgotten how to brief what they know to others who's buy in they need. I have a saying I live by : "If you cannot explain something in the simplest possible language, you do not truly understand it". Buzzwords are bad and turn off people's attention.

The key thing is knowing what level to talk at.

I read so many books and the better science fiction books share one major narrative theme. They will have a character central to the plot which will have very little idea of what's going on. Iain M Banks (RIP you are missed) did this multiple times in his Culture novels, where a non Culture person took up that position of reverse narrator. The character would have the situation explained to them and in doing so, the author was explaining to the reader what was going on.

Other authors like Terry Pratchett would refer to what you know of this world to make comment and humour in their writing.

That gets me back round to NaNoWriMo.

I'm not going to take part in it this month, I don't have a coherent enough idea of a novel which I would want to write. I have several ideas for a core theme of a book but here's what I think of them :

Post apocalyptic Earth - interesting but it's done loads. How can I make mine believable and different ?
Space scifi - this is the story I want to write. But ... how to make it interesting ? I think it would follow what I've been doing in Elite but ... that's a cathartic activity for me and I don't think anyone looking in on it would be interested.
Magic fantasy world.

And a couple of other themes. How come I don't think the space stuff would be interesting ? Firefly was a fantastic series and I think I would follow that analogue. Or there's the legendary Blakes 7, where they are fighting a guerilla war of survival against a despotic galactic Federation. Dark Matter is an interesting world developing, where the galactic situation is dominated by corporations rather than a government.

But that's other people's stories. Mine should be uniquely me and in a style that I think other people would read. And then come back to read later.

I've just finished reading Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. He's an author who writes stories that could be quite interesting. Science that gets your attention. Drama that should hold the attention. However ... his lecturing style gets in the way of keeping you focused on the story. Other authors lose your focus in other ways, by having very complicated things going on which you can't keep up with.

That's where keeping it simple is a really good lesson to remember. I'm watching Doctor Who at the moment, there's a huge amount of backstory for that but the key to it is The Doctor, his companion and the TARDIS. And a bit of magic too. Star Trek was about the ship and the crew. Firefly was another ship and the crew with lots of magic coming in from the crime and misbehaving.

I think there are stories in me that are the equal or better of some I've read. But there is that factor of having a cracking beginning, a middle that holds your interest and an end that comes at the perfect time in the story. A lot of stories I read lose you in the middle or misjudge the ending. The conclusion is either rushed or it drags out too much.

Yep. No NaNoWriMo entry for me this year, although I am very curious to know what would happen if I started writing. Where would the story take me ? Would be it readable ? Could I end up being a JK ? Ha. Not likely. But I think I'd be better than even a legend like Arthur C. Clarke because I hope I'd hold the interest of the readers more than his books have done with me.

I need to read more to get more ideas. And not just fiction ! That post apocalyptic scenario idea has a protagonist and friends living on a boat, which would end up being just another character. That boat would translate across into a space situation as well. Just need to avoid getting lost in the details.

Because it should be about the story and the characters that live in that story.

I'll have a try at it someday, although as a wise little person once said "Do ... or do not. There is no try."