Sunday, March 30, 2008

Books vs Film

I've been watching rather a lot of telly over my week off, as well as reading around 1000 pages on and off. I've managed to avoid the games, although I've still played them a little. What I'm thinking about at the moment is the relative merits of the 3 methods of telling a story. I'll start with games ...

The games I like tend to have a strong aspect of Role Play type involved in them. They either follow the story of your character or the story of your empire. The "protagonist" will evolve over time, either expanding as an empire or improving as a character. Almost all games will have a story planned out that guides the evolution of the character, as it gains abilities, weapons or just places to go. However, where most fall down is the amount of variation they allow with games without variation being called Linear. The games that will be remembered have multiple endings or multiple paths to get through to the ending. Each time you play, you'll have a different story. There's also a chance for choice, although I almost always go the "good" path and struggle to maintain an "evil" path if the game allows one.

The big drawback of story games though is the effort that needs to be put in to progress. There's usually a difficulty level built into the game, some games are pitched at a level that's so high that it gets frustrating. Yes, there may be a cracking story built in there but it can get extremely tedious banging on the shell over and over again to get the chestnuts out. It's still a decent way of telling a story but needs the difficulty pitched just right to avoid it being an Interactive Movie but also to avoid it being too hard and an exercise in masochism.

On to TV ... Telly and film is the lazy way of being told a story, it just involves sitting in front of a screen and allowing the story to wash over you. It has the advantage of allowing timing and hopefully a little originality. The actors and actresses put their own stamp on how the story comes across, although some are better than others. I've become a big fan of both House MD and NCIS over the past few months because as well as presenting good stories, they have excellent character interaction. The screen also allows the director to show the imagery required by their story, instead of relying on the imagination. Babylon 5 is an excellent example here of imagery that supported an excellent story, instead of hiding the lack of story that was 10,000 BC.

Trouble with TV and film though is that often the budget will interfere. Either they don't have the money to afford the imagery, sets or sheer number of people or they can't fit what they want into the time. The film 300 was excellently paced, it was as long as it needed to be. However, I had a chance to watch again a documentary on the battle of Thermopylae and associated naval battle and again found that documentary to be relying on padding to make it fit its slot of 2 hours with ads. We see also the Star Trek Syndrome, where there will be a problem running through the whole episode, that's only solved in the last 10 minutes. Or a double episode that's been split to add in a cliff hanger, even though the story to be told could only really support 1.5 episodes.

There's a good contrast with the Sharpe stories. There's a symbiotic relationship here, with the books and TV series depending on each other. The TV series depends on the books to get the story, however the series has no hope of keeping up with the scale of the Napoleonic Era engagements in the books. The TV series relies on adaptations that are of a scale that can be afforded and concentrates on character interaction. The books can go full out with the scale, with the reader's imagination painting the picture of 10's of thousands of men facing each other with muskets. The circle of symbiosis comes from the TV series providing publicity for the books, I don't think there would have been so many Sharpe books without that publicity.

On to books. These can break all the rules that both games and TV have to deal with. The reader's imagination translates what the author has put on the page and the only limit is the skill of the author at describing what's happening. Books can also take a break from narrative for a page or two to add in descriptions of the situation, the hardware or the customs. TV and film can't really do that, except as narration from people on screen. There's still the chance for fun, although the timing tends to depend on the reader's speed.

Some authors are better than others though. I'm taking a break from Harry Turtledove's WorldWar series because I found the first two a bit long and tedious. In comparison, David Weber's At All Costs was well paced at 900 pages. I'll still read the WorldWar books but I'll read some better ones in the meantime. The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks got read through this week, next step is Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds.

Coming full circle, I had a moment of weakness this week and gave Amazon a bit of trade ... I acquired the first series of Blakes Seven, which had its first three episodes watched last night. The excuse was me acquiring the D&D Players Handbook, which will see some extended service starting tomorrow night. I covered Role Play Games via computer above but it's a bit different when you're playing them with other people, away from the computer influence. It's a lot more fun, plus the tediousness of computer RPGs gets taken away by a person acting as the Game Master. They'll interpret the rules, some will try their hardest to kill players :-) but they'll also know that it's more fun to finish the story which is easier to do with players that are still alive.

TV, games, books all have their place and they all allow a different scope in how they allow their stories to be told. Games are let down by excessive repetition, although the online game Eve is a good leader here because groups of players write the story by which its universe is developing. The developers just write the rules they play by. Games like Warcraft have fixed content that you can only experience if you put an insane amount of time in. TV series often don't get the time to get the wider story underway, Babylon 5 only just got a 5th season approved and the spinoff Crusade was cynically axed before it had a chance to blossom. For books, sometimes I think that a series will go on a bit too far. Anne McCaffrey's Dragon series suffered when it sprouted a history that I think broke its self consistency. Other series need to keep raising the stakes until things get a bit silly. I have a feeling this may be where David Weber's Honor Harrington books will fail, although that point hasn't been reached just yet. This isn't just books though, Stargate SG-1 went on for two series too long when it could have ended properly with a season ending time travel episode.

Right - time for a closing bit ... I haven't touched Baldur's Gate 2 for a good few weeks and I last left my mercenary army on the outskirts of Meduna, preparing for the final push. There's the story of the escaped prisoners in Blakes 7 to remind myself of plus I'll be looking to check out Chasm City and an author who I've not read before.

Oh - TV and film have one major advantage - they leave your hands free for popcorn !

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - having a week off

Been off work this week, I definitely needed a break from the office.

Thirteen Things about The Week Off

1.... Week off this week, definitely needed it I think. Easter is a very good excuse and time for getting away from work for a bit, it lets you get enough time to have a worthwhile relax period without using too much leave.
2.... Managed to avoid games a fair bit. However, I did really enjoy hitting the new World of Warcraft instanced dungeon with the Violence Reborn people last night. One of the best people I know was having a last thrash in the game last night and I was honoured to be wanted along by said angel.
3.... Watching cricket live from New Zealand does nasty things to the circadian rhythm. Watching England win at cricket is always worth it. The wins in New Zealand were definitely earned.
4.... Wished I had my microphone active last night, it would have let me join in with the laughing and joking that was coming over the Ventrilo voice communications.
5.... Waiting for Amazon to deliver sucks - it locks you in to the house as otherwise it's a pain getting to the drop off place.
6.... Extended time off is a good time to catch up on things you've missed. House MD is an excellent series. Intensive watching could get you bored with anything, however 3 series in and House is definitely not boring. Lots of good stuff here.
7.... I never seem able to match up certain pairs of my socks together. Hey ! They look just the same :-)
8.... You need to escape totally from work every once in a while, happily the only work I've thought about over the last week has surrounded what's due to start on Sunday but I can't actually talk about what's happening Sunday cos work might get upset with me ;-).
9.... David Weber's At All Costs has a very spectacular ending. Less games and a telly that's developed an intermittent high pitched whine has led to me getting into the books heavily again. It's The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks at the moment.
10.. For a cricket addict, I seem to have developed a distaste for watching West Indies and they're supposed to be the most exciting to watch. Maybe 10/20 years ago but now there's no doubt as to who will win. And it's not West Indies. When the result's no longer in doubt, my interest definitely scampers away.
11... My diet sucks :-) Biscuits, crackers and the occasional bowl of popcorn aren't the most healthy thing around. Will have to visit the Chinese tonight :-) And get me some more supplies in. It's biscuits and crackers because I haven't been near a supermarket for over a week.
12... Atypically for a holiday period (and despite the provocation of that NZ vs England cricket!), my circadian rhythm seems to have remained intact. I usually slip into a 3/4am bedtime, 12noon waketime but I'm getting moving at the fairly sensible time of around 9am in the morning at the moment.
13... This house is in dire need of an attack by the vacuum cleaner !

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Needed - Place for Homeless Dragons

I've been continuing my catching up with House over the weekend, as Hallmark have been repeating season 3. I missed out on House the first time round, which is why I'm catching up now.

Trouble is, my TV has joined the list of things that don't quite work right around here (I'm at the top of that list !). You know when TVs start making that really high pitched sound that sends cats and dogs mad ? Well, I'm surprised that the local cat (Chronos) still looks in through the back window cos my telly's been "singing" all weekend. It's not quite that high pitched because I can still hear it but it's presence is almost enough to get my brain dribbling out through my nose. Hopefully the sound doesn't mean the beginning of the end for this telly, it's probably just complaining at being over worked.

I'm getting relief from it at the moment, as I'm taking a break from TV watching before heading back in for more later. I'm currently 99 pages into Iain M Banks's novel The Player Of Games. Not bad so far but I warmed more to the general chaos that made Consider Phlebas come to life and the Diziet Sma character in Use of Weapons.

Enough of telly - how come I chose that title for today ? It's because of these guys :

The top of my TV has been taken over by these draconic reprobates, led by "Another Monday", who just happens to be the one who forces me to use him as an avatar wherever I have a web presence. One thing about potentially going for an HD telly or any telly to replace the one I have is that it won't have a conveniently large step on the top to put my dragons on. Tellies aren't built that way any more.

I have a couple of bookcases that I have Even More Dragons on but things I put up there aren't quite so visible. Somehow, when I do get a flatter, thinner, shinier telly I don't think my dwagons will be homeless for too long ...

PS The cricket picture that I got in the pic has generated a fair bit of debate in the family :-) It's a cross stitch done by my sister and was a present. The debate is on subjects like "what shot played", "left hander ?", "before hit or after hit ?" I have my idea, based on logic but I'd be curious to see more theories :-)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

To snow or not to snow ?

The British attitude towards snow has changed a bit over the past decade or so. I think you could now sum it up by describing a series of stages :

1 - Anticipation of snowball fights.

This is where we look forward to playing in the snow and having a few innocent good fun snowball flinging matches with our friends.

2 - Thinking of time off work due to trouble moving on the roads.

Probably comes under stage 1, as I bet all of us would rather be enjoying ourselves outside of an office than being stuck inside the office. Probably depends on the job we're doing ;-)

3 - Uhoh - this snow's going to close the roads ...

... And make it really awkward to move around. I'm currently writing from home, as my sister and I decided not to travel due to anticipating trouble :
Met Office Severe Weather Page
The link is to the Met Office warnings page, currently showing "Be Prepared" for half of GB, with "Be Aware" for another 15%. It's subject to change though - the warnings will probably be gone tomorrow.

4 - And then we remember what being snowbound can be like ...

We look forward to snow over here, the influence of the Gulf Stream (and dare I say it - Global Warming) means it's been a long time since snow was a major factor in UK weather. But when the snow comes, we rapidly remember the problems it can cause. BBC have a few pictures of the snow's influence up on their news site.

I have to be honest and say all things considered, I prefer snow to the high winds we've been having lately. Snow is a tangible thing that you can see and touch. Knowing it's there means you can see trouble coming and have a better chance of avoiding coming a cropper. Wind though, leads to trucks being blown over or cars being pushed into the next lane. At least one building will be without a roof, people get flooded. Ice is nasty but you get warned by the steering going light, high wind is another order of danger though.

Hoping we don't get too many casualties over the holiday weekend. Wrap up warm people !

PS Think my boiler got the idea I was keeping an eye on it. Since I noted here that it was sulking on me, it's stayed lit :-)

Friday, March 21, 2008

2 heads better than 1 ?

Just finished a session on Eve, where I was hoping to get some sleep in doing a bit of mining. That means, one computer, one screen and one job to do.

Doh ! Had to fire up my second Eve account as well so I could help with getting what we mined back to base again ... So that's :

Getting the Eve game on to this laptop,
Rebooting this laptop so it'll play nicely (laptop has issues ...)
Dodging from desktop screen to laptop screen doing two different jobs.
Crossing fingers and hoping the police polish off the pirate who tried to blow up my very expensive mining ship.

It wipes me out rather quickly playing the game on the two computers, so I'm going to fall asleep in front of the cricket. Hopefully England will pick up from where they are at the moment, they've started as badly as you can start in a game ...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday is Chronos the Cat ... Who also provides evidence that cats have a sixth sense for when they're being watched. He was quite happily asleep until I quietly opened my upstairs window to take this shot.

Definitely has an appreciation for comfort does Chronos.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nasty surprises and cold feet

Bit of a nasty surprise the other day - I found out why I'd been developing cold tootsies ... Broken boiler again. Last time, it needed the thermocouple (widget wot tells it the temperature inside) replacing because it had totally burned away. This time, I can get it lit and it'll work for a little while and then the pilot light will go out again. I just heard it fire up, which is a good sign, it means the boiler has been alive for the 90 minutes that I've been home for. I think it may be last week's replaced gas meter that's done it, as the boiler's been fine through the winter.

Hoping it stays lit, as we have snow forecast in the UK this coming weekend, although that's the East side of the country and not the side I live on. Still, it'll be cheaper on gas if I have to run without a boiler for a bit although I prefer my showers to be hot instead of icicle temperature.

I now have Hornblower on, I missed this the first time around. It has a good reputation but it's only now that I've had the chance to watch it from the start. David Weber's Honor Harrington books are supposedly follow on from the Hornblower tradition, so let's see if the Horatio Hornblower tradition is better than the Honor Harrington one :-)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Agony Ankle

Writing this short entry in honour of James Anderson, who's definitely been in the wars in this game. England's young bowler turned his ankle after the end of play two days ago and left the ground on crutches.

However, a little thing like a badly twisted ankle hasn't stopped him putting it on the line for his country and team. He's been, to borrow a phrase from the commentators, rattling with painkillers for today and yesterday. Lots of pain there from that ankle, although to his credit you wouldn't know it from watching him bowl. He also drew the short straw yesterday, having to do the real hard work of bowling into the wind. Not just a little breeze this wind, the commentators were calling it a gale.

Since kicking off this entry, Jimmy's got the breakthrough in a prickly little 9th wicket partnership and Monty's got the last wicket to win the game. I think Ryan Sidebottom will probably get Man Of The Match but I'd like it to go to Jimmy Anderson for going beyond the call of duty, firstly with playing through pain with the ankle but also for demolishing New Zealand's top order on the second day of this game.

That ankle injury is making me remember one of my many injuries ... I was running on to the field at the start of a game and just happened to put my foot in a rabbit hole. Oops. Ouch too. Adrenaline and youthful foolishness let me ignore the sprain through the game and I think (can't remember if I was batter or bowler for that game) I also got my 10 overs allocation in. But after a night's sleep to let it stiffen up, I could barely walk for a week and nearly missed the next game.

Hopefully Jimmy Anderson will make next week's NZ vs England game, he's a very good bowler and England are a better side with him in it. Bit daft maybe but he's got a certain amount of natural luck (aka does the right things without realising how) which gives him a knack of making things happen.

PS Man of the Match went to Tim Ambrose, the fella I was hoping would get a 100 a few days ago. He managed it, plus did ok as keeper (missed 1 catch, 1 stumping and keepers like keepers to be perfect)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mediocre film and better rugby

Watched a new film today that had me thinking - I'm going to have to watch 300 again to remind me of what an sword n sandals action film should be like ! Fortunately, England were on much better form today and I've just finished watching them rack up a pretty decent score against Ireland.

10,000 BC isn't a bad film, it just isn't that great. There's a lot of technical achievement in there, like the PuddyCat that appears around the middle. Big, Furry, Long Teeth, it's full of "I'm hungry and you're dinner" type menace. And then there's the mammoths that fill the screen. There's sequences near the end where you start to think "how did they bring that scene to life ?" The scenes are alive but you should really be too gripped in the story to be thinking things like that. A film worth a look but only if there's nothing else worth watching on. It's come at a bad time because we also have Vantage Point to watch.

Back to the rugby, I've caught myself adding sound effects to the players ... When the big prop forward picks up the ball and starts running with it, my mind has been adding the thundering sounds of "BOOM BOOM BOOM" to his footsteps. However, I haven't quite got to the stage where my mind is adding a whimpering "ouch" to the ball when it's kicked 80 metres.

Wales v France next and I find myself in the very strange position of wanting the Welsh to win. If they do, they'll achieve a well earned Grand Slam (beating all 5 of the other nations) plus it means the French lose. Late night too tonight, as I'm hoping that England will make short work of New Zealand in the cricket.

PS It seems that there's a few areas of the world that are proving very popular for action films. I'm sure I've seen similar bits of craggy topography in various films like Narnia, 10,000 BC, LOTR and a few more too.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Fill-ins

Never done one of these before, although I've seen them on other people's blogs :-)

1. Contact may cause pain or pleasure but is definitely not something to shy away from.
2. The parties hereto do mutually agree that my left hand seldom knows what my right hand is getting up to. (job joke there ...)
3. Disney parks are fantastic for photo opportunities, especially if you get a good spot when the parade is going past.
4. The Smarties Easter Egg I have in the fridge sounds really good right about now!
5. I positively adore popcorn.
6. Catching a rare glimpse of and chat with Miss L always makes me smile :-)
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching more of the NZ vs England cricket, tomorrow my plans include cheering on Wales in the 6 Nations (that feels so wrong but if they beat the French it'll justify it) and Sunday, I want to crash out, watch cricket highlights of hopefully England winning vs New Zealand !

From Friday Fill Ins

And another link, found by Jacobus Flint of the Assti corporation :
Ceiling Cat brought to you by Tubbypaws

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - sporting moments

Thirteen Things about Memorable Sporting Moments

Taking the idea for this one from The Bluest Butterfly, it was going to go up last week but I felt I needed to put up the Gary Gygax memorial 13.

1.... England regaining the Ashes in 2005.
2.... Every Monty Panesar wicket - they are followed by a wonderful outburst of sheer joy.
3.... England winning the Rugby World Cup in the dying second with That Wilkinson Drop Goal.
4.... Murray Walker and Nigel Mansell's bruise on the head.
5.... Mansell's rear tyre exploding costing him the world title in the last race (they don't all have to be good things ! still remember this one)
6.... Getting wicket number 6 for me and winning a game for the team against all expectations, getting my best bowling in the process.
7.... Shelley Rudman winning a medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics Skeleton event (hurtling down a BobSled track headfirst on little more than a skateboard).
8.... Weirdest moment - Yorkshire supporter standing at the back of the stand shouting "I'm ashamed of you Yorkshire, ashamed" several times at the end of a day's play at Scarborough. My dad and I had just watched Notts bat the whole day out to secure a draw against Yorkshire.
9.... Race 7 of the Americas Cup Final - thinking it's all over, only to find that the NZ boat had dramatically recovered and was giving Allinghi a run for their money.
10... Kelly Holmes winning her 800m golds. Iron Lady !
11... Helping my temporary workmates win a knockout competition on one of my placements. I contributed in all games as a key bowler and occasionally with the bat (they didn't really need me there). Felt a full part of the team, was chuffed to be able to help out.
12... Staying up late to watch the underdog Marlins beat the Yankees in 1997
13... Every time a young cricketer gets a five-for or a hundred to prove to everyone that they can deliver the goods at the highest level. Cricket allows them to take that break to breathe in the applause. Fingers crossed for Tim Ambrose tonight :-)

Others include the 1966 World Cup win but I wasn't alive for that ... Just going for stuff I've seen on telly or live :-)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

300 Reasons for research

I'm currently watching the film 300 off dvd, with the aim being research of course.

(note - taken the images out - lots of spurious hits coming in and I'm wary about copyright)

I've been watching my dvds with more care than usual lately, as I'm trying to figure out whether or not Blu-Ray HD would be a worthwhile upgrade. At the moment, I'm not at all convinced. After all, I can see 300 off the telly in perfect quality, the detail is perfectly visible and I can still count the ribs on the dancing slave girl oracle.

300 is a cracking film. It has bone crunching action, it has an excellent pace and the soundtrack complements what's on screen perfectly. Whether that be the low moan of the wind, the instrumental classical style music or the grinding rock guitar of the action sequences. The battle sequences are truly epic and give the impression of the Spartans being a disciplined group of warriors, born to fight and instilled with the knowledge that they are the elite of the elite.

I don't think I'll tire of watching this particular film, it's just that good. I know it's not totally historically accurate but it makes far more fun watching than any historical documentary about the battle of Thermopylae, where the 300 Spartans made their stand against the Persian horde.

(image taken out again)

Closing this entry with the line that made the name of this film : "Madness. THIS IS SPARTA !" and "Give them nothing but take from them ... EVERYTHING"

Monday, March 10, 2008

Too much politics !

So trying not to rant at the moment, I've already done that on the Mercs forums (hidden area). There's issues there which are steadily coming to a head as people get irritated at inactivity by people who are supposed to be the leaders. I'm actually one of those leaders but it's kinda like being the person that a pollster always goes to when they need to figure the pulse of what's going on. Ok, I started the Mercs guild off with a suggestion on the work forums but had to give up the top job after about 9 months because :

It was causing me lots of stress
The time online contributed to ...
The lack of sleep contributed to ...
Time on forums contributed to ...
The ...'s being reduced performance at work. When a game becomes a job, that's bad enough. I've known a few people who have been effectively trapped into having guild or corporation (in Eve) management effectively become a second job and they've hated that their game time is effectively for organising things instead of having fun. Where it gets bad is when the job/game starts affecting performance in Real Life stuff like your actual job or being free to do as you please in an evening instead of having to ride herd on the guild.

Just had a thought that if you replace "guild" with "kids", then a lot more people may emphasize with the above ! But whereas you can step back from a game, you can't step back from being a parent - you can however, have much more influence on your kid(s)'s behaviour than on people you only know online. Plus there's babysitters for when you need a break.

I've stepped back from the Warcraft world a few times in the past, mainly because people still seem to see me as the person who leads. They just tend to see the results they're interested in instead of the personal cost that comes from having a anti-fanclub that didn't like being on the receiving end of being kicked by the Icey one. Sometimes, I get to look at what it's really like to be a cop, warts and all. After a flare-up at the weekend, I even got a message saying "we should do something about this", from someone who really meant I should do something about it. This came from someone who's supposed to be Number 2 co-Leader in the guild to a person who's not even supposed to be an officer.

I be rantin' again ;-) But not for long because I'm missing the excellent Demolition Man.

The real questions I have around my impending withdrawal from Warcraft and the politics are :

Am I running ? Am I looking to focus on stuff that's important like real life ? Am I looking to use the stepping back to try and get the other officers doing their jobs ?

Maybe I'm running, maybe I've accepted that the problems in the guild aren't really my problems any more. I started the guild and therefore have a deep attachment to it but I also passed on the responsibility. Still feels like I'm running though. Happy to ignore problems but not so happy about running from them.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Can there be such a thing as Gamed-Out ?

I used to be hugely addicted to games, far too many of my waking hours were devoted to seeing more of computer games and even some of the sleeping hours too. Recently though, I'm seeing games as far too much effort and a bit of a waste of time too.

I think I've been having a gradual realisation of that waste of time aspect, plus the multiplayer games like World of Warcraft let me compare myself to all of the other players. A year or so ago when the first WoW expansion came out, I suffered a huge amount of frustration because working hours meant I couldn't keep up with all of the other players out there. My highly charged competitive instincts were wanting me to be the first at everything and having a job meant I simply couldn't be the first to do anything in the expansion. Not enough hours in the day and all that.

Nowadays, I'm still comparing myself to the other players but I'm realising that they're treating an online game as something more important than their job. The game actually becomes their full time job. However, they aren't earning money through their ingame endeavours, at least not money that can be spent in the real world. The addicts are also descending into that fantasy world, losing parts of themselves in the process.

Today, I had a good few uncommitted hours where I could have buried my head in a game but I found myself quickly coming out of Baldur's Gate 2 with thoughts of "I really can't be bothered slogging through this." Perhaps another of those 'if you're not enjoying the game, why are you playing it?' moments. Games tend to require effort for a reward of a one dimensional predictable experience, whereas a good book is relaxing and fun. My main PC with all the best games on it has actually been off for 2 days when it's usually on 100% of the time.

Maybe I am gamed-out (if there is such a term!). That won't be a bad thing, as getting out from behind the pooter desk will allow me to :
Do much neglected housework
Put the fence panel up again
Allow my eyes to see a little more than 18 inches to the monitor screen
Get some reading done
Not aggravate my RSI by being hunched over a keyboard

And probably most importantly, let me focus on real world stuff instead of going to bed with my mind racing on options for improving my in game characters. Time for the oven to go on and for me to relax in front of a dvd with my dinner, instead of pummelling my brain thinking of ways to beat a game.

PS New stuff still gets my interest, I've probably just seen a little too much of the normal formula.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Sneaky uses of a laptop

My wrist is bugging me again, so I'm sneakily using my laptop for heat treatment. I run the BOINC distributed compuing application on my 2 PCs, my laptop is currently analysing radio signals in hope of finding an alien life derived signal in one. It alternates between that and manipulating proteins for medical research for the Rosetta@Home project. My desktop does both SETI and Rosetta but also adds in climate prediction.

Sneaky use of laptop ? All that work makes the processor hot and because ventilation is never that great on a laptop, the heat spreads through the case. So for the rest of the second half of the England rugby game, I'll have my right hand stuffed under the laptop getting some advantage out of all that heat being generated :-)

It's a bit of a painful game at the moment. Conditions are poor at Murrayfield due to heavy rain, meaning it's turned into a kicking duel. England are playing typically poorly though and won't deserve to win if they do manage to catch up the 12-3 deficit they have at the moment.

Addon - links added for BOINC. I run SETI, Rosetta and Climate Prediction. It's a good idea to run several projects as it means your machine always has work. Sometimes the projects are down for maintenance, which can mean your machine can run out of work.

Random thoughts

I've discovered a new idiotgame site and am currently coming down from getting addicted to several of the games on there ... I call those idiotgames because they are so simple, any idiot can play them. It takes some doing though to figure out the strategies. The one I've linked above is especially maddening. It looks oh so simple but it'll be weeks of pounding before I even approach the high score table.

Had a bit of a frustrating day, I took today off work because the Gas people were coming to change my meter. Figured that with an appointment time of between 12.00 and 17.00, it wasn't worth going in for the 2 hours or so I'd have been there before needing to come home to shepherd Gas Person. So I have a lie in, which I think I needed (hours are a little strange cos of cricket on telly!) and got a few more things watched off the Skybox before settling in to wait from 12.00 noon. On goes iTunes and out comes the book, both things I can interrupt at a moment's notice, unlike a game or a taped TV programme. Said Gas Person actually turns up at 16.15, with me getting lots of exercise jumping up to see if that engine sound outside was them. Was starting to rehearse a rant to the people who said I needed to be in to shepherd Gas Person before he turned up.

Managed to get through 120 pages of David Weber's At All Costs, the latest in his Honor Harrington space opera series.

I'm now looking to calm my thinking down again, as it tends to go into hyperspeed and intense focus when doing those idiotgames. What didn't help was what's best described as a Heated Discussion breaking out on the Mercs forums, centred around one of our older players who is leaving due to dissatisfaction with the other players in the guild. He's got a point, we've moved a long way away from what we were in the early days which was a guild of only the best players. We've grown a little too much to still deserve that tag. We have players who are only along for the ride and aren't too comfortable on the horse at that.

Maybe it's time to disappear from World of Warcraft again ? To be really honest, I haven't been in the game enough to justify £8 a month on the subscription fee. I've only been coming on to raid and although I settle for no less than a committed raiding performance from myself, I'm not particularly interested. I come on to help out the team. Good selfless reason but is playing a game for someone else's enjoyment reason enough for staying in a game you're not enjoying ?

There's also other politics going on, including some strange decisions taken with reference to the leadership of the Warcraft guild. So I'm irritated with various people over that as well, because I've been overlooked with no direct explanation as to why.

Ho hum - if a game starts getting irritating instead of fun, then maybe it's time to find another game. Just wish there wasn't so much expectation from a whole crowd of people looking at me to decide what they want to do.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - fantasy games and books

This one is in honour of Gary Gygax, father of pen and paper role play gaming. Gary Gygax died on 3rd March 2008 at the age of 69, his influence will be missed.

Thirteen Things about Fantasy series and games

1.... Pen and paper D&D, although I've not had the chance to play the versions Mr Gygax was most comfortable with.
2.... Baldur's Gate series - D&D brought to the PC, with occasional non-player character interaction that rarely fails in bringing out the grin
3.... Neverwinter Nights - D&D again, this one rewrote the book on how these games were done (as did Baldur's Gate!)
4.... Dragonlance - and especially the writings of Richard A Knaak
5.... Elder Scrolls - never really got into these but this legendary series would most likely not have happened without the inspiration of D&D
6.... Greyhawk - template for many a fantasy world. Make the setting believable and you inspire great stories to come.
7.... Drizzt Do'Urden and company - R.A. Salvatore's work is always worth a read, bringing that D&D world to life.
8.... The highly amusing Munchkin card game, inspired by the rules written by Gary Gygax.
9.... GenCon, the USA's largest annual hobby game gathering, started by Gary Gygax.
10.... The Dungeons and Dragons animation series, co-produced by Gary Gygax.
11.... Warhammer - possibly my favourite role play system at the moment, if a little magic-light. Definitely the system that really brought fantasy battles to the masses, this time by Games Workshop.
12.... Ultima. Led the way in pioneering the Massive Multiplayer Online game, although Everquest was really the breakthrough here. The big one that everyone hears about now is just cashing in on what Ultima and Everquest broke the trail for. And those built on what D&D had started.
13.... Robert E Howard's Conan stories

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

1... The Bluest Butterfly

D&D is actually as old as I am and it's still going strong. Which is a true testament to what Gary Gygax helped create so long ago.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Lol ! Just spotted in an advert break in the cricket :

VW Polo with Confidence ad

I saw the pooch in the bank and went "aawwww". Sense of humour definitely makes an advert :-) Don't think this advert will change my mind though as to whether I'll be considering VW's for my next car. We've just had too many bad ones recently. As in, 2 VW Golf TDi's that have been below par. 2 out of 2 doesn't inspire confidence (that word again!) that the next VW will be any good ...

Nice ad though :-)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Game on :-)

Easter is a good time of year, it gives us an excuse to eat an unhealthy amount of chocolate. Here is my first naughty mistake of the year :

It's especially naughty because Buttons are one of those things that while I'd quite happily eat them forever, they do make my heart beat strangely :-)

Cricket's starting up again, at least cricket I'll be able to watch :-). There's been cricket on telly from various parts of the world but :

Stanford 20/20 is painful to watch (a cricket addict turning off a cup final halfway in ?)
Games in Aussie have been starting at midnight.

But - we have NZ vs England starting tonight, with the first ball coming at 9.30pm local. So I'll be able to chill out to the cricket while most likely reading a book and listening to iTunes. Yep - that means not actually paying that much attention to the cricket ! The best thing about cricket on the telly is all the replays, you know to start paying attention to the game when the commentators start getting excited. And when commentators get louder, something important has happened which means replays are sure to follow :-)

There's a couple of hours to go though, so I'm currently wiping things off the Skybox. At the moment it's House season 2, with Michelle Trachtenberg being very sweet as a heart transplant girl having trouble.

Additional - incidental things show you the health of a culture. In England, the crowd is banned from straying on to the playing surface in cricket during internationals. It's from wanting to protect the pitch from idiots mainly. It's currently the lunch break in NZ and there's all kinds of people having a wander around inside the boundary rope. None on the bit where the bowler bowls at the batsman but that's the bit that gets protected by Pitchfork Wielding Groundsmen.

NZ - crowd has free rein. England - crowd is kept firmly under control. Which is the healthier culture ? Lots of good people over in England but the morons tend to spoil it.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Seven is a magic number ?

Just finished watching Seven Swords. We had the pleasure of watching this at the cinema a couple of years ago and it's still pretty good now. It's definitely one of the better martial arts type films to come out for the past few years, although it doesn't have the visual style of House of Flying Daggers. It's taken a bit of time to come onto Sky and dvd though.

Could well be a quiet week this one, NZ vs England test match starts tomorrow, so I could well be getting quite a decent amount of reading in while falling asleep to the cricket. Which won't be a bad thing because I seem to have slipped back into a low energy mode. I switch between being hyperactive and what could probably be described as hypo-active.

I always struggle to understand the lack of energy, as I usually spot the signs early and go for countermeasures :-). Countermeasures that usually involve caffeine and other things that are laden with energy but also extremely bad for you. I've eaten enough to keep me going today but I'm still in the low energy mode. Must be all the driving over the weekend, although those countermeasures will cause problems of their own due to me crashing after the glucose boost has worn off.

I've gotten used to my high energy/low energy cycles. I've learned to enjoy the hyperactive sessions when I get them, it can be a rush as long as I don't get carried away, forget myself and upset the wrong people by not thinking what I'm saying or doing. The low energy times are tougher, because I have less energy available to kick me back into being active. Kinda like a vicious circle ... However, I'm learning a few tricks to give me a mental incentive to get back to a more active mode :-)

PS Starting to get twitchier again already - talking about problems and talking through them can help to get you on the way to solving those problems. Which has been the most useful thing about this blog :-) Plus there's also knowing that I've made a special couple of people very happy this weekend :-)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Travelling Man

Going to have to visit that shop again sometime soon, not been back there for ages. It's in an awkward location :

Park in town - gotta walk plus the car parks are a rip off
Park at Borders - gotta go down and up a hill

Trip back from mum's and dad's place was pretty easy. 3 hours to do 180 miles, without too much moron annoyance. Now watching an episode of Space 1999, which is another series that passed me by when it was originally on. So I'm catching up with it being shown on ITV4. They've got to the end of season 1, so the next ones to come on will have a treat in the shape of the giggling Catherine Schell. Still playing "Spot the continuity error". We've had Eagle 1 try to take off and fail, with a different centre pod to the one it took off with a few minutes later. They mean well though. It's not up to the standards of shows like Farscape and Babylon 5 but has a very good try considering what they had available when making it.

A workmate and I used to try and keep up with some hobbyists who are keen on Space 1999 but we've been driven away by their policy with non-registered users. Which is to only allow them to view a highly limited number of posts before they get locked out. Not particularly interested in giving a username, password and email to people who use a policy like that ... A shame cos there's a few people in there that are amusing.

Seven Swords will be taping soon, we watched that in the cinemas a couple of years ago and it'll be well worth watching again. Not tonight though - I'm pretty tired after the weekend.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Toy Temptation

It's Mother's Day in the UK tomorrow, so I'm currently at my mum's and dad's place visiting for the weekend. These weekends usually revolve around us raiding a pub and peeking at stuff we're going to look to buy in the future.

My sister's looking to get a dishwasher soon, which takes us to Comet and Currys. Which is dangerously close to where they sell tellies ... Sometime in the near future, I'll be looking to replace my dvd player, speakers, telly and Skybox with all new HD things :-) I've been waiting for things to mature in the HD area and to be honest, I hadn't been too impressed with the output. It didn't look that much better than normal telly. Starting to change my mind there though.

We learned a little bit about the HD stuff today - looks like the selling people are looking to get rid of HD-Ready tellys in favour of 1080p tellys. (1080p has more detail). What I'd like to know though is what a standalone Blu-Ray player has going for it compared to a Playstation 3 ... Definite research required there as they're roughly the same price. If I can get a games console in the same box as a movie player, then I'll grab the games console. It's a shame that the Wii doesn't have Blu-Ray ...

So, what I didn't spend today was :
£600+ on a HD-Ready telly
£300 on a Playstation 3 to feed the telly
£xxx on new surround sound speakers (need to know a lot more here, the Comets and Currys don't seem keen on selling surround sound speakers that aren't attached to a dvd player)

It's pretty much moot at the moment though. I'll need to spend lots on a different car soon, plus my current telly is only a couple of years old. I'd like to wear that one out before changing it. Which means lots more time to research what's out there and time for things to get cheaper :-)

Going out later to the pub again, where we'll have a Mother's Day dinner. Hopefully tomorrow's deliveries will come off without any hitches :-)