Monday, June 30, 2008

Interlude upcountry

What's happened since Thursday ? Been up to see mum & dad, with big sis coming along as well. Friday was Newmarket races, Saturday was general chilling out (that was the plan ;-) and watching the England v NZ game before heading home again. Sunday was free and I've been back to work today.

Newmarket was a different kind of sporting event. People seemed to feel the need to dress up as if it was a special social occasion. Weird. Meant there were some excellent sights on show, amongst the chavs who stick out because they try too hard. You don't tend to see much with the racing, apart from the rumble of the horses as they're approaching and the blur as they flash past. You're depending on the course announcer to let you know who wins and that's a bit like trying to hear the proverbial train announcer.

I only put one bet in, an accumulator type that failed on the first race. However, I picked 2 winners on the look of the horse (out of 5 attempts) and 1 on form (out of 2). From someone who's only seen my sister's horse for the last few years, that's not too bad. I wouldn't have made any worthwhile money though if betting because I was mostly agreeing with the bookies with their favourite to win.

What do I mean by the Look of the Horse ? Form can give you an idea of how the horse is likely to do but the best way is to get a good look at them while they're in the parade ring. That way, you can see whether they're healthy and most importantly Up For It. Some horses get a little too excited for the whole thing, some want to follow instead of lead. The ones to look for are the ones who are relaxed, lean and appearing to know what they're doing. Which is to Pin Back the Ears, Run, Run Fast and Feel The Wind. I feel like that when I open up for sprinting - not had that for quite some time. Getting too excited means energy wasted.

After the racing was a concert by Jools Holland's band. The bits where Marc Almond guested were the high point here. I have a fuzzy piccy from my mobile and need to figure out how to extract that for posting.

Saturday was more fraught than it needed to be. My mum & dad hadn't had a trip in the new car yet, so I took 'em to the pub in Lincoln. Car reverses, car comes off the drive, car goes forward, car gets massive judder from the back end. Looks like part of the brake pad on the left rear became detached and welded itself on to the brake disc. Interesting ... So I had about 1mm-2mm thickness of detritus stuck to the brake disc that was whacking the part of the brake pad that hadn't got damaged.

The judder on normal forward driving disappeared quickly but it took a few applications of brake over the 20ish miles to pub to stop it juddering on braking. It's back to 100% now, no more judder and I had full brake capability all the way. A scare to be sure but it doesn't look like it'll cost me money.

Saturday also had the frustration of watching England lose tamely again. On Wednesday, the commentators said that NZ had their best side out which had me asking "Why don't England pick their best side ?" We have a wicket keeper who doesn't score any runs, doesn't look like scoring runs and commits the cardinal sin of dropping catches, easy ones too. Byebye Mr Keeper. Hopefully. I have the feeling that the politics of team selection will keep him in when he doesn't deserve it. The keeper isn't the only thing though, they have several players playing in unaccustomed positions.

Yesterday was going to be a lazyday but I got caught in a long World of Warcraft session :-) Which was fun because I was using my druid in a party with more guildmates. That's something we didn't do enough of in Mercs, past the early days we never seemed to support each other. And today was back to work. Having a "hello", a smile and a wave from Miss A is enough to cheer anyone up :-)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

On addiction

I reckon everyone's addicted to something. Thing is though, they don't always know what they're addicted to.

Me, I'm pretty sure I have a handle on all my addictions. There's the popcorn, the computer games, the sci-fi and fiction shows. Also caffeine, which I manage with a combination of coke (the drink), coffee and chocolate. Pizza too but the expense of that means I don't indulge too often. (Maybe next Monday !). That's kinda a lot of addictions, maybe I'm just habit bound :-)

What's triggered this post in particular ? I tried to get on World of Warcraft earlier (definitely addicted there!) but was frustrated by not being able to connect to the servers. Same happened yesterday and it looked like there were a few more problems lingering on when they got them back up again. For those not inducted into gaming circles, a server outage is usually accompanied by an avalanche of posts from the more heavily addicted demanding that the servers go back online. They need their fix and throw the teddies out of the pram when they're denied it.

I don't think I'm quite that bad ... Ok, when my internet went Bang a couple of days ago (twice!) I was trying all I knew to fix it but that was partly because I didn't want to let down the people I was in a group with. Today, I've gone to catching up on the SkyPlus stuff again (Reaper and Dresden Files)

I think one thing that allows me to keep my particular gaming addictions under control is seeing what it can do to other people. Because I know a few people who have become so under the spell of the game that the game changes who they are. I think that's where playing the game to enjoy jumps the bridge into being Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have tendencies there but that's where I get some advantage from the Old Bones. If I sit at a computer too long, then my back and shoulder start to freeze up, which is a definite sign that I need to start moving around some more :-)

That's a lot of talking about me up top there ... How about addiction ? The worst thing about addictions is that they creep up behind us when we're not looking and sneak in to take control. The need to feed them provides a compulsion that makes us ignore what we're supposed to be doing. For me, that means occasionally I'll go deep in game so much I'll still be in there way past when I should have had a bit of dinner. I'm not rake-thin, so I can handle a few missed dinners. However, I also neglect other things like making sure the house isn't a tip. Which it is ...

It's not just World of Warcraft that has the addicted people, it's the other games too. Eve has periodic downtime and occasionally longer breaks when they're changing something. The players get fair warning that the game will be offline for a day but they feel the Need to play that much that they don't know what to do outside of the game. I've been there before but hopefully I've stepped back far enough to have a little more control over it.

Maybe greeting not being able to log into That Game with writing a blog post about it is a sign that I'm getting in too deep again ? Dunno there. We shall see. I'm back to work next week, so not so much time on my hands. At least being addicted to World of Warcraft means I'm not buying a game a month to satisfy the game addiction I have :-) So even with the subscription it works out cheaper. Plus I'm a fan of the new guild I'm in. Hopefully they'll continue as they have been, without being adversely affected by a vote that means it'll be easier to get characters coming in to the guild.

There's a lot of potential addictions out there, including games, narcotics, bad habits and all the other things people get addicted to. I like to think I avoid the really dangerous ones while keeping a handle of the more innocent ones that have me. I have a need for coffee but realised last night that I hadn't had a cup since last Friday (probably cos of having too much coke!). I don't smoke, drink alcohol or indulge in recreational drugs, which just so happens to leave more cash for what I really want to do.

What's my advice to those caught in an addiction ? Try to recognise what you have. It's not necessarily a problem, unless it's taken to excess. That's when the addiction starts to own you. Who's the boss in your life ? You Are !!! Don't let the addiction usurp your position as boss of your own life. If your friends start trying to tell you that you have a problem, they're trying to do you a favour. They've seen the addiction before you have and they're trying to help you out. They want the old you back, the one from before the addiction became the boss.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cinema v TV

Been noticing lately, cinema doesn't seem quite as good as it should be, as if the cinema operators aren't putting the effort in to really please their customers.

There's things like blurriness on the screen, so for action films like Transformers it gets difficult to see what's going on. Compare that to dvd and things are much, much sharper. Except I'm not sure if it's the sharpness or the ability of the screen/projector to keep up with the image. A bit like when LCD screens were first coming in with computers, they needed a lot of development before they could show a moving image like the traditional Cathode Ray Tubes could.

It's not just that though, I used to be comprehensively addicted to Warner Village's (local cinema!) popcorn but since the cinema changed hands, it's changed to something that tastes just like cardboard would if you had a cardboard eating fetish. I still like their hotdogs but I'll only have one of those if I've not been able to grab something more healthy to keep my tummy happy. And that's from someone who normally runs from anything resembling healthfood.

So - cinema with its screens that are clapped out and not able to keep up or DVD shown on a half decent telly supported by surround sound speakers. Dvd lets you bring your own popcorn, drinks that don't cost 3 times the amount you'd pay for a coke bottle and you can keep other people's obnoxious kids out of the room. It also has a pause button too so you don't miss any of that 3 and a bit hour King Kong.

It needs decent speakers though. I'm a lot fussier about sound than vision and decent sound can make a difference with film. Surround sound gets you appreciating the atmosphere in a film, placing all those little noises in such a way that you feel in the scene instead of watching from afar. Not just bangs, whooshes and clangs, also things like birdsong and crowds.

Still, I like heading to the cinema as it's a chance to get out of the house with the Crazies.

Cinema's got it's advantages, just as dvd&telly also have their advantages. Time to get back to more catching up with Voyager (Star Trek) but before that ... my chair is creaking again so I'm gonna take a hammer to it :-)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friday Fill-ins

Almost missed this one again ! Find the original Friday Fill-ins post here for links to more people.

1. A smile is something to be gladly given, returned with interest and treasured.
2. D&D, (although it can only loosely be called a board game!) is my favorite board or card game.
3. I would love to have more companionship in my life and less of the old bones telling me what I can't do.
4. When I think of the Summer Solstice, I think of how many times I've missed the sunrise due to being dead to the world :-).
5. I just remembered I need to acquire a personal slave to do my washing up and other cleaning for me.
6. One of my favorite song lyrics goes like this: "All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey ... I went for a walk, on a winter's day ... I'd be safe and warm, if I was in LA ... California Dreamin', on such a winter's day" - but sung by Siobhan Maher of River City People.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to watching telly cricket ! (well - watched one game with close finish, other one was rained off, so I watched Narnia instead), tomorrow my plans include watching more cricket ! (and Doctor Who) and Sunday, I want to chill out, relax, recharge, eat a proper meal !

In case you're wondering why I say River City People instead of the more well known Beach Boys version of the Mamas and the Papas song, here's a Youtube link to the River City People version. The band is great and Siobhan Maher looks fantastic as the glamour as well as having an amazing voice. There's two albums, Say Something Good has California Dreamin' on it which isn't actually the best song on the album. The second album is This Is The World.

PS Their "Act Like A Child" song from This Is The World is the current song to be running around in my head. Tis Great ! I love that song.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Keeping out of the crossfire

We have the raised eyebrows and hushed whispers going on a bit at work at the moment ...

The organisation I work for is going through a little bit of change as the things we're expected to look after alter. So we get in a few more people on the one hand but lose a few on the other because there's not enough spots for everybody. My job isn't affected, although my role is a little different to what it used to be. There's been steadily evolution in what I do as I get to work on certain topics that need "special" attention.

Ha - that makes it sound like I'm some sort of special troubleshooter doesn't it :-) More like adaptable and able to turn my Electronics Engineering degree into more than what was in the coursebooks at uni. I'm not sure I'd like to be all senior and high up anyway like most of the glamourous troubleshooter people we hear about. I like the techie stuff and those people tend to be rather too highbrow to think anything other than "oo-kay" when they see what I'm interested in, whereas I like to dig into the detail.

Right - "crossfire" ? Well - that too many people thing is affecting a couple of the more senior people. One is very active, enthusiastic and appears to get things done in a manner best described as flamboyant. The other one doesn't really give that impression. Different people, different ways of doing things. I don't know that much about what's going on there apart from an apt description of it being "trainwreck" and all the people on the team can do is watch from the sidelines.

Anyway - that all seems to be coming to a head now and I have next week off. My body was telling me a few weeks ago that it wanted a chance to rest and recharge and next week's a convenient time for work and home stuff. Off to the races next Friday with mum, dad and sis.

Kinda glad I'm not near the firing line this time around like a few years ago. I learned a bit about defensive working that time. Otherwise known as making sure plenty of people know what you're working on and that it's your work, not the person who's having trouble due to not doing much ...

Time for more fun stuff now - I'm going to start my week off by crashing out in front of back to back cricket matches on telly ! I might even eat a sensible dinner too. Wednesday night was a few crackers and Thursday was popcorn. I have an ulcer at the moment which means I can barely open my mouth enough to fit a sandwich in, let alone anything fancier. I can last on biscuits for a few days because I have far too much in reserves (aka I'm chubby!) but it's not healthy to eat like that for long.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cruise control

Been away for a few days because my sister and I took trips to my mum's & dad's place for Father's Day. It was a good chance to check out the car on a long trip on motorways :-)

The relaxed, no-effort feeling from it continued, it just takes everything in its stride. I think I may get a recurring feeling of a hole in the wallet though every time I fill it up. I've done two fill ups now, one was mostly urban driving and returned 30mpg, the other was mostly motorway and 35mpg. Not as good as my last car ;-)

I'm typing this while watching the end of the first half of the cricket. Durham have a youngster bowling the pressure overs (2 of the last 3) and he's doing really well. But he's got a lot of pizzas to eat before he truly becomes a Shane Warne replica ... There's a few Dancing Girls at this game too, except I think they're far more concerned about keeping warm up there than even getting out of the way when the ball comes their way.

Heh heh heh - it's Twenty20 cricket - get those hard hats on in the crowd :-)

Back to driving - I struggle to understand why there's people who scream down the motorways, in more ways than just going 100mph+. All that happens is that they will :
  • Run their car into an early demise
  • Get tired due to the extra attention they're hopefully giving
  • Be stressed when they get stuck behind someone with the temerity to only be doing 75.
I prefer to just cruise and stay away from the morons. I learned from my Astra (aka The Buggy) that going for an 85mph average only led to bits dropping off the car (sometimes literally) and wouldn't get you there any time sooner. 100 miles on a motorway at 70 takes 1 hour 26 minutes, going at 80 would only take 11 minutes off that, if you can maintain the extra speed. I still have the Need For Speed (no3 was a great game) but I've grown up to the point where I like to arrive relaxed and fresh.

Oh - IpodFM is still alive and well and working happily in the Focus :-)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - random :)

Not done one of these for a while, partly cos I couldn't think of a theme ... Time for some random thoughts :-)

Thirteen Random Things

1.... Graeme Hick at 42 is still great fun to watch. Currently got the Glos. vs Worcestershire Twenty20 game on and I'm thoroughly on the old guy's side.
2.... Pizza has to be my all time favourite food.
3.... From the showing in badminton last night, mebbe I've had too many ;-)
4.... The tendency to "Less is More" is a very good thing.
5.... Kinda wondering if the fuel protest due tomorrow will interfere with me doing a long drive to mum & dad.
6.... Overcomplicating things tends to spoil it due to the complexity getting in the way. I'm a fan of the Keep It Simple Stupid principle.
7.... You can "save" heaps of cash on special offers but you're still going to end up lighter in the pocket than if you avoided the offer ...
8.... Popcorn is also on that list of favourite foods.
9.... Sometimes pure talent doesn't get you to the top of your sport ... but it definitely helps ! Thinking of Vikram Solanki and Graeme Hick above, who have lots of talent but never cemented their places in the England side.
10.. I definitely play too much Warcraft ! My new main character is now on level 58 after just 6 weeks.
11.. Team stuff is a lot more fun if you enjoy the people around. That goes for work as well as play ... Was with a badminton player last night who poached far too much and then blamed his partner for not going for what he left.
12.. MUAHAHA ! Cricket again. New batsman in, bowler brings in the field, ball gets bowled and a few seconds later they're fetching it from outside the stadium.
13.. I was That Close to wearing a white shirt with my pizza tonight ! That's always too much of a temptation for fate ... Especially if that white shirt just came off the drying rail.

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, June 10, 2008

Peace and motion

Had a couple of things to acquire for this weekend, so I hit the Mall again tonight. It's full Summer now and the usual suspects are out on the prowl. There's a few types there :

The ones who are gorgeous without really thinking about it. They have an unconscious natural grace that shows in everything they do. (Miss L has this)
There's the jailbait ... and that one word probably says it all there !
Cheeseburger Girls. And that's not because they've had too many, it's because it would do them a favour if you frogmarched them to the local fattyfood store to get them a cheeseburger.
Look At Me Girls. Otherwise known as the "I'm trying really hard to get stared at" people. I'd put young men in muscle shirts in this sterotype as well.

There was a Look At Me Girl at the Mall tonight, probably a lot more that I filtered out but this one was particularly noticeable. She was wearing something that probably would have embarassed an Olympic gymnast, although you definitely wouldn't have wanted to have been swinging around the asymmetric parallel bars in that. You'd be arrested. Anyway - the Look At Me Girl. You can usually spot them as the ones desperately trying to stand out from the crowd, by any means necessary. And that "trying too hard" thing tends to put me off.

Just in the middle of watching a couple of NCIS episodes and Pauley Perrette who plays Abby Sciuto (imdb link) kinda fits into the unconscious grace category as well as Jailbait. And she's 39 ! According to IMDB that is. I don't believe it.

Right - much more talking about the girls at the Mall and I'll be needing a cold shower. Which will be a good idea anyhow because it's getting uncomfortable for Brits who complain at mild heat just as easily as they'll complain at snow :-)

Did I mention anywhere that I like air conditioning ? I only have it in the car but I wouldn't acquire a car that doesn't have it now.

Where's the title for today's entry come from ? I have a fairly chaotic, yet ordered, mind that finds it difficult to relax without a fresh neuron firing off pointing me in another direction. Strangely, I find it peaceful sitting in the open in the food court munching something (ok - a KFC!) while watching the people go by. The general murmur of the crowd helps to keep all those chaotic neurons quiet and I can slow down my brain and get a break from thinking/ watching/ listening to several different things at once.

Peace today - Motion tomorrow. Badminton again :-)

I'm currently managing a session every fortnight, as I have a habit of breaking things by pushing too hard, too early. However, I was very pleased last session as I went straight into putting the new serve in action. And it was a nasty one too - accurate and very repeatable, even from absolutely no practice too. Apart from a bit of mental preparation that is. I have a partially photographic memory, which allows me to replay what I've done and attempt to build new ways of doing things by visualising the movements in my head. What I'd love to know is whether the picture in my head matches up to what would be on a video camera :-)

That's a little too much rambling from me tonight - here's to Unconscious Grace and a little bit of peace amongst the chaotic world we live in.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Wear and tear

I'm starting to feel a little worn down again. I reckon I'm like a lantern. I can burn bright and hot but when the fuel runs out, I'm in trouble. Think I may need a week off soon to recharge. The tiredness tends to manifest itself in my legs, which have lots of muscle but that muscle can also be tough to get moving if I don't have the energy to power them.

There's a few things around here that are showing the effects of wear and tear. The car was one of them and the swapping for a newer, bigger, more powerful (and more CO2 producing, more gas guzzling, more awkward to manoeuvre!) one has dominated my Blog over the past week or so. So nuff said there, apart from me being very curious about Carmi's Thematic Photos that he's looking to start up. Somehow, I'm not seeing a picture of Yet Another Focus Box as a sexy photo though :-)

There's various things around the house that are suffering from wear and tear. My windows could do with repainting (or replacing for double glazing) because the paint is wearing off. I'm half sure that the wearing paint is due to outside influence, which is another reason why I don't want TaxDodging NotTooHonest IrishGuy to do them.

Had to replace the graphics card in my PC last night due to wear and tear. Something's happened to it that means it idles around 75 degrees C and goes up to a scorching 105-110 degrees C when I'm in games. So when I fire up Warcraft, after a few minutes the card gets to temperature and the picture starts flickering as it dials back how fast it's going. I could live with that but on Wednesday, the problem progressed to the machine going through a shutdown every half hour or so. Kinda distracting :-)

So I have the older graphics card back in there now, after a bit of the contortionist act. There's not much room between desk and back of sofa where my PC lives and I didn't want to bring it all the way out which means more contortions to sort the cables out. So a card swap and apparently problem fixed without spending money - which is always good :-)

Back to the cricket now and James Anderson is making his case for Man of the Match already :-) He carded his highest batting score so far for England earlier and has taken all 5 of the New Zealand wickets to fall so far.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Awful Truth

I've found out an Awful Truth about my new car ... Let's start by quoting a definition from Urban Dictionary :

dagenham dustbin

A British Ford car. Dagenham, in the county of Essex, east of London, is the best known Ford factory in the UK. Indeed it is the supposed powerhouse of the whole culture known (in the UK at least) as "Essex", a working class culture characterised as having more money than taste. Dagenham dustbins are the cars assumed to be built there there.
Let's just say Dagenham Dustbin is a derogatory term used to put people down who own Fords.

So how does this relate to my new buggy, outside of it being a Ford ? This is from the Service History book and is how I learned The Awful Truth :

Yes - my new car Is ... A Dagenham Dustbin.

Lol - I'm impressed with it so far anyway. I don't feel as "connected" to it as much as I did with the Puma but so far, everything I've asked it to do so far has been accomplished with effortless ease. I'll have to wait about 10 days until the real handling test comes (the drive up to my mum's and dad's) but it's taken the roundabouts here without noticing them, plus it's nicely smoothed out all the ruts and bumps in the surface of Avonmouth Bridge that got your teeth shaking in the Puma.