Thursday, August 28, 2008

Close finishes

Just finished chilling out to a game of cricket on the telly that was far, far closer than the one sided show that we had on Tuesday.

Somerset vs Worcestershire in a game dominated by the batsmen but where the result was determined by the bowlers. Couldn't have been a much closer finish, even though 20 minutes before the end it was looking like a foregone conclusion. Cricket is like that, unlike football where it's rare that something happens to change the Result State, every ball in cricket can change the Result State.

What do I mean by "Result State" ?

In football, it would be the score changing from 1-0 to 1-1. The Result if nothing else significant happens has changed by the event of someone scoring a goal. In baseball, think of it being a double play to close out an innings where the bases are loaded or a home run that allows a side to catch up. Result State changes don't happen too often in football, which is why I think they are very good for me to have on the telly while I'm trying to finish reading a book.

In cricket though, Result State changes happen almost every ball, especially in the new Twenty20 format which is getting so popular nowadays. I think that's why I love the game so much and is probably why my enthusiasm has infected the rest of the family :-) They're hooked too now. A shame they weren't hooked 15 years ago, they'd have caught a finish and turn around almost as exciting as any I can (barely!) remember.

The scene - it's the village cricket ground and a bit of a murky day. I liked those when bowling because the murky conditions would make the ball swing more. That was my main weapon, if you can find archive footage of one Waqar Younis, that's what I aimed for. Although I was probably more like 60-70mph instead of 90mph. I had the massive boomerang inswinger that made his bowling so devastating :-)

From what I remember, we'd batted well and set a decent target. It was a 40 over game, where bowlers could bowl a maximum of 10 each. Which meant 4 bowlers. I came on after 20, to bowl my 10 off the reel like usual. It was in my first season with the men's team and I was 17 (pre shoulder injury), so at that time I could quite happily do that on the weekends. When I started, the match was pretty well poised. I took 3 wickets in my first 9 overs but when it came around to my last over, the match looked done and dusted :

2 main bowlers finished their 10
3rd main bowler with just 6 balls left (me !)
no 4th main bowler, so easy to hit part timers to come
About 5-6 overs left (plenty of time !)
6 runs required to win (could do it in one hit)
3 wickets left (loads!)
Bloke in and batting well on 48 not out

You add that all up together and even a relative cricket novice would say : 99 times out of 100 the batting side is going to win comfortably. That's probably what 10 of the guys on our team though too. Not me - I was too young, naive and indestructible. Muahahaha - yeah right. I forgot to mention that some time through my first 9 overs I'd tweaked my back. I didn't really notice cos the adrenaline and Game Face were tuning it out.

So what actually happened ? I've given a lot of tantalizing build up but not spilled the beans :

1st ball - oh dear those stumps are going flying - that boomerang inswinger got a result
2nd ball - darn - missed em but it's ok, 48 not out guy is still at the other end
3rd ball - AEROPLANE WINGS ! Stumps are out of the ground again, next batsman please
4th ball - He runs in, He bowls, He screams a millisecond after the ball hits the pads !

And the bowling team win that 100th game out of a 100. We'd won an with an extraordinary final over, with the umpire giving a Leg Before Wicket decision that was probably a given seeing as my other 5 wickets on the night were also bowled out. We were a bit sheepish shaking the hand of the bloke on 48 not out as, by rights, they should have won that game.

Dunno how much of the above is actual memory and how much is reconstruction - but the figures are burned into my brain : 3 wickets for Mr Higginbotham who opened the bowling. Couldn't have won the game without those as my inswingers didn't tend to trouble the better batsmen. I wouldn't have got my 6 without those 3 by the other guy. My figures were 9 overs, 4 balls costing 24 runs for 6 wickets. The 10th wicket was a run out. It wasn't the best I've ever bowled, that was a 10 over spell costing 19 runs but only getting 1 wicket.

I'll be trying to keep hold of the 6 for 24 memory as long as I can, it's the best figures I'll ever get as the state of my shoulder says I won't be bowling again ... Being able to bat too is a blessing :-) Will have to see how many runs I can get when batting and run-outs I can get in the field next year.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Old Favourites

Currently watching a Doctor Who episode, dating back to 1975. Not quite from before I was born ...

Like when watching Blakes 7 again, it's curious to see what time has done to these old shows. A good story always depends on the writing behind it. What tends to date are the machines that make up the backgrounds. Things like CRT screens and open reel magnetic tape drives. Big mechanical switches instead of keyboards, trackballs and touch screens.

One thing we've seen with the latest Doctor Who series is their occasional tipping of the hat towards the older series. Things like Daleks with force field shields and the ability to fly. Oh, there's also how one of them dealt with being hit by a paintball gun :-)

Memorable line - "This is not war. This is Pest Control" - Dalek to Cyberman.

The current episode on at the moment is Revenge of the Cybermen, from 1975. One thing I've spotted is the faking of a miniature screen - the sets and outfits look a little dated but you can mostly ignore that by keeping your eye on the story.

One of my favourite authors is Robert Heinlein, who had the rare gift shared by the best sci-fi authors of making the technology a secondary support to the main story instead of being the primary focus. The best authors always work on strong characters and Heinlein writes some of the strongest. He sometimes appears dated, by mentioning tapes and punch cards but again that's what was known in the day. The important stuff like planetary orbital physics, biology and sociology are all present and totally correct, if a little opinionated.

Why watch and read the old stuff ? Things like the early Doctor Who and Heinlein are things that I'm a little too young for. The book I'm reading at the moment, Time Enough For Love, was written a year before I was born and contains such gems as :

"Money is a powerful aphrodisiac. But flowers work just as well."
"Be wary of strong drink, it may make you shoot at tax collectors ... and miss."
"Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."
"Never try to outstubborn a cat."
"Natural laws have no pity."
"A generation which ignores history has no past - and no future."

I'm currently re-reading Time Enough For Love and having a second look now that I've read a lot more of Heinlein's Lazarus Long books. I stayed up far too late last night reading the Tale Of The Adopted Daughter, which makes up a hundred or so pages of the middle. It's one of the few passages that can draw an honest tear, firstly due to the fate of Buck but mostly due to inevitable conclusion to the tale. It's the story of the love between a man who for all intents and purposes lives forever and the adopted daughter who has a far more normal lifespan. He knows what he's getting in to when he agrees to stay with Dora but stays with the adopted daughter for love. Including leaving his settlement with Dora to set out as pioneers because that's the only way they can be open and honest about their relationship and age.

There's more in the book - and it's a very worthy read if you can find it. Our booksellers nowadays seem to like ignoring that last Heinlein statement above, by ignoring the older books.

Right - back to Doctor Who and a bit more chilling out :-) I'm off work next week, taking a spell away from the office. I'm pretty tired at the moment, so this will be a welcome rest and recharge. I'm also hoping to watch the end of the Olympics tomorrow. Britain have done really well over there, it's just a shame that the schedules haven't really been compatible with viewers in the UK.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Soundtrack of my life - according to the Shuffle Meme

This one's brought to you courtesy of Michele, I saw this and just had to fire up iTunes to see what it would say about me :


1. Open your music library (iTunes, winamp, media player, iPod, whatever)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question below, type the song that’s playing
5. New question — press the next button
6. Don’t lie and try to pretend you’re cool

Here goes ! I'm cheating a little with steps 2 to 5 though because I'm taking them from what iTunes Party Shuffle has lined up for me. But I usually listen to my music via Party Shuffle anyway ... As per tradition, Youtube links provided where I could find then :-)

Opening Credits : "This Man's Too Strong" - Dire Straits

First Day At School : "Stairway to Heaven" - Led Zeppelin

Falling In Love : "Sex Crime (1984)" - Eurythmics (no kidding !)

Breaking Up : "Little Earthquakes" - Tori Amos

Prom : "World Where You Live" - Crowded House

Life's Okay : "The Dreaming" - Kate Bush

Mental Breakdown : "Heaven" - Talking Heads (ok - that's a little weird)

Driving : "Dreams" - Fleetwood Mac (if you see a silver Focus with a dreamy driver - be afraid)

Flashback : "Yet Another Movie" - Pink Floyd (lol!)

Getting Back Together : "Vow" - Garbage (some of these are freaky!)

Wedding : "Tubular Bells" - Mike Oldfield

Divorce : "Storm The Palace" - Catatonia

Current Mood : "The Gift" - INXS (not sure about the whole flames & explosions thing from the video and how it reflects on "current mood" ...)

Final Battle : "Whistling In The Dark" - They Might Be Giants

Death Scene : "A Pillow Of Winds" - Pink Floyd

End Credits : "Storms In Africa" - Enya
(could have been "Never Enough" by Alisha's Attic, cos that's the one that would come after Storms In Africa)

If you join in on these one, drop us a line - but please also let Michele know too ;-) (link up top)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Skewered ... on sympathisers

Watching Casino Royale again off dvd :-)

There's a new Bond film coming soon and one thing I like to do before watching sequels is to remind myself of the film(s) that came before. Now it's the turn of Casino Royale, which is where the quote in the post title comes from. It's from the end of the dinner where Bond meets Vesper Lynd, describing :

"How was your lamb Mr Bond?"
"Skewered ... on sympathisers"

Great line. Decent film too, they took a very long running series that was getting seriously tired and revamped it rather satisfactorily. And a very good excuse to sit in front of the telly chilling out for a couple of hours instead of getting tempted back into the PC. I've been on that rather too much over the weekend :

Saturday - 12 hour Settlers II game - stable but Damn ! 12 hours for one game is a seriously long time for a game that should really be done in a third of that :-) Not a bad game Settlers, they get you thinking strategically without being as frenetic as most Real Time Strategy games are. Good thing Olympics were on the telly too, followed by DS9 and Voyagers off recording or I'd have gone a leetle nuts. Yep - more nuts.

Sunday was more game, this time World of Warcraft. I'm with a better guild this time, much more talkative and the members actually help each other. I still miss the old Mercs days, I think because it was something I was greatly responsible for setting up and building in the early days. It was my baby, which is why I got rather emotionally involved. What I don't miss are all the politics that kicked off between the various little cliques that formed in the Mercs and were eventually responsible for destroying the guild.

Cliques are bad ...

More film :

"There are dinner jackets and dinner jackets, that is the latter" - Vesper

I used to have a habit of including a random quote on my game forum signatures, taken from whatever made a grin hit me. I don't do that so much any more, mostly because I'm only really bothered about one forum nowadays :

Violence Reborn - has a quote that's going to stay forever :-) (will post it sometime)
Eve - Assti - not too impressed with how these guys behave, so not making the effort here
NWR - similar but the disenchantment is for completely different reasons
PXF - never really got to know these guys
Mercs forum - dead & buried

Right - pizza's gone, Ba'al is doing the dealer's job in Casino Royale (very different to his Go'auld persona) and I need to get my popcorn popping so I finish it before the end of the film !

PS Last time I did this it was with Batman Begins and Dark Knight. Cracking film Dark Knight, even though I find The Joker rather disturbing. Heath Ledger is outstanding in his final role, although I must watch Knight's Tale again so that becomes the memory I'll keep of his acting.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - weather

The inspiration for this week's Thursday Thirteen struck while at work yesterday. We've had an odd summer this year, days of bright sunshine like today have been rather few, sandwiched between torrential downpours. No floods like last year, which is a blessing. We've been having a bit of fun in the office with this one and a special mention goes out to Mrs C who has been full of ideas. Enough ideas in fact, to make it possible for this Thirteen to maybe get repeated next week but with older songs instead of the newer ones here !

Right - enough wittering, on with the 13 :-) I've put in Youtube links where they're available but there are some obscure ones in here ... Enjoy !

Thirteen Things about Seasonal Songs

1.... Crowded House - Weather With You. I love this song, great one to open with.
2.... Cloudbusting by Kate Bush. Could have had The Big Sky here from Kate Bush but Cloudbusting is a far better song :-)
3.... Rainy Days And Mondays by The Carpenters. Karen has one of the most beautiful voices ever to hit the airwaves.
4.... Gonna Buy A Hat by Chris Rea (lyrics only). This one's from the Dancing With Strangers album and was away from my iTunes collection for far, far too long.
5.... It's not quite November Rain yet but here's a great song from Guns & Roses.
6.... We were saying "Here Comes The Rain Again" rather a lot yesterday. One from Eurythmics.
7.... But at least we haven't said "Here Comes The Flood" like at some points last year. This one's from Peter Gabriel's first album.
8.... Sometimes I find it rather restful when "I Listen To The Rain". One of the highlight's of Beverly Craven's career here.
9.... There's a few metal fans out there who I know keep up with this blog, this one's especially for them : Flood by the Sisters Of Mercy.
10.. One of my most favourite groups has always been Dire Straits, It Never Rains is from the Love Over Gold album.
11... Purple Rain by Prince. No Youtube link cos Prince seems to be banned from there ...
12.. Blame it on the Weatherman by B*witched. Cos when it rains, we know exactly who's responsible. Been trying for ages to find the albums these girls did !
13.. Here Comes The Sun sung by George Harrison. Because the sun has decided to get his hat on today ! Another singer who's voice I love, it's a great shame that he was taken from us too early.

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!

Got another Thirteen coming on the same theme next week but it'll have classical music and show music on instead. I'm still looking for clues on that one though - We've thought of 7 between Mrs C and me, so that makes 6 more needed ;-)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Technobabble vs Environment

Star Trek rant again !

The Deep Space Nine episode I'm re-watching at the moment (might not be for long, might skip it) has a rather curious story running through it. You'd usually expect Star Trek to champion the environmentalist utopia cause, however this one is about as Anti-Environment as you can get.

Ok - the core of the story is that one of the senior officers has been sent to evict some farmers from a moon so they can wreck it by stripmining its core for energy. So that's a habitable moon, with viable farming land going to get made uninhabitable in the pursuit of power that could easily come from an alternate source like solar.

Curious is one word, Insane! is another ! The one constant we'll find when we eventually break out of Earth's orbit and unleash ourselves on an unsuspecting galaxy is that inhabitable planets and moons will be as rare as hen's teeth. So real estate where people can live and grow food should be prized above all else.

Back to Star Trek ... but I'll be distracting myself with getting some food ready.

PS Getting to read a bit of Heinlein's Time Enough For Love. This one comes after quite a few of his timeline novels and I'm getting to read it again after reading some of the more key books in that timeline. It has Heinlein's typical wit running through it and has definitely got me laughing at what's coming off the pages :-)


The build up's all done now and the main event's here and underway. Every 4 years we get a great festival of sport, covering most of the team and individual events that people play. There's some obvious ones in there, some less obvious ones but what it does mean is a sportnut like me gets to see some sports on the telly that otherwise don't get a look in. The sad thing is the time zone, because China is 7 hours ahead of British Summer Time most of the events will take place when we're either asleep or at work. The GB evening time neatly coincides with the Chinese sleeping time.

Today is an excellent day already for GB :-) We have a gold medal winner ! That would be Nicole Cooke who had a superb ride in the Women's Cycling Road Race in atrocious conditions. They seem to be having monsoon type conditions over in China at the moment, to the point where the BBC presenters have a bucket in their studio.

I've just been watching the Women's team bronze medal match in the archery. That's one of the first sports I got involved with, over in N.Ireland as a boy. (It was something that my mum & dad could send all 3 of us to every week) GB were involved in this one too but unfortunately just missed out by 2 points. Ah well - they'll be hungrier for it when the Games come to our place in 4 years :-)

Right - Olympics had temporary reign over the Telly, time for the Test Match again ! After watching Nicole Cooke get her gold that is. There won't be too many chances to stand up for the anthem in these games, best to make the most of what opportunities we get :-)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - A To Z Challenge

This one's about books I've read over the last year. Joy has a challenge running at the moment, with the aim being to read 52 books, 26 with titles covering the whole of the alphabet and 26 with authors covering the alphabet. For more, take a peek at my long neglected Sleepypete Stories blog (link in the blogroll). I'm sneakily using that one so that the A To Z post can remain at the top without being lost in my various random ramblings.

Thirteen Things about Books I've been reading lately

1.... First up, The Algebraist by Iain M Banks. This is one of his later books but the first one I read. Instant classic. There's a very well realised setting here, which doesn't sci-fi cheat too much. Rule Number One - Do NOT mess with the Dwellers.
2.... Robert A Heinlein's Starship Troopers. This books is much better than the film, although the animated series comes close. This is a book that deals far more with ethics and government with the alien shooty bits actually being rather limited.
3.... David Weber's At All Costs. Much better than the previous book, War Of Honor, because it has a lot more action in between the tedious politics bits. But, the series is definitely suffering from the escalation that most sci-fi space opera series tend to burn out on.
4.... Avatar series by various D&D authors. This series has the gods of Toril getting thrown out of the heavens due to not doing their duties properly. So their boss sets out to teach them a lesson. Cue a series of stories crossing most of the Forgotten Realms D&D setting, with gods dying, cities being destroyed, mortals being corrupted, a little bit of love and madness and rather spectacular re-ordering of the pantheon there.
5.... Consider Phlebas by Iain M Banks. This is the introduction to The Culture, a hugely mixed society of the future which is run by machines. These machines very definitely have personalities of their own, which leads to names like Resistance is Character Forming, No More Mr Nice Guy and Now Look What You Made Me Do. This one is the first Culture book and is nigh-on essential reading for any sci-fi fan.
6.... Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds. Gotta admit, I was a little disappointed with this one. It had a reasonable setting to work with but suffered from being too drawn out and too rushed. The beginning takes ages to get through, the end rushes through very quickly.
7.... XWing series by Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allstom. These are in the Star Wars universe, taking up the story about 2-3 years after Return of the Jedi. They're well worth a peek, not so much for the Star Wars but for the interplay between the characters.
8.... Use of Weapons by Iain M Banks. Another Culture book, tough to describe. So I'm not going to :-) Besides, spoilers would happen very easily with this one !
9.... Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein. This one is about his Lazarus Long character, aka the oldest living human. He's about 2500 years old when this one is set and is a kind of biography of the character. I've read a lot more Heinlein than when I first read this quite some time ago, I'm hoping to get more out of it this time.
10... Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series. I'm two books in with these and I'll get started on the third after Time enough For Love. The premise here takes you back to World War Two. Things are going as we know. Apart from aliens from space choosing that time to invade ! Bit long winded these, which is why I haven't bombed through the series just yet.
11... Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I've read all 5 of these. The first three are very, very good, with all of the famed Douglas Adams wit shining through. The fifth isn't that great though.
12... All those documents from work that I can't tell anyone about :-)
13... Larry Niven's Ringworld series. Not read any of these for a while but anything by Niven is worth checking out.

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, August 05, 2008

Changing the guard

There's been some big stories prowling around the sports media over the past few days, all about who becomes the next Captain of the England cricket team.

What's happened is that the pressure of being In Charge has gotten to the two people who had the job last week. Michael Vaughan had that pressure steadily grinding him down to the point where he couldn't get the consistency going with his batting and Paul Collingwood could barely score a run for all of this season. And when that happens to a player, it undermines their position in the team, let alone their ability to lead that team. They're both excellent captains with their tactics but the pressure does get to players after a while.

I've had the captaincy job a few times in my cricketing life, in fact I had an absolute ball running the indoor team that we had going in our project for a few years. We always punched above what we should have done and I had a lot of pride in leading that bunch of players. I had to lead that team by example too, as it was when I could take a full part with my bowling. Nowadays, I'd have had to be a non-playing captain because my bowling is That Bad.

Indoor cricket tactics* are pretty much limited to who bowls or bats when though, there's no subtleties with fielding positions. There's a certain amount of pressure involved, as the skipper has to keep track of the bowlers to make sure his weaker ones don't get absolutely murdered. However, most of the work came before a game to make sure there was a full side of six players turning up. Which could often be a challenge ...

(Kinda appropriately, the last iTunes track was "We Are The Champions" and the current one is "When I Was Young" by River City People - spooky)

So, I've had a little taste of Captaincy, albeit with much different pressures than the two who have just stepped aside for England. They had selectors doing the chasing thing but I don't envy them having to talk to the media. I've also never had my exploits on the cricket field analysed in a National newspaper, although I did get my name in the local paper fairly regularly due to putting in bowling that did lots to further our side's cause in games.

I can fully understand why Michael Vaughan and Paul Collingwood have stepped aside. Captaincy is a great honour and a blast while it lasts however there's a definite Hump where it becomes a chore instead of the rush that it should be. For me, I think running around before games to scare up a team was getting noticed by The Bosses, plus work itself was getting much busier. It was detracting from the day job, so I needed to step aside and hand on the reins. For Vaughan and Collingwood, the Captaincy was detracting from their day job (getting heaps of runs batting).

They've both been excellent Captains, setting a high standard for the next guy. That's Kevin Pietersen and if he carries through the fresh approach that he has with his batting, then we're in for a few High-Octane, Fun years as England supporters. Let's hope there's a good few Test wins in amongst the spectacular, plus I'd like to see a change in England's ability in one day games too.

*I appear to have been knocked off the top of Google for searches for "indoor cricket tactics", so I think I'm honour bound to attempt to regain that position.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday Fill In #83

Not done one of these for a while, so here goes ! For more Friday Fill-ins, please see Janet's site here.

1. If I could travel back in time, I'd go to when some idiot broke his shoulder and tell him not to play silly badminton shots, or the 60s so I could try and get into the astronaut program.

2. Give me popcorn or give me a low fat torture diet!

3. I am listening to the end of a Deep Space Nine episode, although I'll break out iTunes later.

4. Somewhere, someone is thinking nefarious thoughts about the ice-cream they have in the freezer.

5. I'll always be up for helping out the team just one more time, no matter how tired or sore I might be.

6. My idea of a good time includes good company and a good game.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to chilling out to some sci-fi, tomorrow my plans include watching the cricket while hoping my aching muscles decide to relax and Sunday, I want to make a dent in finishing Look to Windward by Iain M Banks !