Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Under Observation

Mall trip tonight - acquired one thing for gaming, didn't bother acquiring a couple of other things I might have ... Partly cos the record shops don't seem to want to sell the cd's I'm after.

One of the things I like to do when at the Mall is to sit with my dinner and watch people go by. Discreetly and without staring of course, so I don't end up being slapped. It seems kinda peaceful to be still amongst the bustle. I tend to go for nice quiet spots away from the noisier Mall Denizens.

Imagine my surprise when I realise I'm being watched ... Tonight's spot just happened to have a rather cute young lady not too far away. Funny that ;-) However, I think it was me getting watched more than the other way around. It started with a curious sensation of being watched, which was kinda natural because I was at about 1 o'clock to Cute Artist Girl's eyeline.

And then the notepad comes out ... I'm not quite sure what she was up to as the notepad was accompanied by a biro. The pen strokes didn't seem to be the type of writing pen strokes though, they seemed to be the longer, more sweeping strokes of a picture. (Did I mention that I try not to stare at people ?) I don't mind being watched, I take it as somewhat of a complement that someone finds me interesting enough to keep an eye on. For a fairly private person I do love having attention.

All good things have to come to an end though and it's a weird coincidence that when I started to get moving, Cute Artist Girl gets moving too ;-). That notepad had been away for a little while too.

I didn't get a name, I didn't get a peek at that notepad but what I did get, from halfway through when the notepad was out was a shared smile. Brightened my day :-)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Another meme

This one's from Cyberkitten's blog, check out his answers here ... I can rarely resist a decent meme (plus I'm listening to new iTunes tracks :-) so here's mine :

Where you named after anyone ?

Not that I know of, although my proper name was originally going to be what my second name is (Robert). SleepyRob doesn't quite have the same ring to it though.

When was the last time you cried ?

Hayfever tears probably don't count - but the last time I had serious issues there was Tuesday, which triggered the post about drugs. Films get me sometimes but I have too much Yorkshire in me to acknowledge tears ...

Do you like your handwriting ?

Definitely not. If it wasn't for the empathy I sometimes display, I'd probably be a doctor. The handwriting fits. Oh to be able to write my signature consistently or to be readily understood by handwriting recognition systems.

What is your favourite lunch meat ?

Corned beef, it's a bit different to the usual ham or chicken. (And the sarnies are cheap !)

Do you have kids ?

Definitely not.

If you were another person would you be friends with yourself ?

I think so yes - I get on well with honest people who have time for others and I'd like to think I fit both of those descriptors.

Do you use sarcasm a lot ?

My humour tends to depend on bouncing off what other people do or say and sarcasm is one of the options there. But I only use it when it can be made humourous, I rarely set out to upset people. However, driving does tend to pull above average sarcasm out of me ...

Do you still have your tonsils ?


Would you bunjee jump ?

Bunjee jumping might do me good, temporarily at least. One of my various injuries is an unhappy back and bunjee jumping might straighten it out a bit. Otherwise, no due to all those injuries again. It's an unnecessary risk and could well end up with something else getting broke.

What is your favourite cereal ?

I rarely eat breakfast, I can't actually remember when I last had a cereal. Buttered toast for me, although I used to have a soft spot for Frosties.

Do you untie your shoes before taking them off ?


Do you think you are strong ?

I have or used to have well above average power in my legs, to the point where I'd be able to push a small car fast enough to let it gain enough momentum to get it bump-started. That can't be bad :-) My arms are a bit weak though and my shoulder injury is approaching a status that can only really be described as "crippling".

What is your favourite ice cream ?

Mint - especially Minty Cornettos.

What is the first thing you notice about people ?

Their "aura" as the New Age people would call it. It's the sense of what a person is like, how they look at other people. I get on well with people who treat others fairly and not well with people who just don't give a damn about others. But mostly it's whether they catch the grin and smile back :-)

Red or Pink ?

Red Wunz Go Fasta.

What is the least favourite thing about yourself ?

My physical fragility becoming only a slight second to be not actually implementing things I need to do.

Who do you miss the most ?

My brother.

What colour shoes are you wearing ?

No shoes at the moment - I'm at home loafin' :-) Outdoors it's either black (work shoes) or mostly white (trainers & cricket spikes)

What was the last thing you ate ?

Minipancakes as a substitute for a proper lunch/breakfast. Although after I finish this meme, I'll be putting the oven on for dinner.

What are you listening to right now ?

Last iTunes track was the second part of Oxygene by Jean-Michel Jarre, now it's Popdorian by Dubstar from their Disgraceful album.

If you were a crayon, what colour would you be ?

Green or blue. There's got to be a psychological reason for those being what popped into my head.

Favourite smells ?

Butter on the Popcorn, freshly baked pizza.

Who was the last person you talked to on the phone ?

A work mate looking for info.

Favourite sports you watch ?

CRICKET !!!! And sailing because the sailors aren't just battling each other, they're trying to get the best out of the conditions too.

Hair colour ?

Blonde going on brown, depending on how much sun I've been exposed to.

Eye Colour ?


Do you wear contacts ?

Never have, although it's an interesting option. I'm a little too used to wearing glasses I think.

Favourite foods ?

Pizza ! And anything with bacon in it.

Scary movies or happy endings ?

Depends whether or not the ending is telegraphed. If I can guess what's going to happen, I get bored. Babylon AD was a good one for keeping people guessing. I'd prefer Action movies to the two types above, as I can sit back and enjoy the ride in those.

Last movie you watched ?

Star Wars - Return of the Jedi. I like to watch old classics every once in a while. I'm currently making my mind up as to what will be the Next Movie, as I'll be chilling out to a dvd while my dinner's in the oven.

What colour shirt are you wearing ?

T-shirt of the day is a bright red one with a large Skull And Crossbones motif on the back, along with the words "Surrender the Booty". It nearly got adopted as the motto of an Eve corporation I used to be involved with.

Summer or Winter ?

Cricket is played in Summer.

Hugs or kisses ?

I like hugs.

Favourite dessert ?

Anything with brownies in it. Or chocolate log :-)

What book are you reading right now ?

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Seen a couple of series based on that book, never read the actual book. Time to remedy that :-)

What is on your mouse pad ?

I don't use mice pads at home, I find they get in the way. I use the trackpad on this laptop and the optical sensor on my desktop's mouse gets on pretty well with the texture of the veneer on my desk.

What did you last watch on TV ?

The climax of the English cricket season. Notts got beat by Hampshire, while Durham beat Kent to go on to win the title.

Favourite sound ?

The beeper on the microwave, although that could be because I'm getting rather hungry right now and the beeper will mean my dinner's ready. (At least half an hour before then though !)

Rolling Stones or Beatles ?

Beatles - will have to root out Eleanor Rigby for adding to the iTunes Party Shuffle.

What is the farthest you have even been from home ?

Orlando, Florida. Or the various pocket universes that are the domain of my Moo2 empires.

Do you have a special talent ?

I grin at people and they can't help themselves but to grin back.

Where were you born ?

Birmingham, England.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hindsight's a spoiler

Or is it ...

The sort of PC games I'm most into take a long time to play through. They've usually got an epic storyline as their foundation, with the player being rewarded for progression by seeing a little more of the storyline. Trouble is though, it can be incredibly tedious playing through some of the missions or stages in these games. Which is where walkthroughs and Frequently Asked Questions come in. If you're stuck on a stage, then the FAQ or Walkthrough should have the answer.

However ... Once you have the walkthrough, it's far, far too tempting to peek ahead to see what's going to happen. Which can spoil the rest of the game somewhat. I've had a good long look at the walkthrough for Baldur's Gate 2 and had a peek at the walkthrough for a little known one called Star Trek Away Team the other night. Now I've had a peek at that latest one, suddenly I'm not too bothered about playing the game any more !

This is where the question of whether it's a good thing or a bad thing to have a peek at what's coming ahead. Having a look at the last couple of pages in the book is another example. You know what's going to happen (kinda!) without having the slog through 500 pages to get there. It's similar with a game, on the story games progress can suddenly hit a brick wall as you start banging your head against the literally impossible situation the developers have put you in.

Sooo ... I know what happens in Baldur's Gate 2 and Star Trek Away Team, without having the huge long slog through the game with lots of use of the Immortality Clause* to reload from before you started the banging on brick wall thing. A book is a different case, they may be long but you know exactly how long they're going to be.

One of the selling points of games is the quality of Replayability. In a role play type game, there's often many different ways to play through to the end point. It's a rare game though that has true variation in how you get to that end. Warcraft has this now, as you can skip half the content as your character matures. But there is that long slog to get there.

I like the story games :-) But it's often just as much fun to read a book and not nearly so frustrating. Time for a bit more of that. Choice - Grab a copy of the Star Wars Empire at War game, or watch The Empire Strikes Back off dvd. Easy ! I'll take the option that will avoid getting popcorn butter over my mouse :-)

*The Immortality Clause - most games have a save feature, which lets you preserve your progress. I call the ability to save & reload back to a point the immortality clause - if something inconvenient happens, like your favourite character developing extra holes, then you can invoke the Immortality Clause, take the game back a bit and get the character back :-)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Keeping the drugs

One of my various conditions that tends to slow me down and put a brake on the headlong rush that is usually me is hayfever ...

It doesn't hit me in the breathing too much nowadays but what it does do is make my eyes water. Endlessly. It starts at the rubbing of the sleep out of the eyes in the morning and escalates as I poke 'em. Most days, I can handle it and get it under control again using a cloth to dab 'em. Some days though, I have to resort to drugs because the constant watering turns my mindset towards one usually associated with causing watering eyes ...

I'm not one for taking drugs to sort a problem, most of the drugs out there seem to be some sort of mask to cover up the real issue. Like painkillers to get people moving again, even though moving would cause more damage to the injured limb. Anti-biotics for something that will cure naturally in time - that's one of the vectors for MRSA getting a foothold. Stimulants for getting a little more kick out of a too tired body.

I'll go the stimulant route, even to joking about the Pepsi Max and Crunchie combo that's almost guaranteed to give me a short term energy boost. That's no endorsement of those two by the way, as the boost from Crunchies will come from nasty E number yellow colouring and I bet the Pepsi Max effect is just placebo. Every drug has a side effect though, which is why I tend to try and avoid taking them. Like the combo above that gives a short term energy boost which is balanced by a longer term crash.

I'm in the throes of hayfever drug side effects at the moment. The brand name one is what I've had stored in a cupboard at work for a while, it's in date but I've made the link between that and the side effects ... Which are :

Depression. Tiredness. Joint pain (well - aches, shoulder hasn't stuck it's hand up yet). Lack of appetite. Feeling of worthlessness. Lack of motivation (depression?). Clouded thinking. Inability to focus. Tingling limbs (could be the way I'm sitting right now !)

But I haven't had to wipe my eyes since I took that pill this lunchtime. So a result in one way - but sometimes I'd just rather have the symptom instead of the side effect.

It's funny in a way, because I used to jokingly refer to the hayfever drugs as performance enhancing for the cricket. I'd take one at about 4pm, so it would take full effect before cricket starting at 6pm. I could breathe all right - but when I went to run, I'd wonder why there was absolutely nothing in the tank. I'd pull the trigger on the sprinting muscles but there would be absolutely nothing there to fuel the engine.

Ok - that's been a fair bit of outpouring about a problem I'd rather not acknowledge too much - lesson time : If you take a drug, whether it be prescription, off the supermarket shelf, from the bar or acquired any other way, make sure you can know the full effect it may be having. So that's :

Not running like a loony now that leg pain has been dampened by the painkiller.
Is that hayfever tablet having side effects ?
Don't drink & drive ...
Will that narcotic fry your brain.
Is that coffee masking a body that needs a good feeding ?

We take drugs of all forms for a multitude of reasons and pretty much all of those reasons are good ones. (Can't understand narcotics users there) But what we should be doing is keeping a level headed monitor on all of the effects of that drug. Not to be a hypochondriac but to try and catch the bad effects before they become crippling.

I probably could walk into the Doctor's surgery tomorrow (well - tomorrow being on an arranged appointment time) and walk out with a prescription for painkillers for my various joint issues but I know that the painkillers would only be masking the real damage. Plus any drug has a side effect. I think I kinda prefer the occasional mopping up of the eyes to the lack of energy and associated depression that comes out of that particular hay fever tablet ! And besides, I like the occasional milkshake for more reasons than it getting calcium in to shore up my shins.

Right - tablet got taken at 12noon today, it's a 24 hour tablet, so that means about 14 hours to go before it starts getting out of my system. All I want to do right now is sleep but I have the inner sense in me warring at that to try and keep me sparky. I did have about half an hour sleepytime when I got home though, before rousing to check out the commotion of the shop people who park in front of the house leaving to go home. I doubt whether I'll be interested in opening a game up tonight but I should be able to make more of a dent in Arthur C Clarke's 3001.

PS Not giving the name of the hayfever tablet I'm having trouble with cos everyone's different. As one drug affects me, other's will be fine with it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Just read - Rogue Star

Just finished reading a book set in the Warhammer 40k universe called Rogue Star, written by Andy Hoare.

Curious book this one, it's set in the Warhammer 40k universe, so it has a decent amount of backstory and structure to call upon. It feels a lot like an introduction, in terms of how it shows the 3 main characters experiencing their universe. There's space battles here, plus a look at the culture on a world of the Imperium of the 40th millenium.

Trouble is, it definitely is an introduction - at the end of its 250 pages, you feel as if the story is just beginning after a couple of skirmishes. That's a little disappointing, I guess I'm used to the Timothy Zahn's, the Iain M. Banks, the David Webers, where each book has its own definite story even though it's fitting into an epic sequence. Well, maybe Iain M. Banks' Culture novels don't slide into each other the way a Zahn trilogy would or Weber's Honor Harrington books do.

I think I'm in great danger of writing more about other books in this short review than I am about the one the review is about, which could probably be taken as a bad sign. It's a very readable book this one but I'm a little wary now about spending more cash on Warhammer books. It's a full price £5.99 for a 250 introduction. When that's compared to the same or a pound or two more for a Weber epic or a Banks masterpiece, I think I'll keep collecting the other novels.

Still, I managed to read it pretty quick, which probably shows how much attention the games are getting at the moment :-) I read Iain M. Banks's Excession novel before this one too, another book set in the universe of the Culture. That was a far more interesting book and introduced the dialogue that the Minds have too. The Culture is a society run by machines called Minds, with the Minds looking out for the people who live inside it. It's an interesting view on Utopia/Distopia, well worth a look if you've not been introduced to it.

Essential Iain M. Banks books - Consider Phlebas and The Algebraist. The second of those isn't Culture but is another Banks masterpiece.

Right - dinner's about to come out the oven, Ryder Cup is on the telly and I'm going to hide behind another book while it's on. This time it's the turn of 3001 by Arthur C. Clarke, which is a beneficiary of the A To Z book challenge :-)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Itchy Fingers and Dreamworlds

I have that Itchy Fingers feeling again, which probably means I'm going to buy something expensive sometime soon ...

I'm going to leave the Airport Express until Xmas/Birthday time, as that will at least leave Something for people to get me that I haven't already acquired. See it, want it, buy it is what I tend to do. Unless it's expensive or I've got something that does a similar job already. And then I'll research the target to death and never actually buy it.

The target now is a Blu-ray solution ... I've been thinking Sony PS3 for that for ages but when I've looked in the games shops, I've never really seen games that I'd think of as Must Have. So a PS3 is probably OTT. However, I got my eyes opened to the possibility of using a laptop to do the job which is pretty convenient seeing as my laptop is nearing the end of its days. Trouble is, while laptops have more convenient TV outputs now, their audio outputs tend to be a little lacking. HDMI is an interesting connector but I'm not seeing too many surround sound amplifiers with HDMI audio inputs. No big deal - Creative labs do sound cards that slot into a PCMCIA slot (da credit card size slot in the side of da laptop) that will give me what I'm wanting.

Another little snag, I like to have my laptop on the sofa beside me when watching films but if the laptop were the Blu-Ray player, it would be on the floor in front of telly and my fingers just ain't that long.

But - there's another possibility ... I have the carcass of my last PC still, it probably wouldn't take that much to strip that, put some more bits in and rebuild it into a box that can live by the telly ... Worth looking into :-)

So that's :

Option 1 - Playstation 3 to give me a standalone player but a console I'll never play games on.
Option 2 - New Laptop :-) This is the shiny option that a magpie like me will find hard to resist. But - tricky to look at those forums on it while watching da movie.
Option 3 - Rebuild Guilmon, my last PC. This one is probably worth looking into - the hardware that was inside that old monster wasn't good enough to handle games any more but should be able to deal with Blu-Ray discs quite happily.

Option 3 is kinda deja vu, cos it mirrors what I started watching dvds with - a PC that had a couple of special bits inside it for showing the dvds. There's an Option 3a too, use my current desktop box. Interesting ... but would lead to a few wires running across the room that I couldn't hide.

Pricecheck - can't do one of these type of posts without checking out the damage :-)

Option 1 - PS3 = £300, could get a Sony Blu-Ray player for £215.
Option 2 - lots - probably £500 min, £750 actual for suitable laptop.
Option 3 :
Blu-Ray disc player for £55
Cables ...
Graphics card for £115 - my current one is starting to suffer anyway, plus a new one would give one of those HDMI sockets.
Software ...

Software is always the tricky thing with PC stuff. The manufacturers tend to throw software at people when they buy bits, I have about 6 copies of Nero and probably 5 copies of PowerDVD. Trouble is, the software people also want you to buy their software, so they cripple what goes into the box with your bits in it. Things like the version of PowerDVD on this machine only supporting 2 speakers, which is a bit lame when you're used to 5 and a subwoofer. Pah. Software could be the stumbling block ...

The research thing is where the Dreamworlds comment came from. I had a peek in the Hi-Fi mags, as you do ;-) I didn't buy one because I don't consider a mag that reviews £300 budget Blu-Ray players and then recommends a £3000 speaker/amp/TV combo to go with them as credible. They should be looking at the £200-£300 items instead of blowing £1200 on speakers. It's one reason why I ignore the Hi-Fi mags, their reviewers live in dream worlds aimed at selling really expensive kit that's not worth the cash. I've done fine for about 10 years now with a Creative Labs 5.1 speaker set originally designed for PCs, which has given me decent but not fantastic surround sound all through its life for only £210. It's tempting to look them up again ...

It'll be a while yet until I go spending money - my laptop is still grimly hanging on to dear life, despite having a good few old age issues. The big decision point will be the telly - my old style 28" widescreen CRT is still going strong and has a good few years left. And it still gives an excellent picture on modern films like the new Star Wars Trilogy. I've been watching those again and I'm halfway through the saga. Just the old ones to go now :-)

On films (& music too) - if you have a peek at the Sleepypete Stories link in the blogroll, you'll see that I'm using that 2nd blog as a place to track the A to Z books challenge. I've piled through a few excellent books lately and I'm now on my first taste of Warhammer novel fiction with Rogue Star by Andy Hoare due to fill the hole at R in books. I'm thinking of running another couple of challenges :

Films -
Titles A to Z - watching 26 films with the first letters of the alphabet
Music Artists A to Z - listening to albums with the first letter of alphabet for artist
Music Albums A to Z - albums with first letter of alphabet for name

Looking through my iTunes library, I need something for artists H, N, W, X, Y, Z. And looking through what doesn't show up in iTunes properly - Holst, Williams, Zimmer ... Album names are only an issue with X, Y and Z, albeit cheating with Queen Greatest Hits ;-)

Right - back to surfing for Blu-Ray system solutions while listening to iTunes and getting more into Rogue Star.

Addon - Just dropping in a link for Naomi that goes to the Adobe pages for troubleshooting Flashplayer ... I hope it helps :-) Although it does look a little on the arcane side ...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another legend passes

Heard the news today - the music world has lost Richard Wright, keyboard player for Pink Floyd.

Among the various musicians and groups I listen to, Pink Floyd are one of the oldest and most returned to influences. Richard Wright didn't front the group like David Gilmour and Roger Waters did but it's not just the frontman who does all the work, it's the people playing the keyboards, setting up the synths, banging the drums, writing the songs.

So here's to remembering Richard Wright, with a song from what was the biggest selling album of all time. May he always be dragged back for encores and never hit a bum note in that Great Gig In The Sky.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Customer service rocks(and a tribute)

Firstly - Earthshattering events happened on this day, 7 years ago. The world changed and not for the better. A small group of individuals decided that their way required that several thousand people die in an atrocity.

We must never forget. We must always remember the people who had their lives taken from them.

Now - on with the main post : It's not often I'll come out with an endorsement of a company's service or product but I'm making an exception tonight.

I'm a pizza lover :-) As it says on my profile thingummyjig. I'm not too keen on home oven cooked pizza cos it rarely works too well due to part of the cooking being done while the pizza is still chilly from being in the pizza. I never used to go for pizza from a restuarant either. So my pizza fix would usually come from picking one up on the way home from work or from getting one ordered in.

Take away or delivery pizza is the only way to go - fresh ingredients, no freezer influence and with the careful eye of the cooks on it.

What's my current favourite pizza place ? Pizza hut :-) I think their Bonjourno advert is pretty corny but I'm willing to forgive that if the product is good. Even more willing to forgive it if they give me my pizza for half price :-)


They're the best place to eat at our local Mall too, no backtalk from the staff, quick service and they smile. Which is far rarer than it should be in British restuarants. That's one thing I remember most about my short fortnight over in the States, even the really cheap places to eat really did focus hard on getting their customer service right.

If the customer goes away happy, then they'll go back again and again.

Right - pizza's now gone, time to get the popcorn snapping ready for the rest of Star Wars Attack Of The Clones - currently watching the Star Wars films again. I've been very tired lately, with not much bounce in the batteries. Hence the pizza to try and get a little spark back :-)

PS Another endorsement I'd make is Hewlett Packard - the laptop I'm being using at the moment is good enough to make me look at HP laptops first when I eventually go for a replacement. And I'm probably pickier on my PC hardware than I am with my pizzas.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

On being social

I've been reading a lot of Heinlein lately and one of the most striking things about Heinlein's writing are the off the wall sayings that make total sense. One of them and you'll have to bear with me here is :
Masturbation is cheap, clean, convenient, and free of any possibility of wrongdoing — and you don't have to go home in the cold. But it's lonely.
Wow - that's a little out in left field. But it was reasonably fresh in my mind when I was pondering why I wasn't particularly interested in playing a couple of classics on the weekend. I've sunk a lot of time into World of Warcraft lately but needed a bit of variation, so I had a peek at Settlers IV and Civ 4. Only a quick peek because I really couldn't be bothered with them. I have a few other games too that I've not got my money's worth out of. And then the quote above sprung up in my mind. Hmm - let's take it to bits and have a look.

Cheap - single player games don't have a monthly fee like Eve & WoW do.
Clean - there's no chance of having a fight with someone in the guild. It happens. There's also no idiots infesting your single player game.
Convenient - pause button, able to save the state without leaving other people in the lurch.
Free from wrongdoing - can't upset people when there isn't enough room for them in your gang.
Going home in cold - probably more appropriate to cricket or Re-enactment people, a single player game means you're safe from the rain.

The pause button thing is not to be underestimated. It's actually kinda dangerous leaving a character out in the wilds in an online game, although it's a bit safer on the server I'm on now because it's a "Normal" one. Means there's a general state of peace instead of the Kill Or Be Killed state that makes a "Player Vs Player" server rather tense. Eve is even worse, because the pattern of play tends to have you alert at the keyboard for ages waiting for something to happen. Having a pause button is rather nice, it lets you break at your convenience or if you get called away. You can put the game to one side knowing it'll be in the same state when you get back.

So, single player games are cheaper, cleaner, far more convenient cos of that pause button, you can't annoy someone by leaving them off the team and you don't get drenched when the heavens open with 5 overs to go.

But they're lonely.

Lol - there you go, that's me comparing computer games to masturbation and sex.

I don't think I really noticed this before because World of Warcraft is pretty much the first big multiplayer game I've played, plus I'd always had the cricket to keep me in social gaming. I've always lived in fairly social housing too, ever since university when I was 18. That's 15 years ago now. When I moved out of the social housing, I was living with someone. So there was a little voice on the other side of the sofa telling me to keep the noise down. Plus other whinging :-) (You'd have to have known her ;-)

Pretty much since the WoW became the main game, I've been single, although the timing there is totally coincidental. After the breakup, WoW became a surrogate for the relationship I'd had. Which probably kept me sane in the months after, I had a group of Mercs to keep an eye on. That couldn't last though - issues with some of the personalities (being ignored for a couple of months does this to you) meant I couldn't continue torturing myself with the guild leadership thing and the relationships with Guildlink in particular, so I gave the job up to the best candidate we had at the time.

Bah ! I be digressing again. Closing note - Playing with Other People is far better than Playing With Yourself. I think that's something that everybody can agree on :-) Oh - time for another Heinlein quote before I really close this entry :
Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of — but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
I must assure you that this entry was composed totally in private (ok, I had Dexter and Stargate Atlantis on in the background) and I promise that I'll be washing my hands in the very near future.

PS More classic Heinlein quotes here : WikiQuote. G'wan - have a peek :-)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The God Complex

Everyone seems to have a god ...

It might not quite be the god that everyone expects them to have but gods seem to run all the way through our societies. There's the famous ones, like Allah, the Christian God, Hindu gods and all of the other major faiths (names given in alphabetical order!). We'll try and keep those big gods happy but the ones that seem to really matter are based on superstition ...

Things like the grand prix people offering up a prayer to the Weather Gods in hope that the region of very wet weather going past the Spa-Francorchamps circuit at the moment will miss the circuit. There's also sporting gods which people make observances to. Things like putting the right cricket glove on before the left, even though the padding makes that the more difficult way. There's the Luck Gods that people look to when they breathe on the dice before offering a private prayer of "double six!"

All those little superstitious routines, why do we do them ? It's a belief that some higher (supernatural) power is keeping an eye on what's going on and will push events one way or the other depending on their whim. One of the Ten Commandments specifically prohibits Christians from recognising other gods but they'll still use phrases like "Sporting God" or "Weather God". Very curious :-)

As for me, I follow a code that's very similar to the major code of ethics that the Christians and Moslems are supposed to follow. I just don't believe in the deity at the top. I do believe very heavily in luck and fate though - the phrase "Don't Tempt Fate" seems to ring the truest of any uttering that deals with Faith.

What does that mean though ? I've been on a few Karting events, where I know I'm quick. However, in the banter leading up to it I've always been very cagey on what I'm likely to do. Boasting of thrashing everyone else is just setting yourself up for a fall. Confidence is healthy but overconfidence stops you thinking clearly about actually getting up and performing. Plus if you abuse Karma and Luck, then you're probably going to set yourself up for some extraordinary event that will set you backwards.

It's things like building up a return to the cricketing action and then seeing it rain solid for three days. Before turning into bright sunshine on the afternoon before the game. Or saying we're going to lap everyone in the karting race and then getting a poorly kart in the random pick. Fate is a very fickle Lady, sometimes I think that we're all here as a plaything for the gods that look after luck. After all, what were the chances of us evolving into what we are now ? It's an extraordinary chain of luck to get all those genes in the right place but I think it's worked out ok.

Hmm - I think that's enough philosophy for one day. Time to climb back out of the hole I just dug :-) And to get back to the Grand Prix where most of the team bosses are praying to the Rain Gods to help things equalise with the front runners.

PS Lewis Hamilton yesterday : "not planning on letting anyone past today"
Lewis Hamilton today - gets over taken at the start of the second lap due to an inexplicable mistake. That's Karma biting ...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Just finished reading ... Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

Just finished reading the above book, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A Heinlein.

This is a cracking book, it's actually the first one of Heinlein's books I read and it got me comprehensively hooked. It's written from the point of view of one Manuel O'Kelly Davis (Manny for short), who is a humble computerman looking after the Lunar Authority's main computer. A computer that's had so much hooked into it that it has woken up and become sentient.

It's name is Mike, short for Mycroft, a name that extends from its model type : HOLMES. Holmes being short for High-Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor. What Mike has trouble understanding is jokes and the opening sequences of the book have him getting a bit of attention from Manny due to playing one of those jokes. It then breaks into 3 phases :

Setting up the revolution
Calm before the storm
Interplanetary war

It's not a long book at 288 pages but packs a decent amount into those 288 pages. Even reading it now, at 42 years after it was written, this is one book that is most certainly Not Dated. Ok, it's maybe a little behind the times when it comes to the effort needed for Mike to put a moving picture on a screen for him talking but that's about the only place where the age of the book shows.

It's a standalone book, although the sequel (The Cat Who Walks Through Walls) hooks into the Lazarus Long universe. The sequel is The Next Book. It's not all about revolution on the moon, there's bits in here about living up there plus Heinlein's usual intelligent observations on society.

Excellent book, very well worth a read. The central character, Manny, keeps a level head running through it with the tone always being one of good humour. It keeps a good pace up and the ending chapter or two will definitely have you remembering this book.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Here Comes The Rain Again

Blimey - when it decides to rain here, there's no half measures.

I have a scale I use when it gets moist :

Damp - this is most rain that's enough to get you wet, enough to keep the wipers on full
Unpleasant - visibility's starting to get a bit restricted
Dangerous - poor visibility, standing water on the roads

Nasty is when you're driving and at any moment, you could get into the Aquaplaning thing. Which is never something that's going to end up fun. I had a trip up and down the motorway tonight, the way there was fine - just "Damp". On the way back though, I got the chance to see what happens when my latest car aquaplanes ...

The tyres on the front of my Focus are fine, there's lots of tread on them. The rear ones probably need replacing, so it's time for the tentative driving style when things get worse than "Unpleasant". We had a taste of what driving would be like during the gaming session ... When it gets to be really heavy rain, it can be tricky to hear people through the sound of the rain on the roof.

Erm - I said Aquaplane above didn't I ?

I must have hit a river going up one of the hills on the motorway - yep, it was raining that hard ! Car slows down as it hits the water, Orange Flashy Light comes on and blinks and I'm thinking "ooookay - time to let the wheel go relaxed and ride it out ..."

Orange Flashy Light being the traction and stability control ...

Hopefully it'll rain itself out over tonight and tomorrow - there's an England one day game scheduled for Wednesday. Did I crash with the aquaplaning ? Nah. Almost noone else on the road (apart from 2x PsychoTransit going at 80mph+) and the electronics in the car meant I retained control and didn't leave my lane. Went from 70 down to 50 though ...

I also had the chance to catch up with one of the boys from the Mercs while at work today. He's a good bloke is Charge, never really got much out of what he put into the Mercs as the times when he could get on to play weren't really compatible with the times when we would raid. It was good to have a natter - I've been fairly isolated with what happened with Mercs, ever since backing out of WoW about 6 months ago. What I have seen has come from the collapse of the Mercs guild site and a few posts that appeared before it died. Those posts resulted in a couple of rants on this blog, the most significant one being in May (archive link on the right should take you to it).

I won't be going back to The Maelstrom server, there's far too much historical baggage that came out of the "Iceangel the Enforcer" job that I often took on due to the other officers not having the guts to do it themselves. What I will be doing is remembering a select few :

Charge - thought I'd spotted him on my new server but - different Charge
Soul - one of the best people I know, used to work on the same project, great mate
Caira & Auraka - crossing fingers for their little one (dunno when C&A Jr is due ...)
Fubb - has gone to Eve now as it suits what he's after in an online game better than WoW does
Aella/Monkie - always a good one to have a natter with
And the various Violence Reborn people who I'm playing the game with on the Blade's Edge server.

There's a couple more ex-Mercs who might think they're worth a mention above but ... Nah. Their actions in the leadup to the guild breaking up and their actions immediately afterward disqualify them from a special mention. If you go from "we hate CiB and would do anything to stay ahead of them in loot tables" and then go actually join that guild that you were competing with as if they were the blood enemy, then the credibility goes through the floor. If you were the one in charge of the guild kicking everyone out and therefore breaking the promise made by a senior member that people could retire their characters and keep the guild tag, then I hope you don't get allergic to sleeping pills.

A guild officer's first responsibility is to look after the members of the guild. It isn't to steal everything in the guild bank and leave to join a different organisation, without doing what they could to ease the transition. Yep, I effectively walked out on the Mercs by quitting the game - I was sick of the game at the time. But what I did do after was keep an eye on the forums and attempt to ease the transition from functioning guild to Retirement Home for Old Characters.

Heh heh heh - That must be what I mean by too much historical baggage to think about coming back to the Maelstrom. Time to get back to watching NCIS before heading off to sleep.