Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Not much left of the old year now, time to look forwards to the next one.

I spent a fair bit of 2008 looking backwards and reacting to events, I went backwards a few steps (shoulder) but I've hopefully gone forwards a few too. I appear to have mostly broken the games addiction, although maybe that's been replaced by an addiction that has me listening to music off iTunes ? :-)

Not much cricket again for me, will have to see if I can do better next season. I think I'll have to settle for batting only, as my shoulder won't support me bowling any more. Badminton is definitely a bad idea - that's how I aggravated the shoulder injury this summer. Or is that my conservative side thinking ?

The Crazie Boys (inc me) watched the film Twilight today. Best way to describe this one is a Chick Flick Teen Vampire movie. We enjoyed it and were pleasantly surprised. Different film to the no-brain action movies we usually go for, a good change. I'd recommend it :-) Not sure if I'll be going for the dvd though. One impression I definitely got was that one of the characters was definitely a fan of Tom Cruise's Lestat.

I'll be up at the Mall again tomorrow and I get the feeling I'll be spending a bit of cash up there :-) One of the casualties of the Xmas period has been the wifi capability on this laptop, which is likely to be the Final Straw that means this lappy needs replacing. It has various other faults and I've been very surprised on my couple of Kick-The-Power-Lead moments this week it hasn't turned off ... Almost no battery left in it. I'll also be looking to acquire some more cd's to feed iTunes with :-)

Last thing to do is to wish everyone a Happy New Year and I've attached a Youtube link to one of the songs I look forward to appearing on the iTunes Party Shuffle.

PS I think I'm eerily starting to look forward to work. One of the things I do on an extended leave period is not shave ... And my scabrous imitation of a beard started itching on Thursday last week. It'll be removed before I get back :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Brr - must leave heating on next time I go away !

I've been back for an hour or so now, so my fingers have warmed up enough for me to be able to type.

Been at my mum's, dad's and sister's places for a few days over Xmas. Tuesday was getting to mum's & dad's place, just in time for dinner too. Convenient :-) Wednesday saw us battling the Lincoln traffic, which typically for this time of year was pretty savage. Lincoln's roads aren't too well laid out, so getting anyway in Lincoln can be a nightmare. Thursday and Friday had us at my sister's place. She keeps a horse, so needs to be able to get to the field it's at to make sure its comfortable (stable, bringing in from field).

I think my sister liked what she got - a Satnav widget plus her internet has been upgraded to Wireless now. That was Thursday evening's job and was scarily smooth too ... I did the typical techy macho-geek thing of taking one look at the instruction book and going "humph" before chucking instructions over my shoulder and setting the thing up on my own. Kinda sounds like being a "know-it-all" there but it was part of a careful plan :-) There's lots of wifi-widgets out there and I've got experience of two ... One is my Philips thing and I wouldn't recommend that to anyone. Sister has a Linksys (aka Cisco) router now, the newer version of my dad's. The first one we got has been almost faultless for over a year. It just sits there behind a chair and works. Which is all you can ask of electronics. So my sister got the newer version of the same device.

Bit different for my electronics - I've picked up an Apple Airport Express which should let me send the iTunes music to my decent speakers without having tripwires. Just one problem ... my laptop took a tumble on Thursday evening and one thing that broke was the hole that the wifi card goes in. So I'm now tapping this out on a laptop that's hooked up by a wire going over the back of the sofa and listening to iTunes with the rubbish lappy speakers because that Airport thing needs wireless. Sometime next week I'll be hunting a new laptop from the PCWorld places, which will get me doing the wireless thing again.

I've got me another graphics card too now :-) So I'll be crossing my fingers that my main PC can supply it with enough juice to work. Checking that out will be tomorrow's job after wrapping a few things up and I'll be hoping for prettier pictures from World of Warcraft, Mass Effect and Fallout 3.

Oh ! I also have a couple more dwagons for the clan :-) Here they are :

Time to sign off now. I had a couple of bright ideas before I disappeared up norf ... One was to turn the heating off to appease the Green Lobby. The fridge magnet temperature currently has it as 15 degrees C, so a little more to go before things get cosy here. I have my main PC turning and burning on medical research, a bit of Seti, some Large Hadron Collider number crunching and climate research, so that's helping things warm up too. (The other bright idea was to leave my Laptop->TV lead here, so Wallace & Gromit couldn't get watched via iPlayer)

PS This may be my last blog entry. One of the presents that my Secret Santa victim is getting may get me killed. I'm sure the other people at the party will arrange something as a posthumous posting, although I think I'll get protection from CQ and CK cos I'm giving them a lift home tomorrow.
PS2 (addon) Still here ! Not been strangled with a cardigan.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tis the Season

3 things to post today,

The first is inspired by what I watched last night before heading off to bed. It was a special report on the BBC's News channel showing an interview with Alan Johnston of the BBC and Ingrid Betancourt. Alan Johnston was held hostage in Gaza for four months, Ingrid Betancourt survived 6 years of captivity and torture in the Columbian jungle in the hands of FARC guerillas. Here's the Wiki page on Ingrid Betancourt.

What a woman !

I'd turned over from Sky news because they were showing USA stories, which fell into the "Don't need to know right now" category (sorry USA people!). Over to BBC News, who were showing this half hour piece. By the end, we had a visibly shaken Alan Johnston being emotionally picked up by Ms Betancourt. I was absolutely captivated by Ms Betancourt's quiet strength and compassion. Her message is not one of anger, it is one of forgiveness. Her ability to forgive her kidnappers and everyone involved in that phase of her life gives her the strength to put that phase of her life behind her.

A truly inspirational lady.

Second thing for today is the Xmas, sorry Midwinter Festival :-), news. I'm not a particularly religious person but try to respect other people's beliefs. And December 25th is a great excuse for parties and presents.

I've almost got all the presents for this year, although a few of them still need wrapping. The ones that are left are for the Crazie Christmas gathering on the 28th, so a little more time still for those ones. Looks like the shopping people have come out in force, Bristol city centre was pretty well packed yesterday afternoon and the reports on the radio were encouraging me to chicken out on a trip to the Cribbs Causeway Mall. Good option too, as I think it would have taken a huge amount of time to get in and out, judging by the mile or so of queue on the Motorway before the junction to Cribbs at about 6.15 last night.

Third (and last :-) thing for today is cricket. England's tour of India just finished, they'll be getting the flights home pretty soon to get them back to their families for Xmas. It finished 1-0 to India, with the result coming in the last game where India, courtesy of the Little Master Sachin Tendulkar (cricinfo link), came from behind to snatch a well earned win. Although the result wasn't in favour of the touring team, the quality and spirit of the play coupled with the eagerness of the crowds to come out vindicates the decision to head out there in the face of events in Mumbai in November.

That's it for me for a few days - I'll see everyone in a little while after the holiday season enters the New Year stage :-)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Never underestimate Nature ...

I've been following the Vendee Globe single handed ocean race, not quite as much as I did in its early stages but I'm still keeping up with it.

I'm pretty shocked at the news to burst out today : A broken femur for French skipper Yann Elies. (official Vendee Globe link)

Blimey ! I've had a few broken bones over the years so I know how much minor fractures can hurt. I've never suffered anything on the scale of what Yann Elies has suffered today though and never while alone on a yacht more than a thousand miles from civilisation.

The full story can be found on the Vendee Globe site (link above) but a short summary is that Yann Elies has managed to crawl back inside his boat to get into a bunk and has the boat set up such that it is heading in the right direction without any intervention needed. Two Vendee Globe skippers have diverted to offer morale and psychological support. They're Britain's Sam Davies of Roxy and France's Marc Guillemot. The Australian Anzac frigate HMAS Arunta has been diverted to rescue and evacuate but will take a day or so to get there.

Fingers crossed that the Aussies get Yann out ok. I'll be keeping a closer eye on this one over the next few days. Looks like Yann's able to keep the doctors ashore up to date with what's happening, which is a good sign. It does remind you that we haven't tamed this Earth of ours yet and it can still catch out even the most prepared and skilled people using the best equipment.

Hopefully in a few years time, Yann will be back for the next Vendee Globe and I'll be adding him to the group of skippers I'll be egging on.


On a much brighter note, here's a link to the Vendee Globe newswire with Sam Davies' letter to Santa from before she diverted due to the incident above. G'wan, have a peek, it's guaranteed to make you crack a smile.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Enter the Snow Queen

Xmas meal out for the project today, which means everyone dressing up and descending on one of the city centre restuarants.

Well, almost everyone. There's usually a few missing, whether it be due to being busy, rationing out the parties they go to or just plain shy ... But there's always enough of us to have a fun meal out with enough going on to make it a good idea for us to think about finding a different place to go the next year :-)

Today's post will almost certainly get me in trouble :-) :-) :-) But then getting into trouble with people is one of the things I'm good at ... I'll be in trouble with a couple of people tomorrow anyway, one for this post and the other for not letting her pay for a drink ! I have a simple rule, if a person goes to a lot of trouble to organise something like today's project Xmas meal, then I'll do what I can to make sure they get at least one drink :-) And our Boss does an excellent job of subtly but firmly keeping everyone organised.

That's the plan at least. Asking The Boss "what are you having?" turned into a "I'll have a coke, here's some cash and I'm going to need the change for the car park." Hmm. Not quite what I had in mind but I knew I could work a little subterfuge there :-). So off I toddle, grab a couple of cokes (I don't drink much alcohol, 1 pint of Seahawk was enough for me) and come back. Boss gets her coke but instead of the expected change being £20 minus Drinks, it was the full £20 broken up a bit :-) And me scarpering back to my table before The Boss has a chance to count the change. Muahaha - subterfuge completed, The Boss not paying for that drink, plus The Boss gets a useful bit of change or the car park. Meant I had to get another round in later to get some change for the bus home but that's no hardship.

Who's the other person I'm going to be in trouble with ? Enter the Snow Queen.

I got in this morning to see our favourite Pixie (aka IT Girl) about to head outside. The outfit today was something special, a resplendent white coat matched with white scarf. This was complemented perfectly by our Snow Queen's dark hair, cut specially (although typically bloke-like, I never realised until hit over the head with it), with the hair framing our Pixie's ever-present smile. So a new nickname for our Snow Queen :-)

Description above is what's really going to get me in trouble tomorrow :-) But it's much deserved (the trouble or the compliments?). Missed seeing our Wild Thing there today and there was no Miss Perky (new one for da cast list!) at the meal either.

More postings later in the week, if I survive the poking I'll get tomorrow.

PS I may also be in trouble for using the line "Beauty before Age" on someone who was feeling slightly guilty for getting the attention of the barman before me. Another project person but someone who I haven't figured out a fun name for yet ... True saying though - she's far prettier than I ever have been, plus everyone knows a lady never gets older than 21. Which makes me 13 years older.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Say no to Adverts

You know those annoying breaks you get in the middle of stuff you're trying to watch ? That you always fast forward through ?

I've been getting bugged lately by someone claiming to come from Israel ...

They want to sell advertising on people's websites. Somehow, they've found this blog and they're trying to get me to sign up to them. The email today is a guilt-trip one, where they're saying I didn't get back to them the last time. Darn straight ! No way am I going to sign up for someone to infest this blog with the advertising that is a bane of so many people's lives !

Reasons :

You lose control over what's on the site you're responsible for. 3rd party content seems to be (info from forums) the most common means by which identity theft trojans and other nasties get on to a system. Displaying any link means you're obliged to make sure that link is safe for other people to click on. Delegating the control of that link to a third party means you no longer have the ability to protect your readers from malware.

I have removed sites from my blogroll in the past because I could no longer support what they linked to. In the case of the Mercs website, that was removed because the webmaster was unable or unwilling to implement what was necessary to prevent it being spammed to death by malware and porn people. So it got unceremoniously dumped off the link list.

I don't need the money. Offering up for advertising is like selling your soul. You lose the total editorial control over what gets posted because of the segment you have delegated to the advert people. I don't find that acceptable for this blog. I will point people towards various bits n bobs I've liked but that's my choice. As soon as the advert people get in, you lose that choice, possibly finding yourself plugging stuff that you know is absolute rubbish.

I like what's left of my soul, I'm not interested in selling any part of it.

Trust. This is the big one. I've had 2 emails recently from people wanting to affect the content of this blog, one is a blatant advert person with the other wanting to collect links. Nuff said about the advert person, however the link collector is slightly different. My hit counter (it collects more info, hidden behind a password) tells me the link collector comes from a South African hosting company, yet he claims to come from Israel. Sorry mate, that instantly flags up BOT, which is where I instantly flag up I'M IGNORING YOU.

Loading time. Not so big a point in the Broadband age but still a good one. When I was an active participant in Michele's Meet & Greet, I'd look at sites, wait a moment for them to load. If they took too long (and I have a decent connection), I'd say byebye and never look at them again. Long loading times is a big turn off. And adverts only serve to lengthen load times, the worst ones seem to demand to load before the rest of the page becomes visible (Register and Cricinfo were terrible for this, which was one big reason why I went hunting for adblockers)

Anyway - gotta get ready to go out for some more gaming now, so I'll cut short the rant on adverts and go for another advert myself :-)

Our gaming group has been steadily getting to grips with the latest incarnation of Dungeons & Dragons, which has been heavily simplified in its 4th edition. Lots of interesting changes, where they've made the characters a lot more "generic" instead of in 3rd and 3.5ed where there was more in it for the Power Gaming Munchkins than the role players. Ok, we don't do hard core roleplay in our groups, we're more interested in bashing monsters. However, whereas in 3rd and 3.5ed the rules kinda got in the way, 4th ed rules seem to be a lot smoother.

I like it - and our group is playing well with them too. A change for the better ? :-)

PS When I get back tonight, I'll update this post with a link to the Flashblock and AdblockPlus post I did a while ago. Say no to adverts by banning all influence they may have from your browsing influence.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

MSN Strangeness ...

(quick warning - techie post ! scan down a little if you find yourself getting lost :-)

As well as trolling forums and peeking at everybody's blogs, I'm usually logged into MSN Messenger with me being available if people want to ask something.

(it's a different address to the one on my blogger profile - and I may be tempted to give it out to the right people ;-) just drop me a line)

Seeing weird things on MSN at the moment though, it'll all of a sudden go up to almost 100% cpu usage. It'll then stay at 100% cpu for 46 minutes ... and then release the cpu back to idle again. Strange ! I first noticed it a few months ago, which had me hunting forums and Google to find out why. The ideas seemed to be around people who use special characters in their online name or in their message. The special characters would cause the Messenger program to have difficulty decoding what they were, which would lead to excessive cpu usage.

The cpu usage is no big deal, except that the laptop answers by ratcheting up the speed on its fans, which kinda gets in the way of listening to music via iTunes. It's not done it for a while but started again yesterday, with MS's WinXP updates coming at the same time probably being a coincidence. So that's 46 minutes of cpu burning, with another hour or so a bit later. Similar tonight, 46 minutes (exactly!) of burn, with another 44 minutes a bit later. Weird.

I've tried a few things, my contacts list has been pruned for one. I think I hit about 35 contacts at one point, mostly due to World of Warcraft people. It's down to 25 now and could probably come down further. I've run the A-Patch too, which I'd recommend for anyone who runs MSN Messenger. It allows you to safely modify the registry settings that control Messenger's behaviour, to do things like cut the adverts out.

Haven't got any answers on this one - Messenger is definitely doing something ... and it's a task that takes the Athlon XP-M2500+ in my laptop about 45 minutes to carry out.

That's the end of the techie stuff :-)

Healthwise, after Monday's fun I've been having the reversal ... Stiff back, dodgy ankles, shoulder cramps, knees that drown out the telly with their creaking and hips that are more statue than snake. I've learned to enjoy the good days as much as possible and to ride out the bad as best I can. It helps to have great people around, a shared smile and a kind word really brightens the day, which goes a long way towards me being able to ignore the aches and pain. And we have some great people on the project I work on. The move across site has been good too and the canteen girls seem to be catchng the grin too :-)

But I do miss the "Hello Pete how was your weekend?" that I got occasionally from the wonderful Miss A. I tried to tempt Miss A to come visit to steal a cake when I brought them in to work for my birthday (project tradition) but I don't think Angel Slices were tempting enough to brave the rain for :-)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Puff the Magic Dragon

I don't think I'm magic but I reckon I fit the other two bits there at the moment ... Although the dragon bit is only through my "Another Monday" Pocket Dragon avatar that follows me around the net. Definitely been puffing due to burning off excess energy.

Better than average day today for me. I'm usually carrying at least two niggles that slow me down. From leg injuries that never healed, a stiff back or a shoulder that feels like someone's got a vicelike grip with their fingers digging in. Today it was my leg's turn, a legacy of a knee injury making it kinda like dragging one leg. Noticeable but ignorable ...

Walking around, I felt like I had an extra gear to kick into. Bit like having a metabolism that's figured out that it is ok for it to do some hyperactive bouncing off the walls. It's fun when it happens and I try and enjoy it while it does. I walk faster than most people anyway but having the freedom in my legs to open that stride up and Go Even Fasta gives quite a buzz. It's a bit like the first day of a new cricket season when you go onto the field and really pin those ears back with the open space giving room to let you break into a sprint. It's great feeling the wind rush past your ears.

I'm nowhere near being an endurance runner but managed to build up a fair bit of sprinting muscle so I can literally run like the wind when I get the excuse. But only for about 50 yards, which is when the rapid stop, keeling over and coughing part takes over :-) (I'm not quite that bad but rather too much of my 14 stone is deadweight).

Felt so good today that I had one of those mad moments while dashing to the chippie and back :-) Not full speed sprinting (too dangerous on wet pavements and trainer soles I don't trust) but easy paced quick jogging and maintaining it apart from being wary of psychotic Bristolian drivers. Doing a fairly regular dash around the block is something I should do a lot more often. Even if I don't play cricket that much more, it would help to get rid of some of that deadweight which would keep me feeling better all round. And cos jogging isn't really impact like some of the sports I like, it should keep the shoulder happy too.

Just gotta get into a habit of being healthier, which means not being lazy and running to the chippie to avoid doing the washing up.

I've never been diagnosed but I think I'm a bit on the manic-depressive side. It doesn't affect my personality much (that I notice) but it does affect the about of energy I can kick out. Some days I'll have great trouble doing anything, others I'll be bouncing off the walls. I enjoy the bouncing off the walls days when I get them and attempt to ignore the depressive effects as much as possible.

The thought "you won't catch up to those pretty people up ahead on the path if you keep whinging" has been very effective in the past at starting to kick me out of the low cycle :-) One of my other contrasts is I can be a bit of a show-off alongside shyness and showing off doesn't work too well if you're depressed.

Last note - spooky iTunes moment - it's caught the tone of this post and offered up Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds. (Youtube link) I just hope DM Aginoth isn't intending to do a "Show Me Heaven" (Maria McKee) to my D&D character tonight ... He hasn't killed one of us off yet and it's getting due ...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

After the dust settles ...

Last Thursday saw one of the more spectacular terrorist atrocities of recent years, when armed groups attacked several locations in Mumbai, India.

Let's take a moment to remember the at least 188 dead as a result of the attacks.

The dust seems to be settling now, with the aftershocks and repercussions starting to be felt. This has the potential to be an extremely scary event as it's putting a red hot poker into the sensitive relations between India and Pakistan, 2 countries armed with nukes ... There's a thread left by the terrorists that could allow an excuse for increasing the tension between India and Pakistan and I really do hope sanity prevails here.

There's a potential for the guns of 20 to turn into 2 million, if the two governments allow the terrorists to decide their foreign policy for them. Hopefully sanity will prevail. I'm more interested in the cultural aspect, in particular what happens with the sport :-)

India should be hosting a cricket Champions League at the moment, which was rightfully called off. If the terrorists had struck just a day or two later, they'd have caught some of the teams taking part. A week or so earlier and the England international team would have been staying in one of the hotels that was attacked. With so many dead, it was the right thing to do to call off the Champions League, this should be a time for mourning.

I was thinking that it would be wrong for the England team to go back to India to play a couple of Test Matches here. Same logic again, time for mourning. The big concern is over the safety of the players, which should really be expanded to looking out for the safety of the media covering the games and the supporters going out to watch them. I'm starting to come around to a different point of view though, dominated by the thought :

Why should we allow terrorists to tell us what to do ?

A period of mourning was needed but those times should ALWAYS come to an end. The dead should be remembered but it's key to remember to live life. What better time to turn the corner and say to the world : "We Are Not Afraid !" and get the game on. I really do hope that England do go out there and show what they've got. I'm sure they'll be well looked after, although the atmosphere could be somewhat of a prison camp with the level of security they'll have. Which could be a good thing, as it'll hopefully focus the players on playing the game.

We'll see what happens over the next week or so. It's still up in the air as to whether England's cricket team goes back to India and a few players will probably avoid the tour. That's their choice. (Should note that one who I'm a big fan of probably won't go - but that's cos his wife has a kiddie due very soon)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Reading is Sexy

This one comes courtesy of Bobkat's House and Dianne at Forks Of The Moment :-).

The rules :
Pass it on to 5 other bloggers and tell them to open the nearest book to page 46. Write out the fifth sentence on that page and also the next 2 to 5 sentences. The closest book, not the coolest, or the one you think will sound the best. THE CLOSEST !!!

Here we go - book is The Door Into Summer by Robert A Heinlein, the Gollancz edition which were slightly bigger than average, so it sticks out a little from the pile of books I have queued up for the A to Z challenge. Therefore da closest :-)

Leave it in the car ? Suppose I was hauled in for assault and battery; it wouldn't be smart to have it in the car when the car was towed in and impounded.
I could mail it to myself, but I had been getting my mail lately from general delivery at the G.P.O., while shifting from hotel to hotel as often as they found out I was keeping a cat.
I had better mail it to someone I could trust.
But that was a mighty short list.
Then I remembered someone I could trust.

Not read this one before but that little snippet has me interested enough to probably gobble this one up as The Next Book after my next one. I'm currently reading Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold but I like to space out my authors a bit. So my next book will be someone other than Heinlein, quite possibly Polar City Blues by Katherine Kerr.

I don't tag people but if you read this and have a blog, have a go and let people know that you've joined in :-) And don't forget the button !

PS Current album on iTunes is Gloria Estefan's Cuts Both Ways, so the neighbours are getting treated to Cat Karaoke as I attempt to sing along.
PS2 Just peeked at the page 46 in Farnham's Freehold, which was on the other side of the room. Not particularly inspiring, think Door Into Summer was a far better page 46 :-)
PS3 Despite what the piccy suggests, I have never worn stockings and suspenders. Honest guv. Never worn heels either !