Friday, December 17, 2010

Another year, almost done

It's been quite a year this one. It started out in uncertainty which has turned into security. It saw me return to the cricket field although not as a bowler. New toys appeared which have been greatly appreciated. Disappeared from one game and jumped into another. Expanded my music tastes, with a little prodding from the sister.

As is usual for this time of year, I'm pretty much hanging on until I can do a big crash out tomorrow night. There may well be pizza involved. Currently very tired and feeling the effects of the year gone by.

I came back out of retirement to go back on the cricket field this year, one reason I'd been keeping away was that I really didn't know what my reaction would be to playing in the same team as the bloke that's going out with my ex. Not knowing if you'll stay rational is not a good place to be. Gotta say I'm proud of how I handled it and being chummy with the guy probably messed with his head - muahaha. I broke stuff again on the field as I cannot do any less than 100%, even when I should be taking it easy due to injuries. I have definite damage to the shoulder that's still with me, however it's better news with a (possibly fractured) shin that's completely healed now.

I didn't do any bowling this year, which I have mixed feelings about. There were a few games which we lost partly due to not having enough decent bowlers in the team. A fit and firing Sleepypete with the ball in hand could easily have seen a different result. (Lol - I was that good) But alas the damage to my right side & shoulder mean that bowling is not advisable nowadays. Instead it's fielding, still being one of the fastest in the team despite that damaged shin :-) I help out with the batting too, in a solid if unspectacular fashion.

Would I have made a different decision 6 months ago knowing I'd damage the shoulder and that shin ? Hell no (oops - a "yeah" slipped in there by mistake). There's a buzz that comes with pinning the ears back and Running that I don't get anywhere else.

What toys have appeared ?

My telly + sound stuff has completely changed this year. I've gone from old stuff to a 1080p thin LCD screen, I now use blu-ray discs and I have a surround sound system that I'm very pleased with. I reckon the surround kit is the best of the bunch as it does the business with iTunes audio as well as being awesome for movies. The old surround kit could sound very good but suffered from an inconsistency where it would sound very flat.

Relationship wise it's the same old story. All the interesting people are already very much more interested in other people. And not just that though, there seems to be distance coming in to the friend relationships. Really don't know where that's coming from, apart from maybe people being so focused on their own problems that they're blind to when other people might need a little help. Or maybe in the absence of a relationship of my own, I'm becoming too close to those who do.

Talking of relations ... I started the year in Eve and then halfway through switched back to the old addiction, Warcraft. They're chalk and cheese in terms of how online games go. But - Eve suffers from tedium after a while and if the corp people don't contribute enough to pull you out of the boredom (Saying that, Luth tries his hardest to keep me in interested in Eve !) then you just don't go back. Warcraft is a very different animal, there's huge variation in the world. Plus it's the home of the Hot Swedish Girls. Guild chat in VR is rarely dull.

They've also been redecorating in Warcraft, pretty much everything has changed. And I love what they've done with the place. It's a much richer world than when I started in it 5 and a half years ago. Things like a goblin starting storyline where you go from the Goblin city to a wild island with pygmy voodoo sacrifices, rabid flora and goblin engineering insanity.

It's top stuff, it's kept me laughing.

It's not all dull in the Eve world though. There's a cluster of people who act as a strong backbone to the group I play with. I've already mentioned Luth but there's also Agent Stone and Ham Handerson who were in the mob who I went up Snowdon with earlier in the year. I was woefully unprepared for that and definitely lacking in fitness readiness but we got up and down there. I also did all the driving for the weekend. Got a huge buzz from that weekend, I'll have to try and remember it for drawing on.

Last day of work tomorrow for this year, although I'll be checking in periodically with a working at home laptop (means the inbox doesn't explode). I'll be making the trip up to see the parents over Xmas, most likely picking a time when the impending snow doesn't make things too awkward ...

The job's gone pretty well over the course of this year. My previous post in the project had been disestablished because it was running out of things to do. The biggest contribution it had in its closing days was finance (bleh) and organising some technical documentation (a better task than it sounds). The purpose of it was "system engineering" and there wasn't a whole lot of that going on at the late stage we were at. So I was fairly philosophical at needing to find something different. The new post has led to rediscovering that "making a contribution" sense that was starting to become forgotten. I will be glad of a few weeks off though, definitely need the chance to rest & recharge.

The music tastes have expanded, with artists like The XX, more Cardigans, Kasabian, Goldfrapp, Lily Allen, TingTings, Gorillaz and Franz Ferdinand joining the established favourites. And "Chew Lips" are looking like they could join the collection too ...

So - a better end to the year than it started. Could be better still but we'll see what the new year brings there. It's likely to be Interesting Times still, wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Just listened to ...

I'm stealin' post ideas again :-)

This time it's from my good friend & neighbour Cyberkitten, who's just posted a list of what he listened to over the weekend. He's left out what he listened to through the wall :-) Here's my selection :

Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes

KT Tunstall - Tiger Suit

T'Pau - Rage

Dubstar - Stars, the best of Dubstar

Sleeper - The It Girl

The Hoosiers - Illusion of Safety

Levellers - Levelling The Land

Katie Melua - Pictures

Plus lots more random tracks splitting those up. Well, semi-random as I've been checking out a couple of albums just bought. One's from the Ting Tings, which I'm listening to at the moment. The other is from Kasabian. Ting Tings is rather different :-) Kasabian is fairly mainstream indie-ish rock but high quality for that. I get bored of listening to the same thing and a lot of pop is carbon copied in these modern days of X-Factor ArtificialPop.

I have a feeling it'll be a while before I get bored of Ting Tings, although I wouldn't put them in the Bat For Lashes, Cardigans, Alisha's Attic, All About Eve or Kate Bush bracket of Awesome.

The way I pick out what I listen to depends on two things - what I've listened to least and what's the longest since played. I'll also weave in a few favourites to split up the albums. That then gets fed into iTunes DJ, which picks more stuff out for me. It keeps the ears fresh with lots of variation in what I listen to. It's a bit skewed though, as the iTunes library has grown. The old stuff has 30-40-50 listens, whereas something new like Pictures has only 5 so far.

So what's coming up ? Out of the least played there's :

Bix Beiderbecke - The Beiderbecke Affair, which is a jazz soundtrack from a brilliant and utterly charming series from a few years ago.
Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylym
Ting Tings - more listens to We Started Nothing
Katie Melua - Pictures
Kasabian's self titled album - which got me buying West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
(will complete the collection soon)
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

And of the Longest Since Played, there's :

Eurythmics - Greatest Hits
Dusty Springfield - The Collection
Gloria Estefan - Cuts Both Ways
The Cardigans - Life
The XX - xx
Elaine Paige - Christmas (and yes, I'll freely admit to that)
Enigma - MCMXC AD
Madonna - Confessions on a Dancefloor

With the system above, since January this year I've listened to everything in the library that's enabled (I disable duplicates or rubbish on collection cd's). There is some of the old stuff I could listen to repeatedly though, like the Alisha's Attic, All About Eve and Kate Bush cds :-) But I keep those as a treat.

Definitely enjoying Ting Tings at the moment for a bit of Insane Rebel. It hangs together well as an album, lots of character.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Dreams and ideas

Just finished watching Inception, which is another example of how a certain Leonardo Di Caprio seems to be having the pick of the best scripts to get turned into movies nowadays.

In this one, we have LDC with a crew of people who can use shared dreaming to find things out about people. The object is to get their secrets or their ideas, by taking the subject down into a dreamscape and then manipulating that dreamscape. One of the core ideas is that the subject will put the secret in a safe place, so when that safe place is broken into the secret is exposed.

It's a very smart movie, very well shot, very well made and with decent acting too. I have a feeling that LDC is starting to get cast as LDC though, in the same way as people like Harrison Ford or Nicholas Cage tended to play their parts as Harrison Ford or Nicholas Cage, despite what was intended. Let's get a person to play the psycho ! Call in James Marsters.

(Just taken 10 minutes to think of a stereotyped actress but all I can think of is "sexy, slightly nutty action chick" - Angelina Jolie)

The central idea is a powerful one. It's about how infectious an idea can be. How a small seed can grow into something that will redefine you, change you. That one small observation, does it change how you perceive something ? Do you start to shiver because you're actually cold or because everyone around you is acting cold ? Some people at work at the moment are shivering in multiple layers, others are fine in sleeveless shirts. (True - of the two above, one has done marvellously at losing weight lately but the cost of looking great is that she feels the cold more. The other is a little bigger than me and I have plenty of insulation !)

Similar with dreams vs actual memory. Ever had a dream where it seemed so close to reality that it could almost be a memory ? I've had a few of those, although I've been free of the anxiety dreams lately. Those are the type that seem clearest to me, an example would be me visiting an unfamiliar* place, being there for 10-20 minutes and then going outside to find the car gone. Seems like loss of transport or mobility is what causes me the most anxiety at the moment.

*(unfamiliar but unconsciously built from true memory)

One thing that makes the dream vs reality thing pertinent for me was the formation of false memories after my first Nose Job (hit on head by cricket ball). There was a period of 6 months after that where my grip on what was True Memory and what was False Memory slipped a bit, such that they overlapped. Mental rehearsal of some tasks (to figure the best way to do them) was going a little too far to the point where the rehearsal became actual memory of me doing something I hadn't gotten round to yet. I'd remember doing a task I hadn't actually done.

I don't think I'd have believed that unless confronted with an incident directly related to it ... A document that I was point of contact for needed to be passed around. I was sure I'd done that, however when one of the recipients joined the project a year or so later, he swore he'd never been sent it. So I checked that out and could find no evidence that I'd sent it.

False memory becomes real memory (my marbles were shaken up by the ball more than I'd realised)

I still get occasional flashes of a cricket ball about 6 inches in front of my face, about to crash into my nose. Dunno if that's Real Memory or something from my imagination become real, although it's consistent with what I think happened.

Oh - we saw the lady on our project who had a serious car accident a few months ago. She looked great, bouncy and with heaps of energy. She was only back for today but it was great to see her back. We have an efficient Work-At-Home system, so she's been insisting on keeping busy. She can't remember the car accident, I told her that's probably a very good thing. Some memories aren't worth keeping around.

The brain is a very complicated piece of biology - how much of who we are is based on real stuff ? How many of our ideas came from within, how many came from others ? How many of our attitudes are due to inherited or taught prejudices, how many were earned through observation ?

I had one cricket match where I turned up (a little late) and then jumped straight into bowling. However, it then went Horribly Wrong, because I couldn't land the ball anywhere I wanted. Instead of starting wide and curving into the stumps, it started wide and got wider. I'd obviously been listening to the pro commentators because my usual inswing had turned into away swing. So that seed picked up from listening had grew in my mind to the point where an otherwise well drilled bowling action changed just enough to become something new. Took a few days to figure out what had happened too ...

I'm still kinda wondering if I changed at all due to the cricket ball on head incident, even to the point of wondering if it had a direct impact on my last major relationship breaking down. I don't believe it did, I reckon that was doomed from a while before then. I like to Fix Stuff but had run out of ideas on how to Fix and make better a person who was sinking deeper into depression, dragging me with her. Overlaid on that is a definite "you should not attempt to change the person you love." There are still lingering doubts though.

Doh - the rambling has taken over ...

Ideas - they're a powerful thing. But make sure they're your own and not implanted by someone else ! Value most the opinion you've formed yourself or be in danger of missing out on the experience.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Music Shuffle

Just spotted this one come round again on Facebook ...

(1) Turn on your MP3 player or music player on your computer.
(2) Go to SHUFFLE songs mode.
(3) Write down the first 25 songs that come up--artist and song title--NO editing/cheating, please.

There's more - but it's Facebook tagging type stuff that's not really appropriate for here. I usually tweak my iTunes DJ upcoming songs quite considerably but here's the ones that iTunes picked out for me :

1 - Franz Ferdinand - Michael
2 - Ennio Morricone - Il Tramonto
3 - The XX - Basic Space
4 - a-Ha - Manhattan Skyline
5 - Madonna - Shanti/Ashtangi
6 - Alanis Morissette - Mary Jane
7 - All About Eve - Hide Child
8 - Star Wars (ROTJ soundtrack) - Alliance Assembly
9 - The XX - Night Time
10 - Babylon Zoo - Spaceman
11 - The Cardigans - Little Black Cloud
12 - Evanescence - Cloud Nine
13 - All About Eve - Wild Flowers
14 - Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb
15 - Abba - Andante, Andante
16 - River City People - California Dreamin'
17 - Pink Floyd - Speak To Me/Breathe
18 - Sam Brown - Your Love Is All
19 - Goldfrapp - Dreaming
20 - Blondie - Hanging On The Telephone
21 - Paramore - Playing God
22 - Norah Jones - Thinking About You
23 - Murray Gold - I Remember You
24 - Hard-fi - Stars of CCTV
25 - Mansun - Fragile

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Busy Sleepies

Coming to the end of a very easy weekend at the moment. (Just tapping this out before slipping into the shower before a pre-bedtime gaming session)

Last weekend was pretty hectic. Being a bit busy meant the birthday weekend for me and the Big Sis got delayed until last weekend. First time I'd travelled a significant distance for a good long while (I'm not getting out enough at work) and apart from a very nervous trip past Leicester, the trip went fine. Nervousness was induced by me being the lead car taking impatient people up the A46 in medium fog in a 40mph roadworks limit where the temporary road markings weren't up to the job of giving a worthwhile idea of where the road was.

Yep - nervous.

The trip back was much better. I travel in evenings, when the roads are theoretically quieter.

Hectic started when I got ready to start off. Start the iPod for iPodFM, put the radio to the transmitter channel. What's this ? No sound. Take a peek, examine stuff. Think - there should be a metal bit on the end of my power adaptors (the plug part of the multiplug had fallen apart). No big deal, I'll just slum it with cd's with the power feed going to the satnav and then we're going out tomorrow anyway, I'll buy another multiplug for the car.

Arrive and it's a check of my dad's old laptop to see if its problem was actually terminal. Yep - a Blue Screen Of Death while trying to boot up and none of the Usual Suspects (safe mode) worked to make it better. That confirmed what we'd be doing the next day - heading into Lincoln to get him a new one. Oh - to buy a few more bits too ... I also changed/updated the wi-fi password up there so it would be easier to get my mum's new netbook connected.

We're a techie family. Everyone with an active laptop now, me and me dad with a desktop and a few spare laptops lying around too. I've adopted the sysadmin job as well as on-call tech support. It teaches you a bit, mostly to remember your tracks so you can follow them with your eyes closed. Cos that's effectively what they are if the kit is a few hundred miles away using different software. We manage :-)

Where was I ? Old laptop has its hard disc removed (oops - skipped a bit), ready to be put in a Widget for taking its data. We could have run what's called a "Factory Restore" but that has the side effect of wiping the laptop clean. Not desirable. And I've just remembered something else I need to do ...

Saturday and we raid the Pub, check out the goods, get disappointed by Halfords (no car power socket multiplugs - disappointing as usual for there) and then Buy Stuff. We're now 3:1 Acer, with my sister being the rebel with a Toshiba. My dad's old Acer did pretty well, only the catastrophic software failure in at least 3 years. Mine is "as new", the only problems are M$ software.

Saturday night, we're watching Strictly while munching dinner. What's turning out into a tradition is that we listen to the iTunes stuff after. Not a bad tradition :-) I ended up doing some early config on my dad's laptop too.

Skipped another bit. Threadlock is bad. You know those screws that just won't budge ? Well, after you've hit them with a hammer enough to make them move, there's usually a splodge of blue stuff in there. That's Threadlock and it's effectively glue to keep screws in the socket. It's also very good at making people swear when putting hard discs into Widgets that let you pull the data off.

Meh - after "persuasion", I get the data from my dad's old laptop into his new one. Except one bit (old emails) which I'll fix next time I'm up there because it's Geek Level expertise needed.

That's not it for the techie stuff - we also set up their Kodak printer. It's a wifi printer, so no cables to hook up to make it play nice. It actually worked far better than I thought. It connected to the network first time (Linksys router - doesn't need prodding, it just Works) and after a hefty download, ready for use. Can't ask for much better than that. Thumbs up for Kodak.

Off to the pub again for a birthday nosh on the Sunday before heading off back home. Faith in tech not playing restored itself due to a (Probably Kaspersky) bit of "I'm not talking any more" from my sister's laptop. Oh well. If it went 100%  right, I'd be suspicious that I'd forgotten something.

Hectic - but worthwhile. It's great to see the family up norf every once in a while, plus I get a good slurping from Muttley (aka Ben the Staffy). And sorting out all that IT goes some way to countering any feelings of not achieving much that I was expressing a few posts down.

PS I think I have a new fixation - she's called Tessa and has that intrepid attitude that probably has her bosses going "Cold, wet, snowing, freezing, chance of getting stranded there - We'll send Tessa, she'll love it". And it shows in the very high quality of her reporting.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Just watched : Alice in Wonderland

One of my favourite films of 2010 was Alice in Wonderland :

We kinda knew what to expect with this one when the Crazie Mob went to see it in the movies at the start of the year. Curiouser and Curiouser went the Crazies as this rather delightful movie unfolded before us.

Most movie adaptations follow the books they came from, some more loosely than others. It takes a brave crew to totally redo the tale. What we have here is an utterly charming tale of rabbits, March hares, mad hatters, Evil and Good Queens, knavely knaves, strange creatures and the wonderful Alice at the centre of it all.

It caught the 3d fashion but I have to admit, I never saw it in 3d. Before watching it again tonight, I watched a couple of the extras which gave me pointers on things to look for (the colour of the Mad Hatter's outfits ...). And then I started watching and forgot all that. A movie/book shouldn't be about the tricks in play, it should be about the story. And they've done very well here.

I don't want to say much more, as a movie as good as this needs to be watched to allow its tale to bring the viewer with it. Let's just say, watch this movie and you will finish with a :

Guaranteed. It's my Movie of the year.

Ninja-edit - oops. I'd forgotten how brilliant Inception was. Alice = 2nd best movie of the year.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Iz Vewy Sleepy

Living up to my assumed nickname at the moment ...

Just really struggling to get the motivation to do stuff, any stuff. I guess I'm having one of those cycles where inwardly I can no longer ignore emotional, physical and mental pain. It's a combination that tends to lead to a downward circle of depression. I don't believe it's a chemical or biological induced depression, more like mentally induced. Although my usual affinity for pattern recognition occasionally has me spotting things like a low energy state being associated with not having had fish for a while (fish is food for keeping thyroid happy)

Emotional - this stems from loneliness, pure and simple. It's mitigated part of the way by a few very special people I know who really brighten the day with a smile, a wave or a "Hello, my love" (Innocent traditional Bristol sayings can be very good medicine for a lonely soul)
Physical - coldness in my bones isn't good. I know that I'm not actually in too bad shape injury wise, however that's not the message my body is giving me. Must work harder on ignoring the stiffness. It would be good though if I could stretch without complaint from a back and shoulder that gang up on me.
Mental - the feeling that you're not achieving that much. It's tied into the reason for the emotional tiredness but it's another where there's a few inner lies being told. I focus on the onrunning tasks I should have done ages ago, instead of the firefighting urgent fast reaction fastballs that were completed without breaking a sweat.

However, when anyone asks how I'm doing, I'll usually not admit to feeling the pressure. Wonder if people can read the tiredness in the expression behind the "Yeah, I'm ok". I think I'm lucky in that I have a good situation at work. My line management chain is strong, they'll come out with the fastball tasks that need Deep Thought on a bomb disposal timescale but because of the nature of my work, the tasks are always interesting. At the same time, they'll fend off the demands for work time that lead to you doing someone else's job for them with no time left to do your own.

There's also the other people in the project. I kinda go like a broken record here because I'm always praising them. But they're worth it ! We're known around site as a good project to be on. We get things done without forgetting that team spirit helps get you through. That shows in our hard core of Lifers, people who have been on the project far longer than the 2-3 year norm. You don't get Lifers if the atmosphere is poisonous. Having a tangible output is also helpful there, it's great to see what you work on in the news for the right reasons.

But - it's done through hard work banging away at the troublesome areas. We often have quizzical expressions when people outside tell us what a wonderful job we're doing, because we've been focusing on beating the problems so much that we've overlooked the successes.

Yep - work is a healthy place, even though it's getting to be a struggle to get there in the mornings. It helps having wonderful people to bring a little Sunshine to these dim winter days, a Snow Queen to greet you with a cheery smile & wave (when not buried in keyboard) and the cheerful purity of our Angel. They're also very tolerant with me when I bug them, which is probably happening a little too often at the moment for the chances of their getting stuff done. There's also our Little Canteen Girls who always say hello when they spot me attempting to sneak (I like the attention but get a bit embarassed by it) my way through the canteen. I'm sure they also give me bigger than average sandwiches - so says my belt.

Last mention is for The Boss, who we saw back in the office for the first time since Miniboss arrived. The Boss is one of those lucky ladies who people will point at and say "She looks that good after having a kiddie ? That's not right !" With me saying I'm struggling, The Boss is the complete opposite. Miniboss is a very lucky kiddie to have a mom with that much energy and empathy. I have to admit, I did scramble to hide my Alien Life Incubators (aka coffee mugs) before The Boss spotted them.

How's home life ? Getting back into reading is helping because reading doesn't involve much physical effort and can be done at the same time as indulging my current favourite addiction : listening to music. And reading avoids the tunnel tendency where gaming can have me not registering the music in the background. Not been gaming much lately, that lack of energy is killing my interest in logging in to them.

I'm definitely appreciating upgrading my hifi gear lately. And the music's been appreciating it too. All music appreciates being played through quality gear. If you like music and can afford the cash for a proper separates hifi system, go for it. You won't regret it and your ears will thank you.

Although if you're like me when I was half watching Daybreakers last night, you will give yourself a heart attack at the things that go Bump in the night. The only regret - not enough hours in the day to enjoy all the stuff I've acquired lately ...

Xmas soon, which means a good long break and a chance to recharge those mental, physical and emotional batteries. How many shopping days left until Xmas ?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Goodies and Gifts

Big thank you to the CrazieMob for all the gifts :-) They'll definitely keep me busy for a little while.

So what appeared ?

In movies & miniseries there is :

Sherlock. This trio of episodes hit our screens earlier this year, with a new and modern combination of Holmes and Watson. It takes the intellect and personality and translates it into the modern world. And it does it in incredible style. Well worth watching if you missed it.

Tin Man. I wrote a little on this a little while back. It stars the utterly adorable Zooey Deschanel in the lead role of DG. I was caught by this one when I first saw it and I've been getting reminders from the first 2 of the 3 episodes. It's a very high quality remake of the original story (need to read that) which is enhanced by the combination of Neal McDonough ('Buck' Compton from Band of Brothers) and the enchanting Zooey Deschanel. There's just something about those eyes and those lips. If they asked "Can you get that for me ?" I'd jump through fire to avoid disappointing them.

Surrogates. This is a movie from last year, one of the better from that summer. It's a Bruce Willis movie, set in a near future world where we don't go out of the house any more, except in Surrogates. The surrogates are human-like robots that take the risk away. Except ... (watch the movie for more !)

Titan AE. The AE stands for "After Earth", picking up its story a good few years after beings of pure energy called the Drej have destroyed Earth. However ... there's a plucky youth out there with a destiny. It's an animated movie, which means they have more scope to go play with spinning a fantastic tale. There's great music along the way too. Fun movie.

Book Of Eli : Mentioned this one earlier, it's a post apocalyptic tale of one man's journey across America. Great performance by Denzel Washington, ably supported by Gary Oldman and Mila Kunis.

Music : 2 albums arrived through the post, with a third somehow being bought from iTunes :-)

Best of Dubstar : the 2 fellas of Dubstar with Sarah Blackwood providing the vocals have a distinct sound. It's quite boppy, well suited to dance floors, is dominated by its electronic beat but perfected by a totally pure voice that would be equally at home in a choir. However, that wonderful Sarah Blackwood voice is here gracing tunes like Stars, Anywhere and No More Talk.

Katie Melua's Pictures : Another lady with an amazing voice. It's not always backed up with great lyrics but with a voice this good, you really don't mind that. You just close your eyes, open your ears and melt.

All About Eve's Return to Eden : Kind of a greatest hits album. AAE are another band who have had their back catalogues mercilessly raided over the years, with concert albums and greatest hits albums outnumbering their studio albums. However ... there's a fringe benefit, it lets us grab copies of their rarer stuff.

Books :

Feersum Endjinn by Iain M Banks, Storm Front by Jim Butcher and Mass Effect Retribution by Drew Karpyshyn. Iain M Banks is best known for his Culture novels, however he doesn't limit himself to that millieu. His novel The Algebraist was stunning (and not Culture), I'm looking forward to similar from this one. Storm Front is the novel behind the first episode of The Dresden Files, which was another of those series which was killed off far too early. If the book is anything like the series, I'll fly through it :-)

Finally, Mass Effect Retribution is another of the books in the Mass Effect universe. This is a sci-fi universe that's almost 200 years ahead of us featuring spaceships, aliens and an implacable machine race that likes to annihilate civilisations. The books sit around the games, adding backstory to the characters and events inside the games. What's a few lines of dialogue in the games stretches out to an entire book. It's decent stuff, adding scope to one of the more interesting sci-fi settings. Wouldn't mind living in it myself.

The books will wait though - I'm midway through the Warhammer 40k book Rynn's World. It's the story of the homeworld of a Space Marine chapter being invaded by Space Orks. It's a bit of a blunt instrument of a book, with not much subtlety in there. That is the Warhammer 40k world to a tee, a desperate struggle for survival in an incredibly harsh universe. It does have that "one more chapter" quality to it though. I'm looking forward to discovering how they get out of the cataclysmic mess they end up in ...

No cake yesterday. I sadly didn't have any in the house. I don't think it would have fit after the pizza I had anyway :-) Cakes tomorrow. And I'll be fetching them early too or there may be some "cakes?" looks from a couple of young ladies with similar impact to a Zooey Deschanel quivery lip.

Yes - if I don't get the cakes quickly, there may well be 4 irresistable young ladies ganging up on me ! (Or is that wishful thinking on my part ? Back to the book !)

Friday, November 12, 2010

All sorts

Muahaha - it's not often I admit straight up that a post will be an All Sorts, even though they usually end up as that.

In an hour, another year will have gone by and there will be another ring on the tree. I'll be celebrating that with a pizza tomorrow night and enjoying another movie (or two). I'll see what turns up tomorrow. I've been good so far. The only parcel opened so far is the one that was started by the Postman.

That led to a bit more "evaluation" of the new hifi :-) Awesome. Blu-ray arrived called The Book Of Eli, which tells the tale of one man's walk across America with a book. It's an unusual film, well worth watching. Not that many films make my dvd/blu-ray list nowadays (blu-rays are too pricey still) but this was a fairly quick addition. (Lol - not as quick as RED and Iron Man 2 but close).

It's added itself to my Reference Sound movies. What's a Reference movie ? It's one that shows off a particular aspect to a very high degree of quality. For Star Wars, it was the surround effect of the Tie Fighters whizzing around in space. In this one, you can hear the bullets go past you. Plus there's some more really smart things on show with the sound coming through. Very clean soundtrack with lots of surround effects to put you in the moment.

Will have to watch the Blade movies again soon, as they are also fantastic for the sound field they set up. Perhaps not as good as Book of Eli turned out to be, I had a pleasant Wow surprise there tonight.

Yes, I've been won over by the new hifi. Since going back to the older Novatech cables, I've watched 3 movies with no sign of the audio skipping out. Good signs. The set up is proving very effective at pulling out the detail from what it's been given. That detail shows in things like hearing guitars as a string instrument or drums having a proper rumble to them. I'm now listening to The Trick To Life by The Hoosiers and looking forward to finishing with listening to occasional individual tracks from Katie Melua's Pictures as that's sounding good so far. (I listen to individual tracks before listening to the album as a whole - let's me pick out favourites better)

So - birthday tomorrow. Another year older. Don't think I'm much wiser, although a job change has led to me learning a lot more over the past year. Still no joy with finding someone to share the toys with me, although I did get the customary greeting of "PETER PIPER !" from the Little Canteen Girl :-) I've been missing those because she's been hiding in the kitchen area lately where she doesn't get as much chance to have fun with the customers. Yesterday pm had a
LCG : "I bet you've been missing me"
Me : "Of course !" (and I'd have added a little more in jest if I thought quicker than Snailpace around pretty ladies)
A photographic memory (photo but not "perfect") can be a good thing sometimes, those memories will have me grinning for a while.

Not been on the games that much lately. Another sign of age has been that the old injuries have been passing reminders and the new injuries haven't healed up so well. At the moment, it's the shoulder bugging me. I know I need to get it looked at - however a huge distrust of doctors and hospitals is getting in the way. And it'll need a hospital trip for definite to get it sorted out. I can do emergency maintenance on it to stop my arm being numb but that's not a healthy thing to do.

Certain games are better for the arms, other games are worse. I think it's to do with the amount of rest period you can have in the game. Online games tend to not come with a pause button, so you keep on going until you get to a certain point where you can break. That leads to more stress on the limbs compared to offline games where you can be a bit more relaxed.

Nah - been reading instead of gaming lately. Just finished the Lost Fleet series of 6 books by Jack Campbell. I've mentioned these before and finally got to reading the last book. After struggling through 300 of 1000 pagess of David Weber and then giving up for a few months, the last Lost Fleet book got read through inside a week. It's good stuff and very easy to read. I'm now into a Warhammer 40k book called Rynn's World, about space Orks invading.

Reading is a very relaxing to do while iTunes is running through my library. Speaking of which ... Tis random tracks followed by the Doctor Who series 4 soundtrack which will accompany the first battle for Rynn's World :-)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

I blame the pirates

Ok - so I think I have an answer for the sound saga ...

Clues here : Problems with Audio-Visual Amps

Different kit but the symptoms match. So ... I've gone back to the old cables to see how much difference it makes. I have another potential solution too - put less demand on the cables by having a slightly less pretty picture.

What's the kit ?
Sony BDP-S360 blu ray player. Was fine when it was sending picture to the telly through one wire and audio to speakers through another.
Samsung 32" series 530 telly that can do 1080p. (Translation - has more pixels for a sharper image)
Onkyo TX-SR508 surround sound amp.

Problem - the system can send audio and video down the wire but the thing that is causing the issue is Copy Protection. HDMI is a fantastic cable, it carries audio and video in super high quality with just the one lead. However ... it's so good, the moguls have demanded unnecessary Stuff be put in to protect the content. Which means, unless your gubbins can Trust your devices completely, they will limit the playback quality.

Sad. Very sad. And caused by the freeloaders who refuse to pay for the content they consume. Those pirates also make stuff more expensive for the rest of us.

What appears to be happening is that Copy Protection handshake is getting lost in all that Picture and Sound, so the "I'm a telly - TRUST ME!" message isn't getting the chance to be heard. The solution is better cable or making the signal less busy (i.e. less detail).

The answer - I've gone back to the £5 cables I got from Novatech almost a year ago, instead of the £6.50 "3d capable" super "HDMI 1.4" "4x resolution capable" cables from A N Other supplier who are now firmly on the Black List ...

I'm hesitating to think that my problem is cured ... but I think just one audio blip (which could have been the dvd layer skip) throughout the whole of Return Of The Jedi is promising. I see much more "evaluation" of the system over the next few days.

It's obligatory. And I won't enjoy a second of it. Honest ... muahaha.

Problems aside, it's been a very worthwhile upgrade. It's let me hear stuff like a sampled phone conversation on the Snow Patrol Songs for Polarbears album which says why they changed their name from Polar Bear to Snow Patrol (see "early years" in the link). The magic of proper hifi is the detail and clarity it can pull out of the source.

And the sound on the Star Wars movies (A New Hope and Empire in particular) is fantastic. The only question is "What next ?", which has 2 answers :

1 - My resolve to not open stuff until Birthday weakens and I watch some of that.
2 - Great Sounding Dvd's to watch ! Blade is looking favourite, or a blu-ray.

Like avoiding pizza until Saturday, despite my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle tendency (not so sure about Ninja but the rest fit), I'll work through my blu-rays :-)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Sounds like issues

Ok - after a week, the Onkyo amp is officially on Probation.

What's the problem ? First movie played back just fine but when watching Attack of the Clones, the sound was repeatedly blipping out. There'd be a few minutes good and then a half a second where the sound cuts out. Revenge of the Sith tonight was better, only a couple of blips through the movie. Music afterwards was bad though, a couple of blip-outs per track. I suspect a few causes at the moment :

New cable isn't up to the job. I got my new HDMI cables before watching Clones.
Heat - this is what I don't want it to be because it's cooler now than it will be in the summer.
Other cables went loose and are interfering.
(edit - add in "insane copy protection interference" to that list)

I have a big suspicion that it's a heat problem because the top case of the amp is a little too warm for comfort. This is really not what I want the problem to be though because that's a definite Return Of Goods scale issue. I have the amp sitting in reasonably open space on a wicker basket, so there should be no problems with cool air getting in to it.

I have my doubts about the cables too. When I first got the amp, the iTunes sound came in through proper wires. You can trust wires, they usually stay in where you put them. Not so much with the optical fibre method which I switched to on Monday. Point proven tonight, where for 20 minutes or so after finding out why the music was cutting out (fibre plug had come half out) the playback's been fine.

What I said about wires holds true. Before, it was a little headphone jack. You'll know what I mean by those, it's how your headphones plug into iPods. Solid and reliable, unlike the gimmicky optical link that's far too flimsy. I'd like to keep using the optical because it's marginally better quality but may be forced to fall back to proper wire.

Crossing my fingers that the optical thingy was making the amp go "Hey ! New source, let's check it", which could be why the movie playback was cutting out. I shall have to test that Very Soon. (Star Wars A New Hope is next - but not tonight) I've power cycled (pull plug, walk away, count to 5, put plug back in) the amp and after 20 minutes it seems better. I'm a bit happier now because I have a supportable theory, I just really do hope it's not a heat problem.

I have a few years of guarantee, so there shouldn't be issues (except parking !) if I have to go as far as taking it back. I just dislike giving up like that. I see more evaluation time coming :-)

(Techie PS bit - there's no real difference between "proper" wire and optical fibre for domestic use. But there's plenty for bigger scale data cabling. Optical is far superior when the distance is more than a few metres but again, the issue is in connections which are far more sensitive)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Chipmunk Syndrome

Firstly - Happy birthday Craziequeen !

Chipmunk ? I can get a bit excitable sometimes.

It manifests in a similar way to hyperactivity, in that I'll suddenly become a lot quicker. I'll react quicker, talk quicker (which isn't necessarily a good thing cos I trip up over words more) and generally go for the harebrained solution that comes to mind first instead of thinking through what I'm about to do. I've hit on the word Chipmunk for it.

I have mixed feelings about Going Chipmunk. On the one hand, I have an energy and vitality that can be missing sometimes. But on the other hand, I can upset people by not thinking about what I say before I say it. And the wrong things come out. Hopefully I don't do that too much. There's a matter of focus too. At the moment, I'm itching to do "something" but when it's come to testing Xbox through the new amp, that wasn't what my subconscious wanted to do. It's better than the alternative, which has me struggling to get the motivation to do anything.

Xbox play didn't last long mostly cos my subconscious wanted to be listening to music :-) Which is what I'm doing at the moment (Robbie Williams greatest hits) while pondering what I do after blog post. I think it'll be more book, as I've given up (for now) on David Weber's Storm From The Shadows in favour of the 6th of 6 Jack Campbell Lost Fleet books. David Weber's a fairly inconsistent author. Some of his books are action spectaculars, perfectly paced with plenty of the space fleet actions he's good at writing. Others are deeply mired in politics which at the end of the day, are meaningless. I'm 300 pages into Storm and nothing's really happened yet, apart from a bit of set up. Boring.

So I'm finishing the Lost Fleet saga instead :-) all the while doing more extensive "evaluation" of the new hifi gear.

What's the main difference between hifi and the basic squawk boxes ? It's the detail. Something basic will passably reproduce the more prominent bits of music. However, hifi excels in pulling out the bits in the background. That's the intricate bits like the hundred different instruments in the orchestra. Tori Amos feet on piano pedals. Bits of voice on a Snow Patrol track that I never knew where there.

Had some late nights this week "evaluating" the bits with just ... one ... more ... track :-) I think I have them trained now because I've found the "Pure Audio" setting that turns off all the processing. There's still variation in quality because I'm listening to MP3's which in pure music terms, just aren't all there.

The alternative to book would be gaming. I've reawakened the gaming addiction but it's being tempered by issues with my arms and fingers. I suffer from RSI in my wrist due to a long association with computers. It's with me now and I manage it by keeping an eye on how much computer time I get. There's also the shoulder issues which get better or worse depending on the game.

Or cleaning. Need to get the house tidied up "soon". Something the Crazies haven't done for a while is have a pizza + movie night, which is something we like to try and do around birthday or Xmas season. Could well be my place this time around so I can show off the new stuff. Plus rearranging stuff for it is giving more room. But before that, a good tidy and cleaning will be needed.

Gotta put down the Dust Bunny Rebellion. Or die trying ! Maybe I can put Chipmunk Syndrome to good use over the weekend.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Has new toys ...

Before launching into the main post, a few words for an Auntie who passed away this weekend. We always got a very warm welcome when visiting the Northern branch of the family and a lot of that was due to this lovely lady who I had the great privilege to have as an aunt. Very sad to hear that she's gone, thoughts go out to the Rotherham people.

Cunning plan : head over to get new eleccy bits on a Sunday when, theoretically, traffic will be quiet.

Doh ! So much for the cunning plan, I ended up having my arms almost coming off carrying half of the new toys the couple of hundred yards to the car park. (I decided to take the Richer Sounds people's advice on the other half and parked outside the store)

So - what have I got ?

I got bored of waiting for the Denon kit, plus I was reading reviews that said that their budget AV kit was a bit lacking compared to the competition. So I went for an Onkyo TX-SR508 and a set of Tannoy SFX5.1 speakers. This afternoon was spent setting it all up after this morning had me dismantling the old gear and moving things around a little. (there's still a bit to do there)

<> Quick addon - the Onkyo is now On Probation. I'm getting regular sound cut outs of about 0.5 secs each time. Suspect that it's a heat related that the amp has no business having because it's in open space.

The Onkyo receiver is simple enough, you put the multitude of wires in and turn it on. I'm impressed with how seamlessly it has snuck in between my various bits and pieces. Cable box goes to telly as before, telly sends audio to receiver. Blu-ray goes through receiver to telly. Itunes will go in the front for now, until I get me another lead. Xbox will go in there too but is another that needs a lead because I got to scavenging. It has menus that can overlay on to the telly screen.

Let it do its automatic setup and it's all sorted.

The speakers are a similar story, although I wasn't really expecting having to cut the leads down to size myself. There's a decent amount of cable included (looks like 42 strand thickness) and it cut down easily with normal wirecutters. Glad I found some of those, perhaps a scary sign of my maturity (maturity = scary bit) is that I wasn't looking forward to going Old Skool (teeth) to strip the wires.

How's it sound ? Telly sounded great, including not having the grating sound that's marred the telly speakers since I cleaned the dust off.

There's a lesson : Dust keeps vibration away

I'm now watching Star Wars Episode 1, which (with a little tweak to boost the centre speaker slightly) is sounding quite impressive. It'll sound better when I have the room arranged to satisfaction as clutter tends to deaden sound. Getting good bass thrum from the loud stuff and it's picking out the huge selection of noise sources (people in crowd, music from action, things like that) pretty well.

Music testing (extensive) will come later. For now though, I have to draw this post to a close cos the popcorn is getting cold. And the Boonta Eve Classic just started.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pocket has hole burning through it

It's getting closer ...

That's Techie Stuff buying situation. There's people claiming to be selling the amp + speakers that is now definitely a ME WANT. Watching Iron Man 2 off blu-ray (awesome film) tonight kicked it up from "me would likey" to "ME WANT". You see, most blu-rays come with a soundtrack that my current amp + speakers doesn't understand, so I need an upgrade.

I also need to move a lot of stuff around, to make a new setup work better. Trouble is, there's people claiming to be selling it but unless I see a box in a shop, I won't trust them. I also prefer to buy local too, it's just so much easier being able to drive to a shop than have to arrange time away from work (or weekends) to pick things up. The internet shop results have a couple of promising options but those options are 100 miles away on the way to/from where my mum & dad live (and 100 miles away from Mom 2 as well).

Local wins out in being able to head back to pick up the bits you should have bought but forgot. Like the 3 trips to B+Q to fix a weepy ballcock. (In this case, it'll be picking up wire ...)

It's getting closer though. The PC upgrade is getting closer too. There's now a 22/23" touchscreen with decent screen performance on the market, made by Viewsonic. So there's a couple of times (neatly coinciding with a couple of key dates) where I'll buy stuff coming :

Birthday - the new Denon surround sound set. Hopefully they won't let me down here.
Xmas - PC Upgrade. The later you leave PC stuff, the better the stuff that arrives. And then you don't look at hardware or prices for at least 6 months because you depress yourself thinking about what you could have had if you'd waited a week.

The Denon gear will need to be shown off. That's a given. Which means sometime over the next little while, I'll need to clear the house out ... I live in clutter, which is curious for an OCD tending person. I know where my clutter is though, including the stuff I should have thrown out a while ago. I have it mapped, so clearing it up weirds me out. It's one of the many contrasting elements of my personality :

Order vs Chaos. Mad Scientist vs Methodical. Sprinter vs Couch Potato. (I do like the feeling of pinning the ears back and GOING FOR IT). Solitary vs Herd. I like my space but it does get awful lonely sometimes.

It's just coming into Birthday & Xmas season at the moment too, so I'm trying to keep a lid on what I impulse buy. The PC and Denon are both way far out of the present bracket, which makes it safe for me to lust after them.

And it is lust too, lust in the way only toy loving engineers can have.

(We engineers have "normal" urges too - I went ~wibble~ many times earlier watching Iron Man 2, ~wibble~ moments strangely coinciding with Scarlett Johanssen appearing in the Black Widow outfit)

So - showing off the goods. What do I need to do for that ?

Make house presentable (urg). Rearrange lounge (easy). Break out the hoover (whereditgo?). Remove old telly (may need help or forklift). Pass on the old speaker set (see PS below). Find someone who will help me appreciate it (challenge).

I'll settle for lusting after better bits for the moment and maybe, just maybe will get cracking on cleaning house & rearranging main room.

PS After I get the Denon, I'll have a Creative Labs DTT-2500 set going spare to a good home ... As good as most budget hifi setups at music (comparing to Rotel RA820A amp and Big Tannoy speakers - translation : very decent budget stuff) and it only cost me £160 new about 10 years ago. Very discreet too with small components on display with the big one hidden.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sleepy's Top 10

Ok, I tried staying awake while watching the football but have found it more and more difficult to not nod off. Which makes it a perfect time to go hunting Youtube for links to videos of my iTunes Top 10.

Most of these are in the Top 10 because they've been in my library for a lot of years but they're also there cos they're amazing songs too.

At No 10, we have the opening track off Kate Bush's The Kick Inside. It's Moving. Really overdoing it on the dancing :-)

9th is one from Tori Amos and I have to admit, it has been a Pretty Good Year this one. My own personal confidence is up (no coincidence that I'm busier) and there's been a good few successes along the way. Cricket this year was good fun. This song is off Tori's second album, Under The Pink (album version is better, there's a very weird bit in the middle of this live version!).

At 7 and 8 are a couple of very rare Alisha's Attic tracks from their Attic Vaults 1 cd which never got to the shops. I got this one from Ebay, direct from their Mom. At 7 is Free and 8 is Too Far Forgotten. Both typically upbeat AA tracks that'll get your toes tapping. We want Attic Vaults 2 !

Number 6. Oh absolutely wonderful stuff from Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. Beware though, this song could make you cry. It's Ghost of a Dog.

Oldie and a good one at 5 with The Bangles. One of those tracks that somehow didn't get to a greatest hit. I love it, it's Return Post and a lot rockier live than on their first album ...

4th is my favourite Alisha's Attic track, it's The Incidentals from their Illumina album. You know those tracks that have their own momentum that picks you up and sweeps you along with them ? This is one of them. Can never resist singing along to this one, even when I'm not alone ...

Top 3 ! Third most listened to is All About Eve with Martha's Harbour. I've been enchanted by Julianne Regan's voice for the past 30 years ... and this song is the one that kicked that off.

2nd is another Edie Brickell song from her Ultimate Collection. No youtoob link though because "1873" is too rare for anyone to link it ...

Most listened to track ? Another All About Eve :-) This one's the Apple Tree Man. (Dunno what the pics on that link are all about ...) More of Julianne Regan's unique voice in that trademark AAE combination with the acoustic guitar. They don't make music like this any more ...

I've listened to Apple Tree Man 66 times so far and if I hadn't changed how I select what I listen to, that may have gone through 100 :-) Wonder what it says about me when my favourite songs are ladies singing of love.

Artists that just barely missed out on being in this Top 40 were :

Adam and the Ants : Ants Invasion. This one has Epic Feel running right through it.
Michelle Shocked : Can't find Vx Fx Dx but here's one almost as good, all the way from Anchorage, Alaska.
Suzanne Vega : telling the other side of Calypso and Hercules. (Listening to "Songs in Red and Gray" at the moment)
Before that Costner film, there was Robin of Sherwood and a very special soundtrack. Tracks like Together We really helped set the tone.

And finally, F1 coverage hadn't been the same when it was on the channel with adverts. However, when it came back to BBC there was an instant feeling that it was back where it belonged. How come ? The unmistakable chords of the guitar solo in The Chain by Fleetwood Mac.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Holiday or Grind ?

Think I've achieved something this week - I've managed to go the whole week without the cabin fever erupting.

I've even had enough supplies in to last it this far. Probably won't last until Monday/Tuesday (never go shopping on a Monday night ...) which means emerging out the front door. I've had the car parked in CK's drive (he doesn't use it and there's an understanding on lifts & stuff) which has kept it off the road but has me feeling very guilty about leaving it there.

I haven't been completely walled off from the world, although that is tempting sometimes. I've had a works laptop at home with me and have been occasionally checking in. It's a sign of IT progress that you can log in with your own broadband and have a completely secure connection. Handy for any organisation, they all have stuff that they don't want the competition to know. What it means is that I'll have an easy reintroduction to the routine on Monday, having got all the super urgent stuff out the way as it's come this week. I also haunt 2 forums, Facebook and have been keeping up with the guys & girls in WoW when I've not tunnelled into Grind Mode.

What have I been getting up to ? Lots of gaming, lots of music :-)

The gaming has been heavily in Warcraft, which is good and bad. I've been collecting Achievements, which is an ingame way of saying "I Done Stuff". It's changed the way I play, in that I've concentrated on a main character instead of switching around several like I used to. Mind you, that's partly because I've been grinding money.

Question : What did you do on your time off work ?
Answer : I was working For The Horde

Heh heh heh.

I've been overdoing it too, as I have to watch the time I spend in game. It's strange, extended Warcraft time hits me with a tensing up in my collarbone. But it does give me a perfect excuse to listen to lots of music.

I've had a few "new" albums appear in the last couple of weeks :

The XX - an iTunes live EP. If you've not heard of The XX, they're the Next Big Sound of 2010. My sister and I heard one track from them which was offered free as iTunes Single Of The Week. Within the day we both bought their debut album and we've followed that by buying the live EP. They have a fairly unique sound and are a Must Listen.

Sleeper - Smart. An older album but still a good one. One beef I have with the shops is that if they think a group or artist is finished, they'll not bother stocking their music. So an album like this or even a group like The Cardigans get criminally ignored, which leads to artists giving up before they've gifted us with all their talent can give. This album's another good one from Sleeper.

Cardigans - iTunes Originals. Kind of like a Greatest Hits, which I usually steer clear of because I've usually got all the tracks on albums already. This one got bought because it has commentary from the artists themselves. Really enjoying this one, it's recent enough to have a lot of their best stuff on it.

KT Tunstall - Tiger Suit. Another talented artist who's graced us with another excellent album. Here's the best track from it, which kinda sums me up to : Still A Wierdo

PS Listened to 1757 tracks so far for 4.8 days of music in the last 4 weeks :-) Over 800 different tracks in a week. Will have to see if I can break 2000 or 5 days.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

What's the best way to avoid mistakes ?

Research ... Research & even more Research.

All good, just as long as all that research doesn't turn into procrastination :-) I'm good at that too.

I'm researching a couple of areas at the moment. Going back into Warcraft has hit my current games PC hard enough to have me seriously considering some new hardware. I'm also looking at upgrading my amp and speakers to something that'll handle the soundtracks on Blu-Ray discs better. The problem there is surround sound, my current speaker set doesn't understand DTS codes and gives me stereo instead of surround.

There's a few times when I've bought kit and had problems with it. I've then looked it up online to find a heap of "Why'd you go for that pile of xxx ? It's rubbish !" comments. So I do my research now. I have a few sources for that, including places like (can go to Supreme Geek level). I'll also look in magazines. This month saw the arrival of a Custom PC mag and PC Gamer to replace the now dead PC Zone.

You can find yourself behind the times very quickly in computers, as the pace of progress is lightning. I make it a rule to not check bits sellers for a few months after I jump into an upgrade as you buy one week, next week something better is out. It's also half the price. Can get depressing so you ignore the price lists for a while.

How do you catch up with what's current ? Know what to read and what to research ...

That means, figuring out who the idiots are (Computer Shopper) and who are more interested in pumping up ratings for their advertisers. The telltale signs are people who continually pump up ratings on some products (What Sony magazine aka What Hifi ? reputations like that don't come without being earned) while ignoring others. Like you know there's an awesome component out there that you want to read an independent test for but the magazine on the shelf covers 5 products from another company instead. So the magazine stays on the shelf. The best tests back up their opinions with hard numbers.

I think I've learned something from Custom PC and PC Gamer this month, which will definitely go into the bits I'll buy. I'm on leave this week, which would have been the perfect chance to build (and thoroughly test!) a new box. It'll wait a while, because a couple of bits of technology (SSD drive and touchscreen) aren't ready yet. For "ready", read "cheap". My current box just about handles what I throw at it, so I can afford to wait a bit.

The hifi world is another story though. I really don't know where to look for advice on what to get here.

A new hifi is a considerable investment and there's quite a bit of individual taste that goes into appreciating it. Or so say the magazines ... That's not my main beef with the magazines though, it's the snobbery they put into what they write. They'll put "Budget amplifier supertest" on the cover and then ignore all the £150-£200 amps. The price bracket they look at is stupidly high. Yes, I can actually afford £600 for an amp or £800 on a speaker set but that's not because I tend to go for that kind of frivolous spend.

So the hunt for new hifi stuff (the one I have is over 10 years old ...) isn't being informed as much as the hunt for pooter gear. We'll see what turns up. I reckon it'll be a piece of Denon kit, as they're a well trusted make that rarely gives anything other than Excellence. And when they don't know how to make Excellence, they buy it in from people who do. Like rebranding Tannoy or Mission speakers with the Denon name. Good for both companies.

Trouble with Denon though is they're being slow to get their stuff in the shops and people like Onkyo (who dat ?) and Pioneer are beating them to it. So it's tempting to spend the money now instead of waiting for Better.

Will I pay attention to the research when I eventually jump ? Maybe ! But by researching, I'll know more about what I'm getting even if I do compromise.

Oh - I'm on holiday this week, where I intend to do not very much at all :-) Until I get cabin fever (hopefully that'll hit on a sunny day) and then I'll try and resist spending cash on expensive electronic stuff.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - more Top 40

It's a Thursday Thirteen day again, I'm doing this Top 40 thing so I get an excuse to zero my iTunes playcounts ... what can I do !

Top 40 - I left it at 21 last time so now it's numbers 20 to 11 with a bonus three to finish.

1 - At 20 with 58 plays is one of the best tracks ever to come out of All About Eve, it's Wild Hearted Woman (with a bonus for the first 3 minutes). I know a couple of these, they're great fun to be around but you have to watch for getting burned ...

2 - At 19 with 59 plays is Crowded House with Four Seasons In One Day. I'm fully intending to camp the telly for Friday pm and the weekend to watch Ryder Cup Golf. And I'm betting Four Seasons in One Day is something I'll be watching.

3 - More weather related stuff (an omen ?) as Crowded House tell of the Weather With You in the 18 spot.

4 - 17 is All About Eve again with What Kind Of Fool (typically bad BBC sound engineering there). There's a line here "leaves all their treasure to rust in the rain". That'd be my chav neighbour (not CK) who's left a box of tools outside his front door, separated from the pavement by a small sapling. They've been there for months without mysteriously disappearing ...

5 - 16th sees Kate Bush with the signature track of the Lionheart album : Oh England, My Lionheart. It's in the middle of this album and when it starts up you just stop and go Wow. For the second time because the track Wow comes up earlier.

6 - 15th is more Kate Bush singing about what we all know : Mother Stands For Comfort. This one is from the Hounds Of Love album, need to listen to these again - soon ! Remember folks, whatever the trackname says, our mom's need our support too. Look after them :-)

7 - 14th is back to All About Eve with the final track off the Touched By Jesus album. Are You Lonely ? Yeah, I get pretty lonely these days. But I have some great friends that take the edge off that. Oh, that's not whale music that starts it, that's David Gilmour of Pink Floyd playing with his guitar.

8 - 13th. A change ! Tori Amos with Space Dog. This one is typical Tori Amos, quirky and fun. Have a listen, it'll make you grin.

9 - 12th is a favourite of advertisers. You'll definitely recognise Aquarium when you hear it, originally from Carnival Of The Animals. Beautiful piece and it's the most listened to piece of classical or soundtrack music in my library.

10 - 11th in the library and last for today and it's Kate Bush again with one of the most sensual tracks ever written. It's what I hope I am : The Man With The Child In His Eyes.

11 - and the first of today's random tracks ... There's a couple more albums on the way to me, the first is the one that got away from Sleeper. The new album is Smart but here's one from their first album. You know when things fall to bits and you wonder : What Do I Now ? Classic Sleeper, hoping for more like this from Smart.

12 - the other album on the way is KT Tunstall's new Tiger Suit. Linky here is to Suddenly I See, as an answer to the last track :-) Great video.

13th - Has to be a tribute to one of the Great Hollywood actors who died today. Always a star, Tony Curtis.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A gaming life

First mention is an aside. Summer 2010 will be known as the Summer of the Great Cake Famine. That was broken in style today with our Snow Queen bringing in a banquet of home made nomnoms. I join the rest of the project in restarting my diet tomorrow.

Quote "That strawberry cake was da bomb! Lush :)" A very happy birthday my dear Snow Queen :-)

I tend to go in cycles with my gaming. I'll go for one game and play it to death. This time, I'm back in the slippery slope of World of Warcraft ...

It's a recurring theme from the first phase of my blog, although the circumstances have changed considerably since then. When I started up this blog, I'd just had a relationship break up and reacted by throwing myself completely and utterly into the game.The stuff in game replaced relationships outside. Before, I'd been doing things with my partner, now I was filling the gap by doing stuff online with the guild and with Guildlink.

The in game stuff had completely taken over from the real life stuff. I learned later that this was rather unhealthy. I'd been keeping a guild together and negotiating our participation with the Guildlink alliance of guilds. Gamers tend to be quite headstrong and being disconnected from the face to face by being on the internet really doesn't help there. A lot of silliness is created in the text only medium that doesn't happen face to face.

I also ended up expecting a little too much from a few people involved in the game, which led to the unhealthy stuff I mentioned earlier. Blog Part 1 is a rollercoaster tale of ups and downs, where I ended up bouncing in and out of the game as it got too much.

I'm hoping for a bit different this time around, having been in for about a month now. The situation is very different. I'm away from some real aggro that built up on my previous server, having jumped to a different one to join some rather fantastic people called Violence Reborn. I knew one or two of them from the old server but hadn't really been involved in what they get up to. I've had that privilege now a few times and I'm really enjoying coming back in.

But ... and there's always a but ...

Moderation is always the key. Too much of a good thing will sour the experience. I can only take so much of the more intense gameplay style in WoW before my shoulder/collarbone muscles try to strangle me. I'm also enjoying having no responsibility this time around. There's plenty of respect coming my way (I think some expectations I'm having trouble living up to as well) but no responsibility. Except perhaps to be worthy of that respect. Being a guild leader was a rush for a while but I'm quite happy to avoid anything like that in the future.

It's kind of a "Do Once" thing. Happy being just a player now, it's easier to arrange your life around that.

There's one difference between the WoW experience and the Eve experience : respect. I've never felt I've had that much respect from the Eve crew, outside of the few I know from face to face. Respect for each other is the key to good relations. It's earned too, which is probably why I don't have it from the Eve people. I've simply not been in game enough.

So there we have it. Summer's come to an end and with it the cricket season. Gaming is filling the gap and it's pretty good at the moment. The cycle has me using Mass Effect for an unthinking blast, Settlers IV for brainless R+R and Warcraft for enjoying chatting and playing with other people. And the shoulder keeps it in healthy moderation.

You can lose yourself in these games, be that through emotional stuff or going to bed at 3.30am to get up at 7.30am. Too much of no sleep and you'll get fired. Not good. The emotional stuff gets heavy too but I'll hopefully avoid that as long as I avoid responsibility.

I think I ended up doing Wall Of Text again. Reckon I'll be saving Numbers 20 to 11 for a later date but ... if anyone else has been seeing iTunes problems with Airplay network speakers after the last patch : uninstall iTunes and reinstall. That should sort the network connectivity issues caused by some shoddy patching.

Really enjoying the gaming. WoW's been dumbed down a little more but I think what they've done is tidied it up a bit. Achievements add more purpose to the game. My third Iceangel just earned her first title : it's now Brewmaster Iceangel. Not a Merc any more but I'll not be changing my url :-)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Take the strain ...

... roll it into a little ball, throw it away somewhere and lose it.

That's what I hope to do sometime soon, before I do actually lose it. We're at a very busy time at the moment on the project, which is being accompanied by Great Things happening too. Lots of success at the moment, crossing fingers for some more of the same soon. It's come through a lot of hard work from everyone* involved, me included.

I'm bushed now though - I throw everything into what I do and have a tendency to burn myself out while getting on with it.

*Did I say everyone ? Well ... part of the strain I'm feeling at the moment is the expectation I seem to have as a "Go To Guy". It's a fine reputation to have, except it tends people to ask you to do stuff for them. Stuff they should really be doing themselves. (Definitely when it's their own jobs they don't seem capable of doing)

Maybe they think I'm really calm when inside, I'm being the whirling dervish going nuts trying to figure out how to do something. It's only some people (the lazy ones) who wind me up when they push their work on to me. With other people like The Angel, our Snow Queen and Ms Sunshine, it's a case of "why didn't you ask sooner ?"

If a pretty lady asks me to do something, I'll usually jump at the chance. And you know with the 3 ladies above, they've already tried their hardest to figure it out on their own. All I ask in return is the thank you and the smile which comes naturally. A smile from a pretty lady brightens the day like nothing else. It's worth more than gold, platinum or the first teacake in the morning.

There you go - cooperation is gained more willingly with a smile than a "do this because I don't want to"

It's a bit of a shame, because it takes the gloss off the successes we're having. Sometimes you believe that success happens despite some people rather than because of them. Maybe that's because we have a lot of special people to make up for the lightweights.

That's enough of that for now :-) Had to get it out and say it because I find it easier to deal with struggle by expressing it than if it's bottled up to fester. (I also have a strong management chain to help fend off the more unreasonable demands)

More Top 40 time :-)

At 30, bit of classical with Fossiles from Carnival of the Animals. This one is one of the more famous from that piece.
29 sees a bit more Kate Bush with Army Dreamers. Wonder if anyone thought when Army Dreamers was written 30 years ago that the world would see the Falklands War shortly after or that it would be in the state it's in now. This one's from the Never Forever album and is just about as poignant now as when it was written.
28 is another Kate Bush track with Wow. This one is from the Lionheart album and sums up Kate perfectly : Wow. I suspect listening to Kate Bush from an early age is one thing that fed my fascination with ladies with long dark hair.

27th is a track from Edie Brickell's Ultimate Collection. It's a track called Vodka, done with Carter Albricht. Listened to this 57 times in iTunes, it never gets old. Can't link it though, you'll need to get that cd :-)
26 is one of the more beautiful songs in my collection which closes out the Scarlet and Other Stories album from All About Eve. It's a story of The Pearl Fishermen. Very beautiful, very tragic and something else feeding that fascination from No 28.

25th and played 57 times is Alisha's Attic describing my normal state of being : Late Again. This one is another of my extensive Alisha's Attic B-side collection.
At 24 is another Alisha's Attic track, one of the signature tracks from their first album. I Am, I Feel, which kinda sums up the feelings I was pouring out up top :-) (TOTP's disaster of a sound department strikes again!) No miming here :-)

23 is the only entry in the Top 40 from Sleeper, with Click ... Off ... Gone. Proving that it's not just good vocals needed for great songs, the music around this one makes it stand out.
22 is Something from The Beatles. If there's anything that describes Love, it's this song.
Finally for today's part of the Top 40, it's Scarlet by All About Eve which has had 58 listens so far.

Time to round off a Wall Of Text with something I know somebody's going to be looking for ... There's a band I've been introduced to recently that isn't in this Top 40 cos of the head starts the All About Eve's, Kate Bush's and Alisha's Attic had. They're on the Patrol with one of my favourites from these guys : Chasing Cars.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Top 40

Before I dive into the main post, wanting to say something about a colleague. She was involved in a car accident yesterday and is in hospital at the moment ... Fingers crossed she comes through ok. She's a lovely lady, hopefully we'll see her again very soon.

Top 40 ! Since iTunes arrived, I pick out my music by looking at what's the longest since played and least amount played. With a library of over 4000 tracks, this gets me cycling through the collection fairly well. But ... because I've added music over several years, the tunes which have been in there since the start have an unfair advantage in the Most Played list. Also, cos they've been played a lot they don't tend to get added in again as random picks.

So I'm thinking of doing a reset so I listen to some of the older amazing tracks more. Bit more time to come before I do that though, as I have a new Cardigans album to play through. What have I listened to most pre reset ?

Top 40 Part 1 : 40 to 31. (Reverse order is kinda traditional !)
(and all the links are to Youtube or a lyrics site)

40 : Rainy Days and Mondays by The Carpenters. Hopefully today won't be a rainy day as I'm using some well earned flexi time credit to watch the cricket.

39 : Another classic : Yesterday by the Beatles. By the amount of stuff to do at work, sometimes we wish for Yesterday so we have the time to do it all.

38 : Brainstorm by Alisha's Attic. No Youtube link cos this is a b-side :-) I have pretty much everything Alisha's Attic ever released and there's some cracking tracks out there which never reached albums. "You're captured by me not her" - definitely when listening to the Poole sisters :-)

37 : Night of the Swallow by Kate Bush. This one is a track off The Dreaming that really shows off Kate's voice.

36 : Milk by Garbage. This one closes out their first album. My impression of an album tends to be dominated by how it finishes and this one is an excellent "take me home" track.

35 : St Swithin's Day by Dubstar. It's a shame that the only thing in my Top 40 for Dubstar is a cover version but they really break the cover version pattern by doing an excellent job of it. I'll put another Dubstar track or two in a Not Top 40 bit :-)

34 : Edie Brickell +1 with Like I Do Now. This one comes off the Edie Brickell Ultimate Collection (more later!) which isn't just a re-release of the best tracks off the albums, it brings a few rare tracks in too. This is one of the better.

33 : Eternal Flame by the Bangles. Am I only dreaming ? Feel like it listening to these girls :-)

32 : Hide Child by All About Eve. This is another in the close out of album category, this time it's All About Eve's Touched By Jesus. Beautiful, beautiful (and haunting) song. "Hide Child, who can I be looking for ..." (lyrics link)

Finally for today,
31 : Little Shotgun by Alisha's Attic. Another B-side, chilled out sounding until you listen to the words ...

I've listened to these tracks over and over in past years, never get tired of them. But ... there's a few more out there which I haven't had as long, here's a few that won't appear in the Top 40 simply because I've not had them long enough :

03.45 am No Sleep by the Cardigans. Listened to this one again and it stopped me in my Warcraft grinding tracks. Tracks this good force you to pay attention.

What's a Girl To Do by Bat For Lashes. Babe, Bunnies, Bikes, need I say more ? (This track got my sister and me hooked)

Finally, here's hoping for a Future Love Paradise.

More in a week or so :-)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Crazy science at it again

Spotted this story earlier and it raised an eyebrow or two :

Good dancing may be sign of male health.

It's saying that blokes who dance well, in particular the core body areas of torso, neck and head, are more attractive. I think there's something to this, although they're missing some of the point as is usual for Crazy (read qualitative instead of quantitative) Science.

True - a person who moves well is (to me), far more attractive than someone who walks like a duck. But then again, you can move well in one sphere and then be a total clutz in others. I bet most of the dancers out there can't sprint half as quick as I can and I bet they would cry MOMMY when faced with a cricket ball coming at them. But they look good due to having heaps of practice.

That's actually like a few of the cricketers I see in the teams I play for and against. They'll talk the talk but when it comes to actually doing, they're either utterly uncoordinated or too scared to do the business. They look after themselves instead of putting it on the line for the team.

Doh - straying off the point again (like usual !)

I think there's something to all this dancing makes you look good lark. It's a healthy exercise, keeps you moving and practicing good coordination of movement will keep you fitter and trimmer. Being coordinated is a good sign that someone is physically healthy. Using me again, I have good days and bad days where some days everything will just click and I'll be fine. Other days, one of the long term injuries will pop up and remind me it's there and I'll be hiding limps.

I judge my own health on how quietly I walk. I usually walk pretty quickly (no worries about watching for people overtaking !) but it's the efficiency I aim for. That means being able to creep up behind people and make them jump (muahahaa). If my legs aren't too healthy then I'll be clomping along instead of ghosting along.

How's my walking relate to dancing ? I'll never be a great dancer, as my physique definitely works against me. Ignoring the belly (which doesn't actually restrict my movement that much), I have massive leg muscles. They're bigger than they should be, which means I wear knee pads when running to stop them blowing up my knees. I sprint very quickly, although I missed out on competition at school due to injuring my back.

Those leg muscles work against me though. Very fast in a straight line but the extra mass as tricky to get moving. A case of having too much power. Cue : Dad Dancer. When I am moving though, change of direction comes quick and easy.

Another example - I occasionally get drawn into the horse racing world. Rarely to bet because I'm a firm believer in the result changing when you get sight of it. If I don't bet, my pick wins, if I bet then my pick fails. Meh. I make my pick by looking at form but mostly by seeing how the horse moves. However ... it's all well and good the horse moving beautifully at a walk, they're not going to be walking on the course. What really counts is attitude, frame and whether you believe that horse is going to Go Real Fast. A horse that goes like a donkey at the walk can often be lightning at a gallop.

It's curious how things change in the subconscious. In our hunter gatherer days, it would have been the fast runners, the efficient hunters and the endurance people who would have caught the eye. Now, it's the people who look coordinated standing still who catch the eye.

I definitely support the general premise of the theory : dancing shows off how healthy and structurally sound a body is. But I'd disagree about it being indicative of anything more than that. Being able to dance well doesn't mean you have a brain, doesn't say anything about personality* and doesn't say how clever those fingers are at massaging out tension.

*(good dancer could actually indicate an undesirable personality due to an over abundance of Self Focus - never been too interested in those who cannot empathise with others)

Maybe a little practice would lead to better dancing :-) In the meantime, I'll bemoan the luck of being able to sprint like lightning but be a total clutz on the dancefloor :-).

Sunday, September 05, 2010

On my game

Ok, so I went back to Warcraft.

I've had a love hate relationship with this game over the years and just got back into it after 7 months away (longer than that, as the last session was a 5 day freebie after another long break). There's a kind of hunger with addiction, with one of my addictions being gaming. You have to get the right fix to satisfy the addiction. Sometimes mine gets satisfied with beating the AI in games like Settlers IV and Moo2.

It appears that with the closing of the cricket season, the hunger for nonstop gaming is back. All addictions tend to come with some kind of cost, my gaming addiction isn't an exception there. For me, it's late nights where I stop in game for far too long. Not enough sleep doesn't do much for my being human the next day. Itunes actually helps there, as I'll queue up albums along with the random stuff. The start of an album is a good marker for a "if I stay one more track, I'll be here for an hour", which gives an excellent excuse to break off at 1am and get shuteye otherwise I'd stay until daybreak.

There's other costs too. Some of my games place physical demands that mount up after a while. Computer games causing physical issues ? Yeah baby yeah. I've been around pooters for 30 years now and have the associated RSI in my wrist. Curiously, some games actually help the wrist problem. Must start that Mass Effect adventure again. Warcraft attacks my shoulder too, to the point where I'm in actual pain from it.

Day off today. Only gaming today has been 1:1 in Settlers IV (may start another after this post). We had a Call To Arms in Eve too (Eve's addiction cost is mind numbness from tedium) which I avoided because it clashed with England cricket on telly.

I know I have this particular addiction, along with a few others. Knowing you have an issue is one step along the way to controlling it. I'm having fun at the moment though, so I think I'm just gonna ride with it.

The Warcraft guild I'm associated with at the moment is called Violence Reborn. It's dominated by Scandinavians ganging up with English members. Like all internet communities, we have people from all over the place. One of our recruitment questions is "If you were caught in the middle of a gang war between English and Swedish people, which side would you join and why ?" Gaming needs to be about fun. If the fun goes out, it becomes a second job. That's one reason I struggle with Eve, the occasional PvP I do doesn't make up for the second job grind.

VR has a lot of great people, guild chat is great fun to join in with. Crazy people make you laugh. I'm really glad they took me in when things got unbearable on Maelstrom. Eve has good people too, Luth and the other English Cultists are great mates.

And that's the key to the addiction to that particular game. Single player games are good for a few play throughs but there's only so many times you can listen to the same dialogue or so many times you can execute the Killer Tactic before needing something different. With MMOs, you're interacting with real people and there's no script.

I've come a cropper a few times there, my previous WoW existence on the Maelstrom server earned me a fair bit of respect as a player but was also blighted by a few incidents that I could have handled better. I'm still friends with a lot of people on that server (most of whom moved to Blade's Edge with VR) but there's a few things that could have gone ... better. Although with one or two of those, "better" would have involved hiring a hitman. Yes, I have had death threats from people who couldn't recognise their own addictions.

Errrr - where was I ?

Gaming addiction - reactivated
Antsy feeling of "there's something I should be doing" - sorted
(I did the washing up earlier)
Shoulder killing me - check

There's a good reason (or am I just telling myself this) for the gaming too - it allows me to kick my brain into a different mode of working. Normally, I'm multitasking and taking in 3 or 4 inputs at once. Like at the moment, I'm tapping out this post while listening to music, watching the tennis and switching tabs to forums and Facebook. When I'm gaming, I tunnel vision focus in which allows the higher reasoning part of my brain to switch off and get some sleep. I do the same at work, by opening Spider Solitaire at lunchtime and going Robot on it. It gives the bit of my brain that does the thinking to take a break.

Oh dear. This is turning into Wall Of Text territory again. I think I'll leave it by attacking something the Eve players say :

"In Warcraft, you have to go looking for pvp. In Eve, the pvp looks for you."

Not true. In Eve, the Empire regions has active police who will intervene if fights break out (unless you're at war). On my previous Warcraft server, everywhere except cities and starting zones was a PvP zone. Members of the opposite faction would come in and grief you. Nowhere to hide, unlike Eve which has stations.

So - Eve players, you have it easy. Kinda true for the WoW server I'm on now too, which operates more like Eve's Empire. Time to feed the addiction again ! Although I'll avoid WoW again tonight because of that shoulder which still hates me.

Friday, September 03, 2010

RIP Cricket Bag - it served well

More cricket gear buying today, as I looked to take advantage of End Of Season Sales.

Risky - cos I've had a spectacularly bad record with kit buying this year and the place I went (Globe Sports) has some Very Expensive Bats that are incredibly tempting.

Two (ok, three) bits of kit walked out of the shop : Knee pads and a new bag. I wear knee pads not so much because I expect ligaments or tendons to go BOOM, they're more there for impact protection. My knees used to be weak but appear to have somewhat caught up with my leg muscles now.

I figure, I'm a fairly average sized fella, so I choose "Medium" thinking they'll have enough stretch to fit without slipping annoyingly. Medium works out to 13-15". I get them home and attempt to try them on. Huge feelings of deja vu erupt as my mind goes back to the whites I bought to save me doing the washing. That time, 30" waist whites did actually go on, these knee pads didn't even go over my calves. I measured the circumferences as 17.5" calf muscles and 17" knees. Big Calves = Very Fast Sleepy.

Oh well. Back to Globe tomorrow and the torture of seeing that Salix Daemon bat on the shelf.

What else did I get ? A cricket bat is a fairly specialised beastie, even though I'm fairly light on gear I'm still looking to drag along the following to a game :

Batting pads
Batting gloves (only one pair, some have many)
Fielding spikes (I wear flat shoes for batting due to shuffling)
Sleevy jumper (which may be older than me)
Non sleevy jumper (20 years old)
Bat hammer + bat repair tape
Shin pads (not that I ever wear them)
Spare hat + cap (don't wear these now either)
Drink bottles + occasional munchies

(there's a picture or two in this linked earlier post)

That's quite a bit of gear to carry around, most of it is awkwardly shaped too. A bat is 38 inches long and 4.25 inches wide, which can be a pain to fit in the boot of some cars (Puma struggled), let alone fit in a normal holdall.

The new bag is a Gray Nicolls Atomic bag, which holds the bat in an outside pocket. Everything else goes inside, even the helmet. That's a first for me, since getting it the helmet has lived outside the bag. This should be better if I'm caught out in the field while it rains. My rainhat lives outside the bag, if it goes inside it'll get the brim squished.

There's a few things in there that I don't use but I take 'em along out of habit. I still have the hat I was wearing when I got whacked on the nose (and it still has the occasional blood splat). I don't wear it but it's a good reminder.

So - taking advantage of cheaper prices but still keeping the moderation to stop me buying a new bat or new spikes. My current fielding spikes are falling to bits like my old bag. The retired bag served me well, I've had it since I started playing cricket 20 years ago and it has survived everything. Including things like a coke can (I've learned Coke + Sport = BAD) exploding inside it. Old bag was starting to fall apart at the seams though. There's only so much jerky pickup of heavy stuff a bag can take before the fabric splits.

Oh yeah - the new bag has wheels ...

PS Pakistan betting scandal is getting to be tedious old news. Want it gone, bored of it.