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.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Wednesday Piccy

If you can't laugh at bad stuff ...

Original artist : Arun Ramkunar, saw it and couldn't resist borrowing.