Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Changes ...

Looks like Google are running the Change Bat over blogger ...

There's a couple of positive changes but a few where the instigator needs shooting ...

Positive - favicons. I change my normal avatar often and without warning :-) Check out the latest (more below). He's a Pocket Dwagon called System Cwash, which I chose in honour of how well our work IT performed yesterday. That bad. However, the favicon will always be the "Another Monday" ZombieDwagon :

(I may tidy it up a bit more though as favicons are tiny)

That fella will always be my favourite Pocket Dwagon. It's a shame the Pocket Dwagon hatchery shut down in 2006 but here's a link to more about them. Sadly, Evil Ex won custody of most of our Pocket Dwagon collection when she left, so I only have a few to choose from for avatars.

Where was I ...

Oh. Blog template update : This is going to generate a fair bit of hate as control of the comments template has been taken away from us. To be honest, the new one looks a) horrible and b) isn't compatible with the IE6 we're forced to use at work. So when it comes to checking that a new comment isn't spam, I have to use my mobile.

That's another change that got my goat - when I got my Android phone, it forced me to change the Google sign in to a Gmail account. That's not so bad but it's irritating to have some comments go to Gmail and other comments go to the email address in my profile. (I'd repeat it but that's how you spawn junkmail).

Happily, a while ago Google enabled cutdown templates for browsing blogs via Mobiles which works pretty well. So I can still check comments (for spam) at work despite the efforts of Google to break stuff. Actually, not so sure why I check for spam as I can't do anything about it anyway until I get home ! (There's no way I'm exposing any home passwords to the potential at work for keyloggers, insecure access or data monitoring)

So - I'm not impressed by what Google have been up to, it breaks the first rule of enforcing a change on people : Always ensure your change is complete and correct before unleashing it.

Last change for now : System Crash. Here's the original :

The prep work for that involved :
Placing System Crash on top of my subwoofer (after dusting it)
Using the plastic base for my last PC as a flat black backing (think greenscreen technique).
Hoping I could remove the t-shirt on the radiator behind.
Standing the little fella on top of a couple of pennies to get the right angle.
And standing my camera on the subwoofer so it would be stable enough for a no flash, long exposure shot. (Next time I'll use a non-reflective backing)

By the power of Photoshop (Elements), that becomes :

The black backing can be quickly removed by the power of the Magic selector thingy tool. It's very handy for selecting around the edges of what you want to keep, so you can delete what you want gone. The trick is to get good contrast between image and background, black works well for Pocket Dwagons. I could have tidied up those lines a little more but I was happy enough after 20 minutes fiddling with Photoshop.

But I think I still need a new camera as the other 6 pictures I took were garbage : washed out by flash or blurry due to long exposure.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Random stuff

Felt like there's a blog post bursting to come out but what to write ... what to write ...

Found a new artist to get hooked on, courtesy of Craziequeen. Just listen to "I Do Adore" and try not to sing along. You will fail. I've had the chorus bouncing around in my head all day, which kinda balanced a horror day otherwise. Someone ... decided to implement a change which forced every user on the system to download their full inbox. The network actually survived. But almost no-one had their inbox available and doing things with stuff outside email was incredibly slow due to all the inbox downloading traffic.

I suspect that whoever decided to implement that unnecessary change is currently being skinned by the boss. And there's a baying mob with pitchforks gathering.

Diet - this is still going ok.

The average weight is still steadily reducing at a sensible and sustainable rate. I'm getting less issues with cramping up which hopefully means I'm getting that mineral balance better. I have problems when I've not had enough salt (like everyone) but I also have issues with too much salt.

At school age, after getting home from a day's cricket I'd typically have :
Coke/Diet Coke in the pub after the game (it's a diuretic)
Dinner with lots of salt

And I'd usually be lucky to not get cramp so bad I'd tear a leg muscle. I call it the Salt Bomb now ... Chippie dinners are bad for it as well. The lesson is to make sure that salt intake is balanced, i.e. drink lots of water to replace sweat or to offset the salt. And coke is bad because it does funny things to that salt/water balance.

Anyway. Diet is getting the calorie intake discipline going better, although I'm not exactly being scientific with it. I'm just sticking with "don't eat if not hungry". Can't remember last time I ate a dinner on a Friday night, as bacon sarnie + late lunch baguette means I don't need dinner.

Been stiff & sore lately, enough to go "ow" when people aren't looking ... But I still have full power available in the legs. Actually more than full power, as I'm a stone lighter now compared to when I started the diet. And that lower weight means I can start moving quicker and adjust quicker. Because of the way my legs are set up, it takes time for them to start moving but when they do, I can move extremely quickly. And less weight means less reaction time.

I'm not sylph like (never will be) but I've dodged out of the way when ever someone's come running around the corner.

Hmm. That means I've missed being run into by pretty ladies. (They seem to be the ones rushing around a lot at work)

I may have to rethink that dodging out the way thing.

Oh - diet stuff. I've got to a point where I can play around with what I eat a little more, while keeping within that discipline. So like today, Mini Eggs in the afternoon let me blast through work frustration enough to get stuff done late. But that's balanced by me not having a teacake for breakfast this morning. And the pizza will be balanced by me resisting cookies for as long as possible tonight.

It's not so much looking at packets and adding up calories, it's more keeping to a discipline. Like not knowing how long it is since I had a dessert ... It's been a while.

Still a little sore though. I vaguely remember that getting poked by strong fingers was awesome for relieving stress and tension. With the vaguely showing how long it is since I knew someone willing to do that for me. Last expert I knew was Mad Alyse from uni, who worked wonders with the back injury I picked up at school.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Odd job frustration

Been meaning to tackle one of the house repair jobs for a little while now, finally got the chance (and inclination) today ...

My loo has a problem with its flusher. It's a siphon type that doesn't siphon at the moment. It's broke. (But not icky because I have a workaround that lets the loo function). So this repair job is going to involve either :

Replacing the loo
Replacing the siphon thingy

I'm hoping I don't have to go as far as replacing the loo as I'd have to get someone in to do that for me. And while it's not spotless, it's not beyond my abilities to get it that way. So I've been looking to replace the broken siphon thingy.

But ... (there's always a but). There's a problem.

2 problems in fact - 2 rusty nuts.

To do the repair, I have to take the cistern off the wall to be able to replace the siphon because the bits to unscrew are hidden between cistern and loo. I can do the prep work :
Identify problem & get bits - had 'em ages and I understand how to fit them.
Empty cistern of water - fine. I have a suction pump thingy.
Keep cistern empty - sorted and I can decouple those pipes too.
Get cistern off loo ?

That last is where the problem comes in, there's 2 wingnuts that are rusted to the bolts. I've had them soaking in WD40 on and off for a while but it begs the question :

Why the hell use corrodable bolts in the most corrosion friendly area of a house ? You've got the water, fresh air plus warmth from when you use the hot water. The only place in a house that's more corrosion friendly is the kitchen. Plastic wingnuts would have been far more sensible.

So - frustration today cos those wingnuts just refused to budge.

I'm hopeful I can get them loose though without having to resort to heat. Using heat almost certainly getting a plumber in to replace the loo as I doubt the porcelain would survive. WD40 is usually the universal answer so I'm trying that + time.

In the meantime it's back to that temporary solution which is one reason I've not offered to share the surround sound + movies with anyone lately ...

PS I also have that scent of liquid rust in my nose that the moment that comes with all that WD40 ... with the window open upstairs to take it away too.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Random pics

I wonder if this is what my depressive side thinks of my hyperactive side :

And I have a few cricket bats available :

PS Really tired right now - not slept at all well this week and it started catching up to me yesterday. Hoping for a relaxing weekend with sport tomorrow, looking for stiffness and soreness to melt away. Although I'll stand ready with the cricket bat if someone needs a henchman.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday Thirteen - Music from the decades

This one's inspired by a Facebook group :-)

The idea is to go through the decades, posting one track a day. You start with the first decade, post 3 songs (over 3 days) and then go through successive decades. I'm in the 70s at the moment. But ... I thought :

4 decades,
3 songs per decades,
That's almost perfect for a music theme T13! (with an extra bonus).

I've got it slightly wrong though as it should really be Age 0-10 (1974 to 1984), 11 to 20 (1985 to 1994), 21 to 30 (1995 to 2004) and 31 to 37 (2005 onward). Muahaha - that's an idea for a future T13 with tracks I couldn't include here :-).

1970s :

1 - Wish You Were Here from Pink Floyd. This is an all time classic and quite possibly the best track ever by Pink Floyd.

2 - Don't Stop Me Now from Queen. When we went anywhere of any distance in the car, Queen's greatest hits 1 would invariably be put on the radio.

3 - Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon. This is the theme tune from the Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me", which not only has one of the better Bond theme tunes but it also has Barbara Bach as the Bond Girl ... And I just happen to have a weakness when it comes to pretty dark haired ladies ...

1980s :

4 - Martha's Harbour by All About Eve. Such a beautiful track. This was on one of the first cd's I owned and is definitely still one of my favourite tracks. We even owned this on 7" single (and I want the B-Side).

5 - California Dreamin' by River City People. This was one of those sit up and listen tracks when they burst onto Top of the Pops with it. Yes, it's a cover version but it was also a good intro into their own material. Another incredible voice here ...

6 - Sweet Dreams from Bat For Lashes. This is a cover for Radio 1's Live Lounge which showcased Bat For Lashes centred by Natasha Khan who shows off her voice with great effect here. This was another intro for a new artist who has gone on to come out with some incredible material of her own. Oh and she's also extremely cute with that long dark hair thing.

1990s :

7 - Indestructible by Alisha's Attic. Saw this one completely out of the blue on Saturday morning TV. And following that, I own all 3 albums (plus collection) and as many of their B-Sides as I could get my mitts on. There's a reason I used the nickname Alisha's Addict for a while :-)

8 - It Can't Rain All The Time by Jane Siberry. When I was involved in my first long term serious relationship, there was a film we ended up going to a silly number of times. That film was The Crow (with Brandon Lee) and this was one of its signature songs from the soundtrack.

9 - My Favourite Game by The Cardigans. This isn't one of my favourites of their's but it's the one that really got them going (as well as Lovefool). It's signature Cardigans as it's not just Nina Persson's voice, it's how they combine it with the band that made the Cardigans great.

2000s :

10 - Let it Will Be by Madonna. The thing about Madonna is that she keeps reinventing herself but still sounds amazing every time. (Album version sounds much better than that "official" video though). One of the first albums I owned was Madonna's Like A Virgin but the energy in Confessions On A Dance Floor makes it my favourite of the Madonna albums I own.

11 - I Can't See New York by Tori Amos. Couldn't go through this list without a Tori Amos track. Before Alisha's Attic, I was collecting Tori Amos B-Sides ... Tori Amos is a little inconsistent but this shows her at her ultimate best. Amazing voice combined with a virtuoso performance on not one but two pianos. What a talent ...

12 - Empire Ants by Gorillaz. And now for something completely different ... Plastic Beach is a future classic album and I've included this track because it marks me breaking out of the music I had been interested in before and into new groups and new styles. This is the highlight of Plastic Beach for me as it builds into something that bursts more into life later on.

Bonus track :

13 - The Man With the Child In His Eyes by Kate Bush. Another singer I'm a huge fan of, although more her earlier work than the more recent stuff. Every track is a treat of ethereal vocals.

Can you tell what I'm most a fan of yet ? :-)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Today the world, tomorrow the galaxy

I'm between games right now ...

Having just completed the fourth play through of Deus Ex Human Revolution (which is awesome by the way, fps players will love it) and saved the world ... again, I'm now waiting for the next game.

That's right : today the world, tomorrow the galaxy.

The "next game" is going to be Mass Effect 3, which will continue the series started by Bioware a couple of years ago. It's a hell of a game in itself to be honest, although there's disquieting rumours coming due to DLC. That's "DownLoadable Content" and it's likely to be the bane of gamers for quite some time to come. It's usually quite benign, things like different outfits or subtle changes. Blizzard do it with in game cosmetic pets in Warcraft. The idea is that a few months after release, they release expansions that add extra episode to the game for a few £££.

Trouble is though when it gets to be content that should have been in the game at launch. That would be like a novel with the prologue and epilogue removed with you having to pay a little extra to get it. Or it'd be missing a chapter in the middle (like actually happened with Deus Ex HR). To be honest, there were several expansion DLCs done for Mass Effect 2 which I bought because it is actually a fantastic game and most of that DLC proved to be worth it. To use the novel analogy, DLC a little while after release is like adding self contained fan fic to an already complete book. Happy when it's done like that. With Mass Effect 2, one of the DLC provides a bridge between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3.

But to rip a chapter out of the game and expect you to buy it on release ? Come on ! These games are already £30, with up to £90 being asked for the special editions. On the Origin store, I could pay £35 for the standard ed or £55 for the digital deluxe version. £35 is already rip off territory. Some of the extra £20 is ok ... things like getting the soundtrack and a few extra bits of merchandise I could support, although I'm not so much of a fanboi that I'll be taken in by that.

Trouble is when they start adding extra content on top of the box you see in the shops. That's a little sad.

Moving on though. I'm still looking forward to this one coming out and have my pre-order in with Amazon. I'm curious to see whether history repeats from when Mass Effect 2 came out. I'd pre-ordered early with Amazon again but a couple of days before release I get an email saying they had insufficient stock. No excuse for that so I immediately cancelled the pre-order and on the day of release I got the game from Asda instead.

I need sleep though, so saving the galaxy will wait another day.

I dunno how much sleep I've actually had over the past couple of nights but I know it hasn't been that much. Just haven't been able to nod off. Maybe that's a little too much hyperactivity leaking through. Or I'm worried about people (psst - secret : it's the worrying about others thing). I suspect I've had about 4-5 hours of quality sleep over the last couple of days, with the hyperactivity letting me blast through it.

Really tired right now though. I doubt whether I'd be able to concentrate on gameplay even if I tried. Back stiffness is currently at a level where I actually acknowledge it in front of other people instead of not letting on that it's sore. (It's been too long since it benefitted from a bit of TLC)

Will head for an early night soon, which will set me up really well tomorrow. I have a 9am meeting, which means I want to get in about 8am to prepare and get my mind right. (i.e. at least 1 mug of Coffee.) That means shifting the day 1 hour earlier to 8am to 4pm. And there just happens to be an England cricket match starting at 4pm.


PS Really must get some use out of the SW The Old Republic subscription. I guess Warcraft has totally burned me out on MMO gameplay. SWTOR has added story but is still driven by the same Thump X Mobs, Get Y Items repetitive MMO tasks.
PS2 Skyrim has been looking very tempting. Next time it goes on sale my better judgment will likely go byebye and I'll get it ...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thinking - Empathy

I like to think I'm a bit of an empath.

That is - I'll pick up on how people around me are feeling and unconsciously react to it. I'll start to echo what they're feeling. It's nowhere near perfect and depends on being around people but I think it's there.

I definitely react to my true boss - he's one of the most professional people I know. Also highly driven. My partly unconscious reaction to that is to go a little more berzerk hyperactive. It's a very good example to follow as it helps me crack on through the workload we have. But I also have to keep sure to maintain my own focus when the atmosphere in the office gets agitated.

Yep. The antenna also works on the bad stuff. We have someone on the team who is going through some really rough stuff at the moment and to her infinite credit, she hides it incredibly well. It's positively valiant the way she keeps on going through what's happening. But that empath antenna still picks up the hidden signs and the reactions are :

Wanting to burst into tears in sympathy with what's happening
Wanting to give the Big Hug and say everything will work out ok

Trouble is that sometimes what someone would want to do to help out may actually cause more problems than it solves.

So I'm a little frustrated that I know there's someone out there that needs some help and support but it's not the Right Thing to do at the moment.

Kinda wish it went the other way too. I'm a bit too good at hiding my own inner feelings for people to pick up that I'm struggling or could do with a hug or two coming my way. Or at least being dragged to the canteen to talk through what's bugging me over lunch. I have my own emotional armour and it's incredibly rare that people are allowed in.

The hyperactivity gets in the way of the empath antenna too.

It's a bit like constant noise in my head and a buzzing through my body. Don't get me wrong, the hyperactivity is great for getting me the energy to do stuff. Trouble is, it can be an effort to focus it and I will skip right over essential steps. The noise from it also means I'll miss vital signs from other people.

Urk - I'm rambling again.

Empathy is a great thing, if there's people around who pay attention to it. There's people who are acutely aware of how people around them are feeling, there's people who are completely dead to others and there's the ones who unconsciously react like me. And I'm not kidding about the bursting into tears feeling, that time hit me completely unawares ...

But there's also those magical people who make you feel that little bit better just by the power of their smile :

Snow Queen - who's strength could let her take on the world if she got the chance
Mrs Sunshine - who always brightens up the room
The Boss - who has her own brand of empathy that kept her as The person to talk to in my old team before it started getting broken up
Finance Angels - this pair are always smiling and ready with a "Hello Pete" that makes me melt :-) (they're also both recently married, which I think is a big factor in their inner happiness)

And that's just 5 of the people I see almost every day at work (And there's a few more outside the projects too). I try and contribute in my own way by not taking things too seriously while still looking to get things done. Laugh about mistakes while you fix them. Punishing people for every tiny mistake just makes them hide the mistakes until the mistakes get serious. Keeping a sense of humour going helps in keeping the perspective right.

It's a far better world out there when people are aware of how others are feeling.

PS Cricket has now finished so it's time to grab some dinner ! Need pancakes. Not got pancakes ...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Random stuff

My brain's too manic/hyper at the moment to focus on one thing for long right now ...

Gaming is helping there as it forces focus on one thing so you beat the game instead of the other way around. Work's more of a struggle because of juggling lots of different things. (If there was no challenge, there would be no fun).

Current game is Deus Ex Human Revolution (still!) because it's just downright awesome. Within its limits it is easily one of the best games I've played for a very long time. The downside is that it is another On Rails game where you are herded along the storyline. The upside is that you can tackle getting through the story driven missions by whatever method you choose. For some reason, I always go the Pacifist route which must say a couple of things about me :

I prefer the sneaky beaky route to getting stuff done.
I'm such a powergamer I go for the tougher route for better reward
(being Pacifist gives more experience to the character)

Resistance to getting Skyrim is dropping ... A more open ended game might be on the menu to follow on from Deus Ex HR.

Skin stuff - my legs are almost completely back to normal now :-) That's been a Very Long time coming. The problem first surfaced in July and spread until a patch roughly 6 inches by 3 inches on my left calf was affected. It also got infected (ick). It's not completely healed yet (right leg is behind) but is definitely headed the right way. It worsened until the end of August when I got stuff from the doctor. I've also changed the stuff I put in the washing machine. I think the washing machine stuff is the main thing that's turned it round. The doctor stuff will have sorted out the infection but I think an allergy to washing machine stuff may have caused a problem to turn bad.

So that's another tick for "yes I should be able to play cricket again this summer" :-)

Which takes me to : when did sport shops become slaves to fashion instead of places you could get sports gear ? You'd think that one thing you'd find in all sports shops would be supports for joints. My old knee supports were getting really manky and their velcro wasn't up to the job any more so I got some new ones last year. However I think the new ones initiated the leg troubles due to being too tight. So I need some new knee supports ... can I find some ? They're rarer than pink hats !

Ah well - I guess a trip to Globe Sports is in order.

And I just looked in the clearance area on the Globe Sports site, which was a horrendously dangerous thing to do. (I may also need new spikes and those bats are real shiny)

Driving ...

Oh crikey how standards on the roads have fallen. It's been a fairly gradual decline but those roads are definitely a lot more Evil now than they used to be. I partly blame modern cars as they insulate the driver from the dangers of the road. In the days of my first 2 cars before the days of the Safety Nazis, you wouldn't dare get close to anyone. One tap by another car and that Mk1 Fiesta and Mk1 Astra would have folded like the bacofoil they were made out of.

And moving swiftly on before I go into rant mode ...

Hybrid cars and the cold - Because of the warm up sequence, hybrid cars don't do so well in the cold. In the winter, the engine of my Lexus CT is having to stay on far more in order to keep itself and the cabin warm. The last fill up was 43mpg, down from my current average of 47.6. I'm hoping for more in the summer but I don't help it with the short trips I typically do.

Music :

The library is growing ... I'm almost up to 5000 "enabled" tracks in the library. "Enabled" means it can turn up in the shuffle or on the iPod. For a track to be "disabled", it'll either be a duplicate or commentary. So for the iTunes Original album I have for The Cardigans (likely to get the Norah Jones one too), I disable the commentary from getting in the shuffle but I'll listen to the whole thing when it comes around as an album.

Oh - latest additions are the 2001 sound track, Strange Little Girls by Tori Amos (which includes an "I don't like Mondays" cover), Sheryl Crow's collection and Endlessly by Duffy. So far the Duffy album isn't as bad as I thought it might be and the Sheryl Crow is better than I expected.

Manic/Hyper/Hypo and the diet

The diet is still progressing slowly, I've lost almost a stone. I don't want to lose much more than that to be honest but need to start some kind of training in order to move weight from ballast to useful. I think the change of munching habit has initiated me going more manic, which is good and bad.

Good Manic - I have more energy and can zoom around when I need to
Bad Manic - not a good idea to be manic at bedtime (=insomnia), plus there's a downside when I come down from the hyper. I also have to make a conscious effort to get things correct and focused.

But - having more tendency to hyperactivity is much better than the alternative which gets me locking into depressive cycles. That's a nasty downward cycle when it happens because it makes me focus on : loneliness, abused muscles and bones and general feelings of worthlessness. That's really bad for the confidence. The hyperactivity means I don't dwell on the bad stuff.

Friends (to finish on an Up point !)

I have great friends. I know a few of them read here. I'm really thankful for all the friends I have. They're all very special in their own ways. We're all different, with those differences making us interesting. But it's amazing when there's a few people who can keep up with me when I go hyper (like the one who guesses all the codenames I use with ease!). Although sometimes I think they're keeping up with me to satisfy that old saying "his people would follow him everywhere, if only out of curiosity".

Still, intelligence is a very rare thing and not always obvious. Common sense is far better an indicator of intelligence than the ability to do calculus. I definitely get on better with smart people.

PS Pizza cravings are back ... And there need to be more movies shown in 2d in the cinema so I can use the 2 vouchers I have that expire on 31 March ...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What's on

For thinking that there doesn't actually seem to be much in the way of the old classic at the moment, I have a surprising amount in the series link list in my cable box :


Said stuff about this one a few days ago. I'm catching up through series 2 at the moment off the dvds because I'd missed one off air. I'd class this as a Looking Forward To but not necessarily a Watch Immediate.

What's a Watch Immediate ? It's either something so good I'm really caught up in the story and want to know what happens as early as possible. Or ... I'm scared of spoilers ...

Walking Dead

This one's a Watch Immediate cos I just know that a bunch of people are going to be talking about it tomorrow at work :-). It's an HBO series which means it's extremely well made. That doesn't necessary mean it has a classic or gripping story, True Blood is HBO but I gave up on that after 1 series because I found it boring ... The story in Walking Dead is still keeping me interested at the moment, despite a minor aversion to End Of The World stuff where there's apparently no hope in sight.

A Town Called Eureka

This was close to a Watch Immediate although at 1 episode a day, that can be tough to keep up with. It's the best scifi on telly at the moment which tells you two things :
It's getting cancelled soon
There's no other scifi on telly at the moment worth watching


Except maybe Fringe, which is more horror story than scifi. I'm keeping up with this one at the moment but while it has built up the scale of what it covers, the ongoing story arc has got tired over the length of each season leading to several resets. It's still worth watching but I'm wondering how long it has left.


Medical comedy/drama ... Hugh Laurie as the central character adds in the dark comedy, with the other characters working around him. This is very definitely the House show. Trouble is, it's another one which is getting tired. It's being allowed to keep going because the early series were brilliant and made it popular but they're really running out of things to show and tell the viewer.


What Amanda Tapping did next after Stargate ... This is darn close to a Watch Immediate. It's scifi that's built around individual episodes, although they'll go off on arcs when they need to. Unlike Fringe and House, they aren't scared to have fun with each other with this series.

Sanctuary is huge fun, although it's caught up in between a couple of channels at the moment so catching reruns could be tricky. I'll watch this one as long as it lasts, which will hopefully be a while. Definitely watch it if you're interested in scifi and haven't seen it. And Ashley > Kate.

Ice Road Truckers

To be honest, this is Train Wreck TV. They haven't had many wrecks yet live on camera so what you are shown can be somewhat pedestrian and routine. It's compelling for the people they have driving the trucks and the interrelationships between them. They don't always get on ... Oh and I'm a huge fan of the tiny trucker with big attitude : Lisa.


Still enjoying this one even in its 9th season, which is a huge achievement. They still have almost all the original cast members around, although one or two of the faces have changed. I think the secret to keeping it going that long has been to not throw in that much to up the ante. So whereas Fringe has got confusing because of the massive changes they put in, NCIS keeps on rolling. I'm also watching NCIS:LA but this one is suffering somewhat I think because they think they're a lot cleverer than they actually are. Smugmode is very definitely active in the NCIS:LA office.

Lost Girl

Ok, so this one's a guilty pleasure. It's a lot of fun with some amazing looking ladies. Kensi steals the show here. Not really scifi again though, more Current Earth fantasy.

And there will be a few more (Falling Skies) that will appear when they start up again. Question though :

Where's all the scifi ?

Star Trek - the only Trek being made right now is on the silver screen.
Stargate - think this is all dead now
V remake - this was pants but got killed before it could tell its story
Outcasts & Defying Gravity - Outcasts was a struggle (the writing) but it's a massive shame that Defying Gravity got canned early. That was really shaping up into something awesome.

It's not a good time right now for scifi that takes us to faraway places and new planets. And that's a terrible shame. It's like there's a big baseball bat that the moguls have which says : "This scifi series is getting popular, kill it". But there's also some viewer expectation at work, as we've got used to high class visuals that are expensive to make. That's a shame too, as some of the best scifi (Star Trek original series, Babylon 5) was made on a midget budget on cardboard sets before the Shininess Expectation took over.

Have we become shallow, expecting shiny visuals over great stories ? (NCIS:LA is a case in point)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Film night

We'd not done one of these for a while because most of the interesting films on at the cinema seems to be 3d only these days. Last night was a good opportunity for the Crazie mob to get some much needed chill out with pizza + movies.

Off to the Craziequeen's place then :

First up - Perfect Sense.

I gotta say it right at the top - I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone ... It's an End Of The World tale, where people are gradually losing their senses. First is taste, with other senses following later. Interspersed with the loss of sense are bouts of intense feeling : Grief, hunger, rage.

Not my type of movie though. But it did tell me one thing : my bum is better than Ewan McGregor's :-)

Second - Tucker and Dale versus Evil

Better movie - it's a take on the horror slasher hillbilly and college kids in a camp movie. The stars are Alan Tudyk (of A Knight's Tale and Firefly/Serenity), Tyler Labine and Katrina Bowden, who turn what could have been fairly ordinary into a lot of fun.

Enjoyed this one, I'd consider buying it if the blu-ray got cheap.

Aside - I'm converted over to blu-rays now although I'll buy dvd's of series if they didn't get shot in HD. But ... I buy less blu-rays than I used to get dvd's because the price point is still higher than I'd like to pay. It's not an affordability thing, more a getting ripped-off thing.

Lastly - Bunraku

This one got the attention early and held it throughout. It has a certain style about it, lots of use of colour and smart set design. It's a child of digital composite imaging too, with transitions between scenes leaning heavily on computer graphics to tell the story.

Impressive film. Lots of action here and in its own distinctive style which makes it memorable. I may well add it to the collection soon. I bet if RCA watched it, she'd be dialling up Amazon to order it by halfway through.

And on top of all that was pizza provided by our Craziequeen. Twas a good night in all.

Off work today - I'm using one of my annual leave "jokers". After Easter leave is taken into account, I have 2.5 days left of annual leave until the end of April which I'm keeping in reserve for when I need it. Definitely wanted to use it today as this week has been somewhat uncomfortable due to the old injuries giving me reminders :

Lower back pain leading to sciatica
Upper back stiffness
And other stuff which I hide wherever possible - If I don't acknowledge it to myself, I can deal with it better and make it less of a distraction. A consequence of that is that other people don't realize when I'm struggling except when it surprises me and makes me go OW.

So - taken a day away today to give me a longer weekend than usual. I'll not loaf for the whole weekend (will do tomorrow for sure as there's cricket on), there's a few errands I need to do today which will get me out of the house later.

PS I had a run going that went to posting on 17 consecutive days - don't think I've ever done that before. Glad I did too, hope there wasn't too much filler garbage in there to wade through. But I'm glad I did all that posting as I think it's beaten some of the Wall Of Text tendency out of me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Diets and dangerous advice

The "irritated Sleepy" buzzer just went off again ...

I've just looked at BBC's BMI calculator as part of my daily peek at various websites. It flags up what's very dangerous about following religiously what the medical people say. My diet's going quite well, although I know I'm probably getting to the plateau for what I'll lose just by being more disciplined.

What's the numbers ?

Height - 5"9 (ish - a poorly back may have brought that down to 5"8)
Weight when I started the diet - 14st2lbs

According to the BMI calc, that's 29.4 which is on the verge over going into Obese from Overweight. I'd actually agree with that assessment with reservations. At that 14st + a bit, I was getting slowed down by having to carry too much weight around and I was having trouble unlocking the potential energy hidden in the chubbiness. Hence the decision to try and cut down and be more disciplined in what I consume.

That's a mindset thing that goes throughout how I'm trying to be. Focus on "Need" instead of "Want" :
I may want the teacake in the morning but if I'm not hungry ...
I may want to hunt down obscure information but if I need to produce a business case ...
I may want to demolish the cookies but if I need to be in better shape ...

Urg - getting sidetracked again. What's the BMI say for me if I lose weight ?

Current weight - 13st 4lbs (it varies but that's the current average)
BMI - 27.2 solidly in the middle of Overweight
Fair enough for my build and fitness at the moment but that BMI is what I had when I was playing cricket regularly. For people who regularly exercise and have some strength about them (mine's in my legs), BMI is a terrible measure.

Target weight for current build - 12st
BMI - 24.7 - just into "Normal"
This is where things get a little dangerous. At 12st, I'd in theory have got rid of the spare tyre around my middle. However, I'd probably be losing the leg muscle mass that gives me my speed.

But ... BMI calls an index of 18.7 as "Normal", which is just above "underweight". That's at a weight of 9st. HUH ! ? ? ! A male of 5 foot 9 and my build at just 9 stone would be in severe need of feeding up. I wouldn't describe that as healthy. I don't think I've been 9 stone since I was a teenager and it took me a while to fill out.

Take that to an extreme and put BMI numbers in for professional sportsmen. Chris Ashton is a star on the wing for England's rugby team (he of the dive). He's 6ft and 14st 7 for a BMI of 27.4 (Overweight). He's on the top of his game, doesn't have an ounce of fat, could probably run marathons but BMI sees him as overweight. That turns to the ridiculous for muscly forwards.

It's a silly measure. It ignores how wide you are and just concentrates on height. A better measure would see how wide you are from either shoulder to shoulder or across the pelvis. I went from 11st7 to 13st7 over a few seasons of cricket over ages 15 to 20 that saw me get wider across the shoulders from just filling out a bit.

But the real rule is : Know yourself. Don't trust arbitrary (and illogical) measures made up by idiots. Ask yourself whether you think you're overweight (I know I still need to lose a decent amount). Don't make yourself unhealthy by losing too much.

Losing the weight I've got rid of so far has unlocked agility and energy I'd forgotten about but I would run myself into severe problems if I tried to get to that 9 stone for "underweight". With the muscle mass on my legs, I'd hit problems if I went under 11 stone.

As for others, aim for what you feel comfortable with. Examples for how I see certain celebs :

Adele - cor. She's comfortable with who she is and it shows. It's attractive. Great voice too, shame I'm not a fan of the songs.
A N Other skinny poptart - reaction : "Eat something". Bony is not sexy.
(they might have a better foundation for thin & reedy & screechy voices too if they weren't unhealthy)

Only you know what weight you should be. Arbitrary measures like BMI only cause Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Big can be sexy too, it just depends on a person being comfortable with who they are. Nikasaur from the League of Legends videos is definitely not overweight (she's a hottie that kept my interest in that game for a while) but I saw an offensive video on youtube that suggested she was. I hope the person responsible looks back in a few years when they will no doubt be much bigger and I bet they will be ashamed of putting that hurtful video on youtube.

And I really must take care that when the sexy people catch my eye, that I don't stare. (Grinning = ok, slackjawed stare = creepy)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's message

After saying what I thought of the commercial side of 14th Feb (and threatened soppy music), here we go.

To my readers : I love you all !

That goes for the regulars (you know who you are !), the occasionals, the ones I have to cajole into having a look and all the random people who come here via "Next Blog" or google searches. Every hit logged makes me smile, especially those who know I have a Wall Of Text tendency yet still come back for more :-)

On to the music - soppy stuff in a semi-random order :

Let's Do It (Fall In Love) sung by that total legend, Ella Fitzgerald. Who's not singing along to that classic yet ?

Only Exception by Paramore. Quite possibly my favourite from all they've come out with so far. Another one I can sing along to ! And Hayley looks adorable in that video.

Valentine by T'Pau. Carol Decker and co were due for far more than just the 2 albums ...

Eyes Closed by Lene Marlin. Talking of putting out albums ... Lene Marlin has 4 out there already and I'm hoping for many more from this Norwegian lady with a fantastic voice. (that just happens to use a range I can harmonise with !)

Your Song from Moulin Rouge, sung by Ewan MacGregor. Need to watch that movie some time ...

Oh Boy by Duffy. Wow. And this didn't make the main album ?

Under Your Spell from the Buffy musical episode. Total magic. This scene is probably the highlight from the entire 7 series of Buffy.

Almond Tree by Hannah Peel. If you watch any of the videos here, watch this one. She's special. (Ok, maybe not strictly valentines theme but I adore her style)

Beautiful One by the Cardigans. This is from their early cute phase before their music got somewhat darker. Same enchanting Swedish voice (another I can sing along to!).

Incidentals by Alisha's Attic. Oh if I had a pound for every time I'd linked this stunner, I'd be able to afford my lunch tomorrow. Ok, dinner too and pizza on Thursday.

That's it for today :-) Hope you all enjoy what you've been getting up to today.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Training - Motivation required

Another one from the "Facebook made me lol" collection :

Definite lol from that one.

(Aside - now watching the cricket highlights and thinking "when did bowlers throwing the ball become an accepted part of the game ?")

It's getting close to that time of year when I need to start thinking about getting ready for the season. Previously, I'd rely on a combination of :
Natural Fitness (I'm a fattie but can still pull my weight around with little preparation)
Pre season nets
Running around at lunchtimes at school

These days the running around at lunchtimes and pre season nets don't happen. Plus I'd be challenged to get as much quality training in with nets because of the shoulder issues. I used to be one of the first to turn up and I'd be bowling all through the session (except when it came my turn to bat). I'd get full value out of the nets time, it let me try new things out or groove my bowling action until it was ready for matches. I found my away swinger by accident but nets let me learn how to bowl it properly. I was literally one of the first to turn up and the last one to leave. (Half the team didn't know where the light switches were)

I can't rely on the natural fitness so much now, I used to be in Much Pain for about 2 days after the first game of the season. Much Pain time was closer to a week last year ... even without doing a full allocation of bowling overs.

So what I need to do is to start getting miles into my legs. I have a good training circuit available for that, with a set of roads near my place set into a triangular pattern. I think that it's maybe about a mile and a half. It should serve first as me walking around it, followed by jogging when more conditioning is back in my legs.

That's what it needs really, the power is still there in my legs plus I can really feel the benefit of being a stone lighter. But ... what's cursed me over the years is lack of stamina and being prone to cramp. The diet has caused a bit of an imbalance that's increased that proneness to cramp too. (It's settling and going away)

But most of all - it's motivation.

And the Pink Hat Project for the summer may well be the key to unlocking that motivation. Can't rely on being chased by dinosaurs any more !

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Thinking Valentines

We're coming up to one of the nastier commercially driven celebrations of the year ...

Yep. I mean Valentines' Day. Kinda weird saying it's a nasty celebration but that's the way I feel about it after seeing what commercialism has done to it.

The idea - that one day in the year, couples do something special. It's a nice idea but as with most Day's, as soon as the market men get their fingers on it, it jumps out of control.

The problem - is that you're made to feel obliged that you should be doing something on that particular day. If you're not then you're made to feel that there's something wrong with you. Even worse if you've been single for what feels like forever, like me. You'd like to go out somewhere to let someone to feel special but there's no willing, interested or interesting partners out there.

The reality - everyone else gets the need to head out somewhere on the Day, leading to the restuarants being totally crammed and tickets for things becoming difficult to come by. If you do get in a restuarant, you're not in for a romantic intimate dinner, you're heading for Sheep Dip dining where the restuarant want you out the door so they can get more people through.

It doesn't lead to it being a good evening. Don't get me wrong, some of the few memories* I retain of the time with Evil Ex are centred around evenings out. We make each other feel better by having a relaxed evening in each other's company. But around Valentines Day, there's too much pressure coming from the surroundings to really enjoy that time away.

*(time has eroded most of them but there's also the lingering after effects of my brains being scrambled by a cricket ball)

Plan A for this year's Valentines Day was to head over to CQ's place for the evening to chill out with pizza and dvd's. We'll be doing that on Thursday instead when all the Crazies are available.

But I will mark it in my own way ... Unless I get the shock of a better offer coming around I'll be stopping in. But I'll put up a music post with the soppiest songs in my library. Here's a taster ...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Grindy, grindy

Lately I've been enjoying yet another run through of Deus Ex Human Revolution. It's rare that I'll play through an entire game straight away after completing it the first time (variation is good) and it's even rarer that I'll play through one three times on the bounce.

Yet I'm currently going for the third run, albeit with different objectives. The aim this time around is to harvest as many of the remaining Steam achievements as possible and by the end of this run, I'll hopefully only have just 3 to go.

Big targets this time :
Pacifist - Get through the entire game without killing anyone. This isn't easy ... I've had to do one set piece the bad way because there's a massive chance that exploding a robot will also kill bad guys who you've already knocked out.
Foxiest of the Hounds - Get through the entire game without setting off the alarms.

(To do later : Beat the game on hardest difficulty, peek at all the items in Megan's office at the start, see all the endings)

Going for those two achievements has added more interest to the usual play through and makes you appreciate the stealthy approach. The game rewards you for that, not in equipment (which is plentiful anyway) but in making your character advance quicker. Getting through a level without being seen gives more experience than knocking out all the bad guys. Knocking people out rather than going for the lethal approach gives quicker advancement too.

And by bypassing a lot of the bad guys, it's also been less of a grind. The pacifist approach is a lot quieter than having a sniper rifle boom away across the level, making the bad guys come running.

It's that Grindiness that's key though.

I seem to be migrating to games that are built around dynamic stories. I like the progression as the game goes along. The story has to be fairly tight though, as really open ended ones like the X space games and Bethesda's usual output tend to turn me off. I prefer grand strategy campaign games where the world is persistent, I didn't enjoy real time strategy games where the strong base you built in Mission 1 would be irrelevant in successive missions. And some strategy games hugely resemble the grind through wearing down the game by attrition.

Bit like novels. I've given up on a few novels lately, because they resemble the grind that turns me off certain games. I've quit reading Star Wars books because the Yuuzhan Vong sequence got really unpleasant and definitely a depressing grind.

David Weber's Honorverse books used to be a lot of fun, with fairly tight plotlines built around focused space battle action. They've gone very bloaty now though, with 1000 page books with nary a nuke to explode anywhere. The fun factor went out of them as the politics came in. I've been struggling with reading Game Of Thrones. Something needed to happen within the first 200 pages of sheer grind of character set up to keep me interested. (I'll go back into Game of Thrones at some point). All I can say is that the script writing for the TV series must have been incredible to make it so popular.

Currently reading Stark's War by Jack Campbell (aka John G. Hemry) which I'm enjoying. A trademark of Jack Campbell's books is that they flow well and when the action starts, what you're reading makes sense and keeps focus. A crucial key of science fiction is that it has to remain consistent with itself and the rules that it declares. Departures from that (David Weber is badly guilty here with magic new tech) make the reader doubt the credibility of the series.

Right :

Games - fun when they're tightly focused around a well written storyline. Hopefully Mass Effect 3 will be a fitting conclusion to the series, avoiding some of the grind of the first 2 games.
Books - enjoying Jack Campbell (and sometime I must read one by Thumper), giving up on David Weber and Game of Thrones.
Games & Books - there's more crossover now than people might think. Instead of reading what's on the page, you're writing your own variation of the story with how you approach the situations presented.

England's in trouble in the rugby though, time to turn my attention back to that for the last 30 minutes.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Small is beautiful

A little bit of random telly I caught a while ago that now has me hooked is Leverage.

It's not what I usually go for, there's no lasers, jetpacks, teleporters or other bits of sciency-fiction technobabble in here. Just a lot of style and clever smarts in how it sets up the scenarios in each episode.

They also have a lot of fun with how the episodes play through to. The 5 main characters don't necessarily totally like each other but there's a lot of respect for each other's abilities. It's a series where the cast works really well together. But one catches the eye early :

That's Beth Riesgraf who plays Parker. Very definitely a Bad Girl. She's the thief of the bunch and certifiably crazy.

Maybe that's why the twinkle catches the eye. She's actually not that small but that's the way it looks on screen. Perfection (even with the craziness) in a very tiny package (like a few others I could mention !)

Anyway - just really enjoyed watching the pilot episode again and I'm now looking forward to watching the rest of the series. Hell, I even bought season 2 unseen and I very rarely do that.

Here's another character who joins in with making this a cool series to watch :

Very true. The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth.

PS Boy does surround sound make you jump out of your skin if gunfire goes off on the soundtrack taking you by surprise. Jeez !
PS2 Feeling a bit better today for some reason I can't fathom. Must be the bacon sarnie in the morning and the prospect of the weekend to come.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

In need of a Hobbes

I'm feeling like that somewhat at the moment. Depression is a curse suffered by many (CQ calls it the Ugly Monster) and I'm definitely no exception. In my case, it's probably a case of manic-depression. I enjoy riding the wave of being hyperactive manic but I know there's usually a downside to come later.

At the moment, my Ugly Monster is raising its head from :
The cold. It's getting into my bones and muscles, feeling like someone's poured concrete down my spine. It's actually not that much worse than normal, except that I'm feeling it more due to not having that hyperactivity to let me blast through it.
Feeling lonely.

It's that loneliness that is really biting at the moment. I have great friends, like the Snow Queen, Craziequeen, BK, half the people on my Facebook, CK, BD & RCA. Trouble is, when I'm needing to reach out to them, I'm usually picking the wrong time. It's hard to have a heart to heart in work time. People are busy. (Including me !)

What I need is the chance to talk with someone until we're literally falling asleep. Bit like the original intention for 03.45am No Sleep, talking with friends until it's so late you can't stop your eyes closing. There's stuff I'd need to talk about that are too private to be put here. However, there's also me finding it difficult to talk to people about what I feel. I'd need absolute trust and confidence in secrets to talk about some of it. I must look a rather different person outside the happy smiling armour I habitually keep up.

I've not let that armour down to allow those emotions to be released for a Very Long Time now (even in my last serious relationship I was walling off). I guess I've just been single too long now and in need of more hugs.

There's also a touch of being frustrated in helping people. I know there's a few of my friends who could do with similarly opening their armour and unburdening those pent up emotions or just being able to talk through their situation to someone who can offer a soft shoulder and a willing ear ... but the frustration is in not being let in to offer the help. I'm wanting to help - I just don't know how.

Going back to the cold, here's another Calvin & Hobbes scene :

We're threatened with snow tonight, which could make it interesting to get into work tomorrow. When it snowed a few years ago, I was one of the few who made it in. It was seriously tempting to do a snow scene like the one above, except instead of salutes there would have been branches like the rifles of a firing squad. On the other side, there would have been a single snowman with a blindfold.

Woulda been hilarious. Like the rest of the Calvin & Hobbes strips done by Bill Watterson who is an absolute genius. Sadly there's no more Calvin & Hobbes being made.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

By the Power Of Crunchie !

Tired again. Not a great day for me this one - the cold temperatures are getting into my back and making it feel as if concrete has been poured down my spine. I have been able to ignore that (plus the bounciness keeps the stiffness away) but there is a limit.

It wasn't all bad, I was able to make the Snow Queen and Mrs Sunshine smile at seeing one or two of the comments headed their way after the Cricket Charity related postings. Mrs Sunshine got that codename cos that smile brightens up the room and it always warms the heart to see the Snow Queen smile. Although I am seriously scared by a comment by Dawnie on Facebook :

Me : it seems to be my lot in life. To be a slavish minion to the whims of Queens
Dawnie : At least she doesn't demand you being a Eunuch! :p

Yep. Scared.

I did manage to get some focus and energy going today though, thanks to the Power Of The Crunchie. (I didn't wave the Crunchie above my head with a cutscene of an old magical castle while transforming into He-Sleepy ... honest). Strange colourings can be good things ... in moderation :-) (The moderation comes from skipping the morning teacake)

Crunchie Power has mostly worn off now though. I'm not giving up (chillout+book later) but I'll go with the kitten's answer :-)

PS Almost forgot - attribution for the picture goes to : http://www.cathouseonthekings.com/ which I found via Facebook.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Where's all the Pink Hats ?

Ok, so Friday I mentioned a potential project for this summer ...

The idea was born from a conversation with a very dear friend, with me remembering a colleague from a couple of years ago. Combine that with the controversy surrounding Karen Handel, formerly of the Susan G. Komen group and you get me thinking I could do a little more than just contributing to charities. I could be the focus for a bit of money raising.

There's a bit more to it as well. I probably have just one or two seasons of cricket left in me. Actually, with the state of my shoulder and a couple of other long term injury issues, I probably should have called it quits on cricket already.

But ... I like running around at daft speeds chasing and pouncing on balls. Maybe I'm part kitten ?

Hey ! I'm strange and am not afraid to admit it.

It's a curious feeling, this project. On Friday, it was just an embryonic idea that had the barest possibility of happening (me playing cricket this summer depends on my legs supporting it). But ... that seed of an idea has taken root and it's growing into a case of :

"So it depends on my leg getting better and the rest of my injuries cooperating ? Sod that, I'll play anyway.". If I tear stuff up again, there's plenty of time after the season for it to heal.

And it's similar for those other long term injuries. With the weight loss, I'm getting back my agility from a number of years ago. I have the same power available in my legs, it just has less weight to shift. That's awesome all round. As well as being more nimble, there's less stress on my legs.

In 3 months I've lost enough off my middle to do the belt up 2 notches tighter. Although one of my Facebook updates today is : "And just because you can put the belt one notch tighter, doesn't mean you should." I.e. Sleepypete becomes SqueakyPete.

I have a feeling there's a bit of Positive Mental Attitude coming in there though. Bit like having a cause to fight for. Or maybe a few causes as I'm looking out for a couple of people right now. Or maybe I'm just pleased at the prospect of having some of the old bounce back.

So - that potential embryo idea of "I could do this" is turning more into a "I want to do this". There's a few details to look into though :

Which charity - think I'll ask for advice from the girls at work for this one and go with what they say
(always follow the advice of women - it's much safer that way and it makes them happy)
Getting Pink Stuff
(no suitable pink hats in the Mall shops or online)
Getting ready for the season
(I really need to stop relying on natural fitness)
And sorting out the donation thing
(Probably via www.justgiving.com)

And there's that aspect of time running out. If I do something like this, I need to do it either this year or next. I'm getting too old now for running around cricket fields at daft speeds. The old injuries are making their presence felt more and the new ones are taking longer to go away.

As to the why ... I like helping people out. I live for it. And this attaches "helping people out" to me having fun. Plus there's the biggest reason why I like helping people out : Because I can :-).

PS Actually, now I think more about it, I think I'd do it 50:50. 50 for breast cancer for the colleague from a few years ago and 50 for Help For Heroes.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Picture Monday - Armour Amour

Spotted this one on Facebook over the weekend :

Lol'd ... And thought of my neighbour, Cyberkitten. Who will love it.

Fantasy armour is always a good subject for getting the artists going. I think the artists and fans of artists are actually the ones who go for the more revealing drawings. The D&D gamers get trained out of putting their women into daft outfits by the GM :

Player : That's right - chainmail bra and panties for my character
GM : Ok, you're about to go through a thorn infested bramble patch ...

Here's another one from an older game and book I read many many years ago ... Curse of the Azure Bonds had two main characters, Dragonbait and Alias. It's a pretty decent book (I brought it with me to Bristol and will read it again sometime) and quite early it explains away the abomination of a breastplate the female lead wears. 'Magical thing causing resistance against pointy-stabby' (I paraphrased)

Yep - we got trained early by our GMs to think Full Plate = Good (even for female characters). Trouble is, evil GMs also have a tendency to make Full Plate wearing characters have to cross rivers. Usually under threat of imminent attack. There's rules in there that say that Full Plate takes 15 minutes or so to put on and rushing that causes all sorts of "I can't move!!" penalties.

Unless you use magic ...

I can't find it right now (it's in Defenders of the Faith) but you could add a property to that shiny Full Plate armour where your character said a command word and within 1 action, that Full Plate would fly on to the character Iron Man style. So your girlie cleric (it opened up lots of banter with the rest of the party and I had a lot of fun with it) could go :

Keela : "If I were you, I'd remove that hand from where you just put it"
Octopus Guy : "Why would I want to do that ?"
Keela : "Armour up"
Octopus Guy : "OWW!"
(from the hand trapped in naughty place)

I was always more about having fun with the role playing type aspect (while being a strong Power Gamer too) and the Armour of Calling just opened up more possibilities.

And - how have I managed to turn a simple picture post into yet another Wall of Text ? Lol :-)

PS CK - if you can find one, check out the level 50 ish green Jade Breastplate. Looks better on trolls than it would on a Worgen though ...

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sporty Sunday (and Saturday)

It's been a good weekend for sport this one ...

Yes - it's still the football season but I for one don't count league football as a sport. It's a con game played by namby-pambys with no integrity or respect whatsoever. But that's enough about so-called "professional" footballers. Their conduct gives the term "sportsman" a bad name.

What's made this a good sporting weekend is :

England cricket on the telly
Start of the Six Nations rugby
Superbowl tonight

England have been playing Pakistan in the neutral venues of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. (They can't play at home because the situation is too unstable). It's been a torture exercise for the fans to be honest, as they've crumbled against the spin. But they're our team, we love 'em and we'll support them through thick and thin.

Especially if they celebrate like Monty Panesar. It's just sheer, unconfined joy when he takes a wicket and he puts my old Aeroplane wing celebrations to shame.

I'll confess though that I've fast forwarded through much of the cricket this weekend as this series has been a bit of an unspectacular grind amidst the clusters of wickets.

Six Nations started this weekend and is always one for the sports fans to look forward to. Rugby's a hard, uncompromising sport played by true hard nut athletes. Like the cricketers, they'll play on with broken bones (if they can) and a little bit of blood is taken as an honour badge (until the ref spots it and tells them to get it sorted). Compare that to footballers who feign injury to get opposition players in trouble.

I'll not watch all the Six Nations games, it'll follow the rules :

Watch all England games - get tortured by knowing they can play better.
Watch all Ireland games - because of the affinity from living there for most of my first 10 years.
Watch games where there's a chance of a good game.
Ignore Scotland and Italy - because both sides are pretty poor (Italy are improving, Scotland are just poor)
Shout for the other team when France are playing - even if it's the Welsh.

Is there anyone I haven't upset yet with the above ? Lol :-) I don't mean any of it outside of match banter.

Mixed feelings about England rugby this year. A new coach has swept a very wide broom through the team. He's been brave, taken his own approach to things and some of it looked ok. There's still some massive holes at key positions though where the players just aren't international class (10 is a lynchpin and Hodgson has never been up to it at international level).

Yesterday's England game lived to those expectations - England were lucky to win a game where they flattered to deceive people into believing they had any real ideas for how to get points. It was one of the least impressive (outside of improved discipline) displays by an England side for quite a while. And Scotland were worse ...

Compare that to the Welsh who have just punched a half chance through the Irish defence to score a try.

Superbowl's tonight - I don't watch much American Football but I usually enjoy it when I do. American sport tends to be much more regimented in its play than European football and NFL is no exception. Short doses work well for NFL and Baseball, so you don't get jaded from seeing season long the same thing over and over again. The Superbowl is usually worth watching though.

The trouble with the Superbowl is that it's on really, really late. I will probably last as long as the half time show before going "zzzzzzz".

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Saturday 9

Spotted this one a while ago on TBB's blog and thought - I must do that.

It's a Saturday 9 meme :

1. Do you live close to where you grew up ? Why ?

No. Not any more - I've followed the work. The first years I can properly remember had me in Northern Ireland, which is a beautiful country to live in. We had a house out in the sticks, which is still there albeit with a new access road, new barn and it looks like a landscape gardener has done stuff to the land around it. But the recognisable features are still there, including the wall where we used to shoot cans off it with an air rifle. My parents still live in Lincolnshire where I went to secondary school but I now live in Bristol where the work is.

2. Have you ever been so angry that you almost lost control ?

With other people - very rarely. I walk away before snapping with others.
With myself ? Hell yeah. One reason for the ongoing damage to my shoulder is that while I rein myself in with throwing normally, those reins aren't in place when I've made an error. So if I've fumbled or dropped a catch, a 110% power throw will be coming in from the boundary. I'm in an instinct frame of mind at that point, won't be able to stop it and will go OW in a big way when the throw is away. At other times, I'll channel anger into tighter focus. Like Friday 27th when the self-anger got turned into tighter focus for getting things done.

I don't think people realise that I put the tight control on to myself. It actually hinders my interactions with normal people, although a touch of natural empathy can have me picking up on how other people are feeling.

3. Are you a fan of a musical act that slightly embarasses you ?

Let's see ... Paul McCartney's The Frog Song will always be a favourite. As well Manamana. I will always sing along to Abba. But I'll go for Alisha's Attic. Not for their music, which is consistently outstanding but for the nickname I grabbed while I was a fan of them above everyone else : Alisha's Addict. People who know me at work will recognise why that might have triggered the embarassment flag over the past year or so ;-)

4. Is there a movie that always makes you cry ?

Yes - it's called Bolt. It's an animated film about a super dog. The bit that really gets me is towards the end - the burning building sequence.

(Men do cry sometimes, we just hate to admit it - except footballers who have something wrong in the head)

Hey ! I'm a dog person and not afraid to admit it :-)

5. Who is the most famous person that you've met ?

Bumble, aka David Lloyd. He's one of the Sky cricket commentators and is certified bat-shit crazy. He's a great guy, brings a lot of colour, fun and genuine enthusiasm for the game into the commentary box. We met him at Trent Bridge 2 years ago when we watched Yorkshire blow it yet again. We were walking around the ground to find seats before the game and coming the other way is Bumble. I got a handshake, although it was a fleeting meeting as I suspect he was late for duty and needing to rush off.

Great guy - made my day that did, the result didn't matter after that :-)

6. Before you leave your home, what must you have ?

Keys, wallet, mobile phone, shades (sensitive eyes). Brain (no kidding, sometimes it gets left behind). If for longer than a day : laptop.

7. What do you miss the most about being a kid ?

No cares. Sure, they probably worked us for longer hours at school with the homework but I wasn't subject to chores etc. Also space, I had the space to practice the cricket in the back garden (there's still a bare patch in the grass where I stood). I haven't the space to do that here :

The back yard has a big step so I couldn't bat in it
Not enough depth for the batting practice
And I'd be throwing a ball at the windows ... (Throw ball, whack it when it returns on the bounce)

After school, I'd be nipping out the back with me kit to do 30-60 minutes batting practice with that occasionally broken up by having to fetch the ball from in front of the house if I'd hit it over the top.

8. Tell us about a passion of your's that your readers would not expect.

Ok, that cuts out anything to do with chocolate, pizza or sweeties ... My passion is elegance in all of its forms. That can be a device that just Works, it performs its function with the finesse of something that's Just Right.

But that's just the half of it. I watch people. The human body is a machine as well, albeit made of bone & muscle & skin instead of metal & wires & motors. It come in all shapes and forms. And some of them move with such a subtle flow that it's like watching water flow down a stream. It's partly economy of movement, part just enough extra movement.

It's watching the difference between the gawky walk of a starved fashion victim and the "I know what I'm doing ... and I KNOW you're watching it" walk of someone who is utterly comfortable with who she is. Mind you, it's not always the confident ones who have that elegance, one colleague was desperate to lose weight but still moved with the flow of a dancer.

Doh - getting distracted again. How smoothly I get around depends on how my body is behaving. I've trained myself to move with total economy of movement, partly because it protects my knees. But it also unlocked Extreme Speed for me.

Just remembered from a few years ago - there was a person working in the team next door who would walk past the desks normally. Until she reached the desks of Sleepypete and Diablo. At that point, a sway would be introduced into the walk. We think it was unconscious but it had the effect of both Sleepy & Diablo being utterly unable to do any work until she was out of sight.

9. At what age do you think you'd be to think, "I've had a great run" ?

I dunno. And I don't think that time is for a long time to come. Still too much to do. I've learned stuff but not passed it on. I'll not be satisfied until I've passed on a decent proportion of what I know. And while there's still at least one person out there who needs help only I can give, there's still a place for me.

PS We appear to have snow. Maybe there will be enough for another Snow Thing later ...

Friday, February 03, 2012

Potential Summer Project ...

One of the best and most interesting bloggers out there got me thinking yesterday ...

(Yes - that was the grinding gears sound you may have heard)

Thumper's wondering at the moment about what to do in the future for walking to help out breast cancer charities. The trigger is an American politician who has infected a charity over there with some daft ideas. There's plenty more info on that (said far better than I ever could) over on Thumper's blog (link on the side and Escaping Kitty link here).

Anyway. That got me thinking, along with remembering back to the more recent past :
A colleague who did something similar to what I'm thinking of last year
(or year before last - blurry time syndrome strikes again)
A colleague who is still Very Ill

The ill colleague is someone who definitely counts as Good People and it's tragic that someone so nice and so young (21 + a little more than me) has been struck down with the cancer curse. So there's a fairly close reason for thinking of getting involved.

What's the project ?

We've had a few people do running for charity but that's not really something I can do. I can sprint fast but not for that long a distance. I won't be running any half marathons any time soon. Cricket suits me quite well because it's bursts of being explosive interspersed between lounging around. Although I don't do much lounging around in the field usually due to being hyperactive.

Middlesex County Cricket Club have had an association for a few years with the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity, with one aspect being that Pink dominates their coloured one day game kit. I can't go that far, because :

3 day games + cricket I play = red ball, needs white clothing
1 day games for counties = white ball, needs coloured clothing

So wearing pink stuff when playing with a red ball would not be appreciated by the opposition. I'd do it if there was charity money involved though :-)

Instead, picture the Sleepy One in a Pink floppy hat, batting with a pink cover over the helmet and wrapping the fingers around something round and pink and rubbery while batting. However, I'd need the pink helmet cover (or pink helmet), pink hat and pink grip for the bat. Can I find them ? Not on the web ...

I can't bowl any more, so if it was a Performance charity thing I'd need to do it on Runs, Catches and Run-outs. I'm not even sure if I'll play this year, that's all dependent on the legs which went a little backwards today. I don't think my skin appreciates the cold weather we have at the moment or the dessicated atmosphere in our office building.

I don't know if I'll actually pull this off this summer but the seed is there in my mind. Next time I wander around Bristol centre or the Mall, I'll be on the lookout for Pink Stuff. In the meantime, I'll keep on contributing to charity as I usually do. Spam through the letterbox gets ignored (there's too much of it) but I'll happily contribute for the personal touch.

PS Hoping for another charity cake donation thing in the office soon. Cakes made by our office people (the Snow Queen bewitches us with baking) are always 'Blink n Miss it' cos they are That Good.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Thinking about - Other people

Saw something on FB today that I think I identify with :

I hope that's true for me. Your past defines who you are through how you have assimilated your life experiences but it doesn't mean you have to be locked in to it. I hope I've managed to assimilate the various major stuff that's happened to me, while not going down the Dark Side and have it forever dominate my destiny. The most recent major test of that was being able to play in the same cricket team as the fella who took up with my last partner ... and be civil.

I think being civil actually may have weirded him out. Lol :-)

Stuff over the last few weeks/months has made me revisit the past though. There's things there that none of the Bristol people know. Reason ? It would make them treat me different. Or would it ? I dunno.

Truth is, while I'm addicted to knowing Stuff, I recognise that the Secrets I know aren't all my own. I'll decide when I let my own secrets out, I don't have that right with the secrets of others. Hence all the codenames and the dropping of the codenames when I need to rationalise my own thoughts.

It is difficult though when events around you remind you of the past which you have left behind. And because those events are mostly about relationships, it's the relationships that dominate my mind at the moment. January seems to be a bad time for relationships, or is it the impending Valentines day ...

My sister has a new bloke in her life, who came to visit this last weekend. He's a good bloke, he can stay. But it made the family revisit quite a few things that we don't really talk about any more. There is some deep personal tragedy with our family from 20 years ago. We don't talk about it much but we very definitely Remember. And if/when the time comes that I get kids, there will be a special request to do with that Remembering. That's a decent time away, although it does crop up in my thoughts.

Relationships are the other major thing in my thoughts - although it's now about looking out for other people. I'm finding it strange that I've been getting used for advice and that I'm in a position to give that advice. You can see the pain in them, hidden behind the public face they want to put. There's also a reluctance to confront or accept what's happening.

I'm thinking there of a couple from the gamer world - I like to think I'm good friends of both. One of them managed to get me to sing on Mumble (not an insignificant feat) and the other has me swapping pooter stories. But ... as part of them breaking up, both are quieter. More subdued. And others are more subdued around them. It gets even more complicated on Facebook where Ex A and Ex B are now ex friends with each other, they're both more reluctant to talk to common friends. My reaction to both was along the lines "omg - say it ain't so", with that sent to both as I respect both equally.

I do it too - I'll have second thoughts about commenting in certain places because I know unfriendly eyes might be looking. But at the same time, I remember back to my own break up and my reluctance to spill the beans on what precisely the terms of the breakup were. I think that to expose the totality of it would have been rather spiteful. We don't have the right to say who another person should call Friend and I'd have been prejudicing those friendships.

I'm rambling again aren't I ...

I know a few people who are in pain at the moment. It's the pain of cracked or broken dreams and the strain of having to lock that away from the world in order to remain functioning. I've had that kind of pain three times in my past :

First - I made up a fantasy that let me keep going. It took me a long, long time to accept the truth there.
Second - I ran. And in the running, I cost myself the chance of the First Hons degree I should have got.
Third - I locked down. Which was as damaging as the fantasy and the running.

One thing common there is Communication. It's better to talk through a problem than to let it fester and bubble away in your head. For the three Dark times above, I didn't know who I could talk to. The issue boiled until the stress of it almost broke me.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Your friends have your back. Lean on them.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Pizza Picture Wednesday


So I weakened ... Or was it because the intention was to go to Sainsburys. However, traffic into and out of there was hell so I abandoned that for tonight. But ... it got me close to :

Yep. First pizza for a few months :

Pizzahut Pizza > Dominos pizza
Dominos offers > Pizzahut offers

Although it's tough finding out what the offers are for Dominos because their website is appalling and doesn't list them ... Mobile one does but the normal internet one doesn't have a "Click Me For Offers" type button. Meh.