Thursday, May 31, 2012

Game 3 - another win :-)

Had game 3 of the season tonight, here's the Twitter style match

"twitter style match report - dark sky, no rain, ages before batted, bashed quick 9, silly dismissal. Comedy fielding, got a run out, fell badly - shoulder's gonna hate me. WE WON !"

That's a quote from a Facebook update. Wonder if it would fit inside the Twitter character limit ? I don't use Twitter. I suspect with my Wall Of Text tendency, I would get irritated with the character limit very quickly. Or it might make me structure my thoughts better.

Wasn't sure if the game tonight would happen - the hot weather has broken, with cloudy and overcast dominating today. The conditions were much better today, although :

Work - better if it's cooler (and therefore cloudy)
Cricket - better if the sun's out (so you can see the ball)

The light can be a real problem for evening games, in the last few overs it can be very difficult to see the ball. Plus the sun gets very low before the light goes completely. It's one reason I wear a hat or cap, with the main reason being that it keeps my hair under control.

Yeah - actually worked out as good conditions to play in. I didn't notice any swing from their bowlers (the ball will go sideways through the air cos of "cricket strangeness") but it was nice and cool. I batted at number 3, which is a position I don't usually favour (trouble getting my mind switched on) but I think I did ok today. Bashed a 4 that could easily have been a 6 (gotta trust what the fielder says) and didn't waste too much time out there. I'm having trouble making anything from quicker bowling though. Need Deep Thought on that as my approach to scoring off them isn't working.

I helped our team along before trying to run a single to the keeper to get our better batsman back on strike. (I got run out). I think our team scored 154 off our allotted overs.

Fielding next :-)

Captain understands now that my shoulder has pretty much had it. Not sure if the team understands and it frustrates me too. Now that I have SPEED, I want to use it. I have about 90% movement from my shoulder, it's just the throwing and bowling action that's a problem. That's much better than when I got the original injury. For a few months after that, I could not pick up anything with my right arm because of ouchies when it felt like the arm was being pulled out of its socket.

That's in the past though. Now it just hurts when I throw the ball too hard or if it just feels like bitching at me. Or ... Anyway - sad thing is that while I now have SPEED, I can't throw the ball when I catch up to it. I only have maybe 1 good throw left per game and that'll hurt. So I field where I don't need to power throw. It works out, it's just frustrating.

Comedy fielding. I did better tonight but I'm still rushing the fielding somewhat. You can take too long to do something by trying to do it quicker. Run out attempt 1 saw me get the ball in the ends of my fingers, where I couldn't get a good throw away. Run out attempt 2 was better :

Batsman dabs the ball down
Sleepy sprints in and pounces
Easy one handed gather, underarm throw to wicket keeper
Perfect placement to the side of the stumps,
Keeper takes the bales off
Run out !


Getting run outs for the team make my day as a cricketer. It's not just that wicket, it saves more runs because it makes the other batsmen more tentative about taking you on. Oh and it also means that the Sleepy's Pink Hat Bounty fund is now at £5, which I may double to £10 per run out because they are so rare. Just gotta find out which charity the BM Girls used for the cake sale and then I'll send the Pink Hat Bounty to that after the end of the season.

Shoulder ... Ooops.

Late on in the game, I went for one that was just outside my comfortable range. So I dived ... And a dive that led with my right arm stretched out to grab the ball. I didn't quite get there and the dive saw me fall awkwardly on my right side - the side with the bad shoulder. Yeah - that hurt a bit. But I kept going with the fielding. I've only left the field through injury twice in 23 years :

Once to put knee pads on after taking 3-4 blows to the knees in quick succession
(knees felt like they were exploding)
When my nose got bashed the first time

Great fielding plus better bowling saw us to a comfortable win by about 40 runs (I didn't see the final score).

I'm on leave now so I'll be taking it easy with that shoulder. I won't know what shape it's in until tomorrow morning because the adrenaline and natural endorphin painkillers mean that unless the damage goes above a threshold, I just won't feel it.

I think I've recruited another future cricketer. One of the player's wives came along, with a 3-4 year old in tow. He got very curious about my batting gear. I think his tiny fingers managed to get to the finger part of the gloves ... just :-). My helmet almost fit him too (little big). My batting pads would have gone up to his shoulder.

ACK ! 2 minutes to midnight ! Hits "post". MWAH !

PS Another bit of amusement - one of our teammates (not playing tonight) took his dog to the ground for its walk. Friendly pooch, very curious about us. Sniffed my fingers a few times but was a bit too hyperactive to stay still long enough for a good stroking. Poor Kam though - one look at Kam and it's GROWL BARKBARKBARKBARK ... We don't know what he did ! Although it could be that he was the only one of us holding a bat.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hot, too hot

It's still hot over here.

It's not Greece or tropical type heat, the car tells me it was 28 degrees C yesterday. But combined with the conditions in our offices, it's uncomfortable. We don't have air con, more like air recirculation. And it doesn't work particularly well. If all it's achieving is moving warm air from one place to another place, it doesn't make for good conditions to work in.

Our contractor's place is better. I take a jumper with me when I go over there. I get funny looks :-)

But I get funny looks anyway. Latest today was a Cunning Plan I was especially proud of (it worked). We move our documents around in plastic packing crates and you really don't want to be lugging those without something with wheels to push them around on. Anyway. Things With Wheels are in short supply. So I went scrounging. And found the most contrary computer desk on our site.

Seriously. It was more interested in going in circles than straight lines. But it did the job. Both of getting my crate upstairs without killing my back and in starting off the idea with the new team : "Pete's Mad".

I like to encourage that idea as much as possible. The mad spontaneous unorthodox side of me offsets the slow boring orthodox.

Hey - moving day wasn't supposed to be the theme of this post.

Yeah - it's gone warm out at the moment. Warm inside too, although it's actually quite comfortable in the house at the moment. I've turned off the main PC so it's not contributing its own heat to the house. There's decent airflow through the house, the absence of which is why work is uncomfortable.

This is a plea really - look after yourselves ! And that's coming partly from watching the latest Dodger Coffeh Time vid.

Plenty of fluids. Eat properly. Keep aware of when you need to take it easy. Sunstroke is nasty ...

I have a game tomorrow and need to take care through the day to avoid how bad I got during/after the first game. I never mentioned that did I ? While we were fielding, I was suffering from a lot of acid tummy. I put that down to first game nerves at the time but it was quite possibly : hunger. Anyway. Not pleasant controlling that when you're trying to run full pelt around the field.

After the game - I was having trouble getting my muscles moving. I nearly blacked out a few times before bed (the fading vision like what Dodger had). But. I may be frail but I'm tough when I need to be. I wouldn't let a team down. I shut down into a kind of survival mode where I will just ... keep ... going. I will pay attention to the lessons though so tomorrow :

Eat properly !!!!
One side effect of the diet is that having lost weight, I don't have as much reserves to call upon (a small price to pay for having SPEED!). What caught me in that first game is that, having been training all day, I'd been unable to control what I ate. I didn't get enough food and ran out of energy later.

Drink lots
Key when it's hot. Especially when you sweat too much like I do. I really haven't been drinking enough over the past few days, so I've been suffering more than I ought.

Loosen the tie ...
Ok. This is something I need to do. My tie at work is my flag of professionalism. A home time ritual is to undo top button and loosen it. Rituals are important to me - do the ritual, start to relax. (Spot OCD). But because it's so hot and uncomfortable, I should really be going tie-less at work too.

But yeah - look after yourselves. Be sensible with what you try and do. Being active gets you warm. Try to relax. Wear a Big Floppy Hat to shade the sun. If your body tells you to get shade, have food or drink something - listen !

Chill out dude !

PS I have a few posts stacked up for things I'll natter about - Skyrim review, Lexus CT +6months review, brainzzzzz (not Zombies, that's just my brain melting), BuildtheEnterprise project. But not now. Saving my Deep Thought for work hours at the moment.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Moving day

Our little group moved offices today.

We haven't moved far, just across a building and up a couple of floors. But it's always a wrench to leave behind people who have become dear friends over the years. Some of us have moved, others have had to stay behind. It's part of a reorganisation our place has been going through. Instead of arranging people by projects, it's more arranging them by where the projects are in their programmes. My stuff is in the Support domain now, the people we've left behind are Buying new stuff.

That's not to say we aren't buying anything any more, we still have a bit of that to go. But because most of our babies have hit the real world, we're moved over to support. It's a wrench for us mentally because we've been so focused in delivering those babies. But, you always have to be honest and most of our Buying Stuff phase is done now.

For me, it's a decision on whether to stay in the role I'm in and migrate from current project (with not much life left in it) to new project in same part of the organisation. Or I pack my things and find another bit of the organisation to work in. That'll be a wrench too after all these years but ... the great people of the project are still around the site.

Really hectic today. Yesterday was finishing up the packing, today was getting everything out of the crates and into the cupboards. And having the surprises when we got to where we are now. I didn't have much of a problem (I'm adaptable and will happily adopt "clutter" as a pattern to recognise and bring "familiarity").

Let's just say the old office and the new office are worlds apart. We'll clean it up, organise it (make it safe) and put our stamp on it in time.

Oh I was missing our people from the old office very quickly too. I tend to look around a lot (tis good for the eyes to refocus long distance) so I'd catch the eyes of people like Queen Bee, Miss F and the Snow Queen cos they were on a similar eyeline to where the clock I'd use for that long distance peek was.

I had a whinge the other day about the old office but what didn't really come out of that was that there was a little group of people trying their hardest to lift the spirit down there. They're organised, busy people who always keep their sense of humour despite all provocation by the more disagreeable down there. To mention a few that'd be :

Snow Queen ! She's such a sweetheart and is just awesome in gifting her time to everyone else. She works That Hard. Just remember to keep some of that time back for what YOU Want to do instead of what you believe everyone else Expects you to do :-)
Finance Angel E - who kept me out of trouble so much with my last job. She had my old desk today and I must have done something right cos the clear desk job got the Seal Of Approval.
Queen Bee - if there was mischief afoot, Queen Bee was usually at the centre :-) Queen Bee keeps us organised too and was my Go To person for asking the daft questions after Superspy retired.
Finance Angel R - who was oh so patient in getting me funding for some training (I can be hard work)
Ms F - who is one of very few people who I can talk through the personal stuff with
Mrs Sunshine - is still brightening up the office. Sun's been shining outside but it's shinier around Mrs Sunshine.
Finance Angel K - such a happy person with an amazing smile, always cheering me up with a "Hello Pete"
And it was good to see Thelma & Louise reunited this week too.

They're all awesome people and that's just a few. The ones I haven't mentioned I either don't have inspiration for codenames or didn't have much contact with. Was missing them all by 9.01am this morning. (I get in at about 9am)

You kinda wish that you could pack 'em up and take 'em with you when you move. (One or two might fit in the crates too!)

It was good to come back down there for a visit this pm (work related sadly) and they sorted me out quick (as always) and kept us working. Thank you all so much for all your hard work :-)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fitness and other issues

Had another trip up to the Mall tonight scouting cos I needed trousers ...

Had other reasons too but trousers were the pressing one. Have to say, it felt great to realise that trousers I retired last year (pre-diet but after the leg infection) now felt baggy. Lots of room there and it was good that I have a decent belt. The belt is 2 (occasionally 3!) notches tighter now too than it was last year. I had to get a new pair though cos my keys were attempting to escape through the pocket. The last pair got retired cos of a "oops - I shouldn't have bent down quite like that ..." incident ...

Other Mall trip scouting :

Fence and fence posts. Need to repair the fence to next door as the old panels were rotten after falling victim to heavy wind. Still need to investigate what's there at the moment and therefore how big a job it will be. Need to repair the fence posts too which to be honest is the most icky part. Hopefully it won't need concrete (saw something at B+Q today that would serve, if there's concrete there already for it to work with)

Couldn't investigate that over the weekend cos there were nasty chemicals but I can check it out tomorrow evening.

Fridge/freezer - mine's getting old now. It needs defrosting again (next weekend when I don't have to keep an eye on workmen) but still works well. Had an initial peek tonight for new ones, so I know a little more about what I'm looking at.

That's how I buy stuff, some would call it procrastination (it is) but I call it gathering knowledge so you know what you're looking at. Then when you buy, you get something perfect instead of merely shiny. Like I now know how big a variety of these there are, so before I go looking seriously, I'll measure the hole.

Same with - washing machine. It works. I think. But I'm not confident that it works 100%. Either that, or I need some serious stain removal stuff to get the grass stains out of my cricket whites :-).

Loo - I could do this on my own. If ... I could acquire something with like-for-like fittings. That means having the same place for the drain (not a problem), the wall fixing (issue), the overflow and the water inlet (both problems). I'd like to do it on my own because that's the way I like to do things. I may have to bite the bullet and get a plumber to replace it (cos of the overflow + inlet) but I have another idea for tackling those pesky wingnuts ...

Wait ... this was supposed to be about fitness wasn't it ? (it was a busy Mall scouting run)

I used to grade myself as A, B or C level fitness for how intact I was, with 1,2,3 etc for how match ready I was.

Grade A would have everything working correctly, with no residual injuries. My knees were the first thing to degrade but didn't knock me out of A too much.
Grade B has something complaining. Like a sore back, a broken finger or something else that means I'm not 100% intact but there's no reason for me not to play. My groin tear puts me at Grade B, because while it's annoying (minor limp again today) I can still run at full speed with it. Same with the spectacular bruising on my right leg.
Grade C means something major is broken. My shoulder would put me at Grade C, as did the leg problem from 2 years ago.

I've accepted now that my shoulder is seriously compromised. I can't bowl with it and I maybe have 1 good throw per game. But that 1 good long distance throw will hurt like hell, so I save it for when it's crucial. However, because I have a role batting and fielding where throwing is short distance, I can still play with it.

Last year's cricket was spoiled by 2 things that dropped me to Grade C - I hurt my back at the start of the year and the leg infection made my skin to weak to risk on the field (it would break when I walked!). While I have the minor groin tear this year, my back is happy as long as I keep using it plus the leg infection is sufficiently healed for cricket.

The numbers said how much of a lazy git I'd been. A1 fitness meant I'd finish 40 overs of cricket as strong as I started, having done a full quota of bowling overs. I'd have a resting heart rate of 56-60. 2 meant I'd be ok but not quite match fit. 3 meant I'd be struggling. At the moment that resting heart rate is about 80.

How am I at the moment ? Honestly - C3, hopefully B2 by Thursday's game. C cos I dunno about the damage to my left shin, plus hayfever is in my lungs. But time should help with those. I'll be ok for Thursday's game by abusing natural fitness and ignoring pain again but I'm nowhere near "match fit".

Oh - I also scouted vacuum cleaners as one reason my lungs are bad is because of an attack of house cleaning. I knocked over a glass of coke with the vacuum, which led to me scrubbing the floor and getting dust in my lungs. It shows how bad the football was on Saturday that it drove me to cleaning. I had done some vacuuming in the afternoon but the vacuum had declared : "It's too darn hot, I'm shutting down for a while". Hence scouting for a new one ... it worked later when it cooled down.

Ramble over - in the style of a Dodger vid, the latest of which I'm about to watch - Cya tomorrow (maybe) :-) MWAH !

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cricket thoughts

As I start typing this, I'm about to hide behind the sofa so I can :

Watch the cricket off Skysports on the proper telly,
Have the Grand Prix going off iPlayer on my desktop PC monitor.
(the laptop doesn't really have the puff for it any more, plus it would get in the way of me trolling Facebook and forums)

Plus I'm wanting to avoid "downer" and born of frustration posts which have been a theme lately.

There's a few things that have struck a chord from this morning from the cricket commentary :

Superstition. Andrew Strauss before today never got more than 6 runs the next morning after scoring a 100 the day before. He's on +10 now (112 not out), so hopefully that bit of superstition is behind him. It had been in his mind though, you could see the smile from under the helmet.

No ball trouble - this is where a bowler flings the ball down from a position that's too close to the batsman. It's deemed an illegal ball where if the batsman gets out it doesn't matter plus the bowler has to try again. One of our boys was out twice yesterday on no balls. (Didn't last much long after)

I had a massive problem with no balls when I bowled. For my main action, my run up was really bad. It should be 10 or 11 running paces to get you to the stumps in the right position and with enough momentum to deliver the ball at pace without taking much out of yourself. My run up was horrible, there was a lot of shuffling before I got to a running stride. And that shuffling meant my landing point was fairly random, leading to me giving away no balls.

A no ball is bad enough before it gives runs away (hated doing that)
But if you would have taken a wicket with it ... that's a game changer.

There's no worse feeling in cricket than turning around to see the umpire give that No Ball signal just after you've just sent the stumps flying.

Anyway - they've been talking about a West Indian fast bowler called Kemar Roach who has been having the huge no ball trouble, which has given me a suggestion I'd have tried out had I still been able to do the bowling - mark a closer reference to work off instead of where you start the run (or shuffle). Moving the start point back gave me worse trouble, as I'd stretch my run to get to that closer reference point.

Short balls - they're giving young Jonny Bairstow a hard time at the moment. Most of the time, a bowler will try and get the ball so it would hit the stumps or just outside. It'll be coming past your body typically at knee to hip height.

But ... a valid tactic is to pull the bounce point back a bit, with the target being the batsman's throat. Above that is no good because it's easy to duck. Throat high is perfect because it takes a decision to figure out what to do with it, duck out of the way or try and whack it. I used to love short bowling because it made my blood sing. Plus I had good shots against it. In the level of cricket I play, if I hit the ball in the air it was unlikely a fielder would get to it let alone catch it so it would be a safe shot.

I used to encourage it too when I wore a sunhat for batting, by occasionally stopping the bowler as he was about to come in and adjusting the hat in a "Hit that" kind of suggestion (Mind games). I loved the challenge and accepted it as part of my job in the team - absorb the dangerous stuff so it doesn't get the better players out.

And my "you really are talking mindless drivel" detector is going off ...

Time to concentrate on the cricket and the motor racing, while trying to avoid a headache (coffee soon will sort that out - when I said I had no vices, I lied) and hoping my lungs improved. A short attack of housework yesterday has led to my lungs being full of dusty rubbish. [hack][hack][cough]. But the floor is looking a bit better :-)

PS For some reason I watched the Norway vs England football last night. Let's just say it hasn't convinced me to go out of my way to watch any more football any time soon.
PS2 The couple of times I have been hit on the head while batting, it wasn't a short ball, the ball came off the top edge of my bat. The closest I've come to wearing a short ball is the one that got me on the tip of the elbow - just bounced more than I expected.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Good team, Bad team

Realised I'd upset someone with a few of the comments yesterday and it's probably the closest I've come to going back to a finished post and hacking bits out of it.

While I don't talk that much, I always speak from the heart (I'm a terrible liar too) and try to say what I mean. Trouble is, when you're forming impressions from very limited information, that's when you can really upset people. Seemingly innocent phrases (like me getting called by my brother's name) will kick the legs out from under people.

Been thinking about what made my old team so good to work in. We had such a good attitude that people wanted to work in our team. We worked hard under pressure from outside and above but worked together. The norm for my place is for people to do 18 months to 2 years in one place, then they'll move on. I disagree with that (and call it Tourism) because it takes a while to figure out what you're supposed to be doing. As soon as they do, the tourists leave and all that effort gone into teaching them is wasted.

My old team turned that around, with tourists turning into lifers. We care.

But what makes that team spirit ? It doesn't come from the top. It comes from Worker Bee level. Worker Bees tend to be scared of their bosses. If one gets too friendly, we get suspicious. When one turns into a bully (this goes years back), then the Worker Bees come together.

We were very lucky to have a core of Worker Bees who set a tone that everyone followed. I like to consider myself as one of them, because of the always grinning at people thing, generally being an IT Guru willing and able to help with sensible suggestions to fix problems and I ran a few team building type things with the cricket. Oh and as an integrator, I had my fingers in just about everything in the project.

That's what's causing my increasing sense of isolation - I miss all that stuff and feel excluded from the team-y type stuff that happens. I need to feel a sense of being involved.

There was also Diablo, with me and Diablo forming our own little nucleus of crazy daft comments and Mad Scientist ideas that just got everyone else going.

We had The Boss, who was another one of us Worker Bees. She wasn't the team leader but she told a succession of them what they'd be doing. She's got her own special brand of empathy and is still one of very few people I'll turn to when I need to talk heavy stuff.

About that heavy stuff - there's a fair bit that goes on that I don't put on here. Either because it's too personal, too private or because it involves someone else's secret.

Last of the Worker Bee Core but definitely not least - the Snow Queen. For a very long time, our Snow Queen was the Heart of our team. Someone who everyone (from team leader down) looked to. More than anyone else, she held us together over the years. When it looked a few years ago like her own place was becoming untenable a few things were going through my head :

Her friends and family and hubby make for an awesome support network that would help her through
It would break my own heart to see her leave
And it shattered that heart to have to advise her that leaving was the best of bad options
(the situation was not good)

That's one thing about going off incomplete information or bad assumptions, it disrupts the advice that you give.

So that was the core of that team that worked so well over the years. People followed the lead of the Worker Bees. Top level management can arrange the people but if the people aren't interested, then the team spirit doesn't build. That's not it though. We didn't worry so much about the management though, we wanted to deliver something awesome. And we have.

I don't see that so much from the team I'm in now. There's no core of the team for other people to follow. Their finished product is a long way off.

I said stuff about Anti-Team yesterday and there are a few of those influences around. We managed to moderate them down through disapproval in the old team. That moderation doesn't seem present in this team leading to the bad behaviour spreading. For the people who came with me from old team to new, it's felt like a losing struggle trying to integrate.

Will I miss this team ? Still no.
Will I miss the people we brought with us from the old team who are getting left behind ? Hell Yeah.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hot out there ...

(quick edit and addition - I said a few things below which upset people - I wasn't in a happy mood and took it out on people who didn't deserve it. This much happier post says it so much better ! Missing the old team people already)

British Summer seems to have arrived ...

And it's been like someone's switched on the microwave beam sunlamp. The temperature according to the car this afternoon was 28 degrees C. That's up about 15 degrees C from the start of the week. Global warming 2012 style.

I didn't play in the 2 games this week because of the bruising on my legs but after yesterday, kinda glad I wasn't too. I don't do that well in extreme cold or heat but at least you can wear extra layers when it's cold. When it's hot, all you can do is get air flow and lots of cold liquids. I'll be on the milkshakes later.

Wasn't feeling too great yesterday when I came home from work. We move office next week, which will hopefully be an improvement. There's a selection of reasons why I'll have few regrets about being away from the old floorplate :

Bad air. There just doesn't seem to be much airflow, leading to excessive stuffiness.
Atmosphere. I was spoiled by how things were in my last team. This team has made us feel like we've invaded.

Will I miss the old floorplate ? Unlikely. I'll miss a selection of the people like the Finance Angels and Miss F (they smile). But a lot of them need to seriously look at themselves and ask if they think their attitude is correct for an office. Like not ignoring messages in the hope that the person will go away (especially if that message is work related and is something the other needs to be aware of). Or being Anti-Team in attitude - and I've observed some of that on the old floorplate. They have a terrible superiority complex without actually having delivered anything to justify that.

No - I won't miss the old floorplate. Hopefully the new one won't be suffering from the same malaise.

Or it could be the time to go back to something I said ages ago - it could be time to move on both professionally and personally. (Personally ? Yes, I got bored of being shut out by the person I'd been unable to stop thinking about - has she changed so much ?)

Anyway. I'd intended for a while to get a few things sorted out and I've had some catalyst for that today. Workmen have been in to clear the debris from a long neglected back yard. Need to stay on top of that so it doesn't get out of control again. Or maybe even do something with it - could be good to lounge out there in the fresh air, reading a book with the cricket commentary or music on in the background.

Other stuff I need to do is :

Get rid of a huge amount of old rubbish in the house
Scare the vacuum by actually using it
Possibly replace fridge/freezer,
Possibly replace washing machine
Definitely replace loo*
Get car serviced
Rearrange main room

*I'll have the chance over the Diamond Jubilee break to do some of this stuff, although the next time I can get the bin emptied comes in almost a fortnight.

But in the meantime, it's cutting into my end-of-loan car fund but it'll be worth it to have the light able to come in from the back yard instead of it being blocked by foliage.

Time to see if the ice cubes have refrozen :-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Postcards from Skyrim

I've been back in the gaming lately.

I have a few names which I've started recycling around characters when I'm gaming. Most of them are girls names, because - hey, given the choice wouldn't you want to be looking at something gorgeous all game ? That also goes for the voice acting. When it comes to a Mass Effect play through, I'd much rather listen to the silky tones of Jennifer Hale than the alternative, Mark Meer.

One thing about Skyrim is that while there's quite a bit of voice acting in the game, the main character has no voice. Not in a Gordon Freeman strong but silent hero (from the Half Life games), you can talk to people but it just comes up as text. There's no sound with it.

Names. What names do I use ? I've settled on a small selection :

Mages/Wizards get called Iceangel. I feel that's a strong but cold name.
Warriors are Bashara. As in, "Bash" plus a bit of trollification. Or "Ba - sher - a" as one Scandinavian accent said it. (Hello Cloudberry!)
Hunter types get called Finlay, after a myth. Thought it was a cool name, it just happened to have an appropriate myth attached to it.
(that's actually the true test - does it sound cool)
Keela - is the name for my priest/cleric characters. This was chosen randomly by a D&D character creator programme and I liked it enough that it became my Eve character name.

And there's a couple more character names too. My Sith sorceror got called "Morrd". Stealthy characters use "Nocimi".

Wait - this was supposed to be a picture post to tide me over while it was too hot to think straight :

That's Bashara, deciding whether or not to investigate* a strange outpost in the middle of the Skyrim countryside. Skyrim is a massive game. You'll be running from A to B or town to next quest location. But on the way ... what's that over there ? Let's go have a look shall we ? This is no on-the-rails RPG like Deus Ex HR or even Mass Effect. It's a completely open world filled with :

Curious strongholds to investigate*
Interesting people to say hello to
And lots of dead bodies to loot

*(yes - Investigate is usually followed by "why you try to kill me?" followed by aggressive negotiation a la Jedi. If they don't want visitors, they should put up "No soliciting" signs !)

I got a little bored with Bashara though. I couldn't really get into the melee combat system. It's more player skill orientated than I believe a RPG should be, with it being more luck than judgment too.

Definitely beware. That would be Iceangel, who is an entirely different can of whoop ass. She uses bunnies as target practice. (They're tricky little critters ! They bounce all over the place)

This scene was a good example of the voice acting. It's not often that voice acting goes as far as singing. Yet in Skyrim there's a good few minstrels around that prop up the inns.

Oh and the Skyrim Iceangel also snipes birds off statues.

I've been rather enjoying Skyrim since restarting as the mage.

PS Clicking on the pictures will hopefully get them opening bigger (must peek at the settings again). The originals are 1080p and I think highest detail. It's a very pretty game, which just adds to the sense of immersion. Trudging through a blizzard feels Hard.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Looking young, feeling ... oldish

Been getting some amusement over the past few days ...

I've been getting guesses out of people for how old they think I am. It's usually as a follow on to me saying that I'm too old to be throwing myself around a cricket field.

It's been good for the soul too, as the age guesses have been placing me at around 28-30. ("Or even younger" as one said today). That's really good to hear, as about 6 months ago that age guess range was 32-34. It gives a bit of truth to the saying that losing weight can take years off your age, as over that 6 month period, I've lost a stone. I haven't broken through the 13 stone barrier yet (that won't happen until after the cricket season) but I'm stable there.

Good times.

It must be something in my genes. As it has absolutely nothing to do with me :

Looking after myself properly (outside of snacking less)
Lack of stress (work pushes me and I push myself harder)
Funny chemicals and other "beauty" products
Getting exercise for keep fit stuff (that just seems to wear people out)

I do avoid a lot of the common poisons like drink (prefer taste of cola), nicotine (smoking is a really nasty habit all round) and drugs (of all kinds). I've never smoked because I figured early on that it would wreck lungs that are already not great. I avoid alcohol now, except for special occasions, because my IBS is controllable except when I drink. And I very rarely take drugs of any kind, be it medicinal or recreational.

So I don't really have any magic formula for looking young, except - Keep a positive attitude, avoid the vices.

I don't feel that young though. I definitely feel my 37 years and then some, with most of my damage being on the inside. Even with the bruising from last week, the spectacular bruise is the one that's least of a problem. That said though, after yesterday putting myself to "reserve only" (i.e. let someone else have a game) for this week's cricket, I'm feeling improved today.

Wonder how much of that is down to having the chance to grin at four!* lovely ladies at our contractor's office today ? It's not all about the grinning though, we had the chance to talk through and sort out some issues.

*(two because three became four as I remembered a couple more that I've known from Way Back on this project. Erm - make it 5 cos of Doreen on the front desk too)

Oh - I have a youtube channel now. I have to admit, I only made it so I could comment on a youtube video. But ... you never know. I've been enjoying the Dodger Coffeh Time vlogs a lot over the past couple of weeks. They feel like what this blog would be like if I did it with video. It's become essential viewing, at the end of every Coffeh Time vlog, Dodger will wish us a wonderful day. And you know what ? The day feels so much brighter for that.

So - dunno if I'll post any webcammy type videos to that youtube channel (if I do, I'll add a link to the list). It won't be gameplay video as I tend to fade in and out of games. Could be an occasional vlog as that would let me show what I mean with some of the cricket stuff. But something I would inflict people with - karaoke !

Now there's a threat that'll make people run away screaming. MUAHAHA.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Music - how many of these do you have ?

This one's spotted from the Facebook feed :-) And from the TBB blog (post linked here) too. The theme of the meme is "What's in your cd wallet ?" and asks :

Name a cd you own that no one else on your friends list does. (This will get linked on to my Facebook as soon as I post)

That sets the boundaries as things like - no mainstream, unusual albums and avoiding everyone else's favourites.

First on the list and my banker has to be Attic Vaults 1 by Alisha's Attic. I've mentioned this one before, it's a collection of half finished demos and songs that never made B-side or album. And honestly, they should have. It's an ultra rare album and it still has some excellent songs on it. Oh ! Here's one of the best on Youtube.

Michelle Shocked - Texas Campfire Tapes
Gene Roddenberry & Co - Star Trek Motion Picture convention tapes
(it came as a freebie with the Motion Picture soundtrack)
Cardigans - iTunes original collection
(think greatest hits but with interviews that make it more than just a track collection)
Norah Jones - iTunes original collection
(and I am cheating with that last pair)

Ennio Morricone soundtracks - The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. I have this movie recorded and need to watch it again soon. Watched it first as a kid with my dad, brother and sister and we were transfixed from start to finish. Brilliant movie.
Basil Poledouris ain't bad either - the Conan The Barbarian (with Arnie, not Jason) soundtrack is special.

Duffy - Rockferry. No. Not the main album, the bonus disc :-)
Everything But The Girl - Baby, the Stars Shine Tonight. And there's a good reason no one else will have this
Pink Floyd - Animals.
Bix Beiderbecke - The Beiderbecke Affair. Soundtrack from a brilliant series from the 80s.
The Best Rock Ballads ... Ever - collection disc
Morcheeba - Blood Like Lemonade (this is one of the new ones)
T'Pau - Rage. Probably a better album than their first but with less stand-out tracks.

Hannah Peel - The Broken Wave. If you like female vocals and haven't got this ? Check it out NOW.

Seasonal :
Elaine Paige - Christmas
Joan Baez - Noel
Hannah Peel - Hey Santa
(moving swiftly on ...)

Chopin's Preludes
Elgar's Pomp & Circumstance marches (am a sucker for singing along to Last Night of the Proms)
2001 soundtrack
Peer Gynt by Grieg

Cults by the Cults - another new one but I don't think they got as trendy as fast as The XX.
Little Boots - Hands. If you don't have this in your collection, it's a tragedy.
Voice of The Beehive - Honey Lingers. This has the track "I'm Shooting Cupid" and sometimes lately, I feel like shooting him too !
Sleeper - Smart. I have all their albums now.
Dubstar - Pleased to Meet You. Same with Dubstar :-) Sarah Makes It Better.
All About Eve - Return To Eden. To be honest, the only thing that makes this raid into the AAE back catalogue worth it is the Devil Woman cover. Grab the live albums instead if you want a collection.

Buffy - Once More With Feeling. Ok, I know at least one friend will have this (RCA!)
Star Wars soundtracks - Ep1 and the old movies. 7 cds.
Sucker Punch soundtrack - surprisingly well matched to a movie I must watch again after the latest Star Wars rewatching.
Mindy Gledhill - The Sum Of All Grace. Open, honest, personal religion can be very beautiful.

And I'll close with an Edie Brickell album that I grew up with and got close to wearing out : Ghost Of A Dog.

PS RIP Robin Gibb - sadly I have no Bee Gees in my collection ... at all !

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weren't you wearing protection ?

Managed to sneak the following exclamation out of someone at work a couple of days ago :

"Pete - weren't you wearing protection ?"

With the mucky parts of my mind immediately going to naughty connotations of that instead of the innocent explanation of showing off the bruises. (They're far more spectacular now too than they were Thursday)

I'm pretty sure I've talked about the protection cricketers wear before (and after I'm done here, I may go peeking to remember what I wrote) and it had this picture with it :
That's the protective gear I currently have and, if you also include shoes and knee pads, it's all I use. There's a fine balance between having too little protection and having so much that it gets in your way.

There's a fair bit of other kit available for batting, things like chest guards, arm guards, thigh pads. But I don't use them. I've used an arm guard in the past and been hit heavily on the arm twice. But all the arm guard did was get in the way. Both times I was hit, it missed the arm guard :

Wrist - it hit my watch and smashed it (cheap n nasty Timex)
Elbow - numbed the lower arm, possibly chipped the bone

A thigh pad (a cushion stuffed down your trousers) may have been handy but with my chunky legs ... it ain't gonna fit. At least not with some of the pairs of whites I have. I've always rejected chest protectors because they'd interfere with my breathing too much.

The best protection is always : "Get outta the way". And wearing too much gear will slow you down to the point where you will get hit when you'd have otherwise got out of the way.

Fielding is a bit different. I've always had weak knees (legacy of rugby at school and muscles that developed before joints) so I wear knee protection. I think this is actually one of the causes of the leg infection last year, because the new ones were too tight. The knee pads are also there to give padding when I let cricket balls bounce off my knees. Trouble is, for the two hits Wednesday and Thursday, the padding wasn't in the right place.

That's the "too much" vs "just enough" again - you could go out there like the Michelin man but if you can't run, you're no good. Because of the damage to my shoulder, the only advantage I have on the field now is my speed. Too much protection would slow me down to the point of being useless out there.

Helmets are similar - the first batting helmets were effectively motorcycle helmets. For cricket, that's no good because you need to be able to hear the calling for runs. I.e. miss the "yes", miss the "no", miss the inevitable "sorry".

Think that's enough for today. I'd consider wearing shin pads on the field and they may just have saved the superficial (but spectacular) bruise on my right leg. But for the one on my left leg, it would have hit between shin pad and boot. I.e. too much protection for too little benefit.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Just Chillin'

And seeing the autocomplete come up for that title, I'm about to hunt through the archives (657 posts) to see where I used it before ...

First games of the season are always tough for me physically, even before I get in the way of the ball and hurt myself. I've appreciated the chance to do very little today except watch the cricket while simultaneously watching videos from the gamer people.

One thing that struck me during the TGS podcast was the difference between what gamers look for in their fun and what gym people look for in their chosen past time. They were criticizing Diablo 3 not for being cursed by a daft always-online restriction but for being too samey. In a lot of games (I can't talk for Diablo 3 because I don't intend to buy it) the game suffers due to repetition. The gameplay life of the game is extended by repeating the same maps over and over again but with only very subtle differences.

Yawn. I gave up on Diablo 1 early due to that. Random map ? Annoying. Same enemies ? Yawn. Different colour but exact same enemies just tougher ? Watupwidat ?

Mass Effect 1 suffered from this a bit by the side quest missions being set in prefab buildings. Which makes sense for the setting but it's incredibly boring going into Prefab Garage 89 after Prefab Garage 1,2,3,4etc, with the variation being Underground Bunker Prefab or Standard Space Freighter. That didn't make Mass Effect 1 a bad game but it did make it somewhat Grindy. (Where the game duration is extended through repetition)

Ok - what makes that comparable to gym people ?

I don't go to a gym. Never have. Although I can run Very Fast, I've never done jogging training either (I should do). The reason is that I can't stand that repetition thing. If the aim of the session is to do 50 push ups, 30 sit ups, 100 reps on Equipment A, 100 reps on Equipment B, 10km on the bike - that to me is boring as hell. Apart from "I want to get fitter", there is no real aim to it.

Sport is much better than Exercise for the sake of it. I'd like to be as good as I can be on a cricket field. I have the potential to be a very effective batsman at my level and the core speed to be a better fielder. It doesn't come out at the moment. So my aim is to unlock that potential and prove to myself that I can still get runouts. I'm a harder person to please than the rest of the two teams I'm involved in.

When I look back at the two games this week, I can see all sorts of ways I could improve in terms of skill. If I'd spent that time in a gym, all I could improve is number of reps or time taken. I'm stiff as hell at the moment but I feel like I've earned it.

And through that, I've earned the opportunity to have a chill out.

Wait - games vs exercise. Exercise is solely against yourself. Games (both sport and online multiplayer) are all about being up against other people. Your skill vs their skill. If you win, you feel like you've earned it. (But don't forget to remember a "yeah, we lost to better opponents, we'll try harder next time")

Cricket's over for the day now so the music's gone on. I owe you guys a music post sometime soon but before that, what new stuff has appeared ?

Maroon 5 - I've been pleasantly surprised by these guys. Their Songs About Jane was an excellent album and their Hands All Over is pretty good too. I just picked up their "It Won't Be Soon Before Long". It's not my favourite Female Vocal + Band type theme but the variation makes them great to listen to.

Morcheeba - is more variation in the way that Portishead is variation. They're both very different and with a brain that works like mine (great memory can be a bitch sometimes for avoiding boredom) that variation makes me sit up, listen and sing along.

Air - Pocket Symphony came along at the same time as the Maroon 5 album (2 for £10!). It's more variation.

Saying "variation is good" though, I'm looking forward to listening to some Cardigans, Alisha's Attic, All About Eve and Kate Bush (old ones, the new ones suck) albums again.

PS Physically ? I think I'm about to start improving there. Thighs still feel like iron but I think tomorrow they'll start to forgive me. Hands are bruised, as are the legs. Right shin has spectacular bruising. Back and shoulder are sore (snafu). Will I make Wednesday's game with all that ? Should do :-)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Beware early adopter syndrome

Wariness of being an early adopter is appropriate to all things but the tech world in particular.

Tech tends to be all about getting the shiniest devices or the flashiest games to the market as quickly as possible, so money can be made from the latest iGadget. Speed is vital because if the iPhone 67 comes out before Android v34, iPhone 67 gets all the attention and all the sales.

And that's how it's been with the phones and tablets recently - the iPad and iPhone got to the market early and got seen as The Item to have. To be fair to Apple there, they got it bang on with their early devices and it's only on the more recent ones (iPhone 4 Antenna-gate, 4g support etc) that they've got caught out from rushing a device to market before it's truly ready as Apple's software and design quality control has dropped.

The game world gets hit very badly by this too. On my shelf, there's a game called Master of Orion 3. There were 7 long years before the essential and incredible Moo2 got its sequel Moo3. But when Moo3 did come out, it was a massive letdown in both gameplay (which was atrocious - it played itself with no input possible from the player) and stability. Even worse was Championship Manager 3, which was a bug ridden pile of filth. To show what I think of CM3, I will break my no swearing rule :

CM3 was an abomination that the developers should have been ashamed of. Out of the box, it was barely playable through half a season if you were lucky. It was a steaming pile of crap, which was followed by the developers throwing even more manure at us through full price sequels that fixed hardly any of the bugs in the original CM3. It was a disgrace to gaming and the developers are very lucky they're still in business.

Yes - I wasted my cash on several of those sequels in the hope I'd finally get a playable game. Didn't happen.

What makes it worse is that the magazine reviews said it was awesome. I'm a firm believer that the magazines don't actually play the same games as the ones that end up on the shelf. Or they're so much in the pocket of the publishers that they suppress the bad points. This is what makes the opinion of people like Totalbiscuit ever more important, as he's honest about what he thinks about a game. If it's a stinker, he lets us know. If it's really bad, he'll rant which can be hilarious.

Yet we still see people going down the early adopter route.

Sticking to the game world - Diablo 3 came out this week and people will have been seeing it hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The developer, Blizzard, have a mantra "we shall release when it's ready". In Diablo 3's case, that appears to have been replaced by "we shall beat the competition to release date". The game isn't finished and the infrastructure wasn't up to the release loading :

Missing pvp - I wouldn't be bothered by this but I know others see it as essential
Missing auction house - this was a major feature
Inability to play - it's an online only game and the servers weren't letting people in

That "inability to play" is something where the pirates have spoiled our fun by the way. It's an anti-copy mechanism that is aimed at stopping people freeloading. But that's me getting sidetracked.

Early adoption syndrome hits all sorts of things.

The early hybrid cars weren't particularly worth having as they didn't have enough power. It's only on Gen3 Prius (which forms the basis mechanically for my Lexus CT) where they got enough power to get great economy and great flexibility. People who switched early to HD tellies got tellies that don't have all the dots to let them be sharp. Similar with my amp, early adopters wouldn't have got HD quality sound.

And you'll see people all the time get caught out by rushing to buy the latest and greatest new gadget. Take care when you see Shinies, waiting before jumping will :

Let you get it cheaper
Let you sensibly think - will I actually use this ?
Often get you something more polished
Allows other people to find out it's a stinker before you open your wallet

But then again, we are talking Shinies here ... and Shiny Gadgets are very tempting indeed.

PS I'm getting the stiffness after the games now. May not be able to move much over the weekend (not a problem - cricket's on telly). Thighs and hamstrings feel like they're on fire, bruise on right shin now extends over 9 inches. Bruise on left shin hasn't come out yet. Will I be fit for Wednesday's game ? We shall see. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

2nd game - we won !

Excellent start to the season so far.

Second game was tonight and despite a shaky start, our bowlers came through by taking wickets at steady intervals which keeps the scoring rate down nicely.

My fielding was again : average but enthusiastic. A little too enthusiastic as I'm rushing the fielding and snatching at the ball. That ends up in :

Me getting hurt (yep - I'm broken again)
Missing good chances to get wickets (by fumbling the ball when I should be throwing in)

What I should be able to do is swoop in, pick up the ball one handed and get the release away. Doesn't have to be a hard throw (cos I can't do that no more) but accuracy and fast release save a lot of time and get you wickets. Still, I saved a few runs by looking as if I knew what I was doing plus I have grass stains where some people don't have places. (I'm lighter and have Speed again but I'm still tubby)

How did I get hurt ?

I don't count superficial stuff there, outside bruises being great to show off. The leg/knee shiner from yesterday doesn't really count, as I still had full running power available. I got hit on the shin again. 2 years ago, that was Very Bad News as I suspect I had it caused a crack in my shin bone. It was a similar hit again tonight, a solid shot going through my hands and on to the shin bone.

I was able to continue fielding and did a short amount of batting later but I'm worried by it again. 2 years ago it blighted most of that season as I just couldn't put any power through my left leg. (Run, walk but not sprint) We'll see how it goes. Yesterday's bruise came up quickly, tonight's hasn't developed yet.

Batting was ... different.

Yesterday's problem was that I was thinking too much. I had thoughts rushing around my head as the bowler came in for what I was going to do with the ball. That doesn't help. Instead of playing an appropriate shot, I was picking a shot before the bowler let the ball go. Bad news.

Tonight, I managed to follow one plan - "Empty my head, think of nothing". Which worked. Everything was working much better for the short time I was out there. But ... main plan was - "nudge singles, play yourself in". Our star batsman was in at the other end whacking boundaries, so the nudge singles plan would have been awesome for the team and had me at Position A for watching the fun.

What happened ? The bowling was so juicy that instead of nudging singles, I was going to whack every ball (and connecting) but popped one up fairly early for a decent catch. Waste of an opportunity.

But my own performance isn't really that important (although I would like to be the star player like how it used to be when I bowled). What matters is the team scoreline and it's : 2 games played, 2 games won.

I'm quite stiff and sore now, I'll be in work tomorrow but I'm looking forward to some chill out over the weekend watching England in the test match. Cross fingers for no rain.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Game 1 - we win !

And the thought running through my head right now is : I'm too old for this !

Beautiful day today, if a little cold. Lots of sunshine, no rain. Great conditions for cricket. (The sunshine takes some of the squishiness out of the pitch by drying it up). Pitch was pretty good, if a little variable in bounce. Not much evidence of all the rain, although the bits of the pitch that were down the hill were still a bit squishy. I wouldn't want to play on the BAWA pitch (the one where my legs always explode) at the moment, it's probably unplayable.

As a quick aside - with all the hate against Google+ at the moment, you'd have thought Facebook would have its act together ? Far too many posts (including all of mine and a few others) disappear from a News Feed that is supposed to show everything.

One thing I'll say right now - a lot of this will read depressive, even though we won because I'm tired, didn't play great and I've got a lot to work on.

We batted first, with me being one of the opening pair. I need to work a lot on my technique - shot selection was great. I scratched out 7 runs, plus a few sharp singles for the other guy. I seem to have a lot of my speed back again, which is awesome. But I still need to work on that shot selection and the trigger movements that get everything started.

How did I get out ? This is embarassing. I got bowled (ball gets past me and hits the stumps). But I stood there ... cos I was thinking : "they're not celebrating" and "that was too high wasn't it ?" and I thought the noise from behind was the ball going into the keeper's gloves. Oh well :-) Maybe they weren't celebrating cos they wanted me to stay there !

That's the way my seasons tend to start, I get desperately in need of having the cobwebs dusted off. My breathing wasn't great and will hopefully improve over the next few weeks.

I didn't catch the full score but we got just over a hundred, with lots of banter going on. Next up - fielding.

I got consigned to the outfield, which I really don't enjoy because you're waiting for big shots instead of anticipating the batsmen dropping the ball down and attempting quick singles. I just love to swoop in on those and try and get run outs. Keeps the Sleepy One awake as well. I didn't keep wicket, which was good because the fella who had the gloves for us did an excellent job behind the stumps.

Good display by us in the field, despite the cold there was a lot of energy going in. Lots of catches taken held up the opposition enough for us to sneak a very tight win.

I appear to have my speed back, which is great. However ... (and this is the source of the depressive mood) the damage is triggering thoughts of "you're too old for this"

Groin tear/strain is still there. But it doesn't stop me running at top speed.
Shoulder is down to maybe 1 good throw in a game.
I'll have a massive shiner on my right shin where I stopped a boundary.
Not damage but my fielding technique needs a lot of work. I appear to have a few trained in faults (actually good technique for a left hander ...) that I need to work on.

That's adding to an awful lot of rustiness.

Anyway - had me shower. Had a very late dinner, caught myself nearly flaking out due to energy debt (was training today so didn't eat as much in prep as I should have) and I know that when I eventually hit the sack, it'll be a struggle to get up those stairs.

Another game tomorrow ! Hopefully a similar result to tonight's game.

PS The Pink Cap is escaping the pyre of a ritual sacrifice. It did ok tonight and a firm brim is better for looking into low sun than the floppy brim of a sun hat.

Monday, May 14, 2012

1 + 1 = 3, 1 + 1 + 1 = Fire !

I have a habit of seeing patterns in things I read or see or hear and making connections that are so tenuous, you'd not believe them.

It can be handy, so I'll make logic leaps that get us the info we need. Or it'll let me figure out answers to problems. Trouble is, I can miss the obvious.

That's enough about me - what's the latest unconnected stories that I've spotted ?

The one that started me thinking was : USPS will not ship Li-ion batteries internationally any more. (Tomshardware link). The worry is that a certain type of rechargeable battery has more likelihood to catch fire or explode. I think the issue from the article is with batteries that aren't an integral part of the device. My Android phone would escape because you can't separate it from its battery.

Should you be worried ?

There's 3 main types of rechargeable battery :
NiCAD - the original rechargeable. Had a really limited life and low energy density (less hours with the torch lit).
Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) - the mk2. Higher energy density and lasts far longer.
Lithium Ion - best current tech. Far better energy density for the same life.

What's energy density ? My car uses a NiMH battery pack that lets it go a mile or so at 40mph without the engine on. There's a Prius coming that uses a Li-Ion battery that could go tens of miles at the same speed.

Ok - should you be worried ? Electronic Engineer says : No. (But don't sue me on that !) Every bit of consumer electronics that you use has gone through extensive testing to make sure it's safe. So the chances of that iPhone brewing up are slim to remote (unless the stories really have been suppressed).

And now for the Join The Dots - Chevy Volt buyers spooked by fires. (BBC link)

This one was a little scary when I read it originally. It wasn't a fire that started at the original crash (which is scary in itself), it was a fire that happened on a crash test car several weeks after the crash testing. That shouldn't happen.

If you're looking at the Volt or Vauxhall Ampera, I'd raise my eyebrows. But I wouldn't strike it off the "potential next car" list. Stuff like this can happen, it's best to predict it and anticipate it out of the design but when it does happen, manufacturers will sort it out quickly. Or their customers run away screaming which is really bad for business. That said, I avoided the Volt/Ampera because - it was taking too long to arrive, I distrust Vauxhall and the Lexus was shinier.

This weekend saw story number 3 : Fire in the Williams garage at Spanish Grand Prix. (BBC link)

Formula 1 cars these days are hybrids, where they have the engine assisted by an electric motor for up to 7 seconds a lap. What they think caused the fire was a spark from the KERS (hybrid motor thing) battery igniting fuel. Potentially very nasty. They got away with it in the pitlane fire, only one person was hospitalised.

Makes you think though - the car I'm driving around at the moment has a hybrid motor as powerful as the Formula 1 KERS motor (60kW). The batteries are bigger and are located behind and below the back seats, close to the petrol tank. In theory, there should be no risk as both fuel tank and battery are sealed.

But ... then you remember what we're driving now and what we used to drive - safety's not a problem. Hybrid doesn't add any risk that wasn't already there :
High voltage spark plugs - I've seen huge sparkage when we fired up a damp engine. It was like christmas lights going off.
Extremely flammable petrol
Batteries that can generate lot of hydrogen when charging. Hydrogen + Oxygen = KABOOM

Now I've scared everyone ... time for me to run to the bomb shelter.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Watching gaming but not gaming

I've always been a competitive person, right from my early days at school. I've always been pretty smart, in the D&D "Intelligence" sense if not the "Wisdom" sense.

So that early competitiveness got directed at getting the absolute highest marks in class. And for the Northern Ireland school, I was right up there. The only real competition I had was a girl called Barbara, which was my equal in brains and ahead in everything else. And because the Northern Ireland schools were ahead of the English schools academically, that gave me a head start when we moved back over here.

I was only ever able to apply that competitiveness to sport when I discovered cricket, although I was also really good at badminton. (Badminton being what killed my shoulder.) While cricket's a team game, it's focused very tightly on individual battles where that competitiveness can really bite.

But over all that time, there's been the gaming. I'd always want to do the game better. Get a bigger high score. Complete it quicker. Be the highest dps person in WoW. Get all the achievements. And all that stuff, mostly competing against myself. Thing is though - I'm not actually gaming that much lately. When I get back in from work, my brain isn't wanting to go into that higher gear the game demands. I've been watching gaming a lot lately instead.

It started with a youtuber called Totalbiscuit, who is a Very dangerous man if you're interested in games.

TB does a little of everything. There's a regular mailbox, plus he gives tasters of games through his "WTF is ..." series. Those are incredibly useful for giving an impression of whether a game is worth getting. I've bought a few due to WTF is and abandoned thoughts of getting many more. He does a Starcraft 2 series as well, which almost got me buying that game and is another ex WoW player.

The next is Jesse Cox of the OMFGCata channel. He's nuts.

He's more a "Let's Play" person, where he's got a few games on the go at once presenting bites of up to an hour at a time. It's the commentary that make these. They're hilarious, especially when things don't go to plan. The TB + JC Terraria series are amazing and are why I own Terraria. His Skyrim series is why I bought that game and he enjoyed Deus Ex HR as much as I did.

I've also been watching Yogscast and Yogscast2. I have mixed feelings here, their coverage is dominated by Minecraft which I absolutely refuse to watch. They're very silly boys and play to the nerdy, geeky boy gamer stereotype (except for Hannah, who is Gamer Chick). However ... they feel every moment of their gaming and when a spider creeps up on Simon, it's hilarious.

But the highlight found so far is Dodger of two channels :

PressHeartToContinue (aka P<32c) - is a gaming blog where she'll talk through gaming news and views.
Dexterity Bonus - COFFEH Time ! which is a video blog.

If I did this blog via video, it would be a lot like Coffeh time. Except we'd have the sound of cracking monitor screens. Dodger is way more photogenic and comes over as so relaxed on screen. I'm hooked.

They all share a few things in common :
Love of gaming,
Lots of opinion - The Game Station podcast featuring TB, JesseCox and P<32c holds the interest even through 3 hours.
Rare intelligence
Getting as much fun as possible out of their gaming.

It's a credit to all of them that I'm more interested in watching their shows than in gaming myself. They're highly amusing to watch. They enjoy their gaming and include you the viewer in that.

I'll keep watching all 5 of these channels and non gamers would be most interested in Coffeh Time. Thinking of that one with my "Time's valuable" post, she's donating so much of her own time to produce that show to make things a bit brighter for us the viewers.

It's a privilege to watch - and I may well be doing so quite soon if I can pry myself away from Moo2 ...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Time's valuable

Oh dear. Door to door people on patrol again.

This time, it's a case of the arrogant kid who's just got out of school going into a job where he's been forced to knock on people's doors and demand "just a moment of your time". This one really rubbed me up the wrong way.

Attitude - arrogant and entitled yoof bully
Appearance - reminded me of the Popular Set kids at school

And that's just the first impression. I cut him off early with a "not interested - sorry", as I was busy doing other stuff (the grand prix coverage was running in the background). At that, I'd expect them to have the humility to walk away. I don't expect them to demand why I'd told them to go away before finding out who they were. And I definitely don't expect them to hang around on the street looking into people's houses.

The attitude was very much : Give me the world, I'm entitled to it. And the response is - earn it and while you're at it, work on the humility.

But it's really about time. Door to door people inflict themselves on you. It could be something important happening like a car alarm going off or a parcel. But if it's some random person turning up and demanding money, I will not allow them to waste any more of my time than is necessary. I don't see that as me being rude, I just see it as sending them on their way without wasting either my time or their's.

If I'm going to spend money on something, I'll research it first. (And then usually buy the wrong thing like with my Onkyo amp.). Unless it's something I was intending to do anyway (like Npower Girl), there is zero chance I will give anything to a door to door person.

Time is an incredibly valuable thing.

If I send someone a message, I'm borrowing their time. If I ask someone to look at something, I'm borrowing even more of their time. So I only tend to do it when I have something I think they'll appreciate or if it's something I think they need to know. If the messages get ignored or a "busy now but I'll check later" gets forgotten, then that's Sad Face.

When I see the hits come in for this message later, that will tell me that you've donated some of your valuable time to read this message. And I think that's awesome. When I see repeat hits coming in from those of you who know I do Walls of Text ... but keep coming back ... I find that incredible.

What will I be doing with the rest of my time today ?

Errrmmm ... Wasting much of it trying to take over the galaxy in Moo2 while chilling out to music. Not feeling the urge to do a city centre wander as I'd been buying stuff at the Mall on Tuesday. But if I had someone call me up or message me and tell me they'd like to spend some time with me ? I'd be out there like a shot.

PS I've been ranting a lot lately - which suggests there's some anger/frustration bubbling away in my mind ... Need to address that. Cross fingers for some good cricket :-)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

More random stuff

Oh where to start ...

I know some stuff I can't talk about. Cos I can't. It's all over the news but I'm way too close to it. Just remember when you see stories on the news, there's usually real people caught right in the middle of those stories. If it was a car crash, you'd call them innocent bystanders. Ok, it is a car crash and they're still caught up in it. But that's enough about that story.

(I'm actually prevented about talking about it without asking permission due to work rules)

Olympic Flame goes out - lol. Oops. Superstition will run riot with that.

I'm in love with a gamer from the PressHeartToContinue channel. I'm watching videos of gaming more than I'm gaming lately. Spotted Dodger through The Game Station podcast with two very dangerous (to a gamer's wallet) individuals called TotalBiscuit and Jesse Cox of the OMFGCata channel. They have a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm towards gaming and their enjoyment of what they play has persuaded me to buy more than one game this year ... Anyway, P<32c is giving me flashbacks to when Bits graced our screens. She's smart and she talks good sense. Funny too.

The cap is still there. It hasn't been crispy fried yet. It wouldn't burn anyway, the fire would get put out by the heaviness of the rain.

Been buying more music - the latest is Little Broken Hearts by Norah Jones, which is excellent. Morcheeba's Blood Like Lemonade is pretty good too. I have my eye on Katie Melua's latest but to be honest, Katie Melua and The Ting Tings are groups where I'll wait for the album to come out at 2 for £10 or £5. Like Air and Maroon 5, their Pocket Symphony and "It Won't Be Soon Before Long" albums arrived on Tuesday before I disappeared off to watch Avengers.

Headache has faded today ! Although today was one of those insane can't draw breath "that was nice, what was it, what's next?" kind of days. Not had time to get a headache. I got a big grin from a couple of our people in our Portsmouth office as well. Grin + Productive Work = awesome.

Work's being a little challenging at the moment. We're moving from a place where we're accepting stuff to a requirement set that was agreed years ago and towards needing to keep track of things we're changing with those requirements. The pace of change these days is relentless and one of the facets of my current job is keeping up with the question "What do we actually want ?" Anyway, had good progress there today without the glacial pace that some of this can go at.

That's how it feels sometimes - long periods of routine punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Terror ? I think that's actually from a movie or a game. Switch "sheer terror" for "mega fast activity". I don't say much about what I work on or for who but let's just say the stakes can be very high.

Gaming ? Not doing much of that at the moment. Not reading much either, outside of websites and watching gamer videos.

Weather ? It's still raining. If tonight's cricket hadn't been cancelled yesterday then it would have been a classic : Sunshine all day. 6pm - match start. 6.05pm - deluge begins.

Amusement or "Where not to be if you're supposed to be on leave" - one of our people is on leave all this week. But ... the PCS and Unite unions were on strike today. Where did I happen to see this person this morning ? She was on the picket line that was causing traffic chaos in the local area, handing leaflets to cars coming in. Oops. If you're striking, taking leave is Bad Behaviour. Definitely shouldn't be in such a prominent place ...

I'm not in any of the unions. I don't see their goals aligning with who they claim to represent. They chase the wrong fights. They should be targeting discrimination in the workplace (we are discriminated against by post code as policy) and other strangeness instead of attempting to get conditions that will make their own members unaffordable to the organisation. They're actually campaigning for job losses.
I'm not socialist, conservative, right, left, centrist. Ok, maybe I'm a little Nationalist (but not extreme). I'm pragmatist realist and refuse to be blinkered by any particular political point of view. I see the blinkers on people every day - it's not a way to convince people. And I have zero faith in the current political system. Democracy is a fine idea, when you have credible people to vote for.

And I think that's enough for now before I dig myself a massive hole !

Last thought from that - be careful what you do online. I read that a collection of people have been fired by a Sheriff in the USA for "liking" a political opponent on Facebook. When they sued, their case got thrown out. That click can have consequences ...

And on that note - been lucky where I work, our project has had some long screwdriver interference but we've managed to avoid most of it. It's let a bunch of amazing people get on with delivering something fantastic. We've been luckier than most. We're definitely in a better position all round than the people I referred to on opening this post !

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Curses and Caps

I think my cap is cursed.

We've had extraordinary climate conditions over here in GB since the start of the year. Winter saw endless sunshine. And that's sunshine to the point where we were getting threatened with hosepipe bans and with having the mains water shut off and replaced by standpipes in the street.

Since the cricket season started, we've seen rain. Rain. More rain. And puddles. Worcestershire can't play at their home ground because it's waterlogged. (Worcestershire County Cricket Club link with picture). We've seen 4 games out of 4 called off due to the weather. (Ok, one was because a team doesn't play in that league - but it chucked it down anyway)

An aside here - I've been suffering from a headache for all this afternoon and evening. Brain feels like it's trying to crawl out through my eye sockets.

Weather - here's a more spectacular view of New Road (Worcestershire's ground) ... although 3 days later the match was back on at New Road, although sadly only a third of a day's play was possible.

I have a feeling the weather may be a factor with that headache. I can be sensitive to subtle changes in atmospheric pressure and humidity that can act like a weather sense. On one of my work placements, I had terrible headaches because I was working much of the time in a positive pressure environment (don't ask where - lol). I.e. the air inside was a few millibars above normal, to blow out all the nasties from welding equipment, solvents and glues.

Trouble with where I work now is that the air in the building is so dry, it really messes up that weather sense. That could be contributing to the headache as well.

Where does the cap fit in all this ?

It's the first season that I'd have been back in a cap regularly. I normally field in a sun hat and I now bat in a helmet. However ... if I'm also to be doing fielding in a helmet (the wicket keeping when standing up), then the hat won't do because I need to hide the headgear when I have the helmet on. And a cap is easier to hide down the back of your trousers (yes, really !) than a sun hat.

But, with continuous heavy rain since the start of the season ? Is the cap cursed ?

Does it need to be ritually sacrificed (Fire Good) in order to summon the Sun Gods back ?

We shall see.

I kinda like my Pink Cap. It'll be a silly thing to wear on a cricket field and that's half the point. Bit like a statement that says : "I'm not scared of the comments I'll get when I wear this". Well, it's going to be worn in honour of a fallen colleague who used to smile at me when she caught me looking up and grinning as she walked through the office. And that's the image that will be in my head when I get a daft comment about the Pink Cap.

Cap stays - superstition be damned ! :-)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

News randoms

Watched Avengers Assemble tonight - this movie is awesome. (Add expletives of your choice for emphasis)

Definitely one for the pre order. And I suspect a lot of people will agree, judging by it breaking all sorts of box office records. Hell, I watched it on my own tonight but I would gladly go back to see it again if someone wanted me to drag them along to it.

(And I promise to not stare at the Black Widow's bum ... too much)

And going from one brand of awesome to something deeply, incredibly, amazingly special : Paralysed woman completes London Marathon after 16 days. Can anything top that ? Seriously ! She's using robot/bionic prosthetics to move her legs, as a spinal injury means she can't move them on her own. There's all kinds of WOW here :

We have the technology now to do this
And key - what a spirit this lady has. Inspirational. Truly inspirational.

That's the story that greeted me as I got in from Avengers and turned on Skynews.

Google have licenced their autonomous cars. Not sure whether to find this scary or not. Hopefully it'll go some way to making the roads safer by removing the Moron element. Trouble is, the remaining Morons will be the ones driving around without MoT (roadworthiness test in the UK) or insurance. We shall see. Oh, the car they're using is very similar to mine ...

Japan closes their last nuclear power station. Meh. Very meh. I'm pro nuclear power. It's clean energy, despite what the scaremongerers would say. Those same green fanatics would see us using coal or gas power which pumps CO2 into the atmosphere. Nuclear does produce its waste but that waste is controllable and containable. CO2 is not. Nuclear is also safe, despite what the green loonies will tell you about :

Fukushima - closed down safely. Will cause no deaths (the few who died at Fukushima fell from heights) and the lessons learned will prevent similar accidents from escalating out of control
Chernobyl - was self inflicted sabotage where the plant was effectively deliberately blown up.

Yep - I see the way the greenies would like to take us and think they're crazy. Don't get me started about wind turbines ! :-)

LED lightbulbs to last for ages. 23 years ! That's longer than you'd expect to live in one house. Although my parents have lived in their current place for 26 and I've lived here for 10. I'm kinda a convert to energy saving bulbs, although not for them being cheaper. The ones I use in my living room light definitely last longer before they pop. So there might be something in this LED last ages thing.

Especially as it isn't a thin tungsten filament that's designed to take enough current that it glows and sets off gas in the bulb. I dunno, when people look back in 50 years on what we use now, they will not believe it. Just as we seldom believe that 30 years ago, ATMs were unheard of and mobile phones were in their infancy. Tech marches on.

Star Wars subscribers fall. Not surprised here and I doubt whether this game will last past 1 expansion. Having played it briefly, it's a subpar WoW clone with its only distinctive feature being cutscenes. Games are supposed to be about gameplay, not cutscenes that get in the way. Mass Effect 3 had me going "Enough with the cutscene, WANNA SHOOT SOMETHING".

I'm hopeful for better from Guildwars 2, although I think the MMO set up on Grind Lots for Little Fun may have had its day. People want fun from their games, 99% of MMOs are eternal grind for 30 minutes fun. Online shooters and games like League Of Legends show us the Grind is not necessary for Fun.

And that's it for today - no game tonight. The other team didn't just turn up, they're not even in the league ! I suspect we'd have got half a game played (maybe) and then we'd have got rained on. Hopeful for something tomorrow, it's another artificial wicket so we could get away with it. I'd like to be wearing spikes for the soggy ground but - keeping ? Nah. Spikes will be banned for me.

Good night !

PS One last one : Mechwarrior online looks awesome. I grew up on Mechwarrior 2 Mercenaries taking a lot of my early PC gaming time and later played Mech Commander 2 to death. If they catch the MW2M gameplay again, this could be special.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Eve of the season ... again

I have a feeling that saying will rapidly gain legendary Deja Vu status :

It's the eve of the cricket season (for me at least). Oh, it was also the eve of the season on Wednesday last week too but that game was rained off. I suspect the three games this week haven't got much chance of happening too, due to all the rain that drought hit Britain is seeing at the moment.

(I had half an intention to head into Bristol centre to not buy anything again which I cancelled due to : huge threat of rain & not knowing if Globe Sports would be open - I'll go in on Friday pm if things work out)

But hey, if all things went well, I'd have three games of cricket this week to follow the cancelled game last week. I suspect the only one which has a chance of happening is the one tomorrow where we'd play on an artificial pitch. ("interesting" pitch, in a "wear a helmet or die" kind of way)

How am I set up for it ?

Well - A few weeks ago, a depression "inspired" post led to me abandoning the Pink Hat Project that I'd been talking about. And for good reasons too. I have a lot of my old speed and agility back but I don't know how long that's going to last. I have worsening RSI in my wrists that will affect fielding. I can't bowl any more. My leg, while 90% healed is not perfect yet. So I didn't want to lump so much pressure on me that I'd play no matter what (I would) and turn light damage into heavy damage by playing through injuries.

How am I doing really ?
Legs - duff hamstring but full power available. I don't talk about the infected leg thing from last year any more because while it hasn't completely healed yet, there's good tough skin there now and I think it could withstand me diving around.
Back - yeah, this will be what slows me down. However ! It also likes me to be moving around, such that running around a cricket field will actually keep it limber.
Shoulder - is knackered. Can't bowl any more. But that's not likely to be a huge problem if I keep to the infield, stay behind the stumps and Not Get Angry (If I make a mistake, I get very angry with myself and forget to keep throws to safe limits)
Hip - yeah, this still feels slightly torn but is another one I'll happily live with.

That's the thing about cricket - players will very often play with minor injuries. Sometimes they play on through fairly major injuries. Like players who are due for a hernia op on a Friday but play through the game Tuesday to Thursday. We'll play with broken fingers. I think I played through half a season with a cracked tibia.

Feeling quite good about this season actually. Because my old team didn't do pre season practice, I'd usually go into games with no clue as to how I'd get on in games. The new team had two limited sessions (not many people took advantage of them) where I learned :

To wear a helmet when standing up to the stumps as a wicket keeper (duh!)*
That my batting seems to have gone aggressive this year :-)
That I can keep standing up to the stumps to medium pacers :-)
Can't bowl (confirmation)

*(the cut has nearly completely healed now and the 'tache's days are numbered)

Hopefully we'll get a game on this week but I suspect the rain has already beaten them. I'll be shopping later in the week as I still want a couple of things :

Perhaps some wicket keeping gloves (the New Team gloves are maybe too big)
To feel out some inner gloves (never worn them, need to know + or -)
Seeing what facemask/grills are like
Grabbing some pink rubbers
(whoever raised an eyebrow there is a deviant - lol, perfectly innocent explanation)
And perhaps, perhaps ... a new bat.

Pink Hat Project is still a go by the way. But not in a Pay Per Game. That's just rewarding mediocrity, which I abhor. I'm also not too comfortable with collecting money off people, which is another Big Thing about why I've not gone ahead with setting up a page. What I will do is set a bounty on the exceptional stuff :

25 runs = £2 donation
50 runs = £10 donation
Stumpings and run outs = £5 donation
Catches = £1 donation
(those may go up)

That might collect a decent amount from me. Anyone want to join me ? Send an email or leave a comment and I may well set up that Justgiving page anyway. The chosen charity will be the same one that the girls at work choose for a cake sale that's due this month.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Hey ! No staring at the chest

Had something very weird happening at work on Friday - I had the feeling people were staring at my chest.

Not used to that, although I guess my female readers will know what I mean. I can be a little guilty of that myself, although I try hard not to stare. Actually, I may get more defensive than average when confronted with someone attempting the distraction technique in trying to persuade me into doing something.

A little bit of distraction can be a very wonderful thing (some of the perfumes that walk past are highly distracting) but if it's at work with someone attempting to persuade me to go in a particular direction, then I'll look more closely into their reasons for asking.

So by attempting to exploit the male stereotype, they're actually making me a bit tougher to persuade.

That's at work though. Outside of work, I'm a sucker for a pretty face :-)

Anyway - what was causing the staring ? Here we go :
Yes - that's kinda artistically arranged for hiding of faces but it's about the best I could do with arranging my phone for a mirror shot.

It's a cricket top and it was perfect for Friday at work. We don't have an official dress code where I work but having a smart appearance is Expected. Most people wear what they like, although that depends heavily on them. Professional Sleepypete wears shirt + tie. Other people wear the same stuff they'd wear at a football match. There's also the ones who look as if they're ready for an afternoon at the pub (some are) and others who look set to dance the night away at a club.

We have all sorts. I go for the professional look or smart casual on a Friday as that's what I expect me to be wearing. If I was heading out the office for a customer or supplier facing meeting, I'd stick to the professional look. Credibility comes from your impressions on people and a lot of those depend on outfit. For my work, the professional outfit is the suit + tie. But that would be wholly inappropriate for a garage or hands-on engineering work.

So yeah - outfit counts for a lot. It says who you are and your general attitude even before you open your mouth. And even your general competence (like the garage suit who hasn't worked on an engine in years, they ain't gonna be working on my car). But too smart = more interested in looks than getting stuff done.

I'm getting distracted again aren't I ?

Cricket top got a huge amount of attention on Friday. It was perfect because I could wear it all day and therefore keep my back warm. Didn't expect it to get more looks or comments than my various subversive message "Don't follow me, I make it up as I go" t-shirts get :-). Could be that people instantly understand what it is and therefore have something to comment on.

To be honest, this top isn't likely to see a cricket field. I have another sleeveless top which is 20 years old so it has some of the stitching coming loose. I'll use that one if it gets so cold I need it. I generate so much heat though when I'm running around that I can't wear jumpers on the field.

PS It probably looks like my place is in severe need of redocorating. Yeah, I'd agree with that.

Friday, May 04, 2012

May the fourth ... and all that

Apologies if I go off on a rant again :-) Need better ideas so I can talk about good stuff and not stuff that'll make me rant.

Gis ideas ! If there's anything my regulars would like me to say what I think about - lemme know :-) There's an email address in my profile. And I'm kinda running out of inspiration for these walls of text ... Enough of that - on with the post.

Been looking at Tomshardware again (I know, they make me rant) and they've got an article on about the history of computer role playing games. It's a spectacularly crappy one as, over 16 slides, it shows 14 games from last century and only 2 from this one. There's lots that came out over the gap ... Instead of pure "they're rubbish" rant though, what computer role playing games (CRPGs from here) do I think show how they've evolved ?

In the early days there was text. Pure text. Nothing but text. The early days of true CRPGs and true massively multiplayer games was founded by MUDs (Multi User Dungeons). These were games based on Unix mainframes where the only access was via the terminal emulator. I know. Archaic right ? But very playable. Such that later games with shinier clothing harked back to the easy gameplay of the MUD.

MUDs probably took at least a few % points off my degree score as I tried to level my character up in labtime.

Text based dominated a lot of early pooter gaming. It's all the machines could really handle. The game would put text up on screen and your imagination would paint the scene in your head. But you can't really call those early text games or point&clicks RPGs because they didn't tend to have statistics associated with them.

I missed a lot of the early proper RPGs, mainly because I couldn't afford them or the hardware to run them on. Or I wasn't interested in that genre. I did run through Alone In The Dark a few times though and became the one people in the house turned to when they wanted to swordfight past the pirate.

But it's partly because - a lot of the games in the TH article, I wouldn't have considered worth playing as they are too crude. Until Baldur's Gate came along, CRPGs were rather Meh with very frustrating interfaces.

Baldur's Gate - it's an isometic adventure game centred around the Protagonist (you) and the companions you gather. I Imoen (yes - even crazy Imoen from BG2). This seriously broke the mould by translating what before had been crude text, into pictures on the screen.

Very shiny. So shiny that the same basic game engine got turned into a heap of other classics including Icewind Dale, Planescape Torment to name just two.

The next big step came with turning that 2d isometric into full 3d with Neverwinter Nights. I didn't actually finish BG or BG2 but played NWN to death. And then I downloaded player created adventures and played those.

NWN was so flexible that people turned it into 3d graphics versions of those MUDs. Nice idea but a little limited in scope due to the Dungeons and Dragons level limits.

By the time NWN was getting old, Massively Multiplayer Online games were starting to come in. Games like Everquest that laid the ground for World of Warcraft. The amount of time I sunk into WoW is silly. It's probably the apex of fantasy CRPG. At least until GuildWars 2 comes along. (Yes, I'll preorder that and hopefully get more value out of it than SWTOR).

Roughly at the same time, you've also got the Fallout series. I like the setting of Fallout but sadly never really got into the games. Dunno why. And that counts for the different genre that Fallout 3 went for too. Perhaps it's because I liked to sit back and watch things happen on the screen rather than have my skill determine success. RPGs are supposed to be about how the character, not the player.

RPG with character attributes - success should depend on the character build
Fallout & Elder Scrolls - success depends on the player fighting the interface

Skyrim is the first Elder Scrolls game where I've not felt like I'm fighting the interface. I've actually had more fun from that one, compared to the frustration of trying their earlier games. WoW goes the other way, success is totally statistics based with the only player skill being able to mash the button fast enough.

And there's a heap of other classics or "could have been's" that I'd love to talk about (but I'm hitting Wall Of Text limit already) :

Awesome - KOTOR, Mass Effect series (although ME is more FPS than RPG)
Could have been - Vampire Bloodlines
So so or tedious - Dungeon Siege, Divine Divinity

Talking of Knights of The Old Republic, it's the anniversary today of one of my favourite films and something I grew up to :

May the Fourth Be With You. And while you watch this video (Youtube link), ask yourself like I am : why didn't I know that one of those was coming out ? I Want.

PS The Youtube link is to the Yogscast, who are a couple of videoing gamers who don't take themselves or games seriously. When they get going, it's hilarious. If only they didn't spend so much time on another CRPG - Minecraft.