Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Old cocks remembered

More Olympics :-)

(And incidentally - first post to be written on my desktop - well, I'm sitting at it so why not !)

One of the sports I grew up with was badminton, which I was pretty talented at. Note - that's not the same as saying I was "good" at it. You see, as the shuttlecock was coming towards me I'd have 3 or 4 possible shots in my head. The talent for shotmaking that I had always recognised the safe shots that would keep me in the rally but the show off element (yes, it's there) of my personality always, Always, chose the most spectacular.

So I'd get a reputation for being a good player because of the nutty shots I'd attempt and often pull off but wouldn't win the games that I should have because I wasn't boring enough to play percentages.

That's one element of sport - taking chances is good but sometimes it's better to stay low risk in order to survive long enough to pull out the spectacular. That's boring though.

Cricket brings that out - my batting can best be described as boring. Technique flaws with my feet and left arm mean I'm not often whacking the ball back over the bowler's head but hanging in there to nudge singles around and thump boundaries square of the wicket with timing. Teams need that, the more boring players will survive to hold the innings together against bowlers who could demolish a side full of spectacular but unlucky batsmen.

Anyway. Badminton.

I just finished enjoying watching Brit Girl Susan Egelstaff take on the Japanese Sayaka Sato. I'm getting better these days at watching technique deliberately with a view to learning from it. (I always watched technique but wasn't so good at learning from it). Notes from watching the girls :

The badminton technique I had would have stood up pretty well. I had all the shots they were playing plus a couple more that they didn't. I reckon with practice to eliminate the errors, groove technique and promote fitness, I could have been competing at a pretty high level. I'd have had to control the urge to play the silly spectacular shots but I did have the technique and agility to keep up.

It's as fast a game as I remember.

Fitness really tells. Our Brit girl is just coming back after surgery and the lack of conditioning (can't blame her) told in increasing errors towards the end of the game. Well fought but the errors cost the game. Badminton is a game of very small margins ...

I have 2 shots that I didn't see in the game :

Pirouette shot. Love this one. It's where instead of arching your back to forehand overhead something behind you, you start to turn and backhand it back over the net. With supple wrists, you can still do pretty much what you want with it, hitting to any of the 4 corners. However, it's not a percentage shot because it sends all your momentum into a turn which is difficult to recover from. Unless, you do a full 360 degree pirouette to face the right way again :-) Looks great when it works and doesn't cost much time.

Tennis forehand. Tennis shots don't tend to work well in badminton because the net is pretty high. However ... Consider that a shuttlecock is designed to slow down drastically after being hit. If you can get it over the net quickly before it slows, it'll effectively drop straight down. So my flat forehand was designed as a quick reaction rally killer, to get the shuttle back over the net quickly and into a place that would be difficult to get back.

So how come I've never really competed with the badminton ? There's a few reasons :

I injured my back when I was 17 (cricket - same injury as now), which cut into the flexibility I had available.
Badminton is how I dismantled my shoulder - and that injury cuts badly into the range of badminton shots I had available.
I found it to be "good fun".

That last reason sounds strange ... Unless you consider that I was preferring to put my time into practicing for Cricket as my serious sport. Cricket and Badminton share some technique elements ... but not enough. But it's really that I preferred to think of badminton as relaxing fun with cricket being the one I'd try and excel at.

Possibly the wrong choice ? Nah. I don't regret it at all. Taking something too seriously can take all the fun out of it.

Just watching the end of the 3 day eventing - the Brits got silver in the team but it's looking grim in the individual. Equestrianism is another where I touched the sport early on but didn't take it too far : Cricket had priority (I could see how much of my sister's time the horses took) and I preferred motor racing. Mind you, there is a kind of thrill in standing beside or sitting on top of an animal with as much power as a horse.

Horses have personality too. And personality goes a long way.

The 3 day event just finished, with the result changing with the last fence putting the Swedish rider into second. I have to say, it's AWESOME to watch a sport where men and women compete on completely even level terms.

And I'll leave it there :-) Big grats to all the medallists today, still hoping we get the first Brit gold soon.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Windy Weighty Fit Women

And of course, the women in question are definitely not weighty, dunno if they've been on the beans jet propulsion diet but they're most certainly as fit as they come.

In reverse order !

Just finished watching the women's road cycling race, which was pretty awesome. After yesterday's men's race was a case of the Brits saying they'd won the race before the start and then all the other teams leaving it to the Brits to chase down the getaways, the women's race today was far more exciting.

The attitude of the field yesterday was pretty disappointing. There'd been an early getaway of a reasonable group of riders. Usually, the field would chase them down before the gap became decisive. However ... due to the form being shown by the Brit men and their declared aim of pushing Mark Cavendish to the win, everyone left it to the Brits to chase down the breakaway. That's like saying : "We're more interested in you NOT getting a medal than we are in getting a medal ourselves". Self inflicted wounds and it made for a not particularly exciting race where most of the field was there just to make up the numbers.

The women's race today was completely different. We were seeing attempts at breakaway attacks all the way through, where small groups attempted to get away from the pack. Each time it was "can they keep the gap, will they stay away?" and that kept on going right until the last climb of Box Hill where a group of 4 managed to make a decisive escape.

Including a Brit girl - Lizzie Armitstead. Go Lizzie !

And you can probably guess that the excitement level here was ramping up considerably at the prospect of us getting our first medal of the games. The gap kept on stretching gradually, even after the group of 4 diminished to just 3. Would they keep the gap ? What order would they finish in ? Would our girl get a gold medal ?

I won't put the result here but I will say - the group of 3 kept their advantage all the way to the finish and Brits have their first medal of the games. Great stuff.

Fit ?

The stiffness and damage from Wednesday are wearing off :-) Legs are still a bit stiff but I'd consider them ready for action again. The back needs a few more days though. Because of the way my body is set up, I'm suited for explosive stuff instead of endurance. My endurance is actually not that great, except when the stubbornness kicks in to let me block all pain and Not Give Up. Anyway - that explosiveness setup means my muscles produce a lot of lactic acid, which is where the stiffness comes from.

If I've not been running around for a while (I blame British Summer!), it can take around 3 days for my legs to get ready for action again. I'm not 100% yet but they're pretty close. At this rate, if the cricket skipper phones me up on Thursday, I'll be able to play :-). Depends on my back and the impact damage on my thumb.

So yeah - damage that meant I was in lots of pain on Thursday and Friday is diminishing to the point where the rational "you're too broken" is struggling to contain the hyperactive "I WANNA RUN" :-)

Weighty ?

One comment from Wednesday's game was that with the heat, I should have lost another stone from being under the helmet all the way through our fielding. Yeah - it was hot and I sweated buckets, so much it was getting into my eyes (ugh). There's a team picture out there with me under the Pink Hat, no way I was getting photographed without a hat having sweated that much !

But - if you're on an exercise based diet and you get on the scales after exercise to find that you've put weight on, Don't Get Discouraged. Instead of losing that 1 stone over the game, I actually gained about 5 lbs. And (I think!) it comes from that lactic acid I mentioned up above. It took a few days for that to get metabolised but now that it has, I'm back down to 12.5st.

Exercise and sweat does not necessarily mean loss of weight. For me, I'm much more careful now with my pre and post match intake so that sweat thing isn't a factor. I've injured my legs a huge amount over the years with cramp, so I make sure my water intake balances the sweating to reduce the potential of damaging cramp.

So - you're trying to lose weight, you do the "right thing" of exercising, you get on the scales to find out you've gained weight. Don't Be Discouraged !!!!! Our bodies work by very rational methods, there will be a good reason why the weight has gone on. With me, it's because the lactic acid gets in my muscles and makes them heavy.

Weight loss is not a battle, it's a long war. If you're exercising, you're helping yourself out in that long war. Keep it going. It'll be worth it. And you'll feel better for the exercise too.

Windy ?

I've switched over to the sailing - at the moment it's a Star race. That's with a 2 man boat, big sail still because they have a keel and the guys appear to be hanging more off the boat than on. I've always been interested in sailing, since reading Anne McCaffrey writing about it in Dragonsong (Julianne Regan is my voice of Menolly). Sailing is a battle of finding best advantage out of something invisible and barely predictable - the wind. Which ever sailor picks the best place to be to gain the most out of unpredictable air currents will win the race.

Always been interested but not had the chance to give it a go. I'm looking forward to the next Vendee Globe single handed non stop round the world race too, that was fascinating last time round.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Strangely musicless Saturday

Must be the first time for a very long time I haven't listened to any music on a Saturday.

Reason ? Wall to wall Olympics :-)

Come on ! You couldn't have expected anything else from a sport nut :-)

BBC are doing us proud with the coverage that they're offering us. There's 24 HD channels available, alongside them using their normal channels for Olympics coverage. Yes, it's cutting into the normal schedules a bit but ... it's a once in 4 years event.

The opening ceremony was pretty good last night. (I'd read a review cos my words wouldn't do it justice.) It kept me interested all the way through, with quintessential British quirkiness throughout. It's a little bit sad though how it ended, I can see why Macca had his microphone turned off in one of his recent concerts, his hamfisted performance took some of the gloss off. Gis Dr Who instead of has-been.

Today, I've been keeping an event up on the main telly plus I've been swapping between events on my desktop monitor. It works far better than depending on what the TV directors decide to show you. On something like the cycling road race, you get the full story of the race not just the soundbites. The internet based coverage has been working pretty well too (glitches forgiven).

So far I've watched :

Cycling road race - where Britain were expected to push Mark Cavendish to a gold medal. Dead cert. Nah ... didn't happen that way, all the best plans have a tendency to fall apart at the first sight of the enemy and this was no exception. They had no answer to an early breakaway that although wasn't decisive, laid the groundwork for a later breakaway that was.

Judo - this was pretty awesome (at least half of it). Take pint sized women of 48kg (7.5st) or below. That's just over half my weight from before the diet started. (I'm now 12.5 to 12.75st). These ladies could tie me in a knot and throw me around like a ball, without breaking a sweat. I wanted the Romanian Alina Dimitru to win, just for seeing how happy she would be. When her semi final finished, she couldn't contain the thrill, she was bouncing around and yelping like a mad thing. It would have been awesome to see that repeated after the final.

Also been watching - archery, which had drama all the way to the finish. And I wanted the Italians to win for wearing funny hats too.

I had a little bite of shooting, turning over just in time to see the last few shots.

I'm now on Tennis, with Andy & Jamie Murray on the big telly and Anne Keovathong on the monitor. Both games could go either way.

And that's just scratching the surface of what's on. It's not just Olympics either, the "big" (only 32") telly had the F1 qualifying on earlier and I'll have the race on tomorrow.

Swimming later but before that, I hear the ticking of the clock that will set off the dinner bell ... enjoy your evenings !

Friday, July 27, 2012

And so it begins ...

(this isn't all about Olympics)

Unless you've been living under a rock lately, it will have been impossible to notice that there's a big sporting event about to take off in London ...

I've taken a week off work, partly because I need to recharge the batteries a bit but I've picked next week for two reasons : it lets me watch Olympics until I get bored of it ... plus there's not much on next week at work that demands my attention.

(The worst thing you can do is believe that you are indispensible, it's a big kick to the ego when you find out that you're not - I know I'm the only one in the team that can do the stats work as quickly as I do ... but it wouldn't take long for someone else to learn that)

I'm quite looking forward to the Olympics. I sense that it will be a typically British affair. A lot will go like clockwork, with military precision (especially the security stuff - lol) but there will also be gaffs and oopsies along the way. And we'll quickly gather up the pieces, sweep up the dust and make a new plan to get things back on rails - like coping with the security firm not delivering on their promises. Brits are like that, we don't waste time making recriminations (ok, the politicians do but that's all they know), we get on with coping with the emergency and making it right.

I bet there will be a lot of British character in there too. We won't win all the medals, my country is a bit too small for that. There's a much reduced pool of athletes and sportspeople to choose from. And they will all be trying their hardest :-) (Except maybe the footballers)

I have the opening ceremony preamble on at the moment. I have the volume turned down low as listening to them will make my brain bleed out of my ears before too long. Opening ceremony starts properly at 9pm and I'll be listening to iTunes semi-random picks until then.

Ok - that's you all bored of Olympics by now and looking to click elsewhere.

I still feel on the ropes from Wednesday's game. Second day after first game for a while tends to be the worst. The injury inventory is :

Bruised thumb - thought I'd broken or dislocated it when it got whacked but the quick "can I move it ?" check showed not even a broken nail. Still sore and very stiff but ignorable.
Other bruises - yeah, these will fade. I have one in a place I cannot show off to anyone too. Wink-wink...
Legs ... hmm. These are sore and hurt like hell but there's a reason for that - unaccustomed exercise. This is why the second day is the worst, because it takes a bit of time for the stiffness to settle in.
Bad back. Ouchies ...

The back is what will slow me down. What I've damaged is the soft tissue on the left side, in the lumbar (lower) area. I have full range of movement but because it's swelled up a bit, it impinges on the sciatic nerves that control my left leg. That passes on pain etc to my legs and generally make it difficult to move around. Stairs have been literally a pain today.

Painkillers I hear someone suggest ? Nah. I avoid them. I'm the kind of person where if I think I'm ok, I'll go full speed ahead. If painkillers took the "be careful" signal away, I'd be running up the stairs and making it longer to recover. In games, I'll do the painblocking thing naturally, such that I was still diving around behind the stumps after injuring my back but after the game and the adrenaline wore off, I was having to bend over to cough because coughing while stood up was too painful.

I still get the "Let's Go Bristol!" "Yeah ! Fresh air will do you good and will let you walk off the stiffness".

Was seriously thinking about a Bristol wander but escaping work at 4pm made that not an option (again). Maybe later in the week when my legs are interested in stairs again. However if someone had said "Yeah, let's do that" - all pain would have been forgotten for a while :-).

Week's leave - here we come :-) But I can't close without mentioning a few people who made me smile today :

The new team people who asked if I was ok after seeing me limping around;
Miss F - who I spotted last night coming out of work in the car behind me and again today when I did a "oops - forgot lunch ... again" chocolate machine raid;
Contractor girls for not laughing too much when I was going OW at them;
And the Snow Queen for chuckling at my fate (to be honest, I was making jokes about it)

Hour to go until the opening ceremony :-)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Game on !

Yep - more cricket last night.

After the English summer turning into the Rainy Season, nature relented for the games this week and decided to let us play. To show how bad it's been, the team I played for last night has only managed to get on the field for 4 games ... I've played in 2 of those.

Our work actually has two teams playing, with last night's game being the second attempt this season at getting a game on between us. I played for the new side last night, mainly because it's my first season with them and I was looking to face some of the bowlers in the old side after fielding to them for years. It worked out too because it put both teams at 10 men each, just one short. That's not bad actually, for 2 teams playing out of the same site and in the middle of summer leave silly season.

Ok ! Enough with the preamble !

Our team batted first, which was awesome. Really hot days at the moment ... I prepared by drinking heaps of water through the day. Weather like this, you're gonna sweat buckets whoever you are. So we got the chance to sit in the shade while the old team sweated in the field. It was a little bit cooler later :-)

Our team batted pretty well, keeping the scoreboard ticking over nicely. A few lusty blows near the end from the skipper boosted us towards a handy total. Although it was a little sad that we got boosted even more by the fella bowling the second last over which lasted 13 balls.

I don't think I wasted too much time, although my poor run of batting form continued. I hit a sweet tap-pull round the corner for 4, plus a sprinted single. I then got out trying to whack another pull shot, the ball didn't bounce as much as I expected and hit the top of middle. It woulda flown for six runs - honest. Ok, maybe not cos that was an awful long way out to the boundary that side. I managed to bring out the switch hit too, although I didn't get much leverage on it and it went straight to a fielder.

We scored 141 (although that scorebook needed some severe checking !)

Over to us in the field and it's OMG I'M KEEPING WICKET.

I've not done that for 9 years and the game where I got my nose broken. That wasn't from keeping ... honest, it was from the batting afterwards. Ahhh - keeping. For the uninitiated, the wicket keeper in cricket is the one that stands behind the stumps looking to catch whatever goes past the batsman. It's the only job in cricket where wearing armour is accepted (as well as batting!).

You wear a pair of short pads plus a solid pair of armoured gloves. But it's still not quite enough ... In the game where I got hit on the head for the second time (helmet = no damage!), the opposition keeper had his fingers rearranged by the same bowler that tagged me. Even if you take the ball perfectly, it can still leave its mark.

I think I did just "ok", by my own opinion. I was taking the ball reasonably well, when I remembered to allow it to come into my hands on its own instead of snatching at it. Snatching means hard hands, means the ball bounces out. Allowing it to gather naturally with soft hands lets you absorb all the momentum of the ball. I let 5 byes through (1 single and a 4 to the boundary) which is better than I've seen some regular keepers do.

I grabbed one catch down the legside too :-) Really pleased with that, because if the ball goes legside it's going behind the batsman. You can't see it there ... So for the 1 second between the bowler letting it go and it hitting the gloves, there's a fraction where the keeper completely loses sight of it. I was in complete and utter disbelief :-) So much so the appeal went something like "HOW..." (did I really catch that?) "HOWZAT!".

Yep. Putting my stutter into the game :-)

Kinda disappointed I didn't get a stumping. One or two of the batsmen were looking likely that it might happen but I didn't get a chance to get 'em. People seemed to think I did a pretty good job behind the stumps and I think I'd be asked to field there again by either team.

New team ended up winning by about 20 runs :-)

But for me, it's come at a cost ... An early bit of fielding saw me run after the ball and do a one move pick up and throw (actually held it cos there was no point in doing the throw but I got in the position). All that was done on the turn ... which is bad news with my back. I could feel something squishy let go in the lumbar area, which is an old injury that comes back to haunt me. I've had trouble even going up stairs today ...

I'm out of next week's game with that as I doubt it'll settle down before then.

That's not all the damage - there were a lot of wild throws coming in, one of which tagged me on the end of the thumb. Even with the armoured glove, there's a lot of momentum in a hard flung cricket ball. When it hit, the instant thought was "Ow - that's broke or dislocated" but I've gotten away with that one again. Just a case of bruising and hyperextension. I have fairly mobile joints, which is how my fingers have survived inept fielding over the years ...

At the moment, I have the legs-in-concrete feeling where they're complaining at me for doing unaccustomed exercise. That'll fade though. Hopefully the back injury will go back to sleep soon too, although it's times like this that I wish there were someone around to give me a little TLC!

Or at least someone to show the bruises off to :-)

PS At least half of this soreness is down to me focusing so much on the catching that I fell back into instincts that date back 20 years. My chase after the ball ground fielding was pretty darn good. Shouldn't have been doing that mind (my job was to let the fielders do the running around) but I couldn't fight those instincts. But - lol. The instincts still work after 20 years but they're kinda expecting to be wired into a body that's had 20
years less damage :-)
PS2 I wore the helmet for all but one over of keeping. In really hot weather. Glad I didn't have a game tonight - it might still be wet !
PS3 The catch means another £5 for Pink Hat Bounty, which this time will go to a colleague's sponsored Skydive.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

We wos wobbed !

(Also cricket tonight - we won ! but I'm gonna hurt like hell tomorrow due to - wrenching my back and damaging my oh so valuable opposable thumb)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Someone's hit that light bulb switch again and it's made the sun come out :-)

It's about time too cos this "summer", a lot of records have been broken on rainfall. It says something for climate change being far more subtle than just "it's getting hotter" because what we've seen this summer is more a change in pattern. Britain is at similar latitudes to Canada, which is considerably colder than Britain. What makes Britain warmer is the Gulfstream, a band of warm air that circles the Atlantic. It's part of a pattern called the Trade Winds, which is a naturally occurring phenomenon which happens as a result of the Earth spinning.

But when that natural current of air shifts ... that's when strange things start happening with the weather.

Right now, it's shifted back to how late July should be - 28 degrees C heat and scorchy bum in the car.

About the car - climate control is awesome :-) I'll step into a hot car after finishing up at work. I'll turn the car on and a few seconds later the climate control will do its best to get the internal temperature down to something manageable. It's sooooo good having a fully working air conditioning system again, it's one of the things I needed to spend money on with my Focus. In fact, it worked so well that when I got home and opened the car door, the first thought was "bloody hell it's warm out here".

However, one comment about the air con is that I need to find out how to redirect airflow when I have pizza. Let's just say - hot air going to the footwell is far better than icey cold air going to the footwell. (That's where I put the pizza box on the way home - pizza on white seats = bad idea).

Another comment - the perforated leather seats work really well. I've had one previous car with full leather seats and they really didn't work well in hot conditions. Definite scorchy bum syndrome. Dotty perforated leather helps the seat breathe, making it much cooler.

Last car comment - one thing the Lexus afficionados think should be in every Lexus is a heated steering wheel. (We're used to lots of toys). I respectfully disagree. In cold conditions, I'll put my leather driving gloves on to keep my fingers working. Sorted. However, in hot conditions, I don't want to be wearing Volcano Gauntlets to be able to touch the steering wheel. I'd much prefer a steering wheel with a chiller to one with a heater.

What am I doing now ?

Oh - right now it's watching Sussex gives a huge bashing to Gloucestershire bowlers in the Twenty20 quarter finals. The average score this season has been 140 off 20 overs, Sussex have 204 already with 9 balls to go. Erm - make that 210. SIX RUNS !

Gloucestershire are my most local team but you could call me an Anti-Supporter because of how they treated our work side. We did net practice there one season but when we tried to go back, all calls were unanswered, all messages were ignored. So I support the other guy.

Music wise - I'm getting near to having listened to all the stuff in the library again. Of the soundtracks, Beyond Good & Evil has some awesome stuff in there alongside incidental music. Trine 2 is "interesting" while the Deus Ex and Machinarium soundtracks can only be described as awesome.

Off work next week, which I'm heavily looking forward to. Been feeling very stretched lately, which is understandable because I've effectively been doing 2 separate jobs for the past few weeks. That takes its toll eventually but I'm happier now than I was then. I've scoped out the major task for next few months in my head and have a mental plan. Now I just need to put that plan on paper to keep my bosses happy.

I will miss a few people in that week off for sure. I'm enjoying working in the new team. The old team didn't have a great atmosphere, with some elements of it actively working against other elements of it. That's not a recipe for getting things done. It's pretty silly. I'm not catching that in the new team, in fact I've had a hell of a lot of help from the finance, commercial and business management people.

But who will I really miss :
Finance Angels E, K and L (yep - new finance angel)
Miss Meerkat
The Apprentice who actually works downstairs (trying to pass on as much as possible in as short a time as possible!)
The Boss (who's just moved teams - must grab a coffee opportunity)
And the new Business Management people who seem highly amused (bemused?) by my antics

And there's a bunch more in the new team who I need to get inspiration for codenames. Despite not knowing what we were being parachuted into, I think our team reshuffle has worked pretty well. We're cracking on with work as a together group of people.

And that's always worth smiling about. Especially when you get smiles from people walking by your desk spotting you do the Meerkat "who dat?" thing :-)

Right - half time in the cricket, Sussex reached a massive 230 and it's time to put the popcorn on before the second half. Enjoy your evenings !

Monday, July 23, 2012

Games again

Ok. I've talked a lot about games and gaming lately. I've probably spent more time talking about games & gaming than actually gaming.

Last one for a while (No promises!). Steam sale is over, so it's back to peeking at daily deals. Oh and getting some value out of the games I picked up on the Steam sale. But ... I did spot a story in The Register that begs a response ... "Ten... PC games you may have missed". Right from the start, it's waving the red flag around because Jagged Alliance 2 Back In Action was not something deserving of any credit ...

But there are some good suggestions in there. Actually no ... there's not. There's a lot of trash. The only ones I'd seriously consider are Vessel and the Sins of a Solar Empire expansion. But even then - I've not picked them up despite being tempted on the Steam Sale.

What's my list ?

From the Steam library first ... and not restricting myself to stuff coming out in the last 12 months. If it's a classic, it's timeless ? Right ?

Beyond Good & Evil. I seriously need to go back into the game and do more of it. This one had me grinning from ear to ear for the whole 3 hour long initial session. And had me grabbing the awesome soundtrack too. It's backed up by reasonable mechanics too. Seriously good game. Must finish it.

Capsized. This one I bought ages ago. It's a pretty sound platformer, with the modern thing going where your character interacts with the environment to solve puzzles. Oh and there's some nasty aliens trying to eat you as well. Worth a look.

DEFCON. Do Not Buy This Game If Prone To Depression !!!! The best games rely on simple rules. The best computer games hide insanely complex mechanics behind those simple rules. This is DEFCON. It's global thermonuclear war a la that ancient movie.

Deus Ex. Either the original (which I need to do a playthrough of) or the se-pre-quel Deus Ex Human Revolution (DXHR). I've played DXHR through a bunch of times so far. It's so good that I've devoted my very sparse gaming time to that game alone. And there's some insanely cheap deals been going through on it. The only reason I haven't done a playthrough on the original is because it looks archaic. (However ... avoid Deus Ex: Invisible War)

Jagged Alliance 2. Avoid the trash which is the "Back In Action" rip off game. This one is another of those rare games where they got so much so right with very few bugs. It's a living breathing country where you're asked to go in and liberate it from its Evil Dictator Queen. There's so much to see here and it's another with those simple rules, complex hidden mechanics. The rules align with what you'd expect your people to be able to do, the mechanics make them happen.

Machinarium. Oh so charming. I'll do a proper review of this at some point. You control the central character, which is an outwardly harmless but incredibly stoical robot. He's had a hard life this fella, with his story being played out in very sad (but disarmingly charming) cutscenes. Great soundtrack too. MUST HAVE !

Civilisation. Any of them. But I'd have to say aim for Civ 4 because I know that's good, plus it should be available cheap. Strategy games need to be over a very long time in my opinion. A war isn't won by a single battle (like in Real Time Tactical games like Starcraft), it's won over a series of them. And a strategy game is of no value unless you can choose the strategy to employ over a war, not just a single battle. The Civilisation series has always been the apex for historical strategy. I'd also recommend Moo2 from Good Old Games for space strategy.

Civ 4 and not Civ 5 ? I own Civ 5 now but I've not played it yet ... plus it'll cost more. I can't honestly give an opinion on a game I've not played or seen played. So I point you towards Civ 4 :-)

Solar 2. This game is just plain Weird. You play as an asteroid, grow into a planet, absorb asteroids (as moons) to grow into a sun and eventually absorb enough mass to become a black hole. You'll play nothing like this game. I didn't play it much but it was good fun while I did.

X-Com. Oh yes. Talking strategy ? This one has a strategy layer on top of the tactical battle layer. If your soldiers survive one battle, they'll learn and improve for the next one. If they die (which happens a LOT in XCom - it's brutal) then the next battle is harder with fresh green troops.

(I only mentioned XCom because there's a new one coming and I really do hope they don't mess it up)

Ok. That's 9. As my 10th, I'll say Neverwinter Nights. It's old yes. However it's another where they got so much, so right. It's a Dungeons & Dragons ruleset game but they didn't include all of what you can do in D&D. They kept it to what would make a playable game. That's very important - some games start with great concepts but then throw it all away by being far too ambitious with what they try and include. And the ambition can break the game.

Others well worthy of a mention from what I've seen but I can't include them above because I haven't actually played them yet : Botanicula (bought, not played yet), Minecraft (great potential, £17 is not value), Trine 2, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.

I've deliberately excluded some of the big names up there ... To be honest, DXHR is a better game than Skyrim. It's more focused with far better storytelling. And despite the massive content in Skyrim, you'd only play that through once if you finish it at all. In terms of value for money, games like Machinarium, Beyond Good & Evil, Botanicula and heavily discounted A list games like Borderlands and Deus Ex HR will give far more enjoyment for less money. Skyrim's content blends together into a seamless mush. 5 or 6 indie games for the same price give more enjoyment through better variation.

Now I just gotta find time to play the new stuff.

PS That would be "find time to play them before Guild Wars 2 comes out ..."
PS2 One way to check these games out is Let's Plays on Youtube. Anything by Yogscast, Omfgcata and the first impressions videos by Totalbiscuit will tell you whether a game is something you will find worth playing. They're worth checking out before you allow cash out of your wallet.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Thinking about - writing

Oh gosh - there's a lot that can be said about writing.

First of all - why write ? Writing is the core of most communication in the 21st century. People are texting more, email and instant messaging are mandatory, twitter and Facebook are letting people put soundbites on the web and blogs like this let people throw Walls Of Text out there.

At work, we use written communication a huge amount as well. It forms a permanent record of decisions, actions, instructions, declarations, assumptions and all that stuff. If you don't write things like assumptions or actions down, it's open to "screenshot or it didn't happen" later. Not writing down so called "gentleman's agreements" leads to wasted time later as you try to prove or disprove the agreement. People are also happier with a piece of paper that says "Yes, you can turn that on, it's safe".

But ... it takes a certain type of style for the different writing we do. I have several that I switch between at will. I didn't study English language to A level but did get an A grade (A* didn't exist then - this was before GCSE was dumbed down) at the level below. One of the reasons for this blog is that it lets me practice writing and refine the skills.

It's not just splurging words on to a page. It's getting a message across.

And to make a point, a plan always helps. (Not that I'm following a plan here !) Being able to write in multiple different styles is a key skill. I prefer to use a jokey, casual style in most communication at work. I'll write in language that defies sentence construction. The objective behind most of that is to put me on a similar level to the people I'm talking to. I try and be their friend, I try and be on their side. Cos we're all trying to work together to the same goal most of the time.

However. There's also a need for several formal styles. Technical writing demands concise precision. There should be nothing open to interpretation when writing a technical description or defining a requirement. Any room for interpretation leads to you not getting what you want. At the same time, you want to capture everything.

The other formal writing is where you're defending a position. The same thing applies there with the precision, except the precision is directed more towards building an impenetrable wall around your argument.

With my new role at work, I found myself doing the position defence writing thing last week because we needed to ask for extra money because a contractor got it wrong with their requirement definition (it's the new project, not the old one - please don't thump me Ms Warpath! - lol). So that's like writing "we need this money" justification while hiding behind a wall you need as strong as you can make it. Otherwise, your justification gets knocked down, you don't get the necessary work done and your project falls behind.

Next week - I'll be doing the technical writing thing, where we write down all of our assumptions in a single document. Assumptions are pretty important. They either let you simplify your choice, or give justification for why you're ignoring something cheaper. With my latest PC, the assumptions included :

Intel cpu - because AMD lost their performance equality
nVidia graphics - because AMD/ATi had bad software

If I'd applied a similar assumption set with my laptop, it may have been able to still play video above 360p. The AMD cpu has the theoretical grunt but in real life, it isn't up to the job because it has to drive itself too hard.

All that said though. It's a different writing style again to what I put on this blog.

I think I balance the styles fairly well here. There's no real need for the ultra formal Build A Wall style, unless I'm on dodgy ground with an argument. The ultra casual style works well most of the time but I do like to try and appear intelligent and literate ;-). Technical writing style is handy for certain posts but I have the room to add in a bit more flowery descriptive language that I wouldn't put in a technical description.

Have I Wall Of Texted too much yet ? That's another thing with the writing for work. If your document is too thick, people just :

Read the start.
Read the end.
Look at the pictures.

I know I do. We sometimes don't have time to do more than focus on key points. If a work document is too long and that length isn't due to recording fact, then the length wastes the time of the author and the reader.

I hope my Wall of Text tendency here doesn't waste people's time. I do it mainly because, due to living on my own, I don't have the chance to talk through things with people. So in my own way, this is my way of talking through thoughts that would otherwise rattle around in my head until silly hours in the morning.

I can work my way through a lot of the random thoughts like that but not all. There's some stuff that's too private for on here, although I'll talk to a very small group of people about them. And that's a very small group because I don't trust many people with the really deep stuff.

And I'll close on this point - written communication is all very well. It lets you record what you think and also lets you put those thoughts in some sort of order. However ... it's very impersonal. You don't know if the reader is empathising or sniggering. That sort of stuff, you can only find out face to face.

I like to think I'm pretty good at figuring out what people are thinking or feeling, at least unconsciously due to empathy. But you can't tell on text-only whether people are just stringing you along.

I trust most of my closer friends implicitly. But there's some old friends where that trust level is slipping. There's just stuff been going on in the background that I've been picking up on which can be originating with just a few people. I think I know who it is - and I just don't get it. Actually I do - and that's because I know more than people think I do.

And I think it's really time to end this one before it gets well and truly derailed ! Think before you write, don't assume you know everything, consider the impact on others.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Games, videos, munchies, streams

Randoms again !

Lots of sport to see this weekend. And other entertainmenty type stuff. I was hoping for a really chilled out weekend this weekend. I still have a bit of the hyperactivity tendency active but it's being dragged down as my batteries run low. Also noticing that I can't stretch it out as much as I used to - maybe that's a side effect of being lighter, less fat reserve to draw upon.

The weather was clear on Thursday so one of my teams got a game in (dunno who won). I didn't play because they already had enough but I'm kinda glad I didn't play. Random injury of the day on Thursday and Friday was a dodgy hip (left side! dunno where that came from) that was slowing me down while walking. It's rare that I let signs of injury show but was actively limping for this one. On Thursday at least - by Friday lunchtime I was able to race ahead of people again :-). I need to get active again. Too long without running around leads to me stiffening up too much.

I'd have had trouble breathing as well on Thursday - I either had major dust attack or a reaction to something else. I hope it's a mystery reaction because the alternative would be me developing something anti-bread ... That's bad news. How else do you get your hot dogs ?

Just kidding there. Not had a hot dog for months. Honest.

Been testing out my network lately. Because my laptop can't really cope with video better than 360p, I'm currently watching the Eve Alliance Tournament on the desktop while tapping this post in on my laptop. I'm also listening to music streamed over the wifi. So right at the moment :

iTunes sending 1.1Mbits/s over wifi to my hifi
Eve Alliance tournament sucking in about 1Mbit/s of streaming
Add in the various sundry stuff like multiple chat apps (MSN & Steam) and the other internet type apps.

And later I'll switch the Eve tournament for GuildWars 2 beta streaming if the Totalbiscuit or Jesse Cox streams come online. (Maybe). The Eve tournament stream has actually done ok today after its disastrous number of dropouts last weekend. The fights aren't so great today because there's a lot of meaningless matches. However - finals day tomorrow could be exciting.

Curiosity point there - the Eve tournament stream in HD is coming down the pipe at 1Mbit/s to 2.5Mbit/s (bandwidth goes up as things get busy) while the iTunes audio stream goes out at 1.1Mbits/s max. When the video stream goes down to talking heads, the audio is actually using more bandwidth. Apple's Airplay is a pretty good protocol. CD audio quality is 16 bits, times 2 for stereo, times 441000 per second for a potential 1.68Mbits/s. Airplay compresses down a little but not very much when you look at it. I'd be hard pressed to tell a difference between Airplay going over the wireless network and a wire stretched across the floor.

Actually I would, the first time I went for a "brb 1 min" and tripped up on the wire sending everything flying.

What's surprising (unless you go cynical) is that the audio & hifi magazines when they review audio streamers, ignore tech like Apple's Airport Express. It's £79 yeah ... but that tends to be cheaper than the other dedicated audio streamers that they will review. I dunno about you but I'd rather get an audio streamer without speakers than wasting £500 (JEEZ!!!!) on something like the B&W Zeppelin speakers. That's £421 wasted when you already have a hifi that you're happy with.

So yeah - I'm still really happy with the Airport Express solution. It ticks all sorts of boxes. Not to mention being really portable and adaptable. If I go somewhere, I can chuck it in with my laptop stuff and plug it in where I end up. I've used it on proper hifis, portable speakers and even plugged it into a telly to get music. Oh and it'll also allow you to add a USB printer or hard disc to a network.

Been watching the cricket and F1 as well today. I'll do the same tomorrow as well. I rarely watch stuff live these days (V+ record while you watch box). Not such a great day in the cricket today. Lots of grindy stuff from the South Africans while the most damage England did was to their own equipment. Watch this - you won't believe it til you see it. The advantage to watching "as-live" is that you can fast forward through all the adverts and filler. So tomorrow, I'll watch the cricket until lunch at 1pm and then start the F1 coverage off and fast forward the filler to get to the race.

But tonight though - chill out mode has turned to music. I've bought a lot of soundtracks in the Steam sale and I'm steadily working my way through them. Grabbed a bit more too :

Beyond Good & Evil soundtrack - this started it. The music in the rhino garage had me just standing there tapping my feet.
Machinarium - played an hour of it yesterday - puzzler. Haunting soundtrack. Very sad, very cute. Must finish.
Deus Ex - must play this one more too.
Trine 2 - another excellent soundtrack. Not played game yet.
Civilisation V - think I'll be attacking this game later ...
Mass Effect 3 (part) - got this a few weeks ago.

Great games tend to get backed up by fantastic soundtracks that assist the game by setting the mood. That goes for a lot of media actually. The signature of Star Wars is the music. You recognise themes like Star Trek, Stargate, Hitch Hikers and Ennio Morricone instantly. The Star Wars music got included in the games with an innovative system that matched what was happening to the music being played. Shooty bits were matched with more uptempo music.

Skyrim has a bit of the music theme too. Like the Dovahkin hymn that makes the opening menu far more dramatic. Or visiting an inn and sticking around long enough for one of the voice acted bards to either charm you or terrify (some of them are Bad) you with their renditions.

And I'll leave it there. Hopefully my breathing won't go bad again tonight like it did Wednesday night. Although if it does, I'll have learned something I need to avoid eating ...

PS Must watch Hitch Hikers Guide again. Will add that to list of stuff to watch when telly goes quiet ... which will be in at least 3 weeks when the Olympics has been and gone.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sounds like gaming

Must actually play what I buy.

Steam summer sale is still going on and while I haven't gone as mad with it as I might have ... I've not played that much of what I have bought. A lot of that is down to me being in the work type schedule. After a day's staring at a VDU and using my brain to think through the issues, I'm often not actually wanting to cook more brain cells on a game that's going to want me to think quickly.

So I've been watching the gaming instead through youtube channels including Totalbiscuit (as Totalhalibut), Jesse Cos (as Omfgcata), Dodger's coffeh and PressHeart videos and the Yogscast series (too prolific to link). They never forget something absolutely key - games are supposed to be FUN. And they have a lot of fun with making their videos. I laugh a lot when watching them.

Oh and it also lets me check games out to see if :

They're worth spending money on;
They're my type of game;

And other stuff like that. I've watched some of the videos and recognised that while it may well be an excellent game of its type, it's not one I'd be interested in or spend much time on.

In that case, I wonder why I'm reinstalling League of Legends as I type ... And that's instead of getting more into what I have bought on the Steam sale so far :

Beyond Good & Evil - from Sweet SteamGirl
Borderlands - post apocalyptic shooter with radical graphics style
Trine 2 - bought for soundtrack really, sideways scrolling puzzler
Civilisation V - empire building evolved
Civ 4 Colonisation - conquer the New World and then tell the people back home to poke off

But at least I've managed to resist things like Anno 2070 & HOMM6 (bad DRM), Sins of a Solar Empire (not enough discount, think it'd send me back to Moo2), Warlord-Master of the Arcane (unfinished) and a few others. Things like the Total War series - the developers of these have a very long history of pushing out games that are only 90% complete. There's only so much of that behaviour which can be tolerated. Or should be tolerated.

That's one massive problem with the gaming world at the moment. Hype wins over good common sense. It's quite well known that the Total War games and a few others have issues. Most of the top selling games have issues. The Skyrim UI is unusable compared to modded versions of it. Pretty much anything by Bethesda is unstable and everything Ubisoft do is shackled by obsessive and unstable DRM. Yet hype combined with inaccurate and Advertising Biased reviews in magazines leads to these games being bestsellers.

It's a pity really. And it affects other areas of the media like what we see on Telly.

We don't get fed Good Stuff. We get fed stuff that is expected to sell. Revolutionary, "interesting" programmes and games get abandoned in favour of what seems a good bet. We lose good series like A Town Called Eureka, Sanctuary, Firefly, Terra Nova and Defying Gravity and keep stuff like True Blood, Game of Thrones (not seen) and Spartacus. I'm pretty much addicted to vampire stuff, so for me to abandon True Blood after 1 series due to its writing being more boring than watching paint dry suggests something had gone horribly wrong there.

Quick music aside - if we got forcefed the mainstream rubbish all the time in music, we'd be missing out on amazing voices singing about Clowns (Alison Goldfrapp - I could listen to that voice all day).

Sadly it's part of majority rule ... We're a huge collection of minorities. Each minority has its own taste, which while unique overlaps the taste of the other minorities. My sister and I both love Bat For Lashes but we have opposite tastes for Alisha's Attic (love 'em) and Muse (dislike - all sounds the same).

When it comes to getting pushed stuff in the gaming world, companies steer towards what's likely to be popular. Which means :

Lots of first person shooters
Third person shooters
Cutscenes that interfere with the action
On rails games that have skyscraper sized plot hammers
Civ clones and Total War clones

And other stuff like that. It means I've not really got into the modern games (Mass Effect maybe?) like I did classics like Neverwinter Nights, Moo2, Tie Fighter and MoM. Mentioning Tie Fighter - where's the space sims these days ? Those died out because they apparently didn't sell. Well ... the original X Wing kickstarted the sale of many 80486 PCs. (Last century)

And I'll rest on a horrible thought I just had that makes me feel old - one or two readers may not have been born when X Wing and Moo were released ... Lol :-) And they definitely weren't here when I was addicted to BBC classics like Elite & Revs !

PS I wonder how much of that reluctance to game is down to me deep down really wanting to be out somewhere with someone attractive and intelligent enjoying stuff like dinner, movies, shows together ? Playing with yourself can pass the time but playing with others is where the real fun is.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yellow Face ! It burnzzzz

We actually haven't had rain for some of this week !

Don't be alarmed. Torrential rain was back today. For a while. We got lulled into thinking Summer was happening over the last couple of days but reality beckoned again today. Guess what - cricket was due tonight.

I don't really like to believe in coincidence (if you do, then it can be an unhealthy belief that the world revolves around you - the world doesn't care that much) but ...

No cricket on Monday & Tuesday - rain relatively clear.
Cricket on Wednesday - oars needed to get to work. (Not quite)
Cricket called off - 30 minutes later the sun comes out.

Sun's still out too but there was so much rain this morning, the ground would have been mud. There's another game on tomorrow night, to be played on an artificial pitch. Bit more chance of that game happening but I have my doubts.

Loving my car still - can't quite believe I've almost had it a year now. But ... I think one of these would have been more appropriate for our English summer :
That's from the Wiki page and it's for a World War 2 vehicle - the DUKW. It's a six wheeled amphibious truck. The letters stand for :
D - designed in 1942
U - Utility
K - driven front wheels
W - two powered rear axles
What that doesn't say is that it had a watertight hull and propeller and could go 5.5 knots in water as well as 50mph on land.

What say to a modern version of one of them ? Might need it if this Global Warming thing continues ! Let's see :

Make it smaller. Say use a Juke chassis or other small SUV.
Keep the hull watertight, lighten it for buoyancy.
Use a powertrain with a "Power Take Off"*
And hook up a steerable propeller or propulsor.

Yeah. Mad Scientist Hat is calling ... I reckon that without needing to take guns and a buncha squaddies, you could get 80mph+ and 10knts+.

*(Power Take Off - is something that lets you hook up the engine to something other than the wheels. Seen on tractors mostly, used to be on 4x4 vehicles. Not seen so much these days)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pink Summer Lording Sport

More all sorts today ...

There's a few things lately that have set off the That's Silly alarm.

Olympics are coming ! My summer leave period is spookily going to coincide with the first week. I'll watch as much Olympics as I can fit in. Or I'll try to. I'd like to head off for one of the events too but looking at the tickets page, the options are all deeply Meh :

Artistic Gymnastics, Football, Weightlifting, Beach Volleyball, Volleyball, Boxing, Diving.

Hockey's on the list - hockey's ok. Unless it's Mixed Hockey, which is a bloodbath not for the faint hearted. Put a hockey stick in the hands of a woman and there's only one thing to do : RUN LIKE HELL. Or be in goal where you're covered head to toe in armour.

So I don't think I'll go to any events, looking at the tickets available but I'll watch it until my brain melts. And then I'll switch over to the 2nd England vs S Africa Test Match which starts on Thursday 2nd.

House of Lords "reform" ...

You have to seriously wonder at what's in the heads of the people supposedly leading our country. House of Lords isn't about privilege, although there are members of it that seriously abuse privilege. (If you're a Lord, you should occasionally attend the house). Being in the House of Lords isn't a privilege, it's a responsibility. It's an unelected body who's aim it is to keep the elected monkeys in check. They don't make law, they stop bad ones. And the people we vote in are a bunch of morons.

Democracy is a great system of government when you have viable people to vote for. And we're sorely lacking in those at the moment. It would be handy to have a mechanism of De-Lording a Lord but they're really there to keep the MPs from doing really stupid things like ...

Setting the speed limits to 40mph on rural roads.

Who came up with this one ? And did they really expect it to be followed ? The speeds they set for GB roads tend to be seen as a minimum speed, not a maximum. Not many people keep to the 40 limits around here and you get the occasional psycho doing 60 in the 30s. So if the limits were set back to 40, you'd get 80mph muppet coming round blind bends and whacking the 40mph people. It's not Actual Speed that's dangerous, it's Speed Differential. When there's a big difference in speed, that's when things get very dangerous.

There's too much sense of immortallity coming from driving our tougher modern cars. People are doing daft things like Speed Limit + 30 or using mobiles while driving.

That's enough ranty mode for now though.
Abolishing the Lords - bad. It'll let the politicians run riot and do stupid things.
Reducing the speed limit - bad. It'll make the roads far more dangerous.

Been running at Ultra Hyper today. Not sure completely why - there's a few possibilities :

Nattering to various people and trying to make some of them smile
Shaking my head at one fella who we're hoping won't damage himself through overwork
(hey ! that could be me too ! too late - already messed up my shoulder - lol)
Thinking my eyes have made an improvement
Being insanely busy at work
Realising that I may need to buy yet another belt
(it's regularly going on another tighter hole now)
Maybe something I've eaten too (there's something to that "need fish" thing)
Getting bought stuff on Steam :-) :-) :-)
(someone must like me !)

Sporty stuff - this weekend's going to be busy too ... After the disaster which was the Eve Alliance Tournament stream yesterday, I'll not bother with the finals next weekend. I'll be busy enough with shoehorning in Cricket and Formula 1 (unless it rains and takes the cricket off the field).

Talking of rain ... Having a silly amount of rain this summer June/July. I have a strong feeling that the pink bat grip I got a month ago (it really is a month ago - I checked!) isn't going to see service on a cricket field this year. Yeah - I reckon it's a good chance we'll get an almost completely washed out summer season.

That's quite sad. And another reason why I'm glad I didn't go through with making a massive thing of the Pink Hat Project. To be ruthlessly honest there, I don't think my fragile ego would have coped well with what I anticipate would have been a general response of "that's nice, now what were you doing again ?" to me hunting sponsorship.

Hunting for charity cash is a really thankless task at the moment. Money's tight. I'd feel bad if someone I got cash off for a fairly anonymous charity later had to stop doing something they enjoy because they couldn't afford it. Too many charity people guilt you into giving with variations of "It's for charity ... mate" with the inference of the "mate" factor diminishing if you don't give. I hate that. And it's partly down to a colleague from >10 years ago who was everyone's friend when collecting but didn't want to know at other times.

I'll happily give cash to charities that I trust but my psyche isn't set up for the collecting aspect.

So yeah - Pink Hat Project, if I'd gone ahead with it fully, would have been a damp squib. But on the bright side ... No more hose pipe bans !

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gamey weekend

Games to the left, games to the right, games to the centre this weekend.

On the telly we've had cricket, with one shortened game yesterday and another game today which looks like it'll go the distance.
On the laptop and later desktop we've had the Eve Alliance tournament.
And over Steam we've had the sales continuing ...

I've bought stuff ! And had stuff bought for me too, which was a very pleasant surprise in the middle of thumping dragons in Skyrim. The game which was bought for me is Beyond Good And Evil, which I'd have bought in this Steam sale anyway (just waiting for more discount). What can I say about this one ? It's about the most adorable game I've played. And I very rarely pull words like that out for games.
It has a style I've not seen much in games, although I have tended to avoid the adventure style game before I came across Deus Ex HR. You play Jade, pictured above and below. Jade is a photo journalist who is looking to get to the bottom of conspiracies. It's a scifi setting, very colourful with cuteness dialled up to max.
Did I mention conspiracy ? No conspiracy would be complete without a dodgy geezer with strange tache and suit.

I've not got too far into it but I'm looking forward to going back in.

Cricket on the telly's been good. Yesterday's game saw Worcestershire set a pretty decent target, with Leicestershire chasing. It was Will-They-Won't-They all the way to the end. With every ball, the likely winner was changing. Very tense, very exciting. And today's game is looking quite close too.

The Eve Alliance tournament has been happening this weekend too (finale next weekend) and to be honest - if previous Eve tournaments drew me back into the game, this is chasing me away from it. And it's not even CCP's fault either, it's the reliability of their chosen streamer that's letting them down. It's been down a lot today. Very embarassing for CCP.

As well as Beyond Good & Evil, I've sent a copy of Trine 2 back to a very good friend on Steam which I hope she enjoys a lot :-). And I've picked up another copy of Borderlands (with all DLC for £5), Civ V (£7.50) and Civ 4 Colonisation (£2.50). Civ V is mostly in the hope of finding a cheap copy of its expansion but I'll check out Civ V at some point.

Lots of games - not enough time to play them.

I didn't finish Borderlands the last time around but remember it being pretty good. I didn't finish because it drove me back into World of Warcraft. I doubt that will happen this time because I think WoW has pretty much had its day with me. GuildWars 2 might just be the Next WoW though.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sleepy eyes sorely tired

Not actually bought anything yet on the Steam sale ...

A few things have caught the eye but not enough to actually get the credit card for :

Anno 2070 - it's a city builder game but I'm not altogether sure what I'd do with it. Still curious about it though. However ... it has Ubisoft's overbearing Digital Rights Management software attached to it which requires an always on internet connection. That's not actually a problem for me, although it is for Ubisoft. My internet connection is 99.9999% available, which is much more than can be said for Ubisoft's DRM servers.

Might & Magic Heroes VI - missed the boat on this one, although it's another one that's subject to Ubisoft's DRM. It's another example where rampant piracy is costing honest customers. The DRM would not be there without piracy.

Warlock - Master Of the Arcane - another one I avoided but it's one that I was interested in. I've always been a fan of Civilisation type games. They have huge depth available in terms of strategy and this one looks to bring in fantasy elements which seriously open up the scope past Spearman vs Tank. But ... it's another which was released before it was ready, with elements like diplomacy being sacrificed in the rush.

Bloodbowl - I used to be a big Games Workshop fan. I'd get White Dwarf every month and keep up with their games. I even got a few of their PC games. They were strong games too - tabletop and computer. GW went very mercenary though and it showed in the attitude they had towards selling complete games. Actually, on tabletop that's probably not completely fair as they maintained game balance while adding new bits through White Dwarf. But on computer, they effectively pioneered the "sell something incomplete now, sell DLC later" ethic that's infecting the PC gaming market more now.

So I've avoided getting what the independent reviewers think of as a broken game. Wonder if I could find a copy of the earlier Chaos League somewhere.

Lesson - just because it's on sale doesn't mean you Have To Buy It.

That's kinda distant from the title isn't it ...

My eyes have been particularly bad lately. People are noticing and asking about it ... Hayfever seems incredibly bad this summer and my eyes have been watering excessively. However ... always ask if you've found the right cause. I suffer from dust allergies as well and my house is in severe need of Attack By Vacuum Cleaner. I also wear glasses and while I keep the lenses clean that's not always enough. So I attacked them with something short n pointy to clean the bits that a hanky doesn't reach.

Eyes improving. Handy :-) But still a way to go. They're still sore but not as much as a couple of days ago. I've also changed my pillowcases. Where do we put our eyes when we sleep ? Usually next door to a pillowcase. Lesson - don't neglect the obvious ;-)

Chilling out today. I can keep myself going for ages if I need to. And when I start to struggle, I know stuff I can consume to kick in the hyperactivity again. Things like going for the coffee, crunchies, Mini Egg stash. I need a certain amount of fish in my diet (iodine for thyroid) so had a bit of fish last night for dinner.

Needed the chill out this weekend. I can push myself when I need to but at some point I need to stop and catch up. My body's telling me I need to catch up after last weekend plus the Scotland trip by letting me know about all sorts of soreness. It's mostly in the achilles area of my legs.

They're just whinging at me though. There's nothing actually broken. Now I've had a little break, if I needed to I'd switch right back into up and at 'em :-)

Milkshake later while the cricket's on - milk's good for the bones.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Take my credit cards ... please


Steam Summer Sale time ...

Every summer and winter, the most popular (cos they got in first) online software distributor does a massive sale. Huge discounts, daily deals and all that. I'll keep my eye on it for a while in case any good deals appear. So far I have my eye on Beyond Good & Evil, although I've not bought that yet. I'm also interested in Sins of a Solar Empire (not discounted) and a couple of others.

I'll occasionally have a mad moment or two when the sales come around. I'll see something and think "ooo - shiny, always wanted that" and then when I've got it, I'll leave it in the games library unplayed like :

SWTOR - got boring very quickly
Battlefield 3 - criminally unstable
TitanQuest - bought it when my last machine broke its Windows
Moo3 - very, very poor

And there's a bunch more like that. I've improved my record lately with games, just by buying less of them. I ignore the magazine reviews which don't tell you about unfinished code and believe the online reviews more. It's trusting where the money is coming from. Online reviewers tend to be unaffected by commercial interest. They get their cash from you watching their videos and they'll make enough ad revenue to let them buy their own copies of the games. A magazine has far higher production cost and is dependent on the publishers feeding them early stuff so they meet their deadlines.

I'd far rather trust an independent than magazines which time and time again prove themselves to be in the pocket of publishers who persist in peddling stuff that's unfit for sale.

I guess I'm getting a bit cynical about the gaming, although I'm not actually gaming that much at the moment anyway. Doesn't seem enough time in the evenings to bury myself in a game.

I have had time tonight though to indulge in a bluray (Three Musketeers - silly but fun film). Not done that for months. I needed the popcorn. (Getting tired - leave is booked for a fortnight's time, just spookily coinciding with Olympics!)

Still raining. I was thinking about saying "Hey! Not busy, I can play tonight" for cricket after missing potential games on Tuesday and Wednesday due to the Glasgow trip. However, I'd have had to fight my way through traffic to go home to fetch my kit before heading to SW Bristol to the game. Bristol roads are bad news at that time of evening. The decision became academic at about 3pm when the heavens opened ... and I think there's still stuff up there because it's still raining.

Wanted to say something about a work colleague.

He hurt his hand quite badly on Monday evening, bad enough that he needed to go in for an operation on Tuesday morning. We hadn't got much information coming through to the team so we didn't quite know what the implications would be. I figured he'd be demanding his work laptop as soon as he was coherent enough to remember the password. Back on Communicator by 11.30am after the op. That's commitment.

Some people will take the mickey for doing things like that. There's a few who are a bit too much into "I've been signed off work - yippee! Free time". We're not like that though. We feel an obligation to get things done. Last time I had off sick (I don't notice bugs) was bugs but the time before that was my 2 nose jobs 9 years ago. And I only had about 4 days off total for that. We''d get horribly bored anyway if we had that kind of time away from getting stuff done.

We'll miss our guy's actual presence for a little while but with the way we've shifted how we work over the past few years, he'll still be able to make his mark through remote log in and teleconferencing.

It used to be that we'd have people visiting the outstations far more regularly. That expended a lot in terms of time and air tickets. We're hopefully more efficient now with us reaching for the spiderphones at the slightest excuse. We probably get more meetings in and more stuff done that way, although I have to say it was great yesterday to say hello personally again to people I've only talked to over the phone over the last couple of years.

That's enough about work though. Friday tomorrow. Bacon day. And I'm hoping to get away early enough to not lose any of the flexi credit I've built up :-)

PS I think my fingers have come out in sympathy. I've cracked the bones in most of my fingers through cricket and they occasionally like to remind me ... The latest are two fingers on my left hand which feel cracked again. They still support typing pressure and holding stuff but are still ... distracting. I'm either getting old or they're rain sensitive !

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hurry up and ... wait ?

Haha - this post was awesome this morning when my mind went into blog posting mode again in the airport ...

Been travelling today, which for this particular trip involves a lot of waiting. Portsmouth and London trips are ok, I can handle my own arrangements completely independently. Scotland trips are a bit different because they involve air travel ...

There's a lot of waiting involved with air travel. Today's trip started with getting on the road at 5.10am for a flight at 7.10. The airport's not actually that far away, just 20 miles. You have to go through the centre of Bristol though (according to the satnav! and that's no chore at 5am) so it takes a little longer. But yeah - for air travel, you have to plan to arrive well over an hour before your flight because of all the waiting time :

Time to get through security checks
Time to get to the gates
Time for the queues to move through the gates
Time to get to the aircraft

It's a lot of time where you're effectively doing nothing - nothing you do can decrease the time sunk into the travel activity. It doesn't end there though - you're dependent on the people on the other side to get you where you need to be.

I have to say though - the Scotland end of the project is really well sorted for that. We have Taxi Andy and his shuttle (got me through the Glasgow traffic in record time!) and the two Go To Girls in the office. I should get up there more often.

Some people handle waiting far better than others.

I think I'm ok at waiting now. I just accept the inevitability of it and figure out something to keep my mind active. That's the real key - the phrase "a watched pot never boils" is very apt. If you're watching the pot, the seconds draw by slower. If you're getting on with stuff, suddenly it's 6pm and you've got a mountain of flexi credit to burn.

The daft thing is that when I was in blog creation mode this morning (with nothing handy for noting it down), my supposedly encyclopaedic memory neglected to remember it. Perhaps that's tiredness creeping up on me - it's 10pm now and I was active at 5am. Long day.

Oh ! It can be highly amusing sitting at the back of a plane. The passengers weren't particularly interesting but there were two cabin girls happily chattering away about all & sundry.

She really didn't need a nose job, or liposuction. She was perfect, with a lovely smile when she spotted me grinning up at her while she was doing the drinks trolley thing. But she was talking about having stuff like the lipo and nose done anyway. And why the hell didn't I leave a phone number ? Lol :-) Too shy.

Other observations while waiting - glad I wasn't wearing my jeans today. Coulda been embarassing if they'd fallen down after I needed to take my belt off for security. Will bear that in mind if I do casual flying.

Aaaaand ... I think my brain is quietly frying due to being awake too long, time to hit Publish Post and hope for more coherency tomorrow.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Idle fingers ?

Just nabbed from the Facebook feed :
Made me chuckle when I spotted it.

Phones do everything for us these days ... cameras, texts, communications, internet radio, speed camera warning, emails. What else ... satnav, authenticators for games, calculator, music player ... I hear you can use them to talk to people as well. Imagine that. I can even tell my phone to print stuff on my dad's printer.

It's a bit of a modern curse though.

I was heading into work this morning when I was coming up behind someone going slower than the traffic. They were driving erratically as well, going from one side of their lane to the other. They possibly covered more sideways distance than forwards distance. I figured they were either drunk or on drugs, they were that bad.

Did I overtake ? Hell no. If you overtake someone like that, you can't rely on them stopping. I'd rather not have a drug addict ram me up the backside. (That's bad any way you read it). If you're the one behind, you can rely on your own ability to stop in time.

Anyway. She went straight on at one of the roundabouts while I was turning left. I had a chance to look over and ... guess what. There was a mobile phone being held between idiot and steering wheel, with girlie attempting to punch letters into texts.

That's insanely dangerous. I won't reply or even read texts in the car unless I have a buddy there to press the keys. Answering a call is not so bad - chuck it on speaker or have it coming over Bluetooth handsfree. All I need to do to answer a call in my car is move one finger across to a steering wheel button and then it's on handsfree. But texting ? Punching the correct key takes way too much attention. And it showed in how erratically she was driving.

That's not an anti-women drivers thing by the way - she definitely had the lumpy jumper thing going, just happened to be reinforcing a stereotype - it's not like she was a male Merc driver doing 80mph+ on the motorway outside lane with his newspaper open over his steering wheel. There's dangerous and then there's criminally insane.

There we go - modern problems from modern toys. Hold on ... the old tech newspaper thing was actually more dangerous. Lol :-)

And I'm listening to the wrong album ! Currently chilling out to Alisha Rules The World by Alisha's Attic. Cracking debut album but the track that matches this post better is Barbarella off Illumina. Mind you, the current track (just finishing) is Indestructible which matches the mindset of Girlie Texter.

Still kinda catching up after the weekend.

The recorded stuff on the box is getting under control now by virtue of me not recording much. While Stargate was repeating, I'd have 3-4 pages due to record over a week (1 page = 7 programmes). Now it's 1 and a bit. Not watched a blu-ray for a while either, lots of cricket has been watched.

Watching the usual round of videos - Totalbiscuit, Jesse Cox, Dodger and the Yogscast. I'm still thinking of looking at Minecraft, with one idea there being Sleepypete Minecraft creations. I need inspiration for that though. Maybe if there was a car equivalent for Minecraft where you build computerised racing cars instead of structures.

And perhaps if a Minecrafty type coder reads that ? It might just have planted an idea seed ... I'll leave it there :-)

PS I was thinking on Friday's drive that it might be fun to have a Facebook dictation app. Like - you're driving, you're observing people in their cars around you. You make comments ... and the app snags 'em for Facebook. That could be highly amusing ... Although driving does make me swear too much.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Healthy food is ... healthy ?

Just come back from a weekend away ... in the middle of a couple of hours chillout before bedtime (Everything But The Girl's excellent Amplified Heart is on right now).

Let's see :

Almost turned around inside 20 miles of driving because conditions were pretty bad. The inside lane of the M5 was flooded in quite a few places and it was almost bad enough to avoid the lane entirely. I didn't, pushed through it and the sun came out around Worcester. I still needed to divert off my first choice route (there's fun roads near Grantham) because part of it had a major road (A52) closed.

Cue a bit of magical mystery tour ... One of the things I'm a huge fan of with my car is the satnav.

It gets criticism from some numpties cos it is a bit crude compared to some. However ... it works 100%, unlike the attempt at using my Android phone for satnav which was abandoned before it even figured out where it was. It also does traffic avoidance via FM Radio, so while I was seeing "Long delays M42 J6-J9" (another part of my route) on the overhead signs the satnav was figuring out how to let me avoid that traffic without losing too much time. It works too - taking me around Birmingham to the North instead of the South only cost me about 10 minutes.

That's enough about the car though, except that I quite like that it cost £46 in petrol for all the driving this weekend (+maybe £2 for the last 25 miles) at 53mpg. The Focus would have done 32mpg over the weekend costing £77. The Lexus is a far better drive too.

Arrived on Friday to find a new toy ... And commenced fiddling with it to set it up as desired.

Cue some hours of being incredibly frustrated with Google's software. You should be able to "Cloud Print" via Google Chrome. Get this :

Grab a bit of software for your printer.
Install the Google Chrome web browser.
Tell Google Chrome that you want your printer hooked up for Cloud Printing.
Keep the Chrome browser open (WTF!)
Attempt to print to it from an Android device.
And commence the hair tearing frustration.

I may try it again with the Kodak printer I've inherited. It's fairly new, it just doesn't understand Cloud Printing the way the new ones do. Oh - the new toy is an Asus Transformer Pad. It's quite Shiny. Not sure about its shininess compared to an iPad but it's still quite Shiny. It comes with a detachable keyboard that lets it pretend to be a laptop. It's a little ... different but it redeemed itself from early frustration which was more to do with Google software being crap. They promise the world but miss crucial things out. I'd expect the Tablet Pad to have a help system reasonably visible with a "This Is How To Print" in big letters somewhere.

Currys & PC World lie through their teeth. Currys refused to take the Transformer Pad back or let us switch it for a Windows laptop. That would have sorted out a lot of issues (but I think the Transformer Pad will do them ok). The result is that Currys are blacklisted by my mum & dad for a while - and I'll be avoiding them to.

What's this about lying ?

The Staples guy was honest. He said he didn't know whether the printers in his shop supported Cloud Printing. The Currys guy pointed us towards HP printers "They're the only ones that support this". The PC World girl (charming she was and apparently holding the store's brain cell) admitted that HP and Epson printers could do what we wanted.

I wonder what printers they are desperate to sell ? Duh. Here's the gen from Google for what supports Cloud Printing. You'll notice Kodak on there too. We avoid the Canon, HP, Epson, Lexmark cartel because they rip you off for cartridges and we avoid HP in particular because their build quality nosedived when Carly Fiorina got hold of them. They went from making industrial bombproof strength bits to epic fail.

We came out of Staples with a shiny new Kodak Hero 5.1. Me Like. I can print to it from half a world away just by emailing it. That's Shiny. Or I could print to it from my phone. I've inherited their not-so-old Kodak ESP5250 all in one scanner to replace my Piece Of Shit HP (broken page feeder and it would have been £40+ to get the cartridges to reactivate it).

Yeah - talking techie, weekend started with the hair being torn out and ended very happily. Everything works, Shinies were acquired and the Shinies do what we want them to. If the printer is new enough to support Cloud print properly without needing A-Chrom-ination active, then Google Cloud Print (and Kodak print by email) is quite Shiny.

Happy days.

It's good to see the mob up there too and catch up. Also means I get fed properly :-) I should really do that myself as it really wouldn't be that much extra effort or attention to add veg to the "chuck it in oven & forget about it" cooking strategy. Yep - I'm a bit lazy there ... but it's part of preferring stuff that isn't messy, bearing in mind it's me that's going to be clearing up the mess.

In terms of weight - hopping on the scales before my shower saw me at 12st 8-9lbs, which is down another few lbs over the weekend. Healthy eating = good for you. Then again, I'd not eaten that much today, just a big dinner at the pub plus a Twix and assorted Minstrels left over from Friday.

Bit sad at missing out on a potential RCA hug though !

Friday, July 06, 2012

What makes apples grow

Spotting news stories again ...

Apple are doing rather well it seems ... That's a Register link to a story where they are looking at stats which say that Apple PCs are not quite in the same minority as Microsoft PCs. A good thing too. Personally, I think it's because Microsoft apparently being bent on destroying the credibility of their own software.

When a bit of software is released, it's tough to answer "Where do we go from here ?". And honestly, Microsoft had hit a pinnacle with Windows XP. In it's early days, it combined everything you need out of an Operating System.

Reliability - I'd got some seriously big uptimes out of my desktops, only rebooting them for updates or if I'd turned it off over a weekend away. When things went bad, System Restore was robust enough to fix it.
Performance - Any current user of a M$ OS would scoff at this but it was different in the early days. XP was a very smooth OS and would run very happily in 256-384MB. My first laptop ran fine in 512MB. Nowadays, Windows is so bloated that I doubt it would boot up in 512MB and would be unusable if it did.
Enabling - this is key. An Operating System should let you do things on a machine (do not buy a Chromebook as they seriously fail in this) and it should enable that to happen transparently. Vista failed because it was incredibly annoying.
Compatibility - apart from some DOS stuff, XP would allow you to run your software. Try running old 16 bit software on 64 bit Windows 7. You would be able to on Linux ... Same with old hardware.

However ... around the time that Vista came out, an essential update (Service Pack) struck Windows XP. It effectively killed the disc caching, crippling the performance of the machine. We see it at work, where we are too often waiting for our XP machines to chatter away with their hard discs. The whole idea of disc caching is that you don't have to wait for the disc. All the disc activity is looked after in system memory, with the changes being recorded to disc some time later. However, that update set "some time later" to "do now, make user wait".

And so we wait for our Windows machines to do stuff while we watch the hard disc light flash away. I get the same problem on this Windows 7 laptop, it's a fault in all current versions of Windows. My desktop is immune but only because it has a FLASHy hard disc.

Don't get me started on drivers and software support ... Ok, I touched on it above. Backwards compatibility is one of the most essential things in the computer world. (Apple fail hard here too.) Lack of compatibility comes from design decisions being made which change the driver model, with the intention of making machines more stable. What should happen is that the old driver model is retained and supported ... but anything that uses it MUST be locked away in its own little sandbox. That's how I got those 16 bit card games running - by having a WinXP sandbox virtual machine running. That sandbox emulation should be part of the underlying OS.

I'm ranting again aren't I ?

I think my Windows 7 desktop will be the last Microsoft software I buy (although I may not get a choice). Coupled with an SSD boot drive and 8GB of system memory, it's nice and smooth. It should last me for quite a few years before Microsoft swing their Compatibility Bat at it. From what I hear of Windows 8, it's yet another step into horrid interfaces.

Whatever happened to the OS taking a back seat and just enabling you to do stuff with a machine ? Fancy shells do not make fancy machines. Gis the Explorer shell and we'll put the fancy applications on top of the shell.

That's the key error - trying to do too much with the shell. (The bit that is the base user interface).

Ok. Some shininess is good (like being able to wave over a taskbar thing and get a preview) but a lot of shininess is just a bad excuse for the horrific levels of bloating we are seeing in today's software. And it should be achievable just by updating the shell, not the underlying OS. See Linux for an example of keeping the same basic underlying kernel and giving the user a more advanced shell.

And I think I've ranted quite enough for now :-)

What is it that really makes Apples grow ? Water !

And it's water, water everywhere at the moment. Although yesterday's cricket did get called off due to the sun being out. (Nah - waterlogged pitch from there being so much rain). Hope people aren't affected too much by this weather this weekend. It could definitely make the Silverstone GP interesting ...

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Feeling a bit :
Again right now ... That's the System Crash Pocket Dragon by the way. Poor fella's wings will have given out on him sending him in for the crash landing.

With me it's just tiredness. I wasn't tired until someone asked when I had my summer leave booked ... Then I got tired in anticipation. It's only been a month since my last dose of a week off work, so I'm waiting a little longer before my next break.

Nah - the tiredness will be leftovers from the bugs from last week. Plus inactivity. Plus me running at hyperactive speed for I dunno how long. I have a problem building with doing too many hours, with not many chances to knock down the flexi credit on a Friday. Not really a problem but I don't want to lose earned flexi credit if I can help it.

Especially if the earned flexi credit is coming at a cost to my health, which has improved enough for me to be quite possibly playing cricket tomorrow ...

Possibly a little early because my right leg isn't back to a level I'd be satisfied with yet but it'll survive one game. Lungs have improved :-) I'll play tomorrow night cos the team's desperate for an extra body, so I'll do the impersonation of a cricketer thing.

Yeah - it was one of those days today at work where for most of it, we're in Necessary Evil type meetings Accepting something as big as we're accepting doesn't come without some really tedious meetings. But you still have to pay attention and be professional, despite your brain screaming at you to let it do something different for a while. And they're only "tedious" because they're dealing with minutiae which sounds boring now but which trips you up later if you don't deal with it now.

What you don't want in those meetings is for them to suddenly become "interesting" ... because "interesting" would take on the same meaning as the old Arab curse : "May you live in interesting times". A tedious meeting with no surprises is better than hearing about stuff that means all plans are up in the air and need revising. Excitement like that sounds great but you really don't need it in a professional environment. I'd rather be excited about what we're delivering than excited about clearing up big messes.

But that's not going to happen in my project - we're very good at spotting the problems early, anticipating which cans have the worms in and keeping things on track.

Yey for us :-)

And this is usually the point where less anonymous type people would point to a news story and say "We Wos Ere" or "That's Us". I refrain from that here, although it is great to see what you've been working on hit the national news for good reasons. And there's precious little of that around at the moment because the newsies have been out for blood lately.

Chill out mode at the moment :
I've run out of gaming videos to watch off youtube;
England cricket got called off due to rain;
I'm wondering about heading into a game;
My brain is too frazzled to pick the book up (Firefox by Craig Thomas);
"I Can't See New York" is about to start on iTunes;
(and I will be singing along)
And I've had enough of watching recorded stuff.

Not watched a dvd or blu-ray for way too long now. Just had way too much recorded stuff to watch, combined with there being a huge amount of cricket on the telly (despite the weather).

OMG my singing voice is dire at the moment. Almost as bad as Emma Bunton attempting to sing What I Am and butchering it.

What else ? I must be feeling ill still. I've been eyeing up something called Minecraft. It's a sandbox game where you mine stuff and build stuff. It's best in multiplayer where you'd make your own stuff but also scout around what other people are putting together.

I'm Engineer enough to appreciate putting together an elegant building or machine or other stuff you could do in Minecraft but I'm a little too much Engineer to think of something to build ... Ok. I'd see about making a replica of Lords cricket ground for one. And spaceships too.

Minecraft can wait - I'll watch the Yogscast videos for now. I think that shows how frazzled my brain appears to me when I'd rather watch videos of people playing games than actually play the game.

Time for more Tori Amos - her Scarlet's Walk album has been playing for the duration of me writing this post :-) Wonder if iTunes has any Tori Amos going cheap ...

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

So I'm thinking those bats might come in handy ...

As oars.

I have my first choice bat, which is actually the second last one I bought. The new one got chewed up so quickly it almost became firewood (cheap n nasty - nothing to do with me clobberin' edges) and I have an older bat that dates back to school that's too tired to be of any use on the field now.

They're not seeing much service out on the cricket field at the moment - I'd pass myself as fit to play now (legs are just good enough, lungs are almost clear of bugs) but we've had So Much rain lately. Standing water and puddles on the road kind of rain.

Gotta wonder how much more rain our roads can take before we get a repeat of the floods from a few years ago. Bristol, or at least the northern part where I live, tends to get away without being too badly hit by flooding or snow.

Looking at 'em, yeah - you could probably use them as short oars :-)

By the way - the CT in my car's name doesn't mean Canoe Transport. How is that car going ? I've had a "6 months on review" type post in reserve as something to write when I get really stuck for ideas. I'm not going to do that one tonight cos I think it'll need a fair bit of rational thought, which is something I'm struggling for at the moment. (Tired and using most of my energy up in work time)

While I'll leave the Lexus CT thing for a while, what I will say is : If you can afford to get a New, Nearly New or up to 3 year old car, you should. It's worth it in terms of the amount of trouble free motoring you should get. My car experience so far has been :

Fiesta - 10 year old. Tired and broke a major component (master brake cylinder = no brakes)
Astra - 10 year old. Bits kept dropping off it
Belmont - 5 year old (I think!). When we bought it, it was just going through the failures ... It was sorted by the time I bought it from my mum but it still had things breaking on it.
Rover - 5-6 year old. DISASTER
Puma - bought at 2 years old, ultra reliable until it was mebbe 6-7 years old, then things started breaking.
Focus - 6 years old. And hitting the bits starting to drop off phase. One major failure (inlet manifold)
My dad's company cars - were pretty rock solid (we looked after them)

I've not had the CT long enough to give any reliability info, outside of there being no failures, no rattlies, no niggles (outside of iPod software) to report over 9 months and 6000 miles. Fingers crossed that it stays reliable ... There's not many complaints of mechanical failure appearing on the Lexus forums, which is good news.

You can hopefully see the pattern there ... New to 4-5 years old : car's fine. Older than that and bits start dropping off it, on modern cars as well as the old bangers. This is despite full service histories too.

There's 2 arguments going though :
Depreciation - a car loses a lot of its value over the first 3 years. For normal cars, the retained value after 3 years can be anything between 25% and 50% of the original purchase price.
Reliability - the early years of a car really are the best.

My advice - Figure out what car you want to get. Buy as young as you can afford. And then keep it until it starts to break. That worked well with the Puma - at £9,000 for 2 years old it was just inside my price range. And it gave many years of trouble free motoring. It didn't owe me anything ... but I did leave it a bit too long before I changed car, mainly because I didn't have a clue what the next car would be - there just wasn't anything on the market that stood out. I got bored with the Focus quite quickly but I'm hoping to hold on to the "I wanted it" choice of the Lexus for a good few years after I finish paying for it.

I'll leave it there I think, except to close on marvelling that the rain outside is louder than the fan inside this laptop ... Commencing to drown out both sounds with music :-) Current track : Misguided Ghosts by Paramore.