Thursday, August 30, 2012

Need ... more ... music ...

That's right ! I've finally managed to finish listening to all the tunes in my library again. Must be time to reset the playcounts again ...

Before I pass on what I think of the new arrivals, a shout out for a friend : I have a colleague about to do a sponsored sky dive this Saturday and I was going to pass on the last bit of my Pink Hat Bounty as a little extra to the contribution I'd pass on anyway :-)

Here's her page - wish her luck (and maybe add a bit on for the cause ?). The catch in my last game of the season drew in another £5 of Pink Hat Bounty and for something like this, I'd have been putting in a fiver anyway :-).

Where was I ? MUSIC !
I saw this on Facebook and had to grab it. At the moment, they're joining me with listening to Retrospective by Suzanne Vega, which is a greatest hits collection from a few years ago. She's since gone on and created even more great music.

Next up will be Sounds From Nowhere by the Ting Tings. I wasn't expecting much from this. The reviews are marmite, which I really can't understand except by considering the viewpoint of the Entitlement crew. Those are the people who build up their own expectations to impossible levels and then throw their teddies out the pram when what they received doesn't match that expectation.

Sounds From Nowhere is a very listenable-to album. It's not as raw or edgy as their first album but it is a pretty good one. Perhaps that's where the aggro has come from, it's not as different as their first.

Tori Amos has been in the news lately - she does pretty well at rousing up the interest when there's a new album on the way. I managed to find Abnormally Attracted To Sin, which is a characteristic Tori Amos album. She's a hell of an artist but there's something that makes me avoid getting everything she's done like I do with groups like Alisha's Attic, Bat For Lashes and Garbage (except the latest which is rip off prices). This one's a decent album again but the most special thing here is the singer, there's no real stand out tracks. Some of Tori Amos albums are filled with stand out tracks (Beekeeper, Scarlet's Walk, Under The Pink) but this one is very samey. Still worth getting though for the Tori Amos fan.

Smash Mouth - All Star Greatest Hits. This one may provoke smiles. They must have had fun making this collection, although the best tracks on here are the cover versions.

Beyond Good & Evil soundtrack - is better in the background on the game to be honest. It definitely adds something to the game but it's a collection of background rather than something that would take the attention in the foreground.

Civilisation V soundtrack - same thing here. However - music like this tends to worm its way into your head, take up residence and drive you crazy.

Deus Ex soundtrack - from the original game. This works really well. I find myself wanting to take another look at a game I missed out on the first time around to hear the music in the correct context.

Edie Brickell's Edie Brickell album. I got frustrated waiting for this old album to be made available over here. Come on ! I can't even buy it from Amazon or iTunes because it's barred from sale. That's half the reason why piracy happens, because you literally cannot buy some stuff. I'll buy this one when it becomes available, it's good enough for that.

Machinarium by Tomas Dvorak. Soundtracks are the new classical music, whether they be on film, telly or game. Tomas Dvorak does a great job of setting the mood with his soundtrack to Machinarium and it's one you could listen to as a standalone album too.

Air's Premiers Symptomes - interesting EP. There's tracks here that give promise of better to come, including one that's like a precursor to the enchanting All I Need.

Katie Melua's Secret Symphony. You'll know what to expect by now from Katie Melua and this one is no exception. Good album, not particularly inspiring. There's nothing on the level of Shy Boy here.

Gabriella Cilmi's Ten. This one's a fairly worth successor to her original album :-) Although she should move on from Sweet About Me because that song can get old very quickly.

Trine 2 soundtrack. Awesome soundtrack. It's very listenable to as a discrete album. Must play the game at some point. (Guild Wars 2 permitting).

Transvision Vamp's Velveteen. I love this album. It's cheeky cheerfulness and I suspect was an inspiration for the Ting Tings.

King of Leon's Youth & Young Manhood - meh.

Stuff that hasn't made into the library yet includes :

Bat For Lashes - Haunted Man : I have this on preorder
Olympic Opening & Closing ceremony music - I may get these at some point
Garbage's latest : they're too greedy with the pricing or I'd have bought it by now.

Been enjoying my music :-)

PS No recurrence of the breathing issues yet, although I'm waiting to see if it flares up again tomorrow.
PS2 That's a lot of music isn't it ? I cheated when making that list by asking iTunes what I'd recently listened to. That's what it came up with for the last 90 days ... just over 300 new tracks.
PS3 Someone's doing a skydive ! For charity ! See link up top !

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

So I have to figure out ....

What I'm allergic to.

I've been getting breathing difficulties, which haven't exactly been pleasant. Most of all it affects how I get to sleep. And you need your sleep to keep the rest of you healthy.

I have an idea what's causing it, although I have to lock it down to one thing in particular out of a steadily growing list ... And then I stop having what causes the problem. After having 2 really bad Friday's, I steadily improve over the week. What's different about Friday ? Well, it's not just Friday as the breathing issues started up on the Thursday too last week and before one of the potential causes.

Ok, what's the causes ?

Well one underlying cause is stress. That's quite high at the moment but I'd eliminate it as an environmental or contact cause. But it needs recognising. And no I can't talk here about what the cause is. While I know who some of my readers are, I don't know who you all are ! So this blog never tells the whole story about what's going on with me. It can't. But one thing I will let slip is that I'm seriously considering finding another place to work because of it.

Meh - getting distracted again. Stress is something you just have to deal with. One of the best ways is by talking it through with someone you can trust. Trouble is, there's so much going on behind the scenes that I don't know who is passing on what incorrect information about me and the way my mind works. And down that road lies damaging paranoia ...

Things I think I'm reacting to :

Bacon - This is the Friday morning treat to replace the teacake in the week. I know bacon makes me react by triggering the latent hyperactivity. Plus I only have it on the Friday, hence linking it to "Friday is Bad". I'm not convinced though because the breathlessness starts before.

Brown bread - distinct possibility and I'm tying this to what I can remember having for munchies the evenings before I have trouble.

Garlic bread - is something I'll have before pizza, so it could actually be the cause for me thinking pizza was causing me to react. I also very occasionally have garlic bread before my usual dinner at home if I'm feeling particularly starved.

Milkshakes or milk - high likelihood. I'd been neglecting the milkshake method of getting vitamins into me until quite recently. I already figured out I've been reacting (with acid) to having excess milk or cheese, so it's not too great a leap to think that milkshakes are something I have to exclude.

All the new diet stuff - this would suck as since I switched to include healthier stuff in my diet, my legs have reversed a trend of erupting into awfulness and have been repairing. (Still a way to go). I don't think it's the green stuff, as that's been consistent over the week and weekend, there's no specific trigger that would have made Friday's bad. Plus I'd had a cough since before I switched the diet around.

Jaffa cakes ! This I can believe, as I've been munching these again after ignoring them for a while. And I don't just have the occasional jaffa cake, I'll demolish the packet.

I think there's a few more items too. Would I miss them ?

Bacon ? Yes but it's a "me want", not a "me need". Plus the bacon in our canteen is not the healthiest ... Think cholesterol bomb.
Brown bread ? Healthy eating makes me want brown bread to be ok.
Garlic bread ? Curious one. There's nothing that makes this vital, plus if it's followed by pizza ? Oink.
Milkshakes ? This'll suck as the calcium in the milk helps the bones stay healthy.
Diet stuff ? Need it. I'm not giving this up though ...
Jaffa cakes ? Yum - but I could give them up in a heartbeat.

There's two baseline allergies that will be causing the breathing issues :

Dust - need a new vacuum cleaner and I need to blitz the house. But ... I can't do that until I know I'm not going to keel over in the process. Oh and the last time I was this bad, I'd just blitz cleaned most of the house, although the cause then was an air freshener plug in thing.
Hayfever - I don't think this is the cause at the moment, my eyes have settled down. Hayfever mostly attacks my eyes, with only minor effects on my lungs.

Weight definitely isn't a factor, as I have 1.5 stones less of me to cause a constriction on my lungs.

It's a worry - but I'll be keeping an eye on it. Starting with seeing how long I can resist bacon, garlic bread, milkshakes and jaffa cakes. I need to keep having the brown bread and the diet stuff and I don't think those are a trigger anyway or every afternoon at work would be an utter nightmare.

PS I still have a twin packet of jaffa cakes in the cupboard that may taunt me a while ...
PS2 And despite saying I could give them up in a heartbeat, they're Jaffa Cakes ! Cake is Life.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Postcards from Tyria

Ok, so 2 days in Guild Wars 2 and a whole day today of ignoring it ...

I've been very impressed with this one in its very early days. I've forgiven the early access issues cos, to be honest, once it started working it's been the smoothest online multiplayer experience I've seen yet. Warcraft was good but even after it was settled, I saw servers knocked offline by masses of players invading the capital cities. (That's commonplace now in WoW and works)

But in its early days, GW2 has been working very well. Let's see if that continues when more people come in who didn't get to be part of the early access.

Character names are much more in demand in Guild Wars 2, so I'll be using my online gaming name of Iceangel as a surname. The little guy I've been playing so far is Finlay Iceangel :
Yeah. He's a funny little guy. Engineer seemed to have the best potential for doing damage at range, which is my favoured role in these types of games. He's an Asura, who are half crazy little gremlin/goblin people. I'm enjoying the storyline so far.

Early days so far. That's the character selection screen, how does the actual game look ?
That's from the starting area. The environments look better than what The Old Republic (SWTOR) managed, even when it got past beta stage. SWTOR really dropped the ball incredibly badly. It just copied WoW but didn't implement it as well. I dunno if it got fixed after the beta weekend but it didn't even include swimming. MMOs have to be 3 dimensional.

But swimming/no swimming is a minor complaint. However ... if it's implemented fully into the game :
(oops for leaving a hint screen up!)

Then it adds a whole new level of potential. That's an underwater sequence where I've joined in with one of the random events that happen all the time. Reckless Inquest Engineers have dabbled a little too much and upset part of the wildlife. Players then join in to take down the Enraged Shark (no laser beams on this one, just Big Teeth). In WoW, the first player to hit the mob would "tag" it and be the only one to get the credit. In GW2, all players who help with the event get credit according to how much they helped out. And these random events happen all the time.

The drawback with the WoW model is that you have to beg for groups in order to get the group content done. It's very tough as a single player to get into trustworthy groups. Or .... you just wait a few levels until your character is far too strong for the fight and do it easily. Guild Wars 2 has a dynamic level system, where the game will step you back or step you up to match the content. Because I level quick and I've been gaining levels through pvp, it's been dropping me back to keep the content challenging.

That dynamic level system has huge advantages. In WoW, you can't really pvp until you get maximum level and decent gear, either because you're not allowed in or because your survivability is low. In GW2, level doesn't matter, it just puts you up to maximum level. Talking of pvp ...
I was having way too much fun storming the castle over the weekend.

That one is from us assaulting a gateway. We've demolished the boiling oil that the defenders placed over the gate, now we're taking down a cannon emplacement on the neighbouring tower before going for the gate. The oil and cannons are all put up by players. In that screenie, I'm taking part in World vs World vs World, where my server is up against a couple of others so there's a 3 way fight going for dominance of the map.

It's quite dynamic too. The WvWvW combat is pretty tough. It takes a while to break down those gates, even with lots of people helping out :
Yes. That is a scary amount of people on screen at once. Performance of the game is pretty good. I was getting very occasional slowdowns with the graphics still at the quality above. No need to step it back as I occasionally had to in WoW. No lag either.

What I will say though is that while my engineer is pretty good in the single player content and can happily take on single elite NPC mobs in WvWvW, I'm not so convinced about how he does in multiplayer. I may be looking at making a "Melody Iceangel" (Melody ? It's got a nice ring to it) for pvp. She'd be an elementalist character aimed at doing lots of area damage. We shall see. One of the advantages of that levelling system is that I'd be able to join in the WvWvW early instead of taking massive time to level two characters to maximum.

I'm pleased with it so far. I suspect Guild Wars 2 will keep me interested for quite a while. It'll definitely change some WoW veterans minds on whether they should get the new expansion. Like - they'll stay in GW2 and cancel their Panda preorders.

I've had to break from it today though because that overindulgence over the weekend had a side effect - my shoulders hate me !

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Warring guilds day and night

One of the oldest signs I've known that a game has that "just a little more" factor is when I see the sun starting to come up while I'm still playing it.

I know ! And it's 2 months past longest day (and therefore earliest morning) of the year too !

One of the most hotly anticipated games for the last few years opened its doors properly yesterday. It's Guild Wars 2 and it's been promising to revolutionise Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) gameplay. MMOs in the past have fallen into a well established cycle where the world is effectively static. But ... it's not just static, it's bound to what the player triggers and at the same time, completely ignores what the player triggers.

I didn't explain that too well did I ? World of Warcraft is the one that made MMOs popular. It wasn't the first MMO but it was the first that made MMOs popular and easy to play. That's not to say it was easy in the early days, the farming required made it pretty damn hard. It's easy now, sure but in vanilla days, group quest meant you needed help. In current WoW (and SWTOR), group quest means either waiting a few levels or using special tactics, a special build, a hunter or death knight.

But - there's a lot of flaws in the way it does things. I got bored of the WoW model mostly because of the lack of challenge in the current game but it seemed like the massive amount of content in there was just about getting you to the endgame faster. And the endgame sucks bigtime. What makes the WoW model worse is that all that content is great. But it's wasted in the rush to get to endgame, which is just going through the same select few locations in repetition ad nauseum.

Aside - the only MMO that doesn't suffer this model is Eve, which is completely player driven outside of Empire. And the game is well balanced enough that the player-political map constantly changes with the shifting alliances. I just find it mind numblingly tedious.

Guild Wars 2 feels a little different there. For a start, the mechanics are much simplified. You have much less skills to play with as standard ... But those are supplemented by utility skills that you can select. I have a healing turret and a gun turret for my Asura Engineer.

Where's this sun up test come in ?

Well - after giving up on Guild Wars 2 early yesterday because of massive problems with the login servers (which might be back today), I went off and gave full attention to Twenty20 Finals day. (Yorkshire came a close second - all 3 were good games). After that, I go back in at about 10pm. I level up through a fairly amusing (not the best but pretty good) early storyline and reach level 11. Upon which I'm getting tired and thinking I should go to bed (at about 1.30am).

But not before checking out the much vaunted World vs World vs World player vs player mode. This sees players from multiple servers coming together to fight it out over a single map. The maps are huge ... and full of control points, strongholds and castles for players to fight over. It's suitably epic.

WoW players may know of Alterac Valley (dunno how much that's done now since it went effectively PvE only). Alterac Valley is a North-South contest with effectively just one lane to fight in. WvWvW is massive. It's easily the scale of a WoW zone and might actually be bigger.

Yep - it caught me for a little while and that's with me fighting effectively on my own instead of being on voice comms with a guild. I was still on there at 5am ...


Yep. Guild Wars 2 definitely passes the Sun Up addictiveness test in a way that WoW kinda did before it went easy.

But what it doesn't pass is the availability test. A common happening with all MMO releases is that their Day 0 log in demand far exceeds the capacity available. Some MMOs deal with this by staggering their release (WoW did). GW2 was attempting to evaluate this through stress testing. That didn't succeed in anticipating demand.

It's a great game - but wait for the demand issues to sort themselves out. By the way - I'm on Aurora Glade as an Asura Engineer called Finlay Iceangel. I'm planning to use the Iceangel tag as a surname for the characters there, so at some point there will hopefully be a melee Bashara/Bashran Iceangel join the engineer.

Can't close without a mention of a pioneer who passed away yesterday. It happened before I was born but I'm feeling a need to watch again the HBO series From The Earth To The Moon to relive again some of those early space faring days. May they come back some time soon. Farewell Neil Armstrong !

Friday, August 24, 2012

Crickety downtime

I was kinda hoping to be falling asleep in front of the telly today and tomorrow.

Friday - England v South Africa in one day cricket
Caturday - Twenty20 domestic finals day

Friday's England game was effectively a washout, with the day being "will they ?" "won't they ?" with heavy showers interspersed with occasional dry spells. Hoping for better tomorrow although I'm expecting the rain to intervene again.

Definitely needing the downtime as I'm definitely not feeling right at the moment. I suspect I'm having issues shifting to this different diet. I've had trouble adapting to taking mineral supplements before so putting the greens back into the diet too ?

How am I doing at the moment ?

Structurally, my legs are fine. I have maximum power available, even if I can't use it when I'm not on a cricket field (max power = slippage = sore bum). Ok, maybe not 100% ok because for some reason, my left achilles has decided to clamp up and go tight. No big deal.

My legs are still a mess though. It's going to take a while for all the surface damage to repair itself. That'll be another advantage of the downtime this weekend, no work trousers to sandpaper the healing away.

My muscles have been rebelling too. I run a fine line before my muscles go into a cramping up tendency. I suspect some of the healthy options stuff I've been eating/drinking have had too much salt in there. That's what tends to get my muscles into trouble.

Oh - yesterday was good. I was supposed to be at a meeting at a contractor's office in the middle of Bristol for a 10am start. I'm thinking - leave around 9am, that'll let me miss the worst of the rush hour traffic as they'd be at their offices by then. I actually left at 8.50 and was on the motorway at 8.55. I was still on the motorway at 10am ... And this is for a trip that's supposed to take about 15-20 minutes total.

Meh. There'd been a lorry break down on the motorway, which caused the initial traffic problems. But what compounded it was a little Citroen dropping the contents of its radiator into the inside lane. And what made that into a major problem was that it wasn't pushed into a refuge that was less than 50m ahead.

Deeply meh. I'm still on my learning curve so I didn't contribute as much as I'd like but I think I learned enough and contributed enough to make it worth me coming. That learning curve is pretty huge at the moment but one of the things I've always been good at is taking in and assimilating new information.

News has been active lately. There's 2 stories that especially catch my eye - a playboy Prince (which I'm not going to say anything about except for "silly boy" for getting caught) and exam results.

I got used to being top or near top of every class at school. This was in the days when GCSEs were just coming in and they were a decent test. I got 6 A's and 4 B's (iirc!) at GCSE. The B's were English Lit, French, History. Coulda been 3 Bs and the rest A's.

However ! My GCSE results and those of the other kids in my year have been made irrelevant by more contemporary results. The A* result didn't exist when I did my GCSEs. It was added because too many kids were being allowed to get A grades. Over the years, the pass rate has gradually gone up and up. There's a couple of reasons for that :

Past papers allowing more practice
Easier marking

Both reasons are valid. What's caused the controversy this time around is that someone's decided that English GCSE results could be permitted to have a lower pass rate than previous years ...

Good on 'em ! But what it has done is provoked huge "how could this be allowed ?" controversy.

I have a huge problem with exams anyway. They teach the wrong behaviour. Rote learning for facts isn't particularly useful in modern life. Knowing how to attack questions and hunt for information is what's useful. Knowing when to say "I don't honestly know but I will find out asap" is the most useful thing anyone can say. It's far better than just guessing. Guesses can be very dangerous.

But then again, for some techniques rote learning is key. If someone was doing medical stuff on me, I don't want them to be looking it up in a book ;-)

I'll leave it there cos my fingers are getting itchy for a bit of gaming. I have a contingency plan in case the cricket is hit by the weather - Guild Wars 2 early activation starts tomorrow morning. And I suspect that as soon as I log into Steam and get spotted, a certain SteamGirl will be looking to drag me into GW2 :-) I have a feeling that SteamGirl has her eye on the Eurogamer expo at the end of September. I think she'd have liked to drag me off to Gamescom which just finished over in Cologne, Germany.

That's something really good for a struggling ego - someone who I've only met in person once (and she thought I was 10 years younger, pre-diet!) and who is highly amusing to natter to over Steam chat and wants to drag me off to places :-) What's stopping me ? I really don't know. Although I'd pin it on that one track mind that had me looking elsewhere somewhere closer to home for quite a while.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Clearing the deck anticipation

I think I'm feeling a kind of anticipation.

Season's changing at the moment and there's a bunch of stuff that'll be either finishing, starting, transitioning or shifting around a bit soon.

The thing I'm feeling the anticipation for is Guild Wars 2, which will possibly see me dive into Massive Multiplayer Online games again for the first time since World of Warcraft was at its peak. I guested a bit for Violence Reborn raiding in Lich King but missed the early Lich King raids and late Burning Crusade raids. I got fed up with WoW during the Cataclysm times so didn't really do much of those raids.

No - my main WoW memories are the original raids and the early Burning Crusade raids with the Mercenaries. We had a good thing going there, although it fell apart as the Guildlink initiative turned into a black hole sucking all of the players addicted to raiding into the one guild. I was more about keeping my people ok than the raiding though.

So yeah - next big game on the horizon is Guild Wars 2, which I should be able to access early from this weekend. I've been thinking I should have cleared off one or two partially completed games (like Beyond Good & Evil and Machinarium) before heading into GW2. That's not happened though cos I'm usually not feeling the motivation to dive into games after looking at a monitor screen all day at work.

I'm also looking at Planetside 2, which could well be awesome. Sci fi ground combat with the potential to be fighter pilot again. Missed that. I'd get caught up in WoW's player v player gameplay (and quite likely GW2's pvp too) but first person shooter games online left me cold because there was no persistence past each staged battle. Planetside 2 should see players fighting for domination of a couple of continents. Could be interesting.

TV is on the transition as well.

I'm currently watching the last Deadliest Catch of the season, plus there's the cricket season coming to a close. I'll be watching as much of Twenty20 finals day (Saturday) as possible but that's pretty much the last big cricket event of the summer. I've also been enjoying Leverage and Falling Skies

TV will be transitioning into the Fall schedules and I'm looking forward to Warehouse 13 coming back (it's fun). DOCTOR WHO ! Yep. 10 days for the next Doctor Who episodes.

I have a few rules with what I watch where I let the OCD out to play. My V+ box shows 7 shows per page. I start on the last page, if it's just movies I'll watch one of those. (Real Steel was surprisingly good.) If it's something daily, I'll watch a bunch of them. That leaves weekly stuff. I like to watch a few episodes one after the other, to get continuity. However ...

Falling Skies and Doctor Who ? They're like - watch immediate. Or in the case of Falling Skies, watch the next day cos it's on late and I'm listening to music by the time it's on.

Oh and if there's more space available on the box than is listed to record in the planner ? I'll dip into the movie collection. I have a small pile of blu-rays from the Bristol trip a couple of weeks ago that I haven't watched yet.

Work is transitioning as well, in both what I do and who I work with. We're getting a fair bit of turnover in the team - 2nd RO and a couple of people the rank above me, including the one I'm trying to learn as much as I can from before he goes.

Project wise, I'm switching from the old project to a brand new one. It's a good opportunity - I've soaked up a lot of knowledge over the past too many years, including seeing now the consequences of decisions made (or not made!) years ago. The thing I'm most responsible for is called a Master Data and Assumptions List, which is where we record decisions, facts and just plain "this is what's gonna happen" assumptions. It's very important that everyone involved in a project is working off the same assumptions, or you either get work done twice (which you pay for twice) or work not done at all.

It's a good opportunity and I'm already getting a chance to apply my brain to it. Just hope we don't end up being a poor relation to some higher visibility projects.

It'll be sad losing a few of the people though as they either move on in the organisation or leave for the outside. I'll definitely miss Miss Meerkat's cheerful cheeky grin as it pops up to see who's coming through the door :-) May it stay unblurry for a long time in that photographic memory !

Oh ! Music too. I have finally managed to get everything in the library listened to since I acquired the Beyond Good & Evil soundtrack a few months ago.

Must do another music post sometime soon. Not sure if there's been much stand out stuff in what I've acquired lately but the Deus Ex soundtrack and the latest from the Ting Tings were pretty good. Not forgetting the Machinarium soundtrack by Tomas Dvorak (one to look out for) and looking further back, I was very impressed with Velveteen by Transvision Vamp.

Ooo - 1 hour 20 left of Deadliest Catch and it'll be on to the music again. Cya later !

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mending - I hope

Been seeing improvements with this latest diet shift I've made.

My legs and the wounds on there that have refused to heal have been an issue for over a year now. The antibiotic pills and cream stuff given to me by the doctors helped up to a point (and mostly cleared it up) but after a while, that patch type stuff runs out and the original problem returns. In my case, it looks like it was diet.

That first doctor's trip did help in a very significant way though - the "diet" (actually antibiotic) pills had a fairly strict pattern attached to when I could have them : don't take one until 2 hours after food and 1 hour before food. With 4 times a day, that's 3 hours times 4, literally half the day when snacking was banned. Upshot - the habitual grazing was no longer an option. Going on that regimen for a week put the idea in my head "yes, this can be done".

Combine that with knowing that in the cricket I'd gradually been losing my speed ... and you have someone thinking that he can make a go of losing the weight. Oh - I'd also been seeing my most recent photos taken on a holiday. Best word to describe ? Chunky. I don't like being chunky and I definitely don't like being slow.

Result ? After almost a year of it, I'm down 1.5 stone (9.5kg) and I have all of my speed back. And that's not just straight line power, it's being able to dodge out the way when I have to. I still wilt in the heat (was hoping less insulation would help there) but hey - can't have everything.

I've had to shift that diet again though. With the stuff on my legs erupting again a week and a half ago, I figured I'd look up diet as a potential cause for the damage coming back. As in, was I giving my body the material it needed to repair itself ?

So - diet shift. I've added lettuce to the lunchtime sandwiches. I'm drinking orange juice regularly again (old habit that I dropped a couple of years ago), I'm taking vitamin supplements (as a booster). I'm eating green crunchy stuff in the evenings as grazing snack instead of cookies.

Trouble is, that comes at a cost in the early days of the shift. My head was definitely not right last week (think it's been more in balance today) with motivation definitely lacking. That's not to say I wasn't getting on with doing Stuff, I may not Want to do Stuff but I'll get done what needs to be done. Like the laptop, the contracts stuff at work, the desktop and all the other bits and pieces at work.

That balance thing also shows itself in cramping up - I ride a fine balance there and having the leg muscles I have doesn't help. That sounds kinda whingy doesn't it ? I can handle the cramp and it's a good sign that I need to drink something.

Other signs - you know when you get starving and there's a kind of conversation with yourself that goes like :

"I'm hungry ! Feed me something !"
"But I just ate, what do you want now ?"
"I dunno ! Feed me Something"
And you have no clue what the "something" you need is. You have an instinctive level understanding that you are missing something crucial but can't put your finger on it. By adding the Vitamin C rich stuff back into my diet, I think I've identified that "something". That'll help the diet too because instead of treating craving with cookies, I'm treating it with green stuff.

How are the legs doing with all this ?

I have this impression that there's thousands of mini workmen inside me all shouting "Yey ! He's finally giving us the stuff we need to fix him ! Let's get to work". And they've been patching up each broken bit in turn. Literally. The bad bits on my legs are in patches on both calves and above my left knee. Behind my left knee is also bad. Each patch started repairing after the other.

At the moment, I have a couple of fairly spectacular patches and my right leg looks like it got burned a while ago. But that's ok, cos it shows it's mending now instead of getting worse.

Hopefully the legs will continue to improve. As they are at the moment, I cannot wear my knee pads because of where the patches are. And that means no cricket. And no "warm up the legs" treatment when the cold of winter gets into my knees, as it will. I got bored of these leg issues last year and want smooth skin again.

I think it's time to close now before this post gets huge. Summary ?

Diet's helping - and I'm adjusting to it
Legs are repairing (I hope!)
Having leaner legs means I can see the muscles at play under the skin
And that's pretty awesome
I have speed !!!!!
Still not gonna be seen in public in shorts

What I'd really like to close on is - if you find yourself confronted by a need to make a wholesale life change, throw yourself into it. Don't look back, don't have second thoughts. Make that change. Whether it be giving up something damaging like drink, drugs or smoking. Or if it's needing to eat healthier or otherwise lose weight. Or change in circumstances at home or work (not something I'm usually good at due to inertia but when the change clicks ? I'm ok)

It'll seem hard early on but stick with it. It'll be worth it in the long run. However, I'll admit to being no saint there. I have had the occasional cookie and piece of chocolate when I've felt the need. I have one chemical addiction that I'm not willing to give up - caffeine.

Sometimes a little comfort is needed. I'm not so tough that I don't need that comfort munchie every once in a while. But as long as that long term plan is in sight - consider the chocolate or the cookie a treat rather than the norm. Try to be dependent on absolutely nothing. I'm not there yet, I have that chemical addiction to caffeine which means I get headaches if I'm too long without coffee.

And I am definitely rambling now - if you make big decisions like me with the diet, stick with it ! It'll be worth it. And I'll be remembering that tomorrow when I'm dodging out the way of people on the stairs :-)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Buying stuff

Nope - not thinking about spending money on stuff (although I do need another vacuum cleaner soon) but I feel I need to say a few things about buying stuff.

(Techie stuff mainly)

You see so many people buying things and then getting disappointed that it's not all they would have wanted. There's a sense of entitlement there, although some of that comes from feeling entitled to receiving a completed and reliable product from the people we're giving money too. And yep, I can't believe that Legends of Pegasus is still in the Top 20 Sellers chart in Steam, despite the horrific reviews that game is getting.

We have very different rules to buying things at work. They're quite strict and we have to go through a lot of hoops to firstly get approval to spend money and then to get the work on to contract. While I dislike that from an engineer "let me do my job" point of view, I can accept it from the point of view of being professional and an acknowledgement that the money I'm spending is not mine.

To give more of an idea of the hoops we'd have to go through to get support contracting in, we have to give a lot of justification.
Why have we selected that company and not others ?
How much does it cost (often based on early estimates of scope of work) ?
Do we really need it ?
Can we shave anything off the final cost ?
When is it required ?
And have we got a good contracting means

You'll notice that "can we do it better ?" or "do we get more value out of spending a little more ?" are questions that do not apply. "Can we wait for something better ?" is also not a question that's used much because, we need kit now and it often takes too long to jump through the hoops to get it through quickly. Plus, in the techie world if you keep going with the "wait for better ?" then you end up not buying anything and continue using wheezing, archaic equipment that serves no purpose.

Buying at home is much easier. But that doesn't mean it has to be frivolous. I put in a lot of research before buying techie items at home and even there, I don't make the right decisions all of the time. My amplifier is a case in point, I assumed I'd avoid the occasional bad HDMI board issue with Onkyo amps. That assumption was incorrect as I suspect that's the cause of the silent blips (I've eliminated all other causes).

There's a parallel there though. The justifications we have to include at work force us to convince others that we aren't throwing cash away. They make us look beyond "cos this is how we've always done it" and also make us look at options we may not have considered.

Home buying is rather different. If I'd gone by work rules I'd have :

Been hunting for a "what's wrong with my laptop" person (time + money)
Investigated suitable replacements
Investigated who would be the cheapest supplier
And then hunted for another person to do the switch

I have to admit, I actually followed most of those steps up top but I don't have to justify my computer/techie skills to anyone around me. People come to me for advice with techie stuff :-) I'm happy to admit that I don't know everything to do with PCs (anyone who does is a liar) but I can answer most questions by figuring out how to ask Google the right question, filtering out the incorrect, inconclusive and irrelevant.

Investigating suitable replacements was based around me knowing what I'd need to replace the suspect item (a 2.5" SATA completely standard drive) and knowing I'd have the freedom to spend a little more on an item that would boost the performance of the machine. (The hybrid SSD definitely makes for a smoother machine).

I also did an investigation on the software, trying a couple of trials before setting on Acronis True Image as the software for the job. It's easy to use (for a techie), whereas the other free/free trial options didn't apparently want to do what I wanted - clone the drive.

Suppliers is a curious one. Google shopping results help here but whereas at work, we'd be required to go for the cheapest supplier, I was free to spend a little more (especially considering fuel) on going to Novatech. I'll go through Novatech a lot for my PC bits : They're cheap, they sell good stuff, they have an excellent selection and most important - They're local. Being local means I can take advantage of flexi credit by leaving work a little early to head down the motorway to pick stuff up. Definitely better than waiting a few days for Bristol's Finest Postmen to lose your item in the mail.

It's definitely easier to buy stuff at home - but does it get you a better result ?

Not always. I've got a few pieces of cricket gear where I've effectively bought something because it caught my eye, finding that it was less than ideal when I took it on the field. Not sure if I can actually use my latest helmet.

I'm rambling again I believe.

Yes - the hoops we have to jump through at work are a pain. They're often based around convincing people who tend to be very reluctant about spending money. But ... they're worth it in the end. I put in a lot of checking out around buying my current car and minimal research into buying my last one. What I learned about Lexus in that time assured me that it would be a great car with good dealership backup (both correct). I assumed the Focus would be an almost like-for-like replacement for the Puma and was proved wrong (handling not up to it).

I'll close out with : Procrastination can be a good thing.

Applying a little patience and walking away to do a little more window shopping to check out the options lets you commit your cash with a clear head. You know more about the detail of what you're buying. If I'd believed the rumours about bad Onkyo HDMI boards, I'd have bought a Yamaha AV amp. By checking out the inside of a Prius, I saw for myself the different quality of the interior and bought the Lexus.

I'm actually quite happy with the AV amp but the dvd playback is an issue. The Lexus - is still awesome. Also happy with the laptop performance now, hybrid SSDs deliver the performance boost that WD Raptor drives don't.

PS Laptop = stable. No random 10 second frozen mouse pointer pauses since the upgrade. Desktop = stable with new firmware in the drive.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Bleeding drive crucial saga

I seem to be improving :-)

A health issue I've had for over a year now is that some wounds I've picked up have been refusing to heal. That's not good. The diagnosis last year was ulceration and infection but ... I'm hoping now that's a conclusion based on incomplete data.

What I did was look up and research "diet skin repair" (or something similar) because I suspected that with my horribly bad diet, I was missing out on crucial minerals needed for my body to repair itself. Basically, by neglecting eating my greens and by going away from habitually drinking orange juice, I'd got to a point where my body had run out of the stuff it needs to keep it intact.

After a week of shifting the diet a bit again, things are looking promising again today :-) Although I'll keep an eye on it over a weekend where I can wear shorts all the time. The skin is still weak and shorts mean that trouser material won't damage it.

Now that's out the way - techie stuff !!!

Been researching that again today because the desktop PC is still sick. It would boot up fine initially but after "a while", it would crash hard and wouldn't work after a reboot. Turn the PC off and on and it's fine.

Researching "Crucial M4 problems" quite quickly gets you seeing stories about them failing after 5100 running hours. How long is that ? It's 212.5 days or roughly 7 months. That's spookily about right for how long my desktop has been active. Looking with that DiskCheckup utility I linked a few days ago, the run time is about 5240 hours (if I'm reading the numbers right).

What's the known issue ? They'll go unresponsive after an hour of use, leading to the machine crashing. Powercycling the drive will fix it. (That's consistent with what I'm seeing)

What's the fix ? Update the firmware. I'm on that - I'm currently doing disaster prevention by copying all files on the SSD to another drive in the machine. The firmware in my drive is version 0002 and needs to be 000F.

I usually avoid updating firmware like plague - it's a very risky thing to do and should be unnecessary. One false move (like having the drive die halfway through cos of it's 1 hour limit) and you'll end up with something less use than a brick.

It's been a saga ... But it's good to have it confirmed that Crucial are a responsible and quality bits manufacturer. Other SSDs have been bricked completely by firmware difficulties and one reason I went Crucial is because they didn't just go sheeplike and clone everyone else's drive.

One reason Gigabyte and Acer hit my blacklist a good few years ago was that they didn't have that responsible attitude to making quality bits (now forgiven). The GA5AX motherboard for my K6iii was based on an Acer Labs chipset which had software which was ... incomplete. I'm not sure if that firmware was ever fully developed. On motherboards, which form the foundation stone of all PCs, that's almost unforgiveable.

Crossing my fingers that I've got it right on this one. Returning hardware is always a pain, especially if it's a problem that couldn't be recreated in store without waiting an hour for the time to tick over. Novatech would be find with returning hardware ... it's just time and hassle to get the drive to them and back on top of annoyance of having to get a new drive up to speed.

It would cut into cricket watching time !

So - crossing my fingers that :

My legs continue to heal themselves
That I can resist the compulsion to scratch them (own worst enemy)
My drive has the known issue with those Crucial SSDs.

And ... it's just crashed again after roughly 1 hour of use. It's not nice to have a problem. But it is nice to see confirmation of symptoms that lead you to a possible fix for that problem.

Closing out - if you're putting together or buying a PC and have free choice over what to get, here's what I think with the knowledge over the past week :

Laptop - use a hybrid drive. Conventional discs are too slow, SSDs are lightning but not big enough. Laptops rarely give you room to fit more than one drive, so Hybrid drives aim to give you the best of both worlds. My laptop isn't as quick as my desktop now - but it's smoother than it was before the swap.

Desktop - plenty of room here, use a SSD boot drive and a conventional drive for data. There's all sorts of advantages to separating out Windows from the data. It's easier to back up if Windows is separate but that's insignificant next to the performance gains from separating them out. If Windows is on the same physical drive as data, it has to go back and forwards across the disc to read what it needs. Caching should cut down that time but caching has been broken in Windows for many years now.

Even doing something like switching to my 74GB WD Raptor (conventional but less slow) drive for Windows, combined with the 1.5TB drive for data, would lead to big performance and smoothness gains by eliminating all that seek time.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fixing Stuff 1 : Breaking Stuff ... 1

Had something highly expected happen last night when I was testing the laptop with its new hard disc.

When you make a hardware switch on a PC, you always expect a problem. If there's no problems, that's the time to worry. Anyway. This time, laptop boots up just fine with its new hard disc and it feels a little smoother too thanks to that special hybrid hard disc.

Ok. So no problems with the laptop. What I definitely didn't expect was that in the middle of watching a Yogscast video on the desktop, that the desktop would decide to pop its clogs ... Like : full machine crash type oopsie. And when you try a reboot of that Windows 7 machine, a "Starting Windows XP" screen would come up, quickly followed by a Blue Screen Of Death "Windows has stopped to protect the machine" ...

What ... The ... Hell ...

Cue a little bit of panic.

Thinking it through a bit more, I go check the BIOS (the bit that first appears when you hit the On switch and figures out what hardware is in the machine). The BIOS aka Basic Input Output System can't see the boot disc. That's either extremely bad news or a suggestion of something very easy to fix.

Aside - my desktop has 3 hard discs inside it :
60GB SSD - Windows 7 boots off this but it's too small to have any data or applications on it
250GB Seagate - my last machine's game drive, put in there to give the new machine a bit of storage space while I waited until big hard discs came down in price
1.5TB Western Digital drive - where my games, applications and data goes.

What seems to have happened is that a cable went dodgy, so the desktop couldn't see its SSD boot drive. What happens then is that the Bios tries each drive in turn, looking for something it can hand over to. When it found the Seagate, it would see the Windows XP installation on the games drive. However ... that's an installation that was set up for a very different machine ... AMD vs Intel, ATI vs nVidia, wholly different motherboard etc etc ad nauseum. Suffice to say, nothing is shared between last machine and new machine.

Desktop seems fine now after a little poking around inside its innards. I've also had the chance to tone down a fan that was getting rather intrusive with the noise, so I'll be curious to see what temperatures the machine will be running (before, it maxed out at 56 degrees C under load with hot ambient).

Where's the problem come from ? Miniaturisation.

Cabling for disc drives used to be pretty bombproof. It was solid enough that you had to tug quite hard on the cables to get them out. They had a really good grip.

That's an old Quantum Fireball EL drive. It's 3.5 inches wide and I've popped a 10p on there as comparison. I think it's a 7.6GB drive and dates back to when I was running an AMD K6iii powered machine. That ran at 450MHz, which is precisely half the clock rate of my desktop's graphics card.

Anyway - the white connector is a 4 pin Molex, these had a deathgrip. The 2xlots connector to the right is actually a floppy drive cable but hard disc wires were fairly similar (more pins). Data used to be sent around with lots of wires in parallel, using ribbon cables like in the picture. The problem there is that when you get to really high data rates, the neighbouring wires like to say hello, say "wotcha doing", "this is what I got", "can we share ?". That sharing thing is called "crosstalk". It's a big problem and is why instead of doing things in Parallel, electronics has moved to passing around 1 bit at a time. I.e. Serial instead of Parallel.

Ok. That's Dark Age tech, what's the new stuff ?

That's the drive that just came out of my laptop. It's a Western Digital Scorpio Blue drive that holds 320GB. It's 2.5 inches wide and much thinner than the 3.5" drives. What's beside it is the insides of my 2.5" USB caddy.

The ribbon data cable and the Molex power connector have been replaced by the two sockets with an L shaped connector. You can pull these out quite easily and it's my huge suspicion that one of them worked its way loose on its own.

When a hard disc goes Bang, the electronics that control it usually still work. That Bios thing can usually still identify that there's a drive plugged in. Self protection measures keep the control electronics intact if the motors fail in such a way to cause power spikes. So if a Bios can't see the drive, it's usually either :

Very Toasty Drive
Loose connector

If the Bios can see the drive but no data can be got from it, that's when it's time to chuck the drive in the bin. Thankfully, after unhooking the cables and plugging them back in (plus a swap of a couple), my desktop's up and running again - but I have just done a backup of its SSD drive again. Just to be safe ...

Addon - meh. It's not a loose connector. It's a toasty drive. Another failure after about an hour's running this time ...

PS Yes. That is the bottom half of a penguin and definitely the whole of a Biscuit puppy. You are not seeing things.
PS2 I deny all knowledge of dust.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Taking that backup plunge

Ok, ok, so early today I was saying :

"I'll leave the laptop hard disc swap until Friday so I can do it while the cricket's on" - with the idea being that I'd be able to work on the laptop without wanting music in the background to listen to. (The music lives on the laptop).

But. The idea of "why the hell wait ?" took over. Lol. Been catching up on more recorded telly tonight, Falling Skies plus the last few A Town Called Eureka. What's that give ? An opportunity to work on the laptop without wanting music in the background to listen to. (No I did not copy/paste that - lol)

It starts with a little disaster planning. In 2.5 years of owning my laptop, I'd not made the factory restore discs. So in those pop and about an hour later I have 4 dvds full of Acer factory restore gubbins. So if this transfer messes up completely, I'll be able to reinstall fresh. Or if it doesn't quite do what I want (there's potential of the transfer losing recovery stuff that's in a special partition) then I don't lose anything.

The software I've gone for to do the transfer is called Acronis Backup & Recovery. It costs about $75 ... but ... there's a free trial version. That only lasts 15 days but ... I'm hoping to only have to do this once. Sold !

Oh and of the backup software I looked at, this was the only one which appeared to do what I wanted (despite blurb on websites), which is to totally transfer the software from one hard disc to another.

One thing it's doing though is take copious amounts of time.

The transfer is called "clone hard disc" and involves a bit for bit, partition for partition copy of the old drive to the new one which is connected up via USB. It's doing this by rebooting into a copy only mode. But it's taking ages ... It's just hit 100% (and I'm rebooting it) so it's hopefully got a full copy on the new drive.

Let's see ... Next step - swap the hard discs over, after I boot up the laptop to :

Take a little look at the new drive
Assure myself I can go back to the old one

Hmm. The reboot is taking a while ... I'll be ignoring a video from Totalbiscuit (Sleeping Dogs game) while I do the switchover. More later ! I'm hoping to have a fully operational and upgraded laptop by sleep time.

Ok - Update 1 - testing the new drive hooked up to the laptop with the old drive active is curious ... Drive Manager can see it but won't let you interact to it if you'd copied over what's called "NT Signatures". Curious !

Time to take a plunge into the gubbins ...

Update 2 - back's off the laptop and the old hard disc is ... scorching. I suspect it may have been having more trouble than I thought. Hard discs should not be 70 degrees + (too hot to hold).

Update 3 - One hard disc swap later and I have a Starting Windows screen ! I'm not used to stuff like this working so easily - something's gonna go wrong ;-)

Last update - this one is being tapped in from a laptop that is exactly as it was left when I started the backup (even down to the random desktop wallpaper). Is it quicker ? Let's see. It's too early to really tell yet, any comparisons will be buried in potential "I've upgraded so it must be better" placebo effect.

Verdict on Acronis - bloody brilliant. If I needed this software more, like if I was making machines for a living and wanting to cut down on software time, it's perfect. If I was a sysadmin and looking for enterprise grade software, again, brilliant.

Hugely recommended !

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Maintenance, Prevention or excuse for upgrade ?

My body's not the only thing that's struggling to maintain itself at the moment ... (Danger - Techie Post !)

Just spent a bit of cash on the laptop. I've not installed what I got yet (that's to come and I'm anticipating HHAASSSSLLEE) but I'm reasonably sure my laptop has a terminal problem.

Symptom :

Occasionally (about once or twice per boot up) the laptop will freeze with no mouse pointer response for about 10-15 seconds (unsure due to Watched Pot time dilation). Music or video keeps playing for a few seconds, which suggests the cpu is still happily sending stuff out of buffers. Everything else freezes. Hard disc light will be on solidly. After the freeze finishes, laptop is all happy.

But ... Sunday, it gets scarier. It's early in the Olympics closing ceremony and I've put a Facebook post in decrying the BBC for getting Prince Henry's name wrong. Email replies come in and I think the laptop shows its own disgust at me by crashing hard and Loud. As in, crashing halfway through the "new email" sound leaving that sound running at Max Volume. Think 12 on the dial.

That one actually needed a full reboot because the laptop didn't recover.

However ... it wasn't actually that easy. Laptop comes back up sure. But only part of the way. When I start up my laptop, it'll fire up its Windows 7 gadgets plus I'll load Firefox, Outlook, Messenger, iTunes, Steam and Digiguide. (Yep - that's a lot of work for laptop). This time, Firefox and Outlook opened quickly with Firefox being usable. Outlook was not. It took half an hour (literally!) before the laptop was happy again with all applications open.

Translation - bad news. And a GeekyPete remembering back a bit and thinking it might be a good idea to replace the hard disc in this machine.

Hard disc theory - they're built from discs with magnetic Stuff on which spins at a few thousand rpm. They have a motor to spin up the discs. There's an arm that reaches across the disc to read the data. It's literally floating across the disc.

If stuff goes wrong with those motors, it takes more effort than it should to spin up the discs. When that effort is more than the motors can give, the drive breaks. I've had that happen before, on my first PC (this is Dark Age stuff, my graphics card has more memory than that PC). It's totally terminal, there's no way domestically you can get the data off a drive that's died that way.

How can you check ?

If you catch it early, when the PC stalls there will be a faint clicking sound as the motors try and spin up. Newer discs are much quieter though. You can use software like PassMark's Diskcheckup. I've just tried that and it's let me look at the health monitoring information that's buried in the drive. There's a few anomalies there, including a few "JEEZ THAT'S SILLY HIGH !!!" scary numbers.

If you see the line :
Raw Read Error Rate - Value 200, Worst 200, Threshold 51
What's your reaction ?

Mine was OH SHIT MY DRIVE IS NEARLY TOAST. And then you look in the help file and find the High = Happy. (where have I heard that before). Lesson - read the help files and they'll decipher what you're looking at.

I think I'm on to something though - Spin Up Time (how good those motors are) is 199 to a threshold of 21.

So - what am I doing about it ?

I'm making a change while it'll be easy before a hard disc failure makes it huge grief. A like for like cheapest switch would be a 320GB little drive (link is an example) for £48 from Novatech. What I've done is spend more cash on something just a tad better.

Windows biggest failing is having to wait for the hard disc. What's the best way to fight that ? Get a quicker hard disc. It used to be that you'd pay Western Digital silly money for a hard disc that was slightly less slow. But there are now alternatives :

Solid State Device drive - memory discs. My main desktop PC runs off one of these and it's Fast. Truly fast. But ... 60GB of Crucial M4 SSD costs £56 and that's barely big enough for Windows. And my laptop has to have enough room for applications plus a 32GB iTunes library. So now we're looking at 128GB at a push (£60 for cheap, £84 for a Crucial M4) and 256GB to be happy (£140+).

Hybrid drive - these are normal discy discs with a tiny Solid State bit to speed them up. This is what I've bought - 500GB for £84. Not as fast as an SSD but has the size to keep a laptop happy.

I've not taken it out of the bag yet so I've not started the changeover - fingers crossed that it'll be an easy one !

PS At some point I'll compare the process we have to go through at work for stuff like this and the process we can go through at home. It'll be a whinge. And I'll enjoy every character of it :-)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Will the last one out ...

(addon - I've spotted all the hits come in looking for info on Martin Wolfram - I don't know much, just what I saw on the telly. Will keep looking and add a link if I find anything. Hope he'll be ok when that shoulder fixes !)

... Please turn off the torch.

That's from one of the pen & paper role play gamers in a little group that's been going for years (on hiatus at the moment - ill health).

This Olympics (and this will be the last Olympics post for a while - honest) has been pretty awesome. It's had everything :

On at a good time, so you don't have that "stay up longer or go bed at reasonable time ?" timezone competition thing. Beijing was ahead of the UK, so the time zone was quite hostile.

Information - the London2012 website has been outstanding for getting results, updates, scheduling and just generally getting information out there. With the diving, I was occasionally seeing results and updates come through before the commentators and crowd saw them. (That's partly due to the delay on the feeds).

Coverage - this has been unrivalled. Huge number of channels with great camera work on them all. It heralds the digital age coming again. For Beijing, the multi channel streaming architecture wasn't as mature and the hardware we have to show it nowhere near as ready. I didn't but I suspect I could have watched some of the coverage on my phone, like I listen to internet radio on it.

I suspect the coverage may have plateaued there though. I'm not sure it can be taken that much further, apart from maybe Picture In Picture selections like what was promised with TV decades ago.

Stories - There's been stories all the way. Good ones, Bad ones, Embarassing ones, Heartwarming ones, Inspiring ones.

Good ones - the way it's all come together, with the conduct of the games being such that it's allowed the athletes to come to the fore. One thing I can remember from Beijing are the stories about the smog, no such worries about London although the rain made things interesting at times.

Bad ones - the non-trying badminton players and the occasional bad referee. Yep. These stole the headlines but it was dealt with appropriately.

Embarassing ones - remember those Arabian signs ? Oops ! (Paul McCartney counts too)

Heartwarming ones - that clip of Victoria Pendleton showing the heart symbol will be shown for a very long time. As will those of our boys and girls being in tears on the medal podiums.

Inspiring ones - all of the athletes. All of 'em. But especially Martin Wolfram who injured his shoulder badly during the diving and then proceeded to complete the competition with a useless right arm. Did well too.

But - what's next ?

Back to life, back to reality. I'll be looking forward to the Paralympics in a couple of weeks, followed by the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. I'll give sport watching a rest for a few days (cricket's on but will ignore until Thursday's Test Match).

I didn't get to go along to any events (feeling I missed out) but Olympic spirit was flowing well, even with those who I'd never believe it would catch. What is next ?

Catching up on the telly ... Got lots of recorded stuff, lots of recorded films and 7 blu-rays have arrived that I haven't watched yet. Lots to watch.

Cricket season is done - there's another game but I'm going to be avoiding that. My back is sound but isn't fixed yet. I'm being careful because it could go bang again easily if I twist wrong. Nah - my legs aren't fixed yet.

Actually that's another thing I'm going to have to change and that's diet ... I've done a little more analysing and come to the conclusion that neglecting certain things in my diet is why I'm having problems with legs, lungs and eyes.

Whenever you hit a problem with your body, try and analyse it. Don't instantly go for the patch it over solution, as the underlying problem will still be there. The creams helped my legs repair some of the damage but it didn't fix the underlying cause. I think it's diet - I need to get the greens back in and the orange juice. I used to drink a reasonable amount of that, enough to keep me healthy. I think what's happened is that my body's run out of the essential minerals it needs to keep it healthy and I need to make the switch to get them back in.

We'll see how that goes. Sainsburys tomorrow and I'll break a habit by visiting the aisle with Green Stuff in it.

But yeah - I'm not repairing as quickly and as efficiently as I used to. Playing cricket one week needed to be followed by a week away in order to recover. There's a lot of consistency between symptoms observed and things missing (Vitamin C, K and zinc) from my diet. And now I've identified that, it's time to test the conclusion and see if it's right :-)

Besides - I've got bored of biscuits, munching raw crunchy cabbage will be suitable biscuit replacement :-).

Friday, August 10, 2012

Town Observations

I had a chance to leg it early enough today, using hard earned flexi credit, to head into the middle of Bristol for a wander around.

The eyes were fully open as usual, what did they see ?

Summer outfits are definitely still In. But then again - we've switched back to Heat Lamp conditions.

Trouble is, "summer outfit" tends to mean really tight outfits which can look great on some people, on others it tends to bring out all the wrong things ... Excess person tends to escape the overly tight outfit in all the wrong places. (I sadly have to watch for that with my t-shirts!) Or ... instead of the tight outfit accentuating and emphasising healthy curveyness, it shows where the ribs are sticking out from half starved fashion victims.

I've still been using my summer jacket lately, which is a light blue denim one I got in Orlando a few years ago. It's light, it has huge inside pockets. Good for carrying my various bits around. I don't trust my wallet in my trouser pockets, there's too much tendency for it to try and work its way out of there. I haven't lost my wallet yet, so that theory must be working.

Book sales ...

Waterstones are doing a "Buy One Get One Half Price" at the moment (stickered items only - grr). But ... with the Michael Cobley books I looked at, the third was in the offer, the first two were not. If I'm going to speculatively buy a new author, I want to start at Book 1 not Book 3. So they stay on the shelf. I think that's a bit sad myself, it's a lost opportunity for a shop that will be struggling enough already due to the competition from online sellers.

More book ...

Spotted all 3 Hunger Games books in HMV in a set for £6. That's cheaper for 3 books than we tend to see books sold on their own. Remarkable deal, if you're thinking of getting the Hunger Games books, that's the deal you want. I almost went for it myself as I was picking up more Stuff there. But ... The Hunger Games was a very well made film. They did a cracking job of it. I may well even buy it when it hits an acceptable price. But ... the backstory behind the action was GOPPING. It was awful !!! The entire last kid standing concept was ripped off from Battle Royale and inserted into a Future Earth society that was utterly nonsensical. So if the only good thing about the film was how they translated the action parts to the screen, I consider the books with the backstory to be a waste of time. Although I may actually buy them at some point to make up my mind properly.

You can only really form a true opinion about something if you're working off relevant facts. If I tell you that Intel cpus are better than AMD, it's coming from valid objective technical factual information that comes from endless articles. If I tell you that Florence & The Machine are awful noisemakers, that's my subjective opinion and you should only take it as your's if you've attempted to listen to them without your ears bleeding.

(I'm not a fan and think they're horrendously overhyped)

People who get in the way

There's lots of these. They'll thoughtlessly spread themselves across a whole pavement, blocking the path for everyone. (This goes for people who have meetings on stairs too). The ultra wide mob aren't so bad if they're going your way (answer = chill pill) but if they're approaching, it's time to get the elbows out.

Yes - I've been known to send rude people flying rather than step off pavements into traffic. Didn't have to go that far today, the rude people decided not to argue ... although I did have to stop myself from running over a child that was taking the lead from a rude parent.

I bought stuff !!!!

Yep. Check outside to see if the sky is falling (hazy but sun's still up). Blu-rays were going 5 for £30 so I picked up Paul, Armageddon, Das Boot, Sunshine and Stealth. Yep. There's some bad films in there but I enjoyed them. Not so sure about Sunshine, need to make my mind up about that one again. Music wise, I've picked up the Ting Tings (Sounds from Nowhereville), Tori Amos (Abnormally Addicted to Sin), Smash Mouth (All Star Smash Hits) and Gabriella Cilmi's Ten.

Greatest hits albums ...

Most bands put these out at some point. Either if their careers are going down the pan, or if the record companies want to exploit the back catalogue. Was surprised to find greatest hits albums by Smash Mouth (music from Shrek) and Voice of the Beehive. The Voice of the Beehive greatest hits was basically a compilation from their first 2 albums, cutting off the really bad tracks. I saw a few more All About Eve collection cd's while browsing. They must have really upset someone at EMI, there's been more collection cd's than actual All About Eve original albums.

Mind you, that could also mean they had a fan in the label who wanted as much of their material out there as possible.

Last bit - I miss my hot chocolate. I used to have a hot chocolate and something munchable when I'd exhausted the potential of wandering around the shops. Trouble is, I started reacting (lactose issues) to the hot chocolate. So I had to switch to something different for the coffee shop visit. I definitely miss the hot chocolate but ... I'm a coffee fiend :-)

And with the mention of munchables ... the athletics looks like it's kicking off and I've not had any popcorn for a while ...

PS I today spotted the most awesome pair of platform soles I have EVER seen. (Even beating Snow Queen platforms!). They must have been at least 6 inches and were made of rubber with a big hole in the middle. Result - they worked like springs and she went Boing Boing Boing wherever she walked.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

How computers were made

It's not through some long winded sciency process involving sand into silicon and copper and gold into wires ...
My money's on the 680 ohm.

Wonder if any of those have been subject to doping ?

PS Daft picture courtesy of Intel's Facebook page ...

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Withdrawal symptoms

I did pretty well on Monday at work with the withdrawal symptoms ...

My actual boss and I are both sport nuts, so we tend to swap latest score info between us and natter on analysis too. She's got a keen analytical mind that's very into cricket, so you can probably imagine how in depth we can go on that.

(As a lunchtime conversation of course!)

Anyway - those swapping of Stuff Has Happened, plus the typical First Day Back From Leave hecticness let me avoid thinking too much of Olympics. That didn't really hit until Tuesday, when I was really missing the Olympic TV combined with watching several streams via the desktop.

What's been the salvation ? The London2012 Android app is pretty darn good. I can't remember what the info feeds were like from Beijing in 2008 but for this Olympics, the dissemination of information has been incredible. Top notch. And I don't think that's from improvement in technology (cricinfo has been doing ball by ball commentary at a similar level for many years), it's just been done in a simple, seamless way.

Check it out while it's there :

It's simple, yet efficient and remembers what web pages should be - lean & clean. I wonder if the rise of the smartphone has something to do with that ? Are they making web designers go away from cluttered pages and back to simpler ones ? Not a bad thing. It's backed up by the Android app, which has up to the minute live score info for all events plus there's a Voice Of The Games which gives short paragraph updates for events that have just completed.

What they seem to have got cracked now is the process of pulling the information in and distributing it to the web, in near real time.

So some of the sting of that withdrawal has been taken away by Just Enough info being available via the Android app. Plus with the explosion of social media, more and more updates are coming across that way.

I do get another type of withdrawal symptom though from a leave period. I thrive on interaction with other people. I get horribly bored when I'm on my own. Things like games are too predictable, stuff on telly is often a repeat, memory means I'm struggling to keep the music library fresh.

Being around people is completely different. The interactions around an office defy prediction. Especially in larger offices like the floorplates at our work. (The buildings are Big). We keep a good sense of humour going too. Offices that keep a sense of humour get more done, even if that humour is sometimes very dark ...

Oh and if someone smiles at me in the office, I know that it's because of something I've done rather than some scripted thing that would happen anyway. Even better if someone chuckles at something I say. Oh and games don't randomly award you with real cake for no good reason.

Cake is life.

Oh and it's a huge bonus when the Cake attracts more smiles. We had a visitation from the BM mob from the old team. Talking of interactions that defy prediction - lol :-) That mob was always just one half comment away from breaking into something : Silly, Scary, Outrageously Amusing. I only tended to pick up on it halfway through and it tended to be way past my understanding (think caveman!), which is where the scariness comes in.

Oh was I talking about withdrawal symptoms ?

Olympics - I'll definitely miss the games when they're over
Cake - diets are evil but cake brings smiles
Old team people - scary ! And awesome to see them come up for the cake

PS I devoured my donut so fast this morning that it appeared to have been inhaled.
PS2 Scary can be wonderful too. Especially when it is that special brand of female scary where you have no clue whatsoever as to what they're going to be getting up to next.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Curiosity beats Martian Space Defences !

There's only one news story today ...

Ok. There's another couple for big sporting events but I've talked way too much about that last week already !

The Martian Space Defences have been doing pretty well lately. Apart from the two mini rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, they've shot down pretty much everything we've sent their way over the past few years including our poor homegrown Beagle II.

I think the success this time is through using decoy tactics. This landing was setting down something rather bigger than what they've tried before (Team America Science Crew "NASA Lands Car Sized Rover on Martian Surface"), so instead of using parachutes or big bouncy balls the technique this time was :

Aerobrake with a heat shield like usual (friction like in your car brakes is an excellent way of dumping kinetic speed energy)
Slow down more with a parachute
And then come in for a soft landing via skycrane

Before, objects we've fired at Mars have looked at parachuting all the way or using big inflatable balls to absorb the energy of the landing. This time, with a skycrane to slow the rover to zero vertical speed, it's apparently led to a perfect landing. That skycrane also appears to have been the perfect decoy for those Martian Space Defences ...

I didn't get up in time to see the live coverage this morning :-(, I'd got myself caught in Borderlands, where the difficulty in the mission I was attempting ramped up to a ridiculous amount. I succeeded ... but at about 1.00 am on the night before first time back at work for a while. Didn't want to sleep in. Also wanted to be fairly fresh, so doing a 4 hour sleep wasn't an option.

I've been eagerly reading the summaries on The Register today - they're amusing. They love it that the team has achieved the landing :-) But they're wondering what the Martians think of us landing a nuclear powered, laser armed tank on their soil.

More info from the boys & girls at NASA :

Wanted to include a picture but copyright regs seem to be getting more and more nasty. I'd have loved to borrow one from a website I won't name (or link) but after reading their terms ? Hell no. I'm not going to dignify them with any mention at all. Even though their Yankee Go Home (they probably nicked it off Reddit) sign was funny.

That's a good aside to end on actually. Copyright is going nuts. As well as me shying away from borrowing pictures in return for linkbacks, I've been seeing people say that their Youtube videos have been threatened with takedowns because they've included other people's trailers (with credit) in their videos. Trailers are adverts. It serves the copyright owner to have the trailer displayed as much as possible. Yet people repeating those trailers are being hit by copyright breach nastiness.

It's a silly world out there folks when we can't tell people about good stuff. I don't think NASA will mind the link above though !

Awesome to see this latest space mission get through its second most dangerous (after launch) phase intact, hopefully there will be some good information coming from it that will increase the weight behind "We Must Go To MARS". Can't stay on this planet forever, someone will blow it up sooner or later ...

PS There will be no such luck with penetrating the Venus Space Defences - they've made their's incredibly hostile ...

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Returning Dust Bunnies Kill Vacuum

It's going to be weird tomorrow - first day back at work after the week off.

I've got so used to keeping an eye on X different channels of Olympics, it's going to be a wrench to cut myself off from it while at my desk. Or maybe not, I expect I'll be busy enough to disappear into my tunnel and only come out for updates when I take a break.

Next break will be in a couple of months time when another project milestone approaches. Similar for this one, we've just had a massive milestone which this time passed smoother than ever before. The next milestone will be somewhat different, it'll be for a project just starting instead of a project hitting its deliveries.

That's a weird feeling too. The past 12 years have all been about Deliver, Deliver, Deliver. Now the deliver phase is finishing, that project is transitioning to its support phase. We're still buying stuff for it, like you'll keep buying stuff for your car. Or maybe not normal people buying stuff for their car, more the nutters I see on the CT forums who modify their car into something ... strange. However, we're also learning a hell of a lot at the moment about what we have Delivered, with all those lessons about to get ploughed into the next project.

(I'm having to be deliberately vague about precisely what I work on, although I have left a clue in one or two of the 714 posts published here)

I needed the break - my batteries were getting severely depleted from piling the hours in at work. I've not been physically tired (outside of cricket), it's more a mental tiredness from putting in the Deep Thought to think through the problems we see. It just happened to coincide with week 1 of the Olympics :-).

I've not done much over the break, apart from watch an obscene amount of sport :-)

That laziness was mostly enforced, due to the back injury I picked up in the cricket on the Wednesday before the break. It took until Tuesday until I could move reasonably well again, with me not really being ready for a cricket match I'd have played in on Thursday (if required), if that game hadn't been rained off.

How am I physically ? The back feels good now :-) Slightly stiff but that's fairly normal. I'm not 20 any more. The thumb I damaged is still ... damaged ... but that's ignorable. I can drive and I should be able to write.

My legs - are still not all fixed yet. They're hugely improved from where they were last year when the skin would break at the slightest excuse and they ulcerated out to a significant portion of both calfs. They basically just wouldn't scab up to repair themselves. Now, the hair is coming back on my left calf and I suspect they'd be completely healed by now if it weren't for an obsessive compulsion to scratch ...

Must exert more discipline.

The leg problem has had a significant net benefit though. The discipline needed by the "diet" pills (actually antibiotics) convinced me I could alter my eating pattern to something significantly healthier. Before, I'd graze at all times of the day. My metabolism therefore thought it could stay fairly slow, as the energy intake was fairly constant. Shifting to include deliberate fasting periods during the day seems to have kickstarted it into being as hyperactive as I can remember. I think that hyperactivity has let me burn off the fat.

But ... while I appreciate having much better definition on my leg muscles now, I think I'd prefer losing a bit of the belly first ;-) I'm down 1.5 stone now on when I started the diet. There's more to come but - slow & steady so it doesn't immediately come back on. I've maintained the 12.5stone weight over this week, which is a good sign. My energy output hasn't been high, so it shows that I've matched the intake to avoid gaining the weight back.

I have managed to achieve something over this holiday. I coulda done with dealing with the weeds before they become unmanageable again and I seriously need to blitz the other housework. That effectively got put on hold due to my back making it very difficult to move.

What have I done ?

Killed the vacuum ! Or rather the dust bunnies have. Been having issues sleeping, mostly due to slight breathing problems. I've been worse with the wheezing but even slight breathing problems freak me out when I'm trying to get to sleep. Or it could be due to not being physically or mentally tired, thanks to the break.

I managed to vacuum half my bedroom tonight, before the vacuum decided it had had enough ... Think I'll be avoiding Hoover next time around.

Right - it's just about time to watch those Fastest Men On The Planet, so it's time for me to sign off - g'nite all :-)

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Abusing the technology again :-)

Here's the view on my desktop :

One of the little Facebook exchanges yesterday was around "only 3 events ????" - muahaha.

And there we go. My desktop's answering all questions I've given it so far and has taken over from the laptop for first choice machine for watching internet video on. The laptop could handle one of those video streams (but in lower quality) but would struggle for space and capacity with more. And that's with its 17" monsta screen. My laptop is an AMD machine, which means it's pushed to the limit of what it can do and doesn't like to stay at that limit for long. However, the desktop is a much higher performance Intel machine and can stay at its limit all day.

What's on the screen there ? Firstly, it's a 23" Samsung running at 1920x1080 pixels, so the picture size of each video is still pretty good.

Top left is the BBC1 stream, showing the cycling. Team GB is breaking all records in the cycling at the moment, with the last 5 rides all beating world record times. Latest was in the Women's Team Pursuit.

Bottom left is the Hockey stream, showing GB Women vs China. On screen there is Kate Walsh, back in the starting lineup just 6 days after breaking her jaw. In that picture, she's sporting the bits n pieces holding her head together.

Wow. That's true grit. Nearly scored a couple of times too. It's 0-0 at half time.

Right hand side is the sailing, with Team GB sailors continuing to do well today. The sailing competition isn't won in a day, it's won through consistent results over the entire regatta. And Team GB is doing pretty well. I'll be watching Ben Ainslie hopefully overcome his Danish nemesis tomorrow.

What else is there ? Steam is just poking through in the background there, with me downloading Rage (£6.50 in another sale). I'd actually stopped when I took the screenie, otherwise the network meter would have been a straight line showing 10Mbits/s download. If I let Rage download, it'll blow through my download cap which puts me into traffic management :-( And that means less quality on the video streaming.

There's 2 performance meters in the top right, network and cpu. Network is curious - I think I reset it this time last week, which means my desktop has downloaded 72GB since then. And most of that is Olympics or youtube ... Crikey. The CPU meter is showing that my desktop is somewhat overpowered for all this, it's barely turning itself on. It does help having plenty of memory - the meter is showing 2.7GB used, which is more memory than my laptop has available to it (3GB installed, some of that is taken by graphics).

Any desktop from the last few years should be able to handle the BBC streaming - noting that the BBC streaming is some of the best on the web at the moment. ITV streaming is far more greedy in terms of cpu cycles.

I've since switched the hockey over to Tennis, with Laura Robson and Andy Murray playing again today in the mixed doubles. I watched them have a hard fought win earlier, this time it's the semi finals with medals beckoning ... Fingers crossed, hope they win. Andy Murray would expect to do well in the Tennis but Laura Robson has been a revelation. They're a set up at the moment.

What does get confusing is which commentary refers to which video stream ...

PS I also have the cricket coverage on the main telly, with new kid on the block James Taylor currently going through a trial by fire courtesy of the South African bowlers.
PS2 Sailing commentators definitely win the Shoutcraft stakes, their clarity cuts straight through the other streams.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Cost of sport

Yey ! More golds and medals for Team GB today :-)

It's been great to watch them being won and it's still not getting old to stand for the national anthem when the medal ceremonies come on.

But ... and this is linked to a question someone asked on Steam - how much does it cost ?

The Steam question was wondering how much pain my credit card was feeling after the Steam Summer Sales :-) Actually not that much. It currently stands at £45, with the major part of that being Civ V and its expansion. I think I resisted fairly well and it let me avoid disappointments seen by people falling foul of Ubisoft's dubious DRM service. (More people need to boycott software with that DRM)

If you stick to the sales and avoid purchases that you'll get little or no benefit from (Battlefield 3 vs factory overclocked graphics cards ???) then things don't have to be unaffordable. I apply similar logic to munchies, if they aren't on offer, that makes the jaffa cakes and the Wispa Bites easier to resist. That £45 is the equivalent of 1.5 A List big budget games and I've picked up 8 separate games for that including 2 A List (Civ V & Borderlands) games.

However ... Compare that to in real life sport ...

Real sport equipment can cost a serious amount of money. My own experience extends only really to cricket, which can get quite expensive. Over the past couple of years, I've spent cash on :

Helmet - cricket only, £15 in a sale
Spikes - think these were £25 (sale again) but you could waste £100 on them
Knee supports - £28 each. EACH !
Kit bag - think this was around £20 ish last year and I got one of the smaller cricket bags
New bat - I didn't buy one but if I had ? £150 minimum for an English willow bat

What else ? I haven't bought batting gear since the nose job incident (I think!) but refreshed the gear after that. I think something psychological made me change all my gear after breaking my nose but - my pads disappeared into a team's kit bag and I'd been thinking about changing them anyway. If I remember right, pads and batting gloves cost about £15 each back then. Sales again :-)

I've also picked up sundry other bits and pieces this year - the Pink Cap cost a tenner, as did the pink bat grip from Lords.

You're probably asking - is all this kit absolutely essential ? Yes and no. Most cricket and other sports clubs will have a shared kit bag which people can dip into for games. I've lent out my bat and pads a few times this season. When I did archery (long time ago!), the bow and arrows I used came from the club.

However ...

Spikes or studs - utterly essential. These give an incredible amount of grip, it transforms the amount of power you can put into the ground with your legs. If you try to run on greasy ground in trainers, it's difficult. It's actually dangerous for me to try using full leg power on dewy grass, as any slip is usually followed by leg muscles complaining. It's near impossible for me to sprint on damp grass in trainers, as there simply isn't enough grip to allow that much leg power to be transmitted to the ground.

So we wear spikes or studs as appropriate to avoid injury and let us use the power in our muscles. And it's similar for the knee pads too : My leg muscles developed before my knees had the structural strength to contain their power. When I sprinted, it felt like my knees wanted to explode. So I took to wearing the knee pads in order to hold my knees together. It just so happens that they also allow me to take knocks involving cricket ball on knee.

Specialist gear - yes, I could borrow pads or bat but I prefer to get accustomed to my own. With archery, the olympic standard bows have all sorts of extra bits to make them balanced and more consistent. Sail boats, you gotta practice somehow.

Even the basics of shoes cost more than they really should.

But - the point I really want to make is - sport at a highly competitive level costs a hell of a lot :

Time - so many of the athletes have to make it their life, to the point where they cannot have a paying job.
Basics - shoes, outfits
Gear - racquets, bats, gloves
Special gear - how much does a boat cost ? A top level racing bike ?
Gym time - facilities cost money, training costs time

Top level sport costs so much in terms of money, sacrifice and sheer bloody minded dedication. Every athlete who's made it to the Olympics has paid so much in all 3 to get there. They've earned both their place and our support.

All of 'em.

But especially Team GB :-) (I'm biased)

Thursday, August 02, 2012


(Quick note - I started this post talking about Olympics but ... read on - something else took over and I've saved the Olympics one for another day)

With my own cricket, I think I may have jinxed out the rest of the season after buying another helmet on Tuesday.

One thing I wanted to talk about actually, which I may leave for another post (nah - tears won) so I can do her justice - I've found the strange sensation of tears coming during games ... I'm quite an emotional chap but keep the emotions behind walls that are tough to break down. Yet, on a couple of occasions, I've felt a tear coming down my face during a game.

It's for a lady called Katherine (aka The Rose), who we lost to breast cancer in Spring. I didn't actually know her that well but I'm still remembering that smile that answered the big grin that usually accompanied me doing the Meerkat thing as people walked past my desk.

In the games, the tear would follow me explaining why I've been wearing the Pink Hat for as much of this summer as possible. In the last game, it was me telling one of the umpires (borrowed from the other team) what the Pink Hat was about. And good lad - he wore it. I'd switched to the helmet and had to hand over the hat because it was slipping down my trousers and protecting the back of my right knee.

In a sense, it's not just Remembering Katherine, it's remembering everyone else that we've lost whether that be due to illness, accident or in service. (I've seen what losing friends in service can do to people - help the survivors where you can, part of them died with those they lost)

I'm glad I had the idea to don the Pink Hat this summer. I'm also ... relieved that I didn't make a big thing out of collecting as :

The wetness has caused more than half the games to be cancelled
My own fitness stood up but my body rebelled with injuries
I'd have felt very uncomfortable pressurising people to contribute when they cannot afford to live for themselves
(Money's tight these days)

But I am very glad that I decided to don the Pink Hat for tribute. I hope it's raised awareness. Or at least that enough people know about Pink + Sport = Awareness to realise why I've been wearing it.

Despite how hard we try to, we cannot remember everyone we've lost over the years. I have a stunning memory (mostly for pictures, i.e. beautiful smiles) but cannot remember everyone I've lost.

So I started with just one. I remember Katherine.

And I'll close with that cos I can feel those tears coming again.

PS Just cos I didn't collect doesn't mean others won't appreciate it - click here if you'd like to make a contribution.