Wednesday, October 31, 2012

And to the doctor's again ...

Yep. After having yes/no's last night, I paid them a visit today.

Doctor's worried too ... She got me to make a repeat appointment in a fortnight. Gotta say, I was worried too after what the legs were looking like this morning (I'm saying nothing here in case people are reading in lunch break).

Result ?

More pills, even more pills, more cream and ... even more cream. And I need to be using the moisturiser more too.

It seems to be having an effect already though :-)

I've had a bunch of the pills, used the cream once, had a shower and ... my legs still look very angry with me (they deserve to to be honest) but my arms look improved already. Fingers crossed that I improve over the next few days, at least enough to wear long sleeves ?

Why long sleeves do I hear you ask ?

Normally at the weekend, at the moment at least, I'd be hibernating inside trying to take it easy cos of this skin thing. This weekend ?


It's birthday season at the moment. Bionicdwarf's was last week, Craziequeen's is in a few days and mine's in a fortnight. Mine means cakes for people at work on the Monday or Wednesday, I can't bring them in on my actual birthday because that's when the next doctor appointment is.

We're celebrating by making lots of things explode over the weekend. I have the presents wrapped but still need to acquire the fun stuff. Setting off the loud bangs involves being outside though, hence hoping to be able to wear those long sleeves so I don't completely freeze.

Oh it also means Pizza. YEY !

PS I've also had to activate word verification for comments, which is a huge shame. Over the past couple of days, someone's been trying to sell stuff by slamming lots of spam comments in. I won't tolerate that and neither will Google (they canned the first account before I could report it). But they appear to be able to get around Google's spam detection (dunno how, the comments have been near identical). If I have to enable comment moderation, this will be why.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Brr - season's changed

It's definitely got a lot colder over the last half week or so.

I'm really noticing the cold snap come in. My current state of health is a lot to do with that for a few good reasons :

I think fighting bugs keeps me warm. Kinda like there maybe being a good side to being ill. The fever means you have your own little internal personal electric heater. I think the antibiotics have cleared out all the bugs though (definitely judging by my ankles being bony again).

It's definitely colder - the car is telling me the temperature is down below 10 degrees C often, last week it was 13-18 degrees C. In work, there are little thermo reactive strips in strategic places on the pillars. Those typically read 27 degrees C (ish - they're not exactly precise!), today they were reading 23.

Most important is that skin condition, it's meaning I can't wear long sleeves right now (although I possibly could have for second half of today - improvement !). I'm actively considering wearing a t-shirt under my shirt tomorrow as a kind of vest. I've not done that since school !

Getting really cold at the moment from having to leave certain bits of skin exposed to help them heal. I've turned the heating up at home (and have the PC doing work for SETI etc) but can't do much of that at work. Spookily enough, I think the atmospherics at work are actually helping me at the moment. It tends to be quite a dry atmosphere and that drying out seems to be helping the healing.

I know someone who used to be on the same project as me who'd feel cold on a hot day, she must be absolutely freezing at the moment. Hope she's ok. Not spotted her for ages, which is a shame cos that Sunshine smile she has brightens up the day.

I'm sparing a thought though for people across the Pond.

It's just cold over here at the moment, we're not having to contend with snow (yet) or other adverse weather. Yet there's Superstorm Sandy battering the Eastern parts of the USA. The USA is pretty huge, for a storm to be battering so much of it says a lot about how spectacular a storm it is.

Nature is a truly awesome power.

And I'll leave it there - hope the storm over the sea doesn't have too many lasting effects.

Oh - I'm in a quandary at the moment as to whether to go see the Doctor again. I had genuine improvement today after a scary (messy) evening yesterday. Let's just say the cream probably made things worse. What I need to do is leave things alone long enough for them to get quality healing. As for the Doctor today, let's just say GB's healthcare may be a lot cheaper than other countries but it's definitely not as accessible as it could be.

But it's a lot more accessible than a few places I could mention right now !

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Worst ... films ... Ever !


One thing people won't tell you about Skyfall is the truly excessive amount of advertising (and trailers) that we were subjected to before the film started. During those ... Bionicdwarf, Cyberkitten and I were talking Worst Films Ever. Not quite sure which trailer or advert started us off on that to be honest but we knew a good idea for a blog post when we saw it.

So here goes ... Films that were so Bad they should never have been made. But seeing as they were, all copies need to be gathered up and cremated for the good of humanity.

Firstly - Anything. ANYTHING that Uwe Boll had a hand in.

He's a German film individual that goes from game to game, turning good games into incredibly bad films. They truly have to be seen to believe how bad they are. Although I wouldn't wish seeing an Uwe Boll film on anyone. That said, Bloodrayne wasn't too bad although Bloodrayne 2 was a horrible mess without the any of attributes that made the first watchable.

Star Trek Nemesis. Star Trek was still going before this film came out. Voyager was still running and Enterprise was just starting to look promising. However. Nemesis came out, with an awful script that had all humour removed. The humour was there (it was in the book) but all trace of it was surgically removed from the theatrical presentation. Nemesis killed Trek so bady that they had to start up the franchise in an alternate reality.

Anything "mockbuster". You know what these are ... It's where they take a successful film and remake it with a subtly different name. Battle Of Los Angeles (i.e. not Battle: Los Angeles) is one of these but there's been others made, including the Terminators, Transmorphers, Transformers and a few others. Watch for them, avoid them. FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR SANITY !!!!!


What's next ? Starship Troopers 2. The first and third Starship Troopers films are fairly ok. They're very watchable, although they take the original Heinlein book into an extremely right wing direction. Must watch the animated series again, shame they didn't get the chance to finish it. However, I shall definitely not watch Starship Troopers 2 again.

Twilight. Ok, this wasn't actually too bad but as a vampire movie fan, I should have been wanting to watch the rest. Must be something about Kristen Stewart. I don't think I've ever seen someone as good looking be so unwatchable.

Snow White & The Huntsman. Not too bad a film, just not nearly as entertaining as Mirror Mirror and it suffers from the Kristen Stewart effect.

Total Recall (the new one). Another in a long line of films that are very well made but ... WHY ? Why remake a B-movie, with the only script inspiration being to take away the Mars aspect ? The original made more sense. There was no real need to redo this one.

Limitless. Again, well made movie, I just really didn't like the Drugs Make Winners message.

I think that's enough for now. Last one - Mars Attacks. However, this one while it was bad, was so hilarious with it that I feel I need to watch it again soon :-)

PS Healthcheck. Think I'm improving. Ear's not so bad and I think I'm steadily getting my arms back. Skin feels good too :-) Fingers crossed - I'll be able to wear long sleeves again by the end of this week.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Skyfall Friday

Saw the new Bond film today :-)

Believe the hype. Instead of being mostly joke as some Bond films have been, there's a seriously good action thriller here. It keeps you guessing as it goes from action sequence to action sequence.

I suspect I'll see something new in it when I watch it again. I'm a Bond film fan but don't actually own many of them (just Casino Royale). I reckon I'll be watching the bluray of this one repeatedly. They've done a good job with this one.

"Too much information" starts here ...

Think my condition is improving. But ever so slowly. I'm not leaking as much :-) I've managed to leave my bad ear alone since Wednesday night, so it must be still healing. The rest of me is similar, although my arms feel like they're on fire at the moment. The skin there is very dry and cracked. But it's healing too and not leaking.

Just gotta look after it and protect it while I'm awake and while I'm sleeping. That's probably something people don't think about ... You move about while you sleep. What happens if you roll over on to an ear that's not happy and damage it ? Will you set the healing back on your limbs because you've unconsciously dragged half healed bits over the bedsheets or the quilt ?

Having to think of things like that so I don't set the healing backwards overnight.

I think I'm doing ok with it. We'll see how it goes over the weekend. Gotta say, the sleeveless cricket top I bought has been a godsend, as wearing that means the sleeves aren't putting that healing back.

There is some definite healing going on, the bits of my legs that originally went bad last year are pretty much back to normal now. It's just other bits of my legs which are having bother.

Think I figured something out today too :

Pizza = good - HURRAH !!!!!
White bread = bad - meh.

I've not reacted to the pizza for early dinner but did start to wheeze after munching the results of the Fryday morning Bacon Sarnie run. I'm learning :-).

I suspect I'll need to see the doctor again soon but - healing is happening. It's just happening slowly and I'm having to try hard to ignore the temptation to go scratchy-scratchy.

Fingers crossed for an easy weekend :-)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Counting Blessings

I've been hitting some massive lows lately.

I'm well and truly fed up with the skin condition I've got ... I want it gone. It is truly just a skin deep problem, although a fair few people at work have let me know they're worried for me with it. But even though it is just skin deep, it has effects that run a lot deeper.

It's very distracting. And that goes for my mind making up false symptoms. Some of those make me very itchy, which ends up causing me to make the problem worse.
I get signs that it's getting better ... and then it gets worse again. That's crushing.
I think I've figured out a cause of the problem, I shift how I live ... and then the problem comes back again.

I was having trouble at work on Monday, although I tried to hide that as far as possible. Part of that was lack of sleep, although I think I've figured that one out now. But most of it was seeing improvement after the Doc visit end in disappointment as my week off went on.

I think the last couple of changes (laying off the OJ and taking antihistamines) have made a difference but it's awful, awful slow. And my skin is still very sensitive.

Ok, ok, that's enough about my troubles. How about those blessings ?

What's let me turn the corner this week from massive depression to more up & at 'em is a few very good friends.

You know who you are ! You've been awesome to chat to over the last few days.

That's where I count myself very lucky. There's the work colleagues who I've been lucky to count as friends for years, the ones in my work-not work circle (CK & CQ!), there's the canteen people who look out for me and someone who keeps an eye on me through Steamchat.

They've been helping me keep going through these medical issues. And it's hugely appreciated.

PS If I'm still leaking next week, I'll go see the doc's again. Honest.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Techie matters - when speed matters not

I've felt a whinge coming on for a little while now.

I've been with the same ISP since I moved into my current house. That's like almost 11 years now. (Yep. Long time!). It started out as Telewest Blueyonder before they got hit by mergers, joining NTL to become part of the Branson Virgin Media empire.

To be fair, the service isn't bad. I started with a 512kbit/s connection way back. That's been steadily upgraded over the years and is now up at a genuine 20Mbits per second of download. And it gives that speed too on downloads. The upload has improved too and is now double that original 512Kbits/s download (original upload 128Kbit/s, it's now 1Mbit/s).

Techie talk aside - that's quicker than my first laptop could send information across wires to the computer next door to it. It's quick enough to download the latest Bat For Lashes album in about a minute (it's 120MB on iTunes).


It's evidently not fast enough to play Youtube videos in high definition. That's deeply MEH, especially as seeing off buffering was one of the themes of recent Virgin Media advertising. What happens is that when you try to play a fairly recent (as in made in the last day or so), you'll be able to see a few minutes of video and then you get Whirly Wheel silence as you are forced to wait for the next chunk of video to load.

I tried to keep up with watching the Felix Baumgartner highskydive. Just one problem - whirly wheel silence just took over totally and it was a total waste of time and effort.

It's not the hardware here. I can play BBC iPlayer just fine. The old hardware was happily handling 3 concurrent streams of BBC iPlayer Olympics in HD. I picked up a new freebie modem/router which will hopefully see that 20MBits/s get upgraded to 30MBits/s soon. That's not sorted the problem.

What apparently is causing the problem is a local proxy server in the Virgin Media network. What happens there is that you're not playing the video back from a Youtube server, it's playing from a Virgin Media server which is intercepting the calls to play the video. And it can't keep up.

Again - deeply, truly - Meh.

It's great to have a massive pipe to get the data through. The problem comes in because of something in the way (which shouldn't be there) taking the data supply back to a trickle. I'd much rather have, say, 5Mbits/s and HD playback than rarely used 20Mbit/s and no HD playback.

Don't get me wrong - this is not a matter of keeping up with something being streamed live, it's that poxy proxy server being unable to chuck the video data out fast enough. I suspect with the Baumgartner jump (streamed from Youtube), it was a matter of not being able to send the video data to many viewers.

Hopefully it's something that will get sorted out soon. But I have my doubts because it appears to be bad hardware and bad decisions in the Virginmedia network itself. Proxy servers are Bad News.

Ok - time to end the whinge ...

I've stuck with Virginmedia this long because the service has given near 100% availability. It's almost unheard of for the connection to go down. Sure, bandwidth throttling is annoying but even when that kicks in the connection is faster than the typical ADSL line.

And it was nice to get a shiny new wifi modem router (most capable piece of kit in my network right now), all for free. But it would be even nicer if I didn't have to click the Youtube videos back to 480p (which works ok) within a minute or five of starting to watch every single video.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Back to reality

Definitely not ready for going back to work tomorrow.

I'm well rested, sure ... but I'd like to be in better condition than I am right now.

I have improved (I think!) since starting to avoid orange/citrus from Thursday but ... Still got the damaged bits and areas that look like I've been dragged around at high speed by something going over concrete. Yep. Still a bit sore.

I think I was on to something with the citrus but then again, I've said that before. I don't think it's a problem solely with wheat, or I'd have still been worsening seeing as I've not gone totally away from wheat. The anti-biotics haven't completely got rid of the problem, although I think I needed them anyway to clear out some nasties. (Lost a couple more pounds too). One correlation with citrus is that I had quite a few glasses of orange juice on one of the occasions when my breathing flared up.

My breathing hasn't completely cleared, although it has improved. I suspect the dusty environment here might be contributing to that problem. My left ear has improved though, although it still looks nasty. Right eye's still poorly though. I can see just fine, it's just the skin underneath the eye.

It is having an effect though, under the skin. Kinda like being bored of it now and wanting the problem to go away. It's been with me for far too long now and it's depressing to think I may have made it worse by going on the orange juice. Since coming off that, the road rash seems to be reducing although I do need to help myself out by not poking at it all the time.

Hopefully time will tell. Or I'll be back at the doctor's place before too long hoping for more answers.

We shall see.

What else have I been up to this week ?

Music. Lots of it. Itunes tells me that since escaping work on the 12th, I've listened to 1159 tracks, at least once. And I'm listening to more now :-) I've added a huge amount to the library lately and I'm not quite through listening to it all yet. Still another 131 tracks to go, including the whole of the new Bat For Lashes album.

It's currently the Torchlight II original soundtrack, which they made available for free a little while ago. It's not bad, it's atmospheric like most soundtracks. Can't say I'll get the game, I got the first and didn't play all the way through the storyline.

Gaming. Not done as much of this as I thought I might. I dunno. Games just aren't grabbing my attention like they used to. I'm enjoying watching people play games more than I'm enjoying the games myself these days. I'm 10 hours into the new XCom game but haven't felt the urge to go back in. Perhaps I'm on too easy a difficulty level as it doesn't seem to be challenging. Perhaps I'm comparing the new constricted maps to the earlier randomly generated massive maps.

I've mostly been FTL'ing - great game. I've beaten that game once but not for a little while. Now there's challenge, with a lot of fairness alongside too. If you're interested in the genre and haven't checked it out yet, here's another link. It's definitely my Game Of The Year.

So if not gaming, what have I filled the hours with ?

Lots of telly, lots of book.

I've managed to catch up enough on the telly treadmill (what comes from recording 3x 1 hour episodes per weekday for later watching) that I can be a little more relaxed about watching it without running out of space :-). Walking Dead had a promising start to its third season and Hunted is not too shabby.

Bookwise, I've read the whole of The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M Banks. Not quite sure what to make of that one. It's not his best Culture novel, that's either Excession or Surface Detail. There's a hefty case of So What ? in here. But - it's a pretty decent book nonetheless and doesn't take away from the Culture sequence the way Matter did.

I'm now back to Lucifer's Hammer. I've read that one before but it's a high enough quality book that I'm happily reading it again.

And ... where exactly did I leave Lucifer's Hammer ? Oh - the comet had struck and the Chinese and Russians have wiped each other out with nuclear fire and it's over to the Americans to keep things going. Watch out for cannibals ...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Steps forward, steps back

What's that mean exactly ?

I'm coming to the end of the antibiotics period ... Just 4 more pills (1 day's worth) to go. Still have lots of the cream but I think my body is repairing on its own now.

However ...

I still have the breathing issues (although they've not been as bad as when I made the connection to white bread). And, the broken skin that was originally just on my legs spread to my arms (and other places) as well.

How is it actually doing though ? As well as patches on my legs, I got patches on my arms as well. They're pretty much cleared up, although there's still time to come in finishing off the healing. I'm down to just 3 bad patches that I'm worried about, unfortunately 2 are in visible places ... (under right eye, left ear is a mess). But, the patches are healing on their own now and most parts of my skin are so smooth you'd think I had someone rubbing in the oil. (Sadly not - lol)

Aside - knock at the door ... STUFF ! I had got 200 pages into Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle but that's being set aside for a while because ... that knock is the Postman with my copy of Hydrogen Sonata, the new Iain M Banks Culture novel. I'll enjoy that one :-)

Yep. Been reading again. After 10 hours fighting the aliens, I've not gone back in. I've played one or two other games since but to be honest, games aren't really satisfying the Do Something itch right now. And I've since finished off Firefox (seen the film a bunch of times, read the book twice now) and got the 200 pages into Lucifer's Hammer. I left the Niven/Pournelle novel last night right as things are set to kick off with a comet about to make a mess of Planet Earth.

But back to healthy stuff.

I know I'm allergic to at least one thing in my diet. I suspect I was on to something with the wheat allergy. I think the trigger for my skin to get smoother was stopping the white bread. But it's not just the white bread which I'm allergic to. If it was, my breathing would have cleared up. It hasn't.

So then the mind goes to "why has my breathing worsened over the last few months ?" And that's about when the new diet started. What's the components ?

Orange juice - this has been in the diet steadily as a prime cause of Vitamin C. I've been having half a litre a day since starting again.
Apples - started after a little while. I'm on one or two a day.
Lettuce - with the sandwiches at work and occasionally at home.
MultiVitamin pills - as a baseline

I can eliminate the lettuce, as I've not had any since Thursday last week and I'm still wheezing. Hopefully it's not the apples or the multivitamin pills. Although I'm not sure there's much in multivitamins to trigger allergies. That puts the suspicion on the orange juice ... And going Internet Doctor again :

The tummy symptoms don't match but nasal congestion, angioedema, itching in throat & palate, skin rash, wheezing & difficult breathing and cough all do. Before the diet shift, the problem was just restricted to my legs. Now, it's general hypersensitivity all over.

What am I going to do ? I'm going to cut orange juice again for a little while and fall back on those multivitamins to provide that baseline part of the diet. If that doesn't work, I'll have to cut the apples which will be a shame cos I've been munching those instead of biscuits. Which is far healthier. If it is citrus, I'll find something else to drink to give part of that 5 a day.


What am I doing ?

All this self analysis and Internet Doctoring ? It's taking time away from reading Hydrogen Sonata !!!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

3am Eternal

Or in my case, 6am.


My daily cycle is more like 26 hours instead of the normal 24 ... Dunno why that is but on a normal work day, it feels like I'm wide awake and could go for another 2 hours come midnight. That makes it really awkward for getting the sleep to get me through the next day.

(There's an answer - and it's hidden somewhere in the coffee jar)

Anyway, in a working week, it doesn't mean much as I keep to the work-home cycle. I aim to get in around 9am, which means legging it around 5pm. Or whenever I get done what needs to be done - flexi time can be wonderful for gaining credit in the week to be burned on legging it home at lunchtime (ish) on a Friday.

Of course, when I'm on leave that work-home cycle isn't acting like a 24 hour anchor. I have to be careful or I drift into getting up when it's dark. Ok, maybe not that extreme but 6am was pushing it. And I could have kept going too :-).

The reason ?

I'm saving the planet at the moment. One antique game I still pull out occasionally is called UFO Enemy Unknown. It dates all the way back to 1994 and was one of those rare perfect (outside of bugs!) fusions of tactical and strategic gameplay. I think I've written a few things about it in the past. Everything it tried to do, it did perfectly. That's a mistake a lot of games make, they try to do too much and botch up parts of what they try (Mass Effect 3's quest log is a key feature but broken).

So - UFO. It's one of those rare games that draws you in and can genuinely terrify you. The strategic element includes keeping track of your soldiers. They're not faceless, they grow with you as you go through the game. You kinda get attached to them too. But ... this is UFO, it's a very brutal game. The balance between firepower and defence is very heavily in favour of firepower. Combine that with close quarter arenas where the aliens can pop out of nowhere with little warning, bite your best soldier and turn them into another alien.

Yep. It hit the spot.

So much so that even though many people have attempted the concept and not got it right, they've gone for a full remake under the Firaxis banner. I picked this one up on release and have put about 10 hours into it so far. Including a "just one more mission" session that ended up concluding at 5.30am today.

Brief summary of the new one ? It does less than the original. Arenas are more claustrophobic, the original game could randomly generate some humungous maps from its tileset. Squad size is a maximum of 6 instead of 26 in an Avenger. But what it does it does to a very high standard, although I'm not too sold on the panic system.

In terms of the role play aspect of getting you genuinely concerned about your guys, it has that for sure. And that's probably enhanced by that much smaller squad size. Your people don't get lost in the noise of their pitter-pattering feet (this really bugged Ravenwolf!), you notice them more. Right now, my squad is being led by Nat "Spider" Hart, ace sniper, while the boss Colonel Jose "Wolverine" Dominguez recovers from injury.

Here's the squad, about to go on mission :
Sadly, it's after I lost a few people. It's rare that a game makes you sad for the loss of characters within but it's a measure of success with this one that you care that your first medic died because you carelessly less them out of cover. Or your Major "Doomsday" Santiago died because you were carelessly rushing forward to try and stun aliens so you can steal their weapons to satisfy the XCom Council.

I've been enjoying this one so far, although I'm either being suitably cautious or I'm playing at too easy a difficulty level. If you'd like to see more, then here's the Totalbiscuit first impressions (after being caught in the game for an 18 hour session). But beware, if you watch that video you're highly likely to do what I did and immediately buy the game looking for a modernised version of the original.

Now then - there's aliens out there and Col. Dominguez is telling me I've had enough downtime ...

PS Where's that title come from ? When I was growing up, there was this band called the K.L.F. They were insane. Completely different to pretty much anyone else out there. Ahead of their time and all that. But ... can you get their music now ? Nope. And I just found out the reason - here's their wiki page ... Entire back catalogue deleted in 1992. Cor.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Holiday time

I'm off work for a week - hurrah !

I like to think I put a lot into work. I like to hop up my thinking to keep up with and stay ahead of what's going on. I'm pulling in information from many sources and slotting it together in my head. And then I'm applying it to the betterment of the project, whether it be passing on information that other people need to know or distilling it down to inform line management.

Communication is key - and a big problem in most organisations is people not knowing who to talk to.

Yeah - I put a lot into work, one of the signs of that is that by the time I get home, the last thing I want to do is put too much active thought into stuff like game playing. Sure, I'll have my head stuck in a vdu but I'm either reading stuff (info junkie strikes again) or I'll be watching stuff.

I can survive like that for a good while but every so often, I feel the burn out approaching and need to escape for a while and chill out. I've been feeling that burnout lately, the symptoms are that the hyperactivity focus doesn't last as long, attention wanders more and small irritating mistakes creep in. (Like not checking a contents list before issuing a document!)

So next week is a chill out week, which will also double as hopefully kicking the infection out of my body.

How is that doing ?

Well, after 1 week of antibiotics and occasional cream, I'm amazed at how much the patches have cleaned up. The healed patches are now incredibly smooth. My skin in general is smoother than I can remember. It's still dry around my fingers though. So yep, antibiotics have kicked the butt of that infection.

Mostly. There are still spots that haven't healed yet and I'm having to be careful not to do the self inflicted wound thingy again. Need to heal ... There's a spot under my right eye that's been making people give me funny looks today and infection is still in my left earlobe. The bad breathing happened again midweek but I think that was either bugs picked up from our commercial people or possibly me needing to remove popcorn from my diet.

On the whole though ? Lots of progress. More progress than last year when there was some deep damage on my calves to heal up. But I'm hoping that it just doesn't come right back again when the anti-biotics run out. I have another 6 days of that regime. And my breathing has recovered to the point where I can sing along to iTunes, able to keep my breathing times in the right places.

So what's the intentions for next week ?

Well, I'm planning to do lots of watching of telly and lots of listening to music. My digital video recorder is currently showing 25 hours of space (out of 80) remaining and over the next week, I have 41 (equivalent) hours of recording scheduled ... Need to clear all those Stargate SG-1 and Castle episodes to make room. Oh and by equivalent, I mean 4 hours gets taken up for each hour of HD recording.

With music, I still have 13 hours of music in the library that I haven't listened to yet. 3 albums (Morcheeba, White Stripes and Air) joined that today, with the next Bat For Lashes album arriving on Monday.

Gaming wise, I ended up watching Totalbiscuit's video on the new XCom game. Which was dangerous. Cos I then went out and bought the game before the video ended. Oops. Guess who will be saving the planet from alien invasion over the next week ...

Wonder how long before the Cabin Fever strikes ?

PS I'll miss the people as usual, although there aren't as many really interesting characters upstairs as before we moved. The best ones are on Facebook :-)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Integrity of Heroes

Lots of high profile news stories out there at the moment ...

I'm thinking mostly of the sport world. We're seeing the usual childish antics of the football world but there's also a massive story out there with cycling ...

When our heroes fall, they tend to fall a very long way. It all depends on how high a pedestal we put them on. I'm thinking mostly of Lance Armstrong. 7 times Tour De France winner, a record now wiped out due to consistent, cynical cheating.

The really sad thing is that the cheating extends to all sports, although some sports have less integrity than others. Football is about the worst when it comes to integrity. The amount of cheating that goes on in professional football is unbelievable. And it's the major reason why I don't pay much attention to football. Don't get me wrong, it's a good game to play but when you take it to club level, the attitude becomes "win at any cost". In the case of football, the cost is all semblance of honour or fair play.

And yet the players are allowed to get away with it because they are on such a high pedestal that their fans believe they can do no wrong. Hence how an utter thug can become England captain.

We see it in other sports too, with the main avenue being drugs cheating.

Cricket isn't immune, although it has improved with the advent of more television involved in the decision making. At international level, it used to be that batsmen typically would not walk when getting caught off a fine edge. That means they're leaving it up to the umpire to decide that they've hit the ball and with the really fine edges, there's so much doubt that the umpire will give the batsmen the benefit.

It's not just the batsmen. "Bowling" has changed considerably over the past decade. There's a legal way to bowl and many illegal ways to bowl. Mostly, the difference between legal and illegal is determined by how much the arm flexes. Too much flex means the player is actually throwing the ball. Why's that bad ? Because it means the bowler can do very strange things with the ball, or because the ball comes down faster.

The original thrower of the modern age was Murali, who gave the impression that he threw the ball because of a deformity with his arm. It looks bent from one angle but straight from another. Couple that with the natural rotation of the arm and you get the impression that he's throwing. No - Murali's secret wasn't the elbow deformity, it was extraordinary double jointed wrists. They let him turn the ball a huge amount and both ways, which is usually incredibly difficult.

I say incredibly difficult because I could actually do what Murali did too, albeit with much more difficulty because my joints are not nearly so flexible. That is, I had the natural offspinner that I could turn into a Graeme Swann style topspinner. Plus I had a finger-legbreak, which I could only bowl very slowly because it's completely unnatural for the wrist to go that way.

But this is all beside the point ...

Cricket's been infested with throwing to a much higher degree in the past decades, because the national boards see it as a huge insult to their nation for a thrower to be exposed as a thrower. Andrew Flintoff, hero of England, threw the ball at times. Johan Botha threw almost every ball I saw him bowl in the T20 world cup.

It's all about how high a pedestal we put people on. Sometimes that pedestal is so high, we ignore the deficiencies or the bad points.

And that brings me to : Jimmy Saville ... The news over the last week shows that if someone is on a pedestal that high, it's a mighty crash when they came down. Yet there's no way someone could have done what he allegedly did without intentional support (not just the turning of a blind eye) from a lot of people.

I have to admit, while I watched programmes like Jim'll fix it, I couldn't stand the man. I had no reason for it at the time, outside of seeing what I believe I picked up on as a dismissive attitude. I suspect my instincts were picking up on what we're seeing reported now. Instincts can be a powerful thing.

PS Back to the cricket - it's sad that I only learned lots more variation after my shoulder wouldn't support bowling. I used to bowl medium pace swing bowling but would also practice spin in the nets. I could bowl wrist spin (badly) and offspin (decently but not accurately). The offspin had a demonic topspin variation but I could also bowl that one that went the wrong way. Badly. As in, to make my wrist bend that way meant bowling ridiculously slowly. So slowly that in the nets, the ball tended to go so high it would hit the top of the net. And that's high up ...

Monday, October 08, 2012

Games and morality

Waaiit - I promise not to get too philosophical ... That's for things like politicians who say the wrong things about their game playing habits.

But first - a piccy :

 (Yep - it's a Facebook yoink, it made me grin)

I'm in the early stages of a Mass Effect play through. It's a role playing game that behaves much like a first person shooter. I like it, it's a very easy game to play with lots of action and an engaging storyline. The first one is very free in what it lets you do too. That goes away somewhat in the second and third games which are more on rails.

And before I get sidetracked, the main role play aspects deal with Paragon and Renegade points. You earn these with the gameplay and dialogue choices you make. Save the Feros colonists ? Earn lots of good guy Paragon points. Choose the easy but bloody option ? Lots of Renegade points. In the second game, this manifests in scarring and glowy red eyes.

Point is - the game starts you off on a clean slate with no points and you earn them as you go. Having more points opens up new dialogue options. In ME2, you can only choose one particular character by having sufficient Paragon/Renegade points.

I like the theory, it shows a character growing over time as they get more experienced. But ... what I'd to see is a third option. The choice to go through the game as a wide eyed innocent. Baby faced innocence and genuine naive idealism can be charming characteristics. You could say that it might give hope to see someone go through hell but still come out unscarred.

That option isn't present in the Mass Effect games and I don't think it has since the early days of the 3x3 Alignment system. That's a drawback to the whole computer game system though, they're dependent on programmed responses to limited scenarios. There's no room or ability for the computer to interpret as it sees fit. That's where pen & paper tabletop games come in, you can take the 3x3 grid of D&D and play it.

What's the 3x3 grid ? Most pen & paper role play games are built around Chaotic, Neutral or Lawful combined with Good, Neutral or Evil. A paladin would be Lawful Good, a wizard could be Chaotic Evil, Chaotic Good depending on how you want to play it. Evil Clerics would be good at harming spells, Good clerics would heal people.

So - pen & paper - you pick your alignment on the character sheet and play something different anyway. Lol. Ah well. I tended to go Chaotic Good cos that's probably what I'd like to be. I'm actually Lawful Good :

Good - hopefully people agree ? Even in games, I find it tough to go the Evil path.
Lawful - I have lots of little rules about how I do things. I'm a very chaotic thinker but the way I live and morality is lawful.

To finish up - I wonder if any game designers are thinking of a system where you could go a third path of Wide Eyed Innocent, with the Innocence points diminishing as you gained those Paragon or Renegade points ? The original Keela Danne was a lawful good cleric who I played as an up & at 'em but innocent. It was fun because of the way we could get the party characters interacting. Innocent 18 year old girlie cleric + cheeky gnome ? Potential comedy gold, especially when the third character was a hulking 7 foot orc warrior who would die before anyone hurt his Keela.

One more pic to close on :
Yep. Still thinking of iPhones, although post release Shinies hysteria has calmed down.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Weekend Score - Good 2 : Bad 1

People often ask on a Monday : "How was your weekend ?"

I can give 'em a score this time :-)

Actually, this weekend has been a fair bit of chilling out, punctuated by issues yesterday evening. To start off, the Crazie Boys went to see Looper on Friday evening. I'm honestly not quite sure what I thought of this one. It's another well made and well acted film but scripts that mess about with time can be very mind bending.

Worth seeing ? Hell yeah. Not sure if I'll rush out and buy it the way I did with Avengers Assemble though. (There's no Black Widow in it). Talking of Avengers - I haven't watched that one yet ... Hopefully week after this one I'll be able to take a break from watching recorded stuff and watch a blu-ray or two again.

One good thing about Looper is that it isn't forcing 3d on us. I'd like to see the new Dredd movie but I'm not pandering to 3d for 3d's sake. And ... oh look, the Dredd movie is out of cinemas already. Similar with the new Resident Evil movie, I'll watch that but won't pay the premium in the movie theatres.

What about this Good / Bad thing ?

First score goes to the antibiotics : 1-0 to the good. They've really cleaned up my legs and most of the bad patches on my arms. They're not 100% effective though, there's still repairs to do on my arms and hands. It's getting there. I just have to avoid doing anything to make it worse.

I am going to be smarter this time around though. One reason I think I got reinfected was because I may have come into contact with something that hadn't been washed properly. My washing machine seems to be behaving itself better now (I have proof it works!) so that's hopefully ticked that off. So I'll be more intensive with the housework than I need to be.

Second score goes to the allergies : 1-1. Without really thinking about it, I picked up a packet of Iced Buns in Tesco last week. What are iced buns ? They're white bread with icing ... Nothing wrong with the icing (I hope!) but the white bread part seemed to set me off yesterday. I'm still wheezing a little today after having them for lunch yesterday.

So that's the negative for the weekend, having to cope with compromised breathing for yesterday evening and most of today. It's been no big deal though, it was nowhere near as bad as when I'd been contemplating getting dressed and off to A&E due to almost blacking out on stairs and the breathing not settling enough for me to sleep.

Yep - not as bad as when I was still regularly consuming white bread.

2-1 ? The last score for "Good" is the analysis coming out of the white bread :

No lasting damage ...
It wasn't nearly as bad as it was - so the allergy is cumulative
There was a definite reaction

Trouble with analysis like that is that the mind can make things happen if it wants them to. So while I did have a reaction on Saturday evening, was it because my mind expected a reaction and made it happen ? Or was it true anti-white bread reaction.

But - I got the reaction that I kinda expected, which confirms what I think is a prime cause for this summer's breathing problems and quite possibly breathing problems over my last 3 decades too :-). It's quite possibly why I always had trouble with alcohol too, it might not be the alcohol, it could be what the drink is made from.

Progress is always good. As is being able to take a shower without having to worry about damaging half-healed skin ...

Too much info ? Lol :-) Ick-factor is less than 1% of what it was and I'd consider myself fit for cricket again if the season wasn't finished already. (and it looks like I upset blogger with loose html code !)

Right - time to save the galaxy some more. I started off a full Mass Effect Trilogy run and I'm just about to save the base on Noveria.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Prep, planning, pills

One of the regular things I've been watching lately is Doomsday Preppers.

Not sure if I'll keep watching it cos, to be brutally honest, it's not that great. But I'm keeping going with it for now. Plus there's nothing clashing with it (unlike Thursday when everything is on !)

I've always been curious about how things work. I've also always been drawn to disaster scenario stuff, movies like Armageddon (I watched Deep Impact again this week). Something I'm going to read again sometime (not reading much at the moment) is Lucifer's Hammer, a novel by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, where a whopping great asteroid says hello to Planet Earth.

While it's not that great a series, it does open your eyes to stuff you'd have to think about if Bad Things did happen. Stuff we take for granted won't be available any more. Things like power, fresh water, food, possibly even sunlight, health services and definitely communications. Combine that with a high likelihood of crazy people randomly going around trying to get everything left for themselves and you get a scary situation.

Not sure if America would be safer or not so safe, they have a scary attitude to lethal weapons over there to the point where if there was no Police backup you would have to have an arsenal of weapons available just to defend your stuff from the crazy people who would have their own arsenal. But then again, the Preppers have access to unbelievable amounts of space over there.

But that's (almost!) enough about a not great TV series. Except for a mention of one guy from the first episode. He was a herbalist who had the knowledge to get what he needed from the land, including food, material and medicine.

That last is the most curious item. The pills I'm on at the moment have already had a spectacular effect, ick-factor is now 1% of what it was 2 days ago. Awesome. Damage isn't repaired yet but the big patches look a bit less angry with me. But ... I'll be happier when those patches start to reduce in size and I do need to stop attacking them ;-).

Oh where was I ? Pills + Herbalism - there should be something out there that I should be able to add in as a mild anti-inflammatory in lieu of anti-biotics that may help with the health in general. Herbalist guy was picking up leaves with salicilic acid, which is aspirin. Natural remedies or medicines are all over the place, you just have to know where to look and what to avoid ...

Planning ?

Apart from the Doomsday stuff, which I'll be ignoring in case scary stuff really does look as if it might start up ... I'm having to plan timings ...

This dose of pills have a particularly confusing set of instructions on when to take them :
"take ONE CAPSULE FOUR times a day" - fine, no confusion there
"Space the doses evenly 60 minutes before food" - ok
"or on an empty stomach" - wth does that mean ? lol
I'm going by the instructions on the last course of antibiotics (same pills, same dosage), which said to leave 2 hours after food instead of that meaningless "or" and "empty stomach" thing. What it means is planning, ideally :

6am, 12 noon, 6pm, midnight.

Apart from the early one, that works well with my daily cycle. I can leave lunch and dinner until 1pm or after 7pm. It actually works pretty well for dieting discipline, as it gets you in the habit of following a 3 munchies a day cycle with much less snacking.

Today it's gone a bit weird - I didn't get moving today until 9.30am (late night + disrupted sleep) so it's 9.30am pill, 2pm pill (4.5 hours) and the next pill to come at 7pm for an 8 o'clock dinner and then the last one at around midnight.

What that really means is : I'm starving !!!! I had a minimal breakfast and it's just turned 3pm. I can snack again :-)

I wonder - biscuits or apple ?

PS I should probably avoid the iced buns in the cupboard. Although it would test the white bread allergy thing - lol.
PS2 Another effect of pills - I have bony ankles again ! Yes I know. Small things and impressions and all that.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Back on the diet pills

I've not said too much about my health (cos I hide it in case people worry) but ...

As the few of my friends who know I'm struggling with a skin issue have suggested, I've finally gone to see the doctors !

Yep. Finally.

The condition started last year and stopped me playing cricket for the second half of last season. At the time, I thought it was an ulceration on my legs partly caused by damage they've had over the years. And with a bit of research, ulceration is something that takes a long time to heal ...

The doctor fix back then was antibiotic pills and cream and for a while, they helped a lot. The damage was healing up (slowly) and was repaired enough to just about let me play a few games of cricket this summer. But ... it suddenly reversed and over about 1 week, the patches were back and about as bad as before.

Hence - change of diet.

Green stuff, half a litre of orange juice a day and backing that up with multivitamin supplements. That seemed to help too, as it stopped the damage getting worse. Trouble is, an infection had got back in and bad patches had spread to my arms and upper left leg. (Self inflicted ...)

So - I did a bit more Deep Thought and identified a few things that might have been causing the problem - I may have to cut wheat out of the diet entirely as I suspect that's what the cause was. I've gone back to just brown bread at work, brown bread toast at home (for as long as the butter lasts) and I've cut out the lazy fat sarnies I'd occasionally have as a dinner.

Anyway - I could no longer ignore it and bit the bullet and headed off to the doctor's this lunchtime. (Why is it I always get the slow doctor ? lol)

Result - diet pills and antibiotic cream again. It was what I expected and I'm happy with what I've come away with.

Fingers crossed it makes the damage go away :-)

PS They're not really diet pills, they're antibiotics but the condition last time was 2 hours after food and 1 hour before food, 4 times a day. That's 4x 3 hour no food gaps per day. No snacking !