Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Damn straight

Especially if they are Snow Queen specials.

(and I still have a sadface from having to turn some of them down last week !)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cricket thoughts

My mind's turning more and more to the incoming cricket season ...

I'm hopeful I'll make it, although there's lots of healing to do before I can consider running around. Since ditching all the healthy stuff (except apples, still having those) I seems to be very slowly but genuinely improving. When I don't set it back of course by self inflicted damage.

But I'm still nowhere near the minimum level of being intact that would see me stepping foot on the cricket field. It's getting closer, bits of me that were angry red are now much closer to pasty white.

Good signs.

Thought I'd talk about the cricket though and reminisce a bit about what my role was.

Without being too boastful, I could do everything on the cricket field :-) I'll keep wicket, I'll open the batting, I'd open the bowling with swing, I'd be able to bowl spin and I could have been a brilliant fielder. Although saying that, you have to consider the standard being played. My bowling was never that quick and its main weapon wouldn't work if the sun was out.

I'm curious about the attitudes I had towards the various aspects of the game.

Batting - yeah. Always wanted to do this, although it took a few seasons (and a hole dug in the back garden from excessive practice) before I reached the heady heights of No10 in the batting, let alone opening. I always quite enjoyed the batting, possibly because of limited opportunities. I could never hit the ball that strongly but could keep the scoring going well by finding the gaps.

Batting is in fact the only remaining bit of unfinished business I have in cricket. I've never scored a 50 and while I've anchored sides to wins, I've never done the bulk of the scoring.

Bowling on the other hand ... When I started in the men's team, my team was struggling midtable. We had problems across the 2 sides with bowler availability, which meant we couldn't really put sides under pressure or keep them to beatable scores. The side I played first against got 273 in the earlier game with them that year. Scary number. That's a lot of runs for that league. So I'm coming in to the side and expecting to get whacked ...

Didn't turn out that way :-) I cut my pace right back to get accuracy and it worked. I got massive (and I mean feet) inswing and broke through their main batting with figures of 4 overs, 9 runs for 4 wickets. Most of those were bowled. My bowling's never been too quick and I don't have the height to get lots of bounce, so that probably shows just how much the ball was moving sideways in the air.

Over the years, I've meddled with all the different types of bowling. My match bowling was always medium pace swing and seam bowling as that was always most effective. I could start the ball off in a channel wide of the stumps, it would swing to pitch in a line with leg stump and then it could move the other way to hit the top of off. When that happened, it tended to lead to a wicket because that's kinda unplayable :-). Didn't happen that often though.

I've always tried bowling spin, both finger spin and wrist spin too. Finger spin is easy, wrist spin is much more difficult (it's what Shane Warne does). I was even starting to pick up some of the stranger varieties of spin, for a little while the doosra was literally the only delivery I could land where I wanted it to.

I don't feel I have anything to prove with the bowling. I only had a few seasons as a bowler before the shoulder injury but even starting late in that first season, I came out with more wickets than anyone else and won the bowling trophy. My bowling pushed us to runners up in the league that year and I have the medal for that hanging up in my living room.

But - a couple of shoulder injuries means that bowling is now pretty much impossible. Surgery is an option I should probably check but ... I have 95% movement in my shoulder, the 5% that's missing is only needed for bowling. And at 38, I'm getting too old for it. I don't really want to risk the 95% movement on an uncertain result.

Fielding can be great fun. I've improved there considerably. When I started, I was scared of the ball. You can't afford that in cricket because it makes you tentative, which just gets you hurt more. You need to be totally committed in attacking the ball or there will be little fumbles which lead to breakages.

I'd describe myself as a good fielder. I had the speed to get to the ball, plus my eye was good enough to take the catches. With the bowling and batting knowledge, I'd have the anticipation to know where the ball was going to go. I'll regularly get runouts for the team. But - I'd only describe myself as "good" because lack of practice means I'm relearning the job while on the field. With regular practice, I could have been much more scary to the opposition :-).

And - over the whole period, I've occasionally kept wicket too. That's usually been as a "no one else is stepping up, over to Sleepypete". I don't think I've ever embarassed myself there, although it's always been with borrowed gloves. That's not ideal because borrowed gloves tend to be harder and less pliant. In the game last year, I couldn't really feel the ball sticking in the gloves, I had to look.

So there we go - show me a cricket field and ask me to do anything (except bowling now - too dangerous all round).

Chilling out at the moment - I remembered to start the recording last night so it's the last bits of play from the Test Match last night on the telly before F1 qualifying.

I'm hopeful I'll make cricket this year but there's still lots of damaged skin to repair before I do.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Going for bonkers

I (half) read something on The Register earlier ...

It was at my lunchtime at work so I didn't really have the time to really properly read it but it's worth a look if you're thinking about buying something PC related.

Here's the link : Build a BONKERS Gaming PC.

The story has a lot going for it and I agree with a significant amount of it. But ... I wouldn't advocate buying what they say you should buy. Great article ... but you can be more efficient with your money. The secret to buying PC bits is to just spend enough to get what you need and to resist the temptation to get what you want.

For my last build, I had a choice between the best desktop cpu at the time (Intel i7-2700k) and the second best (Intel i5-2500k). There's not actually that much difference in performance between the two, except for a £80 price difference. And ... guess how much a SSD hard disc cost ? Going for what was "need" freed up enough budget to get an SSD that transformed the performance.

I'm not going to tell you here exactly what to buy, because that specific component advice will be out of date literally next week. But what I will say is follow these guidelines :

If you don't need a desktop, buy a laptop. They're more flexible.
If you don't do gaming, then you don't need a desktop.
Desktop - Spend your budget. Getting the best you can now means it'll last longer and you'll spend less in the long run.
(my working person budget PCs lasted for years, my student budget builds lasted 18 months)
Go for Intel over AMD, they're faster and run cooler which means they also run quieter.
If you can get an SSD hard drive, go for it. They make Windows fly.
Nvidia vs AMD/ATI - don't listen to one person's advice, get many statistics based reviews. Too many fanboy arguments dominate which graphics device is best
Separate sound card ? Waste of money. Get the next graphics device up instead.
Cooling system ? Go MASSIVE. They're much quieter.
Power supply - do not underestimate this. A weedy power supply leads to Blue Screen Of Death when the machine is worked hard.

What else ? Avoid water cooling. It's unnecessary unless you want to shorten the life of what you buy by burning it out. Plus water + electronics don't mix and water cooling means maintenance beyond occasionally blowing the dust out.

Buying PCs is a topic closer to my mind than it could be - my mum got let down by an Android based tablet bought (mis-sold) to replace a netbook. That's all my mum really needs, a netbook. My requirements in a laptop are different ... But for my mum, the advice is to not spend any more than they need to but to make sure it's an Intel box.

My desktop will last me quite a while because it still has the grunt to cope with new games. It may get another graphics card in a year or three but that'll be all it needs. Honestly, PC components aren't advancing in power the way they used to.

My laptop is another story ... It's done really well. I think Eve Online was one of the first things to go on and has a date of "20/12/2009" in its program folder entry. That's one sign of how well it's done, I couldn't remember how many years I'd had it and had to look it up. 3 years 3 months so far and the only scare it's given is the hard disc. It is struggling to keep up with HD video though, that's a bit much for the (AMD) processor. It's struggling to cope with me too, the keyboard is suffering from the increased dust from my skin condition.

I don't honestly know what I'd replace it with. Something big still, however 17" widescreen laptops are out of fashion. I'd definitely want to get an SSD or hybrid hard disc as that makes a massive difference in performance and smoothness. But you have to go for more expensive laptops to get an SSD. A touchscreen would be nice.

But that's for another day. This laptop's got at least another year left in it, touch wood. We'll get something that fits my mum soon too. Something that fits, not something that the shop want to sell.

Oh - before I forget, there's one more critical rule. Whatever you buy, you made the right choice.

And another critical rule - when you buy techie PC stuff, whatever you do, don't look at prices for the next few months. Seeing what you bought available for £100 less a week after you spend the cash is ... depressing.

Takes the gloss off getting the new toy !

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sporty weekend

Lots more sport on this weekend :-)

(this one isn't going to be all about sport ... I hope ;-)

First and last up is the cricket. England are playing New Zealand in the second test this weekend and I'm hopeful they'll pull off a win tonight. I missed a trick last night ... Plan A was to go to bed at lunchtime (11.30pm our time) and set the rest recording so I could watch it this morning. Oops. Someone forgot to start the recorder.

Ah well - I caught the highlights instead. Just like ...

Formula 1 grand prix racing is back. Yummy.

Waaaaait ... yummy isn't the word you'd usually associate with motor racing is it ? Well, it is when you see who has taken over presenting duties for BBC this year. Yep, a certain Suzi Perry. I have a major weakness when it comes to attractive ladies with dark hair who have a certain smile. Guess what ? Suzi Perry fits the bill.

I've known a lot of them over the years, even had the rare chance to have a chat with two of the best lately (Snow Queen and Miss L). I definitely miss the Bright Young Thing's quizzical smile from across the floorplate. And of course the Pretty Contractor Lady too. But it's not just how they look. A person's most engaging quality is their mind and that's why certain people stand out.

Just like Suzi Perry with the motor racing ... They played up the glamour angle big time this morning for her introduction but people who have followed Suzi Perry over her career know it's not the glamour that keeps people interested, it's the intelligence behind the face.

I'm that ... close to cancelling the series link for SkyF1's coverage already. BBC only have live coverage for 9 of the 19 races this year and highlights for the rest. I'd usually fast forward all the way through SkyF1's coverage (except the actual racing) but BBC's filler is usually worth watching.

It's not just cars and cricket, there's rugby on this weekend too. It's the last weekend of this year's Six Nations championship. England should really have won it but got screwed out of it yet again by the referee (this has happened a lot with this particular ref). Gotta say though, while England were frustrated by the ref, Wales controlled the game and deserved the win.

He says through gritted teeth.

Italy have surprised people this year. They're rapidly becoming genuine contenders with a few good wins. They nearly surprised England too. Hoping that Scotland beat the French later tonight.

It's not just been about the sport though. I've been watching the Avengers movies again. What can I say, I like Robert Downey Jr's portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man :-) (and his Sherlock Holmes too). Today was the turn of Thor in the morning while waiting for the F1, now it's Captain America in the gap between games.

Right - back to Captain America :-)

Time to grab the popcorn.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Travel and a few random thoughts

And that first random thought is that I really need to blag one of those cans of air to clean out the keyboard on this laptop !

It was Mothers Day this weekend just gone, so we all did the travelling thing (it's tradition). Was a fairly good weekend all told. Gotta admit, I'm still looking inwards when I rate a day as Good or Bad at the moment. My skin is gradually getting better, although it's gone slightly backwards today (not had enough water lately).

I think it was a good weekend for my mum, which is what counts. It was the first time we'd all been back since the funeral. (My nan was my mum's mum) House felt a bit different, there was a definite sense of a gap. That's the hardest thing about a loss, the unconscious expectation that someone is about to pop their head around the corner.

My mum's suffering from 2 health issues at the moment (well, actually a couple more), one of which is a severely broken elbow. Like complications with the nerves and massive cast kind of thing. But that looks like it's mending, random pain (from confused nerves) is turning into meaningful pain and she can wiggle the fingers. Happy Days. She appreciated the flowers too.

We've been changing things around a bit. Since they retired, my mum and dad haven't really needed more than one car. Their normal runabout was written off in a crash (they're ok - yey !, car was written off - yey !*) so they had the opportunity to turn 2 cars into one. They have an A Class Merc now, which meets with approval. My sister has their MX-5, which they'll use as a commuter car because it does double the mpg of the Merc ML they have.

*The dead car was the Volvo, which I hated. I didn't get on with the brain in its automatic gearbox and it was too slow to justify <30mpg .="" p="">
So - travel this weekend and a few excuses to play with more techie stuff.

Internet radio - this was a bit of a bust to be honest. I had my phone hooked up to the car via bluetooth and it was pulling in Test Match cricket commentary audio from the BBC iplayer app. Just one problem - lack of signal and a lack of the app waking itself up when the signal returns. Next time, I'll try the Tune In Radio app and I'll see how it copes with the signal loss.

Phone providing the music - This needs a little more preparation or a passenger who's taste coincides with your's. The iPhone 5 (contrary to some reports) works perfectly with Bluetooth connected it to my Lexus CT or the Merc A Class. The A Class was limited to telephone connectivity, whereas my Lexus can also pull in audio from apps or music. But - you can't control what music is played outside of Next Track, Last Track. Here comes the :
Preparation by making a playlist for the trip
Passenger to tell the phone what to play

I'll definitely keep using the phone for car music, when I don't just go to the iPod Nano random selection. They both have the same amount of memory installed but the Ipod holds 33% more tunes.

Dad's phone - my dad has a new phone to let him use it with the Merc. The old one didn't have Bluetooth, the new one is a HTC Wildfire S which does. Incidentally, the HTC was the most reluctant to talk via Bluetooth.

Satnav - my car apparently likes Mansfield. It's a bit more North than I should really go but twice now, it's diverted me that way to avoid bad traffic near Leicester. I like that feature, I just don't lose time to traffic jams any more when I'm on long trips.

Car swaps - we've done this before. My mum had a Belmont SRi with no power steering, which was causing her problems with her arms. My sister had just blown up her Astra GTE. I needed something more reliable for starting work. So I got the Belmont (excellent car, shouldn't have part-exed it), my sister got my Astra Mk1 while looking to either repair the GTE or get something new. My mum really got short straw with a truly nasty Peugeot 205.

I'm rambling again aren't I ? I think I need to find some good topics to focus in on. Blogging has been frustrating lately. I've had the urge to post stuff, I just haven't had anything quality to talk about. A lot of the themes have been done to death in the 800+ posts so far. I feel a music post coming on though. Soon.

Health wise, I'm steadily improving although my skin is still ridiculously weak. Just rubbing it too hard can make it bleed. Not good. But it is improving. I have the feeling though that my skin will recover in time for cricket but the rest of me will be a wreck.

Tally at the moment - really badly stiff neck and shoulder, swollen legs and hips that hate me. Plus a huge tendency to cramp which is due to a water imbalance. The water thing is in hand - I'm drinking lots of water but I don't think I'm drinking it quite fast enough to satisfy my body's need for it to sort my skin out.

I'll leave this post with a Youtube link - it's dedicated to a colleague :-) It was one of the tracks from the car last night and it sticks in the mind ...

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Abusing the tech again ...

Cricket's back on the telly again :-)

It's at a bit of a hostile time though. It's coming from New Zealand and it's the opening day of the test series with England. We've already seen the one day games but this is the Main Event. It's the big interest. One day games can be a bit random in who wins. But Test Match victories are different, they're earned. Or thrown away. Either way, it can be compelling viewing.

The game was actually supposed to start yesterday but rain put paid to that. I suspect England would like it to be still raining as they've lost 3 wickets already. Not good.

Hostile time ? It's not as bad as the India series but the play starts at 9pm and goes on until 4-5am. I can watch the first 2 hour session but after that, it's sleep time.

So where's the tech come in ? Cricket is a really low tech game when you get down to it, although tech is helping out with making the gear better.

Well - at the moment I have 4 pieces of input coming in, plus I'm tapping away the keys on this blog post.

Tech 1 - the laptop is streaming music across to my hifi. I'm watching the game but I'm not particularly interested in the commentary. So I have the laptop playing the music across the network. Oh - I'm getting on top of getting all the music listened to as well, I have less than a day (400ish tracks) of music I've not listened to yet.

Tech 2 - cricket on the telly. This is a bit more of a deal than the old analogue tuners. My cable box is effectively a small computer. It has a bunch of tuners to pull in the picture and sound and it gets those from the same pipe as my internet. The computer puts the pictures on the telly or into the hard disc.

Tech 3 - watching/listening to a review of Sim City over youtube. It's a Totalbiscuit video so ordinarily, you'd be locking your wallet somewhere that you wouldn't end up buying the game. Not with this one though, as TB + Missus are being very honest about its flaws. The new SimCity looks like an incredible game that's going to be submerged beneath modern game design issues. It's subject to always-on DRM, which means you need to be always connected to the servers to be able to play. The "server" end of that is most critical, as those servers are very busy ... The game is also saved on those servers.

Personally, I don't trust the Cloud. I see too much unreliability and inaccessibility from systems that are supposed to be 100% online and available.

Anyway - tech. Youtube is working much better on Virginmedia now, which is another example of where Cloud can break things. Allegedly, VM used to cache Youtube videos on their own server. This led to massive buffering issues where their server couldn't cope with the demand of you watching the video. I still see those occasionally but it's much better now.

Talking of buffering ...

Tech 4 - my Iphone playing cricket commentary from the Test Match Special people (superior to Sky commentators). I'm using an app called Tune In Radio, which I've used for years now. It lets me play cricket commentary in a car that doesn't have Long Wave radio. But when playing through my home internet, it was buffering a lot ... VM strikes again (or network contention with that audio streaming and youtube playing). I've switched to listening to commentary via 3's 3g network and there has been no buffering at all.

At some point, I may have to try putting the wifi card back in my desktop to see what happens when VM breaks Youtube again. As in, my iphone provides the internet.

Tech's easy though. If tech breaks, you just swap it out for a replacement. Wish I could do that with my body at the moment, although to be honest it seems to be becoming trying to avoid damaging myself more.

I'm getting measurably better but very slowly. And it's very easy to set back the healing. My upper arms have been looking like I've been hugging wild animals with very sharp claws. Oops. But - my legs are improving to the point where there's good tough skin there again. If they continue to improve, I may be able to train soon :-).

Hopefully I'll continue to improve enough to play cricket this summer, with enough extra recovery time to let some of the incidental problems (hip issues from sitting in uncomfortable positions) get better.

PS I'm not buying SimCity. Looks interesting but I'm not paying the entry fee, plus I suspect it'll be yet another game I'd play for a few hours and then put away to gather dust.