Sunday, June 30, 2013


Here's a good one for me right now :

I get the feeling that if I had been able to leave my damaged bits alone, I'd have healed up by now. What I'm desperately trying to avoid in this post is turning it into a Pain Level = High post. Which it is (pain level). But I don't want to dwell on it.

Different people have different ways of dealing with their problems. My preferred method is to attempt to block it out and ignore it. Definitely to not allow it to get in the way of what I'm wanting to do. That's one reason why the skin thing has been such a big deal - it's stopped me wanting to join the work people in town and generally have fun in other ways. It's got in the way of me doing other things to move on with my life too.

But the baseline stuff, I've kept going with that.

I can well understand when people can't. Especially when the damage is all on the inside. I'm struggling on two fronts right now - internal and external. Fortunately I've been able to keep on top of the depression lately but that's been a struggle because of the constant 2 steps forward, 2 steps back of the skin thing. Especially as a lot of the backward steps have been self inflicted due to me dropping the discipline.

But I'm lucky there. The things that are making me struggle are very obvious :

The skin thing - it's less obvious than it was but one look at my elbows gets people realising I have issues there. Peeking at my upper arms on a Friday when I'm just in a t-shirt is a good one there too. They're still rather shredded.

That's where the Cone Of Shame reference comes in too. My arms look like they've been hugging bears ... bears with claws. Although they're not on the bathing cats level of shredded.

Muscles ... Ouch. This weekend has been quite painful due to a bad neck. I reinjured it a few months ago (had cramp while driving, ignored it until it went away, it hasn't) and it hasn't forgiven me for not finding someone who can give it some TLC. But it's still possibly obvious from how I've given the pained looks or been slow or deliberate in standing up. Neck, back and shoulders are all poorly.

Or maybe not - people seem very surprised when they've spotted the signs.

But at least I have the signs. I really feel for people who suffer from depression. I'm relatively up at the moment but I'm utterly dependent on my confidence level. I was having a really hard time of it this time last year, my every move was being questioned and I was being bounced from task to task. If I'd got a good handle on something, I was ordered to stop doing it and would be moved on to something I was unfamiliar with.

Grr. That situation is long gone though. It did have its effect, my confidence was shattered and depression was taking hold. Perhaps that depression was the initial trigger for the skin thing ? (No - I think it was the healthy eating). I dealt with it in my usual way :

Show no weakness
Out last the bugger

I can be really stubborn that way. I also prefer being around other people too. There's not many problems that we can solve on our own. We often need help. It can be a shoulder to cry on, a person to talk to, someone to give you a cheery wave, colleagues to recognise the effort you put in and who seek out and value your opinion.

The cruellest thing about depression is that it's all internal. There are no outward signs to show that you're struggling. And with no outward signs, people don't believe you have a problem. Their attitude changes and it can go very cruel. People don't realise that inside, you're crying out for help and can't take that first step to ask for it from the right people.

The key word is that V word. Value.

You all have value. You all matter. Whether you believe it or not. And that's one big root cause for the depression, forgetting your own value.

Even me ! I don't think I can contribute to the cricket that much any more but my team mates do. I don't know if I believe them. But I wouldn't get that positive feedback if I wasn't involved.

So that's my plea to the depressed people I know. Don't withdraw. Let other people in. Share your problems. Let them help you.

Even if it's just a silly grin because they can't think of much more when there's a pretty face in front of them.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Performance Benefit

Lots going on this weekend.

We have :

British Grand Prix

And that's just the 3 biggest events of this weekend. Wimbledon tends to have tickets available on the day, the British Grand Prix rarely does but they're available this weekend and Glastonbury is ... Glastonbury. There's also a bunch of Twenty20 cricket matches on this weekend which would have ample tickets.

You have to ask though, how much value do you actually get from going to the events ? Is it better just to stay at home and watch them on the telly ? Do you gain much from being there ?

And that point of "value" has to be considered in terms of the cost it takes to get in there. I've just googled "British Grand Prix tickets" out of curiosity :
£75 for Friday's testing
£100 for Saturday's qualifying
£200 for Sunday's race

Oh my god.

It better be good to justify that kind of price. And cricket is guilty of similar excess too with the pricing. The price for a ticket for Day 1 of the Third Ashes test (England vs Aussie) at Old Trafford in Manchester would be £50 per adult, in a not particularly brilliant location.

The trouble is though, the prices are so high because there's plenty of people willing to buy them at that price. Is it worth it ? For motor racing and international cricket, I'd have to say a definite no. The TV coverage is so good these days with cameras all around the circuit or multiple angles around the ground, plus those ever present replays mean you see on the TV what you miss at the ground.

What you do get though is ambience.

There were still a few people at the IST20 this year talking about the cheating guy who was instrumental in winning the tournament for his team last year. To be honest, he did a lot more than claim a dropped catch, he was a star with bat and ball. But ... it's all tarnished by that dropped catch. And everybody in that stand knew about it. Bit like everyone in the seats at a Wimbledon match will live and breathe every game with the players.

(Doh - quick peek - Laura Robson is playing ... time to open up the iPlayer which GP coverage and later the T20 coverage is on !)

I've not been to any for far too long but live music is similar. There's an interaction between crowd and performer that you just don't get when it's not live.

I still feel a bit bad for missing out on watching Bat For Lashes when she was in Bristol last year. A very good friend ages ago was practically drooling (yes you were !!!!!) when she was saying how close she was going to be getting to Jon Bon Jovi. I bet another very good friend will be equally ravenous with Robbie Williams tonight ;-).

And for me to miss out on getting involved in a Natasha Khan (Bat For Lashes) performance ? You only have to see the power in the performance even when it's only in a small Youtube video window to know that a whole live concert would be something very special.


Live sport - maybe, maybe not. I'm still thinking about doing the Spa run and I'd definitely think about doing Le Mans next year. International cricket is a no-no, although I'd look into joining a Barmy Army tour trip if there was someone to come along. County level Twenty20 games are a definite possibility, they're short enough that crowd ambience and "watch your head!" comes in.

Live music - dunno if I'd want to do the festivals. My "too many people" sensitivies (call it paranoia) would interfere with me enjoying one of those. But if it was to see a Bat For Lashes or an Alison Goldfrapp in concert ? Hold me back.

But not this particular weekend. No details but I've apparently eaten something that's bitten back. That's so rare for me (unless it's the skin reaction thing). It's unheard of. I think I know what it is, I've been forgetting to have the apples lately so they've been getting old in the cupboard. Think I've eaten one that's a little too old, the timeframe fits.

Oh noes ! Laura Robson's losing ! Time to tune in to BBC1 Iplayer to lend support and feel that crowd.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Feel good songs

This post is dedicated to all those people who are struggling right now. I know a few of them personally. They're hurting so much that they don't realise that if they just look up, they'll see a helping hand waiting to pick them up and envelop them into a healing hug.

Hell, I've been struggling so much lately I'd have appreciated one of those massive hugs. Like on Tuesday where I thought I was heading back into yet another relapse. I've improved back again now, which has actually surprised me.

I can't give that big hug over the interwebs though. Hopefully I can do the next best thing though by attempting to cheer up a few of those people through ...

It's the return of the music link posts !!!! :-) I do enjoy doing these, although I suspect it takes me more time to do them than the cumulative time spent reading them.

Starting off - I've been feeling especially broken lately. Hopefully I won't be totally a lost cause When I'm Sixty Four.

It's not going to be a summer holiday (more like Autumn) but we just had confirmed a bit of holiday time, which I'm looking forward to already. (And I'll just confirm right here and now, there is no Cliff Richard in my iTunes library. It is a Cliff-free zone. Although it does have an excellent cover of Devil Woman in it).

This one probably sums me right me up. I still haven't found what I'm looking for. Yep. True. That darn dust pan and brush is hiding from me somewhere ... (dropped something the other day and needed to pick up every crumb instead of being able to do it the easy way !)

Plan A tonight was to go out on the town to party with one of the Finance Angels who is moving abroad. But I was feeling too old and broken to come along. So Plan B - watch the cricket. Doh ! Rain intervened. I was going to link Summer Son to banish that rain but ... I've linked that before and Halo is more appropriate word for our Finance Angel.

Finance Angel's reaction ? Disbelief that I was 38 and therefore justifying a bit of that "I'm old" feeling :-) Perhaps I haven't grown up way too fast and my Hourglass still has lots to go. That's a Mindy Gledhill link, really looking forward to her next album. And I have a signed by Mindy picture too :-)

And talking of something I'm looking forward to, here's one from Goldfrapp who have a new album coming soon. This is the one which nearly got me in trouble on the bus last week when I nearly went Head First joining in.

I'm hoping that someone in particular is still reading, this one's for you ! Shame I can't pull out those Moves Like Jagger as much now but if the right person is around to smile at me, you never know :-)

It's not the overt things that matter though, it's the little things, the Incidentals. (Yeah - I've linked that one tonnes of times but every time I hear it, it reminds me how good Alisha's Attic could be)

And while I'm in the A's, this can be a hard life but there's a bunch of people I know who I could honestly say this to : "You Make It Easy"

To close out, I'm thinking about heading into Bristol centre again tomorrow afternoon. I wonder if I'll find another Caro Emerald* when I chill out in one of the coffee shops ?
*(would need to be someone who can cope with a 2 left footed person)

Maybe I'll run in to someone I know again ? That seems to be happening a lot lately. But it won't happen if I keep hiding away.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fit to not play

Things are improving :-)

Slowly yeah - but that skin condition finally seems to be under control again, with the bad bits seeming as if they want to repair themselves (slowly).

The secret has been to try and have much more self discipline to stop myself from "helping" it get better. The help has the opposite effect. It does feel good though, to touch bits of me that were quite bad a couple of months ago and find them to be ultra smooth.

It's not perfect yet, not by a long shot (there's still bits of me that are well torn up) but I could probably wear shorts in public now without putting people off their lunch.

Erm. Maybe. Hairy legs can really upset some people.

So yeah - I'm in better condition (externally) than I have been since last year, although there's still a patch on one of my knees which will get scoured again by my knee pads if I played any cricket this week.

There's two games I could play in this week but I've not declared any availability for either. I'm technically available but there's a few reasons why I'm hiding :

I could do with a few more evenings chilling out
I'd rather see fit and keen people play ahead of me
I'm still far from perfect on the outside and need more healing time
I'm definitely coping with a lots of broken bits inside

But there's actually a bigger reason - I don't trust the captaincy (it's a stand in tomorrow). I'm best in the field where I can get in close and put pressure on the batsmen. I keep moving and keep chatting. I'm involved in the game. However ... I tend to get dispatched further out because of what remains of my speed. That's bad because I can't throw and don't trust my eyes at the moment.

I'll play for the other team next week but I'm a bit more wary about the team with games this week. I actually walked away from one team I used to play for due to the same reason, although that was more because I was driving back from uni on a weekend to play and doing nothing but field. Yawn.

Besides - I've been invited out on the town by a gorgeous lady on Thursday which just happens to clash with one of the games. (Finance Angel K is leaving us to join her hubby).

Have you noticed that ? There's quite a few finance girls I know who are absolute angels. Wonder how that comes about ? Does the finance specialisation/profession attract that type of personality ?

So yeah. I'm technically intact enough to play again but I'm not going to. Partly because I still feel a bit too broken. Although you can bet that if something happened like a pretty lady who needed her car push started, I'd be the first to volunteer and those muscles would help out. (I used to be able to provide enough pushing power to get a small car up to bumpstart speed on my own - no kidding).

I'm rambling again aren't I ?

Here's a few more random thoughts :

Putting your hand on your bum and finding it to be very smooth = Very cool feeling.
Still thinking that to be a novelty = sign that you've been through something unusual.
Having a shower and having to hide from very bright sun = strange
(my bathroom window is on an angle conspires with the sun at this time of year) sales are dangerous (I've bought 7 games so far)
Steam sales are too, unless it's a Paradox sale weekend
(they make great concepts but something goes wrong between concept and implementation)
Every time I listen to Goldfrapp's Utopia, it gets ever more incredible.

Yeah - feeling better today. Definitely better than the depression inspired post last week. Perhaps it's that theory of if you analyse and talk yourself through a problem, it helps you cope with it better. A lot will be down to having a much easier weekend than usual.

Here's to hoping those improvements will continue. I won't be all fixed tomorrow or even next week but if a couple of bits fix, then another couple of bits fix then sometime soon I'll be all fixed.

And that's what I'm looking forward to. It'll be a closing of that chapter and possibly the opening of a new one.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

One small step ...

Yey !

Kerbals on the Mun. And back again.

I've watched a few more videos, learned a few more things, observed what was happening (often with horror for the poor Kerbals), trusted to luck and crossed a few fingers and toes.

This is the latest rocket in the assembly hall, before a few modifications. Like those yellow fuel pipes moving from the top of the tanks and down to the bottom where they actually do Stuff. Lots more struts too to keep the thing from flying apart.

One mistake I'm making is to build too much into the rocket. The best designs (watching the Scott Manley videos) are very simple. The rocket above has lots of boosters and engines down low which will :

Make the rocket topple over on the launching platform
Unbalance it so it doesn't fly straight
Collide with each other
Flex hugely (which doesn't help with the collision thing)
Overaccelerate (it's possible)
Squish the rocket in the middle

All of the above are bad and tend to have hilarious disastrous results.

Anyway - after one incredibly nervous launch, where bits of the rocket were threatening to harpoon other bits of the rocket, it's up in orbit around the planet and I'm next sending my rocket the way of the Mun.

I have to say here, I'm very lazy and have been making extensive use of autopilot features. I'm pretty confident that I could fly the rockets myself but the autopilots make things so much more efficient. They provide in game calculators to give you that precise time to make manoeuvres. That's possible to do by eye but fails the "you're making this way too hard for yourself" test.

Games are supposed to be fun, not hard work. If I need to use a few autopilot or calculator mods to increase fun and decrease tedium, I'll use the cheaty mods.

Soapbox over ! More screenies !

Kerbals on the Mun :
I was just on the day side of the Mun, which let me get that great shot of the Kerbin home planet and their sun in the same view. I was down to just the lander and return home stage at this point, with less fuel than I wanted because the ascent stage hadn't done all that I needed it to.

And home time - I've cut here to where I'm thinking about setting up how to get my guys home :
I've left the Mun behind, with my capsule being the little grey icon in the middle. I'm heading towards the planet at this point with lots of time to go until I can do the next manouevre. Orbital mechanics have 2 important points : Periapsis and Apoapsis. Periapsis is the closest point of approach, Apoapsis is the farthest point. To change one, the most efficient way is to make the manoeuvre at the other.

Plan - drop into the atmosphere to burn off speed. To do this, I have to change that 194.2km periapsis down to below 70km (the edge of the atmosphere). And I have to do that with only 93m/s delta V left. Delta V is the way fuel remaining is measured - it takes into account :
Acceleration (as a Thrust divided by Mass thing)
Actual fuel remaining (time the thrust is available)
And tells you the amount of change of velocity you can do.

93m/s works out to 209mph. It's the same as being able to accelerate a car up to 35mph and stop it again, 3 times. I bet you've done that in traffic, it's not that much. (3 stops for the bus). At the mid point in the orbit, the ship was doing 350m/s, at periapsis it's doing around 3000m/s.

Scary. But the braking is still possible ... The screenie above shows me manually setting up a manoeuvre at apoapsis, which led to :
That's a move that skips the ship off the atmosphere and scrubs some speed off. The periapsis is dropped from 194km to 61km by just using 19m/s of delta V. After a few more orbits and braking using the atmosphere (and a reentry that would have been extremely toasty) :
Kerbals on the ground, home and safe.

Yey ! Dunno how much more I'll do with this game. I traditionally don't stay long with open sandbox games as I run out of objectives quickly. I will keep following the Scott Manley videos though.

Can't close this post without showing this one though :
Next time - I'll ignore the "3 points of contact = best" theory and put a few more legs on the lander.

PS - I'm watching the Le Mans 24 hours today. There was a crash at the start which I thought was fairly ok. Motorsport safety has improved so that injuries are rare and fatal crashes, at this level at least, are now unheard of. But not today. Thoughts are with the family of Allan Simonsen. Shocked to hear that a crash I thought he'd walk away from has actually taken him from us.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pain level ... high

Actually it's not, it's more like moderate ...

Yeah - this'll be one of those posts where I whinge a lot and hunt for a hug ... My skin's definitely getting better but I've been very slow lately. It seems like while the skin improves, the old injuries are reminding me that they're there again.

At the moment it's my upper body being stiff and a lot of soreness from my hips. I've had a sore neck too for I dunno how long. If you've never had a back injury, you're very very lucky. It feels like you're a puppet who's strings have been cut. You lose all your strength and an unguarded movement can make you scream in agony.

It's not actually that bad though. I have a lot of my agility available, as demonstrated by me dodging out of people's way.

But ... as anyone with depression will tell you, a person in a depressive cycle has a very difficult time recognising the positives and instead live in the negative. It's a very tough cycle to break out of. I need other people to help me out of mine. But it's not in the way you might think.

When my last relationship broke up, my depression went in an unexpected direction - I felt I was a wreck physically, not emotionally (because I was emotionally walled off and didn't realise). What helped me out of that was someone on the project who was an inspirational figure in her own way. She, of course, had no clue whatsoever, although if I am lucky enough to cross her path at work, I'll try and remember to ask if she's still sailing competitively.

I live for competition. One of the reasons I'm struggling at the moment is that I'm feeling I'm not competing that well either physically or mentally.

Physically - I'm slower even than when I was too fat. Pain level hasn't been "low" for ages.
Mentally - I've felt for quite some time that I'm not operating on the same mental level as I used to. Something's slowing me down and acting like fuzziness in my head. There are still flashes of what I used to have but I'm finding it more difficult to focus it.

There's that perception thing coming in again.

I think a lot of the problems I'm feeling at the moment are down indirectly to my skin condition. Right now, I'm coming to the end of a week with over 700 miles of travelling in it. Lots of disruption that my batteries have trouble handling these days. And that's after more months of broken and bad sleep than I care to think about.

I think that fatigue is deeply rooted at the moment. I'm also missing something in my diet that I need. I have that craving of needing to eat something but not knowing what. That's complicated too by being allergic to stuff that should do me good.

I'm going to stop whinging there.

One thing I do believe very strongly in is a need to acknowledge, analyse, absorb and above all else own problems that you have. Like if you see something going bad at work that you could do something about, don't stand back and spectate, get in there and own it, get it fixed. If it's within your grasp to do that, then there's often brownie points.

With my issues at the moment, I have to analyse them before I can deal with them. And one of the best ways to do that is to talk through them. Or to talk to people who make you smile.

We don't seem quite so blessed with that at the moment in the current team. I'm able to watch my back less (there were some dangerous and obnoxious people around) but I miss a few of the very good friends. You could say it was flirting but there's a certain objective to flirting which wasn't part of how we used to cheer each other up. Perhaps it's to do with those poisonous people that were around, our mob would be nonverbally saying "We got your back" to each other.

Hopefully I give that impression to people. That I have their back. I'll be on their side given the chance and if they deserve it. Things like me keeping people in the picture if someone was asking me to do the other person's job for them (like IT guru type stuff that they didn't want the IT person to know about).

I'd like to mention a couple of people before I head back into watching Youtube videos :
We have the original Finance Angel back ! Yep - Mrs E returned a few weeks ago. She's awesome. Nothing fazes her. She's always ready with a big beaming smile or a sympathetic ready to listen smile if she's detected that you're feeling down. And that smile is guaranteed to melt any blackness that's threatening to shroud my soul.
The one and only Craziequeen. Those hugs make you forget all troubles.
My darling Snow Queen. I Miss You !!!!! I know a lot of people abused how available to chat you were but I always valued every chance I got to try and get you to smile by doing something a little nuts or strange or random.
All of the Canteen Girls. Cos they're the ones who make the day start so much better when I'm on the hunt for teacake.
CK for being a good friend. Although I suspect that one or two of the people on the bus think we're gay partners. Lol.
The acceptance girls from the old project. This is another of the "We got your back" things ... The 4 of them that are still left still have an excellent working relationship going because they know that while I could embarass them when I spotted things that needed fixing (and a certain person would have loved as much ammunition there as he could have got), my first interest was always getting things right for the project. Point scoring is pointless and hurtful.
And the Boss too, although the people in her new team keep her too busy to chat much.

The cricket people have been good lately too. I know I'm getting older and far slower than I have been but they've been picking me up by recognising the effort I put in and making me feel valued.

That's what we all like to feel - value. That's the nub of what causes my struggles.

What fixes it ? Things like checking something out for the acceptance girls and getting a massive thank you coming down the email from Scotland when you find something that helps them out. Things like random people catching your eye when coming the other way and smiling when they catch your grin (even if mine is painted on a lot lately).

Oh and sleep too. It's getting late and this is a Mountain of Text now, so I'll hit post before I add even more ...

Things are getting better. Although I often feel I need someone to point me in the direction of the shininess. Or in the direction of the cakes. Hmm ... Snow Queen cakes ... wibble.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Travel ... lots of it

Well - maybe not as much as that but :

Weekend - off to see my mum and dad for Father's Day. My sister and I don't tend to get back there too much so it's good to pay a visit occasionally. Lol - only occasionally because I like my freedom to have the music going, random stuff on telly and videos/games on the PCs.

Oh and there's also the tendency to break out into song as I join in with something that's come over iTunes. I don't tend to do that when there's other people around. (Except if there are Hot Swedish Girls on Mumble). Actually, I think it's one thing that may have contributed (in a small way) to my last relationship breakup. The songs I tended to join in on where the heartbreak type theme songs. Oops.

Anyway - it's All About Eve's Are You Lonely at the moment and yesterday I nearly made someone start screaming when Goldfrapp's Head First started on the iPod. I won't be doing the singing thing that much tonight, for the next couple of hours at least I can only see a couple of Seal songs in the queue as being potential sing-a-longs.

Yep - Father's Day run last weekend. They're still worried about me because they see some of the signs of my skin condition that I can't hide from them like I do everyone else. It is improving - but very slowly and I have to be very careful as to not set that healing back.

But I don't want to dwell on my skin condition. If I do, I'll unconsciously drive myself to "helping" it more ... Which is bad.

Talking of travelling - the parents thought the Spa Grand Prix trip has potential. Although they'd want to stay a bit longer than just the weekend. I would too, although I have in my mind the 5 day return limit on some Eurotunnel tickets. It's quite an expensive trip too with the whole weekend costing at least £800 per person.

We shall see.

Outside of travelling - it's summer. Which means :

Summer dresses. Yey !
Also means summer sales. have one started already for old games. If there's some classics that you miss because they don't run on modern PCs, check out It stands for Good Old Games and what they do is take old games (some from the DOS days) and make them run on current hardware. Sometimes it's not so old games too. The Witcher 2 is on there, as is Don't Starve.

And I'm now thinking of those summer dresses again and maybe revising a plan for the rest of the week. Plan A was to bring my work laptop in on Friday because they like us to connect them directly to the works network occasionally. And on Friday, I'd have the car. However ... it means I'm not supposed to leave the laptop in the car unattended, which would put a dampener on the potential of a trip into town or the Mall.

I think I may do the laptop thing tomorrow instead by lugging the laptop on the bus with me. Not ideal but still feasible. We shall see. (I'll do it Friday because rain is predicted and it will scare those summer dresses away).

Oh - more travelling. Yesterday was what's becoming an annual pilgrimage to :
That's Lords from the top of the Edrich stand, looking at the pavilion. And that's from one of the rare moments where shadows were sighted ...

It was a good day's cricket yesterday, although the standard wasn't as high as you'd like. Sloppy fielding and batting that got strangled easily meant the games weren't that close and therefore weren't as exciting.

Cricket in the sun can be a good chilled out day in the fresh air. I'm thinking of watching a few more games, possibly at Worcester's ground. Taunton for Somerset is the wrong side of Bristol so there's a huge chance of getting caught up in the motorway traffic.

Anyway - T20 county cricket at Worcester - anyone local interested in chilling out at the cricket ?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mun Flight "Progress"

If there's ever a time I'd thought seriously about making gaming videos for Youtube, this is it ...

That seems to be what I'm doing more than gaming at the moment. Playing a game can pass the time but if you're watching someone like Sips of the Yogscast, then they draw you into the fun they're having in the game. With Sips, he's got a play through going of Skyrim at the moment where he has Uthgerd (female fighter type) tagging along as companion. All the way through, he's chatting to Uthgerd like he's chatting to the viewer.

They're quite amusing to watch and listen to.

What's occurred to me very early in the experimentation with the Kerbals and their suicide rockets is that making a video of these things would be absolutely hilarious. There's only so much you can do with screenshots :
Cue something about to go horribly wrong (again - and the Kerbals survived).

It's a merciless program, if you miss things out it'll let you know in hilarious ways. It's also consistent and very fair with how it makes your rockets blow up.

Anyway - progress. I'd been having problems with the early stages of the rocket making things go squish in the middle. The separator that links the space stage to the ascent stage was breaking very early. The screenie above was quickly followed by all those solid rocket boosters (the things on the outside) trying to harpoon the upper stage of the rocket. That was shortly before all of the bits on the ascent stage went their separate ways.

What I tried was peeking at the space stage :
That's it in the middle surrounded by solid rocket boosters. The game models mass and thrust, if your thrust is less than the weight, the rocket doesn't get off the ground. So there's all those boosters there to allow the test.

This one worked ! Although the space stage doesn't have the power to make orbit.

However ... those screenshots don't really do it justice. They don't capture the rocket wobbling all over the place like a video would. They don't have the audio of a commentator who can see things are in the process of going very horribly wrong.

I think I know what I need to fix. I have peeked at a wiki tutorial ... That one is a recreation of the Apollo 11 craft within the game. It's using a different stack separator and has stiffeners joining each stage together. I didn't think you could do that, I thought the stiffener pylons would stay attached after you wanted them separate.

I'm getting there on this one I think - I want to do it with a rocket I've put together though. What I don't want to do is blindly copy someone else's craft from a video or that Apollo 11 recreation.

And it gives me something else to natter about instead of this darn skin condition that still isn't going away ! It's stress related - I get stressed I attack it and make it worse. It's improving ... but sometimes I think it's forgotten what "normal" should be.

Oh - one more "It's gone horribly wrong, will they survive ?" screenie :
This is after I realised that my space stage wouldn't get to orbit. What I should have done is turn off the engine before hitting the "throw it away" button. What happened is that the engine kept firing, the whole thing started swinging like a pendulum and for 10000m or so, the pod with the Kerbals in stayed stubbornly attached to the explosive thingummy with lots of fuel left in.

That's where commentary would have been priceless ...

Oh and the game itself is discounted on Steam this weekend. If you're interested in rocket science or were a wannabe astronaut, this one is an essential.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Caught by quote

One of the most famous quotes of the Twentieth Century went something like this :

"We will go to the Moon. We will go to the Moon in this decade or the next and do the other thing. Not because it is easy, because it is hard."

It goes something like that. It's JFK challenging a nation to achieve the near impossible. They threw money and people at it and ... succeeded.

That quote came to mind today ... Although if I wait until the end of this decade before getting a screenshot of one of my Kerbals on the Mun, that'll be a bit sad. Either that or :

I'll have dived into Jack Campbell's latest book;
Steam's summer sale will have broken out;
I'll have been dragged into more games of cricket;
(at the moment - screaming ... see below)
Cricket on the telly will have drawn my attention
Or I'll have been bopped on the head by one of the girls on the bus and dragged off to a girlcave.

Only one of the bits above is pure fantasy. Although I'm sure one of them was watching me very closely this morning.

I've had an initial look at the latest from Jack Campbell but I've not been reading much lately. Will have to change that. It's another in the long series of Lost Fleet science fiction books. I actually have a bunch of books I've not read yet plus I'd like to run through the Deus Ex storyline :

Deus Ex Human Revolution - set in 2027 and is the third game in the series
Deus Ex - the original game, set in the 2050s
We don't talk about the second game. Or the fourth apparently (it's not out yet and is going to take the series to iOS - tragedy waiting to happen).

Yep - first Deus Ex is supposed to have an excellent storyline and it's one game I missed out on first time around. However ... Steam's summer sale is just around the corner ... My wallet is trembling (in fear) with anticipation. I don't think I'll buy too much but I do like seeing what the latest offer is going to be.

Cricket - there were 4 games planned this week across the two teams. We're down to just one now due to not enough players for one team and the ground being double booked. Thursday's game happily has enough players already.

My skin is "ok" but I'm still suffering from the damage I took to my thumb in the last game. I can use it (although I wouldn't want to write for long) but I'd actually admit to having pain from it. It hurts to open Kitkats !!!! Having a bit of time away from the cricket will help my legs get tougher. The healing is getting there, although I have to be very careful that I don't damage it even more.

Not screaming - but definitely ouchies. Disappointing because there's been no bruising to show off but not bad enough that it would have kept me out of a game this week if they'd needed me.

Lots of stuff on the telly at the moment too - I've been keeping an eye on the ICC Champions Trophy (cricket). It's been interesting because there's no idea before each game as to who is going to win. India are looking scarily strong though, I suspect they'll win the tournament. Hopefully England won't let us down although their first-up batsmen don't really have the inspiration to drive us to big scores.

And - I've run out of videos to watch on the Youtube circulation. Time to see about putting a Kerbal on the Mun !

Monday, June 10, 2013

A little rocket science

Something I've had my eye on for a little while has been the Kerbal Space Program.

I think I've mentioned it before a few times but it's only recently that I've opened up my copy and started to play. (Things like another Deus Ex run and not having the mental energy to learn something new have got in the way).

What is the Kerbal Space Program ?

It's a rocket simulator. You build your own rockets out of snap together bits and pieces, take it to the launchpad and watch it explode. Most of the time. Some of the time, you can try for escaping the orbit of the home planet and attempt to reach its Mun. Or even build huge ships out of multiple component launches and attempt to reach the other planets.

There's a lot of scope in the "game". Shouldn't really call it a game actually. Something as high quality as this is a stellar teaching aid. The building of the rockets is highly simplified and they are very easy to control. You have 3 axes of freedom plus a throttle. There's a stabilisation module that quickly stops your rocket tumbling out of control, if you've added the right bits.

The complication is hidden under the skin, with full physics orbital mechanics modelling at play. Going from Earth to the Moon isn't just about pointing the rocket at the Moon and throttling up the engines. The Moon will have moved by the time you get there and the course will curve due to all the little bits of gravity in play. KSP fully models all that complication, it lets you know what's happening and there's a couple of tutorials that let you know what's going on.

That shot's from one tutorial and shows the map view. The navball at the bottom helps you point in the correct direction (the green markings). The Mun is the big rock in the middle, the little grey triangle icon is my spaceship. The blue curve shows the partial orbit around the Mun. This is just after getting there, so it's not a properly formed orbit yet. There's a "Pe" for periapsis (point of orbit where you're lowest) and the little circle at the end of the line shows where your ship would escape the Mun's gravity if you did nothing. The thing to do here is to point backwards at "Pe" and then thrust to slow down. That should turn the escape into an orbit.

There's massively complicated maths but the visualisation tools in the program help you deal with it.
How did my attempts over the weekend go ?

Here's the first rocket ship attempt :

It's a fairly standard 2 stage rocket with a command module on top. The first stage has solid rocket boosters surrounding a main engine. The intention is that this stage gets your rocket to orbit. The second stage would then propel the command module to Mun orbit. This was early days so I was just looking to go Mun & back. Nothing fancy like an actual landing ...

How did this one go ? It got out of the atmosphere but never made the orbit. It needed more rockets. Actually needs another stage I think.

So - I add more rockets. And ...

Oops. Oh well. The little conical thing lying by the side of the support pylons is the command module. It survived ! And half a second before I took that screenie, good old Jeremiah Kerman was going "Let's do that again!". I think what I did this time was have the separators (which detach the boosters) firing before the boosters. Cue launching pad fireworks show.

I'm about to head back in again to see if I can make a working Mun rocket (without resorting to the wiki crib sheet!). But ... something like this can't really be described in words, so here's a Youtube video with someone talking you through the pictures.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Enter progress, exit flexibility

I went laptop scouting again after work today.

I'm not really seriously looking at another laptop yet, although if the right deal appears I'll consider it. But I would like to see what's available out there. To be honest, while the current crop of laptops exhibit their own brand of shininess, they've lost something.

10-15 years ago, laptops used to make a big thing out of flexibility. They'd be built around modular bays which could hold cd drives, floppy drives, batteries, hard discs. If you didn't need the cd, you could swap it out for a spare battery. They were based on Windows XP, which is still the best OS Microshaft have come out with.

It used to be fairly easy to get to expansion ports to add memory or functionality like Bluetooth, even if that tended to be frustrated by manufacturers filling up all the slots before you bought the machine. The key thing is that you would be allowed into your device in order to improve it.

That modularity is all gone now.

If I look at the Acer manufacturer site or at Dell, I can't check whether there's a spare slot for something like a PCIe or mSATA card. What I would like to do is to buy the cheapest laptop I can find which meets the minimum spec. It's really not worth spending the extra cash on functionality you don't need and performance is a red herring. Save your cash for things like really matter.

Aside - I would say "like Pick N Mix" there - but that's an indulgence that I've had to ban myself from :-(. Even though the shop is still extremely tempting.

Where was I ? I'd like to buy my cheap laptop and add one of these to it : Little Crucial SSD drive. The idea is that the Little SSD drive sits between the laptop and the big hard disc with everything on it. It stores the most used bits and pieces. So the bits that make Windows go would be on it, Outlook and Skype (bleh) would be on it, the iTunes application and Firefox would be on it but the individual files of the massive music library wouldn't be used enough.

What does that actually achieve ? It speeds up a machine considerably. A curse of Microshaft systems since Vista got inflicted on us is a crippling of the disc interface. Windows became Windoze as we had to wait for the hard disc all the time. The Little SSD drive (on newer systems) cuts out that wait time totally. Some laptops, like my mum's, have one already.

So that's what I'd like to do - take a cheap laptop and turn it into something that flies.

However - I'm frustrated by :
Acer's website not letting you compare models easily and without clicking on each one (Dell's is like that too)
Not having a clue whether the expansion capability is part of the laptop

Not got enough intelligence to answer that question at the moment. It's not a question you could ask in store either, because the most informative answer you'd get is a blank look. Unless it's PC World where you'd get a "sure it can, you wanna have fries with that too ?"

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Differences ...

Bit of sun,

Bit of warmth,

Lots of fresh air,

It can really make you feel so much better.

Played cricket again tonight :-) This time it was an away game at a ground I've not been to before. It's out in the country, so no red buildings to lose sight of the ball in. There was also a clubhouse, that's rarer than you think and almost unheard of at urban grounds because the vandals burn them down. This was happily out of their range though.

To be honest, I didn't enjoy the first two games of this season. It was so cold that my muscles never warmed up, so I was a Petecicle out in the field. Could barely move. And for someone who's used to being Zebedee on the field, that's incredibly frustrating.

Tonight was far better. I was able to keep legging it around, poaching some fielding from other players on the team. That kind of thing can work out well for you, the batsmen stopped thinking about runs when the ball was in my fielding arc. They were believing the "he looks fast, maybe he's actually does some good, let's not take him on".

It helped us keep the scoring tight, although the ground helped more there. The wicket was awkward to score on plus I'm sure that at least once, a hand reached up from under the grass and went "Ball ? you're going nowhere". Lots of shots were stopping short of the fence.

How'd I do tonight ?

I really enjoyed it. I dropped one definite catch (need new glasses) but took another catch. I technically had a chance for another catch but it would have been Catch Of The Season material. It was hit powerfully and was in my reach down to my left. If I'd got a paw there, I'd have been fingertips in the grass while catching the ball. But ... it was in my reach so I consider it a chance, even if County standard cricketers (who practice) would have thought themselves lucky to catch it.

I'm quite self criticizing in the field. If the ball is in my reach, I think I should be stopping it despite being a lot slower than I was even just a couple of years ago. I think I should be taking all the catching chances too. I need new glasses for definite there, as depth perception is at about 95%. That's pretty good but the 5% is the difference between thinking a ball is going to knock your teeth out and that ball actually coming to you much more gently.

We won tonight :-)

I didn't need to bat, which I'm quite happy about. If the side wins without me slowing them down, that's a win for the team. I get my kicks nowadays from pinning my ears back and running Very Fast.

I've mostly survived unscathed, with tonight's damage being :
Calf muscles to monitor (because they were tending towards cramp)
Very sore thumb (hyperextended from a dropped catch)
The usual skin issues (my cricket jumper damaged one of the patches that's healing slower than the rest)
And there were a few things from the fielding that I need to improve - getting to the ball is one thing, you actually have to get a good release on it too to save runs. I got one threatening release away, which may have got a run out, but that was messed up by our keeper. Ho hum.

But yeah - that's another game played in a period where just 2 months ago, I'd pretty much given up on having the chance.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Hide the wallet !

Or the credit card at least.

Thinking about spending cash again ... This time it would be on a laptop because mine has been suffering almost as much as me from my skin condition. Plus I think recent software updates courtesy of Microsoft being idiots and destroying their own software have led to both laptop and desktop being less stable.

What's the most important thing to consider buying computer hardware ? You'll be surprised at my opinion there :

Processor - not relevant. Whatever you get now will be superpowered compared to what you had before and you just won't use it. My next laptop will have more processing power than my gaming desktop (cos you can't buy less now) but I'll only use it for web browsing, iTunes streaming, Skype (bleh), email and a few other low requirement things. The hardest thing that it'll be used for is TV on Demand streaming - that's too intensive for my current laptop.

Memory - minimum of 4GB now because of Microsoft being unable to write efficient software.

Disc - in a desktop you can play a bit but there isn't the space in a laptop to fit the 2 drives that make this desktop go Very Fast. My mum's new Acer has 2 drives (and flies) but that comes at a cost. You're better off not paying the premium.

Graphics - as long as it can play HD video, fine. Gaming with complex 3d graphics is something that laptops shouldn't have to be subjected to. That said, my next laptop may be subjected to a little Defense Grid.

So that's the major performance things marked as - Irrelevant, ignorable, too much compromise and "limited is fine".

What is the thing to think about most when buying computer kit ?

Time. Definitely time.

Computer kit has a tendency to operate in stages. There are 3 major manufacturers out there who set the tone for the most expensive bits of a PC. Intel make almost all the processors that get sold. nVidia make high end graphics cards. AMD make an effort at keeping Intel honest with processors (and by doing so, drive Intel to keep their development going) and since acquiring ATI, they make high end graphics bits too.

Most of the kit we get is based off the same design. This desktop has an i5-2500K and the only difference between that and the more expensive i7-2700K was that the i7 had a few performance widgets turned on. They'd be present in my i5 chip, just not turned on (that bit of the chip probably failed tests).

It's similar with graphics. One card may have the same processor design as the next one up in the range, just that 1/8 of the processor is disabled. Possibly for the same reason as before, that bit of the chip failed the testing.

The key is that Design Stage. It tends to operate in steps and we're seeing two steps coming imminently :

Graphics - there's a new nVidia design coming out, the 770 and 780 cards. That's 2 generations ahead of what I have, so my curiosity is sitting up and paying attention. The curiosity goes back to sleep though when it sees benchmarks that don't show it to be significantly better than the last generation. It's also cost prohibitive.

Intel chips - there's a new one coming ... These tend to be faster and cooler than what came before. Both things which count as Very Good Things with PCs. I believe the new one is called Haswell and is coming out within a month, although I haven't caught any good articles about what it is yet. Here's a Tomshardware article on it.

Ok - your techie alarm went off ages ago and you're asking "Relevance ?"

Everybody wants the latest shiny. The retailers want the latest shiny on their shelves. However ... the retailers also want to get what they have now off their shelves to make room for the new stuff.

This can be a good time to buy. However ... Remember the following :

Procrastination can be a good thing. If you don't need to buy now, wait for better kit and better deals.
It's not in a retailer's interest to tell you that you could buy better in a month. They want your money now.
Before a design change step, retailers want you to buy stuff they don't want to return later and will try to entice you in with deals.
But - what's left on the shelf is what noone else wanted to buy.
Don't jump for any old thing, keep your quality control (see end).
A new generation tends to come with bugs ... beware.

Only buy if you think you're getting value.

Ok - all that said, what am I currently looking at ? I have 3 requirements :
Made by Acer - because the family has owned a string of them and they have (mostly!) survived. The only casualties were my mum's which broke the power connector and my dad's which had a critical software failure. We could possibly have rebuilt it, given time ... but we don't get that much time to visit. And it was coming up to his birthday anyway - lol.
Touchscreen - yeah, it's a gimmick and I won't use it much but. It's SHINY !!!!!
At least 15" screen - I like my 17" Acer but somehow I don't think fashion will let me get a 17" touchscreen because fashion doesn't like massive laptops.

I have my eye on something like : Acer Aspire V5-531P (Amazon link). But I'll keep my options open. Acer have a few interesting designs coming - I'd avoid getting a separate tablet (I don't see the purpose) but if my next laptop could become a tablet, I'd be interested. I'd use the tablet mode for web browsing and other "sit and watch it" activities but not for writing blog posts.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Delving into the memories

Warning - This post is in huge danger of going off at a tangent.

And it wouldn't be a good one - I try to avoid negative thoughts because they tend to be very self reinforcing. My own state tends to work like that, people with depressive tendencies will recognise it too. The particular negative this time around isn't something I'd want to put here anyway, it's an over a coffee thing to people I trust completely (and I can only think of 4 people I'd count there).

Where's the memories coming from this time ? These go back 30 years !

And they're actually mostly good ones.

I've been watching the Superman movies again. It's partly in anticipation of the new one coming, I have mixed expectations there as most of the remakes to come out lately have been ok. There have been stinkers like Total Recall but that didn't have great material to work off in the first place. I'm on the third at the moment.

Christopher Reeve's defining role will always be Superman, although he did massive things for disability later in life. It's a shame his accident left him the way it did and took him from us much earlier than it should have. We'll always remember him as Superman. And the defining memory there will be of the flight with Lois Lane in the first movie.

Superman 1 - great movie. The effects are looking incredibly dated and the Luthorian sidekick was appalling but it's still very watchable today.
Superman 2 - follows straight on from the first and it's still pretty good. It's a more serious movie than the first, although it still has its lighthearted moments. Still an excellent movie, I enjoyed this one again the other day.

Superman 3 - oh dear. There's lots of series I enjoy but there's some where I avoid watching or reading bits of them again :
Star Trek V The Final Frontier
Lord of the Rings where Frodo & Sam are in the Marshes (depressing)
Star Wars books by Kevin J Anderson
Formula 1 in the ITV years
Doctor Who in the Sylvester McCoy years
Any Transformers movie done by Michael Bay
Stargate SG-1 seasons 9 and 10 (maybe - they have their moments, like all the ones with Claudia Black)
You get the picture. Superman 3 has its moments but right from the start, it goes for sad attempts at slapstick humour which really don't work. They insult the viewer. Richard Pryor is a great actor but is wasted here. Lois Lane is criminally underused. The script is appalling.

It's just a really bad movie - a product of its time. And when I do the box set thing again, I'll most likely skip it.

Talking of a product of its time - Superman IV was born in the era where we'd finally got our leaders to listen and reduce the nuclear weapon stockpiles. I've only seen this one once, so I'll be curious about watching it again.

Superman Returns makes up the last of the box set, with Brandon Routh being an excellent stand in for the original legend. This one's a great movie too, I'll be looking forward to watching it again.

Where's the dim and distant memory come in ?

My cinema going habit started early. And then it had a massive break. I went to primary school over in Northern Ireland, which was great. The school was excellent and got me a couple of years ahead of where the equivalent school in England was. But we came back (followed the work) when I switched from primary to secondary school.

One thing Ireland had was a good cinema ... My dad took me to see films like E.T. and Return Of The Jedi. This was at a time when Star Wars movies were a staple event of Xmas and Empire Strikes Back had just started showing on telly. I think it was before VCRs too (maybe).

One of those films was Superman 3. Strangely, I can't remember it being as bad as it actually is. I suspect my 9 year old brain was doing a lot of filtering ...

The important thing is - my dad took me to see it. I wonder where that tendency I have of not wanting to see films at the cinema on my own came from ? Oh - one reason why we stopped going to the cinema in England was that the local cinema was a hicksville type that got its movies 6 months after the rest of the world. You could watch some off video (rented from Blockbuster!) before they got to our cinema.

PS Still wouldn't mind seeing Iron Man 3 again.