Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Christmas Everyone !

That means you too ! Yes You ! You of the humbug persuasion !

Almost bed time here ... 1 more sleep :
 I'm not expecting much though :

I've happily been able to steer the parents away from Facebook, although they did threaten to get me socks again. Must do better vetting on the ones I pack when I visit.

Spare a thought though. I'll be lucky to be in a warm house with power that will have an awesome family dinner, with us all together in the warm. There's loads of people in First World Britain who won't have that privilege and a multitude more in the world who won't have much cause or ability to celebrate.

Also spare a thought for the absent people. This will be my first Xmas without my nan and I know a few more who will be missing friends or relatives.

And for those who have been caught out by the adverse conditions. Yesterday would have been really bad to travel in and the aftermath (where the rain that fell in the hills flows down the rivers and floods the lowlands a day or so later) is hitting at the moment. Travel for me today was totally clear, I got the right part of the weather window this time. I'll be keeping an eye on the forecast though because more terrible weather is predicted for Friday. It'll be good to avoid travelling on that day.

I'm getting distracted ... Or maybe I'm thinking a lot about other people ?

Is this one of those rare times when my tendency to digress and be distracted and scatterbrained is actually a good thing ? Lol.

Hope you have a good festive season, that you enjoy it and get cool stuff. And maybe ...
(click for legibility)

Gief snow ?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hobbit watching

Before I launch in ...

Suffering from bugs, which is affecting my temperament. So I'm snappy due to generally lacking any energy. Yep. It's manflu - lol. (chesty bug that's causing me to make the scary sounds when trying to clear my throat - you know the type I mean !)

Still ... the only thing good about the trip out today was the company.

Back to chill out now. I'm not feeling like gaming (I may attack Moo2 again in a bit) so it's chill out time to music accompanied by Yogscast videos now and livestream later. That's where Moo2 will come in, I'll have that on in the foreground while chuckling to the livestream people being irreverent.

To be honest, if it's a choice between what's typically on telly and watching Yogscast livestreams, I'll generally choose the livestreams. Telly has descended into repetitive garbage these days and is rarely worth watching past a quick update on the news channel. That is before that news channel coverage hits its repeat cycle. The online videos tend to be far more entertaining. It's not about the progress they make, it's about the fun along the way.

Anyway - about today's run to see Hobbit. Best thing about it was the company. The Crazie mob I hang around with are among my most trusted people in the world. We all have our own flaws. But they're our flaws. We own them, share them, amuse ourselves with them and help each other with them.

Before, most of the gang went shopping in the Mall. I'd already had enough of a dose of that on Friday so I joined later and hibernated a bit longer with my bugs. We had lunch in the local Frankie & Benny's.

I have to say - if the best eating place around a big shopping centre is the Pizza Hut, there's something seriously gone wrong. I wasn't particularly impressed with the F&B offering today, my usual fallback staple is Hunter's Chicken (chicken wrapped in bacon with cheese and barbecue sauce) but somehow F&B managed to ruin that. Mind you, I should have had the fish. I aim to have fish once a week to keep the thyroid healthy but have run out at home.

Reminder - I have bugs which are colouring my opinions ... so using the word "ruined" is probably a bit strong. At least it wasn't charcoaled, just drowned in some weird substitute for cheese. It was a £15 meal, artificial substitutes are not acceptable. If you compared that anti-cheese with my dayglo hat, I'm not sure which would have been more dayglo.

Hobbit ?

I have to be brutally honest here. The Hobbit is a single book. The Lord Of The Rings is a trilogy. There is no reason that the Hobbit should have been made as 3 films. They're just adding in filler that stretches out the films without adding anything. I understand the end of the second film just leaves 20 pages of the book for the third film.

It's a decently made film, sure. However, there's a lot of filler in there. The whole book should have been just the one film. There's a reason I haven't bought the blu-ray of the first film yet and that contrasts to me pretty much pre-ordering the dvds of the Lord Of The Rings.

Peter Jackson has always made films that are overlong. He's being indulged in that. He's being indulged in that again, as the Hobbit films will break the records again. I have a feeling that whatever he goes into next after Hobbit 3 will bomb. Or will it ? As a society, we seem to indulge and reward in irrational things. Like overlong films and certain sports that call themselves professional (cough - football) but are anything but.

Hobbit 2. Yeah. Well made film but these films aren't "The Hobbit". It's another story entirely. We're being asked to sit through stuff for 30 minutes that could have been a 1 or 2 minute update.

And I can feel my bugs colouring my opinion again.

I actually kind of enjoyed the movie but ... it's not the movie of a book by Tolkien called The Hobbit. And that's what it pretends to be. I'll not rush out and buy it on blu-ray when it gets released. I'm not even convinced I'd watch it repeatedly like I did the LOTR trilogy. Perhaps if a condensed version was made.

Should you go see it ? As always, my advice there is - follow your own opinion. There's plenty of films that I bypass in the cinema and check them out for free* when they come to the small screen. Films with a certain epicness like Hobbit 2 and Pacific Rim benefit from that big screen cinema scale.

*(there's a small matter of a Sky Movies subscription ...)

So the advice is - if you want to see films like this and award the indulgence of the director, go right ahead. Form your own opinion, one of the biggest problems in this world is when we adopt the opinions of others without the benefit of the context behind what formed that opinion.

Last thought for today - I'm seeing reports of the weather disruption on the news ... If you're travelling over the break, stay safe ! Stay calm too. The biggest danger to you is ... you ! We can do daft things at times. I talk from experience - muahaha.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

And ... relax

This one could be a little disjointed ... I'm watching the Strictly final and tapping bits out in the bits where there's no dancing going on.

There's a decent amount of filler in Strictly, which is understandable because of the time taken to set up between the dances and the chance for the judges to have their say. It'll be curious to see what the result is this time round. It's been an excellent series, any one of 6 pairings could have genuinely won it.

My smart money's on Abbey winning. She's the crowd favourite and is an amazing dancer. Not my personal favourite, I kinda wish that Rachel was still in there but she's one of those people who is a bit too nice to get the character acting that's needed. There's also :

Sophie the singer, who is capable of stunningly beautiful ballroom but can be a bit stilted and gawky when her confidence isn't firing. (Must listen to more tracks from her Read My Lips)
Susanna the newsreader, who isn't as technically gifted as the others but still brings out the "That was AWESOME !" performances.
Natalie the actor, who is the most technically astute (she had a lot of dance training years ago). Trouble is, she's also been consistently overmarked and has been allowed to get away with a lot of rules transgressions. The public see through that and it's seen her in the dance off.

That's the finalists, the other two who I thought could have won are BoyBandBoy (who's name I can't remember - blonde Hollyoaks guy) and Patrick, who is unlucky to not be in the final.

As well as Rachel, my big favourite was Mark B, although that was much more to do with dancer Yveta with her exotic looks and elegant movement, brilliantly shining eyes and sense of humour.

I've enjoyed watching Strictly this year, it's my second full year of watching it and it's a genuine departure from the scifi and survival type documentary diet I usually stick to. It's good to get outside the comfort zone. And there's the usual thing of what I'm doing now, shouting "GET ON WITH IT" to Brucey.

Back to work ...

NOOOO !!! Please don't !

All done with work now for 2013. I'm off until 6 Jan and plan to do ... not very much at all. We'll see Hobbit 2 soon and I'll visit the parents but apart from that, I need healing time and recuperation time. My condition is improving but it's still not there yet (and I still do things like attack it and set it backwards like I did last night - oops).

I'm going to get a lot of music listening done. The "Recently Played" is showing that I've managed to listen to 3415 tracks out of 11000 in the library since switching to the Macbook. I'm hoping that will go way past 4000 by the time I'm back to work.

Game playing too. There's an achievement in Warcraft where you battle every single Pet Battle Master in a single day. I want to do that one over the holiday. Optimistic yeah, I'll need to have my character crash through to level 90, which will take some playtime. Especially as I'm not particularly in the WoW mood right now. That'll come back, it's just that the Lich King expansion (I'm tackling those zones at the moment) is a bit flat, grindy and lacking in character, although Sholazar Basin was a highlight. Cataclysm and Panda were much better.

But not just yet. There are sales on ...

I've bought a few this month which I haven't played enough yet :
Tomb Raider (new one) - this is for after the XCom campaign concludes
XCom expansion - brutal, challenging alien invade strategy. But I think it's better than the originals.
Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics - ok, these were free so I added them to the GoG collection. And they come with soundtracks ...
Space stuff bundle !
Master of Orion 1 and 2 - both peerless strategy games that have never really been equalled.
Space Empires IV - tried the demo a while ago, will be curious to give this one a go
Galciv 1 - had this before, didn't really give it enough of a chance to learn it (Moo2 was too good)
Fragile Allegiance - another one I missed
Startopia - yet another missed ! It's a space station management game

Most of the above are from Good Old Games ( who will dredge up old games, some classic, some garbage and they'll repackage them in ways that will install and play on modern computers. Moo1 and Moo2 both use the DosBox emulator, which is a pretend PC running inside a Mac or PC.

I've acquired musak too :
Lucy Spraggan's got an album that I've had my eye on for a while and it's a cracker. I was starting to chuckle early on and was laughing out loud at some of the tracks. Love it.
Daft Punk's Random Access Memories - heard this in a shop and enjoyed it enough to try out one of their cheapest albums, this album was still too much until recently. Not bad.

At the moment, it's the soundtrack to Baldur's Gate II (in the break in Strictly) and I'll be back on Moo2 later. The version seems harder ... but then I do play on impossible (hardest) difficulty and use a strategy that's very slow burning and dependent on the enemies leaving me alone until I'm ready to crush them.

So yeah - when I get back from the parents and get enough supplies in, I'm planning to batten down the hatches and shut the world out behind music ... Hopefully that'll let me heal. Although it'll give me huge cabin fever after not too long.

So - if you'd like to break me out of that reclusiveness and relieve the cabin fever (and maybe have me grin at you for a while !), then I'm open for offers :-) (Please - hold me back from tellies ... I'm dangerously close to upgrading in the sales ...)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday Twitterings

Don't worry - I'm not going to dive into Twitter.

It offends my Wall Of Text tendency with its namby pamby 140 character limit. I'm just getting started at 140 characters !!!!!

Just 3 days to go until Winter Break ... I seriously need it. Although part of that need comes from knowing that the break is coming. That's the way I tick (unconsciously). I'll get bugs as well at the end of this week as I shut down more. Nah - I'll be ok there. The hole in my tongue is almost fixed (gotta learn to talk proper again !) and my skin is actually, finally, normalising. When I give it the chance that is.

Semi Random Thoughts today.

I'm currently listening to the Yogscast livestream. It's ladies night with my two favourite Yogscasters, Hannah and Kim. Hannah came in late and Kim had Duncan and Simon helping out. It's been hilarious so far (although you kinda need the insider knowledge to really appreciate it - I guess like with most comedy). They broke the server, good and proper.

It started with a fishing trip, where they take their Minecraft characters off to an island. They build a cave into a fishing hut and out come the rods. (The fishing rods). And then out comes the rum. This is followed by Simon summoning in more Naga than you can count (Beefy mobs that eat the world).

Mayhem ensues, closely followed by hilarity as they try and fix something that could easily eat the server. Duncan brings out the nukes, which is when the server hamster cries "Enough!" and falls out of the wheel. This is after the same Simon probably broke another long running Yogscast series in a livestream from Sunday by crashing into the moon.

I was going to natter about security ... Had the annual threat brief today. Everybody should get these, wherever they work. Even if you're not employed, you should have some awareness of cyber security (it scares me witless sometimes when I get the call from the dad).

I'm seen by others as some sort of God when it comes to knowing about IT stuff. The reality is that I carefully pick and choose which questions I answer. I stay quiet when there's something I have no clue about (MS Access anyone ?) and can usually blag something and make it up as I go along with other problems. My light touch of autism probably helps there as it means I can think as literally as a computer. I can understand what's going on in there.

Security ?

Yeah. Even though I know lots, I've been caught out on the security a few times. Everybody, whatever the protection they use, gets caught out on cybersecurity. Unless they ditch Microsoft, Adobe and other stupidly vulnerable products that is.

Be careful online. I shake my head in despair when I see someone post the "If you don't sort out your seciruty I'll unfreind you" (the typos are from the copy/paste) on Facebook and they're posting that with the "visible to the world" setting enabled. I facepalm when I see anyone posting on Facebook with the "visible to the world" enabled.

How have I been caught out ?
Playstation emulators that aren't emulators, they're trojan horse viruses that disable your antivirus (Norton at the time) and do other nasty things
An Eve Online account hack - either the keylogger came on a brand new laptop (I don't think so, other things would have been compromised) or it came in the Eve client download (which is horrendous)
An MS Blaster infection on a machine I built for my dad - it was connected to the internet for literally just 15 minutes before a "Do you want this to connect to the internet ?" popup appeared. That's right - no user interaction required and the machine was found, seen to be vulnerable and infected, within 15 minutes. (That vulnerability got closed - but the machine was infected before the fix could be downloaded)
Economic damage via faulty nVidia drivers - they made the graphics card hot, which made it crash, which made me think it was broken, which made me buy a new card.

The graphics thing wasn't technically a virus but it's an example of where bad software causes you problems. Like putting Windows 8 on a machine and finding it's made permanent changes that stops you putting something more usable on there, like Windows ME or Windows 3.11.

Anyway - the real message I have with the security is :
Be aware - the nasties are out there but you can protect yourself by doing things like using Ad Blockers, using a Flash Blocker, ditching Internet Explorer, not giving any private information to Google, Adobe (in particular), Facebook or the other organisations that want your info. Facebook doesn't know who I work for, it's bad enough that they know where I live.
Be safe - use antivirus (I really should put some on my Macbook ! although technically it doesn't need it)
Know how to react - DON'T PANIC !!!

If you see your machine working strangely, well, even stranger than the average Windows machine, then don't panic. First, do not rush off and change your passwords like I did when I got hacked in Eve. If you have a keylogger, it'll harvest all your new passwords (including the ones it didn't already know about) and send them off to the Naughty People. Nope - run a full virus scan and then run a scan from Malware Bytes Anti Malware's software. Don't run them both at the same time, it'll take much longer as they both fight for time on the machine.

After the Nastie is caught and deleted by the virus scan or MBAM, then change all your passwords. But don't panic and change them before you know the machine is clean.

Hope that makes sense !

Doh ! This was supposed to be randoms but it's turned into something mega on security ...

Back to the livestream. Hannah and Kim are currently berating Simon for not burning the house down in Beyond 2 Souls. Let's see how he does on the next bit ...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas thoughts

Post sparked by another thing spotted on the Facebook feed today :

"Sobering thoughts as we enter the holiday season...It is important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring, loving thoughts right now. If I don't see your name, I'll understand. May I ask my friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy, paste, and share this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my friends just for moral support. I know some will! I did it for a friend and you can too!"

I very rarely pass on the chain stuff that appears on Facebook (there's a lot of it and it often has the "if you no share, bad thing happen ..." garbage) but I do make exceptions.

Ok, maybe I wanted to talk about what I'd be doing around Xmas and needed an excuse to prompt me !

I'm threadbare ragged at the moment. I badly need the break to get some energy back again. The healing has been going as well as I allow it (translation - on the whole, it's getting better) but being away from work and the conditions in the office will speed the recovery. It's unseasonably warm here and that's translating into the office being close to summer temperatures. Means I can't cool down quickly after the walk in from the bus.

So I'm looking forward to some chilling out time over the holidays. Some of that time will be with others, a lot will be on my own.

I'll spend a bit with the mum & dad & sister (and a few more people). I'll be with the Crazies a couple of times too. We're looking to go Hobbit Watching before Xmas and we usually have a Pizza + Movies meet up after too.

Presents ? I don't really do those any more. There's an upside and a downside to presents :
Upside - Free Stuff ! usually cool stuff.
Downside - the stress involved in getting something suitable. What to choose ? How do I get it in time ?
And there is that, not to be underestimated factor, of seeing that smile on the face of the person you got the gift fot that comes from you getting just the right thing.

Although that level of concern you'd only really save for someone really special. That sounds bad. All presents should be awesome for the person getting them. But there's a difference in the level of concern you give to different people's opinions. If I had a wife, I'd be more concerned about how they felt than how a colleague felt. I'd still be concerned but that concern would be on a whole different level.

There's still no prospective Mrs Sleepy's around. I've been waiting for the skin to normalise before even thinking about seeing if anyone is interested. However, I did spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about one particular person I was talking to after the team Xmas meal ;-)

And that brings me back to the quote that started the post off. I still have a few family members I can spend the holiday with. I have a small but highly valued circle of friends that occasionally grows a little as I meet more special people.

I'll have time on my own this Xmas - but that's partly to indulge the loner side of my personality. I have a lot of dichotomy in my head. I like my space but I also badly miss having someone else around. However, I have that choice. Others don't. I caught the person I mentioned above talking a bit about what she'd be doing. It sounded like work, work work. (Not good). Not much time for chilling out.

Besides, the best present anyone can have is knowing that someone will continue to be a valued friend for at least another year. Hugs are good too.

Yeah - I'll be on my own for a decent amount of this Xmas. I'll be recharging the batteries with a combination of sleep (I hope !), gaming, watching stuff and listening to music. However ... I'll get cabin fever at some point and will need to escape the house.

Soooo ... if there's anyone who sees themself in the quote above (and I do a little) and they're local and in need of a little company ? I'll listen ;-).

Sunday, December 15, 2013

If it's in the game ...

It's in the game.

That's actually a slogan from one of the bigger games publishers (who I won't name because I'm boycotting them at the moment). Ok I will, It's from EA and it's a slogan they used a few years ago and it was one of the bigger lies in game publishing. It was supposed to mean that for their sport games, if you could do something in the real life sport then they'd replicate a means to do it in the game.

Did they ? No. Are they money grubbing bar stewards who continue to charge over the odds for inadequate software ? Yes - I was interested in Spore but ... it's a game that was released in Dec 2008 and even then it was rushed out by the publisher before it was ready. And they're still charging full price (£30) for it. That's daylight robbery and is just the worst example.

And there's other crimes like Battlefield 3 and the newest Sim City (even Yogscast can't make Sim City look interesting to play). No ... EA and the other big publishers seem bent on squeezing as much money out of the gamer as they can while only producing minor amendments to their existing franchise (FIFA2014 was literally just a data and names update). Oh and discounting the core Mass Effect 2 game on Steam but not the expansion packs which you can only get through EA. That's about a quarter of the game ... Things like including a minor story arc on the Mass Effect 3 disc and charging extra for access to it.

As an avid games collector, I've noticed a trend in the industry - the publishers will force developers to release their games before they're ready. Sometimes even years (Sports Interactive caved with Championship Manager 3, which never worked even with updates coming over several years). That's evolved into another problem - games are being released dependent on online architecture which simply can't cope with the demand. Most massive multiplayer online games see this problem and it's a problem even infesting single player games (Sim City).

Enough of that though - what am I playing at the moment ?

In a way, that's partly - what am I avoiding playing at the moment ?

There's been a shift in games releases ... Instead of games being pushed out in an unfinished state, they're being sold as "it's not ready yet, we'll finish it later". And you can get these through the usual online download routes. That's another shift, pretty soon the high street retail places won't sell PC games any more because it won't be a valid resale channel. Online may survive due to collectors editions bringing goodies.

I have to be honest, the games playing is partly due to avoiding watching England on the telly failing at the Ashes. The games (and youtube videos) are a good distraction.

World of Warcraft is still the addiction at the moment, although not as much as it used to be. A lot of the challenge has disappeared out of the game. It's too easy to crash through the zones as a single player. The only difficulty is hanging in there while you level (some of the zones are awesome, some are a tough, boring slog) and in having the professions keep up with you. The speed of levelling has increased a little too much. I've needed support from the guild to get me enough Stuff to keep those professions relevant (it's been appreciated and has taken a lot of nausea out of the game).

However, for its flaws (and dodgy endgame) it's still the best massive multiplayer online game out there and hopefully one or two features from the rest will enhance it. I'm comparing to :

Star Wars Old Republic - should have been a single player game but ... EA ... turn it into a subpar online subscription game.
Guild Wars 1 and 2 - interesting quest system in GW2, very poor combat system, curse by stupid jumping puzzles.
Terraria - very meh
And I'm sure there's a bunch more that I've blocked from memory now.

But ... there's some times when I log into WoW, do a couple of quests and get hit by a feeling of wanting to throw myself off a building ... I have to be in the right mood for it. Although if I am in the right mood, I'll do more in a few hours than some players do in a week ...

XCom Enemy Within (the expansion) is the current Not-Warcraft. It's an aliens invade strategy game. That strategy bit is part of the appeal, it's turn based so if you are wanting a slower pace the game will wait for you. It is however ... insanely, brutally hard. I played one of the new scripted missions last night and it was so stressful I was merrily digging a new hole in my arm to join the other ones.

Settlers IV is another one, it has a slow relaxed pace. Not opened that for a while though.

Tomb Raider is one that's waiting for me, I will probably have a go at this after the Enemy Within campaign comes to a conclusion (I suspect that may not be long judging by current horrible-ness!)

There is a new trend though - early access. This is where the developer is up front and honest about their game not being done yet and sends it out into the world with a promise of "Give cash, will finish". It's a nice philosophy but it's dependent on the developer. Some are honest and will pile the time in, some dump and run. Looking at my Steam wishlist (and one that used to be on it) :

Star Lords - a space strategy (something I've always been dominated by)
Dungeon of the Endless - a sci fi randomly generated action game
Darkout and Maia - scifi base building colony games
Starpoint Gemini 2 - a starship command and role play game
Don't Starve - is still in my wish list - I think this actually got quietly released
Project Zomboid - zombie horror survival

All those look quite interesting, although I don't know why I haven't removed Don't Starve from the list. The YogscastSips playthrough was amusing but I don't know how much amusement I'd get out of it.

You have to be extremely careful though with these early access and Kickstarter things. Some, like Don't Starve, are commercial standard games. Better, because some are totally stable and have no bugs. (Battlefield 3 was unplayable on my new system due to bugs). Others, like Stardrive are a disastrous, unplayable buggy mess and are an example of a developer dumping his poo and running with the cash. If you see "Kalypso" anywhere, beware for similar reasons.

Youtube is pretty good as a way of checking these things out. If the game is a buggy mess, the youtuber will tell you. If it looks boring (Sim City), not even the most entertaining commentator can get you interested. If it looks amazing, then there tends to be a lot of excitement about it.

The one I'm very curious about right now is Rimworld. It's a colony building game again and it looks rather interesting. It's pre Alpha (barely playable and without many features) but looks solid.

I'll close there with a :
Years ago - all we had to go on was what was written in gaming magazines, which were often blatant lies built on advertising revenue. These were the people who made me buy Championship Manager 3, which was ridiculously poor. They also said it's next version was stable. It wasn't.
Now - youtube is a much more reliable source of information.

If you're looking at games and wondering whether to part with the hard earned cash ? Have a peek on youtube, see what people think of it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A to Z albums - A

You know me,

I can never stay away from music posts for too long. (He says chuckling away to himself)

It's been almost 2 months now since the Macbook Air arrived (time flies doesn't it ?) and how much of the library have I managed to get through ? Hmm. I've managed to listen to all but 1 of the A albums in that library so far ... Wow. That's either a lot of A albums or lots of random tracks piled in there in between.

Ok. It's a bit of both actually. I started being a bit more systematic in what I choose to play through, mostly because I like listening to albums as albums. Some like most of the earlier Kate Bush albums are made like that. They tell a story as they go through, they carry a mood through the album (Madonna's are like that). If it's Cardigans or All About Eve, there's amazing track after amazing track (listener preferences may differ - lol).

And there just happens to be a lot of A albums in the library (37 not counting the odd tracks).

That's actually far too many to mention them all. What's my highlights ?

Alisha's Attic have 2 entries. There's their first album (Alisha Rules The World) which established them as something rather different. 2 sisters with complementary and a little voices. Attitude. A touch of the weird. Huge dollops of Cool coming in for free. There's a reason I went by the pseudonym Alisha's Addict for a while.

(And it did feel a little strange when we had an Aleesha turn up at work one day to join the team - we'll miss her input when she moves on, smart girl).

The second Alisha's Attic is their Attic Vaults 1 album. AA didn't last very long, just 3 albums before they packed it in. They didn't get the recognition they deserved. Classy artists tend to get left behind while manufactured GirlBand and Boyband garbage gets the attention. The Attic Vaults album was going to be the first of a few which had their unreleased stuff but sadly only one came out. A pity because most Alisha's Attic B sides are far superior to the average output of your Boyband and Girlband trash.

(I'm leaving the youtube links out of this one - although I'd love to link you Wonderful U or On The B Side. Very happy songs).

Lily Allen's making a comeback (we hope) ! She gets in here with her first album Alright Now. If AA had attitude, Lily Allen/Cooper has even more. It's fun to listen to as well, although ... swear words ... makes you choosy about where you play it - lol - silly people getting offended.

Oldest one - All About Eve's self titled debut. What can I say. They had the gorgeous Julianne Regan as lead, who in her glamour-goth style with long dark hair and the voice of a siren had me utterly entranced. No one at school could compare (yep - long time ago, last century even) although Miss Rachel came close. It's 20 years old but it's still one of my favourite albums.

Gloria Estefan is in here too with Anything For You. It's a good album and Gloria Estefan is possibly even more gorgeous than Julianne Regan but ... I dunno. The songs were more consistently better from All About Eve.

There's the usual staples of most people's libraries in here too. There's the essentials like Lenny Kravitz Are You Gonna Go My Way, Guns n Roses with Appetite For Destruction and R.E.M. with Automatic For The People. However, I prefer listening to the female voice. Male vocals don't grab my attention in the same way (there's a reason why the Bitchin' Betty warnings in aircraft are in a female voice, we're wired to respond to it on an instinctive level).

What's different ? What won't you recognise ? What'll be new for you ?

Lene Marlin is another singer who I've followed for years. She's Norwegian, singing in English with that Scandinavian accent. They're mostly ballads although she'll go for the boppy, rocky songs too. Her voice is another amazing voice. Well worth a listen. I'm looking forward to when the rest of her albums come up in the queue, it's just been Another Day so far.

Talking about the angels ... Craziequeen introduced me to Mindy Gledhill with the Anchor album. If you're feeling down, listen to this or her newer album Pocketful of Poetry. I wasn't going to link anything but ... I dare ya. Listen to this one (Crazy Love) and try to avoid smiling.

This is getting near Wall of Text territory so ... more in there, which are decent but not true favourites :

Tori Amos - Abnormally Attracted To Sin
Tori Amos (again!) - American Doll Posse
Abba's third hits album
Kate Bush with Aerial - her last "good" album
Smash Mouth - All Star Greatest Hits (they gave some music to Shrek)
Paramore with All We Know Is Falling (decent debut album and they've improved since)
Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris - All The Roadrunning
(been tempted to try an Emmy Lou Harris album - dunno why I haven't yet)
Arctic Monkeys - AM (recommended)
Everything But The Girl - Amplified Heart (much better than Baby... which is trash)
Clannad with Anam
Pink Floyd with Animals (Weird, has lines about sheep rising up and fighting dogs by learning karate)
Rita Coolidge - Anytime Anywhere - this lady knew how to sing
Mansun - Attack of the Grey Lantern - these guys made a lot of great music

And I've not even mentioned the soundtracks ... Ok. Only one. There was a Beatles tribute film that came out a few years ago called Across The Universe. Unlike the abomination which was the Mamma Mia film, the actors and actresses in Across The Universe could sing and sing extremely well.

I'll close off with a highlight - "Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play ?" If you haven't seen Across The Universe, I'd highly recommend it. Oh and here's another link, just Because.

PS The world remembered a Titan today. RIP Nelson Mandela, we won't see someone as great as you for some time.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Watching the Watchers

We seem to be living in an ever increasingly overt world of surveillance these days ...

Everybody is watching everybody else but most of all, they're watching us.

It's scary isn't it ? If you believe the hype and scaremongering, there's computers out there going through everything we send, store or comment on over the internet looking for ... I dunno what. Lots of stuff. There's even spying happening on the data that wings its way between all those places where The Cloud and its data centres live.

We have the NSA and GCHQ getting caught doing their job (looking for terrorists) and we have other assorted people trying to get as much information as they can about us so they can sell us either advertising or actual products.

(And yes, I'm betting that this post will be one of those that gets a "Hey ! Buy My Stuff ! Read My Review !" - yep, they do capitalise like that - that you don't see because I delete and report them as the spam that they are).

They're all at it. The only difference between them is how honest they are about it and how they can justify it. While I can agree with the security people (heard of a bomb go off in the UK lately ? no, didn't think so) spying on us, it's a whole different story with the gang of 8 that's bleating at the moment.

Here's a Register story about it (link). The alliance of 8 includes :

AOL - don't know much about them
Apple - who have just enabled spyware on iPhones that bleats an advert if you go past something in the shop
Facebook - trust these guys with your info ? hell no !
Google - see Facebook. And they're not honest about the that will be spying on this blog without admitting to it on the Google hit counter. Or the Next-Blog button which I disabled a while ago, which still apparently works.
LinkedIn - assume they're looking for advertising
Microsoft - Kinect + always on. Nuff said, although there's much more from Microsh$ft.
Twitter - I avoid this like the plague. Cos it is. A plague of illiterate offensive idiots that is.
Yahoo - see Google.

Oh and most of the above don't pay their taxes like the rest of us. I'm kinda surprised Amazon haven't made it a gang of 9.

(I appear to be working my way into a rant - muahahahaha)

Yes. State sponsored surveillance is a Bad Thing in our modern liberal world. So are bombs and terrorists and people who get away with fraud that breaks banks and wrecks the lives of thousands. It's a Bad Thing but the alternative is much worse.

You can't justify surveillance in the name of advertising or commercialism like that. I can guarantee that everything I've posted online is stored and analysed by people like Amazon so they can target their ads and attempt to sell me stuff.

The offensive thing is that both groups are spying on everyone. They're doing it as part of their core business, however one group is honest about it whereas the other group says "Hey ! No fair !" when they're not allowed to have their own way. It just happens that the group that's bleating is the group that owns the news.

Do you get the feeling I hate advertising and everything associated with it ?

The answer is to limit your online exposure. This blog is written under a pseudonym and there's only one post here that says directly what I work on. The sitemeter counter is private because it would give clues for who I work for. I don't declare who I work for on Facebook, although it's guessable.

Be careful what you put online, it may be incredibly difficult to remove it when it hits the internet.

And .... a shift to the left !

I've been struggling over the past few days. Part of that is being desperate for the Xmas break (I'm shattered and running on fumes). Most of it is putting a hole in my tongue ... Think of a big tongue ulcer. And then think it's bigger than that.

Ouch !

I didn't eat much over the weekend, which isn't as bad as it sounds because I've put enough weight back on that I can miss a few meals and get away with it. Not for long though. It's improving now though. I've been ok with eating again, although it's been very difficult to talk at work today. Hopefully it'll be easier tomorrow.

On the other hand ... skin's improving ! Despite me "helping" it ...

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Spaced Out

There's a few interesting developments in the space world at the moment.

Waitaminute - are those two words (space and world) that should be used together seeing as one is ground and the other is void ?

I've been watching the news reports on the Indian space probe lately. There's two probes going to Mars at the moment, one from India, one from the USA. The Indian one made its people nervous because one of its several "Trans-Mars Injection" burns didn't go to plan.

I've written things about Kerbal Space program before (and I feel I have unfinished business with that game but it's far more amusing to watch the Scott Manley videos). It's simplified at the moment but it's still an incredibly good rocketry and orbital physics simulator. Definitely one where you have to think a bit with the navigation.

Anyway - it teaches you all sorts of things, me being one of those people who learns best by doing. It teaches things like :

Why the Indian probe needed several burns to get to Mars
Why it would split up the burns
Why they send probes to other planets at certain times/dates
Why it didn't really matter if it missed one

Firstly - the certain times and dates ... Everything in space has a path that it goes through. Everything around it influences that path, which makes everything go in slightly wonky ellipses. It's why we have tides, because the gravity of the moon pulls the water towards the moon. It takes time too for the planets to go around their orbits. You wouldn't want to launch your probe when Mars is on the opposite side of the sun. Or maybe you would ...

Things up there happen slowly. If you pointed a rocket towards Mars and hit the Go button, it would miss because in the time taken for it to get there, Mars will have moved around the sky quite significantly. Instead, you aim it towards where Mars will be when you think it'll get there and you factor in how much its path will be curved by the gravity of everything else up there.

There's a phenomenon called the Oberth Effect, which says that if you fire the rocket in orbit, it'll most affect the opposite side of the orbit. Hold up. 2 important terms : Periapse - closest approach, Apoapsis - furthest approach. Oberth means that to escape orbit, it's best to fire the rocket at Periapse because that's the best way of increasing that Apoapsis. And once the rocket is going fast enough, it achieves "Escape Velocity" and will be on its way to Mars.

So why split up the burns, why not go American Style and just do one ? Well - the American one had what all American transport has (lol - I'd love a V8 monster), a whopping big engine, while the Indian one was a bit more modest.

So the Indian one couldn't get all of the acceleration it needed out of the way in the short times it had at Periapse. It doesn't matter that it splits them up, as long as it can do it enough times to get to Mars while it still had fuel to get there.

I think that's enough orbital mechanics for now don't you ?

Yep. Brain. Fizzing. Cooking. Exploding.

Especially when you think of the insane calculations that go on to get the most efficient course to go. They'll factor in every bit of gravity they can to get their rocket in the right place at the right time, without bumping into any planets. If they're really clever, they'll make it fly by lots of different planets. Probes like Cassini-Huygens visited 3 planets (Earth, Venus, Jupiter) before reaching its final destination (Saturn) and when it got to Saturn, it checked out 9 moons. Most of that is set up by the rockets that fling it out there and the math to do it is absolutely insane. Kerbal Space Program is much simpler and orbital maneouvres in that tend to be rather more brute force.

One last bit - why do they bother being so efficient ? Cos it lets them squeeze as many instruments on to the probe as possible. More instruments means more weight, means more fuel needed to get them to the destination.

Ok - that's definitely enough for the nerdy stuff for tonight.

I was going to say something about gaming too. I have that unfinished business with Kerbal Space Programme, where I'd like to make rockets that check out the other planets. My main gaming time at the moment is with that old staple (9 years old ... cor) World of Warcraft. I'm playing on Silvermoon with ally characters. I'm missing the guys and the Hot Swedish Girls of the awesome Draenor guild but I'm enjoying playing through the story as an ally for the first time.

I have to say, since I started playing WoW it's got considerably easier. I thought I'd check this out by sending my character into Outland (where the first expansion is set) completely naked. Ok. Not completely, I let her keep the tabard for modesty. Did I have a problem ? Only with the pet battle. I don't think it'll be as easy when I get to the second expansion but a lot of the challenge has been removed from the game. And that's a big shame. Challenge makes it fun and the challenge as the game used to be was never too much.

I've been very tired lately though. I started playing on Monday evening and lasted a couple of quests before giving up due to tiredness. At the moment, I'm enjoying watching (actually listening) the Yogscast annual Xmas livestreams. I won't be watching all of those (their output varies, they have awesome people and annoying people) but I thought last night's with Hannah, Simon and Kim-Mandrew was hilarious. The videos by Hannah and Kim tend to be pretty special.

Thoroughly enjoyed that. It's gamers enjoying games and bringing you with them when they do. Quite restful too, except when they're playing horror games and unexpected sounds happen.

Right - over to the livestream :-) But ... random piccy !

Monday, December 02, 2013

Hunger and Games

There's a blockbuster out there at the moment ... you may have heard of it.

Yep - Hunger Games 2 - it's being hyped mercilessly (although not with the arrogance that is the intro to the Hobbit 2 trailer).

While I'm on Hobbit ... Pronunciation is weird here. English has a lot of inconsistencies in its language but it has its consistencies. Things like :
Caught, taught, haughty, naughty - pronounced with that "au" coming out like "or"

I can't think of any "au" sounds that come out differently. Until now. In their lacking wisdom, the Hobbit 2 people have decided that Smaug sounds like Smowg. I'd hesitate to even consider finding an alternate saying of Smaug that doesn't sound like smorgasbord. The way the Hobbit 2 people have done is it just plain Wrong.

I'll go see Hobbit 2 anyway, although it's tarnished by :
Arrogance of the producers (you will like our film, you will see it in 3d - no I won't)
Being overlong (that's a Peter Jackson thing)
And that pronunciation which will be annoying for eternity.

Oh - Hunger Games 2 - if you saw the first one and appreciated it in any way, this one is better in almost every way. The first was produced extremely well and made for one hell of a movie. It's very faithful to the book, although it removes some of the brutality that makes up the backstory. Be warned with HG2, that brutality is all there this time around and it's heavy stuff. Executions, torture, whippings, implied torture. Lots of stuff, some of which is shown. Be warned.

Hunger Games is set in a relatively distant future earth where a calamity has occurred that's redrawn the map and concentrated the population into a capital and districts. The rich/poor divide has extended to the point where the capital denizens are ridiculously pampered while the district populations are severely downtrodden. The districts are kept in line by the Hunger Games, which happens annually. Each district contributes 2 tributes, 1 girl, 1 boy, who join a fight to the death with the other tributes. The tributes are picked at random (mostly), with the odds being dependent on how much food the candidate requisitions. More food, more likely to be picked.

That's the basics at least, there's more in the books and the film. The upshot is that the capital is expressing their power by enforcing these games upon the populace.

There's a lot going on here too. The first introduces two characters, Hamitch and Effie. Hamitch is a veteran of a Hunger Games, Effie is the flowery fluffy person who picks the names. Their characters are very much drawn up by their experience. Effie is distant, Hamitch is a drunk suffering PTSD. They've both seen years upon years of kids being picked, trained and condemned to die. The first movie sees their first time where their kids have survived.

And you can see how it all affects them through the movie.

I've probably said too much already and given too many spoilers !

Go see it, it's worth it. Although it's highly recommended that you see the first one or read the book.

There's been some pretty good films out there, although if it's a choice between HG2, Ender's Game and Iron Man 3 (all big highlights of this year), I'd actually choose Pacific Rim. It's very silly but it's a lot of fun.

How have I been doing ?

Tired and sore pretty much sums it up. I'm drawing on reserves at the moment, as is usual for this time of year. I'm sore on the inside as well as resisting the urge to tear at the bits of skin that are still bad. However !

The skin is in the best shape it's been for over a year. It's mending. I just have to give it the chance to repair itself. I'm still not free of the need to occasionally hit the bad bits with gunk though. My insides have got better too - tummy bug - gone.

So - things are looking up, although I'd like that skin condition all gone instead of just doing the steps forward, steps back as always.

Not long left until Xmas and then the best time of the year comes around again. Yep. Mini Eggs will be back on sale soon. Hurrah !

PS This was supposed to have a little about gaming in. Doh ! I forgot and the post grew too long anyway. I shall save the Naked Outland story for another day ...