Monday, September 30, 2013

Shiny matters

Just spotted on the Facebook feed :
Firefly was always an incredible series, well worth watching if you missed out. It's very sad that it only got 14 episodes plus a movie.

Very shiny.

I'm getting my attention drawn to new shinies. I think I'll forget about changing the car, although the new IS300h is Very Shiny. It's just not something I need. My Lexus CT already does everything very well with a sense of style there too. The IS is faster but that's probably the only major advantage that would see me change. It's bigger (not necessarily a good thing) and costs more.

So I think I'll be resisting the temptation to change what is the best car I've owned and aim for a few years of payment holiday.

What shinies am I looking at then ? I'm seriously considering buying a Macbook.

I'm getting much closer to requiring a laptop change. The keyboard on this one is the major bugbear. It's suffered greatly due to my skin condition. But at least it's still chugging along, the HP I had before ate something which killed the fan and the design of the HP means that it would have needed a full strip and rebuild to change a £10 part.

The current laptop is an Acer and they are pretty solid on the build and design. That's despite what one reviewer I spotted said, he described Acer as "cheap". Yes, you can combine "cheap" with "solid" if you're smart about the design. I'd have another Acer laptop if they supplied them with an adequate resolution. (720p doesn't cut it for me - I want closer to HD)

The laptop target has steadily gone up and up in terms of the price I'd need to look at. Originally, I'd thought that £500 was too much, seems like inflation (and perhaps fashion) has affected the cheap value laptop market. Anyway, the prices have shifted that much that it puts the likely price in Macbook range ... And I'm tempted. I could get a refurb Macbook Air 13.3inch with a 256GB SSD for just under £1000.

That's still a lot of cash but - Oooooo shiny. And it's not Windows 8.

We shall see on the laptop. But - closing out with more Shininess :

First day back at work today and it was a hectic one. I had barely enough time to catch my breath and check for super urgent emails before disappearing into a meeting from 10am to almost 2pm. But. I did get the chance to check in with someone very special before that.

And I got cake. And a grin as I was walking back to my desk. And, even though I had to neglect my cake to disappear off to that meeting, a little taste of awesome when I escaped for lunch.

And I now have that memory of the taste coming back - absolutely lush. The cakes were made for a birthday - I passed a message over on Facebook but those cakes earn another : "HAPPY BIRTHDAY !" for someone who turned 21 again last Monday.

Good day today. I think it was productive, hopefully we'll get a chance to buy what we were talking about. Combined with a chance to have a little catch up with someone special and polish it off with truly awesome cake.

Yep - good day, if only all the leaky bits of me would stop being leaky !

Sunday, September 29, 2013

There ... and back again

Back home again now after a sojourn away in Cornwall.

Decent week :-) Lots of chilling out with a couple of special friends. To be honest, I'm still not back to what I should be but it's either getting closer or I'm getting a false picture because of the antibiotics. I was still leaking for the first few days, had trouble sleeping for all of it (I don't sleep well in unfamiliar conditions) but on the whole, I'm a hell of a lot better than I was a fortnight ago.

So what did we get up to ? Firstly :
Yep. There was an escapee who came back with me. He'll be my avatar for the next little while, although he'll be escaping again to be a raffle prize in a couple of weeks.

Here's the town where we stayed :
It's a place called Looe. Our cottage was on the hill up above. Good place - clean air, lots of quiet. Having sporadic internet access was a downer, although to be honest I probably spend too much time on the interwebs anyway. Oh - the Tom Sawyer pub was in easily walking distance and I think all 3 of us would happily recommend it, although the bright and breezy Kianna from the hotel next door wins the waitress of the week prize.

Sunday saw chill out and a walk into Looe, Monday was supposed to be a bit of an indulgence for me seeing a ship but I wasn't feeling too great. I joined the others for a walk around Polperro instead. I was soooo close to buying a few trinkets to bring back with me but that not feeling great caught up with me. Meh.

Crash time ... I can go into a kind of survival mode, where my energy ends up at its lowest level. I guess the lack of sleep catches up. I'm still capable of doing stuff in survival mode but I clamp down and shuffle my resources into keeping going. I go quiet and desensitize. But I'm still able to concentrate on what I'm doing, even if the ability to make decisions like "Shiny !!! Buy now" is fuzzy.

Ok - Polperro Monday, chillout at Looe on Tuesday. We had a look at more of the town on Tuesday and came away with more loot.

Wednesday, Wednesday, what was Wednesday ... (Quick peek on Facebook !) Ah ha ! Plymouth.

We got away with it on the weather fronts for most of the week but Wednesday in Plymouth was a tad different. Very wet. We hid in the National Aquarium for a while before paying a visit to the Hoe Memorial. While we were there, HMS Somerset swept by while doing a boat transfer :
(Ship name brought to you by the magic of the AIS device!)

Thursday was more chill out. I'm not the only one of us who's suffering at the moment. I appreciate the chill out days. Friday saw us heading to the tip of Falmouth for a look at Pendennis Castle. When you go to see castles in the UK, it's rare to see them in as good condition as Pendennis. It started as a fort in the 1600s to protect the coastal approaches from foes like the Spanish Armada and saw life in World War 2 as a coastal battery.

It's well worth a look if you find yourself nearby.

So - that's my week. I'm sure I'm leaving lots out. Like the books I read through and how the car handled the roads (lots of hills).

I'm in a lot better condition now than I was, a lot of the damage has repaired and some of my skin is now ridiculously smooth, despite me not using the recommended moisturiser. I'm still needing to be very careful though because I have a bad habit of damaging it myself. I urgently need to ditch that habit. I'm also hoping that it's not yet another false dawn, where the antibiotics hold the infection at bay until they run out.

Back to work tomorrow - which means banter with the canteen staff over teacakes and cookies. Catch up with the work people. And hopefully a chance to catch up with some very special friends.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Just going out for a while ...

You know how the rest of that one goes don't you ?

It's just for a week and it's in a place that's far more hospital than the place where that famous (infamous?) saying was coined.

I've got a good little support group down in Bristol and the core people in it like to get away from things every so often. That time's come again, with 3 of us heading down to Devon for a week. No work*, no laptops, just getting away from the stress of modern life (us and our First World problems ? lol) and chilling out for a bit.

*I say no work but I'm highly likely (95%) to make the hop across to one of our offices on Monday. It's one I've never visited before and they have Very Shiny Kit there. And people I've been needing to talk to. I'm not seeing that as work though, I really enjoy the visits where we get to see kit and that's coming from a "what's there now, who's new, what do we need next ?" point of view. They're really useful visits from a learning and connecting point of view.

I'm hoping I can recharge the batteries. They're sorely depleted at the moment from :

a) Skin problem
b) Breathing problem

The skin problem is one that readers here will know far too much about. I'm pleased to say that since the doctor visit, I'm back to mostly Pasty White Petey Goodness again. The condition under the surface has improved immeasurably. I just need to give my arms a chance to catch up.

However - I've seen this kind of improvement before, it comes with the antibiotics. I'm just hoping that it stays cleared up after the antibiotics run out.

Breathing problem is something new - I find it very hard to sleep with even the slightest wheeziness. And I appear to have run out of Benedryl antihistamines (oops). I think it's from a cold, which I always seem to run into at the start of a leave period. Plus someone at work had bugs ... It'll come right.

The breathing is ok for me to be singing along to Kate Bush's The Kick Inside album coming from the laptop.

Yep. I've already packed up enough that the LittleWhiteBox that links laptop to hifi is already in a bag somewhere.

Aye - you read that right. I actually did some packing last night instead of leaving it all to this morning. I must be feeling ill ;-). There's still a little to do but that's the stuff that has to go in bags at the last minute (medicines) that you always forget.

What's the plan other than an immense amount of chilling out ? Cos being cooped up for too long gives you cabin fever :

Hunt for music
Hunt for books
Hunt for more t-shirts

Basically wanders around the local tourist trap areas and hunt for shinies.

I'll put in a few updates through the week because we have a couple of methods of getting mobile access open to us. But I'll close up with two things :

Happy Birthday to a very dear friend ! This message is for Monday ...
And a hearty see you next week. Or in about an hour if you're coming too (2 of my regular readers are coming)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy scatteryness

I went to the doc's again yesterday.

I know, I know, it was much overdue. But I am terrible at doing things that benefit my own health.

The result (and without going into too many details !) was :
More diet* pills
More goop
Even more goop
Less messiness on my legs
And more pasty-white goodness coming back

Yep. As is usual for going on the diet* pills, I've seen instant improvement in my condition. Trouble is though, every other time I've been on them, the condition worsens again after I run out. We shall see this time around, I'm looking more into tracking the allergies this time around. I have a blood test coming there too, will be curious to see what the result is.

It's just in time too, the weather here has turned colder ...

* They're not actually diet pills. They're antibiotics. However ... with a 4 times a day, 3 hours no food each time pattern, they may as well be diet pills. Hey, it's a good discipline to have, it works out to 3 meals a day (with the 4th being while you're asleep) and a cutting down on the all hours grazing on junk.

So that's me improving, hopefully it'll stick this time.

Next up - work. Oh dear. We've been "tech refreshed". Note they don't say "upgrade". The base units seem ok at the moment but when they change our systems to Windows 7, as is threatened, they will struggle for memory. This laptop has 3GB of memory and is sitting at 930MB free with Firefox, Outlook, Skype, iTunes and Steam running. If that hits 500MB, Windows complains bitterly and I have to close applications. That shouldn't happen, there's a technique called "Virtual memory", where the memory available to Windows is expanded virtually with applications getting put on the hard disc instead of in actual memory. The new machines have just 2GB.

The big awful though is the screen. We've been inflicted with HP Elitemonitor 201s, which have a multitude of flaws :

Widescreen - this is an entertainment setup, not a business setup. Widescreen means less height to work with. For business, a 17" 4:3 is more useful than a 20" widescreen, it has more useful area.
Resolution - if it's a 20" screen, it should be able to do 1080p. That's 1080 vertical lines. These can only do 900.
Pixel bleed - this is the really crippling thing. It's where coloured, lit pixels bleed into the ones next door. We're usually working with black text on white, so those white pixels bleed onto the black and make the text unreadable.
Update rate - this is where you move things around on the screen and have disorienting effects from the after images.

I'll see how it goes before seeing if I need a replacement screen. My eyes were misbehaving today, probably due to it being hayfever season still.

I ended up at the Mall yesterday after a day working at home (around the doctor visit). Firstly, if you liked the first 2 Riddick films, the third is worth watching. It starts slow but accelerates into something very, very good. Almost as if they needed to dump baggage from Chronicles (good film, bad endgame). I'd already arranged to see Riddick and wanted to put a couple of fingers up to my condition by getting out of the house (I wasn't great yesterday, much improved today).

I am sooo close to getting a Macbook. It'll be a Macbook Air, 13" refurbished last generation Macbook Air. It just ticks all the boxes :
Enough resolution on the screen
iTunes compatibility
SSD hard disc as a massive bonus
Avoidance of the abomination that is Windows 8

Just one problem - £869. I'd prefer not to spend half that on a laptop.

But ... with laptop prices going up in general, it may happen. Especially as the keyboard on this one is getting so much worse.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On Grudges ... and holding on to them too long

I often write about getting Big Grins from people.

Even random people. They'll spot my weird grin, possibly see me catching their eye and they can't help themselves but grin back. I like my grin. It cheers people up.

But not everyone ...

My last ex, Ravenwolf, works in the same set of buildings as me. She actually works in a similar line of business looking after similar kit, although there's a world of difference between what I do and what she does. (I'm there to contribute brainpower).

Ravenwolf never smiles back, she barely acknowledges my presence now. That gets me wondering : "What did I do that was so bad that she hates me that much ?"

I dunno.

I believe the break up was fairly clean, although it took longer than both of us wanted to settle accounts (naughtiness from a solicitor who wanted to take business to his new practice). There was a small matter of house equity to split up. I think she wanted me out of the house. But I didn't want to move, so I bought her out. Yes, I've never mentioned it here before, not mentioned it to many people but Ravenwolf walked out of that relationship with a lot of cash. A serious amount of cash. The house had gained enough equity that it was a 5 figure sum.

That was all she cared about, apparently. Getting the settlement. She also walked straight into another relationship which I suspect started a few months before the actual break up. I could never prove that so I never made an issue of it. But I still had my suspicions.

I was similarly angry for such a long time, before dismissing that anger to the place it belongs - not my head. Grudges are a cancer on the soul. They do nasty things to you. They twist you up and eat you from the inside. I have to admit that I'm no angel there but I've managed to put this particular hate/grudge to rest.

It really confuses me when people react the negative way. Perhaps the hate has become so much of a habit that she can't see the good. I like to think I helped her out over the years we were together, although I do know she was sinking deeper into a depression that I didn't know how to fix.

I have a strange type of empathy, I pick up on what other people are feeling. Sometimes it hits me like an actual blow. Like when someone I care about is hurting that bad, I pick up on it and feel sick to my stomach and I nearly get the tears too.

Other times I've had too much coffee and am bouncing off the walls so much I can't detect any glimmer of it. Then I say completely the wrong thing and upset people. Sorry !

But it did upset me a bit when Ravenwolf and I were waiting in the sandwich queue. I know she could see me but there was no glimmer of a wave or anything resembling friendship or even basic recognition. Come on - she got a clean break with the settlement she wanted and I left her alone after. What's to be upset about after 8 years.

Life is too short to keep enemies that don't need to be in that hostile group. That's the philosophy I applied to her new bloke, who plays for the cricket team I'm avoiding next year (they don't look after players). I think it shocked him when I took up our cricket based friendship without skipping a beat. Admittedly, I'd had 3 years out of the team to cool down ;-).

I do think my own reasons for agreeing to the split were correct. I was shocked but I too was looking for a graceful way out. I couldn't see a future in the relationship. I was needing to use my diplomatic skills rather too much to cover up for the partner. And I was running out of ideas for how to keep her out of her depression.

And most important - you have no right to force someone to stay with you against their will. That's ultimate cruelty.

I'll leave it there with me knowing that my own conscience is clear and it's not the reason I'm losing sleep at the moment ... (attempt at doctor visit coming again tomorrow)

PS There was compensation for not getting the grin from Ravenwolf. The Judge visited our place today and I got a Huge Smile from her. She was jealous of my hat (it was raining). I suspect a hug may have been coming if she hadn't been rushing for the train ...

Monday, September 16, 2013

PC Silliness


Been toying with this idea for a while and someone at work prompted me into it by telling me how much one of their contacts pays for his laptops (£7000 each ...). How much could you actually spend on a desktop PC ? I'll take it back to the real world at the end.

I'm setting three rules for this one :
Everything has to go into just the one box
It has to be air cooled*
Bits that don't really contribute anything get left out

*Water cooling is a genuine option for PCs these days (and I'd like to see it come back for the kit we buy at work too!) but for domestic PCs, I think it's more trouble than it's worth. It still needs fans, it needs a pump. Expensive air cooling can still do a similar job.

All these prices come from Novatech UK. I trust these guys, they're cheap, have a good range and most important, they're just down the road from where I live.

Before going into the gubbinsy bits, every PC is built on a foundation. The box has to be big enough to fit everything with lots of room for cooling air to get around it. The power supply has to be meaty enough to do the job.

Foundation -
Case : Zalman Z11 Plus : £53
Cooling : Zalman CNPS12X Ultimate Performance : £66
(honestly, a cooler that costs more than the box is Silly - £40-£45 is a target price for a cooler, just make sure it has a BIG fan. Big fan = slow fan = peace & quiet)
Optical drive : Pioneer blu ray writer : £62
Power supply : Corsair Professional AX1200i : £269
Total - £335

I like Zalman bits. I've used them for a long series of desktop PCs. Never used one of their cases though. The power supply is incredibly silly but the most important rule in PC building is : "Never, ever skimp on the power supply". The power supply has to be strong enough to support what you put in the box, plus it has to be resilient enough to not break anything else if it goes bang. This is critical again, one of my older boxes had a power supply expire, which took the cd drive and sound card with it and damaged the hard disc.

I've chosen Corsair because of more brand loyalty, my current desktop has a 600W Corsair psu which hasn't missed a beat. However, I'd be very wary about putting a second graphics card in the machine, I'm not sure if 600W is beefy enough for that. It would cost a more reasonable £60 today, rather than the £270 which is more expensive than a cheap laptop.

Engine -
Motherboard : Gigabyte G1.Sniper Z87 board : £360
(target price for a motherboard is £100 - £150 but ... this is a Silly PC!)
Memory : G.Skill 32GB (4x8GB) DDR3-PC19200 : £256
Processor : Intel i7-4770k : £270
Graphics : 2x EVGA GeForce GTX780 : 2x £570

Total : £2026

The "engine" is where the most component selection mistakes happen. The motherboard is the core of the "engine", with everything slotting into it. So a Socket 1150 board will take an Intel "Haswell" i3/5/7-4000 series chip but will not take the older Socket 1155 "Sandy Bridge" chip I have in my desktop. They're based around a "chipset", which is code for the glue that connects everything together. I couldn't go brand loyalty again here (no Asrock in the Novatech list), so it's a Gigabyte board.

And they take specific types of memory. I couldn't put the memory from my current desktop into my old desktop, it wouldn't fit in the socket. Here it's "DDR3", with that PC19200 saying how fast it can go. This is silly time again, as you only use that kind of speed if you're burning out the machine trying to run it far past the design specs. 32GB of PC12800 DDR3 costs £204. Curious ... memory has got more expensive ...

Storage :
SSD : 2x Crucial M500 : 960GB : 2x £470
Yes. You can get solid state device drives with almost 1TB. That's Nuts.
Bulk storage : 2x Hitachi Deskstar 4TB : 2x 165
Chose the Hitachi because it has the highest rpm. This means a faster data rate and less time to find what you want on it.

Total : £1270

The drives are in pairs to take advantage of something called RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Discs). The setup I'd use is RAID 1 for the SSDs and a separate RAID 1 again for the bulk storage. What RAID 1 does is have both drives containing exactly the same thing. So if one drive breaks, you lose nothing.

And ... other bits :
Sound card : Creative labs Sound Blaster ZxR - £190
Cos you want those blu-rays sounding crisp and the only extra noise you want to hear from the gaming is the fans inside the case. Normally, I wouldn't consider adding a sound card to what's in the motherboard but - Silly PC rules.
Centre Monitor : Iiyama 27" touch screen : £613
Left & Right Monitors : Iiyama 27" 4k screens : £516

Total : £1835

There's a 65" Iiyama monitor in Novatech too but ... 65" is kinda intimidating. I'd have serious feelings of inadequacy if I got something that massive. Plus I'd get a terrible neck ache from looking left and right at it. Seriously though, I tried playing WoW on my 32" telly and gave up quickly because I couldn't read the small text at the viewing distance necessary to see the screen properly. 65" would be incredible for the blurays though.

Extra silliness would come from what people would want to spend on keyboard, mouse, steering wheel, joystick. Those have gone into truly Silly territory these days, to the point where I refuse to replace my aging keyboard and mouse because I know that what's for sale was 1/10th the price 10 years ago. It's just been inflated to Fashion Victim price levels.

What's the total ?

A cool £5466 plus £120 for Windows 8 Pro (Win8 to take advantage of the touchscreen). Hurrah ! I can still break £5000 :-). That's a very silly price though and a rather silly spec. For a domestic gaming machine, the following wouldn't break the bank :
i5-4670K, one GeForce 760, 8GB Ram, 128GB SSD + 1TB drives, 23" monitor. Target price £900

I could have hit £10k+ easily (the 65" screen costs £3800) but there's a point where Stupidity overtakes Silly. Like getting entertainment format widescreen monitors for the office. WHY ?

Back to reality ...

I'm seriously considering a Macbook for my next laptop. They pretty much meet the important bits of the spec (at least 900 lines and iTunes compatibility) and would let me break from Windows. The one problem is cost. There's a refurbished Macbook Air with a 256GB hard disc for £870. That would fly ... and have enough room for my iTunes library. But it's double what I wanted to spend.

We shall see. Decisions ... decisions ...

PS This extended post has happily let me avoid England steadily grinding to a loss (it's not over yet but ... 9 an over to win) in the cricket. And it's got nothing about my health in it ! I've talked too much about that lately.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Plan B Time

I had a plan for tonight ...

It involved finishing up at work, getting home and ensconcing myself in front of the cricket. It was due to start at 2pm, so I wouldn't have missed too much of the game. However ... British weather intervenes ...

Seriously - who would schedule international cricket in England in September ? It's doomed ! Doomed I tell you ! Oh - this is the same people who scheduled back to back home and away series for England not once (India), not twice (New Zealand) but at least 3 times (Aussie). We want some variation in who we see England play.

At least that insanity breaks up after the Down Under leg of the Ashes tours. But this did tickle my grin :
(apologies if that appears multiple times - Google is throwing a wobbly)

So - no cricket. What was Plan B ?

Well - after a not so good day yesterday, today was a lot better. I managed to leave myself alone and felt a lot better through the day. I still ended up needing to walk with a semi limp to protect the skin around my left knee but ... much better today.

Oh - I also had more than my fair share of very fair ladies smiling at me through the day. It's not just the smiles though, it's the interaction. We try to look out for the people who pay our wages and we do that by keeping a certain spirit of cooperation going within the team. It's to make sure we're in the strongest position to get the most out of our contractors. They do it too.

That's probably a bit of an unfair statement though, as one aspect I especially concentrate on is to try and break down the barriers between everyone I work with on a project. I want everyone on the same page thinking towards Ultimate Shininess, whether they work for my organisation, my customer or whether they're the ones delivering to us. We all want Ultimate Shininess but we have different pressures that can get in the way.

Ultimate Shininess is a good thing - but you have to know exactly what you want. It can be something that's completely ordinary, it can be the best in the world at what it has to do. My Lexus CT is Shiny but there were other Lexus hybrids that were shinier in terms of performance. The GS450h has a 0 to 60 of about 7 seconds. That's shiny. But the car is also way too expensive to buy and insure and is bigger than what I'm comfortable with. It's Shiny ... but it's not exactly what I want.

And that sums up the main activity of this evening - looking at laptops (and not buying) again.

It was the last day of the PC World sale tonight, so off I pop for a wander over at the Mall. To be honest, there's not much I'm looking to buy at the moment. I've got the newly released blurays I want, the new albums I want are more than I'd want to pay for them and the laptops don't fit the requirement.

What am I looking for in a laptop ?

Cost - less than £500. We are getting gouged on prices ... the only way to avoid that is to Not Buy.
Screen resolution - at least 900 lines. All the 15" laptops are 768 lines, which isn't good enough.
Touchscreen ? don't care. Don't think I'd use it enough to justify the price.
Size ? Doesn't matter as long as the resolution is up to the job. Trouble is, to get 1080p in a 15" means Apple or a custom build.
Reliability ... this is a biggie, it's why Dell aren't being considered despite them having a 17" laptop which is definitely perfect* spec

*(there's just a small matter of a wifi card with questionable performance and considering that the number 1 job of my laptop is to stream music over wifi to my speakers ...)

So - tempting offer but I'll leave it.

There's another factor there - so many times we're convinced into parting with cash when we don't actually need to. Sale on sir, get it while it's cheap. Nope. I'll stick with what I have, it fits what I want better than your sale item and it has more life left in it.

Still. If I see £1 per Wispa Bites packet type sales, you know what's going to happen. It's inevitable. And yes, I did empty a shelf of them on Monday. (There were only 4 packets left on the shelf - honest)

Looking forward to a few things now :

Holiday time ! 7 more days of work then it's off to Devon for a week's chilling out. Although I may do a work visit on one day because I'll have a chance to see something that's Pretty Cool. It's work related so I can't say what it is (although I'll answer on the Facebook link post because that's locked down).
Listening to the Goldfrapp album, from what I've heard so far it's a good one.
Listening to the Rachel Sermanni album. Ditto. (I cracked cos of getting £2 worth of Amazon credit)
Watching the rest in the Iron Man movie series, Iron Man 3 hasn't arrived just yet.
The PHO event in October.
Being healthy again - it's improving, I just have to avoid "helping".

To close - I ended up in the Apple store for some reason. I was checking out the Macbooks.

Yes. Very Shiny indeed. Also very expensive. I said above : "Cost less than £500". Macbooks are seriously more expensive, although they do support the primary need that stops me looking to ditch Windows for Linux : iTunes.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Pain ... and gain ?


This one's all about me again folks.

I'm in that curious place where I'm both feeling worse and better. On the one hand, my muscles are deciding they want to play games with me at every opportunity. Torture games. I'm incredibly prone to cramp right now. An unguarded turn of the shoulders to spot who's said hello can go from "Hi - arrggg" very quickly.

It's in my legs too and I was back to having extreme trouble writing things down again today. Yep. The cramp is so bad that I'm having trouble holding a pen. I may try a smaller pen.

So yeah, I'd have every right to be highly miserable right now.

But I'm not. In fact, my core mental state is probably the opposite of miserable. (Probably that manic side of the manic-depressive cycle). I'm enjoying it while it lasts but I do know that it started the upcycle when I started taking the vitamin tablets.

Note for Internet Doctors - taking vitamin tablets does not automatically make you happy. In fact, a good few years ago I was taking multivitamin + Iron tablets and I turned nasty. Personality change over a week of taking them, followed by snapping back to Angel Pete not long after stopping them. No - the happy vitamin time is most likely more due to my body having the materials it needs to repair itself again.

Yep - I should be taking those vitamins through a healthy balanced diet with fruit and veg but ... I need that allergy test before I can attempt that, seeing as I'm pretty sure that lettuce (and quite possibly cabbage) caused the allergies to flare up before.

How is that body doing ?

It's making good progress. The back of my knees are still quite sore but they're improving too. I just hope that the improvement stays consistent over this week and then we'll take it from there.

There's an autoimmune (where the body attacks itself) skin condition out there called Psoriatic Arthritis (PA). I've got some friends who suffer from it and a few of the symptoms match. I don't think I have it. (Phew ! It has very nasty under the surface effects). The symptoms match but the body attacking itself is not an autoimmune thing, it's more an "honour" thing where I'm the one responsible for causing the damage. And yes, there's a little voice inside saying "what the HELL are you doing ?" when I'm inflicting that damage.

But my discipline is improving and so is my skin.

If you know anyone with PA, support them. They're acutely aware of how they look and they'll be as embarassed as hell about that. And behind how it looks, be aware of how much pain they're in. The same Nasties that are attacking the outsides are also attacking the insides of the joints. That's pure pain. And not just any pain, it's the constant low level pain that steals sleep and the acute sharp pain that comes with moving.

I don't think I have it and one reason I'm glad about that is the treatment. Not only is it a nasty illness, the treatment is bad too. Our immune systems keep us healthy, some treatments involve wiping out that immune system. Whereas I've been able to keep going to work, if I'd had to go that far, I'd have been a virtual prisoner inside the house. And I crave interaction.

Back to happy !!!

Said the person who's just sung along to River City People's version of California Dreamin' (iTunes semi-random pick!)

Yeah. I've been much improved lately. The skin condition is fading back. Some areas are almost repaired again. Long may that trend continue. They're not totally fixed yet and I won't be comfortable until they are. But they are genuinely improving.

And my mental state is much improved too. I could do without the cramp. I think that's me needing to be drinking lots of water to help the skin rebuild - the repairs are getting first pick, leaving the muscles to be thirsty. And my muscles have always hated that.

I've been more playful over the emails and over the communicator thingys. Some of the old sparkiness is coming back. It's been hiding lately. It's been hiding again but that's because of sequences like this morning :

Miss G (inspiration lacking for codenames but - she's one of the cute ones) walks down the floorplate, innocently going past my desk.
I'm on the aisle so Meerkat Tendency makes me look up and grin
Miss G catches the grin and smiles back
Smiles broaden
And it leads to a friendly "wot ?" and me saying "morning" before commencing to hide again behind the monitor

Yep. Katie's Shy Boy still fits. But I still have that power to make people smile in an answer to my own silly grin.

It's good to have that grin back. It's like my own special super power. Everyone has their own special super power, it's in there even if they don't know, realise or recognise it. But it's there.

You all have your own special brand of awesome. Remember that :-)

(See ? happier frame of mind - I CAN'T HELP IT - sorry)

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Bring on the music

Couple of things on today :

Strictly Come Dancing is back ! And it's the Last Night Of The Proms.

I didn't watch Strictly regularly until last year, when it well and truly caught the attention. There was a good selection of celebrities taking part that year and you genuinely didn't know who'd win and who'd knock you over (in a good way) on the night. Not so convinced this year, we shall see what we shall see.

They have some marvellous dancers too ...

Quote from Yveta : "Music does something special to me, I just have to dance". Music kinda does something special to me too, I'm always wanting to sing along (but keeping it in check due to ultimate shyness)

The music tends to be pretty good on Strictly. They have a house band for the dancing with guests coming in too. The quality varies somewhat (the house band is good but not great and can butcher some songs). But it definitely has me turning off the TV speakers and routing the audio through my proper hifi.

Noticed that ? I've never heard a TV that sounds passable, let alone anywhere near good. But then again, I've been spoiled by having proper hifi for many, many years.

This year's Strictly has Sophie Ellis-Bextor on, who I developed a dislike of when she was more current in the singing business. Not really sure why, as she was very, very good. Great tone and kept the timing. And her "Read My Lips" album is on Amazon for £3.65 with free MP3 download. Don't mind if I do.

Also means I have an excuse to preorder Goldfrapp's new album and Iron Man 3.

Still watching Strictly but coming later is an annual event : Last Night of the Proms.

For the uninitiated, this is an unabashed celebration of Britishness. It's a concert with some of the best of British classical music. It has Jerusalem, it has the Sea Shanties. It has the Pomp and Circumstance marches. And ... most important ... it has the audience participation.

It's worth watching and joining in with. It's silly ... and it's uplifting.

And I'm thoroughly looking forward to it.

How's me ? I seem to be improving - finally ! There's still a lot of damage but it seems to be finally repairing (that'll be the vitamin tablets) I've added another thing to my Suspicious Of Allergy list too - bacon flavour crisps. Shame that. I liked those.

I've not been back to the doctor for a while. But I'm hoping that when I do (soonish), I can ask for an allergy test with enough of me in factory spec for it to give worthwhile results. Why go back though if my skin is repairing ? I'm having other physical issues which are slowing me down :

Back - is not healthy at the moment.
Shoulder - is more restricted than it was.
Hip - this is the big one, something's not right in there and can make it painful to walk around.

But as with the rest of it, I'll see how it goes there and manage it best I can. I'm looking forward to putting the skin condition behind me, although I think I'll have a lasting legacy of needing to look after it more. It's being very easy to cause it damage which then takes way too long to heal. I'm still not convinced that some bits actually want to heal. We shall see. If they're still bad next week, I'll get them checked out.

Think on that note, check this out : If this ain't love ...

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Looking for ... laptop ?

Ok - I was looking for Serenity the other day. Still not there yet but getting closer.

I could do with more uninterrupted sleep, aided by me worrying the bad bits of me a bit less. (Itch leads to scratch leads to more itch leads to no sleep) I am improving, I just have to avoid making it worse because I can make it worse much quicker than it gets better.

But I was feeling good enough yesterday evening to go hunting up at the Mall. (For more than laptops). First stop - PC World and a peek at their laptops. Not much joy here, they were ripping up their laptop area, presumably in preparation for the next ones coming in. Keeping an eye on it as there's another week of a £100 cashback offer.

Besides - they're not selling what I want at the moment. I've pretty much eliminated being interested in anyone's laptop except Acer. We've had good times with Acer kit, they've done well for us. This one is coming up to 4 years old and is still going strong. Ok, it's not good with the HD video but it still copes with everything else I throw at it. It could do with the keyboard being attacked with cleany stuff though.

What's on offer ? 14 or 15" laptops (or a Shiny 13" ultrabook) with or without touchscreens. That's ok - but I want more lines on my screen than these laptops have. I don't really care about a touchscreen. Down that road leads grubby screens from fingerprints. I do care about having a proper HD screen and that's because of apps like iTunes which don't let you change the text size. I may have a fight with iTunes anyway because I fully intend to put an old version on because they took a leaf out of Microsoft's book and make v11 an abomination.

So - they're not selling what I want at the moment but there's two more reasons why I'm not buying right now :

The old laptop is still going strong (just about)
The new laptop cost more than I want to spend.

This laptop cost £450, the touchscreen 15" Acer costs £600 with a £100 discount. That's a lot of cash. Perhaps it's inflation over the 4 years I've owned the laptop but you know what ? Computer prices don't really change. The specs change but the prices don't. With the desktop bits lists I build, the "acceptable" spec changes according to the time but they always end up around the same price. Unless I play with a very silly spec, in which case I can put the price in the thousands. Yet they're asking us to pay a lot more for laptops now than I think we should be.

Yep. I have fun sometimes with those bits lists, although they're not as exotic as they used to be. Multiple SSD drives just isn't the same as pricing up a second tower to contain a 7 drive SCSI array.

Ok ok - too geeky ? Maybe :-)

But. I wasn't seriously looking for a laptop last night, there's just that tantalising offer there.

I was however ... looking for blurays. There just happened to be a major movie release yesterday (Star Trek Into Darkness) and I'm now watching the first movie in prep for the second (not tonight, maybe tomorrow). The new Trek movies have violently divided opinion. Some people think they're a worse abomination than Office 10 or Windows 8. Some people think they're a fresh reimagination.

I liked what they did with the second in particular. I'm looking forward to watching it again.

I also picked up Oblivion, which was a cracker. And HMV happened to have a 4 for £10 offer on multiple formats going, so I now have copies of the music from the Olympics closing ceremony, Tori Amos' Gold Dust, Predators and Unstoppable. They're not the greatest of media but they were still pretty good.

And it got me out of the house for a while - never a bad thing :-) I'll be back there next week for another peek at laptops but also to pick up a few things :

Iron Man 3 - yes !
Goldfrapp - Tales of Us (looking forward to more awesome)
Arctic Monkeys - AM (maybe - good but not full price good)
Doctor Who series 7 soundtrack

And there I go singing along to the Star Trek music again. It'll be Michelle Shocked not too long after it finishes.

PS I may go to PC Specialist and get one of these (link). Shiny ! And with a superduper HD screen too. The spec I'd want is £573 though, still pricey.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Looking for Serenity

There seems a dearth of stuff on telly at the moment ...

(With the serenity thing, I'll talk a little about me later)

As a scifi fan, it used to be that we'd be blessed with lots of competition for our attention when it came to new stuff on the telly. At one point, we had 3 concurrent series of Star Trek, Babylon 5, Farscape, Earth Final Conflict and a bunch of other notables. Now, the only current scifi I'm watching is Falling Skies (the others are on a break).

Don't get me wrong, Falling Skies is very high quality scifi. It keeps you guessing as to what's going on. It has outstanding pacing for each episode. It's consistent with itself and the rules it sets. But there used to be a lot more on. (There is - I'm ignoring Continuum now and gave Under the Dome a miss).

What we do have is an awful lot of good scifi in the cinema this year. Oblivion was a major highlight. Pacific Rim was great fun (if very silly). I'll be getting Star Trek Into Darkness quite soon after the blu-ray comes out. I missed out on Man Of Steel. Iron Man 3 was a fitting finish to that trilogy. And the latest was Elysium, which had a lot of good things to tell about it. (I may do a mini review / major tech analysis of Elysium sometime)

What else ? Looking forward to Riddick. I'm not convinced by the plotline but Vin Diesel's Riddick is a very watchable character. Mortal Instruments ... should be a good bit of fantasy. Rush will be awesome if it's as good as the Senna movie. The second Hunger Games movie will hopefully live up to the first. Thor should be amusing.

But at home, I'm in the strange position of running out of stuff to record. My series link list is currently :

Formula 1 Grand Prix - on BBC of course
Stargate Atlantis repeats - until end of this week
Body of Proof - this is still quite amusing
Falling Skies - catch this from the start if you can, it's worth it
Strictly Come Dancing - I may even watch the dailies this time round too
And Castle just disappeared off it because it's run ended.

I'll keep myself amused by finally catching up with the various series I have on dvd that I haven't had a chance to watch yet. This includes (don't laugh!) things like TinTin, Ulysses 31, Dresden Files, Space Above and Beyond, Dungeons and Dragons and a good few others besides.

For now though, it's finishing off a legend. I started watching the Firefly series just as the cricket season was starting ... So I had a big break in the middle. I've gone back to it tonight. It only ran for 14 episodes plus 1 film but it's quite possibly the best scifi that's been on telly.

And that's quite a high bar to compete with. Yep. I think this is better than Star Trek (which isn't actually that high quality), Babylon 5, Farscape ...

It's centred around a ship. A Firefly class transport (think small junk trading ship) called Serenity, which is crewed by a truly motley bunch. It's embedded with humour. It lives by scifi rules which always stay consistent. It makes it about the story, not the technology (which is where ST always fell down).

It's entertainment. And I'd thoroughly recommend watching it, even if you're not a scifi fan.

How about my own serenity ?

I think it's getting there. I'm much more comfortable with me as myself. My head's in a decent place. I think I'm getting more sleep ... My skin's not too impressed with me still but it's improved since I started taking the vitamin tablets again. I can have Jaffa Cakes again !

What I need to do is let the healing happen (not as easy as it sounds). It is happening now, I just keep interfering with it. Work actually helps, as it lets me concentrate on stuff which doesn't involve worrying my arms or legs. I have my fingers crossed that the improvement will continue this week.

We shall see !