Friday, January 31, 2014

Silly tired and super shiny

New shiny has arrived ! Yey !

(warning - Star Trek spoilers ahead)

I have been really pleased with the Lexus CT but the new IS is just so much better. Tomorrow's plan was to chill out in front of the Six Nations rugby opening weekend but a wander around the middle of Bristol is looking very tempting.

Any chance to play with the new toy.

I joked the other day about a potential name for it being Khan. That came from remembering a scene from the latest Star Trek movie and placing the CT and the IS in the place of the two major protagonists with the IS's response to the CT being : "I am Better. At Everything" (1:47 in the trailer). Hope that didn't seem too arrogant at the time. The way Benedict Cumberbatch says it in Into Darkness is incredibly arrogant. It's like someone looking at a cockroach. He's actually supremely awesome in that part and steals the movie. I feel the need to watch it again.

I put up a Facebook update earlier which said : "I would get out of the car but a b*witched track is playing and it sounds bloody gorgeous". Which it did. And that is a freely made admission that I like certain b*witched tracks (Blame It On The Weatherman). And it did sound great, as good as most domestic hifi systems.

As an aside there - Bluetooth compatibility has been mentioned as a problem. I believe it's the phone that's at fault (I have an iPhone 5). Some things are more compatible than others. It's early days but I've seen no problems with iPhone 5 + Lexus compatibility in 1 CT and 2 IS's. But then again, I think I have a "good" iPhone 5 instead of one with broken bits. My Macbook Air is similar. Apple makes great kit but their quality control seems variable sometimes - I suspect my Macbook Air has weak wifi hardware.

Actually - it sounded better in the car than it's doing on my desktop's speakers at the moment (listening to it in the background). They only cost me a tenner but they've always sounded acceptable.

Lots of shinies on the car but the big reason for change is 220 system bhp instead of 135 system bhp. They call it "system" because the engine has 178 bhp, the motors have 140 bhp. Together, that's 318 bhp but on the road, it's limited to keep everything happy. Electric motors give their maximum power and torque at low speeds, engines give that at higher speeds. The "system" power comes somewhere in the middle.

Ignoring the numbers, it means that it copes with hills much better and it's far easier to maintain an even 70mph on the motorway. I used to have to engage Sport on the CT (for more motor power) to avoid constantly going up and down the mph's which costs mpgs. The CT claimed 69mpg, the best I got was 57 on a 100 mile + run and it averaged 50 through life. The IS claims 60.5mpg and I'm hoping it achieves 50 as well with the better flexibility.

So yeah, I'll be looking for excuses to take it places.

But - after two long weeks with lots to do, I'm super tired. So tired I've been ignoring the gaming lately. I think I will be sleeping a long time tomorrow.

Actually - that's one big change. I've been getting more sleep ! The skin problems are definitely normalising and healing up. I still have to be careful to not damage it. That's easy. Not as easy as before when it felt like if I looked at my arms funny, they'd leak. But I still need that care. I'm thankful it hasn't developed into full blown PA, as that's a brutal condition to live with.

I could do with having a really easy day tomorrow watching the rugby but I am severely tempted to give the Gray Ghost a run into town. If only to compare what's in the manuals to what's in the car.

Did I mention manuals ? They don't do things by halves :
"Quick" Guide - 82 pages
Owner's manual - 612 pages
Navigation system manual - 412 pages

That's right. If I had any loose nails to batter, I could use the manuals and the nails would lose.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A sense of anticipation

New car arrives tomorrow ! (Yep - it's mostly cars today but there will be a bit about me at the end)

It's strange. I can't remember feeling the same sense of anticipation with this one as the previous ones. That's probably not the right way to describe it though. It's more a different sense of anticipation.

I suspect it's partly due to this one being a car I Want, instead of it being a Need to change. What changes does it compare to ?

First car - Fiesta. Didn't really count this as a car, it was the one I was bought to learn in and then ... only got taken out in it a few times. I learned with an instructor. Wasn't fond of this car, although it did reinforce some handy lessons.

Second - Astra Mk1. This was my university car. We didn't think the Fiesta would last very long, so off we go to get another banger. This one was rock solid, while it lasted. Well. Rock solid in terms of the very limited mileage I'd do at uni. The anticipation was distorted somewhat on this one by us going on holiday, so it was a couple of weeks before I could drive it.

Still - the Astra marked something very important. It marked independence. But it was dying, so I needed to change it before starting work. It had a fitting end, it died in a Pillar Of Flame. True !!! The fella who bought it from us was doing welding in it in his garage with one of the windows open. A spark flew in and ... Pillar Of Flame ! I'd far prefer it went out that way in a blaze of glory than gradually disintegrate in a scrapyard.

Third - Belmont SRi. No real anticipation here. We did a lot of car swapping ... My sister had blown up an Astra GTE, so she got my Astra for a few months. I got my mum's Belmont SRi (great car btw - underrated) and my mum really got the short straw with a nasty little Peugeot 205 1.1. Nothing against Peugeot's in general (they had an excellent diesel and the GTi) but this one was a Stinker. We needed to do the Belmont - Pug switch because a lack of power steering in the Belmont was having nasty effects on my mum's arms.

Number 4 ! Rover 420. The anticipation here was that it was the first car I really bought under my own steam. The ones before had been either bought by parents or owned by parents. Such a shame it was an unreliable, thirsty monster. In hindsight, we shouldn't have passed on the Belmont so quickly. After a bad early phase (courtesy of incompetent Vauxhall garages), it did 20k miles a year for me with ease. Unlike the Rover.

Five - the legendary Puma. At least I thought it was legendary. Again, no real "I want it" anticipation, there had been a long period leading up to finding one suitable and it was more a sense of relief to get rid of that horrid Rover before something else dropped off it.

But again, it was not to last. I got a lot of years out of the Puma before it too broke one too many essential part.

A Focus ST was the sixth. This change happened in a rush. The Puma had been failing for many months. The brake system needed major work, both for the anti-lock system and the handbrake. So I did a deal-in-a-day at Carcraft and then regretted the after sales treatment. (They're polite enough but their warranty promise is appalling ... and a broken contract promise is unforgiveable)

And on to Lexus ... Whereas I regretted some of the earlier changes, I've never regretted stepping into the Lexus world. The cars are very special and the treatment you get in the garages is stellar. That said, nothing's broken on the CT so no testing of the warranty. I suspect I'll get a string of them, although that'll be way off in the future when I've finished paying for this one.

And now I'm changing a Lexus CT for a Lexus IS. I'm looking forward to the change for the first time since that Puma, even if it is a different sense of anticipation. The sad thing is that I won't get as many opportunities to play with it as I'd like. That's because of some discrimination at work, where I'm not allowed to park until Friday due to living too close. That's right - discrimination by post code is a reality. But I am allowed to use it for business trips.

But enough about that - how about me ?

I'm doing a fair bit better. Still not out of the woods and I'm still having to work hard to resist making the situation any worse.

But ... Mad Pete seems to be back. I've been very inwards looking recently, which is something I don't like. I've been saving my energy for important things and because of how I do things and who I am, that's been work and looking out for other people. Not much impulsiveness, randomness or looking out for me. Ok, maybe a lot of thinking about me as I battle this skin condition. But the rest leads to a Boring Pete.

I like Mad Pete better, even if the impulsiveness brings with it forgetfulness and a tendency for people to throw things at me when I take things too far. Mad Pete can upset people by acting without thinking and in acting, not consider that what I'm doing is hurtful.

But the Mad side of my personality has its charms. At least I hope they do ! Now I wonder who I can try those charms out on ...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Good toy, Bad toy, Ugly toy ?

I still have that ring tone on one of my other toys - but not the ones for tonight ...

I had a catalyst to get me setting up something I actually bought a couple of weeks ago.

The problem - to get the Macbook sending the audio over the network without interference I had to change how my wifi works. Everything still happy (come to think of it, I never checked the bluray player) except for the printer/scanner, which couldn't see the wifi because of what I did.

Techie bit - Wifi can work on 2 frequencies. All wifi can talk to 2.4GHz, some wifi can talk to 5GHz. The interference was coming through on the 2.4GHz band, so I moved it to the much less busy band.

The answer is to figure out a different way of connecting things up. Enter the powerline networking.

What dat ?

It's a method of making computers and other things talk by sending signals over the mains cable in the house. In my case, I have signals zinging from internet to the internet box. Desktop and Macbook then talk to the internet box. Now, I have a Powerline box plugged into the internet thingy and it sends signals round the mains wires. I have another Powerline box on the other side of the room, where I can plug bluray player and Xbox into it. That box also happens to have a wifi transmitter, which is what my printer/scanner is talking to.

Confused yet ? Here's how everything eventually connects up :

Desktop -> Router -> Internet
Macbook -> Router -> Internet and audio box
Router -> Powerline -> Powerline wifi -> Printer

Still confused ? I don't blame you. I wasn't confused earlier but I am now.

I was actually pleasantly surprised to see everything (mostly!) working happily together. The 2 Powerline widgets immediately saw each other (no surprise, they'd have been sorted out in the factory). After a quick peek in the manual on the cd, I had the wifi thingy set up to satisfaction. That's a black mark though. I needed the default admin password, which should have been in the paper documentation and not just on the cd.

(I coulda guess actually, it was "admin" "admin" - lol, it's not any more ...)

The next step was to tell the printer about it and (after a reboot), both computers could see it again. Wow. Easy does it. Sorted !

Good toy, Bad toy, Ugly toy ?

Good toy - the Powerline bits and pieces for being supremely cooperative in the set up. They come from the TP-Link WPA4220 kit that was on sale at Shop-Not-To-Be-Named. Actually plug and play and I'm pleasantly surprised. I'd kinda like to speed test it but I think I'd need to get the old laptop out for that.

(I'll advertise and recommend the widget but not the people who sold it ... lol)

Bad toy - Windows 7. I was expecting (needing) to be able scan something in to send off. I can print from Windows 7 but not scan. That's rubbish.

Ugly toy - the Kodak software. It works on the Macbook but I wanted to be able to darken the scan a bit to make the text on the page show up better. Nope. Wouldn't let me.

However ... the Macbook gets a close second to the Powerline kit, as it had no issues talking to the scanner.

Happy days - job done.

Gosh - this is a glamourous life I lead isn't it ? To be honest, I'd rather have been sharing a meal with a glamourous lady and be miles away from tech but there you go ;-)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Here, there, everywhere

Really busy day yesterday.

I dislike doing posts which are basically "How was your day ?" but I think this time it's worth it ...

It's my dad's birthday very soon (which I almost completely forgot about - doh!), so I've made the trip up to see the parents. Sister is on the way too (apparently just in time to run into storms - lol). But ... that was after a planned trip to Lexus Cheltenham.

When I got my CT, it was to replace a Ford Focus ST which was ... boring, impractical, gas guzzling and very poor around the bends. I don't drive that fast but I very rarely slow down for the bends. I like a car that handles well and is responsive to your input. I like my toys too and having to go through the following procedure for long trips was ... annoying :

Setting up the iPod for a trip :
Unscrew the aerial.
Connect iPod to FM retransmitter, start iPod playing
Tune car radio to the right channel
Sigh in frustration as it loses the music due to jamming by commercial radio.

Yep - even with the aerial disconnected, the retransmitter was still too feeble to have a reliable link. And listening to the music is very high on the priority list. So the Focus had to go early due to being horrible. Remembering back, I suspect I dodged a broken third gear in that car too as third was getting increasingly difficult to engage. I was also curious about getting away from a manual to give a poorly left leg (clutch foot) a chance to recover. It didn't like stop/start traffic much.

The CT is an outstanding car. If you're in the market for something a few years old and aren't that bothered about speed, there are 3 year old CTs available now that are passed that big depreciation phase. I'd thoroughly recommend them. It's one of the best cars in its class for flexibility, economy, toys and space. The only drawback is the speed, 10secs to 60 is slower than I like. That said, it'll always give you 10 secs, without the stress you put on the gearbox and clutch in a manual car when trying to get maximum speed out of it.

What's replacing it ?

A few months ago there should be a few posts about the new Lexus IS :
It's slightly bigger and has a bigger engine and motor. Yep, it's another hybrid. Given the choice between turbo diesel and hybrid, I'd choose hybrid every time. They both have similar characteristics :

Lots of torque for flexibility
Massive economy numbers
Turbo lag which is matched by motor lag

However, while hybrids rightfully claim total reliability (breakages of the hybrid system are virtually unheard of on the Lexus Owners club forum), a turbo charger works in a very nasty environment. The exhaust gasses which power them will (definite) disintegrate a turbo from the inside over several years. The family has suffered from turbo failures and turbo problems in VW's, Freelanders ...

I'm on my soapbox there I'm afraid. A turbo is an elegant solution to a problem but it comes with a reliability cost.

Right - new IS. It's quicker and it's even better inside than the CT. Going up the cost a bit allows them to make less compromise on what they include. That said, there's a few features on my CT that are either missing (heated leather seats come in higher up the range or are expensive) or expensive.

It'll come "soon", definitely before I get chance to play with it on a work trip in a couple of weeks. Possibly even next week. We shall see. Yesterday ended up being :

Work until all done - no meetings this time to slow me down. I hate working Friday afternoons but will not leave urgent work unfinished. I'll make the time to sort that out before chilling out at home.

Oh ! Miss L spotted me in time to wave and say hello ! She's always smiling that one and will always give me a wave even if I don't spot her first. I know there's a few who spot me and go "It's Pete ! Run away before he spots me ..." lol.
(And I got a miniwave from the Snow Queen on Thursday which made my day)

From work, it's up the road to Cheltenham to the garage. Had a decent length of test drive. Coulda done without the magical mystery tour around Gloucester to avoid holdups on the motorway. They're building a new service station near Cheltenham. Bit daft that, it's not needed. What is needed is extension to a junction to the north of Cheltenham which would ease traffic problems there. At the moment, you can only go one way from it instead of both.

The car was impressive, so I ended up getting Persuadertronned into getting it (5 Geek Points if you spot the reference). There's a few big reasons for taking the plunge again :

Interest rates may go up, which would make it more expensive in a few months.
Free satnav
Deposit contribution
Lets me push a big end-of-contract payment out a few more years

All very sensible reasons. But that's not why we buy things like this. We buy them for the way they make us go "WHEEEE" when going round corners too quick. After struggling for inspiration for a few years with the CT (Vera after the reg plate was not an option), I've already come up with two :

Ghost - it'll be silver and it is silent inside even when pushing it
Khan - because it's Better.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hmmmmm pizza

First pizza today for the first time in ... I dunno how long !

That's crazy ! A confirmed pizza addict who hasn't had pizza for so long it's gone from memory ? Quick ! Better check outside to see if the porcine aviators are making a midnight flight.

So ... What's happening ?

Personally, I'm getting better and worse. The skin's improving, although I'm definitely not out of the woods yet. There's a few patches that like to stay bad. Places like ankles where socks and shoes tend to rub. Crazy thing is, the soles of my work shoes are starting to wear out already and I've not even recovered from breaking those in yet ! There's a few other bad patches too but on the whole, when I give it chance, it's gradually fixing.

Yey me.

My head's in a much better place than before Xmas too. I was badly drained mentally and worn out. Now ... the crazy is happily coming out again. It's a state of being where if a snag hits, I can bounce and work my way around it. It's a state of mind where I can (mostly) ignore the pain from a very unhappy knee and a rather sore back. Yep, my back feels like it's had concrete poured down the spinal column and my knee has been close to collapsing under me a few times this week.

But ... the state of mind helps me battle through instead of letting the injury dominate.

It does help having people around me who help out that state of mind. I've gone through some weird phases at work where the atmosphere has been very strange. I've not known who to trust, not known whether what I say to one person about another would end up being passed on. I've known people who have been spreading malicious gossip about my friends. I had management that had no consistency or logic in how my priorities were set. Sometimes those priorities would shift every day in a week and without any consistency with what had come through.

That's what tends to really mess me up. (The person in question has gone now, although his conduct on the project caused a massive amount of damage, with your's truly being used as a conduit because our colleagues in other organisations started refusing to talk to him).

Oh my - this post is going in a completely different direction to what was intended ...

Anyway - from being quite possibly on the verge of a nervous breakdown 18 months ago, my mental state has much improved and some of that is because I've had confidence placed in what I can do and consistency in what I'm asked to do. I will say though that the work stress had nothing to do with my skin problem erupting, that actually really started after that certain person got moved on.

What was I looking to talk about ?

I've had an account on an online dating site for quite a while now. I have a fairly detailed (yep, tis a wall of text) profile on there. I haven't talked to many people on there though because :
There's a few special people at work I've had my eye on for years
The skin thing put a severe dampener on thoughts of engaging with anyone on there

I have been quite curious about how people present themselves on there however. A profile on an online dating site should really be something where you're selling yourself to the outside world. It should present you as someone of interest. Things I've noticed :

Profiles so bare they look like a blank canvas. Opinion ? They're boring ! The reason I have my eye on certain people is because they can keep up with me on my mad days which means they have their own brand of crazy/interesting/intelligence.

Pictures of people in their 20s that look like they're in their 50s. Ouch. There's a few people who have done an incredible amount of damage to themselves and use pictures that are seriously unflattering.

Aside thought - I can see the beauty in everything and anything. Even if you convinced you're ugly, I will see and cherish the hidden beauty. Everybody has it, even if they can't see it themselves. That said though, there's a few people who are otherwise beautiful who find a way of marring that beauty, commonly by treating everything they touch with absolute disdain and lack of courtesy.

Pictures ? There's pictures of people in full on Thunder Face Scowling. That's one example of beauty being marred by attitude. Would I look at the profile of someone who's chosen face tells me they're likely to henpeck dominate everything I do ? Nope.

Smiles ! For all the Thunder Faces, there's SunSmileys. I spot some pictures when I'm scrolling down and get caught by the twinkling smile or the eyes. And then I torture myself by saying to myself "Why don't you say hello ?"

A smile or an eye twinkle can be a wonderful thing. It can transform a face that would otherwise be seen as plain into a stunning example of beauty.

There's the booze fuelled pictures. Ok, it's an example of how they get their kicks but some are ... Let's say I'd want to hunt down all the copies and destroy them ;-)

Girlie pictures with a bloke in. I tend to block the people who put these in. When I do find someone, I want them to be someone who will give me as much attention as I give them. And I can be extremely single minded. I'll stay up unable to sleep thinking about people. I'll worry about the potential anorexia case at work. I'll hope that a miniwave isn't a symptom of depression weighing someone down. I'll be on tenterhooks for confirmation that someone got home safe after a team night out (the particular example came after the Jo Yeates murder, the person shared a lot of physical characteristics and I watch too many TV things about serial killers - I was worried). Anyway, if there's a bloke in the picture with them, I take it as a sign that there's someone else who'd be involved.

Anyway - online dating. Not taken it further than actually looking at the pictures. That's another thing that's been on hold while I repair and get healthy again.

But there's also knowing a few people who share their own type of beauty with me daily at work. And that includes the one who I put in a state of confusion by being transfixed by her smile. Hey ! I do the Meerkat-Look-Up-And-Grin, they can't help themselves and smile back and this one doesn't realise how dazzling her smile actually is.

Wonder if she'll come along at a leaving drinks scheduled for a couple of weeks time ? Hope so. And I hope that I'll be in a state that lets me come out and join them for a while.

PS My pic on there got taken at Lords cricket ground. It was very sunny, I had that Grin out and I was wearing decent clothes. It shows my general size and shape and ... I think it's a good pic. For me at least ... I don't photograph particularly well !

Monday, January 20, 2014

Powered by Coffee

Not really. But when I saw this appear in the feed today :
I rofl'd. Loud enough to be noticed and that meant I had to show other people what I was laughing at.

And then they rofl'd. You know how it goes from there. You develop the distinct impression that now would be a good time to have a death grip on your phone before the joke (and your phone with the picture on it) goes all around the office.

I wasn't that bad this morning although :

My legs were complaining so much they didn't let me pulse the extra speed that would have let me catch up with the Snow Queen. I was only about 20 feet behind ! Curse my legs for being slow ! Yeah, they weren't behaving themselves particularly well today. The rest of me was fine but the cold definitely got to my legs.

One of the ladies from the southern office called up to talk work stuff. And I totally missed her saying who she was, which would have made all the difference in getting me up to speed with the context. I caught up eventually but must have sounded really spaced out (the caffeine hadn't kicked in). We figured things out and I think I'm forgiven. To be honest, I thought it was someone in a different office calling me about an email I'd not one minute before sent off.

Still - got lots done today.

Actually - that headline shouldn't really be Powered By Coffee, it should be Powered By Smiles. Cos that's what gets me going. It's what gets me motivated. It's what pushed me up from C for English up to an A. I have good English writing skills in a variety of styles, it was just the motivation that was lacking at school - but when Mrs J turned up ? 15 year old me definitely wanted to impress that one !

A smile goes a very long way. Especially on a Monday morning.

I have a somewhat weird daily cycle that can make Mondays awkward. It's like I have a 26 hour daily cycle. I'll go to bed at a certain time that'll get me maybe 8 hours sleep before the next day. Except ... my body & head don't want to go to sleep at that time, they expect me to be keeping going those extra couple of hours. So ... I get less sleep than I wanted and in the bad days of the skin problem, I'd attack my skin which would lead to me descending into a nasty self destructive circle. As in, no sleep and ragged arms and legs. I'm doing better there now.

I have improved on the outside but still not quite enough to be able to use the knee braces that will keep suffering knees intact. But wait ... Monday-isms. Here's some more !
 Phew ! It's gone now for a week.
Oh yes.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Someone seems keen ...

In this case, it's the garage who want to sell me a car ...

I've had my Lexus CT for 2 and a half years now and it's honestly the best car I've owned. It's the best car the family has owned, although the big sis would argue that it has too much roof. (Maybe the car after the next one ?)

I've been meaning to give more of a review of the CT for a little while now but never actually got around to it. If you ignore that it's a hybrid with some devilishly clever things going on under the hood, it's much the same as any other car. It just does things ... better :

It's an automatic that reads what you want to do. It reacts much quicker than, say my dad's thankfully departed Volvo.
That said, there's a little bit of lag between flooring it and you going WHOOSH (like the lag that turbo cars suffer from).
Luggage space is amazing, my CT is Tardis (blue) coloured and when the seats are down, it fits that bigger on the inside. Best thing, the seats lie flat, which is rare. It means you can usefully use all the space and things are less likely to roll to the back.
The radio's good. Before, I'd link the iPod to the car with an FM transmitter which didn't work particularly well. Now, I either hook it in through a USB lead or I don't bother and just link in the phone through Bluetooth. Sounds great.
Economy is excellent, although it suffers in the winter as it keeps the engine on longer to get warmth.
Comfort and smoothness is in a class restricted to the best of cars.

And lots more too. There's just one problem, after 30mph it's not particularly quick. And while the toys are great, they can be a little clunky. The new IS has more speed, similar economy, more space and the toys have seen a big upgrade.

So - new car ?

That's definitely what Lexus want me to go for and to be honest, it's appealing. The time I got my CT was not long after the Japanese Tsunami. It badly damaged the factories and swamped (sorry) supply. Demand outstripped supply for a long time after. Discounts weren't happening. I think Lexus may have thought the same thing would happen with the new IS ... 6 months ago a salesman told me they'd be fired for even considering discounts. Now ? Yep, discounts are on offer :

The base model is the IS300h SE and ...
New price - £30k, used price - there's a couple available for £26k. There's even one for £26k with navigation, which is a £2000 option.

And so on.

It's getting close to an offer I may find very hard to turn down. I don't "need" to change the car but there is a sizable payment coming up in 10 months. The finance arrangements these days tend to be :

Deposit at the start (making this bigger means less interest to pay)
Compound interest loan for a few years (typically 3 years)
Payment at the end (pretty big)

Switching the car will let me dodge that big payment for a few more years, although it does mean I'll be paying interest on payments still for that time.

Why buy new ? The most reliable car I've had (except for the CT) is my Puma, which I had for 8 years. It lasted for 5 perfect years before things started breaking, or 7 years from new. The first years are the best years for any car. Warranties tend to be pretty worthless, so you can get stung pretty badly with an older car. I got stung with my Focus ST, the warranty from Carcraft was utterly worthless.

Why Lexus ? Cos they do Quality. With the capital Q. They also put massive value into customer service. They do hybrids which is a technology I'm far more comfortable with than turbos. (Turbos run in a very hostile environment and burn out in a few years, hybrids have Total reliability)

I had the invite to go check out a new IS today but declined ... for a number of reasons :

I don't want to look too keen. I'd rather them give me an offer that's too good to refuse than settle for a quick, expensive sale.
Too much on at work. Which is true, at lunchtime yesterday I got the note that I'd be in a meeting today that would take up 3 hours of my time. I had a document to finish reviewing, a progress report to update and all those other fast "Pete can you do this ?" tasks that come my way.
Urk - I'm better than I was last year but I'm not fixed yet. The healing is coming but it's coming slowly. I also still have leftovers from bugs before the Xmas break.

So I didn't particularly feel like looking at cars, so they wouldn't have got a sale anyway and may have driven a stake into my interest by pushing for one.

I may give them a visit next Friday, that's the next chance I'll get.

However ... despite those urk feelings, I've realised something - the Mad is coming out again. YEY ! That side of me was getting rather subdued as my armour was working hard to prevent signs of my skin illness telling the outside world how I really was. My awareness had been focused within rather than without. And that tends to damp down the latent insanity. The mad needs fuel and I've been too tired to have the energy to let it out.

Mad Pete is fun. And a little wild. I enjoy the hell out of it, it lets the more spontaneous part of me come out. The inventive part, the surprise people side. But most of all - it's the Grin. It makes that freer and more uninhibited. It puts a twinkle behind the eyes that frame that grin.

And ... it gets pretty ladies smiling at me !

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An unhealthy craving ...

Had one of those days yesterday where I didn't want to waste feeling as ok as I have done lately by hiding at home in the evening.

So off I pop to Cribbs, to the local Mall. Ok, it was partly to satisfy research tripping for tellies but I had other itches to scratch too. Doh ! Bad phrasing - scratching = bad ! (My outsides are normalising steadily but I can set the healing back very easily with scratches)

I don't "need" a telly but the "want" is definitely there. There's a few things I want : someone to amuse and keep me amused, a Lexus IS, a telly, freedom from needing to work, perfect health (that goes for the insides as well as the outsides). And other things too. All of the above have proved either prohibitively expensive* or otherwise unattainable. With the someone to amuse, I've met and known a few people who had a lot of potential there (and I think they liked me too) but there seemed to be a Run Away Screaming effect when I expressed an interest. Perhaps I've not met the right person yet, or I've met them and not realised it.

* Affordability ? Plenty of cash in the bank, I can afford the telly easily and I could absorb the cost of upgrading the car. But ... there's plenty of cash in that bank cos I've resisted the urge to be frivolous with the cash. Things like resisting spending £300 on a cricket bat when I suspected I didn't have that many games left to use it in.

Oh - as a furtively related aside, had a SQUIRREL moment today. I was escorting a couple of visitors to where they needed to go to get a train (part of the way cos it was on the way to where the food was and I hadn't eaten yet ... at 1.30pm). And ... coming the other way ... a colleague who happens to fit that pretty + dark hair archetype (you know - the type that sends me wibbly). She normally works in one of our other offices but has that intelligence and bubbly energy that promotes being memorable. She'll go far. She's a favourite in the office she works, she gets things done right. So I have my SQUIRREL moment where my attention switches from the visitors leaving to the new visitor who was looking for a little guidance on where she needed to be.

Still managed to get my lunch too before the canteen closed.

I was going to talk about this Mall run wasn't I ? Guess that tells you how memorable the Squirrel Lady is ;-). Oh, she shares a lot of characteristics with another little lady who I had the pleasure of having a natter with today too.

Hmm - today was a good day : was extra busy but I got to grin at and natter to some very special people.

Oh ! Telly - what I have my eye on is a Samsung 40 or 46 inch 3d thing. They had one for £200-£300 off in PCWorld. And now you're realising why I'm tempted ... It fits the spec (size, 600Hz refresh, trusted manufacturer). But I'll leave it in the shop cos I don't need it.

I did have something else in mind ... and it nearly got me in trouble. I nearly did what you should never, ever do in PC World. It's unfair to the denizens. It's outside their training. They don't know how to cope. It's cruel and unusual punishment. It's against the Geneva Convention. You should never, ever :

Ask a PC World worker a question. Especially a technical question. They try to answer but it's so far outside their area that it can make their head explode.

I resisted with my techie question (something about Powerline networking that I'll figure out on my own) but did actually ask the girl on the checkout when the sale was ending. BIG MISTAKE ! I saw a "HELP HELP HELP DOES NOT COMPUTE" alarm go off in her eyes as she struggled to answer. I thought I'd better leave before she had a nervous breakdown. Poor girl. I dread to think what would have occurred if I'd asked the techie question.

What did I come away from the Mall with ?

A Powerline networking kit that will let my computers get to the printer again (the printer can't see the wifi since I made the change that fixed the audio streaming problems)
3 blurays in the 3 for £20 offer
And a "must check out Ellie Goulding" from listening to a couple of her songs over the tannoy in HMV.

I resisted Miss Millies COOKIES ! Somehow. Something to do with how much they cost. £4 for 6 fairly ordinary cookies is a waste. They are better than the 6 for £1/£1.50 cookies in supermarkets but ... not that much better.

I had an urge to raid the KFC too which I can barely understand. Must be the funny chemicals they put in the recipe. They know me far too well at that KFC, that's a bad sign. I would go elsewhere if I had company but feel awkward about going to the other places on my own.

It's been a couple of good days so far, for different reasons :

Monday - getting stuff (needed to fill up the car too)
Tuesday - meeting people

What will Wednesday bring ? It was going to bring meeting after meeting but both of those have fallen through. To be honest, I'll be glad to get stuff done in work (lunch offers will be listened to - lol) and then leg it. I'm still feeling the lack of energy effects from the bugs I had over Xmas, I've been crashing out listening to videos in the evenings lately with game playing not getting much chance because I haven't had that energy available.

PS It's just a rumour that I only went to the Mall to raid their KFC. Honest. I may have to raid Cabot soon too, not visited that particular coffee shop for a while ;-)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Talking about different things

I think I've fallen into that trap a fair bit lately. I've been talking about stuff like the skin or when people talk to me about playing cricket, it's how I don't honestly know if I'll be intact enough to play this year.

There's only one thing guaranteed when talking about problems, it's probably going to get you down. Mind you, talking about them also helps you rationalise them as well. It lets you analyse them and put them in their place. It's always best though if there's a "ok, this is how I deal with it" to go with the "this is what the problem is". And that doesn't always happen.

Ok - about these joys ...

Running Fast ! I can do that again :-). Well, I can on and off depending on whether my legs and back are choosing to behave that day. Running was actually the thing I enjoyed most about the cricket. I didn't really enjoy batting as I never really did myself justice with it. The bowling was fine when I was getting wickets but was hard work otherwise.

Nah - the thing I enjoyed most about the cricket was being able to push the head back, hit the running trigger and run Very Very Fast. I quite liked the adrenaline rush and always busy feeling of fielding in close. I'd be scampering all over the place (cricket can be a very energetic game depending on how you approach it).

I very much enjoy winning and turning that running speed and close fielding into a run out was very definitely a Win for our side.

I must see about trimming the weight down a bit again so I get that running speed back again. There's a kind of freedom to running like a loon. I wouldn't find that from jogging, it has to be from feeling the wind rush past the ears coupled with the "oh crap, I'll be in the centre of Bristol before I can stop" which I'd been getting from hitting the downslope at the cricket ground.

Games ...

People who know me may think I love playing with computers. That's probably a misnomer as I find dealing with computers quite frustrating. I can usually eventually get them to do what I want but it can be very hair tearing along the way to get around their lack of flexibility. I'll build my own because that way I can lessen some of that frustration by building something that will work for years instead of break after 6 months (like your typical HP garbage)

It's actually all about the games. Computers are just a means to an end there. They present the games to you. In recent years, the variety has opened up with independent developers bringing us magic like FTL and SPAZ. Better hardware means graphical fidelity gives us stuff like :
There's some fine looking assets in that game and Lara looks the part too. (Yep - couldn't resist the bad assets joke). I must go back into that game and take it through to the finish. It's been compelling so far but I've already seen it through to the end via the Yogscast Hannah playthrough.

That's something else about the games. Lately, I've been enjoying watching/listening to other people play them more than I do actually playing them. Much of that is down to the presenter. Like Hannah's openness in her videos, to the banter in the Yogscast multiplayer videos, to Duncan's screaming when he turns round and sees a creeper exploding.

That's all dependent on the presenter though. Not many deliver stuff you'd actually re-watch or watch to conclusion. I guess the Youtube gaming makes me think about playing the pen and paper games with friends. There's an openness there that comes with being able to make up your own rules if the written ones don't fit. And the fun of playing with others too.

One thing about games though is the story. Most games have a story they go through, even if it's a strategy game. I like stories too. Haven't read much lately but movies and TV scifi are always a favourite.

What else ? Has to be music. I've been finding new stuff to listen to lately as well. Playing through iTunes at the moment is the Best Of Nouvelle Vague. They're the ones who do "Ever Fallen In Love" and "Dancing With Myself" which are doing the rounds on adverts at the moment.

There's also Lucy Spraggan, who I'll add to the vocalists I'll be following. However - I wouldn't recommend having her on the iPod/iPhone while in the car, as songs like Tea Or Toast almost got the tears when that came on at random. Not Conducive To Safe Driving !

The big joy though shouldn't surprise anyone.

I get bored very quickly. I need variation and unpredictability. There's only so much you can take of yourself before you need something new. I find people to be one of the most interesting things out there. Depends on the person of course ;-). I can predict a few people but it's the unusual, the special, the smart, the random ones I find most interesting. The ones who can keep up. The ones who keep you guessing. The ones who are just that little bit different. The ones with an energy that sweeps you along with them. But most of all :

The ones who smile back when you look up and grin at them.

That answering smile is truly what makes life worth living.

PS Pizza would count as a joy too, if it hadn't snuck into the "problem" corner. Thankfully popcorn, mini eggs and teacakes are still untainted by such problems !

Monday, January 06, 2014

Feeling lucky ?

I've been feeling lucky again.

I've had my eye on the blanket coverage we had about F1 star Michael Schumacher. You can't have missed that, he's still in hospital in critical condition following a head injury. From what I understand, he was skiing off-piste to help someone out and ended up going head over heels at 40mph ish, hitting a rock on the way down which was too much for his helmet to handle. I think I heard that he was conscious when on the way to the hospital too.

And he's still in critical condition a week later, having had brain surgery to relieve the pressure and to address skull fractures.

Hopefully he'll recover to be the same Michael Schumacher we loved or loathed. To be honest, I was in the loathing camp for a while because he was just That Darn Good. He took championships away from Brit drivers (and I'm a fervent supporter of Brit drivers, hopefully Lewis will come good in next year's Merc). Yep - hopefully he'll be let out of that coma soon, as the same person he was before.

Why does that incident promote feelings of luck in me ?

I've had similar impacts ... three times. Hopefully I'm still the same Sleepypete that I was 10 years ago, although there is that nagging question : "Is this why Ravenwolf left ?" (I don't honestly believe it is). Let's look at the incidents :

Schumacher - rock at maybe 40mph (I get the feeling it was faster) with a helmet on. Skull fractures and brain injuries. Still in hospital. Ouch !

Nose Job 1 (my first hit) - cricket ball at 60mph (ish), no helmet. Hit me in the eye, with my glasses saving me from more major injury. I stayed conscious but got helped off the field and was carted off to hospital. Suffered memory problems for maybe 18 months afterwards.

Happy Helmet (second hit) - cricket ball at probably 70mph (quicker bowler!), hit the helmet on the grill. Without the helmet, I'd have been hit maybe above the right ear and would have been in hospital again for sure. Probably would have been knocked out by that one - it's a thin, sensitive part of the skull. I kept batting throughout the game (mostly because the bowler that hit me was nasty and probably would have run through our team) and only came off the field after we won. I was happily absorbing the nastiest bowling and hitting singles before watching the guys at the other end murder the bowling. Oh and I nearly threw up in the changing room after the game.

Almost-Dentist (third hit) - cricket ball at maybe 60mph again, no helmet. Hit me in the gob. I'm seriously lucky there not to have lost teeth. Lots of blood though, enough that I should have gone off to the hospital to get a stitch. I lost my sense of hunger for 2 weeks after that impact and was woozy enough to take the Friday off work (got hit on the Wednesday).

Is it fair comparing a cricket ball to a rock ? Yes and no. The cricket ball is hard enough (definitely in a match ball) but it's completely round. I suspect the rock that got Schumacher was pointy enough to break the helmet.

I did have long term effects after getting hit without the helmet but I was very lucky to only have my nose broken. I dread to think what would have happened if I wore contacts ... That's a scary thought for that first hit.

What am I really trying to say here ?

If you know someone who's suffered a very recent head injury, keep an eye on them. Quietly check to see if they're still all in there. They may not realise themselves how bad the effects are. With my two helmet-less incidents, I certainly didn't realise the memory problems until a few years later and I only noticed the inability to feel hunger state when :
a) hearing earthquakes from my tummy with no feelings of "need food"
b) nearly bursting after finishing a big pizza
(weird huh ?)

If someone's had a bump on the head, their condition can change very rapidly too. An initial state of concussion (bruising from the marbles being rattled) can change into compression (swelling that's trapped in by the skull) very quickly. Thankfully while concussion is common, compression is less so. Compression is however, extremely dangerous. There's a triage saying : "Treat the quiet ones first" and it's partly targeted at injuries like compression.

I think I upset someone a few years ago. She came back from an Xmas break and admitted to banging her head on a door handle and was sitting on the floor out of it for a bit with no one to see if she was ok. That triggered a definite Protect instinct and I probably told a few more people than she'd have liked me to. People I knew would keep an eye on our girl to make sure she was ok. I very rarely betray confidences like that but ... it's a head injury. Someone I care about quite deeply could have turned seriously ill.

With my two bad incidents, Ravenwolf had that eye on me the first time but for the second - I felt a bit neglected. Unloved maybe ? That might be unfair. I've always been incredible at hiding the symptoms when something's affecting me and for that second incident, I was functioning perfectly well until the Friday when I let myself settle into a clouded dazed state.

I must peek at what I put here in the days around that second incident. It wasn't as bad as the first, the neurological symptoms only lasted about a fortnight whereas I think my memory is still affected.

But - I do still feel lucky. Incidents like Schumacher, the Paul Williams paralysis (club cricketer) and Mark Boucher's (South African wicket keeper) career ending eye injury show that it could have been much, much worse.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Almost time ...

For what I hear you think ?

Almost time to reenter the world. I've been having a quiet holiday period ... which was (almost!) totally the plan. I've not been getting up to much, partly because it's been horrible out there but mostly because I've been wanting to give my various conditions chance to recover and improve.

Condition(s) ?

I always seem to catch bugs that hit at the start of holiday periods. I guess that's due to me winding down in general. A kind of suppression of the immune system that lets the bugs in. I reckon it might be a heavier grade of manflu this time around, it's actually still with me 2 weeks later. It's not affecting me too much, although if I went out and did stuff, I'd run out of batteries very quickly.

So being inside not exerting myself too much has been helping out there.

The skin's been improving too. More a general improvement, it's not fixed yet but it's getting there. There are less patches for me to worry about and the skin's getting more resilient (and pastywhite!) in general. We'll see how it copes with going back to work.

In a way, that's another step closer to reentering the world from a different perspective.

So what have I been doing ? Except for being very quiet here ... It's unusual for me to take so much of a break between posts. That could be a sign of how mentally tired I allowed myself to get. Plus I really don't want to bore you all with posts of "Level 80 today ! Yey me !" cos you really don't want to know what I'm doing in an online game. Do you ? (Let me know !) I have been watching selected Yogscast livestreams. They're over now having raised over $1 million. Great effort, highlights for me were the Hannah & Kim streams and the Zoey Drunkasheck stream. The best livestreams are where they're relaxed, enjoying the games and including the viewer. It's about the banter more than the game.

This time of year is dominated by sales ...

I've been mostly behaving myself there. Sure, I've added a few games to the collection but I've avoided getting stuff I don't really need. I have my eye on a telly upgrade ... That's serious cash. The strange thing about my current system is 3d :

Bluray player - supports playing back in 3d
Amplifier - can send the 3d signals through to the telly
(I don't honestly know how it would handle that, given that I've pretty much isolated the dvd playback problem to the amp)
Telly - is the only thing that can't handle 3d.

It's a 32 inch LCD display that is acceptable to look at from across the room in the pooter station but could do with being bigger. That's the main motivation for looking at new ones, a 46 inch or a 50 inch would be ... spectacular and probably too big for the room.

I've waited this time around though. I don't actually need a new telly yet in the same way as 2 tellys ago when I had one that misread "letterbox" and went "pillarbox" instead. Besides the general rule with things like tellys is that if you wait around, something better will come. It's a natural progression of technology :

My telly - LCD. LED was available for £100s more and 3d was just entering the market
Tellys in the shops - LED is mainstream, 3d is the £100s more option and 4k tellys are entering the market.
Tellys in a couple of years - 3D tellys will be mainstream and 4k tellys will push the prices of 3D tellys down.

Why get 3d ? Personally, I think 3d TV and 3d cinema is a gimmick. Although, to be ruthlessly honest, I haven't watched a whole movie in 3d (just demos in shops) and 3d glasses on top of my normal glasses is probably not the best idea. However, to support 3d a better quality of display is needed. A higher refresh rate is needed to get the side by side images that create the 3d effect. And with higher refresh rates come a more stable image.

However - Smart tv ? I think this is even more of a gimmick than 3d tv. A tv should be a display device, nothing more. Why ? Because a tv remote is nowhere near capable of supporting iplayer, let alone anything like web browsing or email. That's what laptops, desktop PCs and tablets are for. The TVs job is to allow showing the image from the computer on the screen without hassle.

(Incidentally, this is why I'll be avoiding Panasonic tellys - the interface on my dad's Panasonic telly is Nasty and provoked the only application crash I've seen on the Macbook so far)

So - no big spend but a reasonable number of games have added themselves to the collection. Big ticket ones are XCOM Declassified (a third person shooter type) and Tomb Raider. I also picked up the space package from GoG. The best thing about is the soundtracks that often come with the game. Even if I don't play the game, it's worth it for that extra music and in the case of games like The Witcher, it's quite excellent music.

I've also been in Warcraft a fair bit - just five character levels, 70ish enchanting levels and 85ish tailoring levels until I hit the latest content. I'll make a dent in that in a bit although I'm wanting to start off another character soon to avoid one-character-boredom. I'll be avoiding raiding (the multiplayer content) still, as watching raid content on the Yogscast livestream reminded me why the end game content turned me off the game.

What am I doing at the moment ? It's still raining outside ... You'll have seen stuff in the news about the weather getting more extreme. In Blighty, we're suffering lots of rainstorms as a result of conditions over in the USA. They get extreme snow and the warm/cold stuff makes the air currents that run from West Atlantic to Europe more energetic.

I don't believe climate change is resulting in "global warming" but I think the climate is attempting to balance itself through higher energy. So we get more extreme storms. I'm ok here, there's flooding around the Bristol area but I'm on a reasonably high position and the area has good drainage.

I think I'll leave it with ...