Sunday, March 30, 2014

YogsMothers Days

Busy weekend this one. A few words to sum it up ?


Memorable ? Friday saw me heading up to Birmingham NEC for the EGXRezzed gaming exhibition. To be honest, I wasn't that bothered about the games on show, I was there for something different. (More in a minute !) However ... there were a few game highlights with lots of potential :

Wasteland 2 - is an update on an old classic (which I missed first time round). It's set in a post apocalyptic world and the mechanics looked like they had potential. I was watching people play through encounters in intuitive fashion. That's what games have to be - intuitive.

Hearthstone was there - this is a game that I'm actively avoiding ! It has great potential for stealing Life !

Kenshi was another post apocalyptic setting game. There's been a few of these come out lately. Day Z, Rust, 7 Days To Die. Those look a bit rubbish though, I've watched semi playthroughs of them and I really wasn't impressed. Kenshi and Wasteland 2 look rather better sorted.

And more too. Including the Pokemon girls. More later for that too ;-)

Meeting ?

Wow. Yogscast are even better in real life than they are on screen. Who are the Yogscast ? They're a steadily increasing band of gamers who make videos for Youtube. Their primary game is Minecraft, which is a fantasy sandbox survival and building game. What makes the magic is what the players do in the world. It's what they build, it's the commentary on the game. It's the way they have huge fun in their world ... and bring their audience along with them.

Watching their videos is a great way to chill out. And I got to meet some of them on Friday !

Yogscast Kim - I wrote a comment on one of her videos (The "So This Is Yogscast" one) that she was the best thing to happen to the Yogscast this year just gone. Huge character, that ability to connect with the audience and absolutely adorable in every way imaginable. Yep. Even in the midst of the Mad Hax Geoguessr ragequit episodes. Kim goes in for horror themed games with Hannah as her usual suspecting victim.

YogscastLalna (aka Duncan) - is the Mad Scientist of the group. You can be watching him build stuff and all of a sudden something will pop up with a stupendous factor of Ludicrous. Or something gets set off of unbelievable craziness. However, my favourite of his videos is the Grim Fandango series. That's an old adventure game, one of the best of its type.

Zylus - I have to admit that I don't watch much of Zylus's stuff. He's one of the people who works more in the background, making the other people look awesome. I identify with that, I'm one of them too. We're the little people who make the big things happen. They couldn't do it without you MrZylus !

Yogscast Hannah - there are a lot of faces in the Yogscast but probably the one that sets the tone most is Hannah. Her highlights include Lets Plays which has commentaries that can get especially crazy. And highly amusing. Never a dull moment. Hannah also does an annual advent calendar series, which I see as a way of giving thanks by giving something back to the fans. She made me buy Tomb Raider ! Which I still need to finish. Also need to avoid getting Assassins Creed games, Hannah makes those look like massive fun. I'm running through the old Mass Effect 3 series at the moment, which is a game we were both addicted to, up until the third game which kinda broke it for us ...

Yogscast Sjin - if I was inclined that way, I'd say Sjin was utterly adorable too (I was picking up comments from some of the lady fans around). Here we have a Genius Builder with a soft voice that explains simply and clearly what he's up to. Unless he's doing what he was doing in the Minecraft session on Friday - the mild mannered builder turned smiling assassin ... I saw what he was doing ! Creeping up an unsuspecting person with TNT, while the audience were chuckling along behind him trying not to give the game away.

I'll keep watching them for ages. May they continue in the Youtube game for a long time. I actually have more fun chilling out with them as I watch the videos than I do playing the games.

Pain ?

Heavy cramp on Thursday night led to hopefully just a strained calf muscle, which I thought may have been torn. But I could barely walk on it and was on my feet all day Friday. Much pain. But so definitely worth it to meet the best Yogscast day at EGXRezzed.

Happy ?

Happy Mother's Day to all the people it's appropriate to today ! Yep. I know there's a different date for it in different countries. Why do we do that ?

Missing ?

I missed a couple of opportunities on Friday. The first was missing the Steamgirl - we didn't get chance to tell each other what to look for. I actually thought I spotted Steamgirl but it was someone else. Oops. Hope the person I spotted wasn't as freaked out as she was looking ...

The second was the Pokemon Girls. I had my "Don't Ask Me, I Make It Up As I Go Along" t-shirt on. Which just happens to be one of my favourites for a Friday subversive t-shirt for work. The t-shirt was spotted ... And as I tried to hide behind a pillar, PokemonGirl seeks me out for a peek at the t-shirt. And later on, when I'm walking past that stall again ? I get grabbed (unprotesting of course!) and the t-shirt gets shown off to all her mates on the stall.

So why missing ? I'm still kicking myself there, I could have had a selfie taken with t-shirt (still on me hopefully although I did pick up spares) and PokemonGirl. Which would have been a perfect excuse to pass on an email address to PokemonGirl (with the selfie pic).

Oh well. I never think of these things at the time !!!

Sexy ?

I hope pinging this to Twitter in a minute will lead to someone reading it. But I'll not mention her again here in case she blushes ;-).

Nah - Sexy is for the car, cos everyone in the family wants one now. I think I've persuaded the sister to keep hold of her Saab convertible for a few more years. No news is coming out from Japan but they'd be insane not to bring out a convertible version of my car. They can't get mine because they need something hatchbacky or SUV to fit the Murphster in and the saloon style of mine disqualifies it. But ... in a year or two when the IS-C300h comes out ? (that's a guess) The Saab should be reaching its end of life ...

Yep. Pretty full weekend and there's a bit more tomorrow. CrazieMob is going to see the next Captain America movie. We're expecting something special.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


We all have them. Some are worse than others.

Mine aren't too bad. Except if you run into me before I've diluted the blood in my caffeine stream :
Yeah, I'm addicted to coffee. And chocolate. And biscuits.

But as addictions go, it's not a bad one. I don't have compulsions to have it, I just need at least one mug of proper coffee a day or I get headaches. I tried to convert to fake (decaff) a few years ago but I'd be barely human by lunchtime.

To be honest, I don't think I really need the coffee to wake me up. The bus trip and the walking tend to do that quite effectively. And whether or not I act human to others depends on :

Whether they nick my desk (had to evict someone today - he was rude so I was rude but we were grinning at each other before long)
How many smiles I get

That's another thing I'm addicted to. I get withdrawal symptoms if I don't have people smiling at me. I think that's one of my gifts, to get that smile in response to my grin.

It's weird though. There's a few people who for whatever reason of their own, refuse to have much to do with me. There seemed to be a lot of daft stuff going on in my old team, Chinese Whispers about everyone. That's really unhealthy. I know things have been said about me around that team but I don't know what, who instigated it and who it got said to. I just know that it has irrevocably harmed some of the relationships I had with my old team.

And I really don't know what I did to deserve that. Perhaps it was an attempt to be everyone's friend and colleague, despite a few wrecking ball people within the team. There's a definite sense of people believing what other people tell them about others, instead of going by what they know for themselves.

Whatever it is, I see it as being their problem and not mine. I'll still give them the massive grin and a wave when I see that old colleague, despite the Face Of Stone I sometimes get in response.

But I definitely value the Big Grins, Little Smiles and Dainty Waves I get from the better people. And I must say, the Dainty Wave I got from one of my most valued friends last night on the way out of work really cheered me up when I was heading chest first into Grottiness. That took my mind off that for enough time to get home. A chat with a neighbour helped too ;-).

Oh - over the last few days with old colleagues it's been :
One Face Of Stone
A bit of being ignored by a colleague from way back (I asked a question she should have been able to help us out with, no response even though I've jumped to help her out lots in the past)
One You've been an awesome help (she was too, she's just this week moved on to something I think she'll find far more fun than an office job)
A Dainty Wave as I passed the smoking shelter
The usual bemused smile from a business manager from waaaaay back - she's one of those who I rarely see but when we happen to be in the same place, there's that old connection again.
And the quirky smile from the Naughty Angel as we passed on the way out today.

Yeah, still having good days and bad days. Some are better than others and in general, they're much better than a month or so ago. The bad days are better than the good days were back then. And because I don't believe in myself that much, feedback, smiles and metaphorical pats on the back from people help me out a lot.

Addictions ?

I used to be thoroughly addicted to games. I guess I am after a fashion but it's nowhere near the level it used to be. I think that gaming addiction is what really drove Ravenwolf away. Now I get most of my gaming kicks from watching the people on Youtube play. They and their reactions can be hilarious fun in a way that playing on your own sometimes can't. It was like that in the WoW guilds too, I miss that. The communities I was in kinda broke up. VR is still going but it does bring back memories of when the Mercs went sour.

I still do the gaming - but it's more something to keep my mind working on something when I'm not watching recorded stuff or have run out of YT videos. But I don't feel the compulsion to do the grinding that many games demand these days. Doing the same thing over and over again for promise of little rewards doesn't have that much hold on me now.

No - my real addiction these days is a craving for interaction with others.

Computer stuff, telly stuff, even books can be very predictable. But how other people react when you send them something silly ? Priceless. Or it would be if you get a reaction out of them. Sometimes the daft comment goes unseen or unnoticed and you lose the opportunity to escalate Daft into Hilarious. (Or should that be descend into madness instead of escalate ?). Half the daft comments I send have something much naughtier behind them waiting for a response from that first initiating comment.

Anyway - that's my addictions. They're pretty minor :

Caffeine - or I get headaches
Doing Stuff - or I get really fidgety
Interacting with people - or I get really bored and find a victim for a Daft Comment
Listening to music - this kinda fits into that variation theme, as I rarely listen to the same track twice in a month
Running Very Fast - not so much now.
Doing stuff for other people - it brings out the smile

The pizza addiction got booted because I definitely react to the cheese. The excess of acid it makes me produce is unpleasant ... but doesn't overweigh the awesomeness which is pizza. Perhaps I should make pizza a Stay Up All Night thing ? That way the acid won't matter and it'll tire me out enough that I'll sleep proper the next night.

That sounds eerily like a Cunning Mad Scientist Plan.

And I'm still wondering about the Cunning Plans for Friday. I'm really looking forward to EGXRezzed. It should be a huge laugh. Hopefully I'll hear the legendary (to me at least) Kim laugh coming out too and a bit of that Hannah magic.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday, Monday

We were planning today ...

It's the first time my little team has been all together in the office since ... last year ? There's not actually that many of us, we've just had gaps in the team and we all support various other offices and therefore travel a lot.

So we'll have a little get together some time soon. Been making another Cunning Plan actually ...
Gotta love the minions.

Cunning Plan ? It's the gaming convention on Friday. I'm really looking forward to that. There will be the SteamGirl on the prowl, likely tugging me around everything at Warp Speed. There will be the Yogscast girls Horrible Hannah and Killer Kim (their pirate names from hyping Assassins Creed IV). That'll be the highlight of the day. I'm hoping for at least one hug but the highlight will be the live shows they're due to do.

Hannah does a running commentary on games and there is absolutely no filter. It can be hilarious. And kinda dangerous as I'm actively considering acquiring Assassins Creed games I definitely would have avoided before. I bought the latest Tomb Raider as a result of watching the Hannah playthrough.

Kim doesn't do the commentaries on AAA type games much but is joining in with the Minecraft fun, as well as running As Live gaming of horror games. The games are usually pretty bad but the girls make it compelling viewing. Kim has an incredible laugh too that erupts at every excuse.

Oh the horror game commentaries are a bit :
With the viewer of the YT video going "which will scream first ?"

Oh - the Cunning Plan involves cosplay. But a highly toned down form of cosplay. Cos my body is still not behaving itself, I wouldn't want to think of doing any true cosplay. I have to tightly control my temperature and things that rub are Bad News. But ... a custom T-Shirt with one of my dwagons on it ? Hell Yeah !

Especially as it will also fit the "Let's do something on St George's Day" plan the team at work have.

I have a couple of components the Plan will need but am lacking one, which is probably the easiest :

T-Shirt transfer paper - got some, it's old, never used it. May not last long but it should do for a few wears.
Iron - yep, I do actually own an iron. Don't look so surprised !!!!
T-shirt - need to acquire one. Asda, Sainsburys or Matalan should do and they're between work and bus, I just need to acquire one. I didn't tonight, as the bus was arriving just as I got to the Sainsburys stop and it would have been lots of minutes before the next.

Talking about my body ... I still need to have my allergy test but one thing I do know :
 Hahaha - I declare allergies !

And last thought for today :

Muttleys are an incredible barometer of what people are like. They adore their People but avoid those they don't like. I'll be looking forward to getting slobbered on by Ben the Staffy at the weekend and I suspect Murph the Lab will be along as well to cause a bit of mayhem.

Cats can do something similar, although cats are more a solitary animal than dogs. I did take quite a lot of pride from having my landlady's cat choose my lap to sleep on at one of the places I lodged at.

You have to treat the small & furrys with respect. They'll return it to an infinite degree. I've seen a few things lately about animals not being treated with that respect. It's not so much the story that upsets me in those cases, it's the look of distress on the face of the animal.

This world is too nasty already to cause distress to anything, especially the defenceless. It's far better to have kindness in how we approach the world.

(And I tell myself that every time I tackle traffic !)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thematic Photographic - Technological

Had an old blog-friend visit today and drop in a comment. Hello Carmi ! Carmi is a technology journalist who combines humour with a huge amount of intelligence in his writing. I've neglected his blog for way too long. And here's a link.

Saying that though, while I've been keeping posting random things here I've not been visiting other people very much lately. I think the blogging fraternity has moved on to things like Twitter and Facebook. They're one way of getting random thoughts out there but they're both a little too constricted in what they allow you to post. (in terms of characters per post) That said, I much prefer Facebook over Twitter, whereas Twitter is a cesspit of idiots, Facebook can be fairly tightly controlled. I only have 61 FB friends (it could be more but a few people declined friend requests) and only they can see what I post.

Wait ... thematic photographic is supposed to have pictures ! Here we go :

Yep - it's the car again ... But ... it's the most technological thing I own so bear with me !

So - what's it got that would make a caveman go URRHHH ? before getting the club out ?

Drive by wire. Every control input talks to a computer. I think even the steering talks to a computer before turning the wheels.
Hybrid powertrain. This is where the technology goes nuts. Throttle and brake go to a computer that divvies up the effort wanted between 2 motor generators and an engine. It's not as advanced as what we've just seen hit the race track in Formula 1 but it has parts of that. And ... the real magic is that, to the uninitiated driver, they can't tell any difference. Hit the throttle, it'll go quick. Hit the brake*, it'll slow down.

*Drive by wire brake is actually one of the criticisms I have - in the CT braking was smooth and progressive, in the IS a lot of the braking effort happens at the top of the pedal. It can make slow speed driving a bit choppy and it can be difficult to smoothly slow to a stop at traffic lights.

A beltless engine ... most engines have lots of belts that keep things like oil going round the engine to lubricate it and water to cool it. In this one, the oil pump and the water pump operate on their own and the alternator is ... something else. I think there is one belt, that'd be the cambelt.

Running at up to 50 (and a bit) mph ... without the engine on. The only time we'd have seen that 10 years ago is if we were playing daft games going down hills. And even then ... no engine in a conventional car means minimal brakes (real bad) and no power steering (manageable but still bad).

Not one but two displays and satnav. Jury's out really between built in and separate satnav. You can easily programme a separate satnav from outside the car. But ... it's less integrated. If I had to pay, I don't think I'd get an inbuilt satnav. But ... the free satnav offer was one reason I jumped to make the change.

Reversing camera - as you can see from the picture, it really helps with parking. (Lol - take a peek at how well/badly I've aligned the car to the parking bay lines!)

Smart entry - there's a radio in the key that tells the car when I'm near. To open it, I grab the door handle, to lock it I put my finger in a little indentation on the handle.

Radio - I think the only transistors in my first car were in the radio and there weren't many in that. I think it had the luxury of a tape deck ... This one has all sorts of options for playing Stuff - cd, usb, bluetooth, FM, MW, DAB, aux ... and I may have missed a few there. No need now for an FM retransmitter to link iPod to car stereo.

I think there's more too but I think my brain is reaching shutdown. There's potential for a run ashore in Bristol tomorrow night but I think I may have to pass after today and yesterday. (Plus I'm still not particularly right - head's better but I'm making way too much acid for comfort).

One more pic before I go :
That is so true for what tends to appear here !

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hunting ...

I'm out and about today and tomorrow.

I've been lucky recently, work has given me excuses to play with the car more lately than I usually get to escape the office. Perhaps I'm being let out on good behaviour ?

Must do something about that. More CRAZY NEEDED !

Anyway - in the middle of the travel today, I had a few perfect excuses to :
You can find some great stuff in motorway service stations (which I was stopping in anyway - a headache for most of the day meant coffee therapy).

I do like collecting the dwagons. I swap between them as avatars. Here's my two favourites :
Look at that PizzaDwagon ! He's on a mission.

There's a few more escapees today that came back with me from Wales :

Quality's a bit lacking in those, you can probably tell the first one was taken in a (stationary!) car ... But they'll do me for avatars for a little while.

More travelling tomorrow. What will I find ? We shall see !

Oh - If any readers are heading to the EGXRezzed show at the NEC at the end of the month, I'll be heading up there on the Friday :-) It's the best day. My favourite Yogscasters will be there (Kim is adorable, Hannah is hilarious, Sjin does great builds and Duncan is ... very similar to me). And ... so will the SteamGirl. I can see myself being dragged round that show at a very rapid rate of knots.

And I'll enjoy every second.

PS It's in Birmingham - I may also be able to drop a birthday card in with someone !
PS2 The boiler has apparently joined the cooker in RIP - it's off at the moment and the computer is providing the heating. If I turn it on, it makes so much racket you could probably hear it from where you're reading this. Think something spinning and whacking metal. It's ok for hot water, so I can still shower and wash dishes but ... needs fixing.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

RIP Cooker

I wouldn't normally do a "something is broken" domestics post but ... I have a reason ;-).

I've lived in my current house for a little over 12 years now and one of the things that was inherited was the cooker. It's seen nearly daily use. Well, the fan lower oven has at least. It's done pretty well too, more than 12 years for a domestic appliance is what we should be getting out of them, it's a sign of modern times that new stuff doesn't last so long.

Anyway - first sign of impending doom was when the main house breaker tripped. Never seen that happen here before. Usually it's the fuse for an individual circuit, if a bulb blows then just the fuse breaker for the lights trips.

I thought it might be the central heating boiler (that's another story!) but I'm now hoping it was the cooker. After maybe 40 minutes, the lower oven wasn't making any heat. I think I need to go shopping ...

Ok. That's far enough.

What was the reason I mentioned ? I spotted the pic below yesterday morning and I was dying for an excuse to repost it :
I promise to not abuse the local take aways (too much) until the cooker's replaced. Besides, the top oven still works, even if it isn't as aggressive as the lower oven was.

(If I disappear from work with food poisoning, then oops ... I trusted that lower oven too much !)

I also wanted to post this one :
After the floods, conditions have improved. So hopefully the cricket season won't start in conditions like that.

It may not actually be until Easter when I can replace the cooker. Got some busy weekends coming up, plus I'm still nursing my state of health. I'm in better shape than this time last week ... but still struggling a bit. I put all my energy into work time with not much left over for evenings.

Still - I am improving :-) I'm in much better condition on the outside now than I was this time last year so hopefully I'll be able to play in a few games.

Last bit. And it's topical too with that broken cooker :

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Less Than Perfect

It's about me again today !

Even though I know I am far from perfect, there's a big corner of me that absolutely hates being Less Than Perfect. I do get a lot of stuff right but it's those little errors and missing of things that bite at my soul.

Things like - we had one of those meetings today where we talk all day about the most important assumptions about all corners of our business. That's really important, as lots of decisions get made on those assumptions and it really helps if everyone is working off the same assumption ...

Why's that important ? If I'm going somewhere on a business trip with someone and we both make the assumption that the other is handling the transport, then both of us are in the poo because neither of us make arrangements. It's like that with these assumptions but on a much bigger scale.

I handled most of the arrangements today - for getting data to people who need to see it. It's sensitive data, which means we have to keep it away out of prying eyes (lol - management of information is a weird subject in our place, openness fights with confidentiality). That sensitivity means you have to react fast to get everyone looking at what they're supposed to. We sometimes don't get that right.

So why am I beating myself up over this ?

One of the workbooks was wrong. It contained a fraction of the information it should have. My fault, shoulda checked what got uploaded to make sure it was the right one. Dunno why the wrong one got uploaded actually. Fixed that yesterday (bit late) and it gave me the excuse to give a little info burst about today.

Silver lining. But ... less than perfect again. A more perfect me would have added another little snippet of info that would have helped a lot of people out. As well as the Proper Place, I put the info somewhere else (hidden) too so our team could see it. I coulda put the link in yesterday's info burst. Thought about it, didn't do it. Why ? I dunno - less than perfect.

Note taking too - we've got good capture of what was discussed but I know I miss stuff that I should catch.

And things like not thinking up the good ideas in the meeting but having them pop up after it's finished.

Enough about the meeting - I hope everyone else thought it went well. I'm always very tough on how I see how I do things, because I see all the little mistakes and mark myself down on them.

There's lots of other areas where that Less Than Perfect gets to me. It's a critical factor in why this skin condition isn't repaired yet. The worst area is still the back of my knees. It has improved to the point where it's smooth enough to run curling stones over (I've been waiting ages to use that analogy !) but they're sore again now. I could probably fix them right up by using treatment gunk but ... I want to be free of the need to use treatment gunk.

One of my flaws is that if I see an imperfection on me, I'll attack it. Which is one reason the skin problem got as bad as it did, because by worrying at it, I'd make it worse. I have to maintain the discipline to let it heal on its own. It's improving ... just still very slowly.

Actually - I shall stop being stubborn about avoiding use of the treatment gunk. I'll put some on in a minute. Honest.

My memory is Less Than Perfect too. It used to be near photographic, albeit not perfect. Damn near perfect recall but not complete. I can't trust it now, that's a lingering after effect of Nose Job 1. But ... I know about that flaw, accept it and manage it. It's acceptable to say "I can't recall but I'll take an action to check", even better to have anticipated the memory issue and brought supporting info. Today's supporting data involved having a live feed to the database we were reviewing. That worked better than anticipated. Perhaps I've sparked off a standard procedure for the next reviews ?

The memory thing is part of a deeper symptom, I'm definitely not as capable as I was before the Nose Job incident. Or is just that me thinking that and therefore making myself less capable. Self doubt can be crippling.

This psychological tendency gets me in the cricket too. Leaving the anger when dropping a catch aside, I'm a danger to myself when that happens as it normally leads to an anger fuelled power throw and then a scream of pain as my arm tries to follow the ball. Nah, it's more the slight fumble which means the difference between perfect fielding and average fielding. Doesn't matter if the batsman would have been safe anyway, I just aim for that perfection. And that self doubt slows you down and brings out the fumbling.

There's a certain purity to perfection. Although there's also a certain coldness to it.

Perhaps perfection is not the goal to aim for. Perhaps the aim should be a certain degree of perfection, leaving room for a little bit of clumsy randomness.

Think of music - with people like Bat For Lashes, the stage performance of Laura is far more powerful than the album performance. The imperfections add to its power. With Goldfrapp, I think their Seventh Tree album is their best because it sounds totally natural, Head First sounded forced and manufactured. Just compare Road To Somewhere (which is a thing of beauty and one of my favourites out of 12,000 in the library) and Head First which is also great but although closer to "perfectly made" ... I prefer Road To Somewhere. (notice how the crowd aren't getting involved in the Head First video)

Similarly - I'll avoid the manufactured pop we get bombarded with in favour of these more gifted artists with far more character. The charm in the character far outshines the perfection of the production.

Yeah - I get stuff wrong. But I hope I get a lot of other stuff right. And along the way, I'll have a lot of fun getting the most out of the imperfections. We own our flaws, as well as being a drawback we should see if we can turn them into assets.

And I'll close with something that actually isn't in that 12,000 song library - something Perfect. Oh look, their Very Best of is going for £3.99 on Amazon MP3. Uhoh ...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Picture Monday

Seen a few crackers today ... Which I've borrowed cos I like 'em.

If you see one of your's in here, you have awesome taste in jokey pictures :

This Monday ? Had to take Friday off cos after 4 nights of critically lacking sleep I hit a wall where I dunno where I was. Needed the long weekend to get some of my marbles back where they should be. The long term answer is to try and lose some weight again as one reason I'm lacking sleep is acid, which I make when I'm too heavy.

The Daylight Savings Time change is different over here, according to Digiguide (it's a TV guide but it can go months ahead and is the best way I have outside of Google for checking things like clock changes) it happens on Saturday 29th March. That's incidentally the day before Mother's Day, which is different over here too (is it ?).

Yellow Face Burns.

Sadly though, I think someone actually did wet his plants cos there was a definite smell of wee coming from the bus home. And I don't think it was from the petrol tank ... (I used to be able to detect a Liquid Petroleum Gas vehicle if I was following one)

One of the walking routes into work has street lights which have pigeons congregating on them. I keep a sharp eye on them in case they're having similar Evil Thoughts to the birds above.

 Haha - I bet Scruff the dog had these thoughts about Patch the cat.

Remember the comment about the line between telling someone you think of them all the time and them thinking you're a stalker ?

Yeah, I've thought that a few times. But not today. Although I suspect a few people have done this in response to my antics. Muahaha.

Last one - promise :
Ah ha ! The culprit for the smelly bus !

Friday, March 07, 2014

A to Z - I see the C

That goes way back - it's a saying from childhood from when we lived in Northern Ireland.

That's where I spent many a good year at primary school learning Stuff. But when we went out for day trips, it tended to be to the sea side. Also, when we visited my nan and grandad at holidays, we'd go by sea. So "I see the Sea!" was something reasonably rare but also marking things like holiday. I got my Rules Of Cricket "poster"* from one of these, it was on a visit to the Giant's Causeway maybe 30 years ago.

*(can't really call it a poster, it's woven out of authentic Ulster Linen)

Enough reminiscing, for now :-). I may natter more about the Ireland years at some point. That gives me an idea actually :-) Been struggling for ideas to write posts about lately. I don't believe in burdening people too much with my struggles, which seems to have been the theme lately. This week's been a struggle, I took today off work to give me more regenerating time. Not had much sleep this week - I dunno, I put my head on the pillow and can't find the Off Switch. So this week's been a bit of a struggle. I disappeared from a leaving run last night after feeling the first signs of collapse.

I feel a bit better today after hitting the crash stops yesterday, hopefully I'll be more back to normal by Monday. This part of the year is always a struggle for me, as the time between Xmas and Easter holidays catches me out. It is good to have people to grin at though, there's a certain person who's helped me out over the past few days and I'm sure she doesn't realise how much that little smile brightens my day.

Wait - when does the "I think of you every minute" thing step from cute into stalker territory ? Maybe when the thoughts step from thoughts and into something more persistent and unwanted.

I dunno - that's distracting me away from real purpose of post ... A to Z time again ! I'm almost through listening to all the C albums ... So what are they and what do I think of them ?

Katie Melua - Call Off The Search. Sometimes the songs don't do the voice justice but ... what a voice.

A Camp - their first album (A Camp) and Colonia. This was a band started up by Nina Persson as what she did next after the Cardigans broke up. There's some amazing songs here, with that trademark voice leading the way. Algebra (this song gets me from the very first chords) and Here Are Many Wild Animals are just 2 highlights of many. Nina Persson just brought out a solo album called Animal Heart, which is still good just not as inspired as the rest.

Ani DiFranco - Carnegie Hall 4.6.02 - This one is ok. It's not a favourite but there's some good, some bad.

Carpenters Gold - these have their fans and their avoiders. Avoider is probably the best word, they stir up unwanted memories in some and unwanted emotions in others. I just hear a remarkable voice that was lost to us far too early singing pure, beautiful songs.

Catatonia greatest hits - someone laughed when they saw this in my library. I'm a quirky guy and I like variation. So I'm drawn to these weird people with their distinctive accents, strange songs and funny lyrics. You know Road Rage and Mulder and Scully but my favourite is Imaginary Friend. Not many songs take a twist in the middle like that one.

Beth Orton - Central Reservation. Can't remember how I discovered this one, think it was an iTunes single of the week freebie. Good but not great but definitely worth a listen.

More Morcheeba ! - Charango continues their usual output. Again, it's just that bit different to what I usually listen to which keeps it interesting. I get bored listening to the same thing over and over again.

Soundtracks - there's a few of these in the C's :
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Danny Elfman at work
Company of Heroes - game soundtrack, makes me think of trying the game (Steam freebie from a while ago)
Civilisation V
Conan the Barbarian - the original Arnie film soundtrack by Basil Poledaris. It adds a sense of freedom to a truly classic film.
The Core - laughable sci fi film. I really enjoy this one. Perhaps it's the Kirsty Swanson as Astronaut factor.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - the film that brought foreign language back to popularity.
The Crow - tragic film, fitting soundtrack.

Classical :
Chopin preludes - there's some unforgettable melodies here
Classic ads, Classical Hits, Classical music for relaxation (all stuff acquired on offer and there's some true gems here)

Elaine Paige - Christmas ! Sickly sweet all the way but a lot of fun too.

Johnny Cash - the classics. Everyone has to have a bit of Johnny Cash in their libraries.

The XX with Coexist - not bad but a bit too manufactured compared to their first. Their XX album was that little bit different again, this one's a bit generic and forgettable.

Two collections - iTunes has an annoying bug - it's combined these two and I can't split them. Meh. Buddy Holly was another taken from us too early and the other collection is from Dusty Springboard. Here's two unforgettable classics : Son of a Preacher Man and Peggy Sue.

Sia - Colour the Small One. Again, what a voice. Highlights for me here are Breathe Me, Moon and Numb.

Norah Jones - Come Away With Me - yes please ! I would follow that voice anywhere. It has a purity, a weight, a clarity. You can close your eyes and it'll carry you away.

Dire Straits - Communique. Not so much with this guy, although Mark Knopfler's guitar playing makes up for his voice. He did albums as albums too. Whereas I thought Ellie Goulding's Bright Lights had some amazing songs on it, I didn't think it worked well as an album. Too much of the same in it. Dire Straits were another group that made albums where the sum was greater than the parts.

Madonna - Confessions on a Dance Floor. Madonna's albums all follow themes too and they tend to be very different between albums. This one is pure disco, with thumping electronic beats all the way through. There's stunning track after stunning track here and they all work well together. How High is one of my favourites here.

Texas - started listening to these again. They've made some cracking songs over the years and it was definitely worth getting the deluxe version of the Conversation for the live album on the second cd.

Enigma's Cross of Changes - good, not as good as MCMXC AD.
Tracy Chapman - Crossroads - may have to hunt down more Tracy Chapman.

Cults - Cults. They hide their voices a bit under the instruments. Lyrics are very strange. I like 'em. Here's Abducted.

And finally - one of the past, a truly golden oldie : Gloria Estefan's Cuts Both Ways. Again with the purity of that voice, with some Latin fun thrown in there too.

It's going to be a while before I get through the D's ... There's a bunch of Doctor Who soundtracks in there that will take a while to get through ! Guess I'll take that Wisely And Slow (little taster from the D's ...)

Monday, March 03, 2014

Movies of 2013 - Elysium

We were blessed with quite a few decent movies in 2013. I'm watching one of them at the moment - Elysium.

What is it ? It's a scifi spectacular based in the year 2154. Human society has been split in two, the majority live on Earth. An apparently post apocalyptic Earth with Los Angeles in ruins. The minority live in an orbiting space habitat called Elysium where they enjoy the benefits of hyper advanced technology. Things like being able to cure Leukaemia in minutes by effectively taking the body apart and putting it back together again the right way.

I'll try and avoid too many spoilers but here's the major characters :

Lead protagonist - Max. Who lives on Earth but dreams of reaching Elysium. He experiences a factory accident which irradiates him with a dose that will be lethal in 5 days. Desperate times indeed ... The desperate measure is an exo suit that gives him super strength to counteract the radiation sickness.

With Max is Frey, who gives Max another very good reason for wanting to get up to Elysium.

Jodie Foster plays a megalomaniac defense secretary who is prepared to do anything necessary to protect Elysium.

Sharlto Copley (the breakthrough star of District 9) plays a wonderfully psychotic mercenary for hire who is Jodie Foster's muscle. And by wonderfully psychotic, that's definitely an understatement.

You have other characters in there as well but they take a second place to the leads and the technology the writers get to play with.

It starts with the space station - Elysium. There's a lot done right here. If you've read the Ringworld books, that series has a massive ring in space orbiting a sun. It gradually spins, which keeps the air in. This time, it's a much smaller station that is about 19 minutes travel time from Earth.

Aside - it's not "centrifugal" force. That's a fallacy invented to explain something without any true understanding of what's going on. The BBC commentators in the Winter Olympics used it a lot in the bobsleigh coverage. The ball being spun on the rope doesn't fly away due to mythical centrifugal force, it goes round in a circle due to centripetal force exerted by the rope. It's similar with the air in a ringworld. The atmosphere wants to carry straight on outwards but is kept inside by the surface and high walls.

The average movie viewer doesn't care about that though - it's the visuals that count and they're top notch.

Aside 2 - although they don't mention it in the movie, there's a series of Lagrange points up in space. They're the places where things stay where they're put. I'm assuming the Elysium habitat is at one of the L4 or L5 (between Earth and Moon - see link for more) points. Reason ? It's in the same place in the sky. This is another sign of how they were clever, it's presenting something complex in a simple way. People who know the orbital mechanics thing recognise it but ... the average movie viewer isn't interested.

Exo suits - these are coming. Perhaps not as gruesomely as in the movie (think chop shop but with a human having things screwed into him) but they're on their way. Hopefully soon too because an exo suit, full or partial, will be an amazing way of getting our amputees their mobility back. The trick is to make the movement natural and precise and it's that precision which will be the tough part of the pie. We'll need to precision that lets us close fingers on an egg, without breaking the shell.

The progression from that is AI controlled droids - these guys are Nasty.

Using the brain as a memory store. I dunno the stats on this but we don't use much of the space in our brains. Elysium sees data being stored in our heads. I think this is coming too, although the interface will need work. Nasty copy protection here ;-).

The medical tech - this is the true miracle. Will it be possible in 140 years ? I hope so.

Should you watch Elysium ? Hell yeah. It's a great movie. There's enough action and explosions in there to keep most movie watchers happy. And the science in there keeps the scifi geekster happy too. Although there are bad points that we won't mention too much :

The engines on the spaceships. Ok, it is 140 years in the future ? Plausible ? Maybe.
Shooting down shuttles in a manner that will pepper the habitat with debris - ouch.
Having a handheld launcher capable of shooting down shuttles in orbit - want one.
Using computer speak from now (assembler language and BIOS screens) - make something else up !

Apart from that, it has pretty much everything : Great story, amazing visuals, science fiction that makes a lot of sense, excellent characters.

Well worth catching. I think I wrote about it around August when it was in cinemas, I just finished watching on Bluray and it still holds up. It's not the best movie of last year, Gravity was better. Need to buy that.