Monday, April 28, 2014

Comics and Superheroes

I'm rewatching the Iron Man movies at the moment.

Nah - not right now but I just finished watching Iron Man 2 again. Comics and superheroes give us a chance to escape the ordinary. For me, my first comic book addiction was Transformers. Machines that could change from the ordinary into Big Giant Robots. Incidentally, that's why the recent movies were such a letdown for me, because I was taken in by a back story built up in the comics that was far superior to the rubbish in the movies.

And there's lots more superheroes to choose from too. Supervillains too. Curiously though, there was a Massive Multiplayer Online game called City of Heroes which spawned a sideways expansion City Of Villains. I actually have several copies because I bought it and got free copies from magazines. CoH and CoV are dead and gone now (hence people giving it away) but they were built on good ideas.

Everyone wants to feel that they're special. And you know what ? You all are in your own particular way. You're all amazing people.

But there is that thought of being even better. Going by Marvel's catalogue :
HULK SMASH - or a modern take on Jekyll and Hyde.
Thor - the unstoppable god
Black Widow - with the power to own mens hearts and then kick their asses
Captain America - ok. Bit of a meathead this one ;-)
The XMen - although they were better served on animation than on the big screen. (Unmissable films but somehow missing something next to the various animated series)

And DC has Superman and a Batman who can stand toe to toe with anyone thanks to being a bad ass with lots of toys.

But the one I'd want to be most is Iron Man. Perhaps that's because that's the one I feel closest to. Ok, there's a few things missing but at the core, we share common themes :

Money - ok, I have enough but I'm not a billionaire. Or even close. Take a lots of zeroes off ;-)
Mega engineer - I'm trained in electronic and computer engineering but have a decent grasp of the other engineering disciplines as well. I'll look at something and go glassy eyed as I'm dismantling it in a 3d picture in my head. I'll be figuring out how it works and how it's put together. I can look at source code for computer languages I've never seen and have a reasonable idea of what it's trying to do.

Enthusiastic amateur - this definitely suits Iron Man. He's not trained in any military sense but he wins because his tech is that good.
Oily fingers - when you see him in the movies, he's not in the normal bit of the house, he's in the shop tinkering with the machines. And that's where I'd like to be too. Just got no machine shop here to play in.

Playboy womanizer ? Nah. This we don't share. I fixate on one and ignore all others. To some degree at least. That Grin will always be ready to try and coax a smile out of random strangers and I'll be flirty with anyone if I think it will make them smile and get them feeling just that little bit more special than they did before.

Tendency to rush into danger ? Hell yeah. If the Zombie Apocalypse happened tomorrow, I wouldn't last long because I'd be sacrificing myself to save someone else.

So yeah - which superhero would I be ? Definitely :
Or one of Shepard's sidekicks. Who's Shepard ?
She's the one on the right. It's a character from the Mass Effect universe, which is a first person shooter crossed with role play game set about 170 years from now where the galaxy is facing an impending invasion from sentient machines that intend to destroy all organic life. It has everything, sci fi, space ships, aliens, mystery, danger. I wouldn't be Shepard, that character has to be female. (Why ? Cos Jennifer Hale voices the character and that voice is incredible).

I'm in the early days of another play through of the third Mass Effect game and I'm also replaying Deus Ex Human Revolution (should really play the original). I wouldn't want to be the lead guy in DXHR, he gets chopped up at the start and replaced with mostly artificial parts. Woah ! Spoiler. Not really - ha. Good game but I blanch at being chopped up like that.

Yep - current times - let me be Iron Man.
Future times - one of the Shepard support characters. Either Joker the ace pilot with the brittle bones (voiced by Seth Green) or Mordin Solus, brilliant Salarian scientist.

Actually, anything with a little scifi will suit me but keep me away from AI's driven mad by conflicting directives :
What would your superhero alterego be ?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Put the Kettle On

It's been a pretty quiet holiday so far, which was of course completely the plan.

The time between the Xmas and Easter breaks always tends to catch up with me and that was before this skin thing took hold. The plan for this week was :

Chill out until frozen
Catch up with recorded stuff
Heal up some more
Try not to eat too many Easter Eggs
Beat a few games (and avoid getting more)
Listen to as much music as possible

I've done well with that last one, according to iTunes I've listened to over 1000 (erm 1004) unique tracks since starting my leave on Thursday 17th. That's 22 albums (so far) and coming up next after a little Doctor Who watching is Gabrielle Aplin's English Rain and then Avril Lavigne's self titled latest album.

While I am a creature of habit, I also have a quirk of memory which means I crave variation. So of the nearly 500 albums in the library, it may be over six months between one listen and the next. Unless I queue them up for listening to in the car. I'll do that with the best albums although lately I've been just letting random tracks play.

That's something - I still need to figure out how to release the 4.5GB of Stuff that's clogging up the phone. It's an iPhone 5 with 16GB, which means it only has 14.5GB for what I want to do with it and that's divided up between apps, music and other things. However ... there's 4.5GB of bad data in there that refuses to shift. I have a couple of options :

See if iOS7 will do the trick - not an option because it would force me to use iTunes 11, which would lose me a feature (iTunes DJ) which is how I arrange what I listen to at home. Not an option.
Factory restore - awkward because the phone got confused between the change from Acer laptop to Macbook Air. The apps don't sync properly via the Macbook. And it didn't work on the old laptop.
Restoring via the phone - I should be able to do this, however there's awkwardness with the apps. I'd need to manually put them back on. Bit of a chore, may have to resort to it.

Too much geekiness ?

I thought so.

More chill out ! But I would like that memory back on the phone.

Recorded stuff ? I've caught up a lot there now. Enough that I've started rewatching things like Space Above And Beyond from about 20 years ago. I first caught that on late night BBC2, it's about a group of future US Marine Corps pilot/commandos who are at the front of a war between humans and a newly discovered enigmatic but vicious alien race. It was compelling viewing 20 years ago. I've also been watching the Die Hard movies too, in advance of watching A Good Day To Die Hard which is recorded on the box.

At the moment, it's Doctor Who. I've managed to get to halfway in the first Matt Smith series. He's definitely the better Doctor of the recent ones. There's a madcap combination of insanity, youth, deadly seriousness and comedy with Matt Smith's doctor.

I've healed up a bit over the week, although sometimes it feels like :
Although substitute phone for damaged bits of me and you'll get the idea. Instead of leaving them be like I should, it's really difficult for me to resist attacking the bad bits and that sets the healing back. I've been doing better with that lately. Some days, it's good enough that I could put the knee pads on which is the end test for whether I'll play cricket. But then it may worsen again.

Actually, the thing that may keep me out of cricket this year (and force an overdue retirement) is probably my hips. I broke the cabin fever today for a wander around Bristol and those hips had me limping at points. It's one of my long standing half healed injuries. When my back got better and I thought I could stretch a bit more pace out of my bowling, I ran in quicker. However ... the extra stress when sending the ball down led to tearing muscles in my groin, which never really healed truely. It's an annoying injury. I can still run at Warp Speed in a straight line with it, however turning is badly affected as is walking. Different muscles and all that.

I actually bought stuff too in town (worth a mention cos my shopping trips tend to just end up looking in windows). Not as much as I could have - I have it in my head to buy a headset. I.e. headphones plus microphone for gaming. Would I use it ? Not in my current gaming profile but I would if I did multiplayer again. But I want a pair anyway. I think I'd have got some too, except ... shops don't seem to want to let you try them on. And considering that a major deal breaker with headphones, keyboards, mice etc is how they interact with touch ...

I ain't buying it if there's a chance it could turn into another Mad Catz Fly 5. All that adjustment looks great but can lead to an uncomfortable handle and what really cripples that stick is a massive deadzone where the self centre springs don't consistently take it back to the middle.

Other stuff ? (The wall of text alarm is pinging ...)

I've learned The Gimp - it's an image manipulation application. I used to use Photoshop Elements but the copy I have is so old .... I thought I'd better try something new. The Gimp takes some getting used to but it let me turn a Judge Dredd badge into something custom. I'd like to show it here but the one I did has a name and the two I was intending to do are on hold, I'll only do those on request and I never got any feedback from the first. I actually kinda think I've been blocked as a groupie stalker, which is a pretty hair trigger response to be honest.

Hey ho. It was an idea to do something nice at the time but if that's not what people want, then it's a sign to redirect the energies towards people who will appreciate the effort.

That kinda sounds nasty doesn't it ? That's not the intention. The original pic was in response to a "Why don't they do cool t-shirts in womens sizes ?" Well, they do. But you might have to put the effort in to make your own coolness pics and to find someone who can put it on a t-shirt for you. (Found one of those in the Galleries Mall today).

So - while I'm not intending to do the 2 Judge badges, I'll happily make you pics if you give me an idea. I'll usually do it for the Warm Fuzzy Feeling of helping someone out combined with the "Hey ! Fun challenge". I enjoy those.

I better close there. Easter Egg count ? Only 2. Tesco was particularly light on inspiration for decent eggs ...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A to Z - D

This seems to be accelerating ...

I'm off work this week having a break. That's much needed both from recuperating energy that got nuked by that period of not sleeping and I'll hopefully get a chance to heal up a lot of the damage from the skin condition.

What's the plan ?

Listen to lots of music
Get some game playing in
Watch lots of stuff
Escape the house when the cabin fever hits
Clean the house (lots of clutter!)
And maybe do some other stuff too

That other stuff has already included making a custom Judge Dredd badge for someone in response to a "Why don't they make cool t-shirts in ladies sizes ?" Well ... find a pic, get someone to make the pic what you want and put it on to t-shirt of your choice using transfer paper. I still need to make my dwagon t-shirt. I'd actually like to post that Dredd badge here (I like to show off my work sometimes - it surprises people that there's a little artist in here) but it's got an actual name on so ...

A to Z ? I'm through more than half the library ! In tracks at least. In albums, I'm up to D although I've also been going backwards through the alphabet too. What's in D ?

Chris Rea - Dancing With Strangers. This is a seriously underrated album. The voice kinda takes second stage to the rest of the music but that voice also leads. It's great to listen to.

Soundtracks -
Dark Crystal is a film I don't watch enough, it was one of the last outputs from the late, great Jim Henson. The soundtrack definitely fits the film.
Dark Knight - an ok soundtrack. Hans Zimmer phones them in sometimes, it fits the film but it's ... bland.
Das Boot - if you haven't seen this series, it's a WW2 must about a German submarine crew and it's set when life got very hard for the German U-boats. Very dramatic, guaranteed to get you cheering for the crew. And that was a huge surprise when me and my dad watched it the first time around.
Jessica Curry - Dear Esther. Nice moody soundtrack, must fit the "game" well. It's a game soundtrack but it's debatable whether Dear Esther is a true game or just an exercise in walking a path.
Despicable Me - for some reason, I don't have the second film yet.
Deus Ex - I have 2 soundtracks here. The games are great and they're backed up by excellent soundtracks.
Doctor Who - so much good music ...
Don't Starve - a cult hit game, it has the magic of doing what it does ever so well. It's a youtube favourite. Excellent music too which helps set its mood.
Dredd - atmostpheric, moody soundtrack that is a fantastic complement to a great film.

Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon. There's a reason this is one of the best selling albums of all time. Although ... my favourite of their's is Wish You Were Here.

Beth Orton - Daybreaker. I'm keeping an eye on Beth Orton. She's a decent singer, not quite as good as a Lene Marlin or Natasha Khan but, pretty good. Well worth a listen.

Suzanne Vega - Days of Open Hand. This is seriously one of the best albums in my collection. It carries its theme all the way through and really showcases that pure voice that Suzanne Vega blesses us with hearing.

The Staves - Dead & Born & Grown. Talking of purity in voice ... I'll be keeping an eye on the Staves for as long as they're around. 3 ladies with the purist voices, singing in beautiful harmony. Here's the first link of the day : Wisely and Slow.

The Rasmus - Dead Letters. Not bad. Not my favourite but it's still well worth a listen.

Nerina Pallot - Dear Frustrated Superstar. Again, a decent album but not the best. My favourite from Nerina Pallot is Everybody's Gone To War.

Bjork's next with her Debut. Bjork writes the book with crazy, sexy, beautiful, wonderful. If you want an escape from the bland and ordinary, try Bjork.

Another best of - INXS with Definitive. RIP Michael Hutchence, great singer.

Caro Emerald - Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor. Wow. Huge fan of Caro Emerald. There's a rhythm, an attitude, an allure, a sexy quirkiness that flows all the way through her songs. Oh to be That Man. Wonderful album.

Pink Floyd - Delicate Sound of Thunder was a concert album which brought together all of their best. It included songs up to Momentary Lapse of Reason (bland but still good) but missed their earlier stuff. Decent album but you're better listening to the studio albums. Division Bell is in here too but ... bland.

Gorillaz - Demon Days. Cracking album, it has its own unique character. Love it.

Prince & NPG - Diamonds and Pearls. Bit mixed. There's some amazing and some utter dross here but it's all Prince.

Bangles - Different Light. Has some of their best, Manic Monday, Walking Like An Egyptian but my favourite is always going to be Return Post.

Ani Difranco - Dilate. Has potential but not a favourite.

Dire Straits - the self titled album was an excellent start but it took a few albums for them to become true Sultans of Swing.

Dirty Vegas - this album has the wonderful Days Go By on it. Their usual output is Dance & House but the acoustic version of Days Go By is one where I'll STOP EVERYTHING and sing along.

Daft Punk - Discovery. I need more Daft Punk in my life. If you think of music changing a mood, One More Time definitely sets a toe tapping mood.

Dubstar was a surprise with Disgraceful. Dance-ish electronic music backed by another of those amazingly pure voices. There's rumours of a comeback, I hope they're true cos these people are Stars.

KT Tunstall - Drastic Fantastic. Second album that wasn't quite as good as the first (bit manufactured) but it definitely had its moments.

Kate Bush - The Dreaming. It's hard to think of a best Kate Bush album. They're all excellent. This is one of the better albums. She has the ability to write true albums that are more than the sum of their singles.

And finally - Portishead with Dummy. This has some amazing songs on it from a band full of character. My favourite is the one that closes it off. Glory Box - Wow.

Hmm - might not be long before I'm through E too. Perhaps by the end of this week off ? We shall see !

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Movie Watch

Been watching more movies lately, both at home and at the cinema.

Cinema watching tends to come in cycles. There's either a bunch of interesting movies on, or there's a dry period that can take months. And that's with a reasonably varied taste in movies. Ok. I admit it, I'm a scifi and fantasy nut but I'll catch historical type movies and ... I've ... seen ... Twilight ... (and the Kristen Stewart version of Snow White - Mirror Mirror was far superior).

Tonight ? It's Riddick.

That's the 3rd theatrical movie in the series - technically the 2 games form part of the narrative plus there's a 30 minute ish animation that bridges Pitch Black into Chronicles of Riddick.

The third movie is a bit of a two parter. You have the segment when he's on his own ... and the segment when mercenaries show up. There's some familiar faces too :

Conrad Pla - gentle giant who I first saw in Regenesis. (Catch that if you can - excellent, challenging series). He also shares a massive resemblance to someone I used to work with. Great guy.
Dave Bautista - wrestling fans will recognise this guy. He's one of the bigger wrestlers, usually does a good job on screen.
Katee Sackhoff - as asskicking as the character she plays in the new Battlestar Galactica.
Vin Diesel - in the role he was perhaps born for. (If it isn't the one in Fast & Furious)

Yep. There's some good players in here and the storyline backs them up. It's worth catching, as are the others in the series. The game Assault of Dark Athena (gog link) was supposed to be quite special too.

I'm tempted as well to watch Dredd tonight. Not the pale imitation which was the Sly Stallone version but the newer version with Karl Urban as the protagonist. This movie is highly recommended (by me ;-) and wasn't in the cinema for as long as it deserved. Olivia Thirlby makes for an excellent sidekick as Judge Anderson too. But most important :

The Helmet - Stays On.

Maybe tomorrow night - the Plan ? I'll be working as normal but after that heading to Tesco for a holiday supply run. I'm off work resting next week, need it to recharge the batteries. Tesco also has a Domino's by it ... That'll give me nasty acid but - it's pizza ! It's worth it. And I can mitigate the acid by doing an all nighter which will more than knock me out on Friday night and hopefully lead to a very long restorative sleep.

It's not particularly healthy staying up more than a day but it can be handy to reset the clock occasionally. Especially if you have a tendency like me to have something like a 26 hour day which just ends up in not enough sleep cos it takes ages to get to sleep on days you have to get up in time for work.

Other movies ?

Captain America 2 - go see it ! It's awesome. Definitely one I'll get on bluray early.
Thor Dark World - not so sure about this one. It tries hard but the script just isn't as strong as Cap Am.
Robocop - expecting this one soon on bluray. It's a very worthy update of the original. There was a lot that was distateful about the original, unnecessarily distasteful and it detracted from the movie. This version pays a lot of homage but is just a far stronger movie.
Transcendance - they just said this word in Riddick but there's a promising movie coming of that name.
Ender's Game - mentioned this one already, very strong movie.

Man Of Steel - we've been waiting a while for a truly worth Superman movie. The originals with the one and only Christopher Reeve were very good but now look quite dated. Man Of Steel looks excellent and has its strong story too. It's a retelling of the original and reintroduces the saga in a way that makes a lot of sense.

Backstory is very important to me. I hear there's a new Transformers movie coming soon, which I'll avoid as long as I can. Why ? Cos I grew up with the backstory from the comics, which was utterly trashed and replaced with something nonsensical by an illiterate fool who can't read autocues.

Last one ? I'm curious about the Raid 2. But mostly because I heard someone would give their kingdom for a cinema that was playing it. I've asked and offered dinner but ... heard nothing in reply. I think she's doing the running away screaming thing.

Which would be perfectly understandable with another few that just caught my eye ... Hmm :
John Carter - ok, not that bad but got Disney'd
The Tourist
Red Sonja - which I like and must watch again soon
Resident Evil Retribution

What can I say about that last one ? Definite Milla Jovovich fan. Not watched Ultraviolet for a while either ... that's one I may upgrade to bluray ...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Pictures !

First a serious one :
Oh and a bit of an apology for yesterday's post - sometimes I'll start off with something that seemed a good idea but sometime during the typing, the "good" of the idea evaporates and the quality starts to descend to the floor. Where it commences digging. Oh well. It seemed a good idea at the time and if anyone is interested in a little advice about :

Geeky stuff
Other stuff I can't mention here (that got you curious - admit it)

Drop me an email and I'll try not to go nerdygeeky like yesterday.

On with the pics, starting with going through the one up top. We've all hit the rocky stuff at some point in our lives. I'm still struggling with my own one that's lasted maybe 3 years now (it's healing but very slowly). How do I deal with it ? Staying positive, which is much harder than it sounds. When the negative stuff hits, you need something to rationalise it, to accept it, to distract away from it.

Activities - the cricket was great, a side effect of Warp Speed and exercise with me is that it shuts my brain down. I can't think as accurately as when the adrenaline isn't in my system. Sometimes that's not a bad thing. Being cold and analytical about it, depression can be due to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. And having a rush in of endorphins and adrenaline from running around can jump start better chemicals getting in there.

Oh - if running around isn't an option (it isn't for me at the moment) then breaking the natural rhythm of what you can do helps too. It's why I'll mosey around the shops at either the local Mall or Cabot Circus for an hour or so. It gets me out of the house and doing something different.

Contribute - I live for helping people out. Although I think it was winding up the boss today when I was piping up with helpful (it was - honest) bits and pieces about the old project. I didn't know every nut, bolt, nook or cranny but it was close ...

Oh - I wouldn't advise contributing this way :
It may seem like a good idea at the time but if you don't use a burn phone, untraceable cash and can't arrange a cast iron alibi then ... Oh and use an internet cafe too cos "I need a hitman" will be a giveaway if it turns up in your Google search history on your own IP address.

Comparisons - Compare yourself to a time when you felt different. Yeah, the skin thing is lingering on and I'm not really helping it go away but - it's a hell of a lot better than this time last year and it's steadily, slowly improving.

It's not just that though. With the personal/relationship side of me I've gone through some massive highs and some equally massive lows. I'm pretty sure my latest attempt at making someone run away screaming (the - "will you go see a movie with me?" question) is actually making them run away screaming but I'm trying to be more philosophical about that than I have been in the past. I don't show it too much but I feel as deeply as anyone else does, possibly more because it doesn't get let out too much.

Emotions - Create different emotions. Watch a funny or scary movie.
Erm - like watching Captain America 2 and then having the urge to run pellmell across the car park on a leg that 3 days prior was being exceedingly painful.

Or like last week when I had a remote control tech support phone call starting at 10.30pm from the parents (who I love to bits but who I wish sometimes would RTFM). It was literally like pulling my hair out but we got things sorted. My dad is as anti-techie as I am pro-techie. Strange how that works out ! Long story short, the next thing I saw was a Yogscast Kim Galacticraft video that had me grinning from ear to ear within minutes. You can't help but laugh along with them.

Certain emotions though ... I wouldn't advise checking out ... Like Ivanova said "You're too young to experience that level of pain."

Pushing away - Push the painful situation out of your mind temporarily. It's why I've insisted on staying working when at its worst, my skin condition probably would have justified me going on sick leave. I can enter a state of total focus, where the world is shut out. Including the sensations where my body is telling me to check out the bad bits, which invariably makes things worse. The total focus state comes in during certain gameplay and can hit during work time too. I zone in.

Thoughts - Replace your thoughts. Read a book. Play a game.

There's not much worse than sitting, moping, dwelling on a problem. Sure, you need to confront, analyse, evaluate and exorcise the problem to put it behind you but - sometimes we're just not ready to put the problem in its box. And replacing the bad thoughts with something different can give you insight and inspiration of how to deal with the problem thoughts.

This is bad :

This is good :
Sensations - Identify other sensations. Be mindful of the smells, feelings and textures.

Not so sure about this one. Although what did come immediately to mind was Cupcake vs Muffin. (I definitely miss Snow Queen Special Cakes!) Popcorn vs Biscuit. Pizza vs Pasta.

Something that's not on that first list though - Ask.

Don't feel bad about asking for help. Your friends will give it unconditionally and it can sometimes be the most effective way of dealing with your problems. You may not see a way out yourself but sharing the problem with someone you trust will help you climb over that wall of thinking through it. But most of all :
Hugs always help.

Monday, April 14, 2014

March of the Audiophile

I've been reading those news stories again ...

But first - I'm gonna rob someone's FB pic again ! It's about depression and surviving crises and I've got a few things I can talk around that. Not today though, I have it saved for later. Nah - today's is spotting more news, which I'll completely forget about if I don't post it now.

Here's the link ... it's about blu-ray discs being used for audio.

Whenever I let on that I have a blu-ray player, I always follow that with what I think of it :

Picture - is genuinely better but you have to be looking for the differences. Bit like HD vs non-HD where it all depends on the bandwidth as to how sharp it is. Some Standard Def transmissions can be sharper than HD transmissions. No. It's not worth getting a bluray player for the sharper image, most new-ish (like my Xbox360) dvd players will get as much detail out of a dvd as you'll perceive in a bluray.

Audio - this is where bluray scores. Without going into the technical details, blu ray sound is much better defined and with a surround sound amp, it's also placed in the scene far more exactly. Things like the house scene in Book Of Eli (the one where it's being taken apart by a gatling gun) has the sound of the bullets flying around, over, through you. The Dolby D on dvds has genuine surround but needs compression to get the message across. &Cmprsd txt s mch hrdr 2 flw. (And compressed text is much harder to follow)

Numbers ? Come on, you knew I couldn't leave these out ;-)
CDs see audio sampled (broken up) into 16 bits per channel with a sample coming at a rate of 44,100 per second. That makes 705kbits for one channel, 1410kbits for two channels.

Up that to movies - 4230kbits/s for 6 channels. However ... Dolby D only allows up to 504kbit/s on DVD or 640kbit/s on Bluray. That's a tiny fraction of the pure signal. You're losing a lot of information there and it manifests in blurry, indisctinct sound. Or does it ... Bluray allows up to 18Mbit/s which is plenty.

Enough of the numbers - I sense much relief.

There's a golden rule with hifi - if you spend more you get something better. Up to a point. I've had 4 hifi's over 25 years. The first two were simple separates systems (Rotel kit is very special) but the second two were surround sound specials. I replaced the Rotel kit with a Creative Labs DTT2500, which was meant for PCs but fit very nicely into a home movie set up. It sounded surprisingly good too for an £160 outlay. But it couldn't understand the signals coming out of my bluray player.

It got replaced with an Onkyo 508 amp and Tannoy surround speakers which do sound genuinely better, as it should for £500ish. It also accepts way more output (like my audio streamed over the network in the better format).

You could spend infinitely more ... like getting better sources. Which is where this bluray audio thing comes in.

The article does a decent effort at selling it but is it worth it ? There's a certain point where diminishing returns come in. Our hearing goes from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (in theory, in actuality we'll be lucky to retain much above 13,000 Hz) so the 44.1kHz of cd audio is perfectly adequate. The 96kHz of bluray audio is genuinely better but we ain't gonna hear it. Same with the definition - 16 bits gives a signal to noise that's better than almost all amplifiers can give.

The diminishing returns strike.

It's the same with hifi kit. I could spend £1000 (way more) each on amplifiers, speakers, cables, more cables, stands and it would sound genuinely better. I could buy a massive house with a special uncluttered listening room (this place is too cluttered for music to sound amazing).

But would I notice it sounding better ? Unlikely. Sometimes the media people throw formats at us and expect us to replace our libraries with the Next Big Thing. Rebel ! You don't have to do that. I've replaced a small number of my dvds with the bluray version but I don't see the need to replace the lot. (Ok, I replaced the Star Wars dvds quite quick but ... it's Star Wars!)

Something similar applies with the other expensive paraphenalia they try and sell us with TV and Hifi. Do you need a £80 HDMI cable to connect telly to blu ray player ? Yes. But you can do exactly the same thing with one costing under a tenner.

Actually, there is a little more to it than that. But there's that diminishing returns thing coming in again.

The answer ? Research !

Make your own minds up as to what's actually worth getting. Ask people about what you're thinking of getting. Read the magazines (but beware their bias, What Hifi wasn't called What Sony for nothing), make sure you know what you're getting. Good hifi rarely happens by accident, there's usually a Big Plan behind how it's come together. Also look at the value, people say nice things about Sonos and Bose kit but I just see the price tag and think it ain't worth it.

If anyone has any questions about hifi or TV kit, there's an email in my profile. I'll be more than happy to answer and expand on stuff I've glossed over above. But remember, there's something more important than anything else :

It's about the entertainment. The fun, the experience. And I could do that just as well with my £160 piece of PC hardware as my £500 hifi and I wouldn't get any more out of a £3000 home movie set up.

Talking of fun :
(checks pepsi glass ...)

PS My opinion on MP3s ? It's compression that loses info but .... they still sound great. At least they do in the car !

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Selfie story

I spotted a news story today ... which isn't too unusual. I keep an eye on what the world is up to, usually so I get fair warning if the paranoia turns out right and the world sends a curveball my way.

This wasn't that but the story touched a nerve anyway. What was it ? Here's a link. It's a BBC story, so your credibility-challenged alarm is already going off but take a peek. It's about a health warning issued about the rise of selfie pictures being taken on the internet.

Ok, what's so strange about that ?

I didn't find the subject matter particularly puzzling. The question of self image has been paramount throughout history. It's only recently though that the camera has mercilessly shown the truth of what we look like. At least, the camera combined with our own tendency to self criticise.

But I'll come back to that. What I found puzzling was the scope of the research. 881 people questioned, all women. While not wanting to appear as sexist as that selection, it's not just the ladies who have self image consciousness, it's us blokes too.

We all want six packs. We all want to look like the guys on the telly. We want that strong jaw and that corded rippling bicep. Actually, my reaction to what I see with the guys on telly could be seen as being a little gay. That is, if the reaction was "I wanna be with him." It's not, it's a "I wanna be him cos that's what the ladies seem to like" reaction.

We all tend to want to look like something different. And the selfie doesn't help there ...

The thing about the selfie is that it's a picture typically taken from a very short distance. The camera lens is particularly unkind over that distance and we rarely get that person making us do that chuckle with a "cheese!" which brightens up the pic. There's a couple of pictures I took of myself in my Atomic Hat which I don't like to show people. But I do because I find it funny to say "This hat so bright, this night time pic did not need flash"

I've mentioned before that I'm on the Okcupid site - I found it very difficult to find a profile pic for myself there. Selfie pictures tended to be pretty nasty. I did get one eventually, it's one taken as Lords on a sunny day with me in Smart Stuff (doesn't happen often outside work) grinning away from the top of the Pavilion. I think it's got me a few peeks there, although not as many as I'd like.

But yeah - the selfie. It's one of those modern things that now we have cameras which have instant internet connectivity thanks to being in our phones, it spawns a new craze that the rest of us are expected to join in with.

However ... the ones that will dominate are the ones taken by those with most confidence to show themselves off. I'll admit right now, I'm not one of those people. And seeing pictures that make me look chubby makes me feel bad. I bet it makes the rest of you feel bad too.

My opinion of what I look like - chubby because I know what's hidden under the t-shirt
What people may think I look like - broad shouldered and probably a strong build (cos I engineer my posture that way).

I'm curious actually to know what people think of how I look. I just see the photos/pictures and think "need to lose weight". And I do ... but not as much as I think I need to lose. The more weight I carry, the less speed I have and the more unpleasantness from acid I suffer. That's my primary motivation for not getting too heavy. I could have a few targets for my 5 feet 8 inches :

14stone - a Strong weight. It's what I am now. If I converted the excess ballast to muscle, I'd be a powerhouse. Do I want to be ? Nah. I wouldn't have Warp Speed and there's only so much you can do with Popeye Arms.
13stone - a Fit weight. When I get down to this, I still carry a little ballast cos my arms are spindly but I have WARP SPEED and some strength.
12stone - is probably what I should be. However ... I carry all that leg muscle around which tips me into heavier territory. 12st might be a decent weight for me, I'd have Warp Speed plus agility but I'd probably not have much core strength.

What does Science say ? I just did a WTF at seeing what Body Mass Index recommends for my height - 8st 10lb to 11st11lb. That 11st 11 ain't too far fetched, it's a strong weight for someone who hasn't got the tree trunk legs I can get. When I got heavily into cricket, I filled out from 9st very thin into 11-12st broader shouldered. That was from age 14 to 18 though, so I had a lot of natural growing to do anyway.

But - 8st 10 ? I have to admit, I saw a few gamer boys at EGXRezzed who were probably my height and that spindly weight but I didn't want to be them. They looked like half starved bags of bones and that weight was probably causing them malnutrition type problems. (Although you do get the ones genetically pre-disposed to being ultra-thin and tall)

The key thing isn't weight, or height. It's confidence.

Confidence can turn the otherwise plain into creatures of total beauty. Lack of confidence puts a wall up that hides that natural beauty.

We all have that natural beauty, we just tend to hide it behind a lack of self belief. And that's made worse by seeing pictures of people who we'd like to look like. Me with a sixpack ? Don't think that's ever happened ! Although I bet it could given a breaking of the biscuit addiction and some concentrated exercise. I do tend to lose that Warp Speed if I exercise though.

I think that's another of my quirks. I can see that hidden beauty in people. I occasionally help bring it out when people spot me sending The Grin their way.

I'll close there but not without a message to everyone who's borne with me and read this far.

You're GORGEOUS. Yes YOU ! You don't think so ? Well, there's someone here who thinks you're the most beautiful thing on the planet. You just need to trust me, have confidence and believe it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Wishful thinking

Rant time ! (skip to the pictures for more cheerful stuff !)

Well - it would be if the rant wasn't about something that could get me fired. Lol. That's one of those walls I mentioned the other day.

I'd love to talk about work and what we do there. We see what we make in the news occasionally and it's pretty awesome when we do. MH370 ? We have some involvement in the hunt. Philippines tsunami ? We helped. It would give too much away though if I did say here what I did at work (and possibly attract awkward questions that would put me in too much of a spotlight that I don't want!)

But sometimes it feels like we're doing that despite the people who are supposedly in charge. The political system in Blighty is a classic for that old saying "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried." We can pick our leaders, great. Except when the system is totally bankrupt of anyone worth a vote.

This rant triggered by a politician in our news at the moment who would have been fired and forgotten so quickly if she'd been on my side of public service. She's admitted to defrauding the public, yet she's not gone yet. The politicians vote themselves in massive pay rises, while preaching adversity and effective pay cuts (1% rise is below inflation, therefore an effective pay cut) to the rest of the country.

Still - we have a better government than a lot of other countries. We can pretty much ignore the government because we effectively police ourselves. We have to. But at least we're not being policed by lawless gangs.

Oh to have people who are actually worth voting for. Except ... when they do appear, they are eliminated from possibility from a media that concentrates on the large parties and preaches that a vote for another party is a wasted vote.

So much for the wishful thinking ... Time to put the rant away !

I have a little more wishful thinking but this pic comes to mind with that :
Haha. I don't own a cat. I'd quite happily adopt a pet. A cat or a dog would be favourite. But I'd need to do a fair bit of work to secure the house and the backyard. Besides, at the moment said Moggy or Pooch would be on their own all day when I'm at work ... and that's not a nice thing to inflict on a dog. Cat maybe, they're more solitary animals - but they do miss their Staff. Even if they don't let their Staff see.

Next pic ! I sent a comment in to the helpdesk at work about a broken home page ... They changed how they hosted our Intranet. The work web pages. If you didn't have that new home page, you were screwed. Anyway, it took a little bit of finding to acquire the address for the new one. And the reply to the comment ?
Yep - the helpdesk reply inspired the grammar nazi in me. Haha.

I mentioned Perfect people the other day too :-) Last pic before I go away and watch loads of videos. Maybe a little Mass Effect 2 as well, cos my wrist feels like glass again and could do with the therapy :
Also put the following in those bubbles : Star Trek, Farscape (definitely), Babylon 5, Marvel anything, Batman and ... the rest ;-). Not forgetting : Doctor Who. If she likes Doctor Who - SOLD ! I just finished watching the end of new series 4 (Donna Noble). RTD was an idiot sometimes but he definitely could reach that combination of Utterly Brilliant and Devastatingly Sad.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Sittin' on me sofa ...

Chilling on the couch,

Eating all the popcorn,

Enjoying a movie :-)

It's been a long time since I've actually sat on my sofa. Because of my skin condition, which is now hopefully receding, I'd been sitting on the floor or on my pooter chair but not on the sofa. I was avoiding that because I'd been leaking and that coulda wrecked me sofa. It's an old sofa, the springs are starting to break ... but it's my sofa. And I didn't want to wreck it.

But ... sofa time ! Yey !

Good job too cos sitting on that floor was having nasty effects on my hips. If anything stops me playing cricket this summer, it's probably going to be those hips. Problems there mean I can't turn which makes me useless where I field.

What's the movie ? We'll get to that later. Before though ... my poorly leg's been feeling much better :-) I've not had the signals from the muscles that say they're feeling that cramp. So ... I took 'em on a walk today. Just around the centre of Bristol.

I like moseying around the shops, although I don't actually go in many of them. I'm also looking at the people too. I don't think I actually did that too much today. Must have been in thought ... I did get a few smiles out of people though. Which is always good.

Lots of traffic though, it was enough that I could listen (and sing along to) two songs between hitting the stops in the traffic and getting to the car park. Two awesome songs mind, anyone remember Alannah Myles Black Velvet ? The other was Alive by Goldfrapp.

Good job I didn't wind the window down. The other drivers would have been terrified by my singing along. We're also suffering from Smog at the moment, although that seemed to have dispersed by this afternoon. I've been able to literally taste it in the air, yesterday and this morning at least. Smog is nasty. I'm doing my bit ! (points to hybrid car - lol)

I actually bought stuff too -

New albums :
Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Wanderlust - 2 for £15 strikes
Agnes Obel - Aventine - found this singer on a freebie pack and Close Watch immediately hit me as something special
Christina Perri - Head Or Heart - heard it in HMV, liked it, waited until I got home and bought it for half the price
Star Trek Into Darkness soundtrack - great film, loved it

New movies :
Rush - not seen this one, looking forward to it. I watched a real life documentary about its subject and was intrigued. It also enabled a 2 for £25 ...
Man Of Steel - also not seen it but heard a lot of good things about it.
Hunger Games - Catching Fire - amazed this one was in 2 for £25 ...

It'll take a while before I get to listen or watch all that but it will happen ;-).

Movie tonight ? I'm watching Ender's Game. It's a scifi movie set 50 years from roughly now (there are F35's in some scenes). I'm sure I've written about this one before some time ?

Great movie. It builds steadily from simple beginnings into massive battles at the end. It looks amazing too plus it brings through most of the psychology that drove the book. A book I haven't read (yet!) mind ;-)

Back to the movie ! Almost ...

In case I don't mention it - Happy Birthday CK on Monday ! I visited Amazon today but I suspect it won't arrive until or after Monday :-( (must order these things earlier ...)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

What to write

Indeed ;-) (Warning - Deep Thoughts Post !)

I have something I could write but it's whiny and therefore doesn't deserve to see the light of day here. Except for a snippet ...

I have a couple of super powers ... The first is one I talk about a fair bit - the Contagious Grin. It's still getting victims ! Now if only I could get it down on camera ... Whatever selfies I take of me are ... screen shatterers. Let's be honest, I wasn't blessed with classic looks and I'm carrying a little too much weight.

I talk about what I notice about other people looking like, I've felt for a while that a little turnabout was required there. How do I see myself ?

Lazy - which I am. I'm rubbish at doing things for me but I'll drop everything to help others.
Intelligent - but that's like a massive supercomputer that can do lots of sums but doesn't know how to direct its power.
Bigger than I need to be - very true. I'm probably 1st heavier than I need to be but I'm still able to hit that Warp Speed. Well, when my legs will support that.

I'd rather be the shape (a little round!) I am than be one of those super pumped up gym addicts who would crush jars instead of just popping the lid off like the person asked.

A bit broken - isn't everyone ? I've been managing this skin condition for a few years now, plus I have the other issues with back, legs and shoulders. Do I let them get the better of me ? Rather die ;-) Very few people on the team have realised what I've been coping with, they just see me coming in day after day grinning at them and occasionally breaking the quiet with huge laughs and That Sneeze.

Very private - school gave me a certain type of armour that's been very hard to crack. I'm very good at filtering the information that I give out. Too much information leads to vulnerabilities that others can exploit. And you can rarely tell who the bullies are before they expose their tendencies. I write a lot here about me and occasionally about others but ... there are certain walls in place.

Other people's secrets are their own - and that determines the communication channels I use. Talking of that, I've just joined Twitter ! Ok, it was to do with getting messages to someone I know is on Twitter. The tally is @dwagonman - Sleepypete was already taken and I like Dwagonman.

What's brought this one on ?

It's that second super power ... I seem to have the power to make people Run Away Screaming. It's not everyone, just those who I express an interest in beyond simple friendship. I don't understand that. Perhaps its that old thing about Girls Prefer Nasty Boys. Maybe I'm too Good. That's not something I'm planning to change. But if ...

You see someone who you think is Perfect;
You send a few messages across, most based on info you've seen them put out;
You know they've read them and paid a little attention;
You get no reply whatsoever despite knowing they're active;
And they do stuff like delete profiles on online dating agencies the day after you get in touch.

I don't get that. It hurts and it's not the first time I've had a response that seems like someone's running away and doing the screaming thing. It does make you think that the person you thought was Perfect isn't. That's definitely been the case with the two major relationships I've had so far. I don't attempt to initiate stuff like that because I'm very picky about who I'd want to let in past that armour but when I do, it's whole hearted.

And I think that whole heartedness is what scares people away. It's like a switch that flips very quickly, too quickly, I can make my mind up about a person almost instantly and it's a switch that can flip on changing circumstances too. It's like a sixth sense. I'll fairly quickly know who I can trust. Or who I think I can trust (it's not a reliable instinct ! see 2 broken long term relationships comment)

I'll find someone truly perfect eventually. Perhaps I've met them already but was too shy to ask (I can think of a couple there). Perhaps they took an all too subtle approach for lack of interest. Perhaps like the PokemonGirl I was too fixated on someone else to pay attention to what was in front of me.

Doh - I promised a not very whiney post and then wrote all that which is up there ^. Oops. I can do some predictions but often the way people react is completely mystery.

What I can tell you is that if someone Special does bop me over the head and drag me off to her GirlCave, you'll see her mentioned here as MysteryGirl. And as another codename, depending on what I was writing about. Partner = MysteryGirl, what they do = other codename. It's a bit difficult to do that within the same sentence but I've definitely done stuff like that in the same paragraph, talk about the same person without suggesting any connection.

Oh one closing note - I've excluded the possibility of a relationship while I get better ... well, I may only be weeks away now. Cor ! Yep, there's still a few bits that are persistently resisting healing but those bits are reducing in number and needing less intervention.

Promising :-)

PS I also forgive quickly and completely - so if you're reading this and think you're the one I talked about - FORGIVEN ! :-) Hugs.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Warp speed ?

Scottie says "The engines cannae take it Cap'n" !

Well, not yet anyway.

Watched Captain America 2 last night and ... I'd highly recommend it. It's a longer than average film but it keeps the pace going pretty well. And, rarely for a Hollywood movie, it kinda keeps you guessing too. Ok, some plot twists are a bit telegraphed but ... the next time I watch it I'll be looking out for the little bits I missed the first time around. It's a definite buy on blu-ray. Better than Thor the Dark World for sure.

There's lots of big toys here too. And some little toys too. I shouldn't really call Black Widow a toy though, lest she hear and make a toy out of me. She scary.

Actually that's one thing to look out for on the bluray - better playback of the action scenes. We have 2 Vue cinema near us, one's easier to get to than the other. Without giving too much location away :

Vue CC - clapped out screens that can't keep up with the action but easy for me to get to.
Vue LG - Shiny screens but traffic makes it horrific to get there midweek.

Yep. Really enjoyed Captain America 2. It was one of those films that gave me that physical charge that usually manifests in me doing things Really Fast. Like running across the car park to see if I could. Yep. Doing things Really Fast tends to be connected with Doing Things Really Stoopidly.

Yeah - I'm improving to the point where I'm normalising. Perhaps that's partly due to being in a better state of mind ? Maybe ;-) It'll be good to have possibilities open that have been closed for ... years. It's definitely manifesting in me wanting to run about like a loon, despite :

Being bigger than I should be;
Getting a bit more broken;
And apparently a bad memory cos I forgot the rest

Anyway - that Pain I wrote about in the last post was from one of those times when you wake up to find your leg in mid cramp. And then you don't jump fast enough to break the cramp and your calf muscle ends up tearing itself in two. That's my blessing ... and my curse. My legs have always been a bit big :

I could push start a car ! On my own !
But all that power tore up my knees
I can run so fast the wind whistles in my ears !
But if I hit a downslope, I won't stop for miles - no brakes !
If just one bit of that leg is unhappy - big ouch

But I've got away with it this time. Pain started Friday and saw me limping my way around EGXRezzed but I'd mostly walked it off by yesterday morning. Enough at least, for me to test it out yesterday.

I have several speeds :
Quick walk - I can walk forever on the flat like this
Slow jog - my legs are built for speed, not for persistence
Very Fast - more of a running style than anything really useful
WARP SPEED - when I want to go fast, I go FAST.

If I'm at a fit weight (I'm maybe 1st above right now), then I can hit that top speed fairly quickly. Be a good thing if I had brakes. What can I say ? I just like to Run Very Fast. Cricket lets me do that, plus I can usually get my breath back by the time the next bit of Running Very Fast is needed. And ... with the exception of a few years, I'm still one of the fastest players in both teams I play for.

So - cricket this summer ? I'm in better condition now than I was last year. There's still some healing to do, plus I need to get my Inner Me back to something healthy. By Inner Me, I mean the mineral balances that will keep my muscles happy and the other minerals that will keep me healing properly. I'm pretty sure I'll be physically ready to play cricket this summer. But ...

Will there be a team for me to play for ? That's a bigger doubt than my own fitness ... One team got fired and the other team may have disbanded. So my cricket retirement may be outside of my control. Which means :

I'll need another method to throw myself around like a Mad Thing. Because that's an essential part of being me. Perhaps gym and treadmills ? Maybe. That's something I've never really needed to do as I've obnoxiously abused Natural Fitness. Gym attendance would be easier to maintain if there were someone to keep me interested in it. That's another of my contrasts :

I'm an Introvert Show off.

I like to show off and I try and impress certain people but I'll also fade into the background. But it has to be a special person for me to go into showing off mode. Like only 1% of people.

I also digress a lot. I was able to get to Run Very Fast yesterday but before the switch to Warp Speed :
I was running out of car park ...
The leg was telling me Don't Be Silly (it's ok, maybe 2 more days healing needed)

Maybe this improved mental attitude (definite up from this time last week) is from coming into contact with a certain person ? I'd like to think so. Sometimes the best things come in small packages.

I'm not going to say much more there, except - I hope she's reading. It was an all too fleeting meeting the first time and I'm even more curious now than before.