Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shakedown, shake apart

I've been playing with the new toy :-)

I haven't had an excuse to take it anywhere for pleasure, just business. We can ask for hire cars with work but I prefer not to for a few good reasons :

You can't trust the hire car company - a few colleagues have been caught out by the hire car place claiming our people have damaged the car when the damage was either done by the hire car people or was on the car before it was dropped off. It's a serious problem and our people have taken to taking camera phone pics of the cars as evidence.

The expenses cost difference is trivial. The way it works is : hire car cost is the hire charge plus fuel used. With our own cars, it's a straight pence per mile (which incidentally hasn't changed in 15 years, even though petrol has gone up from 80p/litre in 2000 to 130p/litre now). Because I have an economical car, I make a profit on the trip on the petrol cost alone although that goes away when Total Cost of Ownership comes in. We get 25p a mile, the CT cost about 13p/mile on petrol and 80+p/mile on TCO, although that would have gone down after the finance period finished.

My car is already set up for me with Bluetooth and satnav destinations. Well kinda, it'll take a while for the satnav destinations to be programmed back in.

There's too many variables from the actual drop off of the hire car.

And that's leaving out the elephant in the car park of comparative quality between hire cars and what I'll be paying loads for over the next few years.

I've done the business run twice now, it's 120 miles each way so it's a good drive but not too long. Most of it is motorway, so it's where a relaxing cruiser comes into its own. Which is what the Lexus IS is.

This is going to read like an advert isn't it ? Sorry about that - it's just being honest ! The IS is my second Lexus after the CT and the CT was good enough to convince me that Lexus know how to make very high quality cars. The only problems with the CT were lack of power (10 secs to 60 but I like more) and a few trim niggles. It was an outstanding car but you could tell where unfortunate compromises had to be made to fit the price point and the concept.

The IS is better in almost every way, although they are two different cars with different interpretations of how some things should be done. Like me not knowing where the button to unlock the doors where, as it is done differently between CT and IS. Hitting "Park" would unlock the doors in the CT, the gear selection is done a bit differently in the IS.

But we don't really care about that. How's it do on the road ?

It's a supremely relaxed cruiser. It cuts through the air effortlessly at 70 and the engine is barely above idle. That nets it about 51-52mpg on the long run. It got the 51.2 at the end of the return 120 miles yesterday. I'm hoping for better when the car loses some of the new car stiffness and in the summer. Hybrid tech is very interesting when implemented well but it does demand the engine run more in the winter to keep the warmth going.

The sound is supreme from Bluetooth streaming to the car. I read some stuff about incompatibility between the Bluetooth in the car and the iPhone 5, I suspect that's more to do with the Apple side than the Lexus side. As in, Apple have variable quality and some of their kit just doesn't work right. Like this Macbook Air struggling to stream over 2.4GHz wifi. I think I must have got lucky with my Iphone 5 and got a good one.

Yeah - I enjoyed the two trips and next week's should be a good one too. It's another meeting at the same place, this time I'll have a new guy along. Actually, he's an old guy because he's been on the project before but has been on other things for quite a few years. It'll be good to catch up.

Oh - weird coincidence : With my CT, the first time I tried to fill it up with fuel I came across one of those garages where it refuses to give you more than a thimbleful. Never had that problem again. With the IS, it happened again ... first fill up, uncooperative pump. Hopefully I never see that problem again ! Another coincidence, it was at two different Insert Supermarket Name Here (same chain) garages ...

One thing that was weird - getting almost 600 miles out of a tankful. It's a 50mpg (claimed 60-63 but you rarely get the government figure) car with a 66 litre tank. That makes for lots n lots of miles ...

Shake apart ?

My skin's been mostly improving on the outside, although I'm not quite free of the need to treat it with the gunk fairly regularly. On the inside it's a different story. I get the feeling my outsides will be capable of cricket but the insides won't want to know. Whinge list ! :

Shoulder feels like it's disconnected - like it'll dislocate if I pull on something too hard.
Hip is still stiff
Back feels like it's had concrete poured down my spine
Wrist badly needs some Game Therapy*
Fingers still cramp up at the slightest excuse
And the rest
*(it's weird, the RSI in my right wrist seems to go away with certain games# - dunno why)
#(HEY ! I caught that snigger ... single player games@ seem the best type)
@(Ooo eck - think I'm digging the hole deeper there)

I'm going to stop that little train of thought before it plumbs new depths of deviant depravity.

I'm sometimes hobbling because the skin on my knees isn't cooperating, I'm sometimes limping because my hips or knees are being stiff.

Getting old ;-) But ... one thing that's guaranteed to make me pick up my feet, stand up straight and Walk Strong :

Pretty Ladies !

If there's one thing I hate, it's being caught mid - OUCH, it takes the gloss off that Big Grin ;-)

Oh - everything's on pause, I have one of those classic albums on. It's Gran Turismo and you'll recognise My Favourite Game. And that's not their best album !

Monday, February 24, 2014

Insert Title Here

Haha - I have stuff I can write about ... and no clue on what title to put on it.

Ok. That's actually not quite right. I've usually got about 5 different threads rattling around the marbles and I either can't remember them when it comes time to tappy-scribble or they're things that have no business hitting da interwebs.

There's a few posts that I started that never got posted here. You'll understand why, here's a few from the Drafts folder :

Build your own ... Starship ? This was a treatise on a real size NCC1701 Enterprise that someone was thinking of building in the near future. So I dismantled what they were looking to build and it ended up as a boring Wall Of Text Monster.

And there's a few more too. I think I was writing something on orbital mechanics (I blame the Kerbals !) which is another post that got a mercy killing. Other's get whack-a-moled because I really don't like the way they're going.

Hmm. What way is this one going ... Nobody knows ... Not even me !

Here we go :
It's been a good day for smiles today. I've had a few smiles directed my way but two stand out most of all :

The HUGE smile from the Little Person. A teacake can be a great way to start the day but if the teacake run is timed (no planning or intel - honest!) to coincide with this particular Little Lady coming back ? I have no words to describe the awesomeness of that.

And there's another not-as-little (still little) lady in our team who has the most wonderful smile too, when you can get her to show it. It's always there, just under the surface waiting to break out but I don't believe she thinks it's right to look at people at their desks on her way past.

Even if they're doing the Meerkat Silly Grin thing looking up at them hoping for that smile to erupt.

The infectious silly grin is another sign that Mad Pete is still doing his thing. I flip between a manic side and a depressive side. Mad Pete is the manic side and I think it's fun to be in that state. It's definitely a better state to be in than the depressive side. Trouble is, the rash and brash side of it can be difficult for others to cope with.
Is it healthy to be talking about 2 sides of a personality like that ? I think it is. We are who we are, we should own that. Everybody has flaws. The best thing is to acknowledge the flaws, the worst thing is to pretend that they're not there. If they're acknowledged, that's the first step to figuring out how to manage them.

For me, just a few of them are :
The Mad Pete tendency - enjoying the ride while hoping I don't upset people
Missing out the working - I tend to rush-think straight through to the conclusion, which leaves everyone else hopelessly clueless as to the logic that led to it. I'm steadily learning to deal with that.
Depressive - this is ok, I just tend to hide. But ... it can get me thinking the world is out to get me.
(Not healthy, in my experience, the world tends not to care enough to expend effort in "getting you")
Indestructible - people never seem to see when I'm hurting, need a friend or otherwise struggling
Smiler - I like it when the grin gets another victim, cheers us both up. But I think it freaks a few people out.

I'll close with another one grabbed from the legendary Thumper's archives :
I've forgotten when I last had pizza. Which means it's time. Yeah, the cheese will upset my tummy but. It's pizza. It's worth it.

Ok ! One more. Cos I think she needs it :

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Game over ...

... For a while at least.

We're about to see the close of another Winter Games but before I talk about that, I've been quiet for a few days. A conversation happened on Friday which I'm still very depressed and upset about. Not because of the conversation (which was dominated by someone inflicting his point of view on those who really didn't want to know) but because of the lack of respect shown by people.

What I look for above everything else is respect. And it's not just the conversation on Friday, it's other conversations and interactions where the feeling of not having any value builds up. When that gets to a certain point, matters suddenly get far more difficult to live with. You start questioning where you'd have laughed it off.

And that's what I've been doing since that conversation on Friday - questioning.

I've had to be very self contained over my whole life. I've always felt that the support I give to others vastly outweighs the support I get in return. I think that containment stops people seeing how I'm really doing. It's definitely in effect at work, where I've successfully hidden the effects of my skin condition for several years now. (Incidentally - the support I get from my boss is along the lines of "if it doesn't get better soon, go home" - no. That would be counter productive).

So yeah - I'm feeling neglected and the Friday thing was one of the last nails to be knocked in there. But :

The Friday thing could still be laughed/hugged off very easily;
(Although I still think the other person is an idiot, have done from what I've observed for many years. It just got upgraded to "blinkered" idiot based on what he said, although as an ambassador for Idiot Bikers, he's an articulate one).
All attempts to reach out to people getting rebuffed;
The occasional "Hey, I wrote something about you that I hope will make you laugh" getting utterly ignored (that's rude - it gives the impression that the other person puts no value in what you say).
Not knowing who to trust (there's a very small number of people I trust with what's inside the containment and a few of those always start finding things to do when I need to talk)

You can probably tell I'm very upset by the exchanges on Friday and narked by the other rebuffals over the years. Things like not hearing anything from the Naughty Angel and being ignored by another person when we were hoping she was ok after a Xmas party. We didn't see her again until she came back after Xmas and you can imagine how worried we were considering this was just after the Jo Yeates murder, which was local and that our missing person shared the same physical profile. I watch too many detective shows not to get worried about circumstances like that.

This post has been a long time germinating in my mind too. I've not known what shape it would come out in. There's actually more here than I thought there would be (I'll talk about the Olympics another time).

I've not really known how to frame this post either, because I know it'll upset someone (and probably draw tears, which I apologise unreservedly for).

Text is a very nasty medium to use. It is extremely easy to misconstrue what you read. You read into it what you want to see, instead of what's actually meant. It can be very difficult to get exactly what you mean into the words. And above all :

You do not see the respect two people have for each other in the words that go on the page.

Yep. A friendship has been damaged. But - friendships can be very easily repaired as well. If that respect is there. And the respect to recognise that whoever people choose as friends is their own choice, similarly the respect to recognise that someone may not want a friend's friend as their friend. I don't feel that respect is there at the moment (to be honest, it's been too long since I've had a chance to grin at them).

But - I know who I am. I get angry and upset at people just like anyone else. Some people I've completely given up on and it really confuses me why people go to them for advice when I know they'll get stabbed in the back (like the fella who used to be in our team who was a real snake - and he's not the one you immediately thought of). With others it takes more time.

There's too much anger in this world already. Too many people fly off the handle at the slightest excuse. (Especially on the roads, which was the genesis for this particular bit of aggro). We need to do something about that. Forgive, forget, put the aggro behind you. Come out smiling, it's a far better way to face the world.

There's a lot of people at work who can't go past my desk without spotting the grin and helplessly joining in. I like that, it gives me a lift too.

I know I'll be ready with a smile or a hug.

PS Comments disabled here and I'll delete the FB repost if it doesn't let me disable comments there. It's far too easy to fire off a response that you'd regret five seconds later after it's gone and far too difficult to take it back.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Struggly randoms

I have to admit,

After some promising signs ... and a touch of the Mad Pete returning ... struggling again. I've gone backwards over the last few days. Things have got sore again.

Note - this is one of those posts where I acknowledge my struggles again. But not for long. Cos they're not nearly as bad as perhaps this time last year, I'm still in better shape than 1 month before last year's cricket season (where I'd written off the season) so I'm still hopeful of continuing recovery.

But - it is frustrating. Because every time I take a step forward and get some recovery happening, something happens to put a bit of that recovery back.

I'm still good. But some days it's tougher to stay positive than others. It's just so ridiculously easy to cause further damage (a negative for the attitude) without too many successes coming in (positives for the attitude).

Sometimes it would seem easier to get myself on the sick leave and stay home and hide. I needed to do that a few times last year (I didn't use sick leave except for doctor visits, I worked remotely from home). But to be honest ... I'm better off at work. There's a few reasons for that :

It gets my mind in a Fight It attitude. Positive mental attitude is vital to getting you through problems. Sometimes that's easier said than done. Like me with the realisation that I cannot bowl again, I could live with the pain I get when I try but ... the flaw in my bowling action due to a shoulder defect could be lethal to the person I bowl at. Not bowling any more is a choice I've had to take.

Being around good people. We have a bunch of them at work. Both in the project and people I know outside. I can trust them to answer my grin with a smile that cheers me up and to hmm ... stop me getting bored ? Sounds weird that. But I do crave interaction with others. I can bury myself in tasks but my mind is so active at the moment that it wants that multiple level of interaction. Like if I'm keeping 2 conversations going over communicator at the same time as reviewing a document.

It's appreciated. And it keeps me thinking about recovery or otherwise.

Gets things achieved. I'll play the games to pass the time but they aren't achieving anything real. I need to clear the house out, that'd be a definite sense of achieving something.

Aside - lethal bowling ? The defect in my shoulder means it's highly likely for a ball I bowl to go head high. That's bad. But not too bad as the batsmen are prepared to duck down or backwards out of the way. What makes it potentially lethal is that I bowl inswing, which would follow someone swaying backwards out of the way. I don't want to hit anyone on the head with a cricket ball.

More randomness ? Gotta be honest, I've got fixated on that heal/not heal thing. I'm still hopeful that I'll be available for the cricket season again, although that seems further off on some days than others.

The Mad Pete side of me is still going strong, although it feels like that particular wave is cresting. It's a state of being that has me more reactive, more impulsive (erm ... new car ... erm), more decisive ?, more rash, more brash. More everything. I like it as a state of mind, although that rash and brash side make for rough edges. I'll enjoy it while it lasts and I'll hope I don't critically upset anyone along the way.

I could do with Easter coming soon though. That's when I next have a decent break.

What to take from all that ? Keep an eye on yourself and how you're doing. Try to see how you look from the outside. I'm going to write about that soon. How I think I see myself. It's only fair really, cos I've talked about how I see others ... which was basically:

There is beauty in everything. Everyone has it. There's ugliness too but I choose not to acknowledge that and just concentrate on that beauty. The beauty is to be enjoyed, cherished and encouraged. Sure, some people choose to wallow in the ugliness, that's their choice. If that's not their fault, then help them see the beauty. Some do choose it though, like the lady on our floorplate who I really hope doesn't walk past the desk when I have coffee. (The looks she gives curdles the milk instantly).

Lol - yep. I can be bitchy sometimes. And she is utterly immune to the Grin. I dunno why she walks past the desk to be honest, I don't have a clue what she works on. She acts like senior management but she ain't on my team. I suspect an overstated idea of self importance, which turns that particular Pretty Lady (and she is) into someone with a look that curdles milk.

Mentioning ugliness actually - one of our Olympians has been given a hard time on social media. There's a reason I ignore Twitter, I saw the behaviour of its denizens on the website. It's a cesspit. There's no control over the behaviour there. There's no central code where an offensive person gets ostracized or snubbed for bullying others. Yep, our girl (Elise Christie, speed skater) got things wrong in her events. But ... she knows what she did, she'll be feeling appalled at missing out and letting down her fans. There's absolutely no reason to make that worse. The message we should be sending her is "Huge hugs, better luck next time, we know you tried your hardest". It's too easy for the anonymous coward to bully on twitter.

And a bully is the lowest form of scumbag. I've been bullied a few times. Sometimes at school (didn't last long because I didn't react), a number of times at work. I hope Mad Pete hasn't bullied anyone without me realising. There should be people you can talk to if you find yourself the target of bullying. Trust them. If they're a good friend, they'll help you out. Even if it's just listening and telling you that you're not imagining things.

This is getting kinda deep innit ? Can't have that. Time to end with something chuckle-worthy :

Rumours that the end of the world is nigh are vastly incorrect. Or are they ? :

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Gonna Buy A Hat

... Cos I think it's gonna rain.

I don't listen to much Chris Rea but that's one of his good ones. (Obligatory link here!). Actually, I'm not going to buy a hat, got plenty of those. Gonna buy a coat instead. I know which one I'll get but the typical procrastination means it's still on the shelf. Hmm, well, not actually procrastination cos I've not seen the right size yet.

That's not the coat I actually want to buy though. Nope. I want this one :
That pic is a render done by a fairly random person but the character and the look comes from Deus Ex Human Revolution, which I'd thoroughly recommend if you're into games like it. It ticks all the boxes. I've finished it maybe 4 times so far. And I've not been that much into games in recent years. (But ... don't buy it yet, wait for the sales and you'll get it for pennies).

Cool coat huh ? Could do with a hood to be honest.

You can buy it too. Here's the link. The "Me Want" is definitely firing on that one. The "Me Need", however, is not. A cool coat it may be but it won't keep my head dry. I'll go to Tesco instead.

(This one however ... does have a hood. Interesting. HIDE MY WALLET ! TAKE IT AWAY !)

All this rain hitting us at the moment. I like watching disaster movies. The setup of the scenario they play through piques my interest, as does how they deal with the aftermath. But those are on the small screen. They couldn't possibly happen in real life.

Could they ?

It feels like we're getting close to living in a disaster movie at the moment. Climate is getting more extreme. Wide areas of southern England are flooding. The extreme south west is cut off from rail travel. Tonight, events are being called off and trains cancelled due to the high winds.

It's feeling properly epic. And not in an enjoyable way.

Natural disasters seem to be getting more common and there doesn't seem that much we can do to mitigate them. There's flooding even in areas that would have been predicted totally safe. (I'm ok here, at the moment). The weather here's been like a meteor dropped in the ocean, has thrown all the water in the air and it's now coming down on us.

The world is steadily getting to be a more hostile place. It's probably upset that we're abusing it the way we have been. The answer would be to make an island somewhere else. A community disconnected from potential catastrophe on Earth. The Moon is one option, it's close enough that supplies can be sent up there. Mars is better, although the travel there is probably lethal for people at our current technology.

I'd be very interested in signing up for a Moon or Mars colony endeavour. It's new territory and therefore highly interesting. It's frontier and therefore not as safe or cushioned as life usually is in England. You make it up as you go, because you can't nip down to Novatech if something breaks. You rely on your initiative, which is something that is me with my tendency to improvise and come up with mad solutions.

But at the moment, no one is looking at setting up a Moon colony and the proposed privately organised Mars colony looks suicidal. We need practical shielding to stave off the solar wind radiation before sending people to Mars becomes feasible.

That's way off in the future though. In the meantime I'm :

Keeping an eye on the news for the latest about the flooding;
Hoping there's a respite from natural disasters occurring in other parts of the globe;
And being glad I have a heavier car (even if it was catching the wind a bit)

I'll get me coat. (Literally!)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Out for lunch

And a meeting. But mostly for the meeting.

Oh my, I've gone off on that tangent already. You don't go to the southern offices for the lunches, they're not terrible but they're not particularly palatable either. Especially if you don't go in for the big "this could be a dinner" meal they do down there. (The type that would need you to run round the block to get rid of the calories).

Meeting aside, it was a chance to talk to a few people in that office and above all, a chance to take the new Shiny on an extended run. It's 120 miles there, 120 miles back so that's a really good shakedown distance.

While I go to the various meetings and bring back all the actions ... and report in what I know (which tends to be a lot ... and not enough), the most valuable stuff I do with work is to keep other people talking. I'll work behind the scenes keeping the communication channels going. That may surprise a few people, as word got round that my communications aren't great. That's true, up to a point. I don't like to use the phone as emails do the job much better. (Although people tend to ignore emails if it's not convenient). Travel to other offices takes cash, which honestly ? I'm happy to claim the expenses but it's not my money so I have to justify it to myself by asking if that travel is strictly necessary.

But when I do travel, I'll get the value out of it.

Like today, where I got the other side of the opinion about a meeting last month which I'd have been running if I hadn't been relieved (happy to be) and moved on to something different. One of the girls in the southern office gave the new guy a hard time, which could have been avoided ... should have been avoided by the questions being anticipated. I'd anticipated them, I'd offered to come along as a kind of Bridge person and I'd have drawn the fire.

Upshot is - someone got the wrong message (actually a few people), by chatting it over with them I've kept them onside and we'll have their cooperation going forward. The alternative is they get grumpy and give their priority to other business.

What makes this episode really funny for me is what I said to the new guy about the lady asking the questions :
"So ... ... was there and involved ? That's great, she's enthusiastic, keen and asks all the right questions."
Lol - little did I realise that all those right questions were putting the new guy on the spot. Muahaha. Shoulda taken me along to draw their fire. I'd have enjoyed getting involved and getting things started again. The questions came from us having to go dark and restrict the flow of information, lest the people we'd bring in to do contract work got upset.

Talking of communications. I'm kinda disappointed. I put nice messages in my last post about 4 special ladies ! And none of them (to my knowledge) have read them ! I've even told 3 of them about the messages. One is someone I was hoping would join the Facebook friends but I think she's still running away after seeing the Facebook friend request.

I seem to have that effect on people and I'm really confused as to why. I suspect it's the whole Women Like Nasty Boys thing. I may be a little too Nice. I'm actually curious to how I'd reply if one of them turned around and actually asked if I accompany her to something. I've had a lot of being ignored and assorted other rudeness from a particular person. She is a special person but how far does being awesome on a good day excuse the rudeness on the other days ?

But enough of that. That's negative stuff, which Mad Pete hates.

I'm genuinely and steadily improving. I'm in much better shape outside than I was this time last year. I'm already thinking I'll be playing cricket this summer. Last year, I didn't think I'd be playing even 1 month before the season. There's still healing to do ... and a few awkward spots remaining too. But I'm very hopeful it'll clear up before the summer.

I still need to go back to the doctor's. I need an allergy test to confirm or clear the various things I'm suspicious of. I've developed a taste for Sherbet Lemons again ... but might be allergic. I used to use Galaxy Minstrels as car food, the chocolate combined with the shells kept my awareness hopped up while driving plus they are convenient to munch. No wrappers, no melting in the fingers, no dust. But I think they triggered reactions. I've tried them again, which was a bit of a shame actually, I wasn't hungry enough to demolish them ...

But I think that's enough for today. I was going to have a natter about the car. Which was awesome. It has the power to cruise at 70mph with no effort. Mpg's were up to 45 (they're a bit low - new car effect) and they're still trending upwards. I'm hoping it goes to 50 again, which is an impressive demonstration of what the technology can do. Because while it's sipping the petrol at 50mpg, it's still a 220bhp beast.

So - today :
Meeting - bit meh. But necessary as they always are.
Networking - very useful. And a chance to talk to the Logistics Lady, keep that very useful person on side and ... make her look good in front of the bosses. I think she's going to be one of those people who's going to be instrumental not just now but in 5-10 years when she's in charge of what I'm looking to deliver.
Car - awesome. In every way.
Conditions - scary. I drove through something that felt about 1 or 2 degrees off being blizzard conditions ...

It is good to get let out of the office once in a while.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Snowboarding looks fun

Currently sitting watching the Winter Olympics.

I'm a little behind, iplayer lets me delay the live stuff by 2 hours which fits in very nicely with someone who's trying to get as much benefit from sleep as possible at the moment (still catching up). I'm currently halfway through the second run of the Snowboard Slopestyle. It's where riders go down a course set up to let them show off their tricks.

It looks like a lot of fun. And with the riders regularly coming back superquick after broken bones, they must find it a lot of fun too.

I'm curious. Although with the car arriving, it'll be a while or a lottery win before I can think about indulging in it.

Talking of indulging ...

Thursday saw two leaving runs at work. We had the team leader from my previous project (same team, I've just parachuted out of it) and the leaving run for one of our Finance Angels. You're probably guessing straight away that I'm in the doghouse with the previous project team because I went to the leaving run with the Pretty Lady in it.

We're going to be struggling for Finance Angels soon. One disappeared across to Dubai (I missed the leaving run due to feeling too grotty!), one will disappear soon for another kiddie (she is the original Finance Angel) and we lost the Naughty Angel to a different project yesterday.

She'll be missed. It's the intelligent, competent, smart ones that tend to catch my eye. It does help (a Lot) to have a bit of stunningly gorgeous in there too.

Actually - I think awareness of how they look is in there too. I'll (stealthily) mention 4 there :
The Little Pixie who thinks she's too short.
The Grieving Pixie who's just lost a four legged member of the family. (thinking of you !)
The Struggling Queen who's battling the black dog demons again.
And the Angel who thinks she's too thin.
(there are more too but I've not had any coffee today so my memory is in slow-mode)

Ladies - you may not think it but everyone you know holds the firm belief that you are utterly, absolutely, spectacularly gorgeous.

But it's not just that - it's the personality too. A few too many mar their beauty by attitudes like "Do Not Approach, I'm Far Better Than You." (you know what I mean !). Others enhance it by personality. Some will even amplify it by responding to the grinning idiot (me!) with a dazzling smile of their own.

I enjoyed Thursday night. When the early leavers departed, we had 4 blokes and the Finance Angel. By the end of the night, our minds were totally, utterly blown. It was fun. I think the only one to escape with sanity intact was our angel. I hope she had a lot of fun too, although I know she missed out on one of her aims - lol :-).

But I'm not saying anything more, outside of that little teaser there.

It's the first leaving run I've been on for a while. The skin problem has had a big effect on my desire to go out and even when I do, I've been hiding the effects under clothes that don't show them.

However, I'm very glad I went on this one. Town was dead but our little group provided all the life you could need. Even if we didn't visit one particular place we were talking about going to ;-).

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

RIP Brolly No 2

I did something I shouldn't have this morning ... I attempted to use the brolly.

It isn't too broken ... It may even be retrievable with enough superglue (just one spar is broken). The wind was very fierce today and coupled with rain. Yep. More rain. I wonder if this is what Kim Stanley Robinson had in mind with "40 Signs Of Rain". I haven't read that, although I have read some of his others.

Random tangent time - his Red Mars was excellent, Green Mars was a decent sequel but the vision, the arc, the purpose that holds a trilogy together had gone by the time Blue Mars came along. The Years of Rice And Salt was similar, great beginning but kinda lost its way. A shame, as KSR writes decent books.

Back to reality - I'm giving up on brollys. I'm going to get a coat. Or rather I would, if my "I'm getting ripped off" detector wasn't going berzerk.

Had to head off to the Post Office today, I've had two parcels in which needed signatures and tonight is the only night they stay open late. What were they ?

One was a tax disc. UK cars have to display these to show we have valid insurance and that the vehicle is road worthy. It's actually a tax on drivers called Road Fund Licence which should really go towards road upkeep but really just gets lumped in with the rest of the Treasury taxes to fund benefit scroungers (and everything else). Nowadays, the amount we pay depends on how nasty the car is to the environment. Because my last two have been hybrids, they have low carbon dioxide emissions and I pay little or no tax. I found something for my Focus, it would have been about £250 for a year's tax and there's some crippling extras that go on the prices of new high CO2 cars.

The other was new anti-theft dust caps for the tyres to let me keep the shiny metal ones somewhere that tea-lieves won't find them. The alarm went off on the CT twice, the first time the sensors didn't like going through the car wash while I think the second was due to Mr Thief Person nicking the metal valve caps.

Ok. Job done, parcels picked up. Time to come home. Right ?

Nah. Mall run to see about picking up a coat.

I traditionally avoid these as I make a lot of heat when I'm moving around. Part of my treatment discipline has included trying to avoid getting too hot. So wearing coats was Not A Good Thing. But after breaking a second brolly, I think I'll need to bite the bullet and get a coat.

I saw one that would have fit the bill in one of the big Tescos. It was light, had a hood and was made out of breathable fabric that should let the heat out. Also cheap at about £16. But. Large didn't fit over a jacket and XXXXL was too big. Nothing in between in the shop. (I'll peek in Asda/Matalan on Friday - I don't really care about labels)

I had a peek around the main Mall as well. Something appeared on Facebook : "I should be banned from certain shops. I ignore the fashion, look for utility and find very little of it". I saw a lot of fashion, a lot of high prices, a lot of things that I'd have cooked in and nothing that I saw that was worth buying. Fashion tends to come with a high price tag, which sets off that "I'm being ripped off" detector.

Haha - perhaps I need someone towing me around who will point me at things and say : "Buy that. You need that and you will like it (or else)."

I've discovered I have a higher opinion of humanity than humanity apparently deserved. Part of the mission tonight was to acquire a new tax disc holder for the car. Halfords have loads. Some are only a couple of £, others set that Rip Off Alarm going again. One had a massive No Smoking sign on the back, so I said on Facebook that I found that offensive.

To be honest, I don't see how the sign is necessary. The very idea of lighting up in a car seems barking to me (see later). The thing to always remember with cars is keeping them in good condition for when you pass them on. It takes hundreds of pounds off the price if there's anything wrong with them. Smoking in a car ? That stench is never going to come out. It won't just drop the price, it will send buyers running away screaming.

So to me, the sign is just telling people what they already know. Or should know. If someone lit up in one of my cars, I would wind down their window and tell them to get rid of it. I would be that shocked. If they want to do it in their own environment, that's fine. But in mine ? That's a serious breach of anything approaching civility.

I'd better say - I'm anti-smoking. I've never smoked, because I've believed the things I've seen about the confirmed health damage that it causes. I've never had great lungs, so inflicting smoke on them seemed very silly when I was at the vulnerable age.

However ... I can also recognise and sympathise with the addictive power that it has. I've had my own addictions over the years (mostly games, which is psychological). Smoking is worse than any addiction I've had, it's a chemical dependence as well as a psychological habit.

A few years ago I was at a dinner with colleagues and one of our people heads off to have a ciggy outside. And most of the table starts doing the clucking thing when she's out of sight "She shouldn't be smoking, it does so much damage." Until I (as a confirmed anti-smoker) pipe up with "She's going through a really hard situation at the moment, if the smoking helps her through it, we shouldn't argue". That shut the table up, they couldn't argue with that. Sometimes we need a crutch to help us through, even if the crutch does different damage.

Note - they didn't say the "You shouldn't be smoking" to her face, although I've never told her that I backed her up in front of them and took the opposite view.

Yes it's nasty. But you should never argue with how someone else chooses to run their life. That's inflicting your world view on someone who probably doesn't want to know. Besides, I know the person I mentioned above has quit smoking once and is more than strong enough to do so again when things improve enough in her life to support quitting. And I'll be around to hand her the anti-craving mints if she wants them again (I better buy some more !)

Haha - I'd better start running before I dig myself into even more trouble.

Done stuff :
Picked up the parcels
Had another excuse to play with the new toy
Got myself in trouble for that smoking sign pic
Totally failed to find a coat
Broke yet another brolly (it's only 2 so far)
Almost got blown away by the wind (Brolly 2 = sail)
Did a drowned rat impression this morning

PS DAB radio. Have it in the car now as something that came as standard. Can't see the point. Yep, sound quality is better but if you can't tune in to stations that are supposed to be national, what's the point ? And they want to turn off the old AM/FM system in favour of this rubbish system ...

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

A to Z albums - B

That's right, after almost 4 months, I've almost finished going through all the B albums in the collection.

To be honest, there's been some randoms in there along the way. I've managed to listen to just over 5000 tracks of a 12000 library now. I've been doing it by listening to a semi-random selection of albums, in between single tracks from albums. And because the "unlistened to tracks" list is done by album (because things like compilations have lots of different artists), I've been going through from A to Z on the albums.

And I've just about got through the B's now. So - what's in there ?

Well - a lot of Best Of's for a start ! Let's leave those until later.

Baby The Stars Shine Bright Tonight by Everything But The Girl. This group has all the ingredients, except for decent songs. Their Amplified Heart album had points of greatness but this one is very weak. And they just re-released it too. Glad I got it for something like £1 from Hay !

Aimee Mann's Bachelor No 2 - I need more from Aimee Mann. I like her voice. And the songs are good too.

Kate Bush's Back Sides - this is a little piece of history. It's an album from over 20 years ago that we had on vinyl. That format was lost to me until my dad got a device that can transfer from vinyl to cd. It's a TEAC machine that works fairly well, although the transport can hop and skip. There's an All About Eve b-side that I've not listened to for 20 years that's still good, shame it hops the stylus off the disc before the end.

Anyway - Back Sides - b sides will surprise you. Hopefully it's B sides that are new and fresh. Some artists just use remixes of the A-side as extra tracks. That's really bad. I prefer to listen to new tracks. And sometimes, they're better than what makes it on to albums. Take some of the Alisha's Attic B sides ... Here's one from the vaults - most B sides are definitely Too Far Forgotten.

There's game soundtracks in here too. One of the things about Good Old Games ( is that the games are not just cheap, you get lots of extras in there too. I have all the soundtracks from the Dungeons and Dragons games, with the B's offering the Baldur's Gate soundtracks. Great games (that I never finished - lol!) with outstanding mood setting soundtracks.

Talking of a mood setting soundtrack - Band of Brothers. This series presented the horrors, the comradeship, the hardship of World War 2 from the point of view of a company of US Airborne paratroopers. If you've not seen Band Of Brothers, I'd thoroughly recommend it. It's strange, at the end you feel like you want to see more but you don't want the men to suffer more.

Soundtracks ? Barbarella will be an all time scifi classic. It's definitely a movie of its time (1968) and it has Jane Fonda at her most gorgeous. Scifi, Jane Fonda, what's not to like ? Perhaps the cheesiness. I still enjoyed it when I watched it last.

There's a bit of classical here too - Barber's Adagio for Strings will have you weeping, depending on what it's attached too. I also have a rather sizable Beethoven collection in here (bought for mebbe £1 off Amazon!). And there's the Battle Of Britain soundtrack too plus not one but two Battlestar Galactica soundtracks, the Beastmaster (yep).

Yep. I may have a music collecting addiction ;-).

Bastion is a game I bought on the strength of what people say about it but I haven't played it yet because it will need a controller I don't own (yet). The soundtrack is outstanding.

Garbage come in with two albums - Beautiful and Bleed Like Me. I like Garbage, they make strong indie rock, backed up by the sexy/vicious vocals of Shirley Mansun. Compelling.

What else ? I'll leave the Best Of's for another post maybe cos ... Wall Of Text alarm !
Suzanne Vega's - Beauty & Crime - good but not really special.
Tori Amos - The Beekeeper - like most Tori Amos, there's awesome tracks mixed in with the mediocre. The title track (The Beekeeper) is special and is guaranteed to have me try and sing along.
Beiderbeck Affair - little bit of smooooooth jazz, which formed the soundtrack for a very charming series with James Bolam and Barbara Flynn.
Avril Lavigne - The Best Damn Thing. Well, perhaps not the best but she always tries really hard and makes music that's fun to bop along to.
Beverly Craven's Beverly Craven album - some good ones here too, wouldn't mind getting some more of hers, although the songwriting can be weak again.
Beyond Good & Evil - is a game I need to finish, if only cos the incidental music is pretty good.

Morcheeba is a group I really shouldn't like but do anyway. They have two albums in here, Big Calm started them off for me, Fear And Love is a highlight. But there's also the  decent Blood Makes Lemonade album.

Goldfrapp's Black Cherry definitely isn't their best but it's more listenable to than most of their first. Quite disco-ey but not as good as Supernature. They have a film event coming up at the start of March which I'm highly likely to attend. (And probably be the only one in the cinema !)

Paramore are here too with Brand New Eyes. I think this may be their best album, they went backwards a little on their latest. No tracks of the calibre of The Only Exception.

Uhoh - I really have blown through Wall Of Text haven't I ... and that's without the Best Of's. T'Pau were a band that burned bright for a short time, Bridge Of Spies had the classic China In Your Hand.

Ellie Goulding has just entered a corner of my heart with her Bright Light's album. Interesting, may look for more.
But there's a whole side of my heart reserved for Hannah Peel, her Broken Wave album is wonderful. More !

Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms. Of course ...
Bugsy Malone soundtrack. Kids doing 1920s/30s prohibition gangsters with spud guns instead of tommy guns. Fun movie with memorable soundtrack.

And finally - Don Henley's Building the Perfect Beast. It's a very manufactured pop album with not much that really stands out. Except ... I hope I recover enough with enough in my legs to support a bit more cricket with the Boys Of Summer.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Thoughts on sizes and shapes

I've been seeing a few things lately about people's size and shape.

People like to criticize, people love to comment. People judge. People bully. People try to impose their world view on others. And nothing more than the subject of size :

They're fat ! They're skinny ! They're too tall ! They're too skinny !

I don't hold with that. We are all, to a certain extent, tied to a certain size and shape. Our bodies will tend to a certain size and shape, whatever we do to try and change that. Some people will be big, some tiny, some ultra-skinny, some super-cuddly. And you know what ?

All those shapes have their own kind of beauty.

We should never judge a person by their size and shape. To do so is assuming that we know all about the history of what made them that way. It assumes we know their genetics, that we know their habits, in some way their ethics (vegetarianism is another thing I'd never judge someone for and I hope I'm not judged for having omnivore ethics).

In my case, I have thin and tall person genes from my dad's side bumping up against healthy short genes on my mum's side. It combines to make someone spectacularly ... average. Lol. And then my snack habits come in to make me a little bigger than I should be. I have a couple of reasons to watch my own weight as if I get too large :

I can't run Very Fast
It affects my breathing
My knees decide they don't like me any more

It's that middle one that's the most important thing. We should never comment on someone else's size and shape. Sure, I do worry about some people but I won't add to their own problems by being cruel enough to point it out. And the worry is more about their health than any conforming to an ideal. If I stress, I reach for the biscuits and that rarely helps with the diet. I bet I'm not alone with that reaction to stress ;-) I'll judge my own size but I'd never inflict that judgment on another.

Weight bites on two fronts :

The ones who starve themselves to fit the supermodel shape. Please ! Don't do this. A person who is starving skin and bones is not nearly as attractive as someone with healthy curves. Curves are a good thing.
(Note "starving" - I know someone who is ultra thin, whatever they do. I bet most of the dieters of the world would envy her genes !)
The ones who are past that point of "large" that they incur other medical problems. There's only so much space in here, the breathing problems I mention above is when the chubbiness squeezes my lungs. That's not happened for ages though and it was probably allergies anyway.
The ones who over exercise. And I mean that. There were two gents in Bristol centre at the weekend trying to attract people into their gym. If it meant being their shape (they had big muscles but it had apparently turned to fat), then I'm off running in the other direction. And being too fit can have its disadvantages, I have too much muscle in my legs and it causes painful problems with the knees and shins.

But I do know a few people who are past that healthy point of large. One I believe is in a viscious circle where the medication to let her breathe more easily makes her bigger, which means there's less space for her lungs, which makes it harder to breathe. That's an example of where someone's history affects their natural size. They can't help being bigger than they should be and we should not be making them feel worse about a problem they are already fully aware of due to living with it.

I'll reiterate - whatever size we are, there is beauty in all sizes and shapes.

Unless, we decide to mar that beauty by inflicting a false world view on others. Like expecting everyone to fit into supermodel shapes. The supermodel shape is not natural and never will be.

Don't worry about not fitting into an ideal. Be the shape you are meant to be. Embrace it. And remember - big means bigger hugs.

Whatever size someone is, they will still get that massive trademark Sleepypete Grin if I see them. And you know what ? The Grin earned several Pretty Lady Smiles in return today. And that's from all shapes and sizes. I see the beauty in all of those and I think that translates through to the Big Grin.

Everyone is beautiful in their own way. Size matters not. Especially if there's a smile involved.

Cos a smile from a Pretty Lady is guaranteed to make my day.

PS If you see comments like "little lady" here, it tends to be about height. If they're shorter than me, they're "little", if they're taller than me ... hmm. Come to think of it, doesn't happen that often ! But I won't use "big" cos that can be totally taken the wrong, judging, way.