Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Over Avenging ?

I'm a heretic. I'm strange. I'm out of sync with modern ... hype ?

Went to see the latest Avengers movie tonight. This one has the hype machine working overtime ... But I think there's a lesson there too.

Make your own mind about things ! Don't go with the herd. Keep an open mind and make your own evaluation of what you're seeing. I suspect a lot of the people who see Avengers 2 will be wowed by it, partly because the hype machine is telling them they should be. Us humans are very good at following the rest of that herd.

I guess you can tell I wasn't overly thrilled by Avengers 2. Yes. It has the big booms, the explosions, loads of laser shots going everywhere. Hawkeye is allowed to be awesome. (He gets the chance to actually be a character instead of being more wooden than his arrows).

But I was disappointed ? Yep. So far this year I've seen (and I may miss some things out) :

Ex Machina - lots of thinks in this film. It keeps you guessing all the way through, who is telling the truth, who is being honest. Really enjoyed this one.
Big Hero 6 - film of the year so far. It had the booms but most important, it had a lovely story and engaging characters. One to enjoy as a feel good film.
Jupiter Ascending - was far more epic than Avengers 2. Rubbish story but it looked amazing. Kinda surprised that I haven't erased it from memory yet. It was pretty awful.

And I know I've missed a few films off that list. (Hobbit 3 counts as last year and had the best mass battle sequences).

So there we go - Avengers 2. Half heartedly covers the battles, misses out on the feels and telegraphs pretty much everything. The first Iron Man was exceptional, the first Avengers was pretty good too. Winter Soldier was outstanding. But the rest have been, honestly, much of a muchness. Guardians of the Galaxy was great because it carried humour all the way through. And it had Groot and Rocket who stole the show.

But. What's more important than going to the cinema ?

Going to the cinema with friends !!!

I'll sit through anything to be with friends. (I'll freely admit that I watched Twilight - and Kristen Stewart was more wooden than Hawkeye's arrows). Friends are awesome. As well as being friends, with things like Avengers 2, they validate your opinion when you come out. Didn't like it ? I didn't like it either !

Perhaps this franchise is running out of steam. It'll still make a tonne of cash for Marvel and there will be sequels. I'll get the bluray - but not at full price. Bit like the two Thor movies and Captain America, I waited for those to get cheap. They didn't excite the way movies Big Hero 6 did or make me think the way Ex Machina did. Or tear up the way (admittedly bad plot) Interstellar did. There is a bit near the end which should have made people sad but it's a bit of a Shrug-Don't Care moment instead.

But don't take my opinion. Make up your own. It's still a big spectacle, it's not as bad as Jupiter Ascending (which dug a massive pit) but it's not the stellar piece of awesome it's been made out to be.

Hereth ends the review.

Haha - Saying all that, I did enjoy it. Or was that because there was a big smile appearing at the end when I turned the phone back on and had a message from an amazing person. Yes - I've had a trend lately of saying Very Nice Things about a particular person and I fully intend to continue. However ill that may make you feel. Ha ! It's made me happy, made me smile and I feel it's my duty to pass on the happy feels.

I still have the I-Hurts but I'm feeling better than the fraught me of yesterday. Part of that is anticipating a heavy week to come plus I'd missed lunch which always makes me cranky. Like the Hulk tried to say (in the actually pretty good Edward Norton film) "You wouldn't like me when I'm ... hungry." Yep. On away trips, I always make sure I never get hungry while driving or it's ... Code Green.

I need a picture !
Perhaps that's appropriate here. I enjoyed Iron Man so much partly because I had very little expectations of it. As more Avengers movies come out, our expectations rise. We expect more, we expect better. Perhaps it didn't come off so well with this one. It fell a bit flat for me. Great baddie though.

Enjoyed the evening out, company was better than the movie.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Yep. It's one of those again.

But ... it's not all bad. And it has nothing to do with a certain new device that may well be I-Hurt if you do the strap up too tight. Or get one of those metal straps which bite all the hairs off your wrist.

Nah. I'm not going to get the latest new fangled Apple thingymybobby. I don't need it. (Like the iPads I've been eyeing up - I don't need them). I'm quite happy with my ... (deep thought and more fingers needed than I have to count) 17 year old Accurist. It's done me well that one. I can read it without my glasses on (this is no easy thing) and I only have to change the battery every few years.

Oh my, this seems to be morphing into one of those rambling posts where I talk about anything and everything. (There's a lesson in that)
It's been one of those days today. We do a little bit too much strategizing at work, planning how to do stuff. Figuring out how to keep the disparate parts of the organisation working with the other parts. Conniving how to get the money for our stuff. Looking into the crystal ball to see what's ahead. Dealing with "confidence levels" instead of hard facts. How much actual Doing do we do ? Sometimes, it feels like not much. I get pretty fed up with that after a while. Especially as all the scheming and politics interferes with me getting Stuff done.

All that stuff seems to have created its own ecosystem. A wise man once said (and I picked it up from a Civ 4 omnipedia entry) "The bureaucracy expands, to meet the demands of the expanding bureaucracy." Yep. Silly.

But enough about that. Frustrations like that will only be solved by getting out of that environment and into something more useful. I've started looking there. But it does depend on the right opportunity opening up. There are other frustrations as well "We can't do this because we're too busy poking our noses into stuff outside our business" is one I keep hearing. I'm an integrator, I get my fingers lightly on everything, diving into the details when I need to. But I also recognise when to ignore the details and let the experts get on with it.

More people could do with leaving alone where their interference ... well ... interferes and hinders.

I'm getting this all out now aren't I ?

Bring forth the pitchforks and light the torches !

The reason the frustration is coming out is because the tiredness is hitting again. I know why that is and it's combined with my weight going up. My metabolism has gone into low gear again. That leads to tiredness, weight gain and a general feeling of lack of worth. Oh I've been feeling cold too. But it's not just the Tired, the arms and legs have been hurting too.

I like to have my legs folded, it's almost a compulsion. But the pain rising in my hips is making that ... sore. My muscles have hit that imbalance where they try and cramp up at every opportunity. (They're not that bad - yet. And I'll use the "drink lots of water" treatment). My back feels constantly twisted and is also picking up that poorly muscle thing.

However - and this is where the lesson comes in.

When the bad feelings come in, do what you can to banish them. That's harder for some than others. Definitely. But if you focus on the good, it can happen. So - and to go back to another pic from the archive :
With the youtube people, I could get angry that the messages I send don't get the response I'd like. Or I could recognise that they're busy people probably being bombarded with all sorts of stuff. Lesson - behave as you would like others to behave to you. Be good to people.

I'll freely admit that I have way too much fast food from the local chippie and the KFC over at the Mall. They know me at those places now, probably because I smile at them and treat them with lots of respect. The smiles make both of us happy. It's got to the point where they see me approaching the counter and break out in a "Hallo!!!" and smile. That's awesome and really brightens up my trips to the Mall where I end up really flagging by the time it comes to munchies.

I really enjoyed the Comic Con trip. And I got a huge hug at the end of it. You can't know how tempting it was to drive real slow by the end just to have a bit more time with Dear Heart. To give her more ... normality (that sounds weird but there's context which I'm not passing on) and a good day out with a caring friend.

And there's that huge smile which breaks out when I get a message in. People have noticed that I've been feeling happier these past few months.

It's coming from feeding that good wolf. Here's a good wolf that we fed :
Yep. Dear old man Scruff again. We fed him as a pup, maybe 3-4 years old only. He'd been abandoned, presumably from a car in the middle of the N.Ireland countryside and he plopped down on our back door, starving and with ribs showing. And he stayed with us as our loyal friend, protector, postman scarer for the next decade and a half.

Did I mention randomness ? Think I did.

Yep. Tired now. Hurting somewhat. But those hurty feelings evaporate when I think of the smiles I get. From the ladies in the munchie places. From making the attempt to get smiles from the internet people. From sending crazy comments to friends and seeing the bemused amused responses. From hoping that from my actions, at least one person is happier or better able to cope with this life.

Lots of people are struggling at the moment, both at home and away. Try and make the world a better place by helping where you can. Whether that be by donations (I never really see how this truly helps), by being a trusted ear so people can talk through their problems. By passing on smiles where you can.
Smiles are awesome. They make all sorts of troubles fade away. Hugs are better. But hugs tend to draw slaps if the person you suddenly do a bear hug on wasn't expecting it. Worse - I know a few short people who either wear shoes with spears or have devastating uppercuts. You know what I mean.

But smiles are good. Talking is better. It doesn't help anyone to bottle up the problems until you hit breaking point. If you feel like things are getting on top of you, talk to friends, talk to colleagues. They'll be happier helping you out than knowing you're struggling. The good ones will anyway.

I've rambled enough - be good to people ! They may not return the favour but you'll feel better for making the effort. It's how you are that's important. If they don't reply, shrug, move on and smile at the next person.

Cya !

Monday, April 27, 2015


I've changed the look and feel ...

It's not set yet, there's still lots of room for tweaking. And some "it ain't perfect yet" procrastination too.

Why the change ? Regular readers will be fully aware that I follow various youtube gamer people. I found watching their gaming videos to be more fun than playing the games themselves. They'd add their unique character to what was happening on screen. One of those is Kim from the Yogscast and in her weekend vlog, she explained how dyslexic people can have trouble reading black text on a white background. Words will swap and move around, changing the meaning completely.

That made me think. Especially as I get similar issues too. If I've been looking at a page of text on a pooter screen for a while, when I look away I have scan lines across my vision. They fade quickly but yeah, that bugs me.

And then I thought - are visitors not coming back because they can't read the text ? That's never a good thing. We internet author people should be accomodating you. Yes, you. The person who is giving up their time to come read what we write, listen to what we record, watch the stuff we play.

I use a few tricks to try and make my Walls Of Text more readable.

That was one of them ;-). I find the one sentence short paragraph to be a good exclamation point or a think pause.

I'm open to more ideas for improving the readability but the basic theme will be white text on black. The way pooter screens work, there's a bright back light which is filtered down into the image we see. So a white background glares out at you. I've had trouble reading my pages when sunlight is hitting the mobile screen. Perhaps it's less battery hungry on mobiles.

Anyway - this is the second of two posts that have come from watching Kim's vlog over the weekend. I quite enjoyed doing my sojourn to Pratchett's Disc on Saturday. It reminded me that games are supposed to be fun and I'd been interfering with that fun by trying to log a trading route on a spreadsheet. That's micromanaging, minmaxing and other nasty Not Fun things. I'm running the rares circle in a trading Clipper and trying to fill the ship up for each step. I've abandoned that and just gone back to just running the route and not worrying about filling the ship up.

Yep. I enjoyed the sightseeing trip and I'm back to enjoying the game again. Oh and the cricket in the background was great too. Guess which country won unexpectedly ? :-)

I loved the response too :

Dear Heart - loved the pretty pilot pics. That makes producing them so much worth it.
Rhianna Pratchett (yep, that one) - had a peek at the post and favourited the tweets telling her about them. Rhianna Pratchett noticed me ! That's awesome.
Pixie gave it a thumbs up - instant smile.
Kim didn't look (I think) - but I kinda expected that.

Before I met Dear Heart, I was trying to get Kim to notice me. I'd been picking up on the "I'm so alone" comments on the videos. There were other cues too. And I'd been thinking - she's amazing, she's into similar games to me, I'm what she's looking for. So you can imagine the frustration when all the attempts to communicate (hopefully not going over the line into stalker territory !) fell on deaf ears. You peek at the twitters and there's not many responses from Kim to people who send her messages. Ok, there's occasionally a little flutter but on the whole, the communication is just within the inner circle.

It's a different face to what you see in the videos. Saying that, I don't watch much of the Yogscast output now, they're playing games (99% Minecraft) which just don't interest me, the creativity has died. In my opinion. They still get hundreds of thousands of views but for me ... yawn.

As you can tell, my heart's looking in another direction now.

Towards someone who communicates, someone with huge empathy, someone who can understand my often quirky way of looking at things, someone who I can be utterly honest with (including the stuff that everyone hides behind the armour), someone interesting, someone who makes me break out into a MASSIVE Grin when I get one of her messages.

Someone awesome. And with an inner strength which astounds me.

I consider myself lucky to have crossed paths with her. Just wish I could see her more often because ... virtual hugs are no substitute for little hands sneaking their way around you to wrap you in a big hug.

PS I was going to talk about other changes too - I've got a very good idea what my bathroom will be when refitted. Just need to :
Actually go to Wickes before the design people go to bed.
Check out more options
Figure out why some people do taps that you literally can't put your hands under (you've seen this in pubs haven't you ?).
Get the house into a standard that I'd be happy exposing visitors to.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

On a pilgrimage to the light fantastic

Yep. It's another internet spaceships post but ... read on. There are shinies. Or at least, just look at the pictures !

I've been feeling that temptation today to :
Head outside
Enjoy that sunshine
Go watch the new Avengers movie (I hear it's a cracker)

And I could do with shopping for some more shirts too because I'm getting more and more Friday meetings where I have to travel, look relatively respectable, wear a tie (ugh) and all those other things. I know, first world problems. I could do with checking out Ikea's bathroom options too.

But not today because, much as I'd like to immediately watch that new Avengers movie, I'd rather watch it with friends (and one in particular but she's not so much a fan of superhero movies). It is good though that I've improved to the point where I can happily switch plans to do something Fun.

Nah. What I really wanted to do today was unpressured chillout. You know, the type of chillout that comes from spending all day in super comfortable clothes and away from the stresses of being around people. Especially those people when they're behind the wheel of a car. Driving in Bristol can be Nasty. I also wanted to be listening to great music too, at the moment it's Pink Floyd's Animals album, which is ... weird. Next are a bunch of random tracks before Rodrigo y Gabriela.

It's forming a background to the pilgrimage.

So where am I off to ? It's in Elite and a lovely little lady gave me the idea when I was watching her vlog this morning.
I missed a trick because I took that pic a couple of jumps in. It's a loooong way to where I was going. 340 light years in fact. Elite's galaxy models our galaxy. Most of it is procedurally generated and contains fictional space stations but ... it's our galaxy. One of the appeals of the game is that you can break away from trading or bounty hunting and just go off to the wild ... black yonder. In this case, it's me going off to HIP 74290. I'll tell you what's there in a bit :-).

But on the way - here's a few examples of why Elite has my attention at the moment (click for full 1080p lushness)
Those last two are of the star I went to visit. The stars above are examples of the variations in the game. There was a brown dwarf in there too which I thought was a neutron star first up, I legged it from that quickly. That's a fairly expensive ship I'm flying there ... And I don't want it bouncing off either a neutron star or being sucked into a black hole.

But I wasn't there to visit the star. A very special tribute was recently added to the game and here's me halfway to it :
Check that name. Here's the full scale of the station when you get there :
Of course I had to be a poser :
And take a selfie after landing too :
I'm about to get myself a hot chocolate before heading back in slow mode. Even fast mode took 20 jumps to get there so I don't know how long slow mode will take ! But I hope this shows one aspect of Elite. It is imaginary (like a book!) but you can just take off and go somewhere new. Some people take a pilgrimage to the centre of our galaxy. I plan to see if I can do a circle around the galaxy. Not in the Cookie Clipper above but in an explorer ship more suited to the trip.

Maybe tomorrow for Avengers 2 ?

Before I close, a few mentions :
For someone who I'm wondering if she'd like me to take her to Avengers 2 (even though she's not keen on the superheroes, there'd be a few safetyhugs in it for her !)
For a Pixie who I hope will appreciate tributes like this, she's a huge fan.
For Rhianna who I know dad would be bursting with pride knowing she's minding the store.
For Kim who gave me the idea to do this pilgrimage today

But lastly and most important, we'll miss you sir : GNU Terry Pratchett.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

If Cadburys Made Spaceships

There's some me-stuff coming later but since knocking up this :
I've wanted to post it in lots of places.

I'm especially proud of this one. It only took maybe 10 minutes to create from the original :
I really love the job the yard boys have done with that paint job. Very shiny. Very purple. And it only took maybe 10 minutes to create in GIMP. I'm getting on better with that programme too. They can take some figuring out but anyone could do that conversion job. Yep. You too !

What does take a little ... inspiration is how far you go in things like selecting the bits to recolour (I use the magic-thingy which selects blocks of similar colour but too keen and you'll change the colour of things like the landing pad) and what to recolour it to.

When I photomanipulate things, I'm usually only 90-95% happy (if that) with the results. But I like that one above. It's shiny. But enough of game stuff.

I've felt really good today.

That's all part of having those manic depressive tendencies. If you're good, you're flying. If you're down, it's a real struggle. When I'm up, strange messages tend to start flying around. Hopefully amusing but it can take that little bit of decoding to untangle the weird humour.

If you could call it humour.

I hope it makes people chuckle at least. What's triggered it off today ?

Messages to Lovely People. A few lovely people actually. One in particular last night while I was preparing to look at bathrooms.
(When manic, I could probably be described as an outrageous flirt. But ... it's deep'n'meaningful for just one particular lady at the moment. I hope she realises who she is !)
Random people coming to peek here. When I see a familiar fingerprint on the hit logs, I translate it as being familiar people who care. Nice people who are interested in what I write. You're AWESOME.

Actually, you don't know how much of a lift that gives. Although I suspect some of the hits I translate as "Yey ! Person A has come to peek" are actually random people. The sitemeter and statcounter logs are only triggered on the web version of this blog and even then only if Javascript is allowed through. The mobile version is only triggered at source (Google) and Google's log only tells me : Country, OS, Browser, Page, Link used. All info is kept private and I will never disclose that. (It's my duty under all those data protection obligations)

Yep. Those visits make me smile, make me grin, they really brighten up my day. But I'll keep it between you and me. Promise. Unless you comment or hit that like/favourite button on Facebook or Twitter. That's even more awesome than just coming to visit.

Work's been decent too. Yep. I'm insanely busy with covering 3 posts at the moment but things are getting done. Not as much as I'd like but we aren't dropping anything breakable at the moment. Performance review time was today and ... the forms have turned into a meaningless random dartboard but the feedback from the bosses is still good. They like having me around, I add value.

And for someone who depends on their confidence level, that's HUGE. I can and should do better but that's something everyone should be saying. That's not self doubt, it's just analysing what you do to see what could be done better.

I still have those problems to tackle :
My outsides still hate me. Getting better but oh so slowly.
Need to refit the bathroom.
Heating needs fixing.
House needs a severe tidy.
And various other things too. More cash would be nice.

When I'm in the up part of the cycle, those problems seem oh so much easier to handle.

May your mood be good too. And remember, you may just be one sundae away from feeling awesome. Yep. That's part of why I'm feeling good, great dinner at the local Harvester again (before buying all the biscuits in the supermarket) topped off by a Rocky Horror Sundae.

Sundae's are awesome.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday Music - Happy Songs

I've been struggling for things to write about lately. Enough, in fact, that I have a little fear that playing the games more is having a bit of a "All Work And Some Play Make Sleepy Dull" effect.


But one of my best and dearest friends, someone who always has that knack of making me look in the right direction to go in again, has given me an idea. Happy songs ! So here we go.

I'll start with one especially for someone who's recently become a very special friend. It's The Sea by Morcheeba, sung by that angelic songstress Skye Edwards. Lovely chill out, both in the music and the words.

Next up is one that's always been a Happy Song favourite. It's Alisha's Attic with The Incidentals. Have a listen, you'll quickly see why I like the joy inherent in that song.

I can never do one of these without including a Cardigans track. This one isn't Cardigans, it's from Nina Persson's A Camp project. Perhaps not a happy track in terms of super-bouncy-happy but it tells a story of mismatched singles finding a perfect partner. I like the story that Song For The Leftovers tells.

How could I leave out Mr Blue Sky ? Love that song. And I know a Skye who could easily use the Ms Sunshine nickname I gave to another lady. Cos when she smiles, giggles or chuckles, everything seems brighter. Don't be blue Skye, shine bright !

And while we're talking about something irresistably lovable, check out I Do Adore from Mindy Gledhill. Very sweet, very innocent, smiles guaranteed.

A few more that get me sitting up, listening and almost certainly (sorry about this) singing along are :
Paramore - The Only Exception
Norah Jones - Man Of The Hour
Katie Melua - Shy Boy
Nina Simone - Here Comes The Sun
Lucy Spraggan - Last Night (Beer Fear) (starts at 1m15)
(I don't watch X Factor - but that video is awesome)
Gloria Estefan's naughty Love Toy
Hannah Peel - The Almond Tree, sad song but somehow makes you smile
KT Tunstall - enchanting that first audience with Black Horse and the Cherry Tree

Going back a bit, there's River City People's version of California Dreamin'. There's that lady with long black hair thing again. But this is a lady with an incredible voice singing an incredible song.

Talking of that, I could never do happy songs without a Kate Bush mention or an All About Eve mention. AAE's Goth nature tends to lead to maudlin but they occasionally come out with something super-happy like Pyjamadrama (I know that's on YT somewhere ...). And what could be happier than a Wow moment.

Showing that something of supreme beauty can come from unexpected beginnings are dance group Dirty Vegas with the acoustic version of Days Go By. Gorgeous. Air are another dance group but ... just have a listen to You Make It Easy.

Oh - Duffy. You are so special but so special no one really understands how to get the best out of you. They keep trying to put you in a mould that will never fit. But with songs like My Boy ...

I was just thinking about Edie Brickell this morning. Another unconventional singer, she keeps getting the best out of what she has. Songs like Tomorrow Comes open an album out and get that toe tapping and that mouth twitching into a smile.

I'll close with one last one. It's Goldfrapp's Utopia, which closes out Felt Mountain. It's a perfect showcase for Alison's wonderful voice.

There's a few more who I'd like to include songs from here. People like Sleeper, Snow Patrol, The Staves, Suzanne Vega, Abba, Tori Amos, Bat For Lashes ... but they do mostly sad songs. Perhaps another time :-)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Adventures of Commander Sleepy

I've been really enjoying being space pilot guy in the new Elite game.

And I have to admit, it's actually Cmdr Iceangel in game, not Cmdr Sleepy ! But before we dive into fictional spaceships, here's (not quite) a real one :
Looks like a successful launch today ! SpaceX are doing something new. It's their second attempt, hopefully it works this time. What are they doing ? They're attempting to land and therefore recover, the first stage of their latest rocket but having it do X marks the spot on the barge above.

They called it "Just Read The Instructions". Gotta love ship names which have character. I've been trying to carry on that theme with the Elite ships. More of that in a bit. Looks like they have repairs to do to JRTI. The launch went off well, hopefully the Dragon spacecraft it's carrying will rendezvous with the International Space Station in a few days but the first stage rocket landed too hard to be recoverable. They'll learn and figure out how to do it.

Thought I'd better say that it's not all games ...

Been back at work for 2 fairly hectic days now. It's been tiring but we've been getting stuff done so that gives its sense of reward.
Bathroom needs sorting out. I know there's a leak under the bath but when I've had the chance to try and find the leak (i.e. using the bath!), no fault find. That'll drive me nuts for a while but ...
I think I want to get that bathroom changed and sorted out anyway. Must investigate options.
Skin is steadily getting better but it's ridiculously easy to damage it. Especially when I'm trying to get to sleep and fidget-reflex takes over. But it's getting there.
Feeling older. I've put the weight back on (meh). I think it's due to the Cetirizine anti-histamines I was put on by the doc's a while ago. Those have had positive effect in the past but also side effects - taking one before a game would give me slightly better breathing but would also take all the power out of my legs and make them feel heavy. We'll see what happens when they run out in a week, plus I'll hopefully get the munchie discipline back again. I don't like being too heavy.

But that's all banalities. I'd rather think about fun stuff :

Meeting up with Cupid's Gift ! May that not be long before it happens again. She's fun and we can really open up to each other with the natter. And she gives Great Hug too.

And the gaming. At the moment, the favoured game is Elite Dangerous (when the next Deus Ex game comes out, it'll be that). In fact, Elite is sufficiently good that it's verging on addiction again. It's not - I recognise the signs of addiction and to be honest, I think I've broken gaming addiction. Although I should really be reading more than I am. I do suspect I may end up playing Elite more than I should over the next week or so.

Adventures of Cmdr Sleepy ?

I've done most of what Elite has to offer now. It lets you be a space truckin' hauler guy, a bounty hunter and it also lets you do exploring. I started out doing the space truckin' thing, before making a decent amount of cash smuggling rare stuff around. I've done a bit of exploring, although I'm yet to do the excursion to the galactic core. There's a super massive black hole there ... And I'm currently doing the bounty hunting thing.

I've had the various thoughts while playing it. Excited, bored, playing it to avoid being bored, risk/reward cycling and just plain enjoying escaping this mundane (see banalities above) world to be that space pilot little boys dream of being. I think that's why I'm still playing it, despite having seen most of what it has to offer.

So which of its toys have I been playing with ?
(click to enlarge and legibility !)

You start off in the humble Sidewinder. It didn't take me long before I could upgrade that to an Adder and after that, the Cobra Mk3 from the first game. The Cobra is a marvellous ship, nimble, cheap and with a cargo hold that's starting to get usable.

But then I switched to the get rich quick scheme of running rare items around and that meant downsizing the hull to get a Bigger Engine. So it was back to a small unarmed hauler, then upgrading through Adder, Cobra, a Type 6 Lakon and finally an Asp. The haulers aren't much fun to fly. They get you from A to B but they're slugs to maneouvre. So in a dogfighting game, they can't get the hits in. Pirate people will run rings around you and your only option is to run away. It was great fun in the Asp because I could start firing back ...

However, a Community Goal came along and the Asp was suddenly not big enough ... I like these in Elite. It feels like you're in a living galaxy and then they add in tasks for you to help with. I've helped twice so far, once was an exploration effort with the premise of finding colonisation sites. The second was to get as many metals as possible to a station to help with the building of a fleet of Imperial Clipper ships :
Pretty ship, although that cockpit and forward fuselage does look a bit airlinery.

I don't have one of those though. Due to a lesson learned ...

If your ship is blown up while trying to Run Away Bravely (Not screaming - honest), then it's a good idea to throttle back to zero when next leaving a space station. Yep. You guessed it. Throttles were still set to full forward and I didn't help matters by hitting the afterburner booster button while looking for the "up" button on my stick. And I ended up immediately following my first loss of a ship in the game by pancaking a second into the side of a space station.


I kinda had enough of hauling stuff at that point, so I sold the Type 7 hauler (name - Has All The Cookies) and replaced it with a Vulture fighter.

This a small instrument of death and destruction via pew-pew and boom-boom. I have it set up to have one laser (good for shields) and one Big Cannon (good for putting holes in hulls). And this is where the game scores. If you get bored with hauling stuff, then you can go bounty hunt for a while. If you get bored with the pew-pew, you can go exploring.

I'll be doing the pew-pew thing for a bit, hopefully to earn enough reputation (and cash) to let me buy one of those Clippers.

I'll see you in the spacelanes. Mine will be the one with Pink Furry Dice hanging from the cockpit mirror and a line of dwagons on the dash.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Gaming and housework

Those aren't things that usually go together are they ?

I'll come to the link in a little while.

Some games can be really brutal on your ability to escape from the keyboard. Whether it's 2 hours of continuous action in Warcraft, where a step away from the keyboard can lead to disaster. Or the indeterminate time of a roaming patrol in the space game Eve, where leaving the keyboard can lead to you being left behind. And you have to roam in packs in Eve as stragglers often get picked off.

Online games are especially brutal on your opportunities to get away. They rarely have a pause button and even the games based on repeating rounds can lead to quite some time without a break. Dota can last up to an hour and League Of Legends took a while too.

Need to loo ? Better have a bottle to hand. (Yuk)

At least in the Warcraft, you could pick your moments when your absence wasn't critical. And to avoid being left behind, you could /follow the raid leader* (or other person) so you could keep up.

*It was a privilege I had for quite a while to be on Guildlink's officer chat. Where our revered raid leader, the lovely Overqueen Sarai, would run herd on us apes. This was in the day of 40 person raids and you can imagine how difficult it could be to coordinate all of those people and have breaks suitable for all. And you do need those breaks. Anyway ... officer chat would occasionally have Sarai giving "follower count". It got as high as 5 (hazy memory!) at some times. We never /followed Sarai. We could see her chuckling comments in the hidden chat where she was attempting to tow her follower chain through the lava pools.

Beware the chuckling raid leader.

I jest. Guildlink, while it lasted (up until the Burning Crusade beta) and was having Good Times, was a genuine pleasure to be involved with. I've not had better times in an online game since then, although the Eve crowd were always awesome out of game.

So about this housework ?
I've been playing Elite Dangerous a fair bit over the holiday. As you can see, it can be quite a pretty game ... There's not that much variation in the cosmos presented but what's there, is gert lush. From boiling suns, to eclipsed planets, to the variation in the space stations you dock with :
That's a Coriolis station, a design harking back to the days that the first Elite game hit the BBC (and those other pretender platforms that were never as good as the BBC*)

*Yes - I was a BBC boy back in the day, the Spectrum was too unreliable and the Commodore 64 was ... I dunno. Not a BBC. This was the equivalent of today's Xbox vs Playstation console wars. People would pick a favourite and defend it to the death.

I must have been in my second freighter, a Lakon Type 6 (ugly boxy thing) called "May Carry Cookies", when I took that. I'm now in a Very Shiny Asp explorer ship which has been upgraded considerably. I'm quite enjoying piloting that and blowing away any pirate foolhardy enough to knock me out of the high speed supercruise*.

* Elite Dangerous has a slow speed dogfighting and docking mode but for travel inside a system, Supercruise is used. This is a warp drive (in the Star Trek term) which folds space. So far I've seen the speed reach Warp 9, or 729 times the speed of light (speed times light = the warp number cubed). It does help to keep the mind awake, calculating the warp number while travelling in system.

Elite is an online game, although you can play it in a solo mode. You're still always connected, with the reason being that the economy in game is driven by all of the players interacting with the server. 1000 players buy Copper in a system, there won't be much Copper left there and it'll drive the prices up. I like that idea, it's what assuaged my concerns where I thought it should have an offline mode. The solo mode stops other players trying to pirate you. There's been players in this game for a very long time now, so they have some Very Shiny Ships which would quickly deal with my upgraded Asp ...

So how does the housework fit in ?

I've been running the rares routes. There is a 71 stop trading route taking in every station that sells rare goods that you can only get in one place. (The 70 stop salesman route is better - it's more efficient in jump distance and more even in cargo space needed). The further you go between seller and buyer, the higher profit you get for your rares. I'd typically get 600-1000 profit per tonne with normal goods, the rares can get 15000-25000 profit per tonne.

It's a get rich quick scheme. Definitely more satisfying to play than the place to place hauling I'd been doing before in the game. That didn't seem to be getting me anywhere so I was getting frustrated and bored. The rares route is far more gratifying.

But ... and this is where the housework link comes in ...

You only get a small amount of your quota of rares when you first arrive at the station selling them. To get lots, you have to wait for the game economy to tick over. This takes 10 minutes ... Of replying to a Cupid's Gift text message (the highlight of these for sure!), sorting out the playlist on iTunes, looking at all the new messages on Twitter and Facebook, to ...

Doing the housework.


Here's another screenie :
Did I mention it's a pretty game ?

Monday, April 06, 2015

Musical Masterpieces

Ok, so the A to Z's series is all done now.

To be honest, I think that's a series that more than outlived its welcome. It turned into a bit of a "oh look what a ridiculous amount of music he has in his library". Boastful perhaps instead of highlighting the really good stuff.

So what do I consider to be the really good stuff ? First of all. There has to be a rule. Only one album per artist or group, including people like Nina Persson who, so far, I have 10 albums that she's been involved with. And they're all amazing albums, although she has improved as she's made more albums.
(I was looking to modify one of my dragon pics for headphones, asked Google and up popped this fella. Credit to Spreadshirts, there's definitely some stuff there I Want).

Music ? I just mentioned the Cardigans and Nina Persson. The last album to play through was A Camp's second album, Colonia. But that's not my best pick. To be honest, all of the Cardigans, A Camp and solo Nina albums are packed with incredible songs but in the end, it's a close one between Super Extra Gravity and Long Gone Before Daylight. I pick Long Gone. It's possibly the best full album in my collection. And one of many brilliant tracks is Feathers And Down. A little sad maybe but so much emotion coming through those words, that playing and that voice.

Another emotional album is Illumina by Alisha's Attic. Those girls must have been going through the rollercoaster with this one. My favourite is the ultra happy The Incidentals. My shyness stopped me doing car karaoke with Cupid's Gift on the way to Comic Con but this track nearly got the voice coming out.

(To be honest, I had a really dry throat which is never good for sing/croaking and we were chatting so much there was no time for car karaoke)

I do listen to bloke voices occasionally ... And I listen to a lot of what Mark Knopfler comes out with. His best will always be seen as Brothers In Arms but to be honest, there's a few duds there I dislike. Nah - my pick is Making Movies with crackers like Expresso Love and my track of choice, Romeo And Juliet for that signature guitar, drum, voice, keyboard interplay.

Keeping on with the blokes ... and I'm looking forward to this one because it'll come up in the queue really soon. It's Snow Patrol with their highlight album, Eyes Open. These guys continue to improve, with tracks like another raw one, You Could Be Happy.

But it's not all about the voices. I'll happily listen to the odd classical album too. Last Night Of The Proms is a definite favourite and I'll drum the fingers along to Mars too. But my pick is Carnival Of The Animals by Saint-Saen. You'll recognise Aquarium but that's just one highlight of this suite of music.

A series of books I really enjoyed (until it outlived the stories it could sensibly tell) was Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern. The book Dragonsong introduced a character called Menolly, who had an unhappy life being denied the music which was her gift. Excellence with both instrument and voice, matched to a gift for catchy song writing. The voice of Menolly for me has always been Julianne Regan of All About Eve, due mostly to me listening to their best album (the self titled one) on repeat while reading it. My highlight there is Apple Tree Man but youtube isn't good for that. Go have a listen to Martha's Harbour instead. Gorgeous song.

Kate Bush is another massive favourite and my pick of her albums is Hounds Of Love. This is an album of two parts, the commercialised songs are in the first half but the second half just flows together as its own story. Kate Bush always made fantastic albums, not just excellent singles and this is a classic example. My favourite here will be Mother Stands For Comfort. I think we can all identify with that can't we ?

Back to the boys - Arctic Monkeys started out really well. They've not been inspired lately as they were with their first albums but what an album Whatever People Say ... was. And it leaves a lasting final impression with the sublime A Certain Romance.

How could I leave off Garbage ? They've carried on, albeit with a huge gap before Not Your Kind Of People came out. All their albums are pretty good but I prefer Beautiful the most for tracks like Androgyny and my favourite, Cherry Lips.

Movies ... I have a fair few movie soundtracks and the thing to consider here - do you remember the film, the soundtrack or how they accompany each other ? Pacific Rim and Iron Man vie for my favourite here but it has to be Fifth Element for that Diva Dance scene.

More recent is Bat For Lashes. She keeps on getting better and better and her Haunted Man album is another stunning piece of music. Highlight for me is definitely Laura. So much emotion here too. Perhaps that's why I go for certain tracks ? They may touch a part of me that's hidden behind walls of armour.

Fancy a stage show ? We nearly went to see the new War Of The Worlds but ... very pricy and the new stars didn't appeal as much as the old stars. People like Justin Hayward singing Thunderchild.

Ok, this one's getting a bit long now and I know I've missed a heap of people out. Time for a couple more ...

Game soundtracks don't really stand out much, unless it's Adagio for Strings which nearly had me in tears when it started up in That Scene early in Homeworld. But that's music from outside that was grabbed for the game. No, my highlights for game soundtracks are Darren Korb's Transistor and Tomas Dvorak's Machinarium. Here's a haunting one from Transistor. One thing about Transistor, if you sit still and do nothing in the game, the main character will hum along to the soundtrack. Oh, here's a bonus from his other game soundtrack, Bastion.

And to echo a theme from yesterday, here's Fleetwood Mac's legendary album Rumours with You Can Go Your Own Way. This is another album born out of raw emotions.

Perhaps the other side of raw and heading into manufactured. But still with a soul come Gorillaz. They make great collections as albums. I think their best so far is Plastic Beach with songs like Empire Ants which starts slowly before exploding in your ears.

Hannah Peel is a little bit different ... Her signature is the tiny music box that often sets a counterpoint to her lovely voice. She's only given us one album so far and a couple of EPs but The Broken Wave shows massive promise with songs like The Almond Tree.

But I'll close off with another personal favourite, this one is Goldfrapp's Road To Somewhere album. They've written a lot of good singles in their other albums but this album comes together amazingly well. It's a great one to chill out to from start to finish. Here's Some People.

And I better close it there or I'll be here all night indulging in listening to some of my favourite songs via the youtubes ! There are tonnes more that should be here :

Edie Brickell, Madonna, Lucy Spraggan, Lisa Miskovsky, Mindy Gledhill, Norah Jones, Seal, Sleeper, The Staves, Suzanne Vega, the Ting Tings with We Started Nothing, Tori Amos.

Yep. Too much good music. Why limit yourself to listening to one band's music over and over when there is so much rich diversity of excellent music out there ?

Sunday, April 05, 2015

No politics here please


It's only ... so many days since Parliament broke up and it's been wall to wall politics ever since.

I try and avoid politics and politicians as much as possible. Decoding what they say and judging whether or not it's trustworthy is massive effort.

We have a pretty bankrupt political system over here. The two main parties are entrenched, not in ideals, but in the search for your vote. And they'll do anything, say anything to get that vote.

No - I don't trust them. But I also judge them by their outputs :

Conservative - have steadied the ship after the economic chaos of the last decade but ... I'm a civil servant (see below) and I haven't had a worthwhile pay rise (1% each year only, which is effectively a pay cut) since they've been in while the MPs have (don't mention expenses).
Labour - are why the country was in such bad shape. Leaving notes like "there is no more money" on the desk for your successor to find is ... irresponsible, idiotic and a sign of your own incompetence.
Liberal - ruined themselves with this coalition. Both from the broken promises and the reality that some of them are raving lunatics.
UKIP - just as I was talking about the raving lunatics.
And that's just the big ones, there's also the SNP who will have an influence on the next parliament. There are the Greens and Plaid Cymru (the Welsh nationalists) as well.

Note - those are all my personal opinions. I said above that I'm a civil servant, which puts certain limits on me at these times because we're supposed to be impartial at work. That's true, whichever group gets in, I'll ignore them all the same as the last mob. I'm at a certain level that lets me get away with that. It's rare that the politicians get involved with us although I'll dig up info for questions and their decisions affect whether we get to buy the stuff we want to get.

So I'll not tell you which way to vote, I'll not even say anywhere which way I'm intending to vote. But I will advise :

Make up your own mind.
If your vote is affected by prejudice (including location), examine that prejudice.
Listen to what they say ...
... ignore the spin the media put on it ...
... decode whether or not to believe it.
And most of all, don't think the way other people want you to think.

(This path leads to sheepishly voting in people who are not your preference, they're the preference of who you listened to).

Yep. After this post, I'll hopefully ignore election type stuff here. You'll be sick of that from the main media ... hmm ... already probably !

But there's better things to think about today (and I needed a pic for the thumbnail) :
Happy Easter everyone !

Oh ! Before I go ... I have a couple of amazing songs for you. Both Bunny themed.

First - Bat For Lashes with "What's A Girl To Do"
Second - The Cardigans with "For What It's Worth"
Both are amongst the best in my library.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

And ... relax

Hurrah ! Easter break.

It seems like it's been a long time coming. Oh and yesterday's post ? It was a brilliant (to me at least - lol) idea for an April Fool which I simply couldn't pass up.

Being in a band would actually be pretty awesome but ... you didn't hear the practice recording I did for my potential 1000th post. That got deleted as soon as I listened to it back. Putting my voice on Youtube ... crime against humanity. Honest.

Oh - here's the pic, courtesy of robbing it from a Facebook person earlier :-) :
I'm off work now until after Easter which means :

Lots of relaxing.
Lots of music listening.
Making a dent in what's recorded.
Seeing if I can get enough moulah in Elite to finish fitting out my Asp Explorer ship ...
... and setting off around the galaxy.
But it's not all about play :
Got a lot of tidying up to do as well to make this place fit for visitors again. Cos it would be nice to have someone around. Especially if it's someone just over 5 foot tall, highly cute, with a great taste in music and is one of very few people I can take my emotional armour off when I talk to her. I think I know someone like that.

Lots of work to do before then though and I've been too tired/unhealthy to even think of doing it before now. I've been improving, so I need to kick my butt into gear and stop being so lazy.

I hope people enjoyed yesterday's April Fool Band post as much as I enjoyed writing it. All the codenames in there refer to real people I've mentioned before. If you didn't see yourself in there, I'm so sorry ! I tried to fit in as many people as I thought I could get away with, without making it a megamonster post.

I hope people enjoy whatever time off they get over Easter, it's tough for some because places like retail demand people to be in over a really busy period. So if you go Egg Hunting or sales sharking, have a thought for the poor harried people behind the tills. They want time off too !

Give 'em a smile instead.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


I'm really excited.

I have news. An announcement. A seismic shift in what I'll be doing. Beating a new path even.

Yep. With a very special group of friends, I've decided to give up that day job and form a band. It's going to be called Dragon Dreamers, or The Dragons for short. What else could it be ? Perhaps the Another Mondays :
Actually, I quite like Another Mondays now that I think of it.

I'm going to be on the drums.
Yep. That's me. Oh and there'd be a mic there too. You know me, a catchy tune, a good rhythm, great atmosphere, I'll be joining in the singing for sure, rumbling away in the background.

On guitar, we'll have my very good friends Cyberkitten and the Bionicdwarf :
There's CK as a youngster, practicing that lead guitar which will knock your socks off. Bionicdwarf is all about that bass. Great tunes. You'll love it.

On keyboards and another of our main vocalists is the Pixie. She suffers terribly from joint pains, so can't stand up for long (you must understand when we take our bows at the end of the set) but she's a wizardess behind the ivories. Great voice too.
Lead vocals ... now who could that be. We tried to call in Hannah from the Yogscast but she's way too busy. Besides, we really don't know her that well. Not well enough to pull her away from the videos. What a voice though. Any band would be well blessed to be playing along with her.

Nah. It'll be the lovely Alex from the Warcraft people. I heard this lady singing on the guild voice chat server and it was so good, it got me joining in too. And I'm very shy about exposing people to my singing voice. And I can guarantee that it'll have you joining in too.

That's the main band. But there's always room for more. How about that saxophone ? I bet Cupid's Gift would be perfect. Not so much the blues, more a sheer joy that she'll bring into your heart.

You can't keep those backing singers out of the picture either. They support us in soo many ways.

First up has to be Crazie Queen. She keeps us on the right track. She's our manager. The person who'll protect us from the machinations of the industry. A legend amongst women.
Next is the original finance Angel. Great with the figures, fantastic with the high notes.
And our last performing member is the indomitable Snow Queen. She'll also be the one who makes sure all our kit gets set up just so and with a practiced ear, tuned from listening to great music. We'd never keep her off the stage. Those heels she wears are not heels. They are shoes with spears. Not arguing with those !

There's more too. I've known Bobkat* for years now. Decades even. She used to be involved in professional theatre, setting up the stage and making sure all the behind the scenes stuff ran smoothly. So while Snow Queen will have got the electronics set up perfect, BK will get everything else sorted and will be the one fussing over the bits and pieces to make sure they stay good during the show.

* (Bobkat took her online name from her much missed black and white cat. She lost him to old age a few years ago and he's still missed but fondly remembered. So if you see the odd random picture of a lovely little kitty around the stage, that'll be us remembering Bobkat by touching the picture for good luck on our way on stage.)

You need people to get your bits and pieces to where they need to be - I just happen to know a lady who is an absolute expert in logistics. And we have an expert marketing coordinator in Dianne, the Fork Lady, who will be sure to have us front page news in the USA when we tour there.

Can you tell yet that I'm excited ?

We could even try and get Real Musgrave (creator of the Pocket Dragons) out of retirement to make us some new dwagons !

Who are our influences ? Sleeper for sure. A little bit of Alisha's Attic. Definitely the Cardigans. Alex brings in those Abba roots.

We won't have anything for you to listen to just yet. But wait precisely 1 year from today (exactly this date in 2016) and we'll have an album out and we'll be embarking on that first tour.

Keep a look out for us ! We will rock you.