Thursday, April 27, 2017

I think I broke something

I don't bounce much any more.

I used to .... Hell, I'm pretty sure I've broken fingers, a leg and dislocated shoulders and still kept on playing.

Tonight it's a couple of things but it's mainly from going crunch on the bus just before the stop. I must have hit my shoulder just in the wrong spot. It happened when coming down the steps ... and the bus hopping over the speed bumps in the road or braking to a halt. I hit the shoulderblade of my weak right shoulder on the hard bit of what was behind me, immediately went OUCH. It was definitely a CRUNCH moment.

And then more ouch after getting myself off the bus. Getting walking again helped, I did the Tesco run (no Harvester sundae tonight - more in a bit) but I can feel the after effects of the bump.

I definitely don't bounce any more ! The problem is that you react to the bump instinctively, which can then upset more parts of you. So as well as a numb arm (it's not too bad but I think I'm in for a rough Friday, I also have the sore neck ....

This is going to sound a lot like me feeling sorry for myself, which I do apologise for. You don't want to hear the sad. You want to hear the bouncy hyper sleepy.

But yeah. At the moment, it's a poorly shoulder, a really unhappy neck that had me ouching yesterday morning anyway (one of the ladies in the meeting I was in starting waving manically in my direction - I thought to me ! But it was to someone outside and when I turned my head to look ... bang - ouch .... poorly neck tells me off again). And the hip that is steadily getting more and more destroyed.

Yep. Am old and feeling that today.
But it's not all bad though. I have people looking out for me, who both cheer me up and tolerate me being mad and bouncy around them. It is nice having people like the Canteen Ladies have my lunch ready for me to pick up. I don't ask for that ! Although it is a sign perhaps that I am far too predictable (Turkey in a Baguette). Work gets stressful (because we push ourselves hard there) but I like to think that the smiles and grins I give and receive there help us clobber our way through.

It definitely helps me keep on going through.

And then there are the people outside work as well who are .... amazing. You know who you are !

No Harvester ? No sundae ?

I have to admit, it's been a long time since I have raided that Harvester. Which is a shame because munchies there tend to give me a pick me up. As well as the physical stuff though, I'm working through after effects of me eating something or somethings that my body hasn't appreciated. (Am ok, just not feeling right down there) So I thought I should spare my tummy the effort of coping with a lactose laden sundae. Nope, that wouldn't be smart right now ! Maybe next week for the sundaes.

Yep. Not feeling my best at the moment, which is one reason why I'm not doing the travelling thing this weekend. (Part of it is also bank holiday traffic and not wanting to murder my ankles again).

It's not all bad though.

The week off work did me a lot of good. I've been getting the signs of hyperactivity again, I'm more focused than before the break (I am seeing silly errors that I did before which are being fixed now). My ankles and feet are much better ! Yeah, I'm scared about setting that healing backwards but that's just a symptom of how the condition has imprinted itself on my brain.

If you've been sick for a while, you'll know what I mean. If you have doubts coming in from mental issues, any mental issues, you'll know how those doubts can cripple you. In my case, I know that the various cricket ball vs head injuries have changed me. My memory is damaged from them, I think* I'm different, I'm slower.

*The scary thing is not being able to quantify the damage. To not know what the difference is between before and after. To have your sense of Self impinged upon.

In my case, I know it's from the cricket ball incidents. People who suffer from depression are not so lucky. It can be coldly considered as a chemical imbalance in the brain, which manifests in crippling doubt and an inability to see self worth. I'm lucky that I don't have that but I think I understand people who do. They don't want to be sad or unhappy, they just are due to their bodies and minds working against them.

Give them your understanding, your love and support. Give them recognition when they reach out for support. It's so difficult to come out and say when you're struggling. I try and distract people with silliness or humour when I think they need it.
And definitely the daft cat memes.

Yep. I have the hurts at the moment but I also have a quiet weekend (plus a little Guardians of Galaxy 2 tomorrow) to recover from it.

I sense the weekend will have lots of sleeps, a healthy dose of chill out, some remedy of chatter and a prescription of fun. Plus a teacake tomorrow morning at work.

Not quite sure if the XCom 2 campaign (or the Darkest Dungeon run I may start) counts as Fun (more like .... terror) but I definitely enjoyed my first play through of XCom 2 and I have bought the expansions since then.

I hope you all have great weekends whatever you are up to !

PS I haz tobbleronnie, easter egg, popcorn, lemon sherbets, lemon sherbet popcorn, MINI EGGS !!!
I'll be ok.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Thinking about that tech again


A big thought in my brain at the moment is looking at what the next tech acquisition is going to be. And that could be either laptop or desktop.
So this post is going to be all about what I particularly want in my computers.

Personally, if it wasn't about the games, I would be quite happy just using a good laptop and the smartphone. Laptops are very flexible beasties and their only drawback that you can't work around is the upgradeability. You can add monitors, sound, keyboards and mice to them to turn them into a desktop replacement, some even support external graphics acceleration and network storage makes them have higher capacity. And you get the portability as well. You just can't fix them easily if something goes wrong. (Like my Macbook Air with faulty wifi).

That said, I wouldn't drop the desktop for gaming with or having as an always on machine. I got tired of moving the desktop around a long time ago though, I rarely even synchronise files between the two like I used to. (Outside of the desktop being an iTunes backup).

That makes :

Laptop for internet browsing, email, music, occasional streaming of Sports channels to the telly.
Desktop primarily for gaming. But I'll also heavily use it for internet browsing, video watching and stream viewing.

Laptop screens are a bit small for comfortably watching a TV episode. And while it is possible to continually connect it and disconnect it from peripherals, I really can't be bothered to do that frequently. Things stay connected to the desktop and I use wireless when I can with the laptop.

The laptop has a while to go because .... I'll basically try and run it until it breaks or it runs out of hard disc space. It's a Macbook Air with a 250GB drive and there is 57GB free space remaining. Loads more music can go on there.

My next laptop will be something like the following :
14 to 15 inch screen. At least 1080p and preferably an IPS display. The screen dominates everything else in a laptop, 13 inch is ok but bigger is usually better. And IPS displays (as demonstrated by my desktop one) are super high quality.
A keyboard and trackpad I can get on with. The Macbook Air has excellent examples of both, it's actually one reason I switched over. You can have external keyboards and mice for laptops but it's pretty essential that the ones that come with it are good. Your typical external keyboard is usually heavy and won't fit in a laptop bag.
Sound ? Meh. Bluetooth is an excellent substitute for sending the music across to your hifi or there is the Apple Airport Express Airplay system.
Lots of ports that don't interfere .... the Macbook Air fails pretty hard here. There are only two USB ports and they are both too close to other ports to support wide USB devices (like my wifi widget which Apple locked out anyway).
Light weight - if you're having it on your lap a lot then you don't want a cinderblock impersonating lava.

And the rest is pretty much of a muchness. Some processors are better than others but .... does it really mean that much at the end of the day ? One thing I'd say for processors though, look out for the laptop spec ones. The Intel U or T processors. They're designed to run cooler and you won't notice the performance deficit outside of games.

Ok - what laptop ?
I haven't mentioned Operating System yet. My next laptop is likely to be Linux. Yep. Maverick time .... Apple are increasingly going anti consumer and I really don't trust the way Microsoft are going with Windows 10. I don't want to be fed advertising by the Operating System .... That's abuse of users. Especially when the system itself is becoming less stable with each update. Win10 was really good when it first went on my machine but has become less so with Anniversary Ed and now Creators Ed.

Oh and it adds £92 to the cost. Here's an example from PC Specialist (at this link). I'm curious about PC Specialist. They seem to offer great laptops at decent prices but I haven't actually seen one to evaluate quality and that keyboard and trackpad. There's no substitute for putting your own eyes on stuff like this. And your fingers. But yep. That one with an Intel i5 processor, 8GB memory and a 500GB Hybrid SSD drive. Cut Windows off so you can put Linux on it and it comes out at an affordable £495.

About those popups - Linux and Mac will always be far more secure than Windows simply down to how they are built. The trouble is finding suitable software. Everyone designs for Windows, although more people are designing for Linux these days.

And I'll need a competent way of getting iTunes on the machine or a replacement that offers the iTunes DJ / Party Shuffle automatic playlist system which was removed in iTunes 11. Also iPhone integration, although Android integration would be better.

Desktop ?
The rapid list of bits would be (and this will be jargon heavy for brevity) :
AMD Ryzen 5 1600 cpu - £225 + Noctua cooler for £45.
(big expensive coolers are worth the money, they make machines go silent)
16GB DDR4-2400 and an Asrock B350 mainboard (the better one) - £124 + £105
And that's actually all I'd get. I would be reusing everything else from my current machine. That makes ... £505 for a core upgrade. I don't need to be spending that at the moment.

Adding in the other items makes :
Case - £35. Shop around for one you like.
Gigabyte nVidia 1060 graphics card (the not as good 3GB one) - £186. Personally, I don't think you get sufficient performance boosts from even the next one up - the 6GB 1060 for £240 (Gigabye one again for fair comparison).
Drives - a 250GB Crucial SSD for Windows to go on plus a 2TB drive for everything else to go on. That's £94 + £59
And a 650W power supply for £65. You don't want to skimp on the power supply, if it's working too hard then it'll overheat, break and probably break more stuff too when it dies.

With Windows at £89, that's a total of £1035. Nope.

Not doing a full machine upgrade any time soon, I don't need to. That's actually + £200 on my usual ! Looking at the prices, it looks like a general set of small increases across the board, although that cpu is +£50, the graphics is up a bit, the memory is + £80 on the 8GB in this machine and the drives look more expensive.

That's the real question you have to ask - if what you have fits your need, stick with it. There is no need to spend money on shinies that you don't really need.

Buy when you have to, not when the sales make you think there's a bargain to be had. You save money not by having discounts but by not spending it in the first place.

And as this machine still runs Mass Effect Andromeda (despite being below minimum spec!), I'll hang on to it for a while ! Time to clear that Scan shopping basket before a misclick happens ....
Now where did I leave those Easter Eggs and the Mini Eggs .....

Friday, April 21, 2017

When tech and chocolate meet ....

And a bit more too.
I think this week at work showed that last week's chill time let me recover a fair bit of the energy that's been lacking lately. I'm not back up at the level I should be .... but I do have more energy than I had before.

I was a bit worried this week actually because my usual pattern is to heal reasonably over a long time ... and then reset that healing very quickly. And I do have problems with the office at work due to the atmospherics there (it's a very dry atmosphere, more people than me have problems with it). My outsides are doing much better in general, although the healing isn't finished yet and I still attack the healing bits out of just wanting to remove the imperfections.

I think I'm doing better at resisting that. Hopefully it won't be long. It wouldn't be quick enough to support playing cricket, as the April 1st post wishfully looked for. Besides, I have too much pain in my right hip and my reactions are not nearly good enough any more.

About those reactions ....

I got a little scared reading a post on the News about a judo player. She'd been suffering really bad symptoms from repeated head injuries incurred while doing the judo. Her symptoms were worse than mine, with tunnel vision joining the slowed reactions. Different head injuries are different. I get the odd dizzy spell with mine plus my memory is still garbage compared to what it was. But that slowed reactions was a curious correlation. My memory problems started with the Nose Job incident in 2005 but my reactions were ok until I almost ate a cricket ball in ... 2011 ?

That was my last year and the big warning signs from it were 3 dropped catches due to just not reacting fast enough. My hands were ready and in position to take the catch, I saw the ball all the way in but ... I just missed the moment to cushion the ball into my hands. Ok. That's not the whole story ... the one catch I took didn't involve reactions (it was a bob up into the air gentle one) and one of the drops was when my feet literally went out from underneath me due to the ground conditions ! Haha. Plant feet for catch, next thing I know I'm on my bum watching the ball sail above my head.


No - the moment for me to be enjoying playing the cricket is past now. Those reactions are too slow, the hip is too far gone and the shoulder was most definitely too damaged !

I do get a little worried though sometimes. Relieved maybe. Definitely thinking I am lucky to have avoided more serious injuries with the running around. I was hit on the head without a helmet twice, which has had long term effects but pretty light ones. Especially compared to the ongoing seclusion of Michael Schumacher, who is still very unwell after bouncing his head off a rock while skiing. (A cricket ball is a different shape but is just as hard as a rock !)

Take head injuries seriously ! If you get a bump on the head that affects your consciousness, even just to the limited extent of getting headaches, see a doctor ! Get checked out. There may be more going on than you know about. I wasn't aware of my memory being damaged, I figured that out after. I didn't connect slowed reactions with the last head injury, I just thought that was old age.

Wait. Chocolate and technology.
When I went up to the Mall on Tuesday evening, I came away with a Thorntons Easter Egg. They're on sale now until the stocks run out. These are £7 250g eggs for £2.50. Bargain ! Or 3 for £5. When I finished it last night, I was immediately sad and regretful that I hadn't taken advantage of the 3 for £5 so I'd have two more.

What does this have to do with technology I hear you wonder ...

I break up my Easter Eggs by dropping them from a suitable height onto a suitably hard surface. Lately, that's my computer desk and the tray the keyboard sits on.

Pick up egg;
Drop egg;
Ponder why the youtube video I was watching went on pause;
Investigate dropping the egg again (it was too solid to break on just one dropping).

Yep. The shock of the egg was activating the microswitches in my keyboard, which made the video pause.

At some point, I must research this .... I need to have something like Notepad open to investigate this shock thing some more. What mysteries will my keyboard write when subjected to more Egg Dropping Shocks ?

I thought I should check this out more. Do research.

And it is for these purposes of research that 3 more Thorntons eggs (other eggs are/were! available but they are nowhere near as solid as what Thorntons do) escaped from town with me today. I'll check that out at some point. Munching my dinner at the moment and I have Mini Eggs to consume as well. Mini Eggs are life.
Oh and I'm also looking into acquiring more tech.

Desktop upgrade - which will be almost certainly to AMD's new Ryzen chip. It'll be either a Ryzen 5 with 6 cpu cores or an Intel i5-Kaby Lake processor. The upgrade would go into a new box with 16GB of memory but would harvest as much as possible from my current machine.

Laptop change - I'm thinking more seriously about this as issues start to mount with my Macbook Air. It's a late 2013 model, so it owes me more life but .... the wifi is ok for home .... but can't support streaming Sky Sports at my mum and dad's place. However, the laptop is how I run my music and I have a lot of investigating to do there before I make any jumps. I'll want something that supports audio streaming to my hifi (might switch to Bluetooth) and the Party Shuffle feature which is the reason why I hang onto iTunes 10.7. Oh and I want it to sync music with either my Android phone or my old iPhone.
Oh and that laptop might well be running Linux after I lose patience with Apple's attitude to customers (you don't own what you buy from Apple, they think you're effectively leasing it) and Microsoft's Creators Update on Windows 10 is showing worrying signs that Microsoft is going the same way. Stability of Windows 10 was good when it came out but .... it's showing bad signs that emergent bugs might be coming in.

Linux is the alternative but there are many software compatibility issues with it.

We shall see !

In the meantime, I am curious as to what masterpiece may emerge from my keyboard when I next subject it to the shock of an Easter Egg bouncing on its tray.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Back to work with .... randomness ...


Didn't really mean to leave it a week since my last post before adding something here. I guess I must have been very distracted by .... not doing very much at all !
That was actually the plan. To rest up, recover, see if I could heal up some, to take it easy and bounce back in better shape to face the summer.

I think it's worked. My ailing feet and ankles are in much better shape (not out of the woods yet but they're in far better condition now than they were a week ago). My arms have improved ... same again though. The damage on my arms is mostly caused by me attacking it, whereas the damage to my feet is more down to the effects of wearing shoes all day at work. The Aveeno moisturiser is helping too ... Sometimes it needs Aveeno, sometimes steroid cream, sometimes Eurax. The trick is to feed the bad bits the right gunk at the right time.

The energy deficit was largely down to me lacking so much sleep over the past few years. I think that's coming right again too, although I've having the yawning into the pillow problem again (a lot of that is due to not wearing my body out over the easy days) over the past few nights. I've been sleeping better lately and I think that's led to the hyperactivity coming closer to the surface.

I like the hyperactivity. It does make me more impulsive, which can get me acting without thinking sometimes. That makes me sad when I say things that might upset people (it happens) but most of the time, the hyperactivity is a wave that's fun to surf on.

That's the way I think of what's probably more a light touch of manic depression. The depressive sides are tough and tend to trigger when I reach out for feedback and don't get any. I'm my own worst critic, rarely seeing much value in what I do. It takes other people to point out me doing Good Stuff. The manic sides are a real rush and the usual sign is a wave of hyperactivity.
The trick is to enjoy going up to Super, without going full out crazy.

What have I been up to ? iTunes tells me I have listened to 1371 unique tracks for a total of 3.2 days. That's a lot of music. Highlight albums over that time include .... Dubstar's Disgraceful, Kate Bush's The Dreaming and Not Too Late from Norah Jones. And then there was the late night Sing Along To Youtube session which saw me dipping into the Goldfrapp, Cardigans/Nina Persson, Tori Amos, Ting Tings ... and the rest.

I escaped the house twice .... once for pre Easter supplies, again on Sunday. Go see Handmaiden if you like the foreign language films ! I enjoyed this one with a lovely friend on Sunday. It kept us guessing all the way through and it's an excellent piece of cinema around that great story too.

Game playing has been mainly two games :

Mass Effect Andromeda - space explorer ! In space ! Well ... a lot of running around on the surface of planets and driving the Nomad around.
This one has its critics due to poor production values with the faces and the animations but they seem to be working on fixing those. Behind those is a game that I'm finding to actually be a really fun game to dive into. It's less serious than the first Mass Effect games and I'd recommend it ... but shop around for cheaper prices.

Motorsport Manager still holds my attention. My team is now in the middle tier and has a couple of wins in my second season there so far. Building steadily towards being world beaters. I've put over 250 hours into Motorsport Manager so far and it's one I'll probably hit over 1000 hours in ... wow. That's a lot of game time. Because I got tired so much, games like Motorsport Manager suit me pretty well because they are limited interaction. There is skill in determining when to make an interaction and ... you can genuinely have your team win races they shouldn't by making the right interventions at the right time. But for the rest of the time, it's sit back and enjoy watching the race.

I bought the latest Stellaris expansion yesterday ... And my Mk2 Space Raptors were born ... The latest patch allows you to do all sorts of things with captured enemies that you couldn't do in the game before. You can assimilate them into your empire, enslave them and now .... munchies. Yep. Space Raptors are hungry ...

And I've been catching up on the watching of games too with videos from people like :
Aavak playing Stardew - a marvellllllous rolling Welsh accent here. His Stardew videos are so relaxing;
Enter Elysium - what can I say about EE .... most intelligent youtuber with tonnes of wit ?
Meta Selene is another youtuber playing Stardew at the moment. She has that Scandinavian accent which I miss from the Warcraft days. That accent might be why I enjoy listening to Nina Persson singing so much.
The Flame in the Flood is a game I might well pick up when I see it on sale again, I'm evaluating that through a short series of 8 videos.
Shenryyr playing Darkest Dungeon - a curious game. Definitely a tough one ! I'll have another run at this at some point, for now ... I'm enjoying watching others play it.
And then there's the two streamer ladies, Radderss currently playing Witcher 3 and HeyChrissa about to move on to something new after enjoying Mass Effect Andromeda.

I also mean to kick off another XCom 2 campaign to kick the aliens off the Earth again.

Oh and there were loads of Easter Eggs too.

I still have some Easter Eggs. (Not for long !)

Why aren't I munching the Easter Eggs now ? Seeya !
PS Latest album is the actually really good A Hundred Million Suns by Snow Patrol. One of their best.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Rogueish Ranting

Maybe not so much with the ranty but I am somewhat annoyed about some software ....
The catalyst for this was Rogue One .... Nothing wrong with the film, it's an amazing film. One of the best of 2016, possibly the best Star Wars movie. Episode VII was more fun and definitely brought back the little kiddie feelings with the Millennium Falcon chase early on ... and all those references. Rogue One had the storyline. A gritty war movie set in the Star Wars universe ? It pulled it off incredibly well.

Last night's plan (with no streams happening) was to sit in the pooter chair watching Rogue One. Why not in the telly sofa seat ? Dunno really. (It might have been something to do with me being in the Motorsport Managers a little too long !)

Anyway. I got a piece of software called Cyberlink PowerDVD with the bluray drive that I bought with my PC.


Hold on Sleepy, why so angsty ? Apparently, the Cyberlink software goes beyond what other software companies do (cough-Apple-cough) and disables itself when new versions come out. I have PowerDVD 9, the latest one is PowerDVD 11. It claims to be under attack from other software in your machine. "The integrity of this software is being threatened by your antivirus" or some similar message. It goes away a little if you disabled the Windows firewall (don't do this, even if you're like me and have a router providing a hardware firewall) but it's still dead software.

I don't even have antivirus on this machine. I know. Silly. But it seems like most of the impact Anti-virus software actually has ... is to cripple the performance of your machine. Or it will cripple your machine without warning, due to false positively identifying Windows files as viruses. So I just run Windows Defender and MalwareBytes Anti-Malware.

That said ... I'm careful on what websites I visit, with Ad-Block Plus and uBlock active on Waterfox on the desktop. That's the first line of defence. The second line is to run a full MalwareBytes scan every time I go to a suspicious site (like if I've mistakenly clicked on a MailyDail link - you know who I mean ! Don't give them traffic, definitely don't look there without an adblocker - you pick up nasties). I'll also run the MalwareBytes scan every time I download programs from the internet.

You cannot be too careful with downloading software. I've had Nasties on my machines a few times in the past. They either get in through trojan software (an app pretending to be something else that carries something extra) or in drive by downloads (the poisoned ads I mentioned).

Yep - always be suspicious, especially when downloading software from third party websites where the act of installing the software bypasses all of the protection you get from Windows/Mac.
Yep. Software off the internet is definitely a mine field ...

Bluray software ?

Yep. PowerDVD was complaining that something was trying to hack it, which is code for the publishers disabling your software. A couple of other attempts failed but it does look like something by Leawo works. It pulled the menu page up for Rogue One at least. And it was good hearing the opening titles for Mysterious Cities Of Gold again. (I used it for a test of whether software was good). I didn't actually watch them cos the moment had gone by then !

Other stuff happening ?

I'm enjoying resting up. I've been watching stuff from the tv box, playing the games, watching the streams, listening to the music. And trying to leave my battered bits alone so they heal. I think that's working.

TV - motor racing (Chinese GP was good in the end), Star Trek Voyager (excellent), Earth Final Conflict (decent, feels like lots of filler and an unnecessary final season)
Streams - HeyChrissa with the Mass Effect Andromedas is a big reason why I bought that game. And then there's Radderss fighting through Witcher 3 (I don't engage with that game so much for some reason)
Playing the games - it's been mainly Motorsport Manager. It's a very easy game to play and my current game is doing really well building up in the lowest leagues. I'm farming the achievements ... I think I'm the 0.1% of a couple of the really tough ones to get ... And then there's Space Explorer in Mass Effect Andromeda. That'll be a good game to lose myself in. It's not perfect but it errs on the fun side with its bugs.
Listening to the music - oh yes. Lots of music :-).

And there was an impromptu sing along to Youtube last night too that ended at maybe 2am with 03.45am No Sleep. Oops.

Rogue One will probably get watched on Friday when there are no streams again. Why watch prerecorded when there is live entertainment to enjoy ?

And there are 2 streams going at the moment ! Off to enjoy :-).

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Plan vs Reality .... 2 !


Yesterday didn't go to yesterday's plan. Almost. There was one bit that went perfectly to plan.

Pizza happened and it was glorious. Pizza is always glorious. Although I can never eat the lot. The last time I finished a large pizza was probably after Cricket Ball vs Head Incident 3, where I lost all sense of hunger for a fortnight. (I didn't know I was hungry until I heard the yawning of rumbles and didn't know when I was full - weird).

Work was good, with the various tasks that I wanted to get done before leaving, being completed. I may be checking in through next week though, if only to demolish some of my inbox before coming back. Kinda like, no replies but loads of deleting. My inbox is pretty full of stuff I should have deleted ages ago. And then there are the 500kb attachments I regularly send out.

It'll be good to have the week away from work to both catch up on sleep and to give my feet a chance to heal up. They don't really appreciate being trapped in socks and shoes but ... they're getting there.

Yesterday afternoon ? One plan was to go see a movie. Popcorn + movie chillout. But ...

1 - nothing really tempting on. I had a choice between the Power Rangers movie and the Kong movie. I'm not particularly interested in the Kong movie (although I'll record it for watching when it comes out free) and Power Rangers is another not too bothered about film. I'd quite happily see Ghost in the Shell again though.
2 - traffic .... it looked mental going out towards the cinema I'd have aimed for. Traffic around Bristol centre was pretty bad yesterday. Not sure why. Perhaps something to do with the school term times.

I had a quick chilled out wander around Bristol centre instead. I didn't buy anything except my lunch but I do enjoy the wanders. I might go back sometime next week depending on how those feet are doing.

The cinema run would have set up the timings nicely for ... shopping followed immediately by pizza. I have two close by pizza collection places and the better one is next to the supermarket. Shopping happened early and pizza happened later.

The next bit of the plan was to run an all nighter to evade the nasty after effects I can get from pizza. However ... I was :
Utterly exhausted.

It quickly became apparent that I needed to search out my pillow or I'd fall asleep at my chair until midday. So I abandoned those all nighter plans quite early. What surprised me was ...

Sleep until mid day ! Must have needed it.

Well, actually it was sleep until 8.30am. Very restful. And then more snooze.

Lovely, lovely sleep with none of those penalties for having the pizza.

And hopefully more to come over the next week. Around playing Mass Effect Andromeda ... such a lot of controversy and hate over a game that I think will be good fun. Talking of games actually ...

When I was watching Ghost in the Shell, I was being heavily reminded of the Deus Ex Human Revolution game. That one is about a reluctant cyborg, fighting a conspiracy. The action sequences and set up in Ghost in the Shell definitely made me think of how a Deus Ex movie would play out on screen. Now there's an idea ... The Ghost protagonist is far better than the Adam Jensen of DXHR though. And the story was good too.

Nah - today's gaming was a little more Motorsport Manager, where my cars are rather better than anything anyone else has got so far. I'm staying in a lower division where I can make loads of money to get the factory better. Maybe one or two more seasons after this one until I move up. I'm looking to farm as many achievements as I can, although there are bugs which mean the "Backmarker to Best" achievement won't unlock for me ... It's for having a driver start at the back of the grid, subsequently win. Maybe it needs actual qualifying instead of the reversed grids (Championship leader starts last) rule that's currently active.

Yep. Even with the lots of sleep, I was only really feeling up to playing the game where I mostly leave it to do its own thing and intervene when a decision like coming into the pits needs to be made.

Relax now, active games later. Including Elite, which I haven't been back into since finishing off the April Fools post.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Plan vs Reality

I have a plan for tomorrow !

Nah. Last day at work tomorrow before I have a week off before Easter. I definitely need it .... I'm exhausted ! The run between Xmas and Easter always seems to end up as a grind for me. It never really feels worth taking time off between then. It feels too long and both too short. That sounds daft. I usually run my annual leave allowance down before then too.

But yeah. Exhaustion is hitting at the moment. And pain as well from insides that are quite upset with me at the moment. Muscles and all that. (The small muscles in my right ankle want to tie themselves up in knots right now). That's a symptom of my minerals being all messed up again at the moment. That should work itself out with me drinking a lot more water (if I remember!) over the next week.

But what was the Plan ....

I love pizza.
But I can't have pizza too often because the excess acid it causes me to create makes it nigh on impossible to sleep.

So the Plan was to not sleep. Tomorrow, the intentions are to :

Stay at work until all the immediately necessary tasks are done (I have lots of flexi credit which gives me the scope to disappear early like that);
Head over to the cinema;
Chill out with an afternoon movie and popcorn;
Maybe mooch around town for a bit;
Pick up shopping supplies ....
.... and acquire pizza at the place beside where I'll shop;
Pull an all nighter.

If I don't attempt sleep, I avoid the problems from the acid. That's the theory and it lets me devour a pizza.

Part of the all nighter would involve possibly some Mass Effect Andromeda, definitely some Motorsport Manager if I'm not feeling up to the run and gun game, maybe some Stellaris which just had an update patch today. My Space Raptors can now eat their enemies. I suspect the Space Raptors will see pizzas superimposed on the aliens.

There is also the Masters Golf this weekend. It's one of the more paint drying type of sports but it's also one where anything can happen, well ... big changes can happen to the situation very quickly. I usually don't pay too much attention until the closing stages on the Sunday.

And the other thing to keep me awake will be the Grand Prix. I'll be able to watch the practice session and qualifying (maybe have a nap between the two) and then I'll watch the race on Sunday with a time delay.

I'm looking forward to playing the Mass Effect game over next week. It caught my imagination with odd characters who seem to be having fun on screen.

I think Reality is starting to impose itself on The Plan though. The only film I can see on at lunchtime that I'd be interested in is the Power Rangers movie and ... I'm not too sure about that one. I've been nearly falling asleep tonight, I suspect that instead of doing all nighter tomorrow, I'll collapse into snoozes.

It'll be good to have a break. I definitely feel like I need it !

Oh - there will be plenty of music being listened to as well. I haven't picked them up yet but I have my eye on :

Ed Sheeran - Divide
Goldfrapp - Silver Eve
Lucy Spraggan - I hope you don't mind me writing
Lisa Hannigan - At Swim

They haven't reduced in price to where I'd like to buy them yet though, so I have left them on the shelf.

Oh and healing too over next week ! It should be good for the ankles to have them not need to walk around too much. They've been doing better but they do deteriorate over the week. Getting there.

Slowly. But surely.

More soon !

Sunday, April 02, 2017

The After Fooling

I stayed away from most of the traditional news outlets yesterday.

I think you know why ! You had a taster of what can go on in the news from my three posts ... Did you spot the true one ? I hope you did. I'll put the clue in the thumbnail ...
Of the three :

The Elite one was about a game. So that's not related to real life in any way. I put a fair bit of work into that one which I'll go into later. It was untrue, you can't land at Hutton Orbital with a big ship and it doesn't have a shipyard to buy or change ships at.

I thought the cricket one would look plausible .... but it's ... nope. I can't see me playing cricket again. Umpiring ? Maybe. It's the best seat in the house. But playing ? I've been in so much extra pain since writing that post that I think karma has been out to get me since I did write it. Not too much pain, just someone's been playing (the tiniest) violin using my hamstrings and they occasionally make me go Ouch in a big way. Plus the shoulder has been weaker. On the bright side though, the ankles aren't repaired yet but seem to be getting tougher again. The bad patch on the back of my left calf is reducing in size.

About time ! But at 42 years old, carrying all the damage and with slowing reactions, cricket is definitely a stretch. So I had fun writing that post but felt sad knowing that it was a false story.

The writing one is the best kind of April Fool related post ... the one that looks totally off the wall but is actually true. You'll hopefully remember me talking about that novel for a fair while now. I have the basic premise but need that over arching plot going through it. An escape from a bad situation makes for a good start and the setting up for a good middle but ... a story needs a beginning, middle and end. I think I know how I can weave the End in there now and it would involve the first murderer ... who would be nibbled by the Menace.

I did think it was curious that the post came out at around the same time as two game stories. One is Horizon Zero Dawn, which looked and watched amazing on the streams. AI warbots threaten all of the biological life on Earth in a few years from now, with the story being set a thousand or so years in the future. It's a Playstation 4 game so .... I won't be playing that one.

The other game is Mass Effect Andromeda, which I'm enjoying. I think the big lesson it's showing is that not all games of this type have to have ultra gritty hard bitten characters who will chew their leg off to escape a trap and then go run 100 m in less than 10 seconds. Nope. The characters in Mass Effect Andromeda are still tough but they stop to have fun too. There's a less serious side to the game which I'm enjoying. I suspect I will be glued to it over my week off. But the over riding arc of that story is an escape from the Milky Way to ... somewhere different. Kinda echoes my idea, although mine owes far more to stories like Larry Niven's Legacy of Heorot.

And there was a bit of that with the character creation. My Sara Ryder has turquoise hair and a not quite as derpy an expression as that game is getting notorious for.

A picture ? I tried to take a few screenshots but Game Said No (alas !). It's a quite pretty game and my ageing system is doing ok with it with the new graphics card. Merely ok ? It goes jerky a bit when running around but is playable.
That's the new ride.

One idea though was the idea of doing a Making Of Video type thing for the Elite post, because while I did put a fair bit of work into that, it isn't something that's beyond people. You can do it too ! Here's what I did :

Make a plan - I had a list of screenshots that I needed to get to create the post. And because Hutton Orbital is literally 90 minutes flight time away, I only wanted to go there twice this time. Once with the big ship (that couldn't land) and once with a ship that they'd allow inside.

Write a script - I had written the actual post about 20 days ago, before doing the trip out there. It let me tailor the screenshots I would need and the edits I wanted to do.

When getting the screenies, keep an eye open for opportunities - with shots like the one with the landing lights, I could have recreated that but an opportunity popped up when someone else was landing and from there, all I needed to do was steal the "Proceed to docking pad 1" (and modify it from pad 3) from one of my own pics. The one with For The Mug and the Federal Agent was also a happy accident.

Keep an eye out for detail - enjoy the happy accidents but plan for when those don't happen. I could have gotten screenshots from 1 Apr and rush edited them but ... I've been getting too exhausted for that. Instead, I got dates in the screenies from 18 March, which could be turned into 1 Apr (delete the 8, move the 1, delete the M, move the A, copy the R, delete enough to turn it into a P). Sounds easy doesn't it !

It's easier than you might think actually. Photoshop and the tool I use (the awkward but free GIMP) give a Clone Stamp Tool which can be used to copy areas of one part of a picture on to another. It's very powerful. The picture of the Station Services was very heavily edited in this way, the entire right hand panel is copy/pasted in.

Be consistent - things like shadows and lighting is how you spot the Photoshopped pictures. So for the picture of the ship on the pad, I adjusted the lighting to suit (actually lent on the Auto-Enhance command). The ship part was actually taken in deep space, remembering to put the landing legs down first !

Picking an opportunity to do it - I knew that it would involve a good few hours, which meant Free Weekend. I couldn't do it last weekend due to Mother's Day travel, so it happened on the last weekend of the Six Nations Rugby. Watching the rugby while the pooter is doing the game ? Perfect. I'd be able to wake up to the game in the bits between play.

It would have been good to make a video for all that (I am being inspired by some youtube people !) to hopefully put across the idea that you, yes you who has read this far ! can do things like this too.

The toughest thing is the original idea. Good ideas are rare. They are to me at least. Turning that idea into something good takes work ... but work is easy compared to trying to squeeze good ideas out.

Ideas can't be forced ... but keep your eyes open, draw inspiration from the world and people around you, see what happens.
That's another one I did a while ago from the Eve Online game. I don't play that one any more but that's the signature I used for it. It just hit me that the advanced destroyer ship (Sabre) looked like they'd stuck a shuttle on the back of the original destroyer and ... an idea was born.

I hope you like it !

And remember - all it takes is an idea, some patience (especially with Gimp) and a bit of time.

PS Unless it's drawing. Drawing is hard.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Engineering .... or writing ?

I'm pondering one of those career moves again.

Except this one is both more realisable and less realistic than the Band thing from a couple of years ago. You know ... the one written on April 1st 2015 (have a peek in the list on the right!) promising an album out in exactly one year to the day. Yep. Not suspicious at all right ? šŸ˜€

Oooo - I see emoticons that I didn't realise I had .... I promise not to abuse them ... too much šŸ˜‡

You'll have hopefully seen and enjoyed a couple more April 1st Secret Projects today. Here is my last one for this year. Of course the secret of the April 1st Secret Project is to make you wonder if the story is true or not. This one is completely about fiction. But is it actually fiction ? I'll leave that to you to ponder ... But first .... the post demands a thumbnail picture !
We need more books. Yep. This post is all about that book I've been talking about writing for ... how long now ? I have ideas. Some of them I think are good ideas. What I really need is a plot to write around. Plus characters. One issue I've seen in some writing is that the characters are all the same. I'd have to base my characters partly around people I know. And me as well. Could you be a character in this book ?

Could there be inspiration coming from a couple of awesome novelist ladies. That'd be Nika Harper, who I first spotted via the name Nikasaur. She's done some amazing short videos where she plays with words and ... be still my beating heart when I watch them. Check out the first Wordplay playlist. And the amazing Thumper too (link on the right in the blog list and here!) who's sense of humour and fun is something I marvel at.

Wait ... what would it be about. Here are a few of the ideas. I've meant to write these down for ages now, in order to frame them into some kind of logical structure in my head.

Premise - it's a future scifi where we have escaped Earth and are on colonies amongst the stars. Faster than Light travel is plentiful and easy to procure. It is feasible to set up new colonies without too much investment or interference. But as always .... it's the people that dominate. Technology amongst the stars is easy, being around Good People is tough.

As it is on our Earth today. Don't you feel like you want to escape the worst of society today and just take the Good People with you ? I feel like that a lot. It's good being amongst the two Twitch communities of HeyChrissa and Radderss (links on the right!). They broadcast on the Twitch, let me chill out and I've found that hugely valuable over the past year or so. I have a small circle of friends too who are hugely valued and let me talk through thoughts that would otherwise send me barmy. Erm ... make that send me "even more" barmy. But a lot of the society around me ? No. I see stuff on the news from our leaders and other people that is just horrific and appalling.

So the main premise of this book is that people on a developed world get sick of what's going on and organise a departure. An escape. A chance to start over as they would like to have society arranged. An opportunity to leave behind the worst of the society on their developed world.

It would take a lot of inspiration from what is going on in the world today. And there's a lot of Really Bad Stuff going on in the world at the moment. The trick in the book is to present it and the solutions like the norm.

The latest (and you'll guess when I started writing this post from this !) is what Youtube have done to the LGBT community (basically - a complete censorship of all their material even if it has nothing to do with sexuality). Censorship is really bad but it is an extension of the abuse and prejudice aimed at the LGBT+ community today. I'm a straight bloke that way but .... I'll defend LGBT to live the way that is right for them. And that doesn't include censorship, prejudice or the abusive practices that some of our politicians would like to inflict on them.

No - the first group of escapees would be LGBT who just don't feel safe in their community any more. They feel out of place. They want to be part of a community that values them for their skills and who they are, not who they sleep with. We should judge nobody for who they sleep with. (I do feel strongly about this).

But ... there's also an imperative which would mean that all colonists would need to contribute to genetic diversity (not made my mind up about this - selective breeding of people must be a last resort only). This does not mean LGBT must do the Deed with someone else, as artificial means would get around the ... incompatibility ? :-). Problems with birth that require IVF today have been solved in this future society and this extends into allowing Gay Man + Gay Man or Lesbian Lady + Lesbian Lady to have a kid together. The only imperative remaining is that genetic diversity but outside of that, anything is possible and reasonable ... unless societal prejudice gets in the way. And the book will present that prejudice as being an archaic legacy of societies long left behind in the dust of history.

And there are the other issues in our modern society ...

Random attacks like the recent one in London, following other attacks around the world. It's not so much the attacks (which are bad enough), it's how our society responds to them. And if society responds with a kneejerk which is bad for our freedom, that's another reason to move away from both the oppression and the terrorism.

Immigrants ? People who have the resources to smuggle their way into a spaceship leaving for another world would be valued ... They have the motivation to want to escape and the skills to allow them to do so. That could make them Very Useful .... I'd be able to weave in the discovery of stowaways as well, because it would be trivially easy to find them on a spaceship.

Persecution of anyone "different" - like we're seeing in a lot of societies today ... needs to be excised. It would be presented as a reason for why people are wanting to abandon their safe lives where they are. As in, they want to walk away from a society that they think is going to come for them next with the prejudice and persecution.

And I would need to take inspiration from many other elements today ... I might even put a streamer lady in there who entertains the colony despite being so disabled she can barely do anything else. But sitting in that streaming chair is an incredible personality who just .... entertains. People need something to relax and listen to and as I mentioned above, watching streamers on Twitch is one way I unwind at the moment.

Future tech ... I've already mentioned light speed travel. I think this colony needs advanced 3d printing too ... but I'll rule out teleporters. Those always seem cheaty plus there is the moral black hole with teleporters of destroying the original and creating a copy. I'll say that the technology is possible but was banned. Medicine would be very much advanced, eliminating most problems of today.

How would I start it all off ?

The Captain of the ship and organiser of the whole "Let's get outta here!" thing would hear something and immediately go to the comms and say "Comm ? Send Lifeboat, timescale - 24 hours". As in, an announcement has been made which will shortly lead to it being very much more difficult to up sticks and leave. The Lifeboat is the signal for everyone to drop what they're doing and run.

And then in interludes through the book, there would be essentially minutes from meetings leading up to the departure. I've seen this narrative trick used before, where the book will zip forwards and back through time, with extra exposition explaining more about the world the book is set in. This would present a world getting steadily more and more scary as the departure date got nearer. Actually, I don't think this would be a formal meeting. A conversation in the pub would work better, maybe even after one of these meetings takes place. Meetings tend to have too much talk for little actual information being passed. A pub conversation might be more ... normal ? Also more compressed.

Another narrative trick is to have someone completely clueless along as a surrogate for the reader. New concepts are explained to the surrogate to develop them for the reader.

What I'm missing though is something to tie it all together.

I enjoyed a book called Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven ... It was a similar tale of a new colony among the stars. They were doing pretty well until the dragons (grendels) appear and start eating people ...

An unexpected threat is a great way to get your tale going. And you need drama to keep people interested.

How about some other things to think about .... how do you deal with crime ? Do the new place have capital punishment ? Corporal punishment ? Imprisonment ? Banishment ? Sometimes banishment is worse than execution .... On an untamed world, a banished citizen may slowly starve to death ... or be eaten by predators. A quick end might be preferable. But no society is perfect even if its people go into it with the best of intentions.

But that's a thought for later.

I have embryonic ideas there. Not enough to give up the Engineering Day Job for novel writing. Yet. Perhaps. I have the other idea of a close future post apocalyptic Earth, where my analogue and crew are looking to rebuild, with pretty much everything based out of a barge with the Isle of Wight being our home base.

I'm curious to know what people think about this one.
And they're my letters now ...

This is the last of my 3 April 1st Special Projects for today. I hope you enjoyed them all and in the case of this one, made you think a bit. And one last thought to leave you with :

Not all you think is fiction, is false.

Watch out for what you read today ! Hopefully you spot the false stories but I hope you get a few chuckles from them too. April Fools Day should be about poking harmless fun at the world we live in.

Back in the game !

Second of 3 posts for today. Today is always a special day and I do like to write for it.

I've made a decision ...

A big decision .... It will mean pain. But it will also mean lots of fun. Which will make all the pain so totally worth it.

I really miss the running around. The feeling of freedom that I got from pinning the ears back and just running. Top speed. Faster than the wind. So fast you could feel that wind blowing through the ears.

And the best I had with the running was with the cricket. I used to run so fast and needed lots of room when I hit that top speed. Something to do with having the power to go Very Fast ... and no brakes ! Yep. Cricket was good for that.

And .... check out the abs on that :
Yep. Might have been making preparations for that running around again. Maybe.

What's brought all this on ? My outsides making huge steps in improving is one trigger. One negative to all that power in my legs is that my skeleton (knees, bones) never really developed enough to contain the power. I'd run Fast, my knees would feel like they were exploding. So I wore knee pads to keep everything together. It's been many years since I've been able to wear the knee pads ... My knees were just too torn up and the knee pads were what initially tore them up.

The other damaged bits of me have been making big improvements as well. My ankles aren't fixed yet but they've survived the walking around for work since I stopped wearing those bandages. Happy days.

The rest of me is a bit sore (I am 42 after all) but my usual pattern with the cricket has been to be sore in the early days of the season and then things get better as the match fitness improves. That's always been the way. I've been blessed (or cursed?!) with a certain degree of natural fitness. The curse there is that it means I've been able to skip the training one would normally do for running around and other types of sports. That's kept my bones intact but doesn't set up the conditioning hardening or the muscle memory.

But .... it's getting there. It used to take maybe two or three games to get up to speed again.

I think the muscle memory is still there as well. I feel my right arm itching to run through the bowling action again, even after all those years away from the bowling.

I wonder actually ...

Last time I tried to bowl, there was a flaw in my shoulder from the old damage. It caused a hitch in my action that destroyed all control of length. Translation - the ball was as likely to come out arrowing in on someone's head as it was to be aimed at the pitch. This was particularly dangerous considering that my normal bowling makes the ball swing through the air a lot. So as the batsman tries to duck backwards out of the way, the ball follows them ...

Ouch ! Wonder what the early season net practice will turn out like. Looking forward to that early season stuff. New beginnings and all that.

Batting has always been a challenge and it's what I fell back on after the bowling ran into trouble. I have unfinished business there ... I could get decent starts and anchor the team while mayhem happened at the other end ... but I never got the big scores or massive innings that won the game for our team.

Yep. Unfinished business there. Good ... but not great. That's something I'd like to have a chance to correct.

Fielding was always fun. When let off the leash and fielding closer in, I took it as a challenge between me and batsman. Could I anticipate where they were going to nudge the ball ? Who would win the race between getting the ball back in and the batsman getting to the other end ? Fielding rewarded perfection with results.

I liked the fielding.

Yep. Cricket again. A daunting prospect perhaps at 42 years old, an age where I'm wise (HAHAHAHA!) to remember the pain from previous cricket. But there is that instinct though. To run. To gallop. To chase that ball. To pit the wits against the opposition. To be part of a team again.

Computer games are fun and all but the multiplayer is tainted by cheating and it not being a level playing field. Cricket is totally level. It supports all shapes and sizes, it's playable for both young and old. It rewards skill, cleverness and the ability to out think the opposition. It's both a team game and a game for individuals. But it usually needs a team effort to win.

I like cricket. I miss the playing. I miss contributing to us winning, both by being a loud little yappy so and so constantly encouraging my team mates through shouting nonsense and by the fielding, batting and if I'm fortunate maybe ... bowling !

Looking forwards to the season to come !
Especially if it looks like that. Pardon the sun glinting off the skipper's head there. It's blinding isn't it. That was at my last game, played at a lovely ground in the middle of rural Bristolshire.
That too !

I heard a rumour amongst the stars ...

There is a station.

It orbits a planet around a far flung star.

To reach it, involves an epic journey.

The reward for this journey ? The almost mythical Hutton Orbital Mug.
Many Commanders aspiring to the Elite have attempted the trip. Some have even made it. You can acquire a recreation of the true Hutton Mug here (at the Redbubble shop I grabbed the pic from).

But Hutton Orbital isn't just about the mugs ... There are always rumours popping up about Hutton Orbital. Ships for free. Massive trading profits. Ultra rare and valuable goods. Missions with huge rewards. If you believe all the rumours, then Hutton would be made of pure gold.

However I did hear one rumour and it rang truly enough that I thought I had to check it out. The rumour was that if you went to Hutton on a certain day, you could pick up one of those rarer ships that ordinarily, you would have to spend a lot of time currying favour with the Federation or Empire. I do like the pretty Imperial ships, so I thought I had to check it out. And these are big ships too, that normally can't land at Hutton.

One long trip to Hutton later in my Imperial Clipper ... I have wanted one of those Cutters for a long time now. And it is a long trip, hopefully worth it ? For the non initiated in Elite, Hutton Orbital is in the Alpha Centauri system. This has 3 stars, Alpha Centauri A and B are where you enter and they're quite close to each other. Most space stations in Elite are 50 to 1000 light seconds away, which doesn't take much travel time at all. Hutton Orbital is at a planet around Proxima Centauri, which is 0.22 light years away from the entry point. Or 6.8 million light seconds.

That takes a while .... hence the rumours that crop up. Not many people want to make the trip to check them out, or the rumour is spread as an answer to daft questions being asked. Enough natter ! This needs pictures !!!! As per usual, click for bigger. I play the game on 1440p so there are lots of pixels to see ...

Here I am on the way there in the Clipper. It takes a while and you can get up to quite a high speed. In the old Star Trek (Original Series !) warp scale, that's warp 12.3 as the speed topped out at 1866 times the speed of light.
But I'll fast forward all that and here I am coming out at the station.
I did spot something from the outside though. What's this ?
For the MUG !

It looks a pretty desolate place from the outside. Coming into land ...

Finally, safely inside :

And finally, looking at the station services page.
But you wanna see the big ship on the pad don't you ? Here we are ! The Imperial Cutter as promised ! Looks like a tight fit.
There is a bit more to it than that though. You cannot go to Hutton without picking up a mug. It'll be worth it to cover the cost of getting the hull back up to spec after the trip. The Clipper was down to 32% costing 151k to repair !
Look-at-that .... all those mugs and not enough gin to put in them all.

Make the trip ! But make sure you take something big or that offer to pick up the Cutter or Corvette won't be available to you. Hurry though ... or they won't let you land for that Cutter or Corvette.