Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Not much left of the old year now, time to look forwards to the next one.

I spent a fair bit of 2008 looking backwards and reacting to events, I went backwards a few steps (shoulder) but I've hopefully gone forwards a few too. I appear to have mostly broken the games addiction, although maybe that's been replaced by an addiction that has me listening to music off iTunes ? :-)

Not much cricket again for me, will have to see if I can do better next season. I think I'll have to settle for batting only, as my shoulder won't support me bowling any more. Badminton is definitely a bad idea - that's how I aggravated the shoulder injury this summer. Or is that my conservative side thinking ?

The Crazie Boys (inc me) watched the film Twilight today. Best way to describe this one is a Chick Flick Teen Vampire movie. We enjoyed it and were pleasantly surprised. Different film to the no-brain action movies we usually go for, a good change. I'd recommend it :-) Not sure if I'll be going for the dvd though. One impression I definitely got was that one of the characters was definitely a fan of Tom Cruise's Lestat.

I'll be up at the Mall again tomorrow and I get the feeling I'll be spending a bit of cash up there :-) One of the casualties of the Xmas period has been the wifi capability on this laptop, which is likely to be the Final Straw that means this lappy needs replacing. It has various other faults and I've been very surprised on my couple of Kick-The-Power-Lead moments this week it hasn't turned off ... Almost no battery left in it. I'll also be looking to acquire some more cd's to feed iTunes with :-)

Last thing to do is to wish everyone a Happy New Year and I've attached a Youtube link to one of the songs I look forward to appearing on the iTunes Party Shuffle.

PS I think I'm eerily starting to look forward to work. One of the things I do on an extended leave period is not shave ... And my scabrous imitation of a beard started itching on Thursday last week. It'll be removed before I get back :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Brr - must leave heating on next time I go away !

I've been back for an hour or so now, so my fingers have warmed up enough for me to be able to type.

Been at my mum's, dad's and sister's places for a few days over Xmas. Tuesday was getting to mum's & dad's place, just in time for dinner too. Convenient :-) Wednesday saw us battling the Lincoln traffic, which typically for this time of year was pretty savage. Lincoln's roads aren't too well laid out, so getting anyway in Lincoln can be a nightmare. Thursday and Friday had us at my sister's place. She keeps a horse, so needs to be able to get to the field it's at to make sure its comfortable (stable, bringing in from field).

I think my sister liked what she got - a Satnav widget plus her internet has been upgraded to Wireless now. That was Thursday evening's job and was scarily smooth too ... I did the typical techy macho-geek thing of taking one look at the instruction book and going "humph" before chucking instructions over my shoulder and setting the thing up on my own. Kinda sounds like being a "know-it-all" there but it was part of a careful plan :-) There's lots of wifi-widgets out there and I've got experience of two ... One is my Philips thing and I wouldn't recommend that to anyone. Sister has a Linksys (aka Cisco) router now, the newer version of my dad's. The first one we got has been almost faultless for over a year. It just sits there behind a chair and works. Which is all you can ask of electronics. So my sister got the newer version of the same device.

Bit different for my electronics - I've picked up an Apple Airport Express which should let me send the iTunes music to my decent speakers without having tripwires. Just one problem ... my laptop took a tumble on Thursday evening and one thing that broke was the hole that the wifi card goes in. So I'm now tapping this out on a laptop that's hooked up by a wire going over the back of the sofa and listening to iTunes with the rubbish lappy speakers because that Airport thing needs wireless. Sometime next week I'll be hunting a new laptop from the PCWorld places, which will get me doing the wireless thing again.

I've got me another graphics card too now :-) So I'll be crossing my fingers that my main PC can supply it with enough juice to work. Checking that out will be tomorrow's job after wrapping a few things up and I'll be hoping for prettier pictures from World of Warcraft, Mass Effect and Fallout 3.

Oh ! I also have a couple more dwagons for the clan :-) Here they are :

Time to sign off now. I had a couple of bright ideas before I disappeared up norf ... One was to turn the heating off to appease the Green Lobby. The fridge magnet temperature currently has it as 15 degrees C, so a little more to go before things get cosy here. I have my main PC turning and burning on medical research, a bit of Seti, some Large Hadron Collider number crunching and climate research, so that's helping things warm up too. (The other bright idea was to leave my Laptop->TV lead here, so Wallace & Gromit couldn't get watched via iPlayer)

PS This may be my last blog entry. One of the presents that my Secret Santa victim is getting may get me killed. I'm sure the other people at the party will arrange something as a posthumous posting, although I think I'll get protection from CQ and CK cos I'm giving them a lift home tomorrow.
PS2 (addon) Still here ! Not been strangled with a cardigan.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tis the Season

3 things to post today,

The first is inspired by what I watched last night before heading off to bed. It was a special report on the BBC's News channel showing an interview with Alan Johnston of the BBC and Ingrid Betancourt. Alan Johnston was held hostage in Gaza for four months, Ingrid Betancourt survived 6 years of captivity and torture in the Columbian jungle in the hands of FARC guerillas. Here's the Wiki page on Ingrid Betancourt.

What a woman !

I'd turned over from Sky news because they were showing USA stories, which fell into the "Don't need to know right now" category (sorry USA people!). Over to BBC News, who were showing this half hour piece. By the end, we had a visibly shaken Alan Johnston being emotionally picked up by Ms Betancourt. I was absolutely captivated by Ms Betancourt's quiet strength and compassion. Her message is not one of anger, it is one of forgiveness. Her ability to forgive her kidnappers and everyone involved in that phase of her life gives her the strength to put that phase of her life behind her.

A truly inspirational lady.

Second thing for today is the Xmas, sorry Midwinter Festival :-), news. I'm not a particularly religious person but try to respect other people's beliefs. And December 25th is a great excuse for parties and presents.

I've almost got all the presents for this year, although a few of them still need wrapping. The ones that are left are for the Crazie Christmas gathering on the 28th, so a little more time still for those ones. Looks like the shopping people have come out in force, Bristol city centre was pretty well packed yesterday afternoon and the reports on the radio were encouraging me to chicken out on a trip to the Cribbs Causeway Mall. Good option too, as I think it would have taken a huge amount of time to get in and out, judging by the mile or so of queue on the Motorway before the junction to Cribbs at about 6.15 last night.

Third (and last :-) thing for today is cricket. England's tour of India just finished, they'll be getting the flights home pretty soon to get them back to their families for Xmas. It finished 1-0 to India, with the result coming in the last game where India, courtesy of the Little Master Sachin Tendulkar (cricinfo link), came from behind to snatch a well earned win. Although the result wasn't in favour of the touring team, the quality and spirit of the play coupled with the eagerness of the crowds to come out vindicates the decision to head out there in the face of events in Mumbai in November.

That's it for me for a few days - I'll see everyone in a little while after the holiday season enters the New Year stage :-)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Never underestimate Nature ...

I've been following the Vendee Globe single handed ocean race, not quite as much as I did in its early stages but I'm still keeping up with it.

I'm pretty shocked at the news to burst out today : A broken femur for French skipper Yann Elies. (official Vendee Globe link)

Blimey ! I've had a few broken bones over the years so I know how much minor fractures can hurt. I've never suffered anything on the scale of what Yann Elies has suffered today though and never while alone on a yacht more than a thousand miles from civilisation.

The full story can be found on the Vendee Globe site (link above) but a short summary is that Yann Elies has managed to crawl back inside his boat to get into a bunk and has the boat set up such that it is heading in the right direction without any intervention needed. Two Vendee Globe skippers have diverted to offer morale and psychological support. They're Britain's Sam Davies of Roxy and France's Marc Guillemot. The Australian Anzac frigate HMAS Arunta has been diverted to rescue and evacuate but will take a day or so to get there.

Fingers crossed that the Aussies get Yann out ok. I'll be keeping a closer eye on this one over the next few days. Looks like Yann's able to keep the doctors ashore up to date with what's happening, which is a good sign. It does remind you that we haven't tamed this Earth of ours yet and it can still catch out even the most prepared and skilled people using the best equipment.

Hopefully in a few years time, Yann will be back for the next Vendee Globe and I'll be adding him to the group of skippers I'll be egging on.


On a much brighter note, here's a link to the Vendee Globe newswire with Sam Davies' letter to Santa from before she diverted due to the incident above. G'wan, have a peek, it's guaranteed to make you crack a smile.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Enter the Snow Queen

Xmas meal out for the project today, which means everyone dressing up and descending on one of the city centre restuarants.

Well, almost everyone. There's usually a few missing, whether it be due to being busy, rationing out the parties they go to or just plain shy ... But there's always enough of us to have a fun meal out with enough going on to make it a good idea for us to think about finding a different place to go the next year :-)

Today's post will almost certainly get me in trouble :-) :-) :-) But then getting into trouble with people is one of the things I'm good at ... I'll be in trouble with a couple of people tomorrow anyway, one for this post and the other for not letting her pay for a drink ! I have a simple rule, if a person goes to a lot of trouble to organise something like today's project Xmas meal, then I'll do what I can to make sure they get at least one drink :-) And our Boss does an excellent job of subtly but firmly keeping everyone organised.

That's the plan at least. Asking The Boss "what are you having?" turned into a "I'll have a coke, here's some cash and I'm going to need the change for the car park." Hmm. Not quite what I had in mind but I knew I could work a little subterfuge there :-). So off I toddle, grab a couple of cokes (I don't drink much alcohol, 1 pint of Seahawk was enough for me) and come back. Boss gets her coke but instead of the expected change being £20 minus Drinks, it was the full £20 broken up a bit :-) And me scarpering back to my table before The Boss has a chance to count the change. Muahaha - subterfuge completed, The Boss not paying for that drink, plus The Boss gets a useful bit of change or the car park. Meant I had to get another round in later to get some change for the bus home but that's no hardship.

Who's the other person I'm going to be in trouble with ? Enter the Snow Queen.

I got in this morning to see our favourite Pixie (aka IT Girl) about to head outside. The outfit today was something special, a resplendent white coat matched with white scarf. This was complemented perfectly by our Snow Queen's dark hair, cut specially (although typically bloke-like, I never realised until hit over the head with it), with the hair framing our Pixie's ever-present smile. So a new nickname for our Snow Queen :-)

Description above is what's really going to get me in trouble tomorrow :-) But it's much deserved (the trouble or the compliments?). Missed seeing our Wild Thing there today and there was no Miss Perky (new one for da cast list!) at the meal either.

More postings later in the week, if I survive the poking I'll get tomorrow.

PS I may also be in trouble for using the line "Beauty before Age" on someone who was feeling slightly guilty for getting the attention of the barman before me. Another project person but someone who I haven't figured out a fun name for yet ... True saying though - she's far prettier than I ever have been, plus everyone knows a lady never gets older than 21. Which makes me 13 years older.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Say no to Adverts

You know those annoying breaks you get in the middle of stuff you're trying to watch ? That you always fast forward through ?

I've been getting bugged lately by someone claiming to come from Israel ...

They want to sell advertising on people's websites. Somehow, they've found this blog and they're trying to get me to sign up to them. The email today is a guilt-trip one, where they're saying I didn't get back to them the last time. Darn straight ! No way am I going to sign up for someone to infest this blog with the advertising that is a bane of so many people's lives !

Reasons :

You lose control over what's on the site you're responsible for. 3rd party content seems to be (info from forums) the most common means by which identity theft trojans and other nasties get on to a system. Displaying any link means you're obliged to make sure that link is safe for other people to click on. Delegating the control of that link to a third party means you no longer have the ability to protect your readers from malware.

I have removed sites from my blogroll in the past because I could no longer support what they linked to. In the case of the Mercs website, that was removed because the webmaster was unable or unwilling to implement what was necessary to prevent it being spammed to death by malware and porn people. So it got unceremoniously dumped off the link list.

I don't need the money. Offering up for advertising is like selling your soul. You lose the total editorial control over what gets posted because of the segment you have delegated to the advert people. I don't find that acceptable for this blog. I will point people towards various bits n bobs I've liked but that's my choice. As soon as the advert people get in, you lose that choice, possibly finding yourself plugging stuff that you know is absolute rubbish.

I like what's left of my soul, I'm not interested in selling any part of it.

Trust. This is the big one. I've had 2 emails recently from people wanting to affect the content of this blog, one is a blatant advert person with the other wanting to collect links. Nuff said about the advert person, however the link collector is slightly different. My hit counter (it collects more info, hidden behind a password) tells me the link collector comes from a South African hosting company, yet he claims to come from Israel. Sorry mate, that instantly flags up BOT, which is where I instantly flag up I'M IGNORING YOU.

Loading time. Not so big a point in the Broadband age but still a good one. When I was an active participant in Michele's Meet & Greet, I'd look at sites, wait a moment for them to load. If they took too long (and I have a decent connection), I'd say byebye and never look at them again. Long loading times is a big turn off. And adverts only serve to lengthen load times, the worst ones seem to demand to load before the rest of the page becomes visible (Register and Cricinfo were terrible for this, which was one big reason why I went hunting for adblockers)

Anyway - gotta get ready to go out for some more gaming now, so I'll cut short the rant on adverts and go for another advert myself :-)

Our gaming group has been steadily getting to grips with the latest incarnation of Dungeons & Dragons, which has been heavily simplified in its 4th edition. Lots of interesting changes, where they've made the characters a lot more "generic" instead of in 3rd and 3.5ed where there was more in it for the Power Gaming Munchkins than the role players. Ok, we don't do hard core roleplay in our groups, we're more interested in bashing monsters. However, whereas in 3rd and 3.5ed the rules kinda got in the way, 4th ed rules seem to be a lot smoother.

I like it - and our group is playing well with them too. A change for the better ? :-)

PS When I get back tonight, I'll update this post with a link to the Flashblock and AdblockPlus post I did a while ago. Say no to adverts by banning all influence they may have from your browsing influence.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

MSN Strangeness ...

(quick warning - techie post ! scan down a little if you find yourself getting lost :-)

As well as trolling forums and peeking at everybody's blogs, I'm usually logged into MSN Messenger with me being available if people want to ask something.

(it's a different address to the one on my blogger profile - and I may be tempted to give it out to the right people ;-) just drop me a line)

Seeing weird things on MSN at the moment though, it'll all of a sudden go up to almost 100% cpu usage. It'll then stay at 100% cpu for 46 minutes ... and then release the cpu back to idle again. Strange ! I first noticed it a few months ago, which had me hunting forums and Google to find out why. The ideas seemed to be around people who use special characters in their online name or in their message. The special characters would cause the Messenger program to have difficulty decoding what they were, which would lead to excessive cpu usage.

The cpu usage is no big deal, except that the laptop answers by ratcheting up the speed on its fans, which kinda gets in the way of listening to music via iTunes. It's not done it for a while but started again yesterday, with MS's WinXP updates coming at the same time probably being a coincidence. So that's 46 minutes of cpu burning, with another hour or so a bit later. Similar tonight, 46 minutes (exactly!) of burn, with another 44 minutes a bit later. Weird.

I've tried a few things, my contacts list has been pruned for one. I think I hit about 35 contacts at one point, mostly due to World of Warcraft people. It's down to 25 now and could probably come down further. I've run the A-Patch too, which I'd recommend for anyone who runs MSN Messenger. It allows you to safely modify the registry settings that control Messenger's behaviour, to do things like cut the adverts out.

Haven't got any answers on this one - Messenger is definitely doing something ... and it's a task that takes the Athlon XP-M2500+ in my laptop about 45 minutes to carry out.

That's the end of the techie stuff :-)

Healthwise, after Monday's fun I've been having the reversal ... Stiff back, dodgy ankles, shoulder cramps, knees that drown out the telly with their creaking and hips that are more statue than snake. I've learned to enjoy the good days as much as possible and to ride out the bad as best I can. It helps to have great people around, a shared smile and a kind word really brightens the day, which goes a long way towards me being able to ignore the aches and pain. And we have some great people on the project I work on. The move across site has been good too and the canteen girls seem to be catchng the grin too :-)

But I do miss the "Hello Pete how was your weekend?" that I got occasionally from the wonderful Miss A. I tried to tempt Miss A to come visit to steal a cake when I brought them in to work for my birthday (project tradition) but I don't think Angel Slices were tempting enough to brave the rain for :-)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Puff the Magic Dragon

I don't think I'm magic but I reckon I fit the other two bits there at the moment ... Although the dragon bit is only through my "Another Monday" Pocket Dragon avatar that follows me around the net. Definitely been puffing due to burning off excess energy.

Better than average day today for me. I'm usually carrying at least two niggles that slow me down. From leg injuries that never healed, a stiff back or a shoulder that feels like someone's got a vicelike grip with their fingers digging in. Today it was my leg's turn, a legacy of a knee injury making it kinda like dragging one leg. Noticeable but ignorable ...

Walking around, I felt like I had an extra gear to kick into. Bit like having a metabolism that's figured out that it is ok for it to do some hyperactive bouncing off the walls. It's fun when it happens and I try and enjoy it while it does. I walk faster than most people anyway but having the freedom in my legs to open that stride up and Go Even Fasta gives quite a buzz. It's a bit like the first day of a new cricket season when you go onto the field and really pin those ears back with the open space giving room to let you break into a sprint. It's great feeling the wind rush past your ears.

I'm nowhere near being an endurance runner but managed to build up a fair bit of sprinting muscle so I can literally run like the wind when I get the excuse. But only for about 50 yards, which is when the rapid stop, keeling over and coughing part takes over :-) (I'm not quite that bad but rather too much of my 14 stone is deadweight).

Felt so good today that I had one of those mad moments while dashing to the chippie and back :-) Not full speed sprinting (too dangerous on wet pavements and trainer soles I don't trust) but easy paced quick jogging and maintaining it apart from being wary of psychotic Bristolian drivers. Doing a fairly regular dash around the block is something I should do a lot more often. Even if I don't play cricket that much more, it would help to get rid of some of that deadweight which would keep me feeling better all round. And cos jogging isn't really impact like some of the sports I like, it should keep the shoulder happy too.

Just gotta get into a habit of being healthier, which means not being lazy and running to the chippie to avoid doing the washing up.

I've never been diagnosed but I think I'm a bit on the manic-depressive side. It doesn't affect my personality much (that I notice) but it does affect the about of energy I can kick out. Some days I'll have great trouble doing anything, others I'll be bouncing off the walls. I enjoy the bouncing off the walls days when I get them and attempt to ignore the depressive effects as much as possible.

The thought "you won't catch up to those pretty people up ahead on the path if you keep whinging" has been very effective in the past at starting to kick me out of the low cycle :-) One of my other contrasts is I can be a bit of a show-off alongside shyness and showing off doesn't work too well if you're depressed.

Last note - spooky iTunes moment - it's caught the tone of this post and offered up Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds. (Youtube link) I just hope DM Aginoth isn't intending to do a "Show Me Heaven" (Maria McKee) to my D&D character tonight ... He hasn't killed one of us off yet and it's getting due ...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

After the dust settles ...

Last Thursday saw one of the more spectacular terrorist atrocities of recent years, when armed groups attacked several locations in Mumbai, India.

Let's take a moment to remember the at least 188 dead as a result of the attacks.

The dust seems to be settling now, with the aftershocks and repercussions starting to be felt. This has the potential to be an extremely scary event as it's putting a red hot poker into the sensitive relations between India and Pakistan, 2 countries armed with nukes ... There's a thread left by the terrorists that could allow an excuse for increasing the tension between India and Pakistan and I really do hope sanity prevails here.

There's a potential for the guns of 20 to turn into 2 million, if the two governments allow the terrorists to decide their foreign policy for them. Hopefully sanity will prevail. I'm more interested in the cultural aspect, in particular what happens with the sport :-)

India should be hosting a cricket Champions League at the moment, which was rightfully called off. If the terrorists had struck just a day or two later, they'd have caught some of the teams taking part. A week or so earlier and the England international team would have been staying in one of the hotels that was attacked. With so many dead, it was the right thing to do to call off the Champions League, this should be a time for mourning.

I was thinking that it would be wrong for the England team to go back to India to play a couple of Test Matches here. Same logic again, time for mourning. The big concern is over the safety of the players, which should really be expanded to looking out for the safety of the media covering the games and the supporters going out to watch them. I'm starting to come around to a different point of view though, dominated by the thought :

Why should we allow terrorists to tell us what to do ?

A period of mourning was needed but those times should ALWAYS come to an end. The dead should be remembered but it's key to remember to live life. What better time to turn the corner and say to the world : "We Are Not Afraid !" and get the game on. I really do hope that England do go out there and show what they've got. I'm sure they'll be well looked after, although the atmosphere could be somewhat of a prison camp with the level of security they'll have. Which could be a good thing, as it'll hopefully focus the players on playing the game.

We'll see what happens over the next week or so. It's still up in the air as to whether England's cricket team goes back to India and a few players will probably avoid the tour. That's their choice. (Should note that one who I'm a big fan of probably won't go - but that's cos his wife has a kiddie due very soon)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Reading is Sexy

This one comes courtesy of Bobkat's House and Dianne at Forks Of The Moment :-).

The rules :
Pass it on to 5 other bloggers and tell them to open the nearest book to page 46. Write out the fifth sentence on that page and also the next 2 to 5 sentences. The closest book, not the coolest, or the one you think will sound the best. THE CLOSEST !!!

Here we go - book is The Door Into Summer by Robert A Heinlein, the Gollancz edition which were slightly bigger than average, so it sticks out a little from the pile of books I have queued up for the A to Z challenge. Therefore da closest :-)

Leave it in the car ? Suppose I was hauled in for assault and battery; it wouldn't be smart to have it in the car when the car was towed in and impounded.
I could mail it to myself, but I had been getting my mail lately from general delivery at the G.P.O., while shifting from hotel to hotel as often as they found out I was keeping a cat.
I had better mail it to someone I could trust.
But that was a mighty short list.
Then I remembered someone I could trust.

Not read this one before but that little snippet has me interested enough to probably gobble this one up as The Next Book after my next one. I'm currently reading Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold but I like to space out my authors a bit. So my next book will be someone other than Heinlein, quite possibly Polar City Blues by Katherine Kerr.

I don't tag people but if you read this and have a blog, have a go and let people know that you've joined in :-) And don't forget the button !

PS Current album on iTunes is Gloria Estefan's Cuts Both Ways, so the neighbours are getting treated to Cat Karaoke as I attempt to sing along.
PS2 Just peeked at the page 46 in Farnham's Freehold, which was on the other side of the room. Not particularly inspiring, think Door Into Summer was a far better page 46 :-)
PS3 Despite what the piccy suggests, I have never worn stockings and suspenders. Honest guv. Never worn heels either !

Friday, November 28, 2008

2000 tracks in the iTunes library

Following on from Monday's post ... I've been a bit of a bad person today.

I've been after new shoes for a while to replace my work shoes which have been steadily falling to bits on me. Think cheese grater for soles, plus a rip in the leather due to fatigue. It's taken me a while because I wanted something different to the Clarks shoes I've had for something like the last 5 times I've bought work shoes. I ended up getting Clarks again - mainly cos everyone else asks for £40 for the shoe, plus another £40 for the designer label to put on the shoe. And I hate getting extorted for something which adds absolutely no value whatsoever.

That's not why I've been a bad person though :-) The post title gives it away. Got four more albums to add to the collection, which takes me over the 2000 mark in the iTunes library. I'm importing them at the moment while catching up on a few Star Treks. I could have gone through that 2000 before but soundtrack albums don't really work that well on iTunes. So what did I get ?

Good few albums available in the sales at the moment in 2 for £10 offers :

Snow Patrol - Eyes Open
Portishead by Portishead (listened to most of that in the car on the way home)
Evanescence - Fallen
Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare

3 are a good bet and I'm hoping for good things from Evanescence. What I've heard from them so far has been very good. It's just a shame I can't acquire albums from Suzanne Vega, Lene Marlin or Edie Brickell in the high street shops any more. That'll be for Amazon when I get around to it. Oh, there's also a Julianne Regan album out there too that I'd like to get my hands on.

Heh heh heh - at least I didn't walk out of Cabot Circus with any more games today :-)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Games stories again

Games have been in the news again lately :

"Compulsive Gamers Not Addicts"

Interesting story :-) And possibly a little more balance than games usually seem to get. There's a few facets about gaming addiction that aren't shared with the other types of addiction. Chemical addiction usually involves some kind of change to the metabolism that means the addict requires the substance they've come to rely on. Gambling addiction has the promise of big reward that often drives the addict into heavy loss.

Gaming can get people lost in a fantasy world and I've bounced off a few of the bad cases in my time in World of Warcraft. Not seen it so much in Eve. I've suffered from it in the past, where I'd prefer to play the games than to do my studies. So a person who should have walked a First with Hons got a 2.2 instead. As it happens, I've not been hurt too badly by that as I'm working for an organisation that lets me see cool stuff and I get the chance to have a natter with great people.

That's good for the daytime but how about the evenings ? I currently live on my own, so most of my interaction with other people comes from the people at work. Apart from where the games come in ... And this is where the addiction to Massive Multiplayer Online games trap a lot of people. They'll be in the game partly to play it but mostly so they can be around other people. I'd quite happily say that a game like World of Warcraft isn't worth playing unless you're involved in an active group. And most of my breaks from WoW have been due to me not wanting to have anything to do with the community (this time it was boredom with the game - the VR people have always been great to know)

So - gaming addiction is a social thing. It doesn't change your metabolism like all drugs will and it only costs the monthly subscription so you won't lose your home on it. Unless you get lost in it so much that you forget to eat, sleep or get to work (it has happened). I think that's where the addiction has me, I like to be around other people. But I think I manage to satisfy it by being addicted to the forums instead. And to a bit of blogging too ;-)

There's another aspect though to getting caught deeply by games and that's the psychological aspect. This one is a lot more serious, as the real world gets displaced by the fantasy world. Getting that Purple Pointy Hat (there's a Red Pointy Hat too) is the most important thing in their world. I liked getting the upgrades for my characters but never got too excited about it when someone else got them instead. It's only a game.

Bit like last night, picking up the new ship in Eve I'd been waiting to be able to fly. Cost of 166 million and not too long after, saw one for about 155 million. Yeah, that sucks a bit but it's not real money and not a real ship. It's not like buying a heap of PC bits and then a week later seeing those bits £100 cheaper. It's only a game.

Here's another story partly about gaming :

Young unaware of junk food impact

Not sure if they're aware that something similar went into one of the Grand Theft Auto games :-) If you had your character loaf about and eat burgers all day, he'd turn into a bloater. If you did gym time and had him eat properly, he'd go athletic, which had a genuine impact on how the character performed in game.

As addictions go, it's not that bad. I may occasionally forget to have dinner (like last Saturday :-) but as I'm overweight that's probably not a bad thing. Late nights too but I can keep the all nighters for the weekends :-) My addiction doesn't cause me the amnesia of drink or the damage that drink can cause. I'm not chemically addicted to anything apart from maybe caffeine :-) And it doesn't cost me nearly as much as narcotics would do. I don't have to furtively sneak out to a smoking shelter like one or two of the people on the project do (most are open about it, others keep it secret)

Ok - on the cost thing, I've already got a couple of new games I don't have the time to play and a couple more arrived last night. I blame Game for doing special offers :-) The cost aspect introduces an interesting angle on the games thing too - most of them involve resource management of some sort. You can't buy the toys if you don't have the money. So the games that involve a grind teach the player that hard work brings reward. Curious ;-)

Time to get back to that other addiction - telly and music :-) And some really bad acting by the Star Trek people !

PS The new ship is called "Olga never gets laid". Yep - mad moment :-) It's in honour of Olga Kurylenko, who in her last three major blockbusters has been :
Stabbed in the neck with a sedative laden syringe by Agent 47 when she tried to jump him.
Ignored by the British secret agent most notorious for his womanising.
Kicked out of bed by Max Payne.
And after seeing her in all three of those - I don't get it ...

Monday, November 24, 2008

iTunes Marathon

Been having a bit of an iTunes Marathon lately ... The online game Eve is good for that because it doesn't take much focus for the game, which leaves plenty for listening to music.

I blame my sister of course, she's been trying to get me interested in new music by different artists. So it's taken me a week so far and I've only got 38 tracks to go of the new bunch collected when I was up at my mum's and dad's place for birthday weekend. Out of 226 :-)

What's sparked off this entry though is an oldie ... When I'm Sixty Four just came over the party shuffle (from the Sgt Pepper album) and it's still as fun a song now as it ever was. So what's new in the collection and what do I think of it ?

Gorillaz - Demon Days. Not sure about this one. It's a tad ... different. Could take a bit of getting used to and Different can be Very Good. Too much of the same gets boring after a while.

Snow Patrol - Final Straw. Interesting. Some good tracks here and this should be a good one to listen to as an album instead of as individual tracks. That's how I check out the new stuff, I'll listen to each track, rate it and then I'll add it to the shuffle a while later so I can listen to them as an album.

Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. Not heard much like the lead singer's voice here. Huge amount of character gets injected into every song. I've not listened to much of this album yet but I get the feeling I may be hunting down a few more Arctic Monkeys albums soon ...

Portishead - Dummy. Another highly unusual group performing music that's diametrically opposite to Standard Pop Group 101 (I avoid x-factor and chart radio like the plague). Looking forward to this one as an album, although I think it needs laptop hooked to decent speakers to do it justice.

Peter Gabriel - Security. His 1st and 3rd albums were largely amazing, as was So. But he's also done some stinkers in his time and I wasn't impressed with this one either. Better than his 2nd and 4th attempts, which is sadly about the nicest thing I can say about it.

Enigma - MCMXC AD. I'd got their Cross of Changes album already but haven't had that much luck tracking this one down at an acceptable price. Which is a shame because there's some very sexy music here. (This is the Gregorian Chant music from a decade or two ago)

Coldplay - this is another group I'll be looking to hunt down more of :-) I'd describe it as "Lazy", which also translates into slow and relaxing. Think these albums will be getting more than their fair share of the party shuffle.

Gloria Estefan - ok, this blog entry was partly inspired by the post about Cheryl the dancer on Dianne's blog (see link in blogroll - Forks Off The Moment). If I called Enigma sexy singing above, this is lapdancing. Fun party music, guaranteed to get the stiffest person bopping away. Will have to look up how Gloria Estefan is getting on nowadays, she suffered a road accident that fractured vertebrae her back, which needed to be fused. Within a year she was back on the road on tour (more here). A Gloria Estefan track is almost guaranteed to get me singing along and that's the only recommendation that really counts :-)

Joan Baez - Noel. Ok, this one's not from my sister, it's one of my mum's favourites. It appeals to the purist in me because there's some of the most pure vocals around on show here. My laptop can just about handle it but this is another one where I think I'll have to hook up the better speakers to do it justice.

Talking Heads - True Stories. This one's been lurking at mum's and dad's for years now and it's one of the few of my cd's I hadn't been taking around the country with me. Which is a shame because it's another fun listen. More fun than Stop Making Sense, although it's a little too long ago now since I've watched the movies for Stop Making Sense and True Stories.

The Beatles - Sgt Pepper. Classic Album, full of traditional Beatles character. I have the 1 album too but the sad thing about greatest hits albums is that a) they miss great songs that I like more than what hit the greatest hits and b) they lose the character that a true album has.
(little addon - I hear there's an issue with getting Beatles songs over iTunes ... The Beatles tracks I have in my library are imports from cds :-)

Robbie Williams - Greatest Hits. Some amazing songs here. Robbie Williams has always had an outstanding voice, in whatever mode he's chosen to sing. Whether that be pop, ballad or sixties swing. Will have to queue up Angels, Road to Mandalay and Rock DJ for the party shuffle.

Currently on the shuffle is You Give Love A Bad Name from Bon Jovi before we (spookily for the weather and one of the jobs I need to do soon) get to Here I Stand And Face The Rain by a-Ha.

PS Will also hunting Shania Twain and Sheryl Crow sometime. Just to see if their other music is as good as That Don't Impress Me Much and All I Wanna Do.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cinema killed by credit crunch ?

Watched Max Payne tonight - it's another movie made out of a game ...

The evening started in Preview Bar & Grill, a restaurant close to the cinema. They're always worth going to but tonight, even at about 5.30, it was empty ! There was us Crazies plus about 1 or 2 other groups. Bar man was so bored he was polishing glasses.

It was the same thing in the cinema too, which is surprising seeing as there's a few high profile films out there at the moment. No-one there ! Max Payne had about 10 people in a cavern of a cinema. Ok, it's not Wednesday where there's a 2 for 1 deal going and it's not a Friday night or a weekend but empty cinema ? Felt weird. Maybe it was a little early to get the people in.

Anyway, how was Max Payne ? I think I'd describe it as "better than Wanted", "Punisher with the charm removed" or "wannabe Sin City without the credibility". A shame, cos the game was supposed to be really good (it's a first person shooter and one I missed out on). There's a few game tie ins done, some are much better than others. I enjoy watching the Tomb Raider films for more than Angelina Jolie, because they're good fun to watch. Resident Evil is another "good" film tie in, it's scary as well as a gripping action film. Will be having another Resident Evil night sometime I think.

Hitman's another good film-game tie in, because it retains a sense of style along with its very dark humour. Again, that's a game I've never played too. The film-game tie ins sometimes work well but often you'll get a Max Payne or real stinkers like the Dungeons and Dragons movies.

Ah well - some films are good, some films are poor. Some films are so bad they're actually highly amusing. But I wouldn't count Max Payne as one of those. Right - I'm almost all out of snacks, so it's time to pick up some munchies so I can stare at them while watching the Ice Road Truckers in 30 minutes :-)

Time to close with weird thing of the day. Normal History channel is giving the Blue Screen Of No Signal. History +1 hour channel is giving a crystal clear picture. They're only 1 separate on the box ! My mind is boggling ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Feral Thinking

Been having one of those weeks where I feel like I've been doing loads but when I look back, I wonder what's actually been done ...

Friday was fun, the cakes and donuts were very well received. And a few people from the team that's been combined with ours said hello too. It's a little strange with the other team, they've been attached to our group without really that much integration going on between us. Even though we sit next to each other now, there's still a bit of distance there.

Good weekend too, we didn't manage to burn out my dad's router but we probably came close :-) Heh - not really, we got him a Linksys router just over a year ago and it's proven bombproof ever since. I'll buy one when I finally get sick of the Philips router I use here. I regularly need to reset my router because it has a habit of blocking me from accessing the net. In comparison, the Linksys has only had problems once in over a year, when it managed to go back to factory default. Apart from that, it's faultless.

I bought myself a few goodies for my birthday too, 2 games and 1 series of Blakes Seven. I've had a look at the 2 games (Fallout 3 and the new WoW expansion) but not really felt that interested in getting in too deep with them. It's not that I'm taking a dislike to them, more that I'm struggling to get the energy or interest to play games at the moment. That'll pass when I get a good rest in :-)

So why the "Feral Thinking" ? And what is that ? You know when you have a problem and whatever you try to fix it only leads to more confusion ? Been getting that over the past day or so. When I get that, I tend to get locked up in trying to bend the problem back to how it should be. Got one of those at the moment and most of today has been spent figuring out firstly what the problem is and how to fix it. It's not a huge problem, just some numbers that have been mixed up.

I'll sort it, even if I have to start from the beginning. And the problem is only in the worksheet I use like a scratchpad anyway, so no big deal if I have to rip it up and start again. I would like to figure out exactly why the numbers are different, although I get the feeling it's a combination of Excel and our work's network playing games on me. That happens too at our place, data integrity is not what you would call "perfect", although we can usually catch issues before it becomes critical.

Currently chilling out to a bit of retro(ish!) TV with Star Trek TNG and will probably give one of the games a bit of attention afterwards. And listen to some more of the 220 odd more tracks I collected for iTunes at the weekend :-) 10 more to hit 2000 in the library.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Around the world in 80 days ?

Every few years, around this time of year, a group of intrepid souls set off on one of the two Around The World yacht races. There's two of these, one of which is a group event with the other being single handed.

That's right - single handed sailing around the world, non-stop in yachts designed for a full crew. This is the event that made Ellen MacArthur famous and its name is the Vendée Globe and I'll be keeping a sharp eye on it over the next few months. It's gotten off to a fairly bruising start too, with heavy storms in the Bay Of Biscay causing a fair bit of carnage amongst the fleet. There's been 4 retirements so far, possibly more to come.

I'm following 3 of the skippers in particular this time around. They're Mike Golding skippering Ecover, Sam Davies of Roxy and Dee Caffari of Aviva. One characteristic of the Vendee Globe is how closely you can keep in touch with the skippers of the boats. The website linked above has a newswire service, which publishes regular notes from the skippers, along with the more regular news stories. It's far more intimate than the connection you get with most sports and it really makes a difference. And the yachtsmen and women are great people too, without the bad attitude that taints many sports with footballers being the worst. It's an attitude that extends into skippers being only too willing to help out in emergencies, where their help literally means the difference between life and death. And they'll give that help without a second thought.

This story about the rescue of Alex Thomson is why I'd like Mike Golding to do well in this race. These people aren't sportsmen, they're heroes.

I started following Sam Davies and Dee Caffari because they're Brits and I like to support the home team. However, after reading some of the logs from the girls (Sam and Dee), I've been caught by the tone. They're out there in the oggin doing something they love, they're having fun amongst all the work and that shines out in the Girls Wanna Have Fun logs that come over the newswires.

I'm hoping the fun continues so we can keep seeing those entries in the newswires. They're a great read.

I know I'll be keeping an eye on this race over the next few months, hopefully it will be as captivating as Ellen MacArthur's race :-)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I did something that was possibly a little daft last night, which was to watch all 3 Resident Evil films back to back. So I was jumping at the shadows last night.

Watching a Deep Space 9 repeat at the moment that's got a bit of an Ahhh moment in it. One of the characters in DS9 is Odo the shapeshifter. He's a fairly solitary fella is Odo, played masterfully by Rene Auberjonois. Probably more accurate to say alone than solitary though ...

I'm kinda feeling the same way at the moment. I'd like to have the chance to share a dinner with someone. All those dvds I watch, I'd like to watch them with someone else (even if that means relinquishing the popcorn bucket occasionally!) And I guess I'm missing gaming with people I know too. I've not really been connecting with the Eve people (well, new/old corp) and I've been on a bit of a break from Warcraft for a while.

Part of it is the new location at work, I guess I've been missing having the pretty girls from the team next door walk past and give me a wave. There's something about a smile and a hello that really brightens the day. The move has put my team on the end of one of the building spurs instead of the middle, so we don't have people from another team walking past. It's not quite as bad as that though, there is still the IT Girl, The Boss and Wild Thing* who I can usually rely on to respond to my strange humour. Even if it's just with a pat on the head.

So the loneliness has set in a bit and its demon has been pacified tonight by a bit of Amazon Treatment. Oh and a tie from the Mall tonight to replace some that are rather badly worn out. Which might tell how old they are ! I may also be suffering from a bug that's going around work at the moment, with it sneaking in under the cover of the severe dust inhalation I got last week while cleaning.

Anyway - it's my birthday tomorrow and one of the project traditions is to procure donuts (and other cakes) for the team. I'll be hoping to lure over some non-project people too :-)

*(I must get around to doing that Cast List of some of the people at work sometime ... IT Girl, The Boss and Wild Thing are just 3 of the people I work with but they are 3 of the best)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Party Aftermath

It's the morning after now, so how was the party ?

Let's start by listing the films :
First up was Mars Attacks, a bit of insanity by Tim Burton where the Martians come to pay Earth a visit. Hilarious film and those Martians are totally evil on the level of a prank loving 5 year old :-)

Next was Over The Hedge, which is an animated film from 2006 where a rascally raccoon gets himself in trouble with the local bear by trying to steal all the food the bear had laid in for after he came out of hibernation. I missed this one in the cinema first time around and discovered it courtesy of the movie channels. Well worth catching, if the photos on Imdb (link above) are anything to go by, the voice actors had great fun putting this one together and that really comes over on screen.

Third up was Cars, courtesy of a happy CQ :-) Another animated classic, with attention to detail that goes all the way down to aircraft leaving contrails in the form of tire tracks and the insects on the windows being miniature VW Beetles. The climax near the end also makes this one of the few films that gets me choked up. Must acquire this one for me some time :-)

And last, after all the kiddies (except for RCA!) (and I'm due a thumping for that comment!) were safely in the bus heading back to Chez Aginoth, was scary movie Constantine. Not a bad story on this one but let down a bit by weak performances by the two lead actor/actresses. Worth catching this one but it's guaranteed to upset people who may be sensitive to parts of the content.

After Thursday's dusting exploits (next time before attacking room with brush, I'll get a mask!) I wasn't feeling too great, with lots of breathing problems and a big headache that had been building at work. The headache got the DGI (Damn Good Ignoring) treatment and I didn't have to be too energetic so the breathing was just an annoyance.

Since the last time I had visitors, the people I was using as my barometer and inspiration for all the effort in cleaning up were the little people ... I have a semi photographic memory and one of the images that stuck was that of a little girl who burst into tears at the sight of my loo ... That image has been pretty much exorcised now because the bursting into tears happened at home time instead ;-).

Breakout - current iTunes track is "You Only Live Twice", from the Bond film of the same name and sung by Nancy Sinatra. One of the best Bond themes :-) (Nobody Does It Better and For Your Eyes Only are also massive favourites) Kinda fitting seeing as we'll be seeing Quantum Of Solace soon :-)

My Puppies were a big hit with the little ones :

Thought I might lose one for a bit but they all survived :-) And I now have an excellent idea for what to acquire for the little ones for Xmas. Those three live on the back of my sofa and I think I'll be introducing people to the rest of the fluffy menagerie some time in the future. By the way that's Aginoth's jumper that I'm holding hostage until Monday. I have more hostages ! Let's see :

CQ's pen : is now in briefcase waiting for work on Monday
Aginoth's jumper
Kat's congratulations card - Kat's now a qualified Charted Accountant - big grats there :-)
CK's bottle opener
Various munchies

Most of it will be held to ransom, although ransoms tend to be limited to a wave ;-) The munchies however are MINE, ALL MINE ! (CK told me I could keep 'em :-)

What did I get for this part of my birthday ? First one - Iron Man film and an Iron Man figure. Iron Man was one of the best films of this year, with Robert Downey Jr making an excellent Tony Stark. Iron Man 2 (2010) and The Avengers (2011) should both be amazing movies if they carry on the form from Iron Man. Next is HitchHikers Guide To The Galaxy from the BBC, which stayed true to the humour in Douglas Adams' novels far better than the recent Hollywood production did. I also have Blakes Seven series 3 to watch, to catch up on something I was a little too young for the first time around, plus The Complete Robot collecting stories penned by Isaac Asimov.
(all links above will take you to IMDB pages)

Thanks to the Crazies for a great party and all those presents :-) Although my sore head settled down towards the end of the night, I hadn't been feeling too human before then.

PS We had pizza delivered from the Pizza Hut over the road, they get a stay of execution this time as the pizza was just right. Shame their website keeps triggering virus warnings on this PC though ... something to keep an eye on.

Update - Just finished watching Iron Man - definitely as good the second time around !

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Into Temptation

I have something staring at me at the moment.

It's covered with brown cardboard with various Amazon logos on it ... I WANNA OPEN IT ! But I must resist. It must be saved until tomorrow night's party. But I still wanna open it :-)

Hoping that people will enjoy tomorrow night's party. House is pretty much to the best state I can manage, although that isn't quite the state I wanted it in. As in, it ain't perfect but it's a hell of a lot better than what it was :-) There's still work to be done like moving a little furniture around but that can wait until tomorrow. Also gotta do some washing up and clear some space in da kitchen ...

Oh and get some sleep tonight, although I'll need my lungs to settle down before I can think about decent shuteye. I did the vacuuming earlier, plus a bit of ill-advised scrubbing of the floor because the vacuum cleaner needed a little "persuading" (the pipe were blocked so it wasn't sucking). All that dust coming up into the air isn't very good for someone with dust sensitivities :-(

But seeing shiny surfaces instead of mucky ones makes it worth it, as does seeing a clear surface where previously elements of the Dust Bunnie Army was on parade. What will make the work totally worth it is if the kiddie visitors go away happy, instead of one particular small visitor being reduced to tears by the state of the bathroom ...

It's been busy and rather strange at work this week too - our project moved across the site to a new set of offices. The aim is to gather similar projects together so we can benefit from each other better. Whenever a move happens, there's always a bit of friction associated and a bit of awkwardness too. Things like people taking stuff that they really didn't need or could have got recycled because they have it on soft copy anyway ... People are very definitely creatures of habit. There's also friction due to certain elements not thinking of team issues but we've worked around those two people.

The move should be good for us, the scenery is definitely better. From my desk, instead of seeing trees blocking the view, I can see all the way out to the front gate. It should look good come Spring and Summer, although hopefully not enough that I gaze out the window instead of gazing at Windows on my desk. Oh - my stalker of last year might be working for the team that moves in next door to us, which could make life interesting :-)

I've been doing a decent amount of the grunt work too this week, which is definitely good for my psyche. I'm a bit frail and pick up injuries easily, so doing something that lets me use my muscles and therefore confirm that I can still lug things around is excellent for my confidence. Plus it means I get smiles and thank you's from our very own Wild Thing (name acquired through slip of tongue on Monday and no I ain't tellin' !) and from a few other people.

Key Leadership tenet - You should never ask someone to do something that you are not willing to do yourself. Which translates into not shirking the physical stuff because you can't be arsed or you feel that you're too important to be bothered with it.

Right - had a shower not long ago and my too-long hair takes time to dry. Time to chill out to some music while Taking Over The Galaxy ! I started a Moo2 game on Tuesday and it's gotten down to just me and the Sakkra. Victory or Death !

PS Being right close to the best canteen on site (we have 4 plus a shop that sells sarnies) is definitely a bonus to the move.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Winter clean

I've been blitzing the house for the last half a week or so to get it ready for the Crazie Party on Friday. It's been much needed because since my last relationship broke up a few years ago, I'd been a bit static and not really looking after things all that well. Which includes myself plus the house. Also, the chores arrangement before the breakup hadn't really worked that well. Evil Ex was supposed to be looking after the general cleaning type stuff while I did maintenance and surprise, surprise, washing up and cooking. So the house had got into a fairly poor state.

It's happily a bit different now. I've not been on the cleanup job all hours except sleep and work, keeping a little bit of time back for games, film and relaxation. But I'm pretty happy with the progress so far. There's still work to do though, the vacuum has been waiting to come out until most of the clutter is out of the way. No point picking up the clutter to vacuum if the clutter is going to get put right back again.

Bathroom - it's not done yet but that room is starting to freak me out a bit. My loo has been described as requiring napalm, a hammer and complete replacement (beyond hope I believe was one description). I'd gotten kinda used to that, so to see a 90% clean loo is a bit disturbing to a brain that likes to see the same patterns ! But I can live with being freaked out by that and my brain will quickly adjust to a loo that I wouldn't be ashamed to get used by other people. There's still work to do though and I need some stronger scrubbers ...

Living room - there's a clearer path through now ! Although my pooter corner behind the sofa is still cluttered. This is the room in heaviest need of the vacuum cleaner, which will be Tuesday's job when I'm not in work. However, it's easier to get to the back doors now and all 3 of my soft chairs are available again and by Friday, I'll have them moved into positions where they can see the telly. Electronic clutter has been moved out of the way too, I gather wires to connect anything to everything and most of those are now out of the way.

The light fitting is now not hanging off the ceiling by one screw (out of two!) and my two PC Box Boxes are now clear of garbage. I use the boxes that PC cases come in for tables beside the sofa. They're just about the right size for a pint glass and a packet of biscuits without being Too Big. By the way, my Dining Table just happens to be a plank of wood from the back of my desk that had to be be removed to allow a PC to go in the bit that a PC is supposed to go in. It works ... especially as there's not really the space in my living room to get a proper table in.

I'll still be keeping the two PC Corpses in the room. One is perfect for standing on to change lightbulbs (they don't make 'em like they used to!) and I'll put the side plates back on the other. They'll both be available on Friday as tables for drinkz n popcorn n feet. It's going to be a shame to chuck out the Quality Street and Liz Shaw mints but with Best Before Dates of 2005, they aren't going to be around where little kiddies can get their hands on them. (And so Big Quality Street Addicted Kiddies can't be tempted either !)

Kitchen is also on the list for blitzing and I started on that tonight with some overdue scrubbing of the sink ... That's another one that'll benefit from far better brushes than I have available at the moment but I have time to get those later in the week. Tesco better have some good stuff in stock on Wednesday :-)

So - good progress so far, house is no longer in a Repel Boarders state but there's still lots of work to do. Next job after this one - clear the back yard enough to let someone in to fix the SkyDish. But that's something that can wait a bit.

It's long overdue but it'll be worth it when it's done. 3 years is far too long to stay rooted in a routine that allows fixing the neglect to become hard work. It's always easier to keep up with the chores than to be forced to put excessive effort into cleaning up later.

PS I'm not so sure that scrubbing the sink with cleany type stuff was such a good idea considering I have a bit of a poisoned finger ! Time to get that under the hot tap to make it feel a little better.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Indecent Proposal

There was a film out a while ago called Indecent Proposal. The synopsis of the plot was that John Gage (played by Robert Redford) would offer Diana Murphy (played by Demi Moore) $1m to spend a night with him. In bed.

The film has a look at the relationship of Diana Murphy and her husband around the $1m offer. I have to admit I've never seen it but it's definitely springing to mind at the moment. In Robert Redford's shoes, you have a certain Texan billionaire (who for some reason is a Sir ...) and in Demi Moore's stilettos you have the English Cricket establishment ...

The scene is Antigua, where there's a tournament going on with a "Stanford Superstars" team, Middlesex, Trinidad and Tobago and finally England. It's Twenty20 cricket, which should be the most exciting and fun version of the game with the event being a showcase to show cricket off to the non-cricketing world.

There's just a couple of problems ... The pitch has a big influence on how a game of cricket goes, the bounce can be good, low or nasty and there are different speeds too. Good bounce and decent pace (the ball "coming on") means good scoring and tense games. High bounce can get nasty as it can lead to broken fingers or worse. Slow and low pitches make it difficult to hit the ball out of the ground as the batsman is always reaching for the ball without any confidence to hit through their shots.

Instead of being a spectacular showcase, we have a slow and low pitch. What's worse is that the floodlights at the ground are also low, making catching awkward. Dropped catches that would have been held at any other ground have changed the results in the games so far. The shameful thing is that the combination of slow, low pitch and bad floodlights is making good International players look utterly inept. And that is bad for the game in general, not just for the players on show.

It's terrible timing too, as it's clashed with the Baseball World Series. I try and watch as much baseball as I can get away with, partly because I like watching the execution of perfection that Major League Baseball puts on show. Things like a double play that the fielders make look like child's play, plus bonuses like Joe Blanton, Phillies pitcher, smacking a Homer that amazed everyone in the crowd. It's a well grooved sport but there's still room for class to show and luck to come to the party. It's a shame that TV timings and work mean I can't catch more baseball.

So where does the Indecent Proposal reference fit in ? The games in Antigua are leading up to a $20 million showdown between the England team and the Stanford Superstars, winner takes all. Personally, I think it's an attempt to move away from the Twenty20 series in the West Indies by looking to outside competitors. I've put up an opinion of the Stanford Twenty20 competition before and it wasn't a good one - I turned off their grand final because it was boring and tedious - for a cricket addict ! So the money has gone to bring in people from a successful Twenty20 tournament.

It's a little sad and the media backlash has been happening over the last couple of days. The players are stating publicly that they don't particularly want to be there - the harsh reality of the aftermath of the Indecent Proposal thing is really coming to light.

That's enough cricket for now, except to say that while there's actually cricket on the telly as I write this, I'm actually watching Ice Road Truckers instead. Yep, I'd rather watch the guys on the ice than the sport I'm addicted to.

Also in the news - it's birthday season ! I'll be buying the donuts in a fortnight but before then ... Crazie Party. Which I have a lot of work to do to prepare for it because we're having it at my place this time and the house is a tip. Too much accumulated garbage that I'll be moving into my spare room.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bombardment from the Sky

Friday's Fill-Ins mentioned I was having the car serviced on Saturday. Gosh that was weird ... Getting a car serviced and walking out without paying them anything ? That's one hell of a novelty :-) It's not quite as good as it sounds though, I have to get a couple of new tyres which will cost me roughly £230 plus the service wasn't actually free, I'm paying a monthly fee for the next couple of years in return for servicing.

It's getting colder here at the moment ... I used to joke that it was too freaky a coincidence that there would be snow just before the annual RAC Rally (now known by other sponsor name ...) that would last through the Rally, melting in the last day or so. The snow would be there for the Rally and then would disappear straight afterwards. And it's that time of year again ! It's also let me find out about a new gadgie on the car :

Yellow snowflake = it's 5 degrees C outside
Red snowflake = it's 1 degrees C outside

Translation - bloody cold.

Got spotted this morning by one of the work people in my "cold weather gear". Which is identical to my "warm weather gear" except for the addition of black leather gloves. Or "Assassin Gloves" as they're known around the project :-) I like that image :-) But what would really get me strange looks would be people knowing that I've handled and fired a wide range of firearms, including a sniper rifle :-). But that's from quite a while ago now and the actions of a few Crazy People means I'm not likely to get the chance to do that again. At least not in the UK.

Where did the title for today come from ? Sunny day today and I was at an offsite meeting at lunchtime. I like this particular meeting because the gorgeous Miss S goes to it. (I don't spend all my time gazing at pretty people - honest !). Sunny before, Apocalypse afterwards. I had enough time to leg it to the car before the heavens didn't just open, they got ripped asunder. By the time I'd driven around to the gate people to hand back my temporary ID, conditions were poor enough that the gate guard fella was highly reluctant to leave the safety of his guard house to cross the road to the car ...

This wasn't rain.
This wasn't snow.
This was Hail Bombardment.

I've put in a previous post something about the "Damp", "Murky", "Dangerous" and "Nasty", today added "Bruising" :-)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Fill-ins

I finally got around to doing another one of these ! For the original site, please see Janet's site here.

1. Right now, I'm feeling a little nervous of what will get reported at the car service tomorrow ...
2. Having dinner with a beautiful woman is where I want to be.
3. How does one stop the rebellious march of the dust bunny army ?
4. The barometer that is my friends keeps me on track.
5. Please don't judge before knowing all of the facts.
6. A smile from a pretty lady always fills me with joy.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to just plain chilling out (Lost In Space on now!), tomorrow my plans include getting the car serviced and Sunday, I want to relax, chill out, play some games !

Today's post is dedicated to the Blonde With No Name (although I now have a good idea what that name is !) Mrs B walks past my desk most days, with today being slightly different. As well as Mrs B, there was a balloon being pulled along. It said "Happy 50th birthday". Unbelievable ! Mrs B has the smooth grace of a dancer and is often seeing going Zoom up the floorplate in cycling gear on her way out the door. There's a lot of energy in a tiny frame there but that's not the thing that stands out.

It's the big smile :-)

A smile from a gorgeous lady will always brighten the day and Mrs B always has that cheeky little grin ready and waiting to erupt. My team moves across site in a week or two and it's the big smiles from a few of the ladies in the teams next door which is something I will really miss.

Happy 50th birthday tomorrow Mrs B !

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Domination Game

Not posted too much over the last week - been a little busy, away from home for a couple of days and missing ideas for things to post. And a little caught up in games too :-)

Warcraft has been my main game for the past few months, with occasional sojourns into Master of Orion 2 for a bit of Galactic Domination. However, there's a phenomenon I call "just-70-depression" that tends to hit people. Warcraft has an experience system called "levelling", where as you play your character gets experience. As they gain more levels, they can wear better equipment and they hit harder.

Just one problem ... There's a level cap. You can take the character up to level 70 but no further. Until Blizzard (maker of Warcraft) come out with an expansion pack that is ... There's one of those coming next month and I'm really not sure if I'll buy it this time. (Yeah right - I'll have a pre-order in when I get the interest in WoW back). Up to 70, you can explore the rich world that Blizzard created for WoW, getting variation from going through the different areas. At maximum level, it's repetition time ...

I've reactivated my sub in another game now - Eve this time. Eve is a space game, still massively multiplayer and allows a much slower, more relaxed pace. WoW is a lot more immediate in comparison. You can't totally fall asleep in Eve but at least it's not twitch gaming like most others. There's no level cap either in Eve, a character keeps on learning different skills so they can fly different ships, shoot different guns or make different items.

Anyway - all the above is deja vu from a couple of years ago - I tend to switch between games to suit what I'm interested in at the time. Bit of twitch gaming - Warcraft. Galactic Domination - Moo2. Wargame with ZZZZs - Settlers IV. Relaxed multiplayer space - back to Eve.

Oh - I mentioned I was out of town for a couple of days. I was up norf in Glasgow on business, which was nice - change of scenery is always good. Joked with the girls on the hotel front desk about stalkers, not had one of those for a while and I kinda miss it. Was a bit knocked out though for a couple of days after. Think one of the bugs I've been carrying got some revenge on me.

I don't tend to have sick days, even though my diet is something that would make a nutritionist recoil in horror. Or rather, I'll keep plodding along not allowing anyone to see just how much I might be suffering at any one time. But what keeps me going is things like having Miss A ask me how my weekend was as she's walking past my desk.

Right - time to grab some food, get ready for having the Grand Prix delayed coverage on in the background and maybe sneak a quick mission in before it starts ... And update the A to Z challenge on my disused other blog with another book read :-)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How things change - film vs game

Watching the Alone In The Dark film adaptation of the game at the moment. Sometimes film/game tie ins actually attempt to remain close to the subject. I should probably give an impression of the original game (which I played to death!) to show what the contrast is ...

The original Alone In The Dark was an all time classic. It was inspired by the HP Lovecraft stories, specifically the Cthulhu stories. It's centred around a paranormal investigator, Edward Carnby, who is looking into a mansion. He then gets trapped in the mansion and the objective of the game is to get him out again. Just going out the front door wasn't an option - you'd get sucked out into some swirly vortexy thing.

It was kind of a forerunner to the Lara Croft games, although the Croft games like to think they're totally original. It didn't have any acrobatics and the gunplay was minimal (I'll come back to that) but the basic structure was there. Inventory system, free running and walking were what made this game a huge step up from the Point & Click games that were extremely common when it came out.

The key to Alone In The Dark was figuring things out. You had to solve certain puzzles, unlock certain doors, find how to get through some rooms and there were one or two bad guys to sort out too. I'm currently remembering the Ball Room, where if you touched the dancers, you'd explode. They start static, thereby blocking the exit, so how do you get around them ? Start a record playing ! I also had a save point ready to roll at the start of the encounter with the Zombie Pirate Swashbuckler. That encounter was a fencing fight and I used to get paid biscuits by my housemates to help them get around it.

There were guns in the game but the game wasn't based around clearing hordes of monsters, it was based around thinking through the puzzles to allow you to not fight the monsters.

On to the film - the scene that inspired this post, for all the wrong reasons, comes up halfway through. You have Carnby and Aline Cedrac (token love interest, along with token sex scene) in a warehouse/museum with Big Monster chasing them. They get to where the guns are and then ... Cue heavy metal music, cue rifles to full auto and we get oh so close to a Babes With AK47 moment. (She still has her clothes on but the rest is there)

Ok - the game plotline of "One Bloke Alone In The Dark Trapped In Mansion" probably wouldn't have worked in a Hollywood type film but it could have been interesting to at least try to have a psychological type thriller instead of a Wake Up The Neighbours film where they fire off the contents of a small ammo dump. Will have to try and film Relic again, I seem to remember that was a decent Scary Monster Movie.

There's a new Alone In The Dark game just come out - the word (i.e. PC Zone intel) is to avoid it like the plague. Games should be fun, not tortuous and the new Alone in The Dark game looks like it errs on the side of masochism.

I watched another new film to me last night - this one was Rise starring Lucy Liu as Another Vampire Movie. Not a bad start this one and an interesting take on the vampire myth. I don't think I'll be buying the dvd though, sometimes once is enough for a film. However, Lucy Liu is always worth watching, just needs better scripts.

PS The plant in the wardrobe was deadly.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - unforgettable films

Just finished watching the Lord of the Rings saga again and on looking at the TV guide, I notice American Gangster is on Sky Movies ... They're both excellent outstanding films but when it comes to the question of "do I want to watch them again ?" it's a case of :

Lord of the Rings - yes please
American Gangster - hmm, mebbe not

So what makes a film something you will want to watch over and over again ? And what makes it a Great Once ? This is kinda like the question that Mike the computer asks in Robert Heinlein's book The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. What makes a joke funny once and what makes a joke funny all the time. It's something that will probably never be answered fully but in the meantime, here's 13 films I'll never tire of seeing :

Thirteen Things about Unforgettable Films

1.... Lord of the Rings. Just finished watching the saga again, will undoubtedly wear the dvds out before their time.
2.... The Fifth Element. There's a definite sense of style here, from the acting to the quirkiness, in the Gautier clothes and the epic locations.
3.... Big Trouble in Little China. This is a really silly film, typical of John Carpenter. He's a master of making Fun Films that are easily watchable.
4.... A Knight's Tale. Must watch this one again, it's a great film to remember the late Heath Ledger by.
5.... Saving Private Ryan & Black Hawk Down. Lumping these two in together because the subject they depict is one we should never forget. We must learn from the mistakes of the past in order to avoid them in the future.
6.... Superman - with Christopher Reeve. I grew up on these films and Christopher Reeve will always be Superman for me. And that impression was very definitely reinforced by the courage he showed in battling the aftermath of his horse accident.
7.... The Princess Bride. More lighthearted fun :-)
8.... Conan The Barbarian. Great action but what I like most is the sense of Freedom that the characters exude. There's a very worthy mention for Red Sonja here too.
9.... Shrek - for turning the heroic fantasy completely on its head while having a huge laugh.
10.. My Fair Lady. It must be fifteen years since I watched this classic, which is far too long. It's a tribute to the beauty of Audrey Hepburn that I can still recall her face from that film.
11.. Where Eagles Dare. Ok, we all know the story here because we've seen it so many times but it's still utterly compelling all the same. Just as we'll always come back for more of watching Steve McQueen bouncing his ball in the cooler.
12.. The Man With No Name trilogy with Clint Eastwood. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is one of the greatest films of all time and its absence leaves a huge gap in my dvd collection.
13.. The Star Wars saga. The question of "which trilogy is better ?" will never get a final answer :-) Personally, I like the Epi I to III ones better.

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There's a few films missing from the list above, I'm starting to wear out my copies of Sin City and 300 too. Aliens is a cracking film but the films that followed it in the series are a bit weak. Casino Royale was a fine return to form but at the end of the day, it's Yet Another Bond Film. The Indiana Jones films are Must See but they didn't really hold my attention when I watched them again before Crystal Skull (not seen) came out.

And then there's the Matrix ... Wound me up the first time because it got mired in its own symbolism but when you ignore that part and refuse to try and make sense of the insensible, they're a cracking set of films and a technical masterpiece. No soul there though.

Right - Star Wars got watched a couple of weeks ago, just finished watching Return Of The King, what's next ? ! :-)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

-Ology Meme

Another meme today, while I watch Red Sonja for probably the eighth time :-) This one's borrowed from Dawn the RetardedRugrat :


Q. What is your salad dressing of choice ?
Erm - what's salad dressing ? :-)

Q. What is your favourite fast food restaurant ?
KFC - because I can have reasonable confidence that the meat was actually chicken at some point.

Q. What is your favourite sit-down restaurant ?
The Carvery just down the road from where I live. Haven't had a good excuse to go there for ages though.

Q. On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant ?
On average, about 10% but it depends on how good the service was. Surly people will be very lucky to get tips, Smiling cheerful people get extra.

Q. What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of it ?
People might expect me to say pizza here but I'm actually going to say cheese sarnies for lunch :-) I like a bit of variation though on my dinners.

Q. What are your pizza toppings of choice ?
Ham & pineapple, Ham & mushroom, Ham & pepperoni, Ham & ...

Q. What do you like to put on your toast ?
I like toast with my butter. Not had cheese on toast for ages ...


Q. What is the wallpaper on your computer ?
Lara Croft on apps desktop - yes, I'm ashamed but the picture I would like on there is buried on a hard disc that's in an inactive machine at the moment ... And it was a misclick that got the Lara Croft piccy on there - honest !

Q. How many televisions are in your house ?
Only the one and I'm waiting for it to break so I can have an excuse to upgrade to HD.


Q. Are you right-handed or left-handed ?
Right handed. I thought about trying to learn how to bowl left handed to get around the shoulder problem but I just can't get my head around the whole body motion of bowling the wrong way.

Q. Have you ever had anything removed from your body ?
Not that I know of ... Apart from one of my teeth when it was falling apart.

Q. When was the last time you lost a cavity ?
Da tooth that was falling apart. Continuous pain made it a relief, I didn't get any sleep the night before.

Q. What is the last heavy item you lifted ?
Really heavy item ? Probably my 28" widescreen CRT telly from a few years ago when I got it. Lifted it out the box all on my own, which was a Really Stupid Thing to do :-)

Q. Have you ever been knocked unconscious ?
I don't think so. Not even when the cricket ball broke my nose, although I may have gone black for an instant there.


Q. If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die ?
Not particularly, because I'd start second guessing myself about it. And I've figured that second guessing something tends to provoke it into happening anyway.

Q. If you could change your name, what would you change it to ?
I contemplated using my second name (Robert) when I went to uni but didn't carry it through because people would call "ROB!" and I wouldn't have a clue who they meant.

Q. What colour do you think looks best on you ?
Black, cos of the contrast with blond(ish) hair and pasty white skin :-)

Q. Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake ?
Sooo glad (???!???!!) it was a fly and not a wasp or a bee.

Q. Have you ever saved someone's life ?
Not that I know of - never been put into that position. Although hopefully by acting daft I've helped people out of deep depression at times.

Q. Has someone ever saved your's ?
No - never been in that position. The nose was bad but I didn't need resuscitation.


Q. Would you kiss a member of the same sex for $100 ?
No harm in it - easy money.

Q. Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for £200,000 ?
I'm not that desperate for money ...

Q. Would you never blog again for $50,000 ?
Muahaha - I'd Facebook instead :-)

Q. Would you pose naked in a magazine for £250,000 ?
Hell yeah - I'd even give the photographer back a couple of thousand to compensate him for the cameras that would shatter upon capturing me naked :-) Would that muscle pose be with gut sucked in or left out ? :-) :-) :-)

Q. Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1,000 ?
No. That's too close to sadomasochism and self-abuse for my tastes.

Q. Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000 ?
This is a death penalty question ... I have to say that I'm not against the death penalty. There are people out there who society should not be exposed to and there's no way to integrate these people back into society. But it's a very final judgement. What if the court is wrong ? Whichever way that goes, I would not want to be the person doing the deed.


Q. What is in your left pocket ?
The hanky I use to clean my glasses. The biohazard hanky gets kept in my right pocket.

Q. Is Napolean Dynamite actually a good movie ?
Not seen it, have no intention of seeing it ... Sounds like overhyped, which usually means Rubbish.

Q. Do you have hardwood or carpet in your house ?
Short carpet in living room, wood floor in bedroom. I prefer the wood floor, the dust collects up in bunnies that are easily dealt with. Carpets are harder to look after.

Q. Do you sit or stand in the shower ?
I stand.

Q. Could you live with roommates ?
I used to - but I got sick of it after 6 years. Living on my own is fine but I would like to share a house with someone special again. However shared accommodation outside of a relationship is something I'll be avoiding.

Q. How many pairs of flip flops do you own ?
I have work shoes, trainers, old shoes, shoes with spikes in but no flip flops.

Q. Last time you had a run in with the cops ?
I bounced my dad's car off a copcar on Xmas Eve a few years ago ... But we got it put down as their fault because he pulled out of a junction too close to me.

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up ?
An Astronaut ! It might be a little late for that now and my shoulder might keep me out of the programme.

Q. Who is number 1 on your top 8 ?
The family up norf.


Q. Last friend you talked to ?
The delightful IT Girl as part of figuring out some IT arrangements for a change that's coming ...

Q. Last person who called you ?
My boss, to tell me that he wouldn't be in work yesterday. The actual answer is different - but I think the boss one is funnier :-)

Q. Person you hugged ?
Craziequeen, far too long ago.


Q. Number ?
The number 3, representing a Beginning, a Middle and an End.

Q. Season ?
Cricket season :-)


Q. Missing someone ?
I miss having someone special around, to share everything with. Whether that be good times, bad times or just to be able to make laugh on the spur of the moment. I also miss the Eve group, because it was an excellent break in the routine to go hit the Wishing Well pub for an evening every once in a while to have an out of game natter.

Q. Mood ?
A little bored, there's only so many times you can watch Red Sonja before you can play it in your mind's eye while listening to it off the telly.

Q. Listening to ?
Red Sonja :-)

Q. Watching ?
Red Sonja :-) Rise is also on the SkyPlus box with Stargate-Atlantis and a half dozen Star Trek DS9 episodes. Next dvd to watch is Return of the King.

Q. Worrying about ?
Whether I'll get decent sleep tonight or if insomnia and a 2-3am sleeptime routine will continue when I don't want it to.


Q. First place you went this morning ?
Bathroom ...

Q. What can you not wait to do ?
There's something happening with work next week, which should be good fun. I can't say what it is though because people might get annoyed with me for all the wrong reasons.

Q. What's the last movie you saw ?
Cinema - Babylon AD with Vin Diesel.
Telly - Red Sonja's credits are rolling at the moment.
DVD - The Two Towers extended version. (Much better than the cinematic)

Q. Do you smile often ?
Oh yes :-) And I got a few smiles and a big grin out of The Blonde With No Name today.

Q. Are you a friendly person ?
Yes, although there is a demon in me that gets out when I'm angry or driving.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A green bribe

Danger - part of this post will include a rant :-)

I'm going through a change in electric & gas supplier at the moment, away from the so-called British Gas (they're actually owned by Germans I believe). A decent amount of time ago, BG were producing adverts that translate to "we're really green and eco-friendly, we give people energy saving lightbulbs. For free"

It's a fine sentiment, for a bribe ... Did it work to keep me with them as a customer ? Nah. Someone young and pretty came knocking at the door saying another company could provide the goods cheaper and I'm a sucker for a pretty face. It did help though that BG had been steadily raising the rate they'd been charging.

Customer service is everything - and BG really blew any chance they have of getting my business in the future with the phone call I got telling me that I was stupid for going to the company I'm now with. If there's one thing I hate, it's someone attempting to bully me.

Oh - back to the lightbulbs. Energy saving bulbs is something I'd like to move towards and I thought the bribe might be the perfect opportunity ...

Just one problem.

The bulbs BG tried to bribe me with won't fit - and I can't get a suitable light fitting (flush ceiling fittings use screw, not bayonet) at places like Argos ! Ah well - time for plan B, which is to keep getting old type lightbulbs to replace the ones wot go PoP. At least old type non-energy saving bulbs don't contaminate your living room with Mercury if the seal breaks on them.

Anyway - British Gas. Fine company, masquerading under one country's name when they're really owned by people in another. Amazing customer service, as in they will amaze you with their poor conduct when you dare to leave them. I've been with them twice, will never go near them again.

Other news - I might be closer to a laptop change - Firefox ended up having a fight with Windows last night, leading to a few Weird Problems. Hopefully it's fixed, although it needed a couple of System Restores to sort things out. I still have a functioning Start Menu at least, which was one of those Weird Problems. With the various hardware problems this laptop has, it's one straw away from being replaced - it's just not worth the hassle of a full system rebuild.

Oh - I ended up being in the position of being in the same place at the same time as last week's encounter with Cute Artist Girl - she wasn't there this week though. Time to go back to hoping for a glimpse of Miss L, a chat with Miss A and a shared Big Grin with The Blonde With No Name.