Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One long, hot shower later ...

Tonight was my first game back with the cricket, after a break of about 2 years ...

I thought I was ready to come back in but unfortunately my shoulder is pretty much Toast. Ah well, that just means I can't bowl any more and it keeps me away from doing boundary fielding. I'm not actually too fussed by that, as I'm far better at closer fielding anyway and as a nuggety opening batsman I can take the sting out of the better bowlers to set the stage for the big hitters.

On that close fielding thing, think Shortstop position or more likely Second Base. Shortstop needs a decent throwing arm, which I've never really had. But I do like scaring the people batting by running in, swooping on the ball and pinging it back to our wicket keeper to try and get them out. Did I mention I got a grass stain tonight ? I'm never happy on a cricket night unless I get at least one grass stain, because earning one means I've been diving around and putting the effort in. I don't like just turning up, I love having an influence on the game.

I was approaching tonight's game with a bit of trepidation because the team selection meant I might just have to be civil to the poor guy who's now going out with my ex. I suspect he had something to do with the breakup, so I flat refuse to talk to him now. Oh, he knows I've seen him when we're in the same 10metres or so but he will never get a response. Does that make me a vindictive person ? Probably not because I could do a lot worse than just the Big Evil Stare. I'm usually pretty good at forgiving but I occasionally make exceptions, like when I don't want the other person to know I'm not still angry with them.

And this fella was in the team for tonight.

As it turned out, I didn't have to be civil to him at all, as he disappeared fairly quickly when we gave up on the other side turning up. It was pretty damp here yesterday and Monday, so we didn't think there was much chance of a game. Today, however, was very dry and the sun even came out to make it a very fine evening. A few people thinned out, including Mr Idiot, leaving us with 8 people to have a knockabout. So that's 2 people batting, 4 running around in the field, 1 person bowling (we took turns, except me!) and a wicket keeper standing behind the stumps.

This was the first time I've played in 2 years and I'm not exactly what you'd call the most fit person on the planet. I'm overweight and have damaged most parts of my body. But I ain't quit yet. Muahaha. Although I think I will have to see a doctor relatively urgently because I didn't realise just how bad my shoulder is. My bowling turn was first and we had to give up on me because I could barely get the ball on the right pitch, let alone get any consistency. I think I must have injured the shoulder in another event, as well as the dislocation because I've gone from occasionally being able to bowl and bowl pretty well too, to being absolutely terrible.

So - we're having a knockabout, I'm relegated to fielding only and it comes to my turn to bat. I was actually pleasantly surprised, as I didn't get out at all. There was a pretty close Leg Before (ball would have hit the stumps but your legs are in the way) but I think it missed after a good look. I hit a few boundaries, tapped a few around, although I'd have had a lot more trouble if it was against match bowling. I was glad to take the pads and helmet off in the end cos it was getting rather steamy under the lid.

Fun night - and I didn't even have to resist the urge to fling the cricket ball at Mr Idiot's head when his back was turned. Which would have been kinda painful due to the state my shoulder is in. I nearly blew up a calf muscle too but I think I've gotten away with that. And one of the various captains seemed to want me in the team next week, which must be a decent sign.

I'm now chilling out with stuff off tape, wondering if I'll have time after Top Gear (recorded) to munch through some popcorn before sleeptime.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I hate popups

Short post this time ...

Just been looking up something Warcrafty and was cursing the site I was peeking at due to them being infested with popup ads. I hate these, they're intrusive, they tend to resize a browser window that I'm happy with and they also carry the risk of infection by trojans.

The advertising people have figured out a way of getting around the popup blockers built into Internet Explorer and Firefox, which is where more extreme measures come in. I use two :

Flashblock - this stops Flash windows from loading until you say they can load.
AdBlock Plus - this one just stops adverts loading. Any advert ... any suspicious website, it'll block it totally. And you can add undesirable sites to the list too.

That's Adblock Plus by the way, there is an "Adblock" out there which does half the job. I've just switched this machine over to Adblock Plus, because "Adblock" wasn't doing the job.

There's all sorts of nasties that can come from uncontrolled adverts, including keylogger trojans and other malware. Best way to protect yourself is by blocking them at source, which means having software like Adblock Plus and Flashblocker active to have a better chance of keeping the unwanted stuff away from your browser. Anti-virus protects a little but the various people I've known to have account information stolen have been running competent anti-virus products. Seems like AV is not as good a defense as the people selling that would like you to believe.

The two mods I've mentioned above require the Firefox browser, which is well worth a peek anyway as a replacement to Internet Explorer - even if you don't intend to use the features that Geekdom raves about.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Unexpected callups

Had an unexpected call up earlier, the Warcraft guild needed people for a raid and even though my character is nowhere near ready yet they asked me to come along :-).

It's been a while, I think the last time I did any Warcraft raiding was near the start of March. So that's almost 5 months without knowing the buzz. Solo play is fine, I get into a routine where people probably mistake me for one of the automatic bots that the cheats get banned for. I don't use bots but I do figure out the most efficient ways of playing games extremely quickly. When going into group work, I kick up a few gears. Think total focus, tunnel vision and getting far more out of the character than anyone has any right to.

Enough that I was managing to keep up reasonably well with the damage with a character that's very short on the best equipment and which is actually heading for a different role than it's in at the moment. I've been used to doing my part in a raid by dealing massive amounts of damage to targets, which was the role tonight. However, what I'm aiming for is the job I've never really done before, which is healing.

Anyway - first time back tonight and it was really good to be back. I've missed the banter that makes a raid group interesting. We didn't achieve that much but that's partly because we only had the 2 hardest encounters left in the place that we went to. Understrength, makeshift group including one person who hasn't raided for so many months but in the end only beaten by sheer bad luck. Excellent effort, it was great to be along. I'm now looking forward to more, especially as NWR seems more of a team than the Mercs used to be.

Currently chilling out to Batman Begins. Raiding is fun and a good challenge but it revs me up so much that I need to have a few hours away from the PC in order to be able to sleep. Is that healthy ?

The other callup is a little more expected, I'll be playing cricket again on Wednesday (weather permitting). Should be interesting, as it'll be my first game for two years. Hopefully the captain that night will take the rare step of believing me when I say I have the shoulder problem and keep me on the infield instead of the boundary. I'm better close up anyway. Wednesday night is normally badminton night but that's gone off the menu because I've been worsening the damage to my shoulder playing that.

PS Was so revved up I completely forgot to take screenshots !

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lagtastic ...

... aka I'm kinda glad I got out of this game !

There's been a big battle tonight between the alliance I used to be involved with and their sworn enemies, -A-. The report for what happened is coming on to the Eve forums here and shows why I left Eve ...

It's not a bad game is Eve, there's plenty in there for the powergamer in me to get interested in. There's also the ability to carve out a little piece of the universe for you and your alliance. That's what as me keeping up with what the alliance people are up to, curiosity for how they're getting on. Trouble is, the game itself can't cope with the big battles that happen when that little piece of the universe is being carved out.

There's more in that forum post, have a peek for the people complaining that they got kicked out of the game, to be unable to log in for over an hour. That's just not good enough from a group that expect you to pay a subscription for their game ... So - interesting game, shame about the implementation.

Time for me to get a little sleep now, I've just extracted myself from a marathon Moo2 session. It's the Twenty20 cup finals day tomorrow, which should be a good laugh :-) I'll give a little decode though on some of the terms used in that Eve forum post before I disappear ...

Lag - You press a button, no response happens for a while. On Warcraft, that can be 5-10secs when a lagspike hits, on Eve it can be anything up to an hour.
Grid - A 500x500x500km cube where the action happens. Entering the Grid means loading up everything needed to show what's there ... Hefty in a big battle like this one.
Capital Ship - Big ship for space station warfare (Dread/dreadnaught)
Titan - biggest ship in the game
CCP - The organisation responsible for not fixing the lag
POS - Starbase
Bubble - Think Star Trek, think warp drive, now think sphere where da warp drive don't work.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Technobabble never hurt anyone

At least, I don't think so ...

I'm seeing the two extremes of Technobabble tonight, first up was Wall-E and now it's Star Trek - Deep Space Nine. It's been ages since I watched DS9 and I figured I'd give it another go. Same with Voyager, I've been watching that again too.

I seem to remember DS9 improving in the later series but they're really submerging under the technobabble rubbish that really doesn't make sense ... Things like needing someone to tap a button to turn on containment fields after a hole got punched in the hull of the station. Come On People ! That kind of thing would be under automatic control ... Plus if a hole in a corridor made a big gust in a command centre that should be behind a heap of closed doors, then I'm sorry that's just asking for the old cliche "Were they born in a barn ?"

Muahaha - I guess I've been spoiled by higher class sci-fi like Heinlein, Banks, Weber, Clarke, Asimov and Niven. (And a few more on top of those too) However, DS9 does have the gorgeous creature that is Terry Farrell and then the too cute for words Nicole de Boer in the final season.

On the other end of the technobabble scale is Wall-E. This is the latest Pixar film, from a studio that has the gift of producing what really are kids films but can be enjoyed to the full by adults. It makes their films special. Things like the robot Eve floating around, without them needing to explain how. Different types of robots that behave as programmed machines but animated with a definite personality all their own. There's a certain bit of magic to how they put it all on screen.

I almost said this with Hancock but I'll definitely say it for Wall-E :

This is a Must See Movie !

PS It's too darn hot now - hopefully that's the sign of a good thunderstorm soon :-) And the person in the meeting room today who turned the air conditioning OFF needs a visit from the Huggy Jacket Men.
PS2 I miss doing Thursday Thirteens ... I need a good idea for a theme to run a 13 on ;-)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Parking Obsession

The place where I work has two car parks to serve the site, I park in the smaller one of the two (usually). There's a couple of rows in there reserved for Greenie people who come to work with an extra body in the passenger seat, the rest is fair game. The 2+ ones are of course the closest ones to the offices.

There's another rule that says these 2+ spots become fair game after 9.30am, when most of the people who are tied to taking kiddies to school have completed their business.

Now because there's not quite enough room in the car park for everyone, the gate people have usually put up a sign by 9am telling us to go to the car park at the other end of the site. That's like, Shrug, No Big Deal, More much needed Exercise for me. Sometimes (think rainyday) the car park full sign is up by 8.45am ... Much too early for a late worm like me.

With those rules, you'd think that people turning up around 9.10am and seeing the sign would turn their cars around and head to the other car park ? Well, you would wouldn't you ? Nah ... 9.15am when I appeared this morning (Flexitime is great !), there were 4 cars quite happily queuing up, itching to get those 2+ spots when they became fair game ...

Seems nuts to me ... Even with a longer walk across site (good for you that), I was probably at my desk minutes before they even got past the gate ! Plus I'm not that good at sitting still, after about 2 minutes waiting I'd have climbed through the windows, after wishing I had a sunroof I could climb out of.

I definitely don't understand the Mob sometimes, or is it just that I like to crack on with stuff when others would like to sit and wait doing nothing. The 2+ idea is a decent one, as it encourages people to be a bit more economical with their parking. Not to mention it being great if you were taking a passenger in anyway ... But I don't get much advantage from that preferential treatment now because I'm no longer living with someone who works on site. (Sometimes CK gets a lift, which gets me in 2+, but our getting up times aren't in sync lately ...)

(the crazyparkqueuers probably kept their engines running too for that 15 minute wait to get 100 yards closer to their desk ...)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ah look !

One thing I've noticed about cricketers over the last few years when they're doing interviews is their habit of saying "Look" or "Ah look" before they answer the question they've been asked ...

I'm scratching my head as to why they do that, I'd usually use "look" in that context only if I thought I was being got at by the interviewer, which is almost always not the case in the ones I've watched. And Michael Atherton in particular is outstanding for pulling out the cheeky question that
most other interviewers wouldn't have the courage to ask :-)

Another case for the "Ah Look" is Hancock - went to see this one yesterday and it's as spectacular as you'd wish for in a Summer Blockbuster. It'll make a lot of cash this one, in both cinema (probably best there for the scale) and on dvd. It scores through consistency with itself, it makes as much sense as sci-fi usually does and there's a massive plot twist half way through that turns this from run of the mill into something really rather special.

Well recommended, this could well be the pick of the summer blockbusters. It definitely hits the mark better than Prince Caspian and it's more serious than Kung-fu Panda.

What else have I been up to ? Monday and Tuesday were testing days, which involve representatives from my place watching the subcontractors assure themselves that the multi-million pound piece of software is a) working and b) working as expected. It's a very complex beastie the thing under testing this week, there's at least 50 discrete pieces of computer hardware that all have to talk to each other and get along without something going bang that shouldn't be going bang.

That's the real trick in my particular line of work, making sure all the different systems made by a collection of subcontractors all play nice with each other without throwing the toys out of the pram. I don't have personal experience with autism but it's probably a fair comparison - computers can only work by the rules that they are programmed with, which includes their ability to communicate. If the message is slightly garbled, they can't even use human experience or our wider set of rules to decipher the message. They'll either bin the bad message (good) or complain bitterly and give you the Blue Screen of Death that most Windows users will know all too well.

It's a challenge and we've got a good bunch of people working on it :-) Plus being disconnected from the usual blogs and forums in the hotel room allowed me to finally finish Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds. It's not a terrible book but on numerous occasions, I lost the ability to visualise precisely what was going on. It wraps itself up fairly nicely at the end but I couldn't avoid feeling that it was a rather contrived finish. I've got plenty of other books in the collection to read before buying more Alastair Reynolds. It's currently Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein, this one is a definite Must Read. Just put all thoughts of the Paul Verhoeven film out of your head, there isn't actually that much alien shooting in this one, the strength of the book is its discussion on ethics and morals.

The rest of the week was a bit of a blur unfortunately. I suffer from a mild form of manic-depression. The manic times are great, although I have to put the watchkeeper on to help me avoid upsetting people by going too far on windups. On Tuesday though, just about when I started driving the depression kicked in, which is definitely a Bad Thing when you're about to do a 2.5 hour motorway trip ! I managed to resist the Evil Voice inside me that was telling me to sideswipe the tailgaters as they overtook.

I've dealt with my depressive cycles for a good few years now, when they happen I feel worthless, slow, past-it and just plain ordinary. That last one "ordinary" is the most crippling, as I don't have the looks or the physique to get ahead through that route, I have to depend on my ability to think rapidly and out of the box to shine. When the depression hits, I have too much of my mental run-time thinking about rubbish and not enough left for useful thoughts. I get to feeling useless and my patience and understanding can suffer to the point where other people feel the edge of my depression due to me getting waspish.

It isn't bad enough for me to need pills to balance it, the cycle will usually end thanks to an external trigger or stimulus. Like seeing Miss L in the queue for the coffee machine :-) She's a very special person is Miss L, although she probably doesn't think that herself. I missed having a natter with her by about 10 seconds, she'd disappeared into the lift about that long before I got there. Mrs C is also a great help, she's got enough experience to be One Of The Boys and at the same time be a very Girlie-Girl. Having a "Hello Pete" from Mrs C as she walks past the desk really brightens the day :-)

Hmm - Wall Of Text probably gives a big clue as to how interesting the cricket is this morning !

Thursday, July 17, 2008

If you have to ask how much it is ...

... you probably can't afford it.

At least, that's how the saying goes ! In real life it can be a little different, like when you darn well know the price of the gadget you're wanting but you're not looking to be ripped off by one shop selling it for more than the proper amount.

My latest target gadget is an Airport Express, made by Apple. It looks like a pretty promising little widget :

So what is it and what will it give me ?

It actually does more than I'm interested in, cos it's a wireless router. I've got one of those (although my current one is looking to be thrown out the winda), what I'm really looking for on this is Airtunes ...

This little widget should allow me to fire up iTunes on the laptop, connect wirelessly to the Airport Thingy and have the Airport pass on the iTunes music to my better speakers. That should be a hefty improvement over the laptop speakers as I'm finding out that those Really Hate It when I ask them to squawk out the Enya. Enya has an amazing voice and does great music but my laptop's speakers just don't get on at all well with it. I could run a long lead across the room with laptop & proper speakers but I'd be highly likely to trip over it and break stuff.

Sounds like a ThingummyBob that could improve my listening pleasure doesn't it ?

PC World actually have this in stock but they haven't marked up anywhere how much it would be. It's on their web page, for exactly the same amount that it is on the Apple online store (£65). I was actually expecting it to be £50, so this particular toy will be waiting on the shelf a little longer.

However - there's always Ebay ;-)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Memories from a decade ago

I'm currently watching Sky Sports and it's lunchtime in the cricket, so they're showing previous moments in history between the two sides, England and South Africa.

One of them is the England v South Africa Test Match at The Oval in 1994. This is one where England were looking down the barrel after getting a thumping at Lords earlier that summer. This game was looking fairly balanced, with South Africa getting a short lead at halfway.

This is where Devon Malcolm entered the stage.

Devon Malcolm was a fast bowler who was playing for England for a little while. He's a big fella who when he played, was England's fastest bowler by a long way and one of the fastest in the world. He could barely bat but that didn't matter. I revered the guy like a god at the time (I was 17 and hoping for big things from my bowling), it didn't matter that his place in the side was always in danger because his accuracy was pretty poor. For American readers, think of a pitcher that can do 100mph fastballs but has trouble locating them over the plate.

Back to the game. South Africa made a critical error just before the halfway mark ... one of their bowlers managed to pin our Devon right between the eyes and hard enough to dislodge a decent chunk of his helmet. Unfortunately I missed what was to come because I was also playing cricket that day. Devon Malcolm's a good fella but in the words of David Gower, "don't make him angry". Revenge for the helmet was promised and was duly delivered over the course of the day.

An awe inspiring spell of bowling totally changed the game, with our Devon getting 9 of the 10 South African wickets in their 2nd innings. That's one hell of an achievement, because the wickets are usually shared and it shows how dominating our Devon was.

And I missed it cos of playing cricket for the village side !

Also, thoughts today go out to Phil Williams of Wayfarers Sports Club. Phil Williams is an amateur cricketer hit on the head by a ball during a midweek game this week. He's now recovering in hospital with a skull fracture and has been unable to move the left side of his body. It's further grim evidence that I got away with one a while ago. Like me with my nose, Phil didn't have a helmet on, it's still not got through to club cricket culture that accidents happen and helmets help turn those accidents from life threatening to rather less serious. Like the second time I got hit on the head, without a helmet I'd have got carted off to hospital again, with the helmet I carried on batting and anchored our side to a handsome win.

There's guidance by the England and Wales Cricket Board (governing body in the UK) for all players under 18 to wear helmet with facemask or grill but past 18, it's up to the player. Cricket is a very random game, not enough people below the professional level wear enough protection to keep themselves safe from when accidents like my nose or Mr Williams' skull fracture happen.

Here's hoping that Phil Williams makes a full recovery :-)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Curious advert patterns

There must be some science behind how people decide when to put their adverts on the telly.

The most recent trend I've noticed is the commercial van ads surrounding the cricket ... The science bit must be making the advertisers (and it's not just one manufacturer) think that the people watching the sport/cricket are the ones more likely to get a van. I wonder if they've considered putting their adverts on to the documentary channels, especially the historical ones, to see if they can catch the re-enactors.

The other pattern is the one that kicks in around 11.30pm or midnight ... This is the phone text adverts (get your self a friend by texting anonymous people) that infest the breaks. I get the feeling they're on at that time because they don't want to spend the extra cash that would go with prime time ad breaks.

Vulture adverts annoy me, although I can filter them out. These aren't just the injury lawyer adverts ("I slipped cos I wasn't looking where I was walking - giz 10 grand"), it's also the moneylender ads too. These definitely have the science bit fully engaged, they almost always paint a dark, depressing or troubled scene for the person looking for cash, that magically changes to Bright, Happy and Confident outlook when the person goes for the loan. I can recognise the psychology there, which gets me walking away every time.

So - vans & cricket - how come the science bit is getting these adverts on connected with the sport ? I dunno, I'd have expected cricket to be more associated with sunny cars like the panoramic glass ones and convertibles. They might also be looking at the typical cricket player, it seems a more middle class game than football or rugby, so the players could well be interested in commercial stuff through their work instead of their play. It wouldn't go as far as needing the van to fit all their kit in :

Leg pads, helmet, gloves (multiple pairs), bats (probably a couple), spiked boots, tape, drink, munchies, jumpers, hats. It all adds up. As an allrounder, I could still get away with a lighter bag but I know players who carry so much junk around they have to get what is nicknamed a "coffin" which can get close to being a 2 man lift for size.

Oh - I'll also happily admit that however much I'd have liked to drive one of the two Mazda sporty cars around, I don't think I could have put even my small cricket bag into either the MX-5 or boot of their RX-8.

Time for a bit of lunch/breakfast now and then more cricket. England are well and truly on top at the moment, although with South Africa's underlying class it will get a lot closer.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Biker Boys

I should have gone to bed an hour or so ago because ever since I got home from work, I've been struggling to keep my eyes open. So I missed most of the Middlesex vs Yorkshire Twenty20 quarter final and my dinner was one sandwich.

(I'm chubby enough to not really get into trouble for a missed dinner, plus I'm eating too much junk at work)

Why am I still up ? I'm currently watching the second episode of Long Way Down, which is the follow up to the series Long Way Round from a few years ago. The first series had Ewan McGregor and his mate Charley Boorman riding from London to New York, going East (through Russia etc). Long Way Down has them going from John O Groats to Cape Town.

The bikes they have rival cars for width !

Series has started in the same form as Long Way Round, looking forward to the rest of it. The two boys take the watcher on a tour of far away countries that we'll probably never see but present it rather differently to the normal Attenborough type presentation of the wild ... I like it :-)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A definite Yey! moment

I'm stuck a little for knowing what game I want to waste my time with at the moment, so I'm looking at the old ones again.

This time it's the turn of Rowan's Battle of Britain, a fairly old one that has two modes. One mode has you in the position of the air commander for Britain's defence in Summer 1940. The second mode has you jumping into the cockpit of a Hurricane or Spitfire to do your part from the flyboy's seat. (You can also fly as the Germans)

However, when this game came out, it had a critical bug where the game would crash in the campaign mode after just a few minutes of waving the mouse around. I could go into the technical details but that wouldn't add much. So why the "Yey!" moment ? I'm currently reading through the manual for the official patch and hidden in there is my name, given credit for spotting the root cause of this particular bug. I didn't fix it but my fault finding efforts allowed the BDG developers to squish da bug within about 2 days of being notified.

Having credit like that gives you the belief that occasionally, you do actually know what you're talking about with software :-) I don't get that all that much at work, because the technical content is mainly with the contractor with us looking after project management. And project management is far less interesting (to me) than seeing what's happening with the Wiggly Amps.

Oh - it's also just started raining at Wimbledon. Nadal is up by 2 sets at the moment but Federer has a chance to get back into it. Good game so far.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Bring on the weekend

Weekend ahoy !

Been a relatively busy one. And varied too in what I've been up to at work. I'm looking at a bit too much finance at the moment though, instead of being more interesting engineer type busy. Still, it's useful stuff as the bosses don't let us buy as many toys if they think we can't control the budget.

I've been attempting to keep up with the telly stuff and that will ease some over the next week or so as a group of series that I watch are finishing their run. I've been watching a rerun of Star Trek Voyager, which has got to nearly the end of its third of seven series. House and Heroes are another which are finishing, like Jericho last week. Jericho seemed a bit rushed in how they finished it but at least it's been allowed to have a good closing out, unlike series like the new Bionic Woman which just fizzled.

Doctor Who should be a cracker tomorrow, it adds a bit of anticipation when BBC do such a good job of rumour control. There were a couple of flashes of what's ahead but what we will see is a complete mystery. The writers for the new Doctor Who have been producing some good output but I can't help feeling that they're steadily tripping up over what they've done before. Sometimes a series can build up a little too much history, Buffy is a good example. I think series 5 had Buffy up against a God, it's like - ok, they've beat a God, where do they go from there ?

The Crazies watched Prince Caspian on Wednesday. Not quite sure what to make of that one, it's up to the normal Disney production standards and has some very spectacular battle sequences. Somehow it was missing something though. Can a film have a soul ? At least the pizza before was excellent as usual, even if Pizza Hut's brainwave for how they present garlic bread is rather flawed.

We'll be watching Wanted tomorrow. It has Angelina Jolie as one of the lead roles, so I'm expecting something special there.

Right - back to Voyager now and later a bit more Warcraft. It's Alterac Valley weekend, which means most of the players who can participate will be hitting that particular battleground because it's the most efficient way of earning a currency known as Honour which goes towards buying better gear.