Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Back after Xmas

Back again now :-) I went back up to my parents' house for the Xmas break, as per usual :-) It was a bit hairy making the decision of when to travel due to all the snow. Think my sister and I judged it about right, the roads were clear for us. Apart from slow people that is ...

Perversely again, I appear to have lost a little weight up there despite eating everything in sight :-) Could be due to healthy eating but probably more to being disciplined with what and when I eat stuff. Will have to break that habit later in the week with another pizza but not tonight as I'd drown while collecting it.

What did we all get ? I have an iPod upgrade, it's a 5th Gen iPod Nano so as well as holding all of my iTunes library (3650 songs of which 3350 are on the iPod) it also has curiosities of an FM radio, video camera, pedometer and a couple more features I'll probably never use. My sister got a compact Nikon camera, will be very curious as to how she gets on with that :-) Nan got a bracket for her telly which is now on the wall and my parents will be switching to a rather special telly soon.

We downscaled Xmas this year, think we've kinda got tired of it. Plus we all have the habit of buying what we want instead of keeping things in reserve for Xmas & Birthday :-) Or the toys that we do want are a leetle too expensive for presents.

Great food as always, with me fixing the techie stuff along the way to get the great music too :-) (dodgy headphones connector needed a fix ...) The telly bracket was "fun" to put up. We resorted to Power Tools. It should be a lot more stable now than it was on its stand, I nearly pushed it over a few times putting cables in ...

Back on Sunday, which gave a bit of time before Crazie Xmas Part-a-y on Monday evening :-) All the gang were there, RCA, Craziequeen, Cyberkitten, Family Aginoth and BionicDwarf. We operate a Secret Santa nowadays (to keep the cost and complexity down), with me getting the dvds of Star Trek (new one), Moon and Demolition Man. I'll be watching those sometime over this week while I'm away from work :-)

And I have something new to watch them on ! Been spending a little too much money over the past week and a bit. New laptop to replace the old HP I wasn't too happy with. Today saw the arrival of a Sony Blu-Ray player and a Samsung 32" LCD telly. Early days for those, especially as I'm waiting for a couple of leads to come through the post. I won't get the full benefit of the new stuff until the better leads arrive. I even have a bit of a cobbled together scroungy lead arrangement for the Blu-ray player. Looks good so far :-)

Will wait until the good leads arrive until I watch the first HD thing I've recorded on my V+ cable TV box (Day Of The Triffids). In the meantime, I've been enjoying watching England well and truly get on top of South Africa in the cricket. Will be recording the coverage tomorrow in anticipation of a Big Win :-)

Watching Avatar tomorrow with the Crazies, really looking forward to that :-)

PS I have pictures of the Before, During and 1st stage After with the telly stuff, it'll come on here at some stage :-) I have a bit more room rearrangement to do first though. As the LCD telly is much thinner, it gives me some good scope for moving things around a bit. I'm hoping it will let me put my 2 comfy chairs in usable positions :-)

Additional - I just put an entry on the techie blog about today's connecting up exploits :-)

Monday, December 21, 2009

We have snow :-)

And perversely, it actually seems a degree or so warmer than it was last week.

I had the instincts telling me that it wouldn't be worth me coming in to work this week, so I took a couple more days off. I reckon I know what they were getting at now :-) Instinct can be a very powerful thing, although it doesn't often talk language that we're likely to understand. With the moving around at work, I'm kinda in limbo too not wanting to really kick something off there before Xmas. I like to tie up all the loose ends before I move on from a place so I don't get distracted too much and moving before Xmas would have meant too much rush to get away clean like that.

Saying that though, there's a few amazing people in my project who I'd drop everything to help out if asked. I think they know who they are :-)

It's not much snow today, although at an inch or so settling it's enough to snow in those people who usually jump at the chance of a freebie day out of work. Possibly enough to build a snowman, will have to see about that later :-) I have a couple of pictures from last night that I must get processed and put on here ...

Which takes me to yesterday's bit of excitement. Got up, put the cricket on the telly and started up the laptop. It was suspiciously quiet ... My old laptop has been struggling for a few months now due to a failing cooling fan. Bit like the hamster wheel coming off its axle and making a racket. Well, I think the hamster itself gave up the ghost yesterday, so it was off to the local places to find another one.

Prices seem to have gone up since last year, although that could be due to me comparing with how little my old HP laptop cost me. Only £370 for a 17" laptop ... Think I know why now, HP used to be known for bombproof quality, as demonstrated by their printers and my more ancient laptop. That's suffered in recent years though, while it wasn't falling apart the build quality on the HP G70 left a lot to be desired. Aside from the fan, there were issues with how the laptop was put together. I also have one of their all in one printers, which has a faulty page feeder.

No more HP for me for a while ...

So what did I get ? Acer's Aspire 7540 was the new machine of choice. Bit more expensive than I'd have liked to commit too (especially with thoughts of new telly) but it felt like one of the better options in the shop. 17" screen too :-) With PC's, actual spec doesn't matter much alongside ease of use. Bigger screen and keyboard (the two are tied together on laptops) are far more important than a cpu that takes 0.9secs instead of 1sec. That said, there's always a minimum spec but you won't go far wrong if there's 2GB in a machine. It's a heavier machine too, feels far more solid than the HP.

Not so sure about Windows 7 though. It feels a smoother OS than Vista, looks like it eats less memory too. The memory gadget says 50% of memory is being used at the moment and I have the usual round of apps loaded. That'd be Messenger, Outlook, a bunch of Firefox windows, iTunes and Evemon. On the old HP, that would take up 60%. Both machines have 3Gb of RAM. It looks a bit nicer and the taskbar has seen some improvements (better after I figured out how to deselect the grouping of windows option!). Aero is a pretty interface, although it seems geared towards letting you see your desktop picture more.

Multitouch and gestures ...

Hmm. How to say this ? It's a bit broken and gets in the way. That's probably related to me getting used to them and how they are activated though. I'll do better when I discover exactly what triggers them. At the moment though, I think the OS looking for trackpad gestures tends to make the machine ignore normal clicks.

Until we get a fully functional neural interface for our computers, any form of prediction is going to make wrong guesses and I think that's what is happening with the Windows 7 gesture features. I'm quite close to turning it off, as keyboard commands are usually far more effective for things like Zoom and Pan. I get the feeling that a few Task Analysis Ergonomics "experts" have given people the wrong ideas on what features are actually used and useful.

It'll probably come into its own for large touch screens but I'm definitely unconvinced as to its application on trackpads. As is usual for me and IT, it'll have as long as it takes for me to either get used to it or get sick of it before it gets disabled. Put it in a table and get it working with a big TFT touch screen and it'll be awesome for gaming.

Liking the laptop so far :-) Although it took a few reboots and cooldown periods to get the data (iTunes library is now 15GB!!!!) off the old laptop. I actually gave up copying the iTunes from the old laptop as it wouldn't stay alive long enough, 3 cheers for "desktop backup".

Right - iTunes is currently going through the Kill Bill soundtrack, this Wall of Text has gotten long enough and I'm resisting the urge to play Mass Effect through again (it's waiting for new telly). So it's time to sign off but not before wishing people :


Hope you get lots of cool stuff, good company and that any travel plans you have don't get too badly disrupted by the white stuff outside.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brr - cold

Holiday season soon and it looks like it could be snow :-) .

I've been getting feelings of deja vu going back to the snow we had here at the start of 2009. I was almost heading off to sleep, reading a book while listening to the radio. The emerging story was covering what was happening on the main roads in Devon and Cornwall. It was late, the snow had just started coming down.

The reports started with news of vehicles that were struggling to get up a rather long hill. This had the effect of starting a cascade, where the stuck vehicles caused obstructions for the vehicles following. In the end, I think 50-60 got stuck, unable to move on the hill.

Here's what thisiscornwall (link) made of it ...

It was a weird feeling listening to it develop on the radio. Thoughts included a bit of an evil "nice n warm in here :-)" but it was mostly the strange feeling that I was listening to one of those disaster movies developing, except that it was real life and real people instead of just fiction. Bit like watching a movie like Armageddon and being able to go outside and look upwards to see the asteroid the heroes have gone to put a nuke in.

Strange feeling. I got a fair bit of book read while listening to that.

Kinda getting it again, with the reports of impending Snow. The weather people say it'll be coming from the North Sea, which means the Eastern half of the country will get it worst. Where I live should get away with it, although it will be cold. Might be interesting driving across to my mum's and dad's place for Xmas though, as they live in the East. TrafficEngland says it's snowing about 15 miles West of where they live too.

It won't affect me getting into work, I'll be in tomorrow but then away for a couple of weeks. Definitely need to get away to rest, recharge and regroup before switching job early in the new year. I can usually hide any signs of sufferring but I tend to slip a bit when really needing a break. Like now, when I'm more rude about certain people at work than I need to be :-) I mean, come on ! If something new doesn't work, you should really read the information about New Thing before complaining ...

Mutter mutter mutter. And a few new people who I can quite justifiably call MUPPETs! Wonderful word that, it's completely innocent and can be used to describe all sorts of idiocy. And it's not a swear word too so you can use it loudly and often without getting funny looks.

Yep - we have a new toy at work that affects the whole team and we're already noticing certain issues with how its been implemented. We've got good people looking at it from our end, they'll be getting their shotguns out to attack the problems.

And with that, I think I'll be heading over to my desktop PC to start up another Settlers IV game. It won last night, which is a precedent that cannot be allowed to stand.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Party season

Xmas brings parties :-)

Work lets us have one afternoon to head out to a place to let us celebrate one more year of managing to meet all those challenges that we get set. It also lets us see each other without the Work Hats on, people can be a little different when they get out of the office ... Bit more relaxed.

Today was the turn of the Glass Boat in south central Bristol. Definite improvement over previous years :-) The Glass Boat is a permanently moored barge converted into a restuarant. Usually you don't expect too much from an Xmas Munchie but we were very pleasantly surprised this time around. Decent portions and very tasty food. Although I think they got word from last year's place to not put too many sprouts in play. Play being the operative word ;-)

Excellent conversation too. I was lucky enough to be at the same end of the table as Ms Sunshine and Lady P, with a few of the fellas from work there too. Picked up a few things to think about, plus I got the impression that this blog entry will very quickly do the rounds at work tomorrow :-) I can get into a circle where I drag myself down. Kind words always help to pull me up again.

Talking to people always helps with issues, other people can see what's going on in your head that you'd otherwise be blind to.

Hmm - current iTunes track : Sad Eyes by Bat For Lashes from the Fur and Gold album. Another spooky iTunes selection :-) Would love to be singing along to it but my bugs from last week are making me cough whenever any thought of Karaoke starts to strike ... That also meant I didn't stick around after the Glass Boat bit today, still not up to full strength after the bugs. Possibly a good thing too, as one of the ladies was saying how much she was looking forward to the dodgems ... I wonder if everyone will make it back alive ?

PS Think I may have to be a little more cryptic with the codenames I use for people, as there's another person at work who sees straight through them :-) I can still keep a few people guessing though :-)
PS2 I reckon I now have a codename for the Beauty Before Age lady mentioned in last year's Xmas Party post : Dodgem Demon :-)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday Thirteen - music again !

Not done one of these for ages :-) What better subject than to share what I've been listening to lately ?

1. The XX - On right now in iTunes is possibly the second best new music discovery for this year. Here's the one that kicked it off, Crystallised which was one of the best freebie Single of the Week's on iTunes.

2. Had my eye on this album for a while, here's Tori Amos with A Silent Night With You.

3. Not got this album yet but I can't see it being long before I have it :-) Lily Allen bemoaning that it's Not Fair. Made me grin :-) (explicit lyrics warning on this one)

4. Classic from 20 years ago - Suzanne Vega's Days of Open Hand. This one has been in my "to-buy" list for years, it's only a couple of weeks ago that I bought it and reminded myself just how good this album was. I've also got her latest album, Beauty & Crime, which shows off a voice that sounds just as good now as it did 20 years ago. Here's the opener to Days of Open Hand, Tired of Sleeping.

5. It's not just the women, here's genius composer Jean Michel Jarre with the 4th track of Equinoxe.

6. And a little more instrumental, I don't think I need to tell anyone what classic sci-fi series this instantly recognisable title theme belongs to :-) I've been listening to the soundtrack from the latest series.

7. While she doesn't get as much attention as some of the more distinctive singers, Norah Jones has a talent for making people feel more chilled, relaxed and happier with her songs. Here's Sunrise, my pick from her Feels Like Home album.

8. Not listened to this album for a little too long. Here's Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes with the wonderful Moon and Moon.

9. Another of the old classics - I don't listen to Kate Bush enough cos of the massive amount of other stuff in the library. Here's one I listened to yesterday : Them Heavy People off The Kick Inside. One thing I really want is dvd copies of the concert and greatest hits which were on VHS quite a few years ago.

10. More classic 80s pop and an album I listened to on Saturday (iTunes remembers what I listen to). Kings of the Wild Frontier from Adam and the Ants.

11. Listened to Demon Days by Gorillaz last week, here's Dare.

12. Oh wow. This one just started on iTunes DJ, You Make It Easy by Air. Wonderful song. Not quite as good as All I Need but very, very close.

13. Little Boots ! Yep, she of the post a couple below this one :-) Saving the best for last. I've linked Remedy lots lately so here's Earthquake as something different. Definitely my pick for the best newcomer to the music scene this year.

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PS I definitely agree with audioamateur's "I want this as my wedding song" for You Make It Easy. Now just to find a lady crazy enough to find me interesting.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Where to next ?

Work's going through one of those spells at the moment where it gets picked up by the short n curlies and shaken about a bit ...

Which means that the people who actually do the work are getting a fair bit of disruption. Basically, the powers-that-be want to move people from jobs that they don't think can be afforded any more into jobs that are Top Urgent Must Do Yesterday type work. You've got people who will stay as they are, people who will have to fight for the same post as it's duplicated with someone else's and the people who need to find another project to work in.

I'm in the group that has to find somewhere else. Feelings ? Initial - shock, disbelief. I handle a few functions for our group that will still need to be done, so my work is going to need to be redistributed amongst the other guys. (1st "what the hell?" thing here - note the work still has to be done, yet the post is marked "no longer required").

However, that initial shock and disbelief (shared by my boss and his boss) is passing into a more Philosophical mode. I've been in the project for almost 10 years now, which is a Very Long Time where I work. It's been a good run but it probably needed a kick like this to dislodge me. It's a fun project filled with great people but knowing I'll be out of there soon has come as some kind of relief. Plus I had a glimpse of what was around the corner and wasn't particularly impressed.

And what's been highly amusing is seeing a few senior people in multiple organisations start waving "What are you doing????" flags after hearing I'll be on the way out :-). I grabbed a task a couple of months ago, shook it up and turned it into a process that was coordinated, controlled and was working. Now that process will have to be taken on by other people. I've done that in a few other areas as well. I'll do what I did in graduate days, which is to tidy up as best I can when I move but there's always legacy differences.

It's the Knowledge factor that's most serious though. The post duplication and post cancelling means a lot of Knowledge will escape from a lot of projects and it's often there that the loss is most felt. I'll still have a few contacts left in where I am now, so I'll keep checking in to see how things are going. The sad thing will be that some of them will also want to escape but will be locked in because people in my position will get grabbed first.

Not gone yet though, it'll take another couple of months for the escape tunnel to get dug. One of my contrasts though is in how I deal with Change. I'm not great at initiating Change, in fact I have a lot of personal "inertia" that makes me resistant to doing things differently. Sure, I'll happily make things up as I go along and refine a process until it's Shiny but changing the way I do things, lot of resistance there. However the contrast is that when I need to Change, I like to get it out of the way as quickly as possible. (Lol - so I can settle into a new rut ? :-)

It'll be a very strange place over the next couple of months though, as the organisation settles into a new look.

What helps when heaped with uncertainty like this is how the various people react to it. It's kinda like a Gallows Humour, where the ones on the way have greeted the news with good humour. We're thinking of having a little Support Group, suggesting that it would be the Millwall club after their "No one likes us, no one likes us, no one likes us, we don't care" football chant drew a chuckle :-) There's definitely a bit of a "we're all in the same boat", which reflects how close knit the workerbee level in my team has been over the years.

So we're all wondering where we will be in a few months. Hopefully I'll land in somewhere that gives an interesting technical challenge.

Thought I'd save the last word for someone who has helped more than she realises over the last day or so. One of the things I'll be remembered for is an infectious inane grin that tends to get even people in really dark moods smiling. Today and yesterday it's been me in the dark mood, with it being lifted by another person with an infectious (but not inane!) grin :-) I'm quite jumpy, I'll look around to see who's walking up the corridor and then I try to look away quick as to not stare. It's tough to look away though when you see a face light up with a big grin, you can't help but respond in kind :-) And a smile is always good for the soul.

Actually - that last para could refer to a few people I know at work but I'm thinking of one particular little Angel there :-)

Time to get back to listening to music and maybe a bit of the Internet SpaceShip Game too ...

PS I'll also be remembered for the PowerSneeze. Wonder how long it'll take my next project to get used to that ! A remark from earlier was "Oh, that was a big series", with my response being "Nah - that was light sneezes, I didn't see stars that time"

Additional - blog admin comment : I've removed the Daily Puppy as I've noticed it had grown advertising. I'm getting nuffin for that ad so it's GONE !!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Music and other things

Saw a story on BBC News earlier that reminded me that for all the angels in this world, there's some absolute scumbags who try to drag the better people down. The story was on Little Boots, who's gotten fed up at rumours going around about her being a bit bigger than all those Stick Insect people the media seem to like.

One of the cruellest things to say about a person is to comment about their weight, for most people it's an incredibly sensitive subject. Someone who used to work on the same project as me saw me for the first time in a few years (big site, we bump into people like that). The only thing he could think of to say was "Cor Pete, you've put weight on". My weight's actually been stable for the past few years and the fella who said that found out what I thought of it due to me then refusing to talk to him (if that's all his conversation was going to amount to, heh heh heh sorry not interested).

Saying someone is fat is one of the most hurtful things to say to someone, hence why it seems to be the insult of choice when someone is trying to compete with a person far more talented and/or pretty than they are. It causes all sorts of problems, including pushing people into health issues like bulimia. It's usually an insult that comes from very small minded people and tends to be the limit of their creativity.

Hey ! That's enough about bullies, this post is supposed to be in appreciation of one of the prettier and most talented young ladies to hit the music biz for a few years :

Little Boots !

If you haven't heard anything by Little Boots so far, check out this one which was on Later with Jools Holland a while ago. It's the track Remedy from Hands, hopefully the first of many albums.

What isn't apparent from that video is the reaction from another singer on that show, Lisa Hannigan. Ms Hannigan sang "I don't Know" before Little Boots took her turn and did rather well. However, the Remedy performance appeared to blow her away, the two tracks from later on weren't nearly so accomplished, she actually looked shaken by the sheer class of the competition.

And that's the impression you get when you watch Little Boots play, you start by being enchanted by the little Pop Pixie but then you get drawn in by the quality of the music being played. There's those big eyes which catch the soul, making the ears listen in rapture to that perfect voice. She did it again on Friday night's Children in Need, following and showing up a rather tired performance by Alison Moyet. Big shame it was the last one of the night, coming on at almost 2am. Glad I stayed up for it :-)

There's only one Little Boots album so far, Hands. It starts with New In Town (Jools Holland again) and then storms through another 14 tracks. Hopefully there will be many more :-) I'll be keeping an eye out for news on Little Boots Facebook fan area.

It's distinctive high class music from someone who really can sing. You see so many pretend Wannabe people out there (have I commented on how much Emma Bunton butchered Edie Brickell's What I Am ?) I sat through (and fastforwarded/muted) a lot of Children in Need the other night, you listen for a bit to the latest Music Factory Special stick insect with mic and then you go "meh", NEXT! Not so with the Little Booted wonder.

She's gorgeous, has those "Make Me A Happy Slave" eyes, writes great songs and tops it off with a wonderful voice.


Right - time to get back to ignoring recorded Fringe episodes while being incredibly tempted to run that Remedy video ... just ... one ... more ... time ...

PS Fat v skinny - I prefer looking at people who look healthy rather than skeletal ... Everyone's body has a preferred shape, mine just happens to be slightly bigger than average :-) Trick is to be comfortable with who you are, big or small. That way leads to more confidence than any number of diet fads or pills. And that confidence is the true path to inner beauty.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Game Appreciation - Dragon Age

I've done a few posts before about games I've been particularly impressed with, however those have tended to be on old classics. Time for a look at a pretty new one today :-)

As my interest in the online games has waned, I've taken a look at something new from Bioware, a developer that's always produced outstanding role playing games : Dragon Age Origins. It's an old story being retold again, you're a hero who has to save the day against the incoming horde of nasty beings who want to destroy everything.

The early parts tell the origins of your character, I've done two of these so far. The first I did had a human noble who's father is betrayed, the second has a city elf who is carried off by some nasty piece of work noble people with rather nefarious intentions ... The origin stories introduce your character to the world and they get you used to the engine which runs the game. It's obviously inspired by other games, after all Bioware have had a huge amount of experience doing these games. However, it's easy to play and it allows for much faster, simpler combat action than would be possible in a D&D based Computer RPG.

There's four more Origins stories in there as well, will have to try them out in future plays. I went for the City Elf one today to restart my first run through before it got a bit too deep ... Think I went for a really tough start in my first run by going for the toughest area a bit early.

Saving the world is an excellent cause ... but unless there's some fun to be had it gets boring pretty quickly. I've bought more than my fair share of role playing games over the years, some grab me while others get put away and ignored. That fun aspect is what separates the ones that last from the ones that gather dust.

What elevates Dragon Age ?

One area that Bioware have always excelled in is character interaction. If you've read any of David & Leigh Eddings books, you'll have an idea of what I mean here. People who follow you around and help out that actually have real character. What grabbed me first with Dragon Age was how the characters Morrigan and Alistair don't get along. You'll have your party running through a town or country on the way to the next thing to thump and they'll then break out into a bit of banter. With Morrigan and Alistair, they like to bicker and some of the dialogue is laugh out loud hilarious.

Other companions include Leliana the bard, Shale the stone golem (inspired by HK-47), your faithful hound (really!) and a few more too (trying to avoid spoilers). Even your faithful hound gets in on the banter with a few character filled whines and barks. Yep, Alistair even gets outdone by the dog :-) As with all Bioware games, there's potential for relationships between the characters too.

It's a deep game, I've only scratched the surface of it so far. Looking forward to a few full plays through. Hopefully I'll get the chance to do so before Bioware's next masterpiece, Mass Effect 2, comes out :-)

For more, including pictures, check out the CVG review linked.

How's it actually run ?

My PC specs : Athlon X2-3800+ with 2GB Ram running WinXP. It's got an ATi Radeon 4850 in there.

It's not a really new PC, if I remember right it's had that cpu for 2, maybe 3 years. The graphics card was new this January. The performance in Dragon Age is surprisingly good. I have the resolution up as high as my monitor will take (1280x1024), which the engine handles well even with lots of the pretty options turned on. Frame rate is still pretty good even when the action hots up. No problems here.

Verdict - Bioware do it again, I reckon I'll spend as much time on this one as I have on most of their classics : Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars KOTOR, Mass Effect.

PS There usually is a word on stability with a PC game and it strikes again here ... There's a Crash-To-Desktop bug in Dragon Age that seems to hit the ATi cards. I got plagued with it on my first run through and it still hits certain areas. When it hits, it's a case of "Pete GO TO BED" :-) Always save often ...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oops - forgot a title :-)

You know those days when you're rushing around frenetically but when the day's done, you haven't a clue what you've achieved ?

Been having a few of those lately. Part of it's firefighting stuff that other people just haven't done, part of it's working my usual pattern of getting the little jobs out of the way quickly and then completely banishing them from memory. But I think the most part is down to being distracted again.

This time it's my back stiffening up and I guess this post shows how much it's bugging me at the moment. I'm one of those people who try to hide all signs of any pain they may be in, which is a trait I really took on while playing cricket. It's a tough game cricket, the randomness means you get hit pretty often by a ball which definitely isn't soft ... And if you show pain, it'll encourage bowlers who then think they're getting the better of you. So you don't show any sign that the ball that bounced a bit more than you thought has fractured a finger or that the one you took on the leg means your movement is hampered.

A batsman shaking a hand in pain or sporting a limp is like a red rag to a bowler, trust me - I've been the bowler with the evil grin a few times :-)

So I try to avoid all outward signs of any pain I may be in. Sometimes that's easy, there are wonderful days when I have no pain whatsoever. Other times it's hard, with the toughest part being to not get caught in a negative feedback loop where taking notice of the pain means you stress more, which tenses up the muscles which makes them hurt more. That's negative feedback (or negative reinforcement) at play.

So yeah - hey, my back's sore, time for me to try and deal with it.

What I'd like to do is find someone with strong fingers to rub that stiff part of me better. (Oi! I know there's one or two out there who thinks that last sentence is smutty :-) People like that seem to be a bit thin on the ground at the moment, or that could be my unfortunate habit of going after the unattainable.

What I think I'll have to settle for is a looooong hot shower (lets see if I can run the hot water tank to empty !) and then hope I don't embarass myself and others tomorrow by begging for a massage :-) :-) :-)

Other stuff I do when stress is rearing its head is try to make myself and others laugh. Turning frustration into fun doesn't make the problem go away but it is like making a statement that you're not going to let the stress win. It's either that or a deep need to bang one's head against the wall. That's why I prefer laughter, it has less chance of needing hospital visits than trying to do demolition without the proper tools.

What else have I been up to apart from feeling sorry for myself with a bad back ?

Think I may leave that for a post coming soon cos I hate to have a depressive post at the top of the blog :-) A summary would be : books, games, music, TV :

Legend of the Seeker - scifi channel series, watched 3 and it's got my interest bigtime. Possibly due to the Foxy & Ferocious Bridget Regan who co stars.
Defying Gravity - BBC are showing this and it's totally blowing away Stargate Universe. SG:U is dim, dark, depressing and devoid of humour. Defying Gravity is highly entertaining light, fluffy, decent scifi that cheats only a little. It remembers the purpose of TV, which is to entertain. Stargate SG:1 remembered that, Atlantis tried hard to entertain but they've totally forgotten with SG:U.

Books - finished the Ringworld series, it's a fitting epic end of the series. Next stop is the 2 books set in Bioware's Mass Effect universe.
Games - more Bioware, they have a talent for good storytelling and most importantly they draw the player in with the interaction with the non-player characters. I struggle with some well regarded computer role playing games like Bethesda's attempts (Elder Scrolls, Fallout 3) but Bioware's Dragon Age is another that has my attention. Possibly because of the character Morrigan, voiced by Farscape's Claudia Black.

Right - that hot shower is now overdue, time for me to escape to that so I can listen in to more of Morrigan's antics before trying for sleep.

PS Claudia Black has long dark hair. Bridget Regan in Legend of the Seeker has long dark hair. I'm doomed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Water, water everywhere

Birthday today :-)

And there's an excellent tradition that we have at work for those. Cakes ! I took mine in yesterday because another tradition at work on a Fryday (deliberate typo) is to haunt the canteen for the fry up. As usual, I buy way too many cakes, to the point where I've brought the remains of a box of minidonuts (chocolate tipped) home. They'll disappear over the weekend.

Watched "The Men Who Stare At Goats" last night with the Crazies. Truly strange film. Entertaining but very weird. The Mall was pretty nuts with traffic due to the Xmas lights going on, so we missed out on getting a decent meal in. I'd have missed out anyway due to being kept at work longer than I really wanted. Flexible working means I don't miss out there, we'll stay longer than 9 to 5 to finish things off because the flexi credit we get from that lets us leg it earlier on a day where we'd otherwise be clockwatching.

The people where I work have a habit of making that kind of thing worth it. I've been lucky to be involved for a while in a fun project with lots of great people. I got reminded of that this morning when I found a Happy Birthday card at my desk, signed by Ms Sunshine, the Snow Queen, WT and two other characters from that section that I've not mentioned before. That's Mrs S (who still scares me due to how effective she was at poking the younger me into doing training!) and the diminutive Miss M who's been keeping me honest with filing system stuff over the last few months :-)

They're a great bunch, complete with Superspy (you'd know where that codename comes from if I let slip his name :-) they're the Unsung Heros (Heroines? :-) keeping a big team running smoothly. Often unappreciated and unduly hassled, they stick to their guns and keep smiling. Especially Ms Sunshine, who's ever present grin brings brightness to dim, dismal days like today. (4pm and it's almost pitch dark from cloud and we're expecting lots of rain today) And our Snow Queen who gets to field all the IT questions about problems caused by the people who provide our IT. Every team needs a heart and that's our BM girls, ably assisted by The Boss. We're lucky to have them around. (Although we lose The Boss in a few months due to the impending arrival of a MiniBoss)

Right - that's work - what else am I getting up to today ?

Picked up presents from the Crazies that had gone back to the Post Office :-) And did the traditional tearing into the Amazon boxes :-) I have new books and new dvds that will keep me happy for a while. Now it's South Africa vs England in the cricket. Fully expecting England to get bashed but they're doing ok at the moment.

Pizza later :-) Unless the rain makes me chicken out and do the walk to collect it another day. Stepping outside the house right now may lead to drowning. I'm not kidding !

Oh - I stopped off to drop off a couple of minidonuts with the canteen girls and had a chance to run possibly my favourite bit of birthday related entertainment ... Most guesses have been scarily close, to within a couple of years (meh) but the Canteen Girl guess was 25 :-) Which is 10 years younger than actual. Cue a Big Grin :-)

But now - time to concentrate on a cricket match that's happily warming up while contemplating how long the minidonuts will last ...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Thinking of ...

... writing stuff again.

This is something I've been thinking about for a while, I reckon there's a book or two in me somewhere trying to sneak out. Trouble is, it's daunting thinking of all the setting up that a book would need before you can crack on with telling the story. The best books are consistent with themselves and stay faithful to all the little things. Rules get set up that govern the world, if those rules get broken then the readers can quite rightly call you a fraud.

Pacing is critical as well, I'm picking that up from watching Stargate Universe. I'm still curious about this new series, although it seems very badly afflicted by StarTrek Syndrome. That's an episode pacing style that has the cast fumbling to fix a problem, only to miraculously sort it at the end. SG Universe is similar, episodes tend to be slow-slow-slow until 5-10 minutes from the end when the pace goes ultra fast. And their problems get sorted out just in the nick of time. That pacing style seems rather jarring.

I've two options really for what I'd write in terms of the fictional setting. It would either be a Dungeons & Dragons style fantasy swords, sandals and magic world or it would be science fiction with starships. Worlds of magic are pretty easy, there's a blank slate and the Rules that govern the world can be far simpler. You just make them up because you can ignore the laws of physics if you want to. Or bend them with that magic stuff :-) Just have to be careful not to plagiarise someone else's world.

Science fiction on the other hand ... That's much tougher. This is where "being consistent with itself" bites really hard. You see it mainly with series that have grown and grown, with the backstory taking on a life of its own. David Weber's Honor Harrington series is very good but is starting to suffer from "where do we go from here ?" On the other hand, Larry Niven's Known Space books have a very strong theme running through because the Rules of that universe, while being quite tight, give a huge amount of scope allowing the stories to be about the characters.

Star Trek tied itself in hellish knots because of all the "Hey ! That looks cool, we'll use it in an episode". Plot devices that aren't properly thought out come back to bite you later. There's a quote in ST The Next Generation where the computer says "NCC 1701 D, the fifth Starfleet ship to bear the name Enterprise." Which was fine when that episode was written but got broken with the series Star Trek Enterprise. Star Trek also suffers immensely from the demon of Time Travel, allowing this to happen in a series (unless incredibly carefully planned) opens up all sorts of cans of worms. Curiously, the fella who wrote this alternate non-Federation ST timeline avoids time travel completely. That's a good read too, when you get around some of his phrasing :-)

So - I'd like to start writing scifi but I'm a bit daunted by the amount of setting up that would be needed before getting down to the fun stuff of storytelling.

Things like :

Mechs or tanks ? (noone argues with a 100tonne Big Robot)
What type of guns ? (projectile or energy)
How much attention do you pay to physics ? (Star Trek and Star Wars are extremely badly behaved with respect to physics)
Military or civilian characters ? (Star Trek vs Firefly)
Socio-political situation (religion, wars, customs)

Choices made there define the whole world and the rules within which the stories must play out. "New technology" as a plot device can only go so far in changing or bending those rules. Stargate is a decent example of how new technology can change the rules but it has to make sense or the audience is lost.

Hey ! That's enough about theory of writing fiction, why's this come out again ?

There's a few reasons, like reading some of the stories that come through the Eve alliance's newsletter. I play sci-fi style games that have great stories, with Mass Effect being a great example. I also get scenes sparking through my head as well, there's one running that involves a new spaceship in the yard having techs do inspections on it. Now there's a scene where an author could lead a reader into how the ships are put together. Interesting for a techie, not likely to be much story there though.

Stuff I do with work occasionally kicks off ideas that, as is normal with me, lead off into tangents so lateral they've turned longitudinal.

For the fantasy world, I had the starting few chapters of a novel lined up which I reckon would have grabbed people. A fantasy setting is best with a party of characters to have fun with and the Monday night gaming gives plenty of ideas there. Question is though, how to carry it on. Novel's gotta have a plot.

Riiight - that's enough Wall of Text about writing a Wall of Text :-) Time to get back to listening to stuff while wondering if my blocking sinuses (and resulting slight sore head) will let me play that Internet Space Ship game :-)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Frustration leads to ...

Desperate measures !

One of the things I've been watching again lately is Doctor Who. The repeats have just gotten to the end of season 4 and while I've been watching it on the telly off iPlayer through my cable box, the last episode just ... isn't ... listing ...

Grr !

Desperate measures time.

My newer laptop can't help this time, as the TV output on it is Round Peg Square Hole and doesn't fit the telly. So ...

Old laptop gets resurrected (first time in a bunch of months)
Network cable is stretched across the room to give it internet
Telly hook up cables
And hoping for a decent video considering it's old and tired

Here's the result :

Picture's a bit washed out from camera flash but there we have it, laptop beside telly feeding me Dr Who amidst a swath of cables.

Result :-)

Not a bad picture too, although I think I'm getting a taster of the improvements HD telly makes with the two screens side by side. I think the laptop picture is doing HD while the telly is limited to normal definition. Yep, there's a difference. Gotta be looking for it but there's a difference.

Right - time to get back to Dr Who before I pack away the old laptop again for another 6 months.

PS There's an impending crash, bang, wallop from when I trip over the network cable.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pass me the jump leads !

Cos I think I need them at the moment :-)

That post last week, where I said I'd take those cold symptoms, lock them in a box and stuff the box somewhere to give it a good ignoring. Lol - guess who got put in the box instead of the bugs ? :-) Heh heh heh, apart from Wednesday (yes, right after that post got dispatched ...) it wasn't too bad.

It just coincided with a week I was planning to have as rest and recharge ... I don't think it changed much of what I did though, which was listen to lots of music, catch up on recorded stuff and have a crack at the occasional game. Not much Eve, which I reactivated a week or so ago, cos I wasn't particularly feeling like being involved with the rest of the human race.

Until Saturday ... when I went Pizza Hunting. Rejoined Human race, Human race didn't quite know what to make of it. (Human race being a dazzingly cute cherub in the pizza shop taking the form of a blonde possibly half my age - i.e. jailbait) Truth, I wasn't impersonating a particularly impressive member of the human race at the time. Pizza was worth it :-)

Recorded stuff - lots of Stargates. I still think Babylon 5, closely followed by Farscape is the best sci-fi on telly, Stargate SG-1 definitely gave them a good run for their money. I'm up to the end of season 3 now, great early years in this series (fantastic entertainment value), it's a shame it went on probably a couple of years too long. Not sure what to make of Stargate - Universe, needs more time.

House, shaken up again, still good stuff. Regenesis, wanna watch this again from season 1 - it's intelligent drama with strong and highly amusing characters. Warehouse 13, fluffy stuff, still watching out of curiosity. (What's the line about his men would follow him anywhere, if only out of curiosity ?) Flashforward definitely has my attention now.

Music - been raiding music stuff again :-)

Impressed with : Roberta Flack, Cardigans First Band On The Moon (album with Lovefool), Dr Who season 4 soundtrack
Not so impressed with : Paramore's latest - sounds like the other two but not as good. Bit disappointed.

So - couple of hectic days back at work, got stuff done plus I had a few major victories in making people laugh. "Im in ur filez editin ur commentz". I like to make other people laugh cos it makes me feel better too. No-one's noticed the haircut though. Or maybe they have and they didn't want to say anything ;-)

Still not back to full form after the bugs and I have an early start tomorrow, so it's time to wrap this one up before I start rambling and babbling. Oops - Too late !

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

AAA Choo !

Lol - as so often happens with me, a week away from work is accompanied by bugs ...

Seems I share that this time around, most of my friends around Bristol seem to be suffering from bugs in one shape or form. For me, it's an extremely runny nose with the accompanying sinus trouble. Not much sleep last night but I don't seem to be feeling the effects of that.

But hey - my bugs aren't too bad at the moment and I know other people have it worse. So it's time to do what I usually do with stuff that slows me down, stuff it in a box and lock it away. What else have I been up to ?

Trip up to see my mum & dad, always worth it. Drove 3 different cars in 3 days, the Focus I own and the Mazda they've had for a while. The third was something a little more special :-) My dad's retirement gift to himself is a Mazda MX-5 and if various of my muscles weren't unhappy with me at the moment, I think there'd have been many more thoughts of WANT ONE :-) It's still another 18 months though before I can change car and I'm hoping something good will come from hybrid car technology.

Gaming again on Monday night, first time for a while. I have another Bashara this time around, think Girl With Big Sword. Our party this time around is all about getting in fast, doing huge amounts of damage and clearing the bad guys before they know what hit them. First encounter this time around, blue dragon matching the blue dragon on my t-shirt of choice on Monday. Next week's t-shirt is either going to be my Alien t-shirt or my Send In The Wookie. We shall see :-)

Right - time to get back to catching up on all the telly I have recorded, there's lots of it :-) Hopefully I'll improve tomorrow, enough to take a trip into the centre of Bristol for a music raid :-)

PS I see another music post coming on soon ...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Zoom zoom

I think I scared a few people on Saturday.

We went karting ...

I'm involved on and off in 2 of the big online games, Eve Online and World of Warcraft. I've hopefully kicked the World of Warcraft addiction now but the Eve people keep drawing me back in to that game. An online game is made far better if there's good people around and I've been lucky to have been involved in a few of the better groups. Warcraft had the Mercs while that lasted and then later the Violence Reborn people :-). Eve has the Volition Cult people, with the Volition Cult being an alliance in that game that's now lasted 3 years.

The karting was part of our 3rd anniversary meet up :-). We went to a place called M4 Karting, not too far away from where most of the UK part of the alliance is based and indeed only 30 minutes from where it was born. Good track this one, housed in what used to be a hardened aircraft shelter attached to the nearby airfield. The circuit itself was twisty and nicely technical, with a good consistent surface. Some karting tracks suffer from bumps, grooves or even things like wooden floors instead of smoothed tarmac ... I had great fun powersliding round all the fast corners :-)

Oh - this track also had a She Who Must Be Obeyed running the show. Most definitely In Charge, although they had one or two techie hitches with the timing gear. Will certainly go back there, we had a lot of fun at that track with plenty of stuff going on to keep us bantering on the Volt forums afterwards.

Will have to check out Radio Control cars some more too as this place had a shop selling them, which is getting rarer and rarer nowadays. It helps to know what you're looking at when thinking about buying things though, especially if it's a specialist market ...

I don't think I scared people on the karting track though, I'm a bit too heavy still for that. The scary was on the trip to the pub afterwards :-). The satnav I use tends to be a little "aggressive" on the roads it chooses ... Let's just say that you wouldn't want to take a lorry down the same routes. And I got to the pub about 10 minutes before anyone else :-)

I'm looking forward to next week at the moment, it'll let me get recharged on "Calm" after a week that I'm still detoxing from :-)

Wednesday - 13 hour day trippin' down to Portsmouth for some performance testing. Cue the "testing diet" ... aka strong black coffee + biscuits. Keeps you awake but the caffeine does weird things to you.
Thursday - coming back from Portsmouth and hoping that Orange Light Of Impending Engine Doom goes off ... Yep, had another scare from that one starting on Wednesday. Also watched the film Creation after having pizza with the Crazies :-)
Friday - easy night (needed it!)
Saturday - karting with the Volt boys, followed by trying to munch a pub dinner with hands that were insisting on cramping up ...

I've been needing a bit of chill out time anyway and I reckon that as that gets closer, you slow down and feel the tiredness even more. So come Monday, I'll be looking to think as little as possible of work although I'll be missing having the chance to natter with and tease a few of the people I work with.

There's a few people who make where I work far more entertaining than it could be, from the ever wonderful Snow Queen, The Boss with her empathy, Wild Thing teasing me about the Little Canteen Girl, Ms Sunshine's continual readiness to burst out with a room illuminating smile and cheerful laughter and the diminutive Miss M who's been taking advantage of my techie talents lately (while being bemused by my efforts to have my way with a devious plan for the file system).

We're also blessed with fun people in our finance section (an area I deal with a fair bit lately). We keep an eye on what the project is spending, which means painstaking attention to detail on admin. But that's made into fun by our Finance Girls :-) They've been recruiting too, with someone recently arriving who's shadow betrays her invisible Angel's wings. I also get on very healthily with my actual boss, although healthy in that respect also includes us setting each other off in the mornings when one of us gives in to Munchie Cravings. There's also El Diablo, a fellow gamer and sci fi nut who is the one who pointed me towards the Jack Campbell books. And we have more too that I'd mention except imagination failure means I don't have Blog-Safe codenames for them.

Great bunch of people, I'll miss them next week while I'm off work :-) But after putting this refresher week off for a few, I'm really feeling the need for it now.

Right - I've nattered for far too long ... so long my feet have started to freeze. Time to sign off and shut those curtains for the first time this year ...

Monday, September 28, 2009

A to Z of me

Meme time :-) Or should that be Me Me Meme ?

I've been stealing ideas again, this time it's from my neighbour Cyberkitten. He hasn't got round to doing his yet though. Right - this one could be a long one, here goes :-)

A for Allrounder. For the cricket, I'd be able to do everything :-) I'd have seasons where I'd open the batting and seasons where I'd be a main bowler, although it always seemed like I'd be good at one and not the other. I could bowl spin as well as swing and seam. For the indoor side, I was most effective keeping wicket. And as long as I stayed reasonably close (and was awake!), I could terrify batsmen with sharp fielding.

B for BBC B. I've always been a computer person and it was Acorn's BBC B Microcomputer which started it all off when I was 5. Learned a lot from this special machine.

C for Cricket. Although I don't play any more (mebbe next year ?) the cricket still dominates. Hoping that England continue their amazing form (amazing cos it's a surprise ?) in the ICC Champions Trophy.

D for Dwagons. I like Dragons, of the various mythical beasts out there, these are the most majestic. You don't mess with dragons. That's dragons with an R though, Dwagons with a W is for my avatars. I've been using Pocket Dragon (link) avatars for quite a few years now. Big shame they're not still being made.

E for Evil Overlord. Much of my misspent youth was spent going for strategy games. Lots of mental exercise in subjugating those poor defenceless Bit Creatures. I tended to be a bit more Builder though than Evil Overlord.

F for Fragile. I have to admit, I'm rather fragile. I carry various long term disabling injuries from my ankles all the way up to my neck with sore shins, bad knees, groin trouble, back trouble and shoulder trouble in between. Some days are better than others.

G for Gamer Geek. Definitely a Gamer, definitely a Geek :-) I take things apart with my eyes without touching them, I can usually figure out how they work before resorting to invasive methods (translation, without taking them apart). Definite engineer (also see N below). I also get quite a bit of fun out of the weekly gaming sessions :-)

H for Hunter. As my Facebook page says, "Incorrigible Hunter of pizzas, teacakes and muffins."

I for Injuries. I'm usually carrying at least 2 and there's usually another that's waiting in the dark looking to jump out and surprise me.

J for Jokes. Always on the lookout for jokes and for trying to make people laugh, although my humour is more reactive than scripted.

K for Kind. I think I am. I'm not overly generous but I like to help people out where I can.

L for Lonely. No relationship for a while, Facebook helps keep me sane as well as the occasional dabbling in online games. I know some amazing people too, like the Snow Queen, The Boss, Ms Sunshine and the Crazies. But I do miss being able to share things with another person.

M for Music. I suspect that a music addiction has replaced my gaming addiction ... When I'm not watching telly I'm almost certainly listening to music :-) All sorts, from Enya to Iron Maiden with a lot of pop in there too. Lene Marlin coming up on the iTunes shuffle.

N for Nutter. Note of Warning : Keep Sleepypete away from caffeine. I'll usually go for the unorthodox solution where I can, purely because the unorthodox is more interesting.

O for Omnivore. I'll eat anything, although I prefer simple, traditional and doesn't run away when you chase it with a fork (like Spaghetti).

P for PIZZA !!!!!! (see H)

Q for Quiet. I'll usually go by a Yorkshire motto : "See all, Hear all, Say nowt." Quiet people can pick up all sorts of gossip, although my quietness is usually down to struggling to turn rapid thoughts into slower speech.

R for Round. Hey ! Round is a shape too. Perhaps not as good a shape for a person as one more chiselled but it'll do for me for now.

S for Sweet. This one's from our Snow Queen :-) Usually after I've said something related to K above, although it's rare that my words form an adequate description.

T for Toys. I don't go out of my way to get all of the latest toys but I definitely appreciate a well crafted toy. That'd be toys in terms of gadgets that fit their function without too much fanfare and without too much awkwardness. Most important with that "awkwardness" bit, as however fancy a toy is, if it's nasty to use it gets put to one side.

U for Unrelenting. (See Evil Overlord). Could also be used to describe what I can be like when I'm going at a task. Especially a task I'm not too interested in doing so that I can get it out the way quicker.

V for Vampire. When I broke my nose playing cricket, a few weeks later I had an operation to have it straightened so I could breathe better. A side effect of the operation was Vampiric Eyes :-) Literally blood red eyes that lasted for a few weeks. You can probably imagine how much fun I had with this, especially as a number of people on the project were rather squeamish :-) :-) :-)

W for Warcraft. Took over my life for rather a long time this did. I think the addiction is fairly well kicked now, hopefully I'll be able to resist getting the next expansion. I have to say there were a lot of good times with the bad but I'm glad I managed to escape a game that has a tendency to consume and twist those who get too deeply involved with it.

X for eXcitable. Ok, that's cheating but I don't play the Xylophone. I can quite happily go hyperactive, especially when there's caffeine involved :-)

Y for Young looking. One of my favourite games is Guess The Age. People always guess low :-) Will be playing this one again in 6 weeks when I bring in the cakes for my birthday.

Z for Zoom. Live fast, play fast. Run fast too. My bowling wasn't the quickest but due to building up lots of leg muscles from a paper round, I can run Real Fast. For a short distance and then the coughing, spluttering and wheezing kick in.

So there we have the A to Z :-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We really used these machines ?

Yep - I've got bored with the new games again and gone back to a few golden oldies :-)

The three classics are : Freelancer, Master of Orion 2 (no3 was appalling) and Master of Magic. Freelancer is one of the various spiritual successors to the genre creating Elite. Master of Orion 2 (Moo2) is Civ in space, while Master of Magic (MoM) is Civ again but set in 2 worlds with a huge injection of magic. It also gives Civ a tactical layer to join the strategic layer. Civ 4's a decent game but MoM will be a long time classic due to the magic and the tactical battles.

Freelancer's fairly recent and Moo2 just got released when Windows 95 came around ... Yep - this is RETRO Zone :-) MoM on the other hand needs special treatment. It's a DOS only game (remember those ? so last century) but one of the hardest programs to accommodate on machines of its day. The key problem is memory - it needs 576kbytes of Conventional Ram and 2.7Mb of Expanded Memory. It's extremely tough to manage that on anything but an ancient DOS machine.

At least, not without additional software help ...

What's the secret ? A little application called Dosbox is the key. It's a program that creates a computer within a computer. You run it on your Windows desktop and you have a virtual Retro style PC that should handle what you want to throw at it. Magic :-) Here's a link to the home of Dosbox. It pretends to be an old machine, running Dos while emulating the sound and graphics of the day.

That's not really what I wanted to talk about though today ... Elite hit the news this week because it's just turned 25 years old as a game. It was huge in its day, it did things with the BBC Microcomputer that should really have been impossible. The program itself was less than 22kbytes, the last email I sent was 15kbytes. There's more memory in the cache of my desktop PC than there was in the whole of the BBC Micro.

I smell an attack of Numbers ?

Elite - 22kbytes.
BBC Micro - 64kbytes on board
Modern Desktop CPU (Athlon X2-3800+) - 64kbytes of Data and Code cache. And there's two of these ... And that's just the bit on the processor that makes it go fast.
Speed of a BBC Micro 6502 processor - 1MHz
Variance in speed of desktop cpu - well, it's been hunting between 2001 and 2006MHz.

How about this Master of Magic game ?
Needs 574kB Conventional Ram, 2.7MB Expanded
(problem is getting all the Convention Ram, plus getting Expanded at all in XP)
I had that running originally on a machine with 408MB hard disc hooked up to a 80486 processor going at 66MHz, with 4MB of system memory to play with. Oh, it was a DX too, which meant it had a maths coprocessor. Can't remember what graphics it had, probably just a 1MB "I can make lines and circles" thing.

My current desktop has on its processor : 4x 64kB Data & Code cache, another 2x 512kB cache. That's a total of 1.25MB just to make it work properly. The hard discs have around 8MB cache each, or double what was available to the whole machine for the 15 year old box.

The desktop's memory runs at 200MHz, or 3 times the speed of the 80486 processor. That 200MHz is then multiplied by 10 to get the chip speed. And the ante from the maths coprocessor is well and truly upped by there being two full processors on the chip.

HUGE boost in numbers already. And that's before you realise that there is more memory for just the graphics board (512MB) than there was on that 15 year old hard disc ...

Processor - 66MHz up to 2000MHz
Memory - 4MB system to 2GB system
Hard disc - 408MB to 74+250GB
(the Windows folder footprint on my desktop would take 15 of those 408MB drives ...)
Graphics - "I can draw lines" to photo realistic 3d environment

Things have moved on a lot in the past 15 years of me owning PCs. They're a lot more capable now, although the software has bloated to make them just as responsive ("far less responsive" is more the term when we grapple with work's PCs). The games takes advantage of the new hardware but ...

I'm still playing 15 year old games ! Has nothing significantly better come out in the past few years ? There's some good (looking forward to Dragon Age), some appalling but there's no substitute for the excellence in design and simplicity that we used to see in our games.

Long live Moo2, Long live MoM :-)
And a very big thank you to the open source developers of DosBox for making it possible for us to still enjoy these old classics.

PS It could be much worse for the Retro machine ... My laptop beats my 3 year old desktop on everything except hard disc and graphics :-)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Orange Light of Impending Doom

Cars have personalities ... They really do.

One element of that is their feelings, you can hurt a car's feelings and they do sulk. Honest ! This is a certified (hey ! who said "certifiable" ?) MEng Electronic Engineer talking.

Do Not Upset The Ghost In The Machine !

Ok ok, enough ramble, time for the "what is an Orange Light Of Impending Doom ?" answer. Since they kicked out the old mechanical solution for keeping an engine working right, there's been a light that tells you when the Engine Management Unit isn't happy. There can be any number of explanations for that, from loose connections to broken bits to sensors that are lying.

The Orange Light Of Impending Doom started coming on (when it shouldn't) on Tuesday. No discernable difference in the car's performance and all the dials are in the midline, looked and sounded ok under the bonnet too. So I let it go for a day or so to see if it would go away on its own. No such luck Wednesday, no such luck Thursday. Which, with my driving profile (about 10 miles a day), isn't too much of a risk with a possibly failing engine.

Thursday evening was when I got off my backside to start getting active on sorting out warranty stuff, although I started ringing a bit too late cos the warranty people had gone home. Probably a good thing because Orange Light Of Impending Doom was a no-show today.

Huzzah !

How about this Car Personality thing then ?

I've been getting bored with this car for a while now. After the Puma, it's bigger, heavier and about the same power to weight. Which means the Go Power is about the same but bigger and heavier means it's not so good at going round corners. Ho hum. Probably a bad choice to go for another performance car after the original one, maybe there's a good reason why I always go Cushy - Fast - Cushy - Fast.

My mistake this time was to mention the boredom while in the car ... Car's have ears, if they feel unloved they'll let you know.

How did I fix it ? There's the olde philosophical superstition argument here too :-) I was checking out how much it would cost me to change car last night. The Prius I'd go for is the T4 model, about £20,000 new. Toyota's site says their finance stuff would be looking for a £7,000 deposit and £200 a month over 3 years. Guaranteed Future Value thing would mean a further payment of £9,000 after the 3 years (or you start again on another new one).

Very curious :-) Although with 20 months left on my car loan, it would cost a couple of hundred pounds more to pay off the loan than I'd get in part exchange. And it would also throw away the guaranteed servicing deal and warranty I have. So I keep my current car for another year and a half, which gets me more time to get more Green Stuff and more time for Prius Mk3's new now to get older and cheaper.

Hopefully the Orange Light Of Impending Doom (OLOID ?) will stay away for the 8 months to the next service.

PS I reckon it was Speed Bumps upsetting something. Cos the schools are back, I've been forced to divert to Plan B route to get to work, which in infested with speed bumps.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Square Eyes

If they say that watching telly gives you square eyes, what kind of shape eyes do you get from reading lots ?

That's pretty much what I've been doing lately. Listening to lots of great music (check out The XX) and reading lots of book :-) Oh and wondering what drugs the Mercury Prize people are taking to have not given the prize to Bat For Lashes.

I'm currently occupied with not one but actually 3 series of book :
Harry Turtledove's WorldWar series,
Larry Niven's Ringworld series,
Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet series.

I've mentioned the WorldWar series before, it's set in the middle of World War Two but with a twist. Space Aliens invade and try to take over the world. I'm not quite sure what to make of this series, I'm three books in but it's a bit of a struggle. I want to know what happens and how it ends (I'm a little OCD like that) but it's rather long and drawn out. 3 down, 5 to go.

The Ringworld series is one I've had an eye on for quite some time now. It's penned by Larry Niven and is set within the amazing Known Space future. You have weird and wonderful alien races, who actually feel alien. These go from the cowardly Pierson's Puppeteers with heads for hands and extreme high technology to the fierce Kzin. For a Kzin, think 8 foot tall, feline, furry, claws and would probably eat anyone who attempted to call them "cute". But they do like being scratched behind their ears.

Ringworld is mostly set on an immense artifact, a circular ribbon 100 thousand miles across with a radius just under 100 million miles. And that's orbiting a sun. It makes the Orbitals of the Culture look small. The first book has our central protagonist Louis Wu discovering the Ringworld as part of an expedition including a puppeteer, a Kzin and another human. On their travels they encounter many species of Near-Human, the artifact has been around for hundreds of thousands of years so the inhabitants have gradually evolved from Human into many different Near-Human species.

The question of "why were there human-like beings on here ?" is a question that's answered throughout the four books : Ringworld, Ringworld Engineers, Ringworld Throne and Ringworld's Children. They're all well worth a read, although Larry Niven writes better when he collaborates on books. Almost like he struggles to get his ideas on paper, with the collaborations clarifying his vision.

Lastly, I've just finished enjoying the first book in a series of 6 penned by Jack Campbell. It's called Dauntless : The Lost Fleet and begins the telling of the tale of a fleet of Alliance warships that is deep behind enemy lines having just failed in an attack launched on the homeworld of their bitter enemy, the Syndicated Worlds.

Whereas the Honor Harrington books by David Weber can get themselves badly bogged down in politics, the politics is firmly in the backseat in Dauntless. It's still there but not nearly so prominent. Instead, you have battleships and battlecruisers pounding at each other with grapeshot (from railguns), missiles, Big Frickin' Lasers (I've been reading too much Register) and disintegrators.

I've only read one of them so far and ended up enjoying it enough that after about 100 pages, I ordered the second in the series from Abebooks ... I'd quite happily recommend the people I bought it from, just under £5, sent over from the States in pristine condition and quite quickly too. Abebooks can put you in touch with a lot of independent bookstores, the one I've been ordering from is the Paperbackshop Ltd in Fairford (in Abebooks as Books 2 Anywhere).

I've not just been reading the books though - England surprised everyone by winning the Ashes back. There's a strange contrast here to 2005, the last time we got the Ashes. 4 years ago, there was total hysteria over it. The 2005 series was a slugging match between 2 very well matched sides at the top of their games, utterly captivating because both teams were putting everything into it. This series was something different. The Aussies had lost several of their Great players and hadn't really adequately replaced them. England are currently in one of their inconsistent phases.

So we won the Ashes but no-one's really all that excited about it, maybe because it doesn't feel as if we earned them ... Which is a feeling reinforced by the rubbish we're seeing from England in the one day series. The players seem extremely scared right now. Scared of playing, scared of wearing the shirt, scared of playing to their potential and it shows in how they approach the game.

Grand Prix has finished now - time to get to the next book (Ringworld Throne), game and music :-)

PS Lol at the GP coverage, Ross Brawn just got hauled bodily over to the BBC interviewers by Eddie Irvine. Makes you laugh at the audacity of them to do that but what makes it more funny is the size difference between the big Ross Brawn and the little Eddie Irvine.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I made dat !

I get a buzz once a month (ok, I get The Buzz more than that but work with me here :-)

It's when we're coming up to putting out a new version of the Volition Cult newsletter. VC is the group that I've been involved with in Eve over the years I've been on and off in that particular online game. They're a good bunch. Even though I bounce in and out of the game fairly regularly due to getting bored with it, I still try and keep up with what the boys are getting up to.

And what better way than to do a sub-editor job on their newsletter :-) We get contributions mainly from Agent Stone and Schelik Hill (in game names). They'll put the original stories in and then I'll come along afterwards and tidy up their language. I'll usually try and tailor it for effect too. It's a newsletter For Gamers By Gamers, so the objective for me is to do the proof reading without diluting out the Fun aspect.

It's a job I like doing, I have a craving for information and the sub-ed job gives me a sneak peek. All the positive feedback we get also helps :-)

Ok - that's enough saying how much of a buzz we get from sending out the newsletter. How about I give all you readers a chance for a peek too ? It's here, at Agent Stone's blog. Bit long though this time around :-)

I even get a writing credit in there this month, I usually just proof read but I added one or two bits in there as well this time around. I'm a Power Gamer who tends to dig into the mechanics of what I'm getting involved in. I'll try and take things apart (metaphorically) to see how they work, so I can play better or work better. So even though I don't have as much in game experience as others, I pick things up along the way on how to play better.

Lol - that's enough Eve for now, an apt statement as my sub just ran out today. The reason for the break this time is that at £11ish per month, that's way too much now for something I'm not getting any value out of.

Found a new group to listen to :-) The XX had their track Crystallised put up as iTunes tune of the week a couple of weeks ago. Grabbed it, listened to it, thought these people have a really promising sound. Ended up buying the album a couple of days later :-) Here's a link to Crystallised - check it out, they're worth a listen.

Talking of music, had a trip to London and back today with work. Which means iPodFM in the car all the way there and back :-)

Not as clean a drive as usual. It's 125 miles there, which should be about 2 hours at motorway speeds. Took just over 3 hours each way this time, due to traffic although I did do leg stretches there and back. It got me thinking a bit more, the various segments of the trip where I was at standstill or crawling forwards would be where a hybrid car like Toyota's Prius would come into its own. The new Prius has a 1.8 litre engine plus an electric motor. The motor can roll the car along at up to 30mph. Just think about that for motorway queues or urban when you're at the mercy of traffic lights. The engine would be off and you'd be rolling along on stored charge. Free energy !

Hybrids are the future :-) They really appeal to my Inner Geek, which appreciates efficiency in all its forms. Whether that be in the way certain people move, in seeing a gadget that just works with no fuss or seeing technology applied in clever ways that makes things Easier.

Any more ? Watched the latest Tarantino film (would name it but kiddies may read :-) and while it was good, couldn't help feeling that it could have been better. I dunno, maybe the excellence of Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction have spoiled us :-) Good day for another reason, I got two hugs off RCA.

After my last post cleared my head somewhat and got me back to Positive Mental Attitude, I've had a rough few days due to my tongue swelling up on me (eeooo - saying no more !). It's almost better, which means I will now be terrorizing neighbours and nearby cats by singing along to iTunes. I'm currently chilling out to The XX from above after thinking that it really helps to have the iPod picking out the soft tracks for in car music :-)

This post has kinda jumped around a bit :
Eve Alliance Newsletter
New Music
Hybrid cars
More music

Check out the newsletter :-) It's hopefully a good example of something written By Gamers For Gamers showing how they enjoy the game they've taken to their hearts.

Oh last thing - another thing I sneaked into the newsletter was an oldie :

Something close to that has been my Eve signature over the years :-) Bit of an Eve in joke :-)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blog block usually means ...

Distraction ...

I think that's the key word at the moment. Wish it were distraction of the good kind, like spending every evening talking to someone special (we'll leave it up to the imagination as to what happens after that). No such luck lately, although I think I've been keeping our Craziequeen amused over Facebook chat :-)

The distraction at the moment involves pain and management of it ... Usually, I can cope with my various aches and pains by distracting (that word again :-) myself away from noticing them. Often by nefarious means :-) Ok - in this case nefarious means thinking about chasing girls, although not quite in the way you might think.

I call it "positive mental reinforcement" and it's based around how you want other people to see you. On the one hand, you can wallow in the aches and pains and go for being the cripple. Even though I've broken a fair proportion of myself over the years, that's not my style. Especially as I'm fully aware that even with the collection of broken bits, I'm not nearly as badly off as some people :

I can manage my depression without chemicals (literally in the case of avoiding the hayfever pills that cause it !)
I've only had surgery once to fix an injury (if a borken nose counts :-)
Can't bowl no more cos of shoulder but I still have 95% mobility there
Lots of leg and back muscle trouble but I have 90% of the old power still available
(that'd be 100% if I exercised!)
Only underlying medical condition is too much tummy acid (managed by no alcohol and giving my tummy something to do when it complains)

So even though I do sometimes (like now!) have muscles that suffer from the after effects of too much running around a few years ago, does that mean I have to be defined by it ?

No !

One of the books I was a big fan of as a teenager was the Keill Randor, Last Legionary of Moros series. That character had a great way of dealing with pain, he'd focus on it, understand it and then would shunt it away to a lockbox in his mind and throw the key away. It works too ! (except for headaches - the technique needs concentration which gets nuked by headaches)

Needs a kinda "Reset Button" hitting though to take the step to recognise (or Grok, as Valentine Michael Smith would say it) the pain though. Then you can figure out how bad it really is, or how insignificant it really is. And then deal with it as appropriate. Gotta admit, I'm not as good there as I should be. I deal with the pain by ignoring the symptoms, instead of attacking the cause.

I guess this post is a bit like hitting that Reset Button. It's recognising "yeah ! I feel ow". But it's also recognising "am I a cripple ? hell no" before moving on to a bit of "get up off the floor ya muppet and stop feeling sorry for yourself". And that last bit is precisely what I need every so often. Gets me back to that word "nefarious" too :-) What's the more attractive ? Dealing with the issues or letting the issues take control ...

I dunno there but if thinking I have to look strong to others helps me actually Be strong, then I guess that's a good way of managing the legacies of that running around thing. Bit like the sore tongue I have at the moment. I'm overweight, so I could do with missing a few of the teacakes and muffins I indulge in at work. But no - I'm still hunting them down as a way of telling the tongue exactly what I think of it (bacon sarnie day tomorrow - not missing out). And it gives me a chance to grin at the Canteen Girls too.

Ahh - sore tongue that's making it unpleasant to eat at the moment - I better close this one and put some dinner on. Can't stay healthy unless you eat proper, although I wouldn't call my diet "proper". Seems to work for me though :-)

Before I go though, quick mention for a special person. Our Snow Queen at work is an absolute wonder. Honest, smart, devious, lots of fun and always willing to lend an ear. Hasn't told me to go away yet either, which shows tolerance for geeks that goes beyond the call of duty. She's one of the better things about where I work and I'll be having fun keeping her guessing about the other better things there :-) We help keep each other sane at work, although sometimes it probably feels like I'm attempting to send people into the Huggy Jackets.

That bright beaming Snow Queen smile has been really helping out while I've been struggling.

PS The back would appreciate a little bit of TLC to go with the "ignore it and it'll go away" theory. Just need to find a willing volunteer to give me a good pummelling ;-) And if you're in a pit, then having a hand there really helps when trying to climb out.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Trying to figure out which is luckier ...

Me or the cat ...

Coming back from gaming, which means a cruise up the motorway. Not many others around, so it's an easy 70mph cruise hoping not to fall asleep (had a couple of mugs of coffee so no problem there). So I have one eye on the road and the other on the Audi that's about to overtake me.

Hmm ... what's that white thing on the road just ahead ?

CRIKEY ... SWERVE ... BOING ... (that'd be the suspension on the car sorting itself out after the swerve) ... *!*%*"%£££$ ... Phew !

White cat, in my lane in just about the right place to get flattened by my passenger side wheels. Think we both got lucky, as I saw the little blighter in time to do the big swerve, with not much time wasted in the "CRIKEY" part :-)

Anyway - white cat goes left, I swerve to the right around him, Audi in the middle lane has kittens as I nearly take his nose off, end result one live cat and an intact set of bumpers.

I reckon the biker on the way there has his days numbers though. He was doing a steady 80mph cruise in the outside lane. Except when a car in the inside lane was about to overtake something. Then he'd move into the middle lane. Good job I was keeping an eye on the idiot (standard procedure, assume all others on the road are idiots and it'll mean less dents for you) as he chose to move into my intended lane while technically in my blind spot. Watched him do the same to another car a minute or two later as well.

Fun gaming session, no dents, a smile and a Teacake From Heaven from the Little Canteen Girl, good day all round. Oh and I'm still getting mileage out of making things explode inside the computers at work.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Huggable music

Yey :-) Music post again. Facebook people might want to open the original post in Blogger to get the full benefit of all the Youtube links I put in these posts. Hopefully the linky I'll put in will get through the FB import ...

Another music post ! I do these to show off to other people what I've been listening to. There's some great music out there that you may not have heard yet. Here's your chance ! (helped of course by lots of Youtube links)

Anyway - this music special brought to you and inspired by the word hug. Or rather the iTunes following a Bat For Lashes track by a Garbage track :

Wants a Hug : Bat For Lashes - Sleep Alone. This one's the new single out and I'm hoping there's some good B sides on it. May have to start buying singles again cos of the outstanding stuff coming from this gifted (and highly cute!) artist with the voice of an angel.

Would Stab if Hug Attempted (sorry Shirley!) : Garbage - You Look So Fine. Great voice again, interesting cos it's a bit different. Bleed Like Me was an excellent album, hoping for more soon.

So that's the inspiration, what else have I been listening to that's Hug-Related ? Here goes - and enjoy :-)

Too much hug ! (is that possible?) : Duffy and Mercy. Another "different" voice, not sure how it'll go with non-Duffy music (the coke ad is terrible) but with her own stuff, she's incredible.

Will make you want a hug : Portishead and Roads. Portishead have that quality that, when their stuff comes on, you stop and listen. Piercing, pure, primal vocals matched with a distinctive style all their own. And they're from just down the road too.

Will not stop dancing long enough to get a hug : Little Boots and Remedy. Another amazing voice in an utterly adorable package. Bit of a contrast with what I'm usually into cos her style is more Boppy Disco but the sheer quality of that voice and how it fits the style means it's one that often hits the iPod. Her album got released a month or so ago and I'm already hoping the next one comes out soon.

Talking of hitting the iPod - a "Don't let me go Hug" : Goldfrapp with their cover of It's Not Over Yet from BBC's Live Lounge. This song sold my sister and I 4 albums. Well ... it started it off and then Seventh Tree sold the other three. A definite touch of beauty to offset all the ugliness on our screens at the moment.

One for me to practice in my quest for hugs : Chris Isaak (plus 1) singing Blue Hotel. CyberKitten already posted a link to Wicked Game but this is a pretty good track too from that album. Cheers to CK for reintroducing me to this voice and that guitar play :-)

And talking of guitars ... Hug From History : Dire Straits with Romeo and Juliet. Probably the best guitar player I've heard, with a voice that anyone would be happy they could sing along to. Currently listening to Mark Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia but anything from Knopfler is extremely high quality.

Watch Out ! These girls will run you down and then hug you : Voice of the Beehive and I Think I Love You.

Double Hug ! Alisha's Attic with Indestructible. Caught this one Saturday morning as I was on the way out the door. Thought : "WOW" and then bought every album and cd single I could get my hands on. Two sisters, subtly different voices, same charm.

Long Distance Hug : Lene Marlin with Here We Are. Almost got me remarking to the wonderful Sandra that this lady would be a fantastic reason for learning Swedish before I realised she was Norwegian. Doh ! Flexible artist, the voice matches up well both with ballads and more boppy tracks.

Have Hug, Will Travel : Tori Amos taking a Taxi Ride. This one's from the Scarlet's Walk album which I've linked more from over the years.

Wow, that's a fair few tracks listed now so it's time to close ... but before that, a few mentions to those I'm also listening to a lot (but can't figure out Hug Links for :-). I picked up Queen's A Kind Of Magic (Thanks Wormtongue !) a few weeks ago, plus I've been enjoying Avril Lavigne, Gloria Estefan, Paramore, a lot of KT Tunstall and an Old favourite in George Harrison too. First heard him as a non-Beatle with I Got My Mind Set On You, which stuck in my mind for 20 years. More timeless quality music here, with his Let It Roll collection album being one I've recently acquired through iTunes.

Last one - All About Eve with Pieces Of Our Heart from the Scarlet and Other Stories album. This one really shows off the distinctive voice of Julianne Regan which I've been in love with for 20 years now. The first 3 All About Eve albums were excellent and the not so well known MICE album (New and Improved) is also well worth picking up, although you'll probably only find it for download.

Hopefully not too long before my next music post, I really enjoy doing these and hope people find something new to listen to from them :-)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Hey ! Who switched the battery ?

Couple of things to talk about before I put the dinner on :

Wow. I was doing fine this week, hyper to the point of having to work hard to bite down on some of the weirder comments that pop into my head. Some of them escaped and there's a particularly nutty email waiting for someone when she gets in on Monday. (Work related !) But on an afternoon where I took flexi leave to watch the cricket, I just crashed ... Going for a little SleepySession upstairs while the cricket's on type crashed.

Could be a Friday thing, could be a Body-Needs-Minerals thing. It's probably conditioning but I'll attack the minerals thing later by grabbing a Fish Supper. The thyroid works by using Iodine, which is an element that it uses to make the hormones that contribute to regulating energy levels.

So where does the fish come in ? Well, there's a couple of ways to get your Iodine, supplements or natural. By natural, that's foods that have a decent Iodine content, like seafood. Supplements will do a job too but they can have other effects too, less desirable ones. Things like the multivitamins I had to stop taking because they turned my personality into one most people wouldn't want to know.

So it'll be codnchips tonight :-) After a bacon sarnie and turkey sandwich from the lovely canteen girls earlier. I eat well at the moment, perhaps too well ;-)

What's number two on things to talk about today ?

Well - the dinosaur that work can be (hey - all organisations can be slow to wake up to a rapidly changing world and slow can be a good thing, it means we haven't done a Knee Jerk reaction) has woken up to all the Social Engineering stuff we can do nowadays. That'd be Facebook, Blogging, Twittering and all the rest.

Spotted the reaction on the work internal news pages today and to be fair to them, it's actually a good one. They've split it into two, Sponsored and Personal. Sponsored is where you actively declare what you're working on and effectively become a mouthpiece of the organisation. Personal is like what this blog will remain, a non work use of a way to say Hello World. And for me, another way to sort out thoughts and get them out of my head before my head explodes.

I read the info on it today and to be even more fair, they've called it Guidelines instead of Rules. Sponsored is a little heavy (too much editorial control, seems too much like a job) but I reckon they've done a decent job with the Personal guidelines. They're actually looser than the ones I operate already, which boil down to :

Talk about the Good, rant elsewhere about the Bad.
Keep the anonymity going,
Look for fun Codenames, only talk about people if you think they won't mind.
Don't let slip any personal information - always sensible.
(like - "hey ! I'm away with work for a week, come steal stuff from my house!" would be bad)

There's a lot of great people where I work but I only mention a limited selection cos my imagination has failed to come up with decent codenames for some of the others. Quite a few people at work know about my blog now (including my boss) and I think my boss's boss had his eyes opened by how much information can be picked up when you go to a website due to me using Sitemeter as an example. Your IP address can be a goldmine and if you run a website or a domain, your true name and home address could well be publicly available.

Looks like with the new guidance I can happily keep on going the same way I have so far :-) But I won't be starting up a Sponsored one. The rules there have way too much editorial control taken out of the hands of the author, which is fairy nuff but it's not something I'm interested in getting involved with. Oh there's also a "no endorsements" rule in there, which I've broken a heap of times already cos I like to say when I see good stuff and me saying I use HP laptops or Ford cars is technically an endorsement.

Right - getting hungry now, so it's time to chuck the fish in the oven (maybe a little garlic bread too :-) and pay more attention to the 4 Eleventh Hour episodes I'm watching tonight :-)

PS The Iodine thing is something I've figured out - everyone's body is unique and we all react to stuff in different ways. I've figured a link between crashing and Iodine from fish and it could well be psychosomatic. If you know yourself, then you'll be able to fix the various imbalances we suffer from. Like my current upset tummy - it's not something it's eaten, it's more like it's shouting "EAT SOMETHING!", time to put the oven on so I can do just that :-)