Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thinning out

Been on my diet for a few months now.

Ok, it's not a real "have a weird formula milkshake instead of sensible meals" diet and it doesn't have any real theory to it except for applying a bit of moderation to what I consume. As in :

Only eat stuff when hungry
Munch in moderation
Avoid grazing
Not over indulging

Thinking of that : time to put tonight's dinner on ... Done ! Completely changing what I eat could quite quickly lead to problems anyway because I seem to be sensitive to things like cheese (and cucumber - makes me throw up)

It's more discipline for continuing with munching what I used to but having less of it. Cookie packets are definitely lasting longer. Not had pizza for ages, although that's partly due to Pizzahut stopping the offer that favours single people. Dominos might be getting another shot (requires a car trip, Pizzahut is in walking distance).

So yeah - cookie moderation instead of cookie monster.

How's it been going ? People have been noticing me being a bit smaller ...

The scales do not lie ! Or maybe they do because I doubt whether they're in any way accurate any more.

I started at a little over 14 stone, which for my current build is probably 2 stone overweight. 12 stone is still heavy ... but I'm allowing myself that because I have quite heavy legs that let me Run Very Fast. Or rather, they would if they didn't have the ballast to tug around.

I've not lost tonnes of weight, that was never the intention. Losing weight too rapidly will cause you problems and it's likely to go right back on again. The last time I had sick time off work (ages ago), I couldn't eat for several days and probably lost a full stone over that time. The next week, that weight was right back on again. Starvation diets will do no long term good whatsoever. The plan has always been to enact a new discipline and lose the weight steadily.

So far the weight loss tally is 7-10 pounds. The variation there is because my weight will go up or down a couple of pounds within half a day. The minimum I've spotted so far is 13st2lbs this morning. Happy days.

What have I noticed with it so far ?

I have more energy ... Dunno if this is the weight loss, the metabolism getting quicker or just Positive Mental Attitude ... but I definitely have more energy. I'm having to watch myself due to hyperactivity. When I go hyper, I have to consciously check myself and what I do because I'll miss stuff I should catch automatically. It's not carelessness, it's just moving on to the next thing before the check bit is done.

Brr. Cold. It's turned colder over the past few days and I'm reaaaaallly feeling it. Must have less insulation, although you'd have thought the hyperactivity manicness would keep me warm.

I can dance ... Not in the strut my stuff in a nightclub kind of way (I have 2 left feet) but the old agility and quickness of feet is returning. At my previous weight, I think I'd have run someone over a couple of times by now but managed to avoid the corridor collisions. And my legs were healthy enough on the walk to the car tonight to let me go Maximum Speed. That's walking with a stride so long you're in danger of splitting your trousers.

People are noticing ... Did I say that already ?

Me being littler is being spotted. Ok, that's the third time I've said that but I'm quite pleased that MiniMizingMe is noticeable.

I do need to figure out a balance though, as my salt/potassium balance is off. That tends to be quite crucial with me as if it's off, I get cramps which tear up my muscles. But I think I'll manage to figure it out before the summer's cricket.

PS I promise not to take it too far and go anorexic. The first time someone says "You're too thin ! Have a PIZZA", I'll come running.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Snow's here ! Or maybe not ...

I like Snow.

Although it's a bad idea for my shoulder, I like throwing snowballs at people. I'm usually nimble enough too to have a chance to dodge out the way of Revenge Snowballs. I was the first person a few years ago to have a Snowman - I went out in late evening and built a miniature Snowthing on one of my wheelybins. And I really miss having a SnowSmiley picture on my phone to show random people who I think are in need of seeing a Big Grin.

SnowThing pic : is at this post
(he looks kinda pissed there)
SnowSmiley : is at this other post
(the SnowSmiley pic was from my last phone)

Had the first snow for a while this morning but it was very light and didn't stick around. Think we need to offer prayers to the Snow Gods for more snow. At least for a couple of days because the snow novelty tends to wear thin about 5 seconds after you get stuck for the first time.

My last car had a habit of getting me halfway to work fine. And then the traction control and ABS would cry "NO MORE !" and disable themselves. Usually precisely halfway. Not sure what this one will do - it has less power, more weight, better weight distribution but double the torque. Could be interesting on ice. But it'll be better than the Puma which only had very crude traction control.

Other stuff - I got to meet my sister's bloke over the weekend. He can stay. We gathered together for my dad's birthday (he's 21 + a lot). And it was a pretty chilled out weekend too. And SuperWaitress at the Swanholme thought I'd lost a stone since I was last there too, which made me grin. (Actual tally is 0.5 stone)

More other stuff - my mind is a little muddled at the moment because I'm worried about a couple of people at work ... And my reaction to it. I'm recognising a huge case of deja vu in what's going on there. Both situations. Although the deja vu is more applicable to one than the other :

Depression is nasty - and I can recognise the hopelessness that inspires it from a few incidents in my past. I'm lucky though that my depression cycles have been due to events rather than chemical/biological issues.
Breakups are as bad - except that other people are involved. Depression tends to be a solitary problem, which makes it harder for other people to realise how big the problem is.

I can still remember the long drawn out heartache from when my last major relationship broke up. I wouldn't wish that on anybody. In my case, it was my partner walking out and demanding her cut of the equity we'd gained in the house. I believe she thought that I would have to sell up, however I was confident (with the knowledge I'd been paying about 3/4 of the mortgage anyway and the major bills) that I'd be able to ride it through. It still cost me a 5 figure sum to buy her out though, which worked out to extra money on the mortgage, a reset of the 25 year clock and some lean times for the next few years.

(That's the first time I've exposed that truth outside very few people, like count 'em on one hand)

What made it worse is that Evil Ex* continued on with a theme of upsetting people, to the point where she rapidly alienated herself from my little circle of valued friends. *I only use the name "Evil Ex" because of the alliteration factor :-) Alienation factor gone, alliteration amusement factor - high :-) I'd like to think I'm over it to the point of being able to give a hug if we meet again socially ... but it does take two people to make a hug.

The house equity was only half of it though. For at least six months after, I caused myself untold self inflicted emotional damage by rebounding left and right on people where I was quite frankly, kidding myself. Rejection can do nasty things to a mind already grieving for a relationship. I'm curious as to how other people saw me over those 6-12 months. I know I was a mess inside.

Yep - it hit me hard and still affects me, although not nearly as much as when the wounds were open and bleeding. But because I've been through it, I can recognise the hell that might be about to erupt for a certain person.

I hope it doesn't work out that way - I always have my fingers crossed for Good Things, even if I'm just watching from the outside.

Oh dear - I've Wall Of Texted again. Last word - if you think someone around you has lost Hope, give 'em a helping hand. A little "I believe in you" can go a long way with a person who has lost sight of something to hope for. And if there's one thing I do so much it could be counted as a fault (definitely causes my Real Boss exasperation!), it's help people out where I can. (Although communication skills and confidence gets in the way of people asking)

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Awwwww :

(click for bigger)

PS Managed to not kill anyone on the roads yesterday :-)

Friday, January 27, 2012



As the Facebook status says :

"Think i've operated solely on fumes and self anger and loathing today. No breaks, bacon sarnie or lunch, just starting to get hungry. Home time."

I get really cranky when I'm hungry. And the reason for the self anger and loathing is self inflicted. Plan for today was to get in early for a meeting and then use the flexi credit to head off early to watch live cricket. Didn't happen that way.


But - the stuff done today will lay the groundwork for stuff later (need to do something fast on Monday though to cut a bit of time out of how long a different job will take).

Stopping later means I don't watch live cricket but I'll have the highlights on later after an episode of A Town Called Eureka (great series). That's probably a +.

Working at 120% means I got stuff done but I completely forgot to get lunch (missed breakfast bacon as a self-punishment) which I'll pay for later when I travel.

Need to make sure my head's right for the travelling later. If I'm still angry at myself then I could well be a danger to others. Certain checks I have as part of "ME" get bypassed when I drive. I'm sure everyone can relate to that due to how instinctive you need to be while driving because of all the other idiots on the roads.

I'm my own worst enemy and my own worst critic although, unless I go to that instinctive level of operating, no one else will be allowed to see it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Simple Person's Daybook

Welcome back to blogging to Dawnie :-) (link's been added in the sidebar)

Thought I wouldn't put a post in tonight but Dawn's first one caught the eye so much I had to steal it :

Outside My Window :

Is more light. In the daytime at least. Because it's winter, all the leaves have fallen off the overgrowth out the back so the light can get in. Must clear it properly so I get light in the summer ...

I am thinking :

Bzzzzzzzz. I'm flicking between hyperactivity and hypoactivity at the moment. When I'm hyperactive, my thinking is usually going 3 times the speed of normal. Think hamster on coffee. I have to watch myself because I'm more prone to saying or doing something without thinking it through properly. Or I'll just trip up over myself and look like a stammering idiot. But I do like the hyperactivity, it usually comes from me doing something right.

I am thankful for :

Being in a great team (although its days are numbered) and on a great project. Really feel like we've achieved something with the work that's been put in. When times got hard, we pulled together and sorted things out. Despite the disruptive efforts of people outside the team. Our results shine for themselves, their silly questions got answered with "We got it right all along". We've been blessed with a consistent stream of committed professional people who have been awesome to know.

From the kitchen :

Is coming murmuring from the cupboards. It's the lemon minimuffins shouting "Eat me", competing with the Mini Eggs that are whispering "You know you wantit"

I am wearing :

Earlier - suit for work. Now it's white fleecey top over orange t-shirt with an alien type sticker with "Just visiting" on it. Thought that was apt. Finish that off with comfy trousers to let my leg get more healing air.

I am creating :

Same. Not a lot. Apart from mess. I'd like to build a kit car at some point but don't have the facilities to do it. I'll also need to keep my current car for a lot of years so I can afford one.

I am reading :

At home ? Not enough. I'm stalled on Game Of Thrones. When I get home from work, I'm not usually that interested in doing that much outside of websurfing. I guess the last story I went through was in the Deus Ex Human Revolution game. It's not a paper novel, it's probably more. There's as much story in there as some novels (more maybe) and you are at the centre of it instead of looking in from the outside.

At work, today I reviewed a System Requirements Document, which is more intense than reading a book as you need to put mental energy into making sure the document is right. If you don't, you have trouble buying what you want and what you get may not be what you wanted. I think my comments from today will help.

I am hoping :

That the darn car alarm won't go off again. It's gone off twice that I've noticed but not since I disabled the smart entry system. I also have other hopes that I'm going to tease people with by not saying what they are :-)

Around the house :

Is way too much clutter. I have a couple of essential maintenance jobs to do. I need to catch up with housework. And I need to have a massive clearout of all the rubbishy paper junk I have trouble letting go of.

I am looking forward to :

Silencing those minimuffins in the kitchen. And the next cakes that appear at work. Also the next Craziemob gathering. But most of all is seeing if I can persuade a Very Special Guest to join us for that next Craziemob gathering.

If I could change one thing, it would be :

Being so injury prone. I'm getting many reminders now of things broken in the past. I'd like to have a shoulder that's completely working instead of the broken one I do have. Apart from that, I wouldn't change the 2 relationships now gone or other "mistakes" as I've learned a lot from all of those experiences. And I think I've improved as a person through them. But I would like to have less underlying pain from shoulder, wrist, legs, back.

One of my favourite things :

My most favourite thing is making people smile. Hence one habit of writing nice things about people on here. Oh and running full speed such that the wind rustles past my ears. Must get back into cricket this year.

A few plans for the rest of the week :

Travelling this weekend but apart from that, not much. I'll chill out tomorrow, maybe get back in time from work on Friday to watch a little cricket.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reversed Psychology

Sometimes my head behaves so strangely even I can't keep track of it.

Currently on a bit of a downer even though I have no reason whatsoever for it. I've had lots of reasons to be grinning today :

Mrs Sunshine was back after a birthday. Which meant cakes. Which meant lots of chances to say Happy Birthday (while stealing a cake). And you can bet that I found a few excuses to say Happy Birthday to Mrs Sunshine and get that wonderful smile in response.

And I definitely don't believe the claimed age. It's lies. Mrs Sunshine can be no older than 21.

There is always the amazing Snow Queen, who happily seems in good cheer at the moment. Our Snow Queen has been one of the best things about working on my project since almost Day 1 (she joined after 6 months) and it was a really sad day when she left for another project a little while ago. That seemed like a good idea at the time (10 years on a project is a Long Time), even though the inner voice was going "You can't leave - Don't go !" :-)

Was over the moon when I heard our Snow Queen was coming back. She does things her way, which is not always the way we ask her to do stuff. Nope. Things get done the Right Way. Engineer instructions are often well intentioned but quite bad for keeping things straight, we just patch over the gaps with duck tape. People like our Snow Queen, Queen Bee and Superspy (who's retired now) help us maverick engineers in not putting our fingers in the firey stuff.

There's also The Boss, who returned from a baby break last year and got straight back into the swing of things barely missing a beat. Despite engineers asking daft questions.

Where would we be without them ? Probably forever hunting for the information we need to get stuff done.

That's enough about people (for now at least). Work wise I managed to finish something off today which I thought would take longer. Happy about that because it was meeting minutes, which I hate because I start doubting a memory I expect to be perfect (I have a photographic memory that's nowhere near perfect and it works better with stuff I've read than stuff I've heard). Got that done despite a few "Do Immediate" distractions which needed some serious headscratching.

Last week I got to see what I've been working on, which is amazing. Walking in from car park to office, I allowed out a happy "Hello Diamond". We're more visible in the news these days and it's great seeing something go from paper and powerpoint to actual living steel. I bet I'd feel the same way if I joined the kit car world as the car steadily came to life.

So things are actually going ok, there's just something in my head that's blocking the Be Happy message.

I suspect a little of that might be having less interaction with people at home compared to work. Since leaving the WoW world, I've missed having that chance to dip in and out of chat in the evening. I think I needed that as a crutch after my last relationship broke up.

But it'll also be down to lack of sleep. I've been running light on sleep lately with being captured in the Deus Ex world and last night was especially bad. I went to bed at a reasonable time but due to legs being really sore, probably only got maybe 2 hours of sleep.

That's not enough. Will try to make up for that tonight (finished the second DXHR run last night) and hopefully that'll be without needing the Rubber Mallet.

Oh ! Happy Birthday Mrs Sunshine (again) ! :-) And I shall hit "Publish Post" and treat myself to one of the mini-muffins in the cupboard in honour of your "It's definitely 21, it has to be".

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ballet movies are scary

Just watched Black Swan. I missed this one in the cinema as the Craziemob didn't really want to see it (can't remember actually, it could have been part of the summer/winter film glut). I like to catch up with the major films I've missed, films like Thelma & Louise where I need to know the background to a couple of new codenames :-)

Thought I'd do a classical music post in honour of Black Swan. How about Black Swan ? This is a seriously brilliant, crazy, beautiful, insane movie showing the descent into madness of a ballerina. It's scary and one reason for that is the doubt on screen. I'm sure everyone reading this will recognise how inner doubt can be crippling and how it can drive you deeper under a cloud of "is what I'm doing right ?".

Black Swan - see it, at least once. The soundtrack is amazing too with it complementing the acting on screen, I'm thinking about buying it just for that. But ... I don't think I will as it's one of those movies I'd only want to watch once.

Anyway - classical music. I have a decent amount of this in the library and I thought I'd pick out 10 of the favourites :

1 - In The Hall Of The Mountain King by Grieg. This is one of the highlights from Peer Gynt and is a favourite of many, being seen in games, movies, ads, you name it. If you've missed it, here it is performed by the Lego Symphonic Orchestra.

2 - In all my years of gaming, only one game has come close to provoking a tear. That game is Homeworld and the opening mission ends with you returning to your home planet to find it in ruins and burning. All you can do is escape with the few colonists you can rescue. Where the emotional impact really kicks is with the soundtrack, it's Adagio for Strings by Barber. In fact, I returned to this game for another go a few years ago. And I felt the tears again at that sequence.

Music can do that to you.

Third on my list is Raindrop by Chopin. I admire elegance over almost everything else and the timing of the piano of this piece is just pure elegance. That's from the raindrop like timing of the individual notes, through the counterpoint of the two piano parts and into the movement between parts of the piece. Here's Raindrop played by "Anonymous passionnée"

4th is for the fourth planet in our solar system, Mars. This opens the Planets suite by Holst. I'd agree with a few of the comments for the YT video "How can you listen to this and not burst into applause immediately?"

5th is for the Doctor and the season where the best modern Doctor came in. Here's his theme from the start of season 6 "I am the Doctor in Utah". Ok, it's not Classical in the purist sense but I'd be inclined to term soundtracks as New Classical. It's just that instead of having ballet as a backdrop, they form the counterpoint to action on screen.

6 - Talking of ballet and remembering what prompted this post showing my occasional love for Classical, here's the American Ballet with the finale to Swan Lake.

7 - Is going to be from Carnival Of The Animals by Saint-Saëns. But which one ! This has many favourites including Aquarium, Fossiles and the cd I have with it also has Dance Macabre. Meh - I'll nominate the whole piece, a collection of fourteen movements that are all classics in their own right.

8 - If I'm including soundtracks, I have to include something from Scifi that had me caught in the Star Trek universe. The original Star Trek Motion Picture came with a Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack, who has been one of the gods of soundtracks for years. Here's the introduction to the refitted Enterprise. Delicate, Grace & Majesty combined. The Star Wars theme is good but this is better. Sorry Mr Williams !

9 - Claire de Lune by Debussy. I doubt many non-classical fans could name this but they will recognise it instantly. It's one you can close your eyes and drift away to.

10 - Lastly, from Last Night of The Proms is the Pomp and Circumstance March from Elgar. If anything sums up the pride and character of Britons, this is it. This is the Land of Hope and Glory, straight from the Royal Albert.

Hope you enjoy those as much as I have digging them out of Youtube :-) I shall have to queue them up on iTunes later as listening to them on laptop speakers with badly compressed sound does them no justice whatsoever.

And there's far too much that's missed this random selection of 10, no Bach, no Tchaikovsky, no Beethoven, no Mozart, no Mussorgsky. I shall have to investigate record shops ...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Taking stock before the season

I'm hoping that I'll be in a fit state to play cricket again this year, after the past 2 suffering heavily from injury related setbacks.

2010 - during the first few games, I was slowed down by a groin strain affecting my right hip. I could still Run Real Fast in a straight line but the groin strain affecting turning and accelerating. It also hit my brakes but that's not a problem usually. Just takes longer to get back in position.

I enjoy close fielding more than outfielding, there's more chance to make a difference when you're fielding close in. I aim to scare the batsmen off running by swooping quickly on the ball. I've not made a runout for a while but I keep the score down by discouraging the batsmen from running. The response to the groin strain was to field even closer.

But ... this was also the season of the possibly fractured leg. I never got that diagnosed (intentionally) but this one slowed me down for most of that season. I could run fairly ok on the soft earth of a cricket outfield but had real trouble on roads. And over the top of all that was the poorly shoulder which prevents me from bowling. No diagnosis ? All they'd have done would be to immobilise the leg by putting in a cast, which would have wrecked the muscle and been highly awkward. I could still put weight on the limb, so the pain was a helpful "take care" message. Painkillers would have blocked that message and maybe made me cause more damage.

2011 was a different matter ... I played (badly!) in two games and then had to drop out due to crippling back pain. I'm blaming the chairs in some of the new meeting rooms. And then I developed a skin problem on my legs which is taking ages to go away. The skin thing killed chances of cricket because I couldn't put a knee pad over it.

So 2011 was just two games and had me wondering if my legs would be in shape to allow me to take to the cricket field again.

I'm hoping for better from 2012 cricket but it's a good idea to take stock before the season to know whether it's a good idea. Hell, I don't really care whether it's a good idea, I just miss that feeling of the wind whipping past my ears when I Run Real Fast.

Shoulder - is still there. Hasn't fallen off. Hasn't gotten any better either to the point where it often feels like there's a cluster of strong fingers digging into it. But ... as long as I stay away from the outfield and hold my temper if I drop a catch (I lose it and do hard throws) then I should be ok. Just not a good idea for me to try to bowl.

Weight - mixed news here. I'm consistently down half a stone (my weight goes up or down a couple of lbs each day - tis normal) but I've kinda stalled there. I'm refusing to get downhearted about that, as the weight loss effort is more about being disciplined about what I eat. And I think I'm managing that. I'm comfort eating much less than I used to and I can't remember when I last had pizza.

Less weight will mean Run Very Fast instead of just Real Fast. What I have to watch out for is keeping the right kind of balance in my body, as being out of balance leads to damage from cramps.

Back - been suffering from this over the past week. I think it's more a motivational thing. Minor low level (albeit continuous) pain I can ignore if my head's in the right place. I just have to unlock the right motivation to see me through the pain.

Legs - are improving. Although like the weight, there's Good and Bad days here. It's hugely improved from what it was a few months ago and today, it's happy enough to allow a knee brace to be put on it. Knee pads are essential for me in the field as I make up for lack of skill & practice with enthusiasm. That can involve me stopping cricket balls with my knee so a knee pad gives them a fighting chance to stay usable.

However, this is a good day for the legs as tomorrow they may get angry red on me again. We shall see. At least the skin is fully intact again now.

General fitness - Even though I am at least 1 stone heavier than I should be for my height & build, I'm blessed with what could be called Natural Fitness. Without any preparation work, I'll be able to hit that first game running. Sure, I'll hurt like hell for about 3 days after but recovery time should let me be ready for the next game. And I recover the fitness very quickly. I just need to carry around less weight so there's less strain on the rest of me. Hell, I went up Snowdon without much prep work although my legs were trying to cramp up and explode. That was 26 miles walking added to the up and down the mountain combined with doing all the driving for the weekend. And that's just 20 months ago.

What else ... I got given a weird mouse for work because I got spotted having trouble with an RSI affected wrist. This is more of a cold thing though and is one of those things I can ignore if the motivation is there.

Apart from all that, things seem rosy. The kicker will be if those legs keep recovering to the point where I can put a knee pad on over the bad skin. Fingers crossed I can still remember some technique :-).

Motivation is another make or break. I struggled last week in work, which probably had a lot to do with the early start on Tuesday. The struggle manifests in not noticing having done stuff. I like/need to feel I'm being effective and struggle if I'm not. Trouble is in the "noticing" ... I look back on last week and realise I did get a fair bit of stuff done, I just wasn't noticing at the time. I managed to be one of the last people out every day too so when it comes to sticking in there to finish things off, I was doing ok.

But that's enough about work. Still lots to do there and last Tuesday's trip was well worth it. I got to see what I've helped build, which is awesome. It let me see the people down there too, which always helps for being on the same page with what you want to be doing.

How to close ... At age 37, I don't have that many seasons left for cricket but I hopefully have at least one more in me. The type of cricket I play, evening cricket, works well for that because it's made up of short games and easier competition.

Will I manage to persuade someone into being my motivation (hopefully she has strong fingers and patience!) ? Hopefully :-) Be even better if she's prepared to get some fresh air every once in a while ignoring the muppets on the cricket field :-). I tried to get Evil Ex to come along to a game or two as the fresh air would have done her good. And it would have been perfectly acceptable for the cricket to be ignored in favour of a good book and occasional "yes dear".

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday Thirteen - Facebook

I haven't done a Thursday Thirteen for ages ... And I figured I'd step back in with a few random thoughts. I'm fairly active on Facebook, more active than I am in looking around the blogging world. FB looks for shorter, sharper posts and most of the time I try and make people grin with what I post.

Here's a selection of the recent FB insanity :

1 - Sharing ICanHazCheezburger's National Popcorn Day. Having to postpone this because I'm too drained right now to demolish a bucket of popcorn.

2 - "Was going to get 'healthy' stuff earlier but now has something infinitely better". I have cookies !

3 - "hmph. You'da thought that with all the hot water I've just had on me from a long and much needed shower (sore back), the heating would have come on to make the t-shirts on the radiator warm ! :-)" That was a really good shower. Back definitely felt better for a while. It's not that bad, I'm just noticing it more than usual at the moment due to being drained.

4 - "think I learned something at Costa earlier ... I might not be as anti-cheese as I thought I was :-) Think it was actually their hot chocolate which was setting me off ..." I have a sensitive belly. It definitely reacts to cheese but what I didn't realise was that it was also reacting to hot chocolate. I guess it's coffee from now on. MUAHAHAHA

5 - "Internet = broke -> sad face". And there was another pointing to Virginmedia's status page. Lost connectivity to the net on Tuesday. It's only when you lose something that you're used to being 100% available that you notice it's gone. And my ISP has been almost 100% reliable since I've been with them with only occasional quibbles.

6 - "That's a quarter of the month's data allocation for the mobile used this morning. Back to the ipod for this pm :-)". That's from listening to cricket commentary on Tuesday morning :-) Great result for Geek Squad Testing, awful result for England's cricket.

7 - "Definitely easier to travel at silly o'clock". I managed to get my butt on the road at 5.30am on Tuesday, half an hour earlier than intended. I suspect that if I'd tried to get 30 more minutes of Head In Pillow, I'd have set off at 6.30 or later. I know what I'm like. Anyway - roads were pretty good and the sun was coming up by the time I was getting close to the destination.

8 - "brainzzzzz". Sent at 05.23 Tuesday morning. I probably looked like a zombie too.

9 - "why am I still chatting to people online when I need to be on the road in 6 hours ? Rubber Mallet time :-)" This was someone on Steamchat who I met at random in a games shop last year. I was still chatting cos I think I was making someone laugh :-).

10 - "I fueled-up my Lexus CT200h, 43.5 UK MPG". This is an automatic thing that pops up when I tell Fuelly that I've filled up the car. It was only half a tank but with 240 miles to go the next day, I wanted fuel in the car because I didn't know where the cheap petrol stations would be on the route.

11 - "Daft question - why would a work machine email browser need to support internet banking ? And who would be prepared to submit their login credentials to something with potential keylogging ..." We had a bulletin come round saying that the IE6 browser which we're forced to use at work would be updated to IE8. And they stated specifically that it would now support internet banking. I would never, EVER, trust my personal login credentials to a work machine. I just don't know how much key logging, data logging, packet monitoring is done. Just that monitoring does take place on the work internet connection. Besides, it's work. Internet banking is for home.

12 - "just spotted - Best Gaming CPUs with comment "only upgrade if there's 3 tiers now and new". My old cpu only just gets on the list ! (Athlon 64 X2-3800+ up to i5-2500k)". I've updated the link there as Tomshardware have updated their chart. Still a big leap from my old PC to the new one and the old one could still do a reasonable job on newer games like SWTOR, Mass Effect 2 and DXHR.

Last one : 13 - "some forum moderators should be shot for being dangerous ..." Oh yes. The public folders at work got shut down partly because some of the moderators allowed things to explode to a point where the Bosses took notice. This comment came up because one of the moderators on CT200hforum was putting on instructions that could lead to irreparable (expensive) damage to people's cars ... He put the "how to break it ?" instruction on and didn't include the "This WILL break the car" warnings.

I managed to resist putting a comment in about certain women being rated on : Number Of Cheezburgers Required To Look Healthy. I like curves ! This was from a Mall trip earlier where there were more than a few fashion victims limping around who had that hollow look and stilted walk that comes from extreme dieting. I wish women wouldn't do that to themselves.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Grid Computing and when the apps don't play fair ...

I like to leave my main PC on all day. Or at least, on overnight so I can quickly check my emails on the way out the door to work without having to wait for it to boot up. (see the PS ...)

But ... The "who's paying the electric bill?" part of me thinks that might be a little wasteful. So ... I remembered back a few years to when the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) was popular. That's now evolved into an application called BOINC, which can manage multiple projects that will use your spare cpu time for something better than just keeping the house warm.

So I have a series of projects that use the spare cpu cycles on my desktop PC to do sums for research projects. If you look on Task Manager on a work PC, check the "System Idle Time". After a full day, that System Idle Time could be around 7 hours per cpu core. And that's with you in for 8 hours. Yep, most of the time your work PC is on, it's actually doing nothing but waiting for the disc, network or you to tap the keys.

BOINC puts that spare cpu power to good use.

Think of the number of PCs in the average organisation and then multiply it by that 90% idle time. It's close to Supercomputer power that's just not being used. The Met Office keep asking for new supercomputers, they probably have enough spare cpu cycles in their offices to not need them (they actually use BOINC too).

There's a wide range of applications that BOINC runs :

Medical research
Alien Hunting
Climate research
Cryptography (I don't support this)
And the list goes on, including apps which I think are a waste like chess analysis and prime number analysis. I'll also not support the Cryptography apps (I don't think it's in my best interest) and a good few years ago I sacked one because it switched from honest medical research to bioweapon research in a misguided response to the Anthrax scare that followed 9/11. I understand what they were thinking but I think it was really bad ethics ...

So what makes me choose one ? And what makes me sack 'em ?

Basically, if I think the app is going to be productive and useful I'll see if can use the machine. I currently run SETI, Rosetta (medical), World Community Grid (medical), Milkyway (cosmology), Spinhenge (dunno!), Einstein (physics/cosmology) and Climate Prediction (gief snow!). Of those, Einstein is being fired but I'll let it go through the work first.

What makes me ditch a project ?

If it doesn't play fair with the rest of them then I'll show what I think of that by not giving it any cpu cycles. There's a few that have fallen foul of that :

Einstein - floods the machine with work to such a degree that other projects weren't being allowed a chance.
World Community Grid - some of the projects inside this have been fired because their deadlines are too short.

The way BOINC works is that it divides up calculations into Work Units, small bites that a home machine can cope with. These can take anything between 5 minutes to 400 hours on my Intel i5-2500k powered machine. Each work unit has a deadline by which the results have to come back, these deadlines are usually sensible. However ...

WCG - some of the individual projects ask for their results to come back inside a few days, instead of the customary 10 days for a 5 hour work unit.
LHC - set deadlines of less than a week.
GRID - 5 days for the only work unit I'll do for them.

BOINC will then choose which project it runs based on deadline and time left. If time is tight, it'll assign a high priority to work that might not be ready in time. GRID's forced its one app to go immediately High Priority and when LHC@home actually had work, it set the deadlines so short that the same thing happened.

There's other meanie apps too. They'll effectively Game the queue system to get priority for their science. I don't think that's on and I respond by giving up the spare cpu time to science that plays fair.

What can run it ? Any PC and I think the Linux & Mac powered ones too. I wouldn't recommend it for laptops because they're not designed to be running calculations 100% of the time all the time. They get hot because the cpu is doing Stuff. Does it affect things like gaming ? Not necessarily and definitely not for me. I have BOINC set to only do calcs if the machine is idle for 3 minutes which gives Full Steam Ahead to Deus Ex HR or whichever game I'm on.

So that's BOINC - how I justify having my machine on all day :-)

PS Time for bootup is no longer an issue ... The SSD boot drive in my desktop makes power on happen faster than some conventional machines will come off standby ...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


One of the few flaws of my latest car is that it doesn't pick up Long Wave on the radio. That's not a big flaw but it could have stopped me listening to cricket commentary. And anyone knows me knows that if it were anatomically possible, I'd gnaw my ears off to get to England test match cricket commentary.

But ... an away trip with work provided the ideal excuse to test out a new bit of playing with toys. Test Match starts 0600. Trip was scheduled to start at 0600. Spooky coincidence ? Maybe :-) To be honest, it was pure coincidence because I budget for a 60mph average, which makes the 120 mile trip roughly 2 hours. And then I add an hour of leeway because of traffic and because it's always better to arrive fresh and relaxed for a meeting than flustered due to being late. So a 0900 start (set up time needed before 0930 meeting start) meant getting on the road by 0600. I actually managed to get on the road a bit earlier which allowed a chance for a wake up coffee :-)

Hey - I'm getting away from the purpose of this post :-)

What apps am I using on the Android phone right now ? When I first got my latest phone, I didn't think I'd use the smartphone aspects half as much as I do. What makes it better is that I can send the audio from the phone to the car via Bluetooth.

Bluetooth integration - this comes with the phone and car and allows them to do things like handsfree carphoning. The Lexus kit works really well, it's like having a spiderphone in the car. Impressive.

Tune In Radio -

Lack of LongWave for Radio 4 LW made me go "oops" as I realised it would put a severe cramp into being able to listen to cricket commentary. Enter this app, which allows you to easily get to internet radio stations (that you could get to via their sites anyway!) through its own custom menus. It worked pretty well and its buffering meant that silent moments due to bad signal weren't plentiful enough to get annoying.

I'd heartily recommend this app, although I'd put a warning down that it will munch through your internet data allocation if you use it too much. Bluetooth integration worked well and sound quality matched or bettered that of the car's AM radio.

Radardroid -

This is a speed camera database app that runs on an Android phone. It'll use the phone's GPS to tell it where you are and lets you know if there's danger of speeding fines ... Bluetooth integration didn't seem to work though and the database was either patchy or being quiet due to me not speeding. Still, having a "Speed Camera Soon" voice coming from the centre console is better than no warnings at all :-)

Will have to give it another shot when I'm not using the phone for cricket commentary. I also need to recruit a friend to keep an eye on the speed display while I hit a steady speed like 60 on normal roads or 70 on motorway. Purpose - see exactly how much my speedo overreads, I think it's a +5% overread which I'm ok with. I'll need help for that because I don't want to be holding the phone up to read it while doing 60-70.

Marinetraffic - Lets you see where ships are in the world because there's loads of people out there who collect reports from the AIS (Automatic Identification System) boxes they have on board. I don't use this that much but it's a nice to have if you're interested.

ECBCricket - Essential for the cricket fan. Gives up to date score info where available.

Game authenticators - After having my Eve account info stolen, I take authentication a bit more seriously. I have both the Blizzard authenticator and the SWTOR authenticator. If you're involved in either game, it's worth having the authenticator. It's free. They give you a number with lots of digits that changes every minute, you put the number in with the login. Hackers could get your password but not the authenticator code.

Facebook - Hey. I'm an info junkie :-) Facebook = info. That reminds me ... done. (That was me switching Firefox tabs to poke Craziequeen)

Maps - This one came with the Google phone but is handier than you'd think ... The traffic overlay lets you quickly check how insane it would be to hit particular roads. Now I just need to remember to check it before venturing out the door ...

Notes - Another built in app. I use it to take postcodes to the car for satnav and used it today for logging my journey info. (Miles & Time for expenses and flexi)

TrackID - ever wondered what that great song is that's playing in the shop ? TrackID might tell you. If you get a signal, which I struggle to get in HMV these days.

Finally, IMDB - the mobile version of the Internet Movie Data Base which occasionally gets used.

I could say I use other apps like the calendar but I'm not that organised :-)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

We can rebuild him ... we have the technology

Just finished a play through of Deus Ex Human Revolution (DXHR)

I got this one last year but after a short look, I decided to shelve it until I did the PC upgrade planned for the Halloween week. My ageing dinosaur wasn't really up to the job of running a game as detailed as this.

Glad I waited, the DXHR experience was well worth the wait. Gamers expect different things nowadays from our A List titles. We look for story, gorgeous graphics and the ability to do exactly what we want in the game. That's pretty rare, even in new games. We also look for voice acting to replace the text only stuff we had before dvd's came along to hold all the data.

In short (okok it's me), we're looking for an immersive experience where we escape into another world. Whether that be fantasy, Earth fiction or other world fiction.

DXHR is what I'd call Earth fiction, based in the near future where augmentation technology is becoming part of everyday life. That's where amputees get their limbs back by technology providing artificial replacements. You are launched into a world with conspiracy, prejudice and urban decay utterly rife. You feel as if the rule of law is being set aside in favour of companies operating above that law ignoring the corrupt governments that get in their way.

And they pull it off very successfully too. I've happily been jumping into the DXHR world over the past few evenings, finishing it off tonight. I'll try and avoid spoilers.

The game engine plays a lot like a normal First Person Shooter with role play aspects built in. You steadily build up your character over the course of the game, adding more and more bionic capabilities to your character. Those include a radar, eyes that see through walls, hacking (big part of the game), limbs, lungs, everything.

Stealth is a massive aspect to the game. The ideal way to play through is to take down one or two bad guys at a time. The game is set up so that if you try to take on 3-4 armed men at the same time by storming in all guns blazing, you die fast. That difficulty just adds to the immersion. The cover system is very well realised. And you have a valid choice between lethal and non-lethal. My 3rd play through will go for the "Pacifist" achievement now I'm practiced in the stealthiness. (Want to play with the big guns in the next run)

It starts to blur the line between Game & Virtual Realm in a way that MMOs can't touch and games like Mass Effect are only just getting close to. It's far in advance of the older FPS's.

I'm kinda in danger of going too geeky here so I'll try and avoid getting too deep into techy nerd-dom. Suffice to say this game is about as close to letting the gamer do precisely what they want when it comes to dynamic combat situations.

However ... there's a catch. For all the stuff it lets you do while in combat, it's still severely limited while in story mode. A criticism of a lot of FPS style games is that they are on rails and this game is no exception. Outside of side quests, you're driven down a specific path with not much chance for straying. That said, it's a very good story. If it were a book, I'd give it a good few reads.

Right - I can no longer ignore the dinner bell coming from the microwave.

DXHR - Pro's : immersive, extensive, excellent story and great stealth combat system. Looks great too.
Con's : it's on rails. And that's about all I can think of.

PS Note I didn't include "free of bugs" in my list of what gamers look for. Sadly, we still buy games from companies that have terrible records with keeping their games bug free. I've just added DICE (Battlefield 3) to my Do Not Buy list, which also includes Bethesda. Too many bugs in their previous games for me to consider buying Skyrim.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Music weekend

Just over a year ago, I thought the iTunes library had gotten a little too old. One way I decide what I listen to is what I've listened to least ... And because some stuff had got into the library donkeys year ago, it was getting to be a while between listening to some of the best tracks in there.

I get bored of some stuff really easily ... That's a drawback of having the kind of memory I have. So I vary what I listen to by queueing up albums from the Longest Since Played list and the Least Played list. The next two albums I listen to will be a Simon & Garfunkel collection followed by Whatever by Aimee Mann. Apart from a pair of new Doctor Who soundtrack cd's, I've listened to everything in the library at least twice since resetting all the play counts last year.

What's got the most repeat listens so far ? One rule here - only one track per artist or group. And I'm picking my favourites. Cos I can :-) Youtube links where I can find 'em like usual :

1 - Cardigans with In The Round. Absolutely, totally, utterly love this track. This one is in the lead with 18 plays and a few more of their's are in the Most Played list too. 03.45am No Sleep is particularly special. This is the best though and will always get me joining in, no matter who's around to hear (before the run away screaming part).

2 - All About Eve with Apple Tree Man (strange video...). This one somehow hasn't managed to get in the Most Played (needs 13 and has 12) but it's better than the one that did (Devil Woman cover).

3 - Dire Straits with Expresso Love. It's the guitar intro (Knopfler is a god) combining with the piano that makes this track special. 17 plays for this one.

4 - Bunnies ! The video to What's A Girl To Do by Bat For Lashes has about 800,000 views on YT. At least 1% of those will be from me & my sister, we are firmly under the spell of Natasha Khan.

5 - Goldfrapp's Eat Yourself is in there with 15 plays but I actually prefer the Live Lounge cover of It's Not Over Yet. But I don't think that's written by Goldfrapp so I'll link Utopia instead. That voice is incredible (too good for laptop speakers he says adding it to the iTunes DJ queue) and to show it off so well live is making me want to check if they have any local tour dates coming soon.

6 - Has Edie Brickell for One Last Time but the YT of that doesn't work. I've linked No Dinero far too many times so here's another one off the excellent Stranger Things album : Buffalo Ghost.

7 - Always had a soft spot for Kate Bush, although that's for the early stuff. Not so keen on the new stuff. But when Don't Push Your Foot On The Heartbrake came on iTunesDJ, I just had to follow it with Oh England My Lionheart too. And it's one I can sing along to as well ! (When my voice is happier than it is at the moment)

8 - Oh yes. From one incredible lady singer to an incredible lady artist : KT Tunstall with That live version of Black Horse & The Cherry Tree.

9 - Michelle Shocked is in the library at 9 with Memories Of East Texas but I'm linking something more Bloggy : Anchorage.

And last one for today (gotta leave some !) :

10 - Has Norah Jones with Man Of The Hour but I've linked that a few times too. Don't Know Why it can't be something that's a little ... different ... this time. Magic with added puppets.

10 songs is enough for one post. Saving some for later. Songs like Set The Fire To The Third Bar, The Incidentals but All I Need right now with the weather gone chilly is a little California Dreamin' (Buffy's on).

PS The iTunes library doesn't know about the late night karaoke sessions where I dial up the favourite songs on Youtube for a bit of singing along to. That kind of thing is a "Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid". Muahaha.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Picture Wednesday - what a view

The computery thing that has my attention at the moment is Deus Ex Human Revolution. It's a pretty new A List game that came out last year. It looks awesome.

Just look at the view :

I was heading up to Upper Hengsha from Lower Hengsha and caught sight of that out of the window. That's a cheat though as what's outside the window isn't as dynamic (doesn't change) as the environments you play in so not as much computer work is needed. But that doesn't change the fact that pooters have improved considerably from the early days of 3d cards ... Back then that stunning vista would have been blurred out by fog to hide the lack of detail.

I have to admit that I'm getting considerable enjoyment out of this game. Some of my regulars feel like a grind. I enjoy Moo2, MoM and Settlers IV but the Big Fun of those happens just for a fraction of the time you play them for. This one, it maintains an excellent pace keeping the action going along with a decent storyline. I'm glad I waited before playing it though, as the lack of grunt from my last PC would have marred the experience.

The writers have a sense of humour too :

Wasn't me ! Honest guv.

(click piccys for something closer to the original full 1080p goodness)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Greenie Rant

One thing I'll do when I get home is dive through a series of websites having a look at what has happened over the day.

(Some people do that at work all day instead of doing work ... but I can't see how they find the time outside lunch or tolerance to suffer the limitations of internet at work)

Anyway. Latest one to cause a twitch is this one from Tomshardware - MIT Scientist Demands Gas Tax to Make Cars More Efficient.

There's not much in the story (Tomshardware is a bit of a lite news site which is ok cos lite = variation). But there's enough in there to tweak me into a rant mode. One thing that regularly hits the news is Green Taxation. Things like charging a congestion charge based on what people drive and where they drive. This usually gets touted as something needing devices to track exactly where you drive and thump you in the wallet if you dare to venture down the wrong alley.

I have a simple line when it comes to position tracking Congestion Charges. It's RUBBISH !!!!

The one in London is relatively ok but that's because it depends on number plate recognition for when you enter or leave the Forbidden Zone. But tracking people's cars is crazy in all sorts of ways. Every car would require a tracking device and that device would need to be monitored with the results translated into charging you for where you've been. Plus there's the Orwellian aspect of nabbing people for speeding based on the info from the tracker.

Device based tracking of cars for congestion charging is an awful way to go. I doubt whether the revenue raised would match the cost of the administration. It's too heavy handed and rather unnecessary.

So - this brings me to the article (which is ok and doesn't deserve a rant). It's looking for a gasoline tax, the idea being that vehicles that use more petrol get hit by the tax more. Petrol tax makes a huge amount of sense :

It's a charge on petrol used
People with gas guzzlers get hit hardest
Which makes Eco people happy
Driving on congested roads makes you burn more fuel
Doing Idiot speed is directly more expensive
It doesn't need any tracking devices

There's a lot of good reasons for it. In Britain, we have 2 main forms of tax associated with our cars : Road Tax and Petrol Tax. Road Fund Tax is a 6 or 12 month fee that gives you a disc that all cars over here need to display. To get one you need valid MoT (annual roadworthiness check) and Insurance. It has a sliding scale based on the car's emissions :

1999 Puma - £210 per year (actually £215 because it's old)
2002 Focus ST (hot one) - £260 per year (or £130 for the same age turbodiesel)
2011 Lexus CT hybrid - no charge
2012 Bentley Mulsanne (example!) - £460 per year with more in the first year

There's more charged in the initial years for the nasty cars. And that's not always the 4x4s ... The sporty cars tend to be nastier on emissions than the SUVs. Nissan's Juke SUV is the same tax as the Mk1 Focus turbodiesel.

Ok - how about petrol tax ... This is where the Greenies should wake up and realise there's already a massive congestion charge. More info here but it boils down to the government taking 80p out of every 133p per litre. (60%)

All those reasons I put above apply to petrol tax as a congestion charge. But that's not the end of the story. The Tomshardware article attacks the overriding trend of modern cars : More solidity leading to more weight, more power included in smaller engines being pushed harder. What cars have I had ?

Astra 1.6 - not too efficient carburettor engine, gave about 36 mpg. Light car, light engine - 90bhp/tonne.
Belmont 1.8 - fuel injected, gave 40-45mpg. Probably 110bhp/tonne. No catalytic convertor.
Puma - saddled with catalytic convertor - 36-40mpg. 110bhp/tonne.
Focus ST - 28-32mpg. 130bhp/tonne (maybe)
Lexus CT - 47-55mpg (expecting more in summer). 95bhp/tonne.
(bhp/tonne isn't the whole story - diesels develop less power but extraordinary torque. BHP = top speed, torque = acceleration. The CT has almost double the torque of the ST170 so acceleration is comparable)

The faster cars have been going Munchies on the fuel. Modern fuel injection gives better economy but it's taken away by the catalytic convertor. The engines have got more powerful but weight added for improved safety has kept them the same speed.

Yeah - cars have been getting more efficient (and consistent!) over the years with better and smaller engines ... but. Without innovative stuff like Toyota's hybrid system or the well intentioned stop/start devices, we'll not get more actual efficiency in our cars. Maybe it's a call for a return to light weight shopping trolley cars like that Mk1 Astra.

Oh my god I've Wall Of Texted again ...

Tax on fuel consumed = good (although I do remember buying fuel for a quarter the price we pay now)
Congestion charge by tracker device = nasty, unworkable, cost more than it could ever bring in.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Something to sing about

Not quite sure why I picked that title, except that it's the track playing in iTunes at the moment ...

The library's expanded a fair bit over the past couple of months. Some old, some new, some rediscovered and some given a second chance.

The old are Rita Coolidge, Barbra Streisand and Elkie Brooks where I've acquired a few "greatest tracks" type albums. All 3 of them have amazing voices, they're from a musical era which demanded its stars could sing and not just dance. Autotune hadn't been invented when these ladies were singing their hearts out. Of the 3, my pick has been Barbra Streisand as the choice of tracks is consistently outstanding when it doesn't break through into stunning. The Rita Coolidge album is good but not as brilliant while the Elkie Brooks collection is very patchy. It's a shame, there's the excellent voice and the well written songs but something goes horribly wrong in the middle. Bit like when Kate Bush tried to sing Candle In The Wind and somehow ended up butchering it.

That's the trouble with cover versions, you'd think a great singer would combine with magical lyrics to make something unforgettable but you end up with something horrific instead. I'd pick out an example but I don't think I want to go there in case it sticks in my head and makes me go ~wibble~ at work tomorrow.

Rediscovered :

Just listening to the Once More With Feeling soundtrack from Buffy. It's the actors and actresses singing so it's rather different to commercial manufactured pop. It's a hell of a lot better. There's so much feeling put into the singing that you can't help but sing along.

Ok - maybe behind locked doors where noone can hear you try to sing along (I'm a wuss like that) but you know what I mean :-) Under Your Spell is most definitely the highlight there and I think I'm going to take a little interlude to watch the vid on Youtube ... Oh - forget any disparaging remarks about the singing quality - Amber Benson could easily beat any X Factor wannabe.

Something new :

Evanescence's self titled 3rd album appeared ... This is an ok album. It's not as good as their first two but still hangs together as an album. There's just no stand out tracks like My Immortal or Hello. (And my brain just triggered a memory of a bad cover - Katherine Jenkins should have left Bring Me To Life well alone)

Something old (but not stale) : Meatloaf's Rock N Roll Hero is always good for a listen. This kinda goes in the 2nd chance box but I'm saving that for later ... Everyone will know what follows the words "On a hot summer night ..."

Something given a 2nd chance : I have to thank our Klingon Spirited RCA for this one. I'd written off Snow Patrol's Fallen Empires as a) More of the same and b) Pretty bad. That's what random youtubing can do ... But our RCA had me listening to Fallen Empires in the car ... and guess what appeared in the library not all that long after :-). No stand out tracks on this one again but that doesn't make it a bad album.

Past & Present :

I'd been missing a Cardigans album ... To be honest, half the tracks on Emmerdale I'd already got with their Life album. So I'd been missing 7 tracks that were easily worth the price of a cheap album. That's Past, as the Cardigans split up a few years ago. Lead singer, Nina Persson, went to a new band called A Camp which makes Present with the appearance of the Colonia album in the library.

Future ? Not got that yet. But I'm looking keenly at it in the hope it becomes available over here for a respectable price. The temptation is coming from getting Edie Brickell's Volcano album which is more excellence from a criminally underrated artist. Hey - why future if I've got the album ? Cos I've not got the next album yet ... There's a self titled Edie Brickell album which doesn't seem to be too available over here, I can't get it on iTunes and it would be £12.30 from Amazon. I don't like paying that for movies, let alone cd's.

Weird - the magical music box of Hannah Peel is a must check out. He says going off to Youtube to find Tainted Love to sing along to (which has actually turned into being an album track Don't Kiss The Broken One).

The Wall Of Text alarm just went off so I'll just summarise the others ... Cults, White Stripes and The Rasmus are worth checking out if you've missed them. Kaiser Chiefs Employment was ok but not up to the hype. Dirty Vegas (Days Go By acoustic is a stop n listen), Diamonds And Pearls and a whole heap of random classical has turned up too.

It's definitely enough music to keep me busy for a while :-) The library is up to 5202 tracks taking up 27 GB of my laptop now and I'd need to have the laptop playing for 14 consecutive days to listen to it all.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Back to werk ...

So much for 2011 Xmas break :-)

Back to work tomorrow. I needed the long break as the batteries were running down. I've filled it with some gaming, taking advantage of Steam sales to get a few more for the collection. I managed to resist going berzerk on getting games I'd rarely play too.

It's not all been gaming though. Itunes tells me I've listened to at least 844 different music tracks since being away (recently played list doesn't count duplicates) and I've been struggling to stay ahead of all the recorded Xmas telly so much I've only watched 1 blu-ray. Hanna is a film very much worth watching although it earns its 12. Oddball characters, bonecrunching action backed up by an excellent soundtrack and a decent plot.

What have I been watching ?

Well - I currently have about 12 films recorded with Megamind and Dawn Treader being the highlights so far. There's also been :

Buffy - now at end of season 5
10th Kingdom - wonderful theme (Wishing on a Star) and passable story. Worth a second watch.
Deadliest Catch - this had a series break during the last season and I missed the second half. Caught up now :-)
Shaun and the Dead is on now - moderately amusing.
A Bridge Too Far - World War 2 film of the failed Operation Market Garden.
Sherlock season 2 - loved the first episode, likely to preorder the blu-ray.
Terra Nova - enjoyed this series, hopefully there will be a second.
Ice Road Truckers - still decent although it might be outliving its time and wearing itself out.
Puss In Boots - saw this one at the cinema, it's a good laugh. Well worth catching before it disappears ...
Doctor Who Xmas special - was ok but nothing brilliant. The strength of the current writer is in setting up series arcs, his individual Xmas episodes can be a bit weak.
There's been more too as I try to keep the box clear.

Stuff I started to watch but abandoned :

Snow Queen - first heard of this a few years ago and it inspired a nickname. The Snow Queen of the story steals the heart of the bellboy. I sadly gave up on the TV miniseries after being bored for an hour. Besides, the shallow one on screen doesn't compare to our Snow Queen.
Season of the Witch - Nicolas Cage film. Didn't last long.
Brain Dead - not sure when I'll learn that cheap flicks on horror channel will rot your brain.

Think there were a few more abandons too but I've managed to banish the memory.

Managed to get out to the Mall for the sales, although I didn't actually pick anything up. I think I've already bought the stuff I actually want or need.

Still - back to work tomorrow. And right back into keeping ahead of the game in terms of what's been going on over the Xmas break. It'll be good to catch up.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Thinking - Games & Distraction

Been thinking (in the time when I'm not thinking of other stuff) of why I do the gaming thing ...

I think it's as a distraction. Something to stop me thinking of stuff that does drive me to distraction. There's someone I know. To save me putting ... instead of a name, let's just call her Dots (not Dotty cos that's what I seem to be).

So - at the moment my head is being dominated by thoughts coming unbidden of what's Dots up to ? Is Dots ok ? How's she doing ? What would Dots think of ... ? Etc. There's a word for that I know. I think the reason the thoughts are coming out now is because when I first knew Dots, there was no chance of thinking of her as anything more than a little sister. Now though, there is the possibility for more so that mental wall has come down. Even before then, it's always been about Dots. What did she think of the Bright Young Thing that caught the eye a couple of years ago ?

Where does the gaming come in with all this ?

It helps me forget.

Gaming tends to need either complete focus in the case of skill games or allows the brain to go to sleep in repetitive tasks (Moo2 in the endgame epilogue grind stage). That focus lets the part of my brain that's asking the Dots questions have a bit of respite. I'll descend into focusing on how to beat the game so much I'll barely hear the music blaring out over the other side of the room.

Some people might call that unhealthy or borderline addiction. I don't think it's addiction, at least it's not addiction any more. Game addiction is neglecting studies or work and a self destructing path of either alienating friends (like in the true WoW addicts) or destroying health. In my case, I should have flown through uni to get a 1st Hons MEng. I only have a 2:2 Hons MEng because I allowed myself to develop the gaming addiction that saw me firing up the PC as soon as I got in, not to do studies but to take over mystical worlds.

Game addiction means you are glued to the screen at every opportunity. You're not in the game for fun or the classic storyline or because it's a puzzle that's not been cracked yet, you're in it because that's what you think you should be doing. The quest/reward cycle that defines games like World of WarCrack is at the centre of the cause of gaming addiction.

I don't think I have the addiction any more, the various fallout from the breakup of the Mercenaries WoW guild gave me enough aversion therapy and lessons from seeing how other people behave under addiction to pull me out of that addiction.

So why do I game now ?

It's definitely not for my health. At 37 years and struggling to keep the weight off, I should be getting outside more and exercising. I can't get away with Natural Fitness as much as I used to for cricket. Sitting in a chair in front of the pooter barely moving anything but a finger on a mouse doesn't do much for burning calories or shifting fat. It's not for human contact either because I'm not playing the multiplayer aspect of the games I do have.

But as something that allows me to turn my brain away from distracting thoughts, to forget, it's a lot better than some things people do to themselves. I don't drink to forget. Even if I had the capacity to do so without being ill, I'd hate to think of what that would do to my liver.

And I can feel those "what would Dots think of this post" "will Dots realise who I'm talking about" thoughts coming through again. Need a distraction !

Time to continue the quest of a bionic man from the near future ... (Trying Deus Ex Human Revolution now that I have a pooter that stands a chance of playing it)

PS Wonder if the Snow Queen will guess the identity of Dots as quickly as she guesses the rest of my codenames :-)