Saturday, January 31, 2015

Shiny car is shiny

Today's order of business : Get the car serviced.

It's hard to believe I've had it a year now. 2014 flew by in a blur. Shall we have another pic ? I think putting in the occasional pic has really helped my writing. It breaks up the wall of text and makes it more readable. Ok, so I break up the wall of text anyway with single sentence paragraphs that I use pretty much as punctuation but pictures are way better for that.
There it is again - the Grey Ghost.

I've been loving this one. It earns its name by having the capability to be ultra quiet. I'll be at traffic lights listening to other people's engines. So what's the stats ?

0 to 60 in maybe 7.5 seconds. I haven't timed it myself - that needs two people really, one with the stop watch and one to pilot the missile. Also needs a suitable road.
45 mpg genuine.
CO2 stats of just over 100 thingies. I forget the actual unit but it means I only pay £10 in tax, instead of the £200 plus of my old Focus. Oh - the Focus was also the same potential speed but at below 30mpg.

How's it do that ? It's a hybrid. As well as an engine, it has a couple of motors in there which make up a continuously variable transmission. Instead of 4,5 or 6 set ratios, it chooses the right ratio on the fly. So instead of accelerating through the revs, rarely being at that top power or torque, it'll hold the engine at the most optimum revs.

Translation - it gives you all its got. Every time. When you ask for it. And when you ask for it to be gentle, it can do that too.

Oh - there's no clutch either. When I went fast in my manual cars, you'd lose that drive when changing gear and I always knew there were those plates grinding together in that clutch. Too aggressive and you burn life out of that clutch.

Another of my long term injury issues is pain in my left leg. It's associated with a back injury, where that injury compromises my sciatic nerve. That's the one that controls the leg. Well, since switching to the auto box, that pain has lessened and it's actually gone away.

So - forget about that fancy system under the bonnet and beneath the boot, it's easier to drive and it's less pain for me.
About that service ?

I take the car to Lexus Cheltenham. It's a bit of a drive from where I live but I'll definitely keep going back there. Yep. They want your money first but most of all, they want to keep you as a customer.

It's a level of customer service I'm not accustomed to as a driver. Ok, maybe I am getting more used to it now.

There's courtesy, politeness and most important of all, respect. They'll talk to the customer in the most appropriate way. I have a light that comes on in my car, it looks at the tyre pressures. It's been coming on because it's cold out. Cold air is less dense, so the pressure in the tyre goes down. I know that because of my chemistry and physics education, as well as engineering knowledge and from following stuff like Formula 1. So I'm ahead of the sales people and usually know way more than they do about the engineering. And they indulge me on that.

It makes the customer feel better.

But with the other guy, he didn't know why his light was coming on and salesguy was quite patiently explaining the issue (in several differing ways cos of an understanding problem !) to him. We both go away happy for different reasons.

Oh and they'll only sell you the car that you actually want. They won't oversell the next one up or the one they've been instructed to get more orders on.

I'm looking at you PC World with conning my parents into getting a piece of trash Asus Transformer. They went in to get a laptop, they came out with trash that didn't suit the need.

Time to wrap up.

Shiny car is shiny (no issues on the service and less wear on the tyres than expected).
Happy customer is happy.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Upsies Downsies

Wow. I'm beat.

Tired I mean. It's been a long couple of weeks with lots of travel and this weekend will be my first chance to properly relax since a few weeks ago. Saying that though, I'll be getting the car serviced tomorrow morning which means another early start.

And then there's another week where I'll have maybe the grand total of ... 3 hours at my desk ? Maybe more. Depends how a few meetings ago. Yep. On the road again. And now I've managed to do it once, I know what image I MUST HAVE on the start up screen for the car :
Yes. I do believe that's going to have to go in the car at some point. At the moment, it's the Feed Me Mini Eggs dwagon.

Upsies Downsies ?

That's what my personality has been doing lately. I feel better able to take on my problems now. I've set aside some of what was causing me stress and depression and put that back in the past. I've moved on from a couple of things and can better recognise the positives.

I'm still a decent way off being properly healthy but I'm so much better than I was even maybe a year ago. The problem is still one of avoiding doing damage to myself. It's figuring out how to get myself off to sleep better (lack of sleep leads to fidgeting leads to damage). It's avoiding idly worrying at the bad bits, only to make them massively worse. With that sleep, it's figuring ways of positioning that don't put more stress on faulty skin.

Avoiding stress basically. And having those smiles come my way too.

I seem to be able to talk to people much better than I used to be able to. I still stammer and struggle to get the right words out (part of that is the various head injuries) but I'm at least able to hold that conversation without going off into blank-face. That's one strange thing about the difference between me writing here and in the real. I can do massive Wall Of Text here but am quieter IRL.
I dunno, maybe it's recognising that there's more to talking to girls than the simple "Would you like a coffee ?" Treating people like equals is always good. And I'm equally liberal to everyone when I pull out the smile and grin at them.

Actually, I don't treat everyone as equals. There's some who are up on that pedestal of awesomeness.

Perhaps it's seeing a bit of value come back from others.

There's the little lady who I see as a Big Sister. (You know who you are and it's a huge lift to know you're looking out for me !)
I'm sure one of the cleaning girls has a crush (which I'm not trying to encourage at all - honest)
Friends, old and new have their eye on me and want to know I'm ok (even the one who recoiled in "that's nasty !" at seeing a mostly healed forearm)
That certainty of feeling that suggests someone is watching your bum as you walk past their desk.
People are digging the scarf (there's a stranger on the bus who chats)

People just seem to genuinely like me and having me around, which honestly puzzles me. I know I treat people right and can usually add some value to what they're talking about through experience, knowledge or just the Crazy. But I struggle to accept being that centre of attention person.

Perhaps it's because I look to others for approval a bit too much. I'll focus on a very small number of people I see as super special and I'll look for approval from them and in doing so, miss the virtual and not so virtual hugs and SMILE PETE's that come from my core friends.

I think me simplifying down that group I was looking for approval from has helped boost me. The negatives from not getting responses (positive or negative) have gone away. That's weird isn't it. By giving up on 2 people in particular, losing hope you could say, I've got happier.

Perhaps it's in seeing occasional clues that one of those people is keeping her eye on me, even though there's rarely a message from her to me. Things like seeing a screen capture from a livestream get used for a Youtube thumbnail (I'm sure it was mine, it's too similar to be someone else's). That got me doing an "Oh wow ! :-)" when I saw it, although it was irksome that I didn't get a reply to the "didja use my pic, if so awesome".

But all that pales into insignificance compared to the smiles and boosts I from talking to one particular little lady.

Ok. More than one, because our Snow Queen has been keeping my spirits up letting me talk through stuff. But I know SQ won't mind a bit when I say that the messages from Cupid's Gift are doing that much more to make me smile.

CG makes me laugh. She can keep up with my mind when it goes on its strange tangents. She's smart and interesting. She understands me and I really do hope we get to see each other again soon. Cos I'd like to do more than buy her desserts and cookies. I'd like to be that island for her too to allow her to properly relax.

Which is what I'm intending to do when I get back from the car service tomorrow :-)
Yes. The cake (actually a white chocolate igloo with edible penguins) was delicious.

PS Go see Ex Machina if you can ! Excellent movie. Thoughtful, thought provoking, superbly acted, keeps you guessing. Really enjoyed that today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Great old games

I've been keeping an eye on lately.

One family of games I grew up with was the Star Wars games. Ok. I grew up with the movies and then descended into a kind of second childhood as a TIE Fighter pilot. have been bringing back those old Star Wars games lately. Which ones drew me in ? Or at least, which ones did I get ?

First up is X Wing. This had the player piloting the famed craft of the movies. It's HARD. Very hard. I came to this game after playing TIE Fighter to death, winning through all the missions on it. XWing is very tough. Some of the missions are totally unfair. Lol. That's how games used to be. A proper challenge with gameplay time extended by difficulty instead of repetition.

I didn't actually get to the Death Star mission on XWing. Perhaps if I acquire it again from GoG.

Gog's secret is that they take old stuff, fiddle about with it and make it work on modern systems. Master Of Magic is a prime example, this needed something called EMS Memory and was tough to run even on the systems of the day. For the new release, it gets a wrapper to load in and ... even runs on systems it was never meant for like my Macbook Air.

In XWing and TIE Fighter's cases, you literally couldn't play them without a joystick and the wrappers let the old software connect to what they need through the new software. Magic.

TIE Fighter saw you flying for the bad guys. It set you up first in the super fragile TIE Fighter before progressing through Bombers, Interceptors, Advanced and the rather silly Defender. Sometimes you got to fly Gunships, which looked a bit like the shuttles. The toughness in this one was amplified by the lack of shields. About 2 hits would be enough to see you into space dust.

But it wasn't all about the high energy stuff. There was a strategy game in 1998 which saw me haunting games shops until it was finally unleashed. This was Star Wars Rebellion (or Supremacy depending on region). Honestly, this was a bit of a disappointment. Nothing really happened in my games and you could stalemate easily by using multiple shield generators. I got bored with it and went back to Moo2. Which I still play.

Another genre was the first person shooter and Star Wars had a first here with Dark Forces. It was one of the first games that demanded 8Megabytes of RAM. Get that. The processor in this desktop may have more memory on board than that. These are truly games from a different age. It did have another first, it allowed you to aim up and down.

Cracking game too and it spawned a bunch of sequels which turned you into a bit of a lightsaber wielding nutter Jedi.

Other games ?

I'm hoping that the old Pod Racer game comes to GoG. I loved this game. Adored it even. I was hooked for way too long and I don't play it now because it has a bit of an amnesia problem. You can install it on Windows 7 but it can't see where the save games go. So, you save your game, go away, come back and reload and ... no save game. Hopefully GoG will sort that out at some point.

For a slower pace, there's Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. This is a game set 4000 years before the movies and runs the encounters using a variant of the D and D 3rd 3d d20 rules. I actually works extremely well as a game, plus there's a good story in there too. Oh and Jennifer Hale does one of the voices. Bonus.

Other games ?

I enjoyed X Wing vs TIE Fighter, which had the gameplay of the old games but with far superior graphics. It also had a multiplayer mode and in such, was a game far ahead of its time. There was very little multiplayer scene available at launch and the latency of dial up kinda killed the multiplayer. Full marks for starting off the multiplayer revolution though. I didn't play XWing Alliance, as by this time the gameplay had been mired in more mission silliness. I heard bad things about this one and avoided it as Not Fun.

There's a few on there that I'm interested in and a few more I may acquire ...

X Wing Rogue Squadron - missed this one. Am very interested ...
Indiana Jones and the Fate Of Atlantis - Lucasarts did more than Star Wars !
X Wing and TIE Fighter

And avoid :
Grim Fandango - there's an excellent playthrough from Duncan of the Yogscast.
XWing Alliance - silliness in missions
XvT - because it didn't really add anything over the originals.
Rebellion/Supremacy - nostalgia is nice but ... Moo2 > Rebellion.

And there's a few more there too.

To finish off - the best thing about these old games was probably the music. You didn't get the full orchestral Star Wars music in the original games, typically it was MIDI tracks turned into music by the eponymous OPL3 FM Synthesiser which made early sound cards affordable. This made passable buzzes and wheezes. What was so brilliant about X Wing and TIE Fighter is that the music adjusted to what was happening while playing.

In a furball firefight ? Dramatic music
Grabbing a quiet moment ? A peaceful lull in the music.

It was great stuff and the music sounded natural. Or as natural as OPL3 FM synthesised music can sound.

I'll not buy them yet, there's a certain place for nostalgia. It can be Shiny. But sometimes those old games belong ... in the past. And they don't have goodies like those soundtracks I love. The goodie count in these games is rather stingy to be honest and I'll hold my cash back until either sales or more goodies.

I can be reserved with me cash sometimes ! Honest.

Unless it's Thorntons. Somehow I escaped the Mall tonight not with the iPad I was eyeing up but with a bag of Butter Tablet, a bag of Chocolate Fudge, a Chocolate Mouse and a bag of Mint Crunches.


Cya next time and when you buy stuff, may your goodie count always be high.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Valiant Protector

Been off to see my mum and dad this weekend.

All told, easy trip, traffic had the occasional idiot but on the whole, no holdups, no hassle. And a relaxing weekend with the mum and dad.

They're still shaking down their new place, putting things where they need them and all that. But it's quite cosy and well arranged. Not as big but that was the whole point of moving. It's also closer to where their friends are.

Win win.

And they still have :
Ben, the Valiant Protector.

He's a Staffy Bull Terrier who's actually getting quite old now. His coat's good but the grey has taken over his whole muzzle now. Makes him look rather distinguished.

He's a lovely dog, typical Staffy. He looks after his people, loves to be around them (and is perfectly well behaved when they're out) and gives us huge amounts of fuss.

Ben's amazing.
And that's the little fella at play. You can really see that poorly paw there. Both have had trouble :

Both paws have a genetic defect that makes them turn in, putting huge stress on the lower joint. It causes Ben a lot of pain when he forgets and goes jumpy.
The right paw was broken as a puppy, which paradoxically made it the stronger. It healed straight, which sorted out that genetic defect.

Pub run ! Yep. Dad's birthday next week. I couldn't make that though (car is in for service), so we gathered at a fairly equidistant pub for a decent meal (steak was edible but on the raw side of Medium Rare). Which meant I got to drive on possibly my favourite road. Twice.

It has lots of corners which can be taken at nice high speed (nothing above 60 - promise - cough). It has one little complex which is especially challenging. It's in a dip, with the sharp corner at the bottom of the dip. And then there's a hill after. You can take the sharp corner in perfect conditions at 70mph, if the car is cooperative.

What makes a well handling car ?

Reactions. It has to settle back to neutral very quickly after finishing one corner. Some cars are still settling 50 yards (or more!) after the corner. They're still wobbling around as you enter the next corner.

The IS ? Ate up the corner with relish and I actually laughed. I like that corner.

Back home and tired now though. I'll watch a few videos, maybe game a bit and then :
Poor fella. All tuckered out.

I'm going to hope to get as many pictures as I can old Old Ben. He may not be with us for many more years. I hope he'll keep hobbling on but I have that feeling that it's getting closer to his Time.

But not just yet. There's life in the old dog yet. And he definitely showed that when he had his ruff up defending us from unexpected visitors today :-). (Before heading outside with the mum & dad to give said visitors a good slurping in true Staffy style).

(PS If anyone's wondering, the reason the tail isn't visible except in that last photo, is that it's disappeared into a wagging blur of happy dog wag. The family doesn't believe in tail docking !)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Playing Away

I'm on an away trip !

Yes I know, it's not usually a good idea to advertise these things to the wider internet. But then again. my circulation isn't that high.

I have one of those awkwardly timed meetings tomorrow, starting at 8am and 120 miles away from home. I don't mind that too much, it's inconvenience but the long days will fund the flexi credit for a few good Friday afternoons off a good few weeks ahead.

Happy Days.

I'm currently tapping this out on my Macbook from the hotel room. Oceans Thirteen is on the telly. Not a bad film :-) I won't be stopping up too long as that 8am meeting means I'll ideally want to be out of here by 7am. There's traffic issues on the site I'm headed to ...

But ... I did want to talk a little about how I'm bringing this post to you ...

Big item is the Macbook. It's a Macbook Air, from 15 months old now. I like my Macbook, I'm glad I took the step of walking away from Windows. Microsoft seem hell bent on destroying their own business. Hopefully Win10 will be an improvement but they're steadily abusing a dominant market position and steering their products down a line that's just plain hostile to the users. Apple can be a little similar but at least the fundamentals are a system that's easy to use and .... reliable. I've had one application level crash on this Macbook in that 15 months. One only. And that's just an application crash, it hasn't had a full machine crash.

Step two is the internet connection. Because I've just changed my contract, I can tether my laptop to the phone again. That's the phone rebroadcasting its internet over a wifi signal. So laptop is talking to phone, is talking to the internet.

How's it work ? I haven't tried watching a youtube video on it yet. Maybe later. It's slower and the latency is higher but you'd expect that coming from a wired cable broadband that's rated at 30MBps. I'll be curious to see how it handles video but I'm happy with the performance as it stands. I dread to think what it would do to the phone battery if I didn't have it plugged in !

Other stuff - I have my portable speakers here with me today. I was anticipating listening to stuff but ... I suspect I may well just head off to try and get sleep after Ocean's Thirteen finishes. (Am tired already !)

A thought that hit me in the car was - if there are 10 albums you would want with you if you were suddenly disconnected from the world, what would they be ? It's kinda irrelevant now, it comes from the time when we'd carry cd's around with us in the car. But it's still a nice idea to pick out those albums that move you, that you couldn't do without, that you just love. Now, instead of carrying the cd's around, the music is on that laptop with huge capacity with everything compressed. There's 13000 tracks on here ! That's a lot of albums ...

But ... 10 albums ? Let's have a go :

All About Eve - self titled debut album. The others have arguably better songs but this one works so well as a complete album.
Nina Persson's A Camp - self titled album. This has awesome song after awesome song too and I especially identify with Song For The Leftovers.
Paul Simon's Hearts and Bones - this is a surprise ! This album is full of amazing songs too. Underrated.
Bat For Lashes - Two Suns. Because it has Moon and Moon on it.
Kate Bush - Hounds of Love. The first half is all the commercial songs but the second half tells a wonderful story. Fantastic singing.
Air's Moon Safari - more excellent chill out with two of my favourite songs in You Make It Easy and All I Need.
Alisha's Attic - Illumina - so many feels here being sung by two ladies that were so good, I adopted the name Alisha's Addict for a while.
Caro Emerald - Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor. A nightclub style singer with a silky seductive voice. Could listen to her all day.
Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms. This has the classics but is one of their's that's All Good. Their other albums tend to be just Mostly Good.
Seal - the one with Crazy and Killer on it. So soulful.
Duffy's Rockferry - a quirky voice that works for me, bringing out the emotion in some sad songs here.
Edie Brickell - Stranger Things. Another nightclub style singer, different to the Caro in a more country style. She's the type that would look at you while singing and give you that "get me a beer" drink while Caro's would be "pour me the wine darling"

I'm going past 10 aren't I ? Ooops. You know me and music.

There's so many more that could be here too. Like Evanescence, Hannah Peel. The Sinatra collection I bought. The Veronicas making an impression the other week. Cranberries if little Skye is along. So many amazing Garbage albums for a little grunge.

I left out Goldfrapp ! Seventh Tree is amazing chill out, Supernature is amazing disco.

There's also the KT Tunstall and Katie Melua. Not to mention Lene Marlin and Lily Allen.

Are you getting the feeling I'm glad I have that laptop with 13,000 tracks on so I don't have to choose between cd's any more ?

I'll leave it there.

Oh - before I close - status update.

Speakers sound lovely.
Internet connection - dodgy. Not even going to attempt watching a video. Although that could be because Steam might be sucking up all the bandwidth.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A to Z - T is for Treble

Wow - I'm only 10 songs away from having listened to everything in the library.

That can only mean one thing - I need to acquire more music !

But first - to the T's.

First up is Simon and Garfunkel with a Tales From New York compilation album. This has all their best, some of their worst but all told, a lot of great songs from these two soft and beautiful male voices. Best ones for me are The Boxer, Mrs Robinson, Cecilia, El Condor Pasa and you could easily pick out a bunch of others.

Tori Amos is in here with a few, Tales of a Librarian is another mini-collection. She's brought out a lot of great albums, it's a little sad that she's raided the back catalogue with duplicates.

Goldfrapp's latest is Tales Of Us. This is them going back to a softer style with songs like Annabel. It's a lovely album to close the eyes and relax to, letting the music wash over you.

Air's Talkie Walkie is more distinctive electro-pop from these French guys. Highlight for me is Run.

Fleetwood Mac are one of the stars of old rock and they're in here with Tango In The Night. It works well as an album, with songs like Isn't It Midnight carrying it along.

Taylor Swift is one I picked up as a random. She's got a good voice, I was surprised it's put to use in these country type songs. I thought she was more a manufactured pop girl who sings instead of shouts. Her self titled album is a very pleasant album, although I didn't pick out any real highlights. They all kinda sound the same.

Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker somehow found it's way into my library. Where would we be without excellent classical music.

Gabriella Cilmi followed up an interesting first album with the less distinctive Ten. Still a decent album but she's not one I'll really follow from now.

One of the things about The Terminator movies is the outstanding soundtracks. I have the soundtracks for Terminator 1 and 2. They both set the character for and accompany the movies exceptionally well. Bit like the soundtrack for Babylon A.D, which I'm watching at the moment.

Michelle Shocked is an artist that I need more stuff from. Her Texas Campfire Tapes was an introduction to this vulnerable, pure, innocent voice. Highlight is Fogtown.

And talking pure, talking soundtrack, here's Vangelis with his Themes. It's another electronic style again for some unearthly, beautiful instrumental music. Highlight is the main theme from Missing.

River City People followed up their first album with This Is The World. It's more mainstream again but still leaves room open for lovely stuff like Mile High Cafe.

Michael Jackson was a bit misunderstood. A superstar with some very strange quirks. He had the gift of giving us some incredible music, although there was a lot of dire stuff in there too. He's in here with his Thriller album.

KT Tunstall is still bringing out a lot of great music. She has a lovely voice, shown off here with Tiger Suit. Highlight for me is very definitely Still A Weirdo.

Franz Ferdinand come in with Tonight. They're a characterful bunch. I like 'em. But they are a little guilty of everything sounding very similar again.

Tony Bennett - that's a quandary. He has his legend but ... for me he seems to wreck a lot of songs he sings. It's almost like it's about the singer and not the song. It should always be about making the song sound great, if the character of the singer is getting in the way of that, it's a bad singer. Bit like the modern people who shout instead of sing.

Tori Amos again ! I collected her cd singles a while ago, mostly for the great B sides on them. One of those is the lovely Flying Dutchman, which I'll happily sing along to.

All About Eve's last good album is Touched By Jesus, which shows off that voice again. Highlight for me is the closing track, Are You Lonely. A few of the tracks here are somewhat forced, this one holds its tempo well.

Tracy Chapman's debut introduced a distinctive voice again, singing of protest as well as every day life. Some of these songs will haunt you, some will lift you. Like For You.

Beth Orton is a singer I've been appreciating, she's in here with Trailer Park.

There's games that we buy for the game, there's games that we buy because their soundtrack is awesome. Then there's games that match the two together. Transistor is one of those games. The soundtrack is amazing, another stunning example of Darren Korb's work.

The Hoosiers are another weird bunch, with their first album, The Trick To Life. Highlight is definitely Worried About Ray.

Madonna's been around for ages it seems and one of her earlier albums was True Blue. Lots of highlights here, including La Isla Bonita.

Talking Heads have been around for ages too, here with True Stories. I must try and watch the movie again.

Last few - Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells is his signature album.

Lene Marlin has always had a voice I'll always keep an ear on and she's here with possibly her best, Twist The Truth. So many highlights here, including Here We Are.

Last but definitely best, Bat For Lashes with Two Suns. This album is ... incredible. So many good tracks but the best for me will always be Moon And Moon.

That's it for T ! Hopefully I can rattle through the rest of the alphabet quite quickly. Itunes tells me there's only 1000 or so tracks to go in them.

Cya !

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Crazy weather

I shocked a few people today.

I wore my coat.

Yep. I'm one of those stubborn people, well, really more set to doing things in certain patterns and it can be rare to break out of them. Except when there's a good reason.

I've been going into work in scarf, rainhat, jacket and gloves since coming back in. That means it can get a bit chilly at the bus stop but I'm usually moving around so ... It's a balance of being cold when not moving and boiling when I am walking around. I tend to generate a lot of heat when I'm walking, especially now that I'm getting close to having my full walking speed available again.

How is the physical condition doing ?

The neck's improved. I'm liking that. What did I do ? I lowered the monitor at work by maybe an inch. So instead of looking up at it and cricking the neck, it's at about the right height for me now. Little things can make a big difference.

My hip still hates me. The damage is in a ligament connecting the front of my right hip to the thigh bone/muscles. Could be the tendons. It's an old injury that I kept reinjuring with the cricket as I never really sorted out a way of adequately warming it up. I have like 95% movement, enough for walking fast and warp speed running but if I cross my legs, I may scream. I may need a hip replacement by the time I'm fifty. Uncomfortable but it doesn't slow me down much.

My calf muscles aren't liking the walking - it's a combination of blasting through the walk quickly and the cold outside. They're not liking that but I'm taking the pain as a sign that they're reconfiguring themselves for the power that they've forgotten they had.

And my outsides are ... pretty much as they were. They are very slowly improving but it's so easy to set that healing back with an unguarded fidget.

Wait - crazy weather ?

Here's today's outfit :
See ! I can smile on a selfie. Ok, it was forced but at least it's not the grimace that was on the last scarf selfie.

The outfit is the Rotherham scarf, white jumper over work shirt. My work suit jacket is hiding under my coat (I deliberately got a big coat because I intended it as an overcoat) and it's topped off by the Atomic Hat.

Atomic Hat doesn't do much to keep the rain off but it does have a much appreciated thermal lining. Love it. And the International Space Station tweeted that they could see some muppet walking around down here. Ok they didn't but you know what I mean - that hat can be seen from Bath and I live in Bristol.

We are having some silly weather at the moment. Today was the first day I've worn the Atomic Hat since coming back after Xmas. It's literally so windy, if I put the rain hat on, the wind would have fetched it off by the time I'd walked 5 paces.

Literally 5 minutes after taking that picture, the clouds had moved in and it was Pitch Black (I may watch those as my next series !), howling wind and very heavy rain. Thankfully without the monsters of Pitch Black although it was an hour after the school run had finished.

We haven't had the promised snow here in Bristol, we tend to be shadowed by Wales and Ireland, the North of the country and Devon and Cornwall. So the snow dumps on other areas before it reaches us. And then there's work, which generates enough hot air to melt away any snow that gets to our local area. Come on work people, you'll know what I mean there. (PS This is why there's rarely snow in London).

I am lucky though, I have that roof over my head and a heater that works. That makes me better off than so many other people. It's sobering to think about that sometimes.

Wonder when it'll warm up enough to make the Midnight Cruise a realistic possibility. Must investigate local picnic sites as places away from light pollution where we can see the stars.

And you remember what I said about getting messages from a certain Little Lady ? Had lots of those today.

Happy Sleepy is Happy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Struggling for the energy again.

A lot of that is due to lacking sleep again. I just can't seem to hit that mental program that sends me off to snoozeland quickly. The healing is on and off, sometimes it improves, sometimes it gets set back. Some of that is due to me fidgeting when I can't sleep.

Next week will be fun. I have a few away trips which will lead to very long days. But that's ok because the car is very easy to drive and I'm sensible enough to stop and have a coffee or hot chocolate if I detect myself flagging. You really don't want to go to sleep at 70mph.

That's weird isn't it. I'm having to fight sleep in things like presentations (sorry dude, it's not you!) and in the evenings when I'm watching stuff. But when I go to bed ? A feeling of can't keep eyes open goes away and I just can't ... sleep ...

Depression is linking with that too. I'd expected to be all healed up by now and seeing the bad bits (and knowing that I make them worse by fidgeting) reminds me that I've still got a decent way to go. But it is genuinely getting better.

Sorry to burden everyone else with my problems. Sometimes you have to do this in order to properly express them, adequately understand them and in the end, find a useful way to deal with the problems.
What am I doing in my current mental funk ?

At the moment, it's episode 9 of Long Way Round, which has Ewan McGregor and friend Charlie Boorman riding from London to New York via Russia. It's a good series, 10 episodes long and I'll finish watching it tonight. I'll hopefully pick up a copy of the second series, Long Way Down and then watch that.

I've been appreciating the smiles.

Yesterday, one of the bus people recognised me and had a chat, all the way to where I get off. That's nice, being remembered. It's a sign that you matter, which always helps counter that depression. That was a nice chat. I had people break into smiles this morning with my scarf too.

And Snow Queen smiles too ! SQ is great. She's been through a lot and still keeps that cheeky, chirpy personality shining through, brightening the day.

Completely random ladies see me and smile. That's awesome.

Last but most appreciated, Cupid's Gift.

There's a realistic engineering thought that if we colonise low gravity places like the Moon, an efficient way of getting around is in rocket buggies. These blast off from the ground, go into a suborbital trajectory, before coming down to a soft landing lots of miles away from the initial blast off point. That's my personality when I get a text from little Skye. On a suborbital jaunt.

She does make me smile. And she likes stuff I like. I hopefully bring a smile out of her too.

Wait a minute ... If she likes stuff I like, that means :
I better scoff the Mini Eggs quick.

Cya !

Monday, January 12, 2015

A to Z - S is for Sounds

And Star Wars.

Cos there's a lot of Star Wars soundtracks here. Hold on - I mentioned that before ! I have double cd soundtracks for Episodes 4, 5 and 6 and a single cd for Episode 1. The Star Wars soundtracks have always been one of the better features of the movies.

Oh and I've gotten to Empire Strikes Back, watched that yesterday did I. Wonder if I can introduce any Yoda sayings in to work ?
Oh - before diving into the rest of the S albums, I went shopping again ... Uhoh. It was last week when I acquired my remote speakers and I ended up in HMV. Didn't buy anything from there of course, they'll play stuff over their speakers that you literally cannot buy in the store. Why ? ! Silly people.

So what did I find ? The song playing in HMV (don't go there, they're expensive) was You Ruin Me by The Veronicas. I thought it was good enough to check them out, so I bought their Hook Me Up album (£5 on iTunes). First track - Untouched. Brilliant, utterly brilliant. It had me bouncy bopping in my chair. The violins give it a kick of energy that continues when the girls join in. I'm looking forward to listening to the rest of the album. Oh - here's the one I heard in the shop (You Ruin Me). And they might very quickly end up being another of my I MUST BUY ALL THEIR STUFF groups.

The other album I acquired was Taylor Swift's self titled album. I know. Mainstream. I'll give it a good checking out. Oh - last of the randoms is Megham Trainor with All About That Bass. This was playing in John Lewis as an example track for the Sony speakers. I didn't get the message in the shop but liked the song. Big is beautiful.

Little is pretty too. All sizes have their own attractiveness, just know that and believe in your own beauty. Everyone has it, it just takes a little self confidence to bring it out.

To the S albums ? Here we go :

Along with the Star Wars soundtracks, I have a few Star Trek soundtracks too. The soundtracks to the new movies are a highlight. I like what they've done with the theme tune. I have the soundtrack to the first movie too, which comes with an audiobook with interviews between Gene Roddenberry and members of the cast. It was worth getting the soundtrack just for that audiobook.

Dubstar is next with their Stars collection cd. Dubstar have come out with some excellent music over the years, fronted by Sarah's wonderfully pure voice. Highlights here are Anywhere and the rather sad Ghost.

More mainstream with Hard-Fi - Stars of CCTV. It's ok. It's worth an occasional listen but there's nothing special here. Similar with Cults - Static. Ok album but not nearly as good as their first.

Yet another game in the I Need To Play This is Stealth Bastard. Yep. The game features a swear. It also features an incredible soundtrack ...

I maintain a passing interest in Talking Heads, they've done some good stuff too. It's unusual, it can sometimes be brilliant, it can be nasty. Their Stop Making Sense collection features some of their best. And that intro with Psycho Killer ...

One voice I need to collect more of is Sam Brown. But I don't buy old albums for £8. That's a silly rip off that means that no sales are made. The S album is Stop, with the title track being a huge highlight.

Talking of awesome voices, Tori Amos did an album of covers + randoms called Strange Little Girl. And that's my highlight here.

A friend (Crazie Queen if I remember right!) bought me Stranger Things by Edie Brickell. This is one hell of an album, one of the best I have. There are so many great tracks here. Wonder if I can find one on the Youtubes ? Huzzah ! One Last Time. Here we go again. Edie and her band are the type where they could be playing in a club and everyone would be having a wonderful chilled out time, listening to songs they all identify with.

I mentioned bland earlier, Arctic Monkeys are anything but although I have to be honest, they aren't quite as good as they used to be. Suck It And See is their S album.

Fantastic movie time - Sucker Punch soundtrack. This is a split personality movie (literally!) with great action sequences set to awesome music. Here's the first major action sequence set to Army Of Me by Bjork. It's a wonderfully silly movie that I must watch again soon.

I'd like more Mindy Gledhill albums, except - price again. They're still expensive so I don't buy them. Her Sum Of All Grace does the religious thing but it's purity is great to listen to. Highlight - I Will Rest In You. Hmm. I feel all pure and strange now. Must listen to something dirty like Untouched again.

One from my parents time is Elkie Brooks and I bought them her collection, Sunshine After The Rain. It's a double cd and as you'd expect, lots of rubbish with the good. Her signature track will always be Pearl's A Singer but my personal highlight is Fool If You Think It's Over.

The latest album from the Ting Tings was Super Critical - not bad. They're still bringing out the quirky which I like. Highlight for me is Wrong Club.

The album which really sold me on Goldfrapp was Supernature. They have two styles, wonderful chill out and energy disco. This is energy disco and it gets you pumping right from the start with Ooh La La.

Almost there, I'm saving something special to finish off but before then :
Alanis Morrissette with Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. All her songs sound the same ! Which is a pity cos there's a great voice there.
Suzanne Vega's first album - also an incredible voice and a fantastic start to her career.
A Symphony Of British Music - when I saw this going cheap, had to get it. It was a wonderful collection that closed out the London 2012 Olympics.

Last one here is quite possibly the best album in my collection that isn't the rest by the Cardigans. It's Super Extra Gravity. There's some tough lyrics here matched to amazing songs. Every song is a massive highlight for me but my favourite will always be In The Round.

Cya soon for the T's. I'll wait at least until I finish that Taylor Swift album to see what I think of that.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Warry Stars

I've been going back in time with the movies ...
Stay on target.

I shouldn't really be rewatching the Star Wars movies just yet, I should really be saving that for a closer time to the release of the next movies. But, I felt like it :-) And you should indulge stuff like that.

It was the turn of Episode IV A New Hope tonight. I like these movies. I like all of them in fact. I'm not one of the confirmed ultra fanbois who hated the first because it wasn't what they thought it should be. I just see a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. And that's something I feel for all of the movies.

I'm finding that's a good attitude to have for many movies these days, to start watching them with no expectations that they'll be any good. And then you can be surprised when you do actually quite enjoy them.

I'll not say too much more about these movies, time for pics ... Although I will say that I'm looking forward to developments in the gaming world :

Steam sell Lego Star Wars, which tells the story of all of the movies. But they won't discount it ... It's only £15 but ... I don't want to be paying full price on what's a very old game now.
I'm not that skint but I do like to feel I'm getting proper value.
And that goes for my music too.
Go Kenny.

I'm after a few more gaming memories too. I really enjoyed the old Pod Racer game but haven't installed it for years because it doesn't get on well with Windows 7. The game plays ok but can't recall saved games.
There's stories about people suing Apple at the moment because their phones don't have all the memory they claim to have. It's actually idiots who are upset at the memory needed for iOS upgrades but on my part, I think it's sad that a 16GB iPhone 5 only has 13.5GB available to the user and on mine, 2.5GB of that is stolen by something mysteriously called "Other" that I can't clear.
Yes Yodacat. That's the feeling of having to be much more restricted on what you can squeeze onto the 16GB phone (about 1300 tracks) compared to the 16GB iPod Nano (2800 tracks).
Yes. You're seeing me looking for excuses to bring out the Star Wars funnys ...

The other Star Wars games I played were the Tie Fighter games. I played through all of that, including one of the expansions. I tried the X Wing game too, which came before it but got stuck on a mission and couldn't progress further. Those two are now available on but I haven't seen them discounted yet.

You can probably tell I hate paying full price for stuff.

One more before I disappear back into Elite Dangerous. I have 100k of working capital now, need to boost that to 1 million before I change my ship to a Cobra. It's 370k for the Cobra and I have 200k available as part exchange on the Adder but it's useful to have working capital to trade with, plus I'd want upgrades to the base spec Cobra. Better guns. Better hyperdrive. Better cargo space. And the rest.
Definitely better guns or my Cobra will resemble the munched X Wing in the pic above.

Cya soon !

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Online, Offline, what's it matter ?

The gaming world is increasingly getting drawn into the internet ...

And not in a good way.

But before I dive into that - "Je Suis Charlie". People who have heard about the tragedy in Paris today will understand that. You may not agree with the message but the foundation of our society is that people have the freedom to give that message. They should not be ambushed by gun men for that. That's for barbarians like the taliban.

Most games are played solo or locally, where a single player does Stuff. Things like building cities, shooting bad guys, masterminding an army or playing a role in a magical world. Most of those can be done on the computer or phone/tablet you're playing the game on, although you might want to connect online to match against human opponents because AI's are ... a bit limited.

The problem is coming in because of the pirate influence.

Game publishers have been losing too much revenue to the criminals and have been desperate for ways around that problem. We're seeing things like EA's store and Ubisoft's Uplay bringing in Digital Rights Management. Steam have it too but only up to a point. Without being on Uplay, you can't play the game. The consoles have that too, with us seeing Christmas Day spoiled for a lot of console owners due to the actions of a bunch of hacker scumbags who knocked down the Xbox and PSN networks, for a laugh.

A lot of the online connectivity is totally unnecessary too. You should be able to play through a Far Cry or an Assassins Creed totally offline, although I'd support an initial online check to make sure the game isn't pirated. But the gamer shouldn't be held hostage to :

Game servers being unavailable
Game servers being taken offline when the publisher thinks the game is dead
(especially single player games)
The vaguaries of the internet connections
Instability of the servers when they can't cope with the load.

That's like - yeah, I was enjoying that city building sim but the train just went into a tunnel and I lost my mobile signal. Now my city is going to rats until the mobile signal comes back. The latest Sim City (and I think The Sims too) are online only, for no apparent reason.

Sometimes the online requirement is true, sometimes it isn't. I don't think you'd see a game of the complexity of World of Warcraft possible without it being online only. But a game like Star Wars The Old Republic should have been a shorter single player game, instead of the cash in of a massive multiplayer that it ended up as.

The Elite Dangerous game I've been playing is another online only game. It's producing a lot of controversy because the offline mode was taken away. I have mixed feelings here, as I expected the game to have that offline mode. However ... It's modelling a galaxy of stars with a complex trading mode within. All of the player interactions drive the prices, as they do in a game like Eve, although the player manipulates the economy by buying and selling but not creating like they do in Eve.

Thinking about it, I support that online only mode in Elite Dangerous now, because to do that complex modelling and tracking on the host PC would take immense resources. So :

Positive to online - the calcs are done somewhere else and don't hit the frame rate / gameplay
Negative - you wouldn't want to do a trading run on a laptop on a train

And you have to ask yourself the question - what games would I want to be running on a laptop on or off a train ? Personally, I see playing shooter games or action games on a laptop as a kind of abuse of the hardware. But that's probably because part of my brain believes that hitting the key harder makes you run faster. While you can easily replace worn out keyboards on desktops, you can't really do that on a laptop.

That's the big question really.

My desktop gaming (if healthy!) - actiony type games. Online games where I can rely on a good connection.
My travel gaming - simple games. Things like Banner Saga if I get round to playing that. Plague Inc.

There's another aspect - if you're so addicted to something like Counterstrike and demand the right to play it on a train, you honestly need to look inwards at that addiction. But ... it's very sad that you wouldn't be able to do your city building while on the move.

I'm rambling on a bit now ...

Digital Rights Management is what's really driving all this and I see it as a Truly Awful Thing. It breaks a ridiculous amount of software. It's the reason why launches sometimes go horribly wrong. And it's only there because the pirates caused it to happen. But there will always be piracy.

The big problem is that the digital rights management is becoming too intrusive. You shouldn't need to be constantly online or be a hostage to the company servers in order to stay playing a single player game.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Back to work

Felt strange diving back into work today.

One thing that made it a little different was remembering that we were picking up the pieces from our IT having disasters last year. There's three big ones at the moment :

The mail servers keep going down catastrophically. Like the server disappears and takes several days to become accessible again.

The phones don't work properly. A noticeable proportion (possibly even 1 in 4) calls just go to silence.

The videoteleconferencing service (which runs over network type comms) has been broken for a couple of months and it's not likely to be back up again for at least a month.

I'm not saying who runs the mail servers (gives the game away too much) but the phones and teleconference are supplied by BT. You'd think it's their core business and would have availabilities in the 99% area wouldn't you ? Well - I'm glad my home comms have nothing at all to do with BT ... (Virginmedia for cable TV and internet, 3 for my mobile).

So a lot of today was spent figuring out what was going on and picking up again. Ok, so not actually too much time spent doing that, it came back very quickly. I must be doing better mentally than after previous holidays.

And that's true - I'm in better shape (on the outsides at least) than I was after previous holidays since having the skin problem. My legs have been improving and I think my arms would too if I gave them chance. My big problem is that my daily cycle seems to be :

12midnight - bed time. (ish). But ...
12 to 4 am - try and get to sleep. Fail.
Fidget while trying to get to sleep. Damage arms more.
4am to 8am (ish) - fitful sleep.

Assess the damage when I wake up.

Work today was ok actually (with one big highlight) but I'm beat now. That's partly down to feeling a desperate need for a KFC which took me over to the Mall after work. I had a couple of sales targets : New TV, Portable speakers. I'll wait for the telly but bought a Cambridge Audio GO 2 for midnight cruises when we're looking at the stars, not driving.

(Wishful thinking possibly - but I hope I see Skye again soon !)

What was that big highlight from work today ? Actually - there were two :

Our Finance Angel is back ! So I manic-waved a hello as I was wandering past her desk. The Finance Angel is a lovely lady with a sublime personality.
Snow Queen ! She works directly one floor down from me now but sad to say, I don't have too many chances to visit. I did today, which saw me drawing smiles from Snow Queen smiles and natter.

Yep. It's a good day if I get to talk to Pretty Ladies.

Made a few of them chuckle too by showing them the Happy New Year Dragon :
Hope this is a happy and successful new year. I definitely won't be playing cricket (the inside of my legs and hips hate me now) but I'm hopeful I'll see the back of this skin problem and maybe even move on professionally and more importantly, personally.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Dangerously Elite Piloting

I've been steadily getting addicted to a new game ...

It's still early days at the moment but I've climbed ever so slightly in the ranking system so far and I've started pimping out my first new ship after the starter that you're given.

What's the game ?

It's Elite Dangerous and it's the true spiritual successor to a game I was happily addicted to as a kiddie, the original Elite. It brings back gameplay over the pure Newtonian physics models that wrecked the last two games from this series (and which scared me off this one). There is some physics in here, although where it would get in the way of Fun, it's ignored in favour of scifi cheats that make for a better game.

Did I mention it's pretty ?
Click for full 1080p goodness.

That's me in my Adder ship lining up for a docking. In this station, you land on a pad in that bulged cylinder you see in the nearer part of the station, with the pads being on the inside. You get to the inside through the little blue slit you can see me lining up with.

Yep. Pretty game and I'm steadily getting addicted to it.

It's pulling me into its clutches in a way that WoW couldn't really do and Eve got close to. The problem with WoW is that it's keyed to end game content and they've steadily dumbed down the game over the years. I dunno, WoW just isn't my game any more. When I last logged in, I basically did nothing except cycle through characters for 10 minutes and while I considered doing some mob hunting, the interest paled in seconds. Eve satisfies the risk-reward thing of earning money to get bigger and better ships but ... you can barely control the ships in that game. It's tied to the online servers controlling your guns, you don't do that.

This one seems to be satisfying the single player game hunting aspect of me.

I've not had many fights yet, although I did take the shields off a Cobra (a ship a few classes above the Sidewinder I had) before he got my shields down. I ran from that one because that advantage was short lived. But if anyone tries that with my Adder, I'm a lot more confident I can take them down :-)

That's not my Adder, it's a screenie from the forums. I'll fly the Adder until I have enough capital to get a good Cobra. It'll be a while ...

I'm playing the game with a 3 axis flightstick from Saitek Cyborg. It's a Fly 5 stick. It's ok for its cost but I do miss my old MS Force Feedback stick. The problem with this one is that you're working against springs, rather than the motors in the old MS stick. You have to work harder than you'd like to counter the forces holding it in the middle, which makes for less precision.

But - it's an ok stick for the £50 it cost me a while ago and it's sturdy enough to last a while.

Right - dinner bell is going off, so it's time to hit Post.

See you in the spacelanes (callsign is Cmdr Iceangel) ! Fly safe and may you sweep all pirates before you.

PS There's one hidden benefit in this game and using the flight stick - it means there's not enough room on my keyboard table for snacks ! Gaming as a diet technique ? Haha - maybe.

Friday, January 02, 2015

A to Z - S for Symphony

Happy New Year everyone !

Another A to Z post has been rather overdue ... Although saying that, I'm not through listening to the T albums quite yet. Where to start with S ?

Mark Knopfler has done a few solo albums since Dire Straits finished, Sailing to Philadelphia is one of them. Not a bad album, highlight is Speedway to Nazareth.

One of my early favourite albums was Say Something Good by River City People. This had an outstanding cover of California Dreamin' but you've heard that one. This album has a bunch of cracking songs on it, including the one that kicks off the album, What's Wrong With Dreaming. What is wrong with dreaming ?

I started collecting Texas again and they're in here with Say What You Want and I'll go right back to I Don't Want A Lover from Southside for my highlight here. One thing Sharleen Spiteri shares with Siobhan Maher of River City People is one incredible voice with massive range.

And talking of a singer with an incredible voice, there's Scarlet and Other Stories by All About Eve. There's a lot of story telling on this album and many highlights. Including ... Scarlet, Blind Lemon Sam and the poignant The Pearl Fishermen. (struggling for links cos the swines are putting full adverts on and monetizing other people's works - I'm not linking those)

The incredible voices keep coming, this time it's Tori Amos with Scarlet's Walk. I've linked my favourite (I Can't See New York) a bunch of times but there's many more excellent songs here, including the title track, Scarlet's Walk.

Scissor Sisters are a bit of a departure for me, a taste of the unusual. And I seem to like songs called Laura for some reason ... (Perhaps I'm remembering someone I haven't seen for too long ?)

Lisa Hannigan is another who owns an incredible voice, although the strength of this one is partly in its fragility shown off in Sea Sew with I Don't Know.

I don't just listen to female singers, blokes like Seal catch my ear too. He has a habit of calling his albums after himself and there are two of those here (plus Soul). Highlights from each are his breakthrough hit Killer, Fast Changes and ...

Few quick ones :

Katie Melua's Secret Symphony is another pleasant album from her.
Peter Gabriel's Security was another strange album from him
While his So was rather commercial. Good but ... not his distinctiveness
Levellers See Nothing, Hear Nothing, Do Something is typically them
Kate Bush's Sensual World is possibly her last good album (highlight Deeper Understanding)
Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was a wonderful experiment.
While their Somewhere In Time is more familiar 

There's soundtracks here too :
Settlers 2 and IV, Star Wars (from episodes 1, 4, 5 and 6)
Shadowrun Returns - good stuff here, it sets off the game well.
Sid Meier's Colonization (must play that)
Star Trek's here too !

Back to the incredible voices we go with the first Goldfrapp album I bought, Seventh Tree. This is a fantastic album to close your eyes and relax too. Goldfrapp in wonderfully chilled out mode with tracks like Road To Somewhere.

The Beatles are here ! With Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I'd own more Beatles albums but they are ridiculously overpriced for such old albums. Highlight here is With A Little Help From My Friends.

After picking up on The Cranberries (check out Linger), I remembered Shakespears Sister as a similar band from that time. They're not quite as good as I remember, although Stay is still worthy of a listen now.

Few more quickies (lots of S albums here !) :
Lily Allen came back with a Swear-Bomb Bang with Sheezus, more likeable nonsense !
Enya's second was Shepherd Moons with the ethereal Caribbean Blue
Michelle Shocked's Short Sharp Shocked has a few protests
The Pretender's collection of Singles pleasantly surprised me
Clannad's Sirius is the best of their pop-commercial style albums
Sadly the best track on Sixpence None The Richer's self titled album is a cover of There She Goes
Bon Jovi shows up with Slippery When Wet, bit too impressed with himself for me to be honest
Alanis Morissette is here with So Called Chaos, not as inspired as Jagged Little Pill
Coves disappointed me a bit with Soft Friday

Another excellent voice that's come into my awareness is Caro Emerald. It's an older night club type style supported by an outstanding voice. The album is the Shocking Miss Emerald and my highlight is Liquid Lunch showing off her sense of humour too.

Sleeper are here with Smart, with possibly my signature track, Pyrotechnician. Kiss Your Fingers Goodbye. (I'm not that bad with fire - honest)

I heard the track that titles this collection in Tesco the other day, still makes me stop and listen. It's Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly With His Song.

I've followed Suzanne Vega for a long time too. That pure voice continues to enchant, although here we go back to the very old Solitude Standing with Calypso. Her Songs In Red And Grey is here too.

More quickies (so many S albums !)
Robbie's Songbook is here ... another collection album. Yawn.
Maroon 5 started up with Songs About Jane, with the lovely She Will Be Loved.
Snow Patrol's Songs For Polar Bears was a bit ... meh.
Mike Oldfield's Songs For Distant Earth has its moments
U2's Songs of Innocence cause way too much controversy for a rather so-so freebie
Ennio Morricone has penned the soundtracks to some very distinctive films

And I think I'll break it there and make a Part 2 soon ... So many S albums !

Last one is by the Ting Tings (and there's a second in Part 2) - Sounds From Nowheresville was their second and continues the quirky theme of the first. I like this album, with tracks like Soul Killing.

Cya soon :-)

PS I'm steadily getting more addicted to Elite Dangerous. I upgraded my ship to an Adder and am steadily pimping it out ...