Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thematic Photographic - Straight Lines

Ok, I'm a little late with this one (oops).

Not done these for a little too long actually ! It's a meme from Carmi Levy's excellent blog (linky) and the post for (erm) last week's Thematic Photographic is here at this link.

I rarely get good ideas for joining in with the Thematic Photographic but I was feeling wobbly in the sun at the bus stop this morning and a rare idea popped into a head that's usually still waking up at this point.

Straight lines ?
All the straight lines !

It was hot enough this morning that it was genuinely uncomfortable standing on the sunny side of the stop, I was having to lean up against the wall in the shade. But it was fairly ok on the bus and when I was walking from stop to work, that was ok too. Bit nasty on the bus on the way home though. Hopefully they'll allow me into the car park again soon because ... air con.

Air con is cool. Erm. Lovely. Sorry about the really bad pun.

Anyway ... Straight lines ! Lots in the wall, many in the bus shelter structure and the road is kinda straight too. Plus there's those shadows. There are straight lines everywhere we look. And ... a bonus ! Early Suzanne Vega song and didn't she start well ?

Yeah. It's gotten hot here and it's going to get warmer too. Nowhere near as dangerously hot as in places like Pakistan are suffering at the moment but still warmer than we're accustomed to here. I'm feeling it in slightly ill feelings when I eat and in gathering lightheadedness. I can deal with the light headed bit by drinking more cold things. And I'm highly likely at some point to raid the Costa that's sprung up just outside our work for an iced mocha.

But tonight it was ... let's just grab a little quote from what was appearing on Facebook tonight.
The Harvester waitresses are starting to recognise me ...
What could this mean ?
Uhoh. In my defence, one of them used to work where I do and was one of the canteen mob. They're a good mob down there and they know me fairly well from me legging it down there just before they close.
The sundae is coming ... THE SUNDAE IS COMING ...
Yes. The heat may be affecting me.
Yep. It's not about the shopping. It's about that sundae. I just happened to have a load of empty cupboards that needed stuff putting in them.

And 8 Mini Cornettos came away from the supermarket with me too. Oops.
Oh well.

One last pic before I put my head into an ice helmet. This one's from a conversation that was happening at work and I've been looking for an excuse to spring it on you :
I shall remember that the next time a Hot Lady comes up to me and asks for help. (And that "hot" is in no way a comment on her appearance, although she possessed that beauty that all women have. She was just looking for where the cold water is after being in a baking meeting room - honest).

Hope you're not too hot where you are. Warmth is good but we do like it to be a comfortable level of warm.

PS Shoutout to a little lady who I've thought of as a little-big sis for 15 years ... Feel better soon little lady !

Monday, June 29, 2015

Could it be ?

Let's see :

Wimbledon's on the telly.
I've been leaving the rain hat at home in favour of :
The Mexican* sunhat
Dumping the ever present jumper all day after getting to my desk
Feeling it was too hot for a coffee on Friday, instead having an Iced Mocha (there will be more)
Dresses getting shorter
Temperatures getting hotter (and hotter to come too)

It must be ... (don't say it too loud) ... summer ? Don't worry, this is Britain. There will be a thundercloud around the corner to return us to reality.

* Mexican sunhat ? This is a present from the sister and her bloke after they had a holiday over in Mexico. It even has a "Made In Mexico" label on it. I like this hat, although it's strangely about the same weight as my rainhat. It has the advantage of more ventilation and I will definitely enjoy wearing it over the summer.

Cheers sis ! It fulfils (someone else's) dreams :
That's a solid lifelong dream. Hats are awesome.

Yep. Half watching Wimbledon at the moment, as most Brits do with the sport of tennis for perhaps 2 weeks in every year. We tend to ignore it at all other times of the year. It's a good sport, the winner is almost always the better, stronger, fitter player. As in, the one who has worked hardest to deserve the win. And that should be applauded always.

Me ? My various frailties meant I could rarely train, because physical training tended to take the edge off my advantages. I did a series of circuit training last century (yep - I can say stuff like that with real meaning !) and all it did was take the edge off my extreme speed. I gained no actual fitness from it. Where training did benefit me was where I got the repetitions right. So with the cricket :

Being the first one to bowl in the nets and the last one to finish
Getting out in that back garden and hitting the balls I bounced off the wall
And walking wherever possible to get the miles into my legs.

That's something actually. Last week, I was struggling with a bad back that was increasing in pain levels and stiffness. My walking speed was down due to the back being too stiff to really stride out.

Then there was Thursday and huge amounts of positive energy coming from a darling little lady.

Friday morning ? Pain almost gone. Saturday ? Pain gone. Today ? Almost back to the full stride on the first testing of the skeleton since Friday.

Good times. I have to say too though, there's another lady who's been helping me out with making me feel a million dollars (pounds ?) by keeping up with the daft messages and pictures that I'll send her way. My biggest fear is the fear of being isolated and all sorts of people sending me messages help dispel that fear of isolation that leads to my personality shrivelling up into its own dark place.

But I have a few very good friends who remind me that I can be a Good Human Being. At least some of the time.
Just ask the door to door salesmen who DARE to knock on the door trying to shame me into buying their shoddy wares.

Just kidding. But I did get chuckles from two people today for the Coffee and a Donut pic. You know the one I mean.

Right - back to the tennis and wishing on our Brit girl who is locked in a massive struggle in the second set of her match.

And I think when I resupply at the supermarket tomorrow, I shall have to indulge in a cooling sundae. Yep. Arm will be twisted.

Last thought on the summer heat :
Or tea. That goes for tea too. Cya !

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Walking with Dinosaurs ?

Had a great night Thursday evening.

I don't get many chances to see Cupid's Gift but we managed to be in the same place at the same time on Thursday to watch Jurassic World. It was pretty close to her birthday too, so there were a couple of extra thingys in my bag. An Easter Egg too ! (Yes it was in date).

I must have chosen good things because I got hugs.

Hugs are awesome.

Movie ?

If you watched Jurassic Park, this is slightly different. It's in an established park and there's all the chance to do things Bigger ! Better ! With More Teeth ! We see a few old friends come back in with the dinosaurs. None of the original cast are involved, although there is a nice nod to the late great Richard Attenborough.

It follows the usual formula of having a few kids go off into danger they are completely unaware of (haha - where would plots come from if you couldn't do this ?). It sets up the various protagonists (human and dino) without those introductions outstaying their welcome. The action builds steadily into a massively spectacular and boneshaking climax. You feel for the characters (especially the dinos)

Almost the film of the year. (There's a few too many daft plot things in there for it to be a genuine film of the year). Definitely one of the best this year so far. My advice, watch Jurassic Park again first as a warmup. But don't watch JP2 or JP3 as these were poor and may discourage you from seeing what is a quite excellent movie.
Yep. Go see it.

Of course me enjoying the movie could have partly been down to the company ;-)

We get on really well me and CG. There are the text messages that bounce between us that always have me breaking out into that silly grin (no matter my mood before!) when I see/hear one come in. When we see each other, we'll talk until we literally have to be required to be elsewhere. On Thursday, the place we ate our after dinner movie (Coal's Bar - yum) was shutting. Yep. Last people there.

I was home before midnight, honest, after dropping off this lovely lady at her home. And not even knowing that I'd be at war with our work's IT would dispel that happy mood. Although I did wear this as a statement of what I thought of the pooters we're forced to slave over :
Mine is in purple. Purple rocks. And that definitely sums up my attitude when I have to walk away from the machine before it gets drop tested from our 2nd floor office window.

It would have been the dinosaur picture (modelled by avatar dwagon) but that was in the wash (oops, bad planning !).
Oh - I did a probably bad thing yesterday. I blame work's canteen for not having any decent meat for the sandwiches which forced me to go to the Mall for lunch. Yep. Forced. Honest.

I did manage to resist the Thorntons temptation (this is really, really tough) but ... somehow an iPad Mini 2 walked out of PC World with me. Oops. I've been investigating getting one of these for ages now, for the iOS games as well as using it for eBooks. I need to read more, it's bad that I've gotten out of the habit.

And now I'm (slightly) hooked on the Fallout Shelter game. It's a freebie to promote Fallout 4, which I am curious about but definitely won't get on release. The developer/publisher, Bethesda, have a well established reputation for making games that get an immensely popular reputation but aren't actually that great. Gameplay is everything in games and the Bethesda systems tend to be a little bit flawed. Plus we've seen a string of high profile games have disastrous releases lately, some of them (Assassins Creed Unity from Ubisoft) still don't work right and Batman Arkham Knight has been pulled from sale because it was so badly broken.

Advice - save your money and let other people do the real world testing on stuff. It's a timid attitude but we're not all loaded, are we ? Save your money until you're assured that it's worth spending. Bravery is an applaudable characteristic but does have its cost. And it's silly being brave over buying stuff, save the bravery for when it'll help people. Or is that heroism.

I'm having this strange urge for pizza plus my tummy is telling me it needs something inside it so I'd better go but :

Evenings out with Pretty Ladies are awesome
(My back agrees, it started releasing yesterday and it's pretty much pain free today - that's what a happy attitude can do !)
Be wary when you get bombarded with shiny offers
Trust other consumers over the advertising and sales people
Dinosaur movies can still be incredible.
And I've cleared enough cable recording box space to let me watch Interstellar tonight.

Now looking forward to Minions, the next Terminator movie and seeing Pretty Lady again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On those adverts ...

Someone posted a picture the other day which ... I had a look, I had a read and I thought ... Yep. That's absolutely spot on.

Here we go :
Hopefully that reads ok on a click !

Advertising is all pervasive these days. It seems like 90% of what comes through the door is junkmail. A lot of my email is ... advert junkmail. When you look at a website, you're assaulted by adverts that (unless you've got an adblocker) force you to wait until the advert loads before you can read the site.

There's another excellent Heinlein quote :
Do not confuse "duty" with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect.
But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is to deal with a leech who wants "just a few minutes of your time, please - this won't take long." Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing with to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time - and squawk for more!
So learn to say No - and to be rude about it when necessary.
Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you.
(This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don't do it because it is "expected" of you.)
Be wary of those that demand ever increasing amounts of your time. Although if those people bring you joy ? I vote for joy.

With telly stuff, I rarely watch things live. I'm usually watching stuff recorded where I can fast forward past the incessant adverts. Unless the telly company are incompetent and don't schedule their shows properly. For the last episode of Agents of Shield, Channel 4 started it maybe 50 minutes late (I didn't keep watching after fast forwarding through 20 minutes of the end of In Bruges) and I had to watch it off their awful on demand service.

Some on demand services are ok. Some are terribly inefficient (Channel 5's used to overheat my last laptop). Some are really good and don't cause you any overhead past logging in (there are no extra ads on Sky Sports service, just those on the broadcast). Some are ridiculously obnoxious.

Channel 4's demanded that I disabled my adblocker and wasted quite possibly 25 minutes of my time over the course of a 40 minute episode. That's a few minutes before it started, 4 minutes for every break and more time wasted when their ad server couldn't keep up.

COME ON ! Adverts are useless if they cause annoyance instead of interest. And I am one of those people who will actively avoid a product (even if it's a good one) if I've been annoyed by the people selling it. Or I'll buy the same thing from someone else.

(My hd came from Novatech who had a slightly higher unit price than the rest - however the rest charged extra for delivery and had poor interfaces on their websites).

I do get that there's a certain necessity to advertising. Our content costs money to produce and advertising is one source of funding for that content. It's why we get seasons of shows like X Factor, Strictly, BGT and all the other phone vote shows, the votes help to fund the content.

But if you do the phone vote thing, I applaud you. That's your choice.
I'll be watching Jurassic World tomorrow, which will have probably 30 minutes of adverts and trailers before the show. The adverts will be ignored by either nattering or catching up on phone stuff. The trailers I don't mind, because they let you know about upcoming Good Things (or upcoming Bad Things like half the horror films out there). I would have avoided Tomorrowland as Disney-Meh and Mad Max as Too-Crazy-For-Me but ...

Tomorrowland - interesting trailer, cute film, very enjoyable
Mad Max - EPIC trailer, totally nuts, mindblowing film

And then there's the Interstellar trailer which had me : OMG I HAVE TO SEE THIS.

Some adverts are good. Some are really awful.

I've thought about activating the monetization here a few times because of the junk hits I get. These pages get typically 50 hits a day for maybe 1500 a month. It's a little elevated again this month, I may get 2000 hits due to those junk hits ... By that, I mean the patterns I see where there will be maybe 15 hits in a minute, perhaps a second. Sometimes the junk hits number 100 in a minute. That happens. I call those Junk Hits because that cannot be a real reader ! So I ponder the monetization as a response to the bots.

In amongst those junk hits are you lovely, lovely regular reader people. The Android-Chromes. The iDevice people. The ones who come here via Twitter or Facebook. The Win-IE8 people from a certain address I won't mention. The ones who keep coming back for more.
I think of it as a special little virtual hug every time I see one of those familar patterns on the hit logs. I can't decipher who it is. Google, Statcounter and the defunct sitemeter don't give me enough information there. But my brain always goes "Hey ! That's SQ !" or "That's Pixie !" "That's CG !" "That's LTK !" I could go on but you get the idea. I think it's awesome that so many wonderful people (you too CK !) care enough to keep an eye on me and how I'm doing.

What message would it send if adverts started appearing ? How would I feel if one of those special people got their device infected with something horrible due to something that a 3rd party advertising person put on here ?

Terrible. So the adverts stay away. Besides, the bots are probably all using adblockers so I wouldn't get any monetization from them anyway.

That brings me to my last point. One mantra of the web is "be careful where you browse to" (for there be nasties infecting your system). Well, with all pervasive adverts, even if you browse to a well known site (and I always use the Daily Mail example, not that I read that site) you may get caught by the not so well known site that serves up tainted content.

The internet is dangerous. Harmful effects come from tainted pictures (not just the porn!), anything Adobe has anything to do with, hell even certain text messages can break phones.

Be careful out there.

It's just really, really sad that advertisement people not only suck up our time, they make our lives tougher too.

Stay safe !

Monday, June 22, 2015

Life of Ben

I went back to see my mum and dad this weekend just gone.

I don't see them enough because it's a bit of a trek to do the 180 miles and I'm not quite as spring chickeny as I used to be (case in point - my back hates me right now). But it is good to make the trip up there to see them. And Ben the Staffy.

Ben's a real character. He's a lovely little(ish) dog. He'll give a good bark when he gets excited but he's extremely quick to go to a state of "Hey, this person is ok. Let's give 'em a slurp."
Ben will very quickly take a cue from mum and dad. If they act ok to a person, Ben will check them out, give them a slurp (he doesn't actually slurp too much now) and see if they'll give him a bit of fuss. He does like people does Ben, although he does show a bit of a neurotic tendency. He's getting old though, so not too much fussing and bouncing before he'll flake out. We don't bring my sister's dogs to mum and dad's place either now, they're a bit too young and boisterous for the old fella waving his stick at them.

Except Ben wouldn't be waving his stick, he's way too nice an individual for that.
This is Ben at the door to the kitchen. Behind that door were bacon smells and Ben was attempting to use his telekinetic powers to get the door to magically open. (No whining, just an intent stare at the door). And ...
Mind powers ! They work ! Bacon appeared ! (Which I ate - and felt guilty all the time due to pooch telepathic powers)

Here he is again with the "you don't want that meat scrap". He's actually eyeing up my dad's lap there for a cheeky scout of the table. He'll jump up on a lap and then have a crafty 360 degree scan of the table. But he'll only do that once. This is what he is worshipping :
Poor pooch to be tortured by such lovely smells. He will supervise the cooking too :
We don't think Ben has that long left. Maybe another year or two. His paw is managed with pain pills but his heart is getting weak too.

We'll miss him, he's a lovely dog and adores his people. We've been very lucky to have three dogs like that, Scruff, Goldie and Ben are all amazing in their own individual ways. Ben has a few years left him in yet I hope.

They're not pets, they're part of the family.

PS The rest of the family is good too. I might be the worst off right now with a bad back and the outsides !
Back - I have a nasty feeling getting too fat and having trousers that are too small is putting pressure on my old lumbar area injury. So I've bought some bigger trousers today and will try and maintain a neutral posture to help it.
Outsides - are genuinely improving still. But it'll take maybe a month overall for all the damage to clear and I can do damage in seconds that undoes that. Discipline required.
But on the whole - improving.

Good weekend was had. How about your weekend ? A good week too with potentially Mr Holmes on Wednesday (think I'll give this a miss to be honest) and Jurassic World on Thursday. Looking forward to that hugely.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Touched by disaster

That's a weird title I hear you say ...

My brain is the type that tends to have random thoughts firing off completely at ... random. Tonight's random brain cell firing was from a chat on the bus on the way home, we were talking about cars ...

How's that connected to disaster ? Valid question. Very valid question. The random neurons went from the circumstances of the car to more general thoughts.

How often have you been affected by a genuine disaster ? I can think of 3 times for me offhand and there's a few where disasters happened nearby but didn't directly affect me. The UK is pretty lucky for that, our land is geologically stable so no earthquakes, we rarely get affected by megawinds and our coasts are fairly well protected from freak waves.

First up is the one that touched everybody - September 11th 2001. I was over here at a design review when that happened. Some of the chief execs for the company hosting the review were on one of the planes. 2001 affected everyone, it genuinely changed the world. I don't think it changed the paranoia level of most of our intelligence agencies but it did give them justifications (excuses ?) for steadily increasing intrusiveness.

The second was the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 which is more widely known for what happened with the Fukushima nuclear plant*. Amongst the problems caused by the earthquake was widespread damage to Japan's industrial infrastructure. This included their automobile factories. This is about the time I was looking to change my Focus to something resembling a good car and the Toyota Prius, Honda CR-Z and Lexus CT were on my list, quickly being narrowed down to the Lexus for its quality.

*(This will be a tragedy for the planet because the good engineering was not recognised, the bad engineering caused knock on problems and set back the cause of nuclear power. What is the least polluting, outside of the low volumes of waste, source of power ? Nuclear).

Earthquake vs car ? They couldn't build them fast enough to keep up with the demand. There had been too much damage to the infrastructure. New CTs were taking ? 3 months to deliver ? I think. Used CTs were rare and almost full price for 6 month old cars. Compare that to now and Lexus seem quite desperate for me to think about having another IS. The infrastructure has been rebuilt and supply has caught up to demand. And I'm seeing a fair few CTs and IS's around, very few CR-Z (it's a nasty, ugly attempt and fails at being a sports coupe) and not many Prius.

The last time is the floods that affected Thailand. Where are most of the hard disc factories ? They were underwater in Bangkok at about the time I was looking to build Pumpkin. The result was that instead of umming and ahhing over whether to get a SSD drive for Pumpkin, it forced my decision because I was unable to buy a conventional drive at an affordable price.

Translation - I had to use a little fast disc with an old big disc from the last machine instead of a new big slow one. And I was able to catch up later.

Yep. I haven't been at all badly affected by disasters, although I've seen their effects from afar. I don't like to talk about things like disasters too much, you see way too much of that from the news media and it's far better informed (cough - Fox - cough) than what I'll know about.

But I do work with people who occasionally get dispatched off to help with disaster relief and I think that's awesome. It's them using the tools we give them for an incredibly positive purpose.

You might be thinking - how about the floods ? how about the hurricane ? We heard about the infamous Michael Fish hurricane report and the aftermath but it missed us completely. The Somerset flooding of a couple of years ago was fairly close to where I live but I didn't see any of it, outside of seeing waterlogged fields by the side of the motorways.

I've been lucky to avoid any real nasty effects from disasters. Being inconvenienced with buying stuff is of zero significance next to the real trauma and loss suffered by those caught up in natural disasters.

Looking back (in the pre-publish check that always misses typos and wrong words !), Chernobyl happened when I was 11. Can't remember how we adjusted to that but we were very nervously watching the news for the spread of the fallout cloud, with the news telling us about how it would contaminate the milk supply for decades to come.

Over to you, have you been involved in a natural disaster ? (Outside of bedrooms and unkempt gardens) Can you talk about what happened ?
I hope you weren't too seriously affected !

Cya and hope for good times.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bring on the entertainments

The hype train is going nuts at the moment ...

It's E3 time, which is where the Entertainment industry tries to get you all very excited about the stuff they're coming out with. For me, it's the games. It's all about ... Buy our stuff. Preorder our stuff before we deliver. Kickstart our stuff.

But it's mostly about the getting you excited about stuff they want you to buy.
Bit like this post. I have no clue what's coming !

Yeah. The entertainment industry these days want our money. All our money. And they aren't that bothered about giving us all the product we want or all the product they promised. A big thing in the games industry at the moment is Downloadable Content (DLC), where they'll sell you the base game and then expect you to buy lots more bits and pieces for it. Flight Sim X is on Steam sale at the moment, you could buy it for £4 (I'm interested) with discount. All of the DLC (with discount) would set you back £177.

Crikey !

And you'd also be looking to spend £100+ on a flightstick and throttle to get the most out of that. I have a flightstick and throttle, I think it's essential for Elite. But I only spent £45 on mine (don't buy the Cyborg Fly5, it's trash, breaks early and the middle deadzone makes it awkward to use). My Thrustmaster Hotas X is a good bit of kit, I'm glad I ditched the Fly5 for it.

Where's this going ? I dunno ! I forgot. Oops.
So all this hype.

Try to resist. Trust your judgment, not the shiny promises made my the marketing men. Figure out whether you can trust your sources. They may be taking incentives to promote the good while ignoring the horrid (I put no credibility in games mags, they continually promote awful buggy rubbish)

Personally, I never buy stuff when it comes out. The exception is the new Elite and the WoW expansions when I was still playing. Why wait ? Because you'll see the opinions of others, there are rarely important spoilers and discounts are usually not too far around the corner.

Why pay full price when a bit of patience will save you cash ?

Who do I trust for opinions ? I watch youtube people like Totalbiscuit, Jesse Cox, Hannah and Kim of Yogscast. TB gives dangerous first impressions videos, his enthusiasm for gaming is very catchy and I've bought a few games on his recommendation (that I've subsequently barely played!) because he made them look awesome. Similarly, TB and Jesse will usually not hold back if they see flaws in a game. That's valuable honesty. I'm not so sure about other youtube people, the impressions they give for games sometimes ignores the terrible elements of those games.

But I still love watching Hannah and Kim stuff, they're the two Yogscast people who I still regularly watch, the interest has waned from the rest. They either play games I have no interest in or they've ... just gone terribly boring, puerile or childish and most of all, only funny in their own minds. But they still have big audiences so their target audience must like them.

Mentioning audience ...

I used to think of this blog as a bit of a guilty secret, based on the reactions of people when I told them about it. Think of the Heinlein quote "writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards." I like that quote.

Recently, when I mention the blog or send links to post, I've been seeing people tell me it's a really cool thing that I'm doing with it.

That's the lovely lady who keeps telling me the posts are great posts. (All feedback appreciated, good feedback sends me wibbly)
There's our new finance angel (and she is an angel, with a look that gets more action from us than the cattleprod that we knew her predecessor had hidden away for us)
And everyone else who keeps coming back.

I see the hits coming in on the hidden hit counters and think it's awesome that people are stopping by to have a look. It moves this away from being that guilty secret to ... hey ! maybe I'm entertaining someone, getting them to think about stuff or just getting a chuckle or a smile.

If I do get chuckles or smiles, that's a major win in my book.

Ramble Detector ALERT !

Watched Mad Max last night - awesome film. The promise from the trailers is fully realised. It's an epic thumping of the senses but also has a bit of story, lots of attitude and some pretty decent characters too. Thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Back to work - and it was 3 days before a teacake was on offer. I may have faded away.
(Except I'm nowhere near fading away right now, need to lose weight again !)
An amazing lady's birthday is coming soon, hopefully she'll let me get her something shiny.
I should be doing my hard disc upgrade while the cricket's on ! After this.
I'm trying not to rant about cyclists with attitude problems who ride on pavements and/or ignore cycle paths.
Steam and GoG summer sales are threatening my wallet but I have mostly resisted so far (the old classic Homeworld and I'll buy Creeper World too)
And Lexus summer sale is being curious too. Only had this car for 17 months and they want me in the next one already !

Last bit - don't succumb to hype !
Although saying that, I fully intend to not miss out on Jurassic World. Cya !

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Back to work ...

Hmm - that time again.
I wish.

Back to work tomorrow after a week off that I sorely needed.
That was me before I disappeared for my week off. I'm still feeling tired now but that's mostly down to the latest attempt to watch the whole of the Le Mans 24 hour race. I didn't, I gave up at 3am and started watching again at about 9.30am.

I've improved over this last week. I haven't done much, which was mostly the point. It was a rest and recover week to hopefully get some of my older strength back. The problem with my outsides has taken its toll in more ways than you'd think, plus work has been more stressful than ever lately due to :

Too much being expected of too few people (isn't this a universal constant ?);
Destructive IT changes (isn't IT supposed to work for you instead of get in the way ?);

Actually, that's just two reasons for work being stressful, although that too much work thing is a fact. I'm currently covering 2 gapped posts as well as the work I'm supposed to be doing. And it looks like the fella who was in one of those posts before retiring did almost nothing. I'm discovering all the gaps. We'll get help for those gaps soon but ... the straw's already broke and I need to find somewhere else in the organisation to work. Too many people are feeling that, which just compounds the problem.

Enough about work ! There's still a few hours of holiday left ...
Still, work has its benefits. There's a few awesome people I work with, although they're not all on the same site, we still keep in touch and help each other out. There's a nucleus of people with a can-do attitude. They're good to be around or be in contact with. I know one of them has led to a rise in the rate that I post stuff here. A few work people know about this blog but not many work people regularly look. One special lady does keep an eye on me though and I think that's awesome.
Yep. I mean it.

That goes for another very special little lady who keeps me amused with oft-crazy-always-funny text messages. Miss ya, not seen you for too long !

Ok, what have I been up to outside of sleeping and popcorn munching ?

I started off a trip (in game) to the centre of the galaxy in that there internet spaceship game. I'm back in the populated zones now though. The game hasn't been as stable as we'd like since the Powerplay metagame expansion came out and one thing that's broke is the Star-Nav (like a satnav except it navigates by stars, not satellites). You used to be able to plan routes up to 1000ly distance, which made it easier to plot a course to the centre of the galaxy (27,000 light years). I was lucky to plot distances beyond 130ly today though when completing the return trip.

Yep. Back in the populated areas now, I think I'll dabble in that metagame thingy for a bit if I do the internet spaceship gaming thing. I did 3000ly out, 2600ly coming back (return trip was more of a straight line) and the ship was only 12% broken. Hmm - that doesn't actually bode too well there, as if you multiply up the distance and wear by 10, then ship gonna break or get paper thin and very likely to break.

Been watching lots of cricket ! Both on the telly and for reals. Thursday saw the annual pilgrimage over to Lords for the Interservices T20 tournament in aid of our service people. That's a worthy cause always worth supporting, they've had a hard time lately what with Gulf War 2 and Afghanistan.

Wednesday saw me head off to Cheltenham because the car wanted to say hello to the dealer again (a "maintenance required soon" alert hadn't been reset). That gave me the excuse to wander around and hunt for shinies.

Coulda got more shinies to be honest.

One thing I did notice on Wednesday evening (after watching San Andreas - ok amusing but not great) was that the bounce seemed to be coming back. That's awesome. I was also bouncing round Lords on Thursday too.

That's encouraging. I have various parts of me that are pretty broken now (back, hips) but I've seen progress with my outsides, they seem to be genuinely trying to heal now although it's still a case of steps forward, steps back. Energy levels seemed to be recovering :-)

We'll see how that goes over the next week back at work. I suspect it won't be long until I start itching to throw the desktop out the window. On that ... I have something coming soon, which will be the second major upgrade this desktop PC will have had (the other was a graphics card). It's done well to only need 2 upgrades in 3.5 years.

Oops. I almost talked work again. Must stop that.

Enjoy the rest of your evenings !

Friday, June 12, 2015

Days in the sun

Day at Lords yesterday !
Believe this or not ... but the sun was out all day.

And not just clear skies, it was getting pretty warm in that sun too.
I spent one of the innings watching from the upper deck of one of the stands, looking at the Lords Pavillion over in the distance there. I posted a similar pic to this one on Facebook with the comment "Shoulda brought me helmet" because that spot was right in the firing line for straight hitting. Ok, it would be a big hit from a batsman at the other end but very possible.

There wasn't actually that much big straight hitting, most of the 4's and 6's were shots clobbered round the corner into the stand off to the left of this picture.
Bit like that.

At least I think that was a thump to the boundary.

As well as enjoying the cricket, I was enjoying playing with the camera. It's a Canon Ixus 265 and I haven't had that many chances to play with it so far. I kinda forgot that I got a 16GB memory card with it, I barely scratched the surface of that yesterday with 53 photos and an early play at taking a few videos. Not watched those yet, wonder how they turned out.

It's much better quality than the old iPhone camera but ...

iPhone camera - can talk directly to Facebook
Ixus - needs the pictures to go via Macbook
(and the Ixus refuses to talk to my Win7 desktop at all)
That's from the iPhone camera. Similar quality (except for that little spot upper right which won't budge) but there's no zoom, which makes a hell of a difference for getting right into the action. I was pleased with the speed of the Ixus too, pictures were taken pretty much on the click of the botton. With my last digital camera, the picture was taken over a second after the button click.

Enough about cameras !

Navy vs Army first. I missed most of the first half due to ... travel. The game started at 10am and I targeted getting to Hillingdon tube station at 9.30am to get an offpeak ticket (makes a clear different cashwise). Navy knocked up an under par 104 all out after losing too many wickets early on. An indisciplined, lacklustre and possibly even lazy performance in the field saw the Army clear that target with a couple of overs to spare. Extras very nearly ended up as top scorer, anything over 10 extras is inexcusable in these kinds of games, to give away over 30 ? Criminal.

I say lazy there ... when I fielded, I made a point to attack the ball. I would be anticipating where it was going to go, even before the batsman played his shot. I'd predict where I'd need to go from what shot they were looking to play. And I saved a lot of runs that way ... including running a lot more than I needed to. Hey ! I liked scampering around the cricket field like a mad thing ! Most of the fielders yesterday didn't seem to be doing much anticipation. 1's became 2's and so on. I like to think I saved maybe 20 runs each innings from my fielding, not from picking up the ball and pinging it in but from convincing batsmen that it would be a Very Bad Idea to attempt a run.

Cricket's a mind game ...

So - 1 win for the Army. Next up, RAF vs Navy. And RAF promptly bash more runs in their innings than both teams combined scored in the first. Navy come second again but at least they make a reasonable effort at it.

Last game, Army vs RAF. Cagey game. Tight bowling and wickets at good times* led to RAF getting just 119 in their 20 overs. The chase was fairly cagey too, although Army started bashing it more towards the end to take victory on the day with overs to spare.
*(RAF have a star player who dominates, he got out cheaply in this game after bashing a quick 50 against Navy. Army's team performance won them the game)
Handshakes to finish. Tea and medals for the victors and a Sleepy departing for home.
Not through those gates. Those are the Grace Gates at the Pavillion end of the ground. I legged it through the Nursery gates (closer to the Tube station).

I enjoyed the day out there. I didn't see anyone I know, the usual cluster of friends couldn't make it this year. It's always better watching events like this in company as you can talk about what's occurring. Maybe next year, or at one of the county T20 Blast games. That's a weird one though because I don't want to have anything to do with the local team. Perhaps Taunton for Somerset or Ageas Bowl for Hampshire.

Tired now. It was a 7.30am start, getting home at 11pm. I have the England vs New Zealand cricket on telly at the moment and England have made a promising start to a chase of 399. We shall see who wins ...

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

If you go to the cricket wear your helmet

Oops. Started typing, thought I'd better add a spoiler warning. Now how many words do I need to add at the top I wonder ...

Just seen the end of the England vs New Zealand cricket. Great day for it, the game was a day night game which ... has finished in sunshine.

Yep ! The sun occasionally shines in GB ! Perhaps not on Thursday, that's when I toddle off to Lords to watch the IST20 games.

It's been a good day's watching of the cricket. Lots of incident, lots going on, England got themselves into a very strong position quite quickly after an early setback. And ... highest score ever posted by England, first time 400 has been scored in a one day over here.

Add to that, a very successful return to England colours for legspinner Adil Rashid. Not only a match winning performance with the ball, he crafted out a wonderful supporting innings with the bat too. Hurrah for sticking it to the detractors and showing us what he could do. He was there all through the West Indies tour as well but didn't play, mostly due to our current Test captain and the as-then coach being muppets.

Yep. 408 scored today with a "BOOM !" from me pretty much every time our boys hit it into the crowd and a "Good Shot Sir !" for most of the fours. Great game for the England boys, New Zealand played pretty well too actually but fell way short with the game ending in a bit of a rush with lots of wickets.

It's distracted me away from :
That's my Diamondback Explorer looking at the galactic core from maybe 25,000 light years out. The starfield is definitely bigger as I've got 3000ly closer to it. That's only 1/9th of the distance. And one thing I'm impressed with in the game is that the starfield gets more prominent as you go away from a star. The brightness of the star suppresses the starfield.

I've been promised sights like the neutron star fields and the black holes. You know what a black hole is right ? Get too close and nothing escapes, not even light, because the gravitational attraction is so much that it pulls everything in.

A neutron star is different. It's formed from the remnant of a star that's gone through the most violent of explosions, a supernova. What's left is maybe 2 times the mass of our sun, in a space only 12-13km across. Here's the wiki info about them.

The basic building blocks of everything (to the atomic level ! it gets weird beyond that) are protons, electrons and neutrons. (Deletes long boring spiel about basic atomic chemisty, you ain't interested in that). Neutrons are mostly inert particles and in a neutron star, there's a massive number of them that collapse in on themselves to become the smallest thing they can become without becoming a black hole.

So you have something massing twice the mass of our sun, in that ball 12-13km across. In comparison, our sun is almost 1.4 million km in diameter. You're getting the idea that a neutron star might be something very dangerous to get close to. Not just that, you might not see them due to them being so smal, unless they are gamma or x-ray pulsars which are also, horrendously unhealthy if you're in the neighbourhood.

The way the game is set up, it has a procedurally generated (translation - guessed at but consistent for everyone) map of our galaxy. It's based on what we know, up to a point. There's only so much our astronomers can see. There's also made up clusters for areas like the starting cluster from the original game. There's a ring of these neutron stars modelled in the game, not just are they dangerous but if you go too far in, you run out of fuel and can't get out. You can only refuel from certain types of star, definitely not from a neutron star.

And then there's the supermassive black hole in the middle of the galaxy.

The game implements black hole lensing effects (where the light beams bend around the black hole) and I'm looking forward to seeing how those appear. Not for a while though, I still have 24000 light years to travel in my little ship.

It has a name by the way : Searching For The Larks

There's a meaning behind that name, I'm curious to see if anyone will guess it ... I may have to get the new Imperial Courier ship :
The Diamondback is small and highly useful but it isn't what you could call "Pretty". Bit too angular. And I know a few small, very gorgeous people who I'd like to name a ship after.

But there's me disappearing into a game world instead of doing stuff in the real world. Perhaps a few busy days ahead :

Wednesday - off to Cheltenham to get a niggle on the car looked at. It's asking for maintenance to be done, which should have been done at the service (someone's missed an electronic tickbox). I'll also look around Cheltenham for Shinies because ... why not ! Shinies are good.
And then it's back here to watch San Andreas which could be ... bad and pretty amusing.
I also need more snacks for :
Thursday - Lords for the cricket ! After flirting with looking at the train, I'm going to take the car. It means more time travelling but I should be able to watch more of the games without being limited by offpeak travel times. It's almost £70 difference between starting at 8am and starting at 9am. That's daylight robbery.

Saturday and Sunday - Le Mans 24 hours. Looking forward to this, there's always a story that develops throughout the race. Sometimes cars get totally rebuilt and carry on to the end. I haven't looked at the entry list yet but I hope there will be a few Brit cars to cheer on.

And more cricket on the telly too.

Ok, have rambled on enough for tonight (including way too much science than I can justify !). Last pic ?
Hope the racing at the weekend is safe but fast and that no one gets hurt this year.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

It's a little bit ... yellow ...

Internet spaceships !

And pretty pilot pics too.

Been back in the game today. Which in one way is a sign that I'm getting a little bit of mental energy back again :-). They've just updated Elite with 3 new ships and a whole new political metagame thingy.

I'm going to avoid the metagame for a while (it would restrict me too much and the benefits are not clear) but I have acquired one of the new ships. Sooo ...

The old Sidewinder is in my garage in one of the old systems called Zaonce (it could probably fit into the Python's holds). It's joined the Python and the Clipper. I'll go back to it after two Plans :


There are two community goals going at the moment where you get handy bonuses but most of all, a direction to go in. You can get lost in open world / galaxy games like this. There's literally so much you could do, you end up doing nothing. The Eve people call it Ship Spinning. However, in Eve it's a bit different. That game has gone towards it being essential that you go multi player. If you venture out on your own, it's very easy for player-griefers or just the local player security force to come get you. Elite is very different, the biggest player group you can have is 3 (Eve is essentially unlimited) and you can avoid even that by using the Solo mode. You're still connected to the online servers and the partly player driven economy but you're not fighting players.

Pretty pilot pics ?
That's one of the new ships, it's called a Diamondback Explorer. And it's very yellow indeed.

It has replaced an Asp :
The Asp is a bigger ship. Both ships have the same job, to go out into the black and see what's out there. I might well do a bit of that this week - the trading community goal is a bit far away from that Zaonce garage.

The explore mission would involve heading off to the galactic core for the pilgrimage that quite a few Elite players are doing.
There's 220 lightyears between the blue diamond (current location) and the red spaceship (Zaonce garage) and another 27000 light years to the galactic core. What's there ? A supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A*. And lots more on the way.

I plan to go west for maybe 1000 light years (this is the max distance you can set up a route for) and then go pretty much straight in. So I'll do a box pattern coming back to the blue diamond.

We'll see. Judging how the other pilots report their trip, it might actually take a month to do the run. I don't plan to be buried in the game that much this week.

Wait - there hasn't been a glamour shot yet ... Here we go :
The original was too dark, that's been Gimp-i-fied for extra brightness. Looks awesome doesn't it ? If yellow.

I've been ignoring the Grand Prix while tapping this out. At least it's been better than the football was earlier. I actually turned that off midway through the second half because it was so boring. Plus the cricket was starting on the other side.

One last pic ?
Go go Pilot Dragon !

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Throwback Thursday

Not done one of these before.

The Throwback Thursday is a meme that I've seen running around the net for a good few months now and you know me with memes ...

Here we go - this Throwback Thursday goes back maybe 5 years now. Could be 4. And a pic ?
Apologies for the blurriness, this is an excerpt from a scanned in old style camera pic. It was my last game (and one of very few!) as a wicket keeper, where I played for one of the work teams against the other work team. It was the last game of that season too before the rains set in. I can't remember much of it (it was a bit of a blur !) but I can remember :

Being under the helmet for 19 out of our 20 fielding overs.

Getting the captain irritable for standing up to the stumps to him*
*(he was bowling up slope and anything that came to me standing back was coming to my feet, which is ... awkward. Better to up the required skill and stand up than risk having stuff go through)

I got a catch ! It was a fine nick down the legside, which is one of the tougher catches to take because you only see the ball coming after it has passed the bat. I didn't have to dive much but did the roll anyway :-) And then checked the glove to make sure I'd actually caught the ball. Confidence hey ?

I played the switch hit in the game ! This is a new novelty innovation, it isn't played much now but I liked doing it and was getting decent with it in the nets. As a right hand batsman, my right hand is normally on the shoulder of the bat with the left hand above at the top of the handle. When you play the switch hit, you swap the hands over as late as possible. I did that too early this time and the bowler was able to put the ball in a really awkward spot, so the ball barely got 10 yards. A shame because the shot was on, there were no fielders in the shot's hitting zone and the ball would have run away down hill.

I think I did pretty good in this game as keeper but ... if you're not used to it, the keeping takes its toll. I was shattered by the end of the game, from the keeping as well as having the helmet on for over an hour. Sweaty noggin = ugh.

We won ! Hence the celebratory picture. The other side legged it fairly quickly. I think this is one of those games where the fella who goes out with my last partner, Ravenwolf, was playing and chatting to me. I still treat him like a mate, which I suspect freaks him out. But there are boundaries where he quickly realises he should stop talking about the subject he's gone on to. (Lesson - there's too much hate around, if a break up happens treat it as a learning experience, don't carry malicious thoughts around, life is too short for that).

Mentioning "life is too short" sentiments ... Why the Pink Hat ?
This goes back a few years. Our team was merging with another team as the start of an initiative to change the way we support our kit. The other group didn't really integrate that well, there were a few blockers in there who were being obstructive. One is still there actually. But one of the people that helped bring us together was The Rose.

She was a beautiful lady who always caught my grin and answered with a little smile of her own. I can still remember her face.

However. She was one of too many who are struck down by breast cancer. She started treatment the season before the Pink Hat season and died not long before the start of the season. We were devastated. It was a terrible shock to lose one so beautiful, so kind, so early.

My original idea was to raise cash for a cancer charity on a form of performance incentive thingy. However, I knew I was approaching the end of the time I could support running around like a mad thing and didn't organise the charity collection thing. I knew that if I did, I would put too much pressure on myself to play games when I should be resting torn muscles and abused bones. I played 8 games that year, I'd normally play double that.

I did do a form of performance based donation though. I got two catches and a run out and for each of those, I put in an extra donation to other people's charity collecting efforts. I would have donated anyway but this was a nice little bonus for them. In the end, the only performance benefits were those catches and the run out, I didn't score any significant runs that year (wonder if it was the year I got hit for the second time ?) and my shoulder was past the point where I could bowl with it.

What I did do was raise awareness. Whenever people questioned the Pink Hat, I would tell them about The Rose. We went quiet for a little while after that and if you've seen me around a cricket field, you'll know I'm pretty gobby with giving encouragement to the team. I saw that as part of my role, to make noise. A quiet team is a sleeping, drifting team and you have to attack in cricket to win. I shed a few tears under that Pink Hat too. I did miss that Pretty Lady smile.

So that's my first Throwback Thursday post !

I hope your screens didn't crack with the picture of me. I hope you don't tear up too much with the story about The Rose. I think she'd want to be remembered for that wonderful smile rather than for sad reasons.

I never like to end on a sad note though.
That's from my last ever game, hope you don't get blinded by the sun glinting off the skipper's head.
Remember the bad but don't be defined by it. Live for the good.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Gravity ... too high

Almost holiday time !

Really feeling the need for it.
When I get really tired, I start losing track of days, which is affected by times when I'm not in that regular Monday to Friday work schedule (Monday was an away day). What day is it today ? Yep. Wednesday but it's a tiredness sign for me when I have to actively think about that. Bins tonight too !

Whinge time - the hurty bits have got more noticeable this week. My sleep has been compromised and I've been in awkward positions (stop sniggering ! ok, I admit it, I chuckled) to stop damage to my broken outsides. But that doesn't help poorly back or shoulders. My legs have also been a bit strange, they've bulked up again. It's not the swelling that I had before, my knees are ok so I don't have the protective swelling keeping my knees happy. No, it's like I've been building up the muscles in the legs again which makes them more prone to my greatest enemy, cramp.

Yep. Pain level is ... noticeable. It's not quite at "send me painkillers" but for the first time in I dunno how long, I'm considering that. Yep. Ouchies.

But I don't want to dwell about that and you don't really want to hear it. It's like a call for sympathy and that's not me. I'd do things in the past like warn the cricket people that I wasn't up to par. And then play anyway. Daft thing is that when I was suffering from a bad back one season, playing was actually what I needed and it freed itself up pretty much as I was running on the field.

Perhaps exercise is the key ?

Two more days at work to go though. I can do that. I draw strength from lovely people who chat to me (although today the pooter nearly went out the window, our Win7 Enterprise is wobbly as jelly). It's like giving a happy response or trying to get a response that'll make them chuckle will rub off on me and make me a little bit happier to.

It won't work for everyone but if you have those depressive tendencies, talk to people. Even if it's taking advantage of accepting that offer of a 10 minute insanity break to get a coffee. If you try and hold it in, the bad thoughts become self reinforcing. And if you think a 10 minute insanity break loses you 10 minutes of work, think of how more productive you'll be if you exorcise those bad thoughts. 10 minutes away could lead to 30 minutes less being dominated by the bad thoughts at the desk.

Happy thoughts.
But watch out for that insanity break if you have fiends who would actively consider time bomb sodas for amusement. Yes. I mean you. You know exactly who I mean.

Yep. I've been getting through the stretch to this week off by borrowing a little strength from all those people who chat, who give that pat on the back for Good Things, people who smile, people who let me help them out.

Plans for the time off ?

Lots of cricket watching. There should be Twenty20 games on most of the days and there will be England vs New Zealand one day games on too. I think we'll get hammered in those, the changes made have involved dropping our two best bowlers (who are admittedly ineffectual in one day games) while the dodgy batting is allowed to stay immune to the axe. We're also ignoring our most promising spin bowler, Adil Rashid, who spun Yorkshire to another county championship crown on a home pitch that doesn't suit spin. Get him in the side !

Le Mans is the weekend of the 13th and 14th. I try and watch that every year. This will be my pizza opportunity. If I try to watch the whole 24 hours, making too much acid due to pizza cheese will be irrelevant because I won't be attempting sleep. That's the plan at least. I've not managed to do an all nighter since uni.

Still need to see Mad Max ! The obvious time is Friday after work, although the first showing would be about half 6. Any readers wanna join me ?

I fully expect that me and the boys will watch San Andreas too, plus Jurassic World is out next week as well. Beware the dinosaur with tools :
And coming full circle, there is the Interservices Twenty20 tournament at Lords on Thursday 11th. I'm having strange thoughts here. To get there by car is 2 hours to the underground station, then 1 hour on the underground and the same to get back. The train would be 1 hour 15 to Paddington and then a little less underground time to Lords. I'm tempted, although to get a much cheaper offpeak ticket would see me missing an hour at the start.

Of course if there is anyone who'd like to do the trip with me from Bristol ? There's room in the car for 3 more.

It might be a fairly full week. Hopefully I can get some healing in and not too many steps backwards this time. If I can keep my posture right too and have the right kind of food and drink intake, that should help out my insides. They're compromised at the moment by my body trying to repair the outsides and getting confused.

2 more days to go though. And despite the tired, I can see me adopting Bounce Off The Walls Get Caged Up And Chained To Desk hyperactivity on the last day to clear all the work to be done before disappearing.
And I was swearing today - the work machine was being very obnoxious.

Message to work people - hide the drums ! Don't let me see them.

Cya !