Sunday, August 30, 2015


So I now have a new keyboard ...

The pooter fair was a bit ... poo. I'm used to the big fairs that used to run in Lincoln and another one, more local, that ran in Whitchurch. They'd have a big sports hall filled with vendors selling all sorts of shiny kit. Old pooters, bits for new pooters, junk, accessories for phones, unlock your phone on the spot people, games, dvds (usually pirate), bluray selling people. Those kind of vendors. I even saw a G4 Powerbook Mac on sale ... Definitely a relic now, although still usable if you could find the software for it.


The new Bristol ones are a fraction of the size. Still worth going to if you want those bits of junk without having to pay the extravagant prices you can pay but ... a fraction of the choice available from the old fairs. And mentioning prices, I saw a GeForce960 graphics card there which may have been interesting ... however :

Price at first glance was £115. Price online starts at £160, so you think ... BARGAIN ! And then you see the thin circle turning the 1 into a £195. Oh dear. Perhaps the prices aren't quite as competitive. To be fair, the margins on online sellers like Novatech, Dabs, Scan, Overclockers UK are so thin that it's incredibly tough to compete. The advantage you get at the pooter fair is being able to take away the posting and packaging fees and hassle of having to be in when they deliver. It's why Novatech was my vendor of choice for bits for so long, they were just down the road, a short car drive away. The disadvantage with pooter fairs is the guarantee, I doubt whether any of the tech you buy at one would have a guarantee as soon as you walk out the door.

So no stuff at the fair today so what am I testing ?

I have a fairly shiny (ok, it's matt black so not shiny at all in the literal sense) Turtle Beach Impact 100 keyboard. It's not a mechanical keyboard but it feels ... reassuringly heavy. As in something that'll hopefully be reliable for a good few years. Needs testing.

And that involves this post - hurrah ! I've been struggling for ideas for posts lately, I've been needing the idea that becomes the genesis of your typical Wall Of Text (with occasional picture). And I don't think you want to be reading that many about what I'm doing in the games. The virtual worlds are interesting to me and cathartic in an escapism kind of way but ... it's quite personal ? The experience is mine, it's tough to transfer the sense of wonder that comes from seeing a massive starfield and ...
The eye of a supermassive black hole ... That's the virtual representation of Sagittarius A*, the engine at the centre of our galaxy. Theory says that every galaxy has a supermassive black hole, this is my Asp ship about 60 light seconds away from ours. That's about as close as I wanted to get ... Some people go in closer and it could have been a quick shortcut for getting back to base.

It's incredible the effects that have been put in to the game, the attention to detail. The black hole itself is ... somewhere there in the middle. One reason you can't see the centre is that the matter on the edge, the Event Horizon, is subject to such extreme time slow down that it is still collapsing ... The comment I put with the Facebook pic was "I think it's staring back at me". Stare long enough into the Abyss and the Abyss will stare back. A (in?)famous philosopher said something like that.

You can't see into the black hole, because the light doesn't come out. That's why it's called a "black" hole, because it has so much gravity attraction that even light cannot escape. But ... light will bend around it. On the left of the pic is the Milky Way ribbon (probably shouldn't be there !), which has bent around the black hole instead of being straight. As you fly around the hole, the stars appear to move as in a globe around it. You can see a lozenge pattern, which is reflected and refracted light.

It's an outstandingly pretty effect. Perhaps that's part of our sense of : This Is Insanely Dangerous, Therefore It Is Beautiful. I've known some people like that. The animal kingdom has it, certain plants definitely have it in a "Eat me, die and become my compost" kind of way.

Here's a bit more from Wiki about Black Holes. Astronomy is fascinating isn't it ? There were a couple of fantastic Stargate SG-1 episodes which tackled black holes too. Of an excellent series, these were some of its highlights.

Back to reality ... Sun's come out !

Part of today's plan had me thinking about going out for more Shaun hunting. Some ... medium? rain made me think twice about that but you also have ... People on bank holidays. People are fine. Lots of people together, not so much.

People online are a bit like that as well. If you met them in a social situtation, they'd probably be ok. But one thing that turns me off the online gaming with other people is the Pulling Legs Off Spiders tendency. You know, where people think they should be behaving very abnormally to others just because they can. The internet troll who thinks it's ok to be an absolute beast to other people.

There's one of those in Elite at the moment, they first got in touch as "Thargoid_Scarab", now they're known as "Officer Sphincter". Who would use that name ? What's silly is that this person has paid £40 for an account in order to be using the game. Their first (and last) message to me was "Ahoy fag". How offensive is that ? I didn't reply but gave them about half an hour to come up with something ... that someone would actually say without expectations of being punched. But they didn't, so I blocked them. And they've been trying to become friends numerous times since.

I think I may actually know this person. It could be a colleague who has just bought the game. If so, I'll be having words on Tuesday. There are many meanings for "Fag" and they are all bad. If that's what this colleague really thinks of me, then ... I'm unlikely to be helping him very much in the future unless an apology is forthcoming.

There's only one way to deal with Internet Trolls - and that's to give them no attention. Don't feed their egos. I don't think it's the colleague but we'll see what he does on Tuesday. If he says nothing, I'll assume it's an internet troll who knows me by my commander's name, it's an online name I've used for 10 years now and there were a few trolls who caused me hassle in Warcraft. I'll then report said player to the devs and ... they'll probably lose that £40 account.

Being nasty doesn't get you anywhere in the end. It's not just games. The internet gives people a place where they can be mean without much fear of repercussions. You see similar behavious on the roads where drive extremely dangerously and then make out like it's your fault when you give them a "You nearly hit me !" hoot. Cyclists are especially bad for that.

Perhaps this is why I like to disappear into the single player games ? Because they're an alternate world that's subject to known rules and there are none of the people who were never told off for pulling the legs off defenseless critters.

Be good to people.

Oh and the keyboard is feeling pretty nice.

Friday, August 28, 2015

My God, It's Full Of Stars

Bank holiday time !

Ok. Maybe not something to get amazingly excited about but it is an extra day off over the weekend. Actually, it can be a bit of a nightmare sometimes as the bank holiday weekend is a favourite for people taking breaks away. Which turns the roads into car parks.

I won't be going that far this weekend, although I do have some plans.

First up - I'm enjoying watching the England Ladies play the Aussies in Twenty 20 cricket. Ladies cricket is played with the same rules and equipment as the men but the different physique turns it into a slightly different game.

The fastest bloke bowlers go up to 95mph now, international bowlers average around 85mph, county bowlers go up to 80mph. It's rare for a female bowler to reach 75mph, there are only 2 in the world who can do this at the moment (Katherine Brunt of England, Elyse Perry of Aussie). It's similar with the batting, where they don't have the power to brute force the ball over the boundary.

I think it's a better game to watch. The professional men's game is littered with errors usually coming in through testerone overdoses. The bowling tends to be woefully inadequate, spraying the ball all over the place. When I watch the professional men and compare it to the players I'd face, I faced slower bowlers but they were very difficult to get away because they were extremely accurate.

The women are similar, power is substituted for skill and precision. Sarah Taylor is the best wicketkeeper in the world, in my opinion. She'll stand up to all our bowlers except Katherine Brunt and does an exceptional job there. It's a joy to watch her work and see that skill on display.

Sadly though it looks like Aussie will probably win this game, England have a low target to chase but have lost too many wickets already.

Stars ?
I'll make more of a dent in the trip to the centre of the galaxy this weekend. That's maybe halfway there, getting over a boundary where the density of stars in our galaxy gets very much higher. That shows in the game with far more Pretty Shiny Starry Thingys appearing in the background than you see in the populated areas.

It makes for a very pretty game.
The blue diamond thingy is where I was when I hit halfway, I've done another 1,000 light year leg since then. If I get some good sessions in over the weekend, I may get there and back before a new community goal to "Map the Cosmos" finishes. That's possibly ambitious though. We shall see !

It's not all Pretty Pilot Pic Gathering though. The men play their Twenty 20 finals tomorrow, which is a long day of cricket watching. There are rumblings that the format of playing 3 games for the final day is bad, you definitely lose interest by the end of the day. Those games will substitute the skill of the girls with brute force brawn.

I think I'd rather watch the ladies to be honest ... and not just because I'm a sucker for a Pretty Lady Smile.

Sunday may see me head off for more Shaun Hunting. I thought about going round some more today but ...

It felt like the Long Screwdriver Merchants (we have lots of those at work) had been digging their long screwdrivers into my ribs - big ouchies.
Poorly ankle that didn't want to work properly.

It's wierd to think it's my insides that are now slowing me down, as my outsides recover.

Sunday's tabled for keyboard hunting as well, there's that pooter fair on. If I don't find anything there, I'll get a Turtle Beach Impact 100. The Amazon reviews seem to like it. A case of Good Enough, Not Spoiled. The current fashion/trendy item with keyboards is the Cherry mechanical switch. It (allegedly!) makes for a good keyboard but if the box it's in is rubbish, the quality (and high cost) of the keys doesn't give you any benefit. Cherry make their own keyboards but put them in a poor quality case, whereas one of the strengths of the Turtle Beach keyboard is a high quality case.

Hopefully I'll be able to check one out on Sunday. With stuff like keyboard, mouse and screen, they're very personal items. Different people get on with different types.

And then it's more cricket to watch on Monday as the ladies play again, followed by the England men taking on the Aussies.

Fairly busy weekend !

Of course the plans could change in the blink of an eye if an offer to spend time with a Pretty Lady comes along.

Cos that beats everything else.

Enjoy your weekends !

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hunting Shauns ? Hunting Tech

I've had my eye on a few techie items for a little while now.

The first one is a keyboard as I think I'm battering this one into submission. It's getting stiffer with age and it's missing the very occasional keystroke. So I'm looking for a keyboard.

First thing I'll say here is - a keyboard is a very personal thing. You need to know if you're going to get on well with it. Will your fingers dance across it or will you find yourself doing a wrist punishing, RSI inducing finger pounding mashing of it, followed by having to check what you typed for all the typos coming in due to the inadequacies of the keyboard.

So you'd like to check out the feel of the keyboard. If you're buying a monitor, you want it to have a source that clearly shows its capabilities. Same with a mouse. PC World don't appear to believe in this ... perhaps they don't want the sales ?

In Bristol, their cheap keyboards are on display and ... they're fairly buyable. But ... they seem to think of wireless as a good thing ... Avoid wireless keyboards and mice unless you have an incredibly good reason to get them. Like if you're using your PC as a media centre and want to control it while sitting in front of the telly watching a movie. A wire for the keyboard and mouse is fairly essential in my view. It makes them totally immune to interference (this is a big problem) and means you don't need to buy batteries for them.

Their expensive keyboards stay in the boxes. This seems to be a Bristol thing as the ones in Lincoln were on open display. I'm not going to spend over £50 on a keyboard if I can help it. I'm definitely not going to spend money on a keyboard if I can't investigate what it feels like to type on and that includes the £10 jobs.

My next place to investigate is the computer fair at BAWA on Sunday. It'll be curious to go there for two reasons :

Not been to a computer fair for years, there's usually lots of goodies on display to catch the techie's eye.
It's the place where Nose Job 1 happened and I've rarely had cause to go back there since that happened.

It'll be wierd to see that pitch again. After that incident, I refused to play at that ground again. Not because of the Nose Job incident, mainly because the square was a bit of a marsh that grabbed at my feet and caused me numerous problems with my leg muscles. It's about the closest I've come to a proper hamstring tear instead of just the simple cramping problems. I was playing for two teams at this point and it was taking a toll on my hours at work.

What keyboard am I looking at ? It's the I-rocks K50 (I know - that's an awful name). It's in the middle between the membrane keyboards you'll be familiar with and the gamer special (translation - add a 0 to the price) mechanical keyboards that PC World won't let you check out. The answer is to check places like Amazon who have authentic customer reviews which tell you how these things work when confronted with average users who ain't happy if they break after a week.

We'll see what's at the fair.
I'm also checking out monitors. Which is a bit daft considering that the 23" widescreen 1080-all-sorts-of-happy-techie-stuff-jargon monitor that I have is doing pretty well still. It's still clear and bright, monitors tend to burn out after a while.

And it does give extremely nice looking sights in Elite.
Pretty blue-white star, with the long range Asp Explorer named "Is This The Right Place For The Shauns ?".

I've been doing the exploration thing again in Elite.
The diamondy symbol in the bottom is Zaonce, which is my garage in game. That's an old screenie but it shows the general scale of things. Zaonce is 117ly in game from our solar system and 25,000 light years from Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. My navigation plan is to go 2000ly clockwise, then 25,000ly into the centre at which point I'll turn right, go 4,000ly past Sagittarius A* and then come back again.

Epic trip. I've done 8 legs so far over 2 sessions of play. Each leg takes me another 1,000ly chunk along the way and I'm now just under 20,000ly from the objective. The star field is already starting to increase. As you'll see in the galaxy pic, we're quite far out on the rim of our galaxy. The stars get far denser as you get towards the centre. That this is modelled in game, makes it all the more pretty for me.

Shiny things are awesome.

And I'm going to have to be careful on Sunday so as to not come out of the pooter fair with too many shiny things.

I'm taking a break from the piloting tonight. I have the tireds. But as usual, messages from a Pretty Lady wake me up again :-).

Oh - one last bit of Shiny Hunting - I'm still investigating different ways of getting my music across to the hifi from the laptop. The Apple Airport Express is excellent at this but I do typically have to unplug/plugin power cycle it once an evening as the audio stream breaks up. So I've been looking at things like the Apple TV or Bluetooth receivers. Trouble is, from what I read about Bluetooth receivers (£50ish jobs), they break up on the audio streaming as well. So I'd be going away from one manageable problem to the same problem.

I'll save my cash.

Unless I see a keyboard that looks awesome.

PS Last word is for wireless mice ... Radio mice are fine but I once had an Infra Red mouse which was actually more restrictive than a wire ... It had a very limited field of view between sensor and mouse and you could block it with your fingers resting on the buttons. Complete rubbish. Be careful what you buy !

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Great Shaun Hunt Part 2

Thursday saw me go out hunting for Sheep again.

And it's taken until now for me to write the scribbles up about it ! Yep. Took a fair bit out of me, I don't think I want to know how far I walked in apparently only an hour and a half according to the timestamps on the pictures. I'm still stiff now from it !

Getting old, although to be honest, I always needed this kind of amount of recovery time after hitting the cricket pitches for the first couple of games in a season.
That's the final tally after finally sitting down for a little rest before heading back to the car (via a place selling cold drinks !), making 23 Shauns on the day. Which of course, is far too many to post all the pictures here. Or is it ...
Click for bigger !

That's sadly the 1/64th size version, reduced for the thumbnail. Gimp didn't want to export the full whopper of an 18432x20736 pixel image (coming in at 1GB!) to Gif and then Google refused to upload the 1/4 size picture. Boo hiss. You wouldn't have wanted to Click For Bigger on that 1/4 size pic, it was still 42MB as a GIF :-). Happy techie got to play with techie toys.

That's the 24 pics of Shauns I grabbed on Thursday. The first is Lily, who I first spotted on Friday last week but I needed a better picture of that one. I got away with it as far as the weather goes, we had some of the damp stuff in the morning and it was threatening rain again as the evening got closer. But in between, sunshine burnt off the humidity in the air and ... you may be able to discern crisp shadows in those pictures ...

Yep. Sun in Bristol. It's rare but it does happen sometimes.
See ? Blue skies there with only occasional cloud. And a boat. Two of the trails I did heavily involved Bristol's waterside.
Click for bigger again. The trails I did were :

Temple Trail off to the East in yellow. This one is 2.5km, although I did join at the middle at 66 and 67 and nearly ended up walking to Bath due to a wrong turn after the station.
Harbourside Trail in the middle in orange. This trail is 5km, also on the flat. Looks like I managed to pound out that 5kms walking in 1 hour 20 according to the timestamps. I'm pretty proud of that, it's good to be back to fairly unfettered walking close to the pace I used to be able to do.

And I picked up a couple of "I'm in the neighbourhood" randoms with a peek at another grand building :
That's Bristol cathedral, heading via the Hippodrome, before having a rest at
St Michael's Church which was hosting Honey Shaun.

All the photos are on Facebook so I won't repeat them here (apart from the montage monster!) but here's a couple more with some of Bristol's heritage :
Building of worship of POINTY THINGS ! Could there be a better thing to worship than Pointy Hats ? Hmm. I seem to be missing a pointy hat from my hat collection.
That's On The Waterfront Shaun, the other side of the river from SS Great Britain. I need to visit that ship sometime, 15 years in Bristol and it's another of the local attractions I've not visited.

If you're looking to visit the Shauns, there isn't much time left ... They disappear on 31 August when they go to auction to raise funds for The Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children's Hospital Charity. More info at the Shaun In The City link.

I may go hunting for some more on Friday, it'll be a great excuse to visit Forbidden Planet (it's near 27 and 28 on the map), which I've not been to for ages now.

I'm sore now (still!) but I'm glad I took the trip out to see the Shaun's. I'm getting older but it's a good reminder that I'm still pretty well able physically, even if the reactions are degrading to the level that cricket isn't an option any more. And having two achievements pop up without really trying were great for that "I'm not ancient yet" confidence :

Spring to the Finish - run the last 20 metres to an undiscovered Shaun. I was just walking (quick) ! Honest !
Bleating the Competition - complete any Shaun trail in half the suggested time duration.

Yep. Happy. If still tired and sore.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Zombie Stories

I just finished reading John Christopher's The Death Of Grass, plus I've started watching Z Nation that's come to us on Pick.
The Death of Grass is set in the 50s, where a virus has originated in the Far East that destroys grass. That'd be the green stuff but also rice, wheat, rye, barley and the other grassoids. You know, the stuff that makes beer, whiskey and ... bread. It's a true End of the World book, although not quite annihilation for everyone because we can survive on a diet of potatoes.

The book starts with the rumours coming out of the Far East and there is the steady inexorable progress of the virus towards where the book is set, good old Blighty. The central character is John Custance, who is a civil engineer working in London and he hears the increasing hysteria from a civil servant mate who is party to the true story happening behind the scenes, that all attempts to fight the virus are only making it worse. So they escape, heading across country towards John Custance's brother's farm in the Lake District.

The book is a description of the steady erosion of civility in his party and is all the more terrifying for the sense of "People could really do this" as the need for survival drives them to do terrible things. It's another old book but the truth is in there. It's another that's aged very well. Move it to our modern world and the message we hear is also tightly controlled and civilisation could collapse just as quickly. Possibly quicker as our armed services get continually drawn down. We also depend on our communications much more, although there should be fewer guns available now than in a Britain 10 years after World War 2.

Yep. Enjoyed this one, thanks to Kim for the recommendation. (There's a bit more for you Kim after the Z Nation bit !) The pointer to Death Of Grass comes in her Everyone's Gone To The Rapture playthrough which is a beautiful game? (not sure if it counts as a game!) with Proper English characters struggling through their own end of the world, with enchanting narration from our Kim. I'm curious as to how it will end but it's one I may re-watch down the line later, as I'm rewatching her Last Of Us playthrough as well.

I watched the first 3 episodes of Z Nation as well yesterday. That was nearly just part of 1 episode ... Low production values and lots of very dodgy zombies. Yep. Even dodgier zombies than on the awful BBC programme a few months ago. But I've stuck with it for now in the hope that the ongoing story running through it turns out good.

A book I may read again soon is Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven. This is a classic disaster movie book. It opens with the discovery of a comet which is due to make a close fly by of Earth. As the first Act unfolds and the comet drawns nearer, the chances of an impact steadily increase ... Our central character is a science reporter covering the comet story and he is steadily getting more and more worried.

And then, disaster worsens as the comet fractures, calves into many fragments that will cover the Earth. When it's about to hit, panic erupts as people attempt to escape population centres, places close to coasts and Run to the Hills ! There's more here than in Death Of Grass which is a strength as well as a weakness. The shorter book is much more focused, it's all about the central character and his party. Lucifer's Hammer splits its focus across multiple central characters. There's more going on but many threads to keep up with.

But enough about what other people do, how about me ?
I contemplate this as I take another easy day while the sun shines, looking for my outsides to recover more. My fear is that if I head out too soon, the healing that has been happening will get set back and I'll be back to square one. So I've been chilling out at home with lots of music (Cardigans excellent Gran Turismo at the moment), cricket on the telly, scifi and fiction on the telly, Lord of the Rings, attempting to sleep (yey), failing to sleep (grr), Elite piloting on the pooter, books being read, enjoyable videos being watched.

Yep. Lots of chill out. But my mind has been wandering ... Planning ... And thinking ... how come I don't take this writing into a new domain ? I've thought this before but my mind descended back into coping with Ill. But those thoughts are coming back again. Could I do novels from the writer's side ?

The disaster scenario is one I think I could write about. Also fantasy fiction too, although there are different rules in magic fantasy worlds. Perhaps easier to imagine a disaster that eliminates maybe 99% of the population, leaving a ragtag band of people looking to survive.

One scenario I have involves those barges ... The barge would be as much a part of the group as the people. Bit like the spaceship Firefly or Enterprise, or Voyager. The Liberator even. The Blakes 7 universe was a legendary scenario in space fiction.

The start I envisage has the barge and the group as a well oiled machine, able to get into the dangerous centre of towns, do a raid, achieve an objective and then get out without the denizens noticing. The barge would be upgraded (ceramic armour ? i.e. plexiglass sheets!), the group would know all their roles and depend on each others skills. Who would we have ?

I suspect the characters would turn out to be analogues of people I know already.

I'd turn into that strong, quiet leader type who would have a Plan but fully expecting that Plan to fail and have several Back Up Plans ready to keep the people alive and unharmed. I'd also be the engineer.
You have the Den Mom who isn't too mobile so she stays on the boat keeping it ready for us when we get back. She's also a crack shot with great awareness so an awesome sentry.
You have small and chuckly, she who keeps us healthy both mentally and physically. She doesn't like harming people but you wouldn't know that when she's (pretending to?) covering you with that rifle.
There's the military type who picked us up and beat us into shape. We'd not be alive if she hadn't got us out of some tight corners.
We have the philosopher and his mate. These are the ones who remembered to bring all the books that remind us that we're human. My engineer brought the How To books, these guys brought in the sciences.
The small fierce red haired one who got us past our scruples and into full on zombie mercy killing mode. Keep the fizzy drinks away from that one.
The guard dogs who may be our first alert for incoming threats.

And then there's the people back at base too or on other boats. The Little Queen who patiently runs the show. Everyone wants her approval, even the ones giving the orders. The best societies tend to be run by women standing behind the leaders telling them what to do. Why boats ? Because push them away from the side and you have a natural barrier to Zombies who forgot how to swim.

That base would be another huge aspect. To live out a Zompoc, you'd need to have a properly secure place for farming ... A large, green, growing island to support your ragtag population of survivors. Isle of Wight ? Isle of Man ? Yep. Supports the arguments for using boats more doesn't it ...

Yep. The book would start with a well oiled machine, a trained group. Heinlein's Starship Troopers starts like this and it gets you into the book straight away. It then catches you up with the How They Got There.

But there are a few questions that I'd need to answer before diving into it :
Where are the arm extensions ?
Ok. Maybe not that question.
But there are a few more and I'm looking at the shortening scroll bar which is telling me this post is getting past its welcome. That's the danger, Death Of Grass works well because it's short. I stopped reading the Honor Harrington books by David Weber because they got mired in unreadability as they got further into politics and away from action.

Perhaps in November ? It's NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month and is one of those challenges that has caught my eye. And there's a couple of months to gather ideas ...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Sheep Trekkin'

So I escaped a little later than planned yesterday but still had enough time to head into town for the first sheep hunting.

Here's the first ! (At least the first which will appear here, the others have people's faces on which aren't going to be posted here - Facebook yeah ... but Facebook has the permissions locked down)
That's Maisy and Friends, which is just outside the Children's Hospital in the centre of Bristol. It's where I started (properly) doing the Old City trail which takes you back into the centre of town before heading out towards the waterside. It's 2.5km, although I didn't go that particular route having picked up the Bagpuss sheepie  in Cabot Circus already.

I can't show the Bagpuss cos it has a couple of Pretty Ladies posing (for someone else) but ...
I'm sure Dodgy Geezer Smoking Outside Bus Station won't mind appearing beside the sausages (Lamb Chop). Onwards to ...
The central shopping area, with a Shaun On The Cob lurking outside Broadmead. There's a Please Stand By standing guard over the central plaza part of Broadmead too.
But again, people in shot and all that ... The trial then takes you back out of town, through a loop through the Castle Park towards the Waterside areas. This one is Knitwit, in the park. There was a pair of Pretty Girls sitting talking on the bench out of shot to the right. I think the noise the app made as I ticked off this Shaun perturbed them a bit ... or they were merely just curious. Either way, I wanted to keep walking to complete this little circuit.

You can probably tell from these pictures that it was a bit rainy too ... I was in my rain hat which didn't have much ventilation so I was being a bit warmer than usual ... When near fit, I can usually walk indefinitely when it's on the flat. Elevation changes can be a challenge but while there's energy in me (and I'd been fuelled up by a lunch !), I can walk for a long time at a really good pace. Fast enough, for the app to think I ran the last 20 metres to my first Shaun.

I thought that was cute. And appreciated it :-).

The trek was coming to an end though as I headed down Corn Street, where this one was guarding an entrance :
That one is Woolly Wonderland, who is in the entrance to St Nicholas Market. There are many shinies here, in a place I never realised existed before embarking on the trail. I actually missed the last one on this trail, although I'll be back in the week.

Not today or tomorrow though. I woke up today to legs that were very heavy, with not much power available in them. They're just not used to the exercise, although they're not beyond hope and can be beaten back into shape. The torn bit on me inside my hip didn't bother me yesterday and I managed to maintain the discipline of keeping my legs straight so as to not aggravate knees that are getting short of cartilege.

Yep - pain ... but it's the honest pain of unaccustomed exercise. It's the pain that comes from legs that are waking up to doing more exercise later. I'm not saying I'll go do marathons next week, I'm not set up that way. But I do know the next time I do this, I'll be in better shape for it.

What is the plan ? I'm having a peek at the map at the moment and I can see 4 trails that could be done as a Great Circle starting at Cabot (and lunch for fuel!) and mostly coming back to Cabot. Via Forbidden Planet, a mecca for nerds that I haven't worshipped at for too long. There is a mean gradient involved there though. I may do that one separately as I can park near Forbidden Planet and then dash around the Shauns while I'm at the top of the hill.

Trails ?

Old City trail is 2.5km with 10 Shauns. I ticked off all but one (missed it!) yesterday.
Temple Trail is 2.5km with 9 Shauns and takes you past Temple Quay and the big Bristol station.
Southback Trail is 3.5km with 5 Shauns, taking you on a tour of the urban part of Bristol south of the river.
Harbourside Trail is 5km with 12 Shauns and has you going down the River Avon and back. I've done parts of this when I was visiting the cricket shop that is on this route.
The Heritage Trail is 2km with 8 Shauns but has that gradient ... which would be tough on unprepared legs.

So with the last 4 of those, that's 13km with a little more when switching from route to route. Could take a while.

I'll need me boots then. I did yesterday's walking with my work shoes which are starting to wear out. They didn't have thick soles anyway, so walking on Bristol's occasionally pebble line footpaths can be somewhat ... sore.

I'm looking forward to hitting the trails again. Seeing the 10 Shauns yesterday feels like an achievement. And ...

With a total of 14 Shauns, I am now ahead in the Rivalry (she will catch up and go past, I'm sure).
It's letting me count sheep for a very special friend too who isn't likely to find time to count them herself.
I don't think I have any chance of catching up with Snow Queen's amazing 48.

What do they say about exercise ?
I hope so !

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Friday Eve

Friday tomorrow !


This means bacon sandwiches. Maybe - the baps they come in are white and floury which can upset my breathing ... although it is bacon.
It's likely to be another hectic day tomorrow at work. I'm taking next week as leave because I need to recharge those batteries again. Yeah. The tiredness has been hitting but as usual for me, I get that second wind in anticipation of having the time off. Or at least I do at the start of the week, I was feeling it today before busy-hyper let me ignore it.

Although a message of "I think my dodgy hip is anticipating weather cos ... Crikey OUCH !" It felt like the bit that has problems developed a tear again and it was getting painful to get walking at times. Yep. Body reminding me that it's a bit old and broken now. But it was worth it when I earned that damage through the cricket and the other running around stuff. Oh - severe weather was warned here today but didn't actually arrive. Grim skies but not much wet stuff. Not that I noticed at least (too busy to look out the windows at work)

Yeah - body's getting ready for some chilled out time over the next week. However ... I have plans ...

If I escape from work in time tomorrow, I'm planning to head into the centre of town for ... chilled out wandering, munchies from the coffee place, perhaps a film, definitely some Shaun hunting.

I'm at a lowly 4, a friend (who has declared COMPETITION and therefore there is now a Rivalry) has seen 8 and another friend has seen 48. I don't think I'll get anywhere near 48 but I hope to get some walking in to see a few.

I have other plans too - walking to see Shauns is a big one, hopefully my legs will cooperate.

I'll be chillin' when I have to retreat to the house (still repairing, very slowly). There will be lots of music listened to over the next week.

Cricket will be on, it's the quarter final stages of the domestic Twenty 20 series, those games are usually worth watching. And then there's the final game of the Ashes. Fingers crossed for a 4-1.

I suspect we'll see Man From Uncle next week too. That's a remake of a cracking 60s era spy series. The trailer looked fairly good when we watched Fantastic Four although it was silly for them to show two trailers for it before that movie.

There may be a little bit of techie shopping ... I suspect that the device I use to send music between my Macbook and my amplifier is dying. It keeps cutting out and I have to power cycle it sometimes once an evening. I shouldn't need to do that. My options are :

Apple TV - with the added bonus of it allowing me to send video from iPad to telly as well as music to the amp.
Bluetooth receiver - just another way of getting music across the room without using a wire.

Cos a wire ... I'd trip up over it.

I'll do some of the Internet Spaceships too. I'm almost at the next trading rank ... I'll get there in the next session perhaps. There's also a new Community Goal where a space station is looking for "industrial materials" (semiconductors, superconductors) to upgrade itself. That means ... PROFIT. And my inner Ferengi Gaming Instinct has had its attention drawn to that.

Movies at home too. I'm halfway through watching the Lord Of the Rings and Hobbit movies, although I think I'll actually break from those because I kinda want to watch a few others again like Moon, Final Fantasy (yes, I meant that), the Robert Downey Jr Sherlock movies and whatever else catches my eye. I have Ex Machina too, which is an incentive to get this place sorted out so I can entice someone over to watch it maybe ?

Last one - need a plumber to sort out my heating ... That could be ouchies on the wallet.

So it could well be a busy week ! Not so busy as others. Hope someone's day goes well tomorrow. It's going to be a big event.

Pizza tomorrow night as well. NEED.

I wonder how much mayhem will happen next week ?
I need to get some books to read too.

I'll leg it there but one last pic :
That's "System Crash" and may well resemble me, curled up with my pizza in front of the cricket tomorrow night. Cya !

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Techie Stuff ...

... Or how do I get a PC that's worth using before Windows 7 disappears.

(apologies, this may end up being techie ...)

I've been keeping an eye on the Windows 10 situation. I was dead set against exposing myself to the horrors which was Windows 8 and I have a strong feeling that Windows 7 will be the last bit of software from Microsoft that I acquire for home. I've already kicked out Office for my Mac, in favour of the free and does the job just as well Apache Openoffice. And I am continually cursing RibbonAbominOffice at work for hiding away everything that used to be easy to find before.

But that's enough about software ... except to say that I suspect Windows 7 won't be on the market for too long. I'm eligible for the free Windows 10 update but that's going nowhere near my machine. It's just too intrusive, invasive and I don't want my Stuff being robbed by Microsoft. I don't want access to my stuff being governed by any external party.

Where's this coming from ? I have a mate at work who I think is planning to get a basic gaming PC to run Elite Dangerous on ... He has an older Mac which is being reluctant to run the old Frontier Elite 2 and won't run the new Elite.

I think I have been tempting someone with the screenshots ...
It's pretty.

But I did say to this fella that I'd check out doing a PC build bits list and I nearly forgot ... Here goes ! This is what I would build if I was putting together a PC now to last as long as Pumpkin (built almost 4 years ago, may last another 4 with minor bit changes at the rate of improvement of PCs now)

Start with the support bits - the case, the power supply, the cooler. It's important to get these right. The case gives robustness to the machine, it keeps it quiet, it allows air to flow through the case. It hopefully won't extract a blood sacrifice during the build due to having sharp edges. The cooler needs to be really big, because then it can run slow for better effect and be virtually silent. The power supply has to be from a recognised brand name like Corsair, EVGA, Antec, Seasonic, BeQuiet, Thermaltake. I've been using a Corsair supply. If you have a no-name brand power supply, it's far more likely to go BANG and if it does, it will take other parts of the system with it.

Case - Antec are a good make (Pumpkin is in a Thermaltake) and they do one suitable for £24.
Power supply - Corsair CX 600W for £55.
Cooler - I've used big Zalman coolers for years but they seem to have disappeared from Novatech so I'm looking at the beQuiet BK009 with a big fan for £26. Beware the cooler, these can be really fiddly to mount ...
Oh and chuck in a bluray drive for £35 (seems steep and I'm not convinced they're worth it in a PC)
Total for the ancillaries - £140

Engine room - this is the processor, the memory, the graphics and the board that everything plugs into. I'm preferring Intel and nVidia these days. Intel have a clear performance lead for processors and graphics tends to be much of a muchness between nVidia and AMD/ATI. Some games are better on nVidia, some are better on AMD/ATI. I'm with nVidia for now, although their drivers are slipping in quality again.

Processor - Intel have a new one out called Skylake but we'll ignore that because it costs £210. Not worth it. The Haswell line has i3, i5 and i7 with subdivisions within that. The i3 is good for a cheap low performance machine but for gaming, I'd want to up it to i5 with another couple of processing cores. I think the i7 is too much, it pretends (through clever software) to have 8 cores but ... those will only be useful under certain circumstances and it adds £80 on to the price. Save the cash, put it on the graphics card. Also, ignore the K models because they are enthusiasts chips designed for people who stress their machines by running them above the rated speed (overclocking) - not worth it for us, it shortens the life of the machine.

So that'll be an Intel i5-4690 costing £176 fitting in a Socket 1150 using DDR3 memory. That'll point you to the memory to buy and the board to plug everything into.

Motherboard - I've been favouring Asrock but they don't have a suitable board. You need to look for the "Z", as that's the more capable board (this is important). Gigabyte have a suitable one called "GA-Z97X-SLI" for £90. The SLI means you can put two graphics cards in. Ignore this unless you have loadsamoney, because SLI isn't implemented at all well in games. It's a white elephant.

Memory - the motherboard needs DDR3 so this is what we get. A techie thing means the system works best with pairs of memory chips (called DIMMS) and to keep the processor happy, you need DDR3-1333 or 1600 (it's how fast it can pump out the bits). Crucial are currently doing a pair of DDR3-1600 for 8GB costing £35. Memory is dirt cheap, it's daft to get anything less than 8GB in a new build but you don't really get much by getting more.

Graphics - the more you pay, the better it gets. You could be Really Silly and get a pair of graphics cards costing £840 each. But you aren't going to do that. The trick is to find a price point that's just enough for you and spend no more. For me, that's the GeForce 960 cards and Gigabyte have one of those for £150.

Engine - £176 processor + £90 motherboard + £150 graphics + £35 memory = £451

So is that it ? You need storage to make it go. The best way at the moment is to have 2 drives. One is Solid State, or super fast but small drive. I need to fit my 256GB drive. The other is a big conventional drive, slow but super big. Because of how Windows works with its discs (i.e. it waits for them and becomes tediously slow), the solid state drive will really speed things up.

Solid State drive - Crucial BX100 128GB will do but you're better spending an extra £18 on a 256GB costing £68.
Conventional drive - Seagate are doing a 2TB drive for £56.

Oh and the last bit - Windows 7 will set you back £80.

That's a total of £795, which is slightly down on my usual and I haven't gone for anything really budget. It should last a few years, although the graphics may suffer after maybe 3.

Why build your own ? Because you hand pick all of the components. All of the above prices come from Novatech, who I favour for my bits. I'm happy to get components from them but I'd never buy one of their pre-built machines. They skimp on the cooling and the power supply and what was the first warning I gave ? Good cooling leads to a quiet computer, a branded power supply leads to one that won't go BANG.

Oh and if you get one from a shop, you're likely to get inflicted with Windows 10 or even worse ... Windows 8/8.1.

I hope you've been able to stay with me through all that !
I shall return to more fluffy things soon - I hope. (Need subjects to ramble about !)

PS One thing very important - do not spend more than you have to. You don't need £150-£200 worth of watercooling gear. It's a hazard and big air coolers work just as well. Twin graphics cards are usually a waste. Stuff like that. It's your money, don't feel obliged to spend all of it !
PPS Yep. Save some for me so I can have pizza while I build it for you.

Post-Ed - have corrected the £totals. Someone forgot to include £35 of memory ...

Monday, August 10, 2015

7 Rules to Live By

Spotted this pic earlier :
Some good rules right ?

First up - make peace with your past. Very important. I know someone who is struggling desperately with Stuff. I've been there too but in my case, Stuff was concluded quite quickly. Ravenwolf walked out and then strife happened over the next few months as we sorted out House Things. You know, the cutting her name off the deeds to a house she wouldn't be contributing on the mortgage for. Cost me ... £lots of k.

And some sanity as we had trouble with a solicitor who a) delayed and b) attempted to take us with him as he departed the practice we (well, I because Ravenwolf just basically went - "give me money") chose to a new one. That caused unnecessary delay but ... the people who stayed at the practice were totally pro and we got a settlement sorted quick which actually was good for me. (An incorrect, low, valuation was given by Ravenwolf).

Looking back, I'm glad my particular dose of Stuff was over very quickly although it affected me for many years after. Ok, I was also affected by being rebuffed by a succession of ladies who I thought "This is the one !". Yep. Bad for the confidence ... but that confidence is coming back again thanks to the people around me now.

Lesson :
Yep. Don't let your past own you. It's behind you. Look forward to what you can achieve now or later. Me ? I want that boat to live on. It would be made much better than I hear new houses are and there would be lots of techie/mechie stuff for me to fiddle with. And there's a bit of independence that I think would come in too.

2 - What other people think of you is none of your business

Up to a point yes. You do need people's respect to have credibility in their eyes and you can rarely get stuff done without credibility. And in the world we live in, if people hate you for your actions then that can lead to nastiness like having your car keyed. And ... looking around me ... I am houseproud to some degree and I wouldn't want to have anyone seeing the house as it is now. The condition of my place transfers to their opinion of how I keep it and that isn't great right now. House needs sorting out.

And I do like a bit of feedback too. It encourages me, I gain strength from it, my confidence depends on it. Both from the ups and the downs.

3 - Time heals almost everything

Again, up to a point. I'm thinking of one special little lady who is really struggling. Time is just making it worse. I hope she remembers who she was soon. She was the Heart of our team. The one who always smiled at people. The one with energy. The one who laughed at the jokes. The one who made the jokes. The naughty mischievous one who knew everything that was going on but never got caught. The bringer of Fun.

I hope she remembers that. But I can only do that from afar. Because it confused both of us, throwing our hearts into a mess, when I tried to do that from much closer.

Back to me - time won't heal my hips or shoulder, that's likely to need a surgeon's knife. But I hope that time will eventually heal my outsides to the point where I can confidently wake in the morning and know I could freely go out in public with shorts and t-shirt and not have people going "Eeeoo" at my broken bits.
4 - No one is in charge of your happiness except you

A year ago I was trying to get the attention of Kim. That cost me hugely in terms of my sanity as I was getting very little in return for those attempts. And she was just one of a series of ladies who I was attempting to get attention from. I had put them in charge of my happiness. My emotional state depending on their feedback, their approval and when they went silent, you can imagine the dark pit that my psyche descended into.

Again there, there's a few very special people who I know keep an eye on me, give me that feedback, make me smile. Smiles are awesome.
5 - Don't compare your life to others

We all have different influences. Different beginnings. Different upbringings. Different circumstances that change our fate.

What's important is how we play the cards we are dealt. Me ? I enjoyed the cricket, even after gaining a shoulder injury that should have ended my playing days. I just found different ways to be useful to the team and accepted the pain. I could have had a different job, or job hopped like half the people in my organisation (these people cause no end of trouble) but the job I've done has delivered something pretty awesome.

My life is way better than probably 90% of the people on this Earth (partly cos all the wealth is concentrated in much less than 0.1% of the people ?). Yep. I have it better than many and I appreciate people like Cupid's Gift, LTK, Snow Queen, CK, the Finance Angels, Family, Pixie who help make my life better.

Something important though - I try not to gloat by comparing my life to those less fortunate. It's terrible what's happening at Calais with the immigrants. I can't do much about it though. And that's just one group who have been told things which is causing them more misery now.

(Enough about immigrants, I only know third hand and what I do know is subject to slanted news)

6 - Stop thinking too much

Like this post ! I've been struggling for ideas lately and then another Swedish Sandra (I know two) posts a pic that ... erm ... has made a bit of a Wall Of Text. Oops.

I overthink things. I like stuff to be properly polished before I call it Job Done. That of course makes the product far too late to be useful. But I think I'm doing better there and I have that balance between saying what I know and declaring when I need to go away and find something out.

7 - Smile

Oh yes. Definitely. Smile and the world will smile back at you and give you bigger portions when you raid the canteen.

Looks down ...

Maybe that isn't such a good thing. Need to go on a diet again.

I think I get more cooperation from people by bringing that smile out. Also from giving that smile when admitting I could have done stuff better. Like upsetting one of our senior people when I said I'd got his approval for something. I did ! Honest. I had it verbally but not in writing. It then took another week for the written approval to come through and I think that was partly due to a phone conversation with someone else which ended pretty much in "UNLEASH THE K!" (different words, same meaning), K being one of the Finance Angels who has a Sleepy-Mind-Blank inducing smile.

We'll do stuff for Finance Angel K (and the original Finance Angel E) to see that smile. It would break our hearts to be the reason for that smile not being there.

Smiles are awesome. And I'm now picturing a bubbly chuckle going along with someone's smile. And a haha from another special person who's given me lots of encouragement lately.
Be good, be kind, enjoy yourself and others.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Keep Calm and I dunno ... Fly Casual

It's Balloon Fiesta weekend at the moment in Bristol.

It's an annual thing with ... you know ... lots of balloons and a fiesta. It was actually really good when I went to one ... I dunno maybe 10 years ago ? Perhaps more ! I do remember that it was with the work-ish mob, CK, CQ and BD. RCA was there too but not her wife Kat. I actually drove RCA's car, as her heart problems had taken a pounding from the walk back to the car.

I can't remember if Ravenwolf was there, which would date it much closer.

I vaguely remember it being pretty good fun and I'd happily go there again. Not this year (more in a sec), which means I miss Stuart :
Here's more about Stuart from the Bristol Post.

The Balloon Fiesta is held at Ashton Court, which I mean to go to sometime soon, probably my week off, because there are a few Shaun The Sheeps there. I'm at 4, a good friend is at 8 and another old friend was at 48 (probably more now !). But I'm giving it a miss this year.

I think I missed the sweet spot to go, which would have been Thursday night when the crowds would have been a bit less manic. The Balloon Fiesta has kinda crept up on me this year and my legs and ankles aren't quite yet in a condition where I want to have boots rubbing at vulnerable places. I'm so close to being healed but still just that too far off to risk it just yet. Maybe next year, or is that a bit of agoraphobia induced by the condition of my outsides ...

In that case, it's something I need to address quick !

I have a week in work next week, then a week off and I'm planning to do a few Shaun Trails on that week off. Balloon Fiesta will be on again next year, it'll be a while before we see more Shaun's. I'm still a little sad that I missed out on the Gromits.

Mind you, if someone were to call ? I wonder if I'll get to photo someone with the Shauns.

And wow, this post has already gone more wordy than I thought I had words in me today. I'm currently watching my third Castle of the day (I save stuff up, watch them in batches) and I'll soon be doing the Internet Spaceship Thing. It's relaxing and it's kind on my ankles as my hands are too busy on the controls to have that idle hands doing mischief thing.

But first - more pics !
That can be a good thing. (Spelling is good too !)
See ?

I'm also hoping to watch a few movies in my week off. The work-ish mob plan to see Fantastic Four this week. I have huge doubts about that one. I really enjoyed the two films with Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis and I really don't know why they've come back to the franchise, except for the trend of redoing all the superhero movies to death. It sounds like this one is appalling, I'll watch the Angry Joe review before deciding whether this is another potential Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles travesty.

But for this week, I'll watch Hobbit 3 again tonight, first time I'll have seen that since a lovely evening with Cupid's Gift back in December last year. And then it'll be either the 3 Lord of the Rings movies or perhaps even the 2005 Fantastic Four movie and its sequel to take away what I think will be a bad taste from this one.

So many movies out at the moment, I think I'd prefer to see Mission Impossible 47 (post-ed that was a completely number but there happens to be a Hitman 47 remake coming too, first movie was great) or The Man From Uncle when it releases at the end of the week. Inside Out is worth seeing as well. Story is perhaps a little weak but Pixar make up for that with their usual magic.

For now, a little more trading in that Internet Space Game before perhaps trying again for the Journey To The Centre Of The Galaxy (spoken in that "In A World ..." epic trailer voice). I've switched over to the "Mel and Sue ...", named in honour of the Bake Off :
Doth My Stern Look Big In This Stable ? It fits ... but you probably want to deflate the tyres for more headroom.

A little nod to the film Bill, coming out 21 August, which looks pretty promising.

There's a bit more trade grinding to do in that before I get to the next level, I may do some shooting too and I'll be looking for enough in game cash to get an Asp to go to the Asp End Of Beyond.

I might see you there but before then, fly, drive, walk, run, jog, skip, ride (and however many ways of getting about you can think of !) safe :
Cya !

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Having a Mind Blank

It's a bit of a joke around me (I believe ...) that I'm ... shall we say vulnerable to the charms of Pretty Ladies ?

The Mind Blank when confronted with the charms of a Pretty Lady has happened quite a few times for me. It still happens, regularly. It's in my genes, my upbringing, whichever part of that bit of brain that determines what we're attracted to.
That was one for Kim of Yogscast, who has made me go wibbly both from her videos and the two times I've actually met her. It was in reply to her posting on Twitter that she was looking out for the red pandas at Bristol Zoo and ... couldn't resist following that with something simple that hopefully made her chuckle. (Except I don't know if it did, because there was absolutely nothing in return as per usual).

Too good to go unseen. At least that's what I think. And I know a few amazing Small Pretty Ladies too. Yep. That means you. The Pretty Lady who doesn't think she is actually Pretty. Every lady has their own special beauty. You are gorgeous. Even if you don't believe that, I do. Which makes it true.

Although you know the wierd thing ? The ones who should be most beautiful somehow manage to spoil it through a disdainful attitude for those around them. I call it the Curse Of Pretty. It's like they forget that the beauty that shines most is the beauty of kindness to other people. The smile that will come out for everyone. Even that slack jawed shy boy who is stammering to get sensible words out. But there are some who will :

Look at you as if you're a stain in the carpet;
Refuse to reply to work based requests;
And generally be unpleasant to those around them.

You'll know a few of them I'm sure. They're not really worthy of your attention. Give it to the kind people instead. People like (in no particular order ...)

The one who stopped my heart when she came in to the office in her Christmas Party outfit. That'd be how our Snow Queen got that name. She's an amazing little lady who I hope remembers that soon. (I keep attempting to remind her because she's special and has helped me out lots in the past)

Our Irish colleague aka Warpath who ran acceptance. People always remarked on us having a flirty attitude with each other. That was true up to a point, she's actually married now so that flirtiness never went past a certain point (besides I was more interested in Pretty Contractor Lady who worked for Warpath). It made what could have been fraught into something more fun and successful. I got on really well with the acceptance ladies of that time and it meant we got a lot more for both my organisation and their organisation. It was great. We got things done. And it meant I got to talk to Pretty Ladies, albeit because they at one point flat refused to talk to my bosses.

But one lesson there ... what people didn't realise much is that behind the flirty outside, the calculating bit of my mind was going "Ok, she's trying to charm me into saying yes. That means her argument is super weak." That's like the tendency of games sellers to use scantily clad pretty ladies as selling points. Doesn't work with me as I instantly think their game is being sold on an image that has nothing to do with gameplay that isn't strong enough to earn my money.

And that Big Everquest Cosplay girl at NEC Comic Con definitely gave me a mind blank, she got the amount of material very close to how the adverts tried to sell Everquest.

And that would be a Mind Blank brain go "help help help" closely followed by me trying to catch sight of amazing little Cupid's Gift who I was escorting that day to remind me of a Truly Very Pretty Lady. I'll get the Wow Brain Gone mind blank with CG too when seeing her again for the first time in a while but then she'll give me a hug and by the time she's satisfied with Hug Time, the marbles in my brain will be back in the right order and I'll be able to be part of a sensible conversation.

That's a really important thing. I'll have that Mind Blank from a Pretty Lady giving me some attention but what really holds my heart is the conversation. The person behind the Pretty. Actually, that's more important for me than how people look. A Beautiful Mind ? Never seen that film but that phrase sums up how I get on with all people. I'll mirror people. Aggression (like on the road) breeds aggression. Politeness brings politeness. Smiles bring wibblyness followed by my grin coming out.

Give smiles. They make everyone feel better.

Smiles over messages are great for that too. LTK (I need to find you another nickname!) is another of those Pretty Ladies keeping me honest over the text messages. She thinks she's a pain in the ... elbow (I have a bone chip there so it aches sometimes) but she's been great for inspiring lots of these posts coming out. Cos I know she reads pretty much every one of them. I can't quite believe she does that but that's my self conscious getting in the way of my self esteem again.

I think the core reason for Mind Blank-ism is that low self esteem. It combines with a disbelief that this amazingly beautiful creature is willing to talk to me, so it takes me a few moments to summon up more than a daft grin.

Have I dug myself enough of a hole yet ?

Haha - I'm about to have more of those Mind Blank moments listening to the album that just started. It's Lucy Rose's new one, Work It Out. She has a great voice. Hopefully there will be enough time tonight for the next album, Felt Mountain by Goldfrapp. Tracks like Utopia make me stop and just listen to sheer beauty.

Who else ? The Kim I made the pic above for had that Mind Blank inducing tendency too. She had the cutes combined with a maverick personality which promised unpredictability and lots of fun. But ... she just doesn't interact very much. Even on her signing up for a dating site twice (before I found Cupid's Gift via there) and sending her a couple of intro messages (counting as non creepy I hope). I mean, why do you go on those sites if you're not willing to interact with people ? She wasn't alone in that though. Loads of women on that site will just not reply to the non creepy intro messages.

I think I'm very lucky that Cupid's Gift replied on that site, because she's done wonders for that ailing self esteem of mine. When one of those messages come in, I am highly likely to find a pole to distractedly walk into. While CG gives me that impression that someone else might think I'm a pretty good guy, LTK reinforces that fragile confidence by telling me that someone thinks I know what I'm doing. Something at work I'm not going to go into here damages that confidence at pretty much every opportunity (and is why I'm looking to be elsewhere), so having someone I trust saying I'm good at Stuff does wonders for me and enables me to work harder and better.

I feed off confidence. I need it to be motivated and successful.

It's why my English language grades at school suddenly rocketed from a disinterested low C to a high A at GCSE. Because my teacher changed from a fuzzy old Reverend to ... someone who wore summer dresses a lot and who I accidentally called Mom once in front of a few people in the class.

Yep. Almost as embarassing as a mind blank.

And I probably had better leg it now before I get myself into too much trouble !
Stay kind. It's beauty.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Still in the oven

Hmm - three things to talk about today ...

Ovens, money printing and blank minds.

I think I've missed out tonight, I watched Deadliest Catch, Falling Skies and now there's cricket on. I could have been watching :
Love it. I'll watch it at leisure tomorrow when my brain isn't fried. Ok, I might be destressing somewhat but I'll be starting a 3 day weekend with lots of cricket on the telly. Mel and Sue, the presenters, are awesome and the Top Gear Lunatic Fringe missed out by scaring off Sue, who was just an innocent bystander in the rubbish around a certain arsehole being fired. Ok. Judging by what I'm hearing about Bake Off, perhaps "innocent" isn't quite the right word.

Where would we be without a lovely bit of innuendo to make us chuckle, swell with laughter and wish we were nibbling the muffin of our own local Master Baker. (Good job this isn't a show about fishing).

It has been too long since I've had the pleasure of grabbing our Snow Queen's buns. (Our local Master Baker) I wonder what a soon arriving Master Baker's cakes will be like. I also fondantly remember the cupcake that the wonderful Pixie made for us a few years ago. You probably get the idea that I like cake. Cake is life.

Money printing ?

A recurring theme here is how much I've been loving playing Elite Dangerous. Here's one reason why :
I've let GIMP have a go at enhancing that, which is why it's a bit stylised. It's a game where you fly about the place and then see something utterly gorgeous, like the purple star. It's purple ! A screenshot was totally necessary. The original was very dark and didn't show the ship at all well. Lighting effects are excellent in this game but that does make it tough to get proper illumination on your ship for screenies.

Outside of the very pretty graphics, it's actually a bit boring. There is no epic storyline like in a classic like Freelancer. I find it cathartic to play, very relaxing and there's that sense of seeing new pretty spacey things just the next jump away. Is it strange that I find hot boiling suns to be visually appealing ? Maybe I've been watching too much Andromeda with Trance Gemini, wonderful character with a lovely smile.

So why money printing - I had my doubts about Elite Dangerous when it was in its pre-release kickstarter phase. I didn't believe they'd come out with an interesting product with good gameplay. It's surprised me that they have. They didn't fail by trying too much, they got just enough in and they've expanded the game from there. But now ... we have a release for an expansion, after the game has been out for only 8 months. That's pretty soon ... Eve has released a few but you don't pay anything for those outside of the subscription. WoW makes you pay for them but ...

Original game cost - £40
Expansion cost - £40
Discount if you have it already - £10.
So I could get this expansion for £30, or I could pay £130 now for of the expansions later.

I thought £40 for the original was steep and I'm balking at paying that again for the expansion. It would let me land on planets but to be honest, in Frontier Elite 2, you could do that and the novelty wore off quick. I'm just not convinced that represents value in any way. It should have been baked into the game when it was still in the oven.

What's more disturbing is that the overwhelming impression on the otherwise excellent Facebook community is :
Opposing views are being ridiculed. I'm keeping my head down and avoiding the subject because ... my views are heretical. A usually helpful community has turned bullying with quotes like "If you don't like it, play something else". Not helpful. I will go elsewhere.

After paying £40 for the game after release and another £40 on a flightstick (which will be used for ... it's coming) and getting so many hours out of the game, I have my moneys worth. But I'm not convinced that they deserve any more of my money for features that they promised as part of the base game. Hell, they promised an offline mode, which was a promise broken which upset me (but was willing to go along with). The implication is that they withdraw access to the game because you don't keep up with expansions. Or only people with the expansion get the good stuff.

Not happy with Frontier and this announcement. Certainly not shelling out £130 for one single game. That's very obnoxious. I'd recommend waiting for :

No Man's Sky. It's promising all the stuff that should have been in Elite in the first place and I'm well and truly getting caught up in the hype. Perhaps this is the new Elite we were waiting for.

Enough about games - mind blanks ?

Actually - with that teaser, maybe I'll leave that one until later and just remember those things that make my mind happily go blank.

Pretty Ladies smiling at me;
Pretty Ladies laughing at my really bad jokes;
Trying to find words that fit instead of the ones in my head (words are hard);
Messages coming in from ... you guessed it ... Pretty Ladies;

This one is appropriate and I've been looking for an excuse to use it for a while :
Except it's me smiling, walking into pole and wondering how I can answer the message that just came in.

Stay smiling. I'm going to give Elite a miss tonight because ... tireds. But I'll remember those bubbly chuckles, the helpful prods, the haha's from my jokes, the "yey this tweet was about me" and one lady who smiled today because I asked her how she was. That one is really struggling at the moment, trying to help her as much as I can and at the same time, I'm getting help in staying positive from a few other people I know.

It's a better world if we help each other out.

PS I'd kinda like to get a response from some of the internet micro-celebs who I send tweets to. It's intended to make them chuckle but they rarely get a twitch of a response. Disappointing.
PPS As I hate to end on a downer, it's disappointing that I don't get a response but I made myself chuckle while writing/making the tweets and they tend to get :-)'s from other followers. Which makes me happy.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Enjoying the Music

Tired tonight.

A combination of not getting much sleep (my brain has forgotten that Go To Sleep program) and going hyper due to being highly miffed this morning (desk booking incident) has burned me out somewhat today. I may have ... an early night.

Desk booking ? We have to book our desks and there's a 70% occupancy rate. We have 70% of the desks available that we'd need if everyone was in. You can imagine the mayhem when all the desks are needed. Especially when you have contractors who cannot recognise the difference between an N and a O and therefore sit in the wrong desk and don't have the courtesy to move when you point out their mistake to them. I have to admit, I am extremely blunt when it comes to the desk booking. We're having to be more aggressive than we should in defending our area due to poor briefing given to new joiners.

But enough about work. Ok. Had a couple of meetings that restored my faith in professionalism after that incident with the incompetent contractor. I mean ! Not being able to recognise basic shapes. God forbid he gets anything important to do.

Yep. I have a low opinion of the support contractors we see, mostly due to the reason we have them in. Low pay and worsening conditions are making people jump ship over to other organisations. Who then come back doing similar jobs, poaching staff and costing us more money.

Fact of life in our place.

Music ?

I currently have Hannah Peel's The Broken Wave playing in the background. It's a wonderful album with an amazing singer and her magical music box. Songs like Song For The Sea just make me stop everything and listen.

(I wanna get this post out before midnight, so I will probably come back and fill in the links later ...)

What other albums do I have like that ? Albums that grab you with their quality and hold your attention all the way through. Albums with a story. Albums that carry their theme. Albums with a certain magic. Albums to truly enjoy.

Well, on the theme, it has to be Madonna's total disco celebration of Confessions On A Dance Floor. If you're looking for energy, this has it. In spades. Awesome album, got me back listening to Madonna. She's always been an outstanding artist, who has evolved over the years. She still has it.

I listened to Arctic Monkeys' Favourite Worst Nightmare last night. The Arctics first two albums kept you listening with their quirky new style all the way through and when A Certain Romance comes on to finish Whatever Happens ... you know you've been listening to something that'll be a classic. It's just a perfect ending to a quality album.

Cardigans ... you just knew something was coming from these :-). All of their albums are triumphs for me, they're jammed full of amazing songs done in their own unique style which has also evolved over the years. It's kept evolving into Nina Persson's solo projects too. You have the outstanding cover of Iron Man, the beautiful lullaby of 03.45am No Sleep, the shut your cares away and dance of In The Round, the poignant Song For The Leftovers, the violence of I Need Some Fine Wine, the happy wanderlust of Daddy's Car. The anthemic For What It's Worth and rocking My Favourite Game. I'll be a fan until I die. Or go deaf.

And listening to Hannah Peel's Cailin Deas Cruite Na Mbo, I'm reminded of the delicate flower that is Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes. Her first album, Fur And Gold was utterly enchanting with songs like the Rabbit Song, What's A Girl To Do and she's got better from there with songs like Laura.

And with the name Laura (who was a lovely lady who worked on the same project as me for a while), my mind goes to albums related to two very special ladies who I have the pleasure of knowing :

First up is Morcheeba with lead singer Skye, their Big Calm has that theme running through, that piercing voice and variation of songs that comes together as an album. And it's rounded back with the sublime Fear And Love.

And the other is the Carpenter's Gold album, which is just littered with song after song that I'll sit back to listen to and attempt to croak along to. Songs like We've Only Just Begun. That wonderful voice of Karen C was taken from us far too early.

Who have I missed ? I grew up with All About Eve and Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern books. One of the characters that caught my imagination was Menolly, a singer songwriter who was a victim of prejudice, making up addictive ditties that the traditionalists hated. But I loved those stories and Julianne Regan of All About Eve became the voice of Menolly for me. And she liked a Facebook comment when I said "Happy Birthday our Wild Hearted Woman" (that being one of my favourite tracks), which made me very happy.

Oh and there's also the inimitable Kate Bush with those soaring vocals. I had a few of her albums on repeat. They worked really well as albums that interwove the songs together and I still listen to them. She kinda ran out of steam with The Sensual World, I didn't like the albums after quite so much. But when there's The Kick Inside and Oh England My Lionheart and ... Hounds Of Love (best ever album by our Kate) ...

I think I may well know what I'll be queueing up next for a long trip in the car.

No blokey albums ? Let's have a look. I think that's reflecting my tendency to fall in love with that female voice. (post ed - I forgot about the Arctic Monkeys up there)

What to finish on, it could be no other than the band I adopted for a nickname. That'd be Alisha's Attic with their middle album, Illumina. This album is amazing, full of emotion and it won my heart with songs like The Incidentals which gets me humming along and maybe even breaking into singing if no one is around to hear me.

I get embarassed with the bad karaoke.

I'll leave it there but not before seeing some A Camp tracks pop up, which reminded me of Algebra. Hope the neighbours can't hear me with that bad karaoke.

PS Forgot a couple. I've been following Garbage from the early days and they keep coming out with great albums. Fix Me Now, yes please. And then there's one of the albums which was the genesis for this post, The Staves debut with Dead and Born and Grown.
PPS I missed Goldfrapp too ! Their first wonderfully wierd album, Felt Mountain, with the sublime Utopia is coming up soon in my listening. Road To Somewhere is their best for me by a long way. Close your eyes and relax.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Things That Make Me Happy

Been struggling for Good ideas for posts lately and by Good I mean happy theme posts instead of BEWARE THIS DANGER type posts.

And then I saw ...
Perfect !

But before I dive in to that, yeah - been struggling for post ideas. You don't (at least this is what I think!) want to hear about my adventures in virtual worlds. I watch a lot of Youtube gaming videos which gives me an idea of what's interesting and ... Elite doesn't make for interesting watching. It makes for interesting playing (for me!) but you have to filter heavily what you talk about with it. That's like ... new ships, trading routes (yawn), helping with community goals, getting promotions.

Oh and the Cookie Clipper finally has a suitable name since coming out of mothballs ... She's been rebadged "These Aren't The Cookies You're Looking For". I bet R2 approves from his galaxy far, far away. I wonder if I should call the Space Truck "Centennial Sloth" because of all the special modifications.

Good things ?

Music. Definitely music. I've been listening to 4 new albums lately as I do that thing of listening to individual tracks first before the album to check them out.

Taylor Swift - Red. Great album. Has some excellent tracks. She just keeps giving us great music, long may it continue.
Lucy Rose - Work It Out. Another top album, it's even better than her first.
Steve Gregan's soundtrack for Guild Of Dungeoneering. Has the great mini song tracks that give the game a lot of its charm. Mostly background music though.
Scott Bradley's Post Modern Jukebox. Nah. Won't get any more from these. They have a certain style. Some of their covers are as good, if different, some of their covers (Living on a Prayer) butcher the original. But I don't regret buying it as you have to form your own opinions on these.

And then there's also an excellently boppy Working Girl from Little Boots and more excellence from Taylor Swift with 1969. There's a tonne of great music out there to listen to. Especially if England foil your plans of listening to the cricket on the way home by finishing the game early. Great stuff our boys :-).

Cute pets !
There he is again, our Ben with tail a-wag as per usual. I think that tail wags in his sleep.

Pizza. Oh pizza how I love you and hate you at the same time. I have to pick my moments with pizza, it adds inches to my waist and the acid I make from the cheese makes it tough to sleep but ... it's pizza and I shall love it always. It's just that good.
Computers can be tough to love but they do give us much more contact with the outside world than we would have had before. Hey, maybe we would have been propping up bars to meet people instead of seeing who we see over the bytes and bits.

And then there's the games (some awesome, some poor, some incredibly frustrating due to interminable bugs) and the variation and portability the computer gives me with my music. I listen to far more variety now than before due to those soft rules I have for picking the next album that I'll queue up. Next is Moby's Play, which I'd have mostly ignored without those soft rules but ... it's still a great occasional listen.

Coffee. Coffee is life. And I haven't had any since Thursday. Roughly 4.30 pm I believe. Yep. If you can remember hours without coffee, that's probably a sign of a teensy, weensy touch of addiction.
That kettle is going on right after I hit that Publish button.

Last and most important is that You.

Yes. You. You reading this right now. You're awesome.
It gives me a massive lift seeing the hits coming in here from ... everyone ! But that'd be the regulars in particular. It reminds me that there are great people out there looking after me, looking out for me, being interested in what I write, what I'm doing, where I'm going.

And then there's also the people who make closer interaction than that. Those who hit the Facebook Poke button, those who bounce the messages over to me, people who assure me through regular contact that I'm a part of their lives, people who I help or help me during work. Perhaps that jester on the shoulder part of their life but if I make one person smile or chuckle or laugh in a day, that's a good day.

We can't live this life on our own, it gets supremely better when there are other people around to make you happy, or for you to make happy by making jokes for them or just even being around to be part of their lives too.

See if you can make someone else happy today ?