Friday, 23 May 2014


Monaco Grand Prix this weekend.

I'm hoping that it will be a good race.  Monaco is notorious for being difficult to overtake at, but it might also reduce the gap between Mercedes and the other teams so it could be a good race.  Or it could be quite processional.

The BBC only has highlights, but I'll listen on the radio too.

It's also a Bank Holiday weekend.  My only real plan for the day off is to do the final prep for Canada - I need to work out what I'm going to take and buy any last bits.

I'll also try to watch some of the backlog of stuff I've recorded so that there'll be enough space on my PVR for when I'm away.  I think I might need a new PVR - I've had this one a long time and it is quite full of stuff, but even bearing that in mind its behaviour is quite erratic.

It's also not HD and with the BT box having been a bust in terms of HD I think it's probably time I upgraded to a HD box.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

more minis

Chaika - The Coffin Princess

I tend to struggle with fantasy shows.

I don't really know why this is.  I mean, fundamentally, I'm a scientist, but having said that I've no real problem with science being bent to make cool stuff happen.  Though to paraphrase Arthur C Clarke, any sufficiently advanced technology will seem like magic to the less advanced.

I guess it's like the Marvel v's DC question.  In Marvel comics there's a tendency to be Science Fiction (science bent to produce superheroes via mutants or gamma rays or what have you) and in DC there's a tendency to be fantasy ("alien comes to earth and just has super-powers because we say so", "here, have this this magic lamp/ring - it gives you powers").  And I always came down on the science side, rather than the fantasy side.

I guess I also find the repeated re-using of exactly the same things a bit tedious - orc, goblins, elves, paladins, blah, blah, yawns.

I've gone on quite a bit there, but the point is I wasn't expecting to like Chaika, but I've been pleasantly surprised.  It's actually moved up my ranking as later episodes have revealed more of a plot that seems quite interesting and it's hinted at explanations for some of the odder aspects.

In particular, I've found Chaika's staccato way of speaking quite annoying.  I'm guessing I'm supposed to find it cute, but it made little sense to me until we found out something that's probably a bit spoilery to say here, but suggests that there's a reason behind it.

Captain Earth

I want to like Captain Earth more than I do.

It's a giant mech series and is certainly a lot better than Dai Shogun.  The animation is by Bones, who seem to have a surprisingly high number of shows out this season for some reason, and is very nice.

I think the problem is the show can't quite seem to work out what it is.  There are elements that are quite like the old super-fun but super-dumb giant mech shows.  So for example, in order to pilot the mech (which looks eerily like a gundam), the hero has to launch into space on a rocket, which is sort of realistic, but then he passes through a whole series of "assembly stages" in orbit that add on various bits, that each "transform and combine" in a sudden switch to high-tech and cheesiness that's fun, but feels incongruous due to the mixing of real and absurd.

The show has lots of stuff like that, so there's a weirdly high level of fan-service, which is fine in and of itself, but it pops up randomly dispersed among really serious and downbeat scenes.  It makes the fan-service seemed tacked on (and tacky), but also makes the serious-ness seem po-faced.

And the seriousness seems like it's trying too hard to be like Eva, but the writing isn't quite strong enough to pull it off.  It also has lots of design elements that I don't know if they're meant to be tributes or copies or accidental.  For example, there's an overly sensitive half bad guy half good guy... with purple hair, red eyes and they've just given him a dark blue plug suit er I mean pilot's costume.  So it's Kaworu from Eva.

I dunno - it's all just a bit disappointing.


Haikyu is actually one of the shows I'd left initially and have since caught up on.

I'd actually been through the shows when I saw there were so many available on crunchyroll this season and had tried to prioritise the ones I thought I'd be more interested in.  As these mini reviews show, many have been quite disappointing (it's actually not been that great a season, in my overall opinion), but this and Baby Steps also show I got my guesses quite wrong.

Along with Baby Steps, this is a sports anime, which I increasingly seem to be a fan of for some reason.  In this case the sport in question is volleyball (the version played indoors on a court, rather than on a beach), which I can't honestly say I know a great deal about.

However, what makes this show is the characters - the main character is the "super genki" type.  He's actually a short-arse, and volleyball tends to favour tall players as the net is set quite high.

Quite a few of the characters fall broadly into types you've seen before - the sour-faced, arrogant, egotistical type, for example.  However, the thing that's been making the show is that it's really about breaking down those character traits.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

a little more... or less, as it were

I weighed in at 20 stone 8 pounds at the weekend, which is another 2 pound loss.

I was a bit surprised by this - it was an okay week, but nothing special.  I did hit my target for walking, but didn't really exceed it, and in terms of eating there were a few extra bits I ate that were a bit naughty.  I therefore figured I'd stay about the same, so a 2 pound loss is good.

I'm not really getting my hopes up, so at minimum if I can lose another pound and keep it off then I will still fit into all my new clothes for the holiday.  I guess if I was to get close to 20 stone that would be the "hopes up" version, but as I say I'm not really thinking that will actually happen.

I've also decided I will not do any walking in the week before we go - well, obviously other than to move about to places I need to be!  But I mean I won't go on any specific walks.  My intention is to try to rest my foot a bit.

However, and trying not to tempt fate, I've actually been doing okay with the foot.  I don't know if it's simply easing naturally or it's a coincidence, but I've been doing some stretching exercises recently and things got better after that.  The specific exercise that seems to have helped is actually one that stretches my Achilles tendon and back of my leg.  It involves leaning into a wall and stretching each leg.

The exercise is recommended on the NHS website, so it's not quackery and it's a stretch you see runner's doing.  The point they made is that the plantar fasciitis thing can actually be made worse because of tight Achilles tendons, which makes sense as it would obviously be making the plantar thing taught.

As I say, I don't want to count any unhatched chickens, and it's still not fixed in the sense that I still get discomfort, but it's not the horrible pain that made it difficult to walk I was having a couple of weeks ago.

Friday, 16 May 2014

bryn who?

More mini anime reviews today.

I'm doing my best to catch up with the ones I'd not watched from this season, but there's quite a few!

Brynhildr in the Darkness

There's a particular type of show I have no easy terminology to summarise.  A good example of it is Freezing and it sort of involves physically torturing or causing excess pain to characters.  A bit like torture porn, but not actually with torture.  In the case of freezing this was also wrapped up in fan-service, and Brynhilder has a smattering of this too, but it's more like this is a cross between a fairly generic instant girlfriend / harem show and that over-the-top cruelty show.

It's not a blending that really works.  The normal anime pap stuff is unremarkable and the nasty pain stuff is excessive, so it feels like two separate shows have been cut together.  It also doesn't help that the show's humour is of the silly & fan-service varieties.

You end up with this weird thing of flipping between a generic high-school anime with stupid silly gags (or tits gags in later episodes) to moments of nasty pain and suffering.  One moment the hero will be cracking gags about how the heroine can't do times tables and the next she'll be leaking blood from every orifice and clearly having a very bad time of it.

I dunno - it all just feels quite poorly put together.

No Game No Life

No Game No Life is a bit of a weird show.

I would say it's definitely gown on me compared to my impression from the first episode.  In the first episode the hero came across as quite an arsehole, to be frank, and I was very doubtful as to whether I would continue.

My issue was he was quite annoying, tbh - he was very arrogant, and for no real reason.  He was also a NEET, along with his sister, and if I have a continuing criticism it's that it does pander quite a lot to anime tropes.  There are some big chunks of fan-service, for example, which I don't mind specifically, but it is the sort of thing that mires the show in the predictable.

However, it's also very good at undermining this stuff.  The failing in the first episode is that it didn't really use that trick at all, so the guy was just an arsehole.  It wasn't until the second episode that it poked fun at him.

However, even though I've enjoyed it more, I still have some issues.  The whole thing seems a bit pointless - I don't really know why they're doing what they're doing.  Also things can be quite inconsistent - one moment they're giving a big speech to hundreds of people, the next they're being all agoraphobic about going outside and there being "too many people".  I also find the colour palette quite jarring - it's like having an acid trip in a candy factory - though I can see what they were trying to achieve.

Baby Steps

This is actually a sports anime, though you wouldn't be able to tell from the title.  I've found in the past I often enjoy sports anime more than the sports themselves, generally because they often treat the sports in an odd way.

In this case, the basic idea seems to be that the main character is able to improve through the use of analysis - he sort of works things out and can then implement various strategies or techniques once he's worked them out.

Now that makes the anime quite interesting, but it means it veers off into a bizarre world where the decades of practice that real tennis players need in order to reach professional standards can essentially be circumvented by someone who can remember what shots a player tends to use most often.  Yeah, it's a bit odd.

But a particular redeeming feature is the main character, who's actually a bit different from the usual high-school main character type and you do end up rooting for.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

that's a bit more like it

I'd lost 4 pounds at this week's weigh in.

I therefore now weigh 20 stone 10 pounds, which is good.  If I can keep on the right track I should at least be safe in terms of the new clothes I've ordered for Canada.

I've got all the clothes I've ordered so far and have only had one failure in terms of fitting, which are some boxer shorts.  I will admit I'm a bit finicky when it comes to the fit of boxers, as I prefer them to be loose (that's the reason I switched from Y-fronts, after all).  However, the terminology used to describe boxers often doesn't help with understanding the fit.

So these I ordered turned out to be tailored for a tighter fit, but even bearing that in mind they were too tight and I would have had to send them back anyway.

I've not ordered all I need, but I wanted to try some stuff on before ordering more.  Sizes can get a bit tricky when you're in the super-large category, as what one company means by 4XL doesn't necessarily tie up with what another company means, as the boxers show.

Anyway, I wasn't entirely surprised at the loss - the last couple of weekends I think the numbers were a bit inflated by circumstance (retaining fluids from drinking and some sluggish-ness in my digestion.  This isn't to say I hadn't put on weight, but I think perhaps I hadn't put on quite as much as the numbers suggested.

That's not entirely unusual - everyone's weight fluctuates naturally, though for normal size people the fluctuations probably wouldn't show up on a regular scales.

I've scaled my expectations down and am now basically hoping I can get below 20 stone 7 pounds before the holiday.  Any more is a bonus.

I should note that I've done something to my foot that is causing me some problems.  I've done a classic bit of self-diagnosis and all the symptoms line up with something called Plantar Fasciitis (  This basically means I've damaged the big mass of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot (it acts like a sort of cushion/spring).

Of course the only real treatment is to rest... which is hardly an option right now and will be impossible in Canada :/.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014


Well, it was Eurovision this last weekend.

I kinda knew it was this weekend, but also kinda forgot about it.  I dunno - it's difficult to explain.

Anyway, the point is that this year it was actually quite good, in terms of both song content and the presentation.  The Danes won it last year and they'd basically built the stage in an old dock in Copenhagen.  And it was actually quite decent - the last few years there's been a bit of a trend for one-upmanship, particularly as it's gone to a few of the new Eastern European Nations.

However, the show here was fancy without being overblown - I mean, it was big scale, but the scale was pretty much in the audience: the stage itself was a reasonable size and a fairly basic space.  They'd make it swanky with some clever screen and various bits and pieces.

I also thought the hosting was pretty good.  The Danes had clearly embraced the silliness of the show over the years, but not gone so far as to take the piss in a nasty way.  Indeed, I thought the level of humour overall from the hosts and the pre-filmed pieces was about right.  There were a few bum notes, obviously, but overall it worked - I particularly liked the "13" song.

Graham Norton seemed less impressed, but then I guess these things are subjective.  He poo-poo'd several songs I quite liked and seemed more impressed with songs I thought were a bit naff.

And speaking of songs, the standard this year was really high.  It was a genuine song contest for once, with quite a few songs that would have been worthy winners.

The British entry was reasonable - it was a relatively interesting song structurally (possibly too much so for Eurovision) and was well performed.  It picked up a smattering of votes, but was obviously almost totally ignored by the Eastern Block voting.  But then that's hardly surprising, given the political issues.

There was actually quite a bit of boo'ing for the Russians, which was a bit unfair on the girls who sung.  And the Russian one wasn't a bad song.

There were some duffers of course - the French entry was bobbins, for example.  Poland's entry was too close to being the "sexploitation" it was clearly trying to parody - if you look it up online there's an English version and you'll see what I mean, and seeing it, it was a bit surprising it wasn't performed in English as without that it just came across as a "votes for boobies" song on the night.  And they were nice boobies, I will happily admit, but the fact it was ironic was rather lost.

The winner was a bit of a mixed bag for me.  I get that Eurovision has an appeal for what might be regarded as minority groups, and the winner this year was a man in drag... with a beard.  It's therefore not unreasonable to suggest that it picked up votes purely based on a sort of "positive discrimination".

However, I think that would only really work as a point (and it wouldn't have won) if it hadn't genuinely been quite good as well.  How can I put it?  I think it would have been up there as a real contender if it hadn't been for the man in a skirt thing, but I don't think it would necessarily have been the runaway winner it was without that.

Monday, 12 May 2014

spanish gp

I almost didn't watch the Spanish Grand Prix.

Not because I didn't want to, but my PVR unfortunately had a funny turn when I started watching it on delay and I had to turn the box off and on.  This obviously killed the recording, but because it was during the build-up stuff I started recording anew and did get to see the race proper.

My PVR has been playing up for a little while, tbh.  I have been expecting it, as the hard drive is getting quite full and it's gotten a bit flaky when I've had that before.  However, the weird thing is that I've actually started clearing some of the older stuff, so there's now more spare space than I've had in a long time, yet the problems have only really just occurred.

I've started clearing things down due to Canada - I need at least 50% of the hard drive free to make sure I can record everything, and it's been about 90% full for a while now.  I've mostly watched recent stuff, but have delved back for a few wildlife documentaries that were on ages ago: Africa and Wild Arabia, both of which are excellent, obviously.  I'm going to do my best, but I've a feeling I may sacrifice a few things.

I'll also set my BT box up as a back-up, although that's proven to be quite flaky in the past too and failed to record stuff.

The grand prix itself was okay.  It was relatively quiet for long stretches of the race, and they seemed to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time, as just about every overtake was shown on replay.

The end of the race was a lot more exciting, as Rosberg was a bit quicker than Hamilton and was chasing him down.  If there had been a few more laps he may have overtaken him, but in the end it finished just in time for Hamilton to take the win.

The Mercedes is clearly way better than everyone else.  Red Bull and (to a lesser degree) Ferrari have pulled some ground back as they seem to now be on a similar level or better than the other cars with Mercedes engines, but the Mercedes team clearly has aerodynamic advantage as well.

So at the moment it's a bit like a two-formula championship, with Mercedes on their own, and then everyone else.  But it's good that Rosberg and Hamilton are able to race (both in terms of being allowed to and ability-wise) as it means it stays interesting.  One of the big problems when you get a dominant team is that either one of the drivers is way better or the team make a driver number one, so the races can get quite dull.

I mean, I'm sure if the others suddenly catch up Mercedes will start issuing orders for them to stay in position to maximise points, but at the moment it's working well.

Friday, 9 May 2014

spanish grand prix

It's the Spanish grand prix this weekend.

Spain is where they do a lot of testing, but this seems to result in a relatively uninteresting race.  I'm not sure why - I guess because they all know how to set their cars up perfectly for the track, so there's no variability to it?

This weekend was going to be horribly busy, but a few things have dropped away.  One of the more random was that my landlord was supposed to be going on holiday last Wednesday, but when I got back that evening he was still there.  Well, he was there, but his wife wasn't - turns out his hip is playing up (he's never mentioned it before :/) so he felt he couldn't go, but his wife decided to go on the holiday anyway!

As such, I've no real chance to get into the shed to sort through the boxes, which is annoying.  I'll still probably do a swap of summer stuff for winter stuff, but I'm also not sure because of the weather - it's been quite variable for a while now and I'm having to switch between clothes and coats quite often, which is proving to be a pain.

And speaking of clothes, I've bought most of what I need for Canada.  There are a few items I'm going to make later decisions on, but I've either got most of it or it's due to be delivered.  It's obviously been quite expensive, but these things have to be done - particularly for the Canadian Grand Prix.  The weather can be quite variable in terms of shifting from sunny to wet, so I've had to cover both possibilities.

Now I just need to work out how I'm going to fit it all into my suitcase!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

so bad it's good

I've so far failed to watch all of the shows available this season on crunchyroll, because as previously discussed; there seem to be a lot more than usual.  However, I have watched a few and am up to date with them, so I thought I'd do some reviews.  These are broadly in reverse order - I have to say I've actually been a bit disappointed overall with the season and a lot of the shows are poor to middling (of course I've not watched quite a few so I may not have seen the great shows yet!)

Dai Shogun - Great Revolution

This is the one that's inspired the title, as it's really quite bad, but sort of fun because of that.  It's not totally terrible in all regards.  The drawings are good and well rendered, but please note - that's specifically the drawn images.  What they then do with those images is horrible, because the entire show isn't really animated.

You know that cheap technique they used a lot in the old days but not so much now where they literally slide the single drawing around to "animate" it - in this show that is almost the entire extent of the animation.  I honestly can't work out if it's just plain cheap or if it's trying to use that technique deliberately to give it a particular look and style.  It's like when you watch a show that's a homage to something, only the thing this is a homage to is terrible animation, and who wants a homage to that?

But that's not the only problem - the plot isn't so much terrible as it is non-existent.  I honestly have no idea what the show is really about, but not in a good way.  It's not trying to be suspenseful or introduce mystery; it just doesn't seem to have any real point.  The only thing that comes close is getting a big mech across the country... which the hero apparently doesn't want to do... for some reason that isn't at all clear.

As for characters, everyone is a one dimensional cut-out, with entire "character arks" basically taking less than about a third of an episode to resolve.

With the lack of animation, the fan-service is also pretty disappointing... it's just all around poor, which is kinda what makes it enjoyable - it's so bad it's funny, in a baffling sort of way.

Magica Wars

This is a series of shorts from Gainax.  I believe the characters are meant to be anthropomorphic representations of regions, or the region mascots or something.  I dunno, I kinda didn't bother looking it up.  It also doesn't really make any sense - perhaps it does if you know more about the regions of Japan, but to me it's basically a fairly random and meaningless magical girl show.  With quite a bit of objectionable content - the girls are all pretty young and there's quite a bit of perving (including groping of one while she's sleeping... as you do).

If the episodes were longer I would have dropped them, but the animation is nice enough for me to lose 4 minutes of my day a week.

Blade and Soul

At some point Gonzo started making anime again.  I'm not quite sure exactly when, but they've done a sequel to Fam - The Silver Wing and a few other things.  This is a Gonzo show and seems to be right on the money for that - lots of fan-service and a plot that doesn't quite seem to be big enough to fill the episode count so there's a lot of filler.

The show is actually based on a game - a Korean MMORPG, if memory serves, though I think it's an original story but using some of the characters in the game.  I'm not totally sure about that as I have no knowledge of the game.

Anyway, the plot seems quite generic overall - an assassin seeking revenge, though as mentioned, her revenge seeking doesn't seem to be quite full time as she does a lot of other stuff too.  There are a few peripheral characters, some of whom are a bit more interesting (the main character is of the "blanks slate with no emotions" variety).  There's also quite a lot of fan-service with more than a fair dash of bouncing.

I dunno - it's pretty poor, but it's kinda nice in a way to see Gonzo doing what they do again.

Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san

This is another series of shorts.  In this case it's a comedy series around a few yuri (that is to say lesbian) character.  If you have a light knowledge of Japanese, you may notice that the two names involve "dog" and "cat" (well, an inugami is a dog-god, and I'm not sure if nekoyama is a cat god?) - but the basic idea is that the characters are animal-like and their relationships kinda bounce off that.

It's okay - some of the jokes fall a bit flat, but it's very quick-paced.  Indeed, I find it a bit too quick paced in places, and it can be difficult to follow the subtitles.  However, it's sufficiently short that skipping back isn't too big a deal.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014


I got a bit of a shock on Sunday when I weighed in, as I'd actually gained 3 pounds, meaning I now weigh 21 stone.

This obviously puts me above where I've been since my supposed recent push to try to lose a bit more weight.  It also means I'm heavier than I have been for quite a while.

I have a few excuses, but the honest truth is I've lost my way a bit.  I've been feeling rather down if I'm honest - looking for a new job hasn't resulted in anything, even when I changed my "search parameters" to loosen them up.

I've had a fair few interviews, but no real sniffs of a job.  I actually went to an interview on Tuesday (it was one I was contacted about before I stopped for Canada, but has taken ages to result in interviews).

I think it went well as an interview - certainly better than most of the others I've had; however, I don't think I'm quite what they were looking for.  I'm therefore anticipating that there will be someone with more relevant experience that they will interview (I was first).  In fact, they may have let the cat out of the bag in that they have a temp covering for someone who was on maternity and then left, so I wouldn't be surprised if really that person will get the job.

The honest truth, though, is if they offered me a job I'm not sure I would want to take it.  I mentioned above that I'd widened the parameters, but I think really in my heart of hearts I don't think I want to stay in this sector (it's quite difficult to explain as I can't really say properly!).

I've actually now stopped all of the automated search e-mails and turned my CV "off" on the job websites.  Once I'm back from Canada I'll fire it all back up again and go back to looking outside of my current sector.  Trouble is I'm really not enjoying working at my current place any more, which is why I loosened things up in the first place, to try to get something to happen quickly.

Either way, my current focus is to get real on the diet - I can't have a situation where even my old clothes don't fit me because I've put on weight!  I mean at the very least it would be ruinously expensive to have to buy everything in bigger sizes again!