Friday, 27 May 2011

yet another bank holiday

Well, there's yet another Bank Holiday on Monday.

Of course really we're only gaining 1 extra day off across the year, it's just that there's also been an undue concentration of them in May.

Plans for the weekend involve watching the Monaco Grand Prix. I'm also supposed to be going to visit some friends who I realised the other day I haven't seen in about 4 years.

I've been horribly busy at work this last couple of days. I even got up half an hour early (that's half an hour earlier than my usual 6:30 wake up time) to get in as soon as I could this morning and I'm still only about half way through what I need to do, so I'll cut the post off here I think.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

67 stone

I randomly came across a programme the other day where two ambulance drivers (they may well have been paramedics - I couldn't tell) were discussing the tools they use to move very big people.

The standard trolley they put in and out of the ambulance has a kind of extension thing that allows bigger people lay on it without fear of falling off. Apparently the trolley itself can take up to 75 stone in weight.

If people were bigger than that (!) they explained there's a kind of big bag they use that people can be zipped into. This has all sorts of handles that allow it to be picked up by multiple people and can allow them to carry someone who weighs 99 stone.

One imperial tonne is 160 stone, so that's nearly two thirds of a tonne.

Something else they said was they'd actually had to use the bag for a guy who weighed 67 stone, because of his shape. They'd had to leave open a flap on the bag because his belly was so big they couldn't close it.

I'm not posting this to offer any sort of opinion on this state of affairs. Indeed, as someone who used to weigh about 25 stone with a BMI that put him well into the morbidly obese range it would probably be best approached from a those without sin casting the first stone mindset.

What it did emphasise to me was how bad things could have gotten. My eating and exercise habits were such that my weight was an ever upward trajectory. And it's not good to be in a situation where, should you need to be rushed to hospital they first need to zip you into a bag and then find enough burly men to lift you.

This last week I lost 3 pounds. Well, I think actually it was more a case of losing about 2.5 pounds over the last two weeks.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

resident evil degeneration

I've noticed this pattern before with the rentals I get sent.

Two rentals ago it was the most recent Resident Evil live action film (zombies), last time it was zombieland (zombies) and this time it was Resident Evil: Degeneration (zombies).

In particular I remember it happened with films featuring Jason Statham - I had several of them sent in quick succession. I don't fundamentally mind, but it is a bit weird that this themeing exists in whatever software it is that picks out which DVD to send you next. Well, I assume it's software - perhaps it's done by hand?

Degeneration is a CGI Resi movie made in Japan and that actually features some of the characters from the games and, I believe, is canon, which is to say it forms a proper part of the Resi game series stories, unlike the films.

I have to say, though, that it's not all that good. The main problem with it is that it just wasn't scary. A big part of why the Resi games that I played were scary was the intense atmosphere. They were played in a third person, fixed camera view that gave a cinematic feel and through the use of creepy music they built up a very intense atmosphere.

There are very few scenes that even try to be scary in Degeneration, and to be frank the almost total lack of gore also suggested to me that this was part of an attempt to get a relatively low rating.

Instead, the focus is on trying to be an action film. In this regard it sort of works, but I think the CGI aspect hampers it. I dunno, part of the fun of live action films is that it involves real people. I know these days a lot of CGI is used, but they still try to do lots of stunts and use the CGI to enhance it.

Here you can't really tell. I mean, it uses motion capture, but you don't really know if this is used in all the action parts or not.

Also, everything feels quite wooden. The CGI being used seems more on the level of that used in video game cut sequences, rather than that Final Fantasy film. I mean it looks okay, and it's great for monsters and the zombies, but the living humans didn't look good enough for me to really get into it properly.

Something else that didn't help was that the plot was a bit weak. I don't know if it has more resonance if you're properly familiar with all of the Resi games, but for me it all felt a bit predictable and overly familiar. There also seemed to be quite a few plot holes. A good example of this was the plane crashing into the terminal.

This isn't really a spoiler, since it's plastered all over the trailers, but a plane crashes into the terminal building where the zombie action is centred. Obviously, the human characters need to escape from the building, and there's going to be issues over zombies getting out. So wouldn't a plane crashing into a building leave a very big hole in it? Well, you would think so, but this doesn't really get mentioned as an escape route for either humans or zombies.

And there's lots of other stuff like that - things seem to happen (or don't happen) for reasons that don't really make much sense.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

web design software

So I've talked before about how I've switched all my domain name registrations to a new company and cancelled the hosting I had with the eventual intention of having hosting through the new people.

Part of the reason for the move is that the company in question are the ones we use at work and I got to see how they operate. Part of this is that I've been building a new website for work.

It's not the main website, but an additional one for a specific bit of work, but one of the key aspects was that we needed to be able to have users who could log in and out and use passwords to access certain bits of the site.

As part of the hosting this company provides, they give you a web design package called Serif X4 and investigations showed that this package gives you the ability to have user accounts. We therefore took the plunge and bought the hosting (which we'd need anyway, even if the design thing didn't work as we'd hoped) and I set about seeing if I could get it to do what we needed.

The answer to this question was, fundamentally, yes - we could have users and passwords and the whole thing. The way it works means that the details are held remotely on a secure web server hosted by the company (Serif, rather than the hosts).

Now obviously I've built websites before. I actually own a rather old version of Dreamweaver and have used that to build all of my websites. However, if I was going to get this program free with my hosting I thought it best to experiment with all the stuff it provides, not just what we needed for the work site.

And it's a bit of an odd beast.

The reason is that it's both quite powerful and quite limited all at the same time. I'll give you some examples.

Firstly, in the Dreamweaver I have, although it's What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) you're not that far removed from the basic html coding (I've only ever used the html in it). So a lot of it is done by arranging tables. By tables I mean the type of thing you have in word - you set the number of rows and columns and then you can do stuff to the tables or put stuff in the boxes you've created. And I think Word is the best analogy for how I've always used Dreamweaver.

In Serif you don't do that at all - you basically draw the site as if you were using MS Paint or Photoshop or a similar artist package. It's very much about the visual side of website designs.

Now that is very good on some levels, because you can quickly and relatively easily produce very appealing sites. It even provides you with templates that look quite good and you can fiddle with.

The difficulties come because of the content in sites like mine. The above works well if you're designing a relatively static site, but with mine with reviews with variable numbers of words, this produces unexpected challenges.

A good exemplar is the size of the page. When you design the page you fix the height and width. That means if you have a bit more or a bit less content you end up either going off the bottom or falling short and it has no way of the pages automatically adjusting to fit your content. You have to fiddle with some numbers in a dialogue box - you can't even simply drag the bottom of the page (I believe they added this in the next version).

And a similar problem pervades. So, for example, it gives you really simple an easy access to a forum that you can just drop onto your site. But, you can't adjust the design of the forum at all - it's a standard php forum and that's it. Well, you can do colours and through a tortuous back-end process can add bits and pieces, but it doesn't let you properly fiddle with it.

So as I say - it's at once very powerful and very restricted. You can easily create very pretty sites, but something as simple as adding text of variable length to pages is a real pain :/.

Monday, 23 May 2011

spanish f1 gp

Spanish Grand Prix this last weekend.

Spain is usually as dull as dishwater. It's one of the newer generations of tracks and it's not one of the better ones - it's very difficult to overtake. Indeed, the person who has pole position goes on to win the race more often than happened at Monaco.

This year, however, it was much more interesting. Clearly as a proper test for the new regulations it seems they've clearly brought some success. The Drag Reduction System (DRS - opening a flap on the rear wing to reduce drag and therefore give a speed boost) seems very temperamental/track sensitive.

Last week in Turkey it seemed to be too effective, with cars passing each other on the straights, making it way too easy. In China it worked perfectly, giving drivers the chance to be alongside in a corner and therefore battle it out. In Spain, despite it being used on a huge long straight it didn't really help at all, just like in Australia.

The problem seemed to be that in the corner before the straight it was difficult to follow another car closely. That meant that, by the time the DRS could be switched on, the other car was a long way in front and so the following driver didn't (in general) gain enough to even come close to passing.

What this did emphasise was the point that it's really the tyres that have had the biggest impact on racing this year. This is good, but I think they need to rethink it a bit. What I think would make things work better is if the harder compounds weren't so much slower than the softer ones and that they lasted ages.

That way you could have a proper battle between strategies - do you have only 1 stop and use the hard for ages, or lots of stops using the soft? This cant' really happen at the moment and is also worsened by the regs that limit the number of tyres the teams have. It also seems to be impacting qualifying quite a bit.

Anyway, the Spanish Grand Prix got off to a really interesting start with Alonso taking the lead with a spectacular bit of driving. Being the local boy, the crowd went mental - you could actually hear them above the sound of the cars, and each car is louder than a Jumbo jet.

This seemed to hold up the Red Bulls and I think also lead to the race being more interesting. To be fair, the Spanish was still less busy than previous races, emphasising that it is a less good track, but even so there was plenty going on.

In fact, still too much if I'm honest. I mean, Mark Webber, who started in pole ended up 4th and I have absolutely no idea how that happened. I mean, he didn't spin off or crash and I don't think there were any disastrous pit stops so how did that happen? It's almost like you need to watch 20-odd different versions of the race to work out what happened to each driver or cluster of drivers.

I dunno - it's just the wrong side of too much for me. But then would I have the sometimes dull, processional racing from recent years back? No, not at all, but it would be nice to find a balance between the two extremes.