Friday, 1 July 2011

emperor's new clothes

In light of my trip to the British GP next week, this coming weekend represents the last chance for me to pick up whatever bits and pieces I need. I've pretty much got everything bar a few odds and sods of toiletries and things.

I bought some new clothes, partly so I'd have some stuff that wasn't worn out, like most of my clothes, but also because I figured it was about time I took the plunge and bought some clothes that are a better fit now I'm a bit smaller.

Buying these are the clothes I've been dreading, for a couple of reasons. For one, I'm not actually sure what size I am now, and I wasn't sure whether to go a bit tight with the expectation that they'll then last longer as I continue to slim down.

Another problem is just that - as I slim down I could be in a situation of having spent a lot on clothes than I can only wear for a few months before needing to replace again.

But I decided to take the plunge, with a variety of results.

The shorts, T-shirts and casual shirts all appear to fit great (I now roughly appear to be a 3XL, rather than the 5XL I was at my peak). The boxers I bought are way to tight (this, I think, is more to do with the style of them than an incorrect size selection - I like loose boxers), the trousers are just slightly too tight (Despite stating the same waste measurement as the shorts, holding them up next to each other shows them to be slightly smaller. This is one of the problems of big sizes - you get manufacturing differences in all clothes, but with big sizes you're often buying in the dark from online places.) and the belt I bought is a bit rubbish. It's a good fit,. but it has this weird design that I'm not hugely comfortable with.

It's been an expensive week generally, actually. I had my car into the garage as my lock was making the appalling grinding noise. According to the guy it was due to an actuator and is quite common. He reckoned they can go for ages and never fail, but I thought it safer to get it replaced. The part wasn't too bad, but (from experience) car doors are horrible things to work on, so the labour was pretty heavy.

I also got them to recharge the aircon, following this last weekend's horrendous heat wave. I switched on my air con and found it to be a bit wimpy. It is four years since I got the car, so I guess that's not a bad length of time for it, and we did have some pretty hot summers so I got quite a lot out of it.

My aircon unit at home was also a life (or, at least, sleep) saver, cooling my room down so I could get some shut-eye. The heat wave was exactly the sort of weather that inspired me to get it in the first place. And despite it having cost a fortune it's nights like those where I think of it as the best thing I've ever bought.

So yeah, I've put some fairly big holes in my finances over the last couple of weeks and the next couple are likely to be pretty expensive too.

Hopefully, some e-baying will take the sting out a bit.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

and then back up

I don't really know why I said last week that I was going to try to stick to my diet.

It was a pretty daft thing to say given I had planned to take the Thursday and Friday off and had lots of physical stuff planned. Basically, the diet went to rats and I ate loads.

Now I did do a lot of physical stuff - my pedometer said I did about 12,500 steps on Thursday and I forgot to put it on until about 10:30 and didn't go for a single 'proper' walk. But what I ate was way more than the extra calories needed for this.

In fact, it was like a reckless splurge of eating crap.

It actually reminded me of the type of eating I do when I'm hung over - I concentrate on filling myself up with the worst possible junk food, presumably because it makes me feel better (I've always been a comfort eater).

I wasn't hung over, of course, but I was shattered across Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which was when most of the really bad eating happened.

However, the Sunday weigh in was a bit of a surprise. Well, I say that. I'd basically gained two pounds, undoing all of the work of the previous two weeks, but given what I ate, I think I've gotten off lightly.

This does also make it very difficult for me to hit my target of 19 stone by the British Grand Prix. I'm going to increase the amount of walking I do across the next week and a bit, so that may help get me there, although I'm doing it mainly as I expect the GP weekend to involve a hell of a lot of walking and I want to be a bit more 'in shape' as it were.

Some time soon I'll pull my finger out and really crack on with the last push I need to do to get down to being overweight, rather than obese. Really this is my minimum target. It would be nice to get to a 'normal' weight, but I don't regard this as essential, I mainly just want not be obese. I want the walks I do to be easier and not to feel like I'm constantly carrying around a small child on my midriff.

What I need is another moment like I had when I started the whole thing back last autumn where I say to myself "Stop pissing around and just fucking do it then." I mean, I'm still managing to keep my weight broadly drifting down, but I keep failing to really capitalise on my efforts and slipping with the diet.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011


I have to confess, going into watching watchmen I wasn't entirely expecting to enjoy it.

Being a comic book fan you might expect this to be because I was worried they were going to butcher what is regarded by many as a pinnacle of the comic book form. Well, actually it was because of the opposite.

Call it my annoying habit of contrary-ness, but I'm not that big a fan of Watchmen. I do think it's got some great stuff in there, and certainly it's more realistic and thoughtful approach to super heroes is something I like, but I found the actual comic to be very heavy going and a bit lacking in all the things that I think really make comic books comics.

The style of it, with a rigid fixed-panel page structure was a massive visual turn-off and one of the primary things I like about comics is the dynamism of the visuals. I've got a perfectly good imagination and enjoy exercising it with the written word via books, but comics need to really sell themselves visually to be a success for me.

My problem with the film then was that I'd heard it was an extremely faithful adaptation, sticking so closely to the comic as to almost use the panels as a storyboard. So, not being the biggest fan of the comic, I was afraid I was in for a rather dull 2 and half hours.

In fact I really enjoyed the film. My big concern - the overly tight and flattened visuals of the comic, had been very much 'cured' by the film. It's a real visual treat, thanks I'm sure to the advances in CG - if it had been made, say, 10 years ago, it wouldn't look as nice as it did here.

Also, the action works a lot better on film than it did in the strictured panel layout of the original comic. As mentioned, the whole visual flair of comics with odd shaped panels works best when it's helping to tell the story, just in the same way that things like slow motion and the aforementioned CG help to tell the story in the film.

There have been some significant changes, of course. Most notable is the excising of the Tales of the Black Freighter comic-within-the-comic, which was made into a cartoon and released separately (I'm sure there's probably a version on Blu-Ray or something with it stuck in). I'm not sure I really miss the black freighter parts, as such. They added quite a lot of depth to the original, but this film is already two and a half hours and the freighter stuff didn't really tell any of the actual story.

One thing that I don't think works is how they've changed the ending. I'm going to spoiler both in the next two paragraphs, so you may want to skip ahead.

In the comic, Veidt's grand plan is the manufacturing of the sudden, catastrophic appearance of a somewhat Lovecraftian horror simultaneously in many the major cities around the globe. These creatures kill millions and it's made clear via a psychic broadcast that they hate humans and want to kill us all. This sudden new enemy gives us all something to unite against.

In the film, for reasons I can't quite work out, the Lovecraftian horror is replaced by Doctor Manhattan. So, instead of tentacle monsters, Manhattan destroys the cities because... well, that's what I cant' quite work out. I think the idea is because in the film the US is about to launch a pre-emptive strike against Russia after they invade Afghanistan. So, to teach the world a lesson, he destroys the cities... I dunno, it didn't suite gel for me. The Lovecraftian thing just makes more sense and is also independent of the Afghanistan thing, which seems to make Veidt's plan overly prescient.

Anyway, spoilers over. Another thing that becomes more apparent in the film is the issue of super powers. Obviously, Manhattan has super powers, but in the comic it's fairly clear that he's the only one. Veidt potentially might have had some, possibly via manipulating his own genes, but the others rely on simply being physically fit or advanced technology.

In the film it's less clear - the heroes do stuff that clearly only those with advanced strength or speed could do and in particular, the Comedian doesn't seem to age. Yet there's no mention of them actually having powers or how they may have gotten these.

However, I think really this is something that's actually not that clear in the comic.

I seem to have prattled on quite a bit. Basically I did enjoy the film a lot more than I thought I would, though I don't think it's without its flaws.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

valencia grand prix

It was the Valencia Grand Prix this last week.

Traditionally, Valencia is up there as one of the worst races of the season. It's a street circuit and is normally even more processional than Monaco. Indeed, if you think of all the worst bits of Monaco, then Valencia amplifies those to the degree of tedium.

It's quite a common problem with street circuit - Singapore is another road-racing snooze fest, although that at least has the added interest of being held at night. Although it's not a universal effect. Canada is a street circuit and produces some cracking races, and so's Australia and that's usually okay too.

And of course the reverse isn't automatically true. Being a purpose built circuit doesn't guarantee a good race. Especially from the newer circuits, which are often a bit lacklustre.

Anyway, the point is that Valencia is usually dull (Mark Webber described it as being a Tesco's Car Park), but this year we have the superb Pirelli tyres, KERS and DRS. We even had two DRS zones, which they did in Canada, but more as a test for Valencia than because Canada did it.

Anticipation was therefore high it would finally produce an interesting race. And the result was not spectacular.

I guess it's worth noting that I thought Monaco wasn't the greatest race this season, but it was far better than in previous years. I felt the same thing about Valencia - it was a bit more interesting than it usually is, but I wouldn't put it high up the list of greatest ever races.

Part of the problem was that the DRS, which is meant to give overtaking, didn't really seem to add that much. It seemed that when they had the chance to use it, unfortunately the cars just ended up bouncing off the rev limiter, unable to really develop extra speed.

Perhaps if DRS was also associated with a temporary lifting of the limiter, it would have allowed them a better chance to overtake. But then it really would have looked very artificial, with one car sailing past the other on the straight and that wasn't really the idea of it. It's meant to put the trailing car in a position to try to overtake, rather than being a push-to-pass button.

It did seem to help some situations, but didn't quite do what it was meant to.

But it wasn't a terrible race - there were a few interesting things going on. And if we'd had this race last year, I think I'd have been very pleased. The trouble is the rest of the season has lifted the bar very high, so it made Valencia seem like a bit of a damp squib.

Next up is Silverstone of course, and I'll have the somewhat unique viewpoint of actually being there, which will be nice.

Monday, 27 June 2011

well that was tiring

So last week I took Thursday and Friday off.

The big plan was to attack the stuff in the shed and identify things I could get onto e-bay and also stuff I should really throw away. It was a big success.

Basically I've now got about 5 stacking crates in the kitchen with stuff in them to get on e-bay over the coming months (the British GP holiday happens soon, so it'll be a steady process). I got loads of stuff up this last Sunday and I'm pretty sure a good chunk of it will sell, hopefully generating some cash in the process.

Also, out in the shed I've also got about three or four stacking crates with stuff that I am poised to sell, but am awaiting the last few volumes of or that I just couldn't quite bring myself to take the plunge on. If there'd been less in the sell immediately pile I think I'd have bitten the bullet, but since I've so much to sell straight away I left them be for now.

I've actually done a sneaky manoeuvre in the shed of using empty stacking crates to fill up space. My landlord tends to encroach on the pile, so by filling up that space it ensures I can maintain access.

It does, however, mean I'm reaching a point where there's not going to be that much left out there to sell or throw away. This is good in that it means my life is a bit more streamlined, but bad in the sense that it means I've now freed up the cash "trapped" out in the shed.

Therefore, in order to free up any more cash my only real choice is to dive into the piles of unwatched stuff. Thankfully, it looked increasingly likely that watching and reading some of this stuff will now be a viable option over the summer.

See, the shed stuff went so well on Thursday that I actually finished it all. In fact, so efficient was it that I actually also gave my car a full clean (inside and out, including polishing it) in the afternoon/evening. This, I guess is the upside to long daylight hours that I was bemoaning as cramping my sleep last week.

It did mean I was totally knackered and, to be frank, am still a bit tired.

Friday became a day of recovery. I did very little, although I did manage to tick a few other boxes I hadn't thought about, one of these being watching a load of stuff I'd recorded. I basically went into Sunday with no programs left to watch on my PVR.

I'm therefore hoping this helps me out big time by meaning that when the summer schedule really hits and there's nothing worth watching on I can concentrate on watching some DVDs which I can then start ebaying across autumn and winter.