Friday, 26 August 2011

returne des grand prix

So F1 Grand Prix is back.

The first race post-summer break is the famous Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, which is always a cracker. My dad and sister have actually been to the race. When they went it was bitterly cold and very wet and they were sat on top of the famous big hill, so it was a bit of a miserable experience, though they naturally enjoyed the actual racing.

They tell me that apparently waffles and chips (which are actually a Belgium invention) form the mainstay of the Belgium diet as that's what every food place seemed to sell.

But anyway, that's beside the point.

I'm hoping for a good race. Spa usually produces a good race and there's always the possibility of a sprinkling of rain (I don't know if all of northern Europe has had similar weather to us, but rain this weekend seems like a fairly good bet if it has). Also, the Red Bulls seem to have been a bit on the back foot the last couple of races, so we'll have to see if they can pull it back.

I can't actually remember if Spa suits their car or not, but certainly it's been clear the last few races that Ferrari and McLaren have caught up a lot. Webber also seems to have found his feet a bit.

I still think Sebastian Vettel is a shoe-in for the title, though. He's got such a lead it will be difficult for the others to catch up, especially if they're all in contention and therefore effectively taking points off each other, rather than Vettel. I don't mind that - I think Vettel put in such a string of brilliant performances at the start of the year he would be a deserving winner, but it makes it more interesting if it goes later in the season before being decided.

As I've said before, we've had an odd situation where all the races have been interesting this year, thanks mainly to the new tyre regs, but the championship has been a little dull because Vettel did so well at the start.

If I'm honest, each race being interesting is more appealing to me, so I've enjoyed this season a great deal.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

a surprise loss

Obviously one of the things I didn't manage to cover last week was the old diet.

It's not gone particularly brilliantly, mainly as I continue to not stick to my diet properly. If I wasn't exercising I think I'd probably gain weight, but since I am, I've broadly been staying constant when I've had a bad week.

That basically covers what I should have posted last week. This week it went better than expected in that I lost a pound. I'm not just 2 and a half pounds away from 19 stone, which is the new, revised-revised target I set for August Bank Holiday, which is when I switch into the next phase of the diet.

If I reach it, I'll basically have lost one stone across this dieting period, which is good in the sense that I have lost weight, but quite poor because I've lost much more than that in previous dieting periods of similar length.

I've mainly put the problems down to the combined effect of more social eating and drinking and, to be frank, a slip in my commitment to not eating crap. I'm hoping I've turned a bit of corner on that front, as I feel much keener to loose weight and stick more closely to a lower calorie intake than I have done in recent weeks.

Of course, the acid test is actually what happens next time I go into a supermarket and am faced with the temptation of buying stuff.

Hmm, that was a lot shorter than anticipated, so I'll stick in a random observation. Basically, while I've been wandering around my usual walking patch near my home and up into Farnham and Aldershot, I've been really struck with how overgrown everything has become.

This year, with its wet summer and bursts of hot weather seems to have really suited some of the plants and there's lots of bits on my walk where I have to duck down to avoid the overgrown shrubbery.

In particular, raspberries seem to be absolutely thriving, with loads of big bushes weighed down by loads of berries. I'm very tempted to go and pick some, but the problem is how I would fit it into my walk if I did it then. I'd need to take a container with me and of course I try to walk at a decent pace, so there's a good chance they'd get bounced about and damaged.

I think if I decide to go on a picking session I'll have to pop down in the car, park up and then grab a load.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

127 hours

Really, 127 hours has a very simple plot.

I don't think I'm spoilering it if I say it's about a guy who gets his arm stuck in a weird accident and spends 127 hours trapped. I also don't think it's a spoiler to say how he eventually got out, but I won't in case you don't know.

Given that very simple plot, how would you go about making a film of it? You've got to portray the fact that he's there for an incredibly long time (5 and a bit days) but not be boring about it. Well, clearly you've got flashback, but you could also try to show what other people are doing - his friends, family and co-workers.

Trouble is, he didn't tell anyone where he was going, so they wouldn't have started to even miss him for a good few days (he went at the weekend) and then they'd probably have waited a while before filing a missing person's report and then it'd be a while before anyone actually started searching.

In the film he does meet to pretty girls who invite him to a party, which he obviously misses, so you could have worked that up into something, but I'm not sure how closely that reflects reality (the film is based on real life and the book about it - "between a rock and a hard place").

Also, they took the decision to focus only on him once he was trapped. Now they do utilise flashbacks and hallucinations, but the point is there were no other real-word characters in the film after he got trapped.

The point I'm making is that while the whole film has an inherently tense structure, because it was such a long time it could have been horribly boring. What saves it is clearly the fact that he didn't give up and constantly tried to free himself.

And that works because the central performance by James Franco is really convincing. You really feel like he gives it his all in trying to escape and you really go through the highs and lows with him. And there are highs and lows - little moments of joy he experiences and some surprisingly comedic stuff.

Now while I'm sure it's not 100% accurate to the real world, they're quite clear in the excellent commentary that the dialogue is based on real stuff and captures the spirit of things if not the exact occurrences (it couldn't be 127 hours long, after all).

Also, interestingly, chunks of it were actually recorded. The real guy - Aron - was somewhat of a pioneer in that he used to record himself doing the extreme sports stuff he used to get up to. That's quite common nowadays, but back in the early 2000's people weren't really doing it, although new compact digital cameras were just starting to make an appearance.

I have to say I really enjoyed the film. It was pitched just right and it's very clever how they put it together.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Thought I'd do a broad update on the animu situation.

I've actually been watching loads recently, and most of it has been DVDs. I could probably have watched more, but not a lot more. And to be fair, it has been part of the reason I've not done so much scanning or some other bits - there are only a finite number of hours in the week, after all.

One thing I did try to do was re-arrange my shelves in order to make it easy to access the stuff I think I should watch first. This didn't really work properly as my shelves have so much stuff on them there's two layers of stuff - one in front of the other. I therefore couldn't decide whether I should do it in terms of height (top shelf is to watch first, second next, etc) or depth (stuff in front is to watch first). In the end it was a bit of a mix of both.

What made this more confusing is I decided to try to include both books and non-anime DVDs in the mix as well. When you factor in that I've got two sets of shelves of very different dimensions it all proved too much for my brain and the short amount of time I'd allowed to do it, so really it's just a mess now. I think I may have another go and take a slightly different approach.

What I have hit upon s a strategy for watching stuff. Basically what I've done is picked out a couple of series and stacked them up right next to my DVD player. The key innovation is that I watch 1 DVD from series 1, then 1 from series 2, then back to series 1, then back to series 2.

I've also blended together half and full seasons. This is really made possible by the fact that most of the series I've got are of the new variety where 13 episodes are covered in just 2 disks. It helps me because it gives me decent chunks of series to watch (I can watch half a disk (3 eps - about an hour) or a full disk (6/7 eps - about 2 hours)) but I don't tend to suffer series fatigue where I become disinterested because I've watched 9 episodes on a row or similar.

One of the things I found with crunchyroll is I get a bit lost if I try to watch multiple series a single episode at a time each week. Instead, I found it better to watch a bunch of eps of 1 series 1 week, then a bunch of another series the next week and so on and so forth until I get back the first series where there's now a new stack of episodes to watch.

Of course I've let crunchyroll slip. I obviously had the period where I didn't have a shower and I talked at the time about how that poxed me up. I then broke my scanner lid and while I could have limped on it was horribly annoying to use, so I just bought another one.

I'm therefore well behind with the latest stuff. Indeed, I'm still behind with last season and have barely registered the new season stuff. One thing I have noticed is that a whole bunch of shows that were supposedly picked up by Anime-on-Demand with a big "we've got these shows, they'll start NEXT WEEK" seems to have resulted in nothing. Certainly none of the shows they announced have started and that announcement was at least a month ago.

I mean, I don't fundamentally mind the delay, but if you announce they'll start NEXT WEEK and a month later they're nowhere in sight, that's a bit off.

And it doesn't help that the AOD site seems to be crushingly slow just recently. I know they're part of ANN and ANN had horrible hosting troubles and since they came back they've been really poor too, but it's really obviously a bad thing when you're tying to stream content.

I was actually intending to do some rounds up of the actual shows I've watched, but I guess this is already super long. I actually think I'm going to try to sit down and do a bunch of reviews at the weekend - I've now loads of long reviews that I should do and loads of short reviews too.

I was actually think I should come up with a plan for my websites. I can't possibly afford to get hosting for them at the moment, but it would be quite nice to have a fully 'working' site ready to go when I do eventually decide to bring them back.

Monday, 22 August 2011

what a week

Last week was bonkers.

It actually started the week before, and I ended up working most of the Saturday, just in order to get everything done in time. See, during last week I had several meetings that meant I effectively 'lost' one and a half days.

Also, quite a lot of the stuff I do is rather time critical, so I often end up in situations where three different things are all due on the same day, or thing x has to be done for Monday or we miss the proverbial boat. It was an example of the latter that meant I had to come in on the Saturday - I just had to do something before Monday and there was no chance of me doing it before the weekend.

I've also tried to kick off a new schedule for my weekends, as I've started doing my own washing, as I think I mentioned before.

Basically, what I've tried to do is make it so that I have one weekend where I do virtually everything and then the next weekend I do virtually nothing. The idea is that I'll align the virtually nothing weekends with the Grand Prixs.

This of course was before the news that the BBC will only be showing a chopped down version of the GPs next year, but it still remains as an idea. Even when we move out of the GP season I think I'll still keep it going as it means I can use the non-doing stuff weekend to really focus on some other activity.

Anyway, the point of the above is that it was a non-doing stuff weekend where I came in, so it didn't pox me up too much. What it did mean was that on Sunday I was knackered and did virtually nothing. I didn't even go out for a walk in the afternoon. I also ate pretty badly on the Saturday, probably as a comforting thing.

The week went okay - I had loads to do, but I think the Saturday helped a lot as I didn't have to stay late. Also, we got an extension on one of the things I was doing, so Friday became much less of a panic and allowed me to finish off a bunch of other stuff that needed doing.

This week looks much calmer and emphasises the point, really - last week bonkers busy, this week, not so much. I actually really wish I worked flexi at times like this - sacrificing weekends and working long weeks wouldn't be so bad if I knew I could do fewer hours when it's quiet or have extra days off.