Friday, 7 October 2011

suzuka here we come

So this weekend it's the Japanese Grand Prix from the famous Suzuka track.

Suzuka is one of the classic tracks, like Spa and Silverstone, and it usually produces some good races.  There are a couple of spots that have always been good for overtaking and hopefully the new rules will mean it's another cracker.  I'm certainly looking forward to it.

Unlike Singapore, the Japanese race is held at normal local time, which means it will be on very early in the morning here in the UK.  I'm currently unsure if I will get up to watch it live, but I've set it to be recorded to give me the option.

The race will also put my whole new scheduling system to test, because the weekend after is the Korean Grand Prix.  The real issue is that my schedule depends on me doing my washing on Saturday morning and then cleaning my bedsit and doing all sorts of other stuff on non-GP weekends.

However, I only have enough clothes and stuff to last me two weeks without washing.  What I may do is do a smaller wash on the weekend that is the Korean GP, just to tide me over until the following weekend when I'll then do the usual cleaning schedule.

An advantage I'll have is that the Korean GP will also be shown very early, so again, it would be one I'd record anyway.  I can't honestly remember whether the Korean GP is any good (in fact, I can't actually remember it at all - it is new?  I know India's new this year, but I thought it was only new one, so maybe Korean was new last year?), so I don't think I'll be too worried about watching it live.

Watching the GP live is often quite important, because it's a classic one for sports announcers to spoiler.  They always warn you if you don't want to hear football results, but they never do with F1 and the opening line describing it will be "Sebastian Vettel has one the Singapore Grand Prix..." which gives you no chance to avoid it.

Anyway, it will be a particularly important test, because next year there seem to be quite a few back-to-back races, so it'll be good to see if what I'll need to do.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

some tv musings

I thought today I'd try to do some musing on telly stuff, as it's been a while since I've done that.

I finished the most recent series of Torchwood.  It was quite good, but it wasn't as dark as the Children one.  I liked it, but it did end with quite a lot of questions unanswered.

Now some of those were good in that I think they were intended to set up future series, but the main thing, which was the rift, wasn't explained at all.  I mean, what was it, were did it come from, how did it work, why was it there?  None of that was really answered.

There was all sorts of odd stuff that didn't work either.  It's like it showed stuff falling into the hole, but it wasn't clear where that stuff was coming from, or, more importantly, why gravity seemed to be operating sideways.  Rather than the hole being below them ,it was in front of them, yet it was meant to go through the earth.

And if stuff was falling in both ways, where was it all going?  And if you assume geological activity and shifting continents, how does that work?  I dunno, it all felt a bit unsatisfactory.

My trumpeting of the return of Total Wipeout seems to have been quite premature.  The two celeb specials, which were clearly made as if they would appear at the end of the series (there was no explanation of some of the obstacles, like you'd get if they were the first episodes) were shown and then there's been nothing else.

I was hoping it might appear now that we're in to October, but I can't see it in the TV listings.  The new series of QI is on, and they usually start at about the same time.   Though saying that the BBC seems to have moved away from hard seasons and tends to take a more staggered approach to starting series nowadays.

A couple of new BBC series have caught my eye.

There's the new Planet Dinosaur, which is, well, not a sequel to Walking with Dinosaurs, but of a similar vein.  However, this series is more focused on the actual evidence.  My memory of walking is that it purely showed reconstructions, but in Planet they'll show a bit of reconstruction and then break away to show you what the actual evidence is.

This is good in that the evidence is fascinating, but it can break up the reconstruction bits quite badly.  I think, actually, each programme should have been a little bit longer - perhaps 50 minutes instead of 30 - so they could be a bit more thorough.

Another new show is "The Fades".  This is on BBC3, which is the BBC's "yoof" channel and I was afraid it would therefore be crap, but actually I've been rather enjoying it.  The central ideas are a little mashed together, but it's quite well written and there are some interesting characters.  Certainly given how poor I found the third series of Being Human to be (not sure I ever mentioned that  - it seemed to forget it should be funny every so often and instead was even more angsty) this seems like a good replacement.

The Gadget Show has returned to its Monday slot.  They also seem to have dropped the annoying new competition format.  These are both good things.

The latest series of Bang Goes the Theory has just finished this week.  I continue to be impressed by the show - it's populist enough to keep it generally engaging, but with enough proper science bits in there to also be interesting.  And it's good to see the return of a show like this since Tomorrow's World died all those years ago.

There have been a lot of interesting shows on recently about the Army.  The BBC is running one of its themed seasons and there have been other random shows.  These have been of varying interest and quality.  One that really struck me, though, was around the guys who dispose of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).  It was fascinating, harrowing and, to be frank, terrifying in equal measures.

That's really only a small sample, as there's quite a lot on just recently that I've been enjoying.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

the talented mr ripley

There's quite a clever trick in the Talented Mr Ripley where you are essentially made to empathise with a killer.

Well, I say empathise.  It's more like you feel on his side.  Well, ish.  It's more like you feel a conflict as to whether he should get away with it or be caught.  However, that's more in the beginning.  Towards the end it's more difficult to feel the same as he does more and more wrong stuff.

Let me explain - the issue is that Tom Ripley is a poor kid who lives in a crappy apartment and does crappy jobs.  However, through chance and the judicious application of a bit of fibbing, he finds himself thrust into the world of high society.

And we're talking about the 1950s, so poor was really poor and the high life must have seem like a completely different world.  He also ends up in Italy, which just adds another sheen of coolness.

So okay he fibbed, but he's poor so you sort of feel it's okay.  He then basically latches on to a guy who is very wealthy and privileged and, to be frank, is rather unpleasant.  So although you feel Tom is scrounging, the guy he's scrounging off - Dickie Greenleaf - kinda deserves it.

However, eventually it all turns and to avoid spoilers I won't tell you the exact details of how it turns, but the point is you kinda realise that Ripley isn't really very... balanced.  I mean, I wouldn't say he's mad, just that he's a sandwich short of a full picnic.

There's also a bit of an undercurrent of homosexuality, which would have been a serious taboo back in the 50s.  So was that a contributing factor (I don't mean in a gays are evil but as in it would have been a difficult thing to deal with and he clearly falls in love with Dickie).

What I'm really trying to get at here is that these are complicated characters who feel very real.  Although the circumstances are extreme, you kinda feel like it could all hang together.

Something I particularly liked was that the whole film is told through Tom's viewpoint, but eventually you come to realise that there have been things happening in parallel that almost represent another film.  There's a point towards the end in particular where there's a flip in what you perceive to be happening that clearly says "well those other guys have been doing other stuff and where Tom (and therefore we) thought it was going to be a problem, now it's his salvation".

It's very clever, which is how I'd sum up the film - it's intelligent.  It also looks beautiful and there are some excellent performances.

My only criticism is that it's a bit long.  It is a complicated story and so brevity probably wouldn't have helped it, but there are some sections towards the beginning where it perhaps labours the point a bit heavily.  Also, a couple of things don't quite pay off in as full a way as I'd thought they might, but it's not like it makes it a bad film, just more old school - there's a big build up and a lot of development before it really gets to the "thriller" side of things.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

google+ and chrome

I gave google chrome a go the other week.

It has some nice touches.  The integration with other google features is quite nice, the back-end interface is quite nice and it seems quite quick.  I also got it because recent versions of Firefox seems to have some real memory leakage problems.

When I use Firefox to view crunchyroll or even do stuff on animepaper like download a bunch of scans, it doesn't seem to release the memory properly, so I keep having to restart it, which is crap.

chrome doesn't do that and also seems a little quicker than Firefox.  Trouble is, it doesn't seem to have some of the things I like in Firefox - separate download window, more traditional "file" type menus - but also, it's not very customisable.  So, for example, it has a bookmarks toolbar, which is basically fixed in its location, which is below the tabs and address bar, which I find annoying.  But, more importantly, you can't move things around (that I can find).

Also, Ezy sent me an invite to google+, which is Google's social network thing.

I've given it a go and registered, but I have to say I really struggle with most of the social networking sites.  I have facebook, myspace and twitter accounts and they're basically all totally neglected.  I mean, I have enough trouble trying to blog every day, maintaining something like a social network page is just way too much like effort.

Part of the idea of google plus is that it's integrated with all the other google things you use.  Now, while I like that for chrome, it actually has big disadvantages for me on something like google+.

See, a lot of the people I know have different relationships with me.  So, the people I work with don't know about my interest in anime and manga.  Certain circles of friend know I have an interest in it but don't know what it is or have any interest in it themselves.  Other friends that's essentially how I know them - through that interest.

Now that's okay, but the problem is I keep some of those groups separate for very good reasons.  While I do object to anime and manga all being classified as "cartoon porn", I'm not going to pretend it doesn't exist or that I don't enjoy such things.

And of course a lot of stuff is borderline.  I'll give you some specific examples - I used to make wallpapers, a fair few of which were ecchii to varying degrees.  Recently, I closed my wallpaper website down (hopefully temporarily) and moved all the images to a blog site.

That blog site was a google one and I used Google's Picasa site to host the images.

All well and good, but of course with google+'s integration, it turns out it shows all those Picasa galleries in your "my pictures" bit.  So, in other words, if I was to friend (they use circles and I didn't investigate it fully) someone at work, could look in my gallery and see all the anime stuff?  A good chunk of it is nearly pornographic so that would not be a good thing.

I wouldn't be surprised if you could set it up so they couldn't, but as I say, far too much like effort.

So I set all the galleries to "view only if you have the link" - but what does that actually mean?  Could they do a couple of clicks and get access to them or what?

Also, what about people I'd want to see the images?  Are they now blocked unless they're coming in via the blog that has them on?  But I'd actually be happy for them to just brows through them on google+.

And that's just a specific example for me.  Many people have flagged the whole thing google does that you have to use your real name and can't use an alias.

All these whole social networking things all just seems to open up more cans of problematic worms to me than I've got the time, effort or interest to really deal with.

But there's also something I heard recently that makes them all a bit scarier.  Basically, facebook are introducing a new version / tool that, in essence, operates on the assumption that everything you do you want to share with the world.  It's also facebook's vision that they will essentially become people's "portal to the internet".

Man, that sounds risky - imagine installing it with good intentions, or not understanding what it was going o do and then it broadcasts to the world all the stuff you'd rather that big chunks of the world did not know.  And imagine that teamed with them acting as the portal through which you do all your web stuff.

That would open up the possibility so many potentially bad things it makes the mind boggle.

Monday, 3 October 2011

cash strapped

I've been having some serious financial issues just recently.

There are a number of causes.

The primary one is my spend-thrift ways (you don't acquire hundreds of unwatched DVDs and unread books without spending a hell of a lot of money), but extra pressure has recently been building due to the rise in the cost of living.

In particular, Petrol now costs an absolute fortune.  I easily spend more than £100 a month, which is getting on for half as much again as I spent four years ago and in that time I've not had any pay increases.

But also, this last month I tried to "pre-invest" in electricity and spent a total of £150 to try to build up a bit of a cushion.  Now that's a lot of money, but I felt it was necessary because my electricity supplier has increased their rates by 11%.  This is particularly worrisome as I've heard serious predictions that this winter is going to be another super cold one.

Apparently we're going to have this warm spell, and then temperatures are going to plummet.  I hope they don't plummet too far before I go on holiday.  I'm going down to Devon at the end of October, which is a bit later than I would usually do, but I felt I needed to fit in with other people's holidays a bit.  It's also already booked, so I can't change it.

My landlord is apparently going to plumb some heating in across from his place while I'm holiday, which will hopefully help a bit with heating (it's the electricity for heating that really hits me during the winter) although it's going to mean my rent will go up a fiver.  Also I won't have any control over it, so it'll only be on at certain times and of course during summer I won't use it, so although it might only sound like £5 a month for heating, it's probably more like £10 a month during winter.  So helpful, but I'm still going to be spending a fair old bit on heating.

I've also had to buy some more clothes.  When I switched over the summer cloths I actually chucked a few clothes away.  This was partly because they were getting very worn out, but also because I'd lost a lot of weight.

Back then of course I thought I'd loose more over summer, but I haven't so I'm still having to buy outsize clothes, which are more expensive.  I'm not sure why they're more expensive - aren't all clothes made in sweatshops in Malaysia?  I mean, I know there's more cloth in big clothes, but surely cloth costs next to nothing and there's not that much more labour involved, surely?

Anyway, point is I've had to buy a new coat, a suit, some new belts and I've also bought a new work shirt.  As mentioned, I threw some clothes away and I actually threw too many shirts away, so I have to get some shirts or I'll be wearing short sleeve shirts right into winter!

I only got one shirt, more as an experiment than anything else, as I measured my collar size and, to be frank, I couldn't actually believe the size, which was 16 inches.  I've a feeling that the shirt I've therefore ordered will fit my neck, but probably not my waist!

Also, I've had a review of my pension and it's gone up as a result.  I'm in a bit of a weird position with my pension in that I started it way "ahead of the game" but then I failed to really capitalise on that and increase it in line with my wage.  Now, the flip side to that is that there was a miss communication when I set it up and my contribution was nearly double what it should have been, but still, now that I'm on a lot more I should be contributing more so that I'll have a good pension when I retire.

Which, if you think about it, is really just another reflection of how bad I am with organising my finances.

I therefore got a bunch of stuff on e-bay this last weekend, and also identified some other stuff I could put on next weekend.  But the truth is I'm running out of old stuff I could e-bay and really need to go through things I've got on my to do piles in order to sell them.