Thursday, 27 October 2011

last day

So today is my last day in the office for a while.

I'm off on holiday, but it's nothing spectacular - I'm going down to Devon.  Initially I'll be seeing my dad over the weekend and then I'm booked in to a travel lodge until the end of the week.

IT was my dad's birthday at the beginning of the month, which is why I want to see him, but I've also not seen him since the British Grand Prix back in July, so that will be nice.  It's also a Grand Prix weekend, with the Indian Grand Prix on.

India is new this year, so it will be interesting to see what the circuit is like and how the racing is.  Both of the championships are well over after Red Bull wrapped up the constructors championship at Korea.  Now it's all just about who can win the races.  Some people tend to think as soon as the season's over that's it, but of course in reality, the drivers and teams want to win every race they go to - otherwise why turn up?

Plus, since there are very few rule changes next season, it follows the cars won't be hugely different and it will be important to keep momentum up for the beginning o f the next season.

Anyway, after that I'll stay in a travelodge for a few days.  The idea there is I'm going to do lots of walking.  This is the same pattern I've done a few times now and it works quite well, so long as I can resist the temptation of eating lots of junk food.  I mean, I'll have a couple of treats, but if I can avoid eating junk continuously I should be able to concentrate on loosing a few pounds.

I will also use the opportunity to watch a load of DVDs and read a bunch of manga.  I'm hoping that I'll be able to watch a few films mainly so that I can then e-bay them when I get back.  t would be nice to eat a chunk of unwatched stuff away.

Also, while I'm away my landlord is apparently going to install a new radiator in the flat.  The idea is they're going to run the pipes across from his place and put the radiator in the living room/bed area.

The hope is this will cut a big chunk out of my heating costs (now that it's turned chilly I'm starting to put the radiator on), although I'm not getting it for free - it's costing me £5 extra month in rent, and while that may seem a bargain, it's not quite as good as that, because of course during spring, summer and early autumn I don't use heating at all and of course the rise is across the full year, not just the winter months.

Still, it should represent better value at least.

I think he's also a bit concerned about the possibility of pipes bursting.  By putting a bit of heating it should stave off the cold a bit, so it's a preventative thing - clearing up after flooding would not be cheap.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

black swan

There are some things on my rental list where I'm really not all that sure why they're there.

Black Swan was one of those things.  I mean, I'd heard good things about it, but I can't say that the thought of watching a film about Ballet was really very high up on my list of things I want to do.

I can't really be doing with Ballet.

Well, to be totally honest I can't really doing with dance.

Oh, I've no objection to people dancing and enjoying themselves, it's the whole formalised types of dance I can't be doing with - if it has a proper name and things like "forms" it probably doesn't do anything for me.

Which, to some extent, is hypocritical, as, in general, dancers (general dancers like you see on X-Factor and the like) are almost universally "well fit".

And perhaps that's the real root of why I don't like ballet - it seems to be one of those things that acts like a grindstone, grinding away at the people involved.  In particular it seems to be something that involves impressionable young girls being forced (or, at least, forcing themselves) to do horrible things to themselves - keep themselves horribly thin and dance around with their whole weight supported just on the tips of their toes.

Oh, I'm sure the reality isn't wholly like that, and those are those are clich├ęs, but the other issues is it falls into that whole world of classical music and opera that takes itself too seriously.  It taps into that whole thing of formality and "proper" ways of doing things that just rubs me up the wrong way.

Sorry, I got a bit carried away, but that's kinda the point - despite hearing good things, when this turned up I was hardly desperate to get it into the DVD player and watch it.

But I was rather wrong.  Well, no, actually I was partly right in that it really is about ballet, but it's also a psychological thriller of all things.  Which I was not expecting at all.

The ballet is key to it - this isn't just a thriller that happens to be set in and around a ballet performance or anything like that.  Indeed, the key element - the "black swan" (from Swan Lake) of the title - is core to both the ballet and the psychological thriller elements.

I think if you know a bit about ballet you'll probably enjoy the film even more - apart from knowing that there is such a thing as Swan Lake (which was created by Tchaikovsky, who virtually rejuvenated ballet as an art form) I don't really know what it's about.  So I'd say a quick trip over to wikipedia beforehand if you don't know about it would probably be the way round to do it - I looked it up afterwards, and realised there was a lot of clever stuff in there.

I seem to have rambled on quite a bit.  Basically, what I'm trying to get around to is that, yes the Ballet is important and knowing a bit about it helps, but the psychological thriller part is the key bit and it's a really good film as a result.

It does leave quite a few questions unanswered, but I always think that's a good thing in a psychological thriller.  Leaving it up to you to work out what happened is always the best way to go, in my opinion.

I'm not sure if that counts as a spoiler as such, but one thing I would also say is that the film really reminded me of the anime film Perfect Blue by Satoshi Kon.  Which is a good thing.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

source code

With the lack of posting I naturally also got a bit behind with posting reviews of stuff.

It's actually a short week for me as I'm off on holiday Friday (thank god) so I thought I'd post reviews today and tomorrow before wrapping the week up.

So a few weeks back I watched source code.

I actually quite enjoyed it, but I'll actually start at the end, if you see what I mean.

No, I don't either - what I mean is, I'll run through my thoughts as soon as the film ended.  They went a bit like this:

"Well that was quite good.  Bit of a paradoxical ending, but then the whole thing was a bit paradoxical.  And if you go with m theory I guess it's not a paradox in a way.

"Actually, you know they could even make a sequel.  Actually, I think it would make a better TV series.  You could well imagine him popping into different people each episode and solving a different problem.

"Where have I heard that before?  Wasn't that what happened in Quantum Leap?  Hang on, the whole thing is really like Quantum Leap, isn't it?"

So I should explain a few things.  The film doesn't quite join all the dots in terms of what's happening, but it seems to make use of m theory.  M theory is one f those areas of physics that strays right into science fiction territory.  It's basically the idea of multiple dimensions.

So in this film they're essentially using m-theory to repeatedly bounce into dimensions (or, potentially, they're creating them - as I say, it doesn't fully explain things) that are only fractionally different to ours and then find out the answer to a particular question.  I won't go too much into the detail as it would spoiler things a bit, but it's quite a neat idea.

Paradoxes are one of things that are difficult to explain without using an example, and the classic example of one in time travel (which is sort of what this is) is going back and killing your own father/mother/grandparents/ancestor before they spawn the next generation.  If you do this, then logically you never came into existence and hence you could not go back and kill your ancestor.

But as I say, if  it's m-theory, then you're obviously not technically changing your own time line, you're popping back into the timeline of other dimensions.  Indeed, the events "changed" in those alternate dimensions could be what originally happened or you could be creating those dimensions through the very act of your travel.  It's the Back to the Future 2 alternate 1985 bit where everybody who isn't a physicist gets confused.

Anyway, the real point I was trying to make and then used up a lot of words talking about other interesting stuff was that it treads around in the waters of Quantum Leap.  Quantum Leap was a science fiction show I really enjoyed as a kid where the main character hops around in time, leaping into the bodies of other people and then "fixing" or "altering" things in a positive way before he can move on.  The paradoxes created in that show were never really explored, but Source Code plays with those ideas more.

It also repeatedly uses the same time slot, which makes things a bit like Groundhog Day as he 'remembers' what's going to happen.

I think you can probably tell from the above I rather enjoyed the film, because it let me think about this sort of stuff, but also, crucially it has at its core some really good character stuff.  In a way it's more like a love story than it is a science fiction story, it just uses the sci-fi stuff in a clever way to help enhance that story too.

Monday, 24 October 2011

what a week it was

So last week I posted only two blog posts, because things were so manic at work I just wasn't getting the time to write blog posts.

I mean, I could theoretically have written them in the evening, but to be frank, I was so tired in the evenings I could do little other than watch a bit of telly and then go to bed.

So what was I so busy doing?

Well, I'd need to explain quite a bit about how my company works, but basically we were putting together a response to a particularly important framework.  But what is a framework?

Well, the fundamental idea is that when somebody wants something done (a piece of work) they put out an Invitation to Tender (an ITT).  That ITT sets out what they want doing and companies whose business it is to do that sort of work put together a response to that ITT.  The people who put out the ITT then assess the bids they've received and pick the one that best meets the assessment criteria and offers best value for money.

That company therefore wins the work.  You may have heard in the news about companies being awarded contracts and others not getting contracts they were expecting and having to cut jobs.  Well that's the basic process.

However, you will appreciate that in some arenas there are lots of companies able to do the same sorts of things.  You'll also appreciate that if you advertise things publicly potentially all of those companies will put in an ITT.

Also, when you put things out publicly you have to have all sorts of stuff in the assessment process that isn't hugely important, or is just the same as all the other pieces of work you want doing, but because it's a fully open competition you need to "tick the boxes".

So, to avoid that big process you can create an initial step where you compete a framework agreement.  This framework can take various forms, but generally they have different "lots" (areas of work) and companies bid to get a place on that lot / framework.  The idea is that you are effectively pre-assessing the companies in order to avoid the need to assess all the "boring stuff" every time and also to create a much smaller pool of suppliers.

The big advantage of this is that when each piece of work comes out it can be done in a lot less time and in a lot sleeker fashion.

And it was one of these frameworks that we were working on.

It's an absolute monster and covers a huge range of work that my company is involved in, so it took a huge amount of effort, so that's why I couldn't post.