Friday, 25 November 2011

final grand prix

This weekend sees the final race of 2011 at Interlagos in Brazil.

The championship was decided a while ago of course and it's actually fairly rare that it comes down to the wire, so since Brazil is normally towards the end, usually it's been decided before then.

The place where the race is in Brazil is not a particularly nice area, as I understand it.  Brazil has a lot of poor people and big slum areas, and I believe the track is close to one of those.

This usually leads to someone getting robbed or mugged or something similar.  This usually makes the headlines, but the media generally reports it as crime, rather than focusing a spotlight on the poverty.  I mention this specifically because in India that was clearly the angle they'd gone for - F1 is profligate and rich but India's poor, so do the Indians really want it?

It's a ludicrous argument of course.

Football is wasteful and rich, with big British team players being paid ludicrous salaries and tickets costing a small fortune, but I don't hear anyone saying there shouldn't be football allowed in India.

And any sort of argument that anyone can play football is only on slightly firmer ground.  Okay, very few people ever become F1 drivers, but then few ever become premier league players of football.  And there's lots of motor racing people can have a go at, from rallying to carting.

Anyway, got sidetracked a bit there.

Brazil is usually a really good race.   The circuit has always had lots of opportunities to pass and it's not uncommon for it to rain and make things a bit complex for the teams.  I'll be interested to see what happens with things like DRS and KERS - could this be a track where they're not really needed?  Could they make things silly in terms of passing and repassing, etc?

The race will be on fairly late in the evening as it's run on local time, which is always interesting.

I will hopefully also go and get a haircut at some point this weekend.  It's really becoming something of a mop head at the moment.

And I'll also hopefully be able to get some more stuff on e-bay.  I put a lot of the DVDs I ripped up there last weekend.  I thought about putting some up that I hadn't ripped, but it's always risky doing that.

I've done it before with things I hadn't quite finished, and if something happens it can be very tricky.  The obvious example this time is not finding the time, but I've also had problems ripping some of the DVDs and while I sorted them, that suggests there's a risk of delay or finding one that just won't rip at all.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

downton abbey & other telly stuff

While I was away I saw this Downton Abbey people seem to have gone nuts for.

I can't honestly say I understand why it's so popular.  It seemed very poorly written and had an odd, staccato feel to it - like all the scenes were filmed with the intention of being the last in the show, or just before an ad break.

You know the drums you get at the end of Eastenders and there's that dramatic pause while they play?  All of the scenes seemed like that in Downton.

Also, the camerawork was very sedate, with mostly static shots, so it had a feel of only having 1 camera, which usually goes along with a low budget, but it clearly had some money spent on it.  It looked very lush - lots of lovely costumes and old cars and stuff.

But as I say, the story was very languid and it seemed daft.  It also seemed a bit theatrical - you know that way in which things are a little bit hammy in theatre sometimes, because they're having to emote to a big room?  It felt a bit like that.

I wasn't keen at all, to be honest.

There's still no sign on Total Wipeout's return to the telly.  The latest series of QI is well past half way and Have I got News for You is back again, so it's well into the autumn season, but there's no sign of it.

I ended up suspecting I'd actually missed the series, but I did some investigating and my theory about them showing the celeb specials (which were clearly intended as the last thing in the series run) and nothing else appears to be correct.

I'd have thought if they were planning to run it up to Christmas they'd have started by now and Chrimbo is only 5 or 6 weeks away.

There's been a brilliant new wildlife series on BBC one all about the frozen bits of the world (the far north and south).  I actually got to watch the first episode at home and at my Dads.  This is significant because my Dad has recently purchased a gigantic High Definition TV and has Freesat HD (basically the satellite version of digital telly - he used to have Sky so already had the dish).

It really looked good in HD and again made me think about getting a freeview HD box.  I've decided against it for a while at least, because the analogue signal isn't being turned off for me until April 2012.

It seems to have taken ages for the switchover to happen where I am.  I'm pretty sure it was originally planned for 2010, but then got pushed back.

It's a real pain because I'm just on the cusp of a receivable signal.  Indeed, if it weren't for my brilliant Humax box I probably couldn't watch digital.  My telly has freeview built in, but it can't really get a very good signal.  But as I say, it's just on the cusp - sometimes it will be okay, sometimes it will break up a little bit and sometimes it will be so bad you can't tell there's any picture at all.

I did identify that the plug on the arial was in pretty poor condition, so redid it and the signal quality improved massively, but strength was basically unaffected.  When they switch off analogue they will turn up the strength of the digital - they can't set it to "max" at the moment as it would interfere with the analogue.

After that I will probably look again at getting HD.  Another issue will be that, while my telly is a nice size for my room and the space I have available, it won't really make full use of HD.  I mean, I can see the benefit a bit when I watch Blu-Ray movies, but I'd need a bit bigger telly to really get the full effect, and so it's quite an expensive proposition.

Lastly, the Big Bang Theory is back on... but I unfortunately didn't realise and have missed the first couple of episodes :(.

The problem was that it's come back to E4, but doesn't appear to have been shown on channel 4 yet.  Usually (or at least, my memory is) they show new episodes first on E4 and then repeat them a week later on channel 4, but this time they seem to have just started showing them on E4 without the repeats.

As such, I've only realised because the new series of the Mentalist started and I was like "hang on, shouldn't the Big Bang Theory be on too?" so I did a search on the old PVR and eventually worked out the new series was already 4 episodes in.

I say eventually because there isn't a day when E4 aren't showing multiple (old) episodes of Big Bang - they repeat it like they used to Friends - so finding new ones is a tricky task.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

tron legacy

I seem to recall quite a lot of negative reviews for tron legacy when it came out.  However, looking at the page on Wikipedia it describes critical reaction as "mixed".

I think that probably sums up my opinion of it too - mixed.

I can't honestly say I've watched tron in a while.  I have seen it quite a few times over the years, but I guess with it being from the very early 80s it's not something they tend to show much any more.

If I'm honest, I don't really remember the plot, as such.  I remember the awesome, innovative and clever visuals once it goes inside the computer world, I remember the games (the light cycles and disc battles) and I remember the sound, which had the dull and flat quality, like it was set in a foam box.

I do also remember it was riddled with clever little 'puns' and usage of names - programs and users being good example, but also that the whole inside world cleverly parodied (if that's the word) the outside world.

So what about this sequel?

Well, the plot was bobbins.  It was such a generic action film plot that was so predictable as to be almost painful.  It was like they'd taken a big book of Hollywood movie plot ideas and just transferred them into the film.

But as I say, I'm not entirely sure the original tron was up to much cop in terms of plot anyway.

The visuals were amazing.

Well, generally amazing.  They'd done something to produce a young Jeff Bridges and the results were okay, but a little freaky.  Now as it happened this kinda worked with the character in question, but it still looked a little off to me.

The games part of it also still worked well.  They'd taken the basic ideas if the games and amped them up to the next level.  This was rather in keeping with how games computer work - sequels are often the same basic concept (or, indeed, exactly the same game) but with more bells and whistles.

And the sound was great - more because of a storming sound track by the Chemical Brothers (turns out it was actually Daft Punk - groups that use keyboards really aren't my bag :/) than any particular overall clever strategy, but it still worked.

The thing that didn't really seem to have made it through and that I really missed was the clever ideas.  I'll give you a specific example.

In the real world at the beginning the encom corporation is launching its latest operating system and the main character sneaks in and plays a tick on them.  Fair enough, but in the meeting of the board (which was weird - you'd normally expect a big launch party, but whatever) there's this young guy who's meant to be the son of the first film's bad guy and he's also a bit of a bell end.

But when they go into the digital world, rather than him being the bad guy or, indeed, involved in any way, it's all about the old tron mythos.

Now there are justifications for this, but you could easily have made it so that they weren't issues.  Indeed, a plot along those lines may have worked a bit better.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

audible burning

I discovered a little problem with audible and itunes the other week.

Basically, I like to listen to audio books while I'm walking.  I found music difficult to walk to as the tempo mismatch was disruptive.  The best audio books to listen to are autobiographies and non-fiction, as they tend to be in the form of little stories and you don't have a big plot to follow.

Anyway, I use audible, which is run by amazon.  The prices are really good (you get a book a month for your subscription, which is only about £7 and they're constantly running special offers.  Also, it operates entirely through download, which is nice and convenient.

When I first started using it I did have some issues.  Firstly, they have their own proprietary format, so most programs can't use it.  secondly, the manager software that allows you to play the files is horribly flaky.  It actually looks really naff - like a "my first application" thing you'd put together when learning C++ - and has poor functionality and constantly crashed.

But also, although they allow you to burn a copy of the audio book to CD, you can only do so via itunes.  I hate itunes with a passion, so this is horrible, but also you can only burn a copy of the book once.  SO if it goes wrong, you can't simply retry it.

I do understand this, as they need to be careful with pirating, etc, but there should be a simpler mechanism for redoing it if it fucks up.

Fucks up like it did a while ago.

What I tend to do is take advantage of the offers and buy a chunk of audio books at one time.  I also stack these up with my cheap subscription book and then burn and rip them all at once (you burn them as a standard audio CD, so you can then rip them to your heart's content!) and I did that last weekend (which, given how much other stuff I was doing, I'm not sure).

Anyway, I burned the CDs in one go on Saturday and then went to rip them all on Sunday.. and discovered some of them were totally silent.  Initially I thought maybe I'd turned the volume down, but no, it turned out there was nothing but 80 minutes of silence on each CD.

After some quick investigating I discovered that this is a know problem with itunes 10.5 and audible "format 4" files and the "solution" was to use another format (format 3, which is slightly poorer quality). Initially I was worried because of the issue of only being able to burn them once, but I guess that applies to each format, or maybe they've lifted it temporarily while they fix the problem.

It was actually on the audible site I found out about the issue, but they've not actually announced it, so I Wonder how many people have been affected?

What was also weird about it was that it was random - some of the books all of the CDs had burned fine, some none of them had burned at all and others it was just one or two of the CDs.

All very weird and obviously it cost me money in the sense that blank CDs aren't free and I wasted quite a bit of time, but now I know for future reference at least.

Monday, 21 November 2011

through the barrier

For the last few months (since around summer, in fact - so the best part of the last six months) I’ve been struggling.

I've been struggling to make it below the 19 stone mark.

19 stone doesn't represent anything in particular.  It doesn't signify a shift in my BMI from one category to another.  It doesn't represent any particular milestone (well, give or take it's about vaguely half way to my hoped for target weight).

But it did seem to present me with a particular barrier I just didn't seem to be able to overcome.  As such I've been hovering around in a sort of limbo between 19 stone and 19 and a half stone for all that time.

The issue has been my diet.  Generally what's been happening is I've been having random days where I was on my diet, but then other days where I'd slip and eat lots of bad stuff.

Also, generally speaking, I would have to buy lots of said bad stuff (for example a packet of x, as that's what they come in) so I'd then be locked in to eating that bad stuff for several days to come.

I'd also then loose my commitment - having slipped up a bit I'd then fail to come back properly on course ("well, if I'm going to slip, I might as well just not bother this week at all") and so the week would end up with me either not loosing weight or gaining weight.

Oh, there'd be weeks I would loose weight, but those were always been balanced by weeks I'd gain.

Well, last week I finally told myself I was being silly and decided to adjust things to try to get below 19 stone.  What I did in particular was make an upward tweak to my walking (I walked quickly round the industrial estate after work) and also stick as close as I could to the diet and not slip.

I also deliberately bought some more and different breakfast cereals so that I could have them as a snack instead of the more destructive types of things I was having (chocolate cakes or whatever was replaced with breakfast cereals).

Anyway, upshot was I got past the 19 stone barrier.  Indeed, it was a bit of a gangbusters week in that I actually lost around 4 pounds, which is similar to what I used to loose when I started this process.

I guess what it really proves to me is that I can still loose the weight, I just need to stick to the diet and exercise (who'd have thunk it?!).