Friday, 21 December 2012

chrimbo period

I’m on leave on Monday and then Tuesday and Wednesday are Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

However, this year I am not having my usual two weeks holiday over the Christmas and New Year period.  There are a couple of reasons for this.

Firstly, the Chrimbo period is rather different this year.  Usually I would go and see my Dad for a few days and then take the rest of it away from home until New Year's when I would return and have a week at home.  However, my sister is hosting us for Christmas day, although this really is just Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

As such I have decided to work the period between Chrimbo and New Year.  I’m then taking the week after New Year off.  There are other reasons, though.

Firstly I used up a lot of my holiday while job hunting.  This meant I would have struggled to take the full two weeks - I had some left, but not enough for two weeks.  Indeed, by taking the week in New Year I actually get to punt some of my 2012 leave into 2013.

The second reason is I am hoping it will be relatively quiet and I will be able to catch up on some work stuff that I’ve also had to put on hold while I’ve done the other stuff these last few weeks.

The final reason is that I’m still not sure about staying with the company - the promises I was made haven’t manifested and I've a sneaky feeling the boss is going to throw a bit of a curve ball and do something different.  As such, I've decided that I will probably give it until a couple of months into the New Year and then go job hunting again.

In that case my transferred days will be particularly useful.

Now whether I will blog next week I kinda doubt, so I will leave you with my best wishes for the holiday period!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

2012 grand prix season

Of course one of the things I would have blogged about while I was too busy was the completion of this year’s Grand Prix season.

The season ended in Brazil, obviously, and it was a cracking race.  It had just about everything - a bit of rain to throw the cards in the air, plenty of drama and loads of overtaking.  It was a race that probably summed up the season as a whole.

And what a season it’s been - I’m not sure I’ve seen a season before where to many teams and drivers were genuinely in with a shout at the title for so long.  Even at the end it went down to the wire between Alonso and Vettel.

If I'm totally honest I think I would have preferred Alonso to take it.  The mark of the truly great driver is to drive “beyond” the car, which is to say, to achieve more than the car is worth on paper.  This year's Ferrari was clearly not as good as the others, yet Alonso kept getting good results and kept putting it on the podium.

Of course it would be wrong to say he was robbed by the couple of occasions he was caught up in accidents.  Vettel also had a couple of races where he was in other people’s accidents or caused trouble by others that meant he didn’t get the points.

And of course that’s the nature of motor racing - it’s not just about the quality of the driver, it’s about the quality of the car and the entire team.  You could easily (and fairly rightly) say that McLaren threw it away - they had the fastest car at the start and dominated races at the start and end, but through lots of mechanical failures and “finger trouble” they put themselves out of the competition.  To finish first, first you must finish.

So on to next year.  I had originally thought we would potentially be going to the British Grand Prix next year, but it sounds like not.  Instead, the thought is we’ll go to a foreign race in a couple of years.  My sister wants to go to Singapore, but I don’t fancy that at all.  I think somewhere like Austin would be much better - I mean, I’d rather go on holiday to Texas than Singapore, but also the race would be much better.

There may be a downside to this - next year the rules are basically the same so I’m expecting another super-close season, but the year after there’s loads of changes.  The turbos come in and I believe there are some changes in terms of fuel limits and hence size of the cars.  Traditionally big rules changes mean one team dominates as they get things “just right” - stability allows others to copy them and so you get better, closer seasons.

Anyway, hopefully next year will be as good as this year.  The only downside this year has been the bloody BBC not showing all the races live on TV.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

conan the barbarian

What a terrible film.

Okay, terrible is a bit extreme, but it really wasn’t very good.

I recall the Schwarzenegger Conan films with a great deal of affection.  They were terrible too, but in a jolly, fun sort of way.  They were extremely low budget and Arnie isn’t the greatest of actors, so what do you expect.

The films were also, apparently, not hugely faithful to the original character.  I’ve never read any of the Conan stories, though I recall the comic book adaptation, but apparently Conan is quite clever.  The Arnie Conan is basically a slab of muscle who hacks and slashes his way through the films.

This film is, I think, an attempt to take Conan back to that original book version.  He’s still quite muscly, but he’s also quite clever - well, in a relative sense.  You don’t get the impression he’s secretly a nerd and if he’s so clever, why not learn magic or similar?  But he certainly thinks things through and plans.

The problem with the film is that problem that all film adaptations of classic works have - you basically know the story already.  You know what’s going to happen, either because it’s something you’ve read or there have been loads of adaptation before as, in the case of Conan it’s been imitated to the point of cliché.

I mean, there haven’t been that many adaptation of Conan and while I’m sure it’s well read, it’s not something I’ve read, but the trouble is that loads of films have basically been Conan without Conan.  Think of any fantasy film or (in particular) game that has a barbarian character and that barbarian is Conan.

But also we’ve seen all the baddies too - the evil wizards and princesses that need saving.  It’s all been done so many times that it takes a real trick shot to give it any sort of feeling of freshness or newness, and this film just isn’t up to it.

It also makes some classic modern mistakes.  It’s way too long - this is a popcorn action film, but it’s very nearly two hours long because film tickets are so expensive that’s become the norm - give them better value for money at 2 hours.  But it would have been far better to make it quick, pacy, exciting, thrill-a-minute stuff.

It’s also clearly been filmed in 3D, so there’s the classic “stuff coming at you” tedious 3D cobblers in it too.  This does not make it a better film.

In this case there’s also a few specific problems, in particular with the magic.  The basic plot of the film seems to revolve around the bad guy trying to resurrect his dead wife using magic, but the magic in the film is very inconsistent.  When he finally gets hold of this magic at the end it seems very weak, particularly when compared to some of the magic earlier in the film.  And the magic at the end seems really difficult to get to use, but the stuff earlier seems like a piece of piss, yet is much easier.

It’s just not very good, as I say.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

chrimbo lunch

chrimbo lunch

It's the company Christmas lunch today.

One of the perks we get at work is that the company takes us out for lunch when there are birthdays in the company and for Christmas.  It’s interesting - I know in a lot of companies they have to pay towards their company lunch, but then they have a big session that’s more like a party.  My company's is somewhere in between - the company pays for it, but it is just lunch and we have to work around it on the day.

I usually enjoy it, but it can be a mixed bag.  Some of the places we've been the food isn’t very good or it all takes so long your bum goes numb and my back starts to ache.  Also if I can get sat next to or near the people in the company I like then that helps.

On some occasions I’ve been trapped with some people that they’ve invited along (it’s complicated) who I don’t know or turn out to be boring.

Last year's wasn’t great - the food was poor, it all took ages (3 hours!) and I was next to an invitee who was nice enough but never stopped talking.

Hopefully this year will be better!

Monday, 17 December 2012

the weeks gone by

I guess it’s pretty obvious so I don’t need to say it, but I guess for the record the last few weeks I haven’t been blogging because I’ve just been too busy at work.

Well, I say that.  The last two and a half weeks I haven’t actually been at work!  The reason for that leave was because of work, though - I flagged up to my boss that I had been doing ridiculous hours (and was going to do even more hours before I was finished) so she agreed to letting me have time off in lieu.

So what have I been doing at work?

Well, we received some very large bids and there was very little resource available to bid for the work apart from me.  To be totally honest the situation was ridiculous - the total value of these piece of work were several million pounds as they covered many years and I was basically bidding them on my own!  And what’s more all of them had only several weeks to bid and they overlapped!

As you can therefore imagine, I was full-on with them, but what made it worse is that, because there was no-one else to do anything else, I still had to do a bunch of other stuff too.  I therefore had multiple weeks where my hours were in the order of 45 hours per week (instead of 37.5 as contracted) and I was doing loads of hours at the weekend.

I actually reached a point where I was at work but unable to do anything - I was so tired I couldn’t even think.

And so as I say I had the time off in lieu.  And I feel so much better for it.

But what did I do with my time off?

Well, a lot of time was spent doing things that I should have done during the normal week but just didn’t have time for. So I did a big pile of washing, which consisted mainly of the bits of washing at the bottom of the basket where I’ve just been doing quick washes of my basic clothes.

I also did all my Christmas shopping.  I mean, obviously I bought most of the significant presents online, but because of how Christmas is this year I’m having to buy presents for several other people (don’t ask - it’s complicated and I’m not hugely happy about it) and these are mainly of the booze variety, so I bought them at normal shops.  I also like to buy a few random gifts for people and of course there’s cards and wrapping paper, so I got all that.  I therefore now have a big pile of presents and stuff ready to go instead of some unopened amazon boxes and a list of stuff to buy.

And there was the chrimbo food buying.  While I’m leaving the break until New Year I’m still planning on having my own chrimbo roast.  So I bought pigs in blankets and stuffing and all that, which are now squirrelled away.  I’ve also bought all the food I’ll need until after Chrimbo - shopping becomes hell this time of year, so I avoid it by pre-buying, but obviously couldn’t do it until now.  In particular I bought the ingredients for my traditional chrimbo bolognaise, one portion of which I had and the others went in the freezer.

What else?  I did clean the flat - this I do every fortnight but haven't really done properly while I’ve been so busy, so that was good.

I also sorted out my big piles of Japanese magazines - the piles are huge as I’ve done no scanning.  I have a plan, though - I’m going to use my chrimbo money (and bonus?) to buy an A3 scanner.  The A4 scanner + Photoshop's “sticking together” tool is just not for me: it quadruples the time taken and is beyond tedious: so much so I’ve avoided it at all costs.  However, my old A3 scanner doesn't have a windows7 driver and the heat sink on my XP machine has packed up.

But the three things I particularly did were play some computer games, “internet stuff” (meaning reading e-mails, reading blogs and articles, buying stuff, downloading fansubs - all that stuff I used to fill my time with at work that then got moved to weekends and having been working weekends I’ve not done at all!) and, in particular, watching recorded TV programs.

Now this work isn't he reason I built up loads of unwatched TV, but it is the reason the amount of stuff has steadily crept up rather than shrunk. Well now instead of less than 30% free space I have more than 50% free.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


So I failed to pre-write any blog posts over my weekend off.

I got in on Monday and there were more than 50 e-mails for me to deal with as well as a stack of other things to do so I didn't get time to write post.  Heck, I didn't even check my e-mail all day.

To be honest I'm getting a bit sick of this at the moment.  The real problem is that I am essentially on my own with covering the elements I do and while that's okay on one level the trouble is I don't have full control - there is pressure for me to do more than is physically possible.

And that's how come I ended up doing 49 hours a couple of weeks ago.  See, when I look at my timesheet I spent my expected working hours (37.5ish) on the thing I'm supposed to be working on, and then the other 12 hours were on all sorts of crap that I should have been able/allowed to dump but just couldn't.

And that really comes back to me being on my own - if I don't do it then it doesn't happen.  And of course other people are expecting me to pick to do stuff, and we're back to my first point - I end up doing a 49 hour week.

Now if we worked flexi I wouldn't mind so much, but we don't - that's a12 extra hours that I will not see again and won't get overtime for or anything like that.

I have to confess I've started to wonder why I'm still here.  I think I know deep down that the job offer I got before wouldn't have been the right move, but I could have kept on with the job hunting and I'm sure I'd have eventually gotten another offer.

The prime reason for staying and stopping looking altogether were my slightly cryptic posts about "cake later" but there's no evidence that this cake is any further baked than when it was first mentioned.  Indeed, I've a horrible suspicion that oven is being used to bake another cake that I'm not going to get a slice of.

I know that's even more cryptic, but I don't like to be specific in these blog posts as it's not really stuff I should be putting out into the aether.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

no blogging

No blog posts this week as it's been absolutely manic.

Well, actually it was super manic last week (I did 49 hours: standard hours are 37.5) and just plain busy this week.  Trouble was last week left me shattered and then I've had virtually no sleep Sunday and Monday night, so blogging wasn't really in the forefront of my mind.

Also I'm on leave tomorrow so this is it for the week.  I'll try to write a bunch of stuff while I'm off - particularly on the F1 and stuff I've watched and should review.

Friday, 23 November 2012

getting a brazilian

Well, it's that time to make puns again as it's the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend.

It's usually a cracker Brazil as the circuit is quite short, quite quick and has opportunities for overtaking.  Of course this year we have the added interest in the resolution of the Driver's championship.

I have to say I would prefer Alonso to win, but you can't say Vettel (and Red Bull in particular) would be undeserving winners.

It has been one of the best seasons in a while and it's just a shame that Lewis was the victim of so much finger-trouble during the year and some unsuccessful development by the team.  I think the honest truth is that McLaren has let Lewis down this year (and arguably the last few years).  Obviously I'm biased as I'm a fan, but I think he's probably the best pure race driver out there.

Sure others have the edge in some areas but Lewis is the sort of driver I like - one who takes the car by the scuff of the next and gets the best out of and that never settles for position / points if he can chase down and pass someone.  In a way he's actually somewhat disadvantaged by the non-standardised nature of F1.

Some formulas the cars are basically all identical (either by rule design or that they are all literally manufactured by the same company) but in F1 the idea is each team designs their own car - some parts are standardised and some there are only a few choices of very similar components (engines, for example) but in F1 it's all very much down to what the team designs and builds.

It's an underappreciated part of the sport for the general public: F1 is very much a team sport.

Next year also looks like it's going to be a good one as the rules are basically the same, meaning the teams should be even closer - particularly in terms of the teams at the back, as it will give them a chance to incorporate some of the cleverer ideas they've seen on the big team's cars.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

it lives

So I tested my yeast this last weekend.

The results were not exactly conclusive.

Well, I say that - I did reach a firm conclusion that the new yeast I brought is definitely okay and a packet of yeast I opened from the last batch is also probably okay.  However, as to whether the older yeast is okay, I am of the feeling that it is not, but my results were cast into doubt by the new yeast.

Let me explain.

Basically, my main theory as to why my bread recently has not been rising was either that the yeast I was using is dead/contaminated/not working very well, but I was also suspicious that temperate was an issue.  With the recent down-turn in temperature I was suspicious that the yeast was not getting fully activated and hence not rising properly.

That would explain why the bread rises were poor, but not completely absent - the bread wasn't like an unleavened bread, but was only about a third of what it should have been.

As such I looked up testing the yeast - what temperature to use - and discovered it was actually surprisingly warm (115F - 120F).  You also put in some sugar to give it something to feed on and give it 10 minutes - no rise = dead yeast.

So I gave this a go and got a very result from my old yeast - a slight scum, but nothing to write home about.  I then tried it again using my brand new yeast and the other packet I opened from a few weeks back.  And I got mixed results - the new yeast went bonkers and the older yeast was somewhere in between.

However, the problem was I was not particularly stringent on the temperatures.  The last one with the brand new yeast I did at the proper temperature range.  The mid-age yeast I did at a warm temperature but a good way below the recommended range and the old yeast I was quite a long way below.

Now I'd not been stringent because I hadn't thought it would make a big impact, but essentially I effectively got results of: very low temperature = poor result; medium low temperate = okay result; correct temperature = great result as well as the age factor.

In other words I didn't conclusively prove that it's the yeast that's bad, only that I need to be more precise with my temperatures before I can be sure.

However, I did use the two yeasts that had worked to bake loaves and got some awesome results.  I'd worried that the bread maker might be faulty, but using the new yeast in there it produced an excellent loaf and using the medium-age yeast to hand-make a loaf I got an excellent result too.

I quite like hand-making, but it can be a bit messy and is a hell of a lot more faff than just sticking it all in the machine.

Still, now I can at least test the old yeast properly next time and see if it is duff.

pirates! in an adventure with scientists

I should have posted this yesterday, but was far too busy and forgot!

I really wanted to like this.

It's made by Aardman (in Claymation - they've done a few digital films too) and is an adaptation of a series of popular books.  As I understand it the books aren't actually aimed at children, but I think this film was.

I'm not sure if that was my problem with it, though.  My real problem was more that it felt like you needed to have read the books to really get the film.  Or, to put it another way, it felt like we were being dumped inside a world where we were supposed to know how everything worked (what the "rules" were), but I didn't, so I felt lost.

Which isn't to say I thought it was a bad film, it's just that I found myself confused at bits and so missing other bits.  Why, for example, is the Pirate Captain called Pirate Captain?  I'm guessing there's actually no explanation for that in the books as it's meant to be a joke, but why are all the other pirates on his ship known by their defining characteristics, rather than proper names.  So there's Albino Pirate and Pirate with Gout, for example.  It's particularly odd as other pirates that aren't on the ship have names - is it just because Pirate Captain forgets their names?  Forgetfulness isn't really a trait they play up.

But then saying that they never really refer to each other by name either - the only one who does is Pirate Captain, and even then, not all the time.  So Pirate with Gout has a bandaged leg, but it was only at the end when the credits rolled I realised that this was because he was meant to be suffering with gout.

I mean, perhaps it was mentioned elsewhere in the film but I missed it.  The trouble is that's my point - I seemed to miss quite a few things that were important to make things funny or to help the plot.

So, for example, at one point a character is crushed.  After a few moments he then appears in a doorway, confounding the hero's theory.  Well, how did he get in the doorway?  Did he crawl along the sewer?  Maybe it's explained, but otherwise it's random.

Now random can be funny, but I don't think random was meant to be the type of funny here.

Another example was that another character finds a document that then explains some stuff later on.  However, I completely missed this and only discovered that was meant to be the point when they said it in the commentary.

As it was when he said "I found out X" I was left wondering how he found out X and where he'd got the bit of paper from that he showed Pirate Captain to prove X.

Again, it's a relatively minor thing, but it seemed to happen quite a lot and I kept finding myself going "eh?" rather than laughing.

I dunno, maybe it's me - perhaps I was a bit tired or something?

I mean the film looked great and there was plenty in there I did enjoy, it's just I didn't like it as much as I thought I would.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

lazy days

I had a pretty lazy weekend last weekend.

I've discussed before that I put together a to do list for the weekend so that I don't forget anything.  Well occasionally (not for a while) I go off-piste and this was one of those weekends.

I didn't do any washing, even though I had thought to myself that I would in order to get ahead  (I have the Friday at the end of the month off and am trying to avoid the temptation to just leave everything until then).

I didn't hoover - being a bedsit and with the areas I live in having lots of trees I need to hoover every week.

I didn't catch up with my e-mails & the blogs that I follow: heck, I hardly even opened a browser window all weekend.

I didn't put on any e-bay auctions.  To be fair while I've a bit of a pile of stuff I want to get rid of I don't need the cash (the pay rise seems to be bringing a bit of relief on that front).

I didn't compile my new anime to torrent (I still do these, even though I've not watched an anime in months!)

I didn't even do that much in the way of catching up with TV.  And obviously the GP wasn't really shown - certainly not at sensible times.

I did watch my rental Blu-Ray, so that's something I guess.

But what I basically did was play a computer game.

Now I had suspected that I might do this, as the new Call of Duty Game is out (Black Ops 2); however, I was possessed by more of a creative bug earlier in the week.  This was brought on by the relative imminence of the SimCity and me reading some of the blog posts - I had a bug to create something.

As such I loaded up Anno1404 (I have the new game - 2070, but have not yet played it and I wanted to just crack on and build a world, rather than work out how to play the game).  I must have totalled about 12 hours across the weekend.

I therefore feel a bit guilty that I basically "wasted" a big chunk of the weekend, but also happy I did something fun and a bit pointless with my weekend.

One thing I will say, though, is that it definitely beats working at the weekend.

Monday, 19 November 2012

lone star state

It was the inaugural US Grand Prix this weekend.

They've rather cheekily called the circuit the "Circuit of the Americas".  Note the plural in particular: clearly Mexico, Brazil, Canada, etc were all presumably signed off on such a name... ;).

Anyway, the circuit looked very interesting.  It's not fully Tilke - his company was involved, but I understand the basic layout structure was designed by the people who built it.  However, with Tilke being the only company that builds bespoke FIA circuits I guess it's difficult for anybody else to deign one that's fully up to spec: access roads, paddocks, etc.

It does feature big run-off areas, which is the modern circuit disease as they don't provide any way to separate the men from the boys.

The race sounded good.

I say sounded because I listened to it on the radio and have recorded the highlights with the intention to watch them tonight.  The BBC's US Grand Prix coverage was just bizarre as I mentioned last Friday.  It turned out that the race highlights were being shown as starting at 22:30 and were some 2 hours long, taking them up to half-past midnight.

Needless to say I didn't stay up to watch it (talking to those who are interested in F1 none of them did).  The race started at 7PM GMT and did last for the best part of the maximum 2 hours running time, which meant it ended at 9PM ish.  I was slightly delayed with the radio (partly to give me a buffer in case of safety cars) and so finished at 9:30PM.

I was pleased Lewis won - he was really on fire.  The drivers really seemed to enjoy the circuit and it seemed like a good race.  Also while not perfect from a championship point of view (Vettel did extend his lead) it means it's still all to play for in Brazil (the extension was small change).

Brazil is this next weekend and can be quite unpredictable.  It's an old-skool circuit where you get a lot of action.  Overtaking is very much a possibility and accidents are not uncommon, so thins like safety cars can come into play.  This is particularly the case if the weather is wet or changeable (current forecast is for rain!).

Luckily the BBC is also showing the full race live and while late in the day here in the UK it'll be on at teatime so is much more watchable than the US coverage.

Friday, 16 November 2012

us grand prix

It's the United States Grand Prix this weekend.

It's also possibly the worst coverage of any of the Grand Prix by the BBC this year.

This is frustrating for two reasons.  First, and most important, the championship is at a crucial stage where Vettel or Alonso could win it.  To be fair this is not something the BBC could have predicted.

The coverage is very thin - they're showing highlights of the qualifying late night on Saturday and they're showing highlights of the race very late night on Sunday.  Indeed, the race highlights are so late on Sunday I won't be staying up to watch them and will probably watch them on Monday.

However, they're covering the race on 5Live so I will listen to that.  But there's no other coverage on the radio - no practice or qualifying.  I'm sure it will probably be online but I'm not going to do that.

The second point of frustration is that this is a brand new circuit.  It's one that's been built for this year so there have never been any races there before.  This one I don't understand - you would have thought they would want to cover the brand new American race.


Thursday, 15 November 2012


So I've obviously not been posting the last few days.

To be honest I've hardly been at work the last few days - Monday and Wednesday I was at meetings away from work and Tuesday I had so much to do that I didn't even open my web-browser, let alone think about writing a blog.

Today I appear to be paying for all this activity as I am utterly shattered.  And it's not because I was up particularly late or had trouble sleeping - I've just been working so hard that I've run out of steam.

I could honestly go home right now and just fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

I came in last Sunday and did a reasonable day.  The morning was most successful, particularly as I developed something of a headache in the afternoon.  To be honest it wasn't as useful a session as the previous time I worked the Sunday.

Friday, 9 November 2012


No grand prix this weekend, so current plan is to watch some of this telly I've stacked up.

Of course, the last time that was the plan I ended up spending almost all of my Sunday at work…

And unfortunately it does currently look like I may have to work at the weekend.  The issue really is that I’ve got a stack of stuff building up – none of it is important, as such, but it all needs my attention.  It’s just that because it’s not important I’ve been back-burnering it, and now it’s getting to a stage where it’s actually getting in the way – causing me confusion, clogging up the system, etc.

There may be a bit of an issue, though, as I understand some other people are wanting to work this weekend and I don’t really want to get in their way.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

all a bit flat

I seem to have been having some issues with my bread making just recently.

The problem in question is that it's not rising properly.  I use a bread machine and I've had this issue before.  The solution was basically that I was using the wrong type of yeast.  I hadn't really realised there were different types of yeast, but it seems there are and the one I was using was not making the bread rise properly.

So I switched to the right type of yeast and bob's your mother's brother it started rising properly.  I also discovered - by accident - that I got even better rises if I let the yeast sit in the milk and sugar solution for a little while before adding the flour setting it going.  I guess it gave the yeast time to properly activate.

Well things had been going great and then I had a bit of an issue in that I dropped the container I use to hold the yeast and had to buy some more.  Since I started using this new batch it's gone back to the issue I mentioned above - not really rising properly.  And even if I try leaving it in the milk for a while it doesn't seem to help - indeed, where it used to go nice and frothy in that time it now just sits there.

Now the bread does rise a bit, but it's a really pathetic rise - about a third of some of the best ones I've had.

However, I did some research and it seems that sometimes the yeast you buy can be duff, so I started trying to do some experiments.  However, I have to confess these were a bit random.  I've just done some reading online and it would appear there's a bit more a sensible way to test yeast (similar, actually, to what I was doing by leaving it) and it says if it fails that test then the yeast is duff.

I haven't actually done that yet, but will give it a go next weekend.  I have to buy a thermometer to make sure the water temperature is reasonable - I have been meaning to get one a while, to be fair - as you can overheat yeast and kill it, but also if the liquid is too cold then that will impair the yeast.

I had actually been thinking that the recent change in weather to colder temperatures was a part of it - certainly, as I say, cold can be an issue.

What is slightly worrying, though, is that I actually opened a separate packet of yeast and tested that too and got poor results as well.  It will be annoying if both batches are duff, although to be fair it was the same make, so perhaps the make is poor so I will be buying another make and trying that too.

Anyway, basic points is I'm going to be a bit more scientific about things this next weekend and see if I can't work out if it's the yeast that's duff or my liquid has just been too hot or too cold.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

attack the block

I think one of the basic underlying themes of Attack the Block is assumptions and the misunderstandings they lead to.

So the film starts with a mugging of a woman by a bunch of kids, but later on it's revealed that the woman lives in the same block (as in block of flats) and they tell her that if they'd known they wouldn't have mugged her.  So they assumed she wasn't part of "their" block and so mugged her.

Later on the explanation of why the aliens are attacking the block and, in particular, the kids, shows how what they had been assuming to be the case is actually false.  I'm trying to avoid spoilers, and I think it's fairly obvious a reveal like that is coming - it's usually the case in this sort of film.

Overall I thought the film basically fulfilled what it was going for.  My only real complaint was with the kids - to me they didn't seem quite real.  I dunno - realistic urban kids is a very difficult thing to pull off.

I mean, part of the problem is that that sort of culture changes incredibly quickly - the kids, after all, grow up and so move through phases very quickly.  This week's cool phrase is next week's cliché.

They attempt to get round that by making the kids dialogue less real and more normal (it would likely be indecipherable if it were really real), but of course that makes the characters feel a little artificial.  Interestingly the kids almost don't swear - it's the adults that have real potty mouths.  Quite why this is I'm not sure, but again, it makes it seem slightly artificial.

In its favour the kids aren't too cookie-cutter.  I mean they are presented to some degree as having "traits" so one is into pyrotechnics and another is a glasses-wearing nerd, but these aren't heavily laid on - think of the characters having preferences, rather than being entirely defined by those things.  They're also all distinctive and memorable.

The above are actually relatively minor - things you can basically ignore or may not actually agree with.  A bigger problem is that, actually, I didn't like the kids.

Having just moaned about them being a bit unrealistic, it's because of what they are trying to get close to (urban miscreants) that I didn't like them.  During a bit where the police showed up I was, I have to confess, rather on the side of the police.

There are also some flaws and problems with the logic and the events - in particular it's not quite clear what's going on outside the focus on the kids.  So the police are there at the end and the residents are outside as if they'd been in and evacuated the residents, but the police only actually seem to enter the building when the armed officers arrive.

Also the internal geography of the flats seems quite mismatched in places and it seems to have a lot more floors on the inside than the outside.  The place also seemed weirdly deserted - particularly given all the people outside at the end.  None of them seemed to interact with the aliens, which seemed a bit odd.

But overall I think it's worth a watch

It's a shame it didn't have any extras on the disk, though.  I would particularly have been interested in how they did the aliens - they were very convincing and it was a clever idea to have them jet black, because I'm guessing the lack of details avoids CGI / model issues.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

brrr and boom

So this last weekend it was bonfire night.

This year I didn't actually go to a display.  There were a couple of reasons for that.

Firstly I made a right mess of my timings, so I was running very late and so would have struggled to get to one in time.

The second reason is kinda related in that I'd had some sleep issues, waking up after only about 5 hours sleep on Saturday morning and so feeling really tired by Saturday evening.

The last was that it was stunningly cold.  I mean I've experienced colder weather, but it's not normally quite so sharp early in November.  I had thought the last couple of weeks in October had been a bit chilly, but this weekend the temperature really nose-dived.

As such, staying in actually seemed appealing.

It was a bit of a weird experience, though, because I could still hear the displays.  Where I live I'm basically in between Aldershot and Farnham, both of which hold quite big displays in parks that aren't too far away from me.

Now I don't know the exact start times, but I'm pretty sure both must have overlapped at the least, because you could have been mistaken for thinking world war three was happening - the cacophony of bangs between the two was quite extraordinary.

Speaking of the weather I believe it's going to get even colder next week, with temperatures down into the freezing zone.  I hope it's not a sign of another cold winter - I could really do with a mild one for a change, not least of all because it costs me a fortune.

My heating (well, the heating I have control of) is electric.  Now electric heating is not the most efficient anyway, but my flat is actually quite chilly & drafty anyway.  It also doesn't help that in the last few years the electric company have really ramped up the prices.  Why they privatised power I'll never know.

Anyway, there's also some heating I don't really have control of - there's basically a spur off my landlord heating and I have a radiator in my bedsit area.  This is really good when it's on - I can leave the door open and basically heat the whole flat - but when it's on is not in my control.

This leads to some weird situations where they turn the heating on but I don't need it (I can turn the radiator off) and I end up wondering why they've turned it on.  In particular, late at night, after the evening where they've not turned it on, suddenly the radiator will be blazingly hot.  And the opposite is true as well - I'm sat there chilly, having to turn my own radiator on, but there heating is apparently completely off.

It's a particular problem this time of year when it wobbles between just being a bit chilly and properly cold - it's a bit better in winter proper as they obviously need to have it on themselves.

The other annoying side to it is that I actually pay some money in my rent specifically to cover the heating, so when I'm shivering I can get a bit annoyed as it feels Iike I'm not getting what I'm paying for.

Monday, 5 November 2012

abu dhabi

It's been a weird F1 season this year.

At the start of the year everyone said McLaren's car was clearly the best.  Red Bull were badly affected by the rule change, as they were getting maximum benefit from exhaust blown diffusers.  Ferrari had taken some big risks, but they hadn't quite worked and the car was believed to be horribly difficult to drive.

However, McLaren failed to capitalise on their advantage.  They had a lot of finger trouble (particularly in pit stops) and some mechanical reliability problems.  But Lewis was relatively consistent and they hung in there.

Red Bull weren't winning everything in sight, but they continued their phenomenal reliability and were still in touch.  Ferrari had Alonso and Alonso was able to compensate for the car's problems and was also consistent.

And with the rule's stability the mid-field teams were now up there challenging for podium positions and the back-field teams were all doing quite well.  Mercedes had a brilliant idea, but it turned out it wasn't quite so brilliant.

Races that are usually terrible have actually been good (Valencia was great; this last weekend's Abu Dhabi GP was also really good, though more on that in a minute).

So as we came into the second part of the season all this seemed to mean that Alonso, with phenomenal reliability, his clear talent and some tweaks to help correct the car seemed like winning the championship.

But then he was taken out of two races in incidents and Red Bull have Adrian Newey and it's always dangerous to count him out, so they seemed to have taken a huge step forward and Vettel returned to race dominating form.

This weekend Red Bull had the opportunity to clench the constructor’s championship and also stretch their lead in the driver's championship.  But then it all kicked off - Lewis was on fire and took pole, Vettel had practice issues and was only third.  But during qualifying he was asked to stop out on track and FIA scrutiny revealed too little fuel in the tank, so he was demoted to the back.

But Red Bull decided to tweak the car, meaning he started in the pit lane - as bad as things can get bar not actually starting.  And yet he finished third!

It can be quite puzzling when that happens - a clear example being Button at the wet Canada when he was stone-dead last and went on to win.  The thing is, though, you have to remember that during most races they try to nurse the engine and gearbox as the regulations punish them if they have to change/use too many.

Well, if you're starting from the pit lane and it's nearly the end of the season you are going to take a different view: let's crank the engine up, hang the gearbox and tweak the car for overtaking, rather than leading.  Of course they may pay a price for that later, but once you've won the championships it doesn't matter, does it?

Of course he was helped quite a lot by two safety cars and for some reason this year Abu Dhabi, which famously had the race where Vettel won because Alonso couldn't overtake Petrov, was jam-packed with overtaking.  And good overtaking - not easy drive pasts due to DRS, though clearly the DRS was helping the overtakes.

Still, from a championship point of view it would have been better if Vettel had been further behind Alonso.  The gap is closed, but Alonso is still 10 points behind with only two races left.

Friday, 2 November 2012

abu dhabi grand prix

Well, I thought last weekend's race was poor, so I'm bracing myself for a real bore-fest this weekend.

It's the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend and so far it's been a real snooze fest each time it's been held.

I take the point that F1 is supposed to be a world championship, but so many really dull racetracks in the Middle East (and mostly pretty dodgy parts of the Middle East at that) can't be a good thing either.  I mean if it's supposed to be a World Championship, why no Russian race?  Or African race?  Or more South American races?

Because the dictators in those parts of the world don't have enough cash or the desire (or maybe the common sense!) to throw it at Bernie, obviously.

It's the second to last double-header too, with a weekend off next week followed by the last two races as a double header (Austin, the new track and Brazil, the traditional closer).  I think the championship could well go down to the wire in that Ferrari will remain relatively competitive, but Red Bull just slightly better and therefore winning in the end.

Of course anything can happen - there's been a lot more unreliability this year than there has been in recent years - but barring problems and accidents I don't see how Ferrari will really be able to catch-up.  Much of their success was really due to Alonso, consistency and reliability and Newey's big brain and Vettel's particular talent for leading & controlling races probably just manages to trump those things.

One of the things that has been amusing me just recently, though is that other drivers have clearly cottoned on to Vettel's love of putting his name in the record books at each circuit.  He clearly not only loves to win but also likes to get the fastest lap as well, so the other drivers seem to have been deliberately trying to take that off him, even when they can't win the race.

So last weekend Vettel put in a super quick lap on the last lap but Alonso also did the fastest lap as the last lap so he took it off him, but then Jenson Button did a fastest lap too, clearly with the intent of taking it off him as well.  The weekend before Webber clearly did a fastest lap towards the end just to take it off of Seb too.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

simcity moving closer

So the new version of SimCity is moving closer.

Current release date appears to still be February 2013.  I'd wondered if it might slip or perhaps if it was tied in to something (only thing I can think of in February is Valentine's Day).  You'd think they might try to hit an important date or get it out for Christmas, but I guess the date they've given is based on realism and not rushing it out.  Hopefully, anyway - I wouldn't mind if it slipped so long as it means a better product at the end.

Anyway, it's looking good from what they've shown on the website and various places.  In particular my big concern about SimCity 4000 I expressed before was that it was full of horrible micro-management.  Not meaning micro-management is horrible, but that the way you had to go about the micromanagement was horrible.

In the new game engine they've developed there's a lot more in the way of clever graphics to show you the numbers.  Now sometimes this can be quite a token effort, but here they appear to have done it in a really sensible and easy to use way - at least, that's what it looks like from the gameplay footage.

I have to say it doesn't look massively different to SimCity Societies (or SimCity 4000 for that matter) but then those games looked pretty good.

One thing they do appear to have developed is the idea that your city sits in a region - you can either control all cities in the region or other people can control other cities.  I'm pretty sure this was in SimCity 4000, but there was a thing on the site where people were asking questions and the implication was that this was new.

My guess is I'm miss-remembering quite how it worked in 4000 - perhaps although multiple people could control cities they interaction between them was minimal?  Certainly in the new game it appears to be going more for a specialisation idea.  So one city might be industrial, another residential and a third all about education.  In a sense then this means that the region kinda operates like a single big city, or a network of interconnected towns.

It sounds interesting either way - interactions sound like they might be quite complex and multi-faceted.  Although only if you want them to be seemed to be the implication - you could have them all isolated.

There seem to be some changes, though.  You can no longer terraform.  The way they explained it was that it gives it more of a puzzle element, which makes some sense.  I never used to be that big into terraforming anyway.

However, a slightly odd change is the lack of subways.  They appear to have trains, buses, boats and even trams, but apparently subways have gone.  I'm not quite sure why - subways could presumably be represented in some fairly simple ways.  Perhaps they're saving it for an extension or as downloadable content?

I mean, it's not a big loss, just a bit unusual.

Still, it's looking good.  And hopefully it will be a game I will play properly, rather than sitting on my shelf like all the others!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

scream 4

I really liked the original scream.

As I'm sure everyone knows, the clever thing about scream 1 was the meta-textual stuff.  Or to put it another way it constantly referred to classic slasher films, yet was a slasher film in and of itself.  In particular it played with the idea that many of the victims were slasher fans and new all about such films as Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.

It was very well done - it didn't step too far over the line of reasonable-ness, yet it had plenty of fun with the format too.  It managed to work as a story as well as a slasher film and a meditation on both.

Screams 2 and 3 were less good.  They were written by the same guy and tried to bring in the types of things that happen in sequels (the second was almost unrelated, but the third brought it back to the origin, for example).  It also got even more met textual in that in the Scream universe the events of the first film spawned a film series called "stab" (a film-within-a-film).

Those sequels were okay - the trouble with any sequel of course is that people who come to them are doing so because they enjoyed the first film, so the temptation is to give them basically the same thing, but of course then they know what to expect.  While the plots weren't exactly predictable and "the same" the basic idea - the meta-textual thing - had to be the same, so it made them fairly predictable.

Scream 4 essentially tries to do what Scream did, but this time including the idea of self-referencing and meta-textuality.  In other words if Scream was "what would happen if a slasher film happened in real life?" then Scream 4 is "what would happen if a slasher film happened in real life if a slasher film had already happened in real life and been absorbed into the milieu?"

You probably see the problem - certainly I think the problem I had writing that paragraph (and I therefore assume you had reading it) hints at the underlying difficulties.  It's become too complicated.  It's meta-text of meta-text.  It's like a self-parody of a self-parody: it could be brilliant or (as here) it could just feel like it's derivative with too many bells and whistles added on.

Don't get me wrong - there are still some good killings and thrills, it's just that you can get those in any good slasher film.  The bits that made Scream stand out when double-heaped end up making this film feel overly complicated.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

it's christmas

I was actually planning to blog about this a few weeks back, but Christmas seems to have arrived already.

I noticed while I was on holiday at the end of September that the big supermarket already had a few Christmas things out, but I kinda dismissed it as it's a huge supermarket and it was only one or two tins f biscuits that looked a bit Christmassy.

However, while shopping in the local Sainsbury's last week and then the big Tesco up the road a couple of days later (nowhere seems to sell Crunchy Bran, which is one of my favourite cereals) there were some proper areas that seemed to be sprouting multiple Christmas things.

Every year it seems to get worse - I mean, seriously, September is ridiculously early isn't it?  That's a quarter of a year before the event.  And both Halloween and Bonfire night still a month away - it's just taking the piss.

The thing is though, people must buy this stuff.  I'm sure supermarkets wouldn't waste space on Chrimbo stuff if nobody bought it; so who the hell buys it this early?

The other thing I wanted to mention on the Christmas front is that it snowed this last weekend.  And I don't mean in a general sense in the UK - it snowed where I live.

Every Saturday morning I do my washing at the laundrette and once I've transferred it over to the Tumble Dryer I usually go for a short walk around the estate (while it's washing I read a book).  Well this time weekend it was bitterly cold and as I was coming up the hill a small flurry of snow started.

We're only talking tiny bits and it wasn't settling or anything, but still snow.  It had stopped by the time I got to the top of the hill and I don't think it snowed again.

It's a bit of a worrying sign, actually - I was hoping we might finally get a mild winter, having suffered really cold ones for the last few years.  I've also not really been prepping for winter; particularly in terms of electricity - there's only a little bit of electricity on the meter and when it gets properly cold heating really sucks away at the power.

To be fair, given I was expecting to change jobs and therefore move, I've been tending to keep the meter quite low all year, but I'd better ramp it up just in case winter is a cold one.  I'm now certainly not going to be moving or doing anything change-wise until next year.

Monday, 29 October 2012

indian snore prix

Indian Grand Prix this last weekend and it was a pretty rubbish race.

It was a race the BBC only showed highlights of and unlike some of the others it was probably a race that really only deserved highlights.  I listened on the radio and watched the TV coverage.  The clocks went back, which made pre-setting the recording difficult, but then coverage started at about 9:30 so I was up and about anyway.

I actually did some stuff on the computer while it was on but didn't really miss anything.  Indeed, the radio coverage seemed to focus quite a lot on other stuff, rather than what was (not) happening on track.

What was weird is they seemed to big up the race quite a bit beforehand.  I guess when you're spending lots of money to show races you're not going to do the race down, but I seem to recall last year wasn't that great either.  Quite whey they were describing it as one of Tilka's best and a circuit the driver's love I'm not sure.

Well, I guess what the driver's love and what the spectators love can be quite different things, but still, it was a bit of a damp squib of a race by all accounts.

What was interesting is that the TV coverage flattered the race - they trimmed out so much of the dull stuff that it seemed much more exciting than it was.  What was really telling having listened to both is that the highlights didn't have any exciting bits missing - in a really exciting race they would have had to make choices about what to leave out for want of time, but here they had to put in some of the less exciting moments to pad it out.

Unfortunately from a championship point of view Vettel also extended his lead - not by much and he very nearly got scuppered by a technical problem at the end, but still, it now looks like Vettel and Red Bull really have the momentum.

Friday, 26 October 2012


Posting this week has been patchy as I've been rushed off my feet.

Obviously I've already mentioned that I came in last Sunday, and a big part of what I've been doing this week has been as a result of that.  The thing I finished I've then proceeded to roll-out to the rest of the staff.

Now ideally I would have done that at a single session, but that was just not practical, so I've done two sessions already and I've probably got two more pending.  It's all been quite tiring, particularly since I've also had the "day job" to do as well.

As a result, I'm shattered - thank God the clocks go back this weekend and I can get an extra hours kip!

It's the Indian Grand Prix this weekend.

It's only the second year, but I don't particularly remember it being a good race last year.  There was overtaking, but I seem to recall it was basically all as a result of the DRS.

I'll also hopefully do a bit of general TV watching, as last weekend's "bonus work" didn't help clear it down any.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

eating tweak

So I've tweaked how and what I eat in an attempt to get the diet going again.

The tweak, essentially, is that I have cereal for lunch.  Now we're talking "proper" cereal here - not coco puffs or corn flakes or something, but high-fibre healthy jobs.

There were two real factors in the decision.

The first was that I noticed cereal contains very few calories.  There's that old gag that the cardboard box has more calories in it that the contents, but generally speaking high-fibre cereals are pretty low in calories.  Recommended portion sizes vary but they generally only come in at 200 calories.  Now obviously what they say is a portion and what most people eat are a bit different, but even if you double the amount we're still only talking 400 calories.

If you team it with skimmed milk as well then that helps too (some portions on the box include the calories for semi-skimmed milk).  So the bowl I have is generally a very big bowl, but I reckon even worse case we're talking 500 calories max (I tend to like to mix several cereals together).

That compares to around 1,000 calories for the sandwich-based meal I used to have (and still do some days, to be fair).  Now the idea of the sandwich-based meal was that this was the single big meal of the day.  That worked in the first diet phase, but just recently I've really struggled to limit my dinner to a small meal.

With the cereal lunch I can eat a reasonable dinner without it being a problem - and if I only have a small dinner then that helps even more.

The second factor is that I noticed I was doing okay in terms of hunger with just my bowl of cereal for breakfast.  I therefore thought that maybe if I had cereal at lunch then I wouldn't get hungry, and it turns out it works.

I mean, I've had a few days where I was peckish, but I haven't ended up starving hungry.  Of course I didn't with sandwiches ever, but then that's what makes the evening eating annoying - I'm not hungry, as such, but I eat anyway.

But then that's always been one of my main problems - always eating, even when I'm not hungry.  Eating is just something I do - and if I'm not eating then I'm probably thinking about what I'm going to have for my next meal.

Anyway, initial results have been okay - 1 pound lost in the first week and 3 pounds this last week.  I guess moment of truth will be this weekend as I think 3 weeks losing in a row is a good sign it's working.

Monday, 22 October 2012

a sunday of fun

So things haven't really been going quite as planned at work.

The main problem has been this issue that I was meant to be taking some time to develop a bunch of tools and processes for me/us to use.  However, in order to do that I needed totally clear decks.  And I never got totally clear decks.

Really I reckon if I had been able to clear the decks I could have gotten it done in about a week, but instead it's been months of me doing tiny bits and then having to work on something else.  It also hasn't helped that I keep being hit by bombshells, which is to say people keep throwing things at me that change the whole point of what I'm doing.

A very good example is we're meant to be getting a new contact manager.  That's fair enough - it's long overdue - but the idea, apparently, is to use it to do a lot of stuff automatically.  And much of that overlaps with what I'm supposed to be developing.

However, even though I was told we were getting it, many weeks have gone by and they're only just starting work on it.  And it'll be months before its' ready.

So what am I meat to do in the meantime?

And this keeps happening.

My decision each time is to re-do what I've already done so it's a bit more flexible and then basically just plough on - I need this stuff to get done, and as soon as possible.  If it changes later, then it changes.  For now it needs finishing.

And it was with that thought in mind that I came in this Sunday and finished off some really big chunks of it.  Indeed it's almost ready to "launch", although I have just discovered I've deleted something I shouldn't have, but I can recreate that.

Of course it'll be a long way from properly finished in the way I want it to be, but the basics will be in place, and I can crack on with more normal stuff until some of these other changes pan out.

Sunday was actually hugely productive - without the distractions of the normal office (some elements of the office in particular) I got loads done.  As I say, not finished, but a lot done.

Of course it doesn't help me address my stack of unwatched TV programmes, though I did come in late today to compensate a bit.

And nobody's paying me for Sundays... remind me again why I'm still working here?

Friday, 19 October 2012

nowt to do

This weekend I'm going to try and do a bit of catching up.

As I've blogged before I've got quite a lot of TV stuff unwatched so I'm going to try and clear some of that.  I was intending to watch quite a bit last weekend, but I didn't have as much free time as I'd initially envisaged, plus I ended up doing a lot of internet stuff.

This was good as I'd quite a bit of that backed up too, but it all took a surprisingly long time.  A lot of it was actually reading newsletters and articles by various people I follow on the net and it struck me that I used to do all that stuff while I was at work.

You know what it's like - you take ten minutes to read an article or a newsletter e-mail.  But just recently I've been so busy that I don't have that time spare any more.  Sometimes I don't have time to do anything except work - and that's with me getting in at 08:00 and going home at 18:00.

I therefore now find myself having to do all that stuff at home in big chunks because it's all gotten stacked up.

I mean, in some ways it's good to be busy at work, but in others it's tedious to basically do nothing but work all the time.

It's no wonder I don't watch any anime and I end up with stacks of DVDs and Blu-Rays to watch - I barely had time to watch a few of them before, nowadays I barely have time to read the e-mails telling me the DVDs have been dispatched!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

more on shaving

So I’ve not actually made the jump yet and bought a DE razor yet.

A big part of the problem is I’m not exactly sure what to buy.  You see when you use cartridge blades you have only two real options - but he official blades, or buy the knock offs, but the knock offs take a while to turn up (part of the real reason new types are launched, I’m sure).  So you lack choice.

For DE you’re drowned in choice.  There are loads of different razors - three different construction types and then several manufacturers of each.  But there also different types of blade too (stainless steel, carbon steel, different types of coating, different styles, different manufacturers).  And here’s the thing - apparently what works for you may not work for me.

I actually bought a book (on the kindle), mainly so I could learn about how to shave, but most of the book is actually taken up with stuff about all the different types of razors and products.  Because it’s not just razors, it’s products too - there’s brushes (badger, boar and horse hairs, different sizes, different manufacturers), pre-shave oils (loads of different types and makes) shaving creams  and soaps (different makes, different styles, different scents, different ways of getting lathers from them) shaving soaps (high-glycerine, but loads of variety again), styptic sticks, powers, alum blocks...

And I didn’t even mention the use of ancillary accessories like bowls and mugs to help you work up a lather and moisturisers for after you're shaved.

It’s a bit of a minefield.  And as I said before - all of it appears to be “this works for me, but may not work for you” stuff (or “your mileage may vary” YMMV as the book calls it).

As such I’ve kinda been in compromise territory - I’ve implemented a few things to see if they help me, but I’ve not gone the whole hog.  I mean I think I’ve finally narrowed down most of what I want to buy, but I’ve only pulled the trigger on some of it.  Most of what I’ve bought o far or am going to buy next is focused on the pre-have prep.

My theory is that I should be able to tell if these things actually help me with cartridge razors.  So I found the brush to be okay, but I’ve now switched from the chemical type shaving gel to a shaving soap to see if the two make much difference.  However, I’m also aware that one of the things that is recommended for the shave problems I have is a hot towel (like in proper barbershops) and I need to add this in before I’m happy that I’m giving all of the pre-shave things a fair chance (I’m going to buy some towels tomorrow as I type this and so will start using them this week).

I’m going to give them a go until the end of the month to see what difference it makes - can I do more passes and not have so many skin problems?  That sort of thing.  The end of the month is when my current cartridges run out so I’ll probably team up buying some more with buying a DE razor and some blades when my paycheque hits.  I don’t want to be without cartridges in case I have real problems with DE, but hopefully things will work out.

I’m trying not to expect too much of it, but it’s proving a little difficult.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

the three musketeers

What a poor film.

Paul W S Anderson seems to have a bit of a thing for churning out generic stuff.  He's not actually listed as a writer on this film, but it's a film very much in that style.

What they're tried to do here is a bid of a modern things in the old world vibe.  So one of the main things they use in the film is a flying galleon (as in like a zeppelin).  It's the slapping on of baubles, bells and whistles for no real gain or benefit - which seems to be quite the Anderson trait.

There are some good things in the film.

There's a sequence towards the front end which is like something out of the Civilization series or risk and is pretty cool.  The special effects are generally very good, though the water at the beginning looks a bit fake.  Also James Cordon is good and brings some genuine comic relief.  Also the bad guys are quite nasty, though you never really feel they're actually going to win at any point.

The real problem with the film is that the key elements - Dartanian and the three Musketeers are actually a bit meh.  I don't know if it's because they're very generic or because they're quite flat as characters, but I never really felt any connection - or, indeed, sympathy - with them.

After the opening sequence I think we're supposed to believe that the Musketeers have sort of been fired or put out to pasture.  But it's in no way convincing - they're clearly still in the King's favour.

There's also a fairly major tweak the basic plot.  It's a tweak I think has been used before, where the reason for them going to England is essentially flipped on its head, but I didn't mind that too much.

The flip does also allow Anderson to give the wife a bigger role (Mila Jovavic).  She plays the role well enough, but unfortunately she's the focus for much of the "new stuff shoved into the past".  So there's one sequence where she's basically doing a whole Mission Impossible stealing things riff.

I mean, it doesn't go so far as doing the whole zip wire lowers but stops inches from setting of the alarm, but it might as well have.  And that's kinda my problem - there's nothing here that doesn't feel like you've seen it a dozen times before.  It's all a bit cliché, but I didn't really feel any sense of irony to it, so it ends up feeling quite flat.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

a good shave

I mentioned before that I’ve been investigating shaving technique.

Currently I use what are called cartridge razors.  As the name suggests you buy a cartridge that clips into the handle.  You know the sort of thing - they’re heavily advertised, so it would be difficult not to know about them.

I actually have two - a Mach3, which has 3 blades and a Fusion Pro, which has 5.  The Mach 3 I’ve had years but my Dad got me the Fusion at Christmas.

And I think it’s really the Fusion Pro that’s been a big part of why I’ve been looking at the whole issue.  The cartridges are staggeringly expensive - around £14 for 8, so nearly £2 each!

Now if I could get plenty of shaves out of then that might be okay, but I don’t- I can get 3 good shaves and then one okay shave.  I know that’s a lot less than other men, but my beard is incredibly tough and very dense.  If I try to get more shaves than that then I just end up with horrible razor burn.

So if we say 4 shaves per blade then that’s 50p a shave.  If you say I have to shave about 200 times a year that’s £100 on blades alone.  Add in shower gel and aftershave balm and I must spend £150 a year on shaving.  That’s a lot of money.

The Mach 3 is a bit better in price terms in some ways, but I get fewer good shaves out of each blade, so it becomes a bit swings and roundabouts.

Now if it was a good shave then I wouldn’t mind, but in all honesty it isn’t.  To shave closely I have to take multiple passes, going with and against the grain.  However, this causes me to get razor burn, razor bumps, in-grown hairs and all sorts.  My neck is a particular problem area - the hair grows up on my neck, meaning it’s difficult to go with and against the grain and not miss bits.

One of the weir things with cartridge razors is they’re big - a good 1cm wide, so the front blade is in a different place to the back blade and it’s difficult to know where you’re shaving.

The compromise I’ve come to is a light shave each day - I take one pass and it involves going with the grain on my neck (so up) and against the grain on my chin and cheeks (so up again).  But with my beard being so thick and heavy and dark I therefore get five ‘o’clock shadow my mid-day.

It’s all a bit rubbish really, which is why I’ve been reading up about the possibility of going for a Double Edge (DE) safety razor - going old skool, basically.

I’ll continue later in the week.

Monday, 15 October 2012

oppa gangnam style?

Korean Grand Prix this last weekend.

As I was talking about last Friday the race is held at a time that means it's on pretty damn early here in the UK.  That’s a bit of a mixed bag - it means I can record it and watch it when I want in the morning or afternoon.  However, it also means that I have to be careful not to overhear the result and I also have to be weary in case the race over-runs: it’s been wet the last two years.

I thought the race itself was okay.  There was quite a lot of overtaking, though a lot of it was due to the DRS.  I mean, sometimes it just provided a bit of help, but other times the entire overtake was due to the DRS, which is a bit artificial, but it wasn’t so bad that the person couldn’t fight back - that’s when the DRS is bad.

Unfortunately, Lewis and Jenson had bad races.  Jenson got hit by Kobayashi on the first lap (he also hit Rosberg at the same time and was given a penalty).  To be honest, both of the Saubers were weirdly over the top - Kobayashi’s accident was almost of the same style as Grosjean’s recent problems - way too eager, trying to win the whole race on the first lap.  And Perez seemed to be displaying a weird level of inexperience, given he has been quite calm and sensible so far.  It’s like he’s trying to prove himself, even though he's already signed for McLaren.

Anyway, Jenson hadn’t qualified well and then got taken out, so a poor race.  Lewis qualified well, but apparently he had a suspension failure quite early in the race. He tried to fight, but it was clear he was a bit of a lame duck.  Then a few laps from the end after he’d had to take a new set of tyres and was trying to claw a few places back he ran over a bit of AstroTurf and took it with him!

Apparently they’d only just stuck it down the night before, which is pretty poor - you shouldn’t be sticking things to the track between qualifying and race unless it's an absolute necessity.

It was a great race for Red Bull, though.  They took the front row in qualifying and after a swap at the start; they never looked in doubt of finishing anything other than first and second.  It puts Vettel in the lead in the championship, some six points ahead of Alonso, who finished third, followed by a resurgent Massa.

Clearly the updates Red Bull made recently have just given them that little edge and with Vettel just in a position to pounce in the championship and a little bad luck on Alonso’s part then it’s something of a turn-around.

A two week gap now until the next race, which is a bit of a relief to be honest - holiday followed by two weekends filled with Grand Prix's has meant I’ve felt like I’ve not stopped in weeks.  Particularly since I’ve been horribly busy at work too.

Friday, 12 October 2012


Korea this weekend.

It's a bit of an odd one Korea - in many ways.

My Dad doesn't like it - he thinks it's on a par with Valencia.  I don't really agree - I don't think it's that bad.  I mean, it's no Spa or Canada, but I think some of the races have been okay.

It's also a bit unusual circuit in that it's sort of a bit like a street circuit.  Apparently have of the circuit is driven on, but more because it's part of an industrial area, so it's not driven on a lot.  It's a little like Canada in that sense - it's not a full-time race course, but then neither is it a pure street circuit.

But it's also slightly schizophrenic in terms of its layout - part of the circuit has very close walls that are very Monaco-like but then another part of it is quite open (well, from memory - certainly I recall some bits with walls and some bits with grass).

And then there's the time it's held - the race starts at about 4PM local time, I believe, which is quite late for a Grand Prix - the races can be anything up to 2 hours long so it has ended some years at twilight, but there's no lights like at Abu Dhabi and Singapore.  If there was rain and they wanted to delay the race or pause it then it runs a real risk of it getting dark.

It's odd, actually - Abu Dhabi and Singapore are held at those times because it puts them in the normal slot for Grand Prix's in the European time zone (2PM-ish in the UK).  But for Korea it means it starts at about 7AM, rather than 5AM here - I don't really see how that makes much of a different.

So yeah, it could be interesting for all sorts of reasons.

And I've definitely made enough room on my PVR to record it.  Last night I watched an old-ish BTCC race day.  I usually watch the highlights as the full race day can be around 7 hours long (they show all the races at the circuit - not just the BTCC) but ITV fiddling with the naming (British Touring Car Championship versus BTCC) and I couldn't find them so recorded the full thing.

Anyway, deleting that freed a huge chunk that will happily cover all the Grand Prix stuff.  Plus I also discovered a program I was recording but hadn't yet got to see was a bit rubbish so I deleted all of them and that freed up 4 hours.

Still, huge amount not watched, so it may be a lazy weekend of sitting on my arse watching telly.  Bliss.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


It's always trickier to write positive reviews than it is negative.

Generally with negative reviews you can detail at least one thing (but usually more) that you didn't like, explain why you didn't like it.  Maybe you can even give ways in which it could have been better.

Even with positive reviews there's normally some stuff I didn't like, or perhaps felt could be a bit better.

In the case of Up this is very difficult.  I mean, I wouldn't say it was perfect, but the things that aren't quite right about it are so minor as to be inconsequential.

For example, a big part of the story is that the main character lifts his house using a couple of hundred helium balloons.  In reality this would be next to impossible - certainly it would be financially ruinous, let alone where he got all that helium in the first place (yes he worked as a balloon seller, but he'd have to be a pretty poor balloon seller to have that much Helium left over).

Others might be that he somehow steers the house and that he gets up a fair lick of speed (he gets from the US to South America in a couple of hours - airline speeds).

But quibbling about that sort of thing is a pretty rocky road - you might as well ask why he doesn't actually look like an actual human.  It's a silly thing to be worrying over because being scientifically (or anatomically) accurate isn't what story telling is about.

And it's really the strength of that story that makes Up so good.  Y'know it's something Pixar get right almost all of the time - yes they do the really clever, impressive CGI stuff, but they really work hard at the story too.

In this case the good story is really boosted by some great characters - Carl, Russell and the Dog Dug are really great characters.

As I was saying, it's tough to write positive reviews and I'm running out of things to say.

Y'know this review is actually a cop, because I've used the exact same technique before when I've not been able to find anything to really say about a good film.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

box sorting

No blog yesterday as at the point I was going to start writing it I was handed something to do.

That something was a bit of a mess and took all afternoon to get even vaguely on the right track.  It actually poxed up all my afternoon, to be honest, but there you go.

This last weekend was incredibly busy.  As well as the Korean Grand Prix and all the recorded telly I had to watch I also had to do deal with a huge pile of washing (all my holiday stuff plus the work week), sort out the boxes / shed situation and clean my car.

Well, cleaning my car was not something I had to do, but I wanted to do it to take advantage of my landlord being on holiday.  Three days later it's unfortunately now dirtier than it was.  There's some house building going on near the industrial estate where I work and they've been digging out a huge amount of earth and leaving trails of muck all over the roads, so with it being rainy it's made a right mess of everyone's car - it's like everyone in the estate goes rallying to get home!

I did also need to sort my boot contents out after the holiday, so I did that too.

The boxes was a bit unfortunate - I'd actually planned to do it anyway as I usually do when my landlord goes away at this time of year, but he also left me a note basically asking me to do it, which made it a priority task.  However, the weather was crappy across the week and it been my intention to spread it out a bit.

What I'd been hopping to do was most of the box moving and some of the more basic sorting in the evenings during the week.  However, rain and dark is not really the best combination for doing it.

As such that meant I had to do the whole thing at the weekend - a weekend when I had a big long list of other stuff to do as well.

Now I did basically do it, but it was pretty poor in terms of really sorting out, tidying up and identifying things to e-bay.  Really I've just moved a load of crap from my bedsit out to the shed and ensured what's in the shed is properly boxed and stacked.

It's a little frustrating from several perspectives, but it is what it is.

It does emphasise to me that I need to move now that I've decided to stay working where I am.  Indeed, I've decided I really need to move to Alton, though first I need to not spend my pay rise for a few months so I can build up a deposit!

Monday, 8 October 2012

japanese grand prix

Well, that's made things interesting!

It was the Japanese Grand Prix this last weekend and the very first corner caused all sorts of interesting things.  There appeared to be at least 3 accidents going on (it may have been 4), which is actually quite common at Suzuka - everyone piles down to the first corner which is high speed but then the second corner is basically right after and that is very slow, so you tend to get a lot accidents.

Anyway, of most interest was Alonso, whose luck appears to have run out and he ended up facing backwards with a rear tyre completely gone and a stalled engine.  It was a relatively small incident with Kimi and was really neither of their faults but it's thrown the championship wide open.

Particularly as Vettel went on to win the race, which means he's now only four points behind with 5 races still to go.  The Red Bull also looked particularly quick, as it basically dominated practice, qualifying and the race.  If Webber hadn't have been one of those in an accident at the start it could easily have been a 1-2 for them.

I guess it just goes to prove the old thing of never betting against Adrian Newey, who I believe is the most winning-est designer in Formula 1.  According to Garry Anderson on the beeb's team they've come up with a rather clever idea that actually achieves what Mercedes "double DRS" was supposed to in a simpler, more efficient and more effective way.

Unfortunately Lewis had a bit of a problem in the race, as he had set the car up wrongly and he was rather uncompetitive.  This affected his qualifying too as he was quite a way down the grid.  It's difficult to see how he will now make up ground on Vettel and Alonso for the championship.

Massa finished second, which was partly due to a great start (avoiding all the accidents) but then he was consistent and quick during the race too.  It therefore looks like Ferrari will keep Massa on next year.  I have to say I was sort of suspecting they would - the focus is on Alonso as Number 1 driver, as is the Ferrari way, and having someone come in who may challenge has not historically been how they like to do things.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third on the podium.  I think a few more laps and Jenson might have taken him, but still, it was quite an achievement.  The Sauber car (and team) has been really strong all year and seems to have really come into its own now, but Kamui has been a bit unlucky.  Though I also think their highly tactical approach doesn't really suit his style - he's more about all-out overtaking manoeuvres.

The noise from the crowd when he crossed the line was amazing - it almost drowned out the cars!  I've only ever heard shouts like that from the British crowd before.

So yeah, looking like a good end to the season and it's all quite squeezed in - the next race, Korea, is this next weekend.

I should note obviously the thing about Lewis as well, but I thought I'd actually blog about it later (if at all).

Friday, 5 October 2012

nihon grand prix

Japanese grand prix this weekend.

Unfortunately, this is the second big victim of the BBC's deal.  The Japanese Grand Prix is usually quite a good one, particularly when it's held at the Suzuka circuit as it has been the last few years.

It's not quite a big a victim this time, since the practice sessions, qualifying and the race are all being broadcast on 5Live / 5Live extra.  Some of the ones where they've done highlights they've not kept to this promise they made pre-season (notably Canada).  And certainly I don't think there are any other big sporting events on to 'get in the way'.

However, there will be an annoying challenge, in that because it's in Japan the events are held very early in the morning (our time).  Now sports reporters on the news are particularly chronic when it comes to F1 - football they'll do stuff like say "if you don't want to know the result turn over" or at the very least there's a bit of a pre-amble for you to change over.  With F1 they'll launch straight in with "Lewis Hamilton has won the British Grand Prix..."

And online is no better - the headline will be "Lewis Hamilton wins in Britain" and you'll obviously see it instantly without even trying.  It becomes a nightmare of trying to avoid hearing the news, which is very difficult when you actually have to do it - my alarm clock is a radio alarm and news at the weekend can be rather oddly distributed instead of being on the hour.

I'm still pretty much sticking with Alonso for the title.  I think the others will squabble too much over points and while the Ferrari seems to have dropped back somewhat in terms of pace, Alonso is still picking up healthy points at each race.  The reliability of the Ferrari has been extraordinary when you think about it - they've had very few retirements between both drivers, particularly when it counts on race day.

It will be quite the busy weekend, actually, as there's the race, but also my landlord is on holiday (again!) and I've got a bit of a mission to have a sort out with my boxes out in the shed.  It's just the right time of year to do it (so long as the rain holds off) since the temperature is generally about right for lots of box lifting and shifting.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

pay hooray

The pay issue has been sorted.

You may recall that my car/travel allowance was forgotten about for my first pay, but my second pay has it in there and makes up the missing amount too, so it's all resolved now.

Not that this has stopped me from spending the money like it was going out of fashion.

To be fair I had put a lot of things on hold because I was cash strapped, and with the change it's not exactly un-natural to then want to buy that stuff.  Still, if I was sensible I'd have waited a little while - after all, when you've held fast on buying a new electric toothbrush for 6 months already, a few extra weeks isn't going to make a huge difference.

I guess it didn't help that my holiday was at the end of the month so when I got paid I was there with a bit of time on my hands and a very picturesque little Devon village to wandering around and one thing led to another...  That sounds like the description for something else entirely.

On the up-side I've bought almost all that I was holding fire on (I had a notion of getting Double Edge Safety Razor and seeing if I could get a better shave - I talked about it before) so the next couple of months I shouldn't need to do any sort of a big spending splurge.  I mean, it's not like it's a couple of months until Christmas or anything...  :/

I seem to have needed up with a huge amount of unwatched TV.  While I was on holiday I didn't watch hardly any TV (the place I usually stay has awful reception) but also the week before I went I spent quite a few of my evenings doing preparatory stuff so I've virtually got two entire weeks of TV unwatched.

It's actually the second time ever that my PVR's hard-drive has shown as going over the half-way point (I have about 45% free).  I mean, I'm obviously not at the stage of having to delete stuff to make space, but with Grand Prix's both this and next weekend it's going to be a struggle to find the time to watch it all.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

super 8

I don't think it's any secret that super 8 is a bit of a homage to Spielberg and Lucas when they were at the height of their family-friendly film fare.

By that I mean films like ET, Indiana Jones and the Goonies - that sort of thing.  It's also something of a homage to the Super 8 film medium.  Super 8 was a small format film (8mm as opposed to the 35mm traditionally associated with theatrical films) that came on cheap cartridges that you could get developed at drugstores and then edit together.

The film is set in that period when those films were about and super 8 was the medium movie geeks used to make their own short films.  And that's the basic idea that underpins the movie - a group of friends making a movie for a school competition, but in the tradition of such movies they get wrapped up in a bigger plot.

I think the film was generally well received and I'm not going to go against that tide of opinion.  It's well made and the story is interesting; it works as a homage and, crucially it has well rounded characters and there's a real human level to the drama as well as the big SF spectacle side of it.

Indeed, that's its real strength and in terms of the whole homage thing, that's where it really pays homage to that era of film - they had the human drama as well as the spectacle.  The characters and the journey they went on was interesting and not given short shrift to a bunch of explosions and effects in the way that these big modern films often are.

However, there were a couple of things that didn't quite seem to work in the film.  I may be getting a bit spoilery here, but there's an odd bit missing to do with the Super 8 film of the title.

Basically the kids witness this big train accident because they're filming their film where it happens.  Later the army turns up as what the train is carrying is related to them and they clearly discover the bits and pieces the kids left behind.  They also pick up the tyre tracks of the car the kids used to get there and then leave.

Now I assumed this would be a plot point - they would track down the kids via the Super 8 stuff or the car.  And indeed they do seem to find the car based on the tracks.  But neither leads to anything - there's no scene where the film directly leads to the army confronting the kids and then warning them off - it's weird that it gets set up and then doesn't pay off.  I mean, it's not something that's in the deleted scenes and they don't say in the commentary that it was chopped out or anything.

The other thing is that the ending is weirdly flat.  I mean, it makes some sense and it's not unreasonable, it's just it sort of lacks spectacle.  I think it also didn't help that the army side of it isn't tied up in the conclusion as well - a key part of that side of the story resolves a lot earlier and so they just end up seeming like spectators.  They essentially stop being a threat so the end is not dramatic in that there's no 'defeat' side to it, if that makes sense.

There are a few others things to (for example, was the alien collecting and eating people?  If so, why? If not then what was it doing with them?), but they're all actually rather minor things as it's a good film.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

a (long) short list

I'd obviously put together one of my famous to do lists for my holiday.

One of the main things I wanted to do was watch some of the fansubs I have failed to keep up with.  I did watch a few things, although not as much as I'd hoped.  However, I was sensible to watch things that haven't been licensed since they take up more room (for licensed stuff I generally only download a couple of episodes to sample them).

I also watched Nausicaa and Howl's Moving Castle on DVD.  I've had them for ages but have failed to find time to watch them.  I liked both, but they won't be going into my permanent collection - for Nausicaa I think he's done the same basic themes better elsewhere (Mononoke in particular) and Howl's was enjoyable, but lacked depth.

One of the things I wanted to try was my new portable Blu-Ray drive.  This is an external type drive for a computer, rather than a stand-alone portable player.  Weirdly it has a thing that says you can essentially run Blu-rays directly into TVs from it via USB, but then contradictorily it requires two USB sockets when you plug it in to a computer in order to power it, so how can it run okay on a TV when you only plug it into one USB slot?

Also, it moaned horribly about my laptop's graphics card not providing hardware acceleration (fair enough, it is an old laptop) so how can a TV run Blu-Ray disks direct?

Anyway, my laptop wasn't really man enough for the job of playing Blu-Rays.  The drive came with Power DVD, which basically refused to play the disks at all without the hardware acceleration and even when using the other player (the open source Korean one - I forget the name) the playback was horribly jittery.  However, the other thing this drive gives me, which in some ways is more important, is the ability to play DVDs multi-region.

Well, the drive itself doesn't, but AnyDVD is able to get around the region coding issue.  I discovered last time I took a holiday with the intent of watching some anime (the vast majority of my collection being Region 1) that my laptop's internal DVD drive is essentially built in such a way that it can't be gotten around - once you use up your allowed number of changes, that's it.

The other thing I wanted to do was catch up on reading - I've ended up with a lot of manga that I wanted to read.  I'd also managed to accumulate several magazines, all of which I finished.  I also read World War Z, which I got on the kindle.  It's really very good - even if you don't like zombies it's done in such a way that the fact it's zombies is mostly sort of incidental.  It's difficult to explain, but I can see why it's been such a hit.  Quite how they'll make a film of it and make it exciting I'm not sure, though.

I say I read them all - I read all that I took, which is the majority, but I've some more manga at home I need to read.  Most of this is actually in hardback or very large size format, which is why it was difficult to take with me.

Monday, 1 October 2012

rather damp

I'm back off of holiday.

And I have a bit of a case of post-holiday blues if I'm honest.  I think it's particularly affected by the work related situation (looking for a job, getting an offer, turning it down, expecting things to improve) this year.

The holiday was gone in a flash.

It rained quite a bit and if the rain had been accompanied by thunder and lightning that would have been an even more cool statement, but it was mostly just regular rain and lots of it.

It wasn't quite as bad as up north.  The forecasts had been very bad before the week and I think the rain they got was basically predicted to also badly hit the south West.  Well it got it on the Sunday when I drove down, but then Monday it was actually rather bright.

Indeed, although it was wetter than was ideal compared to what the forecasts had said it wasn't actually all that bad.  It was only really Wednesday where it poxed things up - I'd planned a beach walk day and it rained almost constantly so I couldn't really do that.

Generally I did lots of walking.  For the first couple of days I was also very good with diet as I was expecting that when I went to my Dad's at the end of the week I'd end up eating badly, and this was the case, so I think overall it's all sort of balanced out.

However what was very clear to me is how much fitter I am.  The walks I did were generally a breeze and they were of a similar length to last year when I found them much more challenging. Indeed I did further walks more often and felt fine.

I've not much else to say - I didn't take any pictures with the weather.  I also tried a new route home, which was a lot more fun to drive, but was also therefore more tiring as it required a lot more concentration.

Friday, 21 September 2012


I'm off on holiday next week.

I would usually take the first week in October, but there was a bit of a conflagration of events at work which meant I was asked to take a week either side.  A week later would put it just that wrong side of getting into the chilly weather so I went for the last week in September.

My plan for this holiday is basically the same as all my late summer holidays.  I'll be spending a week in Devon, partly with my Dad (it's his birthday this time of year) and partly just in a random bit of Devon where I'll be doing lots of walking.

I'm sure I'll also be taking far too many books, manga, magazines, DVDs and fansubs with me to consume in the time available as per usual as well.  Actually my plan this time is to focus on the last of those - fansubs.

Since my hobby of scanning in anime magazine basically collapsed my watching of fansubs has also virtually stopped as well.  I used to cheekily watch a few at work as well, but I'm so busy nowadays that's almost impossible.

I'm therefore hoping to get through a good chunk of them (mainly 2 or 3 episode samplers) over this break.  I've also come up with a plan for how I might re-invigorate the scanning hobby as it was something I used to quite enjoy doing, even if I also complained about it a lot.

Anyway, obviously no blogging next week while I'm away.  I may take a few pictures while I'm out walking and upload them afterwards, but I'm not too hopeful - the forecast for the week is looking quite damp so I'm kinda expecting that I won't be taking my camera out with me.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


This weekend it's the Singapore Grand Prix.

It has the uniqueness of being F1's only night race (one of the Arab ones happens in the evening, but Singapore is properly in the night).  And that's about it.

It's a street race has all the traditional street race issue - narrow, almost impossible to overtake, boring layout, slow and too long.

As you may be able to tell I'm not really looking forward to it.  Of course I may be proven wrong.  Valencia is usually as dull as dishwater, but this year it was a cracker.

However, I've had the feeling in the last few races that the close-ness and random-ness that has tended to characterise this season has started to settle down a bit.  The top teams have started to distance themselves from the pack.  Saying that it's not a big difference - Sauber did spectacularly well at Monza, for example.

Apparently they put on some interesting events for the spectators at Singapore - they have a big concert with big-name stars and there's a big Ferris wheel you can go in.  I'm not sure if that's generally open to the public outside of the races, but certainly during the race you have to get special tickets for it.

But even with that I don't I'd fancy going.  I assume it would be horribly hot and humid, even at night and I'm not sure I really see any particular appeal of watching F1 cars at night.  So it doesn't appeal on the telly and it doesn't appeal as one to go too - it's therefore a bit of a classic of Bernie's new era or tracks!

The championship overall remains in real contention.  Alonso has a big lead and is consistently getting the best out of a car that still isn't the best, even with the improvements Ferrari has made.  However, McLaren seem to have finally gotten over their mid-season "jitters".

They started the season with the best car and two of the best drivers, but a combination of issues (pit stops, crashes, unreliability) and perhaps either not updating the car in the right direction or letting others catch up seems to have put them further back than you would have expected at the start of the year.

Singapore actually sits on its own, but it's the only one that does in this final stretch - the last two were double headers and all of the remaining six are too.  It's going to be an intense end of the season!