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.