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.