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.