Friday, 25 January 2013

the end cometh

Apparently it's going to warm up a bit this weekend.

I've also seen forecasts for rain.  The double combo of warmer weather and rain should be the death knell for all the snow.

This particular bout of snow has been particularly frustrating.  It arrived during the day, which gave me that horrible journey back and also meant I didn't really get a proper "snow day".  It was also a Friday and it then didn't snow very much across the weekend, so by the Monday it was drivable and I had to go to work.

Then, this last Tuesday we had a bit of a mini blizzard towards the end of the day.  The snow didn't really settle as such (about 2cm maybe) but it made driving conditions horrendous.  The problem was that there was just enough snow settled on the ground so that I couldn't see the markings.  It was also dark, so I couldn't go on general vision, but instead what I could see with my lights.

All that meant I was staring quite intently down at the road in front (usually you look into the distance to see where you're going and looking for any hazards, etc).  However, because the snow was really coming down it seemed like it was all blasting straight towards me.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't very windy, so it was just the effect of me driving towards it and the lights illuminating it that gave that effect.

The combination of staring down and stuff rushing onwards me was actually very disorientating and made me feel a bit sick.  Not to the extent of throwing up or anything, but I felt a bit dizzy and really tired at the end of the journey.

I've also been getting up a bit earlier (which translates to "stupidly early" for normal people) because I didn't want to travel in traffic and obviously knew I had to scrape the car, etc.  Now if it had properly snowed here at the right time I'd actually have been having some nice lie ins.  Tbh, what it's actually done has mainly disrupted the normal stuff, rather than work.

So I've a huge pile of washing to do because I've only been to the laundrette on foot and could only carry one bag.  I've also not been shopping in a while so have run out of stuff.  And I'm almost out of petrol because I haven't wanted to do too many journeys and also have had to have the engine on at lunch to keep warm.

It's also played havoc with my walking - I've only done a handful of walks early in the morning and have been woefully short of my step targets since last Thursday.  Add in that, as I say, I've not really been shopping so have been relying more heavily on tins and things like that and I'm fully expecting to have gained weight when I weigh in this weekend.  Which is particularly annoying as I should be shedding my Christmas pounds.

So, long story short, I'm very much hoping they're right that the weather is on the turn and I can get back to a bit or normalcy!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

anime watching (or not)

I appreciate most of these review posts are a bit negative, but as I said before I don't really feel last year went very well.

I guess my point in this one is that watching anime and reading manage is supposed to be one of my hobbies - something I dedicate spare time to because I enjoy it.  Well one of those I managed to achieve (the reading manga side of things) but the other didn't go so well.

I seem to recall there was some watching of anime fairly early in the year, but there was a real lack of anime watching in the latter half of the year.  Now there are some reasons for this.

One is that I have not really been scanning my imported anime magazines.  While I scan I used to watch fansubs and/or crunchyroll.  Fansubs and crunchyroll don't really fit in very well with my more general TV viewing.  I have got a PC set up as a Blu Ray that I could theoretically use to watch both, but in practice this hasn't proven very practical.

One of the biggest issues is a bit unusual in that TV / monitor is actually relatively small, particularly given the distance I am away from it, so it can be very hard to see stuff, even with using the larger font modes of windows.  But also I have a wireless keyboard and mouse I use with it, but UI have to take the batteries out of the mouse and that means I have to re-synch it every time I switch the computer on, making it a huge pain in the arse.

I mean, I had managed to streamline the process a bit, but then not so long ago one of the hard drives in it packed up and I still haven't gotten around to really sorting it out properly since.

Anyway, point is that fansubs and crunchyroll are best done at my normal computer while scanning and I've stopped scanning.  I've stopped scanning mainly because I've found the whole A4 scanner plus "image stitch" on Photoshop to be horrible.  It doubles or even in some case quadruples the number of scans you have to do and then (and this is that bit I really hate) it takes three or four times as long again to stitch the pictures together... assuming it even works - a lot of the time it just doesn't put them together very well and then I have the horrid nightmare of having to try to do it myself.

The solution would be to get an A3 scanner again (I have one, but it doesn't have drivers for windows 7 and the machine I intended for XP doesn't work and I was never arsed to fix it) but that will cost me money I wasn't really expecting to have to spend, given what I've spent on it all already.

Of course if I'm honest it doesn't help that I'm not a fan of the whole weekly watching of anime that streaming sites seem to basically only be set up to support.  I prefer to watch series in big chunks.  But then the rubbishness of the Blu Ray machine also means I often hold off on watching Blu Rays and I've started to buy more anime on Blu Ray, so that's not exactly a help.

The final issue of course is time - given how much time I have spent job hunting and then working it's tough to find a good chunk of time to sit down and watch something that could be 10 or 20 hours long.

Obviously none of that has stopped me buying anime, because I'm an idiot.  Why am I spending all this money and then not enjoying the stuff I buy?

I really need to come up with some better plans.  Maybe a proper Blu Ray player could help in some regards, but then I really need multi-region and that's not something that players really support in the way DVD players used to - there seems to be a lot of faffing around with firmware, which surely negates the benefit over using my current system.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

john carter

I recently reviewed the latest Conan film and gave it a bit of a slating.

One of the things I tried to say in something of its defence is that the types of story that other people have done since the Conan films means we've all become very familiar with that type of thing.  So, in other words, it ends up feeling like cliché, even though it's actually the thing that started what other people made into cliché, if that makes sense.

As I understand it, John Carter is very similar in that sense - the original novels were very inspirational to other people, who then went on to write books and make films that essentially used the ideas so we've all become very familiar with them, even though we may not ever have actually read those original books.

In the case of John Carter it has something of a tick in my case, because we're in the realm of science fiction, which is much more my cup of tea, where Conan was fantasy, which isn't so much my thing.  As such I'm probably a bit more pre-disposed to liking it than I was Conan.

I guess I should also mention the price tag thing.  I don't know how you wouldn't be aware, but Disney spent an absolute fortune on John Carter.  Assuming what has been reported is true (not necessarily always the case and I'm sure more complicated than all that) I have to confess I don't really understand how they thought they'd make their money back.

I mean if they really did spend the amount of money they did then the end film would have had to have been about the biggest movie ever.  Now that's always possible, of course, but you have to feel the odds are stacked against it.  You have to wonder - particularly when it lacked one of the things Disney tends to rely on: any clear merchandising.

Don't get me wrong - they could certainly have produced some figurines, but there was nothing in the way of cute and cuddly and even when you look at figurines it's relative small beer.  The majority of characters were humans and the alien characters didn't exactly show a vast array of variety.  Unlike Star Wars where just about every background figure is unique so you can sell toys of each one, there were only a tiny variety of different species in John Carter.  And even then the number of actual characters was actually fairly small.  There also weren't that many vehicles or other things you could make as toys.

Where I'm really going with this is I think it's actually a bit of a shame that it was seen as a big flop, as I thought it was kinda fun.

Unlike something like Conan John Carter maintained just the right level of a sense of fun.  It steered away from being ironic or too knowing or too clever, and it wasn't a comedy movie, but it kept things light and pacey (though if I'm honest I feel it was another too long movie).

The plot also basically worked and I think it also did a bit of a neat trick in terms of exposition in particular.  There's a bit of a tendency in films like this for them to have bit wodges of terrible exposition where the McGuffin is explained and things like that.  Here they basically didn't bother - we got enough of a sense to know that certain things were important and there was an explanation behind them, but the focus was on the characters and the preventing the bad guy winning side of things, rather than blasting loads of ridiculous pseudo-science at us or similar.

Of course I'm not saying it was perfect, but if you look at some of the rubbish that gets produced, it's a shame this has been perceived to fail as some more John Carter films wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

new job?

There's a bit of a theme to these pre-written posts of reviewing last year - I figured I should look at last year in some detail as, if I'm totally honest, I felt a bit disappointed when I thought about the year while I was on leave.

One of the key things I obviously set for myself was to get a new job.  And I am still in the same job.

Now I feel there were a lot of positives about the process I went through.  Despite the economic climate I was able to get a reasonable number of interviews and to be considered for a number of roles.  That has to be a positive as I know many people struggle to get any interviews.

Another positive is I got a job offer - and a very good job offer at that.  If I look at the job on offer (or probably more the company and circumstance) it wasn't an offer I should have accepted, and didn't.  I do feel this was basically the right decision.

However, what I didn't get right was how it went - I would at one stage have accepted it and basically just "seen what it was like".  If it was going to be a mistake then I felt I needed to make a few mistakes, as it's been so long since I've done anything in my career, I feel like I have to make some changes.

In the end it was my family that gave me the best guidance in this regard; the problem really was that I told my boss about the offer.  What I should have done is rejected it and kept looking, but the problem was several interviews had come to the "end game" and I was getting a bit sick of the whole thing.  Also I was really starting to struggle financially and needed a pay increase and at worst I needed to use the offer as leverage for an improvement in pay and conditions.

However, when this happened there was something of change of circumstance in that I found out about what I've been describing as "cake later".  The problem is that's not come to anything.  There's been no announcement about any sort of cake at all and the real upshot of it is I'm disappointed in myself for believing that the boss was change.

The issues I've always had with the boss and that have become real thorns in my side in recent years aren't going to change.  I'm starting to feel I'm just sticking around here so I can get a lot of money in a few years.  Well, is that really what life is about?

I mean I'd like the money, obviously - particularly as I feel I've been underpaid and undervalued in recent years, but can I honestly stick it out here for another 3 or even four years to get that money?

What about all the other stuff I wanted to do?  Lose weight (Id didn't mention it in the previous post, but a big problem I've had is that with all the extra hours I've ended up doing it's really hard to stop myself comfort eating and finding the time and energy to shop for and put together a healthy meal, rather than buy some junk I can just cram has been a particular struggle).  Buy some new/decent clothes (I've been trading off of "well I'm losing weight and it would cost a fortune to keep refreshing my wardrobe" all year, yet I've gained a stone!).  Find somewhere new to live (can't do that if I'm going to get a new job that might be in a new part of the country!).  Go on proper holidays (can't afford it at the moment, as I'm underpaid!).  Start writing again (first half of the year all my spare time went on job hunting and second half I've been working so much I don't have time to do my laundry, let alone write).

It all just feels like my usual thing of a list of excuses and I've managed to end up in the position of least resistance yet again - same job, no changes... but I'm bored of it all; that was the whole point.

Another issue I've not really mentioned before is I'm not sure I want to stay in this industry.  I can't really discuss the details, but I've started to feel uncomfortable with some aspects of it.  A few years ago it wasn't so bad, as the company did other stuff, but we've become increasingly focused in the one area and I don't really want to be there.

I think what I'm going to do is set a deadline for the boss - if there's no proper announcement by a particular date I might ask to discuss the issue with her directly... or I'll just start looking for a new job again.  It needs to be fairly soon, though - perhaps Easter?

Monday, 21 January 2013

snow day

So shortly after I posted on Friday, the boss sent us home.

Well, I say the boss - it was the "sub-boss" who is generally a more reasonable, less Victorian kind of person.

The journey home was pretty awful.  I didn't get stuck, but the roads were pretty manky.  The A31 had quite a lot of snow on it and the other roads weren't much better.

I was actually quite surprised by how busy it was.  I guess a lot of people were like me - headed in to work at the usual time, but then it snowed heavily so they went home.

A couple of people at work wimped out altogether and didn't come in.  I kinda wish I'd done similar - they waited until 9AM to see fi the snow genuinely did turn up (never any guarantees).  It wasn't actually bad until about 10AM, but clearly wasn't travelling weather.  Well, I say that - in this country it wasn't travelling weather, if it was Canada or Norway or something, I bet they would hardly have noticed.

Now I had said when I went home that there were some thing I could work on, but I didn't actually do any work.  Working from home is not generally something that's easy for me to do (other people have work laptops, but I don't).  However, on this occasion there were two issues.

The first was that I didn't really want to do any work.  I pre-wrote a post a little while ago that I'm planning to upload tomorrow, and that pretty much covers the issues, but I guess the summary is that I'm struggling to whip up any kind of motivation to continue in my current job.

The second issue, though, was that I had a massive headache.  The basic issue seemed to be eye strain, and I think the route cause is that I've been doing a lot of reading at home.  The book I've been reading is actually a really heavy hardback, so I think that's forced me to read in positions that have meant I've been straining my eyes.

Well, the other factor is it's been a long time since I've had an eye exam and a new pair of glasses.  I don't actually think there's really anything wrong with my prescription as such, but the lens for my left eye is quite badly scratched.

A new pair of glasses will cost a fortune, though, so I've been holding off, but I think it's probably time to bite the bullet.