Friday, 15 February 2013

new beta

There's a second beta for SimCity this weekend.

I think I'm getting a little obsessed with the game actually as I've been checking the website and searching for news just about every day.  I guess part of it is that it's been donkey's years since I last played SimCity (even longer if you set aside the abomination that was societies), but also I finished (well, ish) Anno 1404, which is to say I built a world with both cathedral and mosque and the maximum number of citizens.  I then started Anno 2070 and I have to say it put me off a little.

There was no big reason for that, it was a combination of tiny things, but where I first played Anno 1404 and loved it I played 2070 and felt a bit lost somehow.  I dunno, I only really played it for a little while and haven't been back to it yet so I may like it more when I play it properly.

Anyway, the new SimCity beta is apparently designed to test the servers.  I'm guessing they want to avoid something like the Diablo III fiasco as much as they can.  They've said that the game actually runs on the EA servers and you're almost just logging into it when you play.  I've no idea quite how true this is but it suggests that in the first few weeks of play there's going to be a lot of demand on the servers as everyone starts new games all at the same time.

I believe the launch date is actually staggered around the world so I'm guessing they're hoping that will alleviate it a bit, but also they're intending this beta to be a stress test.

As such I'm guessing lots of people will get passes and the beta is compressed into 24 hours to ensure everyone is playing at the same time.  No idea if I'll get one, though - I was surprised I got in the last time and have certainly seen that some people didn't get in so it wasn't quite just a big demo.

It will, apparently, be a different build of the game.  I moaned quite a bit last time that some of the stuff wasn't intuitive on nice to use.  Roads and zoning were a bit frustrating in particular.  What was most weird about those was actually that they've posted a couple of "how to play" videos on YouTube and it looked far better to use zoning and road layouts on that video.

I'm hoping that the beta was actually a very early version of the game and that they'd actually worked on it quite a lot since that version and used the newer version for the video.  Whether this new beta will be the final version or what I'm not sure, but I hope it's closer - and I get on it, obviously!

All that remains now is to decide what version to buy.  There's a digital deluxe version which is download only and has several European building sets, but I've always steered clear of digital-only versions as I prefer to have the DVD.  There's also going to be an in-game store system.  This seems to have caused much ire, but I don't know why - I don't mind that sort of thing at all, so I guess there's the possibility you may be able to buy the European building sets online anyway.

Thursday, 14 February 2013


I've been using my new system of doing the washing in the evening for a few weeks now and I've decided I have mixed feelings on it.

When I have just the one bag it works really well.  I can use one of the smaller machines, which are a bit quicker.  IF I'm one bagging then generally its' clothes only so I can also use the wash and wear setting, which is the quickest.  The small machines on this setting only take about 20 minutes.

The wash and wear setting does require more drying as it leaves the clothes a bit damper, but not spectacularly so.  However, because it's a single bag it's quicker to dry anyway, so this then only takes about 30minutes of drying.

Add in a bit of time for moving stuff about, loading machines, etc, and it therefore takes about 1 hour, which is perfect for me to buy a copy of the Radio Times and my dinner and eat it while it's washing & drying.

If it's a double bagger it's less good.

Generally if I'm double bagging that means I'm washing bed sheets and towels as well as clothes.  That means I have to use the full wash setting, which takes about 40 minutes.  There's also more washing so the drying takes longer - about 40 minutes.  There's also more stuff so the loading, etc, takes longer and the whole thing takes at least 1.5 hours, but more like 1.75 hours.

It's then more difficult at home too - a single bag is foldable and put-awayable in about 20 minutes.  A double bagger takes twice that.

I still think overall I'm happier doing it in the evenings.  There's nothing quite as annoying as your washing doing its final spin with 1 minute to go when someone walks in the door and sticks it in the last of the tumble driers.  Particularly when you've gotten up at 6AM to try to avoid that sort of thing!

I actually tried extending the philosophy to other chores and doing my cleaning in the evening.  This basically fell at the first hurdle because the routine I have for cleaning my bedsit basically requires me to fold my bed up (it's complicated), clean that space and then use it to temporarily store stuff from the bathroom & kitchen.

Well given it takes several hours for the kitchen and bathroom floors to dry it means I can't go to bed until it's done, so that's a non-starter.  I mean, perhaps it would be possible in the summer when it's warm enough to dry quickly, but not now.

However, I think there are things I could move - trimming my hair, for example.  I don't see why I couldn't do that in the evening.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

four lions

I tend to have a bit of a marmite relationship with the Chris Morris's stuff.

Some things I've adored (the Day Today, Brass Eye) and others I've really not liked at all (Jam, Nathan Barley).  And yes, I appreciate he wasn't the sole person involved with all of those, but he's the main force behind Four Lions.

Well, in this case I have to confess to being somewhere in between - there was a lot I liked about Four Lions, and it has some very funny stuff in it, but I also found it a little frustrating in some regards and other bits didn't seem to work at all.

One thing I definitely wouldn't say is that it has a pop at Muslims - it's not anti-Islam in any sense.  It is anti-suicide bombing and it does parody terrorism in quite a twisted way, but I don't think there's any real problem with those.

What I did have a bit of a problem with is that it relies quite heavily on stupid people.  Two of the characters are clearly not working with a full deck of cards.  Now I'm sure that such people are probably taken advantage of by terrorists, it's just that we don't really see anything of that side of things.

And that applies to all the characters - why are they terrorists?  What has convinced them that blowing themselves up is the thing to do?  Weirdly there's more on this in the extras, where issues such as racism are touched on, but in this it's not at all clear how these particularly guys came to be terrorists, just that main character is convinced it's the thing to do and the rest are either idiots or not quite mentally all there.

Another point of frustration was the flipside of things.  I appreciate the focus was on the main characters, but the film does also touch on the government side of things, I just wish there'd been a bit more of that.  I'm not saying it should have been like 24 or anything like that, but a bit more of the authorities botching things would probably have helped provide a bit more balance - if the terrorists are stupid but still getting away with it, then clearly the police are too.

Which is the other aspect I found didn't work - the logistical aspects of being a terrorist and that side of things doesn't actually seem to be consistently portrayed.  So when they eventually decide to target the marathon they basically turn up in London in a van, have no troubles finding somewhere close by to park and then at one point basically randomly join some of the runners.  It's just unrealistic and surely the point of the film was to focus on that side of things.

I've been quite harsh there - as I say, there was plenty in the film I enjoyed, and some good comedy.  It also makes some good points and makes you think.  I guess my real issue is that it's not entirely consistent with that, but it doesn't really harm the film, as such, it just feels like they missed a couple of opportunities.

Monday, 11 February 2013

face scrape

Had my second double-edge shave this weekend.

I can't honestly say it was much of an improvement.  Obviously it's still early days so I'm not quite going to give up yet, but I have to say I'm kinda wondering what all the fuss is about.

I did my best to keep the angle right - certainly I had less razor burn than I did last time.  The key word there is "less" - I still had razor burn, it just wasn't as sharp as it was the first time.

I have a particularly tough beard.  This second time I was shaving after my long Sunday morning shower and did all the usual stuff so the beard was really at maximum softness (well, without spending half a day in the bath).  I mention this because this is always when I get my best shave out of my Mach3.  I generally change the blade and the shower + stuff gets me a super-close shave that has little burn and lasts for a good while.

The DE shave was again more like the 4th shave I get out of the Mach3.  I didn't change the blade - I understand you're supposed to get 3 or 4 shaves out of a DE, but then you're supposed to get 8 or 9 out of a Mach3 and I get half of this so perhaps that's an issue.  If I have to change the blade every time I shave I won't actually mind.  Each DE blade only cost 20p, compared to several pounds for a Mach3 blade so it'll still be massively cheaper.

What I would say is that there's a big part of me suspects I won't get a good shave out of the DE until I've had more practice and I start going against the grain.

The truth is that I really only get a good shave with the Mach3 if I go against the grain as well.  See, the problem is that that really tough beard I mentioned doesn't really grow out of my face so much as along it.  The grain of my beard is rather unusual, going strongly  in odd directions (up at the base of my neck, but down for the rest of it so I have an "anti-parting" about three quarters of the way down my neck, for example) but also the hair almost universally emerges very much in the that direction.

So if I shave with the grain I cannot possibly get a close shave - the hairs simply lay down as the blade comes near.  If I go across the grain then it will feel smooth if you run your finger in that direction, but rubbing against it feels like sandpaper and (more significantly) you can see stubble left behind.  Only by going against the grain (and I really do mean going against - the blade has to travel in all sorts of weird directions for me to achieve this) can I get what looks and feels like a reasonable shave.

Since I'm not comfortable enough to do that yet with the DE I've a feeling I will continue to have what seem (comparatively) like poor shaves.  And that's the problem really - I'm trying this because it's meant to give a good shave more consistently with fewer issues like razor burn, but so far no joy!

Tomorrow I'm going to be out at a meeting all day so I won't be posting.

It's also Shrove Tuesday, so I'll probably be stuffing myself with pancakes!