Friday, 22 February 2013

less burn

So I've been using the DE razor to shave all this week.

I'm still going with the grain so the shave is not close, but I think I'm starting to get used to it.  I've not really had any particular problems with nicking myself.

I've also noticed that I am having less razor burn, although if I do get razor burn it's a lot fiercer than when I get it with the Mach 3.  The problem area for burn is my chin.  I'm not massively surprised with this as the chin is obviously the area where there's more in the way of extreme contours and bumps and wiggles.

However, saying that, obviously I'm not get a smooth shave either so razor burn is less likely anyway.  What I mean is that I'm using the same shaving pattern and getting less burn so that suggests I'm getting used to the razor.

I've also found the blades I'm currently using last the same amount of time as my Mach3s, so I get about 3 shaves out of them and then they're noticeably duller.  Those were the blades that came free with the razor and there weren't too many of them.  I've actually bought some more and they're a different make.

Apparently different makes of blades are quite different to shave with.  Once you have your technique down you're actually supposed to try out a bunch of blades to find one that works best for your razor/skin/beard.

I have to confess I'm not fully sold on the DE - the poorness of the shave is such that the fact it's gives slightly less razor burn hasn't really sold me.  When I get to going against the grain is when it will be a true test, though, so we'll have to see.

In other news I'm shattered from the amount of work I've had to do recently and I'm going to be in this weekend.

There's been some developments on that front and I'll hopefully find a bit of time to write some blog posts when I'm not working this weekend, but otherwise it could be a bit quite on the blogging front next week.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

horse burgers

I've been taking quite an interest in the horse meat in burgers thing.

Not because it in any sense worries me, but because I've found the behaviour of the media really fascinating - and not in a good way.

I'm sufficiently old to remember a significant number of these health scares.  One of the first I remember was Salmonella in eggs, but there's been things like BSE too.  Now some of the (BSE) are genuinely of significant concern, but others (Salmonella and this horse meat one) are not far beyond a whole heap of fuss over nothing.

In this case I really think the media has taken things too far - they seem absolutely determined to whip everything up in a massive storm when it's really not that big of a deal.  Yes, fraud has been committed and it's not ideal.  Yes it does say a lot about our eating habits that aren't necessarily good.  But there is no danger to human health from eating horsemeat.

Indeed, horse meat is actually quite good for you, it's just that culturally, for whatever reason, we have not traditionally eaten it in the UK.  In France, and I'm sure many other places, they do.  It is an edible meat.

But if you take the media's reaction on face value you'd think this was some Soylent Green esque nightmare where they're grinding up small babies and spoon-feeding them to invalids and the poor.

What I found particularly galling was the way they desperately hunted around for anything that might make it a health issue.  They eventually found one of course - a drug called "Bute" is given to horses but is now banned for humans.  This was apparently found in some of the horse carcasses, but the doses were so low you'd have had to eaten nothing but horse meat from now until the middle of next year to even get close to a human-scale dose.

And even then there are only some vague risks of side effects - this isn't some cyanide-like killer drug, it's just something some people get a side-effect from.

The whole thing is just ridiculously over-blown and the media does itself no favours when it behaves like this.

I have a bit of a theory about this sort of thing.  It's actually closely related to the whole "gate" thing the media does.  The Watergate scandal was the high-water mark for journalists.  It's the one thing they can point to as something that never would have been known about if it wasn't for journalists.  But now every journalist thinks that therefore legitimises them - it's why they stick the non-sensical "gate" at the end of stuff: "Look," they're saying.  "This is us being all amazing again." even though it's normally nothing of the sort.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

anchorman - the legend of ron burgundy

I have to confess I wasn't expecting to enjoy Anchorman.

I'm not sure why, exactly, I just wasn't sure it would be my cup of tea.  However, actually I found it rather funny.

It's basically a silly movie.  That's not meant to be any sort of insult, it's just the type of comedy it is.  In fact, actually, it felt very similar to the type of humour you get in Python or, in fact probably more the old Steve Martin films (The Jerk or the Man with Two Brains).  There's a lot of being silly.

A very good example of this is the relationship between the various news crews, which comes to a head with a gang-rumble style fight where they all pile into each other with knives and chains.  As I say - silly, but in a good way.

There was one aspect of the film I wasn't entirely keen on, though - the animals.  Burgundy has a dog (Baxter) and I think they went a bit over the top with the idea that the dog is cleverer than him.  I dunno, that element of it just didn't really work for me.  Also there's a scene towards the end involving lots of bears and it again it didn't really do anything for me.

Comedy is about as subjective as things get, so I wouldn't really say these parts were bad, I just didn't really find them all that funny.  On the other hand the voice over, which I believe uses a famous American newsreader (this is one of the difficulties I was expecting - I'm sure there were probably lots of references in the film, but I don't have the knowledge to have spotted them, but in the end it didn't really seem to matter) was very funny - it was pitched just right.

I watched the Blu Ray version and there were actually two versions on there - the theatrical version and an "uncut" version.  There didn't seem to be a massive amount of difference, just a few jokes that were a bit grosser or involved foul language.  However, the extras did include a huge set of extended and alternate scenes - there appear to have been several different endings.

The Blu Ray also had commentaries for both versions (they sort of overlap - it's a bit weird) and I have to confess I didn't really like these.  I couldn't work out if they were pre-scripted or improvised (I think probably a bit of both - improvised, but with "then this happens" elements) but I found they kinda went on a bit with the themes.  It's a bit like when they improve shows they do loads of stuff (alternative versions in particular) and then filter down in the edit, well this didn't have any edit so in parts they seemed to bang on and on, thrashing the same basic gag into the ground.

But then commentaries are extra, so it didn't impact on my enjoyment of the film itself.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


So last Friday a great big hunk of rock with the un-interesting name of 2012-DA14 flew close to the Earth.

Of course "close" is still a pretty long way away on human scale, but on the scale of the solar system it grazed past us Matrix-bullet-time-stylee.  Indeed, unless I'm a bit off, it actually came well within the orbit of many satellites, so it really was close.

Oddly I heard a lot of reports in the media that it was a record close encounter for an asteroid of this size.  This of course is wrong - the closest encounters are when asteroids actually hit us - then the encounter is 0m!

What they mean of course is it was a recorded for the closest recorded.  There could have been plenty that have zipped by us but these things are not really big enough to be seen with the naked eye so you need things like telescopes which we've not had for very long and of course you need to be looking in the right direction.

This one was 46m across which is pretty big.  Apparently it's of a similar size to the meteor that exploded over Tunguska and flattened a huge swathe of trees.  Although big a lot of an asteroid generally gets burned up in the atmosphere (angles depending) so it wouldn't be big enough to cause us to go extinct if it hit, but it would make a hell of a mess if it hit a city or landed in the ocean and caused a big tsunami.

I watched a bit of the NASA live webcast feed.  I did pop my head out to see if it might be possible to see anything but it had unfortunately clouded over so I couldn't have seen anything.

The weirdest bit of the story was that a smaller meteor hit Russia on the same day.  It was nothing more than a coincidence but this was a lot smaller but caused a lot of injuries as it hit a fairly built up area as I understand it.  It just shows you how much damage, particularly if there was little warning, and there are a lot of hunks of rock up there.

It should be a bit of an interesting time in the heavens this year as there's a comet due later in the year that may give something of a spectacular display... or maybe not, they're not quite sure if it will produce a tail or not.

Monday, 18 February 2013

return of the beta

Well I got a beta code for SimCity so my weekend was fairly predictable.

I actually got two, both coming from amazon.  The reason for two was that I ordered the game way back when it was first announced but then amazon cancelled the order (I don't know why but they usually only do that if they've made some huge cock-up with the price or the thing is cancelled).  As such I promptly re-ordered it and hence the two codes.

The intended purpose of this beta was to test the server loads.  Somewhat controversially the game requires an always on connection; indeed the game itself runs on the server as I understand it, so it's not just a DRM thing, they've really got you by the short and curlies.

I believe the beta actually was intended to ran from 00:00hr Saturday to 00:00hr Sunday in America (not sure which time zone) but here in the UK it actually ran from 14:00 Saturday to 14:00 Sunday.  I pretty much cleared my schedule and actually sat down to install and play at about 16:00 on the Saturday.

It took a while to download and install, but once up and running I was straight in - I played the tutorial and then started up the first town.

I have to confess my initial reaction was one of slight disappointment as it seemed to be identical to the previous beta.  I mean, I wasn't going to let that stop me having some games, but I was hoping there's be some differences, but as far as I could tell the same content was enabled in the game.

Except then I made a discovery - the region play was enabled.  Previously it was single city and that was it, but this time there were 3 cities and 1 special project thingy.  Now in the previous beta there were 2 cities and a special project area but you could only do anything with the one city.  This time one of the cities was slightly weirdly blanked off (I wasn't sure if it was meant to represent another player or not - certainly it wasn't that fully fledged, but you could interact with it a bit) and the special project you could see what the options might be, although not actually do them and the third city was also playable.

This second city would clearly have been a good site for an ore mine as it had a big deposit, but unfortunately this content was disabled.  However, it was interesting to try to work how multi-city play might work.

I enjoyed it, but I have to say it looks like it will be a difficult thing to really master.  I mean, sure you can build another city that is itself balanced, but the tricky part was trying to balance multiple cities.

This has always been something of a challenge - you zone for residential, industrial and commercial and getting the right amounts of each of these so you don't end up with jobless people or not enough shops or whatever has always been a difficult thing.  However in multi-city play it's even more of a brain ache - you're now trying to ensure there's enough jobs between cities, if that's what you're trying to do.

One thing I did learn is that when you work on one city the other city is totally paused.  That makes sense but it also makes things a little tricky to manage.  So, for example, if I plop down a fire station in one town and then immediately switch to the region view and share my fire trucks it will let me do it.  However, if I then switch to the other city and keep going and a fire breaks out it's not guaranteed that the fire trucks will turn up.

Why?  Because in my other, paused city, the fire station hadn't had time to recruit any firemen so there's no-one to drive those fire trucks.  In other words you have to wait until your fire station is properly up and running before that element will be properly shared.

I had this with a few things actually - On one occasion I had to wait for people to drive over from one city to get the job of working in the power plant before I could then buy power back.

It's also a little weird how the whole sharing and buying thing works - it seemed to be that I could buy power but I couldn't sell power but I could only sell fire trucks and not buy them, if you see what I mean - the decisions were one way.

This isn't to say any of it was bad, just that it could be a whole new level of complexity.