Friday, 12 July 2013

phew what a scorcher

Well, summer appears to have arrived this last week and, as per usual, it has arrived with an exclamation mark.

I've always found this a bit puzzling about the British weather, in that it suddenly seems to flip.  A couple of weeks back I was regularly having to use my thick duvet cover and was dithering over whether to put my jumpers and tracksuits in the shed, and now I'm wandering about in shorts and a t-shirt.

Last weekend I actually broke out the air conditioner.  I tried to avoid it on the Saturday, as it does obviously cost money to run and I don't have very much of that spare.  However, Saturday night's sleep was terrible as it was too warm and so Sunday I had it on all day.

I used it again Monday and Tuesday after work, but then the rest of the week it's been a bit more tolerable and the evening more conducive to sleep.

It's meant to be really hot again this weekend, so I might have to wheel it out again, though actually there's a very good chance I'll have to be in work this weekend.  The problem really is that I have a big bid that needs working on and I could have worked on it this week, but unfortunately a series of other bids needed me to fix them and that ate up all my time.

It's a shame really as I think the bid could represent a good general opportunity for the company, but it's kinda been received like a wet fart.

I find working where I do so frustrating.  If I had a bit of spare cash I'd be back looking for a job, I think.  Unfortunately money is so tight it makes it difficult - I'd need to buy some new smart clothes (trousers in particular) and then there would be the cost of travelling to the interviews, etc.

Thursday, 11 July 2013


I'm still quite badly skint.

Things aren't quite as tight as they were.  I've been very stingy with my spending and my relatively higher salary has meant that it's started to come back into parity.  I've also not done too badly with selling things on e-bay (the Blu Rays in particular) so that's helped alleviate the situation more than I had feared.

All my cards are still pretty much maxed out.  Indeed, part of the issue is that some of them slipped over the credit limits and I got hit with various fees.  That meant I had to spend even more to bring them back into the limits.  Of course it also means I have no safety net in terms of spending.

It's quite surprising actually how bills turn up when you're skint that you don't normally think about when you're not skint.  A good example of this was the TV licence.  I'd actually been randomly thinking that I didn't seem to have paid this in a while and then the bill turned up last month and I was shocked by how much it was.

Well, I was shocked that I couldn't afford to pay it until payday came around.  This was a little stressful in that it gave me a very small window to actually pay it (payday is quite a variable concept where I work), but also I realised I'd never really thought about how much the license is.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I think it's good value for money, but it's quite a bit to pay in a lump.  You can do various quarterly or monthly things to spread the cost, but some of these work out more expensive and others you still have to pay, like, half straight off and then the rest is spread out.

It was a bit like my car insurance a few months back - it wasn't an extortionate sum of money (in this case after I'd shopped around) but paying it as a single lump or spreading it out left me scratching my head.  the single lump was the cheapest, but it means paying a big wedge all at once.

I mentioned I'd curbed my spending - this has meant being a bit more careful with general shopping (I've talked extensively before about how I tend to hoard and so buy replacement things long before the old one has actually run out) but also killing off my spending online.

In particular I cancelled all my anime pre-orders (there are some "second halves" of series I should buy as I won't watch them until I do and they won't sell at all well as first half only, but I figure they won't sell out instantly and I can get them once I've gotten through the existing stuff, by which time I may have the money).  I also cancelled everything I'd pre-ordered on amazon.  In particular this meant loads of manga that I'd pre-ordered.

Something I did notice while I was doing this was that the price of a lot of manga has gone up significantly on amazon.  My guess is this is because of the ending of the tax-exempt Jersey thing for small items that allowed them to sell stuff cheap.   However, this does mean that amazon is now not the automatic choice and it's worth shopping round.

Again, with the manga there are some volumes I should buy in order to complete the series so I can sell it on e-bay.  The series tend to divide into those that are still on-going, where I try to sell on the most recent volumes as I read them, and those that have completed where I try to buy them all so I can sell them as a complete lot.  These seem to work quite well as they sort of match what those buying on e-bay want.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

loads of anime pt2

More of these anime mini-reviews.

no. 6

I'm not sure this was quite what I was expecting.

I basically bought it on the strength of the first 2 episodes and what essentially happens is that after that it takes a bit of a left turn and goes in a rather different direction.  Well, I say that - it retains the same basic thing that I thought it was about, but it then includes a bunch of stuff that was rather different and not quite what I was expecting.

The inclusion basically relates to these wasp things that kill people.  It's part of a whole environmental strain to the story that, as I mentioned, is kinda included later, but wasn't part of those first couple of episodes.  It's also not a particularly satisfying part of the story.

The bit I "signed up for" was to do with a perfect city that is rotten to the core and a kid who is dissatisfied and finds out what's going on.  I mean, I'm not saying that was some super original story, but it's the kinds of dystopia stuff I really like.

I'm also not saying that the other stuff broke it, it's just a found that part less satisfying - it had quite a bit of religious mumbo jumbo wrapped around it.

Anyway, the important bit is the characters and No. 6 really excelled at this, with some really interesting characters who were developed really well.  I'd therefore recommend it, though it's quite 'grown up' and cerebral, rather than being an action-packed adventure.

bunny drop

Bunny Drop is an interesting one as it's difficult to put it into a genre and thereby let people know exactly what it is.

This isn't massively helped by the fact that the anime concentrates on the first half of the manga.  I mean, this is good in some ways, but the second half of the manga is more easily categorised.  Although, to be fair, the categorisation is part of what makes the second half of the manga somewhat controversial.

Anyway, the series is about Daisuke, a guy who adopts Rin, who is, in actuality, his half-aunt.  I know, bit weird - basically, his grandfather had a child with his housekeeper, so in a technical sense the child is his half-aunt, but she is around 6 years old where he is in his thirties.  When his grandfather dies, they essentially discover the child and the rest of the family doesn't want to adopt her due to the shame associated with it, so Daisuke takes her in and raises her.  So what genre does that fit in?

Anyway, the anime series is beautifully done.  It is not 100% faithful to the manga, but takes the key elements and bases the story around them, tweaking to suit the structure better.  The artwork is very pretty and it doesn't go quite as "70s" as the manga does, which was always a weird look given it's set in the modern day.

baka and test

I have to confess to being massively disappointed with baka and test.

As is my usual way I watched the first couple of episodes as a sampler and enjoyed them quite a bit, so I decided to buy it, as it was a licensed series.  It came out on Blu Ray and there was a second series and an OAV too, so I bought all of them.

My problem with the show really stems from the fact that the bit I found most interesting and amusing - the class fights with the avatars actually ends up playing a relatively small part in the show proper.  I mean, there are some stretches where it's key, but there are also long stretches where there's none of that.

It's also becomes quite reliant on running jokes - particularly in the second series - and I have to confess I found many of these unfunny and even in some cases a bit annoying.  I mean some were okay and I did find some bits of the show amusing, but not enough to really justify the purchase.

It's weird - I also found the main character quite shouty and annoying, and he's like this from the start, but I don't recall thinking this when I sampled the show.  I think part of it might be that the US dub version was even shoutier - I'm not blaming the dub as "ruining it" or anything, the Japanese character is shouty and annoying, it's just not quite as bad.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

fat bastard

I mentioned previously I was intending to do a food diary.

That didn't quite work.

A part of the problem is that I was doing it online and as this very blog shows, sometimes I can't be arsed.  Also the format for doing it - a blog - wasn't very helpful, because this blogger thing fits better with single posts a day.  Editing posts is a pain or just posting after each time I ate wasn't practical and didn't make a lot of sense when I was trying to review it.

So basically I gave up, but one thing it did prove was that I was eating quite a lot of bad things.  I mean, I hadn't gone back to the old ways of eating loads and loads, but I was certainly eating lots of things that I wasn't eating while I was properly losing weight.

Over the last few months I've unfortunately been steadily gaining weight, such that I'm about a stone heavier than I was at the peak of the weight loss.  To be fair I only hit this peak for a very brief period and about a stone is the maximum I've been over that.

My weight has actually been bobbling around quite a bit during that period, where I'll lose a few pounds for several weeks running and then have a bad week where I put it all back on plus a little more.

One problem I've been having is the weather.  The period when I did my best weight loss was when we last had something resembling summer.  I found it much easier to lose weight when it was warm as you more naturally eat less when it's warm (or rather, you tend to eat more when it's cold - it's a natural reaction that is made redundant by our modern central heating).

Also it's much easier to eat salads and things like that when it's cold.  I found it a bit naff trying to eat salad when it was cold and I have to admit I got a bit sick of it.  It's also much easier to walk for longer, more concentrated periods of time (meaning the mornings) when it's warm.  I mean, walking in the winter is nice enough (assuming it hasn't snowed and isn't raining) but I tend to find longer walks easier in the summer, not least of all because it's lighter earlier and later.

So I'm hoping that this warm spell represents a summer proper and will last a while.

I've also decided my cereal at lunch idea hasn't really worked properly.  It works in terms of the number of calories I'm eating as a meal and it's perfectly good at filling me up until dinner.  The problem is it seemed to encourage me to eat poorly in the evenings.  I think a part of it is that the meals are very repetitive, so I end up craving variety - not only in terms of taste, but also texture too: the cereal is very samey.

However, also, because I know that the cereal meals are light on calories it seems to have encouraged me to have treats (this was clear from the food diary) thinking I could "afford" the calories.

Monday, 8 July 2013

german grand prix

Well, the german grand prix was actually pretty good.

From memory the nurburgring, where it is held every two years, hasn't really been that great for overtaking, but it produced a good race this time.  Unfortunately for the championship Vettel won, taking him to 30-odd points in the lead.

It's a shame the championship is not more interesting as the races themselves have tended to have a reasonable amount of action, it's just that Vettel seems to be just that bit more consistent than everybody else.

There were a few unfortunate incidents in the race, though.  One of Mark Webber's rear wheels wasn't attached in a pit stop and as he drove off it careened down the pit lane and unfortunately hit a cameraman - he obviously was focused on his job filming a pit stop at Mercedes so wasn't really paying attention for rogue wheels.  He was quite badly injured, with broken bones.

Also, one of the lower teams cars (I forget who) had a huge engine blow out that resulted in a bit of a fire.  It's quite rare to see that sort of thing these days, though it was quite common years ago.  Anyway, the driver therefore pulled off the track and leapt out pretty sharpish, which was fine and the on-board extinguisher killed the fire, but unfortunately the car started to roll back down the hill and crossed the circuit.

It ended up lodged against an advertising hoarding and didn't cause an accident, but it was a bit unfortunate and could have been disastrous.  I think it was a combination of things - the driver obviously pulled off and jumped out without really parking his car in any sense.  They're also required to leave the car in neutral, and it was on a hill, and I guess the marshals either didn't get to it quick enough or didn't get proper control of it and it set off rolling backwards.

On the good side there were no tyre problems at all.  Pirelli changed the rear tyre for this race, with the changes making it more durable, but also the type of circuit is quite different to Silverstone and from what they were saying on commentary, the design of the curbs was different, without the sharp corners.

The real proof of the pudding will come at Spa, which has similar high-speed elements to Silverstone, and the properly different tyres Pirelli are going to introduce.