Friday, 26 July 2013

hungarian grand prix

Hungarian grand prix this weekend.  It's not usually that interesting as a race, and the BBC is only showing highlights.  After this there's a 3 week gap, during which F1 has its "two week holiday".

I have to confess I've not found this season all that memorable.  There's been a few interesting races, but it doesn't seem as close as last year.  Weirdly, even though the rules were pretty stable again, it seems to have had something of a crystallising effect on some of the teams.  Perhaps they've shifted significant focus to next year's car?

It doesn't help that McLaren are not in contention and some of the mid-level teams have relatively poor cars.

I've no particular plans this weekend.  I had thought that I might play some games other than SimCity.  I mentioned doing this a while back, but didn't actually do it.

Alternatively I might try to get ahead with watching some of the anime I keep selling, rather than having to watch it once it's already sold.

My landlord is going away on holiday in September this year I believe so I'm expecting to have a go at the contents of the shed.  There's quite a bit of stuff out there that I think I'm going to have to sell, given my financial situation.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

loads of anime pt3


I seem to be making the same basic point on quite a few of these series I've watched - that I found the direction it took a little disappointing after the initial few episodes that I'd watched by way of preview.

Well in this case I can say... pretty much the same thing.

In the first couple of episodes of rideback we're introduced to the main characters, as well as the ridebacks, which are essentially bicycle mecha hybrids.  They're pretty cool and the sudden and instant connection that the main character Rin has with them is just as enjoyable as I remembered.  It also develops the point about her being a former ballet dancer and that the ridebacks become something like a replacement for this.

The problem really is that there's a whole political thing that is uses initially as a kind of backdrop, which is fine, but that then becomes a central part of the story.  And my problem with it was that it was the usual unrealistic anime weird political stuff.  I mean, it goes on about the world government and this being taken over and stuff, but it makes little to no sense.

Of course the important thing is how it affects the characters, and it does this quite well, though it does generate a couple of rather one-dimensional military types as a result, which just took the edge off of it for me.

I also found the character designs a bit off.  I'm not saying they're bad, it's just they felt very old skool, but obviously it is quite a new anime.  It wouldn't have been so bad if the technology was depicted in a similar old skool style, but it isn't so it felt a bit like taking an older anime and airbrushing some new CGI mechs over the top, which didn't really work for me.

I'm being quite harsh and it is an enjoyable anime that seems to have fallen between the cracks a bit; it's just for me it didn't become an instant classic.

kimi ni todoke

I actually first encountered kimi ni todoke in anime format, though it is actually an adaptation of a manga.  Having sampled the show and enjoyed it I then read the manga and subsequently bought the anime.  I have to confess I got a bit annoyed at the manga, so I was a little worried when I finally came to watch the anime.

Anyway, kimi ni todoke it's a shoujo series and centres on a girl who unfortunately looks like the character "Sadako" from the ring films, with a similar name.  She is Sawako, where the ring character is Sadako, which her classmates give her as a nickname - it doesn't really refer to this fully in the anime, I'm guessing for copyright reasons, though keeps the nickname so it's still there.  She therefore ends up linked by her peers to the occult, partly due to the films thing, but also because of her look and behaviour.

Unfortunately, Sawa is socially rather inept.  She's actually very kind and does lots to help her fellow students, but the way she presents herself and behaves means that they are all scared of her - or creeped out by her, at least.

However, she has fallen for the class's mister popular and he has fallen for her, and the series is therefore about their love - will it overcome their shyness, etc?

Well, that's definitely what the anime is about.  There are obviously some peripheral characters to this main story and the reason I got a bit pissed off with the manga is that it veers and hauls over to focusing on those peripheral characters.  Now this would be okay if it was short-ish or it was about how the main characters really help them, but actually our main characters become a real side-act during these diversions.

However, the anime doesn't lose this focus, so it's more satisfying in a way.  Well, the first series is.  I found the second series quite frustrating.  It deviates a fair bit from the manga and takes the whole miss-understandings aspect of the story to an extreme that I actually found a bit annoying.  I mean, it justifies why their friends don't properly interfere, but I just wanted to bonk them on the head and say - "Look: you love each other, get on with it!"

But that's really only a small thing and it is a very good series that's worth watching if you like romantic stuff.


I have to confess when I sampled this one I wasn't massively impressed.

I'd watched a bit of the previous one in this "series" (I don't think series is quite the right word - I think these ones with the semi-colon by 5pb are related, but I don't think they have the same characters in them, so I'm not 100% sure how) Chaos;Head and found it awful.  The main character was so annoying I couldn't watch more than an episode, from memory.  The premise also seemed daft.

My sampling therefore pretty much boiled down to me watching the first couple of episodes and deciding the protagonist of this was also annoying (though not as bad) and finding the story very confusing.

However, later on I read quite a few people raving about the series, so for some reason I decided to buy it (yeah, no wonder I'm skint, right?).  When I came to watch it, then, I wasn't really expecting much from it, and suspected I might end up stopping half way through.

I guess time mellows a bit as I didn't find the protagonist annoying, but did still find the plot a bit confusing.  Well, initially I did - it takes a while, but it starts to make a bit more sense later one.  Or rather it does until it fully gets into its time travel stuff, then it becomes quite confusing, but in a good way.

I have to confess, though, until about half way through the series I really didn't see what people were raving about.  However, at that half-way point there's a particular episode that really elevates the series from okay to quite good.  the rest of the series is about the ramifications from that, and it's this latter half that really works, helping to develop the characters and their relationships properly.

If I'm honest I'm not sure it quite "works" in terms of its time travel, as I think the way it does it means that it undermines itself, but really that's secondary compared to what it does with the characters.

I wouldn't put it in the "classic" bracket, but it was certainly more enjoyable than I'd expected.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

the king's speech

I think part of the reason I've fallen so far behind with these reviews is because I wasn't really sure what to say about this film.

You'll almost certainly be aware that the film won four Oscars and a whole slew of other things, was critically praised and made a bucket load.  And, unfortunately for writing this review, I don't really disagree with that.  It is a damn fine film.

As I understand it was actually based on an adapted version of a screenplay written by the voice coach (Lionel Logue).  It is deftly written - the characterisations of Logue and Albert are particularly good, though some of the more peripheral characters are rather incidental and not really fleshed out in any particular depth, but then it doesn't really suffer for that.

Anyway, what is particularly good is it does make them feel like real people - Albert is quite caustic in many places and the no-heirs Aussie nature of Logue isn't over-done as it could easily have become pastiche.

The performances are also excellent.  Firth and Rush portray Albert and Logue extremely well.  Firth actually sounds just like Albert (there's some extras with original audio on there).

The locations are also well used.  It could so easily have fallen into a big productions palaces and posh frocks thing, but it avoids that altogether.  Indeed, much of the film takes places in relatively ordinary spaces.

So yeah, pretty short review as I'm not quite sure what I can really add.  It is a good film.  I guess if you were a total anti-monarchist you may be able to be miffed at it, but really the point of this is that it works because of that, rather than against it.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

duff stuff

I posted the other week about some things that seemed to have all broken at the same time.

When I started the post I was sure there was a big long list of stuff, but then the actual list wasn't that massive.  I later remembered some of the stuff that has also broken that I forgot to mention.

Although first, I should say that my suspicion over what was causing my computer to go funny proved accurate - the wire that provides power to the CPU cooler was trapping the fan, causing it to make the funny noise and, presumably, do the whole restart thing.  I'm not quite sure I follow how it was causing the issues, but I adjusted it so it's nowhere near and the noise and unreliability stopped.

Anyway - the other broken stuff does actually mostly relate to my computer.

First off the speakers - the right speaker has stopped working.  The left speaker and the bass module are still functional, but the right doesn't seem to want to play ball.  To be honest, the speakers are old and knackered anyway and had started to make odd feedback noises if the cables were in particular positions.

Then there's my printer.  This appears to have gotten to the stage of printing some stuff in particular colours okay, but other colours or big things with lots of colours are coming out funny.  I've tried cleaning the heads and using all the deep cleaning (which costs a fortune in ink) and it doesn't make any difference, so I'm guessing something is rather more permanently clogged.

There's a stage with printers were the need to clean them (and thereby waste ink) makes them uneconomical.  I read somewhere that printer ink is one of the most expensive fluids in the world, ranking up there with semen from famous horses.

The next thing that's been on the fritz was my mouse.  I've had it a very long time so my suspicion was that it was getting gunked up.  It's an optical mouse, so there's not the rollerball gunk issue, but I've always produced a lot of greasy (and acidic) sweat that tends to foul even optical mice up.

However, with the mouse I was fairly determined to see if I could fix it, where the other stuff I will have to replace.  I therefore set about it with a screwdriver (it had a surprising number of screws in it) and some tissues to wipe off any gunk.

I have to confess it didn't seem as bad as I'd thought it might be, so it may just be knackered, though it seems to be performing better now.  Well, it is once I'd corrected my classic mistake.

Having put the thing back together, I naturally found a spare spring (there's always a spring or a screw left over!).  I couldn't for the life of me work out where it had come from, but then eventually worked out it was the spring that you push against when depressing the centre mouse wheel.  It took me ages to work out how it must go in order to achieve the tension, but it's all back together now.

And now for the biggie!

This actually happened just last week, but my exhaust fell off my car!

I was driving back home along the A31 when suddenly the car started making a very deep noise like those idiots who have the "loud" exhausts on.  There was also a noticeable drop in power and a kind of scraping noise, leading me to think my exhaust may be damaged.

Even a cursory glance when I got back confirmed this and a more thorough examination showed that at the least back end of the exhaust (where the silencer is) was very loose, if not detached from the rest of the exhaust.

I therefore had to take it to the garage, having attached some string to hopefully keep it from dropping off.

A new exhaust + fitting cost me £145!  But then also this was mid-week so I had to still go to work, which meant the train for several days, which added another £20.  I have no idea how train fares work - they certainly don't seem to bare any resemblance to common sense.  How it costs as much as they charged me I've no idea - how can two singles, one at off-peak and the peak one being only 2 stops cost half as much again as a 3-stop return bought during peak?

Oh, the joys of privatisation.  Fuck you Maggie.

Monday, 22 July 2013


I think I'm melting

This last weekend there was a bit of a let up from the heat, but today it's been even hotter than it has been.  It also seems much more humid today.  The only small element of comfort I've been taking in the heat has been that the humidity hasn't been too high, but today it's been hot and sticky.

It's been costing me a fortune of course as I've been having to have the air conditioner on in order to bring things down into a more acceptable range for sleeping.  One of the problems I have is that I can't have the windows open at night because of the risk of mosquitos (I react rather badly to their bites) but also I have to have the black bags on the windows in order to block out the light.

Unfortunately the way the sun shines on my bedsit is quite inconvenient as it tends to cause it to heat up quite a lot in the late afternoon / early evening, just when you don't want it to.

I have discovered a bit of a trick with one of my fans, though.  I have to turn the air con off to actually go to bed, but I have a big vertical fan that has a timer on it.  What seems to work quite well, therefore, is if I turn that on for a short period after the aircon is off then it blows across me, helping to keep me cool, but obviously the timer means it won't then go all night.  It's quite loud, so I would be worried it might wake me up if I left it all night, but I tend to get dry eyes and things like that if I have a fan on me too long.

There were no posts last week as I was maxed out on the bid I mentioned.  It was a horrible week, actually, if I'm honest.