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|Friday, May 8th, 2015|
OK what the fuck just happened? I was gong to write a post about how at 9.45pm I decided at the very last minute to vote Green, rather than Lib-Dem, but it all seems irrelevant now.
I decided not to stay up last night as I was knackered. That and past experience of staying up to watch election results has shown that very few get counted until after 2am, and there wasn't much prospect of me staying up all night like back when I was a student. So I woke up this morning expecting to hear about the rise of the SNP, and the start of weeks of negotiations as the various political parties struggled to form some sort of alliance that would get a Queen's Speech through the House of Commons.
Instead I awake to another 5 years of a Tory government. Fuck.
|Tuesday, May 5th, 2015|
|Bank holiday weekend
This weekend was spent building a canoe*, freezing my face off**, watching the Avengers***, and disappointing an old chap I'd never met before.****
* starting with nothing but wood. It even floats.
** camping in May is usually pleasant. This year the weather decided to drop to a very unseasonal -3°C overnight.
*** OK but too reliant on CGI action sequences and tried to squeeze too much in. Much preferred the first one.
**** by heading to bed at 1.30am, which meant he was the last person in the bar and the landlord would want to close the place.
|Monday, March 23rd, 2015|
|The longest trip home ever
Zonked this morning having got to bed about 1.30am. Yesterday we got up early and caught the 6am train for a day out in London. The main reason for going was to visit the British Museum, which was having an exhibition on the history of clocks. It was fascinating – I love the engineering behind old mechanical clocks and watches, and am in complete astonishment that something so complex and so accurate could be manufactured centuries ago. After that, we went to explore the foodie delights of the Maltby Street market (best selection of street food I've ever seen in one place) , and the beery delights of the Bermondsey Beer Mile (3 good, 3 crap breweries).
That was followed by a walk around Westminster and a trip to Gordon's to imbibe some extremely nice port.
We were then supposed to get the train home from Euston at 9pm, which was when the universe evidently decided we were not allowed to go home. Had things been on time, we would have gotten home by about 11.30pm. Only problem was there seemed to be all sorts of delays, and the train ended up leaving Euston just before 10. It then was apparently diverted, and had to follow a slower train for about 50 miles or so. The net result was that we arrived at Crewe at 12.20am, the last train back to Wrenbury having departed an hour earlier.
Fortunately Virgin seemed aware of this and were phoning taxis for everyone that was due to catch a connection. It being after midnight there weren't many taxis to go around, so it was almost 1am before one arrived to take us home. Then the real fun started. The woman who was driving decided not to bother stopping, and ran a red light in the centre of Nantwich. Unfortunately for her, she chose to do it whilst there was a police car right behind us, so we got pulled over. That might have been the end of the matter, but the police computer decided she wasn’t insured, so they impounded the taxi. Cue another 30 minute wait whilst the taxi company sent out another car to take us the rest of the way home.
|Friday, March 20th, 2015|
Looks like we survived this morning's solar eclipse without going blind. Will have to wait until tomorrow morning to check whether or not the earth has been overrun by alien plants.
It was mostly cloudy, but a gap did appear in the clouds for about 5 minutes so we could see the sun clearly. The darkness I was expecting, but what I hadn't expected was the drop in temperature.
|Monday, March 16th, 2015|
Interesting - so Ed Milliband now says he http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31906463
wouldn't enter into a coalition with the SNP were there to be a hung parliament in May. The SNP have already said they won't enter into one with the Tories, and it seems highly unlikely the Lib-Dems would be willing to work with the Tories again.
Unless the polls are ery wrong, it seems unlikely that anyone will get an outright majority in May, and it seems likely that the SNP will be the 3rd largest party, followed by the Lib-Dems. All of which makes me wonder if Cameron and Miliband are considering entering into a grand coalition. It would make some sense - their parties, although the biggest are the closest together on the political spectrum. Both have also been running campaigns encouraging tactical voting to prevent smaller parties making gains.
|Thursday, March 12th, 2015|
. Terry Pratchett has died.
I didn't expect that for a good few years.
|Tuesday, March 10th, 2015|
It's funny how you don't notice noises until they disappear.
I finally invested in an SSD for my desktop. It was taking a good 2 minutes to boot Windows 7, so for just over £50 I picked up an SSD on Amazon. Annoyingly, it shipped without a SATA cable, meaning I had to spend a whole 79p on Ebay* and wait another day while one arrived. Fitting it took about 3 minutes, then it was simply a case of using Macrium to clone the Windows partition on my existing hard disk. The process took about 90 minutes, and then annoyingly the thing wouldn't boot. The SSD was there and all the windows files were present and correct, but it wouldn't boot from it. After a bit of head scratching, came the realisation that I had forgotten to also clone the boot partition, so had to redo the process all over again. Another 90 minutes later and hey presto - it works. The machine now boots up in just over 15 seconds - result.
And so to the strange noises. It had never really occurred to me before how noisy a hard disk is. The SSD on the other hand is completely silent. Normally, even if the PC is idle, the hard drive is pretty much constantly in action. But as it now only has my music, videos, and other miscellaneous files on it, it when you actually decide to access one of those, it has to spin up and you hear it doing so. The you hear it whirring and clicking as it fires into action. Noises which were presumably there constantly in the past, but which the brain just ignores.* Considering postage costs them 49p - how do they make money at that price?
|Saturday, February 28th, 2015|
AC/DC playing the hokey-pokey. Have never heard of this guy before, but he absolutely nails the impression of both Angus and Brian.
|Wednesday, February 18th, 2015|
I take it that the 50 Shades of Grey film is doing good business at the box office.
On Monday night we went to see another mystery film. Now our local Odeon isn't massive - it has only 5 screens - but the other 4 were all showing 50 Shades of Grey all day - on a loop. Their decision to show no other films seems to have been a good one as not only was the car park full, there were cars parked on every conceivable verge or bit of tarmac and down both sides of the road for about a quarter mile in each direction. I've seen the car park just about full on a Saturday night before, but this was a Monday.
Anyway our mystery time turned out to be a horror film called It Follows, which was utterly brilliant. It's a "pass on the hex" story, the basic premise of which is that there is a creature only one character can see which follows them slowly. Like Michael Myers, it's easy to outrun (or outdrive), but it will never give up its slow, plodding pursuit. Until that is you have sex - at which point it turns its attention to the person you just slept with - until it kills them and then it moves back down the chain. The film is made really well and rather than being action-packed is full of long scenes building up spine-tingling tension. If you like chillers, this would be worth seeing.
|Thursday, February 12th, 2015|
Apparently ePipes are now a thing. I saw a chap puffing away on one earlier today. They definitely don't smell as nice as the real thing though.
For the record, I'm a non-smoker and dislike the smell of cigarettes and cigars, but for some reason have always loved the smell of a pipe. I have no idea why but form talking to friends I am not alone in this.
A week or so ago we started watching Gotham and after about 14 episodes I'm hooked. It starts at the point where Bruce Wayne's parents are killed and goes on from there. It's part detective drama and half an introspective on the origins of the various major characters in the Batman universe.
On Monday we started watching The Bridge - the title comes from the bridge that runs from Copenhagen to Malmo. Essentially it's a murder mystery, but with some fascinating lead characters and a killer who is closer to a real-life version of The Joker than anything in Gotham. I was hooked about 5 minutes in from the moment the first body was discovered, cut into two pieces, and left slap bang on the border, half in Denmark and half in Sweden. It's apparently filmed in a mixture of Danish and Swedish, with the Swedish characters speaking in one language and the Danish in another. That makes me wonder how that works in Scandinavia? Is is subtitled, dubbed or do Swedes/Danes understand each other's languages?
We also started to watch How to Get Away with Murder, which I had heard good things about, but gave up after about 2 episodes. Homeland may also be off the watchlist next year. I made it through to the end of the series, but it's totally lost its way.
Hopefully The Bridge will keep us going until the end of the month when the third (and I assume final) series of House of Cards is released.
|Thursday, February 5th, 2015|
Wargh. I am lurgified. Woe is me! Steer clear of the plaguebearer.
Only I'm not. I seem to have the weirdest cold. Last Thursday until about Sunday I had your typical cold. Temperature, sore throat, using an infinite number of hankies......that sort of thing. Then sometime on Monday it went away and normality resumed.......until last night when I seem to have developed the most annoying cough in the world. Hacking, coughing up gunk, but no other symptoms whatsoever.
Virus - whatever you mutated into you are weird.
|Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015|
Finally got around to getting these pictures framed. We got them in Morocco last year, and although they are not the most impressive works or art, the technique used to paint them is what attracted me to them. ( Click for large photosCollapse )
The entire thing is painted using three paints, two of which are invisible. The finished picture is then waved over a gas flame, and as it heats up the image slowly appears.
It took me a while to figure out how they do it. The dark brown parts are painted using what he called "mint tea", but is in effect a concentrated sugar solution. This appears totally invisible until it is heated, at which point the sugar caramelises, and produces the dark brown areas. The yellow parts are painted using a liquid made by adding hot water to tiny amounts of saffron. Again it is virtually invisible until heated at which point it turns into a yellow shade. The blue parts are painted using indigo and so are always visible, but the vast majority of the work is done without being able to see what they are painting.
The town in the background is Aït Benhaddou, (which doubles for Yunkai in Game of Thrones
). Some of the buildings are 4 stories high, yet constructed using only mud and straw. That's some mighty impressive engineering.
|Friday, January 30th, 2015|
With most TV shows being in hiatus I seem to have spent the past few evenings catching up on B-movies.
First up was Sharknado 2, which was surprisingly good. The writers clearly understand the genre and the requirements of a sequel to outdo the original, but took that premis and turned it up to 11. In the first one there was some pretence of an explanation for the sharks being sucked up by the tornado. Not so in part 2, the scene opens with a plane flying through a fucking huge storm full of flying sharks. After that it gets far sillier
Odd Thomas was an interesting thriller about a man who can see the dead and also demon type creatures who are attracted to mayhem. The end was a little predictable, but it was nicely made nonetheless.
American Mary was superb. The main character is a medical student who turns to illegal plastic surgery when she runs out of money. Well that's the start - it gets a whole lot more disturbing as it goes along. So long as you don't mind gore (the film is about illegal body modification) I highly recommend it.
Detention appeared from the cover to be a run of the mill teen-slasher movie, but it's not. It's a film made in a style which I can only describe as surreal and breathneck (think Scott Pilgrim on steroids). At first I thought I was going to switch it off, but after the initial 10 minutes it turns into a really interesting film. One to watch again sometime.
And last night was Zombeavers, which was a whole lot of fun, although not one I would recommend watching without alcohol. I was particularly amused by how rigidly it stuck to the well established formula for making these films.
- College girls off for a weekend in a remote house - check.
- Shy girl, intelligent girl and slutty girl - check.
- Sensible guy, brooding guy, annoying jock - check
- Lots of topless shots within first half hour - check.
- Skinny dipping in a large lake - check.
- Mysterious dude with a gun hanging out in the woods - check.
- Really unrealistic creature effects - check
|Tuesday, January 27th, 2015|
There is a "scandal" type story going around the UK press about a cricketer, Stuart Broad, who tweeted "I've heard if you earn minimum wage in England you're in the top 10% earners in the world. #stay #humble."
This has been picked up by various tabloids and turned into some sort of scandal and he is apparently having to delete and then apologise for this tweet
But why? There is no scandal. He's right. If you work a normal 40 hour week in the UK on the minimum wage of £6.50/hour, your annual pay comes to £13,520. In terms of income, this would put you comfortably inside the top 10% of worldwide earners. I just wish people in this country would travel a bit more, and then perhaps they might appreciate how well off they are compared to an awful lot of countries in the world.
|Thursday, January 22nd, 2015|
Went to see a mystery film last night. Odeon have started something called "Screen Unseen" where they occasionally screen a film that hasn't yet been released. They cut the ticket price in half, but you don't know what the film will be. We've been three times now and each time the film has been well worth going to see.
The first time we went, it was Nightcrawler, which was a really good thriller. Then a couple of weeks ago they did it again, and the film turned out to be Whiplash, which was superb. Really superb, it's one of the best films Ive seen in ages. The film is about Jazz musicians (something I have very little interest in), and is essentially looking at the conflict between a talented drummer and his bullying music teacher. It explores the nature of genius and questions how far you have to push an individual to turn them into a great artist. It is a quite astonishingly well made film, which had both of us on the edge of our seats right until the end. I notice from some reviews that it seems to have picked up the tagline "Full Metal High-Hat", which seem quite appropriate.
And so to last night's mystery movie, which turned out to be "Selma". It's a biopic of Martin Luther King, although perhaps historical drama would be more appropriate as it covers only a tiny part of his life - the events in the town of Selma, Alabama which led up to Bloody Sunday. As someone who knows very little about US history, it was utterly fascinating. I suppose, like most non-US citizens, I knew about the march on Washington, and the "I Have A Dream" speech, but had very little knowledge of the campaigns and marches King kept up for a decade after that. It is yet another highly recommended film when it goes on general release in a few weeks time.
|Friday, December 19th, 2014|
We sat down last night about 9pm and decided to stick a film on. Postman Pat the Movie was amongst the current Lovefilm offerings, so we shoved the shiny disc into the Blu-Ray and sat down expecting 90 minutes of animated amusement, with maybe a mild hint of peril, and possibly the odd cat stuck up a tree.
What we saw was quite unexpected. The film is in fact a wicked satire of modern life disguised as a kids film. To start with the plot is basically that the post office is being privatised, and the new "evil" boss plans to replace all the postmen with robots because they are more efficient. Evil boss then cancels everyone's Christmas bonus so Pat can't afford to take his wife on holiday to Italy. By sheer co-incidence, a TV talent show is auditioning in Greendale, and the first prize includes a holiday to Italy. The talent show isn't called the X-Factor, but may as well be. The incredibly sarcastic host is even called Simon Cowbell.
Luckily for us Pat is a talented singer (who talks with an English accent but sounds rather like Ronan Keating when he sings), so he gets through to the live TV finals. What then follows is 45 minutes of mayhem as Pat alienates all his family as he fails to deal with his new-found instant fame, while the robot postmen are unleashed on Greendale. Robots which include Daleks, and eventually a army of robot postmen, who sound and march exactly like Cybermen. Oh and there is an evil Jess. A robot cat whose eyes glow red in the dark like The Terminator.
It's all voiced by pretty much every British actor you've ever seen. It's not the best animated film I've seen recently (that's The Lego Movie), but it is rather fun.
|Monday, November 17th, 2014|
I may just have watched the worst TV show ever made. Scorpion - the all new, much trailed, show which according to the trailers, features a team of the foremost geniuses in the world, solving complex, global problems. What it actually features is a group of painfully stereotyped "geeks" and the most bonkers plot ever written.
So in the first episode, it turns out that there is a bug in some software used by an airport, and a whole bunch of planes are going to crash if something isn't done. Cue our hero of the week, who is apparently a software genius or something. We know this because earlier he helped set up someone's Wi-Fi in a café. So genius guy comes up with a plan to save the day - reboot the dodgy software from a backup. Be still my beating heart for this is surely the most exciting plot ever devised.
But this is where the writers clearly started smoking crack. Where would you keep a backup version of software run on an airport's computers? You wouldn't have it on a server somewhere easily accessible - no it turns out that the only place you can get a copy is by downloading it from a plane. Seriously - this backup is onboard every single plane in the sky, but available nowhere else on the planet. So the plan is to get a plane to fly down the runway and download the required stuff via Wi-Fi (just as well we already established we have a bona fide Wi-Fi expert then eh!)
But the plan fails! So plan B (and I swear I am not making this up) is to get the plane to fly down the runway dangling a really long ethernet cable underneath it, the other end of which is plugged into our hero's laptop in a fast-moving jeep. Not land the plane and plug in the cable - no that would be far too
sensible boring for TV.
Think I may pass on episode 2.
|Wednesday, October 15th, 2014|
I finally got around to watching the Monty Python reunion show. Wow - what a disappointment. I was tempted to get tickets when it was first announced, but am now really glad we didn't bother paying the £100+ they were charging for tickets
About 50% of the show seemed to consist of animations and excerpts from the TV show being played on big screens. I get that they have to fill time between costume and set changes, but it seemed the video clips were the majority of the show.
Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam seemed to be giving it their all and having a cracking time doing so. Terry Jones was only in a couple of sketches and Eric Idle did all the songs but seemed somehow flat. John Cleese on the other hand was most definitely dialling it in via Skype. Really seemed like he just wanted to get it over and done with.
Several numbers were performed entirely by the chorus. They were talented enough singers/dancers but if I'd paid a small fortune to be there I'd have expected the actual pythons to be performing every sketch.
All in all it seems a bit crap.