Just a quick note to wish you all a Merry Christmas.
Here is a news article about an old friend of mine. I have known him since I was 4! Puts life into perspective.
How good a film is Transformers!
Serena and I watched it last night on BluRay and we were both shocked as to how good it was.
The effects of course dominate, but do not feel overdone or out of place.
Neither Serena nor I knew much about the plot (despite my Kids cartoon background) and we felt that the pacing of the plot and the characters were excellent.
I think the biggest thing that surprised us though was the amount of humour that was in the film. We were expecting a gritty action-fest, but this really was aimed at kids as well, and hence humour was used very well to lower the tension.
A big thumbs up for Michael Bay!
Life has been so hectic recently I think I blogged about something only to find I didn't!
Anyway, I just want to add something extra to my post "Slipping..." below.
The best thing for me about Mamma Mia is that it "De-Gays" Abba, bringing it back to being acceptable. I was pleased to see that the 16 year old lad on X-Factor also admitted that Abba was his favourite group and was happy to sing one of their songs.
All in all, I hope this allows me to dispute Gareth's comment on my last post!
I have been trying hard recently to not allow my terrible taste in music to dominate my life.
e.g. I have not been watching the X-Factor at all. I have not been listening to Abba, Meatloaf, Kylie or Britney in the car!!!
However this last week has seen me slipping back to form...
1/ Mamma Mia! Oh Boy! I can't help myself! It has been watched twice since Tuesday (the second time with the Sing Along Lyrics on screen)!!!!!!!!!!!!
2/ I recorded the X-Factor results show last night just to watch Britney. Very disappointing! Plus her arse was definitely too large for those shorts - not pretty!
Ho Hum! Time for some Bat Out of Hell!
Two words that are so emotive, and generally (in my experience) give such a negative connotation to something brilliant.
Well DND is continuing to evolve. We have had some terrible films; a pretty average MMORPG version; some excellent PC Games (Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate being the pinnacles for me) and finally DND Insider.
Here is a good intro-video on the BBC web-site.
And here is the real web-site.
I like the look of the dungeon builder tool (coming soon) and at $5 a month it looks a steal to me compared to something like World of Warcraft or Everquest!
Well I have taken a good few days before sitting down to write this review of Quantum of Solace. This has been a very deliberate choice as I wanted to ruminate on the experience a bit before I rushed to any conclusions.
Now that I have you all worried, let me state that this is a good film, I am just not convinced that it ticks all the boxes as a "Bond Film".
Action - most definitely Yes, with the biggest BUT attached... the director and cinematographer have produced action sequences so frenetic it is all but impossible to absorb them, which results in the impressive stunts being difficult to appreciate. The pre-title sequence is heart-breaking (in it's treatment of a gorgeous DB-S), and I am certain the driving skills are magnificent, but it is over in the blink of an eye and you are left feeling "WTF just happened there?". Next we have some more free running that pales in comparison to Casino Royale's stomach churning first big chase. Skipping forward to the end we have the "usual" destruction of the Bad Guy's lair, and again the only real enemy on show is "fire".
Bad Guy - I miss Elliot Carver! Our modern Bad Guy could almost be my Boss on a bad day! Sure he is "nasty" but you never really get a sense of the motivations or madness that is driving him. In the end is just comes down to scary eyes!
Girls - We have two token Bond Girls here, of which only Gemma Arterton is true "Bond Girl" with the ridiculous name of Strawberry Fields! Not that this is a bad thing as Olga Kurylenko's character is more about plot and character than sex.
M - Dame Judi is excellent as always, although I would like to have seen her snatch up a gun at one point and shoot one of the baddies who double-crossed her!
Gadgets - None, beyond Sony product placements.
Pithy One Liners - Hmmm, if they were there (and I am sure they were), then I can't remember a single one.
In fact I think that last one summarises the film for me as a whole. There is so little memorable about it. If you had cast Matt Damon and called it "The Bourne Explosion", then I think it would have worked just as well.
Perhaps I am being harsh? Don't get me wrong in general the cast are all outstanding, with special nods going to Giancarlo Giannini reprising the role of Mathis from Casino Royale and Olga Kurylenko as the seriously damaged Camille. It is just that it didn't work for me as a Bond Film. I didn't care about the plot and I didn't really hate the Bad Guys. What I did care about was Bond, Mathis, Agent Fields, M and Camille.
Overall this is a Bond Film, but only just. It is a good follow on from Casino Royale, in as much as it ties up the loose ends and gives Bond some measure of solace (if not revenge) and will hopefully allow him to move forward, now that we have seen his character grow.
So my score.... I think 6/10 is fair. More "Licence to Kill" than "Goldfinger"!
Alex and I finally managed to sort out our "diary issues" and met up in Kingston for dinner last night.
I can't believe how long it had been since we last met up... Anyway it was really good to catch-up and to here all the gossip about his trip to Cornwall with Julian!
For 1 Point - What film uses this as it's central image?
For 6 Points - What is significant about this intersection?
For 3 Points - Who recently had a car crash here?
For 10 Points - Who claimed to have spent time here?
(Had to borrow the photo - mine didn't come out)
I have a T-Shirt similar to this and after Yesterday's debacle it suited my mood, so I stuck it on this morning as I headed out the door taking the girls to nursery.
Once that job was done I popped to Richmond Sainsburys to pick up some groceries and found that they were filming a commercial. Anyway I whizzed round grabbing my bits and bobs and was suddenly greeted with a "CUT! I don't think Mr Grumpy is quite what Sainsburys are looking to advertise as a typical customer!". I had accidentally walked through shot as one of the "assistants" hadn't been paying attention.
I had to smile as I scurried off again!
PS Fake babies look really creepy!
We've been burgled! (Last night!)
2 wallets and my BlackBerry nicked and then they probably legged it as both Jocey and Serena's Mum were up and about a lot in the night, so they decided it was too risky.
The big question is how the #### did they get in?
I reckoned our front door was pretty secure but somehow they have removed the chain, undone a dead-lock and then slipped the Yale.
The door was securely locked at midnight (I checked) and then wasn't at 6.30 am when I came downstairs.
They clearly left that way, but if they got in another way I am stumped to know how!!!
New BlackBerry coming tomorrow, and replacement credit/debit cards coming in 5-7 days. Hopefully my replacement driving licence will come before the trip to the USA as well, or else I won't be driving!
Wow, how dark is the new Batman film!
Serena and I got time out to go to the cinema at the weekend and nipped off to a matinee performance of The Dark Knight.
What a different film. I almost feel like I didn't enjoy it as it is so bleak!
Visually the film is stunning and the audio also rocked our socks off (if anything the cinema had turned it up to 11)!
I can't really fault a single actor either, but for me Aaron Eckhart stood out as Harvey Dent.
A lot of media had been produced around Heather Ledger's performance as The Joker, and I admit it was scarily out of character for him, and an extremely believable performance of a psychopath, however I don't know if it warrants an Oscar. But then did Anthony Hopkins deserve a Best Actor nod for Silence of the Lambs? (Best Supporting Actor maybe?)
Anyway, the film scores 8/10 from me, but if you do go along don't expect to leave the cinema in an upbeat mood!
On Thursday night I was nearly home with the girls in the back of my car when a Van failed to stop at a Give Way sign and did this:
My Car is a write-off!
Resigning myself to car sharing with Serena until we get a new car, we headed out to work on Friday morning only to find that Serena had a flat tyre! It took me 10 minutes to change it (according to Serena - I wasn't timing it) and I then got everyone else at School / Work before heading to Kwik Fit.
Well Serena finally caved in and allowed me to buy a Nintendo Wii.
But how do you get the scarcest commodity on the planet without selling a kidney? I am talking about Wii Fit.!
Nowhere in the UK has them at RRP (and I am not paying £150).
I have ordered one from Amazon.de (95 Euros) with an estimated shipping time of 1 month, but if I find one more locally then I can always cancel.
I resisted the urge to go mad on games for now... I will content myself with Lego Indy and Wii Play (Wii Sports came free).
Whilst we are on the sensitive topics I would like to announce that I have solved one of the age old mysteries...
"Why do Men leave the toilet seat up?"
Women assume that this is pure laziness. Actually it is very good manner!
Men are generally a bit less dignified on the loo than our female counterparts, which means things can get messy, especially after some macho-curry-eating session! There is nothing more terrifying than walking into a gents public loo and opening the cubicle and finding the toilet lid down! Who knows what mess has been left behind my an underpowered flush? To find out you are going to have to get really close to lift the lid! Which is surely unhygienic in its own right?
However if the seat had been left up we would see at a glance whether it was safe to approach or not - pure courtesy!
This could get messy so don't read on if you are slightly squeamish!
I am bemused about the design of some pharmaceutical products.
I was a bit under the weather last weekend which resulted in me being constipated. I eventually had a "break through" but it left my bum more than a bit sore.
Being a man I worked through the pain (so to speak) but it hasn't gone away and I finally resigned myself to going to Boots for some sort of remedy.
I found an ointment and a spray, and also being a man decided to buy both "just in case".
Now the ointment I can figure out for myself. You put some on your finger and then stick your finger where it hurts. So why include an optional long nozzle? I am not likely to stick the tube up my bum just to get the cream to the area that is sore - that would seem like a path leading to "over-dispensing".
Now we turn to the spray. Here I was expecting something that allowed fine control, but no - what you get is a small pump-action bottle akin to an old fashioned breath freshener. How does that help me. I would need a mirror and a third hand just to get close to spraying in the right direction! A better design would be surely something like a Sinex nose spray. Then at least you are fairly confident that your are spraying in the right direction!
First part of the Steven Moffat Dr Who double header is coming up on Saturday...
The BBC are pushing it hard and I am deliberately changing channels to not watch the trailer!
I hope he stays true to form... This series has been OK so far, but could do with a real humdinger!
I am saddened that Russell T Davies has decided to step down from helming Doctor Who for Season 5. He has done a sterling job and he will be missed.
However replacing him will be Steven Moffat writer of Coupling, The Empty Child, The Girl in the Fireplace and the BAFTA winning Blink. Clearly there is a God! If I could have picked one person to take over it would have been Steve!
So T-Mobile made me an offer for 2 new Blackberries and were prepared to throw in a PS3 and a Wii.
I phoned up Orange to get my PAC codes and they made me a counter offer...
No fancy freebies but similar minutes, texts, email and data to T-Mobile at about 2/3 of the monthly price; the WiFi versions of the phones instead of the GPS versions, and across the two contracts, £180 of cash-back.
When you compare the two contracts over 18 months, the Orange one comes out £630 cheaper but doesn't give you the two consoles. The two consoles have a street price of under £500 so this is a no-brainer for me and Serena. We stay with Orange and buy the Wii soon and the PS3 a bit later.
Oh and we have to wait until 22 May for the new phones as that is when our current contract ends. Big deal!
I really want both a PS3 and a Nintendo Wii.
Now clearly at the moment I don't have hundreds of pounds to throw around and so this is pretty much a pipe dream.
Then I had a dawning realisation...
May 2008 is Mobile Phone Contract renewal time for both Serena and I. I am no longer precious about changing my number (although Serena might be), so I reckon I will go for a good deal and worry about the number afterwards.
I had intended to go direct to Orange like always, but looking around I can get a better deal from the likes of The Link or Carphone Warehouse AND I can choose a free PS3 or Wii. Since I have 2 phone contracts to upgrade I reckon that means I could get both!
I need to check the fine print, but I see the start of a beautiful friendship coming! (Although I may not get the phone I really want - Blackberry - with the deal).
Happy Birthday Will!
I didn't know that St George only formally became England's patron saint after we won the Battle of Agincourt!
Happy Deathday Will!
I also never knew that the day on which we celebrate Will Shakespeare's birthday is actually a mistake by an 18th century historian. He mixed it up with his date of death, as Shakespeare's birthday is not recorded!
The new Media Centre PC currently has an old Heat Sink on the CPU as the silent one I bought broke when I tried to install it.
Serena emailed Zalman direct on Sunday morning about the broken clip and one arrive in the post yesterday morning, no questions asked.
Now that is good customer service in my books!
The choices are:
#12 Slim Pickings @ 11/1
#11 Butler's Cabin @ 14/1
#16 Snowy Morning @ 16/1
#29 Cornish Sett @ 80:1
#10 Fundamentalist @ 66/1
#31 Tumbling Dice @ 125/1
I couldn't choose between the two outsiders so my bet becomes £120 down.
Those that know me well will know that I always like to have a flutter on the Grand National. Due to my addictive personality I generally won't bet at other times as I don't want to get myself into a mess, but once a year I allow myself a bit of fun!
I can't say that I have a particular formula or method, other than picking some horses based on their colours, some based on their name and usually one based on my reading of the form.
Past experience has shown that I usually do better with the former two methods rather than the latter!
This year I'll pick one horse for each of my girls (although I may let Serena and Lauren choose their own) and a then two others one based on form and one with odds or 50-1 or more.
I always bet each way so you get more chance of getting your money back if one horse places. e.g. A £10 each way bet (costs £20). If the odds are 50-1 then you can get three possible outcomes:
Horse Wins = £10 x 50 + £10 x 50/4 + £20 = £645. (£10 at full odds, £10 at quarter odds and return of full stake)
Horse comes 2nd, 3rd or 4th = £10 x 50/4 + £10 = £135. (£10 at quarter odds and return of half stake)
Horse does not come in top 4 = £0. (Nothing)
Once the bets are laid I'll write them up here.
My form in the past two years is:
2006 - Bet £100, Won £220
2007 - Bet £100, Won £432.50
Once again I am off to the seaside for some training.
This time it is Brighton and I am only there for 2 days and the training course is titled "The Meaning of Life"! I expect them to teach me to suck eggs (compulsory course), but it is two days away from my "real job"!
Hopefully there is no-one controversial staying tomorrow night!
I can't claim that it worked first time, but after a Bios update, Windows finally recognised the fact that my motherboard had onboard sound and installed drivers for it.
EQ2 looks a bit better (it's an old game that can only be taken so far) but Crysis is playable (as opposed to a laggy slideshow) and looks gorgeous.
I'll try and work out some screenies.
Oh and the biggest success...
My new slipstreamed install disk for Windows XP.
My install disk is pre-SP1 and needs SATA drivers to be installed from a floppy drive (which the new PC doesn't have).
Using nLite, Nero and a lot of help from Paul Thurrott's excellent website, I made a Windows XP SP2 disk, which included the SATA drivers. Next time I'll try and incorporate all the MoBo drivers and make it unattended as well.
Serena's birthday present came today...
It's a new PC to replace her Athlon XP 2800, which we have had for nearly 6 years!
I always feel nervous when building and installing a new machine, and am hoping that the technology gods have been appeased by the offering of my older machine as a sacrifice!
Rather than build one we bought direct from CyberPower as their systems get excellent reviews and we cannot beat them on price either!
Anyway, as I write this the system is currently installing Windoze!
My little repair shop man has tested everything that he can and has given me a two possibilities....
Either I have killed the processor - 80%
Or I have done something really odd to the Motherboard - 10%
Or Both - 10%
This means that my hopes that I had just blown the PSU are of no avail.
A replacement processor is about £25 on EBay, and the motherboard would make it a write-off and I don't think second hand ones are worth the hassle.
Budget will not allow me to spend £800-900 on a new system so I have to try the EBay route first.
OK, this one needs a bit of placement for my wider audience...
This is a fan-vid from EverQuest2 and relates to a special quest reward called Brell's Keg which summons beer. This quest is only available during the week around St Patrick's Day and Serena and I did it at the weekend.
Still fresh from the high of importing components from Germany to get my PC working again, I was investigating a loud fan noise this morning and I did something really stupid!
I won't go into specifics, but the end results was sparks and alarms (from the PC) and finally a PC that won't boot.
Serena is going to accuse me of sabotaging my PC so that I have to get a new one - I can tell!
Well my replacement video card finally arrived from Germany and the Dyson man repaired our vacuum cleaner for free, as it took him seconds and the cause of the loss of power was not our fault (his words).
I normally get a bit depressed at this time of year and always wrote it off to SAD and I was going to blog to say that thankfully this year I seemed to have been spared, but it looks now that Serena is really down.
I am certain this is down to living with two sick kids and having money pour between our fingers for a month, rather than anything seasonal, but still I hope Lauren being back at nursery and a bit more good luck will improve things!
If not I will need to buy more Green and Blacks chocolate!
So let's take a quick summary of the last 4 weeks...
We are nearly £1,000 worse off than we were at the start of the month and neither of us has had a decent night's sleep in far too long.
We give in! No more please!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Anyone who has talked technology with me in the last month, will not have been shocked by the delay of the Euro launch of the PS3 as I have been predicting it.
Just reading a couple of news sites made it perfectly clear that Sony was way behind in building the PS3 and wouldn't have enough (more than 5 million units needed) for a glocal release. Even more scary is that they may only manage 1 million units for November, which would mean the US would only get 500,000 or so (demand there was predicted to be 10 times that number).
However, does the delay mean that HD-DVD will get a head start over Blu-ray?
I had been predicting that Blu-ray would win the format war, solely on the back of the PS3.
Most consumers are smart enough to wait for the format war to settle down before buying new kit and I reckoned the Christmas rush for the PS3 and its built in Blu-ray player would result in a big enough market share to kill HD-DVD pretty quickly.
Even more weird is the concept that Blu-ray will win in Japan and the US, but Europe and Oz will pick HD-DVD. Not a problem for film distributors, as their content is localised anyway, but hardware manufacturers won't like it. In the end I expect that Blu-ray would be forced upon us by the Japan/US technology market.
Anyway, Sony has fumbled the ball and it remains to see if this could be their undoing.
Way back I postulated that Blu-Ray would eventually win the HD format wars, based solely on the integration with the PS3.
Looks like I was right as Toshiba (the main HD-DVD technology producer) has decided to pull out of that format following the mass evacuation of its original supporters. I'm so glad I didn't leap on that bandwagon. Especially since I would have picked HD-DVD as the superior format!!!!
I love urban myths, but I get a secret grin when I tell people some things that I know to be facts and they dismiss them as Urban Myths or me pulling their leg!
My first example is the hard disk in the freezer trick! If your PC won't boot up and you reckon this is down to a hard disk drive failure then if all things fail I suggest taking the drive out and wrapping it up in cling film or a sealed freezer bag (must be air tight) and then leaving it in the freezer for an hour. The most common cause of HDD failure is component seizure and rapid cooling can unstick a stuck drive. However the problem is very likely to recur so this only gives you about 15-30 mins of cold life during which you should back up everything you can from that disk.
My second example is very much a last resort and will only work for a self acknowledged geek. We all know that in Voodoo rituals you often require the blood of a freshly sacrificed chicken, but given that techno geeks tend to steer clear of anything fresh or bloody, I can confirm that waving frozen chicken portions over a dead PC, three times clockwise and three times anti-clockwise gives a true believer the ability to reboot a stalled system!
If you do find the two tricks above don't work for you all I can say is that (a) the hard disk is REALLY fucked or (b) your faith / geekiness is not true enough.
1997 Honda Civic in Red.
One careful owner (and me).
Be warned that this car has a sense of humour and likes to breakdown when it is most inconvenient.
Example 1: I am in Twickenham and I have to drive to Luton Airport to fly up to Edinburgh... Car refuses to start and I end up needing a new battery and making my flight by literally seconds.
Example 2: I am at Lauren's nursery and it is dark, she is tired and wants her tea... Car won't start and ends up needing a new starter motor. Fortunately the AA gave me priority service due to Lauren's presence in the car so I was bump started home within 30 mins.
Given that Example 2 was last night, I am very glad that it is pay day today.
Annoyingly Serena and I had already decided to go car hunting this weekend and the car could have been off our hands before the repair was needed... I have a feeling that the cost of this repair is going to be a nasty shock.
Oh, yeah... How much? I'll take £1,500 for cash. I fact, I'll take £1,000 if you promise to remove it quickly!!!!