Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 comes to a close...

Yep, it's that time of year again...

Let's start from the er, start, shall we :). Not the start of the year, that would take too long, and my memory is not that good. That's why we have this blog :).

Despite my desk falling to bits again (this time the bearings in the runners have disappeared down the back somewhere so I don't think I'll ever get that fixed), I have actually managed (with help) to diagnose the graphics problems my computer is having, and was able to fix them completely. Turns out that my graphics card was overheating, which was the cause of the graphics going all weird (screenshots on link). What followed was an experiment with an unorthodox cooling solution, which despite looking weird, actually worked very well.

I'll explain more in a moment, but I want to get to the shops before it turns into a seething mass of schoolkids. Back soon!

16:00. Right. I have long since returned from the shops and watched an episode of future weapons on discovery turbo (how long's that been going then?) I have, with considerable difficulty, managed to punch, kick and slam my beer into the fridge to make it fit, clearing all the other crap like potato salad and melon out of the way. At the shops I noted with some wry amusement that they were almost completely sold out of White Star cider, so at least all the local street kids will be keeping themselves entertained this evening. Me? I plumped for a case of football hooligan fuel - Carling. Mmmmm Carling. Anyway, back to the computer.

I've since relocated one of the fans so it's now blowing air over the graphics card, and out through the back, and that's reduced the problem and cooled the card down, which means both my games are working. Which means I'd really rather be playing them than doing this, hehe.

Anyway, I'm not going to do a big long "well this is a review of 2007" because everyone and his uncle have done that. Besides which, I'd rather look ahead to next year, and see what that brings. A lot of things happened in 2007 (stating the obvious there right) and I daresay a lot are gonna happen next year.
Let's hope 2008 goes well for me, you, and everyone else who isn't a middle eastern religious zealout terrorist type.

I'm gonna go and play need for speed or something like that for a bit :).

17:22. Okay, I've heard the first fireworks of the night, someone's started already. Apparently though, it's already 2008 in Australia - that's right, at 1PM GMT (about 5 hours ago) Australia entered 2008 with a spectacular fireworks display.
I've got my beer, got my burgers, and I've got to clean this place up unless I want to enter 2008 living in a messy rats maze!

18:58. Right, now my room is just about tidy, I've cleared all the rubbish and crap out, and watched the last of the evening news while doing so.

21:37. I'm sat here thinking about the new year, and thinking especially of what will happen during 2008. What about this time next year, when everyone is celebrating new year's eve, 2009? Where will I be? Will I be home with my family? Will I be overseas with other soldiers? Will I still be alive on new year's eve 2008? I'm looking forward to 2008 with a lot of excitement and a lot of nerbousness. If all goes well, 2008 is going to be the most demanding year of my life so far. Either way, it will be interesting to see what's coming. As Havelock Vetinari said, "All we can do is sing as we go".

At this point then, there's nothing to do but wait, and I'd like to take the opportunity to our armed forces a safe and victorious new year, our emergency services a safe and successful new year, and each of you, a safe and prosperous new year. I hope tonight's celebrations go, are going, or have gone, well for you, wherever you are.

I'll be back after the new year, but I wish you all the best for 2008, as well as a fantastic evening tonight.
Andy.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

That's me done for the year.

Yes indeed, no more work at all, this year. Nothing but relaxing and spending time with family, like Christmas, but without the good food and the presents.

Yes, in an effort to mitigate the last (disastrously frank!) drunken post, I am writing a much more... conservative drunken post.

Thankfully I have now finished work, after two interminable days of people phoning up to complain for random reasons that had nothing to do with me. One occasion comes to mind - a gentleman who phoned up yesterday. Bloody hell, getting information out of him was like drawing teeth, in the end I ended up being completely frank and telling him, professionalism aside, that if he didn't give me the information I asked for, he would have to phone back after I cut him off.
This seemed to do the trick, and he got to talking about how he wasn't able to rehome his dog and how he was sick of being bounced from one number to another (the one number that could help him was closed that day, and had an answerphone message telling him to phone us for emergencies - obviously he phoned us, rehoming is not an emergency, go back to your local center etc etc).
Evidently he wasn't happy wth that, and I have to admit, once I'd got over the fact that I had a genuine arsy caller on the line, I was beginning to enjoy myself. "What do you want the second part of my postcode for?" "South east london's a big place" "no it isn't" etc etc...

Anyway this dude eventually asked for my supervisor, and after explaining that "You're right, when I say I will be gone a second, it does not mean exactly 1.00 seconds (you are so right!)" I explained to him that I would be gone as long as it took to find someone willing to talk to him, which to my surprise, placated him.

Of course, I selected a certain manager on my unit. I've worked with her for a while, and while she's a lovely fantastic person, I've known her to be a ferocious fire breather when you get on the wrong side of her. "Yes Mr X, you can speak to XYZ". And he did.
Except he didn't. He barely got a word in edgeways.
See, this guy had phoned up three times earlier in the day, and on one occasion had already spoken to manager XYZ. Evidently, she had told him where to go and it hadn't sunk in.

Needless to say he was left in no doubt as to where to get off, and as everyone in the vicinity watched with wide eyes, XYZ manager argued with him for a couple of minutes before cutting him off.

I spose I had to keep the grin on my face under control - to do otherwise would have been unprofessional.
So what else have I been up to? Today has been a soul crushing day of lost, injured and dead animals. One minute, it's pet owners phoning up to report their family pets missing, the next minute, it's a random passer by "i've hit a cat, i've seens someone else hit a cat" etc etc.
8 hours of it got pretty depressing.

Since I got back, I have been mostly sleeping, then after my graphics problems, I took the computer downstairs and had it in bits, all the fans and graphics card came out. I removed about 20kg of dust off them and reassembled the computer. I reassembled it correctly on the second attempt.

And I have to admit, to a degree it worked. Unreal tournament 3 has become much more reliable, and I actually managed to get in a good half hour's play before it crashed, during which time the GPU temp shot up from (an idle of) 41.1C to 64.1C. I don't know whether it is overheating or not, I couldn't say.

Unreal tournament 3 is a really incredibly fantastic game, and I have to thank my brother for going and getting it me (apparently it was the image of the game box on this blog that showed him the correct game to buy - yes folks, my blog is useful for something other than ranting and venting)...

The graphics are absolutely incredible, and in the short (15 month) life of this computer, UT3 is the first software I have seen make this computer skip. That's right, with an AMD X2 processor, 3gb or ram and a 256mb Geforce 7900Gt card, this computer will skip frames on ut3 (rarely!!!) - the graphics are that good.

The game is an absolute blast to play, it's a quantum leap on UT2003. The vehicles are absolutely incredible, and for someone that has gone from UT2003 to UT3, they add a whole new dimension to the game. They're well balanced - the Axon tanks for example, can blow vehicles apart in a few shots, whereas the necris fliers have weaker weapons but are incredibly fast.

One sticks in my mind though, It belongs to the opposing team, known as the "Necris". The vehicle is called the "Darkwalker".

For those of you that are unfamiliar with that absolutely horriffic bastardised version of War of The Worlds (Starring T*m C*uis* [I hate the sod]) the Necris Darkwalker is a 40 foot high walking tripod that bears a great similarity to the aliens' main weapon featured in the film (which in turn is ripped off from a story that predates it by a century). Topping the three disturbingly alien, wickedly pointed tentacles that this machine walks on is a glowing ball of energy, and topping this is a great metal canopy containing two crew, one of whom aims and fires the auxiliary weapons, while the other pilots the walker, and controls the primary weapons - two particle cannon and a "shout" attack.

What sticks in my mind about the darkwalker, what makes it creepy, disturbing, perhaps even scary, is not only the fact that it moves in such an alien way, each tentacle moving independently, singlemindedly, completely apart from the others, each writhing and thrashing, stabbing into the ground as the head of this alien machine remains completely steady, no.
It's not the huge shadows that fall behind this immense machine, nor its speed. This thing strides across the battlefield, unleashing its "shout" attack - a tremendous alien cry of such power and intensity that it forces any attackers back away across the battlefield, to deter anyone from striking before it can unleash its weapons.
And It's weapons are equally disturbing, described in the game manual as two "side mounted particle cannon", the weapons are portrayed as being two hellishly bright particle beams that scythe great arcs across the terrain, killing and destroying every person and vehicle in their path. And while the tripod disgorges the immense power of its cannon, it rends the air with the most distinctive and unsettling screaming roar, as if celebrating the impact of its devastating weapons.

"As it struck all five fighting machines exulted emitting deafening howls which roared like thunder"

So what can I say, returning to the real world, UT3 is absolutely amazing, particularly now I can actually play the game without it crashing every 5 minutes. Obviously there are still a few loose ends that need to be tied up, but at least the game is now playable. As for the weapons and the atmosphere of the game, well just read the above. Sandstorms, lightning, n othing is left to the imagination, and UT3 portrays the whole bloody image of combat, featuring these incredibly destructive and imaginative vehicles, not to mention the equally destructive weapons that are there to bring them down.

9.5 out of 10 - if unreal 3 was actually made to work with Nvidia cards, it would be 10/10. Once I get over the hardware problems, it will get 100% from me. In the meantime, it's merely an awesome game.

Anyway, I'm off to chill, then off to bed.
Here. Have a gawk at the Necris Darkwalker. Then imagine it striding towards you, firing those god awful weapons and emitting that piercing cry.

What a game!


Thursday, December 27, 2007

"All Right Now"

I've come back to this post and given it a little editing to tidy it up. Contrary to what it says in the post, I was very, very drunk when I wrote this...

As Paul Rodgers of "Free" did sing (seriously, it's a good tune, despite what the awful sound quality and incredibly unbelievable, I'd almost say DELIBERATLEY bad video quality of this apparently original music video.


Christ in a shopping cart, Surely as soon as Queen released "Bohemian Rhapsody" every single other musician out there must have sure realised that the best thing they could do with their camcorders, which surely weighed 40 pounds and were 2 foot by 1 foot, at the time, would be to put up MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS FOR SALE! advertisements.

So what point did I actually have to make...
Yeah. "All Right Now".

Apparently, Christmas is over. That's right. As far as the stores are concerned, the guy who sang "it's the most wonderful time of the year" arrived on the roof in a helicopter and left out the back in a dumpster. That's right, as soon as it turns 00:00.01 on December the 25th, you are mincemeat, if you work in a store. That's right.
If you work as a temp, if you work as a clerk, Jesus fchrist on a horse, if you work as santa, in santa's grotto, you have less chance of survival than a donut in a police station, I swear.

So yeah, to all intents and purposes, christmas is over. I'm sat here with my pressies. I've broken one of them (i fixed it again) and I'm just sat here chilling out.

Merry er, normal winter december day.

So what happens now? Well at the minute I am sat, at the ungodly hour of 05:32 in the morning, drinking australian lager, listening to the best (some might say the worst, I say the best!) in European fantasy metal, Rhapsody [of fire, as they are now called!], fantastic tunes.
So yeah, I'm sitting here chilling out. I hope you lot are doing the same...

My point, sadly, is that it is no longer Christmas. But on the good side, we always have kinda a buffet type thing. It's cool, it's nice. I hope it goes ahead. If not, sure I'll just bitch about it or whatever. Still, I hope it goes ahead :).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

22:23PM.

Okay, I've not been on during the day because to be honest, I've been quite hungover/asleep from this morning. I fell asleep while listening to Billy Connolly's "Was It Something I Said" tour (my fault - too much alcohol - the dvd is probably the funniest DVD I have!

I woke up and we had a proper sit-down dinner again, a repeat of yesterday's. I was initially worried after I heard signs of arguing downstairs that seemed to go on for quite a while - I was kinda worried that we'd have a repeat of last year's christmas dinner. As it happens though, everyone was civil and we had a pleasant meal.

So what else have I been up to? I have been mostly finishing my Challenger 2 model, and I have only the two front CIP panels to put on, as well as the other four to paint white. Apart from that and a couple of transfers, the model that I started at 6pm yesterday, is now completely finished!
So, I've been spending loads of time listening to Armake21's "games that suck" reviews on youtube, it's nice to have some humour keeping me company.

Now I've done for the day, I'm gonna grab something to eat, chill out, and drink even more beer! Later!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day!!!

00:01AM.

Yep, after finishing the last of the presents ready for later I come upstairs to see that it has only just become Christmas Day. That's it now, no more run up to christmas, no more preparing, no more looking forward, this is the real deal. In twelve hours, we'll be in the thick of Christmas Day, and I've got to admit that I'm looking forward to it, albeit with a degree of nervousness. Today is hopefully gonna work out really well. I know for my nephew it's gonna be fantastic, he's got so many presents from the lot of us we'll prolly have to hold Christmas outside the house, and form a human chain to get his pressies out!

So, all that aside, returning to the present, my bedclothes are still drying in the drier downstairs and I'm just chilling out. As I'm sat here listening to the radio playing christmas tunes, I'd like those of you reading to join me in thinking about our soldiers, sailors and airmen, our loved ones, fathers, mothers, sons daughters, brothers and sisters, all serving overseas. I spose for them, today is just another day, so I am, at this very minute, going to grab one of my cans of beer, and I would like you, if not right now, to at least when you read this, join me in toasting our military overseas, as well as all the soldiers etc of our allies. Sure you might not support the wars they're now involved in, but at least support our guys :).

Right
I've got a can of fosters in front of me, I'd like you all to join me in a toast to our lads.
Cheers lads, merry Xmas :).

So what am I gonna do now? Right now I think I'm just gonna carry on chilling, maybe have another beer. Later I want to play on Xplane maybe, and I'm in the mood to watch some more of Armake21's "Games that suck" reviews.

But for now, I'd like to take the opportunity to wish you all a very merry christmas of your own. I hope today is good to you :).

Peace all.

08:20AM.

Ok, the rest of the night proceeded pretty much to plan, I had a few (just 3) beers beore going through the laborious job of rebuilding my bed and having a shower.
I got to sleep fairly easily, but like most people before Xmas, I ended up waking up a couple of times during the night.
Well, time to get dressed I spose, the folks will be round soon. Take care! :)

13:14PM.

Okay, so I went downstairs after being called to help (actually my mum screamed up the stairs for me to help) getting the place ready for christmas. It seems that we had too many people and not enough space, and this was compounded by the fact that we were surrounded by squillions of presents. And at this precise moment, I have just been shouted for dinner. I must run down there and take my seat before Grandad or else he will end up standing around waiting for me!
Oh well, we'll carry on in a bit...

15:02PM.

Right, that's Christmas Dinner over with, and I've got to say, it was a really nice, if very unhealthy, Christmas Dinner. Plenty of the usual, crispy roast potatoes, bizarre gravy, and the usual turkey and stuff.
Anyway, to pick up where I left off...

We were surrounded by squillions of presents, and my mum gave me instructions before going off to get Grandad. Of course, my dad decided to come along and delegate at me for a bit, so for a while I was worried that I'd not actually get the living room sorted. Fortunatley though, my mum got back before long and we sorted out the presents just in time, as my nephew shows up along with my brother, sister and brother's fiancee/family friend, Sarah.

The opening presents went without incident. It used to be fairly regimented in past years, we'd take it in turns. This year, not only was I apathetic about the presents part, as I'd not asked for much, but the present opening turned into a free-for-all.

First off though, was a small present from my sister. I opened it and was very surprised to discover a load of gems, similar to the ones I'd been collecting. Some were cabochon cut stones, malachite and moonstone, nice but not precious, but also included were 5 trilliant cut peridot - REALLY nice stones, 5 square cut garnet, an unidentified stone (we suspect it is smoky quartz) in a round cut, and an opal. It turns out that my sister had obtained my ebay details from somewhere, possibly from the last time I used her computer (it must have saved the log-in details - must be more security concious in future), looked at the things I'd been buying, and bought me more stones from the same seller! 10 out of 10 for thoughtfulness and resourcefulness, yes the gems are only small, but I was very impressed and happy with them nevertheless. She also got me some more trackies and a new hoodie - fantastic, it was about time I had some new clothes!

Next, I was very happy (but also completely unsurprised) to unwrap a copy of Prostreet, and just as happy, and more surprised, to get a copy of Unreal Tournament 3, later. Both games look awesome (I've now played them, they are - more on this later).

I also got a billy connolly DVD, a book on Gemstones, and a ring, as well as a strange sparkly colour changing swirly ambient lighting lamp type thing. Pictures to follow, I spose.

This is where Christmas, at least as far as the presents are concerned, begins to fall flat on its face.

Starting with the ring; I made considerable effort to show the parents the ring I would like, the exact one. It was modern, it looked good, and was pretty fashionable. So imagine how irked I was to find myself faced with the ring equivalent of the popstation. A horrifying cheap clone, badly presented, badly designed, quite different in style to the one we'd agreed on, dull in finish, dull in lustre, and the central stone was not only dull, but half unpolished.
Now before you start calling me ungrateful, yes I suppose that to a degree, I am. But the fact remains that I asked for something, I was asked to show them exactly the one I wanted, and I'm faced with a horrible lightweight effeminate (it has love hearts on it for christ's sake), cheap knockoff. I've seen better rings from Elizabeth Duke's, I am not joking. And the whole thing comes in a horrifying paper wrapped cardboard box, the effect of which is to make the entire thing look like it was won from a grabber machine. And yes, perhaps I am being unfair, but I'm pissed off. Yes, they didn't have to make the effort, but I suppose on reflection, they shouldn't have bothered. So if you know anyone that would like to buy a ring, to help me offset the cost of the ring that I, myself, am now going to buy, please get in touch; the_chaos_Star@hotmail.com .

Now we return to Need for Speed, Prostreet. An absolutely fantastic game by all accounts. Unfortunatley, this F*CK**G graphics error that has just randomly popped up in half of my games, and NO goddamn driver change seems to fix, is completely screwing up the game to the point that it's f*cking unplayable! I can't see where I'm going, the computer is trying to display every object on the map at the same time regardless of whether it's in my field of view or not! Yes, that is a computer problem, not a problem with the game, but the fact is that it DOESN'T F*CKING WORK! And the same goes for Unreal Tournament 3, which again, is an awesome incredible game with great graphics and smooth frame rates, but that one also DOESN'T F*CKING WORK. The game crashes back to desktop after a few mins of playing, and all the textures are bollocksed.

Now we come to my gemstones book. On closer inspection, the gemstones book turns out to be "the crystal bible", a horrifying mystical tome filled with very vague descriptions of the two hundred or so minerals found in various wiccan/shamanic/pagan/take your pick specialist stores, along with great and detailed descriptions of the physical and spiritual healing powers of each crystal. For example, did you know that "Carnelian grounds and anchors you in the present reality. A stabilising stone with high energy, it is excellent for restoring motivation and vitality".
Now I'm not officially a "skeptic". I believe that if crystal healing works for you, if you actually benefit from doing it, then you have my blessing. Personally though, I've never really been into this sort of thing, so I may as well have been bought a copy of the koran for christmas. Again, if you would like a copy of "the crystal bible", one disinterested owner from new, email me at the above address.

I was very pelased however, to see that my grandad had bought me a brand new battery charger. Yes, it's not the most versatile or exciting of presents, but it is designed to do something that I need to do pretty often, it loks good, and it's got as many features as a battery charger would ever need. So at least there is that. Also, my brother bought me a copy of "the internet - now in handy book form" which is at first read, very very funny indeed - I look forward to reading it.

Present wise, I will give christmas a five out of ten. Though it's not for want of my family trying, I have actually gained precious little from christmas. Of course presents aren't everything, so I'm not particularly bothered by this point.

My nephew became more restless as time went on, demanding to open presents left right and center. Once he realised he had too much to play with, he started suilking and became tired. But soon brightened up when he saw the massive fantastical castle I bought for him :). At least one little guy's christmas was made :).

I'm gonna wander off and chill out for a bit, I'll write more when I can be bothered :).

18:02PM.

Okay, I've done everything to try and get my games working. I've uninstalled the drivers completely, reinstalled them, rolled abck to earlier drivers, etc etc, and it's driving me nuts. It's like my computer has hit a plateau and it's not gonna let me play anything newer than itself.

Stupid thing. anyway, I'm now working on my Challenger 2 model. which is making me nervous, as I don't like buggering model kits up.

10:46PM.

Right. I spent the next three and a bit hours working on my model, and got thoroughly absorbed in it, which was nice :).
Of course, I didn't count on it being so time consuming, so in the space of three hours, I turned it from a collection of bits into a slightly smaller collection of bits and a bigger joined-together bit,
which is pretty nice. Yes, that took me three hours. In other news, in some bizarre way, I've poked something in my computer's soul, and have accidentally convinced it to run Unreal Tournament 3 with no graphics problems (still crashes to desktop occasionally citing random runtime errors) whatsoever, and it's a very fluid, fast, and very good looking game. My computer now even lets me play Need for Speed, Prostreet, but as a reminder of the fact that it's just choosing to play nice with me, it still drops a fair few graphical errors into the mix. Whatever is going wrong though seems like it has nothing to do with refresh rate, as that hasn't changed since the problem first started manifesting itself.

So what else has happened? Well, I've been reading more through "The Internet, now in handy book form!" and the more I read through it the more I laugh. With spoofs of various internet institutions such as "Kakbuy" (Ebay) and "Youflue" (Youtube), this book is just really funny!

So now, I think I'm going to drink one, two or even some cans of beer, and relax in the nice warm glow of that weird supernova orb thing that I got for christmas. It's quite nice to be truthful...

Yes, Christmas is picking up.
Just so you know, for those of you who were wondering.
I'm pleased to say that today passed off without incident. Everyone behaved themselves. In fact this is probably the most civil christmas we've had so far. I suppose last year and the threats that were flying around as a result of it, kind of kicked everyone into touch. Well whatever happened, today's not been a bad day at all. And now, I leave you with the best of christmas wishes, in the knowledge that I am once again off to play UT3, with even more cans of beer than the first time!

Oh yes. Let me show you a couple of pictures :).
The gems my sister got me, and the kickass battery charger my grandad got me!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

10:11AM.

Having woken up at stupid o'clock in the morning (05:50), despite having gone to bed at 03:00, I managed to get dressed fairly quickly, made a nice cup of coffee, got all my stuff together and we set off out, happily driving and chatting, to my sister's house to pick her and my nephew (the little superstar of christmas) up.

After an uneventful journey, we get to the house, and my nephew climbs into the car to sit in his childseat next to me. So I'm there drinking my coffee while he's brought a bag of melon with him, which he excitedly eats, as we get belted in and prepare to go off to the local supermarket. Our local supermarket is kinda special - it used to be an old cavalry (i think?) barracks, so it's one of the few supermarkets I think you'll find, that's got turrets and towers and stuff. Kinda cool.

Unfortunatley, the little fella drops a circle of melon into the depths of the passenger footwell, so setting my coffee down on the center console (the car was stationary at the time) I lean down to try and find it for him.
To make things worse though, my sister has the same idea, and as she reaches across the car to try and find it, she expertly knocks my cup (it was one of those thermos ones with the lid - I'm not mad enough to try to drink coffee out of a normal household cup in a moving vehicle) into the footwell. Trying not to ruin the fact that we got off to a good start, I keep quiet, though I can hear the coffee glugging into the footwell carpet.
I discreetly retreive the cup, noting that the footwell carpet now squelches, and that my (fairly large) cup has now lost about a quarter of its contents inside the car.

Not to worry though, as we're nearly there. We finally arrive, to find a deserted store, all shuttered and closed up, with only a handful of expectant people waiting outside. After a short period of boredom, my sister take my nephew and I to the inclined travelator that leads up to the smaller stores and businesses further up the hill. We (my sister and I) used to run up and down this as kids, and we used to love it.

To the delight of everyone concerned, my nephew loved riding up and down and up and down the travelator - he thought it was great. I suppose it was one of those "you had to be there" moments, but it was great just watching him step off at the bottom/top and shouting "again!" and so back on we went!

Eventually, time comes for us to grab our trolleys/shopping carts, and join the now substantial queue outside the entrance. Just like something off Ratrace, the bell in the clock tower goes, and like a great machine starting up, this huge crowd moves as one, slowly into the store.

The next 10/15 minutes or so were nuts, the place was absolutely jam packed. To get to a shelf you had to wait for at least one other person to move out of your way. I found myself barricaded up against a shelf and handing stuff over to people that couldn't reach. Okay, so I only had to hand stuff to one person, but it still counts I spose.

We were there for the next three hours, during which time my mum and dad split off into one group, and my nephew, my sister and I formed another. We had a bit of a random moment when my nephew became moody and uncooperative, because his mother wanted to buy him "Cars" on DVD. Random of him!

My parents very kindly bought me a little christmas pressie to keep me going through this festive time, in fact hang on, I'll go and take a photo...

Very nice of them I thought, and not a bad deal at all. £16 for 36 cans :). Anyway, we went round, the place had quietened down quite a lot, and so time eventually came for us to check out, which we did. But not before our boz-eyed (crooked/bent or otherwise "not-straight") trolley more or less drove itself into a flower display, knocking a bucket of water all over the floor...
I check out as well, I've got my own stuff to buy, though I cunningly notice that some items I'd forgotten that I'd taken off the shelves (honestly!) had slipped unnoticed into my parent's shopping and were therefore picked up on their tab, not mine.

We managed to go to the in-store cafe, where I ended up eating a fairly burnt sausage sandwich, while my nephew got a bowl of melon and a teacake thing.

We've just got home, the journey back was uneventful, though there were dangerous undertones of frayed tempers, unspoken threats and the ever present icy cool of our family's christmastime interactions. I can't help but feel that this christmas might go the same way that last one did, and end up being ruined by family arguments again. I can't help but worry that my dad, always my dad, won't know when to wind his f****** neck in and just shut the hell up instead of trying to have the last say and the authoritive opinion on everything...

Oh well, here's hoping. Hope all goes well. It's 10:40 now, I'm gonna get changed, gonna stash my beer, and I'm gonna grab another couple of hours sleep. Take care all, hope you're having a decent Xmas eve.



16:36PM.

Okay, I had my microsleep, and after settling down, actually managed to grab a few hours before I was woken by the distinctive sound of my brother laughing at something. Great, it's about time we had some Christmas Spirit in the house, so I go downstairs to find out what all the fuss is about.
There's some random christmas themed appalingly generic tv show on, which everyone is apparently engrossed in, despite the fact that it looks thoroughly crap. Anyway, my bro is nice enough to have brought me a christmas card, which made me grin, and I'll add it to my collection of christmas cards, asap.

My dad on the other hand, randomly tells me that apparently I owe my mum some money. Welcome to my family folks, even at Christmas, it all comes down to £££, and my parents are experts at calculating the cost of other members of the family, right down to the last penny. Not even a huge amount, £16, which I take to be for my beer.
if I'd have known I was paying for it I would have got twice as much.

Anyway, I get tired again incredibly quickly, rush back upstairs, hop into bed again, and before I know it, I'm waking up again to find that my mum is now baking, my system monitor/control panel in the front of my computer has gone doolally (made in China I spose), and that with less than 15 minutes to go until Father Christmas's visit (for those of you that haven't read my earlier blogs, a guy dressed as father christmas comes round on a sleigh pulled by a pickup truck, and gives chocolate and stuff to the local kids), my nephew and sister are nowhere to be seen.
Worrying, as my ickle nephew has been very excited about seeing Father Christmas again. It adds a little bit of magic to his Christmas.
Oh well, I definitley hope they turn up soon!

I'm off to eat my fantastic Beef Jerky, and wait for them to arrive. Ten minutes to Father Christmas's visit, there are already queues outside, AAAANNNNDDD...

with Nine minutes to go, my sister and my nephew have turned up!

Right, off to go and take part in another christmas tradition!
See you soon folks!




17:29PM.

Right, father christmas actually arrived early. No sooner had we stepped out into the piddling rain than father christmas came round the corner in all his glory. Fantastic sleigh covered in christmas lights, christmas music playing, and him waving to everyone. The look on my nephew's face was great, his eyes absolutely wide with excitement.

When you get to my age (god that made me sound old) Christmas loses a lot of its magic, particularly when characters like my dad are involved. In our family in particular, the festive spirit is not only dampened with age, but also by the knowledge that the slightest disagreement in the company of my dad can turn, very quickly, into a full blown christmas row like the one that tore last christmas apart, the first time I lost my temper at the christmas table, the first time I saw my dad speechless.

But I suppose I digress. The past is there to learn from, not to dwell upon, so with the above in mind, it was absolutely great to see the sparkle in my nephew's eyes as this very real christmas magic washed over him. Not only was it amazing for him, but for me, it was like I had regained if only for a short time, some of the magic.

We chatted and queued in the rain for a while, everyone happy, getting along, not really getting that wet, and my nephew got round to seeing father christmas, and got not only a photo, courtesy of me, but a chocolate bar from father christmas. We sat and waved them off, and walked back to our house.

I'm gonna chill out for a bit now, I spose. My mum is doing the christmas baking, I've got some presents to wrap later, but for the moment, there's nothing to do but wait.
I hope your christmas eve is continuing to be a good one, I've got a good feeling about our christmas this year :).

22:56PM.

Okay, so I've just been sat chilling out for the past few hours. Been pretty busy as it happens, my desk fell to bits again - it's been doing that a lot recently. So out come the rools; a big hammer, some wood filler, some rawlplugs, a big bag of screws, and lots of extra swearwords, and listening to Armake21's "games that suck" reviews, I happily went on my way. Eventually, I managed to get the desk sorted, so yay, go me!
I say that firmly tongue in cheek, obviously.

I've had some of my mum's baking - her quiches are fantastic. I've also had the opportunity to tidy my room up a bit which is good. My bedclothes are in the wash too so when I have my shower before going to bed, I'll be able to come straight out of the shower into a nice very clean and warm bed.

I've got a couple of presents to wrap before I go to bed, too, I think I'll do them now.

Talk later!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Achtung Xmas!

Thankfully, after an incredibly long and interminable day at work today, I clocked off for the last time before Christmas, and I now have my life to myself and my family until next friday, when I assume I have to hand it back to the company.

Well, in the past couple of days, the workplace has been full of christmas anticipation. Various meetings are dominated by present giving and well wishing, and my meeting with my own boss, and the rest of our team, was an opportunity for my lovely kind benevolent etc etc boss to lavish gifts upon me...

As an attendance award, "thanks for not taking time off sick", we each received a huge 1.5L bottle of perry - my second in less than a week. As a christmas present though, my boss was kind enough to buy (and individually wrap, which is a pain in the arse to do, trust me, especially at this time of year, I know!!!!) each of us a present. When unwrapped (by a colleague, I'm keeping mine under wraps - ha ha ha what a crap witticism - until Christmas Day. They turned out to be After eight mints, which I promise you are not cheap. Okay, so they're chocolate covered mints, hardly a brand new lamborghini gallardo or a mail order "go to jail do not pass go" gift card to send to Amy Whinehouse, but come on, when you think about it... 12 people in our team and these things cost what, £2.79-£3.50 depending on where you buy them, my boss out of her own pocket, spent anywhere between £33.48 and £41.76 of her own money, to get her work colleagues something nice for christmas - that's not including the alcohol she bought.
Okay, so it's hardly gold pressed latinum, but the thought was there, and I'm looking forward to wolfing the things down...

So, work aside, what else do I have to comment on.
Hmm. I spose the main thing I'm excited about at the minute is that I bought myself a new keyboard, even though they go for over £80 plus delivery, I managed to find one for £50 including delivery. Bargain, so I snapped it up. Which is just as well, because I'm sorry to say that months of life in my bedroom has seen my Logitech G15 splashed, soaked and otherwise rendered inoperable by various drinks. Now, in its defence, I can take the G15 apart while it's plugged in, clean it, put it back together and it will work again. Unfortunatley, the LCD screen died a while back, so a replacement is forthcoming, in the new model G15. Yay, go me, etc.

Also, some more gems turned up today. Nothing super special, mostly small and sparkly ones, but two in particular I'm kind of taken with.
These gems are called "Star Diopside" gems, and they have a cool (downgraded from "very interesting") property called Asterism. Basically, as you look at the stone and move it around under the light, a cross of white light appears to float over the surface of the stone.
It's quite striking.

So anyway, I am going to sit and eat these slightly overcooked chips, I'm going to finish off my alcohol, then I suspect I will dive into bed again.

But before I do, let me introduce you to what is perhaps one of the most memorable parts of Christmas for me, so far.
For those of you that don't know, there has for many (30 ish?!) years, been a band in Germany called "Kraftwerk". These people have a very distinct sound, based heavily on electronic samples, one person at a pinch (or should that be two people at a pinch? Two people at pinches? What should the ideal person/pinch ratio be? And for that matter, what is a Pinch anyway?) Described their music as "Synthpop". Very distinctive, and to my mind, not widely copied.

Of course, a good old group of lads, part of a comedy act from Sweden by the name of Tyskarna från Lund (Literally, "The Germans from Lund") has taken it upon themselves to parody Kraftwerk and release their own synthpop music based heavily on Kraftwerk's musical and visual style.

I was introduced to these lads by McGee, a good mate of mine, who can find anything whatsoever on the internet, via a flash video entitled "Achtung X-mas". While I have to admit, at first I found the video very strange, if anything, the tune grew on me, though I must admit, I remember describing the tune as "the most surreal thing I'd ever heard" at the time. I then found a mysterious online guy by the name of "divideandkreate" had done a techno-metal remix of it, which turned the tune on its head and gave it a whole new sound.
So yes, a very bizarre pair of tunes, I would say "I think you'll like them" but I honestly don't know. If not, oh well, I do. :)

Anyway, before I go, I shall show you a photo of my sparkly gems, now that even more have arrived:







And I shall now leave you with that. I'm off to drink my perry and go to bed. And sleep and be lazy.
Etc.

Have fun!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

iPod Mania...

No, not a new model of iPod, but a condition which, thanks to my employers, I now seem to be suffering from.
The company I work for are in general, despite all my criticisms and protestations, not a bad company to work for overall. You wouldn't want to have a carreer there, but a year or two working there might be fine enough. What happened today is evidence that they do actually take morale at work seriously, at least to a degree. Any company is only made of people, after all.
Let's start from the beginning.

I got home at 6pm yesterday, completely exhausted. The first thing I did was crawl into bed and fall asleep. In true me fashion, I woke at 10pm, 11pm, and finally 12:30 am.

I got up for a couple of hours, generally chilled out, got my stuff ready for work, taking extra care to put my work clothes in the airing cupboard (a large cupboard that houses the gas boiler that provides the house's central heating and hot water), so I'd have some nice toasty warm clothes to put on in the morning...

Anyway, I woke up at 6:50 this morning, after turning the alarm off at least twice. I got out to get my clothes on, to discover that not only had my sudden cold confiscated my ability to breathe through my nose, but that the boiler had A. not been on during the night, thus not heating my clothes at all, and B. leaked cold water all over my work clothes.
Cursing and shivering, swearing and sniffing from my cold, I put on a set of completely damp work clothes - What a great start to the day!!!

Anyway, I had a typically hellish day at work, during which time my boss plied me with medication to try and make me feel better. Unfortunatley, because it was only cold/congestion medication, I didn't notice any particularly interesting effects. Dissatisfied with the morning's work, I finally (it bloody felt a long time in coming!) dragged myself downstairs for my lunch, which lasted an hour before I got a call from a number I didn't recognise.
I gave a few seconds thought to hanging up on the caller, I don't like getting random calls, but instead curiosity got the better of me and I answered - it turned out to be Nick, a workmate of mine, with an excitedly confused but urgent message along the lines of "come back up, they're handing out prizes!!!"

And go back up I did.
Did I win anything?

Actually yes. I did. To my complete surprise, I won a brand new mint green iPod Shuffle.
A fantastic free present, nice and sparkly and very small. Unfortunatley, also completely redundant as I own a 30Gb iPod video that never leaves my side...

I tried to sell it, discreetly, as I didn't want to appear ungracious. But it seems that no one was interested.

I went home, iPod in my bag, and got ready for the work's christmas do. Nothing special really, a few beers with my team at a local pub, a nice christmas dinner (that was bloody awful), and I received not only a few christmas cards from my colleagues (they look nice on the wall, don't ya know), but a mahoosive bottle of perry, and a huge bottle of chocolates. Yay!

Anyway, I'm sat here now, with my nose practically glowing in the dark from all the rubbing I've been doing to try and keep it clean, I ache all over, but now, having finally decided to keep my iPod shuffle, I've synced it to my computer (I can actually now synch two ipods to the same machine, without fouling up the playlists), and i've got to admit, I like it.

It's not the present I would have hoped for, but who the hell am I to complain? It's an iPod, it's free, they didn't have to give me anything at all, so I should be grateful for what I've got.
And ya know, I think I am.

It'll come in useful, this little (tiny!) box of tricks!














Anyway, here is a horrifically badly taken shot of the new iPod Shuffle (the one in green), and its big big big brother, the iPod Video, showing, as always, one of the great Dr Ashen's many fantastic video reviews!

Tis the season to be jolly... etc etc etc

Well, within reason.

Thankfully, I've managed to learn that I have in fact got the majority of the Christmas period off work, so I'm working today (wednesday), with thursday off, then working friday/saturday, and then breaking up for christmas.

The last of my christmas pressies have arrived through the post, so I'm thoroughly all set for christmas.

So what else have I been up to? Not much, really.
Today for example, I have been busy mostly having a cold, and shouting at managers telling them that threatening people is not the best way to get people on their side. But I'd rather concentrate on the having the cold thing, since that's more impactful.

Yes, just in time for christmas, I've managed to get a cold. Yay, what fun. All I can do is hope that it clears before Christmas, which is looking, incidentally, to be one of the best yet.

My fitness continues to improve and at a pinch I feel I could go to the AFCO now and arrange to continue my application - Think I'll do that just after Christmas actually.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Another trek...

So, today, after a relatively easy shift at work, I hurried home, eager to get a couple of hours sleep, ready for the christmas do that our work are having.

I woke up an hour in advance, got all my stuff ready, got myself tarted up and looking sexeh, insofar as it's possible for me to look sexeh, and I got a taxi to the christmas do. We had rented the function room of a fairly large pub locally (relatively locally, as you'll see later), and everyone had turned up.
And that was it.

It was a good christmas do - some lads and ladies from work showed their previously undiscovered talent as dancers, some even managed to present themselves as good singers - one bloke, who previously had just kinda settled into a corner and been ignored, proved himself to be not only a good, but an absolutely fantastic singer. This guy was very, very good.

Anyway, skipping all the boring crap about work, the christmas do finished eventually, after a good five hours of drinking. Yes, time eventually came to get a taxi home.
So I phoned the local taxi firm...

"Sorry love, we don't have anyone in that area".
Fine, fair enough, I phoned another one.
"Sorry love, we don't have anyone in that area", as a smirk/drunken grin crossed my face.
Okay, here's another firm.
"Sorry love, we don't have anyone in that area".
Oooooookay.
Next. The bartender comes up with another number "not many people use this one".
"Sorry love, we don't have anyone in that area".
Yes, I can see why.

Eventually, a cross between desperation, masculine bravado, and drunken bloody-mindedness win out, and I proudly declare that I am going to walk home. Okay, so it's 1:20am, It's 0.5c (about 33f) outside, and I'm six miles from home. The alcohol and testosterone in my blood override my self preservation, and against all protests, I set off out the door.

Fortunatley a random minibus came my way, and with some work colleagues, I was able to hitch a lift to the next local town, Wentworth. I confirmed my position, and with an intake of breath and the sort of determination that only the most potent mix of testosterone and alcohol can give, I gritted my teeth, and set off in the direction of home, to dramatic music, written and conducted by hans zimmer. Okay, maybe not then.

For some random reason, I decided to jog, and jog I did. The jog broke into a run, and as the cold wind blew the sweat off my face (does it sound dramatic? good. I'm drunk. Indulge me), I took in the sights. I was running through rural England. The city lights of the local towns, ten or so miles away, as well as the brighter but fewer lights of the smaller villages close by. Yes, for some random reason, I was running, one foot after the other, left, right, left, right. My lungs might have been protesting, my legs might have been tired, I did not feel a single thing. I spose due to the alcohol, my senses were deadened, and I powered on and on through the countryside, singlemindedly running home. Ridiculous in retrospect, at the time I felt like a man on a mission.

My running slowed and I slowed to a jog, which quickly gave way to walking as I walked past a local field which I knew to contain horses. I figured I'd try my luck, and as I held my hand out over the fence, clicking through my teeth, I was pleased to see three horses look up from their grass, and walk, towards me.
What followed was, I suppose, weird. Three horses came to the fence to meet me, one small horse, completely white, with one slightly larger brown horse, and one much larger brown horse with a white blaze. I spose they must have been happy for the company, as they took it in turns to nuzzle me, poking their heads through and over the fence, looking at me with their huge eyes.
I petted each horse in turn, each looking back at me, occasionally grunting or snorting as I petted the head and of each animal. Each walked alongside the fence, perfectly happy for me to pet each of them in turn. Occasionally, each of the animals would snort and nuzzle the fence as if for attention. I spose I stayed there for fifteen minutes, it could have been thirty, I lost count. The city lights twinkled in the distance, the occasional car went past, a quiet breeze blew over the field every now and again, but I was just there with the horses nuzzling me and me petting the horses in return.
It was weird. I have had little experience with horses, and for these three to trust me enough to get close to them, close enough to pet them, I dunno, to those of you who ride horses regularly, it might be funny, but to me, it was special, almost like each of these huge creatures had taken to me.

Eventually though, I managed to make the concious decision to press on, and I ran again, from wentworth, down the hill, round the bend in the road, up the next hill and then into Harley. Past a hundred houses, windows dark, occupants asleep, with the occasional set of blinking christmas lights, twinkling merrily away, as if to remind me that this is indeed a special time of year.

I left that village and ran up the next hill - a biggie, no mean feat, I ran to the first crest, a sub-crest, if you like, as the path dipped gently before rising into the hil at a steep side. Getting to the top, crossing the motorway, I took a minute or two to look over the rail at the trucks, vans, cars and motorcycles, even at this late hour, powering up the motorway to destinations unknown, maybe to waiting families, maybe to anxious warehouse managers, maybe to holiday camps, each single vehicle contained at least one person, each with his own agenda, each planning to spend christmas in his or her own way...

Eventually, I came to a downhill slope, and again, I ran all the way into the next town, reflecting on how quiet my footsteps were now I'd learned how to run properly, and how little my shins actually hurt.

I walked up to the other side of the town, and again up a steep hill.
"I'm gonna run uphill to that bus stop" I said to myself.
And off I went. My legs started aching. My chest started aching, my throat went dry.
My legs started burning, my breathing gave way to gasping, my lower back turned into a seething mass of pain, and still I carried on. I remember the pain at the time as I ran up this hill towards that goal, almost as if someone was pulling it away from me as I ran.
I ran and ran, and I got there. I know I got there, I checked.

And from there it was all downhill, almost literally. I walked along as a hooded figure walked towards me. I stared him in the eyes, not enough to be hostile, just enough to let him know I'd clocked him. I was used to getting trouble round here, and if push came to shove, I just wanted to make it clear that having walked several miles up several hills, etc etc, I wasn't going to let some random dude stop me from getting home. Fine, fair enough. "Hiya mate" he says as he walked past....

...and I got home. So here I am. There is that drunken diatribe right there.
Fine, it might sound enchanted and special, or it could sound incoherent, macho and drunken. I'll let you decide.
It's been a good night.

So I'm here now, I've got a three day weekend up ahead. More of my gems have arrived (yay) and now I'm just going to chill out and have a shower...

Still, I spose I saved £10/$20 on taxi fare :)

Peace all...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Profiteroles and stuff...

Not to be confused with Proles, which are something else entirely...

Okay, first, I'm going to apologise for the poor, almost quasirandom structuring of this post. I've got a lot to get down and I'm trying to concentrate on several things at once, not the least of which is trying to win christmas presents on ebay...

so let's start with the weekend and kinda dive forwards and backwards around there.

Having had something of a bad weekend, coming back home to a prolonged and severe family argument, and then spending the rest of the weekend getting on with christmassy stuff, putting decorations up etc, I went back to work today in an absolutely foul mood.
Not foul as in "I don't want to be at work", foul as in "the first person that phones up to do anything other than ask for advice or help, is going to get a piece of my mind".
No sooner had I got into work than I was dragged into a bloody training course - if I dare dignify it with the term. Sitting around a table while the trainer, god help him, stuck on some cartoon music (presumably intended to give the occasion a whimsical, fun air), which served to patronise and piss everybody off, especially me.

Now let me introduce you to a pet project of one of our senior managers.
In the old days, when callers used to phone us up to complain about breaches, real or perceived, to animal welfare, we used to take as much information as possible, in order to allow our field staff to go and investigate the situation, fully armed with all the knowledge they needed. This was generally accepted as being the best way to do the job.
But instead, one of our client's senior managers decided to arbitrarily change everything. Yep. Gone was the exhaustive and in depth information. Gone were the detailed background notes. Gone in fact, was most of the content of the reports that we used to submit.
This manager's idea is that instead of detailing what was wrong with the situation/animal, we'd simply assign a code to the incident, eg, code 1 for no water, code 2 for no food etc etc.

However, we were also told to keep the reports compact. In fact, we were told to decide for ourselves what the most serious concern was (for example, a "code 1" complaint where an animal has no drinking water, is more serious than say, a "code 6" complaint, where an animal doesn't have adequate shelter.), and highlight that concern only to the field staff, on the basis that the staff themselves would have to find out the rest for themselves, as that was what they were being paid for.

As an extension of this, we're now not only being assessed on how quickly we can get the callers off the line, but also assessed on every other criteria related to this new pet project, including the order in which we place information, our ability to selectively omit information, and the brevity of our incident reports! Anyway. Returning to today...

Instead of the trainer saying a single word, we were subjected to various recordings of the training officers, speeded up so as to sound like bloody hamsters, guiding us through the process, while dropping in twenty or thirty absolutely crap jokes. And then we had to do an exercise. What was the exercise? That's right, we had to design a poster to advertise the course to the rest of the office! It was like bloody primary school, and I cannot believe that any employer who takes its employees seriously, allows this sort of patronising childishness to go on! Fine, everyone likes a fun workplace, but sitting in a cold meeting room with a tube of pvc glue, a glitter shaker, some pipe cleaners, some coloured paper and five clueless colleagues, while some [idiot] plays "whistle while you work" on the CD player, is NOT my fecking idea of fun! Let the bloody training officers do all the sticky poster manufacturing, that's part of their job, that's why they get paid more than me - yes, they get paid substantially more than me to stick bits of brightly coloured paper together, and design pretty pictures to put on the wall boards, to draw our attention to various workplace incentives, operational requirements etc, it's absolutely fecking ridiculous!

I wouldn't mind, but we were then dragged to some of the management computers to do another exercise involving one of the networked systems - this would have been all well and good, as this was the real meat and potatoes of the job. But did it go according to plan? Ha. Something went wrong and I wasn't able to access the exercise on the network - in true me fashion, I was stuck twiddling my thumbs until everyone else finished, and then we got dragged to another game. A horrific bodged version of countdown, we had to make the longest animal name out of the letters we had available.
Someone tell me what the educational value of this was, I mean please god, there had to be some reason a quarter of my shift was wasted, fecking about, "training" to achieve a standard required to successfully participate in some philandering senior manager's universally hated pet project, screwing about to meet artificially emphasised administrative tasks, concentrating entirely, not on animal welfare, which is not what we're there for, but on the little details, the pointless minutae, spelling (that's a lost cause in our office, I saw a report the other day that included the line (and I quote word for word, spellings and all) "has been told this by a neibs". I can only assume that my colleague intended to put "neighbour" and wasn't looking at his/her keyboard...) and the actual phrasing of the questions, word for word, that we ask the callers.

Anyway, I had a word with one of the managers and politely explained (not my exact words) that if I did not get out of the office soon, blood would be spilled. They got together and decided to give me half a day off.
So after time in the gym, I came home, and chilled out.

I managed to get out with the family, complete with my nephew and sister, and went for a proper pub meal, which was nice. I'm not going to go into all the details, but it was nice to have a proper sit-down meal with the family, and actually spend time together. It was here that I had the aforementioned profiteroles - absolutely fantastically good - little (well, large - about 2/3 the size of a tennis ball!) balls of choiux pastry, filled with cold chocolate mousse, and covered with frothy vanilla flavoured cream and chocolate shavings! Absolutely delicious!

So what else have I been doing? I have been mostly losing my garnet from my gem collection, yes it went down the back of the recliner, and an hour with a torch didn't help me find it again. Shame, but not the end of the world, it was only a garnet and I didn't even particularly like the colour... I've ordered a couple of other garnets that are a deeper red colour though, and they should arrive soon I hope!

I also wrote my christmas list. Yes I know, I'm a little old, but let me explain.
A couple of years ago, I got a calligraphy set for christmas. The following christmas, I got another, complete with real "dip pens". I took the opportunity to practise my calligraphy by writing a very nice artistic christmas list one year, and it gained quite a lot of approval - as a result I repeated it next year, and the tradition stuck :).

So I'm going to leave you now, on a good note, I'm going to drink my bottle of lucozade, carry on chatting on msn, and hopefully, have an early night!

But here are some christmas pics for you - Again, this has no particular structure, but this is more down to Blogger's horrific picture formatting...
Anyway, we'll start with the items I put on my christmas list :).




















Need for Speed Prostreet, is the latest and greatest car racing game out there - It looks fantastic!
Unreal Tournament 3, is another fantastic game, one that will no doubt test the limits of my computer's power!

Then you have the third item, a 1/35 scale model of a Challenger 2 tank! Looks great!

I wasn't able to find a picture of the fourth item, the Signet ring.
the ring I mentioned is a very nice hematite and gold round signet ring. Hopefully with some luck, I'll be able to show you a picture of it if I get it for christmas :).

Now I have a picture of my actual christmas list, to show you the work I put into it. It actually took about five attempts and a couple of hours to get the christmas list looking just right (with it being written by hand) and even then there were a few mistakes (the last line of text being off center, for one). But I'm pleased enough with it to have submitted it as my final Christmas list :).














And finally, I took a pretty picture of my gem collection, such as it is.
The large red one is the garnet that is now missing in a recliner chair downstairs.










And finally, let me now leave you with the breaking news that I have randomly got a blocked nose from somewhere, and it has come on in the last couple of hours.
Bizarre.

Ciao, will be back on here soon!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Debit Card Fraud and Cold Showers...

Okay, so that was embarrasing.

As they do every thursday, my parents have taken themselves off to the pub to have a nice sitdown lunch with my grandad. They get the meal and he gets some company, which suits everyone. Apart from me. As I'm left at home - admittedly by choice, I don't play any part in their festivities, which is fair enough. Unfortunatley, they very rarely ever stop by the food shops on the way home, so "I come bearing gifts" is not a phrase you could ever really associate with either of my parents.

Now I don't know if you've seen our cupboards...

...actually that's a load of garbage.

You haven't seen our cupboards. But let me tell you, they are devoid of any food that either is not spoken for already ("That's my pork pie, leave it alone etc etc etc") or contain food that is only useful when combined with other foods (Green beans? Tinned tomatoes???). Despite my parents assertions, constant assertions that the cupboards are "full of food", I think they fail to realise, that food and foodstuffs are not really the same thing. I'm not eating a tin of black bean sauce for my tea.

Which leads me to my current - well, almost current - predicament.
I have got so damned sick and tired of going hungry each thursday, that I am now spending anything up to £15 EACH THURSDAY to keep myself fed. Admittedly, I'm partly to blame, because there are a lot cheaper meals available than a 15 quid pizza. Unfortunatley, they all involve going to the shops, and "going to the shops" is local slang for "running the blockade of jeering pisstaking tanked-up firework throwing idiots that sit about outside the shop because they have nothing better to do".
I refuse to use the four letter C (no not that one!) word that many of you would instantly credit me with using when I describe these young muppets, for a variety of reasons; not do I find the use of the word extremely offensive, because it's a simple throwaway word that just casually writes off and years of the subjects achievements and successes etc, not only is it a verbal spit on the character of anyone that it's applied to, but it is also used far too often, to write off entire sections of society, in effect tarring everyone with the same brush, on the basis of temporary, percieved or otherwise inaccurate anecdotal evidence.

Anyway, I know many of you will be confused with me now, which is good, because now we're back on a level playing field.
But anyway, the point is I don't like having fireworks thrown at me, so I ordered a pizza again.

Got my email confirmation, and later (finally, in fact!) the pizza turned up. The guy asked me for cash at the door, but I told him I paid on my card (I did, I sent all the details and everything).
Anyway, I'm at home tucking into my fantastic medium italian margherita with ham, pork and cajun chicken pizza, with bbq, sour cream and sweet chilli dips, thoroughly enjoying my fantastically tasty and yummy (if very expensive and rather unhealthy) lunch, when I get a call.

It's pizza hut. The lad there was hesitating go get the words out, but eventually he [took what sounded like the great leap of courage required to just come out and say it to one of your customers], told me that "You haven't paid for the pizza mate, you haven't paid by card". While feeling rather annoyed that I'd had my meal disturbed to be told that something (probably me) screwed up and my payment didn't go through, I did allow myself a small grin as he avoided directly accusing me of lying/being mistaken, by saying "the guy at the door said he'd paid by card". Good on him, the poor lad. Even on the other end of the phone, it's no fun having to say things that are the verbal equivalent of painting a target on your face.

Anyway, "AHA" I thought, "I have the email receipt", so the guy stayed on the cordless phone while I (we?) went upstairs (*shudder*) and looked through my email receipt.
"You will need £15.04 ready at the door".
Bugger, balls and bollocks. And other bad words of that nature.
So I realised that I had in fact been eating a pizza that I hadn't paid for. I managed to pay over the phone without sounding A. Embarrased that I'd messed up or B. fearful that they might think I was trying to get a free pizza, and that was that.
Anyway the pizza was good.

Crying out loud, it's taken me longer to come out with all this rubbish than it took me to eat the damn thing.
So how am I on other fronts? I don't know, I've only got one front and it's busy working in conjunction with my back, to hold my sides together. Not.

Anyway, despite my cheese pizza munching unhealthy eating bad habits, my fitness is actually coming on quite well. I discovered that the reason my 1.06 mile run was such a shockingly slow (12 minute) run, was because I had in fact ran UP all the hills. In a brilliant flash of genius, I ran the track the other way round, and went down from 12 and a half minutes, to 10:24. I'm now doing pyramids at work (sounds exciting doesn't it - I assure you it's not), so instead of doing say, 5 sets of 20 situps, I'll do 1 set of 15, 1 set of 14, 1 set of 13 and so on, so that as I get more tired, I have less work to do, but still wind up doing 125 (i think) situps a day. They're paying dividends as well. You wouldn't know I was a serial pizza muncher to look at me.

I've finally made my choice about what I want to do in the Army, which is good.
I've decided to be a tankie (tank crew), which is fine.

Yes, I decided I didn't want to spend an entire carreer in a workshop, fixing things that other people broke. I didn't want to be miles behind the lines in an AS90 sending shells to some target several miles away. I don't really want to work on an armoured recovery vehicle, as you're basically a glorified roadside assistance service, and I don't want to become an infantry soldier because I don't enjoy marching miles and miles carrying big sodoff bergans, while getting wet, cold and pissed off*. Sure there are downsides to being a tankie as well, for example, running the risk of getting blown up, although you are surrounded by inches thick armour plating that has yet to be penetrated by any enemy weapon (explosives not included since you don't shoot bombs at people).

Spurred on by my new sense of direction, I am working my way towards leaving the quality-obsessed cesspit of a job I have at the minute, and finally, yes, finally getting myself into the army and away from the facts-and-figures, reports, meetings, quality academy, percentages, statistics and satisfaction obsessed environment that has blighted my working life since I started work there two years ago.

And finally, to christmas. Yes, I've bought just about all the christmas presents I need to buy, and in a fit of consumerism and material-wealth grabbing, I've also randomly bought a load of peridot, citrine, topaz and other loose gemstones, for no purpose other than to... Well, I don't know what do you do with a load of loose gemstones? Poke them with a pencil and go "ooh aren't they pretty". I don't know, I wanted them at the time.

Anyway. Having just been interrupted by my second phone call from somebody I don't know, for somebody that is not here, I'm off to put the remainder of my pizza in the fridge, and then to play X plane for a bit.

But before I do that, I'm off for a shave. I look like bloody Cary Elwes.

Have fun.

(*please excuse the glib remarks concerning the professions of other parts of the army. The fact is, all jobs in the army have the potential to be extremely dangerous, and there are a lot of people in the middle east right now, doing the jobs that I've discounted as being ideal for me, working extremely hard in very poor conditions at considerable risk to themselves. I have nothing but a great amount of respect for our soldiers, and I don't want anyone to go away from reading this blog entry today, thinking otherwise)