Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gainsborough!

Part One: Prepiologue
(A cross between an epilogue and a prologue - it's a bridge between "today" and "tomorrow" (today ends when I go to bed and starts when I get up, regardless of what the clock might say).

Yay, it's that time of year again where we're looking forward to going to Gainsborough Old Hall, to look around the christmas market, to enjoy the mince pies, and to sample various curiosities such as chilli chocolate, and (probably) chips and sausage, with scandinavian cola.

But before I get to that, a word or two about "today".

I woke up, as it says, to what looked like a pretty crappy day. Unrested, cold, and in a grouchy/nervous mood. Said mood improved once I got into town to meet the rest of the lads, but nervousness didn't go away.

I didn't get red-one this time, instead being designated yellow four, which was fair enough. We did the heaves again, with the usual mix of performance ranging from swarthy 8 stone 16 year olds doing 8,9, maybe 10 heaves, and the ones who hadn't trained, failing to do a single heave. I scored three, which I wasn't happy with, but at least I passed that module and I know what to work on.

The Jerry Can Carry went pretty well. It didn't seem quite as hard as last time or the time before, and I ended up passing that with no problems. the younger lads, despite their light weight and relatively high fitness, as a side effect of that light weight, were somewhat lacking in physical strength, and as a group, they seemed to find this particular module harder than everyone else.

The run, as normal, wasn't particularly easy (especially because they shoved an extra 50 meters on the start), and wasn't particularly fun. My time wasn't awe-inspiring, at 11:25 (25 seconds slower than my best) but still secured me a pass. Said swarthy youngsters scored 8:30 and upwards, and the worst time was somewhere around 14 minutes.

The command tasks went okay, we all worked pretty well as part as a team. I didn't feel I "shone" as much as I did the first time I did them, but I did get my say in proceedings and since I figured out the fundamental secret to passing that particular challenge, I was pretty happy.

So all in all, a good day. Not the most awesome performance, but not poor by any means, and as far as I've been told, I should be looking at an acceptable pass. Which now, leaving time for further improvement, means I should be well on the way to passing at ADSC - the one that counts. There was plenty of humour, spirits were high even among the "deferred pass"ers (come back and do it again), and I made a few good mates, some of which, thanks to the magic of the internets, I'm able to keep in touch with, whether we ever meet again or not.

Looking out of the window, the day seems to have ended the way it started. Cold and drizzly.
Except now I've got a third pass under my belt, I'm much more cheerful, and much less stressed.

I'm looking forward to getting some sleep, so I think I'm off to do that now. I'll update the blog later today :-).

Have fun!

Part Two: Out and about


"Today" started pretty much the same as yesterday did, with fog and rain making its presence felt. We managed to get off in pretty good time.

Going through the local towns was interesting. I used to work in one in particular, and it was an eye opener to see the change - and lack of change - in the town. New buildings were being put up, loads of construction work going on, and yet, buildings I figured were not long for this world still stood quite happily, as they had done since before I ended up working in and around the place.

We carried on through the countryside, and eventually, despite the increasingly heavy rain, arrived at Gainsborough to find the place in fine shape, with good weather all around.

Not much to report as far as the hall itself is concerned. Everything was much the same as it always is, a nice christmassy day out. We bought a few craft-type items to grace the house come christmas time, and had our traditional mince pie and fruit punch in front of the fire. After a relatively quick look round the place, we were off out into the town, searching for Pork Crunch and Christmas Presents.

We managed to go to the retail development that I mentioned last time we went (nov '08) where we picked up a fantastic object:
A ball, exactly 4 inches across, fairly heavy for its size, (575 grams) filled with some kind of oil or something, suspended in which are maybe a teaspoon's worth of very incredibly fine (like flour) reflective metal particles.

The thing's a toy, shake it around and the powder swirls around in the fluid, giving the impression of swirling clouds within the ball. The thing looks like it's rolling even when you're holding it still in your hands. A cool present - so cool in fact that I'm trying to see where I can buy a second one for myself. [EDIT I spoke to my sister, asking if my ickle nephew would find a magical cloudy ball interesting. She agreed he would, but added that his interest would fade terminally after about ten minutes, after which time the ball would join the ranks of forsaken but heartfelt gifts under his bed. Meh. Well, on the plus side, at least I get to keep it. Yay.]

We popped into a local coffee shop for something to eat, where I had, I'm pleased to say, foreign Coca Cola (russian this time) as is traditional in Gainsborough. The food was pretty damn good though, the burger was tasty and the chips were pretty great :-).

After that, off to Tickhill Garden Centre, to look over the Christmas Decorations there, and then home. All in all, a nice christmassy day out :-).






Friday, November 27, 2009

Sodding about (or, "Nervousness")

Bloody hell it's 8:37. I want to be in bed at 9!

Right, it's that time of year again. I'm not going to make a big song and dance about it because I'm due for an early night shortly for reasons that will soon become apparent.

Wait for it.

Right.

NOW.
I'm off to Strensall again tomorrow - yay, go me, for a third time. Yep, I'm off on another day of running until I feel quite unwell, wandering about carrying sodding heavy jerry cans about, and worrying about whether I passed the course or not.

Excuse me for sounding flippant. The fact is, that this assessment is an important part of determining my physical and mental aptitude/suitability to join the army, and cos of a couple of issues, mostly my fault but one not-my-fault, I'm off to do it for a third time. Knowing what I'm in for doesn't make me feel any better. Surprisingly, neither does knowing that I've already passed twice. I don't know, the eternal pessimist, is me.
So wish me luck for that. With some luck, I won't need it.

In other news, I decided not to put computer neons on my christmas list, for the simple reason that I shelled out (£8, big deal) and bought some myself. Despite being attached to my computer with horrible crappy sticky pads that won't stick when you want to stick them on, and won't unstick when you want to take them off, I've managed to get three neon (cold cathode flourescent lights actually) tubes installed in my case, and it now looks really sparkly.

Look See?

One other important thing I've done (with some help) is finally get my wireless mouse working. It wouldn't hold a charge which really annoyed me cos I paid £70 for it, and like an idiot, instead of returning it, I shoved it in a cupboard expecting the problem to go away/expecting the cupboard to somehow fix it for me.
Not sure what we (me and my dad) did, but it's now charging properly and is now finally doing the job that I bought it to do.

Oh well, I hope everything goes well tomorrow, I really hope so.
If it does then I'm set for a great weekend. I'm off to gainsborough on sunday (read last christmas's blog if you're curious, I'll stick a hotlink [hyperlink? What the hell is a hotlink?] in when I have the time tomorrow) with my mum to do some christmas shopping, and that evening I'm off to a christmas concert. If I pass tomorrow's course, I'm going to buy lots of beer and celebrate in a very drunken fashion on monday evening. You may or may not get a blog entry of total crap out of me. Depends how drunkenly generous I'm feeling.

Eek. I don't want to go bed! The sooner I go bed, the sooner I go sleep and the sooner I go sleep, the sooner I wake up to have lots of sergeants and PTIs telling me to run faster and whatnot.

Oh well.
I'll be fine - I hope.

ciao!

Update: 06:53 the following day:

Well, that was probably the most unpleasant, most broken night's sleep I've ever had. I must have spent about 4 hours trying to fall asleep, and when I finally got close, something would wake me up again.

To top it off, I've woken up to a freezing cold room on a godforsaken dump of a cold and drizzly saturday morning, out of what was a relatively warm bed (cold and bloody uncomfortable, tonight of all nights, it seems actually), so I could be slightly more cheerful, but I don't think I can stretch to that at the moment.

Meh. Let's hope there's better news to come.

Have fun, I sure as hell won't! :P

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lovely climate...

CHAPTER ONE (I guess) - XMAS PRESENTS

It was a dark and stormy mediocrity...

Well actually, I'm not sure whether it's a dark and stormy anything, and the only reason it's a mediocrity is because there's so much damn fog around that it's impossible to see further than the corner of the street. As for the storms, well, it's that horrible fine drizzle that doesn't so much fall as meander gently downwards, when the air currents conspire to let it through.

Fact is, it's fairly par for the course, given that we're two thirds of the way through November, and doesn't time fly, because last time I was up here going off on one, it was Halloween. I've not been around much, because nothing has really changed. Work, eat, sleep. Repeat for 3 weeks = my life.

More or less. One of the recent things that I've managed to do that I'm quite happy about, is start working my way down my nephew's Xmas pressie list. I've been working to stick loads of videos on the cheap horrible Chipod I bought for him, so he can now watch a variety of cartoons, home videos, and other little amusing clips and whatnot, as well as listen to some of his favourite tunes.

The lil dude also said he wanted some playmobil for xmas, and so, to go with his newly repaired (I bought some spares to replace the bits he lost, and now it looks good as new) playmobil airplane, I'd been looking at getting him various airport stuff, a little playmobil airport terminal, and whatnot (bugger, just spilled coffee)...

One thing that I'd promised I was going to buy him, on account of it being really cool, was the Playmobil Cargo Crew (an awesome little set with a load of things like movable stairs and baggage trolleys and cargo loaders and whatnot, to go with his airplane). Another was the little Airport "follow me" safety car, which I figured would be a cute extra. I managed to get both sets for a pretty good price, so I spent some of the difference on getting something else for him too :-).

So now, I've got my mum, my sister, my grandad and my brother's fiancee to buy for.

Have I thought about what I want for christmas? Sure I have. Not had a lot of luck though, can't think of many things I really want. Maybe some Case Neons or something like that, though I did find this natty USB Fingerprint reader (UPEK Eikon!), meaning I wouldn't have to sod about with passwords and usernames and whatnot. Looks cool, is really slinky, and lights up, which means it's ideal for my computer :-D.

[Grr at neighbour down the road, who has fitted a loud exhaust to his car, along with lots of engine tuning and whatnot, but still hasn't grasped that fitting bodywork from two seperate cars (making your car look like a damn zebra) looks crappy - don't get me wrong, the car sounds nice, and the new side-exit exhaust is cool, but damn dude, sort out the paintwork!]

CHAPTER TWO - AFTER DARK 2009

Ahem.

Back at the start of the month we took my ickle nephew to After Dark 2009, a huge fireworks event. After planning to go, even going so far as to try and find their cold weather clothes, my parents suddenly decided that because it wasn't bright sunshine (at 5pm) they weren't going. This is probably the first (of the next 20 years' worth of occurences) occasion of them citing ill health as an obstacle to doing something they don't want.
My ickle nephew was horrified, having been looking forward to going for ages, only to be told at the 11th hour that it wasn't happening. If I sound a bit "attitude-y" that's because I was pretty bloody angry about it too. To be honest, as I said at the time, I didn't even want to go, but the ickle man did, and that was what counted.

In the end, my sis and I ended up taking him ourselves while our parents sat at home under blankets complaining about tired bones and ill health and the slide into retirement and infirmity and whatnot.

We had a pretty nice time, the weather held off, though when the bonfire was lit, some kind of weird temperature inversion thingie (maybe, I dunno, I'm not a meteorologist) meant that when the smoke from the fire reached maybe 20 or 30 metres off the ground, it stopped rising and instead started spreading outwards like, I dunno, that big storm off ghostbusters 1 maybe. Looked pretty dramatic, and was kinda cool.

We wandered round the thing having burgers, bottles of coke,candy floss, chips and whatnot, putting our rubbish into bins (I think we're the only 3 people that did), trying to ignore the acts on the stage who with a couple of exceptions, were your generic manufactured chav-hop rappers from luton going on about how hard life is and stuff. But the crowd seemed to like em so I think the fact the music was crappy is more down to me than to the artists, not sure about that one. But hey who cares, it was fun, not a music critic show or whatever.

The lil dude went on various rides, ate his candy floss, became fascinated with a discarded (and partially deflated) inflatable football he found, and eventually we enjoyed a pretty cool fireworks display.
And then the crowd decided to go home. Yep, what must have been fifteen thousand people all moving in one direction, gives a whole new perspective on the phrase "I was swept along with them". Moving at 90 degrees across everyone else, when everyone else is 5000 times as many people as you are (three of us, remember), is kinda difficult. But eventually the place cleared out, and we sat around waiting for the car park to empty. A few more rides, another bottle of coke maybe, and off we went. But not before we bought the lil' dude a flashing LED laser sword (the generic flashing toys that people sell at such events). It was a good night :-).

CHAPTER THREE - OTHER STUFF

So what else have we been up to? Well, a while ago I reinstalled Zoo Tycoon 2 on my computer, figuring that my nephew would like it.
Unfortunately for me - and for him (when he has to stop playing he throws a tantrum - though he is slowly stopping this and learning to cope with being apart from his zoo) - he loves it so much he wants to play on it all zer time. All, zer, time.

So I've built a couple of zoos for the little guy, only to find that to my horror, since ZT2 is processor/ram dependent and not GPU dependent, when I build a huge huge zoo, my machine (which cost me over £1000 to build, 3 years after ZT2 was released) slows down! Regardless, my nephew loves creating his own zoos, though as you can imagine, he hasn't grasped the finer and more advanced points of, say, not putting an ankylosaurus (my favourite dinosaur, hehe) in with the aardvarks. Or a tyrannosaurus in with the meerkats, for example. As a result, a dozen of his zoos have fallen victim to the "Quit without save?" menu ;-).

One day he wandered in while I was playing UT3 (warning, BIG picture!) and he seems to think it's fantastic. Admittedly it's not the cuddliest game ever, but he's accepted that shooting at the opposing team only makes them go to sleep, as "they come back again" (respawn), so he's kinda made it more kid-friendly himself.
In any case, he doesn't do a lot of shooting, no, like any boy his age, he's more taken with the vehicles and the whole driving around side of things. His favourite vehicle is The Darkwalker, a vehicle that he has affectionately dubbed "Walking-legs".
So to go along with that, we also have the Fury (Flying-Legs), the Scavenger (Spinning-Legs) and the Nemesis (Sliding-Legs).

His favourite though, is the Scorpion (good quality picture not available) - a cool little buggy that features (to my nephew's obvious delight) "swords" that swing out from the front of the car.

He also loves what he calls "The Spy Gun" (sniper rifle), so called because it has a "spy telescope" on top :-).

So yeah. I still have reservations about letting him play on it, but since most of the time he doesn't get close enough to the other team to actually see any fighting, and instead flies around the map in the vehicles, shooting Redeemer missiles into nearby walls (with predictable results) and generally exploring the architecture, firing at inanimate objects, I'm content to let him stay with it.

My sister did suggest that I install something more child-friendly, so out from my software bin came Lemmings "now-works-on-windows-95!" and he loved it, up until level 6 when all the lemmings died and he started crying. So back we went, to Walking-Legs, which has since become his name for the entire game.

PS: ENVIRONMENTALISM IS A LOAD OF CACA - OFFICIAL:

Yes, one thing I forgot to mention is that some enterprising person broke into the computer network at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit - a bunch of dudes responsible - ostensibly - for learning about the causes of climate change, and how best to combat it.

However, when the public read the 65mb of files, emails and PDFs that had been stolen from the network (and are readily available to download anywhere now), it became clear that not only were the guys at CRU not able to actually FIND ANY EVIDENCE OF GLOBAL WARMING, but had found THE OPPOSITE and WERE NOT HAPPY ABOUT THIS AT ALL.

Not only that, but among the files, were emails requesting that research members delete inconvenient or embarrasing emails, to prevent people using the FOI to examine them, complaints that people who hadn't been taken in by the man-made-climate-change cash cow were still allowed to criticise and judge their work, and general hand wringing and moaning about the fact that "if anyone finds out we HAVEN'T FOUND ANY EVIDENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE, WE WILL LOSE OUR FUNDING". Or thereabouts.

SO THERE. TAKE YOUR GREEN TAXES, AND [CENSORED].

Sorry if I got a little fired up there. I've been a doom-and-gloom skeptic since governments first thought of the environment as a useful way to levy new taxes.

Daily Mail article on the leak
Telegraph article
The BBC make little mention of the contents of the files, and have drawn considerable criticism, for, well, being up the CRU's arse.

There are a smattering of pro-environmentalism websites out there that play the whole thing down, and various skeptic websites that play it up.

Without knowing the authenticity of the documents, and having read them, I can't say whether I believe the documents to be genuine or not (regardless of the CRU's assertions that some of them are - I wouldn't believe that bunch if they told me zebras were black and white). Regardless, it's nice to see people pause for thought, instead of furiously salivating over (very expensive/lucrative) ways to make their home "greener". Let's see what comes of it :-D.

PICTURES

My ickle Nephew even drew me a lovely picture of Walking Legs (and Flying Legs). Annotated by me, for those of you that aren't as good at recognising pictures as he is at drawing them ;-).

I'll also throw in another couple of pictures, free of charge. This will throw the formatting right out.

Crying out loud, tables are so basic, and still I can't add one to this thing :(.

Oh well, I'm off for a coffee. Bye!