Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Anger? Meh...

Over this past month I've discovered a problem I seemingly have with anger. These days I'm struggling to get angry about things.

Seemingly a good problem? Not to the people who pushed Rage Against the Machine to the top of the Christmas charts. Personally I didn't like the Joe McElderry/X-Factor Christmas single, but not enough to go out and buy anything else (as other people willingly admitted to).

In what I think was 1993 I remember being very amused by the thought of Mr Blobby being Christmas number one instead of Take That, now the thought of doing something to spite someone just doesn't appeal to me. On Facebook I likened it to Charlton Athletic's all-consumming bitterness towards Crystal Palace. When bitterness starts to define you in such a way that it is greater than your love/liking for something else I think that's pretty sad.

On top of that there is the matter of priorities. Do know the kind of thing that does make me angry? A few years ago a friend of mine told me about how his Mum was diagnosed with cancer, but only after visiting a hospital for the third time and insisting that she was examined as she was sure there was something wrong with her. A wife, a mother, who thankfully recovered in no part due to two doctors who had told her she had nothing to worry about.

Life and death. Personal health. Families and their homes. Those are the kinds of things which stir my feelings, not Simon Cowell's bank balance and/or ego. There are simply bigger things to worry about.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Time vs Me

I hate feeling like I have to explain a tweet, but on Saturday night I tweeted that the night's biggest loser was the PS3 game Uncharted 2.

Feeling as if I'm a somewhat solitary voice on this game I need to explain myself. It looks fantastic, it has a plot and it certainly has charm. What it can't do is create about 20-30 hours for me to play it. Furthermore the two friends with me (one slightly older than me, with a busy career, the other slightly younger and married) agreed with me.

So Uncharted 2 would have been perfect for me in May/June 1994, when I spent the end of my first year at University avoiding people and playing game after game of Football and Baseball ("Pop-up!") on my Amiga. Now I just don't have that time.

I'm now the person who fits in a quick game of FIFA. I'm the person who mostly runs and stays in bounds on Madden to keep the clock moving. I'm the person who rues replays in NHL because they're a hindrance to the game progressing*.

(* I made an exception when my best mate missed an open net the on his recent visit, but only because it appealed to my warped sense of humour.)

Time isn't my friend, it is a persistent and speedy enemy. I have ways to combat it, but in ways which don't leave me with time for Uncharted 2.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Belated Summer Summary

Just a quick run-down on our summer, which I'll argue as being fitting as British Summer Time only ended last Sunday (of course as I pointed out to someone on Sunday morning, British Summer Time really ended about eight weeks ago).

Summer holiday: We did something different this year and went down to the Ayrshire coast. The good part? We took Cookie with us. The bad part? Well besides being in a smaller than usual bed with a tipping mattress that threatened to throw me out every night, let's just say the argument of certain places having a benefit of "Once you're there everything's paid for" is a bit of a joke. Swimming is paid for. Everything else? Not so much.


On the plus side, at least Chloe had fun, eating ice cream with money given to her by her Gran and drawing away when the weather wasn't so nice. Meanwhile I struggled to get any kind of 3g signal or find a petrol station within ten minutes of us. I went a bit stir crazy.

Also, somewhat randomly during our holiday, Chloe told me, "Dad, you change your mind, like a girl changes clothes." I thought I'd heard that before somewhere. Turns out I had.

Elsewhere: Honestly, it seems like I do nothing other than work and commute lately. I can't really recall anything else I did over the summer which I would class as really fun or memorable, except for...


The Dog's Trust Open Day in Hamilton. Always a blast, so much fun to take Cookie to and give him a day where he's the centre of attention. You have to love that dog (who's been with us for seven years, to this very day).

N.B. As always, all photos are from my Flickr photostream.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

What I Was Surfing Last Month

Every month I keep a little text file of any websites or online articles that grab my eye, then at the end of the month I categorise them and add them to a growing list of articles which have interested me. Most of these stay in offline records for reference, some get stored to my Diigo account, and some which I just like the look of get a screenprint taken and stashed away for ideas and/or inspiration.

However, this month, just to do something different, I thought I'd share it here. Given the way most links are displayed these days I don't think many of these require much explanation. N.B. Not all of these are strictly personal interest. Some of them are just things which I enjoyed reading. Also they weren't necessarily originally produced last month, but came to my attention for one reason or another at this time:

And the one I liked for looking nice...

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Bye Bye, Mobile Broadband

Earlier this month I phoned Vodafone and told them I would be cancelling my mobile broadband contract with them. They then told me that I had to give them a month's notice, which annoyed me, but only because I pride myself in knowing the terms and conditions on things like this and checking them out in good time.

Anyway, I'm going ahead and cancelling my mobile broadband contract. Why? Because this country isn't ready for it yet, as was shown when we went on holiday last month and the speed of my connection struggled to download my e-mail. Partying like it was 1999? Nope, just connecting like it.

It is just the same at home, and indeed anywhere else that isn't the centre of Glasgow. So I don't regret my decision, especially with more and more places having their own wireless networks available. Why pay £14 a month when you may only spend £4 here and £5 there every so often and get a better class of service for it?

What I read in this month's .Net just backs that up. On page 16 in their news section they quote some figures in regard to mobile broadband connections, going further than me and warning of poor speed connections if you live outside the M25.

Just to clarify, I'm not blaming Vodafone. Their service in every respect was great (especially customer service), but performance of 3g networks if you're outside a major city centre just doesn't perform well enough yet in my view. One day it might, but for the time being a pay-as-you-go basis would be the only way I'd commit to mobile broadband, and that would be for emergencies only.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Getting Follow Friday All Wrong

Thought it might be interesting to take a look at one of my favourite web sites at the moment, and who I'm following on it. Yep, I'm talking about Twitter.

Now some of my love of Twitter has to do with my new phone. I get Twitter updates straight to it, regardless of where I am and and who I'm with. It makes Twitter extremely useful, as the content is purely text (unlike some of the HTML e-mails I get through to my phone). So who am I following? Let's take a look:

@DesignerDepot Now some people do start following you after you make posts, which is what Web Designer Depot did. However when I took a look at their feed there is lots of interesting stuff to see there. Also on the web design front, I need to recommend @sitepointdotcom and @netmag.

@PTIshow My one remaining can't miss TV show, until ESPN America disappears (sob! weep!). Added bonus points for the daily "Today on the PTI Show Twitter feed... what did you tweet about Mike?" feature on the show that is always interesting. Need to mention @aroundthehorn, as there is probably no other Twitter feed which makes me more interested in any programme.

@sportsguy33 Yep, the Bill Simmons feed. Usually entertaining, sometimes self-promoting and occasionally scathing about us Brits (actually some of his posts, along with some Bob Ryan comments on PTI make me wonder if I really would enjoy visiting Boston). Normally pretty funny though, especially as he's got his friend @jacko2323 on board (Joe House, where are you?).

Like interesting writing that's a bit more serious? I'd fully recommend @jdroth.

My favourite drink, @mtn_dew, as does my favourite lounge @jadande (who gets bonus points for not being his pompous former L.A. Times colleague).

Need to recommend some great apps, namely @firefox, @twitterfox, @dropbox and @shareaholic. If you don't use Windows then you're pretty likely to find something interesting from @davecampbell.

And finally, just because he's shares pretty much all my interests, but is funnier, wittier and more interesting than me... @benjiwilson. And as a bonus, he'll probably post anything important that @easports post as well.

Actually, let's make this the last one. Did you get this far, @JasonLMatthews?

Official Twitter Site

Sunday, 28 June 2009

My New(ish) Toy: A Review

Like it? After three and a half years with my Sony Ericsson K750i (an easy to remember figure of time, given that I got it specifically so only Lorraine could contact me before Chloe was born) I finally decided to upgrade my phone about two months ago, allowing me to have all kinds of fun with a new device.

Not that it was easy to move on, mind you. I was on a superb tariff with my K750i, it was a phone I loved and knew like the back of my hand. And I usually only had to charge it about once a week.

So it wasn't altogether easy to move onto a G1, but I did, and for the most part I don't regret it. Let's take a look at some of the benefits of it:
  • The tariff. Not quite as good as I was on, but I managed to get eight months free line rental from T-Mobile. Furthermore surfing the web doesn't cost a thing.
  • Instant access to my Gmail, which I run just about everything through.
  • Lots of apps. Still finding my way around these if I'm honest. Love Twitroid though, makes it super easy to post to my Twitter account, as well as keeping up with friends throughout the day. Beats coming home to 106 tweets.
  • Want to flash up your address book? I can do so with pictures. Small thing, but I like it.
  • Masses of memory. 2Gb (i.e. lots of music), so no hassle in considering whether or not to get a Sony memory card any more.
  • The trackball, which I wasn't looking forward to using, is pretty good for navigating around.
  • Phone call quality? Pretty good I'd say. Nice and clear on most calls I've made.
And in the interests of fairness, some of the poorer sides of it:
  • First and foremost, the battery life is horrible. I need to charge this just about every day. Yes, every day. Really not good.
  • Not all webpages are equal. For instance I really don't like what it does to Google Reader.
  • Let's be honest as well, the 3G speeds in the UK aren't great yet. Not bad, but could be better.
  • No templates in text messages. Sounds like a small gripe, but when sending a message to Lorraine about when I would be home from various places this used to take me two seconds. Now it is more like two minutes.
  • Grouping text messages together. Every to and from you send to one person gets grouped together, until you delete it, when you delete the whole conversation. No more saving the Jack Bannister-themed texts my friend Nick sent me two years ago that still reside on my K750i.
  • Twitroid might be too easy to post from, as some of my posts my wife has made on my behalf might attest to.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

One Of Those Brief Updates

I look at my last posts shows it has been far too long since I last posted anything. As a matter of fact there's nothing I particularly feel the need to comment on, but to show I haven't dropped off the face of the earth I thought I'd post a few posters that go along with a few things

Probably the most exciting thing I've done since my last post was to visit Sheffield for the first weekend of the World Snooker Championship. It was something I had never been to before and I'm really glad I did it. However first and foremost I'm glad I did it because it gave me a chance to catch up with three of my best friends at once.

Anyway, I was somewhat surprised at how small and intimate the Crucible Theatre is. I'm not sure how well this photo shows that but I thought it may be interesting to show.


Two weeks after that I had another Sheffield sporting event, only this time it was Sheffield United visiting Selhurst Park for Palace's last game of the season.

The weather was beautiful, but the game was a bit of a let down. Although United were going for promotion Palace had nothing to play for and it wasn't a particularly great game. It finished as a scoreless draw, which now means I haven't seen Palace score for over two years. Ouch.


Besides that? I've not been up to much, just a whole lot of working, helping my wife with the garden and taking Chloe swimming. Days are just flying by.

N.B. As always, all photos are from my Flickr photostream.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Three Months as a PS3 Owner: The Other Games

About a week and a half ago I posted Three Months as a PS3 Owner: Prologue, a short introduction to my review of the games I currently own as a PS3 owner. In that I talked about MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, my favourite game, and now I talk about the other games I own, in order of preference.

Don't get too excited, I don't own that many games. I haven't been a prolific games owner probably since I was at University. Work and friends - not to mention family - tend to take precedence these days.

For a long time I must admit that I wasn't a great fan of the FIFA series. Between battles on my best mate's PC where the pitch seemed huge and times where I was overwhelmed by my brother-in-law on his Nintendo Gamecube, the game didn't hold a lot of appeal or fond memories (and that's before you even mention the old combo of John Motson and Ally McCoist).

But then I was given FIFA 09 by my aforementioned best mate when he came to visit, and you know what? It's a lot more fun now. Okay, I still haven't won a game online, but I'm slowly getting better at it and enjoying it more and more. I'd probably learn more if I actually experimented with learning new things in a game instead of trying to win every single match I play, but that's my being competitive I guess.

Odd quirk: the feedback on the Dual Shock controller when a shot hits the post, something which my best friend and I both pondered and couldn't reason exactly why they'd applied that at that point.

Update: Just fired this up today for the first time in a while. Saw the new trophies for the first time - lots of fun stuff there. Even scored a goal from the move which earned me The Ol' Switcheroo Trophy. Nice!

SingStar ABBA
A concession to my lovely wife, who I felt wasn't getting the most out of having a PS3 (the word "widow" did pass her lips prior to buying this). As we couldn't get the SingStar with microphones pack that Argos were offering at the time we decided to pony up for the microphones ourselves and then get the ABBA version of the game separately. Honestly, it probably worked out better for us. More songs we know, more fun, and we probably got our money's worth from it the first time we played it.

And that was before I learnt to save other people's songs, then play it back with the pitch shift effect applied - Chipmunks in your living room, wunderbar!

Just don't ask me to provide backing vocals on "Take a Chance On Me", it isn't pretty.

(And yes, I will be getting SingStar Queen at some point. It's a cast-iron certainty.)

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue
Ah yes, part of my reason for wanting a PS3, to be able to indulge in the Gran Turismo series, the one game which pays the proper homage to Laguna Seca, my favourite racetrack in the whole world.

Small problem: version 5 proper keeps being pushed back and back, leaving us with the short version of the game which allows a total of six tracks in a grand total of 12 different configurations. Of these tracks, four are in Japan, four are nigh-on impossible to overtake on, and six don't exist in reality at all. That being said, the two-player battle mode is great fun, especially for the time when I watched my wife play against my mother-in-law. It wasn't a quick game but I'm amazed we didn't wake Chloe up with all the laughing.

Back onto the negatives and the online mode, which might be the most frustrating experience of any game I've ever played, having various other players batter me about and then I get penalised for hitting them by accident? Infuriating. Less of that, more two player battles for me are the way to go. Lots more fun.

(And get on with the main game... with Laguna Seca please!)

Midnight Club: Los Angeles
To be honest until a few days ago I hadn't had this out of the box for weeks. To begin with I liked this game. The presentation is stunning, it looks beautiful and some of the graphics are nothing short of stunning. However for a casual gamer like myself it slowly loses appeal for a number of reasons, these being:
  1. If you only play games every so often the thought of earning a few hundred dollars each race and looking towards a target of earning a million dollars seems like a long way off.
  2. There is no multi-player mode (yeah, I know that PS3s work towards online play, but I'm old school and like playing games against someone in the same room).
  3. The soundtrack is a little bit, how can I say this?... urban. It isn't really my style (and my style is a whole other debate, as anyone who has ever lived with me will tell you).
  4. It all gets to be a bit samey after a while. At least Need For Speed Underground (my previous fave of a similar nature to this) had circuit races, drift races, drag races. The different modes in Midnight Club: Los Angeles are pretty much the same (and don't get into how many times I've managed to get lost in red light races, that's my pet peeve about this game).
That being said, if they launch a Midnight Club: Atlanta/Glasgow/London I'm probably buying it. It isn't that bad, it just isn't quite my thing.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Three Months as a PS3 Owner: Prologue

I thought I'd put together a little post on being a PS3 owner, but as I'm struggling to get the time to put together a longer entry right now I thought I'd post a little taster with some words about my favourite game.

Motor Storm: Pacific Rift
Yes, I'm putting this game at the top of the list. Me, the sports buff. Just because I really think this game is that good.

Prior to getting a PS3 I played a demo of this on my friend Douglas's PS3, and we both really enjoyed it. It showed enough of the game to me to justify picking one of the bundles that included it when I bought a PS3, and I've enjoyed it from the get go.

While winning races takes a little while to master, having fun during them does not. Lorraine enjoys this game as well, although mostly for the spectacular crashes (she earned the Stuntman award for performing an impressive barrel roll).

Whether played by just yourself, with a friend in the room, or online, this game provides all kinds of fun, plenty of challenges, a range of different race options depending on your level of skill and experience. I start playing this game and then find I can't stop. I actually had to earn the Survivor award on the same night as I got the Timesink and Bully awards, just so I could feel a little better about myself.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this game.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Facebook By Numbers

As I finally crossed the 40-friend plateau on Facebook in the last week I thought this might be a bit of fun to do. I swear this didn't take me that long to do, I'm not that much of a geek.

(And I know this should be titled "Facebook By Percentages", but that doesn't really sound as nice, does it?)

By nation:
English - 40%
Scottish - 37.5%
USA - 20%
Other - 2.5% (Hi Sally!)

Female - 65%
Male - 35%
Other - 0% (insert your own joke here)

I know you all so well:
Percentage of my "friends" who I've not met - 10%
Further friends who I've only met once - 5%

Where I know people from:
Church - 50%
Work - 30%
Fellow supporter of by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen - 15%
Uni - 2.5% (Hi Gill!)
Other - 2.5% (Hi Pat!)

One person actually crosses the Church/Work divide, but I'm sure neither he nor I want to think back to a time where earning £2.50 an hour in a summer job was acceptable.

And as a final aside, of my best friends I'd probably estimate that 40 to 50% of them are actually on Facebook.

How and where do you know your Facebook friends from?

Monday, 19 January 2009

2008 Review In Pictures

I thought it might be nice to do something a little bit different here, and so with the help of inspiration of blogs like The Big Picture I thought a pictoral review of last year might be fun.

As always, all photos can be found in my Flickr photostream.

Our big girl is now a big three. Chloe is walking, talking and still bringing more smiles and fun to the house than I would have ever thought possible.

Our dog Cookie is slightly older, but still just as loved. His age is showing a bit now, as the white on his chest is spreading subtly, leaving shades of grey even in his face. I still love him to bits, even if he's a big Mummy's Boy. This picture was taken on the freezing cold Saturday after Christmas, when I knew the park would be quiet and I could take him off his lead safely and let him have a run around. Well worth bearing the cold for.

The Mrs is still the Mrs, and she still loves me (thankfully). This past summer she was the bridesmaid at her brother's wedding, and here can be seen with Chloe after the service.

One of my favourite blogs ran the question "What Are Your Biggest Accomplishments of 2008?" After the initial guilty/panic-stricken blank thoughts I did think of some things, but best of all had to be appearing on - and winning - a TV gameshow. Something which started as a "Why not give it a go?" thought turned out to be something well worth doing on so many levels. The medal is actually given to each day's Going For Gold runner-up, which I was on my second day on the show, and isn't as large as it appears on the show (blame the camera angle they use for that, I guess). Still a nice memento though.