Sunday, 16 March 2008

Not perfect by any means, but coming along.

Always happy to share any randomness I find online here's a link to an article on the good old BBC News about Google's awesome new Zurich offices. I want to work for a company like that!
Onto the main bulk of this blog posting and I'm happy to report I'm feeling slightly more optimistic about the future. Sure, I'm still sitting in the library at 8pm "working" on my dissertation because my computer is so fricking slow and unreliable. And sure I've got even less money to my name than I had when last I posted. And sure I'm reaching the point where I'm so poor I feel guilty buying food.

But that same dissertation is coming along a little, and the applications for housemates are starting to come in and I've got some great plans in place for what free time I'm affording myself this "holiday" so it's hard not to feel just a little lighter on my feet as I lug my bag of books backwards and forwards.

And now, because I'm actually here to work ('ha!' I hear you cry) I'm signing off on that short little note. I'll just leave you with this picture (because I always like to try and include an image in my blog), no real reason other than I like it because I have a soft spot for sunsets. Oh and I took it, almost two years ago in Berlin.

Is this going to be one of those weeks?

No, really. Is it? Let's take stock.

Having closely assessed my finances I've discovered that it's not likely I'll run into a deficit before I graduate it's a damn certainty and with a request being put in with the bank of mum and dad for help with the £300 deposit I have to put down on my house for next year this week I can't justify asking them for more money.

With such financial drains I've had to pull out of the Glasgow Open, the great fencing trip to Glasgow that is always a highlight of my calender and has been an Easter-ish time tradition the last two years. This is particularly frustrating as I wanted us to win Best Club there this year which obviously would have been particularly important to me as the Club Captain.I'm staying in Liverpool overtime to work on my dissertation. Yesterday my laptop shut itself off whilst I was working and I've lost not only 300 words of the draft but around twelve pages of research that was painfully squeezed out of the internet connection which is also fluctuating between dead and snail's pace at the moment.

Everyone's gone home now except Jon and it's at times like these when I realise how much I've changed. In years gone by (quite a time ago) I had no problems with my own company and would quite happily watch a DVD, play a game, read a book, write just spend time with myself and be happy. These days I find myself craving just a chat over a cup of tea or a ten minute bantering session with someone. I suppose its a change for the best - it shows how I've developed as a social creature and improved my communication skills to the Nth degree, does make you feel quite lonely at times though.

Given the laptop unreliability and the crappy internet I'm considering relocating to the library. At least there I can people watch for a while. The only hassle is carting off the quite considerably pile of books that I've accumulated around this dissertation - many of which are actually my own property now not library books.

On the plus sides I had a good day of rugby yesterday and whilst after 40 minutes of Wales doing what Wales do best (keeping Welsh fans scared) I was petrified it was going to be a very bad day for the Celts (Scotland and Ireland both losing their matches). The boyos pulled through and the Grand Slam cheer went up. For the record I dared to believe in them from the start! I've also recovered from my flu, my immune system beating it down to just a very annoying cold now. That in itself is a miracle given my current sleep deprived, malnourished state.

Where was I, oh yeah - so I'm poor, my laptop is playing up, the internet is playing up, my dissertation isn't going greatly and what work I'm doing is being sabotaged by Gremlins. The majority of people have gone away and left me. I'm going to have to job hunt straight after Easter is over - when hopefully my dissertation is at least fully drafted.
I'm considering packing it all in, job, uni, house, life and putting on my warmest layers, grabbing a few good pens and some pads and bumming my way around the UK as a writer-tramp (George Orwell did it!!!). Well okay, maybe I'm not THAT down but sometimes with a whole week of monotony ahead of you its hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel and not imagine an oncoming train or a psycho with a flamethrower.

Friday, 14 March 2008


Awwww bless her little cotton socks!!! Click here to see a three year old (American) girl's take on that cultural watershed that is Star Wars. I particularly like the way she thinks Luke's training droid is a poké ball and the way C3PO is the "shiny-guy". Bechod!

The pictures for this post arn't from the film but are equally sweet!

In other news, on slightly more personal notes. I've been really ill with a bad dose of flu this week (which was fun) but I've also been house hunting and today have rung the landlord of the favoured property to talk about sealing the deal. This moves me one step closer to actually having future plans! It's a nice terrace house on the edge of Kensington, not a bad part of town really (we all know how bad it is deeper in) only another 5 mins ontop of my travel time at the moment (ie. 5 mins + 5 mins). We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Heart Warming Tale

Sick of hearing about Alistair Darling's uber-exciting budget (sic)? If you are take a look at the story of the day as far as I'm concerned: Click here to read the story on BBC News of Moko the whale saving dolphin.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Tetris DS

Tetris. It's an institution, especially for Nintendo's handheld consoles. Anybody of around our age who held a Gameboy at some point (and I mean the big clunky grey ones) probably played it at some point. Even if you missed that little cultural watershed you can't fail but be aware of the premise of the game and the simple joy stacking these little bricks to make lines can create.

Even those who don't really "get" computer games, or understand the attraction of a puzzle can sit and play tetris for a good few minutes and become entranced by the rotating falling bricks and their ever increasing speed. How many people are with me in recognising the frustration of needing that long thin piece and all you keep getting are the L shapes that aren't quite long enough. Or the anger you feel when a 2x2 square comes down just at the moment when you don't have any surfaces for it to sit on without leaving gaps.

No, there's no question that tetris was going to be fun when re-released on the Nintendo DS, the question was how were they going to justify a £29.99 price tag for a game that can now be found bundled on disposable keyring games, mobile phones and even iPods.

So what have we got? Well you've got the normal mode which is basically a brightly coloured version of the original with (if you have time to tear your eyes away from the bricks) an automated demo of a Mario game playing across the top screen with Mario classic tunes for accompaniment. Each time you get ten lines you go up a level and the speed of the game increases, the music and Mario level also changes. It's quite nifty.

The new stuff comes in the form of an assortment of different takes on the classic from the Legend of Zelda themed Mission Mode (tasks include: "clear two lines with a 2x2" or use a "blue L to clear all blocks"), Donkey Kong themed Push where two games play on opposing screens and literally push the other persons game closer to game over, this has a vs. Computer mode but is best played in multiplayer. Touch mode themed around the lesser known Balloon Flight asks you to use the stylus to drag and drop blocks from a vast tower to reach the cage of balloons at the top. Of all the modes this seems the most original and fresh, fittingly different and obviously unique to the DS's touch screen capabilities.

The final two modes are Catch Mode which is based on the Metroid game, it's a little weird, you rotate a core of blocks and catch the falling ones adding them to your core which resets when you get enough without gaps. Miss some, accidentally hit the falling Metroids or touch the top or bottom of the screen and its good night Vienna. Finally there's Puzzle Mode which is themed around the game Yoshi's Cookie. This game gives you, for example, 3 bricks and a predetermined mess of already dropped bricks and then asks you to clear it all up. It's harder than you think.

Add in a very good multiplayer, including much loved 1-card short range play (meaning anyone with a DS and within a certain range can play with you and you only need one copy of the game) and you certainly seem to have a lot crammed onto the little cart, except that you really don't.

The only downside to this game is that for the price tag I'd like to see more extras. The only unlockable features are a few new soundtracks, great as they are its not enough. There is little incentive for me to play the other modes and I keep coming back to the classic or Standard mode.

I imported this game (saving a bundle) via eBay, I have to say I do love it and it's already absorbed a lot of my time. For the money I paid I'm happy but if I had paid the full £30 price tag I think I would have expected a little bit more.

Nevertheless the falling bricks are as addictive and compelling as ever. If you DO like tetris or puzzle games in general there is little wrong with this game at all.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10

Monday, 3 March 2008

Back from a hiatus

I love that word. Hiatus. Sounds good doesn't it.

It's been a pretty long hiatus, but the blog is back up and running. There's so much going on at the moment I shouldn't really have time to post anything but here we go nonetheless.

In that time I've been up to a lot of junk, with varying levels of success. I've been down into the deepest depths of despair and raised to stellar levels of joy.

The most recent achievement I've clocked up is my completing the Liverpool Half Marathon 2008. I finished the 13.1 mile course in 2hrs 22mins 20 seconds (according to the gun time), according to the official results on the websites I came in place 3042 of 3435 I know that sounds pretty bad but to be honest I'm just happy I finished. The bane of my running life are my knees which despite a support on the right knee (the main trouble maker) starting hurting at the 3 mile mark. I pushed through and was confident that I could make it round without stopping until a muscle twang around 9.5 miles made me stop for a minute whilst I stretched out my hamstring.

Maybe I should have taken this as a warning: I started running again until I passed the 11 mile marker when I had the worst cramp I have ever experienced. My right calf just clenched mid stride and I had a shooting pain near the bottom and side of my knee (where I imagine the calf ligaments are...?). It literally floored me and it was heart warming to see how many people stopped to check I was ok and offered to send one of the many medical teams back for me. I declined the help through gritted teeth and after a couple of minutes managed to get up and carry on.

Needless to say the pain was pretty bad and it was at a slow hobble that I made the final two miles. Before the race we'd joked that the final .1 mile (of the 13.1) would be a killer that would destroy us and I really shouldn't have made such a comment as I entered the final stretch, limping along and people were cheering us on at both sides of the track, I could even hear people shouting out my number (454) seeing the obvious pain on my face. Well, the pain got worse. Just as I began the final hundred metre hobble my left leg cramped up. Not as bad as the right calf but enough to send my stumbling. I was determined not to go down though and with every last piece of willpower I could summon (and yes, I'll admit - through a haze of tears) I forced myself across the line before falling to my knees clutching my leg.

If I EVER say I'm going to do something so physically trying as that run again remind me of all of this but more than anything else, remind me how stupid I was to not do any training since a run to the park (of maybe 8km) in NOVEMBER! Fool!

Anyway, today my knees are fine (weirdly) and my legs are okay, just a considerably amount of muscle stiffness and rawness where my shorts had started to chafe. At least I got a medal and a T-shirt though :-D I gave myself my own reward by letting myself do most of my work for the day in bed. Getting up at 5pm for something to eat and then hobbling to the library where you find me now at 00.30am putting the final touches to some dissertation research. Oh and reviving this blog.

See how long it lasts this time!