Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mixed Bag

A variety of topics for today's post, and there were going to be more but I've managed to forget a few. No doubt they'll pop up soon enough.

First up is one of the mini-rants that seem to pervade this blog. This time it's the turn of HDR in Oblivion. Now, I know HDR provides an enhanced gaming experience by reproducing far more realistic effects for an intensely immersive experience and blah blah blah, but seriously, what's up with it in Oblivion? It seems that every light source, every piece of metal, and indeed every freakin' tree in the game becomes bright enough to both blind you and cause severe sunburn. Highly polished metal I can understand, but when it's every damn thing you look at I can only assume they were going less for realism and more "this is all a dream....". I swear I saw uber-reflective stone walls.

Moving into the domain of "random things I've seen", how about this one. The Dunelm in Loughborough (hate the green logo on the site btw, it's meant to be more of a tan colour) has a big uber Main Power Lever Of Doom upstairs on the wall, publicly accessible. If only it was a video game where I could throw that switch to cut all the power off without the police grabbing me.

And my final point I can remember - a quick pre-use evaluation of my new PC case. I went for Jeantech's Phong II (protip: get a new site designer) because reviews mentioned it was pretty damn good value for money. Anywho, it arrived and t'was all in order, which was nice :-) The thumbscrews are a welcome change from my usual "spend half an hour finding a screwdriver before doing anything", as are the pre-installed and nicely large fans. It comes with a 140mm fan in the front and a 120mm fan in the back, which should be substantially quieter than the 2 or 4 90mm fans that I'm used to. Also very nice was the compartmented box of colour coded thumbscrews and other miscellaneous parts it came with, as well as the pre-installed rubber grommets in the hard drive bays to reduce vibrations that would normally be transmitted to the case. Pretty much the only change I'm going to have to make to it is a simple swap of the side air duct for another fan as it won't line up nicely with the Freezer Pro 7 anyway. If I'm feeling adventurous I may rig this fan up to direct air over the graphics card rather than just straight into the case, we'll see. Overall I love my new case :-)

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Calm Down Dear

Quote the Sun:

Evil dictator Saddam Hussein goes to hell for his crimes

Is it just me or have they forgotten how to report without huge excesses of emotive language. Personally it doesn't work on me anymore because they just go way over the top.

I also like the fact that our "impartial" news reporting outlets assume that Christianity is The One True Faith. What if god likes people like Saddam? Or if (s)he doesn't care about such petty human affairs? What if there isn't a hell to go to? Or if the criteria for entry are completely different? What if hell isn't a place of eternal damnation and suffering? What if there isn't a heaven/hell distinction and there is just one place where the dead hang out? What if our souls continue to inhabit this plane of existence rather than passing on? What if god's plan just didn't include anywhere for our souls to go after our death? What if we get reincarnated?

And when you come down to it, what if there is no magical (wo)man in the sky and when we die we simply stop existing?

Friday, December 29, 2006

New PC :-D

Well the parts have started trickling in, though some are going to be delivered after I go back to Coventry so I'll have to wait to pick those up :-( Quick specs below, and yes there's some odd choices but I have my reasons :-P

Case: Jeantech Phong 2
Motherboard: Asus Striker Exteme NF680i
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 (2.13 GHz, 1066MHz FSB, Allendale Core, 2MB Cache)
Cooling: Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro
RAM: Crucial CT2KIT12864AA667 2GB kit (1GBx2)
Graphics: XFX 512MB GeForce 7950GT XXX (overclocked - Mem 1600MHz, GPU 610MHz)
PSU: 600W Seasonic S12-600

Saturday, December 23, 2006

PSP Games

My PSP is now on firmware 2.71 under DevHook so I finally have the ability to do a load of things that I couldn't under basic 2.0. One of those abilities is to boot game ISOs from the memory stick. Now this is technically illegal I guess, but I'm doing it for a good reason : make sure games are worth buying before I shell out cash on them. My basic plan is to try the game out and if I play it a lot then buy a real copy of it as the people who made it deserve the money. If I'm not impressed by the game then I won't buy it (and nor will I continue to play the rip of it). Contrary to how various organisations see it, I have actually made more purchases of real music, dvds and games based on my impressions from rips than I would have without them, my default stance is not to bother buying something unless I already know about it.

Anywho, my thoughts on various games so far:

Armored Core : Formula Front (Own)
This game has two of my favourite things - Mechs and insane amounts of customisation. Not a game for someone who just wants something they can pick up between doing other things, this takes actual concentration and a will to get right into the customising of your war machines. The ability to do matches on manual control or using the (customisable) AI is nice as well.

Wipeout Pure (Own)
This was the first game I owned for the PSP and I played it near obsessively for quite a long time, I in fact have gold on a substantial number of the races. If you've played previous Wipeout games then this is definately one to look for, if you haven't played one previously then it's still great fun.

Lumines (Own)
The first (and arguably best) puzzle game released for the PSP, kind of a tetris clone with a twist and really nice graphics and music. It's also very addictive as I'm sure Gina can tell you (having played it about as much as I played Wipeout). If you can find it cheap then go for it, or even full price but I just don't like paying £20-£25 for puzzle games.

Mercury (Tried - Buying)
This is another fun puzzle game, again one to try if you can get it cheap. Take this games where you have to tilt a marble/ball bearing around a maze and then take it to a whole new level. You're tilting a ball of mercury around a level (so it's almost fluid and can split up and recombine) involving conveyor belts, gates, moving platforms, etc etc. Very fun to pick up and play at random intervals. This one is on my buying list if I can get it for under £15.

Infected (Tried - Not Buying)
I can't say I was impressed with this game, maybe the first level isn't a good indication of the whole game but it just didn't grab me, didn't give me any hooks to make me think "Yeah, I want to keep playing this". This one is off my buying list unless I happen to pick it back up and find the rest of the game is orders of magnitude more interesting.

Coded Arms (Tried - Buying)
Unlike the above, this is actually a decent shooter. In fact, I've got it paused while I type this post up and I plan to go back to it afterwards. There's not much room to innovate in a first-person shooter, but this game had just enough to interest me and keep me playing, plus it's fun and takes place inside a computer simulation. A computer simulating a computer simulation, don't you just love it? It's like a Matrix game... This one's on my buying list.

Still To Try
Ghost in the Shell
Grip Shift
Dead To Rights : Reckoning
Ridge Racer
Starwars Battlefront 2
Fired Up
Twisted Metal : Head On
Gundam Battle Tactics

Overlord advised me to check these games out:
Sonic Rivals, Lemmings, Loco Roco, Pyuo Pop Fever and Outrun 2006

Now I just need to find sources for them :-P (the list above only included ones I currently have access to and was thinking about possibly buying, plus a few that I figured might be interesting)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


You know what's freakin' awesome? The trailer for 300, specifically the International Trailer marked "(12.13.06)" as found here. It's based on one of Frank Miller's graphics novels (remember Sin City?) and done in a similar awesome style. I haven't used the word awesome enough yet : The awesomeness is strong with this one. Indeed it is awesome as the critics have forseen. etc etc. The story of 300 Spartans defending Sparta against a million or so Persians. My powers of describing appear to be failing, watch the trailer.

"Madness?! THIS IS SPARTA!"

Monday, December 18, 2006

Save or Export?

Today's challenge to programmers is to explain to me exactly what the difference is between saving a file and exporting a file. I used to believe the following definition:
  • Save : Save to a file type that you might want to transport the data around in. For example, a spreadsheet application saving in Excel or OpenDocument Spreadsheet format.

  • Export : Save to a file type useful for displaying the data, or for processing. For example, a spreadsheet application saving in HTML, PDF or CSV format.

This always made sense to me, the formats were always where I instinctively expected them to be. Then today I went to save a spreadsheet to CSV format in OpenOffice Calc. I went to the export menu and no CSV was there, it was in the normal save list. This isn't a problem really, CSV was designed to store this type of data so it's up for interpretation where to put the option to save to that format. One thing I did notice during this however was that you could export to XHTML or save to HTML. Considering they are effectively the same (*), how can they split them like that? Is there some deeper underlying truth I've missed about how the two are mostly used or something?

(*) XHTML is basically just slightly stricter HTML that doesn't let you ignore the standard and still have it work, how it should have been in the first place really.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Newbies and Free Things

I'd like to start off an excerpt from a conversation on IRC:

<bracks> vlc is just for newbies that dont know how to install codecs
<Kemp-> ... I honestly can't answer someone who can come up with that line of reasoning
<Kemp-> operating systems are just for newbies that can't manually adjust the processor state by shorting pins out to ground or vcc

This was the guy who couldn't get videos to play properly due to a problem with installing codecs.

Is usability in general so bad that we've accepted this sort of thing? That if a program anticipates your needs and lets you just do what you want to without jumping through hoops then of course it must be for newbies and not good enough for Real Users?

In other news, I got some free goodies today from Crime Generators, sorry... Cash Generators. I bought a TV about a month ago (strangely not cheaper than buying a brand new one really, but they're pretty much next door so I didn't have to drag it across half of Cov) and it died the Thursday just gone. Not even an impressive death, it just turned off and refused to come back on (it wasn't the fuse). Anywho, I took it back and they tried it and confirmed it was dead, so they got me a replacement. During this the woman put the remote control in the bag which is kinda good because they couldn't find one before, so already I had gained something I didn't get originally, and they didn't ask why there was no remote there. Then they notice the TVs have been reduced since I bought them and it's now £10 less. I expected them to not do anything about that as it's a straight replacement and to my knowledge shops don't refund differences for that. However, the manager guy who happened to be nearby told me that he wouldn't mind if I grabbed a couple of DVDs to make up the difference. Win. :-) So because my TV died, I now have a remote for it and a couple of free DVDs. I'm quite happy with the transaction overall.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

NaN? That's Far Too Easy...

This thread on TheDailyWTF linked here and much hilarity ensued. Basically this guy has taken existing concepts (NaN, division by zero, infinity, etc), rewritten it slightly in a way that makes things basically suck and called it his amazing new invention that will revolutionalise everything in maths, computing, etc. He's even taken it upon himself to teach it to children at school. Here are some choice comments (and bear in mind the Wikipedia article on his new maths was put up for deletion barely 2 hours after its creation):
So, in order to avoid causing math errors from division by zero, this idiot has created a new batch of entities which requires special rules which are even more complex (which means less intuitive and more difficult to implement) than just "don't divide by zero". Obviously a major human accomplishment.

If math were medicine, this guy just invented a special new pill which, if you take it, one Planck Time unit before you die, puts you into a coma-like state in which you do not eat, breathe, communicate, or think, and in which you eventually decompose. Your legal status becomes hopelessly confused, and your doctor has to spend twenty times as much effort to deal with it as he would have to sign a death certificate. But it sure beats dying!

[...] the "inventor's" example of the calamity that would ensue if an autopilot system were to crash because of a divide-by-zero. Now, if instead we received a null, how would this carry through the equations/program used within the autopilot? Then the settings for the thrust, alerones, elevators, and everything else would become null. What do you do with a null? Nothing! It's just as indeterminate as the divide-by-zero you were originally stuck with. So if the resulting values are of no use, then what was the point of continuing with the calculation? You gain nothing by continuing past the null condition.

In CS, we have a term for this: an exception. When something happens that stops the show, you back out and try to recover from it. How does a null change this? Instead of immediately backing out (as the divby0 interrupt on any processor would do), you have to constantly check the "nullity" of your return value and manually back out. Congradulations, you've reinvented the square wheel.

What really scares me though, is that he's teaching this to his high school class. This isn't yet an accepted mathematical representation, let alone part of the curricullum that he is required to follow. So why is this being taught to high school students who will blindly accept his useless nonsense?

The part mentioned above is this:
"Imagine you're landing on an aeroplane and the automatic pilot's working," he suggests. "If it divides by zero and the computer stops working - you're in big trouble. If your heart pacemaker divides by zero, you're dead."

So how does he suggest it deals with a nullity condition then? Should the heart rate be increased? Lowered? Should the plane bank? Dive? Eject the motherf***ing snakes?

This theory is full of fail.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Linux + Usability

Further to my previous posts about gradually liking Linux more and more, I do have to point out that Windows has one thing on its side. It may be bloated, slow, unreliable and targetted by every virus/spyware writer in existence, but it's usable by (almost) anyone. The problem that Linux has, and will always have until the programmers start to pick their game up, is that it's simply not possible for the average computer user (ie, someone without a degree in computing) to pick it up and use it. Sure the basic functionality is fine, but once you start doing anything useful that Windows handles for you, like printing to a network printer, you start hitting the machine with large blunt objects. The problem seems to be a combination of two things:
  • No will to create decent documentation

  • An assumption that not only will you be familiar with the internals of Linux, you will be familiar with the internals of the tool that you only just picked up

  • Fancy graphical interfaces that actually don't help you at all

Until developers think in terms of usability, the approaching time of mass adoption will never, never, appear.

As a case in point, I have this article about one man's attempts to set up CUPS. I personally have been exposed to a similar task in CUPS and even with instructions from someone who's already done it, it wasn't nice at all.
Part 1
Part 2

I'm sure Sarah will have a cunningly persuasive rebuttal, but you know it's all true really :-P

Friday, December 01, 2006

Still Alive

I'm still alive, I just don't seem to find the time to post much. I'm going back and tagging random posts though (yay for Blogger Beta) so at least I'm doing something here. Real post soon, I promise.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Annoying Software

Just a couple of points about annoying software recently. First one is the Ringo screensaver do-hickey that downloads your network's pictures so the screensaver can rotate between them. I never actually use it so I disabled it from running at startup (via the option in the program) - problem solved you'd think. Oh no, that would be too easy. Turns out it still runs anyway, it just hides itself. I found this out when out of nowhere it started updating itself. It didn't even tell me, no sign it was running, no sign it was updating itself, the only reason I knew was because my firewall tells me when programs are launching each other and it caught this happening. I make that two offenses in one: running hidden from the user after being told not to run, and auto-updating behind the user's back.

Second would be Dawn of War: Dark Crusade. This is not an expansion, I'll say that again, not an expansion. It is a complete game in itself which I don't have too much of a problem with as it is pretty good. What I do have a problem with, however, is the 4GB it makes you waste for no reason. You see, it has all the data for all 7 races including the 4 from the first game and the one from the (real) expansion Winter War. The problem is it requires you to have those games installed in order to use those races, even though it has all the data itself. That's copy protection gone mad, a sequel that requires you to have the original installed. I'm going to uninstall the original and hope that when the readme said
if you have Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War or both Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Winter Assault installed, you will unlock more multiplayer features in Dark Crusade

it actually meant
if you supply the CD key for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War or both Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Winter Assault installed, you will unlock more multiplayer features in Dark Crusade

(it does ask you for the appropriate key). Why it requires it for multiplayer and not single player is beyond me, they are roughly equivalent and need the same data.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Crazy Tabs

The post I've been meaning to make for weeks will come later (possibly without half the stuff I was going to blog about due to forgetting what they were), but for now I present you with a little "WTF?" moment...

I clicked a link from here to go here, middle-clicking in Firefox to open in a new tab. It didn't open a new tab for the page, it in fact opened 244 of them all open at that page. I was quite puzzled, especially given that there is no javascript or other pokiness involved as far as I can see.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

XPensive Software

Recently I've been getting much more enthusiastic about using Linux, having used Fedora Core something (4?) the summer before last while working on a project for the Cogent Computing ARC and doing a lot of work over the last few months with Gumstix (which come with some Linux distro, can't remember what) and Ubuntu. Then there's Knoppix which I'm using in its LiveCD form as a host system to develop my own distro based off of the guide at Linux From Scratch. Basically, I'm thinking of migrating almost all the things I do over to Linux in some form or another, possibly only keeping Windows (specifically XP, not Vista, see below) to play various games on and stuff. Besides, all the useful tools are written for Linux anyway...

This decision has been helped slightly by my discovery of various items in the Vista EULA, as mentioned here (3 pages for you =P ) and here, and I won't even go into the "Trusted Computing" nonsense or the related insane pushing of DRM at the system level (right down to the hardware itself).

As a side-note, I'd like to point you to this purely because I hate iTunes with a vengeance.

Anyway, I think that's enough to read for now. My feelings towards Windows have moved very fast towards dropping it recently, and that doesn't seem like it's going to change anytime soon.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Deja Vu

It turns out that Overlord can't post to his blog as LiveJournal looks at the timestamp, decides he's posting from an alternate reality, and rejects him faster than Lordi at the Hilton. That of course means I'm posting here to annoy him =P For those not in the UK, we're transitioning out of/into (I can never remember which) daylight savings time, so we have just had our second 1am for tonight. I think he may just be trying to post an entry before the time on the last one he posted though, whereas I'm not, which may be why the system isn't liking it.

Last night we had pink pancakes. Yes, pink :-D We decided to mix some red food colouring in for wierdness value. Not much else to say about that really.

This morning brought a nice surprise for me. At about 11-ish I think Gina answered her mobile and then suddenly hopped out of bed and ran off, "I have to go, I'll be back in about 20 minutes". Anyway, I dozed off back to sleep and when I woke up there was a wrapped package on the pillow next to me. Intrigued, I unwrapped it and what did I find? Megatokyo volume 4 :-D :-D I tried to get it ages ago but the Forbidden Planet here wasn't stocking it. Turns out Gina got them to order one in for me without me even knowing, I was rather insanely happy for the rest of the day.

That's all for now I think, time to read more of MT 4 :-D

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sony = Ultimate Lose

Sony have sued Lik-Sang out of existence, I guess that's about where I stop buying anything Sony. My only planned purchases were some PSP bits and a PS2 which I doubt would make any impact on their profits, but still, the principle is there and they're plummeting anyway, which is probably why they felt the need to be this retarded. Info.

According to Sony they are "trying to protect consumers from being sold hardware that does not conform to strict EU or UK consumer safety standards, due to voltage supply differences et cetera". That would be the hardware that includes genuine Sony power adapters with the appropriate safety markings for various countries would it?

Lik-Sang is a huge loss, not only to people who regularly import, but also apparently to Sony employees:

Sony Europe's very own top directors repeatedly got their Sony PSP hard or software imports in nicely packed Lik-Sang parcels with free Lik-Sang Mugs or Lik-Sang Badge Holders, starting just two days after Japan's official release, as early as 14th of December 2004 (more than nine months earlier than the legal action). The list of PSP related Sony Europe orders reads like the who's who of the videogames industry, and includes Ray Maguire (Managing Director, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd), Alan Duncan (UK Marketing Director, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd), Chris Sorrell (Creative Director, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd), Rob Parkin (Development Director, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Limited), just to name a few.

I can only hope that Lik-Sang come back under a different name, or that the courts see that Sony are only doing this to desperately grab money and prevent themselves from going under due to their own dumbass decisions.

Job Ad

Preference will be given to handicapped applicants if equally qualified.

Yay for discrimination against able people *rolls eyes*

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Death Metal Druids

Two conversations (IRC followed by MSN). What can I say, everyone loves the idea.

Kemp: I love that the Pope declared rock to be anti-religion, thus vindicating a lot of people's music choice
Kemp: he seems to have also forgotten that Christianity isn't the only religion
Kemp: what if there's specifically a religion related to rock, how would that fit his anti-religion idea?
Kemp: also all the religions that just don't care what we listen to
NYRelics: i believe stonehenge was just a giant amphitheather :)
Kemp: f'ing yes
NYRelics: they powered their instruments by the earth lines *g*
Kemp: can you imagine a druid death metal band
NYRelics: hgahaha
NYRelics: nope :)
Kemp: they have the long hair to flail around :D
NYRelics: that would be a good act to bring out
NYRelics: yea
NYRelics: surrounded by little evil figurines made out ofwood
NYRelics: and entrails
NYRelics: :0
NYRelics: We're Druids! ROCK ON!

Overlord: Dude, that would be so awesome to see
Kemp: yes, yes it would
Overlord: GAIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA *death metal solo*
Kemp: this must happen

Other Death Metal Druid posts:

Me and Overlord are now the only results on Google for "Death metal druids" :-D

Robin Hood

I've been watching watching the BBC's new Robin Hood series and I must say I am rather impressed by it, against my expectations. If we ignore the use of hair gel and synthetic fabrics in that time period, along with making it slightly cleaner than it would have been (presumably due to it being the BBC), and some cases of "interesting" physics, then it's quite a good series. I have no idea how historically accurate it is but I like the angle they took with it, and I'm glad they didn't start at the usual place of Robin being the "stealing from the rich to give to the poor" guy with no backstory for how he actually got there, for once he is something other than a random guy who just wants to be nice. Basically he's been away fighting with King Richard in the Crusades (thus his access to Saracen weapons) and when he gets back he sees how corrupt the local authorities have become, gets stripped of his titles (the fact that he was a noble is something that isn't mentioned a lot in other tellings, though the Disney cartoon probably isn't too good a reference for me to use =P ), and ends up making life as hard as possible for the Sheriff and Guy (of Gisbourne), who coincedentally is believed to have had his own legend going on which got absorbed into the Robin Hood one. For more info on the Crusades hit your favourite info source (Wikipedia is always useful), though a summary of the particular one going on here (if my interpretation of the information is right) can be found here:
The Third Crusade, 1189–92, followed on the capture (1187) of Jerusalem by Saladin and the defeat of Guy of Lusignan, Reginald of Ch√Ętillon, and Raymond of Tripoli at Hattin. The crusade was preached by Pope Gregory VIII but was directed by its leaders—Richard I of England, Philip II of France, and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I.
(Emphasis mine)

If I picked out the wrong Richard then feel free to moan at me, my knowledge of our old rulers is at about the same level as my knowledge of structural engineering, ie virtually zero.

Anyway, definatly something to watch if you have some time or bandwidth* spare.

* I do not endorse piracy, download from legitimate sources only =P

Thursday, October 19, 2006

BBC News

Just some random BBC News posts pulled off my news reader (and a couple that were linked to from them).

Experts create invisibility cloak
This one is fun. They managed to get what they call a "metamaterial" to redirect microwaves around an object and recombine on the other side, thus making the object near-invisible to a detector. They say that with nano-scale engineering it could be made to work with visible light as well. How would you know where you put the thing though?

US Congress steps into cyberspace
Apparently they're appointing people to check out online transactions (which occasionally involve real money) in the interests of understanding them better. They say there's no plans to start trying to tax these, but I think we all know how much their word is worth. Which leads smoothly onto...

China's full-time computer gamers
These dudes build up gold in games like World of Warcraft and then sell it for real cash. It's a (more than) full-time job but I guess it could be fun...

And finally, Basra troops 'on another planet'
When the US can support our troops better than we can then maybe we need to rethink how we treat them.

Single on memory stick for Keane
I'm quite impressed by this, releasing a single on a USB stick. You get the video for the single as well, and it's on a 512MB stick that you can use as per any other stick. Not bad for £3.99.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Food and Thought

Last night me and Gina ate at Nandos. We went there last Sunday because the Chinese had stopped cooking things for the buffet and what was left wasn't really worth it (even with the generous discount they offered us). When this Sunday rolled around we decided to go there again as it really is a great place as long as you like lots of chicken. Long story short, we ordered quite a bit. We had a chicken breast burger and chips each (mine the least hot possible of course), along with two pittas, garlic bread, and five chicken wings. I had the idea of buttering half a pitta (the butter was completely melted and thus rocked) and rolling it up with chicken off one of the wings in it, the wings being a very nice barbequed/flame-grilled flavour. That was possibly my favourite thing I ate that night, I had another two of them and Gina also had one and decided she would have more next time. We in fact had to order another pitta to make the last two, bringing the total count up to three pittas consumed. I was quite full at the end of it all. I probably won't be getting garlic bread next time as their ones taste different to the frozen store-bought ones which I'm so used to (they have corrupted my taste buds), it is something you should try at least once though as the different flavour might be something you like.

Someone we discussed momentarily while we were there was the diminishing quality of our leaders and suchlike. We started off on Martin Luther King and moved onto the fact that we don't hear any good speeches these days, I commented that the last good speech I remember hearing was in the movie Independence Day =P It also occured to me that the most famous philosopher of our time is one Tyler Durden, who isn't even real in any sense. Oh well, maybe things like that are meant to gradually become virtual, who knows?

Friday, September 22, 2006

For Iris

Click me

'Nuff said =P

Enough Already

I can't help noticing that virtually any new service launched by Microsoft recently has been a near direct copy of a Google product, sometimes even with the same name. If we ignore the search engine for now (Google's being far superior always), we currently have the more well-known ones of

Google Desktop Search -> Microsoft Desktop Search
Google Earth -> Microsoft Virtual Earth
Google Maps -> Whatever MS ended up calling it

And now Microsoft are going to also be making available online spreadsheet and wordprocessor applications, very much identical to one of Google's latest offerings. When will the madness end? Will MS soon be constructing their own moonbase? Can they even come up with original ideas anymore? Could they ever come up with a new idea? Only time will tell.

Personally I don't care either way, I'll be using Google's offerings thank you very much.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sleepy Kemp

Today (well, yesterday now) was the day of the 3D-Mintegration conference thingy, which is a contraction of miniaturisation and integration in case you were wondering. Despite my preconception of this sort of thing being very stuffy and academic it was actually quite fun, all the people I met were very nice (even the ones with some control over my funding) and free food is always welcomed by poor students such as myself =P As it was at Loughborough Uni I decided to stay at my parent's house tonight (it's like 10 minutes away) and get some things done, such as getting my hair cut and organising things for my graduation which is creeping closer each day. Also Sarah (home Sarah) is getting a new kitten tomorrow morning so I'll probably go say hi to it before heading back to Cov.

Anywho, not as much sleep per night as I'm used to plus wine with my dinner makes me a sleepy Kemp, so I'll be off to bed now.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Water Load of ****

Yes, that's a bad pun, so sue me. Actually, please don't.

Anywho, today we have an installment of "How many WTFs can you spot" and my target is a Severn Trent Water bill that I happen to have skimmed. So without further ado, let's get started, and remember that they're charging this for the what is pretty much the most important thing needed for survival.
  • The first item on the list of charges is a "minimum charge" to inflate the bill if you have a reasonable sized pipe coming into the property. Not large, just reasonable. On my sample bill here this charge is as much as all the other charges added together.

  • Next up would be the fact that they don't just charge you for the water you use. Oh no, that would be sensible. They in fact charge you twice for it: once for supplying it and once for removing it.

  • The two standing charges. Once again, one standing charge for supplying water and one for removing it.

I'm ignoring the fact that they charge all this for something which quite literally falls from the sky on a regular basis. They, however, don't ignore this, which leads to the final charge that they manage to squeeze in:
  • A charge for the very fact that water falls from the sky. Literally, they charge you for the rain that happens in the region of your house. There are not big enough letters to type WTF with for this one.

Then there's all the miscellaneous things, like if your meter is faulty they will charge you for the privelige of having it fixed. Any leakage after where your supply splits off from the main pipe is of course charged to you and they'll take their own sweet time fixing that (if you even find out while they charge you for the lost water).

I love how all the literature accompanying the bill has to mention at least once that their price rises and pricing scheme in general are within the limits set by the appropriate governing body. Of course they are ST... say it enough and people might think it means you're not ripping them off.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dawn of War + Tactics

In comment to my previous post I said

Meh, I remember why I stopped playing it now anyway. As of about 15 mins in you have more resources than you can spend and then it just becomes a matter of throwing in unit after unit until someone breaks through. Can a have a side-order of tactics with that meatgrinder? Oh you're all out, ok.

I thought I'd expand that a bit as an actual post.

The basic problem in Dawn of War (and a lot of other RTS games) is that it devolves so very easily into creating the biggest wedge of units you can and throwing them at the big wedge that the enemy created. A massive brawl ensues and whoever makes it out with stuff left alive will be able to cause enough damage to cripple the enemy's ability to make subsequent wedges. The AI doesn't help this at all as this appears to be the one and only tactic it is capable of. You're playing along nicely and suddenly one of the aforementioned wedges hits your defenses. While you're busy fighting them off the computer (having a much better ability to do things on opposite sides of the map than a human has) can build up another wedge and do the same again. It all comes down to only having two tactics against the computer:
  • Play defensively and be safe in the knowledge that the computer will break through and win.

  • Go on the offensive early in the game. This is very risky as mistakes will cost you dearly.

  • Go on the offensive around when the computer does and be forced to use the same tactics to break through the masses of units.

All in all, not the most inspiring set of choices. There is one last one of course, building enough defenses to withstand the uber-attack while your forces take a route round the side. That is verging on real tactics (*shock*) but it only works if the computer hasn't pulled the same trick as you and loaded out on defenses, otherwise it'll redeploy its units to meet your attack while you're breaking your way through and you're back at a big brawl again. The Eldar of course have much more sneaky and cunning tactics they can use, but in the end they only postpone the inevitable choice of one of those courses of action.

There's my thoughts on DoW tactics anyway, I'm sure Ben and Iris will be pleased I've ripped into the game they've been playing recently =P


Yes, I'm alive still and I finally have a connection, though for various reasons it's slightly unstable right now and maxes out at a mere 2Mb/s but I have plans to fix that. I'm (kinda) enrolled on my PhD at last, just a few more things to chase up, things were easier as an under-grad when things were done for you, lol. Other than that I'm pretty much catching up on what I need to know for what I'll be doing, mainly the documentation for things mentioned here and stuff for the module I'll be lecturing in (yes, they're letting me loose with real people, no, they won't be subjected to me every week =P). Don't think there's really much else to say at the moment, plus my muse is on vacation so writing isn't my strong point right now. Adios.

On a random note, I've reinstalled Dawn of War and I've been downloading the patches (they must all be applied in order). I noticed this little gem in the patch notes:

Reduced Scout accuracy while moving from .55 to .35.

Scouts were inadvertently given an accuracy penalty while moving in the 1.3 patch. This penalty has been removed.

As Overlord said, "Inadvertant my arse".

Friday, September 01, 2006

Final Day of Home

My final countdown post, off to Cov tomorrow and all the lonliness and lack of connection inherent therein *tiny violin plays* Not much happened today really, just checking all my packing and wondering what I will end up remembering tomorrow and packing at the literal last minute. Watched Metallica's S&M concert again and was reminded of the unhuman speed and accuracy Hetfield and Hammett have on their guitars (Hammett in particular), some of the closeups are quite insane. Iris has a new layout on her blog which I quite like. Think that's everything. Ciao to everyone at home, and hi to everyone at Coventry (which is almost no-one until term starts really).


Thursday, August 31, 2006

Guitars, Hedgehogs and Packing

Time for today's countdown post I believe, we'll conveniently ignore the fact that it's nearly tomorrow.

I was randomly improvising on my guitar earlier and accidently came up with something I actually like the sound of, which was a surprise with me not exactly being amazing on the thing yet :-P I messed around with it a while and then recreated it in Guitar Pro for further messing around without having me screw it up. Added a bit of percussion to it and extended it some and I'm quite fond of it now, it may be sucky compared to almost anything out there but it's mine :-)

As for packing... yeah... it's kinda moving along at about the pace of a sleeping snail. It'll be done of course, but it may require some last-minute chucking of things into bags. Then we have to fit it all into the car, which is a task in itself as no matter how much I leave behind there's always more than the last time, I think my stuff gradually expands to fill the available space in the bags. This one looks like it may be the first two-trip job ever despite me not bringing anywhere near the amount of junk I normally do :-S

Changing topic again, I saw a hedgehog today! A real one. I can't believe I've never seen one before (well, not one that is in one piece anyway), but I have now :-) It looked to be quite young and it was pretty damn fast too, I was quite amused at the way they walk with the legs frantically moving under them and how they almost seem to glide despite the aforementioned frantic moving.

And changing topic once again, for the last time and strangely enough going pretty much back to the first topic, I'm moving to my new place on Saturday (or Sunday possibly) so Friday will be my last countdown update. Ciao until then guys and girls :-)


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More bits

Extra (and entirely coincedental) discussion of dubs versus subs here. Also, I just realised all the options for the dubbing and subtitles in both english and japanese were available to me if I'd have bothered to look *slaps forehead* Guess I'll just have to watch it again with japanese dubbing and english subs ;-)

I'm currently in the middle of packing (or trying to be bothered to pack). I really can't find motivation, I have waaaay too much stuff hanging around here and once I've sorted out the stuff I'm taking with me I need to make the stuff I'm leaving behind all neat. Speaking of money (how many would notice the incorrect bridge if I didn't point it out?), I went to the bank and increased my overdraft limit a bit so now I only need to scrounge together £30 rather than £380. That's rather a large difference and so much easier, I can once again cease worrying about where money's going to be coming from. Just need to make sure I get paid before the end of October :-P

Think that's about all in terms of today's updates. Stay tuned for more soon.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bits and Pieces

I finally got to watch the first episode of Standalone Complex (Ghost In The Shell's series) and I have to say it was everything I expected it to be. The artwork and plot were as good as ever, and the rendering in the intro credits is beautiful. The only problem was that it was the english dub (well, american I guess) rather than the subbed version. I much prefer subtitles to redubs as they tend to completely screw up the character's voices and I don't mind reading. It wasn't too bad though, none of the voices made me cringe except for the first time I heard the Major speak. Is it just me or is her voice a bit too soft in the dub?

In terms of the PSP it's all go.
Homebrew on all firmwares, check; Ability to launch (almost) any firmware fully working from 1.5, check; Several modchip designs, check. Anything you wanna do is pretty much there between that lot :-) My own personal favourite is emulation though, and N64 emulation is getting pretty damn good thanks to Daedalus.

I think that's about all for today, much packing to do and probably much packing still to do the day before I move.

4 days to new place, 21 days to enrolment, 24 days to Gina, 25 days to everyone else

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Soon to be departed

Just a heads-up in case my lax updating schedule becomes even more so. I'm going to be moving into my new place next Saturday (the 2nd September) and I won't have a net connection for at least a month probably while I sort it out. In the freakish event that I don't even have a phone line to shove ADSL down I'll make a post from somewhere else to let you know (the two or three people who occasionally glance in here). It's going to be wierd without my own net access (obviously I'll still have it in the labs or library basement in the worst case, I hope at least). I went a single night without it when the router messed up and I couldn't be bothered reseting it and probably waking everyone up in the process, and that was annoying as hell. I didn't realise how much I rely on the net as an information source and a way of having contact with people at strange hours of the day/night. Simple everyday things like grabbing some guitar tabs or checking the news weren't possible, and I lost count of the number of times I did something that relied on having a connection without thinking. Oh well, guess I'll have more time to spend doing other things, though exactly what these things are I have no idea. Addicted to the net? Me? Never.

On the coding front I've been getting back into writing things for my OS, once again in order to teach me things outside of OS deving. In this case it's the idea of lock-free linked lists (concurrent traversal/insertion/deletion without the overhead of locking access to the list) and fine-tuning some of my C++ techniques (it may not be apparent, but I do have techniques =P).

Anywho, 7 days til I move into my new place, 24 days til enrolment, 27 days til I see Gina again, 28 days til I see most of the rest of the crowd again, the countdowns continue.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Games Workshop

About time for this post I think. I play various games produced by Games Workshop (though some not any more, but that's another story related to broken rules and power gamers) and I continue to be amazed at the number of people who have no idea what the games are even about and yet still try to make jokes about them and fail horribly at it due to said lack of knowledge. If you want to make fun of something then you need at least a basic knowledge of it in order for the jokes to actually make sense and thus be funny, so here's an intro course into what doesn't make sense.

I see you play Games Workshop then

This one should be the most obviously nonsensical and yet still pops up. I wish I had the money to buy sufficient shares to be able to control GW policy and make their success or failure my own private game, but unfortunately I don't. There is no game called Games Workshop, it's a company.

Got your Warhammers in that case then?

Kinda related to the above, where they use the name of the company for a game, here they use the name of a game for the miniatures. They are called miniatures, models, figures, in fact anything you want that makes sense. This question is likely to prompt a response in the vein of "Yes, I have a medieval armoury at home and figured that it'd be fun to lug huge weapons of war around all day."

That's a game for kids

Ok, fair enough, some aspects of it are designed to appeal to kids. Thing is that people often relate it to the toy soldiers they had when they were younger, ignoring the fact that this is an actual game with rules (occasionally far too many of them), tactics and whatever else that elevates it above the level of walking little plastic men around saying "bang, bang, he's dead." A lot of the background is a lot darker than the stuff most young kids will be reading, the rules can get quite complex, and you have to have a grasp of maths and tactics if you want to actually get anywhere with it. These people probably wouldn't walk up to some historical wargamers and say that, but because GW games are easier to get into and have a sci-fi/fantasy (depending which game) aspect it apparently is an entirely different matter.

There you go, three often encountered phrases and why they're wrong. So now that's out the way, what do I actually do myself? Well I used to play 40K (short for Warhammer 40,000) but I'm not too fond of the rules system nor the local people who play it so I mainly just get the occasional nice model for the modelling/painting aspect of it these days. I started on Fantasy (short for Warhammer Fantasy Battles, you can guess why we shorten that =P ) and that's on hold for now, but I do like the system as it encourages proper tactics as long as you avoid certain things/people. Then there's Inquisitor, a larger scale system at 54mm compared to 40K/Fantasy's 28mm though it does seem even larger than that, which is set in the same universe as 40K. This is interesting as GW designed it as a role-play game with a focus on combat and it certainly succeeds at that and some of the models have great conversion potential. The game I currently play is Epic (short for Epic 40,000), which is also set in the 40K universe but is far smaller scale with a human-sized figure being barely a couple of mm high. This allows battles involving huge armies and the rules system certainly favours the use of tactics involving entire formations rather than individual squads (as it should be really). There are also various other games set in both the 40K and Fantasy universes, but these are the ones I've had direct involvement with at some point.

And there we go again with the big posts, and this one didn't even really get anywhere in terms of making a point. Oh well.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


I had to go to the dentist today to get a couple of fillings, which wasn't really a surprise considering I made the appointment 6 months ago. Luckily, unlike a certain person, I live here and thus don't have to jump through a million hoops to get seen to. Treat her already! Anywho, this is actually the first thing I've had to have done, which you wouldn't expect given the excessive coke I drink all the time, but there we go, fate does indeed move in strange ways. The teeth in question are lower right 3 and upper left 4 (though it feels more like 5, I assume it's just on the far side of 4). I have to say that when your first experience with anaesthetic is having both sides of your mouth numbed/paralysed, along with half your face once it works its way up, it's pretty damn wierd and strangely cool. I spent like 15 minutes just sitting there poking/pulling my lip and being unable to feel it at all :D And that's today's news, move along people.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Last Couple of Weeks

Iris Murdoch : Every man needs two women, a quiet home-maker, and a thrilling nymph

Amen to that :-)

Anywho, onto the actual post... I can't actually remember much properly so I'll just stick things down and hope they are in some sort of sensible order.

First up would be my new place for at uni :-) I went down to look at a place on Lower Ford Street being sorted by Bluewood Letting (nice people btw) but it was kinda small, like really small. So anyway, I'm flicking through their properties list in the office wondering where to go next and suddenly I see Priory Place. The same Priory Place as I've spent over a year looking at thinking "If I had the money I'd be in there." Then it occurs to me I have got the money now. Guess what the next place I looked at was... The apartments in that place are lovely, compared to some of the student housing I've seen they're huge, though you'd hope so for the price tag on them. So anyway, I put in an application for the place and waited, this was wednesday before last I believe. Monday rolled around (last monday, a week ago tomorrow) and I got a call, my application all checked out and everything was good :-) Went down on thursday to finalise it all and put down my deposit and the place is now mine :-D That place literally had everything from my "wants" list, double bed, all the appliances I need, fully furnished, close to uni and my mates, not mention I'd been wanting to live there for ages. So all's good in that department, now I just need to make sure my first two months don't take me too far into debt.

What else? Ah yes, the LAN party at Ben's. I end up at about one a year these days, and play about as many games :-P I spend most of my time on the trampoline (those things rock) and the others alternate between pool, deathmatches and trampoline. I'm not one for FPSs you see, the only way I could be entertaining to kill would be to give everyone rifles, stick me in a trebuchet and launch me across the map. I did join in with the usual game of Risk II though, which is always fun, even if a certain unnamed person quits early and thus prematurely ends the game... Also entertaining was the young'un (2, nearly 3, something like that), even if she did step on my face on the trampoline once, not maliciously I assume (hope). She was fun though, especially when she made comments that she didn't quite catch the implications of, or started telling birds to go away, or ran in circles around the trampoline for hours on end without getting bored. I'm not getting broody or anything, lol, at the risk of sounding sexist that's for girls (don't hit me please =P). Anyway, thanks to Ben for hosting us all and providing much munchy goodness in the form of pizza and lasagne.

Hmmm... what else is there? Oh yes, I went to Lincoln to hang out with Hastings on Wednesday and Thursday. That was fun, I haven't seen him in like a year or something crazy like that. Caught up on random things, met people I'd only heard stories about previously, and went to the Big Wok (all-you-can-eat Chinese place) :-D Though as Hastings mentioned guy in that show saying, it should be "all you want to eat" not "all you can eat", too much competitiveness implied in the latter :-P Didn't get to speak to Gina that day though (Thursday being our usual phone day) as I was on buses at the usual time and no-one picked up when I was finally free. She should be down in a week and half or so though, so all should be ok :-)

Anything else? I guess there's the various tech support calls I've been on for friends and stuff, but that's all boring so I'll skip them. Guess that's all for now then. Longest blog post evar!


Just seen the video for Evanescence's Call Me When You're Sober, and I am so very much not impressed. It's probably good music, but far far too generic for my liking. Must resist comparing to Avril Lavigne...

Probably a real update about the last few weeks later tonight if I'm in the mood.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Overlord made a post today about yet more ridiculous patents that are being used as the source of lawsuits. I completely agree with him, the US patent system is completely broken (no idea about other countries) when someone can get a patent on the wheel. The fact that you can get ones related to products that you know people are going to make, without even needing to make as much as a prototype yourself, brings the suckage factor to Extreme.

Mini-rant over.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Post Wedding Update

I survived the first wedding I've been to, or the first one I remember going to as I don't know about when I was younger :-) Anthony and Sue-Ellen both looked very nice, and the ceremony, reception and all else was good. I didn't get drunk that night (last night), but that's probably a good thing as later on I was still able to hold a coherent (or as coherent as I get) conversation with one of my step-cousin-in-laws or whatever Sam was, my family tree is both huge and complicated beyond mortal understanding but that's what we came up with for how we're related. We got on quite well, which I'm quite glad of as she's the first person from that side of the family I've spoken to properly, so I know at least one of them now :-) From my experience the families on both sides are nice, and there's even some friends of them that somehow know me (or at least my name) so I pretty much always have someone I can talk to at such meetings, I even get on with the adults pretty well (which probably shows my age or something =P).

Anywho, that's all for now.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Off For The Weekend

I'm off to Anthony's (my step-brother's) wedding early tomorrow morning and I'll be staying in a hotel nearby that night, so there probably won't be any updates until late Sunday night at the earliest. Unless of course the hotel has a wireless access point and my PSP can handle the blogger website :-) Yes, I will be wearing a suit, and no, I will not be making pictures available to anyone =P

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Sarah's off to Malta tonight (technically tomorrow morning, but that's neither here nor there) so I popped over to say bye. We somehow got onto the topic of the possibilities contained within the name Dr Kemp (I can be optimistic if I want to be =P) and decided on several things:
  • I'd have to be an evil genius. Evil geniuses are always Dr, while ones on the side of good are always Professor.

  • My choice of companion animal needs more thought. I started with the traditional white cat, but that's a bit cliche, then we threw animals at each other (not literally) in this order: guinea pig, moose, german sheperd, antelope, llama, gazelle, herd of gazelle. Some are suitable, some not so...

  • Sarah would be in charge of assassinations due to there being no records of her and her thus being outside of the system, which is another story in itself. Being the only currently suitable person, she would thus be able to negotiate her fees quite well.

Other than that it's all open for now. I don't think I'll go for world domination at first, that's too much effort really. I mean, ruling over a whole planet... that'd be insane. Possibly have a region splinter off from English control and set myself up as ruler of said region, that could work and I'd get some experience with the whole ruling thing on a small scale.

On another note, you didn't read anything... There are no evil plans, nor does this blog even exist. It is merely an illusion created by light from Venus being reflected off a weather balloon and refracted by swamp gas. That is all, go about your business.

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's A Trap!

That's no moon!

Anyway, randomness aside there's not much to talk about today. And of course exactly as I type that, Overlord links me here. To quote my response:

I'm an nVidia person, so this merger resulting in prioritising ATI support can only be bad for me :-(

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Mail Problems

I haven't been able to access my yahoo mail account via either webmail or POP3 at all today, so I'm going to assume they're having serious issues. I have no idea if any mail being sent is being received by them, or bounced, or simply lost, but if you have a need to send me anything you should probably wait until it's back up. Especially if it's important.

My mail is definately back. No interesting emails are sitting in my inbox, so if you sent me any mail then I don't have it. No more outages like that plzkthx

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Rain :-D

As the title... RAIN! At last we have rain! Weeks of boiling temperatures and finally some nice cool air to relax in. I would go out and stand in it if I hadn't just had a bath :-P Add that it's a real possibility that Gina may be visiting near the end of August, and all my troubles can go annoy someone else for a while. Kemp is quite happy :-D

PS: Rain!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Out Of The House :o

I actually did something today! *shock* Sarah (home Sarah, not uni Sarah) wanted me to get some stuff for her laptop as it isn't set up to access the net and they're large files (dunno what connection she has at home, but meh). Anywho, before getting them I popped over to check that everything would work ok. Long story short, it turns out the dvd drive on it is just old enough not to be able to read writable discs (I'd forgot drives like that existed, lol). So that's that plan out the window. We spent the remainder of the time watching the end of Shrek 2 (which happened to be on) and various extras on the Narnia dvd, along with discussing virtually every tv show we've ever watched (we have vaguely similar tastes in that department). I was also going to send off my passport application but I ended up remembering too late again, so tomorrow then.

It's currently about 6:55 and I am bored already :-S Might end up doing some coding or something, I haven't done any for a while as I don't usually feel like it when it's this hot (and it's only for me anyway).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Still at home

So I'm not going to be able to go see Gina for her birthday due "indirectly" to someone who shall remain nameless. On the bonus side it does mean I don't have to spend time around this person, though it does also mean I won't see Gina until we get back to Cov. And yes, person X, she's coming to Cov if she says she is, how about you suck on that for a while?

Onto something slightly less charged... I got my hair cut :-) I always like how it looks when it's shorter (and the fact I can actually do something with it), but I always let it grow too long, I should probably get it done more often or something. Cutting my entry short (hmm... pun not intended) as dinner and very cold drinks beckon. Ciao all.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Apparently Gina got my letter last tuesday and sent one back on wednesday, which I got today, that's almost a week Royal Mail. Grrr... Anywho, tis her birthday on the 21st and I said I'd go visit her for the weekend or whatever for her birthday, which may get a bit hard to arrange 2 days in advance. Various things combined before to nearly make it impossible and now it *might* be possible and I'm trying to get everything together. It turns out I'm £400 rather than £500 in debt so I do have some money (kinda), but I'd like to ask how the hell the train companies can charge £6 to London but £50 (£50!) for my journey which honestly isn't too much difference in distance. Shows how much damn profit they make out of us. So yeah, I'll have to see if I can scrape the money together before I promise anything. £50! Wtf? Assuming money is forthcoming I then need to actually get in contact with her to arrange it, which is a challenge in itself now that her mobile gave up the ghost and I have to rely on her being in the house (everyone appears to have vanished today). All other problems (which there are) aside, this should be possible. *glimmer of hope continues to shine*

Took my guitar apart today as well, reassembled it in one piece fine with no damage too :-) What can I say? I like to know what makes things tick :-P So I now have some scribbled schematics (it's quite simple really) and a place to start if anything happens to go wrong. Amp next? Something not quite as simple and with an actual chance of hurting me (mental note: unplug before operating).

It's too damn hot at the moment, and apparently is going to be even hotter tomorrow (today I guess now, it's 1:14am). It should cool down after that though with some luck, and there's even rain predicted for the weekend. Almost tempting to just go out and lay in it if there is, it's not like I haven't done it before :-)

It appears the letter was in fact sent Monday, sorry Royal Mail, looks like you got it here within a reasonable time after all =P

Monday, July 17, 2006

To Watch (Again)

For some reason today I was thinking about the various historical films I'd seen (historical in the sense they're set quite a while back, not that they're actually accurate) and I realised that while I don't see as many of these films as other types they are often the ones that I want to see again. So, here we have a list of Kemp's films to watch:

This is the standard "film you must see" in this category, so who am I to leave it out? A main character that is betrayed or beaten up at every turn, and proof that a film can be so very much better if they don't try to force a happy ending. This is definately one to keep.

"My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."

A war started over a beautiful women, isn't that always the way? This film had some lovely camera work and the view of the fleet sent to invade is awe-inspiring even with so many films using CG to make things bigger these days. I like the fact that Achilles' characterisation isn't betrayed when he spends time with the priestess, you don't expect him to get all lovey and emotional and he doesn't. One point for non-stereotypes. Rational people will tell you that a multitude of arrows to the chest would cause a terminal case of death, but of course we know the real reason =P

"Before my time is done I will look down on your corpse and smile."

Kingdom Of Heaven
Another one with Orlando Bloom in, I'm not picking them because of that =P To be honest I can't remember this film in a large amount of detail (another excuse to watch it again, it's long overdue). I do however remember that it was packed full of quotes that I liked, such as "God will understand, my lord. And if he doesn't, then he is not God and we need not worry", which is very much in line with my outlook on the issue. It's about the Knights Templar and the Saracens, which is another plus to me as well. Overall it's a nice story about doing what is right and was executed very well.

"Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth, always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless, and do no wrong. That is your oath."

King Arthur
Ah yes, this I really liked. A band of soldiers thrown together by circumstance each with their own personalities, skills and drives, but held together by their respect for Arthur who they would follow into the mouth of hell. After being promised freedom at the conclusion of their final mission they instead get given another task to do, which they are understandably upset at, but they do it. Not for the Empire, not because Arthur commands them to, but because he asks them to. I love the character of Guinevere as well, she's not the faint-at-the-sight-of-blood princess type at all :-)

"Oh, merciful God, I have such need of Your mercy now. Not for myself, but for my knights, for this is truly their hour of need. Deliver them from their trials ahead and I will pay You a thousandfold with any sacrifice You ask of me. And if in Your wisdom, You should determine that sacrifice must be my life for theirs, so that they can once again taste the freedom that has so long been denied to them, I will gladly make that covenant. My death will have a purpose. I ask no more than that."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The World Cup

I was pondering today why I no longer enjoy the World Cup like I did when I was younger. I came to the conclusion that it was because

  1. I now know how much the players earn (and how little they really do to earn it)

  2. It gets boring always being a team that could possibly win it but never does. There's no challenge for us qualifying nor getting past the first round, and then it's all about luck not skill because it stops being about the game and starts being about pushing the rules (see next point)

  3. There's so much in the way of taking dives, pushing and shoving, and general doing anything you can to trick your way into winning, that it becomes a chore having to watch it

  4. You get players like Rooney and Zidane. Nothing more I need to say there really

Basically, there's nothing for me to enjoy there anymore. Unless something drastic happens I have no doubt my interest will continue to sink every time until eventually I'm as sick of it as Claire is.


I mentioned to Iris last night that I was working on my writing and she pointed me here as a source of useful stuff to do or not do in a fantasy story. Those articles actually work for quite a lot of writing outside of fantasy as well and are very interesting either way, especially if you consider some of the more well-known novels in terms of what limyaael has to say. Anyway, I've spent quite a while reading the articles and I'm still going (there are rather a lot), but good reading overall. Approximately half of them apply to me as mine I guess is technically urban fantasy, though with a lot less emphasis on the fantasy part (no dragons, no elves, no knightly orders, no old guys in big pointy hats carrying scrolls and staffs around, etc etc).

Also linked from somewhere in there is this little gem. We don't appreciate plot holes thank you very much. No, not even from you JKR.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Writing and Black Holes

Last night, after reading more of the Illuminatus Trilogy (I really should start calling what I'm reading by the correct book name I guess) I got the inspiration to finally get back to my own writing and I actually managed to get some done on my main story. The prelude now flows reasonably well and should be relatively close to the final form, ignoring any structural changes which will inevitably occur at some point.

I've also been getting progressively more addicted to Supermassive Black Holes off the new Muse album. At first listening, the album was a bit disappointing as it didn't sound like the Muse that we all know and love, it strayed slightly too far into pop territory. The more I listen to it though, the more it's growing on me and the more it seems to fit their old style, though I doubt it'll ever quite sound completely right. It's a bit like Rammstein's Rosenrot album (and to a lesser extent Reise Reise). It's technically good music, but you can't help feeling they've moved a bit too far away from their old style for it to ever sound quite right for them. Anyway, I'll keep listening and keep liking it a bit more and eventually I may even grow to like the whole album.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In The News

A few items on the BBC News site caught my attention today. The first two relate to interfacing hardware to people (yes, we do that, cyborgs aren't pure sci-fi =P). The first up is the linking of a chip to the motor cortex of a paralysed person, allowing him to control a computer simply by thinking of moving. The second is mounting an imaging device like those in digital cameras onto someone's retina, allowing it to directly stimulate the nerves, meaning that people with sight problems could potentially regain it somewhat. They mention the possibility of chips with memory allowing for replay and slow motion capabilities.

Unrelated is the third item. Bigelow Aerospace launched an inflatable spaceship and successfully got it into orbit. The advantage with this is that it takes up much less space and weight on the launch craft and thus costs much less to put up there.

Well, that's about all for today.

Customer Care and Conspiracies

Not related to each other though (that I know of at least).

Ok, so customer care first. Yes, NTL, that's what you do between making immense amounts of profit off of essentially nothing. The remote control for our cable box broke recently (it thinks one of the buttons is permanently held down) so of course we ring NTL to arrange a replacement. They tell us that despite this being the only replacement part for anything that we have ever ordered (having been with them for a substantial number of years for tv, phone and net access) we need to pay £50 for a new control because it is considered an accessory and thus optional. This is despite the box itself only barely giving you enough buttons to be able to change channel by one at a time and pretty much nothing beyond that. Our friendly operator then goes on to add that if you order one off their site rather than via phone it'll only be £10. Going from £50 to £10 for (much like most other things they do) no apparent reason. Ok, so eventually we give in and order one and it arrives quite quickly, I can't fault them on their efficiency getting it here. When it arrives (complete with batteries) I go to put them in, leading to this conversation:

"These feel kinda slimy, like they've been dipped in vegetable oil or something."
*looks down*
"Or indeed like they've been leaking their internals all over my hands!"
*runs to sinks and starts washing*

Probably not their fault there, but very annoying anyway. So now we eventually once again have a working control and all is well :-) I hope...

On to the second part of the title of this post, conspiracies. I've started reading the Illuminatus Trilogy and it is possibly one of the most confusing books I've ever read (I have a single book containing the whole trilogy). Utterly confusing, skipping between points of view and different sub-plots in different periods of time without so much as a new paragraph, sometimes changing halfway through conversations or suchlike. Basically, I love it :-D It pretty much forces your mind to grasp the subtle interconnections between everything that's going on in all these different places and times, and I assume it'll eventually drive you insane, but that's an acceptable risk. I advise you to read it if you can borrow a copy off someone or your library and then buy it if you can follow it, it would be quite a risk to buy it straight off yourself as you might not get on with it at all. Personally, I'm very glad I made the gamble.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

First Post

Unoriginal title as ever, but it's a tradition I guess. I spent today trying to sort someone's computer out, and ended up spending most of the day on a problem that didn't exist to start with (or at least it was hanging together just enough to work as long as nothing was touched), see here for more information, and to lend help if you can think of anything.

On a random other note, Remember The Milk. I know Sarah has mentioned this before on her blog and has advised me to use it on at least one occasion, but I never actually got round to it. I finally tried it last week and I have to say that it rocks :-) If you want something to help you remember appointments, deadlines and that sort of thing then I definately recommend it. Thanks for the pointer Sarah.