Sunday, December 31, 2006

Christmas Colds

I'm back from my travels now and can relax a little bit before I go back to work on the 4th. Or at least I would be able to relax if I hadn't picked up a stinking cold. I couldn't sleep at all last night - I had a headache, sometimes I was too hot, sometimes too cold and a nasty cough to boot. Grrrr...

Friday, December 29, 2006

Spin the Gameboy, not yourself...

I finally got hold of a copy of Warioware: Twisted today for the Gameboy. I've been wanting it for ages but it was never officially released in the UK. Like the other Warioware games it's a daft collection of very short minigames (normally less than 5 seconds each) that are thrown at you one after t'other without any real time for thought about what you're going to be doing next.

Twisted's USP is that the cart has a motion sensor in it that reacts to twisty motions of the Gameboy. ie if you spin the thing left or right it reacts to this and moves things on the screen accordingly. Amusingly there are several warnings that you should spin the console in your hands rather than leaving it stationary and spinning yourself around it. I suspect that the people who need these warnings are the same ones that are breaking their televisions with the Wii remotes.

The motion sensor is however (I believe) the reason why it was never released. I read that it contains some mercury (or maybe polonium) and because of that it can't get through the import/kite-marks/safety rules and hence can't be sold in the UK. The shop I bought it from must have imported it somehow - I am assuming it is legal for them to then sell it on, despite the whatever. If not then I must apologise for helping to make a criminal act happen. Please don't lock me up.

Or alternatively, maybe that's all bollocks and it will be released properly soon - it deserves to be, because (like all the Warioware games) it's great. It'll certainly keep me dosed up until Smooth Moves comes out!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sheffield Station

After four nights at my parents' house in Sheffield I find myself back here in York. That makes it sound like I've just appeared here with no knowledge of how or when I travelled, but that isn't really true. I had a lift to Sheffield Station with my Dad and then I caught the 0954 Virgin Transatlantic train to Newcastle. It left Sheffield punctually but arrived in York a couple of minutes late by my reckoning.

They (the men) have been doing up Sheffield Station for what seems like forever now. This has involved improving and enlarging the main concourse, rerouting the traffic routes and the erection of some quite pretty water features outside the main entrance. Fountains and waterfall-walls, that kind of thing. Apparently it was all officially opened last week. I missed the opening but have seen it now once in the day and once at night and I can certainly testify that it's a vast improvement on how it used to look.

Apparently the traffic still gets very snarled up though when it's busy.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bad Guys Who Care

There used to be a time, not so many years ago, when the most exciting thing about Christmas TV was the Only Fools and Horses Christmas special. It was always funny and if you disagree, you're wrong. Those days are sadly now seemingly behind us. OF&H has run its course and left the arena clear for new challengers to the Christmas TV throne.

Nowadays, the most exciting thing about Christmas TV (and possibly Christmas full stop) is the Doctor Who Christmas special. Whilst being in pretty much every way, daft, it is nevertheless damn good fun and the perfect thing to watch whilst very slightly sozzled after a hard day building a ridiculous jigsaw.

We were discussing Doctor Who (old and new) in the pub on Christmas Eve. For a slightly longer time than would considered healthy by most people. Talk turned to The Doctor's old enemy, The Rani (as played (twice?) by Kate O'Mara (off Dynasty?)). I got topically thinking then about whether she was the only baddy in Doctor Who that could be considered carbon neutral. Or the closest thing to it.

Why would I have that thought, I can hear you cry? Why, because in The Mark of the Rani she had these cool mines that turned you into a tree if you stepped on them. She may be an evil Timelord but at least she's planting trees.

I had a quick think through some of the other main baddies to check whether they had similar credentials, but came up blanks. The Cybermen build big Cyberman producing factories (and probably don't pay pollution taxes cos they are evil). The Daleks are only interested in taking over worlds not saving them (and I seem to remember they f***ed up their own planet with nuclear weapons). The Master was interested only in conserving his facial hair. The Sontarans, the Yeti, the Autons, the whatever other obscure baddies I could think of, none had any green credentials (apart from the ones that were coloured green but that doesn't count). It was only The Rani who was close.

But then I started thinking further about what it means to be carbon neutral. Here on Earth, we broadly mean that if you do things that absorb/use at least as much CO2 as you produce by driving, consuming and watching Doctor Who on telly then you are carbon neutral. ie you have not increased the amount of free CO2 in the planet. That's how I understand it anyway.

But for a larger, non-closed system like say The Universe, is the question relevant? Is it ok for The Rani to create trees on one planet but then also conduct nefarious carbon dioxide producing activities on other planets? What happens if on some planets, carbon dioxide is good and (say) cheese is the equivalent bad substance?

And how does the time travel element affect things? If an evil Timelord travels back into the past and evilly creates a lot of CO2, and then plants a whole forest 2000 years later, is that ok? What if it was the other way round?

And is it ethically ok to kill someone if you make them into a nice green tree rather than just a corpse?

There are clearly a lot of questions that I don't have answers for, but I'm hoping that these will be maybe tackled by the writers of the next series. In the meantime, I'd be interested to hear any of your views on which Doctor Who baddy is the most environmentally friendly.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Multiple 'rithms

At breakfast this morning I was discussing abucuses (abaci?) with my mother and father. We weren't really sure how they worked or how you did hard sums on them, but I was fairly sure that I had known this when I was younger and that there were various algorithms that could be used to do different kinds of sums (ie hard ones like long division). This confused my parents at first as they didn't know what algorithms were and had confused them with logarithms.

Whilst the two words do seem to be anagrams of one another, they do not mean the same thing and after I'd explained what an algorithm was we talked about logarithms instead (isn't breakfast exciting in my family?).

I told mother that we don't really use log tables any more because of the calculators and computers that we now have. She got a bit worried about the implications of this reliance on technology should Islamic terrorists wipe out all our computers or the internet or something - how would we do logarithms then if we'd all thrown our tables away?

I pointed out that should that happen, doing logarithms would be the least of our problems as society would likely start to fall apart and we'd all have to run to the hills with our guns and our cans of beans. She thought that should such an attack happen then she would go to work as normal and just try and carry on. This was a little odd since she is retired and I'm almost certainly sure her work never once required her to use a logarithm, but I suppose she was speaking hypothetically. Maybe if she did go to work as normal we could all phone her up from the hills every time we needed a logarithm doing. I guesss it would keep her out of trouble.

I used to know a joke about log tables.

After this excitement I went to do my final pre-Christmas Christmas Shopping. This was also exicting as I was not in Kansas (York) anymore.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nearly there now...

I finished off most of my Christmas shopping today - still a few bits to do, but I plan on going out again tomorrow for that. York seemed quite empty of people - certainly much less busy than the previous couple of Saturdays which have been fairly horrid.

Now all I have to do is wrap everything - think I'll leave that until I get to my parents' house though. Unwrapped presents should weigh less than wrapped presents and so they'll be easier to carry on the train!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Posh Curry

Just two more days left at work before I break for Christmas and it's all quite busy.

Last night we went for our annual (non-work) Christmas curry at The Ujala. For the first time we made it a black tie event - my fourth of the month but the first in a place that does not typically feature that kind of atire. I don't think I've ever eaten a curry whilst wearing a bow-tie before. It felt a little odd but the waiters didn't seem to bat an eyelid. I expect they get smartly dressed people in there all the time.

I managed to avoid getting any curry on my shirt (or indeed on my dinner jacket) and also managed to actually eat all of it for once - a rare event in my land.

I like the Ujala. They normally give you free Sambuca after the meal. I'm not sure that that is a traditional curry accompaniment but it's nice. As long as you're careful with the fire and you like aniseed flavoured liquer. Which I am and I do.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wii-ther Forecast

When I woke this morning the disc slot of the Wii was all of a blue glow. This meant it had something to tell me. When I turned it on there was a message waiting saying that (wait for it...)... that the weather forecast facility was now live. How exciting.

I loaded it up and it told me that it was zero degrees and foggy. Whilst I can't vouch for the exact temperature being correct, it was definitely foggy. And cold. I could judge the fogginess by looking out the window. And the cold from when I went outside later.

So that was useful.

It has been really cold and foggy all day. I'm glad I have got all the running out of the way - I wouldn't have wanted to go out this evening even if I had time (which I don't due to being going for a Christmas curry).

In other news, my Christmas shopping is going really, really badly and it depresses me to even write about it. Still five shopping days to go though.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Card-bargains

I had to buy a few more Christmas cards today, after posting all the ones that needed posting. I popped down to WH Smiths at lunchtime and found that all boxed Christmas cards were in a 3 for 2 offer. This is fairly common there, I've found. I needed about 15 to 20 cards, but most of them were in boxes of 10 so I figured I might as well buy three boxes and to get the most of the 3 for 2 I got three boxes that were all the same price: £2.99.

I chose the cards, mostly sparkly ones. I took the cards to the counter and readied my monies (a Visa card as I only had four pounds in cash). When the man started to scan the goods, he spotted something that I hadn't - one of the boxes had a "half-price" sticker on it. Apparently this was a leftover from the weekend when cards had been half-price, and it should have been removed. He asked whether there were any other boxes with the same sticker on them, but I hadn't noticed any - I hadn't even noticed the one I'd picked up!

Now, I was a bit annoyed here as it meant that although I'd still be paying the same price (as the free item is always the cheapest) my free item wasn't as much of a bargain as it should have been - I would only be saving £1.49 not £2.99. But on the other hand I'd still be getting what I'd originally thought I'd be getting for the price I thought I'd be paying.

But then the man did an odd thing.

He decided that since the sticker was on one of the packs, they would have to stand by that price and then he bizarrely assumed the same sticker would apply to the other two, properly labelled, packs as well. So rather than paying the expected total of £5.98, I'd only be paying £4.47 - I was now saving £4.50 rather than my expected £2.99 - bargain!

But then the man did another odd thing.

Not content with giving me the cards for half price he decided to also apply the three for two to the half price boxes. This removed a further £1.49 meaning I only had to pay £2.98 for the three boxes - actually slightly less than the price of a single box in isolation.

How bloody brilliant is that?

I quickly paid (using cash, as I had enough now) and ran out of the shop before he changed his mind. I don't think I can recall a shopkeeper ever being so keen to reduce the price I had to pay. I hadn't even complained about the half price sticker and the fact that it meant I wasn't saving as much as I'd expected. Or that they were forcing me to buy more cards than I actually needed.

Oh well, shouldn't complain!

Surely it's about time...

Toothpaste used to be just plain white and then the scientists did some magic and found a way to make stripey toothpaste come out of tubes. Whilst this was a bit surprising for people initially, requiring a demonstration and explanation on Tomorrow's World, we are all now in 2006 and familiar with the concept.

So tell me this: Why is there no sign of tartan paint yet? Surely the same principles could be applied? And is it really right to laugh at the people who you sometimes get to believe in tartan paint, when striped toothpaste is staring at them smack in the mouth each morning?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Card-agains

I finally got around to writing some Christmas cards this evening. Always a tedious job, and I can never be bothered to write anything particularly interesting in them. It's effectively just a way of reiterating to people that I'm not dead.

Now all I have to do is buy stamps and post the darn things. There is a chance that I will manage to do this before the deadline, which I believe is later this week. I might forget though.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Slug & Late-uce

We went to the new Slug & Lettuce for lunch yesterday. We tried to go to the Yorkshire Hussar but it was fully booked for Christmas lunches and so could not accommodate us.

I ordered a steak (rare, obviously) and chips. Then we waited for a long time. And then a long time more. And then some more. One of our group had to leave (unfed) to go back to the office for a meeting. He'd not had a good day - earlier his bacon sandwich had gone cold due to him being in other meetings.

The main waiter guy eventually came to speak to us and apologised profusely for the delay (though he didn't seem to know why it had happened!) and he said that we wouldn't have to pay anything (not even for the drinks!) so in the end that is quite hard to complain about.

When the food eventually came it was good too. And all the better for being free! And who wants to work on a Friday afternoon anyway :-)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Lost Posts

I've been away for the last day or so, in Norwich. I did however email in a couple of brief posts. They seem to have been eaten in the ether. Oh well, they weren't that good anyway. I won't repeat them here - they might turn up eventually...

Monday, December 11, 2006

And I would run 500 more?

Wahey! My year-long Run-A-Thon 500 challenge is finally over! I've just done the final 5 mile stint and feel really happy now. It's over!

When I set this thing for myself I don't think I really realised how much effort it would be. Not so much any single run, more the continuous need to go out several times a week, week after week, month after month. When most of the time I'd frankly rather have been down the pub having a foamy pint.

And I never really intended that it would go as far as me doing an actual half-marathon. A year ago I'd have said you were a crazy fool if you'd even suggested I'd do such a thing. If you'd have said I'd even want to do such a thing! Not to mention the other two shorter races (which I won't).


So now I've reached my goal... what am I going to do now? No idea. Maybe a couple more runs this year, but really I feel like a break. I've had various minor injuries over the year, all of which are better now, but I just want to rest. It'll be really nice though to go out running like a normal person, just being able to stop for a short while when I feel like it. And it'll be good trying to build up my speed too.

And not having to go out in January at all if I don't want to... that'll be most lovely.

So it just remains for me to thank a few people without whom I might never have had the will to finish:

- Chip for suggesting the running in the first place. I don't think this is what you intended to initiate!
- F&E for running with me on many an occasion and giving me a break from myself. And for encouraging me to enter the races.
- Everyone who sponsored me, you're all fantastic people.
- My running shoes - couldn't have done it otherwise.
- And last but not least, K for all your support and encouragement through the year.

If you haven't sponsored me already and want to, the webpage is open until the end of the year.

I think I deserve a pizza.


Running: 0 miles to go!!!!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My second Nunchuck of the week

I had to buy a Secret Santa present today for my team's Christmas lunch tomorrow. Our price limit is five pounds and I was finding this quite limiting as many things cost a larger amount (eg most books or animals). Eventually though, I found this in Borders:


It's a Nunchuck and it does exactly what it says on the packet - it chucks Nuns.

Well, ok it's just a piece of plastic tat, but it might be fun for a few minutes. As long as the nuns don't get chucked, land in someone's dinner, accidentally be eaten, lodge in someone's throat and finally kill them in a nasty choking kind of way. As long as that doesn't happen it might be fun.


Running: 5 miles to go.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Now we are one

Wow. Today marks the one year anniversary of me and the girlfriend being such. We've been out for dinner at The Olive Tree and it was most tasty. Here's to the next year :-)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Wii! Wii! Wii!

Happily my Wii arrived at 10am this morning, pretty much the perfect time. Late enough to not have had to get up too early, but early enough to give me plenty of time to play! Thank you Mr Argos!


First impressions are very positive. It looks good, ports for things like Gamecube controllers and memory cards are all inside little doors to keep it nice. The slot loading cd player has a very nice action. It's ready to connect wirelessly to the internet straight out of the box (which is mouch more than the 360 does!) and there is already a good variety of old games to be downloaded into the Virtual Console. I haven't tried these yet but they include the original Megadrive Sonic, Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario 64! All seem to cost around a fiver which isn't too bad!

I played Wii Sports for a bit - it seems fun enough but I think it would be better with a few more players - but most of my day has been on the new Zelda game. It starts fairly slowly and it's taken me this long to get to the first dungeon, but it seems to do everything I'd want it to. It's a bit strange using the new controller(s) but they are actually quite comfortable once you get the hang.

The thing that really made me smile was not so much the motion sensing in the controller, but the way that you can use it to point at things on the screen and it actually works! I think it must use magic.

So now I'm going to get back to it for half an hour before heading out to the public house for some Friday drinks. I like days off like this.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Waiting for the Wii-kend

I'm hoping my Wii will arrive tomorrow. I may or may not have received an automated message on my mobile yesterday saying it was on its way but because I was in the pub at the time all I could hear was nothing. It could just have been a random missed call.

I called the lady at Argos earlier and she thought I was probably ok, but she couldn't check on her computer because it was out of office hours. Not sure how that works as she was clearly available to answer phone calls. Other than that she was very friendly and helpful though!

I guess I'll find out tomorrow whether I'm getting it or not!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Deep and Crisp and Stevens

I went to HMV at lunchtime to try and find the new Sufjan Stevens Christmas album. I like Christmas albums.

I made my way to the S section, specifically the Stevens section. I found the Sufjan section of the Stevens section within the wider S section, and they had one of those little plastic dividers saying "Sufjan Stevens - Songs for Christmas". Excellent, I thought. And even better, the CDs in front of the divider were priced at just five pounds.

A veritable bargain.

But then... disaster! When I picked the CD up and looked more closely, it was not Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens. No, the CD I was holding and the others of its ilk had been put in the wrong section! The CD I was holding was Merry Christmas Everyone by... Shakin Stevens! So near yet really so very, very far.

And they didn't have the other one, the one I wanted.

I put the CD back in the rack and left the shop, feeling disappointed and a little dirty.


Running: 10 miles to go.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Together in Welsh dreams

For reasons not worth going into here, I was recently wondering whether Welsh androids dream of slightly more "exotic" electric sheep than normal androids would do. Then I realised that the Welsh would never have made an android due to electricity being the Devil's work. So the question is likely to be irrelevant. I'm sorry I have wasted your time.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas Gambling

I enjoyed the Christmas Dinner on Friday (ie drank lots of wine). Certainly much more fun than last year when I was far too sober and managed to make myself a bit miserable. The food was actually pretty good too - always surprising when a place is catering for 500 people.

As always, there was a casino downstairs and I stuck to my usual game of Blackjack. I like Blackjack, it's fast moving and easy to play. I started with a few free chips and then played relatively conservatively until I had built up a tidy stack.

I was helped to this point by a slight lenience in the rules that were being used, namely that if the dealer got the same total as the player, he would return your bet rather than keeping it himself. Although this confused me a little at first, I didn't worry about it too much! It would have been daft to complain.

Eventually I got a bit bored and decided to go all in with my big pile. I then got dealt two face cards, whilst the dealer was showing a four. I was reasonably confident that I'd do well. Unfortunately the dealer then gave himself four more smallish cards and ended up smack bang on 21. Darnit. I lost.

It was a stylish and exciting way to go out of the game though.

The moral here is: You will always lose.


Running: 13 miles to go.

Friday, December 01, 2006

First Xmas Dinner 2006

Today is, if not technically the first day of Christmas, the first day of the Christmas Season. This is because I will be having my first Christmas dinner of the year in just a few short hours time.

I know it's only the first of December.

After this it's one a week (every Thursday, I think) until the proper day itself. This possibly means my Fridays won't be very productive during December. I do, however, have next Friday booked off work so I can play with my Wii. Assuming it has arrived by then.

So in the meantime, Merry Christmas everyone!