Saturday, June 30, 2007

Last of the Timelords?

I've just watched the last episode of Doctor Who (S3)... Wow! How good? No spoilers here, but it did make me cry somewhat towards the end. As normal.

It's been a pretty decent season, especially the second half. The final three-parter, featuring the wonderful John Simm as The Master were the best story, but I also really enjoyed Human Nature/The Family of Blood and Blink. The latter was really good, and quite scary, despite it being the annual episode without The Doctor in.

Back to Saturdays being rubbish again now I expect.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Highlights of my day

5 highlights of my day:

1. I had a jelly pizza (made out of jelly, not with jelly on).
2. My cajun chicken sandwich was spicier than normal.
3. I cooked some rice, all on my own without a grown-up present.
4. I found the rice in M&S (eventually) even though somebody had clearly tried to hide the rice section.
5. Tomorrow is Friday.

Great day!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Another Pair of New Running Shoes

I bought my current running shoes (a pair of Saucony Omni 5s) about a year ago, so I reckon I've done about four hundred miles in them to date. Whilst still comfy enough, they don't seem quite as springy as they used to, and in any case I'm led to believe that you're supposed to replace them well before they start actually falling apart.

I figured it would be safest to buy a new pair now so that I could get them properly run in by the Great North Run time.

Now, some people say I don't like change. They're wrong. I like change as much as the next man (long as he's not swapped places with someone else) and I'd go as far to say that I embrace it, I savour it, I actually embody it. After all, I was planning to change my shoes!

So, goodbye Saucony Omni 5s, hello Saucony Omni 6s:

New Running Shoes (2)

They're pretty different! And they smell nice too.

I got them from Up & Running again, York's finest specialist running shop. Since I knew pretty much what I wanted this time, they didn't make me run on the treadmill or anything like that. Suited me fine as I needed the loo.

The bad thing with this is that I no longer can use the "I've got old shoes" excuse for being crap at running.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Surprising Find!

I went running this evening after work (oh god, it's hard at the moment. I'm so crap. I wish the Great North Run could be postponed like the York Race For Life has been. Lucky buggers) and avoided the river area due to the flooding.

I went up the Tadcaster Road then turned off to head over the grassy bit and through the pedestrian tunnel that goes under the railway. But then I had one of my moments and I spied a path I'd never used before heading off to the left. I decided to follow it. In general, I wouldn't recommend that kind of thing, especially if you're likely to get tired and be really annoyed if you have to retrace your steps.

I was luckyish and despite having to randomly choose a few turnings when I found myself in unfamiliar roads, I eventually stumbled across a rather pleasant secluded lake. It was a surprise indeed! I'd wager that the majority of people in York have no idea it exists. There were a couple of fishermen there. They clearly did know it existed.

After the lake I continued on and eventually found myself on St Helen's Road, which was roughly where I'd been headed in the first place. I was glad that in the end I didn't have to retrace my steps as I was likely to get tired and that would have made me really annoyed.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monks and an Astronomer at Byland Abbey.

It feels like it's been raining forever. Despite that, I've done reasonably well at escaping it over the weekend. On Sunday morning (ish) we went for a walk near Byland Abbey in North Yorkshire.

Byland Abbey (1)

It's an old ruined Abbey in a tiny village. I don't think much monkery goes on there any more, what with it having no roof and all.

The walk was out of the AA book. This time we didn't get lost (much), partly due to choosing a walk with a map (it was walk number 21, fact fans). It was lucky we missed the rain as certain parts of the walk would have been very slippy and dangerous had there been much water underfoot. There was a steadyish (200m up) climb to the top of a hill where through a forest is an old abandoned observatory. So far, so fine. But the walk down again is very steep and can only be done very slowly with a fair amount of tree-grabbing for balance. Kinda fun, but not if it had been wet. I think we'd have died horribly, impaled on branches after slipping over and tumbling out of control.

After that it was mostly ok apart from the heavily overgrown forest path that was filled with prickles, brambles, flies and bees. And the two fields labelled "Warning: Bull" at the end. I think they just put those up to scare people. I saw no bulls.

Lunch was at The Abbey Inn (next to the Abbey, believe it or not).

The Abbey Inn

It's much more of a restaurant than a pub but the food was tasty and reasonably priced. Good old antique chairs too!

It started tipping it down about five minutes before we got to the pub. Could have been worse.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Travis in a Forest

This isn't Glastonbury:

Travis - Dalby Forest

I went to see Travis last night out in Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire. Despite the changeable weather, the rain held off all evening, even when they played that song.

Travis do have a bit of a reputation for being a bit boring and staid but I've always liked them nevertheless. Maybe because I'm also boring and staid. They certainly put on a good live show and can rock out like the best of em. All I want to do is rock is still great. So I enjoyed it.

Bad things: The location whilst very pretty is a pain to get to. Even without an unnecessary accidental diversion to four miles from Scarborough (I really should have had the common sense to turn around earlier when we realised we'd probably missed the turn off twenty miles earlier...) it's a five mile journey from entering the forest to getting to the arena. Not so bad when arriving (especially if late due to having been lost!) but a right pain to get out of at the end.

Good things: The band made possibly the best entrance onto stage that I can remember seeing. With the music from Rocky playing over the PA, they were escorted through the crowd, from the back of the arena, to the stage by several policemen. The band were all wearing those brightly coloured boxing dressing gown things (just like Rocky) and then they jumped on stage and did some boxing moves. Silly, but fun and good, even if the coats did make them look more like a bunch of guys auditioning for Joseph than rock stars (or boxers).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

HR are rubbish

I had an HR type meeting the other day where we were discussing a list of people currently working in the US. I was quite surprised to see halfway down the list, my own name. This surprised me a little as to the best of my knowledge I'm currently working in York, England. I think I would have spotted a daily transatlantic flight should I have been doing one.

I think what happened was the guy making the list had been dictated to down the phone and had got confused and forgotten what he was doing. HR are rubbish.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Final Fantasy Trauma III

I'm quite annoyed. My Final Fantasy VIII trauma is continuing.

The PS2/PS3 memory card adaptor thing arrived today. To cut a long story short, it didn't seem to work well and I've also ended up wiping all my old PS2 save games off the memory card. Inc both my Guitar Hero saves. And even worse, after fiddling a bit longer I now seem to have irreparably corrupted the PS2 memory card.

Luckily I had a couple of old PS1 memory cards knocking around which mean I can now move to plan D: start the whole bloody game again on the PS2. Not ideal. But hopefully it won't take me quite as long to play through the second time since I should have a much better idea what I'm doing. Grrrrrr.

It's kinda funny though. And tragic. But funny.

I will finish this game!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Posh Casino

Monaco is famous for three main things:
1. Its posh casino.
2. The mad F1 Grand Prix.
3. Being the only island in the world not entirely surrounded by sea.

I'll talk about the first of those. We visited the casino on Saturday night. Because it was posh we all wore black tie (and dresses for the girls and Bert). Sadly, this wasn't "the only passport we'd need to get in" as our taxi driver claimed and we did also need an actual passport. This was ok for most of us but our small Welsh friend had to wait in a bar outside for the evening as he'd left his in Nice.

Inside, it's very opulent. Perhaps the best thing is that the drinks are much cheaper than in the bars and hotels immediately outside. Outside it's about thirteen Euros for a beer. Inside, just six and a half. That's still expensive but it felt cheap! I also managed to get one round on the house. Not sure whether it was because I was smart, polite or just a repeat spender. I certainly don't think it was due to my grasp of French pronunciation.

I didn't actually gamble properly - five Euros a bet is a little steep for my risk appetite. I did put five into one of the slotties which was quite fun for a few minutes even though I failed to win anything. Just watching other people gambling was fun enough for a couple of hours.

Getting the free drinks was the best bit though.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Some quick updates

My Final Fantasy traumas continue. I found a second copy of it on eBay easily enough and won it for just £5.50 plus P&P. Not too much of an expenditure.

It arrived over the weekend and I picked it up from the sorting office this evening. I eagerly inserted disc 4 into the PS3 and... This one doesn't work either! Grrrrr! It does seem to work ok in the PS2 though, and so does my original copy now. Which is odd.

I have no idea what's going on.

So now to plan C. If I can play it on the PS2 instead, that's what I will have to do - but first I need to move my saved game. I think can do this using a special accessory that lets the PS3 use old memory cards. I don't have one of these already so I've had to order one from Amazon (another ten pounds - this is starting to get expensive now). Fingers crossed it will do the job...

I also bought a GBA copy of FF VI from eBay for just four pounds. However, when it arrived I became a little suspicious. The blurb on the box was peculiarly badly written - it was much more repetitious than normal. Then, a dead giveaway, the instruction booklet didn't contain any instructions, just what seems like text (quite professionally) copied from a website preview of the game.

So it's fairly obviously a pirate copy and there are a few other, more subtle, details that give this away too. Looking back at the listing it's also kinda obvious now that it's a bit dodgy. The seller has lots of other GBA games for sale, all very cheap given that they are "new". The spelling is not great. And the pictures are not photos of the box on someone's table like normal, but are electronic versions of the box art.

I reported this to eBay using their online Pirate Reporting System but I haven't heard anything from them and the seller still seems to have loads of items listed.

I don't think I'll play the game, even though it seems to work ok. I've heard reports that pirated GBA games can be temperamental in terms of game saves and the last thing I want to risk (esp given my FF VIII traumas) is getting many hours in and then losing the save. Grrrr again!

Finally, some better news: We got the official results of last week's staff relay and my team ended up 15th out of 54 with a time for the 5k of 19 mins and 15 secs. We were happy with that.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nice Toilets

Just got back from Nice and Monaco. Probably a few posts needed to cover off the holiday but I'll start with one of my favourite topics, toilets.

I visited quite a lot of bars and toilets over the few days I was in the Cote d'Azore and in general, I didn't think much of the toilets. Many places only had a single, unisex toilet often without toilet paper. Often without toilet seats.

But there were some special toilets too. In The Casino in Monte Carlo (and a few other places) they have special magic toilets with rotating seats. The seats rotate automatically and a thing cleans them:

It's absolutely the strangest thing to watch.

I felt a little wrong filming in a posh toilet (and I'd probably have been thrown out if I'd been filming in the main Casino room) but not wrong enough to not do it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Where am I going?

I'm off to Nice for the weekend tomorrow. It's not where I thought it was. I was convinced that it was somewhere on the west coast of France, on the Atlantic. But according to the maps it's actually on the south coast, on the Med.

And also Monaco is apparently not an island.

This isn't the world I thought it was.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Staff Relay

It was our company 5k staff relay this evening. Like a school sports day, but for grown-ups and with free burgers and a free bar afterwards. It's really hard to knock any event that has a free bar, and I don't want to because it was fun (apart from the hard running bit). I ended up with a time around 4 minutes for my kilometre - I was happy with this but my legs were less happy. Those babies hurt!

Overall team time was around 19mins and 11 secs. Not too bad.

Afterwards we realised that it was quicker to run a km than to drink a pint of lager quickly. That didn't feel right.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Final Fantasy Trauma

I bought a second-hand copy of Final Fantasy VIII on the PSone some months ago, and have been playing it for a while now - I've clocked up around 45 hours of play so far. It's a good one - interesting story and although the Junction system for levelling up etc seems bizarrely unusual and confusing at first, once it clicks it's actually quite fun and versatile.

But today I had a bit of a trauma. It comes on four discs and I reached the end of disc three this afternoon. It saved my game and then prompted me to change discs - I did this and then a message came up saying "wrong disc". I checked it and it was definitely the right disc. But it still wouldn't work. It also wouldn't work when I loaded it up from scratch. I tried it in the PS2 but that wouldn't do anything with it either. The disc seems to be well dud. It is not damaged in any obvious way but I guess it must just be mis-manufactured or something.

So this a problem for me. I don't want to have spent so long playing something only to have to stop at the final gate. I could take it back to the shop, but I don't have the receipt (or indeed any proof I bought it) and in any case they would be unlikely to have another copy (it's quite old now).

My solution is eBay. I reckon I should be able to pick up another copy for about a fiver based on what I've seen on there at the moment. All I then have to do is hope that the new fourth disc will work. If not, I'm well buggered.

Fingers crossed...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

York Google Maps

I'm quite excited as I've just spotted that there are finally some hi-res satellite photos of York on Google Maps. Here's York Minster. I suspect this means a chunk of my afternoon will now be totally wasted by trying to find cool things!

Based on looking at which buildings are and aren't built, I'd date the photos as being about four years old.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Wobbly Tables at Lunchtime

Sitting outside the Judges' Lodgings at lunchtime, the floor was uneven and the four-legged table was wobbly. Not good for placing pints upon. I did that cool thing where you rotate the four-legged table until it magically finds stability. Maths has proved it works.

And then I was very proud of myself for a bit.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Things I think in the gents #1

"Trojan" is a really bad name for a brand of condoms.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Effort v Running

We have a staff relay race after work next Tuesday (who says Actuaries don't know how to have fun?) - 5 x 1km. My team has entered a team of 5, of which I am 1 (and hopefully numbered 2, 3 or 4). Whilst running a single kilometre shouldn't pose me any problems per se (it will possibly the shortest distance I've run since I started running), I will have to do it faster than I normally run. I think to maintain any respect I need to record a time under five minutes. Even this shouldn't be too hard given that did 10km in about an hour in a race last year (ie 6 mins per km)

For some reason though it does seem hard. Despite only needing to increase my speed by 20% (for 5 minutes!) the extra effort is harder than I was expecting. I did a couple of sub 5 minute kms this evening and was really out of breath afterwards. But at least I can do it. And I still have 5 days left for training if I need it!

It did make me realise that there is clearly not a linear relationship between speed and effort. This is probably obvious but I've just not thought about it before:

- If I make no effort, I achieve a speed of zero km per hour and sit on my sofa
- If I make a small amount of effort I'm able to move to the kitchen and make a cup of tea.
- If I double that effort I'll probably make it to the corner shop to get a bag of Jelly Tots.
- Double again and I might start to make a speed of about 6 miles per hour (I'm not sure at which level of effort I switch to imperial units). Actually running now!
- Increase some more and I'm up to today's level. Hard work.
- Increase some more and the extra speed ain't coming.
- Increase some more and I drop dead, heart attack. Back to zero speed.

And that's that conclusively demonstrated. Effort not proportional to speed. Can I have a PhD now?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Busy Again

Another busy week at work as my boss is away - not holiday, but a two week course suspiciously close to EuroDisney. Hence I've got all the work to do and am avoiding hangovers for a while :-( Until Saturday morning, anyway. Then I expect I'll have a big one.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Farewell DRM!

So "iTunes Plus" is out - arguably now working the same way any sensible service would have worked to start with, ie no DRM and decent quality sample rates.

It actually lets you upgrade previously purchased tracks for about 20p each. This is either a good idea or daylight robbery. I think probably the second. But now, there is finally a good online delivery system for buying music.

I just bought the new Bees album. They are still possibly the most retro band in the UK, but that doesn't stop them making some damn fine songs. I'm loving "Listening Man" at the moment. It's the song Bob Marley would have made if he had been any good.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Revolutionary Food

Went to the new Revolution in York for lunch today. I haven't had a drink there yet - I had been in once before but we left soon after because it was too slow and busy. This time we got served a bit more quickly (at table) but it still then took an age for the drinks to come. I had a Staropramen which subsequently seemed to give me a stinking headache - that's probably more linked to last night than the actual beer itself though.

When you order food they give you a 15 minute hourglass and and let you have the food for free if it takes longer than that. It's quite exciting. 15 minutes isn't actually that long so it must be quite hard for them to stick to it at busy times. Today, our hourglass actually expired and so we didn't have to pay for it - they were actually really good about things and didn't try to make excuses or wriggle out of us getting the freebies. Food then came quite soon after.

I as wondering whether it would be a good tactic to order a steak with every meal and ask for it to be really, really well done.

I didn't do that today - I had Thai fish cakes which were very tasty. Burgers looked ok (and big too).