Thursday, November 29, 2007

Darn

So this is me admitting I got something wrong. Darn. Let's leave it there.

And then drink.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sports on the Wii... and a Dalek Incident

After a drought for the best part of a year in terms of Wii games, there are finally some good ones around. Super Mario Galaxy looks like it'll be amazing (once I get chance to play it) Metroid Prime 3 is fantastic (though I suspect, just like 1 and 2 I'll get near the end and be unable to defeat the final boss) and my new favourite party game is Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.

It's very much a Ronseal game. It features Mario and Sonic, and they have indeed gone to the Olympics. You can't complain under the trade descriptions act. It also sounds like it should be shit - it has cheap tie-in written all over it. Not literally, that would dint sales (or maybe not).

But in fact it's great. I've purchased an extra Nunchuck to have proper two player on it. There are loads of events, in a variety of styles. It's structured in a Mario Kart style and you can play sets of three mixed events in a tournament style. Or play single events. Or play the (slightly random) Olympics quiz. I haven't played (or unlocked) them all yet but they seem easy to pick up and no doubt hard to master.

100m is straightforward and mainly involves waggling both your arms upside down as fast as possible. Quite tiring if you play it a few times in a row. Tabletennis plays like a slightly more advanced version of Wii Tennis. I haven't got the hang of swimming yet. Fencing seemed bizarrely easy against the computer. And etc. Most importantly, the events all seem to have more to them than just pressing a couple of buttons over and over again, Speccy sports style. Time will tell how these all go after a few weeks, but I suspect my arms will hurt.

The most amusing thing is the way it lets you use your Miis in events if you don't fancy a character from Mario or Sonic. It dresses them up in athletic gear and finally lets you prove that you (yes, you!) are faster than that darned hedgehog. Which I always knew I was.

So in short, get it.

In other unrelated news, I was in Tesco earlier and pointed over to a shelf containing a load of Dalek bubble baths. I said out loud to K, "look, Dalek!". Unfortunately I hadn't spotted there was a lady in one of those electric shopping cart things right in my line of pointing. I think I got away with it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Burgers You Can't Pick Up

We went to York's new(ish) Gourmet Burger Kitchen for lunch today. It does mainly burgers, but has a very wide choice of toppings and sauces. My lamb burger was excellent but it suffered from one main problem: due to it's size and height it was impossible to pick up without modification (removing two super large pieces of tomato).

I don't see the point of burgers that you can't pick up. The whole point of a burger is that it's meat in a bun, and it's in a bun so you can pick it up and put it in your mouth, preferably without having the whole contents slide onto your plate.

If I wanted a meal that I needed a knife and fork to eat, I wouldn't order a burger. I'd have a salad or a steak or a curry or a bowl of dry muesli. Burgers are finger food. Fact.

At least give me a wet towel if I'm going to get messy fingers.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Rock!

Thursday hosted another Pub Treasure Hunt. My team were rock stars. Not specific ones, more generic ones. My costume was made largely of hair.

I rock!

A colleague commented that it looked like I'd made lots of effort. He was wrong. What I'd actually done was spend lots of money, which isn't quite the same thing.

Friday, November 23, 2007

New Fun Games!

I bought two news exciting games today. Instant reviews:

1. Guitar Hero 3: I've gone for the PS3 version. It was quite hard to set up (hold down the button on the dongle). Game is very like 1 & 2, except so far with less songs I know. It also now has boss battles with that bloke out of Rage Against The Machine. Haven't defeated him yet,

2. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games: (Wii) This should be shit. There is nothing about this game that should work. But I love it. My first impressions are that it may be a work of genius. And that Mario swims in his clothes.

So those are my multiplayer mayhem until Xmas. Do you wanna come round and challenge?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Subway Ranking

For no good reason, here is my ranking of York's for Subways, best to last.

1. The one near The Gallery
2. The one near The Hansom Cab
3. The one near The Golden Fleece
4. The one near The Golden Lion

Although I was in Number 4 today and the lady gave me eight slices of the purple meat rather than the regulation six, and also seven rather than six slices of pepperoni. So I couldn't complain.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Holy Bad Acting!

I mentioned last week that I'd agreed to be Batman in a video for our work conference. We filmed it today.

I was hoping the costume would be a cool Batman Begins style one. Something that I could wonder around in and pretend to be a crime fighting creature of the night. Instead it was a 60s style one. But not even sixties TV series - it was more 60s comic book style (or at least how I imagine that to look). All primary colours - bright blue cape and boots, yellow belt etc.

We were doing the scenes against a green screen. The script (such as it was) was straightforward (since they'd stupidly let me write it myself in a spare five minutes I had last week). I put in lots of swearing because I liked the idea of a sweary Batman, but they made me take that out and so I replaced the swearwords with "Bats". It's actually a good word - you can replace f**k with it in pretty any situation.

We also had to lose my first image which was of Batman and Robin, fully costumed up, lying in bed together. Like Morecombe and Wise or the cast of Rainbow. I thought it would have been funny but getting hold of a duvet and a bed (or even a green screen bed) defeated us. I just liked the image and it's a shame we couldn't do it. The replacement shot was of us sitting around in costume reading books instead.

I think I played the part well. I could generally remember up to three of the lines I had at a time and I only cracked up laughing once. I've no idea what the finished thing will be like - I suspect it will have been extensively edited. I can guarantee it will be embarrassing to watch. I'll try and get hold of it and post it somewhere.

Just don't tell anyone that I'm not in Equity. Or that I wrote the script last week during the writers' strike.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Trains and Pains

We spent five hours on a Virgin train today travelling from Oxford to York. It wasn't delayed, it was just slow. Technically we could have switched to a faster train at Birmingham or at Doncaster but we were being a little lazy and I tend to be of the opinion that it's better to stay on a train that is definitely running than to switch to a faster train that may not be there.

Virgin have taken recently to running most of their trains as two trains joined together. This is fine, it means more seats, except that they have one of the trains as all reserved and the one one as all unreserved. Hence if you get on the train and it then leaves the station, it's easy to have trouble getting a seat at busy times. I don't really understand why they don't have a mixture of reserved and unreserved seats in each half.

This problem resulted in us having to change train-halves at Birmingham. Which was a little annoying but better than standing for a few hours which we might have had to do if we hadn't been able to find a seat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fake Statues of Liberty

The strange thing about going near the Statue of Liberty (ie Battery Park type area) is that there are lots of people who dress up as the Statue of Liberty and try and make tourists have their photos taken with them (for a dollar or two).

One guy had gone quite far to get accuracy with his costume. Most of the impersonators were standing on chairs or stools to get the requisite height. This one guy though had had his own plinth carved out of actual stone, and was only posing with tiny tiny people to get the proportions right:

Statue of Liberty (1)

It'll never catch on.

This was proved elsewhere in New York where we didn't see people posing as the following things for money:
- The Empire State Building
- King King
- Tramps
- Donald Trump
- Donald Duck
- Hamburg

Almost completely unrelatedly, there did seem to be a tramp in Montreal who had a laptop computer. I have no idea where he plugged it in. I would have taken a photo but I figured that any tramp who had a computer would also have a gun, knife or access to my bank records. Hello if you're reading, Mr Smelly-but-computerised!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I'm not Batman either

In a fit of what now I can only describe as idiocy, I seem to have agreed to dress as Batman for a video to be played at our work Christmas conference. I will also have to act as Batman. It's going to make Batman and Robin look like Citizen Kane.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I'm not Paul

I turned on my old phone yesterday afternoon to see if there were any messages for me from people who hadn't managed to switch to the new number. I had three voicemail messages all from earlier that day.

Unfortunately (not for me) the messages were all for someone called Paul. It seemed like he was supposed to be meeting his friend (the caller) at some sporting event or other. The caller was trying to arrange to meet Paul and give him the tickets, giving him information about where to park, which seats they were in, which gate to use and so on.

I suspect that since I am not Paul, I don't know Paul and I made no attempt to contact Paul, that this meeting may not have gone as well as planned for them.

The moral of this story is: Don't rely on voicemail, make sure you have written phone numbers down correctly and don't go to sporting events.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

New Litter Bins

I spotted something in York city centre a couple of days ago that was new. It was something that is so simple and obvious it should have been done everywhere years ago. What that thing was was recycling litter bins ie litter bins with separate holes for paper, cans, plastic etc.

OK, so far I've only seen one of these (in St Helen's Square) but I'm sure there are others either already, or on their way.

As long as the Great British Public can manage to use this system in a sensible way, it'll be fantastic. What I suspect will happen is that all holes will be full of half-eaten kebabs by the end of the first week.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Beer on Trains

There are some daft laws about. This was demonstrated (if needed) by an article on the BBC website this week. Interestingly the article has now been amended to take out some urban-myth type ones such as the one about it being legal to Scotchmen in York if you use a bow and arrow. That one annoyingly crops up from time to time in various places. People should check their facts before repeating any old crap.

It's annoying because it's not true :-)

But enough of the preamble.

We accidentally broke a law in Canada. The law was this: "It is illegal to drink your own beer on trains in Canada" - and this includes beer you have purchased from shops as well as beer you have brewed yourself.

Often on UK trains I like to have a can or two of warm lager to while away the time. Like a sensible person I buy it from the shops in the station as they are half the price of the shop on the train. We figured Foreign would be the same and so we bought a few cans of Grolsch (my fave Canadian beer) from Montreal train station.

Incidentally, this is the bit where we were travelling from Montreal to Quebec by train.

Once the journey was under way, we started happily drinking them but then the beer-selling man came along and told us we weren't supposed to drink beer we'd not bought on board. How were we supposed to know this? There were no signs. He didn't say "illegal" though. He said he'd let us off this time but don't do it again. I suspect he meant we should finish the cans we'd already opened rather than the whole six pack but never mind.

Towards Quebec the conductor (a different man) came by and said the same thing but also specifically said it was against the law. Darn. I wouldn't have been surprised if there had been armed machine gun mounties waiting for us on the platform. There weren't though. That would have been an over-reaction. We were in Canada not the USA.

But anyway, I said sorry to the man (even though I wasn't sorry at all) and tried to look a bit sheepish. Then I finished the beer.

And that's how I became a criminal in Canada.

It's quite likely that he was exaggerating and that what we did wasn't actually against the law. I can't be arsed to check the Canadian statue books to check and so I'm just blindly repeating unchecked facts here on the internet.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

FF Update and Dead Pigeon

I'm sure most people in the world are eagerly following my quest to finish all the Final Fantasy games. Last night I finished FF VI (on the GBA), leaving only I, II, X, X2 and maybe XI. I feel like I'm making progress. VI was excellent - easily the best of the 2D games but (though probably not as good as any of the 3D ones). I'm taking a short break from them now to work through Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Metroid Prime 3, Super Mario Galaxies and probably a few others that'll be around in the next few months. And all the Christmas drinking too.

I'm sure I never used to see many dead pigeons but since I got back from America I've seen at least three. I'm suspecting there may be some kind of pigeon turf war going on as the one I saw today looked like it had been shot through the head.

It was on the corner near the Moat House and was lying on the floor clearly dead (but not squashed or anything). Under it's head was a pool of pigeon blood. If it had been shot with a gun by a pigeon rival, this is what I imagined it would have looked like.

The conversation probably went:

Pigeon 1: Cooo!
Pigeon 2: Cooo!
Pigeon 1: Cooo!
Pigeon 2: Cooo!
Pigeon 2: *Bang*
Pigeon 1: Coooooooooo! *bleeeeeed*

So a warning to all Yorkians - if you see a pigeon flying towards you, take cover. It might be armed and angry.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A New York Comedy of Errors

It should be common sense - don't buy tickets off random blokes in the street.

Passing through Times Square a random bloke approaches us and starts talking about comedy and comedians. We should ignore him and walk on. Instead we chat a little. He tells us how he's learnt the word "bladdered" recently as a euphemism for being drunk. I point out to where it says the same word on my rucksack. It's a nice coincidence.

He tells us his name is Jason and he's promoting the New York Comedy Club. We can go if we want. He has some VIP tickets that will get us in for $20 between us, $14 off the normal price. It'll be a 2 drink minimum but they'll only be $5 each. And 2 for 1 after the gig.

Now this is the strange part.

It's our first night in New York, we have no plans. Rather than saying no thanks, we give the chap $20 in exchange for a VIP ticket. We move on.

Back at the hotel I pretty much manage to convince myself the whole thing is a scam. I've seen this sort of thing on The Real Hustle. I then do the second stupid thing. There's instructions on the "ticket" which say that rather than just turning up you should phone ahead to make a reservation. Jason had never mentioned this.

So I phone the number from my mobile. It seems to be the right place but I have to go through one of those automated menu systems before I get an option to go through to make a reservation. But I just get a recorded message. I try again a few more times with no luck. Later I find that this has cost me a further £10 due to the high cost of making mobile calls from the USA. Grrrr.

We decide to go to the club regardless. In for a penny, in for a pound. We get there it looks very closed and shut. We figure we're too early (it's about nine o'clock) and so we find a nearby bar. An Irish bar, with authentic sawdust on the floor. Later we go back to the club and then bizarrely, it's open! And even more bizarrely we get let in with our "ticket" (though the door price does seem to be $10 per head rather than the $17 we'd been led to expect).

We go in, and are led to a table. An act is on. She's not great, but it's early in the night and so who cares. The waitress comes to take our drink orders (making us order our second drink at the same time). Drinks arrive.

The act is rubbish. So is the next one. And the next one. Etc. There are probably about 15 on through the evening and none are great. Three made us laugh quite a lot but the rest were awful. Several died on stage. One of them was a random girl singing songs (not even ones that were supposed to be funny). I can honestly say it's the worst night of comedy I've ever seen. Bobby Davro is preferable.

On the way out we pay for our drinks. These came to $40 - twice what we were expecting. Maybe we ordered the wrong kind of beer.

The plus side is that we have a fantastic laugh for days afterwards about how unbelievably crap and a rip-off the whole thing was.

So maybe it worked out fine in the end.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Axe Falls

We had a restructure at work today (it's that time of the month). I still have a job, but I was worried when I came in and found that my tangram calendar today was a picture of an axe.



Was it trying to tell me something?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I didn't do the NY Marathon.

I didn't run in the New York Marathon today but I did watch the elite races on telly. Paula did very well. Well done.

Whilst the majority of runners were still going I went out for my own 5k run. Running at the same time, I almost felt like I was taking part in the main event. Except that it was darker and probably colder. And less busy.

I have a friend who's gone over to do the race and when I checked his split times on the internet just now each of his 5ks was quicker than the one I did this afternoon - and I was knackered after my one and only. My own fault for taking a month off, I suppose.

I'm going to have to keep the training back up now :-(

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Amazing Hand-Dryer

Before jetting off to New York we had to spend a night in a Heathrow airport - The Thistle. The hotel was nice enough apart from the very very odd spinach curry I had for dinner.

In the gents toilet was the best hand-dryer I've ever seen - a Dyson Airblade.



It's like a metal box that you put your hands into the top off. It then blows a very strong blade of air across them and as you pull your hands out, through the blade, they get very dry very quickly. It's absolutely amazing.

It has far surpassed my old favourite hand-dryer, the Xcellerator. Mr Dyson is a very clever man.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Expensive Wine Auction

I went to a MCW (Music, Cheese, Wine) thing in the Board Room at work last night which involved drinking a load of wine. Just what I needed :-) Afterwards there was a wine auction. Normally I can get a bottle for about £20 (rrp £4.99) but this time the attendance was considerably bigger than normal and the wine was getting bid up a load. I don't like to lose so I ended up paying £45.

Expensive, but the point is to get wine to drink there and then rather than to take home. Anyone who buys it at that kind of price to take home is a complete eejot.

Anyway, I felt a bit of an eejot for paying that much but only until the next two lots which both went for more - the final one for £85! That is insane if you ask me, which you didn't.