Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Circle

Hello. It's been a little while since I last updated, but it really hasn't been my fault – honest. Since I got the fuck out of that dump Gloucester, I've been relying on the free wi-fi offered in places like Wetherspoons and Starbucks to get online. I suppose I could have written blog posts about all the shit that's been going on in my little bubble and then uploaded it once I was connected, but to be brutally honest – I just couldn't be fucked. And to be fair, quite a lot has happened since I last posted just before Christmas.

As alluded to in a previous sentence and/or paragraph, I have indeed uprooted and moved away from Gloucester and back to my home town Manchester. It was a pretty simple move seeing as I only have a relatively small number of belongings – a few cases of old games consoles and a couple of black bags of clothes (most of which I've since chucked out due to never wearing more than about three or four different outfits) was all I lugged up the M5 with me. I was initially staying at my mum's house while I sorted out my apartment, and of course it was Christmas too, so I just kind of slobbed around for a few weeks and drank way too much. To counteract the less desirable effects of all the ale and gin (yes, gin) I was swigging, I also managed to crank out some fairly impressive long-distance runs over the festive period – which was nice. 

So Crimbo came and went, I somehow managed to co-erce a letting agent into letting me sign a tenancy agreement, and then I moved into the new gaff in mid January. In hindsight there was quite a bit of stress involved - lots of viewings, lots of cancelled viewings, some irate telephone exchanges (by which I refer to the conversations had over the telephone, not the actual telephone exchange building...can buildings be 'irate'?!), sleepless nights and a couple of pretty heated arguments too. It all seems to have come together in the end though, so I can't really grumble. One thing I do feel the need to grumble about is my employment status. 

Now, I don't want to go into it too much on here as I can't afford to upset anyone (yet), but when I left my job in Gloucester, I was assured that i'd be 'in post' by the end of January. It's now almost the end of February and I'm still waiting for a fucking start date. The recruitment department at my new place of work are blaming the delay on the return of my CRB (criminal records) check from some arcane and secretive government dept (The Laundry?), but I blame that age-old blight on progress: human laziness. Sigh. So life at the moment is pretty dull for me. Yes, I'm back home and yes I've got a whole flat to exist in (as opposed to just a room), but the novelty of being off work starts to wane after a few weeks. I'm keeping myself busy/sane by going for lengthy runs and cycling (and using the cross trainer I recently bought off ebay – more on that in a future post), getting busy with the HS30 EXR uber-camera, and reading books. And now I've got the internet back in my life (no thanks to Plusnet who kept me waiting for a goddamned MONTH to get it switched on) I'll be blogging again, too. Lucky you!

On a slightly depressing note, I had my motorbike stolen a few weeks ago and it sent me into a bit of a downward slump. The insurance cunts, sorry, company wouldn't pay out either because I hadn't updated my address details after moving so I was left with nowt but a snapped chain, a broken disk lock and an empty space where the Goose had once so proudly stood. Oh, and a fucking £1000 hole in my finances. The story doesn't end there though. 

When I discovered that the bike had been nicked, I obviously rang the police and reported it. To their credit, the cops turned up pretty soon after to take some details and stuff. And the day after another patrol car stopped off at the flat to let me know that they hadn't found the bike yet. It was nice to know that the cops were actually giving a toss, to be honest. And even if it was just for show, at least they were doing that. Anyway, a week went by and I just accepted that the Goose was long gone, either sold on or burnt out somewhere in a ditch (which, ironically, is the fate that befell my CG125 a few years ago). It was on the following Saturday that I took a bus ride to the near by town of Bolton (also the town of my birth, fact fans!). On the return journey, I was sat on the upper deck of the bus and messing with my Blackberry when I happened to look up and to my left. What do I see parked down a side street but my Suzuki Goose! I got off the bus at the next stop and went back to where I'd seen the bike, and there she was...albeit in pretty bad shape. 

The little fucks who'd stolen her had ripped off the mirrors and indicators, prised open the petrol cap and pulled the body panels off the sides to (I presume) hot-wire it. Mecanically, the bike was still in good condition, and there was no other damage, but by that point I was sick of the whole incident so I resided to getting the bike back to the flat in the back of a mate's van and sleeping on it (the subject, not the bike). Next morning, I concluded that the damage done by the worthless scrotums who had pinched the bike was probably easily repairable by someone with the know-how and resources, so I sold it as 'spares or repair' to a motorcycle enthusiast for £300. Silver linings and all that. It didn't give me my transport or freedom back, but that money did go some way to softening the blow of having my vehicle stolen by some retarded, pathetic waste of human skin. I can only hope and pray to Cthulu that those responsible develop an extremely aggressive form of cancer and die a horrible painful death. Not now, but later in life. The circle will then be complete.

Next up - how laminate flooring and ignorant lesbians in the flat above can DESTROY your short-lived happiness.

Saturday, 22 December 2012


Well, its Saturday 22nd December and we're all still here. What did I say? There are a lot of people with a lot of egg on their collective faces right about now. A lot of people who sold everything/gave everything away because they thought the rapture was imminent. Again I say: fucking idiots. Excuse me while I lay here and gloat. Aaaaah. Gloating is good. Not so good when you're being gloated at, mind. But meh.

I managed to knock up a pretty convincing tilt shift photo using that website I linked to in my previous tilt shift-orientated post. I think the effect only really works if you've got the right sort of photo to edit in the first place. To whit - I took a photo of a street scene from afar with the fucking immense zoom lens stuck to the front of the HS30 EXR (serious piece of kit, seriously), and then tilt shifted the fuck out of it:

Now that is impressive in my opinion. Look at the tiny cars! Now to STAND ON THEM! Crush them and kick the roofs off the houses and take a massive shit in the town centre. Piss in a river and leg drop the town hall. Just me? Oh...OK. I get a bit carried away when the opportunity to act like Godzilla presents itself. Did I mention the Mayan apocalypse totally failed to happen? Just saying.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


Listen up. According to various news websites, people around the world are stockpiling candles, torches, tinned food and salt (?) at the moment just to be on the safe side when the predicted apocalypse hits on Friday. This, to me at least, seems about as pointless as the Wii Mini. See, if it’s the apocalypse, then the world is going to what good are a few candles and a tin of Spam going to be? Fucking idiots. I don’t know why I’m even bothering to mention this guff – it’s pretty clear to anyone with an ounce of brain tissue inside their skull that the world isn’t going to suddenly ‘end’ on Friday.

It might feel like it has to many of the people who are out on Friday night for the annual 'mad' Friday celebrations – the curious (British?) tradition of going out drinking on the last Friday before Christmas and consuming so much alcohol that you can’t even taste your kebab on the way home – but surely their world-ending epoch won’t really begin until Saturday morning when they’re hunched over the toilet bowl throwing the same minced offal up again? 

This whole ‘end of the world’ shite is literally just that – something that somebody got wind of and was then twisted out of all proportion by the media and adopted as truth by other equally dense people. As far as I can see, the only evidence for any of this crap is that the Mayans' calendar sort of ends around about now (after much shoe-horning and contriving of data so that it sort of looks a push). See, the peoples of ancient antiquity didn’t really have days of the week, or years or months as we know them, so the very notion of ‘Friday the 21st of December 2012’ would have been complete gobbledygook to your average Mayan bloke. So where has this magical date come from? I don’t really know or care to be honest. What I do know is that all these fool s buying candles and salt are gonna have some ‘splaining to do come Tuesday morning when their kids are unwrapping cylindrical, waxy gifts. 

It kinda makes me a little bit sad for the human race reading all these news reports about large communities in supposedly developed and enlightened countries panic buying essentials ‘just in case.’ Just in case what? A wave of fire and brimstone comes sploshing down the street? The dead rise from their graves and shuffle about a bit? An asteroid smashes the world to tiny fragments like a drunk tramp punching a goldfish bowl? A despot* presses a button and starts a nuclear war? In the event that any of those improbable things happen (they won’t), again I ask – what fucking use will candles and Spam be?! See you on Saturday morning, dickheads.**

Speaking of despots, and taking into consideration the new Hobbit movie is out (mildly tenuous segue, I know), have you ever wondered what Sauron might use to write his Christmas list? Wonder no more, filthy Hobbitses:

It uses children's tears instead of ink

Forged in the fires of Mount Doom, this delightful writing utensil is available here for the meagre sum of £10,000. I'll have two, then.

*My money would be on that triple-chinned North Korean bloke if I was a betting man. But I'm not.
**And if I'm wrong, then fuck it - I've got some Spam in the cupboard somewhere. And a colour-changing lamp. Yeah bitches.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Ouya? Oh Yeah!

In recent posts I’ve looked at the new Nintendo consoles and basically poured scorn on them both. The Wii Mini looks like the most pointless thing I’ve ever seen – a Wii without internet functionality and no backwards compatibility; and the Wii U...well, my opinions of that turd are fiercely negative and I make no apologies. This week it came to light that due to some arcane European legislation, if you’re stupid enough to have bought a Wii U and wish to view/download ‘adult’ content (i.e. anything that’s rated 18 / Mature), you have to wait until between the hours of 11pm and 4am for it to be visible in the online store. And there I was thinking Nintendo were over the whole ‘green/no blood in games’ thing. 

To be fair, I don’t think this is necessarily something that Nintendo has implemented of its own accord, but both Xbox Live and the PS Network marketplaces do not impose this bizarre censorship and yet they operate in a European environment too. Way to go, Nintendo. First – bring out two new consoles, both of which are similarly titled to your existing one. Then send mixed audience messages by releasing a glut of child-friendly launch titles alongside more adult-themed ones...but then impose a kind of watershed on mature online content. Brilliant. There are two other consoles on the horizon though. And no, I’m not talking about the next offerings from Sony or Microsoft. They’re Ouya and Neo Geo X

You’d be forgiven for never having heard of either of these consoles, and in all honesty the Neo Geo X will probably be born into a cloud of apathy before vanishing into the mists of time (but not before sprouting eBay listings advertising it as ‘**RARE!!!**’); but the Ouya has the potential to be a bit of a game changer (sorry). Ouya started life as a Kickstarter project that went on to attract donations of over $8m and is in essence an indie gamer’s dream – a true modder’s console that runs a bespoke version of the Android OS, and that the creators are marketing as a console that will actively encourage homebrew creativity. So, it’s kind of like that GP2X thing that nobody bought, but in console form. 

The thing that sets Ouya apart from the other ‘modders/homebrew/indie’ consoles is that it offers so much for such a meagre price tag: It’ll apparently retail for $99 (which using the usual gaming hardware conversion techniques will no doubt equate to £99, and not the more realistic £60ish) on launch, and offer loads of cool stuff straight out of the box, such as compatibility with On Live and a fully featured app/game store. The Ouya’s creators are also quite happy for gamers to open the console itself and tinker with the actual hardware inside, which as far as I know, is completely unprecedented for a console. Fair enough, you can buy things like Raspberry Pi and you can always mod a PC...but official modding support from a console manufacturer is a new one on me. I’m not sure if I’ll buy one, but Ouya looks quite intriguing especially as the quality of Android games is improving all the time (those Modern Combat games are getting very good, even if they are blatant rip-offs of Modern Warfare...and technically I’ve only played the Blackberry OS versions, so not really Android...but fuck it. You know what I’m getting at). Ouya is out next March in the US...and a UK release date isn’t even hinted at yet (surprise). 

The other new console I mentioned is the Neo Geo X from SNK Playmore. SNK is a company that I always associated with impenetrable fighting games like King of Fighters and stupidly hard side-scrolling shooters like Metal Slug, and the original Neo Geo console (and its variants) was something I never actually played on because I didn’t know anyone who a) had one; or b) could afford one. 

There was a guy at my school who told everyone he had a Neo Geo, but when me and my brother went round one evening to have a go on it, he came out with some bullshit story that his mum had seen it in his room, not known what it was and then proceeded to throw it in the alleyway behind his house. He then went and pretended to be looking for his Neo Geo in said alley for about 20 minutes before giving up. Unimpressed by the quality (or lack thereof) of this blatant attempt to hoodwink us, my brother and I left soon after and our acquaintance never mentioned the Neo Geo again. Certainly not when either of us was in the vicinity, anyway. 

But I digress. So the Neo Geo then – a fabled and rarely seen console that boasted some (apparently) excellent 2D fighters, shooters and...well that’s it as far as I can tell. Enter the Neo Geo X – A strange hybrid console that consists of a hand held Neo Geo console that is pre-loaded with 20 of SNK’s best retro games...that fits inside a case that looks like the original Neo Geo so you can hook it up to a TV. The console comes with a gargantuan joystick/pad thing too so you can get that true 1990s import gamer nostalgia going on. Reports that it comes with a free Tango & Cash poster are unconfirmed. Oddly, the Neo Geo X doesn’t take original Neo Geo carts (mainly because the plastic case is just that – a mock up of the original AES shell without any functioning parts) as the games come on some kind of SD-like memory card that are plugged into the little handheld unit. You’d have to be a bit of an SNK nutter to shell out the $200 asking price for one of these things in my opinion, especially since most of the games available have either already been ported to other consoles or are available for free (cough) on certain (cough) websites (cough). Cough. As with the Ouya though, there isn’t a UK release date or price as yet. I’d be surprised if we ever see the Neo Geo X officially released on these shores though, especially as the original Neo Geo consoles never made an impact here and the Neo Geo Pocket Colour sold about 3 units. Saying that, if you did happen to find a Neo Geo CD system in a Moss Side alleyway in about 1995 (just up from where Maine Road used to be); could you get in touch via the comments section? I might owe an apology to an old school friend. 

I downloaded a little game last night called Braid. I’d heard lots of talk about it when it launched on Xbox Live, but I never got it because I find the whole ‘Microsoft Points’ thing a bit shit. If you could just buy things with real money out of your debit account like you can on the App Store/iTunes and the Blackberry Appworld, then I might be more inclined to do so...but I just don’t really like the way you can only buy certain amounts of Microsoft Points and then be left with a useless number of them after buying something. I’ve had 180 points in my account for about 3 years now...and 180 is just about enough to buy absolutely fuck all. However, I saw Braid on the App Store on the Mac last night for £2.99 so I bought it. And what a delightful little romp it is too. 

It’s basically a platform game with a great hand-drawn art style. The story and locations appear a little on the surreal side, as does the way you can rewind time if you fall to your death...but you also have to use this function to solve puzzles involving cannons firing clouds. Quite. I’ve looked around on the interwebs quite a bit and discovered that Braid is actually about a nuclear war or something...which just adds a bit of intrigue to the story in the textbooks you come across in-game. Only played the first two ‘worlds’ thus far, but it was definitely worth £2.99 in my opinion. You can’t even get a pint for £2.99 these days (unless you go and jostle with the alcoholics and bums in your local Wetherspoons) so money well spent. I might attempt to do a little video review some time. But then again, I might not.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Glow Lamp Video Review

Thought I'd knock up a quick video review of the lamp I was on about in my previous post. I shot it with the HS30 EXR and I have to say I'm really disappointed with the sound quality I ended up with. There was a weird buzzing noise in the original clips that I tried to reduce in iMovie, but all that did was muffle the sound. Odd. Anyway, enjoy:

Glow Your Own Way

Howdy. Been sorting out my big move back to the capital of the North over the last week hence the lack of updates. Took the Goose up the line on Friday morning and stashed it in my brother’s garage before getting the National Express back late last night. I set off at about 6.30am on Friday morning in an attempt to escape the biblical storm that was sweeping across the country and I almost made it – it was only in the last half hour of the journey that the rain finally caught up with me and soaked me to the bone. I know I’ve moaned about this many, many times over the last year – but Christ. Every single time I get on that fucking thing, the heavens open. All last week it was dry as a bone. Ridiculously cold, but dry. And then as soon as I decide to get on the bike and transport it, the rain starts. I’m not stupid enough to actually believe that some arcane rain god has it in for me, but it just always seems to be that no matter how nice the weather is, as soon as I get on my motorbike, it turns shitty.

Apart from the rainy (windy and dark) journey on Friday morning, the weekend was quite pleasant. Spent Friday night at my dad’s and Saturday night I went to a friend’s house party/Christmas do that eventually spilled out into a few pubs. It was in a place called Ramsbottom on the outskirts of Manchester and was a really good event, not least because the pubs around that area mostly seem to be proper ‘real ale’ pubs with good friendly atmospheres. I don’t really know Ramsbottom that well, but from the few times I’ve been there to visit this particular friend, I have quite a positive opinion of it. The place seems to be very ‘old fashioned,’ but not in a horrible, urban decay way – more in a ‘dry stone wall’ way, where a lot of the buildings are made of those grey odd-shaped bricks. There’s also a proper steam railway around there somewhere, so it gets a thumbs up from me. I fully intend to dress as Isambard Kingdom Brunel and ride that quaint fucker one day. 

I went to Minehead a few years ago and we went down to the station there to have a ride on the steam train, but the twat wasn’t running so we just went to the pub instead. So yeah, Saturday night was a bit of a blur involving lots of ale and party food. Earlier in the day I got lost on the ridiculous motorway network encircling Manchester and ended up somewhere near Liverpool when I was trying to get to Stockport (and predictably I also got piss wet through), but apart from that, it was a chilled weekend. 

I got the coach back from Chorlton Street in Manchester and discovered to my horror that it isn’t only Birmingham coach station that charges 30p for the pleasure of being able to have a piss or shit in their toilets. Personally, I think that this kind of thing is disgusting. Charging people to carry out essential bodily functions. I remember when I went to Hull a few months ago and was bursting for a piss, but the toilets in the train station were even more expensive than the two aforementioned coach stations! I can’t remember how much, but I’m pretty sure it was more than the already outrageous 30p levy at Brum and Manc. In case you were wondering, I didn’t use the bogs at Hull, I just emptied my effluent all over the main High Street instead – not that you could tell (this is a joke, by the way – I think Hull’s a pretty nice place, especially since they built that new shopping area). But anyway, enough of my boring life story. 

When I was in Manchester waiting for my coach, I stepped into a shop called Clas Ohlson, which to me at least, appears to be Ikea without the furniture. It’s full of all sorts of tat – from garden tools and kitchenware to electrical and computer accessories. I love it, and could spend ages wandering around just looking at stuff. One thing I did see was this: 

768 colour combinations apparently. Not sure about that.

It’s a lamp. Not just any lamp though - its called 'Glow' and it comes with a remote control that lets you change the fucking colour! How insanely cool is that?! 

Each button changes the colour, the ones on the right adjust the brightness

Standard 'orange' mode

Probably should've tidied up before taking these pictures

As soon as I saw it I had to have it, so I shelled out £30 for it and transported it back halfway across the country with me. What else? Oh yeah – I sold my old iPod on Gumtree as well as my laptop in order to fund my latest ‘big’ purchase – an iPod Classic 160GB. It’s silver and matches the new MacBook Pro I got last week. I’m becoming everything I ever hated buying all this Apple stuff, but you know what? I think I can see why people desire Apple stuff: it just fucking works. It comes out of the box, you turn it on...and it just works. As simple as that. I’ve had no issues whatsoever with the MacBook, and the iPod is just the same. None of those stupid Windows dialogue boxes popping up with error messages accompanied by that stupid alert noise. Nothing but silky smooth performance. Sure, the MacBook is only a week old so that’s what you’d expect, but the OS is so much better than anything gaudy old Windows 8 could ever be, what with its hideous neon squares and incompatibility issues. Urgh. I played around with a Windows 8 PC in Curry’s last week and I was pretty horrified by how clunky it felt compared to Mountain Lion...and that was after using the Mac for about 3 days. Am I an Apple convert? Well, I was always slightly into Apple macs anyway (my first job after Uni was selling and demoing Apple G5 Powermacs), and I did all the online exams to gain ‘Apple Product Professional’ status (those RAID exams were fun, let me tell you), so I don’t think it’s a question of being a convert. More a case of ‘I ditched Windows because Mountain Lion kicks ass.’ Or something like that. In other iPod news, I’ve managed to download a piece of software that converts DVDs into mp4 movies that can be played on the iPod – so now I can watch movies on the cross trainer in the gym. Which, frankly, is awesome. Right, that’s enough from me for the moment. Until next time.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Tilt Shift

Ever heard of tilt shift photography? Neither had I until today. Well, I had...I just didn't know it was called tilt shift. You probably have too. Look at this:

Go, tiny USA!
It's a technique that involves the use of a special, sickeningly expensive camera lens that turns ordinary scenes of humdrum life into images that make everything look like toy town. See, the perspective shifts or something, tricking those dumb-fuck balls of fat stuck into the front of your head into thinking that they're looking at a bunch of models. Models made of wads of human hair and dried faeces. Possibly. If you don't own a tilt shift lens, there are several sites online that will allow you to upload your own shots of everyday drudgery and turn them into pseudo tilt shift-esque images. Look:

As you'd expect, they don't really measure up to the majesty of the ones shot with a proper lens, but it's a mildly distracting activity for those who have nothing better to do with their time.

If you'd like to know more about this fascinating branch of photography, check out this website for a much more detailed explanation than I could ever craft. There's also a guide to creating perfect tilt shift images. Winner!