Sunday, December 31, 2006
And now the obligatory movie...
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Mark "Luke Skywalker" Hamill stars as Blair (the hero in Wing Commander 1-4). You might argue that going from being the ace Jedi pilot of the rebellion flying against the Empire to being the ace aging pilot of the Confederation flying against the Kilrathi Empire was not much of a stretch for Mark but the characters were quite different. Tom "That guy who was Biff" Wilson plays the annoying butt-head of a sidekick, Maniac, your oft wingman who never follows orders and only survives by sheer chance. By the way if you haven't seen his Back to the Future song see it here!
Malcolm "Clockwork Orange" MacDowell as Admiral Tolwyn and John "Indy" Rhys-Davies as Paladin also added to the respectable caliber of actors to appear in the games - a particularly good cast for a computer game.
The plot of the first three games was the good Confederation were under attack by the evil Kilrathi Empire, a race of evolved warlike cats. In WC1 and 2 the Confederation were the clear goodies, and beyond what happened in your missions there was no way to influence the plotlines. WC1 had a relatively straightforward plotline, while WC2 was literally crying out to be made into a film:-
As the games moved into Full Motion Video WC3 and WC4 were definitely more shades of greys - feeling like a cross between Top Gun, Babylon 5 and Star Wars. As far back as WC2 your wingmen would die in battle, or as the results of nefarious plots. It was dark stuff - WC3 ends with you blowing up the Kilrathi home world:-
Essentially the game comprised of full-motion segments which would occasionally pause and allow you the player to make a decision as to how Mark Hamill's character reacts to the situation. This would then impact subsequent missions. Also by WC3 Hamill's character, Blair, was a Colonel and thus made command level decisions regarding missions. The actual flight-sim itself contained video segments to handle inter-ship communications but for the most part you just shot things and completed your mission objectives. If you failed enough missions bad stuff happened in the overall storyline, usually leading to you being removed of command, Earth being nuked by the Kilrathi, being shot as a traitor or any other number of bad things. There were so many possible permeatations in the storyline - WC3 even had a choice of 2 love interests affecting the end of the game.
Wing Commander 4 was my favourite of the games however - it is set after the Kilrathi wars (bit difficult to continue a war when your homeland has been nuked). The following clip does a good job of explaining matters:-
It was epic, lavishly filmed. Wing Commander 3 was rather obviously filmed on a blue screen, but for Wing Commander 4 they went to town and spent millions on essentially filming a proper sci-fi movie. Nowhere is this more evident than in the intro:-
Despite being a space-sim the end of WC4 is largely dependant on your choices in the cinematic sequences:-
There was a Wing Commander 5 featuring a new main character and (true to Tolwyn's predictions) a new alien threat, but to be honest it was nowhere near as good as WDC4. Wing Commander: Prophecy was a passing of the torch game, where Hamill's Blair turned up to give the new hero the thumbs up. Despite being the greatest pilot in the galaxy on the two missions he features in as a pilot, he is captured and (presumably) killed:-
Note to self: When on big alien mothership run, not walk, back to your mode of transport.
There was supposed to be a Wing Commander 6 and 7 to tie up the alien threat, but the market fell out of the full motion video market and the line was dropped by Origin Systems.
Wing Commander was ripe to spin off on to TV and cinema. Wing Commander Academy was surprisingly gritty for a Saturday morning cartoon series, featuring the voices of Hamill, Wilson and Macdowell as younger versions of the game characters. It lasted 13 episodes but way very true to the spirit of the games.
There was also a Wing Commander movie, starting Freddie "I took Buffy off the market" Prinze Jnr. as Blair and Matthew "That Bloke From Scream" Lilliard as Maniac. Personally I thought it was a good film despite Prinze's presence, the new quasi-religious Jedi mumbo-jumbo (Blair is the last of the pilgrims, a genetically superior race of spacefaring humans) and the continual WW2 motifs (and the fact that ships launching off the carriers appear to be under the influence of gravity in deep space).
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Dr. Who's Xmas Special seemed really disjointed, and while it was entertaining it was nowhere near as good as last year's. This may have been my folks constant moaning, chatter and fiddling with the TV, but it seemed the plot was really disjointed and simplistic, and certainly the science was utterly nonsense. "Drink these particles..." and the hole going to the centre of the Earth in particular made me do a double take. Apparently evil alien spiders from the dawn of time climb holes really, really quickly, either that or a certain villain would have died of terminal velocity long before they became an issue. I also really didn't take to Catherine Tate - she seemed to play to too much like her bovvered alter-ego. Or the robot Santas. I'd assumed that their appearance this Xmas would tie in to their previous appearance, but again it came across as being Santas purely for the sake of it being a Christmas special.
However the Doc was surprisingly dark and vicious for a Christmas special and the ending with the snow and fireworks seemed similar to the McGann TV Movie from 10 years back - right down to asking the companion "D'ya want to come with me?" "No thanks." Only this time the show won't be cancelled.
Speaking of my favourite under-dog Doctor McGann, given this trailer I am looking forward to streaming the BBC7 season starting on New Year's eve on Listen Again.
I also finally caught this week's Torchwood, Combat, and it was really, really good. The script was by the guy that played Mickey in Doctor Who, and while it did seem reminiscent of another Angel episode and Fight Club it was sufficiently dark. I really don't like Owen, but that's a reflection on how well rounded the character is in this show. He's perhaps the most realistic of the Torchwood crew. Though that isn't saying that much.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Somehow I managed to get home by 7pm, which isn't bad for a 10am start given the weather and conditions. This was with the obligatory 3 stops and a little bit of confusion over the concepts of north and south around Carlisle. As expected the mist didn't exactly make for the most pleasant drive, though after Leeds there didn't seem to be much fog until I hit Lanarkshire, so it seems that north of the border was not particularly fog free.
However not getting to bed until 2am meant I was little use the day after beyond dog walking. Today I decided to do some last minute Xmas shopping - literally last minute as all my favourite shops closed just before I arrived, but now I'm fully prepared for tomorrow's festivities.
Dundee seemed mist-free when I first arrived but now we have the worst fog I think I have ever seen. You can see fog gently swirling literally in front of your face. I'm rather glad, for me, ze driving is over.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Here's the trailer (which you can only view on the original post, not the RSS feed)
Friday, December 22, 2006
Anyroads this week hasn't been totally unproductive. I've wrapped most of my presents, watched Hogfather, watched Knight Rider 2000 (I was bored), watched Eragon (George Lucas called, he wants his plot back) and just generally chilled and hung out.
See you on the flip side of the border.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Gabriel Knight was very much in tune with the X-Files generation. You were descended from the Ritter family, German nobility who functioned as Schattenjaegers, Shadow Hunters. After investigating a voodoo cult, discovering your heritage and avoiding dying in the first game the second game saw you investigating werewolves in Germany, despite your character couldn't speak German:-
The intros were awesome:-
The Beast Within Intro
You also had a female sidekick who did all the legwork, called Grace. Obviously there was sexual tension between the two of them (damn 3rd game cliffhanger!):-
It also saw you in search of Wagner's Lost Opera, and even includes a pretty darn cool opera scene:-
Gabriel Knight 3 I wasn't so fond of. There didn't seem to be many memorable confrontations (the hunt for the werewolf in GK2 has to be played to be believed) and it got a bit Da Vinci Code for my liking (long before that was a gleam in Dan Brown's eye I should add). And as usual Gabriel Knight 3 was the only one of the games to end on a cliffhanger. Naturally no Gabriel Knight 4 is forthcoming from Sierra.
"You know I've learned something from all this."
"Never spend more than 5 bucks to see a high school play."
There are 9 clips in total. If I had 2 hours I'd watch them all...
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Compared to the past few days at work I imagine this movie will seem quite chilled out.
Suffice it to say that the fact, or perhaps because of the fact that I had no real work to do beyond helping the students. Friday on the other hand was plain weird. I'll elaborate on this in more detail at another point, beyond saying the chaps and I went to the Landsdowne for an Xmas lunch. It was good though we needed a Mathematician to work the bill out for us! Then after spending the afternoon doing what little work I could do before closing time I caught Happy Feet at the cinema - which was quite amusing, though the graphics on that film must have been a pain to
I've also been playing around with Facebook, which seems to be a strange marriage betwixt MySpace and Photobox. It does have a nice interface for loading photographs, much much nicer than my Buzznet because you can upload an entire directory of images at the click of a button rather than spending all night specifying each inidividual image path. It also has an RSS feed from my blog, though to be honest that sucks as all my YouTube movies don't show up (so if you are viewing this through Facebook go to this link instead and a lot of the posts will make sense). I may retire the RSS feed if it gives me too many problems.
I've got a few albums on Facebook now that I will put on this blog as soon as I remember. The Buzznet account will be retired at some point - it is just too plain slow to browse, or to upload to.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Yes, kids, the review process takes that long on journals.
In Japan they don't let you get your PhD until you have 3 journal papers.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
We have a few problems with our rooms here. So much so that one of our demonstrators (I'm not saying who, but guess) mailed the following urgent email to all of us:-
There has been water coming into the lab by student PC 134. The window cannot shut properly by this pc. Some of the students have smelt burning.
To which he got the (pretty obvious and yet amusing) response of:-
Switch the machine off, and if you have any blue paper towel mop up the water as best you can.
I went through to the lab to make sure everything was okay, I was expecting said fellow to be either electrocuted, or crouched in the fetal position, worrying as he had no blue towels, only white towels. Thankfully we had a student who in the 20 minutes the email exchange took was smart enough to activate the circuit breaker for that part of the room.
And, no, we don't employ this guy:-
Monday, December 11, 2006
The restaurant on Thursday seemed to be in a takeout place on Highfields Street. We were upstairs in this particular restaraunt, in a room for large parties and visiting Chinese wanting privacy. I even drank Chinese tea, which for those of you who know me well is a remarkable thing in itself. However I didn't just drink tea - there was the particularly tasty Tsingtao beer in plentiful amounts.
However the meal was relatively messy (at least for me) and it seems I really really must learn to use chopsticks. I'm not the most coordinated of fellow's but I plan on learning.
Friday night's meal was a veritable banquet at Poppadom's, though I must confess due to having been drinking straight after work in Babelas (nice pub BTW) I really drank more than I ate, particularly the deadly Cobra beer that I'd be introduced to on a previous expedition to Manchester a few year's back.
I seem to have -far- too many photos of the evening, including a choice one of me I must upload at some point. Suffice it to say what followed on Saturday morning was not good - no baths were harmed, mainly because I haven't got one, nor where there any traumatised rabbits, but also I didn't manage to write the talk I'd planned to and there was the Catch-22 of feeling too miserable to go out but also not having much food in the house, except cereal, since I'd eaten out every evening since Friday. In fact if Claudia hadn't come round I expect I'd still be sat on my couch just now thinking about going to Morrison's. However, despite what certain parties say, after a pizza and some of Claudia's most excellent strudel I was my usual chirpy self.
I am looking forward to a week of eating in and not drinking. Unless anyone knows of a place that sells Cobra or Tsingtao beer wholesale.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
This week's Torchwood was interesting, though the villain's genius plot was just a little too open to random variables to be believable, and apparently Ianto may be sleeping with Jack (though I think this was deliberately implied but isn't true).
Recently the desire to rewatch some of my old films and look them out for other folk so unfortunate to have never seen such classics as Highlander, Jabberwocky and the Monty Python series caused me to rummage through my DVD collection. One film I'd forgotten I had was Ladyhawke - this is a wonderful film and if you have not seen it you simply must. Rutger Hauer plays a bad-ass good guy, a young Matthew Broderick plays a sidekick who steers dangerously close to becoming annoying but never crosses the line into Jar-Jarland and a young Michelle Pfiefer does okay too.
However what always sticks in my mind with this film is the music - the Alan Parson's Project did the soundtrack and electric guitars and 80s funk do not exactly match the lush landscapes of medieval Italy that are present in the film. However the music is fantastic in its own rights. I downloaded the soundtrack shortly after remembering this. I used to have it but used to be really terrible at backing files up - in fact I gave Alex and Lesley a copy of the mp3s to use during our old Rolemaster and Riddle of Steel campaigns. Any time during the game we rode on horses we made sure to play the funky and totally inappropriate cues from "The Search for Phillipe" (listen to it here). It was a great mood killer, as medieval as a Costner monologue on freedom, and often caused poor Paul, our Evil GM, to watch in utter dismay as we attempted to imitate horse riding in a way that made the coconut banging in Monty Python and the Holy Grail look like Shaft. Mind you Paul seemed to spend a lot of Wednesday's looking quietly dismayed at us, this was but one reason...
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
The first one was right down at the front and started snoring quite obviously. The rest of the class stopped listening to me and were watching the sleeping student. It was so funny I stopped lecturing and fixed him with a beady eye along with the rest of what was supposed to be my audience. Alas he woke up while I was torn between turning the microphone up to full volume, getting everyone to cover their ears and yelling "WAKE UP!" or running to the bathroom to fetch something wet.
In my second lecture this student came in late and as soon as I saw him I burst into a fit of hysterics, followed by most of the class including this student. I'm not good at self-control, but this was funny. However during the intensity of my revision lecture another student, also at the front slowly began to nod off.
Also, one of our general teaching assistants came into the office today while I was fiddling with this blog and saw the Flibble movie. Said Flibble movie had him in hysterics whilst he was teaching the same group of sleepy students. In fact he seemed to find a video of a grown man he knew wrestling with a puppet penguin a lot more funny than I would've expected.
Monday, December 04, 2006
I do all my own stunts and puppet work. Yes I am sad, why do you ask?
Sunday, December 03, 2006
I've watched all the way to the latest Season 3 episode (written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Steve Marchent, though I wouldn't have guessed to be honest) and overall its a lot more zany and silly that the UK one, but it's a good laugh. After watching Season 3 in one evening I went to work and when the inevitable craziness occurred I was looking for a camera to stare at akwardly.
Which links to my next point - I have a webcam now finally. This means people on MSN can now see my ugly mug and apartment. It also means the number of people on MSN has dropped. It also shows my hands as being very, very big when held up to the camera, but never ever do the Numa Numa, record it, overwrite another video file you were going to show and... well you get the picture.
I even set it up as a motion detector with FTP access to upload pictures to my web account at work if anyone comes in the apartment while I'm away - useful for watching the workmen who've had to replace all the wood in my bathroom as it's been slowly flooding for the past 6 months and no-one noticed. Finally I might even bring it into work but that would just be too entertaining...
Finally caught Casino Royale this week, which was actually quite good. Very gritty, less cartoony and in places downright nasty. This week's Adventures of Much, Also Featuring a Hobbit Called Hood was pretty good if you can get past the silliness of the Sherriff making Much a lord rather than just quietly killing him and not telling anyone to avoid making him a martyr. This show should count Much as the star, he has far more charisma than Robin and seems to carry the show when the Sheriff and Gisbourne aren't around.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Family Guy rocks.
And if you have no idea what this is about, it's from Rocky IV. I've always had a soft-spot for this particular piece of jingoistic Cold War propaganda (which along with Rambo III, ironically dedicated to those wonderful freedom fighters in Afghanistan won Sly a commendation from President Reagan).
It's mostly the 80s music I love about Rocky IV - it's certainly not the plot. A rough synopsis of most of the series is that Rocky has to face some boxer so he trains in a montage, and wins. However in Rocky IV the evil steroid taking Russian opponent is so powerhouse it takes two montages of training to defeat him in darkest Russia, under the watchful eyes of the KGB:-
Anyway, I'm off to yell my archnemesis's name from a snowy mountain top.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
- Going out on a Monday night is not a good idea
- Staying out late on a Monday night is really, really bad when you have 2 hours of labs and 2 lectures to give
- I need to learn to dance (other than ceilidhs, where I'm not bad, but that's just relative)
- Walking across the park on your own at 1am is not a good idea - you either worry you're going to be mugged or that you look like a mugger (I managed to scare some old folks by wearing the hood on my hoodie on Friday evening at 6pm, on the way home from work).
- I've learned the meaning of dirty stopout
Oh, and I also remembered to download the Baywatch Theme. That song has continued to haunt me, as you know, for a while. I think someone out there is upset I no longer watch Baywatch before going to work. Nonetheless here is the theme remixed:-
Monday, November 27, 2006
Monifieth's youth - mainly those from Monifieth High School - are noted for their severe rivalry with the youth of neighbouring town Broughty Ferry, most of whom come from the high school Grove Academy. This rivalry has grown to such an extent that it has resulted in the formation of several groups - Monifieths 'YMR' (Young Moni Rool), and Grove's 'Ferry Fleet'. As well as battling each other, these groups - who consist mainly of 'neds' - also enjoy tormenting local residents. The YMR taking over this mantle from the YPT (Young Panny Tongs), the last group of whom disbanded in 2004. There are many known prostitutes in Monifieth, but none as famous as the local Jewish prostitute, Derek Soutar.
So, um, yes. Real accurate info there.
Even more interesting is the page on Monifieth High School that links to a website rating the teachers.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
This is the day we got a glass door. Or more precisely we thought a circular window in our door. Or actually, as it turns out, a postbox style glass slit you can look through if you stare really, really hard.
This is our old office door. For such an innocuous looking thing it was a cause of many, many, many arguments. Note also the angry handwriting on the note on the door - I'll let you guess who did that:-
You see, despite the fact we are supposed to run a student drop-in support centre B. objects to having the door open. There's a draft in his bit of the room, by the window, at his desk. He can't switch desks of course, as that would make him more accessible to students, and I routinely wander round the office in a t-shirt, never feeling the draft... but anyroads...
Last year he went so far as to yell "BBBRRRRRR..." when a group of students came by and left the door open, put on three layers of clothing in front of them and steal the only electric heater in the room, leaving a trip-wire by my office space. A bit like this...
Anyroads when the students left (with very quizzical expressions on their face) I shut our door and tried to tell B. that yelling "BRRRRRR..." and stealing heaters wasn't professional behaviour in front of students, and certainly not welcoming. This 'discussion' was countered with a "I'm not listening, lalala" response, including him comically slapping both of his ears loudly and sorely in an attempt to not listen. Once his hands were removed and the red ears he'd given himself exposed I fruitlessly tried some rational discussion that ended with him swearing, me swearing louder and better (I'm Scottish, I've been to Glasgow, I can therefore swear better), him looking for a sheet of paper to write down all my swearing for a formal complaint and me slamming a 200 page hardback notebook, suggesting he might need all 200 pages to contain my forthcoming litany of curse-words followed by astute observations about his character.
I call this my "going postal day". I'm normally really easy-going, in fact I'm a softie and a pushover. But that was the day I was physically dragged out of the office by A for fear that I may decide to use the hardback notebook as a rectal thermometer.
We had several days with 'discussions' like this over the Christmas and Easter semesters last year. Sometime A. did the swearing by the end of the discussion, sometimes me. I think if both A. and I lose it we may tag-team Ben in some bizarre WWF style and end up ripping him half.
Anyway TPTB, after listening to our tales of woe about life with B. and his prima-donna attitude towards the job (I was in the HoD's office for 2 hours once, practically lying on his couch twitching) decided the door doesn't need to be open, just unlocked, and as a compromise we were getting a glass door. Fair enough, I guess.
The plan was according to our boss to get a nice circular porthole style window for the door. The builders would arrive at 8:30am to remove our door, and bring it back by 4pm to install it with the window. Sysadmin would be there to meet them and B. and I were supposed to come in at 9:00am to relieve the sysadmin guy. Then we'd all stay in the office, 'cos if no-one is here all our nice shiny might get nicked. We'd take it in turns to cover each other so we could go to the loo etc. And eventually we'd get our nice new glassy door.
What actually happened was A. and Sysadmin was in our office when the builder came by at 8:30am. The builder remarked on how the window he'd been told to install was the smallest possible and would look weird. Apparently after further discussion our bemused admin and A. discovered the builder had come by the office when B. was the only person on duty last week. Despite claiming he is the busiest of us all B. never ever leaves the office (but see below). Even during his own classes he's here at least half of the duration of the class to pick up the hundreds of things he's forgotten or to do tasks he didn't do prior to the lab. He routinely sends out emails saying he wants to play snooker in the staffroom upstairs and reminding our staff he has his own balls. I honestly an't think why no-one ever takes him up on an opportunity to play with his... Never mind, I can't type this...
B. had decided on a window design that was the smallest window possible for fear someone might see his desk through the glass. Naturally he'd not mentioned this, focusing more on making sure someone else other than him was in at 8:30am. So our doorway looked like this by the time I turned up:-
I turned up at 9:00 am. No sign of B. - he dropped an email around 10ish saying he had decided to work across the road instead. The irony being this was the one day he might be useful in the office. This left A. and me, so if either of us is out working with students the other was stuck. He eventually turned up at lunch time to let us get some lunch.
Fast forwards to this afternoon and the new door arrived. Look at the rather odd geometry of the window - I think you are actually meant to install 4 of these into a door, not 1.
I feel at this point it is necessary to reintroduce the concept of Ben-Shui - B.'s way of making a student-proof nest that discourages students from bothering him by making his office as inaccessible as possible without a five mile hike. You can see previous thread on this here.
What was crazier was no sooner had we got this new door than we were asked to cover the glass window for security purposes. So now it looks like this:-
You may note the "Coming Soon" on our makeshift cover was written by me. This is because I had a bet with A. that B. would take 'til Friday to cover the window in notices. This way I can still win my bet...
So to recap in Ben-Shui tradition I've drawn what was supposed to be the intended window, the actual window and the desired Ben-Shui window for our office:-
You're probably wondering what B.'s reaction to the window. Let me summarise.
B (-2 hours): "After we get this window installed we can cut down our number of office hours."
B (5 minutes after installation): "I love this window - it's so small and you can't see anything."
B (10 minutes after installation and seeing me staring at his workstation and making faces at him through said window): "Hmm... you can see a bit much through this window."
B (15 mins): "I didn't ask for this window."
B (20 mins): "I hate this window."
B (1 hour): Proceeds to rearrange his workspace to hide from the window.
So to recap...
Inserting the world's smallest window - £100
Wages paying employees to argue about the window - £200
Covering up said window an hour after installation - Priceless
For everything else there's Mastercard.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Sunday, November 19, 2006
We're getting a glass door, or more precisely a glass window into our door. I think this is supposed to alleviate the arguments over whether a drop-in centre should have a closed door, though it threatened to start an argument over who should be here at 8:30am on the day when the workmen turn up. I expect tantrums and tiaras soon.
At fencing I've been learning epee for a few weeks and some weird retroactive learning effect means I now find foils far too light and have little control when fencing with them. I also think my accuracy has decreased as I keep getting lots of near hits or hits with the flat of the blade. Today a fresher creamed me in epee. I've also finally bought some kit, though this stuff is not cheap, costing >£100 for a jacket and breeches, but at least they'll fit and I can finally do electrics.
I've uploaded my photos of the Pirate Pub Crawl and Bonfire Night - Bonfire Night was spent in the Old Horse watching a pirate themed burning of a ghostly galleon. Hence me wearing the pirate hat I am clearly getting good value for money from. It was certainly a lot better than watching the fireworks from the bus stop near my old gaff in Ireton Road last year before going to the pub I now aptly refer to as the Wyvern's Armpit.
In terms of TV I am starting to watch This Life, which was a show in the 90s I missed as I wasn't a 20-something back then. My mother watched it, despite I suspect disapproving of some of its themes and characters, and it is definitely "Friends on Acid" as A. described it. Torchwood has been good, though I wasn't so sure about the fairies episode, but overall it's a quality show. Season 3 of Galactica has proven epic, without a bad episode so far, compared to Season 2 which lost its way after the resolution of the cliffhanger from Season 1 (which took too long back then).
This week's episode of the increasingly mediocre Robin Hood 2006 was pure brilliance. Marion being maneuvered into marrying a somewhat dim Gisbourne and the Sheriff hanging Robin's men an hour early, preventing the obligatory gallows rescue, were genius - though I was worried how I was actually cheering on the villains rather than the excessively modern-moralistic heroes.
An example of this twaddle was in last week's episode where we had Robin shutting down a butcher for providing poor quality fly-riddled meat to peasants. I can see why Jamie Oliver inspired this incarnation of Hood. This week had a mobile pawn shop where peasants could sell their valuables (bit of a misstep in logic here, but hey). I am also not taking to the politically correct female Turk merry man Djaq though - so far she's been superfluous to all the plots. I'd say bring back Roy but his death added much needed grit to the show.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Something really discouraging and disappointing has been nagging me lately and last night it seemed to be weighing heavily on my mind, so coupled with a few more niggles I didn't seem to get any sleep last night. Around 3am I decided to take some herbal sleep remedy which, I am convinced I am immune to as it always means I stay awake and feel extra drowsy in the morning.
Anyroads, half asleep today I went into work and tried to go over my notes for the unholy trinity of lectures I have to give on Wednesdays. They went badly. Binary addition, something I've gone over ad naseum seemed to be very, very difficult today. Every time I tried to prove some sort of concept I got completely the other answer. It was like pantomine came early to Leicester this year with the students ably yelling, "Oh, no it isn't." All I was missing was the frock and bad makeup.
However some lateral thinking saved me - I tried to write out the circuit diagram for one of my lectures and failed miserably 3 times, so using my brain for the first time I ran off and photocopied the diagram onto OHP 10 or so times to work through some examples. I feel I really deserved a cookie for this lateral thinking as it saved my posterior from completed embarassment... unfortunately it also saved me so much time I got onto a bunch of material I wasn't expecting to, and left me wittering on for another 20 minutes or so.
Tonight I shall be boning up on my material and hoping the world ends. Ah joy.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
One particular student wrote "Dear Sir Stuart", which is great, but surely they should know the correct address is "Lord Stuart" or, more appropriately "Lord Kerrigan". However until her maj decides to add me to the nansy-boy club that is the knighthood Sir Stuart it ain't.
More disturbingly one poor student, desperate to submit her coursework on time referred to me as "Mrs. Kerrigan". Now, short of a painful operation or an accident while running with scissors, Mrs. Kerrigan it ain't.
Which reminds me I was called Steve by another student in conversation today. In fact this has happened a lot since I moved to Leicester. People don't quite hear my name and they assume I was introduced as Steve. They say I look like a Steve. I personally think it's due to exposure to a Steve that I have developed Steve-like qualities. But I am not Steve. I am pretty certain of this. In fact if this persists I may have to write a book called "I am not Steve" and then in my dotage write one called "Shucks. Yes I am Steve. But arrest that man anyway."
So in short, Stuart, milord, Dr. Stu, Dr. Kerrigan, Doc or (most preferrably) Lord Kerrigan it is. :P
Yours with much ego,
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
I should point out the picture isn't of me, though the resemblance is um... well... he has the same colour hair. However my favourite theory that my students offered was that they assumed it was a picture from my days in a rock and roll band. I kid you not.
Work is busy, and this whole running an entire module lark yourself is lots of work, but it isn't that hard. I gave 3 lectures today, well to be honest, assisted with 1, and gave 2, and also found time to run a 2 hour lab. I'm also setting exams, which is a lot harder work than you'd think.
Stuart Kerrigan, at 22, likes to think he brings youth, enthusiasm and good looks to the team that it simply couldn't do without. Born in Jedburgh, Scotland (a place that boasts "The Last Shop in Scotland") he has been roleplaying ever since the fateful day 12 years ago when hepicked up the Basic Set in Beatties model shop, Aberdeen. Since then Stuart has been hooked on roleplaying and has the death sentence on twelve systems(including D&D 3rd Ed). He currently roleplays regularly at Dundee University and allegedly works there on a PhD in Computer Vision when not writing 100-word bios.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Listening to the Master on a trip to Nottingham reminded me to finish this post I started yonks ago.
Storm Warning acts as the pilot for the series, so the Doctor naturally picks up a companion, 1930s self-styled Edwardian adventureress Charley Pollard. The story starts out a bit like Titanic, set aboard the R101 airship but suddenly becomes very steampunk - with aliens and Her Britannic Majesty's forces clashing in an epic battle. In the end the Doctor is not able to save the R101 but he does save Charley, irreperably ripping the web of time and setting up 2 seasons worth of arc plots. Good stuff, definitely a good first play to listen to.
Stones of Venice on the other hand is very Shakespearean. It's set in Venice in the future and deals with a cursed duke and his lost love. Despite it's future setting there seems to be little technology and the dialogue is very Shakespearean, with many many monologues. It is quite a good play though.
Sword of Orion is set in a Bladerunneresque future, when mankind is at war with replicants. Both sides are courting the Cybermen for aid, with disasterous effects. The doctor and Charley transport into a lone human military vessel, cuing a claustrophobic alienesque story.
Minuet in Hell is where Doctor Who tries to do Buffy badly. The Doc has gone to the States and lost his memory (again!), and it seems his very identity is in question. In the meantime there seems to be this whole convoluted plot with demons, the Brigadier (back in the days when UNIT, not Torchwood were everywhere), Charley, an evil priest and a demon-fighting chick named Becky-Lee (guess what this is a rip-off of). It goes on a little too long. Quite weak and skippable.
The second season starts with Mark Gatiss's Invaders from Mars, a story a bit like the Idiot's Lantern in that it is set around Orson Welles's broadcast of War of the World. Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevens from Spaced star, but with everyone doing similar mafiaesque accents it is difficult to tell who's who.
Embrace the Darkness is another alienesque claustrophobic adventure but much better than Sword of Orion. It also puts a twist on the formula however. Seasons of Fear is a romp through time, visiting Ancient Rome, medieval times, 19th Century England and beyond. Excellent stuff, though Time of the Daleks, where the time-ripples created in the arc plot cause Shakespare to disappear from the timeline, and the Daleks are involved. It's not particularly great, though the Daleks do quote Shakespare and it leads into...
Neverland, which is very Timelordy, but is excellent nevertheless. The Doctor, Charley and Romana discover what has been affecting time since Charley was rescued, and take on anti-time (think anti-matter). With much heroism the Doc seemingly sacrifices himself to save Gallifrey (a bit pointless now, given the new series, but hey) and returns infected with anti-time as...
Zagreus. This was meant to be the 40th anniversary story, featuring all the Doctors that Big Finish have on the payroll, namely Davidson (meh), Colin Baker (bad Doctor, though his audio stuff seems okay), McCoy (yay) and of course McGann. Pertwee returns via some sound-bytes he recorded for a fanfilm that was not released. Tom Baker on the other hand doesn't feature, but nearly everyone else who has ever appeared in Doctor Who also features. However rather than doing a multi-doctor story the 3 CD extravaganza follows a surreal narrative, using elements from Alice in Wonderland and the relatively insular Timelord lore RTD has trimmed from the new series. The surreal visions are meant to highlight the Doctor's battle with the anti-time infection, and all the cast play weird characters in the visions, even the ex-Doctors. Eventually it turns out Rassilon was behind it all, and the Doc exiles himself to a universe where time does not exist... and proceeds to have lots of adventures over... er... time? And Charley comes along despite her plotlines being ably resolved in Neverland. I recommend listening to the first 20 minutes of Zagreus, and then the last CD entirely.
Season 3 has its highs and lows. Season 2 is doubtless the best, as most folk seem to think Invaders is amazing (admittedly I was driving while listening to that one).
Thursday, November 02, 2006
I now have an outrageously French looking pirate hat, complete with wig hair, which I wrote appropriately enough to a pirate pub crawl. This pub crawl ended with me in a night club in Leicester. In a night club where I had to check in my plastic katana (yes, katana, I was a ninja pirate - they're going to be in the vogue once Pirates of the Carribean 3 is out so remember I was ahead of the times).
More embarassingly I had to ask the bouncer for said toy katana on the way out (it's not mine so I was meaning to return it to its rightful owner), which was fun. In front of one of the students I'd been lecturing that day. On my own. Dressed as a pirate. On my own. Good job I don't take myself seriously. Said student certainly doesn't now.
For the second crawl, our Halloween party crawl I went as a witch hunter, which meant a black shirt, dog collar, holy book (actually the gospel on Computer Systems according to me as it was the course notes for the course I'm lecturing), outrageously silly crucifix, stake and battle axe. This also was my first foray to the cocktail bar at the bottom of my street, which is nice, though needs more research done in the name of science. It's a bit like Tally's in Dundee, though nicer, and the cocktail menu rivals Tally's in its hay-day. Though I still wish I'd tried the toffee crisp flavour cocktails when Tally's had them.
This one didn't end in the nightclub for me, but it did end up with me staggering home (I'm convinced the dregs of the pitcher of cocktail I drank had all the alcohol in it) and feeling a little worse for wear in my morning lab. Judging by the chat of my students I would've run into all of them in said nightclub, so I probably avoided a repeat of the katana incident.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
What I've seen of it so far is definitely on par with the last season of Doctor Who at its best. That's right - the first couple of episodes are nearly as good as... er... well, actually last season's Doctor Who wasn't that great. I guess it's nearly as good as the 2 parter not set on Earth I guess.
It's very dark. It's very adult. It's very bisexual. It's actually meant to be set on Earth every week. At times the humour seems a little immature. So it's very RTD I guess, it's a play-pen he's more used to. At times though Torchwood seems to come across as being a ludicrously Ally Macbeal sexy-people-working-in-an-office-having-affairs-and-not-doing-any-work type office environment, with RTD's teenage attitude towards sex. That kind of humour worked in Buffy, when the characters were teenagers, but in Torchwood it seems kinda odd that the Man in the Dr. Who 2-parter spent her time tittering quietly about one of her office mates seeing the other one.
I'm not sure why Captain Jack is a leader in Torchwood. A drifter from the 51st century seems an odd recruit, let alone commander, but fortunately he is a bit more interesting than he was in Doctor Who. It seemed every time he was mentioned in Doctor Who confidential RTD would say something like, "Captain Jack is an interesting character. He's from the 51st century and that means he fancies everybody. Did I mention he sleeps with anyone? Isn't that really interesting and a wonderful blueprint for the future."
Jack is still his old "interesting" self but now has the added backstory of being an immortal angsty type with a lot more backstory to develop over the 13 episodes, allowing him to be a lead character, not a sidekick. He's obviously peeved at the Doctor and has even gone so far as to collect a David-Tennant-hand-in-a-jar. Maybe he's trying to grow a Doctor?
Gwen seems okay, though I'm worried by Season 2 she'll turn into a Rose. Owen is a strange character, introduced as essentially a date-rapist (but he's a funny date-rapist so apparently that's okay) and appears more sympathetic in later episodes, while currently the tech-girl (who was a medical Doctor in Dr. Who right?) and receptionist guy are awaiting their own episodes.
Good stuff, and more sci-fi than Doctor Who at times.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
I know some of you said you weren't able to follow the movie I posted last week as you have no sound, it kinda goes like this, thanks to Horton's able graphical summary:-
or his later effort:-
If that isn't enough I was sad enough to remix this MP3 track in 5 minutes at home on Audacity (nice program BTW). Now you can experience what my work is like for me when I'm listening to music (apparently for all my multitude of sins, including breathing, my foot also makes these annoying "vibrations" on the floor when I tap my feet that go over to the next desk... you get the idea).
Yes, I'm sad, what's your point?
Still... I'd rather work with this guy. He may be just as irrationally intolerant of his co-workers (and even does the whole nervous talking to himself bit), but he's fun:-
By the way if anyone can name that 80s power ballad in part 2 I'd be very grateful.
Coming soon, pirates and Torchwood.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
My Monday triple lecture yo-yo was a bit harder than the four I did last week, but I got through it, although I think I preferred it when only 6 students turned up to my middle lecture, not 50 or so all with mobile phones beeping left, right and centre.
Tuesday as I've said was also difficult and I felt worse, not better. However all the labs and lectures kept me out the office until about 1:30pm, and meant I had a relatively humorous story about one of the other lecturers walking off with the microphone still attached to his shirt, and ripping it out of the podium fixtures. Since I'd not seen A. for most of the day I thought I'd have a chat with him over a sandwich at my office. Sadly it was not to be... thanks to good old loony B. and his new policy on not only not allowing students in the office, but no talking in the office, even during lunch hours, even if it is (loosely) about work.
Here's a 12 second snippet of my attempts to talk to A. over being told to SHUT UP. The actual outburst took about 5-10 minutes, so I only really got a little snapshot. This particular bit is punctuated with A. trying to reason with B. and a good view of my shoes (£6 from Brantano's, very fetching blue and good at picking up grime and tree leaves BTW) in an attempt to prevent our local loonie from noticing, grabbing my phone camera off me and tossing it out the window in a rage.
Enjoy this unique insight into my office, and please, save your sympathy for A. He's worked here longest!
Anyroads, it's fair to say after this outburst both of us victims were slightly miffed, and we left work as soon as was humanly possible. A. decided to go to his gym and find a punchbag, I on the other hand decided to solve my problems with alcohol and go drinking with some pirates. Find out more in Part 2 of our two part story.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Well, it's alright. Above average. Say 5.5/10, maybe 6 or 7 when it's cooking with gas. I'm going to try to avoid comparing it with the awesomeness of Robin of Sherwood, but I'm also going to fail in that endeavour.
Robin Hood 2006 is too modern in its post-9/11 sensibilities for my opinion. We seem to be moving into 1984 territory in that every movie or show needs to have a hidden message that is relevant to today's society. I personally would much rather have a show about times of yore when men were men and so on.
However in Robin Hood 2006 the war in Iraq... sorry... Crusades are naturally a bad thing, no shades of grey there (the Sheriff is the most vociferous supporter and it's pretty clear the taxes he's collecting are to fuel Richard's war), while "enemies of the State" are being put in secret camps without any rights (read: Guantanamo Bay) and the heroes are shocked that enemies of the state are executed without an appeal which seems jarringly modern for medieval times where you were at the whim of local lords and bizarre laws, and for example it was considered perfectly reasonable and legal to shoot a Scotsman approaching York's walls.
The acting on the whole is good. I still say Robin looks more like a hobbit than a master archer, seems to have qualms about killing and uses his archery skills to fire a lot of silly CGI shots and warning shots. It also appears he is very much a lady's man - in the first episode he snogs a young lady and earns the ire of her sword-wielding peasant father (who looked roughly the same age as her, but hey-ho).
Much on the other hand seems to carry the show, driving the plot as he is Robin's right-hand man. He keeps it light-hearted. So far he's funny at times and yet almost ridiculously inept for a veteran of the Crusades. His comic relief might be tiresome after 13 episodes - he needs to show some sort of survival skills, and he shouldn't be sidelined in favour of Little John or Will now he's been so prominent. Maid Marian so far has yet to appear sympathetic - she clearly has a chip on her shoulder with regards Rob, and constantly berates him for not playing the long term game like her and her father, but on the other hand has yet to actually accomplish anything other than knifing a guard with her one of her two matching hair pieces (which strangely went unnoticed by the Sheriff). As for the Sheriff - he's been watching Alan Rickman's performance, which is no bad thing, but Robin of Sherwood's Sheriff had a much darker edge, throwing his lot in with basically a Satan worshipper in the first episodes.
Also, unlike the awesome Robin of Sherwood there's a distinct lack of grime and muck, in an almost Hercules: The Legendary Journeys way. I also spotted that Little John's missus has a horse, which surely means she can't be that poor as horses were for noblemen and fetched a pretty penny (hence why horse-rustling was a death sentence).
In terms of production values, it's very good. Nottingham looks a little too much like Minas Tirith for my liking, but that is a compliment as well as a criticism. In terms of derring-do on a Saturday it's worth a look. Also - watch Episodes 1 & 2 back-to-back, I suspect that was how they were intended to be broadcast.
Next on the agenda - Torchwood.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Anyroads if you're on myspace, add me to your friends list, because I only have 2 at the moment (sob), otherwise get on it and then do the previous step.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Over a light repasse I watched the cinematic treat "Merlin and the Sword" because it was on Sky Movies and because Bradley told me not to see it. When the King of Bad Movies tells you it's a bad movie you expect bad badness. And not in a Michael Jackson BAD way.
I personally didn't think it was that bad - in fact it is the most Pendragon-like movie I've seen in a while, with magic, pig-faces princesses who turn into babes when kissed at their wedding and Malcom Macdowell hamming it up as Arthur for 85 minutes only to inexplicably killed off in a most unheroic and budget saving way. Only one thing ruined it - the annoying American tourist, Whipper from Ally Macbeal*, who just happened to fall into Merlin's cave at the start and get him to tell the whole story in the magic of a flashback.
So, Merlin: The Return is worse. Merlin and the Sword is good in the same way Hawk the Slayer is good.
This got me thinking - forget Robin Hood 2006 (which I'll comment on soon) - why doesn't someone make a TV show on the Legends of the Round Table? Think about it - it only needs a recurring cast (Arthur isn't going to be particularly prominent in a 3 part Gawain and the Green Knight arc is he?). Reading Mallory there's enough scope in adventures that the minor knights get up to for more than 6 years of TV, and if an actor quits you just tell another kniggit's story. Because only movies have been made the minor knights get short shrift in favour of Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and Merlin, and often main characters are merged together (most notably Margwase and Morgana LaFey).
Also, alluding to my forthcoming review of Robin Hood 2006 please don't feel the need to update the legends for "post-911 Britain".
* The managment would like to point out I don't watch this show.
Monday, October 09, 2006
And now on with our star attraction
The Four Lectures of Doom
In which our hero gives four lectures... of doom.
Lecture 1, which could've gone better - I slept into 8:30 this morning as I set the alarm for 8pm tonight. I charged across Victoria Park in a manner not too dissimilar from Lancelot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and burst into the lecture hall at 9:25am, somehow five minutes early. Also there was quite a bit of admin but one of the lecturers was on hand to handle this. This gave me a time to clean up and drink something with caffeine in it. The lecture ran under time, but it seemed to go okay, and most of the students would be back for Lecture 3 in two hours time.
In between Lecture 1 and 2 I had the luxury of a one-hour break, where I went back to the office and eventually reminded B. to open up the office for the students at 11am. He did so, but rather than manning the desk we have practically contractually bound him to man, he went back to work. Feeling somewhat disgusted I left our part-time TA and went downstairs to have a glass of water before I ran off to...
Lecture 2, which could've gone better - I ran out of material after 30 minutes. Fortunately years of appearing to sit on my backside guzzling pizza and fizzy drinks while claiming to be roleplaying have taught me how to wing things when they don't go to plan, so I improvised enough question and answer stuff that I essentially gave the lecture twice and used the full lecture slot. This meant I was barely on time for...
Lecture 3, which could've gone better - the students could've turned up. Only seven or so, who'd been at Lecture 1 and were actually in our department, were in the theatre. Add to that the lecturer who normally does the first five minutes of admin was out of his office and not in my lecture and I began to slowly suspect I'd been told the wrong room. Nonetheless, after I checked all the lecture halls for lecturerless lectures (trying saying that fast sportsfans) I decided to email the boss and carry on with the lecture. The worst that could happen was that I'd discover, through no fault of my own, I'd been directed to the wrong room.
What it turned out was that the lecturer was busy moving house and thought I could handle things, and that the remaining 40 or so students from the Management Department had only been told about our labs, not our lectures. The upshot is I offered to repeat the lecture next week for these wayward souls. I really am too nice for my own good.
Also, the twenty or so minutes I waited for the missing 90% of my class to turn up meant I wound up running over the 5 minute margin to get to other classes, and running into our part-time TA, who was upset because B. had told him to shut up when he was chatting about work with A. in the office. All these factors meant I was a couple of minutes late for...
Lecture 4 - which could've gone better, but only in that I could've not been the last person in the lecture hall. By the time I got to the building I was practically sweating blood as I passed Claudia in the corridor. However I made it in time to prevent the old Glasgow University phantom lecture rule from taking its toll on my first day and using the same improv technique and trying to get the audience to participate meant I easily filled my slot and I think most of the students understood what a function was.
It was 2:30pm. I was hungry. I was tired. But I was through my first day of lecturing, and never again would I have to do 4 lectures in one day. Next week it would only be 2... no make that 3. Yippee.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Meanwhile - you can now tell the students are back. B. is well on the way to either having a nervous breakdown or driving one of us to one. I'm not sure which one he's working on exactly, and neither does he I'm sure.
You see since Thursday afternoon we've been doing various induction lessons. I had the choice of working with B. on one, or doing one myself. Guess what I chose. No go on, guess.
So while I was safely doing my own lab the others had been working quite hard to rewrite B.'s lab material into something different (read into that what you like). Also when I left the office around 10:15am B. was yelling in a Prima Donna fashion about how he was going to refuse to do the lab. Apparently midway through the lab he then decided to replace A. and sysadmin's revised file with his earlier file as he didn't like/understand (delete as applicable) that version.
The upshot is we had 2 groups of students with different lab sheets, being rather cnofused. B. also apparently had a big argument with A. and had one of the lecturer's ask A. not to teach the lab anymore.
I missed all this. Sadly this year I'm just not going to be in my office as much as I used to be. Ah, bless.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006
This being the first week it's excessively crowded on campus as numerous students try to register and discover that the new automatic registration process is not quite as automatic as the designer's thought it was, and that it doesn't register you. But it is new. I know this because I went to a talk on it a few weeks back, and because the kids are all doing it next door, thinking they're supposed to come here to register (and ignoring the vast preponderance of signs that have been put up telling them not to come to us).
Outside the union the various societies are attempting to vie for their cash and attention. Some eejit keeps tooting a horn outside the window, and the crowd is replete with sporty types, gamers, ethnic groups, cheerleaders and viking warrior women attempting to woo you into giving them spool (actually it's not all bad thinking about cheerleaders and viking warrior women). Fees for joining fencing have gone up for staff apparently and I wasn't allowed to use the nice coffee bar this morning as I don't have an NUS card, so Leicester's Student Union remains as staff-friendly as ever.
I have however prepped 2 lectures, cleaned my desk, invented a new system for propping the window open involving a roll of sticky tape, registered 2 students and decided to reschedule my Stuart Kerrigan: My Life So Far lecture for the nascent departmental club (I kid you not) until Semester 2. Apparently people want to hear about my research. So it's been a busy day.
* Actually I think I have discovered a cure for global warming. Simply move all the Universities to the polar ice caps.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
- A DVD Recorder
- A Bike to start cycling to work
- Proper chest of drawers for bedroom
- Mini-Freezer Unit for the kitchen
- Something else which is nagging me, but can't be that important
I've somehow managed to avoid doing the massive pile of ironing, hoovering the car out of all the debris left from when I er... moved in to my flat, but on the other hand I've had to contend with stinky sink blockages, squelchy bathroom floors and this morning I discovered I needed a new bath mat unless watersliding and developing oneness with the bathroom walls and floors were two things I had no problems with.
A lot of walking has allowed me to catch up on my 8th Doctor audios, and I've heard a couple Twilight Kingdom (which was actually pretty neat although it burnt me out 6 months ago listening to it), Faith Stealer (which is great and nearly as witty as Shada) and I'm listening to the Last (which is pretty creepy) and I plan on someday posting a comprehensive review of the whole run.
Also - everywhere I go images of this new Robin Hood show are following me. I'm a bit worried about all the nonsense I've heard surrounding it - modernising Robin, basing him around contemporary heroes like Jamie Oliver (?!). Add to this the fact he looks like Pippin from Lost with a bow and the fact his costume looks decidedly modern at times, some pictures have him wearing a hoodie or what looks basically like a t-shirt, and you'll see my concern.
What next? The Sheriff of Nottingham gives Robin an ASBO? Robin summons the Merry Men to aid him by using his mobile phone ringtone of a hunting horn? Probably not but I am concerned they're going to "Doctor Who" it and make it "mainstream". I shall tune in of course, it might be the next Robin of Sherwood and even if it isn't you'll still get my opinion - which with £80 will get you a train ticket to Dundee from Leicester.
Still even if Robin Hood is disturbingly bad it can't sink as low as Screech from Saved by the Bell.
Random Thought: Whoever invented Fileplanet.com should be shot.
Monday, September 25, 2006
You see when you book a lecture hall at the University of Leicester you do not book the computer, projection screen or even laptop adaptor in the hall. In the wonderful bureaucratic world of Leicester Uni that is handled by another department so external events can be charged for using all facilities. Add to that an OHP with the intensity of a small sun and thus practically blinding me, I think I need to work on my technique slightly.