Friday, March 30, 2007

In Which Our Hero Loses His Shirt, Regains His Vertigo and Goes North

Much to tell, but as I'm returning to Dundee via Edinburgh today I'm going to have to truncate.

Had a pretty interesting weekend last week. Friday was the Casino Night where once more bedecked in national dress I went to a casino and discovered the dress code was a little more lax than we were expecting. With a whiff of sleaze, smoke and desperation the place was interesting, and the meal we had was very American. I also lost money as usual which put me in a little bit of a foul mood - all too foul for the smart-witted cab driver on the way home who remarked on my kilt. Overall, good night, but I have crap luck even at Blackjack.

On Saturday I went to Stratford-upon-Avon is really nice. Terribly touristy, but very nice. We were shown round Shakespeare's House (pictured). Claudia went round the exhibit at a decent pace while we slow coaches were eventually prompted to go from the exhibit to the actual house by the security man who told us we had 15 minutes left to actually see the real attractions.

Inside the house we fell victim to the eager-guide. All the other guides, realising the lateness of the hour, looked at their watches and gave us minimal information on our surrounding, while eager-guide was all too eager to wax lyrical on the many subtleties of the house. This was great for us, but Claudia, now trapped in the house's gift shop while waiting on us overheard the rest of the staff grumbling about how we'd never leave because eager-guide was talking to us.

After that it was on to the RSC and their vertigo inducing balcony for a most excellent performance of Coriolanus, which was excellent and is very action packed in the first half for one of the Bard's wordy witticisms. It's the first Shakespeare play I've ever seen live and I really enjoyed it.

The rest of the week was equally manic. Work has been excessively hellish this week - it seems to be impossible to get anything done without someone banging on the door and one student even demanded to know my holiday plans so as to know my exact location and availability throughout their 5 week holiday. Needless to say I was not impressed! However I got through it all, though I would describe my mood as ratty at best by the end of it. I need a holiday.

Which is precisely what I will have. I'm off to Edinburgh for the Student Roleplaying Nationals. It's a misnomer as hardly anyone there is a student and I am allegedly represting DeMontfort University even though I am not a member of their society and I think I know exactly 3 people in my team. However the good and great of DURPS will be there, and I guess those loud weirdos from Stirling will be trying to attract as much attention as they can. In previous years it's been fun (though clearly in 2004 I was in a bad mood, thesis writing and no sleep y'know).

More excitement soon I promise!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Book Problem

I realised on Friday after I made a mad-dash to the second hand book stores at lunch time and bought some George R.R. Martin books for £1.50 each that I have a problem. I keep buying 2nd hand books. Currently my reading list is as follows:-

  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (three volumes)

  • The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (three volumes)

  • A Song of Fire and Ice: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (thousands of people have recommended this one to me, though the 900 page count is a little off-putting to be honest)

  • A Song of Fire and Ice: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (I think it's thicker than it's predecessor)

  • Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy (like all of it, the 5 volumes plus some additional material thrown in)

  • Michael Moorcock's Elric

  • Star Trek: The Return (of Shatner) and the one after that

  • The Third Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (four volumes, not three as I reported originally, by the time I finish the 1st and 2nd chronicles)

  • Dune and Dune Messiah (been meaning to read these for a while)

  • Earthsea Quartet Books 3 and 4 (to give you some idea of my pace I read books 1 & 2 on the train when I had my interview at Leicester)

I should point out this only includes the books I have brought down to Leicester - there are all-too numerous musty tomes sitting on my massive bookshelf back in Dundee. However I did read Lord of the Rings in its entirety before I left for the Madlands.

The sad fact is I am a slow reader. On a good day I read about 50 pages per hour - as I insist on digesting every word and rereading everything until the imagery is crystal clear in my head. To wit, so far I am 175 pages into the first book of the first Chronicle of Thomas Covenant. I do really recommend it - particularly if you like Tolkien, which I do. It's really good but I've been reading it for over a month on and off (admittedly I was off for 3 weeks as I was too busy watching TV)! After sitting in front of a monitor the last thing I seem to want to do is wear my eyes out further and read a good book.

I used to read a lot on the bus to work, but then I started driving. I learned very quickly that other drivers on the road consider it to be a little inconsiderate if you read while driving, plus turning the pages is a little difficult. I tried audiobooks on my walkman, but unfortunately I'm a fidget and constantly lose the place when I'm out for a walk. I think I-Pods are more geared towards e-books anyroads.

If I ever read all of the above (I am somewhat dubious I ever will) I also have my eyes on a couple of other titles. There's a lovely black embossed hardback containing all Robert E. Howard's stories in Waterstones these days, and since books seem to have the sole purpose of sitting on my bookshelf I might as well buy this shiny edition. Also a certain overgrown hobbit fellow might be interested in Shadows over Baker's Street - Sherlock Holmes meets the Cthulhu mythos. Bound to be worth a look.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day

In keeping with recent traditions of drinking Guinness, getting blotto and blogging drunkenly in a manner consistent with a certain Irish blogger and chum I'd just like to wish you all a Happy St. Patrick's Day and assure you I practiced my usual brand of temperance.

Stereo-drinking - the way of the future.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Anniversaries and Dancing

This week was the 25th anniversary of the Leicester Uni Computer Science department. It was also my 2nd anniversary of working there. That adds up to the total of my age. Go figure.

Celebrations involved plenty of entertaining lectures and some cakes bearing the likeness of the sundry buildings the department has been based in. However that is only the background for a more amusing tale - I spent most of these lectures trying to stop my anxiously growling stomach from heckling the speakers.

(But first, some cake. I think I wound up eating the student labs - which were a bit crunchy, probably because of the inmates)

You see I'd somehow been persuaded to take up ballroom dancing in preperation for a formal ball that was that evening. Quite how I got myself into that I can't actually remember. My attempts to learn everything the night before I felt I wasn't very good at it - in fact I would describe my first lesson as traumatising, so my stomach was telling the rest of me it was a little scared for some reason.

However everything was moderately okay on the night, and it was a good excuse to try out one of my two newest acquisitons - the kilt outfit that arrived a few weeks back (the other one is a very cheap multiregion DVD recorder, I love ebay). About a month ago I realised since I spend nearly £40 each time I rent a kilt or other formal wear I should really just buy some. I somehow managed to score an entire outfit including shoes, sporran, sghian dhu etc. on ebay for £70, so I was bedecked in National Dress for this soiree (and only narrowly avoided punching some weird accented guy on the road to the Uni for saying I had a nice dress, or 'nice dreeesse' as he seemed to think it was pronounced).

Anyroads my technique needs a lot of work - say about 51 more weeks of lessons - but fortunately my partners were reasonably understanding. In fact Claudia and I seemed to find our little mistakes quite amusing and seemed to just stop for a good laugh at the fact I didn't have much of a clue. For some reason I can't fathom the band took it upon themselves to play the Gay Gordons, an old acquaintance from Scottish country dancing lessons at school and suddenly the situation was reversed and I knew what I was doing (or at least enough to appear that way). Unfortunately most other people didn't and a grand melee of folks crashing ensued. However I think this is a photo of me doing my funky stuff:-

So, interesting times as I continue my whole renaissance man bit.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Uzi-Totting Robots

Yes, now you too can own your own Uzi-Totting Robot (tm) because killing in cold blood still isn't efficient enough these days, it needs to be automated.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) — An Israeli defense firm on Thursday unveiled a portable robot billed as being capable of entering most combat zones alone and engaging enemies with an onboard armory that includes a machine-pistol and grenades.

The VIPeR, roughly the size of a small television, was invented as part of Israel's efforts to develop weaponry that could reduce the risks to its forces from hand-to-hand fighting against Palestinian or Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

2 Years

Today marks the second anniversary of me starting work in Leicester. Yes, a mere 2 years ago I was involved in a life-or-death struggle for a library card, catching the studenty bus into work and living in Manorcroft on Manor Road, Leicester, living off microwave food as TPTB in halls decided I didn't need an oven. That's the wonderful thing about blogs - you can relive all the happy memories.

I'm going to mark the occassion by going home as soon as possible and consuming some microchips or something unpalatable.

Someone please get me out of here... :)

More Highlander Ramblings

And you thought that my obsessive Highlander posting was over right? Well, wrong, 'cos not only did they bring out a new movie (Highlander the Source) which is supposedly being reedited to be less silly and (hopefully) have an ending but they've been doing an anime for quite some time now.

It's called Highlander: The Search for Vengeance and stars Colin Macleod.

That's right, this is apparently a new continuity with a fourth Highlander. So far there's been Connor Macleod (original and best, now roughly 8 inches shorter in the series continuity), Duncan Macleod (made-for-TV goody-goody heart-throb preferred by older women) and Quentin Macleod (animated cartoon series for kids guy with red hair). Now he have the amazingly named Colin.

Actually one trailer's been out for ages:-

But now there's a much longer and slower non-YouTube trailer that looks okay. Here it is, but be prepared to go for coffee while it streams.

As for me, anime's not really my thing. Watched Akira, thought it was alright but not what I expected, watched Ghost in the Shell, thought it was pretentious though some of the stuff I occassionally peered at while living in Casa Al.

Elf Steals Lingerie

The sad thing is I know people who I can believe would do something like this.

A man accused of a stealing underwear from a shop in a knifepoint raid believed he was a female elf at the time, Belfast Crown Court has heard.

Robert Boyd, 45, from Broadlands in Carrickfergus, is accused of holding up staff at the Orchid shop in Belfast disguised in a wig, hat and glasses.

He told the court he had been involved in a role-playing game at the time, and his character was an elf named Beho.

He denies robbery but says he may have blurred reality and fantasy.

He also said it "could be right" that Beho had intended to rob the shop - although he told the jury he could not remember what was going through his mind at the time.

He told defence counsel Anthony Cinnamond that within his small social circle he had been participating in a game known as Shadowrun.

Meh... that's what you get for playing poorly thought out dark future games for far too long. Never really liked Shadowrun myself.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More Wing Commander

I just wanted to post this video as it's so cool - these games put almost as much effort into their losing videos as they did their winning games. There were 2 losing endings in Wing Commander 3 - the grovelling ending and a pretty cool if downbeat ending. Here is both of them:-

New Wing Commander

Yes, believe it or not there is a new Wing Commander coming out of nowhere - Wing Commander Arena. As the name suggests it will be multiplayer geared, and I suspect there won't be much of a plotline. And it's XBox only currently.

In the meantime here's some of the coolest bits of Wing Commander 4, again:-

Friday, March 09, 2007


I have returned to work after a few days holed up with the lurgy and am now more powerful that an unimaginative fool could possibly imagine. I am a badge carrying member of staff now - the badge I ordered for UCAS days to identify me as a staff member has arrived, and only a day before the last of my UCAS days.

As a badge carrying member of the Uni I can now stop people in the street . I will now get the best seats in cinemas, be given the "special" table at restaurants and casinos and am able to commandeer vehicles.

Now before you get an image of me on a motorbike riding through the corridors of Leicester Uni Judge Dredd style as an insight into how things work around here I received a phonecall telling me it's the wrong type of badge - it's fastened by a safety pin and would therefore could put holes in my nice shirt. I am therefore getting another badge. Possibly before the UCAS day tomorrow, but probably not as they take 2-6 weeks.

So, don't mess with me. I have 2 badges and one of them controvenes health and safety and is sharp!

I am the Law! Behold the badge of doom!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Serenity Again

I liked Firefly. I really liked Serenity (even if it wrecked the damn Reaver myths dammit). It may be the best thing Joss Whedon ever did, as Buffy went stale for me around Season 3 and got progressively worse, while Angel was always fantastic but started to fade away around Season 5 (though if it had got a Season Six would've been so epic). Firefly never got the chance to go stale because it was cancelled way before it's time. And Serenity was good but I always hoped it'd be the first in a series of movies. Apparently it won't be, which is sad, as the cast are genuinely talented and doubtless have lots of good acting gigs on the go (especially Fillion, aka Mal).

I was in Page 45 in Nottingham (finally remember Dr. Sordid posting it was the "grown-up" shop ages ago and went for a looksie) and I saw a graphic novel of Serenity - Those Left Behind. The original Dark Horse issues went like hotcakes (which makes me wonder just how unprofitable Serenity was given it's comics are worth a mint), and semi-amusingly even Nathan Fillion (Mal) had problems buying issues for his family without being fleeced by some city slicker.

The storyline is set bang between the last episode of the series (one of the weaker ones IMHO) and the movie. It ends with Inara getting off the ship and Book deciding to do the same. I believe I read somewhere that Joss wanted to do an Animatrix type prequel to Serenity The Movie but didn't get funding, and that this was the script (or more likely synopsis the other authors worked with). It certainly does resolve one of the plot-threads from the TV series, the Hands of Blue - who were frequently seen chasing our heroes and killing people with their weird devices but never actually caught up with them in the 13 episodes run.

The comic didn't work for me. It's not bad per-se and I recommend you read it if you like Firefly/Serenity. It was only 3 issues long, and to me needed to be a six issue mini-series.

Maybe Serenity needs to be on a TV to work for me, maybe the plot was too close to the movie (it opens with a raid on a bank, the middle is in a spaceship graveyard and so on). The witty banter was there - but again I think I needed to hear it, not read it.

It could also be the main reason I bought it was to finally see what those god-damn-hands-of-blue fellas were about, and after 2 issues of buildup they last roughly five seconds against Simon, River, Book, Kaylee and Wash, without any revelation of what made them so special, and without them remembering to use their funky nosebleed devices. They basically die hastily so that the Alliance can call the Operative and begin the movie.

The comic also goes to the bother of digging up Lawrence Dobson from the first episode (he was the Alliance agent shot in the eye and apparently if the show had gone on for more than 13 episodes would've popped up pissed at being maimed by Mal - I had to look this up, it's been a while) only to have him decisively killed of by Mal in slightly more time than it takes the secondary characters to kill the Hands of Blue.

So the upshot - buy this book if you're a completist (it's going between the Firefly boxed set once I err... buy it and my Serenity DVD).

Also Wikipedia reckons Dark Horse are doing another miniseries - one that sees the crew of Serenity pulling off a successful job which results in unexpected wealth called Serenity: Better Days. I'll buy the trade no doubt when it comes out. Hopefully it'll be a little better.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Chad Vader: The Story So Far

This trailer is pretty cool - it also has a lot of the funnier parts of the early episodes thrown in for good measure.

Chad Vader Episode 6

Chad Vader Episode 6 - better than 3,4 and 5, but still not as funny as the first couple. The Obi-Wan guy really ain't that funny.