Thursday, September 29, 2005

Labour Conference

Someone remind me why party conferences are televised? They are the dullest form of televised politics. The business yesterday of an 80 something year old man being ejected didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. It was an undignified exit, I can see, and it wasn't a reasonable way to treat anyone of that age. The conference ushers were obviously simpleton thugs. However, I don't agree with applauding the guy either. I think he was a bit stupid to say what he did. He's entitled to voice his opinion though. The government does need to hear and address dissent from their own side but that doesn't need to be in public in my opinion. I just don't think party conferences should be televised. Party conferences should be for the party and not for the benefit of the TV. I'm always appalled at the swish stage lighting and colourful sets. Get the cameras out, lets return to some basic politics.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Cheaper Internet Access

In the interests of saving a bit of money, I've changed my internet access package (still with the same provider) to an account that is limited to 2GB per month. I don't know whether this was a good move or not, the main reason was uncertainty about what package I was on anyway. I signed up to a 512KB package for 19.99/m but since signing up for that they have introduced higher bandwidth packages for the same amount - it seems from the online account details that I was still on the 512KB bandwidth for the same cost as 1MB. So any, my thoughts now turn to what 2GB per month actually equates to in real usage terms. You see, my fear is that I might exceed this some months. I use the Internet at home for work and we use it evenings and weekends quite a lot. I'm sure it must all mount up. Also, I have been a bit dumb and not looked up what happens when you exceed the 2GB - am I charged per MB or is access just cut off? I should have found out first. The other thing, was that in the promotional email it said that the 1MB bandwidth would be doubled to 2MB however, there was no mention of that when I actually went through with the upgrade. ISPs haven't really improved a lot in terms of giving out detailed information - I hate that side of it.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

DVD Burner Blues

My DVD/CD Re-writer is burning at a slower rate. It doesn't play audio CDs without popping and skipping. What has gone wrong? It seems to burn OK just slower than usual.

Tiny Crappy Speakers

I was reading the weekend paper this morning. I saw an advert that made me think. It was an ad for a speaker system that turns an iPod into a home stereo. I just thought, God how that just misses the point! The system was expensive too. And looked awful! I had a pair of speakers a long time ago that plugged into my early-style Walkman (maroon it was, heavy with big black and cream buttons - I think it was a Sanyo not a Sony though). I was listening to it in the living room once, had to have the volume really high because that was the only way to hear it, terribly tinny sound almost no bass. My Dad came home and said with a look of disgust "What you got to listen to that rubbish for?", it's debateable whether he actually meant the sound quality or the music - well it was Slayer.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Bob Dylan

On the 26th September 2005 the BBC and an American channel will air the first showing of part one of a Martin Scorcese documentary on Bob Dylan. Part two will be shown a few days later, both parts are two hours long. Great, can't wait. The BBC are having a sort of unofficial Bob Dylan season this month. They have an article titled something like "What's all the fuss about" and I've sent in some comments to add to others there.
In case my comments don't get displayed (they're moderated), the points I was making are that I think Time Out Of Mind and Love And Theft are his last two albums and instead of being "washed up" Dylan is actually producing some of the best work of his career. I also make the point that Dylan is strangely prophetic: his last album was released on 9/11/2001 and it included a tribute song to Charlie Patton (a Delta bluesman from the twenties who had a hit with a song called High Water Blues) called High Water about the Mississippi flooding of the twenties. Andy Kershaw ought to be ashamed calling Dylan washed up! To think I used to respect the man's opinions.

Bob Monkhouse

I've never really seen the reason for this guy's popularity. I don't mean to disrespect the dead but really, his jokes were so weak. Unpleasant and misogynistic. I've just seen a clip of him performing on The Best Of An Audience With...

I saw today in the newspaper an advert for a Bob Newhart CD. There are some really funny people who have done some great comedy sketches and monologues. My first and only real experience of Bob Newhart was a TV show called Newhart. I enjoyed the show but I was unaware of the main character's history as a stand-up comedian. I think you had to be an American to appreciate the guy had a history.

Kelly Monteith had a show on British TV, he was American I think. He was a very funny performer. It was a sketch show. I don't know if he wrote the sketches himself, I think he may have - whatever, he was a great comedian and I don't know what happened to him. Des O'Connor used to introduce a lot of comedians to British audiences, in my opinion this has been Des' biggest contribution to the world.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Essay Writing

I did geography at a level and failed unfortunately. This wasn't down to lack of interest (well, partly it was). It was mainly due to my poor preparation for essay-based examinations. I got a 2:1 degree based on essay examinations so I feel qualified to say I improved my technique in the years intervening my A levels.
I was less interested in physical geography than I was in human geography. My interest is being aroused in human geography again by reading the newspapers and novels of tom clancy. I'm particularly interested in trouble spots or areas of tension between countries.
I feel like writing an essay. Essays can infact be useful to help one learn - something i'm only just beginning to realise. The skill with essays is probably working out the right questions to ask. For my current interest a essay question might be:

Explain the background to the current (2005) constitutional crisis in Iraq.

I know this would never be a real exam question as it is much too topical. It would also be difficult to mark I imagine, the scope is probably too broad.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Nintendo gameboy micro

This looks like a pretty cool device I'd like to buy one -but I don't think I can afford one though, a pity . I'm sort of put off by the detachable fascia. I like the size and the general design. I think it looks nicer than the psp and the gba. Mind you, I just have a plain blue gba and I find it very appealing aesthetically. I've been enjoying my gba again lately. It's surprising how you forget how much fun gba games can be. I was looking at a video of a gba strategy game on gamespot. I have to say it didn't look very appealing. The other type of game i'm not sure fits the format well is first person shooters. I can't imagine anything worse than trying to focus on a 3d world 2 inches square.
I have been wondering lately about buying a gameboy sp. They are still not cheap new - 65 pounds. I was hoping they would come down in price.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Chronicles of Riddick

I've just watched this film. Visually quite stunning. But how the hell do you make a game from that? Xbox did and I'd like to see it.

Nintendo DS v Sony PSP

I read a comment today that the Nintendo DS is more fun to play on than a PSP. Perhaps thats just because Nintendo have been doing handheld devices and games for much longer than Sony? Nintendogs does look like a great game. I think the launch line-up of games for the PSP has been quite weak in general. Ridge Racer seems like the best choice but how old is that game really? Same with Wipeout too. No, I think the PSP will develop much better content over the coming years: better games, better music, better network play and so on. Nintendo DS probably is more fun to play at the moment, but I think that will change. That's not to say though that the DS is dead - far from it, I'd like one. Especially for the golf. But I think the lifespan of the DS will be shorter than that of the PSP.
I don't like what I've heard about the pixel problem with the PSP screen either. It seems to affect only some but lets face it, it shouldn't happen at all. Especially when they cost so much - nearly 50 pounds more in England than America!!

The official PSP (PlayStation Portable) Website

Here it is. This site says if you sign up you get the Spider-Man 2 film for free. At least, I'm supposing its the film you get and not the game. I like the idea of watching movies on a portable device - say when on a train for example, problem is of course that UMD is just another format and hence another way for manufacturers and distributors to make more money by reselling the same content several times. In this day and age, we download licensed music in the form of Windows Media Player WMA files - why can't they work out how to encrypt movies so that they can be distributed in licensed form too?

Gaming environment

Upstairs now I've got my two old PCs next to each other with some great games on them. If you have never bought PC games and were wandering what kinds of games run well on them, here's my set up (I haven't included every game I have).
The oldest Pentium 2 machine has a processor rated at just under 300MHz. On this machine I have some great strategy games that I still like to play, like Red Alert, Command and Conquer, Age of Empires, Pharoah, Commandos Behind Enemy Lines, Sim City 2000, Sim Tower, Grand Theft Auto, Tiberian Sun, Dungeon Keeper, Monopoly, Warhammer Dark Omen, Railroad Tycoon, Warcraft II and Starcraft. This machine uses an integrated graphics chip but it does have an AGP slot that I've never seen the benefit of using.
The other Pentium 3 machine has a 900MHz processor and I'm running some other great games on that including Rollercoaster Tycoon, Delta Force, Delta Force 2, F1 Championship 2000, Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider II, Tomb Raider The Last Revelation, Hitman Codename 47, Driver, Grand Prix Legends, The House Of The Dead, The House Of The Dead 2, Mobil 1 Rally Championship, Toca 2 Touring Car Challenge and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six. This machine uses a 16MB PCI Nvidia graphics card.

XIII - fast and furious

Wow! I rescued General Carrington this week, now that was intense! This game has a great story, I'm on the brink of understanding more about what the thirteen is and who my character is. It's good that there are a variety of situations where in some you have to use a crossbow and others where the sniper rifle comes in handy and others when a grenade and an assault rifle are the best tools. The pace is fast and furious if you are hooked into the story line, you have to keep playing situations over and over again until you reach the end of the level. I'd say the levels vary in length but that they're all pretty well designed.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003

I have to admit I've been a bit disappointed with this game up until now. I still have a lot to learn, especially about the different game modes and scoring. But I'm starting to get a feel for the controls and am beginning to earn some money for hitting GIRs, which I think relate to getting onto the putting green from the fairway but I have no idea what it stands for. Learning to swing the ball seems essential to me, make sure you get the blue colour swing and not the yellow - that was my main mistake in the past - I always used slice instead of draw - but I'm sure there must be times when a slice is required. Also, I've found that putting can be hit and miss, the information about the angle and tilt of the green is pretty minimal and even though there are caddy tips it still seems to rely on being able to judge distances rather than giving you information to accurately set things up. But I suppose this is intentional, like golf in the real world, I'd say the experience of the game is quite close to real life when you get more into it. If you don't like golf however, you probably won't enjoy the game. This is at odds with what some other reviews I've read say but I believe it to be true. I've recently played a game of golf on a real course and maybe my belief is based on that and having a wife who has no interest in golf at all.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

PSP Takes Off

Wow, the PSP sold 185,000 units in the UK in its first four days of release. That's some going. Most desired Christmas 2005 gift I think.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Orleans: Vampires Move Out

The current crisis in New Orleans is an apalling tragedy. Once again, the poorest are bearing the brunt of the suffering. My heart goes out to all affected.
When I think of New Orleans I think of three things:
  • Poppy Z. Brite
  • Jazz
  • Vampires
The first and third of these are related due to the topic and setting of the Brite novel I've read. I guess the vampires who have lived in New Orleans for centuries will have moved out while the flooding persists - or perhaps they're surviving on the easy prey of the vulnerable?