Sunday, March 30, 2014

War of the Worlds

On a Saturday, one of the things I enjoy doing is visiting the charity shops in town. I regularly check the books, games, CDs and DVDs. Sometimes I buy a duff disk or scratched or something but most of the time the goods are in reasonable condition. Yesterday I bought myself a two disk special edition live concert DVD of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds. It is awesome. I've had the music on my iPod for a while and have listened to bits of it and enjoyed but the live concert is a great show and through my TV and Hi Fi speakers it sounds amazing too. I would recommend it. I got it at the bargain price of £1.50! Justin Hayward sings on this version and I love his voice, it is so enchanting. I enjoyed his vocal work with The Moody Blues also - my dad was always a big fan of theirs, perhaps some has rubbed off? There has been a more recent update of this musical though, I think with Gary Barlow. I can't imagine it being very good but what do I know? I do like the version I picked up though. I believe it was recorded in 2006.

Lawn mowing again

With the more recent spell of good weather, the downside is that the lawn grass has started to grow. A fortnight ago I mowed the lawn and looking at the grass again today I realised I needed to cut it again today while the weather is dry. I don't know if I will be able to cut it next week and to leave it another two weeks would just mean it gets untidy and harder to cut. So I decided to cut it this afternoon. The mower I have is one I bought last year. My previous mower had served us well but it was a cheap little hover mower and was no longer suited to a bigger lawn as we have in our new house. Infact the biggest advantage of the new mower is that I can just push it around rather than potentially hurting my back and primarily that it collects the grass as it cuts - a real boon. It's a Qualcast mower (the green ones), my old one was a Flymo (orange ones), like the one pictured below but not exactly the same. I'd recommend Qualcast, they seem to be well made and cut the lawn nicely although I've really given up on trying to make nice even stripes in the lawn. That takes too much effort, I'm just happy with a tidy lawn. Actually, another reason I don't try and engineer stripes is that the quality of the grass is quite poor. There seems to be a lot of mud and moss. I don't know if this is the product of a long wet winter or what!?

Happy Mother's Day!

Today is Mother's Day, I got up ahead of my wife to feed the cats so that she could lie in. My daughter made breakfast in bed for her. My son gave her a card he wrote up last night, he had previously chosen the card last weekend. Then we all gave her the gift I had bought on everyone's behalf - an iPad. Not an inexpensive gift, I'm sure you'll agree. However, it is one that she deserves. She is always looking out for us and is unselfish and caring. She's the kindest person I know and I'm very lucky to be married to her.
I made lunch, a nice chicken, bacon and cheese bake with French beans, cream styled corn and rice. I went out to buy a fuse for my son's laptop plug and got ingredients for Eton Mess to eat later, yummy.
I called my mum just after eight o'clock this morning (the clocks went forwards an hour today, rather frustratingly meaning we lose an hour of the weekend) to wish her happy mother's day too. We sent her cards during the week and fortunately she got the last card yesterday.

Almost feels like summer...

The weather this weekend has been really lovely. I walked into town and back twice yesterday and I didn't mind because the weather was beautiful. I do enjoy it when there is enough wind that means the sun isn't scorching hot, this time of year is just right. On my way into town yesterday I even bought an iced cream from the shop and I think that's the first time I've ever done that.

It was a Wall's Magnum Classic and it was delicious. The perfect accompaniment to a bright sunny day.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Project Cosplay - Helmet completed

Well, this weekend there has been a focus for me on completing the Blake's 7 Federation Trooper helmet. It is now done, all bar touching up the paint in a few places. I decided in the end not to use the plastic from the drinks bottles I'd been collecting. Instead I bought a couple of plastic folders yesterday and used those for the plastic bands around the rim of the helmet. They actually worked better than the green bottle plastic would have for two main reasons: bottle plastic has a very strong memory and continually tries to wrap itself back round into the curve of a bottle and, probably harder to deal with, it is very thin and easily melts in contact with the hot glue. the plastic I did buy was quite strong but also just right in terms of the flexibility. It also came flat so was much easier to work with when bending around the helmet.
I modrocked the helmet on Sunday morning, which was very enjoyable actually. That stuff dries very quickly, so too did the black spray paint I bought on Saturday from Hobbycraft. I was able to glue the visor into place (two strips from a shandy bottle). It was a little trickier than I expected due to the melting of the thin plastic. I used a bit of flat black foam for the badge and a disk of cardboard, which I painted grey and added a bit of detail to with the glue gun.
The tricky part was working out how to suspend the plastic around the rim of the helmet, I'm still not sure whether I've done the right thing or not, I chopped up some cardboard and had two layers of struts that support the plastic rings. The lengths of folders didn't quite fit the circumference of the helmet so I had to use some extension pieces bit they are at the back and hopefully not too noticeable. One thing I've learned though about making helmets - if you're modelling the head with a balloon makes sure it's big enough. I used quite a small balloon and the helmet just about fits my head but is a little too snug and I fear I may have to work out a way for it to fit my head better.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


During my lunchtime on Thursday last week I ordered a Google Chromecast dongle. It's a bit of kit that allows some apps to stream from a computer or tablet or phone to the TV.  My TV is an internet smart TV but there is no keyboard, making searching through YouTube a bit of a nightmare, for example. With Chromecast streaming video is really easy from YouTube. I suppose to be expected since both are owned by the same company. It will stream Netflix although I haven't tried that and I haven't tried WiFi only, my TV is connected to my router by a cable. The Google dongle is half the cost of a proprietary dongle for my Sony TV, I'll let you know how I get on.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

ReVamp's first album

I liked the second ReVamp album Wild Card so much that I also bought their first album. It's really awesome, I'm so glad I did. Floor Jansen's voice is intoxicating. I can't stop listening to her, I spent over an hour on Friday night on YouTube watching different videos of her singing live in concert. Just amazing. She's now become my favourite female vocalist. I love the fact that she's a metal singer and has a range that includes opera but she loves heavy music and can also growl. One thing I particularly respect her for is that she writes songs and when she brings growls in to a song they are always in context and never seem over-used.

Blake's 7

I've been watching the second series of Blake's 7 today. It was first broadcast in the 1970s, so the special effects and sets are a little flimsy but they are good enough to convey the stories. I love the characters, they really are the strong point.  I include the computer cast in this too. One thing I noticed today but hadn't paid much attention to in the past is just how enormous the sleeves of Roj Blake's costumes are! You can see what I mean in this picture. I also ordered series 3 and 4 today, I have series 1 and 2 for several years but haven't bought the others until today. Couldn't resist. It also fits in with a little home project I'm working on - more at some point soon.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Cancelled: Amazon Instant Video

I've cancelled my subscription to what used to be LoveFilm. It was a streaming entertainment service allowing the download of hundreds of movies and TV shows. I've still got my Netflix subscription. The reasons I cancelled the service where several:
  • I was already happy with the existing service but Amazon thought arrogantly that it could do a better job by integrating it into it's shopping site
  • I don't want to subscribe to an entertainment service where what I watch is free, I don't want my family or me to accidentally purchase something
  • I liked the brand of LoveFilm, it was a good name. Amazon Prime Instant Video is a meaningless name
  • The way the interface has been integrated into the rest of the Amazon service is very poor and looks like a botched job to me
  • The communications about the change to the service really focused on it being an extension to Amazon Prime customers and very little was said about LoveFilm only subscribers - a typical result of a larger company swamping a smaller one but not understanding why it was a success and then totally ruining what was special about it
Amazon's uninspiring logo replacing LoveFilm's

New project

I have decided to make myself a costume. Whether I wear it to Comicon this year, I'm not sure. We'll have to wait and see how it turns out. I have started making the helmet. I may buy some parts for it if the helmet turns out okay. The costume I'm going to try and make is deliberately quite a simple one. It's the Federation Trooper from Blake's 7. You can see it in these shots below, as you can see the helmet is the most striking feature of these costumes. I bought a cheap tea strainer for the mouth piece that I'm going to spray black. I've bought a 2 litre bottle of Morrisons pineapple fizzy pop which is made of the right colour of green plastic. I will probably need several bottles of this though. I don't know how I'm going to come up with the plastic for the visor.

New albums

On Friday night I purchased a couple of new albums. Both are really great titles and I've been listening to them almost exclusively since I downloaded them. One is by the band ReVamp and is their self-titled first album. It's a great album, slightly different to Wild Card but very good. The other album is the latest by Within Temptation and is called Hydra. Both bands have great female vocalists as their front women, ReVamp has Floor Jansen and Within Temptation has Sharon den Adel. Different styles completely but both are exceptional.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Unforgiving

My current attention on symphonic metal music has meant that as well as Nightwish and ReVamp, I've also been listening to Within Temptation and their album The Unforgiving in particular. It is a very well written album and Sharon den Adel is a very good songwriter and singer. The Unforgiving is a concept album and was released alongside 3 movies and 4 comic books. I haven't watched the movies or read the comics but I'd like to do that one day. At the moment I'm just interested in listening to the music and enjoying the songs. I watched part of a Within Temptation concert on YouTube last night, it was good but Sharon was wearing an unusually puffy dress for a metal band. The music leans more towards rock than metal. The band has a new album out called Hydra and I want to buy this sometime soon. I'd also like to get the first ReVamp album. I was listening to the ReVamp album a lot over the weekend and it is really very good indeed.

Eurovision - look forward

The UK entry for the Eurovision Song Contest has been chosen, it's performed by a woman called Molly. It's not bad for a Eurovision song, it is quite catchy while it's playing but also it's a bit repetitive. The vocals start quite low and in more of a spoken style. The UK hasn't done well in the competition for years and my hopes aren't high for this year's competition in Copenhagen. The BBC has some interesting information on their Eurovision pages.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Google Earth

Geography is one of those subjects, like history, that seemed to me as really dull when I was at school. Maybe it was the way it was taught or the way the exams were structured. I had a teacher who I enjoyed listening to but I didn't really absorb the information. It was a shame, I might have made a good geographer.
Geography infiltrates our lives whether we want it to or not. We are physical beings and points on a map have relevance to us in our lives, be they places we lived, worked or just visited. This weekend I spent a bit of time playing with Google Earth, drawing point to point paths and making narrated tours. I shall continue this playing around to see how Google Earth can trace the places I've lived, worked and visited in my life. It's a wonderful tool, I wonder whether schools make use of it in their projects? It could really make geography lessons come to life.