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April 29, 2005

Commuting Hell

I tested myself this morning, and I think I failed. I tried to see if I could stay calm and unaffected on the train. I got on and couldn't find a double seat, so had to sit next to someone. Instead of carefully selecting the least annoying partner, I chose a fat person with an iPod. I know, it was silly, but at least it's given me some ammunition for my blog.

The first thing I noticed was his very big thighs. He didn't really fit into the seat very well and insisted on sitting with his legs askew leaning over onto my side. I was actually pushed into the corridor a little. During the 50 minute commute he ate a whole pack of Jaffa cakes for breakfast and a drank bottle of Lucozade. Perhaps he'll actually need both seats soon.

Do iPod headphones fit really badly? Either that or his volume was way up near maximum because I could actually make out the singer's voice and identified the music as rappers D12. He snorted and coughed quite a bit too (you can't tell how disgusting you sound I suppose when Eminem is blasting your ears with hip-hop).

What is interesting is that I wonder if he even realised he was annoying anyone. I noticed quite a few people give him a sideways glance when the train stopped at stations and his music was particularly annoying. But perhaps his skin is so thick he's oblivious to the way he's pushing me out of my seat and disturbing my peace so much that I only managed three crossword clues.

I've tried explaining the error of their ways to headphoned idiots in the past, but invariably get an impolite suggestion to go forth and multiply. I sometimes try and find another seat, but the morning rush hour doesn't give much chance for that. There doesn't appear to be a good answer that doesn't involve violence, so I guess I'll just have to get some super powered headphones for myself, start eating Big Macs for breakfast, and cut down on those anti-flatulence pills.

Posted by se71 at 02:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

Writing Quickly

I'm going to see if I can write 400 words in 30 minutes about something in the paper.

All couples probably quarrel to a lesser or greater degree. Some of them have nannies. A select few have their fights splashed across the tabloids by the nannies for a few pieces of silver, or £300K, whichever is the greater.

This week it was Victoria and David Beckham's turn. I haven't actually read what the Abbie Gibson told The News of The World, and have no desire to. The Daily Telegraph seems reluctant to repeat the story, and instead reports on the reaction of the couple. This makes it interesting from an academic viewpoint. The planet Pluto was discovered by inferring it's existence from the way the other planets near it had incorrect orbits otherwise. I have to try and work out what the nanny said by listening to what David's defence is.

Speaking at a football press conference, David repeatedly states that he loves and respects his wife, and that they are happy. So I guess the exact opposite must be the allegation. He does admit to arguments.

So the facts before me are that a bad singer and a good footballer, who have been married for few years and have kids, might be having a few marriage problems. Wow, that really was worth the cash wasn't it.

Right, that took 20 minutes, and it's not really very good, and it's only 200 words. I'm petering out at the end there and vainly trying to find a point, or think of something amusing to say. Maybe it's a bigger problem as I honestly don't care what the Beckhams get up to in their private (or public for that matter) lives.

Will try again tomorrow if I get the time. Interesting experiment though.

Posted by se71 at 05:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Backing up my photos and home video

My photos and home video are really the only inanimate things in my life that I would care about not being able to replace if my house burnt down.

I could live without all the other things I hoard, like movie tickets, credit card statements and old letters and bills.

I could replace my TV, my books and CDs, my furniture.

Even my email archive and all the other junk on my hard drive isn’t really something I’d lose sleep over.

But losing my family photos would be something that would annoy me for the rest of my life.

Posted by se71 at 11:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2005

MSN Messenger 7.0

Just downloaded the latest V7.0 incarnation of MSN Messenger from Microsoft. It's pretty unusual for me to avoid a new version of any software if it has a free download on the interweb, but I noticed this had a couple of features I particularly wanted.

Firstly, you can choose what status to display to the world before you logon. This may not sound much, but a problem I have is that my ID is known by both friends and work colleagues. So at weekends or on holidays, when I logon, I don't really want work people to spot me and then have the opportunity to hassle me with problems. I'm not officially on call. So now I can happily logon in "Appear Offline" mode, block the offending users, and go online properly for my friends to see me. Work need never know I'm even near a computer.

The second feature is that when start talking to someone you don't just get a blank conversation window any more. You see a few lines of the previous conversation you had with that person. This is very useful for when your PC has crashed while you were away from your desk, or you were not paying attention to a conversation and switched off your PC before reading it.

Two small useful additions, that should probably have been in V1.0, but at least are there now. There are other things, mostly eye-candy and attempts to get me to buy things, but I can cope with a bit of advertising for a free service I've found very useful over the years.

Posted by se71 at 04:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

Perhaps I need more cash too!

BBC News, my main news source, reports that "MG Rover workers 'need more cash'"

I don't normally do politics on here, but I'm going to start. This is almost as much to try and clarify my own views on subjects as to try and make any point.

But today, I do have a point.

The article says that the workers don't have enough money to pay for retraining. Also that they may have to find jobs further from home. Well, whose fault is that? It's certainly not mine. And yet the government are already giving them my tax money. I thought this was a private company. If Rover go under it's because they are not profitable, and this is a right and proper result of that. As an IT contractor, if my company is not profitable I won't have enough money. What are the chances of the government bailing me out in this way?

Workers who have been at Rover a short time have absolutely no right to be bailed out in this way. Longer term workers who have been earning good money for years should have put aside some of that pay for a rainy day. I'd like to see how many of them have plasma TVs in their homes and have had foreign holidays every year before I start feeling sorry for them.

Some people will say that the area is deprived and these people cannot find work near home. I know a great many people who have been in similar situations and have made the effort to find work wherever it was, moving themselves and sometimes their families in order to achieve that. Why should I feel any differently about the Rover workers.

So my point is that I do not think the government should be giving my money to people who have spent the last five years making cars no one wants.

Posted by se71 at 09:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 22, 2005

The Outsider

The Outsider - Albert Camus

*** SPOILERS ***

What is the correct length for a novel. Stephen King can churn out more than 1000 pages. He can dissect the lives of ten or twenty characters in that space. Camus gives us just one real character here in around 100 small pages, and yet somehow his novel is a great existential masterpiece, whereas King gets slated as a hack.

Meursault is the protagonist, and the whole story is told by him in the first person. He is a strangely detached individual, who seems to observe his own life rather than live it. He has an office job that he is happy with, he lives alone but has friends. He had sent his mother to an old peoples home, and at the beginning of the novel we find she has died. After attending the funeral, he gets back home and forms an attachment with a young woman called Marie. He doesn't really have any feelings for her, it's just quite nice and convenient When she asks if they should get married, he just says 'sure'. He'd be happy to marry any attractive girl.

Meursault's neighbour Raymond is a violent man who beats up his girlfriend, an Arab girl. The girl's brother follows Raymond to a beach where he has gone with Meursault and Marie for a day out. Somehow Meursault finds himself approaching the Arab, who draws a knife in self defence, and Meursault shoots him with a gun which he has actually taken from Raymond to try and avert it's use.

Mersault is arrested and tried for the crime. He answers truthfully to all questions, and his lack of emotion doesn't help his case. He is sentenced to death. Whilst awaiting the sentence to be carried out, he is visited by a priest, who tries to convince him to embrace God. Meursault does not believe in God, which exasperates the priest, who cannot believe how someone could face death without repenting their sins.

"Killing an Arab" was an early song by The Cure - here is the chorus

"I'm alive
I'm dead
I'm a stranger
Killing an arab"

If you've ever heard the song, then you will not be able to read this book without thinking about it. Like The Cure themselves, this book is bleak, dark, and unsettling. Meursault is obviously guilty of the crime, but he doesn't appear to have any moral view on it. If someone doesn't really understand why what they have done is wrong, should they be punished? Is this 'outsider' a part of society? What should we do with people who do not conform to normal types of behaviour?

The 'plot' is a simple one, the writing is dry and subdued, with little in the way of excitement. What the story is there for is just to illustrate these moral questions. It's certainly succeeded in creating an odd and memorable situation, but it's not really a novel. It's a 'one trick pony', a short story with only a single point. A novel should really have more than one strand.


Posted by se71 at 11:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Paul Graham writes essays - here's one he's done about writing that says some quite interesting and inciteful things. One I've picked out is:

"expect 80% of the ideas in an essay to happen after you start writing it"

I've been writing this blog for a while now, and usually I start with an idea, and just get typing. Even when I think it's going to be really short, somehow the flowing prose just streams out :-) Sometimes I reach conclusions I'd not really expected. Sometimes I write far too much and have to cut some off. But writing too much is better than too little, Paul's other comment about cutting out lots of things you write is also correct - I need to do more of that.

There is a huge amount of information like this on the interweb to help aspiring writers to write. Orson Scott Card, one of my favourite Science Fiction authors, teaches classes on writing and has some great help on his website Hatrack

Stephen King has written a book about it "On Writing", and also has these 10 Handy Tips.

Everyone seems to think that there are rules to follow. Perhaps there are a few; I'm not experienced or successful so it's not my place to say whether these are right or wrong. I do have one very obvious thing to say though. No one ever became a successful writer without actually making the effort and sitting down and churning the stuff out.

So if I haven't already mentioned it, that's why I'm here. I'm following the first and most important rule of writing. I'm actually doing it. Thanks to Paul Graham, one little iota of inspiration has led to a whole blog post.

Posted by se71 at 09:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 18, 2005

Computers Controlling Us

If you're a computer person like me, you'll be doing all sorts of things using it. Things like your personal accounts, your email, storing and organizing your music and photos. You are probably not using software for any of these tasks that is designed specifically for you. It's most probably you are using a package that millions of other people also use. And the chances of this package exactly fitting your needs are slim.

I see this all the time, and without even realising it, I often find myself altering the way I normally do things in real life, just to fit in with the way some piece of software works.

Here's an example. Microsoft Money. Before the ubiquitiveness, err ubiquitivity, hmm... before we all had the internet available all the time, I started putting all my accounts into MSMoney. It's a really good package (and all you Quicken users will have little choice but to use it soon as that package is being cancelled in the UK). But before automatic statement downloads, typing the details from credit card bills and bank statements every month into the computer was a really tedious task. So I wanted to reduce this work.

MSMoney works best with payees that are already in the system. So, the answer is to always shop at the same place. I've avoided buying things in unfamiliar shops and bought them locally at shops already in my system just to reduce my typing.

Data entry is also is faster if there are less transactions. So I made a rule to use cash for as many small purchases as possible. All well and good. Except that MSMoney also likes you to put categories like "food and drink", "Household Bill" etc for each item. Extrapolating the cash rule, I'd probably end up with everything bought by cash and then have no accountability, so what benefit would the package be giving me. So I've had to make sure that every category that I really wanted to track, like CDs for example, are bought on a card.

Tescos causes a huge problem though, as they sell everything. If you've spent £100, but some of it was clothes, some CDs, and the rest food, how do you remember one month back what the split was when all you have is one line on a credit card bill. You can't, you've got to keep your receipts and enter this manually. Or, you do a much easier thing, you go through the till twice :-)

I used to listen to music in a different way before computers. All my records and CDs used to be at home, and if I wanted to listen to one on the move then I'd just tape it and take a walkman. Now, I've got an MP3 player for travelling which stores about three CDs worth of music. You would think that that was better. The problem is that a huge amount of my music isn't digital, and my tape player is now consigned to the loft. Even worse, I've only gotten round to installing the software for transferring music to my player on my laptop. This means that I can only listen to digital music that is currently on my laptop. And as this is quite a small amount of music, I generally end up listening to the same music for weeks and weeks on end. I know I could fix this, but I never seem to get round to it.

My final example is a more positive one. Flickr. I'm storing all my digital photos on Flickr, which is a great site. As well as just allowing you to see your own photos, you can look at the public photos of other Flickr members. People like to show off their snaps, and once you get bitten by the bug, you want to try and produce interesting images too. Flickr even tells you how popular your picture is. So now I'm out and about with my camera in my pocket constantly looking for an image that will get a good reaction on Flickr. I'm pretty bemused however to find that a picture of my bicycle, which wasn't even taken for artistic reasons, is still way out in the lead as my most popular photos so far.

I've taken some interesting shots recently, and have encouraged my friends to do the same, and even though we don't see each other in real life much, we know what we're up to. We're also semi-competing to get the best artistic photos, and it's forcing us to look at the world in a different way. We're and enjoy challenge of sooting in the snow and rain, and looking carefully at each sunrise and sunset to gauge whether it'd make a good background on our PCs. Without Flickr I know I wouldn't be using my camera half much.

So computers are controlling me in many small ways, some good, some bad. They are even making me write more gibberish, like this article for example :-)

Posted by se71 at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


It wasn't a complete fluke - I actually finished the Telegraph Crossword again today (No 24,656 in case I want to ever look it up and try again).

Go me!!!

Posted by se71 at 02:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 15, 2005

Bank Tube

The announcer at Bank tube station really makes me laugh. I don't think he means to. It's just that when he makes a pre-recorded announcement, he must just wing it, no one would actually sit down and write the drivel he speaks. Alternatively, maybe he's only allowed one go at it, and fumbles his lines.

Currently playing is this one. This is what he says:

"Customers are reminded to keep all their bags, belongings, briefcases, etc with them at all times"

For a start, who carries briefcases any more. And isn't that a form of bag. Let's leave off that word then. And isn't a bag a belonging. Strike off bag. so we're left with "belongings etc". Unless we're carrying other people's stuff around for them, the etc is useless as well.

I've never seen anyone leave anything on a tube except an old newspaper, and one other item particularly easy to lose during the London rainy season (Jan-Dec). So I think what he really should say is.

"Oi, don't forget your umbrella mate!"

The previous long running announcement he did was all about Oyster cards. As well as saying the same thing about three times, it was the tone of voice this time that gave him away as a complete amateur.

"You must touch your Oyster card in and out when passing through the barriers. Please don't just walk through."

It was the stress on "don't" that got to me. He was really pleading, as he knew that's what most people do, and he really can't stop them. I don't actually have an Oyster card, so the implications of forgetting to touch in and out are lost on me, but it must be very serious indeed for someone to sound so sad about it.

(this post inspired by Richard Herrings Blog, of which I'm slightly in awe of at the moment. He is managing to write loads of stuff every day, and it's always very funny. I guess that is his job though)

Posted by se71 at 04:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blakes 7

*** SPOILERS ***

As a kid, I somehow missed out on Blakes 7 until well after the eponymous one had died in the series. Avon, who replaced him as leader of the rebels, was a great character. I don't seem to have felt the loss of Blake at all in those early episodes.

Getting the first series on DVD however was a bit of a thrill, and so I sat down to finally find out what happened in the beginning.

The title screen looked excellent, the Liberator spacecraft approached me in crystal clarity flying through space, and I thought to myself "Wow, they really did a good job on the graphics in those days, much better than Dr Who". Then the real intro come up, and I realised that the Blue Peter team had probably made it on one of their days off. These low tech effects continue throughout of course, you don't watch BBC SF shows for that kind of thing. Unfortunately the juxtaposition of the specially made one for the DVD with the old credits really emphasises how far we've come.

Blake lives on Earth of the future. The population are imprisoned in a huge dome and drugged to keep them docile. There are rebels, but they are small in number and have to meet outside the dome. A recent rebellion was quashed, with everyone except Blake deported to a prison planet and executed. Blake himself was brainwashed so that even he doesn't remember his past.

A new civil disobedience initiative is starting, and they want to use Blake as a figurehead. They lure him to a meeing and reveal to him who he really is, but then the meeeting is infiltrated and everyone is killed. Interestingly the government are still scared of making Blake a martyr, and so keep him alive. They do however try him in court for false child abuse charges, and put him on a ship to deport him to the prison colony. On the trip, he mets Jenna and Vila, and then it ends.

It's a familiar plot really. The sets and effects are really bad. A lot of the acting is really bad too. A 20 second dream sequence is replayed in it's entirety three times, and it's not really very convincing the first viewing. And the accents are hilarious; everyone has a clipped BBC voice, even Blake. Imagine Noel Coward playing every part, it feels a bit like that.

And yet, is it just the nostalgia talking, or has it remained really very gripping drama? I think Blakes 7 has aged really well. Science fiction can easily throw up laughable visions of the future, but this dystopia is still a possibility for us. I know Blake will get his memory back soon and start fighting the federation back properly. I'm really looking forward to Avon and Servalan reappearing for some much needed maliciousness and sarcasm. And I'm introducing a new generation to the show of course, my daughter will be forced to watch the whole lot whether she likes it or not :-)

Posted by se71 at 01:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Alton Towers

Noticed an advert for Alton Towers in the newspaper. Here's a link which shows their slogan:

"Make some great memories,
you might need them someday"

Sounds like a threat to me. Or at the very least a depressing look into an old age of dribbling in a nursing home wishing you'd done more with your life.

Certainly not a feel good slogan in my humble opinion.

Posted by se71 at 12:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I make fun of friends who haven't bothered to backup their data and have somehow managed to lose files through either hardware failure or even loss of a laptop. My job as a system admistrator means I need to devise and monitor backup strategies for whole companies. And yet, is my laptop backed up? I'm ashamed to admit that up until yesterday the answer was no, never, not once since I bought it nearly two years ago.

Inspired by this blog from Marc Wieczorek, and in general by the "getting things done" mentality, I decided to get my house in order.

Broadly seaking, things I need to backup include:

MP3 collection
Digital Photo collection
Email archive
My company data
General files and documents

I have digitised my entire CD collection, and am working on the vinyl, so my backup destination needed to be pretty large. Online backup to my shell account is not an option, as I only have a 1Gb limit there, and a bandwidth quota per month too. I might look at this option later for some important documents, but so far all I have is ZIP2 password protection, and I don't really want to send these files by ftp.

I could backup everything to another of my computers. That's always been a viable option, but I just never get round to it. Also, the disk space is all being used for other things, and some of them have OS reinstalls on a semi-regular basis.

So I decided to get an external hard drive. I wanted something with a large capacity, but small and light, and not requiring me to carry a power supply around. I found the Firelite from Smartdisk in John Lewis which fits the bill with 80Gb and powered USB2, so I bought it.

Mark recommended the freeware version of Syncback so I downloaded it and gave it a go. It's as easy as he says to set up, and within a few minutes I had created five profiles for the five categories of data I wanted to backup, and they are all on my drive now.

I decided that the music was already compressed enough and didn't need any password protecting, so it just gets copied straight across. This has the added benefit that I can actually play the tracks directly from the drive on another PC if I want to.

If the drive falls into the wrong hands, I want all my other data password protected, including my photos. Syncback doesn't add passwords unless you zip the files, so everything else is zipped and protected.

So all my important laptop data is now backed up. This is much better than before, but there are still issues. Both laptop and drive are sittng on my desk at work. Will they both be there after lunch? I can live without the MP3 files, they are ultimately all recreatable, and though it would take a lot of time to do that, it would not be a catastrophic loss. All my photos are already backed up to my Flickr account, which is a Pro account so the full size images are retained there. I could recover my photos from there. My email archive, and all my work and personal documents including my Quickbooks company information, is irreplacable. So I'm really going to have to work out an offsite option for at least some of these file. The SE edition of Syncback has proper encryption built in, and the price is only around £8, so rather than messing around with some freeware encryption tool that wouldn't integrate well, perhaps I should exercise my credit card and give some money to the developer of a very good little product.

Will update this when I've made any decisions.

Posted by se71 at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 14, 2005

Iain Banks - Canal Dreams

Canal Dreams - Iain Banks


Brooding novel about war and violence with action packed finale.

Hisako Onoda is a Japanese woman who is a celebrated cellist. Afraid of flying, she is travelling by boat from Japan to Europe through the Panama Canal. This is a politically volatile time in Panama, and her boat is blocked in the canal along with two others as it is too dangerous to proceed. She spends the time practicing her cello, and having a relationship with one of the ships crew, Philippe, who also teaches her how to sub-aqua dive.

There are numerous flashbacks to Hisako's life growing up in Japan. She is a strong willed girl, clever with languages and excellent at the cello of course. She has dreams, which are full of blood. She is remembering back to a public demonstration that she attended which got violent, and where she actually killed a policeman with a baton and got away with it.

A group of rebels take over the ships and imprison everyone. They plan to launch a missile to bring down an American plane. Things are fairly civilised, until one man tries to fight back. This initiates a struggle which the gorillas quickly overcome. And it makes them mad. They kill everyone, except Hisako, the sole attractive woman. They keep her alive and rape and torture her.

Against overwhelming odds, Hisako escapes, and in action worthy of the finale of a James Bond film, manages to kill every gorilla and blow up two boats before swimming to safety.

This is a good book, with an interesting mix of history, and action. Hisako is a particularly good character, Banks seems to do heroines well. She is complex, with many motivations, and her fight back at the end is convincing. The secondary characters however are lightly drawn, and when they all die we're not overly bothered. Perhaps that was deliberate. I'm sure Banks is trying to say something about war, and he includes the atom bomb in Hiroshima as the cause of Hisako's father's death. I couldn't really work out what it was he was trying to say though. All the Panama political history was much fresher in the public mind at the end of the 1980s when this book came out, and maybe the book was a reaction to that.

There is a really nice touch where we are told that there is a fault with the diving equipment gauges. We assume that somehow this will be important later, and it isn't till the last page that it's mentioned again, and we see it was a deliberate red herring.

AE 2

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April 13, 2005


I never thought I'd see a big budget film version of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy, but it's actually happened, and is on it's way to our screens on 29th April.

I'm prepared to be completely disappointed. I hope I'm not. Prepare for the worst and then you can only be pleasantly surprised is my motto in this case.

But like "The Likely Lads" trying to avoid seeing the football results before watching the replay on TV in the evening, I'm really hoping nothing slips out about it before I get a chance to see it.

In this brave new world of interweb connected blogs and online discussions, I'm thinking that news is going to leak out, unless I block myself off completely, and I can't do that.

This is complicated by the fact that I don't mind the good news leaking out. When the Lord of the Rings films were released, there was unreserved joy from fans of the book, so I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. But if I hear nothing, I'm going to have to assume that countrary to the proverb, "No news is bad news" !

Posted by se71 at 04:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2005


The BBC News site has an article about how workers eat.

I've been a bit of a nomad and visited many worker's canteens over the years. The fare offered has varied from nouvelle cuisine to pie and chips (with gravy), but interestingly, very rarely are both options offered in the same place.

The article advocates giving workers less fat and carbohydrates, and more vegetables. It's prompted by the Jamie Oliver school dinners initiative. And that is a good thing, children need to be taught more than just maths and english as school, proper eating habits are also something many don't get in the home.

So, this sounds on the face of it like a really good idea for adults too, but we're not children. Shouldn't I be allowed to decide what I eat. I'm in a very health conscious company at the moment and they have a very nice staff canteen. The food is even free. However they never have anything unhealthy. No mayonaisse, just oil and vinegar dressings; no chips, just mash or boiled; nothing fried; even the burgers are veggie or chicken breast. This gets so bad that I go to the pub on Fridays and pay my own good money for a hotdog and chips, and it tastes great.

I do enjoy eating healthily, and having a canteen that encourages that is good. But I'm a grown-up now, I can make my own choices. So please, at least ask me the question "Would you like chips with that?"

Posted by se71 at 03:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2005


I must have looked at the new Doom3 game for the XBox in at least ten shops over the weekend. I'm trying to convince myself to buy it, but I'm not doing a very good job.

I've been a fan of the Doom franchise since the first game, even earlier if you count Wolfenstein 3D. I was looking forward to getting Doom3 when it came out for the PC, but decided my hardware wasn't really up to it and I didn't want to buy a new machine just for playing games on. I decided that the PC was dead for me as a gaming platform. The convenience of consoles, and my increased ability to handle a controller since the many hours of Halo play, have pushed me over the edge away from PC gaming. Even Half-Life 2 , which could have kept me on the PC, completely ruined their chances of me buying a new PC by adding internet verification to the game.

So when Doom3 was released recently on XBox, I thought I'd go and get it. And I went, but I couldn't bring myself to buy it.

I'm sure I'd like it and the price is affordable. So why did I walk out empty handed?

I think I know the reason, it's the commitment. I'd feel that to justify the purchase, I would really need to play it, and also finish it really. Most games have about 20-30 hours of single-play in them, not mention the multiplayer options. And as we're approaching summer, this is just the wrong time to be sat indoors in a darkened room. Winter is gaming time, I'll save the cash and get a second hand copy later in the year!

Maybe :)

Posted by se71 at 09:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2005

Ian McEwan - Amsterdam

Amsterdam - Ian McEwan


Tale Of The Unexpected!

Molly dies, and she's been very popular with men during her life. Four men in particular are involved in this tale - Vernon, a newspaper editor; Clive, a composer; Julian, an MP; and George, her eventual husband.

Vernon and Clive are best friends, both dislike Julian. When Molly dies they both sense their own mortality. They don't want to lose their faculties and die confused and cared for by others. The make a pact to arrange each other's euthanasia should this ever happen.

George finds a photograph of Julian that had been taken by Molly. In the photo Julian is wearing a dress and posing to the camera. This is dynamite, as Julian is now vying to become Prime Minister. He sells the photos to Vernon, who immediately decides they must be published. His colleagues aren't so sure, but he manages to persuade them.

Meanwhile Clive is composing a symphony, commissioned for the millennium. He is having some trouble with it, and goes to the
lake district to clear his head. Whilst there, he is witness to an attempted rape, but tells no one about it except Vernon.

So far, all is reasonable, this is a pretty good story, exept for a bit too much detailed description of the symphonic composition process. But then these two old frinds fall out. Julian comes clean about the photos on TV, and the public don't seem to mind too much. Vernon publishes anyway and in the backlash is asked to resign from the paper. Clive has always been against publication, and says so in a note to Vernon, but the tone is misleading and Vernon takes it the wrong way. Vernon tells the police about Clive's experiance in the lake district and has to go back to Manchester to answer questions. This completely shakes his mood, and stops him from completing the symphony properly, he just can't find the melody he needs.

So both 'friends', now mortal enemies, decide to pretend to make it up in Amsterdam, but really to kill each other. They both hire euthanasia vigilanties (it is Amsterdam after all), drug each other with champagne, and are both killed.

There isn't much else to say about this book. It's a tale that Roald Dahl would probably have put into one of his short story collections, being only about 100 pages of large type in length. The shock ending is fairly predictable, but the emnity between the foes isn't properly developed. If you like this, then move on to some of McEwan's better work, which includes any of his other novels in fact. If you don't like it, don't give up on McEwan though.


Posted by se71 at 04:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 05, 2005


I watched the first series of 24 on DVD, and have to say enjoyed it quite a lot.

I started watching the second one on TV, missed one episode, then didn't like to keep going and decided I'd get the DVD of that too.

In the meantime, I had disturbing thought.

There are only 365 days in a year, and I'm about to spend a whole one of them sitting in front of a TV watching a single show.

When you look at it like that, it's a pretty big commitment. And now they've made three and four. And a computer game. Am I really happy spending almost a whole week of my life on this? I've decided no.

We all vegg out in front of the TV. Chances are I'll watch at least 2 or 3 hours TV nearly every day. It's not generally a singular activity though, it's a family thing, and gives us a shared cultural background. Thankfully I cut out soaps and sport completely about 10 years ago, as those things really do drain your time, and keep you away from what I'd call 'real' content. I tend to like films, short series, or long series like CSI and Law and Order where it doesn't matter if you miss an episode, they are all pretty much self contained.

This all leads into a much broader issue of time management. Actively choosing what you do with your time, rather than letting it just slip by. Setting up goals, and working towards them.

So if your goal is "Never miss an episode of Eastenders", and you've actively chosen that as something you'd rather do than the other myriad of options, then so be it, that's fine. However if you've just fallen into it as a habit, then perhaps it's time to stop and think about that old chestnut phrase:

On your deathbed, will you look back at your life and say "I wish I'd watched more Eastenders" :-)

Posted by se71 at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack