Sunday, 7 February 2016

Electrical Appliances (Warning: Harsh Language!)

Be warned, this post does have a modicum of bad language.  Some people say that if you're truly funny, you don't need to swear.  If you agree, you might want to skip this post - maybe you'll like the yoga one though!

I've been thinking, on and off, about how it's funny that certain electrical appliances we "trust" more than others.

For example - when you go out of the house for a day, there are some appliances that you're happy to leave running, and others you're not. I've done my best to categorise them into trusted, somewhat trusted, and untrusted - see if you agree with my categories:

Fridges / Freezers - TRUSTED. Fridges are absolutely salt of the earth, we don't understand how they work but we're happy to travel around the world and leave it running.

Mobile phone chargers - TRUSTED
. Despite the fact that you're probably using a cheap knockoff charger off a market or from some sort of cut-price shop, because you don't want to take out a second mortgage to buy a charger made by the company that made your phone, you're happy leaving these things run at full pelt while you sleep.

Computers - SOMEWHAT TRUSTED. Computers aren't really trusted (being hot running machines with fans that suck in inflammable dust and scatter it liberally on hot internal components) but you'll leave them on if:
  1. You're running an anti-virus scan and need to go out shopping
  2. You're halfway through Call of Duty and really really REALLY need a pizza (so bad you can't wait for delivery)
  3. You hate having to wait twenty minutes for it to boot up when you turn it on
Sky box aka DVR (Digital Video Recorder) - TRUSTED. Despite having the same attributes as a computer (it's a hot box probably full of dust), you trust this enough to leave it on indefinitely, because heaven forbid you miss season three episode sixteen of CSI: Honolulu, or wherever the latest spinoff is based.

Lights - SOMEWHAT TRUSTED. You're happy for lights to be on in the house, even in rooms that you are not, but you probably turn them off when you leave the house. Except you may keep one on, so it "looks as though someone is in". So you trust that one. But none of the other buggers.

Tumble driers - UNTRUSTED. Everyone knows that tumble driers are untrustworthy bastards which are liable to catch fire the moment we step outside. We don't even like them running when we're in the house.

Washing machines - TRUSTED. somehow trusted more than driers, even though they consist of the well known magical triad of electricity, water, and heating elements.

Televisions - SOMEWHAT TRUSTED. We trust TVs on the whole, but if going away you unplug it, just in case it decides to turn itself on and burst into flames. Plus that little red standby light is really annoying.

Toaster - EVIL BLOODY UNTRUSTED DEVICE!!! Toasters are the most evil of all electrical appliances, because time and again we are convinced "this time, THIS TIME - this time, we won't burn the toast, we will set the toaster so it comes out crispy but not burned."

And we fail. Because at some point, we'll turn our back on the toaster, and the toaster furiously burns the toast as fast as it can to send out smoke, to wake up the bloody smoke alarm again.

Are there any appliances that I've missed, or do you disagree/agree with my views? Well, you know where the comments box is :)

Monday, 1 February 2016

I did Yoga and survived to tell the tale

 My wife had an idea that we should start the day off, every weekday, with a session of Yoga.  I didn't have any issue with this, I definitely could do with doing more exercise, and whilst Yoga isn't exactly two hours running, it's better than my usual morning routine, which generally involves turning the alarm off, lazing in bed when I should be getting ready, and forty minutes later running around the house getting dressed and shouting at people "WE'RE LEAVING THE HOUSE IN FIVE MINUTES! COAT! SHOES! WHERE'S YOUR BOOK BAG? NO I'M NOT IN A BAD MOOD!!!"

 So we happily got up at 6am, and put on the Yoga DVD, for a thirty minute morning workout.  My wife has done some yoga in the past, whilst I was a complete newcomer.

It started off with sitting, and breathing, and I began to lose a little confidence in the possibility that it would result in me losing twenty pounds overnight.

 And then we moved.

 And moved.

 As the workout went on the time between movements reduced, until the DVD was barking instructions along the lines of "Go into lilypad. Now ease into dragon stance. Now into breezy seaweed.  Breathe. Make sure that none of your toes are touching the ground. Go into toasted cracker.  Plank.  Soggy biscuit.  Plank.  Dead antelope. Alive antelope. Plank.  Angry caterpillar. Breathe." and it worked - at the end I definitely felt like a dead antelope, or whatever you're supposed to feel like.  It's amazingly hard work (certainly if you've never done it before) and I definitely felt my muscles afterwards.  It took me all of my strength to eat a bacon sandwich to recover.

 I'm not looking forward to tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Going into the Darkest Dungeon...

I've just started playing a new game, called Darkest Dungeon.  Darkest Dungeon's core material isn't new - take a team of heroes into a dungeon, spank some monster bottom, collect goodies and haul ass out of there like the gangsta's that you are.

But, it gives a rather interesting twist, through the use of stress.

Cheerful looking place, your village, isn't it?

Because, after all, could you go into a dark dungeon, fight a group of undead monsters (or worse), fall in traps, blunder around unable to see because your last torch has run out, without feeling a bit uneasy?  I get scared by the threat of spoiled fruit being thrown at me, so going into a dungeon would leave me unhinged to say the least.

And in this game your heroes go through the same stresses.  Sometimes they scare each other - one particular hero of mine has the ability to turn into a damage-dealing monster, which sounds great, except that it promptly scares all my other folk, sometimes tipping them over the edge.

Here we are looking around a dungeon.  Nothing could go wrong, could it?
As time goes on, your characters pick up bad (and good) personality traits, some of which are obviously undesirable - for example, being prone to stress, so combat scares them even more, to more esoteric ones, like being open to delusions or turning to the dark side.

Oops - here's a pack of undead.  Luckily we've surprised them, so hopefully we'll get to give them a slap first.
At times you almost feel like you're running a mental hospital, as half of your warriors are busy resting up, recuperating, or just getting plain drunk to take their mind off what they saw in the dungeon, while the rest of your guys are braving the dungeon to try to get some money to treat the others.

Old Captain Beaky lobs some smoke at the bad guys.  That'll sort them out.
In the last dungeon I went through before writing this blog post, of my four fighters, one was at death's door (which basically means if she got hit one more time she was dead, and in this game death means death, that character is GONE), one was Paranoid and accusing the others of being traitors, one was Abusive and telling all the others just what he thought of them, and the last one had somehow gone Courageous and, despite being stood right at the back of the group, was doing his level best to inspire the others to shut up and get back to killing monsters.

And my cheeky little robber turns his little pistol into a blunderbuss, to give everyone a good hammering.
There are one or two very minor UI issues where it could be slightly slicker, but nothing that detracts from the enjoyment of the game.  

All dead - time for some loot!  That was easy...

The graphics are good, you become engaged with your characters and want to make sure that they pull through, essentially it keeps you coming back for more.  In short, if you like RPG / adventure style games, but you'd like to try something a little different, it's well worth a shot.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

A Cultured Saturday

As a rule, Saturdays are fairly routine.

Saturdays generally start with me and my son chilling out for a couple of hours with a leisurely breakfast, then we'll hit up a local soft play centre (as blogged about a number of times in the past), to be followed by lunch, some homework and general housework, tea, and then relaxing in the evening with a couple of beers.

Today, however, I decided that it would be different.

Today - we did culture!

After breakfast we went and picked up a parcel from the Royal Mail sorting office (which turned out to be an Assassins Creed style hoodie that's too small), and then we went in one of the local museums.  I haven't visited any of the local museums for years, and I forgot just how good they are, it's astounding really that you can go in all these places for free.  We ventured into a rail line signal box, briefly sat on a train carriage (slightly worryingly my son went off to sit with another father and son, but he didn't ask them to call the police or anything so that's okay), watched an old TV show and looked at lots of antique cars and hansom cabs and things.

Afterwards I got told the story of the three little pigs, and later on cooked some peppers stuffed with rice, cheese, steak, mushrooms, and onions.

Tomorrow, god willing, it'll be catching up on homework, that said I am attempting to ward off a chest infection through the use of beer, and early indications are that it isn't proving 100% effective.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Google is trying to help

Working on a story, I wanted to find a good location accessible across the world, and so turned to Google.

Got halfway through typing "easiest place in the world to get to" when Google leapt into life suggesting what I wanted.

Thanks Google - but not this time...

In other news, here's a video of me attempting to drink three beers infused with chilli, while playing FIFA 16, with some Baileys as a backup if it just got too bad. Don't worry, it's heavily edited!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Soft Play

There is a certain incongruity when it comes to soft play centres. They are inevitably located on an industrial estate, housed within a corrugated metal shed which is typically between R J Gubbit & Sons aluminium widget manufacturing, and a waste disposal site specialising in storage of some sort of harmful substance (anthrax perhaps).

After paying to get inside (the price is dependent on the number of people entering, including adults, even though I have no intention of doing anything more energetic than unlocking my phone), you then suffer the price of refreshments. Entry, two wedges of additive-loaded cake, a fruit shoot, a ham sandwich that must have cost all of five pence to make, and a bottle of chilled water that never materialised cost a touch off seventeen pounds. After spending so much I needed a sit down. And of course a slice of cake, coloured like something you might observe in a nuclear power facility.

And yet, the sit down didn't last. The theory about these places is fine - they should be a safe, confined area for your little ones to run around and play, whilst exercising their hand-eye coordination and social skills while you get a few minutes of peace and quiet to de-stress and ruminate on everyday life (or kick the ass of "ClanChowder79" on Clash of Clans)

But that doesn't last. Unless you're fortunate enough to have the entire soft play centre to yourself (and my offspring is strangely reluctant to go at 11pm), you find yourself constantly concerned with:
A) Is any little b*******s hitting my kid, or;
B) Has my little darling found the understandable need to beat the hell out of another child (perhaps because they've got a plastic ball of a certain colour that your child needs to have - NO, NOT THE ORANGE ONE DADDY, THE PURPLE ONE!!!)

But the difference between soft play and a park is that in a park, you can actually reach the children. If your child needs adult intervention then in a park you grab them, remove them from whatever swing or slide or bouncy thing they are on, and sort things out.

In soft play however they are contained within some sort of mesh curtain, and the only way to get to them is to wriggle your way round the brightly coloured assault course that is designed for children (and so is far too small for you). The result of this is that you are not going to catch them, no matter how many slides you go down or ball pools you swim through.

Soft play is usually broken down into several sections for different ages, and rest assured that your child won't be in the one they should be - either they want to go on the biggest slide (until they get to the top and begin to cry, forcing you to tackle the route through the foam maze to rescue them), or they're in the section reserved for babies, because it makes a lot more sense to throw plastic balls at babies - after all, they can't fight back.

When you've finally, after about seven minutes, been through the Soft play area for a fifth time to pick your little darling up, you may be ready to go home.

Some people say rocket science or brain surgery are tricky - no, I think you'll find that catching a child in a soft play centre that doesn't want to be caught is the hardest task in the world.

Not only do you have to catch your child, a little human who has spent their entire life learning how to slip from your grasp, and is in an environment which makes you feel as though you're a Gulliver in a particularly strange jungle constructed from plastic and foam. Should the amazing actually happen and you do actually manage to get them you then need to get their shoes and coat on while holding them in a grip of iron to stop them escaping.

Meanwhile of course you are putting on a smiley face and a cheerful tone of voice so you seem like a cool parent who thinks its fun to get poked in the eye by a child being removed from a place where they can run, shout, jump, hit other children, and cry, without recrimination.

Still, at least it's not the supermarket.

I am apparently beginning a tradition of once a year, in January, blogging about soft play centres. Why not check out last years post?

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Laugh and be Disappointed

Have you ever wanted to laugh, and then feel disappointed in yourself?

Apparently this video makes you do that - it's a Dirty Dancing pun.  I'm not sure if there's a big demand of people wanting to feel disappointed in themselves, but here it is.  It's had quite a few views (for a video of mine at any rate)

Another video is on its way, detailing my struggles with a set of chilli infused beers...

Also, I got a tweet the other day about one of my travelling books - the book, last seen below:

This would be the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland

The book in question (#tbook10, aka the tenth travelling book) has been picked up in Dublin and is on its way to Amsterdam.  I do love to hear about the books and that they're still moving, my fear is that all of the books are lost or just sat on a bookshelf somewhere, and none of them are going to make their way home - hearing about them gives me a bit of hope that maybe they are still going around, I'm just not seeing them on the Internet :)
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