Archive for December, 2003

2003 Best Things Ever Awards

Tuesday, December 30th, 2003

Some things are good. Some things are great. And some things are The Best
Thing Ever
. So therefore, we at Not A Blog present the 2003 Best Things
Ever Awards
.

First of all, Windsurfing. I first tried windsurfing about nine years
ago, on Kielder Water, Northumberland. It was bloody freezing, and I lasted
about 15 minutes before I gave up and went back to the relative warmth and
comfort of my Laser dinghy for the next seven or eight years. And then, a couple
of years back, I found myself in Spain, on a sailing and windsurfing holiday. As
I didn’t really want to learn racing technique for sailing, and the intermediate
group looked like a waste of time, I figured I’d give windsurfing another go. I
was hooked, instantly. And then forgot about it straight afterwards. This year,
we went again, but I decided that I’d better get my hand back in before I went
out to Spain, so started going out on the water every week to practise. The bug
bit again, harder than ever, and after coming back from Spain, having been
hooked in, planing and in the footstraps nearly every day for a week, I’d
already made the decision in my mind to get myself a board and to go regularly
in England. So, I bought the board, used it twice, and then winter hit and it
became far too cold for me to realistically use it with my 3:2 wetsuit. So,
it’s sitting in the garage, waiting for water temperatures to rise above zero,
so I can wave goodbye to all my spare time once again. Windsurfing: Best
Thing Ever
.

Next, Photography. I suck at drawing. Completely. My total artistic
repertoire consists of a hamster, an elephant and a dubious spider/fly thing
with big googly eyes. In fact, they all have big googly eyes. I’ve never been
able to get what I see in my head down on paper adequately – and therefore I
find photography immensely satisfying, because it means I totally skip the
needing to hold a pencil bit and just get the picture straight onto the paper.
I’ve just invested in a slide scanner and photo printer so I’ll be dispensing
with that whole expensive business of getting prints and doing it all myself
(except for the processing – C41 is a pain, although I’d like to have a go at
black and white). So, you can look forwards to the href="http://www.parm.net/gallery/">gallery expanding even further over the
coming months. Hooray for that. Photography: Best Thing Ever.

Third in this year’s awards, My Laptop. Frankly, the ability to carry
around 2Ghz worth of computing power, a DVD player, a full music studio,
several hundred CDs photo editing suite, software development environment, a
huge quantity of games, and all the rest, in a little box slightly larger than
a ream of A4 paper is a bloody marvel. I’ve had a laptop before, but it was
purposely a few generations old, so it was cheap; plus, I’d run Linux on it, as
the only reason I’d bought it was so I could work on my M.Phil whilst I was on
holiday. This time, though, I decided to bite the bullet and buy what
effectively amounted to a replacement for my desktop machine; spend some proper
money on it and get something good. And it’s brilliant. It might have
been more money than I could reasonably have afforded, but it’s Changed My Life
and I love it. Laptops: Best Thing Ever.

Following on from the previous entry, the Nokia 7650 is a joy and
marvel to behold. It’s a phone! It’s a PDA! It organises me! It plays Repton!
It runs Opera, for goodness’ sake!
As much power as I had on my desktop not 5 years ago, I now carry around in
my pocket and use every day. Magical. Smartphones: Best Thing Ever.

Loathe as I am to admit it, but blogging is ace. Even though most of
what I write is pure, unadulterated shite, people still read it. And,
there are loads of other interesting people out there to read about, too. And
you can meet up with them and drink beer in FAB Cafe and they’ll play with your
beard and wear cool Christmassy t-shirts and everything. So, Blogging: Best
Thing Ever
.

And lastly, my ADSL connection from
Zen Internet
. It’s fast, infinitely more reliable than the dodgy connection
I used to have from NTL, it’s got a static IP, a custom reverse resolve, and
this website is hosted from a machine hanging on the end of it. It’s a touch
more expensive than most ADSL providers, but for the quality and service I’ve
received from Zen (and their great monthly newsletter), I hereby proclaim that
Zen Internet ADSL is the Best Thing Ever.

Loads of other things so nearly qualified – these include the entire output
of Radio 4, Project Gotham Racing 2 on XBox Live, Scotch Single Malt Whisky,
Top Gear, The Darkness, Gary Jules getting to #1, Spirited Away, and loads
more – but there’s only so much room in the Big Box of Best Things Ever. So,
maybe next year.

One last thing – the Worst Thing Ever 2003 Award goes to ECTS
for being, well, boring, shite and frankly a bit of a waste of time. Absolutely
nothing on show that hadn’t been seen 4 months earlier at E3 in the states. And
the free coffee in the developers’ lounge was rank. The best bit of the whole
event was our company bar, in which we got drunk and spilled the beans on our
game to a similarly drunk journalist from Official XBox Magazine, who then
printed our comments in the “rumours” column a month later. ECTS: Worst
Thing Ever
.

And that’s all for this year. During the next 12 months, I shall probably
declare at least a thousand different things as being the Best Thing Ever – but
how many of them will reach the 2004 Best Things Ever awards? Tune in next
December and find out! Aaaand… cue closing titles…

Norfolk

Sunday, December 28th, 2003

And thank goodness for that. Life is slow in Norfolk, and that’s what I’m after at the moment – my aim in coming here was to get a total break from Manchester, city living and the associated stresses of all that, and so far it’s working pretty well. I went to Southwold with my parents today, took 2 rolls of film, had a baked potato for lunch and a very nice pint in one of the many, many Adnams pubs in the town, got quite cold, walked up and down the beach and did nothing even slightly work related. On Friday, I met up with an old friend in the Feathers, the best pub in Wymondham, and we talked about old times, growing up, how Norfolk doesn’t change and how we can’t possibly have been as immature as her younger brother and his friends. Tomorrow, I’m probably going to take a few more photographs, drink a bit more beer, probably do a bit of shopping and chill out some more. Naomi is joining me on Wednesday for a few days before we go back to Manchester. Life, at least temporarily, is good.

It’s come to my attention that I appear to be top referer for several other blogger’s sites. I’m not quite sure why this is. I’ve updated my stats stuff to see if I can work it out (and as a result discovered that my RSS feed is really quite popular). I’ll let you know what the results are after a few days…

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 25th, 2003

“That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior–yes, the Messiah, the Lord–has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others–the armies of heaven–praising God:

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to all whom God favors.’ “

Luke 2:8-14, New Living Translation

And now I’ve totally alienated most of my readers, I’ll wish anyone left a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – God bless y’all :)

Awards

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2003

Having advanced a massive 22 award-years in a single earth-year, the 75th Annual We’re Right Awards are under way over at Penny Arcade. If you’re at all interested in more esoteric gaming and an alternative to the usual mass-market rubbish that clogs up the end-of-year reviews on the more mainstream sites then it’s worth paying attention to – last years awards featured the likes of Dynasty Tactics, Sega Soccer Slam and Rez (if you’ve got a PS2 or Dreamcast, you have, like, no excuse whatsoever for not owning this game; I’m not mucking about here – go and buy it). Anyway, if they’ve got WarioWare all the way down at #11, it should be worth seeing what they reckon beats it this year. Personally, my vote for game of the year goes to either Call of Duty on the PC, for simply being absolutely the best WW2 FPS money can buy, or Final Fantasy Tactics: Advance on the GBA, for wasting more of my time than it strictly warranted, and for being an RPG that actually held my attention for more than an hour.

The game I’ve spent the most time playing this year is Do Don Pachi, but it actually came out in 1996, so it’s not really eligible for “Game of the Year” or anything. But if you’ve got MAME lying around, give it a bash. Yes, it’s a vertically scrolling shoot-’em-up, but it’s, er, not exactly Space Invaders.

Happy thoughts

Sunday, December 21st, 2003

It’s 11pm on a Sunday night – and I don’t have to go to work tomorrow. This is a very, very happy thought indeed.

*sigh* It’s been a good weekend.

Best Music News Ever

Sunday, December 21st, 2003

Mad World. Christmas Number 1. Radio execs – are you paying attention here? Hmmm? The most significant chart placing of the year has gone to a virtually unknown American artist who recorded a cover of a 20-year old song in his basement for the soundtrack of a (relatively) obscure indie-sci-fi-comic-book film. More of this sort of thing, please.

Petrol Woe

Friday, December 19th, 2003

Something indescribably traumatic happened to me on Wednesday. It was so utterly, totally, unmentionably horrific that I can only now begin to bring myself to write about it. And it’s nothing to do with the fact that I’d forgotten about it up until now, honest.

I left my wallet at work.

I’m prepared to concede that this, in itself, isn’t much of a problem. The problem – the horrible, gutwrenching, terrible nub of the entire matter – was that I found out I’d left my wallet at work just after putting 20quids worth of unleaded in the car, at a petrol station 25 miles away from my office.

Imagine: I’m already a bit late for work, so I dash out of the house. Getting in the car I realise that I’m not going to get very far unless I stick a few cracked alkanes in the tank, so I pull into the petrol station just down the road from my house and fill ‘er up. As I’m walking towards the counter to pay, I do the traditional pocket pat-down to locate my wallet, and very quickly ascertain that something is amiss. I walk calmly back to the car, assuming that it must have fallen out of my pocket and would be sat there on the car seat waiting for me. No such luck.

Cue, therefore, much grovelling to the guy behind the counter, to whom I assure that I must have left my wallet at home (at this time, I knew not that it was sitting happily on my desk at work) and if he could just let me go and get it, I would return with payment. He agreed, took my registration number and I tore off to retrieve my wallet.

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that my wallet was not, in fact, at home. A quick phonecall to work confirmed this. Now I was really stuck. Casting around desparately for ideas, I decided that my only option was to drive to work, retrieve my wallet, drive back to the petrol station, pay and then drive back to work again – not ideal, but so far as I could see, the only option.

And then, my saviour arrived in the shape of Shaun, one of the other residents. Just as I was leaving the flat, he emerged to check his post. A flash of inspiration hit – begging time again: “Shaun, this is really embarassing, but I don’t suppose you’ve got twenty quid I could borrow, have you?”. And, hallelujah, he did. I had cunningly shifted the debt from a corporate and potentially criminal one to a personal and much more amiable one. Hurrah, indeed.

So, I paid the man at the petrol station (who I am convinced then overcharged me, but as I can’t remember exactly how much petrol I put in, I can’t rightly argue with him) and sped off to work.

Anyway, it was traumatic. And it very nearly spoiled my enjoyment of Return of the King. But it didn’t, and for that I am very greatful.

(does the word ‘nub’ make anyone else think of nipples?)

Damn

Thursday, December 18th, 2003

Not happy.

Return of the King

Thursday, December 18th, 2003

Yes, I went to see it last night; yes, it’s probably the best fantasy movie ever made; I can’t really say anything here that hasn’t already been said on a thousand other review sites and a million other blogs. Chances are, if you’re even slightly interested in the fantasy genre you’ve already seen it (or have tickets to see it) anyway.

A few other things

The tingling in my foot has spread to my hands, now, and my arms kind of ache and feel heavy. Seeing the doctor on Monday morning, anyway.

I’ve got some photos back from a couple of weekends ago; there’s a few nice ones which I might get round to scanning before I go away, but I’m not promising anything.

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, I’m headed off to visit my parents for a couple of weeks as of Monday. During this time, the machine that hosts Not A Blog will be left unattended; therefore, should it fall over at any point, I’ll not be able to fix it until I get back, probably. Email to flat3.org should be queued on Topper‘s machine should things go tits up.

Um, I think that’s it for now. Oh, yes, there’s a new theme. I think I like this one the best so far.

M6 toll road

Thursday, December 18th, 2003

This is the strangest news story I’ve seen for a while.