December 31, 2007

London-sick

Last week, as I lay in bed, it suddenly overwhelmed me. I finally felt homesick.

Well not homesick exactly. I'm not missing friends and family that much. No what I'm feeling sick over is that I'm not in London. That's the closest I can get to describing the feeling.

Living week by week in Perth is ok. Manageable. Thinking about being here for the next thirty years is horrible though. Living here week by week for thirty years isn't. Does that make sense to you? It doesn't to me. But that's how I feel. or felt, because as long as I think about it in terms of how it affects me month by month, I'm fine.

Elsha lasted a year and a half before she had to go back to Australia for a holiday, and she was going to go with or without me. Me, I can handle it for awhile longer.

But there is more to London than just friends and family. There are places I used to go to for R & R, shops I used to spend money in, pubs I used to drink at, restaurants I used to eat at.

I'm going to fight for a trip back to London, because I don't know when we'll get the opportunity again.

December 26, 2007

Festive Cheer

It's been a while (again) since I posted, but thats generally because of various Work issues that have me tied up [not literally] from spending time writing. That is, if I appear to be typing an essay out, my bosses will want to read it. Thus, I have taken a much needed rest from blogging, collected my thoughts and spent many a day reading other people's.

One thing I have noticed about myself is that the older I get, the more cynical I become. It's not hard for me generally because in my present circumstances I see things around me every day going on that leave me astonished and a little outraged.

For example, yet again, another Christmas has come and gone. What did I see? Plump shoppers scurrying around spending their money on comparitively useless presents in an attempt to curry favour with friends and relatives. I can say all that because I fit into that category too.

Caught up with the Christmas (dare I say Capital-mas) festivities, I spent many a penny on things I thought Elsha would like. I wasn't far wrong with them either.

Christmas is just an odd time, a festival that appears to have nothing going for it but buying things for other people and watching them unwrap it. If you don't do that, the only thing that you can do over Christmas (at least in the UK) is watch TV. There are loads of good telly stuff on, and one of the best things you can do is sit down with the Christmas Edition of the Radio Times and circle all the things you want to watch.

Alas, this is something that doesn't exist in Perth, West Australia. And the problem with this, is that its summer over here. The peak of summer, no less. So when your UK-bred brain tells you that you should be stuffing your mouth full of mince pies and chocs, and watching tv films, in reality its nearly 40 degrees centigrade and there's nothing on because everyone is out at the beach, or having a bbq.

On the other hand, I'm not about to give back any of my presents as I got quite a haul.
Here they are in no uncertain order:


1. Wallet

A new wallet is always handy every so often, as your old one gets worn down by the amount of shrapnel you carry around with you.

2. Battlestar Galactica: Seasons 1-3 + Mini-series

A particularly good pressie as now Elsha can join in with me and watch BG. Although we will have to go back to the beginning again.

3. NCIS: Season 3

Mmm, I like NCIS. In fact, I like all the Detective Shows. Except Quincy.

4 & 5. Long Way Around & Long Way Down

A few years back, Ewan Mcgregor and Charley Boorman (of Excalibur fame) decided to travel from London to New York. Via Alaska. And Russia. Yup, the long way around. Then, a few years later, they decided to travel fom the north of Scotland to the tip of Southern Africa. Via Europe.
Madness, but it makes for fun watching, those two.

6. $20 EB Voucher

Never a bad thing, this means I can buy something in the New Year sales. What, I wonder?

7. Dungeon Siege 2

Something I wanted.

8. Gothic 3

Something I didn't ask for but got anyway. Kudos.

9. Bottle of Red Wine

Just because sometimes its good to try something different.

December 04, 2007

Haul

With yet another birthday, I have received a modest haul of presents.

Elsha decided that my whinging about having to play World of Warcraft with my measly poxy headphones would be better resolved with some "proper" headphones. With that in mind, she purchased me some travelling headphones.

They have the benefit of being able to be packed away and come with a variety of leads (one of which allows for an extension in lead) and also a variety of connectors, including one that plugs into the armrests on Aeroplanes.

Excellent. Trying them out battling with the guild in Gruul's Lair proves a Thumbs Up experience.

The Brother-In-Law (to be) and his wife bought me a computer game - Loki.

I've never heard of it but it sounds intriguing. A clone of Diablo 2, it's a hack and slash roleplaying game that features four different environments and heroes, with a similar plot to kill some dangerous evil.

The Stepmother-In-Law bought me a game I've been wanting to try out for awhile - Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords.

So all in all, a sack of good birthday pressies.

December 03, 2007

Annoying Ad

As always, I have been reading other people's blogs and spending far too little in my own. With work also taking a life of its own and dominiting most of my time in the office (how dare it!), even though I have lots to think about, I have little time and energy to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard.

However, I thought I would talk about something that has been bothering me for a long time - an advert in Australia.

It's done so badly that I don't even know the name of the product or brand but I can recall every single nuance of the ad. It is, of course, the pad ad.

It starts off with a thin blonde woman and a man lounging on a bed. He is dressed and ready to go, she is still in her bra and knickers. She spends one scene desperately trying to pull on a pair of black jeans that are obviously a few sizes too small. Then, after this, she struggles into a jumper that again is too small for her. He makes a gesture to indicate exasperation and falls back onto the bed whilst she goes into the bathroom.

We are then treated to her high screeching voice:

"Hey Niiiiick! Can you get me a pad?"

Nick gets up, trots over to the chest of drawers and takes two out. Being a man he is, of course, completely unsure of which one she is referring to. He moves to the bathroom and says:

"Which one?"

She then immediately points to the left one:

"These. You see how they're shaped to fit. You wouldn't want me to be uncomfortable would you?"

With that, she retreats into the bathroom and he looks confused and perhaps a little astonished by the turn of events.

Now, I have no idea what the name of the product or brand is so technically the advert fails. I really don't care because I am too bothered by the ad to notice product-placing (and probably hindered because I am not a target market as I'm male).

Nick and the woman are obviously seeing each other because he knows where her pads are. But this is not the sort of thing you tell to just anyone, so obviously they are living together. But not seriously or long enough to know what pad she uses. The other point is that she meets him at the bathroom door, blocking his entrance. Co-habiting but not long or serious enough to let him just walk in.

And there's the confusion over why she has 2 sets of pads in her drawer, one of which she doesn't use because its not comfortable. Would you keep something like that?

I'm even more confused as to why she just didn't pick up the pad on the way to the bathroom which is right next to the chest of drawers - except of course its a way for the ad to demonstrate how stupid men are (I will be posting about this later, never fear).

My big gripe is that not only after this do I have no clue as to the name of the product or even the brand, no one else I've spoken to does either. And yet everyone in West Australia knows about this ad and everyone is equally and clearly stupified about it.

November 11, 2007

In Remembrance

Remembrance Sunday

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— John McCrae

October 30, 2007

Pet Peeves Post #2: Shopping

Shopping is another one of my pet peeves. In fact, it probably rates very highly on my list of peeves. Why, I'm not entirely sure. Maybe it has something to do with the huge proportions of SHEEP/ZOMBIES that are out and about "shopping" at the same time as me. You know, the people that walk straight into you with their trolleys. or their prams or trikes. And then get annoyed that you haven't moved out of the way. Have you ever gone shopping and decided to not move out of the way of people? You end up having people walk into you because they thought you would move. Why exactly you should move instead of them is a big mystery. Even worse, and this touches slightly on the Slow Walkers post I made earlier, are people who walk side by side. In three's. Might I suggest that if you are out with you friends you walk in a triangle formation. Because walking side by side makes it hard for OTHER people to walk on the same pavement as you.

Or perhaps the reason Shopping is a peeve is because of the crappy customer service. For a long time now, I have worked in customer service, and at one point, it was on a shop floor. I've had people shout at me, people roll their eyes at me, all manner of things, so I understand that customer service is probably very hard to get right and fairly unrewarding. At the same time though that is what staff in shops are paid to do. Not talk to their work buddies or chit chat with friends pretending to be customers. I know it's boring and quite horrible, but please don't start talking about Big Brother when you should be serving.

Shops and shopping is about spending money. You have money, they have products. You need to use money to get products. They need to convince you to hand over money, you need to convince yourself not to. This is why generally when I go into a shop, I know what I am going to buy. When I walk into a clothing shop, I think to myself - "Aha! What I want is a shirt. Or 2 Shirts. I don't want trousers. Or socks. Or a hat. or anything else."

Very rarely, I won't know what it is I want and I will wander into a shop. This is how I found Knights of Dark Renown by David Gemmell. Or Johnathon Strange & Mr Norris by Susannah Clarke. It's not a coincidence both of those are books; I love perusing, meandering in and out of aisles', my head tilted to the left or right. But only in bookshops. Or perhaps when I am looking for a particular DVD. I don't peruse much when I am looking for a shirt.

The other problem, which thankfully doesn't happen in Perth, is that of heating. Shops in the UK keep their heating on, it seems, all year round. I'm not entirely sure why this is. Having heating on in Pubs is something I understand (because you get hot and you want something to drink) but not entirely sure why this should be the same in a shop. Perth has air conditioned shops in which you hide in because outside it is too hot. Going outside is a major issue, so you stay in the shop. And peruse, and possibly buy something. Having heating on in a shop in Winter is pretty good, but not when it's summer outside (although in the UK, summer tends to only last for about 2 weeks).

I find shopping tedious. I don't particularly want to spend my off-days trawling through shops buying things that I might not really need. Internet shopping, on the other hand, is a wonderful thing, although you do need to know what you want before you start shopping online. It's no use thinking "I want something, but I'm not sure what. Let me ask
Amazon or Tesco" because you're going to spend a long time searching the sites. And you would probably have a better idea if you were there in person, perusing.

Perth, unfortunately, does not have Online Shopping. Well, it does and it doesn't. All the big stores are represented online by websites but their products are not listed individually. Instead their 'catalogues' are scanned and displayed online. Here in Perth (not sure about the rest of Oz), the stores print out fortnightly specials and have them posted through your letterbox, the intention that you will sit at your table reading them and finding out which shops sell what stuff cheaply, so you will go there and buy them at that store. And quite possibly buy other things whilst you are there because you can't be arsed to go to another store and buy their cheap stuff.

October 28, 2007

One Year On

For want of a better date, today marks the anniversary of my leaving my old job in London and setting out on the adventure that would lead me to holiday in Singapore, settle down in Perth, West Australia, get a contracting job, leave that contracting job for a permanent job in Software Testing, leave that job back for the contracting job and then leave that job for another permanent job.

Many things have changed since that fateful day a year ago when I was presented with items and given a speech on how I'm a gamer (read "loser"), whilst others have stayed relatively the same.

I'm still in the same industry, at pretty much the same level I was 7 years ago (although it can be argued that I am a much more senior person through sheer experience). I'm still having to deal with shoddy management and, of course, working for a government post means I get to fulfill that role on a daily basis.

All in all, my quality of life has markedly improved. London is a cold, grey, dingy landscape with very little good things to say about it. Perth may be a small blip on the West coast of Australia but it happens to be a warm green land with white shores.

October 24, 2007

Whistleblowing

One thing I do like to do when I have some free time is to read other people's blogs. I like reading the casual ones about cats or people named after cats, but I also like to especially peruse the ones where people involved in an industry are dishing the dirt about their work ethics and conditions.

Like the Police.

I have read this blog now for a few weeks and I'm simply amazed, nay gobsmacked, as to what is happening now in England. I mean, really! Suicide Bombers being renamed to Personnel Borne Explosive Devices, so that suiciders won't feel they're being victimized.

"All of this has made me seriously consider whether I’m wasting my time in the police (I didn’t actually start this post with a rant in mind - it just happened). The vast majority of my time is spent dealing with shite, to nobody’s benefit whatsoever. You only have to read the myriad of police blogs to understand why we all get frustrated by the system, and to see why when you call the police you get such a slow response (there are enough police officers in the country - many more than half are sat on their arses in day jobs ticking boxes and sending snot-o-grams to the rest of us).

I joined the police for the clich├ęd appeal of trying to make a difference, to better society by making a stand against those I see around me who take liberties at the expense of decent folk. I earn much less money than I did previously, work longer hours (completely unsociable ones at that), I’m tired most of the time, I hardly spend any time with the future Mrs AC and I’m stating to ask myself “why?” All I seem to do is race around from one drunken unwashed fool to another. The names and faces are different at each job (within reason given our prevalence of regular callers) but the circumstances are always the same. The outcome always makes me think I’ve wasted my time in one way or another. Be it arresting someone and doing 6 hours of work on the case for the CPS to declare that due to there being no independent 3rd party witness, or CCTV coverage, that they aren’t prepared to take the case to trial. Or getting a case to trial, with the Brucie Bonus of a conviction, for the burglar (of multiple dwellings) to be given a 9 month supervision order (this happened to me recently and to coin a phrase I was “as cross as f**k”). I could list things like this until I am even bluer in the face than I am now, but I shall relent."

His words, not mine.

In fact, West Australia is now employing more and more emigrated police than ever before, and more and more people are taking up the offer.

October 23, 2007

A Night in the Life of a Level 70 Druid

On Monday nights you will normally find me at my computer playing World of Warcraft, generally on my level 5x Hunter attempting to get him up to level 60 and into Outlands where all the money is. Last night though I decided to waive that and try and do an instance with my main character, my level 70 Druid. Instances are the other name for dungeons.

In this case, I wanted to do one of the dungeons in Terokkar Forest. Since I have never ever done Mana Tombs, I decided to put myself down as LFG - Looking For Group.

The first group I get are a Warrior, a Mage and 2 Druids (one a healer, the other a dps feral), all lower level than me. This puts me into a different category. The dungeon is levelled at around 65 whereas I am level 70. So this gives me some ability to shrug off the damage I'm getting. Not much, because even though I'm 5 levels above, 2 or 3 monsters of 5 levels lower will be able to beat the living daylights out of me.

I ask the team, "What Role should I play? Healer, DPS Cat or Tank Bear?"

The Warrior pipes up with "Duh! We have a Tank, me! Play a Healer."

The Druid DPS comments "Duh! We have a DPS, me! Play a Healer."

The Mage shrugs and picks his nose.

The Druid Healer hugs me and says "Yay! Please help me!" In private he messages me with a "I'm so glad you're here."

The reasons behind this is that the Warrior and the DPS Druid have no idea how to play their classes and lack even basic knowledge of what to do to in a Dungeon (Don't wander around because it will aggro monsters. Don't think that you can dodge attacks, you will only make it harder for your team mates to help you. Don't shout at the Healer when he doesn't heal you, he's avoiding Threat so he doesn't die when you wipe from your stupidity).

After over aggroing the healer, Tank and DPS, I decide to switch my role to a Bear Tank.

Druids have the amazing ability to play a variety of classes - Bear Tank, Cat DPS, Tree Healer, Moonkin-Mage. The last two are specifical specifications which mean that if you choose either of them, you can only play in a very limited way with the others. But that's not to say that you can't play as anything else at all. I am a DPS Druid, meaning I excel when in Cat Form. I'm good in Bear Tank form, and only less than average as a healer or mage.

Anyway, I'm now Bear Tank. This now makes things interesting because I'm out aggroing the Warrior, and requiring less healing. He decides to quit, taking with him the mage, leaving us with holes in our group. After a few minutes, we get another level 70, this time a Warlock and a Hunter. Both classes use Pets, so this allows us to crowd control a bit more. But it would be better having a dedicated healer and a Mage, for the DPS. However, spending time looking for these classes will take longer than we have, therefore we make use of what we have and plan accordingly.

So we get back into the game. 40 minutes later we confront and take down the 2nd Boss monster. Hurray. Suddenly the Druid Healer decides to scarper (Sorry I have work to go to). So we replace with a Priest. Another 30 minutes later and we take down the 3rd and final Boss, in a battle that kills everyone.

2 and a half hours after I've started, I trudge off to sleep, Mana Tombs vanquished. At the back of my mind is the fact that if I had gone with my guild, we could have raced through in half the time with minimum casualties. General players don't know how to play their classes.

The Warrior was not taunting. The DPS Druid was not watching where he was going, and he didn't know what Innervate was. The Healer Druid did not heal entirely well but he was trying, so he can be forgiven. The Hunter didn't know how to leash his pet, which continuously aggroed as it raced to keep up with its master.

All in all, it was a fun night, but one that needn't have gone on for so long.

October 20, 2007

Hellgate: London Demo

The Hellgate: London demo has just been released by Flagship.

You can download a 1.45gb copy for free on the link above. The demo only lasts for 4 levels but you get to know your way around the game and the quests, and whether or not you'll buy it.

Hellgate has had mixed reactions so far. It's been compared to the Diablo franchise as its made by the creators of that game, but it's much more action-orientated.

There are 2 ways of playing the game, offline and online. If you want to play offline, you just buy the game and play solo content, if you want to play online, you have to subscribe. It's a bit like Phantasy Star Online was, but since I'm already tossing up between City of Heroes and World of Warcraft, I'm not sure I want a 3rd online game to occupy my time.

October 18, 2007

Pet Peeves: Slow Walkers

This is a post about one of my pet peeves. I have more than one but I'm not going to list them in any order or prioritize them because, quite frankly, they all annoy me in the same way. Please keep in mind though that Pet Peeves are not on the same order as Genocidal Wars. I'm quite aware that a lot of this happens as normal human behaviour and, whilst I am normally irate with them, I don't do things like attack people or call the police...

First on the list is: Slow Walkers.

Now, I am myself a fairly fast walker. I don't power walk but at the same time, I don't canter along. When I'm going somewhere or shopping, I pretty much know what I want and where to get it so I walk from A -> B in the full knowledge that if I take my time, it will only slow things down. So I WALK.

This basic knowledge seems to have left most people's minds; that if they walk at a reasonable pace they will get to their destination fairly quickly. You may be able to not use your legs much in a car but when walking, you have to use them. On the other hand, I can easily understand people who want to take their time. I take my time too, sometimes. Like, when I'm walking around a museum. Or in a cafe or restaurant. Or even at the gym.

Shopping? No. Shopping should not involve slow walking. Shops are there to strip you of your money, that is why you will never find down escalators pointed at the door. They want you in and shopping, with no clear avenue of escape. When I go into a shop, I have a fairly good idea of what I want and then I buy it. Then I escape. Quickly.

But I don't want to stray into another Pet Peeve, so I'll stay clear of Shopping for the time being.
So, imagine. You are walking quickly to the train station. You know that train may come early. Unfortunately the sheep and lemming population are all walking at the same monotone speed towards the train station, so you have to resort to weaving in and out of the crowd to get past them. When you say "Excuse me..." what you really mean is "FFS, get out of the way you zombies!" (I will let you ponder on what FFS stands for).


And if you think it's just me, had a read of this piece of old hat.

I honestly don't mind if you want to window shop. Or Chat to someone on your mobile. Or if you're walking the dog.

But either move closer to the buildings or closer to the road. Don't stand in the middle like a lost child. if it's good enough for driving in a car it should bloody well be good enough for pedestrians.

October 16, 2007

Stereotyping?

Whilst out shopping a few nights ago, Elsha was perusing baby clothes as we are now (again) Uncle and Aunty once more. I, of course, spent my time wisely checking out dvds and eventually came across a small copy of "Wild Palms" by Oliver Stone. I had the videos when they appeared on BBC 2 years ago (1990?) but threw them out when we moved to Australia. As it was quite a cheap price, it seemed good value for money, even if I never get around to watching it; I still have Team America, Forbidden Planet and Hitchcock's Rear Window to watch first.

Anyway, back to the baby shopping. Standing in front of a whole set of clothing, it occured to me - why are boy's clothes blue and girl clothes pink?

According to various websites, the blue used is actually quite a dainty, and not a strong vivid, colour therefore it's much more suited to girls. Pink, on the other hand, is a watered down red, and therefore much more standout-ish. This was very much the case before the 1950's. Boys were dressed in strong pink, girls clothed in dainty light blue.
Interestingly enough, whilst the rest of the Western world have adopted the boys = blue and girls = pink colouring, the Belgians have remained the same; that is, they are in reverse.

There are various theories posted on the interent about why this is - dyes in china being rarer for boys, an evolutionary preference for specific colours or just "because its always been that way"...

...if you have an answer, please let me know :)

October 10, 2007

Creating Chaos

This week, Transperth are adding a brand new line to the Perth Rail network, linking Mandurah, Rockingham and Kwinana, amongst other places to Fremantle, Clarkson, Armadale and Midland. As the city grows, it's probably a requirement that the rail infrastructure grows as well, to allow more and more people access for business and tourism.


This planning has been going on for well over a year, so it was already in motion when we arrived last November. The modifications that are happening this week have been carefully thought out over a period of no less than 3 months. In order to connect the new line to the network, the Clarkson line has to be disconnected from the Perth station. Theoretically, passengers on the Clarkson line should have to travel in to Glendalough where they can catch a bus the remaining way or continue to Leederville where they can walk for 25 minutes into the city.

Unfortunately, it appears that there was no organisation regarding the actual workaround for the passengers. On Monday, Elsha and I decided to get to the station for 5.40 and catch the earlier train so we would miss the deluge of passengers not knowing where to go. Imagine our frustration when the train we were on stops halfway between stations for an hour and a half.

That's right, not 10, 20 or 30 minutes but 90 minutes without a good explanation. Then, we manage to get to the next station where we can catch a bus to Perth City. Imagine more frustration when we get to the bus platform and discover that not only do the regular bus drivers not know where the rail replacement buses are but that there are no Transperth staff available.

Within 5 minutes, though, staff do make an appearance but confusion continues to reign. Do we "tag on" or not? Some people do, some don't. The Smart Rider system that was introduced in order to stop payment fraud unfortunately doesn't seem to work well, so with lots of people trying to get onto buses, the system began to throw out errors. "Don't worry about tagging on, just get on the buses!", we are shouted at by the Transperth Staff. We didn't "tag on" but what about those people that did?

So we left Joondalup at 5.40am and got to Perth city at 7.30am. That's normally a 30 minute journey.

The unmitigated disaster was quite obviously reported in the News that evening. It was made abundantly clear that the Transperth staff neither had any information as to what was happening nor was being organised in any way to handle queries, questions and issues. Or perhaps no one had forseen that the rail network would be crippled by signal failures that would bottleneck passengers onto buses on an already congested motorway system.

But they should have.

Passengers on other lines have retaliated to those stuck in the choas by stating that this will only be for a week and that the connection to Mandurah has to happen.

I'm not denying that, but is it too much to ask for organisation, sound business planning and keeping your customers satisfied?

October 09, 2007

A Memory of Light

I only found out about this now...

"Robert Jordan was the pen name of James Oliver Rigney, Jr., under which he was best known as the author of the bestselling The Wheel of Time series. He also wrote under the name Reagan O'Neal. He died September 16th, 2007
from complications due to cardiac amyloidosis."

October 05, 2007

Definitely a Pro

Yesterday I woke up bleary eyed and absolutely tired. Dragging myself out of bed, I made a coffee (which I then forgot about and only discovered when I came home), showered, dressed and walked out of the door.

So far, the above would be typically the same morning in London.

But, imagine my surprise when I feel the heat of the sun on my face. I look up, momentarily dazzled by the brightness of the sun and turn eyes even further upwards to see nothing but blue, blue sky. Not the deep blue of summer but the pale light blue of spring.

For the rest of my day, I felt energised and stress-free.

When friends ask me if I'm home sick, I should make them read this post.

October 02, 2007

Switching

I know I haven't posted in some time, that's mainly because I've switched jobs.

Previously I was working for the Government via an employment agency as a full time contractor. Now I'm working for the Government via an Outsourcing firm as a full time permanent member of staff; I'm not working for the same client, by the way. Different methods of employment, different government departments.

So equally, different procedures for everything. My first post had little in the way of procedure and a lot in getting staff out to resolve computer issues. My second and current post has a lot in the way of procedure and very little to do with getting out of the office. In terms of workload, I have moved from high to low, from 10 jobs a day to around 3 jobs a day, if that.

Unfortunately, this new role also requires a lot of knowledge regarding paperwork. I don't think I've ever worked in an environment where so much paperwork is required so that so little can be done. This has all been a rush to the head so I haven't quite been able to pen my thoughts. Instead I've taken to reading other people's blogs.

September 04, 2007

Play Time (continued...)

Ok, so I finally succumbed to temptation and went and bought City of Heroes.

I then spent a frantic 2 days over the weekend realising that the same pitfalls that are inherant in any MMO is in CoH - that is, you need friends to play with to make it come alive.

In World of Warcraft, it was Horse (and to a lesser extent Scythe and Kitten) who was there to group with, and much later our guildmates of Swords of Justice.

But in CoH, there is no one about (well, so far at least. Hopefully, I'll be looking to join up with some Australian buddies).

So, if you're interested in giving it a go, don't be shy. Just send me an email and I'll drop you a trial cd-key and we can meet up on the Justice Server. Of course, you'll have to download the client.

August 29, 2007

Play Time

Now that I finally have my new budget-ranged computer, I find that I'm in a bit of a slump as to which computer games to play.

World of Warcraft really offers me very little, and I'll explain why. At the moment, I'm still signed up to the European servers but, because I'm 6 hours ahead, I rarely get to meet with the players I used to hang out with. As I'm in a guild, I do get to meet up with other players, but generally there is very little comraderie between them and myself. I say hi, they say hi, we go do different things, etc.

The other real issue is that most of my guildmates have moved onto daily raiding. Karazhan (yes, that guild breaker) requires that players spend a lot of time in the dungeon to clear it out - this requires at least 4 days out of every 7 raiding there. Since I can barely spend 2 days online, I just don't have the ability to go there. Ever.

So, in order to inject a bit of fun, I decided to give Knights of the Old Republic a go. KOTOR is a Star Wars game, set about 4000 years before the films. It was great fun. Hand a man a lightsaber and he turns into a whimpering kid. Hand him a double-bladed lightsaber and he turns into an even bigger whimpering kid. In the game, you get to choose whether or not you want to be a Jedi or a Sith, based on your actions and the consequences of those actions. It only took me 2 weeks but I plowed through it.

The current game I'm playing is Fable: The Lost Chapters. Essentially a roleplaying game, the choices (and thus like KOTOR the consquences) you make effectively determine your appearance. If you play like a baddie, you look like a baddie. If you get a scar during a fight, you keep that scar for that character. Scars and tattoos accumulate during a character's lifetime thereby demonstrating how your life has been led.

It all looks good so far with some interesting gameplay but one thing I did not realise was that combat was in real time. KOTOR's combat was real time too but you could pause the combat and plan out your choices.

I'm not that particularly fond of real time combat, especially in fantasy settings where you have to block, roll or swing a sword but so far it looks fairly easy. And of course you have the easy options of using archery (move the crosshairs over the target whilst drawing the arrow back) or magic.

But I'm still hankering for some MMO action. And the only game that keeps me interested is City of Heroes. Now, I know I've posted before about COH, and that the Customer Support was fairly bad, but damn it, it still looks like a cool game.

August 10, 2007

P-P-P-P-Potter!

EDIT: I suppose I should start by mentioning that if you're reading the book, this review does entail a few shadowy spoilers. So, if you want to remain completely in the dark, I would suggest skipping over this.



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Sometime in December 2000, Elsha's brother bought me Harry Potter Books 1-3 as a present. I'm not entirely sure if it was a Birthday or Christmas present seeing as how for me both are within weeks of each other but that's how I was introduced to the Potter Epic-dom.

Elsha was originally indifferent about the books - she doesn't much like fantasy stories about male protagonists - but after I read some of it to her, she warmed to it very quickly.

So, I read Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone in around a few hours. I liked how the story flowed, and how it didn't take itself very much seriously. I was aware, of course, that the book was aimed at an audience of 11 year olds but that didn't really enter into it for me. I have always been fond of books aimed at the Children's/Young Adult market - Susan Cooper's "The Dark Grey Rising" and Alan Garner's "Elidor" are a good example.

Books, 2 and 3 soon followed and, like most other people, I was hooked on the stories. Book 4 was huge, by comparison, to the other books being nearly as large as the other 3 combined, but since then, the later books have been nearly as large.

Unfortunately, Book 5 - Order of the Phoenix - was a complete disaster. It was billed as the book where Harry "becomes a teenage rebel". Sorry, I must have missed that phase; I didn't realise being a rebel meant antagonizing practically everyone around you. If I was in the book, I would have probably belted Harry Potter for being a nob.

But Book 6 - The Half-Blood Prince - revitalised the story again with some nifty work, and of course, set it all up to with a magical and epic ending.

Where did Book 7 - The Deathly Hallows - go wrong then?

Upon reading the book, I spent 200 pages wondering when the story would start. We attended a wedding, which although was wonderfully written, probably had no bearing on the ending. And of course, I spent most of the 200 pages knowing this!

Then, we had a bit where Harry, Hermione and Ron spend time searching for the vital essences of Lord Voldemorte's soul, those extracts contained in the Horcruxes mentioned in book 6 (essentially You-Know-Who hid bits of himself in items scattered throughout wizard-dom in an attempt to become immortal - similar to the way that a D&D Lich hides its mortality in a phylactery). We are warned again that there are 7 of these and that at least 2 have already been destroyed (the ring and the diary) but that 5 more remain.

So we then spend around another 200-300 pages hunting down these items. Along the way people die.

That's about all I can say about the plot, not because it was written badly but because there was just no point in any of the deaths. No, even worse than that, it felt like people were being killed off in the story just because otherwise it would feel odd that the Good Guys won without any losses.

Consider this. In Book 4, Cedric Diggory dies, and there is much made of this death, the first in the series. In Book 5, Sirius Black, Harry's Godfather, dies tragically. In Book 6, Albus Dumbledore dies and there is a chapter dedicated to his funeral.

In Book 7, around 5 people die, in such quick succession that the reader cannot take in that they have died. No, more importantly, their deaths do not further the story in any way. Not mentioning their deaths would have as much impact on the story as what Rowling actually did.
The ending, though, is good. Very good. Your connection to Harry is fulfilled.


But then, we have this terrible, terrible, epilogue, where everything is wrapped up for the reader and all those bad things that have happened seem to have been washed away as if it was all a bad dream.

It seems plenty of people hate the epilogue.

There are other problems with the storyline of Harry Potter, from books 1-7, at least for me.
Initially, the world of Harry Potter depicts Evil as evil and Good as good, with there being no shades of Grey. Slytherin housemates are all as evil as, I wondered why Dumbledore didn't take them out and have them shot. Gryffindor, on the other hand, stand as bastions of virtue. Kids who can do no wrong, or if they do, get rewarded for generally being cheeky to their elders. Hufflepuff seems relegated to being a place for retards and Ravenclaw for those who are wannabe Gryffindors.


Basically, in my eyes, the 4 houses at Hogwarts seem incredibly skewed. From what I understood from the original book, Slytherin should have been a house for those most intelligent, Gryffindor for those with nerve, Hufflepuff for those who are loyal, and Ravenclaw for those who are wise. Now, the houses stand for something completely different. Was that the intention of Rowling?

By Book 7, Rowling tries to show that Good is not necessarily always good. Wizards have been abusing the magical creatures with their notions of racial superiority (the Centaurs and the House Elves, for example) and meanwhile, Dumbledore has had a chequered past. In the same instance, Severus Snape was not necessarily inherently bad, something you deduce when he starts to help Dumbledore by spying on Lord Voldemort.

In conclusion, the story of Harry Potter and his quest to find eternal peace is grand and fitting but Book 7 does not do well to fit into that pattern. Too side-winding in places, Rowling appears to have lost her way in several places. People die for no other purpose but for the reader to realise that death is a terrible thing (a thing we learn much, much earlier in the series). And finally, after a momentous ending befitting the epic, a horrible, cliched epilogue that hints of more books to come.

P.S. Yes, there are more books to come. An encyclopedia on the subject. Why for heaven's sake?

August 07, 2007

Interim measures

In case you're wondering, I haven't posted anything new because I don't have much to say at the moment.

I suppose I could go on to make a post about people who infest shopping centres and who walk around "really slowly". What's with that anyway. You're there to shop, not saunter around like it was a park.

Or, I suppose I could go on to moan about the fact that when it rains in Perth, WA, it really hammers down. English rain is this sort of light fluffy rain that goes on for most of the day and annoys the hell out of you. Australian rain, on the other hand, seems to come down with the force of bricks but usually tires itself out in about 20 minutes.

Work is continuing to drain my life energy so that the days seem to merge into one big monotonous cycle of waking up-work-home-sleep followed by a glorious weekend that ends too quickly.

I am severely procrastinating about several goals that I should have completed by now. Driving: I should have taken my Theory test, if for nothing else but to shut up the droves of people who ask me if I've taken it yet.

No. I haven't. Please. Shut up about it.

I also haven't gotten around to ordering some computer components so I can build myself a budget PC. I'm hoping that writing all this down will force me to get it resolved. Besides, building computers wins out over driving theory tests.

And finally, I AM slowly becoming a little home sick. Not enough to move back, heaven's no. But enough to sit back and think about the fun times spent in Boston Manor or Ealing. The Take Away joints. And, glorious of all watering holes, the Old Goa, a pub that still hasn't been matched by any we've found in our travels.

Gone are the days we'd walk out of work and meet up in the Old Goa, have a few beers, contemplate going home and cooking food before dashing that idea and staying until closing time. Phoning around to see if we couldn't get others to come out and join us for an evening out. These days, the best we can do is get a bottle of wine or two out and just about finish one off sat at home.

Whatever happened to those times?

July 13, 2007

Musicness

Is it freaky or weird not to have much interest in music?

Most bloggers, I have noticed, have a section dedicated to what music they're interested in or which bands they enjoy - alternatively, they have something like SwissToni's "Earworms of the Week".

Me? I barely know the names of the tracks being played let alone have enough for an "Earworms of the Month".

Only two bands particularly shine out for me:

1) Gwen Stefani.

Pretty much whatever she does, I like. I stuck her original album onto an mp3 player and listened to it when going to work and I liked what I heard. Occasionally, she does an annoying track with grating girl-like screeches but that's easily forgiven.

2) Sol Invictus.

A Neofolk/Folk Noir "band", I've had a hankering for them ever since my elder brother introduced me to them back in 1991 - indeed, my avatar piccie is taken from them.

They're not really a band in the main sense; the lead singer, Tony Wakeford, sings and does some percussion work, and there are numerous guest musicians who are invited to join in on the work.

I did once play the music to some Old Ealonians, which was a pretty bad mistake. These two Old Ealonians did not easily understand that Sol Invictus was not about making money but about making music.

"They should get a professional Singer to do the lyrics"

Yes and quite possibly get a professional band to play the music as well, yes?

Anyway, I like them but it's not the sort of thing you can normally bring up in a music conversation/discussion:


"So, what bands do you like?"

"Oh, I like [insert name of band]."

"Hmm, I like [different name of band]"

"Nice one. What about you Crucifer?"

Oh, I like Sol Invictus.

"Mm? Who? Anyway..."

So, back to my original question. Is it freaky or weird not to have much interest in music?

July 06, 2007

Back to the drawing board #2

Right after my last post (on the monday before last), one of my old work colleagues rang me.

"Hey, I heard you were out of work. Do you fancy coming back here? We really need some help and everyone here remembers your work!"

I'm not entirely sure how he managed to find out I was out of work. At that point in time I only told one other guy about my being let go, so I'm guessing it was him. Presumably he told one of his mates where I used to work, and word spread verbally.

The fact that they wanted me back perked me up a lot. I don't think I did that good a job there, swapping enthusiasm for technical skills but it seems they think I did a wonderful job.


So, after informing the guy hiring me that I was really looking for permanent work (better to be honest and open, is my motto), I sent off my details via the recommended contract agency.

30 minutes later and I was hired. The agency rep, who's never met me, had to go through standard agency policy and pull me in for an interview, even though he had the contract signed up and ready to go.

In that interview, he confessed that this was the fastest hire he's ever had. He didn't even know I existed an hour before I rang and an hour later, I'm not only on his books but I'm pulling in a decent amount of pay!

The good news is that everyone here is aware of my current dilemma - I'm still looking for permanent work but doing the contract until I manage to get it sorted. In the meantime, this place gets another contractor who knows the ropes for a bit longer.

June 24, 2007

Back to the drawing board...

I had some bad news on Friday evening. Work related. Yes, I'm sure you can see where this is going.

I was "let go".

My boss cited 2 separate reasons for this reason:

1. "You weren't proactive enough. For a company of our size, you really have to get involved more."

The size of the company was 4 people (including me), consisting of a programmer, the technical director and MD. Quite frankly, there wasn't anything I could be proactive in - I would have had to sabotage things so that I could fix them.

However, there is an element of truth in what he said. I didn't get involved as much as I would have liked, and by the end of 5 weeks, I had become a mind-numbingly bored worker who had absolutely no motivation.

I did have a conversation with him on Thursday morning that sort of went counter to his exit-interview statement though - "I know its frustrating not having any work at the moment, but once it starts to come in, you'll be in the reverse situation. You'll be rushed off your feet."

Now, that doesn't sound to me like I wasn't being proactive. That sounds to me like I had no work and they knew it.

2. "Your technical skills aren't up to scratch. I asked you to produce a document on the product, and what you wrote wasn't up to standard."

The problem here though is that in my interview I told them I didn't have any technical skills apart from server administration and installation. Beyond writing a thesis and this blog, I don't have any technical writing skills to speak of. That was also evident in my interview when they assured me that any required skills I would need, they would train me up on.

As I have come to realise, they could have shown me what standard they had expected and asked me to write more in that format. Asking someone to write up a document in an industry they have no knowledge or experience of is pretty counter-productive unless you offer them some serious help.

This is the first job that I have been unsuccessful in and it really hurts. Could I have done more? Could I have been better? People whom I've worked with have said to me that the chances are, they hired me too early. There was no work for me to do, and they finally realised it would be less expensive to let me go and then in 3 months hire someone else as opposed to paying me for 12 weeks of twiddling my thumbs.

I had a long talk with Elsha about this and the fact that sticks out is that after 5 weeks of no work, they let me go during my probationary period which should only have a day notice. They've given me a week paid and references. That's not something you do for a lazy worker.

But it still hurts.

June 22, 2007

...says it better than me...

Tobold is a blogger I read on a daily basis, and in this case, says it much better than my previous post.

June 21, 2007

Reputation grinding

I said I would blog more but with Work occupying my time recently, I haven't had much of a chance to sink my teeth into a blog post. Seeing as how I've finished my latest exercise though, and now I'm waiting for some feedback, I thought I'd write something new up on Gaming.

I haven't said much about my exploits on World of Warcraft except to skim over them and say that I'm having fun. I'm not sure I *am* still having fun but I continue to plod my way through the game.

Currently, I'm trying to hit Exalted reputation with the Netherwing faction so I can get a Netherdrake to fly around on...

...I suppose some explanation is required, for those reading who have no idea what the hell I'm talking about.

In World of Warcraft, in order to achieve certain items or goals, players have to obtain an amount of reputation by doing quests for certain factions. For example, if you want to go through the Timbermaw Hold from Felwood into Moonglade/Winterspring, you either need to become neutral/friendly with the Timbermaws or run really fast. Since running really isn't an option, you have to do the quests instead, which isn't too bad. The quests themselves are repeatable and can be handed in over and over, each reward amounting to a certain amount of reputation points. Before long, you can get past the Timbermaws and carry your journey on. For those who want more though, you can continue to gain reputation past neutral/friendly/honoured/revered to exalted for special items that will only be purchasable once you gain that reputation rank.

Of course, that example is from the Old World (a term to denote the game before The Burning Crusade expansion arrived). With the Netherdrake, the pre-requisite is to have purchased the epic riding skill, costing 5000g and be mounted, costing another 200g. This pre-requisite is actually hard to achieve although not as difficult as many make out. I spent around 2 weeks of gaming farming materials (oh dear, another explanation?) so I could sell things to make the money to buy the skill and the mount.

Once you have the skill and the mount, you can set off to do the Netherwing quests. Which quite frankly, suck.

There has been a lot of recent murmurings about the issue of World of Warcraft, and it seems finally the bubble has burst. For the first time since the game launched, subscription rates are not going up. In fact, they appear to be slowly dropping.

One of the big issues that has been uttered over and over again is that of The Burning Crusade expansion. It's clearly not doing what it's supposed to be doing - actually driving away the people it was supposed to be retaining.

The expansion was supposed to allow players huge amounts of solo content over a lengthier period of time. This means that players who don't wish to play with other players can go off and do their own thing. If you want to play in dungeons with groups though, the expansion also introduced "instances" where you could meet up. And finally, if you wanted to raid together against huge opposition, you could do that too.

The problem, though, is that the expansion took something away from the original game. For example, the end game that you reach eventually has changed. Instead of gearing up with mates and raiding, you have to handpick your raid mates instead. Essentially, the original game catered for "casual" players, those who weren't essential to your victory but kept your morale up for the 3+ hours that the raid required. Bards, for want of a better word (in the Dungeons & Dragons game, bards were a cross between mages and thieves but didn't really offer much else). So for Molten Core, a 40-player raid dungeon, 25 players were heavily involved, 10 players were semi-required and 5 players were just there for the hell of it.

In The Burning Crusade expansion though, the 40 and 20 man dungeons have dropped to 25 and 10 so the "casual" characters aren't being taken any more. This reasoning, although brilliant on paper, has destroyed whole guilds in their efforts to get ready for the raids (Swords of Justice, the guild I'm in is no different).

All of this is slowly making me want to try out City of Heroes once more. I just can't wait for Stargate Worlds to come out...

EDIT: Blizzard recently announced that they were changing the requirements for raiding in World of Warcraft. No longer will players have to become "attuned" to various dungeons in sequence. Essentially, this suggests that Blizzard's number crunchers have realised that subscription rates are slipping considerably and have pushed for a change. I'm not entirely sure, though, that this is enough.

June 01, 2007

Pain...

Dentistry really does has to be a profession with one of the worst reputations you can possibly have. Not only are you dealing with people's teeth - arguably one of the places that people could never reach by themselves without inflicting large amounts of damage - but you also have to deal out some pain.

As you can imagine, I am not a good patient when it comes to dentistry. Whilst Elsha can go without a dentist for years, I can just about manage around 3 months.

Tops.

I haven't been to a dentist since June 2006 - mainly because we were moving to another country and, with dentists in the UK now going private, we couldn't afford the quarterly checkups. So I stopped going and thought that once we were ensconced in our new place in Perth, I'd start up again.

Now, back in January, Elsha hit upon the bright idea of joining a private health insurance firm called Medibank. You pay money to Medibank, they help cover your health costs. One way that they do this is to give you two free dental exmainations and scalings with their local dentist.

So far so good. I checked - yes its all free and anything not is happily subsidised by Medibank. So, today, I went down for an appointment.

"Well, your teeth are in a pretty bad state of affairs. You're going to need 3 fillings. And most likely root planing as well. But if you get back onto track with your regimented cleaning practises, you won't need as much care."

Succintly put, and filling-requirements all pointed out. X-rays taken, and wrists slapped.

All in all, its a much better experience than it was in the UK.
...

Just more costly.

Each filling comes to around $117, about £45 each. Is that normal? I suppose it is for a private dentist.

Of course, now I get to spend days going on about the state of my teeth to poor Elsha who, quite frankly, puts up with a lot of whinging from me.

May 30, 2007

...it's in the trees...

Night of the Demon is a black and white horror film made in 1957, and based around the story "Casting the runes" by Montague Rhode James. The screenplay was by Charles Bennett (of Hitchcock fame), and the film was directed by Jacques Tourneur, famously known for his other horror film, 'Cat People'. It has gone on to pursue the claim that it is one of the best horror films in movie history (although The Haunting probably equals, if not outdoes, it).

The plot revolves around the eccentric and strangely powerful Julien Karswell, a man who, it is claimed, leads a devil-worshipping cult. The story opens with Dr. Harrington racing to Karswell's house, where he tries to get Karswell to "call off whatever it is he's started". In return, Harrington will publicly announce that he was wrong and that Karswell was right; a refute which Karswell turns down as well. Karswell does not want media attention. A simple letter would suffice. Harrington agrees and leaves, amicably and knowing he has just put off a monstrous death. However, it is too late. Harrington dies the horrible death he tried to avoid.

Enter Joanna Harrington, the niece of the Professor, who begins investigating her uncle's death at the same time as an American professor arrives on the scene, Dr John Holden, who is also investigating, although this time its Julien Karswell and his devil-worship cult.

The two end up together trying to solve the mysteries of the runic symbols found inscribed on a parchment that Karswell has slipped Holden, and why Holden's death is evidently going to happen very shortly.

As the film picks up its pace, its clear that something is haunting Holden. The pages in his diary are ripped out after a certain date - "when a witchdoctor curses his victim, he always let them know well in advance" as Holden puts it to Ms. Harrington. However, that doesn't explain the many oddities of events plaguing Holden.

In an attempt to sway fears, they both head down to Karswell's manor to obtain a book missing from the British Library, entitled "The True Discoveries of Witches And Demons".

It's here that the audience, and Holden, are properly introduced to Karswell, a character supposedly based on Aleister Crowley himself. Karswell and Holden talk about magic and about the human mind - and whether the two are entirely seperate entities.

The film has many wonderful scenes, revolving around the idea of witchcraft and that, perhaps science can't explain everything away.

If the film could have a tagline, it would that of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner (which is also featured in the film):

"Like one along a lonesome road,
Doth walk in fear and dread,
Because he knows a frightful fiend,
doth close behind him tread."

I would heartily recommend this film for anyone wanting a fright. It doesn't have gore or screams but it does have plain old goosebumpy horror.

5/5!

May 24, 2007

Technically Fun

I haven't written much in this blog recently I've noticed. I definitely haven't written up a movie review for "Night of the Demon" especially. As it's a really good movie, I'm going to have to spend some time doing that soon. And, for reasons that will become apparent later in this post, I'll do it at work.

The initial jubilation at having a macbook soon turned sour when I realised the delete key didn't work correctly. Now, for those of you who have never experienced a Macbook, some interesting comments:

1) The delete key when working from Windows (via Mac's Boot Camp) does not function as a delete key. Instead it is a backspace key. You can trick it into thinking its a delete key by having the FN or Function key depressed.

2) The keyboard itself is completely flat. Or rather, the keys on the keyboard are completely flat. This is something of an unnerving experience (as Elsha found out) as pretty much every PC keyboard has a curve to it so your fingers know where the middle of the key is, so when you depress it your fingers have purchase.

But you can get over those two. You can't get over having a delete/backspace key that you have to HAMMER, to do anything.

Mac Desktop Support is also different to PC/Dell Support. I'm normally used to explaining the situation and booking either an engineer to come fix the issue, send a spare part out for the user to fix or having the computer picked up by courier.

Mac Support said "Oh. Right. You're best off buying another one."

What? Buy another one? What's wrong with this one?

"Well, you just said, it's got a dodgy key."

Yes, but I don't want to buy another one when I can get this one repaired. It's only a keyboard issue, how long would it take to be repaired?

"4 weeks. Give or take a week."

WHAT?!? 4 weeks for an engineer to unscrew the base, remove the connectors between the motherboard and the keyboard plate and then to check/replace the key connection?

"Yup. Or you can buy a new one, and send the old one back in. Since you're on your 14 day 'remorse' period, it may work out quicker."

So that's what I did. Bought a new laptop, had the old one picked up. Total swap out time, 3 days. BUt I still can't work out why it takes 4 (!) weeks to repair a keyboard...

Anyway, laptop is back with me and I've already installed Warcraft 3 on it.

Warcraft 3 is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game where you do some exploring, build things and generally go around destroying other people's bases. Blizzard (for it is their product) have added some unique features into the game, like having Hero Units that can pick up special in-game items that increase their statistics and off-side quests to complete. So your paladin hero might get a quest to go destroy an Orc base but on the way there, he gets a quest to go save little davey from the bad gnolls - upon completion you get rewarded with a special item.

RTS games are a favourite of mine, especially Starcraft, but I still have a hankering for TBS - Turn Based Strategy - games like Laser Squad or Ufo: Enemy Unknown. TBS games differ obviously in that you take your turn by positioning your units, and then the enemy (computer or human) takes their turn, and if anyone moves into your line of sight - *BANG* they're dead.

The difference between the two is that in TBS there is of course no real time requirement. You don't need to pause the game because there's no timer ticking away.

On the other hand, assembling a vast army in, say Starcraft is monsterously satisfying. Nothing beats sending 12 Terran Battlecruisers on an errand of absolute carnage (except perhaps 12 Protoss Carriers or 12 Zerg Guardians).

Finally, I've been doing a bit of background reading - one of the things I love the most about World of Warcraft is its lore. The history and storylines behind the the game make it, in my opinion, a much more immersive experience. It's ok not to know who Medivh or Illidan are, but knowing what they did and the consquences of their actions make the game come more to life.

So I've read The Last Guardian by Jeff Grub and Lord of the Clans by Christie Golden. And just for good measure I did some reading of the Diablo universe - written by the excellent Richard A Knaak, who should be known by every fantasy reader, if not on their bookshelves somewhere.

So, anyway, laptop working correctly, but little or no work to do on it at the moment. I've been browsing various websites, reading up on lore and just generally increasing my knowledge of Small Business Server 2003 in the hope that it may be of some use later but, currently, there is no web testing going on.

I hope that will change soon, I'm so ready to start...! So, in between increasing my knowledge of all things technical, I will try and catch up on some blogging. :)



May 14, 2007

Learning all over again

So, this is what I'm using at work:



*


That's right, I've been told to use a Macbook. This is because in my new job as Software Tester, I have to test all kinds of websites on different browsers - Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, Opera 9.2., Firefox2 - and Safari, the Mac Browser.

Which means that occasionally I have to dip my toes into toes into the tepid waters of the Mac OS. I had a play around with it yesterday and found it ... quite daunting, actually.

Everything is there that is on the Windows version but subtley different. Different enough to actually make you scratch your head and wonder how to get it to work like Windows. And then, of course, you wonder if Mac users have the same problem with Windows - do they sit there scratching their head and wondering how to get it to work like a Mac?

Anyway, day 1 was interesting, to say the least, and I'm ready to go back for more.

* That's not my desk by the way. Mine has nothing on it at the moment.

May 07, 2007

...To Boldly Go...

"Hey , Check this out!"

"Mmm what is it?"

"It's a job where you play computer games!"

"Mmm. It's a job where you have to 'test' websites of computer games."

"You should apply for it mate."

"I have no qualifications in software testing or in any of the listed requirements for that position. Beyond playing computer games, I can't see why they would even want me for an interview."

"You never know unless you apply for it."


Which is why I did apply for it, with a jokey email, never once thinking I may actually get a response.

Imagine my astonishment when I receive a reply email:

"Well, you are correct. You do not meet any qualifications for the listed position, however we are still very much interested in meeting with you. Would you be available for an interview?"

So, I attend the interview, am asked lots of questions like:

"Do you know .Net?"

- NO

"Have you had at least 6 months experience of Linux"

- NO

"have you ever done any software testing?"

- NO

"Have you played World of Warcraft?"

- Err. Is this a trick question?

"No. So have you?"

- Well... Yes. Hasn't everyone?

"No. Have you played Unreal Tournement?"

- The original or the 2003/2005 versions?

"Good enough answer. What other Online games have you played?"

- City of Heroes, Silk Roads Online, The Matrix Online...Phantasy Star Online.

Next day, I receive the email I've been waiting for:

"Congratulations. You have been offered the position of Software Tester."


... Wait.

I've been offered a job based on the list of Online games I've played?!?

Anyway, I cannot go into more details, mainly due to the Non-disclosure Agreement I signed when I said yes to the job. All I can say is I have no idea what the future holds for me.

Hopefully, lots of game playing.

P.S. It's Night of the Demon. Movie review to follow.

March 22, 2007

Memorable Movie Quote #1

This is a quote from one of my most favourite movies - one that whenever I get a chance to watch, I'll quite happily sit down with a hot cup of coffee and just laze the day away.

Do you know what movie its from? No cheating, mind...

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"Do I believe in witchcraft? What kind of witchcraft? The legendary witch that rides on the imaginary broom? The hex that tortures the thoughts of the victim? The pin stuck in the image that wastes away the mind and the body?"

"Also imaginary."

"But where does imagination end and reality begin? What is this twilight, this half world of the mind that you profess to know so much about? How can we differentiate between the powers of darkness and the powers of the mind?"

Unbelievable!

Do you remember my old Boss's leaving speech in October 2006?

I certainly do.

It was where he went on to tell all my friends and colleagues that I was a gamer and a geek. If he had said it with a bit of tease in his voice, I wouldn't have minded so much, but he didn't - he said it from the point of "This man has no life, no purpose. He is a waste of space."

I've had lots of people from my old workplace tell me they couldn't believe his leaving speech, couldn't believe that I just shrugged it off. Well, I had dealt with far, far worse at his hands. Being told to "curb my internet usage especially on game sites" during my lunch hour when it was company policy to allow you to look up personal websites was particularly chafing but I dealt with it.

Amazingly, in my new workplace, my new boss is completely different. He also plays an MMO although he's derogatory towards WoW - but in a friendly way. There is that look of amazement that I play World of Warcraft which is compared in every way to his MMO - EVE Online - and how I'm playing a game with no hooks or penalties (as far as he is concerned).

However, I don't mind it so much. Now I'm in a workplace with people who love gaming, I can look up internet sites about games all day long if I wanted to (although I would have to do my work too!) and, best of all, people don't look down their noses at me. In fact, having my boss play an MMO means at least we can talk on a level playing field. I did try and keep secret the fact that I had to get up early on the weekends to play with the Europeans but he astounded me one Tuesday by telling me he was up until after midnight playing EVE..!

Bliss.

I've also been asked to try out a different MMO called Silkroads Online - a trading/WoW-like game. I've installed it but yet to try it out...

March 18, 2007

I really should...

...make a post.

Considering how it's been around a month since I last put fingers to keyboard, I would love to say a lot of things have changed in the past month but really they haven't.

I'm still in Oz, still working away in a contract, still gathering up the energy and bravery to start learning to drive. Still taking things easy and saving up to pay off the debts we have in the UK still. And still getting up at 5am to go to the raids in the UK.

I did write something up awhile back but Blogger has this horrible re-formatting ability that takes single space lines and turns them into double space, so everything that reads out well suddenly looks like it's been written by Uni students trying to bulk out their essay or thesis. I don't need to bulk out my blog, I could happily witter on for hours in this style of prose - called conversational prose or some such, as if I'm actually talking to my audience.

Other than that, I have continued my voracious reading of books via Joondalup Library. A great resource centre that unfortunately has made a mistake of unmitigated proportions. They've re-shelved their books into categories and then alphabetical order. So now, rather than browsing General for any books that might be a good read, I head to Sci-Fi & Fantasy straight away.

Which is good because I don't have to spend so much time looking for the authors that I know I like but equally bad because I have to scour categories for potential new authors. Even worse, if I like an author that writes in different categories - like Sci-Fi and Horror, I have to search two sections instead of just heading over to the one area.

On the up side, they have a marvellous collection of DVDs - recently I managed to acquire the miniseries of the re-imagined 2003 version of Battlestar Galactica. Back in September last year, I watched the first episode of Season 1 of the show but couldn't work out what was going on. Why did Baltar, the traitor of the Colonial Humans, have a first name - Gaius? How the hell had the Cylons designed and created Human-like models? Why in heaven's name was Starbuck now a woman?

The miniseries (which actually is just 3 episodes) serves as an introduction to this new universe and it actually works quite well, except for the bit about Starbuck being a woman. I'm not quite sure why they thought that should be changed. Is it more acceptable now to have a woman drinking, getting into brawls, swearing?

Or perhaps the real issue is, which demographic is this new show being aimed at. After all, the original show was aimed at a family audience with kids emulating their new tv stars (we always had to flip a coin for who got to be Starbuck) and now I suppose the target audience are young 20 somethings who can't quite remember the original show but quite like the sassy attitude of this new show.

Another show I'm watching - and voraciously devouring - is Alias. We're on Season 2, about halfway through now, with Season 3 waiting in the wings. It's a pretty good show, mixing James Bond-style spy stuff with a lot of Sci-Fi. What Elsha and I both love about this show are the cliffhangers. Pretty much every episode ends on a "Omigod, what's going to happen next?" that always has us coming back for more. Actually, it gets pretty horrible because you just want to keep on watching to find out what's going to happen next. Apparently, Seasons 4 and 5 are much weaker due to writing issues, etc.

Anyone have any other shows they like to watch?

February 01, 2007

Picking up...

As you may have guessed, the past few weeks have been a blur of activity as I've been getting to grips with my new job. It has not been an easy start nor did I expect it to be. The computing environment is very much different from my old workplace, with the emphasis on very.

As its a government position I'm loathe to reveal details but essentially the environment is completely locked down - meaning, for those of you with less than perfect computer understanding, that permissions have been stripped from the users.

This of course creates multiple problems for the administrators. When things go wrong, it might be the program or it might be that something that needs to be run isn't being run.
But, even with a steep learning curve, I'm slowly lowering myself into work.

Other news, Friday 26th January was Australia Day. This is basically the day when the Colonists arrived in Australia en masse - what the Aboriginals call Invasion Day (or even Survival Day because at least some of their ancestors managed to escape with their lives), because they were invaded by Europeans intent on colonizing/conquering the country.

People over here have a public holiday. People go to the beaches, they have bbqs, they sit in town squares drinking beer listening to music. Sometimes, all 3 things at once, I guess.

I spent most of the time sleeping, playing WoW or watching Season 9 of Stargate SG1. We had already got through Season 2 of Grey's Anatomy. I have just one thing to say - even though I hated the character of Addison Shepherd (played by Kate Walsh) initially, I now love said character.

A) She's very attractive (in that 1940's style of Hollywood Actress)
B) She gets some terrific scenes and lines.
C) She's not like Meredith Grey - Thank God.

We've also been loaned Season 1 of Alias (in exchange for the 2 seasons of Grey's Anatomy that we have) and I managed to bag the first 8 episodes of Farscape - after all, Brian Bowden and Claudia Black have already been introduced to us in SG1.

Other than that, I spent my time off playing Wow:BC and really enjoying myself. The expansion has easily opened up new areas of gameplay and a lot of people are having lots of fun. FOr the time being though, the onus is on levelling up, doing quests and having fun. All too soon, it will turn to raids and we will as a guild go back to doing that.

Finally, I have been browsing the blogging community again. I've managed to locate a few Australians out there, as well as one who's made the amazing and counter-trip to the UK. It's pretty weird to read her blog about all the differences between Oz and the Uk, but from her perspective - she can't believe the UK has Argos, and I can't believe they don't have it here...

January 14, 2007

My timing sucks!

I have a job!

Yay!

...now that I have World of Warcraft working...

Boo!

Infinite time vs lack of things to do has now been replaced by lack of time vs infinite gameplay on WoW.

:(

January 11, 2007

Displacement

It's been about a month since I last visted my blog so in the New Year spirit, I decided to make another post.

Yay.

The last month has been a bit dream-like for me, what with looking for work and staring around in a sense of bewilderment at the scenery. Life is not what it was like in London but I think I'm finally over the honeymoon "holiday" period that everyone talks about when people emigrate - you know, that sense that you belong somewhere else and that you're only visiting, and that eventually, you will get back on a plane and soon re-integrate back in that place that you "belong" in.

Yesterday, it rained in Joondalup. Not for the first time in the last month I might add but it was an odd day for weather. The rain made it feel exactly the reverse that it does in London when it rains; instead of feeling clear and refreshed, it felt muggy and humid.

Things I miss about England:

1) Television Shows.

Here the shows suck. No, really. Much worse than even Channel 5. I would pay to be back on British TV. Hmm I wonder...

2) Keyboard region.

Arrrghhhh.... Why is the @ above the 2 and not above the ' where the " is. Who decided to move the \? For what possible reason would there be for making such minor but amazingly horrible changes to the keyboard?!?

The worst thing is that I want to change my keyboard settings back to the UK but if I find work, I'd have to do it there as well, which I may not be able to.

Elsha has a job now - she works for a big financial institution as Customer Support - Or Customer Relations as she is called now. I, on the other hand, do not have a job and am finding it a struggle to get work. Or at least, I was until Christmas and the New Year ended. Now, everywhere seems to be picking up the pieces (I can only imagine how many companies have had christmas party gossip, office liasons beginning/ending and people leaving to get away from those they accosted/been accosted by - ah the cynic in me).

And finally, I have my own pc on the internet. In theory. The PC belongs to Elsha's brother and is strictly on loan. It's on the internet through Internet Connection Sharing. Hence the theoretical part.

ICS - why do they have to make it so hard. Mind you, I'm not surprised. Anything that comes with a Microsoft tag should have fine print that reads "...if you get this to work, great - send your cv to us, we need people like you".

At the moment, I've taken great pains to re-install World of Warcraft (mainly to occupy my time until I get work - you have no idea how boring it is being on your own in a house without any of your personal effects save for a few boxed dvd sets) which involves installing via cds and then downloading and installing around 1gb of patches.

So far so good. All I have to do now is get up at 4am my time for those 7pm UK time Raids in Zul'Gurub.